Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Morning, I Couldn't Help But Think...

"Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated…” Hebrews 13:3

Christmas morning.
Hands wrapped around my steaming, oversized mug of peppermint mocha.
Sitting on my soft, comfortable chaise lounge.
Reclined and relaxed against fluffy pillows in my warm, cozy living room. 
Snuggling next to my smiling husband,
watching eager children unwrap presents wrapped with love,
taking in the joy and laughter of those sweet memories in the making.

Yet amidst the crescendo of this undeniably jubilant atmosphere, 
I couldn’t help but think of the worsening plight 
of U.S. Citizen Saeed Abedini, and his wrongful imprisonment in Iran.

I couldn’t help but think of the mental and physical torment that he has endured
while being held captive in Evin Prison, Tehran, and even worse,
what he’s suffered in Rajai Shahr Prison, Karaj, which,
Jordan Sekulow describes as being "known in 
the international human rights community as the prison 
where prisoners of conscience are sent to disappear,”
the prison in which he was abruptly transferred to without explanation.

I couldn’t help but think about Saeed’s wife, Naghemeh,
and the incomprehensible pain of being separated 
from her husband for yet another Christmas,
with no clear understanding of whether or not
she will ever see her beloved again.

I couldn’t help but think about Saeed’s children,
frightened and in despair, longing for their father’s 
embrace, protection, and presence.

And I couldn’t help but think that if it were my husband,
how I could only hope that all of you, family, friends and citizens alike,
would help amplify my voice to fight for his freedom.
That if he were visiting a foreign country in an effort to help orphaned children,
and was seized without cause, thrown into prison unjustly, tortured and abused,
that you would not let him be forgotten.

Under no circumstance should a U.S. citizen be allowed 
to be imprisoned in a foreign country without cause.
Please consider joining the growing number of people globally fighting for Saeed’s release
by continuing to flood the social media pipeline with a call to action.
Sign the petitions, reach out for your congressmen, the white house, the news stations,
celebrities, athletes, and anyone you can think of who will help cry out for justice.

#freesaeed #savesaeed

Keep Shining Sweet Bellas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

This Christmas...

"The only currency that will heal every culture is ceaseless love.” 
~Heidi Baker

For the first time in 20 years, I didn’t get my Christmas cards out this year!!!
Oh I made them alright, designed them on Shutterfly Thanksgiving weekend…
I was definitely on the ball and into the Christmas spirit. 
Cutest pic of the kids ever!
3 weeks into December, I can’t figure out why they haven’t arrived yet...
Apparently I made them, but never ORDERED them.


For the first time in 20 years I didn’t bake Christmas goodies for friends and family.
I visualized myself making them many times over, but somehow, it just never happened.

And now here we are, the eve of Christmas…How did these weeks fly by so quickly?

I loved seeing all of the notes that were floating around the web over the past few weeks
reminding us that there are many struggling this time of year,
and how important it is to make an extra effort to be tenderhearted.  

But really, this should be the standard every day of the year.

Somehow, in this ever expanding world of social media,
everybody seems to be quite consumed
with what everybody thinks 

It’s exhausting.

Why should someone else’s opinion
be a factor in how you treat them?

It shouldn’t.

What they think is between them and God.
How you treat them is between you and God.

I’m convinced that authentic “Christianity” looks
very different than what most “Christians” think, 
and I can testify that demonstration goes a lot further than lip service.

“Do everything without grumbling, arguing, so that you may
become blameless and pure…
Then you will shine among them like the stars” (Phil 2:14, 15b)

"You don't have to purpose to see the stars. 
You don't have to convince someone that there are stars. 
In the darkness of night, they stand out as points of light. 
Religion is like that, always trying to convince people that there are stars. 
People don't need to see religion. They need to see light. “ (Gary Keeseee)

Anyone who claims to be a “believer”
but isn’t walking in love, compassion, & grace,
isn’t really walking the walk.
Sadly, that’s often these days.
The collateral damage is exponential…
It’s leaving a trail of destruction,
and the walking wounded are everywhere as a result.
It’s heartbreaking to see, 
yet all the more reason to shine my light even brighter,
And I’m determined to be a part of the “clean up crew."

Sweet Bellas, my one wish for all of you this Christmas,
and every day thereafter,
is that you will love one another.
Fiercely. Without pretense, and without hesitation.
If you err in doing so, better to err on the side of love & grace, every time.

Merry Christmas, and my most heartfelt and sincere wishes 
for a very happy, healthy & blessed New Year.

