Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The ThanksGiving List

It's that time of year! Gobble Gobble up the Love. XO

Happy Thanksgiving :)

FINDING JOY: The ThanksGiving List: Over a decade ago I started my favorite tradition ever:  The ThanksGiving List . It is a list of my closest friends and why I am thankfu...

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What I Love About You...

Today at lunch a friend shared that her and her love randomly do The Top 10 Things I Love About You to each other and not only does it immediately shift her mood it has brought them closer. Although she confessed she limits it to 5 so they're really good ones. She gave me full credit (which you know I love!) and it reminded me that next week is Thanksgiving so some thanking and some acknowledgment is perfect timing.

The Top 10 is a little thing I started in my twenties with my best college friends. We would go around the table at dinner and count down 10 things- a la David Letterman- we loved about the Birthday Girl or if someone was having a particularly hard day we would do a special one for them. Instant lovefest!

The funny thing about The 10 is that occasionally it winds down to things that might not be huge compliments but are still amusing things that people notice about you. There have been mention of great eyebrows, wonderful magazine subscriptions, nice feet, and actually one year I was "loved" for how I give her the best compliments.
I'll take it ;)  The thing is to have fun and be kind.

The ThanksGiving List is a tradition that was actually a branch off of The Top 10 which is where I call my closest friends the morning of Thanksgiving and thank them for specific moments in our friendship that year. It is my favorite two hours of the year and it literally makes my life filled with happiness. It is like I am the thankful-fairy getting for give out little bouquets of love. I know it sounds gaggy but try it and I dare you to prove that it doesn't completely change your life and your friendships.

The world is a little extra scary lately so whether you count them down or serve them up with cherry turnovers- the next week is a great time to dish out some love. Cheers to a fabulous Thanksgiving and I hope your gravy boat overflows with gratitude and love. XO

Monday, October 5, 2015

Brittany Maynard's Legacy Of Love

Brittany Maynard, 1984 – 2014

Brittany Maynard is a hero. 

She, her mother, and her husband have done an amazing thing: given end of life planning and rights a face and a voice. The lengths her mother and husband went to to comfort her when she was alive and fight for her legacy and last wishes, by getting the California’s End of Life Option Act passed, is truly inspirational. 

Today Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill that will go into effect starting January 2016 and will likely change the momentum going in other states and also the way the topic is addressed in political campaigns and around family tables. 

I keep thinking of her and how courageous, so open and vocal she was about her advocacy when she had so little time left in her life. That she spent her last months fighting for this right for others is awe inspiring and so generous. Her family obviously loved her and she took their strength to champion this cause and then they took her strength and continued her march. What a circle of love.  

Please take this as an opportunity to make your wishes- whether you agree with her personal decision or not- be known to your family. There is no greater gift to our loved ones then knowing what our final wishes are.

Thank you Brittany!

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Joy of Failure

                                                                  



My favorite part of back-to-school time has always been the new school supplies. I mean I LOVE fresh new school supplies! But mostly I loved the feeling of starting off with a fresh clean new start to something. Anything is possible. New friends. New crushes. Oh, and the learning... ah, the learning.

Remember when learning was fun and exciting and you couldn't get enough? I remember how excited I was to go into third grade because that's when you learned division and cursive! (Thanks Mrs. Rabbit :) ) It didn't even matter if you made a mistake because then you got to use your fresh new pink eraser. We erased so much that we eventually wore out the cap erasers that sat on top of our pencil's eraser.

Well, where has our love for learning gone?

Jessica Lahey has a new book out, The Gift Of Failure, and she has some very interesting things to say about how we are creating kids who are more interested in good grades and not making mistakes then learning and exploring and trying new things. Why? Because what if they fail?

We've turned the love of learning into the love of praise for perfection. Clean sneakers instead of taking on a messy challenge.

While I don't know Jessica personally we share the same agent so I have seen many tweets and articles about this topic lately, and I'm fascinated to dig in. Not just because I have nieces and nephews and other dear kids in my life, but because it's not just a lesson for parenting kids. It's a lesson and challenge to us all to take on failure for the love of learning and the expansion of our small world into a bigger one.

