March 16, 2018

Books to Inspire and Motivate

I love it when I get to combine favorite writing and coffee shops, and friends and red wine, and delicious food and my favorite foody/hubby. Great combinations get bonus points if you throw in some coffee, too. Well, I've been working one of those kinds of combinations a lot lately by reading books (favorite thing #1) that inspire and motivate (favorite thing #2). (And yes, I often enjoy some coffee...or tea...while I'm at it.) It is possible that I'm even a little obsessed with this combination right now...not that I'm the type to go overboard with a good thing...

I've mentioned many of these books in various recent posts, but I thought I'd share them all in one big ol' book post. So, if you're looking for a little inspiration, if you need some motivation, consider checking out one of these books and see if, perhaps, they are the kick in the pants, or the shift in perspective, that you're looking for...

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist...This audiobook really connected with me. The case of "right book, right time," I think. Also, I think Shauna and I have some common personality traits. Even though our lifestyles are a bit different (my stress does not come from traveling across the country for speaking engagements), I could relate to her desire for perfection and constant doing-ness...and the inner pull to live differently. I felt like many of her insights really spoke to me.

You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero...I adore Jen Sincero's voice. Listening to her audiobook was like sitting down with a good friend who's figured a few things out that I haven't yet. I kind of craved listening to her, and I will definitely listen to the book again. I connected with her skepticism about a lot of this inspirational, motivational, touchy-feely stuff. (I've always loved this stuff, yet been skeptical of much of it at the same time. Which may be a little strange, but it felt to me like Jen had the same skepticism.) Her voice is edgier and brasher than you've likely heard in other inspirational books, but I just loved it.

Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker...I didn't think I was going to connect with this book at first. In the beginning, I wasn't sure that I liked Jen's voice and it felt like the book was going to be too much of a typical Christian-y book for me. (Don't be offended. We all have our preferences for how we like to hear our inspiration. I don't care for mine heavy with labels.) But I was wrong. I ended up loving Jen's voice and many of her messages. This book, like Niequist's, has a pretty heavy Christian overtone, but the struggles and the lessons all connected with me.

Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn...(I've said this before, but I love his sounds like wine..."Yes, I'll have the salmon and a glass of the Jon Kabat-Zinn.") I have owned this book for years and have never been able to finish it, so I was psyched to find the audiobook through my library. It's a book on mindfulness and meditation, and it's a nice introduction to the concepts. He gives some really good tips on starting a meditation practice, and it was just plain soothing to listen to.

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton...This one I actually read in hard copy form, not an audiobook. Much of Melton's story doesn't connect with me--her struggles with addiction and sobriety and self-destructive behavior-- but I found it all very interesting. I also found it interesting that despite our seemingly very different life paths, we had a lot in common in our inner experiences. (Reminder: We are all more alike than we are different!) Her insights and life lessons spoke to me and I really like her energy. This book is hardcore honesty, and that's immensely refreshing...and something I aspire to.

Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck...This is a LONG audiobook, I'm not gonna lie. And there were parts of it that kind of didn't apply to me-- mainly because I feel like I've already found "my thing" in writing. But that doesn't mean that I'm following my north star in every way, so I still found it incredibly helpful. It is FULL of insights and lessons and Ah-Ha moments. And it made me want to really go after the life I dream of in every way.

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown...I'm still in the midst of listening to this book. It has some excellent insights. I am definitely learning. But I do not like the narrator's voice. I was super bummed to find that Brene did not read for the audio. It really loses something, in my opinion, without her. Whereas in the other books I've mentioned here, whose narrators added to my book experience, this one actually takes away from the experience for me. I am bummed by this, because I really love Brene Brown's work. BUT, I would totally recommend reading this in hard copy form (or try the audio, it may not bother you). I especially love her insights on play and rest for adults.

What inspirational/motivational books have you read or listened to that you loved? Please tell me, because I'll need a new one to start as soon as I'm done with Brene's.

* * *

I've already shared a lot of Ah-Ha's from these books in other posts, but here's a new one...

Random Ah-Ha from all this reading: The importance of reconnecting with my body. Although I suppose I began the journey of reconnecting with my body last year with all the work I did in Danette May's program, I now see that the work I've done so far was the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

I think, in the past (and sometimes in the present), I've valued the mind above all else. As I get older, the spirit has begun to retake priority. But I think I've always relegated the body to third class citizen in this holy trinity that makes up the human experience. It is a carrier, a vessel, a mode of transportation for mind and spirit in this world. But a lot of this recent reading has made me realize that I have become far more cut off from my physical body than I realized. I have built mental blockades over the years that keep me from connecting with my body and what is has to teach me.

And my big Ah-Ha is that this is a really bad thing. This realization has me connecting a whole lot of dots in my life. You know those moments, when you figure something out and then say to yourself, oh, that's probably why this is this way, or why that happened, or why this is an issue for me.

Though I started reconnecting with my body over the last 12 months, I think I was only doing it in certain ways...within certain parameters. (Healthy food. Healthy movement. Guided meditation.) But once my body had my attention, it took the opportunity to start screaming at me...kinda like an adult in role play therapy who screams at the empty chair that is their stand-in "mom." And it's been equally as scary as being that chair.

