Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Top 3 Lessons from 2009


Bidding farewell to this year is quite easy as change is in my blood. As I start to formulate objectives for 2010, I can't help but look back and reflect on 2009 with awe. I could write for hours (days) on all the lessons I learned this past year but I won't. I'll sum it up in three.


Lesson #1 from 2009 - Even when a storm rages, keep your focus and don't lose hope for greater spoils.

2009 started in a storm that held over from 2008. Precisely on New Year's Day 2009, I received a phone call that clearly let me know that the storm from the previous year was far from over.


By April, not only had the worst of the clouds cleared out, but a new adventure awaited with my election to the Board of Trustees for the Village of Lake in the Hills. Seven months into the job, I can honestly say, I love it.

I never lost hope that greater things awaited me on the otherside of the challenges I faced.


Lesson #2 from 2009 - Surrender is a life altering attitude and daily action.

As the year progressed, several endeavors both personally and professionally really gained momentum. With each passing month, focused energy on the goals which included rebuilding trust in my most important human relationship and finding meaningful purpose in my work life, forced me to relinquish my death grip on the "outcome" in all areas of my life. I learned what true surrender means in 2009 and what a freeing and liberating concept it is to live by.

I challenged my Maker to show up and own the most important and mundane situations in my life in 2009 because it was just too damn exhausting trying to do it all myself.

Boy, did He show me.

From the littlest details of my daily life to the big decisions and angst I wrestled with throughout 2009, my Maker orchestrated every move and gave me peace. And joy. Joy is not tied to circumstance or a feeling, but an internal force that propels you forward.

Joy comes only when you surrender your control over the outcomes in your life.

Lesson #3 from 2009- Trust yourself and give your dreams some love.

By late November, I had my epiphany. Relationships Matter Now. Now you may read that and say, "Duh, how'd you get to be a 38 year old marketer without figuring that out?" I mean that Relationships Matter Now is my calling. My life's work will be centered around this thought , "Relationships Matter Now". Today, it is not all clear what exactly it will entail but I am building on this concept day-by-day until it manifests itself fully. It is exciting and scary all at once. Be sure and tune in in the coming days, it will be part of my 2010 objectives. We will watch this new project will unfold before our collective eyes over the next year.


The reason this concept has taken hold of me is the realization that relationships of all kinds abound in our lives and most often, most people don't embrace them, care for them - cherish them. Even the fleeting work and transactional interactions with other humans matter and they matter greatly. I am convinced that as we press forward into the new century, we must recalibrate how we look at relationships, all relationships. This isn't a just a company or a campaign - it is a movement.

A movement I plan to lead.

So long 2009... thank you for all you taught me.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Greetings from an Authentic Christmas Lover


This picture is great imagery for what is in my heart today.

Peace.

Tranquility.

Gratefulness.

Abundance.

Warmth.

Reflection.

My house smells like cookies and cakes as I am only cooking desserts this year. Thanks Famous Dave's for the BBQ feast. That may just have to become a tradition. We did it once way back when Emma was a baby and judging from every one's reaction - it appears that we need to order in BBQ as part of the Barreto family Christmas celebrations to come.

We attended a Christmas service at Willowcreek Community Church earlier this week that touched our hearts in a special way. I met one of my favorite leaders

Tonight, we'll anxiously await "the man with the bag" to bestow Emma and Evan with some of their wishes.

This time of year means different things to different people. I am always amused by the various "debates" about Christmas among my Christian brethren. For me there is nothing more "Christian" than just respecting others and being kind whenever given an opportunity. This season we are given ample opportunities, perhaps many more than in other time of the year.

I'd debated about blogging about two topics before today but Mandisa (of American Idol fame and current Christian contemporary artist) and one of her commentators, Susan H. Lawrence covered them adequately so go take a look:

Mandisa's Christmas vs Xmas

Susan's Too Much Nativity

Enjoy these two well written viewpoints on the topic of Christmas and Christians. And if you happen to be one who doesn't celebrate Christmas at all, enjoy your days of rest courtesy of all us Christmas celebrants.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Encounter with an Authentic Leader


This post will go 100% against everything the person it honors stand for... individual recognition. But I have to write it because I believe it will enlighten folks who've only heard of him or interacted with him at a distance.


The person is Bill Hybels, founder and Senior Pastor of Willowcreek Community Church.


Last night, my family and I had the honor of sitting in the second row for a historic event at Willowcreek Community Church, the first Christmas service presented in Spanish in 34 years of Christmas services - Dios Con Nosotros. The picture above is not great but gives you an idea of the magnitude of the event - close to 10, 000 Spanish speaking people in the auditorium.


Fernando Arau, the Mexican born entertainer opened the event with an incredible testimony of how he experienced Immanuel (God with Us or Dios Con Nosotros) in his life.


What followed was a heartfelt mix of music, drama and message delievered to close to 10,000 Spanish speaking guests in the main auditorium of the third largest church in the United States.


I could not help but be excited when I spotted Bill, one row over from us in the front. I've been part of Willowcreek, off and on since 1990 - settling there once and for all in 2002.


I've attended 3 out of the last 4 Leadership Summits at Willow that draws church and marketplace leaders from around the world with faciliators such as Carly Fiorina, Bono, Colin Powell, Jim Collins, Patrick Lencioni and next year Jack Welch.


To say that Bill is a rock star to me is really an understatement. I have admired him from a distance for many years. His example of leadership has especially touched me since I started attending the Summits in 2006. But none of it prepared me for the chance encounter last night.


At the conclusion of the service, we moved to the front of the stage to hug Gaby Hermosillo, the wife and partner in ministry of the Casa de Luz Pastor Hector Hermosillo. As I turned around, there he was, standing pretty close and not talking to anyone


I introduced myself and told him a brief story I crafted in my head a moment before, as I spoke - he looked at me intently. Smiled warmly. It was as if it were me and him in the room (with 10,000 of our closest friends nearby).


Just as I started to tell him how awesome Willow has been in my life over the years - he got the look of "Please don't thank me" and quickly acknowledged that it was "God thing" how Willow had come together for me over the years including the start of Casa de Luz, a Spanish language service that not-so-conincidently began in the fall of 2002, just as we moved to the area looking for a church home.


Sorry Bill, but I disagree.


You, your authentic leadership and obedience to God is what has propeled Willow in the last 34 years.


Your humility that I witnessed first hand last night, up close and personal is astounding.


Your vision is unshakable.


Your compassion for others and particularly for me and my family last night is moving.


Your genuine desire to put Him at the center of everything is inspiring.


Thank you.


You didn't let me say it last night but I will say it here.


Thank you for your quest for justice.


Thank you for leading by example.


Thank you for leading me (and Willow) all these years.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Do What You Love. Period


Today, I did just that.

I woke up at my normal 5:15 call time. Started the day with a little reading and a lot of prayer.

Laid out my objectives for the day and set out to achieve each one.

By 2:30, I'd landed on the purpose for my upcoming venture. By 3:00, I connected with a contact that had eluded me lately regarding 2010 speaking opportunities. Score.

I worked out later and made a fabulous dinner for my family.

We opened a bottle of wine for the occasion.

Today was a glimpse of my future. I plan to work as hard as it takes to ensure that one day in 2010, I will do what I love everyday.

If you are on the fence about pursuing your dream, whatever that may be - I encourage you to do a trial run. Give that dream some love.

