Community Health Begins with Self Health

Millions of Americans, particularly women, struggle to find the time to take care of their own health. When I look around at my friends who are moms, I find myself in awe of how many of them put the needs of their families, their children, their work, their community, or school volunteer time ahead of their own.

I’ve thought about how to write this blog so it doesn’t sound like a lecture or a guilt-fest, because women who can successfully juggle schedules that would be daunting to air traffic controllers deserve that respect. I would also like to believe that they might find a way to put themselves and their health first, but I’m seeing how this isn’t always the case. I get it. There are only so many hours in the day. So how is it that their needs and health are constantly pushed to the back burner?

This leads me to believe that perhaps the issue isn’t in their ability to carve out time for themselves, but instead found somewhere in the motivation to do so.

As a life coach, I’ve noticed that women tend to be inspired and motivated by giving the best of themselves to others. We see other’s needs — particularly our children’s needs — as important and worthy of our time and attention. This is their driving force – a commitment to serving others. And this is a beautiful and honorable approach.

Servanthood is the greatest motivation and is full of grace. But we are in denial if we believe it doesn’t come with a high price tag. Servanthood is only as powerful as the servant. Forgive my boldness, but a worn-down, exhausted servant isn’t doing any good to the family she wishes to serve.

With this logic in mind, perhaps it would help serve others if you first served yourself. I’m not suggesting that you shuck everything and start over – that’s not reasonable – but what I am suggesting is that you learn to say no to the things that really are not essential. Your health needs to move to the top of your list so that you are able to better manage all of your other tasks. After all, community health is not possible without self-health. Consider that this may also demonstrate to those you serve that your health is what makes your time and talent so darn valuable.

Start small by adding in one half hour of time each day to focus on your health. You can make this your time to exercise, meditate, enjoy a healthy meal or even get a massage. As you begin to realize that you can make time for you, increase this time to 45 minutes or an hour each day.

The Best Part of Being a Mom

trust and let goShortly after my divorce, my son’s interests in plants and trees intensified. Being new to the single-parenting scene, I was adjusting to a new routine and scrambling to take care of myself and my son. I told him his passion couldn’t be nurtured fully because we didn’t have a yard. In truth, it was my way of avoiding the responsibility of keeping the plants alive. I am not proud of it, but I was oblivious to his passion and healing process and found myself spiraling further into obsessive behaviors.

With spring approaching, my need for order and cleanliness compelled me to make a trip to the local department store for supplies. When we arrived, my son spied the garden center erected in the parking lot. This was an unwelcome distraction for my tight schedule. I tried to hurry my son past it, but his heartfelt tears touched and tiny soft voice reached the darkest place of my heart when he said, “he just wanted to touch the beautiful pink flowers.”

We walked through the make shift aisles of the garden center and I watched as my son took pleasure in every plant. He stopped to touch each rose petal and told each tree how much he loved them. I kept close tabs on my watch as I worried about the detour in the plan. We finally made our way to the bleach and paper towels and exited the store with our purchases. At home, I was too busy making dinner, washing dishes and doing laundry to notice that my son had lifted something from the store.

Later that evening a storm raged through our small town, knocking down trees and ripping off roofs. My son was frightened by the sirens and the howling wind so he jumped into bed with me for snuggle time. When we woke the next morning, we were curious about the condition of the community and decided to take a drive. As we gawked at the downed power lines and damaged trees, my son announced that he needed to check on the rose bushes. He made the statement with the conviction of a parent who wanted to protect his young. I could see in his eyes that he wouldn’t take no for an answer.

We pulled into the parking lot horrified to find every rose bush lying on its side with soil strewn everywhere. Distraught, my son began to unbuckle before I had the vehicle parked. He leapt out of the van and began picking up the overturned pots. I followed to help him understand that it wasn’t our job and attempt to get him back to the car, but was instead instructed that the plants needed our help. My young and sensitive child took over and demonstrated to me how to pick up a rosebush without getting pricked by the thorns. I watched him carefully and lovingly pick up each bush, scoop soil onto the root ball and whisper to the bush that it was going to be ok.

