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Respect

“No tree has branches so foolish as to fight amongst themselves.” -Native American Proverb

Right before Thanksgiving Day, I had to stop at the market to get a couple last minute items, and waiting in the check out lane, I saw an issue of a national magazine stating that the Royal Family is divided. Again. I thought that was odd. It seemed like last issue was the same story. I bet if we had the chance to ask Will, Kate, Harry and Meghan we could hear a different tale–one of a family tired of always being portrayed at odds with each other. It reminded me of the headlines I hear about our own country as we are constantly told we are divided. Are we really?  

I am going to be bold and say no, we are not divided; we are diverse. Looking over our history, we have seldom agreed on how things should be done save a few moments when we were collectively attacked. We have had heated debate and discourse from the very beginning. The current challenge is the breakdown in that discourse. Some leaders would very much like to see this alleged divide get deeper. When people are looking for a better way, those who would like to control use fear to paralyze and create animosity. It sells newspapers and gets us anxious. When a nation is divided, it is much easier to overcome, but a united people, even if their ideas are diverse, are much harder to break. If we are constantly told we are at odds, we begin to lose hope in one another. That is the real tragedy.

Abraham Lincoln wisely stated, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” It was Lincoln’s patience and wisdom that held our country together during one of our most challenging times when the nation literally was divided between north and south over the rights of freedom for all people and the battle over states’ rights. Harriet Tubman was a guiding force during those times. She lead people to freedom from bondage and her words ring true today as they did when she crossed over into freedom from slavery, “When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.”

We have the invitation to cross over the line to each other. To listen to the many voices and be willing to work to create a better world together. That was the dream of America–from many countries would come one stronger nation of self-governance. The people of this nation committed to ending the centralized control of one person (the king) and to the idea we could do this together. Our history is checkered with times when we have been heroic and at times cruel. The challenge is to find ways to grow beyond that, and the Civil Grace that will lead us there is Respect. The word Respect is from Latin respectus, from the verb respicere ‘to look back at, to regard.’ When we can look back and see the eyes of another and not see them as “other” but rather “brother or sister,” we realize that we need their ideas and our own. We cannot accomplish self-governing with one side anymore that we can row a boat with one oar in the water…we will just keep going around in circles.

I have a good friend who works with helping organize communities before disasters strike. She says it is amazing to see when people are dealing with a crisis, we forget who is on what side of the aisle and who voted for whichever candidate. We come together as neighbors and work together to resolve the issues and rebuild the community. This happens every single day in a thousand communities across our country. When we remember our common humanity, we let go of the labels and help each other get back up when we are down.

Respect reminds us that there is more to life than amassing wealth and title. It is about living a life that we can regard and the legacy we will leave behind for those who follow our footsteps. It is not about stoking the fires of political, religious, or cultural division to prove right is might, but rather to seek the call to find the common ground where we can begin anew each day with space for everyone at the table. The headlines beat our minds that hate crimes and division are surrounding us making us too afraid to speak out or to reach out to our neighbor. Social media allows us to repost the outrageous instead of actually sitting face to face to dialogue with one another. Our leaders point the finger at the injustice of one side while three more fingers are pointing back at them.

Respect invites us to heal our own woundedness and see that our role is to be the voice of Liberty for each other. There are many ways to see the world. Why do I know this to be true? When my kids were younger, I would point out the diversity in nature and remind them that there is not one tree or flower alike. Each one is unique, beautiful and diverse. That is what makes our world wonder-full. Just as we may hold our truths to be self-evident, we must Respect that another may hold other beliefs that are just as real to them. To demand that they conform to our answer is to make our world more violent and unjust. Again, I will say, we are not divided. We are diverse. Having Respect to make sure all are at the table and that each voice is heard is a way to find the common ground that still is there for all of us.

Photo credit: Vince Moro–olive branches from the Languedoc-Roussillon Region in France

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Humility

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

― Ernest Hemingway

Did you ever do something as a child and get grounded? If you are like most pioneers who stepped outside the box, I am sure you did! It always was a funny phrase for punishment: “You are grounded.” As an adult, I am continually striving to be in the mindset of groundedness through meditation and reflection. The fact that I was born under the sign Capricorn, an earth sign, to be grounded is in my very nature. To become better than I was yesterday and by recognizing that I am just a slice of the Universe.

We learned as children, we are of the earth to return to the earth. Humus…which is the soil formed by all that has broken down and rotted to create the place where new things grow. A word that springs from the word humus is Humility and being humble. Humility is a Civil Grace not because we are called to be lower than the dirt, but that we are called to embrace life with wonder and to be grounded in the knowledge that we belong here. There is something essential about our very nature that we came into being in this time and space.

Humility allows us to realize that maybe we don’t have all the answers. That life is about living in the mystery of the questions, and the most important questions we can answer are: Who am I? What ignites my passions? What does this mean to all my relations to the people in my life, to my work, and to my world? Can you imagine a world where we all lived from our true essence, from a space of Humility and wonder? I can imagine that we would try less to impress and possess. We would be open to solutions and would be able to recognize them when they presented themselves. We live in on a planet that scientists believe to be over 4.5 billion years old and a Universe that exceeds our ability to comprehend time and space. Physicists believe we came from elements of stardust connected to all of the atoms of our galaxy, and there is a more profound connection we all share, including to our natural world.

We are experiencing times of significant change when the old systems of a controlling culture–our institutions and ideologies–no longer seem to be working. Something new is emerging, and people around the globe are asking, “is there a better way?” Socrates, the early philosopher and considered to be the father of Western Philosophy, stated, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Looking at the surface, it can be overwhelming. Yet according to the mathematical ratio, the Golden Portion, while things may seem in chaos, the solution is there. Everything expands upward and eventually reaches harmony, including us.

Humility invites us to go deep within and to get grounded in our core. To not be swayed by the winds that swirl around but to explore our inner spirit. What is this all about, and how can I help? It is the call to see the dichotomy that we live in the world but are not of it. We share our very nature with all of life on the planet and therefore have a responsibility to take care of it. In the end, we are just soil and stardust.

So in these months, as we head into winter and the darkness pervades, take time to consider the grace that Humility brings. Go within and answer the three essential questions. A new year is coming, and change is on the way. The world needs your gifts.

photo credit: Vince Moro

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Vulnerability

“Everything in nature is given some form of resilience by which it can rehearse finding its way, so that, when it does, it is practiced and ready to seize its moment. This includes us. When things don’t work out—when loves unexpectedly end or careers stop unfolding—it can be painful and sad, but refusing this larger picture keeps us from finding our resilience.” -Mark Nepo

Years ago, I was a research assistant to the poet/author Mark Nepo on his work, The Book of Awakening. We had many fascinating conversations with our team, but the one I will always remember was about salmon. On its pilgrimage to lay its eggs, the salmon’s ability to fly upstream relies on the salmon turning its soft underside to meet the pounding surf. By opening the most vulnerable part of its being, it ascends along the journey. This image Mark shared has helped me to open to my core purpose and ideas, even when it may have been risky or painful to do so. As the salmon are called to return up the waterfall, we are called to open ourselves to the truth of our being. This can feel incredibly vulnerable, especially in our modern age, when we may be quickly exposed in ways we hadn’t imagined.

After my campaign, I felt as low as I ever remember being and wanted to escape from the world. I had given it my all, but it wasn’t enough. Worn out, I felt I had let everyone down. My family depended on me, so I had to get back to work and put myself back into the arena. Over the past several months, things have emerged to push me a little further. I saw the need for spaces like I had in my early career to talk about the things that matter. My big idea of running was crushed, and I know the pain of that. However, I could use that energy, my most vulnerable moment, to push me to a place where I could help others bring forth their big ideas and together solve the issues that we face as a community and a world.

Brené Brown speaks of vulnerability as “having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.” We like to calculate our chances, and so vulnerability uncomfortably feels like being a fish out of water! Vulnerability steps into the dance of life and takes the lead when, most of the time, we would rather hideout on the sidelines. Vulnerability happens when we take the risk to get close to another, to hear another side of the debate, to watch the one you love go through a challenge and feel helpless about what to do. We don’t like this feeling and will very often run in the opposite direction.

Anne Frank stated, “fear is a poor chisel with which to carve out tomorrow,” and so we have to let go of what would have been to give space to what is meant to be. I began to have meetings around the big table in the barn and we came up with the idea “little barn of BIG ideas.” It is a space to give birth to dreams and big ideas while making room for everyone at the table… precisely what I wanted to do when I was in Congress. Having a place for the genius in all of us to emerge while having supportive mentors around the table is liberating, and it feels a little less vulnerable. Our dream is to continue to grow a bigger vision at our table in our little barn.

Vulnerability is a Civil Grace because our world depends on each of us to bring forth our genius. We cannot let fear stop us from moving forward when we know our spirit is being called higher. Vulnerability is a part of being human and is the gateway of our connection to one another. It is in those tender spaces where we can heal and overcome. We have to be willing to take the leap and throw all that we are into the forces that will carry us to the next level. We go to the place where we give birth to something greater within us.

The rising through my own vulnerability gave birth to a new role–to be a mother of possibility. So I want to know…What is your big idea? I hope you will join us at the table!

Photo credit: Edwin Williams Photography, LLC

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Path to Forgiveness

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”–Mark Twain

Years ago, I was hired by the Fetzer Institute to research the meaning of spiritual freedom. While I learned the various methods of encountering freedom from the voices of world-renowned professors, philosophers, and gurus, the exploration continued well beyond my term of employment. The big questions such as “how does one achieve true freedom” are a life-long journey. No other teacher was more revealing than Forgiveness.

As someone who can’t sit still and watch life happen, I have experienced what my dad would call “the school of hard knocks” from time to time. I have had moments where anger has gotten the better of me. In the space of fear, despair and deep woundedness, my pain and frustration have sometimes caused me to lash out at those who caused the injury, those I love, and most commonly, at myself. If you are going to be in the dance of life, no matter how much you plan and try to protect yourself, no matter how much wealth or wisdom you have, no one escapes the lessons that pain and suffering bring.

We cannot know what it means to love deeply if we haven’t experienced indifference. We cannot understand the power of generosity unless we have been without. Music would have no ability to stir our souls if it weren’t for silence, and we would never be able to wonder at the majesty of the stars if it weren’t for darkness. In the universal dichotomy, all are presently shaping and expanding us for something more significant than where we started. When anger, pain, and fear appear, Forgiveness is the gift that leads us back to the land of the living.

The English poet Alexander Pope eloquently wrote, “to err is human, to forgive, divine.” Indeed here is the answer to achieving the ultimate freedom of spirit. For even when the arrows that fly no longer can control you, your being has expanded to the level of the divine. Forgiveness is not about forgetting or excusing. It is about taking away the ability of anyone or anything to hold you captive and loosens the power of anger and fear to keep you trapped in a web. It is as Wayne Dyer related, “giving up the idea of drinking the poison with the hope it will affect the other person.”

Forgiveness is one of the Civil Graces because it is the key that unlocks the door to a limitless life and that which creates the space for healing among nations, between people, and most important in understanding ourselves. We need Forgiveness to continue the dance where life allows all to be meaningful and beautiful. The tyrant leader awakens my heart to take action and do what I can to make a better world. A hurtful word that stings invites me to explore the depths of my soul and what is looking to take flight. A tragedy begs me to give of myself for another and to expand so that killing and devastation don’t have the final word. In the end, Forgiveness is the ultimate expression of love. We lift our spirits up so they can freely live and discover the adventures we were meant to take. It allows what I call the “manure moments” to fertilize the seeds of something new to sprout.

Before we enter a new year (which is just around the corner), it is an opportune time to let go of some baggage. Where are we each being called to forgive? Where may we need to offer an apology for missing the mark? The new year is bringing new energy, and the time for business, as usual, is over. Take the first step on the path to Forgiveness and welcome freedom and expansion of your spirit.

photo credit: Vince Moro

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Courage

“It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.”
― Mark Twain

Courage has often been understood as bravery and having the strength to do something extraordinary. We think of movie scenes when the hero or heroine is backed up against the wall but finds that last bit of gumption. Ironically, the original word comes from something we sometimes negate as being weaker when compared to the mind. Cor-age is Latin for of the heart or coming forth with your whole heart. There is nothing more brave or stronger than revealing your full heart, and the importance of carrying that message forth is why Courage is one of the Civil Graces.

