No-shopping January

When I read an article in the New York Times in December about a woman who didn’t shop for a year, I sent it to Chase, finding it interesting but not thinking too much about it. At the time, I was too busy Christmas shopping and holiday party prepping. I was busy spending money.

But something hit me after the new year. I’m not sure why or how or when, but I’ve become an absentminded shopper. I should preface this by saying, I don’t wander through stores and spend thousands of dollars on high-end items. In fact, I very rarely go to the mall, and if I do, it’s for a very specific item. I don’t even like shopping.

It’s a crime of opportunity, really. I’m at Nordstrom Rack to get Avery new shoes. I see cute pajamas, and they’re on the clearance rack. Then I’m at Target for toothpaste and see cute home decor. The price points of these items won’t put us in the poorhouse or get us into credit card debt. Most of my mindless purchases are about $20. But if you buy 20 things for $20 in a month, it’s $400 gone. Really quickly.

What can $400 buy me? A plane ticket. A nice hotel room. Tickets to a concert. Experiences. And this is how Chase and I want to spend our money. But instead I was wasting it on tank tops or dish towels.

I could make all the excuses in the world. “I work hard. I deserve it.” But at the end of the day, I didn’t need those things. What I needed was to be more thoughtful about my spending. So on Jan. 1, I started “no-shopping January.” Of course I bought groceries and toothpaste, but I didn’t wander beyond the aisles of the items we truly needed. I stayed away from Nordstrom Rack. I ran into Nordstrom to get a birthday gift and went straight to the jewelry counter and right back out to my car. As Facebook and Instagram taunted me with their adorable outfits and post-Christmas sales, I kept scrolling.

At first, it was hard. I wondered, why am I doing this? We do not have unlimited funds, but my Rodan + Fields income has given us more wiggle room in our budget, so why shouldn’t I buy things when I like them? But that was it. I didn’t necessarily love these things, and I definitely didn’t need them. I bought them because they were in my sightline in a store or just a quick click away online.

Research shows that it takes 21 days to break (or form) a habit. After 31 days, I have to say, I’m much more mindful about my shopping. Chase and the kids were gone this weekend, and I had to return things at Costco and Ulta. I didn’t wander around like I used to, seeing if there was something I wanted. A friend was going to Home Goods, and I almost asked if I could tag along but remembered I didn’t need anything.

So am I going to be like the New York Times writer and not shop all year? No way. In fact, I already bought myself something for Valentine’s Day. But it was something I thought about for more than a hot second, something I really love. For 2018 (and hopefully coming years too), I’m being more thoughtful about my spending.

I can’t wait to see where the extra plane tickets I buy (with the money I save) will take us this year!

Word of the Year: Push

I love the fresh start that a new year brings. I’ve never been one for “resolutions,” but I typically set a few goals. They’ve been a mix of personal and career intentions. The past couple of years, after listening to business training calls, I’ve decided to choose a single “word” to define my intentions for the year – with the hopes of making this year better than the last.

But the truth is, I don’t remember what I chose as last year’s word. So clearly it was not significant enough to make it through 365 days and change my life forever. But this year is different. The first thing I thought when I woke up on Jan. 1 was that 2018 is an important year – the year I turn 40. So if I’m going to make one of these years my best yet, it might as well be this one, right?

So last week, I listened to a training exercise designed to help me pick my word. I was driving at sunset thinking the breathtaking winter sky would reveal my word. No such luck. I went home and made dinner, still uninspired.

Chase took the kids to a birthday party yesterday, and I stayed home to get our lives organized before the kids go back to school tomorrow. After making a lot of progress – and needing fresh air – I decided to go for a run.

For the past few years I’ve only run about once a week. I rarely go fast or far these days, but yesterday, something was different. When I headed toward my familiar route, something told me to take a different turn, down a path I haven’t run since my early 30s. As I took that turn, the dog looked up at me, excited to try something new. We continued down the trail and while there were many spots to turn off to make our route shorter, we kept going. At the point where we began running straight uphill, instead of slowing down (like I usually do), I pushed myself and sped up. We made it all the way up the hill, where we could have turned to head back home on flat ground. But I turned around and started back down the hill. I paused for a minute (when I took the picture above) to enjoy the view (and catch my breath) and suddenly…my word came to me.

