Category Archives: Ideas & Resources for Women & Girls

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.

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9 Keys to Living a Courageous Woman’s Life


Are you a Courageous Woman? 

Most of you will say no. 

Unless, of course, you’ve been working with me for a while, in which case you know better by now. :) 

But the simple truth is that most of us, when push comes to shove, would never think of ourselves as Courageous. “Oh no, not me!”, you’ll say, with a nervous laugh and a toss of your head. “I’m really not what you would call a brave person at all….”

Well I’m sorry, but I have to disagree with you. 

Because, see, I know you. Really well. 

I know how many of you have fought and won serious battles with illness or injury that threatened your life, or the life of someone you love. Some of you have kids who’ve broken your heart, and you’re doing everything you can to save them from disaster.

Some of you have mothered soldiers – or are soldiers yourselves – and have experienced the trauma that serving our country can mean. Some of you are caught in relationships that just aren’t working, yet you’re doing everything you can to heal what’s broken.

Many of you are taking care of pre-schoolers AND an elderly parent AND running a business AND still being the one who keeps everything running at home. 

For many of you, rest is a rarity. Freedom rarer still. 

And I know that it doesn’t matter what kind of home you have or car you drive, what kind of career you have or how perfect-on-the-outside your life may look. You, too, cope with the hidden hardships, self doubts and fears that are often invisible to others. 

I know how hard it is. I see how brave you are in the midst of it all. 

This year, 2014, is the 21st anniversary of the practice I started so long ago in our small, East Tennessee community, Cove Mountain Counseling. 

And after 21 years of being a humble witness to the Courage you carry so deep in your soul, I’ve come to love, and treasure, the lessons you’ve taught me about what it means to Live a Courageous Woman’s life.

I’m sharing those lessons here. If you have others that you want to add to my list, tell me about them below. 

So here you go. 

Nine Keys to Living a Courageous Woman’s Life

1. Claim your Competence. You have a lifetime of experience. And chances are that you’ve learned things along the way that come easily to you now, though they’re completely mysterious to others. Whether it’s how to make the perfect pie crust, paint a portrait, or grow a business, you know what you’re doing. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 

2. Feed your Curiosity. There is SO much more to the world than what you see on your TV. An active mind and a full life is yours for the taking, just by exploring what’s outside your door. Drive down roads you’ve never traveled. Read a book or take a class in something you know nothing about. Jump into a volunteer experience just to see what it’s like. Exploration reveals your Courage, and builds your confidence.

3. Honor your (natural) Creativity.  I know a woman who draws almost anything she sees so realistically it’s like a photo. It is amazing to watch her work. And she turns that talent to everything she does, creating gifts and treasures that literally blow me away. Yet she often discounts her skill, thinking that – because it comes easily to her – it is somehow less than spectacular.

Honoring your Creativity is an act of Courage. And if you’re like me, and you can’t draw a circle or wrap a gift without half a role of tape, that doesn’t matter. You, too, are Creative. No matter what kind of obstacles you run into, you somehow find a way past them, don’t you? Of course you do. And if you can’t find a way, you’ll make one. :) 

4. Realize how much you are Capable of learning. No one knows how to do everything. And heck, who would want to? But you can learn anything you are determined to learn, or have to. I am perfectly capable of learning how to change the oil in my car, but I don’t want to. On the other hand, if I need to brush up on my German, or want to learn to play the fiddle, I can. What do you want to learn how to do? 

5. Practice clear-eyed Compassion. For so many of us, offering comfort and caring for others comes naturally. Call it maternal instinct, feminine connection, whatever you like. There’s a fine line, though, between helping, and enabling, and it’s a line we don’t always recognize. Express the Compassion that’s in your heart, but learn to recognize when helping is not always in someone’s best interest. 

6. Nurture purposeful Connection. Deeper emotional connections with others, and with something greater than ourselves, can carry us through the toughest times. Build strong, loving relationships with family and friends in whatever way is healthy and good for you. Seek out a faith community that fits your values, or explore personal spiritual practices that deepen your awareness of a Love that is greater than all of us.

7. Own your (well-earned) Confidence. You and I have been on this planet for a while, and we’ve learned a few things along the way. You know who you are. You know what you can do. Isn’t it about time you started believing in your Self, no matter what? Why waste a singe minute more in self doubt?  

