The Power of Courage

This past weekend, my daughter and I went to see the US Gymnastics Championships at the XL Center in Hartford. We saw the Junior and Senior Women’s competitions. The end result of the competition was the forming of the US National Gymnastics teams … this is where the next crop of Olympic competitors come from.

US National Gymnastics Team

What both amazed and inspired me about watching this competition, aside from the stellar gymnastics, was the raw courage that these young women possess.

During the final competitions on Saturday, there were several of the junior women who struggled on bars and on beam… falling, sometimes hard, during their routines. Each time, they got up again and completed their routines. It brought tears to my eyes. At one point, after watching a talented gymnast fall (twice) from the high bar on the uneven bars and get up again to continue, I started to cry in earnest.

Afterward, I spent a lot of time thinking about those women. What an incredibly powerful lesson these young women teach us… about not succumbing to fear or discouragement, about getting up and going on even when you’ve fallen hard, flat on your face.

I think it’s an important lesson for all of us to learn, not only for ourselves, but for our children, our future. The lesson of courage, of persevering in the face of pain, fear or discouragement is something we all need to take to heart. Athletes are taught that lesson more fully than others… but I think it’s something we all need to learn. Giving up is easy, quitting is epidemic. If we want to make the world a better place, we need to start building our courage.

Family can make it Fun

This has been a busy summer for us…. we’ve offered lots of help to family who needed to move house. This past weekend, we moved my mother-in-law from her home of 18 years to a new apartment, quite a job! In the midst of all the hard work of sorting, packing and moving, we were still able to smile, laugh and have a little bit of a “party” atmosphere because… we had help! John’s brothers: Tom and Dan traveled from far flung parts of the US to come help with the move.

Our darling daughter summed it up best when she said “Having Uncle Dan and Uncle Tom here makes this work more fun.”

Moving the SafeWe feel very lucky and blessed to have had their help, their humor and their great attitudes. Sometimes family getting together can make even the simple things in life more difficult… but in our case, adding brothers to the mix only helped the situation. That’s not to say that there weren’t moments of friction over the weekend… with that much work to be done in a short period of time, there are bound to be differences of opinion in how things should be done; like moving the super-heavy home safe, or packing into the truck all the bits and pieces so that nothing would move, shift or break en route.

Most of the work is now complete, there are things left to re-assemble, unpack and sort, but the hard work is done. And, as Dan said last night… “I can’t wait to get back to work, so I can have a rest!”

Dining Room Table

Homeless and Hungry

The other day, while on our way to a day at the beach, we drove through New Haven and at a traffic light, saw a man with a sign saying he was Homeless and Hungry.

July 23 - 31, 2009
“July 23 – 31, 2009” by osseous used under a Creative Commons Attribution license

I said “Oh, dear. This makes me so uncomfortable.”

and my son asked “Why?”

“I don’t know. Seeing him makes me feel sad and upset and helpless.”


“Because I feel that I should give him some money, but I feel frightened.”


I really didn’t have a good answer…  So instead I said “Get my wallet.” And as we passed by, I opened my window and handed the man some money. Which he gratefully accepted with a smile and a blessing.

Where does the fear come from? Why should seeing someone in desperate straits make me feel anything but sadness or compassion? Why would I feel afraid of offering him some of my abundance?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. But I do know that my son’s persistent questioning helped me move out of fear into compassion. Out of immobility into action, at least a small action. Afterward I felt so much better than I would have if I had rolled up my window, locked my car door, and pretended that the homeless and hungry man didn’t exist.

Writer’s Block: I can’t think!

Once I decided that I wanted to start blogging (5 April 2013), I wrote at least one post every day from then until the weekend we were away helping a friend move. I figured that one long weekend off wouldn’t break my rhythm, and maybe that break is not to blame, but since then, I have found it harder and harder to write everyday. Some days I write on two or more of my blogs or I write a Hubpage article, but some days; like yesterday and today, I feel as if I simply can’t think of anything to write about.

I Can't Think
I Can’t Think by Alyssa L. Miller used under a Creative Commons Attribution license

Or that the things I think of are simply not compelling enough to get me to sit down at the keyboard and get the words to flow.

For one of my other blogs, I’ve been doing research on Lunar Rhythms and how “they say” it’s easier to get things done during the waning phase of the moon vs. the waxing phase (not sure where this “wisdom” comes from yet… that’s part of my research). I would love to blame my writer’s block on the moon… well, it’s a full moon, of course it’s hard to write. But I’m guessing that’s not really the problem.

Then I remembered something I had written a while ago about Yoga Breathing and the Space Between. I think that part of my difficulty with writing might be that there’s been so much going on in my personal life, that I haven’t had a chance to honor that space between…. and so I’m sort-of stuck in it. As if I’ve taken in too much without taking the space to process it…. the intake-outflow has been interrupted and I’m stuck in the middle in the big uncomfortable unknown.

I hope that writing even this little bit will help me get back into the rhythm. I have a strong feeling that, like most inertia, if I can’t get going soon, I’m going to stay stuck. Once I get into the flow again,  “a body in motion tends to stay in motion” and I should be able to keep writing. Here’s hoping. 🙂

Our Cinderella Story

Years ago we took our first family trip to Disney World. Our kids were 7 and 10 years old.  It never occurred to me that they would really be interested in the whole Disney character “meet and greet”… it was never a big thing for me when I was a kid. However, we found out once we got there that Elizabeth had her heart set on meeting Cinderella. I think she had seen the movie at least 25 times.

I got a great education in Disney Princesses… and the fact that if you want to have a meal at place where Cinderella will be, you should make your reservation about 6 months in advance.

I called every restaurant on the Disney property to find out where Cinderella would be and how we could arrange for Elizabeth to meet her. I asked and asked, but was told again and again that there were no openings at the places she would be. Finally, we settled on a “Princess Luncheon” at the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot. I tried to prepare Elizabeth, telling her of the princesses we would likely meet, but also being honest with her and telling her that at that time, Cinderella didn’t visit that location. My darling, optimistic daughter said “Oh, maybe she will be there.”

Lo and behold, as we started to see the princesses come out to greet the patrons, there she was…


Keep ASKing for what you want and never give up hope that miracles can happen. These are the lessons I learned from our Cinderella Story. I’m now facing several new situations where asking the right questions is going to be key to making miracles happen… more on that here.

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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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: 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.” 🙂