Thursday, October 19, 2017





An Attitude of Gratitude

Connection with Self and Source,

with Relationships, Finding Wholeness & Grounding

Natalie I. Lancaster, Change Leader
(Written for Modern Widows Club Blog)


Brother David Steindl-Rast
I love being  able to share my life with so many lovely ladies that I would have never met except for loss. It is a strange feeling to realize we would not be who we are, and to some extent who we were born to be, if not for being widows together... It always makes me grateful that I get to be who I was born to be because I met YOU!
However, when I was asked to write the blog about Connection with Self and Source, w/ Relationships, Finding Wholeness and Grounding this week, I hesitated.  I have recently accepted a very exciting consulting job, and am literally driving around with my wardrobe and jewelry in the back a rental car (as a result of of some of our family impacts caused by Hurricane Harvey) ... so it's been a little crazy. A friend asked me how I was enjoying "living out of my car" and actually I can honestly say, I'm enjoying being a vagabond!


Change makes us grow when we have to live
outside our comfort zone and try new things.

It also keeps us grounded and grateful for all that we have.  I have found I can pray, walk, work, eat and sleep just about anywhere. Sharing dinner and pillows at different places has been very enriching. And I have also learned to appreciate all that I have in my own life, my family and friends, my home and this new, ever evolving single life.  

I am joyful.  I am blessed. I am grateful.

Having an Attitude of Gratitude has been my saving grace all my life. I do always try to see the silver lining in the clouds. I can see the hope that springs from chaos. I know the growth that comes in suffering. We have to pull and stretch, and reach up in order to grow. Gratitude keeps me focused, aligned and grounded.
I think one of the first things that "grounded" me after I lost Kevin was that life is fragile and should be lived out loud. I had always had a bit of this mindset, especially since I lost my boyfriend, Philip, at the tender age of 16, to suicide. He always encouraged me live a rich, full life. He truly taught me to live my life out loud and not to be afraid to try new things. I do challenge myself often. If I want to do something, but I’m a bit scared, I just make a deal with myself and push thru. At my first Texas Land Title Convention I made myself promise that I could not come back to my room until I had “met three new people and stayed at the reception for one hour.” I did it and I made it. This month, I am honored to be featured author as the “centerfold” article in the American Land Title Association's Magazine "Title News" on the Need for Change Management. I served as the chairman of the Education Committee for over 10 years. You really can make yourself do uncomfortable things and live through it. And it will be amazing!

After Kevin died, I became even more committed to living my life outloud!  I never ever wanted to have another ordinary day again. I want to live an extraordinary life and I struggle watching others do less...
"An attitude of gratitude means making it a habit
to express thankfulness and appreciation
in all parts of your life, on a regular basis,
for both the big and small things alike."

As a ballerina in my early years, I studied Martha Graham, an American modern dancer and choreographer, who danced for over seventy years changing forever ballet in America. She shared:

“There is vitality, a life force, energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.” Martha: The Life and Work of Martha Graham by Agnes De Mille.



Father Charles Shelton, Jesuit priest, psychologist, and the author of The Gratitude Factor, says that the choice to live gratefully can help to improve virtually every aspect of a person's life. "Gratitude gives depth to the experience of joy, and profound meaning to less desirable tasks -  by ‘re-framing’ both as important aspects of the life that one receives from God. Since it is oriented toward others, the experience of gratitude can especially deepen bonds with friends and family."

Andrew Merle from the Huffington Post shares:
Wake up every day and express to yourself what you are grateful for.  Here are a few ideas to get you started:
(My thoughts in parenthesis.)
Write down 3 things you are most grateful for daily.
(We have done this exercise for our Houston Chapters and I often share journals with our new members)
Start a gratitude journal - Express gratitude in this journal every night by noting the things that you are grateful for, proud of, and excited about.
(Next to my bed!)
Acknowledge yourself for what you have done and accomplished. Instead of comparing yourself to others, give yourself credit for the big and small things you have been doing!
(It's sooo important to have YOUR goals and visions ... you have to KNOW them to BEHOLD them!!)
Acknowledge other people and thank them for inspiring/helping/supporting you - oftentimes people wait their whole lives to be acknowledged
(I'm so delighted to have met all my lovely ladies!)
Every day won't be perfect,
but focusing on what we are grateful for
tends to wash away feelings of anger and negativity.



Connection with Self and Source, with Relationships, Finding Wholeness and Grounding is a part of developing your brand new life; a Grateful Life!

