Growing Learning Loving

5 reasons why my brand is LOVE

I guess we can consider this an all-in-one Brand Positioning Statement, “About Me” bonus track, and a “Hero’s Journey” tale.

In my journey, I’ve had to overcome obstacles — just like you in your life and everyone else in their lives. It’s up to each one of us to decide how to make use of our experiences — whether they will hold us down or lift us up, and whether we’ll bring the people we encounter each day up or down with us.

I’ve decided that love is my purpose, and I want to bring others to a place of love as well. Here are five reasons why love is my reason for being.

5. Life is tough

I grew up just another kid of an alcoholic dad. At the time, if there were kids around me that had dads that were just as bad as or worse than mine, I didn’t know about it. I thought all of my friends’ dads were great. Therefore I didn’t just feel like the winner of the “worst dad” contest — I felt like I was the only one competing. (I realize now that was not the case, but that’s what it felt like when I was a kid.)

Dealing with the shame and low self-esteem brought on by my father’s alcoholism was a daily struggle. As such, the nicknames I earned from boyfriends included “Princess of Gloom and Doom,” “Grumpy Dumpy,” and simply “Baby.” And they were guys who actually cared for me quite a bit.

I was already carrying a bunch of mental baggage, to say the least. Then along came the stalker. He was convicted and my dad died within eight months of each other.

I’m the one that found my dad dead after all the alcohol finally rotted completely through one or more of his major organs. I was 25 years old.

One would hope with both of those situations at a close that life would simply go on from there with all the pain left in the past. But that’s not how humans work.

Over the next couple of years, I was trying to make sense of the world. I had lots of ups and downs — a lot of asking “why me?”

But then I decided I was ready for the pain, fear, and self-doubt to be over. I actually stood out in the middle of a field and made a commitment to the universe to do my best to grow stronger and become kind, honest, brave, and wise.

The Celts saw the oak tree as a symbol of truth, bravery and kindness.
Photo by Sebastian Beck on

But healing from all those years of trauma takes time. Imagine that my psyche was an hourglass. One bulb was reserved for hope and inspiration. Following the stalker and my dad’s death, that bulb was empty. The other bulb was reserved for pain and anger, and it held all the sand.

The day I made that commitment in the field to change my attitude, the hour glass was turned upside down. Each grain of sand fell one at a time through the narrow neck.

Even though the sand was slowly accumulating in the positivity and optimism bulb, there was still sand in the pain and anger bulb for a long while.

Over time, I was able to forgive my dad first, the stalker later. That took, no lie, around 25 years — almost the same amount of time for the trauma to accumulate in the first place.

When we’re willing to accept that life is tough but that we don’t have to allow the worst parts to be the biggest part of us, we are able to lift ourselves up from rock bottom to new heights of love and patience.

4. Life is short

Around the time I turned 30, I began counting up all the times throughout my life I had come out of some pretty dangerous situations completely unscathed. Not even counting my encounters with my dad or the stalker, there was a bad fall from some monkey bars; a runaway horse; an out-of-control carnival ride; a high-speed, head-on car crash; three one-on-one run-ins with demented men, and two near asphyxiations from carbon monoxide.

Don’t misinterpret this to think I was reckless and looking for trouble or attention. These all started out as everyday events that simply took a turn for the worse.

Beating the odds that many times felt like I was still here for a reason. I wanted to show my gratitude for having been given so many second chances. I wasn’t sure how many more near misses I had left in me, and I wanted to make a difference in the world somehow before my time here was through.

A dead tree contrasted with the infinite of space. We only have a short time on Earth to make a difference.
Photo by Matej Čurlík on

Then when I was in my early 40s my mom died suddenly from health complications. I was devastated. Completely unprepared for life without my biggest cheerleader.

Seven years later my niece suffered an accidental death. All the opportunities I wasted to tell her things I wish I had said. Or to do the things with her I wish we could have done together.

When we value life and accept that it is a temporary condition for each of us, we cherish time more meaningfully. We understand that we can’t take people for granted. We need to make the most of our relationships with people while we still have the time together. Embracing this makes it easier for us to forgive and give unconditional love.

