Archive for the ‘Self-Confidence’ Category

When I was a teenager, I worked at a summer camp. I’ve talked about Sprucelands before and it is not at all an overstatement to say that place and its people literally made me into who I am. The life lessons I learned there stay with me every day.

One summer, I don’t know why we as the staff got to talking one day about the concept of paddling your own canoe (I think maybe that was the summer with the theme of Native American culture?) and how we are each responsible for taking care of ourselves and piloting this journey called life. Yes, things will happen to you and outside forces will batter your boat – but it is up to you to not sink, to not let things drag you under. One of the older counselors, a woman who I admired then and still admire to this day as a wonderful mom and mentor to her young boys, drilled it into my head for the rest of that summer how my canoe is MINE to paddle.

Now that I’m an adult – and a highly damaged one at that – I have FINALLY grasped the 20180607_104258concept. I have discovered that I’m completely able to pilot my own life. I can stand on my own two feet and be an adult, I can change my own light bulb and shoot my own pistol. My sense of independence is probably highly annoying to all of the people around me but dammit, I’ve worked hard to be ok on my own. My canoe hasn’t sunk, despite many outside efforts to swamp me. I have weathered some storms but I’m still paddling – and getting better for it.

As Kenny Chesney sang, I’m learning to build a Better Boat.

I ain’t lonely, but I spend a lot of time alone
More than I’d like to, but I’m okay with staying home
My how the last few months have changed
I’m smilin’ more despite the pain

I breathe in, I breathe out
Got friends to call who let me talk about
What ain’t working, what’s still hurtin’
All the things I feel like cussing out
Now and then I let it go
I ride the waves I can’t control
I’m learning how to build a better boat

I hate waiting, ain’t no patience in these hands
I’m not complaining, sometimes it’s hard to change a man
I think I’m stronger than I was
I’ll let God do what He does

I breathe in, I breathe out
Got friends to call who let me talk about
What ain’t working, what’s still hurtin’
All the things I feel like cussing out
Now and then I let it go
I ride the waves I can’t control
I’m learning how to build a better boat

I breathe in, I breathe out
Got friends to call who let me talk about
What ain’t working, what’s still hurtin’
All the things I feel like cussing out
Now and then I let it go
I ride the waves I can’t control
If it’s working I don’t know
When I get done, the thing may not float,

But I’m learning how to build a better boat.

I’m proud to say that my canoe is still floating and I’m getting stronger every day in my paddling. My boat gets better – with time, with experience, with hurt, with heartache, with friendship, with love, with independence, and with joy.


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Last spring, my best friend Stacy and I went on one of our Nerd Girl adventures and visited Longwood Gardens. It was actually a kind of fortuitous accident – we intended to go to Winterthur but they were closed. So instead we took our picnic lunches (from the BEST deli in the world, Pure Bread) and headed off to the gardens. Both of our moms are gardeners so we have been well trained to love our flowers – and after a long winter, it was so exciting to see all the blooms and walk in the sunshine.

We hiked the wildflower meadow, we climbed in the fantasy tree houses, we took selfies in front of the Italian fountain garden, we explored the mile-long greenhouse full of exotic flowers and trees, we discovered the history of the gardens and the duPont family connection – that is to say, we made sure we had the full tourist experience!

As we were strolling through the tulip gardens and consulting the map to all of the various horticultural displays, Stacy asked me what we were going to explore next. My response to her was that it all depended on the path we chose. She looked me straight in the eye and said “there’s a blog in that, isn’t there?”. I laughed out loud because, of course, she knows me so well.

Life is all about the paths we choose. There are a million things to discover and endless 34638468_10214263482839057_3051223571138347008_npaths to explore, thousands of unique experiences to have and countless memories to be made. And we are the ones who choose the paths we travel – for good or for bad. Sometimes the choices we make cause us to miss out on certain activities or experiences (for example, if we turn right out of the Rose Garden, we miss the display of Orchard Trees) but by making those turns we get to explore other areas of life (like the Trillium Trail) that we otherwise might have missed. We sometimes end up on dark paths that we didn’t expect or we meet a snake or spider that spreads poison – but that’s all a part of life. And, by surviving the dark and the snakes, we get to emerge on the other side in the sunlight.  So, dear friends, take this as permission to go on adventures. Please choose any path that you want and live it to the fullest! Explore it, enjoy it, experience it. And don’t forget to stop and smell the roses once in a while…

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Today should have been my 13th wedding anniversary. I wish I could tell you that every year I celebrate this as a Remembrance Day and salute my empowerment, my survival, my rebuilding. I wish I could brag that I am awash each year on this date with forgiveness and kindness. But those would be lies. I have to admit that this day always fills me with sadness, anger, bitterness, regret. Mostly its sadness for what I lost – or maybe never really had – with the end of my marriage.

But this year, I am going to try to remember how strong I am now, how much my life isworld-strong-women better because I survived that experience, how I walked through hell and came out the other side with my head held high. I’m very lucky, actually, because I was given the challenge to find a better part of myself – brave, tough, strong.

