The Heart of the Matter

Be Brave Little One -- my NEW BOOk is born! August 01, 2017 11:54

Happy Book Birthday to my newest book -- Be Brave Little One!

TODAY, August 1, is the “official” publication date, the day when it is AVAILABLE here and here and here

Sounds like a big deal, yes??  

It is. This book is the culmination of hours and hours of thinking, writing, concepting, drawing, painting, designing, printing.  

And for me, finally figuring out how to give voice to the journey of courage we all walk. It’s the message I’ve been wanting to put into the world for such a long time but didn't quite know how until a conversation last year with my youngest son, Will, who is 13.

I was asking him what it meant to be brave, pointing out how courageous he had been starting a new school in California.

“I guess,” he said, “but it's not like I had a choice about starting school. I think brave is when you have a CHOICE and you do the thing you want to do no matter what anyone else says.”


This conversation broke it open for me and had me writing this:

How far can I go?

What things can I be

When I get to choose

What brave is to me?

Brave means listening to the “truthful and wise” voice of your heart and doing what it says, no matter what everyone else thinks you should do.  
Brave looks all kinds of ways -- from the big, out-loud choices to the small, quiet decisions. 
Brave is accepting and welcoming ALL your feelings — from excitement and happiness to fear and doubt and being okay with the spectrum of feelings that makes us HUMAN and REAL. 
Brave is an everyday, start-over-if-you-need-to practice that leads to the truest version of you. 

It is my journey and yours. And because of that, I dedicated it to both of us.

Can I tell you one more thing? This book birthday — the PUB DATE —  actually feels very quiet and ordinary. There are no balloons attached to my front door or people lining up on my front step for a copy or e-mails flooding my mail box with congratulatory sentiments.

What a fitting metaphor for bravery. Our biggest acts of courage are often the quiet moments no one may know about but us. The decision to keep going or to try something new. The deep-down commitment to welcome another day and do your best.

Be Brave to be You

on your journey begun.

Let your heart lead the way.

Be brave little one!  (and grownups, too!) 

Much love!



A short story about love May 23, 2017 11:12

My friend Deb left me a voicemail. 

Deb’s college-aged daughter, Sam, was sad.

Sam's roommate, Morgan, had just lost her dad.

(l to r: Morgan, MC, KatBart and Sam) 

Sam and her friends wanted to let Morgan know how much they cared about her and didn’t know exactly how to do that.

“Will you mail Sam a copy of your Gift of a Memory book?” Deb asked me on voicemail.  

I mailed Sam my book.

And Sam, a typical teen who loves Instagram and SnapChat, carried the book around and asked people write notes to Morgan.  

And they did.  Things like,

“Remember I am always a text or phone call away.”


“I love you so much.”


“I know how much your dad is proud of you.”

Sam gave Morgan the book and Morgan cried buckets of tears.

Tears from missing her dad.  Tears from being loved through the loss. 

The Heart of the Matter: Loss happens, giving us a chance to love. 

The Gifts of Instead May 08, 2017 11:46 2 Comments

I was scheduled for a pre-mother's day book event at The Book Passage, an amazing and popular bookstore just over the Golden Gate Bridge. This beautiful and vibrant bookstore did everything right. They made flyers. Promoted me on their website.  Shared me online. Readied the room with chairs and a microphone and a book display.  

I did everything right, too. I gathered my supplies. Set aside the time. Drove the 90 minutes from my house, ready to read and create and connect.

Then, no one showed up.

Not one person. Not one mother, dad or cute kid.

Johanna, the event host, and I waited in the big empty room for 20 minutes.  

At 1:25pm, I asked her, “Does this happen to other authors?”

“All the time,” she replied unfazed, and told me how a nationally-known author had ten people sign up for a recent event.

There was a time when Sunday’s reality would have wrecked me. The embarrassment, the internal messaging that said, “You suck at this. No one cares about your books. Find a different gig” before slinking out to my car to drive 80mph toward home where I would belabor it for days. 

Yesterday was different.  

