9/25/14 – Our souls make us who we are

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“We must learn that our appearance is not, ultimately, what makes us who we are as people.

Our souls make us who we are.” – Hannah Hilton

First of all, if you don’t follow Elephant Journal on Facebook, or subscribe to them via email, you are missing out. There are one to two stories daily that help me to heal, become more aware and to feel connected with so many people I will never physically meet proving that I’m not alone in how I think or feel. More than anything, I LEARN so much about love and connection. Now THAT’S enough reason to start following. I will give you a second to go do so before you get back to reading the article I will share below…

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Okay, back? It’s been awhile since I’ve shared on here and that hurts my own feelings. Writing and sharing my blog really helps me and I don’t like that I let myself get so tied up in this crazy world that I forget to heal myself. Before I started working today I read the post below and it fit right into the hole in my mind and my heart that needed to be filled. I hope you enjoy. And, remember, as the last line says, “Let’s help each other out to be grateful for all that they are, build them up, embrace their natural beauty, and ultimately we can all learn to love our mind, bodies and spirit!”

I Love my Body & I Love yours as well.

Via on Sep 24, 2014

savasana woman eyes closed lying down face

I have always wanted the complete opposite of all that makes up my own genetic makeup.

Naturally I am a curvy woman with naturally blonde wavy long hair and deep big blue eyes. But, most of my life I wanted to trade it in for dark long hair, a thin and elegant figure, and exotic dark skin and features.

And there are women who would kill to have my genes. And vice versa. An endless cyclic nature of never being happy with our own bodies.

As a whole, our society has trained us to never be comfortable or content with who we are. We are always wanting to be something we are not.

What makes us this way?

Why can we not embrace how delicately and intricately we were made?

Because in our society, we are taught that physical appearance is everything. If we don’t like how we look, then we can change it.

We can diet, we can exercise, we can have plastic surgery, dye our hair, get colored contacts, get braces, and an endless amount of makeup and clothes options to choose from.

This shows us that if we have all of these means of change, we should do just that—change ourselves.

In a world where eating disorders and body dysmorphia are at an all time high, I feel it is appropriate for us to educate each other, men and women, to love ourselves and accept ourselves for all that we are.

We must build each other up and not break each other down for being different than one another.

We need to learn acceptance of ourselves. We should be proud of our heritage for that makes us physically and mentally who we are. We should embrace the concept that we are all uniquely different from every other soul on this planet.

We must learn that our appearance is not, ultimately, what makes us who we are as people.

Our souls make us who we are.

So while we are consumed with our personal appearance and how we wish we should look, we should recognize that our looks are only a shell for the deeper, more meaningful essence that makes us us!

As we get older, our looks will fade. Our hair will gray, skin will become thin, our breasts may sag, our tummies may become more round and spherical, our eyesight and hearing may go, but our soul stays the same.

Through each journey and life lesson, our soul stays the same. We may grow and learn and become more aware throughout our life—but our soul, it is our one constant—to me, that is beautiful! Aging is beautiful! We are growing and evolving!

If we can learn to love ourselves for what we are, physically and mentally, we can learn to embrace ourselves for all that we are and others for all that they are.

So next time we catch ourselves being envious of someone for having the complete opposite of what we have, take a moment to embrace and be grateful for all that we have ourselves.

I embrace my blonde wavy unmanageable hair! I embrace my breasts that can’t find shirts or dresses to wear. I embrace my sensitive blue eyes. I embrace them all because they were given to me to make the physical essence of Hannah. All that is me. They are only a shell to the deeper corridors of my essence, but they are mine, and I shall forever be grateful!

I embrace your body, all that is physically and intricately different than mine. I embrace your shell. And ultimately, I embrace your soul for all that it is!

Let’s help each other out to be grateful for all that they are, build them up, embrace their natural beauty, and ultimately we can all learn to love our mind, bodies and spirit!

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About Hannah Hilton

Hannah Hilton is just a woman on a journey—with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair. She is melodically mellow minded with the creative curiosity of a young child. A little yin and a little yang, a nelipot who loves Mother Nature, yoga, live music, good friends, good conversation, good food, art, and a lover of laughter! Follow Hannah’s journey here or connect with her on Facebook.

8/29/14 – Faithfully, I remain

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“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.

It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”
― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

I love this passage from Fahrenheit 451 that references the legacy you leave behind when you die. It’s beautiful! Luckily I have a book filled of memories and messages from so many patients, friends and family members that loved and respected my father. I wish all of you were able to read the pages and pages of memories left on my father’s Legacy page. They are so comforting and such an amazing reminder of how funny, witty, kind, loving and caring he was. As one patient said, “He healed the body and the heart.” The words humor, laughter, bedside manner, cheerful, easy to talk to, gentle, upbeat, friend, thoughtful, attentive and compassion fill the pages. I can’t share them all but I can share one that really puts me at peace:

Dear Larry,
My dear brother in medicine. I know you can see and read this now in a place of peace. You know you are one of the main reasons I became a P.A. You cared for me prior to my attending P.A. School and I always thought of you as a role model when things were tough at Emory. You will always be remembered as an asset to the medical profession, and an asset to the community. Most importantly you will always be remembered by many, many patients whom you touched in your special way.
My deepest condolences to the family, the staff of Snellville and your patients. Dr. Ahrendt, hang in there, we are all here for all of you.

Primum Non Nocere, (Which means, ‘First, do no harm’)

Faithfully,
I remain,

Dennis Joseph Hill, P.A.-C
Emory University P.A. School graduate and friend”

Happy Larry LaViola day, everyone! May his legacy live on in all who knew him and all of the memories we have in our hearts and minds.

“Faithfully, I remain.” What a beautiful way to end a memory. I have to say that the word ‘faithful’ is so pertinent to all of this. His patients, our friends and our family have remained so faithful to my family and I during the journey we call grief and moving on. For that  constant love and support I am so incredibly grateful. Through this faithfulness and love my father’s legacy lives on.

