Holding Each Other Accountable

“Obligers do things more easily for others than for themselves. For them, the key is external accountability.” – Gretchen Rubin

I am more likely to get something done if someone else asks me to do it. If I agree to cook something for your get-together, count on me. If I’m on a committee to run an event, my part will get done. Certainly I was dependable when reporting to someone at past jobs.

Unfortunately, I don’t always succeed as well with integrity with myself. If I decide to do something, but I don’t commit to someone else, it may not get done.

I had signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) which was this month, November. I planned to write at least 30,000 words (even though official success is 50,000 words.) During the first week, I was excited about the Chicago Cubs being in the World Series. We had company over, and then I got caught up in the drama before and after the United States presidential election. Our daughter moved out, making my husband and me empty-nesters. Bottom line: I did not keep my commitment to myself to write a significant amount in November. I let other things get in the way.


Woman Writing a Letter by Frans van Mieris

I think if I had made a deal with someone that we’d both write 30,000 words, I’d have done better. According to a quiz by Gretchen Rubin, this means I’m an Obliger. “Obligers respond readily to outer expectations, but struggle to meet inner expectations. In other words, they work hard not to let other people down, but they often let themselves down.” Obligers like me tend to be people-pleasers.

I’ve learned that I can use my people-pleasing tendencies to my advantage by finding someone to hold me accountable for my goals. I don’t want to let them down, so I’m more likely to do my part. By using external accountability this way, as a tool, I hope to develop integrity with myself.

An example is that my friend Rachell and I hold each other accountable for getting our blog posts done once a month. One month, my blog post wasn’t even on my radar when she first poked me via a Facebook message. She continued to poke me, perhaps understanding that I was struggling. Even when I was against the deadline and expressing doubts about getting it done, Rachell expressed her faith in me, and I wrote and published the post. I do the same for her.

In the past, I’ve had success with other means of accountability.

  • My friend Krishna and I agreed to write an article or short story regularly by a certain date. We then reviewed each other’s work by meeting via Skype.
  • Being in a running club and signing up for events worked well for me. If I had signed up, I felt committed.
  • I participated in a group on Facebook where I could post my daily workouts. If it wasn’t a running day for me, I walked. And I walked longer than I might have otherwise because “20-minute walk” didn’t sound like enough to post.
  • Several years ago, I tried to do the Artist Way program on my own. I read the book but didn’t complete the tasks until recently when I took an Artist Way class. We had to report what we did for an Artist Date each week; how many times we did morning pages; which tasks we completed. I’m happy to tell you that I finished the program.
  • Belonging to Weight Watchers helps me keep my weight under control because I am weighed when I go to a meeting. That is accountability.

It is best if we have integrity on our own, so that if we say we’ll do something, we do it. But external accountability can be a tool for learning integrity. My accountability with Rachell for writing blog posts is turning into an internal habit. When I near the end of the month, I feel driven to write a blog post.

I read the following in an article about getting ready for Lent, but it rings true for any goal: “People often find that they’re much more likely to keep their resolutions when they hold themselves accountable to another person. Knowing that someone walks with us, even if it’s not exactly the same path, can be a great comfort and motivator.”


If I want to accomplish my dreams, I need to continue to seek people who will hold me accountable as I do the same for them. This will help me develop good habits and eventually to hold myself accountable.

A friend told me that she and friends once did their own version of NaNoWriMo in January, when life may be calmer than in November. Anyone interested in holding each other accountable for writing in January? Let’s talk.

Do you have integrity to yourself? Who holds you accountable?

Posted in Leading Ourselves, personal leadership, Support | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

A Fighter Dancing Through the Fire: Lindsey

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” – Nora Ephron

It would be understandable if my friend Lindsey felt sorry for herself. But she doesn’t.



Until she turned 13, Lindsey’s life was like that of most kids. She enjoyed hanging out with neighbors. She had a mother (one of my best friends, Tina, who I’ve written about here), a father, and four siblings. Lindsey says, “I remember going to Door County many times for vacation. That was always fun.”

