Good morning my dear SWOG blog friends!

I don’t often do tributes to SWOG stars.  Maybe it’s because I think all of you on this blog are STARS, and so it feels kind of funny to single anyone out.  I make this exception because this person is not only a STAR in my mind, but she kind of epitomizes the “Strong” in the Strong Women of Grace.

A dear friend from the Georgetown Cohort has been through about six months of hell.  Back in the late winter she started experiencing blood sugar drops which escalated in frequency and severity right up until she was diagnosed and then operated on for an Insulinoma (tumor in the pancreas) in early June.  Fortunately, the tumor was benign but the surgery was grueling, and the recovery–well–let’s just say it’s not been a picnic in the park.

She was in the hospital over two weeks for the surgery, discharged, and then she had to be re-admitted less than ten days later for a few days.  She’s home, recovering and making her slow and steady progress back to the land of the living.

This was a fight.  This was not a given.  She couldn’t eat.  She couldn’t sleep.  Before the surgery she was at risk of dropping into a coma and not coming out, and after the surgery she wasn’t able to hold any sustenance in her.  She was on more prayer chains than I can count, and those months between March and July must have felt like years for her.

She tributes her husband, family and friends for helping her through, as she has graciously said in recent weeks as her slow and steady climb out of the abyss has allowed her more interaction.  She acknowledges the journey is not complete, and she still has a ways to go to regain her strength and energy level that she was robbed of through this ordeal.

The other day I stumbled on a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote that so captures the spirit of this woman.


What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.


March on dear SWOG.  You are an inspiration!  We hold you in our prayers and our esteem.




Impact = Intention


OK, SWOG Lady…what in heavens name do you mean by that heading?   Well, I’m so glad you asked!!

I was sitting in a webinar about a week ago and it was on coaching people in a certain stage of development.  The instructor–a really cool SWOG herself–said that so often our impact does not equal our intention and that is a great area for examination and continued development.

I love that equation.  Yes, we’re human.  So, this will likely be the case more frequently than we ideally would like.  After all, there aren’t many people that circle in our worlds that start out with bad intentions.  Most people don’t get up in the morning and say, “How can I really mess up people’s days today?”  At least, I would like to hope we all bound out of bed hoping to do more good than harm.  And, yet, there’s a lot of difficult stuff happening in our world and our lives.

If our intentions are good, the next question becomes, “Do our behaviors and outcomes match or equal our intentions?”  And if they do not equate, then what is getting in the way?

I’m spending a lot of time on this one.  It’s tricky.  Sometimes you can control your impact and sometimes you can’t–after all, how a message from you gets received by the recipient depends so much on their filters at that particular time.  But, I think more often than we suspect possible, we can get our intentions and our impact more closely aligned with one another.

How you ask?

Oh, I’m so very glad you did!!

First of all, I’m still working on staying curious not judgmental…so I want to say right up front…I don’t have the magic answers but I’m very willing to embark upon the discussion.  Most of you have read that I’m trying to meditate regularly and I’ve been using Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s 21-Meditation series.  I’m almost concluded with one on “Hope,” and it has some clues to our question posed above.  Here are some tidbits of wisdom from the series:

  • To reach people to share the energy of HOPE, you have to do more than just listen to them, you have to SEE them.  We all want to be seen and heard.  We all want validation.  When people are validated, they know you see them, you hear them and what they’re saying means something to you.  They feel like they’re not alone and that they matter.  That is the deepest reality, the deepest desire we all share–is to matter.  That’s the way to make HOPE real–for anyone in your world–make them matter.
  • The feeling level is all important.  Just as people detect when they are being judged, they also detect when they are accepted.  Don’t try to help someone if you feel you are angry, disappointed or ashamed.  Work on yourself first.
  • Getting to a place where you accept and welcome the other person’s existence, then you will create a heart-to-heart bond at the level of feeling.  This bond can work miracles because it takes down barriers of distrust, defensiveness, guilt and shame.
  • Realistically, every relationship gets tangled up in the past, making it hard to relate without judgment toward someone else.  Especially in families–there’s a tendency to put people in a box–believing they will never change. But consider how much you want to escape the box you’ve been put in.  Everyone has that feeling because everyone wants more freedom to be themselves.
  • When you allow that yearning of freedom in someone else, you can recognize how much you feel the same way and then ego doesn’t block your view.  You genuinely hope for the best in every situation no matter what happened in the past.
  • Staying in present moment awareness is simply conscious experience without the mind’s analysis or conceptualization (or judgment) including thoughts and feelings about the past and the future.  In any situation, allow yourself to be present to the experience without mental analysis and interpretation.  And you will find that you naturally drop the belief that you know what is best for someone else.

