Category Archives: Lessons Learned

No Donuts (or is it doughnuts?)

It’s cold out there, my friends.

Now, I know many people are complaining and even shocked about the cold. Not me. It is winter after all, and in many places of the world, that means cold. It does not, incidentally, have anything to do with the earth moving away from the sun, as many of us were taught in school. Weather is actually affected by the tilt of the earth in relation to the sun. But, I’ll leave that discussion to my husband, the science teacher/microbiology major, and I’ll stick with silly anecdotes which may or may not be sprinkled with tidbits of wisdom, or at least humor. Maybe.

I grew up in Southern California but have spent my adult years in Utah, so if anyone gets to complain about the cold, it’s me. But I don’t. Oh sure, I may cry a little when I get into a cold car, or I may feel like swearing when my fingers fall off as I shovel the driveway. But that’s not complaining, exactly. I’m simply experiencing winter in my own, wimpy California girl way.

But I love it. I do. Honestly. I was the child who would look out the window at the palm tree in my front yard and wish it were a pine tree. I would sigh as I mowed the lawn in December, wishing it were covered in a blanket of white. I dreamed, nay, prayed for a white Christmas. And though I loved the Christmas days where my family would play baseball at the local park, a part of me longed to “be up north” if you will.

Now, this is not a post about winter and how lucky I am to actually have them now. Because, really, instead of mowing, we’re shoveling and instead of sweating, we’re freezing. But its’s aaalll good.

With all this snow we’ve been getting lately, I have been reminded of a little story from high school that makes me smile, and maybe it will make you smile, too.

It was February and I was a freshman sitting in the 6th and final period of the day–geometry with Mr. Herman. (“Are ya with?”) Anyway, it had been a cold day, and I don’t mean Southern California cold. It was cold enough that my hoodie that I wore from December to February and parts of March was actually not enough to keep me warm. Crazy. I know.

Mr. Herman had just slid one side of his white board over with his usual gusto to reveal the clean side on which he would teach us more about parallelograms, or tell a little joke about the word “assume,” when I looked out the window. Beautiful little flurries of white were falling from the sky! I love how snow has the ability to make people of all ages behave like three-year-olds. We–our class of fourteen to sixteen-year-olds–stood up and gasped and ooh-ed and ahh-ed. Poor Mr. Herman struggled to get us back in our seats, though his mustached mouth twitched as he fought back a smile.

At that moment, an announcement crackled over the PA system. “Students and teachers, school will be let out early today on account of the snow.” Cheers erupted and Mr. Herman could no longer hide his smile. We jammed our books and folders into our Jansports and began lining up at the door, waiting for our blessed release.

“All right, everyone. Have a fun day. But no donuts in the parking lot,” Mr. Herman said.

We all looked at each other in confusion. What was wrong with donuts in the parking lot? Did someone bring donuts? Where are these donuts?? Was there a better way to celebrate our early release from school than donuts in the parking lot??

We filed out of the classroom as Mr. Herman shook his head.

Alas, there were no donuts in the parking lot. A small part of me hoped that the school would provide us with some, or one of the kids might open their trunk to reveal of stash of donuts for just such an occasion. But it was not to be. I climbed onto the front bench seat of our huge gray suburban next to my older sister, who had her hands clenched at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel.

“Have you heard about donuts in the parking lot?” I asked her.

“You mean like food donuts, or when you spin your car around to make donuts in the snow?”

My cheeks burned and I looked out the window. “Well, yeah, the snow donuts.”

Thankfully, she left it at that and I spent the rest of the ride home sighing in relief that I hadn’t asked anyone else about the donuts in the parking lot. As soon as we got home, our California family turned on Christmas music, turned on “White Christmas,” and drank hot chocolate . . . without donuts.

Safety first.


Shake it off

I may or may not be writing this because I received my first one-star review–not that I’m insecure enough to check or anything, and not that I shed a tear, or two…or thirty-eight over said review or anything as pathetic as that. OK, I read the reviews, all right?!?! Am I not human?! Do I not have moments of weakness?! I know I shouldn’t check, but I’m enough of an amateur to justify it. Thankfully, I have Taylor Swift to help me through these hard times and baby I’m just gonna shake it off, shake, shake, shake shake if off. Apparently haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.