6/23/14 – She believed she could, so she did

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“The things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling.” – Fabienne  Fredrickson

“Make your choice, adventurous stranger, strike the bell and bide the danger, or wonder, till it drives you mad, what would have followed if you  had.” – C.S. Lewis

 I made a massive decision two and a half months ago that those very close to me have been made privy to. I kept it all pretty close to the cuff for personal and professional reasons but I’ve decided it’s time to share it now as it’s more real than ever this week. There comes a time in your life when you have to stop, analyze and redirect your path. I did just this and it was one of the most difficult whilst also being one of the easiest decisions of my life. As many of you know, I have two amazing jobs that happen to involve the same network of people (amazing, driven, beautiful people) but one of them is a little more personal for me, in a way that I don’t think I ever realized sort of defines me as a person. You know, it’s funny, I made it almost 32 years of my life not realizing my passion. I was living my passion daily, ever since I was a child, but it never showed itself in my reflection until recently.

I’ve always been a giver (heads out of the gutter some of you). When I was a child I asked my parents to use my allowance to support an adopted boy through Children International named Marvin, a humpback whale named Colt, a bottle nosed dolphin and the Free Willy Keiko Foundation. To me this was normal, I never thought twice. As the years went on I continued to give, not for any type of recognition, but because it completes me. Giving my time, my money (although many times I shouldn’t have haha), my resources, my love, my heart, etc. is what makes my soul shine. I don’t know how not to do this, it completes a part of my soul that is hard to explain. Some may argue that I give too much, and I challenge that many just don’t give enough.

Let’s get full circle here… Almost three years ago I was lucky enough to meet a wonderful man who I not only call my Boss, who is not only a friend and father figure to me, but also one of the founders of CORE (Children of Restaurant Employees, where I’m currently Executive Director). From that day forward I started to follow this passion inside of me that hadn’t yet shown its face. Halfway through working with CORE I met a “superhero” that truly saved my life. It was in his eyes that my passion showed its face and it starred back at me in a way I will never forget. I’ve looked into the eyes of many people and seen parts of myself I didn’t realize existed before, many eyes around this world have been beautiful mirrors for me, but it wasn’t until I looked into the eyes of Eddie Livingston that my soul felt more alive than it ever had. He unfortunately passed away last November and the impact that this loss had on my life is indescribable. It was then that I began to do more self-reflection than usual. After two and a half years of working with CORE while also working my other job I decided to do what I said above: stop, analyze and redirect my path.

So I sit here now after a long work week traveling for both jobs, at an airport, tears rolling down my face, listening to my headphones among total strangers, typing away my next steps for all who care to read them, in hopes that somewhere in my experiences someone learns a little something new about themselves.

On Wednesday I will pack up my home, drive it to storage in Nashville, Tennessee, then head to Atlanta for a month until I buy a new home in Nashville the first week of August. On August 23nd I will begin my studies towards a Masters of Education  in Non-Profit Leadership. This is where my heart is, this is what I’m supposed to do, this is my PASSION. There is no better feeling to me than giving back…and that’s what we do at CORE, we give back to our own! I’m beyond grateful for this opportunity and excited to travel down this new path.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this move isn’t easy. I leave behind a city I’ve called home for 6 years, some of the best friends I have in this world and close a chapter that included my first Masters degree, my first two homes, the grieving grounds after the loss of my father and so many memories, good and bad. But this is what life is about, right? A book of chapters that tells our story, a puzzle with so many pieces from people, places and moments all around this world that creates who we are and the mark we leave on the world.

So, with this post, I begin to close this chapter and start a new one. One that I’m so excited to write! Closing a chapter doesn’t mean goodbyes, it means until we speak/meet again. No friendships end for me, I don’t care where you live, you don’t leave my puzzle and your role in my book cannot be erased. The city of Chicago is truly magical and will always hold a special part of my heart. I close this chapter full of gratitude and driven beyond what I thought was possible.

As Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said, “Every calling is great when greatly pursued.” I’ve never heard anything call to me louder than this and this calling shakes my soul alive.

Until next time, Chicago! Here I grow! And to everyone out there reading this, “Believe with all of your heart that you will do what you were made to do.”- Orison Swett Marden. I believe that I can, so I am!

 

 

6/11/14 – Perfect is boring and dreams are not real. Just … do.

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“Dreams are lovely. But they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral, pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.

So, Lesson One, I guess is: Ditch the dream and be a doer, not a dreamer. Maybe you know exactly what it is you dream of being, or maybe you’re paralyzed because you have no idea what your passion is. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to know. You just have to keep moving forward. You just have to keep doing something, seizing the next opportunity, staying open to trying something new. It doesn’t have to fit your vision of the perfect job or the perfect life. Perfect is boring and dreams are not real. Just … do. So you think, “I wish I could travel.” Great. Sell your crappy car, buy a ticket to Bangkok, and go. Right now. I’m serious.

You want to be a writer? A writer is someone who writes every day, so start writing. You don’t have a job? Get one. Any job. Don’t sit at home waiting for the magical opportunity. Who are you? Prince William? No. Get a job. Go to work. Do something until you can do something else.” – Shonda Rhimes

There are many women in this world that have and/or continue to inspire me. Shonda Rhimes has always been one of them. Thank you Marcee Manglardi for KNOWING that this was a must watch, must read for me. At this exact moment in my life I’ve never felt more alive and more in tune with what she says here on June 8th. Preach it, Shonda! AMAZING!

You must watch or read this..MAKE THE TIME! Just…Do! And then DO something with the inspiration that I KNOW you will walk away with. My heart is racing, I can tell you that much!

Shonda Rhimes Commencement Address

(Click above to take you directly to the Dartmouth page)

June 8, 2014

 

President Hanlon, faculty, staff, honored guests, parents, students, families and friends—good morning and congratulations to the Dartmouth graduating class of 2014!

So.

This is weird.

