IMG_4050The last month has been challenging to say the least. Between hurricanes, earthquakes, and shootings, there’s a lot more bad in our newsfeeds, on our TVs, and in our conversations.

I don’t know the answers. What I do know is that we should all make an extra effort to be kind to each other. God knows we could all use it; some more than others.

Being kind is easy, really requires no effort, and can make an enormous impact on the person on the other end of it. Don’t be so quick to judge a point a finger. No one wants to hear ” I told you so” or ” you’re wrong.” They want to hear ” how can I help,” ” I’m here for you,” and ” you’re not alone.”

Think about the last time you had a bad day and someone did something nice for you. How did it make you feel? At worst, it made you feel better. At best, it changed your whole day! Never happened? All the more reason for you to set the tone. Your kindness not only affects others but it sets the tone of your day as well.

Why not try it?

And one last thing, and this is important, don’t wait until you think someone needs it. Do it all the time.

There’s a saying I’ve seen a few times and today really resonates with me.

” kindness. It doesn’t cost a damn thing. Sprinkle that shit everywhere.”

The Small Magic of Generosity

My mom, Mama Sandra, has always been one of the most generous people I know, to a fault. She always taught all her kids to be giving and generous and not to make it all about us or to hoard our gifts from others. Sometimes, she did this to the degree that I thought was maybe not so good for her but I always understood it.

How did she show us? Let me give you a few examples.

Example #1
When we were growing up, our house was where all the kids ended up. Us, our friends, strays – my mom took them all in! She didn’t care who’s they were (eventually, they all became hers) or where they came from, as long as they were safe and cared for. And she was known for this by all of our friends.

Example #2
My parents owned an inspection company in the early 2000s. We rapidly grew to a team of 18 people. As you can imagine, my mom looked at all of them and their families as members of our family. When it was vacation time, we ALL went on vacation – together. My parents would rent out two complete buildings at the beach and everyone, their families included, would stay there for a week. You can imagine what a bond that forged between everyone.

Example #3
That same work family also exhibited something I’ll never forget to this day. Around 2009 or so, we all remember the housing market just tanked. Our business was built on that industry and we took a nosedive as well. There came a point when we couldn’t afford to pay people because we weren’t getting paid.

What happened?

Everyone stayed. They stayed out of love and loyalty to my parents. They had been so generous to the team that there was no way that anyone was going anywhere without my parents. That continued for several months until we finally had to shut the business down. They were all more concerned about what would happen to my parents than their own welfare. That says more about my parents than anything I can think of.

There are so many other examples that I just can’t list here. Suffice it to say that my parents, spearheaded by the enormous generosity of my mother, are beloved to so many.

That’s a legacy that’s worth living for and leaving behind.

And that’s truly SMALL MAGIC.

Dame Un Besito

For the longest time, when I was a kid, I thought my grandmother’s name was “Sito.” Every time she’d see me, she’d throw her arms wide open and say “Dame un besito!” I thought that meant come to Sito and for years I called her that. It actually means “give me a kiss!”
Grandma was always a little bit of a character but as she got older, she just didn’t care really. She had no filter and said what she wanted, did what she wanted and unapologetically, told a little lie here or there.
I remember being a little embarrassed as a kid, when she would just talk to people, pinch their cheeks, and tell them they were pretty. Now, I find myself trying to do that (minus the cheek pinching) in an effort to be more connected to people.
What did she know then that we didn’t?
Nothing I’m sure but that didn’t stop her from just dancing to her own beat every day. And she did! Grandma loved to dance and had this little jig she would do – mostly with the handsome boyfriends of my sisters. Yep, Grandma still head game in her 80s.
While she didn’t really worry about herself, she kept a hawkeye on all of her grandkids. I remember her senility starting to get worse and she’d go through a round of questions like clockwork every time she’d see us. She would ask all the significant others the same question: “who do you belong to?” That was her version of finding out who was with whom.
Grandma was not subtle about her opinions. If she thought something, she said it. She would always say: “Jesus doesn’t want me and the devil thinks I talk too much.” She was probably right and neither of them stood a chance against her.
She also had this not so subtle way of asking for things. She’d pick up a picture or stuffed animal or anything she fancied at the moment, and she hold and caress it and lovingly declare: “I would love this if it was mine.”
OK grandma – we got it.
We’d always have to pat her down and check her purse after every visit. Come to think of it, we had to check her purse pretty regularly to make sure there wasn’t a surplus of silverware taken from various restaurants or sugar and cream packets poached from the free coffee at the grocery store.
She was all about the here and now and she was ready to go every day. Not one day would pass where her hair and make up weren’t done. She always had her lipstick on because she wasn’t fully dressed without it.
And she lived by her own code. When my mom had me, she was exhausted. Well, my grandmother took over and fed me oats and beer for the next several days so that my mom could have a break. (That actually explains a lot.)
She danced when she wanted. She pretended not to hear you when she wanted and she said what was on her mind.
And even towards the end, we knew she loved us, even if she couldn’t always remember who we were or “who we belonged to.”
Jesus, I apologize because I know she’s talking your ears off. And I just know she’s throwing her arms open to everyone she sees and saying “Dame un besito.”