You will feel the love in return.



Sunday, December 13, 2009

Be Authentic in Business So We Know

This past week, I was soooooooo glad that two different businesses I interact with were authentic in their dealings with me. Because of their authenticity and consistent treatment, I've taken my business and hard earned cash to their competitors. Happily.

In the first case, it was a service organization who had no clue how to manage a potential customers expectations. My kids take music lessons and since the school they had been with moved too far south, I'd found another school opening a new studio near my house. We signed up with them months in advance of the opening to secure the spot we desired. Time passed and there was no call from the business to our house to confirm the start of our engagement. I made three calls to the company to gage when we could expect to start the classes. On the final call - two weeks AFTER the classes should be going, the owner was slightly agitated when I pressed to understand the exact date the lessons could start. "We are going to start fresh in the new year and I'll call you to confirm the date."

Further, I asked if they had a referral program because others at the school I patronized were looking for a new location - she said, "No, but I'll happily take the referral and thank you." Then the kicker - the owner asked if I could change the night that I'd secured almost four months prior because she could not work out a teacher.

They were fired that day and I called another nearby studio who had availability on the night I need to accommodate both children - piano and guitar.

A day later, I was attempting to purchase a necklace at an establishment where they experienced a temporary loss of credit card processing with a long line of customers. I was midway through the line and heard that they were accepting checks or cash. So I piped up that I was a cash paying customer and started toward the front of the line. I was immediately admonished that I was "cutting" people who were there before me (all of which were paying with credit or debit). I held out my cash and explained that I was ready while all those people wanted to wait for the credit machine to boot up again. Nothing. I was told to get back in line and they'd wait on me when it was my turn.

They were fired that day and I went to their competitor two days later and purchased the same necklace for about 40% less.

Moral of the story here - believe them! The first time!

Don't think that the business you deal with is just "having a bad day" when you are mistreated.

Don't give them the benefit of the doubt more than once.

Yeah, this is a rant but as a future business owner, it's also a note to my future competitors.

Go ahead, be yourselves.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas Classic Authentically Grips Me This Season


This is my favorite time of year, musically speaking.


I love to hear all the various artists singing songs to honor our newborn King.


It's cool to hear Barenaked Ladies singing "God Bless Ye Merry Gentleman"


I cannot pass up any Harry Connick, Jr version of any song but his "O Holy Night" is by far my favorite, followed closely by "Ave Maria"


What moves me the most are the actual words to these songs that we pull out once a year...


"Fall on your knees"


"No crib for a bed"


"Peace on earth and merry mild"


Every year, all the traditional hymns grip my heart and cause me to pause every time I hear them. Something new is happening this year - a song from the animated classic "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" has gripped along with the others.

"Put One Foot In Front Of The Other"


You may remember it, it's the song where young Kris Kringle tells Winter Warlock he can change from bad to good. The chorus is what it is -it's the verses that have moved me, especially in my current journey.


Check this out...

"If you want to change your direction
If you're time of life is at hand
Well don't be the rule -- be the exception
A good way to start is to stand"

You don't have to be a sage to pull the business advice from this verse.

Or look at the first verse...

"You never will get where you're goin'
If you never get up on your feet
Come on! There's a good tail wind blowin'
A fast walkin' man is hard to beat!"


Funny, I have been listening to this song for almost three weeks. Practically daily. It was today on my commute with Evan and I singing it loudly that it smacked me in the face.
I have my business idea.
Confirmed validation from the trusted core of advisers.
I've got the "tailwind" that Kris references.
I just need to walk a little faster.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tweetastic!


Earlier this week, after pretty much avoiding it like the plague, I joined Twitter for a work project.

Tweetastic - what the heck had I been thinking!!

My rationale was simple... I don't need another media.

I don't need another way to be "connected" to my peeps.

What could I possibly say or tweet all day long?

I was wrong and I'm not afraid to tweet it!

In five short days - Twitter has connected me with Simplicity Inc. who will surely be instrumental in guiding me on my first business adventure.

I have also connected to award-winning authors, mommy bloggers who rock and my beloved Lenny Kravitz.

More importantly than the connections is the sheer Twitter 140 character function that has forced me to be more succinct. To the point. Clear in my communications.

That is the biggest blessing and has had the MOST EXCELLENT timing in my current journey.

While I am still navigating how to manage my Twitter time, it has been a gem in my life so far.

Tweetastic!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

An authentic rant from a Chicago Fire fan


One of my favorite lines from a movie is this:


"It's not Show Friends, it's Show Business" - Bob Sugar, Jerry Maguire


I've even caught myself uttering it occasionally over the years.


This past week, I finally understood why it's such a cold statement.


Next year, a great friend of mine will not be on the sidelines of my favorite MLS team, The Chicago Fire, because the "team decided to go in a different direction."


I sure hope that "different direction" is a clear upgrade. Meaning, they must be looking outside the league for a replacement.


Here is a man who has motivated a team to play beyond themselves for two straight years and get to the conference final only to lose on penalties. For those of you not watching - basically, he had two "big name" stars both of whom were/are on the decent from their highest form. Two players that could not have been more opposite in nature and play. Apart from the superstars -he had a solid goalkeeper who more than earned his pay on many occasions plus a supporting cast, that was average at best with a few potential shining stars; it was a miracle that they got as far as they did these past two years.


I have hesitated all week to write because I am, admittedly, emotionally attached to the situation. After all, the man in question is my friend and we worked closely together the first three years of the Chicago Fire's existence. He was one of two partners who helped me launch the FireWorks for Kids Foundation in 1998 now known as the Chicago Fire Foundation.


But, now looking at it almost a week removed and having slept on many versions of this post the facts are clear.


He was a tenacious player when he played and opened the league as his team's best defender in it's inaugural year in 1996 (there are many who say he could have challenged the league's selection of John Doyle that year - I'm just sayin.) .


He played in a few leagues before MLS and knows the American soccer system as good as anyone.


He has tremendous experience as an assistant and rightfully earned a chance to head coach.


He has a winning record in each of his two seasons as a head coach with two trips to the conference finals.


I get it - no bling - no thing.


I just hope another MLS team scoops him up fast and can't wait for his return to Toyota Park.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Authentic Thankfulness



Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.


You see, I commandeered Thanksgiving from my family during my college years.




It was my holiday to do as I pleased - which may or may have included traditional holiday dinners with my family. My mom died in 1976 when I was almost 5 and until my dad remarried when I was close to 11 years old - holidays were kind of blah. Of course, we celebrated but they were really low key. (Hence my outrageous birthday celebrations - see post from November 17)

In college, my dad and step mom divorced so I decided that I was not obligated do Thanksgiving with anyone. Since this holiday is my favorite and fell in my favorite month of the year- it was game for the taking.

One year - I saw Michael Hutchence and INXS at the Aragon Ballroom. Michael sweat on me that night - quite possibly my best Thanksgiving ever.

Another year, I spent Thanksgiving in Marbella, Spain in a bar with a bunch of new friends from Holland, Spain and Portugal.

My first Thanksgiving with Isael was spent in Barcelona. We saw Fatboy Slim (a famous DJ that we had not idea who he was at the time) perform in a crowded theatre with our Norwegian roommate, Inca. Fun, fun.

There have been at least three Thanksgivings in Cuautla Mexico with my husband's family where we did a joint birthday celebration with his sister whose birthday is two days before mine.

