It’s Not About the Shoes




I agreed to meet  friends  last night for a quick “Hello, What’s Up?”.  I walked up the street and paused on the corner to make sure the approaching driver was aware I was about to cross.  A women stepped alongside of me. “Great shoes!” she said as she pointed to my feet. I looked down to remind myself which pair I had selected and smiled. I was wearing my  favorite bright red, patent leather, strappy shoes.   I responded, “Thanks. Nordstrom.”   My comments were short and to the point, after all I was about to cross the street, and I knew she didn’t saddle up to me to chat about the 2016 Presidential Election.   She just wanted to know where she could get the same shoes. She actually took a photo of them and I suspect by now she has a pair of her own.

When I arrived at the restaurant, my favorite waitress greeted me whispering,  “I want those shoes!” I hugged her and then hugged my two friends already settled in a booth with a glass of wine.   “Love your shoes, Mary Ann!”  they said almost in unison. Again, I noted “Nordstrom”.  I could see they both made a mental note of it and now there would be at least four pair of these same shoes in town.

I like it when others notice my shoes, new hair style, or dress. We all like compliments. But I remember well  when compliments on what I was wearing were meaningless to me.   When I was studying for my doctoral degree, I spent two weeks every summer in Atlanta with my cohort working on our research projects. I worked hard.  I received too many compliments from both the students and my professors about the dress I was wearing or the shoes that “brought the whole look together.”   Here I was at 62 years old struggling to get through this difficult program, especially learning how to conduct research. I would have welcomed recognition of my contributions in class, my writing capability, or how well I facilitated  a team  project.  The compliments about my wardrobe fell way short of what was important to me. Finally  one professor used my written work as an example of good academic writing, and that one compliment gave me the incentive to continue the academic challenge ahead of me.

If I could choose the  compliments coming my way today. they  would not be about my appearance. It isn’t how we look that defines us as women with high SUCCESSTROGEN.  It is about what we do , how we make the world a little better. I like the wise words from one of the greatest athletes of our time,

“It’s not about the shoes, it’s what you do in them”. (Michael Jordan)

Shoes….in their simplest form, they are a nice alternative to the hazards of walking in bare feet. But the impact you have on the world  is a direct result of your decision to help others everyday in those shoes.

What do you do to serve and help others?  How do you make others feel? Why is the world a better place with you in it?

Gotta go, I’ve got a meeting to attend.  I will probably notice what the other women are wearing, and surely check out their shoes, but  if I offer a compliment, I am going to focus on their behavior, what they do. This is perhaps another way I can make a difference.  Care to join me?

Two Under Par


The early morning TV weather man warned me that there would be scattered thunderstorms throughout the day. But I had an 8:12 tee time at The Meadows, my new country club, so I continued to dress for golf.  As the valet brought my car around,  Martin commented, “Gee Ms. O’Neil, I think your game may be rained out!”  “But I have an 8:12 tee time”, I noted. When I got to the golf shop, Rob, the manager, told me that since “everyone else had cancelled” I could tee off earlier if I wished.  He seemed to hesitate expecting me to also cancel, but that thought had not occurred to me, after all “I had an 8:12…..”  Being a routine kind of gal, I stuck with my 8:12 time and headed out to the driving range.

After whacking just three golf balls as well as I ever had, the very dark grey clouds gave me a hint that the weather man, Martin, and all the golfers who cancelled earlier this morning might have been more realistic.  I quickly headed toward the first tee.  I noted it was a par 4.  Again, I whacked the ball, far and straight, and my second shot wasn’t too shabby either…and then it happened. The skies opened up wide! Oh my goodness, it was clear that I was going to need an ARK with little time to build one much less gather all the animals!!!!! The rain came down hard and fast and within moments I was soaked all the way through to my undies–after just two strokes.

I drove the golf cart faster than it is supposed to go drying to avoid some of the rain.  I returned to the pro shop and announced, “I just got my lowest score ever on the first hole!!!!!! The head pro, the shop manager, and Frank, the starter who had come in out of the rainstorm, all laughed out loud and frankly I think they may still be laughing.  On my way home I couldn’t help but delight in the fact that I shot two under par on the first hole!!

