Archive for August, 2011

I’m hitting the books now.  Haven’t done that yet on this blog.  But I just finished a ‘win’ of a book – Tolstoy and The Purple Chair and I felt a need to share, especially since it’s so in line with the theme of this website/blog.  And no, I don’t love it because of the rich purple velvety chair on the cover.  But I will admit, I was drawn to the title because of ‘purple’. 

I love memoirs; specifically ones that portray people’s struggles and ultimate successes in rising above and moving beyond their difficulties.  This book is certainly one of them.  The way in which the author, Nina Sankovitch, depicts this theme is quite unique and fascinating – through books (another passion of mine).   She turns to books and decides to read a book-a-day for a year to guide and help her deal with  her grief over the death of her sister.  It is a beautiful journey through many books and authors’ wonderful quotes.  And Ms. Sankovitch weaves and connects all of it to her life, and specifically to her struggle in coping with her deep and painful loss.  

This reinforces what I feel strongly about – that words, ideas and experiences can be so powerful in shaping us.  We can learn and grow so much from others and truly integrate the words and ideas that speak to us.  I feel I’ve gained strength and positive energy by hearing, reading and learning about how others have been able to persevere through their challenges.

Is there a book or story that has impacted your life, that’s helped you become stronger or more effective in your own coping abilities? 

I’d like to highlight the books of my interviewees, as many of them have written memoirs of transcending their adversities.

Dr. Daniel Gottlieb – “Letters To Sam”    “Learning from the        Heart”    “The Wisdom of Sam”

Leigh Brill –  “A Dog Named Slugger”

Ann Hood –  “Comfort – A Journey Through Grief”

Jeni Stepanek – “Messenger: The Legacy of Mattie J.T. Stepanek and Heartsongs”

Natalie Taylor – “Signs of Life”


Please share some of your recommendations in the Comment section.  Thank you for reading.  And please consider subscribing to the blog



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I’m taking one of my favorite things and hitting the road. 

One of the best aspects of my job as a school social worker was conducting parenting workshops.  And one of my favorite is the “How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk” series.  The two authors, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, wrote this book (and program) back in the ‘70s and it’s still completely relevant today; perhaps even more so given the fact that we’re more hooked into screens than live faces.      

Our kids’ communication skills are expertly played out through social media – texting, tweeting, emailing, facebook.  In a sense we’re losing our kids to this technological world.  Parents are truly hungry for skills and techniques to sink their teeth into and reclaim their kids to a face-to-face reality.    

Having run these workshops several times in the schools, I see the participants come alive with enthusiasm.   They listen intently to one another as their sense of isolation diminishes.  “You mean I’m not the only one”; “I thought it was only my kid”; “I’m at a total loss”.  They share, vent, role play, question, practice skills, shout –out, take notes, do homework and are completely engaged.

We are all involved in learning to respond in a non-reactive manner with new skills in our parenting tool box.   And many of these {communication} skills are ones that can be used by all with all.  They’re what I call basic people skills; not only relevant to parent-child relations.

Two examples I will share here are:  Acknowledging Feelings and ‘I’ Statements. 

Acknowledging feelings:  So important and so relevant to all human relations.  It’s how we all feel understood.  And when we feel ‘gotten’ we’re more apt to come on board and let our guard down instead of holding tight to our defensive and sometimes defiant stance.

So often we want to make it all better for our kids or anyone else we’re dealing with who’s expressing {uncomfortable} negative emotions.  And so we want to quickly take it away, stop it, or as I like to say, ‘pooh, pooh’ it.  But that only makes it worse.  By acknowledging, we are giving them permission to have them, to express them appropriately.    “You were really angry when he teased you during recess.” As opposed to, “oh don’t let it bother you, just walk away and tell the teacher.”

 But we as the adults must be able to tolerate their negative feelings  and not run to erase them,  lest  they run later on  to negate them  with alcohol or other drugs of choice.

If you think this is an extreme leap, think again and look around.  Talk to people who are experts at numbing their pain as they sit at the bar gulping down their anesthetic.

 ‘I’ statement:   This was a communication skill taught back in the ‘60s with  couples.   It’s a great way of expressing a problem without directly attacking and blaming the other, which hopefully diminishes the chances of conflict .  It’s how we feel in response to what we don’t like.  So “I am really upset when I walk in and see the clothes all over the floor.”  As opposed to, “you are such a slob, this room is a pigsty.”    

As with any new skill, it takes practice.  It’s almost like a new language.  It all starts with us as parents, as people.   We set the tone.  Even the smallest shift tilts the pendulum and small waves of change can be subtly felt- between parent and child, friend and friend, boss and employee, etc.   

We need to communicate mindfully and consciously and from a place of non-reactive strength.  Easier said than done.  This program really helps get this in motion.       

Now that I have retired from the school system, I am taking what I’ve loved doing and going out on my own with it.  An exciting new endeavor.   ‘They’ (whoever the ‘they’ are)  say success comes when you do what you love, with passion.  Here’s to one new piece of my recreating this new phase of life.

Thank you for stopping by and reading.  I welcome you to Comment and Subscribe to this blog.  And if you read a piece you like, please share through facebook/twitter.

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I just read a fabulous blog posting that really resonated with me.  I even  printed it up; something I don’t often do as I read so many blogs.  But this one hit me so that I feel moved to piggy-back and take off a bit more on a concept that Adrienne, the writer, touched upon. 

First of all, I ask that you please read, The 3 Secrets of Extraordinary Living, from her  blog, Experience Life Fully.

So what’s her idea that ‘wowed’ me?  “Imagine yourself as an old man or woman… and you’ve just finished reading the Book of Your Life.  What expression is on your face?”

That certainly made me stop and really take it in.  It’s a new twist on something that I reflect upon often.  It reminds me of the quote:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. ..”  Mark Twain

Are we at least attempting to live in a manner we’re proud of and feel good about?  It’s not always about the end result or the product, but rather the journey and process.   We can feel proud of our Attempts even if we don’t ‘succeed’, but the sorrow and regret we can feel over missed opportunities cannot be erased and recaptured. 

What seemed to have sprung forth from me after witnessing my daughter, Nava’s, miraculous survival,  was a burning desire to live life with a sense of urgency, in a very conscious way, seeking out opportunities  that spoke to my values, interests and dreams.

They may not all have become a permanent part of who I am; after my clowning experience in Sicily, I didn’t go on to become a clown, but having stepped out of my comfort zone to do something that had enticed me for years, is what I hold dear to me and adds to my wonderful repertoire of life’s activities.

Foster parenting a service dog didn’t make me into a dog-raiser for the disabled, but it provided me with an incredibly meaningful experience that continues to bring a smile to my face whenever I see a yellow lab.  

What calls out to you – what interests, dreams, pursuits, activities?  Can you make the attempt to do one thing and then another and possibly another, so that the expression on your face when you look at your book of life can be one of satisfaction?  And yes, even difficulties can yield a certain sense of satisfaction. 

Obviously nobody asks for the tough challenges, but once we have them, how are we handling them?  Can we look back and say, ‘they were rough all right, but I was able to persevere and come through it intact with an ability to create joy and meaning in my life’?    

Create your book of life –  with intention and purpose and awareness.  Make those pages jump out  with authenticity and passion.  

Thank you for reading.  Comments are most welcome.  Please consider subscribing and sharing this via facebook/ twitter.


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“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
– Anais Nin

I’ve decided it’s time to take a thank you break and recognize some people in the blogging community who have greatly helped me along my journey down this new path of ‘bloggersville’.  My entre into this world was made easier by a few key supporters.   

