Change Takes Time

One of the things that I don’t like about the coaching industry is that it sells the idea that you can have anything you want in life quite easily as long as you pay a lot of money for a given coaching deal. The expense is carefully reframed as “the investment.” Now I’m a life/executive coach, but I don’t change exorbitant fees (like over $1,000 per month), because I want my services to be accessible to people. However, there is a well-known coach who emailed everyone on his list last year to offer a “carefully curated group of top business professionals” to form a mastermind group for the “low” price of 10k per year. Not very much was even being offered for that price, except the opportunity to be surrounded by top professionals. I deleted the email, but I know a few people who were burned by this. And interestingly, a year later, there is no reference on the internet to the program that was offered at all, as though it never existed, after the coach himself pocketed a million dollars. The reality is that a lot of people think that if they pay enough money, they will be transformed, but it doesn’t work that way, because change happens over time and has everything to do with how much work a person is willing to do, not just in the short run, but over time to maintain the change.

Clients come to me after they’ve been burned by programs like this.  I don’t believe in fleecing people and promising the moon. I believe in working week by week on effective change. Period. I hate to break it to clients wanting a quick fix, but most change takes three months to see tiny changes, six months to see momentum, and a good year to solidify the habits associated with the change. Change is hard work and it’s not easy, which is why most people give up or don’t try in the first place. I have found in my own life and with friends and clients, that change doesn’t happen in a day or a weekend, no matter how inspiring the weekend. I know Anthony Robbins charges a lot for his intense weekend programs, but I wonder how many people are permanently transformed, and how many people could have the same or better effects reading his books and/or working with a coach? I have friends who have called after taking the intensive Landmark program (kind of like EST from the seventies), feeling transformed, but a few months later, they admit that it didn’t really do anything permanently for them.

The biggest obstacle for most people is that we have false expectations of how change happens. I’ve seen friends lose a lot of weight quickly, but the ones who lose it slowly over time find that the changes ultimately stick. And the methods aren’t very sexy: 1) keep track of portion size 2) write everything down 3) realize that sugar and junk and high fat foods should be occasional treats 4) exercise every day 5) get enough sleep and 6) lower stress. That’s it. Some people do better with more protein or less or more carbs or less, but nobody needs to adhere to the zealotry of various diet camps, like Vegans vs. Paleo, because foods work differently for each person and there is no one right diet. Ultimately it still comes down to: Eat less and focus on real foods, and exercise and move a lot more. That’s it.

As you seek your world stage, beware of the coaching programs promising you an easy solution to changing your life for a high “investment” of money. You don’t need to spend 10K for a weekend to change your life. You just need to decide that you’re ready to change, and then find the books and/or people who can help you. For some, it’s going to AA meetings, or joining Weight Watchers, or checking out Toastmasters, or getting resume services. For others, it’s finding a coach to have your back as you do the hard work of change. But just remember no matter what, that you can decide to permanently change whatever isn’t working. It’s up to you.





Stop Fixing

This week it seems that many people I talked with were in some crisis or another. My daughter is still recovering from her concussion, my son is trying to navigate middle school politics, another friend has a daughter with a concussion, and one friend is in a toxic, emotionally abusive marriage that she can’t easily leave due to children. I have a friend who hasn’t found a job in three years of looking and the money is running out. I have clients who are struggling with bad relationships as well, or are lonely or struggle to ask for what they need. Many are scared that the world is falling down around them and that their dreams are out of reach.

In addition, it seems like everywhere you turn, there is bad news these days. This winter is one of the worst flu seasons since the Swine Flu of 2009. 4,000 people died from the flu in the third week of January this year and 63 children have died. The government was actually shut down because of a fight among parties about the rights of illegal aliens, and yet we are ignoring our American citizens, many of whom are addicted and/or homeless. The number of Americans who died from an opiod overdoses in 2016 (64,070) surpassed the total number of people killed in the entire Vietnam War (58,200). (CBS News, Oct 17, 2017) This is higher than the number of AIDS victims in a given year at its peak in 1995. In addition, 2017 was one of the hottest years on record and the six hottest years have been since 2010, according to CNN, and yet our administration denies that global warming exists. There are endless scandals in the White House and cover-ups for sexual abuse and domestic violence and a pedophile was almost elected to the Senate. And there are all the refugees fleeing violence, from Syria to Myanmar too.

