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Connecting With Others In Unexpected Places

It was a crisp morning, and I decided to do something different this particular Saturday.  I had signed up for a 5k, something I hadn’t done in the last couple of years.

I had recently turned 50 and had become unsettled reflecting on my half century of living…

As I was leaving to run this indirect and unfamiliar course, I grabbed a bottle of water from the table. For whatever reason, I never bothered to open my water as I ran. 

Then as I was running through the Englewood tunnel, I saw in the distance a homeless man. He was bundled up in a hoodie with a sleeping bag and backpack by his side. 

I looked down and thought I would offer this man my water. Such a small thing, but maybe he actually was thirsty or maybe I just wanted to give a piece of myself to someone and hope he responded. 

When I asked “Hey, would you like my water? I haven’t even opened it,” he looked at me and said, “Sure, that would be great.”  

Stopping to Genuinely Connect

It could’ve ended at that, but then he stood up and reached out to take the water, and then our eyes met as he thanked me, and I saw him, really saw him, not as a homeless guy down on his luck, but as a person just like me. When I saw his blue-green eyes, I thought of his hopes, his dreams, his mom (wherever she may be) and how we were alike in so many ways. It was fleeting, but also a lifetime shared in that moment.

I ran a 5K that day, but God had so much more in store. I saw someone’s soul and hoped as he went to sleep that night he knew that he saw my soul as well. I prayed sweet dreams for him as our chance meeting is something I will never forget.

Two years later, I still remember his gentle eyes and wonder how he is doing. 

Make Time to Reach Out to Others

I share this story with you because although it was a small gesture, it was meaningful to him and to me. I connected with him.

Nowadays, it is easy to be self-focused and forget we are to be other-minded to live a fulfilling life. We rush through our days and may not serve or connect with even one person. However, I believe after several days of not fellowshipping with others can take its toll on our emotional health.

We were created to be in relationship, and I have found my happiest memories to be when I am listening to and serving my fellow man.

What about you?

Feeling Overwhelmed? – Serve Someone Else

On your days when only your problems fill your head, it helps to go serve someone, call or email someone you haven’t connected with for a while and share an old story. Just this simple act will lift your spirits and the spirit of others. 

Do you have a story to share of a similar experience?

Will I Ever Amount To Anything?

Today, I live comfortably in the suburbs of Denver, but from ages 1-7, it was a different story. I was the youngest of four brothers and my mom, a single mom, had to work three jobs just to keep food on the table. 

We had little supervision at home, so you can imagine the mischievousness of my then 5, 7 and 9 year-old brothers. They explored everything, inside the house and out. Although I went to daycare for a while, it was my brothers’ responsibility to watch over me while my mom moonlighted her cleaning job at night.  However, let’s not kid ourselves, what did these 3 young boys know about raising their baby sister? Their goal was to make sure I was at least around the house somewhere.

At the time, we had two Siamese cats from our previous life in Indianapolis, and one of my brothers got ahold of a spray of some sort, and one of the cats died from it. All I remember is rigor mortis set in, and the cat was standing in our front yard in mid step, almost like it had been embalmed right there under our tree. There could be a different version, but that’s how my 3 or 4 year-old self remembers it.

There was another time when my mom needed to go to work, but I wanted her to stay home. I had heard some choice words spoken by my brothers and their friends before but didn’t really know what they meant. However, on this particular day, I thought I would say one of them to get my mom’s attention. So as my mom was backing out of the driveway (with the window down) I hollered sh#@, and she stopped the car, got out and swatted my bottom. I thought to myself, “Well I have her attention, so I’m gonna do that again”. This time I said f*$d#* having no idea what it meant, and the same thing happened. I was happy to still have her attention! On my third try to get her to stay with me, I said another cuss word, and she looked at me and said, “Suzy, I have to go to work.” 

I remember standing in the driveway bawling my little head off missing my mommy. About that time as I was walking back into the house, our next door neighbor walked up to me and said, “You kids will never amount to anything!” I stood there not completely understanding what she meant, but I knew it wasn’t nice because this neighbor complained to my mom about our misbehavior and the chaos at our house.

Fast forward a few years and formidable lessons learned, we moved to a new house. But, parents in our new neighborhood didn’t want their kids hanging out with me. I was too “fast”, knew stuff I shouldn’t know and things they didn’t want their kids to know. It was those times I heard the neighbor’s voice in my head, “You will never amount to anything.”

