If you're scared, you know you're doing it right.

When I started my exploration into the world of “creating your dreams,” “manifesting the life you want” and all the other Law of Attraction type viewpoints, I was a firm believer in “if it’s meant to be, the path will be clear.” The unspoken part of that belief was that the path would also be easy and free of all obstacles.

I have since discovered what a silly idea that is… while I still tend to try to avoid fear (don’t we all?), I have learned what an important teacher it can be. Yes, heart-stopping fear is still an indicator of the need to assess what’s going on and possibly get out of danger. However, the butterflies-in-the-stomach, “I think I’m gonna throw-up” fear can actually be a really good sign that you’re on the right track.

My daughter is a gymnast. After her last practice before the State level competition she was telling me about her uneven bars routine and how much she’s improved since her first competition.  Then she told me how she knows that she’s doing the skill correctly:

If you're scared...

“If you’re scared, you know you’re doing it right.”

Wow! Yes, I know that fear can be an indicator of stretching yourself, your skills and your courage. But it took me to the ripe old age of, well, never mind, it took me a long time to learn that. And here she is, having learned it already. What a blessing. What a boon. What a great teacher she is for me.

Avoiding all fear leads to a life that’s lived smaller and smaller. Accepting that fear is part of the process leads to a life filled with open vistas, new opportunities and great accomplishments.

What’s your relationship with fear?


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Moon Tides: How does the Moon affect the Tides?

What causes the Tides? Gravity is one major force responsible for creating tides. The gravitational attraction between the earth and the moon causes the water on the side of the earth facing the moon to draw the water closer to the moon, while inertia attempts to keep it in place.

The sun also has a major impact, but due to it’s distance from earth, the moon is the stronger of the two influencers on tides. The interaction of the Sun and Moon and the changing angles create changes in the tidal bulges.

According to the NOAA article, where much of this information is taken from, the rhythm of the tides change throughout the year due to the changing position of the earth in relation to the sun.

When the Sun and Moon are in alignment (at the Full and New Moons) the solar tide has an additive effect on the lunar tide, creating extra-high tides and very low tides, (called Spring Tides) then a week later, when the Sun and Moon are at right angles (known as “squares” in astrology) the solar tide partially cancels out the lunar tides, which moderates everything (known as Neap Tides). During each month, there are two sets of Spring Tides (astrological “opposition” and “conjunction”, Full and New Moon respectively) and two sets of Neap Tides (astrological “squares” corresponding to First Quarter and Last Quarter Moons).

Then, there’s also the moon’s elliptical path around the Earth, which creates a changing distance between them.

Once a month, when the moon is closest to the Earth (at perigee) the tide forces are higher, then two weeks later, when the moon is farthest from the Earth (at apogee), the lunar tide forces are less and the tidal forces are less than average.

There is a lot more science involved in understanding the forces of the tides and the moon, but I think this gives a good overview of how the whole thing works…


Catholic Evangelization: Revitalizing the Catholic Church

Last night I was reading Rediscover Catholicism by Matthew Kelly in preparation for a book study on Saturday morning. He made a comment that in the time of Francis of Assisi, Church had become a practice of habit instead of a true conviction and spiritual connection. Seems to me that we’re in a time like that right now. Of course, there are the core groups of Dynamic Catholics that are fully engaged in the practice of their faith, but sometimes it gets discouraging to look at the trends of attendance and growth in the church. And the really scary statistics of how many teenagers leave the church after Confirmation.

However, there’s always hope! And the Dynamic Catholic Institute is an organization that I think embodies the hope for the future.

Dynamic Catholic Mission


I love the idea of developing World-Class Resources. Right now, each Parish and Diocese tends to operate entirely on it’s own for Spiritual and Religious Education Programs. By supporting Dynamic Catholic in creating “World Class” programs, we get the best of the best and save each individual parish a lot of time in the development. Here’s is the 10 year plan for resource development:

Dynamic Catholic 10 Year Plan


Just imagine that it would mean to have programs around these life-moments, Catholic-Moments that are the best of the best. It could totally revitalize the experience of Catholics around the world… re-opening their eyes to the beauty and genius of their faith.

It’s a future I will do whatever it takes to create. What about you?

Dynamic Catholic Book Program: Rediscover Catholicism

Rediscover Catholicism Study GuideThis year, at St. Rose of Lima in Newtown, we participated in the Dynamic Catholic Book Program, distributing copies of Rediscover Catholicism by Matthew Kelly to all the people attending Ash Wednesday services and Easter Masses.

This post is just a quick recap of our experience from my viewpoint as coordinator of the program.

It first must be said that the Dynamic Catholic Institute team is friendly, helpful and responsive, which makes a program like this much easier to implement.

Because I was a bit intimidated by the process of distributing a couple thousand books, we decided to split the program into two (Ash Wednesday and Easter) instead of doing the whole distribution at one time (like at Christmas or Easter Masses).

We started by ordering 1000 books from Dynamic Catholic for Ash Wednesday. They were delivered a week ahead of time. We solicited volunteers by sending out emails to our parish ministries and our religious education family lists. We got a lot of volunteers, especially teens needing community service hours.

Dynamic Catholic Book Program Insert

Before Ash Wednesday services we unpacked books and stacked as many as possible at the doors of the church. We also used the book distribution as a way to gather email addresses of parishioners (to save money on communications) and enclosed in each book a postcard that asked for name and email address to update our parish database.

During services on Ash Wednesday we distributed almost all of the 1000 books. According to Dynamic Catholic you should order books for 75% of your registered parishioners. We ordered slightly less than that in total. We repeated the process for Easter weekend and ordered 1500 books which were delivered the week before Easter.

Just a note for anyone considering coordinating a program like this… it’s a bit harder to get volunteers on Easter than it is for Ash Wednesday, so be prepared to pray and humbly beg for help. 🙂

Over Easter weekend, we distributed another 900 books. I think we would have distributed more, except that many parishioners have a copy of this book because they attended the Passion and Purpose Retreat with Matthew that we hosted in January 2011. We will use the extra books to give to families entering their children into our first grade religious education program, since many of them are Rediscovering Catholicism as they enroll their children into the First Holy Communion preparation program.

We also started a book study of Rediscover Catholicism as way to encourage people to read the book and have a forum to discuss it. Here is a link to the study guide in PDF format: http://askjo.co/rediscover-catholicism-sg This is a reformatted version of what’s available from Dynamic Catholic because I wanted it to be able to print in booklet format.

So, are you ready to become an evangelist in your parish and participate in the Dynamic Catholic Book Program? Or have you done so already and have advice to share? Please comment below.


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“Because I Can”

This post could be subtitled, Have Mercy on the Mothers of Teenagers.

This weekend we brought our son to his first sleep-away camp. While he was on-board with the whole idea and excited about the things he would do and people he would meet, he was also ambivalent about the “being away from home” thing.

On the drop-off day, he had so changed his tune about camp that he said “I never should have said yes.” and insisted that I shouldn’t leave him there. He was so angry with me when I told him he was staying, he wouldn’t even look at me when I tried to take a picture in his room.

First Sleep-Away Camp

Talk about tugging on a mother’s heart-strings. But, I was sure that after the initial homesickness, he would love camp. So say Goodbye, I did.

The next day, I cheerfully text messaged him to see how he was doing….


H’mmmm!? At this point, I’m not quite freaking out, but the doubts are looming and the tears are threatening…. so I send a copy of this little exchange to the camp leadership team, and say “What do I do?”

I got a call from camp leadership the following evening. This is how their conversation with our young man went:

How are you doing?

Do you like it here at camp?

Are you having fun?

Then why did you send a text to your Mom saying “get me out of here, I hate it?”
Because I can.

“Because I can!”

Is it possible to growl in frustration and sigh with relief at the same time? Yes! Absolutely.

Be extra nice to any mothers of teenagers that you know. They need all the loving compassion they can get.

What I want to be when I grow up.

The other day, while waiting for our daughter to finish gymnastics practice, I was thinking about what I want to be when I grow up. I kept thinking about Malcolm Gladwell’s definition of a Maven:

  • Mavens are “information specialists”, or “people we rely upon to connect us with new information.” They accumulate knowledge….and know how to share it with others. …… a prototypical Maven is “almost pathologically helpful” …. “Mavens are really information brokers, sharing and trading what they know”.

Unlike the traditional definition of a Maven, which is an expert or connoisseur, Gladwell’s definition of a Maven focuses on the information gathering aspect. And anyone who knows me, knows that I love seeking out information… that’s why my business name is Ask Joanne. 🙂

Then I started playing around with ideas for the answer to the ubiquitous question “What do you do?” and discovered that I believe the coolest thing I could say would be something like “I’m a blogger. I write a business blog, a personal blog and several other special interest blogs.” So, I popped over to GoDaddy on my phone and started buying up domain names in my areas of interest…

Maven Blogs

In an interesting confluence, after I finished buying up a bunch of “maven” related domain names, I clicked over to the online Scrabble game I was playing with my sister and found the word that she had just played.

MavenCan I make a living as a blogger? Don’t know yet… In the meantime, I still love being “Ask Joanne” for my business clients and sharing all I know about Internet Marketing Made Easy, but someday, I will answer the “What do you do?” question by saying “I’m a blogger and a Maven.” 🙂

When You Can’t Learn by Watching

One of the trickiest things about a non-verbal learning disability is the inability (or difficulty with) learning by seeing. We’re so used to teaching people how to do things by saying “watch me” or “watch this.” But for a person with NVLD, that doesn’t really help at all.

Case in point. Sometime ago our son told me that he couldn’t figure out how to get the cord back on properly after using the vacuum.


So I tried to demonstrate how to loop it over the hook by looping the cord in oval around the hooks on the back of the vacuum.


up-and-over-1024x934But each time he tried, he would loop it over the top of the hook from the opposite direction, like a figure 8 instead of an oval. I guess ultimately that could have worked just as well, but as it was, he was then getting messed up at the bottom of the loop and not able to get the cord to catch the bottom hook and to lie neatly against the back of the vacuum.

