Courage to take the first step

This following article is a guest post from Stephanie Abdon of A Hot Southern Mess

photo credit: Stephanie Abdon

photo credit: Stephanie Abdon

I’ve never been more proud to forget an anniversary. On January 17, 2014, I went into a courtroom as a married mother of a four-year-old boy. I emerged a divorced mother, with a new (old?) name, and the uphill battle of sharing a beautiful son with someone I no longer loved. Little did I know that day would bring even more struggles and uncertainty. Bills would become more difficult to pay, my family would turn against me because they did not agree with my lifestyle, and I would continue to question my fitness as a mother and value as a person.

My marriage didn’t end in that courtroom. It had ended years ago, even before that angelic child made his way into the world. I put my heart, soul, and wallet into a relationship that did not benefit me. It’s like I was sleepwalking through life. There was no romance…not so much as a hug or high five. We were two ships passing in the night. I was giving everything I had and getting nothing in return, but I was afraid to walk away.

My family situation was nothing new either. I was always different than my siblings and, according to my parents, never did things the proper way. But I would never have guessed they would take me to court to challenge the custody arrangement my ex-husband and I agreed upon, in which my son lives primarily with his dad. Although the decision was made in my son’s best interest, I was being chastised for not living up to the standards of a good mother.

I buried myself in my work, gaining kudos and even a small raise. I was honored to be asked to manage our annual fundraiser, even if it meant I would miss my twenty-year high school reunion. Who am I kidding? I was elated for the reprieve. How could I, a cheerleader and Senior Hall of Famer, show up and admit that I was such a failure? No high-power career or happy family to brag about, nothing to show for all the time and money I put into schooling or my now dissolved marriage.


photo credit: Stephanie Abdon

I did a lot of soul searching in the last year. I chose to be positive, finding joy even when facing adversity. I took better care of myself, which most certainly more appealing to people I met, as well as a better to companion to close friends. I am truly grateful for all the friends who lifted me up, saw me through difficult times, and pointed out my good qualities. I even reconnected with some old friends and discovered their lives weren’t exactly perfect after all.

I feel especially blessed by a talisman I received as a birthday gift, a calligraphy pendant bearing the symbol of courage. I often wear it when I need an extra boost of confidence. It is a tangible reminder of the true gift, an amazing friendship that developed over the year…a person who truly appreciates and celebrates the way I am. It’s not that my friends provided a panacea or magic formula, rather they helped me see what was missing all these years.

Courage. I lacked courage. I missed out on opportunities because I was afraid to tout my talents and abilities. I missed out on relationships because I thought I wasn’t pretty or fun enough. I never stood up to my parents. I cowered and let my ex-husband make all the decisions, including declaring himself a superior parent. Mostly, I proved myself right. I was failing at everything. I didn’t have the courage to do anything otherwise.

photo credit: Stephanie Abdon

photo credit: Stephanie Abdon

This year, I had a big goal. I signed up for a half marathon. I hadn’t run since high school and was terrified of even telling people what I had planned. I worked hard. I sacrificed. I found a wonderful running community. I wanted to prove to everyone, especially my son, that I am strong. On January 17, 2015, donning a headband stating “Though she be but little… she is fierce” I finished that half marathon in a respectable two hours and three minutes. I didn’t just run a race, I succeeded at something I made up my own mind to do…and I did it well. According to my son, I’m a superhero.

I will admit to first blowing it off as “just” a half, but I quickly learned to be proud of my accomplishments. As I counted down to race day, I kept wondering why that date sounded familiar. Exactly one year after I nervously walked into a courtroom to end a relationship that didn’t serve me, I ran across the finish line of a half marathon.

Life is still tough, but my son is thriving and my relationship with his dad is…well, it’s improving. I have discovered that good relationships aren’t limited to blood relative and lovers. Mostly, I found exactly what I needed. Courage. And it was inside me all along.

PS: One of my other goals for the year was to write more and to get over my fear of sharing it with others. Thank you for reading and being a part of my journey.

stephabdon2Stephanie Abdon writes from her hometown of Charleston, SC, usually with a glass of wine in hand a cat in her lap. When not writing, she is usually reading, running, practicing yoga, dancing, at the beach or watching old movies. She is a museum educator by profession, but her preferred title is “mommy.” Stephanie blogs at A Hot Southern Mess.

Philanthropy Friday: Philanthropy Starts With Compassion

This following article is a guest post from my good friend and possibly the most encouraging woman I know, Chris Carter1000 Voices Speak

Compassion is a powerful thing. It is the foundation for all good things and giving. It is the engine that starts the drive toward movement and mobilization of change and making a difference. I have yet to see a ministry or mission without the launching ground of compassion. 

Think about it.

Every organization and business and philanthropic mission is based on the desire to attend to the needs of others. Oh, there is so much need out there in this world, and I absolutely love Jennifer’s ability to find so many people and places that give and make that difference in this world!

