The Sunday Series (55), with Mark Brodinsky

beyond the pain

“Life is not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.”
– Virginia Satir

The stories on the pages of this blog, on The Sunday Series, are just about life. We all face struggles. It’s never about the thought, “glad it’s not me.”  But it’s always about the amazing fortitude, strength, courage, hope and inspiration you and I can derive from sharing our human experiences. It’s the incredible realization that if someone else can overcome, so can I. Sometimes feeling empathy creates motivation and inspiration that’s been hiding in the shadows of your own existence.

“Success in life comes not from holding a good hand, but in playing a poor hand well.”
– Warren G. Lester

This is The Sunday Series.

The Sunday Series (55): The Heart of Pain


Her name is Cheryl McGuinness, someone who lived through about as bad an experience as a person can.

One morning in late summer, her husband, Tom, went off to work before dawn, as he often did, kissing her before he left. A few hours later, Cheryl got up, took her teenage son to school, and settled into her daily routine.

Then she got a phone call from a friend asking if Tom was home. Then another. She knew something was up, but she had no clue what it was. When she pressed for an answer, the friend finally responded, “A plan has been hijacked.”

It was the morning of September 11, 2001 and, Cheryl’s husband, Tom, was a pilot for American Airlines.

cheryl and tom

For hours, while Cheryl’s house filled with friends, neighbors,other pilots, and people from her church, she was unable to get any answers to her questions. But when a car pulled up to her house carrying the chief pilot of the airline, she learned what happened. American Airlines Flight 11, for which Tom had been the copilot, was the first plane that crashed into the World Trade Center. Tom and all the others on the plane were dead.

Like most people who survive a terrible tragedy, Cheryl coped as best she could. Some individuals manage negative experiences well, while others struggle. Despite having such a personally tragic connection to the 9/11 attacks,Cheryl did well under the circumstances. In Beauty Beyond the Ashes: Choosing Hope After Crisis, (, a book she published three years after the event, she wrote, “As unfair, unreasonable, and impossible as it seems, we still have work to do after a tragedy occurs. We still have roles to fill. We still have responsibilities to family and others. The stuff of life may pause for a while, but it doesn’t stop. Fair or not, that is reality.”

Cheryl fulfilled her role with determination and strength. She planned Tom’s funeral and even spoke at it, which was something far out of her comfort zone. She took care of her children. She started running her household as a single parent. And she learned rapidly how to deal with the difficulties of being a widow. For example, for the first Mother’s Day she spent alone after the tragedy, she allowed well-meaning friends to talk her into going to an event that they thought would help her. It was a mistake. So as Father’s Day approached, she was proactive and arranged the day to make the best of it for herself and her children.

Each new experience became an opportunity for personal growth. Cheryl writes, “I am learning more each day. The circumstances of 9/11 have forced me to examine who I am, to face myself in ways that I never had to before, to ask, ‘What does God want for me? What can I do in him, by his power within me? How will he use me to touch others?’ I am learning more about myself and about God. And I am learning it on my own, not through Tom’s filter.” Cheryl says that she didn’t realize until Tome was gone how lazy she had become. Before, she had depended on him to prompt her growth. Now she was taking responsibility for herself.


One of the areas where she grew most was in public speaking. “Before 9/11, I had never been a public speaker. The very thought of speaking before a large group frightened me. When I spoke at Tom’s memorial service, I put aside fear for that one day, figuring I’d been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity…I didn’t expect to speak in public ever again.”  But people kept asking her to speak, and step by step, she grew as a speaker. She was determined to allow her loss to lead to others’ gain.

Today Cheryl’s children are grown. She remarried; her husband is Doug Hutchins. And she is content with her life. She was asked about the tragedy on its tenth anniversary. “It’s a terrible, terrible day that I don’t think anybody can ever forget,” she said, but added, “Out of the ashes of Sept. 11, out of the rubble of that day, I can emerge to say that I am stronger today than 10 years ago.” That’s what can happen when a person manages bad experiences well. That shows the power of the Law of Pain.


This morning’s Sunday Series is not one I generated on my own. Today I decided to showcase a story as it was written in John C. Maxwell’s book, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, to share the story of Cheryl McGuinness, who does well to prove the point of how life in the face of tragedy can still be lived. It’s an experience we can all relate to in some fashion because most of us reading this blog lived through that day. Yet so many of life’s troubles, tribulations and much worse remain in the shadows, but the people living in those shadows find a way to overcome.

