Viewing entries tagged
Brene Brown


Only love can drive out hatred, only light can drive out darkness

You know I love her, and guess what, she gave a commencement address at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. :-)

Dr. Brené Brown chose three nuggets of wisdom she would have wanted to have upon her graduation:

1. Whatever you do, do not wait until you're unafraid to do something. Don't wait til you're brave. Don't wait til you're comfortable. Step into the discomfort and do it anyway. You're more ready than you think.

2. If you want other people to put value on your work, put value on your work. Period.

3. Find joy. Really find and cultivate joy in your life.

"Thank you for signing up to be the love and the light in this world."



Are you a Leader?

Brené Brown's definition of a Leader, in Daring Greatly It's been said that in order to be a leader, you need followers.

I'm no longer sure that's true.

I think we can achieve a lot by working on our self-leadership, and behaving in a wholehearted, authentic, congruent, kind fashion.

As long as we shine a good light out in the world, we may be creating a space where others see it's ok to behave wholeheartedly as well. But the point is to find our own ways, not blindly imitate.

What do you think?



1 Comment

10 Guideposts to Wholehearted Living

Hello! Thanks for visiting and please enjoy the free info below! 

Just fyi, you can find me over at from now on, where I'm making custom lettering and calligraphy. 

This archive will be discontinued next month. 


10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living
10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living

I've been following Dr. Brené Brown's work for many months now, and am inspired to share her work because I believe we live in complex times, and it is important not to forget our humanity. That humanity includes shame, vulnerability, and a host of nasty things many of us spend lots of time and resources trying to push under the carpet. Out of sight, out of mind.

Following yesterday's post about accepting myself, I'm inviting you today to think about the areas where your shame gremlins show up. What do you not want to talk about? What are you trying to outsmart and avoid? What are your defense mechanisms?

Below are some illustrations of Brené's 10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living. These are practices and strategies people with high shame resilience have in common. Some may apply to you, some won't, but many of the things wholehearted living encourages us to let go of have been in place, protecting us, for most our lives. Which is why wholehearted living is a process and something to do every day.

Progress, not perfection.

Feel free to right-click, download, print and pin them somewhere you'll see them every day. Or make your own and post them on my Pinterest Board, let's get a collection going. I'd love to hear about your experiences and how you try to live whole-heartedly. :-)

10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living
10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living

10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living

10 Guideposts to Wholehearted Living
10 Guideposts to Wholehearted Living

1 Comment

Top 3 Challenges of Belonging

1 Comment

Top 3 Challenges of Belonging

Human beings are wired for connection. Even a hermit needs a crowd to get away from. Why can it be so difficult then to find the place we belong? Especially expats may be struggling with this question on a regular basis.

We don't want to offend anyone. When we arrive in a new country, we learn about customs, the language, and where not to put our hands or feet. It's a miracle when we find a local we get on with, and who likes us, too.

Brené Brown says,

True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world.

The first challenge is being yourself. When you have to contort who you are, you might fit in. Like when you learn a new language or remember not to grab food with your left hand or show the soles of your shoes in some countries. It's hard enough standing up for what you believe in in your native land. Outside of your own culture, when you're depending on other peoples' good will, there are more variables at play. Adapting to different practices may help you fit in, but fitting in isn't the same as belonging.

Sometimes, even fitting in isn't an option. As my 6-foot blonde German friend and I discovered when we joined about 20 Indians at a birthday party. We literally and figuratively stood out. If you look different, it's easy to expect differences. If you look like everyone else, it becomes more difficult to explain our cultural differences.

The second challenge is taking your self-worth off the table. Whether you learn that language or not, you are still a person worth of love and belonging. Just because you put your foot in your mouth (figuratively speaking) doesn't mean you have no right to be there. Everybody makes mistakes, and yes, as expats, some mistakes cost us dearly. You always have the choice to learn from the mistake and move on, try to do better next time. I'm willing to bet you're not the first nor the last one to make mistakes. You are still worthy of love and belonging.

