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A walk through the adventures and lessons of 2015 with a visual Top 10 list….
When my daughters were young, we started a New Year’s tradition of creating vision boards. Our exchange daughter joined us this year and said she’ll bring this tradition back to Germany. From unexpected trips that brought to life elephant love (in Thailand) and “Beauty by the Sea” (Mediterranean and Galilee) to dozens of inspirations and a-ha’s, this year’s vision board provided deep roots and strong wings.
Note to Self: Take time to intentionally envision what you want more of in your life and surround yourself with reminders of what this feels like.
It was a BIG year of celebrations with family members hitting the milestone ages of 16, 18, 21, and 50. We took in some beautiful country across 20 States with visits to see our son at college and at his internship, a southern tour of prospective colleges for oldest daughter, and summer trips south to Texas and north to the Boundary Waters. We also spent time exploring local sites when we hosted my husband’s former exchange brother and family for an extended visit. Near or far… so much to explore!
Note to Self: Put on fresh eyes and drive down the road…always made better when sitting next to the ones you love.
Talking on the phone with a friend in March, I walked by my vision board and the elephants caught my eye. “The elephants are dancing,” I said. “There’s something with us and elephants.” She laughed, “Keep me posted.” A couple weeks later, on a magical Saturday that brought bursts of clarity and support, an impromptu adventure to Thailand presented itself…and we said YES! From exploring serene islands to frolicking with the majestic elephants, this trip Expanded my Capacity for play, adventure, and unfettered joy in ways that continue to shape me.
Note to Self: Even if it makes little logical sense, trust your internal call to joy and stay open to the paths that unfold.
While in Thailand, I felt nudged to host a women’s retreat to share the call to soul adventuring. The day after my return, I came across the teachings of Clarissa Pinkola Estes, further shaping the Wild Women Retreat held on the banks of the Mississippi River. Attended by master coach Leah Campbell Badertscher, this gathering planted seeds for us to co-host the impactful Wild Soul, Wise Women Retreat in Colorado in August… which unleashed additional adventures ahead!
Note to Self: When you boldly follow your soul’s calling, you not only receive grace for life changing adventures, you also become a catalyst for others to follow their own inner wisdom.
Speaking is a growing part of my business as it allows me to share my message and tools with bigger impact while I dedicate a high level of energy to my nonprofit work. I am grateful for this year’s speaking opportunities that introduced me to extraordinary women leaders, servant leadership groups, HR professionals, business and franchise owners, government employees, law school conferences, and graduate students. Thanks to Michael Port for helping me grow mastery (as I seek to help save the world one speech at a time!) and encouraging me to film a new speaker highlight video.
Note to Self: Ready to go to a new level? It’s possible when you get clear on what you what, commit to the work, and put resources in place to help you grow.
In 2011, when I decided to take a year away from my speaking and consulting to focus on helping my Iowa community stop a teen suicide contagion and stabilize itself after being rocked to the core, I never would have predicted the course that has unfolded. As we helped more and more communities, the work organically grew from a project to an institute with research-based models and strong academic and practitioner collaborations. Five years later, I’m still volunteering as director of the National Resilience Institute (NRI) and am in awe of the astounding group of passionate and knowledgeable experts who contract with us as we help change the conversation around what psychosocial resilience looks like, why it matters, and how to cultivate it. From the beginning this work has had a life of its own and I’m deeply grateful for the privilege of steering this ship. If you’re interested, check out NRI’s 2015 highlights.
Note to Self: As a friend of mine says, if God hands you the basketball, you better dunk it. Make your plans but always, always keep yourself open to even more than you can imagine.
This year has been full of networking with outstanding professionals and organizations, exploring synergies and opportunities to support each other. One highlight: NRI researched global leaders on planning for and responding to trauma and we unanimously selected the Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC) as the organization most aligned with our mission. When we proposed bringing ITC trainers to the U.S., our wise Board of Directors had a better idea: Why don’t you go to Israel and learn in the field? In June, a team of three of us underwent an extraordinary immersion training, followed by a few days of “walking where Jesus walked” (forever changing me). The ITC and NRI currently have a proposal in the works that will powerfully impact the international landscape of trauma preparation and response.
Note to Self: Actively exploring ways to help others who are dedicated to improving our world brings a richness to life and increases collective impact.
