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Swagger & Staying in the Moment

Swagger. I just love that word! Words really are whatever we want them to be or mean. I’ve seen folks use “swagger” as maybe not always a good thing. I think it’s awesome.

I was walking around the Missouri State Capitol Building (the Mo Cap) this week. Spent two days there. Going back old school, a little like in my contract lobbying days. Yet different. Viewing it with different eyes.

As I walked around the building, I noticed how people walked. I noticed the swagger. We all have our own way of walking. And we spend a *lot* of time walking the halls there. Looking at our phones, twitching for our phone, waiting for the bells to go off, for something to happen, for somewhere else to run off to. Yet, we are in the moment, observing all around us.

I think in many ways, a good lobbyist stays in the moment. That moment where all the possibilities are and where anything can happen next. Anything. The best lobbyists aren’t worried about what’s going to happen next. They may think forward in strategy, but their mind is always on where they are and what they are doing.

Reminds me of a Yoda quote from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. It was one of Yoga’s lessons where he said to Luke that his mind was never on where he was or what he was doing, and that was Luke’s challenge in life. Yoda was training Luke to stay in the present moment where all things are possible.

I talked in my last blog post, Unconditional Love in Lobbying, about the Mo Cap being like a living organism. I think that lobbyists, or the really good ones, feel their way through the moments. Lots of intuition in that building, going with your gut, your knowing.

This idea of the present moment is true in so many things in our lives. It doesn’t matter what business you’re in or what you do in your personal life. The moment holds such power. That is where your intuition, your knowing and your power lies. That is the lesson that Yoda shared with Luke.

What is the swagger? It is the confidence. It is the presence. It is being completely and fully in ones own power. Standing in your own power. Walking in your own power.

Body language can tell us so much. Notice how others walk or stand around you. Notice their posture. Then bring your attention to your own. Are you standing straight? Are your shoulders slouched? Are you hunching over like a turtle, trying to crawl into your shell?

Our body can tell us so much about how we are feeling. Are we worrying about what others think of us? Are we scurrying around in fear? Or are we, to borrow a quote from another favorite old movie of mine, Stripes, “walking tall and standing proud,” comfortable in our own skin? Standing in our own power?

If you find yourself trying to crawl back into your shell, talk to your body. Thank your body for its message, and then change your posture. Even changing how we physically sit, stand or walk can change the way we feel about ourselves.

It is honoring the body’s message to us, thanking the body for its message and recognizing the thoughts or emotions that the body just told us about. Then transforming those thoughts through work with our body. That’s something we can do wherever we are, whatever we are doing, in each moment.

Sure, there’s more that we can do. We can work with those thoughts, and that’s what much of life coaching is about. But just noticing our physical body, being present with ourselves and then through that, recognizing our thoughts, can make such a difference. From that place, then we can make a change, we can make a shift.

It’s the first step to embracing our swagger.

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Unconditional Love in Lobbying

On the top of the Pyramid on the Sun at Teotihuacan, Dec. 31, 2014
On the top of the Pyramid on the Sun at Teotihuacan, Dec. 31, 2014

And…it has begun. The roll call for the first bell of the state legislative session has been completed. Five months of wild and wooliness. People always wonder how I do this. How can you be a lobbyist?

Lobbyists communicate, and communication is important. As in any industry, it’s about how you approach it and how you do your job. How you live your life. How you treat others, and how you treat yourself. So for me, though I don’t shout my spiritual path from the rooftops when I’m in the Capitol Building, I bring it with me, and I respect everyone and their path.

It is just simply…me. I don’t need words or statements to others to be who I am. I am me.

I think this path really helps with that. If you follow a path of unconditional love, you can’t get caught up in the dramas of the building, the fights, the arguments. Why? Because it just doesn’t matter! Everyone is doing the best they can in their own dreams, their dream of the world as don Miguel Ruiz writes in The Four Agreements. Technically I’m not a lobbyist anymore, as I can’t ask folks for a “yes” or a “no,” but the idea is still the same.

The Four Agreements
The Four Agreements

You can really love the people in this work even if you’re not really into the game of it all. Going for true win-wins. I always loved the win-wins, but I used to also love the game. The thrill of the chase. The rush. The bell rings and off you go, chasing down this thing or that. Not so much anymore. I just watch it, almost feeling as if I could be sitting above the Capitol Building, watching all the pieces and people running about, to and fro.

Detachment. It’s not to minimize the work there, or the passion of people for their beliefs of course, I honor their dreams just as I do mine. I also believe that being detached makes me a better lobbyist. I can see it all better, calmly, without reacting. I make better decisions that way.

Long ago I learned to detach from these efforts, and sometimes I work with people that I don’t personally agree with, and that’s o.k. I respect their position and their reasons for it. I learn when to share and when not to share about myself, and through it I maintain who I am regardless. I also never work on something that I can’t believe in at least on some level.

Through it, I have made the most amazing connections with people over the years. I even have had amazing spiritual conversations with legislators and lobbyists because I find common ground, and I don’t throw words to describe or label my spiritual beliefs in their face, nor do I react to theirs. They are just symbols, labels. What would be the point? It’s all about the love, right? I respect their path, and I respect mine. I respect myself.

So many in the world, in business and in the legislative world too, can take things personally, thus the “wild and woolly” thing. When you combine it with a practiced will, it can be even more wild and woolly. Some people have a strong will, but they don’t know it. That includes many in the legislative field, at least I think so. A little “woo woo,” but magical folks of course know about their will and how to use it – they are practiced with it. They also know the whys and why nots, or at least you hope that we understand the why nots as well.

Here is a great example of taking the legislative process personally, and what can result…

I knew a lobbyist who was also a magical practitioner, which really just ties in with using your focused Intent or Will and leveraging its power and your ability. Business folks call it the “vision thing,” and this is like the vision thing on steroids. Like with anything, there’s a balance. Two years or so ago, this person I knew tipped that balance, as they set out to do this big work to make the legislature pass the bill they wanted. As an aside, the mere idea of “making” the legislature do something you want to do is humorous in and of itself, and I know any lobbyists reading this will get that.

But this person told me all about it and what they were going to do. They explained about the injustice, as they saw it, and how they were going to call for justice, and they were going to get this bill passed. Anger combined with determination. It was palpable. It was personal for them.

They were attached to and caught up in their own dream. And it backfired.

I listened, and then I offered up my recommendation that they may want to have a cool down period and revisit that decision, which in the end they substantially did, though not completely. It is a great example of taking something personally and attempting to put your will before the will of others – to try to override their dream with your own. In the end, they almost lost their entire effort and almost had the opposite happen of what they wanted. It was very touch and go for quite a while after that.

Be impeccable with your word. - don MIguel Ruiz
Be impeccable with your word. – don Miguel Ruiz

I think that goes back to the idea of be careful how you use your words and what you send out into the world. Be impeccable with your words, one of The Four Agreements. I would add – be impeccable with your thoughts. Or remember the saying that it will all come back and bite you in in the you-know-what.

Also the idea of boundaries comes into play. What are healthy boundaries? I like to think of this simple illustration – where my dance space begins, yours ends, and vice versa. Respecting others’ decisions and respecting our own. Using our will on ourselves and our life, but not projecting our will onto someone else or subjugating the will of others. Disagree with respect, honorable disagreement.

