U Are the Key to Success

10677368_sWho is the key to your success? U are! Okay, so we all know this already. It’s kind of like a “duh” statement. But for me, it went from duh, to “OH!”

I was having dinner with a friend the other day when he said to me, “You have the whole package. You have the personality. You have the looks. And you have the intelligence. So why aren’t you successful?” ouch!

My quick, without thought answer was, “I don’t know! Life maybe?” But can I really blame circumstances on my lack of success?

I went to bed that night asking the question, “Why aren’t I successful?” I awoke in the morning continuing to ask the same question. I pondered it all day. Later in the day I was talking with a friend about how sometimes a belief system can enter into our subconscious that affects our behavior and patterns. As we talked about the past, I had a sudden illumination of a belief that I had about success and hard work. Deep into my little girl mind, I had been imprinted with the idea that if you work really hard, you will lose your family. Now before you start arguing with me, I want to point out that things that get imprinted into your mind aren’t always truth, but often simply child-like perception. And those perceptions affect your behavior as an adult. Often this behavior, which can be rooted in a lie, can have serious negative consequences on your life.

I’ve always been one to examine my life. I like to find hidden lies, and replace them with truth. I call these “lie epiphanies.” The above was an example of a “lie epiphany.”

You see, when I was little, my dad was laying a foundation for success. He went to law school when I was a toddler. He got his first job as a lawyer when I was 4. He then started his own law practice and even became a county attorney. All of this took his time away from his little girl. The interesting thing about being imprinted with lies, is that the truth is hard to see through them. Often when I think of being a young kid, I think of missing out on time with my dad. I think about rarely seeing him. I felt like if I wanted to see him, I would have to go to his office. And then I felt like I was interrupting his “life.” But the truth is, he was working hard to build a solid business foundation. Every year we went on a 2 week vacation. We would often take an evening and play a game or go bowling. I fondly remember racing home from the bowling alley with my dad hot on my trail, even though his six foot frame with long legs could have easily left me in the dust. Why do we imprint the lost time rather than the in person time? I really don’t know the answer to that.

Usually a lie is formed by a hurt that gets scabbed over and simply stays, like a scar on life. We all have them! Sometimes they affect the way we treat or react to others. Sometimes they create fear around certain issues. And sometimes, they prevent us from being successful. The lie I believed with every ounce of my being is that in order for me to be successful, I would lose my family in the process. So, what that did was kept me from doing the long hard work that would be required. Here’s a truth. Sometimes it takes a lot of work to build a successful business. It’s not a get rich quick thing. It’s a take the stairs, one step at a time, and climb, climb, climb, until you cannot climb any more.

When I fell in love with Mike, he was working very long hours because he was building a business for himself. Knowing that I would end up not getting to see him because of all the long hours, I simply joined him in his work. I feel like he lost part of his family because of his work. Further imprinting the belief that if you work hard, you will lose your family.

It happens. I know it happens. But knowing that it happens is what I believe to be the entire reason that I am not successful. yet. My success was blocked by that scar that people who work hard lose their families. And family was absolutely the most important thing in the world to me.

My kids are almost all grown now. I know I won’t lose them by working hard. But still, I have this attachment that says I must be everything for them. I must not miss an opportunity to spend time with them, even if it’s to drive them to work or school. But the reality of my situation is if I don’t work hard, I mean, really hard, then I will end up in a really bad financial state at the end of the day (life). I could easily take full days tending to the needs of people around me. I felt like I was doing the right thing. And it is right to tend to those in your care. But in doing so, I’m not working hard.

It’s a tough thing to look in the mirror and say, “U are the reason you aren’t successful.” “U are the missing link in the puzzle.” “U are failing.” But when the epiphany happened, that was exactly what I had to do.

Now that I have illuminated the reason, I know that I will be able to set aside the things that distract me and move forward into success. Which interestingly, when I get to the place of success, I will have more time to focus on the needs of my grown children. When bills are getting paid on time, I will have time to go to a movie with them. When my client base is established, I will have more time to enjoy a vacation with my grandchildren.

It’s time for me to start building a future!

What’s blocking U?

The Cancer Connection

I hate cancer. We all hate cancer! But sometimes it connects us to other people. Sometimes it might be the thing that allows us to minister to others in a way that we least expect.

It was a Tuesday night in the middle of Christmas vacation. I answered a call to pick up someone. When I answer a call I don’t know anything about the person, number of people, or even where they will be going. All I know is a first name. I arrived to pick up Nick. I’m able to call through a third party phone number so I called to let them know I had arrived. They weren’t there yet so I had to wait. Ugh. Waiting doesn’t make me any money. I’m just waiting.

Pretty soon a pick-up truck pulls into the driveway and out come four college aged kids. Oh great! I think to myself. They’ve already had too much to drink. I was early in the whole Uber driving experience and one of things I did not want was belligerent guys who have too much to drink, riding in my car. Apparently in the recesses of my mind, I have had bad experiences. To me, drunk guys do stupid things.