3. It opens you up to possibilities

Two years after my mom passed, when I was still feeling abandoned, my desired career path came to an end. I was shocked that I was not successful in convincing everyone I was the right person for the job that I believed I was destined for.

But I couldn’t see myself the way others were seeing me. And I learned that’s not always a bad thing.

Although I didn’t love the decision my leaders had made for me (at first), I still loved them unconditionally, and I was willing to try things their way — to see where they thought my talents could take me.

Some say daisies are a symbol of new beginnings.
Photo by Taryn Elliott on

They placed me in a role where my primary job was writing. Then they asked me to mentor others as writers.

I enjoyed this role so much, I began writing for personal fulfillment. I began putting into words all the thoughts that I had been cataloging in my head for so many years. I wrote about my experiences and what I felt. I continued to write and think, and write and learn, and write and grow. That was the start of me becoming a storyteller.

Being a loving person means you are willing to be vulnerable. You risk getting hurt, but when you put yourself in the hands of people who you love and trust, you open yourself to possibilities that you might not have chosen yourself. You may find yourself journeying to a whole new place of learning and growing.

2. It gives you new purpose

When I was given the blessing of writing for a living, which turned out to be something I love to do, I had found purpose in my life. My talents, interests, and path were aligned.

I found a way that I could reflect on my experiences and write openly about how I got from there to here. I thought that maybe in telling my story, I could offer hope for someone who is in the place where I was — someone who wants to feel like they’re not in a “worst ever” contest all by their self.

Having a desire to help others through my storytelling gave new meaning to everything I had experienced. My bad times no longer felt like heavy baggage when I saw them as opportunities to maybe help someone else see their way through their own tangled mess of emotions.

Some feel the sunflower is a symbol of hope, happiness and renewal.
Photo by Pixabay on

I decided to make it a real thing — me sharing my thoughts and experiences to help others learn, grow and love from their pain, fear and regrets. I wrote two books (one still unpublished), and I started this blog. I’m creating a silver lining not just for myself, but hopefully for others too.

Each one of us has innate gifts and circumstances through which we can manifest love and happiness. We’re not meant to hold these for ourselves or use the rewards for our own happiness. We are meant to share our lives with others — to experience the scary, crazy, and awesomeness of being human with others, to make life better for others.

1. It lets you change the world

I believe we each have the responsibility to contribute positively to the world around us. Not just going through our daily routines on auto pilot and complaining when something doesn’t meet our expectations. I mean making a conscience effort every day to put someone else’s needs first and to make a difference in someone else’s life.

I also believe that each one of us can make the world a better place. We don’t need to have a big voice or a vast platform. We just need to do what we can within our means, using our unique talents and opportunities, to make life better for those around us.

This hybrid tea rose is named "Peace." I bought and planted it in my yard during the riots following the death of George Floyd.

And that’s why my brand is LOVE.

I write for anyone who may have trouble seeing that everyday occurrences hold meaning about the purpose of our lives. I value optimism, and I prioritize continuous improvement. I believe that when we are able to let go of our pain and fear, we are able to turn our struggles into inspiration for others. Therefore, I hope to encourage you to keep learning and growing to become a more loving person. And in doing that, we’re all spreading seeds of love.

Thank you for spending these moments with me, thinking about life. If you like what you’ve read, I’d love for you to share it. Spread some seeds…


Gratiness. Happitude.

Where does the balance rest between gratitude and happiness? Do you need to have gratitude to be happy? If you are happy, are you automatically grateful?

The other day I was watching a morning news anchor interview a celebrity. He asked her how she is coping during the pandemic. I heard her say, “I’m grateful to be happy.”

(To be honest, that’s not what she said. Later I re-watched the video and realized her reply was “I’m grateful to be healthy.” The kitchen faucet was running, which caused me to hear her incorrectly, but since what I thought I heard activated my introspection mode, that’s what I call a “happy accident.”)