The third challenge is knowing why we want to belong. Why are you wanting to fit in with this family, group, or organization? Are you maybe hoping to gain something other than the group is offering? Knowing why you want to belong can be helpful to understand what you're expecting to gain from the group, and what you are willing to contribute in return. If the best part of cooking class is getting to eat in the end, you don't need a group. Invite some friends, find recipes online, and try them at home.

Dr. Brown says that fitting in is the primary barrier to belonging, because generally, you have to change something about yourself to make yourself fit. I think in the case of expats, there's a lot to be said to appreciate and respect other cultures, and make an effort to learn. But as I hope these three challenges illustrate, your self-worth should never be on the line.

Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.

If you're new around here, welcome. If you're an expat, know that you belong to the exquisite phenomenal outstandingly awesome club that is made up of millions of other expats, going through the same change process. You're not alone.

Image by Aussigall, Flickr, Creative Commons License.

1 Comment


Heart-Centered Living

Leonardo da Vinci [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsYour heart was long thought to be the center of your being, the seat of your soul. English physician William Harvey wrote in 1653 that "The heart is situated at the 4th and 5th ribs. Therefore [it is] the principal part because [it is in] the principal place, as in the center of a circle, the middle of the necessary body."

Andreas de Laguna wrote in 1535 that "If indeed from the heart alone rise anger or passion, fear, terror, and sadness; if from it alone spring shame, delight, and joy, why should I say more?" (Both quotes from A History of the Heart.)

To live in a heart-centered way, there are three main areas to consider: physical exercise, nutrition, and emotional intelligence.

Aerobic exercise is useful for the heart to improve blood circulation and subsequent oxygen saturation in the cells. We've suggested dancing and jumping rope before, now how about walking? If the weather happens to be getting warmer where you are in the world, consider walking outside. If you like jogging and your joints are happy about it, walking really fast is always an option! You can start small and run for 2 minutes, walk for 2, and up the minutes running while winding restful walking minutes down as you get fitter.

What we put in our bodies is equally as important as how much we move them. I thoroughly enjoy the recipes on, and we've tried many of them. For example, this lentil version of the traditional shepherd's pie.

(You'll note the instructions are a lot more detailed than what I've put before - perhaps an indication of Type differences in Sensing and Intuiting? ;-))

Hearty Lentil and Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie

Nava writes, “There are no words to describe this recipe other than ‘a deep dish of absolute comfort.’”

Recipe is Copyright ©Nava AtlasVegan Holiday Kitchen, Sterling, 2011; pictures are mine. We used kale instead of spinach, soy instead of rice milk, added carrots, and didn't use oil, seasoning mix, or cornstarch. Now, the fresh thyme - that's what made the recipe. And rosemary.



  • 8 large or 10 medium potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons nonhydrogenated margarine*
  • 1/2 cup rice milk
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil*
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 ounces cremini or baby bella mushrooms
  • Two 15-ounce cans lentils, lightly drained but not rinsed (or about 3 1/2 cups cooked lentils with a little of their cooking liquid)
  • 2 tablespoons dry red wine, optional
  • 1 to 2 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos*
  • 2 teaspoons seasoning blend (such as Spike or Mrs. Dash)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot
  • 8 to 10 ounces baby spinach or arugula leaves
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs (gluten-free if needed)


