Saturday, February 6, 2016

My Daughter, My Friend - in honor of Lauren's 25th birthday

“I’m not your friend, I’m your mother”. “It’s not my job to be your friend”. I can’t say how many times I said those words to you, but I know it was a lot. But I always followed them with “We can be friends when you’re older”.

Well, you’re “older” now and I’m so happy that we are friends. I love spending time with you in a “grown up” way.
I love our Target and Michaels shopping adventures (can you say wine samples?). I love how we can be goofy together. I love our Disney days.
I love our daily phone conversations on my drive home from work. I love our email chats while I’m at work! I’m so glad that you think of me as one of your best friends. You are definitely one of mine.
But more importantly, I love being your mom. I love that you still need me for advice, encouragement and the occasional, “kiss it and make it better”. I love seeing the beautiful young woman I have always dreamed you’d become. You amaze me on a daily basis. I see your craft work, your paintings and I am in awe of how talented you are. I watch you step out of your comfort zone and have experiences that I never would have dreamed to have when I was your age. You’ve traveled around the country; around the world! You’ve found your passion in helping others in their most desperate time of need. You are planning a career that will take you on even more adventures as you aid those recovering from disasters. You are strong, intelligent, resourceful. You are my beautiful daughter.

I can’t believe that you are 25 years old! We have had 25 wonderful years together. Okay, maybe some of them weren’t all that wonderful. But, you know as much as I do that the tough times are necessary. The tough times make us stronger. The tough times bring us closer.
Happy 25th birthday Lauren! You make me smile, you make me happy, you make me mad sometimes, but you always make me proud! I love you more that I can say, more than you will ever know. Thank you for letting me become your friend, but know that I will always be your “mommy”.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

My Letter Writing Project

I have not written a post in almost a year. I’ve been struggling to find inspiration. I am not one to just write for the sake of writing. I love to write, but my heart must be in my story. So I decided to start a letter writing project with the hopes of, first and foremost, making people smile, but also to find inspiration.

Last year I read the book “The Letter Writing Project” by Wendy Wolff. The book details how the author found healing in writing a letter to the teenage driver that killed her sister. The book encourages the reader to write letters, to experience emotional freedom in putting your feelings on paper, and also to bring the art of letter writing back to our generation.

As a child I was encouraged to write letters; thank you letters for gifts that I received, letters to pen pals I was assigned for a school project, letters to my family in Chicago or friends who moved out of state. These were the days before email, before texting and cell phones. Long distance phone calls were expensive. The only way we had to communicate with those far away was to write them a letter. It was so exciting to find a return letter in my mailbox. It meant that I could read about how the long distance writer was doing, what was new in their family and, more importantly, to get answers to the questions I asked in my letter!

I tried to encourage my children to always acknowledge gifts with a hand written thank you note. That habit never quite caught on with my son, but my oldest daughter, now 25, writes beautiful notes. I unfortunately have let life take over and have stopped writing letters myself. I no longer send thank you notes or letters to distant family. And why should I? I can now text a note of appreciation, or send an email. And why would I write a letter to let everyone know what I’m up to. I have Facebook for that. Who needs to write a letter?

I’ll tell you who.

I do.

At Christmas, I decided to write one of my aunts a note updating her on our family. One of my Dad’s sisters is a Catholic nun, Sister Petronia (we call her Sister Pete). She celebrated her 95th birthday in January! My mom and her still talk on the phone every few weeks and she always asks my mom about me and family, particularly about Taylor. Who better to reignite my letter writing than good old Sister Pete? 2015 was a really good year for us and I had a lot to tell her. Lauren, my oldest was finishing her Master’s degree, my son Vinny had just gotten a job at my company, Taylor was continuing to do well and we got a new puppy! I ended up with five handwritten pages of life. A good old fashioned letter! It felt so good to put all of that down on paper, to recap our great year. It also made me feel good to imagine the smile on Sr. Pete’s face as she read it.