I started wondering about the relationship between gratitude and happiness. Using the same remedy that appeased my curiosity about confidence and compliments, I began Googling. Here’s what I learned.

If it is peace you want, then it is gratitude you must find.

I don’t remember anyone ever talking about a journey to find gratefulness, but a journey to find happiness is talked about all the time. If happiness is your destination, then it seems like gratefulness will be one leg of your journey.

People with gratitude are seen to be more hopeful, energetic, forgiving, empathetic, and helpful. With all of those qualities taking the spotlight, negative thoughts get upstaged. Gloom is replaced with happiness, which changes your whole perspective, even across the expanse of your lifetime — past, present and future.

Your past

There’s no changing your past. Whether you see mostly happiness or something else when you look back, those days are in the book in permanent ink. Obviously, you can’t go back in time and undo your bad days, nor should you want to. Your life has been a combination of both the good and bad events and decisions that either you have chosen or have been put upon you.

Photo by Wendy van Zyl on

When you look back on your path, if you choose to focus on only the bad parts or only the parts that made you happy, you’re overlooking half of the story of you. You’re seeing an erratic pattern of random events that don’t add up to a complete picture.

However, when you look back and see how the good and bad stepping stones together define a clear path to where you are today, you can understand how each one has been an opportunity to grow and learn.

Being grateful for the whole path — good and bad, happy and sad — as the sum of your life means you’ve fully acknowledged your role in both your past successes and mistakes.

Your present

I think for you to feel grateful in the moment, your head and your heart need to be in agreement. For that, you may need to take an inventory of what you have vs. what you need — i.e. count your blessings. The way I see it, here are some must haves:

  • Health. You may be waging a major battle for your health, but like my mom always said, you could be in worse condition. Besides, no one is without even a minor health issue. Wherever your health falls within that range, you can be grateful for the good parts, and try not to take a single day for granted. When you feel gratitude for your health, you will work hard to improve the parts of your health that could be better.
  • People. You’ve not gotten where you are today without someone who was kind enough to offer advice or support, or to act as a role model or even an adversary, who sparked you to work harder at achieving your goals. When you are grateful for each person who has walked with you on your path, for however long or short of a time that has been, you expand your ability to feel compassion and love for others.
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on
  • Security. You can desire to have a bigger, fancier or more expensive house, car, toys, vacations, or whatever, but don’t be ungrateful for the ones you have now. What you have now may be just a stepping stone to bigger dreams, but these give you that perspective to know where you want to go and an idea of the level of work you need to put in to get there.
  • Purpose – Everyone wants to be needed and appreciated. You also need to be able to give warmth and value to others. Be grateful for the opportunities you have to share your natural and acquired gifts with others.

Your future

You’re here today, which means that every moment you’ve experienced from the time you were born until now has been a gift. Where do you want to go from here?

Do you want to repeat the past or go in a new direction? Both could be great options. Your past will forever guide your next steps. Having gratitude for that evolution can give you a stronger chance at steering your future in the direction you want to go.

Photo by charan sai on

Here’s where gratitude can take you:

  • Positivity. Gratitude leads to optimism. Optimism is characterized by positive energy and emotions.
  • Companionship. People want to be around others who are optimistic and positive. In that regard, gratitude will strengthen your relationships with others.
  • Encouragement. When you are grateful for the people who inspire and support you, you let them know what it means for you to have them in your life. In doing this, you are also strengthening their self-esteem by letting them see they’ve made a difference in someone’s life.
  • Resilience. Gratitude is like armor in the face of stress and trauma. It helps you be more proactive in developing solutions. And with stronger relationships, you’ll be more likely to lean on close friends and family. All of this helps you move through difficult times faster and easier. This includes stress and trauma from your past, present and future.
  • Caring. More than just looking at the bright side of things, when you can maintain gratitude for even negative experiences — you can see them as opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Compassion. When you have gratitude, you’re more dedicated to helping others cope with stress and trauma by being positive and empathetic. You are more forgiving.

Think about it some more

I’m just a deep thinker. For insight from educated practitioners, a number of articles I read referenced these experts:

Thank you for spending these moments with me, thinking about life. If you like what you’ve read, I’d love for you to share it. Spread some seeds…


What are your words to live by?

