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Archive for the ‘Gratitude’ Category

For some reason I awoke this morning in a searching frame of mind. What kept emerging through this search was GRACE. I have always considered GRACE as one of the four pillars of my work and life. I define it as ‘ Being is a state of Grace with the world and within your relationships; allowing yourself to surrender and be in the flow.’

As I continued my rumination my mind tracked back, remembering a chapter in the ME FIRST Playbook in regard to the GRACE Diet. Themes repeat themselves in my life and I saw this as a SIGN to resurrect and review some of the tools and exercises I have created in the past. Memory is an interesting thing for me as I often lose sight of what I have written and taught over the years, not in a way that invalidates it, simply that my mind marches on.

Given the body of work I have accumulated, moving on at this point may mean returning to what I have known and practiced and resurrect the principles, ideas and teaching which have been the backbone of my work. Since I have been called back to GRACE, I have decided to use this as my starting point.

The GRACE Diet was created to address the junk food diet many of us feed ourselves on a daily basis. I am not referring to the food you put into your body in the context of what you consume, rather the diet you are feeding your spirit. Are your words to self spiritually uplifting or depleting? And if you have developed the art of putting yourself down, how can you begin re-programming that inner conversation. This is where the GRACE diet comes in, an acronym standing for Gratitude, Respect, Acknowledgment, Courage and Enthusiasm.

Gratitude: gratitude practices are bountiful these days, whether you keep a gratitude journal, have a daily practice of sharing gratitude with friends, or at the end of day as a before bed ritual. It is easy to assume that such a simple practice is fluffy or unsubstantial yet research has shown that those who practice gratitude regularly are more positive in their view of themselves and of life. Knowing this, why not give it a try. I can personally testify that I have had a daily gratitude practice for over twenty years and it is an activity that fuels my positivity every day.

Here is your opportunity– try the 21 day gratitude challenge, recording 3-5 gratitudes every day for 21 days in a gratitude journal and see what happens. Gratitude helps you notice what is right with your life.

Respect: I am referring to self-respect. In fact you can not elicit respect from others if you do not respect yourself. This is a simple truth. Time to check your inner dialogue and listen to the stories you are weaving about yourself. Remember that a large portion of your story was never yours; it was given to you by others – a parent, a teacher, a friend, some external source. What they saw or believed is not yours to own. Respect implies that you begin to see the truth of who you are and re-direct the inner-critic to becoming your inner-coach. Most importantly begin simply with I am enough.

Your opportunity: listen in to your inner dialogue, record the five most common things you tell yourself and, if they are not uplifting, re-write them. Now say them to yourself repeatedly. You are now in the process of ‘neural re-programming’, creating a new inner pathway.

Acknowledgment: acknowledgment marries gratitude and respect, in fact I often refer to self-acknowledgment as the highest form of gratitude. This takes respect a step deeper but encouraging you to see the gifts and strengths you possess, the impact you have in the world, the important roles you play in the lives of others. This is no small thing even though you may not feel important. I refer to it as the highest form of gratitude as self- acknowledgment means thanking your higher power for the gifts you possess, whether this refers to your abilities within your career, as a parent of family member, for your creativity or expertise. It goes like this, ‘I acknowledge my love for writing and relaying messages of hope and selfness to others.’

Your opportunity: as part of the 21 day gratitude journal, add on 2-3 self-acknowledgment statements. You might be surprised at what you learn about yourself. BTW a great source for self-acknowledgment can be harvested from the feedback you receive from others.

Courage: courage is the backbone of GRACE. The ME FIRST journey is not for the faint of heart, it is for the brave. It is easy to go through life accepting everything, never addressing your inner dialogue and riding the wave of self-deprecation. It may not be healthy yet many people will not addressing it on. Trust me; it takes courage to face yourself, go inward, re-shape the inner landscape, face the self-critic and tell him/her they are out of date, and design a new conversation. And those who choose not to join you on the journey will share their skepticism and endeavor to pull you back. Courage, listening to your heart – it desperately wants to heal, which wants to guide you forward into a more positive and beneficial relationship with yourself.

Your opportunity: create a daily practice where you pause, reflect and ask your heart, not your head, what it wants. Simply listen in.