Instead of hosting a pity party, I thought, “Makes total sense. It's a gorgeous Sunday. Families are out and about.”

Instead, Johanna and I talked for 45-minutes about family balance, mom guilt and how women find the time to pursue their passions in the midst of raising kids. I’m a decade further on the parenting journey and had some wisdom to pass along.  Her tears showed her gratitude.  She told me I was an angel for her that day?! And she suggested I connect with moms groups in Marin County.  She walked me to the cafe, bought me an amazing sandwich, and gifted me with beautiful personalized stationery as a thank-you for coming. I've never had personalized stationery! 

Instead, I sat in the cute cafe for three hours, working on other writing projects. I perused the new memoir from Dani Shapiro and dreamed of someday publishing my own.

Johanna passed by again with a stack of my books.  “I'm going to set up a Mother’s Day display in our kids section with your titles.”  Fabulous — a display with my titles!

Then, “Are you an artist?” a voice asked me.  I looked up and into the face of a woman who had sat down with tea and an oatmeal cookie. Her yoga mat rested at her feet. She had noticed my suitcase of rocks and paint. Part of my book event was to paint rocks for The Kindness Rocks Project.

“I am,” I explained and told her about my event that wasn't.  “I’d like to paint one,” she offered.  

“Please do” I said, making space so she could join me at my table.

Instead, for the next hour, Karen and I painted rocks and traded life stories, she an attorney and activist who had recently started her own soap making business called 13 Foxes Designs. “Some people don’t want to use the pretty soaps,” she laughed. “but I believe art is meant to be used and shared and replenished.”

She painted a fox on her rock. It was clearly an important symbol to her. 

I painted a rock for Johanna, my event host, that said Caring for yourself is time well spent. Karen suggested the words. 

The cafe slowly cleared out. Karen left, and it was time for me to go home, too. It’d be 8:00pm by the time I got back to San Jose. 

My ride home once would have included feelings of failure.

Instead, my heart felt full and grateful for all the unexpected gifts of the day.  

The Heart of the Matter:  I had come for one thing that didn't happen.  I left, however, with the gifts of instead.


The Gifts of Loss August 15, 2016 11:02

One of my dearest friends from California is moving to St. Louis, and I'm sad. We discovered each other via mutual connections, both of us children's book authors and both working from home. Of course I scoped out her website before our meeting, feeling nervous but deciding yes, she looked friendly.  Our connection was immediate. We walked the five-mile QuickSilver trails together, 3-4 times a week, sharing our lives and covering every topic from kids and spirituality to aging, money, book ideas, dreams, parents, fears and insecurities. Though I've been here just two years, she's become an epic friend, comfort and blessing. 

“What will I do without you?” I ask her, sitting in my driveway on Friday night, tears spilling. She drove me the one-block home from her going away party because I didn't want to walk in my fancy shoes. I understand the circumstances that have prompted their move, but I'm focused on how it affects me. 

“You'll always have me,” she says through her own tears. “I'm a text or phone call away.”  I know this is true.  But I also know how time and distance change things.

Just two years ago, I sat in Lisa’s office (my therapist) for help in dealing with my own move to California after 25 years in Minneapolis. 

“What if I never have this again?” I lamented from her couch, referring to the dear friendships and familiarity I was leaving.  

She looked at me from “the wisdom throne,” as I affectionately called her simple hardback chair across from me. 

“But you’ve had it,” she replied. “And that is the gift.”

It took a bit for this to truly sink in and cull its truth: Loss in life is inevitable. But what we know and receive and are changed by is always with us, precious souvenirs on the heart's journey. 

By leaving friends in Minneapolis and now being the one left behind, I have known the ache of separating from people and places dear. And I have received in abundance the gifts of knowing I mattered. I have been blessed by love and friendship, conversation, truth-telling, laughter, and support. And deeply hope I have bestowed the same on others with whom I've traveled life. 

As Lisa told me in her own way and Poet Alfred Lord Tennyson reminds us, 'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. 

