Archive for category Inspirational Stories

Here is something we should all read at least once a week…

Make sure you read to the end.

Written by Regina Brett, 90 years old, of the Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio.

“To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most requested column I’ve ever written.  My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:

  1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.
  2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
  3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
  4. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.
  5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
  6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
  7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.
  8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
  9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
  10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
  11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.
  12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.
  13. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
  14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.
  15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.
  16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
  17. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.
  18. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.
  19. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
  20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.
  21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
  22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.
  23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.
  24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
  25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
  26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words ‘In five years, will this matter?’
  27. Always choose life.
  28. Forgive everyone everything.
  29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
  30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
  31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
  32. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
  33. Believe in miracles.
  34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.
  35. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
  36. Growing old beats the alternative — dying young.
  37. Your children get only one childhood.
  38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
  39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
  40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.
  41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
  42. The best is yet to come…
  43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
  44. Yield.
  45. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.”

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Accountability

I found this piece on Accountability and I thought it would be worth sharing with you. The piece came across my desk over 10 years ago and it has been with me ever since. Not knowing who authored it, I framed it and added it to my wall and it has served as a guidepost and helped me when I have gotten lost in my elaborate victim stories of what was happening and or going on.  Understanding and accepting this distinction of Accountability in my life has served me well and I hope you find this as valuable as I did and it makes a difference for you.

Have a great weekend.

Elisa

Accountability

Accountability is foundational to world class performance in any realm. It means taking a position of ownership for all of the events and actions in my life. When I am accountable, I have the experience of personal power, control effectiveness, and accomplishment.

From my vantage point of accountability, I see that things don’t just happen by accident or at random. I can look at everything that occurs in a manner which illuminates how what I did or didn’t do played a critical role in events turning out as they did. Looking at my involvement, no matter how small it might appear to be, as essential to the outcome, is the only way to look at events which puts me in the position of ownership. It is only from this position of ownership that I can be in action.

If I choose not to be accountable, I am choosing to be a victim. Playing the victim is a good way to get sympathy, attention, and get me off the hook, but it leaves me powerless and at the effect of everyone and everything. When I am being a victim, I have the delusion of being on moral high ground as a result of having unjust suffering inflicted upon me. This is a compelling position as I can induce guilt and shame in myself and others. However, it is not a position of authentic power, for as a victim I always have to wait for others to rescue me. When I am being a victim, I always ask, “Why did it happen? Whose fault is it? Who do I blame?”

My division has been redirected…

My unit has been downsized…

My budget has been cut…

My marriage is not going well…

In these circumstances it is very easy to invent a victim story. “Poor me …They did it to me again.” With a good victim story, I can assign fault and blame and spend lots of time suffering. An accountable approach is to see the circumstances and accept them as they are and then ask, “Now what? Given that this is so, what am I going to do?”

Accountability is a personal choice I make about how I am going to approach life and every situation in it. It is not the same as responsibility. Responsibility is something that can be delegated or assigned. Accountability only occurs by choice.

World-class teams are made up of individuals who have each personally chosen to be accountable for the performance of the team. That does not mean they are each responsible, but that each is taking ownership for the outcome of the whole. As accountability is a personal choice, there is no such thing as team accountability. There are teams of individuals who have each chosen to be accountable, but no accountable teams.

In the realm of accountability, the challenge is to see how far I can expand my horizon of accountability. Can I be accountable for my Self, my Team, and my Business?

When I choose to be accountable, every new situation is a challenge, an opportunity to learn. The more I expand my horizon of accountability, the more I experience freedom from the cycle of guilt, blame, and shame, both for myself and others.

When I am being accountable, I focus on what is working rather than what is wrong.

If I choose to be a “victim,” I will procrastinate, not keep agreements, and invent terrific stories to explain why it wasn’t – my fault.

When I am being accountable, I know that I am choosing and I own the consequences of my choices.

When I am accountable, life is exciting and I am in control; not controlling, but powerfully, consciously choosing moves to effect the outcome.

Victims tend to complain, suffer from all of life’s problems, become easily confused or frustrated, and already know everything.

Accountable people are enthusiastic, alive, and aware. They have inner peace, a strong self-image and are committed to learning.

I choose accountability. If it’s to be, it really is up to me.

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Chapter 1: My Wake-Up Call

“You live life longer once you realize that any time spent being unhappy is wasted.”
—Ruth E. Renkl.

The day was September 17, 1997. I had noticed a small lump in the front of my neck. The mass had affected the way I swallowed for some time, and I frequently had dismissed it. This particular night I had gone to sleep with a feeling it required action.

During this time, I was serving as a physician in the United States Navy. I had attended an undergraduate university on the East Coast and then returned home to the Midwest to attend medical school. Once I’d graduated from my residency and fellowship, I’d entered active duty and had begun teaching at a Navy hospital. While there, I’d come to know a caring resident who was well trained in medicine. That morning, I sought him out.

On September 18, we began exploring possible causes for the mass. Tests included an ultrasound of my neck, blood work, and a chest X-ray. The thyroid function studies were normal. The ultrasound picturing the mass in my neck was solid; thus, the mass was a cause for concern. With that information, I went to another friend who was an ear, nose, and throat specialist. This doctor recommended a thyroid scan and a fine-needle aspiration to remove tissue from the mass for examination and evaluation.

The next morning, before I attended to my own patients, I went to the pathology area where I had a series of needles placed in my neck to withdraw fluid for the biopsies. Results came back normal, but the nodule showed “cold,” not “hot” on the thyroid scan. A cold thyroid scan signaled that the bump was probably malignant. Based on this, we decided to proceed with surgery to remove half of my thyroid gland. Although no cancerous cells were detected in the tissue taken in the fine-needle aspiration, we decided the best action was to remove the mass. We scheduled the surgery for September 26, coincidentally, my sister’s birthday.

Although I was familiar with the medical aspects of the procedure, the personal, emotional experience of dealing with an uncertain diagnosis was foreign to me. I had to take another step into the unknown, and I was scared. We each must face uncharted paths at times; yet to move on with life, we must acknowledge our fears and take that first step into the unknown. As men, we frequently take the steps alone. Yet, the help and support of friends comforts us when we need to move forward if we let them, so I felt good that the surgeon I’d have was a friend of mine.

