Category Archives: Family

Just Say Thank You. :)

Photo Credit: Didriks on Flickr

So – are you cooking today?

Here in the U.S., this is Thanksgiving, a major holiday when most thoughts turn to turkey and dressing, family and friends.

Many of us will tune in to watch the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, then we’ll enjoy a huge, delicious meal before dozing, off and on, through an entire afternoon of football. It’s a happy tradition.

Life slows down a little.

We gather to recognize and celebrate those things for which we are grateful.

We stop. Pay attention. Count our blessings.

And if you’re in charge at your house, you may feel the pressure of preparing that big, special dinner – perhaps even more than you feel the pressure of serving your clients!

Of course, some of you handle it with total ease. And some of you — like me — cook with fingers crossed behind your back that somehow it actually works.

(This year, I’ll be planning a mid-winter retreat for a client’s team – instead of cooking – but I’ll do the dishes. Happily!)

And then – the compliments will start.

That was great!
The turkey looks perfect!
Wow, look at that pie. Can’t wait to dig in to THAT one…

And what will you do when that compliment comes your way?

Most of my clients do a great job of thanking others for what they do. They think nothing of tossing out a hug and a “thank you!” for this or a “great job!” for that to family members, friends or co-workers.

And if you’re a guest at someone else’s kitchen this year, betcha money you’ll tell her –(or him) – what a great job she did too.

But when someone throws an “atta girl!” out to you, you may not handle it quite as well.

In fact, some of you pick up that compliment and throw it right back.

“Oh that? That was nothing. Anybody could do that…”

“That” could be anything. Cook a great dessert, raise a great kid, create a great training or give a great talk.

But a compliment is a gift.

And when you toss it back, you are returning the gift unopened. You are declining a treasure just as surely as if you’d handed back a present wrapped in beautiful, shimmering paper – unopened, refused.

I know you would never mean it to be that way – but that’s what you’re doing.

And that is yet another way that you are blocking the flow of positive energy.

So when someone says something nice to you, they are offering a gift – through words. Receive them well. Resist the temptation to deflect praise with a careless, “oh that was nothing.”

Just say thank you.

No modifiers. No little statements afterwards that take it all back. Just a simple smile and a thanks – and that’s IT.

By all means, do stop to give thanks on this special day…

but practice receiving thanks, as well.

Oh, and here’s a quick bonus tip!

If they offer to help with the dishes? Say thanks – and yes – to THAT, too.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

How You Do Anything is How You Do Everything

Granny 1Ohhhh the stories we could tell.

Because when you live to be 103, you create a lot of stories along the way. :)

My paternal grandmother was a member of what some call the Greatest Generation, and a force to be reckoned with. She outlived two husbands and a son. Made it through two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the Civil Rights Era.

She saw women get the right to vote, men walk on the moon, and the fall of the Wall in Berlin. She witnessed the invention of radio, then TV, then something called “the Internet”.

And she saw all of our struggles and triumphs as well.

So last week, when the inimitable Ms.Nettie crossed over into the next stage of her life’s Journey, yes – there were many tears.

But there was also great joy.

This post isn’t about how to succeed in your business. But, as my own coach says, “How you do anything is how you do everything”.

So how you live, and how you work, is also how you create, survive – and succeed.

I wrote the following a few years ago, right after Granny’s 100th birthday celebration. And in honor of her amazing life, it feels right to share it again.

Perhaps something here will help you too – in your life, and maybe even your business.

So here you go, in no particular order…

A lifetime of wisdom in 17 short chapters.

Or, just a few things she taught me about how to have a long and lovely life. Continue reading

Why not add a Little Adventure to your holidays?

Christmas Drivers - by Dustin Gaffke

So how are those holiday preparations coming?

Are you one of those who had everything bought and wrapped back in July? Or perhaps you’re more like me, one who can’t shop for a Christmas gift until I hear Christmas music – after Thanksgiving.

The holiday season is a loaded time of year for so many of us.

For some, it really is a time of happy chaos and joyful anticipation. For others, it means insane workloads and tremendous pressure. (Talk to a mail carrier or a church choir leader lately?)

As for those of you who follow other traditions, I don’t know what kind of preparation pressures you’re under, but I’m sure you’ve got ’em too!

And then there are many for whom the holiday season is just something to get through, a really hard time of year for all kinds of reasons.

So it’s easy to get caught up in the ‘shoulds’ about now.

We should BE this. We should DO that. We should FEEL this. We should WANT that. If we’re not careful, we can talk ourselves into a tizzy about all the things we ‘should’ do at Christmas.

Sometimes, though, I think it helps to shake things up a bit. Who says we have to do everything the exact same way year after year? Who says we have to do everything the exact same way our parents did? Or the way our neighbors do?

If it’s okay to try new recipes in the kitchen, isn’t it okay to try a new twist on other traditions as well?

Sure it is.

So I thought I’d share with you some unique holiday ideas I’ve heard over the years that struck my fancy. Call it the Adventure of the Unexpected – the adventure that comes when we add something a little unexpected to some time honored traditions.

