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I cannot tell a lie. I adore looking forward to a new year and all of the possibilities it brings. Once Christmas has passed, I am giddy with ideas and plans. Yes, I dread taking down the tree and decorations and putting away the stockings, but once they start coming down I get this strange urge to clean, organize, purge, dream. Some would call this wanting to sit down and think-out the next steps in my life a sickness (my husband, Brandon, thinks I’m crazy). Some, though, know exactly what I’m talking about.

Now don’t go confusing my “looking forward to a new year and new possibilities” with the all-too-sterotypical, self-inflicted New Years resolutions that some people make. I don’t do resolutions. Those seem too set in stone, too harsh, too deadline driven for me. I’d like to think of my looking forward as something less in the “planned” category and more in the “dreamed” category. If that makes any sense whatsoever. Yes, Lori, it makes complete sense! Dreams are a place we escape to. Dreams can be anything we want them to be. Plans, on the other hand, well, plans tend to involve too much thinking and not enough feeling. At least for me they do.

If I told you to sit down and plan out your next year, what’s the one thing that would be a huge factor in guiding most of your decisions? Where you are right now. Your present. Your current job, the city you live in, etc. Damn reality! But if I told you to take a deep breath and dream about the life you want for yourself in the next year, (just do it for a second) it’s like unleashing a tether. This “no boundary dreaming thing” may be an uncomfortable feeling for you, but just try it. You may come up with some crazy idea of living in Fiji in a hut with your children and living off the land for the next 30 years (or until your teens kill each other out of pure boredom, whichever comes first) and the idea will bring a smile to your face (well, the living there part, not the teens killing each other part).

I know what you’re thinking: Lori, I could never live in Fiji–who could afford that? Don’t be ridiculous. But that’s the sweet thing about dreams…they can be whatever you want them to be. Sit in a place filled with love and happiness and just dream. Your dreams are your happiness. Don’t include bills and responsibility (at least not at this point in the process). Just dream.

Once you see those dreams in your head, then you can try to understand the “whys” and “what do I needs” of this process.

Let’s look at the example above: Why are your dreaming about living in Fiji? Perhaps you long to put your feet in the sand and feel the ocean breezes. Or maybe, you’re tired of all of the bills and want to live a debt-free life where you don’t get weighed down by responsibilities. For whatever reasons, this dream took you to a place of peace in your head. Look at it from many angles. Then allow yourself to see if you can squeak some of that dream into your reality.

No, maybe you can’t fly your family to the South Pacific, but maybe you can save enough to take a four-day weekend trip to San Diego. What a trip that could be! If the dream of living off the land is what you long for, start planning now to plant a garden in the spring. Research, study. And celebrate your first crop! Do you see where I’m going with this? If you sprinkle bits-and-pieces of your dreams into your new year and, eventually, into your daily life, just imagine how happy (or accomplished) you’ll feel when you see your dreams becoming reality.

Dreaming hasn’t always been my strong suit, as most of you out there already know. It took me a little while to figure that out. Four years ago, when I was a freshly divorced mother of four, out of work and spending every penny I had on a divorce lawyer, most would have told you I was at rock bottom. And ya know what? That was never even a thought in my mind. It was in those dark days when I finally began to dream about what I wanted. Those dreams kept me going most days. Once I practiced this whole “dreaming” process, I figured out how to keep most of my dreams close to my grasp. I promise that dreams really do come true. They may not be as big and as magnificent as the original dream (I still haven’t been to Hawaii, and that’s been a dream of mine for 40 years), but sometimes close enough is close enough (Brandon and I spent a gorgeous week in Jamaica, and that was far better than my Hawaii dream).

A new year brings endless opportunities, and new beginnings can start many, many different ways. Be aware of you and be aware of your needs. Start a Pinterest board of your dreams. Follow bloggers that have chased their dreams and succeeded. Write them down in your journal. Do something! Your first step to a new beginning is all on you. Take it!

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Life lessons can hit you head on, blind side you, or whack you from behind and leave you face down trying to figure out what the crap just happened. It’s funny how these things creep up on you…kinda like granny panties (Side note: switch to a thong if this happens to you…less material up there makes wedgies obsolete!)

Next week, I’m looking forward to celebrating my 44th birthday. Who am I kidding, no I’m not. I am looking forward to celebrating it in Las Vegas with my husband, but I digress.