My word for 2018 is push. For almost 20 years, I’ve given 150 percent at my day job. But I haven’t pushed myself the way I should anywhere else. Not with exercise. Not with my side business. Not at home. Not spiritually. For my entire career, I’ve given more to my job than to anything else in my life. So, in 2018, the year I turn 40, I’m in a good place with my career. I worked very hard to get the promotion I got this year. I’m glad I pushed. I will continue to work hard. But this year, I’m going to push harder in other areas of my life.

When I’m tired and want to watch TV or go to bed instead of working on my business, I will push.

When I leave work late and it’s easier to pick up food than go home and make something healthy, I will push.

When I’m sick of burpees or planks, and I want to quit and get in the shower, I will push.

When I was up too late the night before and don’t want to get out of bed for church on Sunday mornings, I will push.

When I feel strongly about something, I will push.

Why do I want to push for these things ? Because they will get me where I want to be – financially, physically, spiritually and emotionally. And what better year to do that, but in my 40th year? I just need to push. Every damn day of 2018.


Being a (good type of) quitter

I saw this on a friend’s Facebook wall at the beginning of the year and without telling many people, adopted it as my mantra for 2017, with one addition, “making my family happy.” Over the past nine months, I’ve been busy doing exactly the opposite of what my parents taught me. I became a quitter.

People like me are everywhere, particularly in my suburban neighborhood. By “like me” I mean moms who say yes to too many things, feel stressed and rushed ALL THE TIME. So much pressure (internal and external) to look perfect, be perfect and have the perfect children. I worry that at some point all these “perfect” moms will reach their breaking point. I flirted with that line for some time before recognizing it. Or at least before I hit it too hard, fell flat on my face and couldn’t get back up.

One by one, I quit things. Things that took me away from this mantra. Things that didn’t make my family happy. Things that didn’t make me better. Things that didn’t make me happy. Especially the things that made me downright miserable.

So maybe you’re wondering, what did I quit?

I quit my barre studio, which was probably the hardest. I met so many wonderful women there. I love the owner and supporting a local, mom-owned business. I loved the way my body looked and felt. But in the past year, my mind wasn’t clear when I took the nearly 90 minutes out of my day to go to a class. While these classes used to be an escape for me (I even wrote a post about this), as kids’ sports and homework piled up, I was always thinking I needed to be home after work not at the studio. Don’t confuse this with mom guilt. That’s not it. It’s pure necessity. Homework needs to be done. Kids need to get to practice. I need to feed my family. Truth is, I miss the people and the workout. I could very well go back. But for now I’m working out at home, before the kids wake up (which in case you are wondering, is really early).

I quit packing the kids a “healthy” lunch every day. Sometimes they can buy lunch. School lunch a few days a week won’t kill them. And believe me, we’re happy to have one less thing to worry about on already frantic mornings.

I quit the board for the kids’ school foundation. While I want to help support the school we love, it started to feel too much like my day job. I’m happy to help when I can, but I can’t take on more work right now.

I quit trying to come up with new things to cook for dinner. My family is not very picky, they like healthy foods. I went through a phase (probably because of seeing recipes on social media) when I tried a lot of new things. I spent a lot of time and money getting ingredients, and the response was not overwhelmingly positive. Not that they didn’t like it, but they didn’t like it any better than the less expensive, easier options. So I quit. I make the things I know we like. Makes shopping easier and takes less time. When we go out to eat we can try new things. Otherwise I’m good with turkey tacos and cauliflower rice stir fry.

Even more recently, I pretty much quit cooking all together. I found a food delivery service that brings ALREADY PREPARED FOOD to my house every Sunday. I just warm it up on the night we want to eat it. Is it cheap? No. But is it worth it to be more present with my family, whether for homework or fun? Yes, it is.

