Leave a Tender Moment Alone

Billy Joel famously sang “Leave a Tender Moment” alone back in the 80’s and I thought about that phrase this week as I tried to push feelings away.

Hey! I’m busy! I don’t have time to get all misty right now…

Ah, but I am alive. And so are you.

We are not machines, though it can feel like it sometimes. Especially when you realize hours have passed by and your to-do list isn’t any shorter than when your day started.

We zero in on “get it done” mode and pay no attention to those pesky feelings behind the curtain.

Despite trying to ignore the interruption, sometimes a feeling visits you. One that is tender and swathed in lovingkindness. It nudges your soul, penetrating your stonehearted busyness so inconveniently.

So easy to push it away.

My Google mini takes one song suggestion and regales me with a day’s worth of music; some are songs I haven’t heard or thought about in years.

I plug away at my computer making work happen, largely ignoring the background noise.

Then, involuntarily, I felt my heart squeeze. A tender moment interrupted “machine-mode.”

It was this song by Stevie Wonder:

It’s a tender song, evoking all the feelings of the love we have for family and friends. And since Aunt Mary’s transition, the need to say these three words while we can is top of mind.

When you stop and let a tender moment breathe, your heart swells. Tears can spill. But oh, how alive you feel!

And then you make the phone calls. Or texts. The “these three words” messages that let someone know they starred in your tender moment.

I’m with Billy Joel.

Leave a tender moment alone.

Thank you, Mark (and so many of you) who “hold up the light.”

And if you’re experiencing a setback, don’t forget to consider the comeback!

xoxoxox

Brenda

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Lovely Aunt Mary Gullo

My Aunt Mary made her transition this week.

I can only imagine her brothers and sisters, her husband, and the many who loved her just waiting to welcome her into glory.

From left, her brother (the deeply religious) Uncle Bud, her sister (the glamorous and fun) Aunt Helen, Aunt Mary (the baby of the family), my grandmother/her sister Edna, and her brother Dave, who had piercing blue eyes and was a great dancer and singer!

I needed to write about Aunt Mary because I couldn’t say a proper goodbye and my heart was full of feelings.

As a kid, I looked up to her daughters Carol Ann and Mary Beth because they were older and so much cooler than me. Our families often camped together in the summers, taking road trips to Point Sebago, Maine or closer by to Dutch Wonderland. Aunt Mary and Uncle Pete had a truck camper and it was so fun to switch to THEIR ride so we girls could play cards or talk about Bobby Sherman or David Cassidy during the drive.

Once camp was set up, there were so many memories to be made! Teenagers going to the pavilion to play pool (and letting me tag along); the smell of hibachi’s cooking burgers and communal dinners at the picnic table. Roasting marshmallows until the charred skin burnt the roof of your tongue.

Such happy times…before our world changed forever.

Aunt Mary was a central figure after my dad’s sudden passing when I was 10.

Our world was rocked and we were all teetering on the edge of this unknown new life without my father. My mother, suddenly a single mom of a 15 and 10 year old with a host of decisions to make.

In the midst of that madness, Aunt Mary came to stay with us.

I started to write “swooped in” but Aunt Mary wasn’t a swooper.

Her greatest charm was her calm, and oh, how calm was needed in our horrible storm of loss.

She left her own family for almost a month. Sat at our dinner table. Played the piano. Gently reminded us to have faith, without saying a word.

Oh, Aunt Mary’s presence at that pivotal time meant so much to us.

So pretty, wasn’t she? Aunt Mary was, for many years, a bank teller. My dad used to stop by her drive-through window in his mixer truck just to say hi when he was in the neighborhood. And he always used to sing the song “Cab Driver” because it included the line “drive by Mary’s place…”

The years passed and as happens when you get older, it’s easy to get caught up in your own stuff. I sure did.

I’d see Aunt Mary at family reunions in my teens and twenties. There’d be weddings (I’ll never forget Carol Ann’s in the garden at Smithville Inn) and funerals.

When her sister, my Aunt Helen, passed away, I was in the thick of church life and determined to take advantage of this opportunity to “preach the gospel.”

I asked to speak at the services.

Aunt Mary, in her calm and kind way, suggested that I could honor Aunt Helen without making a case for each person’s salvation. At first, I was confused. Aunt Mary was a devout Christian; a true believer!

It wasn’t until years later I realized that a true follower of Christ need not shove their version of the truth down anyone’s throat.

Aunt Mary embodied Christianity, because she embodied love.

She didn’t judge.

She was an accepting, sweet woman whose love deeply touched my life.

Many years after leaving the church I learned that she had breast cancer. All the memories of how she had been there for me and my family over the years washed over me and I made a committment to write to her every week.

I’d print out photos from Facebook or tell tales about my latest adventures in travel. Sometimes I’d just write to let her know she mattered and that I loved her.

The following year, I saw her at my niece, Deena’s, wedding. We had written back and forth preceding the wedding and she voted that I should go with the red dress, which I did.

At one point, she called me aside and said, “I’m all recovered from the breast cancer now, so you don’t have to write to me every week.”

I looked into her sweet, kind eyes and said, “Aunt Mary, I didn’t write because you had breast cancer. I wrote because I love you.”

And that happy ritual – sometimes not every week – but at least every other, has been a dear part of my life ever since.

I remember being a little afraid to write to her when my marriage ended. She – and all of my family – were “’til death us do part” kind of people.

Would she be disappointed?

Her reply?

“I’m proud of you, Brenda.”

Oh, Aunt Mary! Such healing words at such an important time.

I will miss you so much, yet know you are another angel watching out for me.

What a privilege to be your niece.

Aunt Mary is standing right next to my Dad – the third person from the right. Next over is my wonderful grandmother, her older sister, Edna. I don’t believe I was born yet!

I was torn about going to her services because she meant SO much to me.

Jumping on a plane isn’t something any of us do lightly these days, so I prayed about it. I felt her calm and loving presence say, “It’s okay. I know you loved me.”

My wonderful sister, Shirlee, represented our little family at the memorial. She told me that Aunt Mary’s favorite song was sung. Oh how lovely…she now walks in glory with her body and spirit whole…

How glad I am that I have no regrets; I left no words of love unspoken. She deserved them all while she was here to hear them.

A timely and true reminder…to shower the people you love with love.

I hope that you think of your own Aunt Mary…or someone who has marked your life for good.

And shower them with love this week.

xoxoxoxox

Brenda

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Escape (without Leaving the Living Room)

Many of you feel me when I proclaim “I need an escape!”

When packing a bag, searching for the right hotel room or perfect little restaurant, and exploring somewhere new are a few of your favorite things, staying put can be maddening.

I discovered joyous relief in recent weeks and it truly involved an escape.

But I didn’t have to leave my living room.

You may recall my obsession with Downton Abbey a year ago. Late to the party, when I finally discovered it, I binged during every spare moment. This proved challenging because Mark was not similarly enamored. I snuck in episodes when he was busy doing Mark things, like the lawn, the pool, or garage things.

Sure, I could have holed up in the spare room and watched, but the wonderful thing about having a true partner is that when the workday is done you really do want to spend it together. This is still new to me and I savor every minute of the companionship.

He’s a champ! He’ll even get teary-eyed when a singer on America’s Got Talent strikes an emotional chord. And it is so much fun to share episodes of Million Dollar Listing with someone equally jazzed by those New York and LA properties.

Because of Mark, I’ve eyeballed episodes of NOVA and Dirty Jobs – two shows that I previously ignored.

But when you find a binge-worthy show that sucks you in to the point where you discuss the characters as if they are family members and scream together out loud at the cliffhangers?

It’s escapism at its best.

So what is my new obsession? It’s the complete antithesis of Downton Abbey and its high-collared formality and British accents.

It’s Empire.

I know! When it came out in 2015 it broke every record for prime time TV, but I missed it.

But God knew it would be just what I needed NOW.

The Lyon family show is filled with drama, chair-dancing music, true love, and the OUTFITS?

Cookie Lyon is my fashion spirit animal.

Lucious, her bad boy ex (and future) husband played by Terrence Howard is the man you love to hate and always root for, even if he’s on the wrong side of the law.

But Cookie? A fierce mother; a suffer no fools business woman – she is EVERYTHING.

When Lucious fell victim to amnesia, Cookie had NONE of that.

“I’m Cookie Lyon, baby – and I’m unforgettable!”

We are deep into Season Five and shudder to think what will happen when we hit Season Six. The Final Season.

