Saturday, November 30, 2013

It's Time to Push Through...

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us and you Black Friday shoppers are happy, broke and lucky to be alive, let the Christmas Holiday officially commence! My house sits quiet today since my kids are away at their grandparent's for the weekend and that allows my mind time to think; which in this case is a good thing. My thoughts of the upcoming month and all that will take place leaves me excited, joyous and warm and fuzzy on the inside. My mind quickly wanders to a time when I was always stressed this time of year. A time when I wore myself out working 70-80 hours a week getting my salon clients in... not only to make them look beautiful for the holiday season, but having the need to make as much money as I possibly could in order to pay my bills and still give my kids a suitable Christmas. I actually get a bit teary-eyed remembering how hard that was at times as a single mom, but I always did it because I do what I have to do without complaining or using excuses of why I can't.  Deep down I always felt blessed that there was always one more client that had to get in before I closed my salon doors on Christmas Eve each year that always helped me make Christmas happen. For years I did all my shopping on Christmas Eve as soon as I left the salon. It was hard... but I always did it and got through the holidays by the fur of a Santa hat. I remember my need to be close to family even when they all lived far away, so I would forfeit something each year in order to have the gas money to travel up to ring in the new year with them by my side because being with my family is what always made the holidays meaningful to me. I remember that sacrifice being my electric bill one year, knowing I would come home to an apartment with no power, but that did not stop me. It's funny how that year I had a client booked the day I got back so I told my kids that something was wrong with our power and paid my bill as soon as I finished my client's hair; I was always doing what I had to do in order to get what I wanted while staying ethical and honest, and I still do.

As I sit here today knowing those days are gone for me, at least momentarily, I think of the many people who are in that place right now... maybe you are one of them. Perhaps you lost your job, got demoted, lost a spouse or family member that caused financial devastation in your life, or maybe it's just how life is for you, just like it was for me. I want you to know that there is ALWAYS HOPE, don't ever give up trying to create a better situation than what you have now even if you are just fine, because maybe that will mean you can help someone who is struggling when you have more than enough.  I never thought I would see myself out of the woods, but that did not stop me from running through the trees; THAT perseverance is what ultimately got me out of them. I still have the same mentality though; I still go through stores and load a cart up with stuff only to put half the things back before I get to the register because they are not necessities, simply because I have been wired by hard times and a fluctuating income. I feel that this makes me smart, educated, wise and thankful for all that I have today; I don't look at any of it as unfortunate and neither should you. I will never forget the times when I had to make choices that nobody should have to make... "Groceries or rent?" I simply realize those times are what allow me to appreciate today with my whole heart and that is how you find the positive light in the negative clouds that hover.

If you are struggling... I encourage you to keep pushing through, we are right around the corner from a BRAND NEW year... and who knows, maybe THIS will be YOUR year to shine. I love you all to the moon and back and look forward to sharing this holiday season with all of you!


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Monday, November 25, 2013

Being Thankful For Bad Times Too

I was struggling with how to write my "start of the week" blog last night. One reason being that I still have so much on my brain after speaking last week because it truly changed my life in a positive and profound way. The second reason is that I wanted to write something with a lot of meaning... even though ALL of my blog posts have a lot of meaning, being that this is the last post before Thanksgiving, I wanted it to be extra special; so here I sit digging into my complex brain... a brain that's much deeper than most trying to be sure I don't freak you out with my philosophical nerdy way of thinking. My earphones are on... yes, I am a creature of habitual behavior and when I find my happy zones I tend to make them repetitive... hence the earphones with classical piano as I write. (It's a winner!)

What does that word truly mean? Is it simply a momentary internal feeling on the surface of our thoughts for something or someone; a moment in time that gives us "that feeling"? Or is it defined by a feeling that runs deep into our souls that we cannot get over even if we wanted to? Is it defined by an out-loud obvious action that we must demonstrate to show how we feel; or is it something that can be implied by small gestures or things we may do for someone without having to say a word?

In a world where people; (including myself at times) feel unappreciated, I think that this poses something to really think about, and what better time than the very week we are reminded to be thankful. The answer is as complex as any human emotion is as it truly depends on what a person needs to feel thankful and how much it takes for someone or something to feel appreciation from thankfulness. As I sit here typing whatever comes to my mind, I think of the things that help me know people are thankful for the things that I do, for the things that I say, type and share. I think about people in my life who have felt unappreciated by me at some time or another and how I can and have made sure they never feel that way again. I think of how much I have changed in the past several years, how my heart has been reborn and has been opened up to a whole new world now that I have shared the "not so good" times I have had in my life; raw and real and how I have found a way to be thankful for them more than any of the good times in my life... it makes me smile.

