I’m back and boy does it feel good.

standard October 12, 2015 Leave a response

I haven’t been to a blog conference since 2011. When this happened. I’ve been to a writer’s conference and to some small blogger events with never more than 50 people. So it was with some trepidation that I prepped for this conference, packed my bags, and set out for Atlanta.

I was excited to go. I was going to speak about setting goals and expectations at the start of the conference. I was going to sign books*. And I was going to pitch the new business** I’ve been slowly building over the last few months. Oh yeah, and I was promoting my blog and social media consulting business.

And I think that’s why I was pumped.

Last time I went to a blog conference, I was barely holding on to my purpose for blogging and being there and I was struggling with what was happening at home and the challenge of finding myself in the maelstrom that our lives had become.

I was, in short, a hot mess.

Well, friends, I’m back.

No, but really, that’s what it felt like this weekend.

When people asked me what I was working on, I had things to share, things I was crazy excited to share. When people had conversations about our industry, I had things to share, things I was crazy excited to share and discuss. And when I shared what I was working on, people were receptive and had great advice.

I got on the plane Sunday, exhausted beyond measure, but with my head spinning at a million miles a minute with ideas and plans.

And this morning, when I asked M if he was serious about helping me build my new business, I think I impressed him when I laid out, in detail, the plans that were already mapped out.

Life seriously tried to wallop me out of the game. Life failed.

I’m stronger, more focused, and more determined than ever before. I’ve learned more about myself by making it through the last 4 years, than I ever thought possible. I’ve become a true expert about my chosen industry and about what it takes to start a business and make it thrive than I would have if I’d gone down the path I thought was meant to be mine, back in 2011, before everything went to hell in a hand-basket.

I am back.

I never thought I would be.

I couldn’t be more excited to be proven wrong.


*You can buy Aloha Also Means Goodbye in paperback or for Kindle. Or you can message me and let me know you want a signed copy and buy it directly through me.

**Sign up to be one of the first to know when The Zen Pencil launches in just a few weeks. You’ll be glad you did!



We are the stories we tell ourselves

standard October 7, 2015 Leave a response

Who were you when you were a kid?

I was the lazy one. The underachiever. The one who got by by doing the least humanly possible. Who read all day instead of studying or working.

I told my husband this the other day. Then I told him that I still thought of myself as lazy, as underachieving. He just looked at me and burst out laughing.

He’s known me for over 15 years and never, not once in all that time, have the words lazy or underachiever, been words he thought of when he thinks of me.

And yet? I still think of myself as lazy. As doing the least minimum possible to get by.

Even though I’m on the PTA. Chair a volunteer program at school. Wrote a novel. Pack wholesome lunches for two kids every day. Do a million loads of laundry every. single. week. Work tirelessly for three, sometimes four clients, while managing my own blog and starting my own business. Help with homework, push literature until it comes out of the kids’ ears, listen to endless conversations and concerns about school and friendship. And so on, and so forth, from sun-up to sun-down.

And yet? If you ask me, I’ll probably shrug, wrinkle my nose, and say that I probably can do more…should do more…that I don’t because I’m lazy.

Have you ever noticed how the stories we’re told when we’re kids stick?  How they become truth? Indelible truth. In ways that are so very, very hard to alter. In ways that literally shape us and turn us into who we are, or, at the very least, into who we believe we are.

As kids, we all too often become the stories that are told about us. As adults, we are the stories we tell about ourselves. And yes, often those stories are one and the same.

Now that I’m aware of this story I’ve been hearing and telling for over three decades, I’m going to make a conscious effort to change the story and change how I perceive myself.

Because if I’m not behaving like a lazy bum, at the very least I could be giving myself credit for all the work I do instead of constantly berating myself for not doing more.

When I fall into bed, spent, at the end of the day, I’m going to focus on what I did do, not what I didn’t. I’m going to tell myself that I’m a good mom, a great writer, a supportive wife, a trustworthy friend. I’m going to remind myself that a day is only 24 hours long and that I’m making the very best of the ones I can control.

And I’m going to try to change the story I tell about myself and be a little bit more supportive of my own efforts and successes.

What’s your story?

We found the real comic book heroes

standard September 22, 2015 Leave a response

I have a thing for books. I mean, duh, I’ve written one, but it goes way beyond that. Bookstores are my happy place. I’d rather drop a wad of cash on a stack of books than a pile of new clothes any day. I love to surround myself with books and tend to feel a little off in homes where I can’t see a single tome anywhere. Books. They’re part of my lifeblood. And I’m working hard to make them part of my children’s lifeblood too. I buy them books more frequently than I should admit to my husband. (I can hear him right now moaning “What’s wrong with just going to the library??”) I let them pile books around their rooms. I let them leave books in every bathroom, in the car, on the dining room table. I almost always let them read “just one more page” at night. And I let them see just how much I love and value literature. I’m not picky about what they read. Fiction. Non-fiction. Poetry. Little kid books. Picture books. And yes, graphic novels and comic strips. All the graphic novels and comic strips they want. Because books are books, words are words, and whatever helps them foster that love for reading, helps them feel like books are a safe haven to dive into when the world gets to be a bit too much to handle, works for me. They love a good graphic novel. They love a good comic strip. I endorse it all heartily. So much so that this week we went to not one, but two book signings in a row to see people who draw as much as they write and enchant our lives with their art. On Sunday we braved the heat and the crowds to hear from Stephan Pastis, author of the Pearls Before Swine comic strip. We arrived just on time for the event, but not early enough to get a “good” spot in the book signing line. Unfazed, the girls were patient almost two hours without uttering a single complaint about either the heat or the wait and finally beamed as he signed their new book and posed for a quick photo.

