Wake Up – Giving Gratitude

This speech was inspired by my mom’s miraculous and heroic recovery from a big-time health scare a few years back.  It woke me up to what’s truly important in life.

This speech was designed for a 2013 speech competition for Toastmasters International where I won at the Division level.  Even though the video was filmed by my friend and not a professional, it’s a great way to get the full experience of the story.

If you prefer the written word, below is the full script in its 16th edition :)

 

 

Speech Script - (This includes body language cues as well – a true script)

Wake up Sara – Wake up. Your phone just rang…

Ugh…

Wake up…rise and shine

Let me tell you something…This…does not rise and shine. What this does is rise and…grab a cup of coffee. But I begrudgingly get up and shuffle into the other room to find my phone.

6 voicemails and 4 texts from my dad?

What did I miss? (in a panic)

“Mom is in the ER”

“Mom is out of surgery”

“Where are you – call us“

There’s an ache in my stomach.

Mister Contest Chair, my fellow toastmasters and most honored guests. Have you ever had a moment when your life became one big wake up call? When you knew that your life would change forever?

For me December 2nd, 2010. It was the beginning of a series of wake up calls that taught me how fragile yet powerful life can be.

WAKE UP CALL #1 – Life’s a roller coaster – We need to prepare for those…unexpected turns.

I called my dad in California, I found out my mother was in total system failure. It started with gallstones, but her blood pressure BOTTOMED OUT. Her major organs…shut down.

She had a 1 in 4 chance of survival.

My DAD WENT ON TO EXPLAIN, The doctors thought that to best fight the infection was to induce…a coma…But EVEN THEN it wasn’t good.

After I hung up, and all I could do was collapse on my bed and sob and sob and sob (quiver in voice). But then I sit up – (wipe my nose and flick) wait a second – my mom’s a fighter. I have to fight with her.

WAKE UP CALL #2 We must never give up the fight.

I start my fight with a prayer. (get on knees) I pray and pray, and send her lots and lots of love.

(Get back up) As I continued, I had this vision – A LOVE CIRCLE – a circle of women surrounding my mom, breathing for her and sending her love. It was so real; I got goosebumps.

FINALLY I Flew HOME and As I walked into her hospital room, I could barely recognize her– swollen with fluids and medicine, tubes and machines everywhere. It was like I was watching A TV DRAMA but there were no hot doctors…This was real life…

I sat down next and held her hand, she squeezed back tight. She was still fighting. I had to keep fighting with her…but how?

The love circle! Now I know this sounds a little crazy and…even “Hippy…Dippy (head nod)”. But What can I say– I lived in San Francisco for 8 years—I’m a hippy …(adjust clothes and nod head) in disguise. Shhh

But I didn’t know if my aunts who flew in from Minnesota (with accent), home of the SPAM museum, were would be up for such a crazy idea.

I finally mustered the courage to ask, and they happily agreed…(thumbs up) Groovy!

So we circled around her – (Act out – holding hands and take a deep breath.)

A few hours later, 10 days in a coma, my mom woke up! We must Never ever give up the fight.

In the following days of her recovery, SHE HAD TO learn to walk again. She had to learn to do everything again. WAKE UP CALL #3 – Now’s the time TO STEP UP and focus on what’s really important.

I had never needed to take care of anyone in my family before. That was my parents’ job. Now is the time for me to be a mom to my mom.

As she fought her way back to health, I stepped up to tend to her every need. SO I WOULD adjust the pillows under her legs again and again and again. Surely, I…wasn’t this high maintenance when she took care of me… miss drama queen.

So I continued to step up day after day, doing everything I could. I even tried BURNing INCENSE to clear out the toxic energy… (hands on hips) but the cranky nurses put the kibosh on that one. Something about oxygen and open flames??? I don’t know. (shrug)

But we knew she was on her way to recovery when her hands that were swollen like sausages had returned back to their natural STATE… wrinkled. (with smile – clap with excitment)

When the doctors informed us that my mom would make a full recovery, it hit me how close I was to losing her. I almost lost her once, but Now I have a 2nd chance (smile).

