Posted in tips for speakers

The Road Warrior’s Secret Weapons (and other travel tips)

If you have an upcoming flight this holiday season, here are a few traveller’s tips that will save you time and trouble.

  1. Check the weather forecast before you pack. Will you need a heavy jacket or umbrella or
    on the Great Wall in China
    I almost froze to death on the Great Wall in China!

    sunscreen? Here’s a printable checklist. It’s exhaustive so filter out the extras and focus on your needs.

  2. Use the right luggage. Do not go bigger than the size allowed for carry on because you never know when you might have to! I typically check my bag (free with status at my preferred airline) because I have a lot of liquids/gels. However, I can carry on if I have to  because my bag is small enough and my liquids are in the proper plastic bag. The easiest non-backpack baggage is the four-wheel spinner. You walk it like a dog. It doth not shed nor poop. Lovely.
  3. Don’t overpack. No more than two pairs of shoes (plus the ones you will wear). Shoes are the overstuffed-suitcase1biggest space hog. Roll underpants and sox and stuff them in your shoes to reclaim empty space. Bring clothes that can be mixed and matched so you can wear items multiple times in different combinations. Bring scarves and jewelry, which are small, to add variety without baggage bulk.
    • Secret Weapons:
      • Ear plugs: There are many kinds and you need to find the one that works for you. My recommendation is the swimmer’s ear plug made from malleable silicone–available at most pharmacies. They block out 99% of the sound outside your hotel room and muffle nearby snoring. Aaahhhhh.
      • Food: Obviously you can’t carry fresh fruits, veg’s or meats over an international border
        Energy Balls
        Energy Balls

        but things like nuts, trail mix, chocolate, granola bars, oatmeal packets and my personal favourite, energy balls will get you through to your destination. You don’t want to be peckish when dealing with a border guard.

      • Coffee/tea: Starbucks VIA packets and/or tea bags plus oatmeal or energy balls and you don’t need to go out for breakfast!
  4. Learn how to pack. Once you know what to bring, you need to figure out how to pack it. Your goal is to get the right amount into the smallest suitcase or backpack possible. If it needs ironing, pack it in dry cleaner’s plastic and roll it. Roll everything! Poke stuff in every available space including shoes.
  5. Buy doubles and keep them packed.
    • PJ’s: two-piece, total coverage, comfy but not bulky. Think — what could I run outside in in 410bsktpr4lan emergency and not cause too much alarm?
    • Liquids and gels: put all liquids and gels in a one-quart/litre plastic ziploc bag and keep it in an outside pocket of your bag or right on top of your clothes.
    • Use travel cubes for easy access.
      • Face: makeup and makeup tools
      • Hair: comb, brush, travel dryer (leave this home if going to a hotel), hot straightener or curler, hair accessories.
      • Meds: whatever you take regularly as well as some just-in-case: gut remedies, pain relievers, allergy meds, sleeping pills, etc.
  6. If you plan to travel internationally, get Nexus  or Global Entry to speed you on your way. This will save you hundreds of hours of waiting in lines at border crossings. Both are relatively inexpensive and worth every penny! Both these programs take a few months to finalize so start now in anticipation of travel in the new year.
  7. Check in online 23 hours and 59 minutes before departure. Set an alarm so you don’t miss it! Most of the time, you will be able to change your seat from middle-seat-at-the-back to open seats on the aisle nearer the front. You may decide it’s worth it to pay the extra fee and choose your seat when you book to guarantee a better seat. Your choice. I never pre-choose and I always get a good seat by checking in a day before the flight. For free.
  8. Choose an aisle seat as near the front as possible.
    • get up whenever you want without disturbing anyone.
    • easily access the overhead bins.
    • aisle space becomes your extra leg or elbow room.
    • the closer you are to the front, the quicker you can disembark.
    • you may not like people having to climb over you so get up and let them in and out. That forced movement helps avoid travel stiffness.

    Happy Trails!

Posted in tips for speakers

How to Keep your Chipper from Clogging: the scoop on poop

wood chipperHave you ever seen a wood chipper in action? It’s a beautiful thing: you feed the branches into one end and wood chips come flying out the other end.

Now isn’t that what we all want? In our real lives? Input and output in a smooooooth rhythm with no clogging?

Keeping the chipper unclogged is challenging enough for some of us when we are at home, in our regular routines but nothing can clog a chipper faster than travel. It’s estimated 40 percent of travellers suffer from this.