Enthusiasm: begin to identify moments of joy in your life; pay attention to what lifts you up; limit your access to negative news (lord knows there is plenty of that these days), and play with people who generally have an optimistic attitude. In other words, feed your enthusiasm for life. Allow yourself to dream and consider the future. Share those dreams with others and encourage them to share theirs. Create a vision board that lights you up and which, when you look at it, inspires you.

Your opportunity: back to the 21 day gratitude journal, add 1-2 things which are fueling your joy and enthusiasm each day. One of mine: I am enthusiastic about the new opportunities opening to me at this time in my life. (BTW I have no idea what they are, I simply trust they exist!).

Let me close with a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh: “ If you are capable of living deeply one moment of your life, you can learn to,live the same way in all other moments of your life.”

The GRACE diet is a recipe for emotional and spiritual health that can sustain you and lead you to a more meaningful life.

Blessings and Until Next Time,

 

Betty

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You show up every day, sometimes mindfully and sometimes not. You want to make a difference, in the lives of clients and co-workers, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. Your intentions are sound, to live a life of purpose and hopefully passion, to be of service and to make a difference. You step into each day, into your work, and you engage, hoping that your efforts will make the world a better place.

This is how I have endeavored to live my life. But how do you measure success; how do you know what your ripple effect has been and whether you have had a beneficial influence on others and the world around you. Reality – for the most part you don’t!

So here I am, about to turn 70 years old (OMG!). I have been working in my career since I was 22. You can do the math – I have been working a long time. Sometimes I have worked in a J.O.B. – Justifiable Occupation or Business. For the most part I have worked in my Passion Place, which makes work play. I suspect that in my Passion Place I have been more successful in having an impact.

Recently, while not looking or asking, I have received a few Mental Pay Cheques, a series of comments from random sources speaking to the impact my/our (Jim and I) work has had through the years. This feedback is not solicited, it simply shows up. It is not ego building it is humbling. And yes, it does feel good especially as I am of an age where I often look back and reflect on the many roads I have traveled career wise and wonder if it has made a difference.

Now it is true that not everyone is carved for the same stone as I am. Not everyone has the luxury of pondering their purpose and designing their work accordingly; so to this end I have been fortunate.

Recently, while attending the National Sales Meeting for our primary client, Jim and I were greeted warmly by more people than we can count. We have been fortunate to work with many of the teams who are part of this multinational Pharmaceutical company over the last ten years.

Our inaugural event with this organization was a Continuing Health Education Program, The Colour of Communication, which we co-designed with their Education Department. This program was created to provide Rheumatologists, and their staff, strategies for being more effective in their communication and teaching with their patients. Over a period of three years, I had the opportunity to teach this program in twenty-three cities across Canada reaching about eighty percent of the Rheumatology community. It was demanding and it was a privilege.

At the recent National Sales meeting, rheumatologists were asked to provide feedback to our client regarding the impact they had had over the last decade. Of the three areas highlighted by the RA Community, this program, the Colour of Communication, took top billing. While Jim and I were not present for this feedback, the business unit manager made sure it was delivered to us when she saw us at the meeting. The organization was thrilled with this feedback as was I. Truly a Mental Pay Cheque.

There have been other such moments recently which I do not need to detail, only to say that when your work feels rewarding, when you sense you are making a difference even if you cannot measure it, there is a good chance you are. If your work is intentional, fueled by a sense of purpose, of being of service, you can be reassured that you are having a beneficial impact. When you go to work versus having a J.O.B. you play in an entirely different field of energy.

Pause – as I am writing this blog the phone rings. Damn, an interruption, just when I am in the flow of writing. And, nope – a coaching client calling unexpectedly just to check in and give me an update on how his business is turning around. He simply wanted to share the good news. A Mental Pay Cheque !

I am waking up and appreciating that Mental Pay Cheques are my roadSIGNS. For months now, maybe even years, I have been struggling with the idea of retirement. In fact, I really dislike the word. In conversation with some of my colleagues, I have also come to appreciate that I have nothing to retire from. It seems to me that these random Mental Pay Cheques are reminding me to stay in the world. I realize that teaching, facilitating and coaching are in my DNA, they are not roles that I play, they are me. They are a part of every conversation I have, whether that is a friend, a family member or client. It is not a J.O.B., it is my work in the world.

