Saturday, December 31, 2005

Donuts, Country Dancing, and Life

I had wonderful donuts this week at the Lone Star bakery in Round Rock, just north of Austin. Some say these are the best donuts in Austin! I don’t indulge in this kind of thing often, but my daughter was here and it was one more thing for us to discover—along with the wonderful people who run the bakery.

Yesterday we went to Natural Bridge Caverns and then San Antonio. I’d been to the Alamo and Riverwalk before but my daughter and her friend had not. We ate at a wonderful cafĂ© and then they went off to see the Alamo while I walked around, reliving the emotions I’d felt my first time through when I was on my cross country odyssey, looking for where I wanted to live. We had planned to go on to Bandera, a cowboy town, but it would have been too far so we headed back to Austin and a place my daughter found listed in the guidebook.

The Broken Spoke, in South Austin, is famous for good food and country dancing. It was a family kind of place and one of the things that struck me was how happy everyone was. I’ve never seen so many men who like to dance and who are really good at it! I also loved seeing so many older couples (as well as young couples) dancing, the affection between them still strong and unmistakable. I loved that sons danced with mothers and grandmothers and daughters danced with fathers and grandfathers. It was a place filled with laughter and joy and music that was impossible to resist. It was midnight before we made it home because none of us wanted to leave.

I’m not sure what made me smile most—the music with sometimes outrageous lyrics or the unmistakable atmosphere of love in that place. How often do we see such visible affection between couples who have clearly been together a long time? How often do we see a roomful of people all laughing and having fun, kids and young adults, adults and older people all together? It was reassuring to know these things are still possible.

Today in downtown Austin is First Night—a family oriented New Year’s Eve celebration with everything from drumming at midnight to fireworks to a parade, artwork, music, even a Segway ballet!

One again, I find myself profoundly grateful to be here in Austin.


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Cowboys, Flat Tires, and Murder for Fun

First the flat tire. I was coming off the freeway and heard something, then felt the effects of a tire suddenly losing air. Fortunately, I WAS coming off the freeway and managed to pull into a gas station. Unfortunately, the gas station did not sell tires. The nearest place that did sell tires was a few more miles down the road daughter assured me she knew how to change a tire. But a really nice guy stopped and did much of the work. Then, someone else offered to help, too. (Have I mentioned before how NICE people in Austin are?) The tire had a large puncture hole and clearly was not going to be fixable. My daughter finished up the getting the mini tire on, removed the jack and we were off to find a place that sold tires. We did. They were quick and it cost only $28 dollars. Again, I was struck by how nice everyone was.

The cowboys? Well, we’ll be going to Bandero, a cowboy town, in a couple of days. My daughter suggested it so we’ll take a day trip before she leaves to go back north. I’m sure I’ll be posting about that afterwards!

Finally murder for fun. My daughter and I are having lots of fun brainstorming a possible mystery plot for a party. I did this when she was growing up—created a couple of murder mysteries for her birthday parties. This is the same idea but more people and more complicated plot. We’ve got clues and motives and methods and characters and scenarios and we’re having a great time thinking up fiendish things to do to people.

Like any mother and daughter, we have had our moments of discord over the years. Now we’re able to be friends and I’m really enjoying that. I love discovering Austin with her. Every day she’s here is an adventure and a chance to discover each other as people as well as mother and daughter.

Wishing all of you some wonderful adventures with people in your life you love—though without, I hope, the flat tires!


Friday, December 23, 2005

Small Miracle

I was at the post office and on the way to the grocery store (I thought!) when I decided to check what the local Goodwill had for sale. I still need end tables and a coffee table after all. Well, I didn’t find those but I did find a chair. I found a green plush swivel rocker in surprisingly good shape and only $27. So, naturally, it came home with me—to heck with the grocery store!

A nice employee put the chair in the trunk for me and tied the trunk so it wouldn’t fly open since obviously the lid couldn’t close. It goes perfectly in my living room—just in time for my daughter’s visit with friends. After they are gone and/or when I get new, nicer furniture for my living room, then this chair can go in the sitting area of my master bedroom.

It was a lucky find--a small miracle, you might say. So was the discovery that my property taxes would be less than I expected this year. I’m really pleased about that, as you can imagine!

One reason I share all of this—aside from the fact that many of you have read my earlier posts about decorating woes—is that I’d been feeling a bit frazzled over a number of things. It would have been easy to slip into the mentality that things always go wrong. Instead, I find myself celebrating what can go right. Finding the chair and the good news about my property taxes makes that so much easier.

This is, as I have said before, a season that many groups associate with miracles. But miracles aren’t limited to the past. We can have wonderful surprises that are, in a sense, mini-miracles in our own lives. So...what I wish for all of you is that this is a season of miracles—big or small—in YOUR lives.


Monday, December 19, 2005

Writing--Scenes, Characters, and Revisions

Writing, at least the initial stages, is fun. We create characters we adore and have them do things that delight us. If we love research, we write scenes that show off what we’ve learned.

Then comes the hard part—editing. An important question to ask, as we go through the revision process, is: What purpose does this character and/or scene serve? How does it advance the emotional arc of the story and/or how does it advance the plot? Ideally it does both.

If you don’t have an answer—give the scene or character a purpose for being there. There is almost always a way to do so. If you can’t, then take it out, but only as a last resort and do NOT throw it away! Keep a file—hardcopy or on your computer—of scenes or characters you remove. It’s possible that you will realize, as you go on, that the scene or character was important after all.

Note: I strongly believe that the ideal strategy for revising a story or novel is to do a quick read through NOT making changes but rather making notes about changes you THINK you will need to make! When you get to the end, look at your list. Which is the most important change? Concentrate on that change—NO MATTER WHERE IN THE STORY IT OCCURS! Every change you make will have a ripple effect on the story. If you make the most important (global) changes first, you will end up doing a lot less work and some of the smaller issues may disappear once the global change is made.

So remember, every character, every scene must serve a purpose both in the emotional arc of the story or the external plot or both.

Happy writing!


Friday, December 16, 2005

Rediscovering Self

I used to love to cook. I used to love to create my own recipes. Somewhere along the way, I lost that. Somewhere along the way I got so tired of being criticized for what I made or making it and not getting anyone to come to eat until it got cold that I stopped cooking. I definitely stopped creating new dishes. And I thought maybe I just didn’t like to cook or wasn’t very good at it.

As those of you who used to get my trip reports know, the past couple of years have been years of discovery for me. Well, it’s still happening. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve discovered that I love making home made chicken soup. I adapted a recipe for shortbread cookies that came out really well. I made home made shepherd’s pie—from scratch and without any recipe to tell me what to put in or how long to cook it or at what temperature. I made Finnish coffee bread again—from a recipe I’ve had for years.

I’m rediscovering that I not only like to cook but that I do know instinctively what will work when I create things from scratch without a recipe or adapt a recipe to something I will like better.

All of which may seem unimportant except...except that it is part of rediscovering who I am and what I can do. As I made the Finnish coffee bread to take to a writers group Christmas party, part of me was still afraid it wasn’t going to be good enough. It still came as a surprise when people raved about how good it was. I was just as surprised when someone commented at the cookie exchange at how good my Finnish shortbread cookies were. And I realized I couldn’t remember when someone last said that to me about anything I made.

I love cooking. I love creating my own recipes—like the shepherd’s pie and the chicken soup. This is who I really am. And as I look around my lovely open kitchen and the new set of knives on the counter and the new casserole dishes and cooking pans in the cupboards, I smile. I’m going to enjoy using all of them. I’m going to enjoy discovering new foods to make, new foods to share with the new friends in my life.

I wish for all of you that you are discovering or rediscovering things you love to do. I wish for all of you that if you have stopped doing things you once loved—especially if it was because those around you didn’t value what you did—that you take a chance and try again whatever it was you gave up. I wish for you that part of the magic of this season and of the coming year will be that you, too, rediscover those things that once mattered to you and could matter again.


Friday, December 09, 2005

Writing What Matters to You

I did title this blog Writing and Life so...time to talk about writing.

I’ve noticed is that most of us who are writers write. We don’t worry too much about why we choose certain themes or characters and sometimes it’s because that’s what our contract says. And it usually works fine—until we get into an argument with an editor over changes or make changes we’re asked to make and realize we aren’t happy about it.

One of the things I stress in my writing workshops now, because I’ve learned it the hard way, is that it is useful to know why we are writing a particular story. And to write the answer down. If we get discouraged with what we are writing (and every writer does at times), we can look at that answer and it can help us keep going—IF the story matters enough to us. It can also help if we are trying to make plot choices or discuss possible changes with an editor or agent. If we have a clear vision of what we are trying to say, we are more likely to be able to find a solution that satisfies everyone—including us.

You may not know when you start to write why a particular story is important to you or what you most want to say or what idea you most want to explore. And that’s okay. What I am saying is that it is useful to ask the question because then you are more likely to get an answer and your story is more likely to be powerful in the way that you want it to be.

I am NOT suggesting polemics! I am not suggesting heavy handed theme loaded works! If we write fiction, our first job is to entertain. And paradoxically, if we entertain well enough, our ideas are more likely to find fertile ground. If our characters are real to our readers, if our readers can empathize with and understand why our characters feel and do as they do, then our readers are more likely to be sympathetic to whatever it is we are writing about.

