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No One is Broken

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I knew I needed to keep moving forward…somehow keep breathing even though pain roared through me.  I knew I needed to do a lot to help my family but all I wanted to do was rewind my life to sweeter days.  Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever felt devastated…like you wanted to go back in time and fix everything?  If so, remember that feeling…remember that feeling in your stomach…the gasping for breath…that screaming within you?   Remember feeling you were broken and not knowing how to pick up the pieces?  Remember seeing the imperfection of your life staring back at you?

Wow!  Just reading that is depressing!  But honestly I think it’s hard to get through life unscathed and not feeling like something inside us is broken or imperfect.  I think it’s because life is challenging.  But I also think it’s meant to be… because I believe we are all here to learn powerful lessons, albeit some harder than others.  And it’s those of us that don’t embrace our lessons that are forced to continue to face the same challenges over and over again in our lives.  And let me tell you…that is for the birds!

What I’ve come to learn is that our circumstances and experiences in life can leave us feeling broken but the power within us is never broken unless we personally allow it to be.  When you really think about it… we are pretty bad ass!   The fact that we have that much internal power is not to be taken lightly.

That’s why I’m so excited about our Conversational Change weekly video series.  The enclosed video only scratches the surface and is a broad stroke look at the year’s topics.  But we’re going to dive deeper every week with the introduction of strategies, personal stories and tools you can use…not because you need to but because you want to have the most amazing life you can!  And I’m here to tell you…you deserve to (we’ll talk more about that in the weeks to come as well!)

We look forward to seeing you weekly on our #hersmile Facebook page Thursday evenings at 7:00 p.m.

P.S. If you tried tuning in last night at 7:00 p.m., we apologize for the technical difficulties we were having!  We’re learning on the job over here so we thank you for your patience.

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Pope Francis 2018

“You can have flaws, be anxious, and even be angry, but do not forget that your life is the greatest enterprise in the world. Only you can stop it from going bust. Many appreciate you, admire you and love you. Remember that to be happy is not to have a sky without a storm, a road without accidents, work without fatigue, relationships without disappointments.  To be happy is to find strength in forgiveness, hope in battles, security in the stage of fear, love in discord. It is not only to enjoy the smile, but also to reflect on the sadness.

It is not only to celebrate the successes, but to learn lessons from the failures.  It is not only to feel happy with the applause, but to be happy in anonymity. Being happy is not a fatality of destiny, but an achievement for those who can travel within themselves.   To be happy is to stop feeling like a victim and become your destiny’s author.  It is to cross deserts, yet to be able to find an oasis in the depths of our soul.  It is to thank God for every morning, for the miracle of life. Being happy is not being afraid of your own feelings.  It’s to be able to talk about you.   It is having the courage to hear a “no”.  It is confidence in the face of criticism, even when unjustified.   It is to kiss your children, pamper your parents, to live poetic moments with friends, even when they hurt us.

To be happy is to let live the creature that lives in each of us, free, joyful and simple. It is to have maturity to be able to say: “I made mistakes”.  It is to have the courage to say “I am sorry”.  It is to have the sensitivity to say, “I need you”. It is to have the ability to say “I love you”.   May your life become a garden of opportunities for happiness …

That in spring may it be a lover of joy.  In winter a lover of wisdom.  And when you make a mistake, start all over again.  For only then will you be in love with life.  You will find that to be happy is not to have a perfect life.  But use the tears to irrigate tolerance. Use your losses to train patience. Use your mistakes to sculpture serenity.  Use pain to plaster pleasure.  Use obstacles to open windows of intelligence.   Never give up …. Never give up on people who love you.   Never give up on happiness, for life is an incredible show.”

(Pope Francis). HAVE PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR / January 1, 2018

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You Are Enough

2017 has been a challenging year for me…as if I could handle any more challenges in my life. I’ve prayed a lot to God to please show me the way and to please give me the wisdom to walk through the doors I’m supposed to walk through.

I’ve given my heart and soul to #hersmile…working every week hours over the sum of a full time job. Yet even with those efforts there’s been delays and challenges. So much so that I often wonder if the universe is trying to communicate something to me despite my heart telling me to keep going and that our work is desperately needed.