Whether I continue to work for remuneration or not, this is a part of me that will remain. Whew! No need to retire, I am who I am who I am.

And I am fortunate. As I mentioned earlier, I have been the creator of my own career for the last 23 years. I do not represent the majority. Some folks have to retire or are retired from their J.O.B. Then what?

I believe it is a new beginning, an adventure, an opportunity to fulfill unlived dreams, passions, and desires. Yes, I am an optimist and I believe that the Third Act, as this phase of life is now referred to, is a second chance at life. It is not to be wasted or endured. It is designed to help you live in ways you had not imagined; a time to be curious as to what is possible.

If you are reading this and wondering where to start, here are the questions that I play with and offer to clients:

  1. As I look around the world today, what is it I want to influence, shift or change?
  2. What is it that gives me joy, lights me up?
  3. What is my sense of purpose?
  4. When I decide to step away from work, what do I want my legacy to be?
  5. How do I wish to influence the world around me?
  6. What are my core values? Am I living from these?
  7. In what ways am I experiencing my joy, my purpose/passion, my values in my life/work?

In some way I feel like I can breathe again. I am in gratitude for the clients who continue to choose to work with us and I am content in the knowledge that when this ends, something else will appear. And I appreciate the random Mental Pay Cheques coming my way, reminding me of the ripple effect my work has had and continues to have.

It has taken years for me to appreciate myself and to be authentically grateful for the gift of my work in the world. It is worth pausing, taking a look at the ripple effect you are creating and have created, to receive the feedback and compliments with an open heart, and to see the gift of who you are in the world.

On that note…until next time

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It is challenging not to notice the changes that aging creates, especially in our bodies. Having experienced the ravages of inflammatory arthritis over the last few years, and the physical limitations this has imposed, it would be and is easy to go down the road of ‘getting old sucks’.

Of course, the last few weeks have bee particularly challenging as I had my first Total Knee Replacement of January 5th. This is part of the reason I have been absent from blogging. For those of you who have experienced this surgery, you know that the first two weeks are brutal, there is no sugar coating required. Beyond the two-week mark, things get easier, or at least they did for me, and you are able to see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. I will be quite honest and admit that the journey has been tougher than even I imagined, especially knowing that I have the opportunity of doing it again with the other knee.

Okay, enough! What has the journey really been about? Moving forward, frankly. Giving myself the opportunity to have pain free knees that allow me to enjoy the walking that has always been so important to me and resuming a life style I want to live. Yes, getting old sucks and yes, there are things we can do about it.

Over the last 3 + weeks I have had ample opportunity for reflection, it seems to me that healing has been occurring at many different levels. While the physical limitations have left me somewhat housebound, I have been given the gift of reflection time. I have focused on what’s changing and shifting: work, where we live, what I really want, releasing and so much more. Too bad I needed surgery to create these conditions however it is important to note that with every change or even loss lies the possibility of opportunity.

I have also recognized how little compassion I offer myself. Actually, it was Jim who noticed as he watched me push through my exercises every day, endure the discomfort and become discouraged. “Why are you so hard on yourself”, he would ask. “You are progressing each day. Notice the improvements and have a little compassion for yourself.” Thank God, I have a cheerleader.

He was right. The moment I shifted gears and began to offer myself more love and compassion, the better I felt and the better my knee seemed. Now I am looking for the small signs of progress everyday like finally being able to put on my own sock, walk comfortably without a cane, get in and out of regular chairs, and more.

All this to say that we can agree that getting old sucks just as we can agree that when things change, we create new opportunities. What we focus on is the source of our energy and while it might be a tad more challenging to see the good in life with each passing year, our attitude is an essential ingredient in our long-term health. This time off has allowed me to dream, to explore possibilities, to consider options and most importantly to begin planning my retirement and what will engage my spirit. It really has been perfect after all!

Let’s all agree that staying positive is essential for each of us to thoroughly engage in and enjoy our Third Act.

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I swear my mother-in-law Dorothy is like a cat; it is evident that she has nine lives. My only concern is that by my count she has lived at least seven of them. Two week’s ago she was clearly on a downhill trajectory, unable to recover from a severe gastrointestinal flu and complaining a terrible stomach pain. Multiple ER visits were leading us nowhere (more on that later). any attempt to receive additional care services were in vain. we were in that no man’s land where families often arrive. Even with three health care professionals in the family, we were at a loss as to how to support her.

I reached out to her former surgeon and a friend of mine who immediately referred her to Palliative Care and the physician who leads the community program. The first thing she did was totally clean up the medication Dorothy was consuming daily. It seemed radical, but several on the meds have known GI side effects. That was six days ago. This morning on the physician’s follow-up visit, Dorothy was a new woman. She is eating again and enjoying her food. Her mobility is improving. Her mood is light. She is BACK!

Polypharmacy, yes this is a diagnosis, is common in the elderly. Drugs get added and rarely removed. I am finding that drugs are not being reviewed on a regular basis by family physicians, which is by the way, part of their role. Family physicians are the gate keepers for their older patients. They need to be informed as to the side effects of medications and they need to monitor the possible drug interactions.

Secondly frequent ER visits by an elderly patient should be a red flag for those attending to her care. Several of my physician colleagues were dismayed to hear that no one connected the dots for Dorothy and no one referred her for follow-up care post hospital stay. I assume that those who discharged her thought she lived in a nursing home which is not the case.

Finally, we have a home care system which, at least from my experience to date, is not working. They have been contacted three times in the last two weeks, by myself, the residence where Dorothy lives, and the palliative care physician. to date they have not made a visit.

Let me be clear – I am over the moon grateful for her recovery! Fortunately she has more resilience than most women her age and an amazing network of family support. Without this she would no longer be here.

And I have learned that having a health care advocate is essential. My message to those of you reading this is to stand up for and speak out for the care of your elderly parents. Without my interventions and the help of my colleague, Dorothy would not have been referred to Palliative Care.

I now understand that we as a family needed to be more clear on insisting that she relieve a referral to home care follow-up before being discharged. My advice to you – don’t assume anything.

Finally be a bad ass – a squeaky wheel if you have to. I plan to follow-up with home care today to find out what is going on.

As we all age in our Third Act, we will need to advocate for ourselves as well. While we need to be reasonable in our requests, we need to speak up when we are not being heard, to stand for our own well-being, and to expect the health care we pay for in our taxes. I personally am not a big health care user at the same time I am currently awaiting an appointment to the Joint Assessment Clinic. It took my family physician five weeks to make the referral after we discussed it. Is this reasonable – I don’t honestly know. Is she busy – yes. The thing is, stay with your requests.

Okay, this is my RANT for today. The Canadian health care system is amazing as we all know. We need only yo look to our southern neighbors to realize that we are fortunate. And the system has its flaws which we can all work on to correct. Let’s work together on this, be grateful, show appreciation for our health care workers and advocate for ourselves and others.

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During the Positive Psychology conference, one of my favorite workshops was with a colleague of mine Marla Warner who led us through a number of mindfulness activates. She actually saved my day as this was the final workshop of the afternoon and I was feeling the fatigue of a full conference schedule. Her presentation and the activities were a clear reminder of how restorative mindfulness is.

Just to clarify, many people assume that mindfulness is meditation. In fact, meditation is a form of mindfulness, and mindfulness is so much more. As defined by Jon Kabat Zin, mindfulness means ‘paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally’.

In recent weeks, with a full schedule and the task of working with Jim’s family to mover his parents to a Senior Citizen’s residence, I have engaged mindfulness in many ways. First, I have a daily routine which includes a number of exercises and stretches. At the end of the routine I have a mantra is use as follows: I am the Light of my Soul, I am bountiful, I am beautiful, I am bliss, I AM, I AM. This is followed by an Ohm and the setting of my intentions for the day.

Regardless of your choices, a daily practice such as this immediately brings you to a mindful state. Accompanied by breathing, this type of practice brings you to a place of calmness and clarity.

The second aspect which has kept me grounded throughout a time of significant transition, are the intentions set for new beginnings, in this case on behalf of our family. Living intentionally, stating clearly what you want to attract to your life, is a mindful act. Bringing yourself back to these intentions repeatedly, keeps you grounded, centered and focused. These are just a couple of examples of integrating mindful practices in your day.

