Category Archives: Making a difference

Secrets & Doors: My Personal Irony

I love being part of the Secret Door Society. The vision of giving back to the world appeals to me on many levels. This project isn’t just about getting a publishing credential or selling books. And when you buy a copy, it isn’t just about buying another book. It’s about helping make a difference; making the world a better place. Secrets & Doors is significant for me as a debut author. Wherever the rest of my career takes me, this will always be my first; the culmination of toil and hard work that started with my love of reading way back when I was a child, thanks to my mom.

The irony of Secrets & Doors for me also lies with my mom. All proceeds – from both the authors as well as Crimson Edge Publishing – are being donated to diabetes research. After decades of suffering from this horrible disease, my mom died just five months before my first published work would help rid the world of it. Wherever the rest of my career takes me, this one will always be dedicated to her.

Mom - pic from FB

How does one die of diabetes? In more ways than a horror writer can imagine. Cardiovascular disease, stroke, and kidney failure are the most serious long-term complications. Diabetes also damages the nerves, can lead to amputation of limbs and muscle wasting diseases, damages the eyes and affects every organ system if left untreated. In my mom’s case, it led to liver disease and kidney failure which took her from us at the arguably young age of sixty-five.

Imagine a world where no more moms died of diabetes. No more kids had to take daily injections of insulin to survive. Projects like this are just the beginning for the Secret Door Society but none will have such a personal impact for me like Secrets & Doors. Thanks for letting me be a part of it!

The Perspective and Importance of A Moment

Today I gained the perspective of a forty-two year old. Because I now AM a forty-two year old. It is funny to look back on my late thirties when I started to refuse to acknowledge birthdays and dread that the age number kept getting bigger and what it all meant that I was ‘getting old’. Everything shifted when faced with my own mortality but nothing quite so much as this little thing. When the alternative to getting older is being dead, you start to wonder which is really the worst thing that could happen.

An old friend I haven’t seen in years – but thanks to the wonders of Facebook get to talk to and interact with – said today that my face hadn’t changed since we worked together twenty years ago. It was the nicest thing and proves that aging doesn’t have to be a horrible process. Could it be that happiness and joy are the magical facial cream everyone has been looking for to achieve younger looking skin? Could embracing your life and appreciating everything and everyone in it with open arms and without judgement lead to a younger and glowing countenance? Or was he just flattering me?

I’ve been internalizing a lot these last couple of weeks of yoga training, thinking a lot about being present in every moment and every situation. Things like noticing when Baby Sister gets whiny and I get frustrated and realize I have my focus so fractured between multiple things that I ‘think’ need my attention. The reality is that she is the one thing that needs my attention (usually) the very most in that moment. Thirty seconds of eye contact and direct engaged conversation are usually enough for her to restore harmony in herself and run off to sing and play with her babies leaving me to finish all the other unimportant but pressing things I’ve got going on. What if that’s what everyone needs once in a while? What if life were really that easy? What if it is more about being fully present with someone rather than posing for a selfie over and over until you get it just right?

Have you noticed that there are no longer any bad candid pictures out there? Thanks to the wonders of technology you can immediately see what that “snapshot” is going to look like and decide to accept or re-do until you get it just right. And once you capture it just right, there’s always editing software to remove blemishes and brighten the colors and whatever else you think wasn’t perfect about the authentic moment the lens captured. What kind of a legacy are we leaving for our children when they look back and only get to see what we deemed were the ‘best’ photos of us instead of the ‘real’ photos of us? Are we all taking life way too seriously or taking ourselves out of the real moments to capture the perfect portrayal of the same moment for the benefit of everyone else? What if all that matters is being happy and not all the stuff we surround ourselves with?

These are the things I’m thinking about on the second birthday that I might not have ever had. Ultimately I hope I can be the kind of person that ages gracefully and who people look at and wonder “why is she so happy?” regardless of how many wrinkles are on my face or how high the number next to my age gets. I’ll tell you, forty two never felt so wonderful!

Big Joy in a Small Package

It’s no secret I’m obsessed with yoga. And as is my standard operating procedure when it comes to addictions, I have jumped full in. Teaching yoga once a week at work was not enough – just like running wasn’t enough and I had to run a half marathon six months after I started running. I’ve added a second class every week now. For Christmas, Hubby asked me what I wanted. Sheepishly I told him that I really only wanted one thing – to selfishly spend more than my fair share of our extra money to get certified as a yoga instructor. Because he is an amazing man, he agreed.