Beyond my speaking and retreats, I am grateful to work through our NRI platform to support professionals in the trenches passionately serving our kids and communities. One highlight: When we asked Robert May, Director and Producer of the gut wrenching Kids for Cash documentary, to speak at our annual conference, he not only graciously accepted, but also filmed a TV show and fully participated in the event’s networking events. This led to explorations for NRI to join a pending Scholastic Kids for Cash educational partnership that would support juvenile justice system reform and bring our youth building curriculum to more than 2.5 million educators and students across the country. (Here we are at Scholastic’s NYC headquarters — with Clifford, of course).
Note to Self: When you show up fully and authentically, you prepare fertile ground for awesomeness to grow.
In addition to time with my five sisters who I adore, this year blessed me with a growing circle of sacred sisters supporting each other’s work for our world. One highlight: Tererai Trent of Zimbabwe and I developed an immediate “I see you” sisterhood when she was a guest on my TV show. I subsequently edited one of her (brilliant!) forthcoming books and she returned in the Fall to speak at our NRI conference and spend time with my family. Recently, Tererai planted the seeds of a Hope Keepers mission in my heart… with an opportunity in 2016 for a small group of sisters to make a true difference for the women and children of her home village. Stay tuned for details!
Note to Self: Cherish, protect, and nurture those relationships that allow you to give and receive being seen and fully supported toward your boldest dreams for our world. They are sacred.
On one summer day where the goodness of living in our time fully settled in, I woke up on the east coast after a heartwarming speaking event… and returned home to take in a drive-in movie with my family. From high tech speaking and a jet airplane bringing me home to enjoy a movie (Iowa style) snuggled under the stars in the bed of a pickup truck… all in the same day…it hit me full force: what a time to live! Given the fullness of 2015, I chose to tuck in at home sweet home with no travel while wrapping up the old year and seeing in the new one. Making memories with family and friends (including extra time with our son who is now studying abroad) deeply replenished my energy for a new year of living, learning, and leading.
Note to Self: Roots and wings. Tend to them both.
Wishing you memories made, lessons learned, and growth in the past year – and abundant health, joy and prosperity in the year ahead!
Back from Israel and musing about the power of saying yes to those bold invitations…that almost seem to whisper to our soul. Like how I found myself saying YES! to an impromptu invitation to be re-baptized, fully immersed in the River Jordan. At this very moment, a bus of African pilgrims arrived, causing a JOYFUL RUCKUS as they jumped and frolicked in the river, singing their praise.
You can count on one hand the number of useful “selfies” I’ve taken in my life…despite instruction by adept kiddos, I just can’t quite get the hang of it. But I wanted to capture the joy of this blessed moment, so I snapped a selfie. More comfortable with hashtags than with selfies, let me say … #Holy #Light #Mystery #Unfiltered
The next day, while on a boat in the Sea of Galilee, my heart was captured by children playing in a waterfall at Tabgha, by the Church of the Loaves and Fishes and Mount of Beatitudes. As they joyfully jumped and waved, exclaiming, “Halo! Halo!” I found myself saying, “Well, Jesus did say, let the little children come to me…”
Looking directly at me, the boat captain said, “Would you like me to stop the boat so you can swim out to the children?” My head, with its logical mind within, immediately started shaking no…when my spirit roared, “YES!” Within moments, I was swimming, fully clothed, toward the shores of the Sea of Galilee. After some play and rock collecting, I reboarded the boat. We left to a new children’s chorus, “Noooo. Don’t go! I love you. I lo-o-o-o-ve you!!” #Heartmelt
So many stories and lessons to share… The profound respect we witnessed between people of different faiths – and the extreme intolerance of the same – forever changed me. Many of these threads undoubtedly will be woven through our Wild Soul, Wise Women Retreat.
For now, let me share a couple words of wisdom that landed upon a tender heart upon my return…
While attending a Catholic school fundraiser to provide scholarships for students in need, the Archbishop said,
“Accompanying others on their journey is underrated. It’s powerful. Rather than trying to take someone where you want them to go or to have them walk in the way you think is best, simply walk with them.”
How different our relationships might look if we shifted the focus from our own agenda for others… to simply connecting and supporting them… as they walk their path.