The tenderness in his touch and the outpouring of his love touched my soul. It was in that moment, with tears streaming down my face, that I realized how grateful I was for this new life. I knew that the message my son was sending to the flowers was the message he needed to hear – it was going to be ok.

I let that peace fill me as I watched my beautiful child nurture his beloved plants. We spent the next forty-five minutes returning order to the makeshift nursery. When we finished, we gave thanks to the flowers and sent good vibes to the future caretakers of these plants. As we were saying our goodbyes, I turned to my son to tell him what a great thing he had done. Then I hugged him and whispered it was going to be ok.

After I put my son to bed that night, I started a load of laundry. I checked his pockets for rocks, Legos, candy or gum and instead found the rose petal he had lifted from the store the day before.

I placed the rose petal on my nightstand to remind me stop and smell the roses and be grateful for my journey. But more importantly to trust that it was going to be ok.

Trust is a powerful perspective that leads us from the fear of the storm to the grace and gratitude of the garden.

Happy Mother’s Day to mom’s encountering the storm; those who dwell in the garden; and everything in between.

The Fire and the Fuel

Fire QuoteThe relationship was deteriorating. We spent more time apart than we did together. We no longer shared the same interests. His obsession was with cold weather activities – I preferred the sunshine and warmth. I valued activities that required my body to generate energy through movement. His activities involved a motor generating speed. Not only did he detest my favorite sport (MLB), but he didn’t understand my love for the game.

We didn’t trust each other and therefore lacked respect. His actions reflected his highest values and those directly conflicted with mine. Every interaction became a heated battle and the quirks that may have once been endearing or tolerable became the seed for the next fight.

I realize now that a solid foundation was never built, but that didn’t make the inevitable any easier to embrace. I just didn’t know what I didn’t know — until I knew it.

It wasn’t difficult to see that our relationship wasn’t working. That was one thing that we agreed upon. I didn’t want to hate him, but the nature of our relationship had become so toxic that I found it hard to breathe. When he mentioned couples counseling, I felt compelled to agree. To be honest, I didn’t see a future with this person, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t figure out a way to put our differences aside and get along.

I was encouraged that he had taken the bull by the horns and made the appointment for our counseling session. It was scheduled for the afternoon and he told me he wanted to ride together. I thought it unusual that he would want to make a special trip, but I decided to let it go.

It was a quiet car ride to the appointment – we didn’t have much to say. We arrived, parked and entered the professional building. We checked in and completed the paperwork.

The lobby was decorated in bright hues and natural light shone through the windows. It was clean and spacious, but something about it felt off. There was a heavy wood door that separated the waiting area from the counseling area and the chairs were arranged in rigid, tight lines. Inspirational quotes in black frames were evenly spaced and hung on the walls. The room felt sterile and the colors forced. To describe the physical didn’t do justice to how it felt energetically. I don’t know if it was the cookie cutter feel of the space, but the longer I sat there, the more uncomfortable I became.

I closed my eyes and tried to settle my thoughts. I could feel the sunshine on my neck and I imagined myself sitting peacefully in a lush garden with flowers and tall whimsy grass blowing in the wind.

My thoughts were interrupted when a woman pushed open the heavy wood door. She had short dark hair, and an average build. She was holding a clipboard and held the door open with her hip when she called my name. I thought it odd that she didn’t call both of our names, but I stood and walked toward her, expecting him to follow suit. Then he announced that he would be back in an hour to pick me up after the appointment. Dumbfounded, I asked how this could be a couples counseling session if only one person attended. That’s when the counselor said that the appointment was made for me.

I walked over to him and asked what was going on. He said that our relationship could be repaired if I got my head straightened out. He told me I had changed and implied that our problems were all mine. But if I was willing to “get fixed” there might be hope. Blood boiling, I loudly and strongly suggested that he was part of the problem and needed more than counseling– he would benefit from a freaking lobotomy. Furious, I turned and walked toward the counselor. He looked at the counselor as if my reaction was evidence to his plight. His expression seemed to say, “see how she is.”

