I’ve been reading the book “The Fire-Starter Sessions” and one of the activities involves writing down a list of people who inspire you. Below is a list of the first 10 people who came to my mind, in no particular order. (NOT including HWMMS, which should be obvious…)

I’m blessed with an abundance of people who inspire me everyday, I feel sort of sad only listing the first 10 that came to mind, of course there are so, so many more. But after I went through this exercise, I realize each person on this list answer a question about how I want to inspire my own life and where I want to be…

Each one of you has a giving, loving POSITIVE outlook on life, love, family that makes a difference. Thank you.

1. Kristina Wright

Some might find this hard to believe, but I’ve never actually met Kris in real life! However, I have known her as a friend through her writing and blogging for years and years and years now. Kristina is living a dream of mine. She gets paid to write. And in between writing and editing and teaching…she is raising two adorable little boys alongside her hubby. Kristina is a strong, independent, brilliant, creative soul who I aspire to be more like everyday. I’ve followed her life through her words and heartache when trying to conceive a child and shared in her excitement when she had her first little boy. I tried to imagine myself being pregnant and raising a newborn while her husband served our country… Watching her and her husband share photos of their family warms my heart. And don’t even get me started on her writing…vavavoom! Kristina has a voice through her blog that feels like home and has never been afraid to share her life with others.

2. Michele Johnson

I have NO IDEA how many hearts this lady can hold inside her, but it certainly is more than one. If you can think of the one person who gives everything to make the lives of others better, well, that’s our Michele. Utterly selfless, to a fault sometimes…taking care of everyone else around her…her family, friends, community. I don’t know what the East Side would do without her! Since I have met her she has been one of my number one cheerleaders in life…always reminding me that no matter what you might have stacked against you, good and kindness and love always prevails. I’m inspired by her dedication to everything around her and know that the world is a better place with her in it. We all are blessed knowing people like Michele in the world…I’m thankful to have her in my pocket for inspiration when I need it most.

3.  Jerry & Karen Shea

The King and Queen of South Buffalo! Also, the parents of two of my best friends…and an amazing couple I’m proud to consider my *adopted* family. If you look up Jerry & Karen in the big book of people the first thing you will see listed is FAMILY. I swear the love this family gives off can cure almost any hangover from too much whiskey the night before. Upon first meeting them you are gifted with a hug and accepted as one of their own. I have spent many a day, night, late night out with or at the Shea House and every single time, I know I’m home. You gotta be very, very special people to create that kind of atmosphere of love…I can only pray I follow their good example someday when raising my own family.

4. Kristen Driscoll

Kristen has been a dear friend since way back in High School. Her papa is a minister, she went to a Bible College, worked for Billy Graham ministries and spent much time traveling the world capturing stories of faith and sharing with others. Kristen is the ULTIMATE Christian. The kind of Christian every follower of Christ should aspire to be. Despite all my crazy, trials and tribulations, wrong paths, YOU NAME IT (I mean you guys read my blog and social media, you know I’m a bit…well, rough around the God edges sometimes.)  I have never ever ever ever ever felt anything but love and encouragement from this woman. She is a rare breed. Her spirit of acceptance and love towards others is refreshing. I want to be a better person and live like Kristen does…all things with love and without passing judgment on to others. THANK YOU for being one of my shining lights in this world and a true example of what I think being a Christian should be. And I can’t fail to mention she married a great guy who brings out the best in her and is now a SAHM raising a wee little son. Pure perfection.

