I’ve just spent the last several days in one of my favorite spots on earth. Tucked away in the hills of the Smokey Mountains, this cute little town in North Carolina is not known for its lavish resorts or expanded amenities. It is a simple place, trading name brand golf courses and country clubs for small creeks and modest family vacation homes that have spanned generations - along with views that I’m convinced are as close to God as any you’ll ever see. There is a spirit here you won’t find elsewhere; those seeking God have also found this place with prayer and meditation houses haphazardly dotting the landscape. There’s a thriving arts district nearby as well – creative energy and God often walk hand – in – hand.
When I’m here, I hike to the top of the mountain using the general access road. The path promises to take me on an easy glide to the top via a twisted path that never offers the same experience twice.
I have always loved country roads, or rather, I love images of country roads where the trees stand tall and the path winds in such a way that you can’t quite tell where it’s going until you get there. There’s something about this scene where the sole focus is on the path - leaving you to envision what lies just beyond your line of sight. I love the possibility, and the hope of it.
In life, the greatest things, the most exciting, and sometimes the scariest things lie just around the bend.
This is the place you know is there but you can’t yet see. It’s the place that leads to your future but what that future looks like exactly, is still a bit unclear. It’s the place where you’ve set yourself up for success, but the results haven’t presented themselves – as there is still more work to do.
Many people spend their lives afraid. Afraid of taking chances, of taking that next step until they are certain of the outcome. But I’ve found there is a beauty and a hope in the unknown. I’ve found if you can take daily steps toward the next right thing and then let go of the outcome, your outcome often materializes in greater ways than you can ever imagine.
One thing I know for sure, to find out you can’t stop and you can’t turn around – you must keep going. The brave stand tall in the face of uncertainty.
Wherever you are, whatever your journey, or your situation, the promise and the hope lie just around the bend – but you’ll have to keep going to get there. Don’t stop and don’t give up.
Here’s to making it great.
There’s a new girl at the gym. I’ve known her for years really, but she’s new to that space in my life. She’s what I’d call a loose acquaintance. The other day, I noticed she stopped talking to me – saying hello and the like – the times I’ve approached her, she seems distant, like I’m bothering her. We’ve all been there. Is it me? Is it her? What is going on here?
I am on a journey to live a brave life. One that is messy and sometimes complicated, but real and dare I say, bold. It is my belief that living this way is the only way to experience true and certain joy. I don’t always have it together or know what I’m doing exactly. And I’m cool with that.
As I began this journey – which can be more accurately described as the waking, the piece I couldn’t quite figure out was ‘what does this look like at the PTA?’ Meaning, being real and authentic sounds good enough while I’m reading about it in this book here, but what does this look like in application? How in the world would you use this in everyday life?
I’ve spent the last several years trying to figure that out – learning mostly from trial and error – where the trials and the errors continue to this day and I hope will continue well into the future. It is only by error that we can really learn and grow and growth is what I’m after. What better way to create a greater life for my children, myself, and those around me?
Living a brave life means asking my gym friend (in love, not in accusation), if I have done something to offend her. Listening carefully to her response, fixing what I can, letting go of the rest. Knowing it is not her opinion that shapes my character, but my action of restoring relationship.
It means sitting with those I love in their problems and seeing them, hearing them – without judgement. For I no longer need for them to believe and behave a certain way in order for me to be ok with me.
It means listening to my friends who are politically charged right now – and not fighting, not arguing but respecting them because they are people whose opinions and beliefs have value and worth even if they don’t align with mine. Knowing I can speak if I want to and the only stand I take that really matters is the one behind the curtain on November 8.
It means holding myself and others accountable for their words and actions and letting the natural consequences flow.
As many of you know, I have been writing this blog for about a year now. So far, it has been read in all 50 states (plus DC and Puerto Rico) and 167 countries by close to 20k people with over 71k page views, which tells me you’re coming back for more. I hope this is because you’re finding your own truth while experiencing mine.
Unchained is meant to be the mechanism of my journey that seeks to answer the question of what this looks like at the PTA. This week, I spent some time working on the Unchained Manifesto, which starts out like this:
We are not afraid.
To get real.
To tell our stories so we can learn from each other.
To walk in love but still hold on to who we are.
To live a fearless life with all the hope, joy, pain and passion it brings.
My hope is that this platform will continue to change and grow so we can all learn together, making our hearts and our worlds better. My hope is that you will continue to read and follow and find your own voice as you grow. My hope is that you’ll join me in this journey and that we will become unchained from the things that hold us back.
You can read the entire Manifesto here.
Thanks for reading and here’s to making it great.
It started in middle school. Science class was held in a portable outside and it became a game for one boy to grab my *ss as we walked there each day. The next year, another great game was created when a different boy would pull me into the band closet and try to kiss me while his friends held the door. Every year, it was my great pleasure to be greeted by the PE teacher as I emerged from the locker room after dressing out, “would you like fries to go with that shake?” he would ask as he watched my friends and me head down to the school field.
Fast forward to today. I am an accomplished and confident woman – a mother of three. In two separate instances men I don’t know have approached me, kissed me, and walked on. Each time muttering something about how they just couldn’t resist. At a conference recently, a keynote speaker approached me while I was standing in a group. He says he has been watching me all day and was fascinated by the way I walked. “You’re like a walking sex popsicle.” I promise you, this happened. The last one is so crazy it’s laughable. But I think it proves a point.
Rape culture is very much alive and active in our society and the ideology starts at a very young age.
As someone who has been grabbed by the p*ssy and kissed without warning by men she didn’t invite into her personal space, I can tell you very clearly, the reason we ‘let’ you isn’t because you’re famous, or even special in any way. The reason we ‘let’ you is because we’re in a state of shock trying to process, WTF just happened?
And, I can tell you how it feels. It’s shocking, it’s alarming, it’s humiliating. I, for one, am so tired of excusing and minimizing this type of bad behavior. If idolizing this is what has become normalized conversation in our locker rooms, then I give up.
I didn’t want to write this post – as I sit here, it is creeping toward midnight – a good two hours past my normal bedtime and just 6 hours away from my self-imposed deadline for the next blog post. I have been stalling all day – for several days actually. We’ve even been through a hurricane and two days of practically doing nothing – but still this post did not get written.
Thinking about these events causes me pain and embarrassment. It’s especially bothersome and scary because they aren’t even a part of one traumatic (and newsworthy) event, but are systemic and have been experienced throughout almost every stage of my life. There is nothing really unique or special about me, these things are happening to girls and women everywhere but no one is really talking about it.
I can assure you none of the instances cited above were made in any attempt to celebrate my beauty. No, they were about power and control created to reduce me to a sum of my parts, they were intended to use my sexuality and femininity to shame me and make me feel small. Some people only feel powerful if they can reduce the power of others, taking what they want from them while discarding their humanity. Some have no idea that what they’re doing is actually wrong. Some don’t care. Sexual assault is the only crime in which the perpetrator walks away feeling justified while the victim walks away feeling guilt and shame.
In light of recent events, I think this is an important conversation. None of it has to do with politics, so if you’re going there, just stop. Bringing the focus around to who will lead us in the next four years is yet another way of deflecting this very real issue.
The problem of rape culture needs to be opened up, poured out, carefully examined and processed. But who among us will be brave enough to do it? Is it me? Is it you? More importantly, who can do this in love without leaving half of us forced to run screaming to the hills?
One of my heroes, Brene’ Brown is a major influencer of cultural shift in our time. Her work has been an inspiration and catalyst for change in my life. Brene’ opened up this discussion on Facebook a few days ago. If you haven’t seen it you can do so, here. I encourage you to review her post and the comments that follow and really examine the events in your life that have caused you to feel small – this isn’t an easy task because we minimize so much. But I encourage you to really think about it – what you uncover will create healing and change in your life and in the lives of those you love. It might even help change the world…
Here’s to making it great.
In my house there is an ugly green couch. It was given to me by a friend when I was in the middle of divorce and in the process of a considerable downsize. I was literally cutting my square footage of living space in half and walking away from large spaces in favor of smaller, more manageable ones. The oversized furniture it took to fill up my old space was never going to work in this new place. Sometimes a purge is necessary – sometimes you should not adorn your new surroundings with your old materials.
My friend had this small couch – a loveseat really that fit my space perfectly. It wasn’t the prettiest of pieces and not the most comfortable – but it fit, and at the time, that was all that really mattered. I was grateful to save the $600 or whatever it took to buy something new on top of the rest of the moving expenses I was already taking on.
I am a small person and the couch fits me perfectly. Immediately, it was deemed my spot in the house. Four years later, I still have this couch. It’s where I do most of my thinking and a lot of my writing. It still fits me, but I must admit, it’s getting a little uncomfortable - it might be time for a change.
I am on the cliff of a transition – a transformation, really. As a transition is a shift in external circumstances while a transformation is a shift of your insides. Transformation happens when your thoughts, actions, attitudes, and beliefs are all up for grabs. Transformation occurs when you take these things – hold them openly and say to yourself and God, what do I need to keep here? What can be thrown away? It’s a cleaning out of your internal closets. This doesn’t take any physical work really – not in the traditional sense anyway. The only real requirement is to let go and let the universe do its thing.
When it is over, I am different somehow – maybe not differently really, but I know I’ve just stepped into more of who I am – of who I was created to be. I’m less of what the world or others believe I should be.
With each iteration of transformation, I wrestle with the questions: How can I do this? Who will love me when I’m fully me? Who will love me if I am not afraid? I toy with these over and over all the while knowing that I do not really have a choice – because denying myself of me is not an option anymore.
The battle of course is in the unknown. We fear what we do not understand. This part of basic human nature does not change until we have made some sort of personal evolution.
For me, right now, the question is ‘how much am I willing to risk on myself? How much am I willing to believe in me?’
There comes a time – a pivotal point in every person’s journey when destiny comes knocking at your door. This could revolve around anything really; a career choice, a relational choice, a choice to stand up for yourself. It is in this moment, you ask ‘how can I do this?’ which is followed by the still, small voice that states simply, ‘how can I not do this?’. Because the truth is with that decision, in a moment, everything will change – some for the better and some for what will seem like the worse – but always for the good. Because decisions like this help you earn your power back, they help you own your own truth and there is nothing bad or wrong about your truth. The truth might be hard – it might be cumbersome and unwieldy – but it is not bad.
No– the truth will indeed set us free.
Here's to making it great.
I’m worried, I say – I’m concerned because we’ve been on antidepressants for over a year now and she’s still depressed.
“Of course she’s depressed.”
We’d found a new therapist, one who is working with new techniques. These techniques have worked with other kids – we are hopeful.
“Every day is hard for her – everything she does, everywhere she goes it is too bright or too loud or not loud enough. It takes all she’s got to just get through the day. She has a right to be a little depressed. I would be worried if she was not a little depressed.”
I quickly remember the little girl who would burst into our bedroom at 3 A.M. crying that she needed to be held. I would wake up and hold her – but she would still scream; she said she couldn’t feel it. She couldn’t feel my arms wrapped tightly around her. I was beyond confused.
What do you mean you can’t feel me? Is there a wrong way to hold a child?
Sh*t - please don’t wake the baby.
My God, I am so tired – can a person be this tired and still live? No, surely I will be dead soon.
My daughter suffers from extreme sensory dysfunction which is probably the by-product of Asperger’s/Autism or perhaps it’s simply a stand-alone condition. I have learned, this is not a game show, there are no final answers. I have learned to be comfortable in the unknown.
This child clings to me with tenacity. She depends on me as a stable source of comfort in a world that is mostly confusing to her. Like any mother, I love her - I love her fiercely.
But the truth is, I have no idea what it’s like to be in her skin. She can’t explain it. She doesn’t understand how her experience of the world is different from mine. Her experience is all she knows - it is her truth; her reality. We all have our truth, our own realities.
But she knows she’s different, she can tell other people don’t seem to have a problem with noise and lights and smells the way she does. She gets angry and confused when others become frustrated with her for talking too loudly and having extreme anxiety over the simple things we all do with ease each day. Like all of us, she wants someone to see her, to understand her, to know her. She wants to be accepted.
I wish I understood her. I know I don’t – fully understand her. I want to. But it’s like we’re on two different highways, I can see her, we’re moving in the same direction, but we are not on the same road.
Motherhood, and mothering this child in particular has stretched me in ways I never thought imaginable. And for that, I will be forever grateful for it has broadened my perspective of love.
Through her, I have learned I don’t have to fully understand someone in order to love and support them. Real love has no conditions – it is not a math problem with an ‘if -then’ statement at the end. Love says, I see you, I see you’re struggling, and I’m here. I might not fully understand, but that’s OK – for right now, my understanding is less important than the state of your heart. Love says, take my hand and we’ll do this together.
My first-born has given me a gift I can never repay.
In the light of recent events that have taken place in our nation, I can remember this lesson. No one knows what it’s like to be in another’s skin. But you can learn what love is, and use it.
Here’s to making it great.
Everything was falling apart. Seemingly overnight we lost almost all of our money, everything gone. What little was left would be finding its way elsewhere soon. Worse than that, it was becoming apparent to me that our financial problems were the least of our worries and in fact, were only symptoms of much bigger problems hiding in plain sight right beneath the surface.
I had made it my life’s goal to be the fixer – the glue that held it all together. But at this point, it felt like all I was doing was going around after everyone and sweeping up their messes. I told myself I was doing it to help – but really I think the sweeping was an attempt to protect the life and the lie we were projecting to the world. More importantly, it was protecting the lie I was telling myself.
There are no problems here… move along, we’re all very happy and have this under control. Everything is fine… we are blessed.
The tragedy, and what I didn’t understand, was that in living this way I had lost myself. The symptoms of this were outwardly noticeable. I had gained weight, was sleeping erratically, and eating terribly. I was tired and irritable. With the financial trouble, I couldn’t justify spending much on new clothes, but nothing really looked that great anyway so I kind of stopped trying, opting for sweats and gym shorts as the morning go to most days.
A friend – one of my mentors, invited me to a Cabi show she was hosting. Knowing I didn’t have much money to spend, the invitation was to come and hang out for the afternoon.
“You need a break,” she said.
Yes, I needed a break.
The show was a flurry of well-designed articles being flung to and fro with recipients waiting with high expectations to see what would look best, what would match nicely with what they already had, etc. The whole scene was a lot of fun.
In the midst of it all, I put on a red jacket. It was made of a soft denim with a buckle belt that cinched around the waist. I had not yet started my weight loss journey and was still battling unwanted pounds. The jacket’s flattering cut and adjoining belt helped hide all of that nicely. I am not a superficial person, or even materialistic – but when I looked in the mirror that day while wearing that jacket, I began to see myself a little differently. I felt like I looked good – and that wasn’t a feeling I’d had in a long time.
In that brief moment, that split second, I began to remember who I was. I began to remember (and believe) I was beautiful.
Beauty has very little to do with attractiveness and almost everything to do with how you love and what you believe to be true about yourself. With the right adornments, anyone can become attractive, but beauty is an essence – you know it when you see it.
Each of us is made for beauty – we are made to feel beautiful. Sometimes the clothing we wear helps us to remember that truth.
My friend offered to give me one of her ½ price items that day, and I left with the order slip in hand for that jacket. It was a catalyst to host my own show where I could receive ½ price items based on show sales. I used this mechanism to build my wardrobe over the next several years while I also began rebuilding my life. The time since has seen a revolution in me – a new mindset, a new set of priorities, a new body, and a rediscovering of who I am, who I was created to be.
I have been hosting shows twice a year ever since. I found not only was this a great tool to help stretch my clothing budget, but it also became a great way to help enforce my desire to live life intentionally. Buying clothes this way has essentially eliminated my need to do much outside shopping. I don’t need to spend the day at the mall trying to find something (anything) that looks good – I already have what I need to look amazing for just about any situation right in my closet.
I don’t sell Cabi btw, I just wear it because it works for my life…
It's time for our semi-annual show.
You can see the line at www.betsymclellend.cabionline.com.
Here’s to the revolution – let’s make it great!
“I’m just so busy…” I caught myself. I was in the grocery store talking to a friend, or an acquaintance really, who had asked about my life. I never want to be the I’m so busy girl. The truth is we’re all really busy with things we’ve made up to do in order to occupy our time. Our level of busyness (or avoidance) is entirely up to us. When it comes to civilization, we have more free time than any societal group in human history. But even with all of our newly found freedom, we don’t take the time to properly care for ourselves in body and in spirit.
I want to be intentional with my time. If I’m so busy, it means I’m not doing a very good job.
If you look closely, you’ll see that life ebbs and flows in a regular pattern requiring different levels of energy expenditure. For me, there is normally a catalyst event around mid-summer which turns into a chaotic period requiring much of my physical or emotional energy. This lasts for several months, until there is a release of some sort. It is during this release that I’m called to rest. Once my resting period is complete, I will experience breakthrough where I am entered into something new, which usually takes place somewhere around mid to late Fall (October/November). This process happens consistently at some level each year, with what I would call a big event taking place about every 4 years.
The process is not a science, or even an art really, I would describe it more as a universal principle that is part of our natural evolution. There is a lot of religious teaching around this principle and the concept of rest. I know this process is a big part of my growth and healing.
I consistently struggle with the idea that rest is required before I can enter into the new; the concept goes against my hard wiring.
I’ve learned if I can’t do this on my own, rest will be forced upon me – through an illness or other means.
You just really can’t argue with God.
Why is rest so important? There’s the obvious of course, our bodies need a break – our minds need a break. But technically, you should be getting this each night during your regular course of sleep.
No. The rest I’m referring to is the rest that’s needed for transformation.
We need a break from the output – our life’s tasks and duties and the things we do every day to keep our lives in line. We also need a break from the input – what we consume. Some people call this fasting. Input can consist of food, media, ideas and thoughts from other people.
The period of rest that is required for transformation is a time for reflection. It’s also a time for cleansing and renewal. It’s a time to reconnect with and strengthen ourselves. What could be more powerful?
Once you are strengthened and connected to both yourself and the universe around you, you become unstoppable in your life’s purpose.
Which begs the question, is there anything more important than rest?
Happy Labor Day everyone.
Let’s make it great.
My name is Sara and I’m a recovering perfectionist.
For most of my adult life I was a striver. A striver and a pleaser. For many years, my life consisted of a neatly compartmentalized set of rules and standards that created a false sense of safety and security. Nothing was as sacred as these self-imposed rules and I would let nothing violate them. If challenged, I would defend to the death, twisting the truth to match my skewed reality.
Perfection is a twisted tool many of us use to try and gain some semblance of power when our lives are spinning out of control. Sometimes this is a temporary state – other times chronic. Perfection is a slippery facade that guards and protects an altered reality – it provides a way for us to hide from ourselves and others.
If the living room is straight – if my kids are perfectly dressed and attend the right schools – if my life is flawlessly positioned on Facebook… maybe no one will notice just how messed up things really are. The irony is of course, perfection doesn’t hurt anyone but you – because more accurately, “if I can keep everything just right, maybe I won’t notice just how messed up things really are.”
It begs the question: what are we hiding from?
Mostly, I think we’re hiding from our pain – past and present. We also hide from disappointment – and the underlying gnawing dis-ease that things are not happening the way we hoped they would. We’re hiding from our inability to love others well and the unfortunate truth that we have not been loved well ourselves.
Last weekend, I went to see the two hour laugh-fest, Bad Moms.
The theater was packed with a million iterations of girls’ night… and a couple of what must have been well coerced date nights. All of us were looking for freedom – however temporary – from our own realities.
The movie is essentially about a group of women who said ‘to hell with it’ on the crazy standards and expectations of suburban motherhood and points out the ridiculousness of it all. If you haven’t seen it, you should.
As women, as mothers, the expectations are so high. The standards are unattainable. Society puts them there, yes. But we take them on – we accept them. But we don’t have to. This idea that ‘everything is great!’ all the time is ludicrous. Because sometimes, quite honestly, it just isn’t – and that’s more normal than anything.
Sometimes it’s OK to say to hell with it. Being perfect, living up to someone else’s expectations, living up to our own unrealistic expectations…
Getting real is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves and those we love the most for there is no position more powerful than in the acceptance of what is.
I’ve found this is an iterative process. And, as always, it begins with me. Each phase of getting real brings me to a new level of choosing myself and not worrying as much of what others would think. What others think of us is really none of our business.
If you can’t face it, you won’t be able to accept it.
Can you be brave and face your reality today? Don’t get sidelined by the falsehood of perfection.
Let’s make it great.
Her boss was angry. He wanted her to begin planting the seeds to a co-worker about the eventual phasing out of her job. When she refused to do so, the treatment was harsh and his abuse became focused on her. Suddenly, she could do no right.
His wife was angry. It seemed like he could do nothing to please her. Most days she blew up his phone with angry texts in order to get him to do what she wanted. ‘If you were worth anything.. .’ ‘If you cared at all.. .’ ‘If you ever leave me, I’ll make your life a living hell.’ All the while, they served on the local church council and were members of the best clubs in town – they were modeling the perfect family. This was going to be a long life.
Antagonists are a part of every good story. A hero needs a villain to round out the tale, but dealing with the antagonist in your day-to-day life can be daunting and confusing – I’m talking of course, about the adult bully.
Bullying is an abusive behavior that happens all the time. Sometimes its offenses are obvious, but often it is so subtle and nuanced; it’s hard to understand what’s happening in the moment. Sometimes bullying happens like a slow boil.
Here’s the thing about bullies –they are controllers and manipulators who are trying to gain power over you in order to satisfy themselves in some way. They use anger, blame, deflection, and finger pointing to try and make you behave a certain way; which in turn makes them feel more comfortable about themselves.
Bullies try to throw you off your game. Because their thinking is irrational, you will hardly ever be able to tell exactly why. It is linked some way to their self-preservation. Bullying is the Neanderthal approach to communication.
Bullies try to take your power so they feel more powerful.
Here’s the secret - you don’t have to let them.
Adult bullies come in all shapes and sizes – they are in the C-suite, the locker room, in the cube next to you or maybe behind you at the checkout. Sometimes you’ll find them lying beside you in bed – and sadly, sometimes they are staring back at you in the mirror – sometimes we are the bully. At times, I have been the bully.
Bullies cannot let you be you – they need you to be, do, and act a certain way in order for them to be ok with them. This is quite the opposite of love in case you’re wondering.
Here are the 5 things I’ve learned that help me effectively manage my encounters with the adult bully:
Here’s the thing to remember, the bully is trying to gain power over you. But you don’t have to give them that power. The way to do this is not to engage but to disengage. Don’t let the bully be a distraction, keep your focus on you and what you want out of life. You’ll see slowly, the bully’s power over you will begin to dissolve – eventually, they will become like a pestering gnat. Their attempts to draw you in will be fruitless.
Here's to making it great.
We were made for each other – some say the perfect pair.
I loved you from the start, of course, but as our relationship grew I knew - everyone could see- that you were the one. Together, we were flawless. When we walked into a room, heads turned. The women wanted to be us – the men, well; you could tell what they were thinking...
There was something magnetic and tangibly powerful (and dare I say sexy) put forth when you put the two of us together.
For years we travelled the world and discovered many of life’s mysteries; each event just a little sweeter because you were a part of it. Even in the little things – the everyday things, you had my back. I could depend on you, count on you. You took me to places I never thought I’d go - you opened doors for me I never thought I’d enter. My life certainly would not have been the same without you. And for this, I will always be grateful.
We had our moments, of course – nothing is perfect. On occasion, my mind would wander and I would think about others, wondering if the grass might be greener. Once, on a business trip, I even cheated on you a little. And for that, I am very sorry. I wish I had known then that you wouldn’t be in my life forever, for my choices might have been different. But, even then, you know I never stopped thinking about you. I always came back knowing that no matter what – you were the one thing I could count on.
But relationships are hard – life can get complicated and a few months ago, I began to notice a change in us. I can better describe it as a change in you. Yes, I can say for certain, it’s not me, it’s definitely you.
We’ve tried everything, and sought advice from the best in town. Even the professionals say there is not much they can do to salvage what once was. And what used to make me feel like a million bucks is now coming across more like I’m shopping from the bargain bin at Goodwill.
I’m heartbroken – devastated.
For it is hard to say goodbye to your favorite pair of shoes…
I know I will never find another love like you.
There are other versions of you of course, different colors, etc. (I have all of those) – but it’s not the same. Nothing else fits me quite like you did. Nothing else is so perfect in almost every situation.
My Coach says they aren’t even making your kind anymore. There might be one or two of you somewhere out there, but finding you- and replacing what we had together will be like discovering a needle in a haystack. My Coach says I should probably just give up and settle for something else.
My Coach can go to hell.
What does she know about you and me and what we had together? How can she be so insensitive?
In the end, I will persevere – I know eventually, I will carry on in another’s 5-inch stiletto. But for now, I will grieve…
Here’s another bit of Sara humor for ya’ this weekend. And some Sunday silliness...
Here’s to making it great.