Tag Archives: featured

Who’s in Your Corner?


Have you ever felt like life keeps beating you down?  Been dealt a bad hand? Had your heartbroken? Fallen ill with no support? Or perhaps  hard financial times have knocked on your door more than once? The light that paves the way towards your dream has all but faded?

Yep, that’s what I thought…

 Me too.

Now think about a time  when you were able to jump over that hurdle, cross that bridge and win the fight or know someone who did.  How did you or they  do it?

Chances are, someone was in your corner and you had the will to get back up.  I used to think growing up and as a young adult that I could handle all of life’s challenges on my own.  Man, was I wrong!  Most often, it was lack of trust in others, my own pride and stubborn ways that kept me from accepting help or support- I. needed. no one.

rocky quote

I finally came to my senses that the only way I could overcome my obstacles, serve a purpose other than myself  and strive to reach my dreams was two fold-  work hard and have a team of supportive people by my side. We are not alone in the fight.

This is not to say that everyone should throw the towel in  and rescue you from yourself and your troubles- struggle can bring tremendous personal growth.  This is never more true right now than with my teenage daughter who wants everyone to give and do everything for her(yes, the word entitlement comes to mind).  However, I am her Mickey- she just doesn’t realize it- yet!

Mickey was always there to push Rocky past the point of comfortable, work hard for what he wanted and move in a direction that not only led to wins in the ring but in life. In fact, most of the characters in the Rocky movies all played a different yet vital role in motivating him- especially his opponents- have you seen Ivan Drago?!Drago

This David and Goliath fight was not only to avenge Apollo’s death but more importantly it was a brilliant metaphor of how big life’s challenges can be- yet- if we have the will to win and the right people in our corner, we can be victorious.



You may be wondering how you find your Mickey?

Be one…







The Comforts of the Shadow

In the shadow of ourselves we worry not. We punch the time clock promptly @ 5 pm and hurry home to prop our feet up and forget about the day. Not a minute more will we exert ourselves for that  crappy paying job.  In the comfort of the shadow, we proclaim the police or local neighborhood watch group will take care of the recent string of burglaries wreaking havoc all around us. Never does it occur- that we should stand guard.

The shadow is our safety net; it is what author Steven Pressfield refers to in his book The War of Art as Resistance.  Resistance is the consummate lover of fear, rationalization as to why you can’t or won’t do what your heart longs  to do. This clever enemy will suffocate your soul with self doubt and familial critics.

It is a slow and sinister dance with the devil disguised as your Muse.

Steady your gait, feet properly aligned, eyes fixated on the rope, slow your breathing. Yes! You’ve done it. You peer back at the tightrope with great adulation. The rope is 20 feet off the ground and the net gleams with pride. With a sly grin and a wink of the eye, Resistance calls it a night. His work is done.

Nik Wallenda, the American acrobat has set nine Guinness World Records walking tightropes and riding bicycles at great heights soaring far above packed soil.

He got out of his way and chucked the net.

Ever breathed in the endless beauty of Yosemite National Park? Walked quietly among the Badlands?yosemite-national-park-landscape-scenery

Teddy Roosevelt stepped out of the shadow of his unspeakable grief and preserved these natural wonders and wildlife  into an everlasting gift of 150 million acres of national forests, created the USFS and many national parks throughout the land that we still enjoy today.

Whatever calling or gift we possess within us- story teller, healer, protector, acrobat or conservationist must be excised from the soft silhouette and catapulted into the world.

Be not among the timid souls but dare greatly in stepping out from the comforts of the shadow and into The Arena.

Lessons Learned from a 7 year old

A few times a month I have the privilege of visiting, playing games with and helping kids with homework at our local children’s emergency abuse shelter.  They have taught me way more than I could ever have imagined.

On my most recent visit, I walked into the common area-the living room of sorts to meet my friend  ‘Shelby.’  She greeted me with a slight smile, her big blue eyes and a “Hi, Ms. Pepper.” I asked her where she wanted to sit. “In the corner on that rug” she replied. The area rug was full of vibrant colors; blue, red, green,  and orange. The aide wheeled her over and helped her out of the wheelchair to the floor.


We sat together taking turns reading with casual conversation in between.  One of her favorite books and mine is the Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams because -‘the rabbit my Mom gave me looks just like that one.’ She said her Mom used to read it to her- that was before she left them.

As we were setting up the Game of Life, she softly said, “Ms. Pepper, Daddy didn’t mean to break my legs.”  My heart sank and eyes began to tear up as I glanced over at her casted legs.

Here was a 7 year old precious little girl to whom I barely know, sharing her story and scars with me.  

What is so remarkable is despite her Mother leaving  and the incomprehensible act of her Dad physically abusing her, she chose to see the goodness in and offer forgiveness to those who hurt her.  She allowed herself to be vulnerable, Real and open to  love just like the Velveteen Rabbit.

