Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Birthday Wish

Betty Jean Jackson Wilmer (1951-1976) and me in 1972 or 3
Today December 12, 2011, my mom would be 60 years old.

She's been gone from this life since August 19, 1976 and it hardly feels like she was ever here.

In fact, the biggest imprint and proof of her existence dwells in me and my younger sister, Jeanine.

My hope for this post is to give some people out there, who wonder what ever happened to Betty Jean Jackson some glimpse. Think about it. We now live in an age when people "Google" folks and since today is her birthday, perhaps an old classmate or work friend decides that they want to know what happened to her. I want them to get it a hit and see this post. Snoop around and read more about me - the eldest daughter of Betty Jean Jackson (Wilmer) - Denise Wilmer Barreto.

Betty Jean met and married Albert Wilmer in 1971- I arrived late that year and they had another daughter Jeanine in April 1976 and she passed away four months later that August at age 24, four months shy of her 25th birthday. She was super happy she became a mom and was so very hopeful for the future when tragedy struck. There's not much more I know to the story but it is a beautiful one.

I gotta believe that the reason relationships matter so much to me is because of the absence of this relationship between my mom and me. With few photos and even fewer people around to tell me about her, I have repainted her in my mind and in my dreams.

It's a bit too painful nor can I actually articulate it all but I know one thing...

She'd be proud of what I've become.

She'd glow when she told people what I did for a living. She'd be telling everyone the secret I'd have asked her to keep until the new year.

She'd love my family and be proud of my attempts at motherhood without her.


Happy Birthday Mommy! I know you are smiling down on us from heaven.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Rantings From The Gal With A Close Relationship To Achievement - Part One

It is not often that I am out of sorts for very long. Normally, I have the ability to unpack what's bothering me, deal with it head on and move on to my next challenge or opportunity.

Today was not that day.

I have been bombarded lately with situations/people/instances where folks seem to just not be able to figure out ways to get to what they want in their lives.

Be it romance, peace, financial stability - you name it and people can't get it.

I am scratching my head as to why.

You see, I have strong and consistent relationship with achievement.

I'm not talking about extraordinary things, I mean everyday  - make a goal, attain it. Make another goal, attain it. Sometimes the goals are big and sometimes the goals are small. Regardless, it's really simple for me. Don't like something in my life, change it. Not happy with the way I look, work on it.

I am stunned at how difficult this seems to be for others right now.

Further, I am perplexed that people act somewhat annoyed when I start to troubleshoot once they share their woes with me. Clearly they did not get the memo from this past week. I'm a Maximizer and I can't help myself. No apologies.

At the urging of my supervisor at work, I took the StrengthFinders 2.0 and found out (well got more validation and perspective on what I already knew)  about my top 5 Strengths. And the one related to this post is Maximizer

The Shared Theme Description for Maximizer is this:


People who are especially talented in the Maximizer theme focus on strengths as a way to stimulate personal and group excellence. They seek to transform something strong into something superb.


Thank goodness I read and absorbed this earlier this week because it explains so much to me about me and how I interact with others. It is just the way I'm wired to be disappointed when I see strong that can be stronger.

I hold myself to a high standard and it's highly unlikely that I'm going to "lighten up" on others - especially those that I see more than what they see in themselves.

I focus on my strengths as a way to achieve those things I want in my life versus looking at the obstacles or roadblocks in the path. I intentionally choose to grab on to the nuggets of hope and pour energy into them versus the boulders of doubt and "what ifs".

So this post is my non-apology to folks who want me to lower my expectations, "lighten up", or what ever other euphemisms you have for give up and settle for what life hands you. Not gonna happen for me or anyone who chooses to associate with me. I live to be the best I can be. Every day of every year. Forgive me for being temporarily frustrated when things are not the way I'd like them to be. While you're criticizing me for being so uptight - I'm already looking for solutions to make sure I don't get disappointed again.

Thanks for reading this rant.  Because there are 5 strengths - there will be more rantings. Stay tuned.

What do you have to say back?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Holiday Music: The Comfort of the Season





This post is sponsored by Tempur-Pedic, the brand millions of owners trust to deliver their best night’s sleep every night. Enjoy our Buy 2, get 1 free pillow offer now and give the gift of custom comfort to someone you love.

One of my favorite comforts of the holiday season is the short time it's OK to listen to Holiday music incessantly. For me with a mid-November birthday, it usually starts the week of Thanksgiving and I get four full weeks of holiday music bliss.

My relationship with Holiday music is a one of the easiest I have...here are three reasons why:

Connection

Holiday music connects. Connects the past with the present. Connects distant people, places and things in your life. Who listens to Holiday music without getting lost in a specific holiday celebration? Good memories and sometimes bad ones are triggered by "that song." Our family is forever connected by a sweet song we heard for the first time last holiday - Toy Jackpot by Blackalicious. I know that in years to come when we hear the start of this song, laughter will ensue. This song is seared in our hearts and it will connect us wherever we are in years to come. I hate to say this but I am certain there will be a Christmas in the future where I am not going to physically be with my kids. Thanks to Blackalicious, we will feel connected in that moment. For sure.

Variety

Perhaps my favorite thing about Holiday music is how I can hear the same song sung by many different artists in a small time period and never tire. Take Winter Wonderland. Not the most emotional of songs for me but a keeper. How awesome is it to hear it by Ray Charles, Jason Mraz, Amy Grant and Jesse McCartney? Like life, I love how everyone brings their own interpretation to the same lyrics. So while it's the same song, it is very different depending on who's crooning at the moment. And that is one beauty of our relationships with others. We must not insist that they are similar, we must embrace how they are different and enjoy them. Love that.

Seasonal

Tell me you don't get this one. Holiday music everyday of the year would NOT make my holidays special. Now, as we are all prepping to reconnect with family and others in our lives we don't see very often - this is a huge thought. Enjoy the season because it is just that. A season. Not meant to be indulged in all year round. Perhaps this time of year is especially tough because of what some of the music connects you to in your past. Gear yourself up to look at it as temporal... a few weeks... a few hours. Don't get caught up in how annoying the time is but embrace the season and use it as a spring board into your fabulous new year.

Enjoy the holidays and all the comforts they bring. And here's hoping when you fire up the Holiday music, you'll be reminded of what it's meant to you.

Comfort is the perfect gift for everyone on your holiday gift list, so be sure to take advantage of Tempur-Pedic's Buy 2, get 1 free pillow offer! I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

What is Your Relationship With Success?


Kicking off the new decade of my life has provided yet another opportunity to reflect. Much is written about success, leadership, goals and motivation. Not a day passes that I don't find a post, or many, written on any of those topics. Instead of just spouting off a few lines about success, I decided to take a look at how our relationship with success really sets the tone for our life.

Friend or Foe

Would you call success a friend? Or would you call it the elusive non-starter in your life? Your experience with success starts with what you actually think about success. I see success as a companion. Not always in the forefront but always in view. Success is not some big win for me but rather a succession of small wins. Consistently.

