Archive for the ‘Character’ Category


Lilly of the Valley blooms from my garden.

Lilly of the Valley blooms from my garden.


Last week, something happened — and I don’t even recall the events any longer — but I do remember saying to my colleague at the time, “Well, that certainly could make you feel invisible.”  And then I stopped and thought about that for a second. Feeling invisible. Like what you say or do or think or contribute is of absolutely no consequence. Meaningless. Life can go on and on and on without your leaving a mark of any significance.

When I dug a little deeper, I heard it this way: Your contribution is so meaningless, that you should stop whatever you are doing to tend to whatever I need. And, before I could allow an oversight to become an offense, I stopped and realized this is what women sign up for when they become mothers.

  • Cooking dinner? Stop it immediately to comfort a crying baby.
  • Balancing the checkbook? That can wait, a diaper needs changing.
  • Enjoying a quiet moment at the end of the day? Investigate the patter of feet in the hallway.
  • Planning for an important meeting? Reschedule because of a conflict with the recital.
  • And on, and on, and on.

In life, as in motherhood, there is always a conflict — competing priorities and limited resources. On a daily basis (and usually much more often), your influence, voice, desires, and activities take a back seat — often without acknowledgment or appreciation — to attend to the needs of another.

But make no mistake, your presence is quietly influencing, adjusting, correcting, encouraging and changing the future. I was reminded of this when I stepped into my garden on Friday and was delighted with a sweet aroma. After looking around to discover the source, I found that our Lily of the Valley had come into bloom.

Their blooms are tiny in contrast to other flowers that easily catch your eye. Their white bonnets are quietly tucked away between leaves instead of loudly announcing their arrival at the top of tall stems. Basically, unless you are looking specifically for them, they are invisible. No worries — they influence not necessarily through sight, but through an amazing smell that belies their smallness.

Influence doesn’t always stir the crowd by shouting from the pulpit. Often it is the quite, unrelenting, “invisible” consistency that comes simply because you are present.

So, the next time you feel invisible, take heart in knowing that you are influencing in ways you can’t even see.

Whatever you are, don’t worry about being invisible!


PS: A very Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who have encouraged, corrected, listened, and influenced me in ways that may have seemed invisible at the time.

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Be fabulous and don’t let any one thing ruin your life.”
~ Kylee Halko,

Awesome advice, don’t you think?  Especially when you consider it was offered by a seven-year-old who suffers with Progeria.


Kylee with her parents and Barbara Walters.

For those who might not know, Progeria is a rare, fatal genetic condition characterized by an appearance of accelerated aging in children. Signs include growth failure, loss of body fat and hair, aged-looking skin, stiffness of joints, hip dislocation, generalized atherosclerosis, cardiovascular (heart) disease and stroke. Children with Progeria die of atherosclerosis (heart disease) at an average age of thirteen years.

Kylee’s life is certainly not what most of us would consider the optimal circumstances to be fabulous.  Most of us encounter far fewer obstacles and look forward to a much brighter future. Yet too often we are unable to muster the energy to be fabulous. Why is that?

How many times do we unnecessarily allow one failure, one disappointment, or one unexpected detour ruin our entire life?

Well, maybe not our entire life, but certainly affect things for far too long of a stretch. We moan and complain and exclaim to anyone who will listen how “Life’s Not Fair!”  Okay, I’ll give you that — life isn’t fair. So what?

Why do we let the negativity and stress and ugliness take control? Why do we feel compelled to become just another victim of random circumstances?

If you don’t like what you’ve been handed, why not recycle it into something else? You can if you want to — changing your present starts with changing your attitude.

How about just being fabulous regardless of the madness swirling around you?  Determine to rise above and be your very best self — in spite of what is being thrown your way, or what the future looks like, or what the doctors say. Why not embrace an attitude that is exceptionally good, marvelous, and superb? Laugh at your unfair life.

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past . . . we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way.

We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.

And so it is with you . . . we are in charge of our attitudes.”
[Charles Swindoll].

Whatever life hands you, be fabulous in spite of it!


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One thing I hate:  the overuse of the word hero.

For those of you unfamiliar with the rules, a hero is not a musician or entertainer or sports figure simply because her music is awesome or his dance moves are amazing or the score was record-breaking — those are idols.

A hero is a person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life.  Think of soldiers, police officers, fire fighters, social policy game changers, and many others whose names history records but the public forgets. They are rarely promoted by glitzy ads or high-priced marketing firms. Their acts speak for themselves and validate the title of hero.  Like the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 who thwarted a fourth attack targeted for the White House.

One thing I love: reading magazine interviews. It’s not necessary for me to know the person being interviewed (and often I do not). I find the simple back and forth rhythm of question and response intoxicating. Without a writer to misinterpret or mold the responses into a clever piece of prose, the simple or ranting or complicated answers provide a rare and honest look into the psyche of the interviewee.

And the more clever the question and original the response, the more enjoyable the interview.