A few days later, my friend Mark Silver, a wise Sufi practitioner, wrote:
“Even when, perhaps especially when, the world seems fraught with pain and suffering and disaster, I most need spiritual connection. Not to escape, but simply to duck out for a moment, catch my Breath, remember Love, and be able to duck back in and keep walking. Because we all need to keep walking. Because we’re all on our path and that’s what we’re doing- walking it.”
I have complete faith that you can walk your path. And I deeply appreciate your faith in me that I can keep walking mine. In the words of Daniel Ladinsky’s rendering of Hafiz: “We’re all holding hands and climbing. Not loving is a letting go. Listen: the terrain is far too dangerous around here for that.”
Choosing not to love lessens us… and it creates a vacuum that tends to fill with despair and resentment. Within our highly scheduled and full lives, we each must nourish sacred daily practices that remind us to love. Remind us to intentionally hold out a hand and walk alongside another. Remind us to boldly jump when our spirit says YES!
“I have complete faith that you can walk your path.” Truly and wholly. If you’ve forgotten this, here is a reminder. No matter where you are today, you can carve a path forward that serves your life and uses even the greatest of trials in ways that transform you and others.
Let us be bold … as we keep walking each other home with love, respect, and care.
Last I wrote, I was heading into the Wild.
My silence…and that of my generally prolific traveling partner, Christy Marek… speaks volumes for the deep impact of this adventure.
Christy recently shared her processing that living boldly creates experiences that can’t be neatly defined, limited, or put in box, no matter how routine others may want your life to remain.
We choose to travel in order to explore new places in the world, yes.
But also to explore new places within ourselves.
Places we often lose track of in the complacency and the demands of everyday life. ~Christy Marek
As for me, Thailand provided sacred space to expand more fully into my Self. This photo actually might be worth a thousand words…or certainly a few blog posts:
Yes, that’s me meditating barefoot on the back of an elephant… my wise and playful co-adventurer in northern Thailand.
Upon my return, I filmed a couple Resiliency Matters TV shows with best-selling author Gretchen Rubin (on happiness and forming positive habits) and Tererai Trent (named by Oprah as her “all-time favorite guest” she is educating children and changing lives in her Zimbabwe village).
I then turned toward my annual Spring Retreat, which tends to be shaped by my current life experience. It was at last year’s Thrive & Serve Retreat that I wrote in one of our exercises:
Wouldn’t it be great if…
I traveled the world with a like-minded, like-hearted woman to play with elephants.
One year later, as we headed to Thailand, Christy recalled attending the retreat and thinking, “Wow. That’s cool. Wouldn’t it be great… if this became a possibility for me – to find kindred spirited sisters to play with? I’ve always adventured alone or with my husband. Is this even possible? Do women really do this?!”
Yep, it is. Yep, they do. And yep, we did.
Back to this year’s retreat… I found myself called to gather women leaders at my retreat home to explore something I posted on Facebook (with a few photos) upon my return:
Home from Thailand with an even deeper appreciation for doing authentic, bold work.
You can live in a small town… and have global impact.
You can love home & family… and follow heart’s desire for wild adventure around the world.
We humans are big enough to hold this all.
How beautiful is that? <3
As I talked through my ideas with my inner circle who I knew would “get” my desire to live and lead boldly with a love of adventure and home, I shared my retreat intentions:
- Provide a loving environment to safely and fully expand into YOU
- Offer reminders of your preciousness and how to honor it with self-care and compassion
- Serve as mirrors for each other’s light
- Explore and adventure as we heed the wild call to our highest self
- Remind each other that to live this way is not crazy…but wise
The retreat filled by word of mouth. A group of bold women leaders gathered at my retreat home to create a space of expansion, explore our deepest callings, and mirror brilliant light back to each other.
We each left with a bold dream to be accomplished by 2016 and additional support to bring it to life with nourishing ease. You are going to hear more about these women going forward – doing BIG work in service to our world!
This retreat has already spurred another wild women retreat co-led by retreat participant, gifted painter, master coach (…and recovering lawyer) Leah Campbell Badertscher. Mark your calendars to join us in Colorado August 30-Sept 2 – and let me know if you want to be put on the list to receive details first!
