The Southern Belle Primer

Why do you care what other people think of you? As a recovering people-pleaser I’ve been asked that question a lot. The first thought that comes to mind is the admonition from my mother that I must always wear clean underwear. That way the paramedics and nurses won’t think less of me if I’m in a car accident.

Someone reading this just smiled because his/her mother told them the same thing. I mean, “Huh?” If my underwear isn’t clean the hospital staff will not treat me? Really?

Many of us were taught to live our lives giving great regard to how we would appear to others. I remember being in a training class with a woman from the south. She was constantly telling us that various parts of her life simply must happen as planned and in a specified order. There was no compromise in these instances for her. If presented with options she would often decline; her mother simply wouldn’t hear of it, she said. I asked her, quite off the cuff, if she had a manual for all these rules.

To my surprise she brightened and said, “Oh, yes! Momma Steel_Magnolias_33462_Mediumgave me The Southern Belle Primer as soon as I had my comin’ out!” I, of course, thought she was pulling my leg. The next day she brought it in! Every chapter was chocked full of the right kind of silverware and china one must have; how to select a party planner; what one should and should not wear, as well as when and where; and, the importance of knowing who your “people” are.

Most of us didn’t grow up with a manual like this, but I’m guessing almost everyone can point to the un-written rules of their own family. I was outspoken as a child – no surprise there – and was told numerous times that a young boy or young man shouldn’t be talking about certain subjects. I couldn’t figure out why, but apparently my intention to be informative and logical only branded me as a precocious smart-ass.

It was Terry Cole-Whittaker who wrote about how we allow the opinions of others to affect our lives in, What You Think of Me Is None of My Business. The application of that statement, however, can be a challenge at best.

We don’t have to be outrageous, rebellious or totally out of synch with the rest of our community to be ourselves. But we are each individual, precious beings expressing Spirit in our own unique way. Each of us have a special gift to give to the world. When we allow societal or familial rules, many outdated for our twenty-first century, to become the only guide to our major decisions and lives we deprive our planet of who we are.

This week be you. Not because you want to stand out, or feel special, or for any other reason other than being determined to express your truth spirit. We await your entrance!

In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,


Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding!

Do you have a “Cardinal Rule?” I do and I broke mine today. How? I went to the mall.
You see, it’s the week before Thanksgiving. That means it’s after October 15, my “drop-dead-last-day-in-a-mall-before-Christmas” Cardinal Rule.
I don’t do last-minute Christmas shopping. I shop a great deal online, which means much of my shopping is done before fall begins. We also frequent craft shows,

antique stores and festivals, all of which are in abundance in south central Pennsylvania. Plus, we celebrate “Boxing Day” (December 26) thanks to my fiancé’s Anglophile perspective on life. Shopping for all sorts of presents begins the day after Christmas. You should only HOPE to get the deals we get!