Andrew Merle from the Huffington Post recommends a daily ritual:
Wake up every day and express to yourself what you are grateful for.  
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
(My thoughts in parenthesis.)
Write down 3 things you are most grateful for daily.
(We have done this exercise for our Houston Chapters and I often share journals with our new members)
Start a gratitude journal - Express gratitude in this journal every night by noting the things that you are grateful for, proud of, and excited about.
(Next to my bed!)
Acknowledge yourself for what you have done and accomplished. Instead of comparing yourself to others, give yourself credit for the big and small things you have been doing!
(It's sooo important to have YOUR goals and visions ... you have to KNOW them to BEHOLD them!!)
Acknowledge other people and thank them for inspiring/helping/supporting you - oftentimes people wait their whole lives to be acknowledged
(I'm so delighted to have met all my lovely ladies!)

Every day won't be perfect,
but focusing on what we are grateful for
tends to wash away feelings of anger and negativity.

Like anything else, if you commit to it, it will lead you to living a fuller life and enjoying every second. To be able to develop mindfulness, purposefulness and to begin exploring all you were born to be, gratitude must be practiced. Even if you have a really bad, terrible, awful, no good sort of day, you can choose to find joy in a flower, a big, bright blue sky, a friend’s smile. It is there, all around us and we just need to stop, take a breath, look around and let it soak in.

We can lift ourselves, and others as well,
when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought
and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude.  


Thomas Monson

Always be grateful & enjoy every second!
Love always & Forever

Natalie



Natalie Lancaster
MWC Leader,  
Houston and NW Houston/Katy Chapters
Houston, TX
natalie@modernwidowsclub.com



Natalie I. Lancaster is the Region Leader of the Modern Widows Club Houston Chapters. She calls herself "the Texas Tornado" and plans to promote chapters across the southwestern region of the United States. Additionally, she is the Innovative Change Leader of Lancaster Leadership, Inc., offering professional change leadership focusing on communication, consulting & training as well as personal development and transformation. She shares her insights on life and love after loss on eNJoyEvery2nd!


Natalie I. Lancaster
Innovative Change Leader
Lancaster Leadership, Inc. 
Coaching@LancasterLeadership.net



Sunday, September 3, 2017




Back to Basics
The Hurricane Harvey Edition



WATER  *  FOOD  *  SLEEP 
Those are the three things that Dr. Katz told me I had to have to survive the birth of our twin daughters. He told me that if I couldn't sleep & eat and take care of me, I would never be successful in caring for them. They were tiny 5.4 and 5.14 and they had to eat every two hours. Nicole was a slow eater and it took me over an hour to feed her and by then I had to feed Claire. When I was finished feeding Claire, it was time to feed Nicole again. I wasn't able to nurse. I couldn't produce enough milk. I felt like a failure as a mother. And then he told me what I had to do to survive, for all of us to survive and to begin to Thrive. I had to get back to the basics...  WATER  *  FOOD  *  SLEEP 

When Kevin died, I had to get back to the basics again. I was so focused on his care for three years, it was hard to wrap my weary mind around the fact that he was gone. I woke up the morning after he died, hearing the most horrible, guttural, terrifying scream, only to realize it was coming from me! My grief felt like my heart was being torn wide open; a pain I had never experienced before. As the days moved forward without me, I realized that I had to survive. The world would not stop. I had to keep living... WATER  *  FOOD  *  SLEEP 

I'm writing this blog to you during Hurricane Harvey. I have power, I don't have flooding (well yet...), and all my family is safe (so far!). But many of my friends, and other people all around me in our community are living with the impact of the strong, long lasting, storm that is dumping water on our area. Over 40 inches of rain in many parts of our community. Flooding, tornadoes, fear and danger surrounds us. Hundreds of thousands homeless and each new dawn brings more disaster to our city. It's time to get back to the basics again...WATER  *  FOOD  *  SLEEP 

   

But it's equally important to fill our "heart" basics; our spiritual and emotional needs. It's just as important to feel connected, to feel love, and to know you are safe and supported.

That is what the community of Modern Widows offers you. A peaceful place of hope to help you lean back into life after loss. To become resilient to learn to live a brand new life again, to THRIVE!

One of our recurring themes at our first ever Widows Empowerment Weekend in Orlando earlier this month was to take care of yourself first so you can take care of others. In other words, as Carolyn Moor says, "Put your oxygen mask on first! It's the only way you can help others." As women, and especially as widows, we often forget to do that. We are so focused as caregivers to care for others that we often forget to care for ourselves. It is so important.  

