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What Are You Celebrating?

On April 13, 1999, after years of searching for her, I called my birth mother for the first time. After she recovered from the initial shock, she said in a hushed voice “I’ve hoped and prayed this day would come.” Two weeks later, I drove to Florida and met her. I remember sitting next to her on a loveseat on the front porch of The Vinoy Hotel in St. Petersburg where we arranged to meet and feeling like our DNA was literally downloading to one another, reconnecting after 29 years apart. It was hands down the biggest event in my life in terms of my identity, my sense of self, of feeling “real” and whole.  

A wise person gave us great advice in the early days of reunion & suggested that the best way to build a foundation was to “make memories” together. So for 20 years, we have intentionally done that. We’ve made a point to attend as many milestone events as we can – birthdays, weddings and funerals in particular – and every ten years, we’ve done a BIG celebration of our reunion anniversary. We spent our 10 year anniversary in St. Augustine, Florida and our 20 year anniversary this past weekend in Asheville, North Carolina.
While an adoption reunion is a rather unique experience, we ALL have reasons to celebrate significant events in our lives. You may recall that I am writing my first book on this very topic, so on the heels of my recent celebration, I wanted to share some thoughts with you along with some personal commentary about our reunion.

Three Big Benefits of Celebration

Oprah Winfrey once said, “The more you celebrate your life, the more there is in your life to celebrate.”
I have found this to be absolutely true in my life. Ask any of my coaching clients and they’ll tell you that I love to celebrate the wins – the big wins, the little ones and everything in between. Personal wins, professional wins, daily wins and wins that are years in the making! Sometimes they laugh at me and how I can be a bit “over the top” with celebration but I remind them that other people want to see you succeed and be happy in life. When you succeed, others experience happiness and joy because they feel a connection to you. When you celebrate your successes–personal or professional–others want to be around you. We naturally gravitate to people who are positive and uplifting… and successful!
1. Celebration is good for our health and well-being. Studies have shown that when we live our lives from a place of celebration and gratitude, we are happier, healthier, more resilient, less stressed, and we have a stronger sense of community. Celebrations trigger a dopamine release in our brains. And if it feels good, we want more of it. So then we’re motivated to find more reasons to celebrate.
When Kathy and I first met, I distinctly remember feeling happier and more complete as a result of our renewed connection. I craved time with her and in the early years, wanted to spend as much time with her as possible. Every time we had a celebration–a holiday, a birthday, a baptism, a “just because” visit, I left feeling stronger, happier and more fulfilled with my life.
2. Celebration builds connection. Think about some of the most important celebrations in your life—birthdays, graduations, weddings, milestone anniversaries, job promotions, retirement, etc. Gathering people together is life-affirming, isn’t it? I bet when you recall these events with fondness, you remember specific people who were there and recall details of stories that are really etched in your memory.
One of the most memorable aspects of my wedding to Eric is that my entire immediate birth family attended-my birthmother and her three children and my birthfather, his wife and their eight children. After the ceremony, I remember inviting them to join me on the back porch and I stood in the middle of the circle of them surrounding me and thanked them for welcoming me into their lives. I took a minute to look at each person in the circle and drink in their love and support for me and for our union that day. It was a once in a lifetime experience I’ll always cherish.
3. Celebration builds self-confidence. Whether it’s receiving an award at work or being thrown a surprise birthday party, being the center of love and adoration builds your confidence and is good for your mind, body and spirit. The student who earns an award in front of the whole school for achieving a 4.0 GPA is likely to continue to be a strong student because of the positive message that is being reinforced by recognizing their hard work. The friend who isn’t looking forward to turning __ (40, 50, 60+) will hopefully feel better about their new decade if they choose to honor the occasion by going on a girlfriends getaway or planning a small dinner party.
The history of adoption in our country tends to involve a lot of secrecy and shame and reunions can help to facilitate healing. Spending time with my former book club in Asheville last weekend was a powerful affirmation of the difficult choices that Kathy faced when she was pregnant with me and also affirmed how mindfully we have entered into our reunion and have consciously cultivated the connection we now share. It’s involved effort and commitment but it’s been oh so worth it!