So why did I chose to title this week’s blog, “Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding?” You have endured my three paragraph, “get-to-the-point, Terry!” set-up – a minimum requirement I’ve set when I’m sleep-deprived, had too much caffeine and some ADHD has kicked in – so you deserve the answer! Two words:
Really? November 20thand the bell ringers have to be out already? I mean the mall isn’t even decorated for Christmas yet. Seriously?
ARGHHH … another Christmas holiday has arrived, regardless of what the calendar says, and “BINGO!” – all the things I still need and want to do before the holiday arrives comes flooding into my little brain, causing me a mini-minor scheduling meltdown.
Do you ever feel that way? You’re cruising along in life, having a delightful day, feeling like you have the tiger by the tail and the world is your oyster, and THEN it happens! You remember you were supposed to do something (like write a major article whose deadline is ten days away); you’re having guests for dinner and the food you were supposed to lay out to thaw is still in the deep freeze; or, you answer a call to find out that a friend has been waiting for the last hour for you to show up for lunch. You get the idea.
I don’t know what might cause you to have these “Shut-The-Front-Door” moments, but I can tell you how it usually is for me. Normally when stuff like this happens I find that I have scheduled so many things to do, or that I am so overwhelmed with worry about a situation, that my mind just plain stops working.
I can’t find my keys – probably a good idea since the last place I should be at a time like that is behind the wheel of a vehicle. I forget to feed the fish. I forget to feed Terry. I simply stop remembering what I’m supposed to be doing and find my mind off on an Australian-style walkabout. While amusing to others it can be most annoying to me.
There is another reason I felt the way I did earlier today with the bell ringer. It’s completely and totally ego-related. I don’t recall giving my consent for the Salvation Army to set up this week (not that they’ve asked in the past, mind you), and since they did so without any warning (HOW RUDE!), I was literally forced into the realization that Christmas is closer than I thought.
Now isn’t that just silly? I mean it’s not like it’s Easter or Hanukah that changes every year according to the lunar calendar. There it is, right there, smack dab on December 25, every year, year after year. Amazing how that works, non?
I hope you’re relating to this. Quite frankly, I’d hate to think I was the only person in the world who has ever has this type of thing happen to them. The way I deal with ego meltdowns is to laugh. That probably annoys the dickens out of my ego, but I’m not going to lose sleep over that. If you find you are a little surprised by events, the actions of others, or just something that doesn’t fit your pictures, might you be willing to try that? Just laugh. I mean have a good, old fashioned belly laugh. You’d be amazed at how well this works.
I mean, compared to world peace, how important are our problems or upsets anyway?
In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness (and laughter!)


The Prism of Your Soul

Do you like it when people pigeon-hole you into category assigned you a label? I sure don’t. Human beings are multi-faceted creatures. To make situations easier for ourselves we frequently place each other into convenient categories. All too often these labels fall far short of describing who we are as individuals.
Psychologist Dr. Dan Gottlieb reported working with a young woman who told him:  “I feel like my soul is a prism, but everybody just sees one color. Nobody sees the prism.”
What would it be like if we could actually see the prism of the soul of other people around us? How would our lives be different if we allowed those we love to see all spectrums of who we are?
Think about meeting someone for the first time. Do we ask what their hopes and dreams are for the future? Do we inquire about their deepest fears or greatest joys? No. Usually we want to know if they are married or single; gay or straight; what political party they support; where they went to school; what they do for a living; what kind of car they drive; and, what socioeconomic status they have achieved.
Then, armed with the information, we use a mental check list to arrive at our decision about how to label the person. Judgment, prejudice, slant and bias are often attached to labels. We see only one color, not the full spectrum of visible light or the thousands of shades and tints of their brilliance.
The prism of our soul is all the colors or nuances of our personality that make up who we are. Add to that all the bands of light invisible to the naked eye, both above and below our spectrum of recognition. These unseen energies represent the subconscious or subjective aspects of our personalities; some perhaps not even known to us let alone anyone else.
Be willing to take a step or two back this week from your preconceived ideas about the people in your life. What positive qualities do they possess that you may have overlooked? Then, open up to others fully and confidently in being all you can be by showing a willingness to share your hidden colors with them as well.
In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,

Yes, Precious, It DOES Matter

There WILL be a spiritual component to this writing … I promise … but you need a little “set-up” for it.
So … I'm off to my “day job” as a flight attendant, going through the "Known Crew Member (KCM)" security check at BWI last Monday morning at 4:35am for my 5:00am sign-in.
I hand my passport to the TSA agent, scan my KCM badge, then hold my airline ID badge for her to compare my ID, passport and the photo of me on the monitor.
She looks at my passport.
She looks at my badge.
She waits for the photo to come up on the screen.
Her eyebrows raise, ever so slightly.
She looks at my passport again, then at my ID and the back at the screen.
Then, she looks up at me.
Her left eyebrow raises in a more pronounced manner.
She looks back at the passport, issued in 2006.
She looks back at me.
THEN she says it:
“WOW! You sure have aged!”
I’m barely standing up straight, managing on 4.5 hours of sleep, a two-hour drive to the airport in the middle of the night and it’s now 4:36am.
I am NOT in the mood.
My response?
I honestly didn’t have one – don’t ask me to be witty before coffee. I did manage my best flight attendant fake smile (you know, the one that looks nice and really means, “Drop dead”), accompanied by a slight raise of MY left eyebrow.
I stopped short of saying something about one of the worst hair weaves in the greater Baltimore/Washington DC area and that “someone” likes the McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts just down the corridor a little more than is prudent. I’ve learned to NEVER push a TSA agent, particularly one that obviously takes great pride reveling in perhaps the only part of her life in which she feels she has complete and utter control.
So what isthe spiritual side of all this? This amazing light being with bad hair and a penchant toward hypertensive heart disease was scheduled at exactly the right time and on the precise day that I would come up to her desk for her to be able to deliver a message from Spirit that I did not want to hear:  “Terry, We believe you are a “bit” more concerned about turning 60 next year than you might want to admit. Jus’ sayin’. Thanks, The Universe.”
Like a lot of people, I’ve been known occasionally to believe denial of the facts will encourage the manifestation

