Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Erase Negativity Gets Stunning Review

Yesterday was an awesome day. After months of persistent efforts my book, Erase Negativity and Erase the Magic Within, had a breakthrough. There is a stunning review about the book on the following websites: www.amazon.com; www.barnesandnoble.com; www.livingsocial.com and www.realityshifters.com. I have reprinted it here for your convenience. Woohoo!

Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within
by Sally Marks and Jacqueline Howard

Master the Keys to Positively Transforming Your Life

Erase Negativity is a powerhouse of a self-help book. It features eleven chapters describing life lessons mastered by people who've overcome extraordinary challenges. The big idea here is that no matter what terrible things may have happened in life, it is always possible to start from exactly where we are, and begin moving in a positive direction toward the life of our dreams.

The first couple of chapters of Erase Negativity may seem shocking, as they describe how it feels to pull oneself up by the proverbial bootstraps while "emerging from the depths of hell," such as an addiction to drugs, alcohol, or cycles of emotional and physical abuse. I was deeply moved to read heartfelt stories of people who have truly hit rock bottom, and managed later to set and achieve positive goals. It's inspirational to read how people have bounced back from a wide variety of horrendous situations, and managed to get unstuck from complacency. There is greatness possible for each and every one of us, regardless what handicaps, constraints, and misfortune may have occurred.

I love the format of this book, as each chapter starts with a biographical story that illustrates the tools required at each person's turning point. The end of each chapter summarizes the main points in the form of exercises first for erasing negativity... and then for embracing "the magic within." The magic referred to is spiritual, intuitive, and energetic in nature, rather than a form of magick or witchcraft.

The life-transforming tips provided in Erase Negativity include feng shui, keeping a running total of positive to negative thoughts, affirmations, stepping out of the victim mindset, setting positive goals, choosing supportive friends, eliminating gossip, and practicing mindfulness. These concepts are much more than mere words on a page, as real life accounts of what a difference they have made are described eloquently.

I feel deeply honored to be one of the eleven people interviewed for Erase Negativity, and I sincerely hope that my story will resonate with readers in ways that help them gain additional strength to succeed in life.

Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within is the best summary of how to live a positive life that I've yet found in a self-help book; I give this book my highest recommendation!

Cynthia Sue Larson is an Amazon Top 500 Reviewer, an author, life coach, intuitive strategic visionary and a bioenergetic field researcher. However, right now I see her as a fantastic person who just gave the book a huge boost. Thank you Cynthia Sue! And to my other friends and supporters, feel free to post your own review. Every little bit helps.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Another Christmas Memory

It’s been a busy holiday season and my blog has featured two “rerun” posts. I don’t think that is a bad thing. I may make it an annual tradition. But today I thought I should write something new. For me, Christmas is a time of joy, but it is also a time of reflection. I can’t help but think of past holidays.

My blog on the unwanted Christmas tree was a memorable experience (see the entry on Dec. 6.) As a child, there was definitely a magical feeling at Christmas time. Of course I looked forward to giving and receiving presents, but there was more to it than that. I think I was too young to analyze it. I just loved the way I felt during this joyous time.

Later, when I became a wife and mother, the magical feeling intensified as I had two daughters and a husband to share the holidays with. One memorable moment was when my daughter, Alicia was 6 years old and her little sister, Brittany was 2 or 3. Alicia had excitedly been chattering away about Santa Claus, reindeer and presents.

Even though Brittany was still in diapers, she had a healthy dose of skepticism. She did not like sitting on Santa Claus’ lap, I sensed she knew his beard was fake, and I think she thought her sister was pulling her leg about the whole Christmas thing. We weren’t poor, but we didn’t have a lot of extra money either. The idea of a bunch of toys under the tree seemed too much of a stretch. Brit knew we couldn’t afford to buy all the things she saw advertised on TV (I used this “can’t afford it” line a lot when they wanted stuff at the store.)
Still, I’m sure, she was hopeful.

Christmas morning I remember waiting in bed for the girls to stir so we could begin our holiday. John and I waited and waited. Why were they so quiet? “How could they wait so long?” I wondered. The truth of the matter was they were awake. Brittany had joined her sister in Alicia’s bedroom and they were waiting for us to get out of bed. They usually weren’t that considerate, but hey, who wants to take a chance of messing up on Christmas morning?

Neither girl had ventured out of the bedroom to peak under the Christmas tree in the living room. The night before there were a couple presents for Grandma and Grandpa and maybe a relative or two, but nothing from Santa Claus. At least not yet. We told the girls it was okay to get up and take a peak.

Alicia was ready for the festivities to begin and she slowly ushered her little sister toward the living room and the Christmas tree. I will never forget this moment. Alicia knew the drill. She knew Santa would come. Brittany, however, was skeptical. She didn’t remember last year’s holiday. She was only a baby. I could just imagine her thought process. “All year long we don’t get any toys except for our birthdays, why would we get a bunch now?”