As I think about Ali moving today to her new life in St. Louis, I am struck by a couple things.  First that yes, I did find it again — friendship and connection. And yes, I'm feeling loss again just two years later.  But my heart has infinitely expanded through the gifts of each. 

How have you received the gifts of loss in your own life? 

The Heart of the Matter:  Loss and beauty are traveling companions.  

51 Wishes July 21, 2016 01:07 1 Comment

In honor of my 51st year on this planet, I made this list of wishes for you — little things you can do to honor the heart of you, add some kindness to the world and connect with who you love. Feel free to print it out, share it with a friend and choose a couple ideas that will expand your joy. 

1. Paint a rock and join the The Kindness Rocks Project.

2. Visit the Facebook pages of five friends and leave a compliment on their timeline, telling them what you love best about them.

3. Make a Tie Dye T-shirt... just because. 

4. Become a Raktivist.

5. Attend a spiritual service at a different place than your usual. (Or, if you don't go ... try one) 

6. Grow something. (I grew beans for the first time this year!)

7. Make a cape for Enchanted Makeovers, an organization whose mission is to transform shelters for women and children.

8. Buy this book to understand, heal and transform your relationship with money.

9. And this one to open your heart. 

10. Start a club with your own reasons for existing. Me and Will, my 12-year-old started the “cuddle club.”  We meet anywhere, anytime to share hugs. My girlfriend and I created the JAMA club (Jane and Marianne Adventure club) that encourages us to get out and hike, bike or drink coffee together!  We actually have our logo and tee-shirt! :)

11. Write a letter to someone you admire and tell them why. (I have cards in my online store or you can certainly make your own!) 

12. Request a fingerprint kit from this company and capture the prints of your kids, husband or parents. 

13. Interview you mom or dad about their life. Write or record her answers. 

14. Learn your mail person’s name. Same with your sanitation workers. 

15. Stay at a yurt

16. Buy this kids book for yourself. 

17. Invest in some nice photos of yourself. Or of you and your family. Your future self will thank you. 

18. Go to a zoo and laugh at the monkeys. 

19. Make a no-sew blanket for Project Linus

20. Pay it forward with a Giving Key

21. Go on a walk and say hello to every person you pass. 

22. Print these out for FREE and share with a favorite teacher. 

23. Make your own ice cream or popsicles

24. Call a friend you haven't talked to in a long time. 

25. Send someone the inspiration she needs right now. 

26. Process a difficulty through these six questions

27. Make a promise to yourself. 

28. Visit your library and leave with a book, movie or CD. 

29. Look through your own childhood photos and think about what you loved to do at various ages.  Do one of those things. 

30. Know your go-to recipe for an appetizer, drink, salad or dessert. If you don't have one — find one. 

31. Get a pint of your favorite ice cream. Combine with Netflix. 

32. Paint your finger or toe nails some crazy color. Orange? Turquoise? The wilder, the better. 

33. Learn three jokes

34. Buy this to create a time capsule for you and your sweetie. Or something like this for you and your kids. 

35. Donate socks to the closest homeless youth shelter. 

36. Camp in a state park.  

37. Sign up for this daily meditation — so good. 

38. Fly a kite. 

39. Just get the medical stuff done you've been putting off. Mammogram. Colonoscopy. Filling. Crown. Mole check.  

40. Watch back-to-back-to-back Carpool Karaoke

41. Make these for your next party. 

42. Volunteer. 

43. Read about how your heart and brain talk to each other! Quite fascinating. 

44. Try a craft you've never done. Needlepoint. Pottery. Jewelry making. Glass blowing. 

45. Join a meet up. There is seriously one for EVERYTHING.

46. Practice speaking in front of others. 

47. Have an outdoor adventure. White water rafting. (best vacation!)  Backpacking. (Grand Canyon! Half Dome! Do it.) Spartan racing

48. Fund a cause you believe in. 

49. Wear and share your heart. 

50. Host a breakfast party for your friends or neighbors. 

51. Look in the mirror and tell yourself THANK YOU for being on this planet and being awesome.