Coddiwomple

(verb)
to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination

photo by Element5 Digital. Unsplash.

A friend sent me this word last week, a word she had stumbled upon quite serendipitiously. We are preparing for a short road trip, both of us knowing, yet not knowing, where and how we will be traveling, just knowing we need to. We’ve been called somewhere other than here, at least for a few days anyway.

I’m looking forward to coddiwompling; but to be honest, I’ve been in a coddiwomple state for a few years now, most recently the past few months. I’m anxious to put my fingers to the keyboard again and put words to a few happenings. Like this week.

On Monday, I had no idea that by Wednesday I would be getting a root canal on a tooth that had been damaged from a freak accident a few years ago.

Today, I am good.

And life goes on.

I’ve been reading about ordering, disordering, and reordering. I think coddiwompling has something to do with this. Something to do with unplanned root canals. And something to do with continuing to travel not always knowing the destination.

More on all this very soon.

But for now, I’m off to coddiwomple. Won’t you join me?

One Year Post-Relaunch Recap (career re-entry for women)

Winter Park Chamber of Commerce Relaunch Class 2 Graduates,
April 30, 2019
.

***

Re·launch:
a career re-entry program for professional women.

I could give Relaunch a plug like a happy holiday letter, but this approach would not capture the full truth of this program. And it’s the full truth—that which includes the hard work and digging deep–that has challenged me at midlife to find my place in my full self.

April 30, 2019, I graduated from Relaunch with a group of incredible, smart, wise women, all of us trying to navigate our next professional step. Relaunch, a program offered through the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce by President and CEO Betsy Gardner Eckbert, provides foundational job skills, mock interviews, and renewed direction. An equally valuable piece for me though, was hearing other women share their obstacles and concerns, while listening to Betsy consistently emphasize our worth. Everything we did during our time away from corporate America is all transferrable she iterated again and again.

Yes, all of it.

Caregiving; managing homes, people, and problems; volunteering for schools, nonprofits, communities, and places of worship; and for some, overcoming health setbacks. Ponder all of this right now in the context of a pandemic and notice how valuable these skills are to the wellbeing of our communities. Our skills, both hard and soft, are more than transferrable. They are essential. 

Betsy challenged us to explore questions like: 

What is that “thing” that you do?

I mean really, what is “it” that you are most passionate about? 

We plotted a plan to go do our thing, understanding that the process takes work, time, sometimes compromise, and sometimes standing firm; more than one, two, or three tries, and a bit of dogged determination. But above all else, a key factor emphasized keeping our eyes on our vision.  

Graduation Speech
I was honored to have spoken at graduation. I chose to read my speech, as opposed to memorizing it, not because I was nervous (which I was), but because what I spoke about was raw and still too real for me to easily air, especially to a large audience that I mostly did not know. Reading was most doable. 

I spoke about challenges and doubts leading up to Relaunch, including four significant deaths in a 14-month period, the last funeral happening the week of Relaunch’s first class. I chose to show up though, to step out and to hopefully step up. And so, I decided—ready or not—to also step out and read a graduation speech with my best effort. Giving my best, in the context of my current state, was what Relaunchers do. 

Debby Kerr-Henry delivering a Relaunch graduation speech at the Alfond Inn, Winter Park, Florida, April 30, 2019. Career re-entry for women.
Listen to Debby’s 7-minute Speech

One Year Later
Today, I’m still stepping out and slowly stepping up toward my authorpreneur vision of offering writing and speaking services that promote self-care, -awareness, and 
-understanding. I specialize in empowering women to honor their unique stories, something I learned even more about in Relaunch. My vision board strategically sits on my desk touting “Momentous Living: better self, better world.” 

Top Six Tasks
In a nutshell, these are “My Top Six Post-Relaunch Tasks” that are getting me closer to doing that thing that I do best:

  • Developing my Momentous Living website/blog and mastering SEO. This is still a huge work-in-progress, but a critically defining and gratifying one.
  • Clarifying my writing and speaking services, which focus on nonfiction storytelling. 
  • Offering and expanding Embodiment™ Memoir Writing Classes. (Promo video and future classes coming soon).
  • Working towards Distinguished Toastmaster, the highest honor in Toastmasters International, a prestigious public-speaking organization founded in 1924.
  • Completing a refresher course and certification in editing to provide an additional service for best capturing stories of dignity, beauty, and fortitude.
  • Staying grounded in my “shaping” core values: Simplicity, Humor, Authenticity, Perseverance, Intentionality, Nourishment, Grace.

