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Archive for the ‘Inspirational Stories’ Category

I am a true lover of cliches and overused phrases, so it’s not surprising that I often find myself saying “wow, it really is a small world after all.” In fact, just last night my cousin and I were exchanging messages on Facebook about an unexpected mutual friend, and I relayed that very phrase in our discussion. I must say, though, that it’s slightly hard for me to think of that phrase without thinking of the “It’s a Small World” boat ride at Walt Disney World. It’s the “ride” where a bunch of little plastic dolls from all over the world bob their heads and sing the song in a few different languages as you float by. It’s a great ride for the faint-of-heart (or extreme doll enthusiast) to take because it’s nice and relaxing and involves no treacherous flips or turns. I promise, my small talk about plastic dolls and outdated Disney rides is actually going somewhere…

Every couple always remembers the “first time we met” (unless that first time involved one too many “adult” beverages and the night’s events have to get pieced together after a few Advil and a next-day snooze). Nonetheless, the details are often regaled to friends and family at parties, wedding receptions, anniversary parties, etc. I think it’s always so refreshing to hear of the unlikely way a couple met or how the universe somehow pulled them together and they couldn’t help but fall in love. Everyone has his or her own interpretation of stolen first glances, shy and awkward hellos, and meet-cutes. Well, for one Boyton Beach, FL couple, their “first time we saw each other” story was a lot more interesting than they initially thought…

Just days before their wedding was to take place, Donna, the blushing bride-to-be, was showing her fiance, Alex, a few family photos from her childhood. They flipped nonchalantly from picture to picture until Alex became fixated on a specific picture of Donna and her family at Disney World. He couldn’t help but notice a familiar figure in the background of the picture – his own father pushing a stroller. As he soon realized, that stroller was occupied by none other than Alex himself. Donna’s family lived in Florida at the time and had gone to Disney World for the day, and Alex’s family was visiting from Montreal; and somehow in all the hustle-and-bustle, the two young toddles crossed paths. Little did they know that their first photo together was taken decades prior to their (now second) meeting at work where they fell in love. Let’s all let out a collective “awww” and smile as we think, wow, it’s a small world after all… 🙂

What a great story to tell the grandchildren!

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Because I am moving in a few short weeks, I’ve been spending some of my free time (actually, most of my time – what do you expect – I don’t have a job?!) going through all of my belongings deciding what stays, what goes, and what becomes one with the landfill (or recycling plant for all my “green” friends out there). I often tear out magazine and newspaper articles that I come across and want to read but just don’t have the time to focus on at the moment. I tear them out, throw out (recycle!) the remainder magazines and/or newspapers, and store the clippings in safe keeping for a future read-a-thon. During my read-a-thons, I fish out the folder(s) full of all my “save for later” articles and begin reading – my mind clear and ready to absorb the information – so I can eventually recycle those articles as well and replenish my “save for later” folder with new and up-do-date information. This past Saturday night, I turned off the T.V, grabbed some jelly beans (okay, so they aren’t really necessary for the read-a-thon, but they make it that much better in the end), cleaned off my glasses, and prepared myself for an all night article fest.

I scoured numerous articles I had saved on politics, health issues, fitness, etc., and I learned how to adequately care for sweaters, remove red wine stains, and perform a proper standing lunge. Yes, all very useful information, but the one article I came across that really resonated with me and made me feel inspired and uplifted was entitled “Habits of Happy Women” that I tore out of a past issue of SELF magazine. This article encourages readers to “find a serene spot, pull out a pen, and list your never-fail pleasures, no matter how goofy or self-indulgent they sound,” because, sometimes, happiness is hard to get a hold of and we all need a few guaranteed tactics to make us feel better and feel happier when times are rough. So, I suggest we all listen to SELF and start jotting down and acting upon the fool-proof ways that individually lift our spirits. Or, take the advice of the women interviewed in the article (I listed out 10 of the top suggestions) and try out their happy habits (or similar ones!) to see if they work for you. I also added one of my own and hope you will add your favorite as well to share with all of the blog readers. Now,read on, start writing, and get ready to start smiling! 🙂

Photograph something every day:

“Four years ago, I started carting my camera everywhere and taking one photo a day. Sure, I have a lot of pictures of flowers or strangers in the laundry room of my apartment building, but I also have snapshots of my sister’s baby, friends’ weddings, sailing in St. Vincent and people who have come in and out of my life that I would have forgotten if I hadn’t captured them on film. When I sit down and look through my albums – another ritual in and of itself – I realize that even though I complain about my life at times, there are many reasons to be happy.”