You can come back. You can persevere. You can learn from the depths of pain and sorrow and you can find a way to make a difference. Maybe this more than anything else is what makes us human, or at least makes us able to relate to one another. Find sympathy and empathy in your heart then use that heart to help shape another – until we all realize we don’t have to survive, but we can thrive. Consider this poem by John Greenleaf Whittier:

No longer forward nor behind
I look in hope or fear;
But, grateful, take the good I find,
The best of now and here.

If you can do that, you not only make the life you have more livable, you also make the life’s lessons more learnable. – John C. Maxwell

Be present, take life head on, because sometimes it will hit you just that way. Feel free to come back here each Sunday, because that is exactly what I do, feature people who overcome and grow against the things in life where many of us might shrink. If they can overcome, so can we.

From the heart of pain can come life’s greatest gain. If only you believe it to be true.

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.

(If there is one book I believe you should read, and with all transparency I’m only halfway through it, it is Maxwell’s, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth,(, it is, in my opinion, one of the most powerful books I have ever held in my hands. You can go directly to a link for the book by clicking on the link on this page, or on the Higher Shelf! page on this blog.  All I can say is, in all honesty, if you think you know.. then read this book because I can assure you, you don’t.


Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Speaker, Financial Services

The #1 Amazon Best-Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story

For ideas, comments, or suggestions for The Sunday Series -you can leave a note on the blog, OR e-mail: markbrodinsky@gmail.
I welcome your feedback.






So Are You: It’s Just About… Life

people inspire you

If you can’t grow, it might be time to go… go find the people who do.

Are the associations you have in your life moving you forward or pulling you back? Are the people in your “posse” positive, or constantly complaining. You are by every measure the product of the four or five people with whom you spend the most time. And if you want to get better, every minute counts.

Then again, it all depends what you want out of life.

Want to live the life of your dreams, or just dream about really living? Want to see life in action, or retraction? Want to leave a legacy, or get left behind?

As much as you might like to think otherwise, or not think about it at all, the people you choose in your life most definitely affect your choices in how you live!  According to research by social psychologist Dr David McLelland of Harvard, “the people with who you habitually associate are called your reference group and these people determine as much as 95 percent of your success or failure in life.”

Wow. 95 percent!!

Charles “Tremendous” Jones is famous for saying, “you are the same today as you are going to be in five years from now except for two things: the people with whom you associate and the books you read.”

Grow and learn, sounds like a powerful combination.

As John C. Maxwell writes, “You cannot take the growth journey alone, not if you want to reach your potential. The most significant factor in any person’s environment is the people. If you change nothing else in your life for the better than that, you will have increased your chances of success tenfold.

So think long and hard about who you you’re spending the most time with, for wherever they are headed, so are you.”

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.

Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Speaker, Financial Services

The #1 Amazon Best-Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story

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The Sunday Series (54), with Mark Brodinsky

It’s one of the most basic of  human desires, the need to communicate, to speak and to be heard. When the thoughts are there, the ideas are many, the gift you want to share is on the tip of your tongue, but the words refuse to come easy…this is where courage must be summoned, for the world is waiting, because every voice matters.

The Sunday Series (54): Say What You Need To Say

Walking like a one man army,
Fighting with the shadows in your head,
Living out the same old moment,
Knowing you’d be better off instead
If you could only…


What’s it like to know you can talk, but feel you can’t say the words? When your brain knows the sounds, but the path to turning those sounds into a sentence is unnerving, paralyzing, making the act of speaking a lifelong challenge, one that some people never overcome. Now imagine being a child trying to make your way in the world, learning, wanting to communicate but battling to do so, and fighting those demons every day of your young life…which sometimes becomes the rest of your life.

It’s called stuttering and 70 million of us live with it every day, including Taro Alexander. But Taro turned his struggle into a personal mission which is changing the lives and giving the gift of voice to thousands of young people, an organization called SAY: The Stuttering Association for The Young.

say what's in your heart

To speak, to be heard, and not to live in the darkness of tortured silence. For Taro, when it came to speaking, much of his life was spent in that darkness.”I started stuttering around 5-years-old”, says Taro. “And I grew up not meeting anyone else who stuttered until age 26, yet somehow I found my way around it. I used my fair share of avoidance techniques. What was frustrating was my fear and just trying to get through the day without anyone finding me out. Don’t talk, don’t stutter. It was a sad way to go through my school years and to select the moments to talk when I knew I wouldn’t stutter and to choose my words so carefully… and limit my involvement in life. I was standing on the sidelines and watching life happen and wanting to participate, paralyzed by the fear of someone laughing at me, or making me repeat my stutter. I lived in fear of those moments and when it did happen it would crush me and send me to a dark place.”

taro early years

Taro is not alone. Plenty of children who are stutterers suffer in silence, a self-imposed silence because of the fear of being different, of being found out, of being ridiculed, or the fear of, as Taro describes, “the look”. The smirk, or look of impatience as others stare at you waiting for you to get the words out. The silence of those waiting on the other side of your next sentence makes the struggle to say the words you want to say even more difficult and frightening.