I never thought that I would ever be thankful for the bad things that have happened; for all the struggles, pain, hurt, sadness, confusion and disappointment that I have experienced. At times I am shocked that my heart did not grow cold and bitter. I also know that had my heart continued down the lonely, broken path it was once on, that I would not know what being thankful really means. I am now thankful for the hurt, the people that I lost unexpectedly, the hard times, the burdens and disappointments and even the anger that resulted from it all, because it taught me what I need and deserve in order to keep happiness in my life. It helped me not only to recognize, but to appreciate the many blessings that are right in front of my face and accept that the moments that smacked me down were all blessings in disguise presented to teach me what I did not want to relive. I know that if I want to stay true to who I am, I had to learn those lessons and now strive to allow only the blessings to bring out the emotions within me. Everything else just has to roll... I know that every painful, hurtful, confused moment is there for a good reason and I hope you get to that point too.

I hope that all of you have a wonderful day of thanks with your family and friends. I encourage you to sit, if only for a few moments alone and think about all of the things you can be thankful for. Be sure that you dig deep into those bad things that when you are honest with yourself, you can truly say taught you something... hopefully it will be something that will allow you to let go of bottled up anger or pain. We carry around a lot of baggage from our past, we don't always let go of the things that have torn at our flesh, but once we let go and begin to heal, something happens. Sure... I still get disappointed, I still experience pain, sadness, confusion and hurt... but what I have realized is that if I can immediately find a reason to be thankful for what is happening anger never sets in... peace does.

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Friday, November 22, 2013

You Never Know What Will Change Your Life

So... I must say that I don't even know where to begin. As I sit here with my headphones on... piano in my ears I am reflecting on the last two days and I am in awe. I gave up a day of work yesterday to speak at the Great American Teach In at my daughter's school of the Arts located in the inner city of Tampa and although I did it to influence lives, I too was changed; my purpose was defined even clearer than it already was and I am truly speechless tonight, so forgive me if the words do not flow as I hope they will.

For those of you who are not familiar with magnet schools and how they work, it is basically a school that is located in a "bad" area of town that is given a specific category of study such as the arts so that kids from the suburbs will want to attend; therefore giving the inner city kids a better opportunity for getting out of the inner city and to be offered a better education because they will receive more funding from the government. I sent my oldest daughter Cierra to a Magnet middle school as well because I wanted my kids to be diverse... to love all colors, all social economic classes. Yes, I sent them to the "ghetto" to a school that catered to their strengths so they could mingle with kids that did not have what they had ON PURPOSE.

Normally, you go talk to one class... and typically it is your child's class. However, when they found out that I was an inspirational/ motivational writer and speaker they were EXCITED and asked me to stay all day. I happily gave up whatever it was I could have made monetarily to hopefully help a child who needed to hear what I had to say. I spoke to 8 periods of 6th, 7th and 8th graders... 7:40 am-3:30 pm without lunch, or bathroom breaks because I was on a mission to influence troubled youth with my stories of overcoming all that I have endured. I never felt hungry or tired.... it was an amazing day. I brought teachers, principals and many, many students to tears. I brought out emotions that therapists need months to bring out in one single hour with each class, I was blown away more than they were at times. I had never really spoken in this way before... it was kind of my first "formal" gig where I told my story outside of my book signings that were totally off the cuff. I planned... a little but knew I had to cater to each class individually by asking some questions or my message would never be heard.

I brought SO many kids through grief they were dealing with of losing a loved one, I talked to them about bullying... and when I asked every class who had been "the bully" I told them to be honest... I would not judge them; they raised their hands and admitted it. I thanked them for their courage and told them that admitting it was the first step  to ending it; I understand abuse and the steps it takes to stop due to people who have been in my life. I made these bullies want to change. I had one of the "TOUGHEST" kids of the day who was loud and proud about being a bully ask to walk me to my next class. I had asked her why she was mean in front of everyone because she was so proud of it... and gave her permission to hold the answer to herself... that I just wanted her to think about it. When she walked me to my next class she told me she wanted to answer my question. She said people had been mean to her and that she has lost 6 people VERY close to her, one was a brother to cancer in the past 3 years. I hugged her as she cried and told her that she needed to change that anger into love... I told her to become the person who helps someone up who falls down or who is being bullied or being disrespected and had her promise that to me. Today the Vice principal told me that at breakfast this morning when everyone was disrespecting the teachers by not listening that she stood up and said "stop it... be quiet and listen." I felt like a proud mom.

I had another girl who admitted to being a bully tell her story in front of all of her classmates as if it were only she and I in the room. She said that she was once a bully and stopped when her mother lost a baby. She told me that she was so sad and knew that kids killed themselves because of bullying and did not want anyone to feel the sadness that she felt when she lost that possible sibling; she was balling... I called her up and held her as she wept in front of the whole entire class. Another beautiful young man gave me a piece of yarn from his pocket and said maybe I could make something out of it and later brought me a picture that he drew which I will be framing. It was surreal bringing these emotions out... they were so raw and real but I know that by doing this they are on the right path to healing and changing if they stick with it and THAT was my purpose.

