Tag Archives: Sandra Bienkowski

I Have Not Disappeared (Completely) into Mommyhood

Posted on June 14, 2014 in Happiness, Relationships, Self Improvement by Sandra Bienkowski

Yes, you might just find me in the morning picking up Cheerios off the floor and smashed banana pieces off my clothes. I turn my back for two seconds and my 17-month girls have found a way to dump water out of their sippy cups or make each other giggle by throwing food on the floor. Life is fun chaos … for sure.

With twins, my hubby, working from home, exercise, sleep (what’s that?) and all the usual life-maintenance stuff, I finally squeezed in a moment to share a bit of news with you! I recently started writing for MindBodyGreen. If you haven’t heard of MBG (say what?) it’s an awesome personal growth and wellness site! Check out my three latest articles below!


And thanks in advance for reading/commenting/sharing!

Gotta go now, I think I hear a baby waking up from an afternoon nap.



The 4 Best Lessons I Learned From Seeing A Therapist in My 20s

When I saw a psychologist for depression in my 20s, he told me I could win the hurt Olympics. My butt landed in that recliner chair across from him every Wednesday for an hour so I could stop the cycle of hurt. READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE: The 4 Best Lessons I Learned From Seeing A Therapist In My 20s

5 Signs You Are With the Wrong Person

Before I met my prince of a husband, I dated this guy I can’t even think about for two seconds without cringing. READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE: 5 Signs You’re With The Wrong Person

9 Tips to Save Your Marriage From Being Totally Boring

I heard once that people spend more time planning their wedding than their marriage. It stuck with me because it defies logic. Why spend more time planning a single day than the decades of marriage to follow? READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE:  9 Tips To Save Your Marriage From Being Totally Boring

Thanks for reading! Talk to you on the next send! – Sandra


How to Thrive, Not Just Survive

Posted on January 6, 2014 in Fulfillment, Happiness, Self Improvement by Sandra Bienkowski

There is a saying that people change for one of two reasons … they either learn enough that they want to, or they hurt enough so they have to. Many times I’ve made the decision to deliberately change—for both reasons. When life sucks, it’s a teacher and a motivator.

At the time, the guy I was dating was a dud. He had all the warning signs. He bragged about his bachelor status, he thought the ladies loved him, and he owned like two pieces of furniture. Oh, and my friends disliked him immensely.

Then there was my job. I was a health care editor with cool perks (like lots of travel—Vegas Baby!), but the company I worked for in Dallas was bought out by a company in California. Coworkers/friends walked by my office with their careers in a box. My job was safe (so they said), but I also was spending too much money. Job insecurity and over-spending? Not a brilliant combo for my future.

I was overweight. Self-medicating with Ben & Jerry’s and Lifetime movies in my solo apartment wasn’t doing a lot for my waistline. Eating to ease the 30-something, life-isn’t-going-as-I-thought-it-would blues, made me more blue.

In short, my life was kind of messy. So, I did what I always do in times of mini-crisis. I grabbed my journal. I jotted down the current state of things. I wasn’t wimpy about it. I gave my life a review like a movie critic. I didn’t gloss over the unattractive parts. I knew yours truly was responsible.

Then I sketched out my ideal life on a piece of paper. What would my life look like if I loved it? I was determined to shove my life from My Life Sucks to My Life Rocks … and fast. Soon I learned a lesson that stuck: We all have incredible influence over our lives with the decisions we make, and don’t make, each day.

Today, life is much different. I am married to the man of my dreams. We have beautiful twin daughters. I love being an entrepreneur with my own biz, and the freedom of working from home with a flexible schedule is divine. Oh, and we live in a town where people take vacations—so it’s no accident that sometimes our life feels like one.

Life changes when we change. There is power in knowing you can rewrite your life script. For me, I had to stop living for fun in the moment and map out my next steps. I had to wake myself up from the denial that happens when you choose the comfort of familiarity over what you really want. I got clear and brutally honest with myself on the life I desired. (I turned what I wanted into a list I read each morning over coffee.) It worked. Here are some more tips that worked …

Be willing to take a hard look. Be willing to step outside of your life and give it your best critique. Change won’t happen if you deny or ignore those little whispers that tell you something isn’t right. “Your willingness to look at your darkness is what empowers you to change,” as Iyanla Vanzant says. The uncomfortable part of change is short-lived—and the benefits are long-lasting.

