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Monday, December 9, 2013

Be A Blessing to Others by Giving Back

I love all the joy of the holiday season – indulging in delicious food, making memorable moments and getting some much-needed relaxation.  I especially love staying up late with my honey and the kids and sleeping in the next day.  When we wake up, I enjoy eating brunch together as a family.

We are truly blessed and had a wonderful Thanksgiving this year.  As we prepared dinner, heavenly aromas of turkey and other delicious foods filled the air.  In the background our favorite holiday songs were playing.   After that beautiful day together, I’m so looking forward to Christmas, my absolute favorite holiday.
(My honey was busy cleaning greens for our delicious Thanksgiving meal.) 
                                      (The boys were helping with the green-cleaning, too.)

Being Joyful & Spreading Holiday Cheer

To me, Thanksgiving is the official start of the holiday season.  Even though it was just a little over a week ago, I’ve already witnessed the true meaning of being joyful and spreading holiday cheer.

In just about every town you can find a family that’s less fortunate. So many times I’ve wished there was something I could do to create lasting change in their lives.  Well two extraordinary moms, that I have the pleasure of knowing personally, have taken on that mission.

Andria Haley, a chic mom of a “rock star” son who recently went away for college, saw the need for help in her community.  Driven by her pure heart and love for others, Andria organized a food drive in her neighborhood and fed twelve families on Thanksgiving.

 During her food drive, Andria and her volunteers provided information on GED, ESL, ABE, job training and placement centers and healthcare enrollment for 2014.  Andria wants to empower her community and teach independence.   Inspired by the “success” of her food drive, Andria is developing a program that will offer workshops for resume writing, interviewing techniques and confidence-building at a local church. 

Similarly, another amazing woman has made it her mission to spread cheer and give to those in need.  Jackie Joann Paul, a loving mom of three wonderful sons and owner of My Three Sons CafĂ©, is truly a giver and loves to serve.  Not only does she create finger-licking, mouthwatering meals, Jackie partners with an organization, Helping Hands Rescue Mission Philly , to feed the elderly and shut-in.  Jackie prepares weekly meals and delivers them to elderly people who are unable to cook for themselves.

Recently Jackie shared a touching story.  She and her son befriended a homeless man.  They check on him regularly and take him blankets, food and offer to let him warm up in their car.  On extremely cold and windy nights, Jackie negotiates lower rates at a local motel and pays for the homeless man to stay overnight.

How We Can All Play a Part

Andria and Jackie did not ask me to share their story. I was moved by their loving spirits and felt compelled to let others know that there is something we can do to help.  We can all play a part by giving back to those in need. 

If you’re not sure how to get involved, you can reach out to an organization of your choice and ask how you can help with their cause.  You never know how much of a blessing you can be to someone.  That is the true spirit of this holiday season.

How I’m going to Play My Part

I’m inspired by Andria and Jackie.  In 2014, I’ll be volunteering at a local group home for teenage girls.   I plan to give back by mentoring and empowering these young women.  My honey and I have also agreed to organize a clothing drive for a local shelter for women and children.  

What are you willing to do in order to give back during the holidays and beyond?  Please share your comments with me.  If you’re a mom or know a mom who’s doing great things in your community, I’d love to hear about it.

Until we meet again, take care of yourself and keep moving boldly in the direction of your dreams.

Lots of love,

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

S is for Strength

I’ve truly enjoyed sharing my life with you. I’ve shared five of the six qualities (determination, resourcefulness, energy, ambition and motivation) that moms need in order to make their dreams come true.
I showed you how these qualities helped me accomplish two of my biggest dreams – earning my graduate degree and starting my coaching business.   

The last quality you need to make your dreams come true is strength.  Some days are pretty easy.  Other days are pretty challenging.  Through it all, I’ve realized just how much strength I have. 

(Even though my muscles look pretty fierce here, I’m referring to my mental strength.)

