Six notes

Some random site notes:

I took down the Search box in the right-hand column because it was consistently not actually returning any results. I’ll see if I can figure out a better search process or search widget.

I put up the Amazon search box on the right because people were asking me for my click-through affiliate link. In other news, if you sign up for a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime through this link between now and January 10, I get a kickback. Sign up, watch a bunch of free streaming movies, then cancel by day 29 if you don’t want to pay anything.

If you’re thinking of doing Write Out 2013; Write In 2014 tomorrow, sign up now.

Random other notes:

I guest-hosted a radio show with my uncle last Sunday morning and it made me realize I want to start doing podcasts. The idea would be to have a different guest on a different topic for each podcast. If you’re a podcast listener, what length do you think makes sense? Twenty minutes? Half an hour? An hour?

I was invited to do a 28-day detox by a friend and realized that I genuinely don’t want to give up coffee. I enjoy it too much for giving it up to be worth the health benefits. Am I the only one who wouldn’t give up something even though other people rave about giving it up?

The next week is the right time to schedule in-person hanging out with one or more friends. With or without kids. It will make you feel good to spend time with people you choose to spend time with.



Soft, like water

Spaces filling in the “Write Out 2013; Write In 2014” online retreat December 31, 1-7 pm EST. This is a great change to close the door emotionally on 2013 (which was pretty lousy for a lot of us) and open the door for 2014 in one focused chunk of time. (No worries if you can’t do all six hours or have to dip in and out from work or with kids.) Register here.

These days feel like a netherworld. I’m still celebrating Christmas (Third Day of Christmas, according to the church calendar) but plenty of people have their decorations down and are done with it completely. Some people are back at work, while others are still in vacation mode, and that may or may not correspond with whether you’re still celebrating Christmas or not.

There’s so much to get done, but it doesn’t feel like you can make much progress until everyone’s back at work after the New Year.

So do we tread water (and by “tread water” I actually mean “eat cookies”) and feel bad about not getting anything done until January 2?

I’m going to offer a challenge: Actually, deeply relax, as much as you can, from now until January 2.

If you have little kids with you, there’s only so much relaxation you can do, but do what you can. See if you can stop the panic tape in your head about what should be happening.

If you’re not in control of your environment because you’re at someone else’s house, see if you can give in to that and just take the good parts from that. (The vent post is there whenever you need it.)

If you’re back at work Monday and Tuesday, do what you need to get done but don’t engage into work worry mode. Pretend you’re a high-achieving temp with good intentions but no strategic responsibilities.

If there are things that hurt you (and maybe are still hurting you) about how Christmas happened/is happening, don’t think about them. Let them be and give yourself a rest emotionally. They’ll still be there to analyze and plan to avoid in a few weeks, when you’ve got more strength to deal with them. (If you want to deal with them then, we’re doing that in the free Christmas emails.)

See if you can give yourself permission not to feel like you’re not doing enough or like there are things you should be doing.

Listen to some music. Drink a cup of coffee or tea. Breathe.



On the first day of Christmas, it’s time for recovery from the last few days.

What will make you feel better and get you back to normal?

I’m going to drink a lot of water, eat a lot of vegetables (along with cookies–let’s just be real), get out of the house (a nice long walk in my moon boots in the snow with any kids that will come with me), do a lot of work, and listen to my shake-it-off song, DJ Kool’s “Let Me Clear My Throat.” (Yes, I’m 40.)

My kids aren’t off their normal school break schedule as much as I was (they’ve been reading and playing video games and reading), so I’ll just ask them to put on pants and make sure they’re getting enough vegetables.

What are you going to do to get back to normal, shake off the frustration and sadness if you need to, and start recovering while staying in a decent mood?

(If you want to do Christmas with more ease and less stress next year, sign up for the free emails on back-engineering Christmas low and slow all year. Emails start January 16.)

Vent here safely for Christmas

Vent here safely and anonymously (if you like) for Christmas. Same rules as always: No vent too big or small. Everyone’s pain is valid and doesn’t diminish anyone else’s. No Misery Poker. If you have any extra energy to give support to another commenter, please do.

Vent anonymously if you want to by putting in fake info.