Upon reading this blog, you want to tell me I had all the warnings and was unrealistic in my expectations.  You are correct.  But here is my point and for better or worse, here is the essence of me.  I could have let the weather man change my plan, I could have let Martin’s warning do the same., and I could have heeded Rob’s hint in the pro shop. But you know what?  I had a great “almost golf game”,   a good hard laugh in the pro shop, and a good story to post on Successtrogen.  This was one of those times when I stayed in the moment, right where I was supposed to be, and frankly, I am glad I did. My initial plan to play 18 holes changed fast without my consent and I chose to see where the change would take me.  My golf today, albeit a very short game, was a great game, and I will forever talk about the day that I shot two under par.

This is one of my high SUCCESSTROGEN areas–where I stay with the moment, taking life as it unfolds.  Call it “glass half full”, the “power of positive thinking”, or call it whatever you like. For me,  it is staying in the moment and letting the moment unfold to something unexpected.  This story preceded my arrival at the membership office to complete the paperwork for my membership.  There is no question in my mind that my story was repeated, influencing that meeting in a most positive way.  I became instantly connected to Rob in the pro shop, to Frank, the starter, and Glenda in the office,  and already, on day one, I feel at home at The Meadows.


In the Moment


Old teddy bear isolated on a white background with clipping path.

“Come on Mary Beth. It’s time to go! Your brother will be home from  camp soon.”, the woman said in a tone that indicated she had said it several times before. Her words distracted me from my mindlessness that took me miles away as I worried about how to schedule the surgery needed on my right thumb.

“But mommm-eeee”, Mary Beth said.  With her arms outstretched so her mom could have a direct view of her bear. She asked, “Can’t you see my bear is sad? He needs a hug.”  At that point she pulled the tattered looking bear to herself, and hugged him with all her might, turning her body side to side, as the bears arms and legs flailed left and right.    For a moment there,  I feared she would squeeze the stuffing out of him.   I couldn’t help but feel envious of the bear and the enormous, warm hug he was getting.    I smiled at the little girl and then nodded to her mom as if to say, “Nice work, mom.  You have taught her to be caring and loving.” The mother smiled at me, gratefully, as though  she is often unsure of her parenting skills.  It was in the language of moms, one mom to another. In this very moment, the mom received a compliment that she needed, Mary Beth got the extra moments she needed to care for her bear, the bear received the hug he needed, and I became mindful of the moment, something I needed.   We were all fortunate to be there at that moment to get what we needed.

And just then, the little girl took a half step towards me.”Do you need a hug too?”, she asked.  I glanced at her mom and quickly added, “No thank you, I’m fine.”   I knew I had  bailed her mom out of an awkward moment (the “mom-to-mom” thing again).  And I added, “Watching you give your bear a big hug made me feel good.  He is a well-loved  bear, I can see that!”

Her mom nodded ever so slightly, again both saying a lot while not saying anything.  And at that very moment  I realized I was right there in the moment, taking it all in.  So this is what being in the moment means.  Women of high SUCCESSTROGEN work at being mindful, of staying in the moment and capturing the learning that is there for them.  I am working hard at being mindful, of staying right in a moment in time, but it doesn’t come easy to a high energy woman like me.  This moment in time was  a tender moment between a child and her bear, a child and her mom, and two moms. The moment was sweet and loving and my worry about whatever I was worrying about disappeared, at least for now.  I found that when I am in the moment, gratitude comes easy to me.  I am so grateful I didn’t miss this moment.

“Ready mommy!” Mary Beth said as she took her mom’s hand and wrapped her other arm tightly around the bear.  Somehow the bear didn’t look quite so tattered as he had a few minutes ago.  She glanced back over her shoulder at me and waved.  The world was good.