Me giving a speech. In general, I do not like giving speeches. Giving a speech requires standing in front of large groups of people while they look at you and it also requires talking. I can do the standing part OK. But the you looking and the me talking … I am not a fan. I get this overwhelming feeling of fear. Terror, really. Dry mouth, heart beats superfast, everything gets a little bit slow motion. Like I might pass out. Or die. Or poop my pants or something. I mean, don’t worry. I’m not going to pass out or die or poop my pants. Mainly because just by telling you that it could happen, I have somehow neutralized it as an option. Like as if saying it out loud casts some kind of spell where now it cannot possibly happen now. Vomit. I could vomit. See. Vomiting is now also off the table. Neutralized it. We’re good.

Anyway, the point is. I do not like to give speeches. I’m a writer. I’m a TV writer. I like to write stuff for other people to say. I actually contemplated bringing Ellen Pompeo or Kerry Washington here to say my speech for me … but my lawyer pointed out that when you drag someone across state lines against their will, the FBI comes looking for you, so…

I don’t like giving speeches, in general, because of the fear and terror. But this speech? This speech, I really did not want to give.

A Dartmouth Commencement speech? Dry mouth. Heart beats so, so fast. Everything in slow motion. Pass out, die, poop.

Look, it would be fine if this were, 20 years ago. If it were back in the day when I graduated from Dartmouth. Twenty-three years ago, I was sitting right where you are now. And I was listening to Elizabeth Dole speak. And she was great. She was calm and she was confident. It was just … different. It felt like she was just talking to a group of people. Like a fireside chat with friends. Just Liddy Dole and like 9,000 of her closest friends. Because it was 20 years ago. And she was just talking to a group of people.

Now? Twenty years later? This is no fireside chat. It’s not just you and me. This speech is filmed and streamed and tweeted and uploaded. NPR has like, a whole site dedicated to Commencement speeches. A whole site just about commencement speeches. There are sites that rate them and mock them and dissect them. It’s weird. And stressful. And kind of vicious if you’re an introvert perfectionist writer who hates speaking in public in the first place.

When President Hanlon called me—and by the way, I would like to thank President Hanlon for asking me way back in January, thus giving me a full six months of terror and panic to enjoy. When President Hanlon called me, I almost said no. Almost.

Dry mouth. Heart beats so, so fast. Everything in slow motion. Pass out, die, poop.

But I’m here. I am gonna do it. I’m doing it. You know why?

Because I like a challenge. And because this year I made myself a promise that I was going to do the stuff that terrifies me. And because, 20-plus years ago when I was trudging uphill from the River Cluster through all that snow to get to the Hop for play rehearsal, I never imagined that I would one day be standing here, at the Old Pine lectern. Staring out at all of you. About to throw down on some wisdom in the Dartmouth Commencement address.

So, you know, yeah. Moments.

Also, I’m here because I really, really wanted some EBAs.

OK.

I want to say right now that every single time someone asked me what I was going to talk about in this speech, I would boldly and confidently tell them that I had all kinds wisdom to share. I was lying. I feel wildly unqualified to give you advice. There is no wisdom here. So all I can do is talk about some stuff that could maybe be useful to you, from one Dartmouth grad to another. Some stuff that won’t ever show up in a Meredith Grey voiceover or a Papa Pope monologue. Some stuff I probably shouldn’t be telling you here now because of the uploading and the streaming and the tweeting. But I am going to pretend that it is 20 years ago. That it’s just you and me. That we’re having a fireside chat. Screw the outside world and what they think. I’ve already said “poop” like five times already anyway … things are getting real up in here.

OK, wait. Before I talk to you. I want to talk to your parents. Because the other thing about it being 20 years later is that I’m a mother now. So I know some things, some very different things. I have three girls. I’ve been to the show. You don’t know what that means, but your parents do. You think this day is all about you. But your parents … the people who raised you … the people who endured you … they potty trained you, they taught you to read, they survived you as a teenager, they have suffered 21 years and not once did they kill you. This day … you call it your graduation day. But this day is not about you. This is their day. This is the day they take back their lives, this is the day they earn their freedom. This day is their Independence Day. So, parents, I salute you. And as I have an eight-month-old, I hope to join your ranks of freedom in 20 years!

OK. So here comes the real deal part of the speech, or you might call it, Some Random Stuff Some Random Alum Who Runs a TV Show Thinks I Should Know Before I Graduate:

You ready?

When people give these kinds of speeches, they usually tell you all kinds of wise and heartfelt things. They have wisdom to impart. They have lessons to share. They tell you: Follow your dreams. Listen to your spirit. Change the world. Make your mark. Find your inner voice and make it sing. Embrace failure. Dream. Dream and dream big. As a matter of fact, dream and don’t stop dreaming until all of your dreams come true.

I think that’s crap.

I think a lot of people dream. And while they are busy dreaming, the really happy people, the really successful people, the really interesting, engaged, powerful people, are busy doing.

The dreamers. They stare at the sky and they make plans and they hope and they talk about it endlessly. And they start a lot of sentences with “I want to be …” or “I wish.”

“I want to be a writer.” “I wish I could travel around the world.”

And they dream of it. The buttoned-up ones meet for cocktails and they brag about their dreams, and the hippie ones have vision boards and they meditate about their dreams. Maybe you write in journals about your dreams or discuss it endlessly with your best friend or your girlfriend or your mother. And it feels really good. You’re talking about it, and you’re planning it. Kind of. You are blue-skying your life. And that is what everyone says you should be doing. Right? I mean, that’s what Oprah and Bill Gates did to get successful, right?

No.

Dreams are lovely. But they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral, pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.

So, Lesson One, I guess is: Ditch the dream and be a doer, not a dreamer. Maybe you know exactly what it is you dream of being, or maybe you’re paralyzed because you have no idea what your passion is. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to know. You just have to keep moving forward. You just have to keep doing something, seizing the next opportunity, staying open to trying something new. It doesn’t have to fit your vision of the perfect job or the perfect life. Perfect is boring and dreams are not real. Just … do. So you think, “I wish I could travel.” Great. Sell your crappy car, buy a ticket to Bangkok, and go. Right now. I’m serious.