of what we imagine to be eternal truth. The Truth is, however, denial doesn’t do anything for us, except perhaps make us uncomfortable because we’re lying to ourselves and everyone around us. What we can deny is the necessity of our situation and then turn to knowing the Truth.

We forget that the “facts” are not the Truth. It isn’t turning 60, or having a few pounds after we gave birth to our third child, or finding hair growing in places we didn’t know hair would grow, or not fitting into our favorite skinny jeans. It’s what meaning we assign to those facts that change our attitude and our experience in life.
What facts have you been denying in your life? Would you be willing to admit what you don’t want to think about? Admitting the facts doesn’t mean we forget the Truth. It’s the first step to our healing. In the words of my friend, Arleen, “You’ve suffered long enough. Are you willing to try something else?”
So, are you? Willing to try something else? And, FYI? My birthday is May 23. I expect cards. LOTS of cards. Jus’ sayin’….
In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,


Using Methodical Madness to Our Advantage

Do you ever create a “To Do” list, or what I like to call my “Accomplishment List,” only to find it screaming at you later in the day? I am often asked how I keep all the different parts of my life organized. Granted, using Evernote on my mobile devices and desktop has become an indispensable tool. But there is another reason. I see my life and all that I do, both what others call my ministry and what I call my life, as One.
There was a time when I was a man of many masks – not faces, masks. I was a completely different person depending on where I was and with whom. Sure, I still use what my partners call my “flight attendant voice” at times, but today pretty much what you see is what you get. We cannot be authentic if we are always being what other people expect us to be, or changing our persona to fit the circumstance. Frankly, if I can’t be myself where I am then I have to question why I’m there in the first place.
There’s a term I think about when life gets a little crazy at times:  Methodical madness! I heard that term on NPR a while back referring to someone who has ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). I have learned to enjoy the madness of my tendency toward ADD to accomplish more than I ever thought possible.
My partners tell me that what I really suffer from is “AD...OSO,” or “Attention Deficit….OH! SHINY OBJECT!” Kidding aside, I do not suffer from ADD or anything else. I am not willing to claim it. Remember in the Bible when God brought the animals to Adam? Scripture says that Adam named them and he received dominion over them. It is a wonderful metaphysical lesson:  Name it and it’s yours, only in this case what we name gains dominion over us.
I call it a “tendency toward ADD” and not my my ADD. When we own a disease, condition, person or situation it becomes a noose around our neck. Sometimes it becomes a life sentence. Recognizing the areas in our lives that are out of balance and taking responsibility is one thing; allowing something to run or ruin our life is another thing entirely.
Is there something in your life that is stopping you from living life to the fullest? If so, ask yourself why you continue to put up with it, work around it, or allow it to force you to live a life that is less than stellar. I love to see people make decisions to thinking differently about physical or psychological issues. We can affect change and create lives truly worth living instead of “just getting by.”
Let me help you with some problem that’s been nagging you for longer than you’d like! Call, email, or make an appointment to spend some time together to get to the bottom of the problem and move beyond! We are all One Mind – within YOU is the Knower that knows the answer to any challenge you face.
In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,

My First Guest Blogger!