I think we all have them — those quotations, sayings, adages, mottos, etc. that we rely on for motivation — a kick in the pants, for inspiration, or to help make sense of the world.

They could be something you’ve heard a family member repeat.

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

They could come from a character in a book or movie that left an impression on you.

“Be the ball.”

Or they could be what someone crocheted and your guidance counsel hung in their office.

Forget the mistake. Remember the lesson.”

I have three. I’m sure you’re familiar with the first two. The third one I made up myself, but it’s probably a knock-off of something someone else said better.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

I use this one a lot. I feel it implies that difficulties are a given, and that success is possible regardless. You will face obstacles and frustrations every day, but you will keep trying different approaches until you achieve your goal.

Facing the difficulty is where the learning starts, because you need to think differently than you had when you first started. You create a plan B. Sometimes plan B leads to a plan C or D, or even further. If you will stop at nothing to achieve this goal, you will find a way.

There’s no better example of this saying that I can share than this story about my mom. She was born with poor health — wasn’t even expected to live very long. The two life-long issues she faced were low blood circulation and bad digestion.

To compound matters, for most of her life she didn’t do a lot to mediate these conditions. Her eating habits were far from nutritious — she barely ate vegetables, and absolutely no fruit. Butter and gravy were her favorites. At the same time, she smoked cigarettes for more than 40 years — right up to the day a doctor told her she was going to lose both of her feet due to peripheral artery disease.

First they took her left foot. Then a few months later, her right foot. She was 75 years old, and six weeks after the second amputation, she was walking on two prosthetic legs. The visiting nurses who had taught her to walk were obligated to discharge her early from their care because they had no progress left to report that would justify the expense to the insurance company.

My mom was completely honest with herself and everyone about how her own decisions had brought this drastic condition upon her. But there was no way she was going to live the rest of her life sitting in a wheelchair. She would not accept not walking again, and she didn’t. For her age and as frail as she was, this was a stupendous achievement.

Timing is everything

When I was a kid, the local convenience store had a slushy drink machine behind the counter. There were two flavors — two individually spinning left and right containers. Rotating on top of each mixer was an 12-inch or so tall molded character that sort of resembled the Big Boy mascot.

They each spun at their own speed, which correlated to how much frozen drink was in their mixers. Sometimes the one on the left rotated faster; sometimes the one on the right was the fast one.

I remember standing there time and again watching them spin in their own cycles and waiting for the fateful moment when they’d be perfectly aligned. Each still on their own journey, fast or slow as it may be, knowing that in time their cycles would once again be in sync for just that spilt second.

Watching those little guys spin isn’t what formed my philosophy on life, but it does make a pretty sweet analogy.

I’m a believer that our lives progress in cycles rather than linearly. As your life is coming around on a cycle (imagine you’re the left-side slushy drink guy), there are experiences and opportunities that are cycling near you (like the right-side slushy drink guy). Each time your life comes in perfect alignment with a particular experience or opportunity, you will make a decision to accept or reject it. Sometimes embracing it is the best choice and other times letting it pass is the best move.

Whatever way that decision works out will influence your choice the next time your cycle and this chance come full circle again. The opportunity may not look the same or sound the same as it did the last time around, but the underlying lesson to be learned is the same, and that’s what really matters.

Here’s my favorite story that demonstrates this. In 1999, I had created a fundraiser for a cancer-focused charity organization. Some friends and I had coin boxes at a craft show and were collecting donations from passersby.

I was also waiting for a special guest to arrive. She was the mom of a young boy, Ryan, who had all but won his battle with cancer. I had spoken with her a few times on the phone, and when she heard about my fundraising event, she offered to come meet me. She had planned to arrive shortly after we started, but she was running late. Really late. Like, a few hours late.

In the meantime, many of the shoppers stopped to tell us about their loved ones who were suffering or who had lost their lives to cancer. Many people were asking about how the program helps cancer patients, and I answered their questions the best I could.