It was clear that the counselor was in over her head as we walked toward her office. I could hardly contain my anger. For the next 45 minutes I spilled everything that infuriated me about that man. I had reached my breaking point and nothing was sacred anymore.

It was cathartic.

I left that office with the realization that I no longer wanted to be in a relationship that forced me to behave in a way that didn’t honor me. I wasn’t willing to be with somebody who lit metaphorical matches, poured fuel on the fire and then blamed the heat on the person ablaze.

I take my share of the blame. My energy is such that I burn hotter than many, but that doesn’t make my fire wrong. It just means it’s best to steer clear of unhealthy fuel.

What real beauty looks like

As part of my day job, I choose to participate in our company wellness program. That membership requires me to complete a Health Risk Assessment (HRA), which measures things such as physical activity, nutrition, sleep and stress factors; and biometric testing that measures blood pressure, blood sugars, BMI and triglycerides.

My results determined that my health is relatively good. But I left the screening feeling horrible about the one number that mattered most to me – the number on the scale. It wasn’t a mystery that I had gained weight. It happens. So what motivated me to choose that number to measure myself against, instead of the other twelve that had “proven” I was healthy?

I recognize the phenomenon is not unique to me. Many women judge themselves harshly because of a number on a scale. What I’ve come to realize is that it’s not the number that matters, it’s how we feel about the number – do we feel thin, fat or fit?

The truth is, that number only means what we make it mean. For one it could mean success, for another it could mean falling off the wagon.  Whatever judgment we put around it, it essentially means, “do we feel beautiful?”

I’d like to think that real beauty can be defined as the kind of energy we see and feel when we are privileged to see the depths of somebody’s soul. When they share their experience with us and we connect to that part of their being that is Divine. But my truth is that beauty is mostly defined by, “it depends upon your perspective.”

Real beauty is not a number. But it’s also not necessarily a lyrical ideal that suggests you mustn’t TRY so hard either. Please know that I love the message Colbie Callait is spreading, but being lovable and feeling lovable are not necessarily the same. The truth is found somewhere in between.

For a cancer survivor, beauty can be defined by the soft hair that grows back when the chemo has stopped. For a woman who has survived an abusive relationship, beauty can be found in gaining a few extra pounds without guilt from her controlling partner. For a veteran who has lost limbs, beauty can be found in the restored faith in mankind.

We are beautiful when we BELIEVE we are beautiful. For some of us, what makes us feel beautiful is a filter or the Facebook pose we use to portray ourselves on social media. For others, it IS the number on the scale or a certain color of eye shadow. It’s what we make it mean.

I’ve learned that we have the power to change the meaning. To change it means we need to change our minds about it. That isn’t always easy. That takes work. Not work for approval or acceptance outside yourself; rather work toward self-love.  It can mean working toward a number on the scale and it could mean working up to having the courage to show your authentic self to a stranger. Whatever the work – do it for yourself, because that work is beautiful.

Beauty can’t always be measured or judged. It’s a view from the inside that can only be felt when we’re paying attention to what’s real for us.


What you wish for

I sat by my fireplace and meditated on my financial health for the upcoming new year.  My goals were to honor my financial commitments, take care of my young son, and have the ability to save a specific amount of money. I also wanted this to happen by doing what I loved to do. The amount I wished to save was a stretch, but not necessarily what I would call a miracle. I wrote my goal in the form of an intention into my journal, clearly specified the amount, gave thanks to the universe for it being so, and went about the business of my life.

As a single mother, my priority was to be present for my young son and build a business that could sustain us through the highs and lows.  My goal to be self-employed was important because I felt it would allow me to do what I was born to do while also being flexible enough for my son’s needs. I couldn’t visualize how a commute would work for my family situation and I didn’t spy many classified ads in my small-town paper seeking my specialized skills.

