Happy 18th Birthday Nemo!

Congratulations on the college entrance examinations. Now go celebrate!

What I love about technology is the world is flat. Through the wonders of social media and communications (and yes, a few do exist) – we–my daughter and myself, have met the most amazing people from around the world.

Nemo is no exception to this phenomena, except he is…well…an exception. Bright, fluent in English, hilarious–I always know who my daughter is speaking to because I hear her laughing a floor away and down the hall. To put this in perspective, our house is mostly concrete, but she is sixteen after all, and so that must account for some of the noise:-

Of course the challenge in this case, is that Nemo and my daughter go back and forth conversing between Mandarin and English, thus, I’m only catching half the convo when I care to listen in, but honestly, between the fits of laughter and language barrier, I can’t understand a word. This is truly a sign of aging, but if your child is brought joy and laughter through a friend from half-way around the world, I’m all for it. Good people are hard enough to come by, good friends even more so.

Happy 18th Nemo. Can’t wait to celebrate your entrance to college when you receive the results!

From our home in Idaho to yours!

Slot machine relationships

My dad said that his early success was due to his ability to ‘get people talking’ in the first few seconds, thereby immediately creating a connection. His comment rang true when I was qualifying a gentleman about being a part of my next book. 

About a second after the call started, he asked me how I liked living in San Francisco back in the day. Roughly five minutes in, he politely interrupted and said very formally: “I’ve decided to let you interview me.” I laughed, teasing that I thought he was the one being qualified.

“Actually, I got you talking by asking you one question. Only one,” he emphasized with the wisdom of the seventy-year-old, self-made man that he was. “You answered directly, honestly and made no pretenses to what I thought about the subject matter.” Intrigued, I momentarily forgot his net worth (nearly a billion dollars) and my list of questions. I was impressed he’d gotten me talking and said so.

“I was determining if you were worthy of my time,” he said without guile. This was the beginning of a long, rewarding, and fulfilling correspondence with an individual I’ve never met in person, but who has since imparted tremendous wisdom over the years.

Genuine caring negates the fear

Early in my career, I was the voice for my employer, the direct line of defense to investors and press, making the case for the company, product(s) or both. Having seen my father in action and armed with words of wisdom, I worked to master the art of pitching to complete strangers. Selling – influencing – means you have to embrace fear:  fear of failure. As I detail in a semi-autobiographical book, had I not been a single mother, my fear of rejection would have been enough for me to quit. 

Yet I was inhibited until I realized I had to learn to love the process of pitching. Perhaps “love” is too strong a word.  I had to learn to be vulnerable. Being personable, sharing glimpses of my life requires a certain level of courage. Risking people judging you on very little information.  But, as with pitching, sharing snippets of oneself is also a process. Once I let myself be, asking and talking about the meaningful parts of life; family, pets and failures, all without prejudice or judgment, and always within the bounds of propriety and professionalism, whatever inhibitors that remained disappeared. 

We are humans, born with the innate need to love and be loved. Often, just caring is enough. You’d be surprised—as I was—the impact one can have on another’s life just by caring.

The slot-machine relationship 

For one project, I was tasked with working with the local media for a non-profit organization who in twenty years had made zero effort in terms of public relations. Donation drives for money and food yes; caring, focus and efforts to engage the press or developing strategic relationships, no. As a consequence, other similarly tasked groups were the firs to receive media calls, resulting in favorable coverage and ultimately, more donations.

I knew this was going to be a multi-year hurdle, because the first prejudice against a new media contact is that the interaction is only going to be a transaction; a classic slot-machine relationship. To counteract this, I started with sharing the basics, such as my goal of changing public perception but also that I was in it for the long-haul. Anticipating skepticism, I gradually began sending short pitches about other subjects or organizations that would be relevant for the publication.

In other words: I made each editor’s life easier by feeding them stories that had nothing to do with me. (For all you new PR/media folks, keep in mind an entire page/website/section of content needs to be filled every day. That’s a tough job! But remember, editors need you as much as you need them). I then went the extra mile and wrote articles that they could place, generally human-interest based upon a particular section.

Over time, this approach led to a foundational appreciation of my work, and their respect that it “wasn’t just all about me or the organization I represented.” My unsolicited shares demonstrated that I genuinely cared about their [the editor’s] success. At the core, the song from High School Musical is true: We are all in this together. Whether or not you wretch on the example, if we—the contributing members of society don’t care and help one another—we are left without a strong, invested and caring community.

It came down to the dog

Fast forward a few years. The six major media outlets, covering four cities in print and then two for the overall region, eventually came around and every two or three weeks, we had a major profile. This translated to over 600,000 ‘eyeballs’ looking at the positive press. Before and after polls showed that the awareness of, and positive perception of the entity went from single digits to over seventy percent (75%?  some people you’ll never win over).

Despite my near two-year efforts, one particularly tough editor simply wouldn’t cover the organization. I was never sure why this was the case, and I assumed that over time the good of the group be covered. Seven years later, she announced she would eventually relocate to the east coast to care for her ailing mother. I was really bummed. Although my work with the non-profit had ended, we’d continued to have the occasional sushi lunches and I brought her German Shepard dogs homemade treats.

The last day, we had lunch, eating spicy tuna hand rolls, talking about how our relationship had overcome the initial bumps and hurdles. She confessed she hated the former policies of the non-profit, and thought they were hypocritical and prejudiced to other non-profits.  

“Do you know why I finally covered your organization? You asked about me after my dog died. No one else did, not even my family members.”

What I’d done was natural to me and would be to every animal lover. They are our everything.  Ultimately, when she hurt, I hurt, and she knew it.

Our relationship with deity is not transactional

In a talk by D. Todd Christofferson, he used this slot-machine mentality in the context of our relationship to God, wherein a person has this “if-this-then-that,” approach. Ergo, if I am a ‘good person,’ my marriage won’t end in divorce. Or, if I give to charity then my business will be a success. If that were the case, as I’m paraphrasing here, then the decrements of our life should also hold true. The reason my car was sideswiped was because of my dishonesty at work.

Not all actions are going to cause a reaction that we desire. Not all books are bestsellers, not all articles are positive and not all relationships work, despite the amount of effort, devotion and love given. Even so, the forward momentum, pushed along by the engine of desire while being directionally correct continues, regardless of the immediate outcome. That’s the long-term approach, with man or with God. Evolving from the immediate impact, such as making the media page, selling the car or dropping off the cake to the neighbor transitions to caring, giving or and loving, the emotion which inspired the act, rather than the act itself. As the phrase goes, it’s not about what was said, but how you made the person feel. 

Returning to the successful executive and the editor, both individuals have been in my life for nearly fifteen years now. I’ve never physically met the businessman and haven’t seen the editor for six years now (and running), but it’s irrelevant. What’s in the heart has transcended proximity and time. 

Not at dinner, please

On vacation at our favorite beachside resort in Northern Cancun, we are at the sushi bar, the four of us lined up, me and Rog bookending our girls who were in the middle. To my left, one seat down, was a bleach blond, sun-weathered man in his fifties, his belly paunch touching the counter, board shorts and flip flops in contrast with his two-toned Submariner Rolex. After a bit, we start talking, and soon enough, he’s engaged in telling us about the two-million-dollar catamaran he had built in France, sailed over, docked next door at the private marina, and was trying to penetrate the local cruise market. We listened to the travails of getting hotels to recommend his service, how his competitors incentivized (e.g. bribed) local shops not to take him on, and in general, how he hadn’t accurately anticipated the difficulties of a foreigner.

The captain and sushi bar patron

“But it’s so much better than what I left behind,” he continued, the sake and spicy tuna getting the better of him. “My next door neighbor killed his wife, fled the country and ruined his kids’ lives.”

Huh? What do you even say to that, other than “you’re kidding,” while taking another bite of salmon.

“True story. It was in all the papers. You didn’t hear about it? It was the biggest story in Newport.” Northern Idaho is not real big on covering socialites in SoCal, we explained, so he did it for us, and in the process, told us about his life as a luxury real estate agent, banking a lot of money without a notion of retiring until one day, the next door neighbors wife is found dead, and the man who he and his wife had thought of as good friends was accused (and ultimately convicted) of murder. The impact was so devasting to this man, that it impacted his own marriage, their kids (who were good friends), the ultimate result was not one, but two families torn apart by what, in the end, a common theme in murders. Man has affair, man wants out, woman wants half, man kills wife, the end.

And this was all before we’d event gotten the baked clams!

swimming off the shores of Isla Mujeres

Thankfully, the girls were preoccupied with their chopsticks, and I was retaining it all for a future book. I’m a curious gal and didn’t hold back my questions regarding his life changes following the incident.

“I left it all behind,” he said, revealing the ex-wife, while staying in town until his sons went to college. He decided life was short and he was going to follow his dreams of having a catamaran business and live out his life without the ghost of his neighbor following him around.

Two courses later, he’d given us his card, offered our family a free afternoon on his boat, and we went to bed thinking about all we’d heard. A few days later, skimming from Cancun to Isla Mujeres, sailing around Ricki Martin’s flamingo-colored home on a jetty only accessible by boat, we observed this man, his crew, the others on the boat, and the life-changing experience he shared.

The unreal is usually…real

“You can’t make this stuff up,” I often tell fellow authors and readers who are bold enough to contact me for my works of fiction. You know what? Half the time I don’t. I just happened to be someplace, start talking to someone and boom! I’m hearing a story that is simply—unreal—yet it’s real, like this one. Roger and I, being kindred spirits, looked him, and the incident up. Yep, real as the sun coming up. Black and white. Tragic situation, sad outcomes, people trying to have the best life they can in the aftermath but…does it have to come up at dinner?

I guess the answer to that question is ultimately yes. Once the tip of the iceberg is spotted, it’s in my nature to look for what’s underneath. I can’t help myself. Add to this, I’m a people person and genuinely interested in another’s story, so I’m all in, no matter what’s said. Was I prepared for this? No. Was it appropriate for kids? Hardly. Yet it was the defining moment in this man’s life, and for good reason.

playing chicken with the big boys

In hindsight, had we been poolside, chitchatting with our sunglasses on, legs stretched out, perhaps the impact of the revelation would have been slightly minimized, convincing me of two things: I’m still curious and appreciate one’s life experience, but I just want to hear it anywhere but at dinner.

