Dolly Parton's America

Have you heard Dolly Parton’s America?

I’d heard about Dolly Parton’s America podcast, had seen it come up as one of the most popular podcasts on my phone (Applepodcasts).

Not sure why I passed it up at first. I like Dolly, but I’m not a huge Country Music fan. I only know her pop songs, like “9 to 5” and “I Will Always Love You.” I couldn’t see the point of the podcast.

But it kept coming up so I decided to give it a listen.

Just a few minutes into Episode #1, I was hooked. 

Dolly Parton’s America is a 9 Episode podcast that dives into Dolly Parton, the Unifier. 

She’s everywhere

The show came about when Had Abumrad, a journalist who grew up in Dolly’s home state of Tennessee, attended a Dolly Parton concert in New York city.

He had never given much thought to just how big Dolly was, never thought much about her presence.

Until the concert. He marveled at the wide range of people of all races, ages, nationalities, and income levels who love her. He wondered, How could this country singer from Tennessee bring all these people together? Could she be a Unifier even in the current climate of political polarization? 

He wanted to learn more. And, it turns out, he had an “in” to getting an interview with Dolly Parton. His dad knows her! (Seems odd, but the show covers the connection.)

He started with one interview which turned into the WNYC’s 9 episode podcast: Dolly Parton’s America.

I found the podcast interesting, funny, and entertaining. You don’t have to be a fan to get something out of it, but especially if you love Dolly, it’s a must listen.


Dolly Parton’s story is a rags (literally) to riches story, for sure. But she’s also super smart, talented, candid, and seems to genuinely care about people.  

My big takeaways and what I learned from Dolly Parton on this podcast: 

  • Work hard
  • Stay the course
  • Believe in yourself
  • Look for the good in people
  • Keep your sense of humor
  • If you’re going to be the butt of a joke, beat ’em to the punch
  • Know what you believe
  • Stand up for yourself

Ask me anything.

The conversations about her work, career, beliefs, and attitudes are entertaining and enlightening.

Here’s a list of the Episode titles and a little bit about what’s covered in each:

Episode 1: Sad Ass Song 

Covers her persona, her songwriting and music tradition, and the lasting themes in her music

Episode 2: I Will Always Leave You

She answers questions about her long career, how she had to stand up for herself, and how following her intuition made all the difference 

Episode 3: Tennessee Mountain Trance

We learn about Dolly’s roots and how her songs about home resonate with people on a larger scale

Episode 4: Neon Moss

Expands on the idea of home and the longing we sometimes feel for something long gone

Episode 5: Dollitics

How Dolly handles politics by not handling politics

Episode 6: The Only One For Me, Jolene

How many different ways can you interpret a song that seems to have an obvious message? If the song is “Jolene,” a whole bunch of ways.

Episode 7: Dolly Parton’s America

There is a class at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville called Dolly Parton’s America. This episode discusses America in the context of the South and Appalachia as it is explored in the class.

Episode 8: Dixie Disappearance

A “Dixie” controversy at Dollywood and the larger issue of addressing the injustices of the past and the symbols that commemorate them.

Episode 9: She’s Alive!

Dolly talks about religion, her faith, and her plans to have her music far outlive her. 

Also, 2 bonus episodes feature her music performed by other artists. 

For more information, click here to go to the Podcast webpage

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It’s important to be good to others, but don’t forget to be good to yourself too

Be good to yourself. It’s a simple concept. It means treat yourself with love, consideration, and kindness. Be understanding and forgiving towards yourself.

The concept is simple, but not always easy.

What does it mean?

“Good people” are kind, supportive, considerate, and generous. They help us feel positive about ourselves and about life.

They’re like a warm blanket on a cold night or a bowl of chicken soup to ease a scratchy throat. 

But sometimes it feels more natural to be good to a stranger than to ourselves.

We tend to beat ourselves up, focus on our weaknesses, and criticize ourselves when we’re less than perfect. 

How can we lift ourselves up instead of putting ourselves down?

Be kind. Especially through difficult times, small acts of kindness go a long way. Take a few minutes out of a busy day to meditate, listen to uplifting music, or go for a walk.

Smile. Let your smile be your signature look. It can change your disposition and open your heart to self-love.

Be grateful. There’s an old saying that goes, “I cried that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” It doesn’t change your situation, but it may help you see it in a more positive light.

Forgive. Forgiveness is a powerful gift. It can take time to “get over” mistakes and imperfections, but it starts with a choice to forgive yourself.