Know everything can change. Don’t get so used to the way things currently are that you forget things can be completely different. Life doesn’t have to be about getting by, getting through or plodding along. It can be about thriving. Sketch out your ideal life. Is your current life close to your ideal vision? If not, what decisions do you have to make to get there? Formulate your action plan. Don’t choose familiarity over risk at the expense of your own happiness.

Forget the wait for the weekend mentality. If you are waiting for the weekend, something in your life needs to change. Why dread five days of the week and only look forward to two? Design your life so you don’t dread a day of the week. Life shouldn’t be spent waiting for the two days that begin with the letter S.

Get a job you don’t dread. Sure, you may have to drag your butt to a job you dread to pay the bills, but if that’s how you feel, devote some time to changing your job. I don’t care if the job market is tough, reinvention is possible. Don’t get stuck doing what you’ve always done if it wipes the smile off your face five days a week. Find something you are more passionate about. Consider entrepreneurship and positioning your strengths to work for yourself. Own your own time. No more depressing Monday Facebook posts for you!

Set your life up like a vacation. Oh, I’m big on this one. I love Seth Godin’s quote: “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” Okay, I may not be sitting around under a palm tree, sipping Pina Coladas, and flipping through a favorite magazine, but I do LOVE my life. I love our ordinary days. I deliberately do things to make life more like a vacation.

Purposefully choose where you live. I grew up in the snowbelt outside Syracuse and that’s why I moved South. Warm temps and sunshine make me happy. I like climates where people can dine outside almost year round.

Be in the right relationship. Finding the right person may not be easy, but knowing you have the right person is easy. Just ask yourself one question: Does your significant other make your life better?

Improve your ratio of excitement to dread. How can you get more exciting moments on your day and how can you reduce the dread? Make a dread list if you have to and make it your mission to make the list shorter. A great way to get more excitement is to fill your calendar with events and plans that make you excited with anticipation—a big contributor to happiness.

Connect to what you love doing. Don’t get so busy living life that you forget to do the things you love most. When is the last time you checked to see if the things you love doing the most are showing up on your monthly, weekly and daily calendar? Notice what resonates with you. On the days you are the happiest, what are you doing?

Don’t defer your happiness by waiting for vacation, waiting for the weekend or waiting for your life to change. You can change your life dramatically when you change the one thing you control—YOU.

No, It Is Not Menopause

Posted on December 16, 2013 in Relationships, Self Improvement by Sandra Bienkowski

Have you ever noticed people try and age you? When I was a kid and acting in a way my mom didn’t like, she’d say: “You are almost (fill in any age here)!” Meaning I was too old to be behaving the way I was behaving. It didn’t matter that my Birthday was just a few months back and I wasn’t almost “X.”

Then there’s my dad. He almost suffered the big one with my single status in my thirties. I didn’t follow his tidy view of how life is supposed to unfold: college, marriage in your twenties, career, and babies. Mine was more like: college, waitressing, handful of guys my dad didn’t like, career, marriage and babies. Sure, my dad brags to people about my national writing gigs, but at a recent wine tasting, he asked a table of strangers: “Can you believe my daughter didn’t get married until she was 41?” as he shook his head from side to side.

Today I’m blissfully married with twin baby girls and now people want me to enter menopause. I am open about my age and how marriage and babies didn’t happen for me until I hit my forties. (Gasp!) So now, even the slightest mention of a fluctuation in my body temperature or whining about an irregular cycle and suddenly people whisper: Is it menopause … do you think?

No, I don’t think. It’s not menopause. I am only 43.

And if I dare say those words, soon I am listening to a story about someone who knows someone who hit menopause early. Thank you for that uplifting story. I am sure night sweats, hot flashes and mood swings are waiting for me, but what’s with the rush?

Some people ask me if I dye my hair and when did I notice my first gray hair. Really? Is this the riveting conversation people in their thirties can look forward to? If my grandparents are any indication, I could live another 40 plus years. This isn’t what I want to talk about. Oh, and newsflash, I don’t have any grey hairs yet thank you very much.

