Happy Birthday to Me!

Happy Birthday to me! I recently celebrated my 45th birthday. This year I feel completely different than on my last birthday. Last year I was in a rut and looking for an escape from the hamster wheel in which I had found myself trapped. If you have followed my blog over the last year, you know that for my 44th birthday I decided to give myself the gift of happiness. As I set out on my journey, I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking for but I knew I needed something different. I had achieved what most would consider a successful life. I have a fantastic husband and daughter, I was a CEO, and I had all the material possessions I wanted. I could travel and enjoy the things that make me happy. The trouble is I wasn’t happy. In fact, I was downright miserable. From the outside looking in, I can imagine that most people thought I was crazy when I began discussing how unhappy I was. I laugh when I think about some of the phone calls I received as friends were checking on me to make sure I was “alright”.  I was and always have been “alright” but that didn’t mean I was happy. Last September I set out on a journey to find my happiness and what a journey it has been! I am thrilled to say that I have my inner joy again! Happy birthday to me, indeed!

If you are seeking the path to inner joy, I invite you to join me as I tell you my story. I do not propose to know all the answers, but I did find my answers. My journey is just that – my journey. I want to share everything I have learned about finding inner peace with you in hopes that you can use nuggets from it to help you with your journey. I don’t think that anyone should or will follow in my exact footsteps because each person’s path to inner joy is different. However, I do believe there are some important truths that can apply to most people.

I have made huge changes in the last twelve months including leaving my position as a CEO, downsizing my home and possessions, working to become a certified professional coach, and launching a new business. I have learned so much about myself and others. I look forward to sharing with you and hearing from you as you have questions and comments.

The burning question I sought to answer was “Why am I so unhappy?” There are times in our lives when it is very easy to pinpoint reasons that we are not feeling as joyful as we’d like. Other times, it isn’t as clear. For me, I was dumbfounded as to my lack of joy. I was living the life that society says should be wonderful.  The answer turned out to be fairly simple – I was not honoring my core values.  As such, I was living each day in inner turmoil.

Core values are guiding principles or qualities that represent our highest priorities, deeply held beliefs, and driving forces. Your core values form the foundation from which you should make all decisions. If you are living a life that upholds your core values, you feel a sense of fulfillment and joy. When your core values are not being honored, it leads to feelings of frustration, anger, and a lack of happiness. Our core values are the basis for how we define success. My problem was that I had made the mistake of assuming that society’s definition of success was my definition of success. I had never taken the time to explore my core values in depth and to truly articulate my definition of success. Man, that mistake has caused me a ton of gray hairs!

As I look over the past year, I am extremely grateful for the wonderful people in my life that have been and still are supportive of me. I’m excited to say I feel joy and a sense of fulfillment again. I have a clear understanding of what I value, how I define success, and what my future holds. I look forward to sharing this with you.

Finding Balance

Have you ever given yourself a birthday present? Most people don’t think to get themselves something. I know that I never have, but last year in September on my 44th birthday I decided to do just that. As my birthday approached, I could not shake the feeling that something was missing from my life. I have a very good life that looks just like everyone imagines the American dream should look. However, I was very unhappy and unfulfilled. I decided that I would give myself happiness for my birthday. I wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to do this but I was determined. I began a journey of introspection that has been the best thing I could ever do for myself. This past year I feel as though I have given myself the gift I have been seeking – true happiness with a dose of peace and joy.

As I reflect on the path I have taken, it is clear I have grown more personally in the last eight months than the 44 years leading up to it. My life, just like most, has been quite a roller coaster filled with both good and bad experiences. The ups and downs have helped to shape my values and priorities in life. If you have read my previous blogs, you know that I decided to downsize. The material things in life brought me joy but quite a bit of pain as well. I was spending too much of my time maintaining this lifestyle and not enough enjoying my family. I chose to minimize the distractions preventing me from being present in the times I viewed as important. While this was a great decision, I realized that it was not enough to help me achieve the happiness I was seeking. This led to further introspection.

I spent a great deal of time articulating what I really needed in my life in order to be happy. It became obvious that my definition of success did not truly make me happy. As I redefined success, I realized I needed to honor my values. I value being a mother and wife but I was not executing as well as I wanted because I was working too much. This realization caused confusion for me because I also value having a career that is fulfilling. Another of my values is creating fun experiences that provide great memories. I was not enjoying as many of these as I would like because work was demanding. Again, confusion set in because I truly enjoy working. My definition of success included being a great mom, wife and career woman. To be happy, I knew I had to find a way to achieve all three but I was having a tough time developing a plan to make this happen.