That was all I needed to spark a fire in me to write more letters. I wanted to continue that good feeling that I had and also (hopefully) make the recipient feel good too. There are many different websites and initiatives out there to encourage people to write letters. Many of them suggest writing a letter a day for 30 days, or a letter a week for a year. Yeah, well, remember that life that I referred to a few paragraphs ago, its still there. My life unfortunately leaves very little extra time in my day. I have a pretty demanding job, a special needs child, and a husband and two other children who need me. My days start around 5 a.m. and end around 11 p.m. If I find a moment to sit down in the evening, I usually end up falling asleep within the first 10 minutes! Committing to writing a letter a day or even a letter a week was bound for failure. So my project is to write a letter a month in 2016. I’ll have about 30 days to complete each letter. I think I can do that! I have chosen 12 people; 6 people I know personally and 6 people that I do not know. My letters will be upbeat, encouraging. They will let the recipient know how wonderful I think they are; how they have impacted my life. Perhaps the recipient will write back; perhaps not. That is really not important to me. What is important is that my letter brightened their day, made them smile. My hope is that maybe my letter would inspire them to write a letter to someone in their life. Maybe to an old friend who they lost touch with. Or to a loved one who they need to forgive or even apologize to. Maybe even to the clerk at the grocery store that just seems to need a lift. There’s also a good chance that my letters will not have any impact on the recipient at all, but I’m sticking to my hope that it will and I do hope that I hear about it.

Who are my letter recipients you ask? That is a list that only I am privy to. But if all goes as I would hope, maybe they will be the inspiration for future posts. My first letter has already been sent and I’m working on letter two. Who knows……one of them may be you!

Happy New Year everyone! May 2016 bring much happiness and blessings…..and maybe a letter or two!



Friday, May 8, 2015


Mother’s Day is right around the corner, so I think its time for a tribute. I was blessed with the most amazing mother. She is a strong, hardworking, unstoppable woman with a heart of gold. I have learned so much from her. I got my giving heart from her. I learned to be kind. I learned how to be a mom. I love her more than words can express. But this tribute is not for my mom. Although she is more than deserving of a tribute, this is not for her. This Mother’s Day, I would like to pay tribute to three incredibly, amazing human beings – my children. I have watched them from the moment they took their first breath. I have watched them grow. I have watched them learn. I have watched them bloom.

I’ve watched a young girl break out of her shell and find the courage to take on the world. The little girl who would hold on to me until the very last second when I would drop her off at daycare, the girl who wanted me to stay with her the first night in her dorm and cried when I left her at college is now an independent young woman. She’s traveled to Central America (twice), she’s led other to help serve those less fortunate. She is building her future one courageous step at a time. My little introvert has become an adventurer. Someone who, although might still be afraid to take those first steps, is taking them. She is stepping out into this big wide world and forging her own path, finding the courage that she needs to become the person God intended for her to be.

I’ve watched a young man exceed in his athletic ability and become a star at one level only to watch him stumble and fall at the next. I’ve also watched him pick himself up, turn himself around and realize that he is more than just an athlete, that his athletic ability does not define him. The boy who knew nothing other than baseball growing up has discovered that he is intelligent and he has so many other abilities that were hiding in the wings, overshadowed by a youth baseball career. He is outgoing, personable and friendly. He has now become a college student on the honor roll. He is still working on figuring out where his story will take him, but he is facing the blank page in front of him, pen in hand, and ready to write the next chapter of his life.

I’ve watched a baby miss milestone after milestone. I’ve watched a toddler barely able to crawl, let alone walk. I’ve listened for the sweet baby babblings only to hear silence. I’ve watched a little body writhe and twitch, wracked by seizures. And I’ve watched a little warrior get up and bounce back after every set back, smiling, always smiling! The child who did not walk until she was almost five is now climbing stairs. The child who cannot speak is finding ways to communicate. She faces each day with pure joy and she brings joy and light to every person she meets. The cashiers at Walmart line up to say hi to her. Her friends run excitedly to her to when she walks in a room. She is loved by complete strangers who are drawn to her smile, her laughter. I have watched an angel who was sent to Earth to change lives. She has changed mine.

I have three wonderfully amazing and incredibly different children. Each one of them has brought something special and unique into my life. I’ve learned a lot from my children. Lauren has taught me about God and how a strong faith will get you through even the most difficult times. Vinny has taught me patience and perseverance and that it’s okay to not get it right the first time. Taylor has taught me how to love more than unconditionally and how to be a light that brings joy to others. I have learned so much from them. Through them I have become a mom.