So entertain. Keep that foremost in your mind if you write fiction. And also ask yourself what is important to YOU about the story you are writing. I have never regretted writing some of the things I never sold because I was writing what I loved. I have published works where I made changes I didn’t want to make and I was glad to have the sale. But the books I love the most, the ones I smile when I look at the covers, these are the books where I knew what I was writing about and why it was important to me. These are also the books that readers write to me most often about and which seem to touch the most hearts.

When we write what we care about, readers seem to instinctively know and gravitate to those stories. It is possible to do it entirely by instinct and heaven knows I have my share of those books. It was, however, more fun when I knew why I was writing a particular story--and you know how much I believe in having fun in whatever we choose to do!

So if you write, whenever you write, ask yourself: Why does this matter to me? And once you know, find a way to stay true to that answer.


Sunday, December 04, 2005


Did I get your attention? Good because what I love about this season is that we’re encouraged to think about joy and happiness as well as love and peace. I believe, to the bottom of my heart, that every change we want to make is more likely to occur if we find some way to bring joy into the process.

Which reminds me, some of you have privately expressed concern about my last couple of posts and I wanted to comment on that. Something in my own life that was very important to me recently got worked out and in part because I did speak up to someone. Fear and conflict are also things that come up, over and over, when I coach people about life so decided to post about it here. My apologies if I worried anyone!

It is, of course, easier to speak of things that can be difficult when we have looked at and put to rest our own fears and when we start from a base of knowing that we can create joy in our lives. So...

Back to joy. When I look at my Christmas tree, I smile because it reminds me of the magic I could feel as a child when anything seemed possible at this time of year. When I see a Menorah, I am reminded that miracles are possible. When I hear children sing about peace on earth, I am reminded that if we all held this in our hearts all year round, there wouldn’t be any wars.

It’s easy to get caught up in the “shoulds” of the season. We should have perfect family gatherings. We should find perfect presents for everyone on our list. We should bake innumerable cookies for school and neighborhood and church events. We should send out Christmas cards ON TIME. We should...

What if we step back and focus on the joy and the love and the possibilities instead? What if we focus on the best of what every religion has taught—that we are all connected and that within us is a spark of the divine? What if we focus on the message that we can create miracles if we trust in that divine spark and look to ourselves to help to change the world, moment by moment, in our own lives by living the love and joy and peace we sing about at this time of year?

If we are focused on that, odds are we will find just the right token to show those we care about that they are important to us. We will send out cards because we feel secure in who we are and want to reach out and connect with people in our lives. We will be able to let this season be whatever it turns out to be and not worry if it isn’t perfect. In other words, we can truly enjoy it again.

Wishing all of you joy and peace and love now and throughout the year ahead.


Saturday, December 03, 2005

Trouble, Part 2

So many of us, if we are worried about the feelings of others, tend not to say what’s on our minds, sometimes. We think we are being kind. The problem is that if we do not say what troubles us, odds are we will never resolve it and the result can be relationships that fall apart because we are trying to be kind.

Note: I am NOT advocating endless venting. I am not advocating clinging to hurt feelings and telling the world all about it. What I am talking about is the kind of telling where we say what we feel looking for a solution and we listen, really listen to the response.

Sometimes there are no solutions. Fears are colliding and/or the issues cannot be resolved. If we have talked about it with the person, at least we will be clear what the situation is and we need not have regrets or second guess ourselves if we walk away.

Very rarely do our words come as a surprise to the other person—that’s the most important thing to realize if we think we are being kind by staying silent. The other person has almost always sensed that there was some kind of problem. In the end, if we do get up the courage to raise the issue, often the other person feels a sense of relief to finally have it out in the open.

Again, I am not talking about endlessly obsessing. I am not talking about trying to get the other person to admit they have done wrong. I am talking about clarifying situations and setting boundaries and sorting out perceptions of what has happened and how the individuals involved really feel. It is important then to listen as well as to speak!

All of us see life through the filters of our past experience. No matter how hard we try to be objective, we cannot help having some distortion. Sometimes that distortion protects us and lets us move forward when if we truly saw things clearly we could not! Other times, though, those filters get in the way, preventing us from having the relationships we want to have or do the things we want to do.

It takes courage to let go of our favorite filters. It takes courage and the willingness to listen to others to rewrite our perception of the world. When we do so, we often lose what has felt like our protection for so long and yet, if we do find that courage, often we can rebuild our lives and our relationships on a stronger basis than before.

I have said before that it is the assumptions we never think to question that trip us up. Not listening, not speaking, these can reinforce those assumptions. When we do speak and we do listen, we may find those assumptions being pulled to the forefront and we have the chance to ask ourselves if they are really true and whether or not they are continuing to serve us well. We may hear things we don’t want to hear and yet that may be the only way we can grow and move forward.

Trouble occurs when fears collide and fears can often keep us silent. How much better to find the courage to speak in spite of our fears and discover, perhaps, that many of our fears have been groundless? Even if they are not, at least we will know and once we know we can move from being trapped within our fears to taking action to dealing with whatever the reality may be.

Speak always with kindness, but speak. And then listen. When we run from our fears, they gain power over us. When we face our fears, we gain power over them. Here’s wishing you the courage and wisdom to find ways to face your fears and to build even stronger relationships with the people you care about.


Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Trouble Occurs When Fears Collide

I’ve been feeling frustrated, not understanding my own reactions to something that was happening this week. Then I woke up this morning with that thought going through my head—Trouble occurs when fears collide. Suddenly I no longer felt frustrated or upset. I realized the situation that was troubling me was indeed a case where two sets of fears were colliding. I was also able to remember that I don’t need to live a fear based life any longer and that I am consciously choosing not to do so.

But it got me thinking. This is where trouble occurs—when people are afraid. It can be one sided. One person may be afraid and lash out at others. It’s even worse when both people are afraid. Sometimes the other person’s fears are so deep seated that nothing will allay them. Anything you do that triggers that person’s fears will cause the other person to do something that is likely to hurt you. When that is the case, the only safe alternative may be to put distance between yourself and the other person. Understanding this may make it possible to walk away instead of hoping to “fix” the relationship and getting hurt over and over again.

Sometimes a real issue exists that cannot be resolved the way you would like it to be resolved. Sometimes the only thing you can change is your reaction to it and it may be up to you to find another way to let go of your fear.

If we could take away everyone’s fears, I believe this would be a far better world, a world in which no one would ever need to hurt anyone else. In the meantime, we can begin with ourselves and our own fears. Whether or not anyone else in our lives is able to let go of fear, we will improve our own lives and our own level of happiness immeasurably if we choose to replace our fears with faith and hope and love. This doesn’t mean we stop being careful and prudent! It only means that when we catch ourselves reacting to a situation based on fear, we remind ourselves that within us is the ability, the strength, the courage, and the wisdom to cope with anything that may come up. And we really do, each of us, have that ability! Sometimes the only way to discover this, however, is to take that leap of faith and let go of our fears. Not only will we discover we can do things we didn't know we could do, but odds are the quality of our relationships will improve as well.

So I ask you, the next time you find yourself in conflict with someone, to stop and look at what fears may be driving each of you. I say this not for that other person's sake but because I know that it will improve YOUR life if you do so. Whether or not the conflict gets resolved you will be happier and more at peace.

Trouble occurs when fears collide.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Furniture and Cages

I’d been getting frustrated trying to find a sofa and other things for my house. Then, last week, I realized I was pretty much confining myself to a space not much larger than my tiny apartment in California. It reminded me of the story of the zoo animal who got a larger living space and still kept his movements confined to an area the size of his previous cage. So I decided it was time to really push to find what I needed. And I did find a sofa. A very nice guy from San Marcos brought it to my house, along with a white bookcase, and set both inside. It’s not new, but it’s the right style for this house and for me and I’ve covered the seat with fabric from my fabric stash. Today I found a small mobile cart to put my small TV on and it’s also white so it matches the bookcase.

That one piece of furniture meant that now I was using much more of my house. I’ve got the folding chairs out in the room that will be my classroom and the sofa in the living room and I moved my folding tray table and folding chair out to where the formal dining room would be so that I could use that space to work on my computer (which fits on the tray table top). Then someone on Craigslist (wonderful website with specific pages for lots and lots of cities around the country) offered a desk—a richly colored wood desk with drawers. Even better, he was willing to deliver and I jumped at the chance.

So now I had a sofa and a desk and was frustrated by the folding chair and how uncomfortable it was becoming to use it. Then it struck me—I have four padded chairs on wheels for the kitchen table! They are surprisingly comfortable and when I wheeled one over to the desk, I discovered it would work perfectly.

Then I got a Christmas tree. It’s artificial because I couldn’t manage a real one on my own. But it’s six and a half feet tall and was on special at Sears. It turns out it doesn’t seem nearly as big as I expected when I saw it in the store, but that says more about the size of my living room than the size of the tree. In any event, I could afford it and I can have it up NOW.

So I’m pleased. Now I’m using much more of my house and I no longer feel like that zoo animal who stayed confined to a small space when there was much more available. It seems symbolic of the way my life continues to expand here in all kinds of ways. I am, for example, in the process of arranging to give a workshop and then a class at the local Unity center.

Wishing for all of you that you are always expanding the space in which you live—if not physically then emotionally or intellectually.