I spent some time researching tools and methods for achieving balance in my life. My solution was to find a life coach. A life coach is a person that helps to motivate, support, and push people to set and reach goals. A life coach provides accountability within a confidential and judgement free zone. It is like a personal trainer but for life goals. I had been feeling the need to move forward and make changes, but I felt like I was stuck and did not know how to take the first step. A life coach’s job is to help people sort through their thoughts, goals, and fears to develop a plan and then to hold them accountable in enacting the plan. This was just what I needed!

As I looked for a life coach, I became frustrated because there weren’t any in my immediate geographic region. Of course, at this point my entrepreneurial bells started ringing. I began to research coaching more in depth, not just to find one but to figure out how to be one. As I did this, a familiar feeling started to bubble inside me. It was something I hadn’t felt in a few years and had missed quite a bit. It was the feeling of fulfilling my purpose in life. I have always been an entrepreneur at heart with a need to help others succeed. Although I had labeled it differently, I realized I had coached entrepreneurs for many years as both a professor and as a consultant. How could I have forgotten how much I loved it?! As I continued reading about coaching I felt excitement and the urge to start doing it again. I remembered the joy I feel when I help others achieve success. I love the glow of possibilities in entrepreneur’s eyes and the energy they exude as they chase their dreams. I understand those feelings because I’ve experienced them. For the first time in several years, I was feeling them again. I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur and coach again. This was perfect in that it provides me a career I love with a flexible schedule allowing me more time with my family. Now eleven months later, I have left my position as a CEO, downsized our home, and taken the leap to becoming a full-time coach… AND I COULDN’T BE HAPPIER!

I am excited to launch Soluna Strategies, an entrepreneur and business coaching firm dedicated to helping others achieve the success they desire. Happy Birthday to me indeed! I have found the perfect solution to help achieve balance in my life while seeking my goals and honoring my values.

Are you feeling stuck? Would you like help sorting through your thoughts, feelings, and life so that you can work towards the life you desire? Email me. I’d love to help you! While I focus primarily on business related goals, I do have a vast network of coaches. We can find the perfect coach for you. I look forward to hearing from you!!


-Gina Simpson is a professional business and entrepreneurship coach and founder of Soluna Strategies. If you are interested in working with Gina to reach your full potential, email her at gina@freelunchkid.com. Her passion is your success!


I wish I had known then what I know now! -part 2

If you could go back in time and change some of your decisions, would you? If you did, how do you think your life in the here and now would be different?  There are times in all our pasts that we wish we had made a different decision. We get lost in dreaming about the “what ifs” – What if I had done this rather than that? It’s completely normal to reflect on our past and realize some of our decisions weren’t optimal.

In my previous blog, I introduced the concept of bounded rationality, which explains that individuals make decisions based upon the limited information and resources available at any given moment in time. As we age, further our education, and gain life experiences our level of bounded rationality increases. This allows us to look back in time and evaluate our past decisions. Our past decisions weren’t mistakes. They were reflections of our level of bounded rationality.

The awareness of bounded rationality gives us permission to be more forgiving of ourselves and others when decisions prove to be less than optimal. We make decisions based upon the best possible information we have at that moment. Maybe it is a good decision and maybe it isn’t, but it is the best one based upon what we know. If it proves to be the wrong decision, that doesn’t make it a mistake. It’s only a mistake if we do not seek out “good information” from others that could have helped us.

Hopefully, understanding the concept of bounded rationality motivates us to continually try to increase what is contained within ours. One of my favorite quotes is by Mark Twain. He said, “A man that does not read has no advantage over a man that cannot read.” I interpret this as continually expanding my bounded rationality. If I do that, I will be more successful than those that do not. There are numerous articles out there that talk about the reading habits of the most successful people in the world. They understand that life-long learning is crucial to their success.

Now that you know past decisions are not necessarily mistakes and the importance of increasing your bounded rationality, we can explore practical ways to apply your new-found wisdom. In my next blog, I talk about practical ways to apply the knowledge of our bounded rationality to increase our probability of success as well as possible pitfalls to avoid.

-Gina Simpson is a professional business and entrepreneurship coach and founder of Soluna Strategies. If you are interested in working with Gina to reach your full potential, email her at gina@freelunchkid.com. Her passion is your success!

