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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You’re Telling Me To RELAX?

RELAX???

When your word of the week says, “Relax!” and the world as you’ve known it becomes completely upended, it’s like a bad joke.

You want me to relax when I can’t leave the house?

It’s a bit counterintuitive. You’d think not being able to leave the house; not fulfilling obligations; not even being able to go to the gym would offer abundant opportunities to relax, right?

Ah…but relaxation is a mindset.

I wish I could uninstall my rampant thoughts as easily as a computer USB.

Remembering that every fearful thought begins with “What if?” has helped me to stop negative momentum.

And, if the thoughts we are thinking don’t feel good? Stop milking them.

Further, if the news we listen to heightens our anxiety? Power down that device.

I’m not suggesting to stick our heads in the sand. But I am saying as the CEO of our lives, we need to (more than ever) listen to our internal, emotional gauges. When we feel information overload, take a step back.

Wash your hands.

Then watch something funny or play catch with the dog.

Social distancing needs to be offset by healthy doses of laughter, virtual connection, and generosity.

Rather than focusing on lack, I’ve been considering how I can give. And some of you have been inspiring me greatly!

My friend, the amazingly talented John Russo, has been crooning on Facebook live. What a joy! (I’d pay to subscribe, John, if you had that option…)

The Main Line’s Martha Stewart, Pat Nogar, does live cooking demonstrations on her page (seasoned with big doses of inspiration.)

And I considered, “What can I do?”

Ages ago I bought a software subscription to offer live webinars and it collected dust because of my busy life. Plus, my favorite thing to do is to speak live and in person!

But who’s doing that now?

Crickets.

However, behind my desire to encourage groups in person is not what I’m paid to do, but what I’m made to do.

And that is to be an uplifter.

Nothing else makes me feel more alive. So I’m hosting my first virtual book club webinar on Friday, March 27th at Noon. Pat Nogar is co-hosting with me, it’s free, and will focus on one of the chapters of The Public Servants’ Survival Guide: REST.

We’ll be chatting about how REST is more than getting a good night’s sleep, and that those who master resting in peace have become adept at sidestepping drama. Please register by clicking here.

(Breaking news: There’s always drama. Always will be! )

Long after this pandemic is a memory, there will be drama among in-laws, frenemies, cubicle-sharers, and the real housewives of any community.

I read where the Spanish Flu in 1918 resulted in 50-100 million deaths, but also ushered in a wave of unprecedented self-reflection and personal growth among the populace. King Lear was written when Shakespeare was quarantined during the plague!

What beauty will come from these ashes? Let’s find it together.

And boy, the cards don’t lie. Wait’ll you hear what the new Word of the Weeks is!:

https://youtu.be/qIfqEX-sru0

Stay healthy. Know you are loved. And I hope to be with you next Friday!

xoxoxo

Brenda

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Perspective and the Passage of Time

The passage of time offers clarity of perspective unimaginable when in the thick of distress.

This past week, I enjoyed a full circle experience and could savor with glee what once had been completely unsavory. More like gut-wrenching and heartbreaking.

In fact, if you looked at my life as if it were a stock market chart, the particular juncture I revisited would have equaled my greatest crash.

Ah…but the passage of time offers the gift of perspective. 

It’s not the time itself that heals all wounds, but what you DO with the time.

In a whirlwind of excitement, I’d beat out thousands to win a slot as one of QVC’s original show hosts. I moved from New Jersey to West Chester, PA, signed a lease for a new apartment, and settled in to be the star I knew I was born to be. Heady stuff for a twentysomething who’d been making $75 a week as a reporter for a local cable TV news show.

Then, out of nowhere (and after three months of being put on a diet, having my hair shorn so tight it looked like a boy cut, and my wardrobe dissected) I was unceremoniously laid off.

A moment that so sucker punched me, I burst into tears and begged them to at least give me a position in the control room. I had bills to pay!

They declined.

Determined to not go home with my tail between my legs, I did the only thing I knew how to do to survive.

I waited tables.

It was the breakfast/lunch shift at the Penn’s Table Diner in West Chester. Bleary eyed and dejected, each morning I arrived at 5 AM to fresh-squeeze the orange juice and try to remain sunny-side up when my life was so scrambled.

At the end of each shift, covered in syrup stains, I converted my dollar tips and change into larger bills to ensure I could keep my apartment for one more month.

My ego had taken a huge hit. My perspective at that point in time? Brenda, you’re a failure. One week I hosted a show reaching ten million viewers. The next, burning my hands on hot plates and only noticed when late providing coffee refills.

Still, it served as a testament to my resilience; to my desire to survive independently. Those nearly eight months sustained me until, finally, a position in communications was once again secured.

And, after 30 years, life brought me full circle.

This week, in town for a work conference in…you guessed it, West Chester, PA, I revisited the Penn’s Table Diner. As I sat at the counter with 30 years of life experience since my last visit. I savored my new perspective, sipping a steaming cup of coffee and waiting for my omelet to arrive. Tears of appreciation welled up in my eyes.