By Design or By Accident

This one is big. I always lay out what my best case scenario would be. That is my vision of success. It does not always play out but having the vision makes it easy for me to recognize when it actually shows up. Clearly, there are cases when the timing is right and things just happen. I know that. However, your preparation for that moment matters when the iron strikes. So success still has to be at least envisioned to allow it to manifest at the opportune moment.

For Me or For Others

Another biggie. It is quite easy to look at others and compare your success level to theirs. I personally never do this. Success looks different for everyone. I rejoice when others have success in their endeavors. It is motivation for me to clamp down and achieve mine. It is never an option to see success only for others. Success is for me. I say it. I live it. Often times before it has arrived. I call it my "Michael James Jordan Rule". I play success over and over in my mind until it just starts to happen in real life.

My relationship with success is solid. We don't have issues - we just roll together and grow stronger as the years go by. What about you? How's your relationship with success? If not where you want it, how can you change that?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Equipping Kids For A Good Relationship With Money


This post was underwritten by BMO Harris Bank, which offers a matching $25 on a new savings account opened for your child through their Helpful Steps for Parents program. Learn more at bmoharris.com/parents.


At any given moment the wallets you see here of 10 year old Emma and 6 year old Evan, are full of cash bursting to be spent by its owner. Most often, cool heads prevail and said wallet retains most of its contents. But there are moments when desire, lack of reason and plain ole bad decision making wins and causes a Barreto kid to part ways with hard earned funds. And so begins our tale.

Many of us have a complicated relationships with money. And it starts as kids. I certainly did. We never seemed to have enough and so when I did have it - I blew it.  Things changed slightly when I started working but not much. To be honest, it wasn't until my cherubs arrived 10 years ago that my relationship with money changed drastically. It was then I made a conscience decision to teach them money matters early in life. 

Here are three things my kids know about money that most kids their age don't know:

1.  Time is money

Not literally,  but my kids fully understand that time spent at work gives us money to do our life. And as an entrepreneur starting several businesses, my kids are uber aware of what Mommy's time is worth. You may think that is crash but it happens to help with our choices of how we spend our time together. The kids understand that Mommy taking a full day to hang with them means a lot and is a sacrifice financially. And they make the connection to their allowances. They each get a set amount every two weeks in direct proportion to their extra contribution around the house. That value creeps in as we hit the dollar store or when someone wants to spend money on "The Claw". They remember what it took to earn the money and suddenly the desires change.

2.   Cash is king

Whenever we embark on a goal, the whole family is in on the savings toward it. Our kids know that cash is king with us. They understand the idea clearly of spending what you actually have versus the alternative. For example, we are going to Spain this Christmas and started saving for it in early 2010. Each month, we have watched together as our savings climbed toward our goal. It has been a fun exercise. We started saving for Emma's quincinera that we plan to host in Mexico when she is 15. Yeah, 5 years and 8 months before the event we started stashing cash for the big party teaching our kids a valuable lesson along the way.

3.  Generosity with money rules

My kids understand that they are fortunate and are eager to share with people who are not. I cannot tell you how many times my kids see a need that they can fill with their money. Interesting enough, we don't talk a lot about giving money away. We just do it often when a need arises and our kids have picked that up. Donating money to causes you care about is one of the most rewarding feelings one can have and it is amplified when you teach that value to kids. 

While these three tips won't make kids financial geniuses, it will help them start a lifelong positive relationship with money and it's place in their lives.




I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective. To learn more about BMO Harris Bank, visit their website http://bmoharris.com/parents.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Don't Get Lost On The Way To Your Goals


It's November already.

I feel like the year just started and I remember putting together the goals of 2011 as if it were yesterday.  Now as this year winds down and I'm bearing down on my 40th birthday, I am reminded of how close I am to my goals mainly because of the temptation to give up.

Yep you heard me.

It's that complicated relationship we have with the things we want in our lives. Most of us don't have such a tidy illustration as above when it comes to goals in our lives. We usually get lost some where in between "Stick To It" and "Reach Goal"

This is particularly true if your goal is not simple. For example - tomorrow I am running my second 5K race and I've found this whole running thing fascinating. How simple is it to say you're going to run a race and then plot out a training and go do it.

Super simple - I'm doing again exactly two months to the day since the first race I've run as an adult. I'm still not a runner but how cool is it that I can barge in on this sport simply by setting a goal and having minimal discipline and then executing? Very and I'm certain there will be many more races in my future - most likely 5Ks because I don't like running but I love the thrill of finishing a race. The cheering. The way my body creeks.

Easy.

Starting a business? Now that's complex. I've been on this journey for a few years now and finally have found some traction but have yet to land THE contract, THE partnership to free me from my "real job." The temptation is very real to give up.

The lost sleep pulling together projects in every spare moment.

The look on my kids face when I steal a call or check the email.

The exasperated looks from my husband as I pound away at this post.

It's enough to make a girl open the classifieds, look for a job and call it a day.

But not this girl. The problem with me now is I've tasted what its like to do your life's work. The thing God uniquely wired me to do. AND people have paid me GOOD MONEY to do it.

There is NO WAY I'm giving up now. And I encourage you all to do the same - dig deep. Remember that our lives come and go in seasons and the tough season before the light shines is the season you must push through. You must keep your focus on what you're working towards - not what you see today.

I am in the thick of the "Stick To It" season and not giving up until the hand tips over into "Reach Goal."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

4 Ways To Speak Your Life Into Being

graphic credit kentoh via fotogalia


With each day, I am more convinced of this statement:

Your circumstances are just a reflection of what you believe your life to be.

Clearly, there are exceptions to this but in general I believe this to be true. For many of us, we have deep rooted beliefs about ourselves and our abilities, some true and some untrue. The key is digging into those beliefs and understanding if they are helping us in our journey to what we want in our life or are they the roadblock.

I could spend the next few paragraphs giving you the cliches and motivational quotes to make you feel good and inspire you to think differently but really that is only a temporary solution. Let's walk through 4 ways to speak your life into being.


1.  Identify the "what" that you are after

The number one reason people don't have what they want in life is because they don't know what "it" is. Without the "it" - it's tough to go get it. Stop today and make your dream list. I'm not talking material things or anything you can buy. Articulate your dream job. Describe your ideal relationship. Put pen to paper and paint a picture of the life you want. Don't feel silly or worry about what anyone would think about what you want. This exercise is not a one and done, either. Most dream lists are fluid, living breathing documents.

2. Build a personal Board of Directors

Go find a few folks you love and trust who you know love you and have your back. No successful company is without a board of directors and most successful people have them as well. Make it a diverse list - from all walks of your life - steer clear of choosing people who know each other if you can. Remember that these people must know you well and love you enough to be harsh when you need it.  These folks are the first people to show your dream list. They will help keep you accountable to pursuing it.

3. Start immediately with what you have

Don't wait for everything to be right. Forget waiting until the business plan is written. There's a verse in Ecclesiastes (chap 11 verse 4) that says -  "Farmers who wait for perfect weather, never plant." The same goes for our lives - waiting for the perfect conditions would render us never acting and that is no way to live. Start today. What if it's relational? Start with you. Don't worry about changing your partner or even finding a partner. Work on you and understanding what makes you happy and doing that for yourself. If it's business, take one step towards what you want. Immediately.