As I look back at my 43 years so far, I’ve had my share of life lessons I’ve learned. Some I took like a spoonful of sugar. Others are still a bitter pill I try to swallow with a smile on my face.

After trudging through all these lessons and “aha moments” in my life, I’ve paved the path for others. I’ve been there, done that! The following are a number of things I know to be true. Hopeful a few of these will help you along your journey!

1. When you grow up with a parent who indirectly (or directly) criticizes you about your hair, choice in boys, choice in friends, choice to dance and says “ there’s no way I’m gonna let you go out there and shake your ass” you MUST look within yourself for your value. They don’t want to compliment you or congratulate you because then they (they being a narcissist) won’t be the center of attention. And once they see (in their mind, that is) you passing them in talent, looks or intelligence, they will begin to “hitch their wagon” to you. That extra pressure is like cement shoes. Remind yourself it is not your job to make that personality happy in their life (The life they complain about often to you). It’s your job to build a life for YOU. The one you want. Not the one your mother wants you to have.

2. There’s a phrase that Forest Gump repeats, one that his mother taught him: “Stupid is as stupid does.” The same is true about negativity. Negative is as negative does. I was married to a man who called his sister fat and lazy and expressed his disgust for her, got pissed that the neighbor copied us by painting her water meter to the point that he wouldn’t talk to her, ended a friendship with a couple we often went out with because the husband didn’t tip, and despised a teammate of my son’s because his mother was a bitch. I was raised by a woman like this who had the same mud-colored glasses on. And the more I was around these two, the more deep in the mud I became. My ex and I became so annoyed at that neighbor that we actually moved a few months later. Yes, moved! And yes, the mother of the boy was completely abrasive and spoiled and wanted her kid at short-stop and batting forth and put high demands on the coaches, but that didn’t give my ex a right to tell me he loved it every time that boy struck out. I had to remind this man that the kid up to bat was an 11 year old boy. When you are around this person, you get sucked in to their false reality. You end up griping on the phone together. You go to family dinners and are itching to spread the “how dare theys” and “can you believes.” The energy is heavy and dirty and toxic and it swallows you. Your mud-colored glasses make you critical and constantly looking for everyone’s faults. You must recognize when you think this way and break free from the pull of this type of personality. EVERYONE is good enough. EVERYONE tries their best every day. EVERYONE deserves love. And until a person shows you otherwise, you should be gracious, giving and open. Stop right now and ask yourself Am I with a person like this?

3. Leaving the people with the personalities I’ve mentioned above, whether through a divorce or by setting boundaries, is never an easy thing when you’ve spent considerable time with these people. I’ve seen that lots of people move in and out the narcissist’s life. But those of us that have stayed with/tolerated/enabled these types of people have a hard time truly leaving. Sense the signs early. These people will make you feel guilty for having your own goals. They poo-poo your ideas or shoot your dreams down, always pointing out how they’re absurd. It will take everything you have to pull away. They will toss and tangle you in their games and you must keep walking.

4. Once you finally get away from a narcissist, you will not be yourself for awhile. It’s a strange, crazy phenomenon to be mourning the “old” you and at the same time trying on so many “new” yous. It’s freeing and scary and crazy and sometimes, it’s stupid. You might lie down at night and hate yourself for some of these moments. There are things I felt and did and tried that I glance back on and think Yeah…that wasn’t so smart! But those things are part of my journey. And each is a thread in the pieces that make me, me. I mean, really, I didn’t date much as a teen so taking off for a weekend to St. George with a man I only spoke to twice on the phone isn’t the “old” Lori (or all that smart for that matter). But the “new” Lori said yes and met a great friend and we shared lots of divorce drama stories. Be careful with yourself. And be forgiving.

5. When a beautiful 21 year old guy grabs you and pulls you into the bathroom to sneak a kiss before you return to your table, let the moment happen. At 41, to learn that lesson, well that was a spoonful of sweet, sweet sugar.

6. When someone tells you they love you, and you think they’ll love you forever, there’s a chance they don’t even know what love is. Or their too proud to show it. Or they just never loved you in the first place. And that’s ok.

7. Your kids will heal after the dust of divorce settles…on their own time. And they’ll never be the same. This is a bitter pill for me. At least for now. I’m crushed to see their pain still resurface. I’m shattered their paths were altered forever. I pray every night they each find their true selves and grow and love. Still working on this one.