Six months passed and business was steady, but my financial obligations were such that I wasn’t making progress in the savings department. I didn’t give it too much thought until the day I was asked to submit a proposal to a larger company seeking my services. I interviewed the primary contacts to learn more about their project needs.  One of the interviews didn’t go as well as anticipated and I found myself put off by the energy of the potential client. That didn’t stop me from submitting the proposal but it did prompt me to increase my hourly rate.

I was selected as the vendor, but had mixed emotions about accepting the project. I contemplated the pros and cons and found myself frozen inside of the decision. I feared that the negative person would put a damper on my work and perhaps hinder the outcome of the project. On the other hand, the income would provide a financial cushion. The ego was motivated by money, but my spirit was motivated by contribution. I didn’t want to make a work decision based solely on financial gain. Confounded, I turned to meditation.

It was in the quiet of that time when an overwhelming sense of calm came over me. It was then that a small voice inside my head whispered to “approach your work as if working for the Divine and not for man.”

I decided to accept the contract and approach it with an open heart rather than a judgmental one. With contract signed and deposit it in hand, I realized that the project income would allow me to exceed my savings expectation by exactly $100. I giggled at this because it became clear to me that the Divine had a sense of humor; as if it to say, “perhaps you should have taken a bigger leap because I am able to do so much more. I make miracles happen every day.”

That project became one of the benchmarks of my career — in more ways than one. The person I had judged as “difficult” became a respected colleague who taught me more than they could ever know; and the outcome led me to become a certified life coach — a role that brings joy and purpose to my life nearly every day.

I carry the lessons of that project with me and every year make a “wish list” that far exceeds what my mind can justify or rationalize. I get into trouble when I attempt to control how, but they typically come true, particularly when I let go and “let them happen” in ways that will surprise me.

I write this message today to remind you to dream big and believe in the power of your intentions and wishes. Approach the year and your life with powerful perspectives and trust me when I say that what you want can and will come true. Not in the timeframe or necessarily in the package you expect, but what your heart desires will arrive and it will be powerful.

For tips to help your new year’s resolution stick, read more here:

Letting Go

The buzz of the alarm jolted me to life at 4:30 a.m. Barely awake and aching from the previous day’s workout, I debated with myself to roll over and go back to sleep, or get out of bed to meet my friends at the running track.

Against my body’s wishes, I shoved off the warm blankets, got out of bed and walked toward the bathroom. I splashed cold water on my face, looked into the mirror, and asked myself what the heck I was doing. This was the kind of morning where the will to succeed outweighed the desire to give in.

Along with two other friends, I was following a training plan for an upcoming 10-mile race and that day’s workout called for mile repeats. A mile was four laps around the track and the goal was to run a mile at top speed, take a minute to recover, and then do it again. On the first lap of mile 4, I noticed on one side of the track was the full moon and the other side was the rising sun and in between were magnificent stars. It was a spectacular feeling of smallness that momentarily distracted me from my effort and made the other three laps zip past. When we finished our run, we cooled down, stretched and went our separate ways.

We would meet four or five times a week to vary our distance and speed and keep each other on course. More than once I gave thanks for the team waiting at the Y; and begrudgingly became accustomed to the 4:30 alarm. I wasn’t always pleasant and admit to cussing them out when they suggested we get up at 4:15 to run long before work. That was the day I discovered my threshold. With the encouragement of my partners, though, I pushed through and later felt gratification for mustering the strength.

Our runs weren’t just about running. We spent hours together and crazy as it might sound, it became my Prozac. We honored each other with the promise that what was said on the run, stayed on the run. We vented about work and mourned painful loss. We shared stories about mutual friends and chatted about weather, moon phases and shooting stars. We shared stories of our kids and observations of the insanity we call humanity. But mostly we celebrated each other’s success, regardless of how large or small.

It was during those runs when I felt most alive. I felt I had purpose and control over one area of my life.

