Tag Archives: Surrender

Yippee – It’s Mine! Now, Let it Go (and the New WOW)

For many years I struggled with the concept of success and “getting what’s mine.”

For much of my 20’s and 30’s, I enviously observed other people achieving results, living exciting lives full of travel and material wealth and I longed for the same.

It seemed that there was a glass partition that I just couldn’t break through, keeping me from accessing life from the driver’s seat of the limo. This wasn’t a question in the back of my mind – it was in the FOREFRONT:  “Why can’t I connect the dots?  What am I missing?”

For as long as I’ve been me, I’ve wanted to live life to the fullest.  Along the way, I got sidetracked and convinced myself that I could settle into mediocrity and still be happy.

Here’s the thing: the definition of mediocre is different for everyone.  My idea of living high might be settling for you (and vice versa).

At our core, though, we know what we are capable of and what will make us fulfilled.  If we fall short, the question “Why?” is a worthy one.

One day I had my breakthrough.  The time I actually got an ANSWER to the question was on an ordinary day as I was driving home from work.

In my spirit, I heard, “You don’t really believe that there’s plenty to go around.  You believe in the idea of abundance, but not as a reality for YOU.  Do you truly believe that there is unlimited success, wealth, potential, blessing, resources available to you?  Then start acting like it.”

It clicked.

My prayer life changed.  I started THANKING God for provision.  I started EXPECTING favor.  

And my life took a major shift from scarcity to abundance – not just materially, but mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Louis Vuitton handbags showed up in the mail (thank you, Shirlee.) I became an occasional guest at the Ritz-Carlton (thanks to my fairy godmother and father – you know who you are).

Yes, kindness and generosity flowed to me from amazing people.

And I even started to manifest some of my own miracles.  Speaking engagements and freelance gigs flowed to me, including travel to places I’d always dreamed of going.

But the shining example of my new way of living life abundantly was my beautiful home in Sarasota.  I’ve told you the story before, but it always held up as a high-water mark of proof that God loved me and wanted to give me the desires of my heart.

I wanted to live there forever.  I would proclaim to anyone, “This is my dream house.  I’ll spend the rest of my life here.”

Until faced with the decision to surrender it.

There was a critical point where I had to choose:  Should I stay in the house of my dreams…or start living the LIFE of my dreams?

At my core I know that no matter how beautiful the home or breathtaking the pool and jacuzzi, I had no peace.

I once read a quote (paraphrased), “Your net worth will never be greater than your self-worth.” – Robin Sharma

Here’s a good one, too:

Once I “got” the lesson about abundance, the second round of revelation was wrapped around the question, “Would my STUFF define me?”

What we have can have US; it can lock us up in a prison (a very comfortable one, mind you), but it can suppress what should be an irrepressible spirit.

This is not to say that I have since renounced abundance.  Hell no!  Remember, I’m the girl who wore her false eyelashes to a spartan retreat in Costa Rica and who goes to the lobby of the RItz Carlton just to sniff it.  (Really, it smells divine.)

But Brenda 2.0 is not beholden to any of the trappings of this life. Yes, they can be fun and the icing on the cake…but the cake is the peace in my heart, the love I have for myself and the respect I now give my tender soul.

I speak more about this in my closing thoughts on SURRENDER:

Here is what is so amazing and cool and miraculous about our new, never before received WOW, release:  When I stood in those rushing waters in Costa Rica, I asked for a RELEASE of creativity.  I asked for my laughter to be unleashed.  (And a few other private things that also go along with this wonderful word.)

My friends, perhaps the universe is saying that on the other side of our surrender; if we’re willing to let go of what has held us captive; if we relinquish your fears and let the white flag wave on the life we THOUGHT was our dream come true – what awaits us all is RELEASE.

Woo-hoo!  I’m doing a happy dance for all of us.

So now that I’ve told you mine, please tell me about your surrenders and releases. It makes this journey together all the more wonderful to share them.

Much love,


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The Hardest (Yet Kindest) Thing I’ve Ever Done (and the New WOW)

My trip to Costa Rica was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Yes, it was purposefully planned to hit the pause button on my life and to shine a light on the deep places in my heart.

But I didn’t realize how difficult such honesty would be.

I thought leaving my church and leaving my marriage were the hardest things I’ve ever done.