8. Respect your (proven) Courage. If you thought about it half a second, you could make a list of 100 times in your life when you’ve overcome a hardship, faced a fear, achieved something remarkable, done something you’d never thought you could do. In big ways and small. Don’t believe me? Try it. :)

It’s time to quit pretending that those times don’t count. They do. Were you scared to death some of (most of) those times? Of course. Were you proud of yourself and a little surprised at what you were able to do? Of course. Did every one of those moments require something from you? Of course.

That’s Courage in Action. And it’s yours. Don’t blow it off.

9. Know that you are Complete. The best part about getting older, to me, is that one day we wake up and realize that we’ve somehow magically grown into our own skin. What starts with restlessness and questions in our 30’s, moves through exploration and disruption in our 40s, and settles into a place of knowing in our 50’s and beyond.

One day, we just know. We are Enough. With all of our perfect imperfections, we are Complete exactly as we are. We stop trying to prove anything, and start living authentically from the place that feeds our souls.

And suddenly, others begin seeing you as a Courageous Woman, and start to tell you so.

It surprises you at first. But then, when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. 

Who knew? 

I did. :)


On Building a (Courageous Woman’s) Life: So Many Ideas. So Little Time.

BOATS ON THE TAMAR. Nikon D3100. DSC_0199


Part Two of a Post on

Exploring the World Outside Your Door

Through DIY Adventures

You’re learning, aren’t you?


And now that you know a little more about your Adventure Type, it’s time to stick your toes in the water, and sample a few things.

After all, the whole point of Building a (Courageous Woman’s) Life is to turn Courage to Confidence. Well, that and the fact that a full life is a fun life. :)

And the absolutely, without a doubt, 100% sure-fire way to build your Confidence is to get out there and try something.

And along the way, learn. Right? Right!

So, let’s look at a few ideas for what you could do.



For starters, consider all the things we’ve done on our Secret Adventures for Courageous Women.  If you’re not sure where to start, joining us for a trip is a great option. We do all the research and planning for you, and all you have to do is show up!

Here are just a few of the things we’ve tried so far. (And there’s more in store starting in August!)


Full moon hike                   Tree-top zip line            Scavenger hunt

Flat-water kayaking           Camping                       Hang Gliding

A rowing (sculling) class    Wildflower hike             Fall colors driving tour

Making apple cider            Gun safety class           Wine tasting

Painting class                    Contra-dancing             Attending a play


And if that’s not enough to get you going, here are 23 more.

Organic gardening              Quilting                        Hiking, camping, backpacking

Gourmet cooking class       Pottery class                Refinishing furniture

Scenic drives                      Knitting                         Writing poetry, filming artistic videos

Photography                       Acting in a Play             Ballroom dance lessons

Canning vegetables           Canoeing                       Long distance biking

Scrapbooking                     Various sports               Restoring antique clocks and watches

Visiting a museum             Community choirs          Learning an instrument

Attending a street fair        Outdoor concerts           Visiting (new to you) national parks


Once you get started, you’ll be surprised at what you can think of, too.


Once you choose an activity to try, the next step is to figure out where, how and when you could do a few of those things. Do some research, ask a lot of questions, and you’ll be amazed at what you discover.

Here are five ideas on where to start.

1. Check community papers. In our area, a free weekly paper called the Metro Pulse has an exhaustive community calendar each week that lists everything under the sun happening in our area, from poetry slams to gardening classes. You can find similar calendars on line as well.

Do you have a paper like that near you?


2. Check local schools. Large universities and smaller community colleges sometimes offer non-credit community classes that you can take for serious skill development or just for fun. Lasting any where from a few hours to a few weeks, they’ll cover everything from philosophy to landscaping, from how to start a business to how to speak French.

For that matter, most colleges will allow you to take an actual class just for fun! You “audit” the class, meaning you’ll pay a small fee to attend class, but aren’t required to do any of the work unless you just want to. There’s no grade at the end; you’re just sitting in on the class because you’re interested in the subject. I once took an honest-to-goodness square dancing class at a large university. Just because. It was great!

Do you have a college or university near you?