I sat for quite a while after that experience, being in the moment, enjoying the view, the warmth of the sun, and the warm of the almost hug.  I watched  a gecko climb over my large purse to the other side and had the strangest feeling he smiled at me.  I listened to the boat captain welcoming his passengers as they boarded and had a feeling that I, too, was  welcomed to the moment.  What a nice morning…..I am grateful for the moment and ready to start my day!


The Cancelled trip


I am almost always an “opt in” kind of gal. I readily respond to invites to participate in a new activity, hearing myself often saying, “Sure, I’m game. Count me in!”  Frankly, more often than that, I am creating the plan to engage others whether that be for a spontaneous walk in a rainstorm, attending a town meeting,  or last-minute movie.

But recently I uncharacteristically “opted out”, backed out of something I had dreamed about for years, lived through over and over again in my mind, and began planning for many months ago. I was all set to go to Tanzania and Kenya on Safari. All the plans were made.  My safari clothing and backpack (including animal print lingerie) was purchased.   I  had all the shots required to keep in good health before, during, and after the excursion.  But I opted out.  Things changed most unexpectedly and the once coveted journey lost its excitement and romance. The “opt in” gal opted out.

And here is what I learned from  this decision: The decision to not go on this journey, is in and of itself, part of my journey.  My journey is much bigger than the trips I take. My journey is my life as I live it, my life plan.  I generally make decisions to do new things in order to enhance my life plan, to go forward, to broaden and challenge myself.  I know well that daily decisions bring me to new learning, new places, and new friends.  Yet this decision, the decision to “not go” on the journey to Africa is also part of my life journey.  There is no need for me to be disappointed or sad. For this segment of my journey, I do not need to pack a suitcase, show my Visa or new immunization record,  I need only to open my mind and heart to the next road that seems to already be calling me.

With our high SUCCESSTROGEN, we women know when to opt in and opt out, because we have the skill of  clearly examining all the facts, factoring in our heart, and making the right decision for us. My journey has one more time taken me away from where I thought I was going, and to someplace else.  I cannot wait to see where it takes me.  And if you are at all curious, be sure that I will keep you posted. Frankly, the new journey has already begun due to some odd electronic mishap!

In the meantime, consider your own journey and determine if it is keeping you in or taking you to a good place. If so, if you like where you are or where you are headed,  then continue on your journey. If you feel your journey is taking you no where, that life is dull, not healthy, not what you want it to be, then  you need to revisit why and begin again on a more fun, healthier, and/or happier journey. Remember, even when there are road changes in our journey, the detours are still part of the same trip.

My journey is a good one, with new learning literally every day.  Come join me in making our journeys wonderful and as we travel side by side, or miles apart from each other, let’s stay alert to our journey and wish one another a safe, exciting, and happy one.

The Baby Bird





dreamstime_s_44745216Last week, an  injured baby bird fell from it’s nest, and landed in the parking lot, unable to fly.  A compassionate  staff member was doing his best to shoo away larger crow- like birds who were taking advantage of the helpless little dove but the larger “bullies” were not scared off easily. Arnold, the concierge at the front desk, called me to ask for help.

I decided I would call The Bird Sanctuary. It was a Sunday evening and the recorded message told me the bird hospital was closed but I could leave the bird at the entrance in a box. It took a while to coax the frightened little guy into the box, but before I knew it I was in my car driving to the Bird Sanctuary. I found myself talking to the Dove telling  him “Don’t worry, it will all be okay”, assuring him that the best doctors were on staff.  Probably the dumbest thing I said was, ” This is just a little setback, lots of baby birds fall out of their nest.” (Really? Had I conducted research that determined “lots of” baby birds fall out of their nests?)  My crazy conversation went on…” You will be flying around soon,  I promise.”  (Somehow at the height of my delirium I was claiming to be all-knowing and promised all would be well).  Obviously the burden of responsibility I felt had gotten the best of me.

I left the box and had a very restless night sleep. My internet search indicated the bird sanctuary opened at 7:30 am, so morning couldn’t come fast enough.  I called immediately at 7:30, and explained who I was and inquired about the little Dove.  “He will be going into surgery in about an hour” the kind voice said.  “Oh good”, I replied.  Can the doctor call me afterwards and let me know how he did?

There was silence on the end of the line. “Hello? ” I said, really saying, “Why aren’t you answering me?” and that kind voice responded…”Uh, mam, we don’t really do that, get back in touch with people who dropped off an injured bird. Realizing that the doctor and the staff there must be busy with many sick and injured birds and animals, I understood  it was foolish of me to expect that they would call me back with an update.  “Oh, no problem, I will call later back and check on him.

Two hours later I called and was told that the bird was in ICU recovering for 24 hours.  “Oh good I will stop in  and visit him.”  Again, that silence that I had experienced earlier this morning.  “Sir?” I questioned.

“Mam, look. We are very pleased that you cared enough to bring the bird to us so we could help him, but usually people do just that, they drop off the injured bird and that’s that. Their responsibility stops there.”

I added, “But he doesn’t have any family or friends to comfort him”.  You think I had silence before?…it was a very long pause this time, and while slow to get the point, I finally realized, I wasn’t going to get a call back and I couldn’t visit him.

I stopped asking and then softly said, I would call back the next day. Another restless night.  The next day I called and now I suppose  my name was on a list of nuisance women posted by the phone.  “Mam, look. We don’t have visitors in ICU or in the recovery cage.” And after all my seemingly ridiculous questions, I asked the final one that just blew the man’s mind. “Would you mind taking a picture of him and texting it to me? My eyes filled with tears as the kind voice explained that there were many little birds in the recovery cage, all flying this way and that and there would be no way of telling which bird was “my” bird.

And then the flood gates opened. I had to move on.  As you often do as well, I did a caring thing, just as  the doctors that  operated on the little feathered fellow did. But the point was I had to let go, let nature take its course, get out-of-the-way, however you wish to say it,—I had to move aside.  Sometimes in our lives, we just have to move aside even when we don’t understand the reason why. Women with high SUCESSTROGEN want to keep helping, but they do know when it is time to move aside, and let life go on.





One Small Carry On

dreamstime_s_23213484 I recently flew to Chevy Chase to visit my granddaughter, Calla.  Prior to take off, a flight attendant announced that passengers were  “…permitted a carry-on bag and one small personal item which can fit neatly under the seat…” I, a seasoned traveller, was familiar with the script and had already stowed my regulation-sized carry-on in the overhead bin, and after removing my iPad, stored my small personal item under my seat.

Across the isle a woman was sweating profusely as she tried to jam her large bag in the overhead bin.   The flight attendant tried several ways to convince the traveler to check her bag. The traveler’s “punishment” for trying to sneak the larger bag on board was that her bag would  be checked all the way to the dreaded baggage claim. The woman argued that it should be gate checked, saving her time upon arrival, but this was a battle the flight attendant would win. The passenger carried on about the declining customer service trend throughout the airlines industry, the poor design of the planes, and whatever else she could think of, but to no avail.  Her bag was tagged for baggage claim. The irony here is that the traveler’s apparent over-reaction to the incident, was likely tied to another kind of baggage, her “emotional baggage (EB).”

Emotional baggage is the negative stuff we just can’t let go of. It is that stuff that lingers and continues to bother us and haunt us, things we keep going over and over in our heads, never resolving.   We all have it.   I am  sure that those of us who are truly happy have the least amount of emotional baggage. What we have could fit in a small carry-on bag.

Those of us who have a large suitcase of EB, continue to apply it to our present life, allowing it to cloud our judgement, and make poor decisions. We far too easily recall what our mothers did to make our lives difficult, or what our former husband did that was unfair.  The more we talk about what wasn’t good and allow that to interfere in our being at our personal best,  the bigger the piece of luggage. The bigger the luggage, the more difficult it is for us to travel about our world with ease, to find real happiness.

Somehow those of us with the least amount of EB found a way to “move on”, to forgive, to learn from the experience, and put that old stuff behind us.  I will put myself in the “small carry on  EB category”. I often story tell about a negative experience from my childhood or early adulthood, but it is usually to indicate how I have changed my life so that does not reoccur.  My parents were good parents, they did what they could with what they had.  What I loved about their parenting (worth ethic, organized home, emphasis on education) I made sure I  brought into my life as I was raising a family.  What I did not like (lack of physical touching, never saying “I love you, prejudice”) I made a conscious effort to change so as to create our world as I thought it should be.

