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Hope for Holiday Sadness

December 6, 1981.  There was deep sadness in my moms eyes when she woke me up and, trying not to cry, delivered the news that my brother Pat had been in an accident.  He didn’t make it.  I was twelve and my mind didn’t want to believe what she was saying.  Am I am still dreaming?  There must be some mistake!… were the thoughts I wanted to believe.  He was weeks away from coming home from his first semester in college to celebrate the holidays.

How do you celebrate any holiday when there is a hole in your heart and at your table?  That was 30 years ago and I still miss him.  I often wonder what Pat would be like and how life would be different if that drunk driver would have been smart enough to take a cab or drive home with a friend.  It took a while to come to terms with the fact that nothing could change what happened… I could not bring him back.  I believe the last thing he would want is for me to be sad that he is not physically here.

How do you handle loss as well as move on?  Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays are the consistent reminders that heighten your awareness of what you are already missing.  Although you can not change the past you can choose how you want to react to it.  Do you want to pretend it doesn’t bother you even though it does? Do you want to sink deeper into the sadness?  Or do you want to find positive ways to wake up from the nightmare that has become your reality?  Do you feel you can’t talk to people about it without being a downer?  Do you not know who to talk to because you don’t know who will understand?  Losing someone you are close to can leave an awkward gap that can leave you feeling uncertain about how to move on.

I wanted to know how to keep Pat close to my heart, honor him and feel good about moving on.  I knew people who went to grave sites to visit their loved ones, but I found this uncomfortable and more depressing.  It was a relief to learn there is no right way to remember someone.  It allowed me to discover alternate ways to express my feelings in ways that felt comfortable and meaningful to me.

A few questions that may help you find your path… What did this person want for you?  Before Pat left for college, he told me that I was never to even try a drug and warned if I did he would find out and kick my butt.  I promised him I would not and to honor his memory I never did.   What did this person do to make you feel special? It is often the small gestures that make the biggest impact, it could be as simple as being diligent about staying in contact.  How can you give to others what your loved one gave to you?   If you loved going over to their house, you may choose to create an environment that others love to visit.    Are there places you can go to remember the good times you had together?  We donated money to a park near our home in memory of Pat.  It was easier for me to visit and remember him in a positive environment filled with laughter.  Is there something you can do to help others avoid what happened to your loved one?  Maybe you could donate money to a cause or create an new environment that will help others.

Whatever you decide… I believe it is important to acknowledge that it is ok and normal to miss people as well as realize there are people you can talk to and people to whom you can express your feelings.  When you find uplifting ways remember and honor people it can allow you to move forward and enjoy life.  With all my heart I believe it is what our loved ones would want us to do.

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What Lights You Up?

Driving down the street during the holidays and seeing the trees glistening immediately boosts my mood.  I wanted to continually surround myself with this feeling so I added a small tree to our bedroom and my office.  It is one of the simple and effective ways I brighten my days with a burst of positive energy.  I find that it is really the little things that make a big difference.

Is there a song that you can’t resist to singing along to, or better yet one that inspires a dance break?  Do you have a inspirational or calming CD you can pop in between shopping stops or when you find yourself sitting in traffic?  Would a holiday movie help relax you as you wrap all those presents?

It can be a busy time of year, which means it is an even more important to find things that help keep you sane.  What lights you up?   What little things make you feel connected and bring you joy?  What will bring you happiness when you are starting to feel stressed?  How can you surround yourself with small triggers that make you smile?

Experiment with something and let me know how it goes!


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I Will Try Anything Once

It was July of 1994, I was twenty-five and naively fearless, when I embraced a new motto that changed my life…  I Will Try Anything Once.  I had just been laid off from my job at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and my friends, Kenny and Kansas, had just returned from Europe.  They were bursting with hilarious back packing adventures that intrigued me to call Julie, a childhood friend, to hear about her back packing experiences.  With enthusiasm and a hint of jealousy she offered to loan me her back pack and go through her journal to provide me pages of places she loved to visit, stay and eat.  It was the sign that led me to Barnes and Noble where I picked up the back packer bible, Let’s Go Europe.

Once I secured a: passport, Euro Rail pass, youth hostel card and cheap plane ticket by giving up my checked luggage to a courier service (obviously pre 9/11) my momentum was strong enough to overshadow my fears.  Back packers are an adventurous community of temporary nomads that bond over their passion for travel.  On trains and in youth hostels we share experiences which provide the compass for choosing our next destination.  Although it was not uncommon to travel alone I was relieved when Tony, a friend of a friend that I barely knew, offered to join me for the first weeks of my journey.  At the time back packers did not travel with cell phones and there was not an internet cafe on every corner.  I sent postcards to catch up loved ones on where I had been and how I was doing.   It was seven weeks before I called home and I did so via a pay phone, so I was grateful to start my journey with the help of an unexpected partner.

This is one of the many times in my life where I put my logical mind aside and relied on my heart and gut.   I was led by a feeling that drove me to get started, then gathered information and I was not exactly sure what I was getting myself into.  This was a part of stretching myself and in hindsight I was grateful for not knowing how it would turn out.  If you told that my back pack would break open upon my arrival at Heathrow airport or that Tony and I would nearly kill each in the first few days of the trip, the logical side of me might have intervened.  After making that first step I chose to figure it out because the thought of going home was an unappealing back up plan.

