Monday, February 28, 2011

Where Seldom is Heard a Discouraging Word

My senior women’s softball team, The Stingers, scored another victory over the weekend. I was especially happy because it was the first time my daughter, Alicia, and my two granddaughters, Rosannah and Briannah, watched me play.

Rosannah, who is three years old, seemed thrilled to see so many women wear the same shirt they have seen grandma wear. It’s bright yellow and has a bee with a softball bat in its hands. Rosannah knows the bug is a bee. Little Briannah, who is 20 months, insists the bee is a flower. Disagreeing with her is like arguing with an umpire, so I just nod and smile when she points to the little buzzer and says “flower.” I know for sure she doesn’t think I smell like a flower, particularly after a game. But I digress.

Rosannah is a very good mimic. I encouraged her to say “Go Jo!” when our third baseman went out to the field. She gave a shyer “Yeah Sue” to another teammate and “Hit it hard Betty” when Betty, our 82-year-old right fielder was up to bat. After a great defensive inning, I ran in from left field and heard Rosannah say, “Go Stingers!”

I think it was one of the best games our team has played. Our infield managed two double plays. The pitching and catching combo performed like a well-oiled machine, and the outfielders made some terrific catches. Even when our opponents hit the ball so hard that this old grandma had to chase the ball to the fence, I managed to get the ball to our rover, Karen, who made a fantastic throw and threw the batter out at home plate. Everyone, and I mean everyone, played an awesome game.

We don’t get a lot of fans at our games and it is always fun when we do. I can’t say that we won because my family was there, but it didn’t hurt. I think it is especially nice to hear someone sing our praises, even if it’s shouted by a tyke who still wears a diaper.

The Stingers have some of the most supportive women in the league. Our star players not only help their own teammates, they coach players for the Senior Olympics. Many of the women who receive this sage advice play on opposing teams. More than once a formerly weak batter has gained knowledge from a Stinger, then went on to use their new skills and sting us with a well hit ball over our heads! However, I would be lying if I didn’t say that we love to see all the women succeed and improve.

Which brings me back to the point I’m going to make, which, of course, has to be a plug for my book. This is MY blog after all. In my book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within, we put a lot of emphasis on erasing negative thoughts, speech and actions and replacing it with more empowering alternatives. For instance, rather than self-punishing thoughts such as “I’m too fat,” when you gain a little extra weight, why not say, “I love how I feel when I make healthy choices?” Eventually the brain gets the message and our behavior will match our kinder thoughts and words.

That is not to say that there aren’t times when we have to give, or swallow, constructive criticism. If we want to improve, we have to be open to helpful advice. When you are the one offering suggestions, it is best to come from a place of compassion, not arrogance. When you are on the receiving end, it is best to remember the advice is meant to help, not hurt. If the person IS trying to hurt you, it is best to remember that their cruel intent is a reflection of their insecurity, and let it fall away like water off a duck’s back.

While criticism is sometimes necessary, words of praise and support are always welcome. Whether it’s an encouraging word from a seasoned ballplayer, or a toddler who likes to parrot her grandma’s suggestions, people blossom with praise. Wait a minute, I just had a thought. People BLOSSOM with praise. Little Briannah always points to the bee on my uniform and insists it’s a flower. A flower is a type of blossom. Maybe she has been trying to deliver a deeper message than I previously thought.

Whether my granddaughter is a wise philosopher, or just fueled an interesting idea, here is my parting lyrics you can sing to the tune from Home on the Range.

“Oh give me a home, where the old ladies roam, and the Stingers and another team play. Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word, cuz our hearing aids aren’t turned up all the way. Home, home on the field. Where strong bats and good thoughts anneal. Where seldom is heard a discouraging word, cuz praise makes us happy all day.”

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Root, Root, Rooting for the Home Team Gal

I was a happy, little ballplayer the other day. I hit the game-winning run in softball on Valentine’s Day. My team, the mighty Stingers, edged out the Fountain of the Sun team 7 to 6. While this may not seem like a news story worthy of ESPN, it was a big deal to me, and of course to my team.

We had a healthy advantage throughout the game, but our opponents chipped away at our lead until they had a breakthrough inning and scored enough runs to tie the game. The bottom of our batting order took up the challenge. Carol got a hit, followed by Deanna. Connie, who bats last in the lineup, smacked a nice shot and her pinch runner, Carla was safe at first. Now there were loaded bases and two outs.

I came up to bat and knew the pressure was on. I do my best when there are no runners on base. I play on a senior women’s team (for ladies 50 years and older) and a lot of the women cannot run that well due to past injuries. I can usually trot down to first base in a timely manner (especially when my teammate Karen screams “RUN!” like the fate of the world depended on it.) However, when there are runners on base I not only have to make sure that I get on, but that I don’t get the other runners out.

I walked up to the plate feigning more confidence than I felt. I generally take the first pitch to get a feel for things (and pray the pitcher will screw up and walk me.) Of course the pitcher’s first attempt was right across the plate. Darn. Then she tossed a couple of balls. The next pitch looked inside, but it wasn’t. Another strike. Now the count was 2 and 2. My hopes of walking and letting one of the stronger batters in the lineup take my place was quickly evaporating. When I have two strikes I’ll usually swing at anything that isn’t rolling on the ground or sailing over the backstop. She pitched the ball and I hit it. I took off to first base. I didn’t even stop to see where the ball went (it’s a bad habit I’m trying to break.) I got to first base and Shirley, the first base coach, gave me a congratulatory hand slap and said the game was won.