Be gentle with yourself.

For more about being gentle with yourself, try this post and this post.

(If you think this could be avoided by different planning, try the free email series on back-engineering Christmas, starting in January.)

Consider the odds

The one thing I know for absolute sure, especially at this time of year, is that sometimes the best choice is walking away.

If you’ve been trying and trying and putting everything you can into it, and it still isn’t what you need, that’s your sign. End it, and you’ll be free for something better.

We’re so conditioned to think that we can’t quit or we’ve failed. But that denies the fact that some situations aren’t completely under our control. And there’s huge value in knowing when to fold ’em and moving into a situation with the possibility for success.


Let’s just skip over Christmas to talk about the new year for a minute

Stress, trees, gifts, food, travel, blah blah blah. It’s going to happen next week whether we’re ready or not, so instead let’s talk today about the whole fresh page we get when the New Year comes. I am going to invest in myself in two ways, and I invite you to do either or both of these with me. One’s short and intense, and the other’s longer and intense over more time.

Write Out 2013; Write In 2014

Close the book on 2013 and beckon in goodness for 2014 by writing with us on New Year’s Eve (1 pm -7 pm EST). This retreat (or mad scramble, perhaps) is designed to carve out the space and time for you to write for closure of the old year and to write what you hope for for the new year.

Personal, professional, spiritual, whatever you need it to be. Your choice of writing format: write it as a story, list, haiku, plan, whatever resonates for you. We give guidance and feedback as you go, then once you’re done, you’re done and have a piece you’re proud of! $45 for the whole event.

For everyone, of all ages, sexes, situations, locations. Information and registration here. (We’re hosting the information page on our Writing Through Your Divorce site, but this retreat has nothing to do with divorce and is for everyone.) Starts December 31st at 1 pm EST, so sign up now so you can log in to the message board and be ready to hit the ground typing when we start.

Your Amazing Year Workbook 2014

I told you about this last year, and a bunch of us bought it to try it out. Last year I said, “And I was just having this feeling that I could do more this year and somehow my regular one-page list of goals wasn’t going to do it, and right them Leonie’s bright pink and purple glittery superfantastical planning tool landed right in my inbox. So I bought it, and it is no joke.”

What I love about the Your Amazing Year Workbook (both the personal and the business versions) is the structure underlying the woo-woo sparkliness. That combination worked for me, but in ways I hadn’t anticipated.

Essentially what happened for me was that I made all these goals for the year and then halfway through my vision entirely changed. So looking back at what I wrote, half of it isn’t even stuff I’m interested in right now anymore anyway. BUT. The most important thing I wrote down (which you can see if you look hard at the photo there taken of the that page in my book) absolutely happened. It was a combination of being aware of wanting it so I could change my motivations and reactions to things, and just plain being open to possibility. Who knew. Seriously. I mean, Leonie knew, which is why she wrote the book. But I didn’t.


I started a closed Facebook group for people doing the workbook, and these are some results from some of the people in the group:

Anandi Raman Creath started The Papercraft Lab (Handcrafted Memory Albums From Bits to Book) and is thriving with it.

Tiffany Noel Taylor’s business increased 300% over the previous year and she’s driving a free car from her company.

Julie Abbot Clark wrote a fiction book in a month in the hour every morning before she had to pack her kids up to get out of the house for daycare and her job.

Kristen moved to a walkable neighborhood and reorganized her entire life around that.

Jennifer was so hesitant to verbalize her goals that she didn’t write anything down in the 2013 book, but is writing down things in the 2014 book for the new year.

Shalini made an effort to surround herself with positive, energetic people and has been doing stealth acts of creativity with this gang of artists in her town.

Jillian gave herself the space and time to adjust to a new career that seemed like a mismatch at the beginning but that she’s enjoying now.

Kristina Elsayed made some shifts in her business and her jewelry-making business is now serving a broader but also more targeted audience.

Even the biggest sparkle resister in the group (who shall remain nameless) got and accepted a new job.

So I think it was a great investment of $20 for each of us.