And of course, there are the Thanksgivings where I cook my famous sweet potato pie and many sides to go with the Heavenly Ham I always purchase the day before.



Food, Friends, Family and of course FOOTBALL make this an amazing day.



As a mom, it has become my duty to keep my little ones from skipping Thanksgiving with all the Christmas hype that I did not have as a kid.



So this week, I have challenged my kids to be thankful and verbalize what they are thankful for in an effort to reinforce the importance of giving thanks, this week and always.

I must take my own advice... here goes....

I am thankful for my intimate relationship with my Maker that grows each day richer and deeper.

I am thankful for my marriage. What an amazing journey we've been on for the last 16 months and we are now hitting a new and better era of our lives together.

I am thankful for two healthy, bright and beautifully compassionate kids.


I am thankful for one living parent and many living relatives who care about us.

I am thankful for tremendous talents and gifts that I continue to hone for a greater purpose.

I am thankful for a fruitful career as a marketer and my current job.

I am thankful for the opportunity to serve my community as a elected official.

I am thankful for a vision that is coming together, each day, each moment.

If you haven't already - take a moment and physically record what you are thankful for... it does wonders for the soul.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Office Nails It


If you did not watch tonight's episode of The Office - don't read this. Wait until you watch it on DVR and then come back.

OK, now that you are back, tonight's episode nails it 100%. Tonight's episode nails the corporate experience as I have seen it in my 17 years of working. Whether or not you watch The Office regularly - this is an episode not to be missed.

I'll set it up for you and when the episode is posted on NBC.com, I will surely post the link here.

Basically, Dunder Mifflin, the fictitious paper company on which the NBC hit series is based, is in trouble. There is shareholder meeting called and to distract the shareholders from the pending news of bankruptcy, the officers of the company invite Scranton branch manager Michael Scott to wave and represent the one good thing going on in the company on its way to certain doom. In classic Michael Scott-style, Michael does not quietly wave and "represent" the way the officers of the company would have him, instead he tries to motivate the dissidents with a rousing speech and makes a promise to "come back with a plan - a 45 day plan to turn the company around."

Upon returning to the staging room - the officers of the company, clearly shaken and freaking out about Michael's promise, began to badger him for his "plan." Without one at the top of his head, he calls in one of his employees, Oscar, who had been pontificating on the limo ride what he'd do if he were in charge. The defining scene that motivated me to blog comes next.

Given an opportunity to speak to the officers of Dunder Mifflin and genuinely contribute to the conversation on how to save the company, Oscar freezes, says nothing and slinks out.

Before the slinking, Michael- in all his inappropriate glory - prods Oscar with some of the tidbits that he'd been putting out over the last two days since the greater environment was alerted to the company trouble. "Tell 'em what you said about cash and property dumping," Michael said trying to pull Oscar into talking.

Nothing.

Not only nothing from Oscar but worse than that, none of leaders had the brains to ask him to talk or attempt to make him comfortable enough to tell the ideas that his desperate boss had called him in to share.

It was an all too common scene. Uncomfortable as it was in this fictitious world, I know this happens on a daily basis in real life and that is worse.

This episode highlights what I believe is the #1 problem in corporate America today.

The chasm between the people in charge and the people who may have solutions to contribute is often deep and wide.

It's two-fold and everyone plays a part.

Which one are you?

Are you the "Oscar" in your organization? The person with "all the answers" among your peers but silent in front of stakeholders who can make things happen. You chirp and chirp and, who knows - some of what you say may be legit but you'd never have the huevos to express it in the appropriate forum. Or...

Are you the Dunder Mifflin officer - too damn prideful to think that someone else (gasp) lower than you on the corporate ladder could actually have something to contribute? You know who you are; you make the worker bees feel stupid when they open their mouths with an original idea and then asks a few trusted folks near you why no one says anything in meetings.

I am happy to report that I am neither.

Although I have only been in three "corporate" (corporations not start-ups or non-profits) environments in my career, I am proud to say that I have consistently been a person who has both the skills and will to speak up and contribute.

Even when I speak alone.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

38 and counting.....the blessings


There I said it.

I'd never been one to really care about my age and have kidded with never turning 30 by "anniversarying" my 29th birthday for the last 9 years.

Yesterday, on my 38th birthday, I realized that 38 years of existence comes with it's observations:

It's another year, another year without her.

Every year, I think about my mom Betty Jean (Jackson) Wilmer who left this earth 33 years ago this past August. Each year the impact seems greater, the desire to share my happenings with the woman in my mind who is forever 24 years old. Although she's been gone longer than she was here, her impact is still being felt through me. She herself would be 58 next month, were she here. In our Internet age, I think that maybe there are people who might be looking for her so I have made a commitment this next year to blog about her and post a few of the photos I have so that she, too can be captured immortally online and "found" by folks looking for her.

People actually listen when you announce your birthday for the weeks leading up to it.

Before this year - I'd announce that folks had 30 shopping days until my birthday in mid-October. I'd tease and prod and joke that MY BIRTHDAY was coming and you should all care. I'd be lucky to get a few wishes at work or a few calls from the network. This year - I'd swear everyone I know wished me a happy birthday. First thing in the morning, at Evan's school - the director wished me happy birthday and every person I came in contact with the rest of the day wished me a happy birthday as well.

You are truly touched by every wish granted.

This year - with the help of Facebook events - lots and lots of people wished me a happy birthday on my page yesterday and I thanked each and every one personally. No small feat for someone who boasts friends from high school, college, and every single job I've had - those who know my 1st decade out of college gypsy-like career moves knows that is no small number. Funny, because there were times yesterday when I was tempted to post a blanket thanks but then I thought about the time each person took to remember and stop by and I couldn't do it. I was compelled to answer every wish, individually.

On the rare but many calls received, you actually preview happenings as much as you reminisce

I think the more you approach the middle age time of your life - you are so much more reflective and projective all at the same time. Every conversation centered around what I expect to happen over the next year, God willing and past celebrations we may have had together. In the past - it was about the NOW. What are we doing? Where are we going? In a sense it is the same, but very different.

Our foursome is weaved tightly and demonstrates our love to one another best in celebration of birthdays

My husband, kids and I have patented "rock star" birthday celebrations. We love on one another, treat each other and just gush gush for the whole month of our birthdays. Even this morning, my son came in and said, "Mommy, we are still celebrating your birthday today, even though it was yesterday." You see he and my daughter have their birthdays celebrated the whole months of May and August and they have translated that selflessly into April for my husband and November for me. Yes - because I am a birthday freak (ask my dad, he started it years ago, perhaps to overcompensate the sadness of other holidays with the loss of my mom so early) and it rubbed off but this is genuinely a tradition that I am so glad we've built in our world. Sort of my dad's celebrations magnified by four!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Authentic Resilience


Tonight, as I searched for a visual representation of resilience - I came across this photo of the flower sprouting out in the midst of the asphalt. This is a great representation of what I consider authentic resilience.

You must imagine the roots of this flower pushing and twisting, contorting and stretching itself to reach its life sustaining soil. With each season, it has to work that much harder to keep itself alive. To add value to its tiny corner of the universe. To bring joy to the one looking for it in the simplest of places

I'd bet there are days when trying to find water, a very basic element that should be easily encountered in its environment, this flower's roots stretch to the point of breaking to get the drops of moisture that it senses in the dark below. It can't think - it operates all by instinct and that is what keeps this solo flower growing in the midst of asphalt

Some days I feel like that, too.