Who are you? That is the most important question to answer. In a world overwhelmed with mantras of success and social acceptance, showing up as you are is precisely what is needed. As children, we are often rewarded by our parents, churches, and educational institutions for being what was expected of us. Personally, there was always something nagging inside me that there was a different path. There came a time when holding on to that programmed version of myself was too painful. I had to re-discover my voice and re-member my heart. Finding the Courage to do that has not always been easy but it has made my life more authentic.

Each of us emerges from the Universe with unique gifts. Courage is the energy that moves it forth. To come from a place of the heart, a place of love and passion is why we are here. And we must be persistent in bringing ourselves forward. In a sense, it reminds me of our silly cat, Pete, who every morning peers in the door looking to connect with us after a night of exploring. Again and again, he invites us to experience what is real outdoors, and he won’t be ignored. “Are you going to show up today?” This is what our heart says to us.

I watch for leaders to emerge who will show genuine love for those they serve. It is rare to see them featured on the media, but they are there. They may not have official titles, but there are individuals everywhere bringing all they are to tell their story and bring meaning to life. A beautiful example of this was watching Greta Thunberg state her case with such profound Courage–her heart was in every word, and it was such a sign to the world to do the same. One young woman had a vision of speaking up for the Earth, and millions in the world moved with her to stand out as well because they felt it in their own hearts. That is the power of Courage. We can ignite the world with passion toward a common goal.

We are heirs to the grace of Courage. The original founders of this nation, leaders from every walk of life, had the vision that we could govern ourselves in a new way. While it has taken centuries to reveal and reshape the ideal of self-government, it has been through individuals calling out from their heart to re-mind and re-member the center of something greater beyond the material world. The call is there for each of us. How do you show up in Courage?

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amazing grace

“I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”
― Anne Lamott

One of my favorite hymns growing up was “Amazing Grace.” I would listen to the tune and wait for the moment, when amazing grace would teach my heart to believe…

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
  And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
  The hour I first believed!

I was always a sensitive kid and growing up defending myself with eight brothers and three older sisters often gave me a good reason to want to start a rebellion. Looking back, I never stopped feeling like it was my job to right the wrongs and save the world. It was exhausting! Trying to make sure I made the road perfect whether in my role as wife and mother, business woman and activist, or writer for that matter…it takes me days to work up the courage to write something. Working it over again and again in my mind before I can put words to print. And I like to write; even if just in my daily journal for my own mind to be emptied. Each time I do, it is that Grace appears.

The last few years have been really transformative for me. I had to face that my first marriage was ending despite whatever we tried. The sadness at failing both God, my family and someone who used to be my partner was tremendous, but it was multiplied each time I looked into my children’s eyes and tried to make things better despite all the statistics that said I would fail. My children are amazing. Statistics were wrong. Grace held us. Then there was the time Grace appeared to help me keep my home so that the kids didn’t have to endure losing both their security and home at the same time. Grace appeared when I first believed by a promotion that gave me exactly (almost to the penny) what I needed to sustain the mortgage even though I had no idea how it would all work out. That house was our hideout from the world–a shelter in the storm that was raging in my heart.

And then I lost my father, who always felt like the one in my family who could truly see me. I know there was love, but to truly be seen. Well, that was a gift. His absence from the world made me feel vulnerable beyond what I ever can remember. Going home the long road to Michigan the day after Christmas to say goodbye was complicated by a car that decided to act up. It was Grace that allowed me to get through the icy roads to the safety of my childhood home where I walked in line behind the legacy my father created. Grace taught my heart to believe a few days later when a new friend asked me to a celebration at New Year’s Eve. We had known of each other but never spoke until he reached out to me on that lonely Christmas night after my dad had died to say I wasn’t alone in my sadness for he had lost his dad at Easter. He knew what I was feeling on my first Christmas without Dad. Grace gave me the courage to believe in love again. And Grace was right!