"We don't have to do it all alone. We were never meant to." 
Brene Brown - "The Gift of Imperfection"

Living through the ongoing storm of Hurricane Harvey with so many of my family, friends and wisters this past week has made me realize what we really need... 
Emotionally, 
Spiritually &
Personally. 
We need to be connected and to know we are safe in someone elses care for our soul. I think what I have grasped about humanity is that we must have that human connection to live and most certainly to thrive.

"We must remember that on some level we are already profoundly connected...
The more we go within to tap into this supply, the more equipped 
we are to come from there in our dealings..."  
Katherine Woodward Thomas - 
"Calling in the One"

It has been truly amazing to watch people from around the world come together to help all of us in Houston. At this treacherous time, we have all put aside our opinions, our hate, our pride and bonded together to serve. Right now, in this moment of tumultuous fear and devastation, we have no color, no race, no creed, just connection. We have love and hope and help for everyone that surrounds us in the depths of our despair, swirling in waters of our unknown future. We are not dressed up, we have no make up, or pretense, we are not wearing jewelry. Many have lost all their earthly possessions but together, we are UNITED. Together we link arms and push forward. Together we are connected! We will help each other move forward towards the light and dry land ahead. We shall overcome and we will THRIVE!

We see this as wisters as well. We leave no one behind. YOU are NEVER alone.  But this week, this unbelievable week, has left us both devastated and renewed; alone and together, homeless and bonded. Our hearts are brimming with love. Abandonment is supported by compassion. We are united in effort to rise above the water, the turmoil, and the fear, to work together to begin again and to survive. Yes, we are built To Thrive!

We are far from finished from the devastation from Hurricane Harvey and yet, we have grown so much because of this devastation. I'm sad to say sometimes these things are the only way we learn to grow as humans and it is always about getting back to the basics...We have been called to THRIVE!

 

PS: The photos of the flood posted are of my daughter and her husband's beautiful home. The night it flooded, their first child - a baby girl was born. We are truly blessed!

Natalie Lancaster
MWC Regional Leader,  
Houston and NW Houston/Katy Chapters
Houston, TX
natalie@modernwidowsclub.com


Natalie I. Lancaster is the Regional Leader of the Modern Widows Club Houston and Northwest Houston/Katy Chapters. She calls herself the "Southwest Regional Director for MWC - otherwise known as the Texas Tornado" and plans to promote chapters across the southwestern region of the United States. Additionally, she is the Innovative Change Leader of Lancaster Leadership, Inc., offering professional change leadership focusing on communication, consulting & training as well as ;life coaching including personal development and transformation. She shares her insights on life and love after loss on eNJoyEvery2nd!

Sunday, July 23, 2017






Some much needed FREEDOM...




Every human has four endowments -
self awareness,
conscience,
independent will and
creative imagination.
These give us the ultimate human freedom...
The power to choose, to respond, to change.
Stephen Covey


Steven Covey had a very powerful influence in my studies as Director of Learning & Development, and certainly in my current work as Change Leader. It makes me realize that we always have the power to choose how we respond to the events that impact our lives. It’s our attitude that truly determines our success in life. We are at choose each day to chose whether or not we live our lives enslaved by our own thoughts &  feelings, or free to live out lives out loud. It’s always about choice and decision. We get to decide every single day.


When I’m standing at the top of St. Barbe in St. Jean de Luz, France, it’s where I feel FREE! I am whole. I feel complete. I am one with the universe. Absolutely nothing is missing...It’s the perfect place for me. I think since my parents met and married there, I have roots that started there...long before I was in the twinkle of two lovers’ eyes, long before I was a vision or a conception…While it’s not an easy place to get to, I always enjoy my journey to get back home there.




The secret to happiness is freedom... And the secret to freedom is courage. Thucydides


I lost my husband, Kevin, 5.75 years ago at the young age of 53; the exact same age my Maman, lost her husband, my Father. Kevin and I have three amazing children and the journey has been long & hard, as you all know. However, this year, the 5th year, has been a year of growth. And as I learn, and stretch and grow, I do begin to feel more “at home” with the new me; the brand new me I’m creating. I’m starting to enjoy some new found freedoms….and I like it!




Change is ALWAYS about choice and decision. Last night, at our MWC Chapter Meeting, in preparation for writing this article, I asked some of our ladies what new found “freedoms” they have been enjoying… they shared a variety of fun things that included buying some fun clothes, learning line dancing, hiking up some great mountaintops, embracing exercise and healthy eating habits, long, adventuresome road trips, trips to  Disney World, the Holy Land, Ireland, Morocco and beyond.  Many, many new things these amazing ladies would never have done in their former lives, but that they are enjoying in their new lives.


My brother, sister with her whole family, and I were able to gift my Maman with a trip “home” to St. Jean de Luz, an idyllic fishing village in the Pyrenees mountains, for her 89th birthday, to visit all her family who lives there. We all had a wonderful time and she enjoyed being able to visit with all her children and family in one perfect spot on the planet. It is my favorite place by far on earth and it is there that I feel free…




Going to France this summer also allowed me to do some much needed healing. We went to St. Emillion and got to revisit my Father’s family Vineyard, Chateau Monlot, and to see his grave for the first time. I also was able to see my grandmother’s grave as well. She was an amazing influence in my life… she spent hours in her salon teaching me all about classical music (which I adore to this day!) and how to knit (which I never, ever mastered). She would walk me through her garden to smell the roses and clip vegetables and fruits for our dinner. The magnolia I smelled so fragrant then, is still standing strong now, generations later. She taught me to make homemade vinaigrette and soups. I also saw the military monuments built to honor my grandfather, Dr. Charles Ichon, a neurology surgeon, who helped save Jews (while being catholic) during the war, and their son Michel, who died in the war serving his country. My Grandmother lost her husband, and two sons before she passed away. She was a very young widow with many children to raise and a vineyard to run. She was powerful and successful. She had gumption! It was healing and freeing to see the places of rest for my beloved family members. We have a lot of history with that land. And it confirmed that Freedom  does always come at a price.


Just living is not enough... one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower. Hans Christian Andersen


I just got back from France a few days ago. If I close my eyes, I can still feel the cobblestone streets winding before my feet. I can taste the flesh of the white peaches & sips of rose wine. I can smell the fabulous flowers. I can hear the church bells summoning the faithful to come and rest. Come Rest in me and I will set you free…



We never chose to be on this unique journey of widowhood. And yet, here we are. Standing. Now, we have to Walk towards the light of our new freedom. We have to smile big & share hope. We have to live our lives out loud. We have to breathe and breathe again. Finally, we will find some peace.  


“The truth will set you free” (John 8:32)


I never ever lived alone before I lost my husband. I met my husband and married at 21 and moved out of my family home to my married home. We were together over 32 years. We have three children. We led busy, full lives. Now, after losing him, I have learned to live alone. And I have to say, while I miss his companionship, and the pitter patter of young feet all around me, I love the Peace and Quiet that being alone brings.It’s healing. It’s freeing.  I can clean my house, or water my flowers any time of day. I can do anything I want whenever I want and no one will question me. It’s my little piece of heaven and I love resting here. There is a price for Freedom, it is true. But we do have a choice each and every day - a Gift - to decide how we want to spend that time. We can spend all our minutes whirling around, but we are called from time to time to just STOP, to be still, to hike up the hill to the very top of St. Barbe and look around. See the beauty that surrounds you, breathe it in. Hold your breath, let it out slowly and just know you will overcome! You shall survive; you will grow & be strong & beautiful. We will THRIVE. Women are Survivors. It’s who we are; it's what we do. Modern Widows Club is totally committed to empowering YOU to find your way on your unique journey; to help bring you to a place of Peace; a home of FREEDOM and some much deserved REST. If you follow our lead, if you step out in FAITH, if you walk away from Fear… I PROMISE, the Rest will Follow…



“You can Stand in FAITH or you can Stand in FEAR; but you can’t stand in both places at the same time…” Quote from my son’s youth group


Love always, Love All Ways
(the way Kevin always signed his notes to me…)


Natalie




Monday, May 22, 2017



Just Beyond the Garden Gate… 


“If you don't make the time to work on creating the life you want,                 you're eventually going to be forced to spend a LOT of time dealing with a life you don't want.” ~Kevin Ngo
This month we are focusing on Extreme Health & Wellness. It’s important to realize that as Women, Wives, Widows, Mothers, Grandmother, Daughters and Friends, good health begins from within. We must care for ourselves first to be able to love and care for others.
I’m writing this newsletter from a chair in the hospital waiting room trying to balance my laptop on my crossed legs waiting for the professional staff to call my father in law back for his biopsy for a “malignant nodule” in his lung --I’m without a cup of coffee, I might add, sandwiched in-between my mother in law, my father in law and two walkers with a MWC newsletter deadline in the forefront of my mind…
For better or worse, in sickness and in health, a complete “Deja Vu” from my past with too much time spent in hospitals and not enough time on the porch of our  lakehouse, while my dearly beloved husband, Kevin, was ill. Oh my. I could be overwhelmed or depressed, or sad, but actually I’m not. I’m glad that I have the privilege to be here with my family. When you marry, you marry not only your soul mate but his entire family. Who knew… Anyway, while I sit her in the waiting room, it does honestly seem like the perfect time to write about Extreme Health and Wellness - Modern Widows Club’s Theme for May!  