My mother recognized my strength when I was a little girl.  Every now and then she would refer to me as “mule”. That nickname always seemed a bit strange to me.  It wasn’t until I became an adult that my mother explained why she used to call me a mule.

With love and kindness my mom explained that she would refer to me as a mule because I was very strong-willed.  Once I made up my mind to do something, I wouldn’t stop until it was done – no matter what.

As mothers often do, my mom saw strength in me that I didn’t even know I had.  As I got older and started experiencing life, my inner strength became my fuel. 

When the Going Gets Tough…

How is it that I didn’t throw my ex-husband’s belongings out on the front lawn and burn them after he casually dropped the bomb that he’d been cheating and possibly fathered a child with a woman who was “just a friend”?  How was I then able to go for one whole year and not tell one single person? How did I manage to stay in school while going through all of this?

After my family knew what I’d been going through, they kept telling me over and over again how strong I was.  But what other options did I have?  I couldn’t just leave with four young children.

I relied on an inner strength to keep me steady when my world, as I knew it, became an unfamiliar nightmare.  The early months after our marital separation were dreadful.  There were many days when I prayed that I could just wake up the next day and my life would be normal again.  But that never happened.

Instead I had to deal with the reality of being a divorced woman with four children and no real plan B.  I had no plans for that life and certainly did not sign up to take care of four children on my own.  I was hurt, sad, resentful and downright pissed off!

Despite my circumstances, I kept my eyes on the prize.  I knew that if I could finish my Masters degree, I would be well on my way to creating a better life for us.  My strength as well as my faith held me up when I felt like giving up.  For this I am eternally grateful.                                                       

I’m no longer stuck in my story…

I realize that some people look at me and would never imagine my life story to be what it is.  Trust me – there were many days when I wished I could have changed a lot about my life.  But I don’t feel that way anymore.

Today I can proudly say that I am standing on my story with strength, power and confidence.  I am no longer wondering and wishing why things happened the way they did or why they could not have been different.

I accept my life just the way that it is.  I’m thankful for the lessons that life has taught me.  I know that everything I’ve gone through was not for just for me – it was so I could help other women going through pain and sadness and thinking they’re alone. 

My message to women dealing with infidelity, divorce, separation, single motherhood, or any other difficulty, is simple – you are not alone and please do not give up on yourself and your dreams. 

The road ahead may be full of bumps and scary turns.  But you owe it to yourself and to your children to keep pushing forward until you make it to the other side.  Take it day by day, hour by hour, one step at a time and you will eventually see that it was all worth it in the end.

(This summer we took our first family trip to California.  If you would have asked me four years ago if I thought I would be able to afford a trip to Disneyland, I would have laughed in your face.  But look at the magic you can create when you dream BIG and believe in yourself.)

This is not the end

As always, I’d like to know when’s the last time you found yourself fighting to get through a tough situation and what you did to get to the other side.  Did you feel stronger and more confident afterwards?

Before I go, I’d love to know what you thought about my D.R.E.A.M.S. series.  Please drop me a quick comment and let me know if this blog has served you in any way.  While you’re at it, feel free to let me know what topics you’d like me to cover in the next few weeks.

Next week we’ll start a new journey.  It’s a surprise, so you’ll have to show up to see what’s in the works for Moms with D.R.E.A.M.S.  See ya then!

Lots of love,


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

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D.R.E.A.M.S. series: M is for Motivation

Welcome to week 5 of my D.R.E.A.M.S. series! I love inspiring moms to dream big and hope that you’re getting value from this. 

I’ve enjoyed sharing pieces of my journey as a teenage mom – how I relied on determination, resourcefulness, energy and ambition to get over obstacles I faced. 

This week you’ll see how motivation kept me focused on my dreams as a young, married mother of four children (born in 1992, 1998, 1999, and 2001).  Crazy, right?

Before we get into that, let’s define our topic of the week, motivation.

What is motivation?