Not ever having lost my fighting spirit, Grace appeared to remind me about making a more just world. I answered what I felt was the call by running for the U.S. Congress–after all there were no women from my state in Washington and I knew what that meant…we would go hungry if we left it to the boys. After a year of running, resigning from my job, selling my beloved house, and almost my desire to live, Grace once again met me with the words, “we aren’t done with you yet.” Though the last few years have been about finding a set of wings to fly because my feet were too tired to walk, Grace has brought me safe thus far.

When my campaign experience was over despite my grief and disbelief, it was looking to Grace again to inspire me. The Civil Graces Project naturally emerged from the many instances during my race when I really witnessed the human need to reconnect with one another in a world that seems to push us apart. We needed to re-member. Grace is the quiet presence of love, forgiveness, not having the answer but waiting for the truth to emerge, and having the courage to stay engaged with one another. Grace will transform our hearts, and I believe, our nation and our world, if we remain open to that presence and one another.

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unpacking truth

“Yesterday we obeyed kings and bent our necks 

before emperors. But today we kneel only to truth, 

follow only beauty, and obey only love.”
-Kahlil Gibran

When I was a child, I was taught never to lie even with small things. If you did, you would have to tell a bigger lie to cover that up. Eventually, you would wind up so far from the truth, you might not find your way back. That was when someone’s word was as good as gold and those who didn’t keep their word were disadvantaged in business and social circles…it was a thing everyone knew and those individuals weren’t trusted. 

The world is very different today in some respects with video cameras all over the place, people can get caught saying one thing and then quite the opposite moments later. Our words have lost their value especially in the realms of telling the truth. Does the soul grow numb after a while when it is hidden in lies…coated like a scally covering which no longer can feel? I like to think that most people tell the truth or want to tell the truth, but maybe they are only telling what they want to believe. I wanted to serve in public office my whole life but could never grow comfortable with the idea that to succeed in that world, I would have to make compromises with my values. I guess I have to thank my lucky stars that things happened the way they did and I can still look myself in the eye knowing the truth of my being.

Yet those in power need to be held accountable for their words. As my college professor, Dr. McAnaw would say, “You have be able to speak truth to power!” I think that is our charge in this modern-day…to speak the truth and make sure that those who want to represent us do the same. How can we do this? In many ways. By the way you spend your money…are you paying attention to where you invest? where you shop? the organizations you support? Do you really pay attention to how you vote with your money? As I ran, I learned the unfortunate truth that corporations support candidates to get favorable laws passed. These interests very often supersede the people who should be represented.

Why is it in America the land that used to lead in solving problems is so slow to resolving anything? Follow the money and you will find the truth. Benjamin Franklin when asked, what kind of government shall we have responded, “A republic; if you can keep it.” In a republic, the people are the sovereigns and the truth is, we have to start acting like it and pay attention to the actions of those who represent us. Think about what you read. Consider the source. Entertain opposing views if you can if only to learn something different. Get involved in the process and write letters. Lots of letters to the editor, to your representatives, and to your President. Ask questions. Then maybe we will get closer to the truth.

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reconnecting to what is real

“A butterfly could flap its wings and set molecules of air in motion, which would move other molecules of air, in turn moving more molecules of air— eventually capable of starting a hurricane on the other side of the planet.” 
― Andy Andrews

One morning as I was driving my son to school, I suggested he put down his device and look out the window at the full moon still resting in the early sky while the rosy haze in the east began to herald the sun.  As if on cue, a herd of deer raced across the misty field and a large crow made its perch in a tree along the road.  Mother Nature was definitely in show-off mode with this young observer, and we quietly took in the moment.
 
Are you aware of the grace that surrounds you every day?  The beauty despite the rush we are in to make our way to the next leg of our journey?  Native cultures looked to our environment for direction and with anticipation for what came next.  The cycle of the seasons, outer space in its orbit, and the weather have been linked to our own circadian rhythms, and yet the modern world seldom slows down to reconnect and breathe these beats.  Maybe this is why our environment is so easily disregarded by some…we have forgotten our interconnection and relationship to it.  If you are feeling overwhelmed or just need a break, take time to look at what surrounds you.  Give gratitude for the beauty no matter how small, and if you haven’t yet found anything to cherish, keep looking.
 