I wish I had known then, what I know now!

I wish I had known then what I know now. How many times have you heard someone say this or said it yourself? Recently I made the decision to leave my CEO position to pursue full time coaching. I’m an entrepreneur at heart, so owning my own business again is very appealing to me. Also, I’m very passionate about helping people, especially budding entrepreneurs. This is going to allow me a more flexible schedule so that I can spend more time with my daughter. It’s a complete win-win for me. In my heart, I know this is the right decision but I can’t help but wonder if a few years from now I’ll look back and feel the same way. As those thoughts pop into my head, they create fear and self-doubt. I’m sure you can all think of a time when you’ve faced a decision that has left you feeling afraid and second guessing yourself or of decisions you’ve made in the past that you wish you could do over. I’m excited about my decision, so I don’t want to let negative thoughts and feelings take over.

I’ve been fortunate in my career with many great opportunities in both the public and private sectors. As I look back on my time as an entrepreneur, professor, consultant, and CEO I can see times that if I had known then what I know now I would’ve made different decisions. I can see that there are things I could’ve done to be more successful and to help those around me more. Hindsight is always 20/20, right?! Instead of looking back on things with regret, I look back and analyze why I made certain decisions so that I can better ones in the future.

In graduate school, I learned about a concept that changed me forever. It is called Bounded Rationality. In 1947, Herbert Simon introduced this idea to explain decision making. Simon believed that individuals face limitations when making decisions in terms of information, cognitive capacity, and time. I think about it like this: get a piece of paper and draw a stick person in the middle. Then draw a big circle around the stick figure.

The stick figure is faced with a decision. Maybe it’s a managerial decision, job change decision, an entrepreneurial decision, or something as simple as what to have for dinner. The circle around the stick figure represents everything this individual knows based upon several things such as education level, life experiences, and known resources available. Every person’s circle, or bounded rationality, is a different size and contains different information. We all make decisions based upon what is contained within our bounded rationality. Hopefully as we age, continue to learn, and have more life experiences our circle grows larger. We can try to increase the size of our circle by diving into educational tools, seeking out mentors, and getting involved in more activities. There is a component of time associated with the size of our bounded rationality as well. It makes sense that the older we get the more time we have to increase our bounded rationality. This helps to explain why we hopefully get wiser as we get older or why we say I wish I had known then what I know now. It also explains why hindsight is 20/20. I like the idea of bounded rationality because it helps to alleviate regret in past decisions. We all make decisions based upon the amount of information we have at the time the decision is made. Some of those decisions were good ones and some were bad ones, but there’s no reason to beat ourselves up over the bad ones. We all do the best we can in the moment. After I was exposed to this idea, it helped me to understand myself and others better.

Five years from now, will I look back and think I wish I had known then what I know now? I certainly hope so because this will mean that I’ve learned something. But will I regret my decision? HECK NO! If I am aware of my bounded rationality, emotions and personality and use that information to make a decision, I can never make a mistake. Wow, that’s a powerful statement, isn’t it?! You don’t have to make any more mistakes either.

In my next several blogs, I’m going to dive head first into this with you. I’ll start with discussing bounded rationality. The power associated with this concept is one of the key factors of success – in everything! Stay tuned!

We do not see things as they are. We see things as WE are.


Every morning I watch the news while I enjoy my coffee. Most times I’m listening to keep up with things that are going on in the world. This morning I heard something different. I heard a lot of talk about pain. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t the news that triggered this thought. Rather it was the commercials. The majority of the advertisements were either personal injury lawyers or some type of pharmaceutical product. As I listened to their messages, I could tell they were going for the same target market – vulnerable people in pain. Please know that I think there is a need for attorneys and pharmaceutical products. However, I am troubled at the message the commercials are sending to a group of people that obviously need help. The message sounds like this, “If you are hurting, I have the quick answer.” “I’ll make you feel better with either money or medicine.” Perhaps this is true, but what if it’s not? If it’s not, then what is the answer for helping vulnerable people in need? I’ve thought about this quite a bit. I’ve tried to pinpoint the mentality of those giving the message and of those receiving it.   I don’t know these people personally and can’t tell you definitively what their mindset is. The truth is it doesn’t matter. It only matters that someone is in pain and/or unhappy and looking for an answer. What is the answer? The answer is different for everyone and regardless of who you are, the solution begins internally.