On Jenny’s birthday, Dan removed half of my thyroid gland and, shortly after surgery, told me that the mass was benign— it contained no cancer cells. He also told me that operating on me as his friend had proved challenging. As surgeons, we make dozens of decisions during the course of an operation. When the patient is close to us, the emotion tied to our personal connection often intensifies the pressure to perform and increases the difficulty of decision-making. The nerve that allowed me to talk was located in a difficult-to-reach space on the right side of my neck. Because of that, Dan decided to leave a portion of the gland intact to protect my voice. Thankfully, this hadn’t proved to be a difficult choice since the mass was considered benign. I was on my way to recovering my health.

My recovery period was slightly uncomfortable without acute pain. I was glad to be back home with my wife, Carolyn, and my daughter, Demmi, early the following week. The surgery affected me the same way I respond to an airplane flight—it took awhile before my ears cleared and my normal hearing returned. For days, I felt like I was underwater, and my voice sounded strange. Throughout my life, I’ve typically kept many of my concerns to myself. As a man, I’ve felt I needed to be strong.

The recovery period after this surgery was one of the times I did share—I confided in Carolyn, telling her my concerns and fears. I came to realize strength was sharing my fears.

• What do you share with the people important in your life?
• What does it mean to let them get close?
• How does your life broaden by letting them close?

As my ears cleared, I told Carolyn I was glad to arrive on the other side of the surgery. But life brings us many unexpected surprises. Two days later, the phone rang at home; Dan was calling and in a quiet voice asked me to sit down.

(I always get a little concerned when somebody tells me sit down to receive news. Why wouldn’t we tell people to stand up and get ready for action? Instead, we say “sit down,” as if they’re expected to passively accept the bad news. Sure a chair provides support, but when it comes to getting us ready for a new situation, it might be better to say, “Stand up and get ready for action. I have some news that requires us to get busy!”)

Continuing, Dan told me that while the mass itself was negative for cancer, he’d found a small area of cancerous tissue adjacent to the mass. Further surgery would be needed to remove the other part of my thyroid gland and perform more tests. He had changed his surgery schedule to accommodate my needs on October 3—only two days away. I certainly didn’t have much time to think about it.

In the same conversation, Dan said my chest X-ray had shown a small mass on it, the kind medical science calls a calcific granuloma. Nothing to worry about, he said. It was simply a small area of calcium in the lungs that develops as a result of the environment in which we live. However, when cancer has been spotted, a CT scan is ordered to ensure that cancer has not traveled to the lungs. So we stepped forward to do the tests.

In the meantime, Carolyn and I had decided that August to have another baby. About eighteen days before I had decided to take action on the mass, she had become pregnant. Being pregnant, Carolyn needed my emotional support, and yet, I needed her support. In the worst-case scenario, she would be alone with a child and a new born. Our constant awareness of that possibility in the back of our minds added to the emotional challenges of the time.

Further affecting Carolyn’s capacity to cope with our situation, she had watched her father suffer and die from lung cancer when she was a teenager. When he died, he was about ten years older than I was. I know this deeply affected her, yet she was solidly and lovingly available for me.
My journey was so much easier with her love and support. During this experience, I began to communicate with her better. We both were experiencing similar emotions and concerns. Sharing the fear we each experienced strengthened our bond.

Our teammates make a huge difference in how easily we can go through life’s trials. We want them by our sides through the victories and the defeats. Similarly, in the game of basketball, players need other players they can pass the ball to, get rebounds from, and assist. Basketball would be exhausting if one player had to do everything from getting jump balls and moving the ball down the court to making shots and free throws and retrieving rebounds. In basketball, it’s absurd to think of one player doing it all, yet in life, many people try to do it all without creating a team.

• How do you use the teammates in your life?
• Do you let them into the inner game?
• What is your inner game?
• Do you quickly ask for support, or do you reluctantly ask for support?
• What does it mean to you to ask for support?
• Do you achieve most things with your effort alone? Would less effort be required if you had a team?
• How do you choose your teammates?
• As a man, do you have a team of one?
• How does it feel to think about having a larger team?

My CT scan showed no cancer, just the granuloma, and the surgery took place as scheduled. After several days of monitoring and further blood studies, I returned home. Although I would now need a thyroid supplement for the rest of my life, thank goodness the first part of this journey was behind me. I could get back to living my life.

Because cancer had been found, the parts of the thyroid gland that been left around the nerve on the side with the cancer had to be removed radioactively. For the procedure, I had to be off the thyroid medicine for six weeks. This may sound like no big deal—just stop taking a pill—but, by not taking it, I would become lethargic, tired, and grumpy, and in general, have a short fuse. Not everyone reacts the same, but typically, this is the way people respond. Our family life was challenging. My wife was pregnant and tired. I was lethargic and tired. We both had been through an emotionally challenging medical experience. At times, all I wanted to do was to crawl into a cave and emerge when the game was over. The game was now in overtime, and we needed to function as a team!

Carolyn was there to support me emotionally, and she helped me physically recover. I listened to her and provided help around the house to support her. When I felt isolated and alone, I forced myself out of my cave and forced myself to interact with Carolyn. Despite the hormonal changes my wife was experiencing because of her pregnancy and my stopping the supplemental thyroid (which left me incredibly sensitive to cold just as winter was coming on), Carolyn stood solidly by my side. Although our situation stretched the limits of our support for each other, we would come through this challenging time loving each other the same as ever, if not more.

When I returned to the hospital for radioactive iodine treatment on November 17, I was directed to the eighth floor. I vividly remember stepping out of the elevator and seeing the oncology sign that directs people to where oncologists treat cancer. Without thought, I stepped back into the elevator, assuming I was in the wrong place: a cancer ward. Then I realized, Oh, that’s right. I have cancer.

Once again, I was checked in and resumed my journey toward healing. This was the first time my own mortality became an issue. As a man, I was supposed to be strong and invincible. Seeing that sign made me feel weak and impotent. And yet it was only a sign.

• What images do you have of yourself? Do you see yourself as a warrior? As a lover?
• When you look inside, who is the true you?
• How would it feel to be the person you feel at your core?
• What would life be like to live at your core?