Now I am on the cusp of another wild adventure… leaving this week on behalf of the National Resilience Institute for 12 days in Israel. We will be working in several areas of resilience research and practice, including post-trauma response, community building, positive youth development, conflict and peacemaking, media, policy, and military resilience. As we travel across the country, we will learn with practitioners from neighborhood centers, schools, places of worship, hospitals, mental health facilities, broadcast centers, universities, research foundations, and political offices.
One might be tempted to say that stepping into the breadth of this professional experience… with the unique historical and religiously significance of the Holy Land as a backdrop… certainly is a trip of a lifetime.
But we who are dedicated to shouldering the responsibilities and savoring the privileges of transforming ourselves and our world know better…don’t we?
Thrive on. Lead on.
Since writing to share my 2015 theme AbunDANCE!…it’s been flowing…and I’ve been learning some new dance moves.
I completed a four month Heroic Public Speaking immersion course with Michael Port and Amy Mead that felt like going back to grad school. A profound, intense learning opportunity that brought new skills and brilliant people into my life. I wholeheartedly recommend any training available by these two – especially as a dynamic duo. They over-delivered in helping me take my resilience and leadership messages to more people hungry to hear them.
While at their live event in Florida, I met long-time twitter pals Chris Brogan and Scott Stratten (who were as full of goodness as I thought they might be) and got caught up with my dear friend Bob Burg – each a tremendous author/speaker worth checking out if you aren’t yet familiar with their work. Fun photo.
Upon my return, I keynoted the Norman Amaker Midwest Public Interest Law & Social Justice Retreat hosted by Loyola Law School. Not only did I enjoy delivering the leadership message, but spending time with this extraordinary group of young leaders renewed my hope for our future!
I ended up cancelling the one trip that was actually planned for this spring… to attend a local Women of Influence award ceremony. Still savoring the wonderful night of celebration with family and team members! If you’d like to hear highlights of my work and those who have influenced my leadership, here’s an informal video of my brief acceptance speech.
As referenced in the video, last month our Advisory Board expanded the container for this work to the National Resilience Institute. New website in progress… contact me directly with any questions or inquiries for support.
Add to the mix a couple weeks of March Spring Break with our kiddos and a visit by our exchange daughter’s parents from Germany and think we’re pretty caught up from my side. Would love to hear what is unfolding in your life. As always, you newsletter subscribers can just hit Reply if there’s something you’d like to share – or drop me a note on social media.
Running in the background of all this activity has been an unexpected opportunity to travel to Thailand for 10 days in April that entails resilience work with a nonprofit refugee center as well as plenty of adventure and retreating. You know I strongly believe that you don’t need to travel around the world to find yourself or find your joy. I do much of this from my little corner of the world…in Iowa :=) Yet, the way this invitation laid itself on my heart called me toward a quick and resounding yes!
Since making this decision – taking this leap of faith – I’ve experienced so many connections and “coincidences” that have left me in awe of how we are supported when we make bold choices aligned with the core of who we are and who we want to be. You might enjoy reading my travel companion’s journey with the unfolding of this Wild adventure amidst some major changes in her life.
When life gets especially busy or tough or demanding, we tend to think that we need to put off things we really want to do because, well you know, “life gets in the way.” Michael and Amy provided a reframe when helping students stay on track through the speaking course… “life IS the way.”
Life IS the way.
I hope you find this as helpful as I did. You can make choices that nurture you, your greatest priorities, and boldest dreams – not despite but within the fullness of your life.
If you’re waiting for life to “settle down” before you take action toward what you know you’re meant to do, then you — and those you are here to help – will lose.
Live boldly within all that is…today.
Wild. Wild indeed.
The Women of Influence Award is given to women who have made a difference in the Corridor and who are representative role models as leaders in their fields and communities. Click here to read more.
Each year, I select a theme to help keep my compass pointing north through the coming year. My 2014 theme was CHOICES.
As the New Year approached, the leading contender for my 2015 theme was joy. This came from the discovery and commitment made during 2014 that if I couldn’t do the bigger work I’ve found myself doing in the world with a joyful heart, then I would choose not to do it.
This bigger work includes serving as CEO of the National Resilience Institute, empowering individuals, families, schools, and communities to keep hope alive as they recover from tragic losses and maneuver their way to a new normal of resilient living.
