Monday, February 28, 2011

Have A Cause...

Many women, in all walks of life, have taken it upon themselves to volunteer their time and join organizations with philanthropic aims. Aside from the obvious fact that helping others is a good thing, it is also beneficial to step outside of our own existence and be a part of something larger than ourselves.

With websites like Volunteer Match and many others, it's easy to find something that appeals to your strengths. If you like to be outdoors, consider volunteering with a forest restoration project. Love working with children? Volunteer at your local elementary school or be a Big Sister or Mentor to a child in need. It's a great way to test out potential career paths, meet new people and to strengthen and beautify your community.

For this week: Volunteer to help someone in need. While a more formal organization might not be able to employ you this week, look for ways in which you can ease the burden of someone within your community immediately. Offer a ride, babysit, take over a meal, lend a hand. Getting involved helps you see the bigger picture and helps you remember what kind of person you are.

For added points: Combine this with the first task, and don't tell a soul about your good deeds. Another secret with yourself about knowing your value without proclaiming it will go a long way in changing the way you carry yourself and the impact you have on others.

Gracy Kelly - founder of Association Mondiale des Amis de L'Enfance, helping children around the world.

Audrey Hepburn - worked tirelessly with UNICEF, became a Goodwill Ambassador, launched UNICEF's "STATE OF THE WORLD'S CHILDREN" reports

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis - assisted with American Association of Maternal and Infant Health, the American Cancer Society, and the Girl Scouts

Lady Diana - Donated and assisted the National Aids Trust, International Red Cross and Crescent, The Leprosy Mission, The Royal Marsden Hospital, Centrepoint, English National Ballet

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Women Can Have It All... Post from Penelope at Penelope's Oasis

Today, I'd like to share an article I read from one of my favorite blogger's Penelope at Penelope's Oasis. Her writing covers everything from motherhood, fashion, testing out products for her adorable little boy and sharing her feedback, as well as the wisdom she's acquired in the last few years while transitioning from single girl to wife to mother. I hope you enjoy!

“Women today are encouraged by some to have it all: money, travel, marriage, motherhood, and separate careers in the world… However, you cannot do all these things well at the same time. You cannot eat all of the pastries in the baking shop at once. You will get a tummyache. You cannot be a 100-percent wife, a 100-percent mother, a 100-percent church worker, a 100-percent career person, and a 100-percent public-service person at the same time. How can all of these roles be coordinated? I suggest that you can have it sequentially. Sequentially is a big word meaning to do things one at a time at different times. The book of Ecclesiastes says: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”

~ James Faust

I always found this beautiful and inspirational. I had my time where I went to school and was educated, and learned lots of new things, had great hobbies, and tried new things…. I had a career for ten years, attained some prestige, was independant…. I travelled a lot and saw the world, learned about different cultures, made lots of friends…. I met a great guy, had a lovely courtship, enjoyed our engagement, and got married…. Now I am going to be spending a good deal of time focusing on being a great mom and making my children into good citizens and people of fine character.

I may not have everything at once, but I love re-reading this quote every so often and reminding myself I can have it all… at different times. Any woman can. And what I’m doing right now is what I will focus on and put all my attention and heart into, until the season for it ends, and then I will be dedicated to the next adventure of my life, and I will always be able to look fondly back at all my past adventures.

Thank you Penelope!! And for more of her interesting, funny and sweet articles, please check out Penelope's Oasis.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Three Gates...

In almost all fables or riddles, there is the repetition of the number 3. The third character in the joke is always the deliverer of the punch line and the third little pig got the upper hand on the wolf. So I'm presenting my powerful three, shared with me by a woman I will never forget...

When you speak, make sure your words pass through these three gates: What is true, what is necessary and what is kind.

One of the key elements seen in women that exude grace is the way that they express themselves in public. Many of us would blush if we saw a recording of ourselves played back after a gab-fest with friends. Perhaps it would be punctuated by criticism, gossip or just plain mean remarks that would not accurately depict the kind of women we are, that we aspire to be. In reading some of the biographies and interviews of some of the most eloquent women of our time, it can be noted that even when describing their most horrible experiences or greatest enemies, they maintain their poise and never let those negative feelings get the better of them, or cast a shadow on their person.