  1. Peel and dice the potatoes. Place in a large saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. 
    Shepherd's Pie w/ breadcrumbsDrain and transfer to a small mixing bowl.
  2. Stir the margarine into the potatoes until melted, then add the rice milk and mash until fluffy. Cover and set aside until needed. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and mushrooms and continue to sauté until the onion is golden.
  4. Add the lentils and their liquid and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir in the optional wine, soy sauce, seasoning blend, thyme, and pepper. Cook gently for 5 minutes. Combine the cornstarch with just enough water to dissolve in a small container. Stir into the lentil mixture.
  5. Add the spinach, a little at a time, cooking just until it’s all wilted down. Remove from the heat; taste to adjust seasonings to your liking.
  6. Lightly oil a 2-quart (preferably round) casserole dish, or two deep-dish pie plates. Scatter the breadcrumbs evenly over the bottom. Pour in the lentil mixture, then spread the potatoes evenly over the top. If using two pie plates, divide each mixture evenly between them.
  7. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the potatoes begin to turn golden and slightly crusty. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, then cut into wedges to serve.

Susan’s Notes

*This recipe comes out equally delicious without the margarine or olive oil. Mash the potatoes with the rice milk only, and use a non-stick pan to sauté the onion, adding a splash of vegetable broth if needed to prevent sticking.

Most regular soy sauce contains gluten. Look for a specially-marked gluten-free version if you’re cooking for someone who’s gluten-sensitive and omit if soy is an issue.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s) | Cooking time: 1 hour(s)

Emotional intelligence helps keep our hearts healthy in that we can apply strategies and learn e.g. not to worry incessantly about things beyond our control. Stress is man-made and has physiological effects on the body and the heart; it quickens the beat and raises our blood pressure.

Whether you have Thinking or Feeling preferences, everybody experiences emotions. Understanding and managing them effectively enables you to lessen their negative impact. Here's where I find Brené Brown's work so groundbreaking: she found that we numb ourselves to avoid negative emotions. Fear, shame, embarrassment - we deal with them by e.g. eating too much, drinking too much, taking medication, or vegging out in front of the TV. The problem is that we cannot numb emotions selectively: if you numb your fear, you're numbing your joy at the same time. If you numb your shame, you're numbing your love at the same time. If you numb your embarrassment, you're numbing your empathy at the same time.

To allow your heart to feel happy, you have to allow it to feel sad. To not let that drag you down a vicious cycle, you have to acknowledge that all emotions happen and have value without getting overly attached to them. Even the good ones. Dr. Brown suggests embracing vulnerability, and if you've seen her video before, why not take a few minutes to review it. If you haven't seen it yet, please take 20 minutes of your time and enjoy:


Mind the Gap between what you Think you want and what you Actually want


Mind the Gap between what you Think you want and what you Actually want

This one's inspired by one of Brené Brown's Daring Greatly read-alongs. It's about paying attention to the gap between your aspirational goals and actual behavior and values. Here are some strategies you can apply to various topics. 

1st Question: How do you want to feel?

If it's joyful, get clear on what makes you feel joyful. If it's abundant, get clear on when you feel abundant. If it's balanced, get clear on what makes you feel balanced.

How can you get clear?

Pay attention, write a list, align your values, and make the choice.

What are you doing when you're the happiest?

Be mindful when you're happy and figure out which choices got you there. Do they have to do with buying gadgets or spending quality time? Reading a book or going to a party? Might take a few months of observation and becoming aware, but it's well worth the effort.

What are you doing when you're the most generous?

What are you doing when you're feeling balanced?

Next step: assess if your values align with what brings you joy.

What level or importance are you allocating to the actions that go you to feel what you wanted to feel? How much of a distance or congruence is there between what you think makes you happy, what actually makes you happy, and what you do?

It's your choice.

Remember it's ok to work at it. It doesn't have to be perfect from Day 1. When you compare yourself to others, know that you are enough, no matter where you are. In fact, try to compare yourself to an earlier version of yourself, and acknowledge how far you've come. 

There was an episode in The Cosby Show where Denise wanted to be a teacher. She had a conversation with a teacher at their kitchen table, and it became clear that Denise hadn't really thought things through. She'd have to go back to school, study, get a degree, pay her dues, work for years before getting paid. I think it was Mercedes Ruehl who had the line, "people have to work really hard to make things look easy".