Just before Lindsey entered 8th grade, her mother passed away from Adrenal Cortical cancer. “It was thirteen years ago that I lost my mother to cancer. She was not only my mother but my best friend. It was really difficult the first few months because I would wake up in the morning and think she was there. But she wasn’t.”

“We went from having two parents to one. I had to get in a routine and help my Dad with the cooking, cleaning, and laundry, and I looked after my younger siblings. I couldn’t just go out after Mom died; everything had to be scheduled. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to hang out.”

Two years later, Lindsey’s Dad remarried. “It was kind of hard getting along with three new siblings. We all had to adjust.” There were eight kids altogether, and the family later moved to another town.


Lindsey with siblings Jacob (left), Jason, and stepsister Alyssa with Harvard.

Lindsey adjusted to her new life, and all was going fairly well until May 4, 2012. She had finished a training program to be a dance instructor and was scheduled to begin teaching. She was also working full time, cleaning homes to earn money for college.

Then her life changed again. “It happened in the morning during work. We were driving from the first house to the second, and the driver fell asleep at the wheel. I tried to wake her, but she wouldn’t wake up. I had to decide whether to crash or to keep going toward the Fox River. I grabbed the wheel and we crashed between two trees.”

The scene of the accident - emergency workers surrounding the car

Emergency workers at the scene of the accident

The car

The car at the scene of the accident

If Lindsey hadn’t turned the steering wheel, they’d have gone into the Fox River. “We would have hit power poles, too.”

The driver suffered minor injuries, but Lindsey was airlifted by helicopter to a trauma hospital. She was in critical condition with a punctured lung and spleen, an ankle broken in three places, a broken femur, a fractured disc in her spine, and five fractured ribs. She had a breathing tube and three surgeries. During the surgeries, metal pieces were put in her leg, ankle, and back, and Lindsey still has the metal inside her body.

There are two ways of looking at this accident, as is true of many situations in life: “Isn’t it awful that this happened to me?” or “Aren’t I lucky that I’m alive?” Lindsey has chosen the latter viewpoint.

“After the accident, I had to start depending on other people. I would have liked it better if it hadn’t happened, but everything happens for a reason.”

Lindsey with sister Sarah outside the rehab hospital

Lindsey outside rehab hospital with sister Sarah

Initially Lindsey had intensive therapy at a rehabilitation hospital. Then she had additional therapy for two hours a day, three days a week. She had pain throughout her body. “I tried not to depend on others but after my surgeries, I needed someone to push me to exercise at home. All of my family were big motivators. They helped me and supported me. It was really nice that they did that.”

Lindsey with stepmom Deeanna, father Jim, siblings Jacob and Sarah

Lindsey with stepmom Deeanna, father Jim, brother Jacob and sister Sarah

“It was hard the first few times I drove again. We all hear about accidents, but I never thought it could happen to me. The accident made me much more cautious. I tell my friends not to text and drive while I’m in the car. It freaks me out.”

After Lindsey’s boot and back brace were removed, she had dance therapy at the dance studio. “Dance motivated me more than anything else because that was the main thing I liked to do. Wanting to do what I used to do was a big motivator in my recovery.”

Besides dance, Lindsey enjoyed camping and climbing hills and mountains. Now these activities are limited. “I can’t go camping because my back aches if I hike too long or if I don’t sleep well. I can’t do a lot outside because I can’t bend, kneel or squat for long. I do take short hikes, but I have to take breaks.” Lindsey also has back pain if she sits too long or stands too long.

Lindsey has been a receptionist at a dermatology office for three and a half years. She went to school at night and on Saturdays to learn to be a massage therapist. “I wanted to be a massage therapist because my own massage therapy was relaxing and therapeutic. Massages were done on me during my physical therapy sessions. I wanted to make people feel better by doing something that had an impact on me during my time of need.” Lindsey is currently looking for steady work as a massage therapist.

Lindsey returned to dancing for fun and works at the dance studio occasionally. “At first it was difficult to dance because my whole body was stiff and wasn’t used to that much movement. My posture wasn’t great so that made my back ache. And it was difficult to dance without a lot of breaks. I can’t wear heels for more than 20 minutes because my ankle gets uncomfortable and weak. But I keep dancing.”