Radioactive iodine is just that—radioactive. Health workers who work around the stuff all the time have to keep their distance. So picture this: You’re in a room alone; your only outside contact is through the phone. It just so happens to be a cold room, and the heat doesn’t seem to work. The nurses put a lead board across the door (it’s more like a portable wall made of lead) so that, once you take the pills, you don’t contaminate the hospital workers. The whole experience is like being in a cave of isolation. All you can drink is the ice water that is delivered to the cold room like food gets delivered to a prison cell: someone places the water at the door and walks away. Only then can you approach the table and pick up the ice water. Once you take the pills, you’re considered radioactively hot. You’re not let out of the room until your body has passed the majority of the radioactive iodine. As your body eliminates the medicine, the hospital workers take readings. Once the reading is low enough, you can safely go home. Until then, you are asked to stand at the door and the nurse’s aide scans your body with a device to detect the radiation. The healthcare workers maintain their distance. With each scan, you either pass or fail.

Day after day, I would get my hopes up, sure I would be able to go home that day and emerge from the cave. On many days, I rode the wave of hope back down to the cold room, waiting to be tested later that day or the next. I would fill my day with reading or watching television. I would huddle in a blanket to stay warm, but it never seemed to work. Although this part of my journey was mercifully brief, I had to learn the value of patience.

Mostly, I experienced a huge sense of loneliness in that room. The November wind blowing against the window increased the cold. A heater failed to keep my room warm. The ice water I had to drink chilled me from top to bottom. As the water and ice hit my lips, my body would begin to shiver, and the feeling would intensify as the water and ice made its way to my stomach. The cold permeated my entire body. I have never felt such a total body cold; nor have I felt so alone.

• What are the times you have felt alone?
• How would it have felt to have connected with a friend?
• What does it mean to connect with a friend?
• What strength got you through the lonely time?
• How does it feel to know that you have that strength?

I focused on returning to my family. Concentrating on the outcome I wanted helped me endure the experience. We all have experiences in life on par with this. How we interpret what happens to us makes all the difference; it’s the key to living life in the moment.

While focusing on what is happening to us, we can create a meaning that’s magical by deciding to make it that way. For me, my cancer experience taught me lessons about caring for others. Perhaps you’ve had a wake-up call that taught you to reclaim your physical fitness, that got you to change a relationship, or that pushed you to achieve a goal; or perhaps that wake-up call got you to be the person you truly are. Frequently it takes a huge amount of physical or emotional pain to get us to change our patterns and behaviors.

Athletes who get injured can bounce back and determine to train harder. There are many such sports heroes; Glen Cunningham and Lance Armstrong are two that come to mind. Lance Armstrong used his bout with cancer to train harder and bounced back as an even better athlete. He further expanded who he was and became a champion of cancer survivors and started a foundation. He didn’t sit in his cave and lick his wounds; he took action.

Learning from Life’s Challenges

I was a thirty-four-year old doctor when I had my own battle with cancer; the experience enabled me to resume my career with a fresh perspective on what a patient faces. I also embarked on a journey to get as much out of life as I possibly could. Not surprisingly, one of my favorite movies is The Doctor, the DVD cover of which says, “He was a doctor who thought he knew it all until he became a patient.” William Hurt plays a cardiothoracic surgeon who discovers cancer in his larynx (the voice box). During the course of the film, we see his transformation from an uncaring technical surgeon to a man who values each life and each patient. We also see the changes in his relationship with his wife and son, as well as his relationship with a special friend he meets in the oncology ward of the hospital.

My experience influenced how I interact with my patients; I know that facing choices about treatments that are likely unfamiliar territory will bring their fears to the surface. Yet as I had to trust my doctors, my patients have to trust me—the person across the table– to look after them and care for them.

• Who relies on you?
• Do you focus on their needs?
• How does it feel to focus on their needs?
• How strong does it feel?

Much as we learn about our own potential athletic abilities from watching players perform in a stadium, we watch others perform in life and in the movies and learn about how we can perform in similar situations.

As you look at your own life, think about the stories you tell yourself—the movie clips that you run—and ask yourself the following questions:

• What stories do you use to justify your past behavior?
• What stories bind you like chains to past reactive behaviors?
• What stories do you tell yourself that limit who you really are?
• Who are you really?
• What lesson can you take from the stories to be that person?
• What was holding you back from changing those stories, now?

You have the ability to change the meaning of those stories and become the person you want to be. Now, you have the ability to live the game of life you desire and deserve. Why not rewrite those stories to empower you into the game of life? It’s time to decide to cut the chains that no longer move you toward your goals. Call it training for a later inning in the game of life.

Here’s an example from my life. In the fall of 2004, I joined an existing small, private practice, but the circumstances were not quite as I had expected. Indirect communication plagued the office, and most of the employees worked in an environment of fear. Despite there being a physician in charge, one of the employees masterfully controlled what occurred in the office. I had anticipated growing a practice that created a positive, empowering work environment for my employees and me. Instead, I found it difficult to change an office environment that had been in existence for quite some time. I initially tried to get the other people to change, working on the manipulative employee to be less controlling and urging others to stand up for themselves. I quickly realized that I could not control their actions; I could only control how I responded. I changed how I communicated and became very direct. With time, the environment changed to one in which direct communication reigned because I had altered how I responded: I only engaged in direct communication with my physician partner, and I did not respond to rumor and directly questioned people when confronted with rumor and gossip. My cancer experience had reinforced that life is too short to live it by other peoples’ rules. Play the game as yourself.

I realized that we can control how we play the game of life, but we can’t control the actions of the other players around us. The way Tiger Woods play golf is a great example of this point. As a masterful golfer, he can control his concentration and technique on each stroke. He has no control over the course and weather, no matter how much he may wish he could. All he can hope to do is control his game and his actions—something he does very well.

• Are there people in your life who you try to control?
• How frustrating is that? How much control do you actually have?
• How free would the game of life feel if you let that go?
• How much more energy would you have to concentrate and master your own game of life?