In all my efforts to not just survive but thrive in the spot I'm in, I twist and push, contort and stretch myself even beyond what I think are my limits of "enough is enough.

Yet I don't break.

I deliver. For my family, for my friends, for my employer and ...

Mainly for myself.

Dictionary defines resilience as the following:

1. The capability of a body to recover its size and shape after deformation cause especially by compressive stress
2. An ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune or change.

Interesting.

I use resilience in my brand statement and never think of it as a result of something negative. On the contrary, I see it as an innate ability to form oneself for the task at hand.

Either you possess this character trait or you don't.  You can't teach this but it can be learned.

May you have or develop the resilience needed to face whatever is in front of you.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Summer November Weekend Wows This Scorpio



November is my favorite month and always has been.

With about 8 days until the 9th anniversary of my 29th birthday, I cannot remember a weekend in November this gorgeous. I usually love this month no matter the temperature but I have to say I am impressed with this weekend, in particular.

70 degrees and sunny  Saturday, 75 degrees and sunnier Sunday. The picture I found is similar to our weekend minus the mountain and with lots more leaves on the ground.

First, a visit to the park with the kids and then a jump or two on the trampoline.

An MLS playoff series win for the Chicago Fire with a celebration under the clear Chicago sky.

Then - a Sunday afternoon outside with my dad, my sister's brood and my own two kids. You can't beat this!

This post is dedicated to all those who complained all summer long (and part of the fall) about our weather - see, if you just keep living - the good days come. Sometimes two days in a row!

My only hope is that you Chicagoans (or anyone in the midwest for that matter)  got out to enjoy it.

I know I did.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lemon Cream Pie: The Solution to Life's Sour Moments

Quite possibly one my favorite desserts (and there are many) is Lemon Cream Pie. Follow this link to the recipe I prefer: Lemon Pie.

Now, of course - I only use the base with authentic Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk, fresh squeezed lemon juice and  I always, always,  ALWAYS experiment with toppings and crusts. Sometimes, I whip up fresh whipped cream and put it over a layer of strawberries in a graham cracker crust.

It's good, don't turn your nose up.

I've lined it with kiwis and put it in a shortbread cookie crust.


The point - I always start with lemons. Sour, tart, bitter lemons.

I have never been one to say - "make lemonade out of lemons" but always say make a lemon pie.

There is much more effort in lemon pie vs. lemonade.

I have to reach for many more ingredients with lemon pie vs. lemonade.

Lemon pie is just more sturdy than lemonade.

Often times - depending on who I'm sharing with - I solicit feedback for the lemon pie surprises and last time I checked - no one asks some else how the make lemonade.

Are you following me?

When you have that crappy meeting, stinging conversation or devestating news - what do you do with it?

Do you mix it with water and sugar (maybe vodka) and hope for the best?

I can tell you what I do. I pour over the details. I throw out what was not worth keeping and let the things that bothered me most, MOTIVATE me to dig my heals into my brilliant idea and figure out a different way to serve it up OR I challenge myself to blow it up and make it even better.

By no means, do I serve up a glass of lemon water with a little sugar.

Life does throw us many lemons.

Next time you receive one - what are you going to do with it?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Well... What is the barrier?


Interestingly enough - today, I asked someone I care about this very question. It started very innocently and yielded itself into the title of this blog.

What did they really want to do with themselves?

Pretty concise answer. No hesistation

I would venture to say no less than 50% of my network know exactly what they want to be doing.

Well, what is the barrier?

Silence.

In the uncomfortable quiet - it occurred to me that I need to ask myself this same question.

What is my barrier to what I want?

Is it real or imagined?

I am one year into my journey... in fact, it's later this week I will celebrate the anniversary of the start of my blog and 80 posts later - much progress has been made.

I've narrowed my focus for my ultimate dream. Still not sharing completely to the world yet. Soon enough.

I've led workshops, spoke at schools and conferences - all without much proactivity on my part.

I've won elected office and serve my village.

With all the progress - as I probed this friend - I found myself faced with answering the question for me.

I don't have the complete answer.

Of course I have the standard, pat - bad economy - no crazy moves, yadda yadda yadda.

So this week, I will seek the answer to my own question for me. I found the image above to represent my "wall or barrier" Why? Because I can see around it. I could possibly scale it with the right equipment. It is not insurmountable to me. Now I will tackle it.

What about you?

What is keeping you from your dream?

What is the barrier?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Authentically Stumped But Wanting To Post

So many thoughts, so little to tie them together.

The continued fruits of perseverance...

My fleeting fantasy to move to Mexico - prompted partially by the weather - no sun really depresses me and causes irrational outbursts

Major changes on my team at work that are still pending...

Yet another invite to speak at a conference...

Moments of my babies growing up killing me...

Less and less time to do some things I REALLY want to do...

So tonight, instead of posting some great insights that will enhance peoples lives (never my point but often the result of my expressions) I want to encourage people to embrace these moments of scattered thoughts and unfocused energy.

With the wicked pace we all keep - it is great to not have a focus, just riffing the things that are going through your mind. Dissecting some - forgetting or acting on others.

To me, that is inspiring.

And reassuring that we all have these moments and are not too deep to share them with others

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Fruits of Perseverance


This week has delivered me some very cool and unexpected victories - fruits, if you will.

First, something that I convinced myself (and had third party validation as well) would NEVER happen - actually happened Wednesday night, hours after me wrangling in my mind all the reasons why it would not happen.

Coincidence? No, but possibly a fluke.

Grateful, I pressed forward and even spread the good news to a few close friends.

Then tonight, on an equally silver platter - another very clear demonstration to me that Wednesday's revelation was not a fluke. With concise and intentional meaning, the proverbial "other shoe dropped" in the ongoing journey toward healing and restoration.

We are one year, two months and 10 days into this journey.

The message is this... What are you striving for? Or better stated what have you given up on?

I blogged here about persistence in the spring, see the post here.

Perseverance embodies persistence as the dictionary says that perseverance is the "steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose or a state - especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles or discouragement".

Too many times we give up before the harvest comes in. Use this fall to recommit yourself to something you've yearned for...

an improved interpersonal relationship

a new career path

losing the final 15 pounds

Whatever it may be... ante up and start again. I am smiling broadly thinking of moments over the last 14 months where I was thisclose to throwing in the towel and didn't.

The fruits of perseverance are too sweet to pass up but they cannot be enjoyed until they are ripe, mature and ready to be eaten.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Authentic Validation

Last week, I attended the 96th Annual Conference for the Illinois Municipal League. This is an organization run by and for municipal officers throughout the state of Illinois. Truly a great conference, especially for me as a newly elected official. I was particularly motivated by the keynote speaker from our general session.

Christopher Gardner, the NY Times Bestselling author of his autobiography, The Pursuit of Happyness and subject of the 2006 film starring Will Smith of the same name, was the headliner sponsored by Walgreens. I just blogged on my political blog - "that Mr. Gardner was worth every penny Walgreens paid to bring him to us."