Changing Frequencies

Tuning out the noise to refine the inner signals

We are living in a world that creates noise at so many levels, it’s like signals shooting up in every direction, the invisible messages impossible to tune out, turn down or turn off entirely. Rare moments of silence exist—like sleeping, but even that can be disrupted if the household cellphone(S) aren’t on DND.

How then do we focus, be optimistic and serve to enlighten and help others when noise levels only seem to be increasing? For some, part of the solution rests in time management. Having kids certainly propelled me to optimize every twenty-minute block I had, combining activities in order to keep the forward momentum, even if the progress was slower than I was used to. Treadmill time was combined with going through required reading for work. The television was on only I could be on the floor with my daughter or doing some form of physical activity. In Author Straight Talk, I detail time management tricks for completing that first novel, from writing during waiting periods at the school parking lot or doctor’s office, to outlining on the train and crafting new novels on the deck, beach or in bed when the house is quiet.

These techniques aren’t new to me but represent an example of a purposeful use of time. When I’m purposeful, I start the day without the news, a sure-fire way to become distracted and emotional and mentally off course. Throughout the day, I substitute the squawk-box and distracting music with chill, ambient or classical, the lack of words and uplifting tones propelling my activities without creating negative effects, like me want to get up and dance (or scream), depending on the news of the moment. Other commonly used techniques include meditating (rather hard for me), reading good books (e.g. scriptures) praying or even yoga—all activities typically done in quiet, preserved spaces with little or no noise, the uninterrupted time absent of outside signal interference.

Amazing things happen once the noise is turned down or off completely. The inner signals, mental, emotional and even spiritual are better heard. I’m a big believer in promptings and the light within. A litany of famous figures who have talked about “moments of enlightenment.” I’ll give you Steve Jobs and Elon Musk among the many scientists and inventors who stand on the foundation of hard work and creativity when they experience the burst of an idea. It’s like a human radio tower standing high on a mountain without obstacles or interference that is eventually eclipsed by a satellite dish.

Regardless of the metaphor, great things happen when a person fine-tunes their inner signals. The communication becomes stronger, the sender-receiver connection faster and the frequency improves. The phrase emotional frequency, also known as the emotional vibration frequency, was first studied in Japan in the 1940’s. Scientists gave energy frequencies to plants and then people, documenting the reaction both to music, actions, images and sounds, recording the impact.

Over the decades, this initial effort has been studied around the world, to the point where specific emotions are given an energy reading in megahertz. Not surprisingly, the lowest energy emotions are fear and anger (let’s not count death which is at an appropriate zero), while the second to the top is love. The highest level is called serenity or enlightenment, a state so ideal it’s rarely achieved (and least statically recorded).  

Who doesn’t want to attain that level, at least for a split second during one’s life? A moment here and there, perhaps like Einstein, Jobs or Marie Curie, the first person, and only women to win the Noble Prize twice, and furthermore, did it in two different fields. Was she truly enlightened, an incredibly brilliant scientist or a mixture of the two, because her determination, natural and honed gifts all combined to create the perfect environment for moments of enlightenment to foster?

Madame Curie circ. 1920

One thing is sure: Madam Curie was able to tune out the distractions of her time, which included war, suffrage, gender discrimination and cultural attitudes to focus on her inner signals, which very clearly were sending the message to create and innovate, changing the world forever.

From one lens, my (physical) sphere of influence is rather finite, but in the digital world, it’s global. I recognize the messages I send out through books, social media and other communications is the equivalent of a bowling ball hitting a smooth body of water, the ripple effects continue until the waves hit the shore. The same can be said of my author friend in Teeside, a small town in Britain, or another friend in Vienna, Austria. Both send out their digital signals to the world via social media, articles or books, influence the far corners of the world, including yours truly here in Northern Idaho.

Could you imagine what would occur if, if just an hour a week, sixty-minutes, were noise-free, and the inner signals were allowed to surface and then refined? Then imagine if that same signal were refined with additional hours? I imagine energy and ideas flowing a new, blessing everyone in a local and perhaps global sphere. That vision alone brings up my energy level.

A stranger’s smile

Ever wonder about a stranger smiling your way? Do I have mustard on my cheek? Is my hair all wrong? What’s the motivation behind the look? I’ll often ask myself.
“None of the above” Rog said, during the most recent instance of being on the receiving end of a (in this case, male) stranger’s smile. Besides, he continued, “Who cares why he did it?” Rog asked. “It just happened. Smile back and move on.”

By that time, I felt bad I’d not smiled back. For most of my life, I’ve not smiled back. It’s part of my Swedish/Swiss, shy-and-look-down heritage, compounded by 18 years of ‘don’t talk, look or address’ strangers, followed by the early twenties bra-burning mantra of  “‘if you smile at them, you are ‘asking for it'” that every girl gets when she leaves college and goes out on her own. With that background, of course I’m going to be all screwed up when it comes to the do’s and don’ts of smiling at strangers. Suffice it to say that graceful and me is an oxymoron.

I’ll give you the other side of this sharp-edged sword of facial expressions. The spouse. Ever been with your boy/girlfriend, spouse etc when someone of the opposite sex gives a full-on smile? What does that mean…exactly…and how do you handle it with grace and security? I’ve known many a person of both genders to flip out when a stranger bestows a complimentary smile (or really, any type of smile) in their presence.

“It’s not like every smile is a come-on,” Rog told me not long after we were married. In addition to worrying about what kind of pasta I was going to make for dinner, I was wasting my time fretting over every Sally (and Joe) casting a sideways glance at my man. It took years (and mostly bigger relationship problems) to get me over the hump of another smiling at my legal and lawful partner. One day, I realized this: if someone else thinks Rog is cute enough to throw a smile his way, good for him. He works out. He eats much better than me, and it gee, if it made him a little happier on his way home, I thank that anonymous stranger from the bottom of my heart, for it’s me and my girls who ultimately benefit.

The upside-downside smile perspective

I’ve spent many years dwelling on the downside of a smile instead of focusing on the upside. That would include a person seeing I look down/having a bad day, and smiling to cheer me up. It may also be that I did in fact, look decent and a smile was an acknowledgement of properly put on make-up. When with children, a smile is often a compliment to my children, or my parenting skills (usually outside Target when the real fun has subsided). Just last Friday, I emerged from the local public library and a nineteen-ish young woman with piercings in all the wrong places made a comment on my skirt (she approved) and smiled wide. It was the last thing I expected (I figure I’m invisible to people three decades younger, so I generally  have no expectations). The smile was out of the blue and wonderful, and the compliment didn’t hurt my ego. I at least have a remnant of style remaining!

The flipside of receiving a smile is giving one. An interesting topic all on it’s own. When I ceased being ‘small’ (as in, emotionally), I was able to give of myself without insecurity or paranoia about an act that uses more muscles than any other in the body. (As an aside, did you know, smiling also increases the release of endorphins and reduces stress and is reputed to help one live a longer life of better quality than non-smilers?)

For several years, I’ve been practicing the fine art of smiling at strangers, and let me tell you, it works wonders. Today for instance, I accosted two perfectly nice people (a young, married couple) who’d I’d seen before, but always have scowls on their faces so I tend to avoid them. I figured they may be Swiss and frown naturally, as so many of my relatives do. I started with a smile at both of them, and to be honest, she looked like she swallowed her tongue and he jolted, putting his arm around her shoulders.

It was rather funny in a twisted kind of a way. But then again, I’ve noticed something else: those smile-affronted are either newly married (as I was), and well as young (see previous). An hour later, I had the opportunity to actually talk to the couple. I walked right up, ignored the startled, stalker-looks they gave me and started chatting. I soon found out they were a) married <1 year, b) expecting a child and c) living in her grandmother’s home. No wonder they were a little shy to outsiders and creeped out by my smile. By the end of the conversation, they were as lively as my own relatives, chatting up about the personal aspects of their life normally reserved for family reunions.

Another group that seriously benefits from a smile are women and old people. Women adore smiles from other women. Why? Because so few women actually smile at other women! It’s a latent insecure-threatened type of attitude. A smile to another woman means you are looking beyond yourself to that individual. I’ve found a beautiful woman with a scowl on her face will completely defy my expectations when I smile and follow it up with a compliment (great shoes), to which the woman will show complete shock then be profusely grateful, as though I’ve made her day. It takes such little effort to lift the spirits of another person. And lets face it. You never know what another is going through–death, divorce, home foreclosure, unruly child, unemployment. It’s the littlest thing that takes no effort and can make all the difference in the world.

So tomorrow is Saturday. Greet the day, and complete strangers, with a smile.

What do you title a blog about encountering a person who lacks a nose? It’s hard. To wit, you notice I just avoided it altogether.

There I am, standing in line at Kohl’s, one of the few shopping experiences around here where one can go in, grab and go without the hassle of a line. Let’s not get pissy about stores okay? Kohl’s became a fav when my butt expanded with my time here in Idaho and I discovered Jennifer Lopez’ line of curve-hugging-yet-flattering pants, perfect for those of us with small waists and ahem-gracious derrieres’. Kohl’s also has fantastic (and I do mean fantastic) deals on appliances (Euro brands + Kitchenaids etc) and Xmas items at prices so far less than Macy’s it’s really wrong (as if Macy’s weren’t struggling enough.

But I digress. The buzzer rings, I step off my personal round space used for distancing, say hello to the register worker and answer the basic questions. Yes, I found everything, yes, I’m having a good day. Because I’m old school and believe in making eye-contact, I don’t immediately notice the missing section between her eyes and her mouth. Normally, a point lifts the mask off the nose. Furthermore, here in Idaho, the mask mandate has been eliminated, although many wear a mask but pull it down just below the nose.

This woman, I realized, had no nose. It was gone.

We are talking about the essentials of life; the upcoming holiday season, the best deals and delight that waiting lines no longer exist because consumers are shopping on line. I ask if she’s worried about her job and she just scoffs.

