Monday, December 17, 2012

The Blame Game

If your name is Sandy this has not been your year. At first we had Hurricane Sandy rip up the East Coast and now we have the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

We had no one to blame but nature for a hurricane. The latter is finding all kinds of blame. I've seen people blame gun laws, politics, mental illness, Autism and even blame the shooter's mother.

One women stepped up and wrote a powerful blog: "I am Adam Lanza's Mother." She describes the incredible struggle it is to have a child with such powerful difficulties that you fear the very person you also have to love.

Nurture versus Nature right? But sometimes no matter what we do as parents can predict a child's future. I know first hand of a teenager that committed a horrendous crime and will live the rest of his days in jail. Yet his younger sibling went above and beyond to be the hero when witnessing a violent crime.

So how can you blame the parent? They most likely raised them in the same environment, the same love and attention, yet one had issues beyond their ability to either recognize or handle.

Here in Lancaster we had the Amish school shooting. The most overwhelming thing was the Amish desire to forgive. They didn't blame the wife of Charles Roberts. They forgave and mourned for themselves as well as the family of the man who took so much from them.

I placed a post on Facebook asking that we just be sad for what happened. That we not judge, preach or criticize any number of things we can find to point a finger at. Let's just be sad. (That post now has 57 people who agree.) Let's mourn the small innocent faces, look in amazement at the acts of heroism, selflessness and love the faculty displayed. Let's acknowledge that it was senseless and horrible. But let's not use it to advance our own needs and desires whether personally or politically. To me that demeans the victims. It makes them pawns rather than people who are desperately missed.

I'm all for people taking a stand for what they believe in. It's our right. Just be aware of how sensitive the issues are before charging forward with a fist and a cause.

Many years ago I gave a friend of mine some parenting advice that she still remembers. I told her to never judge another parent for something you see them or their child do because before you know it you may be in the same position. Whether it's hitting, biting, swearing, destruction....or mental illness. We never know what turn our lives will take and the minute we judge another is when life throws us into the deep end.

No one knows how deep anyone's ocean is until we swim next to them. So rather than pointing, judging and letting them flounder, try to imagine how hard that current is to handle and show compassion. Because before you know it you may be the one drowning.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Why So Personal?

Okay-so Dan had me thinking. He asked what made me write my last blog (On A Personal Note posted 11/27).

It started with a conversation we had last week. He asked why I let people take my time and my answer was that it was all I had to give. Then I really started wondering why...

I got home and I was immediately needed. My kids needed me for all of the crap their dad won't do, DAT needed me, friends needed my help or my ear. And maybe that's how I identify myself, by how much I'm needed. It gives me a feeling of worth. It's a positive trait I guess from a bad situation.

I know the subject is one I never spoke of and I started to wonder why on that as well. Truly it's not something that comes up in casual conversation but I never even confided in my closest friends (actually a whopping two knew). Why should it be a deep dark secret, why can't it be just another bump in my road?

I shouldn't be ashamed about something that happened a lifetime ago. By not being open about it am I claiming that being a victim is shameful? It started to feel that way.

I've had victims in my classes, women with battle scars. I look at them as strong women who overcame something and continue to become more than a single moment in their lives.

And maybe that's another reason I never spoke of it, I didn't want it to define me. But it never will because it never did. It may have been something that controlled me for a couple of years. A demon that had to be beaten. But we all have our demons. I have friends who had abusive parents, no parents, lost a child or a partner, or have a similar incidents in their lives that was so ugly they were taken to the bottom of their being and had to claw back from it. The amazing thing is our human resilience. We can claw back, overcome and not let the darkness define us but give us strength.

I'm probably a much stronger person today because of my past. Not that I wouldn't do the cliche of going back in time and changing one thing if it were possible. But I am who I am because of my decisions, whether they were good, bad or ugly, they was mine.

I've had other bumps, some small speed bumps like an injury or health issues, some a bit more jarring like divorce. I'm positive I'll have more of all sizes. But I know I have strength and I know I have support. Because that's the one thing about being needed by others, it goes both ways.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

On a personal note

I've been really struggling with the idea of making some very personal things public. I'm of the mindset to do it because it would explain what I do-why I do it.

