You are the ONE

Today’s message is short, but sweet.  And I hope one that will resonate with you as you hear these words. “You are the ONE”. 

These past several weeks I have had so many things weighing heavy on my mind.  It all started with an experience that I had a few months ago that will forever leave an impression on my mind and caused me to go into deep research mode in all of the scriptures from the Old Testement in the Bible to the book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price.  As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ we believe that we have many scriptures that have been given to us in these latter days.  And we continue to be blessed with counsel and guidance from living prophets, seers, and revelators. 

As I have struggled through this trial of faith, I have been so grateful that my Heavenly Father and mother and my brother Jesus Christ, see ME!  Who am I, I have asked myself many times,  to receive such love, compassion and understanding? And the answer is always quick and unfailing, “you are mine”.  And you are “one” of my children whom we dearly love.  It almost never comes in the same way.  Most often it comes in the form of others lifting me and sharing their love with me.  Messages that they have no idea, come directly from the Lord through them, to little ole me.  But I see it and I recognize it and give praise for it.  Because without it, I would be like a fish floundering out of the water, struggling for breath.  

You see there are moments in this life, many moments when we need to be reminded that we are the “one”.  The one that He sees and He loves, and He wants the best for.  But it doesn’t come without work.  It doesn’t come without asking, seeking and knocking.  Sometimes we fall to our knees in anguish because it seems so impossible to get through what we’ve been asked to endure. 

But I promise you, that if you will turn yourself over the Lord, if you will let faith lead you, if you will put your trust in the arm of the Lord and not in the arm of flesh, He will find you, the “one” that He has been waiting for to come follow Him.

Today I will be sharing some thoughts from Elder Ronald A. Rasband’s talk from General Conference, October 2000. Incidently, the General Conference will be held this weekend on October 2nd and 3rd.  You can stream from the https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/ and I encourage all to watch, take notes, pray for personal revelation and then watch how the Lord caters to YOU, the “one” amongst many.

In His talk, Elder Rasband shares the following, “Throughout my life, I have come to know through my own experiences that Heavenly Father hears and answers our personal prayers. I know that Jesus is the living Christ and that He knows each of us individually, or as the scriptures express it, “one by one.”

This sacred assurance is taught compassionately by the Savior Himself in His appearance to the people of Nephi. We read of this in 3 Nephi, chapter 11, verse 15:

“And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth” (3 Ne. 11:15; emphasis added).

To further illustrate the “one by one” nature of our Savior’s ministry, we read in 3 Nephi, chapter 17, verse 9:

“And it came to pass that when he had thus spoken, all the multitude, with one accord, did go forth with their sick and their afflicted, and their lame, and with their blind, and with their dumb, and with all them that were afflicted in any manner; and he did heal them every one as they were brought forth unto him” (3 Ne. 17:9; emphasis added).

We then read of the special blessing given to the precious children in verse 21: “And when he had said these words, he wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them” (3 Ne. 17:21; emphasis added).

This was not a small gathering. In verse 25 we read: “And they were in number about two thousand and five hundred souls; and they did consist of men, women, and children.”

Certainly, there is a very profound and tender personal message here. Jesus Christ ministers to, and loves us all, one by one.”

I know that was a large portion of his talk to share but I felt like it so perfectly illustrated how Christ caters to the “one”.  Even in the midst of a sea of people that number the grains of sand on the shores, He sees us each.  He reminds us each that we are important and that He is very aware of the details of our lives that can be distressing for us.

As I said before, these last 2 months have been a struggle, but so many good and precious events have taken place that have reminded me that He sees me.  It did not come without pleading and prayer and fasting.  I was prompted to give up social media for a time. To clear my mind of clutter and unnecessary stress.  I have been guided to the correct people, places and passages of scripture that have guided me on this continuing journey.  

I have not found all the answers.  Far from it.  But I have learned a very important lesson.  That the Lord works in “ones”.  He does not forsake us.  He never has and He never will.  

So if you are having a similar struggle with something in your life.  And you’re just not sure how you will go on or how it’s all going to work out.  I want you to know that you are that “one”.  He sees you, He hears you, and He will come to your rescue.  It might not happen quickly.  It might not happen in the way that you had hoped it would.  But, it will come!  Of that you can be sure!

Thanks for listening/reading.  I hope that you will watch General Conference this weekend and let the Lord speak to you through his anointed ones.  Until next time, my friends, choose to stay!