Of course mindfulness is linked to positivity. As a practice mindfulness can help you literally sever the link between negative thoughts and emotions. The practice forces you to stop and to notice what is rummaging around in your head and what feelings are associated with these thought patterns. Without noticing, without being mindful, you cannot begin re-programing your thoughts.

So what can one be mindful of on a daily basis? Breath, contact, movement (such as walking a labyrinth), bodily sensations, feelings and emotions, thoughts attitudes and beliefs. You begin to realize that there is so much you take for granted on a daily basis without examining what unconsciously propels you forward in life.

Mindfulness is a skill – it takes practice. Over time it changes the way your brain works – you can use it to break down the circuits that promote negativity and build the circuits linked to positivity, taking advantage of “neuroplasticity”, the fact that your brain can be re-programmed.
Research regarding mindfulness includes the following benefits:

decreased blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension, reduced cholesterol, improved immunity, reduced pain and anxiety, improved sleep, and decreased inflammation.

Add to this, mindfulness leads to more optimism and decreased depression, greater self-awareness, the opportunity to change negative thought patterns, improved coping abilities, greater efficiency and productivity, improved learning capabilities and memory, and developing a sense of inner calm.

As you review this list, can you see the opportunities for all of us in our Third Act. The great gift of this time in our life is that you get to choose how you live. Many of you have the gift of more time. An important and useful part of this time is the investment in a few mindful practices which can serve to help you stay grounded, to intentionally explore the options for this time in your life and invest in your health.

Some Additional Mindful Practices: Meditation; Prayer, Yoga, Creative endeavors, Gratitude Practices, Mindful Eating (putting the fork down between bites and savoring the flavors), acknowledgement of others and what they bring into your life, washing dishes, gardening and so much more.

Consider this my invitation to you to put aside time every day for yourself for some type of mindful practice.

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I have recently had the pleasure to dive into the work of Joan Anderson, an American author whose books A Walk on the Beach and The Second Journey have truly resonated with me. It is always good to be supported on one’s own journey. Joan’s vulnerability and humanity spoke through the pages, as if she and I were having a conversation. And this conversation was an important one as she disclosed that despite her work, that of encouraging others, especially women, to find room in their lives for themselves, was a message that she personally struggled to live. And in their lies my truth, that despite my ME FIRST teachings, I have lots to learn about ME FIRST.

Like many of us, I am caught up in the flow, forward and backward movement. A self-avowed doing addict, I have trouble at times slowing down and even when I do, I cannot seem to harness my mind. Oh sure there are a few divine moments, when the quiet descends and I find myself in the ebb. I relish those moments and hold on to them greedily, for it is in that ebb space that I see, I know and I am. And then, just as quickly as the ebb appeared I am back in the flow. And I know this is right as well, the ebb and the flow, the movement of the tidal waters around the earth and the tidal waters of our life, is as it needs to be. Nothing is static.

All of this insight falls on the heels of a year of what feels like slumber. One year ago in January 2014, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, a rather serious, although treatable, auto-immune disease. After month of stiff and sore fingers and toes, blood tests and X-rays pointed in this direction. This is an illness familiar to me as I have been part of the Rheumatology community for a few years as the facilitator of the Colour of Communication designed for health professionals working in this field. The irony of suddenly attracting this illness did not escape me. Yet somehow, in the back screen of my mind all this news did not ring true. My intuitive “energy” colleagues supported that belief. Despite this I embarked of a course of treatment which over the next eleven months included two drugs, Plaquinil and Methotrexate (a form of chemotherapy). I saw my energy levels diminish yet I stayed with the program. I saw no observable forms of improvement in my joints yet I stayed with the program. Without recognizing it, I began to slide in my desire and drive to be of service.

Here Comes the Sun - A New Dawn!

Here Comes the Sun – A New Dawn!

Five weeks ago, in a collaborative decision with my rheumatologist, all medications were stopped. We both agreed that while my blood work was highly suggestive of RA, my lack of response to treatment indicated otherwise. Subsequently I have had additional joint studies completed which have revealed osteoarthritic changes in my fingers, no meds required.