The night prior, at our annual awards dinner, to my shock and surprise, a table covered in copies of The Public Servants’ Survival Guide awaited me.

Steve and Renee Kantor, the best owners a company could ever have (and the best friends you could ever hope for) read the book and felt everyone in the Company would benefit from the keys it contains to restore joy in work and life. I spent the end of the evening signing books – a dream come true – and my heart warmed by their genuine and generous display of support.

Sitting at the same counter I had once served, I thought about the dreams of 27 year old me. Dreams that seemed so elusive in the midst of rejection and humiliation.

Oh, if I could have whispered in her ear, “Just you wait. It’s going to get so much better. And you will be so much better for the experiences that await you.”

For writers, it’s all material!

Some subplots we never would have chosen, but these experiences chipped away and sculpted the people we are today.

Of course, I left a lavish tip.

And wondered what dreams my waitress harbored.

If you are in a squeezing the OJ at 5 AM juncture in your life, I encourage you to hang in there. Keep believing, and whisper in your own ear, “Hang in there. The good part is coming.”

https://youtu.be/ak__tchFV94

To celebrating in advance! And whispering to our own hearts, “Your dreams have all come true.”

Love,

Brenda

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A Healing Vibe at…the Post Office?

It’s the wonderful time for a healing vibe…because it is especially a time of year when many people hurt.

The holidays can bring out the best in us. Opportunities to be generous abound! Honoring traditions and watching Clarissa bat her long eyelashes and sing “There’s Always Tomorrow” to Rudolph always warms my heart.

Alternately, there’s the snowbird going 10 mph in the passing lane that evokes a middle finger as you race to an appointment.

Where did all that anger come from?

When I’m honest, it’s the un-dealt with anger; the rolled eyes and swallowed retorts from a series of days in a row that explode at the first opportunity. Usually in the car, because it is “alone” time and the outburst is between me and me.

In the car we can find ourselves crying at the most inopportune times. Like at a red light when an old Christmas song brings back a memory, and the driver parallel to you stares at the display of tears.

This time of year, I say “let them flow, let them flow, let them flow.”

Tears can be a healing flow. And we must honor our feelings and feel them to ultimately get to clarity.

And then, sometimes, out of nowhere, your faith in humanity is restored…and you didn’t even know it was depleted.

It happened to me at the post office this past week, as I loaded up the car like the Beverly Hillbillies with eighteen boxes of raisin bread.

I parked and, three boxes in hand, made my way to the already long line of Christmas present-sending patrons. I asked the person at the back if my three boxes could hold my place while I made five more trips.

The outpouring of Christmas spirit was palpable. All of a sudden, I had elves coming out of the woodwork to help me unload the car. And move them all forward as the line progressed!

I felt badly for the unlucky postal worker who drew my number. Eighteen boxes would surely be a time drain for her.

Instead, her good humor and interest in my mom-mom’s raisin bread tradition made the time fly. She invited me back on the Saturday before Christmas, when they have a violin player working the lobby with holiday songs.

The healing vibe at this USPS outpost almost made me WANT to go back!

It is the Sunday before Christmas and so many people are harried, broke, lonely, tired, or otherwise verklempt.

Let’s bring a healing vibe wherever we go – even the post office – and sprinkle some holiday magic along the way.

Here are my parting thoughts on healing:

https://youtu.be/lp32Td_AMGQ

Wishing you and yours the merriest! And the happiest! Ever.

xoxoxo

Brenda

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Are You Open or Closed to Good Stuff?

The opposite of open is closed.

We might never view ourselves as those who are closed off to blessings. But sometimes self-defeating behaviors are so habitual, we don’t even realize we’re pinching ourselves off from good stuff.

Like deflecting when a compliment comes our way.

Or feeling despondent when comparing our progress against another person’s.

We see the dark clouds so predominantly, we can fail to see the silver linings.

There is a false drumbeat that drives us to focus on what’s wrong, as if worrying makes us worthy of good. This could be the last vestiges of religion or our cultural upbringing.

As if beating ourselves up when we fail is proof that we mean well.

(And to whom are we trying to prove that we mean well. Ourselves?)

Hyper-focusing on where we think we fall short is a faulty, preemptive strike to forestall the pain of others noticing our lack. Especially silly since most are too busy looking at their own to be bothered with ours!

Such a hefty price-tag we impose upon our imperfections! And all the while, grace and mercy and kindness and love surround us.

Just waiting for us to give ourselves a break and open our hearts.

And let the sunshine in.

Some thoughts on being open…and being closed…in this week’s video:

https://youtu.be/5hjkL84RyG8

I hope the thoughts you think these next two weeks are healing ones. As the scriptures say, “Thought of peace and not of evil…to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

That passage refers to the way God (the Universe, Source – however you wish to call the Divine) thinks about us.

And if God thinks that way, shouldn’t we also?

In fact, the reason negative self-talk feels so horrible is because it is in direct conflict with the Almighty.

Let’s stop voting against our inner being, which always thinks thoughts of love about you.

(And everyone else, too.)

xoxoxoxo

Brenda

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Waking Up to What’s Really Important

In my teens, it was really important to date a guy with a nice car who was popular enough to help me climb the social ladder.