XO Wendy

Epilogue to the epilogue

Epilogue to the Epilogue Episode 46

Hi friends, and welcome to pointing toward hope. I am your host, Wendy Bertagnolli. This podcast is filled with positivity for anyone seeking to find more hope and joy in daily life. The goal is to reach as many people as we can to help them to overcome and find joy even in the midst of extremely hard adversity. Thanks for listening. Be sure to follow and leave a review so that we can help as many people as possible. If you or someone you know has a trial that you have been able to get through or are working through with the help of our Savior, please contact me so we can get you on the podcast. This is episode 46.

In the last episode I talked to you about doing a follow up to the end of the book, Keep up the Pace.  Since it was written back in 2002 a lot has changed in my life as you can imagine.

Since that time I went through a divorce, struggled to stay in the church, I moved to Tennesse, got married again to an amazingly good man.  I became a photographer and had a blossoming business.   And everything seemed to be going so well.  Even though after my divorce I wasn’t sure I would ever feel good again.

As I said, at this point I had left the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and I was unsure if I would ever return.  Things just seemed to be better the way they were.

And then events started to happen that would change the direction of my life and my husband’s life, pretty drastically. We had moved into a new home and then soon after that, my huband’s business began to struggle financially and that was really difficult.  So many experiences happened during the next year that were just so hard for both of us, but especially for him.  

I remember him coming home from work one day, and saying “I’m just so tired of being punched.  I feel like just when I get back up, I get punched again and I’m just so tired.  It was so hard to see him going through such hard things.

At that same time my photography business seemed to be flourishing.  I was photographing out of my home, babies, family and boudoir sessions.  And was set to make more than I ever had that year.  We’d been in the new house for about a year.  I was getting pretty busy to the point that I was getting fairly stressed but I was hanging in there and really didn’t pay much attention to that at the time.  I was doing all the other things.  Working out, eating right, sleeping well, drinking lots of water, etc.

But it was at that point that I made the most stupid decision I have ever made in my life.  Because I was feeling so healthy, I made the choice to go off of my medication that I had been on for about 10 years for depression.  Not only that, I went off of it cold turkey.  And to add oil to the fire, I had started to use a patch on my arm that promised amazing energy, weight loss, clear mindedness etc.  Little did I know (I should have been better about doing my research), it was loaded with caffeine, which is one of the worst things with someone with bipolar (which I didn’t even know I did have bipolar at the time).  And on top of that I was drinking two cups of coffee every morning.  Not so smart, and not a good combination.  I had lost sight of my priorities and was looking outside of myself to find them.

Well you can imagine, my body basically went into an upward spiral of mania where I was just so euphoric and felt like I could do anything.  That week or two after I quit my medication and started the patch, I was like the energizer bunny.  I wasn’t eating, or sleeping. And I was taking on more and more and more.  And then it happened.  My body just crashed!  

Remember, at the end of the epilogue from last week where I talked about our bodies being like computers on overload? Well, that is what happened to me again.  I don’t remember much about these experiences because it really is like my body just had to be turned off and rebooted.  It’s really scary.  When I was coherent enough to understand what had happened, I found out that I had been diagnosed as having bipolar II.  And I was not happy about that at all.  You can read more about that on my blog.  I’ll link that in the show notes.

And that my friends, is what started the ball rolling for both my husband and I to find our way back to God and right the ship again.  A few years after we went through all of that, I started my blog to document all of the experiences that we had.  And what it was like to learn how to live with bipolar and reset my priorities according to my new state of being.  Soon after that I started this podcast and have been going through the ups and downs of living with bipolar for the past several years.  It will be six years this week, since I crashed 2 months in a row.  

That was the lowest time in my life…. Rock bottom.  But sometimes that is what it takes for us to be able to realize that we have to be so constantly vigilant about our health and well being, mentally, physically, and spiritually.  Because that is the way God created us to be.  

God is such a big part of my life now.  I was so surprised as I read through the book that I really only mentioned Him in the first chapter.  How very strange that is, as I look back.  I mean most of what I write about now, is how I have gotten through all of this with the help of our Savior!  

Clearly, it was all part of God’s plan for me to return to the fold. And for my husband to be baptised. The Lord doesn’t make our choices for us (like my stupid one to go off of medication).  And they will always have consequences.  But God has a way of turning something so hard and devastating into something really beautiful!  And for that I will be forever grateful.  I have re-dedicated my life to Him.  And to constantly re-evaluating my priorities so that I can stay healthy and always Keep up the PACE.  

It’s not always easy to have a positive attitude.  In fact sometimes it’s just downright the last thing I can muster.  But I have learned that if I can work to look at the good that comes from, or can come from, a negative situation I will have so much more joy in my life.  