Who knows? Maybe one of these will strike your fancy.

Ready? Here you go: 6 ways to add some unexpected to YOUR holiday.

Continue reading

There are Mothers Everywhere. Thank Goodness!

Mother Love

It’s Mother’s Day weekend here in the U.S., a time when we celebrate mothers everywhere.

And that can be complicated for some of us.

Because not all moms fit the sentiment on a Hallmark card. And not all moms can be what we need them to be.

And yet we still celebrate – as we should. Because if we are lucky, most all of us have still been mothered by someone throughout our lives.


Maybe lots of someones. :)


Sometimes she’s a friend, a teacher or mentor. Sometimes, she’s a favorite aunt or a grandmother. Sometimes the women we love and honor are stepmothers, foster moms, adoptive moms, or neighbors. Sometimes she’s our pastor, our counselor, or the mother of our best friend.

Sometimes, she’s the one who brought us into the world. Sometimes, she isn’t.

Whoever she is, she’s exactly what we need, and she shows up in our lives exactly when we need her, as if she were hand-picked by God, just for us.

She knows when we need a hug, and when we need a kick in the pants. She knows when we need a lecture, and when we need a listener.

She nurtures and guides, teaches and challenges. She fusses at us, fights for us, and loves us into being better than we ever knew we could be. She gets us through when we don’t know what to do.

And when it’s time to celebrate, she might even bake the cake. :)


So it’s worth it, don’t you think, to love her back?

And thank her?

Take some time today to think about all the things you’ve learned, and received, from your own mom, or from all the “chosen moms” you’ve had in your life. Here’s a few favorites of my own, from a woman I love more than life itself.

1. Make yourself at home.

My mom is known for two things in particular: how comfortable guests feel when visiting her home, and how stuffed they’ll be when they fall into bed at night. She mothers everyone she meets, and that mama-love shows up in the way she runs her home.

Mama loves beautiful things, and – like her own mother – has a knack for taking nothing and turning it into something. Whatever the circumstances, wherever life has taken my folks, she turns houses into homes, creating spaces that are beautiful – and comfortable. There will always be flowers, and candles, and extra pillows and throws.

But it’s not spotless, and you’ll never think twice about kicking off your shoes and curling up on the couch. There will always be room for an extra seat at the table, and more food than you can shake a stick at.

Oh, and if you need something? Just help yourself. Make yourself at home.


2. Have some pride in yourself.

Way back, when I was a teen and went through a spell with a less-than-kind boyfriend, I’ll never forget my mom fussing at me for putting up with some of his antics. “Don’t you have any pride?” she asked, clearly frustrated. I imagine it was hard for her to watch, and wait, while I learned how to stand up for myself.

But eventually, she taught me that if you respect yourself, others will follow your lead. That didn’t mean one had to be aggressive or demanding; it meant speaking kindly, directly, but firmly when something needed to be addressed. It meant refusing to tolerate disrespect from others, including her kids. :)

And it meant everything from standing up straight to minding your manners, from taking care of your appearance to taking care of your property.

So do your best, kiddo, and straighten up!


3. Make some memories.

My mom was never one to spend much time playing with us as kids. That was Daddy’s job. (Besides, she was usually cooking!) But she’s always talked about how important it was to ‘make some memories’, something both of my folks have taught me to do.

Something I teach Courageous Women to do today. :)

We took a two-week family vacation every year, going anywhere we could reach with a car and a tent. We rode ferries and roller coasters, fed sea gulls and toured lighthouses. We had more picnics than I can count, and spent countless hours in ‘bear jams’ in the Smokies. Played cards and played music. Played baseball in the back yard, and drove the Dogwood Arts trails every spring. There were concerts in the basement and concerts in the park.

Yes, there were chores to be done – and we did those too. But you know what they say about all work and no play. So when the work’s done, get everyone in the car, throw in a bag of sandwiches, and go see what you can find.

Make some memories of your own. 


4. Be prepared, and ready to adapt.

Once, when I was a kid, we took a short family hike in the Smokies on a sunny winter day. We were out for a Sunday drive when they decided rather spontaneously to take a short walk on an unnamed trail through the woods, which were beautiful that day with a light dusting of afternoon snow.

Unfortunately, that lovely snow also camouflaged the trail, and before they knew it, they’d lost sight of the road, AND the trail. We were lost.

As parents do, they never allowed their alarm to show, as we continued to wander through what seemed a grand adventure to my brother and I. Eventually, they somehow heard the sound of traffic, and were able to find their way back to the road, but we wandered for a couple of hours – and Mama was worried for a while there.

She says today that all she could think about was how she would keep us warm if we had to stay overnight in the woods, and she was kicking herself for not having any matches. It was just a walk, after all, so she had a purse with her – but no gear.

She’s carried matches ever since, and usually a flashlight too. :)

So don’t panic, but do be prepared. And carry matches in your purse.


(I have to share this…. as I’ve been writing this, my mom, whose 71st birthday is today and doesn’t know yet that I’m telling stories about her, reveals all kinds of funny things she carries in her purse. Every item has a reason for it’s presence — including the paint can opener — but it’s pretty funny! What’s in YOUR purse?)