Every day is a chance to be better than you were yesterday, to do better than you did yesterday. Make it a point to treat yourself with love, kindness, and compassion. Be good to yourself the same way you strive to be good to those you love.

What to do when you feel stuck in the weeds

What to do when you feel stuck in the weeds

Yogi Berra famously said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

I agree with that. You have to have a goal.

But that’s just the beginning. There’s more to it than that.

When I first started writing, all I knew was that I wanted to write a book. I thought I wanted to tell a particular story, but when I set out to write it, it turned into a different story, and that turned into something else, and then I wondered how I’d ever get it done when I was lost at the beginning.

It felt like I was in the weeds and it was frustrating and discouraging. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find my way out.

But I did.

Photo courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
Photo courtesy of Public Domain Pictures

Here are some things that helped me and they might help you too if you ever feel stuck in the weeds:

Stay flexible

My first plan didn’t work. Neither did my second. I don’t think my third did either. It was disappointing. At first I felt like I’d wasted time and energy on those first attempts. But then I realized they weren’t a waste at all. I learned from them. And I still have a lot of learning to do, but now I know better than to panic when things don’t work out like I thought they would. Now I know that a little flexibility goes a long way.

Connect with people who’ve been where you are

People want to help. Look for a book or blogpost, video or podcast from them. Find someone you resonate with. It may take a while. Keep looking. You’ll know when you find the person(s) whose message you need to hear. We all need encouragement to battle confusion and self-doubt. It helps to hear another person’s experience if only to boost your belief that if they did it, you can do it.

Find a process that works for you

Ask five different people how to do something – write a book, lose weight, get in shape, plan a trip, find a new job – you’re bound to get five different answers. Some writers outline every scene before writing a single word. Others start writing with a simple idea. Do your research to help you find a process that works for you.

Trust the process

Even when you have a roadmap to get where you’re going, you’re bound to face unexpected challenges along the way. Weeds. Don’t let them stop you. Make adjustments and regroup if necessary, then keep moving forward and don’t give up.

Once you know where you want to go and you’ve set your sights on a goal, keep these things in mind. Try one or more of these things to help you get out of the weeds and get back on course. You can do it!

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Practicing a Random Act of Kindness is a Choice

Have you ever heard a cosmic call for help? 

Almost like you’ve been tapped on the shoulder, like there’s some sort of alert that calls you to help out a fellow human being.

It could be something simple, like lending a hand to a stranger, or encouraging someone who’s having a bad day (or a bad moment).

At those times, it’s like something’s been put on your heart. You’re getting a call to action.

And you may really want to help, even believe you “should”, but still find reasons to keep quiet.

You tell yourself:
  • I don’t even know that guy/girl.
  • They’re going to think I’m crazy.
  • What if they get mad.
  • I don’t have time.
  • It’s none of my business.
  • I gotta get to work/home/someplace.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Most people probably go through a similar internal tug-of-war in those cases. I know I do.

A call to help

I was doing some last-minute Christmas shopping at a department store when I noticed an older woman walk by. She seemed to be about eighty years old and she walked up and down the aisles looking in between the racks of clothes and on the ground. I didn’t think much of it.

Then I saw her pass again. She had an anxious look on her face. I noticed she hobbled a little and held on to tables as she walked past.

I figured she was looking for something she’d lost. By this time, I’d been in the store for a while and I was ready to head home. But I got that cosmic tap on the shoulder to offer to help, to at least ask her if she was okay.

Still, I started to leave the store without a word.

“I’m sure she’s fine,” I told myself and I started to leave.

Then I thought of my eighty-year old mom (who’s mobile and active, thank God). What if she needed help and people who could help her just walked away, like I was doing? Maybe she’d be okay, but having a little extra assistance could help her feel more secure. 

I turned around and looked for the woman. “Are you okay? Can I help you find something?” I asked her.

She’d lost her cane

She explained that she was looking for her cane, that she’d been at the store the day before and thought she might have left it there. It hadn’t been turned in to store staff and she needed it.

I offered to help her look for it and she held my arm for support because she was a little more wobbly than I first realized.

She seemed disgusted that she’d lost something so important with no idea where she’d left it. (I hate when that happens!) I tried to reassure her and told her that happens to everyone, young and old alike.

We walked around a while looking for her cane until she decided that she’d lost it for good, maybe at another store she’d been to the day before.

I helped her out of the store. She thanked me for my help and we each went on with our day.

I tell you the story to illustrate the point:
I had to convince myself to act, to show this simple act of kindness.