4. Talk about it. A lot.

Our latest business venture, Herradura Imports, LLC - started with a casual conversation years ago. Then this past spring, it came up again and so we started talking about it. With ourselves and subsequently with anyone who'd listen and guess what happened? People in our lives started offering up people in their lives. Connections were made. More conversations and now we are designing labels for a wine that we plan to bring to the US from Barcelona Spain next spring. Speak your dream into being. That's what we're doing.

Without question our attitude, work ethic and people we surround ourselves with also play a big role in bringing about what we want in our lives but you own it. And now you are 4 steps closer than you were when you started reading this post.

Go!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mind The 'Loose' Connections In Your Life

Sometimes you connect with people and it is not immediately apparent why you are connected. In today's fast paced, 140 character relationship madness - it is the loose connections often miss.

I was reminded of this almost two weeks ago exactly, when prepping for a new business pitch, I reached out to re-kindle a "loose" connection because I thought they'd be a good resource in my preparation. I was not hesitant to call but was a bit nervous as to how the call might go.

To my surprise, the "loose connection" on the other end of the phone was instantly converted to a strong connection. It happened so quickly that it almost took my breathe away. And as I've pondered over it in my head again and again - it comes back to something simple.

We are only as good connecting with others as we are connected to ourselves. Our unshakeable truth of who we are and what we want in life has to ooze from our pores when we meet and connect with others.  It creates an environment for connection. People take interest in you and your endeavors.

There should have been no doubt in my mind that the "loose connection" was actually a strong one all along. But there was some doubt.

Perhaps because the original circumstances under which we met did not go as planned.

But I was reassured that day, that I - not the circumstances - had made an impression and was not forgotten. An impression that caused the "loose" connection in my mind to actually feel like it was a strong connection to the other party.

We often forget the power we have in setting our destiny for ourselves and those we have in our lives.

Mind those "loose" connections in your path. They may actually be strong connections waiting to be activated.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Thanks Steve Jobs


Thanks Steve Jobs for what you have meant to the world.

I was late to the party but joined nonetheless.

It started with a iPod nano in the spring of 2007 and moved to the original iPhone that fall. Ironically, I bought that iPhone with my first side gig that would spark an entrepreneurial bug that I have yet to cure.

I marveled from a distance at your brilliance and only converted wholly to Apple a year ago last month. Just as I embarked on my journey to do my life's work, I invested in your life's work and took you as a cue to go build what people don't even know they want.

In my case that is relational harmony. While that is much less measurable than what you built. I am glad you were in my life to inspire me.

I remember the last quote of yours I tweeted recently:

"Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life."


Great advice and I'm so glad you lived yours.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

An Ode To My Friend, Java


It was later in life that we became entangled; but I remember you there in the background since the begining.

In my dad's percolator smelling up the house or wherever we went for that matter. I remember vividly visiting relatives or staying in a hotel and the percolator with my dad's coffee aroma wafing over me.

I didn't dare try.

Then I remember in college watching my comrades taking you in as they prepped for the infamous "all nighter" I never participated in.

I remember the first time in Europe seeing your stronger brother the espresso. Watching the Europeans drink and drink.

Still not my thing.

Even as Starbucks after Starbucks appeared on every corner of every city I lived in - I still did not partake.

Then I had my second child.

BE (Before Evan) I'd tried a vanilla with whip latte here and there. Of course, I partook in a cafe con leche every now and again but there was no relationship... no bond.

Until then.

The smell. The jolt of energy. The warmth in the winter or the refreshing icy quake in the summer. The pause.

All this and so much more make me wonder how I ever lived without you before.

I love how I've gotten to know you. The slight difference between a French Roast and a pure Espresso. How Hawaiian Kona or Jamaican Blue Mountain compare to Green Chiapas or Dark Kenyan.

I love how I can mix you with flavors or take you in plain with just a bit of cream and sugar. I love how I can tell what time of year it is based on what I'm drinking... in case the calendar ever fails me.

Thank you Java, Coffee, Cafe... I hope you know what you truly mean to me.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Make Your Move!


At what point do you ACTUALLY make a decision and change whatever it is that's bringing ya down?

Over the past 10 days, I've encountered many folks in my path who are fed up. Done. OVER IT.

While the graphic above way oversimplifies it - you do know that you are in the driver's seat of your..

career

path in life

your relationships

Every minute of every day of every week, I am focused on where I want to be. Not where I AM but where I want to BE

as a wife

as a mom

as a marketer

as a public servant

Asking myself often...

What will it take to get there?

Who will join me on the journey?

How will I know when I've made it?

Make no mistake, I appreciate where I am and where I've been but like I posted on a Facebook post the other night

"Well if I look at where I am and stop... while very thankful for where I'm at- I'd just as soon go home to be with God now. I need to the vision for where I want to be to keep me getting up each day."

The decision is made for me on all the big stuff. What about you? What are you doing to MAKE YOUR MOVE  towards what you desire for your life?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Why 9/11 Made Me A Better Mom

Thanks to 9/11 I got to hang with this cuddle bunny for 8 mos vs 8 weeks. 

Simply put 9/11 made me a better mom.

As a motherless daughter since age 4, I'd longed for and dreaded motherhood all my life.

I wanted to be a mom but was not sure how good I'd be at it. In fact - I was horrified when I found out I was pregnant in early 2001. Being the ever organized planner - how in the WORLD was I having a baby before I'd planned? But at age 29 with a committed and delighted partner, my horror turned to excitement and we anxiously planned for and awaited Baby Barreto.

That spring with a new job at United Airlines in marketing, I was preparing for motherhood and how I'd work it into my life as a sports marketer. We'd planned for my husband to stay home the first year with Baby Barreto and I was going back to work after 6 weeks. At the time, it seemed like the right thing to do and we were marching toward that.

Baby Barreto was due Sept 4 but arrived as Emma Camille on August 25 via C-section after a brief umbilical cord scare. Six weeks was now 8 weeks. Secretly, I was excited for the extra time with my pumpkin. How was I gonna leave her?

Tuesday Sept 11, 2001 at 9:00 am was the scheduled two week appointment for Emma with Dr. McNamara. We were excited to get her there as no medical people had seen her since the nurse visit the first week.  We, I wanted the assurance that we were doing everything "right".

As we got ready to take Emma to the Dr's office - less than 5 minutes from our house - we turned on the Today Show and there it was... a smoking building. Lots of talking.

Then I saw it.

I saw "our" plane fly into the North Tower of the WTC. Like everyone else, my world changed in that moment.

At the time, I was worried about losing my job and feeling guilty for thinking that as people in my company had lost their lives. It was only this year, at the 10th anniversary reflection time did I see what that event actually did for me.

It gave me something I would have never had with my first child had it not happened.

I got precious bonding time. Mommy time.

8 weeks was converted to 8 months in an instant.

For the mommy who was worried how she would "mommy" - it was the greatest gift. I even hesitated having the second child for fear that I'd not bond with him/her as much as I did with the first.