It can be hard to consider beauty when so many feel forgotten…the suffering around us doesn’t make sense at first sight, and it is hard to see “heaven” in certain situations.  Could it be that awesome forces are revealing something for all of us to see?  First glance we may see pain and suffering.  Second glance we see that we are being summoned to reach beyond borders and beyond our own limitations to help our fellow neighbors…to realize that we can create heaven here by the love that we share. Imagine if we each just unplugged and did what we could.  The invitation is there for each of us to re-engage with our natural world and one another.  One single drop in a pond creates ripples that reach the far offshore as a wave.  A flap of a butterfly wing contributes to the hurricane.  What are you waiting for?
 
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going the extra mile

“Life be not so short but that there is always time for courtesy.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

We went out for dinner tonight which was such a special treat for us, and unfortunately, we were rushed because of other agendas of the staff. A magical meal (because every meal should be special…none of us will know when our chips are getting cashed in) was overrun by, “ Are you done?” Rushing when there will still plenty of time until the restaurant closed.

I’ve started to notice that the extra mile, which used to be a lonely place is getting extra lonely. People excuse rudeness lately. There’s an infatuation with the virtual world (i.e. phones at the table) at a loss of the real world. Customer service, which built into its description is “to serve,” has become a lost art. I know this because I’m in customer service and see some crazy stuff. Wisdom is paved over by expediency. The words “thank you” and “I’m sorry” which used to be normal, are now rare.

Please slow down. Put your phone down. Consider the other human beings in your space especially if you’re on the roadways. We all are traveling together to the same destination…not to be a buzz-kill but the ending is the same. So how about we treat each other a little nicer on the journey?

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the keys that unlock it all

Hi, Judy, I read your book, ‘Go For It” when I was a kid…over 30 years later, I still think of your book and how you inspired me. This past year I ran for the U.S. Congress and while it didn’t work out the way I had hoped, I am ready to work to help kids the way you helped me–to be inspired to go for their dreams no matter what. I just wanted to say thank you!” –Elizabeth Moro

In my life even when things didn’t work out exactly the way I had planned, I believed there always was a reason. No time was it harder for me to find a reason than after my campaign had ended. I felt like I had answered a lifelong call only to have the Universe hang up. Wrong number. Prank call. Timing. Whatever it was, my dream of serving in public office came crashing around my ears. I felt empty, alone and pretty much worthless.

After a time, I had to find a way out of my sadness. Searching for the key, I literally enrolled in a class on how to be “authentically happy” and one of the professors quoted was Dr. Martin Seligman, the Founder of Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Since that was just up the road, I wrote to him and asked him to have lunch, and he agreed. “How can I be happy in a world when I know so much is wrong and there is nothing I can do about it?” His response, “You’re not needed in Congress. Go be a trumpet about what is right in the world!” Tall order. What did that even mean and how could I muster up the courage to pursue such a thing? It felt like a task I wasn’t ready to take on but I was willing to stay open in case inspiration hit.

One evening, Vince and I were talking over a glass of wine as we sometimes do at our farm, and I thought of how I had read this book as a kid by a woman named, Judy Zerafa. The book was entitled, Go For IT! Judy had made such an early impact on how I viewed the world and that I could make things happen. “If she never wrote that book, I don’t know if I would have had the ambition I did. I wish I could thank her.” And so I found her on Facebook and sent her a message. A few weeks later, Judy responded and it was soul-sisters at the onset of our conversations. We talked about many things–dreams, goals, and challenges along the way. Most importantly we discussed Judy’s most recent work The Seven Keys to Success and her book Your Path to an Easier and Better Life. Judy invited me to consider working with her to keep the message going. Just as before, Judy had the keys to unlock my biggest question–how can I serve?

After almost a year of emails and weekly conference calls, we met face-to-face this past week in Long Beach, California. It simply was magical as we both felt huge confirmation of the importance of this vision– bring the Seven Keys to those who need them most–not only what the keys are, but HOW to make them work in every life! We will be sharing more about our work but the big message here is to never believe that it is over. Life takes twists and turns, but doors are unlocked when we continue to believe and look for the keys.