Anyway, I also have a cold which makes me irrational, tired, and insanely stuffy which means I couldn’t sleep last night which also means I was forced to think. As I dozed–alternating between breathing out of my mouth which became painfully dry to then closing my mouth to breath out of my nose which really meant I was dying a slow, suffocating death–I pondered on the fascinating predicament I am in as a “writer.” I put that in quotes because it feels like I’m faking it whenever I say that. Fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake.

The predicament is this: I have no control over whether people like my little book or not. I knew this going in. It scared me to death that something I wrote late at night in my holey jammies could someday be held in someone’s hands I had never met before…and they could HATE it! And me! And my words! And my family! And my dog! I wanted to meet everyone who read my book and plead for their compassion. I wanted to look into their eyes to show them I was a human being with feelings and flaws and insecurities and beg them to be nice to me. Alas, that would not only be impossible, but it just might have come off as scary. Really scary.

So, the leap of faith had to be taken, for which I will forever grateful. I have not only learned a lot about myself, but a lot about other people. Once I get over my despair upon discovering someone didn’t like the book, (just kidding…kind of) I get a chance to think of where they might be coming from. People who like the book may have had lives similar to mine, while those who don’t like it could be coming from a completely different place. Or maybe I am a crappy writer…

Shake it off. Shake it off.

For example. I have had a few people tell me that the stepmother is almost too wicked to be believable. This actually makes me happy. It makes me happy because that most likely means that they haven’t known anyone that “wicked.” They may be surprised to  know that the stepmother is based on 2 or 3 real, live people I have known and that I actually had to hold back in order to make her more “believable.” While other people have said, “That sounded just like ________ in my life. She was just like that!”

We all have our own reasons for thinking something is good or bad. I remember the first time I read “Pride and Prejudice” as a  freshman in college during finals week. I threw it across the room. Seriously. I did throw it softly, though, because I was borrowing it. I simply did not have the patience for it. Just tell me the story, Jane!! Geez! I could also have hated it because I wanted something nice and easy to read between studying, but instead it made me think too much and hurt my brain and infuriated me. Anyway, I read it again about fifteen years later while I nursed my baby and watched my kids play outside. I. Loved. It. Now, I’m not saying that if only people would read my book in relaxing, beautiful surroundings they’ll fall in love with it, I’m just saying we’re all coming from different places and that effects how we feel about everything. They also could have plain old hated it, and that’s cool. It’s not Jane Austen, for heaven’s sake!

I’m not a harsh critic. Maybe I’m too easily entertained or small-minded, but when I see a book, and I’m all like, “A book!” and I read it. Very rarely do I hate it enough to throw it across the room–you know, unless it’s a classic that’s loved, quoted, and renowned the whole world over. Just those ones. But other people are harsh critics and they have every right to be. That’s where they’re coming from. They may have impeccable taste, or simply be in a bad mood, or they genuinely thought the book was stupid, and they can go right ahead and feel that way. It’s just fascinating that some can love it and have it change their lives, while others hate it and throw it across the room. Heartbreakers gonna break, break, break, break, break.

It’s all in the eye of the reader. And when I say ‘eye’ I mean heart, mind, circumstances, past, feelings, surroundings, joys, sorrows, likes, dislikes. I’ve always know this, it just has new meaning to me. And this isn’t just about writing and putting a book out there. Everyone has a story. Everyone has talents and hopes and dreams that the rest of the world needs to hear and see and feel. But, we may get scared and hold ourselves back because we’re worried we might fail, or that other people might not like what we created.

Guess what I’m gonna say. Baby, shake it off.





A Walk Down Memory Lane with my dear Mary Janes

I was seventeen. It was summer. It was Southern California. It was hot. Super hot.

I had spent my Saturday morning at a special class for really cool kids. Ok, it was traffic school. It was my second of two classes and I learned the week before that the teacher liked to keep the room at a frigid -2 degrees. Ok, it was more like 62 degrees. I had shivered for four long hours in my t-shirt and shorts, so this week I was prepared. I wore jeans and a huge, dark blue sweatshirt. My legs were sheathed in socks that went up to my knees, which may or may not have been my brother’s. My ensemble, or any ensemble for that matter, would not have been complete without my Doc Marten Mary Janes, which I fastened with care.  I dried and straightened my hair so that it provided another layer of warmth and then, and only then, was I ready to learn. To be a learner of things.

I drove home from my special class for really cool kids in good spirits. I had caught up with a few friends from days of yore, namely Jen Hanley who had gotten a ticket for unnecessary honking. Yeah, it’s a thing. We had laughed more than most people do at traffic school, I would assume, but I think it warmed our blood just enough for us to fight off the frostbite. I think everyone should get to go to traffic school at least once in their life.