It seems humanity is getting colder, harder, and more extreme, doesn’t it? I for one am so grateful for all those courageous and generous souls that use their compassion to mobilize change and offer relief and aid in so many desperate conditions around the globe.

And although I do my best to give and make my own little difference within my community and try to take bold steps to reach further and drop my little coins into the big vast bucket to be filled…

It always feels like I just don’t do enough. I can do better; give more of my time and my heart that seems to be pulled in a million different directions. But doing something is better than nothing.

I believe this space is simply for that purpose. (Yes?)

I may not be powerful, leading an army of people toward relief from famine, or saving lives on battlefield grounds or lifting oppression with hopes to rectify it all. But I CAN do SOMETHING.

It takes countless “little ol’ me’s” dropping our little coins in that boundless bucket, signing on for what is in our reach and supporting those who bravely travel the world taking on the endless fight against atrocities and evil, in any small way we can. And perhaps? Raising our voices to promote good things is one simple way to do just that.

Every tiny little itty bit counts for something.

It takes a village. Every single soul in the village is significant.

One voice can inspire One Thousand voices for something powerful. One burdened heart can connect One Thousand burdened hearts and challenge multitudes to reach the world with a message.

It happens.

And there is one mission that has been set ablaze in the blogosphere right this very minute…because of one heart that spoke about the desperate need for compassion.

And another jumped in with the passion and burden to do something.

An idea was born and is currently being fulfilled. Rapid fire. Spreading across the globe with a furry of fierce conviction and commitment. The call was made, and people are answering the call.

Oh it’s incredible when something like this occurs, isn’t it?

It started with my beloved friend Lizzi Rogers, who wrote this post about the need for compassion and the chilling reality of the absence and emptiness of help for so many who are struggling. 

You simply must read her raw and real words HERE.  

Then came a dear friend, Yvonne stirred by the post and passionate about Lizzi’s plea… she offered an idea.

Just an idea. 

But you see, when something of this nature is shared, people show up. People who want to do SOMETHING and yet, they don’t know how or where to start.

This is surely something. And this is a place to start.

1,000 voices speak for compassion is a platform that simply unites all people around the world to share their hearts and their own voice with hopes to unite us all under one word… one goal…one beautiful and purposeful mission.

Spread compassion.

Because compassion moves people. It ignites a desire to shift our perspective and change the lens from which we see… it begs us to dive deeper into our own communities or perhaps stretch farther out of our comfort zones to do something, anything that can make a difference in someone’s life for the better.

Would you hop on board? Share your voice? Honor this word and drop your heart into this beautiful and bountiful bucket that is free and worthy of good? If you have a presence anywhere on the World Wide Web stage…

Would you join us?

On February 20th, the goal is for 1,000 people to share awareness of compassion in their own unique way. Write about what it means to you. There are no guidelines necessary- compassion is seen and felt and acted upon in so many unique ways that there could be no limits set on this assignment.

I think that is the true beauty in this thing. It’s personal. And your one voice can fulfill a greater need. 

I believe THAT is what doing good, giving back, and making a difference is all about. Right Jennifer?

(ed. note: Right, Chris! Also, you all know I will be participating in this amazing project.)

Will you join the 1,000 Voices of Compassion on February 20th?

Let’s all work together to lift this dark world into the light of compassion, for this one day.

chriscarterChris Carter is a SAHM of two pretty amazing kids. She has been writing at for almost four years, where she hopes to encourage mothers everywhere through her humor, inspiration and faith. 



Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer. Read past stories here.

Wordless Wednesday: Paris Unity March

Today’s Wordless Wednesday photos were taken by my friend and travel companion in Nicaragua, Caitlin Kelly of the Broadside blog. Caitlin’s travels recently brought her to Paris where she had the unique opportunity to attend the unity march, an anti-terror rally that came on the heels of the Charlie Hebdo attack. To read more about the rally and Caitlin’s experience, read her post “Follow the pencil!”…today’s historic Paris unity march.

photo credit: Caitlin Kelly Translation: "It is ink that should flow, not blood"

photo credit: Caitlin Kelly
Translation: “It is ink that should flow, not blood”

photo credit: Caitlin Kelly

photo credit: Caitlin Kelly

photo credit: Caitlin Kelly Mohammed has a fit: “I hate being worshipped by assholes”

photo credit: Caitlin Kelly
Mohammed has a fit: “I hate being worshipped by assholes”

photo credit: Caitlin Kelly

photo credit: Caitlin Kelly

caitlin kellyCaitlin Kelly frequently writes on business for The New York Times, where she has published more than 100 stories, several of them the most-read of the day’s edition. Other clients include Ladies Home Journal, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Smithsonian and More. She blogs at, with 13,000 readers worldwide. Author of Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail and Blown Away: American Women and Guns, Caitlin lives in Tarrytown, NY.

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