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December 23, 2013

Wishing Everyone a Wonderful Holiday Season

IStock_000017850630_ExtraSmallAnother year and another holiday season filled with great food, beautiful lights and endless season's greetings. Holidays are a great opportunity for all of us to take a break from crazy work schedules and spend some quality time with our loved ones. Regardless of what you do or don't celebrate, this time of year is like no other.

This holiday season may all of you...

1.  Take in the magic of the season. May you slow down enough to take in the beauty of the many decorated homes, trees, stores and cities. Tune in to the holiday music, children laughing, snow falling and sleds sledding. Enjoy the unique gifts of this season.

2.  Enjoy special time with your loved ones. Use this time of year to remember what really counts--relationships. Spend extra time playing with your children, holding hands with your spouse and remembering that being present is the greatest gift you can give. Give your time fully.  

3.  Begin to heal from current and past losses. For those who have suffered loss this year, my heart goes out to you. May you begin to find solace in your grief. Appreciate the gift that those who have passed brought to your life and treasure their soul's touch. Take time to give yourself TLC this season. Do whatever is necessary to help you carry them with you as you move forward.

4.  Feel gratitude for all that you have. Take time to appreciate what you do have. If you're healthy, be thankful. If you have a loving family, squeeze them tight and appreciate them. If you have a roof over your head, money in the bank and food in your thankful. Being thankful for the little things helps us to handle the bigger things. Practice gratitude.

5.  Spread joy to those around you. Don't be Scrooge this season. Even if you don't celebrate a particular holiday-don't rain on everyone else's parade. Use the season to remind you of the gifts in life. Stop thinking no one should celebrate something unless everyone celebrates and instead be thankful for the reminder to take in all the things life has to offer each one of us.

6. Have a giving heart. Be kind this season. Call someone who is alone, say hello to a stranger and  help out someone in need. Spread kindness and take in the joys of being the giver.

7. Give your loved ones your best self. Don't get so caught up in tasks this season that you lose sight of what's truly important. Give your family you. Unhook from work, be fully present at home and take time to take in the gift of your family/friends and loved ones. Be mindful of taking in those special moments when your child squeezes your face, you and your partner have a moment of outrageous laughter or you quietly snuggle with a loved one. Those are life's precious gifts; be sure to take them in. 

The winding down of one year and the revving up of the next is a time for reflection, gratitude and hope. May all of you take in the joys and sorrows of this past year and begin to heal from any losses. May you be thankful for the gifts of life, family and friends. May you experience hope for a brighter tomorrow and inspiration to make that happen.

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season filled with much love, laughter and inner peace.



December 17, 2013

“Mean” Women Hurt All Women: We Can Do Better

IStock_000015790066_ExtraSmallHow is it that women can be one woman’s best friend one minute and another woman’s worst enemy the next? In my Junior High School years I felt that I had to prove my worth by the way I looked, how many boys liked me or how many friends I had. I have no interest in re-living those years—literally or figuratively. Nor do I want other women to have to relive them in their adult years, either. It’s time for women to stop feeling threatened by one another and instead start supporting one another. I’m all for healthy competition and striving to be your best, however doing so by stomping on others is the last thing we need in our world today. 

Too often inherent in competition is attacking (“She’s such a witch”), jealousy (“She thinks she’s little miss wonderful”) and mean spiritedness (“Can you believe that he actually likes her?!”). Some women find their sense of worth by squashing the women around them. They attack other women because they don’t have a strong sense of self and they see other women as a threat. If you’re one of these women then trust me, squashing every other woman in the world is not going to help you in the long run. There will always be another woman who is smarter, more talented, prettier or more (fill in the blank) than you. You can’t squash every woman. Besides, the truth is, the other women are not the problem. The problem is within you. 

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December 12, 2013

Stop Obsessing and Let it Go

IStock_000002084023_ExtraSmallSometimes people can throw you a curve ball. They can do something so hurtful that it knocks you off your feet and sends you reeling. And, without doubt, these events can rock you to your core. They can leave you obsessing about them, raging about them and scratching your head trying to explain them. Sometimes, though, there is no explanation. There is no justification, rationalization or understanding about why. Sometimes there is no helpful closure or any closure at all. More often than not, closure comes only from letting go. 