This morning, when I woke to find the damp dew covering the garden after a night of rain and grey clouds looming, I stepped just outside the garden gate to walk the two pups ready to explore a new day. I was instantly reminded of a beautiful, little book, by Thomas Kinkade entitled “Beyond the Garden Gate”...
I pushed the gate that swung so silently
And I was in the garden and aware
Of early daylight on the flowers there
It reminded me that each new day is indeed a gift to be shared and experienced. We have a choice each and every day when we wake to determine how our outlook will be and what we will do with it. Some are good and some are not as good. But they are all unique gifts that allow us the opportunity to be the Best, “Wellest We” we can Be!


A few days ago, we celebrated Mother’s day, and for some reason, I just couldn’t “Do” Mother’s Day this year. Some days are just harder than others and I don't really know why.
I do know that it is always important to remember that we hurt because we loved. I spent some time doing some things for the New Me!
I didn't over plan and I gave myself "permission" to NOT go to church just because I just didn't want to... It just wasn't a hat & flowers kinda day for me...
Instead I chose to take Carolyn’s advice and “Pamper ME!”
I rode my bike,
I enjoyed my garden (Church of the Great Outdoors - I call it!),
I listened to Joel on TV (He always encourages me!!!),
And I read “Option B” by Sheryl Sandberg on my terrace, with a big cup of coffee and my toes in the sunshine…
We all have a choice to make on how we live the rest of our lives.
It's not what we thought we would have, but it is what we do have and you know what...It's ok... It's Good. In fact, it can be glorious to get a chance to make a choice and make a change...or two!
Our new life begins, just beyond the Garden Gate...look outside, dream beyond the perimeter of your mind, wonder what all your new life can hold for you…
Healthy, and Extremely Well… Grateful, Happy, even Joyful...You’re ALIVE!!
I'm becoming a whole new "Me", a unique new woman, with some spirit and some sass - and a lot of Gumption & Resilience -
I'm becoming a brand new Woman - a New Mother.
I'm becoming a new Grandmother or Ama (Mother is Basque)
I becoming the New Woman I Want to Be...
She takes care of herself.
She is fit and trim, eats right and exercises ( Ok, I said BECOMING ... I'm not there yet...)
She hikes
She rides bikes,
She paints her toes some very FUN colors,
She reads on the terrace in her garden,
She takes naps,
And some days, she seeks some peaceful refuge in the safety of her own "new" home to rest, reflect and recharge!
It felt so great to Give "Me" what I needed... I listened to Carolyn's call to "Mother ourselves... " And I spent My Day Papering ME! It was the perfect day for me!  We can't serve others if we don't take care of ourselves first! (Place your oxygen mask on you before you help others around you.)


I’m reading LOVE DOES by Bob Goff. If you haven’t read it, get it. You need to. He says…”God invites us to be new creations, original art, and to live a life of engagement.”
I totally connect with that statement and for me, right now, it ties in tightly with Extreme Health and Wellbeing. We are called to live above the norm in our new normal. We are among the chosen ones in the strangest sense of the word...We have been given an opportunity to course correct and make some changes to lead richer lives. It’s time to take care of ourselves because we just can’t be all we were born to be if we don’t.
You can’t just decide that instantly you will be extremely healthy and well. But we can make some choices each and every day to move forward, towards the goals you choose, with planning and persistence in that direction. I’m promising to. Being back in the hospital reminded me that I am more in control of me and my health than anyone else...So much of
I hope you have a great week and that you do something for YOU --Whatever you want that to be! Take care of YOU first and then you will be able to do all the other things we have to do.


One of our newest members, Diane, said... "We have to get on with the business of being widows!" She's absolutely right!  We do and We shall and We will ...right after we take care of ourselves for one short, delightful, perfectly selfish moment!! Remember to look just beyond the Garden Gate and Enjoy every second!!