How about as frightening as even saying the name of the person who gave you life. Taro says, “In school my mom’s name was particularly hard for me to say and I remember people asking me what her name was and I would go into this hugely uncomfortable routine, pretend I forgot it – ‘can you believe I can’t remember my mom’s name, I mean who does that, I must be sick, I can’t think of her name, something must be wrong with my brain!‘ Then I would spend a month avoiding that person, just so they wouldn’t come up to me and say, ‘hey do you remember your mothers’ name weirdo?! I’d rather have them think I was strange, then to stutter. I so wanted to talk like everyone else. I was living a life of fear.”

Have no fear for giving in,
Have no fear for giving over,
You’d better know that in the end,
It’s better to say too much,
Then never to say what you need to say again…

With so many people who stutter, there is a release, a time when you don’t stutter at all. It might be singing, or getting into character with another voice, or as in Taro’s experience, simply stepping onto the stage. Acting became Taro’s calling and his refuge from the daily suffering of silence, albeit temporarily, it gave Taro a new lease on life. He appeared in the national tour of Neil Simon’s play, Lost in Yonkers. He did a guest stint on NBC’s Law and Order and he traveled the country as part of the cast of Stomp.  But it wasn’t until the stage and the stuttering collided that Taro’s life truly changed.

taro and friends

“I was 26-years-old, doing a play in Colorado”, remembers Taro. “And one time during the show I stuttered on stage…it felt like the end of the world. Next night it happened again, a little bit longer and it was at that moment I realized I had no one to talk to about it. Not my parents, not my friends or a speech pathologist. The third day when it happened again I was in panic attack mode and needed to talk about it, so I frantically called over a guy from our show and I just unleashed on him and told him about this thing called stuttering – told him my story. He listened for 30 minutes and then he said, ‘I stutter too.’ It floored me. What do you mean I said?  I never heard you stutter before!  He said as a kid it was severe, but he had worked through it.”

It was the conversation which changed Taro’s life.

taro with beard

“Just the knowledge of meeting someone else who stutters opened up the blinders to me. I went back to New York and read, A Life Bound Up in Words, by Marty Jezer. I was highlighting and underlining every word. For the first time in my life I am reading the story of someone else who is living with the same thing I am, and he gets it. I went on to admit to my family and friends that I stutter, that’s who I am. I thought my toughest conversation would be with my older brother, because I idolized him. I was convinced the reason he didn’t want me to go to parties with him was because I stuttered. I gave him this whole speech and told him it was OK, because now I know the reason he didn’t want to hang with me. He says, ‘Woah Taro – I was 17 and you were 9. What 17-year-old wants their 9-year-old brother to hang out with them? All of a sudden it was obvious. But when you feel that insecure about something (stuttering) the truth of what is happening goes out the window, because you are so caught up in your own insecurities.”

Even if your hands are shaking,
And your faith is broken,
Even as the eyes are closing,
Do it with a heart wide open…

The time had come to do something about this. It was about the time Taro had his revelation that he got the part in Stomp, and would meet the woman who would become his wife, Leigh, who continues to inspire him to this day. But Taro was tiring of being an actor.  Fueled by the work of his dad who was a director of a non-profit arts organization, Taro suddenly had an idea. “In April of 2001 it hit me”, he says. “A lightning bolt moment. Combine the things I am most passionate about doing and so something about stuttering. Wouldn’t it be great if young people who stuttered could be in this creative environment where they could talk about stuttering without fear of being interrupted, or simply in fear of speaking, and use it in their every day life and build confidence?”

SAY was born: The Stuttering Association for the Young, (

SAY the website

Taro says he is a firm believer that to each his own. What SAY attempts to do is support each child, in a range from ages 2-to-18, find out where they are in life and with their challenge of stuttering. There is no single approach that works for everybody, it is centered around each child’s unique situation. “The old cliche of you can’t judge a book by its cover, is true”, says Taro. “There might be one kid who stutters a lot and you think their day must be so hard, they must be having a tough time in class, or asking someone out on a date… but you come to realize they are just fine with it. Then there are the kids who you don’t hear stutter at all, but instead are living their lives in fear and it is ruling their choices in life.”

