Archive for the ‘Encouragement’ Category


Last year I committed to “running” a 5K in August to support the shelter that took great care of Dewey until we found each other. My sister recommended a handy little app called the C25K (Couch to 5K) which takes the would-be runner (me) through a series of 9 weeks of training — 3 days a week for 30 minutes each session. On the last day of the 9th week I was commanded to “Go Run A 5K.”

Sure. Except that I still couldn’t really “run” a 5K, but I could do much more than before starting the training. I jogged part of it and then I needed to walk a bit to catch my breath until I could jog some more. I finished my first 5K at just under 41 minutes, at age 47, and I was very proud.

This year I have committed to “running” two 5K races. One in August for the pet shelter, and one in September to support Ovarian Cancer Research as a tribute to my mother. So, I dusted off my C25K app and started again with a goal to run more than I was able to last year and finish sooner, even if only by a minute.

Let me explain something — with the exception of playing as a child, I have never run. Running is really difficult for me. I don’t look forward to it. I never participated in team sports in school. And, after a painful introduction to running last year, I discovered I can’t just hop out my front door and start running like when I was nine. NO WAY! You have to KNOW things like the correct way to run and breathe and stretch.

So, you may be asking, why run at all? I run because it’s difficult. Because when I make my body keep moving when I feel like stopping, I feel empowered.

As an adult, I’ve discovered it’s easy to create a routine that’s complacent, easy, mindless. A life where I’m not forced to eat my vegetables, observe a curfew, or step out of my comfort zone. Where I’m allowed to . . . because I want to. And in the process, I’ve become lazy.

That’s why I run . . . because it’s hard and I don’t want to. It doesn’t come naturally. Because it makes me feel alive and in control. Because when my muscles hurt and scream “NO!” my mind screams back, “Oh, YES YOU WILL!” Because when I’ve been jogging 20 minutes and sweat is pouring down my face I cheer myself on, “You can do this!” Because it’s proof I believe in my ability to overcome. Because I’m filled with a sense of pride and accomplishment when I’ve conquered the training which will enable me to finish the race. Because I will finish.

Whatever you are, reignite your passion by doing something difficult —


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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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I came across an article in USA Today entitled, Chasing Dreams of Doggy Stardom. It was an interesting look into what it takes for a dog to make it in Hollywood. And it’s not what you might think!

The focus was on veteran Hollywood trainer Mark Harden, who shared that the type of dog best-suited for on-screen work are those who make the most challenging pets.

“Your obedient King Charles Cavalier, who sits on command and never shreds a shoe, would most likely be best-suited for cuddling, not cutting up on camera.”

Harden stated he gets as many of his dogs as possible from shelters, looking for intelligent animals with “winner” mentalities who have been abandoned for being too spirited and generally unmanageable. They have a relentless tenacity that many two-legged individuals can’t stomach, but works on-screen.

A lot of these dogs wouldn’t work in a lot of people’s homes,” Harden says.

Not that it’s the dog’s fault. But something in their upbringing has made them a failed pet. Every day, they’ve won. They’ve succeeded in barking like crazy when they want, eating dirt when they want, ruining furniture. Whatever their misbehavior, they think they’re successful.

Of course, it ends them up in the pound, but they think they’re winners, and those are the dogs we like to get.”

I don’t know about your life story, but mine has a chapter or two where folks told me I didn’t belong in their house, and abandoned me at the “pound.”

Not one to sit quietly and cuddle on a lap, I was labeled “too much this” or “not enough that.” In my attempt to destroy bad practices, dig-up disrespectful behavior, or “bark” at unethical actions, I was deemed too spirited and unmanageable.

No matter. I would rather be a star than a pet any day.

And just recently I was reminded of how easy it is for leaders to abandon people on their teams who won’t sit quietly and do as they’re told. Instead of making an effort to harness the creative energy and develop potential, they drop the challenging ones off at the pound. (Either literally or figuratively.)

These leaders aren’t looking for stars; they’re looking for lap dogs.

Where are the leaders who are willing to transform pound puppies into valuable jewels and create teams that change the world?

Maybe it’s just too hard.  After all, it takes an investment of consistency, commitment, confidence, patience, and communication to reveal potential and uncover possibility.

It takes a star to recognize a star. And maybe that’s the problem. Many of today’s leaders aren’t stars — they’re so busy cuddling on the laps of their owners they fail to appreciate the star potential in others.

To share Apple’s well-known ad:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels.
The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things. They push the human race forward.
And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world,
are the ones who do.

If this story were to have a moral it would be this: Even if you find yourself abandoned at the pound, you’re still a winner. Dream the dreams. Take the risk. Live the life!

Whatever you are, be a crazy one — be a star!


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I leaned on her
and she took my weight.
~ Hilary Swank referring to Mariska Hargitay

You know all these challenges and tests and trials that you’ve been facing lately? The stray balls out of left field? Those events that (if they don’t kill you first) are supposed to make you stronger?