“I’d been through a divorce, and my house burned down because of an electrical issue,” she tells me, all the while scanning my items. “My own smoking caused this,” she says, pointing to her nose, then shrugs.

“You think I even care about COVID? It’s the flu. Try having your life wiped out by a fire and your nose being sliced off. Then come talk to me.”

Whew. What do you say to that? (I know you’re wondering what I said. It was “no kidding,” reinforced with a head nod.

Walking out the door, I remove my own mask and take a long inhale of 10 degree air through the nose, a sensation I’d always taken for granted and never thought about twice. I do now.

Stories from the waiting line…

Once upon a time, my public outings were free of clutter and pollution, a well of mental purity, unsullied by the unsolicited comments from strangers. Not so anymore. Nowadays, stepping outdoors means being on the receiving end of a one-way flow of information, the kind a stranger on a plane will give because he (or she) knows you will never again run in to one another, so you are perfectly safe place to dump all sorts of burdensome information. Let me give you an example.Last Thursday, I’m sitting in a public place, waiting for my name to be called after I have dutifully taken a number. To my left is a large man studiously reading the local paper. To my right is an empty chair that remains vacant for about thirty seconds until a well-dressed woman takes a seat. She’s thin, early sixties, short, blond hair in a v-cut, fashionably touching her brown and gold leopard print shirt. Her left hand is void of a wedding ring, but adorned with the nice, thick metal watch. Her leather shoes are polished and appropriately narrow for the 2019-2020 fashion season. I’m tapping away on my phone, virtually conversing with my friends who are equally happy to spend their time getting thumb callouses when she begins to speak to me.

“I’ve never been in here,” she half-whispers, embracing me as a temporary confidant. My first time as well, I say, looking up long enough to notice her face is tan, smooth save for a few age-given lines. Divorced mother of two or three grown children, maybe a first time grandma I hypothesize. I continue typing. “My oldest son is getting married soon,” she continues (I inwardly preen), “and I gave him my wedding ring for his second wife.” I have two thoughts. The first is that the woman is determined to tell me her life story. The second is that I might as well listen. People’s lives are far more interesting than my own, and what the heck. I’m an author. I like to listen.

“It’s worth $25,000,” she tells me. “It has six diamonds scattered in gold metal chunks…” yadee yedee yadaa. She’s not worried I’m going to stalk and rob her. As she continues, I’m visualizing a ring fit for Liberace. I’m far more interested in whether or not her soon-to-be daughter in law thought it was as ugly as it sounded.

“Did your son like the idea or get offended?” I boldly ask. She enthusiastically tells me that she floated the idea to him. He apparently responded something to the effect “Mom, that’s pure love.”

Sounded more like Son got pragmatic. Second marriage. 30+ yr old fiance. 50-50. When the son gave it to his fiance, she loved it, having it resized.

I turn back to my phone, slightly disappointed the story ended at that point. I shouldn’t have worried. She started in again on the next thing. Her recent job offer (to another division of a local company) was a promotion from one executive position to another. This woman wasn’t hurting, at least not financially.

“In the middle of it all,” she continues, “I feel this lump in my belly—this big,” holding up her clenched fist in the air. I put down my iphone, giving her the full attention she clearly needs. Her OB tells her its nothing, but that she needed a hysterectomy.

“Everything falls you know,” she says in a matter-of-fact voice. No, I tell her, I don’t know, trying to hold back the revolting feeling that graduates up my inerds. “Yeah, it all sort of drops since nothing is there to hold it in.” I’m wondering, ‘what drops, exactly?’ but I my raised eyebrows must say it all. “Your kidneys, sometimes your live,” she goes on. “Your vagina.” My eyes pop, but I just nod and ask, if any of that hurt. With her hand still raised in the air, she triumphantly announces that she got to the bottom of it.

“It was my rectum!” she says proudly, “this big!” pointing to her closed fist with her other hand. “It was at the bottom of my vagina.” Did—wait–did she just say that, in the middle of a public place?

At that point, my name was called, which was a good thing. I had no words. I had no air. I had to leave without hearing the rest of the story, the visual of a guts and stuff dropping out a strangers nether regions in my brain. By the time I get to my car, my appetite is completely left me, but I do have visions of the next random story I’m going to get while waiting in line.

The emotional lifeline of Hope

From the start of Monday, the week has been frought with bad news. All sorts. Job loss. Friends losing homes. A divorce. It’s not a surprise to hear the words of despair, the temporary absence of optimism, of hope that the situation will improve.

Hope is an emotional lifeline. When I told Rog I intended to write about it, he says “No, what right do you have to pontificate to others?”

“Who better to write on hope that me?” It was then I reminded him it was I who’d experienced divorce, single parenting, bankruptcy, foreclosure, the freezing of my assets and an expanding arse to boot. He krinkled his face when I recalled it was my hope we’d have children someday, which was a mantra I chanted for seven years as he maintained he’d rather get divorced than bring a child into a dark, hate-filled world. Until one day, he woke up and essentially said ‘we might bring a child that will make the world a better place.’

Nobody who hasn’t been a part of my life has any clue that it was the hope in dark times that allowed me to endure to reach the point I am at today, which to the outside, is perfect. For years, it wasn’t perfect. It was hard. Lonely. Loveless and it was my foundation.

“Ok,” he mumbled as he walked in to the office. “Write it. Just don’t be sappy.”

I make no such promise.

Hope is found when a stranger smiles at you on the walk home.
Hope is given to a foster child turns 18, and a business owner takes a chance and gives a job.
Hope is what remains inside a woman, long after her man has walked out the door.
Hope is rewarded when a new man appears, one far better and more deserving then the one who left.
Hope is felt when a mother tells her daughter her son will one day return.
Hope is rewarded when the daughter broke it off, right before saying “I do.”
Hope is renewed when the son goes to college on his own accord.
Hope is a person wronged will forgive, and a friendship will be regained.
Hope is the crowd will cheer, not boo.
Hope is going on again the next night, no matter what happened the evening before.
Hope is the light in a newborns eye.
Hope is the enemy of despair.
Hope sees me through the tears and heartaches.
Hope is within, ever present.
Hope is life.

And yeah, this got a little sappy at the end. It couldn’t be helped.

Anonymous, generous and classy

Winter of 2020 has united us in the way Lady Justice might have applauded; Covid-19 doesn’t recognize race or religion, color or culture. It’s been the great equalizer, putting doctors and bartenders, construction workers and attorneys out of work. I know all of the above who have been laid off and seen their client work evaporate. One law firm employing 12 in two locations lost four hundred thousand in a single day. One client owed them $200K, and instead of paying, declared bankruptcy. Within twenty-four hours, two other clients owing a hundred grand each who’d received the work, stated they weren’t paying because they no longer had the money, their own businesses going down the drain. Rog and I are friends with small business owners lay off their staff, seeing the “trickle-down effect” of their own customers not walking through the door or spending on take-out. The trickle wasn’t that a slow dropping of water but a tsunami, destroying all in its path, livelihoods and now relationships as family tensions rise.

And yet, during this time of distress and sorry, I’ve seen bits of hope for those who are calm because they’ve prepared and saved money, food and supplies. I’ve also witnessed absurd insensitivities by those with gross amounts of financial resources, ego or delusion.

Just today I saw Geffen and his yacht, wishing us all safety as he cruises the islands in his $590M vessel. Then we have the wife of a former NFL player justifiably upset that she keeps purchasing sunglasses but can’t show them off anywhere so must resort to Instagram. On the upside, she discovered Super Glue for her one-inch nail which had broken, and in her highlight story, thanked the Lord because that’s how we shall make it through these tough times.


For these souls and people who just need to give a shout out to the world that they can’t get their custom Louboutin’s shipped, I pray hard. Much harder in fact, than the prayers that go out to those who are putting groceries on credit cards and laying off employees. Grossly blessed and highly uninsightful, they lack the characteristics of modesty, grace and class, things that are actually free, but rather hard to come by.

When we think of Tom Hanks, Oprah, Ellen or JK Rowling, we know they are worth more money individually than we will ever be combined. We guess, or have seen, their multiple homes, cars and vacations. As Americans in the land that invented capitalism, they represent all that our culture has deemed valuable for decades: status + money = success. Okay, we get that. Yet to focus on those four, none of them are really rubbing it in our faces, highlighting the fact that they are probably flying around in private jets to some exotic location or self-isolating in their fifty-thousand square foot home in Montecito. Somehow, it doesn’t seem so obscene because we aren’t having to look at the images.

A different way of living and giving

When Drew Brees and his wife made headlines a few days ago, he didn’t do it by posting a Tik Tok video with his wife. It was through a $5M donation to a city in need. Ralph Lauren didn’t share an image riding a thoroughbred on his 3,000 acre farm outside Ouray, Colorado. He gave $10M to help the Covid-19 efforts but wasn’t pictured in his expansion mansion. Both of these individuals clearly have the means to travel, purchase and live a life of luxury regardless of what goes on around them, but they’re not putting it front and center.

My mother has always advocated that the best giving is done quietly, anonymously and without a press release. That was old school and elegant, and I’m sure this is happening every day, but we don’t hear or read about it. The donations could be made from your next door neighbor, mom or friend or yourself, done without telling a soul, and it’s probably the culmination of these acts that will truly make a difference.

The Marital Contract

Let’s face it. I met and married a guy I did business with for a year. We negotiated. We debated. We eventually stopped talking contracts and had a first date. At the end of it, Rog predicted we’d get married within a year. He was wrong. It took six months.

With this as the background and insight into our history together, is it any wonder that the foundational rules for marriage resembled business rules reflecting our thinking?  One of the first non-negotiables was this: we will not make any stupid financial decisions. Within a month, this was tested. Do we buy the house? Yes, if we can afford it on one salary (the fine print we’d not placed in the contract). It was a point of debate. Eventually, after many lively discussions (aka vigorous negotiations back and forth), we decided to abide by the original terms of our agreement. We purchased the home applying newly added fine print, (affording a home on one salary). It was a decision made without regard to neighbors, property value, potential schools for as yet unborn children.