The rub is that this work has become work that I cannot not do. It runs to the core of who I am and the truth of why I am here.
Over this past year, as I grew my message to post-crisis communities that resilient living represents a way of being and doing that goes beyond times of adversity, I walked my own path of creating a deep well from which to draw as I lived and worked with purpose and with joy.
Toward the end of 2014, a friend in one of my virtual support groups (thank you Sarah Rudell Beach!) shared her take on the word abundance and graciously allowed me to run with it…
Seeing this word instantaneously unleashed torrents of reminders of how I want to live in the New Year – and beyond…
Reside in possibilities. Keep hope alive. You have enough. You are more than enough.
Your heart is made to serve so when you follow your heart, you serve in more meaningful ways.
Life is about making every moment count – mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually – for yourself and others. Think abundantly BIG about how you want to walk in service to others in ways that nourish you.
Living your life’s purpose isn’t the pathway to inner peace and joy, but rather cultivating peace and following your bliss is how you find and live your greatest purpose.
Joyful service comes not from seeking to please others but from being true to the whole of your self.
Creativity comes not from making what you think others expect or will like but is inspired by innate curiosity and a heart overflowing with loving compassion.
Following joy in each moment will help you stay present and create more experiences that you truly want in your life. Dance your way to more!
Dancing to your authentic beat attracts fellow seekers who follow curiosity, savor possibilities, listen to inner wisdom, act boldly with courageous trust, and generously co-create a more abundant future for all.
The more light you unleash, nurture and share from within, the brighter the world in which you live will be.
When you dance like no one is watching…shining your unique light with love and joy…miracles happen and lives are transformed.
AbunDANCE reminded me that staying connected to following my joy nourishes how I want to feel within and outside of work… content, loved and loving, and vibrantly ALIVE! The more I feel these feelings, the more I choose to prioritize relationships, activities, and perspectives that fuel abundant living. In other words, I effortlessly make better choices that rejuvenate me.
This past year has provided extraordinary experiences of attracting brave hearts – dear hearts – who share my passion to strengthen those who’ve experienced traumatic loss. We have discovered new ways to connect to each other, to our work, and to those we serve. This has led to an impressive list of successes during the first year of our nonprofit status, including the Resiliency Matters TV show, our first national Thriving Lives conference, and providing post-crisis response and THRIVE community work to people across the country.
We enter the New Year with open hearts, great hope, and ample space for welcoming additional partners dedicated to working together for the greater good.
Being guided by abunDANCE will help me guide our team in a way that pressing needs will be met, aching hearts will be healed, and our individual and collective light will shine forth as a beacon through any darkness.
Whatever your work in the world, may you join me on this journey of more deeply understanding and living this truth: It is possible to cultivate deep, abiding joy as you seek to remedy the injustices that break your heart.
You can joyfully do high impact work to meet serious needs. In fact, following and dancing to your bliss holds the key to making our world a better place.
Think about it. Nobody else in this whole wide world has your vision, your voice, or your solutions. So build, heal, play, live, and shine as only you can.
Can we have this dance?
For the past few years, as part of my new year planning, I’ve selected a phrase or word to remind me of how I want to show up, day in and day out, in order to become more of who I want to be.
This word helps keep me headed toward my north star.
A few years ago, my theme was Best Life Design. This theme nourished me as I focused my efforts on offering events and services to help entrepreneurs make a living in way that holistically fueled their best life and allowed them to make a greater impact in the world.
Two years ago, I was guided by Service. This word came through strongly as I wrote a book about the wisdom of my life’s greatest mentor. Walking with Justice teaches that it is our service to others that defines the quality of our lives. It was this focus on service that nudged me to step forward when my community needed guidance after the loss of three teens to suicide. This work led to the founding of the nonprofit Community Resiliency Project, for which I serve as director.
Last year, my theme was Ministry. Our community work was challenging me to learn and practice new ways to guide others through grief and adversity. This focus on ministry pulled me toward being a more vibrant instrument of peace and healing. I am very much a work in progress.
Over the past month, I’ve been letting “my word” marinate, trusting that it would show up with its special juiciness before the ringing out of the old and in of the new.
And it did.
In my community resiliency work, I’ve often reminded parents, teachers, and leaders that they always have a choice. Regardless of the increasing noise and chaos of our society from outside in, we can choose to take a deep breath from inside out.