A writer friend and I share the joke that the messier or more ridiculous things get in our lives the more interesting our story will be later. A smooth life leads to a boring biography. If there is no failure, where is the inspiration?

Let's say I'm only about mid-way through my life (hopefully, fingers crossed), I would say my biggest regret so far is that I didn't challenge myself enough. Why? I was afraid of not winning what I thought would be a big bet. Instead I've ventured out only as far as I feel comfortable. A real adventure might lead to unfamiliar challenges, losses, ego blows, humiliation, etc.... Scary!

So of course if the majority of us want to stay safe in a familiar world, we want to keep the kids we love just as enclosed too. But that comes at a big price. They lose that love of learning. They are afraid to fail. They don't get creative, they get in line with everyone else. They please the graders instead of exploring what might be a new path or way of doing things.

This is the perfect time of the year to create a plan (or dare I say map out) what we want to expose our kids to as they start this new grade. And the best way to teach them how to love learning and embrace failure is to show them the way. Being a brave learner ourselves opens up the space to encourage others to venture out as well. And isn't the only true failure in life not living a full one?!

The gift in failure is the adventure along the way, the story to tell when we finally succeed or come close, and the knowledge we gather about what did and didn't work. Failure is not usually fun but the lessons are priceless and give us character and bravery. And keep in mind: Stepford kids are just as creepy as programmed wives.

What will you do this Fall that will bring you the gift of failure? What joy can you find in learning that it's better to fail at something extraordinary then to settle for ordinary? Be brave! Enjoy the failures. I intend to fail at some fun stuff myself :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Gentle... Gentle...

Archie Martin
My Sister trains her dogs to take snacks from her hand slowly by coaching them: gentle... gentle. It keeps fingers safe, makes the process more memorable, and sets the tone for how she wants the connection with her furlings to be.

The last couple of years she has taken to using this phrase whenever any of us family-members are teasing too harshly, being too direct, or wearing our crabby-pants. It is usually effective. We back-off and change our tone or add in something nice to recoup from our nastiness.

This has now become a call for how I want all difficult situations to be handled. When I am dealing with anyone I care about I'm practicing and training myself to take a deep breath and see how I want to feed to -or have them feed me- the criticism, bad news, frustration or annoyance.

Can I be more gentle in my tone. My understanding of what they might be going through. The way I want to interact no-matter-what with them. Gentle. Gentle.

Can we be more gentle, sympathetic, and patient when dealing with ourselves and others? It's a worthy trick if we can train ourselves to. And there is the treat of more kindness and calm on the other end. Very rewarding, less ruff, ruff ;)

Thanks Sis! xo

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Time Heals

Theodore Petkus Jr.
Jan 8, 1962 - July 23, 1995
20 years ago I lost the person I loved most in the world, Ted. He was my best friend, made me swoon when I saw him in his tux, and was the most witty and charming guy I had ever met. He was a ball of contradictions and complications but that made him all the more interesting and when he died I was devastated. In my twenties I couldn't imagine being in my forties and being OK. I mean I knew of course life would go on but I couldn't imagine how I would ever get over the loss.

I have. Mostly. My Ted-ache is less stabbing, less all encompassing. I hated the saying but now I do agree: time heals all wounds. Never fully mending but at least thankfully not heartbrokenly open and gushing. Bearable. Not that I don't still miss him all the time or get mad at all he's missing out on. He would love how cool technology has become and would for sure own an iPhone. He would enjoy watching Suits with me. He would love Millennium Park. 

Twenty years is a long time ago now and yet it went by really fast. I can only actually feel how long ago it is when I see pictures of how young we look. Although even looking at pictures of myself now I can't believe I am twenty years older. That's what time does-- it seems to creep by but really it goes by all too swiftly.

Now when friends get upset about anything I sometimes have been known to ask:

                   Is anyone dead? and Will it really matter in 5 years?

