Machu Picchu. Bucket List.

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Bucket List.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Not sure why it’s taken me so long to publish this post, but it has.  Some might call it lazy, but lazy I’m not.  Some might say, I was too busy to focus on it. But if the truth be known, I was not too busy; I was just a procrastinator. In any event, here we go!

A few months ago, I was watching a segment of Sunday 60 Minutes called, the Children’s Village. I was touched by the humanity of India Howell and her business partner, Peter Leon Massy.  Their love of and desire to help children was heart-touching. It also reminded me of my recent adventure in Peru.

Machu Picchu. Bucket List.

Machu Picchu was never on my bucket list.  No, I was not jumping for joy at the opportunity to travel 12,000 feet above sea level—in hiking boots.  I mean the truth is, I’m a high heel kind of girl—5 inches high, I might add.  Yet, much to my surprise, when given the chance to journey to Peru in July, I was willing and able to show up.  That’s how life works. When we are open to the endless possibilities presented to us, we get so much more than we planned. At least that’s my experience.

12,000 Feet Above Sea Level.

Because I had never ventured to such a high altitude, I was a bit concerned. So, I prepared myself for the journey. I spoke with several friends who had trekked up the mountain, and had a conversation with my doctor about appropriate actions to take.  But the interesting and most telling thing is that I took the suggestions offered to me. What a novel concept. That single action allowed me to avoid the sickness often visited upon high altitude hikers.

First Class Travel, not so shabby!

The actual flight to Peru was delightful. Because I travel a lot, I’m an elite flyer on American Airlines and a lifetime member of the Admirals Club. Being an Executive Platinum has its perks, and there is something to be said for first class accommodations.  It makes a difference. So even though I arrived into Cusco at 5am Sunday morning, I felt rested.

The Bread House.

But the real fun began on Monday, which was our humanitarian day.  We left Cusco at 6am headed for the Azul Wasi Orphanage.  But let me step back. On the way to the orphanage, we stopped by a bread house.  Peru is a relatively poor country, so folks make money in whatever way they can.  Many bake and sell bread in their homes, hence bread house. The bread was so delicious that I took several wheel-shaped loaves home.  Perhaps because I love bread, but also because it was my small way of supporting the economy in this poor village. Three months later, I’m still eating bread.

Azul Wasi Orphanage.

From the time we arrived at the orphanage, I felt like I was steeped into a magical experience.  Nineteen kids greeted my small group with bear hugs and kisses. Wow! What a sweet and pleasant surprise.  They were so happy to see us, and made sure we knew it.  From that moment until we left the orphanage hours later, my heart was cracked wide open. Had I returned to San Francisco after that day, I would have felt fulfilled.  But there was more to come.  It was the start of an affair to remember.

On one hand, being with the kids was joyful. But on the other hand, it was sad. For most of these children, being at this orphanage was a place filled with more love than they have ever known.  Most of them had lived on the streets since they were barely able to walk. Their ages ranged from 3 to 19-years old, yet you could see in their little faces that they were old beyond their years.  Drugs, alcohol, and the streets were all some of them knew.  It was sad to hear their stories, and for the most part, we couldn’t discuss it with them. The memories were too fresh and painful.

I, more than anyone in my group, understood their plight. While not an orphan, my childhood was lost to drugs, alcohol, and a sordid lifestyle.  I lived homeless on the streets of New York at 18 surviving in whatever way I could.  I know all too well what one must do to survive.  Yet, I was granted a reprieve, an opportunity to turn the tide. There were angels in my midst.  So for me, this trip was not just a trip to Peru, but one more opportunity for me to say thank you and give back. And as in my life, there was an angel for these kids, and his name was Alcides.

A police chief for 30-years, he got tired of seeing these street kids come through his station. So he saved and saved and vowed when he retired from the police force, he would buy land and build a place where these kids could come live, grow, get an education, and become productive members of society.  A place where they could feel safe and loved.  Alcides has obviously succeeded, as evidence by the fact that while the kids are free to leave at any time, not one has chosen to do so.  How lucky they are and how blessed I was to get to speak with Alcides.

Sacred Valley. Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu.

The next day we were off to the Sacred Valley, and then Machu Picchu. What I can say most about the Sacred Valley and then Machu Picchu is how awestruck I was with what the Incas accomplished. We often like to think we are superior to other people and cultures. Yet, when one is able to witness firsthand what these courageous people created, we think twice about our assumption that we are better than most. Like the Romans, the Incas built structures that are still standing.