You want to be a writer? A writer is someone who writes every day, so start writing. You don’t have a job? Get one. Any job. Don’t sit at home waiting for the magical opportunity. Who are you? Prince William? No. Get a job. Go to work. Do something until you can do something else.

I did not dream of being a TV writer. Never, not once when I was here in the hallowed halls of the Ivy League, did I say to myself, “Self, I want to write TV.”

You know what I wanted to be? I wanted to be Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison. That was my dream. I blue sky’ed it like crazy. I dreamed and dreamed. And while I was dreaming, I was living in my sister’s basement. Dreamers often end up living in the basements of relatives, FYI. Anyway, there I was in that basement, and I was dreaming of being Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison. And guess what? I couldn’t be Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, because Toni Morrison already had that job and she wasn’t interested in giving it up. So one day I was sitting in that basement and I read an article that said—it was in The New York Times—and it said it was harder to get into USC Film School than it was to get into Harvard Law School. And I thought I could dream about being Toni Morrison, or I could do.

At film school, I discovered an entirely new way of telling stories. A way that suited me. A way that brought me joy. A way that flipped this switch in my brain and changed the way I saw the world. Years later, I had dinner with Toni Morrison. All she wanted to talk about was Grey’s Anatomy. That never would have happened if I hadn’t stopped dreaming of becoming her and gotten busy becoming myself.

Lesson Two. Lesson two is that tomorrow is going to be the worst day ever for you.

When I graduated from Dartmouth that day in 1991, when I was sitting right where you are and I was staring up at Elizabeth Dole speaking, I will admit that I have no idea what she was saying. Couldn’t even listen to her. Not because I was overwhelmed or emotional or any of that. But because I had a serious hangover. Like, an epic painful hangover because (and here is where I apologize to President Hanlon because I know that you are trying to build a better and more responsible Dartmouth and I applaud you and I admire you and it is very necessary) but I was really freaking drunk the night before. And the reason I’d been so drunk the night before, the reason I’d done upside down margarita shots at Bones Gate was because I knew that after graduation, I was going to take off my cap and gown, my parents were going to pack my stuff in the car and I was going to go home and probably never come back to Hanover again. And even if I did come back, it wouldn’t matter because it wouldn’t be the same because I didn’t live here anymore.

On my graduation day, I was grieving.

My friends were celebrating. They were partying. They were excited. So happy. No more school, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks. And I was like, are you freaking kidding me? You get all the fro‑yo you want here! The gym is free. The apartments in Manhattan are smaller than my suite in North Mass. Who cared if there was no place to get my hair done? All my friends are here. I have a theatre company here. I was grieving. I knew enough about how the world works, enough about how adulthood plays out, to be grieving.

Here’s where I am going to embarrass myself and make you all feel maybe a little bit better about yourselves. I literally lay down on the floor of my dorm room and cried while my mother packed up my room. I refused to help her. Like, hell no I won’t go. I nonviolent-protested leaving here. Like, went limp like a protestor, only without the chanting—it was really pathetic. If none of you lie down on a dirty hardwood floor and cry today while your mommy packs up your dorm room, you are already starting your careers out ahead of me. You are winning.

But here’s the thing. The thing I really felt like I knew was that the real world sucks. And it is scary. College is awesome. You’re special here. You’re in the Ivy League, you are at the pinnacle of your life’s goals at this point—your entire life up until now has been about getting into some great college and then graduating from that college. And now, today, you have done it. The moment you get out of college, you think you are going to take the world by storm. All doors will be opened to you. It’s going to be laughter and diamonds and soirees left and right.

What really happens is that, to the rest of the world, you are now at the bottom of the heap. Maybe you’re an intern, possibly a low-paid assistant. And it is awful. The real world, it sucked so badly for me. I felt like a loser all of the time. And more than a loser? I felt lost.

Which brings me to clarify lesson number two.

Tomorrow is going to be the worst day ever for you. But don’t be an asshole.

Here’s the thing. Yes, it is hard out there. But hard is relative. I come from a middle-class family, my parents are academics, I was born after the civil rights movement, I was a toddler during the women’s movement, I live in the United States of America, all of which means I’m allowed to own my freedom, my rights, my voice, and my uterus; and I went to Dartmouth and I earned an Ivy League degree.

The lint in my navel that accumulated while I gazed at it as I suffered from feeling lost about how hard it was to not feel special after graduation … that navel lint was embarrassed for me.

Elsewhere in the world, girls are harmed simply because they want to get an education. Slavery still exists. Children still die from malnutrition. In this country, we lose more people to handgun violence than any other nation in the world. Sexual assault against women in America is pervasive and disturbing and continues at an alarming rate.

So yes, tomorrow may suck for you—as it did for me. But as you stare at the lint in your navel, have some perspective. We are incredibly lucky. We have been given a gift. An incredible education has been placed before us. We ate all the fro-yo we could get our hands on. We skied. We had EBAs at 1 a.m. We built bonfires and got frostbite and had all the free treadmills. We beer-ponged our asses off. Now it’s time to pay it forward.

Find a cause you love. It’s OK to pick just one. You are going to need to spend a lot of time out in the real world trying to figure out how to stop feeling like a lost loser, so one cause is good. Devote some time every week to it.

Oh. And while we are discussing this, let me say a thing. A hashtag is not helping. #yesallwomen #takebackthenight #notallmen #bringbackourgirls #StopPretendingHashtagsAreTheSameAsDoingSomething

Hashtags are very pretty on Twitter. I love them. I will hashtag myself into next week. But a hashtag is not a movement. A hashtag does not make you Dr. King. A hashtag does not change anything. It’s a hashtag. It’s you, sitting on your butt, typing on your computer and then going back to binge-watching your favorite show. I do it all the time. For me, it’s Game of Thrones.

