Recognize Your Remarkability

messy gift

People generally know a present that comes from me–no “To, From” tag or card necessary. They can identify it just by the wrapping itself. Yeh, much of the time, I pick colorful and unique paper. It’s not uncommon to get gift from me with hot blue sharks biting in to neon green cupcakes.

But that’s not what makes my presents identifiable. It’s the wrapping job itself. Sometimes there’s too much tape and other times, one of my cheerfully wrapped boxes comes with the corners of the paper already lifting up, from lack of enough. 

And here’s the thing–it’s not for lack of trying. I carefully pick special paper and match it with shimmery bows or soft, touchable ribbons. I set everything out on the table before me and size up the gift for the amount of paper I’ll need. I cut with care and fold the corners on a hard surface so they crease just right. None of that matters.

In the end, a present from me is a present from me and my wrapping talent leaves something to be desired.

I was coordinating with my friend recently who was going to wrap a gift we were giving together to another friend and joked that “I’ll bring the wrapping and you can do it.” 

She responded with “Why? You’re the world’s best wrapper!”

Last week I was at a talk by Mark Fernandes, the Chief Leadership Officer for Luck Companies. His passion is people and helping them believe in themselves and live up to their own potential. He made a comment that really hit me.

Mark asked the audience to picture a room full of second graders in which the kids were asked to raise their hands if they could paint. He asked us to imagine what most of these 7 year-olds would do—raise their hands! Of course, any kid will tell you they can paint. 

He looked the audience square in the eye and asked the same question of us: “raise your hand if you can paint.” About 5 out of 400 raised their hands. 

Mark believes we are all born extraordinary and that we spend the rest of our lives being told that we aren’t. And after years and years of this conditioning, it’s hard to believe how remarkable we really can be.

Maybe my wrapping doesn’t lineup to Martha Stewart standards, but I sure used to be proud of it when I was younger. There they were every year under the tree, sitting brightly, proud and slightly crumply for my parents. And there they were at the birthday party, piled up on the table with everyone else’s presents, again, completely identifiable by the eccentric choice of cats sharing cake with mice or the cluster of coordinating bows on top.  

Instead of passing on the things we think we don’t do well enough, maybe we should do more of them. It’s running that race even though you know you might come in last. It’s volunteering to chair a committee even when you think you could never live up to the last person who held that position. It’s applying for that job even when you think you’re not as qualified as the other applicants. It’s about raising your hand, speaking up, speaking out and doing things because they make you happy.

It’s about living authentically. Who really is the authority on gift wrapping anyways? 

We Affect The Lives Of Others Every Single Day


Go with your gut. Use your head. Follow your heart. Well, which is it?

For the past few months, I’ve been taking care of a little dog with special needs named Sawyer. After being apparently thrown from a vehicle, the 3-year-old Shih Tzu was found on the side of the road, in a dire condition. He was brought in to the emergency rescue and had his remaining eye (he was already blind in one) removed.

I don’t have a ton of experience with dogs. I grew up mostly with cats and well, cats, you don’t train. I experienced the power of rescue dogs with my first dog Taylor, nearly 7 years ago, where she opened my eyes to how much need there is in the world for people who are willing to take on the “leftover” pets–the ones who deserve just as much in life as the purebreds and snuggly pet-store puppies.

When Taylor died, she sent me Oreo, another little one-eyed, terrified Shih Tzu with some incredible abandonment issues. Over the last year, Oreo has come out of her shell and hopefully, has been given the life of her dreams in our household. Once again, a rescue dog has taught me patience, compassion and empathy and has given me a determination to make a difference.

Sawyer entered the picture, newly blind, confused and scared. He has some serious control issues over his things and his space and expresses his feelings through an occasional growl or snap. I know that many of his incidents are a reaction to my own behaviors that he does not understand and it’s me that needs to learn how to communicate with him and make him feel safe so he can let down his guard. When he’s not being overprotective, he’s a snuggle bug. He walks around, gently bumping in to the things, searching for your hand and cuddling at your side. He may not be an easy dog–but he’s a dog that still deserves every wonderful thing that a dog could want in life.

And now, I’m faced with a decision. The situation with Sawyer has been temporary. We’ve been fostering him with the intent of deciding if we could provide him the forever home he deserved. I thought for sure, after this amount of time, that I would have answers. Are we the right family for Sawyer? Can we make this work? Are there things about our lifestyle that ultimately are not a good fit for quelling his aggressive behaviors?

When it comes down to willingness of putting in the work, no problem, I’m there. If we’re talking about patience and love and commitment, check, once again. But what about Sawyer? If he stays with us, would he be “settling” for us without having a real choice? The only thing I’m sure of is that I have no idea what the right decision is for everyone involved. Is there such a thing?