I asked my 15-year old daughter what motivation means to her. She said it’s “a physical or emotional thing that keeps you inspired to do something”.  I thought that was a brilliant definition. In the world of psychology, motivation is defined as “a process that initiates, guides or maintains goal-oriented behavior”. 

One source of personal motivation for me was my family.  Remember how I let my dad down when I became pregnant at 17?  I was motivated to show him that I would still make something great out of myself even though I was a teenage mom.  

Later on my children became a driving force of motivation in my life.  I felt guilty for taking time away from them to attend class and spend countless hours studying and writing papers. 

There was no way that I would quit.  In my mind I owed it to them to graduate because of all the time I spent away from them pursuing my dream.  As they got older and understood that mommy was in school, I had to show them how hard work pays off when you’re dedicated to “doing something”.

Outside of my dad and my children, a large part of my motivation was intrinsic.  I had a burning desire and would not stop until I made it happen. 

Along the way my close friends kept me from giving up on my dream.  My best friend, Nyali, was a huge motivator for my academic achievements.  We were always at the top of our class in middle school and high school.  After high school, Nyali followed the traditional route of going straight to college.

The celebration of Nyali’s college graduation served as motivation.  Watching Nyali graduate kept me “inspired to do something”. Even though I was married, raising a young family and working, I knew I could still finish my degree as long as I didn’t quit.  When Nyali finished medical school, I re-committed to my dream of obtaining a graduate degree, although it seemed very far away.

Today Nyali’s children are much younger than mine for obvious reasons.  We both agree that even though our paths appeared to be very different (traditional vs. non-traditional route) our outcomes are still the same – we are educated women balancing the responsibilities of careers and motherhood.   

Last week I touched on having like-minded friends who support your dreams and hold you accountable.  Although Nyali wasn’t purposely holding me accountable, she kept me inspired, as my daughter said, to “keep doing something”.              


As I look back on my life, it’s hard to believe that my oldest son is celebrating his 21st birthday this month. He’s grown into a responsible young man, pursuing his college degree while working.  It seems like yesterday when I was pushing his stroller off the field of my high school graduation ceremony.
Although the road hasn’t been easy, it’s a journey that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.  The valuable lessons that I’ve gained from being a teenage mom and a young wife have made me into the woman I am today.
I am grateful to my parents for challenging me in ways that I didn’t recognize at the time.  I am grateful for my children because they taught me so much about love, sacrifices and dedication.  I am grateful for my dear friend Nyali who kept me motivated over the years, even when she didn’t know it.


Let’s talk about

YOU now.

Who and what keeps you motivated on a daily basis? How do you stay focused on goals that seem far off in the distance?  Are you surrounding yourself with people who inspire and empower you?  Share your comments below and I promise that I’ll respond.

Next week we’ll discuss the last segment of this D.R.E.A.M.S. series – strength.  I hope to see you then.

Lots of love,             


P.S.  Don’t get sad because we’re almost at the end. I have something new and exciting in the works for you after this.  Stay tuned for more details…


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

D.R.E.A.M.S. series: A is for Ambition

Welcome to week 4 of my D.R.E.A.M.S. series.  These past few weeks are flying by quickly!  We’ve spent the last three weeks discussing determination, resourcefulness and energy and how they are essential to making dreams come true.  I hope that you’re starting to see how tapping into these qualities can really change your life.

This week we’re talking about ambition.  If someone asked you to describe ambition, what would you say?  According to the powers that be, it’s a strong desire or intention to achieve something.  You can think of this something that you desire as your dreams. 

We’ve already established that achieving dreams requires determination and hard work.  So let’s see how having ambition also helps you realize your dreams.

I remember the day when I told my parents that I was pregnant and going to be a mom at 17.  I can still see the pain and disappointment in my father’s face as the tears slowly rolled down his cheeks.  He couldn’t believe that I was pregnant and couldn’t imagine how I would finish high school. 