Why does being away from home slow down or stop up our chippers? Here are a few reasons:

  • broken routine–Poo is a creature of habit and doesn’t like change. If Poo typically shows up at 7 a.m. he ain’t gonna come at any other time!
  • time change–your morning poo is thrown off kilter by a seven-hour clock adjustment and suddenly you are halfway up the Eiffel tower when the urge hits. So you squeeze those cheeks. Poo thinks: I guess she doesn’t want to see me. I’m taking my marbles and going home…for a week!
  • less activity or exercise–movement begets movement. Amen.
  • less access to fibre-rich foods–restaurant eating instead of home cooking can limit our access to fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, grains and seeds. Whereas red meat, grease and sugar are the biggest cloggers, being on a trip often releases the inner beast: What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas! Bring on the T-bone, yam fries and cheesecake!
  • anxiety due to lack of privacy–apparently this is a mostly female phenomenon; girls don’t like public toilets. Seriously, like I’m going to stink up a whole room full of friends I haven’t met yet?!
  • stress associated with the trip–flight delays, missed connections, border crossing hold-ups, lost luggage and more sends a message to our “second brain“: Clog the chipper! 
  • dehydration–dehydration hardens the stool, making it slow down or even stop moving; fluid softens the stool. Being on the road, especially if you’re having fun, can distract you from drinking enough water.
  • food intolerances–while the typical reaction to food intolerances is diarrhea (lactose intolerance, celiac disease), my casein (milk protein) intolerance causes a serious work stoppage on the old chipper!

So what? Why does this matter? If you travel for your work, like I do, you don’t have to ask. I am the poster child for the 40%. I have been all over the world and the only places I never had a clogged chipper were Lebanon (food poisoning=diarrhea) and Cayman Islands (Jamaican Jerk: Eh mon! A burnin’ ring of fire!)

Over the miles and the years, I have learned some simple causes, preventions and even some cures. And that’s what I want to share with you now.

When you travel….

Always Carry (never leave home without)

  • your fibre of choice. I carry my “roughie” (ruffy) mix in a small ziplock bag in my suitcase. Whatimg_5158 is a roughie? The opposite of a smoothy. (It does however beget a smoothy in due time…ahhhh) It is roughage. It consists of equal parts psyllium husk, ground flaxseed and chia seed. Every morning I add a scoop (about 2 Tbsp) of roughie mix to 1/3 cup coconut milk (any liquid), mix it up and down it. I chase this mixture with black coffee and wait until I my feet….
  • helpful meds just in case. Stool softeners are a good go-to, just don’t wait too long before using them. You may have to call in the big guns (laxatives, suppositories, enemas) if the chipper gets too clogged but those things scare me so I don’t carry them…not saying I’ve never used them, but they seldom satisfy. And they create other problems. Aaarrgggghhh, take me home Jesus!
  • refillable water bottle. It’s a great reminder to drink more than usual on a trip. Lots of water means you have to get up and pee more often so it keep you moving too. Bonus!
  • TP. Nothing puts the kibosh on a good poo like an empty TP roll! You might as well sit on a cork. Be prepared, Boy Scout.

Avoid (like the plague)

  • greasy, rich, sugary food. If you don’t want people to ask when you’re due, smarten up! Every menu has at least one healthy option. It’s like looking for Waldo, you can do it!
  • sitting for longer than two hours at a stretch. Get up and move around. Most hotels have workout facilities. Most cities have sidewalks. Most islands have beaches. Bust a move!
  • holding your poo when the urge hits. In my books, every poo is a welcome guest! Find a bathroom (or a bush) and let ‘er rip tater chip!
  • eating once you’re clogged. Stop putting food in your mouth. I mean it. Quit. If there is no output, continued input only creates more misery (bloating, pain). You won’t feel hungry but if you do, eat a tiny amount and stop. If you a guest, move the food around on your plate and talk a lot but don’t eat much of it. You are only adding to the Monster Plug by continuing to eat. (Keep drinking though.) Once you get home things will start moving again. Avoid the urge to kiss your own toilet in gratitude.

You can’t do anything about time changes, jet lag, broken routines, lack of privacy, or travel mishaps but you do have choices about what you eat–or refuse to eat–how much you drink, what remedies you carry, how much you move, and how prepared you are. A little planning and awareness goes a long way to keeping you feeling chipper on your next trip.