I SAT DOWN next to her AND WE SHARED FROM OUR HEARTS. We shared our fears AND frustrations. SHE GETS FRUSTRATED THAT SHE NEVER WINS AN ARGUMENT with my dad…the attorney… I GET FRUSTRATED WHEN DAD TELLS ME TO BE “Smart” WITH MY MONEY…….tsk…whatever that means…

But most of all…we shared our deep deep love for one another.

 

Two years ago, that phone call changed my life forever.

Please, please don’t wait until you get that phone call.

WAKE-UP – LIFE IS A ROLLER COASTER FULL OF UNEXPECTED TURNS. AND IF LIFE TAKES YOU down

WAKE UP AND NEVER GIVE UP THE FIGHT

WAKE UP AND STEP UP TO THE CHALLENGE

Now is the time to…

Wake UP!

Going for Gold? Go Within

With my fascination of Olympics, I have been in awe of all the tremendous hard work and difficult decisions that the Olympians have had to make over their lifetime to achieve their ultimate goal – GOLD!

With so many difficult decisions and sacrifices they have made to pursue their dreams, they had to look within, trust their gut or intuition to determine which way to go.

You have probably heard someone say, “Go with Your Gut!”  That’s what I often say when someone is struggling with a  decision to make.  The reason for this simple answer is that we truly do know what is best.  We have the wisdom within us to make those difficult choices.  It’s that quiet whisper that nudges you to make a choice that is consistent with who you truly are.

It’s not always the easier choice.  In fact, it is often more risky, more uncomfortable, but oh so much more rewarding.  In his famous 2005 commencement speech, Steve Jobs encourages “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.“

Every time, I am struggling with a life decision, especially the bigger ones, I waiver between what my inner voice says and what I think I should be doing.  The suffering that occurs in my head – should I – shouldn’t I.  In the end, after all the back and forth, when I go with my gut, I am so much happier and it more often works itself out.  When I follow the “should,” I often create more struggle and suffering.

Now this is not to say, seek out the advice and opinions of others or consider all options.  I am a big fan of checking in with others – the people who know me well or have some experience with the issue.  Sometimes, I seek out direct advice.  Sometimes, it’s just listening and teasing out what’s going on underneath the suffering.  They can provide new information to assist in making a stronger choice.  Who do you reach out to for advice or support?

Now you may be saying to yourself, “How can I trust that voice? I have made bad choices in the past, I don’t know if I can trust myself.” Self-doubt can run rampant in tough decisions.  Look – I get it.  Why do you think I suffer so much in decision wavering?  I am afraid of making the wrong decision. So I sit on the fence, which can be really uncomfortable – Ouch!

So it’s time to get off the fence and make a choice.  Remember you aren’t married to your choice – you can always make another choice later. As I look back on those bad decisions, I realized that I wasn’t following my inner wisdom, my fear or need to prove myself.  It was more in quick reaction rather than taking a breath, settling in and finding what was the deeper wisdom.

So the next time, you are going for gold or simply struggling to make a decision, take a breath, listen to that quiet wisdom, and step forward!

A Deeper Look

  • What would you do if you listened to your inner wisdom?
  • Who can you seek out for support?

Creating Your Definition of Success

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We all want to be successful in life, but what does that really mean?

Well, if you go by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Success is defined as “the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame.” But what if you have wealth and fame and no happiness?  There are plenty of cases where we have seen wealth and fame backfire on celebrities and other people in places of power.

We learn the meaning of success from our family, friends, and society as a whole from a very young age. And that definition continues to be reinforced as we grow older and new expectations are inserted – job, salary, family, etc.  Sometimes that works for people, but many times it causes undue suffering.

What if what’s important to you isn’t in the standard definition of success?  Does that mean you won’t be considered successful?  In my humble opinion – Of course not!

The danger is that if we aren’t considered a success by others, we won’t consider ourselves successful.  Even more dangerous – we may consider ourselves a failure. I have definitely traveled down this dark dangerous alley – beating myself up along the way.

After a good self-inflicted assault, I realized that I must create MY OWN definition of success.  I haven’t been one to follow the path of others; I like to take blaze my own trail.  So why wouldn’t I blaze my own definition of success?