We can choose to say: “No matter the pace and dysfunction out there, within this home, within this classroom, and within community, we choose peace. We choose love. We choose acceptance, compassion, and kindness. We choose to create an environment in which we thrive.”
Over the past year, I’ve personally and powerfully witnessed in both my community and servant leadership work how hungry people are to be seen, heard, and affirmed. They thirst to know that they matter and are needed. This validation was the greatest gift my mentor gave to me as a young lawyer – and it was life changing.
You likely will find the next sentence to be an oversimplification or a profound observation…
If you want to thrive, then make more daily choices that allow you to thrive.
The truth is that our choices, day in and day out, move us closer to or away from a condition of thriving.
Our daily choices, big and small, represent our quest for wholeness. They also serve as a powerful manufacturer of the natural consequences we experience in life.
We can choose who we are, what we think, how we feel, how we act, and the difference we’re going to make in the world.
My wish for you in the new year is that you become more aware of the power of your choices and intentionally make better and better choices that fuel your health, wholeness, and service to others.
Parenthood is a tricky subject because there are all different types of parents and all different types of kids. If there is one area where “one size fits all” does not fit, parenting would be it.
I strongly believe that when you start judging other parents, you have no room to love and support them as they strive to do one of the hardest jobs in the world. We need to help each other any way we can.
My intent for this post is to inspire parents to help their children…by fully embracing work they love and that they feel matters. Counterintuitive? Stay with me…
There are so many lessons for your children as they watch you completely and fully embrace your unique talents and passions, and make a big contribution to the world.
Whatever your work is, share it openly with your children. Move from a place of guilt (“I have to go to work”) to a place of strength (“I love helping others through my work”).
When you passionately and openly commit to your life’s work…in front of your children…without conflict…you model full and authentic living.
So, what inspired this? The following letter I received from my 11-year-old daughter on Sunday morning:
Happy Mother’s Day Mom!
Mom, Happy Mother’s Day! I want to thank you for everything you have done for me. I love you very much, I think about you all the time and I know you think about me
You are so amazing with everything you do, and I don’t know how you can do it all. Your heart is always open for anyone who needs your love. You always help me out when I need your advice or when I am hurt, and make me feel better.
I am so proud of you and all of the work that you do to help out your family and other people. You are so, so beautiful and fit no matter what anyone says or thinks. You deserve way more than 1 day to do whatever you want when us kids are pulling you around everyday.
You are the best mom anyone could ever want and you’re my mom. I want to be just like you. Pretty, nice, smart, and everything you do. I have tears in my eyes as I’m writing this. I just wanted to say thank you for being a great mom for your 3 kids, and a great wife for Monte. I love you so much.
Love, <tear drop>
I’m sharing this letter word for word as written with only my child’s name deleted…and noting a teardrop where it fell on the page (hers, not mine. Mine fell later but I kept them off my precious letter).
My youngest daughter then gave me a M-O-L-L-I-E card:
My mom is awesome
Orange is her favorite color
Likes to play with her kids
Loves to walk
I enjoy her because she cares about me
Enjoys her job
What immediately struck me is that both of my daughters mentioned my love for my work and helping others…right alongside my love for my family.
These don’t need to be separate. Have you been telling yourself they do?
From time to time, my kids ask, “Mom, if you could have any job in the world, what would it be?” My answer: “I would do exactly what I’m doing. I love teaching and coaching people how to create their best life and make their unique contribution to this world.”
This is my passion. What is yours? Identify it. Go after it with zest. Give yourself permission to be fully and authentically yourself. Even…especially…to your children.
You will become a stronger role model, a happier parent, and a better steward of all of the gifts you have been given to use in this short time on earth.
A warm and sincere nod to all of you mothers doing your best to raise your children. (Dads, your well-deserved day of recognition is coming up!)
Originally Published: May 15, 2009
Dr. Mollie Marti will present on “You Matter: Unwrapping Your God-Given Gifts” at a Mother/Daughter Christmas tea. The special occasion also features the music of Anna Nuzzo. Hosted by ASCS for girls 6th through 9th grade and their mothers, the tea begins on Dec. 21, 2014 at 2 p.m. at The Club at Strawberry Creek, Kenosha, WI.