In my twenties, he had to also have a good job/money, as well as be able to dance well. But he didn’t stand a chance against my career ambitions, which always took precedence over love.

In my thirties, I disappeared (perhaps from disappointment over my less than successful 20’s) into the false safety of what I believed to be my holy calling. What was important was doing God’s will and learning how to abandon my own. I detached from people, places, and things – including my own thoughts and feelings.

My forties ushered in with an abrupt realization that the previous decade had largely been a sham. It became important again to have fun. To try and make up for lost time. With zeal I launched back into my lost career and tried to take as many vacations as possible. Washed down with huge quantities of red wine.

Here we now are, past my mid-fifties. How can it be?

It was just yesterday I was hoping Randy Crowell would ask me to the prom. My QVC auditions feel like they occurred last month. My wedding…and subsequent divorce. Such landmarks, now ever diminishing with each passing day.

My fifties? These years awakened me to what is really important.

When you have little, it’s easy to think that having stuff will make all the difference.

Finally being able to pay the bills on time and not overdraft my checking account used to be really important. Now it’s a non-issue, thank God.

The next evolution involved being able to buy those Jimmy Choos. Or that baby blue car of my dreams.

What did I learn?

These are momentarily joyous, like the sugar rush flooding my bloodstream after downing a creme-filled donut.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love me some creme-filled donuts. White creme, not Boston cream, for those who care about the particulars.

But the rich stuff? The really important stuff?

I have discovered the deep and satisfying joy of sitting on the couch next to someone who holds my hand.

Cracking up over a stupid meme on Facebook and sharing it with a bestie.

Taking an impromptu trip to the beach to wiggle my toes in the sand and enjoy the setting of the sun.

Rubbing my mom’s feet at the end of a long day of her doctor’s visits.

How could I have been so blind to what was really important?

Hindsight offers perspective.

For me, it boiled down to settling my own worth. When I finally did that, I no longer needed to find it in cars, or boyfriends, or career wins, or designer shoes. I no longer needed to hide from life in a flurry of activity or spiritual pursuits.

Settling into our own worthiness is the great awakening.

And now, a brand, spanking new Word of the Week:

https://youtu.be/QG1sQZMbMk8

May our eyes be open to see…what is really important.

xoxoxoxo

Brenda

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When the Universe Says, “Stop!”

My personality is more like the Energizer Bunny, so signs to stop working, moving and shaking, and cease and desist from busy-ness are often ignored.

These past few weeks, we’ve been focusing on balance, and release. These words from on high have nudged my soul. But not enough to cause me to stop the insane merry-go-round of activity that is my current life.

So, in the infinite wisdom that is greater than my own ill-advised but seemingly good intentions, I was sucker punched by the universe.

No “to-do” list is more powerful than a knockout bout with an upper respiratory infection.

It started on Sunday, when waking up felt like emerging from quicksand. But I had a plane to catch! I stared at the check-in screen, as I have many times before, and couldn’t for the life of me find my record locator. Like a child in kindergarten, I gazed at the American Airlines representative, handed over my license and said, “Please help.”

She did, thankfully. Probably wondering if I’d had a few drinks to pre-game my flight.

I still didn’t catch on that I was sick, though.

I don’t have time to be sick! I have BIG meetings over the next two days, a calendar project that is on deadline, a mom in assisted living who depends on me, and godknowswhatelse.

When I arrived at Kamp Kantor (how I refer to the the lovely home away from home when in town for work meetings), my benefactors Renee and Steve took one look at me and said, “Go to bed.”

Too feeble to argue, I did.

And awoke, feeling as if hit by a dump truck of sick.

Since the soundtrack that usually plays in my head when faced with obstacles is Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” I proceeded. Armed with a bag of Ricola cough drops and a boatload of resolve, I plowed through day one of meetings.

And promptly returned to Kamp Kantor to collapse.

The benevolent couple changed my flight to ensure that after Tuesday’s meetings, I’d go directly home.

The joy of working from home is that working sick means you won’t infect anyone else.

The challenge of working from home is that, when you should take a sick day, you still work.

Until you simply can’t anymore.

By Friday, I couldn’t ignore this nasty bug any longer. There I sat in the doctor’s waiting room for almost TWO HOURS for them to spend five minutes to prescribe me the antibiotic I needed.

Friday…Saturday…Sunday…all spent horizontal, binge-watching Downton Abbey.

It was bliss.

If not sucker-punched by sickness, I’d NEVER have taken the time to stop and simply rest.

And you know what was remarkable?

The world didn’t end. My mom was fine without me. Mark ate meals I didn’t cook. No crucial deadlines were missed. And I got to sob through the final season of Downton. Better late than never.

If you are getting signs to “stop” and instead, you keep going? You may be asking for Universe-induced break.

When it comes, enjoy it.

Now about this word RELEASE, have you ever considered changing the channel? There’s a big difference between giving up…and letting go:

https://youtu.be/GhCYEKpTazI

To our awakenings! (And our sleepings, too.)

xoxoxo
Brenda

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