Monday, November 28, 2005

More Thoughts on Coaching

Thank you to everyone who emailed me privately and to Eric who posted here. I actually do life coaching now—primarily for writers. And getting paid isn’t a problem. It’s not uncommon, once someone realizes what I have to offer, to have the person pay ahead—sometimes several months ahead. The thing I’m talking about would be in addition to that. There are people who can’t afford or don’t want months of coaching. They just have a practical problem that needs to be addressed now with a simple but effective solution. One shot coaching, in essence, as opposed to on going coaching, which tends to be the norm with life coaching.

I’m thinking maybe calling the service Easy Solutions to Life. No one seems to be using Easy Solutions as a company title yet.

The thing is that I believe solutions are much more likely to be implemented and change is far more likely to occur when it’s easy, when it’s done in a way that makes us smile. It’s so rare—at least it seems that way to me—that we are encouraged to do have fun doing things we need to do and yet that is the approach with which we are most likely to be effective, most likely to succeed, and most likely to actually do what needs to be done. addition to my current life coaching for writers, I’d love to just be able to do short term or one shot coaching with easy solutions to whatever challenge—big or small—people may have in their lives.

Thank you again, everyone, who gave me suggestions—you’re all terrific!


Thursday, November 24, 2005


It’s such a clichĂ© to write about Thanksgiving. Everyone does. We all talk about giving thanks for the good things in our lives and feeling a connection to others. These things do matter and I believe in them profoundly. I smile at the thought of everyone who spent today with family or friends and I’m so glad you had that kind of day!

I want to write, though, for and about all those of us who spent today alone. I thought about going to a restaurant and then decided to create instead a holiday for myself that would celebrate my new house. I realized I could slice and freeze turkey breast and stuffing and have it over the next few weeks.

In other words, this is about being alone but not lonely. I think of a friend I talked with this morning who was also alone, just a few weeks after the death of a dear one she had been taking care of. We laughed together and shared the bond of friendship over the phone line and our plans for today. We talked about how we both know we are on path for what we are meant to do with our lives.

The thing is that with this as with everything else, we have a choice. We can focus on what isn’t in our lives or we can celebrate what is. If we focus on what isn’t in our lives we can either rail against fate or we can focus on what we could do to change things. If we are alone, we can huddle in our loneliness or we can reach out and connect with people. We always have choices.

I’m not saying it’s always easy. Sometimes we start to get caught up in the “what ifs?” Or “Maybe I should haves.” That’s when it matters most that we trust in ourselves. That’s when it matters most that no matter what anyone else says or thinks we should do, we hold onto who we are and what WE know is right for us.

Anthony Robbins says that what we focus on becomes our reality and I believe that’s true. One friend I spoke with today had had a shock last night. Something that threw her into flashbacks to very difficult times in her life. But as we talked, she was able to focus on who she is and how very strong she has become. She could focus on the people in her life who believe in her and what she knows she is going to do. She could move beyond the hurts of the past to know that again, as Anthony Robbins says, the past does NOT equal the future! She could see the choices in her life and not feel trapped any longer.

We always have choices. It isn’t always easy to realize that. It isn’t always easy to see that being alone—especially on holidays like Thanksgiving—doesn’t have to mean being lonely. But life isn’t going to change to accommodate hurts we may have from our past—or even our present. Unfair as it can feel, if we want to be happy, we need to decide that we will be. We need to decide that we will focus on the things that move us toward that goal. Life will demand what it demands.

I say all this as someone who for much of my life didn’t know how to see the sunlight and look for the good instead of clinging to the hurt. I say this because I want others to know that we don’t have to stay that way. At any point in our lives, at any age, we can choose to change how we see life.

We cannot always control what happens to us or to those we love. I cannot make my son not have Down syndrome. My friend could not stop her dear one from dying. No one has the power to stop natural disasters. I would suggest that it is at times like this that we most need to find ways to smile each day, to bring joy into our lives—even if it’s just for a moment or two at a time. When we do so, we build our resilience and increase the odds that we will be able to see a solution to our situation or at least a way to cope. It is not a luxury to find a way to smile at times like this—it is a necessity.

I smile, truly smile, as I think of everyone I know who spent today with loved ones and friends. I write today’s post, however, for those who didn’t. I write it to encourage you, if you did not do so already, to find a way to smile about something that happened today, to look for something that was good, something that was right. And if you cannot think of anything, then RIGHT NOW do something nice or good for yourself. Right now be kind to yourself in a way that makes you smile.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.


Monday, November 21, 2005

Sensible Solutions

I have been enjoying my fireplace and my tea pot and the delicate china cups and saucers my mother never used. I have also been talking with friends and helping some with things that came up and I realized that I’d love to coach not just writing and the writing life but....I’d love to offer one shot coaching on everything from buying a house (or selling one) to getting one’s finances in order to dealing with difficult relatives to being happier every day.

I’m good at that. It’s what friends often call me for. I come up with simple, sensible, solutions no one else would have thought of for things. But I’m not sure how to market it. I googled things like “sensible solutions” and “simple solutions” and “practical solutions” and there are lots of people and companies already using that. “Elegant solutions” is less popular but I’m not sure if it would scare people off. Anyone want to take a shot at brainstorming possible titles for my service?

Hoping that all of you are finding elegant and simple solutions to the challenges that arise in YOUR lives every day!


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Cool Autumn Days

We have gone from summer to autumn, here in the Austin area, and the suddenness of the change makes it feel that much colder. It’s not cold compared to the northeast, of course, but it feels cold to me. So I baked oatmeal raisin cookies today—and celebrated the fact that I can because here I have an actual stove with an oven! I also roasted a chicken breast and ate dinner using my mother’s Ginori china. I may make chicken soup with the leftovers tomorrow.

Best of all, I may light a fire in my fireplace tonight. I’m guessing native Austinites will laugh that anyone would think it cold enough to do so but we may get a mild frost and why not? All my life I have wanted a house with a fireplace and now I have one. I will, of course, check with a match to see if the chimney seems to draw properly before I set up the fire.

With regard to the classes I want to teach, I have the chairs set up now in my den/study/classroom to be. Only 6 chairs so far, but I’d like to keep classes small. They are padded with a blue grey fabric and are remarkably comfortable for folding chairs. I want that for my students—whoever they will turn out to be.

At any rate, I'm looking forward to this evening. A glass of wine, a brightly burning fire, warm cookies and a good book to read--I find myself smiling just thinking about it.

Hoping all of you are having lovely evenings of your own doing something that brings you comfort and makes you smile.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Broken Pieces and Other Surprises

My boxes are arriving from New Jersey and I am discovering surprises—lovely little things I didn’t remember I had. I am also discovering things I have outgrown and wish I hadn’t paid to ship here. But that’s okay. If nothing else, those things are reminders of how far I’ve come in the close to two years since I put them into storage.

I am delighted by some of the things I'm unpacking. I love my fairy water fountain, fabric that makes me smile just to look at it, pieces of jewelry I didn’t know if I’d given away, an angel music box someone gave me after my divorce. These are part of who I am and I love having them. At the same time, I’m also delighted that I could manage without them when I needed to. I never want to become a person who thinks her value is tied to what she owns. Possessions matter only in the ways they make us smile and bring back memories we want to hold onto.

There are other things that make me want to cry, like the broken pieces of things I thought I’d packed carefully enough to survive the trip. That includes the broken garden fairy statue, the broken music boxes, two broken plates and a soup bowl from my mother’s set of Ginori china.

The china maybe hits me the worst. I’ve never used it, you see. I kept it in sealed boxes in my attic while I was married when it came to me after my mother’s death. Far worse, in all the years I was growing up, I never saw my mother use that china. She got it from her mother and kept it boxed up. I didn’t even know what it looked like until I unboxed it. But I will use it. I will use it when my daughter and her friends come over Christmas. I will use it every day when I want to remind myself that possessions matter not because of the monetary value they might have, that they matter instead for how they can make us feel and the memories they hold.

When I use this china, it will connect me to my mother and my mother’s mother—women who didn’t believe that they deserved to use something this special. It will connect me to women who didn’t know how to be happy and it will remind me that yet again, in yet another way, I have broken the pattern that went on for generations. I will mend, if I can, the broken pieces of china and keep them to remind me that while some things that get broken can’t be fixed, others can—like the music boxes and my fairy garden statue, and the china.

If the only value these pieces had was what I could sell them for, the broken dishes would be worthless. But if the value of these pieces is bringing me joy when I use them, then if they can be glued back together, they are just as valuable as ever.

I have only begun to unpack the 40 plus packages I shipped to myself. I have no doubt I will find more wonderful surprises and more broken pieces. I will grieve the broken things and do what I can to save them. I will also celebrate the good surprises, the ones that make me smile.

And with each box unpacked, this house becomes more and more my home.

Celebrate the surprises in your life. Even the broken pieces can have meaning for us if we choose to let them.


Friday, November 11, 2005


I began an email, when I was on my Pink Refrigerator/Desperate Housewife Escapes journey that began: I’m drunk. It was the day I visited my parents’ graves. I begin today’s post the same way. I do not do this lightly. I do not ordinarily have enough alcohol to be considered drunk and rest assured that I am safely in my home and do not intend to go anywhere, much less drive!

But I am home. Just come home from New Jersey where I said good-bye to the person I once was and a place that was home for over 20 years. I said good-bye to hopes and dreams that were born and died there.

I am so blessed in the ways my life is turning out now. I know that even the mistakes I’ve made in my life have led to where I am now and I am grateful for that. People I’ve known have enriched my life immeasurably.