Do I like introducing one friend to another? I love doing that! It's especially fun when people are from different backgrounds and organizations. I get to do that for you today!
I was privileged to be the spiritual leader at a Unity church for about a year and a half. One of the best parts about that experience was meeting some amazing ministers in that denomination. Today I get to introduce a woman to you who I count as both a colleague in ministry and a trusted friend,  Ellen Debenport
Ellen is a celebrated author and speaker. Her book, The Five Principles, is a sophisticated but clear explanation of the universal spiritual laws that are the foundation of human living. While it's discussing Unity principles I tell people it's also one of the clearest explanations of our Science of Mind(R) principles around! She is currently minister at Unity of Wimberley near Austin, TX.

The Creative Impulse
Ellen Debenport
Several people have asked me lately where I get ideas for this blog or for the talks I give.

When I'm honest, I tell them the idea is usually dredged from somewhere in the back of my mind at the last minute.

I envy those people who bubble with ideas all the time, who have so many ideas they don't know which ones to pursue, or fear they won't have time for all of them.

Even so, I wonder how many of us would describe ourselves as creative.

Creativity is more than just talent with words or art or music.
  • It's a chef, an entrepreneur, an event planner, a gardener.
  • It's a parent making a long car trip fun for the kids.
  • It's a teacher finding just the right stories and pictures to explain a new concept, whether for first graders learning arithmetic or rocket scientists reviewing a launch sequence.
I don't actually know many rocket scientists, but I know creativity doesn't have to be loopy and right-brained. It can be methodical and disciplined. Think of what it takes to design software for a video game. That's creative!

Romantic love inspires creativity, of course. You know you're in love when all the songs on the radio make sense. Now marriage proposals have become an art form.

I believe creativity is our most divine expression.

So why is it ever hard? Why do we not recognize it in ourselves more often? Why do we not cultivate it every day? And why do we procrastinate?

I admire a young woman in Canada, Samantha Reynolds, who noticed her life was being consumed as a new mother and vowed to write and post a poem every day just to keep her creative juices flowing.

Since her second baby, the poems are no longer daily, but she still sees through a poet's eyes. And, she noticed recently, so does her little boy.

If we are made in God's image as creators, if creativity is a child's natural approach to the world, then why is the inner critic so vocal when we attempt something new?

God created the earth and saw that it was good.

Whereas many of us look at our creations and say:
This is awful.
Everyone's going to hate it.
I'm too embarrassed to put this out into the world.
Maybe I should just start over.

When did we lose the joy in creativity? (I would say it was the first time we were graded, but that's another soapbox.)

I know so many people now who are working to recapture their creative joy, and – like children – they are less concerned with whether they have natural talent than with expressing themselves.

Good for them.

The focus required for creativity may be the best way we have to stay in the present moment. It's a spiritual practice.

Even better, many of us know divine help is available for these endeavors.

You've heard the story that every blade of grass has an angel bending over it, whispering, “Grow, grow.”

So do you.

I'm teaching a class right now based on a little book called Hiring the Heavens, about creating angel committees to help with any project. It's a fun way to organize the divine power of good in the universe.

And personally, I imagine angels – or whatever forms the Source of Creative Imagination takes – are cheering us on.

So, back to the original question -- where do my ideas come from? I ask for them.

Most weeks, I tell the angels that I absolutely, positively have to have a new topic, overnight. And it's nearly always there in the morning, popping into my mind while I'm still half-asleep, just in the nick of time.

Of course inspiration can be triggered from outside as well – books, speakers, a walk.
The fact is, we are creators every second of the day, creating events and experiences with our deepest thoughts whether we know it or not.

Even at the conscious levels of personality, we are composing our lives – where to live, which jobs to accept, whom to marry, whether to have children – and choosing our reactions with each new encounter.

We can't NOT create.

Wouldn't it be more fun to claim it? To think of ourselves as brimming with creativity and turn ourselves loose on the world?

If you could create anything right now, what would it be?

Where Is Your Focus?

