When I look at this photo

When I look at this photo

When I look at this photo I see my grandmother’s wedding band, the pearls my dad gave to me on my eighteen birthday, my precious grandbaby, and a mother pausing for a moment to soak in the last moments before her son is married. This moment in time highlighted by memories of the past and promise of the future.

I’m reminded of words my Dad gave to us, given to him through his mother. Words with meaning that grows deeper as the years pass.

“The past, the future, are linked together by the now. What is today is because of what was yesterday, the day before, and long ago.” – drw

From the vantage point provided by experience, I’ve begun to see that what I once thought was a past littered with missteps and fumbles, was in reality, perfect in every way. There are no missteps and past fumbles only serve to propel us a little further down the path. Every thing happens for a reason and all of it leads to where we are meant to be today.

With the passing of each life event, Dad’s wisdom comes more clearly into focus. His words echo Universal laws and teachings I have come to embrace. I believe in soul contracts, all part of a Divine plan of agreements we make before entering into this life experience. A Divine plan that provides a map of sorts for the journey that will be our life. Each journey provides opportunity after opportunity for the soul to have exactly the experience necessary in order for it to learn lessons agreed to in the original contract. The choices we make when confronted with these opportunities determine the next turn our path will take. In the moment these turns often feel like problems, challenges, tragedies, and drama leading to what we perceive as missteps. Only through the passage of time are we able to see the wisdom gained, the growth experienced, and the blessings hidden in these turns along the way.

“Each thought, each word, each deed acted in the now becomes a fragment of eternity.” –drw

Life moments are precious, each one filled with meaning. What we choose to do with these moments is up to us. We can wish them away, ignore their significance, or treasure them for what they are but regardless of our behavior, all become fragments of eternity. Every thought, word, and deed carries significance whether chosen with intention or performed mindlessly and forgotten. Given the power of choice, choose intentionally. Wake up to this moment. Use this gift to craft your life. Pay attention to the lessons as they present themselves along the way and make choices that challenge you to expand and grow to the fullest expression of yourself.

“Life means there is no choice but to use this gift…the trust, the love, the power…indenting destiny.” -drw

When I look at this photo, I hear my Dad’s voice reminding me to pause, to appreciate the moment, its connection to the past and link to the future. Life doesn’t provide a pause button. It’s up to us to create moments of pause, time to breathe, to reflect, to soak it all in.

When I look at this photo my heart fills with gratitude for the woman who wore this wedding band, for the man who gave me these pearls, for my child about to be wed, and for the baby snuggled against my chest. I am blessed with the gift of appreciation that allows me to savor moments like these, because truly, these moments are what life is all about.

Course Correction – where are those goals?

Course Correction – where are those goals?

As I write this, it is February 4th and we are 35 days into this new year. If you’re one of those who set goals for 2016 and actually wrote them down somewhere, then you are one of a small percentage of the population who accomplished this task. Most of us will make resolutions. We’ll promise to make changes, to eat healthier, to exercise, to spend more time with our children, to stop and smell the roses. But few of us will take the time to create specific definable goals. A Harvard study revealed that 83% of the population have no goals at all. Only 14% of us even have a plan in mind for how we want our life to go. Even fewer still will write any of this down on paper. Just 3% of us will take pen to paper. So if you are one of those who wrote your goals down, give yourself a pat on the back. You are the ones I want to talk to today.

Those goals that you took the time to think about and write down just a few weeks ago, where are they now? Sure, a few of you will pull an index card out of your pocket or refer to a page taped to your bathroom mirror. Some of you will have a journal, a day planner, or a notebook. But the majority of you have a quizzical look on your face right now because you can’t remember exactly what you did with that sheet of paper. For that matter, you’re a little bit foggy as to what those goals you wrote were even about.

Don’t feel bad. Although I don’t have a Harvard study to back me up, my gut tells me that you are not alone. In fact, based on my small circle, I’m gonna bet that you are in the majority of the minority. If I had to guess, I would say that only 3% of the 3% write their goals, develop a plan to achieve their goals, and then successfully track their goals. And that is why approximately 92% of the goals we set will fail within two weeks of setting them.