It wasn’t until later, after we were both thoroughly frustrated that it dawned on me that my demonstration and uber-helpful tip of “up and over” (that’s sarcasm) wasn’t really helping him at all. After some time thinking about it, I realized that if I really wanted him to do the cord in an oval loop, I should have verbally instructed him much more clearly, like:

“Pull the cord up on the left side of the top hook. Loop the cord over the top of the hook. Pull the cord tightly down the right side of the top hook and then loop it under the right side of the bottom hook. Then pull it up until you loop it again over the left side of the top hook and repeat until the cord is fully wrapped.”

Eventually the cord and vacuum got put away. Does it matter that it wasn’t a neat clean oval loop? Not really. Did the whole experience help me learn that I need to find new, more verbally based, ways of communicating the “How tos” of everyday life, Yes!

Coconut Milk Yogurt didn't set up

Coconut Milk YogurtSo, here I go again, trying to find/develop a good recipe for a non-cow’s milk yogurt….

My soy adventures from last year remain undocumented, so I’ll be trying that again soon, but I did try to make yogurt with coconut milk, based on a recipe on this blog: Frugal by Choice, Cheap by Necessity. Unfortunately I didn’t have the coconut flour she mentions in the recipe, so I made mine with regular flour. BLEH! It came out watery and foamy and just plain weird.

So last night, I tried making it again, but this time without a thickener… just heated coconut milk with a yogurt starter. Oh man, that was even worse! This time it came out as almost completely water with little puffs of a yummy coconut foam. I tried straining it, thinking if I could just get that yummy coconut creaminess I’d be happy, but it wouldn’t strain through a coffee filter (or just it did just a little) but it was still too watery and yucky.

I found this website that says that coconut milk won’t set up like regular milk yogurt: http://www.mygutsy.com/coconut-milk-yogurt-gapsdairy-free/ But the instructions on this blog post are far to involved and complex for me. I did think about trying to make it with a little gelatin added and maybe I will next time I find coconut milk on sale…

For now, it’s back to the drawing board. I think I’ll go back to trying with soy, since it’s more readily available than coconut milk. Since my sensitivity to cow’s milk is not so severe, I usually use a dairy yogurt as a starter (though you can get non-dairy starters at places like Cultures for Health). Maybe the trick is to not try to thicken it as it cultures, but simply to strain it afterward.

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Chipmunk Epidemic?

A couple of years ago I wrote an article on Hubpages about How to Get Rid of Chipmunks in your Yard (alert: if you really LOVE chipmunks, don’t read to the end of the article). I had always liked the little creatures, until huge numbers of them infiltrated my yard and garden and destroyed so many of my plants.

This post is not about how to get rid of the little beasties, but instead about some interesting facts I noticed in the Google Analytics on the Hubpages article and on Google Trends.

I wrote the article in 2011 and most of the traffic to the page at that time came from NY and CT. Then in 2012, most of the traffic came from MA, NY and PA. And in 2013 the majority of the visits are coming from OH.

Could it be that the chipmunk population explosion is moving West? I did a little research at Google Trends, a very fun tool if you’re into data. And while my data doesn’t completely correspond with theirs, it is close:

I’ll check again next year and see if anything new and interesting pops up in the data.

Bluebirds of Hope – Sandy Hook's Guardian Angels

Eastern Blue Bird

In the days following the tragedy on December 14th, I received many emails from people all around the world. I am the webmaster for St. Rose Church and my email address is listed there. Most people sent prayers and messages of love, hope and caring. It’s was both inspiring and heart-wrenching to read the stories people shared.

One message I received was from the head of a prayer shawl ministry in Pennsylvania asking where they could send prayer shawls for the families of the victims. Dona also was particularly interested in sending a Prayer Blanket to Gene Rosen, the neighbor of Sandy Hook School who found 6 children in his driveway that morning and sheltered them until their parents could come. She was so moved by his care and compassion she felt a special need to reach out to him.

After several months, I heard from Dona again. She had been experiencing her own life-altering experiences; mother’s illness, lost job and then her father passed away. But she persevered in  love, hope and caring and was finally able to send a prayer blanket to Mr. Rosen. They spoke on the phone the other day…

At one point in our conversation, he asked me for my email address because he wanted to do something for me.  I gave him my email, and he started talking about bluebirds.  I just stopped cold.  You see, I asked my Dad for a sign that all was well — the sign was bluebirds.  I never told Mr. Rosen this, and yet here he was telling me he wanted to send me photos he took of bluebirds!

Bluebirds ordinarily migrate to avoid the New England winters, but this year, Mr. Rosen told Dona, they stayed surrounding the school like little guardian angels.

I am so deeply grateful to people who take the extra step, go the extra mile to extend love and compassion. It inspires me.

In the midst of so much pain and fear, the light continues to shine. The Power of Love will Prevail.




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