Every person endures some type of pain in their lifetime. We all process and handle the pain in different ways. There is truly no right or wrong way to feel or react to tough circumstances. Each person is unique and feels things in their own manner. Individuals cope with pain in different ways too. We’ve all noticed the person that seems to be strong. We also notice the people that seem to lash out or struggle more with overcoming. What is the reason that people respond in varied ways? What makes one person more resilient than the next? There are many reasons for this and a full discussion is beyond the scope of this blog. I would like to touch upon one idea that is worth thinking about. That is that an individual’s ability to cope with pain is directly related to their level of self-awareness and willingness to improve.

Self-awareness and the willingness to improve are key to success in all aspects of one’s life. Taking true stock of one’s self is a beneficial exercise.  A simple way to do this is to pay close attention to how we respond to people going through a hardship. Are you compassionate or judgmental? Do you respond in love and understanding or do you critique how they are handling the situation? Do you assume the best or the worst? One of my favorite quotes is “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as WE are.” This simple quote lets us know that we judge others based upon things happening in OUR minds, hearts, and lives. Once we internalize this concept, we can achieve better self-awareness. If we are seeking to improve ourselves, we can make a change in how we respond to others. The practice of increasing self-awareness and adjusting behavior for the best outcome is one way individuals become more successful and resilient in all situations. It takes practice, but certainly is achievable.

Most of my blogs are about self-realizations and growth that I have experienced. This morning I responded to a series of commercials in a much different manner than I have in the past. I tried to remember how I used to respond. The honest answer is I would make fun of the commercials with no true thought as to what they were saying or to whom they were appealing, then I’d turn the channel. I responded this way because I was looking for a way to build my self-esteem. I was putting others down and thinking less of them so that I could feel better about myself. Ouch. This morning I realized I felt true compassion for both the advertiser and their target market. Why was this morning different? The last six months have been fantastic for me in terms of personal development. I was ready to grow and not at the expense of others. I have freely shared my pain, progress, and successes with you in hopes that you can relate and find your own path to happiness.  Today, I’d like to leave you with a challenge – pay attention to how you respond to people. Are you the vulnerable person I mentioned earlier? Are you the one judging others? Are you the one responding with true compassion? You’re answer to this question will give you some great insight on yourself and how you might handle challenges. I hope you find this useful. Have a fantastic week!

If you have questions or thoughts on coaching and how it can help you with personal development, please visit my website at www.FreeLunchKid.com or email me at Gina@FreeLunchKid.com.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. What Can A Coach Do For You?

If you’ve read my blog, you know that I credit coaching as the best personal development I’ve ever done. I firmly believe that all change occurs internally first and externally second. So, I’ve always been a student of leadership and motivational theories. Maintaining a positive mindset and energy to be productive in all aspects of your life takes work. It’s akin to becoming and staying physically fit. One must be disciplined and dedicated to sustain a healthy body. If we need help with this, we know that we can hire a personal trainer or sign up for a class at a local gym. A coach works in much the same way. As we make goals for our life and/or personal development, sometimes we need help with motivation, making a plan, and accountability. I know I did. I was overwhelmed with the many aspects of life that needed to be tamed to achieve my goals. My life coach has helped me sort those out and empowered me to take action. In a nutshell, she has helped me to name my fears and find my courage to overcome. Now she is holding me accountable to take the necessary steps to work towards success. I can’t stress enough to you how life changing and fulfilling this has been for me.

What can a coach do for you? The real answer is – that’s up to you! Each person has different goals and areas of personal development upon which they’d like to focus. In turn, there are coaches with various specializations to allow you to choose the best one for you.

I’ve found confusion surrounds the distinction between coaches and consultants. A coach is not a consultant. The best way for me to describe the difference for you is with an example. Let’s pretend you are hungry and want fish for dinner. You are eager to learn to fish and to prepare them yourself, but have no idea how to start. You meet with a consultant and a coach for help in achieving this. A consultant will give you a written plan on the best places to fish, a list of equipment needed, and a recipe for how to cook them. Acting upon this plan will be up to you solely.  Alternatively, a coach will help you learn to do the research for finding the best places to fish, the best equipment, and finding the recipes you like best. Further, a coach will walk with you through the entire process to provide guidance and accountability as you learn to cast, reel in the fish, and prepare it to cook. You and your coach will celebrate together after you’ve enjoyed a wonderful meal. Now, let’s pretend you are hungry again, but this time you want to fish in a different area of the world and prepare it differently. If you used the services of a consultant, chances are you must hire the consultant again. However, if you hired a coach, you will have learned how to do things yourself. A consultant finds the answers for you, while a coach helps you find the answers yourself. It is much like the proverb, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Consultants provide, and coaches teach. There are appropriate situations for both consultants and coaches. I have been fortunate to have done both consulting and coaching in my career. I value the services provided by consultants and fully understand their importance. Personally, I find coaching more fulfilling. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which is best for helping you reach the success you seek.