It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. We are not made to take on endless stress and worry. Those of us who are caring and competent and good listeners can find ourselves drained from constant problems and others needing support. So this week, I decided to be more like a turtle, to pull myself in and focus on self-care and the most pressing needs of my family and my work, and do little else. We know how important it is to protect ourselves in obvious ways– like wearing a seatbelt or a helmet or locking our doors, or looking both ways before we cross, not to mention washing our hands a lot during flu season. But how do we protect ourselves energetically when everybody seems to have a problem or need something, when we become the dumping ground for everyone’s needs? The answer is to stop fixing. It doesn’t mean that you stop caring or wishing others well. It just means that you stop helping to solve others’ problems, which is a big tenet of coaching as well. Letting clients come to their own solutions is empowering, whereas fixing on any level can be enabling and doesn’t serve anyone. So this week, I took three large steps back energetically from solving the world’s problems and helping everyone who needed it. And it felt amazing.

To find your world stage, remember that you can inspire others and point them in the right direction, but you can’t save them. It’s up to them to do that work. And sadly, the world will always have problems, there will always be sad stories, and there will always be things we can’t control. What we can control is taking care of ourselves and being responsible citizens, who vote and recycle and avoid drugs and try not to fix. And if we do that, we can look up and rejoice in the wonder of so many things, like music and nature, and be glad once again to be alive.


The Problem with Denial

I just saw a riveting documentary called There Is Something Wrong with Aunt Diane about the Long Island mother who drove the wrong way down the Taconic Parkway in July 2009, with 5 children in her car, killing 8 people: 5 of the 6 in her car (her son survived) and 3 in another car. Her blood alcohol levels were found to be twice the legal limit and she had a large amount of marijuana in her system. And yet, her husband hired a lawyer to contest these medical facts, to prove that Diane wasn’t drunk. He said, “She was the perfect wife and mother.” That statement alone should have given people pause, because no one is perfect, and extreme perfectionists like Diane– the kind who was known for ironing even her kids’ play clothes after working a full-time job as the primary breadwinner– those are the people who need some kind of outlet for the unrelenting stress. Not only was she over 200 pounds, she smoked pot every night, according to her sister-in-law, so that she could relax. And she was the one who put a full bottle of vodka in the front seat of her car for the trip home, even though she was driving kids. And yet no one in her family was willing to put two and two together.

I read the memoir by the mother whose three girls were killed by their Aunt Diane, called I’ll See You Again. It was beautiful and heart-wrenching, describing the hell of losing all of her children, but the whole book was a denial of the test results and DNA, which were run multiple times, which showed that Diane was drunk and high at the time of the crash. The mother of the girls, ages 8, 7 and 5, couldn’t bear to believe that her husband’s sister had killed their children, or even worse that her husband knew about his sister’s problem with alcohol. Neither of those is something you want to know. So instead, for her survival, she chose denial.

One of my friends confessed to me a few years ago that he had been a raging alcoholic for many years and had driven drunk multiple times and even blacked out while driving. (I realized after the fact, that one of the times I was in the car.) There was one time when I caught him with slurred speech and he tried to brush it off as medication he was taking. I actually went through the trash bins to try to find evidence, but addicts are good at hiding. I never smelled anything, but then again, as he later told me, vodka is what seasoned alcoholics drink because there is no smell. The point of all this is that my friend held down a job, raised kids, was very responsible, and seemed very high- functioning. And his spouse, who also drank too much, was very happy to help him hide and enable. This was probably the same with Diane. I think her husband knew, but to confess that would mean lawsuits from the three adults killed in another car. So it’s better just to lie.

This story fascinated me because it’s so easy in our busy lives not to notice what is going on with the people around us, or to be in denial about our own lives. I have clients who struggle to see their marriages clearly, or to realize how lonely they are, or how toxic their jobs are, or how much they are enabling others’ bad behavior. We all do it to some degree. It’s easy to trick ourselves into thinking that we only need to lose a few pounds, when it’s really more like 20 pounds, or to think we don’t have a problem with alcohol but we can’t go a day without a few drinks, or to believe that we don’t have a spending problem, when in fact the debt is enormous. We also enable our family and friends when we don’t speak up. A former neighbor sent angry videos and emails to the whole neighborhood a few years ago, which was very strange behavior for this up-standing soccer mom, and no one said anything. Most people didn’t want to pry and needed to assume the best. I knew something was off and actually showed the strange videos to my daughter to make sure she never played over there, since I didn’t know if the mom was drunk or high or mentally ill, but none were a safe situation. It turns out she was bi-polar and going through a long manic stage. Thankfully she never drove my kids anywhere and ended up getting divorced and moving away, but one of her closer friends should have stood up to her and confronted her about what they saw. No one ever did.

