Give Them Their Flowers While They Can Still Smell the Scent

Beautiful Nana

By Dawn Onley

Three years ago, my family hosted a 100th birthday celebration for my grandmother at one of the fancier restaurants in my small town.

Family members sang to her as part of a special choir assembled for the occasion. Many of us shared stories about Nana, what she had taught us over the years, how she demonstrated her love so effortlessly in the soulful meals that she prepared each Sunday for whomever dropped by, how her faith covered us and her prayers sustained us. Tables were adorned with framed proclamations from senators, members of Congress, the governor of Maryland and even President Obama and first lady, Michelle. It was a grand affair and she was completely deserving of such an honor.

Afterwards, an older cousin raved at the great time she had and also commented that she wished that she could know now what everyone would say about her at her funeral. She said we gave our Nana that opportunity because we gave her “her flowers while she is still here to enjoy them.”

At the time, I shared this comment with my Facebook friends as a status update. Yesterday, I was reminded about the comment when it came up as a Facebook memory. I’m thankful that it did because it reinforced for me that I need to make sure I’m putting forth my greatest effort in giving my loved ones their flowers while they are still here. This means letting them know that they have added so much value to my life just by being in it; that they are irreplaceable; that I have learned from the lessons they have taught; that I admire them; that I feel so immensely blessed to call them family or friend.

It’s so easy to forget this important message while we go about our busy lives. We can get so consumed with living that we forget to let our loved ones know just what they mean to us. A quick phone call or visit might not mean much to us, but it could mean the world to someone we love. Let’s vow to take the time to do this, if we aren’t already doing it.

I know I will. From here on out, I will make it a point to do better. When the thought of a person enters my mind, I will reach out. I won’t hold back nor will I put it off for tomorrow. Tomorrow is not promised.

 

I will share the flowers now. I will let them know that they played a role in who I am; that they made my road easier and more pleasant just by being there. I will tell them that they are appreciated. Because, the sweet fragrance of gratitude received is far better than the wilted longing of a single regret.

 

Moving Out, Moving On!

By Samantha McKenzie

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.”– Tao Te Ching

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Special thanks to Felton and Damien from Goodwill in Greensboro, NC

This weekend I started my move to Raleigh, N.C. I had prepared for this moment well in advance. I planned it out back in January, scoped out everything I could about my city-to-be and sorted through tons of properties looking to strike a nice balance between good schools and shorter commutes.

I bought boxes, scheduled the moving truck and coordinated with family and friends for this very day. Each month leading up to the move, I made strides toward the moving list. I started cleaning out closets in February and in March I made a healthy list of rentals. By the time April ushered in, I was scheduling visits to various sites and well on my way to go full steam ahead.Related image

I dread moving (like everyone else) so I spent every weekend for two months decluttering rooms and closets. I needed to do it in stages. I visited the Salvation Army so many times, the last time I dropped off another set of bags, the assistant offered to pray for me before giving me a receipt. I thought I had everything under control until I had to come face-to-face with these empty rooms.

Until now, nothing could have prepared me for that feeling of emptiness, of leaving all of my past behind. There I stood, staring down the nakedness of every room. I flashed back on the 13 years I spent raising my children in this house. It held years of laughter in it and the quiet tears as well. I remembered piecing together the crib that welcomed my youngest child into the world. I remembered every painting, trophy and award I hung or placed around the house to show off their achievements. I brushed my fingers over the tiny holes in the walls that were left behind. I remembered the plans made at the dining room table (like talking with my writing partner to create this blog), and the visits from family members excited to see how big the children had grown. I remembered too, the home cooked meals, the love and the jokes we all shared as a giddy group. I couldn’t help but remember the moment I made the decision to ask for a divorce. This house held together a good part of my emotions – the ones that brought me extreme pain and immense joy. I know now that I needed it all and learned to use it to push the family forward. I grew up, just like the children, right under this sacred roof.

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As I packed down more of my past and taped it away neatly into boxes, I remembered sitting at the dining room table typing yet another paper due by midnight that would get me closer towards that next degree. I remembered the Friday night fish frys with the friends who had become like family over the years.

To say the feelings I touched on this weekend were bittersweet is an understatement. I said a brief prayer as the last box was placed in the moving truck.

