Going On A Bear Hunt


My younger daughter is attending Girl Scout camp. She’s participating in lots of traditional camp activities like first aid and rock climbing and archery. They’ve made God’s Eyes (those yarn wrapped popsicle sticks that provided days of fun when I was a kid too), and duct tape pouches and they’ve tie-dyed shirts. They’ve sung many, many silly songs and chant-alouds (those not-quite-songs that children echo after a camp counselor) and memorized the hand motions that accompany them; songs that get stuck in their heads so they sing them not only at camp, but at home too, over and over again. Continue reading → Going On A Bear Hunt

Recovering from The World

Screen-Shot-2016-06-12-at-12.41.35-PMThe world has been a particularly harsh place lately. I don’t know about you, but when horrific tragedies take place, even though I may not have any direct connection to them, they feel personal. I’m an empathizer big time, so when I hear or read about pain and suffering and tragedy, it drains me and I walk around sad and exhausted and a little hopeless. I think a lot of creative people are this way. Connection is our drug, and like any drug, it can makes us feel great but it can also make the world come crashing down on top of us.

The thing is, I don’t have time to walk around feeling sad and drained and hopeless. That’s not what this world needs. I need to find the energy and strength to infuse the world with more love and kindness and empathy because while it might not be everything the world needs to heal itself, it’s a good place to start.

So in the wake of the tragedy in Orlando and all the tragedies, big and small, we are constantly bombarded with, if you too are feeling overwhelmed, and sad and tired and want to get yourself back into the game, here are some things I do to heal those parts of me.

  1. Turn off the news. Seriously. Turn it off. In my household, I realized that the nightly news did nothing but bring negative energy, fear and anxiety into my home. So for the past 15 years there has been a “no television news rule.” As a kid, I remember my parents watching All. Of. The. News. And I would get anxious as my mother picked me up wondering what horrible things I was going to see on the tv as she made dinner. While you are at it, severely limit your online news. No need to read all the articles. No need to know every little detail. Seriously. You can let it go- plenty of other people are reading it all; you don’t have to. If you want to be supportive of people involved in tragedy, action, not reading is the way to go.
  2. Get outside. Walk, jog, bike, geocache, drive with your windows down and the radio up. We all need some time to be away from all the electronics and just breathe.
  3. Do something. Anything. At these times, what I want to do is curl up n the couch under a blanket binging on Gilmore Girls. Instead, I try to accomplish anything at all no matter how small. I usually go for the easiest and mind numbing things I can think of. I fold laundry. I weed the garden. I clean out the car. Easy things, but they make me feel productive and centered. Think of them as active meditations. Then move into bigger actions if the situation warrants it. Donate blood, call your political leaders, collect tangible donations for the needy. Action doesn’t need to be huge to be powerful. Do what you can, your action will inspire others.
  4. Be unusually and radically kind. Again, these don’t have to be huge initiatives or gaudy displays. Wave to a child in a car at the light next to you. Call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while and tell them you’re thinking of them. Write a letter to someone who has changed your life. Pick up trash in your neighborhood. Kindness matters and changes the world in tiny and profound ways. We can never be too kind.

This last one is the most powerful for me. Sometimes it feels like there’s very little kindness left in the world. But then I remember, I can be kind. I can be loving and accepting. And quite frankly, I am powerful when I wield all those things. So that’s what I do. I tap into those qualities often and excessively when I am feeling despondent about the world. Does it take away all my sadness? No. I’m still a weeping mess much of the time. But slowly my heart fills up again, and I am able to see all the other kindness and love and hope that’s out there in the world and that further empowers me.

Am I naïve enough to think that folding the laundry is going to change the world? Nope. Heck, it might not even change my world…directly. But all world-changers start small and their impact increases over time. And you can’t change the world if it constantly leaves you hopeless and depleted.

So my friends, take care of yourselves. Take care of others. In times of darkness, put out more kindness right where you are. Changing the world starts right in front of you.


I hate it when I overthink things. And I overthink things a lot. How about you? I’ve been thinking about writing a blog post for more than a year now. Really. And for about 6 months before that. Each time I spend so much time considering ALL the possibilities. Seriously I consider every last one of them, which keeps me from writing anything at all.