Volunteer some hours. Focus on something outside yourself. Devote a slice of your energies towards making the world suck less every week. Some people suggest doing this will increase your sense of well-being. Some say it’s good karma. I say that it will allow you to remember that, whether you are a legacy or the first in your family to go to college, the air you are breathing right now is rare air. Appreciate it. Don’t be an asshole.

Lesson number three.

So you’re out there, and you’re giving back and you’re doing, and it’s working. And life is good. You are making it. You’re a success. And it’s exciting and it’s great. At least it is for me. I love my life. I have three TV shows at work and I have three daughters at home. And it’s all amazing, and I am truly happy. And people are constantly asking me, how do you do it?

And usually, they have this sort of admiring and amazed tone.

Shonda, how do you do it all?

Like I’m full of magical magic and special wisdom-ness or something.

How do you do it all?

And I usually just smile and say like, “I’m really organized.” Or if I’m feeling slightly kindly, I say, “I have a lot of help.”

And those things are true. But they also are not true.

And this is the thing that I really want to say. To all of you. Not just to the women out there. Although this will matter to you women a great deal as you enter the work force and try to figure out how to juggle work and family. But it will also matter to the men, who I think increasingly are also trying to figure out how to juggle work and family. And frankly, if you aren’t trying to figure it out, men of Dartmouth, you should be. Fatherhood is being redefined at a lightning-fast rate. You do not want to be a dinosaur.

So women and men of Dartmouth: As you try to figure out the impossible task of juggling work and family and you hear over and over and over again that you just need a lot of help or you just need to be organized or you just need to try just a little bit harder … as a very successful woman, a single mother of three, who constantly gets asked the question “How do you do it all?” For once I am going to answer that question with 100 percent honesty here for you now. Because it’s just us. Because it’s our fireside chat. Because somebody has to tell you the truth.

Shonda, how do you do it all?

The answer is this: I don’t.

Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life.

If I am killing it on a Scandal script for work, I am probably missing bath and story time at home. If I am at home sewing my kids’ Halloween costumes, I’m probably blowing off a rewrite I was supposed to turn in. If I am accepting a prestigious award, I am missing my baby’s first swim lesson. If I am at my daughter’s debut in her school musical, I am missing Sandra Oh’s last scene ever being filmed at Grey’s Anatomy. If I am succeeding at one, I am inevitably failing at the other. That is the tradeoff. That is the Faustian bargain one makes with the devil that comes with being a powerful working woman who is also a powerful mother. You never feel a hundred percent OK; you never get your sea legs; you are always a little nauseous. Something is always lost.

Something is always missing.

And yet. I want my daughters to see me and know me as a woman who works. I want that example set for them. I like how proud they are when they come to my offices and know that they come to Shondaland. There is a land and it is named after their mother. In their world, mothers run companies. In their world, mothers own Thursday nights. In their world, mothers work. And I am a better mother for it. The woman I am because I get to run Shondaland, because I get write all day, because I get to spend my days making things up, that woman is a better person—and a better mother. Because that woman is happy. That woman is fulfilled. That woman is whole. I wouldn’t want them to know the me who didn’t get to do this all day long. I wouldn’t want them to know the me who wasn’t doing.

Lesson Number Three is that anyone who tells you they are doing it all perfectly is a liar.

OK.

I fear I’ve scared you or been a little bit bleak, and that was not my intention. It is my hope that you run out of here, excited, leaning forward, into the wind, ready to take the world by storm. That would be so very fabulous. For you to do what everyone expects of you. For you to just go be exactly the picture of hardcore Dartmouth awesome.

My point, I think, is that it is OK if you don’t. My point is that it can be scary to graduate. That you can lie on the hardwood floor of your dorm room and cry while your mom packs up your stuff. That you can have an impossible dream to be Toni Morrison that you have to let go of. That every day you can feel like you might be failing at work or at your home life. That the real world is hard.

And yet, you can still wake up every single morning and go, “I have three amazing kids and I have created work I am proud of, and I absolutely love my life and I would not trade it for anyone else’s life ever.”

You can still wake up one day and find yourself living a life you never even imagined dreaming of.

My dreams did not come true. But I worked really hard. And I ended up building an empire out of my imagination. So my dreams? Can suck it.

You can wake up one day and find that you are interesting and powerful and engaged. You can wake up one day and find that you are a doer.

You can be sitting right where you are now. Looking up at me. Probably—hopefully, I pray for you—hung over. And then 20 years from now, you can wake up and find yourself in the Hanover Inn full of fear and terror because you are going to give the Commencement speech. Dry mouth. Heart beats so, so fast. Everything in slow motion. Pass out, die, poop.

Which one of you will it be? Which member of the 2014 class is going to find themselves standing up here? Because I checked and it is pretty rare for an alum to speak here. It’s pretty much just me and Robert Frost and Mr. Rogers, which is crazy awesome.

Which one of you is going to make it up here? I really hope that it’s one of you. Seriously.

When it happens, you’ll know what this feels like.

Dry mouth. Heart beats so, so fast. Everything moves in slow motion.

Graduates, every single one of you, be proud of your accomplishments. Make good on your diplomas.

You are no longer students. You are no longer works in progress. You are now citizens of the real world. You have a responsibility to become a person worthy of joining and contributing to society. Because who you are today … that’s who you are.

So be brave.

Be amazing.

Be worthy.

And every single time you get a chance?

Stand up in front of people.

Let them see you. Speak. Be heard.

Go ahead and have the dry mouth.

Let your heart beat so, so fast.

Watch everything move in slow motion.

So what?

You what?

You pass out, you die, you poop?

No.

And this is really the only lesson you’ll ever need to know …

You take it in.

You breathe this rare air.

You feel alive.

You be yourself.

You truly finally always be yourself.

Thank you. Good luck.

3/2/14 – What Facebook means to me

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“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” – Dr. Brene Brown

I’ve been wanting to write about Social Media for some time now but wasn’t exactly sure how to start it. Well whilst watching The Oscars tonight it became fairly obvious. As I sit here alone at home, not feeling so well, watching an award show (I guess THE award show) social media (specifically Facebook for the purpose of this blog) reminds me that I will never have to truly be alone again as long as I have access to the internet. As it turns out, I’m not watching The Oscars by myself, nope, I’m watching it with thousands of people…my friends and, through their comments and conversations, their friends.

