All posts by brendaviola

About brendaviola

Brenda Viola is a "love evangelist" on a mission to connect fabulous people using life-learned truths, humor and all types of inspiration to encourage men and women to live life joyfully.

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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Bob’s Cleaners is a Peaceful Place

When you think of peaceful places, what comes to mind?

Maybe it’s the waves gently lapping on the shore at the beach; staring at a fire pit while roasting marshmallows – or sitting in a pew, listening to music as you wait for church to begin.

An unlikely spot for refuge is your local dry cleaners…unless, of course, you’re going to Bob’s.

When I moved from downtown to the Gulf Gate area of Sarasota, one of my first delightful realizations was that it would once again be convenient for me to take my dry cleaning to Bob’s! I MISSED going there.

Why? Because the minute you walk through the door, you feel zen.

There are a host of positive, inspiring messages decorating the walls (and soft music is always playing at Bob’s.)

Any place can slap some peaceful quotes on the wall; that doesn’t determine the vibe. A vibe is always about the people and the energy they bring to a situation.

Enter the guy I always referred to as Bob. (But he’s not.)

This is Craig, who is the smiling, gentle presence that welcomes those who drop off and pick up their dry cleaning.

When we moved to the neighborhood, I was SO excited to introduce Mark to Bob’s Cleaners. (You might have thought I was taking him to a new restaurant or a sporting event.) We walked in and there he was, smiling from ear to ear and acting like he’d seen an old friend.

I wanted to make the introduction, but realized I only assumed his name was Bob. He sweetly clarified, “I don’t mind what you call me, but my name is really Craig.”

Craig’s very presence makes you feel like you’re wrapped in a soft blankie.

It’s impossible to imagine him getting all worked up about something.

He exudes calm, which has a calming effect on everyone he encounters.

On a recent visit, another smiling gentleman and I entered around the same time and began chatting. He drives out of his way from another TOWN, just to get up and close with the peaceful vibe at Bob’s Cleaners.

You know, people will forget what you said…but they always remember the way you make them feel (paraphrased Maya Angelou.) Businesses that make me feel peaceful, like Bob’s, will always earn my loyalty.

More on stepping away from drama and embracing peace!:

https://youtu.be/uh2jf5FJaT4

Are you hearing the encouragement to stop talking yourself out of what your intuition knows? Me too.

Have a beautiful week, everyone!

xoxoxoxo

Brenda

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The Art of Showing Up

This week’s post honors those who have mastered the art of showing up for the people they care about.

It may be inconvenient, uncomfortable, risky, and completely beyond the call of duty, but they show up.

Remember that co-worker who gave you a ride to work when your car was in the shop? Or that twenty dollar bill stuck in your pocket when you ran out of cash before the next paycheck? These angels among us never “ghost” you in times of crisis.

Perhaps it is that listening, non-judgmental ear when you tell the SAME story for the 84th time, or the gentle encouragement after you break a promise to yourself that says “tomorrow is a chance to start fresh.”

Showing up is an art because we don’t get hatched being kind, selfless, compassionate or caring.

Our baby cries are all about US – what we want and need and must have NOW. I’m an advocate for loving yourself enough to take care of you, and I’ve written volumes on that subject.

But those beautiful souls who, despite their own drama and pain; despite their harried schedules and limited resources, who dig deep and give when you need it the most…

They make life not just bearable; they add joy where sorrow lived.

So adept at showing up (even when you don’t have the courage to ask), these beautiful people are the catalyst for everyday miracles.

When my marriage ended, I experienced those who had mastered the art of showing up. Renee, Cynthia, Anita, my sister, Shirlee, Roseann, Karen…I could have never survived without you.

There were nights that I would call Anita and have nothing to say and it was okay. She’d just listen to me breathe on the other end of the line – sometimes for hours – until I could handle the aloneness enough to hang up.

Back in my Bible college days when I scrounged up change to put gas in my car, my cousin Kimmy would drive up from South Jersey and slip a $20 bill in my pocket.