As we carried on with our Game of Life and laughing along the way, I noticed how cold and sterile the common area felt like a hospital cafeteria or waiting room. The walls were stark white, the couch was old and musty, the chairs at the table were small and hard.

Shelby chose to find the one part of the room that had life and color.  The courage, optimism and strength of this precious child will serve her well on her journey through life.

On this Thanksgiving Day,  a sweet little girl will be on my mind.

I am thankful for my time with her and know our friendship will remain strong as she helps remind me that we always have a choice of how we look at life.


Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!


Sitting around a campfire awhile back at a leadership conference with three people I had never met before and a kind, father like figure to me, I told my story.  This was not the bits and pieces I had offered up on rare occasions with a couple close friends over the course of my lifetime. I spoke the truth of the physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect that I endured over the course of several years and survived as a young girl, the overwhelming sense of shame that I felt and how this ultimIMG_3825ately determined my purpose  while here on God’s great earth.

From the words of a dear friend, this was the Mission- Decision- Line.  It meant there was no turning back- I was now on a forward trajectory in continuing  to share my story.

I feared judgment and waited nervously for feedback as I was ‘sure’ they were anxious to change the serious tone of our campfire outing.


That didn’t happen.


A slight sense of relief quickly came as they embraced the personal battles I had “overcome with tremendous inner strength.”

Shame has no power when given a voice.

While this was an obvious ‘tap on the shoulder’ moment, the true M-D-L came to me a number of years prior- standing along a beautiful scenic overlook along the George Washington Parkway on a cold, early April evening.

For the first time in my life, I took a leap of faith and decided to trust someone.

That spot is sacred ground to me- and will always be one that remains so vividly in my heart and mind. Standing there with a cool drizzle coming down upon our heads overlooking Memorial Bridge, the calm waters – I felt an overwhelming sense of peace, tranquility and a need to free myself of the pain buried inside all those years. Earlier that evening, TS had trusted me enough to share some painful experiences of his own. Oblivious to what he had just done; he opened the door of healing- I believe for both of us.

That night, I chose to give up my dependency on pills. I chose to cross the bridge of trust.

I chose to open my heart. I chose to live and serve others.

I am forever grateful.

Personal and professional growth often comes with a price-discomfort. Lingering thoughts and questions are often thrown about in our minds when facing obstacles and the ever looming uncomfortable thought of “I am not enough”-

Will I be judged?  Most likely.

Will I make mistakes? Probably.

Can I trust others? Only one way to find out-by giving it a shot.

Our scars and the miles we run on this journey  are what makes us unique, strong, beautiful, imperfect, courageous and hopefully  provides us with enough fuel to  cross the finish line of what is sure to be a worth while life…


6 Tips for Embracing Struggle

Sitting down in front of the laptop, I begin to type away.  I pause again and again.  Twisting about in my chair… I get up  for a glass of water.  I sit and stare again at the bright glaring screen.  It’s screaming at me… “TYPE SOMETHING, FOR GOODNESS SAKE.”

fed up

I collapse in my seat, frustration fills the air.  My shoulders tense up- eyes narrow.

I  hit delete and walk away.

Resistance gives me a sly grin and calls it a day.

Have you ever felt like this?  The struggle to learn a new skill, establish a new healthy habit, write the perfect blog post or perhaps meet a sales quota is frequently met with overwhelming feelings of failure.   This is human nature to avoid that which is uncomfortable.  We internalize it deeply and often let it slowly chip away at our core being.

Embracing the struggle however is a biological necessity.  Often times, this struggle will present itself when we are at the ‘almost there’ mark. It’s the last push to the finish line.

“Neurons that fire together wire together”

brain neurons

Every single time we commit to learn any new skill,  healthy habit or achieve a goal, we are strengthening the neural connections in our brain.  This also holds true for actions that are less than desirable such as if we are quick to anger and spout off mean, hurtful statements to others before taking the time to think before we speak, practicing unhealthy eating habits, or texting while driving.  The more we say and do… The more we will say and do those same things over and over again. Right or wrong.

 So how do we honor the struggle and keep our neurons on the right path?

1-Commit to daily practice & create concrete, vivid images of what you want to learn/accomplish-  “I want to learn how to play chords C -G- E on the guitar.”



2-Consider having an accountability partner

3-Be aware and acknowledge to yourself and/or others when you are struggling- Umm, hello this is me hand raised!

4-Pay attention to your mistakes and use them as guides for improving

5-Never attach mistakes to self worth- I Am Enough!

6-Celebrate small successes and keep moving forward


In the films Finding Nemo and Finding Dory, we came to admire the quirky blue tang fish “Hi,  I’m Dory” and learn that despite Dory’s frequent blunders and  every ten second repeats due to memory loss, “Hi, I’m Dory” –  that we need to all…








In the Arena

Romy & Gaby

My dear friend Romy and his team at SIS recently celebrated their one year anniversary at the end of June of opening the doors to their spinal cord rehab center.  I couldn’t be more proud of the hard work and dedication that he and the whole crew have put into this place.  Truly an example of what it means to be In the Arena. Congrats, Romy!