Yeah, people get really emotional and worked up on this stuff!

This morning I talked with a lobbyist about my spiritual retreat last week to Teotihuacan with the Ruiz family. (If you want to see more on my experience there, you can watch my video HERE.) Even though this lobbyist would be considered as likely coming from a different point of view on things of that nature, I had told them I was going. They are one of those people who lives it to give it. I jokingly said that it was quite a shock to come back from sitting on a pyramid feeling the love and then to walking back into this, lol.

But the funny thing was that, as we talked about strategy and how this session was going to play out and just the idea that it has begun, this person was using the same words I was using…words like “it doesn’t matter.” We talked about how people get locked into their positions and caught up in it and can get angry and worked up.

This was all in general of course, not about anyone or anything, but just looking at essentially the domestication of the state legislative process and almost how it is this live organism – it has its own dream. And how people get caught up in it and are domesticated by that dream. We are working on an issue together that has a lot of different sides and positions surrounding it, and we agreed that we were going to stay focused on the big picture, stepping away from the language minutiae and microscope as needed to go back to “what is the purpose?” in all of this.

That’s how we roll. Hard to explain in words, but it was good, and it was fascinating. How do you roll? What is your purpose? Does it really matter? Who cares? What is your will – your true will and purpose? What is your ego saying? What does the real “you” say? Are you listening?

O.k., so back to listening to the introductory speeches… “Wisdom does not begin or end in this House…We should do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do…What better time to think of your last day than on this first day.” This was a quote by the new Speaker of the House, which I heard just as I finished typing this. Pretty cool. You can find those gems, if you listen.

me today - extra
Selfie of me loving the surprise morning snow today!

What do you want to be on your last day? Will you meet it with love? Will you meet it with respect? Any day could be that last day. The last day of your life. How do you choose to meet your death? Are you listening? Which voice are you listening to?

Transform Those Sticky-icky Thoughts

One of the things that don Miguel Ruiz and his family teach, Byron Katie, and also Martha Beck through her Life Coach Training Program, is the idea that our thoughts about a situation create our suffering. What we are making them mean and the story that we repeat over and over, even to ourselves, about a situation. The situation itself is not what is causing our suffering, particularly after getting past a certain period of time. … I call them “Sticky-icky” thoughts.

truthYou can walk through the fear, change your thought, partner with the fear, change your story. Rewrite your story to match your truth…your inner truth.

Understanding that “your” truth is not *The* Truth.

We each have our own truth, our own story that we create as the Artist of our own life. Coaching can help you discover those inner gems or clues to and on your right path, but there is also much that you can do on your own.

The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz is a great set of tools to use to shift your thoughts. The Four Agreements are:

four1) Be Impeccable With Your Word,
2) Don’t Take Anything Personally,
3) Don’t Make Assumptions and
4) Always do your best.

The Four Agreements are powerful tools for living your right life.

There are many ways to transform our thoughts, many tools, and I guide my clients through this process in my life coaching practice, but another tool you can use is this…

First, notice your thought happening. Second, imagine and picture holding the thought in your hand. Look at it. Separate from it. Become the Observer.

Then, say to yourself “I am having the thought that XYZ.” Notice how you feel, how it shifts.

Finally, say to yourself “I notice that I am having the thought that XYZ.” Notice how you feel, how it shifts.

It’s a tool we learned in our Martha Beck training program, and though of course it’s always a little different when someone leads you through it, it is a powerful tool to work through on your own.

You are not your thoughts. Separating from our thoughts through work like this helps us to realize that our thoughts are not us, and enables us to shift from letting our thoughts control us to controlling our thoughts – transforming them.

We create and manifest the life we want to live. Choose your thoughts, choose your life. It happens one thought at a time, in each moment.

What happy thought do you choose today

to transform an otherwise un-fun thought?

Play with it and have fun!

I would love to hear about your experiences! You can comment here or come on over to my Facebook page for the conversation.

Love and blessings!

Sheri

P.S. If you like what you see on my Facebook page, please consider “liking” the page too!

Whose stuff is this anyway?

stop2“Are you in your business or are you in their business?” Such a juicy coaching question. I *love* this question! It all of a sudden puts the brakes on, causes you to look around and just…stop. Wow.

Well, at least that’s what happens to me when a fellow coach tosses that cookie to me. I slowly chew every delicious bite and then ask for my glass of milk and pat myself on the head. Satisfying.

Sweet clarity. It provides a great way to pull yourself out of the muck and mire – what I like to call the “igh” – and get a clear look at a situation. Dust yourself off, hold that stuff in your hand and look at it. Be the observer. Ask yourself, “Am I in my business, or am I in their business?” “Is this my stuff? Or is this their stuff?”

We can only control ourselves and our own stories – our own business, our own stuff. Other people’s stuff is simply that – theirs. And newsflash…it really says nothing about you! Pause and let that one sink in. … I know, right? Powerful.

fourI’m sure that I will be writing more about The Four Agreements and related books by the family of don Miguel Ruiz, which gets into this concept of our stories. I also wrote about it in my blog post The Power of Story, Creating Your Life.

I know there have been many times in my life where I’ve internalized the stories of others – their views and opinions about me. And what did that result in? All it gave me was drama filled plot twists.

I carried around their stuff, their bucket of igh and made it mine.

Not so fun, right? Let’s take it a step further. Ask yourself some of these questions…

  • Are you one of those people who feels everything strongly?
  • Do you walk into a room and feel the mood of the group as if it were your own?
  • Do you find yourself sensitive to the emotions of others?
  • Do you cry – I mean *really* cry – at sad movies?

empathThere are a lot more questions I could ask, but if you answered yes to most of those, chances are that you’re an “empath.”

Empath.

By the word “empath,” I don’t mean “having empathy” or ” having sympathy” for someone – that’s not quite it. We all do that. Being an empath is like having empathy on steroids. It takes it to a deeper level.

As an empath, you actually feel what the other person is feeling. In fact, it can go so deep for some folks that they even feel physical symptoms when someone they are close to is sick. Have you ever had that happen? It’s a little less common, but it shows how many different ways you can be an empath.

As an empath, if you accept the stories and opinions of others as defining you, you also accept the emotions that come with it from other people. You internalize their stories and you internalize their emotions. Just toss some more igh into that bucket of stuff you’re carrying.

I recently taught a tele-class on this concept for fellow coaches and just had this conversation with a friend over the weekend, where you could almost see the light bulb turn on. Stunned silence. In my experience, when folks hear about this idea it results in silence, quickly followed by something like “Damn, really??! Omg, that’s me! It explains so much of my life!”

Quickly followed by, “omg, what can I do?” My first response is always, ask yourself, “Is this mine? Or is this someone else’s?” – a variation on the coaching idea that started off this post.

empath-a-blessing-and-curseBeing an empath is a huge gift. It helps you to understand others. It also comes with a burden – you lug around that bucket of stuff from others. That is before you know how to work with it.

Pretty cool, huh?

Yeah, I love that a-ha moment. I had a student I’ve been teaching for the last two years who says knowing this literally changed her life. It helped her relationships with other people and got her off of this emotional roller coaster. She set down that bucket of stuff she had been carrying for years.

She told me that she always just called herself a “New Yorker *itch” – she is NY through and through and loves it. But after her “ah-ha” moment, she realized that was never true – it was only that she was always overloaded with the emotions of other people. Can you imagine being in such a big city and not knowing your were an empath and feeling everything from folks around you?

