Tag Archives: life lessons

Member Spotlight: Melinda Twomey


Roots:

I was born in New York City and raised mostly just outside New York in Englewood, New Jersey. We have lived in Austin for 16 years.

Basic Family Stats:IMG_1621-1
I have been married to Barry Twomey for 26 blissful years, and we are blessed to have four wonderful children: Paul (sophomore at Beloit College in Wisconsin), Margot (sophomore at University of Texas in Austin), Laura (freshman at Trinity University in San Antonio) and Mark (high school senior at AESA Prep Ac
ademy).

Current/Previous Occupation:
After attending Smith College and Columbia School of International Affairs, I worked in New York at several investment banks until retiring to be a full time mom. I currently serve on the boards of Fountain Valley School of Colorado and Tomorrow’s Children Foundation.

Biggest lesson learned through iGnite experience:
The biggest lesson I have learned through iGnite is to try new things! iGnite had literally been on my mind to try for years, but I was just too stuck to my routine. I finally made the leap in April, and the rest is history – thank goodness!

Who inspires you the most and why?
My girlfriends inspire me the most. They are smart, informed, readers of great books, travelers of the world, givers to those in need, sensitive, funny, interesting, fun, loving and humble. How lucky am I?!

In my free time…
I like to travel, hike, ski, read, do jigsaw puzzles, watch Homeland, Downton Abbey and House of Cards, work on my photography skills, spend time with family and friends, and most of all, I love to iGnite!

What is your guilty pleasure?
I only have two guilty pleasures: Chardonnay and Kone coffee (which we actually order from Hawaii).

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Member Spotlight: Nancy Dacy

IMG_4010Roots:
I grew up in Midland, Texas. I came to Austin in 1975 as a Junior in college to attend The University of Texas as a transfer from SMU. I have been here…wow…40 years.

Family Life:
I have been married to David, an Austin native, for 35 years. We met here at UT. We have 3 children: Catherine, 29, Christopher, AKA “Cricker” 28 and Alexis, 24. And as I am sure everyone knows, we have 2 grandchildren: Grayson, 3 1/2, and Madison, 4 months.

Current/Previous Occupation:
I taught Kindergarten a LONG time ago. I have done a little health coaching but primarily I have lived my adult life volunteering in many different capacities. My focus now is the Helping Hand Home for Children.

Biggest lesson learned through iGnite experience:
I have gained so much from iGnite, but I think the biggest lesson is that I/we are capable of doing so much more than we think we are. We just need to take advantage of opportunities and with encouragement, all we need to do is step out of our comfort zone and give things a try. You never know until you try. As I have said, I never dreamed I would be surfing without a rope on my 60th birthday. That was 100% iGnite and Kathleen.

Best advice given and from who:
Not sure where I heard this but it has stuck with me ever since: Everyone takes responsibility for their own happiness. Happiness is a choice that comes from within. Being happy doesn’t mean everything is perfect. It means you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections. There are choices you can make every day to feel the effects of happiness. Choose to do something meaningful. Choose to take care of your body. Choose to be around the right people. Choose a good attitude. Choose to express gratitude. Choose to forgive. Choose to focus on what you have, not on what you haven’t.

In my free time…
My first choice is to be on the lake. It is truly my happy place. I love to travel – just need to do more of it. I am working on a needlepoint stocking for Madison, my granddaughter. So, more time than usual, is spent in front of a LifeTime movie stitching. Otherwise, I am with Madison and Grayson a lot.

Who is your celebrity look alike?
Well, for some reason, people are ALWAYS telling me I look like someone they know. It is really the oddest thing. But, for many years, everywhere I went (and I am truly not exaggerating), people told me I look like Cindy Brooks who used to anchor the Channel 5 news here in Austin. I had no idea who she was because I didn’t watch that channel. Finally, I did. Of course, I didn’t really see the resemblance. Many people said it was the smile. And…again, I don’t see it, but many people have told me I look like Jane Fonda. All I can picture is Monster In Law.

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Your Story Matters

Inspiration from the iGnite Archives
(Originally published July 2012)

iGnite- Share Your TestimonyPoint to Ponder:
Do you view your life experiences as opportunities to provide comfort, support and encouragement for others?

by Neissa Brown Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

Seven wonderful women and I just flew to Asheville, North Carolina to enjoy an iGnite Escape. During the trip we experienced a delightful variety of adventures. From laughing hysterically at a Paula Dean and Julia Child skit hosted by our eclectic B&B inn keepers, to hiking to a majestic waterfall, to touring the renowned and enormous Biltmore Estate, to sipping on cocktails while overlooking the Smoky Mountains at the historic Grove Park Inn, the entire time was loads of fun! Sweet memories were made, and while all of these events and others throughout the trip were special, the real highlight for me was the newly formed and enhanced friendships.

