Month: March 2016

Follow Your Dreams Wednesday Blog Series: Naysayers

Follow Your Dreams Series


I was lucky when I started to get serious about my writing – my friends and family were encouraging. Problem was, they encouraged me to do things a certain way, which meant securing an agent and pursuing a traditional publishing deal rather than going the indie route.

I still remember my mother’s first words when I handed her the proof of my first self-created paperback: “Wow! It looks like a real book!”


It’s hard to stay on course when you hear comments or advice, however well meant, to the contrary. But listening to everyone around you only ensures that you’re pursuing their dreams, not yours. So how do you fight off the naysayers and keep yourself going?

1. Do your research. The more you know about what you’re doing, the more confident you will be in your choices. When someone says, “You can make so much more money with a traditional publishing deal,” I don’t let this rattle me, because I know the facts about the industry. I know that the choice I’ve made is the best for me. But if I hadn’t done my homework, this comment might make me waiver. Know your stuff, and others’ opinions won’t throw you off.

2. Say thank you and move on. No need to get into an argument with someone giving advice. Say thank you, maybe suggest you’ll look into it, and move on. I’ve found that it’s very difficult to change someone’s opinion without material evidence. In my case, I couldn’t argue that indie publishing produced more money than a traditional deal until I’d actually made said money. If I attempted to point out those who had made money at it, my opponent called those people “outliers.” Fine. No sense arguing.

3. Make sure you’re pursuing the dream for you. If you’re pursuing said dream just to please someone else, of course you’re going to be swayed by outside opinion. Your whole purpose is to please THEM.

One of the questions I get a lot is, How did you get your spouse on board? Because my spouse thinks that if I do this, I won’t have any time left over for him/her/family.

If your partner is the naysayer, you have more of a dilemma. Whether we like it or not, our partners must be supportive to some degree. Here are my suggestions:

1. Craft a detailed plan. Figure out what it will take to make your dream come true, in terms of time, money, and other resources. Be realistic.

2. Sit down with your partner and explain the plan. Let them know how much this means to you. And then show them exactly what it will take to achieve. Be absolutely up front about what they’ll have to do to help you (maybe extra childcare duties, extra chores, less time together, etc.).

3. Set a time limit. Ask that they go along with your plan for a set amount of time, say a year. If things aren’t working out at that point, you’ll reconsider.

4. Get them to join in. Perhaps they’d be interested in helping directly. Maybe you need a salesperson to visit galleries, or a marketing person to book ads for you. Some partners are eager to help and will feel more invested this way.

5. Ask them what their dream is. Maybe they’ve never thought about it. Maybe they just need a push. Maybe you both can work on your dreams at the same time and help each other.

6. Start off by manipulating your own time, not theirs. If you dream of being an artist, get up at 5 am and paint for two hours before everyone else gets up. Write your novel during your lunch hour, or while the baby’s napping. You may want to just quit your job and work on your dream full time, but few of us have that luxury, especially with a family. Know that if you start off small, a little at a time, that time will add up.

7. Share the little victories. When you complete a painting, make sure your partner is the first one to see it. When you complete a chapter, make sure your partner is the first one to read it. Sometimes it takes seeing things to completion for your partner to get on board. Let them know that they’re so special to you that you want to share the victories with them first.

8. Show appreciation. Every single day, thank them for being supportive. Thank them for taking out the trash, for running the kids to school, for working so hard so that you can concentrate on your dream.

Love Tuesdays Blog Series: National Puppy Day



Much to my kids’ dismay, we don’t have a dog right now. Even though I love dogs, we are simply too busy to give a dog the time and attention he would deserve.

But my live-next-door parents have two, so we lucked out. Last year they adopted a brother and sister who had been left in the desert in Coachella. Here are Lola and Cotter a year ago:


Lola and Cotter Puppies

They’re not much bigger today, and they’re so sweet! It’s amazing how siblings can be so different – Cotter craves attention and always wants to snuggle, and Lola is content to be on her own and watch the action from the sidelines.

Hope you’re hugging your puppy today!

Act Happy Week!

I’m a big believer in the concept that thought and emotions follow actions, so the idea of this week excites me. You want to feel like a million bucks? Act like a million bucks. You want to feel like a winner? Act like a winner? You want to be happy? Act happy.

It’s only a week. Can’t hurt to try.