We trained for several months and never missed a scheduled run. We tapered our distances, rested and felt confident for our big day. We traveled as a team to the race and joined others who were running for the cause. The temperatures that morning were cool enough for long sleeves at lineup, but warm enough for short sleeves after mile one. It was overcast, but clearing, and I was feeling well prepared to meet my goal. I had hydrated and slept well and had my favorite pre-race meal the night before. I was shoulder to shoulder with 2500 women who were all pushing beyond from where they had come. The national anthem brought tears to my eyes and life in that moment, was perfect and complete.

The horn sounded and the sea of runners moved across the timing mats in waves. For the first mile, I weaved through the crowd, hoping to clear a path. Miles 2 and 3 went by in a blur and I started to get in my groove. Somewhere between miles 5 and 6 I realized that I was off my pace and my heart began to sink. I continued forward and at mile 8, forsaking modern day miracles, I knew I wouldn’t make my goal.

Every finish line has its story and it is powerful every time. More often than not, the finish line represents victory, but on that day, it represented defeat. I replayed each mile, wondering where I had gone wrong, and with each reiteration I cursed myself more. I had no good reason and it didn’t add up. I had nothing and nobody to blame but the day. I felt disillusioned and wondered why I tried.

The finish line haunted me and the miniscule five minutes defined who I was. I had lost my perspective and was focused on the result. My energy had gone into my training; something I thought I could control. As it turns out, I have no control at all.

I’ve come to realize that Powerful Perspectives are not about control; they’re about letting go. And not just finish times, regret, sorrow or loss. It’s about experiencing and embracing what’s in front of us that matters the most. Yes, goals are important and they help us define success, but the power is in the journey, not the finish line at all.

An Extraordinary Pumpkin

With each skin cream treatment, the pink blemish on the side of my face appeared to sizzle like eggs frying in bacon grease.  The center of the blemish turned brown, rimmed in swollen auburn and orange rings. The blemish was a form of skin cancer and was being treated with cream, instead of surgical removal. The removal process involved five days of treatments for six weeks.  Halfway through the regimen, what was a tolerable light pink blemish had become a hideous fried scab the size of a cigar burn.

I consider myself healthier than average and take care of what I’ve been given, but it seemed to be vain to be focused on physical appearances that morning.  As I prepared to make my way out the door, I was not my typical life-coach self. I was feeling ugly and self-conscious and my hair had been styled to hide my swollen face.

Feeling sorry for myself, I inched through the morning and avoided as many people as possible.

At lunch, I took a hike along a beautiful nature trail and found a bench over-looking the city. I sat and let the hot tears of shame come. Between sobs, I pleaded with the universe to give me a sign and help me make sense of my life.

When I had exhausted the tears and gathered my emotions, I walked with my head-down and crunched the fall leaves beneath my feet.  On the path a few feet away, I noticed an oak leaf glimmering with the stunning colors of autumn — burnt orange, auburn and brown.

As I admired the rich colors and breathed in the crisp air, it occurred to me the colors in the leaf were similar to the patch on my face and I began to cry again. This time the tears cleansed and helped me realize that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and colors. I carried the leaf to the end of the path and released it to the wind as I thanked it for its message.

Later that evening as I finished up dinner dishes, I got a call from  a client who owned 40 acres of land north of town.  His love of the land and gardening led him to plant strawberries, rows of sweet corn, melons, cucumbers and pumpkins.

This client has become a dear friend and had kept my son and I stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables all summer; including more sweet corn than a family can eat in a year.  We were so blessed by the abundance coming from his generous and prosperous green thumb.

This call was to inform me he had another surprise for us and asked if he could drop it off at our house.

Moments later he showed up and handed me a mammoth 50 lb. plus pumpkin with an over-sized handle.  The pumpkin seeds, he said, were genetically engineered to produce an extra large stem to hold the weight of the pumpkin. He thought this pumpkin would be good for Cameron.