I did lose my job and it was stressful but when I look back my biggest memory from that time was all the time I got to spend with Emma. We even used our travel benefits to fly her around the country to introduce her to family and friends.

Today, I am confident that mommy skills are good. And to think, they all began in the ashes of the tragedy of 9/11/01.


Monday, September 5, 2011

3 C's This Non-Runner Ran Into Training For A 5K

My new lucky number!
You'd have to be the most non-observant person in my tribe to NOT know that I trained for and ran my first 5K this past Friday, Sept 2, 2011.  It all started after my rock-star daughter, Emma ran her first 5K  in June as a culmination of her Girls On The Run program. We casually talked about me running a specific race with her on Labor Day weekend. Casual talk began to include folks outside our family and before you know it - I was purchasing the Couch-To-5K app and starting to train just after July 4.

Always athletic and always competitive, I started the journey and had so many ups and downs:

Yeouch! My @$$ and every thing else just ACHES (Day One)
Yay! I ran for 6 minutes straight. (Week 4)
OMG - I'm never gonna be able to run for 20 minutes straight! (Week 6)
Yay! I ran for 7 songs (or approximately 28 min)  straight! (Week 8)

The day arrived and it was 98 degrees with a heat index that felt like 110, in Chicago. In September. NICE. By race time it had cooled to 89 degrees with 99% humidity. Better.

I did it! Finished the race in 40:31 and Whitney Houston serenaded me "I'm Every Woman" as I crossed the finish line. Can't get any better than that. Oh, but it did.  In my haze in the moments after the race, this non-runner (I know, even days later and planning to run another 5K - it still feels like someone else's sport - I'll let you know if that changes) reflected on three Cs I encountered on this journey.

Culture 

Running has this underground network of supportive people who encourage you and want to see you run. At every turn during the training I was blessed with "wise runner counsel" from people all over the planet. No lie. I love that people you just meet (JASON SALAS) who you casually mention you're running to give you sage, actionable advice that changes your path - the very next run. It was also awesome to see friends and connections all over the United States - like my high school friend who now lives in Virginia chime in with supportive nuggets when he noticed I completed a Couch-to-5K training.  Thanks Brent. The values that runners have unite them and enable them to help others trying to run. I love that.

Community

Throughout my life, at any given time - I can be "caught" building community around a cause or candidate. This 5K training had to be one of the biggest community building events of my life. All the people who participated and encouraged me really made all the difference. From my Twitter friend in the UK who gave me some invaluable support in the end, to my friend in Belgium who promised to be with me in spirit as I ran,  to all my friends across North America who tweeted/called/emailed their love - I know there is no way I'd have completed this race without this tremendous community. And thanks to Twitter and Facebook - we were all in sync as this unfolded.

Cheering

This one was the best. It was so very cool to see people sitting all along the route, clapping, smiling and cheering us on. People leaned over their porches kicking back with a beer and friends - waiting to clap and cheer as we ran by. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I've played sports all my life - track/field and tennis in high school and college, soccer as an adult until I became a mom and I never experience anything like this.  I was so touched, so moved, so MOTIVATED not to quit by all the cheering along the way. No lie. Every time I got a tired or wanted to stop running and walk - I'd look up and see a familiar face cheering me on  - literally saying "Denise, good going. You can make it. You can do it." The finish delivered the best moment when my daughter, son and a good friend saw me and ran over to push me over the finish line. I barely heard the crowd cheering and clapping but I saw it.

Wow.

Now if we could just package these three and bring them to work with us every day.




Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Have You Embraced Your New Normal?

Wouldn't it be great if change in our life was flagged with this sign?

I woke up today, finally realizing that I am in a new era.

Perhaps for the rest of my life the following will be true:

I can no longer comfortably drink coffee while driving

My tennis forehand smash is officially retired.

The books I write will not be handwritten or typed - they will be dictated

Grabbing a gallon of milk will be with most certainly be with my left hand

My right forearm will join my knees in helping predict precipitation

Packing a piece of carry-on luggage will no longer be overstuffed

I could go on and on about the way my life will be in the future without the full use of my right arm. But I won't.

I am going to embrace my "new normal."

I'm not going to focus on what I won't or cannot do anymore because of  permanent partial damage to the radial nerve in my right arm. It's been a long 13 months coming. From the first diagnosis of my radial nerve palsy to the more extensive radial tunnel syndrome, I have lived with the pain, frustration and hopelessness that is watching something you took for granted slowly slip from your grip (no pun intended). After surgery 9 months ago, I naively thought that "all would be alright" and I'd go back to "normal," soon.

Well "soon" never came. And may never come.

So I'm letting go of the thought that my right arm will return to 100% strength and sensory functionality. And what a freeing exercise this is turning out to be. Immediately, I am starting to see what I CAN do with the limbs I have.

Am I going to stop my strengthening exercises or heat therapy? Not a chance. But I have put aside my thoughts of full recovery as a condition to do anything. I am no longer postponing anything in my mind.

What about you?

Is there a "new normal" you've been running from or hoping against?

Often times change that catapults us into "new normal" is swift and sudden. Not a lot you can do to prepare. Other times, it's slow and incremental and gives us glimpses that we often ignore to our own detriment.

Take it from me, your "new normal"  will catch up to you one day.

Why not join me and embrace your "new normal" today?

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Biggest Favor You Can Do For Yourself

Over the last few weeks (and I knew it would be this way - it always is this time of year) it has been hectic. I can't tell you how many times I've looked at my calendar and been completely shocked and overwhelmed.

However, I was reminded of the importance of making time for things that matter during a lunch date. A lunch date that I'd completely not recorded on the calendar but committed to weeks before.

Your calendar is a direct reflection of your priorities. Whether you like it or not.

What we allow ourselves to spend our precious earthly minutes on, gives a message to all of what is important to us.

My favorite example of this is my house - take a look at this dining room table.




I am not proud of that. At all.

However, it is an indication that I - wife, mom, marketer, public servant and entrepreneur have prioritized "Clean dining room table" lower on my list. It will get done. One day. Eventually.

But I did order my daughter's birthday gift in time.

I did remember to teach my son how to tie his shoes in time for 1st grade.

I did get a Facebook page up for a new business venture.

I also presented to the Chairman of my day job on Monday morning.

I had lunch with a new friend.

I took time to explore one of my "fears" on Tuesday.

I'm posting to my blog today.

Are you smelling what I'm cooking?

Time is not renewable resource. It is here today and gone tomorrow. We must be conscious of the choices we make with our time. And how we communicate that.

The very next time you find yourself saying you "don't have time to" fill-in-the-blank, please stop and think about the truth of that statement. Is it that you don't have time or haven't made time?

Now I am not saying go around telling folks - they are not a priority but I am advocating being honest with yourself and those you do life with. Perhaps instead you can say... "I'd love to ________ but it's not going to work out with the other commitments I have that week."

Who can get mad at that? Better yet, you put yourself in the driver seat of your time and commitments and there is no better feeling than that.