Forgive Mom and Dad Day



Today is Forgive Mom and Dad Day, and it’s an appropriate one for me, as I’ve been having some issues in this arena lately.

On the whole, I have no cause for complaint. My parents are wonderful. I had a childhood filled with kisses and laughter, with game nights and sports and music lessons and books. I couldn’t ask for better grandparents for our kids. We even bought the house next door to my parents so we could be closer to them.

It’s easy to view your parents as only that – parents. They exist only in that role. But of course that’s not true. They are individuals, and they have strengths and flaws and dreams and neuroses just like anyone else.

I started my own family early, when I was only 22. So I learned quite a while ago exactly who my parents were as individuals. (Yes, I think it helps to have your own family to understand your parents better. Not essential, but it helps.) My parents suddenly let down their guard as my own role transitioned from daughter to wife and mother. They shared insights and anxieties and struggles that I wasn’t privy to before. The bloom was off the rose.

Not to say they’re horrible people. They’re not. But they are very human. We all are.

My parents are divorcing after 42 years of marriage. They are deciding to be individuals and to focus on themselves for the first time in their adult lives. It’s not something I need to forgive them for, as they haven’t done anything wrong. They are, in essence, making a course correction. And it just sucks that it’s affecting the entire family.

So this isn’t a post about forgiveness, per se, but about understanding. I get it. I get what parents are doing and why they’re doing it. Now it’s up to me to adjust and help my kids get through it. Dwelling on who did what to whom and who’s at fault serves no purpose.

I’ve always loved my parents. Still do.

Always will.

Thursday Rewind: Better Off Dead (1985)

Thursday Rewind



Lane Meyer (played by John Cusack) is dumped by his girlfriend Beth. Depressed, he tries to kill himself in numerous ways before falling for the French exchange student staying with a neighbor.

I admit, the plot sounds disturbing, but if you’ve never seen this movie, you gotta. Thirty years old, and we still quote it often.

“I want my two dollars.”

“Buck up, little camper.”

“I’m real sorry your mom blew up, Ricky.”

“Fraanch fries…and…Fraanch dressing…and…Fraanch bread.”

“It’s a Christmas miracle.”

Why don’t they make moves like this anymore?



Follow Your Dreams – Wednesday Blog Series: Who Are You?

Follow Your Dreams Series


When we set about a giant task like fulfilling our dreams, people often start with the wrong question: what makes me happy? But happiness is a mind-set and can be achieved no matter your circumstance. Poor people can be happy. Sick people can be happy. Childless people who want children can be happy.

The keys to happiness are 1) gratitude, and 2) no expectations. Read Dennis Prager’s excellent book, Happiness is a Serious Problem, if you want to change your mind-set.

Whether you’re happy or not (and I hope you are), you might still be searching for a greater purpose in life, something to fulfill and sustain you. Pursuing a dream can do that. But how do you know what dream to pursue?

The easiest way to be fulfilled is to know who you are. You need to figure out what’s important to you, what your values and priorities are. Because when we’re doing things that support those values and priorities, it brings us inner peace. Let me give an example.

If you start with the premise, “What Makes Me Happy?”, you might answer, “Chocolate cake.” Cake tastes good and makes you feel good in the moment. But every time you eat a piece of cake, maybe the momentary pleasure is replaced with guilt. You’re trying to lose ten pounds. Your doctor wants you to cut back on sugar. You feel tired all the time and know that you need to focus on your health. So that thing that made you happy…it really didn’t.

If you start with the premise, “What’s important to me?”, you might answer, “My health.” So instead of dessert every night after dinner, you take a 20-minute walk. You might hate the walk. It might make you tired. But as you’re lying in bed at night and going over the events of the day…you smile. You made yourself walk. You made your health a priority. You have inner peace.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t have cake, even if your health is a priority. We all need rewards. But once-a-month cake (rather than nightly cake) still keeps your priorities in check.

Over the years, I’ve compiled a list of personal values. You can download it HERE – PERSONAL VALUES.XLSX spreadsheet, and use it as you see fit. Here’s a screen shot:

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 12.13.27 PM

At first glance, you might think that all of these values are important. To a certain degree, they are. But everyone is unique in their priorities and approach to life. You need to figure out what’s MOST important.

Read through the lists. Some of the words are redundant, some have subtle nuances. Some can be categorized in multiple lists. Feel free to move them around or ignore the categories entirely. The categories don’t really matter; they’re just for simplicity’s sake.