Over the course of two days we took the opportunity to share our life stories, which was an endearing occasion that allowed us to gain a deeper understanding of one another as well as learn all of the things we had in common. It was also remarkable and inspiring to find out what the human spirit can endure and overcome, which is extraordinary! Story after story reminded me that everyone has a story, and that life is an infinite and inevitable roller coaster ride filled with exhilarating highs, steep lows, and sharp, sudden twists and turns. However, as Charles R. Swindoll reminds us, “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react.” Just like an oyster, who after receiving an irritating and foreign substance between it’s mantle and shell works relentlessly to cover it up, forming a pearl, we too can make the choice to embrace the hard times, learn from life’s peaks and valleys and create our own unique and enchanting strand of pearls.

Dr. Cherie Carter Scott says it perfectly in her book If Life Is a Game….These are the Rules when she says:

As you travel through your lifetime, you may encounter challenging lessons that others don’t have to face, while others spend years struggling with challenges that you don’t need to deal with. You may never know why you are blessed with a wonderful marriage, while your friends suffer through bitter arguments and painful divorces, just as you cannot be sure why you struggle financially while your peers enjoy abundance. The only thing you can count on for certain is that you will be presented with all the lessons that you specifically need to learn; whether you choose to learn from them or not is entirely up to you.

Therefore, align yourself with your own unique path by learning your individual lessons. This is one of the most difficult challenges you will face in your lifetime, as sometimes your path will lead you into a life that is radically different from others. Don’t compare your path to those around you and focus on the disparity between their lessons and yours. You need to remember that you will only be faced with lessons that you are capable of learning and are specific to your own growth. If you are able to rise to this challenge, you can unravel the mystery of your purpose and actually live it. You cease being a victim of fate or circumstance and become empowered – life no longer just “happens to you.” When you are working toward fulfilling your true purpose, you discover astonishing gifts within yourself that you may have never known you have. This process may not be easy, but the rewards are well worth the struggle.

Interestingly, life is a series of fascinating and humbling events that bind us together as humans. Every sentence in our life story is valuable — even those of heartache, challenge, mistakes and perceived failure, as they gave us the opportunity for growth, wisdom to gift to others and a unique and special life to live and share. Therefore, rather than keeping your unpleasant life events to yourself and feeling ashamed, embarrassed or fearful of judgement, flip your mindset and see your experiences as an opportunity to help someone else. There’s no doubt that life becomes increasingly more meaningful when we open the door of vulnerability and share our intimate details and even skeletons with others. Always remember that your story matters and your shiny strand of pearls can be a source of comfort and encouragement for someone else!

Action Item:
Remember that your story matters and rather than have regret or wish things would’ve turned out differently, share your life’s heartaches, challenges and victories and view them as your gift to share with others.

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The Cause & Effect Reaction in Life

(Wisdom from Children’s Books & Movies Part I)

“I’m convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.  And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.”
-Charles R. Swimdoll

Point to Ponder:
What ripple effect will you choose to create with your life?

Action Item:
Focus on how you react to situations that arise this week, practicing keeping a level head and a bigger perspective.

by Neissa Brown Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

Although I don’t spend a ton of time watching television, there are moments when I like to “veg,” be a noodle and watch some good ol’ brainless TV. However, due to the ages of my children, gone are the days of (at least for now) watching The Voice, Modern Family or The Kardashians (please don’t judge me)! Instead, we now rely on our Disney Pixar DVD collection for entertainment.  While I already knew that each movie has a moral to its story, up until recently I really hadn’t paid much attention to more than their brilliant animation or their occasional “that’s not a kind word that we don’t ever say” teachable moments. Honestly, when the movies play I am usually on autopilot — picking up toys, making dinner, etc. Until recently. Lately I’ve become more intentional and I now listen to the themes — which are impressively chock-full of wisdom.

There’s no doubt that we adults can over-complicate life in about two seconds flat. It’s so easy to lose sight of what’s most important, which is why over the span of several weeks I am going to share with you what I consider to be some of the best and most important lessons and wisdom from children’s books and movies, at least from my three years of limited parenting perspective.

The most recent powerful dose of wisdom I ran across comes from the children’s book Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth. Thinking that the short stories would be at least worth contemplating, iGnite Member Olivia Osborne loaned me the book. Well, “worth contemplating” is putting it lightly. This book is exploding with greatness. Therefore, and without further adieu, I bring to you “The Farmer’s Luck” from Zen Shorts:

There was once an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day, his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it two other wild horses. “Such good luck!” the neighbors exclaimed. “Maybe,” replied the farmer. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown off, and broke his leg. Again, the neighbors came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Such bad luck,” they said. “Maybe,” answered the farmer. The day after that, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army to fight a war. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. “Such good luck!” cried the neighbors. “Maybe,” said the farmer.

