The 28 Happiest Parts of February

Cheryl Publicity Photo
Today marks another 28 day period of happiness.

I have to say that adding to my “Happiness Jar” has become one of my favorite activities of each day. It requires thinking. It requires remembering. It requires sitting with your thoughts and plunking down the ones that really matter. Some days it requires stretching.

It isn’t as easy as it sounds either. Sometimes I have to choose between something amazingly different like holding my 8-week old granddaughter and eating a chocolate almond ice cream cone. They both make me happy. They actually both delight me. But I made a rule when I started the year long Happiness Jar that I would select the ONE thing that made me happiest each day.

Sometimes you want to censor yourself. Sometimes the things that make you (and me) the happiest seem so simple (or so odd) that they shouldn’t even make the list. But they do.

28 Days of Happiness for February 2013:

Day 1: Giving blood on my late Dads birthday (in his honor)
Day 2: The saleslady at Ulta Cosmetics telling me I knew how to ‘work it’. She was a former runway model for 13 years.
Day 3: Holding Bubby (Max) in my arms for 2 hours while he took a nap in the rocker
Day 4: Three mile walk in the park with Dennis
Day 5: Movie (Silver Linings Playbook) and pizza at Next Door pub with Dennis
Day 6: Watching Travis and Kaylin hold hands in church
Day 7: Sledding with Max and Dennis (and dancing with Max in the bedroom when we got home)
Day 8: Laying on the couch with Livi sleeping on my chest for 2 hours
Day 9: Cleaning the house so it looks beautiful
Day 10: Dinner at Bob Evans with Dennis and Trav
Day 11: Candice cutting my hair and styling it
Day 12: Finding hope with Dr. Shawn Wilson
Day 13: Seeing Legally Blonde with the Harpers
Day 14: Dennis leaving the words “I Love You” in Q-Tips on the counter for Valentines Day
Day 15: Watching Dennis read “The Cat in the Hat” book to Max with “The Cat in the Hat” stuffed animal in Max’s arms
Day 16: Max bringing me a “Love You More” sign
Day 17: Having lunch at McAllister’s with Kim, Rudee, Candice, and Margie and seeing Menopause the Musical at Crown Center
Day 18: Driving through the blizzard with Dennis in our Excursion (4 wheel drive) to get a pizza
Day 19: Shopping at Target
Day 20: Hearing Travis’ dirt bike was recovered by the Sherriff
Day 21: Snow day with Dennis…making lunch in our clean kitchen together
Day 22: Frying bacon
Day 23: Reading “Happier at Home” by Gretchen Rubin in front of the fireplace
Day 24: An entire Friday off with Dennis…Eating at Wells Restaurant in Waldo, painting the kitchen cabinets, Waffle House, a fire in the fireplace, buying an old chest at the Restore
Day 25: Afternoon nap with Dennis
Day 26: Road trip with Dennis and Travis to pick up Travis’ stolen dirt bike
Day 27: Yelling ‘Hey Good Lookin’ at Mary Shockley and watching her reaction as we went in to eat at Applebee’s
Day 28: Listening to Italian music at Ciao Bella before friends arrived for lunch

As I unfold the tiny slips of paper to record these ‘happy moments,’ I once again experience a bit of glee. There are things I would never in a million years remember if I hadn’t written them down. Things like frying bacon. Who knew that would actually make me happy?

I’m also amazed at how many days include my dear husband Dennis. We’ve been married for 31 years and he is my rock, my Prince Charming and my best friend. And when I look at February’s list, I’m reminded at how much our relationship brings me joy on a daily basis. Simple things like eating dinner together. These fill me up. Repeatedly.

The happiness jar is emptied and ready for March.

How To Have 365 Days of Happiness…Guaranteed

TAC-BH-3300_be_happyI’m one of those genuinely happy people but I also struggle with anxiety and ADHD in massive amounts. My life is not perfect. My obsessive thoughts and dark demons accompany me on most days, even when I try to silence them. A few years ago I developed a system called The Happiness Factor for tracking my daily ‘happy’ status. (I’m not going to go into that one here but just so you know my Happiness Factor is 88%.)

Anyway, I can usually dig deep into each days’ happenings and find something good. But, I’ve never tracked my happiness in concrete ways like I’m doing this year.

I don’t believe in making resolutions. But on the first day of the new 2013 year, I made one. It wasn’t one of the ones that I’m going to break after 3 days. This year I made a resolution to have 365 days of happiness

I got an empty big ole’ blue mason jar (aka My Happiness Jar) and some colored post its. I like color so for January I used yellow and white striped post-its. It sits on my nightstand so I don’t forget.

Every night, I capture the one thing that day that made my happy. Some days I’ve logged as many as 11, so I really have to sift down and find the one thing that made my soul sing for that day. Some days, finding even one has been a challenge. Makes you scratch your head at the end of those kind of days.

Anyway…here is Month 1’s happiest moments (January):

Day 1: Hearing Raul Minon sing “Listen to the Rain” on KCPT
Day 2: Buying “hot pink” running shoes
Day 3: Listening to Travis play his guitar in the living room
Day 4: Buying a corn dog, cheese popcorn, Heath bar and Diet Coke at Gibson’s General Store
Day 5: Seeing “Zero Dark Thirty” with Dennis, Rudee and Roy
Day 6: Addressing the Save the Date cards for Travis’ US Army commissioning ceremony
Day 7: Making chocolate chip cookies with Kelsey & Max in Candice’s kitchen
Day 8: Hot steamy shower under the skylight with rain hitting it
Day 9: Holding my Livi all Sunday afternoon
Day 10: Cleaning the Mercedes inside and out
Day 11: Sitting over lunch with Mary at her new bungalow in her pretty flowered sweater discussing life
Day 12: Buying the “Nest” pillow for Gavins new wife’s wedding shower
Day 13: Browsing around TJ Maxx looking for presents for Valentines Day
Day 14: Sitting in church with Den, Candice, Kelsey, Travis, Max, Kaylin and Kiley and singing “I Belong to the King” while I cradled Olivia in my arms
Day 15: Drinking “Comfort & Joy” hot tea at Cockrell Mercantile
Day 16: Working out with Dennis and doing our secret handshake
Day 17: Making biscuits and gravy with Max
Day 18: Weightlifting with Dennis and Kelsey
Day 19: Shopping for scarves with Helen and Max and making magic wishes in the waterfall pond
Day 20: Making my bucket list and sharing it with our old friends Mike & Mary
Day 21: Eating lunch with Kelsey at MiMi’s café (a chicken, walnut and strawberry salad) before I took her back to the airport to go back to Texas. She had a beautiful big mug of hot chocolate
Day 22: Driving to and from Warrensburg with Janece
Day 23: Reading “The Traveler’s Gift” in front of the fireplace with Dennis
Day 24: Long lovemaking session
Day 25: Reading Mickey Mouse to Max as he snuggles on my lap
Day 26: Holding Olivia for 2 hours
Day 27: Eating cheese corn and a big ole Diet Coke
Day 28: Having hot tea with Fawn Brents at the Whistlestop
Day 29: Making a big ole’ pot of vegetable soup/stew
Day 30: Shopping in the Crossroads district with Candice and Livi
Day 31: Walking in the park (2 miles) and saying hello to the sad-looking old man

These are the moments. 31 of them. There were thousands of other significant moments…happy things that made a difference. But these were the ones that at the end of the day, I knew the word ‘happiest’ was attached to each of them.

None had to do with goal setting. None had to do with conquering a huge struggle. None of them had to be broadcast over Facebook or captured in a photo. Most of them had to do with simply being. In 10 words or less.

They don’t teach you this stuff in school. Tucked between kindergarten coloring and 9th grade geometry, you learn to fit into the system. To be like everybody else. I like to think that the most important thing we can ever teach another is how to truly love life and be happy.

On to February. The journey of discovering what really makes you happy is soul-stirring. It makes you realize that perhaps doing less and being more really is a good life mantra. And it makes you realize that these are the moments that really matter.

(It’s not to late to start your own Happiness Jar. It’s perpetual. All you need is a jar, some colored scraps of paper and a pen. At the end of each day, simply jot down the one thing that made you the happiest that day. One moment. One thing. In 10 words or less. You’re on your way to 365 days of happiness. Guaranteed.)

Book Review: The Traveler’s Gift

David Ponder (the main character) is down on his luck. At 46 he’s broke, unemployed with no purpose for the future other than how to survive. He has a wife and a daughter to support, and his daughter is in need of an operation he can’t afford. A car accident turns him into a traveler where he unexpectedly meets some of the world’s greatest teachers including Anne Frank, Colonel Chamberlain, King Solomon, Gabriel the Archangel, Christopher Columbus, Harry Truman and Abraham Lincoln. This is what he learns.

Seven decisions that impact personal success:
#1: Take responsibility for every single part of your life
#2: Seek wisdom
#3: Be a person of action who makes decisions
#4: Have a committed heart
#5: Choose to be happy
#6: Greet the day with a forgiving spirit
#7: Persist without exception and focus on results

The author Andy Andrews is a gifted storyteller. He speaks of a ‘hedge of thorns’ that protect each of us (which I believe is Christ) until we have fulfilled our life purpose and teaches that “the ultimate outcome of anyone’s life is a matter of personal choice.” You’ll experience how David uses the wisdom of the ages to transform his broken life into a beaming beacon of hope.

Great read for anyone who’s stuck, questioning your purpose in life, want to make a big difference and live outside your comfort zone or simply for someone who knows they’re destined to do more.

Outstanding book with direct actions to take!

-The Traveler’s Gift
Author Andy Andrews

Are You a Really Crappy Mom?

liv
We’re living in a generation where everything gets a pass.

Charlie Sheen gets a hit TV show called “Anger Management” after he acts like an imbocile and tries to take down his former TV show “Two and a Half Men.” Lindsey Lohan continues to get movie deals after she’s been arrested too many times to count. Gun toting psychopaths gun down innocent children in elementary schools and 5 kids get 1 million likes on Facebook in 13 hours because they want to get a family dog and need Mom and Dad to pay attention.

What do these four isolated scenarios have in common? They’re all insane.

Never has there been a time in history where you can do less and get noticed more.

You started reading this article because you wanted to know if you’re a really crappy Mom. Perhaps you are. I’m not going to post a test or a checklist with the “10 Ways to Know If You’re a Really Crappy Mom.” You know if you are. Your gut tells you. Your heart tells you. You don’t have to ask anyone on Facebook or read any blogs to know.

Motherhood is sacred.

Motherhood is the one thing that can literally change the world.

You know if you’re doing your job. Or not.

If your kids are in day care, that’s crappy. They need you.

If you feed your kids fast food 5 nights a week because you’re too tired to cook, that’s crappy.

If you watch TV all night long instead of reading to your kids, that’s crappy.

If you spend more time in the car toting your kids than talking to them, that’s crappy.

If you put your kids to bed between the commercials, that’s crappy.

If you divorce their Dad, that’s crappy. (And yes, it will affect them forever. That ‘resiliant’ word is a cop-out. Just ask any adult whose parents divorced when they were young.)

If you work underneath your own potential, that’s crappy.

If you scream and yell all day, that’s crappy.

If you drink or take drugs to numb your own pain, that’s crappy.

So are you? A crappy Mom?

Or are you like the many million Moms out there who are getting about 50% of it right and 50% of it wrong?

The human ones. The ones where guilt and goodness and love and letting people down weigh in about equal on the scale of life?

Are you trying?

Are you doing your best?

Are you training up your child in the way he/she should go?

If you are, then you’re doing okay. We could all do better.

We could be more and do more and work less and love more.

But that’s the same with all of life.

The insaneness will always be with us.
The crazies will get the publicity while the Mom on a quest to do the right thing will go unnoticed.

Not entirely unnoticed.

The kids are watching.

They need you Mom.

All of you. (or as much as they can get)

If you want to change the world, simply go be a good Mom.

The $157.41 Ugly Oak Fireplace Mantle Makeover


I hated the old fireplace.