The skin problems, the hormonal fluctuations, the crazy menstrual cycles, the anxiety and panic attacks, the chronic pain, the exhausted evenings...all, now, feel a lot like my body yelling at me for the focus it deserves.

I can't say that I've figured out how to fully reconnect with my body (because I haven't), but I'm far more aware of the issue and I'm seeking ways to address it. Meditation, mindfulness, and yoga come to mind. (Also quiet, stillness, and, most important, listening.)

In Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton talks a lot about her disconnection with her body and the process she began to reconnect with it. It was one of the parts of her book I connected with the most. She talked about yoga and meditation and checking in with her body at key moments to see what it was trying to tell her. Listening. (It's something us "word people" sometimes have trouble with...we're far too busy talking (or writing). Also, doers...doers are too busy doing to really listen to anything!)

In Finding Your North Star, Martha Beck, talks about a body scan exercise designed to find areas of the body that feel numb. She asks that you focus in on those numb areas, saying that these areas often hold the un-dealt-with pain (anger, frustration, sadness, worry) of the past.

So I take these nuggets and I start the journey of reconnecting with my own body, of really listening to it and trying to give it what it needs-- time, attention, care, love, a voice...kind of what we all need more of.

Until next time, take a few minutes each day for the next week and reconnect with your body. Get quiet. Get still. And listen. Really listen.

P.S. This blog post was written while enjoying a Grande Americano with a few shakes of cinnamon...mmmmmmm, writing and coffee, a favorite combo. ;-)

March 6, 2018

Words of Wisdom

Words of Wisdom...

Not from me, of course. These are words I've been gathering, like wild flowers for a field bouquet. If you've been reading my blog this year, then you've probably gathered that I'm doing a lot of reconfiguring of my life and my brain. When I get into this mode, I tend to try to saturate my mind with words of wisdom from as many different sources as possible. I read books and blogs and articles; I listen to music and interviews and guided meditations and TED talks. When something catches my attention and makes me pause, I write it down...or, more often, I type it into the reminders on my phone. And then I look at it again and again, trying to absorb it in a way that makes it a part of me.

And I am hard-core in this mode right now. Hard. Core.

So, as I procrastinate working on my novel, I thought I'd share some of these little nuggets, these words of wisdom, with you all. Maybe they'll speak to you, too...

Be still and know. This is a pretty common one. I've heard it from a lot of sources, most recently, Glennon Doyle Melton. I think it's such a wonderful reminder to slow down, get quiet, and realize that the answers we seek are inside of us, if we just take the time to listen. The answers don't always come right away, but they do come if you give them the space. (I think this is why we often have epiphanies in the shower. For some of us, that's the only time we give ourselves some peace.)

The other day, I sat staring at a piece of art I'm working on and I had no clue what to do next. Instead of trying to force it, I just gave it space. Later that day I saw something that sparked an idea and I suddenly knew exactly what I wanted do next with the piece. The same thing happened when working on math with my daughter. I was explaining how to do something and it just wasn't clicking for her. So we stopped. That night while I was laying quietly in bed with her, I suddenly knew how to explain the math problems in a way she'd understand. The next day, I used my new method and, Boom!, she got it.

It works for the big life questions, too. And the moments when you feel your emotions taking off in a disproportionate way. About to explode? Take a step back. Be still. And know. (If you do this, you achieve bonus words of wisdom. These are from Maya Angelou-- When we know better, we do better. When we take the time to be still and know, it shows up in our actions.)

The only way to live is to forgive yourself constantly for being human. This is also from Glennon. And, seriously folks, these are such excellent words for perfectionists! Every one of us Type-A's should be repeating this to ourselves all day long. Every time you make a mistake. Every time you err (which is human, I'm told). Every time you don't live up to your own expectations (the root of most pain, by the way...those pesky expectations). Just pause and forgive yourself. For you are human, not machine; and perfection is a myth.

Pain is a traveling professor. Also from Glennon. (I just re-listened to an interview she did with Oprah, while folding laundry last week-- she and Oprah were not folding laundry...they were talking, I was folding-- so it's all really fresh in my mind; but this explanation, which is also in her book, Love Warrior, is one of the best I've ever heard.) It goes something like this...Most of us run from pain. We try to push it away or deny it or stuff it down or mask it or medicate it. (I like to eat it.) But what we really need to do is embrace it. Because pain is a traveling professor, here to teach us something. She says we need to invite it in and tell it not to leave until it's taught us what we need to learn.

This is one of those concepts that I get, but I know that I don't really GET, yet. But I'm working on it. Here's what I'm trying to do: You know I've been struggling with anxiety for the last few months. Well, I'm trying to look at this anxiety as a traveling professor. I genuinely believe that the anxiety is here for a reason. I wasn't doing what I needed to do, so the anxiety came along to get my attention and force change. The anxiety is here to show me the way. So, I'm trying to follow it. I was doing better, but it spiked again a few weeks ago, so I'm trying to see that as a flag and change what needs to be changed. (To be clear, the anxiety itself is bad and needs to be told to go away; but it is also a messenger. So I grab the message and then send it back out on the road.) I think that once I get the lesson, once I learn everything this anxiety has to teach me, this particular professor will leave.

