I'm Deborah, survivor of everything from multiple cancer battles to major business setbacks. Join my search for ways to move the mountains, big & small, that block your path to success.

3 ways to bridge generations

Generations of Women Rollerblading Together

So we were driving along in the family van, three generations of Robertses ranging in age from eight to over 80, when the topic turned to music. My sister-in-law had been to a funeral that day for a young man just out of his teens, and commented that they’d laid him to rest with Green Day’s “The Time of Your Life.

“I’ve always wanted that played at my funeral,” I said, prompting my mother to ask again the name of the song.

Good Riddance,” I replied, using the alternate title of the composition Billie Joe Armstrong originally wrote about the breakup of a relationship. “Good grief,” my mother said, “what kind of song is that to play at a funeral?” My sister-in-law, brother, and I quickly assured her it was an appropriate song about endings.

Suddenly my nine-year-old nephew piped up from the back. “This is the song I want at my funeral.” He held up his iPod


“Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road.

Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go.

So make the best of this test and don’t ask why.

It’s not a question but a lesson learned in time.

It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right.

I hope you had the time of your life.”


“That’s it!” the middle generation chimed together.

“That’s beautiful,” my mother said.

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How to be safe in the heat

Silhouette of Flying Ring-Billed Gull at Sunrise, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge


“You look exhausted,” the grocery cashier commented.

“Yes,” I confided, “and I still have to work tonight.”

“At least you work at home,” she smiled, “so you can shower and change into something comfortable.”

It seemed a little odd that she mentioned showering at 9:30 p.m., but after she mentioned it three more times, it was obvious she thought I need a good scrubbing. Must have been the sweat-soaked hair framing my face and the streams free-flowing down my cheeks and neck. Another hot, humid Florida night in what has seemed to be an endless series of heat waves.

Dorothy Gale would have nothing to fear living here. The Wicked Witch of the West would melt on arrival.

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4 steps to repair your life

Little Girl with Her Kitten and Brother Looking on at Wreckage After Tornado

Oscar Fulgham thought he was prepared the day a massive tornado leveled much of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The 69-year-old former Army staff sergeant told the Los Angeles Times he’d been watching weather reports and planned to take refuge in his bathroom if the twister moved toward his one-story duplex. But no matter how much you think you’ve prepared for the unexpected, it can still catch you off-guard.

“You can’t believe how fast that thing was moving,” Fulgham said. “The sky turned black, and then it was on us before we had time to think.”

Fulgham made it to the bathroom just as violent winds clawed off the roof, exploded the windows, and blew out the walls. Six seconds. Fulgham survived, but in just six seconds, his home was gone.

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How to find common bonds

Jackie Robinson - First Day, with Spider Jorgenson, Pee Wee Reese, Ed Stankey

As humans we have many splendid qualities … and a few failings. One of our less commendable characteristics is a tendency to dislike and distrust people based on surface differences without taking the trouble to learn who they are inside. Even the most reasonable among us are sometimes influenced by stereotypes about race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, political persuasion, and regionality. As a result, we shortchange people we don’t know—and miss the opportunity for interesting and enriching interactions.

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Learn to develop discernment

Hand on Computer Keyboard with Globe

Just caught a commercial for an upcoming program with actor Tim Curry playing a serial-killer type, and I couldn’t help thinking, “He looks pretty good for a dead guy.”

Several years ago, a coworker claimed she’d heard on the radio that Curry, star of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, had died. My brother happened to phone, and I passed along the erroneous news—which he’s never let me forget. Curry is one of the most booked actors in the business, and with each appearance, my brother notes, “He looks pretty good for a dead guy.”

Can’t blame my brother. He doesn’t get many opportunities to rib me about falling for wild rumors. I’m the kind who wouldn’t believe the sky was blue unless I checked it myself. To say I’m not trusting is putting it mildly. So it’s mind-boggling to me why otherwise rational people will fall for anything that arrives in their in-boxes promising: I SWEAR THIS IS TRUE. That’s usually the first indication it’s not.

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Be confident in your ideas

South Sawyer Glacier and the Coast Range, Alaska

In these precarious times, it takes courage to approach others with an idea for a new project you believe will pay off in the long run. And it takes special courage to stand by your idea when no one but you can see its value.

William Seward had that kind of courage.

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Voice your self-esteem needs

Lonesome Dove, 1989

One of my favorite books is Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, and I’m equally crazy about the miniseries adaptation. I particularly love the scene when Captain Call takes exception to an Army scout whacking young Newt, who’s trying to prevent him from commandeering Dish’s horse. Captain Call sets the scout straight with some brutal whacking of his own, then quietly tells the stunned onlookers: “I hate rude behavior in a man. Won’t tolerate it.”

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Stare down your weight problems

Einstein Eat Smart Poster

People often make weight loss more difficult than it has to be. All you have to do is take in fewer calories than you burn. Uh-huh … easier said than done.

If you’re finding it difficult to get control over your food consumption, maybe all you really need is to learn how to show the food who’s boss. Just take the same approach as when your kids are misbehaving, your coworkers are getting on your nerves, your dog is chewing your slippers, and the customer-service rep is trying to deny your refund: Give that food an icy stare.

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Time-saving tip

Dance Diagram, c.1962 (Tango)

You’ve been trying for years to perfect your recipe for old-fashioned boiled fudge. A little pinch of this, a little drop of that … Eureka! This year you’ve finally managed it! Fudge just like great-grandma used to make. So of course, you’ll trust yourself to remember the recipe, right?

Of course, not. You’ll record the recipe and keep it in your recipe file. But why don’t we have the good sense to use the same approach with the other processes and formulas we perfect?

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Believe in yourself … regardless

Chicago Bulls

You sorta know when a guy nicknamed “Stinky” does you a favor … well, to wind up with roses, you might have to start with manure.

Johnny “Red” Kerr wanted to be coach basketball. And he had pretty good credentials for the job. During three years at the University of Illinois, he’d scored 1,299 points to help the Fighting Illini win a Big 10 Championship. As a pro rookie, he’d helped the Syracuse Nationals win an NBA Championship. And as vice president of the ABA’s Virginia Squires, he’d demonstrated an eye for judging talent by taking a chance on then-unknown Julius Erving.

But as writer Marty Farmer recounted on the Chicago Bulls Web site, what Red really needed to make his career grow was a lot of support—and a little manure—from his old pal Stinky Fryer.

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