If I can look forward with hope in Christ, He will always be there to rescue me.  And I know He will do the same for you.  All you have to do is reach out and open that door!  He’s waiting on the other side to enfold you in His arms and help you through anything!  

Again thanks for tuning in.  When I come back in a few weeks, I will return to the posts and interviews that I typically do.  

Until next time, choose Joy!  Talk to you again soon.

XO Wendy

Be who you are

These are me today (2021). And me years ago when I wrote the book , around 2001 (a very touched up old photo).

Hi friends, and welcome to pointing toward hope. I am your host, Wendy Bertagnolli. This podcast is filled with positivity for anyone seeking to find more hope and joy in daily life. The goal is to reach as many people as we can to help them to overcome and find joy even in the midst of extremely hard adversity. Thanks for listening. Be sure to follow and leave a review so that we can help as many people as possible. If you or someone you know has a trial that you have been able to get through or are working through with the help of our Savior, please contact me so we can get you on the podcast. This is episode 45 and Chapter 8 of my book Keep up the pace.

I am so excited that we have made it to the end. I have had such a good time sharing the way I felt years ago and the things that I was experiencing in that time. It has made me realize how far I’ve come and in some ways, habits that I need to re-adopt. At the end of today’s chapter I leave an Epilogue which was added a few years after the book was written. I would like to do an Epilogue to the Epilogue in the next few weeks where I share where I am at today and the things and ideas that have changed. So hopefully I can put that together soon!

Thanks so much my friends for tuning in and supporting me. It really means the world to me! Without any further ado, let’s jump into the last chapter!

Chapter 8

Be Who You Are 

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Ralph Waldo Emerson 

When my daughter, Mckayla, was in Chicago competing for the National title of Miss Teen International she met some really amazing young women. One of the girls that she became close friends with, taught her some really great lessons throughout the week of the competition. It was funny that these two were able to bond as they did because McKayla was the youngest competitor and her friend, Kim, was the oldest competitor.

Having experienced more than McKayla, Kim became the source of much inspiration. McKayla learned first hand what it means to surround yourself with positive energy. But one statement in particular really stuck with McKayla and helped her to be more confident even though she was the youngest competitor and lacked the experience some of the other contestants had. Kim told her, “Always be the best version of yourself, not the second best version of someone else.” I was so impressed that at the age of 19, Kim already had a firm hold on who she was and she wasn’t going to compromise that for anyone or anything.

One of the greatest Challenges that the youth of America face today is the struggle to find out who they are and what their place is in this world. Not only do the youth struggle with this concept, adults do too, especially adult women. I have found through my own experiences of working with youth, that the most noticeable changes in self-acceptance for girls, happens between the ages of 12 -15. And unfortunately the opinion that we form about ourselves when we are that age sometimes continues on through adulthood. So how do we as adults learn to accept and celebrate who we are and teach our children to do the same? That is the million dollar question.

I have a couple of suggestions that seem to be working for my family. Most of these stem from personal experiences, and the journey towards self-acceptance that others have made. I am still learning and I am sure there are many things that could be added, but here are just a few to get you started.

First of all, learn to celebrate your uniqueness. Isn’t it just incredible that out of the billions of people on this Earth, there is not one single person who is exactly like you? Sure we can have a lot in common with others and there are certain people that we just seem to bond with easily from the start. But, there is not one person who has your eyes, your smile, your personality, your zest for life!

It is unfortunate that most of us will never live up to the great potential within us. However, we can start striving toward that potential by understanding that you have just as much right to be great as the next person. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, or how thick or thin you are. It doesn’t matter what circumstances you were born under, or the cards that you have been dealt in this life. You still have a choice, you still “drive your own car.”

You can choose to change the way you view life! Is the glass half empty or half full? If you don’t like what is going on in your life right now, only you have the power to change it. If you look in the mirror and you don’t like what you see or the person that you have become, make the choice to change.

Realize that along with change comes fear, and taking risks is never easy, but only you have the power to change you! Celebrate that fact! Joy in knowing that no one else has your little turned up nose, or your ability to see the good in others. Be grateful that God made you. . .you!

Second, just because there isn’t another person just like you, doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from others. In fact, the only way that we can achieve our full potential, is to learn and grow from our experiences with all the people in our lives. Some of my very best friends are the ones that are very different from me. I have grown to love them despite our differences and they have helped me accept myself for who I am.

If we can forgo the instant stereotyping and really try to give others a chance to make an impression in our lives, we will all be better and stronger for it. I believe that God places us in the path of others so that we, in some small way, can help them along their way and vice versa. We will never know what joys we could have had or what great qualities we could learn from, if we never give anyone a chance.

