Are you a Leader in Your Own Life?

Leadership is a series of behaviors rather than a role for heroes.” Margaret Wheatley

Are you a leader? Google this question and you’ll find articles and quizzes to help you determine the answer. But even if you are not a leader by the world’s standards, may I suggest we can all be leaders in our own lives.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Isn’t everyone a leader in their own life?”

I don’t think so. People who are very passive are not leading their life. People who are addicted are controlled by their addiction. People who can’t say “No” are letting others guide their life. And what about people who have no goals? People who can’t make a decision?

We all have the ability to be leaders in our own life. It is we who decide how to spend our time. We decide whether to go out for a walk or watch TV. We decide whether to acknowledge our spiritual side. We decide how important material wealth is to us. We choose to take care of ourselves—or not.

Bronnie Ware, a former palliative care nurse, says here that the most common regret people have on their death bed is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” If we aren’t being a leader in our own life, we may someday find ourselves asking, “What was my life all about?”

I decided to reflect on one aspect of my life, work and ministry, to see if I’m satisfied with how I’ve led that part of my life so far.

  • After college, I was a computer engineer at a corporation for eight years until my first child was born.
  • I parented my three children, who are now young adults.
  • When my youngest entered school, I worked part-time as an office manager.
  • I also worked for a nonprofit, which I much enjoyed, although it ended regrettably. See Eyes of Faith.
  • Currently I’m my church’s librarian. My husband and I serve as local Community Coordinators for Worldwide Marriage Encounter. And obviously, I blog. None are paid positions, but these ministries are how I serve and lead at this time.

What does my history of Work and Ministry say about me? I think it says I care more about my work and ministry having a purpose than having a big salary. And I’m OK with that. However, I will be regretful if I reach the end of my life and haven’t written more for publication (perhaps a book.) Currently I am taking a Fiction Writing class, but I want to work harder in this area.

Now how about you?

Review your history in one aspect of your life such as Work and Ministry. What does your past say about you? Are you happy with how you’ve led that area of your life so far? Is there a change you want to make?

Posted in Empowerment, Encouragement, Inspiration, Intentional Living, Leading Ourselves, Motivation, personal leadership, Proactive, self-care | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

18 Inspiring Quotes by Women

“Most collectors collect tangibles. As a quotation collector, I collect wisdom, life, invisible beauty, souls alive in ink.” – Terri Guillemets

Happy International Women’s Day, which celebrates the achievements of women while pointing out that inequalities still exist. You may have noticed that I begin every blog post with a relevant quote by a woman. Frankly, such quotes are sometimes hard to find. Women are wise, but perhaps their wisdom has not always been recognized.

The theme for the 2014 International Women’s Day is Inspiring Change. Here are 18 inspiring quotes by women.

  1. “One should never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.” – Helen Keller

2. “Keep on beginning and failing. Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose…not the one you began with perhaps, but one you’ll be glad to remember.” – Anne Sullivan

3. “All that is necessary to break the spell of inertia and frustration is this: Act as if it were impossible to fail. That is the talisman, the formula, the command of right-about-face which turns us from failure towards success.” – Dorothea Brande

4. “Don’t wait for a light to appear at the end of the tunnel, stride down there and light the bloody thing yourself.” – Sara Henderson

5. “You were born to fly, so spread your angel wings and be what you came here to be, do what you came here to do. The time is now, and the world is waiting.” – Sherri Lane

6. “Your future is found in your daily routine. Successful people do daily what others do occasionally!” – Paula White

7. “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” – St. Catherine of Siena

8. “No matter how we have ignored our dreams, our dreams remain, and we will have no peace until we act on them.” – Julia Cameron

9. “All the arts we practice are apprenticeship –– the big art is our life.”– M. C. Richards

10. “Believing something is one thing. But the best things only come when you decide to be living it.” – Ann Voskamp

11. “If you wait for inspiration to get started, you’ll never get it done. Just get started. Inspiration will come once you begin moving forward.” – Valorie Burton

12. “If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.” – Mary Pickford

13. “The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.” – Malala Yousafzai

 14. “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” – Mary Anne Radmacher

15. “Be happy in the moment, that’s enough.  Each moment is all we need, not more.” – Mother Teresa

16. “The clock is ticking fast. Burn the candle large.” – Diane Sawyer

17. “We should never, ever give up. . . . You’re never too old to chase your dream.” – Diane Nyad

18. “This life is yours. Take the power to choose what you want to do and do it well. Take the power to love what you want in life and love it honestly. Take the power to walk in the forest and be a part of nature. Take the power to control your own life. No one else can do it for you. Take the power to make your life happy.” – Susan Polis Schutz

Please share your favorite quotes by women.  How will you celebrate International Women’s Day?