I drove in the fast lane doing 80, because I was seventeen, in my family’s gray beast of a Suburban. I had dutifully put five whole dollars of gas in only the day before, so you can imagine my shock when the Burban started sputtering and losing power. I clenched the steering wheel with my thawing fingers. This wasn’t the first time I had run out of gas–just my first time while on the freeway. I miraculously crossed through all the lanes of traffic, going about 15 mph, and the steering gave out as soon as I was safely parked on the shoulder.

I sat there for a minute, then pried my shaking hands off the steering wheel–or Circle of Life, it could be called. I was about a mile and a half from my exit. The cars zoomed by me at what could only be described as California Speed. I looked around at the desolation all around me and saw only one option. I would have to walk.

I opened the car door and the hot wind burned my face off. Clean off. I locked the door and felt a swoosh as a car sped by just feet from where I was. Oh sure, walking was a dumb idea, but I was seventeen. That was all I had. I found out later that walking on the freeway is, like, illegal or something. But I was coming home from traffic school. What the heck was I supposed to know about laws of the road and such?!?

Now, imagine if you will. It is about 110 degrees outside and you’re driving along with your air conditioning blasting your eyeballs into ice and you see a girl walking along the freeway dressed for a Southern California winter. And if you’re from where I’m from and you’re a guy, the only logical thing to do is to roll down your window and hurl insults in the form of compliments (or compliments in the form of insults) at her. Yes, I saw many a dashing young gangster-wanna-be hanging out his window yelling things at me that made me blush, which only made me hotter, which only made me madder. The adults were kinder. They simply honked at me and looked at me like I was an idiot, and I was grateful.

I kept my eyes focused on my Mary Janes–their gentle pit-pats offering a kind of solace in the arid heat of my humiliation. My poor bangs that had once been perfectly curled under were now plastered to my sticky forehead and my hair hung unforgivingly down my back and I was dismayed that I didn’t have one single scrunchie on my person. Once I reached the Automall, I knew I was getting close. I walked down the off-ramp, where humans are not meant to be and dashed across the busy street, my Mary Janes sticking to the asphalt and making a slurping sound with each step like I was walking in boiling mud. Somewhere along the way I had rolled up my sleeves. I’m sure that simple act may have prevented me from dying of heat stroke–having my forearms exposed and everything.

I was so happy to be off the freeway until I realized I had at least another mile to my house. I barely remember that part of my trek. Perhaps it was because I didn’t have cars zipping by every few seconds to keep it life-threateningly interesting.

But, I do remember walking up to my house. My dad was working in the garage and he looked up with an expression that said, “Um, you’re missing something.” Maybe it was the huge gray Suburban I was supposed to be riding in. Just a hunch.

I told him what happened and I could tell he was battling amusement and bewilderment. He might have been angry if I had been the oldest, but since I was my parents’ fourth teenager, they probably would have been more surprised if I had arrived safely to the house driving the same car I had left in. He grabbed the gas can and we got in Red Ned Nissan–the Pathfinder I had almost totaled the year before. I’m an excellent driver, I promise. No, really.

We got on the freeway, and what had taken me a good hour or two and about four-and-a-half gallons of sweat and shame, took us about five or ten minutes. We pulled up behind the Burban and Dad got out the gas can. As he was walking to fill ‘er up, he started laughing.

About two feet away from where I was parked was a call box. Now, if you’ve never seen a call box, it’s a cute, friendly blue box placed about every mile or so along the freeway. This adorable box houses a handy little telephone. You simply pick up the phone and it automatically calls the police if you’re stranded, or you, say, have run out of gas, and they will quickly come to your aid. I had walked and sweated and been yelled at and honked at and had just felt plain old stupid on my long walk home. But it was nothing compared to the stupid I felt at that moment. Help had been waiting for me to see it; calling to me, if you will, and I had missed it.

I learned a lesson that day that has stuck with me, which is why I’m writing about it now, an obscene eighteen years later. There are so many times in life where we’re stuck and we can see no other option than the most ridiculous, extravagant solution. Sometimes it’s stubbornness or pride or even inexperience that gets in our way, when if we would just look around us and remember the basics, help is only a phone call away.


And when I say literally, I do mean literally. Except when I mean figuratively, such as when a phone could represent a friend, or a good piece of advice, or . . . you know what I mean. Pick up the phone!!