2013 was less than dull, and my hunch is 2014 will be just as full.
As I look behind to write this post, some things were dreadful, while others I loved most.
Mother Nature took her toll reminding us all that when push comes to shove, she makes the call.
Sadly war continues in far away places, though a different kind of war lives in U.S. spaces
Hunger and homeless claim innocent lives, while soldiers keep dying despite children and wives.
Celebrities still influence in ways I don’t get, while reality television remains stations best bet.
Finally marriage is equal to all, yet plenty are opposed shouting, “It’s a bad call.”
A new Pope believes love is free and equal, and reminds us the importance to be a giving people.
Beloved athletes made their cheating known, while some celeb slurs created a nationwide groan.
Miley Cyrus made a scene with a simple foam finger and claimed to the world, “I’m a serious singer.”
There were people who passed much too young as well as others whose praises we sung.
As I look back there is plenty of pain, but sole focus on those would leave nothing to gain.
Therefore I say, “Au revoir” to ’13 and open the door and welcome ’14
No matter the year good comes with the bad, the joy and celebrations so many we had.
As we look forward to this new date, there’s so much good to anticipate.
We all have the capacity to love and learn, the desire to give and accept our turn.
We all have the ability to choose good over bad, and make solid choices we’re lucky to h ave.
No matter what comes the world will go on, just keep kindness and love as your number one.
Here’s to an amazing 2014.
By Nicki On December 8, 2013 2 Comments
I live in Chicago, a very long way from South Africa. About four years ago I had the privilege of visiting South Africa and it was there that I learned a lot more about this incredible warrior and liberator, Nelson Mandela.
I’m embarrassed to admit that in 1993, I was so busy raising my children and starting my business I didn’t pay close attention to Mandela’s greatest milestone, fighting for and guaranteeing full rights for all black citizens. When I visited in 2009 there was no sign (to me) of apartheid. People compare Nelson Mandela with Martin Luther King, Jr. for their unwavering efforts to give all people of color the right to live freely in a country that touts justice and liberty for all.
With the recent passing of Nelson Mandela I couldn’t help but think back on some of the amazing forces that have fought for human rights and inspired me. Going as far back as Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and of course Rosa Parks. There is Desmond Tutu and one of the more recent, young activists for human rights, Malala Youzafzai.
The common denominator amongst this group of individuals, (yes I know there are many more), is leadership. Taking the risk for something they believe in and doing whatever it takes to bring justice to fruition. These individuals took the helm at a time where death was always a potential outcome yet never wavered from their convictions. Compassion is also a strong part of their DNA. Because of their personal struggles, they rose above to save others from the same fate. Humbles me just thinking about it. Risking ones life to save another.
I have always been drawn to those individuals that lead with integrity, honesty and passion. It is empowering to see that because of people who dared to dream and take the risks to make it a reality our world is a better place.
There is no doubt Nelson Mandela has touched an infinite number of lives, mine included. How lucky for those that knew him personally. He was a force to be reckoned with if he wanted change yet he was a consummate peacemaker. How one can combine those qualities and create the changes he has can only be explained as extraordinary.
My feeble attempt at honoring a man who is responsible for positively changing so many lives is shared below. Please enjoy some of my favorite quotes by not only Nelson Mandela, but the others who also fought for the rights of so many. As a mom, woman, business owner, community advocate, and volunteer these quotes and many others, have helped me become a better person.
“A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.” -NM
“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” – NM
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” MLK
“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” MLK
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” AL
“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.” – AL
“I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.” – FD
“Without struggle there is no success” – FD
“You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right. ” – RP
“Each person must live their life as a model for others.” – RP
“Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.” – DT
“When we see others as the enemy, we risk becoming what we hate. When we oppress others, we end up oppressing ourselves. All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity in others.” – DT
“I speak not for myself but for those without voice… those who have fought for their rights… their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated.” – MY
“The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were born.” – MY
Here’s to never wishing for more time, rather making the most of it.
By Nicki On November 7, 2013 4 Comments
Over 10 years ago I bid on and won an auction item that made a dream of mine come true. I won a day in the kitchen at the infamous Charlie Trotter’s restaurant. I felt like I had hit the jackpot.
I showed up at the restaurant at the requested time, 11 a.m. I was expected to work until 8 p.m.
When I walked in to the restaurant, I gave them my name and I was brought up to Charlie Trotter’s office. I’m thinking I’m going to be vetted or something to make sure I wasn’t some lunatic coming in to the restaurant. To my surprise, in walked Charlie Trotter.
He extended a hand and half jokingly asked, “What made you want to pay for a day in my kitchen?” I told him about my love of cooking and how I admired his journey and accomplishments. I finally confessed, “I’m just a big fan and wanted to see the inner workings of your shop.” I then went on to share that I owned my own business and was hoping for some business insight. When he heard it had to do with health and fitness, we chatted about that.
After a few minutes I was escorted out to change in to my new kitchen attire. I felt so important, so cool. Once in the kitchen I felt almost as happy as I am at the beach. Water and food, two of my favorite things.
By 8:00 p.m. I was exhausted. The kitchen was tense, constantly busy and I learned more about cooking in those 9 hours than I ever did in any cooking class or “how-to” cookbook. It was incredible. I couldn’t wait to get home and try out some of the things I learned.
At one point, Charlie came in to the kitchen and the yelling started. But what I found interesting was when he left there was no rolling of the eyes or disrespect. Charlie Trotter demanded perfection because he wanted his guests experience to be perfect.
At the end of the day, Charlie Trotter was dedicated to people having a great experience. He knew they were spending a lot of time and money there and he wanted to make sure they would leave anticipating their next visit.
A couple of years later, I repeated my Charlie Trotter experience. He was even friendlier the second time around. I was able to attend their staff meeting, (that was interesting) and interact with some of his chefs. I wonder now, what chefs I might have been working with back then that went on to greatness because of Charlie Trotter? Charlie made me feel comfortable and welcome. I’ll never forget that.
When I owned my studio, I would always tell my staff that if you go off and open your own studio, or become a great trainer, I will be proud of you. I will be proud because I hope that it was something you experienced under my tutelage that made you better, stronger, more business savvy and successful.
That is what Charlie Trotter did for me. In just two visits to his restaurant and my brief conversations and full day observations I was reminded what a brilliant talent he was, not only as a chef, but as a businessman and philanthropist.
I will treasure my conversations with him and my time in his kitchen. I will always admire his ability to change the rules and make them his own with the end result being satisfaction for his customers, staff and hopefully for himself. Her deserved that.
Here’s to never wishing for more time, rather making the most of it.
By Nicki On July 7, 2013 3 Comments
I have always believed that in order to be successful, you must be engaged with something you’re passionate about. That goes for all aspects of life, not just work, but everyday life. Keeping passion alive is what makes every day an adventure. How I love adventures!
Some say that optimism is inherited while others think it’s simply a matter of making the choice between happiness or staying angry at the world.
I really believe that happiness and success is a direct result of doing what you’re passionate about, plain and simple. Very often grumpy people complain about everything including their job. I wonder if things would be different if they sought out something that they’re passionate about? Maybe the idea is just to daunting or they’re content where they are. Sometimes it’s easier for people to stay with what’s familiar even if it’s fruitless.
In the last year, I’ve been so lucky to get involved with things I am passionate about. Both my work and volunteer world adds excitement and purpose to my life. People ask me why I would sell my business only to work even harder and I quickly respond, “It’s not work when you’re doing something you’re passionate about.”
If you feel like you’re stuck, stand back and take a look at the big picture. Is there any aspect of your life that excites you? Is there anything you’re doing that triggers passion? If not, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate and see what you can change. The truth is that you will never be successful both personally and professionally if you settle, and you will most definitely not be successful if there’s no passion.
Find your passion and you’ll very likely find success!
Here’s to never wishing for more time, rather making the most of it!
By Nicki On April 16, 2013 No Comments
As runner’s crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon, the last thing on their mind was to duck and cover. They were focused on crossing the line that would mark a personal victory. A victory that came from months and for some years of training and dedication. The feelings of success, exhilaration, accomplishment all erased in a flash. The coming together of people to support their friends, loved ones, running buddies were suddenly pulled apart by chaos and tragedy. How do you make sense out of a senseless act?
Every time I see something like this, Sandy Hook, NYC, Atlanta, Colorado and on and on it goes I feel helpless. I feel like a movie is unfolding right before my eyes and I am simply an outsider with no control. It’s like someone kicked me in the gut and I’m unable to fight back. How do you make sense out of a senseless act?
My heart goes out to every participant in yesterday’s marathon. From fire fighters, to EMT’s to onlookers to police and of course runners and their families. As someone who participates in a number of runs, though never qualifying for Boston, there is something about the world of runners that is hard to explain. There is a brotherhood/sisterhood amongst runners. There is a camaraderie that connects us all and somehow we know that no matter what, we have each others back. It’s like an unspoken pact that happens naturally amongst runners.
When I began running races, my first big one was with an organized run by Chicago Tribune columnist, Eric Zorn. He formed the FOOL’s group (For Once in Our Lives) which consisted of runners that wanted to complete their first marathon. My life was forever changed after training for 6 months with that group. Although finishing the marathon was great, the friendships that were created have lasted far beyond the finish line. I remember on long runs, the more experienced runners would run behind me yelling, “You can do it Nicki, you’ve got this.” It almost brings me to tears writing about it. There is an incredible kinship amongst runners and if you’re not a runner, I can’t do it justice in this blog. So the thought of these runners, the relationships, their personal stories, their excitement, and their hard work instantly obliterated by someone’s hatred and clear mental instability is truly tragic. How do you make sense out of a senseless act?
In my small effort to honor, acknowledge, pay tribute to runners and their families, those who lost their life and all the city employees that risked their life for others I’m going to run 103 minutes today. It hardly seems enough, but during the 103 minutes that I run I will be thinking of those runners that never crossed the finish line and hope they make it their mission to make it back to Boston and try again. I will be thinking about those families that came to an event looking to cheer friends or family on and ended up at the emergency room or worst yet, planning a funeral. During the 103 minutes of running I will think about the person or persons that are behind this horrible act and hope they are soon found and we can get some answers. Although what answer would be good enough? How does one make sense of a senseless act?
The best I can do is my little part. It’s interesting how tragedy brings people closer together regardless of distance. It’s touching to see how many people reach out wanting desperately to help. Our country is pretty amazing as no matter how many times we’re knocked down, no matter how many lives are cut short or compromised, we somehow come back stronger and closer than ever. This realization doesn’t change anything but it brings a bit of comfort which during a time like this, we could all use. Boston, this runs for you!
Here’s to never wishing for more time, rather making the most of it.
By Nicki On January 15, 2013 No Comments
As a mother of four children, it was mandatory that they attend college. I didn’t have the luxury of that kind of support, so I made sure that all of my children had the gift of a loving home and a college education. But what about those who don’t start off with a solid foundation? What about those that focus on simply survival vs. a college education? As parents that want only the best for our kids, it’s hard to believe that there are parents who send their child out on the streets at 18, without money, tools or any idea on where their next meal is coming from. But it happens more than we’d like to believe.
As of this post, homeless youth, ages 18-22 are a fast growing segment of the homeless population here in Dupage County, Illinois. Women especially are vulnerable to homelessness for a number of reasons including, unstable parents, sexual abuse, untreated depression and trauma. A program that was started at 360 Youth Services called, THP (Transitional Housing Program) has been incredibly valuable and badly needed for young adults. THP has a program for young men from 18-24 and has been successful for 13years. The women’s program for 18-22 year old women started 5 years ago. During that time, they have housed, educated and inspired these young adults to eventually move out on their own, with a solid career and a bright future. However, this past fall the funding for the girls program was cut.
When the girls in the program were told about the cut in funding, they didn’t worry about themselves, the common question was, “What about all the other girls that need this program? What will happen to them?” These girls know how valuable this program has been as most of them are in college, gainfully employed and acquiring the skills necessary to lead a productive, high quality life. This is all due to the program and their hard work.
But if we can’t get dollars raised for these daughters, they could be back out on the street. I don’t know about you, but as a daughter, mother, friend and advocate, this is unacceptable.
Won’t you join me in helping to raise the necessary dollars needed to keep a roof over these girls’ head as well as raising awareness about the need for this program? Currently there are only three programs like this in the state of Illinois, and one of them is about to be cut. Help me fight for these girls and a offer a bright future for them and the numerous others that need advocates.