But nothing prepared me for the stark reality of coming face to face with ME.

When I left my marriage, I knew that I had embarked on a new phase in my life – but by no means did I enter into a celebration of freedom.

It broke my heart to leave a man I loved – and for whom I will always have love.

Our story is not for public display; I will only share my journey in the hope that it may help you, too.

Though my life was in upheaval, my spirit was resolute: To embark on this new chapter of my life in a healthy way, a spiritual path – an awakening – was needed, and a key question cried out for an answer:

How did Brenda fall in to a toxic church relationship and jump from that into a marriage fraught with similar toxic patterns?

This answer, I believed, was needed to avoid jumping into any other alliances. And I sure didn’t want to waste any more time sleepwalking into relationships.

After many tears shed, I knew I needed help getting to the root.

Through this very blog (a reader contacted me), a path forward presented itself and was confirmed by my dear niece, Deena, and my sister, Shirlee.

There is a place in Costa Rica, the Iboga Wellness Center, that uses what Americans deem unorthodox methods to address deeply-rooted hurts.  The week-long, psycho-spiritual retreat has been purported to produce the effects of 10+ years of therapy.

People I love and respect affirmed that they were truly set free.

Freedom – and answers – were what I longed for.

I booked the trip in June and in the three months leading up to the retreat, was weaned off of Zoloft.  Iboga is an ancient medicinal root that originates in Africa, and it does not mix well with pharmaceuticals.

It fights and weeds out toxicity.  The first treatment focuses entirely on removing toxins from your body – and following that first dose I was flat on my back for an entire day.

It was hard.  This was no spa resort.  For much of the time it was me – and my bed – and a pail to catch vomit.

That first recovery day, I had severe panic attacks and considered fleeing.  There were no distractions; I was face to face with ME for yet another five days.

Midway through the journey, a river cleansing ceremony was held. Imagine Eva Gabor on Green Acres, trekking down a slippery 15 foot embankment in a pounding rain.

Just making it down to the river was a victory for my psyche. The ceremony itself was powerful – my hurts were named and seemed to wash off of me as the rain poured down. Next, my intentions and dreams were also voiced.  The river took them, too and I sensed that the current would take them to fruition.

I cried healing tears.

And was ready to go home.

My body didn’t want to face another Iboga ceremony.  I reasoned with myself: “There’s a hurricane coming; I need to get home to prepare.”  I questioned the process, “How much more can I look inward?  I’ve gotten some release – I want to get back to my soft bed.”

Yet I knew there was more, and I wasn’t about to let fear talk me out of what I traveled there for.

The second journey involves a guided meditation.

All I can say is that I came face to face with little Brenda; the child who so didn’t want to upset anyone that she kept all of her fears and hurts locked up.

I had a bird’s eye view of my soul, shrunken down and diminishing with every passing year.

I saw that because my true feelings were never expressed, they lied dormant, unfulfilled. To cope (and not upset the apple cart), I learned over the years to suppress feelings of anxiety, depression and insecurity because they were “bad.” I became adept at psyching myself up into a false optimism.

This worked for a while, and I even enjoyed some success – but the false front is not sustainable.  Eventually you crack.

The church had built on this faulty premise, teaching that feelings were bad and you couldn’t give them any credence.  It was a sin to be sad.

And my soul continued to die inside of me.

The performance that became my life – surviving the church, trying to present an image of the happy marriage – mostly, trying to present the image of a happy Brenda, nearly destroyed me.

All I wanted to do was make everyone else happy.

And I realized I couldn’t.

Happiness or not is a choice we all make individually.  No winning the lottery or taking exotic vacations can shift a person’s paradigm from dark to light.

Least of all, mine.

As the facilitator guided me back through my life, I SAW me…little me…crouched down and crying soundlessly.

I recognized her and my heart welled up with such love for her.  I held her in my arms and said over and over again, “I love you.  You matter.  I will never silence you again.”

My soul is now free to feel. Decades of feelings are now validated and by doing so, I no longer need to look to external sources for validation.

I am valid.

Am worthy.


I am whole.

If saying those words out loud to yourself is uncomfortable, I pray for your own healing.

We are destined to have a great love affair in this life…and it is with ourselves.

How can we enjoy a healthy love with anyone else until our own souls are restored?

Yes, I took drastic measures to have a drastic change in my life.