The most exhilarating part of the Machu Picchu day trip was that I became willing to do something I was afraid to do.  In anticipation of a bumpy upward climb, I gave myself permission not to go to the top. Once there, I allowed myself to take one baby step at a time, and before I knew it, I was on top. Being atop Machu Picchu was wonderful, but being willing to get there was awesome!

Someone asked, what was my favorite part of the trip? My answer was – the entire trip!  From the first day at the orphanage with the kids, to interviewing Alcides, to interviewing two of the children (Alfredo and Dante), to visiting a bread house, to visiting the Sacred Valley, to climbing Machu Picchu, every step of the way was a piece of the puzzle that made for a beautiful picture.  The final piece, bringing the puzzle all together, was the group itself.  I went to Peru, primarily, to support a friend’s charity (Legacies in Motion), engage in humanitarian work, and visit one of the NEW 7 wonders of the world. What I got was so much more. Yes, the actual act of climbing Machu Picchu was awe inspiring, but what impacted me was the fact that I was even willing to go.

A Life Filled With Endless Possibilities.

Today my life is filled with endless possibilities, and I am grateful to be alive and fully present enough to participate in this, my journey.  There was a time when I sat on the sidelines judging those who showed up for life.  People who, even if afraid, had the courage to take risks, go for their dreams, and possibly fail.  I was always afraid to fail, so I made safe choices.  Making safe choices keeps you protected and out of harm’s way, but also keeps you and your life small.

After 37 years of trying new things, I take a stand for those who are courageous enough to show up for their lives, try new things, meet new people, and live a life of limitless expansion. Life is so short; don’t waste it. Before you now it, it’s over.

Here’s to you!   Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter

 

 

Scandal ABC. Integrity.

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Scandal ABC. Integrity.

Really! Is it every woman’s dream that a man will love her enough to betray his country, his family, his kids, his integrity and his soul?  A man who places the life of his mistress over an entire nation?  Is it every woman’s dream that her husband will stand before her, and when asked, “What do you want most in the world? he answers, “My mistress’s safe return.”  Have you watched the ABC television series Scandal lately?  So funny! Personally, I would not want a man who gave up his integrity and his country for me. What kind of man would he be?  If he so openly and notoriously betrays his family and his responsibilities, what kind of man would he be?  Wow, is sex really that powerful – and if so, why? It’s not like there is not enough of it around.

Power can be intoxicating.

Power can be intoxicating, especially for someone who can use sex as a tool. To give you an idea of how power-driven the main character Olivia Pope is, even as she is being held hostage, she says, “Look at who wants me. Look at what they are willing to pay. THAT is how powerful I am.” So very funny… only on television is a black woman that powerful as to be able to not only cause a war, but to drive an auction for her life to over $300 million.
Perhaps not to the extreme of Olivia Pope, but do people not trade their integrity for a little power every day in the corporate world? Do regular people not cut corners and sacrifice honesty for an extra bit of power and prestige in the short term? However, the decisions you make on a daily basis have consequences – long-term consequences.

Right Choices.

What is it that you can do – right now – to move towards the ability to make better choices in life? Regardless of where you have come from, and the mistakes you may have made in the past, every day is a new beginning, so strive to learn from your failures and to make better choices for yourself.
While the values and beliefs her characters portray often go against my values and beliefs, I so love Ms. Shonda Rhimes. She rocks! She is an amazing and brilliant storyteller who knows how to keep you interested. And, she always gives me something to talk about. I hope my novels will be as fabulous and teeth gritting as her characters. You go girl!

Feel free to join my conversation on Facebook, Facebook Esteemableacts Fan Page, or my Facebook Law Page, you can also interact with me on my Twitter Esteemable Acts page, Twitter Law Page, or on LinkedIn.

Smart Goals. Commitment. Setting Goals.

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Smart Goals. Commitment. Setting Goals.

Smart Goals. Setting Goals.

Smart Goals. Setting Goals.

Another year has come to a close. Where did it go? Where have the last 15 years gone? I remember when we were all getting ready for the New Millennium. Now, 15 years later we wonder where did the time go?  Personally I love this time of year because it is the beginning of a New Year and it’s right before my birthday. It is a time to reflect. A time to assess my last year’s commitment to my goals, and a time to create a new commitment for setting goals.  It’s a time to get excited about all that awaits me.