Just keep doing what feels most joyful. This is from Martha Beck. I just finished listening to her book Finding Your North Star, (It's long, but totally worth it.) and these words of wisdom jumped out at me immediately. I think this should be the litmus test for just about every choice we make. What should I do? Where should I go? Who should I spend my time with? The answer is: do what feels most joyful; go where you feel most joyful; be with whom you feel most joyful. When in doubt, follow your joy. 

Break it down into turtle steps. I mentioned these words of wisdom, also from Martha Beck, in my last post because it speaks directly to my life right now. I am facing the massive task of third round revisions on one of my novels and I keep freezing up because I get overwhelmed by the sheer mass of what I have to do. Martha recommends breaking down anything big into the tiniest possible steps forward. She calls these turtle steps. For me, this means committing to at least 15 minutes a day of work on the book--it usually turns into more, but the smaller tasks help un-freeze me. There's a reason we've all heard some version of this advice before...because it's true. You got to break it down.

This is much worse than I expected, and that's okay. Martha breaks down the undertaking of finding and following our north star into 4 phases and she gives each of these phases a mantra. This is one of them and, weirdly, it makes me smile. Her approach is, basically, to speak the cold, hard truth and then follow it with the phrase "and that's okay." In this case, the idea is to look at whatever difficult or awful thing you're facing and bless it. Whatever it is, it's okay. You're okay.

Here's my current favorite example for using this one: The physicality of getting older is much worse than I expected...and that's okay. It's weighing on me big time, y'all. I am feeling the full weight of my age (possibly because my birthday is literally knocking on my door and I'm hiding under the covers yelling, "Go away! Nobody's home!" like the scared little bitch that I am). My body aches, and my stomach is pudging out with all those snacks I'm eating this winter, and my skin is all a weird hella mess, and my face looks a bit like someone drove a piece of heavy machinery over is NO BUENO! And I know that this is just the physical form that my soul has on loan for this life on earth, BUT DUDE! I. JUST. CAN'T. EVEN.

And that's okay.

Sigh. Still working on that one.

The sooner you get through your first 5000 mistakes, the sooner you can move on to your next 5000. I so wish someone had drilled this one into me when I was younger. Such wisdom in these words, which actually come from Martha Beck's college art teacher, I think. The fear of making mistakes often paralyzes us. But the truth is, mistakes are how we learn, how we grow, how we live. And we never stop making them. We never get to the point where there are no more mistakes. We just go from making rookie mistakes to making the mistakes of a master. So get over it. Get to doing whatever it is you need to be doing, because the sooner you make your first 5000 mistakes, the sooner you can move onto your next 5000. (Love that.)

Everything is changing, and that's okay. Another North Star phase mantra from Martha. And since life is constant change, and so many of us waste so much time fighting the inevitable, I thought I'd share these words. I always say that as soon as I get something just right, as soon as I figure something out, everything changes and I have to start all over. As soon as I get the house just how I want it, we move. As soon as I figure out a kid stage, they move on to the next one. Life is constant change. And that's okay. Just roll with it. And follow the joy.

Until next time, be still and know; forgive yourself; embrace the pain; do what feels joyful; break it down; and make mistakes. Because it's all okay.


March 1, 2018

What Book Revisions Look Like

Book Revision Central

Ever wonder how a book gets from a writer's head to the book store? I used to think that they just sat down and wrote it, and then sent it to the publisher, where it was edited, printed, and sent to book stores.

It's not as neat and tidy as all that. It's not smooth. It's not easy. And it's not fast. At least not for me...and I haven't even gotten to the agent and publisher part...YET. (From what I've heard, that's a whole other can of beans!)

Since I'm knee deep in third round revisions on one of my middle grade novels (and having some, ahem, issues with, um, motivation and focus right now...), and I'm doing more intricate and elaborate work on it than I ever have on a book before, I thought I'd share a little glimpse of what this book writing stuff looks like.

First, what got this book to where it's at today?

Well, I wrote the first draft of it (as with all five of the novels I've written so far) during National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo). This one was written in 2014. Then I worked on other books. In 2016 and 2017, I took this book through the revision and critique process with my writing group.

Each month I would prepare 4-5,000 words of the book for critique, get the feedback from my group, and then revise that section based what I learned. In the case of this of this book, I was actually revising and rewriting each section on my own before turning it in, and then revising and rewriting the section again after I got feedback. I also was constantly going back and making changes to earlier parts as we worked our way through the novel. So, I was basically doing round one and two revisions back-to-back.

Once that process was done, I took a break from the book. I went on a revision retreat to learn more about revising. I took an online graduate writing class. I read a lot of writer's blog posts on writing and revising. I read books on writing and revising. I wrote a new middle grade novel and started first round revisions on a young adult novel. Then, I felt ready to pull my middle grade novel back out and start round three revisions.

To be clear, I've never done round three before.

Because even after four years of a regular, real, writing practice, I'm still new at this. I'm still learning my writing process. Like I said before, it's nothing like what I thought it was when I used to say, "I want to write a book someday." It's no longer a nebulous, wispy thing in the air. Now it's a job. It's a process. It's daily work. And my process is still evolving, still becoming. Kinda like me.

I'll be sure to let you know when I get it all figured out.