P.S. Guess who Judy had quoted in her new book? Dr. Seligman. I love those coincidences!

The Seven Keys to Success by Judy Zerafa

  1. Develop and Maintain a Positive Attitude
  2. Believe in Yourself
  3. Make Wise Choices
  4. Develop Positive Habits
  5. Set and Achieve Goals
  6. Use Creative Imagination
  7. Be Persistent
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dancing stars…

“I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” –from Nietzsche’s Thus spoke Zarathustra

This past weekend we celebrated my daughter’s graduation from high school and as often happens during life’s milestones, we look back and say, “where did the time go?” Because we were making a short video for her party, we had the pleasure of looking back over all the photos from the past eighteen years and seeing all the smiles, challenges and victories of this one precious life. From the chaos came this little dancing star, my daughter Kate who always carried great expression. Guiding her journey and watching her make her way to the next chapters of her life is an invitation to grow as well. It is an opportunity to access our own lives and realize that we are at a moment of transformation and new exploration.

In this time of commencement, let us chart new courses for our own growth and development of the next step toward our dreams. In another week, I will be heading to California to meet with an author, Judy Zerafa, who’s book Go For IT! I read as a young kid. Her vision to write down your dreams and make them happen changed the trajectory of my life. I am beyond excited to connect with her and see how we can bring her work into action for the next generation. Sitting at the graduation ceremony last Friday, I heard familiar themes–Believe in Yourself. Don’t be Afraid to Make Mistakes. Have a Positive Attitude. Judy and I will be working together to help create the “how to do” of these timeless ideas. The future is bright…just watch for those dancing stars!!

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it is all about relationships

“On that day they remembered that there were things more important than agreeing. They remembered the Village Square. And, for that moment as they remembered who they really were deep down, there was a chance to share with the whole world -many of whom were still having very bad problems with bossy kings, many of whom lived in places where people would sooner kill each other than find something to agree about – the beauty of this country they had built on regular people agreeing to disagree.” -Liz Joyner, The Village Square

In our one hour conversation, I knew I had met a kindred spirit. Liz Joyner, Founder and CEO of The Village Square in Tallahassee understands that our ability to agree about what we disagree and move forward despite our differences is what made this country great. In her edgy and playful manner, Liz tells the story of where we came from, how we got to where we are and what we need to do to keep our country moving forward. We laughed and shared so many connections in our work. We both came to the realization–what this is all about is relationships.

Finding a way to bring people together in this highly digital age is not easy. It is much safer to stay at home behind your computer and connect only with those who you “like” and similarly, it is easier to call someone out when you aren’t looking into their eyes. While we are in incredibly challenging times due to the growth of what we term “tribalism,” it is also an incredibly inspiring time because people are taking action. Creating spaces where it is safe to dialogue and debate the larger issues of our time is essential to our communities and our country. In Liz’s words, “Hometowns with strong and deep relationships are communities that thrive.” Our founding principles allowed for us to sort things out–sometimes we did this better than others.

So here is a challenge, look at your circle of friends and see how you are doing with creating diversity in your life. Do you only choose friends with whom you agree and have similar values? Do you seek out opportunities to listen to other viewpoints without the need to judge? At the end of all that occupies our time and space on this earth, the most important things end up being the relationships we keep. All studies show that we can literally transform our lives and our world if we are willing to make space for the dialogues which we most fear. I saw this in my work on the campaign trail; human to human conversations can break down walls and new ideas and solutions can come forth. Thomas Jefferson share this notion when he wrote, “The last hope of human liberty in this world rests on us. We ought, for so dear a stake, to sacrifice every attachment and every enmity.”

At the end of our conversation, Liz and I agreed that we are living in incredible times–without all this tension in our society would either of us be moved to do what we are doing to address these issues? The very challenges we all face are the catalysts for growth that is happening. People shift opinions not because of rational thought, but in relation to the people whom they connect to. I invite you to open your space to new connections and new relationships and see what magic happens there! I would love to know how it goes!

Pigs Fly is part of the fun at The Village Square.
To learn more please visit: https://tlh.villagesquare.us