Additionally what I particularly like about this time of year is that it gives me, yet, another opportunity to be grateful — for the small stuff.  And I know what is true for me is also true for you.  It is an opportunity to ponder all that we’ve been given, all that was taken away, and all that we were left with. So together, let’s renew our commitment to setting goals.

First, let’s reflect on your goals from 2014. Ask yourself:

  • Of the goals you set last year, which ones did you accomplish?
  • What did it take for you to accomplish those goals?
  • Of those you did not accomplish, what do you think got in the way of you realizing those dreams?

Now, let’s turn to this year. It’s a brand new chapter, a clean slate, where you get to create the first patch of your 2015 quilt.  Ask yourself, what is important for you to accomplish by the end of this year? What will it take to make that happen? Make the commitment today to make it real. Write each goal down on a colored index card. Most folks call them Smart Goals, but I also call them SWARM Goals.  Here are some additional things to take into account as you are identifying your goals:

  1. SWARM goals
    1. Specific,
    2. Written,
    3. Achievable,
    4. Realistic,
    5. Measurable;
  2. Feel free to do whatever you like, but what works for me is categorizing my smart goals or SWARM goals. I like to put my goals in categories e.g., health, financial, business/work related, spiritual, personal development, relationships (family and friends), miscellaneous;
  3. After I identify the big overriding goals, I break my tasks into small manageable pieces — baby steps.

To motivate you in this New Year, also consider the following affirmations:

  • Just for today, I will keep my eye on the goal.
  • Just for today, I will have the courage to risk failure.
  • Just for today, I am willing to try something new.
  • Just for today, I see myself as living the life of my dreams.

Throughout the year check-in with yourself (or me) on your SWARM goals and be honest about your progress. Make sure to ask yourself, “Are my goals achievable and realistic?” Let’s make this a great year!

Feel free to join my conversation on FacebookFacebook Esteemableacts Fan Page, or my Facebook Law Page, you can also interact with me on my Twitter Esteemable Acts pageTwitter Law Page, or on LinkedIn. Let me know how you are doing with your personal and your career goals.

Let go.

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Let go. Why me?

Let go.

Let go.

Sometimes when I am disappointed because I didn’t get something I wanted, it’s hard to understand why it happened.  It’s even harder to understand when people say to me, “Francine you have to let go.”  I immediately go to, “Why me?” I ask.  Like I should never experience any pain pr disappointment.   God, and God does not love me.”  What a silly place for me to go, but in being honest–that’s where I go.  Sometimes I don’t get what I want because I am supposed to try again, try harder, or let it go. Theoe is never a one size fits all answer. Because there is a God, I eventually get the right answer, for me.  I know that everything is in divine order.

Let go. Divine Order.

There have been many times when I failed, made a mistake, or was rejected and inherently knew I was to try again. I knew at my core that it wasn’t time to give up without a fight when I failed the New York Bar the first time in 1989, when I continually received rejection letters from literary agents in 2000, when it seemed like I’d never make it to the finish line during my first marathon race in 1995, and when my year old marriage seemed like it would end in divorce court in 1998.

At other times, when I tried had to reach a goal, somehow my best effort just wasn’t good enough. Instinctively, after many attempts, I knew it was time to let go.

Nothing happens by mistake, and Everything is in Divine Order.

Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in this world by accident, even if in the moment we can’t make sense of the experience. There are often two levels of reasoning. There is a logical, secular explanation, such as you weren’t prepared in the way you needed to be. But there is also a spiritual, metaphysical account where you know whatever happens was for your highest and best good, regardless of outward appearances to the contrary. The spiritual reasons could be you weren’t emotionally ready to go to the next level, you had more inner work to do, there were more important things to attend to before your dream could be realized, it wasn’t the right time, or had you realized your dream you would have missed another opportunity that you needed to experience.

When to Let go.

How do you know when it’s time to let go or when you’re charged with trying just one more time? And if you let go, how do you know when it’s time to try again? There is no one-size-fits-all answer. There are many factors to be considered, including timing.

Are you at a crossroad in your life?  Are you wondering if it is time to let go of some person, place, or thing?  Are you wondering how to let go?  Talk it over with a friend. Find a coach you can trust who understands, and go to whomever you use a spiritual resource.

Until next time, I’m Francine Ward, attorney, coach, author, and speaker.  I invite you to join my conversation on my Esteemable Acts Fan page, Esteemable Acts Twitter feed, or in one of my LinkedIn Groups.