I can only speak for my own interpretation of this short story, but what stands out to me is how the farmer maintained an unemotional and unbiased attitude throughout both the high and low moments in his life. This leads me to question how often I judge or put a “good” or “bad” label on my circumstances and how those judgements affect the next thing that happens to me…and then the next…and then the next! It also reminds me of the frequency at which I get short-sighted and allow a situation to influence my energy.

Truly, our lives are nothing short of cause-and-effect science experiments. There is extreme power in how we react to everything, because what we put out, we get back. Drama attracts more drama, while gratitude attracts peace of mind and creates joy.

Our attitude has either a positive or negative ripple effect that inevitably affects the lives of everyone around us and everything we do. Just imagine if everyone’s ripple effect were a negative one?! Or adversely, a positive? Fortunately, you are the only one who can control your power, potential and ripple effect.   So, which ripple effect will you choose to create?

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What’s Your Monkey Bar?

“First tell yourself what you want to be, then do what you need to do.”
– Epictetus

Action Item:
Set a goal, back it with objectives, then support it with action, practice and positive reinforcement (and let others support you!).

by Cary Fyfe

by Cary Fyfe

The quote and action sound simple, right? At first glance — yes, then when we move forward with the goal in mind, we get tripped up. It’s so easy to dream big and set goals, but not so easy to accomplish them. Why is that? A million reasons like: “I ran out of time,” “I don’t have the resources,” “I don’t have the strength,” “my life is too scattered,” etc. All true, but only if we set our sights on the goal, then neglect to engage in the small steps that enable us to reach the goal. And what are those small steps? Find them in this story about CK, a 4 year-old preschool student of mine:

CK stands alone on the playground, nestled into a shady spot beside the monkey bars. She seems unaware of the gleeful sounds of play surrounding her; she ignores her friends’ requests for her to join. I look toward the object of her thoughtful gaze, and she is intently watching a playmate guide her seemingly effortless way across the monkey bars – back and forth, over and over – reach, grab, dangle, swing, reach again…a natural and unselfconscious dance for this four-year-old peer. She continues to watch, then sees me and slowly approaches, something clearly on her mind.

“I want to do that.” She points to her swinging friend. “…but I can’t” she adds.

I reach for her hand and we walk together to the monkey bars. Together, we survey the ladder — up to the launch, the length of the bars to the ladder on the other side, and the length between the bars. We talk about how the metal is hard on sweet, innocent palms, of how it’s hard to maintain a strong grip.

“What CAN you do on the monkey bars?” I ask. Without answering, she shows me as she climbs the short ladder, affirms her safe stance, reaches for the first bar with one hand, then the other, then turns to look at me again. Where moments before there had been a look aglow with possibilities there is now a cloud, casting a shadow of self-doubt across her face. I smile and urge her forward with a nod, she turns again to the bars, and with the twinkle returning to her now determined focus, she reaches one hand out, then the other, and drops her feet from the ladder. She swings – I will her to hold on. The earlier shadow crosses her face again – I tense every muscle in my body as if that would be the force that enables her to stay aloft. And with my smiles and the excited hurrays of her friends who are now cheering her on, she breaks her personal record for holding that first bar, then moves ahead by reaching out for the second. Does she make it the first time? No. And not the second or third either, but she is now clear about her goal: she is going to cross the monkey bars. She now knows her objectives: to hold on to one monkey bar and swing, to reach for the next bar and repeat, to continue this practice until her goal is reached. Her support when she loses faith? The encouragement of her friends and her teacher, the inspiration of her peers doing what she so badly wants to be able to do, her growing strength from practicing and experiencing small successes.

And she moves toward this goal by doing just that – she practices. And even in her four-year-old world, there are roadblocks. It rains the next day and we don’t make it to the playground. She chooses to play chase with friends over monkey bar practice every now and again. She gets a blister and has to rest for a few days. But in time, she makes it across, and when she does, there is cause for celebration like nothing has ever been celebrated before in her short life. And it is a golden moment, one that launches her towards her next goal: to cross back over again.

So, what’s your ‘monkey bar?’  In other words, what goal/goals are you striving toward? Whether physical, mental or spiritual, this week is our week to allow ourselves to revisit the simplicity of moving forward with our goals and desires, which will move us closer to living our legacy. Therefore, set a goal or goals. Back it up with specific, reasonable objectives that enable you to move towards accomplishing that desired behavior. Then actively practice those objectives in your daily life – again, even in the tiniest ways. Find support and encouragement by surrounding yourself with supportive people, or positive and inspiring readings or situations. You can also share your goal someone who is happy to nudge you gently forward, as you see fit.

“First tell yourself what you want to be, then do what you need to do,” and we will continually celebrate together and for each other like no one has ever celebrated before!