In the office environment I described, my emotions felt like the waves of an ocean being controlled outside of me. I was trying to control things I couldn’t and, as a result, felt out of control. I frequently was angry and withdrawn. Thanks to my cancer, I had embarked on a journey to get as much out of life as I possibly could. I started by learning to recognize and control my emotions. I realized I had reached a point of feeling victimized and depressed, so I started taking antidepressants. During this time, I learned a powerful lesson; I could control my emotions by understanding the thoughts causing the feelings that result in behaviors. When I realized that, I could change what I focused on, and by focusing differently, I could gain a new perspective. Instead of being focused on why difficult things and challenges always happened to me, I could focus on what I can learn from this. This change in focus altered what I got out of the situation. I flushed the pills down the toilet as a symbol of leaving behind my previous lack of emotional control.

Here are some questions to help you take control:

• How do you identify your emotions?
• If you don’t, why don’t you?
• As you think about your emotions, what do you notice that might be clues to the emotions you are going to feel? Do you notice a knot in your stomach? Do you feel tightness in your body? What clues could you notice in your body? In your thoughts?
• How do you switch your focus from being depressed about your situation to looking at what you can gain from it?

Emotional control doesn’t mean constantly reining in our emotions. It means noticing them and using the circumstances to shift them or using them to notice signals that empower us. Just as tennis players can make many choices about how they swing the racket (modifying speed, power, and grip, for example), we can react to life by deciding how we hit the ball emotionally.

The ups and downs we experience in the game of life mirror the ups and downs that occur in any sport. But we can use them to strengthen us, especially when we share our stories with others and expand the arena in which we play and expand the way we rely on our teammates and even the size of our team.

…My Story

I grew up in the beautiful coastal town of Mombasa, Kenya. The setting was idyllic and languid. But underneath that calmness, there were extremely high expectations of me. My parents had to drop-out before completing high school, and my father in particular was determined that this fate would not befall my sister and I. So we were expected to work extremely hard so we could “make something of ourselves.” While today I greatly appreciate their focus and discipline, it was a tough upbringing, and I well remember the humiliation of getting hit from time to time for not scoring perfect marks on a test or exam!
I carried this resentment for almost two decades, but it would be many years before I understood the fear that drove my parents, and only then could I forgive them for being so intolerant of my mistakes. For years too, I lived with terrifying nightmares about starting to write an exam, and drawing a total blank.

However, my blessing was that I drove myself to study hard, aim high, and was able to get into one of the best boys schools in Canada in 1977, thanks to the incredibly generous support of my uncle Alli Amlani who drive a taxi to pay for my schooling. I was ecstatic when I gained admission to Trinity College, University of Toronto, won a prestigious scholarship that covered all my costs, and by age 23, had completed an MBA from the Rotman School, also at University of Toronto.

Life moved fast My childhood sweetheart Narmin and I decided to get married at 20, had our first child Aliya at 23, our second child Amaan at 25, and by age 30, I had secured a number of promotions to become Vice President, Facilities at Sunnybrook Hospital, one of the largest teaching hospitals in Canada. I oversaw a construction and development portfolio of $500million, and by age 34, was ready to move on to bigger, entrepreneurial challenges, having accomplished everything I set out to do in record time. But something deep down inside also told me that as successful as I had been, I had not yet found my true calling. Little did I know it would take me over a decade to do so, with many ups and downs along the way.

But “success” came at a price. I was frequently ill with stress induced stomach pain, which saw me hospitalized three times for almost a week at a time. I was so driven to succeed that I did not pay enough attention to my marriage, so our relationship floundered for quite a while. And regrettably, I did not spend enough time with the children, leaving Narmin to bear the brunt of child-rearing responsibilities. As if my work responsibilities and challenges were not enough, I also had a senior level volunteer role in my faith based community, managing a heavy communications portfolio, to which I brought my same strong need to succeed, at all costs. You see, I was still trying to please my father. Again, I did well, but by 1995, was burnt out and quit my volunteer responsibilities at the end of a three year term, which capped a then-15 year volunteer career. In the process of working so hard, always feeling I had to prove myself, over and over again, my spirituality nose-dived, and my health continued to have more valleys than peaks. I was becoming increasingly miserable.

After soul searching for a year, I decided in 1995 to join Narmin’s small but growing communications firm, as we saw great possibilities at the dawn of the Internet. We grew the firm, moved to increasingly bigger space and more staff, and in 2000, moved again. But this time, a combination of factors would almost push me over the edge, making me so depressed that I would end up wanting to take my own life.

First, the Internet bubble burst. Not only did business from our technology clients dry up, but we lost a significant investment in a fledgling Internet start up. At the same time, we had high overhead expenses, including a particularly expensive office lease that we had entered into at the height of the Internet boom. Business friends advised us to declare bankruptcy and walk away from the lease. We stubbornly refused, and took on more debt to keep us going. Our integrity was the one thing we would not compromise: we committed to meeting our obligations, though at great cost to us.

Then my lower back, which had seen many ups and downs over 20 years, gave way completely, leaving me in agony that I could only control with increasing doses of morphine, and soon, a more powerful narcotic, OxyContin. For the first time in my life, everything seemed helpless. I could not apply my usual formula of hard work and obsession with getting results to solve our business problems. Some days, it was too painful to even come down the stairs for dinner with the family. My relationships with my immediate family soured, and I had no time for my extended family. I struggled with my volunteer role, doing the best I could, but enjoying it less and less every day. Having succeeded in many ways to date, I felt completely helpless, and useless. And to top it all, what little spirituality I had left evaporated in the face of these difficulties.

I saw only one way out, to take my own life, and I had the means at hand – lots of powerful painkiller. Each midnight as medication wore off and I woke up in pain ready for the next dose of massive painkiller, I thought how blissful it would be to not have to face life anymore. I felt I was a burden to my family, and contributed nothing to the world, a stark departure from the success I had enjoyed to that point.

But a small voice in me told me not to go through with it. My parents had always been deeply religious, and so had I until my teenage years. I knew that the taking of one’s life was severely forbidden within my faith, as it is in many other faiths, and furthermore, a Koranic injunction has always been at the back of my mind – “he who takes a life, it is as though he has killed all of mankind, and he who helps save a life, it is as though he has saved all of mankind.”
Over and over, I wanted to end my life, and had it not been this one thought, and the subsequent help that I was blessed to receive from Frank Tielve, just weeks before I was to go in for last recourse surgery, I would have taken my life.