So, it was with great delight that I came across an interview conducted by dwell magazine with Mexico-City based industrial designer Emilano Godoy, during which Godoy was asked to name his antihero.

His response?  “Lee Iacocca.”

Immediately I stopped reading.  Here was an answer I was not expecting! Twenty years later, what in the world could this Mexico-based designer still have against a former leader of the Chrysler Corporation?

I attempted to unravel the mystery. Does Godoy hate American Enterprise? Was he still holding a grudge against the uninspired design of the K-Car? (If true, who could successfully argue against his point?) Was he dumping the effects of global warming at the doorstep of the rust belt?  The explanation wasn’t that pedestrian.

I looked back at the page to find the rest of Godoy’s response, “So much talent going into the wrong industry.”

And there you have it. To Godoy his antihero was identified by an individual who was failing to fully exploit his talent.

And then I started wondering what Iacocca could have accomplished if he had attempted a different challenge. What field might he have selected, and how would history remember this man if he had?

I did some research and discovered that according to dictionary.com, an antihero is not necessarily an enemy, it is a main character who lacks the attributes that make a heroic figure.  They are void of such things as nobility of mind and spirit, idealism, courage, or a life marked by action or purpose.

They may have the spotlight,
but they are not living a life fully worthy of the applause.

Perhaps fear or the expectations of others causes them to live far beneath their potential. Maybe they have tried and failed so many times, that their spirit is crippled and their courage has evaporated. Regardless of the reason, there are far too many of us living a life void of action and purpose.

We have become a society of antiheroes. This should not be. We are greater than this!

Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark,
in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite,
the not-yet, the not-at-all.
Do not let the hero in your soul perish,
in lonely frustration for the life you deserved,
but have never been able to reach.
Check your road and the nature of your battle.
The world you desired can be won,
it exists, it is real, it is possible, it’s yours.
~ Ayn Rand

Whatever you are, be a hero!


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Life is what you make it.
Always has been, always will be.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Opportunities evaporate.

Leaders are duplicitous.

“Misrepresentations” are peddled as truth.

Rumors are started.

Rights are demanded.

Relationships crumble.

Promises are broken.

Fears run rampant.

Trust is extinct.

So what?! As we’ve been told a million times — life’s not fair.

I could sit around and lament my situation, wallow in my circumstances, and play the part of a victim, or I could plan for today to be the best day of my life!

I choose “best day!”  (The better choice by far — wouldn’t you agree?)

So, for today, regardless of the insanity swirling around me . . .

I will look for love and kindness, gentleness and generosity.

I will strive to behave in a way that sows seeds of courtesy and positivity, consideration and encouragement, thoughtfulness and respect.

I will remember that I don’t know everything, all the facts aren’t in, and there are three sides to every story (yours, mine, and the truth).

I will realize  that a person, like a dog, can “bite” out of fear, and do my best to remember that sometimes it’s just your insecurities talking — your comments really don’t have anything to do with me.

I’ll be quick to include your ideas, listen, and understand your story for I do not have all the answers nor am I the final authority or judge.

I’ll encourage others to dream the dream, take the risk, and live the life — their life — and do everything within my power to help make this happen.

I will assume your intentions are good — it is just the plan that failed.

I will not let the negativity of others seep into my life and muddy up my attitude.

I will make my life today . . . and do it all again tomorrow!

Be careful how you interpret the world:
It is like that.

~Erich Heller

Whatever you are, the choice is yours!


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Dum Spiro Spero.

While I breathe, I hope.

~ South Carolina, State Motto

In Bishopville, South Carolina resides an unlikely gardener. No, not just a gardener. An artist.

Pearl Fryar did not have a background in horticulture.

He was the son of a cotton sharecropper.

He didn’t have the best material.

He salvaged plants that had been thrown on the scrap pile in the back of the local nursery.

He had no formal training in creating topiaries.

Although he did have a 3-minute demonstration once.

He didn’t have community support.

When he moved to Bishopville, one white neighborhood wouldn’t welcome him because they said he wouldn’t keep up his yard.

He didn’t let obstacles stop him.

He showed them by winning the “Yard of the Month” award from the Bishopville Iris Garden Club.

Pearl had a dream. And what he created is a three-acre sculpted garden that will take your breath away. Pearl explains:

“Gardening books will tell you that some of these things in my garden can’t be done, but I had never read them when I got started.

Not knowing ahead of time that something is supposed to be impossible often makes it possible to achieve.

I didn’t have any limitations because I really didn’t know anything about horticulture. I just figured I could do whatever I wanted with any plant I had.”

Of course, it wasn’t always easy for Pearl. He knows what it’s like to be poor.

Be shunned.

Be without.

He asks, “When the going gets tough, what will you do?”  His answer, “Well, you don’t let the obstacles determine where you’re going to go.”

Truer words have never been spoken.