The circumstances that stretch and pull and change who you are, what you think, how you view the future?  The conditions that (if you allow them) shape your idea of what you can successfully persevere through and overcome?

Yes, I’m talking about those things.

They haunt us at night and burden us during the day. They test us. They taunt and question and demand answers.

And all along we thought the exercise was one for our own self-development.

That our triumph was a solitary victory — one that would propel us forward toward achievement of our own dreams and goals.

But what if it’s not all about us?

What if the result of our overcoming difficult circumstances, is to enlarge our spirits so that we have the capacity to help carry the burdens of others?

What if the true agenda of these challenges is for us to develop ample strength so we are able to bear the weight when others need to lean on us?

Maybe all of this challenge and persevering and overcoming isn’t for us. Maybe our making it to the other side is so we are in a position to help others get there, too.

You can’t lead anyone else
further than you have gone yourself.
~Gene Mauch

Whatever you are, others are counting on you to make it!


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To be a star, you must shine your own light, follow your own path, and don’t worry about the darkness, for that is when stars shine the brightest.  ~Unknown

We’re always looking for the numbers.  They give us confidence.  Comfort us.  Compel us to act.

How many others have tried it? Like it? Are traveling in the same direction?

We’ve been told there’s safety in numbers — the more the merrier — and heard clever sayings that sound good but have no basis in fact — not now, maybe never.

I believe the truth lies closer to the quote I heard from  a graduation speaker this weekend,

“Sometimes you have to travel alone.”
~ Vic Rockhill

Sometimes, there’s simply no one who is willing to venture with you.  Maybe they don’t see the path. Perhaps they don’t understand the dream.

That’s okay. Just because you’re traveling alone does not mean you are on the wrong path.

Likewise, even if thousands are in your company, that doesn’t signify you are on the right path. There’s not always safety in numbers — sometimes, it’s just crowded.

As Cameron Karston notes, there are many things you can learn about yourself when you travel alone.  Among other things, one learns responsibility, reliance, independence, and how to care for yourself. You have time for past analyzation and preparing for future dreams.

To live your life.

Travel at your speed.

Head in your direction.

Listen to your heart.

Be content. Enjoy the company (if there is any).

Be confident in your direction (even if there isn’t anyone else traveling with you.)

“It is better to travel alone than with a bad companion.”
~ African Proverb

Whatever you are, enjoy the journey!


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Friends are flowers in the garden of life. ~ Proverb

I really enjoy building and working in flower beds. Creating a colorful palette of living plants around my home thrills me year after year.

Although it’s a bit embarrassing to admit, I don’t even mind weeding.  The ongoing maintenance, “playing in the dirt” as my friend Karen says, is therapeutic for me. It brings a connection with nature, a celebration of flora and fauna, that sitting behind a desk — even if I am writing clever prose — can never produce.

My neighbor, (also named Karen), regularly asks me to water her flowers when she is out-of-town because she knows how much I delight in the task of caring for plants — mine, hers, anyone’s flowers!

A couple of years ago, I looked up from my own flower bed and around at my neighborhood.  You could tell that many neighbors enjoy the growing process — their patios and beds and baskets are overflowing with magnificent colors. But there were several “vacant canvasses” that sadly stared back at me.

Instead of becoming frustrated at “naked beds” or just waving nonchalantly as these neighbors drove by, Greg and I reached out to them on a personal level. Actually listened to their stories.

We learned that one neighbor (although she loves flowers) doesn’t garden because she has a “black thumb.”  Another said that his wife used to take care of the flowers, and since she passed away he didn’t care any more. One young man was too busy, and yet another said she just needed some help and guidance.

Greg and I also began talking with our neighbors who have Miracle -Gro flowing through their veins.  They generously gave starts of their plants and shared their spoils.  They offered advice and support.

We also divided our own ferns, hostas, and day lillies, trumpet plants, little pink flowers and other amazing plants that we can’t identify.  We planted pussy willows and mint, myrtle and vinca. We watered new transplants, pulled weeds, and made friends.

Before we knew it, we had sparked a revolution. Our neighborhood began growing with colorful blooms, interesting plants, generosity, inspiration, and neighborly kindness.

And I couldn’t ignore how this entire process resembles life. Like my own flower garden, which is a mishmash of what I’ve purchased, grown, transplanted, received, and nurtured, my life is a combination of my own gifts and talents combined with the goodness and guidance, wisdom and instructions that others have planted for me.

Why not plant a flower — in a garden or in a life — for someone today?  As George Eliot said, “Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds.”

Whatever you are, be a good one!


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You will recognize your own path when you come upon it,
because you will suddenly have all the energy and imagination
you will ever need.

Jerry Gillies

Do you ever wander around your life, wondering when things will make sense?
When you will discover your purpose?
When your destiny will arrive?

You’ve taken the tests and discovered your strengths. Read the books and identified the steps.

Yet something remains elusive. In the shadows. Just out of sight.