Because when you lose someone, and I have lost two of the men I loved, a lot of things seem silly to be upset about. Not that I am above diving into drama when I'm tired or annoyed or have forgotten... but I almost always catch myself because I never want to get separated from how fragile life is that I let something really stupid get me down.

I don't think of Ted every day now. Sometimes I don't even think of him weekly. But when the moments come they can be intense... but, then they pass. And I feel how lucky I am to have known him. To have laughed with him. And to selfishly be happy for another day to miss him. He wouldn't want me wasting too much time mourning, he wanted me to live a great life. I'm trying. And when I feel sad I know every year it gets easier to be with the sadness. Not because it's not there but because I'm stronger and I have healed the heartache a little with each passing year. 

If you are sad about anything I hope you're getting strength and peace from wherever you can. And my wish is that time will help heal you too. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

PAPERBACK, Baby!


It is with unbelievable excitement that I announce my book, which was originally published in 2007 and in hardcover, is getting new life and is coming out in 
PAPERBACK!!!!

I can't explain the exact reason for my good fortune but I got an email a few weeks back from my new editor asking me to approve the back cover for the Fall 2015 release. It came as a complete shock and I literally jumped up and down at the news and when I confirmed the new release date, October 13, 2015, with my agent I was still in shock. 

Here's the thing, my book was not a bestseller by any means and I was always so grateful it got published in the first place- even though the conversation is timeless- that I had quietly accepted it had been sold out for a few years and it had run its course. Funny my dear friend Vickie always believed it had not even begun to hit its stride and would still introduce me as her author friend with this fabulous book even though I had no actual books left to sell. 

Ok now for the really woowoo part: my new editor's name is Trish which is my Mother's name. I am not an otherworldly believer but even I got chills at the timing and the coincidence. My Mother loved this book so much and even though I had done some pretty-decent things in my life she was never more proud then when it came out and would always introduce me to her friends and colleagues as her daughter the authoress (which I thought she made up but turns out is actually a real term). 

Is it because of the timing that corresponds with the debate going on in the nation around brave and amazing Brittany Maynard? Brilliant and adorable Atul Gawande making the thought provoking and personal Being Mortal a hit? Is it just random that there was a slot for death and dying that MLW fit into? Is it my Mom influencing the publishing world from above? Who knows?! I'm just thrilled that my little book (my baby) has been given new life, will reach more people, and will allow me to continue to discuss this extremely important topic. 

A Favor: Now here's where I hope you'll join in. Social media is huge now, unlike back when I was launching the book the first time, so I would love your support in anyway you see fit. Have any connections with bloggers, media outlets, bookclubs? Please introduce me. Have suggestions of any other kind, I'm all ears. Want to pre-order some for your whole family? Aw shucks, that's so nice of you

THANKS! I want to thank all the people who helped me on my first journey, the readers who bought the book and shared it with others, my agent extraordinaire Laurie Abkemeier who took a chance on me, the people at HarperCollins who have taken two now, Anne Cole Norman my awesome original editor, Trish Daly my delightful new one, and all the mysterious forces that have gone in to bringing this about. As you can see on my face above, I could not be more excited!

I'll keep you posted... and in the meantime have a really great Summer!

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Most Important Relationship In Your Life...




Diane von Furstenberg didn't really know what she wanted to do, but she knew the woman she wanted to become. Her book chronicles her journey around the world, and how she achieved her goal of living like a man in a woman's body. And by this she meant living with the freedom to make her own decisions- which at the time was rather rare. While her fortunes and fame came and went and came back again, and as lovers did the same, she learned the independence her mother instilled in her made her the woman she wanted to be.

Her mother, a Holocaust-survivor, taught her to never be a victim and that fear is not an option:
Never, ever, blame others for what befalls you, no matter how horrible it might be.  Trust you, and only you, to be responsible for your own life.
She didn't always love the lesson, but learned to embrace the message.