Oh, and we started watching it on free TV but couldn’t wait for a week to pass for the next episode. In all, we’ve spent over $100 just to get our nightly Empire fix.

Considering the money saved on zero flights, hotel rooms, dinners out, and Ubers in 2020, we’re still ahead.

What are we going to do when we can’t pretend we’re at the Lyon dining room surrounded by outrageous chandeliers and art? Oh to be at that huge, ornate table with goblets of fine wine, sumptuous meals (sometimes whipped up by Cookie but always served by help) and followed by impromptu jam sessions?

I shudder to think. These people are embedded in our lives! We have dinner conversations about “Will they or won’t they?” and stream the show’s music during the workday.

Like the song that makes me dance around my office like I’m in a music video:

Hakeem loves the ladies and is a rapper. Jamal owns a silky smooth R & B falsetto and serves as the moral compass of the family. And Andre? A tortured soul with a huge heart.

Yes, he tried to kill his father, but by the next episode they’ve forgiven all. We forgive the Lyons ALL of their transgressions!

Around every corner is new drama and something new to fight about!

Yes, they fight each other fiercely, but like a pack of “Lyons” always pull together to protect the family.

So why do I write this ode to Empire?

Because it accomplished something I sorely needed. An escape from the same old same old life lived each day since COVID-19 descended (and continues) to plague Florida.

This escape also gave me a gift; a new favorite love song. You’ll love it, too.

The best part of this escape? I didn’t have to do it alone.

I could Dream On With You, Mark Roach.

Thank you for putting up with my love for hip-hop, outlandish outfits, and for understanding that there’s a little part of me that longs to be Cookie Lyon.

So if you, like me, crave a getaway, indulge in a little harmless escapism.

It might just be the tonic you need for this oh so strange year we’re having.

And dreams? I speak about them in this week’s video:

One of my favorite quotes:

“It’s not your work to make anything happen. It’s your work to dream it and let it happen.”

ABRAHAM HICKS

Great marching orders for the coming weeks! Enjoy!

Love,
Brenda

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Knowing Your Value and Embracing Your Worth

When you know your value, it changes the way you perceive the world (and others).

Settled in self-assurance and rooted in a healthy love for yourself, slights roll off like sunny-side-up eggs sliding off of a brand new-teflon frying pan.

Oh, but in the valleys of self-doubt where you are riddled with imposter syndrome and tormented by evidence of falling short? Every interaction supports your flawed premise.

Offending words, behaviors, and seeming rejections stick like flypaper to your soul.

Oh, to be free of that sticky paper consistently! It still attaches itself to me on occasion and like Taylor Swift, I gotta shake it off.

And remind myself who I am.

My friend Anita shared this story with me this week and I just loved it. I bet you will, too:

A father said to his daughter: You graduated with honors. Here is a car that I acquired many years ago … it is several years old.
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But before I give it to you, take it to the used car lot downtown and tell them I want to sell it and see how much they offer you.
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The daughter went to the used car lot, returned to her father, and said, “They offered me $1,000 because it looks very worn out.” The father said, “Take it to the pawnshop.”

The daughter went to the pawnshop, returned to her father, and said, “The pawnshop offered $100 because it was a very old car.” The father asked his daughter to go to a car club and show them the car.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
The daughter took the car to the club, returned, and told her father, “Some people in the club offered $100,000 for it since it is a Nissan Skyline R34, an iconic car and sought after by many.”
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The father said to his daughter, “I wanted you to know that the right place values ​​you the right way.” If you are not valued, do not be angry, it means you are in the wrong place. Those who know your value are those who appreciate you. Never stay in a place where no one sees your value.

– UNKNOWN

Can you imagine the horror if she had accepted the used car dealership’s offer? Or the pawn shop? Sheesh!

But until you know the value of what you have, you’ll accept less than you’re worth.

This subject of knowing your value and embracing your worth came up this week at my niece, Deena’s, virtual baby shower. Yes! The beautiful Deena who designed the font for the cards I pull every two weeks is gonna be a Mama in October!

All of the shower attendees were invited to offer advice on being a good parent or a lesson learned to encourage and support Deena.

I couldn’t cough anything up! In my mind, since I’d never given birth who am I to say anything?

And then the universe dropped this into my lap from my beloved Abraham Hicks:

Relative to our children or any children with whom we would interact, our one dominant intention would be to give them a conscious understanding of how powerful and important and valuable and perfect they are.

Every word that would come out of our mouths would be a word that would be offered with the desire to help this individual know that they are powerful. It would be a word of empowerment. We would set the tone for upliftment and understand that everything will gravitate to that tone if maintained consistently.

– ABRAHAM HICKS

Can you just imagine how blessed a child would be having been brought up THAT way?

Powerful. Empowered! Valuable! Confident!

Made me a little jealous thinking about babies nurtured in such an environment.

And then I thought: I am the CEO of ME.

I can nurture myself with the truth of my value and worth.

And so can you.

It really does help to eliminate the sticky flypaper!

Thoughts on my “question mark” weeks here, and a new word we can all let sooth our hearts:

And that’s a recipe for a great-ful couple of weeks.

Love, love, love –

Brenda

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The Joy of Connection

My need for connection causes me to whine to Mark at least once a week.

Poor guy, he must be thinking, “What am I? Chopped liver?”

He’s perfect. But he’s here with me all the time. Knows all my stories.

We are embedded in the daily rituals of life together, which are Groundhog’s Day-like in this era of COVID-19.

It’s tedious for me to kvetch to him because he can’t FIX it. (He loves fixing things.)

Joyful, impromptu connections used to fuel my spirits regularly.

Conversations across tables at restaurants, bonding over food envy (what DID they order?) Seatmates on airplanes telling fascinating tales of business and travel. Fashion shows in and out of dressing rooms with random patrons oohing at just the right moment, sealing the sale.

The dressing rooms are closed. You have to buy stuff and bring it home to try it on, which takes half of the fun out of it.

And you KNOW there’s no flying around happening anytime soon (for me, at least.)

Restaurants? On occasion, but have you noticed that people don’t make eye contact any more? It’s so hard to create connection behind a mask. I think I gained a few more eye wrinkles just trying to OVER express my hidden smile.

Which is why, THANKFULLY, this past week was my BIRTHDAY.

Anyone who knows me even a little knows I make a big freaking deal out of my birthday each year.

And not just because of presents, though anyone who knows me knows I LOVE PRETTY BOXES AND BOWS and surprises contained within them.

I love my birthday because people make a genuine effort to connect with me. Cards (rather than bills) in the mail! Bouquets (flowers AND fruit) were delivered to my door this year! Video messages and my brother-in-law Tony even performed an original song (written by my sister, Shirlee) sung as Elvis.

Dear ones connected through Zoom, Marco Polo, e-mail, text, phone, Vox, Hallmark, Facebook.

Other than smoke signals, every form of communication was employed.

I soaked it up like a dry old sponge.

Nix that.

Like a dry sponge.

Before we get into this week’s video, I gotta tell you a funny. Mark’s daughter, Tara, sweetly called me to wish me a happy birthday.

Not knowing me as well as most of YOU, she began, “I know when you get older birthdays aren’t a big deal…”

HA!

I gently protested, “Oh, I may be older, but birthdays are ALWAYS a big deal for me.”

Because birthdays mean connection.

And that’s the best gift of all.

(But the Ritz Carlton is a close second.)

More on connections, asking for what you want, and telling your story the way you WANT it to be here:

https://youtu.be/2DxVLFbhc9o

May our question marks turn into exclamation points of joy for all of us.

With love,

Brenda

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Silence is Good Soil for Growth

My silence on this blog the last few weeks had some of you concerned.

C’mon, Brenda. What’s wrong?

Nothing.

No, REALLY?

Really!

There was a time when I had to have a constant stream of ideas and motivational thoughts in this online “diary” of sorts. All, of course, intended to inspire and uplift.

But as I grow, I feel led to choose my words more carefully.

This blog is a joy to write and to connect with you? It’s wonderful.

But recent events in our country rendered me silent. And in the silence, I could be still and listen. And think; learn.

I didn’t want to speak, because I didn’t want to mis-speak.

Other voices needed to be heard, and boy, I listened. What I heard in the silence shook me from the complacency of my upbringing and I think I’m starting to “get” it.

This is a pivotal time in our nation and I want to be on the right side of history.

I don’t want to live by default or on auto-pilot.

Turmoil? It’s a good thing if it causes us to question ourselves and leads to growth.

I haven’t arrived, but in the silence, the seeds for growth have been sown. More on that here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjScaXcNkW4

I wish you and yours good health, much resilience, and an abundance of love.