Slowly, as my back improved, I began to rethink my priorities and outlook on life. I had let my highly depressed state get the better of me, and was blind to the many riches that were accessible to me every day: my family, friends, spirituality, nature, home, and meaningful volunteer work, to name just a few.

Then, a friend gave me a gift of two free tickets to an Anthony Robbins seminar, saying he thought I might find it inspirational. All I knew about Tony I’d learned from late-night infomercials, so I was skeptical.  However, I was still wrestling with the same questions about my life’s purpose that had plagued me during my darkest days, so I decided to attend.

The seminar made me think really hard about my life, and about what I wanted to achieve. It helped me recognize that I had overcome some incredible odds in the past, and that I had tremendous skills and potential, as each of us does.  Above all, I came away with the clear sense that I still had much to contribute to the world, especially since I had been very fortunate given my humble roots.

I promised myself I would take complete responsibility for every aspect of my life: my poor health, my disconnected spirituality, my struggling business, my strained family relations, and my continued dispirited outlook. I was inspired to outline a new vision for my life, one dramatically different from what I was experiencing! Most importantly, it was the beginning of my discovery that I was not alone in the world, but that I had a life spirit, a sliver of divinity, connecting me always to the greater divinity of life. In short, the Tony Robbins seminar, Unleash the Power Within, was a HUGE turning point in my life. It was also the start of unconsciously refining the blueprint that would soon become a proven process to help me transform my life dramatically, and that would later lead to my writing a book.

I came home from the seminar physically and psychologically energized. The next day I signed up for the 60 km Weekend to End Breast Cancer walk, something I had been contemplating for months, but thought I could never complete. After all, when walking round the block for a half hour represented the pinnacle of my recent fitness achievement following my back pain episodes, even thinking about 60km seemed painful! But, our bodies are remarkable resilient, and bit by bit, as the training walks grew longer and longer, my health improved. I began to think about my future in increasingly positive ways as well.

Narmin, who had also attended the seminar with me, was so impressed with my changes that she signed me up to attend Date with Destiny, a week-long, intensive seminar with Tony Robbins, in December 2003 though we could barely afford it. The seminar included a half-dozen life-coaching sessions. I had the great fortune to be coached by Elisa Palombi , who as it turned out, was one of Tony’s most senior coaches. Elisa’s support was pivotal in my staying on course with the changes I had begun to make in my life, and she remains a close, dear friend many years later.

Slowly, I intuitively incorporated systems that had allowed me to become very successful professionally during a 20 year period, when I had planned, managed and overseen over $750 million in unique building projects, both in my hospital role and as a volunteer involved with a major cultural project in mid-Toronto. I documented my daily progress, and started making rapid changes in my life.

I was determined to find a new strategic approach for my business. My colleagues and I charted a course to work with elementary and high schools in a way that allows us to help clients and causes we believe in, while putting ourselves on a firm financial footing. Though it has been a challenging journey, we are on track to achieving most of the ambitious goals from our five-year business plan.
Spiritually, I now feel connected all day long to my Creator. From July 2004 to July 2005, I woke up extremely early each morning to lead a congregation in meditation and prayer for two hours, reflect on my day, and then go for my morning walk, rain or shine. Most days, I still wake up at 4:00 am to meditate and pray in congregation, and to keep up my walking. And I discovered I have a gift for singing, now sing before congregations 1,000 people strong, and am working on my first CD with the many signing coaches who helped me over the last three years. Imagine: a few years ago, my fears prevented me from singing!

And I celebrate nature, whether it is being in awe at seeing a sunrise, giving an environmental focus to all my initiatives, or taking up photography. My relationships with my immediate and extended family have blossomed. Each day, I appreciate them more and more, and recognize how fortunate I am to have them in my life.  I thoroughly enjoy my volunteer commitments, where I have been involved in envisioning, leading and managing some $250 million of unique architectural projects over the last ten years.

Most importantly, my attitude towards life has changed. Now I see each day as a wonderful blessing, and as an opportunity to make an extraordinary difference in the world, one step at a time. I set “huge, audacious goals” for myself. I review these once a month to reflect on where I am and how I can spur my progress. Keep ANY Promise, a book about to be published, is an example of one of my audacious goals.  I am living and playing full-out, and keeping my promises.

These days, I radiate energy all day long. I have completed four 60 km charity walks to help end breast cancer, and Narmin and I have recruited teams to walk with us each year: together, we have raised about $70,000 to fight this devastating disease. In 2008, we plan to complete our fifth 60 km walk. Imagine: I thought I could not complete one walk!

I have lost—and kept off—forty pounds. I am free of painkillers, and from the massive back pain that plagued me for twenty-five years of my adult life. But while I’m extremely grateful for my good health, that’s only one of many accomplishments. Most have taken place over the last thirty-six months.

On January 20, 2005, I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with my daughter, Aliya. In March 2006, I organized a challenge for a group of high school students through a leadership development program that involved a trekking safari, an overnight climb up an active volcano, and a climb up Kilimanjaro, to raise almost $50,000 for HIV/AIDS projects. In March 2007, Narmin and I organized two such expeditions that will help support school programs in Kenya and Tanzania . . . and helped raise close to $200,000, impacting the lives of hundreds of young school children. And in August 2007, I hiked the Andes to over 15,000 feet, in preparation for an upcoming hike to base camp Everest and to fulfill a life-long dream to experience Machu Picchu!

If you had asked me a few years ago whether I thought such change was possible, I would have answered with an emphatic NO. But I now know that I am only scratching the surface of my potential. As I prepare to fulfill my life’s purpose over the next decades, I know that I am capable of much, much more, as we all are.

So, how did I become pain free, a mountain hiker, deeply spiritual, and closer to long-term financial stability, with great family relationships? How did I get to a situation where I am living my dreams?
I was able to take the key principles from my two decades of managing large, complex, one-of-a kind construction projects, and put these principles to use in my personal life.  I learned from the experts that the Universe placed in my path, people like Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Dab Sullivan, Robin Sharma, Eckhardt Tolle and many others. I absorbed their wisdom, which resonated with my instincts.