Little L, C, and Stephan Pastis.

Little L, C, and Stephan Pastis.

Then, Monday, we said to heck with bedtime and ventured to a local independent book store to hear from Ben Hatke, author of, among other things, the amazing Zita the Spacegirl and Gene Luen Yang, author of a crazy number of graphic novels. The two authors interviewed each other and answered a ton of questions, keeping the audience highly entertained, but the highlight of the evening was when C showed Ben one of her comic strips and he laughed.

Ben Hatke with C and Little L.

Ben Hatke with C and Little L.

And really that’s why we attend these things. For inspiration. Because nothing says “You too can write a book!” or “You too can draw comics!” more than saying “Look! These people do this every day! They’re people like you and me! They started drawing when they were kids like you! And they got to this point because they just kept on going.” We rode the high of Ben’s giggle all the way out of the store where M whispered to me that one girl sitting near him had been doodling and he couldn’t believe how talented she was. I asked him if he’d recognized her, and he mumbled something about a kid running up to her and asking her if she was the author of the Babysitters Club graphic novel series. She was. So, of course, we had to turn right back around, because it’s not every day that you get to meet not just one, but two of your idols in one day. Raina Telgemeier could not have been sweeter about our fangirl onslaught and all the requisite gushing and even posed for a photo with the girls, who, at this point could barely contain themselves. To be fair, in this photo, Little L is trying to match the smile on the cover of Smile, but I don’t think it was much of a stretch.

C, Raina Telgemeier, and Little L.

C, Raina Telgemeier, and Little L.

Sometimes you go to book signings and the authors aren’t exactly what you expected. It’s a treat when they are just as amazing as you thought they’d be. Without a doubt we met some true comic book heroes, not just authors. Today, all books purchased over the weekend have been read and are being reread and little fingers are hard at work drawing more comics. All in all, I deem the two events an unmitigated success and another great stop along the road to growing lovers of books, reading, and writing. Go books!

Clawing my way back to joy

standard September 13, 2015 1 response

Last week I went through this past year’s blog archives to find a post or two that I could to enter in the Type A Parent “We Still Blog” contest. As I perused what I’ve written a few thoughts occurred to me.

I’m proud of what I’ve written. Proud of the way my voice sings on the screen. Proud of the fact that I can let my vulnerability shine.

But I’m sad at how sad pretty much everything I’ve written in the last 12 months has turned out.

It was a grim read-through.

I’ve been deluding myself somewhat, telling myself that I’m fine, I’m coping, I’m getting through the days. And, for the most part, it’s very true. The days flow by, the work gets done, the kids are thriving, the house is cared for, and most days, there’s even some laughter.

But reading through my blog was like having the cold hard truth stare me in the face.

The last 6 months have been hard, really, really hard. Instead of seeing everything surrounded by a silver lining of hope and potential, it feels like everything has been surrounded by a dark lining of sadness.

No matter what I do, a part of my heart feels sad.

Please, trust me, I know this is normal. I know this is grief. I know this will fade in time until I’m almost sad it’s gone.

But I’m still ready to take back my joy.

A couple weeks ago, when the school year was just starting, I realized that one of the things that I most missed from the time before my father’s death, the time before all the sad, was my knitting.

Knitting has always been a source of comfort and calm for me. It helps center me and make me feel whole and connected. I always turn to my knitting when I’m facing challenges, when I need peace. I knit on every plane ride taking me to see my father, I knit whenever I was at his bedside, and I knit as he lay dying.

During his last months I worked on a gorgeous scarf made of luxurious yarn that brought me solace whenever I simply touched it. I finished the scarf a few days after I returned home after his death, draped it around my shoulders and felt comforted by this thing I had created as he breathed his last breaths.

And then I put my knitting needles down and walked away.

I told myself that it was too hot, that I was too distracted to focus on the challenging pattern I had chosen for my next project, that the yarn just wasn’t soft enough. I lied.

The simple act of looking at knitting needles made me uncomfortable. The act of picking them up made me downright nauseous.

A problem since I was desperate for something soothing to do in the evening.

Now, I don’t just knit when I’m sad or anxious. I also knit during most school volunteer meetings. It keeps me from getting distracted or doing something rude like playing with my phone while someone is talking. The mere thought of heading into the school year without this crutch to help me get through the countless meetings I attend every month was enough to make me hyperventilate in pure panic.

And that’s when I realized that it was time to take back what was mine.

It’s enough that I lost my father. I wasn’t about to also lose something so essential to my well-being.

I found a super simple project and unearthed some of my favorite yarn. I knit a coffee cup cozy, and another, and another. I started playing around with the design, taught myself a new technique, made another two. (If you’d like one, let me know. I, ahem, have a couple extra.) Then I started a new, slightly harder project.

Now, when I pick up my needles, it once again feels like coming home. I’ll always feel myself sitting at my father’s bedside, but it’s turning into a tender memory, not a panic inducing one.

Taking back my knitting feels like the first step towards taking back my joy.

It’s not going to be an easy process. It definitely feels more like I’m clawing my way back to my joyful life, rather than just sauntering there. But it feels like I’m finally on my way.

I’m spending more time with friends. I’m searching out opportunities to be with people rather than holed up alone at home. I’m looking for rainbows and reasons to smile. I’m cooking again, running again, reading again. Taking things back, one by one. Doing them because they bring me joy rather than because they stave off the panic and the sad.

The sad will still be there, I know that, but I’m going to try to keep it from overshadowing everything. At the very least, it’s not what my full-of-life, passionate father would have wanted. For that reason alone, it’s worth the effort.

Leg warmers

The slightly harder project. Legwarmers for Little L.