That’s a hard thing for me to admit.

There should have been no question that I would help this woman even though she might have been okay without me. Even so, sometimes having someone to lean on when you’re feeling a little shaky can make a difference.

Sometimes people are put in your path because you can give them something they need: encouragement, a steady hand, an extra hand, a smile.

And you may need to convince yourself to answer the call and offer what you can easily give. There are times you may end up walking away from an opportunity like I started to do that day.

I could have easily walked away, gotten in my car and driven home.

But I think that if I had, I would have wondered what I could have done to help her and if she was okay. And, of course, it would have been too late.

What about you?

Does this sound familiar? Do you easily answer when you’re called to practice a random act of kindness? Or do you talk yourself out of it like I almost did that day and as I’ve done in the past.

Even when the call to help is loud and clear, you have to choose to act

Practicing random acts of kindness

  • helps connect us
  • causes us to look at a person instead of looking past him/her
  • can help a person feel like someone cares
  • can make a difference in a person’s day

It’s okay if you have to convince yourself to act. Lots of us do.

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Pick a challenge, any challenge

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Committing to a 30-day challenge is a great way of getting you on course to meet a personal goal. It can help you form new habits.

Accepting a challenge changes your level of accountability, so instead of saying, “I’m gonna try to do _______________,” you make a more specific commitment.

For example:

I’m going to do 20 pushups or walk 20 sit-ups a day for 30 days.

Or I’m going to eat out no more than one meal a week for a month.

You can:

  • make it official and sign up for an online or in-person challenge
  • put your word or money on the line
  • tell friends and family
  • get a buddy to join you
  • or you can keep it to yourself

So what is something you want to accomplish?  Would you like to be more organized, dependable, kind, considerate, happy, relaxed, or frugal?

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Maybe you want to drink more water, eat healthier food, exercise, read more, or save money. 

Committing to a short-term challenge is a great place to start.

When I first started working out, I had a hard time being consistent. Life always seemed to get in the way.

Signing up for an event, like a 5k, 10k, half marathon, or obstacle course race, helped me stay more committed. And signing up and training with a friend really helped too.

If there’s something you want, something you struggle doing consistently, a short term challenge can help you improve your habits.

We are what we repeatedly do. ~ Aristotle

What will it be? A mental challenge? Physical? Financial?

Pick one. Then set yourself up to rise to the occasion.

Make it something you’re willing to work for.

(See What do you want an how bad do you want it? to help you decide what you want.)

Need some ideas? Click here for 100 30 day challenge ideas to turn your life around.

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I’ve signed up for a challenge: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

People from all over the world participate in this focused effort to write a novel of at least 50,000 words (a short novel, but still a novel.) in the month of November. That’s an average of 1,667 words a day.

That’s what I’m doing. 

I invite you to pick a challenge and post it in the comments.

It doesn’t have to be big, it just has to be something you’re willing to focus on the change.

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What to do when you’re trying to figure out what’s next

You know that feeling when you’ve worked so hard for so long on something? It’s great to finish, to get to the end. Wonderful. Now you’ll have a chance to breathe. It’s a great feeling, but it can also be stressful.Photo courtesy of published on


Soon you start to wonder, “Now what?”

How will you fill your days? What will you plan for now?

Like when you’ve trained for an event (professional, athletic, personal) and you’re nervous and anxious, but then the day comes and you do it and then it’s over.

Or when you finish school or change jobs, or when your kids start growing up and you’re no longer the center of their world, or (yikes!) when they move out on their own and you have to let them go find their own way. (I know. It sounds wonderful, but when you’ve always been a mother bird, an empty nest can be a shock.)

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When a chapter in your life ends, you may find yourself asking, “Now what?”. While you’re figuring out your next move, stay positive. Stay hopeful.

Here are some suggestions to help you stay hopeful, happy and positive while you figure out your next move.

Listen to music.

There’s something about listening to upbeat, happy music that connects to your brain and helps you stay positive, even hopeful. (Click here to read a study about the link between music and happiness.)

For me it’s the music’s lyrics and beat, but also the artist and my emotional reaction to both.artwork courtesy of maxpixel accessed on google commons published on

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. The incredibly talented Sharon Jones, who died last year of pancreatic cancer, was forty years old when she started her music career. Her story and her powerful voice remind me it’s never too late. Don’t give up.

Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” makes me want to dance. Music has the power to turn you inside out. Instead of sulking and worrying and wondering about all that’s wrong with the world it helps keep you going and know it’s going to be okay.