Pearl’s ability to do a common task in an uncommon way has put the tiny town of Bishopville on the map. He’s been featured in the New York Times, CBS, PBS, and in many other outlets. His work is showcased throughout the state. Tour buses pull up to his home. Few serious gardeners haven’t heard his name.  He uses his fame to encourage and influence young people to fulfill their potential.

Pearl set his own course, followed his dream, and never let the obstacles determine where he was going.

If Pearl could do it, why not you?

Whatever you are, be a good one!


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Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not;
remember that what you now have
was once among the things you only hoped for.
~ Epicurus

We have a lot of things to remember.

Shopping lists and schedules.

Appointments and deadlines.

Birthdays and travel plans.


When was the last time you spent any time remembering your hero?

Not the idols who thrill us with their fantastic voices.

Not the dancers who amaze us with spectacular choreography.

Not the athletes who bring home the championship trophy.

Not the authors who write compelling prose.

Not the hosts who ask the intriguing questions.

True heroes.

Those who gave their lives in the line of duty in our nation’s service, so that we might enjoy the things we once only hoped for.

They gave up everything for honor.

For love of country.

For freedom.

For me.

For you.

With Memorial Day right around the corner . . . as you make your lists and schedule your plans . . . relishing a day outside of your normal routine, don’t forget to remember the ones who have made our freedom — our way of life — possible.

Our true heroes.  The men and women who gave everything so that we have the opportunity to live the life we have imagined.

Let us never take their sacrifice for granted.

Let us never forget to remember.

Whatever you are, be grateful — our freedom wasn’t free.


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Grace isn’t a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal.

It’s a way to live.

~ Jackie Windspear

Yesterday I was reminded that sometimes things don’t work out like they should. And sometimes this is a good thing.

I’m sure all of us have been there:

Broken laws, missed deadlines, thoughtless comments, intentional oversights, non-compliant behavior.

Actions (intentional or not) for which the law demands some sort of restitution:  discipline, fines, public humiliation, notes in personnel files, severe action, loss of freedom . . . trust . . . reputation.

We know what we did. We understand the consequences. We’re aware of the punishment. We know what we deserve. We wait to hear the judgment announced.

And we wait . . . and we wait . . .

And we play the scenario over and over in our minds, agonizing over the absurdity of our own actions.

And then — like the sun rising in the morning — grace appears. Unmerited favor is extended. We don’t get what we deserve. We are given a gift. And we promise ourselves we will behave differently in the future.

But the grace wasn’t for you to hoard in your life.

It’s not for you alone.

Once you receive grace, you accept the responsibility to extend grace to others. When they don’t deserve it. When you have the right to demand justice. To retaliate with  kindness. To pay it forward.

To give others what they don’t deserve.

Whatever you are, be graceful today!


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Never give in — never, never, never, never —

in nothing great or small, large or petty,

never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.

Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

~ Sir Winston Churchill

And that pretty much sums it all up.  Have a great weekend!

Whatever you are, never give up!


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Keep looking below surface appearances.

Don’t shrink from doing so just because you might not like what you find.

~ Colin Powell

I’ve heard it said of trees that for as tall as it grows and as wide as it expands, there is an unseen root system, just as large, providing stability and nutrients, allowing it to continue to exist.

And watch out for those icebergs.  Only 1/7 to 1/8 is visible.  They are dangerous because the larger portion exists beneath the water’s surface.

What you actually see, in many situations, is not even close to what is happening behind the scenes. Leading up to the encounter. On the other side of closed doors. Out of site. Off the radar.

Things are not always what they seem . . . because we don’t know the whole story.  Remember the old saying, “Don’t believe everything you hear and only half of what you see”?  It’s good advice.

What you don’t see is often what you get.

If you want to measure the integrity of a man, look below the surface.

Do your homework. Conduct the research. Examine motives. Proceed cautiously. If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.

“Character is like the foundation of a house –
it is below the surface.”
~ Unknown

Whatever you are, be a good one!


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Unfortunately, many a man’s reputation would not know his character if they met on the street.

Elbert Hubbard

Yes, I heard it when you said it the first time, and the second, and the third.

You care . . . You support . . . Of course, it is the most important thing . . .

But then I watched what you did, and it was something else entirely.

Not in the same zip code.

Not even close.

News Flash: Your continuing to say a thing does not make it so. In fact, it only serves to highlight the disparity between what you say and what you do.

Who are you trying to fool with your head nodding in agreement and photo-op appearances and tireless commentary? (Hey, I noticed that  your actions are suspiciously absent.)

Certainly you understand that “it is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable” [Moliere].

Perhaps it’s time for a reality check.

To think about your life. To put your time and money where your mouth is.  To quit saying and start doing. To display some character. To say what you mean and mean what you say. To quit lying to yourself . . . because it’s already evident to others.

The more you are willing to accept responsibility for your actions,

the more credibility you will have.

~ Brian Koslow

Whatever you are, be what you say you are!


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