8. Learning to trust again takes time. And it also takes a leap of faith. People will take advantage of your big heart. People will lie to you. People will look at you with pity in their eyes or judge you for your “unfortunate situation.” Don’t harden your shell. Don’t stoop to their level. Don’t give up on the joys of life and experiencing and growing. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

9. The person you left will continue to throw rocks at you. They will file court orders, they will judge your parenting, they will spread lies about you and spit venom at you at every chance they can. And the sun will rise again tomorrow. And it will be another wonderful day you can celebrate being free.

10. Invest in people who invest in you. So many people surround me and support me and care for me and love me and my life is full. No one makes me feel guilty. No one puts me down. They don’t criticize me. They are there for me. Genuinely and sincerely.

11. When someone new tells you they love you, and you think they’ll love you forever, there’s a chance they just might.

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I don’t try to please everyone anymore. Yes, I fall back into the routine sometimes, but I remind myself I have needs and wants and they are valid.

It’s not selfish to have needs and wants and be who you are and express all of those things. It took 40 years to realize I have my own voice. Far too long! I love deeply, I show it often, I am a dreamer (at times) and some of those dreams may seem ridiculous. But they’re my dreams.

I can walk on my own. But I choose to walk with others. I have scars and bruises and sometimes I doubt myself. But not as often as I used to.

I won’t apologize for who I am and what I want out of life. I want a deep, passionate love. I want children who are confident and believe in themselves and who know that can take on the world. And I will always protect them. I want children everywhere to feel love–whether they’re from a divorced family, have lost a parent or have special needs. Everyone needs love and should be shown love.

I won’t apologize for who I am or what I want. It took too long to get here.

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I’m not quiet and shy. You won’t find me sitting in the corner at a party watching all of the action from the sidelines. It’s not in my nature. I’m a strong, athletic woman who at 5 foot10 inches tall can walk into a room and intimidate people. Ask one of my best friends about her first impressions of me and she’ll tell you about seeing me in the hallway of our kids’ school and thinking Look at her all tall and blonde. She’s got it goin on!

At that time in my life, I was just entering the world of frazzled single momhood and drifting like a lost ship at sea in the dark just trying to find solid ground to land on. My life had been tossed up in the air like a bowl of confetti. It was sprinkled everywhere for everyone to see and falling all around me at a fast rate. I hardly felt “put together” but I was on a journey to find myself again and the glow must have shown on my face.

After being with someone for nearly 20 years who didn’t seem to appreciate the “true” me, I had turned into a quiet, unsure human being. I’ve spent lots of time doubting myself, my looks, my worth. I lived in that zip code for waaaaaaay too long! Near the end of that relationship I began my metamorphosis into the strong, happy person I am now and I’m not apologizing one bit for my strength and confidence. (Damn, that sounds cocky and outright snobbish–but it’s not meant that way at all!)

It wasn’t a very long road back to confidence and true-happiness, because starting my new life was like freeing my soul to live its true purpose. Most important to note: I got to this place on my own. I didn’t jump into one relationship after another to fix myself. A man didn’t help me feel beautiful. Money didn’t make me feel successful. It all started within myself.

Yes, there were (and are) days filled with self-doubt. But not many. I catch myself when I’m putting myself down in my head. Those crappy self-talks you have in your head about how dumb or crazy a mistake you made was or how your stomach isn’t as flat as it used to be? Those aren’t allowed! So stop that right now. Think of all the wonderful things you are and how far you’ve come.

Today, I am one week away from turning 44. I’ve raised 4 kids, sacrificed a lot for a marriage that failed, paid lawyers fees, moved my kids, embraced the opportunity to grow, and moved on with my life. I am more loving, confident, sexual, outgoing, fulfilled, happy and positive than I ever have been in my entire life. And people notice.

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There’s a certain energy that surrounds you when you enjoy the person you’ve become. You will walk taller. You smile more. Your owning it and feeling like the sexiest woman on the planet will have people feeling drawn to you and you will soon be booking long weekends in bed with your spouse or significant other. If people can’t embrace that or want you to change because their insecure or can’t handle your confidence, don’t change who you are for them. You will only end up unhappy and broken. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt!

