Tag Archives: Heartspoken

A Mother’s Gift: Connection, by Elizabeth H. Cottrell

Elizabeth (top) with daughter and mother

The web of feminine connection

As Mother’s Day approaches, my heart is filled to overflowing with gratitude and love for my amazing 87-year-old mother and my precious grown daughter.

The threads that connect us are not just genetic; they are threads of love, support, and mutual respect. The threads also connect us to a larger web of wonderful women: grandmothers, aunts, sisters, sisters-in-law, nieces, daughters-in-law, and friends.

My mother turned love into connection.

Long before I began studying the power of connection, my mother was a terrific connector. When my siblings and I were children, she was always involved with our play and activities, pouring out her love and attention to make us feel seen, heard, and valued.

We loved the outdoors, so she took us to the woods for walks, pointing out trees, birds, and wildflowers along the way. Together we hiked to “Woodside Water Wonderland,” our name for a rippling creek that cascaded through the woods to meet the larger Goose Creek. Here we waded and built rock walls to divert the water into faster channels, reveling in the freshness and magic of nature’s beauty all around us.

On summer Sundays after church, often with one or more families joining us, Mom packed up a picnic and hauled it (and us) down to the farm’s lake where she and Dad supervised fishing, swimming, canoeing, sailing, and water-skiing. Tired, waterlogged, and sunburned, we later fell into bed, mumbled our prayers, and slept soundly.

When I had friends over on rainy days, she let us raid her linen closet, set up card tables, and move furniture so we could make tents, caves, and forts. Oh, the shivery delight of giggling, whispering, and reading with a flashlight in those dark places! Mom relegated some of her clothes and costume jewelry for our dress-up play. Who knew sheer curtains could make such fabulous bridal veils? On nice days, she might organize a tea party in the yard or chase us with the hose while we pretended to run away from the spray, squealing and laughing as the cold water hit our skin.

Mom had a wonderful vegetable garden, and sometimes she recruited us to help her snap peas or shuck corn. Some serious conversations (the “birds and bees” talk comes immediately to mind) took place while we worked together on those homegrown vegetables!

The kitchen, with stainless steel counters all ‘round and its large, round wooden table with a lazy Susan in the middle, was a hub of activity where we were always welcome to bring our homework or help with whatever she was doing. Mom not only prepared our meals there, but she did laundry, arranged flowers, pasteurized milk, and preserved the bounty of her garden through pickling, freezing, and canning. We surely tried her patience and interrupted her work, but we learned to cook and undoubtedly learned a great deal about management from a woman who ran a large farm household with grace and skill.

Mom imparted her love of books and stories that connected us with outside ideas, people, and places.  We crowded together on the sofa for wonderful read-aloud sessions: we traveled the world with Babar, explored New York with Heloise, visited Paris with Madeleine, discovered the secret garden with Mary Lennox, and solved mysteries with Nancy Drew or Sherlock Holmes.

Oh yes, my mother was a master at connecting with her children.

Love in action

Love isn’t just a noun; it’s also a verb. There is action in my mother’s love when she connects, as she still does, by sending articles, books, and gifts, thoughtfully selected because of her attentiveness to our interests and activities. There is action in our love for others when we go beyond the feeling and reach out to help or encourage.

Her love has always been a precious gift of connection.

Thank you, Mom, and Happy Mother’s Day! My tribute to you will be to pass it on.

[This post was expanded from a piece originally published in [The Gratitude Book Project: Celebrating Moms & Motherhood]

Elizabeth H. Cottrell

About Elizabeth H. Cottrell

Elizabeth calls herself a “Connection Curator.” A curator is someone who collects and organizes things to present them in ways that bring meaning and value. She is a passionate student of everything related to life’s essential connections. She shares her findings at Heartspoken.com.

Elizabeth is also a freelance blogger and writer (RiverwoodWriter.com). She works with small business owners to increase their visibility both online and offline, because “Before you sell, you have to connect.” She’s working on a digital publishing certification to help clients get published on Kindle and other e-book formats.

Connect with Elizabeth on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.

See also The Gratitude Book Project.


Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Special Events

40 Things I’ve Learned in 40 Years, by Cyndi Briggs

Elizabeth H. Cottrell of Heartspoken is one of the most fabulous connections I ever made online, and her introduction of Cyndi Briggs’ blog was another petal in my blooming inspiration.

Cyndi Briggs, PhD (she’s a PhD but doesn’t make you feel bad because you don’t have one), is an amazing and inspirational blogger.

When I read “40 Things” on her blog, The Sophia Project, I wrote and said I had to have it! I know Cyndi will inspire you as she has inspired me. 

40 Things I’ve Learned in 40 Years

by Cyndi Briggs

Most things that happen are not about me. I used to take everything so personally. I aspire to be a good person, and would overcompensate in a vain effort to make everyone happy and avoid disappointing people. Exhausting. Now I do the best I can, say I’m sorry if I truly screw up, and let the rest go.