All of the advice that people give about approaching tough decisions seems to conflict this time. Am I supposed to go with my gut, use my head or follow my heart? In a situation like this, I’m not even sure which is which. I believe in advocating for those who do not have the voice to advocate for themselves; but sometimes that involves actually making decisions that they cannot. Every day we make decisions. Every day we affect the lives of others.

Brands That Connect With Us, Make Us Feel, And Tell A Story WIN Our Attention

placement is everything

On the way to Virginia Beach, I passed an electronic billboard that rotated a series of 5 ads. One of the ads that ran was for refreshing Coca Cola. Great, there are thousands of people seeing that ad as they pass by in their hot cars and there’s a good possibility that even seeing the name Coca Cola will make them take a pit stop and grab a coke.

Unfortunately, the ad that immediately followed the refreshing Coca Cola ad said “One soda has 20 packs of sugar. Drink responsibly.” It was an ad by the Nutrition Counsel and program for Fit Kids.

Both Coca Cola and Fit Kids likely spent an enormous amount of money to have an ad rotating day in and day out on this billboard. But in this case, was the money that Coke spent really a waste?

Placement Zappos Airport

At the airport, Zappos, an online retailer, has put ads in the bins that shoes, laptops and bags are placed in as people walk through security. What a great time to convince someone they need a new pair of shoes or a bag for their laptop then when they are forced to remove those personal belongings and put them front in center in a bin in front of hundreds of people at the airport.

Placement is everything. It’s important to think through all of the details and possible conflicts when deciding how to market a brand. In a world where we are inundated with thousands upon thousands of ads a day, the brands that win are the ones who are able to make us feel something, that tell a story and are able to connect to us in a personal way.

Perhaps it was Fit Kids that won in the billboard placement on the way to Virginia Beach. Unintentionally, Coke’s ill-placed ad right before their harmful sugar message really helped them tell a more vivid story. As for Zappos, I know I certainly think of the condition of my shoes every time I’m standing sock-footed in the security line at the airport.

Brands that win our attention do so through making us feel something. They move us to act based on fear, excitement and desire for a certain quality of life. Brands that don’t win our attention often spend their time trying to market the product instead of the benefits that product will have on our lives. And even if a brand does it well in most cases, sometimes the placement of that story can make all the difference.

Well done, Zappos.

Make Life Easier: Look For The Positives In Every Experience & Eliminate The Negative Self-Talk

Live United

One popular American thing to do on the Fourth of July is to participate in a run. I’ve been doing this since I was little. I can remember lining up with dozens of others at a chalk drawn start line on a busy road, closed off for the race, almost always in the scorching heat, and feeling the excitement of being a part of something bigger than myself. 

The Fourth of July race hasn’t changed much. Sure, the distance and location has varied for me over the years, but the run itself remains the same. Only, this time around, I caught myself feeling differently about it. I’ve been injured, running used to be easier and also, running has not been the main focus of my life in the last few years. 

After the race, friends and family will ask, “How was your run?” 

This is what has really changed. 

Once it was “It was awesome. I’m so happy I started the day like that.”

Eventually, it became “It was okay. I placed 5th for my age group and I just know I could have been 3rd if only I held out a little longer.”

One year, I answered “I didn’t run. I’m not conditioned well enough.” I knew I could have run it but my pride stopped me from getting out there. 

Finally, last year, when the question was asked, I simply answered “It was good.” And secretly inside I was disappointed in myself for not being better, faster or placing higher. 

As the same tradition lays ahead, I know tomorrow morning, hundreds of runners, walkers, friends, family and community members will crowd the pavilion where the local race starts and finishes. I think back to the last few years of Fourth of July racing and cannot remember my place or performance.

I can, however, remember meeting my group of running friends and pushing each other through, racing each other for fun for the last 100 meters. I remember winning a gift certificate to a local burger joint as part of the raffle and laughing that the vegetarian in our group won that one. There were breakfasts at the local diner afterwards where we ate stacks of pancakes and planned our next get together.

Two years ago, I ran the race with my best friend–she was 7 months pregnant with twins. It was my first run with the three of them. And I remember how I felt last year, running again with my best friend, but also with the girls in their double stroller, smiling and enticing even bigger smiles from spectators. 

But until I stopped to really think about the lasting memories I had from my runs, I was focusing on the wrong things. It’s important to take note of the things we say to ourselves and about ourselves to others. Negative self-talk can quickly take over what has the potential to be a really positive experience. The times when I have given in to my own negativity are the ones I don’t have much else to remember those experiences by. Choose to live more positively. 

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