Over the years haven't we all at some point or another waited for someone to date, promote, validate, or love us while never quite getting the heaping helping we were hoping for? Yet when we treasure and treat ourselves like we wished others would we heal the wounds and learn to develop a less frail-victimy way about us.

At one point she was doubting her abilities when a friend said to her "assume-toi", a French expression for: Own Yourself. Just another reminder of the key she often shares with others:
Become your best friend; it is well worth it. It takes a lot of work and it can be painful because it requires honesty and discipline. It means you have to accept who you are, see all your faults and weaknesses. Having done that, you can correct, improve, and little by little discover the things you do like about yourself and start to design your life. 
Hmm... design our lives. No wonder it rang so true to me. ME Mapping is my experiment and practice in doing just that. It's confronting. It's a bit overwhelming. But if we get to a clear baseline of the life we have then we can develop a vision for what we want to create and live.
You cannot have a good relationship with anyone, unless you first have it with yourself.
We don't need to be princesses, rich, powerful, or popular to see ourselves as our most valuable relationship; and if not, we should explore what's up with that. Narcissism is not the goal, healthy self-love and self-friendship is. After all, if we can't love ourselves why would anyone else?

DVF encourages woman to design their lives and realize that we must embrace the whole package. She often wasn't the most beautiful, or wealthy, or brilliant person in the room... but she had confidence and developed other traits that highlighted where she was dazzling. She has lived an interesting, adventurous, fabulous life because she loved who she was becoming along her journey.

We need to love ourselves, design our lives, become the women/ men we wish to be. What are we waiting for? Let's get on with our fabulous, fabulous selves  :)   

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

One Life Changing Question...


Three weekends back I was not feeling well enough to go out but not bad enough to stay in bed so I traveled down a rabbit hole on Pinterest and found myself becoming obsessed with The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up. I began to tell my sister the story the Monday after and she mocked me and asked how could there be anything left to declutter in my place since I've been talking about decluttering for years. But alas, all methods before kept resulting in reoccurring clutter because they were missing a clarifying question... and there lies the magic!

Marie, who refers to her method as KonMari, is a best selling author with a cult-following overseas and is now making a name for herself in the U.S. Her book is pretty plain and although I did get a lot out of it, the life-changing part is one simple question. Here's how it works: first you take all your clothes and gather them in one place and then item by item you take them in your hands and ask yourself:

Does This Spark JOY?

And if it doesn't you put it in the discard pile and move on to the next thing. Once you have all the things you love sorted you can then decide how to organize and store them. She's known for her folding method- but I digress...

Normally with decluttering you decide what to get rid of which leaves us with only chucking the bad horrible stuff leaving a lot of stuff that we just put up with or are "fine" but really are just in our way of really getting to the good-joyful-stuff. I know it sounds fantastical but I swear it has completely changed my life in the last few weeks and I am now surrounded by more joy and less stuff. Imagine your closet with only items that make you look great. Wouldn't you rather feel awesome in a few outfits then be rummaging around a packed closet where you forget what you even have.

You can read about the rest of her philosophy in her own summary and on my Pinterest board but it's actually not even the organizing that brings the change. It is about asking yourself what kind of lifestyle do you want to live? What brings you joy?

Sure I'm happy my sock drawer is so organized, but the big point I took away is that we surround ourselves with stuff that ties us to the past or weighs us down with expectations of the future instead of stopping and enjoying our life right now. Even though I thought I had understood this, clearly I was only big-toe-in before and couldn't make the full dive into letting go of what was just cluttering my life and what was really available to bring me joy.

And after you go through your clothes, then books, papers, and mementos you begin to realize how much freer we feel when we let go of things that are unnecessary in our lives. Sure we need to keep some things that are not necessarily joy-evoking but actually once I got going I even got rid of my heavy desk tape dispenser because I realized when I use tape I really just like to use the pre-cut strips that come in the little handband one. Tape-joy, who knew!

