Make Room for your Dreams… and the Unexpected

Make Room for your Dreams and the Unexpected... 
... it Might be More than You Ever Thought Possible!

How do you know if you’re ready to take the lead in the story of your life? You might be struggling right now, having been thrown into a set of life circumstances you didn’t expect at all.

My “unexpected” story began the day I was born. I popped out with red hair. Did you know that a curly red headed, blue eyed little girl represents less than 1% of the population! That meant I was special… right? I thought so, until I entered 5th grade in a brand new school.

During the first lunch period a boy came up to me with his lunch sack in hand. He wore a smile on his face. I'd caught him looking at me earlier that morning in class. As he approached, his beguiling smile suddenly turned ugly.  He yelled, “I’d rather be dead than red!” He jumped at me and spit right in my face.

I was so shocked. Tears burst from my eyes. I covered my face with my hands, horrified, as spit dripped down my cheeks. He laughed and took off running. Humiliated, I ran for refuge into the girls’ bathroom. I looked in the mirror and suddenly saw someone I didn’t recognize. I always thought I was pretty… until then. I aggressively scrubbed the spit of shame from my face with a rough brown paper towel. My cheeks were raw and red. I went to the nurse’s office and told her I wasn’t feeling well and waited with a knot in my stomach for my mom to pick me up.

That bullying incident took me down for days. In fact, for about a week I ate lunch in the school bathroom, hiding from the bully. It was the first time I can remember that I began writing down my feelings in a journal. In my writing, I fought back. I said the things I wanted to say. Somewhere around the second week after the incident, a new “bold” me welled up from my words. 

Over the next year or two, I let my hair grow long and wavy. I was proud to have it… especially since we entered the Age of Aquarius… the hippie years when long hair was considered hip. I loved the Beatles and Paul was the one I was sure to marry. His girlfriend was a red-haired beauty named Jane Asher. I was certain I was next in line.
I grew my red hair... long and proud

I loved writing poetry and singing songs. In my journal I envisioned being on stage.  I joined a small singing group in my home town, which lead to me heading to New York to join the national cast of the show. I was just 16 at the time... but I'd found my platform in song and dance.

I traveled the world with a message about love, equality, and compassion. I knew what it was like to be bullied. I felt I was making a difference in the world.

Dr. Viktor Frankel, a neurologist, psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor writes in his book, "A Man's Search for Meaning:"
In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds meaning.

I didn't realize it then, but in looking back, I had transformed my suffering into meaning.

My journal documented my travels, my life, but it was also my vision book. I dreamed it, I made it happen. I was certain I had full reign over my destiny.

Catapult forward ... 
I never realized how much I counted on life going the way I planned. I left no room for the unexpected... and yet it happened one day when my son died unexpectedly. 

How could that have happened? I thought I had reign over my fairy tale life. Suddenly, I was a woman in a story I didn’t recognize. I hadn't written this chapter in my vision book of my future.

No one wants to believe anything bad could happen, but sometimes it does. If it happens to you, you need to know you will survive and it will transform you.

If you study the chapters of your life that were unexpected, you can see two sides of the story and often something remarkable can rise up out of the adversity... it's your incredible will to survive.

If you look at the worst thing that’s ever happened to you, you’ll find it didn’t really break you. Did it? If you’re reading this blog, you're open and searching for new thoughts, ideas, and ways to live.

You’re not broken… you’re changed. What ever happened to you gave you the gift of new awareness.

Now, you'll never, ever take anything for granted. You'll know for sure, there's nothing more important than love. You realize the purest form of connection is being transparent and projecting who you really are to others. It leads you to all things... love, peace, success, and happiness.

This all leads back to my original point. You have to fuel your happiness by making room for your dreams and the unexpected. You do that by building your portfolio of life and looking at it from a different perspective.

One of the women I coach came to me after having lost her beautiful son in a car accident. At the time, Sally never saw a way out of her pain. 

The other day she heard about a friend whose child had died. It brought her own tragic loss back in the forefront and it felt like her heart broke all over again. She was afraid she would re-live the overwhelming, gut wrenching feelings of disbelief, denial, and confusion she felt when she first lost her son a year ago. I knew her fear. I feel the feelings every time I hear someone’s child has died, but I also knew how far Sally had come in her adjustment to life without her child.

I reminded her it’s been almost a year since her son died and she’s still here, growing stronger every day. She replied, “Thank you, that does put it into perspective for me. I have survived 359 days to date. Amazing, when I didn’t think I could get through one more day and here I am.” You see, time doesn't heal loss, but learning to find new meaning for living does.

In spite of her fear, Sally offered to help her friend in any way she could. Nothing transforms us more than reaching out and being of service in spite of our own sorrow. I’m so very proud of her and I know her son’s legacy drives her to help this friend whose loss is so new and raw. Sally made room in her heart for something important and critical for recovery-compassion for another mother in grief.

Remember: In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds meaning.
Sally is such a beautiful, strong and vibrant woman who never forgets her son, but she’s learning to live in a new way, forming a new relationship with her beautiful boy... one that lives on in her heart forever. (Sally... I know Andy is smiling down on you now.)
Doing something for someone else raises our own level of joy, success, and happiness.

I love helping you discover your hidden meaning and purpose in life. I love helping you re-write your story and claim happiness, love, and success for the future. This blog is one way I do that.

I will also be sharing a way to open your book of life to new possibilities with the Discover Your Heart’s Desire Ebook Program. If you’d like to learn more about it, please sign up on my website to receive an email and I will notify you when it’s released! I'm so excited to be able to offer this to you and it comes with a free gift if you're among the first!

Get ready to open the next chapter to a life you've always dreamed of!

With love and best wishes,
For more blogs and information, please sign up on my website!

Sandy Peckinpah writes and speaks on finding happiness, surviving loss and activating resilience. Her new award winning book entitled, "How to Survive the Worst that Can Happen" is a parent's step by step guide for healing after the loss of a child, based on her own experience of losing her 16 year old son. She coaches women on finding the next chapter of their lives and is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist® with the Grief Recovery Institute® in Los Angeles. 

Website and programs offered:    

Visit my website and sign in to download my FREE ebook, Stepping Stones to a Resilient Life

For a printable PDF version of this blog post Click Here.

The Emerging Woman...Becoming the Woman You Always Dreamed You Could Be

Bonus Content: I believe so much in the power of the Emerging Woman that I’ve created a special 6-page worksheet for you to download and get started. You can download and print it now or wait until the end of the blog. 

I’m declaring 2015 as the year of the Emerging Woman. It excites me as I begin to discover and define myself as “emerging.” I can hardly wait to wake up each morning to continue the process. I know it’s happening because it almost hurts to stay the same. By struggling to keep things the same, it restricts the possibilities of my tomorrow because I can only see   the point of reference I have today.

That must be exactly how a butterfly feels just before she breaks free of her cocoon… or the baby chick, before she cracks the shell to freedom. They have no idea what the new world is like-they just know it’s waiting and they must emerge, no matter what.

That feeling happens to me every time I’m about to break out of an old pattern, an old life, and an old way of being. My thoughts become almost chaotic, and once the breakthrough happens, there’s a feeling of knowing this is what it was meant to, be all along.

That’s how I felt just before I wrote my book, “How to Survive the Worst that can Happen.” I resisted it for a long time. I feared delving into my sorrow in the loss of my son, but a voice inside of me kept calling, “do it, and it will change your life forever. It’s your legacy to help others.” That voice was right.

The word “emerging” is an adjective that comes from the core verb “emerge.” See if you can relate to any of these definitions in the dictionary:
  1. To rise and come forth into view  
  2. Become apparent, important, or prominent. 
  3. This one excites me most of all because it is relevant to my life: Recover (to emerge) from or survive a difficult or demanding situation.
The emerging woman is the lure of becoming something more, yet something that was always meant to be.

My Beautiful Mom
As she was when I was young
When I was a young girl, I first witnessed a transformation like this in my mom. She was a natural beauty with the gorgeous good looks of a movie star. She managed a spotless house while raising 5 children.

Mom and Dad provided an adventurous life for us. We moved 12 times before I turned 12 because my Dad was in the Navy. Every trek to a new home meant we’d be traveling in our station wagon on a remarkable zig-zag tour of the United States. We visited every park, historical site, and monument until we reached the destination of our new home.

Mom packed the station wagon full of blankets and pillows, games, peanut butter on Wonder Bread, and fresh apples. The smell of apples still reminds me of road trips long ago.

Mom and Dad loved to sing, so to endure the long hours in the car, they often belted show tunes from Music Man or High Society and we’d join in, knowing every word because they had played them so often on the HiFi.

As we grew older and needed Mom less, she grew restless. I’d hear her listening to Earl Nightingale on the radio while Dad was at work. Earl was one of the early pioneers in the self-help industry. One of the phrases that memorialized him as a great thinker and inspirational mentor was: "We become what we think about." 

It was then I saw Mom begin to emerge as the woman she was called to become. One day, she opened a restaurant, knowing absolutely nothing about the restaurant business. She didn’t care because failure wasn’t an option. She learned everything she could and miraculously her restaurant, The Pie Factory, became hugely successful on the Monterey Peninsula.

For Mom, it wasn’t so much about creating a place to eat as it was about creating a culture and environment where people wanted to gather. There would be lines out the door for customers to grab lunch, a piece of pie, and a chat. Mom knew most of the people by name, and they certainly knew hers. My brothers and sisters and I all worked there and it became part of our home life.

I’m so proud of my mom for teaching me that life has cycles and if you feel a calling and believe you can do something, just do it! I watched her build that restaurant to its success never having had any experience other than feeding our family.

I know right now, I’m in a stage of emergence. I feel it. I’ve committed to a program by Michael Hyatt called 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever. I know by holding myself accountable, I will indeed fulfill my goals. Michael stresses the importance of setting goals rather than resolutions. Goals need to be specific and have a due date, otherwise they’re not as effective. In the course, Michael shares a study done by Dr. Gayle Matthews, a Psychology Professor at Dominican University, which resulted in this revelation: the mere act of writing a goal down increases the likelihood of achieving the goal by 42%!

Downloadable 6 page worksheet for you to Emerge!
Are you at the stage of emergence? Have you thought about what you’d like to achieve more than anything in the world this coming year?

Here are a few tips for making 2015 the year you emerge:
  1. Ask yourself: Am I feeling a calling, a transition, a pull to look at something new coming into my life? If so, are you able to name it yet, or is it still just a restlessness within.
  2. Set your intention that this year is going to be different than last year by choosing a time and place to dream of the possibilities. Write down those dreams. 
  3. What steps do you believe you have to take to achieve this dream? (such as education, financial strategies, support from your spouse, training, etc.) 
  4. Identify what’s at stake. Could it be a possible change in a job, a relationship, or education? 
  5. Can you continue with your life as it is and incorporate this calling, or are there things you need to implement or say goodbye to, in order to begin the transformation? 
  6. Write down 5 to 7 specific goals for this coming year. Goals are specific reachable steps for shaping your life. Write down why you want to achieve these goals and then give them a due date. For example, instead of saying I want to lose weight this year, write down, “I want to release 10 pounds. I want to achieve this goal because I know I feel more confident and energetic when I’m at my optimum weight.” Due date: April 1. 
  7. Here’s the fun part… Take a few minutes and visualize your life as it will be after you’ve become a woman who’s emerged. Close your eyes and visualize how your morning starts, what your day will be like, and how your evening ends. Imagine everything. Write all of this down as though you’re telling the elaborate story of your day to someone you love. Read it periodically out loud over the next few weeks. 
Because you’ve taken these steps, it’s very possible you’ll make this dream come true! My mom did, and I’m so proud of her and grateful she demonstrated that even though life continues to hand you challenges, the willingness to transform opens up new possibilities.

Living life fully means creating opportunities as your heart calls you to emerge. By making changes and adjustments you’re making room for the transformation. It also can mean saying goodbye and finding completion in situations that don’t work for you anymore. Don’t be afraid, that fear you’re feeling is your heart’s call to your personal greatness.

The secret is in the thinking, and maybe Earl Nightingale was right: "We become what we think about." It certainly worked for my mom, and I’m so proud she had the courage to believe she could, with all her heart.

Best wishes,

Bonus Content: I believe so much in the power of the Emerging Woman that I’ve created a special 6-page worksheet for you to download and get started. You can download and print it now .

Sandy Peckinpah writes and speaks on finding happiness, surviving loss and activating resilience. Her new award winning book entitled, "How to Survive the Worst that Can Happen" is a parent's step by step guide for healing after the loss of a child, based on her own experience of losing her 16 year old son. She is a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist® with the Grief Recovery Institute® in Los Angeles. 

Visit my website and sign in to download my FREE ebook, Stepping Stones to a Resilient Life

For a printable PDF version of this blog post Click Here.

Steps to Successful Goal Setting for The Emerging Woman™

I realized recently, the last several years of my life have been about discovery and emergence. The cocoon holding my existence began to break open in January of 2010 when I decided I never wanted to look at the year ahead, as mirroring the year I’d left behind. I began to look at life with goal setting in mind rather than resolutions that often never come to fruition.

That specific change in approach was the catalyst for my life today and I’m so grateful. I did a vision board that year, and wouldn’t you know it… I actually achieved a lot of what I’d hoped for! In the years that followed I recognized the importance yearly goal setting and putting time expectations on those goals.

There’s something so powerful about being the age I am because it’s just like playing football or hockey. The game doesn’t go on forever, so it creates a sense of urgency. It’s incredibly motivating.

I also learned that goals can shift and change as we approach the finish line… and that’s okay. Last year, while I was awaiting my book’s release, I remember believing the only audience for my book would be those who’ve had a child die. I was so wrong.

My Vision Board
Suddenly, a larger audience, one I never envisioned, began buying my book:  therapists, clinics, friends and family of those who have lost children. What I didn’t expect was the outpouring of people who feel helpless when it comes to loss, and my book was their way of contributing.

This has taught me not to restrict my thinking or my expectations. I need to start leaving room for my goals to grow bigger than I’m capable of dreaming.

I'm planning on making 2015 my best year ever! I hope you will join me. Here's what I learned from setting goals last year and watching how they evolved:
  1. I don't have to know everything in order to move forward with my plan. I can build some of it as I go.
  2. I'm not Wonder Woman. I don't have to do everything. I can do what I love, and hire out the rest.
  3. Being on the computer doesn't mean I'm working. I need to set clearly defined times for posting on social networks, emails, etc.
  4. Sometimes when things don't happen the way I want, it's actually the better plan. I’m now aware that goals might shift, change, and possibly grow bigger as they come to fruition.
  5. Consistency makes me better at what I do.
  6. I need to honor myself for what I HAVE done. Sometimes I don't give myself enough credit. 
  7. Today is all we really have. Make it count.
So... have you set your goals? I hope so! Don't know where to start? Receive your free worksheet by clicking here and hang it where you can look at it every day. You’ll be surprised at what you accomplish!
I can promise, if you set these goals in writing you are more likely to achieve them according to studies done at the Dominican University of California. I did this exercise in 2012 and set the goal to write my book, How To Survive the Worst that can Happen in a year. It was published almost a year to the day I began! Today, I’m so proud it has achieved 5 awards and reaching the people it was meant to help.

I was recently inspired by Michael Hyatt and his program 5 Days to the Best Year Ever. His program keeps me on course. One thing he taught me- Goals have to evoke real passion or you won’t do them. Give your goals some excitement and challenge. That’s why I recommend only setting 5 goals. That is doable!

Time to set your goals…the clock is ticking! I leave you with this thought from Philosopher and Theologian, Howard Thurman:

"Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

And that’s exactly what I intend to do. I hope you’ll join me.

Best wishes,

For a printable PDF version of this blog post Click Here.

Sandy Peckinpah writes and speaks on finding happiness, surviving loss and activating resilience. Her new award winning book entitled, "How to Survive the Worst that Can Happen" is a parent's step by step guide for healing after the loss of a child, based on her own experience of losing her 16 year old son. She is a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist® with the Grief Recovery Institute® in Los Angeles. 

Visit my website and sign in to download my FREE ebook, Stepping Stones to a Resilient Life

From Chaos to Legacy, The 7 Steps to Finding Meaning and Purpose

Angelic lights at Neiman Marcus in San Franscisco
Bonus Content: I believe so much in the value of doing the steps in this blog, I’ve created a special 5-page worksheet for you to get started on the steps leading from chaos to legacy. Here's the special 5-page worksheet


I see it now... I’ve entered the legacy years. I’ve reached the time when it’s truly now or never. It’s a time to recount my story and discern what it’s all about. Mine is a story of romance and heartbreak. It’s a story of deep loss, and unimaginable tragedy. And yet, it’s a story of victory and triumph.

It's a very full life. And it's all mine.

While navigating my very full life, I learned something quite remarkable. When you embody your life as a fully charted course, designed to challenge, awaken, and inspire, you can discover the meaning of your life and the legacy you have imprinted on this planet.

Photo courtesy of
Do you remember the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed? It is a classic Christmas made in 1946 and considered one of the most beloved films in American cinema.

Jimmy Stewart plays the character of George Bailey, a man who had given up on his dreams in order to help others. During the Christmas holidays, tragedy struck his banking business and funds were accidentally misplaced. This was a bank with a heart and loaned money to help people of Bedford Falls pay for college, start businesses, and float those who were down and out. The loss of funds would shut the bank down and deeply affect the future of the town. George was at risk of losing everything for the town and his family.

It was Christmas Eve and George was in the depths of despair. He ran from his home and stood on a bridge, struggling to find a reason not to jump into the icy river below. Along comes divine intervention, a wise angel named Clarence who decides George needs to see the impact his life has had on others. He takes George through a review of his life from the time he was a young boy until the present. He shows him how different life would be in Bedford Falls had he never been born. George realizes that no matter what happens with the bank, his town's people are worth fighting for. He goes back to his family to celebrate the meaning of Christmas and discovers his friends have rallied around him and raised all the money necessary for the bank to recover.

This movie placed number one on the list of most inspirational movies of all time. And I know why. People want to believe that their lives matter... that somehow, something they did had lasting impact.

When you’re in your darkest hour, feeling challenged, alone, and hopeless, you’re actually standing at the "bridge of choice"… do you walk over it or do you dive into the depths of despair.

I was there. If you’ve read past blogs, you know I experienced the big one…”the worst that could happen.” I lost my beautiful boy. When he died, I kept hearing people say, “Don’t worry, time heals all wounds.” It never made sense to me. As time goes by, I became more aware of my losses and the struggle it took to survive. Time felt like my enemy because huge chunks of it were missing from my book of life. Like, seeing my son graduate from high school, or watching him marry the love of his life.

Time doesn’t heal emotional wounds anymore than time heals a broken teacup, but the awareness of time passing allows us the gift of reflection. It’s a tool of observation that allows perspective to make sense of a life you thought was random and chaotic.

In the process of my grief recovery I began to look at the subtle hidden memories of things that I thought didn’t matter. For example, during my life, I’ve always been a people-pleaser. It was hard for me to accept help because I didn’t want to believe I needed anyone. In looking back on my timeline, I see hints of clarity.

My father was in the Navy and we moved 12 times before I turned 12. People don’t realize moving is a huge trigger for grief and sets up life long patterns of separation, and feeling like you’re always having to start over.

my stack of journals
Because I moved so often, I developed feelings of not belonging, loneliness, like an outsider. I "acted" my way through and appeared very self assured and confident. But I wasn't. I began writing poetry and journaling as a way of expressing myself. I believe it awakened my creativity and started me on the path as a writer. Learning to cope through writing was integral to who I am today.

Moving so frequently not only helped me develop ways of battling that alone feeling, it was beneficial in other ways. I got used to being uprooted and traveling. It gave me a sense of adventure! I had no qualms about leaving home at 16 to join a touring musical show that went all over the world. Lucky me.

When I look at my timeline, I see all of the things that ushered me into different stages of my life. I can "connect the dots" and from it I gain clarity as to the meaning and purpose of my life.

In looking at your timeline, you’ll discover your past, even the negative, is actually a carefully charted course that sails you into the next part of your life.

The following is the method I used. It will help you transition your life’s story from chaos to legacy. Give yourself a gift this Christmas and start charting your course by doing this simple exercise.

Bonus Content: I believe so much in the value of doing the steps in this blog, I’ve created a special 5-page worksheet for you to get started on the steps leading from chaos to legacy. Here's the special 5-page worksheet

Here's how to recognize "The Amazing Significant Life Events of…. YOU!"

1. Set the Stage…Clear your desk, turn off social networking and emails. Turn on music or sounds that offer rhythm without lyrics. The only words you want in your head are your own. For example, try meditation or spa music on your Pandora Internet Radio. My favorite is the “Calm Meditation” channel.

2. Write down all of your Amazing Significant Life Events, using 1 or 2 sentences to describe. Try to do these in order from childhood until now. (Use a pencil in case you need to erase). Remember everything that had an affect on your life. As a child, did you move, change schools, and leave behind your friends? Have you experienced significant loss, heartbreak, disappointment, divorce, or financial upset? What were your successes? Try to do these in order from childhood until now.

3. On the next page, create chapter headings for those events. Choose words that make the chapter headings come alive. For example, when I traveled the world at 16 in a show called Up with People, it opened my eyes to other cultures. I titled that chapter “The World Was My Home Town.” I named the chapter on my divorce: “When the Castle Walls Fell.”

4. Under each chapter, write one positive and one negative thing that shaped your life because of this incident.

5. Now write headings for future chapters and fill in the story. A few years ago, I wrote my “future” chapter about being the author of an award-winning book that would give purpose and meaning to my son’s life. My book How to Survive the Worst that Can Happen is a parent’s step-by-step guide to healing after the loss of a child. I wanted to help grieving parents discover their resilience and find a joyful life again. It was published this year!

6. Look back over the chapters and revelations you’ve written and create a title for your Life Story that reflects the magnitude of your life. It can be a title that represents your past or what you hope for in the future. Put that title at the top of a piece of paper. Here is mine: “I Thought I had a Fairy Tale Life.” Elizabeth Gilbert’s powerful memoir title is “Eat, Pray, Love.” Cheryl Strayed wrote her memoir “Wild,” describing her out of control young adult years after her mother died. Do you see how powerfully descriptive those titles are?

How do you want your story to end?
Happily ever after.... of course!
7. Make a Statement of Legacy. Look at your story and write a statement of what you believe you’ll be known for. It can be something you did for someone that changed his or her life, or the rescue of a pet, or volunteering at a shelter. It can be writing a story that gave people hope, or baking a pie for the widower next door. Your work can be a great source of your legacy. Mine starts like this: I, Sandy Peckinpah, am a woman who has experienced loss and heartache, but in the process of healing, I learned how to help others. I enthusiastically share my knowledge, compassion, and writing to inspire others to heal from the pain of their past, resolve the chaos that is present, and help them to uncover their future.

This last step, making a profound declaration, sets you on the path to your personal legend and your legacy.

Here's what I know, we may not have the gift of time healing our wounds, but we can heal from our past if we study our timeline, uncover the meaning, and resurrect our personal greatness. These are the things that shape us. Without bringing our story to light, our tragedies cannot give us the gift of triumph.

"Happily ever after" doesn't mean a life without challenges, it means you've met the challenges with courage and grace. Your remarkable life is one to be proud of. It's your legacy... and that's why we're all here. It’s your story, your life, and your future... you get to choose how you want it to end.

With love,

**Bonus Content: Want to learn how to turn your life from Chaos to Legacy? I’ve created a special 5-page worksheet for you to use with this blog post. It will walk you through the 7 steps outlined above to uncover your life’s legacy. It’s also perfect to do with a partner, a group, or a friend.

30 Minute Solutions to “Begin with the End in Mind”

 I’m so glad I’m the age I am because I have the gift of hindsight. Hindsight is where wisdom is borne. I’ve lived through every circumstance I never thought I could, and yet here I stand, ready for the second act of my life.

Here’s a list of things I thought I couldn’t do:
  • Survive unimaginable loss
  • Heal my heart after divorce
  • Start a new career after 50
  • Raise my kids on my own
  • Find true love again
By the year 2002, I was pretty much at the depths of despair, having tragically lost my 16 year old son a few years before, and my 25 year marriage had faltered in grief. We divorced and just a few short years later my husband unexpectedly died at the age of 54.

I remember waking up one morning with the realization that everything I thought I knew was gone, and the second act of my life was just about to emerge. I was scared to death.

I’d been a mom the majority of my life! Now, I was forced to figure out how to support myself and my three children. I was tormented by the little voice of doubt inside my head: “You’re not good enough, pretty enough, or smart enough… and you’re 50.

card courtesy of Curly Girl Designs
I happened to pick up Steven Covey’s book at just the right time… funny how that happens. In “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” he says, “begin with the end in mind.”

It's a startling thought for a woman in chaos who once thought she had a fairy tale life. If I had decided to listen to the voice of doubt, I would have had absolutely no hope of living happily ever after.

I began researching how to refuel a life that had run out of gas. I decided to look at myself with a child's heart. Who are the happiest people on the planet? Children. They live every day with expectation and a sense of wonder and belief in a magical world. If they put on a cape they could become powerful and mighty. If they put on a crown, they could become a king or a queen. Children believe without a doubt, they are in command of their imaginary destiny.

I remember clearly being a little girl who woke up every day with anticipation and desire to create wondrous things. I would spend hours lying on a bed of green clover looking for the one with four leaves that would bring me good luck. And I always did. Every December, I fully trusted that Santa would come at Christmas no matter what. And he did. I spent hours farming tadpoles from the river nearby, counting on them turning into frogs one day… and they always did.

Little me with Santa
I didn’t realize then, I chose to begin every day with the end in mind. If I could create a beautiful life and career for my Barbie doll then, I could darn well do it for myself now.

My “child’s mind” was actually the creator of my life. Somewhere along the way, we become adults and lose confidence in our ability to achieve the life we want.

So here I was at 50 thinking... do I still have the ability to create? Once I began playing with this idea of "beginning with the end in mind," I was able to start turning my game around.

“Game” is defined in the dictionary as “a period of play ending in a definite result.” The definite result I wanted was happiness. However, happiness isn’t an actionable step, it’s a bi-product of a meaningful and fulfilling life. I had work to do and I wasn’t going to stop until I’d reclaimed the direction for my life.

I know life is always a work in progress and I still have so much learn. Just like a game, there are obstacles and challenges that come your way, but learning to navigate “with the end in mind” is the key to your inner game.

I believe so much in the importance of doing these steps and how it can literally change your life, I've created a free worksheet for you to get started. Feel free to continue reading and then come back for your worksheet by filling out this form.

Here are 30 minute solutions you might consider for your game of life:

1. Begin with the end in mind. Spend 30 minutes writing down what the end of your life might look like if you stayed exactly where you are right now. Then, rewrite the negatives and turn them into a happy ending. For example, I wanted to write a book to help parents like me who had lost a child. In my old belief system, I would have been wishing I’d written the book at the end of my life. Instead, I rewrote my “ending” and committed to writing my book! “How to Survive the Worst that can Happen” was published in February 2014.

2. Stop being the victim of your story. Everyone on the planet has a story that will surprise you. The more I work with people to help them with life after loss, the more I recognize that loss is the one human common denominator. Society acknowledges those who grieve the loss of a loved one, but there are over 40 other types of losses that deeply affect us emotionally like, divorce, job loss, moving, financial devastation, a beloved pet or loss of health.

Spend 15 minutes listing your losses. Then spend the next 15 minutes with someone who will listen to you read your list. It’s important to hear yourself verbalize it. Bringing light to loss begins the healing process. Visit to find out more about healing from loss.

3. Begin doing things you’ve always wanted to do. Start a workout program and do it for 30 minutes every day. Begin writing your book by sitting down to write 30 minutes every day. Always wanted to paint? Buy paints and canvases and paint for 30 minutes every day.

4. Never take a single day for granted. Spend 30 minutes every day in gratitude. That means in prayer, mediation, a walk in the park, time with your child, or snuggling with your husband. (Of course you don’t have to stop at 30 minutes!)

As a little girl,
Dad was the center of my universe
5. Leave nothing wonderful unsaid to those you love. Spend 30 minutes telling the people in your life what you love about them. I got on the phone with my Dad last week and shared my happiest memories. I told him I loved his sense of adventure when we traveled across the country (which we did often because I was a Navy child). I thanked him and my mom for always bringing enchantment to Christmas. I shared how proud I was the day my young son and I attended the ceremony as he took command of Treasure Island in San Francisco. This conversation meant the world to me. I'm having that conversation with my beautiful mom next.

Now, about that last step, “leave nothing wonderful unsaid to those you love,” it’s the most important step you can take in beginning with the end in mind. Research shows that people’s biggest regrets at the end of their lives are the things they didn’t say to those they loved.

Walking down the aisle with my dad,
Rear Admiral Donald S. Albright Jr.
 on my wedding day 10-1-11
Just in that one step I discovered the essential key to a happy life… love is the greatest game changer of all. When we express love frequently and before it’s too late, it bounces back to scoring a happy life.

Oh and one more thing I need to say to my Dad… Never was I more proud than when you walked me down the aisle 3 years ago to marry the man I love. That memory is the one that still makes me cry.

Best wishes,

For a printable PDF version of this blog post Click Here.  

Sandy Peckinpah writes and speaks on finding happiness, surviving loss and activating resilience. Her new award winning book entitled, "How to Survive the Worst that Can Happen" is a parent's step by step guide for healing after the loss of a child, based on her own experience of losing her 16 year old son. She is a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist® with the Grief Recovery Institute® in Los Angeles. 

Visit my website and sign in to download my FREE ebook, Stepping Stones to a Resilient Life

Life Changes when you Discover the Beauty of Imperfection

Photo courtesy of
I once had a fairy tale life…I remember quite clearly, feeling like a princess as I walked hand in hand with my husband, down the Red Carpet at the Prime time Emmy Awards. My husband, a producer and writer, was nominated for a show called Beauty and the Beast on CBS.

It was a modern day fairytale set against the backdrop of New York City. Catherine, played by Linda Hamilton, worked as a high powered attorney for a prominent law firm. One night, she’s brutally attacked in Central Park and left to die. She’s rescued in the dark of the night by Vincent, a hideous beast, who has the face and hands of a lion. He carried her below the city streets where a utopian community of social outcasts thrive in the labyrinth of tunnels underneath the city.

In the days that followed, Vincent cared for Catherine. He fed her and read Shakespeare as she lie in his bed, healing.

The remarkable part of the story is that the love affair began while Catherine’s eyes were bandaged. When Vincent removed the bandages from Catherine's eyes, she saw him for the first time. As she stared into the face of a man who looked like a beast, she felt no fear, only love. This was the gentle soul who lovingly cared for her. Unlike the traditional Beauty and the Beast story, this beast wasn't physically transformed by Catherine’s love. Instead, the inner beauty of this man dominated the physical and it was Catherine who was transformed by his love.

Catherine quit her job at the law firm to become a District Attorney, specializing in fighting for the underdog. We watched week to week how love transformed them both, and to the loyal audience, the Beast suddenly had become the most handsome man on the planet, even though his features never changed.

If you ever saw the you remember that? Ron Perlman played Vincent so beautifully that he became a heartthrob to women across America. However, women weren’t in love with the actor...they were in love with the Beast! I was intimately invested in the story lines, and I, too, had fallen in love with their story.

I worked closely with my husband on developing each and every script throughout his career in the entertainment industry. I also studied acting because I loved it, and it helped with developing characters in the scripts.

I learned that every character in a script has a back story and a secret that motivates them. As the audience, we don’t always know what that is. But the actor knows, and developing that “back story” is what makes the character come alive.

Julianne Belle Peckinpah
for more info visit
And that’s the way it is in real life. Every one of you has a story and a past that shapes who you are and how you approach life.

I gave birth to my daughter several months after walking the Red Carpet . She was born with a severe facial cleft. It was a huge shock and my heart was broken.

Our beautiful baby would need many surgeries to put together the face she was always meant to have. I was devastated for her and blamed myself for the hard road she’d be facing in necessary surgeries and extensive medical care. I kept thinking... what did I do to cause this? Many parents go through the same feeling when a child is born with health problems. I grieved deeply.

People often don’t associate grief with something like this, but I discovered it’s very much like a loss. It was the loss of my hope of having my daughter born healthy and ready to begin a beautiful life.

In the hospital I wondered how people would treat her when I'd take her in public? I worried about her being teased when she started school. After all, I experienced teasing as a little girl for just having red hair!

Isn’t it odd that my husband and I spent months talking about Vincent and the travesty of this beautiful man being shunned by the world because he wasn’t like the rest of us? Suddenly, I was faced with the same questions in real life.

My sons, Garrett and Trevor came to the hospital to see their new sister. There was no fear or upset, only love and they welcomed her, exclaiming, "She's the most beautiful baby in the world!" In fact, they fought over who would hold her!

That realization was a turning point for me. It was the end of fears and the birth of my courage and commitment to give her the best life I could, and that meant paving the way for her. I struggled to find a way to change public perception of beauty... a huge task!

One day, my wonderful friend, Wendy Steinmetz, came to see my new baby. "Oh Sandy," she said, "her little mouth looks just like a rose petal."

Written by Sandy Peckinpah
Illustrated by Trisha Moore
It was the birth of an idea. The thing I know best, is how to write. I decided to give Julianne her own story... a hero’s journey. I wrote a fairytale, Rosey… the Imperfect Angel. 

The story is about a little angel who had a face that was very different than her eleven sister angels. Boss Angel assigned each one the task of tending a garden, each one named for the months of the year. Rosey was sad because she didn't look like the others and she had the most difficult garden of all... the garden of January, filled with brown twigs, thorns, and piles of dead leaves. She lovingly tended her plants for weeks. One day the buds began to sprout and by spring she had the most glorious garden of all! Every rosebush was in bloom! Her reward from Boss Angel was to join a family who would love her and cherish her just the way she was born.

And so... her new family welcomed her and discovered the beauty of imperfection and the power of love to unite and heal a family.

With that book, I became my daughter’s warrior mom and took it into schools with my best friend, Melissa Gilbert (who played Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie). She's loved by children of all ages. We read the book together and paved the way for my daughter. Melissa was right there with me, every step of the way, including Julianne's surgeries.

And it worked. In fact, I even had one little girl tell me she wished she’d been born with a cleft! Over the years my daughter's face transformed through a gifted surgeon who told me "I want her to love her face." The truth is, I loved her face just as she was born.

Twenty years later, a young man tracked me down and called me to say that he was one of those elementary school students who heard Melissa and I read “Rosey.” He’d never forgotten the impact it made on him. Now, as an adult, he was a successful musician and producer. He asked to record Rosey as a CD and share it with the world. Michael Alden, (now an Emmy winning and Tony winning producer), created the CD with Melissa reading the story and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra playing the music written by Michael. It made it all the way to the Grammy Ballot in 2009! Here's the link: Rosey, the Imperfect Angel

That was the first time I really understood the power of storytelling and how it can change people’s lives. It makes me cry even now.

In one of my favorite books, The Alchemist, the author Paulo Coelho shares the metaphoric story of a young man in search of his Personal Legend. I've discovered our personal legends can come from things we least expect… like the birth of a tiny baby girl who had my heart the moment she was born. Her gift to me was a role I never expected- as a writer to help people find a new way of looking at life and the lesson of discovering the beauty of imperfection.

And here's my beautiful daughter today with her fiancĂ© 
Once you look at life through a different lens, it will never be quite the same. Anything is possible, and that's what my daughter and my sons taught me. When you find those moments in your own life, you'll be transformed into knowing the power of your own gifts and uncover your life's purpose.

Beautiful Julianne Belle… you continue to inspire me as I watch your life unfold. You absolutely are the princess in your fairy tale because you seized life and became the courageous heroine of your own life. You are my glorious blooming rose, my inspiration, and my shining star.

Sandy Peckinpah writes and speaks on finding happiness, surviving loss and activating resilience. Her new award winning book entitled, "How to Survive the Worst that Can Happen" is a parent's step by step guide for healing after the loss of a child, based on her own experience of losing her 16 year old son. She is a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist® with the Grief Recovery Institute® in Los Angeles.
Visit my website and sign in to 
download my FREE ebook 
Stepping Stones to a Resilient Life

Email: contact:

Visit my website and sign in to download my FREE ebook, Stepping Stones to a Resilient Life

Write Your Story, Heal Your Life, Creating Your Own "Happily Ever After"

7 Easy Steps to Uncovering Your Life's Purpose

Haven’t you always wanted to be the star of your own life…the leading lady, front and center, top of the marquis?

As a little girl I used to dream of being on stage, but not as a stagehand or an extra, I was the star in my dreams. Weren’t you?

Somewhere along the way, our confidence, self-esteem and worthiness diminish. Bullying can do it. So can a cruel teacher, or a parent who didn’t support your uniqueness.

As a little girl, I was often teased because of my fiery red hair and freckles. In 5th grade, a boy spit in my face and shouted, “I’d rather be dead than red!” It broke my heart, but also made me want to do something remarkable to prove him wrong, even if I did have red hair.

My life challenges didn’t end there. Not even close…Toward the end of my 42nd year, I experienced the worst that can happen. My 16 year old son woke up with fever, he was dead the next morning. The doctor’s misdiagnosis of the flu turned out to be the silent deadly killer, bacterial meningitis. Until that day, I thought I had a fairy tale life.

Do you ever roll all the traumas into one big ball and give yourself a label of "the victim?" I did. I didn't trust the future and always believed I was a prisoner of my story. It was all I could do to get myself out of bed in the morning. But I had to. I had three living children who were counting on me. I was their superstar mom. I couldn’t let them down.

One day while cleaning out an old desk, I found a picture of “little me”…the one that wanted to be a star. The one that thought all was possible. I saw the twinkle in her eye and somewhere along the way, I'd lost my twinkle. I decided I didn't want to disappoint that little girl. That was the day I began to write a new story for my life.

Your story, no matter how tragic, is actually your fairytale looking for a happy ending. And that doesn’t mean at the end of your life. It means bringing a difficult circumstance or stage of your life to a close by transforming it and using it to pursue your superstar potential.

I’m here to tell you there is so much waiting for you if you’ll just say yes to rewriting your you own story. You’ll launch yourself out of this funk and into supercharging your future.

I realized, if I could survive the worst that can happen…the loss of a child…I can survive anything. So can you. And I can help you. But I’m offering you more than survival. I’m offering you a structure and a plan for getting your life onto the stage of a successful, happy life.

Discover how to be the star of your own story:
  1. Write down every positive and negative life event on a piece of paper divided length wise in two. Everyone has at least 5 that stand out. For me, there were several, the playground bully incident, giving birth, most life changing was the loss of my son and the grief that followed. 
  2. Write down what each event taught you in column two. For example,
    my daughter was born with a cleft. I felt devastated then but I learned the beauty of imperfection and the power of the written word when I wrote my book for her, Rosey...the Imperfect Angel. Today my daughter's scars are hardly noticeable and her smile radiates beauty and confidence. 
  3. Ask yourself, if I were to change the way I think about the negative incidents in the past, who would I be? Your past isn't holding you back, you just haven't learned how to use it in a positive way. Look at all you've survived! You're YOU because of it. Now let's make it work for your future. Proceed to step 4. 
  4. On another piece of paper, write down all your talents, qualities, and things you do well. Did any of these come as a result of a negative experience or life trauma, or as a result of something good that happened in your life? Look at the timeline and connect the dots. When you get an "ah hah," thank that incident for its gift. You've just uncovered "Your Why."
    (for more info, read my blog "Your Why Should Make You Cry."
  5. Ask friends and family what they consider to be your greatest attributes and talents. Write every single one down. They are reflecting who you are to them. It's eye opening. 
  6. Look at this list and see which of these talents get your heart beating. It's the one you think about when you wake up the next morning after doing this exercise. It's the one you never get tired of doing and the one that gives you a sense of joy. Mark that with a great big star!
  7. Congratulations. You've just found your life's purpose. 

Now take that purpose and figure out how it can be center stage in your life. Begin with just one step. For me, it was writing my book about the loss of my child in order to help others survive such a tragedy.

My book, How to Survive the Worst that can Happen, A Parent’s Step by Step Guide to Healing after the Loss of a Child, has gotten 5 star reviews and won several awards, but more importantly, it has given parents practical steps and hope that they will regain a happy life.

The exercise we just did was the very thing that awakened me to the thought that I should write the book. I wrote it from my heart and never could have imagined this success. It makes me feel as though I’ve done something that deserves to be center stage.

Get started on doing this simple exercise and then...get ready for your close-up.

You’re now on your way to being the star of your own movie! Better go buy yourself a new gown for that Red Carpet. I’ll be right there celebrating with you!

Lights! Camera! Action!

Best wishes in your stardom,


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