I know that place well myself. It was years before I figured this out. I’ve been a lobbyist for 25 years. Imagine not knowing any of this and being a lobbyist working crazy hours on highly controversial issues surrounded by the strong emotions of others?

Yeah, this realization changed my life too. So I wanted to share it here with you. The next time you are in a situation and feel overwhelmed with emotion, ask yourself, “is this mine? or is this someone else’s?”

If the answer is no, set down that bucket of stuff.

With no offense intended to this cute little skunk! Sweet freedom!
With no offense intended to this cute little skunk! Sweet freedom!

The Little Wren That Could

The little wren was mighty. Mighty? How is this so? We’re talking about Wren, right? I mean, Wren. A wren. A little brown bird.

Yes. Why is it that we always think that small things aren’t strong, aren’t wise, aren’t capable? Throughout nature, you see examples of just the opposite. Like the wren.

I never really knew Wren until about two years or so ago when we put up a wren house in the tree off of my back deck. We put up two other wren houses right there on the fence too. Because little wren boys need to have more than one house. They make up their little houses and then they sing to attract their mates.

They set their sights high. They dream big. And they sing.

The little wren girl comes to inspect his handiwork. If she likes it, he has his mate. If not, he has to try again. Or maybe she’ll like one of his other two nests. Or maybe he’ll have more than one little wren friend!

Our Century Farm house - that's Mom and Dad. The Wren's nest is behind them between the two doors.
Our Century Farm house – that’s Mom and Dad. The Wren’s nest is behind them between the two doors.

We have wrens at the farm too. You can hear their sweet song at a distance. We have wren houses. And we know that wrens existed before people made wren houses, so they must make houses in nature, somewhere. Maybe in a tree with dense leaves? I know Wren at my house loves the little wren house in the tree the best.

This summer has been beautiful, and Wren has been back at home at my house – same nest, he has his girl, they are having wren babies. It’s July and by this time they’ve had little wren babies. And it’s the same at the farm. I wrote this on my last trip there over the 4th of July …

There is lots of action on the front porch of our old farm house. There’s an old barn swallow’s nest on the porch above the door. Between two doors really – the door to the living room and the door from my bedroom to the front porch. You’ve got to love these old houses – this one built around 1904 – with all the doors and windows to catch the cross-breezes.

Reports have it that the barn swallows built a new nest this spring but promptly abandoned it. Fast forward to now as Wren starts carrying sticks and twigs in his tiny beak. He flies them up to the front porch gingerbread, sitting there, and then flies over to the barn swallow nest. He does this again. And again. And again. He’s still doing it, two days later. He’s building his little wren condo.

Between twig runs, he perches on the porch gingerbread and sings. Then he gets more twigs. Sometimes he drops his little twigs and has to pick them up. Work up his courage. Figure out how he’s going to do it. He sits on the porch floor. Then he sings. He thinks about it. Then he sings some more. Then he flies another twig up to his little house.

He’s making a little roof of sorts on his house with those twigs. Mom says this is unheard of. I say what do you mean? She says wrens never do this. They never use someone else’s nest. It is absolutely unheard of.

Wren's condo made from the abandoned Barn Swallow nest at our Missouri Century Farm
Wren’s condo made from the abandoned Barn Swallow nest at our Missouri Century Farm

She goes to a reunion planning meeting and comes back. Mom has a report. She told my uncle and the other folks about this wren. They said nope, no way. Wrens don’t do that.

It’s simply unheard of.

Sound familiar? We don’t do that. It’s unheard of. We shouldn’t do that. Or we can’t do it because we’ve not done it before. How do we know it will work? What if we fail?

We can’t accept it in our lives, so we need to puzzle out why the wren is doing this thing. This unheard of thing. It appears to be working for him. Well we’re waiting for his new girlfriend to show up still, but the process of nest-building appears to be successful. He keeps tweaking it.

I think we all tweak things. Sometimes we drop a stick. Sometimes it falls into the crack and it is lost to us. We thought we wanted that stick. It’s gone. Then we go find a new stick. And we find it is just perfect! It is the perfect size stick. It fits just right. It builds us the best house, a much better house even.

Wren doesn’t care that he lost a stick. He doesn’t care that he flies back and forth to get more sticks. He is a wren. He is singing. He isn’t lamenting his stick. He is in the moment. He is song.

We are afraid to lose our stick. If I let go of this stick, what is going to happen to me? How will I be successful? How will I make money? What if I fail? What if I lose my stick?

Wrens don’t do that. They live in the moment. Each failure is not a failure to a wren – we just call it that. It is an opportunity for a better stick, for a stick just right to build out his happy little nest.

How do we know wrens don’t do that? Are we a wren? Do we see everything that wrens do? Sometimes we assume that the story will end the same each time for everyone else because it did for us.

We also label things. We have to put them in a box. We can’t have the unknown – we need the answer. So we see some things occur, and we extrapolate out from there. Our mind creates a story out of what we see. We finish the story. We finish the wren’s story. We finish our story. We finish others’ stories. We make assumptions. When we see something that doesn’t match our story, we assume it is a failure. Something is wrong. That can’t be.

It’s unheard of.

We see wren carrying its twig to the barn swallow nest. Surely it is not building its nest there? It’s unheard of. It’s not building a nest. No way.

I tell you, he *is* building a nest there!

Watch for an afternoon, well, all be. It is building a nest. Only if we see it do we believe it.

Just because we haven’t seen it, just because we can’t “see” it or we don’t have that vision, we assume it cannot be done. Wren has that vision, and so can we. Yet rather than create possibility, we are focused on what we cannot do. We internalize what others say we cannot do.

The task is too big. We are too small. You are too small. Who am I to do that? Who are you to do that?

Field of Rye at our farm - reminds me of the Field of Dreams ... "Build it and he will come." Wren did just that...and so can we!
Field of Rye at our farm – reminds me of the Field of Dreams … “Build it and he will come.” Wren did just that…and so can we!

Really? My answer? … So what?! Then I’ll find an even better stick. And maybe I’ll even sing while I’m at it.

Wren is mighty. You are mighty. I am mighty. It’s time to build that nest. One twig at a time. And don’t let yourself or anyone else tell you that it can’t be done.

Thanks to Wren. Small, joy-filled, determined and mighty little bird.

If Wren could do it, we can too.

The Power of Story, Creating Your Life

The Power of Story, Creating Your Life…and The Story of Jessie . . .

Stories. As children, we are read stories by our parents and told stories by our living ancestors. As adults, we sit by the fire, listening to and telling stories. Stories come in many forms, yet every good story has an underlying meaning, or many layers of meaning. We tell stories to impart a message, a feeling or a belief.

My high school college prep English teacher, whom we called Judy “Vogue” (yes, we were young, but she was indeed a former Vogue model.), taught three levels of story interpretation that always resonated with me – the literal, interpretive and applied levels.

The Literal level was the story on its face, what in legal terms is often referred to as the “black letter of the law.”

The Interpretive level is what it means to our life under the surface, below the obvious.

The Applied level is more of a philosophical or higher level of what the story’s message is for humanity.