And I got what I went to Costa Rica for.

I recorded this week’s video before my trip. I look forward to what comes out of me in the future, now that I have had a major life healing.

When I feel un-moored, I am so grateful to now have practical tools to get me back to ME.

My thoughts on Kindness and the new Word of the Week….

Ah, SURRENDER. Yes, it’s uncomfortable to let go, yet so freeing to open up to something beautiful and new.

By the way, if any of you have questions about my week at the Iboga Wellness Center, please ask.  What I’ve written here is a condensed version, but there are volumes more to tell.

I wish for each of you the freedom that comes from healing the little soul on the inside so she (or he) can grow up into maturity and strength and power.

You deserve that.



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Surrendering to Love & Justin Timberlake (and the New WOW)

You know it’s going to be a fun reception when EVERYONE is surrendering to “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake BEFORE the festivities officially begin.

Such was the joyful atmosphere at the recent wedding of Colleen Viola (daughter of Roger and Kathy, Duane’s brother and sister-in-law.)

There was so much love swirling around the place you couldn’t help but SURRENDER to it…as well as to the music.  Duane was thankfully off the hook because my West Coast bestie, Kedric Hubbert, was in attendance.  Not only is he handsome and charming, he’s a great dancer who LOVES the same music I do.  If he lived near me I am sure I would be a size two from all the dancing.

Can’t resist.  Here are some sigh-worthy highlights:

It felt so good – it feels so good -to just let go, doesn’t it?

The opportunity to SURRENDER always comes with an invitation.  

Too often I just keep plugging away at my computer and decline the offer.

How about you?

I do know that in this fleeting experience that is life, it’s the times that I said yes that created the best memories.

The older I get, I realize you CAN dance like no one’s watching because…well…usually no one is!

And now, parting thoughts on SURRENDER and the new WOW:

Beware of opportunities to put your foot in your mouth this week!  (Whenever I get the word WISDOM, I use it as a yellow caution sign.)

But also, look for the insights that will make your life richer.

Love to you all!



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Strength in Weakness (and the New WOW)

My week could have been spelled WEAK – and how ironic when the WOW was STRENGTH!

Here’s the backstory:  Three weeks ago I started to have seriously bloodshot, irritated eyes that were increasingly painful to blink, impossible to place contacts in, and most upsetting to my propensity for vanity, painful to apply makeup to.

If you review LAST week’s WOW taping, you can see watery eyes (in part ’cause I was a wee bit emotional, bur primarily due to my eye affliction.)

When you don’t have to show up to an office every day, the need to look good is diminished, but an impending Viola family wedding finally gave me the urgent push to go to the eye doctor.

Dr. Sinclair said, “How have you been functioning like this?”

He had no immediate answers but got me an ASAP appointment with a specialist and charged me with this assignment: “Between now and tomorrow, try and figure out what you’ve done differently that could have affected your eyes.”

I wracked my brain. No new makeup; no new creams or potions. No new food (except for my new ‘clean eating’ and geeez, what could THAT do that would be bad?)

I was getting really upset about this unknown malady, and feeling weaker by the moment.

Then, as I was getting ready for bed and took my evening low-dose aspirin, it hit me:  Three weeks ago my regular doctor switched one of my medications.

I was so busy thinking about a topical cause I never considered an internal one.

(Hmmmm.  That’s an interesting thought for another time!)

Thanks to Google, within minutes the rare side affects of said medication jumped out on my iPad: “Can cause severe eye distress in rare cases. If you experience blurriness, redness, and irritation – what the heck are you waiting for? Get to a doctor!” (OK, I added that last part.)

What relief to finally KNOW.  And suddenly, even though my pain and circumstance had not changed, the removal of the mystery gave me STRENGTH.

Now that I know what I’m dealing with, I can beat it.

Some of you are facing physical challenges and have been for much longer than three weeks.  My brief experience with a chronic, seemingly unsolvable pain was physically, mentally and spiritually distressing – so my heart truly goes out to you.

Don’t give up.

If you’ve been trying to slug it out by yourself, seek help.  And if that help doesn’t help, seek some more.  Seek wisdom and insight.  Pray for the answer and I am believing with you that it will come.