How do you "make time" for what's important to you?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

K. E. Y. To Getting What You Want In Life

Credit: Marek @fotolia
Almost a full week after my annual leadership replenishment exercise, I am still reeling from all the great wisdom imparted upon me.

No less than 3 different topics clog my mind right now to blog about as it relates to relationships and what I learned... but it really all comes down to the illustration above.

Keep Extending Yourself

Speaker after speaker. Marketplace or Church based. It didn't matter male or female - all the speakers pointed to using your individual power, motivation, unique story and skills to propel you to your calling. Your dream. Your life's work.

"We are all conditioned to be picked, PICK YOURSELF, " said Seth Godin.

"Believe in the future by creating it first" or "Don't worry about what you want to do, think about what to do NEXT,"  implored Len Schlesinger.

"Resist the temptation to stop or step back and just move forward," pleaded Rev. Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil.

Powerful words.

Actionable words.

I share them because they are the jumping off points for the next phase of my growth. Each give me specific instruction, specific movement. And they can do the same for you.

Keep Extending Yourself towards what's important to you. In my case, it's revolutionizing relationships on planet Earth.

Don't shrink from your work, your dream because of what you see around you. Take a few minutes to read the words above and apply them to your specific situation. Your specific scenario.

In just 6 days and I've already seen a difference in the opportunities that have surfaced for me and Relationships Matter Now and my other leadership roles. Our world is dying for great leaders. Stop looking for "them" and BE them.

Keep Extending Yourself and see what happens.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Two Of My Favorite Days Of Every Year


Water. 
Life-giving.
Refreshing.
Nourishing
Thirst quenching.
Sustaining.

My drink of choice any day. Water is what I thought of this day as I look ahead at my upcoming week. Because later this week, I will participate in two of my favorite days of every year - the Willowcreek Association Global Leadership Summit.

As a leader, these are two of the most important days for me every year because they represent all those traits I wrote about my favorite drink above. I'll elaborate on the three most important.

Life-Giving

My walk as a leader gets weary at times. Things happen. Things DON'T happen. And many days, I feel as though my very life is being sucked away from me. Time at the the WCA GLS is like a life line and it always comes on time. I am certain that minute one, day one - I will be injected with insights and learnings that will literally bring me "back to life."

Nourishing

Dictionary definition of nourish is "to provide with substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition." The growth, health and good condition of a leader constantly needs attention. And throughout the year, I do many things to contribute to that. I read. I attend workshops. I work with business coaches and advisers. But every year since 2006, the WCA GLS has served as annual super injection of nutrition. This year will be no different. 

Sustaining

This one is the most important for me personally. It is always easy to get inspired when locked away from your real life for two days with leaders from around the globe. It is a slam dunk to be motivated by the likes of Harvey Carey, Patrick Lencioni, Bono, Jim Collins, Carly Fiorina, TD Jakes and Gary Hamel - not to name drop - teaching you in an incredible setting. What's tough is taking those learnings home with you and applying them.  Which is what makes the WCA GLS work for me. There are tons of resources distributed leading up to, throughout and after the conference. Not a year has gone by that I have not referenced past conference notes or principles. Last year, I started distributing my notes to a small group of folks who have been interested in attending. I even found myself carrying materials around for months after the conference. And this year, I am excited to bring one of my business partners as a guest.

So I will work super hard Monday - Wednesday and do my best to get a good night's sleep on Wednesday night because come Thursday,  

It's on.

Learn more about WCA Global Leadership Summit here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Who Stole The Smile From America's Youth?


How do kids with joyful hearts turn into brooding smile-less teens?
credit @ucla_pucla fotolia

The last few weeks of dropping my kids at summer day camp have been more harried than before. You see, we drop them at a middle school and there have been young people gathered lately for drivers' ed and other summer classes.

I am not one of those adults intimidated by the judging eyes of young people as you pass them. I don't care what they think of me or my outfit. I happen to know that for a 39 year old - I rock it.

What has bothered me is how few of them actually smile.

At each other.

At little kids walking by.

At me. When I am smiling at them.

What is up with that? Who stole the smile from today's kids?

Now I am sure there are many reading who will say..."Denise, c'mon. You remember being a brooding youth, don't you?"

My answer to that is no. I don't. I remember being awkward. In-secure. Feeling "uncool" and ugly. But I was not without joy. I welcome anyone from jr. high or high school to dispute this if I'm rewriting history.

Even with my dad's second marriage imploding and the strict rules they made live by that should have made me buck crazy wild - I was a content adolescent. I remember people writing big lips (making fun of my full luscious lips) on my campaign posters in high school and lots of other hurtful episodes but I still got up everyday and found a reason to smile.

Did I smile all the time? Doubtful.

But I never remember not returning a smile.

When people smile at you - it's contagious - most people smile back. Not so with these kids. I have watched and picked out several to smile at repeatedly and I get nothing. I've held the door open and smiled. Nada.  I've said "Good morning" with a big smile. Zilch.  I've practically run into some of these young people with a huge, warm smile and got blank stares in return.

I get that life is hard. I know some of them are hurting because they are facing rejection, abandonment, broken connections with family, abuse. Statistically speaking - all of the aforementioned calamities are touching at least one of the kids I pass every morning. But I'm here to tell them it's OK.

I smile to reassure them that whatever life is handing you - you can fight back with a small gesture of kindness. I smile to give them the hug they may have missed from a loved one. I smile to let them know they are "cool" "cute" "popular" and whatever other adjective they are looking for that day.

I smile at today's young people to show them that we have a choice in how we move through our lives. Regardless of what you are facing - you can make a choice.

A simple choice to smile. Smile in the mirror. Smile at your friends. Smile at the weird woman with a flower in her afro who smiles at you.

Can I ask my tribe to do something, too? It is my experience that kids don't just "turn out" a certain way - they learn behaviors. So can we all smile? Next time you see a bunch of young people - especially the ones with their hair not combed or their pants hanging off their butts or the ones with the shorts shorter than you'd like  - take a moment and SMILE at those kids.

They need it. Perhaps more than you know.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Will YOU Carry Nelson Mandela's Torch?

Nelson Mandela drawn by Josephine Death
While I am certain we will never see "another Nelson Mandela", I can't help but hope his life will inspire others to take up his legacy of unabashed forgiveness and self-accountability.

Today as he celebrates 93 years young, I continue to be in awe of Nelson Mandela and all he stand for...

Forgiveness

Reconciliation

Self-accountability

Relationship.

Relationship with self.

Relationship with family.

Relationship with country.

Relationship with your enemy.

It is his imperfect authenticity in all the above areas that continue to intrigue me. Several times a year - I find myself obsessed with his story, his work and now, thanks to the film,  Invictus - I take refuge for a few hours in a movie that so eloquently walks us through one of his most public (and triumphant) relationship lessons.

I, for one, am picking up the torch of Nelson Mandela's life and work in my world.

Will you do it in your world as well?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The High Cost of Denial

Yeah - hot oil and skin don't mix

So the little blister you can barely see on the edge of my fingernail is what I'm now calling the High Cost of Denial.

Not mine. But that of the medical team treating me.

I know that my right arm and digits are not well and one full year after the issue with my radial nerve began -  a summer saute tells the story.

As I was cooking last night with my right hand - turning meat pieces in a pan with hot oil - I did not "feel" the heat of the pan until it was too late. Literally, I saw my hand with the blister and hot oil BEFORE I felt it and it was then that I felt the pain and pulled my hand back.

Yeeeouch!

Practically a 2nd degree burn on one of the fingers where I have been without full sensation since March  - a problem I did NOT have before the surgery.

Yet, the doctors - two of them now - insist that all is normal in my healing from the surgery 6 months ago. I am not scheduled to see anyone until September.

Moral of the story. Keep fighting, folks.

Regardless of what they say - keep voicing your concerns.

Take responsibility for your own care.

Don't let the denial of someone else affect you.

Oh, and don't cook over a hot pan or open fire when half your hand has no feeling.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

What This Body Needs More Of....

My two kids doing something I love - SLEEP!
So one full week into my Coach-To-5K training program for the Sunset 5K to kick off the Summer Sunset Festival in Lake in the Hills, Labor Day weekend, I've had an epiphany!

Knocking on the door of 40 years old, having spent the last year with no athletic activity that I'd love to blame on the radial nerve problem in my right arm vs. my own apathy towards my body  - this training program has shed light on something I thought I had under control.

When you exercise more - what do you need more? What does YOUR BODY crave?

For some, it's more nutrition.

Their body needs to eat more and/or better. Someone I know eats almost DOUBLE what they normally eat when they are training for a race (my daughter Emma).

Their body needs more water. The more they workout, the more they need to replenish.

For me, it's SLEEP.

What? This from the woman who intends and is pretty successful at getting at LEAST 7 hours of sleep a day.

Yeah, every run this past week revealed to me the deep need to go back to my body's wiring and get that 8 or more hours of sleep a day.

Now it will be ANOTHER post to figure out how I do that with all my roles - wife, mom to two active kids, full-time marketer/part-time village official AND entrepreneur building a new company.

But I am so glad that my relationship with my body is so much closer that I can immediately sense something I might have missed in the past. As recent past as last year.

You see the issue with my radial nerve in my right arm has brought me in closer relationship with my body.   Therapy, surgery, therapy again and one year later with little improvement has tuned me in to this miracle I walk around in everyday. And IT has spoken.

So don't be surprise if you "see" or "hear" me dozing more like the two cute kids in the photo above.

Sleep is what this body needs more of...and because I love my body and value our relationship. I'm obliging.

Do you know what your body is asking of you?

Are you in tune with your "miracle"?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cool Things Happen When You Listen, Pt 1

Normally, when one of the "kid's songs" somehow penetrates my iPod playlists, I QUICKLY change it back to "my music." But accidentally today, I could not change it quick enough and this is what I heard....

Leave It All To Shine



This song is a mash-up of the theme songs of two the shows I least enjoy on Nickelodeon - iCarly and Victorious. But today, perhaps because of where I am with my Relationships Matter Now biz - which is full ramp up throttle - (hence my sketchiness in posting blogs lately) - this diddy spoke to me...check out the lyrics from the heart of the song...

You don’t have to be afraid to put your dream in action
You’re never gonna fade, you’ll be the main attraction
Wake up the members of my nation
It’s your time to be
Not a fantasy (not a fantasy)
Just remember me (just remember me)
When it turns out right (When it turns out right)

‘Cause there’s no chance unless you take one
And the time see
Now if you live in your imagination
Tomorrow you’ll be everybody’s fascination
You see the brighter side of every situation

In my victory (In my victory)
Just remember me
When I make it shine
Leave it all to me
Leave it all to me
When I make it shine
Just leave it all to me


 
Yes - it IS up to me. The success of my business is mine to grab and make "it" shine. "It" aka my business will shine. This little section of these songs I hear way more than I'd like to admit actually inspired and fired me up today. I was visualizing progress in my business as I sang along with Miranda Cosgrove and Victoria Justice.

"You don't have to be afraid to put your dream in action.." were never truer words for me. Especially today.

Thanks ladies. And I promise to NEVER give my kids a hard time about your shows again. In fact, I just might start tuning in myself.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Email Keeps Me Close





Remember when we'd wait for the "phone call"?

You know the one -

Am I getting an interview?

Is he going to ask me out?

Did I land the account?

OMG - we went out - must. catch. up. girlfriend.

In my life that phone call has given way to the EMAIL.
Instead of the marathon phone call or even the quick chat to clarify - email has replaced this exchange in my life.

And I'm cool with that.

As a busy working mom and wife approaching 4-0 - I long to reach out and connect with friends that I used to have time to talk to regularly. And while there are times I intentionally make the marathon call and sacrifice sleep - I am so grateful for email as tool to say connected.

As an entrepreneur and veteran corporate marketer with close to 20 years experience and contacts - email has been the glue to keep me close to former colleagues and potential clients. How great is it that email enables me to follow-up in a meaningful way with a personal touch SUPER FAST. Earlier this year - I did some outreach to my network via email and made my first consulting engagement sale. Did it in my spare time on a day off from my day job.

The power of email is endless. And while texting has creeped it's way into my toolbox - nothing beats a late night email to update folks on all my happenings.

Nor the response that I get back, that enables me to stop what I am doing and virtually engage with my loved one.

I sent my dad a greeting card for Father's Day this weekend. But I think I'm going to send him an email, too.

My 74 year old - old fashioned - I'm not buying a microwave until 2000 - just got a DVD player because my VHS works fine - kind of dad LOVES email.

Late start appreciated.


Thank you to Yahoo! Mail for sponsoring this post about staying connected. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Why We Must Join Billy Joel Go To Extremes

Triumphant. Victorious. High.

Devastated. Crushed. Low.

The plight of the super high energy person - Extremes.

After a particularly extreme week, I finally collapsed in exhaustion late last night. Unable to move, I slept for 5.5 hours straight and woke up like clockwork at my early morning quiet time.

But it was quite different today. I have finally accepted a deep loss. I mourned it. Prayed about it. Laughed about my obsessive compulsive behavior related to it over mango shakes with two wise women. And now I'm better.

I wish I could say something magical on how to deal and cope better with the extremes that we high energy folks go through but alas there is nothing. Really.

The best way to "deal" is to go there.

Go to your mountaintops - experience the joy. The victory of accomplishing something awesome. Savor it. Share it with those you love. Love it.

And at the same time I encourage you to embrace your pain. Wallow in your loss. Weep. Scream. Feel it. Share it with those who can handle you down. Love it.

Because the next day is a brand new slate. You owe it to yourself and your relationship with others to experience your extremes and then move on

This Billy Joel song was ringing in my head when I woke up. It helped.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Seasons of Relationships


With the arrival of June this week, it appears that Spring has finally come to Chicagoland. Growing up here, you are fully accustomed to a curtailed Spring or no Spring at all with Summer bearing down on you right away.

Either way - it got me thinking about seasons. Winter. Spring. Summer. Fall.

Just as the weather moves thru its course every year - so do our relationships. Some of the activity is in our control but most of it not. Any long term relationships are certain to have their seasons as they endure. When I look at it closely - here's how I see it.

Relationship seasons all begin with a Spring. You know it - the newness, blooming, flowering time when we are patient as the relationship grows and matures. It's discovery time and every moment is cherished and longed for. Everyone experiences Spring in relationships.

Summer is touch and go for relationships. Because like the weather,  some Summers are pleasant, relaxing and slightly off strict routine while other Summers are arduous and dry. Summer seasons in relationships really are the first test if they are like the latter description.  If they are pleasant and relaxing - no issue but if it is draught and scarce -not all relationships make it out of the summer mode.

Fall is transitional in both the weather sense and relationships. Its during this time that we return back to our  pre-Summer phase and start to build routines again.  Fall is also about preparing for harvest - some of the seeds planted early in our relationship have come full circle by now. We notice the subtle changes in our relationships and either accept them or reject them. Fall seasons are a good indicator for the long term prospects for our relationships.

Winter. Regardless of where you live - you look forward to winter's passing. The same holds true with winter time in relationships. These are the tough patches. Sometimes they are intense and have outside elements influencing how we see this season. Other times they are just void of growth and very stagnant. This is the season where most relationships die.

This reflection has caused me to revise my thoughts on my own relationships. Simply put.

Winter is not welcome in my relationships. At no time is it ok NOT to grow with people I do life with. It is never ok to "hunker down and just exist until the next season" as we often do during Chicago winters.

My relationship "tough patches" will be relegated to dry and arduous summers that may visit me. I will work through them and not linger long. I will work tirelessly and intentionally to skip "winter" in all the relationships in my life.

What about you?

What season best characterizes your relationships?

Do you allow winters? Why or why not?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Connector in My Real Life Love Story: Email





Thank you to Yahoo! Mail for sponsoring this post about staying connected. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.



agpgal@yahoo.com

israelbq@yahoo.com

Just random email addresses to you but those email addresses are so significant to me.

They are the first email addresses for both me and my husband of 10 years.

In fact, one of my most special memories about email is the day, Isael and I created his email address together in anticipation of my moving to Spain in August of 2000 only days after we met for the first time.

We met and knew we wanted to stay in contact even with the thousands of miles and Atlantic Ocean that was going to be between us shortly. Of course, I'd given him my apartment address in La Herradura, GRANADA, SPAIN. I'd promised to call within a week with my new cell phone number.

But the idea that we could use email to stay in touch, cheaper and faster is what motivated me to ask him for his email address. And much to my surprise - in 2000 - he did not have one.

One of the first things we did together as a couple was set up his Yahoo! email address. Then email, along with weekly written letters and almost daily calls, became the centerpiece of our relationship in the early days.

What a significant role email played for us in our early days as a couple.

Almost 11 years (and 10 years married) later,  email has emerged in a new way for us to communicate with one another.

I am the communicator. The wordsmith. Extroverted and quick with an answer.

Isael is the thinker. He ponders. Internalizes and more thoughtful in response.

We communicate pretty well with one another, most often. But when a volatile topic arises - email has become the best place to get the feelings on the table.

For me, I have to "slow my roll" and think a bit more than I'd think in a heated conversation. For him, it allows him the time to comfortably respond without pressure

This video perfectly illustrates what email has become in our union


Email has come full circle in our "couplehood" and I am grateful to have it in my arsenal of communication tools.

What about you? What role does email play with regards to staying connected with your significant other?

Monday, May 16, 2011

What's My One-Handed Dunk?




I went to bed DREAMING about this crazy put back dunk by a guy (I'm embarrassed to admit)  I barely recognized on my favorite NBA team, The Chicago Bulls.

Depending on the outcome of this series, we may or may not remember this at all come June.

One thing is clear - know him or not -  Taj Gibson is fearless.

He is intentional.

And he's playing to win, 100% all the way 'til the buzzer sounds.

He looked at the opponent, didn't worry about who they were, he played his heart out and made indelible statement with his put back dunk.

I woke up thinking - what will be my one-handed put back dunk this day?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Dandelions, Distractions: Our Yard & Life Deceivers

A few days ago, I noticed that our yard - front and back - was over taken by our friends to the right, dandelions. It was a sea of yellow, flowering dandelions. 

As the indoor person I am, I looked at them and was pleasantly reminded that Spring had finally sprung in Chicagoland. My husband, the "award-winning landscape architect,"saw them as a nuisance that had "invaded" our yard. He even went so far as to jokingly blame it on neighbors whose yards were equally yellow since he'd actually done lots of work to prevent them in our yard over the years.

Inside my head, I was slightly amused at the difference in perspective on them. I've loved dandelions my whole life and my dad despised them in our yard when I was a kid.  Now I'm married to a guy who feels the same. I used to rue the day my dad insisted we pull them up by the roots, by hand. Because I was the oldest, "we" always really meant me.

Why did we have to rid our yards of dandelions? Are they really that bad? I joked with my husband how they were so cute, yadda, yadda, yadda.

He finally said, "They may be cute but they kill your grass and plants. So they have to go."

As I drove to work one morning this week, I had an epiphany. 

Dandelions are like distractions in our lives.

Beautiful.

Tempting.

Contagious.

Plentiful. 

Deceptive

And if not eradicated or contained quickly - distractions can over take your life.

It's true. 

Each day I wake with my health and hearty list of things to do, I find myself fighting distractions. Constantly "weeding" out the activities that do not add value to my life, personally or professionally. Intentionally selecting "what stays" and "what goes" is a key part of my every day, every hour some days. Most often, I must take a hands on approach to removing distractions which is eerily like removing dandelions from your yard. 

You can't just mow them away.

You can't pluck them by the green alone.

You have to get on your hands and knees and dig your fingers beneath the surface of the ground and pull them out by their roots.

Then and only then can you be certain they are gone.

So I ask... what are the dandelions in your life? Do you even recognize them? 

And most importantly, are you prepared to weed them out and get on with doing what you need to do?


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Small Victories



Smooth pebbles in a river

I recently came across a saying about water always "winning" against the pebbles in a river. Struck me as odd when I read it and I didn't even save it or bother to remember it in its entirety.

The last few weeks have really started to bear fruit for my Relationships Matter Now work that was started last fall. It is as exciting and exhilirating as it is exhausting. There are great days and low days. There are often lower days when I wonder if I'll EVER get to do my life's work full-time as I so desire vs. squeezing it in my every spare moment like I do now.

My relationship with my ultimate goal is stretched to it's limit in the tough moments.

Then it hit me.

The quote is about the water's determination to pass the pebble.

The water does not mind that the pebble is not moving or appears to block it's path.

The water keeps flowing.

The water is so determined to pass that it starts to erode the pebble. Shape it even.

The water keeps on task.

The water is not distracted by what it cannot control - it continues to push what it can.

That is what my small victories are.

In this continum of entrepreneurship and revolutionizing relationships - one at a time, I must remember to grasp each small victory. Bask in it. Learn from it. Use it to motivate the next 5 steps.

Small victories and your healthy relationship with them are the key to any goals you have.

Want a great marriage?