Believing Lies

That lie followed me into my adult life and echoed in my head. Never mind that I ended up going to college, marrying a great guy and having two well-adjusted kids; the power of those words continued to haunt me. 

Rooted in my strong Christian faith, I remember going back to my hometown in my twenties and visiting our old house on St. Mark Court. I struck up a conversation with one of the neighbors and telling her how I used to live in the house next door to her. Imagine her surprise when she learned it was me, the little girl who used to have a dirty face and tangled hair slurring cuss words at her mom. By now she was elderly and much kinder to me than when I was little. We even struck up a friendship, and I visited her over the years when I would come back to town. 

I held no resentment toward our neighbors who thought we wouldn’t amount to much, but I can tell you this; I wish I didn’t remember what they had said. I never forgot those words spoken to me as a young child. For years, I believed I was unworthy. It’s amazing how powerful words can be and how they can influence our belief and identity.

The Power of Words – Speak Positive Truth

Because of that, I make it a huge priority to remind others how wonderful they are and how much potential they have. I encourage others so they can believe in themselves. That is the great life lesson of this story. Me telling you…you are worthy. No matter what you do or say or how many times you make mistakes, you are on purpose! Don’t let someone else rob you of your journey and the life lessons you will learn to pass on to others. 

In today’s world of technology we see everything everyone else is doing and are so quick to compare and fall into…”I’ll never amount to anything.” But I’m here to tell you, you will! Shut off your technology, and go look in the mirror and say to yourself:

 “I am on purpose, there isn’t another me out there and big plans, and grand adventures await me!”

Remember there will be hard knocks, but that is when you can pick yourself up and show the world your resiliency! “Harness your Chutzpah!” 

Finding the Best Ways to Handle Stress

This is a guest blog from a dear friend, Serhan, who is a young adult here in the Denver Metro area.

I have always had a hard time controlling my chronic stress and anxiety. It has kept me from living life fully and getting through the daily grind of life. Although I have more room  to grow, I have been able to figure out a few ways to manage the stress in my life and keep my sanity – even at the toughest times when I thought I couldn’t.

Learning to Manage Stress Is a Work-In-Progress

For starters, it was crucial for me to know that handling stress was a work-in-progress, which might require me to try multiple different methods to see which one works the best for ME. Everybody is different; but the most effective way for me was by trying different things out myself – the process of trial and error.

In the darkest of times when I was one slight inconvenience away from blacking out and wreaking havoc, I decided to give therapy a try, as strongly requested by my family. I tried many different therapy methods and visited three separate therapists. After five years of opening up and addressing my problems, it did nothing. Wasn’t for me, and I was back to square one, now more hopeless and stressed than ever. I started working out, eating healthy and cutting down on nicotine, caffeine, and the abundance of other no-no substances which were adding fuel to the fire. I noticed a slight increase in my ability to manage stress, but it did not feel enough, until months later when I encountered an unexpected experience.

Discovering Art

My girlfriend and I, along with her parents, went to an arts and crafts bar that you get to work on a project while you have a drink and hang out. I wasn’t even really the artsy type. Among the long list of different projects to choose from, I went with the string art. Starting from scratch, I sanded down the wooden board, mixed different colors to get the perfect tone I wanted, and began to meticulously hammer in the nails one by one, outlining a cardinal. I then grabbed white string and started interlacing it between each nail until it turned into a silhouette of the cardinal on the burgundy-painted wood.

It may not seem much, but that is when I realized how captivating and relaxing arts and crafts were for me, especially wood-working. Couldn’t have been better timing; as a few days later, my girlfriend moved to a different country, indefinitely, and I was devastated. I did not know what to do with myself in my free time, and my stress and anxiety levels were at an all time high.

So, guess what I chose to do? I went to Home Depot and spent nearly $500 on drills, sanders, jigsaws, two-by-fours, plywood, paint, fasteners, brushes, everything I would need for wood-working. Starting off with another string art of a much larger scale, I then proceeded to make a shoe rack for my closet, a subwoofer box for my truck, a coffee table, then bookshelves, etc.

When working on arts and crafts like painting, drilling, sanding, cutting, I feel alive. I am creating something all by myself from scratch. It always keeps me distracted, which I found is what helps me cope with my stress. A lot of times I screw up; I cut too short, drill with the wrong bit, paint with too much water, and have to start all over again – but that is why I enjoy it so much and find it so peaceful, because when I start over, I am better than I was last time. Much like when I face obstacles in life, I trip and fall, but I get back up on my feet and try again now that I know what I did wrong.