If you have further questions about coaching and how it can benefit you, please email me at gina@freelunchkid.com. I’d love to help you succeed!

Are You Stuck?

You know how sometimes you feel stuck in either your life or your job? It’s a helpless feeling. You get lost in the humdrum of daily activities trying to make sure that you finish everything you are supposed to do. You go to bed exhausted and wake up the next day to do it all over again. Is this what life is really like? You work hard to get to a point in your life that is where you thought you should be. Now you realize you feel unfulfilled in some way. You want more but for some reason you can’t take the steps to move forward. You are stuck. We’ve all been there at some point in our lives.

Perhaps you feel stuck in your personal life. Is it that you can’t seem to get the healthy lifestyle you long for started? Has your relationship with your significant other become stagnant? Are you beating yourself up over your parenting skills? Are you struggling with self-esteem issues? Has there been a tragedy in your life that you can’t seem to get past?

If you feel stuck in your job, it could be that you feel hostage to your income or you don’t feel as though you have the skills to obtain another job. Maybe you have been in your job for quite some time and do not want to start over or give up some benefits you’ve earned. Do you have a difficult co-worker and you can’t find common ground?

There are lots of reasons you might perceive you can’t move past the situation that has you feeling stuck. The truth is that you CAN move past it. Maybe not tomorrow, but with a solid plan, good guidance, and continued support, you can achieve most anything in an acceptable time frame. Circumstances should not control you, you can control your circumstances. You have the power to move past any situation. The only question remaining is are you ready?

If you have been following my blog, then you know I have been at a place in my life that had me feeling stuck. I decided last September on my 44th birthday to do something about it. As I tried to sort through my current circumstances and set goals to where I want to head, I realized I needed some help with planning and empowerment. I decided to seek out a life coach.  This decision has changed my life dramatically. My goals are more clear. My plan for reaching them is taking shape. I feel more alive and empowered than I have in a long time. I no longer feel stuck! Life coaching has been so powerful and fulfilling for me that I have decided to become a certified life coach. This is something I will do outside of my job at TTS. If you would like to talk about how a coach could help you, email me at gina@freelunchkid.com. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have, just know that I will get back to you after 5:00. Remember, the only person holding you back is you.

Have a great day and get moving! I hope to hear from you!

I’m Ready for 2017!

I love to read social media. It allows me to stay up to date on news stories, research, and most importantly – my friends. As 2016 comes to an end, it is interesting to see how many people want this year to go away. They’re so ready for this year to come to an end and for a new one to begin. The reasons vary. Some are depressed at the loss of popular icons this year such as Prince, George Michael, and Carrie Fisher. That’s very understandable – heck, I’m devastated that I never saw Prince in concert and never will. Other people are ready for the year to be over because they’ve lost loved ones. The pain of loss can be debilitating and most are seeking a way to overcome it as quickly as possible. I also see some friends wanting the year to end because things just haven’t gone their way lately. The common denominator in every one’s wish to end this year and start next year is the yearning for a fresh start. We’ve all faced times in our lives when we need an era to end and a new one begin. The end of a year and the beginning of a new one seems to be the most logical time to hope for change. The idea of New Year Resolutions has been imbedded in us our entire lives. We have been conditioned to reflect on our lives at the end of the year and look for ways to improve it in the new year. This is truly a good practice but statistics tell us that 88% of people fail at keeping their resolutions. Over the years, my opinions of NY resolutions have changed from setting them to not setting them. The years that I did set them, I chose the most popular ones like losing weight and exercising more. I failed too! This year I find myself at a different place in life. A few months ago, I began a journey to find true happiness in my life. I have dedicated myself to genuine change. I suppose one could say I began the same process of a resolution, but I started on my 44th birthday. I feel the same as everyone that wants 2016 to be over. The difference for me this year is that I realize a day on the calendar is not enough to instigate true change. The only thing strong enough to cause the positive change I am seeking is ME! If I wanted, I could look back at the past year and fall into a pity party. I’ve experienced some crappy things this past year from the loss of an adoption opportunity to a second neck surgery. I’ve gained 10 pounds and I’m more out of shape than I’ve ever been. It would be easy to play victim and whine about all of this. It would be just as easy to be angry and lash out. Every circumstance and situation creates energy. It is our choice how we use that energy. It can be negative energy or positive energy. The energy doesn’t decide – we do. When we make the decision to be optimistic regardless of situations, we create more positive energy and force the negative energy out. This is the key to success in all things, including resolutions. If we begin our resolutions with a negative outlook such as I’m fat and need to fix it, we will fail. Instead, take the positive approach and empower yourself. Your resolution could sound more like this – I will reward my body with healthy food and exercise this year. If you do that, weight loss will come. Learning how to harness energy and focus it in a positive direction takes practice. I know because I’m learning how to do it myself! It is making a huge difference in my life and well-being. I am looking forward to 2017! I hope you are as well! I wish you all the best year of many yet to come!