Lindsey and a friend, Steph, who is a dance instructor

When asked about her interest in dance, Lindsey answers, “My Mom put me in dance when I was three years old. I started with ballet, but I really like tap, jazz, and hip hop.” Lindsey did these all through high school. “Then I thought I should try something new, so I went to the dance studio for Latin and ballroom dancing. Dancing makes me feel good. It’s a nice workout, and I have a lot of fun. I meet nice people who also enjoy dancing.”

“I believe in a lot of spiritual things: God, an afterlife, and angels. I don’t know how I made it between the trees during the accident rather than hitting them. It was such a small gap between the trees. I feel that an angel was there guiding me, making sure I was OK. I was so functional.”

When asked if she has a role model, Lindsey says, “My Mom. She knew what she wanted to go for. She worked part-time and still took care of five kids. I don’t know how she did that. She worked on so many projects and never gave up on anything.” Lindsey’s Mom was also working on a Ph.D. in History before she passed away.

Lindsey adds, “My Mom never gave up the fight; the Savior made it so that she lived a great life with a wonderful family. He brought her back to Him and that’s the best prize that could be given.”

Lindsey also credits her Dad, who works from home. “It took a lot of dedication to work at home with all the family around. He somehow had time to hang out with all of us.”

“I’m proud of how far I’ve come since the accident despite all the injuries I had. For a long time, I still got melancholy but I tried not to show it. When I felt that way, I wrote in a journal or I called friends to hang out and cheer me up. I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me. I wanted them to see me as happy and positive, not sad. Most days I was happy and positive, but I had my off days. If you are going through tough times, take one day at a time. It’ll eventually get better. Hang in there.”

When told that she is proactive, Lindsey says, “It’s difficult but it’s worth it in the end. Live your life as best as you can.”

I think the song “Roar” by Katy Perry could describe Lindsey. Lindsey continues to work to overcome her challenges and is a woman making strides. You can watch the “Roar” video here.

Lindsey’s Favorite Quotes

  • “I am my own hero! Take risks, take chances; live the life you imagined. The only regret you will have is not making the most out of your life.” – author unknown
  • “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” – Babe Ruth
  • “Life’s a climb, but the view is great.” – Miley Cyrus
  • “Live every day like it’s your last. You never know how long you have.” – author unknown
  • “PAINS: Positive Attitude In Negative Situation” – author unknown

Are you the heroine of your life or a victim? Do you have a favorite inspirational quote? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Posted in Challenges, faith, Inspiration, Proactive | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Navigating the Highs and Lows

“I like to go out there looking like a strong woman, because I am strong. But I am also a woman who goes through all kinds of problems and highs and lows.” – Katy Perry

My husband Ken and I were in Italy for two weeks at the end of September. It was an idyllic trip and we enjoyed everything—the food, the art, the history, and the scenery. It was one of our best vacations ever.


The Forum in Rome




Lake Como



Ken and I on an island of Lake Maggiore


David by Michelangelo (Florence)

Unfortunately, things weren’t so great back home. Our dog Dexter had previously had a toe removed due to malignant skin cancer. During our trip, it was discovered that the cancer had spread to his lungs. The oncologist said 6-year-old Dexter had up to a few months to live.

When we came home after our trip, Dexter was coughing a great deal. I had jet lag and could not stop crying. The next morning, I took him for a Blessing of the Pets that is held at our church annually in memory of St. Francis. This seemed like perfect timing and gave me some comfort.

But when Ken returned to work on the Monday after our trip, he was told his services were no longer needed, after 37 years of employment. Even though his company has been laying off employees for nearly two decades, this was still a bit of a shock.

Meanwhile, we were doing palliative care with Dexter, trying to make him comfortable as advised by a veterinary oncologist. However, a week after we came home from our trip, he struggled for every breath and could not eat or sleep. His vet recommended we have him euthanized.

Dexter was a very loveable dog. He loved everyone, and most people loved him. When someone came to our house, even a stranger, Dexter ran around excitedly, then flipped on his back so they could rub his tummy. We will grieve Dexter, but are comforted that his suffering is over.