As you seek your world stage, a big part of moving toward what you want is getting honest about what you’re in denial about. It’s not fun and it’s not easy, but asking the hard questions is so important for creating success. You have to be willing to step on the scale, add up your debt, notice how much you drink or smoke, and look at how happy your relationship really is. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person if you realize that something is wrong. It means that you’re a flawed human who is courageous enough to really look at your life, which is the first step toward making change. It also takes courage to notice what our friends and family are up to and to speak up if there is a problem. The fact is, denial can hurt or kill people and/or their dreams. Today, make a decision to really look at what is going on. It may be scary, but it’s the key to moving forward.






Be Willing to Walk

One of the best things I have learned as a parent and as a person, is not to give too much importance to any commitment, whether a school or an activity, in case the situation sours and you have to walk away. I think about this dynamic often as a parent in a competitive cut-throat world, in which parents push their kids relentlessly to succeed. While my husband and I work hard not to push our kids, many of the parents around us do. It’s hard when your child has made the team or the orchestra to walk away, even when the coach or director is badly behaved, but it’s essential to be able to.

When my daughter made it into a highly regarded youth orchestra, which hundreds of kids audition for, we were so excited for her. But when I sat through the first rehearsal and heard the conductor actually threaten bodily harm to one of the sweet little violinists because she couldn’t play the passage right, I was horrified. I looked around at the other parents watching and they were all smiling. When I asked a veteran parent about this, his answer was, “They get amazing results from the kids and it looks great on the college resume.” He didn’t seem to care that the conductor was abusive, given that she screamed: “If you don’t get this passage right, you will wind up in the hospital and I will wind up in prison.” The next week, I watched again, and the conductor was just as terrifying, so I told my daughter that we were going to walk away. Nothing was worth this kind of abuse. I called the school and they gave a full refund, although they reminded me that most parents don’t complain about the behavior because their kids improve.

Last spring my son auditioned for a competitive choir in Boston that sings with orchestras and opera companies. The director really liked him and wanted to groom him for great things. The problem was that month after month, the rehearsals were long and intense and there were many performances and demands outside of rehearsals. My son’s voice was starting to hurt from overuse, since he is one of the leads in Mary Poppins at his school right now. He was starting to get insomnia and other stress-related ailments from being over-scheduled. He was being groomed to sing a solo with a professional orchestra, but he doesn’t really like classical music. And the director seemed particularly interested in the few boys in the chorus, inviting them privately for ice cream with him, which we refused to let our son do because we thought it felt creepy. So, we walked away.

I think of all this because of the recent trial for the gymnastics doctor who was found to have molested hundreds of girls over 20 years, often while the parents were in the examining room. A lot of people have commented that they don’t understand how the parents didn’t know. But I totally understand that. They didn’t want to know because the stakes were too high. When your daughter is poised for huge success, you don’t want to be the person who blows the whistle. The gymnasts didn’t tell because they wanted to be one of the five who made the US team. But I get it because I see it everyday in my town, with parents who are so invested in their kids’ success, that they aren’t willing or able to speak up before it’s too late.

In our town, parents allow their kids to play on multiple soccer or hockey teams from a young age, and the kids’ muscles are strained from repeating the same sport over the over. We wouldn’t let our kids try out for travel soccer until they were older since we had a babysitter who had had two major surgeries from soccer before she was 16. A boy in our neighborhood had his leg shattered last fall from a collision on the field, I believe from years of overplaying. But when I ask parents why they allow coaches to insist on more and more practices and then games that are sometimes four states away, the parents shake their heads and say, “It’s an arms race, but if we drop out or speak up, we lose.” So as a result, everyone loses.

The fact is, we don’t always choose right. The preschool we chose for my daughter was like Lord of the Flies, with bigger kids bullying little kids, terrifying my girl. We walked away from a lot of money to go with the more orderly school that had rules that everyone had to follow and she ended up thriving. We walked away from the pediatrician who was rude and condescending to us, when my son had a medical problem that this doctor didn’t know how to fix. We walked away and found a great team to help him and never looked back.

