A Defeat, A Detour and a Grand Adventure: Part 1


So what do you do, when you can’t do anything?

Me? I plan an Adventure.  

There was a time, back in the day, when I dreamed of becoming a psychologist, which actually meant I’d have to have a Ph.D. to get a job.

No worries! I finished up my undergraduate studies and happily mailed off applications to graduate schools all around the country.

Just the thought of going away to school was intoxicating, so I applied to great schools that were close to all the prettiest mountain ranges in America.

Well heck, how do you pick a school?

I entertained myself while waiting for the invitations expected from those schools. I imagined a new life in beautiful, far away places like Colorado or Oregon. Being a child of the Great Smoky Mountains, I couldn’t wait to explore even greater heights.

Academically, and literally. :)

So I waited. And waited.

And waited.

But those letters never came.

That was okay, I told myself.

Being a hard-core optimist, I did what they’d told us to do in those “How to Get into Grad School” seminars I used to attend.

I got a job in the field with an entry level position at a psychiatric hospital. I made minimum wage – $4.20 an hour – doing work that was fascinating and fulfilling. For the first time in my life, I had paid vacation, insurance and other (amazing!) benefits.

I was in heaven. I loved my job, and with a little experience under my belt, I knew I’d be okay. Soon I’d try again, and this time, it would work.

So, a year later, I applied again. Just like I was taught to do.

And this time, I was more of a realist. I sacrificed my dream schools, and applied to those that best fit my strengths, including some in the middle of the flatlands, like St. Louis, or in rolling hills, like Georgia.

This time, with real world experience on top of good grades and solid test scores, I knew I’d be fine. This time, I’d get in.

Only… I didn’t.

In fact, I could hear the laughing before I even got to the mail. Holding my breath, I’d open the mailbox, slowly reach in for the envelopes stacked there, and hear – in my mind at least – a shrieking witch’s cackle.

Imagine, say, the Wicked Witch of the West.
Or, worse, a Harry Potter Howler. :)

SOOOoooooo….You want to come to OUR schooooool??? I don’t THINK so! HA! Hahahahahahaaaaa!!!!

It was just like that, in one rejection letter after another.

And another.

And another.

Until I’d been rejected by Every Single One.  

NOW what would I do? You see, an undergraduate degree in psychology is essentially worthless. You can’t do anything with it, unless you have at least a Master’s, and preferably a doctorate, or Ph.D..

If I couldn’t get into graduate school, I had no idea what to do. I wanted to be a counselor, a psychotherapist, but without that extra degree, I was stuck. Suddenly, that cool job I loved was a trap, with no way out.  

And, I was alone. I was only 22. And although I didn’t get to move far away like I’d dreamed, my family actually did.

My dad was unexpectedly transferred by his employer, and my parents moved halfway across the country to Dallas, Texas.

Most kids grow up and leave home (you hope). In my case, home grew up and left me. And all of this was happening at once.

It was a hard time. For the first time in my life, I was up against a wall I couldn’t find my way around. And for the first time in my life, I was really, really, on my own.

Unless I wanted to move to Texas, that is. And that, I refused to do.

(No offense to my Texan friends, but have you seen how FLAT it is out there?)

As my coach says, there was no cavalry coming.
It was up to me to figure something out, to find a way forward. 5970839806_b7f9343102_m (1)


But I felt so defeated.

And my confidence was at an all time low. I felt like I couldn’t do anything. Anything. At all.

My mom and dad always told me I could do anything I put my mind to. With their love and support, hard work, faith (and sometimes just plain luck), I’d generally done pretty well at most anything I’d ever tried.

But not this time.

To be so rejected in such a complete way, to be told no at every turn, was a painful new experience.

So I began to doubt myself.

Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this kind of career after all.

Maybe I wasn’t smart enough. Strong enough. Clever enough. Competitive enough.

Good enough.

Who was I kidding? Maybe I should just hang it all up.

Maybe I should just quit.

Not. On. Your. Life.

I’d figure something out.

But first — I had to find something I could control. I needed something I could MAKE happen; something Big…Something that would help me get my confidence back.

I needed a way to climb back up
on the horse that had bucked me off.

