Tag Archives: kindness

Will the True Brenda Please Stand Up? (and the New WOW)

In my recent Toastmasters speech, “Dance Like No One’s Watching,” I referred to the 80’s as my heyday of dance while acknowledging that my persona wasn’t a true reflection of Brenda.

The decade, for me, was all about image. Sky-high hair that defied gravity (thank you, Aqua Net) and four-inch Candies’ spike heels made me feel invincible when I entered the club. Combined with three layers of makeup and pronounced charcoal black-smudged raccoon eyes, I perfected my Philly tough-girl persona.

I wanted to look tough.

The victim of vicious bullying throughout my high school years, my reinvention intended to keep away those who would dare tread on my heart.

A dark haired Madonna, I looked like the Material Girl.

In truth, I was Like a Virgin.

The disconnect between that sassy chick on the dance floor, and the word-nerd, old-fashioned girl at my core led to a multitude of brief and failed romances.

The guys at the club dug the unattainable disco queen, but when the lights came on, they soon realized she was the kind of girl you take home to Mom. And skedaddled to the next conquest.

All those years of wishing and hoping someone would fall in love with the true ME, it never occurred to me to…well, BE me.

An exhausting and destructive pattern had been established.  I went from the club girl Madonna to the church girl (aka Joyce Meyers or fill in your favorite Tammy Faye-ish) preacher.

DISCLAIMER: This is not to say I wasn’t sincere in my ministry, because I was. But the church became yet another stage on which to perform.  Because of its toxic nature, on the rare occasions that I dared to allow my true self to emerge, the leaders brutally punished/counseled/scolded me.

Oh, and then I got married.

I think back to my wedding day and am so grateful that it happened.  I always wanted the handsome man at the end of the aisle; a church full of people applauding my dream come true; the dance party scripted to my specifications.

I loved my wedding day.

Because of the toxic and backwards nature of the church, though, I rarely had alone time with my husband prior to the wedding.  He often joked that our first “date” was the night we got engaged.  And it wasn’t a joke.

We were two strangers who were crazy about each other and thought that would be enough to make it work.

And, to do so, I did what I do (or did) best.  I performed the hell out of it.

A life-changing trip with my girlfriends in 2016 (and a mini-breakdown from emotional exhaustion – performing sucks the life out of you!) revealed that I was burning myself out while trying to be who everyone wanted me to be.

In the process, I had lost ME.

Mind you, if my performance-based approach to life had been working for me, I would have kept it up.  It took 50+ years for me to realize that no matter how beautifully I performed, it didn’t make anyone else truly happy.  

Least of all, me.

What follows is a bit vulgar and not language I normally use in my writings. To those who might be offended, I apologize in advance.

Concurrently, I’m not apologizing for using this photo. Because this is part of the TRUE me! I find this to be funny!:

I remember seeing this card and laughing out loud.

It’s true.  Not so much the “F word” part, but the things I say and do today are far different from Brenda 1.0.

Discovering the true me – and the true you – is the quest of a lifetime. It takes honesty, bravery, and huge doses of unconditional self-love. 

But this is my one shot to be Brenda Viola. For the first time since my early 20’s I finally have given myself permission to be her.

I hope you like her, but if you don’t, that’s okay too.

Sometimes I don’t like her!

But I always love her.  And I hope you love the true YOU, too.

Parting thoughts on AUTHENTICITY and the new WOW, coming up!:

What a beautiful word to embrace this week!

Be KIND to you and others.

We can never have too much of that, can we?

xoxoxoxox

Brenda

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A Close Encounter with Compassion (and the New WOW)

Isn’t it true that compassion is best appreciated when you need it most?

Like when you screw up.

I’m a cross your t’s and dot your i’s kind of person, so discovering that my best laid travel plans  were utterly flawed this week left me flummoxed.

I was already operating on a deficit of sleep. A late dinner with my dear friends Roseann and Mike to celebrate our last night in Montreal resulted in just four hours of sleep before I had to hop in a taxi for the airport.

Just one agent manned the desk at 5:30 AM, and I observed him patiently handling the travelers in line ahead of me.

When  finally my turn, I observed his name tag and said, “Good morning, Joe!  I hope you can help. I need my connecting flight to now be my final destination.”

In my mind, it was a simple matter.  Already booked from Montreal to Charlotte; no new flight was required. I just needed my bag to deplane, too (and not travel to Sarasota.)

Joe looked at me and said, “You realize we need to completely re-ticket your flight?”

No, I didn’t realize.

And it would be costly.

I looked up at tall, handsome, kind, smiling Joe with my bleary red eyes from a scant four hours of sleep and said,  “Oh my.”

And my intended destination wasn’t even Charlotte; it was Chicago.

You’re thinking exactly as I was; perhaps we could get me on a flight from Montreal to Chicago!  Problem solved!