Our Christmas Ghosts

The past two weeks have been very life changing for my family. I feel like we have been living in our own Christmas movie. We’ve had several emotional ups and downs that have been framed within the holiday season. It’s as if we have been visited by several Christmas ghosts that have been tasked with reminding us how blessed we are. The first one I’ll tell you about is the visit from the Ghost of Christmas Reality.

The Ghost of Christmas Reality

The holiday season is a time meant to celebrate and to be thankful for friends and family. We start in November with Thanksgiving and finish on January 1st as we begin a new year. The holiday season is fun and full of magical moments with those you love. Depending upon your religious preference, you may celebrate on a different day and with different traditions, but the underlying message is very close to the same. We are thankful for deliverance and freedom. I celebrate Christmas. It is easily my favorite time of the year and I go all out with decorations, gifts, and parties. I spend too much money and eat too much food. It’s all quite grand, if you ask me, but somehow, in the hustle and bustle I tend to lose sight of how fortunate I am. I’ll admit, I’ve done that for many years. I am blessed to be surrounded by family and friends, to have the ability to fulfill my daughter’s wish list, and to splurge on a vacation if I feel like it. In the midst of my privileged life, it is easy to lose sight of those less fortunate. I think the whole “out of sight, out of mind” adage certainly applies. Last week the Ghost of Christmas Reality reminded with a vengeance.

Over the past weekend, I was in a hospital waiting room for several hours. While there, I eavesdropped on a conversation between a group of family members. The group contained both males and females and blacks and whites. Their ages ranged from two years old to some probably in their forties. They all seemed to really like each other and talked easily and comfortably with each other. As I listened, I heard them converse about their friends being murdered and some spending time in jail. I learned that one of them had witnessed the murder of his mother, while another’s mother had gone to jail for trying to kill him when he was a baby. I could tell this is something they discuss on a daily basis and is a part of their everyday life. There was almost a competition in their conversation as to who had experienced the worst life. Then they nonchalantly switched gears and began to talk about food and which restaurants take food stamps. The part that struck me was how normal this conversation was for them. I could tell this is something they discuss often and is a part of their everyday life. As I internalized their reality, I felt so small. The Ghost of Christmas Reality gave me a slap on the wrist or better yet, my heart. I have complained about needing to downsize and lose weight because I have too many possessions and too much food to eat. Meanwhile, a large population of the people in the world are struggling to survive. I have never experienced the struggle they are facing so I cannot understand how they feel. I can say that I am ashamed that I have never taken the time to truly explore the circumstances of those less fortunate than me. The Ghost of Christmas Reality reminded me that I live in a privileged bubble. I have a true passion to help the underprivileged and this gave me a big boost of motivation. Thank you, Christmas Ghost of Reality. If you feel the urge to help others during the holiday season and the whole year through, I’ve listed a few charities that could use your help. They do great work.