I was sad that I disappointed my dad, but I wasn’t worried about finishing high school.  I looked my dad directly in his eyes and confidently assured him that I would graduate high school on time and still go to college.  He never argued with me; instead he excused himself from the table and left me sitting there by myself.

While sitting alone at the table, I made a decision that I would not give up on my dream just because I was having a child.  I had always been an ambitious over-achiever, but this time it was different.  I had no doubts whatsoever.

On the Road to Follow My Dream

Let me be clear - the road I traveled was bumpy and full of unexpected turns. I had to make plenty of sacrifices.  When my friends were out partying and living a carefree life, I was working, taking care of my son, and studying.  Although the road was rough, my ambition kept me going.

My 7-month old son was in the audience with my parents at my high school graduation.  Even though my grades slipped a little bit, I maintained my membership in the National and Spanish Honor Societies and finished in the top 20th percentile of my class.  

I never lost sight of my dream of going to college.  Once I got married and had more children, going to school was much harder.  But I still had the same strong desire that I had as a high school student. 

After fourteen years of taking classes, taking time off, and taking more classes, I earned my Bachelors degree with a 4.0 GPA.  I took a short break from school so I could spend more time with my family. My high ambition led me to graduate school about 1-1/2 years later.  I finished my Masters degree in exactly 18 month with a 3.9 GPA.

My purpose in sharing my accomplishments is not to brag, but to demonstrate how powerful ambition is in helping you overcome challenging situations to reach your end goal.  I could have used many reasons to give up on my education, but my ambition and determination kept me in the race.

Take a moment to reflect on your life.  When has your ambition kept you going when others, in your situation, would have quit?  What dreams do you have now, and how badly do you want them? What are you willing to do in order to make your dreams come true?

Once you know what you want, create a system that makes it easier for you to achieve it.  Not sure of how to do this? You can start by surrounding yourself with like-minded people who support your dreams and hold you accountable for doing what you say you’re going to do.  This is a future topic that we’ll explore in greater detail very soon.

For now, I want you to know that you deserve to live the life of your dreams. AND you already have everything you need to make your dreams come true.

Thank you for taking time to read my thoughts.  I look forward to “seeing” you here next week.  Our topic will be motivation.

See you then!



Tuesday, October 29, 2013

D.R.E.A.M.S. series: E is for Energy

Welcome to week three of my 6-week D.R.E.A.M.S. series.  So far I’ve shared how I used determination and resourcefulness to help me earn my graduate degree as a single, working mom.  This week I’m talking about energy and how it’s so important to maintain when you’re working on living out your dreams.

What comes to mind when you think of energy?  When I think of energy, I wonder if I will have enough to get everything on my to-do list done each day. When I looked up the definition of energy, the one that rang truest to me was defined by Merriam-Webster as the ability to be active; the physical and mental strength that allows you to do things.  Wow!!!   

Looking back a few months ago at the tail end of my graduate program, I remember how I fought to keep my mental and physical energy at a level that allowed me to keep going.  There were many late nights when I sat up until the wee hours of the morning researching and writing papers.

 I didn’t have the luxury of sleeping in the next day – I had to get up and go to work so I could provide for my children. I was able to push through the week staying up late and getting up extra early. But by Friday night, I was done!  My mental energy was depleted, leaving me cranky and irritable.  My physical energy was also tapped out, and I felt weak and worn down. 

Although school was a priority, my job as a mom is my top priority.  My kids needed me to run them back and forth to their sports and activities.  I still had to go grocery shopping, prepare meals, check homework, and make sure everyone had clean clothes for the week.  I couldn’t afford to run out of energy or none of those things would get done.

So what did I do?  I started honoring my physical and mental energy.  When I felt tired on the weekends, I took a nap and politely told my kids not to disturb me.  When I didn’t have enough energy to play taxicab, I said no.  When I didn’t have enough zest to make a complete meal, we ate cereal or something quick. 