I tell a few more stories in this week’s video, but my heart is full of gratitude for the tender, generous hearts who have mastered the art of showing up.

They have schooled me in true love, and it has been a healing balm.

More stories from my “showing up” files – and a lovely new WOW here:

https://youtu.be/FHda6015E20

What a lovely word to begin my birthday week. I think I’ll take it for the entire year!

xoxoxox

Brenda

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You Don’t Have to “Sell” the Truth

When someone throws the big-time sell at you, don’t ignore your internal GPS truth system.

I recall sitting at a kitchen table with an earnest couple who gave me the sales pitch of a lifetime about how joining their church would ensure I’d fulfill God’s purpose for my life.

They persistently pounded on the need to be planted, despite my dreams of travel. My television career was in its infancy, and in TV, you couldn’t stay put in the Delaware Valley (one of the top markets in the country) and gain the experience you needed to rise through the ranks.

The thought of moving to Lima, Ohio to hone my craft…and then to a middle market and finally, a big city – maybe even back home to Philly – thrilled me. This was the path I knew led to my desired outcome: A successful career in broadcast journalism.

And I was being told; being SOLD, that staying put was what GOD wanted.

I bawled.

I remember sloppy tears streaming down my face and crying, “But why would God want something for me that I DON’T want?”

“Ah,” they said. “That’s the voice of rebellion trying to talk you out of the will of God.”

Since when do you have to sell someone on the will of God?

Still, not wanting to rebel against God, I acquiesced.

Fourteen years later, this “church” revealed to be a cult, and over the course of those fourteen years I had the very life sucked out of me. Each “sell” involved me taking action counter to my God-given instincts.

Any resistant truth I haltingly uttered resulted in ME as the guilty party for daring to question authority. Chastised for wanting some semblance of normalcy (like, say, dating, establishing credit or having medical benefits), giving credence to my feelings signaled carnality.

Feelings, they said, were liars. Only the spiritually weak listened to feelings.

This was the master stroke of control that made me a walking zombie. I could quote any scripture for any situation, but I had lost the ability to think for myself. Why? Because when I dared to do so, it resulted in “counseling” and threats of disqualification for the ministry.

I often wonder if an alternative universe exists in which I left that table and listened to my heart. Who might I be today?

Fortunately, I believe everything is always working out for me and boy has it. To this day, the dearest people in my life are those that I met in the cult. Those I escaped with are the kind and tender friends who helped me find my mind again. But it took YEARS; even another fourteen, to fully understand the danger of suppressing my internal emotional guidance system: my feelings.

To realize that if it doesn’t feel good, it isn’t in alignment with that which is Divine.

Jesus doesn’t want or need me to suffer for him to prove my love.

And the truth sets you free.

I own my part in the charade because I abdicated my ability to choose for my life. At first, I thought they were more spiritual and would know better than me how I should serve God. Later, I acquiesced mostly just to stay out of their counseling offices where the most vile twisting of truth would render me full of self-loathing and confusion.

The good news is that truth won. It never fails to rise to the top and it will win the day.

And when you truly are flowing with the Divine, there’s no such thing as lost time.

We are eternal beings. And we’ve only just begun.

My parting thoughts on TRUTH and a double whammy WOW:

https://youtu.be/I01_2fOZ47w

It is rare to have a two-word WOW. I wonder what opportunities to put yourself out there on behalf of someone else will present themselves this week?

Let me know what happens as you take them!

Much love,

Brenda

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Pretty Little Lies

They’re just little lies.

You know the little soul band-aids I’m talking about? They tell you “just one” is hardly a problem. But you KNOW that one leads to another and another until you’re headlong back into a bad habit.

Whether it’s a cookie, a cigarette, a missed day at the gym or that glub glub of red in a wine glass – you know your poison.

Well meaning people will try to assuage your doubts, believing the best of you – but the best of friends say, “Warning, warning! This is fire not to be played with!” They WANT the best for you (and are well aware of the worst of you.)

Generally, when we want to go back to our poison, we do it in secret — because the LAST thing we want to hear is that we shouldn’t. ‘Cause we really WANT to…whatever.