Every day is a challenge to rebuild myself. And someday I hope that anger and sadness go away. But for today, I just wish that part of my life farewell and tuck those truths deeper away.

“Praying” by Kesha

Well, you almost had me fooled
Told me that I was nothing without you
Oh, but after everything you’ve done
I can thank you for how strong I have become
‘Cause you brought the flames and you put me through hell
I had to learn how to fight for myself
And we both know all the truth I could tell
I’ll just say this is “I wish you farewell”

I hope you’re somewhere prayin’, prayin’
I hope your soul is changin’, changin’
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, prayin’
I’m proud of who I am

No more monsters, I can breathe again
And you said that I was done
Well, you were wrong and now the best is yet to come
‘Cause I can make it on my own, oh
And I don’t need you, I found a strength I’ve never known
I’ll bring thunder, I’ll bring rain, oh
When I’m finished, they won’t even know your name
You brought the flames and you put me through hell

Ah sometimes, I pray for you at night, oh
Someday, maybe you’ll see the light
Whoa oh oh oh, some say, in life, you’re gonna get what you give
But some things only God can forgive

Songwriters: Andrew Joslyn,Benjamin Manusama,Kesha Sebert,Ryan Lewis
© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.,Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC,BMG Rights Management,Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd

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As life goes on and as I grow older, I have begun to worry that I have lost my sparkle. I didn’t realize when I was younger how very important it is for a woman to have her diamond-sparkle-700x394sparkle – an inner glow, an intense shine that defines your heart, your soul, your vitality. A woman’s sparkle is the light that glows in her and as my life has changed, I started thinking maybe my light had gone out.

When I was younger, the sparkle that I had was a sort of glitter – like the roughy, gritty bits that you sprinkle on art projects and kids’ crafts. I was rough myself, not worried about being particularly girly or feminine. I had my horses, I had my books, and while I wanted to be popular and pretty, I managed to forge my way as the girl next door, the reliable friend, the good student, and the non-threatening nerd. Ask anyone who went to high school with me, I wasn’t a standout for my sparkle. But that sparkle was there like that pretty glitter on paper – naïve, youthful, unsophisticated, yet reflecting a light that glowed within me in its own childlike way.

As I became a young woman, that glitter softened into a shimmery lamé material – like those glitzy cocktail dresses or fancy interior decorating touches, soft and pliant and molded into whatever is needed. As a college student and into my 20’s, I aimed only to be smart and kind and easygoing. I wanted to be pretty and feminine but often fell short and, in hindsight, never was quite as glamorous or exotic as I’d hoped. But I still shimmered, my glow was still there, it just softened and matured.

Now that I’m on my way to middle-age, my sparkle has been hardened into a diamond – formed from hardship and pressure but still shining like the sun and preciously valuable. Like that lump of coal, I had to survive in a dark place under intense stress and pain in order to discover that glitter and shimmer within my depths. I admit now that my sparkle is harder, more sharp and intense than it used to be, but thank God, still very much there.

So, ladies, if you are ever in doubt that your sparkle is gone, think back on your life. Embrace those experiences and relationships that have threatened to extinguish your inner light –and celebrate because they didn’t! Cherish those people around you who love you for exactly how bright you shine and allow you to be unique and precious and priceless. And please continue to let your sparkle shine – glowing, incandescent and proud!

 “I encourage you to remember that you are, indeed, as the stars. You glow with the same intensity. The answers that you seek outside of yourself may very well be found within the cosmic intelligence inside you. Go ahead; show the world what you are made of! Sparkle, shine, light the way, and brightly blaze as you are meant to do.”  ― Mishi McCoy