I'm old and so are my methods
Anyway, so I created a revision grid, like I learned to do at that summer retreat. This is like plotting your book on a spreadsheet, scene by scene or chapter by chapter (mine's old-school, hand written, cuz...Excel).

Then I translated that grid onto cards that I could move around-- because I felt sure that some scenes needed to be moved, some deleted, some changed, and some added. I wrote every character on a card...some of those need to go, too. Then I went through my revision notes and wrote all the key ideas and issues I needed to address on separate cards.

Genius: Using boxes of old
business cards as note cards
Then I went back to my original outline for the book and rewrote it. And, finally, I printed a fresh hard copy of the book.

Now, I'm revising.

This round of revisions is a complex Jenga game of moving parts, as well as an intricate weaving of tapestry...trying to pull that one bright red thread all the way through from beginning to end.

Chapter Jenga
I moved chapter two back to chapter one (where it was to begin with), and moved chapter one to chapter two, even thought it used to be chapter three; so chapter three, which was chapter two, will remain chapter three, but will get a massive haircut.

I love my main character's voice in the early chapters but found that it got watered down a bit as the book went on and I got more caught up in the action and less focused on character building. So once I get all the moving part in the right places, I need to go back and do things like make sure her voice is consistent throughout the whole book.

And I have to do things like find any plot threads I dropped and pick them up and finish them, and get rid of characters I don't really need, and make sure that my British character sounds British throughout the whole book. Plus I need to delete scenes and subplots that I don't really need and bolster scenes--like the all-important climax-- that need bolstering.

When I start to think about all there is to do (despite the hundreds of hours I've already spent on this book), my mind starts to spin and I feel the need to breath into a paper bag.

That's when this happens...

Indoor Art Picnic

I hit a mental roadblock. I tried to power through it, to force things, but it wasn't working. So I went a different route. This is what I call creativity cross-training. I'm painting and playing and trying to off-load the tension and anxiety I'm feeling.
Dining Table...Need Bulletin Board!

I'm also hoping to get a giant bulletin board to allow for this "card moving" stage without making the dining room table unusable for months on end.

I had my niece, and fave critiquer, take a look at chapter one and give me feedback. Don't tell her but I'm going to need her to beta read the whole thing in April if I can get it done. Here's why: I set a big goal of attending my first writer's conference in May and I want to have the novel ready to pitch to agents while I'm there (a BIG first).

This also makes me want to breath into a paper bag, so I try not to think about the reality of it and instead pretend like it's a far-off thing (it will actually be here in two months...but don't tell me).

Which is why I really need to get back to work. Any time you see me doing something other than revisions, feel free to tell me to get back to work. Just don't be offended when I give you a dirty look and grumble about it. It's not personal. And I swear I actually love all of this writing business. It's just that pursuing your big life dreams is not always easy.

Martha Beck says to break these big life dreams down into "Turtle Steps"...the tiniest possible steps forward. Like, commit to just 15 minutes a day of revisions. But she also says to "Just keep doing what feels most joyful;" and, at the moment, that seems to be playing with art supplies and watching art process videos on Youtube. So I'm doing both. I'm also talking to friends and baking and considering guitar lessons. (Because...of course.)

And I'm reminding myself of my mantra for this year, from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Live in the sunshine,
Swim the sea,
Drink the wild air's salubrity

Until next time, go pursue your big life dreams...
and don't forget to cross-train.

February 23, 2018

When Enough Is Enough: A Call To Action for EVERYBODY

These are the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High
School shooting. Let's honor them with ACTION!

This post has been brewing inside of me for more than a week. I have thought about it, researched it, and debated even writing it. Basically, I've been in turmoil over it for days. Just as I've been in turmoil over what happened in Parkland, Florida.

I started having anxiety attacks again last week. Not as bad as back in December, but there, nevertheless. I couldn't figure out why. We were experiencing some minor distresses in our family, kids having issues and such, but nothing that seemed to warrant severe spikes in anxiety. It took me a few days to connect the dots to the school shooting in Florida. It was when my kids got home from school one day and I felt myself relax that I realized that I was kind of terrified to have them away from me. I just wanted them close.

Though many of us may disagree on what needs to change following yet another horrific mass shooting, I have to believe that we are all shocked and appalled and at least a little bit scared by what happened...and the fact that it keeps happening again and again. We all must be feeling sympathy and empathy for the victims and their families and friends, and for the survivors and all they've gone through. An anxiety trigger for me is putting myself in the shoes of the victims' parents...what must it be like to find out that your baby was shot and killed at school. My body aches with despair for these parents. For all of those affected by the shootings.

Can we all agree that it's a horrible, horrible thing...that it is a tragedy?

And can we all agree that things must be done, things must change, to prevent more mass shootings from happening?

I happen to believe that common sense gun reform is a must in this country. I believe that it is the key to stopping these kinds of shootings and massively reducing gun violence in this country.

You may not believe that. And while I don't understand it, I do respect your right to your opinion. What do you think is the issue? What do you think is the key to stopping these shootings? Is it mental health reform? Is it education reform? Is it a reconnection with God? Is it parenting education? Is it the disconnection caused by the deluge of video games and smartphones and social media?

Whatever you think the key is to this problem, it is time to fight for the good.

Enough is enough.

This is a call to action for EVERYBODY!

