Aimee Mullins was born without tibias, but that hasn’t slowed her down a bit. This para-Olympian has inspiring words to share such as …

We think that success means moving through a challenge unscathed but adversity isn’t an obstacle we must get around. It’s just a part of ourselves …

Our challenge is not to shield our loved ones from adversity but to help prepare them. We do a disservice to our kids when we don’t equip them to adapt …

The only true disability is a crushed spirit. You must see beauty, to keep hope, to be curious and imaginative. We are then able to create new realities and possibilities.



As women, I believe we are part of a sisterhood that spans the generations. No matter if we are 20 or 60, we can learn a lot from each other’s stories. We can breathe deeply into each others lives and fill our lungs with fresh air for our own journeys. My own refreshing wind showed up in the pint-sized package of a Pakistani neighbor. But don’t let her size fool you, she is the powerhouse of inspiration.

I was having one of those weeks (okay, months) where I was seriously wondering just who I was in life and what’s next for me. It’s a sentiment that each of us feels as varying times — moms home with toddlers, young career women pushing at break-neck speed, women whose nests have emptied who are reigniting their careers and dreams …

I decided to drag myself around the block on a walk, though my lower lip was so low I was sure I’d trip over it. As I trudged along, a perky woman walked up beside me. I plastered on a smile and forced myself to be cheery. It didn’t work. She smiled warmly and asked if I was having a hard day.

I don’t know what possessed me to pour my heart out to a stranger, but I did. Rather than bolting away from me at a fast clip, she placed a hand on my arm empathetically. After listening to my tale, my walking companion, Moona, commented that it was never too late to pursue your dreams. She had a dream of becoming a translator.

She was from Pakistan and had lived and worked part-time in the U.S. for a few years. Now  she wanted to return to college full time to get a degree in linguistics. She already has a PhD in economics from a Pakistani university, but since her home country’s government was so precarious, she couldn’t get the necessary documentation to start school in the U.S.

I looked over at Moona’s smooth skin, trim physique and determined expression. This woman, was not dissuaded however. After numerous fruitless phone calls to the dean of the linguistics program at the local university, she had planted herself in his office and told him she wouldn’t move until he admitted her into the program. Perhaps fearing this woman would use his office as her new home, he admitted her into the program. Moona was on her way to becoming a Chinese translator.

I admired this spunky woman. “Good for you, Moona,” I said. Moona looked to be in her late 40s, perhaps 50. If she could go for it, perhaps I could too. “Moona,” I said. “Do you mind if I ask how old you are?”

Without hesitating, Moona replied, “I’m 72.” I nearly fell out of my Nikes!

Moona is 72! Okay, I’m having what Moona is having! For the next 30 minutes, I picked Moona’s brain as we nearly walked around the county and back.

Here are Moona’s tips for being young and vivacious at any age:

  1. Growth is not optional. If you want your second half of life to be even more dynamic than the first half, never stop learning, growing or changing.
  2. It is never too late to be the person you want to be. Monna said her family came to the U.S. because this is one of the few countries where you can build the life you want based on hard work and perseverance. There is no date of expiration on that fact.
  3. There will always be obstacles, as there are at any stage of life. Just keep going and keep stretching for what you want.

Who has shown up in your life lately to inspire you? Go on that walk with them and listen carefully to their story. You might be surprised how their experience intersects with your own.



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My friend, Nilla Childs, comes from a long line of diary keepers. In fact, her grandmother, Dorothy, kept a diary for nearly 50 years. Nilla’s own diary entries about her son, Daniel, helped unlock the puzzle that had kept Daniel’s life scattered in pieces. Daniel was extremely bright, gifted in fact. Sure he had his quirks and his challenges connecting with others, but those issues somehow didn’t hold Daniel back. Until the day they did. Daniel moved away from home and went to college. His orderly world fell apart.

Nilla’s well-crafted book, Puzzled, documents her journey to solve the puzzle called Daniel, who was diagnosed with autism at age 23. Her book doesn’t follow a chronological flow. Instead, it mimics the scattered pieces of Daniel’s life, going back and forth in time. Each short chapter shares her wise observations, experiences and her mother’s heart. Daniel’s remembrance of the same event follows each of Nilla’s chapters.

Puzzled is not a neat, tidy “they lived happily ever after” book. Instead, it chronicles the ups of downs of real life with grace, love, humor and wit. Whether or not your child struggles with autism, you will be blessed by this charming and gritty chronicle.