Lauren, Vinny and Taylor, thank you for giving me the privilege and the blessing of being your mom. I am so proud of all of you and I love you all. You are the flowers in the vase of my life and I have loved watching you bloom.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

All We Need is Love

Today I wanted to share an excerpt from my prayer and devotion journal from February 23, 2011. It was the day after a St. Petersburg police officer was killed by a 16 year old boy. I was reminded of this journal entry today in church as our pastor spoke about how deeply and unconditionally we are loved by God. That message, along with this journal entry is so timely given all of stories we’ve been reading about in the news.

My bible reading on that day was from Exodus 20:20. “Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you so that that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning”.

I wrote in my journal:

“This passage is so timely given the shooting yesterday of another officer. I was listening to a talk radio show and a lot of people were commenting on how no one has the fear of God in them anymore. But what I think and what I prayed for is for people to know the LOVE of God. Love comes first; the “fear” comes from not wanting to disappoint the person who loves you. If you know that someone loves you so unconditionally, you don’t want to do bad things. You don’t want to disappoint them. Think of the parent of a newborn. They love their child first and foremost; they don’t scare the baby or make it fear them. Parents teach their children by loving them. It is through that love that grows respect. I remember the times in high school when I skipped school. When I got home I was so afraid to face my Dad. I wasn’t afraid of my father, but I was afraid that I had disappointed him. Disappointed the man who loved me so much he would do anything for me. So when I hear “put the fear of God in you” I think it should be the “love of God”. If more people knew the love of God, we would not have these shootings.”

I wrote that almost 4 years ago but it still applies today. We are reading horrific stories every day. Terrorist attacks, school shootings, and in my local news, a father throwing his five year old daughter off a bridge, to her death. We can only wonder what is going through their minds when these people commit these terrible crimes. One thing I do know, there was no love. And the very sad thing is that all of them were loved, unconditionally.

What would our world be like if we all understood the depth of God’s love for us? What would happen if we loved each other as God loved us? Would we have shootings, hate crimes, terrorist attacks?

Maybe not
A much quoted passage from the Bible is 1Corinthians 13.  

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud  or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love endures through every circumstance.


You are dearly loved by God. Share that love.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


1/5/15 - This was what I wrote in my journal today:

Today is a day of firsts.
First week of the new year
First week with my new boss
First journal entry of the year
First step into my year of being AMAZING!
 As was the case with “Do Something” I was inspired again this year by an inspirational email I received. I receive a slew of daily motivational and inspirational emails. Some are Bible based like my daily devotionals. Some are motivating and on a more professional level. Others are just for fun. I don’t read all of them every day but I always at least look at the subject line. The email that got my attention and inspired my focus for this year was simply titled, “Be Amazing”. It was from Susan Goodman; speaker, life coach and author of the book Pursue Possibilities. She is a regular speaker at my company’s women’s professional network and is probably the most positive person you will ever meet.  Here’s an excerpt from the email I received on January 2, 2015:

 “This is it.  This is our year to Be Amazing like we know we can be.  Amazing like we were meant to be. Bold, confident, excited, fully engaged and believing for the best even when we can't see how that will happen.
The first step in having an amazing year is being willing to be amazing yourself.  It's a big step and few of us really want to take it but if we all do it together, we have back-up for when the going gets rough and we want to shrink back to "normal".  Mediocre.  Safe. “
I read that I and just knew that this year, I want to be amazing! How do I propose that I will be amazing? I haven’t quite figured that out yet. I have a lot of ideas. I thought I would just start each day first, giving thanks and praise to God and then ask myself how I can be amazing. So as I got up this morning and was getting ready for work I thought about how I could be amazing today. Two things came to mind.

1.      Start a project to do something good. Something small. Something that would not take much effort or cost. Something that I could accomplish in a short period of time. (Remember that Do Something idea?).

2.      Get active and encourage someone to join you. That idea was actually inspired by a Facebook post I saw over the weekend.

To address the first idea I sent an email to some coworkers and friends telling them that I am collecting gently used coats, blankets, and other winter gear for a local homeless “tent city”. I actually drafted the email before Christmas but never sent it. I worried how it would be received; what people would think of me. Not sending it would be “safe”. But “safe” is not amazing. So I sent it! The email got great response and several people have already committed to bringing in items for the shelter. Hopefully there will be more on that in a future post.