Brenda

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A Dream Goes on Forever

A little known Todd Rundgren song is a favorite of mine: A Dream Goes on Forever.

My interpretation? Our dreams sustain us through difficult times. They are unsinkable corks, bouncing up as lifesavers (sometimes despite our best efforts to drown in our sorrows.)

Like flowers yearning to break through the cracks of cement, these resilient buggers called dreams stretch onward and upward.

“A dream deferred makes the heart sick…”

Oh, boy (or oy vey!) I’ve had some sick hearts over the course of 56 years. From not getting the part of Dorothy in the 4th-grade play (and instead, cast as the Lion) to watching my younger friends marry during my single 20’s and 30’s, life dumped some #$%^@ on some of my dreams.

“…but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” – Proverbs 13:12

Beating out thousands to land a job as one of the original QVC Show Hosts! Finally walking down the aisle to a packed church cheering the end of my single days!

Some of you quizzically read those last two lines, knowing that I was unceremoniously dumped by the shopping network and cut bait on an unfulfilling marriage after 14 years.

Hey, weren’t those dreams fulfilled supposed to be trees of life?

Well, they were. For a season.

My tears dried after losing the part of Dorothy. Life went on. Life marches on! What mattered SO much once is just (as my friend Roseann likes to say) a pimple on an elephant’s ass.

Gotta love my spicy Roseann-isms.

Thoughts of dreams stirred my soul this week when immersed in a Sex and the City marathon. The show begins in their twenties with invincibility fueled by cosmopolitans and a fabulous foursome of friends. Over the course of a decade we watch breakups, losses, cancer, babies and so much more that Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte could never have imagined.

Had they a crystal ball, they might have avoided most of their adventures to avoid pain.

And so might have I, as I pondered this photo from my past:

This photo captures the moment in time when I prepared to graduate from college. Already working in my chosen field, there was no doubt in my mind I would be the next Diane Sawyer.

It was my dream to write and speak words. To use them skillfully to inspire and inform.

Also, to be fabulously wealthy and famous. (Look, I’ve never claimed to be Mother Theresa.)

Oh, had I a crystal ball I would have definitely bypassed that QVC audition, kept driving past the church (that ended up being a cult)…

…but in the choices made to avoid pain, I would have lost some of my best stories. And my best friends.

I may not be Diane Sawyer, but I’m really glad to be Brenda Viola.

Yes, Viola. I loved my ex, still hold affection for him, and love that last name. It fits!

Just as I have changed over the years (my taste for pitch black, sky-high hair replaced by golden highlights), my dreams also evolved. Some have come true! (Published author, anyone?) Some remain to be fulfilled.

But that’s the beauty of life.

I believe the dreams of our hearts are Divinely planted. And they must grow! They will materialize in perfect form when the gestation period has ended.

But aren’t we supposed to learn lessons from disappointments?

Sure!

And once learned, we move forward. To think that life is meant to be a constant string of lessons learned from heartbreaks runs counter to the idea that God (Source, the Divine, All That Is) is good and life should be happy.

I believe life should be happy.

Perhaps my message today is if you are pregnant with a dream, don’t abort it.

Turning your back on your dream is to turn away from your very self.

Your dreams are intertwined with your gifts and answer the question, “Who am I?”

They light you up. You feel most alive when expressing from that deep, holy part within you where the dream lives.

This is what you were made for!

John Russo croons a standard from the Rat Pack. My sister, Shirlee, acts on a moment of inspiration and whips up a calligraphy masterpiece. Artists are brave souls!

I have friends who claim they don’t have dreams. Oh, but when they express their gifts, they so beautifully live their purpose.

Maybe that’s a better word…purpose.

But I’ll stick with dreams. And I hope you stick with them, too.

On this topic of how what we want evolves over time and how when WE change, everything changes, here’s this week’s video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7S8BZ-CNsc&feature=youtu.be

If your dreams are feeling choked, your hope has been deferred, and you feel a bit adrift – take heart. We all weather such storms. These, too, shall pass.

Ask for the grace to help in time of need (and don’t be afraid to ask for help.)

Much love –

Brenda

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All Worked Up (for Nothing)

This week, I got all worked up. For nothing. A few times!

When I realized just HOW nothing these matters were (and how wrong I was in each case!) I had to kind of giggle. Really glad that I didn’t complain publicly or tell anyone off, I filed my misstep in the back of my mind for future reference.

Before you have a cow, make sure it’s worth having.

Back in the 70’s, Gilda Radnor’s Saturday Night Live character, Emily LItella, would get ALL worked up over a subject.

My friend Renee Kantor LOVES this character and this week I WAS this character. Going on and on and on and on only to stop, think, and say “Never mind.”

My first “Never mind” involved an appointment with a contractor. “I’ll be there between 12 and 12:30,” said the text.

At 12:45 I was harrumphing! The nerve!

When dear old Sam arrived, Mark said, “Yeah…I saw him driving around in front of our house for fifteen minutes, but figured it couldn’t be the contractor because he kept driving past our house.”

Sam meekly said, “You texted me 6852 S. Lockwood Ridge Road.”

I replied, “Yes! 6852 S. Lockwood Ridge Road.”

Mark looked at me like I had two heads.

“Honey, that’s not our address.”

Oh my God! It’s NOT!

Now, back in 1990 I lived at 6852 Clover Lane in Upper Darby, PA. But that was 30 years ago!

This is a classic example of mental-pause, but for the life of me, I don’t know why I would conjure up that old address.

Sam went from being on my #$#%@ list to being the recipient of several mea culpas.

Next, I got into a fight with Google.

I’d been humming the song “Sweet Life” all day and finally asked my Google Mini, “Hey Google – play Sweet Life by Paul Stewart.”

It said, “Okay. Here’s a playlist from the 70’s of lite rock hits.”

I don’t want lite rock hits. I want a very specific lite rock hit!

Maybe if I say the artist first.

“Hey Google! Play Paul Stewart’s Sweet Life.”

Some godawful song that was CLEARLY not Sweet Life began playing.

I thought if I said it more forcefully, Google would finally obey.

HEY GOOGLE!!!! PLAY SWEET LIFE BY PAUL STEWART!!!!

Nope.

My blood pressure rose. The lovely lyrics and the melody that made my heart smile all morning was GONE.

I was pissed off at Google.

A good twenty minutes passed before it even occurred to me that maybe I might be wrong.

I shifted from my verbal orders to an online search of the song “Sweet Life.”

By Paul Davis.

Ooops.

This song fills my heart with gratitude for my sweet life, shared with my Mark.

When I finally said it correctly, Google began playing to perfection.

I went from being all worked up to chair dancing and singing loudly:

This old world seems to be in a hurry But darlin’ we’ll just keep on takin’ our time ‘Cause we’re livin’ such a sweet life Oh what a neat life Sharin’ my love with you We’re livin’ such a sweet life Oh what a neat life Makin’ our dreams come true We’re makin’ our dreams come true

– PAUL DAVIS (NOT STEWART)

As Mark Twain so perfectly stated: “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

This quickness to frustration, even anger – it’s not my normal way of responding to life. It likely is somehow related to this eternal pause button we’re ALL on right now, in the midst of a pandemic that has disrupted every plan once held for 2020.

What can you do when you get all worked up?

Take that little step away from the instigating event and think (sooner than I did) that perhaps YOU may be at fault.

And if you are, laugh at it. Apologize. (Though Google doesn’t really care, Sam sure did.)

Getting worked up is a choice. I want to expend precious energy on things that later don’t make me say, “Never mind.”

Our WOW was “relaxation” and there I was, getting all worked up! How did I resolve it? Well, the story is to be continued, but here’s a start:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOM5T1BaAik

On the other side of letting go is FREEDOM, and that’s what I want to fill my question mark with. What about you?

xoxoxox

Brenda

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An Adventure of the Soul

When the Word of the Week is adventure, it conjures up places to go, things to do and people to see. But when the world is on pause and the only adventures to be had are within the walls of your home, it forces a different kind of adventure.

See, you can’t escape yourself.

There you are. All the time.

If you’re fortunate enough to live with a saint like Mark, you don’t mind being hunkered down together.

But perhaps you, like me, are going a lil’ bit stir crazy?

My personal quarantine story is amplified by a thrilling new twist: weaning myself off of hormone replacement therapy.

Some people are going grey during COVID-19.

I may grow a beard!

Okay, that’s a poor attempt at humor (but I hope you laughed.)