The only picture we have from our wedding on
the top of the ampitheatre in Ouray, Colorado,
squeezed in on a 3 day weekend then back to work

After a couple of years, the rather generally defined marital contract became refined. The T & C’s extended to how and where we spent our time. We debated whether or not an activity had a good relationship ROI, and if it didn’t, we’d no longer engage in said activity. For those of you who know Rog, you are nodding your head, saying: Yeah, this totally sounds like him.

Case in point: when we married, Rog owned a boat with a friend and co-worker. We enjoyed taking it out on the Puget Sound, but it meant two hours through the locks, perhaps four on the water, another two back into the slip, then two cleaning it up. The eight hours devoted to one activity meant our entire day of relaxation was over before one or both of us took a flight out Sunday. After a year of this, I suggested the activity of boating a high opportunity cost, and it wasn’t financial (moorage fees back then were $250). It was the opportunity cost of doing things with friends, family or nothing—sitting at home watching a game.

At first, Rog balked at me wanting to renegotiate our marital contract. He reminded me the verbal fine print had included me a) knowing he had a boat, b) I fully supported him continuing to own the boat and c) wouldn’t complain about the money or hours. Yep, I had to admit, I’d been on board totally and completely. But who could have foreseen or anticipated the actual commitment to the activity?

Sound familiar? Unanticipated events, the economy, acts of God or simple execution are the downfall of many a contract, marital or business. That begat the first serious renegotiation of what had been a completely sound contract, but it certainly wasn’t the last.

Rog’s contract point: “I’ll never dress up. Ever.” Year 3: he’s King Tut
The new-new marital contract

This experience gave us a taste of things to come, and we started referring to any change in the line items we’d based our marriage upon as elements of the New Deal. The original had been fine, based on sound premises, but those were gone. Times and experiences change and the rules of engagement, even the very definitions, must change along with it.

An instance of an experience changing a contract occurred when Roger’s former boss, a 41-year old hard-driving guy, died on a lunchtime bike ride around Marymoor Park. There he was, peddling along on a clear, blue sky day and fallen over right there on the concrete path, his heart having given out.

Rog was shaken to his core. “He was the more high-stress guy I knew,” Rog kept mumbling in the days leading up to the funeral. Yet I pointed out to Rog that their lifestyles were the same: long hours during a week which never ended. You didn’t get ahead if you weren’t fully in the game.

A week after the funeral, Rog abruptly announced it was time for him to leave the company and take over my business. Keep in mind that when we met, Rog was an executive at Microsoft, I ran my consulting business, splitting my time between Seattle and San Francisco. Those roles had been so clear for so long, they might could have been listed as line items in the Definitions section of a contract.

Our fine print has also included “no street bikes.” Thx to Dad, I’d grown up riding dirt bikes, but street bikes were definitely in the deal-breaker clauses. Year 15, I inserted the footnote “street bikes now allowed.” Left: age 24 in Ouray with Rog, Right: 42 in Idaho.

I balked. I might have sworn once or twice. Him, running my company? He was out of his mind.

“No, you don’t get it,” he said emphatically. “We are not going to keep living our lives like we have tomorrow, because life isn’t an entitlement. My former boss thought it was. Well, it’s not.”

He had a point. We had to live each day as though it were our last—albeit responsibly. Hesitantly, I asked him running my company fit in.

At this, he smiled, and took my hand. “You are going to take twelve months and write that book you have talked about for the last three years. I’ll run your business, so you won’t have any pressure. But here’s the deal.” He paused for effect. “Then it’s my turn.”

I learned his dream was to become a private pilot, must as mine had been to write a book.

“That was not in the fine print of our marital contract,” I pointed out. He shrugged, as if it was no more than a missing clause on product returns.  

I was nervous. I was excited, and ultimately, I agreed. A year for a year, marital contract V2.

These photos are the contractual pictorals of evolution, each one representing a change from whence we started to where we are now. Rog said absolutely no dogs or kids, period. One home break-in at year 4= Penelope the pitbull. Year 7, began daughter number one. The pic of her in the plane means we had her flying early on, her daddy making good on his pilots license.
The good old days of the paper napkin contract

Back in the day, my father did a lot of business on the back of napkins, usually in diners in whatever country he was at. The points would be written down, signatures of both party’s initials and that was it. The rest of it just happened, million-dollar deals with products from different countries transacted based on nothing more than trust and commitment. Even today, at age 83, Dad still does business this way, but only with men of his generation: men of their word who do what they say they’d do, they don’t believe in suing because they share the same values. One by one, as these men die, the values seem to die with it.

Rog has watched this play out for two decades, and me long before that. We have probably subconsciously applied some of it to our relationship. Do we need to write everything down, or can we trust the other person will do the right thing when the hard decision needs to be made? Can we assume the other person tried their best, just as one would do in a business partnership, extending some grace that ‘something must have come up?’

Ironically, applying certain ‘business rules’ to our marriage worked in the beginning; we knew how to negotiate and win, with others and then ourselves. It’s what drove us. But over time, we learned that an emotional win on the other hand, is really losing. The greater the stakes, the higher the passion, increasing what the ‘loser’ has left on the table if you will. And what’s been left on the table is a little bit of the love, respect and sometimes the trust of the other person. It’s not worth the emotional win, and in the end, we have no thought, time or energy to go back and even try to recall what was in the original marital contract, let alone each instantiation following.

Contracts continually change, just like marriages

Our partnership went through several more iterations as he abandoned the corporate world for retirement at 42. The first three years were rough; being together non-stop about killed me (I was used to my domain), but the last five have been great. I have had my best friend around when he’s available and I’m not on a project deadline. Now, present day, we are getting ready for yet another change of lifestyles. It doesn’t come at a great time, just when snow season is hitting.

“Snow removal at five-thirty in the morning was not in the marital contract,” I mutter, completely serious, annoyed, and I’ll admit, a little fearful of becoming a snowbeast in the dead of winter.

“Yeah, but neither were having kids, chickens or a dog, and not in that order,” he countered. This was followed up by him telling me I’m more than capable of firing up a fully enclosed UTV with a front-attached 60-inch deck. Another well-made point by my partner in all things of this life.

One could argue contracts are made to be broken. Case in point: Rog is afraid of heights and swore he’d never climb a pyramid. Year 15, he did. Then after we broke the rule on no animals, the clause “Never on couches” was set in stone. Uh-huh. So here we have a Xmas pic snapped with both dog AND child on couch. Multiple breaches of contract right there.

What’s become clear is that the refinements to our now-unrecognizable marital contract has been simplified to the essence of us. We try to do our best. We give the benefit of the doubt. We extend a bit of grace when it’s not easy or even necessarily wanted. It’s our own verbal and emotional contract to the other person, and it’s invisible to everyone but ourselves.

21 years later, who would have thought? Certainly not us, but that’s growth, change, experiences, bringing us to a place we never, EVER, thought we’d be, and we couldn’t be happier for it.

The Perfect Stranger

Readers have observed I post more pictures of strangers I meet on trips than my family. It’s true. I love my perfect strangers, because that’s what they are: perfect. When one is on the shores of Scarborough asking for local insights from the owner of the pub, or sitting on the boardwalk of Bellagio, chatting with a Russian transplant about the best gelato for the cheapest price I get the happy, helpful, always-answer-with-a-smile person. Beyond the effervescent personality, it’s the attitude of: I’m living where I want, doing what I want, and here you are, interested in everything I have to say, hanging on every comment I have to share.

In other words, we are having a short, mutual and very strong love-fest. It’s fleeting, as by definition, all love-fests should be, ending before we delve into topics sure to end our affair: politics, race, religion, the standard three, but oh, so many more exist. (How many tourists are too many? Do certain demographics spend more or less? Should (and can) the world support any more children? Messy topics sure to destroy the honeymoon stage of a new acquaintance).

During this last trip, I met so many more people that I neglected to snap photos, mostly because I was so wrapped up in the conversation we kissed cheeks and parted…and like the forlorn lover, I was left waving, my lips agape….. “Wait! I need a phot—” then Rog would stop me and mutter. “Oh, for heaven’s sakes, let it go, already.”

The world represented

I have Svetlana from St. Petersburg, Russia, who was spending three months with her art gallery manager boyfriend. She will be remembered for her amazing skin, bright smile, and our mutual agreement on the all the purveyors of gelato, as in: who sold the most, and the best for the least. Hence, why we were both in line at one particular shop.

Then we have Neal, owner of the Candy Confectionary store on the corner (it’s such an establishment it doesn’t need a name other than Candy Confectionary) at what must be the best, prime real estate on the entire Boardwalk. While we chatted him up, his wife (she with the longest nails ever) and his daughter were in and around, stocking the shelves, deciding what to order on the next go-around at the marketplace, he gave us the history of York, (founded by the Romans in 71 AD), also known as the Chocolate City (true story, look it up) conveying we absolutely, positively, must visit.

In between, he must have discerned we were homeowners, because the conversation digressed into what he’d paid for his place, what he could sell if for and how much he’d lose moving to York due to the inflated prices. “But oh,” he groaned, “I would so love to move there!” He was, and is, a big, bear of a man I just wanted to hug—which I did!

At the base of Schloss Hohenswangau and Neuschwanstein sits a little town, and in it, we met, a Tony, a software engineer from China, employed by Dell, and based in New York. Talk about a roundabout way to end up in the Bavaria region of Germany.

He was joined by his wife and son, spoke better English than many of my friends, and we got to chatting because he didn’t know German (perhaps the one thing he didn’t know). We helped him out and over plates of schnitzel we discussed his love of all things American.

In Hungary, we walked around th block from our apartment and found Robert Maar (the store) and had no idea we were actually talking to THE Robert Maar. We felt so uncomfortable and were going to leave but then he told us what a “custom” garment in Hungary means (versus New York or Paris). What started with a simple, wonderful conversation about food ended up in a new wardrobe for Roger and two pieces for me. Only after we’d been in Budapest a week did we learn Robert is famous around Europe for his designer clothes that dress the celebrities in most of the countries. Blind luck on our part, and completely fantastic, more so because Robert was kind, gracious and ever so patient with us, the completely ignorant Americans. Love him.