I would prefer that joy, delight, blessings and abundance are my teachers. But when pain  – whether physical or emotional – comes, for goodness sake, I want to get SOMETHING good out of it. And I expect to – because I don’t believe God, the Universe, the Source is playing cruel games with my life.

And believing that is also a source of strength.

So how do we follow this up?  Settle in for the new WOW:

There is a connection between STRENGTH and SURRENDER, isn’t there?

I know I get worn out and WEAK when I try too hard to make stuff happen or freak out about what is beyond my control.

The beauty of trust is that it allows you to let go…and let God.

And therein lies great strength.  “In quietness and confidence will be your strength” says Isaiah 30:15.

Love to you all!


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A Visit from Mom and the New WOW for 4.3.16

Thanks to a visit from my mom, I have learned once again to SURRENDER any and all preconceived ideas of what 80 should look and act like.

First of all, she’s got so many likes and friend requests on Facebook (she doesn’t say yes to them all) there’s never a lack of people to chat with on a given day.

When we stroll through a shopping center or grab a bite to eat, SHE’S the one that turns heads. Methinks if she lived here in Florida, she’d have a host of potential boyfriends vying for her attention.

The fabulous John Russo sang to her on Friday night and I don’t think I’ve seen her smile so brightly.  He has that same effect on me.  Oh, and if 80 is the new sixty, 93 also blew my mind.

At the restaurant on Friday night, John introduced us to Shirley, a spry 93-year-old who tap danced along to his songs.

I felt young and invigorated and remembered that it’s never too late to live life fully.

Here are more thoughts on surrender, and the new WOW:

What’s crazy about this pick (and why I looked so surprised by it) was that it is ALSO the very same word selected by my company to be its quarterly theme – so I’ve been thinking a lot about clarity already.

And I’m ready for some!  How about you?

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Wake Up Calls and the New WOW (3.27.16)

It’s remarkable what experiences you can enjoy when you put your phone down and wake up to life.

Part of my approach to our WOW from last week, awakening, was to disengage from the constant use of electronics and really engage with people.

It started on the way to the Tampa airport (an hour’s drive) where I would normally compose e-mails, play Words With Friends and check Facebook.  Instead, I gave myself over to the chatter of my driver, Dick.

Dick (please don’t call him Dickie) married at 17 on July 22, 1964 (one year to the date of my birth). A few years back he drove his Harley across country, and says the first twenty years of marriage were the roughest but the last 20 have been great. He spoke in bullet points and regaled me with story after story of a life he’s still living with zest at 70+ years old.

Then, as I waited in the boarding area, a little girl was skipping around like she was hopped up on Sugar Smacks.  Next thing you know, we were chatting and it turns out it was her birthday and she was going out for sushi that night and was SOOOOOOO excited.

Waiting for me in Philly was another driver, Rich, who had baked cookies that morning and had a few waiting for me.  He’s been my shuttle driver several times in the past and we caught up like old friends.  Before I knew it, I was at my destination…

…and I couldn’t help but think how rich I felt for having had conversations.

The world didn’t stop spinning because I didn’t check my e-mails every five minutes.

Here’s more about awakening, and the new WOW:

This weekend’s trip to Philadelphia involved a black tie event in NYC with my dear, dear friends, Steve and Renee Kantor.  We enjoyed hours of conversation driving to the Big Apple and back, and I kept smiling because of how easy it is to be with people who love you unconditionally.

It’s easy to surrender in the company of such love.

I am writing this on Saturday night at my sister’s kitchen table.  Since I arrived late this afternoon, I have surrendered again to the feeling of complete comfort. Good, al dente rigatoni made by Tony, ukulele playing by my sister, memories and funny You Tube videos made for a blissful evening.

I consider how fortunate I am.

Yes, there is SO much on my to do list in the coming days…but right here, right now, I am choosing to live in the moment.  

This week, let’s surrender to the MOMENT we are in.  We’ve got grace for that (not for two days from now; we’ll have THAT when it gets here.)

Happy, happy Easter.

Much love,





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WOW – Word of the Week for 8.23.15

Oh boy did surrender play out in a special way this week!

I’ve written before about my dear friends, Steve and Renee Kantor.  Steve wanted to surprise his bride for a landmark birthday this year, and decided to fly me up to make a special guest appearance at a dinner on Thursday evening.  What a treat for ME, right?