A fireplace is supposed to be the focal point of a room and all I could think every time I walked into the living room or kitchen was how ugly the fireplace was. The house was built around 15 years ago when grey tile and high gloss oak was ‘in.’ Now that’s it not ‘in’ anymore, it’s out. But I didn’t want to spend alot of money and I didn’t want to do any major renovations to the house.

The fireplace had to go. So we got busy. Mainly, Dennis (my husband) got busy and I was his cheerleader.

Dennis discovered a product at Lowe’s called Airstone. It’s 75% lighter than regular stone and costs a fraction of what real stone would cost. See for yourself from the pictures whether you like it or not. It’s changed the entire look of the house, simply by changing the fireplace.

The 8-Step How-To $157.41 Ugly Oak Fireplace Mantle Makeover
Step 1: Remove old tile (unfortunately the old tile took some of the sheetrock with it so we had to replace the sheetrock around the black fireplace insert)
Step 2: Repair and/or replace sheetrock around fireplace insert
Step 3: Paint the mantle
Step 4: Tile the hearth
Step 5: Grout the hearth
Step 6: Install stone (we used AirStone – it’s awesome…we used a small T-frame support over the opening of the fireplace to keep the stone from slipping until the adhesive was dry)
Step 7: Glue embellishments on and paint
Step 8: Admire your handiwork!

The entire makeover took approximately 5 hours total, but it’s many small steps. Installing the AirStone, the bulk of the project accounted for about half of the time. The most amazing part of all…it only cost $157.41.

Materials:
1 quart Valspar Paint (we used Valspar Ultra Interior Satin, #391638, it’s a Paint + Primer)
1/2 sheet of sheetrock
2 boxes of Air Stone (flat style)
5-18″ x 18″ ceramic tiles
2 embellishments
1 bag grout

Tools:
Hacksaw (used to cut the AirStone tiles, could also use a miter saw)
Grout tool
5-gallon bucket
Large sponge

Cost:
$3.00 Paint (I got this out of the ‘oops’ pile, it would’ve normally cost around $15 a quart)
Sheetrock (free from my father in law)
$18.88 Ceramic tile
$135.53 Airstone, Grout and Stone Adhesive

$157.41 Total Fireplace Makeover Cost

Handy tip: If you don’t have a tile saw and don’t want to invest in one, Lowe’s will cut your tile for FREE for you. All you do is simply mark the tile where you want it cut and the Lowe’s associate will do the work for you.

No, we didn’t sand the fireplace first to remove the old finish on the woodwork. My husband Dennis is the equvalent of Ty Pennington (without the hair) so we didn’t have any labor costs involved with the entire renovation. Kinda funny that I hated the grey tile but I painted the mantle grey.

You really can do this yourself. 5 hours. $157.41. Sweat equity is the best equity you can put into a house.

A 5-Step Weight Loss Game Plan

Jenny was just plain tired of the heat. She was tired of wearing long pants to her son’s baseball games in the summer, tired of her thighs rubbing together until they were raw and tired of the embarrassment she felt for being overweight. So last December Jenny made a decision. She was going to lose the weight. She didn’t know how she was going to lose the weight. Or, even when she was going to lose the weight. But she knew in her heart she was definitely going to lose the weight.

You’d never imagine that this slender size 6 wife and Mom of 3 had ever been 100 pounds overweight. She’s bubbly. Engaging. Talkative and energized. She’s got gorgeous long auburn hair and a smile to match. So when she casually mentioned that she’d lost 100 pounds the year before as I perused her garage sale, I just had to know more. How she did it. Why she did it. What was her magic bullet, her trick?

The One Thing at a Time Diet
Jenny told me there was no trick. She woke up the day after Christmas and decided that she was important. That she mattered to herself, and to her family and to God. So she took the ‘one thing at a time’ approach to weight loss. No fad diets. No insane workout schedules. Very little calorie counting. And no deprivation. Jenny simply decided to take care of herself. That’s it.

“I decided that I would start taking care of myself, as well as I take care of everyone else. I started small. Simple things like doing my hair in the morning and shaving my legs every day. Those little things were the catalyst to my 100 pound weight loss.” Jenny joined Weight Watchers Online and worked the program. She even deviated from the program. But Weight Watchers Online combined with Jenny’s intentional declaration made all the difference. The pounds came off slowly but steadily at the rate of about 3 .5 pounds per month. She added in some light exercise in the form of Piyo (a combination of Yoga and Pilates).