My goal for 2020 was to be completely pharmaceutical-free. This journey began in 2017 when I quit Zoloft. The only drugs remaining in my system were low doses of estrogen and progesterone. And I fully intended to say goodbye to them, too…

…then COVID-19 hit.

When the pills ran out, I called my doctor and fully expected the refill to go through without a visit to her office. After all, the world is social distancing and if the situation isn’t dire, who should leave home to sit amongst sick people, right?

Wrong.

Told that I needed blood work to get my refill, I did what any hormonally-challenged woman would do. I burst into slobbering tears. Heaving, gulping tears.

The sloppy wailing held no sway with my doctor’s gatekeeper.

And I had no peace about venturing out for blood work. This stalemate, I knew, was a sign from the universe to stick it out and cold turkey the detox.

Kind Mark looked at my tear-streaked face (the third in as many days) and said, “Are you sure?”

He’s no fool. He’s got to LIVE with this wrecking ball of inflamed human emotion, wrapped in a bow of irrational thoughts, suspicions, dread and overwhelm.

I fully understand why he thought getting me some drugs might be a good idea!

However, the FLIPSIDE of this adventure in detoxing is the depth of emotion I’m feeling.

It’s not all happy emotions; some are so empathetic I can hardly bear all the feels…

…but at least I am fully ALIVE.

And for that, I’m incredibly grateful. First of all, I consider all of the poor souls suffering in sickness right now. The many who have died a victim to this deadly virus and who have sadly made their transition in the solitude social distancing demands.

I may be a bit of a hot mess right now. But I am healthy and alive.

Second, stuff that normally gets a pass or rolls off my back now instigates a full-blown experience. This amplified state of emotions REQUIRES examination. There’s no ignoring the rage, depression, anxiety, or vitriol. It must be inspected because ain’t no way I want those ugly tenants hanging out in my psyche.

So, being at home with me and my hormones has been an adventure of epic proportions.

We’re two weeks in and the science says it’ll take six to eight to be free.

Please send Mark your prayers and well-wishes.

His path to sainthood is almost assured as he quietly and calmly observes this circus of a roommate as she mines the depths of despair. Only to be perfectly fine minutes later when distracted by a ludicrous episode of Tiger King.

More on adventures and an interesting new Word of the Weeks!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bf8EAgM3ti8

Love to each of you. Stay well!

xoxoxoxo

Brenda

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Tunnel Times and Waiting for a New Season

It is the dark tunnel known as snowbird season in Sarasota. We snobby native transplants hate it. Traffic is tripled and it takes forever to get from point A to B (or to snag a table at your favorite restaurant.)

This is the price we pay for living in paradise, but the light at the end of the tunnel is knowing snowbird season doesn’t last forever.

So, too, with the tunnels of our lives. The dark seasons of our souls are just that – seasons.

Where I get off track (and maybe where you do, too) is when I take the tunnels all too seriously. Instead of distracting myself with a better-feeling thought, I build monuments to the dark ones and envision my future around their bleak paintings.

As if the tunnel times are the end-all story of my life.

When they’re just seasons.

These, too, shall pass.

Oh…but when you’re IN the midst of a tunnel time? Let’s belt out a rousing chorus of “Ain’t No Sunshine…”? Only Bill Withers’ soulful voice perfectly captures the depths of despair. Wailing is apropos.

Milk that darkness for a day or two and it can spin into weeks of not wanting to leave the bed and face the world.

Oh, you do. Because you HAVE to. The lottery tickets haven’t paid off yet and there are people, places, and things requiring our attention.

Have you ever felt like you were walking through quicksand?

Such has been my experience for about a month now. I tried to pin my mood on the new moon, which is supposed to influence the emotions of sensitive people.

But the new moon wasn’t so new anymore. So how to explain this malaise?

And in trying to figure it all out, it seemed I dug a deeper hole.

And then it dawned on me.

This is just a season.

When you’re in the frost of winter in your soul, it can feel like the buds will never sprout again.

Friends, don’t be so hard on yourself. (It never makes matters better.)

Faithful Mark, my loving partner, always wants to make things better. When he sees the dark storm clouds hovering over me, unlike some who would run for cover, he seeks ways to offer light. And I hope the story I am about to tell you sheds light on any darkness you might be feeling.

When I thought I couldn’t even remember how to feel happy again, he said, “Come outside for a minute.”

Still in my bathrobe, with Phyllis Diller hair sticking out and sleep in my eyes, I mustered enough oomph to shuffle out to the lanai.

And there was our avocado plant. Purchased as a housewarming gift nearly a year ago, it always looked healthy, but never offered hope that it would ever bear fruit.

Take a closer look…
It’s a baby avocado!

At first, I didn’t see it. But I looked again, and there was not just one, but a whole family of baby avocado buds.

Just like when the Grinch’s heart melted because of Cindy Lou Who, mine stirred with a lately-unfamiliar feeling.

Hope.

“…and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!”

Sometimes, it feels like NOTHING is happening. You’ve planted the seeds, watered, fertilized, and weeded them. And nada.

As if it’s Groundhog Day and it’s the same ‘ole same ‘ole and it’ll always be the same ‘ole same ‘ole.

You can feel like all of your effort is for naught. That all of your believing was just a pipe dream. That you should just settle for ordinary since CLEARLY this season of discontent is on an endless loop of auto-replay.

But take heart.

You may not see progress, but something’s getting ready to sprout.

I promise you, it’s getting ready to sprout.

Because there is an end to every season. Even a dark season of the soul.

The treasures you will mine in this fertilizer of darkness will richly serve you when the fruit arrives.

Keep looking for the sprout. It’s coming.

And celebrate the coming change. Because seasons always do.

Here’s our new WOW:

https://youtu.be/4Efzw2cs_Uo

Oooooooh…let’s all go and take a nap!

xoxoxo

Brenda

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Sometimes You Just Need a Nap

I love a good nap.

Friends have teased me because even on vacation I’d rather take a quiet little nap than snorkel or zip-line.

Hey, I live right near SIESTA KEY and doesn’t that very name evoke images of umbrellas, straw hats tilted over your face, and the ease of island time that moves ever more slowly than real life?

Siestas are a lovely comma in the sentence of a long day.

I don’t indulge as often as I’d like. Why is that when I’m sick as a dog I finally give myself permission to recline and unwind?

No, naps shouldn’t just be for sick days.

How about sick and tired days? They’re not a legitimate reason to call out of work, but when your body, mind, soul, and spirit are all saying “phooey!” – that’s a great time to nap.

I realize it’s not always convenient to snooze midday. But I’ve even found that sitting in a car for 15 minutes with my eyes closed is enough of a “Calgon, take me away” moment.

Meditation isn’t a nap, but it IS an intentional unplug. A siesta, of sorts. I put spa music on and listen to the sound of the fan whirring overhead.

My point in writing this is because INSPIRATION was our word these past two weeks, and for the most part, I’ve felt like I’m walking through quicksand.

Whether it’s the position of the moon, hormones, juggling a myriad of responsibilities or being plain dog tired, my get up and go got up and went.

And with it, so did my inspiration.

I’ve had a serious case of the blahs, despite having a wonderful boyfriend, a great job, beautiful friends and family, my health…blah, blah, blah.

I know! I know to count my blessings! I have used every tool in my toolbox to stoke the flames of inspiration.

But all I want is a nap.

So nap I shall! And I won’t feel guilty about it.

And neither should you.

Life is a series of ebbs and flows, highs and lows. Let’s not take the lows too seriously. These, too, shall pass.

The tide will go high again, and you’ll ride that wave. Until then? Take the path of least resistance.

Which could be…a nap!

https://youtu.be/ZqLR5uR_aoQ

Yep, confirmation that you should listen to your inner being and do what delights you!

Have a beautiful couple of weeks, friends.

Love,
Brenda

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Is Your Setback Actually a Setup?

My recent hair appointment resulted in a setback.

After three years spent growing out the bangs my ex-husband loved, I made the grave error of arriving at my appointment in a “do whatever you want” mood.

Alan wanted bangs.

Craving some immediate and measurable improvement in my appearance, I threw caution to the wind (despite a nagging no on the inside) and said, “Go for it!”

At the first snip, I knew they were too short.

I groaned internally. This was not my first bang rodeo.

Six-months of hair angst would ensue before I could return to my former bang-less glory.

The only comfort? Looking over my shoulder at previous bang travesties and knowing that, eventually, they always grow back.

Which is a great metaphor for any setback in life.

Think of something that pained you in the past. Do you now think of it differently?