Even in women with High SUCCESSTROGEN who have only a small carry on bag of emotional stuff, occasionally the EB expands because something has  shifted and caused pain, confusion, and disappointment.  While that happened recently to me,  fearing I would need to go to a larger bag for storage, I developed a strategy:  I allowed myself three days of sadness and feeling sorry for myself, and then literally drafted a plan to move on with NO ANGER, NO BLAMING. As a matter of fact I will work hard to redesign this incredible friendship that is too important  to discard.

Check your emotional baggage. Does it fit in a small carry on bag? Good,  keep it that way. But do you have to sit on the carry on to zip it closed?  Then it is getting out of control,  sort out what you can “leave home”–keep the bag as light as you can.

Picnic Simple


“I would like to take you on a picnic to Myakka Park.”  That’s what he said. He said it in his usual determined voice, rather matter-of-factly, just as I have written it. It was a simple statement expressing a simple idea. My initial reaction was “a Picnic!!! Wow!” I wanted to jump up and down, clap my hands  and screech with delight, but I did none of those things.  Instead I replied in kind, very calmly….”Yeah, that would be fun.”

Jim and I are active, very active, attending many live theater productions, concerts, lectures and movies. We  play golf and exercise.  We even went to an NHL playoff game  (Go Lightening!)… get the picture….”crazy active”. As I began telling friends that we were going on a picnic, they seemed surprised, with not a soul thinking a picnic was any big deal.  Personally, it was a big deal. I believe picnics  are grossly under-rated. There is something  very  “exciting” about the idea of  a simple picnic.

I woke up early on the morning of our picnic in anticipation of a wonderful day, and the delicious gazpacho Jim made to accompany our barbecued chicken kabobs.  Our local weather report indicated the possibility of rain,  but that didn’t scare us off one bit.  You and I both know,

“You bring your own weather to a picnic.”

Myakka Park is one of the oldest and largest of the Florida state parks. It is 58 square miles of  calm, 58 square miles of quiet wildlife, beautiful trees, and romantic trails.   Make no mistake, the Park belongs to the alligators, birds, and other wild life who live there. We were mere guests, catching a glimpse of how the “residents” of the Park live. The environment is ever so quiet, interrupted only occasionally by the mating sound of an alligator or the call of a loon.

Binoculars in hand, we watched wildlife from a board walk over the Myakka River and from the top of a tall structure on Canopy trail.   We saw alligators, Ibis, Wood Storks and turkey vultures, and many birds I had never heard.  The inhabitants of the Park seem to lead a “picnic simple” life, hardly giving notice to any of us from outside their community. Jim and I walked for miles and did little talking.  There was no need to talk, this was about the quiet and enjoying nature. We didn’t need to discuss the new business on Main Street,  the construction project next door, or a movie  we “really should see”. We didn’t review our calendars or discuss our poor golf round played day before. We just walked, observed and enjoyed our “picnic simple” day.

“Picnic simple”, that was the allure for this day.  We do not lead simple lives, but the picnic reminded me that life isn’t always about being on the go, about rushing from one event to another. Life is sometimes just about the simple, about getting in touch with our inner selves and the world around us. I need to train myself on picnic simple so it becomes a bigger part of my life.

Women with high SUCCESSTROGEN know the value of simple and while their lives get hectic at times, they find “picnic simple” to unwind and get grounded in what’s most important.  My younger life as a mom/business woman was hectic and far from picnic simple.  Today, I have to make a conscious effort to kick back.  Dialing it down, letting go of the need to always be in the thick of things, that is what I need and want to do–perhaps one of the most difficult habits I will have to break.

I suspect you discovered “picnic simple” well before me, so good for you. But if you haven’t, please consider it, and by all means, begin with a drive out to Myakka Park.