Next, be fiercely loyal to yourself, your family, and your friends. Dishonesty and deceitfulness are on a rampage in our world. Don’t buy into it! Nothing can do more damage to a family, a business, a friendship or your character. Lying, backbiting and gossiping, and sharing confidences that were not meant to be shared, will become a heavy burden in your life that will only serve to bring you and others down.

When my husband was in college he had roommates that liked to drink and get a little crazy. Although that is not my husband’s lifestyle, he would go with them so that he could be the designated driver and make sure that they all made it home safe and sound. He never once belittled them for how they lived their life and he was always there for them when they needed someone to talk to.

We have bumped into some of them over the years and they always comment on how much they respected him for sticking to his values and standards but never making them feel inferior because they didn’t have that same value system.

Finally, when you are wrong about something don’t be afraid to own up to your mistake. When you are quick to admit your wrong doing your mind and soul will be free from unneeded baggage and guilt. You will be able to move forward with a clear conscious and renewed motivation. People will think more of you, for your honesty and forthrightness and your unfailing dedication to your own personal values and standards.

As you continue on your path in your life, I hope that some of the experiences that I have shared with you have made you laugh or cry. . I hope that you have seen yourself in some of the stories that I related. But most of all, I trust that you have become motivated to set a new PACE for your future and that you have gained a greater understanding of how important it is to set that PACE in your life.

Whenever you are feeling down, or circumstances just aren’t what you hoped they would be, remember Positive Attitude Changes Everything!

Your Assignment: Never stop setting the PACE! 

EPILOGUE Shortly after the completion of this book, I was hospitalized for a short period of time. My priorities had become hazy. I was not eating well, and I was spending many sleepless nights worrying needlessly over events that were beyond my control. I was operating on over load with nowhere to go but down.

Our bodies and brains are complex entities and just like a computer if you overload it, it will crash. If you don’t learn how to slow down, your body will do it for you. Crisis such as this can be avoided.

I share this experience with you to help you understand how critically important it is to constantly re-evaluate your priorities and where you are at in your life. You may think you have it all under control but if you haven’t been diligent in keeping balance in your life, sooner or later it will catch up to you.

At the same time, don’t let fear keep you from moving forward. Keep setting goals, dreaming big, and reaching for the stars! I wish you all the best in your future endeavors and as always remember Positive Attitude changes everything!

XO Wendy

Believe in yourself

Hi friends, Welcome to the Pointing Toward Hope podcast. I am your host Wendy Bertagnolli. This podcast is filled with positivity for anyone seeking to find more hope and joy in daily life. The goal is to reach as many people as we can to help them to overcome and find joy even in the midst of extremely hard adversity. Thanks for listening. Be sure to subscribe and leave a review so that we can help as many people as possible. If you or someone you know has a trial that you have been able to get through or are working through with the help of our Savior, please contact me so we can get you on the podcast. This is episode 41.

Chapter 4

Believe in yourself

“ Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen. Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Take control of your destiny! Believe in yourself! Those are two of the most powerful statements I think I have ever read. I am going to tell you something now that I think you will find most profound. You know yourself better than anyone else! You are the only one that has spent every waking second of your life with . . . YOU! Who could possibly know you better, with the exception of God?

Why then do we tend to doubt ourselves so much? I believe the reason we do so much self-doubting has to do with many factors. It could be the way that your parents raised you. Maybe you came from a very emotionally or physically abusive home. It is possible that you suffered many tragic losses throughout your life. Maybe you have had to endure a physical debilitation or disease, or mental illness.

Regardless of the circumstance, we are all capable of change. We all have the ability within us to take control of our lives. It is true that sometimes we cannot control the circumstances that happen to us, however we definitely can control the attitude with which we choose to face these experiences. I know that there will be many that will want to argue this point, but the fact is we “drive our own cars”!

Sometimes I think it might benefit us if we could take a step back from our life and view it from a different perspective. We are so good at looking at another person’s life and providing a solution to all of their problems. If we could use this same objectiveness in our own lives, we could solve a lot of crisis before they arise.

Have you ever felt restless? Like you were supposed to be doing something else with your life, or something is missing? I like to think of this restless feeling as God’s way of helping us to realize that we still have room to grow (and I don’t mean in height or weight!). Another way to view this feeling is to look at it as “growing pains”. Remember when you were a child and you would get stomach aches the first week of a new school year? Or maybe you just started a new job and you had those anxious butterflies in the pit of your stomach . . . Yes, I would have to say those are “growing pains”.