So I invite you to take a deeper look as to how you define success.  Is that what you really want out of life?  Or is that what other have said that you should want?  Are you striving for that will make you happy?  Or will it make others happy?

It is your life, so you get to define the terms…you get the final say in your success!

Looking Deeper

  • How would you define success?
  • What’s important for you to feel you have a successful year, a successful life?

Fire Re-ignited

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Last month, I had the awesome opportunity to attend the Omega Institute’s Women & Power Retreat and felt the Fire Reignited!  Inspired into action by listening to Omega’s Co-Founder Elizabeth Lesser, Vulnerability Expert Brene Brown, and Roshi Joan Halifax, I was ready to reconnect to my passion and purpose to make a difference.

This past year that fiery passion had been doused with doubt and struggle.  I had been on the economic roller coaster where my self-worth had been tied to the money in my bank account.  Even with a decade of inner work, I still struggled to find some peace in the matter.

With the amazing support of my partner, friends and family, I found the strength to keep holding on when all I wanted to do was jump off the ride.  Finally the financial roller coaster has slowed down and leveled out, I am incredibly grateful for the lessons the ride has taught me and ready to get back to my work on this planet – radical self-acceptance.

While it’s not all figured out, I have learned some great lessons along the way that I would like to share.

1.  You are not your circumstances. While I have heard this one many of times and even said it to others, I didn’t realized how much I tied my identity to my work. I found myself flailing when my career was in limbo.  Not sure where to go, not sure who I was. I had to keep telling myself, I am not my job.  I am not my bank account.  Even if we don’t attach to that, we may attach to other things like how smooth our day goes or how many likes we get on Facebook or Instagram.  We are sooo much bigger than those details.  If we can see our worth beyond our circumstances, then life’s challenges aren’t quite so debilitating. Our worth is unwavering.

2. Community is key. One of my saving graces has been and continues to be my community.  I am incredibly grateful for friends and family to listen when I needed to vent, hug me when I needed comforting, and the kick in the butt when I wanted to give up.  It’s important to reach out, get real and share what’s true for you in times of struggle. While often challenging to be vulnerable and reveal we don’t have it altogether (believe me, I can relate), it’s a crucial component to surviving the struggle.

3.  Get in action…Stay in action. This is easier said than done, at least the staying in action part.  By getting in action, doors opened for me, opportunities were created.  Despite my fantasy and desire that money would come in by watching marathons on Netflix, it didn’t work out that way.  By getting into action, energy was created and the world responded with something positive, some doorway to walk through.  While I must admit I didn’t walk through all the doorways, I know momentum was created with each threshold I passed, physically, energetically, emotionally.  I didn’t always know what was opening up, but I kept walking through.  By keeping enough momentum with each action step, shifts can occur and life can unfold in your favor.

Life is messy, uncertain and full of challenges. One day it can take you to the top of the mountain; the next day in the deep ravine.  That’s what makes it so beautifully mysterious.  It is that fire within each of us that keeps us going, that gives us grit and determination to not give up.  Push through the challenges, rise up out of the ravine and seek the summit of the mountain.   Join me and let your light shine for all to see!

Give the Gift of Presence

newtown-christmas620x350A strange week to say the least. Between mourning the tragedy in Newtown and the anticipation of the holidays, I am trying to sort out my thoughts and feelings of what seems like opposing experiences. How can I honor both experiences simultaneously? How can I honor the lives lost and still celebrate? How can I make the tragedy a personal wake-up call for my own life and not just for the nation?

The holidays are filled with opportunity to be around people, whether it’s family gatherings, parties, religious services or last minute shopping. These opportunities allow for us to not just be around them, but truly connect with each other.

While we often hunt for the perfect gift for our sister or best friend, we could give one that is more meaningful and FREE. We could give the Gift of our Presence. Yes, it may be cheesy or cliché, but can also be incredibly powerful.

Here are a few ways you can give the Gift of Presence:

Mend Friendships – Many people are speaking about how we can peace in our communities these days, but what about start with creating peace in our own circles. Are there any strained relationships that could use some mending? Are there are resentments that could be forgiven? I know there are few in my circles. My friend, Dr. Stephanie May, came up with this brilliant idea after much soul searching, and I just had to share it. If we can “Be the Change” of creating peace, then our communities and nation will be more peaceful.