If you believe that the issue is mental health reform, then get involved in pushing legislation at the state and federal level for reform. You can start by checking out the National Alliance on Mental Illness: and the American Psychiatric Association: Google mental health reform for more information and take action.

If you believe that education reform is the answer, then do your research and determine what you believe the best course of action is, and get to it. Start locally. Join the parent-teacher organization at your kids' school, join the school board, lobby local and state government for change. You might start gathering information here:

If you believe a reconnection with God is the key, then become a youth leader at your church. Start a support group for kids in your area where they can safely explore religion and expand their relationship with their higher power. Find a place where you can be the light, the change you wish to see in the world, and shine.

If you believe it's all about parenting, then volunteer to teach parenting classes at schools or local organizations, or start a parenting support group; volunteer in a mentorship program to be a positive role model for kids who may not otherwise have one. Check out or Big Brothers Big Sisters at

If you believe it's video games and smart phones and social media that's to blame, then get out there and make change happen. Get some information to start with here:, here:, and here:

If you believe that common sense gun reform is the key, then I ask that you to get involved at some level in making that happen. Join Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America or Everytown for Gun Safety. Call/email/tweet your senators and congressional representatives (You can find their contact info here: and ask where they stand on tighter gun control and let them know that you'll only support candidates willing to take a stand on this issue. Make public who's taking money from the NRA. (You can find that info here: Lobby your state representatives. Go to a rally. Show your support for others who are trying to affect change.

And I ask that you ALL, please study all of the various components of possible gun reform, and see if there are some that you agree with. If so, support those changes. For example, you might support better background checks and limiting the size of gun magazines, but not limiting open carry. Fine. Support the components that you do see as positive change, instead of blanketly saying you're against all gun reform.

Whatever you believe to be the key to this problem, PLEASE do something to affect positive change. Don't just sit around sharing nasty memes on Facebook. I vowed to myself that I would not attack those who are against gun reform in this post. If you haven't been convinced by all of the data out there that gun reform is needed in this country, then my little blog post isn't going to convince you. So instead of getting dirty in that fight, I'd rather we all find a positive way to make a difference. The truth is, I think positive change is needed in all of the areas I noted above. ALL. OF. THEM.

So go fight the good fight. Make a difference. Move us toward a better place...a world in which mass shootings do not happen.

Enough is enough, friends. And enough should have been a long time ago.

Until next time, please take action toward POSITIVE CHANGE.

If you're interested in learning more about gun sense organizations, here are some links for you: 

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is a grassroots movement of American mothers, similar to Mother's Against Drunk Driving, fighting for public safety measures that respect the Second Amendment and protect people from gun violence. It's a nonpartisan group looking to do things like close loopholes in background checks that allow felons and domestic abusers to easily access guns; support reasonable limits on where, when and how loaded guns are carried and used in public; and promote gun safety. You can find out more here:, and here:

Everytown for Gun Safety is the largest gun violence prevention organization in the country and has teamed up with Moms Demand Action. You can find out more here:

Sandy Hook Promise. The organization's current focus is on limiting the size of gun magazines. You can sign a petition for this cause here: You can learn more about the organization here:

BeSmartforKids is a program that promotes gun safety. The SMART acronym stands for Secure all guns in your home and vehicles; Model responsible behavior around guns; Ask about the presence of unsecured guns in other homes; Recognize the risks of teen suicide; Tell your peers to be SMART. You can find out more here:

If you are looking to effect change in gun policy: Join the above organizations. Then, please contact your senators and congressmen both at the state and federal levels. Call them. Write them emails and letters. Tweet them. Let them know where you stand and what you expect from them.

If you live in PA reach out to Senator Pat Toomey. He's taken $39,363 from the NRA. You can reach him at 202-224-4254;; @SenToomey. If you happen to live in my district, reach out to our congressman, Representative Charlie Dent. He's taken $28,850 from he NRA. You can reach him at 202-225-6411;; @RepCharlieDent.

Right now, in PA, we're trying to disarm dangerous domestic abusers with the state bill, SB501. Research it. If you agree with it, please email/call/tweet our 13 state senators to pass SB501. You can tweet this message: Disarm dangerous domestic abusers. #PassSB501 #ProtectPAFamilies. Here are some of the senators' email addresses:,,,,,,,, Here are some of their twitter accounts: @SenatorAlloway, @SenatorGordner, @WayneforSenate, @PASenatorGuy, @SenVulakovich, @SenLisaBoscola, @SenGreenleaf, @SenLisaBaker, @SenBartolotta.

Whatever you do, DO SOMETHING!

February 15, 2018

Creating Your Mission, Vision, and Values

What I want life to feel like much of the time...
Hello, dear friends! In this week's post, I'm giving you homework...but don't be frightened off by that. Because this is the kind of homework that could change your life. No, really. Ready yourself.

Okay, so here's where you're about to see evidence of my former life in the corporate world. If you have ever worked in the land of corporations or business consulting, then you are likely super familiar with the terms Mission, Vision, and Values when it comes to businesses (usually all lumped together like it's one word: missionvisionvalues). Most companies and brands and nonprofits have mission, vision, and values statements. For some organizations, these truly drive the business decisions and the corporate cultures...for others, they're more window-dressing and lip-service. But when they're used properly, they can be an excellent tool for drawing the map and driving the bus, for organizing ideas, and for making decisions...and that's true not only for organizations; it's true for individuals (like you!), too.