Maybe you can’t relate. Maybe you’re just one of those people who just decides to do something and does it. You want to learn to draw, BAM! You go pull out a pencil and start drawing. Maybe after a couple of hours you pull up a video and watch it or grab a book at the library the next time you’re there because, hey it couldn’t hurt to see if they have anything useful to say now that you are drawing. If that’s you, then this blog post is gonna feel really foreign to you, I bet. Just for giggles, here’s what my process would look like if I wanted to learn to draw:

  1. Decide I’d like to draw.
  2. Think about it for months to see if I really want to learn to draw.
  3. Pin a bunch of articles about drawing on Pinterest.
  4. Start a list of a bunch of YouTube videos I could watch about drawing but read all the comments first to see if it’s a worthwhile video about drawing.
  5. Start to doubt the negative reviews on YouTube, remembering that people complain about every little piece of minutia. But skip the videos anyway in case the critics were right.
  6. Get out all the art supplies- pencils, colored pencils, sharpeners, paper, ink etc.
  7. Stress for at least one week that I have all the wrong supplies.
  8. Go to an art store, walk around, feel overwhelmed, go home with nothing.
  9. Get onto Amazon, load up my cart with arts supplies – never buy any of it.
  10. Mention that I’m thinking about drawing to a friend and then tell them all the reasons (excuses) I’m not actually drawing yet
  11. Feel guilty when my friend, completely non-judgmentally asks me why I don’t just pick up a pencil and draw if that would make me happy?
  12. Finally pick up my pencil, draw for two minutes, decide I can’t possibly be any good at it, become completely anxious and walk away.
  13. After a few hours, contemplate taking a drawing class.

This is Olympic level overthinking people! Trust me, don’t try this at home.

I was going to explain to you all the reasons I haven’t been writing for a long time. I felt like I couldn’t just start writing again without some sort of explanation. But then I couldn’t figure out which pieces to tell you, what would make sense, what you would care about, etc. etc. etc. Overthinking for the win once again.

You know what overthinking is? It’s fear and perfectionism swirled together in a lethal combination. It’s that misguided, bat-shit crazy notion that if I just consider and reconsider and re-reconsider all the possibilities, I am going to be able to figure something out and then execute it perfectly and not make any mistakes and not disappoint anyone and…and…and…

And we all know where this leads.

So today, I’m trying to not let the overthinking beat me.

Here’s what you need to know:

My blog is going to change. It needs to change, because I burned out trying to be someone I wasn’t, trying to impart wisdom I didn’t have. I’m going to fumble and misstep and I’m going to try to be more authentic and vulnerable and I’m going to fumble around that too. I’m going to try for a more, here’s where I am, show me where you are and maybe we can muck through this whole messy life thing out together, sort of vibe.

I’m predicting I’m gonna look  a lot like this at first:



And it feels a lot like this at the moment:



But I‘m gonna try to remember to have fun even through the fear.

I hope you’ll join me.

ImageThere’s a guy I know in Los Angeles, his name is Mo, and he is a professional auditioner. From the outside he looks like an actor: He gets cast in shows, he takes acting lessons and even has an agent representing him. He is a guy really working at his craft. But if you ask him what he does for a living, he will tell you he is a professional auditioner.

I asked him about this once, expecting him to make a joke about how most actors were actually professional waiters so he just gave himself a title change, but he was very serious. He explained he’d go crazy if he focused solely on getting cast as a measure of his acting abilities. So many things are completely out of his control- how tall he is, his hair color, or whether or not he has “the look” a director wants for a particular role. Instead, he focuses on the things he can control.  Is he on time for the audition? Does he know his lines cold? Is he enthusiastic for the role, not matter how small the part? When he is well-prepared, he can be happy with himself regardless of the outcome.  He knows that he has no control over the final results, so he just lets that piece go.

Put another way, it looks like this:


How often do we control the pieces we can control and let go of everything else? If you’re anything like me, not very often. We grab onto the things we have no say over and gnaw on them like we’re dogs with new chewy bones. We take an idea, a problem or a worry and we fling it around, this way and that, over and over again, not making any progress at all, except to tire ourselves out. In the process, we let slip by us those things we can control. The result of this is we only heighten the anxiety, stress out more and have very little in the end to show for it.