3. Some businesses that serve your area of interest will provide opportunities for you to dig a little deeper. For example, most outdoor-gear stores in our area offer talks and guides to help you try a stand-up paddle board or plan for a day hike. As Knoxville becomes known for it’s “urban wilderness”, more and more of these opportunities are being offered in our area. Here in East Tennessee, Outdoor Knoxville is an outstanding resource.

Are there similar businesses or recreational “teachers” in your area?


4. Volunteering with a non-profit is one of the EASIEST ways to explore interests, meet like minded people and learn new skills at the same time. Most of them are so glad to have volunteers, they don’t care if you know what you’re doing or not. They’re just happy that you show up. :)

Call your local United Way office, or check their website, for a detailed list of volunteer needs in your area. Most organizations will offer training for newbies. Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross, your local animal shelter, Big Brothers Big Sisters – the list is endless.  One of them will touch your heart and add meaning to your days.

Do you have a United Way or similar organization in your community?


5. Taking lessons is one of the best ways to really learn a new skill. Whether you need a personal trainer, a guitar teacher, a firearms instructor, or sky diving lessons, someone out there will be happy to teach you just about anything you want to know.

Is there someone near you who teaches adults to play the fiddle?

Bet there is. :)


So there, now you’ve got more than enough ideas about Places to Go, Things to Do.


Now comes the hard part – Taking ACTION. DOing this. At some point, you actually have to pick up the phone, or your keys, and head out the door for your own DIY Adventure.

I’d love to hear how this is working for you. Does it make sense? How has this been helpful for you so far? And what do you need in order to ACT on your favorite idea?

If there’s any way I can help you figure this out, let me know.


Now – Go TRY Something.

And Enjoy! :))




Have you HEARD what we’re doing in September?
It’s our first BIG Courageous Women’s ROAD TRIP.
Registrations are coming in, new flip flops are being bought.
And I’d love to travel with YOU.
Click HERE to learn more.


Would you like join my mailing list?
The easiest way is to text the word
COURAGE to #22828 on your phone!



Photo Credits: by Robert Pittman on Flickr









Our Space: On Creating (A Personal) Sanctuary

Pretty, cozy, country porch.

An Installment in Our Series
on Building a (Courageous Woman’s) Life

Do you have a favorite spot at home, a room or a nook or some other space that’s your own personal sanctuary? Is there a place where you can do your work, think your thoughts, explore your creative side, indulge in silence?

How about just a comfortable, uncluttered place to read a book?

Or is your situation more like that of one woman I know. She has to fight for just a spot to sit among the dog toys and action figures and last week’s mail and the lawn mower owner’s manual. He gets the TV, the kids get (all) the floor space AND the kitchen table, there are no extra rooms and the only space she can find of her own is when she locks the bathroom door.

Sometimes, even that doesn’t work.

Your home is, in many ways, a symbol, a physical manifestation on the outside of how you feel on the inside. It’s an outward representation of what you value, believe, want, and need. If there’s no space for your wants and needs in your own home, how can you claim space for your wants, needs (and dreams) in your life?

If you live with others, and every inch of space is taken up with tools and toys, with clutter and chaos, where is there room for the things that interest you? That please and inspire you?

If you live alone, but have not consciously created space that soothes your soul, then how are you feeding your Spirit in the rest of your life?

Most of us are so busy just getting through the day that this never even registers. We’re too busy figuring something out for dinner, keeping up with laundry, managing demanding careers and getting to soccer games to even THINK about this…. To even notice how the space in our home serves US. Or not.

But this matters. More than you think. :)

Try this.

Do a walk-through with new eyes.

Take a few moments to wander around the house. Imagine that you’re seeing it for the first time. Wander in to each room, and pause at the door for a moment. Look around. Notice what’s on the walls and floors, and how the furniture is arranged. Notice the windows, and the light. What do you love in this room? And what doesn’t quite fit?

Most importantly, how do you feel when you’re in that space? Notice how you feel in your body, in your spirit, in each room. Is there something there that makes you smile? Something that pleases your eye just to see it? Is there something that smells good, looks good, feels good to touch? Is there something in that room that draws you in, invites you to kick your shoes off for a second and Be?

If it’s your third grader’s bedroom, well, probably not. If it’s the living room with a week’s worth of newspaper and four pairs of shoes all over the floor, probably not. If you’re in a house full of testosterone and every square inch is crowded with tools and sports equipment, well, it may not quite be what you’d like to see. Not that women don’t love tools and sports equipment too, of course.