Don't let anybody fool you into thinking that it's all talent, or that what you want isn't worth working for.

Image by raghavvidya, Flickr, Creative Commons License.



What I learned from Brene Brown, Victoria Pynchon, and Danielle LaPorte at the Texas Conference for Women in Austin

The Texas Conference for Women is a yearly event hosted by the State's First Lady. I learned about it from Brené Brown's speaking tour page, and promptly proceeded to a) put a proposal in myself, and b) buy a ticket. My break-out session for using Interaction Styles didn't get picked, but you know what that meant? More time to meet and learn from other inspiring rockstars - and sharing that here with you!  My trip began the day before, driving down from Dallas with my friend Megan. We chatted the whole way, sang out loud in the car, and had a great time bar-hopping on 6th Street, listening to live bands (favorite: Nothing Left), and yes: riding a mechanical bull. Yeehaw, my thighs are still sore.

The morning of the conference started beautifully - my cab didn't show, but two lovely ladies from the hotel gave me a lift. Generous spirits, I thank thee.

We made it in time to hear bits of the morning keynote and find the room for Brené's 10.00 am session "Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we Live, Love and Lead." In case you've been in a coma or living in a place that doesn't get TED, her blog is

I finished her book last week and LOVE the piece on using her findings in corporations, as well as the chapter on grounded theory. That's what I'm using over on as well, and when she signed my bookmark her best tips for finding impactful descriptors were using constant comparison and feeding it back to the people. Good advice.

And you know the absolute stand-out head and shoulders above best thing she does? Greeting people with a handshake, a smile, and a "hi, I'm Brené." Even super excited and girl crush star-struck lil ol' me who got all flustered and didn't know where to look. :-)

Here are my notes from her session:

  • I have the right to say: This is what I need right now. 
  • Vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure;
  • it's also the birthplace of faith joy love belonging courage trust creativity gratitude hope and any other positive emotion
  • Innovation doesn't happen without it
  • Courage is underpinned by it
  • How can we make engagement and passion cool again?
  • What do you do when you're vulnerable? Women tend to go into pleasing performing perfecting proving mode.
  • What's your definition of success?
  • It's ok to put some things/people/comments in the SUCK IT column.
  • Connection = having people who help dust you off and say, "sorry it didn't work out, but you were brave to try."
  • #1 reason people leave work is no feedback
  • Blame = discharge of pain & discomfort, part of the "anger" family
  • Vulnerability always has boundaries - share with appropriate people in appropriate contexts

Next up: Victoria Pynchon from telling us about "Knowing Your Value and Negotiating Your Worth." Hadn't planned on going but was pleasantly surprised - not just because I won one of her books!

My favorite reframes were a) that it's not selfish to ask for a raise or receive more money. When you ask women what they'd do with money, they invariably respond along the lines of helping out friends, family, and philanthropy. Most men, on the other hand, cite commercial objects like "buy a ferrari". We've already seen this in Half the Sky - give women money and they'll find a way to feed it back to society, and that has to be the opposite of selfish.

And b): "Negotiation is just a conversation leading to agreement." Boo yah.

My notes from this session:

