It’s Time to Awaken Your Strengths!

My temperature would rise.

I would squirm in my chair.


I would clear my throat nervously…

These were my physical responses every time a job interviewer asked me this question…

“What are your strengths?”

No matter how many times I contemplated this question, no matter how many times I practiced my answer before the interview, it always felt like an out of body experience when the time came for me to respond.

“I’m a good communicator. A team player. I’m a decent writer…”

Post interview, I would always reflect upon my answer. I never felt it completely captured who I am. It sounded so cliché.

I used to think, “maybe it’s because I don’t like talking about myself.” That is true. I am not one to toot my own horn…

But, it wasn’t until I watched a recent FB live that I had a bit of an epiphany: I DON’T REALLY KNOW MY STRENGTHS.

My next thought was: “Oh, my God, if I don’t know my strengths, how can I live to my potential?’



If I don’t know how to identify my own strengths, how can I teach others to identify and to capitalize on their own strengths?

Then I contemplated the impact upon my son Liam, my students, my family, and everyone in my life…



Are you also unsure of your strengths?

Most people spend the majority of their lives trying to correct their weaknesses instead of capitalizing upon their strengths. This is not where our focus should be.

I always tell my students: “we need to work smarter not harder.”

Not that we don’t want to work hard..


I was so thankful when the presenter in the FB live shared a book that has helped him determine his strengths and talents. It is entitled Now, Discover Your Strengths.


Here’s the Amazon summary….


Marcus Buckingham, coauthor of the national bestseller First, Break All the Rules, and Donald O. Clifton, Chair of the Gallup International Research & Education Center, have created a revolutionary program to help readers identify their talents, build them into strengths, and enjoy consistent, near-perfect performance. At the heart of the book is the Internet-based StrengthsFinder® Profile, the product of a 25-year, multimillion-dollar effort to identify the most prevalent human strengths. The program introduces 34 dominant “themes” with thousands of possible combinations, and reveals how they can best be translated into personal and career success. In developing this program, Gallup has conducted psychological profiles with more than two million individuals to help readers learn how to focus and perfect these themes.

So how does it work? This book contains a unique identification number that allows you access to the StrengthsFinder Profile on the Internet. This Web-based interview analyzes your instinctive reactions and immediately presents you with your five most powerful signature themes. Once you know which of the 34 themes — such as Achiever, Activator, Empathy, Futuristic, or Strategic — you lead with, the book will show you how to leverage them for powerful results at three levels: for your own development, for your success as a manager, and for the success of your organization.

With accessible and profound insights on how to turn talents into strengths, and with the immediate on-line feedback of StrengthsFinder at its core, Now, Discover Your Strengths is one of the most groundbreaking and useful business books ever written.



Here’s the Amazon link to Now, Discover Your Strengths


Over the coming weeks, I will intermittently share what I learn from Now, Discover Your Strengths. If you decide that you’re going to read it, please let me know! Knowing your strengths (and capitalizing upon them) is a key to living the life we were created to live!


It’s time to awaken our STRENGTHS!




Be Brave

Her 40th surprise birthday party had been epic, surrounded by friends and family.


Exactly a year later, Melissa was sitting at her dining room table in front of a supersized birthday cookie- that she had picked up.


Her name misspelled in its frosting.


Clearly her special day was an afterthought. A thrown together family event. When asked by her two young children to make a wish, she hesitated….


Then reflected. She was tired. Tired of letting fear and opinions restrict her.  As she inhaled to blow out her candles, she determined 41 years old would be different. It would be a year of “yes”. A year that she would try new things. Things outside her comfort zone. ….This was the birth of Eat Cake. Be Brave, a book by Melissa Radke, that chronicles her personal journey to find her self-worth and to live the life she was created to live….




My disclaimer: this is definitely a book written by a woman for women. In my opinion, every woman will find some way to relate to Melissa. She is raw yet maintains her humor despite the heartbreaking struggles she has endured. Her perspective is refreshing and inspiring….


By the way, don’t give up reading today’s blog post if you’re a guy! LOL


As I was in the midst of reading this book, we were faced with a difficult decision.



It was a decision that required us to say goodbye to a comfortable place.


A “place” we had planted a seed that had grown for a season, yet was no longer thriving.


We had to get real with ourselves: what part had we played in this? What parts were outside of our control?


After reflection and prayer, we chose to BE BRAVE and to move from our comfortable “place.”



The response to our choice has had mixed reviews, which we expected. We have even been threatened, which  hurt us deeply.  We had shared so much of ourselves only to find out that OUR WORTH was contingent upon what they GAINED from US…


So we move on to a new chapter, full of hope, and with the support of our loved ones. We love all of you. You know who you are….


thank you


Click the link to check out Eat Cake. Be Brave. 