The more you think about what was done, obsess about it and complain about it, the more you keep it in your life.  Continually talking about a hurt someone caused you will not help you heal. In fact, the more you keep the story alive, the more your pain, anger and upset will last.  Obsessing about the person, issue or pain will not make the pain go away. It will not make the hurtful act any less hurtful. And it will not help you.

Regardless of whether the issue is someone cheating on you, lying to you or gossiping about you...learn to let it go. Don't allow this person to cause any more drain on your life than they already have. If the person has acknowledged what they did and tried to repair the harm they caused, then be thankful they are accountable and move forward. If the person wasn't accountable at all, then move on and don't look back. Whichever the case may be, stop giving this person or event so much power over you. Know that people make mistakes and do hurtful things for all sorts of reasons--many of which have nothing to do with you. Stop wringing your hands, wondering why or how they could've done what they did. Stop telling the world how badly this person hurt you. Stop staying up at night plotting revenge or feeling sorry for yourself. Just...STOP. Move on for your sake.

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December 04, 2013

Bringing Your Best Self to the Table

IStock_000007605445XSmallWhen I first got married I hated conflict. The thought of an argument made me nervous and so I avoided upsetting conversations with my husband all the time. If I was angry about something, instead of voicing my upset, I would go underground and act it out rather than talk it out. As you can imagine, this would be very difficult to live with. 

Fortunately over the years I learned the error of my ways  and worked like crazy to learn to speak up and stop acting things out. However, during those first years I remember justifying my anger and seldom thinking that I was at all wrong with my behavior. Seeing the mis-behavior of others was so obvious that it didn't occur to me to look at my own. 

Sound familiar? Human beings justify our own screw-ups all the time, while condemning the screw-ups of others ad-nauseam. We are quick to let ourselves off the hook for poor behavior, yet can make others pay for their bad behaviors for decades. Understandably, this is a recipe for disaster when it comes to relationships, jobs and even life. 

Living a good life is about bringing our best selves to the table at all times. The truth is, I wasn’t passive-aggressive because of what my husband did or didn’t do. I was passive-aggressive because that was MY dysfunctional way of handling problems. As soon as we get caught up in thinking that “we do what we do because others do what they do,” we’re all in trouble. The same is true when we think, “We are who we are and others should just accept us.” I’ve heard more excuses, justifications and blame for people’s poor behavior to last me a lifetime. I’ve even done my own fair share of all of these. These moves, however, aren’t serving us. 

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November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving: What If You’re Not Feeling Thankful?

IStock_000017351486_ExtraSmallThanksgiving is that time of year when everyone tells you to stop and give thanks for all you have. Be thankful for your family, a roof over your head, your health and on and on. But what if you’re not thankful? What if the reality is that your family is miserable, you don’t have a roof over your head and you’re not, in fact, healthy? What then? What if the last thing in the world you want to do is to “Be Thankful?” Or, what if you actually would love to be able to be thankful, but you just can’t muster it? 

If being thankful is something that feels beyond your scope at this time, then go for the next best thing: acceptance. I know it may sound crazy, but if things truly suck for you right now, don’t wallow in your misery, feel guilty about not being thankful or try to pretend that everything is great. Instead, breathe in, slow down and simply accept where things are for you right now. Take a slow deep breath in (through your nose) and just as slowly release it (through your mouth). Do this several times until you feel your heart rate slowing down and you feel calm. Next, get real with yourself. Take an honest look at where your life is and what about it you don’t like. Name those things. But name them  without exaggeration or drama or extreme thinking. Simply name the facts.  For example, “Thanksgiving is hard for me because I don’t have a family to go to or any close friends. I’m barely making ends meet and I hate my job. I don’t like where I am right now in my life.” 