So, January first I embarked on the next big adventure and started an online course. I had insane expectations that just because it was an affordable and self-paced option that it would be easy. I was wrong. I thought it would take me a few days – weeks at most – to read through the course material and then easily pass a test. Guess what, it is hard core with Sanskrit names instead of the “common” English names I am used to using for all the poses. On top of that, because you can use this certification to get hired to teach yoga in a gym environment, it also comes with lots of things like how to calculate fitness stuff – some of which I had never even heard of more than in passing and certainly never used. Arterio-venous oxygen difference? Calculating heart rate ranges? I’m studying muscles and bones and parts of the body I never considered important to my yoga practice that are hugely important as an instructor when you’re responsible for other people’s yoga practice. The part of me that wanted to skip ahead through the fitness stuff and the muscle stuff to “the good yoga stuff” was getting frustrated… until yesterday.

First some background…

Most of the people who attend my classes at work regularly are new to yoga and have only taken my class. But there are a couple of exceptions. One of which is a cute lady who does Bikram yoga. Bikram yoga is an entirely crazy (to me anyway) form of yoga. They do the exact same sequence of twenty six poses in a room heated to one hundred nine degrees and it lasts an hour and a half. It is like hot yoga at my gym on steroids. My Bikram Girl (as I thought of her in my head until I cemented her name in my brain) was doing her form of yoga multiple times a week for years. Of course I felt intimidated because she knew what she was doing and would definitely know how unprofessional and not like a “real” yoga instructor I was merely by comparison. After a few weeks I got over that and we are friends now who chat about yoga all the time. She is a prime example of my favorite yoga saying that “everyone does yoga with the body they brought, not the body they want”. Everyone has their own things they are good at. Some people (like me) have super stretchy hamstrings and have no problem touching their toes. Others have super stretchy backs and shoulders, others hips, others have great cores and others have great upper body. The point being that there is never a pose that someone doesn’t either love or hate when we do it based on what things come easy to everyone. My Bikram Girl is tiny and lean but struggles with her hips that are not flexible and thus can’t touch her toes.

Fast forward to yesterday in class. I had thrown together kind of an intense class full of hamstring opening and stretching and lots of leg work. We were cooling down and stretching and suddenly she exclaims from the back of the room “I can touch my toes!” You could feel the excitement in her voice and I looked up to see her looking wildly from one neighbor to the next showing them that she could touch her toes and saying it had been years since she could do that. The joy radiated from her like a ray of sunshine. It was so awesome that I almost started crying and had to drop my head back down to my knee to compose myself.

I did that – not her Bikram yoga, me. You could argue that it might have been a combination but really, if she was going to make a breakthrough like that with Bikram alone it would have happened a year ago when she was practicing three to five times a week. The difference now is that she only occasionally gets to Bikram and is *also* taking my class doing poses they don’t do in Bikram. See, me!

Is it any wonder that as I left work yesterday I found myself thinking that the vision of my perfect life was not a nine to five job but rather teaching yoga and writing full time? Someday maybe that will be my reality. But first I have to drag myself through my yoga certification. If you need me, I’ll be studying, because that one little moment of joy, which I might have missed if I hadn’t been paying attention, was worth all the anatomy, fitness jargon and Sanskrit I never thought I was going to have to learn.


Being ballsy paid off!  Within two hours of sending my email to Big Sister’s principal, I got a reply that she wanted to discuss my concerns with the fourth grade team and the district curriculum specialist and then would get back to me.  I figured that would be the end of it… a nice little sweep under the rug and hope I went away.  But, I got a personal phone call from her two days after my email. 

Bottom line, she and the district curriculum specialist both agreed with me.  The worksheet the teacher created to go along with the social studies book they are reading emphasized the wrong things and they will be working with her to re-do it.  The subject was that of immigration in general and the background on the Mormons was a small part designed to show the cause and effect of why they decided to push further west than the current boundaries of the United States. 

Additionally, the principal sent me a photo copy of the chapter the questionable worksheet had been created from.  It was refreshing to see how far-reaching the subject matter was with the following section headings:

     Who Were the Mormons?
     To the Rocky Mountains
     The Mormon Trail
     Planning the Trip
     The First Two Pioneer Children
     The Advance Party
     The Salt Lake Valley at Last
     African Americans Come to Utah
     People by the Thousands
     The Long Trip
     A Daily Routine
     Working on the Trail
     Crossing the Rivers
     Buffalo Chips!
     Don’t Get Hurt!
     Pesky Insects
     Handcarts Across the Trail

My favorite part is the last page of the chapter with questions on “What Do You Think?”