At its core, celebration is about witnessing others and being witnessed. It can be a sacred and powerful experience and it can be one filled with joy and laughter. I hope that by sharing our story, you can be thinking about cherished celebrations of your own and if you’re planning an upcoming milestone event (birthday, graduation, wedding, funeral, etc) and you’d like some help, I’d be glad to talk with you about my Sacred Celebrations Coaching Services… a fairly new offering but one guaranteed to help you plan your next big event with meaning and intention.
What are you celebrating? (leave a comment and let me know so I can celebrate with you!)



Life Lessons from The Grand Canyon



Last week, my family had the joy of traveling out west during Riley’s spring break. Eric’s Aunt Martha is celebrating her 80th birthday this year. She and her husband, Orlando, invited us to join them for a nine-day excursion in the Southwestern United States. We flew in and out of Phoenix, Arizona but stayed four nights in Flagstaff and then four nights in Kanab, Utah. We were able to visit The Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce National Parks…. Wow, just wow!

Not only did we have a great time and create lots of family memories together, the trip was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the things which really matter in life. Travel has a way of putting life in perspective and helping you to be fully present. Whether you’re growing a business, raising a family, caring for aging parents, or simply trying to be a good human and make the world a better place. Hopefully, these simple reminders will be helpful for you!

Revere Mother Nature. Seeing the Grand Canyon is a gob-smacking experience. I remember the first time I saw it 20 years ago, I was so moved that I was speechless. I recall that my mouth seemed to stop working as my brain took time to try to process the beauty and expansion before me. This time, I knew what to expect. Even so, I immediately started to cry when I stepped out onto Mather Point (the first place most visitors see on the South Rim). The sheer AWE-some-ness of it is not easily described in words, it’s something to be experienced and savored in the cells of your body.

While the Grand Canyon is spectacular, you can find ways to honor Mother Nature in your own neighborhood, too…watching the sun rise, walking on the grass barefoot, observing butterflies, birds and other critters in your garden, admiring the trees and the flowers blooming in spring time…Mother Nature is in perfect balance and we have much to learn from Her.

Let the Children Lead the Way.
All of our National Parks have a Junior Ranger Program and each time we visit one, Riley throws herself into the project with gusto. We were walking the Rim Trail from Mather Point up to the museum but we were trying to meet up with Aunt Martha who chose to ride the bus. So Eric and I were clipping along at a good pace, stopping occasionally to enjoy the view, but also being mindful that we had to meet up with Martha. Riley, however, was clear. “Mom, Dad, I HAVE TO SIT DOWN.” At first we didn’t understand why. But then she explained that one of her activities was to sit quietly for 10 minutes and describe how the air felt, what sounds she heard, and what animals she observed. Then she had to write a poem and create a drawing. What she produced was profound. She helped us to slow down and really savor the experience.

How often do you rush through your day moving from Point A to Point B? If you have little people in your life (or pets, they’re good at this too!), let them show you how to slow down and be fully present in each experience.

Spend Money on Experiences, Not Things.
Because we live so far away from family, it’s not often that we get to spend such quality extended time with three generations. Keeping an 8-year-old and an 80-year-old happy (not to mention the other three parties present) was a balancing act for sure. We will remember so many highlights of this trip… listening to the wolves howl at Bearizona in Williams, Arizona…inhaling the five most delicious pieces of pie I’ve ever tasted from the Pine Country Restaurant (thanks to my friend Joe, for the tip!)…watching a majestic but endangered condor fly below us at the rim of the Grand Canyon…delighting in the mystical and magical waterfalls at Zion Canyon…throwing snowballs with the snow covered hoodoos at Bryce Canyon as our backdrop.

As you plan your next birthday, anniversary, graduation, or other big celebration, consider planning an experience for friends and family instead of just buying stuff. Don’t get me wrong, gifts are my love language and I love both giving and receiving them. But giving the gift of an experience—whether it’s hosting a backyard barbecue, going out for karaoke night or having a cupcake baking party—will be memorable for a long time to come.