A couple of weeks back, I hit a breaking point. I was in a minor accident with my daughter. That was about all I could take at that point. I was angry. I was angry at life which has never been me. But enough is enough. I was bitterly upset and at the lowest point I’ve been since Jenna’s passing.

So that night, in the quiet of my mind, I ranted to God, “Really…Since Jenna has passed away I’ve done my best to celebrate my love for her out into the world. I told you I didn’t want to be bitter, I wanted to be better. I have wanted my love for Jenna to make a difference in the world but you haven’t made life at all more manageable…as a matter of fact you’ve made it harder! And you know what I mean…this year has been one delay, one hurdle, one difficulty more than I can handle. Are you trying to break me? You already know I’m on your side. In a crazy world marred by pain and suffering…I’m on YOUR side! I’m trying to do your work. I’m trying to make a loving difference in honor of the most beautiful thing that exist…a parent’s love for their child. But you seem not to care. It feels like you’re pushing me away…I don’t know what more you want from me…,” I closed my eyes and began to weep.

I’m always completely authentic with you and honestly I’m not completely proud of everything I said to God that night, mostly because I made it seem like God owed me. God doesn’t owe me anything…since my rant to God, I’ve been gifted with several special conversations with friends and family. I realized it’s not God that owes me, it’s me that owes me. I owe myself love, patience and compassion and I need to acknowledge I have done enough.

You see, up until now I haven’t been content to help one person through #hersmile because I always tell myself that’s not enough. In telling myself over and over again, “It’s not enough”…I see now that I’ve attracted more of not having enough into my life.

Next week is our 2017 Twilight Gala Italiano in honor of Jenna’s 18th Birthday. Ticket sales have been slow and, again, my initial reaction is it’s just not enough. But STOP…it is enough. When you give everything you’ve got…it is enough. You and I can’t control anyone but ourselves. I can wholeheartedly say we have done an incredible job planning the Gala and I’m so proud of all of our efforts. I haven’t failed in any area and yet I have to let go…that is the hardest thing…letting go…because I have naively mistaken it as failure.

May we always remember that we are enough because I know I’m still working on it ❤️

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My Home Is Gone

I received a text early in the morning on Monday, October 9th.  It was from Jody, my college teammate.  It read, “My home is gone.”

I was confused.  Jody lives in Santa Rosa and I had just been in Santa Rosa two days prior for an amazing wedding.  Everything seemed perfectly fine when we were there and I had only briefly heard of a fire in Napa.  But having grown up in Northern California I assumed it was high atop one of Napa’s mountain ranges and out of harm’s way.   I never smelled smoke…so how in the world could this be happening?  How could Jody be telling me her home was gone?

Immediately, I picked up the phone and called Jody, admittedly a bit dazed and confused on my part.  She tells me everything.  She tells me about the 1 o’clock call in the middle of the night from her neighbor, how she was out of town visiting her mom’s cabin at the time and how all she has is literally the clothes on her back.

I do not try to tell her everything is going to work out. I do not tell her she’s lucky she’s safe and everyone in her family is safe.  I know all too well there are no words that can help at times like these so I just listen and soak in the trauma and heartache.  The fact of the matter is loss is loss no matter how we cut it.  Jody began to compare herself to me and she began to question her pain as if it didn’t measure up to mine.  “I lost my home…you lost your daughter,” she said “I shouldn’t be feeling so devastated.”

“Please don’t compare the two,” I said.  “Loss is loss and it hurts no matter its delivery and no matter its punch.”  She didn’t have much time to talk.  What about my dad?  His medication?  My Mom? What about my job?  What am I going to wear to work?  On and on the questions flowed and understandably, in the moment, there were no answers.

Post Trauma Bears Its Ugly Head

Ever since last year when Paul, my husband, went to the emergency room, I discovered I had a whole bunch of trauma lurking around inside me.   After talking to Jody I found myself feeling so sad and helpless.  Jody’s loss was stirring up the feelings of my own loss.  “Jenna,” I thought….oh how I understand the devastation of loss.  By Tuesday I felt catatonic.  That feeling you get when you just feel immobile.  I knew the signs, I had taken on too much emotionally charged energy  and I only have so many resources to draw upon.  So I did something that goes against my grain.  I took a break.  During that time, I read and napped. I have learned over these last three years that sometimes we have to take steps backwards in order to take leaps forward.  By evening I spoke with my sister about my emotional reaction and she helped me by coming up with the idea to start a GoFundMe for Jody.   She said, “Dena, this way you can help without feeling like you have to take care of all the details yourself.”