Surely, you think, there’s more to it than this.

Not that your life is a disaster waiting for the clean-up crew. No, that’s not it.

It feels more like you’re living your life in black and white, when you know for a fact that there is a high-definition option available.

Don’t give up!  Keep searching, researching, looking for your life. It’s out there just waiting to be discovered.

And when you do find it, you must be willing to take the biggest risk of all — exchanging the comfort of what you know for the opportunity to live the life you have imagined.

There is a point
at which everything becomes simple
and there is no longer any question of choice,
because all you have staked will be lost
if you look back.

Life’s point of no return.

— Dag Hammarskjold
U.N. Secretary General (1905-1961)

Whatever you are, be a good one!


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The Beginning is often the end.

And to make an end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from.

~ T. S. Eliot

We are in the season of endings.

Winter has ended. School years are ending. And with June being the month of weddings, many single lives are ending.  And those are just the big things.

You’re probably dealing with other endings in your own life. Perhaps a job is ending or a relationship (as you know it) is ending.  A project may be coming to a conclusion. Hopefully, the rainy days of spring are ending soon.

It is a conflicted time of sadness for what we’re losing and joy as we anticipate what the future holds for us — or at least it should be.

To the pessimist it is The End. To the optimist it is The Beginning.  Same event — two different view points.

As Jim Rohn asks, why is it that the same measure affects people so differently?

It all depends on how you look at it. Our lives are mostly affected by the way we think things are. Not the way things are. The way we think they are affects us most.

Your life is like a closet filled to the brim.  If you want to add one more item, something else has got to go!  Stop thinking of the End as a loss, and instead look at is as a necessary exercise to make room for the amazing things waiting for you in your future. I guarantee your outlook will change.

“There are things that we never want to let go of,
people we never want to leave behind.
But keep in mind that letting go isn’t the end of the world,
it’s the beginning of a new life.”
~ Unknown

Whatever “End” sits on your calendar, don’t stare at it too long or you’ll miss the possibilities that are waiting your arrival. Take what you’ve learned — all the experiences and lessons —  and use them to create a fabulous new beginning for yourself.

Whatever you are, it’s time to get started — your beginning is waiting!


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It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

It was the age of wisdom. It was the age of foolishness.

You know, I’ve always been drawn to this quote by Charles Dickens from A Tale of Two Cities. In so many ways, it sums up our every day lives.

Things are volatile. They change. Quickly. Your award-winning actions of yesterday can be your downfall of tomorrow.

Some progress here. A few blunders there. Two steps forward. One step back.

No one lives life in a straight line toward the top.

You’ve got to become comfortable knowing that despite your best efforts, mistakes will be made. And sometimes they’ll be massively enormous, too big to ignore, I’ve got to deal with this one before I can move on mistakes.

It’s okay. Breathe. Refocus. You might have to rethink your plan. Take another approach. The key is not to let this one thing be the death knell of your dream.

I like what Og Mandino had to say on this topic:

Whenever you make a mistake or get knocked down by life,
don’t look back at it too long.

Mistakes are life’s way of teaching you.

Your capacity for occasional blunders
is inseparable from your capacity to reach your goals.

No one wins them all,
and your failures, when they happen,
are just part of your growth.

Shake off your blunders.

How will you know your limits without an occasional failure?

Never quit.

Your turn will come.

Hang in there. As long as you stay in line, your turn will eventually come.

Whatever you are, choose that today will be the best of times!


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Last night I attended a fundraiser for The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio.  With Diane Keaton on hand to add to the festivities, more than 2,000 women witnessed the tributes and progress made possible by an organization whose purpose is to

  • Empower Women & Girls
  • Raise Money
  • Make Grants
  • Educate and Celebrate
  • Create an endless cycle of women helping other women

At the top of the evening we were treated to a video of a variety of women sharing about a special person in her life who pushed, inspired, opened doors, paved the way, made it possible, believed in her.  At the end of the video each women revealed the identity of the person they had been describing. Needless to say, it was amazing!

As you might imagine, the tributes were primarily to mothers, with some sisters, and children thrown in. But one tribute, in particular, was especially meaningful. In it, after the speaker shared how this person inspired her, she spoke the person’s name and then said,

“She’s my yoga instructor. But she’s more than that.”

This was my favorite tribute of all. I think because it was to someone who isn’t the obvious choice. A relationship that wasn’t required by a family bond, but discovered by chance.

It was for someone who willingly stepped out of her conventional role and into more than that. And in the process, she changed a life.

This is a lesson for all of us.

Regardless of the titles we wear or the positions we fill, let’s be more than that to the people around us. We should commit to being the inspiration, paving the way, opening the doors, making it possible for them to:

Care more than others think is wise . . .

Risk more than others think is safe . . .

Dream more than others think is practical . . .

Expect more than others think is possible . . .

. . . So that they can live the life they imagine

and one day become “more than that” for another.

Whatever you are, be more than that today!


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