Keep Shining Sweet Bellas!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Toughen Up & Control It, or It Will Control You...

"Like all technology, social media is neutral,
but is best put to work in the service
of building a better world."
~ Simon Mainwaring

When I first began Mangiabella, it was an eye opening experience to learn 
just how vast the ever expanding blogosphere was, 
and what was involved in leaving a footprint.
There was no shortage of information to learn in order to grow my readership,
create a design that expressed both my aim and purpose, 
while simultaneously showcasing my style and flavor. 
I began to discover the importance of figuring out 
how syndicated web feed formats worked, 
how to create links, buttons, understanding what monetizing was all about, 
how to use social media to enlarge my vision, 
and then there was the networking communities. Oy vei.

It was all a part of the process of giving birth to the blueprint of my vision, 
and in fact, it was really just the beginning.

It takes courage to step foot into unfamiliar territory, doesn't it?

One thing I can say, is the moment you begin to put yourself out there 
and take a step in the direction of your dreams,
the "Negative Nancys" will come out of the woodwork, 
so get ready to toughen your skin.
Guard your hearts and minds, and do not allow yourself 
to be persuaded by the opinions of others.
There are many who will question your motives when they see you 
begin to live with transparency and vulnerability, 
and more importantly, with determination and zeal, 
because it challenges their stagnancy & complacency.

The other thing I can say, is discipline yourself 
to take charge of the resources available to you, 
and make those resources work FOR you, rather than let them become a distraction.

While there's certainly a certain stigma associated with social media, 
I believe it's a great tool.
A tool that's meant to serve you, not the other way around.
Either you must control it, or it will control you.
Think about how to use that tool to serve your needs.
Ask yourself, what is it that I want to get out of this?

I know for myself personally, I use it to strengthen connections
 with my long distance family and friends.
Beneficially, I also get to remain connected 
with my nearby family & friends who I can't see as often as I'd like.
Professionally, it's an incredible outlet and platform 
to express my creative ideas, particularly my writing, that otherwise may not 
have an audience unless I were already published, 
as would have been the case years ago.

It's provided an opportunity to lay some groundwork, 
and begin the kind of public relations that's necessary for expanding my territory.
The theory of "Six Degrees of Separation" 
is unquestionably more tangible than ever before, 
as friends "share" content among their circle of friends, 
and those friends "share" content among their circle of friends...
it's astounding to see how quickly you can reach the masses, 
which in turn has the potential to bear much fruit.

I love that social media makes all of this possible from home, 
while I raise my children, and work my business.
I get such immense joy out of seeing the smiles of family and friends 
amidst the little moments that make life special.

Social media can be a springboard, or a vortex, 
depending on how you discipline yourself to use it.
You can waste time with it, or maximize your time with it. It's all up to you.

Some are convinced that social media 
is nothing more than a stage for vanity & validation. 
A "look at me" spectacle. 
And there will always be some people by which that is true.
But there are also those who will believe that about 
anyone who posts a photo of themselves smiling or out there enjoying life.
They're filled with assumptions and judgements, 
while forgetting the whole point of social media 
is sharing the every day moments 
and "doing life" with one another (on a personal level),
and marketing or networking with one another (on a professional level).

The majority of the people you stay connected with are FOR you,
 not against you, and genuinely want to enjoy life with you.
Give yourself permission to dismiss the rest, and any negativity for that matter, 
without trying to interpret the words or actions of those people.
Expect the sarcasm and jabs. 
Expect the cynics and pessimists and "Debbie Downers" to emerge, 
but whatever you do, don't let them be 
an obstacle in your path or the voice in your head.
Toughen that skin, and don't let anything stop you from 
shining that light and living your dreams.

Keep Shining Sweet Bellas!

Friday, July 19, 2013

If those pants could talk....the ultimate wardrobe malfunction.

There was the time when I was in the 7th grade. Now, the 7th grade is adequately torturous in and of itself, but I was naive enough to wear elastic waisted shorts to school that day to add to the torment. As I reached up for my combination lock (go figure, the shortest girl in the school was assigned a top locker), and without warning, blond haired mischievous blue eyed Tommy flies by at mach speed, grabbing both sides of my shorts, pulling my pants straight down to my ankles. It all seemed to happen in Matrix style slow motion, his haunting evil laughter echoing in the halls. 
I'd been de-pants-ed.