A few years ago I was able to attend a convention, the keynote speaker happened to be Sharlene Wells Hawkes, Miss America 1985. She discussed a technique that I feel is imperative to making your life what you want it to be. It is relatively simple and really does not take a lot of effort . . . once you get used to it!

I am sure that many of you have heard of the “comfort zone”. This is a place that we make for ourselves that is easy to be. We rarely take steps out of this safe place because it is hard or maybe a little scary. We stay in the same routine day after day and never do anything that feels uncomfortable, thus we have created our “comfort zone”.

But there is a very interesting fact about our comfort zones and that is that they never stay the same. It is either growing or shrinking! Sharlene goes on to discuss that the only way we can make our comfort zone grow instead of shrink is to consistently take steps outside of it. This means doing things that are hard or maybe even a little scary. But each time you do this your comfort zone will grow.

Rest assured I am not telling you that you need to do anything that is risky or dangerous. I am talking about setting small goals for yourself on a daily or weekly basis that you may find a little difficult. These might include: Getting up a little earlier each day so you can get more accomplished. Or parking your car a little further out than normal so you can get a little more exercise. Maybe you could try choosing carrots instead of cookies if you are trying to lose weight. Each time that you take a small step outside of your comfort zone an amazing thing happens . . . It grows! And it also gets a little easier to take that next step.

Unfortunately, the opposite is true when we choose to remain inside our safe little place and don’t take small chances on a regular basis. It is not easy. And very often, in fact more often than not, our chances will be accompanied by failure. But as Sharlene would say, “Failure doesn’t keep you from success, it leads you to it. . . if you are willing to learn.”

Some of the most successful people I know did not realize their dreams by mere happenstance. It takes effort, it takes desire, and it takes a willingness to learn from our failures. When we choose to let our failures defeat us and we shrink back into our comfortable place it becomes harder and harder to venture out again and our comfort zone gets smaller and smaller. The fact is, that we have all been given special gifts that are ours to develop if we choose. We can use these gifts, not only to improve the quality or our own lives, but also to help others around us. However, we can only do this if we learn to develop these gifts by taking consistent steps outside or our comfort zone and believing in ourselves.

I once heard someone say that in order to be a winner you have to ACT like a winner. I honestly believe this to be true. Our actions speak louder than our words, we can voice what we intend to do but until you take action there is no meaning behind the words. When we are doers our emotions will follow suit. It is hard and scary to attempt something new that is uncomfortable and no doubt our emotions and thoughts tell us that we won’t succeed, that we shouldn’t attempt the unknown. But, it is only in attempting or taking action that we find out what our abilities are and how good we can feel when we achieve a dream.

If you are anything like me, and I believe you are, you are probably saying to yourself right now, “How do I find out what my gifts are?” Or maybe you are thinking, “I don’t have any gifts.” Finding out what your gifts are is much simpler than you may think. Start by making a list of things that you are good at. Maybe you enjoy reading or listening to music. Who knows, you might just have a gift for writing poetry or music.

Second, start listening to, and accepting compliments. This is a great way to discover hidden talents. For example, people consistently comment on how great your hair always looks or what a snappy dresser you are. You might have a real talent in the cosmetology industry or maybe your gift lies in retail sales.

Has anyone ever told you what a great listener you are, or that you are very caring and sensitive? This could lead one to believe that you may be great in a field of social work or another related field. My point is, that sometimes we spend so much time complaining about the gifts that we don’t have that we lose sight of those gifts that are uniquely ours. There is not another person in this world like you , so why not celebrate that fact by being all that God intended you to be and by doing that, we not only help ourselves but, we help others along the way.

Finally, don’t be afraid to dream big. We are the culmination of our dreams put into action. If we stop dreaming we stop living. Don’t let anyone tell you can’t. If you can dream it you can achieve it!

I remember when I was a little girl and my mother gave me a necklace. On the chain was a heart-shaped locket made of glass that had a mustard seed inside. It was accompanied by a little metal plate with this inscription on it: . . .if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there”, and it will move. –Matthew 17:20

At 5’3” the shortest player in NBA history, Tyrone “Mugsy” Bogues, believed in himself against all odds. He said, “You can do anything you want to do in life, if you have a fierce belief in yourself, a strong will, a big heart, and some role models to inspire you.”

Don’t ever give up on yourself. If you have faith, belief in yourself, the patience to persevere, and most importantly, a positive attitude, you can make your dreams a reality.

Climb ‘Til Your Dreams Come True

By Helen Steiner Rice

Often your tasks will be many, And more than you think you can do . . .

Often the road will be rugged And the hills insurmountable, too . . .

But always remember, the hills ahead Are never as steep as they seem,

And with faith in your heart start upward And climb ‘til you reach your dream,

For nothing in life that is worthy Is ever too hard to achieve

If you have faith to try it And you have the faith to believe . . .

For faith is a force that is greater than knowledge or power or skill

And many defeats turn to triumph if you trust in God’s wisdom and will . . .

For faith is a mover of mountains, there’s nothing that God cannot do,

So start out today with faith in your heart And climb ‘til your dreams come true!”

Assignment: Make a list of the things that you feel that you are good at, or that you have a desire to become good at. Then write down some small goals or steps that you can take outside of your comfort zone to achieve those goals. Record your steps. Start with the small things and soon you will be leaping out of your comfort zone and growing consistently.

Remember, you are doing this for you! Don’t let anyone keep you from your dreams or tell you that you aren’t good enough. Believe that you can be all that God wants you to be and you will become better and stronger than you ever believed possible! Go now, and start expanding your comfort zone!

Thanks for reading! I hope you are enjoying it.

XO, Wendy

Willing to change

Hi friends, Welcome to the Pointing Toward Hope podcast. I am your host Wendy Bertagnolli. This podcast is filled with positivity for anyone seeking to find more hope and joy in daily life. The goal is to reach as many people as we can to help them to overcome and find joy even in the midst of extremely hard adversity. Thanks for listening. Be sure to subscribe and leave a review so that we can help as many people as possible. If you or someone you know has a trial that you have been able to get through or are working through with the help of our Savior, please contact me so we can get you on the podcast. This is episode 39.

Chapter 2 

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up each time we fail.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson —

I want you to stop and think for a minute about all of the people you know that you would define as successful. I believe that you will find, as I did, that one of the common denominators that each of these individuals have, has to do with the pace they choose to set for their lives.

It has been shown in many studies that people who lead a busy life are more efficient and more effective people in general. Why is this? Most people would tend to believe that the opposite is true. But the main reason lies in the fact that busy people don’t sit around waiting for life to happen to them, they go out and make life happen for them!

When I graduated from high school I earned a cheerleading scholarship to attend College as well as a partial academic scholarship. It was my first experience away from home. Granted, it was only an hour drive so I could go home if the need arose. However, I was determined to survive on my own merits and so I tried to go home only on special occasions and when I had free time.

Free time was a rare commodity because I also chose to work as much as I could, to ease the financial burden on my parents. So between school, cheerleading practices, games, dating, and work, there was little time for homework let alone homesickness.

But on one particular day I was feeling relatively “blue”. Had I known what I know now, I would have been able to see this as a clear symptom of depression. It was a gray, and rainy morning and it just so happened that my first class was very early (due to work and practice commitments). To tell you the honest truth, the only reason I kept attending this class was that fact that I was really hoping for a date with a cute guy in the class!

I walked into class that morning ready to sleep through most of it, as usual, but to my surprise found written vertically on the board in huge capital letters the word PACE.

My professor proceeded to ask the class if they knew what this word meant. Most of us yelled out various definitions such as, setting the progression of an event, rate of movement, distance covered by a runner, and so on. Not one of us could give him the answer that he wanted to hear. And so he began to break it down. Positive Attitude Changes Everything! You control the PACE at which you will build your life, one experience at a time. You, and you alone control your attitude. Yes, you will experience ups and downs in this life. Yes, you will have heartache and happiness in this life. And yes, you will always be in control of the attitude with which you choose to face these experiences.

You have the power to learn and grow and become better because of these experiences. You also have the power to use these experiences as a crutch or a thorn in your side. To say, “If it wasn’t for this. . . I could have been this. . .” or “If this hadn’t happened. . . I would have been a better wife, mother, father, husband, daughter, friend, etc.” It’s time to throw out the “should haves”, “would haves”, and “if only’s”!

“Wow!” I thought. The rest of the class was a blur because I knew that with that one important lesson he was talking directly to me! I began to regret the many times that I had slept through the class thinking I “should have” taken a different class, and realized for the first time in my life that I literally had the power to control my own destiny!

Mind you, this was a small glimmer of hope, for there were many events that would take place in my life that would teach me the importance of putting that thought into action. I have to give credit to my parents, because they are two of the best role models anyone could hope for. My parents did everything they could to help me to learn that it was up to me what I would make of my life.

They helped me to build a strong foundation of religious belief, a love of God and family, and strong moral values. For this I will be eternally grateful. There have been many times when I have turned to this foundation of strength and endurance.