Then he handed over one of the most unusual and special gifts I’ve ever been privileged to receive. It was a 30 lb. pumpkin that had unusual markings in the skin that read “Samantha, Happy Halloween!”  When I asked  how “the pumpkin grew those words,” he told me the following story:

“Before I planted the seeds in April, I blessed them.  In June when the pumpkins turned green, I took a sharp nail and carved gently into the skin of the pumpkin. As the pumpkin continued to grow, it healed itself and scabbed over, leaving a  small reminder of the wound sustained earlier in the season. The scab is a sign of the pumpkin’s endurance and strength.”

As he finished his story, I stood in awed silence for the timing of the pumpkin delivery and the magnificence of this marvelous gift.  The tears that came for the third time that day were now healing tears of gratitude.

My client and friend had scratched the skin of that pumpkin months ago to produce a magical pumpkin for the Halloween season.  He would have had no idea back in June that my skin would be wounded and scabbing in much the same way that day.

This gift was more than a remarkable pumpkin, it was a miracle and the sign I needed to renew my trust and faith in the universe.

My skin, ego and scars were no longer the focus of my day. My attitude instantly turned to Powerful Perspectives of awareness, appreciation and love of a particular pumpkin and precious act of a friend.

Each fall when the pumpkins arrive, I stop and give thanks for the special gift of friendship — and the power of signs and miracles.

When we look for miracles, they find us and make us aware of their power to heal and bring us to a better place.

What may be an ordinary pumpkin, becomes extraordinary in an instant.

The Fish Will Tell You How to Fish Them

I signed up for the fly-fishing-for-women course through the local B&B because I needed to escape my everyday existence and learn something new. I had been drawn to the running trails near the Kinnickinnic, but had never stepped foot in the water.  Often times I found myself near the river, hypnotized by the sound of rushing water, and mesmerized by the beauty and rhythm of a fly fisherman’s technique.  I watched with fascination as the line was ripped from the water when the fisherman had one on.  Without fail, the fisherman displayed compassion for the fish and respect for the stream.  I lost myself in the scene and I allowed my worries to be carried away by the current.  The river was a magical place and I wanted to learn more about its depth.

I arrived at the class in a bright pink, short-sleeved top and khaki shorts, with a borrowed rod and reel.  I had a great little pack of flies that had been a birthday gift from a friend cinched around my waist.  I had spied this look on a pro while walking near the Rush River one day and boldly and ignorantly thought fly-fishing was about the flies and the gear. I learned later that day there was more to the sport than what met the eye.

The instructor was a fly fishing expert who worked for Cabellas and had fished streams all over the world.  She was dressed in waders and a fancy fly-fishing vest with lots of fishing gadgets hanging from the pockets and zippers.  She had a net hanging from her waist and under her vest she wore a pale green shirt with the sleeves rolled up to a three quarter length on her arm.  She wore a baseball cap that sported several interesting flies hooked to the bill.  She had a soft voice and an even temperament and her love and passion for the great outdoors was contagious.  I liked her instantly.

After a brief lesson on threading line and tying flies, she took us to nearby baseball fields and demonstrated the principles of the cast.  We practiced the snap of the line until she was satisfied none of us would hook another’s eyeball.

As we made our way to the bank of the river, she showed us how to carry our rods without breaking or snagging the tip.  As we sat and geared up, she explained the temperature and flow of the water, the speed of the current, and how and where the fish would sit.  She talked about the wisdom of the fish and how they can detect imbalances in their environment.  She told me my shirt was “too loud” to be natural and the fish would feel threatened by the color.  She handed me one of her soft blue fishing shirts that blended well with the sky.  Strangely, I felt more at peace, too.  She was almost poetic when she spoke of the natural balance and perfect ecological harmony that made the sport possible.

One by one she guided our slippery steps over rocks and set us up in the stream.  She told us exactly where to cast to catch a fish. Even with athletic genes, I found it to be a significant challenge to get the line to go exactly where I wanted it to go. It took finesse and patience, both of which I lacked at that particular moment in time.   I cast and dragged the line; cast and dragged the line.  Each time the snap of my line got louder and more forced and more times than not, would snag a tree branch or rock.  No trout hit my line and I was convinced it was due to the wrong kind of fly.