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November 21, 2013

The Big Lie about Relationships: "Relationships Are Hard"

For years I believed the notion that all relationships are hard. Experts, books and even the media all played out the message that relationships aren’t easy, are naturally filled with strife and that conflict and “fighting” just comes with the territory. Since all of the other relationship “experts” were passing on the same message, I thought they must be right. In fact, I felt like I had to hide the fact that my relationship wasn’t hard. I thought maybe there was something I was missing. I thought that perhaps other relationship “experts” knew better than I.

 For a long time I ignored my gut. I tell women all the time to “trust that you know what you know,” yet in this area I failed to follow my own advice. I passed on the message to clients that relationships are hard. I quietly shrugged my shoulders in agreement when friends and family members rolled their eyes and sighed that relationships should be easier. And now...I’m done. I’m done buying into all that hype about how hard relationships are and even more done with passing on that dangerous message. Instead, I’m going to tell you the hard truth about relationships.  

MY truth.

Great relationships aren’t hard. Healthy relationships, in fact, are comforting, nice to be in and great to come home to. They make life easier. They don’t leave you crying, feeling like hell or wondering if anyone will ever love you. Great relationships leave you feeling good about yourself. They feel easy, rewarding and like a gift that you’re grateful to experience. Great relationships don’t require endless hours of “communication,” problem-solving or painful conversations. Although there are certainly hard conversations from time to time, they’re hard because sometimes life is hard. They’re not hard because you feel unsafe or fearful that your partner will shame you, dismiss you or shut you down. They’re not hard because you don’t feel heard or can’t get through to your partner. The hard conversations are hard because of the content, not because of the person with whom you’re discussing the content. Great relationships have an underlying foundation of equality, mutuality, love and cherishing. Both people are respectful, even in the toughest of times, because there’s a mutual desire to help and support one another.  Great relationships make life easier.

The reality is that bad relationships are hard. Unhealthy relationships make life difficult. These kinds of relationships are “naturally” filled with strife and upset. They don’t feel good to come home to. Yelling, dismissing, defensiveness, lack of accountability, belittling, addiction, lying, harsh comments and lack of interaction are common in unhealthy relationships. These are the things that make those relationships VERY HARD.  Don’t confuse great relationships, though, with not-so-great relationships. There’s a huge difference. Not being heard, intense anger, hurtful comments, lying, cheating, ignoring and contempt are common in poor relationships; they are NOT common in healthy ones. 

Messages like Relationships are hard and Love hurts are dangerous messages that set people up for bad relationships. If your relationship is hard day in and day out or more days than not, something’s wrong. Relationships should NOT be that hard. Great relationships feel easy, comforting and great to come home to. Although you may hit bumps, have moments of upset and periods of feeling more distant than you’d like, these are all short-lived MIT’s (moments in time). 

Go for great in your relationships…it’s so worth it. Stop settling for less and thinking that’s the “norm;” it isn’t.

Challenge: Take a hard look at your relationship. Have you been normalizing a bad relationship under the guise of “all relationships are hard?” If so, it’s time to re-calibrate. Pay attention to the areas where you’ve been settling and tune into how and why. Commit to go for great!





November 14, 2013

Eyes Wide Open: Magical Thinking Won’t Solve Serious Issues


People have an uncanny ability to not see what’s right in front of them and, instead, paint a rosy picture about issues that are anything but rosy. They can assume there are easy answers for problems that are anything but easy. They can turn a blind eye to major upsets to which no one in their right mind should be turning a blind eye. And they can wish so hard that things aren’t as bad as they seem that they can actually start believing that things really aren’t as bad as they seem.

Too often people simply want to believe that things will work out. They want to think everything will be okay. In an effort to believe things will be okay, they begin to delude themselves. Deluding themselves can take many forms:

  • A couple fights constantly and tells themselves that as soon as they have a child everything will work itself out.
  • An employee tells himself that even though his boss has already lied to him three times about giving him a raise, this time it will be different and his boss will come through on his word.
  • A girlfriend convinces herself that marriage will magically keep her boyfriend’s eyes and hands from wandering.
  • A father believes that as soon as his son finds the “right” job, his drinking will stop and no longer be an issue.