Absolutely…for $700+ dollars.

Thoughts of renting a car and driving the 13 hours to Chicago flashed through my mind.  I imagined getting to Chicago on my originally booked flight – without my bag and the need to shop for the essentials to help me survive the next two days.

My crestfallen face and deer in the headlights paralysis tripped a compassion switch in Joe.

Click, click, click click click.  More clicking.  A brief consultation with his manager.

What was Joe up to?

A boarding pass, non-stop to Chicago from Montreal spit through the printer.

No, it wasn’t free, but it surely wasn’t $700 dollars.  It was less than $200 – and that was a pill I could swallow without too much bitterness.

In an era when poor airline service goes viral and it seems that most carriers need a crash course in customer service, my encounter with Joe affirmed the goodness of people who stick their necks out to help a stranger in need.  Joe would have been perfectly within the confines of the employee manual to require strict adherence to a complete re-booking.

Ah, but Instead, he followed his heart and had compassion on me.

Here’s to you, Joe!  You not only gave me a great story about compassion, but your actions put a smile on my face as I wait these five hours for my new flight to Chicago.

Let’s move onward to new adventures and the new Word of the Week (but first some closing thoughts on Compassion)!:

It’s not over.  Nope.

Yes, you may fall, but you can keep getting back up.

They call it failing forward; every bump in the road teaches you something to prepare you for the next step.

You are STRONG.  You are RESILIENT.

Just look at how many times in your life you seemed down for the count, only to bounce back and rise higher as a result.

Be encouraged, my friends.

Let resilience win this week!

xoxoxoxo

Brenda

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A Season for Gratitude (and the New WOW)

I’m grateful.  And gratitude is my (and our superpower.)

In a week when so many people were up in arms (on both sides of the political fence) I was reminded of my puppy dog…my husband…my family…my friends…my job…my health…my home…the sun…the bright moon…the taste of strong coffee…the pleasures of a good book…my three years of sobriety…and oh, the list goes on.

This is not to deny anyone’s right to be angry or upset.  It’s just that in this brief experience called life, I want to drink in and exhale joy.

There have been many times in my life when I have felt real despair. But the sun has eventually shined once again and when I look over my shoulder, I realize with gratitude that what didn’t kill me made me stronger.  And more empathetic.  And kinder.

And that’s what I want.  To be better, not bitter.

Which is why I was so delighted to receive this week’s new WOW:

com·pas·sion
kəmˈpaSHən/
noun
noun: compassion; plural noun: compassions
  1. sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.
    synonyms: pity, sympathy, empathy, fellow feeling, care, concern, solicitude, sensitivity, warmth,love, tenderness, mercy, leniency, tolerance, kindness, humanity, charity

    “have you no compassion for a fellow human being?”
    antonyms: indifference, cruelty

    This week, try a little tenderness.  With others…and with yourself.

    And count your blessings.  It will comfort your heart.

    xoxoxoxo

    Brenda

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Try a Little Tenderness (and the New WOW)

When I dipped into the bag and selected this week’s WOW, it warmed my heart.

I hope it does the same for you.  Some parting thoughts on HARMONY, first:

Everyday kindnesses often get overlooked, but they are the WD-40 that makes life’s challenges a bit less irritating and problems less, well, squeakier.

Kindness is a tenderizer.  Use lavishly!

It doesn’t take much to make a difference in someone’s day. Like when my neighbor saw me out letting Shasta do her business and she walked over and said, when I saw this, I thought of you.  (It was a little peacock magnet with the phrase “Always Dream Big.”)

She GETS me.

Don’t you just love when people GET you?

Maybe you’ve read those books about love languages, and so for me, generosity (and presents!) is a biggie for me.  That’s probably why I link kindness with generosity.  I tip big. I love orchestrating presents and surprises for people. I live for little clues about what the people I love might like and then seek them out with laser focus.

KINDNESS FEELS GOOD.

When you give it AND when you receive it.

When I’m having a bad day, I sometimes say “Take THAT!” to the negative energy and do something that pokes a hole in the universe.

Like paying for someone’s manicure or their cup of coffee.

Now YOUR thing may not be MY thing, and that’s great. My Aunt Joan bakes and cooks and makes peoples’ days.  My mom’s ricotta cookies are her random acts of kindness.  My sister will whip up a work of art from a quote you said you liked because art flows out of her like a waterfall.

Let’s spread our special sauce on the world this week (at least our little corner of it) and spread some KINDNESS.

Hugs!
Brenda

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Compassion at the Tax Office (and the New WOW)

Who’d have thought the nicest little display of COMPASSION (our Word of the Week) would show up at the Tax Office???

When I moved to Florida, one of the first things on the “to do” list was to obtain a new driver’s license.