Feel free to chip in with a few tips of your own…

Posted in need a laugh?, tips for speakers

7 Compelling Reasons you need Laughter at your next Outreach Event

IMG_3324Did Jesus laugh? We know Jesus wept. The shortest verse in the bible says so. But there is no corresponding verse to John 11:35 that says, “Jesus laughed.” Or even grinned!

What then are to make of the fact that there are hundreds of biblical references to joy? Do joyful people laugh? You bet they do. And it’s contagious. Because I have made people laugh at hundreds of events since 1999, I have seen what laughter can bring to a group.

The typical checklist for what we want at an event includes prayer, sound biblical teaching, practical help for Christian living, encouragement, inspiration, and lots of chocolate. Here are seven compelling reasons why we need to add one more thing to our next Christian women’s outreach event checklist: guaranteed laughs.

  1. Laughter is inviting: You want people to come to your event. And you want people to come back next time. The primary purpose for most Christian events is to connect people to Jesus and to your Christian community. A guaranteed good time is a strong invitation.
  2. Laughter is attractive: Our best Christian witness is a happy life. Most people want to be happy. If they see the joy we have and the way we share that joy – often, but not always, in the form of laughter – then they want it too. (Note: a “happy life” is not free of tragedy, loss, betrayal or suffering. It is a life characterized by the joy of the Lord in the midst of difficulties and challenges)
  3. Laughter is the best medicine: A good laugh makes you feel better. Laughter might not cure what ails you but it certainly puts it out of your mind for a while. There is so much pain and suffering in real life, people need to get relief that doesn’t destroy their liver!
  4. Laughter is the “spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down”: Real healing often means we have to deal with our “stuff.” In order to help people, they need to be made aware of nasty things like selfishness, greed, jealousy, pride, in a word, sin. Tough love is easier to swallow if it is coated with a little sugar!
  5. Shared laughter builds trust: It is much easier to trust a friend than a stranger. People never laugh with their enemies but with their friends. A roomful of laughing people feels a lot friendlier to someone who might have come in the door hesitantly.
  6. Laughter builds bridges: People who might otherwise think they have nothing in common with “church people” can see that the Christian life can be rich and meaningful and joyful.
  7. Laughter can signal a new beginning: there will be people in every crowd who literally have not laughed since their most recent tragedy. I have often had people thank me after a hilarious talk with words like this: “You made me laugh. I didn’t realize how badly I needed that. I haven’t laughed since I lost my husband (child/mother/marriage) three weeks (months/years) ago. For the first time, I think there might be hope that I can live again.” The irony is, every single time this happens to me, it makes me cry! But they are tears of sympathy and joy.


Posted in need a laugh?, tips for speakers

Three Ways to Inject Laughter into your next Outreach Event

 IMG_1160We have all been to events that were so much fun we lingered later than we planned, laughed more than we expected, and left feeling glad we went even though hours earlier we had a hundred excuses why we should stay home.

Why did we have fun? It could have been a number of factors ranging from the logistics to the guest list to the program to the refreshments to how we felt in our new outfit. The common denominator if you were to poll the guests after the fact is probably something as simple as: “I had fun because it was fun – I laughed.”

Laughter brings a guaranteed return on the investment of time it takes to inject some humor into an event. If your guests laughed that is a pretty good indication that they had a good time and they will come to your next event. That is why I think it is so important for Christian event planners to make sure they include “laughter” on the checklist of things they need for their next outreach event.

We’ve all met fun-loving people – maybe you are one – who know how to have a good time and they bring laughter wherever they go. My sister Lisa is like that. The minute she walks in the door at a family get-together, she always announces: “I’m here! Let the fun begin!” And it does! She brings it with her in the form of games, contests, funny stories and family lore.

Sadly, my sister Lisa is not for hire. So let’s look at some sure-fire things you can do to include humor in your next outreach event.

