Our OWN Journey to The Life You Want

IMG_2266in 2012, i sat across the table from Oprah as she smiled and i worked to stay in the moment. in hindsight, a gift before a long journey. i still remember the pink flowers and how the energy felt in the room…

in late 2012, we found out my mother had cancer. her doctor called and I answered it. he said, “it looks like cancer. i have a really good oncologist i want to get her into right away.” then…when mom woke up from her nap, i told her…”you have cancer mom. i’m so sorry.” and we cried…and so the ride began.

Mom and Me - March2013my sisters came together. we put dreams and life on hold and shifted focus to what i thought would be to heal my mom. instead, it was to hold her hand through her journey. when she would collapse, i would come running to sit on the floor with her until we could both get her up and safely into bed. when she had chemo, i sat by her side…sometimes stood if there were no chairs for me…every single session. in quiet times, we would lie in bed and talk about if we still ate red meat, we’d eat salisbury steak…momandme-handswe would hold hands and laugh and cry…but she never really talked about dying.

one day in the stillness she said, “i want you to contact Duke University.” at first, i thought it was to see if they had any medical trials for her to get involved in. then she explained, “i want to donate my body.  maybe I will inspire someone. maybe a future doctor will find a cure by studying me.” that was all she ever talked about dying. until her last breath, all her energy was focused on living…

on november 16th, she died.
the same day 1500 miles away, my dad went into the hospital. he died 3 weeks later at home.
suddenly, alone felt very real.IMG_1154

so follows all of the stages of grief and the rolling waves of emotions and sadness…the fog, the darkness, the tears, the loss of way and sense of self. and the balance…absolutely no balance…

during all of this… Oprah announced her Life You Want Weekend Tour.

i’ve never talked about how OWN and Oprah’s network prepared me for the journey with my mom. So many times, lessons from my Super Soul Sunday bag of tricks would be the only thing that kept me going. When I would break into tears and despair in the hospital hallways, it was Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s lesson to allow myself 90 seconds for the wave to pass…and then, i would pull myself back together and become strong again so i could reenter the room or handle the situation. Photo Credit: OWN, Super Soul Sunday on OWNit’s was Oprah’s words of “see this as a gift…every gesture as kindness and everything will change…” that reminded me daily that every single moment…every single second…every single selfie was a gift of more time and more of mom, which helped keep me in the posture of gratitude and love.   Dr. Dyer, Deepak, Michael Singer, DeVon Franklin, Elizabeth Gilbert, Wake Up, I Am, Open Your Heart, Find Your Power, Make a shift….all lessons gifted to me from OWN programs. And all embedded in my soul like pillars of reinforcements to hold me up when it felt like so much was collapsing around me…

so…the tour…
early this year when Oprah announced it, i told myself…”by October, maybe i’ll be standing again and ready for the life i want to live and more light to take over where darkness had seeped in and become too familiar.

and this time, it’s not just 2 sisters…but all 3 of us.
because as we have grown closer in this journey, i’ve come to realize that my sisters and i are like the legs of a table…we hold each other up…help to keep each other steady…support each other no matter what.
and we all need to be reminded of how to move towards the life we want…
the joy…the healing…the inspiration…the kindness…the balance…

full of gratitude, i will sit…maybe lucky enough to be in the middle seat ( as i AM the middle sister)
holding the hands of both of my sisters…
and this weekend will be life changing for all of us…
and this weekend will be part of the healing…
A coast to coast journey.
Los Angeles 2012.
Miami 2014.
A journey traveled…
A full circle moment…that hasn’t even happened…
A lifetime…
moving towards the life i want…
trying to find my balance and understand what that now looks like…
and honoring all the moments of getting me there…
and all the lessons collected along the way…
with deep love and gratitude…
Oprah…we’ll see you in Miami.

Love and Lessons from 2013

Family, Where life begins and love never endsToday, it’s a new day…a new year…a new beginning… For 3 years, The Daily OWN has been moving through the world and celebrating life and love and lessons…one step at a time.  Last year, we were a little quiet…there was a reason for this… Last year around this time, we found out our mom had Stage 4 Pancreatic cancer.  For over 11 months, she fought bravely…doing whatever she had to do to spend more time with her family.  “I want 5 years,” she would tell her doctor.  She got almost a year…and for each moment of holding her hand, scooping her up when she would fall, or greeting the day with love and hope and helping her move through the journey as she became a warrior and fearless fighter, we are forever grateful, humbled, changed and honored. When I found out mom had cancer, I stumbled upon this article from O Magazine…”Through the Eyes of Love” by Oprah of how Sheri Salata moved through the sudden death of her brother, John.  For over 11 months, I would tell myself, “This is love…This is love…” as I sat for each radiation and chemo treatment with mom, packed a snack that often went uneaten, helped her move through the world when she could no longer walk, thanked my family for letting me maneuver my life to focus on her life, rejoiced in a 1/2 eaten cheese sandwich, sat by her side during 104 fevers, and moved through the world as her shadow for 2013…seeing her courage and love in each and every move and decision she made.  Her journey ended on November 16th…with more love surrounding her than I ever could have dreamed possible… As my sisters and I walked in from the hospital hospice room we  had moved into with mom and back into our home for the first time without her…my sister received a text message  within 90 seconds from my stepmother 1200 miles away…”Your dad collapsed in the garage. We are in the ER.  It’s very bad. He’s not eaten in two weeks and the cancer is back… ”  As my younger sister held out her phone for me to read the message, I could hear my older sister over my shoulder saying, “Can you please take care of this right now.  My mom just died…”   Without even a breath…we had just dropped our bags to the floor from being with mom at the hospital…and in that moment, the only prayer that I could think of was, “God, please do not let him die today…not today…” Looking for love anywhere, for the next week we planned a private memorial for mom as we FaceTimed with dad every night.  Able to go home after a few days, dad made it back to comfort and love, surrounded by the dogs he loved.  Each night, we visited for as long as he was able to…watching a Maverick’s game…singing together to The Sound of Music…taking snapshots of our conversation…picture in picture…knowing that this was love. When the calls would end, we would talk…trying to figure out when we could afford to fly back…how we could afford to drive back…how my sister’s and I were going to move through this… The worst ice storm, my father and God took all of those decisions out of our hands and 3 weeks to the day that mom made her transition…dad did too.  His last wish…please be kind to each other…and he asked my nephew to take care of one of his dogs…the one he loved the most. And when dad died…it was like mom died all over again…like an exhale of what had just happened over the last few weeks …and each of us emotionally collapsed in our own way…now beginning to move through our journey of how to move on… Bravely, we moved through all of the craziness and drama that followed…and we tried to find the love.  The memorial that couldn’t be pushed out for his daughters to be there…collectively writing a statement to be read for us…the calls that never came to Skype or FaceTime us into the service….the unreturned text from “family”…. and then, on Christmas Day…as we made an evening call to my stepmother to wish her a peaceful Christmas to only find out that she had given my father’s dog away…his dying wish to my 15 year old nephew…to her sister in a different state… “a bad decision” she called it.  In that moment, pain and rage replaced where love had been …the crack in my heart felt broken for a third time as gifts for my nephew’s dog lay under the tree…a new bed, his favorite treats…ready to welcome him home as soon as we could get him here.   At this point…anger and tears flowed where love had lived… What. Is. This. God? But I know the answer. This is life. These are lessons… For myself… For others… For the world around us… And after honoring the anger, the tears and the sadness and the sorrow…as they deserve that recognition and understanding… then take a moment and fill up your heart and spirit with deep breaths and keep moving…because this is what you do… You keep moving… And there is something in all of this that I have learned over this past year….and over these past 45 days… Love never leaves. Love lives within the moments…the memories…the stories… And with each breath you take…there is love moving you forward… Into the next steps of your life… Into the next year… Into your next set of lessons… So be gentle with yourself and the world…be kind with your heart and soul…and all those hearts and souls that cross your path… And move through the world as best as you can… One step…one moment…one breath at a time. And do it with love.

The Difference is the Jump

writerThe difference between a writer and a blogger?  The jump. I’ve been a writer since forever.  Born with words in my blood.  I realized this as I pulled out an old dusty box full of heartbreaking teenage poetry and old college essays and short stories.  While the twists and turns have shaped my life and who I am today, the voice of my soul is still there, waiting for pen and paper…waiting for me to show up for the conversation…so we can speak and spill words out onto paper.  The writer is me is content with the spilling of ink ritual and the exhale that comes with it…it doesn’t have to be published or read…it just needs to be spilled out of my soul..but the blogger in me needs more…that part of me needs to jump. Once I heard a famous writer, actor and director that I simply love go down the road of “oh, I hate bloggers…” As soon as the words were spoken, my heart closed and it became a Charlie Brown moment when all I could hear was the  “mwa mwa mwa” even though I knew he was still speaking.  How could he hate bloggers?  I mean, we all have the longing to write…doesn’t he see the connection?  The sameness?  This desire to speak without speaking…to feel the flow of the favorite pen on the silken paper….and the exhale as the words escape out of your mind and into the world…? But then…I realized that there is a difference.  There is a small shift in the world between my writer self and my blogger self.  It’s the jump.  The movement to put my words – my soulful speaking moments – out into the world with one click of the “publish now” button.  The jump.  Showing the world who you are…living out loud…taking a leap with your crazy authentic self and hoping that whoever hears you totally understands that its not always easy putting yourself out there…and while you jump to become a blogger with every moment you share, you are forever and always will be born a writer. Where ever lies your passion…whatever speaks to your soul and your spirit…move towards it…and then, when you are ready, make that JUMP into your passion and towards living your best life…and embracing and empowering your authentic self.  Once you do, you will be jumping into more love and life and joy than you can possibly imagine.  *exhale* that felt good to say….

Wrapping Our Hearts Around Oprah’s OWN Journey

HopeDuring this journey there has been one constant – the breath and flow of each day.  Inhale in and exhale out.  You can get through anything.  Even Oprah.

Over the weekend, I read a story about Oprah and what the interviewer called her nervous breakdown last year.   She said it was around the time that she interviewed Kony filmmaker, Jason Russell, and that she could see the similarities as she rushed around in the whirlwind of ending her show to her new network to Africa to everything else.  Just to be clear, Oprah herself commented on this saying, “… never had a breakdown. not even close. story blown way out of proportion. #OverWorked” via Twitter. ..but still, it made me think.  I get the “doing too much and overworked exhaustion” place that all of us go probably way too much.  I remember that Kony interview and I remember the best advice that my Abnormal Psychology professor gave me in college – “You will all see a little of yourself in all of these conditions. Don’t worry. That’s normal.”  As I wrapped my heart around the story, I wanted to do the same to Oprah.  You see…because what I realize most from our Oprah-Adventures is that she is just like everyone else…except she does it in front of the world and everyone has something to say about it…

I remember meeting her amidst all of the crazy press-stress at Radio City Music Hall last Spring – when people couldn’t push her down fast enough and the hands that were extended were not to help her up, but to keep her from getting up.  I remember thinking then that this is not an easy life.  Major challenges.  Major person.  Major destiny.  Major life.  As she stood waiting for the next photo with the next excited person, it crossed my mind how it’s easy to feel alone in a sea of people.  But yet, she gave everyone their moment, making them feel like there was no one else in the room.  I remember saying, “We want to help you push the wave of OWN,” and her replying, “You already do so much.”  So many months ago…so far away when looking back.

So now whenever I have an overwhelming feeling about life…when it feels like the world keeps pushing me down and no one is there to help me up, I will think of our Twitter friend, Oprah.  There are moments of darkness when all we can do is keep breathing through it…but knowing that many have walked this path before and survived gives hope for us all… You are stronger than you think and eventually, the darkness makes way for a beautiful sunrise.

Let’s Celebrate! OWN Wins Interactive Social Media Emmy

Emmy2013Dreams. Vision. Perseverance. Passion. And People.
I remember.  Before the words “OWN Ambassador” were suggested…and way before OWNers showed up on the horizon.
Before we ever experienced an OYou. Before we met Gayle King or her personal check.
Before our lunch with Oprah.
Before our mom had cancer.
I remember Oprah taking us behind the scenes and introducing us to her people…her “soul tribe”…and taking us to Masterclass…then Lifeclass…for 25 nights in a row.
Then on tour…our interactive classroom. A new kind of classroom.
Making us feel like we belonged…making us believe.
I remember connecting on Twitter as we tweeted 140 characters with speed and precision.
Change the channel, change your life.
I remember when Oprah Winfrey Network took 16 characters of our 140 quota.
@OprahWinfreyNet – #OldSchool
I remember tweet parties before they were tweet parties…
I remember virtual Moscow mules in Eric Logan’s basement…
while lessons on Twitter happened in the middle of the night, in between the laughter and chatter and commercials.
Almost 20,000 followers ago.
Wow. I remember waiting to refresh the page so that together, my sister and I could see it turn to 100 followers.
Seems like so long ago.
No rules. Just making it happen.
No boundaries. Just connecting the dots and the people.
I remember watching all the hard work from this side…the other side of OWN’s interactive social media…
The social side…
Congratulations EMMY for choosing a pioneer…
Congratulations OWN for winning this pretty little gold statue that validates that you are on the right track.
The work has been outstanding.
I’m just so happy that others have come to the tweet party…
and so glad they have stayed…and have brought more friends.
Life changing.
Pushing the limits.
Raising the bar.
Bravo OWN TV.
Bravo to all OWN viewers…
Without you talking and tweeting about it…it would just be another channel.
You, joining the discussion, have made it something very special.
OWN…it’s more than just a network…it’s a community.  

**photo credit 2013 Primetime Emmys

The Montage Beverly Hills – Pure Perfection

Sunset on the Rooftop, Montage Beverly Hills 2013

Every single detail of our stay left us in love with this hotel.  Everywhere around us at every moment were -experiences to fall in love with.  From the luxury of the beds and rain shower experience, to the morning bedside coffee, to the sushi and amazing music experience in the Parq Bar,  to the fabulous Spa Montage that you could lose yourself in for days and days, and to spending the day on the rooftop at the Conservatory Grill, writing in the afternoon sun and making it your home for the day until the sunset over Beverly Hills and the world around you quieted down for the night.  Pure perfection.  This hotel is more than just a luxury hotel…staying here changed how we felt about the world and it opened our eyes to slowing down, being in the moment and falling in love with every single thing about it.  This place and space and amazing hotel is at the top of our list on places to love.  If you visit, we know you’ll fall in love too!


Get Quiet and Find the Magic

water-dropSometimes it feels like we are trapped in a society of voices…sometimes very LOUD voices. We find ourselves struggling to have our opinions heard and to grasp the coveted final word. Afraid that we won’t matter or will be overlooked, having the last word has become an important and strategic move in arguments, discussions and in our own lives. In fact, many people plan their counter-arguments while others are still forming their words. Without taking the time to stop and listen, we craft our rebuttals on a few words and the assumptions that follow. Their voices are background noise to our own thoughts. It is almost as if we are so afraid we don’t matter unless we have been heard or unless we get to put in our own two cents. The truth is, since everyone is focusing on what we want to say instead of on what is being said, our words don’t really matter. The topic becomes irrelevant and winning becomes the goal. But does the last word really win? Or are we all losers for missing out on a real conversation?

Compounding the issue, silence in conversation and in the world has become uncomfortable. Instead of evoking a feeling of peace, many have difficulties silencing their minds. With the lack of quiet in their lives, the empty moments feel foreign and uneasy. So, everyone talks and no one listens. The template has been laid out for us all on nightly news stations and reality shows. As a society, we have lost the art of communication and are engulfed in the battle of being heard. Sadly that goes against what our society needs in order to thrive…we need rich conversations filled with thoughtful listening.

It is time that we all get quiet and create some magical and inspiring conversations. By failing to listen, we lose the lessons that the world is whispering to us. If we are constantly talking over each other, not only can we not hear those speaking to us…often, we can’t even hear our own inner voices. Those important voices that guide us in our journey and often keep us safe and show us the way to go when we need a little help.

Be patient with the words. How can people value our words if we don’t value them ourselves? We should put thought behind each and every word we say as well as each and every word we hear. Because if we aren’t actively listening in the conversation, the words don’t really matter. They simply fall to the floor…and we miss them. So as we go to respond, take a deep breath and give the gift of our presence. With a world of distractions, it can be hard to not feel pulled. But out of respect for the words, put the texts and ease-dropping on hold for a few minutes and focus. In those moments, we find ourselves engaging in the most riveting, magical conversations. That is when change and growth happens.

Often, when we notice the words, we can see the magic. The magic in life is in the little things said and shared. The stories, the excitement, the experiences. By missing the words, we miss the opportunity to see the beauty. Today, let’s find the beauty again in our lives by taking a lesson from those who are hard of hearing. In conversation, they stay focused on you and on each and every word. They think about what you are trying to communicate and then reply. Everything slows down and their words are picked carefully. If only we all had that same focus, imagine how great we would feel. We would feel heard. We would know that our words mattered. It would be magical. So…get quiet and create your own magic starting today!