The Power of Proud

Do you ever sit down and think about the power of proud?  The importance of not only achieving things that make other people proud, but also being proud of yourself?  Oddly enough, for as much as we crave for others to be proud of us, it is even more challenging to be proud of ourselves.  It’s almost as if our own state of proud relies heavily on whether or not someone else is satisfied with our accomplishments.  It is only in those moments that we achieve the fulfillment.

I’ve recently been re-watching The Office.  I came across an episode in which Pam, who is “just the office secretary” decides to showcase some of her artwork at her very first school art show.  I relate very much to Pam, in that, I am kind of bad at not only believing in myself, but also taking compliments, or believing them whenever they come from other people.  That’s what makes showcasing talents, such as sharing writing, so hard.  Even in the moments that I feel proud of my work, it’s hard for me to believe that someone else is too. Or that maybe my talents are not comparable to others.  Anyway, back to Pam.  So, here she is at her art show, a show that she has invited many of her coworkers and friends to attend.  As she is looking around, she notices that most of her classmates are talking to people, showing their work off, receiving compliments, and altogether living in the moment of proud.  Yet, she is standing alone, staring quietly at her own work, wondering if it is good enough.  She is finally thrilled when looking up to spot her boyfriend walking towards her, but, her excitement is quickly deflated when he takes a quick look and then exits, with no real encouragement, or even a pat on the back.  Things only get worse when she overhears Oscar and a friend talking very negatively, even using the term “uninspiring” to describe her work.  In these moments, Pam is as far from living in that proud moment as a person could be.  She is feeling defeated, and automatically assumes that she should just give up art all together.

But then, something happens.

Michael Scott enters the room.  And, if you’re a fan of The Office, you know that he might be the last person you expect to be serious enough to truly inspire.  Yet, he looks at Pam’s artwork in a state of awe.  “You did this?”  He asks her.  “Wow!” he exclaims.  “This is incredible.”  Pam smiles, nearly tearing up, looking at Michael.  “How much?”  He adds, wanting to buy a piece of her work.  Pam is shocked, thrown off even.  “You want to buy a piece of my art?”  Everything changes.  The camera fades out, showing Pam glowing, looking truly accomplished.  Proud of herself.

That is the power of proud.  Despite the negativity that surrounded the night, that moment of Michael being proud truly inspired Pam to not give up on her dream.  I can’t explain it, but, it is so hard for us to tell people that we are proud of them.  Perhaps it is that we are afraid of how they will respond, or that we may sound silly for overusing the statement, “I am proud of you.”   I think it may be one of the most important sentences that we encounter in our lives.  Do you remember being little and just wanting your parents, teachers, loved ones to be proud of you?  I can remember the hanger in mouth smile that would cross my face if my parents told me they were proud.  Yet now, when someone tells me they are proud, I almost feel embarrassed, like I shouldn’t show my excitement.  A short “thank you” and a blush tends to be my response.  But, why?  I think that circles back around to the being proud of ourselves struggle.

We need to learn to stand tall in our accomplishments, to be truly happy no matter how small they may seem.  If I share a story that only inspires five people, three people, one person…that is still a story worth telling.  I’ve read some interesting stuff lately about things such as blogs, podcasts, newspapers, websites, etc.., not being beneficial if they don’t get that crowd reach.  Of course, the ultimate goal is to reach as many listeners/viewers/readers as possible when starting such a journey.  But, should we quit if we don’t get that response?  Should we lose the proud because we aren’t reaching hundreds or thousands?  I don’t think so.  Unfortunately, everything seems to be measured only by numbers.  Even our social media…especially that.  We are constantly checking to see how many likes we have, and if it’s not enough, we are not enough.

How do we measure proud?  How should we?  I think we’ll all have our own answers, but, one thing we should agree on is the power of sharing the words “I am proud of you.”  Whether that be to our loved ones, or looking in the mirror.  I don’t think we truly realize the impact those five words can have.    We need to pay attention to those around us, notice what makes them feel proud.  We all have different areas in our life that need encouragement.  Something insignificant to us can be so big to someone else.  The power of proud comes in to play when we pay attention to each other.   We need more of that.

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If Only I Could Go Back…

“If you could go back in the past and change anything, what would you change?”

I remember getting asked that question a lot, and often times could come up with a lengthy list of things that I would change, without a doubt.  There are plenty of words I would put back in my mouth, and others that I didn’t say, that I would have, had I known it was my last opportunity.  People I would have given more of a chance, and those I could have spared myself from.  Not to mention all the bad haircuts.  But, growing to be what I’d like to think is wiser over the last few years, I question completely if I would change any of it, even in the smallest capacity.

