Utilizing Your Confidence Muscle

Galatians 5:22-23 says:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”

In July of 2015, I was one of many fortunate people in the audience listening to Bonnie St. John, our Keynote Speaker share her exciting life. Bonnie St. John is the first African-American to win medals in Winter Paralympic competition as a ski racer. Her story was powerful and I felt a connection to it as we had some similar family dynamics growing up.

I had purchased her book “Live Your Joy”, had it signed by Bonnie and then placed it on my nightstand. The thing about my relationship with books is that I have to put them on a schedule. That is just how many books I have in my home. I try to read no more than two a month. So I would longingly look at Bonnie beautifully smiling at me from the cover of her publication, knowing I would get to it…soon.

And here I am! Loving every word of it. I have just finished the chapter “Confidence…Joy’s Main Muscle”, and I remember Bonnie sharing this story at the conference. It is so brilliant, I just have to share!

The story begins with basically nothing going as planned for Bonnie.  Though her hair was in curlers and she was in her gym clothes, she was bound and determined to keep the promise she had made to her young daughter to visit the aquarium.

The excerpts below continue with the story though I am skipping a few paragraphs to include just these few gems:

“There I was, strolling into the aquarium with curlers in my hair, a bright blue mechanical leg, and a two-year-old in tow. Bless her heart, Darcy didn’t think for a moment there was anything odd about the image her good ol’ mom was presenting. There were others, though, not quite so oblivious. I was awash in a sea of eye-rolling glances, sotto voce mutterings, and even some rude pointing and laughing from the younger less-inhibited patrons.

Years of experience in being stared at in this way kicked in for me. I met their gazes… and simply smiled. It takes a special kind of backbone to do that – to have everyone look at you as though you are strange or crazy (or  both!) and to look back with complete confidence….

How is it that it can feel so good to do something so difficult?It was actually exhilarating for me to test myself in this way. I wouldn’t want to do it every day, but I realized that it felt like I was exercising a muscle – a confidence muscle. It was a familiar feeling because I had to do it as a child…

To me, utilizing the confidence muscle is crucial for living joy from the inside out.”


WOW! I want that! Don’t you want that? How many times have I gone to the grocery store with my head down because I looked like “a scrub”? I cannot count the number on my two hands.

It is one thing to express confidence when we are all put together in our best get-up. But to do this when we are feeling not so glamorous, as a matter of fact, maybe in sweats and a stained t-shirt! I had never imagined this.

Mind you, I come from a strong line of vain people. We were not seen outside the home without makeup and hair fully intact. In this reading, Bonnie not only tells us we don’t have to, but she challenges us to exercise our confidence muscle when we are out knowing we don’t look our best. Then to look people in the eye and smile.

What I hadn’t realized these past few months, is I have been exercising and utilizing my confidence muscle. Somehow, this lesson she shared with us back in July stuck with me. When the hubby and I went on vacation, we chose to camp on the beach. Even when we left camp and went site-seeing, I wore no makeup and my hair in a bandana. I packed very little clothes to wear and none of them were fancy!

Of course, this would be the vacation that we would bump into Daniel Baldwin, who also has a gorgeous smile of his own! Did I worry about how I looked? No, I just looked Daniel straight in the eye and flashed a smile right back at him as he walked on by, trying to keep up with his pretty little daughters!

Picking up this book has been worth the wait. I wish to Live My Joy and I wish the same for all of you. Stay Blissful My Friends – E



A New Record Player



It is my 9th birthday and we have moved out of Pacoima to a seemingly better town. I still don’t trust this process so I keep my frown in place. Besides, my new teeth are taking too much time growing in and I look like a gargantuan when I smile.

My lack of excitement distresses mom and she knows no other way to convey her wounded emotion than to yell at me for being so ungrateful.  She did put a lot of effort into this little family party after all. There is just no way to communicate to her that I am doing this for the whole family’s safety. If I avoid happiness, nothing bad will happen again.

The best gift she had given me up to this age, however, was sitting nicely in the corner of the room I share with my cousin. A brand new record player! All white and black and able to play 45’s and 33’s. Alongside it is the new 45” I had asked for, my favorite song “Boogie-Oogie-Oogie”, by A Taste of Honey.

My mom did good this time. She seemed to hear what I had said I wanted for my birthday. I had recently asked her for a pet Boa Constrictor and instead, she bought me a couple of hamsters. They would have made hearty meals for the snake but instead, I now had a cage to clean, and those rodents stunk. But they were cute…so there’s that.

A New Record Planer (1)

I wanted badly to tell my mom how happy this made me. My new record player and record. I knew that going forward, when we took our monthly family trip to Tower Records I would be able to pick out a new 45” for myself just like my brothers. A true rite of passage this was. I recognized that. I just didn’t say anything.

I also knew that as everything else in our home, the record player was not just mine. I owned nothing, none of us did. We shared everything with everyone. The player would soon be broken by someone else who did not have the same respect I had for it. That’s just how it is when you have so many people with their kids moving in and out of your home. We couldn’t so much as eat a candy bar to ourselves. Everyone had to get a bite.

I don’t have regrets for that part of life. I learned how to share. Also how to avoid attachments to people and things. Perhaps too much. For I have had an ability to move on without looking back in such a way that I would give others abandonment issues. Loved ones, whom I would someday have to make amends. Thank God for a new day, a new life!

My life has taken a magnificent turn! I rarely cry and I am no longer afraid to smile. Unlike my younger years when I associated happiness with the precursor to frightening events. Events that might take my parents away again. At the age of 9, it felt a lot safer to keep my head low.

But at that moment, I was all alone in my room and I proceeded to flip that little piece of wax onto the player like I had seen my step-dad do so many times. Then I dropped the needle the record and listened to the sweet sound emanating from the little speakers attached.


Since I was all alone for the moment and no one would be able to see, I let out a small, closed-mouthed smile…

I hope this writing will bring a sweet smile to someone as well. It’s not enough for me to have joy, I want to share it with everyone I come in contact. Stay Blissful my Friends – E


Normal is So Overrated

Sunday 7/26/15 - Louisville, KY. Bonnie St. John, Elysia Valdivia-Giauque
Sunday 7/26/15 – Louisville, KY. Bonnie St. John, Elysia Valdivia-Giauque

On Monday July 27,2015 I was fortunate enough to meet Bonnie St. John and hear her speak at a gathering of Administrative Professionals in Louisville, KY. What a gift  to my spirit!  Bonnie’s topic was “Why Settle for Normal?”. Great topic. How many of us just want to be normal instead of appreciating our unique identifiers? I know I have desired “normal” for myself and my family.

If you have never heard of Bonnie St. John, here is a brief description taken from her website:

Bonnie has risen to the highest levels of achievement in a variety of endeavors throughout her life.  Despite having her right leg amputated at age five, she became the first African-American ever to win Olympic or Paralympic medals in ski racing, taking home a silver and two bronze medals in downhill events at the 1984 Paralympics in Innsbruck, Austria.  In recognition of this historic achievement, Bonnie was quoted on millions of Starbucks coffee cups and was honored at the White House by President George W. Bush.

Bonnie graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard University and earned a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford, taking an M.Litt. in Economics.  After returning to the US, she began her business career at IBM where she won awards as a sales rep.  Soon, though, Washington came calling and Bonnie was appointed by President Bill Clinton as a Director for Human Capital Policy on the White House National Economic Council.

The celebrated author of six books, Bonnie co-authored her most recent #1 bestseller, How Great Women Lead, with her teenage daughter, Darcy.  Together they traveled around the world on an extraordinary mother-daughter journey into the lives, and life lessons, of fascinating women leaders including Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, fashion designers, CEOs, women’s rights activists, and many more.  – From <http://bonniestjohn.com/docs/about>

good one

Talk about rising above challenges and going beyond “Normal”.  Bonnie inspired me to look deep inside my personal goals and dreams. Why would I want to be normal when there are far more opportunities to go above and beyond?  I know I am not a star athlete or a skilled artist. I do know that I have something to offer my fellow brothers and sisters. And so do you! We all have that one thing that others appreciate in us and which also brings joy to ourselves and to the people around us.

I remember listening to a friend share how she had once prepared a luncheon for a women’s event.  The keynote speaker was a well-known celebrity at the time. My friend was honored with the opportunity to serve a woman who had such a powerful message. Then something happened. This said speaker expressed at the podium, her amazement in the rose shaped strawberries and what a wonderful talent to be able to create such beauty!

It kind of reminds me of a part in the movie “The Breakfast Club”, when the students start sharing their unique skills. The one line that I always remember is “Everyone has something they can do”.

This is true. We may not all be actors, models, athletes, artists, engineers or scientists. But we don’t have to be. We can go beyond normal using our very own distinctive talents! You might not think much of your skills. But to someone who does not possess them, they are just the bee’s knees…

So today, appreciate and celebrate your uniqueness. Whatever it is. I will share something I can do: I can pick up objects with my toes, toss them in the air and catch them. Ha! And…I actually do this joyfully, blissfully!

Stay Blissful My Friends – E