Connect with your crew:

“The spring after my father died, I felt the need to strengthen my bonds with friends. So I organized a ‘Women I Love’ lunch as a way to boost my spirits. I invited all my friends over, we ate takeout, and one by one, I stood behind each woman and explained why I loved her. At the end of the afternoon, my friends all said, ‘You have to do this next year!’ and an annual tradition was born.”

Rock out:

“Whenever I need a lift, I get in the car, turn up my radio and sing at the top of my lungs. I may look foolish to the people in the next lane, but I’ll never see them again, so who cares?”

Be Hallmark happy:

“I love browsing in stationery stores. Typically, I’ll buy 10 or 15 funny cards all at once, stamp them, then toss them in my purse. That way, when I have a minute here or there – standing in line, waiting at the doctor – I’ll write a ‘thinking of you’ note to a friend and send it off. It gives me a good feeling knowing that they’ll have a pleasant surprise waiting for them in their mailbox.”

Enjoy a creative moment:

“When I was in Venice, I bought a leather journal that I now carry with me everywhere.l When I need an escape or just want to record a beautiful scene, I fill the pages with words or drawings. I love looking back and reflecting on what I’ve seen and heard. It keeps me linked to places I care about.”

Write a chain letter:

“After college, six of my best friends and I started a circle letter. The first person on the list writes a letter and sends it to the next person in the chain; she then adds her own letter and a treasure or two, and sends everything to the third, and so on. When it’s my turn, I put all my responsibilities on hold, curl up on the couch and sift through the photos, letters and clippings. It’s one of my favorite ways to reconnect.”

Get out the Kleenex:

“A couple of times a year I watch really sad movies, like When a Man Loves a Woman, by myself. I start crying, then I remember that this isn’t my real life and I feel better! It’s sort of reverse psychology.”

Eat like a queen:

“When I was growing up, my family had a tradition of marking our accomplishments by having the person of the hour eat off a red plate. So when I got engaged, my parents gave my fiance and me our own red plate. It reminds me how easy it is to make someone feel special. We use it to acknowledge things like finishing our taxes or getting a raise. When our puppy graduated from obedience school, he even got to eat off the red plate!”

Do something girly:

“Getting my nails done always turns my bad moods around. I usually manage to visit the salon once a week, which makes me feel in control of my otherwise hectic life. The flip side is that if my nails look scraggly, I know I need to slow down.”

Take the plunge:

“I live close to the ocean, so when I return home from work in the evenings, I like to walk by the beach, regardless of the season. If the temperature allows, I take a swim and ride some waves. When no one’s around, I may even skinny-dip. Being in the surf always makes the world melt away.”

My own fool-proof way to lift my spirits:

“I climb into some comfy clothes, turn off my phone, pop some popcorn or scoop out some ice-cream, sprawl out on the couch and watch an hour of hilarious Will and Grace, Friends, or The Office reruns. I push my ‘To-Do’ list out of sight and push anxiety and worry out of mind and, instead, zone in on the hilarious hi-jinks of Jack and Karen, Chandler and Joey, or Jim and Dwight. No matter how blue I am, I can’t help but laugh at a good joke :)”

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I recently began reading Too Soon to Say Goodbye – the last book Pulitzer Prize winning humorist and columnist, Art Buchwald, wrote shortly before he passed away. Buchwald, known as the “Whit of Washington,”spent 4 decades chronicling and satirizing the Washington political scene, and, at one time, his syndicated column appeared in more than 500 newspapers worldwide. At age 80, Buchwald had part of his leg and foot amputated due to blood clots and learned his already failing kidneys were totally failing. He began extensive and lengthy kidney dialysis, but after trying dialysis 12 times, he decided to throw in the towel. He no longer saw “a future in this” and didn’t “want to do it anymore!” Stopping the dialysis was, in a sense, signing his own death certificate, but in February 2006, Buchwald proceeded with checking himself into a hospice with the offshoot chance he would survive for about three weeks.