Goals that are written down and never checked are only slightly better than no goals at all. Writing goals gives us a target, a vision for where we want to go but tracking our goals helps to keep us on the right path and moving closer to our target. I once heard goal setting compared to a sailing ship. The captain might have a destination in mind for his voyage but if he fails to track the progress of his journey, he will sail aimlessly around most likely never reaching his targeted destination.

Don’t be discouraged. It is never too late to get back on course. Unless of course, you’re the captain of that ship and you’ve run out of provisions and your crew has died or the ship has sunk…but I digress.

So how do we get back on track? First, find that sheet of paper where you wrote down your goals. Re-word your goals if necessary to insure they are S.M.A.R.T goals. By this I mean:

S – Specific – Your goals must be as specific as you can possibly make them.

  • Bad: Write a book.
  • Good: Write a book proposal for “Nanny’s Wisdom.”

M – Measurable – Remember, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” As much as possible, quantify the result.

  • Bad: Save more money this year.
  • Good: Put 10% of each paycheck into a savings account.

A – Actionable – Start each goal with an “action” verb (run, eliminate, create) rather than a “to be” verb (have, be, am).

  • Bad: Be more consistent with yoga practice.
  • Good: Attend 3 or more yoga classes each week.

R – Realistic – This one is a bit tricky. Your goals should stretch you. If you aren’t stepping out of your comfort zone then you aren’t growing. Said another way, “if your goals don’t scare you, then they aren’t big enough.”

  • Bad: Write a best-selling novel.
  • Good: Submit a book proposal.

T – Time bound – Every goal needs a date associated with it. A goal without a date is just a dream.

  • Bad: Learn to use Quickbooks.
  • Good: Learn to use Quickbooks by March 31st.

Okay, now that you have written smart goals, you need to break these goals down into manageable and achievable actions. You are creating a road map that will help you get to your desired destination, ie. your goal. This time you are going to keep your goals in front of you. You’re going to refer to them often. I recommend that you read over your goals every morning. This is the secret sauce that turns dreams into reality. Thoughts become things. Read over your goals and visualize what you will feel like when you have achieved each one. Don’t rush this part. Give yourself time to reflect on each goal. Express gratitude for this part of your day and for the freedom to set goals for your life.

Track your progress along the way. Give yourself credit for even the smallest step towards your goal. My favorite definition of success is “steady progress toward a worthwhile goal.” Celebrate yourself on this journey. Ultimately, the journey itself will change you, if only you pay attention. You are a member of an elite group of goal setters. The few who strive to be, as Zig Ziglar liked to say, “meaningful specifics and not wandering generalities.” Congratulations for that.

Clear strategy and leadership solutions






Breathe in Gratitude.


Hurricane Joaquin is making it’s way up the coastline and rain has been falling steadily on North Carolina for so many days that I’ve lost count. Mushrooms sprouted up over night in the front yard and Sadie is refusing to walk out on the soggy grass for potty time. With temperatures dipping into the 50’s, I’m content to curl up in my fuzzy socks and sip coffee today. I’m grateful it’s not sunny outside. I would feel pressure to get out and do something and I’m just not feeling it.

My Cat is missing.

Today I need comfort. I need to give and to receive big, warm, all-encompassing hugs. I need heart connection, soul protection, and a feeling of peace.

Another mass murder. Fleeing refugees. Hate-filled words. Ignorance. Judgment. Lack of compassion. Narrow-minded views with no attempt at understanding. Parents with Alzheimer’s. Drug addicted children. Corrupt politicians. Overcrowded prisons. Autistic children. Mentally ill with no health coverage. Government red tape. Greed. Depression. Parents dying. Friends suffering.

And my Cat is missing.

On every level, (universal, national, local, friend, family, personal) events unfold to show contrast and to remind me of all I have to be grateful for.

Breathe in gratitude. Breathe out compassion.

Grateful to have been born in this country where I wake up each morning with a roof over my head and knowledge that my children are safe, none of us forced to flee our homes, fear for our lives, wonder where our next meal will come from or if we will live to see the next day.

Breathe in gratitude. Breathe out compassion.

Grateful to have been raised in a community with an opportunity for personal growth, privileged not to struggle financially, not to face discrimination or persecution based on my religion, my culture, or my DNA.

Breathe in gratitude. Breathe out compassion.

