Archive for August, 2016

Portrait of a Strong Wise Woman

August 31st, 2016 | no comments

Hands Holding The Sun At Dawn

As we watch the sand through the hourglass on this last day of August, I wanted to revisit my thoughts on what makes a strong wise woman.  My definition continues to evolve as I do and deepens as I continue to have this beautiful and intimate conversation with women from all over the world.

We are perfectly imperfect. We are open-hearted. We are grateful. We are change makers.

And we are stronger together.  Today I feel so thankful for being able to walk with and learn from these women.

One is not born a woman, one becomes one.

~ Simone De Beauvoir~

I’ve been writing for a number of years now.  Books, blogs, speeches, tweets, grocery lists.

But what I’ve never really discussed is the thousands of person to person emails I’ve exchanged with women who have risen above some of the most devastating circumstances one could imagine.

Frankly, I’ve been quiet about it because I did not know how to really describe it.  I started writing because my son died and my life completely fell apart.  Women started to write back because their lives had fallen apart too, and they recognized a little piece of themselves in my shattered bloggable life.

I’ll be honest.  I wasn’t going to respond to them first.  I had my own pain, I couldn’t handle anything else, and I had not really ever expected anyone to reach out to me.

But my 12-year-old son Brendan, with wisdom beyond his years, sad, “Mom, if people write to you, you have to write them back.  If they take the time to write to you, it means they are hurting like we are.  Promise me you will write to them, even if you get on Oprah.”

My sweet boy, my son, my teacher.

So I did.  I clicked reply, and I started having a conversation with these incredibly broken people.  And I would tell them that it’s okay, I’m broken too.  But we can find a way through. Sometimes we would exchange one or two emails.  Other women still check in with me periodically almost seven years later.

So, I wanted to tell you about the women I celebrate. I don’t need to look to the news, or a top ten list.  I have a beautiful chest in my office that holds the emails and letters of the women I’ve connected with since I started writing about what matters in life, about the fact that we can be broken and beautiful all at the same time.

There’s the woman who wrote to me after her son was shot. He was a police officer and was killed in the line of duty.  The funeral was over and she was sitting in her house surrounded by memories of this boy who wanted to be a superhero. She was trying to find a way to keep breathing in and out because the grief sat like a weight on her chest.  She had encouraged him to be that superhero, to follow all of his dreams.  And he died, being a hero. We cried together for a few months, as we sorted through the tremendous mess of making peace with unanswered questions, unspoken words, and unlived potential.

I think about the lady who I exchanged emails with for weeks, as she built up the courage to leave an abusive relationship.  She was terrified, physically and emotionally beaten to a pulp, but she was finally ready.  She moved into a new apartment and started a life that she had no idea how she would pay for, all the while knowing that she would look over her shoulder with fear for years to come.  But she stood up, not only for herself but for her daughter, who was her sun, moon and stars.  The promise of this young girl’s life propelled this mother into action, and Momma Bear tucked her baby behind her, and pushed her way into a new life.

I think about the cancer survivor who emailed me one night when she was hanging on by a thread, chemotherapy having ravaged her physically and mentally.  She emailed me because she did not want her children and husband to see her fall apart.  She was on empty, so she emailed a stranger in the middle of the night because she read some of my ponderings on life and thought I might understand what it was to be broken.  And I did.  Woman to woman, we talked about the pain we shared, and what we as women carry quietly to keep the hearts of those who love us safe and secure.  She went on to not only survive, but thrive and turned her experience into a catapult to help others.  She, like me, wanted to make sure that people walking a similar path knew they were never alone.

I know there is always much celebration today for the movers and shakers, and the women who have transformed our world with their leadership, intellect, compassion and drive.  And each accolade is well deserved.  But, I also want to celebrate the women I’ve met via email, sitting at my laptop, writing through pain, wondering if anyone was out there.  They wrote to me from their darkness, and I replied to them from mine.  We ruminated and lamented, we encouraged and consoled.

Most of all, we discovered that as women, embracing the broken mess was what made us beautiful.  I read once about the Japanese art of Kintsugi.  Broken pottery is repaired with lacquer mixed with powdered gold.  It does not hide the breakage or the repair, but embraces it as part of the history of the object, making it more beautiful.  No disguises, embracing both the broken and the beautiful.

That is my portrait of a strong wise woman.

We stumble, we fall.  Sometimes we absolutely shatter into a million pieces.  But, as women do, we dust ourselves off and we stand up and continue the journey.  Because that is what women do.  We recognize that we are part of something larger than ourselves, and the strength of our shared stories and experiences moves us and the world forward.  We look for the lessons in loss and we search for understanding and meaning.

Strong wise women.

Today I celebrate the courageous women I met in the dark.  Mother to mother.  Woman to woman.

I want to hear your story.  Tell me about your journey towards strength and wisdom. Continue the conversation with us at Strong Wise Women.

With Gratitude,



Person to Person

August 23rd, 2016 | no comments

We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the
ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.
~Mother Teresa~
I have been in a bit of a funk over the past number of weeks. Not many would notice, but on the inside there is a gnawing discomfort.