They get in the car and I tell them, “In the event of motion sickness, there is a zipper bag in the seat back in front of you. It includes paper towels, a moist towelette and a mint. Just in case.”  To my surprise I realize they don’t smell like a brewery. I don’t like my nice car to smell like a brewery either. Are you noticing that I had a bit of a negative attitude starting this ride? They laugh at me. One says, “My mom is a flight attendant! That was funny! But we aren’t drunk – yet.”

On the way they start asking me about driving for Uber, how long I’ve been doing it (my answer was two weeks), favorite passengers, etc. We talk about the colleges they attend, what they are studying, and how happy they are to be home for Christmas break.

I take them to a nearby bar at the Hilton. They gave me a nice tip. I decided I liked these boys. They were smart, funny, and genuine. And they weren’t drunk – yet.

I went to my normal Starbucks hangout while waiting for another “ping” on my app. It’s a quiet night. Not much happening, so I sit for about 30 minutes with nothing coming in. Then I’m pinged again and notice the name is the same and I’m picking them up at the same place I dropped them off.

They all pile in my car and say the place is dead. They need to go someplace happening! They ask me to take them to another bar in another town. We arrive and the bar is closed. It’s only open on weekends. I can sense their disappointment. I’m not really that intuitive, they said, “Aw man! Where are all the people?!” They asked if I would drive them to another location. When we got there I said I would drop them off and wait for one of them to come out and let me know if they were staying or going. It wasn’t happening either, so they piled back in the car. They decided to go back to one of their houses and just hang out together.

As we were heading back to their house one of them said, “Hey, do you want to get lit?”

I had no clue what that meant. I guess I’m a sheltered mom. I said, “I don’t know what that means.” They laughed. Then he said, “Do you want to get drunk with us?” Um…boys… I’m 50.

I said, “No, someone has to drive.” Then one of the kids said, “Would your husband be mad? Where is he anyway?” I told him that my husband was probably “getting lit” in heaven. I know it sounds bad to say it now, but at the time, it seemed like a good way to respond. I thought of “getting lit” as in heavenly glory lit, the kind that happens when you’re having a party in the presence of God, y’know?

The passengers grew silent. Then softly one of the boys said, “What did he die of?”

“Cancer. Mouth cancer.”

They asked questions. Honest. Genuine questions.

One of the boys said, “Jimmy’s dad has liver cancer.” Another boy said, “My dad has esophageal cancer.” I could hear his voice crack even in the back seat. He wanted to know how long Mike lived after his diagnosis. I answered his questions, but also wanted to give him hope. Obviously I didn’t know anything about his dad’s condition, but I wanted him to know that death wasn’t necessarily coming in the next two months. My heart ached for these boys. Then Nick said, “My mom has breast cancer.”

I felt a holy moment happen in my car. These boys were telling me the things that were really hurting them. Perhaps this was why they all wanted to “get lit.” Pain. It’s in many of us. After they got out of the car I prayed for each of them and for their parents. These boys had a profound impact on me. These random strangers riding in my backseat, bonded with me over cancer. We loved on each other in a way that only strangers can, with kind words, and a genuine concern for our fellow man (widowed woman/young adult boys)


How Random Strangers Are Changing My Life

It began with a man named “Frank.” I was sitting in Starbucks and needed to use the restroom. He was sitting across from me. I had noticed him before as he was a regular there and always dressed nicely. I notice things like that. I didn’t want to carry all my stuff to the bathroom so asked if he had recently brushed up on his wrestling skills just in case someone would try to abscond with my laptop while I was away. He promised to tackle anyone who might try a grab and run. When I returned we struck up a conversation. This was an unlikely pairing in my mind. I mean, my “friends” are all Christian, white, homeschool moms. Okay, maybe not ALL of them. But one of those three categories would be the bulk of my friends.

Growing up I was painfully shy, but found my voice in the written word. I later discovered popularity in social media. Oh how easy it is  to be pop-u-lar (How can you say that word without singing the song?) when you have 12 Thousand Twitter followers and 2500 Facebook “Friends.” The illusion of online friends became quite apparent in the months after Mike’s death. I was strongly supported by my online community. I was even financially supported by many. It was mostly my online connections that raised enough money for his burial, and later that kept my family from becoming homeless when I could no longer pay the rent. Yes, they were there for me! Except … when I wanted to go to a movie. Or go out for dinner. Or even just to go to a friend’s house to chat for awhile. I only had a couple of real life honest to goodness, belly to belly friends here.

About a year and a half after Mike died I felt like I was dying too. I would get out in the world, but I didn’t really talk to people much. It wasn’t until the embers were reignited that I realized how little fire I had in me. Oh sure, I could be alive, and fun, and dance, and all that stuff that made me think I was alive.

Then I met, the random stranger. He was nothing like anyone I had ever connected with in my life. In other words, he wasn’t in the three categories, white, Christian, homeschool mom. It’s funny how when you meet someone, they become familiar to you. For the next week or so, I seemed to see him every time I went to Starbucks. I felt a bit like he might think I was stalking him. But now that we “knew” each other, we saw each other. I felt like I had a new friend there.

One night my son was doing his yellow suit in town square thing, so I was hanging out for several hours. Frank and I sat and talked the entire time. I was fascinated by his stories of Egypt and his Muslim faith. I felt like my world expanded with just one random stranger. For one, I discovered that he had no interest in converting me, or killing me. That was a huge relief! That was what I thought every Muslim was out to do. I found myself wanting to learn Arabic and traveling the world.