I challenge you today to quiet that critical voice in your head. Practice smiling. A lot. Laugh. Flirt even. Hell, take your clothes off and stand naked in front of the mirror and name, out loud, 10 beautiful things about your body. You can do this! Stop comparing yourself to an image in your head and get your sexy on! Up your energy and own who you are. There is no one else out there like you so show people the best you. You’ll be happier, and they’ll be happy you showed them who the best you really is!

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Mojo.

Confidence.

Comfortable in your own skin.

Authentic self.

I think it’s quite safe to say that everyone is here on earth to find it. No matter what you call “it,” it is at the core of happiness and the true sign of success. Many people are fooled to believe that such happiness is purchased with cash (or credit–depends on the person) and it’s meant to be shown off to the world. You’re successful when you have a large home, new cars in the driveway, glamorous vacations multiple times a year, and…

Wrong.

I remember there was a point during my first marriage when I felt as though something was missing in my life, and I couldn’t identify it. I felt like there was something more in the world/my life for me and my family. I wasn’t sure what that was, but I knew I needed to find it.

This comes as a surprising admission from a girl who seemed to have it all from the outside. Even as I write this it’s strange to admit out loud. I was a woman who had just had her second child–the second of two in two years. Two wonderful boys. We had a beautiful home, and we both had worked hard so I would only have to work part-time and could be home with my kids. I had always wanted to be a mother, and these children were my greatest blessings. Yet somehow, I felt lost in my life. My life as Lori.

One day, as my baby and my 21 month-old napped, I turned the channel over to Oprah and watched as she interviewed Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of her new book, Something More. I listened as her and Oprah chatted about gratitude, joy, simplicity. All the things I longed for in my life yet couldn’t see in front of me. I looked around at my life and felt quite selfish for wanting more when it seemed I already had so much.

I soon picked up the book and began to read it. I felt embarrassed for my then husband to see it, because I knew he would judge me and make fun of me as he often did when I went on one of my “personal growth” journeys. I read through the exercises and made mental notes about “returning to my childhood” and “excavating my authentic self.” I began tapping into the Lori I used to be, but I never did finish that book or my personal journey…life, more children, and other distractions took over my day-to-day.

It’s a shame I stopped “searching,” really. Because now, I look back at that moment in time, and I see that’s when I realized things in my life were becoming very empty. My ex had become friends with a woman at work, her husband had called me to see why our home number was appearing on his phone bill all of the time, and I was told I was “overreacting” when I asked my spouse about the phone call. The tides were changing in our marriage, and I became more and more the strong mother rather than nurture myself or my already failing marriage. The feeling of something is missing was pushed to the side and I went into survival mode.

I became the girl who looked forward to “someday.” “Someday,” when my kids are older. “Someday,” when we have more money. “Someday,” when we build our dream house. “Someday,” when I go back to work full-time. The list went on and on.

But life was happening right then. I was so busy planning for life to be “less messy” and figured that’s when I would start “living.”

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Today, I know I’ve found my mojo. I’ve said it before here, and I’ll say it again. I’ve done the “work.” I’ve asked myself all of the questions. Who am I? What feels right for me? And ya know what? I’ve figured it out. And the way I feel inside is powerful, sexy, and strong.

It’s a slight rush, really, to come home and be almost giddy when you ponder your life and your day-to-day. There is laughter in my home, there is passion and love in my marriage, and there is strength in my family. I am successful, and I am happy.

When my son texts me and asks if we can all have family time and watch a movie together–that is success.

When my husband texts me “Good morning beautiful!” and pulls me into him every night to snuggle–that is success.

When my 3 year old step-son looks up at me and says, “I love you Lowi!”–that is success.

When I can help out a friend, or someone sends me a note about how much my blog has helped them–that is success.

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.” ~Henry David Thoreau

This quote from Henry David Thoreau spells out success beautifully. He urges us to advance confidently in the direction of our dreams. Have a dream. Let me say that again, HAVE A DREAM! Dreaming is not a waste of time!

Endeavor to live the life which you have imagined. That means to try, every day, to live that life. It also means that you may not live in the moment of “the life you have imagined” at all times. And that’s okay. Carry on. And most certainly, do not wait until you’ve reached that ever-so-talked about “finish line” to begin living that life. Live it today.

And finally, in the “common hours” of your life, be thankful. Be aware. Success will happen everyday. Make each day an occasion–and rise to it. (Thank you, Mr. Magorium, for such wise words!)

“When you are truly comfortable in your own skin, not everyone will like you, but you won’t care about it one bit!”

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