It’s been a combination of things.  The 4th of July was tough this year, and it’s taken some time to recover from it.  I heard some news about an old friend that is unsettling, and I can’t get this person off my mind. And swirling around all of us is a political conversation that makes even the most optimistic feel wary, scared and different.

I’ve been feeling helpless, not knowing what to do. So, as has been the case with so many times in my life, I start to write, hoping that the typed word may somehow make sense of the situation.

But, as we all know, sometimes in life, making sense of a situation is not always an option. Sometimes, things just don’t make sense. So what do we do?

These are turbulent times. I find when I hear five or six sound bites on the news about the state of the city, country or planet and all that needs to be fixed, I feel like a very small ant at a very big picnic. A speck of sand in the desert. I just don’t feel like I can make a difference when I see a cumulative report in a thirty-minute news program. How could I possibly make a difference?

The answer? Person to person.

Mother Teresa said it best,
“Speak tenderly to them. Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in
your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don’t
only give your care, but give your heart as well.”
In many of her teachings, she never preached of sweeping changes we could make in this world. Her message was one of simple love. She spoke of a love we could give even if we had nothing else to offer.

She spoke of a love we could share when the world didn’t make sense.

And maybe that is the trick. We may never be able to make sense of the things that happen in this world that we don’t understand. We just have to learn to love each other through them.

Take some time today to think about who is around you who needs some love. A neighbor who is struggling in this economy? Your spouse? Your children? A friend? Think about the people you know around you that are currently looking for steady jobs. What about the neighbor who lost her husband or child last year? Have you checked in with her lately? As I look around my own life, I see so many opportunities where I can love in the way I was put here to do.

None of us can, with the wave of an arm change the world. But we can change the world of one person. We can impact the lives of the people within our circle of influence. In the big picture, it is one of our greatest responsibilities.

Today, really notice the people around you and give them the love they need. It will come back to you tenfold.

Life is Like a Vegetable Garden

August 16th, 2016 | no comments
What will be the harvest from your life?

What will be the harvest of your life?

The best place to seek God is in a garden. You can dig for him there.

~George Bernard Shaw~


What’s got my attention today? My garden.

It is one of my most favorite things. It is not a sweeping landscape or a professionally groomed masterpiece that could grace the pages of Home and Garden magazine. In fact, if you were to look out the back window right now, you would see that the hot summer sun of North Carolina has fried most of the lawn. Technically, if a botanist was to drop by for an assessment, the only greenery alive on the ground right now would be classified in the Crabgrass family. But still, it is our safe little place.

We have the yard itself, and a small vegetable garden that we throw seeds in each spring in the hopes of a bountiful crop. Our past adventures in “farming” have produced mixed results. We learned that peanuts will grow just fine in the red clay of the Carolinas, but no matter how we try, we simply cannot get them to taste as good as the ones purchased in the snack aisle at the grocery store. We learned that reading the labels on the young seedlings is a must unless you want to be surprised with the marijuana-shaped leaves of an Okra plant sprouting from the ground. We learned that birds will wait until your tomato is perfectly ripe and ready for picking,  then will kindly peck a hole in the side of it ten minutes before you come out to grab it for your salad.

But, we’ve also learned that there is nothing on this earth that tastes as good as something that you, Mother Nature and God have grown together. We’ve learned that it’s okay to share with the birds, for the most part. I’ve learned that bugs, who have never been my favorite, are part of the mix if you want to work in the yard. And you need to learn to co-exist with them unless you want to grow vegetables that will have you glowing in the dark.

We’ve learned that gardening, and tending the soil is just like tending our own lives.

Build Your Resilient Purpose-Filled Life

Your garden is like life. It has a balance of things in there, some good, and some not so nice. But they balance each other. The good and the bad, they need each other. And the key to enjoying your garden or your life is living in the middle, not at either side of the spectrum. You have to balance the good and the bad too and see that each one has a place and a purpose.

Your garden shows you how to achieve your dreams. You plant the seeds at the beginning of the season, apply the necessary nutrients for growth. Then? You simply hope and believe it all works out, and the rest of the work is covered. You just know you will be picking tomatoes and peppers from those plants in no time right? You don’t over-analyze, you simply have faith. You go back each day to see little sprouts and then plants. Then, as if by magic, you walk by a plant and see it is weighed down with its harvest, waiting for you to take it. It’s like it magically appeared overnight.

Life is like gardening. You plant the seeds for the life you want. You give it the nutrients it needs to grow. You create a safe environment for your dreams to flourish, and periodically you weed away the outside influences that could choke it, and prevent it from thriving. You learn to make peace with and live with the things and people you can’t change.  You adjust your direction and approach to deal with the storms of life.

You watch your dreams grow, but still, it seems like it is just never quite ready. Until one day, you look at your life, and you’ve done it. And, strangely enough, it feels like it appeared overnight. And, just like the pepper plant, all we really needed to do is have faith in the fact that we could make it happen.

Go plant some seeds for your life today.

I can see your green thumb from here,

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