To find your world stage, remember that if something is wrong, you do need to speak up. And if the situation doesn’t change, sometimes the best thing is to walk. Nothing is worth getting hurt or abused– no gold medal or Ivy League school or accolade is worth that. Keep your eyes open and notice when something isn’t right and speak up. In the end, you can either try to please others and get along, or you can please yourself and stand up for what is right. In my mind, that’s an easy choice.









Silver Linings

I’ve always been an optimist. I believe that most people are caring, and that in spite of all the misery in the world, life is fundamentally good. I try to focus on the beauty of the seasons, the joy of holding a new baby or a squiggly puppy, the wonder of seeing life through a child’s eyes, the excitement of discovering a new city or hearing beautiful music. Even though I’m not a huge fan of winter (I don’t ski and I hate being cold), I love the hush of winter and the look of snow falling through a window. Even though it rains a lot in spring, I am a huge tulip lover and am mesmerized by the explosion of color after a dull, dark season. Summer is swimming in lakes and sunshine and shorts and fresh berries. And fall, with its glorious color and crisp air and apple picking, is magical.

And yet, it’s easy to forget those things when life gets tough. In the last three months, my son had an emergency appendectomy, and then two months later had a laser treatment for a skin condition he’s had since birth, which leaves him bruised for weeks, often with his eyes swollen shut. It was one thing when he was a little guy and we could hide him from the world, but now that he’s in middle school, it requires a whole new level of courage returning to school even with faded bruises. Now that he’s finally healed, my daughter had a snowboarding accident on a school ski trip earlier this week and has been home with a concussion, with dim lights, no technology and no visitors– not easy for a teenager.

My husband reminds me that our house didn’t burn down, we are not dying of cancer, and we don’t live in parched places of Africa where there is no food and water. That is true, but still. On top of this, my son’s down jacket was stolen, and the attic has a leak from various winter storms, so in spite of a lot of roof work over the years, our 80 year-old house is going to need even more repairs. The good news is that it’s not fall of 2016, when the entire family passed lice back and forth for two months until we finally got rid of them, and then my daughter broke her finger, which took four months, two doctors, one physical therapist, one occupational therapist, and a lot of driving to heal.

But as all of this was happening, I thought of the silver lining, which is that my son had an amazing team at Children’s Hospital for both medical procedures, and we live near one the best hospitals in the world. We were 20 minutes away when we needed emergency attention and not in the middle of the Sahara, as my mom actually was when she traveled through Africa with her parents as a preteen. The good news about my daughter was that she was wearing a helmet that saved her when she fell back hard against the icy snow and blacked out. The ski patrol said that this saved her from very serious injury, and we will always be grateful. (In fact, we are keeping her helmet for our memories, given that she can’t use this one again, to remember what it did to help her.) And, I have a client and a neighbor who will now wear helmets because of this.

There are other silver linings too. Because Americans have Trump in the White House, we are slowly waking up to the fact that we need to be citizens and not consumers, and that we need to get off our devices, turn off the Kardashians and march. Because my daughter was home and had to be unplugged, we made art together and I read stories to her, which is something we haven’t done a lot of in years.

I’m starting to hear from more of you– which I love!– that you’re wanting to make changes in your life, to get in shape, to learn more about yourself and the world. The world becomes a better place when we take care of ourselves, because then we have more to give to others. One of the lessons I’ve learned when I’m under stress is to make sure I have time to sleep, eat well, and exercise. It allows me to be more patient and present.

To find your world stage, don’t forget to find the silver lining. It doesn’t mean going around with rose colored glasses on. You have every right to feel bad when things don’t go well. But as soon as the crisis passes, or even if/when it doesn’t, it is a great spiritual practice to ask what is good about this. I don’t believe the oft-used slogan of “Things Happen for a Reason” since there is never a reason for so many things, like children dying in wars or suffering from hunger. But, I do believe that there is a silver lining that we can see if we really look. And finding that lining allows us to endure the next time things are hard.



Do the Hard Thing

I saw a documentary recently on middle class teens who became addicted to heroin after taking pain killers for a sports injury. After the prescription meds became too hard to find or too expensive to pay for, they switched to heroin and even ended up using needles, entering into a life that neither they nor their parents could ever imagine. What struck me most was the number of teens who described their surprise at how good they felt the first time they took the pills. One guy said, “It felt so amazing that I figured it had to be good for you.” This was an college-educated guy saying this.