Regarding the second thought, I had purchased a pair of walking shoes over the weekend and had planned on getting out of the office and away from my desk during lunch. We have a beautiful walking path around a lake at my professional complex. I used to walk it every day but had gotten out of the habit. I thought it would be good to have a walking buddy to keep me accountable then I thought, “Who can I help to inspire and keep accountable”. I remembered a coworker that I ran into before Christmas. She told me she is trying to lose weight for a big cruise she and her husband are taking over the summer. I called her and lo and behold, she had brought her walking shoes with her to work! We took a brisk 30 minute walk and plan to walk at least 3 days during the week, if not more.
Now that was amazing! Sometimes, just a little shift in your mindset, in your attitude, will make such a difference in the outcome of your day. And it felt Amazing! I can’t wait to see what this amazing year will bring. Want to be amazing with me? I encourage you to start every day, first with praise and thanks and then with one word……..AMAZING! Lets see where that will take us. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 24, 2014

One Person

“It all begins with just one person. One person who sees a need and is inspired to do something about it.”

That was a line from the Thank You card that I received from the Ronald McDonald House.

A few months ago, a group of friends, my husband Jeff and I served a meal at our local Ronald McDonald House. I have wanted to do that for some time. I have served there before as part of a group, but I’ve never organized my own group. It was a great experience. It was fun to spend time working together with my friends. It felt so good to provide a hearty meal to the families staying at the house. I had to tell the world how good it felt.

I immediately posted pictures on Facebook of our group. I also posted pictures of my chicken stocked fridge. I started to think about what I would write about in my blog. I was so eager to tell the world what I was doing. I am a good person. Look at me world, I am doing good things.

Then I received a thank you card from the families. And I stopped the Facebook posting. I stopped thinking about this blog. I stopped and thought, “This is not about me”.

I was taught at a very young age that you should always work to help others. I learned by the example of my mom. Mom was always doing something for other people; baking cookies or making a casserole for the family down the street, or working with her beloved “Treasure Islettes”, a women's service organization. Even today, at 84 years old, Mom spends 2 to 3 days a week doing volunteer work at her church and with St. Vincent De Paul. I inherited my giving heart from her. My mom never boasted about the good she was doing. It was just what she did, who she was.

I was talking to my mom a few days after we served the meal and she told me how much she used to love doing that with the Islettes. “Those families were so appreciative. It just made me feel so good knowing that I was doing something nice for them.” That’s all that mattered to my mom; that she felt good to help others. She didn’t need anyone’s approval or “Comments” or “Likes” to feel good.

Social media has taken over the world and it has certainly benefitted many a cause by raising awareness and funding. It is a great thing and I applaud those who have used it to their benefit, but I have come to discover that it is not who I am.

When I started my blog, I had dreams of taking the social media world by storm. I wanted to take my desire to help people and share it with others; encourage people to volunteer their time, get involved with charities. I had hoped to organize various events and get others to join – clothing drives, bake sales, etc. I was going to create a Facebook page and share my vision. I created a Twitter account and was tweeting away, trying to build a following. Then I realized that I stopped doing what I love to do. I stopped helping others, I was just focused on posting and tweeting and reading articles and finding ways to “go public”. I got wrapped up in the social media storm and in doing so, lost sight of what really matters to me. What matters to me is not for people to know that I am doing good things. What matters to me is not “Likes” or "Comments" or "Retweets".  What matters to me is that I have done something today and each and every day to be a blessing to someone, to make their day better, to share a smile or kind word, to lend a helping hand.

I am just one person and, as was printed in that thank you card, “it all begins with one person”. I am one person who inherited a giving heart. I am one person who doesn’t have to tell the world what I am doing. I am one person who has always let her kind words, friendly smile and loving actions speak for her. I am one person who may not have the time, the means or the knowledge to take the world by storm. But I am one person with a big heart and I will always let that heart lead me to help others. One person is all it takes and one person is all I'll be.