But there comes a time in every person’s life when they have to find these truths out for themselves. Some will call this awakening, discovering your identity. I like to call it “setting the PACE”. When everything that you have experienced in your life up to this point comes together like the pieces of a puzzle that suddenly connect.

When you finally realize, “Hey! I can make a difference in this life. I have just as much right to be whomever I want to be as any other person, regardless of what I have had to endure or what I will have to endure in the future!”

But this requires more than a thought, it requires action. Now don’t suppose that after that my life became perfect, full of sunshine and happiness. In fact, this was a small awakening that I would look back on to draw strength from, in my deepest, darkest moments.

NOTE: It’s important to take a breather here and explain that as many of you know, life happens and things can change drastically over the years. In the next section I will be talking about my former husband, who remains a good friend to this day. Was that marriage a mistake? Absolutely not. It was part of my journey and helped shape me into the person I am today. And we got 4 beautiful and amazing children along the way.

Now back to the book.

Shortly after this realization, I decided it was time to set my life on a course that I had always dreamed of. More than anything I wanted to be a wife and a mother. It just so happened that my future husband, had been chasing me relentlessly. You know the statement, “Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees?”

Well, in this case that statement rang true. This boy moved into my neighborhood when I was just eight years old and he was eleven. I will never forget my Father looking me directly in the eyes one night over dinner and saying, “Now Wendy, that’s the type of family you want to marry into!” My response was that of a typical eight year old, “Daaaaaad, ewwww!” To this day I still have not figured out how he knew before I did that that boy was the one I would eventually marry.

Our courtship was not easy. To say it was bearable would be a great understatement! My future husband would probably tell you that he would prefer to be hit by lightning than to go through our courtship again! Over a period of about a year and half, I single handedly succeeded in getting him to fall hopelessly in love with me. How I managed to do this I will never know. I think I did everything I could to torture him and drive him away.

We lived just three houses apart from each other on a dead end subdivision. I lived at the top of the street and he lived near the outlet. This put him in the perfect spot to see me drive up and down the street with various dates. Over that year and a half, we dated and then broke it off half a dozen times, and it was during those times that I proceeded to torture him.

I truly did not intend to do this. I felt that we had made it clear to each other that neither of us would have a problem with seeing the other person dating someone else. So you can imagine my surprise when he proceeded to feed me a little of my own medicine. Over a period of three weeks he made sure that I saw him having a great time with three different and very beautiful girls. Little did I know that he had no particular interest in any of them. One was “just a friend”, one was his friend’s date, and only one was actually a girl that he had any interest in. This didn’t matter to me, because what you see and what you feel can be two very different things and I felt jealous!

Not just a little bit, I was extremely jealous! To make matters worse, not only was I jealous, my mother was jealous for me! I knew it was time to make my move I had to reclaim my status with him! Now this may seem egotistical and I assure you that I really had no intention of raining on anyone’s parade, but I had finally realized what I was giving up and I wasn’t going down without a fight!

Fortunately, it never came to out and out combat. Whatever I had done to get him to fall in love with me must have been the right thing because he unloaded her like a bad habit! Lucky for me, he is a patient and very tolerable man. He has been the “wind beneath my wings” so many times I have lost count. To say he brings out the best in me would be a great disservice to him. He has treated me as if I were what I ought to be thus, I have become what I am capable of being. I hope that I do the same for him.

Having related this experience, let’s get back to setting the PACE. You see, I had to tell you a little bit about my husband in order for you to understand what he had to endure for most of the first eight years of our marriage. We brought our first child into this world just ten short months after we were married. Then seventeen months later, we had our first daughter. It was at this point that I realized how hard being a mother really is and I remember looking into my husband’s eyes and saying, “If you want more children, it’s now or never because I am not going through this stage again once I am out of it.”

If you have ever had two children in diapers and on a bottle at the same time you will be able to relate. I was so not independent and I knew if I became independent again I would never want to go back to that lack of independence.

Unfortunately, I was setting myself up for a long and hard battle with depression. First of all, if you have ever had a child or you have witnessed someone who had a child, you know how hard it is to return to pre-pregnancy shape; both emotionally and physically. Following the birth of our second child, I became pregnant again within twenty two months. After eight short weeks of constant questioning of myself, “What was I thinking?”, I miscarried this pregnancy.

Instead of seeing this as a sign that maybe I wasn’t ready for another child at this point, I blamed myself for the miscarriage because of my constant questioning. Consequently, I became pregnant again and delivered a beautiful baby girl twenty seven months after our first daughter. I think at this point I had a “help me make it through this stage Lord, and everything will be ok. ” attitude.