Others ask: Is your hair thinning out as you get older? That’s cheerful. Uh, no. I don’t currently clip in fake hair, but as soon as I do I will be sure to do a public Facebook post.

Then I get the warnings from some well-meaning peeps about running. Forget that it’s one of my favorite things to do, how it keeps me in shape and how I placed top in my age group in a couple of 5Ks. Nope, I don’t get people cheering my passion. Instead, I get free public service announcements about how hard running can be on your body and how it might lead to runner’s knee or stress fractures.

Okay people, you are totally depressing me now. I get it. None of us make it out alive. If I listened to other people, my vision of my life would be a menopausal woman with thinning gray hair, hot flashes and a running injury.

If you must know, I think about getting a little Botox in between my eyebrows. I call it my crease of confusion—wrinkles from my puzzled face—wondering why people aren’t kinder to one other. I’ll be old soon enough damn it. Meanwhile, let me live. And quit trying to age me.

The Best Gift You Can Give to Your Children

Posted on September 14, 2013 in Happiness, Relationships, Self Improvement by Sandra Bienkowski

The best gift you can give to your children is not your time. It is not books. It is not college funds. It is not the best private school. It is not the biggest Pinterest-themed Birthday parties. It is not your amazing cooking. It is not your immaculate house. It is not your crazy-good multitasking skills. It is not putting your kids first. The best gift you can give to your kids is your own happiness. I know because I grew up with a mom who was sad.

My mom couldn’t have kids so she adopted my sister and me, but that didn’t heal her sadness. She never fixed herself from her own devastatingly crappy childhood so she repeated the pattern with us. Most of my memories of my mom involve her sitting at the kitchen table, smoking, complaining, drinking, and yelling at us. She didn’t act like she liked us. The most devastating part for me—now that she’s gone—is to think of what could have been. This is a woman who looked beautiful when she dressed up. She had a bubbly, quirky personality that would sometimes emerge from the sadness. When she was kind, she was really kind. But that side of her didn’t show up often enough.

She never got over not being able to get pregnant and have babies. She never got over not finishing college like my dad did. She never talked about, processed or fixed her childhood that involved violence and secrets. Secrets she said she’d tell my sister and me about one day. That day never arrived. She had a father and a brother I never met. I finally saw some glimmers of true happiness in her late 60s and 70s. My sister’s boys—her grandsons—brought her happiness. My dad, retired, brought her happiness. Then she got cancer. She didn’t want to die. Death took her anyway.

Sometimes now I wish I knew—as a child—how to change things for her, even if it wasn’t my job. Back then I was only consumed with navigating my own survival in the crazy chaos that went on inside our postcard-looking home. It’s hard to console yourself with your mom’s death when you can’t tell yourself that your mom had a great life.

I watched my mom cry more times than I can count. I watched her take naps during the day. I listened to her rants. I heard her crying upstairs in her bedroom. I watched her quit numerous jobs. I watched her argue with my dad. I told myself early that it was bullshit and the cycle would stop with me.

I knew as a kid that there was no way I’d come out of that childhood intact so I sought counseling in my early twenties. I was in talk therapy weekly to dig myself out of depression’s grip and to end the pattern of craziness and sadness. I told myself I’d do it without medicating. I watched my mom medicate with alcohol and I wanted to fix myself without any type of pill or substance. Plus, I learned the difference between feeling better and getting better, and I wanted to get better. I did it with talk therapy, writing and processing. And it worked.

Now that I am a mom, I think my number one job to create a happy home and lead by example. I think it’s my job to be a happy person so I can be a healthy mom. I think it’s my job to have a happy relationship with my husband so we can be healthy parents. I think it’s my job to be happy, create happy moments, smile, laugh and exude positivity that fills up our house. It’s my job to live authentically happy—no matter what it takes.

I think it’s my job because I know my girls will be watching.

Making My Case: Why Personal Development is Cool

Posted on June 13, 2013 in Entrepreneurs, Fulfillment, Gratitude, Self Improvement by Sandra Bienkowski

“The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly—that is what each of us is here for.” Oscar Wilde

My husband and I own lots of personal development books. If you scanned our bookshelves, you’d find lots of titles about goals, fulfilling your potential, happiness and success. We get teased for our collection. People call it “self-help” with disdain. Others joke that our books make them feel like underachievers.