It was an important victory for the team as we had not been doing so well. We beat the team with the worst record the game before, but prior to that we had lost 9 straight games. Ouch. Unfortunately I was not able to bask in glory during the post game celebration as I had to pick up my spouse, CB, from the airport. However, our team manager and star player, Mary Lou, gave me a victory sucker (the candy type.)

So why am I telling you this story? Although I am happy to have come through for my team, the real message is about perseverance. I have never been, nor am I now, a great ball player. However, I do try to focus, give it my best, and make efforts to improve. At an age when a lot of folks would hang up their glove and move to safer past times, I am determined to succeed where I failed in my youth.

The same is true of the negative mindset I adopted for far too many years. I not only chose to reprogram my thinking, I decided to write about it. While co-authoring the book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within, I interviewed several people who faced adversity and overcame it. The stakes were a lot higher than a recreational softball game. Some folks were abused, or abused themselves, businesses went bankrupt and other businesses were rebuilt. One mother dealt with the death of her only son, and a daughter tried to overcome the tragedy of her mother’s murder.

The book is a practical guide on how to reduce negativity and embrace happiness. From meth addicts to multi-millionaires, the book offers powerful experiences of individuals who have faced dramatic challenges, but did not lose hope. Using these compelling biographies, as well as practical advice and simple exercises, the reader is guided on an internal journey toward adopting a more joyful way to live.

Life is not about winning all the time. It’s about getting up after you’re down and trying again. So if you, or someone you care about needs some help erasing negativity, please visit If you email me at and let me know you read this blog, I’ll even autograph the book and throw in free shipping as a bonus. I want to help others, but it still makes me feel good to know there are folks out there who read my articles and are rooting for my success as well.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Looking for a Bridge Over Troubled Waters

I was chatting with Kristen Tews on a recent radio interview of Personal Best ( or set your radio dial to WKRS 1220 if you live in the Chicago area) and we discussed the importance of having good and supportive friends.

When we are facing difficulties, such as loss of a job, a natural tendency is to find someone to commiserate with. “Misery loves company” is not only an old saying, it seems that a lot of folks turn to this as deep wisdom. Unfortunately, that advice (for lack of a kinder word) sucks.

I would like to offer this analogy. If you abandoned a sinking ship and climbed aboard a life raft that was also sinking, are you going to swim to a life raft that also has a hole in it, or are you going to climb aboard one that is more seaworthy?
Negativity is like a cold – it’s contagious. When your mood is down it is best to find someone who will elevate your mood, not hold your hand while you sink to the bottom. While it can sometimes be comforting to know that others face similar problems, it is more productive to learn how someone who endured a similar problem and OVERCAME it.

In our book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within, the importance of mentors and good friends are key components in erasing negativity. Here is an excerpt on choosing good friends and mentors.

When evaluating friendships ask yourself the following questions:

“Does the person display good qualities such as honesty, integrity and consideration?”

“Are they selfish and self serving?”

All friendships experience a give and take of needs, but if you find you are the one doing all the giving, especially in the beginning of the friendship, it is best to step back and access the situation carefully. Often good-hearted individuals get sucked into an unhealthy alliance with a charismatic friend. Unfortunately, most of these individuals have learned to prey upon the kindness of others and are only interested in what they can take – be it time, money or favors. It is better to walk away from these people right away before you get emotionally involved.
“Do they talk critically about others behind their backs?” If so, chances are they will do the same about you.

“Are they cheerful or cynical?”

Not everyone can be genial all the time, but someone who is consistently cynical operates on a lower vibration energetically, and if you spend a great deal of time with them your mood will be affected.

“Are they trustworthy and loyal?”

Remember that one’s actions speak louder than words. If a person says they are loyal, but demonstrates qualities that show they are otherwise, consider the actions, not what they say as the true barometer of their character.
Tammy D’Antonio, one of the individuals interviewed in Chapter 4 of Erase Negativity, outlined the following goals to help improve her financial situation:

1.Set goals.
2.State your intention.
3.Take action.
4.Have faith.
5.Always keep moving.
6.Never be defeated.
7.Always strive for something bigger than you!
8.Have humility.

Rather than engaging in the “misery loves company” mindset, Tammy suggests the following to keep an optimistic and empowering viewpoint:

•Set goals, write them down and review them every day.
•Seek out positive role models.
•Substitute negative behavior (such as watching television or depressing movies) and replace it with a few minutes of reading motivational books, listening to motivational tapes, or attending inspirational meetings or events.

Additional tips can be found throughout Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within. The bottom line is sympathy may seem comforting, but it is rarely the call to action that is needed to overcome difficulties. When I was a little girl and asked my father for sympathy (usually after a poor performance in sports) he’d always say, “You know where you’ll find sympathy in the dictionary? Between sh** and syphilis.”

Not exactly poetry, but dear old dad had a point. When you are in a sinking ship, don’t whine with the doomed, align yourself with those who have learned how to stay afloat. And once you have mastered that, be sure to be a lighthouse so you can guide others who are trying to find their way through troubled waters.