“We ask each child what they want to change. One kid might just want to pick up the phone and order a pizza. Maybe his greatest fear is getting hung up on. So maybe they get  hung up on in the safety of our facility and realize, it’s not so bad. Your worst fear is not as bad as you think.”

SAY - The Meredith Vieira Show

SAY – The Meredith Vieira Show

It’s all about the shared experience, just like it was for Taro, realizing that other people in the world, some of those closest to you, stutter as well. “You gain the confidence of doing it with others”, says Taro. “So when you are in class and are about to stutter you might think about your experience at SAY, maybe when you were up on stage, with 100 people cheering you on and you think ‘now I can do it, now I can say what I want to say.'”

cheering at SAY

Speak for all to hear. In 2008 the voice of SAY got even louder when Taro and company started Camp SAY for children ages 8-to-18, where young people who stutter can have fun while developing effective communication skills, build self-confidence and forge friendships to last a lifetime .( SAY

the logo for camp SAY camp SAY kid at camp SAY

“We, (those who stutter), can get very used to living a certain way, or used to giving up on things you want to do or to be a part of. You can get very used to that idea. We want to counter that and let these kids know you can do what you want to do and be who you want to be. I have to say working with these kids the past 14 years is the best and most rewarding thing I have ever done and every day they teach me compassion and make me listen, because they are so incredibly brave and they learn to not let stuttering hold them back in school, at home or in extra-curricular activities.Even though they don’t know what is going to come out of their mouths next.”

Taro continues, “Every voice matters, not most, but every single voice. Every single human being has something to say and it’s important and we as a society should give everyone the time to speak and support them and accept them and if we do that I truly believe each child can grow and reach their full potential.”

Take all of your wasted honor
Every little past frustration
Take all of your so-called problems,
Better put ‘em in quotations.

In quotations: here is mine – “I’m a stutterer and I have been one for most of my life. I only wish Taro Alexander and SAY could have been a part of my experience when I was young. But I fought through my fear and demons to live a life of my choosing. You can ready my story here: – Mark Brodinsky

Don’t let anything or anyone scare you from living the life you deserve, especially yourself. You have a voice and it matters, every voice matters. We are all meant to shine. So – Say what you need to say.

say the story you want to tell

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.

If you wish to join or to donate to SAY, please visit (
You can also visit the Facebook Page: (

Credits: The lyrics in this blog are from Say, by John Mayer.

Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Speaker, Financial Services

Author: The #1 Amazon Best-Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story

For ideas, comments & feedback on The Sunday Series, leave a comment on the blog, connect on social meida, or e-mail:











Truly Live: It’s Just About… Life

Running woman

Just last night a close friend of mine said the following to me: “you’re going to be dead a long time.”

That’s all you really need to hear to give you a gentle reminder, “to truly live.”  Why not become everything you ever wanted to be? Why not strive to do the thing which you know you can do, better than most, that touches other lives, that helps to enrich those lives and transforms your own. You are only here for a short time. We all have the seeds of success inside of us, the challenge is to cultivate those seeds, water them, feed them and watch them grow.

Growth is the key to reaching your dreams. And your dreams should drive you to truly live. The challenge is to live every moment getting there.

See it’s all about the journey, not the destination. Because if the destination takes time to reach, which it will if you have big dreams, then you better realize you need to enjoy the ride. Too many people simply live for those moments that take your breath away, yet most of our lives, in fact nearly all of our lives, are lived in between those moments.

I am currently reading, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, by John C. Maxwell. In that book he gives credit to a piece, called Dream Big, (author unknown), about what it takes to follow your dreams:

If there were ever a time to dare,
To make a difference,
To embark on something worth doing,
It is now.

Not for any grand cause, necessarily -
But for something that tugs at your heart,
Something that’s your aspiration,
Something that’s your dream.
You owe it to yourself to make your days here count.
Have fun.
Dig deep.
Dream Big.

Know, though, that things worth doing seldom come easy.
There will be good days.
And there will be bad days.
There will be times when you want to turn around,
Pack it up and call it quits.
Those times tell you that you are pushing yourself,
That you are not afraid to learn by trying.

Maxwell explains it this way:

Taking the steps necessary to live your dreams and do what you want to do will cost you. You will have to work hard. You will have to make sacrifices. You will have to keep learning and growing and changing. Are you willing to pay the price? I certainly hope you are. But know this: Most people aren’t.”

Don’t be most people. You are going to be dead a long time.

So it’s time, your time, to truly live.


Until next time, thanks for taking the time.

Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Speaker, Financial Services

Author & Publisher: The #1 Amazon Best-Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story

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