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When I was a kid, I developed an obsession with the 1955 movie of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Oklahoma!. I don’t actually know why this movie was so interesting to me – I can’t even remember when I first became fascinated but I do know I drove my family crazy by playing that VHS almost daily. And I also remember that even then I had no interest in the character of ‘Laurie’, the female romantic lead. Besides one empowering moment of being a strong independent woman in “Many A New Day,” she generally is kind of a wimp. Given the expected roles of women and the gender norms of the days in which both the Broadway production and the movie were made, I shouldn’t be surprised that ‘Laurie’ was young and pretty and looking for a man to complete her, to dream only of making a marriage and of which handsome man will bid on her pretty picnic basket. In popular culture at those times, the characters that were instead allowed to be strong, independent females were usually older, widowed or spinstered women who could offer the sage wisdom of their years and experience.
Enter the character of ‘Aunt Eller’ in Oklahoma!. Even as a kid I recognized that she wasOklahoma_M (2) just plain amazing! She gets to be sassy and sarcastic, she gets to two-step with the cowboys and look at dirty pictures with them and wave a gun at the town leaders. She gets to be kind and loving to her niece and strong and supportive when things go bad. She gets the funny lines, the scene-saving moments, and the homespun charm of a lovable character.
When my high school put on the production of Oklahoma! in my senior year, I was devastated to learn that I had to choose between the honor of representing my region on a trip to the Model United Nations in The Hague, Netherlands OR to fulfill my dream of bringing ‘Aunt Eller’ to the stage. As my father loves to tell the story, I cried for weeks over this horrible event. In hindsight, I am eternally grateful that I took the chance to travel abroad and to have that incredible and unique lifetime experience in the Netherlands and Russia – BUT I can admit that I also regret missing the chance to be ‘Eller’ for even just those few months.
That regret stems mostly from the fact that now, as an adult, I can understand and honor the type of character and the type of woman that ‘Aunt Eller’s’ creators crafted. As a grown woman with more of that famous life experience and less of the high school naivete, I can more deeply appreciate the strength of this character.
Like her counterpart in Carousel, ‘Nettie Fowler’, ‘Eller’ is the foundation of the town and the support system to whom our lovelorn-clueless-tragic female lead turns to when life falls apart in the climactic moments of the show. Her advice when a character dies and threatens the beginning of ‘Laurie’ and ‘Curly’s’ marriage is:
“If you cain’t fergit, jist don’t try to, honey. Oh, lots of things happen to folks. Sickness, er bein’ pore and hungry even-bein’ old and afeared to die. That’s the way it is-cradle to grave. And you can stand it. They’s one way. You gotta be hearty, you got to be. You cain’t deserve the sweet and tender in life less’n you’re tough.”
As in Carousel, once more, a Rodgers and Hammerstein character reminds us to hold our heads high and to keep pushing forward when life gets difficult.
But to me, the quintessential Eller shines through in this one simple line: “I don’t say I’m no better than anybody else, but I’ll be damned if I ain’t jist as good.” It has taken me a lifetime to learn this lesson well, to realize that I don’t live my life for anyone else but me. I FINALLY have grasped the concept that no one, NO ONE, can sit in judgement of me or my life choices. I’m never going to be a millionaire or a Broadway star or a Rhodes scholar. I’m going to live a quiet life and hopefully make a small difference to someone. I don’t have anything that makes me special or noteworthy – I don’t say I’m no better than anybody else. But I am who I am and the older I get, the more comfortable I have become in my own skin. I have my scars and a chip on my shoulder and a list of mistakes that is 9 miles long. But I will no longer allow anyone to put me down or say that I’m not good enough – I’ll be damned if I ain’t jist as good.
So thank you ‘Aunt Eller’ and thank you Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein for creating happy moments from my childhood and learning moments in my adulthood.

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When a person, male or female, goes through a divorce, I am convinced that they go through The Slut Phase of their lives. Now this is my own personal theory and based only on anecdotal evidence observed by me as I have watched countless friends and relations go through the breakdowns of their marriages – and I myself lived it. So there is no real science to this theory, only personal observations. I’m not particularly proud of this portion of my life – as I would guess most people aren’t in hindsight – but it happens and if you’re living it, you’re not alone.

When you are newly-separated and/or newly-divorced, you will flirt with, bat your eyelashes at, and ultimately sleep with pretty much anybody that crosses your path that takes an interest. That other person may be plug ugly or stupid or mean or crazy or have a prison record or be juggling 15 other girlfriends. But if they want to talk to you, you will jump at that chance for attention and affection.

I think it has to do with self esteem. And self worth, And self confidence. All of which take major bloody blows in the process of a divorce. Especially, god forbid, if you are not the one initiating the process. You feel hopeless and worthless, like you have lost any appealing qualities that you might have once had. You doubt your attractiveness, your brains, your ability to ever catch the eye of a decent person ever again. In short, you take what you can get and you take a lot of it.

But, rest assured, that phase passes. You wear yourself out, you get bored with the shallowness of it all, 41Ghi3tagLLyou open your eyes to the crazies and the losers. You discover there’s still a lot of yourself left after all – and you want more out of your life. And, unless you harbored a Sense of Slut prior to being in the initial relationship (which, as we all know, some people do), you step out of the Slut Phase and move onto the next chapter.

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Girls, I don’t care how intelligent we are or how much time we spend around men – our brains just don’t work the way theirs do. Our emotions do not play on the same field as theirs do. And the compartments for our feelings and our experiences don’t always mesh.

One of my best guy friends offered me some very sage advice as I began the tedious and challenging process of getting back into dating several years ago. He told me that guys will treat a girl like a convenience store if she’ll let them – hitting them up when its convenient for their needs, stopping in for what they want, and then leaving quick. Cheap, easy, no niceties, and no luxuries. (Ironically, at the phase in my life when this advice was being offered to me by that friend, HE was one of the customers that frequently stopped in to my convenience store but that’s another saga…). At any rate, this advice was actually an eye opener for me and made me realize that was an incredibly wise piece of life wisdom. It made me realize that I want more out of my life than to be a 7-11 – I want to at least be an Applebees, applebees_0dammit! I don’t have any false pretensions to being a 5-star restaurant or a high-end department store – but I do have enough self worth to not let someone just treat me casually and carelessly and then move on down the line. I want more, I need more and I definitely deserve more!

So girls of all ages and experience levels, I can only pass on this bit of wisdom from the guy brain – don’t be a convenience store for any man! Don’t accept that someone just wants to pop in on his schedule and use you to meet his needs – you are worth more than that!

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