Applying magical solutions to serious issues is a losing plan. Regardless of whether we’re talking about a friend, boss, lover or spouse, the bottom line is...serious issues require serious solutions. A lying boss is not going to all of a sudden stay true to his word. Having a baby is no more going to fix an unhealthy marriage than marriage is going to fix a cheating boyfriend. The moment we brush off the seriousness of major issues, we begin to insure that those issues will grow. Wishful thinking will not, does not and cannot solve real problems.

If there’s something you don’t like in your relationship, job, friendship, etc., then do yourself a favor and truly address the issue. Keep your eyes wide open. Dare to see what you see and have the courage to have your back by addressing the hard issues. This one move will save you years of pain down the road.

Challenge: Don’t minimize, make up magical solutions or turn a blind eye to real struggles right in front of you. Face the serious issues head on and stop convincing yourself that everything will be okay if you just let life happen. It won’t.











November 05, 2013

Getting The Spark Back…Requires Getting Real, Not Wild

IStock_000014629447XSmallI get countless e-mails from people saying they or their partner lost the spark in their relationship and they want to know how to get it back. Part of the problem, though, for many couples that say they lost the “spark,” is that they start with a fantasy notion of relationships. Many people expect their relationships to forever maintain the passion of new beginnings. Too many people believe in Hollywood’s notion of great relationships --  always hot, passionate, full of butterflies and the constant hum of utter infatuation. First off, no relationship can sustain that constant level of perfection—it’s unrealistic and total fantasy. So, if you’re looking for that “spark,” then you’d better re-adjust your compass…or continually start new relationships throughout your life.

If, however, what you’re looking for is a deeper connection, filled with love, support, fun and an ability to make it through tough times, then by all means let’s find that spark. Know, however, that getting the spark back is a process, not an event.

Below are simple ways to re-ignite the connection and “spark:”

  1. Be cherishing. Treat your partner as though you cherish her/him. Say kind things, do kind acts and be loving. Don’t expect that just co-existing is enough. Don’t assume that just being in this relationship shows that you want to be there; it doesn’t. Act like you want to be there. Act like you’re happy to be with your partner on a daily basis.
  2. Laugh often/be playful. Part of getting the spark back is enjoying being with your partner. Lighten up, smile, joke, tease…HAVE FUN! Don’t make everything so serious and don’t be a wet blanket in life. Try new things, watch funny movies, tell silly jokes and learn to let go of the critiquing, complaining, demanding, etc., for at least pockets of time. No one wants to hang out with Scrooge.
  3. Be authentic. It’s nearly impossible to feel the spark with someone you can’t trust. Be your genuine self, answer questions honestly, do what you say you’re going to do and be reliable. If your partner can’t trust you, then he/she won’t be able get or feel close to you.  
  4. Share yourself. Intimacy means, “Into me you see.” Share your thoughts, fears, excitements, struggles, opinions and joys with your partner. If you’re in an intimate relationship, the intimacy should not only be happening in the bedroom. The spark is not just about physical chemistry. Physical connection is great, however it will only take you so far. If there’s no emotional connection…eventually there is no spark either.  
  5. Be supportive. Have your partner’s back. Do your best to support their dreams, give them a shoulder to lean on, tell them you believe in them, etc. Too many couples harp on the negatives and stress all the reasons why things won’t work. Start changing your lens to one of appreciation, solution, partnering and friendship rather than criticism, the devil’s advocate or the naysayer. 

When it comes to “finding the spark,” the bottom line is that the “spark” is about intimacy—that sense of physical and emotional connection that feels good to come home to. It’s not about hot sex, constant attraction or being unable to keep your hands off each other, all of which wax and wane in even the best of relationships. If you want that hot sex kind of spark then become a serial dater because that’s the only way you will sustain it. If, however, you want a truly rockin’ relationship, then dare to cherish, share, be playful, genuine and yes… supportive. Do all of these with a good heart and ask of your partner the same. If that doesn’t get the spark back then perhaps it wasn’t truly there in the first place.