In particular, one kind, quiet man approached us and said he lived right up the street. He told me his teenage son had just been diagnosed with leukemia. He had been reading a lot about the disease to try to understand what his son was facing and how he could best help his son through this trial. His wife, he said, wasn’t coping as well with the news. He said he’d tried to talk with her about it often, but she didn’t want to hear anything. She was in denial.

I listened to him. That was the best I had to offer him. But that was really all he was looking for from me. After a few minutes he left.

Ryan’s mom finally arrived a little while later. She introduced herself but before she could get through an apology for being so late, another woman interrupted us. With tear-filled eyes, she said, “My husband told me your group was here, and I decided to walk up to see you. Our son has been diagnosed with cancer…,” she paused, choked back her tears and continued, “And I don’t know what to do.”

Ryan’s mom said to her sincerely, “My son has cancer too.” She embraced the woman, and we all cried.

According to my clock, Ryan’s mom was late, but whatever speed her mixer was cycling on that day, whatever decisions prolonged her from journeying to the craft show, they allowed her to arrive at the exact time as the mother down the street, who decided that would be the moment when she’d start to deal with her son’s cancer. That’s when I realized that timing is everything.

Try something. If it doesn’t work out, try something else.

I have to use my brother as the best example for this one. He’s not had an easy life, and he’ll tell you what his mistakes were that contributed to his occasional troubles. But perhaps his greatest achievement was deciding to make a career change in his late 40s.

Up until then, he operated printing presses. The big ones — 6-color Heidelbergs. He enjoyed print shop in high school — he made me a mirror with my name on it that hangs in my home office. From there he went to a professional printing school. Then he joined the U.S. Navy and was assigned as the printer for a portion of the fleet. After four years of military service, he continued working as a pressman for two more decades.

He printed a couple of things that impressed the heck out of me. One was the official NASA poster of one of the space shuttle crews. Another was the cover of a fantasy novel that was part of a hugely popular series about a young wizard and his friends at wizard school. But that kind of printing was a dying industry. The demand for his skills dropped significantly year over year, and it got harder for him to find work in that field.

He decided to start over. Like Rodney Dangerfield, he went back to school — to become a heating and air conditioning technician. And like Rodney, we was old enough to be the father of most of his classmates. He instinctively took the role of mentor to many of them, some of whom still check in with him for advice.

Today my brother is trusted by his company owners to lead jobs, oversee job sites, and strengthen the reputation and success of the company. His coworkers look up to him, and his customers are immensely grateful for his work. He treats their homes as if he was repairing his own, and they can see he’s giving them that much care.

I’ve always looked up to my brother, and he’s a great role model for me to see that it pays to take chances and try new things. Like they also say, “The bigger the risk, the greater the reward.”

So that’s where my latest “words to live by” come from. I realized I need to be less of a perfectionist and more willing to try new things. To see where they go and to let go of them if I don’t like the result. I can always try something else new instead. Sort of along the same lines as “Go that way, really fast. If something gets in your way, turn.” Wouldn’t you say so?

Whatever your words to live by may be and wherever they came from, they hold meaning for you. Keep them close to your heart and share them with people around you so they can get a sense of your dreams and priorities.

I’d love you to share the words you live by in the comments. Let us know how they help you to keep growing, learning and loving.

Thank you for spending these moments with me, thinking about life. If you like what you’ve read, I’d love for you to share it. Spread some seeds…


Confidence part 1 – The power of compliments

“I will be generous with my love today. I will sprinkle compliments and uplifting words everywhere I go. I will do this knowing that my words are like seeds and when they fall on fertile soil, a reflection of those seeds will grow into something greater.”

― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

At my 9 to 5 job, I work with a woman who is as beautiful on the outside as she is on the inside. I admire her poise, gentleness, and intelligence. One day a few months ago I watched as another colleague complimented her on a work achievement. Her response to the kind words was graceful and heartfelt, but then, as if that wasn’t enough, she immediately paid it forward. She thoughtfully turned the attention to someone else with a sincere compliment of their recent achievement.