5. Michelle Wlosinski

HAPPY. I like to post this word as my status from time to time just because, I’m happy. And when I think of who most personifies the word HAPPY in my life, it is without a doubt MEESH. This woman brings a ray of sunshine everywhere she goes and leaves no stone unturned. I truly believe it is impossible to dislike her, unless you are a mean jealous person who is gloomy and unhappy. Life has bumps and bruises and sometimes things don’t work out as planned, but even on those days and moments, Michelle gets through them with a sparkly smile and positive attitude. I have learned much by watching her professionally as the VP of Denton Cottier & Daniels, the love she has for her work and music and community overlaps into the perfect cocktail of success. I aspire to be like my dearest Meesh not only professionally, if I ever get back out there in the world…but personally too. She even has inspired me to embrace the love of the color PINK! :)

6. Kathy Jo Connors

Kathy Jo can do it all. All things, anything whatever she puts her mind to. She is the kind of woman that makes you believe that YOU TOO can do anything! Run a 5k! Crochet a blanket! Start a business! Get in shape! ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. I’m inspired by KJ because like me, she has so many varied interests…but she seems to make her dreams come true. The woman owns and teaches Wing Chun (Kung Fu) even after having knee replacements! She stands up for herself, her goals, her passions and the people around her and makes things happen. I have always been inspired by her independent spirit. Her love for people, animals, nature, travel, family, the universe, healthy living…all things…I look to her for what I see myself wanting to explore in the near future, because usually she is just a few steps ahead of where I want to be. (Seriously, follow her on Pinterest or Goodreads, you will see what I mean!)

7. Brett Gould

Brett has inspired me in the most direct path possible this year…he quit his *job* to pursue his calling to write/teach/share his purpose on earth through God’s word. Crazy, Courageous. Admirable. Inspiring. I rediscovered Brett who was a friend back in High School at the exact time in my life that I needed to find him…you know, the time I quit my job and decided to figure it all out later? I was given the extraordinary blessing to take a career sabbatical and spend time with my new husband and just live life, which was certainly something I never imagined. And with that came the fact that people, people who I’m close with and love dearly, now think I’m crazy, they think my Husband and I are crazy, but we are going with our intuition and living this crazy life together and listening for clues regarding the next big thing along the way. Brett has found his true calling and instead of being afraid or circumventing around the opportunity before him…he is living out his purpose. Can you even dare to imagine?

8. Marina Mukandala

Where do I start with my dearest Marina? THIS woman quit her job working with me at the orchestra planning fabulous parties and schmoozing, to live out her dream of being a yoga instructor and opening her own studio. Not a doubt in her mind that she could do anything she set her mind to…and her studio Mind Body Flow Yoga is proof. And it all started from taking one little yoga class back in the day! Years later she has a supportive, loving and understanding and entrepreneurial husband, a little princess daughter who was doing yoga in the womb with her mama up until she was born and a son on the way to complete her family. Marina is one of those ultimate positive thinking people. Always look on the bright side of life, trust in yourself and good things will happen kind of person.

9. Christina Abt

I first discovered Christina as a WNY writer…and this year? I was able to watch her truly be an inspiration to me and our community by running for political office, under the independent line! My nerdy heart loves politics and I know part of me will always want to make a difference and somehow be an elected official…maybe it will be school board, or small town mayor or just being a congresswoman in a yet unwritten novel…now I have my muse, my inspiration. Christina is a real person, with real values, real ideas, a real love for our community who ran for political office. I can’t even tell you how cool I think she is. Well, I guess I just did. And the fact that she lives on a farm doesn’t hurt either.

10. Christina Banas

Christina is a dear friend who married her Prince Chuck this year and I couldn’t be happier for them! But that’s not why she made this list. Christina, to me, is the true example of how doing little things, the simple day-to-day niceties can make a true difference in the world. Christina works for First Presbyterian church and loves what she does for a living and it shows. She is full of love, laughter, kindness and one of the most giving people I know. She loves, loves, loves animals and takes in rescues and gives the sweet little guys a fighting chance. She is the woman who brings you chicken soup when you are sick, the woman who remembers birthday cards in the mail as well as the joy of sending the no reason at all cards, just because she is thinking of you. She is the one who lends you her car to go on a date in the burbs and offers before you can ask. To be friends with Christina is to remember all the little everyday things that make life so special and worth smiling over in the present moment.

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