Who inspires you? Is there anyone you admire and whose actions touch you or motivate you to move forward, even in difficult times? This person may or may not know that they've touched your life in some way. They may be a famous leader in business, a politician, or spiritual figure. It may be a person who you model some of your values after; someone you emulate in ways that are significant to you.

It's a good time of the year to think about who those people are for you. A time to send thanks to these individuals, be they dead or alive, and recognize the ways that they have inspired you. I've been thinking about it since Thanksgiving, when my sister paid me a visit, so I'd like to articulate those thoughts.

Sure, I'm inspired by Henry Ford, Jack Welch, and many other amazing leaders of our time. But my sister Janine? Now she's a true inspiration. Janine's personality and spirit is a simple reminder of how we tend to needlessly complicate our lives with worry and fear. You see, Janine doesn't worry much, and there's not much that frightens her either. Janine has Down syndrome and life for her seems to be nearly perfect in every way. She keeps it simple and uncomplicated. And she enjoys every minute of it.

Years ago, when my husband passed away, Janine was the one who knew exactly what to say. Janine was the one who made me laugh amidst my tears. As my children were growing up, Janine was there to remind me of what a great job I was doing as a single mom. She would point out only their most wonderful qualities and loved my girls unconditionally. Janine has a memory like a steel trap and you can count on her to light up the room with tales of the past, long ago forgotten by most. She can bring tears to my eyes and make me laugh - all within seconds. Janine has the wonderful ability to walk into any room and instantly engage in conversation, even among strangers. On this most recent visit I consistently tried - and failed - to put Janine's leg brace on her, but it just wouldn't stay in place. Instead of expressing frustration, Janine consistently reminded me that I was doing my best and that I "did a good job" of trying. She walked the malls without her leg brace and never once uttered a word of complaint. Her words and actions reminded me that the guilt I was feeling was MY choice, certainly not placed there by any of Janine's expectations, but by my own. I was able to let it go and enjoy that precious time with my kid sister.

Janine shares an apartment with Diane, her roommate of 20 years. The two are inseparable and in spite of spending day in, day out together for years you will never hear Janine utter a single negative comment about her dear friend. They protect and watch out for one another in a way that is precious beyond words. They have a schedule and routine that would make a type-A organizational freak sigh in envy — and they stick to it! Janine will not miss a day of work or put off doing the laundry, but she always makes time for friends and fun.

In Janine's world, there are few problems. Imagine that. Going through life with what most of us would consider a handicap and enjoying life like many of us don't. Yes, Janine is a true inspiration and I would like to thank her from the bottom of my heart for being there for me — always.

Take a moment if you will, and share with us your story of inspiration. Sharing verbal recognition and thanks raises your energy and lifts your spirit. Give it a try! And thank you for listening to my story!

I'd like to end this post with a very appropriate quote:

Do you remember the things you were worrying about a year ago? Didn't you waste a lot of fruitless energy on account of most of them? Didn't most of them turn out all right after all?

-Dale Carnegie