  1. Personally invite fun-loving people to attend: You might even consider offering some of them scholarships or discounts! A board game that made me shriek with laughter with one group of friends felt like a funeral mass with a different group a week later. Obviously it wasn’t the game (or me!) that was funny it was the group of game players. Make an effort to find “gamers” who know how to have fun and pepper your audience with as many of these fun-loving people as you can. The value of what they have to give (shared laughter) is as important as what they can get by attending.
  2. Make sure at least one program personality is funny: It doesn’t matter whether it’s the emcee, a special guest who does fun music or sketch comedy, or the speaker as long as someone brings some levity from the platform. This is important because if it comes from the platform, it gives permission to the audience to relax and enjoy themselves. It sets a joyful, fun-loving tone for the whole event. This doesn’t mean there won’t be seriousness and even tears; just as you can set a tone for fun you can shift the tone into weightier concerns when the time is right.
  3. Include fun in your program: What about an un-fashion show? The more outlandish the outfit, the better. Or a demonstration of what not to do in home decor or home reno. Old standbys like skits, games, contests or short videos also work. Not every event needs these add-ons; because I am a comedic speaker, sometimes the program is simply “sweets and me”! They eat chocolate and laugh at my stories and go home happy. But maybe your next event doesn’t have a funny speaker and you still want people to laugh because you know laughter will help them relax and be more open to receiving whatever it is your wonderful speaker wants to impart. In that case, look for something people can either watch or participate in that will get them laughing. The Internet and fun-loving people you trust are your best resources.

One final thought for you to gnaw on: La Chapelle, a new church in Montreal Quebec, is attracting and winning people to Jesus by the hundreds. Last year they baptized 70 converts. Pastor David Pothier attributes their growth to their willingness to adapt their timeless message (the gospel) to a new methodology: “We are constantly driven and focused on reaching people. We do and think everything through that lens.” One of the items on a short list of essentials for Sunday Worship is humor. Pastor Pothier knows the value of shared laughter in building trust, breaking down barriers and establishing community. Humor is a valuable tool – don’t underestimate its importance.


Posted in tips for speakers

Wanted: Stuntwoman for Clumsy Speaker

Okay, so I can be a bit dramatic when telling a story. But there’s a reason for all the drama. Several reasons actually:

1. I have stage fright so telling a funny story helps me relax.

2. My job is to engage the audience; if anyone yawns I feel like I’ve failed.

3. Time is precious and if people give me the gift of their time, I’d better make it worth their investment.

4. Humour has opened the door to most of my speaking opportunities so I try to meet the expectation of my audience by delivering some chuckles.

There are probably other reasons as well but I’ll save those for the therapist.

So here’s the deal. This week, while on tour in the USA with Girls Night Out  I was “leaving it all out there” as sportscasters like to say when the team plays hard. At the key point of a story, I flung myself off the stage and landed on the floor, about 18 inches below. This was not in the script. I am not a cat. I did not land on my feet.

At first there was raucous laughter, then gasps, then a hush fell over the room and a woman ran to where I was sprawled on the floor and asked if I was all right. “I don’t think so,” I said, laughing nervously as one does when one finds oneself splayed indelicately for all the world to see!

I got up, using my left arm gingerly, recounted a couple of funny anecdotes about other falls at other times (never while speaking!) and finished the program. On the way back to the hotel, Mary Messina (the director of Girls Night Out ) and I swung by Walmart where I grabbed a sling, Ibuprofen, and an ice-bag. By the time we got settled at the hotel I knew I had done something nasty and the decision was made for me to leave the tour early and have another speaker step in for the last three events.

I flew home the next day and Gerry took me straight to the Urgent Care Clinic where we discovered I had broken my left elbow.

It wasn’t a “bad” break, only a compression fracture on the top end of the smaller long bone in the forearm so I didn’t need a cast. Apparently the Walmart sling was adequate along with some high powered painkillers!

So I’m back home cooling my heels — and icing my elbow — and enjoying the care of my husband as he cooks and waits on me. (He drew the line at styling my hair though so I’ll have to pull on a toque if I plan to leave the house!)

So what do we do when plans change suddenly? Do we assume that we weren’t following God? That we had taken a wrong turn somewhere and if we’d been doing the right thing, this catastrophe would not have come upon us? Emphatically not! Life is sometimes hard. All of us experience seasons of suffering, of change, of loss, of betrayal, of discouragement, of pain, of illness. Does that mean we are somehow out of God’s will? I don’t think so.

Take a minute to read Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians if you don’t think followers of Jesus experience hard times. Nowhere does the Bible say that we will not suffer if we follow Jesus. In fact, it is more likely that we will suffer if we want to walk with Christ. Instead of letting our suffering distract or discourage us from following Him , we can use it as an opportunity to trust and to listen.