I like to think of this as also akin to the parts of our self, or even of our soul, breaking it down into three levels as well, to gain greater understanding of ourselves and our stories. There are so many ways to look at it, and I like this one because it is simple, easier to gain understanding and can be used to look at so many different things about ourselves.

The first part is our Middle Self, which would be our personality self, or as Sigmund Freud would refer to it, our Ego. This is akin to the Literal level of story analysis from the English class.

The second level is our Lower Self. This is akin to the Interpretive level of story analysis, and in Freudian terms, it is our Id. You might also call it our subconscious self. This is what is below the surface of the story and the intuitive part of ourselves.

On the third level is our Higher Self or super-conscious self or divine self. This is akin to the Applied level of story analysis, seeking to look at deeper and applied meanings for humanity, and also from a Freudian standpoint akin the Super Ego, which is that higher level of consciousness. (As you can tell, I also have enjoyed my psychology classes through the years.)

Stories have the power to bring understanding. Stories also have the power to shape our life and shape us as a living being. They have the power of creation. We all have the power of creation, to create our lives, shape our life. Stories are a vehicle of creation.

Every day we tell stories. We define and shape our lives through the stories we tell ourselves and the stories we tell others. Just like we all have our own truth, yet there are many truths. We have our own truth and our own story. Others have their truth and their story, and it may be different than ours. They may have a different story of us or about us as well.

But the key is to find and listen to your own story. And then rewrite what you want to change and what you want to create.

To do this in the best way, we must be aware from the perspective of our higher self of what our story is, what our truth is. Then we can determine if our current story is in keeping with our true will or our truth from that higher perspective…and if we choose to keep our story or rewrite our story.

To make this shift or make changes in our lives to align with our true self, we can use the power of story. We can write and rewrite our own stories. We can do this mentally, through affirmations or literally through writing a new story on a situation or about our life, thereby integrating it into our heart, body and soul – writing our story and our destiny, creating our future.

Many cultures use the power of story, and of course, we all use it every day. Tribal cultures in general, and cultures/societies such as the Toltecs and the Druids, handed down unwritten stories as a way to pass their cultural heritage and spiritual teachings down to new generations. As one example, in Toltec teachings by don Miguel Ruiz, author of the popular The Four Agreements among other books, he talks about the Dream of the World. The dream is the story that each of us is telling in creating our own Dream of the World.

I participated in a don Miguel Ruiz live online class where he talked about story. To paraphrase his words, here were some of his messages on the power of story:

We are programmed to be what we are from the moment of our conception, but every individual is unique and perfect just the way we are. Imperfection is in our mind because we do not understand our own perfection. We are programmed to create a whole story. But only we can change our story. We all create the story of our lives. We can shift our story and create a paradise for ourselves. You are not responsible for the creation of anybody else or the story of anybody else. They are responsible for their own creation and story, not you.

I would also add that the stories of others or their Dream of the World does not define or create or program us or our story. That is unless you allow it and are not actively writing your own story. You can create your own life, by creating and writing your own story. Story has the power of transformation.

As part of a storytelling exercise three years ago, I wrote The Story of Jessie. You may see similarities in this story and its messages to that of the Story of Job in the Bible. The Bible contains a series of stories, archetypal stories with different levels of meanings. One of those stories is the Story of Job. When I was younger, I was in the Masonic organization The International Order of Job’s Daughters and served as my group’s top elected official called Honored Queen, so its messages resonate with me.

I hope you enjoy my Story of Jessie, a story of transformation, perception and of the power of story itself. Perhaps it will move you to write your own story. You can rewrite the story of your life and recreate yourself anew, just like Jessie…

The Story of Jessie . . .

Jessie had a plan. She always had a plan. Though admittedly some things would go awry, from time to time.

Jessie lived on a plateau high in the mountains. She could look out from her land, gazing across the lush green fields, to the ocean edging into the valley deep below. Flowers grew in abundance over her land. Behind her home of stone and wood was a beautiful hillside, rolling up into peaked and jagged mountains. The snow capped peaks were visible on a good day. A day with no clouds. Though this was not one of those days for Jessie.

Somehow the weather seemed to mimic her moods. Jessie was melancholy. There was so much she wanted to do and see, and even the beauty of her land would not soothe her soul.

Jessie raised sheep. Well, if truth be told, she could, and in fact did, raise almost any animal. She had horses, goats, cattle, chickens and even a few pigs ran around her land for good measure. Not to mention the birds that came to visit her. Yet, Jessie wasn’t satisfied.

She would walk outside at sunset, as the sun set over the beautiful crystalline blue waters far below, and lament her lot in life. She’d always had a strong belief in the divine and always had everything she ever wanted. She never was one to wish for a man or children. It wasn’t that. She yearned for excitement.

On this particular day, with the clouds and this particular sunset, she turned her back on the beauty of the ocean and walked back to the barn. She threw her walking stick against the doors of the barn, startling the animals, which ran to the other sides of their pen and hid in the backs of their stalls. Not feeling better, she picked up the walking stick, and she shook it at the sky, and she asked why. Why is this all there is to life? Why is this all that I have? Why isn’t there something more to do with my life than this? She shouted to the heavens and the sky above.

Jessie would have been wise to choose her words more carefully. Sure, she knew that words were intent and that words were action, but as someone who had so much in life, and never really had been tested, Jessie never experienced what can happen with words. She did not understand what the effect truly can be.

As she let her anger ring out, it reached the ears of the universe. And those words began to weave new threads.

Satisfied for the moment, Jessie decided maybe it would be best to call it a night, so she went into her home, where the warm fire was crackling in the hearth. A pot of stew was bubbling in the iron kettle, and she carefully pulled out the kettle’s arm to spoon some of the delicious lamb and steaming vegetables from her garden into her wooden bowl. She sat by herself by the fire, eating her stew with some dark bread she had baked that morning. Her cat and dog lay near her feet content in the warmth and their dreams. Jessie became sleepy and fell fast asleep by the fire.

But her words were moving out through the web of life, and life would not be the same for Jessie.

She awoke to a crash. Startled, Jessie looked around. The fire was out, and all was in darkness. Wait, though, there was a glimmer above. Fire! Jessie gathered her dog and cat to her and ran out of the house. Lightening must have struck her home as a storm had angrily whipped up from the ocean, which was none too pleased by Jessie’s recent lack of appreciation. She tucked her dog and cat safely into the barn and then she ran to the well to try to connect the hose. But the mechanisms were stuck. Jessie was watching her home, with all she owned, burning to the ground.

Meanwhile, the sheep, having found an opening in the fence that Jessie had meant to fix before she went in for the evening, but forgot in her tempest, ran through the opening of the fence. They followed their fearful leader, running to the edge of the plateau. As the roof of her home collapsed into the flames, Jessie heard the sheeps’ bleating and spun around. But it was too late. The leader was already over the edge of the plateau, with all the other sheep following blindly behind, and they fell, bleating in terror to the valley floor. Jessie ran to try to stop them, but in that moment, a driving rain started and pushed her back towards the barn.

Jessie had hoped to find respite in the barn. Her cat and dog were safe. The horses were safe in their stalls. The cattle and goats had been milling about in another pen. But then, there was another crack of lightening. It struck the top of a mighty oak. An oak that had stood the test of time for 200 years. Down it came, crashing on the pen, crushing the animals. It hit the barn, and all she could hear were the cries of the animals around her. Animals crying out in terror and fear.