Essentially what I did was find simple ways to reserve and replenish my energy.  As a modern mom you may be thinking that there is no way that you could do that because (you can fill in the blanks with your reason).  But guess what?  You’re wrong.  You can take a nap and the kids will be ok.  You can feed the kids cereal or sandwiches for dinner and they will be ok. 

The next time you feel your energy getting low, remember to:

1.   Listen to your body when it’s telling you to take a break.

2.   Give yourself permission to say no to low-priority tasks that drain your energy.

3.   Make time for the 3 non-negotiable R’s: rest, recharge, and replenish.

Being a Mom with D.R.E.A.M.S. is hard work, but it’s not impossible.  Eating healthy meals, exercising regularly (even if you have to walk during your lunch break), and getting enough rest will help maintain the energy you need to keep you moving in the direction of your dreams. 

Thanks for taking time to read about my journey as a Mom with D.R.E.A.M.S.  In addition to this blog, I’m building a community for moms who want to live out their dreams.  If you’d like to know more about this movement and how you can become a part of it, click here. 

Before you go I’d love to know, when you’re feeling low on energy, what do you do to replenish?  How do you maintain your energy on a regular basis?  Please share your thoughts and comments.

Next week I’ll be talking about ambition.  Can’t wait!

Lots of love,

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

D.R.E.A.M.S. series: R is for Resourcefulness

Welcome to week 2 of my 6-week D.R.E.A.M.S. series.  Last week I shared how determination kept me from giving up on my dreams when I felt overwhelmed and frustrated. This week’s topic is resourcefulness, the second quality that moms need in order to make their dreams come true. 

As I made my way through graduate studies, resourcefulness kept me on course just as determination did.  Resourcefulness is defined by Merriam-Webster as the ability to deal well with new or difficult situations, and to find solutions to problems.

My life was full of problems that I needed to solve while I worked my way through a painful divorce. I could have easily decided to take time off from school until my life settled down and felt normal again.  But I knew that I would just be prolonging the process.  Instead I chose to deal with my difficult situation while I continued working on my graduate degree.

As a single mother I had double the responsibilities and half of the help of married moms.  I averaged about 3-4 hours of sleep each night. I was constantly tired, irritable, frustrated and had very little patience for my children.

 I knew that I wanted to be a better mom.  I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to do well in school and my performance at work would be affected if I didn’t figure out how to manage my time and responsibilities more effectively.  That’s when resourcefulness showed up to rescue me.

I became resourceful and created a schedule that allowed me to manage my time more effectively.  My new schedule included everything I had to do on a daily basis. I did grocery shopping immediately after church and cooked 3-4 large meals on Sunday afternoons.  I designated Mondays and Wednesdays for laundry, and everyone became responsible for putting their own clothes away. 

I also created a weekly chores schedule for my children and explained that Mommy really needed their help around the house.  When I got total cooperation and the week ran smoothly, I rewarded my kids by letting them choose a restaurant where we would eat on the following Tuesday.

I figured out a way to solve my problem of not having enough time for my homework and motherly responsibilities.  I was getting more sleep and felt better.  At the same time, I created more opportunities for quality time with my children. 

I was determined to stay in school even though my life was difficult.  I used my resourcefulness muscle and created a routine that supported my dreams.  This didn’t happen overnight – I had to be patient, open-minded, and made a few mistakes along the way.  

Now that you know how I turned my difficult situation into a manageable routine, what steps will you take this week to help you get closer to your dreams?  What situations have been getting in the way of your dreams?  What solutions can you create to solve these problems?  Be creative and think outside of the box for possible solutions.

If you would like support with this, please send an email to Erica at  I will schedule a 30-minute complimentary discovery session to brainstorm solutions and create an action plan.  

If you enjoyed reading this post, please share your comments and/or follow my blog.  If you know someone who would benefit from reading this, please give the gift of sharing.

Next week’s topic is energy.  Until then, believe in the abundance that is just for you.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

D.R.E.A.M.S. series: D is for Determination

Welcome to week one of my 6-week series on making your dreams come true! This week we are exploring determination, the first thing moms need to achieve their dreams.

