Mary Ellen Ziliak, RN, MSCS

speaker, author

Everyone has a life challenge, a red door.
What's yours?


Mary Ellen Ziliak, RN, MSCS


"There are many twists and turns in any life journey. I am grateful to be blessed with my speaking engagements, opportunities to meet new friends, and as good old Willie Nelson puts it, to be "On the road again!" Periodically, I am moved to write about an experience or insight. I have shared a few of my favorite blog posts below. Enjoy, dear friends. And find the words written just for you."

Blog Posts:

Pitter Patter is More than Rain

Tuesday, June 02, 2015 • • Personal Growth
Pitter Patter is More than Rain

We are all on a life journey and the roads we travel have many curves, valleys, and Red Doors. Yes, I'm serious, we have Red Doors along our roads. I call any life challenge a Red Door. Life challenges come with life. Let's face it, the alternative sucks - death! This Red Door label evolved from a painting I did called "The Red Door." The subject of that painting was a century old splintered red door with humongous wrought iron hinges, hung on the turreted corner of the Archabbey Church of Our Lady of Einsiedeln in southwestern Indiana. The weathered door is mysterious and beckons me to enter into the beyond. As yet I have not discovered what actually lies behind that particular red door. I envision the other side to be a pot of gold or a bottomless pit of snakes worthy of Indiana Jones. Regardless, I am compelled to open that door. It's actually on my bucket list.

1998 brought a diagnosis for me of multiple sclerosis (MS). It was certainly not the end of the world; there's always something worse. Life is relative, right? MS did turn my world upside down for a while. But after ten years or so of adjusting I came to realize the red door I was compelled to paint represented my MS. Multiple sclerosis is a big, splintery, mysterious door that dares me to push it wide open. I did.
In opening that Red Door I got my share of splinters. I even tripped a few times. But the stumbling catapulted me to some life changing adventures. The adventures were beyond my wildest dreams and led to a sense of freedom for me to attempt most anything. I stopped worrying about what Mom might have thought, what others would say, how old I was, or the state of my health. I no longer cared. What I do care about now is just taking that first step to try something new. If an idea is on my heart I go for it. All I need to do is take that first step and try. And if it's on my heart the next day, I take another step. No pressure. I no longer need to know what the end result will be. I just have to take that first step.

My newfound adventuresome spirit has led me to some neat stuff. My many speaking engagements stem from my listening to a nudging years ago towards talking to throngs of people, while in high school I trembled and perspired profusely in speech class. I especially enjoy sharing my life journey and offering encouragement and growth to my audience. Next week I find myself in three cities in three days, from Illinois in the Midwest to New York on the east coast.

As I write this, I am sipping chilled Pinot Grigio in a hotel lobby, wrapping up a fantastic week at the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC). The conference is for professionals worldwide who specialize in multiple sclerosis. It's a great way to network and learn the cutting edge of multiple sclerosis research and care of patients who live with this chronic, often times debilitating disease. I've wanted to attend for some time now but made many excuses why I couldn't. Worse yet I listened to the stupid excuses. With CMSC being held this year in my home state of Indiana the deal was sealed and no more excuses. I've learned so much from the MS experts who led the symposiums. And truth be told, I offered some legit insights myself. If knowledge equals power then I guess I'll be checking out of my hotel in the morning wearing a Wonder Woman cape and a funky gold cinch belt.

An entourage of new CMSC RN friends from the United Kingdom pass me working in the lobby as they head out to dinner. The striking lady at the end who appears more to fit the runway model image than the experienced Nurse Practitioner, is deflecting a friend's teasing about her being a fashion diva. Another friend, Emma, the short haired perky one, chats with me and extends a heartfelt invitation to show me around her country firsthand should I find myself "across the pond." At one time I would have smiled and told myself, "That'll never happen." Today, I smile and think, "Wow, I wonder when and how our paths will cross again?" Hugs are exchanged as contact information is shared. We've known each other only a few days but we have cemented a bond via our shared passion for all things MS. Many of the hodgepodge group of international attendees here will do the same.
Synchronicity and following my heart has paved this particular side road on my life journey. I played with my grandchildren from Indiana over the weekend and yesterday I sat alongside a leading MS researcher and discussed microbiomes in our gut and oligoclonal bands in cerebral spinal fluid. How cool is that?

I love these side jaunts that crop up unexpectedly and bring great joy and fulfillment. I want others to experience their own exhilarating experiences. The opportunities often present themselves but we in turn often talk ourselves out of them. We rationalize why we should not step out of our comfort zone or better yet why we should follow what our particular circle in life currently considers a norm.
For me, it's a matter of listening closely when my heart goes pitter patter. When mine does it's often God putting a new idea on my heart and He wants me to pay attention. It can be a bizarre idea and seem impossible but my job is to pay attention to His nudge.

Today, when your heart goes pitter patter, and a crazy idea feels totally beyond your reach, add a few seconds of pause and examine the idea more closely. Are you supposed to do something out of your comfort zone? Is God wanting you to take a first step towards something new to expand your stewardship? If the pitter patter lingers, take one daring step out of your skepticism and be open to finding something new. Life is short but our adventures can grow inside us until the last breath.

Peace, joy and adventure friends,
Mary Ellen


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"We all have a Red Door. What's yours?"

"Face it, embrace it, and live your life well!"

"If God puts it on my heart, I go for it. I don't think things to death anymore."

"I set one main goal a day. If I meet that one goal, I've had a successful day and purpose in my life."


Mary Ellen

"Open your Red Door!"

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