The Heart of the Matter

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.


Giveaway Happening — April 24, 2017 April 17, 2017 17:13

Hello friends! It’s been 20 years since I self-published my first book, The Gift of an Angel for parents welcoming a new child. To honor this milestone, I’m hosting a giveaway — cards, signed books, jewelry ... and I’d love for you to join in!


Check back here on April 24, 2017 for all the details! 

Choosing Kindness December 19, 2016 13:18

I was tired and crabby yesterday and knew I needed to go the store for wrapping paper. Turning into the Rite Aid parking lot, I was stopped mid-turn by a teenage boy in his cute little sports car in front of me. My van and I stuck out into oncoming traffic. But honestly, I had time. 

I honked my horn.

He turned around to see who beeped at him, and sat an extra 2 seconds to really annoy me.

He succeeded and we both pulled in, of course going to the same place. It’s easier to be a jerk from the anonymity of one’s car.

I got out. He got out. We looked at each other. “You can’t just sit in the middle like that, you gotta keep going,” I said, calmly.

“My car is really low to the ground,” he explained. ”I gotta go slow or I'll bottom out.”

In that moment, I saw my own kid in this kid. He was probably the same age -- seventeenish or so. I knew if my son had his own cute little car (which he desperately wants) he’d treat it like his baby. And if some impatient lady in a van was beeping behind him, my son would be annoyed with me, too.  

“You know,” I said. “I have a teen just like you who would really like that sweet car you have.”

He brightened and we fell in step, side by side.

“Ya, I really like it.”

“I'm sorry I was impatient.” I said.  “I’m crabby today.”

“Really?” he laughed.  “I'm crabby, too.” (Okay -- what 17-year-old admits he’s crabby to some random lady??)

We both agreed we would try to have a better day.

“Merry Christmas,” he said.  

“You, too,” I replied and we did this lean-in half hug thing. Me and some random teenage kid.

The Heart of the Matter: Every day, we can escalate crabbiness or kindness. Crabbiness sometimes feels easier. But kindness always ends better.


16 Simple Ways to Grow Gratitude October 05, 2016 11:42

Yesterday was the official book birthday of my newest title Bedtime Blessings.

Bedtime Blessings offers a peaceful way to end the day with a special child, through this heartfelt prayer of gratitude and wish for God's blessings on others, too. 

Yes, while you were going about your day, I quietly released a new offering into the world. No balloons, presents or champagne  — just the happy knowing that this book is now available to be shared with you and your little ones. You can find it here and here and where books are sold. It will also be in the Target Stores picture book section on October 18, 2016 through the holidays.

We all want to grow gratitude in our kids and families. To cultivate thankfulness for what we have versus coveting what we don't. Finding ways to actually do it a bit more challenging, however. We have enough to-do’s without adding “practice gratitude” to our list.

So I created this idea list for you — 16 simple ways to weave gratitude into your already busy day! 

1. Appreciate aloud. Give voice to gratitude and it teaches those around you to notice how many reasons there are to give thanks. On your way to school? “So thankful for easy traffic today!” Driving to soccer? “I so appreciate your coach’s positive attitude.” 

2. Turn negativity into noticing: When my kids were little, they would complain if our parking spot was too far away. I started to answer with “God gave you healthy legs! Let's use them.” They grumbled but they walked. To this day, when we have to park further than we want, I will hear them say to one another, “God gave us legs...” Complaints about errands?  “So thankful we can afford groceries for our family!” My daughter was recently complaining about a daily medication she needs to take. I told her I understand the inconvenience but feel thankful we found a doctor who knows what she is doing! 

3. Look through old photos. Inspiring a conversation of “Remember when we...” is an immediate path to gratefulness. 

4. Create a family Instagram account dedicated to small daily or weekly family gratitudes. Challenge your kids to notice the small and big things. Clean laundry. A favorite meal. A cherished stuffed animal. Older kids can capture and upload their own photos. Pretty soon you'll have a account-full of gratitude to scroll through! 

5. Check out ideas from Doing Good Together, an organization that provides tools to help compassionate, engaged children. Part of cultivating gratitude is showing our families there are many others in need of what we can give. When our kids were smaller, we gathered with 2-3 other families to make no-sew blankets, holiday cards for the military and bake pies for homeless shelters. We turned these gatherings into pot-luck dinners with a mission. So fun.

6. Light Up your Community this Holiday. My friend, Courtney DeFeo has created a list of 100 Ideas for how to Light up your Community with Generosity. Pick JUST ONE and your family will learn how good it fills to give. 

7. Get Specific with your Appreciation. Calling out the unique ways someone blesses your life helps grow your gratitude for the people in your life. “I love the way you ask about what I'm doing.” “I love how you make me coffee every morning.” “You give awesome hugs.”

8. Practice present-moment living. Get into the habit of asking yourself, “What's good about right now?” Usually a lot. You're breathing for one. We spend a lot of time rehashing the past or fretting the future. Coming back to the present can help cultivate a more grateful mindset.

9. Write Thank-you Notes. It's not passé. They can be short and sweet. Thank you for ______.  I appreciated it because ________.  I wish for you _______.  That's it. Stamp and mail. 

10. Read and Learn The Gentle Art of Blessing. This book is transformative. It offers a way of being in the world that cultivates blessing and gratitude. 

11. Add these kids books about gratitude to your collection. 

12. Deliver Meals on Wheels. This is one of the easiest, most-impactful volunteer opportunities for young kids. I did this with my young children for years.  Once a month. We picked up our food about 11:00am. before our own lunch/nap time and did a route of maybe six stops.  Even a 3 or 4 year old can carry the milk cartons or brown bags. And the house-bound seniors love seeing the little ones! 

13. Say a person's name. Easy peasy. If you grocery bagger has a name tag, use it! Say, “thank you John!" Waiter or waitress?  “Thank you Maria!” It makes a world of difference, telling that person, “I see you.  I appreciate you.”

14. Talk to Nature. Yes, I'm serious. When I'm walking, I say hello the birds and the deer, the trees and the flowers, thanking them for their gifts to the world. 

15. Watch this video by my artist friend Lori Portka. One woman's personal gratitude project may inspire yours. 

16. Create your own Gratitude Rock. Keep it on a table, in your purse or pocket as a reminder to stop and be thankful. Can be simple and unadorned and fancy and fun with ideas from this book, one of my faves. 

    The Heart of the Matter: Gratitude grows Gratitude. 


    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.