After my divorce, I had to quickly adjust to my new life. My main focus during that time was to make sure my children were going to be okay.  At the same time, I was focused on finishing my masters degree and I had dreams of starting a coaching business for ambitious women.  But I didn’t know how I would maintain our quality of life, stay in graduate school, work full-time, and start a business as a single mom.

There wasn’t anyone in my immediate circle of relatives or friends who had ever gone through a divorce and could share any firsthand experience or advice.  In the movies marital separations and divorce are often depicted to be manageable and fair.

Unlike in the movies, my ex-husband did not help financially support our children.  He didn’t pick up the kids like he was supposed to or help drive them to and from their activities and sports.  I soon figured out that he had an unusual gift of knowing exactly what to do to make my life more difficult than it needed to be.  That was the reality that I faced every day.

Despite my situation and how I was feeling on the inside, I kept smiling and was determined to not give up on the dreams in my heart.  Merriam-Webster defines determination as “a quality that makes you continue trying to do something that is difficult; the act of deciding something definitely and firmly”.  

My determination was what kept me writing papers until 2 a.m. on weekdays when I had to be at work the next day.  I dug deep inside until I found that place that wouldn’t allow me to quit no matter how much I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore.  In that place, I was able to push through my upper thresholds and achieve my dreams of starting a coaching business.

Determination was more than just a feeling that I had on the inside.  I had to make decisions and stick with them.  I decided that my dreams were bigger than my temporary feelings of frustration and overwhelm.  I wanted to show my kids that they can do anything if they want it badly enough and are willing to put in the work.

How badly do you want your dreams to come true?  When you know that you deserve more out of life and are determined to make it happen, you will become unstoppable.  Instead of wondering if it’s possible, you will know for sure that it’s just a matter of time.

Over the course of this week, set aside some time to think about how your determination has helped you get where you are today. Give yourself credit for your accomplishments along the way and get excited about what is yet to come.

Next week’s topic will be resourcefulness.  See you then!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

6 Things You Need to Make Your Dreams Come True

Dreams can come true as long as you believe.  As beautiful as it is to dream, so many of us women lose sight of our dreams as we go through life.  I remember when I was a little girl I used to dream about being rich and famous, of owning a bunch of fancy cars and living in a huge mansion with a massive in-ground pool, complete with tennis courts, a butler, a maid, and a nanny to take care of my six children.  I would sit and dream for hours about how grand and perfect my life would be with my perfect husband and career.

Today my dreams are a little different, but they are still very big.  I recently read a quote that I love which is, "If your dreams don't scare you, then they aren't big enough".  I realized that for so long, when I thought of my big dreams, I would downsize them so they would feel more realistic and achievable.  Like, how could I really finish my graduate degree while I was trying to get through a devastating divorce? Or how would I really start a business as a single mom with very little money and practically no support?

What I realized is that when you have dreams, you shouldn't downsize them for anyone or anything - no matter how your life may look in that moment.  Instead, you owe it to yourself and to your children to do everything in your power to make your dreams become your reality.  Along my journey I identified six things that I relied on in order to make my dreams my reality.  They are determination, resourcefulness, energy, ambition, motivation, and strength (D.R.E.A.M.S.).  As a result of me being able to identify these six things within me and really tap into them, I completed my masters degree this past June and started my success and empowerment coaching business, Defining Success, LLC, as a single mom working a full-time job.

Over the next six weeks I will discuss each of these qualities and share how I used them to get on track to achieving my dreams.  You will see how you can access these same six qualities and start living the life you desire and deserve. 

Before I go, I'd like to ask, what are your dreams?  What have you been wanting to do but didn't think it's possible because of your current circumstances?  What did you want to do before you had children? Are you ready to discover what you're really made of and move fearlessly in the direction of your dreams?   Please share your comments with me.  If you have a friend or know someone else who would benefit from this information, please pass share this post.