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…


‘He ain’t right.’ You’re not what he said you are.

In honor of George Floyd, whose tragic death is what finally opened my eyes. Not being a racist is not enough.

I feel like I’m walking a tightrope writing this blog. As I begin, I’m praying for the right words to flow from my heart to my fingertips. My intention is to share an experience from a few years ago that now has new, deeper meaning for me.

I’ve told this story a few times over the past two years as if I was merely an observer to what unfolded. Today – in response to the events which started on May 25 – I know now my role in speaking out against the kind of racial hatred that too many Americans endure day in and day out.

The participants

In January 2018, my middle-school-aged son asked me to take him to a video game store down the street from our home. I knew that this chain of stores had experienced armed robberies around Christmas time. I even knew a dad from my son’s hockey team who was in one of the stores during a holdup. He was telling me the story the day after it happened, and it was obvious he was still shook up.

I took my son to the video game store anyway, but I was on full alert walking in. Once inside, I saw there was a line of people waiting at the check-out counter. The store employee was a black man, probably in his late 20s. He was waiting on a young black man, probably around 19 or 20, and he was with a black friend who was wandering around the store.

Next in line was a middle-aged white woman, a few years younger than me. She was with a teenager who had an autism spectrum disorder. Behind them in line was a black woman, older than me, and a black boy younger than my son was with her. I got in line behind them, and my son was looking around the back of the store. We are both white.

Those are the observable characteristics of the people in the store. I’ll be honest here and now tell you about the story that was going on in my head.

The store employee looked like a cool guy — someone who’d be fun to hang out with at a backyard barbecue. The older women appeared to be the grandmother of the young boy. I wasn’t getting a “mom” vibe from the middle-aged woman who was with the teenager — maybe she was a much older sister or an aunt. The young man who was talking to the store employee looked like a computer geek, and his friend looked to me like he could be a dangerous man. Like he associates with dangerous people. I was intimidated by him.

The incident

Something was causing a delay with the store employee completing the transaction with the young man. This is typical at the video game store. He could be pre-ordering a game, updating his membership, selling back used games, processing a return or exchange, etc.

Bored with the wait, his friend started looking around the store. That’s when my son and I walked in. The intimidating-looking man and I were squeezing by one another in a small aisle.

I said, “excuse me,” and he said, “oh sorry,” and I said, “you’re fine.” As this was happening, I didn’t feel any negative energy from him. I relaxed.

Aside from selling video games, the store sells a lot of collectibles and memorabilia. There were a lot of eye-catching things all around, especially to someone who is bored with the wait.

What grabbed the man’s attention most was a rack of character t-shirts. He was getting a kick out of holding up the humorous shirts as if he wanted to buy one of them.

“Yo,” he said to everyone, “Check out my new Pokemon shirt.”

It was cute. I giggled.

He must have seen that he got the attention of the other middle-aged woman because he jokingly said to her, “When did they start selling clothes at [the video game store]?”

The woman gave a reply, and they shared a few more comments and chuckles back and forth.

The teenage boy with her was showing simple movement and sound tics. Then suddenly he spoke out loud and clear: “Ha! I can’t believe you’re talking to that n-word!”

I had turned my back to the group at this point just to see where my son was. He and I were both closest to the back of the store. When I heard what the teen said, I froze. And waited for something to happen.

The man spoke up, asking the teenager. “What did you say? I can’t believe you said that!”

The woman gasped loudly and yelled at the teenager, “Why did you say that? Why did you say that?”

I don’t think the woman knew what to do next. She just kept yelling at the teen, “Why did you say that?”

Then the man chuckled and said, “Hey, it’s alright… I can see he ain’t right.”

Oh brother. I was too afraid to move, but in my head I was planning an escape route for my son through the backroom. I would have done whatever I needed to get him out, if this situation got worse.

The woman continued to yell at the teen, saying he was going to be in big trouble. Then the man began to tell her to take it easy on him, that he didn’t want her to be upset with the teenager.

In each of the next few awkward exchanges between the two of them, there was something very distinctive that struck me as odd. She never told the teenager that what he said was wrong. She never asked him where he learned to say that. She never apologized to the man for what the teenager said.

All the while, not a single one of the rest of us said a word. Finally the woman remembered how her legs worked and she towed the teenager out the door with her, leaving behind whatever she had planned to buy. In that moment I said a prayer for the teenager. I was afraid for what he’d face next.

When they were out the door, and just as I was about to breathe a sigh of relief, the man made a comment to his friend.

“Can you believe that? I still can’t believe he said that,” he said. “Boy, good thing I was here with you. If it had been me and [so-and-so], we’d be drawin’ out!”

“Oh dear God,” I thought to myself.

Yes, it is a good thing he wasn’t with a different friend indeed.

What I did next

Still nothing. I so wanted to say something to this man. And I ran a hundred things through my head, but I wasn’t confident I could deliver what was in my heart.

I wanted to say “thank you” without it sounding like “thank you for not hurting anyone.”

I wanted to say “good job” without it sounding like a white stamp of approval.

I wanted to say something, anything that would shatter the predisposition I held of a potentially armed black man’s ability to make a good decision when addressed with such an evil word.

I entered the store that day mentally prepared for a holdup. I wasn’t prepared to witness such blatant racism.

While the woman was still there, I didn’t want to insert myself in their conversation. I don’t believe it was a place where I belonged. But I kept my back turned — literally and figuratively — on the whole thing.

Here this man was bravely facing this woman and the teenager who had said the most horrific thing to him. He was not only forgiving them — on the spot — but also defending the teenager, allowing his mental deficiency to be an excuse for this behavior.

And I wasn’t even brave enough to try making eye contact with him, with the hope that he could feel my compassion and understand that I was on his side.

Shoulda, coulda, woulda. How many times do we walk away from a situation wishing we had done something differently?

What I wish I had done after the woman and the teen left was use the man’s own words, “I can see he ain’t right,” not in regard to the teenager’s disorder, but relative to what he had said.

I wish I would have said, “I agree with you:  ‘He ain’t right.’ You’re not what he said you are.” And then I should have shook his hand.

What I know now

The murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests (both peaceful and violent) have given me a new perspective on a number of things that I’m sorry I didn’t realize sooner.

  1. In addition to wanting to say something positive to the man for his reaction, I should have admonished what was said. And I should have made that acknowledgement not just to the one man but to everyone else left in the store with me and my son. Although the teenager’s comment was directed to just one of them, it was equally insulting to the other blacks who heard it.
  2. I was wrong to assume that the woman with the teenager was guilty by association. I don’t know what her relationship to him was, and I don’t know that she was a party to him learning how to use that word in that context. Maybe she was, but that’s not for me to assume.
  3. It didn’t occur to me until this week that by not saying anything to any of them, it may have appeared that I agreed with the statement — that they had no allies that day.

So to the universe I would like to say, if you see those two friends, the older woman and the young boy, or the store employee, please let them know that I am deeply sorry that I didn’t make any effort to show them I was on their side. I’m sorry that I didn’t know until now that not being a racist is not enough — that I need to stand with them to fight racism in my own means. I need to make it my fight too. And I won’t make that mistake again.


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…