Fighting Back Fear
You can tell from Jenny’s smile that 100 pounds lighter feels delightful. She still battles her inner demons…the ones she fights when she wakes up in the morning and still believes she’s a size 22 until she pats her tummy and checks her hips and assures herself she hasn’t gained the weight back.

Jenny just went back to work after 14 years of being a stay at home Mom. She’s reveling in the fact that she can wear shorts to the ballpark. “I wanted to feel young, to be active with my kids and to end my never-ending adult battle with weight.” Jenny went from fat to fit in just under a year with her basic principles of self-care, moderate eating and light exercise. But her true inspiration comes from fielding kid stuff and the joy of being a Mom. “I’m more relaxed now…not so anxious and uptight.” As the weight melted off, so did some of the worries. “Losing weight isn’t about what you eat, it’s about what you think.”

Jenny’s 5-Step Weight Loss Game Plan:
1. Decide. You are important.
2. Take care of yourself. Put yourself first.
3. Eat moderately. Smaller portions. Less junk. More water.
4. Keep the demons at arms length and don’t believe what they tell you. They are lies!
5. Enjoy your life. Celebrate your success.

Does Your Life Need a Before and After?



I love before and after makeover shows.

The ones where the house is falling in and needs a new roof…where the family has been living in a shambles with electrical that doesn’t work and plumbing that’s shot. And then, with the Goliath help of a thousand man crew…the house is rebuilt from the foundation up in 7 days and every single room looks like Ty Pennington personally handled every detail…from the faucets to the throw pillows to the appliances to the perfectly positioned tulips on the lawn. And the family gets treated to an all expenses 7-day vacation in paradise, conveniently removed from all the mess and dust and frustration.

Or there’s the style shows. The one where Stacy and Clinton hand a $5,000 Visa card to a deserving woman who is frumpily stuck in the 80’s and in two whirlwind days she shops til she drops and ends up looking like Cinderella at the ball. She gets styled and coiffed and pitches the clothes that’ve been holding her back from the life of her dreams.

You can do it with weight too. Chris Powell, host of Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition chooses a morbidly obese person to cajole, coach, cry with, train and coddle over the course of a year…usually resulting in at least a 100 pound weight loss. Then, Wal-Mart hands over a $50,000 gift card as a reward.

Life isn’t like this.

You don’t get a new house in a week.
You don’t makeover your closet or your personal style in two days.
And most of us don’t need to lose 100 pounds and certainly couldn’t do it in a year without Chris’ help.

Life is, well, much harder than they make it look.

We don’t have sponsors or TV production crews. We have to go to work and raise kids and squeeze eating and living in around all of it. It’s impossible to have a single focus like these shows make it seem. All magically wrapped up in a 60-minute vinette.

But what you do have to know is what direction you’re going. What do you want to do with your life? What does it look like now? What do you want it to look like after?

Ty isn’t standing in front of your house yelling ‘move that bus.’

Wal-Mart isn’t handing over any gift cards.

No one is doing your hair and make up. Heck, I even ran out of hair product this morning and no one rushed over a replacement.

Life is messy.

It took me 6 years of dating my husband before we said “I Do” (we’ve been married 31).

It took me 7 years to figure out that the chaos full-time work made for my family with 3 small children wasn’t worth it.

It took me 25 years to finish raising my three awesome kids…all the way fretting over what parts I was screwing up.

It took me almost a decade of writing before I considered myself ‘good enough’ to publish.

Good things usually take time. More than we want to give. More than we think we have.

We believe we’re going backward if we don’t see instant results. Just because you can drive through McDonalds and get dinner in less than 10 minutes doesn’t mean it’s going to be a good dinner.

Good things usually need to simmer.

The before and after shows still have things to teach us. They have a plan we can follow.

You have to know what you’re starting with. (The benchmark)

• You have to know where you want to go. (The journey)

• You have to know what success means to you. (The destination)

• You have to know what resources you might need along the way. (The tools)

• You have to know whose on the team and who isn’t. (The team)
When you know these key things, life seems simpler. You feel more content. You can stop wondering and worrying and overprocessing and obsessing. You can simply get to work. You’re on the path. Your path.