This year, Leonie is offering the workbooks two ways:

1. A pdf download from the internet. You need to print out the pages on your own and decorate them or not, as you choose. I three-hole punch mine and keep them in a purple binder. I’m going with this option again this year so I can keep mine all in the same binder. Plus, I like the coloring-in process for help thinking. To download, click through and pay, and then you’re sent the link to download. (When you click through that link I get a kickback from your purchase.)

2. Buy the book already printed and bound from Amazon. Sources inside the Facebook group that have gotten theirs report that it’s about the size of a People magazine and is gorgeous, printed on both sides of the page (so don’t use Sharpies on it), and just super-delightful. (I’m actually thinking of buying one of the pre-printed ones from Amazon just to touch it, even though I’m committed to working with the three-hole-punch version as a working document.)


Buy the book, join the FB group, do the work in the book, and then see what happens for you this year.

A tale of parental Santa pressure

Hey, since I’m telling stories anyway, what do you think of this one?

I found out a few years ago that while my dad was growing up (in Ohio in the 1950s, with one parent who was second-generation Hungarian and one who was third-generation German), Santa Claus didn’t just bring the presents, he brought the tree, too.

The decorated tree.

The decorated live tree.

So think about this for a minute. You’re at your in-laws’ house for dinner on Christmas Eve with your young children, then you go to church and keep your kids from acting up while everyone else’s children are running wild, then you come home and wrangle your overexcited kids into bed, and wait until they’re actually asleep. And then you bring in the tree that’s been hiding behind the garage, wrestle it into the stand, put on the lights, put on all the ornaments, and put out all the presents, and fill the stockings. All as silently as possible so you didn’t wake your kids.

I am amazed my grandparents didn’t kill each other after one year of this, let alone the dozen years (at least) between when my dad was born and when his younger brother would have stopped believing in Santa.

We all know I’m about simplifying Christmas into only the things that actually bring you joy (I had another big discussion yesterday about the idea of creating magic for your kids in a way that a) you can actually do successfully, and b) is actually the magic that your kids appreciate, which is a big section of the Christmas workbook), so I’m an order in Chinese on Christmas day kind of person (who bakes a lot of cookies because that brings me joy), but this Midnight Tree Scramble seems like the Christmas activity with the least possible return on investment I’ve ever heard of.

Thoughts? Is there something with even less ROI that you’ve done (or know someone who’s done)? Did you grow up with Santa bringing the tree, and, if so, how were your parents’ moods on Christmas Day? If you don’t celebrate Christmas, does this story make you even more relieved that you don’t?

It gets better slash it could be worse

It feels like we all need a little something today, so I thought I’d share a story. The moral of the story is threefold:

1. Kids can be jerks.
2. Sometimes there is absolutely nothing to be done but laugh.
3. It gets better.


Once upon a time, when I was still in my 30s, my older son was 3.5 (you can see where this is going) and his brother was a baby. I had the little guy strapped to me and had my older guy by the hand and we were on the subway platform waiting for the train (we lived in New York City at the time). Somehow my older son and I got into an argument about something, and it turned into the kind of argument you can only have with a 3.5-year-old on the subway platform with a lot of childfree over-educated strangers staring at you while you have a baby strapped to you.

Of course, because he was 3.5, I was unable to calm him down, so things were escalating when the train arrived. We stood clear to let the people off the train, and then we got onto the train, and the doors to the train closed, and just as the train started moving, my 3.5-year-old looked me straight in the eye, bent down, and LICKED THE FLOOR OF THE SUBWAY CAR.


Half the people on the car laughed, and the other half recoiled in complete revulsion. I was at a loss. It was diabolical genius on the part of my son: he’d never been told not to lick the subway, so he wasn’t misbehaving, per se. But he knew it was going to send me over the edge. And it kind of did. That was probably the day I realized that some days I was really just along for the ride.

Flash forward eight years: That child has an incredible immune system and rarely gets sick. He easily navigates public transportation, even in new cities. And he likes to do things he knows will make me happy, like making me the cup of coffee in the picture up at the top of this post.

So. Some days you lick the subway floor, and some days the subway floor licks you. And it gets better.

Hang in there.