I read once that what we say is like a boomerang; whatever you speak of will, in some way, come back to you. If you speak poorly of someone, those qualities became associated with you in the listener's mind. If you speak graciously of someone, then you also inherit those qualities to the listener. To this end, we have the opportunity to mold ourselves with our own words.

This week: Practice pausing before you speak. Envision the picture of the gates above before you begin to speak critically and ask yourself, "Is what I'm saying true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?" If it can't pass through all three gates, don't say it. Change the subject. Shrug your shoulders and say "Isn't that an interesting thought," and move on. Don't let the desire to seem wise by espousing opinions get the best of you. You're better than that.

Take a breath, remember who you are and who you want the world to remember you as, then speak from your heart. Then, experience the peace you feel by knowing you have encouraged more kindness and truth in the world.

Friday, February 18, 2011

In Another Woman's Shoes...

This was a wonderful and inspiring post from the blog Illuminated Mind. Author Ev'Yan talks about "stealing" the identity of someone you admire or who has qualities you feel you are still looking to achieve, in order to find how these strengths or traits may already exist within you.

How to Steal Someone's Identity

It's a bit like playing dress up, though this is a much deeper transformation than putting on a tutu and some fairy wings. You're going to fly like Thumbelina, not just look like her.

If you are afraid, envision yourself as someone who is bold like Leymah Gbowee and the women of Liberia who stood up to dangerous forces in their country.

If you are shy and must face something that requires more extroversion, imagine you are a person who is always at ease speaking publicly and dealing with crowds such as this delightful creature.

If you are wanting to be more patient, play the role of Saint Therese of Lisieux.

If you want to be more loving and compassionate, then I wish you knew my sister. She's a great role model for such things.

I will always default to wanting to be more Audrey. She seemed to be the kind of woman I aspire to be; eloquent, compassionate, charming. And while I won't look as good in flats and capri pants, I can play her for a day, and revel in the joy it brings.

Maya Plisetskaya

Dancing so beautifully at age 61, the inimitable Maya Plisetskaya.

She lived and danced with strength that defied the norm and created new standards in the world of ballet. In this video we see such poise, but this is a woman whose father was executed and mother shipped off to a Gulag during the Stalin regime, and who was held captive by her own country because of her heritage and being outspoken against the tyranny of her country's leaders, only let out to be a beautiful example of Russian talent.

This video and her story I find so incredibly inspiring. We all face adversity in life, some more than others, and it is how we deal with it that truly defines who we are.

Here is another sample of her work. Such a thing of beauty...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"One is happy as a result of one's own efforts, once one knows of the necessary ingredients of happiness — simple tastes, a certain degree of courage, self-denial to a point, love of work, and, above all, a clear conscience. Happiness is no vague dream, of that I now feel certain."

— George Sand

We are blessed to live in a time where we can be strong without having to hide under the guise of a masculine pseudonym, such as George Sand had to do. Whether as a mother, sister or friend, we have all seen the way that feminine strength can ease sorrow, fears and guide some of the deepest relationships we have in life.

A recent study showed that subjects (both men and women) who spend the same amount of time with a woman versus the same amount of time with a man reported feeling less lonely after their time spent with a woman. Woman's ability to bond, connect and empathize is one of our greatest strengths and something we should feel proud of. And even if the boyfriend or husband is out for "guy's night," he will feel his most exuberant when he knows he has a good woman who truly understands and listens to him. This is not to put down the contribution of male relationships, but to show how important we all are to one another.

And in the words of Kenneth Parcell of 30 Rock "Miss Lemon, there’s a reason God gave us two ears and one mouth. Listening is more important than talking. But He gave us 10 fingers! God must really want us to poke things!"

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The grain...

Grace means sometimes going against the grain. While it may seem that one who was living gracefully would want to be compliant and agreeable, I am apt to disagree that this is the proper action given our time. If we lived in an era where life was peaceful, children were always loved and cared for, men felt respected and admired, and women carried themselves with elegance and charm, then yes, this would be a time that falling in with the rank and file would be acceptable. It would be an environment that would lend to a type of living marked with points of universal generosity, exuberance and compassion. Unfortunately, we do not live in such a time.

When what is normal is selfishness, narcissism, greed, and little respect or regard for your fellow men, women and children, it is important to put your lovely foot down and proclaim that this is not the way for you. While the idyllic world I painted in the first paragraph sounds easier, it is in times like these that you can truly strengthen your character, and your resolve, while making a greater impact on the world around you.