So today, I'm going to try to convince you that YOU should have a mission statement, a life vision, and a list of values; and that these missionvisionvalues should drive your life decisions: how you spend your time each day, how you define and go after your goals, what you worry about and what you don't. Whether or not you print it out and hang it on the wall, is up to you; but just going through the process of thinking it through-- all the way through-- can be enough to open your eyes to things in your life that don't line up with what's really important to you.

At least that's what I've found.

It started with a conversation a while back with my therapist about how much I value productivity and accomplishment, how ingrained the desire and need for those things were in my daily life. Then that same topic--productivity and accomplishment-- showed up in a book I was reading, Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist. And I made the realization that those things, that productivity and accomplishment, weren't actually things that I valued. Yet so much of my day was driven by those two things.

And I kind of freaked out, internally, when I realized this. How could so much of my daily life be dictated by something that wasn't even truly important to me? That seemed like an epic failure.

So, after the panic attack faded, I was left with the question: What do I value? What is important to me? What should be driving my daily life? If not productivity and accomplishment, then what? I know that seems like a crazy question to ask. I mean, of course I know what's important to me. But have I ever really spelled it out? No. Have I ever taken the time to measure my day against what's really important to me? No. All I knew, was that things felt out of whack.

Enter: Mission, Vision, Values.

I've thought about going through this process for a while, years actually, but this year was the first time that I actually sat down and, over the course of a couple of weeks, worked out what my mission and vision are for my life, and what the things are that I value most. And now I'm working on making my daily life reflect those things.

Here's what I did...

I think values is a good place to start. Values are the foundation for everything. There are all kinds of values lists online and in books. (Here's one of the lists I used: So, I searched for some lists and simply wrote down any words that spoke to me. After that, I looked for themes and repetition on that list to really hone in on what was most important. This is what my list looked like:

The values that rose to the top for me, the ones that I made certain to include in my mission statement, were grace, kindness, joy, love, gratitude, and abundance. (You may notice that none of these are even akin to productivity and accomplishment. Yeah, that point wasn't lost on me.)

Once I had that, I went back online and searched for personal mission statements and read other people's to get some ideas. I even read through some company mission statements. And I read a lot on how to go about developing a mission statement.

Here are some of the questions I used to get the ideas flowing:

- What do I value most?
- What makes me happy?
- What do I like to share with others?
- What's the reason I exist?
- What do I hope to achieve in life that would bring me the most satisfaction?
- What am I good at?
- What must I have in my life feel fulfilled?

I took my list of values, combined like ideas, and then pulled out the most important ones. Then I took the 5-10 core values and used my answers to the above questions to link everything together into a statement.

I decided to come up with a sort of "complete, long version mission statement" and then a short version that would be easy to repeat to myself each day-- something I could use as that measuring stick when making decisions. I played around with it a little bit, but I tried not to get too caught up in editing it, as long as the sentiment was right. The long version looks like this:

The essence of it, my daily measuring stick, is this:

I will find joy, give grace, and feel gratitude while living a creative, fun, healthy, and mindful life.

So when I start to worry about getting every little thing on my to-do list done, I stop and think, is this in line with my mission? When I think about skipping my workout, I think, is working out in line with my mission? When I consider avoiding my writing by doing busywork or Facebook, I think, where's my mission? I'm finding that if I'm freaking out about something, if I'm feeling overwhelmed, what I'm doing is likely not in line with my mission. My mission stuff doesn't freak me out, not like that anyway.

A while back I started work on a vision board. I haven't finished it, but this gives you an idea of what it is. This is a fun, rather therapeutic, activity...even something you can do with your kids. You can search old magazines, you can find pictures online and print them, you can create a virtual board. (I'm planning to build another one on Pinterest.) The exercise of building a vision board for your life (or for a specific project or endeavor) has two main gifts to give you: 1) Just the act of doing it-- of looking for and finding pictures and words that capture your vision-- feeds that vision. It switches your brain from looking at what you currently have- or worse, don't have- and focuses it on where you want to be. And it helps clarify the details of what you really want. 2) It gives you something concrete to look at every day as a reminder of where you are headed. It's a reminder of what's really important to you. If your whole vision board is filled with pictures of a beach house, but in order to get that beach house, you need to save $50,000; and you look at those pictures on your vision board everyday; you just might rethink that Amazon order you're about to put through, or that Starbucks you're thinking about stopping for on the way to work. That money could go toward your vision instead.

Hang it on the fridge. Pin it to the board over your desk. Tape it to the wall by the sink in your bathroom so you stare at when you brush your teeth.

Same with your mission statement and your list of values. Hang them up. Look at the every day. These are the things that you want to fill your brain space with. These are the things that you want drawing your map, driving your bus, organizing your ideas, and guiding your decisions.

When I'm in a panic about getting all the daily shit done that comes with life, I can look at my vision board and clearly see that none of it is on there. What's on there is daydreaming, reading, writing,, joy, gratitude....friends, family, mentors...transforming the world. All that random shit I need to get done? It ain't transforming the world. Sure, I need to do it at some point, but it doesn't deserve my stress. I'm too busy giving grace and finding joy to be worried about that stuff.