But part of my life is over. The next phase promises joy and success and even more self-confidence. Funny to think it should be coming at my age. But that’s how it looks. I don’t mean to sound as if I am unhappy!

I suppose I’m writing about this because I think it’s important to understand we don’t need to always avoid painful emotions. I will grieve what is lost or changed in my life that I wish hadn’t and then I will be able to move on. If I tried to suppress or pretend there wasn’t any grief—over mistakes I’ve made or things I’m leaving behind—it would take far too much of my energy to try not to feel what I feel.

There is power in knowing we can survive this kind of change. The death of one part of our life opens up the possibility of rebirth into something even better. If we know we can survive the painful feelings, if we are comfortable embracing those emotions and then letting go, then we are for more likely to embrace and welcome the new possibilities that occur knowing it’s okay even if it means letting go of something else.

So...tonight I drank champagne to celebrate the good coming into my life and to acknowledge the pain of what I am letting go. I am toasting the courage it has taken to make these changes in my life. I am toasting all the other women who find the courage to let go of what is a familiar but painful situation to embrace the unknown and the possibility of happiness. I know it is not just women who face this kind of choice but I think that women often have a harder time believing they matter enough to reach for that possibility of happiness.

And so tonight I drink champagne and toast—to life!


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Little Things

It’s the little things that get to me: driving past my kids’ old school, the craft store where I used to buy presents for them and supplies for the yearly birthday parties, the bookstore where I did so many book signings, the library where I did research for my books, the mall I walked for hours when I was so unhappy.

Friends have stayed in touch. We still see each other sometimes and we communicate all the time via email. These places...are no longer part of my life and it will hit me suddenly, the tears, as I go by or walk through them.

This is a bittersweet trip. I love my new home and look forward to going back there. I’m saying good-bye to what was part of my life for a very long time. I’m seeing the friends I can see and grieving other relationships that either ended or have changed in profound ways.

Last night I went back to my old Toastmasters club. It was so good to see old friends from the club and I even ended up giving a speech. I hadn’t planned on that but it says something about how my confidence has grown over the past couple of years that I didn’t hesitate when they asked if I wanted to do so.

It is the little things that fill our lives and hearts with emotion. The big things we somehow brace for but the little things get under our guard. I’m not complaining though. Tears are part of life and connect me to the past. They remind me that no matter how much hurt I have had in my life, I have always been able to still love, still hope, still dream, still go on. They remind me that I am creating new memories in my new life, too.

I am saying good-bye. Not just to a place, but to who I once was, as well. I am no longer the person who needs so much to be loved and is so terrified of being abandoned that she will tolerate things other people would not. I know now that I want and will have kindness and respect from people with whom I am close. I know now that I do not have to settle for less. I tell my daughter, too, that these are the bottom line defining characteristics of truly loving relationships—kindness and respect. Without those, it is only an illusion of love and one not worth having.

It’s the little things that get to me here as I close one chapter of my life, once and for all, so that I am ready to begin the next.


Monday, November 07, 2005

Going Home 3

There’s something I forgot to talk about in my last post. I said that sometimes people don’t see the change in us when we go home or they don’t welcome it. I forgot to talk about the other side of the coin.

How often do we go home and not see that the ones who stayed have changed and grown as well? How often do we assume they will react and act the way they always did before? There is power in going to see old friends or family and being open to the possibility that they have changed and will act/react differently with us now.

I’ll grant you that sometimes they have not changed. And if the person hurt us in the past, it’s wise to be prepared to walk away if it should happen again. Even forgiveness does NOT mean we must let the person hurt us all over again!

But if we live our lives afraid or if we live our lives not seeing changes that take place in others, we can cheat ourselves of friendships or family connections that could enrich our lives. Even if they have not changed, it is possible that the person we thought we used to see is not really the person they are or were.

So I ask you to look at the people around you, not just when you go home but every day, and be open to the possibility that they are growing and changing. Be open to the possibility that there is a side to that person which—good or bad—you have not noticed before. One of the greatest gifts we can give those we care about is permission and even encouragement to grow and explore the possibilities of who they are meant to be.


Going Home 2

Not home from childhood, but still, more than 20 years of my life. And it feels both familiar and as if I am on the outside looking in. That says more about who I am now than it does about this place.

Some things I have learned:

1) If there is a transit strike in a town, make sure you have a rental car already reserved.

2) If you have a rental car reserved and they ask if you want to upgrade, say “no.” You may still end up with a luxury car at a discount price.

3) Keep a space for yourself where you can retreat to recoup when necessary.

4) Keep a sense of humor. Phone lines and internet access may disappear when you need them the most.

5) Keep a sense of humor dealing with people. Odds are they will see you as you once were rather than who you are now. It isn’t necessarily malicious; they just have recognized the changes yet.

6) Understand that perhaps you haven’t changed so much as just let the real you come to the surface.

7) Celebrate the happy moments, allow yourself permission to grieve whatever is lost, and look for what is good about what you see.

8) If you hang in there, some people can change how they see you. Some people can learn and grow and accept that you have done so, too.

9) It isn’t all or nothing. People who don’t recognize the change won’t necessarily always be blind to that change.

10) It’s up to us to help others see us as we are now.

11) Sometimes when we go home we can’t see the people we most want to see. It’s best to be prepared for that.

12) We are who we are. The more at peace we are with that, the more at ease we will be with others—whether they can see and celebrate who we have become or not.

13) The moments that feel the worst will not last forever.

14) Breathe. Remind yourself of the successes in your life. Find a way to smile, and then look at the situation again. Odds are that if your stress level comes down, you will find a solution to the situation.

15) No one has the power to take you back to who and where you were. You are not hostage to what others say and do if you choose not to be. You do not have to stay locked into old patterns. It IS possible to find new paths even when situations are as they once were.

16) Keep a sense of humor, no matter what. (Are you starting to notice a theme?) A trip home is only that—a trip home. It is generally finite and even if the trip were a complete disaster, you will go back to the life that is yours NOW. You will go back to the life where people know you for who you have become, not who you once were—or who they perceived you to be.

If you get the sense that my own trip home has been a mixed blessing, you would be right. But even that is not entirely a bad thing. I am discovering how resilient I am and how resourceful I can be. Within every challenge are the seeds of opportunity and blessings if we look for them. Mind you, over the past few days I have found myself thinking this is one of those blessings it’s really hard to be grateful for is nonetheless a blessing and knowing that makes the...challenges...easier to deal with. I am still, as I have sometimes signed myself, April the Optimist. I hope that I will always have the courage--and wisdom!--to see life this way.

So...wishing you luck with your own trips home this holiday season and with the blessings that may be difficult to give thanks for at the time they first appear.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Someone had a great suggestion for my upcoming trip back to my old home. She suggested calling people by different versions of their name than I have in the past as a way to alter how I interact with them. I thought that was brilliant! After all, as a writer, I know the power of names. In my books, names are something I agonize over and may change a half dozen times before I feel sure I have them right. So I know the power of names.

In my new life, I know how to set boundaries. In my new life, I feel confident and strong and trust my instincts and my intelligence. The challenge when I go back will be to hold onto that knowledge and trust in myself. The challenge will be to remember that even though some people there don’t believe in me, far more, everywhere else, do. The challenge will be to remember all that I have accomplished since I left and also to recognize what I was accomplishing even back there, despite some real barriers.

And isn’t that what we all need to do as we move forward in our lives? Every time we grow and change, there will be people in our lives who have trouble seeing that. Every time we become stronger, wiser, more who we are meant to be, there will be some people who don’t want us to change and who will try to stop us or try to make us doubt the importance of what we are doing.

So if you are making changes in your lives and have someone trying to stand in your way, I pass on the suggestion of choosing a new way to say their name. If you use the full name, try a shortened version. If you use a shortened version, try the full name. Above all else, hold onto the knowledge of who you are and the very real strengths within you.


Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Table

I found a kitchen table and chairs. It isn’t a fancy one but a much loved set. Handed down to each child as he or she went off to college and needed furniture. And when I look at it now sitting in my home I will think of the stories and the love that come with it.

I’d been thinking I wanted an octagonal table. With cream colored padded chairs. And a leaf to expand it when my daughter comes to visit with her friends. I thought maybe I was nuts. An octagonal table that expands? Where did that come from? But then I saw it listed on Craigslist. Cheap. I called and asked if they could deliver it—offered extra if they would. And they said yes.

It came today. And she said it had passed through every child in the family as they went off to college. I look at it and see stories. I look at it and see love and somehow it seems right for it to be here now. If I ever want a fancy table and chairs, well, there’s room for that in the dining room on the other side of the kitchen. This is the set I will use every day. And every day I will sit in the padded chairs, look out at my garden and smile.

Sometimes new isn’t best but rather those things that come to us infused with a history of love.


Thursday, October 27, 2005


A friend lost someone close to her last night. Not only did her dear one die but now she will lose the place that was her home while she took care of this dear one. It is a reminder to me of how little so many things I fuss about truly matter.

What matters are the people in my life and the things I am meant to do. My friend and her dear one had lovely times together—laughter and joy and shared dreams. While the loss hurts, she can let go without thinking of all the “what ifs?” and “I wish”es. And in her heart she knows she will one day see this dear one again.