So most of the time, it actually looks like this:


When we spend time worrying about the pieces we can’t control, we’re really just finding excuses to avoid hard things, anxiety or just plain old boredom. We put the metaphorical cart in front of the horse because it sure is easier to fuss about the cart instead of taking care of the horse. However, when the horse starves to death and someone finally comes to give you a ride in that cart, you’re not going anywhere, are you? Spending all our energy thinking about the things we have no control over never gets our dreams very far at all.

So today, I’m going to try really hard to focus my energy on the things I can control and try not to obsess over the things that come after that are out of my control. Even though I really, really, really want to have a say in them. I’m going to trust the process, take control of what I can control, and leave the rest for someone else. Want to join me?

Jump And We’ll See

HIgh diveWhen I was growing up, we’d sometimes head off to a local lake during the summer. There were several floats out in the water to play on and the farthest one out had a rickety ladder with a narrow board attached to it about ten feet in the air. We’d all dare each other to climb the ladder, walk across the plank where we’d stand with our toes grasping on to the very edge and look the looong way down into the murky water. I’d stand there a while, just staring into the unknown. A couple of times I turned around and went back down the ladder. Then I’d go back up again. My nerves ran high. I tell myself that other kids had already done it, it was just jumping into the water. I’d even done it before and liked it. It would take all the courage I had to leap.

I’d remind myself, “the first jump is the worst.”  And it was. That first jump took so much effort, so much to break through the anxiety and jump anyway. Eventually I’d leap and on my way down I’d question, “what was I thinking?” That is, until I hit the water where I suddenly realized I was having fun. I’d surface with a big smile on my face, swim back to the float, and climb that ladder again. And again. And again. Each jump happened a little faster, with less anxiety and more confidence.

Steven Pressfield wrote a fantastic book called The War of Art. In it, he describes the constant battle with “The Resistance.” The Resistance is the block, usually anxiety, we feel when we try to do something creative, something that requires a risk, no matter how small. It’s that urge to clean the house instead of working on your thesis. It’s the reason you call a friend and have coffee for three hours instead of hammering out the business plan for your new endeavour. It’s why you surf the web for four hours (all on the name of research) instead of writing the next chapter of your novel. Our anxiety builds because The Resistance plays on our fear of the unknown. We don’t know if we’ll graduate or if people will fund our Kickstarter or if that novel will get published. There are no promises, just creative risks.

So what’s the solution? The only useful one I’ve ever found is knowing that The Resistance is always present. It’s not out to get you, you won’t feel better if you listen to its siren call and if you’re waiting to feel less anxious before you start, well, you are going to be waiting a very long time. As trite as it sounds, to quote another famous book on creative anxiety, you’ve got to “Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway.”

Really, that’s it, unfortunately. I can’t give you any magic powers or fancy answers or 12 steps to getting rid of your anxiety once and for all. We don’t expect gravity to just disappear when we try to shoot a basketball into the net. We just throw as hard as we need to overcome it. And sometimes we come up short. So we throw the ball the again.

In the movie “Joe Vs. The Volcano,” Meg Ryan turns to Tom Hanks as he wonders what’s in store for them as they get ready to jump into an active volcano:

“Joe, nobody knows anything. We’ll take this leap and we’ll see. We’ll jump and we’ll see. That’s life.”

The only solution is to jump over and over again. It gets easier each time. Really. 

We don’t know anything- maybe your novel will become a NY Times best seller, or maybe it will sit in a drawer with the rest of the novels you write for the next 20 years. Maybe your new business is the beginning of your new empire – or maybe you’ll be closing the doors in six months because you couldn’t get any foot traffic through the door. But if you never jump, you’ll never know.

Last summer I took my daughters back to that lake I used to swim in as a kid myself. My not-so-big six-year old set her sights on that farthest float and the platform the moment we got there. After swimming out to it together, I watched her climb the ladder. A teen stopped his friend from climbing right behind her. “She’s gonna come back down,” he said to his friend.   She took one last glance at me and with a look down and a deep breath, she jumped. I saw the panic as her feet left the board but it was too late to change her decision. She splashed into the water and as she surfaced and paddled her way back to the float, she could barely contain her euphoria as I pulled her up. “I wanna go again Mom,” she said.  “I was really scared but it was totally worth it.” Atta girl.