Boy, was I ever in need of an attitude adjustment. And yes, boy number two came along twenty two months later. So if you are doing the math, I had four children under the age five! What a nightmare! Not the children themselves, but my inability to deal with the task at hand and my ever changing hormones.

Now, you can see why I call my husband a patient man! Over the space of about four years I would go in and out of deep bouts with depression. I had a hard time coping with the mundane tasks of the day such as laundry, cooking, and cleaning up after the kids. Everything seemed overwhelming and instead of tackling one task at a time I gave up. Essentially this created a vicious circle. Not following through, giving up, and then berating myself for being such a terrible mother and person. It would get to the point where all I wanted to do was go to bed and wake up when it was all over. A serious sign of Post Partum depression.

Depression comes in different forms for everyone. So it is important that you understand that my experience with depression may not be what you have experienced but that does not make yours less real. Also it is imperative to understand that Depression is a condition that there is no cure for. Except in some cases of Post Partum Depression or other situational or environmental depression. And even then it’s tricky.

If you have been diagnosed with depression then you have to learn how to manage it so that the symptoms will be at a level that you can function with. There are many great medications available today that work very well and I highly recommend seeking out a professional who is trained in working with your specific form of depression to find out what works best for you.

For me, when a bout of depression is coming on I can actually feel a dark cloud settle upon me. It is so real to me that I feel like I could reach out and try to push it away. That’s when I know that something is out of balance and I need to re-evaluate what I have been doing. For you it might be much different.

The point is that it is important to get to know your body and your emotions well enough that you can manage it when it arises. During that four year period when I really did not know what was going on with my health, and the above situation would start to improve I would think, “Hey, things are looking up!” So what else would any normal person do at that point? You guessed it, I would take on another project. “I am woman, hear me roar”, right? Slowly and steadily, I was leading myself down a path where sometimes there is no return.

I was setting a PACE that had nothing to do with positive attitude and everything to do with lack of control. Because I felt that my abilities as a mother and a woman were out of control, I was looking for anything that I could control. As I sunk deeper into depression I struggled more to look like I was on top of it all, on the outside.

I wanted anyone and everyone to know that I was in control, when I knew full well I was anything but in control. If you have ever suffered from depression or know someone who has, you may be able to relate to this scenario. At home, behind closed doors I was falling apart and yet when I was around people I was very good at concealing what was really happening inside. I would put on what I like to call the “happy face” also known to many as the “mask”.

Of course this is not always the case, a lot of how we act and react has to do with the stages of depression we are in and how many times we have hit the lows. I happened to be very fortunate to have someone who loves me finally pick me up off the floor and tell me, “This is not real life. You don’t have to live like this!” My husband helped me to realize that it was time to ask for help. This disease was bigger than me and it was dangerously out of control!

Over the next few years I began my long road to recovery. It was never easy. My first step was to visit a therapist and talk about my options. This woman helped me to see that choosing to be on medication was not surrendering to the disease, but the beginning of the fight. She helped me to realize what my pattern had been for each bout of depression that I had experienced and what I could likely expect over the coming months.

She pointed out to me the pros and cons of being on medication. This was something that I could not have done for myself because I was not thinking rationally at that point. I feel that she helped me to understand that I needed an attitude adjustment, I needed to be willing to change my lifestyle and I needed to be able to think clearly so that I could set a new PACE.

As painful as change can be there is always growth and opportunity waiting to occur. For me, this meant starting on the road to recovery with what any person should do who has a disease, and that is to take the proper steps to help your body heal.

Even with all the controversy and stigma at that time over anti-depressants and depression in general, I couldn’t justify not taking this chance. It was a badly needed light at the end of the tunnel, it gave me hope! 

Your Assignment: 

Find a notebook or buy a cute fancy journal (whatever helps you want to write), and write down your feelings and experiences. You may think that this is a waste of time but, I can’t tell you how many times I have looked back on what I wrote during those down times.

Whenever I read the words that I penned myself, it helps me to know that things did get better, even when I could see no way out. Generally, I am not one who would push people to see a therapist.

But in the case of depression or the meriad of other emotionally dysfunctioning diseases, I highly recommend talking to someone about what you are experiencing. Even if it is just to sit down and have a real “heart to heart” with your husband, mother, sister, best friend, or clergyman.

Talking things out and getting them out in the open will not only let someone else in on what you are feeling, but it also helps you to sort things out in your mind. Talking it out and admitting that you might need some outside help, that what you are doing is not working, is the first step on your road to recovery. And believe me, what lies beyond that first step is worth the risk of putting it all out there. Hiding behind the “happy face” is no way to really LIVE life!