When our impact doesn’t equal our intentions, so often we missed the mark through our communication.  We pre-judge what someone is going to say or what they should do or what we hope they will do.  We don’t meet them with open minds.  We don’t stay in the present moment with a spirit of curiosity instead of pre-set expectations.  We don’t meet them where they are.  Why are we having difficulty having political discussions?  We’re so entrenched in our own views and biases about the “way things should be” we have difficulty listening with an open, non-judgmental mind.

And think of all the labels we use to pre-judge others:  Democrats, Liberals, Republicans, Conservatives, Felons, Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Refugees, Foreigners, Working Class, College-Educated, Veterans and the list goes on and on. When you hear those labels, can’t you just hear your mind beginning it’s mental gymnastics and assessments?

I dare you to…!

Here’s a challenge for you:  take one day and a piece of notebook paper.  Be an observer of your mind.  Note how many times you pre-judge a situation based on who you’re dealing with or who you hear about through the news or conversations.  At the end of the day note how much opportunity you have for changing your impact on people and outcomes.

And when someone doesn’t treat you with that same open mind as is bound to happen…well, that’s where grace comes in.  🙂


There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.    ~William Shakespeare



OK, after working at Ten Thousand Villages for almost four weeks now, I have become an absolute Fair Trade convert.  And, of course, I have to put in a plug for Ten Thousand Villages whose founder–Edna Ruth Byler–is recognized as the Fair Trade movement’s originator.

You, too, can be part of the story. View online:

Of course, I can’t help but put Edna Ruth’s story in SWOG blog–after all, she sure sounds like a Strong Woman of Grace.  You can read how she got started here:

And check out their wonderful blog called “Mosaic,” which can be accessed on their site or at:

It won’t take you long to see where swog lady is spending her paycheck!!!


Well, my dear SWOG & SMOG’s, we lost a legend yesterday.  Mary Tyler Moore passed away at age 80.

Talk about a trend-setter.  She was the guiding star for strength with grace for my generation and the one before mine.  A beautiful woman with a resilient spirit who took on great causes like juvenile diabetes and equal treatment for women in the workplace.  And she did it all with such charm and grace.

Who can forget the opening to her Mary Tyler Moore show, “She’s going to make it after all?”  Well, our hats are flying off in tribute to you, Mary.  Rest well dear Strong Woman of Grace.


Well, some of my followers heard from me this week as I struggled to make sense of Tuesday’s election.  It will probably not come as a surprise to you that the author of a blog with the concept “grace” as its cornerstone, as well as an ardent student of “servant” types of leadership, would not be a huge proponent of Donald Trump’s.  So when Tuesday’s election results became a reality in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, I was stunned and downtrodden. What I have learned through the help of life’s losses, good friends, and wonderful coaches is when you feel most vulnerable, reach out for help.  So I did that.

So, this is a repeat for some of you, but over the course of the next few days, I will post the email I sent to approximately 18 of my girlfriends/colleagues and the thoughtful responses they returned to me.  In addition, I am now a part of a Georgetown email community and a similar thread was started by one of the community members.  I will include a few of those responses.

I know some of you who follow this blog are Trump supporters.  I congratulate you on the win, and I hope you take these blog posts in the spirit they are meant.  This blog is about grace in all its many forms.  It is about my journey and the lessons I learn in trying to find grace.  I lay open my vulnerabilities and ask you to accept them even if you don’t agree with my viewpoints.  I welcome, as always, your comments and insights.