Wearing uncomfortable shoes is a waste of time. If shoes hurt my feet in the store, I don’t buy. Nothing ruins a great night quicker than uncomfortable shoes.

Make sleep a priority. I need at least 8 hours sleep. I just do. There is no getting around it. When I get enough sleep, I am happy, content, and focused. When I don’t I’m a whirlwind of cranky insanity. Sleep is my friend.

In time, everything comes back into balance. Nature is brilliant, and we are a part of nature. When my bank account is low, or my mood is bad, or the political scene seems too ridiculous to be real, I remind myself that all things come back into balance eventually.

Learn to say NO without apology. Practice often. Learning to say, “let me think about it for a couple of days,” has been really helpful, too.

There are lots of unglamorous practices that lead to a more satisfying life: discipline, planning, conservation of resources. When I put these structures into place, I find magic is more likely to find me.

Women, get that annual pap smear. I once had severe cell dysplasia, a precursor to cervical cancer. A quick treatment took care of the problem, and possibly saved my life.

Wear sunscreen.

Get out of a poverty mindset. I used to worry a lot about money. I worried in spite of the fact I have never missed a bill, rent payment, or student loan payment. Now when life deals me an unexpected financial blow, instead of thinking, “How will I afford it?” I think, “I can take care of this”. And when I want to do something I can’t quite afford, I know I will find a way to make it happen. It’s OK to be frugal. And I know how it feels to be temporarily poor. But drop the poverty thinking.

Eventually, grief and loss touches all of us. Don’t run from it or avoid it. Don’t pretend it isn’t happening. Step into the darkness. Be broken open. Treasures await on the other side.

There is no promise, vow, or commitment that guarantees lifelong love. Love is a choice, made every day, over and over again. There is no other way to make love last.

Don’t settle….  Don’t marry the “good enough” person. Do make plans to leave the “just OK” job. Aspire to live in a situation that serves your highest good. There is no shame in having what brings you joy and satisfaction.

…. But don’t be a diva. I’m not entitled to anything. If I don’t get what I want, I can be a spoiled brat about it, or I can reassess, get real, and seek the lessons in my circumstances. And then move on in wisdom.

Kisses are not promises. If I meet a great guy, make out with him wildly, and then get dumped, I can get bitter or I can maturely accept that not everyone will love me. It’s OK. We’re all seeking our right match. We’re all doing the best we can.

These are non-negotiables in my romantic relationships: No abuse. No violence. No sexism. Honesty. Respect. Kindness. Humor. The rest is window dressing.

Wear what makes you feel great, sexy, beautiful. In my late 20s and early 30s I dated a guy who was super earthy and didn’t approve of make-up. I went along with it because I mistook his political leanings for signs of evolution. After we broke up, I rediscovered my love of make up, clothes, and pretty things. Looking fabulous makes me happy. I can also wear jeans, go natural, and get dirty. I like having a choice between the two.

I can’t make anyone love me… I have a few hard and fast dating rules: 1) I put no energy into explaining to someone why they should love me; 2) If he pulls away or isn’t calling, I let him go with love; 3) I do not chase men. I don’t need to. Once I decided these things, dating became remarkably easy, fun, and available.

….Nor can I make myself love someone else. I’ve met and dated lots of really great men who will be wonderful catches for someone else. I used to feel guilty about this. I’ve wasted lots of time trying to talk myself into loving someone because he was into me and seemed awfully nice. Now I don’t bother. If it’s not there, it’s not there. Period. I let him go to find his true match, and to make space for mine to arrive.

Fall in love with your own company. The first time I ate out alone I was nervous and self-conscious. Over time, I grew to love it: eating at my own pace, enjoying a book or some writing, observing people around me, entertaining myself with my own thoughts. Since then, I’ve come to love seeing movies, visiting art museums, and traveling alone. I still do these things with other people as well, but I’m not afraid or hesitant to do them by myself. And that’s liberating.

Not getting married and not having children were the best possible choices for me. I think marriage is a good thing and kids are great. But these are not things I’ve needed or wanted in my own life. I have no regrets about turning 40 single and child-free. In fact, I feel enormous relief every day I trusted my gut and didn’t pursue a traditional family life.

Work isn’t meant to be a four-letter word. Imagine how much better our society would be if everyone pursued the work they truly loved. Imagine if companies and organizations created the conditions for employees to work in the manner that best suited their personalities. Work is meant to be the means by which we share our gifts with the community, not wage-slavery.

I make sure at least 75% of what I eat is good for me. I make sure I exercise and move every day. I make sure I get enough sleep. These three things have made all the difference in the quality of my life.

Floss. It takes less than a minute and it is the best thing you can do to preserve your oral health. Have you seen those pictures of gum disease at your dentist’s office? They’re gross. Floss already.