Have you ever noticed just how quickly our moods can change? For example, what happens to your outlook when you think of a tragic event in your life or in the life of someone else? Immediately our minds focus on the details, perhaps imagining the experience worse than it was.
I had a lucid dream at some point last night. If you’re not familiar with the term “lucid dream” it means that you realize in your dream that you are dreaming. Dream Viewsdescribes it as a person realizing they are in a dream after experiencing something and then stopping to question their reality.
In my dream I experienced something unpleasant having to do with an organization in which I have had conflict in the past. I knew very well it was a dream, but the experience was such that it perfectly scripted a hidden fear about confrontation in general. All-in-all it was most unpleasant.
I awoke completely focused on the dream that had gotten me so upset. I “forgot” to do my morning stretches before getting up and also neglected my meditation work that follows. I put too much milk in my coffee and found myself totally annoyed about it. Fortunately my higher self slapped me back into reality. I often hear the “still small voice” of intuition, but additionally I seem to have a “slap-Terry-up-side-the-head” spiritual connection that lets me know when I’m out of sync! It’s annoying, but helpful.
There was a time in my life that I would have allowed that dream to ruin my whole day, have been a complete grouch, and probably gotten into an argument with a lover, co-worker or unsuspecting clerk at a store. I give thanks for my teachers and daily spiritual practice that allows me to focus on what I want, instead of what I don’t want, which results in a happier life. But, it was a stark reminder for me that my thoughts definitely control my life and my attitude. As Mike Dooley says, “Thoughts become things – Choose the good ones!”
What are you focusing on right now? Is it what you want to happen? If not, why give it any more of your time? Unhealthy, unproductive thoughts that live rent-free in our mind don’t do us or anyone else any good. This probably isn’t news to you, but if you’re like me it’s a good idea to remind yourself. Commit right now to focus on what you want.  Let go of the fear and uncertainty of worrying about your future or fretting about the past. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow will be the experience you create today!
In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,


Who Supports You?

Are you one of these persons that everyone calls in a crisis? Do you know just what to say and when? Have been there to take charge and calm the mob from burning the town?
Perhaps not the later, though if you’ve done that do email me the details – I’d love to know about it! But if you’re reading this the rest of previous paragraph probably describes you. I know it clearer speaks about many of my readers who I know personally. The question is, To whom do you turn to when times get tough?
It can be a difficult question to answer, particularly if you are a leader, a minister, a supervisor, or just that one particular person everyone thinks has it all together all the time. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I will. I’ve been seen that way since I was 17 years old. At the time I had a real problem that finally came to light. The people who helped me had no idea anything was wrong. “We thought you had the world by the tail,” I was told.
I didn’t. I couldn’t find my own tail let alone anyone else’s. I was fortunate and blessed to have people who cared enough about me to intervene in my life and stop what was fast becoming a downward spiral. The fact is, however, it doesn’t have to get that bad to be dangerous.
Is there something in your life that you keep putting on hold? Something that bothers you, that you know you ought to take care of, yet something you never seem to have the time or strength to address? If so, I encourage you to reach out today for some kind of support to get you through whatever the issue is. It may be contacting a counselor or minister for guidance. I might just be coffee with a friend. Whatever it is for you, please take the time to take care of yourself.
I can’t force you to do this, but would you be willing this week to do just one simple, loving thing that is just for you? In other words, take some time to bask in a completely selfish act of some kind that nurtures, revitalizes and pleases you. If it’s something you’d like to share, skip down to the bottom and leave a comment. Who knows, perhaps that one thing you do this week will be just what someone else is looking for to help themselves! Have a great week!
In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,

For What Are You Grateful?