Now choose your top twenty. Whittle those twenty down to ten. Then to five. You’re going to focus on those five. And that doesn’t mean you’ll ignore the rest, but you have to start somewhere. And we’re talking about DREAMS. Dreams are pretty damn important, and should be connected to your top priorities.

Now that you’ve got your top five, you need to translate them to achievable dreams. Here’s an example:

Maybe my top five personal values are FAMILY, FITNESS, KNOWLEDGE, FREEDOM, and NATURE.

Let’s start with FAMILY. How do I make FAMILY a priority? Brainstorm a few ideas and write them down. Your list might look like this:

1. Create memories.

2. Be the kind of parent my kids will want to emulate.

3. Pass on traditions and knowledge of the past. (Nicely ties in with KNOWLEDGE value.)

Now under each item, list actionable tasks that will accomplish those goals.

1. Create memories.

a. Plan an annual family vacation.

b. Visit the grandparents 3x/year.

c. Weekly game night.

d. Create a photo slide-show for their birthdays every year.

2. Be the kind of parent my kids will want to emulate.

a. Give daily praise and affection.

b. Attend all of my kids’ baseball games (even the early-morning Saturday ones!).

c. Read and snuggle together every night before bed.

3. Pass on traditions and knowledge of the past.

a. Create a recipe book for each kid including Grandma’s recipes.

b. Bake cookies every holiday.

c. Start an annual pumpkin-carving party for the neighborhood.

d. Scan all of Grandma’s photos and give copies to each kid.

Now you’re thinking…this isn’t what I had in mind when I thought of FULFILLING MY DREAMS.

But actually…it is.

If your greatest priority is FAMILY, and for many of us, it is…don’t you have dreams about having the greatest family in the world? One where the kids come home from school, even the teenagers, give you a big hug, and tell you all about their day? One where your partner sings your praises and tells everyone at work how lucky they are to be married to you? One where you love each other, support each other, and communicate often and openly?

Let’s face it – those things don’t happen by accident. They take work and dedication. Those families are a dream for many of us. Don’t ignore these types of dreams in favor of things more grandiose. Because the daily, the familiar (like family, friendships, a support network) are crucial if we want to pursue anything more grandiose.

But let’s address the grandiose.

Maybe you always wanted to be a dancer. Or a singer. Or write a book. Or get your masters degree. Any one of those could fit into our top five personal values. Let’s go with the example of getting your masters degree.

In this case, it could fit into KNOWLEDGE (increasing your personal knowledge), FAMILY (it can open up job opportunities that would increase your family’s income), or FREEDOM (you just always wanted a masters, damn it, and you want to be free to get one; or, the extra money you make at work with the degree will give you more financial freedom).

But how do you know if pursuing your masters degree is really your dream?

1. There’s no right or wrong. There’s no wrong dream. But if you’re going in one direction and decide it’s not right for you, that’s fine. You can always change.

2. Work backwards. A masters degree is typically a means to an end – more knowledge, a better job, greater income. (Yes, some people want an advanced degree for its own sake, but that’s not what I’m talking about). So it’s easier to look at your life and priorities and think, “What is the outcome I want?” than to first think, “How do I get there?” You need to know where you’re going first. Then you can figure out the best steps to take to make it happen.

3. What do you want to be remembered for? When you’re dead and gone, what do you want your partner to think about you? What do you want your kids to tell their grandkids about you? What legacy do you want to leave?

4. What can you live with? We all have regrets – anyone who says they don’t is lying to themselves. (But we can turn those regrets into learning experiences, and we don’t have to dwell on them.) Still…live with the fewest regrets possible. Are you going to look back one year, ten years, twenty years from now and say, “I should have done that!”? Then that’s the thing you need to do.

5. Dreams take effort and time and energy. They take us away from other things. That’s why it’s so crucial to have your priorities in order. Don’t let your dream of being a rock star kill your dream of being a good parent. You might regret that.

6. Re-evaluate your list of personal values every year or so. Priorities change. Circumstances change. Be flexible.

This is just a start, a way to get you thinking about what’s important to you. Making the dream a reality is the tough part, and we’ll talk about that as this series progresses. But for now, grab a journal or open a new Word doc and just think. Brainstorm. Figure out who you are and what you want. Dream.