  • Do we have the right in America to join any religion we want to, or join none at all?
  • What could help us be more tolerant of people who believe differently than we do?
  • Can you think of other groups in history who have moved to new places so they could live their religion without being persecuted?
  • There are many different kinds of persecution.  Talk about what it means.  Talk about why we should try to treat other people fairly.
  • What would you have disliked about the trip to Utah?  What would you have liked?
  • Can you remember where in the West the pioneers who were not Mormons going?

It was so refreshing to be thanked for bringing such a matter to the attention of the principal.  I had feared I would be labeled a troublemaker.  And now I know that at least the educators at my local school really do have the best interests of my child’s education at heart.  (And that they are in fact teaching diverse subject matter!)

I even got a follow-up email several days later making sure I had received the copy of the chapter and whether I had any additional questions.  I am now the biggest fan of our principal and know that she was sincere in telling me she wants parents to bring these kinds of concerns to her.  If only all educators were this committed.

Go me for standing up for what I knew wasn’t right and knowing I made a difference in my child’s education because of it.  

The Beginning of the End … of Clutter

I had a come-to-Jesus sort of thing happen this week…  I was all hyped up on coffee drank too late in the day trying to wind down from a fabulous visit with my parents flipping channels when I saw “Hoarders” on the channel guide and remembered one of my new blogging friends talking about it on Facebook.  I decided to check it out.  An hour later – after 1:00 AM – I tore myself away and looked around at my house… with disgust. 

Now before you go and picture my place being as bad as anything you might see on the show, stop.  Am I a neat freak?  No.  (That’s my hubby’s job!)  But I am sentimental with a touch of pack rat.  My mind always thinks “what if I need that someday” or “I’ll want to look back on that someday” when it comes to throwing things out.  Plus, (and probably fundamentally more importantly) I’m a recycling fanatic who thinks our society is driven far too much by our obsessive need to consume.  Which means I like to be smart about what I put in the landfill or toss away just because it is inconvenient to store it until the next time I need to use it.  I am also a realist who works a full-time job, has an eight-year-old who doesn’t know how to pick up after herself (we’re working on that!) and doesn’t think it is a bad thing to have a house that reflects that we actually – you know – LIVE in it.

So basically there’s clutter…

That is all going to change because of ONE episode I saw of Hoarders!  Yesterday I barely touched my computer, neglected Facebook (probably should do that more often anyway!) and started to de-clutter.  I am an NPR supporter and my local radio station gives free magazine subscriptions when you become a supporting member.  I’ve been getting Newsweek for a couple of years now… on top of Sunset and Good Housekeeping and Real Estate magazines and HP’s Connections… you get the idea.  I had all these great visions about how well-read on current affairs I would be with Newsweek but the reality is that I barely have time to read books outside of book club or the magazines I get because they relate to my jobs let alone a weekly magazine!  But, did I throw them out?  No, they accumulate in a pile in a corner of my living room.  Once in a while the pile gets really huge and I go through them and if the cover is really old  news I throw them out.  Yesterday I threw them ALL out including the ones I rarely ever read for work!  Okay, I saved about four because there were articles I actually wanted to read.  It was liberating!  (And by throw them out I mean I put them in the recycle bin for pickup, of course.)

I look around and everywhere I find something that really could be tossed… like how long has it been since I did any scrapbooking so why am I saving all the movie ticket stubs in that one drawer?  Let it be known we watch a TON of movies and leave it at that.  In twenty years who will care what the exact date was that we took our eight-year old to see Percy Jackson (the first one) or that it was the first movie ever for our newborn?  Yep, no one!  And after three years of school for my daughter have I once ever wanted to go back and look at the daily school work and mounds of paper that I sentimentally have saved?  Nope!  So recycle bin here we come!  And that basket of spent batteries I can’t bring myself to just throw in the garbage headed for the landfill so there can be more mercury in our soil and water supplies?  Either I will find a place that will recycle them or I’ll just toss them.  Well… I’ll hint to the hubby that they need to be tossed and let nature take it’s course is more accurate. 