  • We negotiate everyday; it's the peace we make in the world.
  • Research shows that women work 22 % longer and 10 % faster for the same reward.
  • We are all part of the wage gap and need to take it personally, because it doesn't only affect us in the short term - it also influences our retirement.
  • Example: female doctors make $350,000 less than men over a 30-year career.
  • Don't make yourself too small or too big - find the right size by being authentic.
  • Don't let yourself be treated like a servant.
  • Don't persist too much: Walking away is a valid and effective negotiation tactic. 
  • Recognize empty threats - and don't make them.
  • Disproportionate conflict resolution strategies don't work.
  • People are strange - don't assume you know what they're thinking.
  • ASK ASK ASK - learn what people want and match that up with your goals or offer something in exchange.
  • You can be happy AND rich. 
  • Make your first number aggressive to allow room for negotiation - people are more satisfied when they receive concessions.
  • We're not a bargaining culture, prepare to be accused of bad faith after 3 rounds of negotiation.
  • Recognize negotiation opportunities - every time to take out your wallet.
  • Men use distributive bargaining (how much of the pie?)
  • Women create value (and bake more pies so there's enough for everyone.)
  • Yielding / Integration = it's ok to use your female strengths, lead with what you're giving.
  • Shaming = potential dispute resolution tactic but inappropriate basically everywhere (see above or read Dr. Brown's books).
  • Persuasive argument = people make gut decisions and then backtrack to find logical argument.
  • Promise of future action = don't think of getting a raise as asking, you're exchanging benefits and delivering something in return
  • Threats of future action = you need to feel that you deserve to be there
  • Economic power is the game changer. Giving women economic power benefits society and culture as a whole due to their more collaborative approach to sharing the wealth.
  • Negotiation is just a conversation leading to agreement.
  • Ask diagnostic questions - what is it the other really wants?
  • Learn to self promote and do the dance of I'm really good at what I do.
  • Learn what your market value is at

Lunch was a little interrupted since I had to go outside to find a vegan meal - the chefs weren't able to accommodate. At least I didn't miss Brené's keynote - she actually had us all laughing, singing, dancing, and posing - I'll never forget the sound of 5,000 scraping chairs. It effectively demonstrated the neurobiological connection between movement and human connection as opposed to rigid stances when we're being cool and in control. There's simply no growth without movement, and vulnerability becomes that much harder when we're facing people in the rigid mindsets and body language.


Last but never least - Danielle LaPorte and her totally laid back and relaxed, tailored to the audience's questions session on "Your Big Beautiful Book Plan: How to Create a NY Times Bestseller". She was super gracious before the session, posed for pictures and signed books.

I finally bought a copy of The Fire Starter Sessions. It's a precious and beautiful piece of work, practical with the large margins and artistic in its layout. Eye and brain candy to boot.

Here are my notes from her session:

  • Be careful about who owns your content. Read the fine print!
  • There are many models to use, the factory model feeds search engines and can be monetized with ads.
  • Your Life Is Your Content. 
  • When looking for agents, publishing houses, designers... start at the top.
  • Put your book concept into two sentences. Be specific.
  • Cover letters have specs. If you break them, your creativity better be awesome.
  • Subscribe to
  • Some publishers open their doors to unsolicited material for one week of the year, check it out.
  • Be aware of your repurpose and e-rights before you sign anything.
  • Calculate your advance minus 15 % agent fee, minus 13 - 30 % taxes, and it's distributed in installments over several years.
  • Have a platform to help with marketing and proving you'll be able to sell to readers. 
  • Online content is most useful for "how to"s
  • How do you want your readers / customers to feel?
  • Getting on the NY Times Bestseller list is a science. Launch dates matter.
  • Look at your first book as your starter book.
  • 50 % of your book proposal content needs to be about marketing. 
  • If you decide to print yourself, you're in the publishing business and need licenses, codes, permissions etc.
  • Collect your stories on your blog. Share their message.
  • Polish it and lift it up!
  • Kids books only work as franchises and series.
  • Teen books may be interesting for parents, too. Mother-daughter connections.
  • Offer reader guides.
  • Get The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks
  • You know it's good enough when you get positive feedback on your blog from people other than your family and friends.
  • Push the boat out slowly.
  • Integrate and have one umbrella. Collapse it.
  • People come to your site for your energy. 
  • Have integrity and passion about your products.
  • Talk about your stuff where your people gather. Guest blog. 
  • Promote your products on your own website.
Let's see who they'll get as speakers for next year - I certainly enjoyed a day of learning and inspiration, refreshers and skill boosts, smiles and good vibes.
What did you take away? Please link to your blogs in the comments section so I can read your goodies. :-)
Blessin's, y'all.