“Swim” by Jacks Mannequin is just encouraging. They may be talking to angst filled teenagers, but they’re also talking to me. Don’t quit. Keep going, no matter what.

Get outdoors.

Change your scenery. Something about being outdoors helps clear the mind. Is it the vitamin D, the fresh air, the change in scenery? Maybe it’s all those things. When you’re changing courses, are in between projects, or trying to figure out what’s next, take a few minutes to get outside.

Get moving.

The mind-body connection is real and there’s science to back it up. Exercise, even a brisk walk, gets your blood going which gets oxygen in your blood, raises endorphin (feel good hormone) levels, lowers cortisol (stress hormone) levels, and can improve your sense of well-being. Exercise is always important, but especially when you have a lot on your mind.


When you’re not sure what you want to do, which direction to take, or how you feel about the changes in your life, journaling can help you clarify confusion. The simple act of writing it all out can be cleansing. It’s kind of like a mental dump. Journaling helps you see trends in thoughts and can help clear your head which in turn clears your path. The clearer you are, the more confidently you can move courtesy of accessed on google commons published on

Guard your mind.

Photo courtesy of PxHere accessed on google commons published on strong-woman.comIt’s easy to get sucked in to the news and social media. Be selective. If you believe everything you hear, the world is a terrible place to be. It’s never been worse. That influence can make a person feel hopeless. Take a break, pull yourself away, and focus on what’s within your control (what you do) instead of what’s out of your control (everything else).

Moving forward

Things change. Life is a constant ebb and flow, up and down. That’s what keeps life interesting, don’t you think? I wish you more ups than downs. But when you’re stuck between things, I wish you the time and opportunity to choose thoughtfully about your next project, to have the courage to move in the direction of your dreams.

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photo courtesty of accessed via google commons published on

Why bother trying so hard when no one notices?

What’s the point in trying so hard when no one seems to notice?

It can be discouraging when it feels like your work and effort don’t seem to matter to anyone. When you make sacrifices and work hard, but no one seems to notice or care.

I tend to look for distractions. Facebook, Yahoo and CNN headlines, dog videos.Graphic courtesy of published on

Why? Not for inspiration.


That is all. A quick fix of something other than focusing on what I’ve committed to do. No other reason.

Can’t I just skip it?

Who’ll notice if I don’t do it?

Will anyone care?

I don’t know the answer to those questions. What gets me back on track is to remember what I know.

What I know is:

There’s value in the process.Photo courtesy of pixabay commons published on

Getting dressed for a workout means I’m physically preparing to work out even when I don’t feel like it. Sitting down at my computer to write means I’m more likely to write. The value is in the practice, learning, experience.

Deadlines motivate. 

A deadline is a commitment. For me, meeting a deadline (even an arbitrary one) is a commitment I make to myself. If I blow off a deadline once, I’m more likely to blow it off next time and the time after that. It’s true with other things too, like exercise. 

It’s the law of physics: a body in motion tends to stay in motion while a body at rest tends to stay at rest.Photo courtesy of pixabay commons published on

Getting it done is its own reward. 

Getting my work done gives me the satisfaction of completing the task. I can check it off my list. When it’s done, it counts. The reward is a sense of accomplishment rather than regret or dread for not getting it done.

(Sometimes you need to rest and there’s no reason for guilt or remorse at having opted to “be lazy”.)

But if you always want to get out of it, you may need an attitude check. Remind yourself why you started. Stay motivated. Or it might be time for a change in direction. You may need to do something different.Photo courtesy of pixabay commons published on

External gratification can’t be the goal.

Decide that you don’t need anyone else to tell you what a good job you’re doing or how wonderful you are. Sure, it’s nice to hear positive comments from people, especially when you go out of your way to do something special for someone you love and they don’t acknowledge your effort. Do it because you want to, without expecting anything in return.

Once you’ve figured out what you want, (See “What do you want and how bad do you want it” if you’re having trouble figuring out what you want.) stay motivated to keep working toward your goals even when it feels like no one cares whether you do or not.

I have to remind myself of these things all the time.


Crossroads photo courtesy of pixabay published on

Discover the Value of Your Intuition

“The only real valuable thing is intuition.”  Albert Einstein

We all have it. It’s that gut feeling when you know something’s true even if you can’t explain it.  That feeling when you’re faced with a decision and you know exactly and without a doubt what you must do; when you absolutely know the right course of action.

It’s more than a hunch.

Intuition is brilliant. A guiding force. Always present, right, and true.