KonMari: vertical folding lets you see what's in your drawers 
I did get really stuck when it came to books, but it occurred to me I was keeping most of the books I read as trophies and markers of how much I had learned and educated myself on vs a real resource for knowledge that I would ever re-read. I ditched half my books, a third of my clothes, and probably eighty percent of my paperwork. I get giddy when I open my drawers but even more helpful is that the sparking joy philosophy is a choice that we can use for any area of our life. 

Friend not bringing you joy, then stop hanging out with them. Job not bringing you joy, then start transitioning to something new. Not everything we do or have is going to bring us joy but it should lead a step closer to it or we need to ask ourselves is this aspect of our lives working for us? 

I didn't adopt every suggestion but one kooky recommendation did actually work even though it sounds nuts at first. She talks about thanking your discardable things for their service to you as you get rid of them (even the shirt with the tags still left on it, for teaching you yellow is not your color). I admit it sounds ridiculous but it really did make me feel better about throwing out and donating my stuff. Don't laugh it off until you try it :)

Of course I love the term "sparking joy" because, well... you know. But really, what better measurement of our stuff and our lifestyle then if our end result is it makes us happier?

A friend asked: but how do you get over the guilt of getting rid of stuff people gave you or the feeling you are wasting? Here's the thing, if someone cares about you they want you to be happy more then they need to see their doohickey on your shelf. The gift is in the giving and thought not in you storing it forever (you can always take a picture to capture the memory before you release it). And it is not wasteful to get rid of things by donating what someone else would be thrilled to have -that's actually good karma. As for items that are too worn to donate, they have done their job so let them go. Of course after thanking them first ;)   

Being distracted by possessions and clutter is a huge problem which leads to a vicious cycle of being drained so trying to fill up our lives with things, which then need to be paid for and cleaned and organized and stored. The less we have the more present we can to be to what's truly important in our lives. And if it brings us joy then go ahead and buy and keep it. But if it doesn't, let it go, and go find your joy elsewhere. 

I'm not going to lie, there is a pang of nausea that hits when you first see how much stuff you have surrounded yourself with, then a wave of guilt bagging up the stuff you've spent money on, then a tinge of regret when you drop off bags and bags of items you are only 99% sure you'll never need again... but then you come home to your decluttered space and there is JOY!

And that my friends is what makes it all worth it. Happy sparking :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

It's All About The Conversations We Have (or Don't)



I was at an impressive cocktail party a week ago and the question of what do you do? got me tongue-tied like it never has before. Because I don't really consider myself a writer, even though I've written a book; not really a consultant, even though I help people with business projects; not really a coach, even though I lead monthly workshops. And now by-golly I was really stuck because the project I've been working on about end-of-life choices, called Uthanasia, is not exactly a book but an idea I'm putting forward with no expectations.

So what's with that? Well I think I've kinda narrowed down what I do on the eve of starting on a new project and distributing the latest one... I help people look at their lives and then have valuable conversations about what's important to them.

Life (ME Mapping), death (My Last Wishes... & Uthanasia), business (JOY TH!NK). To me there is nothing more important then knowing what our lives are about and then having the conversations with those we love about what's important to us. And the difference between having and not having the conversations is not only about our happiness, our businesses, our relationships, they're also life and death. No really!

So that's what I'm about and this is the next conversation I want to share with you...

Uthanasia: A Good Ending.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Tears Of JOY!


I cried TEARS OF JOY last night. Now I will admit I am a bit of a weeper anyway... but these were deep happy happy tears of excitement and joy and there is a tingly difference even from tears of laughter.

There is a project that I've been working on (will share sometime soon) and I was struggling for a long time on how to best wrap up what I wanted to say and how to end it powerfully and I found exactly what I wanted to say in the tone I wanted to say it in. And for lack of a better phrase: it was the cherry on top that made it come together deliciously!

We all have great things going on in our lives but if you haven't dreamt a big exciting dream for yourself (no matter wild or mild) I encourage you to reach for one this year. It's hard to get started, sucks almost all the way through the middle, but the cherry!
The flippin' tears of joy are so, so worth it!