I will pray for our President elect and hope that he finds wisdom and grace in dealing with the diverse issues that face our American people.  So many are counting on him and his leadership.  Likewise, I will pray for all of us as leaders–and we are all leaders in one form or another–that we have the grace of forgiveness, open-mindedness, tolerance, and wisdom to hold productive conversations and the steadfastness to stand up for the values that mean so much to us.

I will send out the email and some of the responses tomorrow, and I will trickle the rest of the responses out over the next few posts.

As I hope you know, I love and appreciate my followers and am glad to bring you the thoughts and reflections of so many strong women of grace.




So some of you have been the recipients of cards that I’ve purchased from this card company called Cardthartic.  I first stumbled on their cards in Montana and then discovered I could order an array of different cards for different occasions from their online site.  Every order you receive comes with a cute thank you card and usually a free magnet from the owner who signs her name:  “Your Fairy Cardmother.”  (OK, I’m sure it’s not the owner who sends it, but they make you feel like she did!)

What a clever woman and company!

She also sends out periodic emails.  So, just yesterday I received one that had this card on the top of it:



And her email went on to say the following:

We know it will take way more than one well-meaning greeting card to unite this nation but, cardies, it’s a start!

In an email yesterday morning, my friend Susan Lyon expressed exactly what I was feeling. “My heart is sad post-debate,” she wrote. “I woke feeling tired of the ugly descent to behavioral lows I am seeing on our national stage.  I hope this finds you writing your big heart out, creating new cards with diligence, delight, determination and a desire to lift up our weary souls.”

Susan’s positive ending reminded me of how Sunday’s final debate question was such a breath of fresh air in that tension-filled room. Town Hall participant Karl Becker had asked the candidates, “Regardless of the current rhetoric, can you name one positive thing that you respect in one another?”

FYI, when she saw this USA card featured last week, cardie and inspiring patriot Amy Murray ordered 40 and, at checkout in the Order Comments box, graciously added, “I traditionally send friends and family a card to remind them to vote. This year’s campaign has been so toxic that I was struggling with what to send.  Of course, Cardthartic has just the right message.  Bravo!  And be sure to vote!”

I myself had mailed the USA card to my 92-year-young friend and neighbor Hannlis last week and received a call minutes after the mailman had successfully waded through her Hillary yard signs.  “Just calling to say I feel the same way about you!” she enthused.  “Thank you, thank you for the card.”  And I know who will receive my next two: Conservatives who have never held my liberalism against me! 🙂 Jack Kraft and Randy Moore may lean as far right as I do left, but our fondness for each other has only grown over the years. I would go so far as to say — were it not for these two — Cardthartic would not be today. Both successful business owners and investors, they helped back Cardthartic, and have continued to have my back for two decades.

I’ll never forget what fiscally conservative Jack wrote on the memo line of his investment check: “Spend it wisely and well.” And more protective than I could ever learn to be, it was Randy who early on proposed and then personally secured a line of credit for Cardthartic. “Let’s give you and your staff this sense of security for a rainy day.” While they both could have played on my “I’m so not a numbers person” insecurities, instead they would say, “But this company is nothing without your creativity!”  Well aware of our differences, these gracious men not only helped this woman business owner feel that I have a respected place at the table, they’ve made a point of proudly reminding me that it’s my being at the table that has put food on many others’.

Hehe, Jack once stayed in my place while I was away, and I returned to find my television had been tuned to Fox News. I sent him a teasing text that read, “Really?! I didn’t even know my TV got Fox.” and immediately came his quick-witted reply, “Sorry. Before I left, I tried switching it back to CNN, but your set cried out, ‘No! No! Please let me remain fair and balanced!’”

So if I’m Dem to the core and yet could not love and admire these Republicans more, how have we bridged our philosophical divide?  Regardless of our rhetoric (and there have been times! 🙂 we’ve never lost sight of all the good in one another, and how it’s our combined differences that make us a better whole.  I hope you are fortunate enough to have your own Jack and Randy, and that you’ll use this undebatable opportunity to acknowledge them and any other compatriots you choose.  Thank you for considering!


~ jodee stevens
founder & creative director


Oh, by the way, she also put a direct link in the email to be able to acquire two free American flag cards like you see at the top of the page.  Yes, I did send for mine…but I just want everyone to know that the sentiment applies to all of you regardless of whether you get the physical card in the mail or not.  If you love this one, you should see the others.  Here’s their website (and no, I don’t get any royalties from sales–darn!):

Now for my soapbox:  Celebrate each other and our differences.  Be respectful and kind.  Don’t give up your passionate views, AND don’t hate others whose views are equally passionate in the other direction.  It’s a “grace-filled” way to be.  God Bless the United States of America.

We often think of a “new beginning” at the start of some declared change.  You are beginning a new job; moving to a new home; starting a new relationship; retiring from a long career.  Certainly, those are indeed commencements, signifying a transition of some sort.  A fresh professional start, a new house to decorate, a new love to explore, and a much deserved professional shift.

Other “new beginnings” sneak up on us–sometimes when we’re not looking for them or when we least expect it.  We feel a restlessness, a rumbling somewhere deep inside us–almost like the tremors of an earthquake.  There is somewhat of a deep fault line in our soul and our tectonic plates start shifting.  Perhaps we desire a new way of living and/or we feel a dissatisfaction with our current circumstances.  We know something needs to change although often we’re not exactly sure what or how.

For those of you feeling that rumbling somewhere inside–that restlessness of dissatisfaction with status quo or excitement of seeking a new way–this John O’Donohue poem is for you:


For A New Beginning

In out-of-the way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.


For a long time it has watched your desire,

Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,

Noticing how you willed yourself on,

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.


It watched you play with the seduction of safety

And the gray promises that sameness whispered,

Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

Wondered would you always live like this.


Then delight, when your courage kindled,

And out you stepped onto new ground,

Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

A path of plenitude opening before you.


Though your destination is not yet clear

You can trust the promise of this opening;

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning

That is at one with your life’s desire.


Awaken your spirit to adventure;

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

John O’Donohue



I learned about the Grace of Kintsugi from a classmate of mine at Georgetown.  At the very end of our last class as Cohort 47 of the Leadership Coaching program, we had the opportunity to “exchange” gifts–both physical ones and spiritual gifts of affirmation and encouragement.  This one beautiful SWOG classmate stood in front of the room and told us about the philosophy of Kintsugi.  I won’t do justice to how she shared her story nor to her explanation of how this delicate art is such a metaphor for all of our lives.  Moved to tears is an understatement and words can’t capture the emotional mountains she moved.  I’ll simply explain a bit about Kintsugi and allow you to reflect what it means to you.


From Wikipedia:


Kintsugi (きんつぎ, “golden joinery”), also known as Kintsukuroi (きんつくろい, “golden repair”),[1] is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique.[2][3][4] As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

As a philosophy, kintsugi can be seen to have similarities to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, an embracing of the flawed or imperfect.[9] Japanese aesthetics values marks of wear by the use of an object. This can be seen as a rationale for keeping an object around even after it has broken and as a justification of kintsugi itself, highlighting the cracks and repairs as simply an event in the life of an object rather than allowing its service to end at the time of its damage or breakage.[10]

Kintsugi can relate to the Japanese philosophy of “no mind” (無心mushin?), which encompasses the concepts of non-attachment, acceptance of change and fate as aspects of human life.[11]

Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated… a kind of physical expression of the spirit of mushin….Mushin is often literally translated as “no mind,” but carries connotations of fully existing within the moment, of non-attachment, of equanimity amid changing conditions. …The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject. This poignancy or aesthetic of existence has been known in Japan as mono no aware, a compassionate sensitivity, or perhaps identification with, [things] outside oneself.
— Christy Bartlett, Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics


Think about that for a moment.  Think about being valued for wear and tear and imperfection.  Wow.  I wonder how much of our therapy dollars, our broken relationships, our devalued older generations, our cover-ups and defensiveness come from the intense drive for perfection.  Think of smiling at our scars– both the physical and emotional ones –because they’ve made us a more interesting piece of art.