  • Perhaps God wants to get our attention.
  • Perhaps God wants to give us a chance to experience His love, comfort and care more personally.
  • Perhaps God wants to redirect us.
  • Perhaps God wants to give us empathy for others who suffer and a message of hope to carry to fellow strugglers.
  • Perhaps we should pay closer attention to where the stage ends and open space begins! (in other words, we can learn from our mistakes)

So I am trusting and listening and believing that the God who knit me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139) and who knew all my days before a single one of them began, also knew that on a rainy night in Paris Kentucky I would trade in my stage fright for stage flight and launch myself into an unexpected season of suffering. If nothing else, it gives me a chance to practice what I preach as well as great material for future stories!

Posted in tips for speakers

Don’t quit. Change.

 On the left is how our garden used to look. This year we reconfigured it because one of the gardeners — moi — has been “reconfigured”. We applied the “bring the mountain to Mohammed” principle since “moi-hammed” was having difficulty getting to the mountain!

To the right are the raised beds, eachtwo feet high with a diameter of five feet, easily reached from both sides. It doesn’t look very productive yet but that will change in a few weeks when the lettuce, spinach, beans, peas, parsley, carrots, cilantro, basil, mint, strawberries and onions begin to strut their stuff. This is strictly a fresh-eating garden. We don’t “put anything up” for winter.

So what does a redesigned garden have to do with following God one yes at a time? Simply this: when doing things the way you’ve always done them doesn’t work anymore, don’t quit — change. Because gardening — which I love — was getting harder due to back pain, last fall I said: “Gerry, maybe we should downsize to a condo where we wouldn’t have to worry about shovelling snow or cutting the lawn or, gulp….weeding the garden.”

Gerry’s response was to the point: “Are you crazy?! You love gardening! You wait all winter for it. You love weeding! You’ve said yourself that what you enjoy most is playing in the dirt. If we move to a condo you wouldn’t have any dirt to play in!” That’s when we stopped talking about moving (quitting gardening) and started talking about changing, ergo: the raised beds.

Back to the point — quitting versus changing: Two weeks ago while on a speaking tour with Girls Night Out I was blindsided by an old enemy I hadn’t seen for at least three years — an onstage panic attack. I’ve said before and it bears repeating: panic and anxiety doesn’t run in my family, it gallops! The Girls’ Night Out program is two-part with a break in the middle. The panic seized me as soon as I picked up the microphone and by the time we got to the intermission, I wanted to quit speaking for the rest of my life!

If you’ve never had a panic attack, it’s kind of like being in a vortex where you feel like you are spinning out of control. Your mind resembles the TV screen of yore when the antenna couldn’t pick up the signal — fuzz and static. If you have notes to read — as I did — the words blend together or jump around on the page. If you use humour — as I do — you’re not funny. You’re pathetic. You expend so much energy trying to control the symptoms  — shaking, dry mouth, racing heart — and hide the reality of what you are experiencing that you become entirely inward focused and lose the ability to engage with anyone outside yourself. Obviously, as a speaker, this is the worst consequence since the entire reason you are there is to engage! 

The intermission was nothing short of painful as I tried to interact and chat with women at my book table while still in the grip of high anxiety. Fortunately a close friend’s stepmom had come to this event and we visited briefly, talking about her family and mine. All I wanted to do was sneak away and find a quiet corner where I could curl up in a ball and say: “Ok, Fear, you win. I quit. I’ve been fighting stage fright for a dozen years and I’m tired.”

I didn’t “hear” God tell me to get back onstage for the second half but I knew I would have to do it – – I was hired for the whole evening, not just the first half. So whether I said Yes to Him or Yes to my contract is splitting hairs since He is the God of all things, even contracts. The point is, I said Yes and went back.

The first thing I did was break the unwritten code that says: never show your weakness to your employer. I whispered in Mary Messina’s ear that I had a panic attack in the first half and was still scared to death. She gripped my hands, looked me square in the eye and said, “Connie, you can do this. This is what you were made for!” And with her words, I was healed. Panic fled like a vampire at the first light of dawn. Whenever God speaks truth into our life it breaks the hold of Satan’s lie.

Okay, so I didn’t quit. but did I change? The next morning as I read my Bible and prayed I heard a clear message from God: speak without notes. How counter-intuitive can you get? I’m already scared on stage and now God is asking me to remove one of my “props”! Here’s the thing, if you’re going to talk about following God one yes at a time, you’d better be doing it.