Have Authentic Conversations – Despite the hectic schedule of the holidays, I consciously try to have meaningful conversations with family and friends, rather than surface chitchat. Far too often we speak from a place of automaticity, rather than authenticity. When people ask how are you doing, give them a real response beyond the automatic “fine.” Seek a deeper response in their answer as well; find out what’s really happening their lives. Brady Quinn, KC Chiefs quarterback, eloquently shared a similar message after the domestic violence tragedy with teammate, Jovan Belcher. By having authentic conversations, we show people that they matter and you care.

Create Gadget Free Time – The holidays often mean spending time with friends and family, but I know for me that most of that time is with my phone in hand. While I may be sitting with my family, I am checking Facebook or playing Angry Birds. As a result, I miss out on spending real time with people I care about. If we put the gadgets down, turn off the TV and spend real face-to-face time with our loved ones, we can truly stay connected.

Count Your Blessings – As the year comes to an end, it often is a time of reflection. And with this year in particular after all the tragedies, I am going to count my numerous blessings. While it may be easy to recall all the things that went wrong, it’s often more powerful to recognize our successes and be PRESENT to the greatness within ourselves and our lives.

After such a roller coaster of a year, and especially this last week, join me in taking the time this holiday season to count our blessings and truly connect with the people in our lives. With the simple Gift of Presence, we can make this holiday one to remember.

Thank You…More than Just Being Polite

THANK YOU…How many times do you hear it in a day? How many times do you say it in a day? If I consciously counted, I am sure there are at least dozen on each side of the Thank You.

However, I have difficulty remembering any that actually made an impact. Most could be categorized in the humdrum automatic social politeness. Rarely does the Thank You leave a lasting impression. Our Thank You’s can quickly become hollow in meaning, but they don’t have to be.

A thoughtful Thank You can create an opportunity for someone to not just be acknowledged, but truly seen. Whether it’s family, colleagues or customers, people want to know they matter, they make a difference in the world. Let the people in your life know they matter to you, they have an impact on your life.

Just after Superstorm Sandy, I had the pleasure of meeting Terry, a utility worker from California restoring power to a Queens neighborhood. Even after six days of exhausting work clearing trees and repairing power lines, he was proud to serve his country in desperate need of rebuilding. He was willing to put his life on hold for weeks to bring light to a community living in darkness. As a native Californian, I was so grateful for his generosity and sacrifice. As I thanked Terry, he quietly smiled – while probably not used to hearing gratitude in that way, it was apparent he was touched by my words and being seen for being a True Man of Service.

Here are a few tips to turn your Thank You from automatic to awesome:

Make it Personal– I find myself saying Thank You more as an automatic response than an actual Thank You. Whether it’s the clerk at the grocery store or the person holding the door open, a personal Thank You with eye contact and a smile interrupts the automatic and allows it to actually be heard as a message of gratitude rather than a required politeness. If you really want to interrupt the automaticity of thanks, you can use a sales clerk’s name (from their nametag). It often gets an extra smile.

Sprinkle in Specificity – This is a great strategy for the workplace. A simple Thank You is appreciated with colleagues; it is even more appreciated when there are some specifics attached to it. Adding some details with what they specifically did creates an environment that shows that you truly see them, their hard work and their contribution to the company. Thank You with specificity builds loyalty and encourages people to work even harder.

Top it off with Heart – A heartfelt Thank You is an amazing gift to give someone. Those are the ones I remember, the ones that remind me that I am making a difference in the lives of others. With Thanksgiving days away, a great way to thank your friends and loved ones is to acknowledge them for not just what they do for you, but how their actions have impacted your life. Share with them how they have made a difference in your life. I know this may be outside of your comfort zone and could even be a bit awkward, but the benefits can far outlast the awkward moment.

With Thanksgiving around the corner…Who can you thank in your life? Whether it’s a stranger, like Terry, or a loved one, I encourage you to acknowledge them with a personal, specific and heart-filled Thank You.