Stretching myself brings incredible opportunities.  Throughout my life, my I Will Try Anything Once motto has loaned me courage to try things I never would have otherwise.  The most exhilarating part of my back packing trip involved stepping outside of my fear of heights to go bungie jumping in Greece and to climb glaciers in Switzerland.  Stretching myself opens my mind and helps me avoid complacency, which drives me a bit insane.

So what is next BIG stretch for me…  I am going to write a book.  My gut is telling me to make this a priority in 2012 or I may never do it.  Before October of 2009 I would have never even thought of attempting this even though people had suggested it.  My fear… I was the furthest thing from writer or a story teller.  I had no writing experience.  Ironically I won a book proposal program, which I saw as a sign, and gradually started to explore it.  I have an idea of the huge mountain I am about to climb and I realize the odds are against me (which I kinda like) but for whatever reason, I am willing to stretch myself way beyond my comfort zone and see where it takes me.

Will you join me?  How do you want to stretch yourself in 2012?  It can be anything, big or small and I would love to hear about it!


Action Ideas & Tips:


  1. Be Open to Possibilites

Start to pay attention to what your heart and gut are telling you.  They provide clues and if you start to listen you can hear them.  What intrigues you? 


  1. Start with a Little Reaserch

Instead of thinking of all the reasons why you can not do something, start to explore the possibilities.  


  1. Take a Baby Step

Make a move in that direction.  What is one small or big thing you are willing to try to test the waters and see how it feels?  Find supportive people with whom you can talk about this.  

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What Are You Thinking?

Carmel, California

Treat Others the Way You Would Like to Be Treated.

This is the Golden Rule.  A guiding compass taught to children and quite possibly the mantra that you choose to live by as an adult.  Most of us are particularly careful about what we say to others since we do not want to offend, hurt their feelings or “be mean” to another person.   Ironically, the opposite can be true when you speak to yourself and you may not even realize it.  Today I want to explore how you are treating yourself.

I commonly hear people beat themselves up with their words.  What you are saying may seem harmless to you until you reflect on the subtle message behind the words.   The negativity of disparaging remarks adds up and detracts from your life.  Words are powerful and full of energy.  The negative self talk habit can be so engrained in your being that you don’t even notice when you do it.

Imagine that you can’t find your keys and bark at yourself, “I am such an idiot.  What did I do with them this time”.  It is understandable that you wish the situation were different, yet there are kinder more productive words that would help you feel less frustated and help you to not repeat what just happened.  If they are not coming to you immediately, I would suggest thinking of what you might say to a friend in the same situation.  Intuitively this may seems odd but we are usually kinder to others than to ourselves.

Whey you pay attention to the overall messages you are sending yourself with your word selection you may be surprised.  Here are a few examples of the messages that you may be unknowingly be delivering…

  • I am stupid. 
  • I am not worthy of being heard.
  • I am unlovable.
  • I  do not deserve.
  • I am broken.
  • I am not capable.
  • It is too late for me.
  • Who do I think I am?

No matter what words you choose if the underlying message resembles any of the thoughts above,YOU are chipping away at your self esteem.  Simply uttering these words brings your energy down.  Even though it is common to be hard on yourself,  it does not mean it is helpful or necessary.  Make no mistake, negative self talk is a choice.  You can continue to sabotage yourself in this way or make a conscious choice to tweak your words.

In an effort to help keep this top of mind, I would like to slightly tweak the Golden Rule

Treat YOURSELF and Others the Way You Would Like to Be Treated.

What would the world be like if we were all kinder to ourselves?  How would it change your day to day life if you started to speak to yourself in a kinder and more supportive way?  Check out the tips below and feel the difference.


Action Ideas & Tips ~

Breaking a Negative Self Talk Habit Starts with AWARENESS

Start listening to what you say to yourself through both your external and internal dialogue.  Pay particular attention to the internal voice that is constantly speaking in your head.  It may be helpful to recruit the help of those who are closest too you.  Simply ask them to raise your awareness by letting you know when they hear your speaking about yourself negatively.  

Next Step is to Choose New Words.

Once you have noticed when you are saying something negative or unloving to yourself, then start replacing your traditional words with kinder, more supportive and productive words.  A simple tweak to verbiage can make all of the difference in your energy and your self esteem.

 Treating yourself better does not require any additional time and the benefits are priceless!

Something to Think About ~

I wake up every morning, look in the mirror and ask myself, “If I were to die today would I be satisfied with my life?” If the answer is no too many days in a row I make changes. ~ Steve Jobs

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Hope for Holiday Sadness

December 6, 1981.  There was deep sadness in my moms eyes when she woke me up and,...
article post
thumbnail Cape Town, South Africa article post

What Lights You Up?

Driving down the street during the holidays and seeing the trees glistening immediately...
article post
thumbnail Scenic & 10th ~ Carmel Beach, California article post

I Will Try Anything Once

It was July of 1994, I was twenty-five and naively fearless, when I embraced a new motto...
article post
thumbnail Hot Air Ballooning in Del Mar, CA article post

What Are You Thinking?

Treat Others the Way You Would Like to Be Treated. This is the Golden Rule.  A...
article post
thumbnail Kayaking on the Chicago River article post