Let’s start a new movement!  Be proud of those scars and imperfections!  And value those imperfections in others as a true work of art.  As a SWOG far wiser than me once said, “We all make quilts throughout our life…some are just a color or two with nicely coordinating fabric.   Yours is a patchwork of many colors, block sizes, and fabrics.  AND, it’s nice to look at, too.”

Kintsugi on dear SWOG’s!!


img_1662 img_1663





You all know how much I like to quote movies.  And most of you know that I’m an incurable romantic.  So when Disney made a live-action remake of its popular animated classic, Cinderella, it was too much for me to resist watching–especially since it was free on a plane trip I made last summer “across the pond.”

I was impressed with what Disney did to bring certain messages out in the story.  Self-acceptance, recovering well from hardship, and remaining hopeful were some of the subtle and not-so-subtle messages.  But, the one that resonated the most with me was the one that was clearly articulated on numerous occasions throughout the 90-minute film:  “Have Courage and Be Kind.”

I LOVE THAT QUOTE.  Those of you that follow me on Twitter know I LOVE THAT QUOTE.  I use that quote all the time.  Why did that jump off the silver screen (or the seat-back screen in my case) and grab my heart?

I’m not totally sure, but perhaps it’s all the work I’ve done in the last six years through all the loss.  I have been moved by people’s kindness toward me in my hours of need.  I’ve been moved by all the readings in the Bible chronicalling Jesus’ messages and examples of love, kindness, acceptance, mercy and forgiveness.  His parables, where he metaphors love for people who seem–on the surface–unlovable, have made me think and consider a different mindset.  I’ve even been moved by Pope Francis and his demonstrated love and compassion for all types of people.  It’s made me wonder why do we take such a polarizing view on things?  Why do people always have to be right or wrong; right or left; black or white?

I haven’t blogged much lately because, as many of you know, I’ve had my left hand and arm in a cast and now a splint for more than five weeks post thumb surgery.  I’m not a great one-hand typist.  But, I was out on Twitter today and saw one woman’s campaign to “pay a message of kindness forward” that she’s determined to carry out.  I would guess it’s being inspired by our country’s present political climate, but I don’t know that for sure.  She’s posting all these great quotes and sayings and I was so inspired, I just had to get on her bandwagon–to heck with the bad thumb!  So here are just a couple of her messages (below).







It takes 21 days to develop new habits, but let’s just start with ONE WEEK.  I’m going to issue the following challenge…let’s try it!








When I was a Resident Assistant at Penn State, my ultimate boss was a gentleman named Terrell Jones.  Terrell was an intelligent man with a very unique sense of humor.  He used stories and metaphors to teach lessons to those he came in contact with.  While I was there he secured his PhD, and after I left he was appointed to head Penn State’s Diversity and Inclusion area.

I would run into him from time to time, usually once every year or two at a dinner function or a bowl game, and he always made time to catch up with me.  So, I was dismayed earlier this year when a friend of mine and fellow Penn State RA told me he had passed away from cancer a little over a year ago.  I couldn’t fathom it; I didn’t want to believe it.  Too young.  Too talented.  Too much of a nice guy.  We lost another one too soon.

So today when I was browsing through my Twitter feeds I spotted one from Penn State that mentioned “Dr. Jones” and out of curiosity I clicked on it.  It was a YouTube video showing Terrell teaching in one of the big Forum classrooms utilizing his typical unique methods of connecting dots for students.

His subject was one we’ve discussed here on swogblog before–“letting go.”  But, his method of helping people to understand the power of why it’s so important was uniquely Terrell.  I encourage you to watch it and reflect on it.  And, as always, I welcome your insights and stories.