Now... I want to share how I was changed. After telling a small portion of my story I showed a slideshow I created that you will see at the end of this post. It was presented to each class. I spoke during certain slides to explain what they were seeing... and afterwards we had a Q&A and a little more of me sharing and caring with and for them. One young man who to me was one of the most courageous of the day, was a seventh grade boy in the front row. After showing the slideshow which includes before and after's of models that I work with as I spoke about true beauty and self image telling the story of how models are every day people who have someone like me make them 'look the part" and that even THEY need to feel beautiful. I told the boys to not expect their future wives to look like that when they wake up and I told the girls that they are only a few brush strokes away from the outside beauty that they don't feel they possess but that all of them needed to focus on the inside instead.  So, this 7th grade boy Xavier Pellot raises his hand and asks me... "Do you ever feel like what you do for a living affects people negatively?" I sat there for a minute and thought... I had already explained that I chose to do what I do to make people feel good about who they were on the outside; so I said, "Honestly, no but I am really curious to hear your process of thought, will you share it?" So he did ... he said, "You make people who are "ordinary" look beautiful and that might make an ordinary person feel ugly." A tear came to my eye as I stood silent... AMAZED at this PROFOUND comment coming from this young man! I said... "Xavier, can I share that YOU just changed MY life? That was amazing, brave and seriously gave me something to think about as I move forward.

All night I thought of what he said and I now have a change in my path... out of this was birthed an idea and a mission and I WILL dedicate my life to as well as this beautiful soul... this amazing young man who kept me from sleeping last night. I will say again, THANK YOU XAVIER! I will NEVER forget you. It's people like you and me who speak their mind and ruffle feathers that change the world... but I already told him that.

Today I went back to that school. It just keeps getting better!!!! I was asked by the assistant principal to come back today to help spearhead a program for a group of girls at the school who call themselves G.A.B. "girls against bullying". I sat with the girls in a conference room for 2 hours; lots of tears hearing their stories and I gave them a lesson on the definition of bullying, how to be a friend and much, much more. I cannot even share what happened in that room due to confidentiality but at the end of my two hours I promised these 7th grade girls to help them take this national... and I will simultaneously create B.A.B. (boys against bullying) so they feel included too. The Vice Principal also wants me to be a speaker for teachers and administration and make my book mandatory reading material in our county and beyond and knows how to make that happen. He said that I touched him with my story and brought back memories he had tucked away and that the feedback from my presentation from the teachers and students was incredible. He told me he believed in what I was trying to do and wanted to help me. As we stood on the fun-day field today three more kids that heard me speak yesterday came up and told me their painful stories and cried with me and thanked me for sharing mine; he witnessed that.

I could keep talking about all that happened as a result of my decision to go speak for two days but you will just have to watch this story unfold; I think that will be way more inspirational and motivational and well... that is why I write. I hope you continue to follow my journey. I am dumbfounded and high on life... even as I still cough like crazy from this cold I cannot kick. I know that the sky is the limit for me; the "Big Guy" has my back because I have truly given Him the wheel. WOW... just WOW! Have an amazing weekend.. and I hope you enjoy this video.



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Sunday, November 17, 2013


I admit it... my head feels like it's going to explode, my nose cannot make up it's mind because one minute I sound like Darth Vader due to the lack of ability to breathe and the next minute I can't keep up with the waterfall of clear fluid dripping from my nasal cavity. Sorry for the not-so-pleasant mental picture, but I needed to stress my point that all I want to do right now is sleep; I DON'T want to think and write. HOWEVER... winners never quit and bloggers need to keep their audience happy by keeping their word. So, since I announced that I would continue to start your week off right, I had to spend this Sunday night getting my Monday blog post written; I am a girl of my word. If I don't do something I say then something has happened or I have simply forgotten because I did not write it on a list. If I forgot and you remind me, I will feel incredibly bad and likely not only do what I said I would but give a little extra... kind of like interest for not paying a bill on time. ( I forget things occasionally; likely when I have over-committed myself... just call me human.)

From time to time, a person pops up in my life who is disappointing, not too often because I have become a
pretty good judge, but once in a while my intuition is off and I put more into something than what it is worth. Water under the bridge I suppose, but I just don't get some people. They tell you that they will do something and even go as far as making plans with you, then cancel at the last minute, no show or disappear all together or habitually reschedule therefore allowing themselves another opportunity to reschedule, no show or disappear again. It's like the shampoo, rinse and repeat theory. CRAZY! I have decided to stop wasting my time trying to make time for the people in my life who don't value my friendship. Maybe I read something wrong, maybe they never wanted to do something in the first place, and seriously, I would have been completely fine with that. All they had to do was say... I don't really have the time and simply not make plans over and over just to let me down and make me wonder; that is just not nice. If anyone understands busy it's me, but the bottom line is that you make the time for those that are important to you and in this case actions have spoken louder and I am simply not that important to this person. I am cool with that and am happy that I get it now... frankly I am a little upset that I spent so much time supporting them when I could have been supporting someone who actually made me a priority too.