Transcend the Bullshit

I have a shirt with that phrase on it and it couldn’t be more appropriate for what has transpired in my world in the last week.

But let’s back up and talk a little bit about said bullshit, yes?

I LOVE, I mean LOVE, when my friends do well and succeed. It’s a win for me when they do because I like and care about them AND selfishly, I want to surround myself with people who do well.

But that’s not so with all people.

Recently, it’s come to my attention that some of my hard earned gains are not seen that same way but perhaps, as threats or competition.

Well, that hurts me.

My mother , yes Mama Sandra, always taught her kids to care and be happy for others’ successes and I grew up thinking that’s the way everyone acted.

Not so.

Perhaps, I’m naive in thinking that way BUT I like that my mind set is pretty positive ( ok, there was that one time when someone got the good parking spot from me.)

Like I said, this hurt me and it weighed heavy on my mind for a few days. After just getting it off my chest with my wife and one of my best friends, I let it go. Like poof, no more energy spent on it. And more importantly, I went back to focusing on the good things, th and goals I want to achieve and the life I’m creating.

AND, guess what?

I’ve been more productive this week than ever, I received a couple really good messages regarding things I’ve been working on, my business is starting to take off from both and engagement and exposure standpoint AND I go an offer from a really cool startup that “I can’t refuse!”

Once I let go of those negative feelings and redirected to the positive, my week exploded!

Yes, I am one of those people who believe in energy and the power of attraction. BUT, I’m also one of those people who likes proof.

This week I got it BIG TIME!

Listen, be open, do NOT wallow in the negative- it just doesn’t serve you at all. Think about what you want to appear in your life and then take action over and over and over again.

This is what I call SMALL MAGIC and the formula is:
(awareness + action) x habit

Do it. Take just one thing and use this formula and you’ll get it. I’m proof.

So, go out and transcend the bullshit and be magical!


Nana and the Small Magic of Just Being Yourself

My Nana was the original character. She would have the entire family over for Sunday lunch and make enough food for five Sunday lunches. Imagine getting off the elevator in her apartment building and smelling the aroma of sauce and meatballs all the way down at the end of the hall. Opening the door and walking directly into her kitchen was an all factory explosion that caused many guests’ mouths to water. Getting an invite to Sunday dinner was like winning the lottery.

While that was really amazing (not so amazing to my waist line), that wasn’t why my Nana was so special.

She would do anything to make her granddaughters (and most anybody else) happy. We put her through endless exercises like asking her to make the sounds of various cars ( read: Nana, make the sound of a Volkswagen) and she’d happily oblige us all the while feigning aggravation.

She would act out every conceivable emotion we asked of her – happy, sad, angry, surprise. She always put us first and would do whatever it took to make us feel special. Even if she may have a look silly or a little crazy doing so.

Make no mistake – my Nana was not a subtle person. Everything she did was big. Her whispers had all the subtlety of a jet engine. When she was feeling neglected, she would dramatically announce that we could just come visit her in the cemetery. To this day, we still use Nana-isms: there’s the shitty Swiss Miss story, the “call Nana” imitation and the way she would suck on her little finger.