Satisfying Balance
Sometimes I wish I were further along my post-Relaunch journey (however “further along” is defined). But mostly I’m satisfied with my first year out, as it has been packed with a balance of hard work and enrichment, doubts and setbacks, and “super proud” accomplishments like winning a speech contest, successfully launching and teaching memoir writing classes, and further defining who I am as a writer, speaker, and authorpreneur. But I mostly appreciate an inner gratitude that keeps me traveling along my path, knowing that this path is the only one that will reveal my full self, my full truth, raw and so very real. 

Well Wishes
To the confines of my home to yours, wishing all my fellow Relaunchers continued forward movement through this pandemic and far, far beyond. 

We’ve got this!

***

Please, stay well.
Please, stay tuned.
And please, stay momentous.

Dignity: worthy of honor

As we witness the closure of this season’s magnolia blossoms, I am reminded of one of my favorite movies, Steel Magnolias. The title borrows a term that means both femininity and fortitude, a depiction of its characters and of the word “Dignity,” meaning worthy of honor. I mention Steel Magnolias in my book in “Contemplation #8—Community: doing life with others.”

If you haven’t seen this dramady, I highly recommend it. Not just because of its more-than-stellar cast, but because the tragedy, based on the true story of the death of the playwright’s sister, is rich with life. It’s main characters—old and young, wealthy and poor, bold and timid, mean-spirited and righteous—embrace each other’s diversities, struggles, and idiosyncrasies, illustrating what beautiful stories can develop when colorful characters unite. It’s this type of community that values people by their humanity, not by their perfection. And it’s only with this perspective that a drama far beyond one’s imagination can magically and mysteriously unfold.

As our remaining magnolias fade, dare to embrace dignity, and breathe in life’s craziness, the present, the divine; all worthy of honor.

***

Please, stay well.
Please, stay tuned.
And please, stay momentous.

I dedicate this month’s blogging in support of April: Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month. See RAINN.org for resources and to learn how to provide positive support to survivors.

Transforming Trauma into Triumph

Sexual abuse survivor Jessica Dailey sitting at her laptop. Dailey's work focuses on transforming trauma into triumph.
Jessica Dailey’s podcasts at Diamond Mind Radio focus on
transforming trauma into triumph.


I met Jessica Dailey at a women’s networking event. She sponsored a booth for Diamond Mind Radio, her podcast project, where she “believes that sharing stories of empowerment and strength will not only contribute a POSITIVE perspective, it will ignite the passion within and be a catalyst to reaching the next level you!” 

Jessica’s work in the area of sexual abuse awareness and prevention triggered a slew of thoughts. I naturally wondered about her abuse story. But I mostly wanted to know what was happening with her now, and how she appeared to be transforming trauma into triumph. 

Besides hosting her podcasts, Jessica is also a certified occupational therapy assistant, family & youth coordinator, photographer, mother, and fire wife. She’s in that busy season, so I was/am most thankful for her sharing her time to answer some relevant questions to Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention Month.  

1. You were sexually abused as a child. When and how did you decide to tell someone?

I don’t have an exact age. What I can tell you is that they are some of my very first memories. I always had this knowing within me that I would finally be able to tell someone. I just never had the courage. I actually told myself that I would tell my “bestest” friends when I was 16. Why I picked 16 is beyond me. Maybe it forced me to mentally prepare for “telling.” I actually ended up telling a couple of my best girlfriends at age 16 and my now husband at age 17. 

I do think there was a “how“ I decided, but I feel it was more about the “why.” I wanted to protect my little sister. I wanted to break the cycle. I didn’t want to keep living in shame and guilt. I wanted to be free from all the dysfunction and all the self-sabotaging. I wanted to feel pure happiness being me, and I knew I could never own that if I remained silent. (Listen to Jessica’s first, second and third podcasts for more about her story). 

2. How has your sexual abuse affected you?

Ah…this is a great question in which I could be here forever explaining my answer. Actually, in my podcast there is an answer to this question in each episode when I think about it. So, I will try to touch on some main points. 

  • It has affected EVERY area of my life, without a doubt. My childhood was not all bad, however it is infested with traumatic memories that made me who I am today. 
  • After therapy and my self-healing journey, I have been able to control how it affects me today for a majority of the time. Prior to that, I was a mess! I did not value myself. I had low self-esteem. I would self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, which started at a very young age. 
  • I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which can be challenging for me.  
  • I had to work on intimacy which was and still can be challenging. 
  • Becoming a mother was another challenge. It ultimately led me to where I am today. I founded my podcast, Diamond Mind Radio, and work with children because of my past trauma in hopes to help at least one person. 