I continue to understand that walking in other people’s traumas and tragedies has a way of stirring up my own feelings of loss, sadness and helplessness but in the end I think it helps me better understand me and I know it’s a space I want to continue to make myself available to.

To help Jody, my teammate, please visit:  https://www.gofundme.com/nor-cal-fire-victim-my-teammate

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A Child’s Grief Journey

When Jenna passed away in 2014, my younger daughters were only 11 and 9 years old. I knew from the onset that I would need to seek out help for them. I was not only devastated over my own loss but also over my girls’ loss. Our three girls were very close to each other. I was so worried about their happiness. Julia, my 11 year old, was agreeable to seeing a grief counselor but Gigi expressed that she just wanted to share her grief with Paul and I. We honored her wishes. I feared their ability to bounce back from something so catastrophic.

It has been three years now. Gigi will be 13 in less than a month. In that time, I have learned a lot about how children grieve and, for that matter, cope with life’s circumstances. I have witnessed how our minds manage our emotions and in doing so manage our actions. Without the proper coping skills; however, I have also witnessed how life can feel out of our control.

The most important thing I have been able to guide my girls with is helping them develop their own personal awareness of their thoughts, feelings and emotions. In our culture, kids and adults often consider upsets, stress and hurt a sign of weakness and I wanted my girls to know I believed the opposite is true. It’s the strong that seek help.

In my experience, this doesn’t come easy to anyone but without exception, every person throughout history who has experienced happiness despite their life’s circumstances has the ability to recognize the thoughts, feelings and emotions that lie within them. Then they are able to choose what thoughts they will give their energy to and create the life they want despite the challenges, loss and heartaches they’ve experienced in their past. That is real power.

The greatest impact, I feel, I have made on my girls is showing them what’s possible and that if mom can find happiness despite Jenna’s passing, so can they. But this isn’t something I want to just share with my biological children, I want to show all children that the ability to learn coping skills will change their lives for the better and if I can do it, so can they. You and I know that we cannot always spare them from the pain that comes with living a life but we can give them the awareness of their own personal power and how to direct that power in a way that will give them an amazing life.

Because of our family’s journey with the pain and suffering of loss, I am honored that #hersmile is currently shaping a Resiliency & Coping skills curriculum for two of our local schools. Current self-assessment data of pre-teens indicates that from 35% to 100% of 4th to 6th graders already report having difficulty coping with stress, anger or sadness which science has shown leads to problems with learning. Since coping skills are brain habits, by teaching our children these skills they will be prepared for the many emotional changes and challenges that affect our brain’s ability to get over stress, anger and sadness. Since feelings start in our brain, the more we learn about how our coping brain works, the more capable and confident our children will be for the rest of their lives.

by Dena Derenale Betti

To read more: http://www.copingskills4kids.net/Home_Page.html

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Sightings

Often times, our loved ones who’ve died come to us in our dreams. Unlike most dreams however, these visits feel “real” – they don’t fade upon waking, and when recalled, feel more like a memory of a physical experience than the hazy events of nightly dreams.

“My sister and best friend all my life was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October 2011. I did anything and everything for Karen up until the bitter end. I cooked her meals, went to all her chemo and doctor appointments, prepped her meals on the weekends for the week ahead, etc. One day when we were talking about stuff she wanted me to do after she was gone, I asked her if she was going to come back and see me. She said, “I will if I can.” She passed at home while I laid in bed with her. She was 61.

Karen never came to see me for a couple of years. I was pretty bummed out. One night I had a dream that I was in some sort of train or bus station. I turned around and she walked up. She was with two older men and I knew immediately that they were chaperones, and though I didn’t see their faces, they were wearing long white gowns. Karen walked right up to me. She looked like she was about 30. Clean face, no make-up, long, brown hair. She just smiled a little smile…like Mona Lisa. We just stared at each other. No words. And I woke up. It was SO real. I wouldn’t allow myself to go back to sleep for fear of forgetting this moment. I stayed awake the rest of the night. It was awesome.