We are all blessed by the mamas in our lives, those who mother us through good times and bad, high points and low, in big ways and small.

Last week, while doing a press conference about the upcoming Women’s Leadership Conference, my friend Deb fussed over me, straightening my collar and taking things out of my hands before I went on camera. I felt loved, mothered, by those small but caring acts.

I draw Courage, too, from the strength of my Mother – and the mothering of my friends.

And today, I just want to say…. 

Thank you.

And Happy Birthday, Mama. :)



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Flying Through (Our) Fear

In the Tree TopsWe were standing on the 3rd platform when I saw them…

…A tiny, clear line of tears in the eyes of the woman huddled beside me. She was smiling. From a distance she looked just fine, like she was having as much fun as the rest of us.

But she wasn’t.

Oh honey!” I said, “Are you ok?” She nodded her head.

Smiling. Mute. Frightened. Brave.

You’re terrified, aren’t you?” Another small nod. I wrapped my arms all the way around her and squeezed, hard – holding her tightly between my own body and the trunk of the tall solid pine whose soft top branches surrounded us.

IMG_0194We were standing on a platform at the top of a tree, at the top of a mountain, just getting started on our Secret Adventure. The (truly) Courageous Women who’d joined me for the weekend knew there’d be a surprise somewhere along the way. That’s the “Secret”. 

And this was it.

The CLIMB Works Canopy Tour, located roughly ten miles northeast of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is a top-of-the-line experience offered by a top-notch company that’s not quite like anything else you’ll find around here.

Outside the noise that sometimes crowds the borders of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, their’s is an oasis of uncluttered calm. With respect for the land and their participants, they are building a professional, sustainable, challenging and safe outdoor adventure center. I’d known for over a year that I’d lead a trip there sooner or later.

And here we were. :)

Their Canopy Tour is in fact a series of 9 (count ’em), NINE zip lines zig zagging their way down the mountain. They stretch anywhere from 400 to roughly 1200 feet in length, allowing you to zoom-ZOOM-zoom from the top of one tree to the top of the next with the panorama of the National Park as your companion for the day.

Pretty cool, unless you’re afraid of heights. And being afraid of heights, you know, just means you’ve got some (common) sense. It would be a couple of hours before we were on the ground again – which is a lifetime when you’re terrified.

I instructed her to keep her hands and her eyes on the trunk of the tree in front of us and to do that at each platform. “Don’t look down,” I said, “or out, just keep your eyes straight ahead. Feel how solid that tree is. Hold on to it. Draw strength from it. Notice how solid your harness is, too, and how you’re hooked in so completely. Remember that.”

I promised to stay right with her all day, and that I would help her get through this. WE would help her get through this.

When it was her turn to zip, I encouraged her to keep her eyes on the platform she was moving towards….“Don’t look anywhere but at Justin,” I said. He was the young man on the other end and one of our guides for the day. “Keep your eyes on your target, on where you’re heading.” She said she would.

Then she asked me a question.

“If I do this, does that mean I won’t be afraid of heights any more?”

No,” I told her, “you’ll still be afraid of heights…But that won’t matter any more, because you’ll know you can do this anyway.” :)

So with that, she gathered up her nerve. We rechecked her harness. Ciara, the young woman helping us on the sending-side of the zips helped her get hooked in and gave her a few last minute words of encouragement. And she was off.

And then she did it again.

And again.

It wasn’t too long before I started seeing the transformation that I KNEW would come. :))

As she came zooming in to landing somewhere around the 5th zip, she said, “I think I could get good at this.”

About the 7th, I heard her saying, “I’m gonna bring my husband up here for his birthday…. It’s in March.”

Soon after that it was, “I think I’d like to bring my class up here…This would be good for the students.” Followed by a sheepish, “Wait ’til they hear what I did this weekend…” 

And then we reached the tree they called “Walk the Plank”. Justin told each woman that she had to get a running start on a short platform extension, LEAP (!), and yell like a pirate with Carolyn takes a flying leap!everything she had.

Let me tell you, this was a highlight of the day.

Funny. Powerful.



Because sometimes a mountain-shaking yell does a body good, you know?

And then her turn came. She gathered herself and took hold of the handle bars. She gave me a grin and, with almost no hesitation, she launched.

And when she did, THUNDER came from her (tiny) frame.

She yelled for herself. She yelled for us. She yelled from her Soul.


We all cracked up, laughing with joy. A rallying cry for Courageous Women was born, and her Transformation was complete.

Courageous Women All :)Later, there were a lot of tears. A lot of laughter. A lot of pride. Exactly as I’d hoped there would be.

We’d flown through fear.


The moral of the story?

When you’ve got to do something that scares you to death, remember this.

  • Surround yourself with support.
  • Hold on to something solid.
  • Keep your eyes on the target.
  • And YELL like… well… you know. :)

Turn your FEAR into FIERCE.

And you, too, will find your (own) Courageous Woman.

Photo Credits: by Wendy Pitts Reeves