Outside Verona, we happened by a three-story bed and breakfast of Locanda di Capitelli located at the base of Castle Suave, overlooking a valley of vineyards (can you already picture a scene in a book? I know I can). Once Rog was assured we were welcome no matter how casually we were dressed, the gracious hostess Julia sat us by the fireplace, and over the next two hours, go to know her, her mother and grandmother, all owners of the venue, a local winery and foodstuffs.

By the end of it, she was trying to convince Roger to invest in a new US-based restaurant that she could conveniently run. Her mother squished us with hugs and smothered us with kisses as grandma retired upstairs to bed (thus dodging the photo opp).

Outside Prague, at Czesky Krumlov (the town and castle) we dined with Tai, the chef of our favorite waterside restaurant, ordering not one, but two crepe deserts because we didn’t want to have a mortal stabbing fight with forks. What better compliment can be bestowed on food than that?

Perhaps the favorite meeting of strangers were a gaggle of girls preparing for wedding festivities on the shores of Lake Cuomo. We’d arrived early at the ferry line, and as Rog was flying his drone above and to the island of Bellagio 2 miles away, I watched as a dozen gals took turns taking pictures—invariably leaving one of them out. Porsche nudged me. “Mom, go take pictures. Help them out.” Me, she of the shameless and helpful, promptly stood and offered to snap group photos. Thirty minutes later, they have become the adopted, older, Indian sisters my girls have never had. They insisted on taking pictures of with my girls and me—thereby requiring Rog to come over and become lead photographer.

Different and Divine

Indian, Russian, English, Czech, Italian, German and Chinese…and so many more. I sorry I didn’t immortalize the helpful German man who saw we were stranded on the platform in Stuttgart, about to miss a train—may he get his angel wings for that alone, otherwise we would have been stuck for an entire day in the record-breaking heat with nowhere to go.

I regret not capturing the Philippino woman at the car rental location, who knew of one of my books (the Sue Kim authorized biography) and treated me like a Rockstar (a rare moment, and it took me going to Germany to get this—but then, now I can say me and David Hasselhoff have something in common. We are nobodies in the US, but HUGE in a foreign country).

And David (another, different David: this young man in his mid-twenties gave our family the best our of a castle during our 6-week trip. An engineering student, he doubled as a historian because of his vast knowledge of wars, rulers and cultures. So much so, that while I neglected to take a picture of him, we invited David to come over when he decides to visit the US. And guess what? Instead of going to New York, which had been his priority destination, David is coming to visit and stay with us in April.

We are thrilled, and this gets back to my Perfect Stranger theory. We have many family members who have not once come to visit, for one reason or another, and yet we have a perfect stranger flying in from Germany to stay with us. Our continued correspondence and the deepening of a relationship has been bereft of drama, issues or altercations—just fun, interest and a true appreciation. Doesn’t that say it all?

Yet even with all that, while the perfect stranger remains so, these unique, wonderful strangers aren’t present to dry the tears, listen and help resolve the issue, or show up when the car breaks down. For those life events, it does tend to be family, or good friends, those who show up when it’s inconvenient and give until they have nothing left. In that regard, I don’t need the perfect stranger, I need the perfect friend. And perhaps at some point, the intersection of stranger, friend and loved one may meet, becoming one in the same. Now that would be both strange and perfect.

Feature image

The town of Czesky Krumlov taken from the castle above

The Ugly Sweater

When what you’ve asked for doesn’t arrive as expected

It used to be that the morning after Thanksgiving, families across the country would get dressed up and go downtown to look at the store decorations. In the windows along the streets, works of art, mechanical and sometimes with real people or animals, the displays would draw thousands inside the store. There, the consumer would be wowed with an even bigger surprise. The purpose was for the store owners to express their gratitude for the support for the previous eleven months. Feeling appreciate, the consumers made even more purchases, the act an expression and receipt of gratitude.

This reciprocity between retailer and consumer was so successful, that the Friday after Thanksgiving became known as black Friday, because retail stores operated for eleven months of the year at a loss, or being “in the red,” then on one day, the store finally made a profit, or went into the black.

Sadly, this tradition of showing thanks has lessened, gratitude replaced with expectation, the expression and receipt of gratitude gone.

Theologian Thomas S. Monson said that “feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

Ugly sweaters and gratitude

At times, it’s hard to feel gratitude if what we have sought through sincere prayer doesn’t match what the Lord has delivered. It’s like asking for a sweater you expect to be soft, beautiful and well-made. When the big day comes, the wrapping is wrinkled, the bow not tied properly, and within, is a sweater, yes, but it’s doesn’t fit, the material is coarse and doesn’t fit quiet right. It’s an ugly sweater.

Looking back on my life, I’ve had plenty of gifts I’ve hated, real or figurative, but it wasn’t until the last ten years or so that I started to look beyond the delivery method and my disappointment to focus on the positive aspects of what I’d received. Roger, my husband of nearly 21 years, has often coached me (scolded? demanded?) to be grateful for the gift, regardless of whether or not we like it. Easy in principle, harder in application.

In a recent example of this, I’ll refer to my family. Over the years, our strong personalities and life decisions were like a lake gone dry. Without the replenishment of understand, the land grew cracked, then scorched, many spots barren. My parents prayed for reconciliation, certainly without asking or expecting additional heartache for each child, but that’s what occurred. Within six months, challenging issues with a teenage or adult children arose of a severe nature. The package of the sweater was awful and the garment inside horrid.

But then the miracles occurred. Previously unresolvable issues with siblings and in-laws were set aside, pride and ego associate submerged as the parents came together and held a fast for these precious children. We were united in heartache and strengthened in faith, ultimately incredibly grateful for the hard circumstances that finally brought us together in the spirit of Christ. The Lord, in His wisdom, knew that these challenges brought us together when nothing else could.

We all learned that an ugly sweater can still keep you warm.

Over the years, I’ve found three principles are consistently associated with gratitude. The are trusting in the Lord, keeping perspective and practicing remembrance of our blessings.

Trust in the Lord

Dieter H Uchtorff said that: “True gratitude comes from acknowledging that we do not always understand the trials of life, but trusting that one day we will.”

Trust was required when not long after I was married, my husband decided he didn’t want children. He enjoyed the financial freedom we had, and didn’t want to be tethered to the home for any reason, including a pet. Years passed, and when I was thirty-two, I’d passed through periods of anger, hopeless, apathy, and then resignation. I loved him, and not having children wasn’t going to change that. One night, while I was praying, I recall turning it over to the Lord, asking him to fill the void I was feeling. I distinctly thought the words: “Thy will be done,” hoping to find contentment in my situation.

The nights were warm, and our home was without air conditioning. Rog was awake and working but I was tired and went to the basement where it was cooler, falling asleep quickly. I woke up to a figure at the end of my bed. Assuming it was Rog, I mumbled something, turned over and went back to sleep. Sometime later, I woke again, and this time, the person was very close, leaning over me, wearing all black. I sat straight up, tried to scream but was voiceless with fear. By the time I could yell, he was out the door. When the police sat with us, they said intruders hate lights and dogs. The very next day, we got a dog, my husband’s prior proclamation about no pets in the house long forgotten.

“Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things,” is a phrase often repeated.

All things means just that: good things, difficult things—not just some things.

While I was unspeakably grateful for my safety (and to finally get a dog), it took me a while to see that this event was the first step in many the Lord had to orchestrate in our lives. The second step was more gradual in nature, but far more devastating. At the time, I owned a business with a dozen employees that had been thriving for a decade. For some inexplicable reason, our projects were drying up, some naturally concluding while new ones were stalled or cancelled. Having never been through an economic down cycle, I didn’t realize we were on the leading edge of the 07/08 recession. My stress level rose as one employee after another was recruited by clients who could offer more long-term stability. One day, Rog looked at me with a bit of pity.

“You are trying to put out the deck chairs on the Titanic,” he began. Seeing I wasn’t getting the reference, he continued. “You’re the religious one, not me,” he pointed out. “But I don’t think God wants you to be in business anymore.” Rog then joked something to the effect of: “We haven’t killed the dog, and have to be home with her anyway, so maybe you should go to the doctor to get checked out.”

Could it possibly be that through the ugly sweater of first, the intruder and then the business winding down were to result in what I’d been wanting for…praying for seven years would happen? No, the sweater wasn’t pretty, but it certainly was warm.

Keep perspective

A Christian philosopher said: “The Lord’s hand in our lives is often clearest in hindsight.”

Within the year of Rog telling me to “get checked out,” I was in high risk pregnancy. Yet I still tried to conduct business with a few remaining clients I could handle myself. One day, the doctor told me I was “A zebra in the Serengeti, being chased by lions.” He said I was pushing my body to the limits, even by working from home. He warned that if I did not stop all activity, save going to the restroom, I would lose the baby.

Now, for those of you who know me, I’m not really the type to sit still, let alone lay bone straight, in bed, for months. Yet, in hindsight, the Lord knew I needed to have a long period of time alone and without distraction as a transitionary period to prepare me for the life-altering situation of motherhood, and to be grateful for the gift of staying at home.

Dieter Uchtdorf  said that: “Being grateful in times of distress does not mean that we are pleased with our circumstances. It does mean that through the eyes of faith we look beyond our present-day challenges.”

The rule of Threes

This was highlighted when I was nine months pregnant, and was finally allowed to drive. It was a clear, blue and happy day in Seattle, which is a rare and wonderful occasion. Although the recession was in full-swing, I felt all the gratitude that eight years of praying to have a child and receiving an answer could bring. In other words, I was now wearing the warm sweater, but was I wearing it with pride? No, not yet. In fact, I was going to get another ugly top.

Cruising along that sunny day, I received a call on my cell phone, and the first words my husband said to me was that he was out of a job.

At that moment, I purposefully lifted my foot from the gas pedal. It was not possible. The company he founded was profitable, employed many employees and growing. The board however, decided they wanted an older, more experienced person to take it to the next phase in its life. Rog was devastated and I was worried sick.