Okay... that's all I have tonight and quite frankly, we are both lucky that I even produced this much.

Much love, tons of hugs and remember.... 
I DID NOT WANT TO BLOG TONIGHT, but because YOU were important to me, 
I sucked it up (literally) and did it anyway! ;)



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Friday, November 15, 2013


Happy Friday! Man this week has flown. I seriously thought it was Wednesday all day yesterday. Guess what? Thinking you have another day to do things when you really don't can be a bit of a hiccup! So... my spoon full of sugar in this case was making my Thursday to do list a bit longer. Despite that extra long list I got it all done allowing me to make up for that extra day I didn't really have. Behold... a PERFECT blog topic! I always hear people moaning "I don't have the time..." and I have been told by friends that they have NO CLUE where I find the time to do all that I do... and since time does not grow on the palm trees in my back yard, I figured I may be able to shed some light on "creating time that you need."

As this year comes to a close, I am forcing myself to make some decisions and part of that decision making process has to do with my blog schedule. I have to free up some time in order to reach my goals for the upcoming year. They are big ones...  I am turning 40 in less than a month and figured since I have only lived a third of my life (I plan to live to 120) I need to start the second half with a BOOYAH! Therefore, I will continue to start your week off on Mondays and kick your buttocks into a great weekend on Friday. If that's not enough, you will simply have to follow me on Facebook and Twitter to get my daily quotes and boosts to get you over the hump. (If you already are then you just got an "A" for the semester) I have TONS in store for 2014, I could not be more excited, and look forward to sharing it with you soon!

Here are my top 6 ways to create time!

BLAH- BLAH, I know... but in the morning, when everyone in the house is still in bed you are likely to find the most peace and quiet you'll find all day. It's a great time to check email, scroll Wastebook.. I mean Facebook. (Ha! don't let me fool ya... I LOVE that social media time killer, which is why I pencil it into my schedule every day.) You could also use that time to read an inspirational blog post, (hint hint) a daily devotional, or find something funny to start your day off in a positive way. One of my favorite things used to be waking up, making a cup of hot tea or coffee to sip while writing in my journal. It was that quiet, all about me, downtime that I needed as a single career mother of two. I would dump out the thoughts in my head so that if I forgot to empty out the "yuck" from the day before, I was doing it first thing to keep it from weighing me down. (This was way before blogging and two more children came into my life.) The point is that if you wake up a little earlier giving yourself a good 30 minutes to wind up and not be rushed, your day will be better, not to mention that taking time for yourself is never a bad thing... even if you spend it getting the laundry you have tossed three times folded and put away without interruption.


This is hard... you hear the phone ring and although you are RIGHT in the middle of doing something that is important, you stop and answer. 30 minutes later you are still stuck on the phone in a heart wrenching therapy session with your friend whose world is falling apart, or maybe it's that insurance guy who tries to convince you that you really need the policy he has to offer. Either way, it messes up your mojo; your work flow is derailed because whatever it was you were doing has now been hacked by that phone call and you will find that it's really hard to get back on track, especially thinking about your friend's life falling apart. (hahaha my phone is ringing RIGHT now!) Ummm yeah, so now I am distracted! Okay... this is the PERFECT time to say what I was going to say already. Silence your phone when you are needing to finish a task! This does NOT mean put it on vibrate because quite frankly a phone inching it's way toward your hand is just as distracting. It also means leaving it alone until you finish!!! Let's face it, tasks take longer to complete, we drive more carelessly, and have a hard time having a normal physical conversation because we are too busy looking at our stupid cell phones. (me included) They are in my opinion, the ULTIMATE distraction when trying to get something done because they have become an appendage that we feel useless without. NOT TRUE so put it down, let them leave a voice mail and call them back! ( I promise to take my own advice.)


I am not talking drapes and blinds here, I am talking about computer and app windows that ding every time something new happens! I have the perfect example of this. I was at a client's house a few month's ago; I was hired as a ghost writer for her book and she was supposed to be working on material for me on her computer.When I came out of my "writing room" (which was an isolated quiet place where I donned headphones playing classical piano) to ask her if she had what I needed, she expressed that she was having a really hard time focusing. As I looked down at her computer, her word processing screen was indeed open but as I heard a "ding" I quickly noticed that she literally had 5 windows open in the background: Pinterest, Craigslist, Ebay,Twitter and Facebook. She also had her phone sitting right beside her on vibrate with notifications set to "on" for social media apps. Needless to say, being the "get real" and honest type of friend and business person that I am, I laughed as I told her that having 5 windows open in the background was probably why she couldn't focus. She chuckled and said "You are probably right" as she opened her Facebook to see what that notification was for.  Unless you want something that would take 20 minutes to suck up half of your day, CLOSE THE WINDOWS PEOPLE! If I had my phone beside me, and even ONE window open in the background as I typed this blog post you wouldn't get it until Sunday.  Trust me, I have to take my own advice on this one or else I fall victim too. Shiny objects have to be GONE! Instead of keeping them as distractions, make them rewards for getting s*@# done!