He spoke about "Breaking Cycles" and MAN, did he strike a cord with me. From the very basic to extremely complex - I can relate to this man on many fronts. I sat there captivated as he spoke. Often times - I'd swear he was talking directly to me. Not in a "sermon from the pastor" sort of way but literally as he spoke of taking responsibility for his life and his decisions- some of which landed him on the streets of San Francisco homeless with a 14 month old baby boy- and asking us to do the same - there was a validation of my current journey happening in my heart and in my mind and I would guess that he saw that in my eyes as he spoke. (I was sitting in the third row on the end of a row of seats right in the diagonal eye shot of Mr. Gardner as he spoke and paced in front of the ballroom that could have seated at least 600-700 people) As the whole room stood giving him the standing ovation - I vaguely remember him pointing in my direction and thanking me (and/or perhaps Emeka from East St. Louis who sat right next to me and shouted "C'mon" with a cadence as if we were in church) for truly standing with him this day. It was thrilling and quite possibly all in my head but I don't think so.

It's interesting because the cycles that Mr. Gardner spoke of breaking were quite different from the ones I am working to break in my life but the spirit was/is the same. If there is something in your life or in your history that you don't want to see repeated- get busy working on the solution to break the cycle and rewrite the history books for your descendants.

I am on it. In a big way at that.

Dictionary says validation means the act or process of validating. Validate means to recognize, establish or illustrate the worthiness or legitimacy of....

Christopher Gardner, I thank you. For you validating the journey I am on to transform my life and the lives of my kids and their kids by doing the following:

Cultivating and growing a mutually respectful and loving lifelong partnership with my husband and their dad

Establishing multiple streams of income utilizing my God-given talents to secure an inheritance that will enable them to start their adult lives without debt (or a sense of entitlement)

Demonstrating to them the fruits of living within your means and a sense of responsibility to the greater good of those around me as much as to ourselves in our immediate household

Serving both in government and my church as a leader who gives of their talents as much as they profit with them

By accomplishing these small yet powerful goals, I will have successfully started new cycles by which my children can strive to build.

I am on my way.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tone Matters

We've all heard the saying, "Let's agree to disagree"

Perhaps, you've even said it on occasion.

I have observed (much more so) since I mounted a campaign and won public office earlier this year what the new spirit of "Let's agree to disagree" means.

In today's world - "Let's agree to disagree" should read...

Let's agree that I am right and you are wrong and nothing you say will remotely change my mind and further, I don't even respect the idea that anyone who disagrees with me is (sane - moral - you-fill-in-the-blank) SO you must be an idiot.

Maybe that is dramatic but that is the vibe I get these days and it is unbelievably sad. Sad but not any way discouraging me and it should not discourage you.

We can change this.

One full week removed, I want to quickly reference a "conversation" I had with someone on an Internet forum. The tone of the "conversation" fluctuated from righteous to defensive to wow - someone with a different experience and frame of reference does have something intelligent to say. Throughout the exchange - it was exhausting and at times felt tedious but it was OH SO NECESSARY. We finished the conversation not having "won each other over" or singing kumbaya but we commended each party for the willingness to have the difficult conversation and went on with our lives. Enlightened. We even influenced others who watched silently and (not so silently) as it played out right there on a Facebook comment string.

We must come to place where we can speak or exchange ideas that are wildly different from ours and walk away uninjured.

It's possible.

Here's how I go about it... maybe can adopt one or all of these suggestions.

1. Be open

This seems so obvious but must be said. Go into a conversation or forum to learn and hear. This is especially true if you troll the Internet on sites you know contradict your views. I find that when I interact with people from a different point of view it strengthens me and sharpens my view. Sometimes - I even learn something and change my view.

2. Think about learning/teaching, not winning

Most of us have the capacity to pass or absorb knowledge - that should be the objective when engaging in conversations especially with those who think differently than you do. Do you really think "facting" someone to death and calling them stupid for not getting it will further your view or cause?
3. Be aware of your language

This is big. There are so many buzz words or phrases out there today that start fires. Race Card. Liberal. Conservative. Religious Right. Illegals. I could go on and on.

We all know the danger of using language unwisely. Rush Limbaugh, James Carville, Lou Dobbs and many others do it all day and make a great living at it. Don't fall into this trap. Be aware and informed of the origins and true meaning of the words and/or phrases you say or write.
Surely there are more techniques for navigating this but these are three I use.

Actually, there is one more. Micah 6:8.

"The Lord has told you, human, what is good; he has told you what he wants from you; to do what is right to other people, love being kind to others and live humbly, obeying your God."

That is the New Century Version translation - I use an abbreviated paraphrase to remember

Act Justly - Love Mercy - Walk Humbly

When I remember that every time I enter these exchanges the outcome is considerably different.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Authentic Impression


Exactly nine days later and no change.

I am still in awe of the U2 360 show.

I've said to anyone who will listen - not only was the show magnificent but it was cool to share it with Isael.

This was his first U2 show and it was like experiencing them for the first time through his eyes.

By now, you've seen the pictures of the claw and heard the stories. It was everything you've heard.

U2 is the real deal.

They love their craft.

They love their fans.

We love them.

Nine days later - I am changed because of the time we spent together. The Barretos with U2.

And me with my love, Isael.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Patrick Swayze, A man who adored his wife his entire life


The title of my blog is how I choose to honor the late Patrick Swayze.

Interestingly - as news spread of his death, my first reaction was to quick shoot up a prayer for his wife, Lisa Niemi who, in that instant, lost the love of her life.

Of course, I loved his work - Dirty Dancing, Point Break, Too Wong Fu and Outsiders in that exact order.

But I have long admired his devotion to his marriage. 30 years. In Hollywood, that is rare. Actually that is rare, period.

What an amazing story he and Lisa must have! From what has been reported, they had many ups and downs like most couples. Miscarriages. Alcoholism. Rehab.

Yet, they remained together and faced his toughest battle - pancreatic cancer, together.

In 1989 - I wanted to be like Patrick - dance, act and do what I loved for a living

Now, in honor of his memory, I want to be like Patrick again.

Only this time, I want to devote my all to having a successful marriage. For a lifetime.

Just like Patrick did.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Recognize an Authentic Miracle

Today I witnessed (and was beneficiary to) a carefully orchestrated miracle.

Each player had no idea their role.

Normally the ever optimist - I struggled today to shake an icky feeling.

A friend more than 1000 miles away does a favor for another friend.

A regular Facebook checker, I slacked heavily today, finally checking it at precisely the moment necessary.

The stars were aligned and then, there was the rejection.

Instead of my normal type-A response - I was unusually calm and really (for the first time truly) let go... I trusted that He knew what was best and sat and waited.

I did not move or make a plan or call in for back ups.

Nor did I plead for a miracle.

I waited.

With my eyes wide open.

No joke - within 10 minutes, my miracle had arrived. Complete - signed, sealed, delivered.

The best part of all this - I RECOGNIZED IT.

I didn't go on and on about coincidences or revel in how awesome everything "fell into place"

I looked my miracle in the eye and received it for what it was.

A miracle sent to me from my Maker.

Today.

In the hour I needed it most.

Thank you, Lord.

Also, thanks to all the players who took part without even knowing they were part of something so much bigger than what appeared before them today.

If you are waiting for a miracle - a big one. Don't close your eyes or give up hope. Your miracle is on the way.

In fact - I would bet there are many small miracles happening to get you to the big miracle. Don't be so focused on the "big one" that you miss all the small ones. Don't dismiss the small miracles, embrace them and honor Him for the small things.