“Chief” as he is often called has a clothed covered hole in his throat-from the emergency tracheotomy performed by his teammate in 2008 during an ambush while serving in Afghanistan.

The scar will forever remain on his neck where the bullet entered shattering his cervical spine and rendering him a quadriplegic.

One may think that after spending almost two years in the VA hospital in critical condition  with a spinal cord injury  that it would prevent or deter him from serving others and bettering himself. They’d be wrong.

Romy 4

My  dear friend Romy is defying the odds- He was told he would never breathe on his own; however with intensive  respiratory therapy, he now is able to breathe on his own for most of the day.  He was told he would never be able to move any of his limbs below the shoulder.  Romy has now been able to move his left arm a handful of times. Progress…


“They told me I wouldn’t be able to do anything, so I showed them I could.”

When I first met Romy in early 2009, he was still an inpatient at the hospital.   I was so deeply moved by his strength and that of his wife Gaby in remaining so positive despite the overwhelming, and unfathomable challenges that they were facing and would continue to endure.

In the Arena 1

As was the case many times before, I had invited veterans to come into the schools where I taught to share their personal stories with our students. It is a lesson of a lifetime that no teacher could possibly convey better than a veteran- a lesson in sacrifice, and service above self.  A moment to connect a child, a teen with someone who has given them the ultimate gift- one of freedom and the opportunity to chase their dreams.

On the day  I met Romy, I knew he would be the next veteran I would bring to the school.  And so, just before Veterans Day in 2009 while still an inpatient, Romy along with his amazing wife and medical team, drove three hours to give his first public talk since his accident.  He spoke to over a thousand students, faculty, and community members who were there to honor him and his service to our country.  His message was clear:

“You can all keep fighting”

Romy  continues to speak to students, and organizations throughout the country.

Inspiring others.

Upon his discharge from the VA hospital, he began another difficult challenge; that of intense physical therapy.  If/when the time comes that Romy  regains use of his arms and legs, he is going to be darn sure that his body is as healthy as he can get it.  While traveling great distances for ongoing therapy not available in his hometown, he and his wife began to create a new dream of opening a spinal cord injury rehabilitation center for veterans and civilians alike.

In June of 2015 after more than a year of hard work , with loyal supporters and tremendous Faith,  Romy defied the odds once again.  He and Gaby opened the doors to Stay In Step Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Center to assist other SCI patients in receiving the best quality care possible.

“Go home and tell your children that dreams do come true”

Romy 5

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Romy Camargo retired last year from active duty after serving his country for twenty years in the United States Army. He served with the 75th Ranger Regiment and 7th Special Forces Group as a Green Beret.  He was awarded the Bronze Star with two Oak Leaf Clusters,  and Purple Heart along with numerous other well earned badges, medals and tabs.

His story “Live to Tell” will be featured on the History Channel in November on or before Veterans Day.

What I know to be true of this soldier, husband, father , business owner and community leader is that he continues to live and breathe the Core Values of the United States Army:

Loyalty – Duty  -Respect-  Selfless Service-  Honor-  Integrity-  Personal Courage.

He epitomizes  Courage, Leadership and Purpose and what it means to be In the Arena.  This blog site is for him and every other individual who dares greatly  in overcoming their fears, grief and obstacles to live their best life.

Chief Romy






Kids & Commitment

Seek first to understand then to be understood


“Can you really afford to go on vacation with the kids with all your bills and such?” says a well-intentioned friend.

My first thought was to respond with- “Well, it’s really none of your business”- however, this was a perfect opportunity to create a touchpoint with someone.

A few years ago, I made a commitment to myself and my kids that each year, I would take them on a family vacation.  As a divorced Momma, with two kids and yes, some financial strains brought about over the last two years from my son’s medical condition and surgery- has  required that I sacrifice in some areas of my life & work my tail off to save and honor this promise.


Are there other areas in my life in which I have dropped the commitment ball and failed to show up… Yep… I’m sure of it.

It really boils down to what our true priorities in life are and what we CHOOSE to commit to.  For some, it may be living a super healthy lifestyle|financial wealth|relationship with spouse or rescuing injured animals.

Ever see the movie Family Vacation?  Clark Griswold was ALL in- albeit with a few bumps in the road-when it came to getting his family across country for good times at Wally World!

wally world

There is no room for passivity or complacency for those who are truly committed to change, growth and accomplishing their goals.commitment

I value this precious and fleeting time with my kiddos.  As the years pass on and they get older,  I hope that they too will come to understand that not everything will be handed to them- I must step aside- allow them to struggle,  commit and work for what they want.

Time spent with those you love and care about is one of the greatest gifts of all.

“Can you really afford to go on vacation with the kids?”

I can’t afford not to.


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