I thought of all the things that feel good and are good for you, like snuggling a child and eating blueberries hot from the sun, or watching a sunset in explosions of orange, and going for a walk. But then I thought about how many of us find it easier to bury ourselves in our phones and not snuggle, or eat a bag of chips instead of the blueberries, or decide we’re too busy to watch the sunset and miss the colors that only last for a few minutes before they’re gone. There is a reason that so many people increasingly throughout the world, in first world countries, are overweight or addicted to alcohol or drugs or gambling. If you go to an American mall on a given weekend, it’s shocking how many people are fat, wandering around eating fast food and drinking soda, with tons of packages on their arms, for a day of shopping as sport. I’m curious how many of these people are in debt and can’t afford to be shopping for fun.

The fact is that the key to being successful is being willing to do the hard thing day after day after day, while everyone else seems to be having endless fun, if you believe social media. Tony Robbins once said, “Every successful person did what no one else was willing to do.” We read about Olympic athletes who train for hours per day in grueling weather conditions and through physical pain to get where they want to go. Entrepreneurs have been known to work 80 hour weeks. The Pixar creators apparently worked so much in the early days to launch their films, that they slept in their offices to save time. There are stories all the time of obese people who finally got up the courage to lose 100 pounds or more, one step at a time.

For me, the hard thing is eating healthy foods instead of junk food and sugar, and getting out there to exercise most days. It’s writing my blog every single week no matter what, for almost 2 years and with over 100 posts at this point. It’s showing up 100% for my coaching clients every single session and coaching some days beginning at 6:30 for Australian clients. It’s the discipline of meditation and chi gong. It’s being there for my kids when they are sick or struggling or need help or comfort, or just want to have fun, and putting other things aside. It’s tracking every penny that we have spent for the past 25 years, budgeting every month, and not wasting money so that we can spend on what matters to us– a nice home, private schools, international trips, and things like camp and skiing. I say this not to brag but to mention that many friends with similar income have asked how we can afford this, but they forget that we don’t go shopping for fun, or go out to eat often, or spend $30 at the movies, or buy fancy cars. (We have one car, an 8 year-old Subaru, which works great for us.) We do the hard things so that we can have what we want. It’s definitely not easy or even always fun, but it’s so worth it.

To find your world stage, ask yourself what easy comfort you rely on, like watching too much tv or eating fatty treats or shopping all the time, that you will need to give up to become well-read and fit and fiscally responsible. It is definitely not fun in the moment, but the rewards are so great. Remember, nothing that is that easy is usually good for you, particularly in the case of addictions. Life is not meant to be smooth sailing all the time.  It’s meant to be rewarding, and that comes from doing the hard thing that many people can’t or won’t do.









Happy New Year!

As 2017 comes to a close and we look forward to 2018, I wanted to remind everyone that the answer is not a long list of resolutions to try to stick to, but instead a short list of Absolute Yeses for the new year. There will always be a lot of noise and distractions in the world, as well as family and friends with their own agendas insisting you do what they want. But in the end, it’s your life and your choice. You get to choose what works and what doesn’t. You get to decide what brought you joy this past year and what didn’t. You don’t have to follow the crowd and mindlessly do what everyone else does.

Here are some things I did in 2017 that I loved:

  1. I took on more wonderful coaching clients and really enjoyed being able to connect with and help clients from all over the world.
  2. I continued to write this blog, and got to guest blog for Live Your Legend, which was a great experience.
  3. I started performing again, after a long break, and now have several gigs.
  4. We hosted a French girl here for 10 days and then my daughter went to Arles, France for 10 days, all of which made me feel so hopeful about the world.
  5. We visited Seville, Spain and fell in love with it.

Here are some things I let go of this year:

  1. I stopped putting up with doctors I didn’t like. I switched my internist, OB, dentist, and my daughters’ pediatrician, all of whom are much better.
  2. I stopped giving endlessly to one-way friendships and raised my standards for what I expect in a relationship.
  3. I set up boundaries around my work hours, so that I could be more productive, and screened carefully for new clients, so that I work with clients I enjoy.
  4. I didn’t host Thanksgiving or Christmas this year, and my family had a simple staycation this holiday. And next year, we will be traveling at Christmas, so I don’t have to spend hours buying and wrapping gifts that frankly none of us need.
  5. We quit going to church, after bouncing around various churches for the past 10 years, realizing that we feel more religious when helping others or hiking in the woods or traveling.