I have a fairly happy history of Pennsylvania license experiences; creating enough rapport with the DMV worker was always a key.  In turn, they would often cut me some slack and allow me to take multiple photos until I was happy with one.

Yes, I am that vain. I admit and own it.

Unfortunately, when we went to the Florida municipal office in downtown Sarasota, I had two strikes against me:

1. The clerk made clear I would have a maximum of two shots

2. Duane was with me, making sure I didn’t try for more

In Duane’s view, it’s just a stupid driver’s license. It’s not a #$%@* portrait! (He shares this sentiment about Facebook posts, too, not understanding why we have to shoot 40 photos to get “the one” that meets with my approval.)

We also had a limited amount of time, so I sucked it up and posed.

Take one: Horrible.

Take two: Something shifted in the universe and I was captured with a particularly awful “deer in the headlights” look (instead of my traditional smile).  Worse, the angle provided a 3-D view of my double chin.

And THIS was the keeper.

Every time I checked in at the airport; every presentation of my license at the TSA; each and every banking transaction that required the dreaded license review was accompanied by my un-solicited apology, “I know; it’s a terrible photo.”

As if anyone gave a hoot about my license photo!

I couldn’t help myself.  It was a compulsion; a fixation; this was not ME!  This photo was going to walk around with me for YEARS to come and I didn’t LIKE that person in the photo!

It’s been almost two years, and I never made peace with my license.  It was always there, a constant reminder of a bad moment frozen in time.

I know, some of you are thinking, “Why not just go and get another one?”  My life is just so busy during the day I rarely have time to go out during business hours.  The office was a good half-hour away; I knew I’d only get two shots again and while I owned my vanity, I didn’t want to fully give in to it and pay for another license when it absolutely wasn’t necessary.

Until I lost it.  (My license, that is.)

On my recent trip home from Omaha, Nebraska, as I collected my baggage and waited for Duane to pick me up, I couldn’t find it.

THIS was the excuse I’d been looking for!  A mulligan!  A do-over!  Hooray!

Turns out, in Florida, if you can find a Tax Collector’s office, you can get a replacement license there.  Unsure of the other requirements, I decided to stop by on my lunch break and find out some particulars.

The kind woman at the counter said, “We can do this right now…”

I mentally assessed my hair-in-a-clippie, perspiring brow and workout clothes and was going to take a pass but she was SO nice and there was NO line…

I agreed.  And did hear the dreaded, “We can take two shots and see which you like best.”

I thought to myself, “Honey, at 52, I need a full portfolio, makeup and lighting and some Photoshop to boot…” Keeping commentary to myself, I fluffed a bit in the mirror and trekked to the back of the room, where they do the deed.  Flash!

She yelled across the room, “Good one!”

I think, “I’ll be the judge of that, sister…”

HORRIBLE.  JUST TERRIBLE.  Like Phyllis Diller met Broomhilda in an edition of the National Enquirer’s “Stars Without Makeup.”

A little more powder, some eyeliner, and FLASH!

“Another good one!”

HAH!  My hair-in-a-clippie do resulted in my naturally round face taking on bowling ball proportions.

Oh no…would this be IT???

I sheepishly walked back to the clerk, spilling out the story of how much I HATED my old photo…

…which she could see, right there on her screen.

She agreed.  That was one BAD shot.

Compassion filled her eyes and she said, “Look, no one else is here.  We can keep taking them until you find one you like.”

I wanted to leap over the counter and squeeze her in a bear hug.  She was my new best friend.

The Tax Collector version of “America’s Next Top Model” began.

“Tilt your head down…open your eyes more…smile!…no, not that much.”

All we needed was Lady Gaga playing in the background and wind machines to give me that fierce Beyonce look.

Fortunately, I always haul a host of hair and makeup products, so I was PREPARED.

Six shots later, clippie removed and hair flowing around my bowling-ball face, we nailed it.

We high-fived!  We celebrated!  I wrote a glowing review of her government service!  And I’ve been showing my license to EVERYONE!  (Even people who don’t ask.)

COMPASSION sets you free.

It was a small thing, but it meant A LOT to me. She didn’t have to be so kind, but she was.

Yes, it was a week to show compassion…but how glad I was that it was extended to ME.

For more thoughts on last week’s WOW (and the new one), here we go!

Anyway…Yay!  What song do YOU feel like breaking out into?

“We are family…I’ve got all my sistahs with me!”

Or maybe the theme from Friends:  “I’ll be there for you-oooo…”

Sly and the Family Stone’s “It’s a family affair…”

Who jumps to YOUR mind when you think of the new Word of the Week?

Don’t forget to draw from your posse this week.

HUGS!

Brenda

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Choosing to See the Light (and the New WOW)

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Can I wallpaper my office with this saying?  LIGHT has been our Word of the Week, and when I read this it jolted me.