It’s funny how inspiration can come from anywhere.  In this case, my thought wheel began spinning while watching an episode of Star Trek. In the episode, titled, Tapestry, Captain Picard is seriously injured, and on the brink of death.  During this time, he is taken on a journey throughout his life and career, and given the opportunity to change moments and situations in which he thinks he failed.

Initially there is an internal battle about toying with the past…

“Surely you must realize that any alteration in this timeline will have a profound impact on the future.”

Yet, alas, when placed in the moment of actually reliving that past, he caves and begins trying to fix his errors.  Here he is able to save his adolescent self from the battle that led to him having an artificial heart, the same heart that is failing him as he lies on the table; yet in doing so, he also ruins a friendship and loses respect, and dignity.   This change aided in Picard being deemed as more of the cowardly lion than the bold and brave Captain that he would become.  In fact, in returning, he’s no longer a captain at all, rather some behind the scenes lieutenant, (Forgive me, I’m not good with these titles, my boyfriend will correct me, no doubt!)

“If you want to get ahead you have to take chances…” this new version of Picard is told, upon realizing that his responsibility is much less now, his job, not as fulfilling.

In experiencing this out of body experience, Captain Picard quickly realizes that his original theory, that past alterations would greatly impact his future, is one that he should have stuck to and followed.

“I would rather die as the man I was than live the life I just saw.”

But, of course, in true television fashion, he doesn’t die. He returns to the life he knew before that experience, coming to the realization that even the terrible things, the mistakes we think we make, end up shaping us, and our futures.

We’ve all had the moments of, “If only I could go back…”

But would you?  Is the change of the past worth the change of the future?

Is becoming the person you could have been worth compromising the person that you already are?

#SheWhoDaresProject – Ashley May

Chances are if you live in Claremore, or the surrounding areas, you will recognize Ashley May as the face of moreClaremore, ensuring that you don’t miss any happenings in the community.

“The original point of moreClaremore was to be a cohesive platform where one could go and find out all the latest happenings in town. We also wanted to give the “little guy” advertising opportunities that wouldn’t break the bank. We consider ourselves “connectors” in the community. We have had a lot of success connecting people to make their ideas come to fruition.”

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Being that connector, you’ll most generally find Ashley with a smile on her face, however, it hasn’t been all sunshine over the last year.

 “I was diagnosed with breast cancer in February of this year, after my first mammogram. I was 38. I was fortunate that it was caught early, just a random fluke. I was shocked when I found out that the age for mammograms isn’t 40 anymore; it’s actually 35 now.  We have a following of 29k on moreClaremore, so with my boss’ blessing, I took to the site to tell my story and spread the word about early detection.”

Shocked to learn of her diagnosis, she knew it was her duty to educate others.

 “I figure God gave me a platform, so I might as well use it.”

These words are the mantra May uses to remind herself the power of sharing her story to emphasize the importance of early detection. When asked to give one piece of sound advice to ambitious women around the world, she simply states, “Get a mammogram!”

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Ashley is proud to surround herself with supportive women.  A couple of her leading ladies, and those she counts most influential are her mom, Dori, and her boss, Amy.

“My mom is one of my best friends, she’s always been there for me. She was a single mom for a while, and she has always supported my decisions.  Amy just exudes confidence and class, she’s not afraid to speak up for what she believes in, and she has taught me a lot about rolling with the punches and not letting life get you down.”

That “roll with the punches” attitude has led Ashley to step outside of her comfort zone, and embrace herself and her body by keeping up with a fitness routine.

“I’m almost 40 and I’m learning to be comfortable in my own skin. Women are under a lot of pressure to look a certain way, so that’s some of it. I feel like I’m finally coming into my own after the mess this last year has been; cancer and divorce together aren’t fun. Working to be fit, even though I have a long way to go, is something that I have control over. And I enjoy the camaraderie that comes with being with my girls at the gym. I also think it’s important to teach my kiddo that it’s important to be fit and healthy.

 

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Though it hasn’t always been easy, Ashley May has made the decision to stand strong and persevere. A mother, survivor, community leader, friend, and educator.  The qualities of a “She Who Dares” woman are truly exemplified.

Her favorite scripture?  Psalm 56:4, “In God I trust, I will not be afraid.”

Keep living fearless, sister. Shine on!