His three planned weeks turned into 5 unplanned months and “the man who wouldn’t die” was able to coin his last book and move back home to die on his “own terms.” Too Soon to Say Goodbye gives us an intimate look into Buchwald’s life and allows us to experience his hospice care and impending death with grace, dignity, and humility. I am only a few chapters in, but I can already tell what a special, inspirational person Art Buchwald is from just reading the first chapter. While essentially waiting to die, Buchwald still says of hospice care: “In case you’re wondering, I’m having a swell time – the best time of my life.” Buchwald is able to face death with joy and humor, and he reminds all of us to live life to the fullest and be grateful for every day we have. I hope his words will help to put your life in perspective and encourage you to find the humor in even the worst of situations. I’ve always believed that no matter how sad or bad you feel – if you can laugh – you will make it. I am so pleased to discover that real-life hero, Art Buchwald, feels the same way. 🙂

First chapter from Too Soon to Say Goodbye – entitled On Standby for Heaven:

“I am in a hospice and I have this recurring dream. I am at Dulles airport and I have a reservation to go to heaven. I go into the terminal and look at the list of flights. Heaven is at the last gate.

I don’t know if they have reading material on the plane, so I stop at the magazine stand and pick up “Vanity Fair,” “The New Yorker,” and “Playboy.” I also buy a package of gum and some M&M’s. Then I head toward security.

I have bought my ticket, which says, “When you go to heaven, you need only one bag, but do not include a cigarette lighter or sharp scissors.” I stand in line for hours. I didn’t realize how many people were on the same flights.

I run into several friends, and I am surprised to see them. They hadn’t mentioned they were going too. In my dream several of them are younger than I am, and I know two who were smokers.

I finally get to the security gate, holding on to my bag for dear life.

The agent says, “You don’t have to bring your computer with you. They have them up there.”

“I say to the agent, “I want to hold on to my bag because I don’t want you people to lose it.”

Then they make me take off my jacket, my belt, and my shoes.

When I ask why, the agent says, “You don’t want to wear shoes in heaven. They scratch up the floor.”

They send me through another gate because I have a pacemaker. Then they make me stick out my arms and they scan my legs with a wand.

I finally get to the departure gate. Dulles is crowded. In my dream, there are no seats in the waiting area, so I got to Starbucks to kill time. I am not sure if you get lunch on the plane to heaven. For all I know, they give you a bagel and cream cheese and a soft drink. I am warned by an attendant that I can’t get ouf of my seat on the flight.

This is kind of silly, because who would hijack a plane to heaven?

It’s open seating on the plane. I know heaven is a wonderful place, but on the way there you have to sit three across. As with all flights, there are emergency exits in case the pilot changes his mind. There are also life jackets under each seat. In my dream the flight attendants are very beautiful, and they hand out blankets and pillows.

I enter the waiting area. The loudspeaker says, “Heaven is at the last gate. There will be intermediate stops in Dallas, Chicago, and Albuquerque. The plane has just arrived.”

I go up to the desk and ask, “Am I entitled to frequent flyer miles?”

The agent says, “You won’t need any, because you’re not coming back.”

Now, this is the part I love. (Remember, this is my dream.) The loudspeaker says, “Because of inclement weather, today’s flight to heaven has been canceled. You can come back tomorrow and we’ll put you on standby.”

Art Buchwald: 1925 - 2007

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We are constantly moving, looking, planning, doing, wondering; in the midst of one activity, we are thinking about the next one. Our brains and bodies are eternally at work, and it can sometimes seem impossible to try and focus on only one thing at a time. For example, right now, my primary focus is on this blog post, but in the back of my mind, I’m wondering what I should eat for breakfast (okay, maybe that one is in the forefront of my mind…), what time I should go to the gym, and which clothes I need to take to the dry cleaners. I’m also simultaneously on Facebook, Gmail, and WSJ online.

You know, women are excellent multi-taskers – we can talk on the phone, watch T.V., peruse the internet, and flawlessly apply lipstick all at the same time. Just the other day, I had a rag in one hand in an effort to finally win the war against the effervescent dust bunnies occupying my space, my cell phone in the other hand so that I could catch all the gossip about my girlfriend’s blind date, and my eyes were intently focused on the T.V. watching Pauly D and “The Situation” “creep” on some girls Jersey Shore style. These days, multitasking is synonymous with action – if you want to get it all done, you have to do at least three things at once.