I think many of us have issues finding time to do things when we are not zoned in and focused. Yes, I have 
A.D.D. with a side of O.C.P.D and a smidge of A.D.H.D. so I may be worse than you, but everyone works faster with a little peace and quiet. (maybe that means a quiet room with the TV on for you) Find a spot that will allow you to have focus time even if it means sitting in your closet or garage to answer emails. (been there done that) I have to have quiet time to make a grocery list, kind of crazy, but true. It will take me three times as long if I have my kids tugging at my leg, phones ringing and a television on. Pop some classical piano in? "OHM" I make that list with no effort at all! Make lists of things you need to do, find what it is that helps you focus on getting them done and also what KEEPS you from getting them done. Do this and checking them off will be a breeze! Who knows, it may even give you EXTRA time to indulge in something you love like a relaxing bath or an intense work out to get rid of those extra pounds that planted themselves onto your body. 


Did you know that the FIRST meaning in the Webster's Dictionary for "boob" is NOT a woman's breast? Yep... in fact the first definition for the word "boob" is... "a stupid or foolish person; a dolt". I don't judge, but I must say that when you complain about not having "time" to do the things you NEED to do, but rattle off your weekly television show schedule in two minutes flat, then welcome to definition #1! ( love ya, mean it!) Don't be the boob that watches every episode of Breaking Bad or Vampire Diaries if you have stuff to do. Don't tell me you don't have "time" to do what it takes to get your website up if you are sucked into a Walking Dead marathon. Let TEVO do it's thing and reward yourself for a job well done, AFTER it's done! 


Wake-up call!!! You are not a superhero! You cannot overcommit yourself and expect good results. I did this for YEARS! I STILL have a hard time saying no sometimes. This is why now, I think of EVERY SINGLE THING I need to do as if it were an appointment in my schedule. Even taking a shower, eating lunch, stopping for gas, story time with my kids and date night. This may sound silly, but until you are able to visually look at all that you have to do in a day you will never know what you can commit to doing. Doing this will help you manage your time efficiently and prioritize which are BOTH essential for success. At the end of the day... the whole reason that we run out of time is because we managed our time wrong or simply gave ourselves too many things to do. This creates stress, anxiety and feelings of failure, all of which demotivate you and  keep you derailed and overwhelmed. Nobody wants to be there! And if you do? Get a therapist I cannot help you with that.

I hope that you try some of these things if you are finding yourself "running out of time". Now you know my secrets; although I still get derailed too, I KNOW WHY and FIX IT! That's when the FUN begins!

Have an amazing weekend and start making those lists!
(Including the Christmas one... make sure I am on it!)
Hopefully you will have SO much free time you will get bored and do things like this!
Okay... maybe this isn't your thing... but you catch my drift ;)

"When you find yourself not having enough time, 
evaluate what you are doing with the time that you have."



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Monday, November 11, 2013

The Story of a World War Soldier....

I knew today's post had to be extra special 


To all the soldiers... fallen or living; military families... grieving ,waiting or celebrating; 
today is recognized in your honor. 

I am proud to share with you today an amazing part of not only my family history, but a piece of American History that I had not opened and looked at since I was in high school.

I am immediately thwarted back to a phone call I had with my Mémère 24 years ago when given a History assignment to interview someone from World War II. I was so proud and excited to be "lucky" enough to call my own flesh and blood for this assignment, so I picked up the phone and dialed that Massachusetts number. My Mémère answered the phone and as I explained what I was calling for, I remember the worrisome tone that emitted from the other end, this many years later. She told me that my Pépè would not want to talk about the war with me but that she would get something to me that I could use for my paper. Although I did not quite understand why my Pépère would not want to talk about his days of service; something that we were taught a man should be proud of... I accepted what she had offered and waited.

The day her letter arrived in the mailbox and I eagerly opened the dense envelope, I never knew it would be a personal history lesson. It was not the kind of lesson we learned in the history books... it was a lesson that came straight from a soldier at war. Enclosed in this envelope were 6 pages of copied transcript from my Pépère's journals during  his last two years of service and 6 photographs that changed the way I thought about war forever...