When I was sixteen I was date raped. The teenage  "love of my life" was in another country and I had found out he was sleeping around. My idea was to start dating-a lot and often.

One guy was a bit older than me. We didn't go out much but by date three, when clearly he didn't make me tingle and a goodnight kiss was even awkward, he got angry. I was a tease and a bitch. I was helpless.

My parents were away so easy to hide the bruises, head trauma and body damage. I was a good girl. Things like this didn't happen to us. Besides....they truly believed I was still a virgin.  (Of course what do you do when the guy you "love" is leaving but sleep with him to keep him?) Yeah-I was that stupid.

What is kept inside often comes out in some way.

I had begun running with my dad that year and so run I did. I ran from my mind. I would run from five to eight miles a day plus ride my horse, swim, and work two jobs. This was my escape. No time to think.

Of course eating was a low priority......welcome anorexia. I was about 85 pounds when I told my mom I was scared and needed help.

I obviously recovered. Anyone who knows me can testify I can eat like a horse. In many ways I became stronger for it.

I remember in my senior year, when depression and darkness tried to overtake me, I had two teachers at JP McCaskey and two friends who essentially saved me. They SAW me. In their busy lives or teenage fog they SAW me and reached out. It's why I'm still here.

I had this conversation recently with someone, why I give my time so freely to people. It's because I see them. It's what I have to give. If I can make one person's hour, day, week, month or year more bearable I have to do it. It was done for me.

So the pay it forward mentality.

But I have another passion from my pain. If I can teach just one teenage girl to fight, to defend, to make sure that guy that decides after three dates that he's "entitled" never does it again, then I will be so happy. Don't get me wrong, the boys that take my Youth Impact at DAT are near and dear since I am the mom of two boys. But the girls....the girls I look at with such harsh expectations. Each and every one needs to be fighting for their life by the end of my program.

Because if they ever need to-I want them to win.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Making Change

It's Thanksgiving in a few days. A time when we're all supposed to count our blessings and give thanks to whatever karma, God or good fortune we've been blessed with.

But what about when that's hard? What about when life is truly looking bleak, creating more questions than answers. Can you find what to be thankful for?

I was talking with a friend recently who is struggling with happiness. She made the point that she can find glimpses of it from kids or accomplishment but how do you find true happiness?

We often go through the motions of life without testing our own personal satisfaction. Businesses do it: "Please complete this survey telling us how we did." Why can't we do that as well? Take a survey of our lives:
What is working for you?
What is not working?
If you could change three things in your life what would they be?
Is it possible to make those changes? (Or maybe just one or two?)
What would prevent you from making those changes?

The questions can be as personal or general as you'd like for your survey but they have to make you think. You have to be challenged in your desire to create a life you love. Without challenge, desire and motivation we continue on the settled life of hazy acceptance or tunnel vision in our belief that we are stuck in our situation.

In coaching I'm great at asking the tough questions of others but not always so much for myself.
What do I want?
What do I need?
What can I accept?
What has to change?
How do I make that happen?

Change can be scary, hard, fantastic or traumatic. Change can transform us and reinvent us. Sometimes change is thrown on us and others we decide how, when or why it is happening.

You always have something to be thankful for, even if you have to dig deep to find it. But if you could create a life full of thankful things would it be worth the effort? Can you make change?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Unnatural Politics

Gopher: If I was you, I'd think about skedaddlin' out of here.
Winnie the Pooh: Why?
Gopher: 'Cause it's "Winds-day."

She came, she blew and spit, damage was done, and she's moved on. Sounds like a women scorned right? Hurricane Sandy was just that, a royal bitch. Have you seen  the east coast?

We were spared in Lancaster. I have a piece of siding blown off of the house and a small bit of water on my basement walls. I feel pretty lucky considering I spent Monday night listening to the wind (all night) wondering how friendly the lollipop guild really is and why my dog would not be as useful as Toto.