Posted in Empowerment, Inspiration, Women | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Friends of All Ages

“If we all understood we can learn from both older and younger people, then we’d have a better world.” – Adora Svitak

When my friend Tina went through chemotherapy for breast cancer some years ago, her experience deepened the friendship between her, our friend Georgia, and myself. We all became more spiritual and our conversations reflected that. We wrote emails sharing lessons that we’d learned in life.

Georgia shared several gems:

  • Without the beauty of God’s creations to surround them, man’s creations are bleak and cold.
  • Life is like a roller coaster, and nothing makes you appreciate the high points like going through the lows and the wild curves.
  • Good friends are forever . . . and to quote the Beatles, ‘I get by with a little help from my friends.’

Some of Tina’s comments were:

  • Listen to good music every day—all the time.
  • Always read a few good pages throughout the day.
  • Pray and do everything as if it is the Lord who is setting your goals every day.

I’ve learned much from Tina, Georgia, and other friends near my age. But I’ve also learned from both older and younger friends.

An older friend, Karen, helped me put my job loss in perspective a couple of years ago. “If you don’t need the money right now, view this time as a gift.” And when I went through angst about not knowing how to write a book, she said, “Sue, you have everything you need within you to write a book. When you’re ready, you will write it.”

Another older friend volunteers with me at our parish library. Although I am technically the head librarian, she has advanced degrees in English and Religious Studies and a decade of practical knowledge that I rely on.

But I also learn from my younger friends. My three young-adult children generally make healthier food choices than I do and get more exercise. My daughter Katie is a vegetarian and got me thinking about whether the animals I eat are treated humanely. I choose to eat meat, but after another young friend posted a video showing how some animals are treated, I try to ensure the meat I eat is from animals that were humanely raised.

My young friends are perhaps more idealistic than some of us who may be a bit jaded after setbacks. They don’t stay in work situations that make them unhappy. I see them pursuing their dreams and I’m inspired to keep at it myself.

I also admire their spirit of adventure. They take advantage of greater opportunities for travel. Both of my daughters have lived overseas (one in South Korea and the other in Spain.) These were times of growth and enjoyment for them.

Finally, my young friends accept and respect lifestyles different from theirs including (sometimes with bemusement) mine. I’ve learned from their example.

Probably every generation thinks they can teach their elders a few things. And each generation thinks they can teach those younger than them.

And they’re right.

Do you have friends who are different ages than you?  What life lessons have you learned from your friends?

Posted in Friendship, Inspiration, personal leadership, Proactive, Spiritual, Support | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Benefiting From a Journal

“We should write because humans are spiritual beings and writing is a powerful form of prayer and meditation, connecting us both to our own insights and to a higher and deeper level of inner guidance.” – Julia Cameron

Since the New Year, I’ve been writing in my journal every day. In the past I hand wrote my entries in notebooks, but now I typically use the computer. My handwriting is difficult for even me to read, and the computer helps me track how many words I write each day.

Some days, I do self-guided journaling and answer a question such as “What are my priorities for this week?” Other days I free write about whatever comes to mind. This is similar to the concept of morning pages that Julia Cameron writes about: “Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning.”

Journaling every day gives me unexpected benefits. It ensures that I reflect on my life and don’t just go through the motions. Recently, I pondered what was stopping me from entering a writing contest. A reviewer had made an offensive remark about the piece I wanted to submit. Writing about this made me realize the comment had been made on an early draft. My resistance melted and I submitted the piece. Since the New Year, I’ve submitted three items to contests and a magazine.

Journaling helps me articulate what’s important and what’s not. It helps me make decisions such as: “Should I apply for a part-time job?” and “Do I want to go to my women’s club meeting today?”