As you think about this next year, with 365 new days waiting for you to experience them, remember that how you spend your days is how you spend your life. And if you don’t have a clear plan for how they are spent, others will decide for you.

Here are my Absolute Yeses for 2018:

  1. Spirituality: connecting with what matters to me on a daily basis
  2. Health: putting my diet, exercise and sleep front and center
  3. Family/Friends: making sure I spend time with family and friends who matter
  4. Creativity: making my music and writing a top priority
  5. Coaching: growing my business and serving more clients from all over the world
  6. Adventure: making sure that my life is full of fun, travel and new experiences.

What are yours? As you seek your world stage, think about what you have to say no to in order to make room for your yeses.

Happy New Year to all of you.  Wishing you a new year filled with joy and peace.





Let Go of Perfect

In Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, Richard Carlson wrote that it’s easy for many of us to find fault with everything, to the point that we miss the joy of life. I think this is very easy to do during the holidays, when expectations are sky high and yet so many things can fall short of our expectations. For those of you who are like me, who tend to be perfectionists and want everything just so, it’s a great lesson to let go and not hold on as tightly to how things have to be. Last night, for instance, my family and I went to see the old movie It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen in an old movie house. When we arrived, there were almost no seats, the place was run down, and my daughters’ arm rest, which was covered in gum, actually fell off. We could have gotten upset, but instead we just laughed about it, and remembered the slum we lived in when we spent time in Sydney a few years ago, that was falling down like this movie house, and then we enjoyed the movie. And today, when we went to my son’s choral concert, we ended up surrounded by people who were either chatting or texting or checking their PayPal accounts during the concert as soon as their own children weren’t singing. I just gently said “shhh” to a few people with a smile and let go of the larger fact that they were acting rude. I was able to enjoy the concert and they got the message. I didn’t have to get drawn into analyzing other people’s insensitivity.

Tonight my daughter celebrated her 15th birthday with 25 of her friends, including boys. Since many of her friends are from all over the world, because she goes to an international school, half of the parents didn’t RSVP.  My daughter texted her friends as well, but even as we were heading to the party, we didn’t really know who would show up; texts were coming in, asking where and when the party was again. I had to accept that even though I was raised to respond to invitations promptly and write thank you notes, that this may not be important in other cultures. So I just took a deep breath and accepted that whatever happened would be okay. In the end, we had two last minute no’s and one last minute yes and two people arrived late and one person left early and everyone had a great time. We did have a party room that only sat 16 people, so the other nine had to stand, but we squished them in by the door and handed them cake and soda and they were fine for the brief 10 minutes we were in there. One dad couldn’t seem to find the venue to pick up his daughter so I had to talk him through using Google Maps, and another boy hid in the bathroom since he was feeling socially awkward, but my husband and another kid were very kind to him and made him feel better. We also got kicked out of the skating rink since it closed at 9pm, so we stood in 15 degree weather outside, waiting for the late parents to pick up.  We ended up hanging out with a  bunch of kids in our car until those parents had arrived, which ended up being fun.

It always amazes me how wonderful life can be when we let go of needing to seek perfection, when we let go of rigid rules and expectations, and when we accept that cultures are different– not everyone values responding or being on time, and that’s okay. When you let go of that, then the magic appears. You enjoy the concert and don’t worry about why the audience is so inattentive. You enjoy the birthday party and don’t worry about not having enough chairs, or getting kicked out of the venue into the cold. You come up with a Plan B, which is more creative and fun. You realize that you don’t have to be the perfect hostess and follow all the rules, which frees you up to notice the dynamics of your daughters’ first boy-girl party. You get to notice the joy that these kids felt just being together, and you realize that they didn’t care if they had a seat or were kicked out in the cold, as long as they could hang out longer.

To find your world stage, try to soften your rules, expectations, assumptions, and judgments. The world is large and we are all so different. If we let go of what needs to happen, we start to see the magic of what does unfold, for better or for worse. This holiday season, remember that you don’t have to be perfect, but instead be open to whatever comes.



Happy Thanksgiving!

For those of you who are American, I want to wish you a happy Thanksgiving. For those who are from other countries, it’s a great time before Christmas comes to remember to give thanks for all of our blessings, both large and small. It’s so easy for many of us to get caught up in the endless wave of consumerism and to crave more, when in fact the greatest lesson is being happy with what we have.