So, here's what's changed since I did this: everything. I know that sounds like a massive over-statement. And in a way it is, but also, it isn't. Because from the outside I doubt my life looks all that different. But on the inside, it really, really is. I feel like I'm looking at everything differently. I really do measure my days against my mission now. And they're getting closer and closer to alignment.

Until next time, ask yourself...What do I value most? What makes me happy? Why am I here? And let the answers to those questions steer your ship.

February 7, 2018

A Thank You to My Facebook Friends

If you read my last blog post then you know that last month I did the 21 Day Oola Challenge. (It's 3 weeks of daily reminders to help you live more Oola. If you want to know what that means, read about it here: my-2018-oola-goals-wait-whats-oola-goal)

So, one of those daily challenges was this:

Think of a friend who's positive change has inspired you to positively change your life, and thank them.

I am inspired in one way or another by all of my friends and family. And I'm inspired by lots of people I know from the various groups I'm a member of. And I'm inspired by lots of people that I don't know at all, but read about.

(Here's a good example that's also a children's book recommendation: Malala's Magic Pencil. I just read this book with my daughter and thought it was so well done-- with beautiful illustrations-- and felt inspired once again by Malala's story.)

As I thought more about this idea of being inspired by others, I thought of Facebook and Instagram and other social media. When I think about social media, I often think of the negative impact that it's had. I think of the disconnection it can encourage, when we replace live interaction with others with the online variety. I think about the way we often compare our worst selves to others' best selves shared on social media. But that's not what I thought about this time.

This time I thought of all the ways that people I interact with on social media have positively impacted my life-- especially people I wouldn't otherwise interact with. And so I thought I'd take a minute to say thank you to my Facebook (and Instagram) friends.

Thank you to all of you who have spread positivity and laughter and joy on social media. Thank you to all of you who have shared pieces of you that make others feel less alone in their journey through life. Thank you to all of you who are being activists to inspire positive change in our world. Thank you to all of you who have recommended great products and services and programs that have made my life better. Thank you to all of you who have shared kind words when I share things online. And thank you to all of you who are getting out there and doing things that I want to do, too-- for inspiring me to go after what I want and build the life I want to live.

Though there are too many to cover them all in this blog post, here are a few specific thank yous...

Thank you to the people in Juliette Crane's art classes who share their work on Facebook and remind me daily that I really want to get back into art class.

Thank you Becky VanDyken for your never-ending humorous take on daily life and over-arching positivity.

Thank you Joy Coleman for reminding me of all the movies I really need to watch.

Thank you Becky Bates Ballard and Stacy Tholking and Jessica Fette for showing me that you can have kids and travel all over the place...and for just making me want to travel more.

Thank you Confident Oilers Facebook group for all the great information and recommendations.

Thank you Beth Bates Chen for reminding me that my 2 kids actually don't have that many activities and I should stop complaining about carting them around (#supermom).

Thank you the Hershey Area Moms Facebook group for all of the recommendations for, like, everything.

Thank you Karen Papa for always liking everything in a way that oozes love just like your infectious grin.

Thank you Brooke Barnette Moore for once last year "liking" a Danette May page, causing it to appear on my feed, which resulted in my joining the 30 Day Challenge last year and getting healthy again.

Thank you Molly's Place Rescue and Lisa Binns for all of the cute puppy pictures that brighten my day and make me say, "Aaaawwwww."

Thank you Linda Scherzinger for sharing photos that make me want to live on the beach and travel.

Thank you Glennon Doyle Melton for sharing inspiring words on Instagram that make me feel good and want to do more and better.

Thank you Karen Corrigan and Lexi Scherzinger for showing me activists that actually take action and Michele Lee Bordelon for always showing that love is the only way.

Thank you Ashley Hackshaw for sharing pictures of your inspiring art work and projects and words on life on Instagram that make me want to be more like you when I grow up.

Thank you Caryn Cole Gargalino for sharing openly your struggles and triumphs and showing that when the going gets tough, the tough really do get going.

Thank you Fit Rise Tribe for sharing encouragement and recipes and love that inspire healthful living.

Thank you Lexi and Katie Scherzinger for sharing cute selfies that make me giggle at how totally incapable I am at taking cute selfies...or doing eye makeup.

There are so many more of you I could thank for inspiring me in some positive way, but then this blog post would never end. So, to all of you, a sincere thank you. Thank you for sharing your real selves-- your wins, your losses, your hurts and struggles, and your joys and triumphs. Thank you for sharing cute photos of your kids and pets. Thank you for keeping me up-to-date on your lives. Thank you for sharing funny memes and yummy recipes. Thank you for sharing thought-provoking articles and great book recommendations. Thank you for connecting in this unique and new way, across the miles and, sometimes, the loneliness.

Just. Thank you.

Until next time, share your story...share the love; share the inspiration; and share the gratitude.

January 31, 2018

My 2018 Oola Goals...Wait, What's an Oola Goal?

To know me is to love me...and to accept my weird obsession with resolutions and goals and betterment-seeking.

I sent this picture to my dear friend Wendy the other day.