Connections Make Things Personal.
One of Eric’s former colleagues is now the Director of Engineering at the Grand Canyon National Park. (How cool is that?!) So we had a chance to have lunch with Steve while we were out there and learned so many things about the behind the scenes goings on at the park that we never would have known. We also got to hear Steve tell us about his daily runs down into the canyon, clearly a game changing life experience for this ultra distance runner. We all enjoyed the day just a little bit more having the “insider” scoop from Steve.

When someone says “Call me” or “Let’s stay in touch” or “I’m glad to help,” take them for their word, and then follow through when the occasion arises. You never know when connecting with someone can make an experience extra-special!
Inspired Action: Leave a comment and let me know which one of these “life lessons” was a good reminder for you. I’d love to hear about what you’re valuing these days and I’d also love to hear about any recent travels that YOU have had and what you learned!

Five Gifts to Give Yourself for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching! 

I try to ignore the naysayers who think it’s a sappy Hallmark holiday designed to get people to buy fancy cards, too much chocolate and highly overpriced roses and I prefer to embrace a broader interpretation of Valentine’s Day and say that it’s about celebrating love of ALL kinds.

And if you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I believe all good relationships with others begin by having a good relationship with yourself. 

Just as you nurture your relationships with your children, your spouse, your parents, your friends, your coworkers, your boss, your clients, your neighbors… You have to intentionally nurture your relationship with yourself. 

But life gets busy, and we often don’t take time to do that. So I’m going to suggest that this week, you block off some time in your calendar to do something just for you. 

Read below for a few ideas… 

1. Declutter. OK, so it doesn’t sound very sexy, but the truth is, getting rid of your clutter is one of the kindest things you can for yourself. It’s liberating, it’s inspiring AND you will start breathing easier right away. Yep, I admit it. I’ve fallen under the spell of Marie Kondo, too. I originally bought her book when it was first released a few years ago, but it didn’t speak to me at the time. I did watch her first episode on Netflix a few weeks ago, and was inspired to tackle my office. What a difference! Where will you begin your decluttering adventures?

2. Read. Anything, but preferably fiction! It transports you to an alternate reality, helps you to learn about people and places different from you, you develop empathy for the characters in your novel, and sometimes you even learn new perspectives on problem-solving that you can apply to your everyday life! Two novels that I have thoroughly enjoyed this past month are Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng and This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel.  (If you’re a regular reader, I’d love for you to hit “reply” and tell me what you recommend. I’m always looking for a good novel!)

3. Go outside. You’ve heard me say this before, but there is no better balancer than Mother Nature. Whether it’s stepping into your backyard and walking in the grass on your bare feet or taking a hike in the mountains or spending a lazy day at the beach, let the natural rhythms of the outdoors rebalance your system. If you only have 15 minutes or an hour, take it. If you can schedule a day or a weekend outside, even better! So where are you going to go first?

4. Seek support. Whether you need practical strategic support from (Ahem!) a business coach, inspiring wisdom from an (Ahem!) intuitive coach or you need to get guidance from your therapist on a particular issue, it’s always valuable to seek external input from trusted sources. And sometimes, just calling your mom, having lunch with a valued confidante or gathering a group of friends together is just as good (or better) than any coaching or therapy ever could be! 

5. Indulge in Little Luxuries. A little luxury goes along way. Especially if you have Marie Kondo-ed your life, perhaps you can treat yourself to something special. Get rid of the five cheap purses that you have, and invest in one nice one. Instead of grabbing sushi at the local grocery store for lunch every day, treat yourself to a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant. Recycle your yellow lined legal pads and treat yourself to a beautifully designed journal  - PaperBlanks are my favorite. Or do something more mundane and go buy yourself new underwear! I just did that a few weeks ago and it made me so happy. It’s one of those things that I just never get around to buying… underwear, bras and socks. They are foundational elements and when we feel good underneath, we sparkle more on the outside! What little luxury will you treat yourself to this week?

Sending you lots of love this Valentine’s month with a reminder to do something just for you!