For all her idiosyncrasies, I think my Nana unknowingly (both to us and her) modeled what it’s like to love without care or fear. She never worried what people thought about her. She just was and that made her, and all of us happy.

Hell, she’s still entertaining us all these years later and likely for the rest of my life.

Are you OK just being you? Who will you leave that kind of impression on?

Be Nana- the o.g. SMALL magician! And don’t make her call you from the cemetery!


Small Magic and The Law of Relativity

I’m not rich. I don’t have $1 million in my bank account waiting for me to spend on something extravagant. Hell, I don’t have $1,000 in my bank account waiting for me to spend on something I need. But I do have my bills paid, food, a roof over my head, clothes and everything I need plus a little more.
Relatively speaking, I’m OK but I’m not rich. Unless you don’t have money for a starter and your job requires your vehicle to make money, then I’m rich.Spare parts - car starter
Today, I got my spa fixed. It’s not a necessity but I had the money and I like to get in my spa when my muscles ache (which happens a lot more than I’d like to admit). There was a possibility that the new breaker was bad. I told the tech that I’d replace it without thinking twice. It would cost about $100. Not a lot. I’ll just go get it. I was cool with that. The tech fixing my spa asked to try it out and see if he could resurrect it. After all, $100 bucks is $100 bucks, right? He did and it worked. Saved me $100.
Fast forward eight hours. My friend called me and needed to borrow $113 to be exact. She needed a new starter for her truck. This truck is her way to provide income for herself and her family.
Guess what? I’m rich, relatively speaking. And I’m not talking about the money. I’m talking about the fact that I can help my friend. I’m rich that way.
That hundred dollars that I was going to recklessly spend on my spa is now going to a much more noble cause…a starter that will provide a living for a family.
What’s my point here? Count. Your. Blessings.
You could be one starter away from not being able to provide for your family if not for your friends. That small magic, $100 for me, turned out to have a big impact on my friend.
Small magic is all around us. Are you performing any today?

SMALL MAGIC and Unconditional Love

Something my mom taught all of us kids (she has four girls and two boys) at a very early age was the small magic of unconditional love.

Now, let’s define with that means in our family. That doesn’t mean that we don’t get scolded, sent to our rooms or spanked with a paddle from a paddleball game ( her favorite weapon of choice ) when we deserved it. What that does mean is that she was strict with us but fair and we always knew she loved us, no matter what.

paddle ball

Paddle ball in action

Let me give you a small example: my sisters and I shared two rooms among four girls, so you can imagine how “painful” that may have been for us. Well, it was just that much more painful for my mother.

Occasionally, as young girls, our rooms might have gotten a little out of control messy. It happens. My mom’s solution for this was to come into our rooms and use her arm as a tool to knock everything off our dressers. For some reason, I always remember this in slow motion. It was maybe a little dramatic, but it got our attention. ( Side note: I may or may not have done this to a past girlfriend of mine who was prone to leaving stacks of mail, papers, etc. on the table by the front door).

After this incident, mom went back about her day, not as if nothing had happened but as if this was a normal part of her routine. Make breakfast, take the girls to school, do laundry, pick the girls up, wreak havoc, make dinner. AND the underlying theme was always LOVE. We knew this. She was the safe place to land for us. No matter what we did wrong, we always knew we were loved and cared for.

To this day, we know that occasionally, we still want our mommy, because she was always there. NOT to tell us everything would be OK, because that wasn’t always the truth BUT to show us that we would/could make it through anything.

I put it this way:
We fight hard, we live loud, and we love big.

#SmallMagic indeed.


SMALL MAGIC and Authenticity

Remember last time I introduced you to the original small magician, my mom, Mama Sandra.

I know that she’s the person who taught me so many lessons and molded me into the person I am today AND I promised to share those small magic lessons with you.

As mentioned before, my mom came from the era when women stayed home and kept house while the men earned the money, and let’s face it, had a life outside of home. When she reentered the workforce, it was both exciting and scary for her.