I don’t know how long this might last before I run out of steam but when I do I’ll just watch another episode and start all over again!

A ban I can support

I was struck today on the drive home that enough has not been said about the horrors of plastic bags… at least not from my own soapbox. Why aren’t the rest of the cities of the world taking a queue from San Francisco and supporting a ban on plastic shopping bags? My opposition includes all the normal issues about how they are not biodegradable and most of them end up in the oceans where they either literally choke living things or break down into smaller pieces that totally mess with the DNA of those unlucky enough to ingest them. However, I have a much bigger beef than even that – the laziness of the average American. At this point in our history you would think we had learned SOME lessons from our recent history about re-using. During the early 19th century they had “rag and paper men” who’s job it was to go to individual houses and collect rags from sewing and paper and take them away to be reused. Why, then, a century later, are we having to reinvent this and find ways to make recycling hip again? Every other developed nation in the world (well, OK, at least in Europe where I have personal experience) expects their citizens to bring their own bags when they do their shopping. So why is it a novelty that I get bitchy looks about from folks unlucky enough to be behind me at the grocery store checkout when my bagger is struggling to load my reusable bags with my purchases? I’m sorry my efforts at saving the planet interfere with your rush to be wherever you are heading. Several years ago when Ikea first appeared in my city, I thought it novel I was charged for the plastic bags I used to carry my purchases away and it was the first time it got me really thinking about the issue. Today, I get a credit for every bag I return to the store to reuse which is a nice incentive to get people to purchase the reusable bags but I think we should go farther. It should be a requirement that you go to the store with your own bags and if you don’t you should be charged for the plastic ones you take away. Maybe if it hurt people in the only place most of us care about – the pocketbook – more people would be interested in making a difference that takes such little effort. Call me a hippie or a tree-hugger, call me a liberal fascist, just do it while you are reusing your own bags, please! I would rather see them banned altogether!


The BEST thing about my writing group is…. reading all their work and getting inspired to write better myself! Every one of them have a different writing style, a different genre they are currently working on and something different to contribute to me. And when we get together they will all bring their unique perspectives together to give me EXACTLY what I need to make my current project better than it had any chance of being without them. And I get to do the same for all of them! I just doesn’t get any better than that. I’m starting to appreciate all the acknowledgements that I always skip over at the beginning of a new book I crack open. I always thought it was cheesy drivel but man will that be me gushing about my fellow writers and giving credit where credit is due. (You guys rock my world!!!)

Plastic or cotton?

I’m talking of course about napkins…. Another little thing in my conservation efforts that I believe will make a difference. About 3 months ago, I stopped buying paper napkins. You know, the kind that you can buy by the hundreds for pennies and probably cost us more trees than can grow in our lifetimes to produce? Instead, I invested in a dozen or so cotton napkins that match the decor of the kitchen and I wash them once a week. I’m doing laundry anyway, right? They are folded and available in the same little basket on the kitchen counter where the ugly paper ones used to sit and the difference is that when we are done with them they go on top of the washer instead of the recycle bin next to it. The only side effect I see is that now my daughter expects cloth napkins everywhere we go and is starting to get a little more vocal about it (like a princess?). The price I pay to save some trees for the next generation I guess and I think it is worth it. Yes, I know the sceptics (like my uncle!) will say that you’ve traded some paper products for wasting water and laundry detergent with chemicals in it but I think because I wash clothes anyway that the trade-off is still in the favor of conservation and I’m sticking to it.

It’s the little things

Most people when they think about conservation say “what can I do, I’m just one person” but it’s just like people voting Democratic in a blazing “red” state – everyone can make a difference if we all band together. So, I bought more cloth (read re-usable) shopping bags at the local Target tonight. They are really cool because they fold up into themselves and then fit in my purse. It felt so damn good to walk out of that store toting a cloth bag and not plastic or paper. And, I’ve put my own immediate form of recycling in place for the paper bags from the grocery store. Instead of putting the ones I got last week either in the stack in my cupboard to use around the house (which is now over flowing!) or the paper recycle box, I put them in the trunk of my car. Now, when I hit the store on the way home from the office, I can take my own back into the store and let ’em fill them up again. Maybe this time they won’t have to hunt for bags or give me dirty looks when they make the plastic assumption and have to “rebag” what they’ve already put in. I have to start somewhere and it’s the little things that will hopefully add up to make a difference in the end!