Love Tuesdays Blog Series: A Love Letter to My Husband




You woke up hot with fever, so achy it hurt to roll over in bed. So I kissed your brow and forced a pill down your throat and I tucked you in and went about my day.

Roused sleepy children. Reminded them to brush teeth and pack homework. Sent one off with a kiss, drove two to school, then walked our little one to class, his incessant chatter and sweet dimple keeping me company all the way.

And as I came through the door, and saw dirty breakfast plates and wet towels on the floors and bathroom lights left on, I remembered that you were sick. And that none of this would be here if you weren’t.

Our dryer’s on the fritz, and the new parts arrived, but you are too sick to fix it. So I carry a heavy load of wet laundry next door to Mom’s and put it in the dryer. Then I check on you, bring you a hot cup of coffee to clear your stuffy sinuses, rub your back. I start another load of laundry and tackle the dishes.

My mother calls, wondering if you’ve ordered the AC units for the house she’s flipping. I say no, you are sick. So I order them. She asks how much more laundry I have to do, and when will my dryer be fixed. Lots, I say, and when Mike is feeling better. She says she hopes you feel better soon, because our four loads a day are wearing her dryer out.

Packages arrive, heavy client equipment that must be calibrated. I carry them carefully out to your shop while my arms shake, ensure the voicemail is set and the doors are locked.

I bring you fresh water, plump up your pillows, realize we are out of Nyquil. I go to the store. I throw in the Tapioca pudding you love, a box of strawberry popsicles for your burning throat. I get home and dose you up, change the laundry, fold your t-shirts into perfect rectangles the way you like them. Our daughter texts us that she has a flat tire, and I tell her you’re sick, to call AAA when she gets out of class, that she is capable and competent and can figure it out.

You send me out for lunch, Wendy’s Chili, extra hot sauce. I make up a bed on the couch for you, and you eat while I do more laundry. Then I get an hour of blessed peace to write.

I pick up our two youngest from school, along with our nephew, buy them ice cream cones, and head home. They have fifteen minutes to eat before music lessons, and after I drop them off, I put car in my gas, clean out my car, and shop for groceries.

Home. Homework. Chores. Cuddles. More running next door to fetch dry laundry. You are watching election results and insist I sit down and take a break and watch. I do, but I’m also calling out for the kids, checking homework, ensuring the family machine is still at work.

I give you another dose of Nyquil. I remember to eat.

And as the day winds down, I realize how much you help, and how much it sucks when you’re sick. Not because I have to take care of you, which I love doing. Certainly because I hate that you don’t feel well. But it’s more than that. You are my partner in all things, and when you’re down, I realize how much you do for the family. And I miss your grabby hands and your leering eyes and your promises for the time when the kids are asleep. Those things keep me going.

I don’t ever want to be without you.

Playing Loaded Questions with Young Boys

Loaded Questions

Yesterday, I played an hour of Loaded Questions with Alex (9), Tyler (11), and Hannah (18) – it’s a great family game. Players take turns drawing a question. The other 3 players answer the question, and you have to guess who said which answer.
Question: “What do you have a natural talent for?”
Answer #1: Using ointment.
Answer #2: Coming up with creative answers with ointment in them.
Answer #3: Art.

Question: “What is the best thing to do first thing in the morning?”
Answer #1: Rub ointment on myself.
Answer #2: Sleep in.
Answer #3: Rub ointment on Alex’s rash.

Question: “What have you never done on the Internet?”
Answer #1: Gambled.
Answer #2: Bought ointment.
Answer #3: Sold Alex.


Easter Baskets for Grown-Ups

One of my favorite roles as wife and mom is that of gift-giver. I love choosing the perfect gift as a way to express how much I love and care (and pay attention to) my friends and family.

When I met my husband, he didn’t understand this part of me. He’d never had anyone care enough about him to choose gifts that he actually wanted, and he saw it as a waste of time. “You make lists?” he said. “Who cares what goes in an Easter basket? Throw in some jelly beans and a stuffed bear.”

The man had a lot to learn. But learn he did, and now he looks forward to Easter morning and his birthday with the glee of a five-year-old.

I recently went shopping with a friend for Easter basket stuffings. I saw the latest Mitch Albom book and threw it into my cart. “Mike loves his books,” I said. “It’s perfect for his Easter basket.”

She looked at me like I was crazy. “You give Mike an Easter basket?”