On the same day that we lost Dexter, we went to the wedding of the son of close friends. We’ve been family friends for decades, and this was a high for us. We ate delicious food, we danced, and we enjoyed being with many dear friends. We are close enough to them that I could talk about what had happened to Dexter. A few friends told us of their sorrows with losing their own beloved pets.

My family and I will have to adjust to these changes. Besides what I’ve mentioned, our youngest child is moving out soon, and Ken and I will be empty-nesters.

Things could be worse, and Ken and I are grateful that we and our children are in good health. We hope to make the best of our altered lives. We have received helpful advice. One friend suggested that I “let the good things about your trip reverberate for you. Use that as fuel to move into your next phase.”

Our friend Allison had similar thoughts. We mentioned that we plan to walk more and go for runs. She said, “You have the opportunity to make new habits. This is worth thinking about so you make good new habits. Both of you have this opportunity.”

She has a good point. When our lives are shaken up, it may be a good time to reflect on what we want our future to be. I don’t mean to be Pollyannaish. Positive thinking will not make the bad times less painful. But possibly we appreciate the good times more if we’ve been through some low times. We can’t escape them; they are part of life, and we need to accept them. I will close with these thoughts from Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3:

 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

     a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
      a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
      a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
       a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
      a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
      a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
       a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

What are some of the highs and lows that you’ve been through? How have you navigated them?


Posted in Bad days, Encouragement, personal leadership | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Walking With a Friend in the Dark

“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” Helen Keller

A few incidents surprised me recently.

  • I was at an indoor concert, and a neighbor of more than 30 years saw me walk past. Later, she decided to look for me and told another neighbor, “Sue won’t be on the dance floor.” She was shocked to find me dancing. When she told me this, I said, “Why wouldn’t I be on the dance floor?”
  • My sister Mary said that a mutual friend told her I’m hilarious. Mary’s response was, “Sue?!”
  • I went to a concert with one of my best friends, Julie, who I’ve known since 7th grade. Later she said, “I didn’t realize you were a fan of rock ’n roll.”

rock concert

Within a two-week period, three people I’ve known most of my life said that I’m different than they’d thought. I’m not exactly who they thought I am, but they accept me.

These incidents made me wonder what might be true of my friends and family that I don’t realize. Maybe I’ve made assumptions about them, too, based on my history.

There is a lot of polarization in the United States regarding the upcoming presidential elections. Many of us wonder how our friends can support their candidate. People have said they can no longer be friends with another because of their political differences. However, it is not worth losing a friendship over politics. If our friends were identical to us, we’d never learn and grow. We need to respect that the other person has had a different history than we have and has reasons for their views.

I went to another concert with Julie and our husbands. As we were leaving, I hesitated because I have trouble seeing in the dark and I couldn’t get the flashlight on my I-phone to work. Julie linked her arm through mine and said, “It’ll be OK. There’s enough light, and I’ll help you.”

I laughed, because I felt like an old lady with Julie helping me walk. It felt like a foreshadowing of us helping each other as we age, just as we have supported each other for the past 47 years. This is what’s important—helping each other get through our difficult times and being there for each other.

There is not much more valuable than a close friend. Let’s accept our friends as they are and respect our differences as we want them to accept and respect us. Let’s help each other walk in the dark.

How are your friends different from you? How have you supported your friends lately?

Posted in Friendship, Support | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Appreciating What We Have

“The more one does and sees and feels, the more one is able to do, and the more genuine may be one’s appreciation of fundamental things like home, and love, and understanding companionship.” Amelia Earhart

My brother and his family from Texas recently visited us in the Chicago suburbs. We enjoyed a daytrip to the Art Institute of Chicago and Millennium Park. We also went to a Cubs game and enjoyed a beautiful day at the ball park. After the game, we walked to a Mexican restaurant with a fun atmosphere. We sat outside on the patio with its murals, fountains, and lights, and we drank margaritas while eating chips, salsa, and Mexican food. Another day, we ate at our family-favorite Bohemian restaurant. That evening, we brought a picnic to a concert at a polo club, complete with horses.

mels pic of horses

Photo by Mel Ekins

My nephew Brent stayed for more than a week after the rest of his family went home, and we continued to act like tourists in our own town. My young-adult children and my sisters often joined us. We spent a day at Navy Pier and the lakeshore. In the suburbs, we went to Cantigny Park, visited a distillery, and went swimming at a local beach. At home, we played the card game 500 Rummy, which has been a family favorite since I was a child.