First and foremost, Lori Deschene of the Tiny Buddha site, has guided me every step of the way.  From before my blog was launched she provided me with the opportunity to be a guest blogger on her most inspirational site.  This gave me the final push and confidence  I needed to pursue my own blog.  She was a hand-holder, encourager and wonderful blog coach to me.  She came to my rescue many times when I emailed out Help.  Within minutes, well maybe within the hour, I had her efficient response.  “When the student is ready, the teacher appears” (Buddhist saying)  There she was, always willing, warm, and available to guide me.  She publicly announced the launching of my blog back in January and has promoted  me several times on her site, which of course shot up my stat numbers of visitors and subscribers.   

Alex Blackwell of The Bridgemaker has accepted my guest postings on his beautifully uplifting blog.  His warmth and kindness has gone a long way in encouraging me along my new path. 

Marcus Sheridan of the Sales Lion has given me personalized advice when I reached out and contacted him with some general questions on increasing readership and building community.  I refer back to his strong and terrific marketing postings many times.

David Stevens of Personal Power 4Me  blog has been my most consistent and loyal commenter.  Sometimes it’s just David who posts a comment and I smile.  That’s my ‘friend’ from Australia – “be good to yourself”.  

Tracey Jackson, writer and producer, has given me tremendous encouragement with her wonderful comments and her promoting many of my postings on her facebook page.

Paul Jenkins gave me my first online radio interview opportunity.  A half hour of a new experience, and it was great.  He was so easy going and therefore made it an easy and natural  flow for me. 

Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project  was actually the very first person to ‘turn me on’ to the idea of blogging.  She was on a panel of bloggers who presented at a writing class I took 3 years ago.  I went home and that week started my own blog.  It was short-lived back then- I threw in the towel after a couple of months of inconsistent posting.  I didn’t really know where to go with it all.   I guess I wasn’t quite there yet.  But she was my first real opening into this idea which slowly took root and sprouted eight months ago.    

I hope to have many more people to recognize as I continue along towards my  first year anniversary of blogging in January. 

Thank you all.  I couldn’t have done it without you.

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As I’m sure you all know by now, my deep interest lies in seeing, learning and being inspired by people going through difficult challenges in their lives who manage to go on living well.  They don’t  just survive.  They Thrive, finding purpose and meaning from their heartbreak;  and even go on to experience joy and happiness, despite.

A select few take their misfortunes and go on to do things that make a difference to the world, like John Walsh who became an activist for missing children.

Many more take on their challenges and just by virtue of who they are as human beings , become a source of inspiration, giving us all strength by example.

Many go on to publicize their personal challenges and in doing so teach us their wonderful life lessons.  They write books, produce films, start organizations; they put faces and words to their issues in the hope of helping others.  Their words and actions reach out and touch us. 

Once a month I’ve been interviewing (and posting) people who I consider to be inspirational in how they have managed to rebuild their lives in a most positive and meaningful manner.  They are Thrivers.  

In thinking over ‘my’ seven people thus far, I have found one very strong common theme – receiving  and asking for help from others. 

It is crucial to the person going through the difficult time to feel supported by others.

It is crucial for the person going through the difficult time to be able to ask for help from others. 

Help is key in one’s coping repetoire.  It lessens the sense of ‘aloneness’ we feel when going through our own personal problems.  

If you haven’t read some of these interviews, please take the time to do so.  You might  take away some ideas to guide you along your journey towards living well.  And hopefully you will be inspired.    








Thank you for reading.  Please pass along by twitter/facebook.  And of course Comments are most welcome.  I love getting feedback.

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I am pleased to present Natasha Alexenko, a woman who epitomizes the concept of taking lemons and making lemonade.  She has taken her personal trauma and  turned it into a most meaningful endeavor of helping others in similar situations. 

Ms. Alexenko is a survivor of sexual assault.  A newcomer to New York, she was just 20 years old when she was raped in the stairwell of her Manhattan apartment building.  

It took 16 years for her to witness justice being served, when the perpetrator was finally found and jailed.

Her rape kit had sat on a shelf for more than 10 years.    Because of this she  recently began an organization known as Natasha’s Justice Project, the goal being to help move these rape kits of evidence along faster so they get tested and investigated.  Currently, an estimated 180,000 such kits nationwide are sitting on shelves untested.   Ms. Alexenko is hoping to remediate this backlog crisis. 

This story is featured in a recent HBO documentary called ‘Sex Crimes Unit’.


What personal qualities helped you carry on and move in a positive direction?

I’m grateful to have a network of family and friends supporting me from the beginning and on to today. 

The thing that was helpful to me was that I asked for help. I think if you have support system in place, rather than handling it on your own,  you should be able to say, ‘I really need help with this; I’m having  difficulty.’  You just have to ask.  Especially in a case where not everyone knows what you’re going through.   They may not be able to approach you for help.  You have to find it in yourself to lower your barriers and say, ‘I’m still O.K. if I ask for help; it doesn’t speak to my strength or weakness.’  That’s actually a good quality to have – to be able to recognize when there’s something you cannot handle on your own and know the appropriate people to turn to for help.

I didn’t know anyone in my building and after this occurred I knew everyone in my building and I went to everyone’s house for dinner at some point.  Part of it was allowing myself be vulnerable and letting people take care of me. 

Did you go through a period of self-pity and if so what helped you come out of it?

Absolutely, I felt sorry for myself for a long time.  And then I eventually started to ask myself, ‘what am I thankful for out of this situation?’  I started going through things I was very grateful for – first of all, that I’m alive.  That was the first step; what could’ve happened and that didn’t,  and then my gratitude in the present tense – the people, my job, my dog.  Of course it’s easier to find the negatives than the positives, but to find those positives and hold onto them and through repetition – everyday waking up and saying, ‘I love my family, I love my friends, I love my dog.’ And I’m so grateful to have them there.

Was there a specific moment or epiphany that helped guide you to this better place psychologically?  Or did it evolve?

I think it evolved and there were many epiphanies.  I remember the first time I laughed; it was a true belly laugh.  It made me realize I hadn’t been laughing before. 

The first time I wasn’t afraid to go out anymore was big;  little triumphs that got me through everything.

What in general are your day-to-day coping skills that keep you afloat? 

One is if I’m not O.K., if I’m upset or have a bad day, to allow myself that; no pressure.  Tonight it’s O.K. to just watch TV and not worry that there are dishes in the sink.  Learning to not be so hard on myself and give myself an opportunity to be sad or bored.  You don’t always have to be productive.  You’re biggest responsibility is to yourself and making sure you’re O.K.  If you are not feeling well emotionally or mentally, you should treat yourself almost like you’re ill.  If you had a cold you wouldn’t necessarily mop your floors or do your laundry.  You’re allowed to take a moment to smell the roses and not be hard on yourself.

What thoughts propel you forward?

Rewarding myself and allowing myself to be happy.  It feels good to go out and have a great time; those sort of normal experiences help heal and they helped me feel like I wasn’t wearing a scarlet letter.  Allowing myself to do what feels good and right. 

We’re constantly evolving, testing things out and seeing where we are in life. And being inspired by things around us.  Allow for this.   

It’s very important to forgive.  I haven’t forgotten but I have forgiven. 

What does it mean to forgive such a crime?

It is the most empowering thing to be able to forgive someone who has done something like this to you.  It takes his power away.  It makes you like yourself.  It’s freeing.  Being angry traps you.   When you’re able to forgive and move on, it frees you.  I had years of therapy and years of feeling angry.  Eventually your mind has to go somewhere after that.  You can’t stay angry and continue to function.  It was almost a survival instinct to forgive, to work through that process.    You start to learn to put that energy toward other things; you change the focus. 

I couldn’t fight this guy physically; he had a gun.  But how I can fight him and win is by continuing on with my life and not let what he did to me affect me.  And now I’m going to take what happened to me and help other people.  Now I’m fighting even harder.  He’s already lost the battle. 

What advice would you give to someone?

Everyone has their own schedule of healing.

 Recognize you’re not alone.

 Talk about it. 

Find who you truly are.


An additional resource for help and information is RAINN


Thank you for reading this interview.  Please share through facebook and twitter.  And if you’re moved to Comment, please do.




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