The girls peaked around the corner and low and behold, beneath the Christmas tree were stacks of toys. Only the night before there were only a couple of presents and they were designated for others.

Brittany’s eyes were filled with amazement and awe. She seemed to be thinking, “Could this possibly be true?” She was filled with the magic of Christmas. Alicia had a more “knowing” quality as she took in the sight. She knew great things happened on Christmas, and now she had a little sister to share the holiday with – even if the little tyke was a bit skeptical.

What the girls did not know is there had been a Santa Claus of sorts. We had enough money for a few presents, but certainly not that many. However, my Aunt Liz and her husband Ernie, had a good year. The childless couple decided to give their struggling nieces and nephews an added bonus, a check for $100. We received it in time to buy extra gifts for the girls, including a few things that we knew our daughters wanted, but we could not afford to give them.

Of course I think the girls would have been happy even without the extra presents. I can safely say this because of who they have become. They are now grown women and are kind, loving and considerate human beings. Alicia is a school teacher, a wife to her husband Greg, and the mother of two children of her own. She still has that “all knowing/wise quality” about her. Brittany is a student and is happily married to Jamie. Her children are her two dogs, Piggy and Guinness. Brit is still a bit of a skeptic, but that magical moment of Christmas and hope still lives in her heart.
I don’t want to come across as a Pollyanna. I know this has been a difficult year for a lot of folks. However, if there is one thing I’ve learned, is that in spite of the difficulties we face, we must never harden our hearts. Both good things, and bad, will not last forever.

My Christmas message this year is to save a little space in your heart for hope and joy. Things may not always be perfect, but there is always the possibility of a miracle. Especially at Christmas.
Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday Rerun

I ran this article last year, but it bears repeating.

I recently posted a story, The Unwanted Christmas Tree, on the blog last week (see the past entry.) I don’t want to ruin the plot as I hope you will read the story for yourself, but suffice it to say that a similar scenario is facing thousands of families during this economic crisis that we are facing today.

However, no matter what your financial circumstances may be, there is a gift we can give to ourselves and our loved ones – the gift of ourselves. This can be time spent reading to a child, listening to the stories of an elderly relative, the courtesy of opening a door for someone with a heavy load, or simply offering a sincere compliment to a stranger.

None of these interactions cost a dime, yet how many times have you felt too rushed, too angry, or too self absorbed to offer these little kindnesses? And the sad thing is this not only robs so many people of a bright spot in their day, but it prevents us from being the warm, loving and kind human being we were born to be.

The truest happiness exists not in how big our bank account is, what kind of car we drive or where we sit on the corporate ladder. All of those things can come and go in an instant. Read or watch the news and you will see how some kingpin or beautiful actress has fallen from grace. Money, fame and power may be something we strive for, but even if we attain it, there is no guarantee it will last. Therefore, if we base our happiness on something transient, our happiness will not be long lasting. However, the positive relationships we develop with others, as well as our connection to the earth, God, or whatever spiritual practice we observe, can have long lasting benefits.

I had a taste of my own medicine this week when I lost two major accounts in my public relations business. It was a deep cut that reduced my monthly income by half. It threw me for a loop at first as I knew I had done a great job for both clients. However, in this economy, there are going to be some setbacks. Fortunately, I don’t believe life needs to be easy to be enjoyed. And I saw a lesson in my unexpected financial diet.

Frankly, I had been a little lazy about getting new accounts. This was a needed wake up call. Now I have the opportunity to build my clientele with new businesses that share my view on creating a more peaceful world, as well as a greener environment. I don’t want to settle for just earning a living, I want to contribute to the betterment of society. The day after reframing my outlook, I received an email from someone who hired me for a great assignment. My financial difficulties may not be over, but my days of sinking into despair and thinking, “I’m no good because I don’t make enough money” is no longer a daily mantra. And the same can be true for you.
There is no doubt there are financial obligations and time crunches that make the holidays more stressful. However, you can take some steps to create value that cannot be purchased at the store. Whether it’s the holidays or a New Year’s resolution, why not fight the current stream of negativity and be a bean of hope.

Please remember, if we all work together – even in the smallest ways – by showing kindness to strangers, smiling at folks as they walk by, working at something that is meaningful to ourselves and others, as well as trying to find the positive in even the darkest situation, we can make a big difference.

For those of you who are feeling a bit grouchy, or have a grouch in your life, please consider buying a copy of Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within. You can go to www.erasenegativity.com or directly to Amazon. Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 6, 2010

An Unforgetable Christmas of My Youth

I put up our Christams tree the other night. As I hung the ornaments I reflected on decades of past Christmases. The following story is a reprint of my first published story. I hope you enjoy it.

Tales of Christmas Past

I was relaxed, taking in the stereo when a commercial interrupted my listening pleasure.