My nephew was amazed at all the options we have for things to do. During his visit, we went to a driving range and played mini-golf. The young people stayed overnight at my son’s apartment in Chicago and went to a couple of bars. Another day, my husband, our son, and Brent played in a charity golf outing.

I didn’t tell him we don’t normally go out that often, nor do we spend that much time together. People went to work at various times, but it still felt like we were taking a staycation. There was a sense of adventure and a feeling of camaraderie. Not every minute was thrilling, of course, but I prefer to focus on the good times, which far outnumbered any tense moments. Our shared history and family bonds added to the feeling of companionship and fun.

randy pic for blog on appreciating where we live

My brother Randy, posing as Napoleon, in front of his “favorite painting” at the Art Institute of Chicago 😉

Brent’s comment, “There’s more to do here,” might have been prompted by the extremely hot summer in Texas. But it made me think about where I live with renewed appreciation. Perhaps we in the Chicago area take things for granted. Our relatives always seek out Italian beef sandwiches and deep-dish pizza when they are in town. Brent had never eaten Greek saganaki and gyros until this visit. During his last visit, we introduced him to dim sum in Chinatown.

Mels picture of chicago

Photo by Mel Ekins

Probably most people take for granted where they live. What is it like where you live? What special foods are available? Restaurants? Sights? Is it a small town, farm, big city? And who are your companions?

We can find something to appreciate no matter where we live.

What is special about your home town? What people are in your life?

Posted in Gratitude | Tagged | 6 Comments

Changing Our Routines

“I recommend that people try new stuff or take new fitness classes all the time. It’s important to mix up your routine, not only for your body, but also for your mental state.” – Alison Sweeney

Routines can be beneficial. When I’m keeping to my exercise routine, I sleep better at night and worry less during the day. But routines can turn into drudgery.

Even though I generally enjoy cooking, I’d recently become bored with it. I thought, “Do I have to do this for the rest of my life? Constantly having to figure out what’s for dinner, go shopping, and cook?” I recognize my attitude was poor. After all, I have the means to buy food, enough time to shop and cook, and the option to eat out now and then.

My recent vacation came at a good time and improved my attitude. My husband Ken and I traveled to the southeast part of the United States. Getting away from my cooking routine for a couple of weeks was refreshing. We mostly stayed at B&Bs and ate dinner at restaurants. We walked every day and enjoyed boat rides, fresh scenery, and fun.

magnolia plantationMagnolia Plantation – pic from https://c5.staticflickr.com/4/3211/2335006908_60f8f5509e_b.jpg

We stayed with friends for two nights, which was most enjoyable. David makes an art of homemaking, bringing his intelligence and other talents to making a delightful home for his wife Autumn, guests, and himself. He designed their house, which has private suites for guests, a screened-in porch, and a lovely view of woods and a river. David is also an awesome cook. He prepared mojitos, Cuban Pork with mole sauce, fried plantains, and peach cobbler for dinner one night. David’s adventurous cooking reignited my own interest in cooking.

During our trip, Ken and I went to a Worldwide Marriage Encounter convention, along with several of our friends. The convention took us out of our daily routine and renewed our marriage. (Conventions are for couples and priests who have already made a WWME weekend.)