I left my notes in my hotel room that night — I had said Yes in the morning but didn’t trust myself to stay the course once I got to the event. The result? Wonderful freedom both creatively and spiritually. No fear. Joy. Victory. And a new motto: I’m saying yes.

What about you? Are you trying to follow God but something has a hold on you and you feel like quitting? Ask God to show you one simple, immediate, possible yes. Then do it.

Posted in tips for speakers

Carol Kent in Florida

The last stop of a five-state road trip with Girls Nite Out USA, was Largo FL where I was scheduled for a TV interview. The tour manager, a 22-year-old road warrior named Matt Forrest, and I drove in from South Carolina the evening before.

“Do you know who Carol Kent is?” I asked Matt when I saw the sign welcoming us to Florida.

“Not yet,” he said, knowing I would fill in the blanks.

“She’s one of my heroes,” I replied. “She and her husband Gene have one son named Jason — they call him JP, which is what Gerry and I call our son, Jean-Paul. Jason was the boy every parent dreamed of having,” I began. I went on to tell Matt the story of JP’s life that began in Michigan, how he qualified for the Annapolis Naval Academy, and how after graduating he moved to Florida for further training.

“The reason I suddenly thought of telling you this story,” I explained to Matt, “was because we were driving behind a vehicle that looked like a prison paddywagon.” Naturally he was puzzled and I told how Jason’s storied life took a completely unexpected turn just over 10 years ago when, taking matters into his own hands, he shot and killed his wife’s ex-husband, thinking it was the only way to protect her two tiny girls.

“JP is in a Florda penitentiary for the rest of his life,” I explained, “so Carol and Gene moved to Florida a few years ago to be close to him. I pray for them and for ‘their JP’ so often. Carol and Gene’s courage and commitment to stand by their son is a constant reminder to me to care for and pray for other parents who find themselves dealing with ‘life sentences’ they didn’t expect,” I continued. Several people came to mind as I said this: my precious grand-nephew with cerebral palsy, my friends whose son has autism, our beloved “daughter for a season” who was diagnosed with Crone’s and Rheumatoid arthritis at 19, our wonderful nephew with diabetes. The last thing I said to Matt was that I had read all of her books and her latest was Between a Rock and a Grace Place – Carol Kent

The next morning, we dashed over to the TV station and completed the interview. Matt noticed as we were leaving the set and going back to the green room that the producer was holding a copy of a book entitled, Between a Rock and a Grace Place. His interest was piqued but before he could comment we were told that Carol Kent was scheduled for the next interview. Back in the green room, Carol and Gene were waiting. Since we have met on a number of occasions and Carol endorsed my first book, (amazingly) she recognized me and greeted me like an old friend. I was honored and humbled.

“Gene, take our photo!” Carol requested, and he did.

It’s not often we get to rub shoulders with giants and I am so grateful God allows me that privilege from time to time.

It all stems back to that day in 1999 when I held the telephone receiver in my hand and a woman on the other end asked if I would fly accross Canada and speak to some women in Collingwood Ontario.

I had every reason to say no since I was spiritually dried up, terrified to travel and speak, and thought I had nothing of value to say. But, sensing that this was God’s will for my life and thinking I must be nuts, I said yes. Following Him one yes at a time has taken me places I never dreamed. As I write this blog two days after running into Carol In Florida, I am sitting in a room overlooking the lake in a resort in Collingwood, Ontario. God’s kind of funny that way — heaping blessing upon blessing.

If you think God might be calling you to something way beyond yourself don’t hesitate; say yes. And then keep following Him, one yes at a time.

Posted in tips for speakers

Born to shop? Not me! But I might be changing…

The last thing I would do if I  found myself with extra time is hit the mall. Popping in to shops and boutiques, trying on clothes or shoes, comparing prices, scoping out the latest fashions…not for me. I am surrounded by great shoppers — my husband, my daughters, my sisters — so over the years I have let them do my shopping for me. What I mean is, instead of looking for the perfect gift for them I simply ask them to buy their own gift and send me the bill. It works. Sort of. If you don’t care about surprises, or anticipation, or the “You shouldn’t have!” moment.

Lately I’ve started to feel uneasy about my “hate to shop” stance. So yesterday I decided to test my limits. I set out on foot from my hotel in beautiful Chapel Hill, North Carolina and walked to a nearby strip mall. My mission was to put into practice what I had been taught three years ago — and never acted on — at a workshop about making an eye-catching product table. The “stack of books on a bare table” look was even starting to offend my minimalist sensibilities.