Excerpt from Puzzled: 100 Pieces of Autism



Need a little joy in your day? Let Sister Rosetta Tharpe cheer you up. If this doesn’t make you smile and tap your toes, then we need to check your pulse. (I like her spirit!)



Giveaway: Melamine Platter!

by Cathy on April 17, 2011 · 57 comments

in Giveaway,People

I’m always looking for good role models in the business world for my daughters. My younger daughter has an interest in graphic design and is considering attending the University of Kansas design school, so the story of Ampersand Studio owners Carrie and Morgan caught my attention.

Carrie and Morgan met at the University of Kansas design school, studied abroad in England, worked together as graphic designers at Hallmark and eventually left to launch their own business. The result was Ampersand Studios, a creative collaboration in which they design prints and home products, as well as offering their graphic design services.

Both ladies recently began their families and the studio fits in well with their plans. They note,”We both want to stay at home with the babies and continue to design—but on our own, very flexible schedules. We feel that it’s important to make sure we spend time with our husbands, children, family and friends because when it comes right down to it, those are the important things in life.” Well said, ladies!

Carrie and Morgan want to introduce you to their lovely products so they are giving away one of their cute melamine platters valued at $24– your choice!

Rainbow Bike Spokes Platter

Zig Zag Platter

Party Flags Platter

To register for the giveaway, check out their inspiring design blog Ampersand Design Studio, then click on their Etsy page to see all their kicky products. Next, leave a comment on my blog, noting your favorite product (other than one of their cute platters!). Registration ends April 24 and I’ll post the winner April 25. The winner must live in the continental U.S. Good luck!



Erin Edwards’ success as a jewelry designer can best be described as “Girl Meets Internet.” She learned to craft jewelry in part by Googling instructions. Initially, she sold her jewelry through Ebay, then Etsy and eventually through her own website. But this isn’t just any old jewelry. This is GORGEOUS jewelry: keepsake, vintage and unique pieces. Erin wants to share her success with you. She’s giving away these lovely Dainty Drop Earrings.

Her thriving business, called Vintage Pearl, also includes her retail store that contains her workshop. She employs a staff of about a dozen women she calls friends.

Erin is creative, clever and entrepreneurial. The icing on the cake is that she is also compassionate. A portion of her sales goes to Stop Child Trafficking Now, the Tulsa Dream Center (which provides food, clothing, medical care and education to the urban poor) Orphan Shield (which provides care for orphans in Guatemala) and several other non-profits.

So how can you win a pair of the Dainty Drop Earrings? Go to the Vintage Pearl website and then leave a comment on my blog noting your favorite jewelry (other than the Dainty Drop Earrings). Registration ends March 20 and I’ll post the winner’s name on March 21. Good luck!




Thad and Mary with their grown children. Just an interesting aside: Margo (bottom right) was on American Idol last season and made it to Hollywood. But I digress ...

What does it look like when a guy in his 50’s has a mid-life crisis, quits his job, finds a beautiful blond and runs off to some exotic place? Well, in our friend Thad’s case … all of the above is true. Only…that beautiful blond also happens to be the love of his life for 35 years, his wife Mary. And the exotic location? Zambia! But the long and winding road that caused them to move there actually began when Mary was still in high school.

Mary lived there in the summer of 1972 with her parents while her father, a renowned physician, was on a teaching sabbatical. Then in 1991-1992, Thad and Mary lived there for 14 months on Thad’s engineering assignment, along with their kids. More recently, they have led three short-term teams of college students to Zambia, working with local missions that serve school children, widows and AIDS orphans. They have traveled throughout much of southern Africa, but Zambia has always held a special place in their hearts. It feels like home.

Mary explains,” After working 15 years as a hospital nurse, giving some of the best years of my career, I wondered, ‘Is this what I still want to be doing in five or 10 years?’ No, actually. I want to teach village health care to the poorest of the poor. My heart wants to be in Africa.”

Mary lived in Africa for a year in high school with her physician dad and mom, perhaps sealing her fate to go into medicine and one day move to Zambia.

Thad added, “And as a civil engineer for the last 30 years, I realized I’m still waiting to do what I really want to do with my professional skills – help develop clean water and sanitation projects in places where this fundamental health requirement is desperately needed. We want to finish our productive career years serving in Africa.” (For more on their story, check out their always entertaining blog Life on the Wild Side.