Let's consider the hallmarks of today's society, specifically, what things are recurring day in and day out that are severing people from their humanity, and creating an environment that is isolated, unfeeling and lacking in grace.

It has been said that we are living in an era of "instant gratification." As noted with the recent economic downturn, people wanted homes before they could afford them. We consume resources at a rate greater than our planet can sustain us. We communicate at lightning speed without much regard for our listener, drive faster than ever, and have shorter attention spans. The result is destruction, lack of quality, chaos, depression, disconnect and a focus on negative drama to keep up with the pace of our lives.

So how should we begin to help turn the tide? To start, if everyone's going fast, slow down a bit and if everyone's being loud, whisper. Return the environment to a space of calm, beauty and nurture. Cultivate peacefulness. For today, try doing everything slower, reveling in how the pace lets you appreciate what you are doing even more. Seek out the beauty in the ordinary, and then begin sharing it with others. If you whisper, will it help you to listen to your heart? If you slow down a little, will you be able to perceive more of the beauty in the world, and appreciate the qualities that exist in others? Will it also bring you more peace?

For this week: Try out the above practice and let me know how it impacts you. What new experiences did you have? How difficult was it to slow down? Was it easy to do it alone, but you felt instantly rushed when with others? Did you feel the need to speed through life again because others wanted to sprint through it? What things did you find yourself thinking about going slower? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, February 14, 2011


This weekend, I attended a consciousness expo, filled with an array of spiritual and alternative health displays. There was one area that I was drawn to, featuring books on femininity and wellness, and in my head I was saying, is there something here that I can find and learn about grace. Moments later, the women there offered a bag full of cards and said to draw one out. My boyfriend reached in first, and I reached in second. Here is what my card said:

The Angel of Grace

Ananchel means "grace of God" and she is here to offer you the experience of an open heart allowing the love of God to pour in.

I started erupting in a fit of giggles. It was just what I was looking for, and I couldn't believe that it was exactly what I had chosen. I found a special place to keep the card as a reminder to live with grace everyday.

What has happened in your life lately to remind you to live more gracefully?

Friday, February 11, 2011

In Search of the Graceful Muse

It began over dinner... a beautiful little Italian restaurant on Larchmont. I sat with a dear friend who was about to move out of state to join her husband who had obtained a position with a new law firm. We discussed the challenges she faced, moving close to her husband's family at a time when they faced a variety of trials, taking what life dealt to us in stride and how it was imperative to face these things with grace. And there was that word...grace.

There seems to be so little of it nowadays. We stepped out of the restaurant and wandered across the way to a newsstand and perused the various covers, looking for examples of public figures that personified this quality, and we were struck with the fact that so little of it exists. A sliver of it was there, mostly in foreign dignitaries, and perhaps much of that allure was based in the fact that we knew so little of them... and that may be where the first part of grace is created.

Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Princess Diana, Jacqueline Kennedy, bygone emblems of grace, and a part of what was so wonderful about them was that there was so little that we knew. Women that were photographed, studied and written about, and yet they controlled what was revealed, both physically, mentally and emotionally, creating an air of mystery that usually inspired others to give them traits of charity, compassion, understanding and femininity that they may or may not have possessed. While obviously self-assured, they possessed a subtle question mark in their form, in a way proclaiming, "You know much of me, but not all."

This seems to be what we have gotten further and further from in this time. Everything is revealed; there is no space to move, to expand, to question. The saying goes "Gracefulness has been defined to be the outward expression of the inward harmony of the soul" but so much of this revealing is tantamount to saying, "What I am is not enough, I must seek validation outside of myself." A trick of Alfred Hitchcock's was to use his films to validate his phobias by making sure others were scared of the same things. By constantly exposing and seeking acceptance of our own self-loathing, we make it right to not embrace who we are. Begin today by keeping your first secret: Admit to yourself that you are exactly who God and the world need and want you to be.

When you move throughout your day, remember this fact. Don't tell anyone that you read this and are trying it out. Don't tell people that you are in need of improvement and are giving this new thing a go. Keep this promise to yourself, a little secret between you and your heart, a little mystery that only you know about. The twinkle in your eye will be the first sign that you have begun to find your graceful muse.