Then one day I realized, there was a fire again. The fire started with one spark ignited by an unlikely random stranger, which has now turned into a quest to meet random strangers on a daily basis. I’ve begun posting on Facebook photos and stories of random strangers that I meet. One really cool thing about it is that I’m seeing people respond with their own random stranger encounters. You know, the world gets a whole lot smaller when you are willing to talk to random strangers. #randomstrangers

Wear the Fun Clothes!

Do you have a particular outfit that makes you feel amazing? Most of mine do, because, well, what’s the point of clothes if they don’t make you feel fantastic wearing them? But there are a couple of ensembles that I save for “that” occasion. “That” occasion is the one where I’m feeling a bit down in the dumps. I don’t like feeling that way, so I pull out the outfit and go where there are people! For some reason my “pull me out of the dumps” stuff almost always includes polka dots. I find it humorous that when I was a kid I hated…HATED polka dots. I thought they were the dumbest thing in the world. But now, I love them. Polka dot shirts. Polka dot headbands. Polka dot shoes with a little red peep toe. Oh my that is like excitement on the sidewalk for sure!

I was feel a bit blueish, probably because the weather was cold and cloudy. Rather than wonder what I would want to wear to match the weather, I opted for a polka dot shirt, skirt that makes me want to twirl, a matching black jacket and … the peep toe shoes. I didn’t have anyplace to go, so I decided on heading to my favorite Starbucks. Some of my friends were there, because…well…we just go and hang out. I’m old like that. LOL

One of them had seen me earlier in the day after I had completed a six mile walk. I was all sweaty, wearing a ball cap, tennis shoes, walking clothes. Later in the evening I walked out of the bathroom at Starbucks in my feel good clothes. He said, “Wow!”

Sometimes it’s nice to get a “Wow!” Who am I kidding? It’s always nice to get a Wow! But even more important was how I felt. And how I felt is more likely the reason for the wow than the clothes themselves.

What to do with the carcass?

Several years ago when I was still in the “honeymoon” stage of cooking, we had Thanksgiving meal with all the relatives at our house. (The “honeymoon” stage is when you want everything to be really cute and perfect.  The smallest failure can result in tears.) It was my opportunity to “shine” for my in-laws.

We planned to barbecue the turkey. (You do that kind of thing in California in November.) My “perfect” Thanksgiving dinner was “less than perfect.”  When Steve went to light up the grill, we were out of briquettes.  All was not lost, however. After a quick trip to the store, we were ready to get cooking. The turkey cooked a lot faster than I expected, so it ended up being done long before the “enchanted broccoli forest.”  Even though my timing was not perfect and some dishes were served cold, I was so proud of our barbecued turkey. It was cooked to perfection.

Steve was pleased that we could have Thanksgiving at our house because that meant lots of leftovers.  Steve’s dad carved the beautiful bird. He put the remainder of the carcass that still had some meat on it in the refrigerator. We had heard that the meat would stay moister if left on the carcass.

After several days, Steve commented that it would be nice to have a turkey sandwich.  “Oh yeah, we have turkey in the fridge,” I replied. I filed that information in my brain to be retrieved at a later date, like the next day.

After a couple more days passed, I noticed this…uh…smell coming from the refrigerator.  Being a couple of months pregnant, I made a mad dash to the bathroom.         My mind began to race. What do I do?  I wonder if Steve would mind if I called him to come home from work for this? No, probably not a good idea…The garbage man doesn’t come for a few more days, and I can’t leave that smelly thing in the garbage can. I must take action—now!

I opened the refrigerator and as fast as I could, I pulled the neatly wrapped carcass out.  Without breathing, I ran to the garage, put the turkey down, then ran back into the house and took a deep breath.

Now what do I do?

A brilliant idea popped into my head. I will put it into someone else’s garbage.

I opened the garage door and ran the carcass out to the car. Oh no! I don’t want that in my car.  I put it on the hood.  That’ll work!

I got in the car and began to drive.  I kept looking behind me.  I was sure I would be found out. Nope, no dogs chasing me yet.

I found a dumpster, heaved it in, and ran back to the car.  Whew! I made it.  Driving back to the house I felt like I had somehow participated in a great feat of espionage. I should have worn a dark coat on my adventure.

My thoughts returned to why I put the carcass in the refrigerator in the first place. Oops!   Now that that’s taken care of, how am I going to make Steve a leftover turkey sandwich?

Since my little carcass incident, I have made a Thanksgiving motto.  As soon as the turkey is carved I say, “Out with the carcass!” I have learned since then that it is okay to take all of the turkey off the bone.  It is even okay to freeze it. I just cut up all the leftover turkey into bite-sized pieces and fill up Ziploc freezer bags with about two cups of meat in each bag. Of course, you should label and date the bags so you don’t forget what is in them or forget how old the meat is. I only tell you this because I forget to label everything and you should learn from my mistakes.

What are some of the mistakes you’ve made around the holidays? Do you have any funny stories to share?