As that thinking process has deepened, I am able to achieve more and more with my life, in the service of the world, my family, and myself: gains that I would never have thought possible in such a short time. I have had the good fortune of sharing some of my “wins” with family and friends. As I see them making changes in their lives, I’ve come to realize that by using the right tools and reshaping our thinking, we each have the ability to achieve our own transformations and fulfill the unique purpose for which each of us is on Earth.

Over this period, I have developed a very clear purpose for my life that guides my choices and how I spend my time, every day. Quite simply, my purpose in life is to get ever closer to my Creator by sharing my wonderful blessings to make an extraordinary difference in the world.
Over the next 20 years, I have four overriding promises I have made to myself:

1. Provide the opportunity for five million (yes, 5 million) individuals to transform their lives in the way mine has been transformed.

2. Consult to 20 non-profits in order to help them make huge leaps in their goals, and fulfill their missions even better.

3. Make annual charitable contributions of at least 25% of profits.

4. Continue my personal transformation (in health and fitness, spirituality, emotions, mental outlook, personal attributes, generosity, volunteerism and relationships).

Why did I pick the 5 million person goal, and why such an ambitious number?

Firstly, it is a small way to repay the incredible generosity that compelled my uncle to drive a taxi at nights and weekends to pay for my education, and that compelled so many to help me recover my health, climb my mountains, regain my lost spirituality, and turn around my business. How could I not reciprocate the generosity I have been blessed to receive all my life, especially when I was most in need of help?

Secondly, as five million people set about making huge changes in their lives, I am convinced that many of these changes will result in countless acts of selfless giving to make the world a better place for many. That would constitute true happiness for me.

Thirdly, I know that change is not easy. A complete life makeover on the other hand is even more difficult. I had to struggle to piece together the answers that helped my personal transformation over the last five years. I attributed my progress to the simple, comprehensive, and ongoing system I had developed through my complex project management roles, and the thinking of many other inspirational gurus. I hope I can help others not have to go through the same struggle.

But why five million and not another number? Well, my original promise was to help a million people. Then when I started thinking about a 20-year time frame, I realized that I could achieve much, much more than helping one million people achieve huge goals. So I thought: why not make an audacious promise, especially one that I had no way of knowing how I would achieve? I raised my goal to five million, with the sure knowledge that the Universe will respond in its own way, at the right time, to help me keep my huge promise.

Karim H. Ismail
karim@keepanypromise.com
www.keepanypromise.com

Committment Attachment

I have been thinking about my contribution to this newsletter since the minute I officially committed to sharing my journey with ‘commitment verses attachment’. I immediately included the disclaimer to Elisa that I had not found the promise land of a perfect life, and I received the assurance that my sharing didn’t come with the prerequisite of complete enlightenment. This was a reminder to me that life isn’t a hunt for a treasure; but that the treasure is the hunt. I started out on a quest for a more fulfilled life – aren’t we all? Searching for a life that is of our choosing not one that happens to us.

There were two areas in my life where I was stuck. So I started there, using powerful language to support my desire for change. I wanted an outstanding relationship and career. I had one of each but be neither was outstanding. It seemed to me that I needed to get out of my own way to really achieve outstanding in either area of my life (come to find out that it was my attachments that were getting in my way).

My pursuit of an outstanding career wasn’t about a lack of clarity. I knew that for a career to be what I needed and wanted, it had to challenge me intellectually, allow me to contribute to others and allow me to connect with others. You see, I had been a mortgage broker for 7 years and the flexibility and income provided me the time and money I needed as a single mom. But now my son would be entering Kindergarten, and I was ready to do something else. I wasn’t moving forward; I was going to the office everyday. I hadn’t been making enough money for some time. I hadn’t been contributing or growing for some time. I hadn’t connected with anyone on a deeper level since I can’t remember. So why was I still there? Understanding that an attachment is something that doesn’t serve you and that is the polar opposite of a commitment, it was clear that I was attached to being a mortgage broker.

After a question or two, it was more than obvious that the fact that I started working at this office the day after my husband left me six years ago meant I was strongly attached to this JOB. When I couldn’t eat or sleep or breathe even, I went to work. The people, my job kept me going. I had a purpose everyday. I was attached. I needed to quit. So I did- I didn’t stop working yet, but I knew it was over, and I began to look for another career. I clearly defined my idea of an outstanding career and went into action. In a matter of two weeks, I started a small company giving surf lessons for the summer. I absolutely loved every minute of it. I connected with people and shared my love for the water. That was a summer job so to speak; I was still in search of a career. I applied to an engineering firm without an ounce of experience and subsequently enrolled in an engineering degree program. It may take me 10 years, but I am enjoying the classes. Still no career; so when the local high school posted an opening for a math position, I didn’t hesitate.

Having rid myself of my attachment (being a mortgage broker) and committed to an outstanding career, I got a job. Not the one I applied for, but since I was clear about my commitment and not attached, I got the job I needed to get.  I am now the middle school math specialist, and it is outstanding.  I know this isn’t the end of the road, and I am willing to continue to look for outstanding in my career.

So that was the easy part. The relationship part was and has proven to be the more difficult challenge.  My attachments were stronger and like the mold that grows in the shower it comes back again and again – sometimes tougher than other times.  Really looking at what an outstanding relationship looks like, made it hard for me to ignore the fact that my current relationship was horrible.  My pattern was the same in my relationship as it was in my office.  I showed up everyday whether it was good for me or not.  My relationship was barely a sliver of outstanding; a streak of sunlight sneaking in through closed curtains.  So rather than just quit, knowing that the relationship wasn’t right, I talked to Mark.  I shared with him what I wanted out of the relationship.  Things I hadn’t shared in the 2 years we had been together.  And you know what he said- “I don’t see any of that happening any time in the foreseeable future.”  I’m not talking marriage and kids. I just wanted love, connection, growth, commitment.  Horrible right – NO it was great; I was free of my attachment to Mark and me working out.  I was attached to us working out no matter what.  But he didn’t want what I wanted not in the tiniest way, so it was over.