Thank you for making a difference and giving these girls the opportunities they so richly deserve. Check out the video and please share it with friends, family, colleagues, or your social media circles. Just one dollar, can make a profound difference! Won’t you join me?
By Nicki On December 24, 2012 No Comments
My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?” ~ Bob Hope, American film actor and comedian.
As Christmas inches closer, the holiday spirit makes its presence known through family gatherings, gift giving and grudges pushed aside. However, I’m reminded that the spirit I swore I’d carry with me all year long, dropped off around mid-February as the gloom of Chicago winters got the best of me. I let go of the enthusiasm that kicks in December 1st. That first December day, I embrace the truth that the needy don’t just need in December, that kindness should be spread throughout 12 months not 31 days, and that concern and love for others isn’t seasonal. I’m motivated to change the world on December 1st, until um, January 1st.
I liken the idea that I can live with the Christmas spirit year round to those who set their weight loss intentions January 1st, only to find that 30 days later, the goal was a bit lofty.
So, instead of thinking I can change the world in 30 days, I will try something a little more reasonable, each day, I’ll ask myself, “What can I do today, that will contribute to a better tomorrow?” That is a question I can answer every day, year round. I often make the mistake of thinking that gift giving is an act of kindness, when in truth the real gift is giving of your heart, living with more compassion, patience and love. I’m thinking that is something that I can stick with. I believe now, and will likely feel this way 6 months from now, that becoming a year ’round “gift giver” versus just one month out of the year, is the best way to keep the spirit of the season alive and well all year long.
Here’s wishing you and yours the spirit of the season that inspires you every day of the year.
By Nicki On November 8, 2012 3 Comments
In the aftermath of Sandy, those of us not directly affected continue on with our daily lives. We live as usual without a thought about what will happen to those that are homeless or have a house to piece back together, or worse, the loss of a loved one.
We observe the tragedy on television, in the comfort of our homes, a place of safety, empathetically shaking our heads barely able to grasp the deep devastation.
As a viewer I’m more compelled to feel sorry as to remove the guilt that stems from not actually being a victim. When the television coverage gets too hard to watch, I can simply change the channel, unlike the victims of mother nature’s wrath (who are likely not sitting in front a television), wondering where they’re going to live for the next 6 months. As we watch the horrors of other people’s circumstance unfold, somehow by simply voicing our sympathy, we feel exonerated from doing more. I saw it on T.V. so I get it.
I know I’m guilty of the above. Because I’m not immersed in the tragedy, I feel like there’s nothing I can do other than say a prayer, or wish a quick recovery for everyone. But in truth, it’s the easy way out, it’s not enough.
We all know someone who feels compelled to act despite their distance from the destruction. They know that there is something that they can do that is not only active but effective. They don’t use distance as a deterrent, as they know that little things do matter. They are my heroes.
I’ve recently witnessed heroes in my community that are doing something to lend support to those suffering at the hands of mother nature or at the hands of a heartless killer. When I see people coming together to make a difference for someone that they’ve never met simply because it’s the human thing to do, I’m inspired. I’m inspired to stop making excuses for not jumping on board and helping to make a difference. I’m inspired to remember every day that we are all here on this earth to support and love one another regardless of race, culture, religion, sexual preference or political leanings.
I am grateful to those in my community that continue to step up and never use the excuse of time, money or geography to keep them from pitching in. These local heroes never look for anything back, they are simply making an effort to do what should come easy, being a human being that cares and contributes. These heroes make the world a better place.
Between Sandy, recent local killing of innocent children, the fall out from political disappointment, and the countless other tragedies that happen in our country and around the world, we need to come together. At a time of such turmoil, isn’t it more fitting that we come together versus pushing away?
I will continue to be inspired, even try to emulate those heroes locally and globally that strive to make our world a better place. Whether it’s volunteering, extending a hand to someone in need or simply offering your time to those less fortunate, we have more reasons to be connected than to be divided. It really is what brought this country together from the beginning.
Each day I will commit to being more aware of where I can help and be of service, versus using media to absolve my responsibilities. It’s almost inconceivable to ignore those that so desperately need kindness and compassion, but it happens more than not. I vow today to keep that in the forefront of my mind and to better appreciate what a powerful role I/we can play in making a positive difference. Positive change starts with me and I hope with you too.
Here’s to not wishing for more time, rather making the most of it!