Just Don’t

Just Don’t

Earlier this year, my good friend Steve Seminaro wrote an original song entitled, “Just Don’t.” Part of the chorus goes like this: “Just don’t hurt me, and I won’t hurt you. One simple rule just to help us through, when our hearts are scared and don’t know what to do…”

I almost instantly loved this song because I think really what it’s really about is intentions in relationships and with connections – not just about falling in love.  I thought about this concept a lot after I heard the song because it’s very simple to say “just don’t hurt me” or “just don’t…” ______ (whatever else it is).  Some may think it’s naïve to think that putting those words out there means it will never happen.  I completely see this point.  At the same time though, I think it is this easy if we are being realistic and honest with ourselves.  If you don’t want to hurt someone, don’t.  If you feel like your heart is scared, as Steve’s song says, own it and talk through it – either with the person you hurt (or have the potential to hurt) or someone else you can trust.  We all have times “when our hearts are scared and don’t know what to do,” I think the key is recognizing this, owning it, and moving through it, even though it feels difficult, scary and often puts us in such a vulnerable position to do.  This is how we grow – and this is how we ensure that we “just don’t” hurt, disrespect or disregard people we care about.

When we know we have hurt someone or let someone down, that’s the time to keep talking, not to withdraw.  When I have experienced friends who have disappeared (in terms of communication), I have always known that it is not about me, but it’s about them: something inside them is probably scared and likely their hearts do not know what to do.  I did not have Steve’s eloquent words until recently, but I have always known this to be true.  Instead of moving through the fear and unknown, they withdraw and disappear out of regular communication and habits with people they love – and I think that compounds the problem.  It takes away their loved ones’ chances to help them, and it isolates them at a time when they definitely should not be isolated.

When my heart is scared – or stressed, anxious, disappointed – and I don’t know what to do, I reflect, and I talk it out.  I talk about it with people I trust and with people who are close to me.  And then I try to center back to my intentions.  Oprah says, “Intention rules the world.”  I believe this, and I work hard so that even when I am feeling scared, my intentions are still clear not only to me, but also to those around me.   What do I care about? What matters to me?  These things should still be clear in times of fear or anxiety, and if they are not, I need to do a better job of connecting to my feelings, working through them and moving forward.  “Just don’t hurt me, and I won’t hurt you.” It’s simple but powerful – and it’s an intention we can all make in every relationship and connection we have.

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My good friends Steve and Jessica Seminaro are award-winning multi-unit franchise owners of Tropical Smoothie Café, having received the prestigious corporate franchisee of the year award in 2011. Steve lives his passion every day in his music studio and through his writing, some of which can be seen on FacebookYouTube or here. Steve and I encourage and inspire each other, and we’ve been collaborating on different projects and clarifying ideas for the past seven years. Our most recent initiative is The Do What You Love Every Day Challenge.  #DreamsOverFears


Are You Going to Get a Vacation?

Are You Going to Get a Vacation?

Every August, I go to Camp Sunshine for a week. It’s a volunteer commitment, but it’s so much more than that. Each year during discussions of summer plans with well-meaning people who care about me, this question – Are you going to get a vacation? – comes up. It’s often asked in a bit of a hushed voice and sometimes it starts with a “but…”, and it always follows me saying I will be at Camp Sunshine for the first week of August. I know it is not meant for me to feel uncomfortable or annoyed. I know this. But it still does.

It is true that at first glance, Camp Sunshine for a volunteer may not look like relaxing, glamorous or like a chance to unwind. And I get that this is what people often think about when they hear the word vacation. I think there are a lot of ideas out there about what vacations are – and aren’t. Vacations cost money (often, a lot of money). They happen in awesome destinations. They are breaks – escapes – from regular life. They are with people or a person you love and with whom you feel safe. They give you time to recharge, refresh and relax. You unwind when you are on a vacation. And this is all true. I do take a vacation like this – usually once a year – and it is always awesome, and I love that time.

But almost all of this is true for Camp Sunshine too. And I get that it’s not everyone’s first thought about a retreat in Maine for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families – and to explain it all could get…involved. When I go to Camp Sunshine, I am “on” most of the time. I am volunteering, and I am helping children and families affected by childhood cancer. And there are moments of sadness, frustration, confusion – and sometimes these moments cause tears and heavy feelings. After a week each year for the past seven years, I can think of a lot of examples when I was on the verge of tears or when I felt weighed down by childhood cancer.

More than this though, I can think of so many times when I was lifted up – by a child, by a parent, by another volunteer. I remember a lot of laughter and the warm feelings of hope and joy. I frequently use one of Oprah’s terms to describe Camp Sunshine: it’s JOY RISING. Everywhere you look, people of all ages are relaxed, are together, are happy. It may only be a blip for some – because when the families get home, more treatments, bills, concerns, worries, you name it await them – but it matters in that moment. It matters because it makes a difference, and it creates light, happiness, hope and gratitude.


So when people ask me this question that I don’t like, it brings up so many reminders of people and a place that I REALLY like. Camp Sunshine requires me to give – and I give generously – but I am given so much more during each visit. Camp Sunshine does not cost a lot of money, but it hits the other vacation criteria in my mind, although maybe in an unconventional way: it’s in an awesome destination (beautiful Sebago Lake!); it is for sure a break – an escape – from my regular life; I am sharing the experience with friends who feel like family I met seven years ago – I love them and I feel safe with them; and I recharge, refresh and relax while I am there. I am safely ensconced at this place where hope, light and joy are shared and multiplied. It’s life-changing, and I am a better person for having experienced it. I am lighter, more relaxed and more centered during the trip and afterwards – and I feel so incredibly lucky that I get THIS vacation each year.

Camp Sunshine provides respite, support, joy and hope to children with life-threatening illnesses and their immediate families from around the world through the various stages of their journeys. The year-round program located on Sebago Lake in Maine is free of charge to all families and includes 24-hour onsite medical and psycho-social support. Camp Sunshine also provides bereavement sessions for families who have lost a child to supported illnesses. Camp Sunshine relies on more than 2,500 volunteers annually, many of whom return year after year. The volunteers serve as camp counselors, and work in many areas of the program, including food service, arts and crafts, waterfront and a variety of other activities.