Here's our text conversation that followed:

Me: Do you think I have a New Years resolution planning problem?
Wendy: Yes! But I appreciate your attempt at organizing your life, self, etc.
Me: Are you questioning our friendship right now? Because I'm working on my personal mission/vision/values*...and I'm using colored pens.
Wendy: No, I am rooting for you...and your pens.
Me: I love my pens.

That's the love of a true friend, yo.

I am one of those life-long leaner types. I am a seeker. I am always looking for ways to broaden my horizons, deepen my understanding, and better myself and my life. I am always on a path of enlightenment of one sort or another. And the beginning of a new year has a tendency to really amplify this characteristic in does getting older, I think.

I know this because it's January 30th and I'm still working on "this New Year's stuff." Not just still committed to my goals, but still working out those goals. I have some very straight-forward goals for this year, like "Improve my flexibility" and "Attend a writer's conference." But even those seemingly straight-forward goals are all tied up in more complex "life vision" goals, like "Live my life's mission every day." Which, if you stop and think about it, is pretty deep stuff.

One of the tools that I discovered this year, and have found really helpful, is Oola.

What is Oola? You ask. Oola is a state of awesomeness. It is about finding balance in an unbalanced world. Whatever rocks it for you, Oola means living life firing on all cylinders--joyful, wholehearted, and ready to take advantage whenever good times and opportunity appear. To live Oola means to pursue your dreams; to seek balance and growth; and to live a dream lifestyle of simplicity, tranquility, abundance, and opportunity. It means to live an extraordinary life linked to your purpose and future goals.

Sounds pretty great, right?

The Oola movement was started by two guys, Dave Braun and Troy Amdahl. You can learn more about it on their website, here: You can also check out their books, Oola: Find Balance in an Unbalanced World and Oola for Women. I checked Oola for Woman out of the local library to do a little further investigation beyond the Oola website and videos. I'm not done with it, but I haven't yet actually found the book to be all that great or to really add anything more to what I'd learned on the website. I even found a few points in the "for women" book a little patronizing (kinda like two dudes trying to talk about "women stuff"), but that's just me. (And I think their intentions are good, so I just brushed it off.)

I also participated in their 21 Days of Oola. You sign up on their website and for three weeks they'll send you an email each day with a specific Oola Challenge. For example: Give someone a compliment that's specific, genuine and unique to them. Or, Take 30 minutes to do something for your soul. The idea is to get you thinking more about an Oola way of living. I thought it was nice as a daily reminder to "live more Oola."

Mainly, though, there are two things I love about Oola. First is the general concept of Oola. The paragraph above about What is Oola...I dig that definition. What a great thing, to strive to exist in a state of awesomeness; to live life firing on all cylinders and pursuing your dreams. That just sounds good and right to me.

The other thing I love about Oola is their identification of 7 key areas of life. The idea is that when you are both BALANCED and GROWING in all 7 key areas, you are living Oola (and when you're striving for this balance and growth, you are seeking Oola). So, they ask you to look at these 7 key areas of your life and assess where you are and where you want to be and then chart a course to get from point A (where you are) to point B (where you want to be). This is such a helpful idea!!

And this is the part of Oola that took hold for me. So what are the 7 key areas? They're the 7 F's: Fitness, Finance, Family, Field (career), Faith, Friends, and Fun. The Oola Guys ask you to look at each of these areas and honestly assess: Where am I now in this area? What's my big dream/ultimate vision for this area? What are three goals that will lead me toward that dream? They ask you to make these SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Accountable, Realistic, Time-linked). On their website, they even give you a worksheet! Just scroll to the bottom of the site's home page and click on the link under Oola Plan to download the worksheets.

So I did it. Here's what my worksheet looks like:

For each of the 7 areas, I thought about what my ultimate goal would be...if I could have this thing in each area, life would be a dream! Then I came up with 3 goals for 2018 that I felt would get me closer to that big dream, and were in line with the other goals/resolutions that I'd been working on for the year.

Here are some examples of what I did:

So, for Oola Family, my dream is To grow a connected, close, happy, supported, loving family. My three goals for 2018 are: 1) Daily family connection (real conversation, reading together, family dinnertime), 2) Weekly family fun (game night, movie night, family date night, outings), and 3) Monthly family adventures and traditions (trips, geocaching, holiday celebrations).

For Oola Fitness, my dream is To feel and look amazing; to be pain-free; and to be able to, physically, do whatever I want (no physical limitations). My three goals for 2018 are: 1) To improve my flexibility (do more stretching throughout the day, have nightly family stretch time, take yoga classes), 2) To exercise/move everyday (to keep up with my Danette May workouts, to walk the dog daily, to take any opportunity to move more), and 3) To seek outside support for my physical wellbeing (massage therapist, chiropractor, doctor, naturopath, whole foods, supplements, essential oils, etc.)

Taking the time to look at all of these areas of my life was a big help and forced me to widen my view for my goals for the year. And thinking about the big picture vision for my life-- where do I really want to be-- made me honestly assess what was important and where I want to spend my time and energy. For this focus and shift in thinking, I thank the Oola Guys. I love what they're doing.

Until next time, take a look at the 7 key areas of your life and think about your BIG DREAMS; strive for both balance and growth; and live in a state of awesomeness.

*P.S. I'll tell you more about this mission/vision/values stuff in an upcoming post.