But a softer touch here and there is nice. :)


What do you see? What did you discover?

If you find a space that is just right for You – well, that’s lovely. But if not, then I encourage you to do something about that. Creating a nurturing, protected (meaning, it stays the way YOU want it to stay), space in your home for yourself is one of the foundations for Building a (Courageous Woman’s) Life.

Now Do This.

Start somewhere small. The bigger the problem, the smaller the start. Pay close attention to each of your senses; find ways to stimulate, nurture, be inspired through touch, taste, fragrance, sound. What’s pleasing to have around you?

Choose a space. A drawer. A table top. A space by your bed. A corner of the counter. A nook. Clean off just one 10” square of your desk or clean out 3 drawers of the 5 drawer chest. Pick one room in your house that you love and that would make you the happiest and start there. Set a chair by your favorite window, and work on the space just around that chair.

Pick ONE spot and start there.

Clean it. Decorate it. Make it yours.

I’ve seen examples of women who turned a tiny closet under the stairs into a beautiful, tucked-away writing space. I knew another one who created a small altar with treasures on a bench next to her bed. Another claimed the sunporch for her self and turned the family loose with the den.

A friend of mine with a house full of rambunctious kids and rooms bursting with legos always managed to keep the living room, just one room, spotless, organized, neat, soothing. A colleague of mine who had sons, but no daughters, made it a point to fill her house with feminine art, intentionally balancing the masculine energy in her home with some feminine energy of her own.

If you’re overwhelmed, consider hiring a decorator, or even better, a professional organizer to help you figure it all out. Karen Sprinkle, of Organize It, is one of my favorites. SHE never gets overwhelmed. :)

The Point Is This.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to look like something out of a magazine.

It just has to be Yours, and pleasing to you.

One of the best ways to start Building a Life is to nurture your spirit in your own home.

So, pick a spot and stake your claim. Take a picture of the way it looks now. Transform it. Then post a picture of your new space here or on Facebook, so I can celebrate with you.

Tell me how it FEELS to be there.

And Enjoy!



Have you HEARD what we’re doing in September?
Click HERE to get the scoop.  You should COME! 


Would you like join my mailing list?
The easiest way is to text the word COURAGE to #22828 on your phone!
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It’s a tiny box graphic at the top right corner of this post.
Until I can get some design help with this page,
You’ll have to REALLY want to Speak Up to find it.
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Photo Credits: by Wicker Paradise on Flickr



10 Tips for Fighting Through Fear: Life Lessons from Courageous (Wise) Women



Ok, so one day you wake up to find yourself in this situation you never meant to be in.

Or maybe you did. In fact, maybe you worked darn hard just to GET here.

Maybe this is a really tough thing that has shown up in your life without your bidding.

Or maybe it’s really a GRAND thing that you’ve been working for all along.

Doesn’t matter.

This is the one that takes your breath away, makes your hands tremble just a little. The one that makes your stomach go flip-flop like you’ve just hit a hump on a winding country road.

However it happened, whatever the reason – here you are. Now’s the time. You’ve got to get through this situation. You’ve got to do this thing.

And you’re just a little freaked out. :)


Everything I’ve ever done that ultimately was worthwhile, initially scared me to death.”

–Betty Bender

What to do? How do you gather your Courage? How do you get your Self to the other side of the challenge that’s right in front of you?

Recently, I raised that same question with a group of Courageous Women. Every one of them had powerful stories of things they’d been able to do that had “initially scared them to death”. How did they do it???

Most of them had never really thought about it. After all, we just do what we have to do right?

Well, to a point. But truth is we ALL use a variety of tools to help us get through. We just don’t realize it. These women were no different.  As they began to talk, the lessons grew clear. And I thought you’d enjoy the benefit of learning from their experiences.

Because their methods work.


So here you are, 10 bits of (Courageous) wisdom for fighting through fear.

1. Find your (internal) Incredible Hulk

Hunker down. Pull within. Search inside yourself for the sheer gut-level GRRRRRRR that’s hiding in there. If you need to turn away from the world for a brief time, that’s okay. There’s a part of you that could lift a car off a child if you had to. Find her.

2. Create – and state – your mantra.

Many women have a favorite phrase they repeat over and over again to push themselves through a challenge. It may be a bit of scripture, a quote, or an affirmation. It may be something they believe, or something they’re working TO believe. Doesn’t matter. It helps.

I can do this. I. CAN. DO. this.”

One way or another, this will be over by this time next week.”

I am surrounded by Love and Light, and all that I need will be with me this night.”

3. Ask for (and ACCEPT) help.

At the risk of stating the obvious (!), a lot of you DON’T do this. Here’s a simple truth, Courageous Women. NONE of us can do everything on our own. ALL of us need help from time to time, in all kinds of ways. You don’t think twice about helping out a friend who needs you. In fact, you’re happy she asked.

So what makes you any different? She wants to help YOU too.

4. Carry protective gear.

When you’ve got to walk through something scary, make sure you’ve got your protective gear with you. That may mean carrying a can of pepper spray in your hands and READY to USE while walking to your car at night.

Or it may mean wearing your favorite Power Suit and Power Jewelry to the meeting you’re having with that bank president.

5. Make a power grab. (And here’s a hint. Information is power.)

One of the very best things you can do with anything hard (or even just uncomfortable) is to do your homework. Gather your research. Read everything you can about the subject at hand. Study. Think. LEARN. Seek out guidance, counsel, experts. Ask enough questions (and then some) to feel like you have what you need.

Some of us wing it when we’re facing something outside our comfort zone. Some of us close our eyes and hope it all turns out okay. Some of us avoid learning about the things that are so overwhelming. (I’ve recently forced myself to start learning about long term care insurance. Ugh.)

But the reality is, the more we know, the more we know. And the better we feel.

6. Keep the faith.

If you have a strong faith tradition, drawing on that faith is probably already something you do. But even if that’s not the case, it still helps to seek a Source of power outside yourself. Those in recovery programs like AA and NA talk about the concept of a Higher Power, whatever that is for you… They believe that learning to lean on Something greater than ourselves, is critical.

They’re right.

7. Learn to spot projection.

This is one of those fancy-dancy psychobabble words that gets thrown around a lot, whether folks really know what it means or not. At the risk of oversimplifying a complicated subject, here’s what it is in plain English.

“It’s the pot calling the kettle black.”

Every now and then someone will react to you in a way that is WAAAAY over the top, out of the blue, completely unexpected, and completely beyond anything that makes sense. When that happens, it can be unsettling, hurtful, even scary.

Odds are, it’s more about them, something (unconscious) being triggered in them that has little — or nothing — to do with you.

Spot it. Release it. Move on.

8. Visualize the (perfect) outcome.

One of the most powerful things you can do is also one of the easiest. That is to, quite literally, create a picture in your mind of your desired outcome.

The key here is to picture it EXACTLY the way you want it, and in exquisite detail. When this thing is done, what will the situation look like? How will it feel? What will you be wearing? What will the room look like? What kind of smells or tastes might be in the air? What words or sounds will you hear? What will you know? How will you know it? What look will be on your face? Their faces?

Get the idea? Draw a picture in your mind. Make sure you include all your senses. And make it Picture Perfect. Hold that. And take it with you when you head off to face your challenge.

9. Make some noise.

When my kids were little and had to face something scary (like getting a shot or standing back up after a crash in the driveway), I told them to make some noise. “It doesn’t hurt as much if you make some noise!” I’d say.

I don’t know if that was true or not, but they liked it. And if you read the post about our treetop adventure you KNOW how powerful a full-throated roar can be. So make some noise. Take a walk out in the woods and yell. Or drive down the interstate, alone in your car, and shout to the world that you KNOW what you’re DOING, thankyouverymuch!!

(Of course, this could also fit in nicely with #1 above.:))

10. Don’t lose your perspective.

More than anything else, remember this. The sun will still rise tomorrow. The earth will still spin nicely on its axis. And you will come through. Don’t minimize the importance of what you’re facing, but don’t make it bigger than it is, either. Don’t let it define you. Don’t let it crush you. And don’t doubt for a moment that somehow, you’re going to figure things out.

You’re going to do Just Fine.

So how about you?

What tricks do YOU use to push through fear?



It’s a tiny box graphic at the top right corner of this post.
Until I can get some design help with this page,
You’ll have to REALLY want to Speak Up to find it.
Please do, because I love to hear from you!

Photo Credits: by Paul Bica on Flikr