When Facebook first began I was a senior in college. We used it, it was “AWESOME” but it wasn’t viral yet, it didn’t command presence across the world yet as it does today. I say all the time how grateful I am that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (which I still don’t really get how to use) and all other social media sites/apps weren’t around when I was in grade school throughout high school. I can’t imagine how much more difficult it makes the already sometimes treacherous process of growing up.

That all being said, I’ve had the honor of watching the social media world grow as an adult. I think it has gone though many stages. I think when it started it was like a young child: carefree and excited. It didn’t know it’s place or purpose in the world yet and was all over the map. People were a little hesitant and so I think it sort of plateaued. Over the next 5 to 6 years it entered its awkward teenage years: people used it without thinking (like teenagers tend to speak and react), it was used as a negative venting ground where people threw their dirty laundry. I think this is when a lot of people turned their backs on Facebook for awhile and people quickly learned, as we all do as we grow out of our teens, that no one wants a Debbie Downer and a constant whiner.

This is when I saw Facebook make a change. Over the past 3 years or so I have noticed the positive shift happening across Facebook. It has become such a beautiful place for like minded folks to connect, to reconnect with old friends or acquaintances that you may not have ever truly known or “seen” in their authentic light. It has become a place to go when you feel alone, only to be reminded that you really aren’t. It has become the place we go to get the news, and, for the most part, the HAPPY news! Isn’t it funny how the mass media outlets are losing their connection with the people because they misunderstand how people truly do and want to connect. We want to share HAPPY news with one another, we want to accept one another and we want to love one another.

For me, I know that it’s a place to go to help me grieve with people who have suffered similar experiences, it’s a place I can go to be reminded that I’m loved and that my family, although only small by blood, is HUGE in love and support! It has become a place where my blog was born and continues to grow. I always had a dream to share my love for writing, thinking, awareness and connection and Facebook has helped to make that possible. It has connected me with people I’ve always “known” but am now honored to share deeper connections with.

So, as many of you already know, it’s no surprise how much I love Facebook. To many it may seem silly or petty or a waste of time, and, by all means, more power to you. Don’t mind me while I continue to visit my virtual community on a daily basis for my fix of good news and connection. Where I can  keep up with so many people I love around this world and be a part of their families, vacations and accomplishments through pictures and conversation. I have chosen to use it to my advantage, it has become a part of me and I’m incredibly grateful for how it has changed my life and my view of this world. This world IS changing for the better, and I think that we can see that in seeing how the wild child that Facebook was when it was born has grown into a strong, beautiful and (at least most of the time in MY network) accepting young woman. Okay, fine, maybe it’s a man. Although I think she would make such a beautiful, maturing woman 😉

Thank you, social media, for helping the world start to live as one. It’s a long process but I truly know that it is happening. John Lennon would be so proud! The words of one of my gurus, Dr. Brene Brown, above and below truly define what I  think Facebook and other social media outlets mean to so many. This technologically based world has become such a beautiful place for so many to find connection, to feel seen, to feel heard and to feel valued! To me, that is absolutely beautiful!

2/4/14 – The More of Me I Be, The Clearer I Can See

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“To be nobody but yourself–in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else–means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.” e.e. cummings

“The more of me I be,
The clearer I can see.” 
― Rachel Archelaus

I used two quotes today to lead off how I’ve felt lately. First of all, it’s been a LONG time since I posted. I’ve done this before but, unlike times before, I’m not going to beat myself up about it. Life gets busy, as mine has, and I just didn’t share my thoughts with the world. That being said, that DOESN’T mean that I didn’t have thoughts. I have had more thoughts since my last post than I can even explain.

I began Oprah and Dr. Brene Brown’s Life Course a few weeks back and have really been focusing on my imperfections, my awareness and loving myself. Boy oh boy is this class a job in itself haha I have learned so much about myself and feel more aware lately than I ever have. One of the biggest “a-ha” moments I have had is this:

Do you ever see people doing something that seems so “cool” and you feel like you “should” do it too and that would make you so much happier? For example, “Oh I should do yoga, that would be awesome. They love it, I would love it!” “I should really start watching that show. I don’t watch ANY shows that other people watch.” “I don’t go out on Friday nights, what’s wrong with me?” I could go on and on about this but my point is that I am a victim of telling myself “I don’t do ANYTHING! I don’t have hobbies!” But I’ve learned that this isn’t true. I DO have hobbies. I have so many specific and consistent hobbies that they are no longer hobbies, they are part of me. I don’t do yoga, it hurts my knee, that’s why every time I try it I hate it. I don’t watch the same shows everyone else watches because I love Grey’s Anatomy, Rookie Blue, American Idol, The Voice, and so many other shows that I like because I LIKE them…not because everyone else likes them. I don’t go out on Friday nights because I’m exhausted after a long week of work and need to relax, because I don’t really enjoy going out to bars and spending money I don’t have, because I don’t really even enjoy drinking, because, you know what I DO like to do on Friday nights? I like to watch my DVR of Soulful Sundays with my journal, taking notes about awareness, love, life and connection. THIS is who I am! THESE are the HOBBIES that I have and the things I enjoy doing.

For so many years I have worried about doing what everyone else was. I tried to change myself because I didn’t know that the whole time I was already ME doing the things I LOVED doing. I was so good at it that I didn’t realize I was doing it. I tried to make myself read books that I didn’t want to read. I like to read my books that help me to better myself and help me to reflect. THOSE are the books I love.This doesn’t make the things that others do and the books that others read, etc WRONG, just wrong for me. That’s all! And that’s OKAY 🙂 FINALLY, for the first time ever, I realize that while I was searching for my interests among the interests of others, I knew them all along and I’m more than proud of them.

It’s true, “The more of me I be, the clearer I can see.”

