Connectedness – Sometimes all it takes is an open heart… (Part 1)

Maya Angelou died yesterday.

For some reason, this hit me much harder than I expected. I caught myself crying freely when I first read the news. And then, several times more, yesterday, after hearing her warm, strong, rich voice during a tribute on NPR. “Fierce grace” indeed”.

When I first heard the news, my first thought was, “Oh no…” and immediately, I thought of Oprah who had been so close to her. I had always admired their friendship in which Oprah describes Dr. Angelou as her “mentor, mother/sister and friend”. My heart ached for Oprah who I sensed must be grieving more intensely than we could possibly imagine.

I have been profoundly affected by Maya Angelou’s wisdom and personal story. Having watched countless interviews and read few of her books through the years, I felt a tremendous sense of loss. But the biggest effect so far has been on my decision to use my voice. Her death made me feel like standing up fully, using my voice and doing my very best from now on. I even started a twitter account.

I feel a deep admiration, respect and even kinship with her. The story of her being mute for several years after a rape by a family friend, her ability to reinvent herself over and over again with multi-passions and her strong sense of connection to the divine made me feel I could do anything my heart intended. She was a true Renaissance woman and a mentor to the biggest influence I have had since my late teens.

But like Oprah said in her tribute statement, accolades aside (and they were many – grammys, doctorates, a medal of freedom…), you could never forget how Maya Angelou made you feel. It is why Oprah said “she would always be the rainbow in my clouds…”

I have had one relationship like this. It changed my life. And this is why I feel Oprah’s pain…

I am a recovering friendly loner.I say recovering because I am trying to change this habit. Connectedness is #2 on my strengthfinders list. I love connecting like-minded people… It gives me a strong sense of fulfilment. When those like-minded people become great friends or collaborators, I feel pure joy. I also like making people feel included, like they belong in whatever group I am in.

Match-maker, match-maker, make me a match, find me a find, catch me a catch! – Fiddler on the Roof

So, I love connecting and including people but I am a loner. I find it very easy to isolate myself. It can be confusing to others since I am very friendly… I really love people but I am very comfortable with solitude and rarely feel lonely. Being a third-cultured person, I have moved around my whole life and so I don’t feel a sense of belonging in any singular culture. I can be comfortable anywhere… this trait has saved me a lot of heart ache in the past.


Things have changed. I have felt differently since my first child nearly 7 years ago. I find myself longing for belonging, a real sense of community, heartfelt connection. I find that I now need more out of my friendships – better boundaries, respect, reciprocity, positivity, love, joy, inspiration, support, honesty… I never thought about these qualities in my relationships. I never needed to. I was just happy to connect and make friends knowing I would be moving anyway.

I realize that most of my habits were suited for a nomadic life. But I am not that any more, I am now a settled nomad and that demands a new set of skills. I can’t survive on shallow relationships. No man is an island. I have had to learn to go deeper in my relationships. I wanted what Oprah and Maya had.

And in 2011, I found it.

It changed my life.

Then, I lost it.


Come back on Monday to Learn about the relationship that changed my life. Until then, please ponder these and leave your comments below.
What habits are helping you practice connectedness? What habits are hindering your connectedness? What habits have you outgrown or evolved out of and no longer need?

See you next week!

Remember what Albert Schweitzer says – “Grow into your ideals so that life will not rob you of them!”

Yvonne Whitelaw writes on where she blogs about her quest to grow into her ideals in her “Live Your Ideals Project”. By living her ideals and sharing her lessons along the way, she hopes you will be inspired to live your ideals and ultimately live your calling.

Forgiveness – Releasing the poison, embracing the antidote…

Let it go, Let it go, Can’t hold it back anymore!!!

I listen to my daughters belting their hearts out… Twirling and leaping… Repeating that infamous ear-worm from Disney’s “Frozen” over and over and over again!


I take solace in knowing that almost every parent out there is going through the same pain and suffering… Even more embarassingly, there are those moments you catch yourself emphatically singing “…the past is in the past! Let it go!” and “Let the storm rage on, the cold doesn’t bother me anyway”…

Ah, Disney has really done it this time! Male and female, young and old, no one can fight the power of “Let it go” until they find an equally infectious song such as “Happy”, by Pharrell.

Despicable Me 2’s “Happy” lost the Oscar for best song to Frozen’s “Let it go” but its popularity rivals “Let it go”. It is my go-to song for a mood booster.

Can you see the metaphor? Holding on to resentment keeps us frozen in the past. We hold on the grudges and slights, misgivings and disappointments, letting the poison of unforgiveness seep through our bodies, minds and souls. We are frozen, numb, stiff. We punish ourselves and poison the new with the pain of the past.

I remember a quote about unforgiveness being like drinking poison expecting the other person to die.

Our backs are hunched with burdens we were never meant to carry. Burdens of grief, anger, guilt, shame, humiliation…

It is ok to grieve. By all means, please take the time to do so. But in order to live bouyantly, freely and authentically, we will have to release those burdens. Yes, we need good boundaries to protect us from toxic people and situations. But we also need to let go of the poison.

Let it go.

I love that in “Frozen”, a loving act saves the sister and breaks the spell.

Enter “Happy”. I have listened to that song zillions of times and I still don’t tire of it. I love the abandon, the unapologetic joy, the dancing…
Pure freedom!

Choose happiness over resentment. Choose positivity over negativity. Happiness is the truth like Pharrell says.

James 1:2 “Count it pure joy… whenever you face trials of many kinds.”

I know that when I feel resentful or small, choosing to encourage or serve others brings me joy. What makes you happy? Music? Service? Writing? What ever it is,
do it.

Let go of the resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness. Unforgiveness contaminates everything you do, it clouds your vision and poisons your relationships and even shortens your lifespan.When thinking bitterly, Cortisol is released and it stresses your heart. The worst part is, the person you are mad at is somewhere eating ice-cream, oblivious of the pain and suffering you are going through, and probably could care less!

Some people think choosing happiness is trivial, silly, unrealistic and immature. Happiness is not being in denial. Choosing to be happy is courageous. You choose. And that choice can save your life. It frees up the energy bound up in negativity.

Harness this new energy to live your ideals and build the life you truly want.

Choose to be happy! Let it go!

Presence – Why your eyeballs matter…


They hold our eyeballs hostage. Our imaginations captured by the mundane, the trivial, the distracting…

Oh look, a shiny toy!

Our friendships fritter, marriages decay, children neglected.

“Let’s hang out!” “Yes, Let’s do coffee really soon!” “Cool, let me know when works for you!”

Weeks pass.

A chance encounter.

Awkward silence. Vague acknowledgements. Weak attempts to reschedule…

Nothing happens.

The loneliness is overwhelming. Everyone is thriving on Facebook.

Look! A new wedding! Vacation in Bali!. Picture-perfect families!

“I’m engaged!” “A new job!” “Lost the baby weight!”

The screens suck you in. A welcome escape from the imperfections around you.

Bah, the snot rags, diapers, burned dinner, deflated cake…

Messy desk, late bills, missed deadlines, extra 10 pounds…

Silent phone, no comments on latest post, conspicuous zit…

Late for PTA, tissue under shoe, new hair on chin and bags under eyes…

156th job rejection, Laundry piles, dejection…

Stranger in the reflection staring back at you.

And the point?

Life is messy. We can compare up and hide in embarrassment because everyone else seems to be doing better than we are.

Or, we can show up and be present for the ones we love. Those who truly love you will be grateful for your presence, flaws and all. In fact, showing up, with your imperfections, allows others to show up as they truly are.

I will paraphrase Brene Brown who says, perfectionism is a mask that you use to keep you from being rejected but actually keeps you from being seen.

I read somewhere that 1 in 4 people suffer from loneliness.

Step away from the screens, show up and engage in your real life. Your presence just might save a life, if not yours!

How to practice presence:
1. Put aside all screens and distractions.
2. Pay attention to your senses. Take deep breaths.
3. Keep your eyes on your subject (no glaring or staring… you don’t want to weird them out, do you?)
4. Remember why you are doing this. Love. You really want to be present because you love this person.
5. Relax, smile, enjoy your self and focus on the positive.
6. Practice presence as often as possible.

How do you intend to practice presence today? Please share your thoughts below!

Generosity – Why you can never out-give God…

Generosity is the habit of giving without expecting anything in return (Wiki)

A clenched fist is one of the saddest images I know.

People grasp desperately, holding on to the little they have and afraid of losing what they have. Certain of impending, inevitable scarcity.

On the surface, this makes sense. But this arises from a mindset of scarcity.

What if there was an abundance mindset instead? A scarcity mindset is a false perspective. What if you had access to Bill Gates, one of the richest men in the world? Not only that, what if Bill Gates was WILLING to give you access to all of his wealth, resources, etc? Would you give?

My favorite definition of Grace is from Joyce Meyers. This definition revolutionized my life. I can’t find the quote but I remember memorizing Grace as ” God is willing to use His infinite resources to meet my needs”.

In other words, there is always more where that came from.

So, we have access to God, or Source, or Spirit… I don’t really care how you describe God. God is Source and Spirit… But the important thing is that you have access to the infinite Source… Even the word “resource” indicates reference to the Source.

Giving is an acknowledgment of the abundant resources God has and that God is willing to use on our behalf. Even though you expect nothing in return, the very act of giving creates a current, a flow in your life.

When you hold onto something, your hand remains occupied. In order to give, You have to be able to unfurl your hand, expose your palm and let go of your grasp.

And when your hands are free, they are available to receive whatever you want.

“Give and it shall be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will it be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” – Luke 6:38

The most successful people I know are generous people. Look at Oprah. With her Angel Network, Leadership academy, Morehouse scholarships (to name a few), she has changed millions of lives. And, her wealth keeps growing!

What do you have to give? What keeps you from giving? You can overcome the obstacles that keep you from giving. Just remember, you can never out-give God!

Please leave a comment and Share how you intend to practise generosity today.

Kindness – How Strangers came to my rescue on Mother’s Day


Mother’s day…

There I was, deftly maneuvering my jogging stroller along the uneven sidewalks of Baltimore.

Run, Yvonne, run!

I had my new 26.2 app.

Nothing was going to stop me. It was Mother’s Day. My younger daughter had a fever. My husband and daughter were off to church. I had just finished streaming an awesome live sermon by Stephen Furtick. (It was on Pinterest and taking of the masks of perfectionism. Look it up.)

I was fired up.

Bring on the obstacles. Come what may, I will go out running. I can do this!

As I ran, people yelled “Happy Mother’s day”. It was fun. Seeing restraurants jam-packed with mothers and their loved ones, each mother beautifully adorned with flowers and their Sunday best.

And there I was sweaty, unadorned but happy to be out in the beautiful sunshine.

“Because I’m happy… come along if you feel like happiness is the____”


My phone fell through the slats of a street drain grate, shattering on impact. Thankfully, I could still see the components of the phone lying on the brick floor 3 feet below, only a few inches from the drain pipe to the Chesapeake bay.


According to strengthfinder 2.0, my top strength is Strategic. So, in usual problem-solving creative mode, I ran to the nearby cafe and seeing a woman on crutches, I begged her. She graciously sat in a chair and let me borrow one crutch.

Seriously? Wow.

I ran back and tried to retrieve my phone components with the crutch. Every man who walked by me tried to help or offer suggestions. We tried duct tape. We tried the crutch at different angles. We searched for some high-reach hooks. Nothing.

45 minutes in the scorching sun.

Return crutch to poor injured lady sitting in a chair in the hot sun.

Finally, the young man who had been the most engaged helper tried a shovel. Success at last! We all cheered. New friends through this shared ordeal.

Moved and elated, I couldn’t thank them enough.

Home. Couldn’t find my keys. Are you kidding me?

Another stranger, walked up to my door with my keys. They had fallen out of the same stroller pocket which contained my phone. I thanked him.

I was so moved by the sacrificial acts of kindness from these men and one injured woman. They all sacrificed comfort and time on a scorching mother’s day to help a random woman who did not look like she belonged there. And I will never forget it.

How will you practice kindness today?

Here’s how:
1. Initiate contact.
2. Step out of your comfort zone.
3. Be Present. Your presence is more important than you think.
4. Give what you can, no matter how insignificant or small it appears.
5. Be bold. If you can give big, go big.
6. Stay the course. Follow through.
7. Smile. If you complain, or have an unpleasant disposition, the receiver will feel like a burden.

Remember, Kindness benefits not only the receiver but also the giver. Enjoy your weekend. Share your acts of kindness (either received or given) below!

Empathy- Sitting with those who mourn…(Part 2)

“Everyone is at the mercy of another’s dream”- Sam Baker



Nightmare engulfs daylight.

Still missing.

Politics, discourse, rumors…

Talking heads.


Protests. Deluge. Obsession.

Furor. Nonchalance. Confusion.

Noise. Frustration, Confusion…

Revolt. #Bringbackourgirls. Solidarity


Tears. Hugs. Silence.

Blessed are those who mourn…


Peace. Hope. Change.


Dreams restored.



More grace.


Purpose. Wisdom. Free.

Finally. Free.

Empathy – Sitting with those who mourn…

I wanted to write about Reverence but I couldn’t.

I began writing about Resilience but I couldn’t.

I can’t stop thinking about those girls… 223 Nigerian Girls kidnapped from their beds, at school, at night…

I think about the horror they must have felt as strange men grabbed them roughly, speaking harshly, probably in a foreign language…

Pushing, shoving, tugging, screaming, wailing…


Darkness. Unspeakable horror.

Day 21.

Shiva times 3.

I can’t imagine what their parents are going through. Dashed Dreams. Fading hopes of ever seeing their daughters again.


Blessed are those who mourn…

The Stages of Grief strike suddenly, in order, out of order, and then, numb.


Better than Denial. Unfeeling because the pain is overwhelming.




Do Something. Anything. Help me. Find my daughter.

Find my daughter.

Find her.

(To be continued…)

The Evidence of the Unseen – Gotta Have Faith!

“Gotta Have Faith, Gotta have Faith-a, Faith-a, Faith-a!”

Yes, I went there… You know you have belted that song out before – proudly, strutting your stuff when you thought no one was watching!

George Michael was on to something.

I love the Bible’s definition of faith in Hebrews, chapter 11, verse 11. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (King James Version) or “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (New International Version). Wikipedia adds that it is “belief not based on proof”.

There is no evidence, but we believe.

We all have faith. Every single one of us. We all have hopes and dreams – and that is all they are – hopes and dreams… ethereal, unseen… But we hold on, we grasp at them as if solid, substantive, real.

Faith, is our hopes, our dreams becoming real to us.

Remember learning about deposition in science class? I can still see the Iodine vapors solidifying into black iodide crystals. On a cold day, water vapor, even your breath can form ice crystals on glass. Faith is the same way. It is the solid evidence of our unseen hopes and dreams.

But there is something else. “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:17) I used to dislike this verse because it made me feel so guilty! I am such a dreamer. And the dreams can be overwhelming. So many dreams! But I now have a deeper appreciation for this verse. While actions do not replace faith, you can only show your faith by your actions. You can have all the hopes and dreams, and even have faith. But without action, that faith, that evidence of your hope and dreams, dies.

During my quiet time today, I stumbled across a verse I had never seen before. I gasped because it was so profound. “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love” Galatians 5:6b. It is the only thing that matters. Faith expressing itself in love. So, ground your actions in love. It all comes back to LOVE.

My absolute favorite Indiana Jones’ scene features him stepping off a cliff. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, his father, Henry Jones disappears while searching for the Holy Grail. Later, he was found dying and Indy was forced to risk his life in order to retrieve the Grail and save his father. This required crossing an invisible bridge over an abyss to get to the Grail.

Indy had to step off a cliff in mid-air, putting all of his weight forward, even though he could see no bridge to hold him. There was no evidence of a bridge there. He only needed his faith that he would be and his love for his father to make him step off that cliff. And a bridge miraculously appeared. And in the end, he recovered the grail which ended up saving his father’s life.

So what do you believe in? In what is your confidence? Is there a bridge waiting for you? Are you acting on your hopes and dreams? Or are they just stuck in your head? What steps of faith can you take today? Whom do you love? Who will suffer or die if you don’t act on your dreams today?

Live Your Ideals Faith Action Steps:
0. Get help: Ask God for guidance and help in living your faith. Without this step,
nothing else matters
1. Get clear: Write down all your Hopes and Dreams.
2. Get focused: Pick 3 you will regret not doing if you had only 6 months to live.
3. Get brutal: Now pick only 1 dream. You know the one that wakes you up at 3am.
4. Get creative: Brainstorm all the ways you can take action of that dream.
5. Get busy: Take action. Step Out. The bridge will Go from gas to solid. Embody the change you want to see and work that dream.
6. Get accountable: Post your plans in the comments below so we can support you. Or tell a safe positive friend your plans.

Yes, I realize that I started the article with George Michael and continued with tons of bible verses and Indiana Jones. This is who I am. You never know who I am going to quote next!

Now go back to step 2 and pick another dream.

Do it Now. Your “faith-a, faith-a, faith-a” depends on it! Your life depends on it!