Bad habits are a slippery slope. They are familiar grooves in our soul and the OLD us wants to play that record again. That’s why it’s best not to play…even a little bit.

These pretty little lies talk you out of your resolve and make you forget why you quit in the first place. Seductive little buggers, they’ll even begin crafting a whole new story just to defend your lapse.

So you fall. And you stay there for a little bit until you really do remember why you quit in the first place.

The good news is, each day offers the chance to start over. In fact, each moment extends that opportunity.

We’re all grown-ups and don’t need to hit rock bottom to make smart decisions.

We just need to love the truth more than the lure of those pretty little lies.

If they weren’t pretty, we wouldn’t fall for them. So how do we know they are trouble?

When you protect them, hide them, defend them and don’t allow anyone to dare broach them with the light of a question…that’s your warning sign.

My pretty little lie is revealed toward the end of this week’s video, and if any of you have stumbled, I hope it helps you get back up again:

https://youtu.be/HwQsmbwMz3Q

How appropriate that TRUTH is our new WOW!

xooxoxox

With love,
Brenda

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Lavishly Spreading Love

When I splurge, I do so lavishly (not stingily.) Give me thick pads of butter on toasted raisin bread. Add vanilla ice cream AND whipped cream on my warm bread pudding. And please, fill the white cream so that it oozes to overflowing out of those chocolate covered donuts.

I’ve found most donuts to be quite stingily filled these days, and you can’t even find my all time favorite anymore.

Maiers cream-filled donuts could be found at Wawa convenience stores in a long white box with navy blue lettering. If you had a Maiers in one hand and a Krispy Kreme, Entenmann’s or Duncan in another, the weight of the Maiers was substantially heftier. And the first bite puncturing the cake-y dough would cause a sugary puddle of white heaven to spurt outward so that you had to quickly lick to avoid wearing it.

Today’s donuts can take two to three bites to even GET to the cream.

Why bother?

As a “go big or go home” kind of gal, I don’t just take my carbs and sugar in heavy doses. I want my love that way, too.

I don’t want to have to cajole love to respond or tiptoe around so as not to disturb it. When I’m far from camera ready and my foot is wedged firmly in my mouth, love me lavishly c ri

I want love like a bouncy, sloppy Golden Retriever puppy gets.

Don’t you just love people who take you as you are and who revel in your weirdness? It just makes you love them more.

For many years I attracted unsatisfying, dry donut kind of relationships. Working so hard to get to the the good stuff (if I ever got there) left me thinking afterwards, “Is that all there is?”

When attracting inadequate substitutions for good, juicy love, the tendency is to point the finger outward and blame all the losers for falling short. Or worse, to question one’s own worth and settle for less than because you think you are less than.

What it really always boils down to? What you attract is what you think you are worth. The quality of love you have for YOU sets the limit for the level of love you attract.

When I had my breakthrough moment and finally hit the mat, realizing I’d turned my back on the very person I’d be spending the rest of my life with (me); when I once and for all decided that loving ME would be a priority for the rest of this human experience, everything changed.

Because my vibration shifted, it changed what I attracted.

My love-tank filled and I had plenty to give away.

Now I am a walking, oozing, cream filled donut of love. If you’re waiting on me at the Publix, I’m gonna compliment your eyelashes. When you’re walking your dog, I will ask if I can lavish it with belly rubs. Don’t even get me started about close friends and family.

Let’s just say my biggest fantasies involve coming up with new ways to lavishly douse them with love. And the fun part about being generous with love is that you never run out. As one of the lines in a one-hit wonder song by New Radicals goes:

“Don’t give up

You’ve got a reason to live

Can’t forget

We only get what we give”

So whaddya want? You only get what you give.

And I want TONS more love, don’t you?

Here are my thoughts on LOVE and a brand new WOW (Word of the Weeks) for us to chew on:

https://youtu.be/7ini8ko_8WA

Ooooooooh…I love how communication builds off of love. If you love something, SAY it! If you love someone, TELL them. Don’t be stingy. Let’s be lavishly loving!