It was the end of June. Now what?  Elisa suggested to me that I should: Date.  For 6 months.  Kiss some frogs.  But I had never dated before.  I thought there just weren’t enough options.  That was true for the old me attached to; finding a boyfriend- finding a husband- not being alone. It was pointed out to me that I didn’t have trouble with commitment just with whom I committed to.  The Me committed to an outstanding relationship had too many options.

I still don’t know where all the men came from. One guy from summer league soccer, surf lessons, another from summer league soccer, friend of a friend, blind date. And not to be left out, Mark.  Yes Mark, who had seen the light and wanted to give to me everything that I had ever wanted.  But I was committed to dating, and I let him and everyone else know that.  I was committed to an outstanding relationship and this process was allowing me to see what kind of men they really were.  Jealous, not present, over eager, understanding, caring…  I got to know some of these men in a way that I never would have under other circumstances, and I am still friends with them all.  As for me, I usually commit early in a relationship and this gave me time to not do that.  Without the commitment to date, I would have gotten back with Mark with some hesitation, but I didn’t because I was dating.  It gave me a chance to get to know Steve.  I still remember every word of my conversation with Steve the day that I told him that I was dating others and would be for a few more months.  He looked at me and told me that he wasn’t going anywhere.  He also said don’t get me wrong I don’t want to share you with anyone else.  But he understood.

My big question in the process was how will I know who the right one is? Elisa said,” trust the process and you’ll know.”  Of course she was right.  One day I knew I didn’t need to date Mark any more.  I met him and told him; not that I had found the right man, but that I knew that he wasn’t the right one for me.  I am proud of him and his growth, and he will make a great husband and father someday.

After every new first date or coffee, I found I had enjoyed my time but longed to spend that time with Steve. I was constantly renewing my commitment to an outstanding relationship and found, as I was in month 4 of dating, that I was really only dating Steve.  Elisa was right – I knew.

Steve is the great love of my life. I am thankful for every minute I have with him.  He and I have said to each other at different times, “How did we get so lucky?”  Maybe it isn’t luck.  Maybe the people we are committed to being and the type of relationship we are committed to having produces the emotions and connections we feel.  Steve and I communicate – which hurts sometimes to share and continue to grow.  I don’t just show up anymore, and the conversation that took me 2 years to have with Mark, Steve and I had at 7 months.  It was hard, but as a couple we committed to communicating more, sharing and connecting.  I have to exfoliate my attachments to Steve sometimes and see our relationship for what it is and challenge myself to recommit to outstanding.  This has proven to be the hardest and most rewarding part.  This is where we are; experiencing the troughs and crests of the pursuit of outstanding.  Completely in love.

Thank you for listening. I want to leave you with a quote that reminds me to continue moving forward. “And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight in the bud, became greater than the risk to blossom.” Anais Nin

Rebecca

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California Fires

Dear Elisa,

It is Sunday, October 28, 2007, a beautiful day. I look outside my window and it is beautiful. I see the ducks in the pond; my horses are grazing and I see and hear the birds that are snacking on the bird seed that I put out for them. They are unaffected by the events of the past week. They have no memories.

In looking back, through my memory, it almost seems like nothing happened. I guess it’s because in reality nothing did. I am here and it is now. But I am going to try and relate to you, and for me, what did happen so that I can rejoice in the present even more.

There are so many details I could go into but I will only tell you the things that led up to what I call my test.

We heard of the fire around 1:00 pm on Sunday, October 21, 2007. We have many fires in this area and generally are not directly affected by them. Just the normal warnings to be aware there is a fire east of us. The Santa Ana winds are strong and there is always a possibility of real danger but usually it just passes by us.

This time though, there seemed to be more of a chance that it would come through our valley and possibly quite close to us. I started moving horses to the center areas of our ranch just to have them out of harms way – out from under the oaks, away from buildings and into open areas such as arenas and green pastures. I figured it was mostly a waste of time but also felt that if the fire hit us, we would not have to move them during a time when we would need to be doing other things such as putting out fires. I think there was something inside that told me to do this because I had never done so much preparing in the past.

There were 8 of us at the barn near the horse boarding area. It was about 6:00 pm when we started seeing the glow coming over the hills. There is a 100 acre ranch to the east of us that is mostly dead grass fields. We figured it would be a while before it crawled across that field to us and we would have plenty of time to see it coming. Then about 15 minutes later, we started to see flames on those hills. I know now that we were seeing houses burning. It was just getting dark.

I took a quick ride in my truck from the east end of the ranch over to the main house and my office/guest house just because I was a little antsy. While I was driving back over the short bridge that goes over the creek that runs through our property, I noticed the first sign of burning embers flying by. The wind had picked up considerably – about 50mph by now.

I turned my truck to the left to go over to the house (Mike and Susan’s house) on the North East side of the ranch just to check to see if any of the embers were hitting that house yet. Our “plan” was to head over to that house if and when the embers reached us. We would put out spot fires there as well as defend the barn on the South East side of the property where we had cattle and hay and where the boarded horses were. I turned my truck to head in the direction of Mike and Susan’s house. I don’t know why, but I hesitated just a second and then decided to go on to the house. As I hit the gas pedal, I heard a loud crack and the old oak tree that stands at the intersection came down… just like that no more than 2 feet in front of my truck and now blocking the driveway to that house. Humm, that was close… interesting… I had never seen that before!

Still thinking we had so much time to stay ahead of the fire, I backed up a few feet and turned right to where the rest of the group was waiting at the South East end of the ranch to let them know they needed to bring a chainsaw over and clear the now blocked driveway to Mike and Susan’s house.

The whole time, I never felt any fear. Never felt any panic. I was simply doing what needed to be done under the given circumstances. Just doing… Not more than 10 minutes had passed since I went on my little “check” drive around the ranch.

When I got to the Barn where everyone was, all Hell had broken loose. They were all up and moving. It was like someone had kicked the ant pile and everyone was scrambling. I stopped and stepped out of my truck to find out what the “new” plan was and felt the gust of heat-filled wind hit me. Embers were everywhere. The wind had picked up even more. Henry was in the water truck heading to where the hay stack had started catching fire. Mike and Susan, who live in the house now blocked by the oak tree, were on foot heading in that direction. The others were simply scrambling. My goal was to get back over the bridge and over to the main house at the center of the ranch to keep watch over that area as well as the giant hay stack and cattle on the west end of the ranch. I was to let Henry know if there was a need for the water truck over there.