We can’t get back the days that are gone. We can only move forward making sure we LIVE our lives. We can choose not to spend our time on anger and old hurts and grudges and fears. We can choose instead to spend our time doing what we love and being with people we care about. We can choose to live our lives with a sense of purpose and joy knowing that each of us has something unique to share and we cheat both ourselves and the world when we do not find a way to do so.

So...what is your unique gift to share? Who are the people in your life to cherish? How will you do both? How will you let go of anger and old hurts and grab onto love and joy instead?

Anthony Robbins likes to say that what we focus on becomes our reality. If we hold onto anger and hurt, that becomes our reality and we can feel as if that’s all there is and all there ever will be. When we take that leap of faith and let go of the anger and hurt then we open up a space for love and joy. We open up a space for finding a way to share the unique gift of who we are with people who will care, who will appreciate us, who will help us to become the best we can be.

I want to be like my friend, knowing when inevitably I do lose someone dear to me that I laughed and loved and dreamed with that dear one. I want to know that my memories will be filled with smiles and not regrets. The next few weeks and months will be difficult ones for her but I cannot help believing that it is the memories of the joy she shared with her dear one that will get her through this.

I want to open up the spaces in my heart even wider—cherishing the many wonderful friends I have in this world.

I want to open my heart and mind even wider to the wonderful possibilities that exist if only I can let myself see them.

The past two years have been a lesson in beautiful surprises that can happen when I open my heart and I can’t wait to see what the rest of my life will bring.

What wonderful surprises will fill your life when you open YOUR heart?


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Planning Ahead

Planning ahead is a good idea. I’ve changed over my car registration and driver’s license just in time to meet the 30 day deadline I’ll be flying before I get my photo ID, something I didn’t even think about when planning when to do things. Fortunately, I do have a passport which should be okay as my photo ID but had I planned ahead, I could have made sure I had my new photo driver’s license in time for my trip.

I mention this so that if any of you are getting ready to move and have a trip planned, you will be able to plan better than I did! It also points up the value of having a passport, even if you don’t expect to travel abroad any time soon. (Of course, many of you will have other photo ID’s anyway so it’s a moot point but for those who don’t, it’s something to keep in mind.)


Sunday, October 23, 2005

Asking and Listening

It pays to ask questions. I was in a furniture store and finally thought to ask—when do the colors change? Turns out it’s November so...I think I’ll wait to try to find a couch until the colors change. I’m hoping china patterns (inexpensive sets) will change too.

I also thought of something else. The rug is beige. The walls are creamy. One wall and window treatments are Wedgwood green. Anything not green or brown or beige will look odd to the eye. I thought of a floral pattern but a pale background with green in it will look too pale and I can’t see living with a floral pattern that’s really dark. Nor do I want plaids or some of the other bizarre stuff in the stores now.

Then it occurred to me—if I find an area rug I love with rich jewel tone colors, say a 4 X 6 or 5 X 8 that has a deep, rich green in it then I can get furniture that matches another color in the rug. (I’m thinking pseudo Aubusson here.) Then it will look right to the eye and I will still have the airy look but more choice on colors for the furniture. Need to see if I can find the right area rug but if I do this could be great.

Anyway, it pays to ask—now I know when the colors change in the furniture stores and it’s not very long to wait.

Meanwhile, I did get another bookcase for a nightstand on the other side of my bed and I finally found a vacuum. There’s something comforting about vacuuming a rug that really needs it. I suppose it’s another way to affirm control over some of the things in our lives.

And in the theme of listening...I bought a chime for my home. It’s one chime on a bamboo base with a small mallet and the sound it makes vibrates in the air for a very long moment. Why am I splurging on such an item when it’s not essential? Because it is essential. I was reminded today that the sounds we welcome into our lives make a difference. Choosing this was a way of affirming that I want lovely, soothing sounds in my home and in my life. And this sound seems to reverberate down into my soul to remind me that all is well, that within me is a connection to a universal something greater than myself.

Often we feel so overwhelmed with the demands of our daily lives that it’s easy to forget that we also need time for beauty in our lives. Sounds and sights that make us smile and touch something deep inside nurture our spirit. And that’s as important as any other part of our lives. If we are writers, it is out of that spirit we create our stories. In our daily lives, it is that spirit which sustains us when we are faced with chaos or other challenges.

So ask questions and bring lovely sounds into your life and see what possibilities open up when you do.


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Garbage--real and symbolic

Garbage. Finally, the company managed to find and pick up my garbage and I managed to get a container for future pick ups. Seems silly but it really was getting to me that every week I’d put it out and every week it would still be there at the end of the day. Every week the company would assure me it would be picked up and it wasn’t.

I realized that it was symbolic—if the real garbage wasn’t being picked up, on some level I felt as if I couldn’t get rid of all the emotional garbage in my life either. Add to that a phone line that keeps going out frustration level was hitting the ceiling. How can I coach over the phone if the phone doesn’t work?

So often, I think, we invest emotions into things beyond what makes sense. All of this has given me practice in coming up with creative ways to cope with problems. The other thing it’s done is give me practical experience countering frustration with things that make me smile. I’ve made a concerted effort to make sure I have healthy food in the house that I love. I’ve made sure that every day which brought frustration had SOME experience of success to counter it. (Yesterday—garbage day—I made sure I got my car inspected and registered here.) Each experience then became proof that I had control over my life and that my happiness wasn’t hostage to what others did or didn’t do. Each time I smiled, it was a reminder that even when some things go wrong, I have the power to create happiness in my life.

Still no couches, still no vacuum cleaner (where are all the good inexpensive bagged ones???). I do plan to get lots of things at Target but it’s hard to do that before I have the couches so that I know what will look right with them. (My dresser the year in NJ after my divorce was stacked drawers from Target. )

By no means do I want to sound as if I have any regrets about this move! I still smile every time I look around at my house. I still smile every morning when I go out my front door to get the paper and see sunshine. I still smile when I think of all the people I’ve met who have been so nice. Each of these things is a reminder that life is not and doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. Each of these things is a reminder that the frustrating things that occur are not the sum total of my days. Each of these things is a reminder that I was so very right to listen to my instincts and come here.

There is a song sung by Lee Ann Womack—I HOPE YOU DANCE. I love that song. That’s how I see myself and my life now—I had the choice to sit it out or dance and I am dancing. If you haven’t heard the song, I hope you will. And I hope that you, too, will always choose to dance in whatever way that matters in your own life.


Monday, October 17, 2005

House, Home, Identity

I am realizing that it was easier to find this house than to know how to furnish it. I know what I want but I can't find it in stores. I realized that it ties into how I feel about myself. For the first time in my life, I could choose whatever I want--if I could find it. My home will be a reflection of me--who I am. I am inclined to wait except...I can't really hold classes until I have a furnished living room. And I need a kitchen table and chairs.

I realize, of course, that part of the problem is trying to keep to a budget. If money were no object, it would be much easier to get what I want. So the choice is between fiscal responsibility and "perfection."

That's a choice, of course, we often make in our lives. I think I need to get more creative. I haven’t seen any estate sales advertised but there must be some. And my daughter suggested I check Craigslist and ebay. Meanwhile, I’ve put together a small bookshelf to use as a night table because what do I need more than books beside my bed and space for a notebook or two?

I’ve been writing, too. Not the Pink Refrigerator project but another one I mentioned to an editor at the writer’s conference in Seattle. For all the coaching I do, for all the teaching I do, I am at heart a writer first. I have stories to tell. That’s been too often put on the back burner as I made all the changes I have recently. It feels good to have the words flowing again, to know that I’m doing what I love most.

So, like most of us, I am balancing the demands of every day life with the writing. And all of it is about becoming more truly myself, the person I am and want to be. I am discovering that I am not willing to settle for less than that—not now and not ever again. I won’t wear clothes I don’t love or buy furniture or write words that don’t matter to me. I won’t be someone others want me to be. And I will make the writing the priority it should be.

One reason I love to give writing workshops is that I know that when we find the words to tell the stories we have inside it changes our lives. When we find our voice, we find something else as well. We find courage, strength, resilience and we find ourselves. By the same token, being true to ourselves makes it easier to write the words we need to share. So....

If you have ever thought of writing, I encourage you to try. If you tell the stories that matter to you, you will never regret the time spent doing so—whatever happens. Share your stories. Wear clothes you love. Surround yourself with things that make you smile. It is your life--live it with joy and courage.


Friday, October 14, 2005


I’m going home in a few weeks. Funny that I should still think of NJ that way, even after the 20 months I’ve been away. But that’s where I raised my kids, that’s where I spent over 20 years of my marriage. I don’t want to go back there to live, but it carries a weight that has me thinking that I’m going home.

Going back has a lot of emotional resonance to it. I’ll be seeing my son and ex-husband and my daughter will even be in town that weekend. I’ll be facing the changes in the old house and the knowledge that my ex plans to sell it. I’ll be seeing old friends and knowing we’ve all changed. I’ll be remembering the good as well as the bad. I’ll be letting go, once and for all, of a place that never truly felt like home when I lived there.

So why am I going back to NJ when I’ve just moved into my house in Austin? Well, because I’ve just moved into my house in Austin. I can finally get my things (mostly research books) out of storage. I left them in NJ because my tiny apartment in California couldn’t hold them and it seemed folly to pay to ship things to put them in even more expensive storage out there.

But now I have a house and now I can unpack and use the things I put in storage. Mind you, it’s a daunting idea to go back and get all those things to UPS and the post office and ship them. And some things I’ll just give away because it would cost more to ship them than to replace them here—things that have no great sentimental value for me.