Grateful for this open mind, willing to learn and desperate to understand. Not needing to agree in order to accept. Believing we are more alike than we are unalike and holding fast to the belief that the Divine unites us all.

Breathe in gratitude. Breathe out compassion.

Grateful for this sadness that sits with me today. Knowing it is this heart that allows me to feel so intensely. This same heart that now loves without condition or limit is open to pleasure and likewise to pain.

So today I’ll nurture this sadness that has come to visit me. I’ll curl myself up in a patchwork afghan lovingly made by a kindred spirit. I’ll sip my coffee and count my blessings. I’ll gather light and I’ll send it out into this suffering world through my open heart. This is all I know to do right now.

And I’ll keep the porch door propped open so Cat can come home.

For the next 9 days I’m practicing peace and loving-kindness, so don’t piss me off.

Let’s get married in June she said…

A spring real estate market, the end of a school year, high school graduation, children’s birthdays, home remodeling, throw in a few family crises and a Full moon during Mercury Metrograde – perfect timing for a wedding. At least that’s how it’s worked out for us and we’re smiling through it all because in 9 more days we’ll be married.

The old me would have been curled up in a ball under the bed by now. The simple fact that my dress isn’t finished would have had my OCD in overdrive, not to mention the fact that the girls’ dresses are also still being altered and the boys’ pants have not yet arrived at the store. Minor elements not to be concerned about, right? Worse case, we will be at Belks next week buying things off the rack. Either way, in 9 more days we will be married.

The old me set my calendar in December. Once we settled on a date, I worked my way back, carefully calculating every step of the planning process so that by Friday June 5th (which is tomorrow, by the way), I would have everything completed and nothing left to do except enjoy the last week before our wedding. A weekend with my girlfriends at the Umstead Spa, manis/pedis, and sushi with our daughters on Monday, a final hair appointment on Tuesday, and then a full day for last-minute packing before we head off to the mountains for the weekend. What is it they say? “The best laid plans of mice and men….” “If you want to see God laugh….” I feel fairly certain God is having a huge belly laugh these days and we have chosen to laugh right along with her because in 9 more days we will be married.

The old me set an intention for our wedding that the weekend would be calm, joyful, and drama-free. The intention was based largely on a desire to avoid past feelings, a fear of being out of control; an expectation that if drama came in, my peace would go out. Although my intention was a good one, the fear that it was based on was not.

Five days ago drama began to enter the picture in such a way that Buddha himself couldn’t have stopped it. An early morning family crisis took me to a place of fierce anger that I haven’t experienced in years. I was called to protect and my momma-ego rose to the challenge. A few hours later, a minor crisis required me to stay calm, think clearly, navigate to safety and then work toward resolution. The next morning, I was called to comfort, and with equal fierceness, I rushed off without question to provide support gathering strength from past experiences that had prepared me for the challenge. During the 3 hour drive back home the next day, I began to chuckle to myself as I ran the recent events through my mind. The old me would have been stressed, jacked up, and anxious. Instead, I felt grateful. Grateful for where I am and how far I have come, grateful for past challenges that provided the fuel for me to grow, and grateful for the moment of realization that I am okay.

The past few days provided several opportunities for me to see and to believe I’m not the old me any longer. In the past, drama scared me. I ran so hard to get away from it that once my life was peaceful, I thought I had to avoid drama at all costs or everything would crumble. These recent lessons have taught me that drama is part of life. The drama isn’t good or bad. It just is. Peace is not a life without drama. Peace is staying calm in the midst of the drama.

In 9 more days, I will marry my best friend, my biggest fan, my partner in crime, the man who makes me laugh, who loves me just as I am, who sees in me the woman I want to be and helps me each day to grow closer to that ideal. The new me knows that this is all that matters. The rest is just small stuff. So what if my dress isn’t finished? There is always duct tape and safety pins.

The drama didn’t stop just because I had this moment of clarity. Nope, the lessons have continued and with each one we are laughing a bit harder. Shoe racks falling in the middle of the night, unexpected notices in the mail, floods in the kitchen, crazy closings, and crazier clients. We might decide to curl up under the bed before it’s all over but we’ll do it with flashlights, a bottle of wine, and a nice tray of cheese. And we’ll be under there together because in 9 more days we’re getting married! ❤ peace ❤


5 Things I’m Grateful for When He is Away

9a76de87a660e852b09789ea42668b4d  Living with someone who is away almost as much as he is home, can be less than ideal. Even though the hello’s can be pretty damn fantastic, the good-byes are always tough and most of the time I’m a big wimp when he’s gone. The past month has been especially rough. In addition to his normal travel schedule, he had extra trips thrown in that left me home alone for all but nine out of 32 days. During this time I decided to find things to be grateful for in his absence.

1. Unlimited access to TLC programming – This month I was able to clear out the list of recorded shows that are my guilty pleasure. It was a marathon of “Long Island Medium”, “Say Yes to the Dress”, and “90 Day Fiancee”. We don’t watch these shows together for obvious reasons. He doesn’t ask me to watch those crime shows either so it’s fair.

2. Menu-less meals – Although it hasn’t been the best thing for me physically, there is something nice about a bowl of popcorn or a peanut butter sandwich for dinner every once in a while. Living with someone who loves to cook has spoiled me so when he’s away, I choose not to use the stove. It wouldn’t be as tasty anyway.

3. Saving money on toiletries – To be honest, I don’t use a lot of shaving cream when I’m home alone. Eliminating this one chore from my day saves not only money but a lot of time and if I don’t have to go to the office, there’s no need for make-up either, or even a change of clothes. (I should find a way to track the savings. It could be substantial.)

4. Reconnecting with my inner child – Once I found the perfect number of pillows to surround myself with at night, it felt a bit like sleeping in the fort I built as a child. Of course, I disassemble the structure before he gets home. He might think I’ve lost my mind to see what our bedroom looks like when he’s away.

5. Enthusiastic housecleaning – Without fail, the day he travels back fills me with the urge to deep clean our home. I throw the windows open, turn the music up and do my best cleaning on this day. This might have something to do with the state of disarray the above-mentioned activities create after a few days.

I’m extremely aware of how lucky I am to have something that makes time spent apart so difficult. It’s easy for me to create long lists of things I’m grateful for on a daily basis. Occasionally, it’s nice to remind myself to look for moments of gratitude in the hidden spaces of my life too.

Acceptance is messy

Focus on what you have. Stop wishing for what you don’t. Be grateful for friends to laugh with, children to be proud of, and a partner to love. Accentuate the positive. Breathe in gratitude. Breathe out compassion.

IMG_0192Accept what IS. Release all expectations.

But today is grey. Today is heavy. Today is a wool sock, and sweatpants wrapped in an old quilt kind of day.

Today is sixty-four degrees and cloudy. Today I don’t have the energy to be a happy person, grateful and optimistic. Today my glass feels half empty and the trees are obscuring my view of the forest.

I’ve made my share of lemonade from life’s lemons and I mastered turning my frowns upside down at an early age. I was taught to dry my eyes, fix my make-up and show up with a smile.

I know how to look past stiff hugs, cold shoulders, dismissive comments, criticism disguised as humor, and long periods of silence. I can make excuses for others and believe the best even when their worst smacks me square in the face.

But I don’t know how to do hopeless. Hopeless is the toughest place to be for an optimist. I don’t do ‘give up’ very well.

For me, hopeless is Hell, a spiritual realm of suffering, allowing someone else’s action or lack of action to affect your wellbeing and peace. This is wanting desperately for someone to love you the way you want to be loved but knowing they never will. This is realizing that family is not synonymous with unconditional love, but loving them anyway. This is facing the fact that some people are okay without you in their lives and nothing you do or say will change that but showing up anyway. It’s finally learning that you can’t love enough for both sides no matter how hard you try but trying anyway. This is someone misunderstanding your heart but opening it wider anyway. It’s realizing that this has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.

Resisting the feeling of hopelessness gives power to the feeling. What you resist will persist. Sometimes sinking into it, allowing the heart to grieve, the Soul to cry, and the body to curl up for a day is necessary to move through the Hell to the other side.

Perhaps peace comes not only from accepting the situation as it IS, but from also acknowledging that acceptance doesn’t always feel good. Sometimes acceptance hurts. Forgiveness can be lonely and peace can feel empty.

Acceptance is walking through the Hell authentically and it can look unshowered, unshaven, and messy. Acceptance isn’t always pretty and strong, but you are God’s highest form of creation and you are okay.