I turned my truck around and headed back towards the bridge. I looked to my left down the isle of horses and saw the old ranch dog Slim limping along trying to figure out where everyone was going. He is not fast and could not see anyone since the winds were now gusting at about 60 – 70 mph. (I found out the mph of the winds later). I pulled my truck down that isle next to him and I thought that somehow I could get one of those adrenalin boosts of energy and just pick up this 100lb old dog and toss him in my truck – NOT! One of the boarders saw me struggling and stopped his truck and horse trailer and I screamed above the wind and he came over to help me. We could barely open and then shut the truck door. Still no fear… just doing. Ok, dog is safe with me, head over the bridge – NOT.

I backed my truck out of the isle between the corrals and turned into the direction of the bridge. The banks are about 20 feet going into the creek off either side of the bridge.

This is the part that I found so amazing. I started forward and within seconds, lost all visibility. I am not talking heavy fog or dust lost, I am talking about I could only see inside my truck. The windshield and the windows to the side and back were as far as I could see. It was as if I was under dirty water. I could not tell how far I had gone – where the beginning of the bridge was or if I was there. It could be right, left, back or forward. I did not know. I also knew my truck was moving for some time while I was trying to feel my way across. If I put the truck in reverse, my signal went off that I was backing into something… I was a little confused at first but realized that it was the wind and debris blowing around me that was setting off the back up warning. I put the truck in forward and waited for a second before I realized I must not have my foot on the break. I was moving forward – but my foot was on the break… it was the wind moving me. The wind had grown to 90+ mph.

I thought I needed to move. I thought I needed to get out. I thought I was going to run off or be blown into the bank and into the creek bed to be found the next day burned up with this old dog. I thought I needed to THINK of something. I watched the show on my windshield. I tried to see SOMETHING to let me know where I was. I thought “I am going to be found dead along with this hundred year old dog”… you know the story, stopped to save the family pet and they both perished in the fire… how sad. “If she had just not stopped for the dog, she would be alive today.” I thought, and I thought, THINK!! My thinking lasted for all of 15 seconds.

I looked back at the old dog Slim. He wasn’t thinking at all. Then I looked. I looked at the windshield show. I looked at me. I watched me. I watched my thoughts. I questioned my thoughts. I watched. I was suddenly calm. I thought of the books I have been reading. I thought of the lessons I had learned. I thought of you Elisa. I thought of Byron Katie. I thought of Eckhart Tolle. No kidding. Here I am in my truck “centering”. I asked myself, “What are you feeling?” I cracked me up. I actually smiled and shook my head and cracked me up. “What do you think I’m feeling?????!!!!!”

Then seriously, asked me to feel what I was feeling. Ok, afraid? No not really. Should you do something? No, not yet. I could not do anything. So, wait. Ok. So I waited, and I watched, not only the show on my windshield (I think I saw the wicked witch of the west fly by) and I looked at Slim and past Slim to the show on the back windshield. I watched my “self” and waited. I watched and then I saw lights. A flicker of head lights for just a second. I watched where they had come from and barely saw the truck and trailer of the guy who helped me load Slim. He blinked his lights at me and turned and I followed closely. I was really hoping he knew where he was going! We headed to the arena area that was open space and to where we knew there was nothing that could catch fire. We were safe, Ol’ Slim and me. I looked at Slim again. He was just along for the ride.

This part is funny. You’ll love this. I had my cell phone with me. My good friend Kathy called. I recently bought her the book “Loving What Is”. She is a real worrier. Always thinking ahead and behind. We talk a lot about where I have been and where I am now and she totally sees the difference in me. When she called me, she asked if I was ok. I said yes. She asked where I was and what was going on. I told her. When she asked specifics about my home and dog (no, I was not sure if my house was on fire or if my beloved dog Stella was in my office burning up).

She asked again if I was ok and I said yes. She asked what I was going to do and I told her I was going to wait until I had an opportunity to do something. I said, “I am going to just be right now”. We both started cracking up. She said, “I’ve got to start reading that book again!” We kept in touch by cell phone until I could see enough to move.

The winds finally subsided enough to let me across the bridge – I can tell you I gunned it across when I saw the chance. And for the next 48 hours we fought the fire. For the next 48 hours I waited and watched as each of the minutes of that 48 hours ticked by. Always aware of exactly where I was at each of those minutes. I was there for Henry and his brother Mike to wash their burning eyes and to finally put Henry to bed. My hands were busy holding the hands of the ones who were afraid and to pet my sweet Stella dog. I didn’t project what might happen but simply watched what was happening. We saved most of the Barn. We saved all of the houses and animals and hay.

On the opposite side, I watched friends and family here fall completely apart. I mean, lay on the floor and cry and pass out because of the stress they put upon themselves projecting what could be happening; trying to fix it when there was nothing to fix. What might happen? They exhausted themselves from the inside out. It was sad to see, as it will be sad to watch in the coming months people that lost their homes in this fire come to grips with it. I will do what I can for them when I can.

Some of the most amazing things that I do and don’t feel; I am not angry, sad, frustrated or anything. I am simply joyful. I watched the animal we call fire live its life through our ranch. Devouring what was easy to devour and moving on when we put up our fight. The Wind and Fire were living, breathing entities with a purpose. It seemed to be their short time to be. They were going to take advantage of it. They devoured hundreds of houses and thousands of acres of land in Ramona and then headed down to Rancho Bernardo and beyond to the coastal communities. It was a very hungry fire. I look around the hillsides around my ranch and see only 6 homes where there were once 15 or more.

Wednesday, I wend for a ride on my horse up to the top of my burned ranch just to see. I was anxious to see it. I was not sad, mad or anything. I was just seeing it. It is black, dirty and different. I don’t see ugly. I see what it is. It is my home after the fire. I am amazed. I am content. I am filled with joy.

I am sitting in my office looking out my window at the horses grazing, the ducks on the pond and the birds snacking on the birdseed I put out for them. Life is good. I see that now more than ever. Not because of what I have gone through but because I do. How can I not?

Thank you for all you have taught me and all you have shared with me.

Love,

Vickie

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