I have written previously about Awakening, and I feel that at this moment I am once again in the awakening process. My energy levels have returned, I am waking up with a new sense of vigor and I feel that suddenly I am once again in the game. I have a suitcase full of appreciation for this. You do not realize what you have until it is removed for a period of time. And I, admittedly was under appreciating my life, my passion, my sense of purpose and my drive. I was under appreciating the ebb and the flow.

I have no judgment of the last year or the decision I made to seek and accept treatment for an illness I do not have. Rather I am grateful for my current state of health and for the lessons learned over the past 12 months. A significant aspect of this lesson is to embrace the ebb and the flow, to be in movement and to be in solitude and contemplation; to find the easy balance between the two.

With the newness of 2015 still on my skin, and an appreciation of all the forecasters and pundits, I know this to be a year for transformation. This means casting aside what no longer serves and creating space for what is waiting on the other side of the door. It is in the ebb that I have time to identify the castaways and in the flow that I can reach out and receive what is next.

I encourage you to identify the ebb and flow, the natural rhythm of your life. So much of daily living is forced rhythm. May this leave you with the desire for contemplation and the willingness to step into the ebb for a few moments everyday!

Until next time,

Betty

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As a facilitator and speaker, it is both challenging and rare to find a team of like-minded individuals to collaborate with. Having been in a solo practice for many years, my learned independence has made me very specific regarding whom I choose to work with. And yet when I was approached recently by colleagues Lianne and Carol regarding the creation of the Awakening Festival, I did not hesitate to say yes.

Over the months of partnership in planning and executing the festival, I felt valued and supported by the team. Without any time to actually become a team, which from my past experience has been a vital component of any success, we simply swung into action. Carol the ever competent coordinator, Lianne the visionary leader, Joanna, Sharon and I the contributors and speakers – we were a team from the moment the conversation began. Perhaps it was a shared vision, our breadth of experience or simply synchronicity, but agreement and forward movement came easy. There are some lessons to be learned from this.

The event, held Saturday April 5th, was for me, a highlight of my career as a speaker. Each of the keynotes we were in harmony and built effectively on the messages of others. Suffice to say, I have never experienced this type of coordination before. The opening meditation with Eleanor, the performers Kathleen and Carrie, the movement and dance by Tiffany, the presentation by Brigitte of Pure Art Foundation, the drumming by Caitlan, as well as the support behind the scenes created a full symphony for the delivery of an amazing day.

I share this as there are moments in life when everything converges: your dreams, your gifts and strengths and the vision of how you wish to live. Awakening Festival, both in preparation and delivery has been such an experience for me. Through the years, I have defined with great clarity the qualities and characteristics of those whom I want to work with as well as those who participate in our programs. This event was the manifestation of this clarity.

It is no surprise to me that the event was called the Awakening Festival. Awakening simply means mindfulness, being fully conscious of what it is you want and aligning your life with these desires.

Clarity + Action = Unlimited Personal Power.

It all sounds so simple when written like this, a perfect prescription for life. Yet in the simplicity lies the complexity for as humans, we are not typically that awake or mindful.

This was a conscious event, built from clarity, the intentions and desired outcomes we had for the experience. Our actions were designed to create the experience, whether this was in our advance planning, setting up to room the day before or coordinating the different speakers and our messages. In terms of attracting the perfect venue, the sponsors and attendees, again we were intentional. Days before the event it was sold out, amazing sponsors appeared, and a hall filled by amazing natural light appeared after the first location fell through.

I know I make this all sound simple, and yes, it still involved all the planning that any event requires. That said, it was for me a profound example of the Law of Attraction and intentionality.

Teamwork, event planning, coordination, and all the things that typically bog us down in organizations can be shifted significantly with a different approach. Setting intentions and outcomes from the get go, CLARITY, and aligning action with those intentions, ACTION, gives unlimited and powerful results.

I have believed and practiced this at a personal level and have found this to be powerful. To experience it at a team level lifts my spirits and renews my faith that everything is possible, that soul connections can be forged with others when you are clear about who you want to attract in your life, and the event management can be inspiring.

I am left wondering what would happen if these same principles were applied to everything we tackle, in both our personal and our work lives. Something to consider…..

Until next time…

Betty

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