Happiness is letting go

HappinessSounds easy enough, but what does it mean?

“Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like & celebrating it for everything that it is.”

Most of us have an idea of what our lives are supposed to look like, based on outside influences, culture, family history, media, societal norms, etc. Most of our lives are spent in pursuit of the ideal life defined for us by experiences as we are growing up.

We set personal goals that include things like:

  • attend University, trade school, travel abroad
  • have a prestigious career and rise to executive rank
  • live in the city, suburbs, country
  • buy a house, boat, car
  • be a stay at home mom/dad
  • be an entrepreneur
  • live alone
  • have children
  • get married
  • write a novel, play, poem, blog, song
  • travel the world
  • fall in love

Rarely, if ever, do our goals include things like:

  • raise an autistic child
  • bury a loved one
  • be the primary caregiver of an aging parent
  • declare bankruptcy
  • love an addict
  • live with bi-polar disorder
  • put a violent child/family member out of your home
  • get into an abusive relationship
  • close a failed business
  • get a divorce
  • get laid off
  • have a miscarriage
  • suffer from depression

Yet, despite our best efforts and admirable attempts at the ideal, at some point we will face life situations that are not what we imagined for ourselves.  When this happens, we have two choices.  We can look at the situation and label it as sad, hard, screwed up, sucky, miserable, burdensome, hopeless, dismal, overwhelming, isolating. We can sit in a state of constant pity for ourselves, wallowing in the misery of our situation, believing no one’s life is harder than our own. Focusing on what we see as ‘wrong’ dulls what we think is ‘right’.  In reality, there is no wrong or right, there is only what IS.

The second choice we are given is one of acceptance. Accepting our life as it IS in this moment is the pathway to happiness. Our monkey minds spin around labeling each experience hard/easy, good/bad, lucky/unlucky, success/failure. Accepting that every experience is exactly the experience that we need and every experience comes to us exactly when we need it, liberates us to find gratitude for our life as it IS.

Watching Alzeheimer’s slowly take my grandmother away, there were many days that I wanted to stay home and wallow in self-pity rather than sit with her. Most days she didn’t know my name, she rambled on about her childhood boyfriends and people I never knew. Finding gratitude in those moments saved me. I’m one of the lucky ones who was given the opportunity to know her grandmother as a child, carefree and silly. I became her girlfriend and we chatted about trips she had taken and men she had known. I learned to accept her in the moment, let go of expectation, and be grateful for what I had, not resentful for what I’d lost.

My father died of brain cancer. His illness gave me the chance to reconcile a difficult relationship.

My step-father died of colon cancer. Our conversations deepened and we left nothing unspoken.

My grandfather died suddenly when I was hundreds of miles away.  I didn’t get to say good-bye but I never saw him sick.

The practice of acceptance is done moment by moment, day by day. Some days are easier than others. I look at empty relationships and feel sadness, desiring a deeper connection, but in that moment I remind myself to feel gratitude for the lesson, to accept what the relationships are and to release any expectations I have.

All sorrow is a result of our wanting things to be different than they are – the resistance to what IS. Releasing expectations does not mean that we give up hope. Hope is what remains when we surrender to what IS and celebrate all that we have.




Yella Grits

Messages come to us in those moments when we allow ourselves to be quiet enough to listen.  The act of making a simple bowl of grits and eggs, something I haven’t done in years, this morning was the method of delivery.

For those unfortunate souls who didn’t grow up eatin’ yella grits, the “yella” comes from the broken yolk of a soft fried egg mixed all up in a bowl of yummy hot grits.  It was the mixin’ of the eggs into the grits this morning – in that moment, I saw my hands expertly holding the fork and knife as they moved back and forth in a crossway pattern through my eggs and grits and my heart softened.  It was my Daddy who taught me to do this.  As a very small girl, I remember asking him, “Daddy, mix my grits?”  Most likely he never knew the admiration I held for his ability to do this so quickly, the eggs and grits within minutes blended to perfection.  He was usually otherwise engaged and the act of mixing grits was done as an aside.

