Mary–congratulations on receiving the Small Business Person of the Year Award at our local chamber dinner this year!

Our friend Mary is a true strong woman of grace.  She’s owned and operated a successful business for a number of years.  In an industry that has been declining, she reinvented herself and her company right into success.  And just when she thought things were humming along, her teenage daughter was in a serious auto accident, suffered head trauma, and had to re-learn many things we all take for granted.  Through it all, Mary never wavered–she kept her positive attitude and her beautiful spirit.  You are an inspiration!

Our lives are touched by angels every day.  They come in all shapes and sizes, colors, genders, ages and from all walks of life.  We are better for knowing them and for being exposed to their thinking and their grace.  It’s nice to see one of these angels get the recognition she deserves.

 


You all know by now that I am a huge movie lover and I tend to find life’s lessons amidst the plots and the dialogues.  One of my recent favorites is P.S. I Love You which stars Hillary Swank and Gerard Butler.  When Holly (played by Swank) meets Gerry (played by Butler) along a road in Ireland they strike up a spirited conversation.  She quotes William Blake in that conversation and it goes something like this:

I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

This line hit me in two ways.

  1. It reminded me of Don Miguel Ruiz’s works and giving up our “agreements” that were imposed on us by others over time.  Do we want to live by others’ beliefs or find our own true way based on who we are?
  2. Holly talks further after she quotes Blake of “creating something that is uniquely yours” that lives out there in the world as a testimonial to who you are.  When she was explaining that to Gerry, I couldn’t help but think of this blog.  It felt pretty cool.

What are you creating that is uniquely yours?  Pam, I think of your non-profit and your teaching model.  I think of all my friends who have children.  I think of a colleague of mine who started his own consulting business and works to help companies create cultures of engaged leadership and employees.  I think of another friend of mine who is a gifted writer and has ghost written parts of a recently published autobiography.  I think of several girlfriends who own their own businesses and are either creating products or services to help other businesses or consumers.  These are all examples of works that are extensions of ourselves and who we truly are; work we created that lives beyond us.

So much love to give…….

 


From my dear friend:

Several years ago I noted the passing of Dennis Thatcher, the accomplished and much-loved husband of Margaret Thatcher, a true woman of grace – the passing of a man who relished his wife’s accomplishments and who stayed properly in the background to allow her the room and place and time to discharge duties with skill and GRACE. Now we all lament her passing, a woman who served her country well. On her table sat photos of her two living granddaughters and her beloved deceased Dennis. She was PM at the toughest time, she discharged her duties ably and well, and with a GRACE that is oh so rare in troubled times. May she rest in a much-deserved peace.

Dick


I was so glad I was up late on Thursday night to catch part of Brian Williams Rock Center program.  He did a piece on two schools in New York that are emphasizing not just academics but character building as well.  Both of these schools are employing strategies based on the work of Martin Seligman, a psychology professor at the University of Pennyslvania.  The one school assigns students a “CPA” which stands for Character Point Average in addition to their GPA or Grade Point Average.

WHAT A GREAT IDEA!!!  That has Strong Women of Grace written all over it.

The piece was really amazing and I’ve included a link to it here:  Rock Center Story on Character, CPA, Grit    Be patient as it loads–it takes a minute or so.

You also may want to read the article I found on Google about the two schools.  You can access it here:  Character Point Average

This is a super idea.  It’s about overcoming failure; it’s about self regulation; it’s about resilience.  It’s about learning grace in the face of the challenges life throws us.

A must see and must read.


I have a dear friend who was really one of my angels over the course of the last 4 years.  She was always there–steadfastly listening when I needed a compassionate ear, lending a hand and her expertise to help me when my talents were non-existent, providing pearls of wisdom from a life well-lived but not without hardship and heartache.  It’s why when she presented me this housewarming gift–it was all I could do not to cry.

My dear friend’s housewarming gift to me.

 

If you click on the picture you can see it a bit more clearly.  It proudly hangs on my navy blue wall in my loft, reminding me of her and so many of my readers’ strength and grace.