Then there was the time when I was walking through New York City on a hot sunny afternoon in late July with my sister in law. You could cut the muggy air with a knife. Surely a light sundress was in order on such a day as this, especially a vibrant green, black and white bohemian beauty with a black ribbon empire waist. Just as I meandered over one of those grated vents on the sidewalk, a wild gust of air shot up at precisely at the very moment I walked over it, shooting my dress straight up and around in a billowy cloud of dress flair, just like Marilyn Monroe, only I wasn't holding my dress in place...sigh. True story. You can ask the young store owner who walked out the front door to put a sign in the window at the exact moment my half nakedness was on display, him or any one of the other 2,000 eyewitnesses. Yep.

But the time that really stands out took place on a cool fall afternoon about 13 years ago. I was working the support desk for a popular retail catalogue call center. I had just purchased the most svelt techno-suede grayish/electric cornflower blue bootcut pants on the planet. These pants were rock star awesome. All the look and snazz of suede, but in a soft, breathable cotton blend that fit like a glove. The only way in and out of these pants was the side zipper, creatively hidden to look invisible. 
I loved these pants, we had a special connection. 

Now picture this: I had just finished a killer workout at the gym,
 downing nearly a gallon of water. 
As I walked in the front door for my afternoon shift, 
I could feel that water had already made it's way through my system 
and was knock-knock-knockin on bladder's door. 
Alrighty, no big deal. Just drop my stuff down, swipe in, check the vectors, 
make a quick bee line for the bathroom. 

As fortune would have it, the bathroom wasn't packed. 
Easy in and out, and back to my station, I love it when that happens! 
Or so I thought. 

As I locked the bathroom door behind me, and reached for my invisible side zipper, 
my day took a turn for the worst. 
I began to gently tug downward, only to meet resistance. 
Hmmm. Okay, try pulling up and then downward again. 


Okay seriously, what could be the problem here. 
Twisting sideways, looking over my shoulder to the side, 
fiercely tugging up and down, 
side to side, 
trying to pull fabric apart, 
tug, pull, jerk, shake. 

Okay. Let's get a grip here, we can work this out...
I'll just have to solicit some help from one of the girls here, 
maybe the awkward angle of me turning to try to get this zipper unstuck is working against me, 
I murmured as feelings of panic started to rise. 

*nervously clearing my throat* 
"Hey ladies, um, hey can one of you help me out here for a second? 
I can't seem to lodge this zipper loose on the side of my pants." 
A few chuckles emerged, then a response from one of my colleagues 
who sweetly replied, "sure, let's check it out." 

I opened the door and offered a perplexed smile of gratitude, turned to the side, 
and proceeded to squeeze and hold a kegel muscle flex 
with the uttmost maximum concentration necessary to ensure success against 
any potential collateral damage that could occur when you consider all of the jarring. 

Surely one of these women could set me free from the prison of my dice. 

Each workmate carefully got into the zone, secured their footing in place, 
squinted their eyes and put all of their focus and determination into 
"operation free her" no avail. 

This operation has officially escalated to code red status. 

I could feel my bladder expanding like a balloon. 
The pain of urine backing up in the pipes...
This is it. This is how it ends for me, I thought. 
My urine backs up so far that I spontaneously combust. 
Death by spontaneous combustion. 
Just like that. 
Come on, think! 

Time to take this to the next level, off to security. 

As I approached one of the security guards
I could see his casual smile quickly fade into a wincing curiosity. 
Must've been the painfully frantic stricken look on my face. 
Either that or the tense uptight manner in which I was walking towards him. 

"What's wrong?" he said. 
I gave him the cliff's notes assessment of the circumstances at hand. 
With eyes widened and a nod of understanding, 
he awkwardly raised his walkie talkie to this mouth, 
and with head slightly turned, pushed the side button of his communication device. 

*static* "Ahem," *clearing his throat* "uh, we've got a 'situation' here. 
Report to the mechanical room, over." 

Damn straight we've got a situation here, I thought to myself, as I winced in pain. 
I could hear the mottled response through my delirium. 
"Roger that." *static* 

My concentration began to wane as I fought off the overwhelming desire to pass out
Looking down I could see my lower abdomen protruding. 
I swear, I looked 6 months pregnant. 

The security guard led me into an area that could possibly hold 
the keys to my freedom. 

He possessed the disposition of a man that delicately balanced 
complete empathy and concern as he weighed the seriousness of the event, 
while simultaneously resisting the urge to bust out laughing in disbelief. 
One thing's for sure, there had never been 
a "situation" quite like this on the job. I'll tell you that right now.