Jessie crouched low, relatively unharmed, as much as she knew, as Jessie was in shock. All she had with her were her precious little dog and cat.

As the sun came up over the hills in the morning, the rain had finally stopped. Jessie crawled from under the remains of her barn, leaving her dog and cat safely tucked under an old horse blanket that somehow had stayed dry through the storm. She wandered around in a daze. Everything was gone. Her home was gone. The barn. All the animals. Everything she had spent her life building.

Tears streamed down Jessie’s face as she cried out for help. She asked, through the sobs wracking her body, how could you let this happen? Why did this happen? Why have you forsaken me?!

Her cries were ignored.

Jessie had no food really to speak of, as all had been burned in the flames, washed away by the rains or crushed under the blow of the mighty Oak. She was hungry. Her clothes were torn. Somehow she managed to find some food, and she gave what little she found to her dog and cat, before she left them safe and snug, though shaken, as she began the long walk in to town.

Now, no one had really known Jessie in town. They always thought she was rather aloof. And, not understanding Jessie, they took it as an insult and gossiped about her whenever they had the chance. Stories ran rampant at her expense.

By the time Jessie walked the 20 miles into town, in her bare feet as she’d lost her boots somewhere running after the sheep, she was quite a sight to behold. Her dress was ripped and torn, mud was caked on her legs, blood streamed down her face from the cut where the nails from the barn planks had struck her. She went seeking help, but everyone’s doors were closed to her. She knocked at all the doors, and no one answered.

She finally found a beggar at the end of the road, and collapsed down next to the man, and cried. He asked why she was crying. Jessie answered that the universe had taken away her home, her barn and all her animals and that she had nothing left. She coughed. Actually, she had been coughing all day, as Jessie had caught pneumonia. It didn’t take long, and Jessie became delirious while talking to the old man. She’d walked by this beggar many times and paid him no heed. He really had been nothing to her.

Jessie slipped out of consciousness and the world went black. Her dreams were tormented. When she finally came to, it was several days later, and her first thought was of her dog and cat that she had left snuggled in the blanket in the remains of her barn. They must be dead too, she thought. Jessie had no idea where she was or what had happened to her. What time was it? What day was it? She bolted upright in fear.

Jessie was in a little hut, by a warm fire, and over by the hearth, in a big basket lined with rushes and a soft blanket, were her dog and cat. Relief swept over Jessie and she cried tears of joy at seeing her two beloved animals, which ran into her arms.

But, how did she get here? Where was she?

The door opened, the warm sun pouring over the stone floor and he walked in. This was that beggar! But, no…was it?

He introduced himself to her as Rick. And he was all cleaned up now. He had been spending time at the edge of town praying for those in need. He was a monk. Well, was a monk. He never took too kindly to all those rules at the monastery, thank you very much, and he had his own views about it all. When in prayer, he never worried about appearances, and it was of no concern what others thought of him – only what he thought of himself. Rick was a happy soul.

He assured Jessie that her dog and cat were fine. Jessie was so sorry for all she had said before. Her home and life were destroyed. She cried tears of gratitude to the divine for saving her life, and more importantly, for saving the lives of her dog and cat, who were now snuggled up against her. The scars on Jessie’s face from the nails began to heal.

That day, Jessie finally had a true picture of the difference words can mean. Slowly, the web was woven anew in Jessie’s gratitude, and the rough and torn fabric was healed. All Jessie felt was gratitude to the divine and to Rick for helping her, and love for her dog and cat.

When she was finally well enough to travel, Rick packed up Jessie and her dog and cat into his wagon, and they drove off to her land. And there before her eyes, were a newly built home and barn! The fences were all repaired. And, there were her animals! Her dog and cat jumped out of the wagon and ran to sniff and greet their old friends.

Most of her sheep, cattle and horses had been found over this past fortnight while she lay in a feverish sleep by his fire. Rick had, unbeknownst to Jessie, wrangled the townsfolk into helping him. Rick was secretly wealthy. Surprising what good will a bit of the gold coins could produce. But really, to their credit, the townsfolk had been in fear of what they did not know of Jessie.

As they saw the ruins of her home and barn, they took pity on her. The Oak had not really struck the animals, but had broken the fence and the animals had run off in the storm. The whole time she was recovering, the townsfolk had retrieved and tended to her animals. They had rebuilt and restored her land. The Oak was cut up and neatly stacked by her new home. And there, by the door, was her walking stick.

She turned in gratitude to thank Rick, but he was gone. Jessie ran to the newly repaired barn to see her horses all safe and sound in their stalls. The other animals were safely in their pens. She saw the beauty of the sun setting over the ocean, and she was thankful.
Jessie walked over to her new home, picked up her staff, held it aloft to the skies and cried out in gratitude to the heavens.

Jessie was home.

The End

It’s All About Character and a Boy’s Little Red Wagon

As posted on a Leadership Blog on Tributes to the Leadership of your Father, and as promised in my blog The Wisdom of my Mom and Dadwagon

My Dad was a successful, award-winning insurance sales manager for years in the 1960’s-1970’s. The company, due to its President W. Clement Stone, was a leader in positive thinking and affirmations before it became vogue – it was all about positive mental attitude. PMA baby, PMA.

Two of the books that the company gave out to its employees were by Mr. Stone – The Success System that Never Fails and Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude (co-author).

I Dare You by William Danforth
I Dare You by William Danforth

Mr. Stone also gave out William H. Danforth’s book I Dare You, and the first thing that book does is to dare you to read it cover to cover – right now. I have my Dad’s copy and my Grandfather’s copy of that book, and the others.

W. Clement Stone sold his first insurance policy at age 16 and started his own agency and national sales organization by the time he was 20.

Like Mr. Stone, my Dad started working as a pre-teen.

W. Clement Stone's "The Success System That Never Fails"
W. Clement Stone’s “The Success System That Never Fails”

Officially working that is. Dad had all sorts of entrepreneurial efforts as a young child growing up in rural Illinois. This included gathering corn cobs from where they were shelled at the grain elevator and selling them for starting fires in wood stoves. I learned my work ethic from my Dad, and this was a favorite story of mine growing up, still is.

Dad always tried to push harder. Dad’s little red wagon held four bags of corn cobs, but one day he tried to fit five bags into his wagon. He went to the local blacksmith shop where he always had luck selling his corn cobs, pulling his little red wagon, loaded to the brim with his corn cobs. The shop was all the way on the far corner of town.

boy with wagonThe whole way there, Dad struggled as his corn cobs kept falling off. Dad had to keep stopping to pick them up and put them back in his little red wagon. When Dad finally arrived at the blacksmith, utterly exhausted, with his little wagon in tow, the man said that he did not need any corn cobs today.

What?

My Dad asked, No corn cobs? You don’t need any corn cobs?

No, said the blacksmith.

Do you think my Dad said o.k. and left, shoulders slumped, pulling his little red wagon full of corn cobs?

Nope, not my Dad.

My Dad, ever-then the budding salesman, did not take no for an answer. He convinced the man that he indeed did need the corn cobs. You can guess what happened. The man bought all five bags!

Perseverance pays off – never give up.

By the way, back then? The going price was a nickel a bag.