Still, the most daunting thing is the emotions already surfacing as I think of being there. Will I fall into old patterns of how I relate to people—especially people I once cared a great deal about and on some level still do? And if I do, will I get hurt by them all over again? Will I be able to hold onto this new understanding of who I am as a person or will I find myself back to trying to be the person I THINK they wanted me to be?

In a sense, though, that’s precisely why this trip is so necessary. It’s about closure. I’ll be shipping back to myself what was good that I left in NJ and want to keep in my life, and discarding what I’ve outgrown. The stuff in storage, I mean. But it works as an analogy on an emotional level, too. I will—I hope!—be embracing what was good about all the relationships in my life back there and letting go of what was not good. Not in anger, but in love. I will do so knowing that even the worst of the experiences helped to shape who I am and that any harm done came out to the other person’s own hurt and self-doubt and pain. I will also do so knowing that this understanding does NOT mean I must allow myself to be hurt all over again!

And so I feel both a mixture of anticipation and dread at the thought of going back to NJ even for a few days. It will bring an end to a profoundly important time in my life and free me to really begin on my new life, here in Austin. That thought brings tears and a smile, dread and anticipation. But then, isn’t that what change is always about—letting go of the old, embracing the new, holding onto what was good and letting go of what no longer fits?

I know already that I must build into my trip space for time alone and space for laughter. I will need a ready forgiveness—for myself and for those I will see who have hurt me in the past. Ironically, I already know that forgiving me (for not handling things as well as I think I should) will be the more difficult task. And that’s when I will most need to find ways to smile and laugh and remember that it is all part of the journey.

If I am going to truly LIVE, then there will be moments that challenge me, that stretch my ability to cope to the limit. But better that than never discovering what I can do and who I can be. Better to face my fears than to be ruled by them. Better to face people who in the past I have given the power to hurt me and take that power back and know that no one can hurt me unless I choose to let them.

What journeys and changes are you facing in your life? How can you make any transitions as easy as possible for yourself? What will let you smile and laugh, even at the most challenging of times? How will you move forward into the life you want to have?


Tuesday, October 11, 2005


It’s a funny thing about power—most of us, on some level, perceive ourselves as having far more power than we do and at the same time far less power than we truly do.

Here’s what I mean by that. Many of us, without even realizing it, carry into adulthood “magical thinking.” We believe that if we just anticipate every problem, we can keep anything bad from happening. Or we believe nothing bad ever will happen to us and if it does, we’re bewildered. Or we think that if we live our lives the way we are told we should then nothing bad will happen. Or if we just never brag about ourselves, good things will continue to happen and if we do they won’t. Or...

The list is almost endless of the way we may think we have more power than we do. And we cling to these notions because on some (usually unconscious) level, we don’t believe we have the power to create the lives we want to have and be happy. It feels safer and easier to cling to rituals, to live by someone else’s rules, or even, perhaps, to believe that some person (spouse, parent, friend, etc.) can guarantee our safety or happiness.

The thing is we all have far more power than we realize. Not the magical kind—we can’t control what will happen to our lives and neither can anyone else. The power we have is to choose how we will respond to what happens. We have the power to choose the actions we will take.

So how do we claim that power? It begins by realizing it exists. So....

Make a list. Well, okay, several lists. Note: Keep these lists handy and keep adding to them as you think of new things.

1) What are your strengths? What have you been able to accomplish in the past?

2) What do you value about yourself? (If you can’t think of anything, ask people who like you.)

3) What makes you smile? What makes you grin or feel happy? And here I include everything from funny movies to little stuffed animals to clothes to people to poems and books and movies and waterfalls and sunny days and.... Well, you get the idea. Do/wear/eat/read/watch/etc. something from this list at least 3 times a day!

If you know your strengths, you are likely to focus on using them instead of believing someone else must do things for you. If you know all the reasons to value yourself, you are less likely to perceive yourself as not having value and/or as deserving to have things go wrong. And when we do things that make us happy, we are lowering our stress levels and we are, on a daily basis, reminding ourselves that we have the ability to create joy in our lives. If we are going through a crisis, we are making ourselves a vivid promise that it will not always be this way and we ARE still capable of feeling moments of happiness and we are NOT hostage to anyone else—no matter what, WE can create joy in our lives.

So....let go of any unconscious magical thinking you may be clinging to and embrace the very real power YOU have over your life!


Monday, October 10, 2005


All right, this really about garbage cans and airplanes and writers conferences and DSL.

First, my garbage can was neatly set against the garage door when I returned from my trip to Seattle, so obviously someone realized their mistake and returned it. What a nice discovery!

My DSL is installed and working.

Writer’s conferences. I’ve never been to Seattle, but I went this weekend for a writer’s conference--the Emerald City Writers Conference. I was giving my BOOK IN A WEEK workshop and IMAGERY FOR WRITING AND LIFE. Both went well. Just as important, I had fun, a great deal of fun. The hotel was nice, the staff extraordinarily helpful, the food wonderful, and the people...the people were an absolute delight! Even the bookfair stood out—chocolate and dipping pens and bottles of ink plus the most enticing research books imaginable! I suspect I’ll be going back.

It was, as you might have guessed by now, a terrific weekend—in spite of an overnight flight home, not nearly enough sleep, and occasional bouts of nerves. I suspect I’m like most writers—I’m happy to work on my own, even happier to be around other writers, and in need of absolute solitude often !

These things might sound like contradictions, but other writers will know what I mean. We’re never alone—we have all these stories to tell and all these characters demanding that we do so at once! And yet we are inveterate people watchers and need that opportunity, too. When it’s people who understand about those stories we have to tell (i.e. fellow writers), why it’s even better!

I came back tired but renewed. I came back with an even greater sense of how the power over our lives lies in our own hands.

And hey, now I have DSL access—despite some initial glitches. Somehow that time away, reminding myself that above all else I am a WRITER gave me the resilience to barely notice that not everything went smoothly.

When we do what we love—and I LOVE public speaking and sharing with others ways to make our lives easier and happier—we renew ourselves and deepen our resilience to any challenge life might throw our way.

Here’s wishing you a chance to do something you love—TODAY!


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Things Go Wrong

Even at the best of times, things sometimes go wrong. Today was not the best of times. Something knocked out my phone line. The number in the phone book for SBC couldn’t be reached from my cell phone. I had coaching calls to make. I couldn’t make them on my cell phone because it began beeping to let me know the battery had run down and it was about to shut down.

I managed to find in email from SBC another number to try and the battery on my cell phone held out long enough for me to hear that my phone line would be fixed by...7 pm—AFTER my coaching calls had to be completed!

Put my cell phone charging. Realized I’d almost used up all the time on it and made a note to refill time once it was charged. Luck was with me and the phone line did get fixed before my coaching calls had to be made. Thank heavens!

So there I was, breathing a deep sigh of relief, when I went out back and discovered my garbage had not been picked up and—more importantly—the new container had not been left. Called and was told they didn’t know but if it wasn’t picked up today it would be tomorrow. Okay, I wasn’t pleased but...okay. Until I went back out 2 hours later to discover someone had stolen my NEW red kitchen metal trash can. ::SIGH::

I wanted to cry. I can guess, of course, that someone was scavenging and thought I was discarding the thing. But still....

Even now, there is a part of me that started to feel everything was now going to go wrong. And even a part of me that felt it was hubris on my part to think it was okay for me to have a house. But...

I’ve come a long way on my journey and now it’s so much easier to step back and remind myself that things simply happen. It was so much easier to separate the old fears from the present reaction and see that what was happening today was a series of nuisances—nothing really critical. It was okay. It was okay for me to have this house. That I could still figure out ways to handle things that go wrong. That I do not have to live my life expecting things to go badly. I could remind myself that glitches always happen—to everyone—and that we have a choice how we will react when they do occur. And it is that choice which will determine the quality of our lives far more than the actual events that happen to us.

So...choose to believe in the possibility of goodness in your lives. Focus on what can go right and the ways you can give yourself joy. Every day—EVERY DAY—make sure you find ways and reasons to smile or laugh at least 3 times. It is a promise to yourself that no matter what, you CAN create happy moments in your life. If things are going well, these times are a bonus. If life is challenging, it is a promise to yourself that it won’t always have to be this way. Even more important, the moments when you smile and laugh will give you greater resilience and strength and creativity to deal with whatever glitches do occur.

My next adventure? Seeing if I can get DSL working on my system. Until next time, remember to find reasons to smile and laugh every day!


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Happiness and Furnishing a Home

Funny how things work out. Back in NJ and then CA, it seemed simple. Anything that would cost as much to move as to buy new, I should leave behind. Which means I’m fine on linens like towels and sheets and silverware, fabric and clothes, but I have no furniture or pots or dishes or glasses or a vacuum cleaner? Yet. And the thing is that WAS the sensible decision to make. I have one set of dishes for me and time to find a larger set I like for company. But it’s a little unnerving to come back, day after day, to a house with no furniture. (Well, okay, one tray table and one folding chair fit in the back of my car...)

It would be simpler if I liked what was in the stores. I don’t. At least not so far. And everything is open floor plan so what goes in the dining area has to go with what goes in the living room which has to go with what goes in the study/den/classroom area.