In an April 2014 talk on gratitude, Uchtorff counseled us “To be thankful in our circumstances…not to keep score by counting the number of things to be grateful FOR.” He was talking about the overall spirit of gratitude.

Practice remembrance

In an October 2007 talk, Henry B. Eyring said the key to gratitude is remembrance and specifically, the hand of God in our lives. He related a time in his life when he was discouraged. An associate counseled him to write a recall and write few lines for those things he was grateful for—every day. Eyring said he  specifically asked himself: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?”

If we do this, “Gratitude will grow in your heart as it did in mine,” Erying promised.

In that moment of driving on the freeway, knowing neither of us had a source of income, telling myself to breath, I remembered the hard experiences that had brought us to that point, for what I counted must have been the fiftieth time.

The break-in of my home had led to a dog. My company had effectively shut down, but I became pregnant. Bad had been followed by good; what had occurred was orchestrated in the Lords way and in his timing. I had to purposefully set aside temporary fear, the journey, have gratitude for all we had and importantly, continue the faith. As Eyring has promised, remembrance of the blessings truly grew the gratitude grew in my heart.

Within a few months, Rog started a new business, allowing our family to grow and prosper. He also had a newfound empathy and compassion for others; that very hard trial evolved him from a good man to a great one.

Still waiting for the pretty sweater, and I got what…another ugly one that doesn’t fit!

If you’ve been following my summer journeys, you know I landed in the ER in Verona, Italy, tumors were discovered, an infection controlled and lots of pain was to be endured. Upon my return, I’ve spent the days seeing different specialists; the tumors have grown, I have a different (and yuckier) issue, the hysterectomy and tumors removed but the “yuckier” issue will be with me perhaps permanently for-the-rest-of-my-life. Really?? At times like this, denial is a good thing, but it’s temporary. As my 13-year-old daughter pointed out: “We were praying for change. Don’t you think this is the Lord’s way of answering our prayers?”

“Yes,” I replied, “I do.”

That’s where the faith and trust comes in to play. These two items create the cement of faith that dries, and I rely upon it every day as I put one foot in front of the other, trusting in the Lords plan . It’s what I lie upon when the tears come because I must decline being active with my family due to pain. Downtimes come, I acknowledge the emotions, take a break, then get right back up and get going. Time, health and money are not entitlements; they are a privilege. That too, is another mantra.

I am grateful for my challenges and wouldn’t take them back, because each one has led me and my family to a better place. And in truth, if the only way I can better understand the gospel of Jesus Christ and become more like Him is to get knocked around mentally, physically or financially, then this will likely continue.

My newsletter comes out once a month (when life is normal) and you can sign up at the main page on my website, and comment on my Facebook page at sarahgerdes_author on Instagram.

Feature image: the Italian Alps, which seems appropriate when talkin about the cliffs of life; you are either staring up, scaling them or falling off.

Listening to the Spirit

Preparing and receiving spiritual guidance

Some people go to the mountains or lakes to receive heavenly help. Others kneel in prayer, go on long-term juice fasts, while others do nothing at all, believing nothing exists but our own world, and even if God lives, us humans are too insignificant to warrant a thought.

In his talk on The Windows of Light and Truth, Joseph B. Wirthlin said that: “We must become skilled in using the spiritual windows to receive personal revelation for ourselves and our families.” Sometimes, family members and caring leaders provide guidance, yet this can be colored with personal motivations, self-interest or misunderstanding of the situation details.

Personal revelation is not an entitlement, and it is not passive. It is an active state of mind and demands faith. Each phase of the process requires something of us: 1) a desire to ask, 2) a willingness and open heart to listen, and 3) the obedience and courage to obey.

The scriptures of many faiths indicate that manifestations of the Spirit come to the mind in a variety of ways. They come in impressions and promptings, dreams, visions, visitations, by way of counsel from leaders and as what has been described as enlightenment and pure intelligence.

Consider the concept of enlightenment

Steve Jobs is a great example of this: he considered a problem, and credited bursts of enlightenment as the source of his ideas. That led to great innovations which have impacted the world over. Contrast that temporal example with that of the Prophet Joseph Smith, who often talked about pure intelligence flowing within, giving him sudden strokes of ideas.

When I was fourteen, my father asked me to accompany him on a ward visit. I wrote and rewrote my talk, the tension and worry increasing for the two weeks prior. The night before, I was crying with frustration that all my preparation had yielded only fractured thoughts. I said a fervent prayer, asking the Lord for help. Within moments of closing the prayer, my mind cleared, and I wrote an entirely new and different talk in a single session. The next day, following the talk, my father remarked he knew he’d been inspired to ask me. I honestly don’t recall what I said, because those weren’t my words. That experience cemented my testimony of personal revelation, the role of the Lord and the concept of enlightenment of the spirit.

Bruce R. McConkie said that we have the responsibility to seek solutions first for our own problems. It will always involve effort on our part. Elder McConkie expressed it this way: “We are to solve our own problems and then to counsel with the Lord in prayer and receive a spiritual confirmation that our decisions are correct.”

Receiving an answer from the Lord requires a few key elements:

  1. Obedience. President John Taylor said it is the first rule in heaven, and Elder Wirthlin said “nothing closes the door of personal revelation faster than disobedience.”
  2. Receptiveness of mind and submissiveness to the will of the Lord is also required for personal revelation, because as it states In D & C 63:64, the Lord requests “the heart and a willing mind.”

In my 20’s, I was a divorced, single mother, working in the technology industry. My life was just getting settled and financially stable. The company I worked for had sold and I fulfilled a lifelong dream of starting a magazine.  Yet I was feeling unsettled and didn’t know why. I kept asking the Lord to give me direction to ease the discomfort I felt.  Months went by until one night, I made a conscious decision to change my prayer. I added the words…’According to thy will’, and that I’d do whatever was asked. The following morning at 8:15 a.m., I received a call from a recruiter offering me a position at a start-up firm in Silicon Valley. I knew immediately that the call was direction from the Lord. I’d asked, he’d answered, and now I had to Act.

  • Conform to God’s will. Alma exhorted us to “be humble and submissive at all times.” 

Pioneer Brigham Young said that most people fail during the final 10% of the journey. In other words, they inquire of the Lord, receive the answer, but can’t do what the Lord has asked. In my case, The Lord answered my prayer by asking me to sell my home, close down my new business, leave my support system and move—all in two weeks. In his wisdom, he let me reach a mental, emotional and spiritual state where I could both hear the answer but act on it.

  • Stand in Holy Places: This is critical in times of need. Are we in a place at all times to be hear the quiet whisperings of the Lord?  Men in particular have a solemn responsibility to stand in Holy Places in order to call upon the powers of the priesthood when needed.

Fast forward seven years. I’d met and married the man who has now been my husband or 20 years. He joined and left the gospel within the first twenty-four months of our marriage. I knew he was the reason I’d been moved to San Francisco, but at I was at the point of giving up on the marriage.  I simply could not understand why the Lord would bless me with success but give me such absolute personal heartache. Again, for months, I received no direction or solace, despite fervent prayers. I was at my end.

One weekend, I attended a conference of financial executives. As I sat listening to the keynote speaker, I read his background. Below his list of accomplishments, and a Harvard MBA, was an undergraduate degree from BYU. I had the immediate impression to seek him out for a blessing. Now, imagine going up to someone, giving an introduction and asking for a special prayer on my behalf, but that’s exactly what I did. Waiting for a few minutes after the session was over, I touched his arm, and asked if he was a priesthood holder in good standing. He was surprised, but said yes. It took a few minutes to find a room, and he asked me few basic questions, then gave me a blessing with specific direction and details of my life known only by the Lord, It gave me the strength to see me through the following tumultuous years of my life, which included cancer and being told I’d never have children. But all the while, I knew that I was where I needed to be, with the man who needed to be by my side, and it was directly from the Lord. That knowledge sustained me through very rough times. Men, please honor the gift of the priesthood. You never know when you will be called upon to be the answer to someone else’s prayer.

  • Pray with faith, humility, sincerity and intensity.

Years later, I was able to conceive and keep my oldest daughter. One afternoon, at about six-months, I lifted her out of the crib and as I walked down the stairs, noticed she wasn’t sleeping but motionless and not breathing. By the time I reached the bottom, I was near hysteria. I thought through my options. As I lived outside the city limits, an ambulance wouldn’t arrive in time. My doctor couldn’t help over the phone and I had no idea what to do. As I cried, begged and pleaded with the Lord for guidance, a visual and specific words came to my mind. “Turn her on her side and hit her back, hard.” I laid her on the kitchen counter in the exact manner I had visualized, and hit her back with strength, all the while crying and praying. It took many seconds, but she started breathing again.

Richard G. Scott said that personal revelation, or answers to prayers, comes with different forms.

When He answers yes, it is to give us confidence.

When He answers no, it is to prevent error.

When he withholds an answer, it is to have us grow through faith in Him, obedience to His commandments, and a willingness to act on truth.

I’ll share one last example on this point. After living in the Bay Area, we moved to Seattle. After a dozen years, Roger and I started to feel as though we should move. It was the same unsettled feeling that I’d had nearly two decades prior. We began looking for homes in and around the area, then extended this to five states. We made offers that were turned down for no reason, or homes failed inspection. After four years, we gave up, reconciled to feeling unsettled. We put all our energy and time into making our property our dream environment. No sooner had we completed the last bathroom, that I was sitting on a rock by the pond, admiring all that we had created, and I had this distinct feeling come over me that I would soon be leaving. I’ll admit, I cried for an hour. Why was it, I wondered, that the Lord didn’t tell us before we spent the time, effort and money to make it our dream home?

A thought came to me. “And he dwelt in a tent.” If the Lord asked Prophet Lehi, and those called before him, to give it all up all he had and live in a tent, then who am I to refuse the direction of the Lord, especially after we’d been asking for years?

While I don’t know all the reasons why CDA was chosen, I know the Lord will reveal it in time, and I must be patient.

As you can see, personal revelation has been at pivotal at key points of my life, guiding, directing and supporting my journey, and these are just a few. The Lord’s direction and love is available for all of us, at any time.