Rene A. Giard: CMM-C. Company
Thirty-Third U.S. Naval Construction Batallion
World War II 1942-1944

" What can the Seabees offer a man of your age?" The recruiting officer raised a craggy brow, scanning the applicant from critical, if somewhat veiled eyes. "Fifteen years at your trade? With your background and qualifications mister, you are first class material!"

"It did not take long for John to make up his mind, nor did it take long for Uncle Sam to decide just what to do with John; for in September came his orders to report for training at Camp Bradford for six weeks. From Camp Bradford, we boarded a dirty, debris littered milk train for Norfolk, Va for our physicals. We had never had to face such a column of impersonal medics and coppsmen in white jackets and the array of hypodermics, depressors, gauze, stethoscopes, ether and iodine. Our next stop was the barber shop where a man's glory got a Houdini in no time flat. After three weeks of waiting for and communicable sickness to show up, we were granted a five day furlough. Needless to say, I was happy to see my family in Massachusetts and say our good-bye's for many months to come. 

I returned to Norfolk, Va. only to learn we were packing gear for another trip; this time, Gulfport, Mississippi. Again, the battalion was jinxed by dirty ill- managed trains. It was a pleasant surprise for both the city of Gulfport and Camp Halliday, for it far surpassed all expectations for comfort and convenience. We were received with real southern hospitality, fried chicken and burgundy sauce, but that was cut short as scores of telephone calls were made declining invitations from Camp Halliday, as "liberty" was cancelled in participation of another move. On Thanksgiving, 1942, we boarded the train for the last stop in America; California. Outside the Quonset huts of Camp Rousseaux, officers were busy making last minute check-ups. On December 18, 1942 Sea-bags, duffle bags and lockers were hoisted aboard at 3 pm and at 3:30 the M.S. Sommelsdyke got under way. X-mas day came, and moral was low. Chaplain M. Dewitt Safford came to the rescue, but it too was short-lived.

New Years Day, 1943
A hurricane was in the making. Ship officers and crew turned attention to the lashing down of cargo, both above and below decks. Dawn came and winds increased to 120mph. Deck houses and life rafts were hurled into the sea. Forty-foot launches hurtled through steel railings to quickly fill and disappear. Not until 1300 were there any signs of the storm diminishing. As fast as it had risen, in an hour, thirty-foot waves dropped to five feet and the ship rode out into a welcomed calm.

January 3-Feb 17, 1943
New Caledonia; "Garden Spot" of the Pacific. Most of the small shops were closed for the duration, lacking stock to do business. The French, mostly ran these small shops. The large stores were controlled by the Vichy French. Prices were very high, so very little money trickled into the hands of the Vichyites. Passes were used for sight-seeing of "points of interest." I will remember the Bay of Scuttled Ships and a filth- ridden waterfront where scores of kinky-haired urchins fought and scrambled for a meal from each incoming load of table refuse, as impassive Javanese mothers stood by. The time had come for our next move. In hours, the battalion was on it's way. The next stop would be Guadalcanal. 

February 21, John and Jack American donned fedoras and pigskin gloves against a crisp, February air. American armed guards donned helmets of steel and gloves of asbestos. Hot gun barrels would need changing amid the spitting hell of angry gun turrets. We didn't have to wait long as the word came of an impending attack. There was no light but the light from the burning flares swaying high above a spread out convoy. The high-pitched hum of the Japanese aircraft and more flares to envelope a target area of American shipping. Above, Sons of Nippon weaved around torpedo planes into position for the attack; suddenly going into a screaming power dive. Just as suddenly, a roaring inferno of tracers blasted out to meet and toss both plane and pilot into a sizzling whirlpool of crossfire. There was no way out."Honorable Jap" had lost out. Other Rising Sons set off the port bow, only to drop from sight in a flaming lake of fire. Thus, the battalion's first taste of warfare. U. S. convoy; no hits, no losses, no damage. 

The convoy arrived at Guadalcanal the following day and anchored off Koli Point. Since this was to be a short stop, all gear was put into a large supply yard close to the beach, where when the time came, it would be loaded on the L.C.T.'s which were to transport the battalion equipment to the final destination, the Russel Islands, some 60 miles to the northwest. We worked in the most humid, hottest, miserable place in the Pacific; Guadalcanal was all of this and more. Malaria, fungus, infection and other ailments hit the men badly. There was always regular bombing runs over Henderson Field by "Washing Machine Charlie"; the Jap's night owls. The 33rd camp was close by, so it didn't take us long to learn how to get into a foxhole, but quick.

On February 20, 1943 the first L.C.T.'s left for the Russel Islands with 10 officers and 22 men. I was promoted to Chief Petty Officer in charge of equipment. The rest of the battalion stayed behind to load the L.C.T's. Each day they would be sent out in a small but steady stream. On April 14, 1943, the last L.C.T. with the 33rd left Guadalcanal for Banika in the Russells. My work was done for a while. Upon arrival on Banika, equipment had to be set up, large trees cut down for logs. The 33rd mill was the only one on the island and was kept busy 12 hours a day for priority work, over a million feet in six months.