I believe this is when life really started for my mom. Along this journey and for as long as I can remember, my mom was always 100% herself. Often times, unapologetically so. She never made excuses about only having a high school diploma and secretarial certificate. She was, and still is, who she is at all times.

And she instilled that in me at a young age. That’s magical! So often, we try to be something we’re not. We try to fit in others’ boxes/definitions of what we should be. That can really screw you up. Even with my mom’s encouragement, I’ve struggled. But let me tell you about one place I haven’t.

I was born gay. I was also born into a very traditional Catholic family. I learned from a young age that being gay meant I was a bad person, I would not be accepted, and I thought I was truly going to hell because I was a sinner.

My mom had other plans.

When my mom suspected I was gay, she asked me. I told her yes and that was it. After a few minutes she told me that she still loved me and that nothing had changed about our relationship. The only thing she was upset about was that she hadn’t been able to be there for me when I was trying to figure it out. Well she didn’t go out of her way to mention she had a gay daughter, but she also didn’t censor herself or shy away from the topic. If someone mentioned something in a derogatory  manner about gays, my mom was quick to jump in and “school” then.

Because of her, my being gay has always been a non-issue in our family and with friends. She never let me think it was a hindrance or negative in anyway. And as far as I know, I have never suffered nor lost because I’m gay. She made it no big deal and so it’s never been a big deal to me. To this day I am not aware of not being accepted by anyone because of it. Not a lot of lot of my friends could say they had that kind of support from their parents, whether it was being gay, taking an unusual life path, what have you.

My mom, all 5’1″ of her, gave me a small magic of being who I am and being good with that. Besides birth, that is the greatest gift she’s ever given me.


Where Did SMALL MAGIC Start?

Meet Sandra Chewning. She is my 5’1″, 70-something Cuban mom (She’s the one in the middle).
She got married at 19 and had me at 20. In those days, women got married, had babies, and stayed at home. That was the plan.
When I was 18, my parents divorced, and my mother, who’s whole education after high school consisted of a secretarial certificate, was back in the workforce. My mother went out and got a job as a part-time bank teller for a small local bank. She eventually moved to a full-time position and became a floor agent with a desk. Her career was peppered with raises, promotions, and accolades. AND she did this all while raising four girls as a single mother, getting remarried, and adding two boys to the mix. My mom actually retired as a VP for Bank of America.
Wow, Lisa, your mom sounds amazing. But where is the small magic?
Great question and I’ll be sharing that more with you in the upcoming posts.
But here’s a sneak peek.
Why do you think my mom was so successful?
One thing – she gave herself the gift of believing in HER and just putting one foot in front of the other. THAT was her first act of small magic and she instilled that in not only her kids, but also anyone who’s path she crossed on the way.
So stay tuned for more stories about Mama Sandra in the small magic I learned from her.

Don’t Believe The Hype

… Or don’t get seduced by attention.

Last week, I talked about being on a roller coaster (still on it and screaming like a little girl the whole way) AND learning to embrace it.

The parts of the roller coaster ride but I really do enjoy are the swings back up and get a get a place where I’m not falling or dropping. If the moment of weightlessness when I feel like I’m untouchable. While that feels really good for a moment, I realize that it’s temporary and the hard work and obstacles are about to begin and/or present themselves again.

It’s inevitable and quite frankly, I NEED that.

Here’s the trap for me. I get seduced by the attention and I think I’m good, untouchable, not hungry anymore, complacent. This is not good for me.

I want to remember that I will never be done, never be the best I can be, always be striving for more. It’s so much easier to believe the hype about yourself. In fact, I create it; it’s not real. I do it because I want a break and I fabricate it, because it feels good. We all want attention, props, attaboys and attagirls. I’m not suggesting you blow off or disbelieve people who compliment you. What I’m saying is don’t let it fool you into thinking you’ve reached your goal.

If you’re not growing or striving to do or be more, you are a flatline. A flatline means you’re dead. (Thanks, Deb Cheslow)

So, accept your congratulations, enjoy the attention, but remember that this is just temporary. You have to do the work to be better, and we can all benefit from striving to be better.