Small victories.

Losing a large amount of weight?

Small victories.

Changing careers or re-entering the job force?

Small victories.

Be alert and looking for the small victories on whatever journey you are on today!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Love God, Love Others - That's Church Diversity!

New Book By My Twitter Friend @ScottWilliams

Love God.

Love Others.

For me, that is the simple premise upon which I base my life as Christ follower.

However, it has not slipped by me, even as a devoted attender of Willowcreek Community Church that we have lots of work to do on Sunday morning. Yes, the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of this over 40 years ago and sadly, we are still dealing with this today.

How excited am I that I am personally connected to the next great look at this topic! Someone whom I admire and respect and have been interacting with for over a year on Twitter, @ScottWilliams has just released his book, Church Diversity: Sunday The Most Segregated Day of the Week.

Church Diversity does not mince words and quite frankly, that is my favorite characteristic of this book. My favorite chapter is Chapter 3 - Everything Starts With Leadership - Leading Beyond the Dream. Really, that's what it all boils down to and not necessarily leadership of "the church".

For me, this issue runs deeper than any organization. We all must be committed to leading diversity in everyday lives - that then will lead to church diversity. As Scott writes in other chapters such as the very "cold water in your face" chapter - Corporate America Cares More Than The Church - this issue is really bigger than "is my church welcoming to people who look different?" And that IS an important question but is it the most important question?

Scott and his book touch on how this change can not be on the surface or by sticking a few well placed "diverse" face on your staff.

There needs to be a fundamental change in the way we see ourselves and those we do life with. We must be willing to face the realities that got us in this mess in the first place. We must be willing to have tough conversations -  in love. We must look inside ourselves individually to see what we personally can do to attack this issue. Look for the opportunities that are served up to us and step up to them.

After reading Church Diversity - I, for one, am more alert and ready.

You can learn more about Church Diversity here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

One Decade and Counting...

April 27, 2001

Ten years ago today, I solidified what I'd known for the 9 months prior - Isael Barreto Quiroz was THE ONE.

Let me list a few of my favorite things about my husband to give you a glimpse why we've made it for the last decade...

He's not perfect but perfect for me.

Laughing together is our best activity - we do it at least one every day.

He and I partner in building strong traditions and fun-filled memories for our kids.

He is a stellar gift-giver who knows what I love in all areas.

I love his thoughtfulness that perfectly balances my impulsiveness.

He feels deeply and expresses only what's necessary.

I could go on and on and on and on...


I can't imagine what my life would be like if we hadn't bumped into one another. I've started listing all the great things I love about him over the last few years to remind me why we are together. It comes in handy on the tough days and helps me keep perspective.

Take a moment, today - in honor of our 10th anniversary to think of what you love about your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, mate... write it down.

Better yet - tell them.

I plan to.. today and always.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

3 Lessons From A Close Encounter with This Guy

His eyes literally light up as he smiles. And he did smile directly at me yesterday. Sigh.

From the front row of one of the last The Oprah Winfrey Show tapings, this gorgeous mug was my view. LITERALLY directly across from him - less than 5 feet away. For one hour. Rob Lowe. His wife Sheryl a few people to my left.

Easily one of the most fun experiences I've ever had with a bunch of 'strangers'.

I am not writing this post to brag - I'm writing it to encourage you.

After it was announced that Oprah had decided to make this her final season, it was one of my objectives to get on a taping of the one of the Oprah's Farewell Season shows.

Every week since September, I incorporated daily check of the Oprah website to attempt to get tickets. I'd even promised a co-worker that I'd take her because it was on her "bucket list."

Pressure.

Fast forward to last week - the week of April 10. On Tuesday, I ran into that co-worker and gently let her know that while I was still trying every day to get those tickets - we were coming upon the last 25 shows and.... you know the rest.

She looked at me and said, "I believe in you."

Me? I don't control whether or not I will get the tickets, I thought.

Two days later, I got THE email from the Audience Department.

Lesson? Well actually there are three...

1.  Don't ever give up.
2.  Don't ever stop working for what you want.
3.  Work for others before yourself.

You see - my circumstances LOOKED like I was not going to get to see Oprah one last time in her Chicago studio. And THAT is why these lessons are so important.

Believe with everything you have in those things you want in life.
Get up every day looking for ways to make it happen, EVEN when it looks bleak.
Do everything in a selfless manner.

So not only did we get the tickets but we were in the front row and I cannot describe to you how satisfying this whole ordeal has been.

I am certain that the business I am building will unfold exactly as this Oprah adventure.

Certain.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Character Development, Not Just For Tween Shows and Sitcoms

Cast of Hannah Montana
So my nine year old daughter Emma and I have been talking a lot lately about the various tween shows on Disney and Nickelodeon - you know them - Wizards of Waverly Place, Sonny With A Chance, Victorious, and of course, the pioneers, Hannah Montana and iCarly.


iCarly Cast
I was asserting my opinion that Hannah Montana was by far one of the best written shows and therefore, I had a tough time watching all the others. Particularly because we know the back story of the characters which is something writers like me call "character development". Nowadays with all the unscripted aka "crap" television - it appears that writers have become lazy and less likely to take time to develop characters which for me leads to less connection to them. 


Let's think about adult sitcoms - again - we  love "The Office" and "Parks and Recreation" - why? Not because Michael Scott is a great boss or Leslie Knope is an effective local municipal employee. We like those shows because we all feel like we know quite a bit about Michael, Leslie and most all the characters on both those sitcoms and it got me to thinking about real life.


How in the world do we truly connect today without knowing the "back story" of those we do life with? 


Much like the shallow writing on most of today's television programming - we live in a time where quick 140 character sound bites rule. People are discouraged from actually talking to one another and are instead directed to email to "make connections." I have read no less than 10 articles since the start of 2011 bad mouthing phones, phone calls and people who make them. Really?


One of my main criticisms about Carly - the main character in iCarly is that I have no reason to stick around for a 1/2 hour and hear her whining or  silly musings because I know nothing about her. There are no parents, or much talk of them. There is a silly brother and two friends and her Internet show. That's it.


Hannah/Miley on the other hand has been "well developed". We know about her deceased mom and her quirkiness. We know about her rock star dad who traveled her and Jackson through most of her childhood. I could go on and on - yeah the show is still annoying but I feel a connection because even on the surface - I feel like I know Hannah/Miley and therefore I am more empathetic to her whining and silly musings for a 1/2 hour.


Can you see the implications of "character development" in our everyday lives?


How much more empathetic would we be to those we work with if we knew their story


How much more willing would we be to help a neighbor if we actually knew something about  them?


How much better would our relationships with those we love be if we knew how their story impacted their behavior and interactions with us?


We spend lots of time today trying to streamline our communications and interactions and I think it's made us delusional to think that we can solve things in 22 minutes - just like on TV.


Life takes time.


Relationships take time.


Any efforts to curtail the time spent getting to know people you do life is dooming you to a sitcom existence. 


Make it a goal to be able to tell at least one story about everyone in your life - work or personal. Take the time to learn about the characters around you.


"Character development" is not just for writers...