Not everyone was so lucky. My sister lives right outside of New York City and they are still without power. People with generators are now finding it difficult to get gas. Flooding is still an issue in shore areas as well as the New York subway system. The insult to injury is the temperature. Baby it's getting cold outside.

I was greatly impressed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. When Fox News was badgering him about the presidential election he commented something along the lines of: "If you think at this time when my state is in an emergency I care about presidential politics then you don't know me."

Really that should be the forefront of every official on the East Coast. I'm not saying ignore the election but can we focus on what's important? People's homes, memories and even lives were taken. Yet you can't log into Facebook without every third post being a rip on a candidate.

I don't talk about politics. I keep my views private and personal. I've sat through long conversations with friends where I've agreed with them but stayed silent. In both politics and religion I think it should be a personal thing and not imposed on others. They are two emotional "hot buttons" in society. Thanks but no thanks.

I understand the passion involved in this election. I certainly don't envy either candidate. President of the United States has got to be the most horrendous job ever. In today's world you have to do the daunting task of fixing so many issues, juggling the vast spiderweb that is our government, while still having your personal life all over People Magazine. Then throw in occasional natural disasters or terrorist attacks to test your moral and emotional fiber. Good luck to both of you.

Gov. Christie, an outspoken Romney supporter, praised President Obama for how he has handle the disaster. He could put politics aside and acknowledge that his President stepped up to the challenge and focused on the people that need help.

I applaud everyone who is stepping up to help during this disaster. Even if I don't share your political views-good for you!!

And don't forget to vote.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Happy Halloween

I just ordered my daughter's Halloween costume. She kept telling me I needed one. Yeah-do I want to be a sexy policewoman, kitten, or maybe a sexy nurse? I felt like I was looking at an adult "spice up your sex life" porn site more than a Halloween costume shop. I know I love Wonder Woman but I'm not walking around in the equivalent of a blue and red bathing suit unless I'm at a pool.

I'd love to join with a crafty friend to produce really fun yet cool adult costumes. Something where I won't need fishnet stockings, a push-up bra and 20 years off of my age....although I wouldn't have been a sexy ninja at 22 either.

I'm really not a prude-ask anyone. But when did Halloween for women become more about looking like you should be swinging around a pole than going to a neighborhood costume party?

Two years ago I was Facebook. I took two large pieces of cardboard and put them together like an advertiser walking the streets of New York. On the front piece I created a Facebook page complete with the status' of friends at the party (made up of course). The back I had a pen for people to write on my wall.

You can steal that idea if you want-you're welcome.

I heard on the radio about a guy who wrapped himself up in wrapping paper and wore a necklace that said "To Women. From God."

Last year at a party a guy wore a t-shirt with candy sewn on it saying "Hey kids-want some candy?" The back said "and help me find my puppy, give me directions, get in my van, be my best friend." Okay-it may not be exactly word for word but I thought it was amusing-especially as a self defense instructor.
These are thinking outside the box costumes. Minimal cost and a little creativity is all it takes.

I rarely turn the television on during the day but the one morning I love the Today Show is Halloween. All of New York and beyond get crafty. You see how amazing and unique people can be.

I'm not sure what this has to do with anything beyond the fact that I don't want "sexy" in the name of any costume I wear unless it's in private (nudge nudge wink wink). So maybe more of a complaint than a blog. Unless I can coach someone on creativity.....

Happy Halloween everyone!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Keep Calm and Carry On

Keep Calm and Carry On

This was a propaganda poster in the United Kingdom during the beginning of the Second World War. It was  little known until rediscovered in the year 2000, becoming popular for many different companies or products either in it's true form or through a distortion of it.

It's message is simple, in the case of an emergency or a stressful situation keep calm and react accordingly. Easier said than done. Many believe that an adrenaline rush will see them through such an event. That rush is quick to pass, leaving what is known as an adrenaline crash. Avoiding that severe rush is the ideal reaction: Keep calm and carry on.

Think on a personal level, would you be able to react rationally in a violent encounter, in a severe accident, or if someone you love is in great physical danger? At Direct Action Tactical we try to emphasize proper mindset. Calmly navigating through a highly emotional or physically dangerous experience can be what saves a person's life.

The news is never lacking in the horror stories. Two young girls have gone missing and their bodies found in the last two weeks (that I've heard about). Young women are attacked at an astounding rate. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey roughly 600 women were sexually assaulted a day in 2006. The Sandusky trial proves our boys can also be victims.

Three years ago I was introduced to Kris Hurley. He was starting his business of DAT and came into the martial arts program I worked for to do a safety seminar. As adult black belts, some in multiple disciplines, we thought we knew a thing or two. We were quickly proven wrong. A two day course opened our eyes to how woefully unprepared we really were to reality.

A year later I went to work for Mr. Hurley training and teaching Fit to Fight classes (think cross-fit combative that will rock your world) and self defense that uses real world tactics. We have no belt ranking or fancy flourish. The methods are simple, direct and prove effective when used in a realistic combative drill.

I've had students come through with scars. Not the physical kind, the kind you can't see, who never want to feel that pain again. I have my own scars. Then there are those who have never faced a conflict but want the knowledge if it were to ever occur. Put it on the same level as knowing CPR or where the fire extinguishers are in your home. You may never have to use that knowledge but you know it. The alternative is not having it and needing it, a recipe for panic.

I hope no one I ever instruct has to use what I give them, but if they do, I want them to come out alive. Because really that's all we have to fight for. Your wallet, phone, or car can all be replaced. Your life is worth the fight. Are you ready for a fight?

Monday, October 1, 2012


I've never been a fan of Fall. I know most of you are. I get it-the weather turns cooler, the leaves change, pumpkins and apple cider...

The one benefit I see? I don't have to shave my legs daily.

What I see is my flowers dying, my trees turning bare, my wardrobe changing and the future bitter Pennsylvania winter that I hate breathing down my neck. I will readily admit that I could be an old person in Florida. Who am I kidding, I'll be a middle aged person in Florida.

And really-the word Fall doesn't send a great message of hope. We fall on our face, we fall of of the horse, we fall out of love, we fall off of the wagon, we fall into depression, fall from grace....none of it sounds like a party.

On a rare occasion can it be positive: we fall in love or we fall asleep.
Both are pleasant distractions in my opinion to the season.

So as the weather turns I dream of warmer climates. I even threatened on Facebook to pack up and go somewhere, anywhere else. The response was an outpouring of friends telling me they need me, love me and would be horrified if I left.

Somehow I fell into such great friends. Even though I hate parts of the area I live I have to love the fact that if I fall, I have a huge support system to pick me back up. I've seen them do it time and again for different members of our small but amazing group.

So if I fall into a winter depression, fall apart physically or simply fall on my face (has happened) they'll help me up, warm me up (wine is preferred) and cheer me up so that I'm able to handle the next fall.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

I've fallen quite a bit in my life and usually I've relied on myself to get back up. It's fabulous to now have backup.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Off to Battle!!

I want a battle cry. Not something simple like "charge" but something that will inspire me to be strong and  unafraid of whatever I'm facing, procrastinating or generally not enjoying at the moment. You know those times in your life, facing a difficult conversation, situation or generally being stuck in that proverbial rock and a hard place that you need to claw out of?

I seem to be a magnet for such things. I had an evening recently where I would have given my left pinkie finger to be ANYWHERE else on the planet. I've had conversations with my ex-husband that I would have rather listened to nails on a chalkboard. I've sat through elementary school orchestra concerts for God's sake!!

There are moments in my self-defense training when I panic internally regarding a technique. I've looked at my instructor and actually declined to do things with the battle cry of Lethal Weapon, "I'm too old for this sh..."(I'm not proud). He tells me to do it anyway and of course I do.

As a rider I've not only ridden some crazy horses but also jumped some insane things. It can require deep breathing and pep talks. A battle cry would have been better.

Recently I did the Warrior Dash with some amazing people and the battle cry was "shark fin." Long story but it worked for us. I can't claim it as my own though.

I was thinking of other battle cry examples I could recall:
The Klingons: "Today is a good day to die."
Braveheart: "Freedom!"
King Leonidas, king of the Spartans: "This is where we fight! This is where they die!"
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: "Cowabunga!"
And my favorite...."Wonder Twins powers activate!"

If I had a wonder twin and powers I'd go with that one. Unfortunately my super power consists of multitasking in a single bound and owning the stupidest dog on the planet.

My favorite superhero is Wonder Woman. I never missed the show as a kid. I always wished I had bullet deflecting bracelets, a boomerang crown, a lasso of truth (that would be really handy with my children), and of course an invisible jet. I'm not even much for accessories. But she didn't have a battle cry and I certainly will never pass for an amazon.

My kids think my battle cry should be "Bazinga" (Big Bang Theory) but that would indicate my cry was sarcastic. That doesn't work. I need a serious cry that gives me the feeling of Hulk muscles and disregard for my own personal safety. I don't think "Hulk smash" fits me either.

So I'll keep trying some out from time to time until I find what works. At the moment I'm thinking something silly like chili pepper, Excaliber, or bibbidi-bobbidi-boo.

Obviously I'm open for any suggestions. What's your warrior cry?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Not so Secret Identity

My daughter was adopted from China.

She will never know her birth mother.

What started me to think about this was a commercial for a movie. A young woman sets out to find her birth mother because it’s the only way she’ll know her “identity.” I find this strange. Does blood relation equal identity?

In China the rule of one child per family combined with the ancient custom of boys taking care of their elderly parents while girls are married off and caring for in-laws make baby girls in Chinese history undesirable. Even today the orphanages are packed with baby girls waiting for adoption. Yet parents are not legally allowed to give up a child so pregnancies are hidden and babies are left to be found, often in a public market or busy area of town. My daughter was left on the steps of the orphanage.

So what about this story is her identity? She identifies with her best friend who was adopted from Korea. She identifies that she is clearly Asian. But has any of that affected who she is? She actually pulls away from her heritage. She has had the opportunity to learn Chinese but refuses. She really wants to be an all American girl. Maybe someday her feelings will change. If that happens, how will that change her identity?

She loves fashion, art and gymnastic. None of which her father or I am especially into. Doesn’t that mean it’s purely her? Neither of my biological boys love horses, running or a great book.

One of my favorite movies is The Princess Bride. I love when Wesley is telling Buttercup about how he became The Dread Pirate Roberts. After being taken captive Roberts would work Wesley during the day and every night say, “Good night Wesley. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.” But eventually he was told how the real Dread Pirate had retired long ago and man after man had taken over the role until they could retire and pass on the name.

“Then he explained the name was the important thing for inspiring the necessary fear. You see, no one would surrender to the Dread Pirate Wesley.”

Once Wesley knew how, he could fall into that identity and shed it once he was done. A mask, a sword and a name can create a lucrative pirating career. Sounds a bit like the witness protection program.

Maybe for us it’s not so extreme. We change clothing style, hairstyle or color; even alter our beliefs on occasion.  We can shed weight, gain weight, gain or lose confidence, and all of those changes affect how we identify ourselves. Those complete self transformations are a bit more rare in a lifetime.

My daughter is strong, beautiful, funny and loved and being my daughter is where she belongs.

As for myself, I need to know my strengths, weaknesses, and where I’m loved to know who I am. Now my secret identity….that’s another blog.

Inigo Montoya: Who are you?
Man in Black: No one of consequence.
Inigo Montoya: I must know...
Man in Black: Get used to disappointment.
Inigo Montoya: 'kay.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


We’ve heard it in movies or TV shows: “Get used to disappointment.” It’s usually a humorous quip to a child about something not going their way. But even as adults do we ever really get used to disappointment?

When my kids were young I used to quip that I always kept my expectations low, whether it was out to dinner, going grocery shopping or a family vacation. If my expectations were low I could only be pleasantly surprised. But going through life with low expectations sounds bleak. Eventually hope for something great gets in the way.