Take Charge of Your Life

Moral of the story is that managing stress is all about taking charge of your lifestyle, emotions, thoughts, and the way you deal with problems. No matter how stressful your life gets, remember that there are steps you can take to relieve the pressure and regain control. You just need to figure out how.

Have You Ever Been Caught In the Act?

Back when I was in high school, it was cool to eat the cafeteria lunch.  The homemade yeast rolls were to die for, they served frozen pizza every Friday, and the only beverage choices were regular or chocolate milk. It was cool to go to school dances and actually dance with your date.  It was cool to skip school (closed campus) and not get caught, because if you did, you knew you were going to get a paddling.

Yes, you heard me right, licks! That’s what spankings were called back then. I should know because I was a too-cool 16 year-old skipping school, with my then boyfriend, to hangout at my house.

As we were leaving to head back to school, my very strict military step-dad pulls up – I was a goner, and my face went white! He didn’t even get out of his car, he firmly stated, “follow me.” He was going to escort us back to Apollo High School, and I knew he was going to turn us in.

Sure enough, he marched us right through the center of the school cafeteria (at lunch time for all the students to see us), opened the Principal’s door and says, “Frank, this is my daughter, and they were skipping school”.  Principal List, who lived in our neighborhood, looked me in the eye and said, “Suzy, come on in, put your hands on the desk and bend over, you are going to get 5 licks for skipping school.” Can you imagine?!

I’d like to tell you that I remember the pain of the spanking, but not so much. What I remember is feeling humiliated for getting caught and my own parent, walking me through the cafeteria for all to see!  For that, I never skipped school again. You know the saying, “parents have eyes in the back of their head”? I believed it and thought my step-dad had a sixth sense when it came to catching me in the act of teenage misbehavior.

I think back to that story and so many of my other high school memories and smile. I’m so grateful for the lessons that shaped me into the person I am today.

What stories have shaped you? I’d love to hear about it. Please comment or send me an email.

Are You Going to Chase Your Dreams?

When I was 15, someone recommended me to babysit the Tyler children.  Once I stepped into their house 30+ years ago, my life changed forever. The mom, Edie was the coolest person ever! She had four kids, was happily married, was a successful real estate investor, had fabulous travel stories, and paid twice as much as my other babysitting jobs!

Dreaming of Travel and Adventure

After spending many weekends at their house, she encouraged me to travel to Europe and see all the sites.  Edie would then tell me her own travel stories, and I started dreaming saying to myself, “I’m going to go to Europe someday!” Growing up in a small town in Kentucky, I had only been to a few states traveling on Spring Break or going to Air Force Officer’s Clubs with my mom and step-dad.  Back in those days, high schoolers and college students didn’t jet around the world like they do now. Setting a goal to go to Europe was lofty for sure.

After graduating from college, I planned to go backpacking in Europe, but a job offer I couldn’t pass up came knocking on my door.  I was torn between my professional ambition and my wanderlust of traveling the world; I wanted the best of both worlds. Ultimately, I took the position in Washington, DC working for Senator Mitch McConnell on Capitol Hill, however, only with the condition that I would work through his next campaign and then leave to chase my dream.

I remember in the final interview with the Senator firmly telling him that I planned to resign on election day and set off to travel for a year.  He couldn’t help but smile at my resoluteness and hired me on the spot. It was an incredible run working with Senator McConnell, and we formed a unique friendship that continues to this day.  Like his desire to serve my great state of Kentucky, he respected my desire to leave the mainland and experience life in other parts of the world.

Working to Make My Dreams Come True

To make ends meet and save for my big trip, I worked two and three jobs focusing on the goal: I was going to Europe in April of 1991.  With my eye on the prize, I worked tirelessly with a smile on my face knowing Europe was going to be a dream come true!

As I stepped onto the plane that spring destined for London, tears filled my eyes…this small town girl realized if you want something bad enough and are willing to do whatever it takes, you can do whatever you set your mind to.  

It’s never too early to reach for the stars, and I hope you have an Edie in your life to encourage you to follow your dreams.

What Are Your Dreams?

What are your dreams? Comment below, or email me at suzy@suzymartinek.com.