Thank you, my dear Strong Woman of Grace.  Your kindness has helped me more than you will ever know or that I will ever be able to repay.


Today I attended the kick-off of a new non-profit in our region.  Two women worked tirelessly and selflessly to create and get this non-profit off the ground and the introductory reception was attended by well over 100 people.

The non-profit was created to assist children with domestic violence and parental loss.  You see, in 2008 a local woman was murdered in her backyard pool and her husband was convicted of the crime.  Their four children tragically lost both parents–their mother violently murdered and their father serving a life sentence in prison.  The non-profit is named after their mother and because of these two women–Amy & Joan–she will not be forgotten.  Her name and legacy will help children heal and assist them in moving beyond their grief and loss.

Congratulations Amy & Joan!  You are truly Strong Women of Grace.


When I started this blog, I wrote the following on my “About SWOGBLOG” page:

What’s the purpose of this blog?  I watch so many women–particularly in leadership positions– struggle to find this balance between being influential, decisive, courageous and “out there” and doing all that with humility, dignity, wisdom, kindness– or grace. Of course, I would not start this blog if I haven’t lived that struggle myself.  What needs to happen inside each of us to live both these definitions–simultaneously and with ease?

What needs to happen inside each of us to live both of these definitions–simultaneously and with ease?

I am struck with how often I run into capable women who are so unsure of themselves.  What is it in our genetics or in society that causes this to be the case?  I am truly intrigued by this sociological tendency.

I don’t know if you’re a fan of Ann Curry from the Today Show or not, but I’ve always admired her beauty, her warmth, her energy and her enthusiasm for what she does.  She truly seems to have a passion for the business she’s in.  So I was tremendously surprised to hear that she may be on her way out of the Today Show–reports saying that NBC is looking to replace her due to a variety of things including a slide in the ratings compared to Good Morning America.

When I googled her name out of curiosity to catch up with this report, I found an interesting post of an interview with Ann, which will be reported in the Ladies Home Journal August issue.  The title of the post is, “Am I not good enough?”

There are a couple interesting things in this post, but here’s the quote I want to focus on today.  When she was asked, “What she’d change about herself?” here’s her response:

I don’t always understand my worth.  I think it’s a chronic condition for women.  I’m not talking about professionally.  I’m talking about in our personal lives.  We constantly punish ourselves with degrading thoughts when we look at ourselves in the mirror.  We allow people to treat us poorly, we allow our husbands or boyfriends to get away with things or we have relationships with girlfriends or colleagues who don’t treat us well.  We don’t defend ourselves as we would our own children.  Women have demanded and gotten better jobs and more power.  But the one thing we deserve is a better relationship with ourselves.  We waste too much time beating ourselves up.  I think at my age of 55, it’s time to stop doing that.”

Read Ann Curry Article Here

I have to say a couple of “Wow’s” to this quote.  First of all, I would have NEVER guessed she was 55.  Wow!

OK, now to move beyond the superficial–WOW to her quote.  Geez, isn’t this so often the case?  Isn’t it our insecurity that drives so much of our behavior?  Those darn voices again.  Telling us what we can and can’t do, what we do and do not deserve.  And unfortunately, our society tends to reinforce it.  As Rohr says in his Falling Upward book, we are a first half of life society focused on all the looking good stuff and accumulation of successes and wealth.  And he says that’s a necessity for each of us on an individual level–to put us in a position to transition to the second half of life where that “stuff” just doesn’t matter as much anymore.

The issue is do each of us ever transition?  And how?

I really enjoy the singer, “Pink.”  I think she’s tremendously talented and I enjoy the lyrics of so many of her songs.  She has one, which I can’t repeat the title in this blog but if you know her work you’ll know which one I mean.  The lyrics to one of the stanzas go like this:

You’re so mean, when you talk, about yourself, you are wrong.  Change the voices, in your head.  Make them like you, instead.  So complicated, look how big you’ll make it, filled with so much hatred, such a tired game.  It’s enough, I’ve done all I can think of.  Chased down all my demons, I’ll see you do the same.

Listen To “Perfect (Clean Version)” by Pink here.

Lots of lessons to be learned.  Lots of good work to be done.  Think Bela Karolyi, “We can do it!  We can do it!”


A very dear friend of mine lost her mother last Saturday morning.  She had suffered a stroke almost ten years ago, and she’s been in and out of hospice care four times.  At last, after she ate her breakfast on Saturday morning, she went home to be with the Lord.  She was predeceased by her husband and one of her daughters.  She leaves behind three more daughters, two sons, and a ton of grandchildren.  As I listen to my friend describe her, she was a true strong woman of grace.

So I offer my friend and her family this post to honor their beloved mother and grandmother.  Her legacy lives on through you and may you know the peace, wisdom and grace of the lessons she both taught and learned and may you find comfort in your memories of her.  With love.

May you see God’s light on the path ahead
When the road you walk is dark.
May you always hear,
Even in your hour of sorrow,
The gentle singing of the lark.
When times are hard may hardness
Never turn your heart to stone,
May you always remember
when the shadows fall—
You do not walk alone. ~ Irish Blessing


The Stockdale Paradox–have you heard of it?  Chances are good if you’ve read the book Good to Great by Jim Collins that you have.  The Stockdale Paradox is named after Admiral Jim Stockdale, who was the highest ranking United States military officer in the “Hanoi Hilton” prisoner-of-war camp during the height of the Vietnam War.  You can read about Admiral Stockdale, who passed away in 2005, on the following Wiki site:  Admiral Stockdale Wikipedia site  He also has an official website, which I dare you to go to and remain dry-eyed and you can access through this link:  Admiral Stockdale’s official website  I started to well up with tears when I heard the music, and then got goose bumps when I saw his birthday is the same as mine (month and day, not the year) . 

Anyway, as Collins writes in his popular book:

Stockdale lived out the war without any prisoner’s rights, no set release date, and no certainty as to whether he would even survive to see his family again.  He shouldered the burden of command, doing everything he could to create conditions that would increase the number of prisoners who would survive unbroken, while fighting an internal war against his captors and their attempts to use the prisoners for propaganda.

Collins goes on to report more of the Admiral’s story and naturally he asks Admiral Stockdale how he was able to successfully survive such unbelievably brutal conditions and repeated tortures.  Collins quotes the Admiral in his book:  “I never lost faith in the end of the story.  I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

After a pause, Collins then asked him, “Who didn’t make it out?” and goes on to tell about the Admiral’s answer:

‘Oh that’s easy,’ he said.  ‘The optimists.’

‘The optimists?  I don’t understand,’ I said, now completely confused, given what he’d said a hundred meters earlier in their walk.

‘The optimists.  Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’  And Christmas would come and Christmas would go.  Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’  And Easter would come, and Easter would go.  And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again.  And they died of a broken heart.’

Another long pause, and more walking.  Then he turned to me and said,  ‘This is a very important lesson.   You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end–which you can never afford to lose–with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

That conversation with Admiral Stockdale stayed with me, and in fact had a profound influence on my own development.  Life is unfair–sometimes to our advantage, sometimes to our disadvantage.  We will all experience disappointments and crushing events somewhere along the way, setbacks for which there is no ‘reason,’ no one to blame.  It might be disease; it might be losing a loved one; it might be getting swept away in a political shake-up; it might be getting shot down over Vietnam and thrown into a POW camp for eight years.  What separates people, Stockdale taught me, is not the presence or absence of difficulty, but how they deal with the inevitable difficulties of life.  In wrestling with life’s challenges, the Stockdale Paradox (you must retain faith that you will prevail in the end AND you must also confront the most brutal facts of your current reality) has proved powerful for coming back from difficulties not weakened, but stronger–not just for me, but all those who’ve learned the lesson and tried to apply it.

Strength with grace.  It is not only our successes that define us, but our failures and tragedies, as well.  Faith, conviction, and focus on reality.  “Be still and know that I am God.”