Challenge: Look over the list above and make an honest assessment of how you have been in your relationship. Clean up the parts you have not done well and hold your partner to the same expectations. Become someone it feels good to come home to.




October 23, 2013

Brave Human Beings Taking a Stand

   IStock_000007605445XSmall  “Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.”

                                                                      The Fray

Standing up for what you believe in, when so many others disagree, can be daunting, to say the least. Going against the grain, no matter how crazy the “grain” may seem, takes courage, passion and tremendous character. Even those who have been deemed “leaders” have struggled -- and continue to struggle -- with doing the right thing in some of the most difficult of times. Regardless of whether you’re talking about top football coaches, top clergy, school principals, teachers, students, parents, friends or strangers, the reality is that doing the right thing is often the hardest thing to do.

There are countless stories of people growing silent in response to crimes. There are countless stories of teen boys cheering on their friends while they assault and rape a fellow teen. There are countless stories of parents protecting their teens at all costs, even when their child did tremendous harm to another. And there are countless stories of perpetrators, bystanders, family members, school members, strangers and acquaintances blaming victims, justifying hate, rape, abuse, bullying and on and on. Far too many people put a warped sense of loyalty, a desire for popularity or a twisted sense of what’s right ahead of human decency, kindness, compassion.

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October 16, 2013

Relationship Lessons from the Government Shutdown of 2013

Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, most people agree that the government shutdown is not one of our country’s proudest moments. And, I thank our government for teaching all of us, through their mistakes, relationship lessons of a lifetime. Below are the top ten relationship lessons we can all take away from this unfortunate event.

  • Always be open to hearing the other side with an open mind rather than a righteous mind. One leads to healthy dialogue; the other to ill feelings and resentment. Don't ever get so stuck on being right that you become blind to solutions. 
  • Know that your actions and decisions create a ripple effect of consequences across the lives of those around you...and beyond. It's simply not all about you. Remember that how you live your life has great implications for those around you. Think about the ripple effects of your decisions before you make them.
  • When things don't go your way, don't dig in your heels in an attempt to FORCE them to go your way. This tactic is called bullying. It's toxic and damaging, not only to others, but to you as well.
  • If you agree to do something, do it. Don’t wait for a later issue to use as collateral to avoid doing what you agreed to do in the first place.
  • When you make an initial agreement, do so with thorough discussion and collaboration. Do not rush to get someone to agree on something if there is a good chance that there will be hard feelings later about the process. Relationships are about give and take, not winning and losing. Be considerate on all issues, not just your issues.
  • Stay on the issue at hand—don’t fight a past issue with a current problem. Too often people bring countless past issues into a current argument. Bringing in old issues makes discussion difficult at best. Deal with the issue at hand and don’t throw others into the mix.
  • The end does not justify the means. Using any means necessary to win your side is toxic to relationships. Don’t change the rules to suit you, shame people for disagreeing with you or intimidate others to get your way. Remember that even if your tactics get you what you want today, that doesn’t mean they won’t hurt you tomorrow. Don’t be shortsighted.
  • Don’t allow the power of a few to determine the behavior of many. S/he who speaks the loudest often wins…unless you have the courage to not cower to the power. Don’t allow intimidation to silence your voice.
  • Learn to ask yourself if what you’re doing is the “right” thing to do. Be the spouse you wish you were with and be the parent, friend or boss you wish you had. Do the right thing even in the most difficult of times.
  • When you hear the same information about your actions from two or more different sources, trust that there’s truth in what they’re saying. In politics we have polls that speak volumes; in marriages we have divorce. Listen to the feedback you’re given and make the necessary changes. Don’t wait until it takes a bullhorn to wake you up. 

Regardless of which political party you support, have the courage to learn from the mistakes of both parties. We do in our relationships what our politicians are doing in our government. In our relationships these actions lead to divorce and in our government it leads to a shutdown. We can do better.

Challenge: Look over the list above and check those that apply in your relationships and work them.

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