It’s hard for me to remember a lot of my childhood.  The shadows often conceal the light and I choose to avoid rather than reveal.  So when a memory like yella grits washes over me, I am grateful.  My heart softens and I let go a little more of the fear, the guilt, and the regret.  Our relationship wasn’t what others thought it should have been.  Most of the time it wasn’t what either of us thought it should have been either.  But it was what it was.  It was ours.

Standing at my counter this morning, I felt the love my Daddy had such a hard time showing when I was little and I smiled, grateful for the path that is my life.

How do we live like this?

There’s no doubt about it.  Our home is in a state of chaos right now.  Over the past 2 1/2 months we have combined households.  One already cramped little house is now stuffed even more with the contents of one cramped apartment and a few extra items from a previous home and despite our best efforts of purging before merging, we still have an overflowing closet and a garage packed with items we will no longer be able to use.  In the near future, we will undoubtably become familiar with Craigslist and garage sales, something neither of us is looking forward to.

To add a little excitement to our adventure, we decided to tackle a bit of home remodeling as we merge our lives together.  For the past 2 months we have lived in a construction zone of dry wall dust and work boot tracks through our bedroom.  Every item of clothing we own has to be dusted off before we can wear it and the number of things we have lost in the confusion is slowly growing into the double digits.  I can’t begin to express my gratitude for the patience and humor my partner through all of this brings to the situation.  He noted quite accurately one morning, “Ya know babe, we’re gonna have to re-learn where everything is when this is all finished.  Like right now, I know the Q-tips are under the trey in the box at the foot of the bed and the extra toilet paper rolls are under the towels in the chair in the corner.”

He’s right.  And somehow I know, it’s all gonna be just fine.  For a brief moment yesterday, I wavered on that idea.  A close friend innocently asked as we were showing him the most recent progress, “How do you folks live like this?”  Immediately, I started to defend our situation by stating the obvious facts about remodeling and moving, etc etc…  I was thrown for a while, feeling judged and inadequate.  The question of how “we” live in this registered for me as “how does HE live in this?” which quickly morphed into thoughts of my own inadequacy.  My  home is a mess EQUALS I am a mess – not a good place to be for me.

I woke this morning with these thoughts running through my head.  I started a load of laundry, cleaned the kitchen, organized a countertop, and shuffled through a few boxes.  I looked around to see our shoes lined up on the floor and suddenly the answer to my friends question hit me.  How do we live like this?  HAPPILY!  You see, we’ve finally figured out that it really doesn’t matter so much what our home looks like.  It really only matters how we both feel when we are in it and we feel very, very happy.FL2014

Today I am so grateful for the chaos that illustrates the merging of our lives.

Gratitude for the Sadness

I thought I was gonna make it through March.  I made it past the 18th, took a sigh of relief on the 19th, and then woke on the 20th with a heavy heart.  I feel sad.  I’ve learned over the past 19 years to identify the feeling, to acknowledge it, to voice it, to let it wash over me, pass through me, and then to let it go.  Feelings are temporary.

A part of me is relieved to feel the sadness this morning.  I’d like to sit with it today.  To be alone and reflect on all of it.  I’d write a lot.  I’d read a lot.  I’d look over old photographs and remember a lot.  I’d think about his life and how it impacted mine.   I’d appreciate my children and find ways to share with them the memories.  I’d cry and I’d laugh.  I would let the tears flow with no fear that they wouldn’t stop.  I use to hold tears back for that reason.  I couldn’t let myself feel the full scope of the emotion for fear of not being able to get a grip on my self and being swept away without an anchor to hold me in this place.

I’m more grounded now.  More certain of my self and more faithful in the process.  Today I would relish in that.  I’d taste the tears as they flowed freely down my face, no need to wipe them away.  I would breathe into each one with no fear of drowning.  And with each tear that fell, I would feel his tender kiss on my cheek.  I would feel his smile on my face and his arms around my shoulders.  I would sit with that all day, wrapped in the energy of a love I am so grateful to have known.

He’s here with me now, closer than he’s ever been.  Each March I feel the strength of that love.

I’m learning to welcome this feeling, to feel gratitude that I am blessed to have known a love that 19 years later still calls to my heart with a breath of sadness.  Today I will breathe that in.  I will breathe in that love and I will breathe out gratitude.

Donald Ray Watson, aka Dad, aka Pop-pop –  6/29/1926 – 3/18/1994