The Salvation Army: http://salvationarmyalm.org/tuscaloosa/center-hope/

Tuscaloosa’s One Place: http://www.tuscaloosaoneplace.org/

Big Brother’s Big Sisters of West Alabama: http://bbbswestal.org/

Community Soup Bowl: http://tuscaloosasoupbowl.com/

The Ghost of Christmas Dreams

Our Christmas Ghost visits didn’t appear individually as they did with Scrooge. Ours were present at the same time with overlapping motives that weave together. The Ghost of Christmas Dreams has been lingering with us for some time, probably our whole lives. I hope he stays for the remainder of our lives too. He reminds us to dream and reach for the stars because our dreams give us hope and motivation. My family and I have been dreaming big dreams. My husband and I would love to have multiple children. Our daughter would love a sibling.  Unfortunately, we have had a very hard time achieving this dream. Over the past ten years, we’ve suffered through the loss of our second daughter at 6 months of age, multiple miscarriages, and failed IVF attempts. I no longer have the ability to bear children, but we haven’t given up our dream. A little over a year ago we began the process to try adopt a baby. We’ve been “on the market” for a year waiting and hoping that a birth mother will choose us. Two weeks ago, we received the call we wanted. A birth mother had chosen us and was due in a little over a week. We rushed into action, prepared everything, and drove almost 10 hours to be with her as she gave birth. The poor thing was in labor for over 20 hours. She gave birth to a perfect baby boy. We had the chance to love this boy as if he was ours for almost 24 hours. Unfortunately for us, she changed her mind and decided to keep him. I can’t blame her because he was so adorable. We had to pack up and drive home with an empty car seat. Our daughter was so upset. She is learning lessons about life, love, and loss that I wish would have occurred when she was older. We are very sad and disappointed to say the least. We have gotten so close to having another child and it seems that at the last minute, something happens every time. I can honestly tell you that after this happened last weekend, I was ready to give up on this dream. I began to wonder if fate was trying to let us know that we were meant to have only one child. The Ghost of Christmas Dreams showed up in a big way. He spoke to us thru our daughter. She asked us to please keep trying to adopt. I explained to her that it could mean we have to experience pain again. She immediately said, “So what. It will be worth it eventually.” She’s right. It will be worth it eventually. The Ghost of Christmas Dreams would like for us to tell you that we are back “on the market” and hope to have another opportunity soon. Please keep us in mind if you hear of anything.

The Ghost of Christmas Love

Just in case you haven’t figured it out yet, the family I was eavesdropping on in the hospital waiting room was the birth family of the child we hoped to adopt. We have experienced so many feelings and emotions about the situation. We have been angry, sad, and heartbroken. I believe deep in my heart that we could have given the baby opportunities that they cannot. The Ghost of Christmas Love stepped up to relieve some of our anguish. As I watched this family in the hospital waiting room, it became clear that we live very different lives. The one thing that was the same though was love. They all loved each other very much. They loved the birth mom and new baby too. I can’t be angry with them for wanting to have the baby to love.

We had prepared to spend several weeks in a hotel waiting for the courts to allow the baby to come home with us. My husband and daughter had decorated the room with lights, garland and a small tree. As I looked at the small hotel room with cheap garland around the door and multicolor lights hanging in the window, I was overcome with love for them. The Ghost of Christmas Love reminded me that I have so much to be thankful for right now. I thought back to the moment we had to tell the baby good-bye and leave the hospital. We hugged and held each other tight as we all felt the disappointment of the missed adoption opportunity. We held hands as we left. We cuddled together back in the hotel and enjoyed the Christmas decorations. The Ghost of Christmas Love helped us to experience a deeper level of togetherness and family love. As we packed up and took down the decorations to come home, I was sad but I also have never been more proud of my family.

The Ghost of Christmas Love wasn’t quite finished.  As our family and friends found out about both our possible adoption and the outcome, the outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming.  It is wonderful to be reminded that one is surrounded by a circle of love.


This will be a Christmas that my family will never forget.  Our Christmas movie might not have the happy ending that we expected or envisioned, but it still has a happy ending. They say the best movies have twists that result in endings that no one saw coming. We didn’t come home with the baby we were hoping for, but we did return with valuable life lessons and affirmations of love. The Ghost of Christmas Reality taught me to be more thankful and generous. The Ghost of Christmas Dreams taught me to keep dreaming and to not give up when things seem hopeless. The Ghost of Christmas Love showed me how much love surrounds me and is in me. Indeed, this is still a happy ending. Merry Christmas to all!