Because we have high hopes and expectations for ourselves, we work as hard as we can to basically just “get it all done,” and we drive ourselves crazy doing it. We wear ourselves out trying to be attentive mothers,  star employees, 5 star family cooks, holiday hostesses, selfless volunteers, fun friends, loving sisters, caring daughters, spic-and-span maids, etc. etc. We all need to pause for a moment and remember –  we aren’t machines – sometimes, we just can’t do it all. As my mom says, “we can’t always be everything to everyone,” but we sure do try don’t we?

It really is okay to say no, to put some of our dreams on the back-burner for the time being, and to ask for help when needed; and it’s definitely okay to not be the best at everything you do. Slow your roll and think about what’s really important. I’m sure your child’s bake sale will benefit from brownies in a box just as much as homemade brownies, and I guarantee your boss doesn’t care that much if you used the same word two or three times in a report. We are constantly assuring friends, relatives, and co-workers that “nobody’s perfect.” Well if nobody’s perfect, what makes you think you can be?

This post is inspired by Mika Brzezinski who was courageous enough to share a valuable life lesson she learned about slowing down and re-prioritizing when she caused her 14 week-old baby girl to break her leg. At the time of her daughter’s accident, Brzezinski had been surviving on a two to three hour power nap per day while trying to be a devoted wife, a perfect mother to her toddler and newborn, AND an on-top-of it, vivacious overnight anchor for CBS News. One day, she was hectically running around her house (described by Brzezinski as “zipping around like a wild windup toy”) with her newborn, Carlie, on her hip when she missed the top step and tumbled down the stairs with Carlie pinned under her. Carlie was fortunate enough to only end up with a broken leg, but she remained in a body-cast for eight weeks following the incident. Brzezinski felt so guilty that her mile-a-minute lifestyle caused her daughter’s accident, and she began to realize how her desire to “do it all” was wrecking havoc on all aspects of her life. She soon discovered that she was a human and she had limits. It took her daughter’s near-death experience to realize that in the end, “failure can save your life.”

I strongly suggest reading Brezezinski’s entire article so you can cultivate your own perspective, but the last paragraph really sums up the importance of her story and the reason Brezezinski feels so compared to share. I hope you will glean some wisdom from her inspirational words. And remember, it’s okay to fail. Sometimes unintended failure can result in the most unintended of successes.

“I’ve shared this story with you not because it’s my proudest moment, but because I want to remind women that perfection is a myth. As my girls move toward adulthood, the most important lesson I can pass on is: Pace yourself. It’s what all these years of running and gunning and accomplishing have taught me. It’s not about slowing down but strategizing for the long haul. Pull back when your gut says you should. In retrospect, my biggest failures always seemed to find me when I was trying to do too much too soon. But that’s OK; sometimes the only way to get it right is to get it wrong first.”

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If you were minding your own business, going about your life as usual, and you stumbled upon an inordinate amount of cash that someone had clearly lost, what would you do? Would you pocket the money and never look back? Would you spend it all right away? Would you spend some today and save some for later? Would you invest it? Or…would you do the right thing and try to find the rightful owner?

Unfortunately, a lot of people would push aside their conscience and keep this new-found pot-of-gold for themselves. They would easily “forget” how it would feel to be the person on the other end of the equation – the person who had misplaced the money. And many other persons would assure themselves that they would give the money back right away until they were actually in the situation and faced with the decision. All virtue could fly out the window when holding an obscene amount of money in your hands.

Well Mukul Asaduzzaman, a New York City cab driver, encountered this type of situation when he found a purse containing $21,000 in the backseat of his cab. Asaduzzaman’s quick decision came easily; he recalled the advice his mother had given him when he was 5 years old – “Be honest, work hard and you will raise your station” – and went out of his way to find the rightful owner and return the money. He drove approximately 50 miles to a Long Island address he had found in the purse, but when no one was home, he left his phone number and a note saying, “Don’t worry, Felicia…I’ll keep it safe.” Felicia Lettieri, a visitor from Italy, got her money back a short time later.