It is my testimony that direct answers to prayers and personal revelation is the key to us enduring our challenges, providing us direction, and helping us focus our talents and energies in the way our Heavenly Father wants for the benefit of ourselves and our loved ones around us.

I hope sharing this with you, my readers, has turned you closer to feeling, hearing and acting upon the promptings of the Spirit that is within you.

An author’s logic

Otherwise known as mood & memory loss

Two questions have been arising that might as well be addressed in this blog. The first is: why all the travel blogs, and second is: why do you keep switching back and forth on locations instead of the chronological order of visits?

If I had any shame whatsoever, I wouldn’t admit that travel blogging is as much for me as it is for wanna-be tourists. For yearrrrs, after every trip, I vowed to keep a journey, record—image or written- of where I went, what I did, ate, liked, hated etc., so if I ever wanted to visit the destination again, I’d have the details. In other words, my own Sarah version of Rick Steves. Alas, like my teenage journal writing endeavors, it ended up being more vision than action. Here I am, a million years later, like Methuselah, wondering if I need another vision for the Almighty to strike me down to change my evil ways.

So, it was (yes, this is the actual answer) that in February of 2019, when we booked this summer’s vacation plans, I was forced to pull out all the pamphlets, business cards, and what-nots from our last two visits. That begat the whole “Since I have to write this down anyway, maybe someone will benefit.” Like unto that was the “oh! This inspired my novel(s), and that might be interesting for another reader as well.”

Yeah, I know. Long answer to the first question, but now you know the backstory, and I’m all about backstory.

My scenery & writing area switches with my moods: one moment sitting chair, then couch, table and usually in the mornings, my kitchen counter, half-looking at the neighbors yard above my toaster. More importantly, my back is to the lake, so I’m not distracted. Is it any wonder that gold trader Danielle Grant positions her desk to the hallway and away from Lake Zurich? Who can get a thing done with a great view??

Second question is more simple: I get bored, and so do readers of my IG, Facebook and Blogs. Too much US, then too much Europe, Mexico or wherever. So, my original intention to go alphabetical was quickly discarded, as was the timeline. Now it’s whatever strikes my fancy. I do have one goal, which is to get all my major trips for the last couple of years up, so I can figure out what to replicate, what to add and ignore. Honestly, I’m a little stressed since I leave three weeks from today (time to start dieting), so don’t be surprised if my blogs become a wee-bit shorter, with more visuals than text.

The traveling author

My readers know that the works I create are based on the people I meet, the experiences I’ve enjoyed and the places I’ve traveled. Therein lies the essence of the Traveling Author, for that’s what I am. Where some sit and write book after book, my lifestyle is one where I take a break, traveling to rejuvenate my mind, body and soul, absorbing all that I’ve encountered, then I return to my home and produce a novel.

From reading to reality

It’s always been fun for me, as a reader, to visit a place that’s been well described by an author. The first book in the Danielle Grant series, Made for Me, set in Switzerland, takes readers to Zurich, through the Alps, to St. Moritz and the world-famous gondola in book one. Book two, Destined for You, continues through Prague and Lake Cuomo. The last book, Meant to Be, includes the jazz clubs and famous eateries that you’ll want to be sure to visit when in Zurich and the surrounding areas. By complete contrast, the Lava Bed National Monument and Captain Jack’s stronghold is the setting for Chambers: The Spirit Warrior (book 2 of the series) which blends history and fiction, while Ouray/Telluride is the home for the Incarnation, a series revolving around DNA manipulation. I’m always wondering what I’m going to find on my next trip that will be delivered up to the masses when I turn it into a book? It lends itself to a completely new level of excitement for each new adventure.

This local jumps in front of me and shouts “You need this!”

Travel with Me

In the past, I’ve posted my journeys real time on Instagram and then a novel comes out. Going forward, I’ll publish a general itinerary on my refreshed web site, adding details as the date nears. Through Instagram, I will offer up cool details before, during and after. If a reader wants to/show up and have me sign a book, great! In Destinations, my upcoming five-week journey through 12 countries is published. You electronically Travel with Me as I search out new experiences for my next novels.

Refreshed site

In addition to the Destinations page, you will also find my Essentials for traveling. Also in this section are my top-of-mind issues, such as how to cope with migraines while traveling, note taking for novels or and other real-life subjects.


Countmeinsarah@gmail.com is the best place to send messages, but I manage my own Instagram (sarahgerdes_author). If you have a suggestion for travel sites, locations, scenes and people for books or other inspirational comments, feel free to share either in email or for fastest response, Instagram.

Last call for Halloween

It’s a Saturday night and I ain’t go nobody…oh wait. I’m definitely not a man stuck in a 1970’s doo-loop with Cat Stevens, but it sure feels like it. As ‘the man’ plays Gears of War, P-dog sleeps and I enter on my fourth hour of writing the sequel in my time-travel adventure, I’m burned out. So what do I do? I get spooky of course. And nothing says spooky like a….spooky halloween tree. Ever one to give advice for an party (kids or adults), here’s the 15 minute, $sub-$50 dollar decoration sure to get you compliments.

The raw material. Cowboy tree is
temporarily hitting the range.

Start with a tree. Any tree will do, real or fake. If you have a fake one in the garage (or 18, like my cousin who decorates all of them in different themes for Christmas–yes, she has a sickness), or modify a overgrown fica plant, don’t matter. Just get it. (I started w/the tree I’ve left up all year long in our dining room out of sheer laziness. I did however, try to remove most of the cowboy ornaments, since this is my designated ‘cowboy tree.’ yeah. go on. say it. I’ve lost my way).

Orange lights

Stream it with orange lights that can be had at Target for $3 bucks. I purchased 8 streams last year, this year, 3 were dead on arrival. 5 worked just fine. (side note: I thought I lost my mind in buying so many until I realized I streamed quite a few around the perimeter of my living room on the uplit section).

Gauze in grey and black–
wrapped another line on the bottom
after I took this shot

Get gauze from your party store, or, if you’re going to be totally cheap about it, get some netting, dye it grey or black, rip it up and then start placing it back and forth in random patterns.

I spent $8 bucks on the a scary stream of ornaments. This skeleton string was from the local party store. It featured all kinds of ghouls, but also less frightening things like pumpkins.

spooky ghouls

The time it took eased my mind, released the tension in my fingers and gave me a renewed sense of vigor to go write about the taking and giving of souls through divine intervention (sorry. I have to be vague or the movie studio will freak). In any case, ghoul on. All the while, sing…It’s a Saturday night, and I aint got nobody…and channel your inner Cat.

Trunk or Treats: the free, fun family activity

For the last few years, I’ve avoided bringing up the Trunk or Treat phenomena to Rog, he of the “I-won’t be-caught-dead-in-the-church-parking-lot,” until we drove by one last year. It happened to be on the right, in the lot of a new Baptist church that resembles a modern red barn, with big beams, metal siding and really cool downlight that shines on the empty space formerly occupied by berries. (I have no problem with Baptists btw. I just wish they could have left the blackberries, since a local family of bears–mamma and 2 cubs– feast roadside year after year).

In any case, the Trunk or Treat was packed. For those uninformed, it’s a kid-version of a tailgating party, where everyone gets dressed up, and the car, or “trunks” are decked out like a Macy’s Day Halloween party gone spooky. Seriously. Men in particular, go nuts putting in coffins with sounds, grey cloud-like mists billowing from half-cracked doors and twirling lights. The lighter versions feature graveyards or ghouls, all with candy in every direction.

“What’s that?” Rog asks. I reluctantly tell him, waiting for him to spew some evil on the notion of trick or treating at a church. “That looks great!” he says, wondering aloud why we weren’t going. Before I have a chance to kick myself, he then says, “too bad your church doesn’t do cool stuff like that. I’d actually go.”

Wha….??? I don’t know who I want to kill first. Him for saying such blasphemy, or me for being too chicken to ask him.

At that point, I take off my gloves and give him the low-down on Trunk-or-Treating parties, finishing with “all the churches have them. Even schools and non-profits!” Around here, nearly every high school, junior high school, church and sometimes even community centers have the things. It’s particularly popular when Halloween night falls on a school night, and the parents don’t want to be out late. Furthermore, the haul of candy one recieves is HUGE. Some of these fallafal-selling-big-box-churches have lots the size of the Seattle Seahawks stadium, and are probably more full to boot! Making a trip around the safe confines of a TorT, especially when you know the folks, is awesome.

This year, Halloween is once again on a school night, and I just got the invite for our TorT on Saturday, 10/29, 5:30-7:30 (family friendly times indeed, thereby leaving the rest of the evenings to be enjoyed by adults). I for one, am very excited. I’ve started mapping out the neighborhood TorT’s, determined to hit every station with the zeal and enthusiasm of hitting the high-density suburbs for the highest candy yield. No, wait….this is for the kids……the kids…

2 for Heaven….

“I’m in the Boise airport, my flight delayed because both Grandparents passed away…” Yipes! This is how the email from my flame-haired voice teacher began. I note the time: it was very late, this last Sunday night. “They’d been married 70 years,” the note continued, “and passed away within 10 minutes of one another.”

Whoa. I believe in Karma and all things universal, but I ask you this (those of you that are non-karma-believing-non-universal-type folks who still read my blog), don’t you think this is more than fate? Something beyond coincidence? For the cynics (who shall not be named) no, they weren’t in a car wreck nor did they suffer side-by-side streaker-induced heart attacks.

For a moment, I’m going to pretend I’m important enough to pen an essay for This I Believe (hey, if my writing can’t get in to the Smithsoanian, I can at least pretend).

I believe in an Afterlife.
I believe we have spirits inside us that live beyond our physical bodies.
I believe the Great Beyond rewards good people by allowing them to die in their sleep.
I believe a couple who has lived and loved for 70 years is loved even more by God above.
I believe that couple didn’t want to be apart more than 10 minutes.
I believe they gave each other a hug on the other side, and did a happy-dance in their youthful, spirit bods.
I believe I’ve got my work cut out for me if I want to be married 57 more yrs.
I believe if I do, I’ll be 100 years old.
I believe I don’t want to live to be 100.
And finally…
I believe I’m thankful to know people who come from such good souls. Good stock breeds good stock.