Abuse. Domestic Violence. Ray Rice.

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Abuse. Domestic Violence. Ray Rice.

How do you turn an abused woman into a healthy woman? By getting HER to say NO!

Abuse. Domestic Violence.

Abuse. Domestic Violence.

As hard as we may try to stop domestic violence and punish the abuser, so long as women choose to stay with those who beat up on them (for whatever the reason), the abuse will never stop. Contrary to popular belief, abuse cannot be stopped without a woman’s help. If women continue to return to men who abuse them, then what are we to do?

I know, I’ve been there. For way too long, I tolerated physical, emotional, and mental abuse.  It took a lot for me to stop the madness. A lot for me to be willing not to take that treatment. I believe we need to stop telling women it’s okay to stay, and support them in walking away.

Oscar Pistorius.

There are countless stories every day in the news (and many that will never hit the news), about women who have been pummeled, often to death, by their abusive boyfriends, fiancés, and husbands. By now you’ve likely heard that Oscar Pistorius was not convicted of murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.  And, you’ve probably heard about Ray Rice and others, who simply have not learned how to play well with others–especially their wives and girlfriends.

Ray Rice. Mike Tyson. Chris Brown.

Sadly and surprisingly, in all too many cases, not only do women stay with their abuser, they marry them. Think of Robin Givens who was beat like ground beef and then she married Mike Tyson. And most recently Janay Palmer’s face was pounded into an elevator wall by Ray Rice, and THEN she married him. And let’s not forget Rihanna, who after being beat up several times by Chris Brown, returned to his “loving” arms. And, abuse is not just physical, it is also emotional and mental. Every time a man disrespects his wife by committing adultery, especially with someone she knows, he is emotionally abusing her. How many women have stayed with, or returned to a partner who behaved in such a way, thinking the next time, it will be different.

Why do we stay?

There are lots of reasons, love, money, low self esteem, family, fear, guilt, children.  The list is endless.  Why did I stay?  Because I “loved him,” and because he convinced me that it was always my fault why he/they beat the crap out of me.  But for me, the truth is, I stayed because I didn’t care enough about myself to expect more from a man and because I was financially dependent on them.  Dependence is a horrible thing, regardless of whether you’re dependent on a drug, food, or a man. It compels you to do things you would not do for fear of losing that thing you need to survive.

But regardless of the reason, when we stay we suffer, and so does everyone who love us.  We don’t live in a vacuum. Our behavior, as women, impacts everyone around us, especially our children. Every time a woman allows a man to beat the crap out of her and she has kids, she sends a compelling message—this is how we are to be treated. We teach our daughters to accept such treatment and we teach our sons to administer such treatment. We teach people how to treat us.

Not only do we influence our kids, but if the woman is a celebrity, then her behavior impacts millions of young girls who watch and emulate her every step. What message does that send?

I am a little disappointed at the outcry of support—especially by women—in favor of Ray Rice. Women who openly are mad because he was suspended.  What about the women these men assault? What if it was your sister? your mother? your niece? your daughter?

There are two ways to stop such abuse:

  1. Hit the guy where it hurts. Take away what really matters to him—his money, his property, his prestige. But we don’t. Instead, we celebrate the abuser and make them bigger celebrities, buy their music, see their movies, attend their games.
  2. Women need to STOP the madness and leave. Stop giving abusers permission to continue the abuse. How do you turn an abused woman into a healthy woman? By getting HER to say NO, I’m sick and tired and won’t take it anymore!

By no means is it easy to leave. Particularly if the woman has no visible way of support and has allowed herself to be totally dependent on the abuser. But just because something is not easy does not mean it cannot be done. The price you pay when you allow someone to destroy your soul is a high price indeed. We need to stop encouraging women to stay and instead, support them in walking away.

Where are our role models? Obviously not on Reality TV. I’d love to hear what Queen Latifah, Oprah, Alicia Keys, Jada Pinkett Smith, Angelina Jolie, and other women I admire have to say about this. Speak up ladies–if not YOU, then who.  I’m not a celebrity, so no one will listen to me, but YOU, they’ll listen to.

I am Attorney Francine Ward initiating a conversation that needs to be had. Join in on my website, on my Law Face Book Fan Page or my Esteemable Acts Fan Page, on my Law Twitter Page or my Esteemable Acts Twitter Page, feeds, in my LinkedIn group, or in one of my Google+ Circles.