My journal also helps me process dramas in my life. An acquaintance recently made a thoughtless comment that insulted me. I wrote about what happened and my feelings about it. I realized the remark said more about her than me. Journaling lets us vent without ruining someone else’s day. We can put our angst on the page and get it out of our heads.

On a bad day, I write in my journal and ask how I can make the day go better. In that way, journaling is like a conversation with my wiser self. One day I was frustrated and decided I simply needed to get things done. I listed in my journal what I wanted to do, turned off the computer, and did them.

On another day everything was going wrong. I wrote it all down including “Dexter (my dog) threw up three times.” “I burned the spaghetti sauce.” “I feel frumpy today.” Eventually I admonished myself. “Well, whine, whine, whine, Sue! This is an unbelievable amount of crabbing and ‘poor me’ attitude. I am probably simply tired.” I went to bed early, and the next day went well.

When a problem is too great for even my wiser self, my journal becomes a prayer. I write “Dear God, why do things like this have to happen?” I may not uncover the “why” but putting it in God’s hands can bring me peace.

For journaling resources and assistance, I recommend Refresh with Dawn Herring: For a Fresh Perspective in All of Life’s Dimensions.

Do you journal? What benefits has it given you? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Posted in Bad days, Journal, personal leadership, self-care | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments

Reason to Celebrate

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” – Edith Lovejoy Pierce 

New Year’s Eve is for me a momentous occasion. Tonight I will celebrate that 2013 was a great year. High points were:

  • The many walks I took with my daughter and a friend
  • Seeing several fun shows – musicals, Blue Man Group, bands during the summer
  • A good relationship with my husband and family
  • The fun of interacting with you, my blog readers
  • A fantastic family vacation to Spain and France.

However, I’m also celebrating because 2013 is over. Tomorrow begins a New Year–another chance to get it right. Even though 2013 was a good year, I yearn for something more. I dream of writing a book and earning an income from writing.

Writing a book and earning some income were two of my most important resolutions last year, and I did not achieve them. It is apparent that I need to do more than make resolutions to achieve my goals. Here is my action plan for 2014:

  • I will adhere to a daily routine which I have posted by my computer. This plan includes “butt in chair” time for writing.
  • I have signed up for a video course of “The Artist’s Way” taught by Julia Cameron. This should free up my creativity.
  • I am putting my writing in God’s hands this year and trusting that He will help me.
  • I will spend more time reflecting and stop looking for answers elsewhere.
  • I must and will say “No” more often.

2013 is over, but I’ve got another chance in 2014. So do you. Happy New Year!

Are you celebrating because 2013 is over or are you celebrating because it was a good year? What are your hopes for 2014? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.



Posted in Encouragement, New Year, positive-thinking | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Christmas Past

“This is the message of Christmas:  We are never alone.” – Taylor Caldwell 

The Advent season this year had its ups and downs for me. During the first week in December, I seemed to have two weeks of activity packed into one. I enjoyed a dinner and trolley ride with my local Women’s Club, a Christmas walk where I toured beautiful homes decorated for Christmas, a post-Thanksgiving pot luck, two Advent teas, a Worldwide Marriage Encounter potluck/meeting, and a birthday party for a friend. It was a fun week but I probably did too much.

I spent the next week or more resting because of a heavy cold. I slept 11 hours a night, which is much more than my usual, and did little during the day.

During this time, I rather compulsively read Christmas cozy fiction and mysteries. Finally I asked myself, “What am I avoiding by all this reading? Why do I keep reading books that show me how others do Christmas?”

At first, I thought I had nostalgia for Christmases past that never quite lived up to the extravagant traditional Christmas as depicted by authors including Charles Dickens. Dancing, plum pudding, and caroling were part of these fictional Christmases. My favorite story is “A Christmas Carol,” where Scrooge goes being from a mean miser to being the happiest of men who celebrated Christmas and became a friend to all he met.

But I realized my melancholy was actually because of having lost too many loved ones. My parents, my husband’s parents, our grandparents, and three close friends have all passed on. I also know three people who passed away just before Christmas this year – my sister-in-law’s father, our church’s beloved deacon, and a 48-year-old woman from my women’s club.

A friend told me she’d be spending Christmas Eve with her kids and other relatives and Christmas Day with her parents and her aunt. When I responded, “That sounds nice,” she said, “Whoop-di-do! Spending Christmas day with old people.” I know, and she probably knows, that someday she will miss these quiet holidays spent with “old people.” We have to count the blessings we have, and sometimes we don’t realize our blessings until they are gone.

During this topsy-turvy Advent season, I also have had moments of gratefulness and joy. I feel gratitude for the beautiful family I have, for friends and relatives, even for where I live. One day near Christmas, I shopped at a nearby small city, and felt much gratitude for living where I do. My town is close enough to this small city where I can take advantage of its shops, restaurants, and river walk, while living nearby in a smaller town with less traffic.

My town also has a beautiful arboretum where I love to go and be rejuvenated by nature. We went there about a week ago for their holiday show at night, “Illuminations.” What a stunning display—I was proud to have it right in my own home town.

Christmas Eve began with my husband and me driving to a funeral while listening to Christmas carols, which felt surreal. We went to a second Mass with our children later that day – this time for Christmas. The two Masses each had an entirely different focus, but I felt at peace at both.

In a sense, our deceased loved ones were with us for the holidays. My family celebrated Christmas Eve with my husband’s extended family, and this is always a fun party. Ken’s parents hosted it in the past. We’d have a big feast and play a fun grab-bag game. His sister now hosts the event. His parents always made cheese blintzes – now Ken and I carry on that tradition.

On Christmas Day, Ken and I hosted dinner at our house for our family and my two sisters. Then we played 500 Rummy – just like we often did at family gatherings when my parents were alive. It was an epic game as it took us 24 rounds before someone got to 500, thus creating a new memory. We laughed as we imitated how my Dad used to play. Just for fun, he’d say, “These cards are marked!” and pound the table.

And so, we remember. We remember our loved ones and we carry on the love they had for us and the love we had for them.

God did not promise life would be one happy moment after another. But He did promise that He would be with us through it all. That is a lesson to be learned at Christmas. God is with us through all our ups and downs.

So let us remember the final words of “A Christmas Carol”. “It was always said of [Scrooge] that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, Every One!”

May God bless you and your loved ones, and may you be at peace.

Did you celebrate Christmas or another holiday recently? Please share your experience in the comments below.



Posted in Christian, Christmas, faith, God, Gratitude, Self-compassion | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Giving Thanks

“Gratitude is the real treasure God wants us to find, because it isn’t the pot of gold but the rainbow that colors our world.”― Richelle E. Goodrich, author

This morning I participated in a local Turkey Trot as part of my family’s Thanksgiving tradition. Many years when I’ve done this 5K race, I began with a litany of complaints:

  •  I didn’t train enough
  •  I forgot my water
  •  I’ve got plantar fasciitis and don’t feel like running

This year, I began and finished the race with a litany of thanksgiving instead. As I waited for the race to begin, I thought:

  •  I’m so grateful to be able to run!
  •  I did my best to prepare by drinking water yesterday and eating carbs for dinner.
  •  I know I can run a mile straight, so let me try to run a little farther.
  •  What a great thing to do with my family. I hope to be able to do this in the years ahead.
A family doing a Turkey Trot - Photo taken from

A family doing a Turkey Trot – Photo taken from

Mostly I ran the race just listening to inspiring music on my IPod. But I did notice a few people:

  • A father with his young son, maybe five years old. After just a quarter mile, the son said, “I’m tired.” Dad answered, “So am I, but we’re not going to quit, are we?” The son said, “No way!” Dad answered, “You’re doing awesome.”

What a wonderful role model and supporter of his son.

  •  As I passed the one-mile marker, I saw a young girl (again around five years old) standing by the side of the road with her Dad. She wore a race number and apparently had tired out. After a couple of blocks, Dad and daughter passed me. Dad was carrying his daughter on his shoulders.

It is easy to think of what we don’t have instead of what we do have. It is easy to notice the bad in the world instead of the good that is around us. My challenge for you is to go out and take a walk or go for a run, whichever you prefer. Go half a block or go ten miles, whatever is right for you. If you can’t go today, go tomorrow. I challenge you to think only positive thoughts as you step forward, and I challenge you to give thanks along the way.

Happy Thanksgiving!

What are you grateful for today?

Posted in Attitude, Gratitude, Inspiration, positive-thinking, Running | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments