Leather Chair Reading! Fiercehearted!

Leather Chair Reading!  Fiercehearted!

There’s nothing better, in my opinion, than a good book that celebrates everything that makes women unique!  So as we celebrate this month of Valentine’s, let’s not forget to acknowledge our own goodness and embrace life, love and faith…so that we might live fully and love bravely!

“We lose ourselves in books, but we can find ourselves in them too!”  Tribute Journal

Fiercehearted  by Holly Gerth

January always seems to be a cold, hazy blur…so when February arrives, I need that proverbial “shot in the arm” so to speak, that picks me up out of the winter doldrums and gives me a little motivating gumption–and this book does it in spades.

“Every day we struggle to find more freedom, joy and purpose.  What if the solution isn’t trying harder or being better, but embracing the fiercehearted woman we each have inside us already!”  Holley Gerth

This book is like having a thoughtful conversation with a good friend where you aren’t afraid to be yourself–or even be a little vulnerable.  While in a perfect world, we’d all like to be on our best behavior and share only the good things we like about ourselves…if we’re completely honest, it’s nice to be able to let our hair down on occasion and expose a few weaknesses, then discuss ways we can capitalize on those shortcomings and ultimately make them work in our favor with someone we can trust.  In this book, Holley Gerth, is that understanding confidant who accepts things as they are, but outlines some critical notions that have helped her better navigate the journey of her struggles to make life less messy and complicated.

A Fiercehearted Woman…

Trusts her heart!  One of the things I love about this book is that each chapter begins with a quote from a fellow female author.  Ms. Gerth also writes each chapter so that they seem like they’re a collection of loosely connected thoughts covering an assortment of topics from prayer and child-like faith to dealing with the inner conflict that comes from trying to meet all your obligations.  The powerful concepts presented in this book suggest that perhaps the solution to living more fully isn’t necessarily in trying harder or being better, but rather, by simply striving to be more in tune with the strengths of the “fiercehearted” woman that is inside each of us already!

“What will you do with your one wild and precious life?  Mary Oliver

Lives a good story!   If you’ve ever caught yourself looking at someone else and thinking—oh man, why can’t I have their perfect life…Chapter 9 titled, “On The Shelf” is the perfect antidote for lifting you out of that mindset!  Ms. Gerth tells how she will often go to her local library to be inspired when writing.  One day while sitting surrounded by endless shelves of books that covered a myriad of topics from love and war to mysteries and memoirs, an analogy came to mind that gave her a new perspective on how to live her life more fully.

“In this world of options and opportunity, we believe that somehow we should pick any and all of them.  If you think about it though, instead of living fully in the reality of our own lives, we often find ourselves lost on the pages of ‘what might have been’ or ‘what could be’ –we catch ourselves wanting to live someone else’s story; a book with a more exciting cover and brilliant reviews from our peers.”

She goes on to suggest that when we really take a good look around us, we quickly realize that while many of the details are different, in many ways our stories are very similar…and we should begin to see our stories for what they are–unique, glory-filled, flawed works of art.  “We need to find the courage to stand by each other and be comfortable as we live our own stories.  Like my mom always used to tell me, instead of comparing ourselves with others, let’s celebrate one another and show more understanding and compassion as we all try to do our best.  To be certain, our lives seem to take on a magical quality when we stop comparing our lives to those we perceive as having more, and instead begin to intentionally appreciate all that we are blessed to have!

“Let’s be the heroines in our own wild, imperfect, glorious stories.  Never understudies for someone else’s.”  Holley Gerth

Has grit and gumption!  It’s my belief that despite our fears, we can still be brave, courageous and successful; everyone experiences fear and doubt in their lives, it’s what we choose to do with that fear that determines our course in life.  I love that Ms. Gerth points out that we’re rarely given the perfect conditions to forge ahead with our dreams and aspirations.

“Yes, our talents, education and preparation can be helpful tools, but they are not as helpful as flat-out grit.”

Ultimately, we need to have faith in ourselves so we can put one foot in front of the other and have enough gumption and stamina to not quit.  I believe it’s normal to be a little afraid; it’s learning to not let it control or defeat us–or even paralyze us into never doing the hard work that it takes to live fully and love bravely.  Failure seems to have a way of tempting us to think that we are foolish and presumptuous to keep on trying.  But as this wise author points out, “…when we do what is life-giving, worthwhile and beautiful, we are sure to face a certain amount of resistance.”  Like Ms Gerth, at the end of my days, I want completion and contentment not perfection.  When I come to heaven’s doorstep, I want to be sweaty and tired from giving my very best effort!This is just a small glimpse into a powerful and encouraging book that shows us how to better savor our lives in a world that can sometimes leave us feeling unsure about ourselves.  In the end…this book not only spoke to my heart and made it stronger–it made it grow in countless ways too…and that, my friends, is what a good book is all about!

“It’s never too late for a happily ever after.”  Lovelle Gerth-Meyers

A Fiercehearted Woman Manifesto!

This is an adaptation of an outpouring of Ms. Gerth’s heart during a particularly trying period in her life.  Lucky for us, her healing process gives us a step up when we are navigating a difficult time.

Get a free download file HERE.

Have you read any great books lately that really spoke to your heart and made you feel stronger?


The Art Of The Small Gesture!

The Art Of The Small Gesture!

Recently, I watched an interview being conducted with entrepreneur, Ken Langone, founder of Home Depot.  I was impressed with his unlikely rise to fame and fortune from a hard-working teenager digging ditches and collecting used cardboard, to becoming a highly regarded and upstanding businessman that often doesn’t fit the mold, so to speak, of conventional Wall Street executives.  I believe, however, that it’s his philosophy of life that ultimately set him on a course of true greatness…

While Mr. Langone has decidedly dedicated his life to grand scale gestures of philanthropy, which include awarding college scholarships to many dedicated store employees, overseeing afterschool programs for underprivileged youth in Harlem, New York and pledging funding to New York University for medical research and free tuition for medical students, he is just as diligent at pursuing smaller gestures of kindness, in fact, he attributes the many lessons learned in his youth for helping this simple notion become the main emphasis of his life.

Mastering The Art Of The Small Gesture!

I figured that the month we celebrate Valentine’s Day was a good time to work on the art of the small gesture–hopefully we’re already focused on wanting to show some thoughtful kindness to those we love, as well as those we meet that might need a little positive boost!  I certainly prefer heartfelt acts of kindness to chocolate and flowers…okay, I’ll take a little chocolate too!

It’s the little, everyday gestures that really matter! ♥  

After a particularly hectic shift at the hospital a few weeks ago, I walked into our home to see low flames burning in our fireplace, the carpet vacuumed and a simple, but lovely dinner prepared by my sweet hubby–obviously he’d heard the strain in my voice when we had talked briefly earlier in the day.  I couldn’t help but step back a moment and take in the scene before me and feel my stress ease.  Getting in the habit of learning to think outside our own needs to do some of the little things that we know will make others feel special is one of the best ways to make sure that small loving gestures are an everyday occurrence!  And if we’re on the receiving end of a small gesture…showing genuine appreciation is a small gesture that will not go unnoticed!

♥ Small gestures help us stay connected! ♥

As the world gets busier and more digital, small gestures become increasingly more important…the emails we don’t respond to, the texts we forget, the “likes” we don’t give, the comments we choose not to write.  We have no idea how much these would mean for those on the receiving end.  Small, thoughtful gestures help us stay connected in a world where we all long for acceptance and a sense of community.  So let’s send those thank you notes, look someone in the eye, give support and encouragement, and offer a helping hand when given the opportunity!

The small gesture of touch is powerful! ♥

Who doesn’t love the small gesture of touch?  Did you know that according to neurologist, Shekar Ramon, MD, human touch stimulates receptors under the skin which increase oxytocin levels in the brain and results in lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels, which effectively reduces stress…and over time, lower blood pressure reduces a person’s risk of heart disease.  The power of a compassionate touch of a hand or a reassuring hug or pat on the back can literally take away our fears, soothe our anxieties and fill the emptiness of being lonely…ultimately leading to more happiness and joy!

  “I love the kind of hugs where you physically feel sadness leaving your body!” Charlie Brown, Peanuts” comic strip

Small, kind gestures give us strength!♥

There may be times when acquaintances, friends or loved ones have problems that we can’t help them with, but this is when I’ve found that thoughtful gestures seem to have the most impact.  We can’t necessarily make their problems go away, but our kindness can help give them the strength they need to get through whatever they’re facing.  By doing small things for others, we are more likely to create the kind of relationships that help us better weather the storms life can throw at us.

Lastly, I feel another important component in offering small gestures is to give them freely without expecting anything in return.  People may not take notice, much less return the kindnesses, but we can take heart in the fact that we are doing our part to create the kind of world we want to live in.

“Amid the chaos of everyday life, we need to be reassured that goodness exists; we should let it fill our souls, then do our part to pass it on.”  Tribute Journal 

I’d love to hear about any small gestures you’ve received that have made a big impact on your life!

–With love, Mary

Cinderella Days! Cultivating Children’s Talents!

Cinderella Days!  Cultivating Children’s Talents!

As adults, we recognize that finding out what we’re passionate about in life helps it become a lot more worthwhile and exhilarating.  I suppose it’s safe to say that our children want to discover what they love too…however, they may not always know how to fully express what they really enjoy or how they should go about cultivating their true interests.  That is when we as conscientious parents (and grandparents) can step in and assist and offer support!  When planning my special Cinderella Days with my grandkids, I try to keep this in mind by planning a variety of different activities that they can participate in so they’re exposed to a wide assortment of experiences they can enjoy and even excel at. 

“Talent cannot be taught…but it can be awakened.”  Wallace Stegner

I learned first hand with my own kids, that as parents we cannot make our children like something or truly embrace it if it’s something they really don’t want to do; for the most part, the desire and drive to achieve a talent must come from within them.  In fact, Dr. Gail Saltz, a clinical professor of psychiatry and her research team at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, conducted scientific EEG studies of the brain and found that, “only when a child identifies with others who have a specific talent, and he or she really believes that they could learn to excel at this skill, will their brain be stimulated and dopamine (a pleasure chemical) released, drawing them to want to take part in that particular activity.”    

Here then are a few things I’ve learned raising my own children and doing further research on the topic of cultivating children’s talents…        

• Love the Child You’ve Got!

We all have dreams for our kids, but obviously, every child is unique with their own unique interests, natural abilities and ambitions.  First and foremost, children need to know they are loved for who they are.  Don’t compare your child to the kid next door or even to their own siblings. 

“We should stop thinking of our children as bonsai trees that need to be carefully pruned, and begin thinking of them as wildflowers that will reveal their own unique and glorious beauty!”  Julie Lythcott

One of the best things we can do for our children is to let go of preconceived definitions of success and simply help them blaze their own trail to personal achievement.

While it may be easier, and a lot less messy, to bake on their own, I love how my son and daughter-in-law have embraced my sweet grandson, Elliot’s love of helping them in the kitchen.  His future wife will surely thank them too! 

My oldest granddaughters have shown me many times that they have a natural flair for party planning as they help me prepare fun activities for our family!  

• Explore the Possibilities!

It’s tempting to load our kids up with multiple classes and scheduled activities to see which one sticks, but I found that one of the best ways my children were able to discover what they loved was to have some downtime to develop a sense of wonder about the world around them.