“I also give my parents, brother, and nephew a basket,” I said. “You don’t give your husband one?”

She shook her head. “Easter’s for the kids, isn’t it?”

Not in our house. Give me an excuse to give a gift, and I will. And why not? It’s fun and doesn’t have to cost a lot. I try to keep each basket to $20-$30. So what goes in the baskets for grown-ups?

1. Snacks. Better than candy and great for the men. Tailor it to their personal tastes. My husband loves sriracha and Tabasco, so anything I find with these flavors is fair game, even bottles of the stuff itself.
Sriracha Nuts


Sriracha chips


Tabasco Raspberry Chipotle


2. Lottery Tickets (Scratchers). I’m not usually a lottery player, but these are a lot of fun, and who knows? Maybe the recipient will strike it rich!

3. Fun in the Sun. Admittedly, we live in SoCal, and by Easter, we’ve already been using the pool for a month or two. But even if you’re knee-deep in snow, it has to melt sometime, right? Give beach towels, a pool raft, sunscreen, a visor or hat, or buy them a new cooler to act as the Easter “basket.”

Large Beach Blanket

Rolling Cooler4. Games. Here are some of our favorites.


Exploding Kittens

Forbidden Island

7 Wonders


5. Alcohol. Why not? An interesting bottle of wine, a unique liqueur. Ever tried one of these?

Viniq Shimmery Liqueur

Viniq Shimmering Liqueur


Thatcher’s Blood Orange

Thatcher's Blood Orange


Caravella Limoncello

Caravella Limoncella


Pama Pomegranate Liqueur

Pama PomegranateOR-G French Liqueur

OR-G French


TY KU Asian Citrus Liqueur

TY-KUStoli Sticki Honey

Stoli Sticki HoneySKYY Barcraft Margarita Lime

SKYY Marg Lime6. Make it a theme. All Tabasco items. Hundreds of guitar picks for the guitar player. Twenty different packs of gum for the gum chewer. You get the idea. 🙂

Now go forth and play Easter Bunny!





Thursday Rewind: Forgotten Songs from the 90s

Thursday Rewind

My kids are into music (3 sing, 2 play keys, 1 guitar, 1 dabbled in violin and trumpet), and I’m constantly looking for old music to expose them to. So this week, I thought back to my days in high school (graduated in ’93) and college, and came up with some of my favorites that they’d never heard before. Maybe these songs’ll bring back some memories for you, too.

Interstate Love Song, Stone Temple Pilots (Still one my faves. Makes me want to play the guitar.)

Anna Begins, Counting Crows (This entire album was great; Mr. Jones was the worst song on it. Great songwriting.)

Kiss Them For Me, Souxsie and the Banshees (Anyone else from LA grow up on KROQ?)


Missing, Everything But the Girl (The album version is stripped down from the radio version. Worth a listen.)

Insane in the Brain, Cypress Hill (Classic.)

Life is a Highway, Tom Cochrane (My kids thought this song was written for the Disney movie Cars.)

You, Candlebox (Something sexy about this song.)

Come Original, 311 (My dorm neighbors were from Omaha, NE, and they brought cassette tapes of early live 311 recordings for all of us to listen to. I was an easy convert. My husband calls me his Beautiful Disaster, another great 311 song.)

The Unforgiven, Metallica (I had a high school boyfriend who gave me The Black Album. I’m not a Metallica fan in general, but this album is in my top ten. Every song is awesome.)

Everlong, Foo Fighters (My favorite song of all time. Listen to the acoustic version. My kids have heard this a jillion times, but I had to put it on this list anyway.)

Wonderwall, Oasis (Another one that makes you want to play guitar.)

Closer, Nine Inch Nails (Saw him in Mesa, AZ, while in college at a small local venue. Vocals not so great live, but the music was thumping. Actually, this song is a little uncomfortable to listen to while packed in with a bunch of strangers. Not posting this video – adult only.)

Iris, Goo Goo Dolls (Just a beautiful song.)

Glycerine, Bush (The song writing…”I needed you more, you wanted us less”…wish I’d written that.)

1979, Smashing Pumpkins (Lots of great songs from them, but this is my fave.)

And yes, I could have added Nirvana and Pearl Jam and Busta Move and Wild Thing and Me So Horny…but I don’t think they’re forgotten. What are your favorite forgotten 90s songs?