I prayed for a safe passage into my next chapter in life. I thanked God for each experience in this home, good or bad, they all increased my faith and my strength. I prayed also to embrace the emptiness, and to accept it as a temporary and necessary feeling of transition. I prayed to hold on to my memories, but not to let them interfere with my future. I thanked God for the opportunity to declutter, to toss some things into the sea of forgetfulness and to pass on some of our belongings to someone else who could make good use of it.

I’m moving out and moving on. The blank rooms that I’m heading into will be like a new canvas. I look forward to the stories yet to be written and the mysteries of the days to come.

Walking briskly into my future and as scary as it feels, I can’t wait. Raleigh, N.C., here we come. I’m moving on…

Here I Am, World…

Believe in your Dreams

By Dawn Onley

Your highest self is waiting for you. My highest self is awaiting me.

This is not simply a concept or a theory. It’s a truth that is as old as the ages, and it is only unleashed through faith.

At night, we dream big dreams for ourselves, but we have no idea of how big the possibilities are, come day. If we did, we’d act. Right now. We wouldn’t fear. We wouldn’t wait. We wouldn’t brood. We wouldn’t sit at the table when our song plays. We’d get up and dance!

We owe it to ourselves to explore our highest selves; to see what we are fully capable of.

We owe it to each other, too.

“The future is as bright as your faith.” – Thomas S. Monson

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Life Always Works Itself Out

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No matter how much time you spend worrying, you are not always in control.

Somewhere in the depths of the deep dark universe, God has already set aside a solution to your problems.

Listen.

Leave your mind open to the possibilities that everything will work itself out and let the mysteries of life simply unfold.

Be still.

Allow the magic in. 

Watch it all work out.

Filling Up to Finish the Journey

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By Dawn Onley

In approximately 10 days, we will be mid-way through this year. Although hard to believe how quickly the time has flown by — the same as every year — the milestone marks as good a time as any to assess where we started in January, where we’re headed in December, and where we are right now.

It’s also a great opportunity to check our momentum gauge to see that it’s still on FULL, and if not, to quickly fill up our engines. Because, it’s too early for us to be on empty. And also because there is too much work to do.

I’m guessing there have been setbacks. You may have hoped to lose 10 pounds by now, but since you are constantly working, it’s so much easier to grab fast food for dinner, right? You planned to brainstorm names for your business but you haven’t had the time. I get it. I completely understand. It’s the same old trap. Before long, it’ll be October and soon after we’ll be singing “Auld Lang Syne.” Unless we push through this line of reasoning and our exhaustion and whatever else stands in the way, we’ll never gain ground. Sure, it takes more preparation and is more time-consuming to do meal planning and to limit foods that work against our goals. Sure, we must sacrifice. Yes, it’s hard work. Yes, it may require an initial financial investment to get started. It’s wise to have an accountability partner. You bet it takes discipline and requires us to be relentless.

So what? We knew it wouldn’t be easy. We’ve thought about this for a long time. We must be committed to the relationship of building our best selves. We must fight to get to this next level. Mediocrity takes little effort. We are striving for greatness. That takes everything we’ve got.

One of the things that stands out the most to me about the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which commenced on Dec. 5, 1955, a few days after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on the bus, was the unwavering commitment that working African-Americans had to effectuate change. We’ve seen the video footage of people walking to work, but did you know that some people even rode mules to work? For one whole year? Do you know how singularly focused on the goal it would take for someone to ride a mule for miles to work each day? The boycott was for equal treatment and civil rights, certainly, but let’s talk about the sacrifice and determination needed to achieve this goal. And some of us have already quit going to the gym or eating healthy or believing that we have what it takes to succeed. We could all stand to learn something from the boycotters.

Any goal worth reaching requires a new level of effort. Think about it. If it took the same level of effort that we are currently putting out, we’d all be there by now. In order to get someplace we’ve never gone, we must do something we’ve never done.

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Midway through the year, it’s time to fill up our tanks. We can’t lose our energy. We can’t lose ground. We can’t lose focus. We are so close. We must KEEP PUSHING.