Worse comes to worse, I’ll sew slip covers. But I’d just as soon not have to do that. Thing is, I’ll be living with this stuff for a very long time so it matters that it’s what I want. I’ll check Ross and Marshalls and TJ Maxx stores for dishes and Bed, Bath, & Beyond plus Linens & Things for pots and pans. But...I’m still looking. And checking ads in the paper every day hoping to spot what I really want.

I did get the home security system in place today. Got some more small things I needed yesterday. Will you laugh if I tell you that adding to my set of tools (another set of screw drivers with short handles, tape measure, etc.) was a priority yesterday? (I want to reverse the direction of the door on my dryer and the screwdrivers I have weren’t the right size.) But it’s part of reinforcing that sense of competence—of being able to take care of the things that need to be taken care of in my life.

We all need to feel competent, to know our own strengths. Knowing that, we can find the courage and faith in ourselves to learn new things and deal with what once would have seemed impossible.

One reason I am so picky about my house and what will be in it is that this also is a statement of faith—that I can and deserve to have a lovely home with things that bring me peace and happiness. It is a statement of faith that it is okay to be ME, that who I am and what reflects that identity is good enough and perhaps much more than “good enough.”

I grew up being told always to buy the cheapest thing that would do the job. I grew up being told I wanted the wrong things. I grew up being told I wasn’t good enough. Now, as an adult, it is a joy to know, to affirm to myself that I can choose what is right for me—not just what is cheapest. I can choose what I love knowing it IS the right choice—for ME. I can choose knowing that I can trust myself and the choices I will make. As I said, decorating this house isn’t just a matter of choosing furniture and dishes, etc. It is an affirmation of faith in who I am and who I have and who I WILL become! And I smile each time I add another piece to the setting00even if it is something as small as the right set of screwdrivers for the job I want to do.

The funny thing I am realizing is that the more faith we have in ourselves, the more we let go and reach inside to listen to what we KNOW is right for US, the more likely we are to make choices we do not regret and which are actually GOOD for us as well. (Okay, how many here have ever bought something they KNEW was probably a mistake but couldn’t resist rebelling just that little bit—especially if you couldn’t dare let yourself get what you really wanted?) I believe, for example, that shopaholics may in fact be buying lots of things they don’t really want to make up for the things they believe they aren’t allowed or don’t deserve to have in their lives. Buying one thing, or creating a space or relationship in our lives, that makes us truly happy can head off the purchase of a dozen things that are okay but not what we really want. Faith in ourselves matters. A willingness to allow ourselves to be happy matters—so much hurt and wasted money could be avoided, if we do.

Wishing all of you faith in yourselves and the choices YOU will choose to make!


Sunday, October 02, 2005

A Bed at Last!

Well, I have a bed. Expensive. Very expensive. But I found that when I tried less expensive beds, my back and my left shoulder (the one that was a frozen shoulder a couple of years ago) hurt too much. So, I ordered it yesterday and it got delivered today.

It is so nice not to be sleeping on the floor on an air mattress! Plus, now I know how much room there is in the sitting area of my bedroom. Not enough for a sofa or loveseat, but enough for a comfortable chair and a sewing table or writing desk. I need to figure out exactly what I want.

I'm still discovering things about my house. Still reveling in the space and how pretty it is.

Today was quiet. They said the bed would be delivered early (otherwise I'd have to wait until Monday) so I missed church to be here. That's okay. I'll find the right place for me later. Right now, I'm still settling in. Beginning to get the little things (kitchen garbage pail with a tight fitting lid, for example) that will make this house a home.

Thank you, Sharyn, for the suggestion of lists of what I need! Tori, now that you mentioned it, I've started noticing the noise of my ice maker. But there's enough distance between my bedroom and the kitchen that it doesn't disturb my sleep. And I still enjoy the luxury.

What I am discovering is that I really did know what I was doing when I picked this house and I really will always be able to figure out solutions to problems that come up. Those of you who know me well are going, "Well, duh!" Years of being treated as if I wasn't so smart, though, had their effect and it's taking time for this to sink in at a gut level. But each success--whether it's figuring out how to get home when I get lost after dark or choosing the right bed or fixing a minor glitch in the house--helps that understanding to embed itself so that it begins to be a part of who I am and how I see myself. It gives me both courage and faith to make new choices and move closer to making this the house I want it to be.

I ponder where my writing should go next. There are lots of things I could be writing and I am asking myself what I NEED to write. I as myself what I can uniquely do well. I wrote a draft of Pink Refrigerator as fiction. Part of me still whispers it should be nonfiction. We'll see. Thing is, all things seem possible now. And what once upon a time would have paralyzed me with fear has become more of what I simply take in stride.

That's the thing about doing new things, taking new steps, pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone. This is what helps our comfort zones expand. This is how we grow as individuals. This is how we discover the things we didn't know we could do!

And through all of it, I find myself smiling every day. And that's important--to build joy into our days and into the new steps we take. Doesn't have to cost a lot of money. Doesn't have to be anything complicated. What it does take is the decision to make sure that we create lives in which we do find reasons to smile and even laugh. We can still honor our responsibilities. Indeed, I would argue that our best shot at honoring those responsibilities and carrying them out comes when we do it from a space of joy and happiness in our own lives. It is when we do not have those things in our lives that we become angry and hurtful toward others and miserly with what little goodness we have in our lives. Because we are afraid that's all there is. But when we know that at any time and in any place we know ways to be happy and smile and laugh, well, then we have the energy and strength and resources to help take care of others.

So...wishing you love and laughter and happiness in your own lives as well as courage to make whatever changes you need to make and perhaps have been putting off. Take those steps forward--you will be forever glad you did, even if they do not work out precisely as you hope they would!


Friday, September 30, 2005

Settling In

Everyone—thank you for your suggestions and support—I find it all helpful!

Well, today arranged for DSL service and newspaper delivery. Discovered the refrigerator not only dispenses cold water and ice cubes but crushed ice as well. Now okay, those aren’t necessities—any one of them. And I’ve never had a refrigerator before that did. Probably wouldn’t have bought one because of the cost. came with the house and I find myself enjoying that little luxury.

I’ve also unpacked little things that are positive triggers for me. By that, I mean little things that make me smile and remind me of happy times in my life. Or they remind me of times I felt really strong and competent. I’m making a point of wearing clothes that do the same for me as I deal with the quirks and minutiae of moving that can be frustrating otherwise.

When I coach people, I tell them to make lists of things they are good at. Because every change begins with believing we are capable of making changes. I could not have made this move if I had been telling myself I MUST do so. It worked because I could remind myself that I was sure I had the wisdom and strength and skills necessary—if I wanted to.

And I’m making those lists of things I want and need for the house—now or in the future. It’s a wish list that will get filled as I can. I’m asking myself what I WANT. Not—What is a house supposed to have? I’m asking myself what would make me HAPPY? What would make this a house I love to be in, that feels welcoming to ME, and encourages me to write? These are the questions that matter. One of the great things about getting older is that we realize what other people think we should want or have or do matters far less than who we are and what is right for us. Better to wait a bit to find just the right sofa or just the right dishes or just the right pots and pans than to settle because I feel like I have to find something FAST. I will admit, however, that getting a bed IS a high priority!

The best thing is that every morning I get up smiling because I love this house. I walk through it amazed that no one snatched it up before I did. I walk through it amazed that I found something so perfect for what I need. And I remind myself that soon I can begin holding classes and making a difference in the lives of those I teach.


Thursday, September 29, 2005

Saga Continues...

Got a few more necessities—including ordering a washer and dryer. The washer is now installed. The dryer was DOA so they will have to bring a different one tomorrow.

Those of you who were on my private email lists for the “Pink Refrigerator” journey will laugh to know that the first thing I bought here was a coffee maker. It symbolized as much here as it did then.

Slowly, I’m unpacking boxes that got delivered. Hanging up clothes, putting up small touches (a carved fan, a green marble vase, a waterfall photo, etc.). More and more this feels like MY home. I even soaked in the garden tub last night. (For those who don’t know—and I didn’t before house hunting here—a garden tub is shorter but much deeper than an ordinary tub and has Jacuzzi style jets in it. What a luxury! And what a contrast to the house where I lived for over 10 years that didn’t have a bathtub at all—only a shower stall.

I’m whittling away at the pile of things that must be done—trying to sort out priorities. Next, I think, will be the bed. It will cost more than I want to pay, but...a bed makes such a big difference in how we sleep and feel.

And sofas. I need those. Bookcases, coffee tables, etc. those will come later. Oh, and a kitchen set. I’ll need to get dishes and pots and pans, too. Thing is, I left most stuff in the house when the divorce came through. And it wouldn’t have made sense to ship them—it would cost more than buying new. But it does mean a heft cost now. So...I’m looking at priorities. What do I need/want to do first?

The other thing about taking a little time is that I’ll be sure it’s what I want, not just what I have to get because I need something quickly. So it’s all priorities. Making sure I can pay bills in full when they come in. Looking at a budget that makes sense for now. (Hey, this kind of fiscal caution is why I could get this house!)

Which reminds me—got to go call and arrange trash services and get my DSL connection set up so that it doesn’t take forever to download or upload things on my computer?

Eventually, of course, I also need to figure out little things like TV—cable or satellite? Lawn service or buy a mower (leaning toward lawn service, but depends on the cost). Register my car and switch over driver’s license. Little things like that. But those aren’t quite as urgent.

