What’s your story?

Happy Easter. Happy Passover. Happy Birthday!

Twice the celebration today for Lori!

Today is my younger sister Lori’s birthday.  And because it fell on Easter, she ended up with birthday cupcakes, presents AND a giant, chocolate Peter The Rabbit.

We had a wonderful weekend of “sister adventures” including going to the spa where Lori relaxed in her first Watsu with amazingly skilled Woman on Fire Tamara Caggiano.

Lounging at the Golden Door Spa in Naples, Florida

Many of you met Lori in our first Women on Fire book.

She wrote a chapter about how after 18 years of dating she met, fell in love, and married the man of her dreams — and how she coped with becoming a widow.

She was still in her 40s and a newlywed when Tom was diagnosed with Stage 4 head and neck cancer.  He died a month after their second wedding anniversary.

“Writing my story was beneficial to organize my feelings. It was the beginning of understanding the process of grieving and how to grieve,” she reflected this weekend, five years after writing her chapter.

“I worried if I wrote the truth — how I was struggling; how empty I felt; and about the anger and hurt — people would view me as weak and vulnerable. But it turned out to be quite the opposite.”

Lori’s courage to tell her story as she was going through it reminded me of the power we unleash as Women on Fire when we share our true selves — and the enormous potential benefit for others.

I was recently touched reading this thought-provoking sentence: “can you imagine if you had two paragraphs of truth written from a great-grandparent about their life?”

We feel energized and alive when we hear the truth; we feel cheated when we don’t.

“To share my story with others actually made me stronger and connect with more people,” Lori said.

“Many people thanked me for sharing it and a few said it made them look at their own relationships (with husbands, partners, boyfriends) differently. It made me feel good to know telling my story made a difference.

“If it helped one person, it was worth telling it versus being safe and keeping it inside,” she said.

Looking back now, six years after Tom’s death, Lori realizes what a long process to heal.

“Telling the story is what got the ball rolling — the beginning of the healing process — and now these many years later, I feel I am finally at the end of the process.

“I can now see my story, beginning to end.  And, the end is where I truly have started to live and feel again.”

Earlier this month, Lori took a final step in her life with Tom when she spread his ashes in Peru at Macchu Picchu, a destination that they had planned for their 5th wedding anniversary.

Lori at Macchu Picchu 

“I look forward to being in a relationship again. I can honestly say ‘I’m ready!'”

How is it for you?  Have you considered writing a chapter or a full memoir of your life?  How might it benefit your family and friends — or even a complete stranger?

Do you tell the truth about your life to those you love and care about so they can learn from your mistakes and successes?

The reluctance to share that I hear most often — and an excuse I’ve used myself:

I can’t tell my story. If I told it, it would hurt _____________ .

To that, one of my all-time favorite writers Anne Lamott says, “you own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.”

This summer you will be able to read a whole new set of Women on Fire stories. Our 21 co-authors of the next Women on Fire book are hard at work crafting their own life stories to share with you.

I have read a few of the completed ones, and I must tell you I have laughed, cried, learned and been uplifted by each one!

I know you will be, too.

Recent gathering in Columbus with a few of the co-authors of Women on Fire Book 2. You’ll be able to read their empowering, courageous stories this summer!

I hope you will continue to share your true self with other women, in particular. It is the single, greatest resource we have to give each other.

Thank you for being in our powerful circle of fabulous women!

Wishing you the safety and courage to tell your own powerful story ~

*This week’s Spark PINspiration*  

Pin to Pass on the Love!


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10 things to do before 2013 begins

Only 10 things, you say?

If you’re like me, you have a million things to do before you say goodbye to 2012 and the New Year starts — in just one month.  Eeeeek!

So, I put together a list of 10 fun and nurturing things for you to do this month so you have the energy to do the other 999,990 items on your list;-)

But first …

Three months ago, I bought an amaryllis bulb kit at the grocery store for a very reasonable $7.99.  It said on the box “guaranteed to bloom” and I believed the promise.

But after two months, I starting doubting.  Nothing happened.  The little plastic container of dirt sat lifeless on our window sill.

Then a month ago, vibrant green leaves pushed through the dirt and a sturdy stem shot up.  Still, nothing happened except for a jolly green giant stalk.

And, I started to give up on the beautiful, red, “guaranteed-to-bloom” amaryllis pictured on the box.

Until today!

When this exquisite flower popped out and I can see what is yet to unfold!

Once again, I learned the lesson: growth takes patience.

Her flowering is coming at the perfect time.  She will be in full “guaranteed” bloom at the height of all the December holidays and the New Year!

And to help get us through to the New Year…

Here are 10 ideas to make the busy month ahead a little less stressful and a lot more fun and rewarding:

1) Schedule now a relaxing, healing treatment for yourself.  Time for a manicure, pedicure, massage, facial, etc. will be welcome relief during the holiday hubbub.

(If you’re reading this, Woman on Fire Tamara Caggiano of Naples, Florida…I’m calling tomorrow to schedule a watsu with you!)

2) As with the amaryllis, find something to keep close by that is growing or glowing as a daily reminder of beauty and simplicity.

3) Read Elaine St. James’s inspiring little book — Simplify Your Christmas: 100 Ways To Reduce the Stress and Recapture the Joys of the Holidays. Amazon Link. (Even if you’re not celebrating Christmas, the author offers helpful ideas to make this time of the year easier.)

4) Is there someone in your life you’ve been missing and thinking about? Maybe you had a falling out.  Or life got too busy to really connect. Reach out. It will delight both of you.

5) Schedule a “girls’ lunch” or “girls’ night out” with friends you love being with and feel rejuvenated by when you’re with them.