Construction projects were started, a base hospital, aviation gasoline tank farm, building essentials to the operation of the airfield. Weather conditions were bad, lack of proper equipment and spare parts, and sickness of personnel on the field. The runway was finished to accommodate emergency landings. In spite of the rain and mud, mud, mud, construction went on. Jap attacks on installations were mostly during the day, but later increased to the nighttime. In the heaviest attack, one man was killed and several wounded. 

The Island of Banika consisted of about two-thirds coconut groves and one -third dense jungle. A large herd of beef cattle roamed the island, keeping the grass neatly mowed. Other wildlife were land crabs, frogs, lizards and mosquitoes. Come September, I wasn't feeling good, I had pains in my stomach. My men would sneak cans of peanut butter and saltines to me. That lasted about three weeks, and I collapsed from exhaustion. I was evacuated to New Hebrides, and spent a month in the hospital. November 30, 1943 I was transferred to a Naval hospital in New Zealand for another 14 days. January 17, 1944, I was told that I was being sent back to the U.S.A; a job well done. The voyage back to San Francisco, January 29, 1944 on the U.S.S. Seabarb proved that it could be a calm and restful one. The greatest joy was seeing the shores of the U.S.A. Several more months at the Naval hospital in Oakland, California, and onto Santa Cruz where I received an Honorable Discharge, and it was back home to Massachusetts to pick up my life where I left off."

As I read this again just before typing it word for word just as my Mem had transcribed it, it was hard not to notice where I get my writing skills from. The intricate detail that my Pépère wrote made me feel like I was right beside him as the smell of gunfire and death filled the air. Because of the letter she included with these excerpts telling me so, I know that my Mémère left things out due to the fact that much of what he wrote in his journals was much too graphic for me at the time, but even still, this piece of family and American history is priceless to me. War has always been a necessary evil; like it or not. What we don't always realize is what our men and women actually experience... what they go through when faced with situations that are far beyond their control. What I want you to remember today as you honor our veteran's is that they make this choice. They decide that their safety is less important than fighting for freedom as they leave their loved ones behind to dive into crossfire, uncertainty, death and ruin for something that is taken for granted every single day. I can't say that I could make that decision so days like today I will remember, thank and honor every single person who has served. Hats to heaven Pépère... I love you!


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Thursday, November 7, 2013

“Do You See What I See?”

This post comes straight from the heart… the gut, the innermost part of my mind. It spun from a recent encounter I had with a young girl I met who shared some of her “private thoughts” with me.  She was upset and angry lashing out at the people around her. When I asked her to open up and tell me what was wrong, she sobbed and said… “I am not perfect!” I looked at her almost in shock, hugged her tight and said “Sweetheart, nobody is perfect… we are all imperfect and it is because of those imperfections that we are all different in the eyes of God, and He has a purpose for each one of us. As we continued to talk, she shared what made her insecure, she shared that some of the closest people to her including her parents constantly pointed out her “imperfections” and that she also had issues at school with some of her classmates. My heart broke for her as I continued to console her telling her that she needed to not only love herself for who she was inside but that she needed to accept and love who she was on the outside. I was baffled that what I saw as I looked at her is not what she saw when she looked at herself in the mirror; she was in fact a very beautiful girl. Word of others had messed with her so badly that her reflection gave her nothing but imperfections.

This reminds me of something a friend of mine once wrote:
“You have never seen yourself in person, just reflections and pictures. There's a theory that says if you saw a clone of yourself, you wouldn't recognize it as you, because our idea of what we look like is so different from what we actually look like.” Tony Foradini-Campos

The majority of people today are their own worst critic; in fact, people beat themselves up unreasonably both physically and mentally based on a reflection they see in the mirror. They look at that image staring back and critique every single inch without once saying something good. Maybe it’s the few extra pounds, the fact that they are aging, a little too short, a little too tall, a little too skinny, losing hair, getting more wrinkles than face creams and procedures can iron out, and it is done in front of their kids. All of this while trying to instill in them to be thankful for what God has given them? What they SEE is us… society picking ourselves and everyone else apart and they begin to do the same.

Then, of course, there are those that are blinded by their own light portraying much more than they really are. They spend a lot of time, energy and money to look great and then share it with everyone. They tell us every time they go to the gym, they post every single healthy meal they eat, how they put on their makeup and we know every single time they get their hair cut, colored or styled because they post it. They spend so much time trying to prove to the world that they are awesome, that they have an awesome family, awesome spouses and awesome friends that they don’t realize how “not awesome” it is to always talk about their awesomeness. I have a few people in my life like this and although I love them for other qualities, the fact that I also know how painfully insecure they are makes me sad because I know they are simply trying to HIDE behind the appearance instead of mending their heart. They don’t realize that what they need is a makeover on the inside; healing from within from all that haunts them from their past. They need to add value to the lives of others as much as they can and while it is totally okay to share their own  triumphs, accomplishments and victory’s, they also need to celebrate those things for people around them. These people often pick apart others and point out their faults and shortcomings.