5 min to Perfect Eye makeup

Pre-make-up. Red and a little uneve. (ignore my hair eyebrows
in need of a plucking. And yes, the eyelashes r real. thx mom)

“I’ve had enough,” said Melanie, my go-to makeup person for all things beauty. “I can’t take your bad make-up any more.” (To refresh, I hired Melanie from the Internet, finding her from Model Mayhem originally for a halloween party 2 yrs ago. She was so great, I then hired her for various charity events-doing the make-up of others– when she finally spoke her mind). Was I affronted? Nope. I didn’t even care. Ever since departing the great state of California for the netherworld of Washington, which is as far from fashion as one can get and still retain credibility, make-up has not been a priority. Covered under the hat, which is protected from a hood and then kept dry by and umbrella, what make-up is left after a rainstorm is completely irrelevant.

Step 1-undereye prep

“You should care,” she continued, affirming that everyone (including some men) desparately need some makeup. She offers to prove it to me, since I am not inclined to take the time or pay for someone to tell me how to apply make-up that I no longer want to spend money on. 

Step 1a-tap undereye. Don’t stroke side to side. Stretches the
skin. Yes, that old wives tale is true.

“You’ll see,” she says prophetically. Finally, after several months of dithering, I relent.

Necessary tool–keeps your products
clean, steril & your face free from
grubbies that bite

“You look beauuutiful,” coos my daughter. My husband is speechless. The dog growls. I’ve succeeded in transforming what has become my fleece-ensconced dowdy self into a person that is still in fleece, but I look slightly better, at least from the neck up. Here it is, in all it’s glory.

Guideposts that I told Melanie before commencing:
1. don’t apply anything I can’t buy from a store close by (e.g. a Nordstrom or Mac counter)
2. don’t apply it in anyway I can’t replicate
3. don’t do anything on me that takes more than 5 minutes.

Step 2 Painterly pot from Mac

She was giddy like a schoolgirl. “Of course! Of course!,” said she of the fantastical movie-studio make-up application. “If I can do it in a windstorm in Alaska in less than 5 and make a high-maintenance actress look great, I can do it on you!”

Step 2a Painterly using tool

Melanie asked me to bring what I had in order to show me what could and could not be done, and the difference. To Melanie’s great surprise, I had nearly all the brushes, and even a few of the items from Mac (and other vendors). The good news? The make-up can all be had at Mac (now, I’m talking women like me–caucasion– since that’s all I can speak to of course), same for the brushes. But others should do.

Step 3a swipe paint on wrist. again,
keeps pot sanitary

Tip? Get someone with an aesthetician’s license or something so you can get 40% off.

Women, you are once again the beneficiary of the pitty that my make-up artist friend had on me when she couldn’t take it anymore. In 5 minutes, you can go from looking like a she-devil (me in the am) to having perfect looking skin that is rather natural. Before you read on and look at the pics, cut me some slack. I haven’t had my eyebrows done in forever. That’s the next step in this eternal process of beautification.

Step 3b putting on Painterly (I use my finger)

Step 3b after Painterly-note the difference!
Step 4- ‘Mushroom’– use a brush, apply to “set” the creme.
Applying this powder ensures it stays 12+ hrs

Note–Mushroom by Mac is an eye powder. Didn’t bother with a pic. The color is not supposed to be dramatically different–and it’s not. It’s natural complexion color in my case.

Step 5- Another Mac Pot– Brown

Step 5a Use a flat, diagonal edge

Tap the top and get a clean
line. Hold the edge of the eye.
Start from inner eye and draw across and
over. Lift the corner up 45 degrees.

Step 5-post liner. You are almost done w/the eyes

I’m going to pause here and point out something else. Note the eye with the liner. The eyelashes are now darker, and this is because I darkened the top, naturally blond with the tip of the eyeliner lash. Many artists use the mascara, but I don’t like this method. It’s goopy, no matter how nice the mascara (even the ever preferred Mabelline). Instead, use the top and brush it lightly across.

Step 6 Mascara application. See the difference?

Now that the upper eye is done, I’m going to work on the lower/under eye area. Start with the concealer. The primer is now set and ready to hold the cream concealer.

Step 7 Under eye concealer. Put on the wrist again.

Step 7a after under eye concealer

Step 8-Foundation.

A note here. Foundation from Mac is good (I’ve used all types-Dior, Chanel, etc). Bottom line-they are all a bit too heavy for my light complexion. It ends up looking a bit thick, but Melanie introduced me to what the pro’s use. 2 different pro foundations that she mixed for me.

Step 8a-Foundation mixed

This is ths mixed foundation. I did the mixing prior, 80/20 light over dark.

Step 8b Foundation on the wrist

Step 8c-Foundation on one-half of my face, like Dr Jekyl &
Mr. Hyde (oh, and I fixed my right eye to even it out)
Step 9- Powder-using powder brush

Step 9a-Flat stroke (remember to tap the brush on a surface
like your wrist to dislodge clumps (yes, powder can get
on clumps on the brush)
Full face after powder.

Pausing here….did you pick up on the face I didn’t bother put on any eye-crease darkener (between upper and main lids?), nor did I use bottom liner or put mascara on my eyelashes? Given the length of my eyelashes, and how dramatic such a simple application could be, Melanie told me to stop looking like Chuckee (as in, Stephen King’s Chuckee) and forgo any bottom color. I agree.

Tip: When I want to go natural (yet clean and fresh) all I do is skip the liner. The benefit of an upper lip liner, according to Mel, is that it “brightens” the eyes, In other words, I look more awake. Not having the upper liner means I look a bit more natural.

The last thing to add then is bronzer. I have been skipping bronzer for years. Let’s see if you can tell the difference.

Step 10. Bronzer by Mac. Note the brush. It’s much thicker
than the powder brush.
Step 10a- Added the bronzer and Lips (we’ll do the lips in another blog)
Can you tell the difference?

The last step now is the blush. Like bronzer, I’ve not been bothering with blush forever. I mean seriously, what’s the point. Thankfully, Melanie told me I was an idiot, and showed me the way.

Mac Pallet–it’s flat and magnetic on the bottom

This pallet has a bit of everything–Mel loaded me up with
a few blushes, some brown, white and blue eyeshadow.

A side note on this, pallets can be found on Amazon and alot of other places. You can then stock them full of a lot of little colors. Check it out. It’s sooo much cheaper than buying the colors of the season–well, I recant. You should have both. The basics and then the fun, in season colors.

And…the final product. All these steps go really fast, believe it or not. I timed myself and it wasn’t even 5 minutes.

Final effort– can you believe the difference
5 minutes can make?

Summary Steps-15 steps to a perfectly non-made-up looking made up face!

Prep:wash and apply sunblock

  1. apply lower lid prep
  2. apply upper lid-Mushroom
  3. apply upper lid liner (if desired)
  4. apply eyelash darkener (or mascara) to top of eyelash
  5. apply eyelash mascara
  6. apply under eye concealer
  7. apply foundation around face
  8. apply transluscent powder
  9. apply bronzer
  10. apply blush

The lipliner etc will be in another blog.

Men, don’t despair. In fact, you should read this blog for the very reason you like to look a woman with nice eye-makeup. Be a good man. Go buy your woman the list of products on this list and surprise her with the printout. She’d be so thrilled you are such an aware, sensitive male. (If you want to make it really easy, use a gift card. That’s even better).

Product list for all light-skinned women (dark skinned and other–same basic steps but different products).

Mac Primer
Mac Painterly Pot
Mac brown (I also have a black as a side note for evenings)
Visiora foundation(s)
Visiora powder
Mac bronzers….I couldnt find the orange container on line. Perhaps this is something only sold at the Mac Pro store…I’ll ask Mel and get back.

Men–go get this for your best girl. Girls–have fun!!

Behind the smile

Scrapbooking is not my thing. Art class wasn’t my academic highlight. To curb the pain that accompanies my act of divine love for my daughter (e.g. putting basic photos with doilies on a colored piece of paper) I balance the torture by watching things like Live Free and Die Hard. Somehow, the thumping sound of an automatic, high-powered rifle with a silencer going spit-spit-spit as the car flies through the air, hitting the helicopter and downing the bad guys makes the time go faster. Before I know it, I’ve used up the photos on the table and go sorting throught the next batch to select the chosen few that will be immortalized by my permanent, invisible tape and uneven cutting.

My hands linger on a 4×6 photo of a trim, blond-haired woman in khaki pants and black, v-neck sweater standing at the far end of my dining room. Behind her are hanging spiders and a witch in the corner, a black and purple cat purched in the windows, and cobwebs covering much of the walls. The table is full of food, and I can even make out the appetizers carefully laid out, pumping platters next to red casserole dishes.

Tears well in my eyes, the hurting in my chest nothing to do with me or my life, but hers. She is smiling, her head tilted slighty to the left, serenely allowing me to take her picture. The event was a holiday shower, the guest, a young woman who had desired the holiday theme. She wasn’t in the picture. Only this woman, who was putting on a front for the camera, for behind the smile, her husband of 22 years had announced he was leaving her and their four children.

At the time, I had no idea. The photo was taken a year ago October. My understanding didn’t occur until this past July, when a group of mom’s and daughters went for a hike. My daughter was overly young, but this woman had ok’d us coming. I had to leave early, and she did too, so we walked down the mountain together. As is the case with me, she opened up and learned the story. Now, a year later from the time of the photo, (nearly to the day), I look back with the grace, the fortitude, and the front this woman put up to the world. That was how long it took for the couple to work out the living arrangements, the money, sharing the kids. One thing that wasn’t worked out was their marriage.

It’s really not important to share the details. What struck me about the photo tonight is that a person (she) can look lovely and smile, creating an impression her world was perfect. Perhaps it was at one time. Even when it ended, she kept up the front, as she did at my home, surrounded by two dozen women. I’ll continue to look at photos of friends, neighbors, acquaintances. For most, I’ll never know what’s behind the smile.