“Make this Christmas one that she’ll never forget,” droned the announcer.

“Yeah,” I thought. “Spend big bucks and everyone will love you. Spend enough and we may even have peace on earth.”

Christmas commercialism, it seems to get worse ever year. Do not get me wrong. I enjoy Christmas. It just bothers me that everyone thinks you have to spend a lot of money to have a merry one. I thought back to the commercial, “the best Christmas ever.” It took my memories back to the Christmas of my 10th year, my most unforgettable holiday.

My family and I had moved to Arizona from Chicago fours years before. Arizona was in a serious recession. My father, who had always provided a healthy paycheck for his wife and five children, could not find work. We got by on unemployment checks.

Jobs were plentiful in Chicago and my father’s former boss was anxious to take him back. After four years of quiet, safe and sunny Arizona living however, my mother refused to return.

If my father could not find employment he would return to Illinois, send money, and the rest of the family would remain in Arizona.

It was a sad time – the bickering about money, worrying if my dad would have to move away. Christmas was an added burden. Money was tight enough without the added expense of the holiday. My mother explained the financial situation to us and we knew not to expect much in the way of presents. Of course the brightly decorated evergreens we had enjoyed in the past were out of the question. We never even asked about one.

Instead we pulled a three-foot aluminum tree out from the garage. The cold tinsel stalk inspired about as much Christmas spirit as a box of Reynolds wrap.

While everyone else decorated the tree, I decided to take a stroll.

As I walked toward the end of the block, I turned right so I could investigate the bowling alley parking lot where they had been selling Christmas trees. I loved the scent of the pine in the cold air, another of many reasons I hated our artificial tree.

As I neared the lot, I saw that it was bare. I kicked at the fragments of broken branches. In the corner, lying on its side, was a long misshapen evergreen.

It was easy to see why the tree was discarded. However, something inside of my brain clicked. The poor tree needed a home. My home needed a tree.

I grabbed the trunk, but I was not strong enough to move it. I ran home to fetch my younger brother, Terry, who I was sure would assist in my plight. As it is so often the case with brothers, Terry lacked my enthusiasm.

“I don’t even think a dog would use that tree,” he laughed.

“Maybe so, but it would make a fine fort,” I replied. With that in mind, Terry helped me transport the tree down the block and into our back yard.

My mother looked up from washing the dishes as we walked up the driveway, and warned us against bringing that “filthy thing” into the house.

“Its for a fort!” Terry exclaimed. I just smiled.

Once the tree was in the back yard, I sent Terry on another mission. I had no intention of turning the evergreen into a fort – at least not yet.

My dad walked up and looked at the tree. It was long, sparse on the top with heavy branches on the bottom. I was sure I could win him over, so I explained my scheme to him.

“You could chop a foot off the bottom and cut the branches off and drill holes where the tree is bare and do a little transplanting,” I said.

My older sister, Diane walked out and spied the tree. “Father, you are not going to let her bring that thing in the house are you?” Diane shrieked.

“I don’t see why you don’t like it,” I said. “It looks just like you. Not enough on the top and too much on the bottom.”

Diane walked off in a huff.

Whether dad was bored, liked my idea, or was caught up in my enthusiasm I cannot be sure. But soon a drill and saw were out and “Ernie” the unwanted evergreen became a beautiful Christmas tree.

Dad brought the tree inside and we placed the few ornaments we had on Ernie. To help fill in the uncovered areas, we strung popcorn and pyracantha berries and cut out little ornaments from paper. Even my 18-year-old brother, Dennis, who was fond of imitating Scrooge and saying “Bah Humbug” to any mention of Christmas, helped to get Ernie into shape.

We did not have any Christmas lights, so Terry and I pooled our money, about 90 cents, and we got the rest of the cash from “Jack rabbit,” my little sister Tina’s bank. I am ashamed to say it was an unauthorized withdrawal.

One string of lights did not cover much, so we pushed the tree into a corner and decorated only the front. Despite the circumstances, I was happy. We all were. Never before, and unfortunately never afterward, do I remember my family working together so joyfully. For a short while, we were happy to be together and share what we had, each other.

That was the last Christmas we celebrated together as a family for a long time. Shortly afterward, my father returned to Chicago, unable to come home permanently until I was 16.

Except for my nemesis, Diane, my siblings are still living in Arizona. Most holidays, we get together to exchange insults and presents. Our Christmas trees are always magnificent and the presents are plentiful and brightly decorated. You will not find strings of popcorn or pyracantha berries anywhere.

Christmas carols, if they were sung (and they are not) would be droned out by the big football games that are always scheduled in honor of the birth of Jesus.

I still think back to my childhood and that yuletide of my 10th year, and I know a truckload of presents could not match the happiness I felt that day. It was a special time when my father listened to me and made a small dream come true. And it all happened because of a poor misshapen Christmas tree that nobody else wanted.