Compass photo courtesy of pixabay published on
Intuition is always true.

The beautiful thing is that you don’t have to do anything to get it. You already have it. All you have to do is listen.

But listening can be so, so, so hard.

Listen and you go down one road. Don’t hear, not sure, or ignore your intuition and you go down a different road.

It’s been my experience that

  • it’s better to follow, even though it’s scary
  • there’s usually a price to pay for not listening
  • intuition doesn’t hold a grudge; she will always speak to you again.

It’s your guide, your North Star.

Yes, it’s scary. I know.

Crossroads photo courtesy of pixabay published on
Which will you choose?

Your head screams at you:

  • What if it doesn’t work out.
  • And what if _______ happens
  • What are people going to say
  • You’re going to look stupid
  • You don’t know how to do _______
  • Think about the people you’ll disappoint.

That’s fear of the unknown and the unknown can be scary.

Einstein says intuition is the “only real valuable thing”.

Even though it must have played a huge role in his life and in his body of work, he probably had to learn to follow just like everybody else. He probably had days when he doubted himself. Doesn’t everyone?

What would happen if you discovered the value in the simplicity of listening to your intuition.

Where would it lead? 

For more on this topic, read 3 Empowering messages to tell yourself when you feel doubtful

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5 Ways to stay motivated to finish what you start

It’s hard to get to the finish line sometimes. You get super-charged about doing something big, like starting a business, going back to school, losing weight, or getting out of debt.

Then the novelty wears off. Your motivation wanes and you wonder if you can finish what you set out to do. You’re not alone. It happens to everyone. 

If you’ve managed to get started, but can’t seem to finish,

Here are 5 ways to help you stay motivated and finish what you started:

1. Do something.

It’s great to have a plan of action, but when you plan and plan for days or years, and never do anything, you may have a case of “analysis paralysis”. Stop thinking, analyzing, and projecting. Start doing. Even small actions every day will help you keep momentum to get you closer to your goals. Remember the law of physics. A body in motion tends to stay in motion. So don’t stop moving forward. When you have a project in progress, doing something every day will help you stay committed to the end.

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2. Give yourself a deadline.

“Some day” never comes. Most people are “deadline motivated”. Look where you want to go. You set your course according to your focus. For more information about this idea, see Where you look is where you’ll go.

3. Be okay with imperfection.

You have to start somewhere. If you expect perfection out of the gate, you’ll be disappointed and not even want to play anymore. Remember that everyone was a beginner at one time. Be patient with yourself. Don’t make your expectation of perfection an excuse to never get started. Read previous post about being okay with being a beginner: You have to start somewhere 

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4. Schedule your work.

If it helps to write out your daily plans, get a calendar and write them. Set it on your phone and remind yourself that you have an appointment to do whatever, like meditate, journal, read, etc.

Take care of yourself by prioritizing published on
5. Stay focused by minimizing distractions.

Don’t allow things to keep you from what you want to do. Potential distractions are everywhere, technology and otherwise. I didn’t realize smartphone addiction is a thing until I read Time Magazine’s article about smartphone addiction and how to get past it: Here’s How to Battle Your Smartphone Addiction. What an eye-opener.

Stay motivated by keeping your goal in mind and make it a point to:

  • do something every day
  • set deadlines
  • be okay with imperfection
  • schedule your work
  • stay focused by minimizing distractions

Remember why you started and be ready to keep yourself going with a daily dose of motivation.

Napoleon Hill says, “Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which pulsates everything.” See last week’s post Success starts with desire

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Can you be happy and still want more?

“Be happy with what you have while working for what you want.” ~ Helen Keller

How can you be happy with what you have if you still want more? 

Being happy with what you have helps you

  • Appreciate every day blessings
  • Have an attitude of gratitude
  • Choose happiness every day
  • Focus on all you have instead of what you don’t have.

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And while you are happy with what you have right now, continue working for what you want. Being happy with what you have doesn’t mean you settle for where you are.

  • Stay focused on your goals. If it’s worth having, it’s worth working for.
  • Decide what you want, then take action toward your goals, and don’t give up.
  • Be patient. Success takes time. It doesn’t usually happen all at once.
  • Trust the process. It’s in the journey that we gain the most.
  • Do the work. It’s up to you to figure it out.

Being patient can be a challenge. You may have to work at it. (That’s one of my daily challenges.)

Impatience leads to distractions. And there are so many potential distractions. 

You’re responsible for your own happiness. No one can do it for you.

The good news is, you can do it. No excuses.