Point to Ponder:
What is something difficult you would like to accomplish this summer, but don’t know how you will make it happen?

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How to Become Your Personal Best

Get Out There and Be Amazing

“Strive to be better. Strive to be more. Strive to be amazing!” Anonymous

About Neissa

by Neissa Springmann

Several years ago while working with a business coach, I was warned that as long as I was striving for both personal and professional growth it was likely that some of my relationships would shift. At first, the coach’s comment startled me, as I couldn’t imagine my life without my current (at the time) friendships. However, what she was really referring to, was that if I was committed to my being my best both personally and professionally, inevitably the law of attraction would come in to play and my relationships would change.

Then, not too long after, I read something similar in a book called The Slight Edge. Author Jeff Olson suggests that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. This concept, while simple, is brilliant and forced me to contemplate exactly what I wanted my life to resemble. Between my marriage, profession, friendships, parenting, health, and spirituality, I realized that I needed to seek mentors and role models that have what I strive to become and attain. Therefore, I would need to spend as much time learning and absorbing wisdom from them as possible.

This concept is no different than what our parents cautioned us when they said, “we are the company we keep.”  I’ve always found it interesting that life’s wisdom and lessons don’t end after high school or college. Rather, we often get busy and forget that growth and becoming our best is something we must always pursue, or else our marriage, friendships, profession, health, spirituality and parenting skills (and more) become stagnant. In other words, we miss out on reaching our fullest potential, becoming the people we are created to be and pass up the greatness that life has to offer us and we have to offer life!

Finally, I read a fantastic article by Brenton Weyi. In it, Brenton suggests that in order to be our very best and be amazing, we must remember the following:

No one does it alone, i.e. it takes a village.

And, we must have three essential people in our lives at all times:

  1. A person who is older and more successful than you to learn from
  2. A person who is equal to you to exchange ideas with
  3. A person you can mentor and keep you energized

So, what do you say? Are you ready to stretch, grow and be amazing? If so, surround yourself with at least five other incredible people, become a mentor and begin your journey to becoming your best!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Point To Ponder:
Are your close friends and relationships inhibiting your growth or are they a reflection of what your best life looks like?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Action Item:
Determine the areas in your life where you’d like to experience growth and positive change. Then, identify the people who have the amazing characteristics and life you wish to attain. Learn from them and model their behaviors.

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Making Every Day, a Great Day

It's a Good Day to Have a Good Day

Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
– Abraham Lincoln

Do you ever wish that making every day a great day was as simple as waking up and pushing a button? Well, having a life filled with great days may not be as easy as pushing a button, but it is possible by implementing a few simple principles.

As I referenced in last week’s Journal, I subscribe to several positive and uplifting outlets that help me stay grateful, centered and encouraged even when things are legitimately bad, as we all experienced last week during the Boston and West tragedies. One such subscription is Success Magazine, and according to Chris Widener of Success Magazine, having a ‘great day, every day outlook’ must become part of our routine. And, while there will never be a day without some kind of setback, discouragement or unmet expectation, we cannot react to these circumstances. Instead, we must remain disciplined in implementing the following ‘great day principles:’

  • Focus on today only. Yes, long-range goals are important. But our focus must be on today. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Make today the best day you have ever had. Realize that when you lay down to sleep tonight you will have just given up the only shot you will ever have at today. You only get one shot at your today, so focus intently on making it all that it possibly can be.
  • Embrace your power to choose. Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “The history of free men is never written by chance but by choice—their choice.” When your today becomes your yesterday, you will look back and realize that day was a result of your choices. The moment we realize that we can exercise…free will and choice is when we begin to create for ourselves a GREAT day each and every day! Take ownership of the direction of your life. Make your choices and carry them out!
  • Your attitude is up to you. Yes, bad things may happen in your day. When something happens to you, you have the choice: Will you let it get you down and depressed, keeping you from forging ahead and making the day the best one ever? Or will you say to yourself that, no matter what happens, you are on the path to success and no obstacle will keep you from it?
  • Live out and act on your priorities. If we want to make our days great, then we have to live out those things that will by definition make our days great. They are our priorities. So, each morning, start out by asking, What things are important to me today? What are the things I need to accomplish in order for me to lay down tonight and know that I lived a GREAT day? Don’t do what is fun. Don’t do what is easy. Do what is IMPORTANT! Live out your priorities.

What do you say? Will you press the ‘great day button’ with me and begin the journey of making every day a great day? The habit may not be as easy as pushing a button, but by consciously focusing on controlling our choices and attitude we will ultimately create fulfilling minutes, happy hours, and gratifying days!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Point To Ponder:
Do you allow daily circumstances to affect your outlook and ability to have a great day?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Action Item:
Despite daily circumstance, make the choice to wake up every day and make it a great day!

To your  health,

Neissa

About Neissa

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