6) Find a new holiday song to enjoy!

7) Consider going on a “communications diet” for at least several days.  From December 21-January 1, I take a break from email and all social media including Facebook to give myself a rest from constant communication. You’re welcome to join me.

8) Take stock of all your major activities and events in 2012.  Share with a friend or make it a family activity. Discuss what you accomplished and are proudest of; and what you didn’t get to do in 2012 that you want to make happen in 2013.

9) Schedule now some “sacred” times during December for peace and quiet — and spend it doing whatever will make you happy and fill your heart and soul.

10) Add something new to a favorite holiday tradition.  This year I’m going to make Gabrielle Hamilton’s milk punch with sesame cookies instead of egg nog and thumbprint cookies.

BONUS: 11)  Eat. Drink. And be merry.

A fresh New Year starts in 29 days!

What do you do when life goes bump?

There’s a funny little saying our beloved and hard-working assistant Blue announces when things get a little crazy and life whirls out of balance.

“It’s a little ‘kittywampus’ around here!” she’ll say, and I’ll laugh.

Our assistant Blue and her assistant Wilber keep ‘kittywampus’ under control in the office!

But if I ever needed strategies to cope with things going ‘kittywampus,’ this past week was rich with opportunities to practice my coping skills.

I know you’ve had those kinds of weeks (days, months, years?), too.  Maybe it’s happening for you right now.  Life is flowing along nicely and then bump, bump, bump.  (I swear it happens in threes…)

It started when I knew I had too much to do to fit into one week.  Writing deadlines. Calls. Interviews. Scheduling conflicts. Overdue work. Creative thinking time.  All of us here (Wilber included!) are working feverishly on the launch of a new,  top-secret project for you.

Add to it, this was my final week in Florida before the “great migration” home to Martha’s Vineyard.

Boxes to pack. Closets to clean. Clothes to organize. Cat to get ready. Cars to prep.  (How two people and one cat can accumulate practically a lifetime of stuff and books (even though we both have Kindles) in four and a half months is beyond me!

But I am not complaining and feel ever grateful to have designed our lifestyle to live in places we dearly love. I feel especially blessed to be in the warmth and sunshine of Naples when it is bitter cold and grey on the Vineyard.

Then in the midst of what was starting to feel chaotic, I received bone-chilling news that pushed me right to my edge.

Fierce, deadly tornadoes had struck Alabama.

Nearly my entire family lives in Huntsville and the weather radar showed they were in the direct path. (Thankfully, the televised images of the dreadful destruction had not yet made their way onto CNN.)

I made calls to every member of my family that went nowhere. Hours later, my mother was able to reach me and let me know all of our relatives were safe.

Shaken and surrounded by destruction, however, they would be without power for several days.

My mother had weathered her “scariest tornado ever” closeted alone with her kitty in the dark in her laundry room; her cell phone battery was two bars from dying and so it would be unlikely we’d talk until they had power again.

In an already too busy and now stressful week, I felt overwhelmed, frustrated and helpless.  There was nothing, short of dropping in by helicopter and scooping them up, that I could do for them.  I was edgy and cranky with my loving, supportive husband who, as usual, calmly rolled with it.

The crush of everything left me worried, frazzled and even feeling a bit hopeless at times.

In my more sane moments, I knew it was a week “gone kittywampus” and that I needed to reach into my toolkit, pull out my strategies and use them.

So, here’s what I did to keep myself from going completely over the edge:

  • Walked each day even though I didn’t feel like it (I took pictures of flowers along the way which brought me joy)
  • Listened to comedienne and Woman on Fire Janette Barber on Rosie Radio (made me laugh and feel better)

In the sunshine, walking and listening to Woman on Fire Janette Barber on the radio perked up my spirits.

  • Paid attention to my breathing (always works)
  • Sat in meditation a couple of times for a few minutes (helped to center me)
  • Reached out to a couple of Women on Fire I love and adore just because I missed them and I wanted to get outside of myself (reconnected me to my deep passion for our Women on Fire community)
  • Held my “fear” fingers (my index fingers which is a Jin Shin Jystu practice that relieves fear)
  • Bought two baby cupcakes at Whole Foods; woke up at 4:30AM to watch the Royal Wedding and ate “cake” for breakfast to celebrate (I felt re-engaged seeing the joy and exuberance of two people so obviously in love)
  • Immersed myself in a Watsu experience (thanks to Woman on Fire Ellen Wingard who introduced me to this stress-relieving treatment in a pool, I finally felt calm and relaxed; more on this amazing “massage-in-water” in a future Spark!)

Golden Door Spa Watsu Expert Tamara Caggiano melted away my stress as she worked on my pressure points while I floated in the water. A truly amazing experience!

By the end of the week, two more “strategies” turned my week of ‘kittywampus’ back into a more peaceful existence:

One:  A wonderful, romantic dinner at sunset on the beach with Rob. It is our annual ritual to say good-bye, share our favorite moments of the season, and to express our appreciation for our time in Florida.

Good-bye, Naples, Florida. Rob and I soaked in our annual ritual of a sunset dinner at the beach.

Two:  Woman on Fire Jamie Eslinger suggested that we toss coins into a fountain and make wishes.

Jamie, on the right, and me as I say goodbye to my ‘kittywampus’ of a week and wish for the recovery and healing of all those tragically affected by last week’s tornadoes. Oh, and I also wished for William and Kate to live happily ever after. I think they have a shot at it!

What is your wish for this next week?  Or, what do you do when things go ‘kittywampus’ in your world?  You are so welcome to share it in the comments section below.

As always, my wish for you is that you get to live the life of your dreams!

Until next week…from Martha’s Vineyard.