So I planned my own, first, (Secret) Adventure. I decided to go to Switzerland.

And next week, I’ll tell you the REST of the story.

Photos by -Ebelien- and loop_oh on Flickr

What’s Your Why?

Flying...Photo Credit: Wendy Pitts Reeves

Why do you do what you do?

If you’ve found a way to earn a living doing something you really love, congratulations.  You are WAY ahead of most folks.

You’re also pretty gosh darned unusual – because that’s not how it is for most people.

See, most people live by default.

They float through time like driftwood, landing wherever life, and circumstance, carries them. They grow up, get a job, get married, have kids, buy a house. Some choose a career that seems pretty reasonable, and may even go after higher education or extra training to get it. But most – even those with college degrees – will take something that basically pays the bills and supports the family, whether it’s what they really want to do, or not.

And most will think that’s just the way it has to be, because after all, we can’t always get what we want, right?

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

The sad truth is that very few people spend their days doing what they really, truly, passionately…


I think about this a lot.

My life stays pretty full. My family teases me about it. My friends caution me about it. My clients have learned to be patient when I’m hard to reach because I’m off on yet another who-knows-what idea.

And there are (many, many) days when I think, “Why can’t I just stay in my office 8-5,  Monday through Friday, do perfectly good work there, and be satisfied with that? Life would be so much simpler…

Indeed. What IS that?

What is it that drives me to continually try new things, explore new ideas, test new ways of Being in the world, when it would be so much easier not to?

WHY do I do that?

Because I have always been determined to do what I love – even if what I love, changes.

And what about you?
Why do you do what you do?
How did you get where you are?

And is this really where you want to be?

The journey is the thing.
-Homer, The Odyssey

The key is to keep asking that question, and stay open to the ever changing answers.

I started out, back in the day, as a broadcasting major. I was in love with writing, and thought that landing a spot as a news anchor would be fun AND pay the bills.

By the time I got out of college, I’d fallen in love with psychology, changing majors even though I knew it wasn’t practical. You can’t GET a job with a BA in psych, so I knew that meant more school, and a less-than-sure-thing job search.

By the time I got out of graduate school, I was in love with working with teens and had what I thought was my dream job, with good pay, an office in a log cabin, and a work day that included campfires and long walks in the woods.

By the time I became a mom, I was in love with a certain little brown-eyed boy, and knew I wanted to be home more. But I couldn’t find a part time job, so I started a business instead. Building my own practice let me set my own hours and honor my own priorities.

I had no idea what I was doing – but I learned.

By the time I was Mama to two, I was in love with a little brown-eyed girl, AND with the thrills (and challenges) of owning a business. I had also reconnected with a passion first ignited in college – a passion for supporting and empowering women and girls. So I accepted an invitation to help start an annual event for girls (the Sister to Sister Summit, which continued for eleven years and served over 1000 girls), and launched an idea to help other women be in business for themselves (Cove Mountain Counseling, one of the premier counseling centers in our community today).

I had no idea what I was doing – but I learned.

By the time my kids were in high school, I’d fallen in love with community work, and accepted an invitation to run for office. I was still passionate about empowering women, and knew I had to ‘walk my talk’. If I ran, maybe others would. So I did. And so did others.

I had no idea what I was doing – but I learned.

By the time I finished a term in office, I was restless, and ready for a new challenge. So I spent six months reading, journaling, praying, listening, and waiting for what was Next. And I realized how much I’ve always been in love with travel, and how much it helped when I could convince my clients to travel, too. So I launched Secret Adventures for Courageous Women.

I had no idea what I was doing – but I learned.

And after three years of running Secret Adventures, I’ve come full circle, and realize how much I still love being a business owner, and still love helping women be in business for themselves. So I started offering private coaching for small, heart-centered businesses, and launched the C2C Small Business Success Circle.

And yes, by now, I actually do know what I’m doing. :)

Life is good.
Do what you like.
Like what you do.

You’ll recognize that quote from the popular Life is Good company. I love their motto – because it’s pretty much how I live my life.

And knowing your “why” is key to “doing what you like, liking what you do”.

This is what I know for myself: I have an absolute passion about helping women recognize – and own – what beautiful, brave and powerful beings they already are.You should go do them

And I have an absolute love of adventure (and to me, everything is an adventure).

So that’s why I do what I do.

How about you? Do you love what you do?

And if not, why not change it?

(And if you need a little help figuring out what that would look like, let me know!)

Easy Adventures and Everyday Getaways: 9 Ways to Play This Summer

DaisiesDon’t let the summer get away from you.

Because the full and busy life that Fall brings will be on us all soon enough. :)

It’s July, and I’ve been planning out our Secret Adventures for 2014-2015 season, so the art of play is on my mind a lot. Do you have a special request, or a few favorites that you’d love for us to do if we could? If you do, better tell me! You can use the comments below.

And as I do this for what will be our FOURTH year (can you believe it?!), I’m also thinking about what it takes to create an Adventure that works. I’ve learned a lot since that very first night, when I led some of you on a surprise full moon hike to Look Rock. When we kick off this August, I’ll be adding to the mix, a chance to share some of those lessons with you, as well.

In the mean time, here’s a few of my favorite ideas, in no particular order, to help you make the most of these long, lovely sunny days right here at home – before they disappear into the rear view.

  • Set up your own spa day.  Spend an afternoon getting a massage and a facial, then follow it up with a manicure and a pedicure. Top the day off sharing a leisurely favorite beverage with your best friend at an outdoor restaurant.
  • Splurge on a harmless day of window shopping. A few hours dreaming stirs your imagination without hurting your budget. :) That might mean spending a couple of hours trying out the couches at your favorite furniture stores, or combing through the stacks of a local used bookstore. When I had a house full of pre-schoolers, allowing myself a few hours to wander through my favorite strip of antique stores was a delicious ‘escape’.
  • Plan a personal picnic. Pack a folding camp chair, a pair of water shoes, a good book or your journal, and a small cooler with snacks and something cold to drink. If you live near the mountains, as I do, there are countless options for taking an afternoon off for some solo quiet time. Find a pull-off with a view, set your chair up in the grass, and enjoy the comings and goings of others while reading, Being, and breathing the fresh air. My favorite – especially on a hot summer day – is to plant my chair IN a shallow creek for an hour or two. Just be careful about keeping your books dry!
  • Play tourist in your hometown. Pretend that you’re a first time visitor to your city. Where would you start? Usually – you’d go to the local Visitor Center, pick up a couple of brochures, and ask the earnest young woman working the desk for advice about what to see. Many people never see the local sites that others drive 100’s of miles to explore.  What are you missing that’s in your own backyard?
  • Widen your perspective. Start with your home city, but look at other cities and towns within an hour of where you live. What’s there that you’ve missed? Is there a museum that you’ve always heard of but never visited? Could you take a scenic train ride? Is there a local amusement park? (And if there is, who said you have to have kids to go ride a roller coaster?)
  • Go for a drive. Some of my best afternoons have been spent in a car I love to drive, windows down, music playing, driving the scenic roads in my part of the country. Now – my backyard is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so I’ll admit to an unfair home advantage. But even driving through a new neighborhood to see what they’re building, trying out a country road to see where it goes, seeing if you can get from point A to point B without hitting a main road. All of those can be fun. (Oh – and cranking up Beethoven with your windows down at a stoplight can be a real hoot if teens are nearby.)
  • Get some culture. Almost any music is better live than it will ever be on a radio. Where could you hear some live music in your area? For those of you reliving your teen years, a little southern rock at a smoky bar can still feel like a little forbidden pleasure. For those who just can’t stay up that late any more, there are bbq spots with live blues, pizza joints with country & folk, and free outdoor concerts hosted by your hometown symphony or even a top-notch professional band. Comb through the calendar listings of your local papers for ideas. And don’t limit yourself to the daily news. In our area, a local alternative weekly has the most complete listing of local events I’ve ever seen.
  • Go outside and play. When you were a kid, did your mom ever tell you to turn off that TV and go outside to play? Well – she was on to something there. Human beings are natural beings, and too much time under florescent lights breathing stale air stifles the best of us. Go walk the greenway. Feed the ducks. Ride your bike. Take a day hike in the woods. Try a Saturday morning kayaking class and see how easy it is to float your way out of a stressful week.
  • Become a kid again. Plan a movie night with all your childhood favorites. (Mary Poppins? Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?) Set up a tent in your backyard, grab a stack of Nancy Drew mysteries from your local library (or your favorite adult spy novels), and pile up pillows and blankets for a night under the stars. Blow bubbles. Chase fireflies. Have  your girlfriends over and sit on the porch until long after dark, listening to the night music in your yard. Better yet – pull out some cushions and a sleeping bag and sleep right there on the porch. An astounding variety of birdsong will wake you just at sunrise, a beautiful way to start any day.