All in all, our trip refreshed me and made me anxious to get home. The time away from my usual routines helped me decide to make the following changes:

  • Condense papers I kept to prove I didn’t deserve being laid off a few years ago. I feel ready to let go of that and move on.
  • My attitude about cooking has improved. Currently I am going through my cookbooks and deciding which to keep. (I love cookbooks and have only found two to discard so far.) I plan to pick a “Cookbook of the Week” and make a new recipe every week or so.
  • Why not make old family favorites more often? I will bake “brown bread” soon, which is our name for a date-nut bread my grandmother used to make.
  • At one of the B&Bs, breakfast was served outside on the porch. Back home, sometimes I bring my cup of tea outside and drink it on our patio, or I sit on our bench in front with something to read.

cup-of-tea and a bookhttps://pixabay.com/static/uploads/photo/2015/12/20/07/39/cup-of-tea-1100829_960_720.jpg

  • I always have a stack of books from 2 or 3 libraries. But now I want to return the last couple of library books that I have and instead read the miscellaneous articles I have collected. Then I can clear out those papers, creating space for new things.
  • I want to make the best of what we have. For example, we have an indoor fireplace and a small outdoor fire pit. Why not use them?
  • I am inspired to put aside old negativity and treat cooking and homemaking as more of an art than drudgery. As Susan Branch says in her delightful blog, “Making a home for ourselves and our families does more for our general well-being and happiness than the everydayness of it might suggest; it’s second nature for most of us, because home is the place where love grows.”

Sometimes we live on autopilot and a change can help us see things from a fresh perspective.

Are your routines serving you? Where has drudgery crept in? How can you change your routines or your attitude?


Posted in Attitude, Inspiration, Intentional Living, Leading Ourselves, Renewal | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Slow Down and Savor

“We should learn to savor some moments to let time feel worth existing” Munia Khan

Julia Cameron in The Artist Way teaches us to improve our creativity through the use of tools including Artist Dates. This is simply going somewhere alone and doing something that feels satisfying to your inner artist. When have you last done this? For a recent artist date, I went to a French café, drank a latte, and ate a spinach croissant. I sat by the front window listening to French music and watching people walking past. I felt just a little bit French, nourished in every sense of the word.

I ordered my latte the way the French would—a small size, made with whole milk and, since I like mine sweetened, a bit of real sugar. There was a time, not long ago, when I would order my lattes with skim milk, decaf coffee, and Splenda rather than sugar. Then I wondered why expresso drinks in the United States didn’t compare to those in France and Spain. After reading the book French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure by Mireille Guiliano, I now order expresso drinks with full-fat milk and real sugar. A small latte made this way is more satisfying than a larger one with substitutions.

Ms. Guiliano tells us that the French savor their food and drink. They eat real food, not packaged food with a long list of chemicals. She encourages us to eat fruits and vegetables, drink lots of water, eat fish–and enjoy a piece of dark chocolate, a glass of wine, or good French bread. She suggests we pick our pleasures and aim for balance. For instance, if I want dessert and a glass of wine, I can skip bread that day and take a brisk walk later. And I don’t need to eat every bite of the dessert—I can share it with someone or leave some on my plate. She tells us that sitting, eating slowly, and savoring our meals can help us feel satisfied without overindulging.

These ideas appeal to me as a way to live a healthy lifestyle without having to eat light bread that tastes like Styrofoam and has a similar texture. Why not eat good food in moderation and savor it?

Summer is upon us, and this is a perfect time to savor the fresh fruits and vegetables from farm stands, farmers markets, and even the grocery store. What else can we do to savor summer?



My summer is already filling up with activities, but it is worth the effort to slow down and savor the moments. Otherwise, the season goes by too fast. My family bought me a recliner lawn chair for Mother’s Day, and my goals include relaxing outside in it and reading. My summer plans include going to outdoor concerts. I also can’t wait to enjoy a fire in our fire pit and enjoy a glass of wine on a cool evening. I will savor my walks, too, noticing all the beautiful flowers and listening to birds chirping. Can you tell I love summer?

What about savoring life? Why not savor nature, our homes, our friends and family? As Ms. Guiliano says, “In France we have a saying, ‘Joie de vivre,’ which actually doesn’t exist in the English language. It means looking at your life as something that is to be taken with great pleasure and enjoy it.”

I’ll take her advice and try to live with joie de vivre. If you find me at a French café, feel free to call me Suzette.

What will you savor this summer? Do you have joie de vivre?  

Posted in Healthy living, Inspiration | Tagged , | 8 Comments