So often people tell me that I give too much of myself, that i’m too emotional, that I’m too open. I’ve battled with this for so long, thinking that others were right and that I needed to change. But I finally get it! I’m a giver, I’m emotional and I’m open and I won’t change that. When I try to change that I’m not my authentic self, I’m someone else. Being ME, the giving, emotional and open soul I’ve been blessed with is who I am and I’m not ashamed of it anymore, nor do I want to change. I only want to be the best version of me that I can be 🙂

Being your true, authentic, imperfect self is a daily battle, that’s for sure. But there is no other battle I want to win in this life more than that one! I can tell you one thing, as of today the scoreboard is in my favor!

12/10/13 – Get in touch with your soul

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“To make the right choice in life, you have to get in touch with your soul. To do this, you need to experience solitude, which most people are afraid of, because in the silence you hear the truth and know the solutions.”

It’s true, moments of silence and solitude can be very scary and lonely, but it’s in these moments that we are truly in tune with who we are and our own personal truths. Meditation comes in so many forms. People always tell me they can’t meditate, believe me I never thought I could either, but meditation doesn’t have to be stereotypical meditation, sitting on a mat with your legs crossed in a candlelit room. Just give yourself 10 to 15 minutes a day when you stop everything you are doing, close your eyes and breath, try and turn your mind OFF. It’s so important to keep us grounded and in touch with our soul.

Deepak Chopra

11/25/13 – Eddie “Superman” Livingston: My little super hero

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11/25/13 – Eddie “Superman” Livingston: My little super hero

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” ― Kahlil Gibran

I slept terrible last night. I remember waking up very suddenly around 11pm. It was very strange. It was if I had missed a call or thunder had crashed outside. I checked my phone, no call; I checked outside, no storm. I tried to fall back asleep but I tossed and turned for hours. I was so unsettled. I picked up my co-worker, and very close friend I might add, this morning and we head into the office. I immediately looked around for the Super Hero card I had bought two weeks prior yet had failed to send to Eddie. Today was the day! I had to get it to him ASAP. As I pulled it out I booted up my computer and logged into the usual suspects: the company network, my email and then Facebook to get the Livingston’s address. I looked up from the card and went numb. I turned around and my friend looked at and my face and said, “No!” She knew…she knew from my face and the sudden tears in my eyes that he was gone. The boy whose angelic face is the wallpaper on my computer as well as the lock screen on my phone…the super hero that saved me and changed my life from the moment I saw his first picture…the sweet boy that I say “Good Morning Buddy!” to every morning when my screen pops up…Eddie “Superman” Livingston, one of the strongest and most loved little boys I had the honor of crossing paths with on my crazy journey through life…the son of the most loving family and yet, in extension, a son to us all.

Flash back to March 2012 when I first contacted Eddie’s parents, Craig and Jeanine, about sending their family on a Disney cruise. I had been sent Eddie’s story with some accompanying photos and I was in love. Here was the most beautiful baby boy fighting the toughest of battles at just 3 years of age and you could see the old soul and strength in his eyes. Contrary to fighting for his life he seemed to be more full of life than any child I had ever seen. We got the trip booked and I got word a few weeks out that they had to cancel the cruise, Eddie’s cancer had spread so they wouldn’t be able to make it. I was devastated for them, this was such an exciting trip that they would have to miss. I was so angry and I knew at that point that I would do whatever it took to make sure this family had a special gifting.

A couple of months later, Eddie’s family: he and his parents, Jeanine and Craig, and his 3 beautiful siblings: Sarah, Stephen and CJ, had picked up and moved to New York  from Florida to be closer to Eddie’s hospital and Jeanine’s family. Right after they moved there, Hurricane Sandy wiped out the home they were living in. “Seriously!?!” I remember thinking to myself. “How could this be and what can we do?” The family had moved back to Florida and Eddie and his mother were spending lots of time in NY for treatment and tests. Spider-Man was on Broadway and he was Eddie’s favorite. I told his mother to call me whenever they wanted to go and I worried she would never call me. “Why?” you may ask? Because Jeanine Livingston is the kindest, strongest, most humble, caring and loving mother in this world. I have never met a woman that so well exemplifies the true definition of a dedicated and loving mother. It was too much to ask for something. I was in awe of this. Then, finally, right before Thanksgiving last year (just this week last year) my phone rang. It was Jeanine…”Lauren, I hate to call and ask this, but the whole family will be in town for Thanksgiving and we really want to go to Spider-Man, it will be the Christmas gift for the kids.” Me: “When?” Jeanine: “Tomorrow?” DONE! I was ecstatic! The next night Super Eddie and his whole family had 4th row seats to Spider-Man and a private tour back stage from the man himself. Jeanine didn’t care how late it was, she made sure to text me afterwards. Her texts were so full of gratitude and the pictures made my entire night!

I wasn’t done and my CORE Board of Directors agreed. The first week in December my Chairman, Joe Smith, his wife and I went to the Livingston’s home in Florida with Santa in tow caring gifts for all! It was by far the best 2 hours of my life. I’ve never been more grateful for an opportunity. You see, I hadn’t had the opportunity yet to gift a child in person. What a rewarding experience, what a beautiful family. I left their home that day with the best Christmas present of all: the gift of giving. From that point on Eddie and his family were a part of MY family. I was forever changed by just a short few hours with a real life super hero who was fighting more than bad guys in Nintendo games, he was fighting for his life…the biggest fight of all! But instead of acting like he was in pain he was full of energy and youth and wisdom. It was in the moment I drove away and saw Eddie riding his new Spider-Man bike in the street through my rear-view mirror that life made sense to me. I learned that:

It takes the suffering to teach us the joy in this life.

Life is all about human connection. We all yearn for it and need it to complete us.

There is no better gift to receive than giving.

No matter how much time we get on this green earth we should live each day grateful to be in it.

Family support is so important and a mother and father’s love is like no other we will ever experience in this world. It teaches us about commitment, strength, loyalty, protection and true, unwavering love.