Oh, the people I love most are those who treat me as if all I am is good. They’re not stupid; I’m sure they see my flaws – but they choose instead to focus on the best of me.

Which makes me want to BE that best version of Brenda.

What a challenge it is to, instead of judging, to view every person we encounter through the lens of love…and then to treat them accordingly. That is my lifelong prayer.

Do you know someone like that?  Thank them today for being the friend who whisks away our ugly parts with “the breath of kindness…”

And now, parting thoughts on LIGHT and our new WOW!

It’s sometimes so nice to JUST SAY IT.  Not to dance around a thing but to be clear and candid…

The challenge, however, is for our honesty to be filtered through kindness.  Dumping our truth on someone can sometimes make matters worse.

That’s why I always fall back on this one scripture:  Pray for a DOOR to speak the truth in love.

(That’s a mashup of Colossians 4:3 and Ephesians 4:15 if it wasn’t ringing any of your bells.)

A door is an opening.  Pray for an opening.  (And I usually add, “And make it CLEAR, Lord!)

A brick wall is not an opening and requires a jackhammer to penetrate.  And a hard hat (or head), if the work shoe fits.

When I ABSOLUTELY MUST SAY IT is exactly when I just need to swallow it and let it marinate in love a bit more.

Whether our Word of the Week plays out in being honest with ourselves or with others, let’s honesty our policy this week.

May it be a great one!

xoxoox

Brenda

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Goosebumps and the New WOW (2.28.16)

Last week’s WOW was PRESENCE, and this time around I was focusing on the fact that I’m never alone.  This realization is often accompanied by the presence of goosebumps.

Whether you call that Presence God, or the Universe, the Holy Spirit or Energy…you’ve felt it.

When you’ve been encountered by pure acceptance and love, ka-ching – that’s it!

When the sunset takes your breath away or a baby’s little hand curls around your finger…

…these are all goosebump worthy in my estimation.

This past week, did you see that clip from Undercover Boss? Where the woman (she’s so awesome) tells her new co-worker not to feel down…and to keep moving forward (then reveals that she leaves work to go to the homeless shelter where she and her three children have been living.)

I can’t do it justice, you just have to watch it. And get your tissues ready.

Sometimes in tears or the expression of true emotion, I experience the Presence. Like when Kelly Clarkson sang this week on American Idol.

When I speak or write about the Presence of God, I see a sharp drop in “likes” on Facebook. My thought is that it brings back memories or thoughts of religion that didn’t work for you and you don’t believe in anymore. I get it!

It’s also revealing that when I post a video of the Gulf of Mexico at sunset or a bunny eating a carrot with its nose wiggling, the likes go through the roof.

And it delights me. Because these, too, are a celebration of life and love and light and all that is Good.

Anything I experience that is Good, I attribute to my understanding of God.  I find such comfort in feeling that connection.

So while I will always cherish the goosebumps, it’s time for a new Word of the Week (with a few parting thoughts on the word Presence…)

For those of you at a crossroads, at a huge decision juncture, preparing to embark on a business venture or a love affair…or even if it is as small as “should I take that umbrella with me?” – may we all have heightened discernment this week.

And if you can’t yield it;  if it’s full of angst and bad energy – flush it.

That’s not the wisdom that should win your vote.

And when in doubt, don’t.

Have a wonderful week!

xoxoxox

Brenda

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Creatively Losing 30 Lbs & the Word of the Week!

Lacking the artistry of craft-makers or the ability to whip up a gourmet meal, I was challenged this week to live out “CREATIVITY” in my own special way.  It  involved creatively addressing  those 30 stubborn pounds, two glass jars and a new take on the age-old weight issue:

Ahhhhhhhhhh….breathe that in.

COMPASSION.

Toward ourselves and toward others.

Here’s the definition:  A feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. 

Synonyms include empathy, care, concern, sensitivity, warmth, love, tenderness, mercy, leniency, tolerance, kindness, humanity, charity.

Those are all some of my most favorite words!

Who springs to mind when you read that list?

I bet they are universally beloved, because people who are compassionate are irresistible. They don’t waste their time judging other people, so you know you’re safe when your back is turned.

And they are action takers!  When they see a stray, they’ll take ’em in (four or two-legged.) If you’re crying, they are right there with the box of tissues and plans to take you to lunch.  They easily see from another’s point of view, and embody:

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

Even you.

I had a conversation this week with the most beautiful person, inside and out.  She’d give anyone the shirt off of her back, she is amazingly talented, a model friend and mother.  The list could go on and on…

…but she was beating herself up for having an “off moment” – a brief attack of selfishness and insecurity.

Puh-lease!

We’re all entitled to a bad day, let alone moment.  Let’s not make matters worse by kicking ourselves when we’re down!

Like the song says, “Try a little tenderness…”

Makes me feel all snuggly.  How about you?

xoxoxo

Brenda

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