Cheers to some wonderful weepin' :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Who's Onboard Your JOY Journey?


Let's stop the grand delusion that says everyone 
                                      has to be on every journey we take.                                                                                                     
~Brendon Burchard 

Although I've always kind of thought: you're either along for the ride or you're not... while reading Brendon's The Motivation Manifesto these words really struck me.

What if instead of assuming people (whether friends, family, or coworkers) are along for the whole adventure we just think of them as along for this mile of our journey or that one? I've heard the reason, season, or lifetime reference to people being in our lives but this is way more clear and visual to me. 

Besides, we can't bring everyone along for everything or we'll: have no room to explore and welcome the new, be bogged down with more baggage to carry, be burdened by backseat drivers, and often just keep circling endlessly.

I'm going to try and open up my mind and life to journeying solo, traveling lighter, being open to letting people on and off my journeys with grace, and appreciating those that didn't choose to accompany me but still provide an oasis to replenish. 

I hate taking a backseat, mostly because of my extreme motion sickness, so I hope I remember to be supportive of those around I choose not to ride with as well. And with those I do... I hopefully won't weigh them down with my baggage, won't steer them off their path, and won't be a distraction while navigating their own course.

If life is all about the journey not the destination we need to embark with those that bring us joy and make our going a fruitful exploration. Let's let off the people that are not up for it, on those that make the trek more enjoyable, get direction from those we respect, be up for venturing down a different path, and above all take our joyful journey into our own hands. Happy trails :)   

Sunday, January 4, 2015

NOTHING Left Unsaid













I had an emotional time on New Year's Day with my yearly ritual of closing out 2014 and creating 2015. So much to mourn and yet be grateful for that I barely started in on 2015 until the next day, which is so unlike me.

2014 was going along just fine until the end of summer when my family started falling apart. Literally. My Dad needed hip-replacement, my Aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer, and then my Mom fractured her foot in two places.

Her fall lead to a physical, which lead to heart surgery (5 stents), which had gone well and was leading to a full recovery. That is until a coughing attack while driving lead to a car accident, which lead to her body giving out and dying within the week. So it wasn't so much that it was out of the blue or so sudden but shocking in its own way.

As sad as her death has been it has been peaceful in many ways-- most so in that my Mother and I had nothing left unsaid between us. Not all gushing I should point out. My Mother was not one of those happy-homemaker kind of moms. She was dramatic and narcissistic and difficult... and also funny, creative, smart, and loving.

All these characteristics made it challenging to be her daughter for much of my life. Up until my 30's when I realized she wasn't going to change, she did the best she could, and when we weren't busy fixing each other we could actually have a delightful time together. And part of what brought me to this place was she let me say whatever I had to about our relationship. She didn't necessarily own all her mistakes but she didn't invalidate my experiences and she apologized for not being a great mother... which ironically kinda made her a great mother because most children never get that kind of acknowledgement of the parenting they missed out on.

After her heart surgery she was cranky and being very hard to be around and I told her she needed to choose how she wanted to live out the rest of her life: grateful or bitter. That's the beauty of having worked through your shit you can speak directly to each other. She knew I loved her AND I didn't want to see her flinging her misery at me.

The last thing my Mom wrote before her accident was a thank you note to me
(my sister found it on her table at home being readied to send):


































Perfect, right?!

She got to have the last word, go out gracefully and beautifully, and leave me her love and appreciation to hold onto forever.

Please if you are reading this, take this as an opportunity to leave nothing unsaid with the ones you love. Have the difficult conversations, apologize and clean up your messes, lend an open ear if someone needs to clean up theirs, thank people in writing, send love notes. Do whatever you need to do so that no matter what 2015 holds nothing has been left unsaid between you and those you love.

My Mother's last hours were spent peacefully surrounded by my brother, sister and me and she knew she was loved. And even though she wasn't coherent I know she knew she'd done a great job because we were there for her and each other.
All had been said and done so she could truly Rest In Peace.