I found a craft supply store and picked up some acrylic frames and book stands, a metal urn and seasonal silk flora with a bit of glitter. I couldn’t find a tablecloth so I grabbed some quilt pieces in appropriate fall colors. My next stop was a grocery store where I hoped to find a black plastic tablecloth and while there, I saw an afghan in the perfect color at a great price and grabbed it. All in all, I spent under $50. 

Walking back to the hotel with my new finds I felt happy — an untypical feeling for me after a shopping excursion — and I began to understand what was really happening. For months now, I have had a sense that God is healing me from many of the fears that have imprisoned and plagued me all my life. And I am continually being surprised  by how far-reaching those fears were. Like all my other fears, my fear of shopping had more to do with the fear of failure — what if I spend too much? What if I bring it home and hate it? What if the person I bought it for hates it? — than with my stated reasoning: it’s a waste of time and I’m not good at it.

We fearful people lock ourselves up inside our phobias and fears and then use excuses to justify our behavior. But God wants to set us free from our self-imposed prisons and fill us with the happiness and satisfaction that comes from pushing our limits and trying new things. I’m thinking God should have warned me that I would discover SteinMart the very next day. I had to buy a bigger suitcase after that little adventure!

Posted in tips for speakers

Secrets to a Whiter Smile Anyone can Afford

She wasn't born with teeth this white

The first person I met at Beach Church in beautiful Myrtle Beach was Kelly Sturgill. As soon as she smiled I had to put my sunglasses back on! I couldn’t resist: “Were you born with teeth that white?”

Smiling even bigger, Kelly immediately said “No!” and then proceeded to tell me exactly what she did to get and keep such a gleaming grin. I couldn’t believe it could be that easy or that cheap. I asked her permission to take her photo and blab her secrets and she graciously agreed.

Secret #1

Buy a sports mouth guard for $10 instead of getting a custom made mold from your dentist (like I did) for $150. Follow the directions on the package of the mouth guard to immerse it in boiling water and then mold it to fit your teeth.

Secret #2

Buy teeth whitening gel syringes online for as little as $5 instead of getting them from your dentist (like I do) for $20. Don’t follow the directions that tell you to put a dot of gel into each space on the mold for the teeth you want to whiten. There is a better method that uses less gel and has another benefit…

Secret #3

Using your finger, or a Q-tip, spread the whitening gel onto the front of the teeth you want to whiten, being careful not to apply more than you need or to get any gel on your gums. This method saves on gel, making it go farther, and saves your gums from the sensitivity that comes from contact with the gel.

Secret #4

Place the mouth guard on as soon as the gel is applied to your teeth and wear it as long as you want — even overnight — because it will not make your gums sensitive as long as you keep the gel away from your gums.

Secret $5

Bleach your teeth once a day for as long as you want (30 minutes to overnight) for 30 consecutive days. Then only do a maintenance bleaching once per month after that. Your teeth will stay very white as long as you also pay attention to the last Secret…..

Secret #6

Drink all dark-colored drinks through a straw, bypassing your teeth. Coffee, tea, grape juice or any other liquid with deep coloring must be sipped through a little stir stick so that it lands behind your teeth and does not get a chance to discolor them.

Posted in tips for speakers

California Dreamin’ — the zipline

The last time I did something daring at a women’s retreat was 15 years ago when I scaled a climbing wall. I’m not a risk taker. I’m a fraidycat. So when I found out there was a zipline at the camp where I was speaking in California last weekend I didn’t even consider it. Several of my new friends asked me if I was going to try it. I said I wasn’t. I’m too old, too stiff, too tired, too busy…in other words scared spitless!

But what is it about scary things that attract us? I decided to walk up the mountain to where the zipline was, just to look. I was wearing sandals and when I got there was told I couldn’t ride with open-toed shoes.  Whew! Saved by inappropriate footwear. Then a woman offered to loan me her shoes. And another woman, 10 years older than me, told me how much fun it was. Before I knew it, I was gussied up like a Thanksgiving turkey headed up to the tower where I would be hooked up and shoved off — well, not shoved but encouraged to leap.

It took me two tries before I could fling myself into outer space. But once I was airborne I felt like I was born to fly! Wowzers what a thrill! The ride was over way too soon. With lots of cheering from fellow zippers below, I came back to earth with a whole new attitude. What’s next? Bungee Jumping! I am SO kidding.