We overestimate our importance when it comes to sick days and vacation time…. “Oh, I can’t possibly take a day off because how would my work get done?”  Let’s be real – the work will be there when you get back. The company will survive without you. Stay home and get well already….

…. Yet we underestimate our importance when it really matters… “I’d love to start a non-profit helping disadvantaged kids learn to read but I guess I’ll just stay here in my boring desk job because at least I have health insurance…” Please, please, please remember how important you are to the world. We need you.

Regrets are useless. There are no mistakes. There is no wrong path. Your life is simply your life. It starts. It will end. What you do in the middle is totally up to you, and there’s no way to screw it up.

Worry is a choice. I know, because I’ve chosen it far too many times. Over the past decade or so, I’ve learned to choose again and again not to worry. I choose trust instead: trust in my ability to handle things, trust in the benevolence of the universe, trust that everything works itself out in good time.

Dreams are given to us uniquely, and if we don’t enact them, they will die with us. I believe with my whole heart that we are each given a specific role to play on this planet. And if we don’t live out our destiny, if we don’t fulfill our dreams, they will die in our hearts and world will not have our gift. If you have a dream, step into it knowing that every power of the universe will rush forward to support you.

Sometimes the key to balance is unbalance. I try really hard to keep my life in check. I try to eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, have time alone and social time. And occasionally, I get unbalanced anyway, and I always find it oddly liberating. Living an impassioned life includes letting go of habits and in order to let new ideas, possibilities, thoughts, and behaviors to manifest. Let life get out of control once in a while. New possibilities will come in the wake of the chaos.

We all end up in the ground eventually, so we may as well do what we want. I think about this a lot, particularly when I get stuck in “should’s” and “have to’s”. There is no one right way to live. Ultimately, there is no have to. We can live our lives as poets or dreamers or accountants or moguls, and ultimately, we all die. So do what makes you happy.

Consuming buys only short-term happiness. Again and again, personal experience and research studies demonstrate that shopping, consuming, and buying things produce only the tiniest amount of happiness. Remember your awesome Christmas presents from three and half months ago? No? Neither do I. We think a new car, new shoes, new boobs, or a new gadget will bring us joy. They will, but only for about a minute, then we return to our baseline level of happiness. Cultivate true joy through doing what’s meaningful and expressing gratitude for what you already have.

Age isn’t just a number. I appreciate this sentiment for its intent: I am a young 40, both in appearance and behavior. But the truth is, I am 40. I have four decades of life experience and I’m willing to wield them. I know some stuff. I have wisdom. But I’m also aware that my life is about half over. There is no platitude, cream, or surgical procedure that can take away the simple fact I don’t have forever anymore. I never did. Pretending that death isn’t out there, waiting, is foolish and ultimately robs us of the true gift life has to bring.

Travel. When people tell me they’ve never been out of the US, I want to buy them a ticket and hand them a passport and say, “Go”. And not to places like Sandals resorts or Bermuda. Real places. Different places. Places that will test the soul and stretch the mind and enliven the senses. It is amazing what I find out about myself when I travel. And travel makes me deeply empathic toward people new to the US. Go. Get out. I mean it.

Do things that make no sense to the mind. Sit up all night and watch the sun rise. Have a love affair with someone you’re sure you wouldn’t want to marry. Take a day off from work to dye Easter eggs in September. Life isn’t logical, and we bastardize it when we pretend it is.

Write thank you notes. In this world of digital everything, taking the time to hand-write a thank you note is precious. It will never go out of style. The recipient will thank you and you’ll have a gratitude boost from the process.

Take time to listen to old people. We are all going to get old, and at the end of life, most of us want to tell our stories to someone who will listen. Sit quietly, ask questions, be patient, and listen. It will do your heart and karma good.

Make eye contact with random strangers on the street, smile, and say hello. These small connections can change the world.

Rest in this moment. We are a fast-paced, information-driven culture, and we suffer because of our excess. When I feel particularly rushed and out of sorts, I remind myself that I can “rest in this moment” because there really is no past, no future. Just now. Breathe. Notice the sky. Smell the air.

Life is truly an adventure. Right now, there are people waiting to meet you and help you. Right now, there are places to explore, anxious for your presence. Right now, love blooms, seeking you. Everything can and does change in a moment. Show up. Be present. Pay attention. The life that you want is seeking you just as ardently as you wish for it to arrive. Anticipate its arrival, and have your bags packed.

It’s going to be quite a ride.

Cyndi Briggs

Cyndi Briggs is a writer, professor of counseling, corporate trainer and consultant living in Winston-Salem, NC. When she’s not writing, she can be found out salsa dancing or walking her cute dog, Daisy. Read more of her work at The Sophia Project.

Connect with Cyndi on Facebook on The Sophia Project page and on Twitter and Google+.

Cyndi’s profile photo by Clarissa Hadler of Lilypad Photography.


Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers