Life Changes when you Discover the Beauty of Imperfection

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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 arms of Vincent, a hideous beast, who has the face and hands of a lion. He takes her below the city streets where there’s a utopian community of social outcasts in the labyrinth of tunnels underneath the city.

In the days that follow, Vincent cares for Catherine. He feeds her and reads Shakespeare as she lie in his bed, healing.

The remarkable part of the story is that the love affair begins while Catherine’s eyes are bandaged. When Catherine heals and sees Vincent’s face for the first time, she isn’t frightened at all. He was the gentle soul who lovingly cared for her. Unlike the traditional Beauty and the Beast story, this beast isn't physically transformed by Catherine’s love. Instead, the inner beauty of this man dominates the physical and it’s Catherine who’s transformed by his love.

Catherine quits her job at the law firm to become a District Attorney, specializing in fighting for the underdog. We watch week to week how love transforms them both, and the Beast suddenly becomes the most handsome man on the planet, even though his features never change.

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 also helped with character development in writing 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
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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 would take her in public before she began her surgeries. 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 first!

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 be part of a family who would love her and cherish her for all that she is.

And so... she was born. Her new family 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 the 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!

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 story. 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

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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,

How Creativity Can Heal Your Heart (Even if You're Not Creative!)

How Creativity Can Heal Your Heart
(Even if You're Not Creative)

Funny thing about tragedy, it often makes the creative mind wake up. Suddenly your thoughts are not the same as they were yesterday. Your brain comes alive with activity. It recalls memories, heightens imagination, and in a flash you view life through different eyes. Your life is in chaos and your mind cries out to restore peace and harmony. It never rests. 
On the night of my son’s death, exhausted, I lay down on the couch and closed my eyes. I wrapped myself into a ball and sought comfort in a cocoon of sadness. I heard only the din of voices from all of those who gathered in our home to support us through that tragic day.
My brain suddenly came alive. It awakened a compartment of memories, long since forgotten. The projector in my mind was an endless Playlist of Garrett’s life. It was as clear as if the events happened yesterday. I saw him as a baby, crawling in front of the shiny brass chest, amused by his own image. I could hear his voice in my head when he first learned to talk as his first word, “kitty” sputtered from his lips in delight. The memories were vivid with colors, and smells, and raw emotion. 
It felt as though I could touch him and actually hear his voice, so real and yet so unsatisfying because reality would abruptly hit me hard... my beautiful boy was gone from my arms forever. And then, I’d feel tears falling from my eyes, but my voice had no sound. I was afraid to cry out because it might erase the pictures in my head. If I could just have stayed there, in that moment, that dreamy state where I was with him. That was the only place my heart wanted to be. 
In the days that followed, I shared my days with the reality of life and the dream state of memories. My mind had never been so active. It was the beginning of awakening to creating a world where I had to feel and embrace life in other ways. My mind was capable of so much more than I thought! It was a transition I didn’t expect from loss. 
How often have you heard artists and writers say some of the best work of their lives were born out of suffering? It can be the catalyst for your creative world waking up.
I found great comfort in something the Zen Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh said. He compared death to a cloud in the sky. When it disappears, it doesn’t mean the cloud has died. The cloud continues in another form like rain or snow.
If you look up to the sky and the cloud is no longer there, the sky is just showing you a new way of looking at the cloud. Don’t be sad, the cloud is now rain that waters your garden.
So now you must plant a garden and watch the flowers grow. When you see the flowers in full bloom, you gather them and make a bouquet for your kitchen table.
The next day you can photograph them or paint them. Frame your photograph or painting
The garden I created for my son, Garrett's Garden
and hang it on your wall and know that every time you look at it, it will remind you of the beauty of your child in a new form.
Do you see how you are the creator of your future, now?
If you’re struggling with a difficult challenge, or loss, or tragedy, you will never be closer to God and creativity than you are right now.  I call it the “miracle of creativity” borne from the troubled mind.
I often think about who I was as a little girl and how even a finger painting left me feeling as though I'd done something remarkable. People say, "Oh no, I'm not creative." But look at your childhood. A popsicle stick transformed into a stick puppet was hours of fun, and a bucket of sand became a sand castle for a fairy tale. 
It doesn’t matter how good you thought it was, or what others thought. Your memory of doing it may have been jaded by teachers’ grades or comments from others, but none of that matters now. Whatever you create now is perfect because God is compelling you to soothe the upheaval in your mind.
When my son died, I created my rose garden during my bereavement. It brought me a place of comfort and peace, taught me about the cycles of life and became a memorial to my child.
I also found creativity at the ceramics studio where I painted bowls, pitchers, and platters with roses. I often took my children to the studio, and they, too, came alive with artistic ability. Everyone received hand painted gifts that year.
I painted this on a day when memories flooded
my emotions. It brought me peace
Today, I painted flowers on a glass jar. I saw something similar in a catalog, so I just made my own version of it. It made me happy.
While the critical thinking of your left brain tells you that sadness is everywhere and can never be any different, your right brain, the creative side, is screaming that it needs to create peace and harmony in new ways. Whether you express words in a journal, paint on a canvas, tend a garden, paint a room, or create new recipes, anything creative will help soothe the biochemistry in your brain.

Recently on Hay House Radio, I heard Dr. Christiane Northrup (internationally known for her empowering stance on women's health and wellness) say that creativity is a powerfully important therapeutic tool. It's as important to your well being as exercise and a healthy diet. 
As your creativity and your creations evolve, you will recognize your loss or challenge is represented in new forms.  In my son’s death, I gave him life in the birth of his story in my book, How to Survive the Worst that can Happen. I chose to write about him in hopes that my story will help people like you get through the worst time in your life, whether it be the loss of your beautiful child, loss of a loved one, a difficult divorce, financial struggles, or losing a home.
There’s a purpose in what you’re experiencing right now, and I urge you to resurrect creativity to help you through. Your purpose will be unveiled and become your guiding light into the next part of your life. 
For me, my purpose in experiencing the loss of my beautiful son gave him everlasting life in allowing me to help others...and for that I know he is with me forever. 
Is there something that you do that brings you joy? Think with your child heart. It's there, trust me. Create it and send me a picture! I’ll post it!

Stepping Stones: Creative Activities To Heal Chaos
  • Art is a very powerful way in which to process memories, challenges, and feelings. It gives you an opportunity to work with senses such as touch, sight, and feeling. Try an art class where you feel no pressure to be perfect.
  •  Go to a local ceramics studio where you can learn to work with clay or paint. Working with your hands and painting allows you to explore shapes and colors.   
  • Photography brings instant pleasure. With the ease of digital cameras and cell phones today, there are so many options to create beautiful works of art. Look into programs like iPhoto and Instagram for many creative ways to publish and print.
  • Music is another outlet for creative expression. Music tunes the heartstrings and opens up sensory emotions to feeling life in a new way. Sing, if you like to sing. Dance if you like to dance. Play the piano, or learn a new instrument. You will be surprised how your brain is open to music because it soothes the soul.
  • Create Playlists of music in iTunes. Music offers a way to instantly transform mood and can change your state of being. Create Playlists for different feelings. I have lists that make me happy, a list for my tears, a list for dancing, a list for reflecting, and a list to help me power up to face the day.
  • Writing is a powerful tool of expression and healing. Start a blog about your journey or a subject that inspires you. The easiest way to do this is to sign up on through Google. Write poetry of your feelings.       
  • Begin the book you've always wanted to write. Now is the time to tell your story.
    Besides it being a great tool for your own healing, others will benefit from reading your grief journey. You can choose to publish or not. This is for your recovery.
     My book, How to Survive the Worst that can Happen, is my tribute to healing after the loss of my beautiful son. In his death, I gave him life and legacy by using it to help others heal.

I urge you to find your creative gifts and you'll find a valuable tool to redirect your sadness, challenges and frustrations into clarity, peace, acceptance, and yes, even joy. I promise, borne out of your creativite spirit is a new life waiting to unfold. 

Share your stories of creativity with me. I would love it.
Best wishes and joy,

Sandy Peckinpah writes and speaks on 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 also hosts a radio show in Northern CA on KRXA AM Talk Radio.
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

The Pursuit of Happiness...10 Traits of Resilient People

The Pursuit of Happiness...
10 Traits of Resilient People, Revealed

Someone once told me I was the Queen of Resilience. I wear that crown proudly, because it represents all that I am, all that I've experienced, and the potential that I see for my future. My story is one of incredible love, and devastating 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.

I could have chosen to not survive. I could have chosen to blame others, be mad at God, or be angry for the rest of my life. Instead, I chose life… my life… a happy life. 

I used to wake up every morning with joy. But after my son died, the foggy bliss would quickly shift as my brain roused from sleep. It would hit me, and the bliss would dissolve quickly into waves of sadness. My inner voice told me that sorrow was my only option.
The Kingdom of Resilience is filled with
beauty, joy, success, love
and most of all, the ability to bounce back!

One morning I awoke to the sounds of my baby boy, Jackson, giggling. He was just a year old when I lost Garrett. He was laughing at the sun as it poured into the room and every time he looked at it, it made him sneeze, one sneeze after another.  His giggling was infectious and I burst into laughter. The sound of my own laughter was almost unrecognizable to me. I hadn't heard it in so long. Funny, I couldn’t find a bit of sadness in that early morning moment, only joy.

On that day I had a mystical magical revelation. I realized happiness is a choice you get to make every day as the sun rises. 

I was a "grieving parent," but suddenly that label was at war with my other designation... being the mother of a beautiful, laughing, happy baby boy. 

That was the beginning of my Queendom, reigning over my own happiness. Every morning I woke up with that choice. Happy or sad? It was choice. I chose happy most of the time. I say “most” because I know tears are important too. But the choice was mine. 

Because my mission is to spread happiness, I did a lot of research and observing what makes some people resilient and others not. The difference is how you choose to reign over your life.

Here are the traits of those who dwell in the Kingdom of Resilience:

1. They are optimistic
They know that life is about the sum total of experiences that make a successful, resilient life. There's a difference between just feeling positive and being optimistic. Being optimistic are the feelings that the present moment is in an optimum state. The concept of optimism is that the past, present, and future all contribute to everything being perfect as it should be. Therefore, the failures are as important as the successes for awakening new ideas and re-thinking new pathways to success and happiness. 

2. They look great most of the time.
How do you show up in the world? Your appearance is the first thing that people see. When we’re grocery shopping, at yoga class, or at work, we’re being seen and assessed by those around us. I’ve run into my clients more times than I can tell you at yoga or the grocery store. It doesn’t take much more effort to put on a nice pair of yoga pants and a cute work-out top. Same for the grocery store… just stop and put on a swipe of lipstick and check your hair before going in. Trust me, your next potential client, friend, or soul mate could be asking you to help pick out the sweetest peaches in the produce section. It happened to me!
Resilience3. They take steps to break the pattern of fear and worry in life.
You ask any successful person if they had fear going to their next level and they will tell you yes...but their passion made their fear work for them. In Steven Pressfield’s book “Do the Work,” he says Henry Fonda was still throwing up before each stage performance even when he was 75. In other words, fear doesn’t go away. It’s a battle that must be fought by dynamic people every day.

4. They post responsibly on Facebook and Twitter
Social networking is here to stay and it’s time we establish the ground rules. Remember this is one more reflection of who you are. Think before you post and always with intention. My goal on social networking is to establish my community. In addition to family and friends, my clients are on Facebook. I want them to know me and trust me. Treat Facebook like a neighborhood. Our front yards are always mowed and we enjoy sharing with our neighbors and friends, but what goes on inside the house is nobody’s business. Of course we can share our lives, our frustrations, and our joys, but
just like our neighborhood, we have to all get along and some things are best kept in private. Please, think before you post. One more thing, my husband found me on Facebook! I believe in the power of connection!
5. They get out of the house and do something to break the pattern of feeling blue.
If you’re feeling down, visit a zoo, a pet shelter, the ocean, or a park. Even a trip to the grocery store will force you to get yourself out of the house and talking to people. Make a point of saying something nice to someone you encounter. It will make their day and in turn, the goodness they feel will bounce right back to you.
6. They have a playful, creative spirit that feeds their child heart.
Many people believe they’re not creative, but everyone is. Just look back to your childhood. Did you build a sand castle at the beach? Did you finger paint on giant sheets of butcher paper? Did you make cabins with popsicle sticks? Did you mold animals with Play Doh? It didn’t matter how good you thought it was, or what others thought, you did it because it made you happy. Start by taking photos of flowers and the sunsets with your smart phone. Print and frame them. Try painting a glass vase with acrylic paint and when it’s dry, fill it with flowers! Start a blog or write a silly poem! Play an instrument, sing a song! Go to a ceramics studio and paint a bowl with cherries. Now your life is just a bowl of cherries! Remember...always keep your child heart.

7. They know that what they do for a living is one of the highest spiritual expressions of who they are.
I'm learning now, more than ever that our jobs are often the highest expression of our spirits. A huge responsibility! Think about it, we spend the majority of our lives working our jobs. Resilient people like what they do (most of the time). It’s also the reason resilient people are highly successful. 

8. They've learned that resistance is a force of nature and fight hard to keep it out of the Kingdom of Resilience.
Author Steven Pressfield defines resistance as “ a repelling force. It’s negative. It’s aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.”  Resistance can manifest itself in different spending too much time on Facebook when you have a writing deadline, or avoiding phone calls that might change your life. Anything that stops you from the best use of your time or prevents you from becoming your best self is resistance. Get your sword and armor and start fighting back.
9. They have a mindfulness daily practice.
Mounting evidence reveals that more and more highly successful people either meditate, pray, or have some sort of spiritual practice they do every day. It is proven to increase emotional well-being, improve focus, enhance creativity, lower stress, encourage better sleep habits, and revitalize health. Wouldn’t you trade 15 minutes of your day to guarantee success?

Here's your crown to print and cut out. I will send you this
AND my FREE ebook:
Stepping Stones to a Resilient Life
Email me at the email below and put "Crown" in the 
 subject line 
10. They know that nothing ever stays the same. Ever. When you try to hold onto something, or someone, or keep everything the same, that’s the moment when change will happen. When you have a challenge, recognize it as a time to grow in faith and strength. 

At first, I thought my  journey in life had been defined by loss, but actually my story is about triumph. Resilience has helped me see what’s most important and has taught me that I am stronger and more successful than I ever imagined. 

Once you’ve become enlightened, you can never go back and be unenlightened. Now, you’re transformed. 

May I present you with your own Crown of Resilience? I’m pretty sure if you follow these steps and you proudly wear the crown, you, too, will bounce back from anything that comes your way and reign over a life well lived.

Best wishes and love,

Sandy Peckinpah writes and speaks on 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 also hosts a radio show in Northern CA on KRXA AM Talk Radio.
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

Choose Happy… 9 Steps to Re-Writing your Fairy Tale

Choose Happy…
9 Steps to Re-Writing your Fairy Tale

A few years ago, I turned fifty. Well, perhaps a little more than a few, but on that monumental half century mark, my world turned upside down.

Looking back on my “lifeline,” I entered my 42nd year, believing I had the perfect fairy-tale life.  I was happily married with four children. My husband was an Emmy-nominated writer/producer in the television industry. In fact, he wrote for a series that was a modern day fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast on CBS, starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perelman.

I was first, a wife and mother, and second, I worked alongside my husband as his editor and manager of our production company. Occasionally I took acting roles. It was a glitzy fun life.

Toward the end of my pivotal 42nd year, my life became a series of assaults on my castle.
A week before Christmas, my 16 year old son woke up with a fever. The doctor diagnosed him with the flu. The next morning, I went to awaken him. He was dead. The misdiagnosis was bacterial meningitis.

The aftermath was the tragic and painful charted course of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and ultimately, acceptance.

Except my husband never got to “acceptance,” instead, he ran away somewhere at the “anger” stage into the deep dark forest of my fairy tale.

By the end of the fourth decade of life, my husband wanted a divorce. His journey to escape grief ultimately killed him. He died suddenly at 54, and it broke my heart.

Chaos, utter chaos. I had no option but to defend my castle. The future I thought I had, suddenly disappeared. As part of the Baby Boomer generation, we were taught to get an education, get married, and live an abundant life. But it never prepared us for the unexpected, like…the death of a child, the loss of a husband, or the loss of a home or income.

I chose to look at this change differently… as though I was 20 and my whole life was ahead of me. I pretended I was full of options, and failure wasn’t one of them. I was on a mission. I had 3 children to support!

I created a plan for re-writing the tragedy of my fairy tale and choosing a happy life. The plan
included specific practices and steps… and they were non-negotiable.

9 Steps to Choosing Happy

1. Choose Happy:  When you wake up, your only choice should be to choose happy. You’re alive and blessed with another day. When you’ve suffered a loss, it’s not a life sentence. You learn to love harder, and never take waking up for granted again.

2. Feed the Spirit:  Read at least 15 minutes every day from inspirational and motivational books.  This is an important fuel for “happy.” It sort of “talks you into it,” when you can’t resurrect the feeling of “happy” for yourself.

3. Chaos is the Door to Transition: William Bridges, author ofThe Way of Transition” wrote:  “Change can happen at any time, but transition comes along when one chapter of your life is over and another is waiting in the wings to make its entrance.”  You can’t transition without chaos.

4. Surround Yourself with People Who Love You and Share Laughter. Avoid negative people! Remember, laughter is the buffer for difficult times. Find a friend who makes you laugh, or a funny movie, or watch something on YouTube! Laughter literally changes your body chemistry.

5. Create Something:  Everyone can create something whether it’s a garden, a poem, a painting, building a sand castle, cooking, etc.  You can be the most creative when you’re going through tough times because your brain longs for positive stimulation. Oddly enough…chaos fuels creativity. Go ahead, light the fire.
6. Use Symbols to Trigger Faith:  Choose symbols to remind you you’re alive with possibility. Roses are symbols of undying love and resilience. They’re cut back every year, enduring snow and frost, and yet they come back with glorious blooms each spring.  Your symbol can be in the form of a stone, a rose, anything that has special meaning. Clutch it, touch it and say to yourself: All things are possible.
7. Fuel your Body with Neurochemicals:  No…you can’t find them in pill form at the pharmacy, but you can manufacture them in your body.  Eating well and exercising is even more important when in crisis. Exercise releases “feel good” hormones into the brain.

8. Change a bad day by doing something for someone else. It’s the give and take that creates the tapestry of our lives.  

9.  Trust that everything is perfect right now. If it seems imperfect it’s just the perfect order of how things have to happen.

What I learned from my perfectly imperfect life is that everyone has a fairy tale life. After all, what are fairy tales but stories of triumph over adversity. No one is immune to having challenges, sorrows, and loss. Is there such a thing as happily ever after? Not during your lifetime. “Happily ever after” is a phrase used in fairy tales to hold the promise of a happy ending...That only happens at the end of your life, after you’ve lived a full life. It’s what you do now that will hold the promise of a happy ending.

I’m now in my 6th decade of life. I’m supporting my castle, I’ve put my children through college, and life continues to awaken me with awe and possibility. I met my prince charming two years ago, married… and my intention is to live happily ever after. I expect more bumps in the road, but guess what? I know I can handle anything that comes my way.

You see, a resilient life is about taking the sum total of all of the joys and sorrows, finding a path for resilience, and never giving up until you’ve triumphed.

                                              Best wishes and joy,
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