Remember what you do in practice - you do in the game. Same principle here.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Authentic Joy


This past week, I checked off another of my 2009 Objectives. Honestly, one that I was convinced had eluded me - see this post if you don't believe me.

The week started off brutal - I had crazy sinus issues and could not shake them as the day approached. Left work early Tuesday, went to bed at 7:30, took lots of medicine with pseudoephedrine (you know the kind you have to show ID to buy) and prayed for the best.

Well the best arrived in the way of an awesome opportunity to speak to the Sport Illinois Huddle 2009.

It was a great morning and I believe I struck a nerve with my many "main points". The pace of the talk was good, interaction was high and I was well within my time constraints with plenty of time for participant questions and not nearly enough time to network when I was finished. I was "at home" at the podium Wednesday morning.

What has really resonated with me for the rest of the week is this - I still did not wake up feeling that great but the moment I took the podium - the adrenaline carried me and I was well for the 45 minutes I spoke. I even generated enough adrenaline to fuel me through a previously planned afternoon activity with about 25 of my closest work partners.

That ONLY happens when you do something you love. Something that brings you authentic joy.

Dictionary says joy is the emotion evoked by well-being, success or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.

Yes - it was satisfying to accomplish something I set out to do this year. Without question.

However - it was sheer joy to be transferring knowledge to the attendees of the Sports Illinois Huddle 2009.

I love doing that and will look forward to creating more opportunities to do so.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Authentic Reflection - My Brush With a Kennedy


With death of Senator Edward Kennedy this week and the death of his older sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver earlier this month , I could not help but think of this iconic American family and all they have meant to our country.

Regardless your politics, you cannot say that this family did not make numerous contributions to American history and culture. Personally, I have always been a fan of the mythical family. Especially the generation that's on the verge of being lost with the Senator's passing.

Do I love most of the demonstrated positions on marriage and fidelity from the Kennedy men? No

Do I agree with every political policy they championed? Pretty close.

Do I love their tight-knit loyal family unit? Absolutely.

I actually dreamed of building a "Kennedy" like clan of my own. There was so much support and love to go around as they faced tragedy after tragedy. They banded together when necessary to defend their own in a way that we rarely see in families anymore. My favorite thing about them is their humanness and sense of responsibility out of extreme privilege. Humanitarians and public servants they were and they championed causes that rarely actually touched their lives or the circles with which they were associated.

My quick but powerful brush with the Kennedy legend was in August 1996 - when I was working the Democratic National Convention for MTV News and I had the pleasure to meet and talk to John F. Kennedy Jr. His magazine GEORGE was at the height of its popularity and he was on the verge of marrying his love Carolyn Bessette that fall, unbeknownst to us that hot August afternoon when he walked into the MTV News trailer.

John was as handsome in person as any picture you ever saw. He was humble and gentle as he came by to deliver his new magazine's latest issue and chat with the MTV brass about his big GEORGE party at the Art Institute the next day. I remember like it was yesterday. He opened the door and in khaki shorts and a black t-shirt, he entered the air conditioned trailer with a big smile and a joke about us having the life for being able to sit in the trailer. The girl who was there with me audibly squealed and I kept my cool and walked over to shake his hand and thank him for the delivery

He looked right into my eyes and asked, "Do you read GEORGE? Be honest."

"I'm a subscriber, " I proudly answered so glad I could actually tell John F. Kennedy, Jr. I supported his venture.

"God bless you, what's your name?" he asked

"Denise Wilmer, " I blurted.

"Thank you Denise Wilmer for supporting GEORGE, " he said.

We went on to have a quick conversation about my contract with MTV and how I was a Chicago native and I don't even remember all the topics. But I do remember this.

He was 100% engaged in our conversation.

He did not rush our interaction nor did he look distracted or hurried.

He seemed genuinely delighted to have met me and wished me luck in my career.

I have never forgot that afternoon.

Funny, I had to drive some of the MTV brass to the GEORGE party and of course, I could not go. As I dropped them off - I imagined that someday, I'd be at a party with John F. Kennedy, Jr, not dropping off bratty VJs like I was that night.

I held that dream until July 16, 1999 when I heard the news that his self-piloted plane had gone missing. I watched with earnest every piece of news praying it was all a nightmare and that this man would be found alive and it was all a big scare.

I even "accidently" permitted my stylist, Dany to color my hair plum that next day while I clamored for the stream of news from CNN in his shop during my regular visit.

Alas - it was true. He was gone. So was my dream.

Honestly my view is that John was going to lead the next generation of the Kennedy clan in politics. He was going to help continue the story started by his dad and uncles so many years ago. Upon his death, it was really the beginning of the end of the Kennedy legend for me.

Today, with only Jean Kennedy Smith alive, the Kennedy myth fades a bit more.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Authentic Discovery

It is done.

I have landed on my mission.

Strengthening marriages. There are lots of ideas and a skeletal plan on paper already.

Essentially, I am convinced that marriage is an institution that needs support.

Think about it.

What license do we get that is never renewed?

What certification do we receive that never requires updated education?

What other institution is created without built-in processes to ensure its stability and success?

If someone chooses to enter this institution -wouldn't it be great to have a support system in place to enable them to be successful?

Let's face it - there is usually no action or formal education on marriage skills until there is a crisis.

I plan to change that. Starting now.

In the spirit of applying what I learned at the Leadership Summit two weeks ago at Willowcreek, I am launching my project in an effort to be opportunity driven vs. crisis driven (Gary Hamel, visiting professor at the London Business School) for families across the United States. Possibly the world.

I am also going to take Wess Stafford's advice and leverage my past to propel me and my vision for my project. Wess is the current president of Compassion International. Amazing leader.

I am going to start small but start something. (Jessica Jackley - founder of Kiva.org)

I am not going to attempt to solve a big problem with a grand solution. I am going to "shrink the change" and start one city, county or state at a time. (Chip and Dan Heath - authors of Made To Stick)

Interestingly, I have fluxuated on where to best leverage my talents and energy for more than a year.

There has been lots of prayer.

Thought.

Stops and Starts.

Pain.

Healing.

Now, it's on.

Dictionary says - discover (root word for discovery) is to obtain sight or knowledge for the first time.

Strenthening marriages is my cause.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Authentic Peace With Others


Yesterday, in the frenzy to finish up all the last minute errand running - a pair of earrings caught my eye.

Not just your normal peace sign earrings - but underneath you can see there are many different religious symbols dangling from it - there is a cross, a star of David and a few I don't even recognize.

The clearance price of $7 for these sterling beauties had me at the red tag. But for one minute  I hesitated.

What do those symbols I don't recognize mean?

What would I say if someone asked?

How would I explain?

Am I endorsing those other religions?

Then an overwhelming calm fell upon me - right there in the TJ Maxx store on Rt. 59 - I actually thought I heard singing. No lie.

I am lover of Christ and all his precepts. I read the bible daily and pray that the Word saturates my being and transforms me to be a better human being. THEREFORE...

I love the idea of wearing peace earrings that call out many religions in the process. Why?

Because I strive to be at peace with others - 

Dictionary says peace is a state of mutual harmony between people or groups, especially in personal relations.

In today's,  "You're an idiot" environment - we need to learn to respectfully disagree with those who think differently than we do. We need to peaceful co-exist with people who are different than we are.