Being laid off from QVC? Now I say THANK GOD I didn’t spend my career selling gold chains (though I am happy for those that do.)

The one that got away? I’ve seen his Facebook photos, and he didn’t age well.

Then, there are the more deeply stinging setbacks. Like the 17 years spent in a church that turned out to be a cult.

Sure, I could waste my energy bemoaning the “lost” years, but were they really lost?

The harshest, most painful setbacks in life (and there were plenty at that place) give us crystal clear clarity on what we don’t want and what we do want.

Never shall I allow my voice to be silenced in the face of injustice again. I will not allow others to assign my worth, nor will I be controlled by someone else’s “vision” for my life.

Just as the scriptures say, I had to lose my life to find it.

The experience set me back to set me up for who I am today.

The loss of my father at age ten still befuddles me. But that setback birthed in me a keen understanding that life is precious…and fleeting. That you should end conversations with a heartfelt “I love you” because you don’t know when or if you’ll get another chance to do so in this life.

A recent post talked about how time offers perspective unavailable when in the midst of turmoil. The 56 -year-old version of me now feels my father’s presence at key moments and I have an unshakable knowing that he is ever-present, offering emotional support.

A very present help in time of trouble.

The immortality of his beautiful soul offered small comfort to a little girl who just wanted a big hand to hold. Forty-six years later, I understand his transition to non-physical as a new way to know him.

Our word these past two weeks has been celebration.

My interpretation has been to embrace celebration as appreciation, yes, even for the setbacks in life.

They unfailingly become setups for good if we’ll choose to see them that way.

https://youtu.be/T8fWbw6yo48

Hoping you find sources of inspiration around every corner.

With love,

Brenda

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Give Me Just a Little More Time

Time flies, even when you’re NOT having fun.

I love the old song Give Me Just a Little More Time. Though the rest of the sentence is “…and our love will surely grow…” you could just stop it at the time part for me.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just supersize your day and tack on an extra three hours when needed?

Three extra hours!

I’d nap, for sure. I’d get that long overdue pedicure. Write some notes to people I love. Maybe even wander downtown or hit the gym far more often.

You know your life is out of balance when the reminder postcard from your dentist is three months old.

Seriously, how did life get so busy that I can’t make time to get my teeth cleaned!

This was one of my most-liked posts these past two weeks, and I know it strikes a chord with many of us:

I hear you! “How can I sit and so nothing when there is so much to DO???”

But to paraphrase the great writer Anne Lamott: “Everything works better after you unplug it. Including you.”

One of the drawbacks of being an optimist is that I think I can keep adding stuff to my plate. Which is now a Thanksgiving-turkey-sized platter. And soon I’ll need a trough if I don’t start saying NO.

By the way, no one is forcing me to do anything. I get excited and I volunteer myself for all kinds of endeavors.

So how do I know when I’m out of balance? When I’m too busy to hear my inner guidance system.

If I don’t check in with myself on a regular basis, I easily lose my way. I forget that I am pure positive energy with limitless potential, creating my life, one thought at a time. Instead, I react to life as if playing whack-a-mole instead of being intentional about it.

And when I’m all caught up in the time suck tizzy of projects, plans, deadlines, and obligations, I’m out of sync with the REAL me.

Pulling this word “balance” has been a real wake-up call for me.

The greatest truth? No one can get me back into balance but ME. Just like I can’t blame anyone else for getting me OUT of balance.

So it’s time to start saying no to some things. Time to cancel some plans. And un-supersize my plate. You, too?

https://youtu.be/f0A_Ouwzad4

I love how this new word perfectly aligns with the call to restore balance in our lives.

Wishing you wisdom and grace to say no – and let go…

Love,
Brenda

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Trading Expectations for Acceptance

Where do we get our expectations from?

If you were a child of the 60’s and 70’s like me, we had plenty of unrealistic pop culture icons.

Like the Brady Bunch. All those groovy kids in a big house with parents that never fought – and a housekeeper to boot!

I wanted to be That Girl, living in the big city like Marlo Thomas and with a boyfriend handsome as Donald Hollinger. Oh, and with hair that flipped up at the bottom and never looked out of place.

Even outside of TV (and Instagram), we see how people present themselves on the surface, and it all looks so PERFECT.

Or we find out how much someone much younger and less experienced earns and disappointment (or jealousy) kicks in.

Comparison truly is the thief of joy.

Our expectations can be dashed at ever turn. No one ever goes into a marriage thinking it will ever end. Few people take on jobs or make a career move that they think won’t pay off. You plan a vacation and don’t expect to get the flu!

We soon learn that there’s no crystal ball and there are no guarantees.

Which could be quite scary unless you believed that everything is always working out for you (and me.)

Lately I’ve been thinking about how many times my expectations have led to unnecessary disappointments. 

Is everyone required to march to the beat of MY drum?

When I impose MY idea of how people should be on them, I miss out on enjoying how THEY dance to their own rhythm of life.

My inner critic is LOUD, and the only thing that shuts it up is huge doses of empathy.

Putting myself in the other guy’s shoes for a minute silences the voice of judgment.

The good news is, we can always find our way back to love. The Four Agreements helps me with this:

  • Be impeccable with your word (Speak kindly and in truth to yourself and others)
  • Don’t take things personally (Oy!  The hardest for me.)
  • Don’t make assumptions (Another biggie.)
  • Always do your best.

Our biggest mistake when dealing with people not following OUR script? Trying to change them.  

Honey, you’ll wear yourself OUT.

I’ve decided to wave the white flag and trade my expectations for acceptance.

When I accept people, just as they are, the energy between us is completely different. It no longer drains or disappoints me to be with them. And oh how good it feels to spend time with someone who accepts me (more than expects from me.)

My friend Renee is a “no expectations” sister. She always lets me stay at her house when I’m traveling for work to Philadelphia. It may have been months since I’ve seen her, but she’ll take one look at me when I arrive and say, “Go straight to bed.”

She might have been looking forward to sister time and a long talk – but I don’t have to perform for her. I don’t have to dance around my exhaustion to make her feel our time together is worthwhile. For her, it’s enough that we are in the same house at the same time. And there will always be coffee time in the morning.

And coffee time means her husband Steve, who is a brother to me, will be at that table.

Those smiles! Pure love and acceptance.

Double doses of love and acceptance.

Renee is the one who introduced me to Angel Cards (the genesis of our Word of the Week tradition). We start every morning together picking a word for the day. There is a sweetness to the ritual that is amplified by Renee’s palpable hope that, for me, the day ahead will be the best day ever.

I can’t let Renee down, because she loves so purely and completely.

Everyone needs a Renee. And I am trying to be more like her.

More on that and a plea for help with the new Word of the Week! (The universe knows I need to work on this area, pronto!)

https://youtu.be/t10yJPuHbxw

How do YOU find balance in your life? Would love to hear your thoughts…

xoxoxox

Brenda

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From Breakdowns to Breakthroughs

If you’re in the middle of what seems to be a breakdown, hang on – your breakthrough is coming. If you seek it, you’ll find it.

That’s the beauty of wisdom. It’s there, sometimes hidden behind a bunch of hurts and painful memories. Perhaps it is shrouded by a busy life. So busy you can’t see the forest for the trees.

Wisdom is waiting for you, and with it is the clarity that comes from a breakthrough.

If you’re in need of a breakthrough and have used all the tools in your toolbox (talking to good friends, meditation, listening to You Tube videos on the topic, yada yada yada) maybe it’s time to bring in reinforcements.

Funny sidebar: I often get private messages from Facebook friends asking for advice on our Word of the Week messages. I always preface any answer with, “Please keep in mind I am not a licensed therapist…”

While I’ve learned a bunch from the school of hard knocks and good books, I’m not qualified to give counsel to anyone.

I have great regard for those whose love for people and genuine desire to impact lives for good resulted in their pursuit of professional counseling as their life’s work. One of my most favorite people in the world is Anna Coker, who has one of the biggest hearts known to man and uses her sensitivity, kindness, skill, and insight to help people heal.

From my past experience, finding a good therapist is often like going on a series of bad dates until you meet “the one.”

There was the guy whose first instinct was to write me a prescription for Zoloft, which may be helpful for some, but simply numbed me to what was REALLY needing attention. And the woman who was so rigidly religious in her world view she couldn’t hear anything outside of it. Not to mention the toxic horror stories from my past church/cult life, where my deepest hurts were manipulated to control my life and rob me of my individuality.

And yes, some unqualified victims like myself were “made” counselors. I’ve already done that apology tour.