I get it. People like to make fun of personal development (PD) or self-help. It conjures up images of gurus leading people to run across fire or chop wood blocks in half to achieve personal empowerment. Some picture PD as people repeating positive affirmations to mirrors or weeping in the self-help aisle of Barnes and Noble. There’s some woo woo in PD that can give it a bad rap.

It never surprises me when people say they don’t like self-help and they won’t be voraciously reading the books anytime soon. What kills me is that good PD (and there’s a ton of it!) covers fundamental principles that are life-changing. It kills me that people would rather proudly declare that they don’t need those books and wear that sentiment as a badge of honor, than be open to information that could take their lives to a whole new level of happiness and fulfillment. Information like …

Fix yourself first. If you don’t work, nothing else will. I venture to say that more people ignore their issues than tackle them head on. Many people get stuck in their lives at the same point with the same problem, instead of taking a hard look at the underlying internal issue causing the problems. The foundation of PD is to fix YOU first. Get unstuck. People think they have a food problem, a job problem, a relationship problem, but it’s really just a YOU problem—we are all at the source of our problems. We are the common denominator. When you change, everything externally about your life changes too.

Figure out the kind of life you want to have first, then build your life around it. Instead of searching for a job and letting it dictate where you live … Instead of starting life where you end up after high school or college … first decide what kind of life you want to live. What kind of lifestyle do you want? I love the sun and wanted to live in places where it’s sunny most of the time—that’s why I’ve spent most of my adult years in Texas and now North Carolina. Sun makes me happy. I also love to be around people and hustle and bustle, so I live in walking distance to restaurants, shops and a movie theater. I have a sister who is the opposite, the quieter and the more rural, the better for her. It sounds like such a basic tip, but I’ve met lots of people who complain about where they live and can easily list what they don’t like about it, but they act like they can’t move. Life can change with just one decision.

Learn from the success of others so you don’t waste time. I love this principle. Most likely, what you want to do with your life someone has already achieved. Find out how they did it so you can learn their tips and strategies. Learn where they made mistakes so you don’t waste time making the same ones. What sounds like copying is more about being smart with your time. You don’t have to stumble where others have stumbled if you take the time to study them. Personal development legend Jim Rohn once said it would be great if failures gave seminars because then you would know exactly what not to do. Same goes for people who are successful, you can figure out what to do by studying them. As Jim Rohn said, “If you want to make money, study the acquisition of wealth. If you want to be happy, study people who are happy. Only by continuous learning do you open the doors of success.”

Choose to live positively. I know people right now who hate their jobs. HATE. They’d quit if they could. They get out of bed with that sinking feeling in their stomachs. They say things like, “It’s a job, right? I’m not supposed to like it.” And I’ve met people who hate a different aspect of their lives and they live with it, justifying it with sentences like: “Life is supposed to be hard,” or “Life is to be endured” as if suffering is noble. You can sell yourself on negative beliefs, or you can wake up and ask yourself what your life would look like if it was amazing—and then get busy making it so.

PD can be gained from the real stories in your life, not from mirrors and mantras. You can get your PD in all sorts of ways. If you still can’t stomach the self-help aisle of the bookstore, read biographies or find mentors who are more successful than you. Take a course, interview a grandparent, start a deep conversation with a friend or write in a journal. Or when you encounter adversity, ask yourself what you can learn from it. When you are especially happy, notice it, and ask yourself how you can get more of those moments. When you actively work to increase your self-awareness, you will be flooded with moments of clarity and ideas. You just may start listening to that quiet voice inside your head that knows what you need to do.

Being against personal development is like being against growth. Having an interest in it doesn’t mean your life is in tatters. Applying personal development is about living fearlessly—facing problems internally so you can watch everything improve externally. Sometimes immersing yourself in PD just means you want to take your already kick-ass-self up a notch—and do it expediently—so you can get busy loving (your kick-ass) life.

“When you are through learning, you are through.” Paul J. Meyer