I departed Sarasota for a quick layover in Charlotte.  Flight was delayed; no biggie.  I love sitting in airports, having random conversations with people, making babies smile, drinking Starbucks and reading magazines that have NOTHING to do with personal or professional development.

As boarding time approached, all of a sudden I heard a whoosh of murmuring – and not happy murmuring.  I look up and see in red letters on the screen, “FLIGHT CANCELLED.”  A throng rushed the US Airways counter for help and we all simultaneously called the 800 number to try and snag the next flight to Philly.

Turns out one was readying to leave in a half hour about 10 gates down.  Glad I was wearing flip flops, I sprinted like OJ in the old Hertz commercials to said gate.  Only to be told “not a chance.”

But wait!  There was a 5:55 PM departure another ten gates down.  I could get on stand-by and maybe even make dessert!  I comically ran, tripping over my carry on to secure my stand-by status, then settled down with my magazine, maintaining the hopeful stance that all was going to work out great.

I kept in constant contact with my benefactor, whose best laid plans to surprise his wife were disintegrating with every passing moment.  It would be a while before I’d know if I was actually going to BE on this flight.  My blood pressure was spiking.

And then I remembered the WOW – the Word of the Week:  SURRENDER.

This was all going to work out the way it was meant to.  If that meant I’d get to PA in time for dinner with my friend, so be it.

As the stand-by flight screen suddenly flashed “FLIGHT CANCELLED” it was evident the universe had other plans.

Which included an unexpected overnight stay in Charlotte, North Carolina and a wake-up call for 3 AM so I could get on the next flight to Philly.

Renee had a fantastic dinner with her closest friends (except me) – and she didn’t even know to be disappointed, because she had no clue I was en route.  I even called her from the hotel, acted like Duane was in the background shouting “Happy Birthday” and kept the ruse going.

Hey, a surprise is a surprise…even if it doesn’t go exactly as planned.

As she readied her morning coffee and was sending me e-mails to tell me about her birthday dinner, I was pulling into her driveway.  Steve said to her, “Honey, one of your gifts was supposed to be delivered yesterday but it just arrived.  Can you come to the kitchen?”

Thinking it was flowers, she entered the room, looked around – and there I was.  Her response?  Priceless.  Happy tears all around, and a beautiful day spent together in celebration of a life and a friendship that means the world to me.

You know what they say; for a writer, everything is “material.”  And though it wasn’t how I planned my Thursday to go, it made for a good story and an example of the choices we face daily to surrender (or scream.)

Since I seem to be living out these WOWs in spectacular fashion, I am SUPER excited to live out THIS week’s word.  Here it is!

So, I want to LOL, guffaw, giggle, smile and chuckle this week.  Tickle my toes (and my funny bone!) Tell me a wacky story!  I’ll tell you some of mine.

Bottom line?  It’s a week to LIGHTEN UP and find the humor in every circumstance.

Even if it involves cancelled flights, missed parties and unexpected overnights in an unplanned city!

What’s the latest funny thing that’s happened to YOU?



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WOW! Word of the Week for 8.16.15

From support to healing to…what does this week hold for us?

Well, the pieces of the puzzle are building on each other very nicely.  In fact, almost as a foreshadowing, I used this very word (about to be revealed) in one of this week’s posts on healing:

As we meditate on this word, surrender – here’s a disclaimer:

Don’t confuse giving up with letting go.

I’m not in favor of anyone giving up on their dreams.  But I do know from experience that sometimes you need to let go of your “ideal.”

Blessings sometimes come to us in different packaging than we expected, and when we are so STUCK on how we think it should play out, we might take a pass on the very thing that would make our heart sing.

I’ve also learned holding on with white knuckled resolve is downright exhausting.  Let it go, she sang in Frozen.  Let it go!

Oh, shall we have a lyrical reminder?  (Did I just hear all of the parents out their groan because they’ve heard this song a little TOO much?)  Moms and Dads, feel free to skip to the bottom:

My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I’m never going back, the past is in the past

Let it go, let it go
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone
Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on

The cold never bothered me anyway!

What I love is the FREEDOM that comes after you surrender.  Say goodbye to the past (and that perfect girl or guy, too.)

Just be wonderful you.

And when the storms rage this week, let’s go surfing on some amazing waves.

What are you looking forward to letting go of this week?

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