Church/cult experience aside, the other detours into less than helpful therapy still had some value.

Kissing the frogs helps you identify the prince (or princess) when he or she comes along.

Just like finding the best restaurant in town and wanting everyone to taste that particular, pillowy gnocchi, so too, when you find a great therapist, you (I) want people to know about them.

Sanna Carapellotti came to me miraculously through my writing coach, who recognized I had hit a creative wall. And he was sensitive enough to realize it had nothing to do with the book I was writing.

I followed this link to arrange a free, fifteen-minute consultation to see if we both felt she could help me. I knew within one minute that this was a “no BS” yet non-traditional therapist who could guide me to the answers. Her philosophy? You have everything you need inside of you. The answers lie within you. Sometimes you just need a little help to reveal them.

I went into the session thinking I knew exactly what the problem was. Which was, of course, someone else. THEY were the problem.

The tricky think about problems involving other people? You can’t change THEM. You can only change YOU and how you respond to life (and them).

Through a combination of skillful questions, interrupted by breathing exercises, guided meditation, tapping – you name it – we got there.

Oh boy, we GOT there.

My revelation came and it was truly like a light-bulb going off.

Just as profound as my Costa Rica Iboga journey, during which I saw myself shut down after my father’s death – unable to express or even be in touch with my feelings – this time I went further back.

To the incubator.

Born one month premature, I went immediately to isolation, hooked up on tubes and fighting for my life. Isolation separated me from human touch and the nurturing comfort a baby craves when entering this world.

I cried in…isolation.

Long after I finally made weight and could finally join my family, this deep-seated fight for survival stayed with me.

A pit-bull like fear ready to pounce on perceived threats and consuming endless energy has been my companion for these 56 years. This pit bull served me well, mind you. I appreciate its fighting spirit at the start and also at various junctures of my life when I truly fought for survival.

It’s such a relief to realize I don’t need to fight for something I already have.

My life is mine. I made it. I am fine.

No longer do I seek something I didn’t get those first few weeks of life from people or organizations or even my profession.

Unpacking childhood trauma makes the baggage of life much lighter.

And that’s the Reader’s Digest version.

Dear readers, I feel so free! So unplugged from negative energy!

It’s such a release to have clarity about why I have felt certain things and responded so extremely to perceived threats all of my life.

Remarkably, I’m not so touchy anymore!

Those same people who bugged the #$%@ out of me? I now feel empathy for them; even love.

Everyone’s story is different. This happens to be mine. What I can say is that help is available. And I hope you, too, love yourself enough to head off your breakdown and head toward your own breakthrough.

Interestingly, I recorded this week’s message BEFORE my session with Sanna. I think you will see a different, more relaxed face in upcoming video messages. How prophetic the new Word of the Week turned out to be!

https://youtu.be/YpGgKZinVRw

If you’ve hit a wall, EXPLORE the why.

If you are intrigued by my visit with Sanna, she has graciously offered a free gift, “The Healing Heart” to any of you who reach out to her and mention my name, Brenda Viola.

To your breakthrough!

xoxoxoxo

Brenda

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Don’t Milk the Bad Stuff

Please DO milk the good stuff in life. Make the most of a hearty laugh, savor that cold, creamy gelato, and allow a compliment to penetrate deeply into your soul.

The trap? It’s so easy to just fast forward through life, or push aside a tender moment as we move on to the next thing.

Life isn’t a race to the finish line.

Smelling the roses and chasing butterflies along the way make the journey rich. And the long way is often the scenic route!

However, should you scrape your hand on a thorn, or a frenemy slights you, or a seagull takes a #$%@ on your head, don’t milk THAT.

Moaning about what went wrong only amplifies it, underscores it, and energizes more of the same.

Just. Stop. It. (Preaching to myself, here.)

Sometimes it’s a habit. We get caught up in the drama of the thing gone wrong. We enjoy telling the story to the gasps and collective groans of our audiences. (Have you ever noticed that, just like the fish caught gets bigger with each re-telling, the drama around your negative story only grows every time you tell it?)

Those of us that believe in the law of attraction have learned it’s not what you WANT that you get – it’s what you FOCUS on that you get.

If you want more instability at work, keep milking it. Talk to all of your co-workers about how unsettled you feel. Play out your negative imaginations, leading to paranoia. Read into every possible slight and anticipate the worst possible outcome.

If you want a better work life, use that amazing imagination of yours and envision your best-case scenario. Play out that conversation with your boss until it’s pitch perfect. Take every positive encounter and fertilize your desired outcome.

Our word these past weeks has been honesty, and I’m all for calling things as what they are. To a point.

There comes a point where it’s far more effective to conceive of what is NOT as though it is.

That’s where you go from living under the circumstances to being truly meta-physical. On top of the physical; over it.

Milk the good stuff and more will come your way.

Naysayers might criticize and say you make too much of a thing.

Can you ever have too much of a good thing?

My musings on honesty and a new WOW, coming right up:

https://youtu.be/o8lDz4-wrV0

Don’t despise what’s happened in your life if you learned something from it!

Have a great couple of weeks…

xoxoxoxox

Brenda

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You Do YOU (and I’ll Do Me)

You do a great job of being you.

You’ve got all of the qualifications, abilities, talents, and instincts to do you incredibly well.

In fact, no one can do you better than you.

Further, no one has a CLUE how to do or be you better than you.

So stick with your instincts.

In my youth, I so easily and willingly abdicated my free will to the will (and whims) of others. So hungry for approval and so unsure of how to make my way in this world, a mere suggestion would change my course.

These were not usually fatal or egregious turns in the road, but they did make life more like a crazy dotted line in a Family Circle cartoon.

The problem with so easily deferring? When you encounter toxic people who do not have your best interests at heart (only their own).

You end up silencing your beautiful intuition. Courses of action are chosen that actually hurt you on the inside. You decide that your own feelings must be liars, rendering you out of touch with your emotional guidance system.

How grateful I am for the day when I said, “Enough!”

The great thing about life is that the truth always rises to the top, even though sometimes it has to hit you over the head to wake you out of the fog.

You will always hear whispers that question your dreams and capabilities. Most times, these voices aren’t from the peanut gallery. They’re your worst, familiar fears rising up to choke your creativity and stop you in your tracks.

Don’t waste time and energy wrestling them to the ground.

Ignore them long enough and they’ll dissipate, just like the Wicked Witch of the West when splashed with water in the Wizard of Oz.

I know, the temptation is to dig deep and try and figure out what’s wrong with you.

There’s nothing wrong with you.

You are exactly right. You are perfect, as is. And you are more than enough for any task or wish your heart could hope for.

Now stop questioning yourself and get back to believing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEFyhtKPfYM&feature=youtu.be

Being free to be you – and me.

An honest life is a free one. And freedom is the fuel that can take you wherever you want to go in life.

You’re going places, baby. Don’t doubt it for a minute.

xoxoxox

Love,
Brenda

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Adventures in Greece

Me on the Aegean Sea!

I’m back from my adventures in Santorini, Greece, and it was fabulous. I could talk to you about the historical sites, the amazing vistas of the Aegean sea, the kindness of the Greek people or the holiness of Good Friday’s lantern ceremony, but today I’ve got one thing on my mind.

Food.

I’d been on a special eating plan since November. I called it my “Santorini Bikini” mission, and by avoiding sugar and carbs I lost 25 pounds.

I was ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille, and planned to say YES to every sugary and decadent opportunity that came my way from London to Pyrgos.

After all, this was vacation – and for someone who enjoys food like me, I wasn’t about to deny myself gastronomic adventures on a trip of a lifetime.

Each morning, a breakfast tray of pastries – both sweet and savory – were delivered to our little villa, with dips of honey and chocolate and jam. Like the Cookie Monster, I devoured them; crumbs flying over the bedsheets.

In America, there’s a Wawa or CVS on every corner. In Santorini, there’s a bakery.

I made Mark stop at EVERY SINGLE ONE, from Pyrgos to Kamari, to Fira and Oia. Sticky, gooey, flaky treats abounded. These Greeks love their sweets, and coupled with rich, dark coffee – oh my!

Aside from the pastry shops, dinner was never complete without dessert. They have a traditional “orange pie” which is really more like a cake; warm and covered with ice cream. Oy! Mark’s favorite was cream cheese baked in phyllo that literally had us groaning out loud.

I came. I saw. I ate.

Upon my return, I said, “Brenda, don’t get on the scale. Give yourself a week or so to eat normally so you don’t have scale-shock and its accompanying depression.”