There I lay, on the "operating" table/mechanical room island. Pliers. Sigh. 
Nothing would budge this stubborn zipper. 
The only other option involved a pair of scissors with one problem. 
I had no back up clothes.

My supervisor had been brought up to speed, and with a sympathetic expression 
graciously offered to let me leave for the day to "address the situation." 
You don't have to tell me twice. 
I ran to the support desk to call my husband to warn him of my pending arrival 
(we didn't own cell phones back then). 
He compassionately said he'd be waiting for me, scissors in hand.

I raced through the parking lot to my car, fumbling with my keys. 
Every pound of the pavement sent an eruption of nausea throughout my body.
Why did I have to drink so much water before my shift????? 
I peeled out of my space, screeched around the corner, 
and jumped on the freeway as fast as I could. 
Please don't let me get pulled over by a cop for speeding. 
Please don't let me get pulled over by a cop for speeding. 
Wait, What's this, TRAFFIC??!! 
By this point, I was hallucinating. This was the longest. drive. home. ever. 
Near 30 minutes later, I thrust into my driveway, flung open the car door 
and bolted to the front door which my husband already had open. 
The desperation in my eyes said it all. 
He, too, tried the infamous zipper, only to meet the same rejection as the others. 

With scissors in hand, he cut me out of my pants. 

I was cut. out. of my pants. 

Yes, this was probably one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. 
Having to be cut out of my pants. 

I'm so glad that at the end of the day, 
I am not the sum of my "most embarrassing moments." 
Aren't you? 
I think if nothing else, those moments are great opportunities 
to learn how to recover gracefully,
 and that Sweet Bellas,
 is a highly desirable skill to have on the resume of life.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

For Such A Time As This...

I vow it Bellas.
With every last breath.
I vow to bring beauty, and encouragement and inspiration 
to the doorstep of your hearts!!
It's becoming increasingly clear on how to begin doing that, 
but even more so, I acknowledge that the process has already begun!!
And really, it started quite some time ago...
Every endeavor, 
every step, 
every misstep,
every challenge,
every obstacle,
every lesson, 
has been preparation.
Preparation to play my role in a much larger story.
While I've always understood that in a general way,
the conviction has become more tangible than ever before.

I spent some time this past week evaluating the journey,
from my very first job to present day and everything in between.
I mean really bringing a magnifying glass down to it all...
Every bit of volunteering, classes, seminars, life experiences.
And I began thinking more intently on the skills 
that have been developed over time, 
the lessons learned...
I've been in training this whole time!!!
I wasn't prepared to leave a lasting footprint....until now.

In the late hours of the night,
I feel the nudge...I'm getting called out on my bad habits. ha!!!!
That's a good thing!!! Believe me I need it, how else am I going to fly
if I'm not willing to let go of the things that are weighing me down.
Routines and mindsets have to change, paradigms have to shift...
Each one of us have all of the internal discipline that we need 
to make the kind of daily choices that are essential to walk out the process.  

Bellas, you are eyewitnesses to my pilgrimage, my story...

So tell me, what will your story be?? What will your legacy be?? 
Each one of you has a God given destiny and purpose
 that only you can fulfill,
and I shall never tire of reminding you of that.

"Our lives were meant to be lived 
with purpose and intent, 
not mediocre default." 
~ Delatorro McNeal

Friday, May 10, 2013


Yeah, I know.
You don't have to tell me.
The world is broken.
But for crying out loud I am determined to be some glue.
In my own small way, I want to be a part of the healing.

My friend Jan posted this statement 
on her facebook page several weeks ago, 
and I can't stop thinking of the implications!! 
She said: 
there are many Sauls 
that are one encounter away 
from being the Pauls 
God called them to be." 


Never underestimate what God can do in people's lives, 
no matter what the circumstances look like,
no matter what they claim to believe or not believe.

I am reminded once again to love people WHERE THEY'RE AT.
We have the tendency to want to try to help "fix" so often,
and truly with the very best of intentions.
But sometimes people just need a break
 from being under the microscope.
Not everyone wants to be analyzed ALL the time. 
Sometimes they just need the freedom to be where they're at, 
even if it's in a messed up place right now,
without worrying whether or not we're breaking down
 every little thing they say or do. 
Sometimes they just need the grace to "be" 
and the room to "become." 
I'm not talking about setting healthy boundaries with people, 
clearly that's necessary at times, nobody needs to be a doormat.
I'm simply saying that we have no time to love people
 if we're always in analytical mode.
Sometimes people just need a touch IN SPITE OF where they're at.

xoxo Keep Shining Sweet Bellas xoxo


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