See No Evil

Last Thursday, I boarded a plane to attend a training conference. This is not a new occurrence for me. I’ve traveled quite a bit for work throughout my career and I’ve attended several training conferences as well. You know how it goes… you have to go to a seminar to get continuing education credits or you have to attend some training that is required by your job. These seminars are typically held in some great location (this is done on purpose to entice you to go!) and you spend the entire time you are in the training daydreaming about what you will do as soon as you bust out of that joint! If you can get away with it, you might even skip some of the sessions. Typically, we are more excited to go wherever we are visiting than we are the actual training conference. As a tourism professional I absolutely condone this behavior and will tell you I engage in it too, but last weekend was different for me. I didn’t go to this training conference because I had to, I went because I wanted to. It was held in Chicago, which is my favorite city, and I never went into downtown. I stayed glued to my hotel and conference for three 10 hour days and I didn’t want it to end. As I was flying home this morning, I kept going over everything I learned and experienced. I can honestly say I feel like today is the first day of my life that I have been totally in control and it’s so empowering. A little over two months ago, I was at rock bottom. I was drained emotionally, physically exhausted, guilt-ridden, and an all-around miserable person. I now realize I had felt that way for several years. I’m a pretty tough gal, so I have the strength to work through a lot of things, but I’m not super human. My strength was completely gone. Today I know it is coming back!! This past weekend I attended a training seminar to begin the process of becoming a certified life and business coach. It is the best thing I have ever done for myself! I learned that I’m not crazy or weak and that my feelings are normal for someone that has gone through the life experiences I’ve had. Most importantly, I learned how to recognize and own my feelings and emotions so that I can control how I let them affect me. Over the years, I’ve developed one hellavu poker face to hide how I truly felt inside. I’m not going to need it as much now. I hate to lose that skill so does anyone want to start playing cards?!

I want to share one of many stories to let you know how great this weekend was for me. Those of you that know me know I used to be an avid cyclist, marathon runner, and triathlete. A result of my sad state of emotional affairs is that I am now over-weight and in the worst physical shape of my life. There is still a vain side to me that doesn’t want anyone to know how I look in work-out clothes or to see me struggle to walk on the treadmill. I want you all to think I can still kick a little butt. So to hide this, I stopped working out at gyms and participating in group athletic events. That eventually led to me not really working out at home either. Of course, this has been fantastic for my self-esteem – NOT! I had made my mind up that while I was at a hotel with a gym, where no one knew me, I was going to work out every day that I was in Chicago. On Friday morning, I headed down and got onto the elliptical. They gym was pretty full and I was self-conscious. I didn’t have a lot of energy but I made myself power through 30 mins of cardio and went 3.1 miles. I tried to do some weights but I saw a couple of hot chicks working out and I was embarrassed, so I left. Not the best results, but day one was accomplished. I showered and headed down to the training conference only to find the two hot chicks were there for the training too. Insert a sarcastic GREAT here. The negative thoughts started and I feared I’d be too embarrassed to go back to the gym in the morning. The training began and one of the things we learned hit me hard. It can be summed up with this quote:  “We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.” – The Talmud. Hmmm….. I assume everyone sees me in the negative manner I see myself. A little later in the day we broke out with partners to practice coaching. I was paired with one of the hot chicks. Insert another sarcastic GREAT. Much to my surprise, a pretty fabulous thing happened. I got to know her and found out that over the past year she has lost 64 lbs. Wow! She had worked her butt off – literally! Same kind of story for the other hot chick. Let’s get back to that quote now. If I judged them for being fit, what did that say about me? How did it affect me? I had considered not going to the gym the next day. Now, I was determined to go. I took this “seeing thing” pretty seriously. On Saturday morning, I prepared for the gym. I made an upbeat playlist and put on a cap that I pulled way over my eyes. I walked into the gym, did not look around, and went straight to the elliptical. I cranked up my music and started moving, but this time I did something different. I closed my eyes and kept them closed! I got lost in the rhythm of the music and my cadence. I did not “see” anything. It was fantastic and so freeing! After 30 minutes, this time I had covered 3.8 miles. Now that’s more like it! I went over to the weights (beside the hot chicks) and did my work-out without hesitation. Sunday morning, I did the same thing. I spent 30 minutes on the elliptical with my cap pulled down, my music cranking, my eyes closed, and pumped out 4.2 miles. Now I am sure I looked a bit silly with my eyes closed, sweating, smiling, and bobbing my head to Meghan Trainor. I kind of wish I had a picture of it! The See No Evil emoji keeps coming to mind! Seriously though, the truth is that I stopped assuming everyone sees me as I see me and I stopped looking at what I wish I looked like. The results were an improvement of over a mile in just two days!! As I apply the things I’ve learned this past weekend, I know that the improvements I will see in every aspect of my life will be this dramatic. I will no longer say that I look forward to being myself again. Now I’m looking forward to the person I am about to become!