Let’s learn about things that will build up our resistance to quit. Let’s examine a different approach — one that may work better for us. Let’s readjust our attitudes about failing – realizing that failure increases our knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. Let’s understand that “failing” does not mean “failure,” it actually means success because there is no success without failure. Let’s try to fail more often because it means we are in the arena and we are giving it a shot.

Whatever it takes, let’s move that stubborn needle one step further. Just ONE step. Right now. For our best selves, let’s rev up, put the pedal to the metal and take off.

 

Shatter Your Glass Ceilings

Samantha McKenzie

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The term “glass ceiling” was coined in the late 1970s to describe the invisible barrier that kept minorities and women from moving up the corporate ladder and closing the gender pay gaps.

Each year, a new study is published detailing the evidence and hard facts: women continue to earn less than their male counterparts. The reasons cited ranged from gender bias (intentional or unintentional) to the lack of influence within powerful networks, such as the Good Old Boys Club.

It’s time we address these imbalances in our society. It seems as though we’ve become so numb to receiving less, that we’ve resigned ourselves to accepting the status quo. Image result for quotes on ambition

I believe that glass ceilings were meant to be shattered and the fight begins within. The first step is to adopt a “no-limits” philosophy to your personal success.

We all know that women are powerful. Either you were raised by a woman of fortitude, taught by a woman of force or are a women of strength. We are powerful in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our organizations and in our places of worship. Why would this power disappear when we enter the board room or a pulpit?

Shatter your own glass ceiling and challenge the stereotypes that hold you back. Shed yourself of those self-defeating thoughts. Leave behind those insecurities and self-doubt. They are the true enemies to our progress and stunt our growth.Image result for quotes on ambition

Instead, become a self-promoter. Speak up during meetings. Share your ideas. Add your input –  even if it may be unpopular. Don’t be afraid to ask for a raise or advocate for a promotion you know you deserve. Put your name in the hat and compete.

Get in the habit of sitting at the table. Sharpen your tools. Show off your confidence. And just slay…

Dialing Back Life’s Noise

“Cherish your solitude. Take trains by yourself to places you have never been. Sleep out alone under the stars. Learn how to drive a stick shift. Go so far away that you stop being afraid of not coming back. Say no when you don’t want to do something. Say yes if your instincts are strong, even if everyone around you disagrees. Decide whether you want to be liked or admired. Decide if fitting in is more important than finding out what you’re doing here. Believe in kissing.” – Eve Ensler

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By Dawn Onley

It’s summertime. The kids are in summer camp and you are hoping to eke out some time to get out and enjoy the weather and finally finish up a project you started awhile ago.

And by “you” I mean “me.” Us. Ahem.

To do this, we need to prioritize. We may have to cut back on some things. For me, “some things” means social media. Not that it’s Facebook or Twitter’s fault. I’ll claim full responsibility for the time I’ve spent reading status updates, writing posts, liking pictures, researching groups, clicking links to news articles and devouring those articles.

It’s all extremely time consuming.

Before long, information overload causes my internal hard drive to crash. When this happens, you know what else comes with it?

  • Mood swings
  • Exhaustion
  • Irritability
  • Worry, that I’m wasting too much time online instead of doing

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Because of my social media fatigue, I have to take breaks each year to reconnect and reengage with the things that feed my spirit: Books, writing projects, spending time with friends and family, baking, long, early morning walks.

Real stuff.

In the interest of better time management, this summer I will significantly limit my social media time and interactions. I will carve out some time to do more writing.

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Because, I’m in need of a reset; a recalibration.

As much as we’ve gained by the Internet, 24/7 connectivity and virtually unlimited access to information – and we’ve gained a lot – I sometimes miss the old days, before call waiting and multiples means of accessing a person. I want more of the family discussions at the dinner table. I want to engage with my community more – in person and fully focused.

I’m looking forward to Dawn time, where I can hone my writing craft each day, by reading, writing, and experiencing more of life. I’m looking forward to dialing back the noise so I can hear my words, my voice.

You’ll still see the Women Who Hope blog posts. I’d encourage you to follow the blog and like our social media pages on Facebook: Women Who Hope and Twitter: @ForWomenWhoHope to stay connected with what we are doing.

If you need to reach me, you’ll still be able to connect with me on my personal social media pages or via email. I’ll still be around but just less so.

Happy Summer! I’m really looking forward to this!