So Thad and Mary are living within walking distance of the spectacular Victoria Falls as part of a relief and development team. Though many of their teammates live in a small town, they chose to live in a tent with the local villagers for the first year to quickly learn the language. Thad admits that they may decide that living in a tent really stinks but they are going to give it a shot.

Thad and Mary plan to live in the village in a tent for the first year to immerse themselves in the language.

What about you? If you are an empty nester or starting the second-half of your life, will the mid-point be marked by crisis or adventure? And how can you leverage your skills and experiences to serve others in the midst of pursuing adventure? I’m pondering these thoughts for myself.



Amanda Dye is just like any other 26 year old except for the fact that she is the legal guardian for twenty-one children… in Africa.

Amanda and some of the African children she has adopted. Amanda writes: "Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, loving somebody deeply gives you courage."

She didn’t intend to do anything so dramatic when she took a trip three years ago to teach English in Zambia. Once she saw the abundance of orphaned children on the streets though, she knew her life would be different.

I knew that I would never be okay with myself if I didn’t try to do something,” Amanda said.

After seeing the needs of the vulnerable children in Africa, she returned home to the United States to complete her college degree and work multiple jobs to raise money. In 2007, she started the orphanage, Energy of Hope, with a team of seven other individuals. She hopes to help the children, ages five to 16, escape poverty and become positive role models in their society.

Now local children can contribute to this work. Through “Summer Challenge for Local Kids,” children create projects to raise funds for the orphans in Africa. Projects might include lemonade stands, bake sales, dog walking or other grassroots efforts.

If you’re interested in participating, contact Amanda at Send contributions to Energy of Hope, PO Box 372 Liberty, MO 64069. Energy of Hope is a 501(c)3 non-profit so all donations are tax deductible. Awards will be given to the most creative projects. Last year, the winners and their projects were profiled on Fox 4 News in Kansas City.

Energy of Hope is also sponsoring a photography contest and provides educational materials for school teachers. Details are on the website.

Amanda writes: “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, loving somebody deeply gives you courage.”

Amanda Dye must love deeply because she is one gutsy gal.



Ian Axel Video Will Make You Smile!

by Cathy on June 16, 2010 · 1 comment

in People

If you need some joy to get you through the mid-week hump, check out the FUN music video by NYC-based singer/songwriter Ian Axel. We plan to be in that fair city later this summer (Woot! Woot! More on that amazing adventure later!) and I would LOVE to catch him in concert. Here are the lyrics to This is the New Year, the song featured in the video:

Another year you made a promise
another chance to turn it all around
and do not save this for tomorow
embrace the past and you can live for now
and I will give the world to you

Speak louder that the words before you
and give them meaning no one else has found
The role we play is so important
we are the voices of the undergroud
and I would give the world to you

Say everything you’ve always wanted,
be not afraid of who you really are,
cause in the end we have each other,
and thats at least one thing worth living for,
and I would give the world to you

A million suns that shine upon me
A million eyes you are the brightest blue
Lets tear the walls down that divide us
and build a statue strong enough for two,

I pass it back to you
and I will wait for you,
cause I would give the world
and I would give the world
and I would give the world to you

This is the new year
A new beginning
You made a promise
You are the brightest
We are the voices
This is the new year
We are the voices
This is the new year


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After a three-day weekend, do you need a little help jump starting your creativity? Dewitt Jones, a National Geographic

National Geographic Photographer Dewitt Jones

photographer and filmmaker, has some great ideas to get you started. I watched his video, Everyday Creativity, years ago and was so inspired that I jotted down his key ideas in my journal. He combines his breathtaking photos with some profound ideas. Here are a few:

  1. Creativity is the ability to look at the ordinary and see the extraordinary.
  2. Every act can be a creative one.
  3. Creativity is a matter of perspective.
  4. There is always more than one right answer.
  5. Reframe problems into opportunities.
  6. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
  7. Break the pattern.
  8. Work on your technique and skills.
  9. You really have to care about the people who will be connected to your project.

And a great closing thought: “We are all faced with challenges. How we view these challenges and devise their solutions can mean the difference between just getting by and being successful.”

For further inspiration, go to his website and watching his video as he shares how he was inspired to go the extra mile in shooting photos for a Dewar’s Scotch ad. Amazing!



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