When Dad worked for the insurance company, they also gave out songs to its employees. Every morning my Dad would sing the song “I Feel Healthy, Happy and Terrific,” so much so that I even sing it to myself to this day. I used to sing it with him and still remember the smell of his shaving cream as I played in the hallway singing along with him while he shaved and got ready and motivated for the day.

My Dad was hiring folks who would work on pure commission, like him as a 100% commission sales manager. It was a tough job, with leads and literally driving around and going door to door. It required fortitude, perseverance and a strong work ethic. I was a lucky girl to have this example growing up. You can read in my blog post The Chosen Baby: One Little Girl’s Story of Adoption on how lucky I am to have been adopted by my Mom and Dad.

quoteMy Dad interviewed a lot of potential candidates in his position as sales manager, and he always asked them two questions. If you met your quota by Wednesday or Thursday, what would you do for the rest of the week? He also asked them, what is your definition of character?

The winning candidate was someone who would keep working through the end of the week as hard as they did up until meeting their weekly quota, and would not hit the golf course because they already had met their weekly goal.

I always have asked that same question to applicants who have applied to work in my department in my gigs.

I still remember Dad’s office in the basement. I remember his desk. All the insurance leads binders with the brown leather binders and big rings. I used to play with the binder rings and loved to play with all his trophies. I can see and hear my Dad making calls late into the night and having sales meetings with his sales team on the phone and coming over to meet with him as I quietly sneaked down the basement steps to listen and watch. I remember his green chair that I loved to sit in when he wasn’t already in it working.

I can smell it, taste it and feel the air. There was a lot of energy in the air, created by a lot of self-motivation and hard work.

My Dad led by example. Still does.

It’s all about the definition of character. And character defines my Dad.

My Dad went to work in maintenance at a school district in the 1980’s-1990’s. One day, an immigrant refugee from a war-torn country in Eastern Europe started work. On the man’s first day, my Dad told him “you come to work every day, no matter what.” He sure did listen to my Dad! When his supervisor asked the man why he came to work after having serious dental work done one day, the man told his supervisor that my Dad told him “come to work every day.” He was as hard working as my father.

powersDad took this man under his wing at work and also helped his family generally get their feet off the ground, as he did several others. He also helped others to get jobs at the school district, and it is so humbling to see what great things their families have done since they emigrated here.

To this day, this man’s family invites my Mom and Dad to everything to thank my Dad for his help getting them started. And all of them were at my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary – wild horses could not have dragged them away.

My parents taught me to work hard and always give back. It’s all about character and the rest will come. Without character, the rest does not matter.

You can do anything you want to do if you put your mind to it, know yourself and live your life with character. I use these lessons daily in my life. Thanks, Dad!

The Wisdom of Mom and Dad

So many times when we are growing up, we don’t want to listen to our parents. As an adult, I have realized the folly of my ways, and even when I don’t like what they say, I also have learned that they are almost always right. And I learned it again this past year.

Yep…always. Well, or almost always.

My Mom and Dad are two of the smartest people I know. Not book smarts, they have street smarts. Or let’s just call it plain ‘ole common sense.

Ahh, common sense. Such refreshing commodity. They are smart cookies, my parents.

My Dad is also one of the best judges of character, and he is always right. He wasn’t an award-winning 100% commission sales manager for W. Clement Stone for nothing. Positive mental attitude, baby. PMA. I wrote a Father’s Day tribute about my dad some years ago that I will share in a later blog, which talks more about this.

My Dad instilled in me the importance of always keeping your word, always working hard, never giving up, and most importantly, being a person of strong character. Character is everything. Without it, you really don’t have much, and I tend to agree with him.

Character. And as I like to say – Learn It. Live it. Love it.

Another thing my Dad always told me is that “you are beautiful and brilliant, and that will make you intimidating.” I find this is often true in all parts of life. For more, check out this great article on the use of language in national politics related to women – Reclaiming the Words That Smear New York Times.

Have you ever encountered this? I experienced this when I took over as head of a department at the young age of 28 for a large association where I was ultimately managing roughly one million in budgets, just before completing my MBA in 1996.

When you are a woman, if you are successful and driven, you can be intimidating to men, and also to women who are not confident and standing in their own power. It does not matter how good of a person you are, what good you do in the world, how hard you work or the great job that you do – sometimes you get painted with the “words that smear.” A woman is bitchy and aggressive. A man is confident and assertive. See the difference?

Now you may be surprised about what I’m going to say here…

All of that is o.k. Because it’s not personal. Remember that. It has nothing to do with you. It is not your story. It is an old societal tape that hasn’t quite reached its last leg yet.

So let it go … work with the environment you’re in and create your life anyway.

I am driven, motivated, hard-working, passionate and focused. I am successful and do a damn good job, pretty much in all things I do – because I put my all behind all of my work. I make no apologies for that. I am not sorry. I am Sheri. I am a woman in my power. Scratch that. I am a human being in my power.

It’s a matter of understanding how to stand in your own power in this environment, embracing all of life and still getting what you want. Life is tough sometimes. We all have challenges, and that’s o.k. It is a matter of how you respond, what you do next and the choices you make. I created a successful 18 year career at that business and accomplished amazing things. That was my choice.

Let’s flash back a bit.

My parents loathed my Junior Year in high school as I felt my freedom, began to find my own identity. What parent doesn’t? Yet I was a straight A student, on my way to becoming Honored Queen of my bethel in the International Order of Jobs Daughters despite all odds. I had many friends. I didn’t go in for the cliques and talked to everyone. I valued everyone. I welcomed all the new members. I built others up and supported their dreams.

Not counting the time in fourth grade when two school girl bullies painted my little satin jacket in art class, my only store bought clothes that we could afford and that I treasured…and that we could not afford to replace. … Ninth Grade was the first time where I found women who were envious of my accomplishments. Girls who went after me for having what they wanted as I was the youngest ever to be elected by my peers “into line” to eventually become Honored Queen. Oh, the drama that ensued from them!

It was a wake-up call for me – in 9th grade. I was just a little girl really. It was an eye opener on life. But I had done the work…and they had not. I ignored them, persevered and continued to do the work. Did that help them? Nope.

But it is all a matter of what you choose to do with it. How you transform and leverage life’s challenges to build and create something amazing for your life.

As for me, I became Honored Queen. I instituted the first charitable efforts ever for our bethel and raised the most money ever for our bethel in my Senior Year in high school during my term as Honored Queen. My parents and I and our members worked our butts off! I went on to have a record-breaking term as Honored Queen and we accomplished some pretty awesome things together. The Ronald McDonald House was my charity – my parents also taught me to *always* give back.

Work hard, play hard…and always give back. Oh, and make work fun because really, in my personal experience, a successful life is all about play.

I was happy…because I was me. I knew who I was. I walked my talk. Walk your talk, stick to your path, go for it and you can make it happen. Be happy with yourself, who you are and stand in your power. Be happy.

It’s your choice.

But back to my Junior Year…which is where I found the movie Risky Business. My parents did not realize the connections, and they were not too fond of their daughter being so enthusiastic about such a movie at the time, lol. Yet that movie and its message have shaped my life in fabulous ways. I will never forget this scene –check it out!

Make your move, take your chance. “What the {bleep} gives you freedom, freedom brings opportunity, opportunity makes your future…if you can’t say it, you can’t do it.” Well, on this part my parents wholeheartedly agree!

Another thing I learned from my Mom and Dad growing up is that you can do anything you want to do if you set your mind to it.