Right now,  there is a huge fashion trend with the peace symbol. My prayer is that with folks seeing the peace sign so much - maybe we'll start to live as if we really want peace in our lives.

What better way to get the movement going than to have a Jesus freak wear these cool earrings?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Try Something Different

I am going to follow my own advice today.

I have been tackling an "opportunity" in my life many different ways over the last year.

Some days, even with lots of introspection, careful consideration of plan and many strategy adaptations  - I feel like no progress is made and that I am in the same spot. FRUSTRATED.

Now, in this day and age, in the United States of America there are not many folks who would continue to persevere after so many tries at something.

Sure, there are glimpses of change but large scale progress is still a distant objective.

So today, I assert that when the objective is not negotiable and you have already invested lots of time, energy, sweat, tears and more tears - 

Stop. 

Take a breath. 

Perhaps, pick yourself off the floor.

But by all means, keep going. 

Try something different.

Keep trying something different until you get the result you want.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Is Honesty A Fad of the Past?

I don't do this often for fear of no comments but here goes

I believe in honesty.

Not white lie honesty.

Not "only if it feels good" honesty.

Not" when it's convenient for me" honesty.

I mean good, old fashioned, not sugar-coated honesty.

Now, I know I have a gift of being able to deliver truth in tough situations and have the vocabulary and heart to be sure and not make it brutal or disrespectful.

But my question is, why is it so hard for people to be honest with each other or (better yet) with themselves?

I am just curious because I cannot relate to anything other than complete and open honesty about all things...

Now, I will quickly admit that I used to lie big time as a kid - and I can tell you why I did it then. For attention and because I was extremely insecure. By junior high, I migrated to the truth because it was exhausting making up shit all the time :)

So - someone, anyone, tell me why people are not honest.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Authentic Encourager

Within the last week - I've had a few folks ask me if I'm...

super religious?

a preacher?

One person even joked -do you dream about bible verses and the stuff you put up on Facebook?

So I need to explain in case you are not a friend on FB.

Each morning usually before 6 am - I get up and read the bible. This is a ritual that started a few years back when I use to workout at Lifetime fitness at 4:00 am. I'd return home about 5:15 and it was so quiet and so peaceful that I embraced this time to spend a few uninterrupted moments in my Maker's presence.

I've long given up on working out at that hour but would not miss my time with Him daily.

Well since I joined FB- usually I check it right after my reading time and more often than not - I share what I've read or what has inspired me for that particular day.

It was originally my way to remind myself of the great message that He sent especially to me to face the day I was experiencing I'd do it to keep myself encouraged which I've needed in big doses over the last 12 months.

Slowly, I noticed that I was not the only one who was encouraged by my posts.

Each day, each month - I was encouraged more as I read His word that, literally pulled me out of the hands of despair in the last year - I knew that I was not to keep that encouragement to myself.

So the answer is no.

I am not super religious. I love a stiff drink with the best of them and struggle to clean up a lifelong potty mouth of anger that appears with no warning.

I love to teach and love to tell others about my relationship with Him but do not preach even as a hobby.

I am just an Authentic Encourager.

Dictionary says that encourage is to inspire with hope, courage or confidence.

Well, what better than the Word of God in daily doses could inspire hope, courage or confidence in the heart of man?

"What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You've heard, of course, of Job's staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That's because God cares, cares right down to the last detail." - James 5:11 - The Message

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Authentic Goodness

I heard a song today that I haven't heard in awhile and it reminded me of a very truthful statement.

The chorus goes, "I am thankful that I'm incapable of doing any good on my own."

Funny - that is very true for me.

Yeah, we are all capable of goodness but how many of us actually choose this path often?

I, for one, can say that all the authentic goodness in my heart is motivated by One much bigger than me.

You see as humans, we all seek the good for ourselves in most situations. It is a rare thing that we seek the good for the sake of good.

This week has been particularly challenging for me with three additional kids in my household. Plus it is a Lake in the Hills Board Meeting Week AND a McHenry County Council of Government monthly meeting week.

Could I have piled on anything more? Probably but let's not go there.

Each day as I washed extra dishes, extra clothes , made bigger dinners or listened to additional stories - I kept reminding myself that I was not "good" to be doing this.

He alone is good.

He just used me to extend His goodness this week.

Friday, July 17, 2009

2009 Objectives - Mid Year Update

Happy July everyone!

It is sort of unbelievable to me that half this year is in the hopper already.

I recently took stock again at my original set of objectives for this year and am eager to update you all.

You know you are my accountability group.

Here you can see the original post.

1. Coming along just fine - especially this summer with summer hours. I have successfully taken time with the kids to just hang and it has been fun.

2. Ok - so monthly date nights have been brutal but we did get a nice weekend getaway just us in last weekend AND two weeks ago we saw The Hangover and laughed our butts off. We will be working towards this AGAIN and I hope to report at the 3/4 year mark that we are better and more consistent with this objective.

3. The nails. I have kept Emma's up periodically. Mine - not so much I did have a pedicure in the last month but that is it. Must do better.

4. Election - CHECK and I can even say that I've had a bit of controversy in my first 60 days - check out my other blog. It's been fun and a test of my leadership from my very first meeting in May.

5. This conference booking eludes me. I was close with a Sport Illinois potential conference but it has not worked out. However, I have picked up a new objective, I am working with an off-road racing team to get them 100% funded for the 2010 racing season. Tall order but we have started to lay out a kick a$$ plan that I am certain will be executed to completion.

6. Book progress. None. At the quarterly review, which you can see here, I was not putting any energy here. I had even picked up piano lessons which I took off for the summer. I plan to resume them this fall. This one may have to go with me into next year.

7. We did it - I finally found Maggie's Inc and now I have professionals cleaning my house YAY ME! - Thanks Jules, they are working out just fine. Every two weeks my house is spotless and pretty good in between - I am happy about this one.

8. Beth Moore bible study - I am going to pick up one this week. I'd been studying from a compilation called Hopeful Heart and it is good. Devotional in style but not as in-depth study as the Moore titles but very good. I am looking at doing Believing God , Day-by-Day.

9. Bikes - yeah they are so still in the rafters of the garage and with the weather we've been having - not sure what the deal is here. I will make a commitment to work with Emma for the remainder of the summer and the fall. We are going to ride bikes before 2009 is over. Period.

There you have it. A little more progress on some items. Still hanging on to others. New additions to the list and yet - I am encouraged.

I will say again that the importance of accountability makes objectives worth pursuing. You are my accountability folks.

Thanks for joining me on the journey - I'll holler around mid October with the 3rd quarter results.

Until then... I'll keep working, working, working.

You Can Do It!

I feel moved to encourage some people today.

Whatever you are facing...

Broken relationships ...

Work frustration and/or desperation - Unemployment ...

Personal turmoil of any kind - depression, self-doubt ...

Everyday irritations that have piled up ...

Sickness or sickness of a loved one ...

Take a step back. Breathe deeply. Take a moment to remember ...

Why you value the relationship that is strained ...

A time you loved what you did every day and if that time was when you were a kid - then you need to start visualizing something that you realistically can work towards ...

Who you really are - take a minute to think of three great things about yourself

What is really important - that's right the big stuff - your health, people in your life, your talents ...

Again who you are - you are not your sickness nor does it define you ...

I assert today that life is full of seasons ... perhaps you are in season of growth that is really taking everything out of you.