Finally, there are those who are the way God wants us to be… they love what God has given them and welcome what he continues to provide. They make the most of everything they have and give to others constantly. They celebrate others, lift others up and although they may share happy things that are going on in their own lives… they share the wonders happening in the lives of others they know and do what they can to lift the spirits of those around them.  They recognize and own up to what is not right in their life or their personality and spend time on getting it right on the inside instead of  trying to camouflage everything with their appearance. They recognize and focus on the traits and qualities of themselves and others rather than on looks and labels. Without makeup they have no shame… they will post a picture smiling in their sweats and bed head without hesitation because they are truly proud and comfortable with who they are. These people may also be beautiful to look at ; as beauty resonates from within because of who they are.  

In a world full of false and phony, we have to remember how God sees us. We have to remember that although the outside may be important to us, what’s important is what kind of person we are on the inside and how we treat others.  We have to picture people asking us… “Do you see what I see?” and must be true to ourselves in answering that question. We must to set the right examples for our children by treating our bodies with care and kindness. We have to feed it what it needs to stay healthy and vibrant not what we want as an indulgence. We are given one life, and we must value it and live it the way it was intended if we hope to get the most out of it. We can walk with pride but not in what we have created… but rather in what God has created.

“Because you only see a physical reflection when you look in the mirror,
 it does not tell the story of who you really are.
If mirrors could show the image of your heart, that would truly be something.”
Shelley Giard


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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Struggles Within Yourself

Today is a "pour it all out" kind of day. I plan to bare the bones of how I am feeling right this very second with complete and utter transparency. With this, I hold no shame because I am human, and although I have chosen a platform of being inspirational and motivational to others, I am not immune to having struggles of my own; in fact the struggles that I have had and continue to have are what allow me to come to you with words of advice from my own stories of overcoming, and well... that is what makes me real and no different from you. What may make me different than you perhaps, is how openly I share my struggles with the world; which is a choice and it is because of that choice to spill my guts that I have been able to help many people who need a boost or who simply needed to know that they were not alone in feeling how they are feeling. Hearing what this has done for people has truly presented some the greatest moments in my career proving to me that teaching, writing, sharing and inspiring others is the path I am supposed to be on. What I am finding difficult is figuring out how to do this in a much bigger way. and that is where I feel STUCK.

If you follow my blog, you know that many good things have been happening in my life lately, especially in the way of my career. For that, I am thankful; however I am also feeling a bit scattered right now and am struggling to find focus. For years, I have planted seeds... in different gardens of talent although I find they are still somewhat connected. My hope was to prosper and find a direct connect with one of those talents more than the other at some point and be relentless at becoming the BEST at it. What I did not expect was for all of those gardens to flourish at once forcing me to make a decision on which path to take. Since that is exactly what is happening I am finding myself at a crossroad... I am feeling that I have the hardest decision that I have EVER had to make ahead of me right now and I must admit that this is making me nervous. When I was 20... I took leaps of faith with a blindfold on; no qualms about it, but as I am a month away from my 40th birthday I am feeling a bit more adult and somewhat intimidated by such an important decision. (I will probably chalk this up to a midlife crisis or hormonal breakdown and laugh at myself later on.)

If there is one thing that I have learned about myself it is that I can get ANYTHING done that I set my mind to. What I have also learned is that in order to get the BEST results, I must set my mind to only one thing at a time. Scrambling is great for making eggs but breakfast is not what I have on my plate. I must be careful not to overload myself being that I have the constant job of being a parent,  which is by far the most challenging career that I manage. SO >>>>>  as I am faced with some serious career decision making, planning and executing I ask that all of you put good vibes out for me... send some prayers up... and do whatever it is you do to help those that mean something to you... I am going to need the support from my friends and fans to make this shift.

I hope that you have an amazing Tuesday... Wednesday... Thursday and beyond. If you are struggling within yourself right now, do some soul searching. Make some lists of what you need to do and what you want to do. Write down your goals and devise a plan to reach them. Until you write it down, you can't FEEL it, you cannot ENVISION it nor can you BELIEVE in it. The key to reaching your goals is to commit to doing whatever it takes, and more often than not you will be tossed WAY outside your comfort zone in order to make your dreams a reality. As I spend the next few weeks planning and deciding... I expect to be scared, I expect to be anxious and I expect to be emotional... luckily I have been there before and know that in the end it will more than likely be worth it.


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