Oh, I must mention that today it’s cooler! By a good 20 to 25 degrees. It’s lovely to be able to have windows open and a nice breeze running through the house.’s all working out. I will no doubt continue to have moments of panic but....I also know, deep down, that it will be all right. Everything WILL work out. I DO know what I’m doing. And as those of you know who read my email about my cross country journey, that’s quite a change from how I felt not all that long ago....


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Moving In

Well, I’m in my new home. Discovered something I hadn’t noticed during the walkthrough but with luck a handyman can fix it cheaply. Realized also that the blasted smoke detector was chirping loudly and so high up I had no way to reach it. Went to the store and got a step ladder plus other assorted things I needed plus groceries.

Now all of this was made much more interesting by the fact that I’ve never used an automatic garage door opener. Suffice it to say there was much driving around the block, running in the front door and hitting the button inside the garage to open and close the door before I figured out how it all worked! You’d have been laughing if you saw me—I, of course, was far closer to cussing the darned thing out.

The most interesting discovery was one I made as I was about to make tea to go with my dinner. I had no water. I’d called. Faxed in the application. Been assured I’d have water. I didn’t. It was much too late and I was much too tired to try to find a hotel so I stayed and cussed some more. Called again this morning (blessedly the phone was hooked up without problems!) and got a promise I’d get water today—which I did by 10 am.

Meanwhile, the post office has delivered my 9 boxes of books. (What can I say? I’m a writer—we live by books! And this doesn’t count the boxes of books still in storage in NJ...)

I’m waiting for UPS delivery and the gas company to come through and check things out prior to switching service to my name.

I swear there were moments I wondered if I was crazy getting a house. Especially since I still have to arrange garbage service and decide if I’m going to mow the lawn myself (and buy a mower) or have someone cut it for me. Not to mention buy furniture and a washer/dryer. Sleeping on an air mattress is not going to cut it for long!

And then I look around my house and know it’s mine. I look around and know it’s perfect for holding writing classes. Or classes for woman who want advice on how to manage financially or how to present themselves effectively. Here, in this house, I can make a difference in people’s lives. So whatever the momentary glitches might be, it doesn’t matter. Because with this house, I can make a difference.


Monday, September 26, 2005

Heat Wave

Made it to Austin and decided to check out washers and dryers and beds before I checked into a hotel. And discovered Austin is in the middle of a heat wave--hitting 107 today. Record setting heat. And no fun, even in an air conditioned car. By the time I got to my hotel, I was feeling the effects of the heat. What did people do before air conditioning?

There are still evacuees from the hurricanes here. And on the road I saw a convoy of trucks from California headed to help out in the devastated areas. All of which made me feel foolish for complaining about a little heat.

Didn't end up ordering anything. Overload and sticker shock. I'll sleep on it, close on the house, then decide what I want to do. Meanwhile, discovered I'd made one assumption and my real estate agent another about something. So we're scrambling to sort it all out. A reminder to me to always make absolutely sure communication is clear.

It's strange. When I was on the road, all I had time to think about was getting here. Now there's time for last minute panic to set in. Not that I really have second thoughts about this move, but today was one of those days, with the heat and all, that makes one wonder about moves like this. Still, I'll get a good night's sleep and tomorrow I'll be ready to move into my new home. Once again, I remind myself that things don't have to go perfectly to be a success. We can make choices, adapt to circumstances, and cope with the unexpected.

And that reminds me that I have gone from a time in my life when any tiny setback made me feel as if everything would go wrong, to understanding that sometimes crap happens and yet things can still work out. I've come to expect things to go well--and that's part of the emotional journey I've made over the past couple of years.


Sunday, September 25, 2005

Empty Spaces

Today's stretch of road had lots of empty spaces. By that I mean that stops were few and far between. Maybe no farther apart than yesterday, but it felt that way. Or maybe I'm just getting tired. Still, 430 miles today. And the closer I get to Austin, the more I feel like I'm coming home. Now I'm driving stretches I drove a year and a half ago. Staying at the same hotel tonight I stayed back then, too.

Driving along, I couldn't help feeling that this landscape helped shape the people who settled here. They had to have a quiet determination to do whatever had to be done in order to survive--and their descendants carry on the tradition. There had to be a sense of self-reliance. There had to be a determination to defend oneself and one's family--given how disputed this land was back then. I find myself thinking how all of this has perhaps shaped our current president's actions and attitudes.

Not that Texas is unique in this. Every place shapes the people who live there. That's why writers are so often fascinated by travel. We want to go places and see how people live--only that way can we truly understand how they think and feel and act and react. And we writers are forever curious about people. We want to understand. And in understanding we feel a great sense of connection with people who, on the surface at least, might appear to be very different than we are.

A year and a half ago, someone called my cross-country journey a journey of emotional as well as physical miles. This journey back to Texas feels as much an emotional journey as that one was--just compressed into a much shorter period of time. In a way, this feels like the final leg of the journey that began in New Jersey that year and a half ago. I'd never been to Texas before that trip and yet....I still feel as if I'm coming home.


Saturday, September 24, 2005

450 miles

As the title says, I went 450 miles today. Started by looking up an oil change place. Drove to Chevron Oil place in north Tucson. They were quick and great--even told me I didn't need a new air filter after all. Then I was on my way, taking it easy again--65 mph when the speed limit was 75mph. Took longer breaks, too, whenever I stopped, to give the engine a chance to cool down a bit and drove the last hundred miles after dark when it was cooler.

Found myself thinking how different it feels going west to east than it did going east to west a year and a half ago. This time I know where I'm going, this time I'm going to settle down. This time I'm more sure of myself. But both times I loved driving, singing along to the radio.

I'm tired though. Drove farther than I'd like but necessary if I'm going to make it to Austin in time. Tomorrow will be another 450 miles--which will put me within an hour or two of Austin. Good thing I allowed an extra day--mapquest's estimate of 26 hours was absurdly optimistic!

There was a moment yesterday when I panicked. What if my car broke down? What if I got stranded in the desert? All the kinds of worries that tend to hit at 3 in the morning. And the thing is, as long as I felt that panic, I couldn't think of any solutions. Fortunately, it was shortlived and as soon as I let it go, I realized I could get the oil changed and alter my driving pattern a bit and it worked. I'm 450 miles closer to where I need to be.

And that's the thing--panic is never helpful. It gets in the way of thinking of solutions. So anything that reduces the panic is a step forward.

Upshot is that instead of being a day of being worried, today became another affirmation of what I can accomplish.

What works for you to reduce panic? What lets you feel in control? Make a list. Seriously. Make a list you can keep handy. So that you don't have to think about it--it's automatic. These are the steps you will take so that you can always figure out how to let go of panic and figure out solutions to any challenge you face.


Friday, September 23, 2005


We make choices all the time. Some work out better than others. I realized today that taking the southern route at this time of year may have been a mistake--even if it is the shortest route. It's over 100 degrees the entire way. I've been driving at less than the speed limit, trying to be careful not to strain the engine on my car because it's loaded down so much. In fact, in the morning, I may try to find a place to get the oil changed before I drive any further.

So...on the negative side, it might have been wiser to take a more northern route. On the plus side, even now I have choices to make this still work out.

I haven't gotten as far as I planned today, but that's why I built extra time into the trip. So that I could do what I needed to do and still make it to Austin on time.

Now...for journey notes...

I loved driving with mountains on either side. The majesty of it struck me profoundly. Especialy the flat topped mesas. A part of me wanted so much to be on the top of one, on a vision quest. But I kept driving knowing that I have other paths to walk instead.

I detoured to try to find Arizona tourist information offices and never did find any. But that's okay. I had just hoped for hotel discount coupons but it's not important. I did my sightseeing when I came the other way, east to west, a year and a half ago.

I also want to mention writing. I did promise I would talk about writing in this blog. But it's also because I was listening to Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones on tape. I'd listened to the first half of the set driving from Tucson to San Diego a year and a half ago. Now I listened to the other half. And it reminded me how tied together writing and life are--each impacts the other. There is something wonderfully liberating about being able to write. And life feeds what and how we write.

A couple of my email loops are beginning a BIAW this weekend (Book In A Week--see my website for more information). For those of you who are, I will be cheering you on. I think this is the first one I've hosted where I won't be able to write along with all of you. Remember to recall the joy you felt playing make believe as a child. Free yourself of all worries about "shoulds" and just let the words flow. You can edit later--this is a chance to discover the deepest, truest words inside of you. To find the voice that is yours alone. And don't forget, at the end of the week, to look back and see how and what and when and where you wrote the best.

I believe in fostering joy when we write--just as I believe that no matter what we want to do in life, we are most likely to succeed if we build joy into the process, if we celebrate who we are and what we can do and what our greatest strengths might be.

Well, I'm tired. And I need to be up early if I'm going to get the oil changed in my car before I go any further. So...I'd better look online and make sure I know how to find a place where I can.

Wishing all of you wisdom in the choices you make, but even more faith in yourselves--that the decisions/choices you make will be good enough and that if something does go wrong, you will be able to figure out what to do. I wish you joy in your lives and the ability to laugh every day--no matter what the challenges you might be facing. Joy/laughter gives us strength to go on, to cope with life, to find ways to reach out and help others. And I say that as someone who, for much of my life, didn't know how to find that joy. Joy and laughter are choices that take a leap of faith--faith that we deserve to be happy, that it's okay to celebrate life even when there is something to grieve as well. And we do--each and every one of us.

More tomorrow...