 

 

Life Map

In my mind, there is a well-traveled road that leads from the highs and lows of my past, to the unknown that is my future.  Somewhere in the middle, in the present, is the only true resting place.  However, far too often it is the hardest place for me to stop.  The road sign pointing to the past seems to appeal in times of question and regret.  Times when I wonder if where I am is where I’m supposed to be, or if the wrong turn, years ago taken, forever paved the wrong road.  Yet, the one pointing in the direction of my future appeals to the excitement, the wondering of what is to come.  It grabs my anxiety by the hand, and becomes the truest of running buddies, sprinting me so fast towards the next chapter that I completely disregard the present.  I forget to stop and smell the roses, or, whatever it is they say.

We often times find ourselves talking about past experiences, past relationships, past decisions.  Sure, these things define us.  If we have a relationship that was bad, or difficult, or even good, but, just not the right timing, those people and those relationships still helped in creating the person we are now.  Alas, we probably shouldn’t just forget them all together, but, how much do we truly share, and continue to share in our future personal relationships?  We are supposed to be open books, right?  But, once the book has been read, how many more times are we supposed to read it?  Do we read, and highlight, and study, and go all book club with our girlfriends to determine every missing piece?  Or, does that in turn define that person as the person they were then, in that relationship, rather than the person they are now?  If we overcome those pieces of us, isn’t it almost like we really should be introducing ourselves as the people we are rather than the people we were?  I believe in sharing situations when habits are introduced that require explanation.  But, how much should the old us be present in the new?  Or, do we truly ever change?  I think so. Take the divorcee, the previously abused, the unfaithful, the cancer survivor, the one that grew up in poverty.  All these people changed into different versions of themselves, whether by choice, or by circumstance.  Some of them so broken that they fell into what felt like pieces on the floor, but, eventually put themselves back together; the same person, but different.  Stronger.  More determined. So, do these people continue to carry themselves as the newer version, placed back together, even sometimes noticeably…or do they continue to introduce themselves as the person before the heartbreak, the disease, or the wealth?  It gets sticky.

Flipping that around, what about those of us who live so far in the future that we forget to experience the now?  I’m guilty of being that person.  A lot.  More than I care to admit sometimes. I’m thirty one years old, never married, no kids, starting a completely new career.  Shouldn’t I at least have one of these things together?  Shouldn’t I have something so good at this point that someone wants to look at me with envy?  I’ve done everything right, so why am I still here?  Still stuck?  In looking back, I’ve been a different person in the past.  I’ve been split into many pieces on the floor, and, just as the others, I’ve overcome it.  Stronger. More determined.  More aware.  The word success is defined so differently by so many different people.  I know I’ve shard my thoughts on it before, but, I truly define success as the achievement of both time and value.  Time management.  Time for healthy relationships, healthy lifestyle, new experiences.  And I live that.  Right here in the now.

Whenever I stand back and look at my life, leaving aside the stress or confusion of the past, and the anxiety of the future, I realize that my present is pretty darn amazing.  One, in fact, that a lot of people would kill to have.  I hold a great relationship with all of my close family.  My “kids” might not yet be my own, but I get to be the world’s greatest aunt (what? I can say that!) to my nieces.  I get to be a good example, and a role model to my littles at school.  I have healthy personal relationships.  I’m confident in knowing that I care deeply for those that I love, and that I would never be a hesitation to call if they needed anything.  I take care of myself, I experience.

Life paints a weird map.  For me, there is a constant back and forth.  Even in knowing that the present is good, the past and the future often times empty my tank.  Maybe finding the amount of “vacation” time we are allowed in each of the two is the true answer.  Or, maybe there’s not one.  Despite it all, I choose to be happy in traveling my road.

Value Savings Account

“What you value, you invest in…”

Have you ever really thought about that statement?  Though unknowingly I seem to hold it in high regards, I’ve never really had it placed right in front of me, or thoroughly thought about the things I value.  Somehow I stumbled upon a guy on Facebook, giving a bit of a rant about buying flowers at the grocery store.  I was just about to shut the video off when he shared that statement.  It caught my attention.  I thought, wow, powerful.  And so true.

If you look up value, in a nutshell it means that someone or something is held in high regards to you, they are deserving, important, or worthy of your time.  So, I started thinking about the things that I value, and truly have had to question just how much of an investment I make in them.

For instance, I value God, and my relationship with Him dearly.  But, do I invest it that value as much as I should?  Not entirely.

I value my body.  But, do I invest in my taking care of it, feeding it the proper nutrients, sticking to exercise and fitness?  Not entirely.

I value my mental stability, but, do I invest in paying attention to the things that are causing me pain, or the outlets that I am letting interfere.  Not entirely.

I value my friends and my family, but do I invest enough time in checking in, following up, checking on their health and their mental stability?  Not entirely.

So, why?  Why is it so hard to truly invest in the people and things we value.  In looking at my greatest values, the common pattern is that everything in some form is a relationship.  Whether it be with myself, or others, there is that common connection.  And what is even more terrifying is that I tend to get very upset or frustrated with those included in said relationships, whenever they do not appear to  invest in my value enough.  When I feel unloved, unnoticed, or not valued, I become the ugly crying girl in those generic TV movies.  Yet, not only am i playing the ugly crying girl, but, in realizing my lack of investment, I’m also playing the part of the villain.

Sometimes, it seems, that more investment is applied in noticing the things that are not happening in our lives or relationships, rather than focusing on the investment of the things that can, and are in fact, meant to grow and gain interest.  It’s not pretty, but, my “Value Savings Account” tends to be a give and take process more than the give and grow.   For instance, let’s say I have the perfect day.   Everything goes in the way that I have envisioned, I wear a smile, and my valued crown, and drop some pretty pennies in my account.  Though in theory, there should be gain from this, it so often seems that one bad day brings me to the bank to empty the account.  This is not how life is supposed to work, my friends.   Why do we decrease our own value based on the reactions…or “not reactions” of those around us?

My “Value Savings Account,” belongs to me.  Yours, belongs to you.  Do not let the ugliness of this world steal from your account.   If we can’t value ourselves, the discipline that we need to value others is going to be nonexistent.

Invest in yourself enough that there is no way you can fail in valuing those someones or somethings around you.

 

 

She Who Dares, Succeeds.

“In your chest there is a compass, in your blood there is a calling, and in your head there is a vision, you called that ‘the dream’ and leavins’ part of it, if you didn’t you might never know..”

Wednesday, August 8th.  10am.

I’m sitting here at my dining room table, still in my pajamas, a cup of coffee to my left,  and my partner in crime cat, Ezra, to my right, staring curiously as I type.  Lori McKenna’s newest record, The Tree, playing in the background. (Above lyric provided from a record favorite, “The Way Back Home”)

It’s so weird, I should be at work.  I should be at my desk in a newly promoted position, with a pretty title, and a pretty workplace, and comfortable setting. But, I’m not.  I’m here, in my dining room.  I guess you could say I’m enjoying the last of my “kind of first summer” as a school teacher.  Constantly questioning if I have made the right choice.

How did I get here?

Several months ago I started praying for a change.  I was never specific, because in being quite honest, I didn’t know what kind of change I was needing.  I was in a new position that I had worked extremely hard for, nearly six years with the company, always trying something new to showcase that I could do more.  Things were pretty great with my family and friends, a new niece brought into the family, full of life, and lots of love.  I unexpectedly starting dating someone new, and things seemed to actually be flowing as they should.  But, something was just off.  In the midst of all the greatness around me, I felt myself often times feeling so…empty, for lack of better wording.  The past was often creeping up on me, terrible things that have happened to myself, or my family.  Missing people.  Missing being young and free.  I was becoming mean.  Hateful.  Hard to deal with. I couldn’t even stand myself a lot of the time.  It sounds dramatic, and it’s hard to share, because people often times think just that, that I’m sharing some dramatized version of myself for the attention, or the feedback, or whatever else it is that people assume. Should I see a shrink?  Take some happy pills?  I don’t know.   But, at the end of the day, all I knew to do was pray.  And guys, I’m kind of bad at praying.  That’s an admission too.  I sometimes get so caught up in the “routines” of it that I forget that the best prayers are not necessarily before bed and when waking up, but, in the car on your way to work, in the gym, at your desk, in the shower, and so on.

“Lord, whatever I need, whatever I’m missing, whatever I’m not hearing, or seeing, please show it to me. Whatever I need to fill this void, whatever change I need to feel like happy Holly again, show it to me.”

That was it, that was all I had.

Of course, going from a medical records supervisor to an elementary school teacher wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.  So, when I got an unexpected call, it took me a minute to figure out that maybe this was the change.   The why took a moment to figure out.  But, a couple things came to mind; I’ve always wanted to help people, this is helping the utter most important people, kids, the future.  I’ve also never been able to rid myself of a traveling soul, a gypsy spirit.  Having an office job makes it hard to be spontaneous and follow the trails when twelve months out of the year you are confined to an office chair. I want to write more, write a book, expand this blog, but, at the end of the every day, my mind was so tired that the last thing I wanted to do was log on to a computer again. My biggest life goal has always been to be a great wife, one who puts dinner on the table every night, and keeps a clean house.  A stay at home mom, one who doesn’t have to miss out on her kids milestones.   I’m neither yet a wife nor a mother, but, with some thinking, I realized that when that time comes, this profession allows me to at least have that kept house, and be home with future children during those summer months.  To not have to feel the guilt of going on vacations because you are leaving more work for someone else at your job.  And, my travel and exploring and writing about those experiences until those days come will certainly be more often.