Take heart and remember you can get through it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Thumbprint On My Heart Forever: Thanks, Kenny the Naperville Barber

So exactly three weeks ago tomorrow, I was hanging out in Naperville with a high school friend I hadn't seen in over 20 years. Reunion by Facebook. We ate an awesome dinner and reminisced over wine and cocktails and laughed our familiar laughs over and over again.

Not wanting to stay out too late or wanting the night to come to an abrupt end, we headed across the street to Potter's Place for another round, which ended up being 7-Up for me with the 30+ mile trek back to Lake in the Hills in my mind. I was distracted at best, worried about getting home in the worst way.

There at the end of the bar was Kenny. Kenny is not his real name, just in case he's not into public recognition.

Now Kenny was basically the Mayor of Naperville. Not a person passed without greeting him. He held court with a small group of friends and stopped to talk to anyone who he made eye contact with.

We - Carmen and I - were no exception.

I'll pause here with the message I want you to take away. Never, and I mean NEVER think you know people until you take time to know them. We should look deeply into people's eyes and hear them when they speak to us. Really strive to know others - even those who are so different than you. You will never be sorry for doing so.

Kenny had a tattoo on his arm - Isaiah 40:28 - 31. Look it up.

He smoked but was careful not to smoke on us.

He respected us (younger than he) professional black females (PBF) that entered the bar that night.

He spoke candidly of how we should "love and feed our husbands - if we had them" one did, the other doesn't. Anymore.

He talked so frankly about his relationship with Christ and how Jesus had saved him.

He initiated a conversation about the state of Corporate America and the PBF - daring, was he. He even commended Carmen and I for our success "considering...." I quickly commended him for caring enough to ask.

He introduced us to a woman - single and beautiful woman raising her two daughters after a nasty divorce - who he led to Christ.

The woman's face lit up when I mentioned I was a "Creeker"

It was the most bizarre yet touching thing that happened to me in awhile. On a beautiful Thursday night, I was in a bar in Naperville, IL with a high school pal talking Jesus with the local pub crawlers.

It was perfect.

Every word that Kenny said to me rings in my ear. His message of love, peace and understanding and the simplicity of grace that was so prevalent in his life was so authentic that it just covered me that night and ever since.

I was still processing my encounter with Kenny when the news of MJ hit one week later on June 25 so I had a pause in processing but it resumed immediately after the memorial concluded yesterday.

My encounter with Kenny was like an encounter with Christ himself. He is a simple man- a barber and hard working divorced dad who wore his convictions on his forearm, Isaiah 40: 28-31.

I am forever changed by his compassion, his struggle and his love for others.

Kenny reminded me that through our mistakes and flimsy attempts to know God and please Him -all God really asks of us is to be the best fill-in-the-blank (Denise, Kenny, your name) we can be and love others.

Forgive others.

Have mercy on those we say we love the most.

As we said goodbye that night - it was with a solemn hug and big smile that Kenny said, "I may not see you again on earth - but I will see you on the other side."

Yes - Kenny you will.

I can't wait to see your smile again. I'll let you get me that drink I passed on that night.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Authentic Shock and Sadness


I am absolutely shocked and saddened by the loss of Michael Joseph Jackson today. Funny, I'd been formulating a post on the amazing way that God uses different people to speak to you if you are open. I was going to blog about a chance encounter last Thursday night but that post will have to wait. I can barely type as I reflect on all the things MJ meant to me.

He was the original MJ - before there was Michael Jordan. It was tough for me to even call Jordan MJ because of this fact.

He was the person I looked to that gave me hope as a young black girl that we, too, could mean the world to people. Before Michael - I'd only see white artists on MTV and there was no BET so seeing him and his videos were like the Super Bowl to me everytime a new one debuted. Seeing women of all ages and races CRY over him was so impactful on me growing up.

His talent wowed and amazed me over and over. Billie Jean is one of my all time favorite songs along with Don't Stop til You Get Enough. Seeing him dance tonight in the clips gave me chills.

His posters lined my bedroom wall. Right On magazine could not give me enough posters. I was introduced to John Stamos because of my insatiable yearning for all things Michael that I bought a Tiger Beat one day.

He was the first guy I dreamed I'd marry. Ask my stepmom - I talked about it all the time.

His work on "We Are The World" and countless other philantropic endeavors inspired me.

His duets with Paul McCartney introduced me to the Beatles.

Throughout his tumultuous later life - I prayed for him each time there was a flare up. I saw him as person who was tormented and needed grace - not just from God but from everyone.

Someone I know asked today - "didn't we lose him a long time ago?" Yeah but secretly, I'd always hoped for a resurfacing of the real Michael we all grew up loving.

Poor black kid from Gary Indiana makes it big. Astronomical.

It is surreal to think that we are without this tremendous talent so soon.

May God comfort his family and especially his three children.

Thank you Michael for all you were to me. May you rest in peace with your Maker.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Beauty of the Big Mouth


Throughout my lifetime - I have been told many variations of the same premise...


You are a good communicator


Talking is your specialty, huh?


You are a motor mouth


Oh my, can you talk girl!


You are so expressive


Breathe, Breathe


I've got a big mouth. Literally and figuratively. I see this big mouth as a gift. There are women who pay big $$$ to have the full lips I was born with. There are hundreds of thousands of classes out there on "How to Communicate Effectively" and again, I was born with that gift.


Something I learned long ago and am living out daily... if you use your gifts wisely, you will be blessed.


Today, I assert that the beauty of my big mouth is that it often engages others. Not just for my benefit but for the benefit of all parties.


When you engage people and they get excited - you can accomplish lots.


What are you accomplishing today with your gifts?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Happy Weekend!

I can honestly say this weekend could not have come sooner.

Opening the door to the spotless house and immediately jumping into PJs is my way of saying good riddance to a funky week.

Remember "The Plan"? Well, I made awesome progress on one facet this week.

So cool that putting a blog post out about making progress in "The Plan" actually kept me accountable to making a move. I love it. Even if no one reads or comments - simply putting it out in the universe that I need to make a change - motivated that change.

I am a 100% believer in accountability but for me it is not normally 'virtual' accountability. Usually, I confide in a few people and ask them to help me. 

Lesson learned.

Next week, I will tackle a few more.  Mark my word.

Until then.... happy weekend!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Making Space To Layout "The Plan"

Is it me or is it always difficult to lay out "The Plan"?

Without question - I have the motivation. Heck, everyday life provides me with nuggets of inspiration/motivation for laying out "The Plan".

I certainly have the ideas. I have never lacked ideas and I don't now.

So what is keeping me from laying out, and subsequently executing "The Plan".

Time.

Space.

Clearly, I need to rearrange my priorities.

You see - I'm the one in your network/friend group/family - who hates when people blame busyness or lack of time as an excuse to not keep in touch and/or spend time together. You can read between the lines - people. Things and/or people in your life that you repeatedly are 'too busy' to talk to or see are things and/or people who are low on your priority list.

No offense and none taken.

Facebook, email and the internet have allowed us to keep a periferal view of those (and the interests) we care about - and I am NOT knocking that. I certainly use those tools as well.

But for the special and important people/interests - we always make time. Always.

So, the question for me today - how do I truly make space for "The Plan"?

I've made a few weak attempts at making time/space but they have not made a dent.

Today - I assert that I will be making more time for "The Plan." Starting now.

Well - after I get the kids to bed.