Valentine’s Day – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

heart-in-hands200x150Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays that is often loaded with mixed feelings and thoughts. Between the countless ads on TV, store aisles filled with candy and cards, this day has become overshadowed by capitalism than it’s original intention – Love.

I too find myself forgetting about the true purpose and getting sucked into the things rather than the love. So why not look a little deeper at this holiday named after St. Valentine. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and even the ugly:

The Good Stuff – The cool part about Valentine’s Day is that it’s a day about all types of love, not just romantic love. In a society where we can get caught up in our busy lives, we can forget to stop and celebrate all the love in our lives. Love is an essential part of our lives and for the world to keep us happy and healthy. So the more we remember and celebrate the love that we have around us, the better.

Suggestion: Tell the important people in your life that you love them: message on Facebook, send a text, or go old school and call them.

The Bad Stuff – Expectations…unfortunately this holiday is loaded with them. With advertising everywhere you look, it’s easy to get caught up in the expectations around romance, flowers, cards and candy. The problem is not that we have expectations, but that we aren’t talking about them with our loved ones. When we think our loved ones should just know what we want, we set them up for failure and ourselves for disappointment. Even more problematic, when we believe our expectations aren’t met, it’s can become evidence that we aren’t truly loved by that person. The best way to alleviate some of the disappointment and stress is to talk about it, get it all out on the table.

Suggestion: Chat with your significant other around expectations for the day to make sure the both of you are on the same page. And try not to make it mean anything if your expectations aren’t met.

The Ugly Stuff: Singles can often be left out of the Valentine’s Day festivities. Even though the holiday is about love in general, the commercial side makes it about romantic love. But the day isn’t just for the couples – celebrate being single and love yourself and the friends around you!

Suggestion: Grab your friends, your family and other loved ones and have a V-Day Party! Celebrate with the great loves in your life! You could even exchange cards and candy.

Whether you are single or in a relationship, celebrate this Valentine’s Day by appreciating the ones you love!

Gratitude Lists – Top 10 Reasons to be Grateful

Having yesterday off to give thanks, I felt compelled to sit down and make a Gratitude List to remember that I have an amazing life, even when things don’t appear so amazing.

Stopping to recognize what’s good in your life can shift your mood, your attitude immediately. If you are being grateful, it is impossible to be disappointed or complaining simultaneously. If you are ever wanting to shift your mood or attitude, then pause and be grateful.

You to can make a gratitude list. You can wake up each morning and write a list of 5 or 10 things. This can start your day in a positive way. Or you could write your list just before bed and be grateful for the day you had. It’s a powerful tool to use and choose how you want to show up in your life.

Enough about why it’s important or helpful – here is my list.

My Gratitude List – Top 10

1. My mom’s health – Just last year at this time she was in a coma – now she is fully recovered and healthy. What a miracle she is!

2. My family’s love and support – I have made big life changes over the last few years, including quitting grad school, and they have supported my decisions all the way.

3. My sister’s sense of adventure – My sister is currently living in Thailand, teaching English and traveling throughout the Southeast. What an inspiration!

4. My boyfriend’s love – It shows up even in the small stuff. I was feeling ill yesterday after dinner and he sweetly took care of me.

5. My breath – With each deep sigh, I am reminded that I am still here on this planet, able to take action, achieve my dreams and fulfill my purpose.

6. My job at the Eleanor Roosevelt Center – The opportunity to run their Girls’ Leadership Program is just a perfect melding of my passions and talents. I love the program and the people I work with.

7. Opportunity to Write – I love the opportunity to have my words make a difference for people. What a blessing to inspire and motivate with the written word.

8. My past traumas and pain – Now this one may seem odd to include, but I have learned so much about myself and the power of healing that I use on a daily basis. They have truly been gifts, just wrapped in ugly paper.

9. My friends – Too many to name here – I am continuously amazed and inspired by my friends who support me, encourage me, kick my butt when needed, but most importantly love me unconditionally.

10. My relationship with the Divine – I haven’t always had a close relationship to the Divine or God. I have spent many years developing this relationship, deepening and strengthening this bond that now seems unshakeable. I know that this investment has allowed me to surrender and fully thrive in this world, and live this amazing life.

REFLECTION
What are you grateful for? What would be on your gratitude list?