This change was like God putting the compass in my hand, telling me that I must first follow this direction if I want to continue to the future that I have kept in my heart, even at the times that it didn’t seem possible.

I’ve had a few fights with the devil this last week.  Overwhelmed with worry, anxiety, questioning myself.   But, no way mister, not today.

Am I terrified?  You better believe it!

But, as I always promote with all you other ladies….

She who dares succeeds….right?

 

 

 

#ShewhoDaresProject: Jenee Fleenor

Chances are if you’re a fan of country music at all, Jenee Fleenor is a gal you’ve seen or heard, whether you realize it or not.  You may have seen her on stage over the last decade, playing with the likes of Terri Clark, Martina McBride, and Blake Shelton. Or perhaps you have heard her fiddlin’ on the radio on hits by Jon Pardi, Rascal Flatts, Reba, and a lengthy list that continues on. jeneefiddle

Though Jenee grew up playing classical music in the cozy town of Springdale, Arkansas, her sights were always set on Nashville, TN.  “I got bit by the country music bug when I was around 5 years old. I would hear my dad playing Bob Wills records and fiddle music around the house and I started to develop an ear for it.”  While hearing her fiddle come through the microphone during her first studio visit at eleven years old, Jenee grabbed hold and knew that music is what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.

This road to success was paved greatly by influential women surrounding her along the way. Each placing a stepping stone down to the next.

   “I have a good, good Momma and I owe so much to her.  She’s the one that was running me to lessons, sitting in every one of my lessons until I was about twelve years old, making sure I practiced an hour a day, making sure I went to church, and getting me involved in church choirs and orchestras.”

That foundation helped grow a desire in Jenee to affirm her Christian beliefs.  She still credits Anita Stewart to leading her to the Lord.  “I knew there was something missing in my life and it was sweet Anita who prayed with me when I was eleven years old to accept Christ into my life.  It has been the best decision I have ever made.”   This relationship has given her the direction to reach out to other ambitious women, looking for a way to pave their own paths.  When asked to give one piece of sound advice to these fellow dreamers, she quotes Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”  And let me be the first to tell you, it’s working for her!

Following this advice in the process of following her dreams has led  Jenee to some pretty phenomenal women in the music industry. Women who have not only become career idols, but also forever friends.

“Terri Clark gave me my first big country gig when I was 19 years old and really new to Nashville.  I learned so much about performing and how to entertain a crowd by watching Terri. We all know she’s an amazing singer, but she really knows how to entertain a crowd and hold their attention by her humor and amazing stage presence. I’m so happy to call her my friend…we spent a lot of fun years on the road together.”

Finding her comfort on stage with Terri led to more opportunities to follow.

“I played with Martina McBride for around 6 years and it was such an amazing experience.  I had never played arenas with a headliner act like Martina…and to watch her perform those epic songs every night was so fun.  I learned a lot about singing those high, high harmonies (whew!) which stretched me vocally…and I didn’t play much guitar until I joined her band so it stretched me musically as well.  It was fun to hang with her on a personal level too.  She is such a sweetheart!”

Though she has never met her outside of the world of Facebook, she also credits Wanda Vick as an influential woman in her life.  “Wanda plays fiddle (and dobro, and guitar, and mandolin, and and and) and back in the day she was on TNN a lot. She’s such a fabulous musician, and she would always smile when the camera panned over to her…and that’s always stuck with me.”

And it’s a good thing, since Jenee is not only seeing that airtime with the various artists she performs with, but, also on TV with  her current boss, Blake Shelton, on NBC’s The Voice.  “I’ve been playing in the staff band of The Voice part time for 4-5 years now, thanks to Blake for getting that ball rolling.”jenee3

Would you believe me if I said there was more?  The list of this woman’s big breaks and milestones just goes on and on.  Including playing the Grand ole Opry too many times to count.   Recording and touring with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, and playing with her heroes,  such as Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss, and Ricky Skaggs.  Even when she’s not seen, she’s heard continuously behind the scenes.

“Now my big dream of being a studio musician is really coming into fruition. I’ve done a good bit of studio work in the past, but never heard my fiddle on country radio until the past couple of years. It still freaks me out a little because it takes me back to that moment when I was eleven years old dreaming of hearing my fiddle on those country radio stations.”

   Jenee Fleenor is just a breath of fresh air, reminding us that little girls dreams do come true.  That we can be friends with our heroes with a little faith, hard work and determination. And above all that if we can dare it, we can do it!

Currently you can find Jenee on the road with Blake Shelton on his “Country Music Freaks” tour.

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