Not Sure of the Next Step? Begin With What You Knew at Age Eleven


“Hold your own
Know your name
And go your own way.”
-Jason Mraz, Details in the Fabric

I had forty-five minutes to explore Waikiki Beach on foot before I needed to meet up with my family. It wasn’t a long time, but it was enough – it was enough to go to my place of peace with uplifting music and fresh air.

“Be here now,” I mentally recited. Those words had become a lifeline in the months leading up to this very special trip with my aging parents, growing daughters, and spouse who’d been through a year of grief.

If I ever needed to show up for my life, it was now.

I am known to get ahead of myself—to borrow worry that doesn’t belong to me … to attempt to control things beyond my control … to set expectations rather than let things naturally unfold. But I’d been practicing a new approach to life that embraced being and breathing. It was time to begin …

I would start with a morning walk through the streets of Honolulu. I was fully prepared to be open to the experiences and connections waiting for me on this special trip. Even my bones felt awake as I took that first step into the city. Everything looked more colorful … people were more jovial … smells were more poignant. As I soaked up the sights and sounds, my surroundings felt oddly familiar, yet I knew I’d never been there before.

As I walked toward Waikiki Beach, my dear friend Sheryl came to mind. Her beloved mom recently passed away from a cancer recurrence. In Sheryl’s updates to faraway friends, she shared bits and pieces of the hardest time in her life. I was especially touched by the memories Sheryl shared of vacationing at the beach with her mom. She wondered how she was going to go on without her best friend. With optimism she’d written: “I now have an angel watching over me.”

I’d wanted to do something special for my friend before I left for my trip, but my heart said, “Don’t rush this. Just wait and see.”

The moment to see was now.

I spotted a long row of white tents dotting an open, grassy area. The Hawaiian sun seemed to shine a spotlight on them. I wondered what was going on. It looked like a graduation or a wedding ceremony. It looked like a new beginning.

My feet felt pulled in that direction. I debated on whether or not I had time to investigate.

“Be here how,
Let your heart lead.”

Those thoughts settled it. I crossed the street and began walking towards the tents. There must have been over twenty of them, but there was one I was drawn to immediately. A beautiful young lady with dark, shiny hair was setting up her wares.

“Good morning,” I said to her.

“Hello!” the woman greeted as she hung bracelets made of stone, glass, and paper on the display racks. “My name is Merilee. I’m so glad you stopped by! Feel free to look around as I finish setting up.”

I reached for a colorful bracelet quickly noticing each one had an exquisite paper bead with a different message on it. The one I picked up said: “I have an angel watching over me, and I call her Mom.”

My eyes quickly filled with tears. I could not believe it; those were my friend’s words.

Sheryl needs to have this bracelet, I thought to myself.

Upon closer inspection, my heart fell. There was another bead on the bracelet that was not right for my friend. I turned to the artist and told her about my friend’s loss. I explained how finding this bead felt providential.

Merilee offered her condolences and graciously offered to design Sheryl’s bracelet any way I wanted. I selected off-white beads made of glass and bluish-purple beads made of shell to represent the beach memories Sheryl made with her mom. Merilee and I agreed to connect through email in a week.

Upon my return home, there was a photo of the custom-made creation waiting in my inbox and a link to purchase. I bought the gorgeous bracelet and considered buying one of Merilee’s simple paper bead bracelets for myself. After a moment of deliberation, I decided I didn’t need it.

A few days later, Sheryl’s bracelet arrived from Honolulu, but there was also something for me in the package: a simple string bracelet with a bead that said: Be Here Now.  It was the three words that helped me do what once seemed impossible – stop striving, hustling, thinking, planning, and executing and embrace being and breathing. It was the three words that helped me be fully present during that special trip and not miss the moments that mattered most.

How did Merilee know?

I said a prayer of gratitude for our divine intersection. Tears fell from my eyes as I slipped my hand through the bracelet and tightened it.

When I wrote to Merilee to thank her for deeply touching my heart, she admitted that she’d found my blog and couldn’t stop reading. As a new business owner and mother, she told me that my work was both validating and inspiring to her.

I put that bracelet on twenty-one days ago and except for showers, I have not taken it off. To say that it came at just the right time would be an understatement.

Over the past twenty-one days, I have experienced some pretty uncomfortable moments. I was blindsided by someone who is exploiting my words in the worst possible way … I spoke to a large group of people despite feeling underprepared and discombobulated … I watched my daughter board a bus with her classmates knowing she was about to travel 700 miles away … I filed passport information and acquired necessary immunizations to prepare to go far outside my comfort zone … I was told my beloved cat might die and had to care for him in ways that hurt my sensitive heart … I prepared to my children graduate, one from elementary school and the other from middle school.

It wasn’t long ago that even a single one of these situations would have derailed me—kept me awake with worry … paralyzed me with fear … made me lash out at the people I love …. or cause me to neglect myself. But now I am able to sit with my uncomfortable feelings, surrender control through prayerful meditation, and let my heart be my guide.

When I hold the BE HERE NOW bead between my fingers, I can actually feel the Aloha it contains.

“Aloha’s deep meaning starts by teaching ourselves to love our own beings first and afterwards to spread the love to others. The best part of Aloha is that the more you express your love and compassion for yourself and those around you, the more it comes back to you.” (source)

The other day it was necessary to hold my BE HERE NOW bead as I waited inside my daughter’s fifth grade classroom. I’d come to be Mystery Reader for the last time. I’d arrived a little early, and the class was still at recess.