Let your love flow (and watch it flow right back to you.)

Love,
Brenda

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Digging Out of a Self-Dug Hole

It was a deep, dark hole.

And I dug it. (And not in a good, 70’s “groovy” kind of way.)

Since we are the CEO’s of our own lives, we dig the holes we choose to dive into.

This week’s video talks about the particular hole I dug, so I’m not going to re-hash that, but let’s spend a minute going over how to emerge from those self-imposed ditches!

First things first, stop beating yourself up for having “done it again.” You were on a high-flying disc, you felt unstoppable, you were bathed in positivity – then BAM, you got sucker punched by a thought.

It was a nagging thought; it could have been swatted away like a mosquito, but instead, you played with it.

You entertained it.

In the workshops I teach, I use the example of a known criminal showing up at your door. Would you let them in? Further, would you brew a pot of coffee and open up the guest room?

NEVER!

We should treat negative thoughts; hurtful self-talk and shame-filled internal accusations with the same vehemence.

However, when we fail to kick them to the curb quickly, they do gain momentum. And their companion playmates then join in to sling some mud. Next thing you know, you have full-on anxiety, depression, the blahs and the blues.

The worst thing you can do is kick yourself when you’re down.

No! Be extra nice to yourself. Don’t dwell on the hole; think of a better-feeling thought – perhaps completely off-topic. Like that your favorite niece just got engaged – or that there’s a whole pint of Ben and Jerry’s in the freezer with your name on it. Count some blessings. You have a roof over your head, or friends that care about you. A job that pays the bills and a sunset you can catch if you look out the window.

If that doesn’t work, take a nap. Going to sleep will hit the re-set button on your mood.

Seeking those better- feeling thoughts and entertaining THEM will elevate you from the hole, and soon you’ll be back to your tuned in, tapped in, turned on self.

Yes, you are hearing my favorite Esther Hicks phrases in this post, and for good reason.

They work!

I bet you’ll laugh when you hear what nagging thought began MY personal hole since the last time we visited. How lovely to laugh at what had previously stung!

https://youtu.be/FOQmkjf-4As

Don’t you just LOVE our new Word of the Week?

xoxoxo

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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Being Present is a Present

It’s challenging to remain PRESENT when the phone attached to me at all times pings with alerts, updates and breaking news.

My goal has been to disengage from electronics and really BE with the people in my space.

Enter Elvira.

Actually, I have peacefully coexisted with this lovely woman for my almost two years at Cityside; have ridden countless elevators with her and her husband and even exchanged odd pleasantries*, yet never knew her name. (*Elvira has been known to blurt, “How do you wear a bra with that?” or other off-putting questions to literal strangers…like me.)

I never knew her name because I never asked.

Always headed to a meeting, to beat a deadline, or simply to get dinner underway, I rarely stopped to truly TALK to this woman.

But now that I am soon leaving Cityside and the Word of the Weeks, PRESENCE, has been knocking at my heart, I let our most recent chance meeting evolve into an actual conversation.

Elvira speaks like a Russian princess. Her husband, appropriately named Boris, remains at her side with a lovely little terrier-type dog at his feet. They have settled into the ease of older age and enjoy apartment living, the Saturday brunches where the entire complex gathers and even attend all of the wellness sessions hosted here.

Which included one taught by me, “Raise Your Vibe at Cityside.

I expected the millenials and my vibe-conscious contemporaries to be present, but the first to grab seats were Elvira and Boris.

These 80-somethings came prepared to take notes, nodded throughout the presentation and asked great questions afterward. None, thankfully, about wearing a bra.

When we met in the elevator this past week, I mentioned that come Memorial Day Weekend I’d be moving out. When she learned that Mark and I had purchased a home she exclaimed in her gutteral accent, “Goot! You young people need space!”

I would love her forever for referring to us, 55 and 59, as young.