My goal for myself is to turn my trauma into something beautiful and to show that what I went through does not define who I am. It only makes me stronger. 

3. What is your most difficult hurdle still?

Hmmm…I really have to think about this because I feel so great about where I am today. I think my most difficult hurdle would probably be balance right now in my life. I am a people pleaser and want to make everyone happy. I am really having to take a step back and reevaluate my priorities which is very difficult for me because I truly love everything I am currently involved in. As a child I was always wanting to keep the peace and make everyone happy. I have come to a place of awareness within myself that I can only control what I can control. The rest is in God’s hands and I am okay with that. 

4. I understand that you provide sexual abuse education in the public schools. Can you tell me about that? Is this a class? What do you teach? 

I advocate for the Safer Smarter Kids Curriculum developed by Lauren’s Kids to be taught at all our schools here in Volusia County. The curriculum is for pre-K through high school students. I have facilitated the curriculum at our local elementary school and now teach it to high school students. The curriculum covers imperative topics such as cyber safety and safe versus unsafe secrets. It is a wonderful way to prevent child abuse. Check out the Safer Smarter Schools curriculum.

5. The MeToo Movement speaks out against sexual harassment and sexual assault. Do you see yourself as part of this movement? Please explain.

Yes, I suppose so. I say this because part of my purpose is to educate and bring awareness. I am able to do this by sharing my story and having my podcast as a platform for others to share their story as well.

6. Like with preventive health, can women do anything to help reduce their chances of being sexually harassed or assaulted?  

Education is key. My podcast covers a variety of topics to educate people. (Rape, Abuse & Incest National network also provides helpful Safety & Prevention information at its website: RAINN.org).  

7. You have a son and daughter. How old are they and how do you educate them on the topic of sex?

My son William is 13 and my daughter is 9. My husband and I are very honest with them, having knowledge of the safe or smart or kids’ curriculum it has been quite easy to use those tools to educate them about sex. I also find it very important to let my children know that they can come to us with any question and not to feel ashamed ever. 

8. What message would you tell girls and women about body image?

Another great question! The way we feel inside has a lot to do with how we feel about our outside appearance. If you are feeling bad or unhappy about yourself take time to check in with your mental health and nutrition. It has always helped me to know that we are all different, and I promise myself to never compare myself to others. This promise keeps me focused on who I am. Body Image is not just who you see in the mirror. It is so much more. If you feel unhappy, “Why is that?” Embrace your flaws and your perfections, and all the things that make you…You! 

Check out Episode 8 where Jessica discusses three mindset shifts that pushed her into her best life: 

  1. Jumping in even when she was scared.
  2. Changing her thoughts to change her world. 
  3. And always doing the “right by me” thing. 

9. How do you stay strong and focused? What do you do when you’re not? 

Mindset is so important to me and doing all I can to foster a strong mindset. That is why I named my podcast Diamond Mind Radio. As far as staying focused, I set priorities and keep the end result in mind. When I am not (focused), this usually means I am unbalanced, need a break, and/or it’s time to reflect on myself/life. 

***

Did you know that every 98 seconds an American is assaulted?
Did you also know that awareness leads to prevention?

Woman of Dignity: a tribute to my grandmother

Two years ago today, my 99-year-old grandmother passed on. She was one of those women in my life who lifted up and laughed often; someone who brought out the blossoms in me…one, two, three. My grandmother was a woman of Dignity.

Debby Kerr-Henry with her grandmother.
My grandmother stood up against abuse and literally changed my life course.

***

I dedicate this month’s blogging in support of April: Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month. See RAINN.org for resources and to learn how to provide positive support to survivors.

The Attitude Influence, Part 3

Conflict is like having car problems. I don’t think anybody rejoices when their vehicle gets a flat tire, or the engine light flashes, or the GPS doesn’t work. Car problems require time, money, and patience. And so it is with relationships too. Relationships, like cars, require care and maintenance, and sometimes they need time, money, and patience to address conflict. It’s just the nature of the beast. So when LeAnn talked about how conflict could be a good thing, my inquiring mind wanted to know more. 

Debby: You say on page 37 that “…conflict is sometimes a good thing. Despite my BAT (bad attitude type), some of the conflicts I have had due to perceived injustices have provided me the clarity of what is and is not acceptable to my core values.” Can you provide any insights or suggestions on how to navigate through conflict well?