It was in that day that I realized my purpose in this life. People are my purpose and bringing joy to others, helping others, connecting with others is what I love to do and what I must do in this life..no matter to what degree I can do so.

Why did I wake up out of the blue at 11pm last night? Because, I learned today, it was just an hour before that that my Superman’s soul left his body while lying in the arms of his parents. The arms that first held him, held him through his last breaths, and this angelic boy was no longer in pain. He spent just 5 short years on this earth but, I can tell from the overwhelming amount of support across social media, he reached thousands across this world with his story, that beautiful, contagious smile and those wise eyes. He reached thousands of people he never met in person. THAT is influence! THAT is purpose! THAT is human connection! THAT is strength! THAT proves that we are not alone in this world, that we all have struggles and long to feel love and belonging. THAT my friends, although so short, is a life well lived!

Although I spent most of today in tears with a lump in my throat, while thinking about Eddie and his dear family, I was filled with love and warmth from phone calls, texts, messages and emails from friends to me personally and then all of the hundreds of messages, photos and love from thousands across Facebook to Eddie and his family. Thank you to all of you for your love and support of a boy and family that probably never realized the impact he and they had on so many. The family who, when I had knee surgery, sent ME a care package! Thank you, Livingstons, for being a piece of my puzzle, for sharing your story with me and my organization and for allowing me to be a small part of your family. You are sure as heck a part of mine. In the days ahead I hope that Eddie’s family gets the time and privacy they need to heal and that they learn from so many how special their little boy was in a world that longs for love and connection and hope. He is Jeanine and Craig’s son but he became a son to us all. We all lost a “son” last night but we will never lose what his beautiful soul taught us.

May you rest in peace, sweet boy! Thank you for EVERY THING and I hope I see you again. Until then, kick butt! And if you find that you aren’t feeling well some days, yell out for Larry LaViola, he will be just the medicine you need XOXO

11/13/13 – Dear Crazy

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The following was taken from www.elephantjournal.com.

The Crazies’ Manifesto.

Andrea Balt
Via on May 9, 2012

“There’s a good kind of crazy…’ he insisted softly, reaching out to wrap his warm hand around mine. ‘It’s the kind that makes you think about things that make your head hurt, because not thinking about them is the coward’s way out. The kind that makes you touch people who bruise your soul, just because they need to be touched. This is the kind of crazy that lets you stare out into the darkness and rage at eternity, while it stares back at you, ready to swallow you whole.’ ~ Rachel Vincent

Dear Crazy,

If you’ve ever been swallowed by the same eternity—posing as darkness, posing as undomesticated, unscripted, messy you… or if you’re just the foolish kind that jumps off cliffs with no parachute, even though it hurts, because… well, because it’s the right and truthful thing to do…

And if, say you’re somewhat lonely—though not alone, somewhat sad—though not broken, and somewhat tired—though wide awake and restless, please stand up. Take a deep breath. Clear your throat. Look your Self in the eyes. Place your hand over your beaten heart. And let’s declare our independence from the norm.

But first, press play. ‘Cause Crazy without Epic is… just Cray.

1. I will remember what it was like to be born, and all the beautiful things I used to point at before I could speak them. I’ll reinvent curiosity and memorize delight.

2. I will forgive, because no one survives. I’ll keep the bruises but get rid of the blue. I’ll kiss my Judas back. (I have my own crosses to carry).

3. I will believe in ghosts and fairy tales. And elves and science fiction. I won’t declare a world impossible until I’ve tried to build it with my hands and when my pulse shakes like a leaf, I’ll say sure, let’s, why not.

4. I will fight with the sword of my tongue, not my fists. I’ll also fight with my silence and lips. And turn all my blood into metaphor and blossom my way into fierce cherry trees.

5. I will love like it’s the end of the world and the house is on fire. And if it’s not, I’ll bring the matches. I’ll love even when I don’t, or when I lose, or when love’s fleeting like sunsets or thick like bone or long or heavy or boring like the book I’m never done reading and writing.

6. I will live every day like it never happened before or like a tune to a song still unwritten. And I’ll record every hour on my face, and in this short-lived human dilemma, I’ll try to be in all my pictures, heartbeats, adventures and wrinkles.

7. I will dream up my reality. I will not be reasonable or realistic. I’ll write sideways on lined paper and I’ll always put heart over matter and imagination over knowledge.

8. I will create a thousand planets from scratch and then I’ll add them to the Milky Way so I can help expand the universe. I’ll make up a new language out of dust and come up with a hundred different ways to say your name.

9. I will be honest rather than loyal. Because to get through the dark forests of life you need a lamp, not a shadow, and trust is not a blind soldier but the soul’s one and only chief of staff.

10. I will be wild and untamed. I will believe in wolves. I’ll be insane, uncivilized, emotional and personal. And I will take the ring to Mordor even if I don’t know where Mordor is. I’ll be the child I left behind. I’ll be the door and key to me.

11. And when I come to die, the only thing I will regret is leaving all my stories, unfinished, on your chest. But I should hope to live in such a way, that time would breathe me out and back into your lungs, until there’s no more me or you or words or why.

Do the right thing…

(Via Lululemon)

11/5/13 – When I lose at love, I do not lose love

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“When I lose at love, I do not lose love—but rather simply one possibility of love. So I pause—I turn from this past love, lost, and commit myself to now—to the hard and worthwhile work of being friends with myself. Then, I pause again—and step forward into the unknown future, with love in my heart.” – Unknown

One of my best friends shared this with me the other day and I’ve read it over and over. It’s perfect! It’s not always the easiest thing to believe at first when you’re hurt, but it’s the clarity that comes to you once you have calmed down, processed it all and accepted.

We all get multiple tastes of love and just because we may lose from time to time, doesn’t mean we lose love, just at one possibility. It’s true, every time I take a minor hit in the “love” department, I go back to working on being friends with myself, reminding myself to love me again so that I can go out into the world with love in my heart to hopefully share time and time again until I win at love.; constantly reminding myself that I will never lose love!