She and Boris had been quite accomplished in her home country, but coming to America, she was only able to clean houses. I don’t know what they ended up doing for their livelihoods, but it turned out great for them. They live well; their children come to visit and they go to visit them. I hear her hearty laugh and Boris’ quiet and supportive presence is always felt. Their dog adores them.

They are examples of a life lived well.

I wonder who you may pass by every day, yet never stop for a little chat.

If you allow yourself to be present, they might touch your heart, like Elvira did mine.

Now put that cell phone down for my closing thoughts on PRESENCE and the new WOW!:

https://youtu.be/CRqsH71cBi4

Oh, darlings! What adventures will we find these next two weeks???

I will be in Santorini, Greece and will MISS – for the first time ever – issuing a new WOW on April 28th. This little hiatus will continue until I come back in May for a Mother’s Day post on Sunday, May 12th. Almost a whole month of ADVENTURING!

Have fun, everyone!

Love,
Brenda

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Blessed Are the Tenderhearted

I’m talking to YOU, tenderhearted people. The tough, cranky, hardened ones don’t usually saddle up to my posts.

They find them annoying. I get it!

When I’m grumpy, feeling negative, pinched off from love and entertaining crappy thoughts, the opposite irritates.

Fortunately, I’ve trained myself to stay in the lane of good feeling thoughts, so when I step out of alignment, it feels like Spanx two sizes too small.

So back to YOU, tenderhearted people. You’ve decided that despite the knocks life brought your way, you’d roll with those punches. Instead of beating up on yourself and others for perceived failures, you overlooked them, choosing love.

You’re on your way to being one of those sweet people who just emanate the comfort of warm sugar cookies fresh out of the oven. Your presence makes those you encounter feel safe – and a little bit better than before you walked into the room.

Judgement isn’t even IN your wheelhouse. You understand that every person’s journey is different, and until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, their walk is between them and them.

I love you, tenderhearted people. You make this world lovely.

I met a tenderhearted person last week. Her name is Joanna Sanders, Municipal Clerk for the City of Port Townsend. She hired me to give the keynote at the Washington Municipal Clerks Association’s Annual Conference in Blaine, Washington (just across the Puget Sound from Vancouver.)

You know I love any opportunity to encourage people, and I was pumped and ready to go (it helped that they blared Aretha Franklin from the speakers prior to the start of the Conference.)

Prior to my introduction, though, was an invocation. And instead of a prayer, Joanna offered this reading from the play “The Time of Your Life” by William Saroyan. It touched me deeply, and I want to share it here with you:

“In the time of your life, live

so that in that good time there shall be no ugliness or death for yourself  or for any life your life touches.

Seek goodness everywhere, and when it is found, bring it out of its hiding place and let it be free and unashamed.

Place in matter and in flesh the least of the values, for these are the things that hold death and must pass away.

Discover in all things that which shines and is beyond corruption.

Encourage virtue in whatever heart it may have been driven into secrecy and sorrow by the shame and terror of the world.

Ignore the obvious, for it is unworthy of the clear eye and the kindly heart.

Be the inferior of no man, or of any men be superior.

Remember that every man is a variation of yourself.

No man’s guilt is not yours, nor is any man’s innocence a thing apart.

Despise evil and ungodliness, but not men of ungodliness or evil.

These, understand.

Have no shame in being kindly and gentle but if the time comes in the time of your life to kill, kill and have no regret.

In the time of your life, live

so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world,                                               but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it.”


― William Saroyan, The Time Of Your Life

Only a tenderhearted person could choose such a meaningful, deep reading to open a conference. This invitation to LIVE was embraced by the crowd.

I wonder if, like me, any of the others brushed away a tear from their eyes?

The tenderhearted ones, I am sure, were a teeny bit choked up.

It struck me that we each have a choice to LIVE, NOW.

Life is precious – and fleeting.

Blessed are the tenderhearted, for they can feel – and let love IN.

More on tenderness and being in the NOW:

https://youtu.be/Dzffqn5X94U

Ah, distraction! It is a thief that steals time; robbing us of connection.

May you steal no more these next two weeks!

xoxoxox

Brenda

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