At the same time, they told me and taught me that you have to work for it. You have to *earn* it. I have seen some over the years shy away from the word work, or give lip service to it. It’s flash and no substance. Wanting things handed to them when it hasn’t been earned, expecting, demanding, and when they don’t get them their reaction is worthy of a two year old’s tantrum. What does this get them? Nothing. It just doesn’t work that way. Life does not work that way. Gigs do not work that way. Or in other words, nothing is worth having if you don’t do the work to get there. Yep, another gem from Mom and Dad.

You can dream your life. You can create your life. And a life coach can help you do that. But what it cannot do? It cannot get you to the end zone without some pulling up of your sleeves and digging in to make it happen in the real, physical world. Even the most fun and fabulous things take effort. The key is your perception and thoughts around the work and if you’re going after your dreams or letting your thoughts hold you back. Or are you going to do it, dig in and make it happen?

It is your choice. Life is your choice. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do what you love and love what you do. It goes hand in hand. When you love what you do, even though you work hard, somehow it feels different. It feels less like work – because you’re living your passion, creating your life.

You are dreaming your life.

Sometimes even when you work at something, you don’t get what you thought you wanted, and that’s o.k. – the old adage, “we don’t get everything we want in life.” My parents taught me that too. And guess what? That is o.k.! Just like my parents taught me. They were right. It is not a bad thing. Just time for a new choice or a do-over.

When life happens, you get back up, you dust yourself off – you go for it!

Old wisdom sayings are wisdom sayings because there is a truth to them. How freaking boring life would be if it was so predictable?! We’d never learn a thing. Just like the Risky Business quote, it frees up space for new opportunities and amazing things to happen.

So let it go, move on and get over it, because a more fabulous opportunity, a new step on your journey is waiting for you, so take the bull by the horns and get on with it, let’s go!

You can do it!

I watched my parents and learned from example. One thing I learned was even when you’re tired and sick, you get up and “do” – do whatever it is, but do it anyway. My parents hardly ever missed a day of work. No matter how you feel. I may be a big believer in rest and healing when you need it, but they have a point. You choose to make your life happen.

Do it. Live. Be happy.

Life can be hard, things happen. Don’t curl up in a ball and stay there, transform it, take charge and get up, just get up and do *something* … anything. Before you know it, things will change for the better. But you have to want it, and you have to work for it! Just like a caterpillar looses everything about itself before it grows in its cocoon to the most beautiful and free butterfly. Be willing to be the caterpillar…embrace it…embrace the change…and then you will become that butterfly.

Last year I had several surgeries, and I’m thankful that it is now behind me, and there were other challenges. It was a tough year in many ways. What did I do? Sure, I rested a lot and I took care of myself. But I also did things anyway. I worked anyway. I transformed it. I signed up for the Martha Beck Life Coach Training. I also started some great public policy advocacy consulting work.

You can transform it too! Just take that one step, take that baby step…and then take another. Baby step it to victory.

Maybe it’s the old Scrubby Dutch work ethic ingrained in me by my family, I don’t know. But it has power. Put your effort where your talk is, walk your talk, stand in your power and make it happen. Don’t stand on the sidelines watching the others on the field, expecting to be on the field and having commentary about it…get out there and work and make it happen, make your life happen.

Create your life. Get yourself in the game.

As a life coach, I am here to empower you to find your own inner wisdom and create that life you want to live.

My parents also taught me Always Do Your Best. Sound familiar? Yes, it is also one of the Four Agreements of don Miguel Ruiz’ writings. Mom and Dad also taught me to always take the high road. They taught me not to apologize for who you are. Stand up for what you believe in and what you think is right. It reminds me of this awesome song that I heard about two weeks ago on the radio and that reminded me of my Dad – You’ve Got to Stand for Something by Aaron Tippon.

And I just have to toss in my personal motto – “work hard, play hard.” There is no substitute.

That’s how I endeavor to live my life. Yep…the wisdom of my Mom and Dad. I listen to them. After all, they’re probably the two smartest people I know.

The Chosen Baby: One Little Girl’s Story of Adoption

When I was a little girl, I used to think that adopted babies were kept in a little room on shelves where their new mommies and daddies would come pick them out. Choose them. The beautiful thing is that there’s something to that the idea of choice, and soul connections and all that jazz that also bring you together with your parents.

The Chosen Baby today – that’s me!

I dedicate my story to all of those who have been adopted. And I may come back and add more later. This is a story that wanted to be shared now…

I have always known I was adopted. The Chosen Baby was a book my parents read to me from when I was a baby. That is how I learned I was adopted. They said they picked me, that I was chosen.

The Chosen Baby is an amazing book about a loving couple the Browns who adopt a little boy named Peter and then they adopt his baby sister Mary. Quite lovely. My parents told me from the beginning, and it was a beautiful thing. There never was a time that I did not know that I was adopted.

The Chosen Baby
The Chosen Baby

I still have this book.

And don’t get me started on how incredibly lucky I was to find my parents, or that they found me. They are the two people in this world that I love and respect more than anyone. They are strong, smart, giving, caring, supportive, loving and the most beautiful souls. I am truly blessed. And yes, they are always right…well, almost always. Especially when it comes to being a good judge of character.

When you grow up being adopted, kids may tease you. It did not happen very often to me as I got along very well with the other kids in my neighborhood and at school, and I had lots of friends. Every now and then someone might tease “your mommy and daddy gave you away!” My reply was always the same – “my parents picked *me*!” That usually did the trick. And I believed it. I grew up surrounded in love. Still am.

The other thing is that being adopted results in several things. It makes you more independent. You find and make friends easier and they become important to you – like your brothers or sisters of choice. You are a loyal friend. My friends are my adopted siblings in a way, yet without all that sibling drama that I hear about – no fighting. Yeah, I don’t have drama in my circle of friends. Never have. I just release that from my life. Life is too short!

I remember when I was a little girl, and Mom asked me if I wanted a little brother or sister. I said no. She doesn’t remember that now, but I always have remembered it. We did not have much money either, so I think between the two things that made the decision for my parents. They wanted to give me the life they never had, and having more children would have stretched their resources.

My parents sacrificed for me, my college education in particular at American University in DC. Grandma, the one who I helped when she died about two years ago, she used to buy Mom clothes so Mom would have something nice and new when I was in college. We were that short on money. But I got my education.

My parents have always been – and are – the hardest working folks you will ever meet! This is where I learned the value of hard work, determination, not asking for things to be given to you, earning your way, taking care of yourself, having responsibility. My Dad also taught me that you can do anything you want to do if you set your mind to it. But most important? This is where I learned about character. Character. Integrity. Love.

The other thing that happens when you are adopted and even more so as an only child, is you learn to communicate with folks of all ages. I was never scooted out of the room. I was always part of the adult conversations, my entire life. The adults around me listened to me, respected me and taught me how to respect myself. They taught me right from wrong. They taught me to be who I am – to be me. This is where I learned to communicate, which has served me so well in all areas of my life.

Folks used to ask me through the years, and still do, “don’t you want to meet your real parents?” My reply was “no, of course not – I already know my real parents.”

The one thing I did want to know, which is random, but it was what color was my biological mother’s hair? I got that answer.