But I couldn’t help myself.

Eyes winced, I stepped on, prepared for the worst. I was braced to see that eight or so pounds had been packed on during my eating adventures.

One.

Just one pound!

How in the world?????? I ate everything! I ate Mark’s leftovers!

But I walked EVERYWHERE.

We walked up to the Parthenon. We hiked to the top of the Akrotiri lighthouse. We trekked the entire stretch of waterfront in Oia, Fira, and Kamari. Once we parked our car, there was no option but to tackle the terrain one step at a time.

It didn’t feel like exercise. It felt like…an adventure.

Most days I sit at my computer for a minimum of eight hours, and too often (when it’s not a Zumba night) I go right to the dinner table or settle in for the American Idol results.

Methinks moving more will be part of my daily routine. Especially if it means I can eat cake!

More on adventures and the new WOW, coming right up!

https://youtu.be/OXW2zNJt_g0

I love an invitation from the universe to ENJOY. So if you’re looking for a sign, this is it!

Happy Mothers Day and love to you all –

Brenda

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Niceville Opened My Heart

Niceville lived up to its name.

When the Okaloosa County Public Library System asked me to present the keynote address at their staff education day, I looked the area up on the map and said, “There’s no way I’m driving to this one!” A good 5+ hours away, the Niceville Community Center was sort of in the middle of nowhere, between Destin and Ft. Walton. In no way would I turn this into a mini-vacation; it would be a quick “in and out” flight.

Still, I wasn’t willing to risk being late for the engagement, so I took a later afternoon flight out of Sarasota and booked a room at the Niceville Holiday Inn Express. All I needed was wifi and a place to rest my head before hitting the ground running in the AM.

No expectations. Certainly no great expectations. This was, pure and simple, a quick gig for which I was grateful.

But Niceville opened my heart with their…well, niceness.

Who shows up to a hotel greeted by a desk agent saying, “Well hello, Miss Brenda! We’ve been expecting you!”?

Victoria seemed genuinely delighted to welcome me, and in the process, charmed me. As we went through the normal ritual of checking in, she smiled and said, “Now have I got a TREAT for you!”

Her glee in delivering the news was drum roll worthy! This woman was so excited to tell me that she was upgrading me to a suite, she actually paused before the big reveal.

All I needed; all I wanted was a bed and wifi. Instead, I got a TREAT. And the treat wasn’t’ actually the suite. It was Victoria’s enthusiasm to be, well…nice.

I smiled as I unpacked my overnight bag, finished some work, and caught up on e-mails. My stomach growled. Wow, it HAD been a long day, and I was hungry — but my options didn’t seem promising.

There was only one option within walking distance – a Ruby Tuesday. I haven’t been to Ruby Tuesday in years! I had vague memories of a good salad bar, but in the recent decade I’ve become a chain restaurant snob. Give me a little, independent, family-owned joint. I eschewed franchises, but hunger prevailed.

As I entered the door, I waited for perhaps 30 seconds for someone to greet me. She did as if seeing a long lost family member returned to the roost. “Oh honey I am SOOOOO sorry you had to wait! Let me get you a nice seat…”

Of course it was a nice seat. I was in Niceville, and it seems EVERYTHING in NIceville is…well, nice.

Food snob – ha! That was the yummiest salad bar, sirloin and sweetest sweet potato I’ve devoured had in AGES. Was it the food? Or was it that everything was so surprisingly…NICE?

The walls came down. This was not going to be a “get in and get out” experience. From the waitress who I observed hugging her regular customers to the bartender who treated the gang assembled as family, Ruby Tuesdays was THE place to be. Because everyone embodied NICE. And Niceville warmed my cold traveler’s heart.

Which was the perfect lead-in to a rousing keynote speech, delivered with heartfelt appreciation for the NICEness of the people of Niceville.

I was nicer because of them.

Reluctant to leave after my second session, Dealing with Difficult People, (are there any difficult people in Niceville?) I waited for my Uber. While the librarians enjoyed the sunshine and dined alfresco on boxed lunches, we told each other our stories of how we ended up in the Sunshine State. I waved goodbye to my new friends, convinced that my driver would also be…NICE.

Yep, an array of candies and toiletries (!) awaited me in his white Dodge Caravan. Doug told me his life story on the way to the airport; a story of leaving his high-paying corporate job to tend to his elderly mom’s health. A decision, he said, he’d never regret.

I agreed. And considered just how big a tip I would give him.

The nice-ness I experienced in my Niceville experience opened my heart. Nice will do that far more than any fancy restaurant or big city shindig.

Real time update: Writing gloriously interrupted by the sound of cheers as the entire airport stops what they are doing to applaud soldiers just returned home from Afghanistan.

Sheesh! My heart swells!

Fun side note: In the middle of my first presentation, it felt like a jet soared right outside of the Community Center and the sound almost made the building quiver. I asked the audience, “What was that?”

“Oh, that’s just the sound of freedom flying.”

The Kauffman EOD Training Complex and EOD Memorial are close by, in Walton County, Florida at the Eglin Air Force Base.

Let freedom ring! And may nice-ness prevail, not just in Niceville, but everywhere.

My closing thoughts on openness:

https://youtu.be/yDSKcsOjiUY

A visit to Niceville will make even a toughened heart tender.

Have a beautiful couple of weeks!

Love,
Brenda

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Saying Goodbye to What Doesn’t Serve You

Saying goodbye is never easy. I’m getting on a plane this week and know that every minute of every day, I’m going to miss my Mark, my bed, my morning coffee (made MY way) and my regular rhythm of life.

I will be moving soon (that’s ANOTHER blog post for another day) and I realize that pieces of furniture I’ve LOVED just don’t fit into the new place, so I have to say goodbye.

And my closet? It’s still got that gown from 20 years ago that PERHAPS my thigh could get into, but for pure nostalgia’s sake, I haven’t the wherewithal to say goodbye to it.

DISCLAIMER: I am DELIGHTED that I didn’t say goodbye to my black leather skirt from 2002. Because for the first time since then, I can wear it again! (Go me!)

Then there are the deep and profound goodbyes that are the signposts of moving on; growing into yourself – and settling into your own self worth.

I posted this meme this week and it was widely shared, but one comment struck me: “Easier said than done.”

No one said it would be easy.

Likely, this “getting rid of what doesn’t make you happy” kind of goodbye will rip your guts out. It will leave you heaving in sobs on the floor. It will cause you to question your sanity.

The comfortable ditch of misery will try to call you back – or at least call your judgment into question.

Seeming friends will call you selfish, or worse, cruel for saying goodbye.

Religious types will muse about your departure with head shakes and concerns about fulfilling your holy calling.

Drinking buddies will say, “You don’t have a problem! One glass won’t hurt…”

But you know you must go.

Whether it is a relationship, or a church, or a job, or anything with which (or whom) you have been entangled, there is a breaking point. And you know, for your own sanity; for your well being; for any hope of having a life of peace and joy, you MUST sever this tie.

Some of you are nodding your heads. You’ve been there and come out the other side. I applaud your bravery.

Some of you are teetering on the edge of the diving board, looking that long way down and terrified of jumping.

I get it.

On the three biggest goodbye decisions of my life I teetered for YEARS. I talked myself out of cutting bait because I kept assuming I was wrong; that I was the problem. So I kept working on me.

That’s not a bad thing. In all that working on me, I learned some great things and grew tremendously. (INSERT PRIVATE JOKE: My friend Cindy and I have coined a phrase, “I learned me something…” when we have an aha moment. It is horrible grammar but makes us giggle.)

There came a point where it became pointless to keep working on me.

The boat only goes around in circles if you’re the only one rowing.

Instead, it was time to do something FOR me.

Leaving is hard. But living a life that is unhappy is harder.

In every leaving, there is a rebirth.

You get to create the life you really want…if you are willing to say goodbye to that which no longer serves you.

More on this topic from our Word of the Week, “PURIFICATION” – and a brand new word to sink into for two more weeks:

I’m hopin’…that you’re open.

xoxoxox

Brenda

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Christmas Cheer to Far and Near!

This image was from one of the very first blog posts I wrote – and the sentiment still holds true.

My annual attempt to spread Christmas cheer through sugar and carbs has drawn to a close.

I have a huge burn mark on my right arm (tended to lovingly by Mark, with antiseptic and aloe.)

Sometimes you have to be burned to realize how loved you are.

The list of people who receive this gesture of love seems to grow each year as my heart grows bigger and the list of people I love gets longer.  I wish I could leap out of every box opened and encourage the recipient to toast first, then SLATHER with butter, ’cause if you’re going to break your diet, you might as well do it right.