I’ll admit, I loved raising my children in the day and age where “screen time” wasn’t part of our common vernacular.  I’m a firm believer that children often stumble upon things they enjoy doing when they are given time to go play and discover all the wonderful possibilities!  You just never know when those home-spun talent shows will lead to a role on Broadway or simply being in a school play later on in life.  And perhaps all those DIY go-carts will lead to a career in construction or just make them a very handy person to have around for all those little projects that will need to get done when they own a home. 

The creativity and ingenuity it takes to build a makeshift car caravan, complete with shade, should come in handy as a child discovers what they love to do.

 • Foster Growth!

In his book, Developing Talent In Young People, author, Benjamin Bloom, cites a five year study he conducted with 120 gifted children that found that though these youth had exceptional talents, they were also encouraged by parents and mentors who helped nurture their natural abilities, which in turn, boosted self-esteem and belief in their individual strengths.  Another important factor that fostered growth in a child’s particular area of interest was the parent’s ability to make sure early talent development was positive, fun and not pushed; parents who were engaged, but not overbearing and made practicing an enjoyable experience were key factors in seeing these youth excel–adults should kindly guide and inspire their drive!  Dr. Bloom cautions against parents spreading their children’s time and energy too thin.  He noted that children typically show exceptional talent in one or two areas only…not in everything!          

“Your talent can determine what you can do.  Your motivation can determine how much you are willing to do.  But your attitude will determine how well you really do it.”  Lou Holtz

I would also add that while praise and encouragement go a long way toward helping children develop their talents, I also think it’s good to know when to push them a little; complacency can have a powerful hold over someone learning to fulfill their potential!  We all know that seeking after anything worthwhile is often faced with overcoming some obstacles along the way.      

While dancing is her most cherished talent, I love that my granddaughter, Marli, has practiced hard to progress in her soccer skills too.  She’s definitely the most graceful runner on the field.  It’s fun to support this little energetic dynamo! 

• Be Their Biggest Cheerleaders!

I don’t think we can ever underestimate the power of being a child’s biggest fan and supporter.   Their interests in areas that they love and areas that come naturally to them will help them shine–especially when their most devoted cheerleaders are in the audience!    When children’s strengths are encouraged by others, one of the best things that comes of it is that children learn to be independent, responsible, (mom won’t always be there reminding them to practice) and most important, resilient individuals that understand that while they may not always win first place, they can celebrate the fact that those who love them most celebrate their best efforts!   

My daughter, Malia, has devoted countless hours to helping her oldest daughters in their desire to play the violin.  Makena took an interest in the violin when she was just four years old.  Marli followed suit after watching her older sister.  Practicing and performing take a lot of time, but we’re their biggest fans! 

• Expect the Unexpected!

Perhaps you have one dream in mind for your child and they have an entirely different one…and just when you think they’ve found the activity or talent that will give their life special meaning, they surprise you and replace the leotards and tutus for basketball shorts and high tops…or they maybe add something new to their repertoire that you didn’t even see coming!   It may not be easy to let go of one dream to see it replaced by another, but in the end, the only way children find their true passion is to pursue various activities that interest them and give them confidence and a sense of purpose.  

“Find a purpose in life so big that it will challenge every capacity you have to always be your very best!”  David O. McKay  

My two year-old granddaughter, Maylan, was not content to just sit in the lodge while her sister’s skied.  So my daughter and her husband took her request to heart and are teaching her to ski…she cries when they have to go home!!! 

Our oldest granddaughter, Makena, has such a fun personality, but is a little shy when it comes to performing in public.  So you can imagine our surprise when she told us that she was trying out for her school play.  She soon realized she loved acting while playing the part of a cavalier pirate in “Peter Pan”!  

In looking back on my life, I feel that one of my biggest accomplishments was working hard to be a good mom and teaching my children to become great parents themselves–which they are!  That definitely takes a certain degree of talent…and now I get to enjoy being a grandma!    

Any secrets you’ve discovered that help your children cultivate their talents?

–Love, Mary