I held the book I was going to read in my hands. It was called GOOGLE ISLAND. I’d written it several decades ago when I was about Avery’s age. GOOGLE ISLAND has been read in several states, to hundreds of kids, as my daughters have grown over the years. I always choose this book to read because it gives me a chance to tell kids that the dreams and passions they have right nowas kids are significant and worthy of consideration and pursuit.

Suddenly, I became emotional. “This is the last time you will read this book as Mystery Reader,” my brain reminded me as waited in the quiet classroom.

I clasped my bead.

Be here now.
Let your heart lead.

Make this the best reading yet.

The children came into the room excitedly. Their adult-like height surprised me. The whole class could no longer fit on the reading rug like they did when they were younger.

“Guess who wrote this book?” I said beginning my presentation. I held up the laminated book that had been beautifully illustrated many years ago by my friend Dave, the most talented artist in school.

“You did!” the students exclaimed in unison.

“That’s right,” I said. “When I was your age, I loved to write. It was the one thing I did that made me feel both alive and at peace. But when it came time to choose a profession a few years later, I let the voices of pressure, doubt, and fear steer me away from my heart’s calling. During the decades that I didn’t write, I felt like something was missing. It took me thirty years to get back to writing, but it wasn’t too late for me … and it’s not too soon for you to begin taking steps towards your dream.”

I then read GOOGLE ISLAND to the class. For the first time ever, I noticed the theme of the book – choosing love and kindness – was a lot like what I write about today. I also noticed something about the tropical trees and the color of the water in this beautiful place where love prevailed over greed and hostility.

GOOGLE ISLAND looked comfortingly familiar.

It looked a lot like the island of O’ahu where connections of the heart are sacred and the spirit of Aloha is alive and well.

My eleven-year-old heart had been very wise. It was unfortunate I stopped listening to it somewhere in my teen years.

Perhaps I could spare a heart from going astray today, I thought. And that is when I leaned toward that group of fifth graders, hoping at least one child would really hear me. This is what I said:

“When I look at you, I see world changers. Each one of you have a unique contribution to make in this world that only you can make. You can figure out that contribution by paying close attention to what activities make your heart come alive. Start paying close attention to what important causes make you feel like taking a stand and doing something. Start paying attention to what hobbies feel natural and give you peace. Therein lies your contribution … your passion … your purpose. There will be people who will try to discourage you from doing what your heart feels called to do. There will be people who push you toward paths and goals they want for you, but they will not have your best interest in mind. Keep getting quiet, so you can hear your heart’s knowing.
Let it lead.
The world needs the gift of you.
It’s your time to begin.
Now shine your light.”

When I got to my car, I sat there for a moment feeling all the feelings that come with “last” experiences.

I held my bead, and I thought of the woman who made it –

Merilee, who took her long-time love of paper and began creating unique jewelry to inspire people to smile, laugh, do good, and be better. From a dream in her heart, the word bead came to fruition and a new jewelry business followed. Each day, Merilee begins …

As I held my bead, I thought of my friend who wears her angel bracelet –

Sheryl, who wakes up each morning, and for a split second, her beloved mom is still alive. When reality hits, Sheryl gets up anyway knowing a classroom of young people awaits her guidance, wisdom, inspiration, and love. Each day, Sheryl begins …

As I held my bead, I thought of my daughters –

Natalie, who will soon graduate middle school, has already begun to cultivate her Wanderer passion that seeks to go bravely into parts of the world that most need her calming presence and generous heart …

And Avery, who will soon graduate elementary school, has begun to cultivate her Noticer gift that sees beyond people’s outer shell so she can tend to their hearts and comfort them with music.

Each day, Natalie and Avery begin …

And finally, I thought of you –

The one facing challenge and uncertainty … the one who feels like something is missing … the one who’s ready to move on but is unsure of what steps to take next.

Let me tell you, figuring out ‘next steps’ is less complicated than we are led to believe …

First, get quiet to find your BEING, your eleven-year-old self that has interests, passions, hopes, and dreams.
Next, listen to what it says (your heart knows),
and then BEGIN.

The message I gave to the fifth grade class applies to anyone who yearns to commence life
After trauma
After healing
After awakening
After sleeping
After getting knocked over
After getting back up
After putting life on hold
After seeing one’s self in a whole new light
After realizing time doesn’t wait.

My friends, it is never too soon or too late to embrace BEING and BREATHING so you can BEGIN.

Look up ahead. There is a row of white tents shining in the sunlight. It looks like a commencement party, and in a way, it is.

This is the beginning of BEING true to who you are and what you know is best for you.

Today I throw out four lifelines; pick up the one that brings unexpected tears to your eyes:
Be here now.
Let your heart lead.
Shine your light.
The world needs the gift of you.

Hold onto this lifeline when uncomfortable feelings threaten to derail you from your path. And if you should get lost, just go toward the one that feels comfortingly familiar.

Your eleven-year-old heart knows.

Trust it.

*Merilee has been working nonstop for several weeks to have these gorgeous bracelets ready to inspire you. Thank you for supporting Merilee’s dream & my dream that have merged into one for this special collection of bracelets. They are available in the Hands Free Shop while supplies last. Thank you for being part of The Hands Free Revolution. Your presence on this journey is a divine gift to my soul. 

“Be here now” Bead Bracelet
“Let your heart lead” Bead Bracelet 
“Shine your light” Bead Bracelet 
“The world needs the gift of you” Bead Bracelet 



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