Sensing my frustration, the instructor waded her way over to my spot.  She secured her footing, grabbed my line, then reached down and picked up a fist-sized rock.  She flipped it over and pointed to the tiny creatures clutching the rock.

“See those little bugs?” she asked me.  They constantly change, but those are the bugs that are hatching naturally at this exact moment in this stream. That’s the size and kind of fly you want to use,” she said with a slow, soft voice.

“You see, Samantha, the fish will tell you how to fish them. You just need to slow down enough to look around and listen.”

I walked away from that day with a respect for the sport and a new appreciation for the stream and the perfection of nature. I didn’t catch a fish, but the lesson has never left me.  The fish will tell you how to fish them.

My son is not a fish, but I find this lesson to be true in parenting, as well.  He’s like a little wise trout that can detect harsh imbalances in his environment.  That may sound strange, but I believe it’s my job as his mother to create harmony in our environment, and protect him from harsh threats, whatever that looks like for him. Sometimes it’s a bully; other times it’s a school project or extracurricular deadline; but sometimes it’s the simple pressures of our fast-paced American life.

Like one-of-a-kind trout, children are unique and precious and require a place where they feel safe and can be their natural selves.  They may not use words or bugs under rocks, but if you slow down, look around, and listen, I guarantee, they’ll communicate what they need.

The fish will tell you how to fish them. And so it is with the children. They will tell you how to parent them.


Watch for my new e-book available September 1, 2011, titled, How I’m not Winning Mother of the Year: 8 Powerful Perspectives for Parents.  To reserve your copy, kindly contact me at





Lessons of an Ordinary Life

I tend to think of my childhood as something I survived. It’s not to say my parents didn’t do their best, but unlike my siblings, I wasn’t born with obvious natural gifts, and I struggled to understand where I fit in.

My oldest sister, Tiffany, was highly intelligent and walked well before her first birthday. She took to reading early and consumed books whole.  She had a great memory and her energy seemed to flow best through the pages of books.  This gift served her well in school where she earned straight A’s with what seemed like little effort.

My sister Mardy was the family comedienne.  She was dramatic, quick-witted and a master at repeating jokes. She was a social butterfly and once won a look-alike contest for her physical resemblance to Reba McIntyre.  She could also captivate a room, Chelsea Handler-style. She was also born with outstanding rhythm and style and rivaled Prince with creative dance moves and attire. I still think she has a future in Hollywood.

Leslie was my parent’s undisputed favorite.  She was easy going and pleasant and didn’t inherit the drama-queen gene.  She had more athletic talent and intelligence than her three older sisters combined. She was confident and comfortable in her skin and could have conversations with teachers and coaches as easily as her classmates. If my sisters or I muttered or thought about using words like stupid or gay, my mom would wash our mouths out with soap.  If we talked back to our dad, we could expect the wrath of the Incredible Hulk. Leslie could throw a fit of profanity at my parents and they would embrace it as family entertainment. My sister’s and I still call her the golden child.

The youngest of this tribe was the only boy, my brother Timothy.  He was born with soft, focused, intense energy and was nicknamed TR.  We thought of him as a real-life doll and took turns dressing him up in little clothes.  Our mother announced that having a boy meant the end of the babies in our family, and I think we secretly appreciated TR for ending the streak. When he entered kindergarten, he politely, but firmly, changed his name from TR to Tim. He excelled in sports and had inherited the linear mind of my father, giving him an edge in math and engineering.  When he was thirteen, he scored so high on the ACT that he was invited to attend a military academy near Chicago.  The rules and curfews that applied to his older siblings didn’t apply to him and his full name has yet to be used in our house. In fact, we tease him and call him “baby boy” because he still has our mother wrapped around his little finger.

I was the second born and arrived six weeks early. I was a pigeon-legged preemie and needed leg braces and special shoes to learn to walk. My parents thought I had special needs because I didn’t speak until I was three. When I finally talked, I muttered the phrase, “more Jell-O please.”  I may have been a late bloomer, but at least I was polite and continue to enjoy talking. When I was six, I was in a terrible bike accident that changed the shape of my face and jaw, giving me a different appearance than my similar-looking siblings.  School didn’t come easy and I was told I would never be the student my sister was.  It was said to alleviate the pressure of living up to my sister’s academic accomplishments, but my mind translated it to mean I would never be as smart.  I played sports, but wasn’t the superstar my siblings were, and I was more comfortable standing on my head than on my feet.  I couldn’t tell a good joke to save my soul and a nun at my high school told me I should have a back-up skill because she couldn’t see my future writing career.

I rebelled through most of my late teens and early twenties, meandered through my mid-to-late twenties, and attempted to conform in my early-to-mid-thirties, all the while searching for my gifts and a place to fit in and feel normal.

It wasn’t until my life hit a dead-end that I decided to take the time to reflect on the values and messages shaping my life.

I went searching for the truth and realized that being different was my natural gift.  I didn’t know it then, but my quest for normal is what makes me normal.  The older I get, the more I understand that the quest is what life is all about.  I’ve also learned that fitting in is over-rated and comparing your life to others is futile.

I’ve learned spontaneity and unpredictability keep life interesting and I’ve learned a child-like perspective is creative and healthy.

I’ve learned the gifts of my childhood were rich and have learned judgment of self and others destroys the here and now.  I’ve learned life is a series of ordinary moments and to remove the word “should” and honor “what is.”

I’ve learned that Powerful Perspectives turn the ordinary into the extraordinary and begin with awareness and move upward toward acceptance and love.

Flight of the Bumblebee

When my son was 8-years-old, we turned off the television and spent the hour before bedtime journaling and reading together.  We each had a journal and our own box of colored pencils. 

In our journals we could doodle or draw, practice letters; write stories, or paste quotes or pictures. The journal was our place for processing our ideas or thoughts and the only rule we had was that there were no mistakes.

No matter what we wrote or drew in our journal was simply perfect. It would not be judged or labeled, only appreciated and accepted. There were days when I would scribble a picture of a funnel cloud to capture the energy of my day. Other days, I wrote about the meaning of life, drafted a poem, or drew a palm tree or flower. Whatever we put in our journal, we agreed it was “simply perfect.”

One night, my son spent a great deal of time on a picture of a garden filled with colorful flowers, bright sunshine and puffy clouds floating in the blue sky. It was meticulous and beautiful and he was proud of his work.

When he went to put the finishing touches on the page, his black pencil slipped and he made a squiggly slash mark across half the page.

Tears welled up in Cameron’s eyes because he thought the picture was ruined. He had worked so hard on the picture it nearly broke my heart. Then I pointed out to him that it was a “no mistakes” journal and reminded him that everything that happened was simply perfect.  I asked him to look at how the black squiggly line might make his picture better.

As he sat and cried and resisted this experiment, I bit my lip to hold myself back from speaking or suggesting ways to “fix” the picture.

I continued to journal, my lip nearly bloody as I forced myself to allow Cameron to solve his own dilemma. What happened next is a moment that has shaped our relationship and led him to powerful perspectives.  He released the judgment of his work, experienced a new view, and enjoyed a moment of personal empowerment.

He grabbed a black and yellow pencil and added a tiny yellow and black body bumblee with wings to the end of the scribble.

His face was now filled with pride and his body language proud and upright as he shared how the black slash across the page became the flight of the bumblebee.  My son thought the addition made the original more creative; his mistake made his picture better.  The greatest gift of that evening was watching my son work through his own emotion without the overlay of my thinking.  Had I fixed it for him, it would have reinforced that the picture was not good if it was not “perfect.” 

My son and I use the flight of the bumblebee philosophy in other areas of our lives to remind ourselves that there are no mistakes, only opportunities to make our pictures better.

Powerful Perspectives are those qualities that begin with awareness and move toward acceptance and love.