But most people know by now the raisin bread ritual and how to savor it well.

I think about my grandmother, whose kitchen was pretty much covered in flour by the time she finished her annual bread-making.

Edna Hartsell made a deep impact on my life…from the way she knelt by her bed at night (literally!) and prayed out loud for everyone (literally!) she knew to the way every car ride with her was a rousing chorale of gospel songs.  We learned, as Elf affirmed, that “The best way to spread Christmas cheer was singing loud for all to hear.”

Each loaf of bread is a tribute to my Mom-mom, who inspired me to a spiritual life.

We each have our own ways of expressing and embracing our individual faith.  Some like to cheer, clap their hands and shout “Hallelujah!” and other prefer to quietly meditate and center their souls on Source.

Though my own spiritual path has been a bit like a Family Circus cartoon, full of twists, turns, detours, valleys, and mountaintops – I am so very very very very very glad to be a believer, not just during the holiday season, but all year long.

My heart is full of appreciation for the Loving Presence that has sustained me through dark times and carried me to better days.

Perhaps the greatest lesson of my past year has been that this Presence is not like a butterfly that descends and departs (based on how good, bad, or tuned in I am) but that it is EVERPRESENT.

I can call upon the Power that created worlds at any time, for it resides in me (and I in it.)  There’s no penance to pay for a misstep, only a moment’s acknowledgment to get back into alignment once again.

Jesus said, “I and my Father are One.”

I get that now, Jesus.

I believe the One we celebrate this time of year would, if He were here, take us each gently by the shoulders and say, “You’ve got the Power!  It’s all right there – use it!”

In my fantasy conversation with Jesus I think He’d also say, “Sheesh!  Stop wrestling with your own worthiness once and for all.  You are LOVED – unconditionally!”

What a Christmas gift. 

Wouldn’t that be the best gift for all of us? 

I came face to face with this once again over the past two weeks when I realized how CONDITIONAL (still) my own love was for myself…

Oh my!  Isn’t it interesting that POWER ends up being our new WOW?

Wouldn’t that be the best Christmas miracle of all – to realize our POWER and walk in it?

I look forward to delving into this with you over the next two weeks.  And if you’ve never visited my other website, www.MEseminars.com, I’ve love you to download my e-book on the topic of my own journey to self-love.  My gift to you!

In the meantime, even if you didn’t receive a loaf of raisin bread this year, my heart is sending you Christmas cheer and heartfelt wishes for the FULLNESS of love to inhabit your heart, now and forever.

xoxoxoxoxox

With love,

Brenda

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Is Gaper’s Delay Jamming Your Dreams?

Traffic jams are such an annoyance. No one likes a traffic jam!

Actually, they can be downright infuriating.

After all, you left in PLENTY of time to arrive at your destination, only to be stuck on the freeway.

You strain your neck out of the window, trying to figure out WHAT’s going on. Fuming, you inch forward at a snail’s pace.

Too many minutes pass and you finally see an accident…but one that occurred quite some time ago. The paramedics have long left the scene; the debris cleared. Cars are removed from the flow of traffic.

But traffic isn’t flowing.

You’re in a jam.

Because you’re you, you breathe a prayer for the poor souls who were in the accident. But next you say, “Why did every one slow down?”

The fascination of something gone wrong is magnetic.

It draws you in.

You can’t help but look.

And so it is in everyday life. (Even off of the roadway.)

That curt reply to your lengthy e-mail. The maddening lack of collaboration on an important project. The juicy tidbit of gossip about a colleague. Fixating on your neighbor’s tendency to leave their trash can by the curb long after pick-up day.

Nagging little things!

Or, bigger things.

Like the drama that unfolds regularly on our TV screens or TMZ alerts. The tragedy of human life lost. Or the bluster of the election season with its fear-inducing ads.

Attraction to negative things creates a gaper delay. It jams us up, delaying our better selves and our higher hopes.

It holds up resistance to the flow of good.

No, I’m not saying to ignore the truths of life. But must they have SO much of our attention?

What you give attention to grows. And by that attention, you attract more of it. Even if it is something you abhor!

My friends and I have a rule. When we’re “gotten” by a thing and feel we must talk about it, we preface the conversation with: “I’m giving you just a ten-second rundown because I don’t want to energize this anymore.”

We understand that language with each other.

It’s not that we don’t care, and if we WENT there, we’d be marvelous commiserators.

But would it help?

Would it do any good?

We have decided we’d rather be co-creators of that which we WANT.

So we flip the script and move the conversation to one that feels better.

Yes, so that thing happened, but how can we see the good in it? Or let’s daydream a bit and imagine the thing we WANT happening.

This bad thing? It’s only temporary anyway. No matter what it is, it will pass!

And the next thing will come along.

This is the cycle of life.

I want to accelerate the good and attract more of it.

What I see right now?

It’s actually OLD news. Because I’m going forward.

If you feel you’ve been waiting way too long for things you want or for change to come, consider if you’ve jammed yourself up by gaping at the UNwanted.

Change the subject in your mind. Encourage your friends to help you stay on track. Take a nap to stop the momentum!

And feel the relief that comes from once again, putting your pedal to the metal.

My last two weeks? A rollercoaster! And thanks to angels of mercy, I made it through…

Thank a healthcare worker today!

And I hope everything that seems a bit lifeless has life breathed into it with new inspiration these next two weeks —

Love,

Brenda

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Why Are We So Hard on Ourselves?

When we are hard on ourselves, is it because we think going soft lets us off the hook too easily? Do we brutally hold ourselves accountable to validate our goodness?

We’re not parking cars, here. We need no validation.

We must be kinder. To ourselves.

There are plenty of critics, naysayers, judges, and frenemies who won’t hesitate to point out our shortcomings or pounce on even an unintended slight.

Let’s not join their chorus. Life is already kinda hard.

At a recent (virtual) workshop, I began teaching on one of my favorite chapters in The Public Servants’ Survival Guide. All about how perfectionism is our foe and that yes, we are flawed, but we are awesome.

We’re flawsome – and should embrace our flawsomeness!

I felt the audience’s eye-rolling and inner protestations even though I was the only one on camera. Which stoked a little fire and brimstone message from this normally perky uplifter.

Some of you talk to yourselves like you wouldn’t talk to your worst enemy! Your inner voice is MEAN!

If those thoughts you allow yourself to think about you evoke tears or despair, here’s one thing I know for sure: You’re NOT voting with your inner being. You’re letting your human being win.

Now, your human being can be kinda fun. It can be bought new shoes or bake in the sun. It loves a good, dense cheesecake and a rich rerun of Empire. But in the deep and spiritual matters of life, it’s a bust. Your human being is easily cranky from lack of sleep or traffic or that intermittent fasting you’re trying 16 hours out of each day.

The struggle is real for your human being.

But your inner being? It’s ALWAYS love. Loving you and others is its constant state. It bears all things, believes and hopes and is constantly rooting for well-being, which is your natural state,

To often we vote with the unnatural states of confusion, frustration, self-degradation, and other lesser feelings.

When I reflect on the times when I raked myself over the coals for a mistake made, it NEVER made things better. My self-inflicted suffering didn’t change what was wrong, it just made me feel worse. No amount of tears, nausea, or sleeplessness could change my screw up.

Several come to mind. Like not proofreading a calendar project well enough and going to press with two August 13ths. Or slinging a sharp retort to an undeserving and kind partner. Oh, the pain of words spoken that should rather have been swallowed!

We all miss the boat. But must we drown ourselves to prove our sincerity?

Unfortunately, unless you choose to truly become a student of feeling good who believes well-being is everpresent, voting with your inner-being feels like hard work.

Until it becomes a habit.

Then, thinking kindly toward yourself and others is the happy flow of life. It is the path of ease and least resistance. And when you live there, life is easier (and you’re definitely not so hard on yourself.)

Screwed up? Join the club.

No one came forth for a perfect ride, but to enjoy it – bumps and all.

Stop making a mountain out of that molehill. Feeling terrible doesn’t help anyone, least of all yourself.

You don’t need to prove your sincerity or good heart to anyone.

It is.

And it’s beautiful.

Now start acting like you love yourself. Or even better, get to that most-important business in this life journey and really fall in love…with YOU.

More on that right here!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttbwDKTSYag

Yep – it’s our responsibility to own how we feel and what we’re thinking.

As the CEO of our own lives, let’s commit to feeling good again!

Much love,

Brenda

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