The next time we saw each other was a year or so later and again in a dream. I was at a soccer game (my girls played soccer for 18 years and Karen went to nearly every game). I was in a stadium that had concrete bleachers. I was sitting up towards the top. I noticed a woman sitting several rows down. Every time I looked at her – and I could only see her back – she was up another row until she was just two rows below me. Then she turned around and it was Karen. She was older, shorter hair, but with that same little smile. I called out to her by name and she just sat there. I said something like, “What are you doing here?”, but she didn’t answer. She just kept smiling at me. When I woke up I again had that feeling of it being SO real…and again, I stayed awake so that I wouldn’t forget!”

Shared by Nancy D., San Diego

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5 Steps to Self Love

by Kathryn Remati, MA

“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Buddha

Self-love is vital for health and happiness. Love is a powerful, positive energy that is necessary for a healthy balance between mind, body and spirit. We cannot recognize love in others unless we have it for ourselves. It allows us something genuine to share with the world, and when you believe you are worthy, your life will reflect it.

The concept of self-love should not be confused with narcissism and selfishness. Rather, look to the ancient wisdom of Buddha, as highlighted in his words below. Self-compassion is emphasized in Buddhist teachings and can lead us to the steps we need to take toward loving ourselves in a natural and healthy way.

Loving ourselves unconditionally in the same way we love our children and pets is what we are striving for. However, most of us put conditions on our value. We expect to be happy with ourselves only when we get the job we want, or only after getting the house, or losing the weight for example. Then and only then do we feel worthy.

Why wait for the outside circumstances to change? Inside is where our love waits for us. Here are a few ways to fill our cup of self-love until it overflows, so we may be open to give and receive love freely right now.

Step 1: Be Nice

“Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care.”

An essential first step is to improve our self-talk and quiet the inner critic that judges and condemns our actions and feelings. We think we need to be tough on ourselves for motivation, but really the opposite is true.

A great way to begin the process of activating true self-care is to imagine how we speak to a friend who experiences failure or disappointment. We would encourage them and lift their spirits so they don’t take themselves so seriously. Making friends with ourselves begins when we mentally speak with kindness and a gentle, light-hearted tone. Next time you step on the scales or show up late to work, speak to yourself with kindness and no judgment. Use a term of endearment. Change that critical, mean inner voice to a warm, loving, expression of who you really are. This won’t happen overnight because we have been this way for years. We must try to love ourselves without exceptions and remember to be forgiving when the negative attributes like anger and envy appear. Love the negative parts and what we think of as faults too. Take advice from writer Elizabeth Gilbert who says, “Accept the glorious mess you are.”

Step 2: Be Authentic
“Don’t believe false doctrines. Don’t follow the way of the world.”

Choosing love it is the healthiest thing we could possibly do for ourselves. A love based theory for optimum health is the difference between living a life making decisions based on fear as opposed to your decisions coming from a place of love. Make decisions to do what feels right for you, and not out of fear of being rejected. We can be ourselves when we truly love ourselves. Choose love always, in all ways.

Step 3: Stop Comparing
“Happiness will never come to those who fail to appreciate that which they already have.”

We have to put an end to comparing ourselves to others. This is the craziest thing we do because we may tell ourselves we are awful when there is always someone worse or better in any situation. The human family is flawed and the sooner we realize we may never reach our own tough standards for perfection, the sooner we can truly love ourselves as we are, flaws and all. Everyone suffers in some way from regrets, hurts, fears, doubts and problems.

As long as we are living, we will have some kind of suffering to deal with. The answer is to deal with it in honest, healthy ways. Don’t repress it. Be mindful and surround any obstacles with love. Instead of separating from others and feeling less than someone else, see the connection. When we look for similarities, they soon become obvious and love is more likely to appear.

Step 4: Use Affirmations
“Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.”

Words have power. It is recommended to repeat positive phrases like a mantra and also to write them down. Leaving affirmations on notes around living and workspaces feeds the mind consciously and subconsciously, as it becomes a deep truth in time with repetition. Affirmation s like “I Approve of Myself” or “I Accept Myself Just as I Am” cannot be repeated or thought too many times in a day. A true test of growing self-love is to look into your own eyes in a mirror and say “I love you.” Keep trying until you see an amazing person full of love looking back at you.

Step 5: Meditate
“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”

Will another pair of shoes, a new car, or a new job give you lasting peace? Real happiness is a state of being that you carry with you at all times. We are already complete and enough just as we are. Be grateful for the simple things in life. We spend so much time, money, and energy on the exterior part of our lives. Think about the resources that go into the upkeep of our physical body alone. We need to value our inner riches.

Meditate to dissolve the walls of disdain and open your heart space. Go within by meditating daily to bypass the labels, judgments, and fears, and touch that source of true happiness, peace, serenity, and yes, true love for your true self!

BIO:
Kathryn Remati, MA created the popular Tranquil Me meditation App to help spread peace, one peaceful person at a time. She is a certified San Francisco based meditation teacher, health instructor for Kaiser Permanente, and writer. For more info about meditation classes and events go to: http://Tranquil-Me.com or follow her @TranquilMeApp.
(Photo: Graffiti Art by Banksy. Aliexpress.com)

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Learning a New Language

Mother’s Day was great. There were no flowers or gifts waiting for me when I woke up, no breakfast in bed. Not even a card.

And that’s just how I like it. It’s the one day, even more than my birthday, that I feel completely deserving of anything I ask for.
And what I love to receive the most from my husband and kids is action – for them to take a few items on my never-ending household “to-do” list and make them happen. Nothing makes me happier, or makes me feel more loved, than having them put in the effort to take care of something that is important to me. I know they don’t care if the garage is unorganized, but I do. They don’t see the weeds behind the barbecue, but I do. And when they take care of these things, something deep in me sighs and relaxes, and I feel taken care of too.

It took a while for me (and even longer for them) to understand that my wanting to “get things done” is not just me being a nag. When I finally understood what “doing things” does for me, I could ask them for what I need without judgement or blame by saying “I want to feel taken care of, and doing things for me without having to ask is what makes me feel that way.”

It’s my nature to anticipate needs and fill them. I’m great at taking care of others by doing for them – as are many women, and especially moms. Being of service is how I express my affection for others, and how I understand affection when others serve me in any way, big or small.

Acts of service are what author and marriage counselor Gary Chapman calls one of five emotional languages – the way that people speak and understand emotional love. Chapman says that “actions such as cooking a meal, setting a table, emptying the dishwasher, vacuuming, changing the baby’s diaper, picking up a prescription, keeping the car in operating condition — they are all acts of service. They require thought, planning, time, effort and energy. If done with a positive spirit, they are indeed expressions of love.”
If your love language is acts of service, then “actions speak louder than words.”

It’s important to know what your “love language” is in order to fill yourself back up – if you know what you need, you can ask for it. Giving and doing for others without tending to yourself is depleting. Feeling loved and cared for is just one way to “fill up your cup.”

The more you are able to receive, the more you have to give. And, recognizing the language of your loved ones lets you act in ways more fulfilling to them, and in turn enriches your life through deeper, more meaningful relationships. This deeper connection fills you up too.

The following adaption of The 5 Love Languages describes the other ways we express and feel love. Though he speaks to marital relationships in particular, Chapman’s work applies to all close relationship. Do you recognize your “Love Language”?

Words of affirmation
One way to express love emotionally is to use words that build up. Verbal compliments, or words of appreciation, are powerful communicators of love. They are best expressed in simple, straightforward statements of affirmation, such as:
“You look sharp in that suit.”
“I really like how you’re always on time to pick me up at work.”
“You can always make me laugh.”
Words of affirmation are one of the five basic love languages. Within that language, however, there are many dialects. All of the dialects have in common the use of words to affirm one’s spouse. Psychologist William James said that possibly the deepest human need is the need to feel appreciated. Words of affirmation will meet that need in many individuals.

Quality time
By “quality time,” I mean giving someone your undivided attention. I don’t mean sitting on the couch watching television together. When you spend time that way, Netflix or HBO has your attention — not your spouse. What I mean is sitting on the couch with the TV off, looking at each other and talking, devices put away, giving each other your undivided attention. It means taking a walk, just the two of you, or going out to eat and looking at each other and talking.
Time is a precious commodity. We all have multiple demands on our time, yet each of us has the exact same hours in a day. We can make the most of those hours by committing some of them to our spouse. If your mate’s primary love language is quality time she simply wants you, being with her, spending time.

Receiving gifts
Almost everything ever written on the subject of love indicates that at the heart of love is the spirit of giving. All five love languages challenge us to give to our spouse, but for some, receiving gifts, visible symbols of love, speaks the loudest.
A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, “Look, he was thinking of me,” or, “She remembered me.” You must be thinking of someone to give him or her a gift. The gift itself is a symbol of that thought. It doesn’t matter whether it costs money. What is important is that you thought of him or her. And it is not the thought implanted only in the mind that counts but the thought expressed in actually securing the gift and giving it as the expression of love.
But what of the person who says, “I’m not a gift giver. I didn’t receive many gifts growing up. I never learned how to select gifts. It doesn’t come naturally for me.” Now that you have made that discovery, get on with the business of learning your second language. If your spouse’s primary love language is receiving gifts, you can become a proficient gift giver. In fact, it is one of the easiest love languages to learn.

Physical touch
We have long known that physical touch is a way of communicating emotional love. Numerous research projects in the area of child development have made that conclusion: Babies who are held, stroked and kissed develop a healthier emotional life than those who are left for long periods of time without physical contact.
For some individuals, physical touch is their primary love language. Without it, they feel unloved. With it, their emotional tank is filled, and they feel secure in the love of their spouse.
Implicit love touches require little time but much thought, especially if physical touch is not your primary love language and if you did not grow up in a “touching family.” Sitting close to each other as you watch your favorite television program requires no additional time but may communicate your love loudly. Touching your spouse as you walk through the room where he is sitting takes only a moment. Touching each other when you leave the house and again when you return may involve only a brief kiss or hug but will speak volumes to your spouse.

By Julia Novak, LSC, Intuitive Consultant. www.julianovak.net
Adaptation from The 5 Love Languages

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~Sightings~

On the 25th of every month, #hersmile will post a new story of a “sighting” of someone who has passed away. We would love to hear from you too! Please share in the comments below or email your story to info@hersmile.org.

What is a sighting?
Things happen after our loved ones die – crazy things, magical things, incredible things – that remind us that they are near. Everyone has a story. Or knows someone that does. A sign, a synchronicity, a sense of presence – each of them clearly comes from the ones you’ve lost. Perhaps reading these stories will bring peace to your own experience, they confirm you haven’t “lost your mind.” Though in some ways perhaps that is exactly what’s happened. Through loss your mind has let go of mundane things and narrowed its focus. Your awareness has shifted into a new place. A place that is there all the time but is overlooked. This is where love lives on.

“My aunt Terri and I talked on the phone every Saturday – she “shopped” with me from hundreds of miles away on my errands, giving me advice and opinions as I carried her with me in the phone. It was the morning of my 40th birthday – seven years after she died of cancer. I’d just dropped my daughter off at her grandmother’s because I was going to work. It was a pretty August morning and I was singing along with the car radio because I was having a great day. I stopped at a light and she was just there. I could see her face in the windshield. She had the most beautiful smile and this beautiful bright light around her, like she was glowing. She just looked beautiful. When I saw her, it was like being part of that glow with her as if she was giving me a hug. I could honestly feel connected to her. Unfortunately it only lasted for about 30 seconds and then she was just gone. I felt her disconnect. I stated crying, then I felt bad because I didn’t want her to think I was sad because she came – it was because it didn’t last long enough. There are really no words to describe how amazing it was to have her there, to feel like I was connected to her. I doubted myself and thought “did this just happen?” It was so real and powerful but I never talked about it to anyone, not even my husband, until last year. I haven’t seen her again. There are many times I feel she’s with me, and I know she looks out for my daughter Katie, because she told me she would be her guardian angel. I would love to see her again.

Shared by Jannea Wright, Texas