Friday, August 15, 2014

Ten Ways to Make Someone Happy (including yourself)

What is the secret to true happiness? Have you ever thought about that? What is it about some people that make them so darned happy? How can some people can be happy despite the trials and tribulations of life? Conversely, why is it that some people are never happy?
For me, the secret of being happy lies not in me but in others. I think to be truly happy you have to look outward.  You have to make others happy. I hope that I do that through my writing and I also try to do that in my daily life. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely have plenty of days when I struggle to be happy. Sometimes the stresses of my life really get me down and I find it difficult to “put on a happy face”. But on those days, I find that if I do just the simplest act of kindness, my mood starts to lift upward.
The story below comes from a website called Propel Steps. I’m not sure of the original author but it really echoes what I truly feel - that our own happiness lies in making others happy.
Once a group of 50 people was attending a seminar. Suddenly the speaker stopped and started giving each one a balloon. Each one was asked to write his/her name on it using a marker pen. Then all the balloons were collected and put in another room.
Now these delegates were left in that room and asked to find the balloon which had their name written, within 5 minutes. Everyone was frantically searching for their name, colliding with each other, pushing around others and there was utter chaos. At the end of 5 minutes no one could find their own balloon.
Now each one was asked to randomly collect a balloon and give it to the person whose name was written on it. Within minutes everyone had their own balloon.
The speaker began— Exactly this is happening in our lives. Everyone is frantically looking for happiness all around, not knowing where it is.Our happiness lies in the happiness of other people. Give them their happiness; you will get your own happiness.
I’ve listed a few of my favorite ideas for spreading happiness and making others smile.
1.    Smile at everyone you pass. Smiling is euphoric. Go ahead, smile. You feel good when you do. Smiling is not only euphoric, it’s contagious. When you smile at someone, it’s really hard for them not to smile back. Maybe the person you smiled at was having a bad day. Maybe your smile helped to turn that day around. Perhaps that person then smiled at someone else and made their day. You can see where this is going.

2.   Let someone in front of you in traffic. This is a hard one for me. I really get irritated at those people who seemingly do not know how to merge. But, you never know who might be behind the wheel. Maybe it is a new teen driver, getting on the interstate for the first time. Or maybe it’s a timid elderly woman who doesn’t normally drive herself. Perhaps it’s a really aggressive driver who would have cut you off if you didn’t let them in. Just slow down, let them in, and smile because you did.

3.    When you’re at the mall or entering an office building, stop and hold the door for the person coming in behind you, even if they are several steps behind you. Hopefully they will smile at your gesture of kindness and thank you. If not, wish them a happy day anyway.

4.    Greet every person who steps in the elevator with you. Wish them all a great day as you leave.

5.    Take the time to learn someone’s name and remember it the next time you see them. Have a favorite server at the coffee shop or cashier at the market? Notice their nametag and call them by name. Jot it down so you can remember it next time you see them and greet them by name. I use the Notes app on my phone for this.

6.    Make conversation with your favorite server, cashier, clerk at the dry cleaners, etc. Learn something about them. Did they just have a baby? Are they planning a vacation? Ask them about it the next time you see them. (After you call them by name - see #5 above)

7.       Be a really good friend. Know someone who is going through a tough time? Spend some time with them. Ask them how they’re doing and really listen. Don’t go on about your problems, listen to theirs. Give them a hug, let them know you care. Even if they don’t feel like talking, sit with them in silence. Just be there.

8.    Send someone a handwritten thank you note. I always keep a stash of note cards handy. You can get some really cute ones in the dollar bins at a certain craft store. Whenever someone has done something nice for me or for my family I try to write them a note letting them know how much I appreciated it. I was taught as a child to always write thank you notes and I really think it is a lost art. Let’s bring them back!

9.    Buy a bouquet of flowers at the grocery store and pass out individual flowers to people who might need a day brightener – the exhausted mom with the screaming toddler, the frazzled cashier who just encountered a grumpy customer. I haven’t tried this one yet but I just thought of it as I was writing these. And it made me smile!

10.  Jot down your own ideas to be kind and make others smile. As was the case in # 9 above, just doing so makes you happy.

So today, I encourage you to go out and make someone happy. You’ll be happy you did!
"I began learning long ago that those who are happiest are those who do the most for others" – Booker T. Washington