I’m suggesting you complete an Extreme Life Makeover. Your life is worth it. It’s a magical mosaic of a million tiny pieces…all coming together to form your days that in turn form your life.

Try this.

Write down what your life before looks like. Every single detail. All the parts. Your health. Your money. Your friends. Your work. Your relationships. Your spirituality. Your house. And the list goes on.

Then, write (or draw) what you want all the parts to look like. Where do you want to live? How much do you want to make? Who do you want to love? What or who do you need to let go? What kind of car do you drive?

Life makeovers are tough because unlike television, you can’t stop everything else and focus on one area. Life is swirling and it never stops.

Tomorrow marks my one-year fitness anniversary. I’m 51 and this is the first time that I’ve spent any concentrated or long-term effort on my health. This time last year I weighed 207.4 pounds. Today I weigh 181.2. Total weight loss = 26.2 pounds. I did two simple things…I joined Weight Watchers and I walked 2 miles a day, 6 days a week.

I wanted to lose 47 pounds. I barely lost half of that.

Did I fail? No.

I’d give myself a C- at Weight Watchers. I didn’t track. I didn’t eat Power Foods or drink a ton of water. I did attend the 30 minute weekly meeting and I did weigh in.

I’d give myself an A- at walking. I walked 6 days a week regardless of everything else that was going on. Sometimes I got up early. Sometimes I had to walk on vacation. But I did walk.

Were there other benefits of this fitness makeover? Definitely. My mind is stronger. My body is stronger. My clothes are smaller. My energy is higher (even though most would say that my trademark energy was already off the charts). My blood pressure is insanely good.

One decision moved me in the right direction. One decision and daily perseverance. Before, I was fat. After, I’m healthy. And happy with how walking makes me feel.

This is the formula to use. A decision and daily action steps. Steps that will take you to the life of your dreams.

Don’t worry that Ty Pennington or Stacy and Clinton or Chris Powell aren’t going to show up in your life. You’re not going to win the lottery. Sadly, Santa isn’t real.

You have the power to change. It’s in you. You possess everything you need to produce your own before and after life makeover.

You can create your own amazing life. Step by step.

The Power of a Good Cry


I used to be one of those women who cried at the drop of a hat. I’d tear up at the sound of a bluesy song, the sight of a new baby or at the swell of a dramatic news story.

Then I got older.

I started taking medication for my ADHD and I stopped crying. It dulled my emotions and took away my tears.

I missed them.

So I quit taking the medication. It wasn’t simply about the lack of fluid in my tearducts. After all, my life didn’t get any better with it (the medication, that is). And I liked the thing that made me me. Tears. Joy. Excitement. Enthusiasm. Love.

I’m one of those people who is loud and animated and who some call crazy. I don’t care.

I like to think I love bigger, I feel deeper and I show it more openly than most. Some don’t even know how to be around a woman who’s like this. Thank God my husband embraces me and the things that make me me.

Our society shys away from tears. Oh, you can cry at funerals if you make sure to dab away the tears before they fall to your cheeks. Sadly, last summer one of my best friends buried her 6-week old grandson who died in his sleep. Her other grandson who was 6 at the time was weeping during the graveside service like a wounded animal. Hearing his moans almost brought me to my knees.

He was hurting. He was devastated. And at age 6, it’s okay to show it.

The rest of us wanted to moan too. The rest of us wanted to collapse into a heap with him. The bereaved Mom of the baby who had died lifted this sobbing child onto her lap for comfort. Hers and his.

It was a broken day. Broken hearts. Broken dreams. Brokenness all around.

So why do we try so hard to keep it all together when everything’s falling apart.

We view it as a ‘weakness’ to cry.

It is not.

Tears are the medicine of angels. They heal us from the inside out. When we allow these toxic emotions to invade our body and our soul, we break down. Literally. We get sick. And after doing this for too many years we can’t go on. People die.

Don’t be afraid to cry. Let your body feel what’s quaking in your soul. Let it out. If you don’t, the pressure builds up and you dare to explode. Or worse yet, implode.

So cry. Your tears have power. They are there for a reason. To heal you. To comfort you. To change you.

It takes strength to feel.

7 Ways To Be Brave When Your Knees Are Shaking

Hurricane Sandy just hit the East Coast. Horrifically, some lost their lives. Some lost everything they ever worked for. Some lost their homes for the short-term and some simply lost some sleep.

Manhattan was literally blacked out and taking on water in the subway systems. The David Letterman audience wasn’t there for the monologue and the Good Morning America Extreme Weather team was reporting from all over the East Coast.

Sometimes life can feel like a hurricane, things swirling about us threatening to destroy our sanity and our safe places. But what if some of those places we believe to be our refuge really aren’t that safe? What if our sanity needed shaking up a bit. What if it’s time for us to start over in a new place, in a new life, in a new destiny.

Maybe you’re a little too comfortable.

Maybe life is a little too easy.

Maybe it’s time to s-t-r-e-t-c-h.

Bravery is mostly taught to be a guy thing. You know, Gladiator and Braveheart. The Wild West. Warriors and weapons. Women seldom hear the words “Be brave.” So I’m going to tell you.

Be brave.

I even want you to join a club. It’s free and it will teach you how to be braver than you ever knew how. It’s called the Brave Girls Club. You can check it out by going to http://www.BraveGirlsClub.com.

But how can you be really brave when your knees are shaking? How can you be brave when you want to run away and hide? That’s a girl thing. Wanting to be taken care of. Wanting to be comforted and shielded from harm. A girl thing. NOT a woman thing.

A woman has to be brave. A woman who wants to control her own destiny MUST be brave.

Bravery is learned. You get braver every time you take a step toward making your own decisions without relying on what everyone else thinks. You get braver when you speak up in your own defense, even if it’s simply to tell a waitress she brought the wrong order. You get braver when you decide that your life is your own, and that it’s magical and spiritual and that it really, really matters.

Be brave.

Here’s 7 ways to be brave when your knees are literally shaking:
#1: Breathe. B-R-E-A-T-H-E. When emotion overwhelms you, breathing can center you. Take a deep breathe and start again.

#2: Make eye contact. Don’t look down or around or at your feet. When you’ve got something to take care of, let your eyes make the statement.

#3: Wear an amazing bra and underwear. There’s something about feminine power that’s unleashed when you look good underneath.

#4: Pray. God is on your side. He wants you to be brave. He made you strong and confident. Own it.

#5: Call a friend. Tell her to tell you to ‘be brave’. Have her kick you in the butt if you need it. Sometimes knowing you have an ally in your corner makes all the difference. (This isn’t about asking her opinion…this is to say I’m going to do this and I need you in my corner.)

#6: Don’t overthink. Women get paralyzed in their own heads. Don’t retreat…attack. Move forward. Be brave.

#7: Pretend. No one can tell the difference. They don’t know your blood pressure is on the rise or that your palms are sweating. Pretending (faking it) is sometimes the best way to getting what you want.

I was a 23-year old ad agency exec (aka grunt) who knew I was severely underpaid. I was also privey to what others were making. My boss called me in at review time to give me a $3,000 raise. I told him “I was more valuable to the firm.” That’s all I said. I am more valuable. His response…”you’re right”. Your raise is $7,000. I was brave. (Oh alright, young and maybe a bit arrogant and stupid too.)

If I hadn’t been brave, I’d have been $4,000 poorer.

I would’ve resented the staff I knew was making more than me, while I was doing better work.

I probably would’ve quit soon thereafter to go to a better job.

But I didn’t have to because even though my knees were shaking and I thought I was going to cry, I said my peace. I was brave.

In spite of what’s going on in your life, be it a hurricane or a thunderstorm or a broken relationship or a broken heart, you can be brave. It’s in you.

Art image by Mae Chevrette (she’s got really, really cool art…check out her Etsy shop at http://maechevrette.etsy.com )
Thousands of brave women subscribe to The Brave Girls Club (www.BraveGirlsClub.com) created by Kathy Wilkins & Melody Ross. Join them.