LeAnn:

  1. Find your voice. For anything good or healthy to come out of a conflict, both parties need a voice. If you never express your views, I recommend you evaluate the health of the relationship. It could be the relationship you have with your significant other, your boss, a parent, a child, or a friend.
  2. Choose your battles. Save the fight for the things that truly matter. If every conflict is about personal annoyances, pet peeves, and bad attitudes, you may be at risk of destroying a meaningful relationship. I think about the early days of my marriage. Things were so much more volatile in our relationship as we navigated through personal preferences, parenting, finances, running a house, and creating a home. It’s essential to understand the difference between values and feelings that are worth a conflict versus you wanting your way. Ask yourself, will this matter in six months?
  3. Listen. We spend way more time defending our position than we do genuinely listening to the other person. There is so much love and respect to be found in listening to someone and sincerely hearing what they are telling you. 
  4. Don’t define feelings by telling someone else what they’re feeling, how they should feel, or to justify their feelings. There could be a long list of reasons why people feel the way they do. We are not always privy to the stories or challenges of another person. There is also a chance that their feelings are the consequence of their insecurities or deep-seated pain. Every person’s opinions, beliefs, and attitudes are a result of their unique experiences in life. Promote vulnerability and honesty over your agenda.
  5. Manage your emotions. Don’t make the other person your emotional punching bag. Sometimes we take out our insecurities, frustrations, and hurt on the people we love the most. The right people want you to feel worthy, empowered, and safe. Trust their intentions. Making someone else feel small will never bring you peace.

“As I answered these questions,” LeAnn said, “I felt the urge to add the caveat of grace. Every relationship consists of imperfect people. At any moment, people can be unkind, impatient, or inconsiderate. The moment we begin to expect perfection from the people joining us in our journey through life, we risk losing the extraordinary experience of meaningful connections. The business of being human can be quite messy–and quite complicated. But the “right” people, the kind people, the ones who love and care for us, are worth it.”

Stay well,
stay tuned,
and stay momentous.

***

I dedicate this month’s blogging in support of April: Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month. See RAINN.org for resources and to learn how to provide positive support to survivors.

The Attitude Influence, Part 2

I love that LeAnn talks about non-negotiables in her book. I unfortunately figured out my non-negotiables after going through a divorce. I realized after my marriage ended, that I had recognized (during my engagement) qualities in our relationship that I didn’t like. But because there were so many others that I loved and appreciated, I chalked up the things that bothered me as normal differences that every couple needed to learn to overcome; after all, none of us are “perfect.” I focused only on the good, disregarding—out of lack of self-awareness and understanding—the things that churned my insides.

But, those things that bothered me were big things that should have been non-negotiables, things that we should have talked about and explored to figure out whether or not we could work through them. But that didn’t happened. And in the end, a marriage with strengths and beautiful memories, ultimately dissolved. 

Today, I share my second question for LeAnn, and her answer:

Debby: How do you recommend people discern between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors/habits/challenges? 

LeAnn: My value system is what determines my non-negotiables. I will not be in a relationship with people who lack compassion or kindness. Nor will I tolerate racist, bigoted, or misogynistic behaviors. If you disregard the dignity and humanity of others, I will sever ties with you. I also refuse to tolerate abuse in any form. As children, we are too vulnerable to defend ourselves against people who bully, abuse, or exploit us. As a middle-aged woman, I have worked hard to take back any power I lost in my younger years to these types of people.

Never Again
There is someone in my extended family who I am very close to and who I love very much. Unfortunately, when this person drinks, they are verbally abusive. I have had a pattern of getting upset, not speaking to them for a few days (or weeks), and ultimately sweeping their bad behavior under the rug. One day, after a particularly harsh interaction, I had an a-ha moment. I thought, If Jimmy (my husband) ever spoke to me that way, I would leave him. My husband is my favorite human being—my absolute soul mate; and in that moment, placing him in that verbally abusive role became my channel marker for my non-negotiables. I said, “Never again,” to the one person who I still tolerated abuse from, by understanding that I would not tolerate it from my husband, the person who held the longest history of loving and caring for me.

See tomorrow’s blog to read LeAnn’s answer to: 
Can you provide any insights or suggestions on how to navigate through conflict well?

In the meantime,
stay well,
stay tuned,
and stay momentous.

***

I dedicate this month’s blogging in support of April: Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month. See RAINN.org for resources and to learn how to provide positive support to survivors.

The Attitude Influence, Part 1

“If you don’t like something, change it.
If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
—Maya Angelou


I recently read The Attitude Influence by LeAnn Shaw. It’s her first book. And it’s good. I can appreciate the process she went through to give life to her thoughts, wisdom, and to her words. She talks about choosing the people we’re around, people with positive attitudes. People who project healthy energy. This mindset can be the difference between succumbing or overcoming any type of adversity. 

The “Right” People
LeAnn says that it’s important to understand what is and is not acceptable to our well-being, and that a lot of that has to do with surrounding ourselves with the right people. I interpret “right” as those who build up, not tear down, as in collective grit (see April 1 post). As much as I get what she’s saying, surrounding ourselves with those who build up isn’t always so black and white. To add more insight, I asked LeAnn three follow-up questions. Today, I share my first question and LeAnn’s answer.

Debby: You talk about surrounding yourself with the “right” people. What are your determining factors in whether or not you work on a difficult relationship or exit it? 

LeAnn: I think everyone has different criteria for defining the “right” people to surround themselves with; and at times it was an emotionally draining process for me to discover my criteria.

In my book, I talk about an interview I heard with Dr. Maya Angelou. In the interview, Dr. Angelou compares toxic people to ducks that peck away at your soul. That was such a powerful visual for me to reflect upon in my relationships. I asked myself, when I am with this person:

  • Do I feel as though they peck away at my soul?
  • Do I spend a lot of time defending myself?
  • Do I have moments where I feel “less than” (less worthy, less happy, etc.)? 

If I consistently answer “yes” to these questions, I believe it is a clear indication that it is time to exit the relationship.

When I started paying closer attention to how I felt around others, I knew that for me, the “right” people were those who built me up, and whose intentions I did not question when they told me a painful truth. These are the people whom I instinctively know to create joy, peace of mind, and a connection that matters. I know that my life feels fuller because they are a part of it. These relationships provide the freedom to be authentic. I don’t have to pretend to be something I’m not when I’m with the “right” people.

See tomorrow’s blog to read LeAnn’s answer to:
How do you recommend people discern between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors/habits/challenges?

In the meantime,
stay well,
stay tuned,
and stay momentous.

***

I dedicate this month’s blogging in support of April: Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month. See RAINN.org for resources and to learn how to provide positive support to survivors.

Awareness Leads to Prevention

Photo by Kat J on Unsplash

Did you know?

  • Every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted.
  • 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18.
  • 1 in 5 children who touches a computer will be sexually solicited online.
  • 45% of child victims will not disclose abuse for 5 or more years.
  • More than 10,000 victims report sexual assault in Florida each year, and the majority of victims do not report to law enforcement.
  • Child sexual abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.

Did you also know?

95 percent of sexual abuse is preventable through education and awareness; and with guidance and support, victims can heal into thriving survivors.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Be in the know.

Check out www.laurenskids.org for resources.

Lauren’s story.

(Statistics from Lauren’s Kids).

My 30-day Challenge

So, I decided if we are now on a 30-day lock down, that I would make the best of it (focus on the cans, not the cannots) and work through a 30-day challenge, starting today. I decided to focus on four areas: reading, writing, cleaning/organizing, and self-care. Maybe you’d like to join me in your own 30-day challenge. Here’s mine:

Self-care: I love to work out, but my habit of inconsistency doesn’t produce the best results. In fact, it can cause setbacks with increased recovery time, soreness, and injuries that could easily be prevented with a routine (trust me on this). I actually completed several fun runs October through March, and did have fun, but felt a few of them for a few days afterwards from lack of training. Having said that, I plan to add jogging and strength training back in with my cycling this month. Last night I loaded the NikeRunClub app so my sons can now taunt me when I’m being a couch potato. I figured they would provide me with the best accountability. (see January 6 post for a quick self-care assessment).

And finally, reading and writing on a daily basis (I look forward to this); and cleaning/organizing my laptop, office, kitchen and filing cabinets (I look forward to this as well). When life seems a bit unbearable, organizing always lifts my spirits. 

So maybe you’d like to tackle something in the next 30 days too. If so, I’d love to hear what you’re up to. Leave me a comment.  

Looking Ahead: Next week I plan to post my “Dignity” piece, a story I wrote last year, but will release it for the first time in this month of April—Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month. Be looking for that, as well as a Dignity product I’ll be selling to raise money for RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network). 

Please stay tuned.
Please stay well.
And please, stay momentous!

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