Me? For now, I’m just gonna take my glass of tea and sit on the porch for a while. :)

How about you? 

What’s on your summer bucket list?


P.S. Oh – and one more thing.

I am super excited about this! In August, I’ll be holding a free one hour tele-seminar, where I’ll share with you some of my secrets for planning Everyday Adventures that work. If you’ve been curious about how you could use my Everyday Adventure model in your own business this is for you.  Details are over on the website. Register there and I’ll send you everything you need to hop on the call!!


Photo Credit: “Michael” on Flickr

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…

Virginia is for Lovers

And that pretty much describes a good portion of our Courageous Women’s Summer Camp last week. :)

We packed up in the afternoon sun, and headed north for what I hoped would be four days of peace and beauty, with a healthy dose of good old fashioned fun.  After weeks of hot sunny days with scattered afternoon thundershowers, we were eager for the cool green of the mountains, and it was just fine if we got a little rain.

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That’s part of camping too, after all, so I wasn’t too worried about that.

And we did have fun. Great fun – riding the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail and trying out the famous Barter Theater.

But we also got three unusually gray days, plenty of cool temps, and actually, a LOT of rain.

And thunder.

And lightening.

And…well…let’s just say a little unexpected excitement. :)

Thus began the lessons of this particular Adventure.

Over the next 4 days, we learned a lot about how to camp in the rain, like how to keep your belongings dry and your tent cozy.The Virginia Creeper Bike Trail

–How to hang a big tarp to sit under, and light a lantern to push back the dark..

–How tiki torches can turn a campsite into a (bug free) living room.

–How to build a fire with wet wood, and cook a hot meal even in the dampest of conditions.

When the weather changed on a dime and a couple of us got caught in a storm on our bikes – we learned about advance planning, emergency shelter, and great ideas about communication.


The Virginia Creeper Bike Trail

When one of my dear friends became unexpectedly ill, we learned about seeking services in unfamiliar territory, important preparation skills, and the kindness of strangers. (She’s fine by the way – but we needed to make sure.)

Oh – and once, after taking a wrong turn, I got an unexpected refresher course in backing up a trailer on a crooked country road with a drop-off and a creek on one side.

That part was pretty funny.

And I’m really, really glad you weren’t there to see it. :)

But we also learned this. Carra loves her air mattress!

–That once you have the hang of it, a bad day camping is better than a good day at the office – any day.

–That attitude really IS everything.

–That a nice, warm fire makes all the difference on a gray day – whether that’s a campfire, a tiki torch, a lantern, or a candle.

–That taking in a funny, sweet play in the middle of a soggy trip is a wonderful way to dry out. — Though I actually bought the tickets weeks ago. :)

Yes, THAT was the Secret Adventure.

–We learned that sitting under a nice tarp with a gentle rain over head, a blanket in your lap, a cup of hot coffee and a journal in your hand, can be a really nice way to spend a morning.

Sharing–That deep connections happen among women friends who spend any kind of time together in almost any kind of circumstances. And how special that can be.

We learned that Intention is a Powerful Thing.


(Because each of us, in often unexpected ways, found OUR intentions coming true all weekend long.)

And perhaps more than anything else, we learned that when we move forward in our lives with quick, decisive action, no matter what the skies say, things have a way of working out.

The clouds clear. The sun comes back.
And Adventures unfold as they should. Sunny Morning

So here’s a toast to the Courageous Women who joined me last weekend, who made me proud, filled my heart, held on to their sense of humor and rediscovered their sense of wonder.

In spite of everything.

Because of everything.

And what powerful lesson on the best way to travel through Life, the Greatest Adventure of all.

Thank you.