I’m lucky to be able to travel a lot. I’m on my way home now from a trip to see Dan in the Netherlands. Unfortunately there was a problem with the captain on my first flight and connections were missed. Delta put everyone up in hotels (although I was only there for 5 hours), rebooked flights and gave useless meal vouchers (due to the limited time). I was fairly disappointed not to be home last night. I really miss my kids and I was hoping to work today. But I’m safe and on my way without any major issues.

Last summer I was stuck in Iceland for a few days as the east coast battled a hurricane. I had a horrible time trying to rebook something home, almost wasn’t able to stay in my hotel (yes-I’m not afraid to cry when needed), missed my kid’s first day of school, and was in a city you could easily cover by foot in less than a day.

So camera in hand I wandered every second I could, finding interesting indoor markets, strange buildings, more “stuff” for my kids, and the ever memorable Viking Experience Museum, complete with miniature replicas and tiny holograms. Yes-you are detecting sarcasm.

On the plane home I could only get first class and ended up sitting next to the ex-manager of Aerosmith. What fantastic stories he had. Now all he has to do is manage his investments and go to his AA meetings. I did feel bad drinking next to him but hell-it’s first class.

So I was disappointed to not be home, to be out money I was not planning on (travel insurance paid back some) and to not have Dan still with me to enjoy more time as his flight left without a hitch. But I was safe, comfortable and making the most of it.

My ex-husband constantly disappoints me in his lack of communication regarding the kid’s schedules and information. It’s not that he’s trying to be spiteful it’s just how he always has been and always will be. It doesn’t seem to stop disappointing me though. 

My dog disappoints me every time she pees on my carpets, my car disappoints me from time to time with a flat tire or check engine light, my kids disappoint me in their actions on occasion. Things have a way of turning around (okay-maybe not with the dog).

Maya Angelou wrote: “We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.” If you can face disappointment and find the light-no matter how dim, you will never be defeated. Every time we are disappointed we learn something about the situation, the person, or most importantly ourselves.  What can we handle, digest, process and overcome? We may be able to keep our expectations high after all. As long as our expectations of ourselves, our coping abilities and strength don’t disappoint.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Saying Goodbye

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
A.A. Milne ~Winnie-the-Pooh~

I’m in Amsterdam again. It’s where Dan lives, the person I’ve been with now for three years.  I try to get here a few times a year, he comes to the U.S., and we meet somewhere else once a year. This past year it was Australia and before that Iceland. We’ve had amazing adventures and exhausting travel time. And more than anything, we’ve had fantastic hellos and tearful goodbyes.

The other night we watched the movie War Horse. I had forgotten how it had affected me the first time I watched it, in the theatre with a group of friends (all who have still not forgive me for picking such a gut-wrenching movie). But it makes me think of my own amazing horse that I retired this year. We have been together for 13 years and like the horse in the movie he would follow me around like a dog, beg for treats, and push his head under my arm in a “horse hug.” Sounds cheesy right? But he has a huge personality as do many animals we surround ourselves with.

So now when I see him I can groom, bathe, pet and spoil but not ride. He’s 23 and his one leg is still mending. I leave with a hollow feeling like we missed something.  

Sad goodbyes are a part of life. When our child gets married, moves away, death of a pet, death of a loved one, end of a career or end of a marriage. Goodbyes can go from the casual to the dramatic. It can be devastating in its finality and heartbreaking in its absence.

I know how sad my mom was to not be there in time to say goodbye when my grandfather died. I know I still beat myself up for listening to the vet and not staying with my dog of 17 years when they finally put her to sleep.  You hear it on the news constantly after a tragedy, “I never got to say goodbye.”

It can be challenging but when I get sad about not riding or being in a freakishly far long distance relationship I need to stop and realize how lucky I am to have such love that it hurts to say goodbye.  

A.A. Milne also wrote: “Promise me you’ll never forget me because if I thought you would, I’d never leave.”  Our memories, experiences and heart are what keeps us unique and writes our story.  Just make it a story worth remembering, even with the goodbyes.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Road Not Taken

The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

 So which road would you have chosen? I look at this poem and see a safe path, well used and possibly even a bit predictable. The other path, however, could be somewhat exciting or challenging in its unknown.

I know I look back on my life and often wonder how different it could have been. I have opportunities I’ve missed and challenges I didn’t face that might have created a completely alternate life. I have regrets….doesn’t everyone?

What do you do with those regrets? Wallow in wonder and visualize how perfect things might have been if only? Or can you take ownership of the outcome, finding the aspects of positive that came from a wrong turn, bad decision or poor choice.

I know when I was going through my divorce my ex-husband would constantly tell me how I was ruining his life. At the time that was the reality for him. Now he is soon to marry, I hope his perfect match. He is, I guarantee, far happier than any point in our time together. It took a while, it wasn’t his choice of path but rather one he was forced to take. But now he can see why it was the best path for everyone.

This past spring I found myself standing in shallow water off an Island in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef surrounded by black tip and lemon sharks. I grew up in generation Jaws. Shark attacks plagued my nightmares. Yet my oldest son went through a huge shark obsession. Shark Week on the Discovery channel was better than Christmas. How could I go home and tell him I had missed this amazing opportunity.

So, snorkel in place, cheap water camera ready, pep talk complete, I chased sharks. 

I swam with them a few more times that trip. Some days the water temperature took my breath away but when was I ever going to be there again?

We choose our paths every day, from doing a job, being responsible parents, choosing our eating habits, activities and relationships. So when you’re standing in front of that path that frightens or intimidates you will you pick the more comfortable choice? Or will you dive in and chase your sharks?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Karma is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect. (Wikipedia)

I'm not sure I believe in Karma. I've been thinking about it recently after a friend told me it's how she gets out of bed in the morning. It's a nice concept-do well to others and you'll be rewarded. Do the wrong thing and the universe will bite you in the butt.

But what about when bad things happen to good people? They do happen, whether they are an outcome of an action we created, random violence, illness, or general bad luck, can we avoid that by simply being an extraordinary friend, relative and helpful stranger?

I've known people in my life that I've wished bad karma on. Doesn't that negate my good karma? Every time I grumble at a bad driver or fume at a rude sales person am I creating a notch on my karma board?

I've been thinking about what I've done so far this month that was purely for someone else. I'm relieved to say it's a nice list. But tomorrow will that list keep me from a car accident, a broken bone, a home repair bill or, and I shudder to think of it, something happening to someone I love? Having that security would be fabulous right? But bad things are inevitable.

It's how we let those bad things affect us that is the true test. Do you blame God, the universe, another person, yourself? Some experiences are so horrible it may be hard to resist the urge to curl up in a ball and be done with life.

Gavin de Becker wrote a fabulous book called The Gift of Fear. I don't know which one of my friends I am forcing to read it at the moment so I can't quote exactly but he basically says after someone is a victim they choose one of two paths. Either they remain the victim and let it define them or they decide to become empowered, gain strength and knowledge from it. The latter may not come right away. Healing tends to include blame and hurt. But eventually the decision has to be made to move on or stay in the hole that was created.

Maybe that is where an "idea" of karma is appropriate....the golden rule in a sense. If you're a great friend and good person you'll be surrounded by people who love and support you, pulling you out of any hole. If you tend to be the energy vampire, selfish and self-centered to everyone around you, well, bring a pillow into your hole. You may be there awhile.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Old Dogs and New Tricks

Middle age is the period of age beyond young adulthood but before the onset of old age. Various attempts have been made to define this age, which is around the third quarter of the average life span of human beings. -Wikipedia

So I’m trying to figure out if I’m of middle age status. The average life expectancy worldwide is 67.2. If I go by this I fit into being in the third quarter of my life.

There are certainly days I feel every hour of 42. Every so often I can claim to feel like a young thirty-something. There are also days that I feel more like that last quarter of my life. Of course this is usually self-inflicted. It’s me trying to keep up with twenty/thirty something men in a Fit to Fight class because my ego won’t let me do otherwise. And I write this with a back against a heating pad for such a reason.