How to Get Along with All Kinds of Folks

“First of all, if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get a long a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Atticus Finch



To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite novel. I have read it 3 times: once while I was in high school, and twice when I taught high school.  I always notice different aspects each time I read it; however, what has always resonated with me the most is Atticus’ quote about empathy….


I have blogged, FB posted, and FB Lived a lot about the importance of pursing your dreams and surrounding yourself with people who support your choices.


But, I haven’t written about the flip side: the importance of respecting others’ life choices.


In a world where we are all “experts,” there is a temptation to criticize the choices of others. Some may feel that I think I’m an expert because I’ve chosen to write this blog. I assure you, nothing can be further from the truth. This blog is our pursuit to live healthy, intentional lives. Since we embarked on this journey a year and a half ago, we have learned there’s a huge learning curve when it comes to “intentional living” LOL…


So, I’m going to do my best to be intentional here:


*I have been guilty of criticizing others’ choices. I have said things to people’s faces that I shouldn’t have said. I’ve said things behind people’s backs that I had no right to say. I understand how very wrong that is to do.


*My current position on this subject is this: if I hear someone I know has made a choice that I don’t understand or agree with, I need to STOP, THINK, and PRAY.


*I need to reflect upon what I know about the person, yet acknowledge that I do not know everything that is going on in their life. (EMPATHY)


* Unless, I’ve been asked by that person for my opinion about their choice, I need to be very careful about approaching them…

unsolicited advice


*Should I decide to approach them, it should be from a place of love, concern—WITH NO ULTERIOR MOTIVES. There is no place for judgement, shame, and manipulation.


However, with that said, I do feel there are exceptions if you feel that someone is making harmful choices that impact them self and/or their loved ones. Then by all means, have the “come to Jesus talk”…


How I Met Your Mother Intervention GIF


My primary focus here isn’t about unhealthy, damaging choices others make. I’m referring to the basic,  “run of a mill” life choices.


Two more important reminders for us:







When you criticize someone to their face or behind their back…



We can improve ALL our relationships if we choose to follow Atticus’ advice: climb into the skin of others, walk around, and see things from their perspective. We may just change our perspective…You never know! At the very least, it will help us understand each other-better.




Beauty from Ashes: Helpers of the Carr Fire

The Carr Fire of Shasta County is now in the rankings for the worst wildfire in the history of California. A very sobering thought as it currently stands at 35% containment.


*It has decimated over 120,000 acres and destroyed over 1,000 homes. This fire has shown no mercy, thanks to high winds and intense heat, notorious of Redding.

Carr Fire Climbs in Rankings for Worst Wildfire in CA History


Sadly, by the time you read this blog post, (most likely) it’s reach will be even more significant, despite the tireless efforts of our firefighters…



I grew up in Redding, CA, a community of Shasta County. Over twenty years ago, I moved to Chico, about an hour away from Redding, to attend college. However, I have many Redding friends impacted by the fire; whose families have been evacuated. Have lost homes. Have lost so much. My heart breaks for them as I follow updates on our local news stations and Facebook.


The visuals are devastating…





This slide show/collection of Carr Fire images…


However, rising above the ashes are the helpers, as Mr. Rogers called them.




The valiant firefighters, law enforcement officers, first responders, Red Cross, National Guard, Salvation Army, North State businesses, and individuals. It is impossible to list them all…


However, in this blog post, I wanted to highlight some individual “helpers” of the Carr Fire disaster…


Tina Brandt of Uplift Studios, who I’m proud to know, is personally organizing items for Carr Fire evacuees, as her son is up in Oregon fighting fires there! Click the link below for the whole story…


Uplift Studio/TDamante FB Live


Some North state photographers are offering copies of images to previous clients/victims of the Carr Fire whose portraits were destroyed.






And these teenagers who are the next generation of helpers…




Then I spotted more helpers on the 530 Evacuees and Fire Victims Needs Facebook page… (By the way, since these posts were from a private group, I am maintaining the anonymity of the helper/poster.)


Helper #1:



Helper #2:



Helper #3




What about this sweet girl who is reaching out to evacuated children?

Local Girl Starts Makeover on Wheels



Or this sweetie, whose relatives are fighting the Carr Fire, but she wanted to extend her appreciation to other fire fighters…

“Gracious Gracie” Explains Burrito Delivery


Or, these celebrity helpers…


Guy Fieri ventured up to Redding to feed fire victims and first responders.


Guy Fieri Joins the Relief Efforts in Redding…


Leonardo Di Caprio even donated to the Carr Fire disaster fund…




These stories are the tip of the iceberg! If you know of others, please comment! Please share, so the rest of the world can see the good that is coming from this disaster! May these thoughtful acts of service remind us that….





Should you feel compelled to help, here is the link to donate… Support the CA Fire Foundation















Marriage Musings

We have this magnet on our fridge LOL:




I’ve always found this meme hilarious LOL!




We celebrated 19 years of marriage this past Tuesday!





Hey, we know there’s many who have been married MUCH longer than us.


We know we’re not experts…


But, here’s our 2 cents about marriage:


It’s about putting your spouse’s needs above yours.




It’s about commitment.



Don’t get me wrong: love is a many splendored thing!



BUT, the warm fuzzies wane when…


*Your spouse forgets to buy you a card for your first anniversary.


*When they wash a red t-shirt with your favorite dress shirt—despite repeated reminders.


*When you nag your spouse to complete a home project that is 90% done…


*Or, when you critique something they are working on… (which may be why they don’t complete the aforementioned home project LOL).




We’ve navigated financial struggles, job losses/changes, family deaths, 10 years of infertility,  2 pregnancy loses, and much more…



When life blind-sides you both…


When you are in the deepest pit of discouragement…


When either or both of you are at your worst…




Remember your commitment.


Remember why you married your spouse in the first place.


Rekindle your love.


Hold on to each other—and your love.





Billy, I love you beyond what I’m able to express.  


Thank you for always showing me love, even when I’m at my worst.


Happy anniversary, always and forever!



Vacations: Should I Stay, or Should I Go?


Many Americans choose to stay home rather than take their vacation time.


According to a 2016 study conducted by the US Travel Associations’ Project Time, 54% of employees ended the year with unused time off, with a total sacrifice of 662 million vacation days! As cited by this Fortune article: Vacation Time: Americans Are Still Terrible at Taking Vacations


The  article explains the percentage of Americans who take vacations were up a little from 2015, but many who were interviewed cite “mixed messages” from their employers about taking time off.



If your employer is okay with you taking vacation time, and you can afford it, AND you’re not taking vacation time, what’s stopping you?


Maybe this has happened to you…


Just kidding LOL!!!



Or, maybe, you’re like us. Maybe you just get caught up in the routine. Life. There’s always SOMETHING that needs to be done.


But this summer, my husband Billy came to the  realizations in this short video….





Billy decided we would take THE vacation.


It wasn’t going to be the 3-day trip we originally discussed.


He wanted to go all out for us, our 7-year-old son, Liam and me. And, he would plan the WHOLE thing. By himself.



Honestly, I was a little nervous about not helping him plan. I had to trust that he would not only plan something that we would enjoy, but that he would coordinate all the details.


That’s exactly what he did!


The two weeks leading up to the trip, he dropped little hints to me: (1.) that we were going to the beach, (2.) San Diego (3.) Legoland and Sea World (4.) BEACH DAY (5.) DISNEYLAND! (He waited to tell me about Disneyland because he knows much I love it!)


We decided to surprise Liam THE DAY WE WERE TO FLY OUT! We secretly packed and covered all the luggage in the back of the Hummer with a blanket. We told him we were headed to Sacramento for our every-couple-of months Old Sacramento/Railroad Museum day trip.


Before he knew of the fun ahead…




I watched in amazement as all the details came together: navigation of two airports, rental car pick up, and our Carlsbad Airbnb across from the beach!



As you can see, we were blessed with an amazing time….


One day at Disneyland….





THE best Monte Cristo’s on the planet!





Two days at Legoland:






One day at Sea World:




A day at the beach:






Just what our little family of three needed!




THIS is why we need to take vacations…


All we have is NOW!!!


Thank you, Billy, with all my heart!



Your Oyster

When students prepare for life after high school (or college), we often tell them “the world is your oyster.”


The belief in limitless opportunity lasts until it is hijacked by…













These patterns of negativity can impact a lifetime of decision making, and they can literally make a difference between an “average Joe” and a Walt Disney….


Visit Disneyland, and you are overwhelmed not by just the lines (LOL), but the greatness of the  park. It is THE quintessential amusement park.











And, it all started with a man, his mouse, and a VERY ambitious dream…




*The following is a must-see Disney documentary that covers the insurmountable obstacles Walt Disney had to overcome to see his dream become a reality.  Enjoy!


Pretty amazing how Walt dedicated himself to his dream; and was able to see it come to fruition, isn’t it?



We were fortunate to go to Disneyland about a week and a half ago. It is impossible to be there, and not feel inspired by the “dreaming power” of Walt Disney.




What do you dream about?


Always remember….




Walt is proof of it!