Mukul Asaduzzaman is clearly a man of strong virtue and character, and he has most certainly increased his “station in life” like his mother informed him. As Albert Einstein once said: “Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.” We should all follow Asaduzzaman’s example and remind ourselves that the satisfaction of doing the right thing is far greater than any “reward” you may gain from doing the wrong thing. I think it’s safe to say that a clear conscience is worth more than $21,000 any day.

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For as long as I can remember, my mother has always clipped newspaper and magazine articles, printed out internet stories, or photocopied book pages containing information she wants to share with her family and friends. She often sneaks an inspirational or informational article into a birthday card she sends or with a package containing the items I had left at home on my last visit (I think my belongings have made a game out of taking turns crawling out of my suitcase before I depart back to Atlanta…). Nonetheless, I am my mother’s child, so I, inadvertently, engage in this same sort of behavior. My desk drawer is full of newspaper clippings and torn-out magazine pages with stories I want to share with others (hence, the main reason I created this blog – to share these types of uplifting stories with you 🙂 ) and articles I refer back to when I’m in need of a dose of inspiration.

One morning, a few days before Christmas, as my sister, brother-in-law,  and I sipped coffee and munched on granola, fruit, and yogurt, at my mother’s house in Roanoke, my mom pulled out a large, folded piece of paper  and asked my brother-in-law to read its content aloud. She had, of course, come across the story in a newspaper a few months prior and had saved it for us to read. The Hospital Window was so inspirational that I asked my mother if I could bring the article back to Atlanta to share with you (Luckily, it was not one of the belongings that crawled out of my suitcase this past trip…). I hope it is as thought-provoking, inspirational, and encouraging to you as it was to me.

The Hospital Window:

Two elderly men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window.

The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, and their favorite vacation spots.

And every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window. The man in the other bed began to live for those one-hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color of the rainbow. Grand old trees graced the landscape, and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene. One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man couldn’t hear the band, he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words. Day and weeks passed.

One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away. As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone. Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the world outside. Finally, he would have the job of seeing it for himself.

He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed. It faced a bland wall. The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate to describe such wonderful things outside the window. The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall.

She said, “Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.”

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Let’s not kid ourselves…I’m a cat person – always have been, always will be. For some reason, my interest in these furry felines has made for numerous jokes (many that I often make at my own expense) and a growing collection of cat-related memorabilia that people have given me over the years (cat push-pins, magnets, calendars, stuffed animals, books, and the list goes on and on). I love animals in general, but I just LOVE cats and have had three (two currently – shout-out to Odie and Rudy!) in my past 26 years. So when I came across a story about a missing cat that hobbled his way back to his home on two badly broken legs, it both broke my heart and inspired me.

One year-old Giggle Blizzard was on a routine play-date with his siblings in Spring Hill, FLA when he got separated from them and was hit by a car, unbeknown to his owner, Tracie Steger. That evening, when Steger called for her cats, all returned home – except for Blizzard. Steger searched all over the neighborhood and put a posting on CraigsList, but all leads to Blizzard’s whereabouts proved inconclusive. Eleven days later, on Thanksgiving evening, Steger found one more thing to be thankful for – Blizzard returned.  Steger had been spending time with family and friends when she heard meowing coming from outside. Much to her surprise, and extreme excitement, Blizzard was at the door. According to Steger, “he was meowing and he pulled himself into the house. He put his two front legs forward and his back legs kind of zig-zagged and skittled forward to catch up.” Poor little Blizzard’s hind legs were badly broken, but Orthopedic veterinary surgeon, Dr. Michael Kern, was able to save them. Now, Blizzard is catching up on some much-deserved R and R until he gets his casts removed in a month’s time.

Giggle Blizzard’s happy ending reminds me of an inspirational quote that we should all keep with us when we are ready to throw in the towel:

“When the world says, ‘Give up,’
Hope whispers, “Try it one more time.”
~Author Unknown

We can all learn a thing or two  about persistence and perseverance from Blizzard and his willingness to never give up on his journey back home – even with two broken legs and very little food and water. Whatever your journey may be, keep at it – remember, you may not be there yet, but you are closer than you were yesterday.

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