As so many things in life and on a spiritual path, health issues can drive you to the most beautiful experiences. In 1989, after I graduated from college, I sought out the non-identifying information from the adoption agency where I was adopted. I was seeking more information on my health related background. They sent me a three page letter, telling me the story of my birth and adoption.

There were no pictures, but my biological mother was described as 5’2”, 110 pounds, blonde hair and blue eyes. Yep…just like me.

There were two interesting things I learned.

First, she was adopted! Now remember that back then, this was not as common or as discussed. That was a huge surprise. It was a closed adoption, and they knew nothing of her heritage. My parents were told I was German. This letter mentioned being at least part Polish. On my biological father’s side, the second interesting thing was that my biological grandmother was described as being 5’ tall and had a darker, olive complexion. Hmm. I used to joke that when I got married and if I ever had a biological child, that my husband might wonder if it was his, lol.

I kept the letter in my Bible, and it is still there.

And then I started to travel.

As I traveled throughout Europe, I was interested to see who might look like me. When you grow up around your parents, even if you are adopted, you take on similar mannerisms and it makes you look alike. Though really, I grew up around folks that did not look like me exactly. When I got to Poland, I realized that there were blonde Polish folks that had the same facial shape as I did. I have a great picture of me with one of our tour guides, and it is amazing. But I knew there was much more to the story than that.

None of this ever bothered me. And it still doesn’t. There never was any crisis. I built a solid identity for myself. As an adopted child, early on you learn the power of creating your own life. And I had a solid life foundation. I was loved by my parents. I was loved by those who had to place me for adoption. It was all love, all the time. So I didn’t really think about it that much over the years, just when someone would ask me about it.

Fast forward about 18 years. But first let me set the stage for the rest of this story…

I was a lobbyist for the home building industry with a successful big time gig as Senior Staff Vice President for Government Affairs during that 18 years, and all my time and energy went there. I was the youngest to ever run my department, and I was the only woman to have ever done it. It was a man’s world. I broke all the boundaries. I exceeded all the goals. I thrived and was wildly successful.

At the same time, I felt it was the right time to venture out and make a change to see what was the next fabulous opportunity on my career path. So in 2008, I did the unthinkable. I left this job. Quit. I just quit. I quit it without having another gig. I knew that as long as I stayed there, I would never leave – I would never look for another job. I was too passionate about my work and dedicated to take the time to do it.

So I quit.

Sometimes quitting is the right thing to do, with anything. I have learned to embrace change in life, and it always brings such blessings, as you are about to see in my story here. So I learned the beautiful lesson of quitting.

I’m reminded of my favorite quote from the movie Risky Business – Take your chance. Make your move. Freedom gives you opportunity. Opportunity is what makes your future. So that’s what I did. I made my move. I took my chance. I was free. A pattern I was to intentionally repeat, with more blessings every time I did it.

I ended up in one of the most amazing experiences of my life, well, so many amazing experiences! First, I met with many business leaders in the St. Louis region. I met with everyone I could. For many years later, and still to this day, I was used as an example of how to do it. I was asked to help others, which I did. I helped them learn to talk to people, ask for meetings, meet with them. I do not like the word networking because those I met with are much more than a contact to me. They are a friend, and we have helped each other many times since then. And this is what I helped others to do.

During this time, I also had the most amazing interview process with a Fortune 500 company. I was the only candidate they flew to DC. Another male dominated industry. And when I met with their leadership, it was an incredible experience – I will never forget it. Such a gift! They ended up having a merger, so I did not get the gig as they had to hire someone from the other company. But that was best too. But man oh man wasn’t that fun!

And then it led me to the Presidential campaign. It was the 2008 cycle, and I was looking for something to do with my time and keep me busy while I looked for the next gig. So I called the campaign to volunteer, and low and behold, they asked to hire me and the Political Director asked if I could “start tomorrow.” Wow.

I was a Field Director, and we won our state. Those huge rallies that I worked on were incredible! Such high energy. Long hours. Friends for life. Amazing stories and times. That political director just had her second baby – such a beautiful little girl! We are all still dear friends. Oh, and I got to meet Hank Williams, Jr. and Miranda Lambert before she was popular. That was so fun! Hard work always pays off in so many beautiful ways.

Then I got my next gig. I lobbied for a cutting edge $4.5 billion power plant and coal mine that was being built in our region. It had all the environmental bells and whistles that were available at the time. I loved working in the power industry. This gig was the key turning point of this story, and it has nothing to do with the details of that gig.

I set up a legislative day for our owners – rural electric coops and municipalities – in the Illinois State Capitol. I think I might remember the date – it was April 23 I believe – and the year was 2010. We happened, as I like to say “for some reason,” to be there in the building the very day they passed the adoption law!

This was why I was meant to work there.

What was this adoption law? Well, it said that if the birth parents did not object by November 2010 that you could request your unredacted *original* birth certificate from the State of Illinois for closed adoptions. Wow. The piece of paper. I had never really thought about it before. The original birth certificate. Opening the vaults of the state justice system. Really? Wow.

So I waited. Come the deadline in November 2010, I filled out my form and I sent it to the State of Illinois. And I waited again.

By this point, I was a lobbyist in Jefferson City for education reform, telecommunications, tax reform and some health care work. I really enjoyed the education reform and telecommunications issues.

And come February 2011, I got the letter.

THE letter.

I was on the phone with a friend and went to my mailbox. I wondered why in the world I had something from the Illinois Dept. of Health. Then it occurred to me.

This is THE letter!

That’s all I could say, over and over again while I opened the envelope.

This is THE letter! THE letter!

And there it was… The un-redacted birth certificate.

My name.

My birthmother’s name. No mention of my birthfather. The address of her parents’ house.

And the biggest discovery?

She named me…after her.

Wow, what a gift, what a blessing, what a send off of love! Just beautiful!

Now, folks still ask me, don’t you want to meet her? Don’t you want to find them? My answer is, not really. I do have an interest in knowing if she is alive and what happened to her. I am interested in more about my biological father’s mother’s heritage. I also know that I had a biological brother or half brother that was a year or two older than me that she had put up for adoption before me, which I’d known since 1989. So brothers and sisters are an interest of mine, down the road some day. I will know when the time is right.

It always reminds me of the idea of “just in time arrival” from my MBA program. Synchronicities never cease to amaze me. So I had this paper, this record of my birth. Just incredible!

I eventually left the lobbying gig to take a position in 2012 with a U.S. Senate campaign, which was fun. About the time that it ended in fall of 2012, I was in the midst of my year long womb journey and did freelance work during that time.

Every choice, every decision, led me to that beautiful and powerful moment.

Back to Risky Business again – take a chance, make your move. Those lines struck me as a teen, because there is wisdom to be found there.

This past year held great power and beauty of going within and embracing my womanhood, looking back at all I have accomplished in my career and in my life.

Now I have a great position as Director of Public Policy for a long-term care advocacy organization, advocating on legislation that impacts long-term care consumers. I am also a Martha Beck Life-Coach in Training, in the midst of a 10 month intensive live coach training program. I highly recommend her books to my friends and coaching clients.

I did not lose my womanhood. I did not lose my power. Quite to the contrary…I got it all back! I healed myself. I can’t wait to see what comes next!

And I look forward to helping other women on their journeys, to empower women to discover their inner courage and stand fully in their own power to create their life the way they want to live it.

Join me on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/youcandreamyourlife.