Divorce support and some reminders for this time of year

Deesha and I are thrilled to announce the release of our new Writing Through Your Divorce workbooks! If you’re interested in processing your feelings about your divorce by writing through them, one of these workbooks is for you. (There’s one for you if there was no infidelity in your marriage, one if your partner had an affair, and one if you had an a affair.) $15 each, downloadable as e-books. Buy one for yourself or give them as gifts to friends who need them.

On Sunday night I slipped on the ice and went down on my tailbone. When I woke up yesterday it felt really bruised, and all my muscles and soft tissue from my tailbone up to my neck were torqued and messed up. I’m feeling a lot better today (I took a lot of ibuprofen and fish oil yesterday to bring down the inflammation), but a bruised tailbone is no joke. Be careful out there!

This is a super-stressful week for almost all of us for a variety of reasons. Here are some reminders of things that you already know:

1. You are fantastic. Really. You’re doing a great job under adverse conditions.

2. People over tasks. When there’s a choice to be made, your life will be better if you snuggle someone instead of doing something. (At work, substitute “listen to someone’s work-related problem” for “snuggle.”)

3. I’m officially giving you permission to be in any kind of mood you want to be in. If that means being super-peppy, awesome. If that means that you’re not even remotely “in the Christmas spirit,” equally awesome. Don’t street harass yourself by forcing yourself to smile if you don’t feel like it.

4. Christmas is coming in 8 days, no matter what you do. Consider being kind to yourself as a gift to yourself and the world.

5. Drink a glass of water right now.

Who’s got some stress right now?

Screaming at midnight

You might think this post is about you, based on the title, but no, it’s about Paola’s kid. She writes:

“So, my second boy, who is 10 months today, has for the past months, off and on, but mostly on, been waking up around midnight screaming murder.  It usually takes him about an hour to settle him down but sometimes as long as two hours.  

At first I thought it was teething pain or an earache but his teeth have broken through and he doesn’t have an earache.  I no longer think he is in physical pain because neither motrin/tylenol help.  I should also mention he had reflux, for which he received medication for about 6 months but I believe its under control now. he also doesn’t appear to be in pain during the day.  

Any ideas of what it could be?  Any insight would be appreciated.”

Does this sound like night terrors? I feel like I have a blind spot for night terrors similar to my blind spot for the slope formula. Like, I can tell you that y = mx + b, but every time I want to graph something I have to walk through what actually goes where. (This is why I didn’t do so well in MBA Econ until we got to Game Theory.)

Anyway, I feel like every time we talk about night terrors I’m all “Ohhhhh, yeahhhh…” as my mind slowly grinds around it, in a way that never happens when we’re talking about pacifiers or teething or tension increasing/releasing or tantrums or navigating fifth grade friendships.

But the fact that neither Tylenol nor Motrin is doing anything to stop the screaming makes me think it’s not physical pain. Otherwise I’d say that if it’s at a certain time every night, check what he’s eating or when, and see if that’s it. (One of my kids went through a period of waking up screaming at the same time every night for a week, and then I realized he’d been eating ketchup at 7 pm all of those days and it was probably the acid. Stopped the tomato products that late and the waking went away. 1. Duh, and 2. Ronald Reagan said ketchup is a vegetable so it’s between me and God.)

So I think this leaves us with night terrors, right? Fortunately, the last time we talked about night terrors, commenter Melinda cracked it for us (inasmuch as there’s no actual real way to prevent it):

“Night terrors are related to sleep walking and there is a genetic component. If others in your family have walked in their sleep you are more likely to have children who do the same and/or have night terrors. It does not have to do with dreaming but something to do with changing from one sleep stage to another. They usually occur around one hour from going to sleep. The best advice I’ve seen is to rouse the baby/child before the normal time the terror happens. In older kids you can have them use the bathroom. For the little ones maybe just pick them up. They won’t usually wake up fully but it will be enough to disrupt the terror.My oldest (now 8) have them from around 3 to 5 and I did not know the above until the end. Boy do they suck!”

So if it is night terrors, maybe waking him right before he usually wakes will help.

If it’s not night terrors, I’m not sure what it is, since you’ve ruled out the physical stuff.

What do you all think, readers? What am I missing, or does this sound like night terrors?