Then there are the interesting compliments that come with being over 40. One day after doing a Fit to Fight with a twenty-something and thirty-something couple of guys my age came to question. When I told the truth the response was “Wow, I only hope I’m in as good a shape when I’m that age.”

Uh-thanks I think? Okay-I get the compliment that I’m in very good shape but the second part translates to “damn that’s old and you can still actually work out?”

The other one was when a guy clearly younger than me was asking me questions about whether I was married or not. When I said I was divorced he perked up. He asked if I had kids. Yes. How old….

When he heard that Drew was 15 (at the time) his smile turned. Of course the next question, “How old are you?” The response to 41 was, “Awe, that’s too bad.” Like my world would have been rocked had I just been a decade younger-oh shoot.

So we have all of the sayings: You’re only as old as you feel; Young at heart; Oldie but goody; Older and wiser; Growing old gracefully, Growing old is better than the alternative. You get the idea. It may not be reasonable for us in the normal population to land, marry (and maybe divorce) an Ashton Kutcher but can we be happy in our own skin? Between hair dye (guilty), anti-wrinkle cream (also guilty), cosmetic surgery (not guilty) we are bombarded with the requirement of staying young. Just today the women in my self-defense class had a conversation about certain things being lifted. When I said maybe in 20 years it was pointed out that at 62 I shouldn’t care anymore. I agreed, but the more I think about it I hope in some way I always care a little. If we no longer care about our fitness or appearance we lose that self-respect or pride that keeps us conscious about who we want to continue to be. Not vanity, self respect.

So I find myself now looking at older women and reveling in their beauty; Julie Andrews, Vanessa Redgrave, Gena Rowlands, Betty White. All are beautiful, elegant, vibrant and often hysterically funny women who are fabulous examples of how age doesn’t define us. Men become distinguished and women get old. Let’s change that saying.

I suggest, ‘Men become distinguished and women become fabulous.’
Who wants to become fabulous with me?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Settle or Strive

Why do we wait until the beginning of a new year to make a change in our lives? The gyms are full, diets are started, we try to organize or begin that project we were putting off. Something about the changing of a calendar makes people want to take ownership of things they aren’t happy with or have procrastinated on. But as we all know, the majority of resolutions are left to die yet again within a few months, possibly to be revisited the following New Year.

I don’t make resolutions. I think because throughout the year I try to make decisions or adjustments as needed. I have my flaws that I’d like to change. I’d love to be more organized and whenever I try it lasts about three days. I’d like to be less frenetic in my schedule but to do that I’d have to completely change my lifestyle. I’d like to get my research paper done but damn if there aren’t so many other fun ways to spend time. None of these goals are going to happen if I make a resolution. They’ll only happen if I make it happen.

I guess this is something that I’ve really taken ownership of while getting my coaching certification. If something is really not working only I have the power to change it.

Through my coaching course I have to create a power tool. Without getting into too much detail it is basically looking at a situation in a yin-yang kind of way. My power tool is settling versus striving. I spent so much time in my life settling in a situation. Maybe a change felt too painful, too awkward or too daunting. Maybe I didn’t feel strong enough or in a place emotionally, mentally or possibly physically able to alter whatever was not working.

What I’ve learned is the most important part of any endeavor is having a support system. It could be a spouse, friends, a close family member or (I have to say it) a coach. If we have that person or people we know holding the parachute if we fall it gives us a bit more courage to strive for what we want. If we have no one supporting us, giving gentle motivation or encouragement, celebrating our wins and helping us through our losses, we can lose our momentum.  It’s hard to be our own cheerleader.

So maybe what we need instead of a diet or a treadmill that will become a laundry rack in a month is more positive relationships. Work out with your friends, cook healthy meals for each other and share your goals. Make time to get together with those people that give you the love and support that encourages you to create the life you want.

Bill Gates said, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” 

You can settle or you can strive. 
Find the people in your life who will empower you and strive.