Chelsea Dinsmore, who took over her husband’s organization called Live Your Legend after he died two years ago, posted recently about the importance of gratitude, particularly in times of grief. Her husband was killed from rock falling as they were nearing the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Chelsea had to spend days climbing back down the mountain while her husband’s body was carried down with the group, and yet she chose even in the darkest time to look for whatever gratitude she could find. She shared this poem, which I am in turn re-posting here. I love the idea that not having everything we desire allows us to have something to look forward to, and that going through hard times enables us to build character. It may not feel that way in the moment, but we can often see it later looking back.

In a world of presidential tweets, airbrushed models, sound bites, fake news, and false social media images, it’s a good reminder to know that there are no short-cuts. Instead, we need to remember the basics: Show up, work hard, do your best, be grateful, and be kind to others. In Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, Richard Carlson once wrote, “Be grateful when your mood is high and graceful when it is low.” I think of that often when things aren’t going as well. And these days with all the bad news, from horrific shootings to natural disasters to nuclear threats, it’s a test sometimes to be graceful. But gratitude makes that possible.

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, take some time this holiday season to be grateful for all you have. As you seek your world stage, remember that there is nothing more attractive than a grateful person.

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful when you don’t know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.
Be thankful for the difficult times
During those times you grow.
Be thankful for your limitations
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.
Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.
Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.
Be thankful when you’re tired and weary
Because it means you’ve made a difference.
It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are
also thankful for the setbacks.
Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
and they can become your blessings.
~ Author Unknown ~




Let Us Give Thanks

It’s hard to believe that the holidays are once again upon us. It seems like just a few months ago that I was making New Year’s Resolutions and committing to brand new goals, when in fact here we are with six weeks left to our year. I must admit that I do love this time of year, with golden leaves, crisp air, mittens and pumpkins and dressing up, gathering with family, twinkling lights and shiny ornaments.

My kids aren’t little anymore– my younger child will be a teen in 3 months, so I’m no longer doing the snow suit dance in which you get both kids in all the layers and then someone has to use the bathroom. They listen to music that consists of lots of breathless men playing the ukulele and I long for some Elton John or Aretha or even Queen.  We’re not going on “hikes” in the neighborhood anymore to collect leaves in our buckets to make into pretty pictures. We still pick apples most years, but really fall has become the backdrop of a busy back-to-school season, with dances and sleep-overs, homework, soccer practices and games and lots of scheduling and logistics. We don’t have anyone dressed as superheroes with capes anymore, but my son did volunteer to go to a diversity conference today so that his classmates would know that white guys care about diversity too. My daughter no longer dresses as princess who can change bad to good with her wand, but she helped a woman this fall who had collapsed by the road. She didn’t have a wand, but she had her cell phone and called 911, waiting until the EMT arrived.

This holiday season I want things to be different for me.  I will not rush or overspend or eat until I’m stuffed. Instead, I will try to be present and more moderate, to spend time enjoying the season, to take my time. It’s not easy to do, but a great start is gratitude, remembering that most of us are not escaping war-torn countries, many of us have enough to eat and a place to sleep, and some of us have work that makes us happy.  Today I went to the mall with my family to do some evening shopping and realized how easy it is to pull away from gratitude when you are surrounded by excess– store after store with beautiful things to look at and buy and own. It takes really presence not to get sucked into believing that you will be happier if you own all the shiny objects that are for sale. I tried a few things on in a horrible dressing room with unflattering light and three- way mirrors. It’s a wonder that I bought anything and left feeling at all good about myself in that light and with those angles.

When my kids were little, we used to spend time in the car talking about what we were grateful for. My kids came up with the most wonderful ideas. Here is an excerpt from a Christmas letter that I came across recently, describing the year when my kids were 4 and 2: “Will talks so constantly that Isabel can’t get a word in edgewise. He also loves to shout, “thank you, God!” whenever we’re driving. When we ask what they are grateful for, Isabel tends to be practical, mentioning her house and her friends. Will is more specific—“I’m grateful for blackberries, rocks and gourds. And peaches and mouths.”

So this holiday season, remember that a big part of finding your world stage, is realizing the parts of it that you already have. Let us be grateful for our own version of “peaches and mouths” and shine a light on a world that so needs our joy and our peace.