Are you able to experience gratitude on a daily basis? I’m not just talking about appreciating someone opening a door for you when your hands are full. I’m talking about a deep resonance within your heart, not just once in a while, but throughout the day, but just how blessed you are.
I felt that for four days recently on a humanitarian mission to Bogotá, Colombia. As a member of Airline Ambassadors International, I accompanied over a dozen other volunteers as we visited and supported the children of Orphanage Rompiendo Cadenas. This facility houses about 75 children from toddlers to young adults. Adoption is impossible since their parents are still on the street or in jail, many who are prostitutes and/or drug addicts.
While the living conditions at the orphanage are far below our American standards, the consistent and heartfelt joy shown by the kids in helping one another is beyond belief. Do they ever fight or disagree? Sure. They’re kids! But most of the time they are looking out for one another. They are a very large family that works together and shares of their limited resources.
Carolyn and Terry reading to Nicole
This week’s writing is not about how much we have here in the States and how we should feel guilty if we complain about our life. It’s also not about helping people overseas when we have plenty to do to address starvation and poverty in our own country. What this writing is about is how we can train ourselves to appreciate what we have.
Is it wrong to want more, or have more, when people around the world or in your town are in lack? No, it is not. Denying ourselves our blessings does no one else any good here or abroad. We live in an abundant universe, one ready to support us in more ways than we can believe possible at times. But we have to be the ones to reach out. We have to open our consciousness and our hearts to accept our good.
The way to start that process is to begin appreciating what we have. Take nothing in your life for granted. Be grateful for all those who bless you throughout today. We get precious little support in the media for doing good deeds for others. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do something on our own. It’s like the argument against recycling that goes along the line of “recycling just one can or envelope is not going to save the planet.” No, it won’t. But if 100,000 of us each recycled a can or envelope it can certainly reduce our carbon footprint on Mother Earth.
Perhaps that’s the crux of my thoughts this week. It’s not whether or not we can fly around the world helping people with less than us, or recycling everything in sight. It’s about doing those seemingly small random acts of kinds, those little gestures of love and appreciation that bring us closer to creating a world where peace and abundance are the norm.
If you feel so inclined, take a look at the link above to the orphanage. It will take you to a video of a past humanitarian mission. I guarantee your perception of your day will change. Whether or not you do click on the link, I hope you’ll take a few moments today to find the blessings in your life. And, in that deep appreciation and grateful feeling, how will you reach out to others in your own life? We do not give to receive, but in the giving we receive back more than we can imagine.
In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,


Getting Happiness Back In Your Life

This week I want to chat with you about how scented balls led to a change in my thinking and attitude. Now you might be wondering exactly what those are and how they might enrich your life. Or, you might be taken aback by what fear could turn into a very different discussion. Either way I can safely say that you probably have a smile on your face.
Or not. I hope so, though! The scented balls I’m talking about are those gel-like, round beads that you may have seen in a candle store. They scent rooms or your car with a far lighter scent than a candle or incense. My partner got one for me and it fits perfectly in the backseat cup holder in my car.
But after a couple of weeks of summer heat, all that was left of the puffed up nodules were some very small hard, seed-like looking grains. The scent still lingered, but what to do? Just for fun I filled the jar halfway with warm water. In less than 30 minutes I had a jar full of those gel-like beads again, as well as a more pronounced scent for my car!
I marveled at how quickly and easily they transformed back to their intended appearance and function. (Side note:  I’ve done this process again at least twice with the same result!) It occurred to me that sometimes I feel just like those dried out scented balls. My heart becomes hard and feels like it’s going to crack in half. Then someone smiles or is kind to me when I’m out running errands. Or, I may read something funny online that makes me question my sadness or anger. My heart softens and the world no longer looks so cruel and cold.
How quickly that can happen! In an instant – far less than 30 minutes! – we can be transformed. Our lives become immediately happier and we don’t feel as alone. I don’t know what the triggers are for you, either for feeling down or rejuvenating yourself to the person you love to be. But I do know it’s important that we all find what it is we do to change our attitude. For me it’s a Beach Boys album or a Cher disco CD. (Give me a break here? I grew up on the Southern California coast and came out in the late 1970s!)
Find something you know will make you happy. Perhaps it’s a reading, a place, some music or the kindness of a friend. Keep that action on mental speed dial. Our spirit may be eternal, but our lives in these bodies have a very limited time on the planet. Take advantage of every second of every day!
In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,