I quit grocery shopping. I occasionally run into the store for an item or two, but long gone are the days I’d walk in with a long list. Partially because I buy prepared food and the kids buy lunch more. But also because I’m okay with Chase shopping too. He can run to Costco at lunch or the store on his way home. Sure, it may cost me more because he’s more likely to make impulse buys, but it’s a tradeoff I’m willing to make.

I quit cleaning my house. Oh gosh, who are we kidding? I quit doing that the day Clay was born. I will pick up and wipe things down, but that’s it. I don’t do bathrooms. I don’t dust. I quit.

I will never quit working on myself, but in recent years I’ve quit caring so much about what other people think. A friend joked on my birthday last week (when I turned 39), that once I was in my 40s I wouldn’t give a crap what others think. I was a little early to that party. It’s the beauty of getting older.

Did I quit wanting the best for my friends and family and doing whatever I can to maximize my time with them? Absolutely not. And I never will. I’m the good kind of quitter.

With this ring…

Though I’m a writer, I had no interest in writing my own wedding vows. It was partially my preference to utter the same words that our parents and grandparents did, following tradition. Another part of me was scared I would be too emotional, and I would be sniffling through the whole thing. Or that, in true writer form, I would want to edit what I wrote, after my deadline had passed. So, we went with traditional wedding vows.

Since that day, 11 years ago tomorrow, parts of those vows pop in my head at random times. Lately, it’s been “with this ring, I thee wed.”

I’m not a big jewelry person, but was thrilled the day we went out on a boat ride, and Chase asked me to marry him, with a diamond ring in hand. It was fun to pick a wedding band to match. One of my favorite wedding photos is of me looking up at him as he slipped the ring onto my left ring finger. At the time, I saw the rings as a physical symbol of marriage, but I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the meaning of the rings – or those words. I liked my new jewelry and went about married life.

Last year for our 10-year anniversary, I mentioned to Chase that I’d like a second band to go with my engagement ring and wedding band. He tricked me while I was having some work done on my rings and had our jeweler make me one. He surprised me on Christmas morning. It was beautiful, I was excited about the extra sparkle but still wasn’t that focused on the symbolism of it. If only I knew.

Before Chase bought me the new ring, I took my rings off each night for bed. I didn’t bother putting them on to exercise. Didn’t wear them at the pool or beach. Turns out having them fused together made my rings tighter, and I’ve since changed my routine and wear them all the time. It changed my habits, as well as my attitude toward the rings. They’re more important to me now than they’ve ever been.

The rings are now tighter. Unmovable. Part of me. A constant reminder of the of the vows we made 11 years ago – for better or worse, in sickness and health. We’ve had our share of all of that the past few years. As we travel though life’s ups and downs, the rings represent the promises we made. To be here, together. Wearing these rings. Riding the waves. We’ve had many days of work stress, sick parents, strained relationships around us and so many kids’ activities that we have no time for ourselves. But we’ve also had days of pure joy. Family, friends, vacation, work success, watching the kids grow into good people. Life is a f-ing roller coaster, but as these rings tightened around my finger, I strengthened the grip on my marriage.

11 years is something to be proud of, but it’s just a start. We have a long way to go, but I have no doubt we’ll get there. With this ring…



I’ve had people tell me they couldn’t live in San Diego because we don’t have seasons. It’s true that our seasons are all fairly mild, but throughout the year we do see a change from my perfect temperature (77 degrees), to a little too hot or a little too cold. Occasionally (especially this past winter) it rains. It’s often cloudy at the beach. So despite what you see on TV, it’s not always perfect.

Kind of like the seasons of life. I’ve found myself comparing the two a lot this week, with the blooming of my favorite (So Cal) tree, the jacaranda. I remember May 2004 when I was finishing grad school in D.C. and coming to California, with the hopes of moving here. I landed in L.A. for work meetings, where I first discovered the jacaranda. I was staying in Pasadena, where they lined the streets. They weren’t quite cherry blossoms, but I found myself drawn to them. They were blooming at a time in my life that, like it was for the tree, seemed like a time of renewal. A time of opportunity and change and a fresh start.

Each May, these trees bloom in a season that for me, personally, has historically brought so much change. In 2006, I was planning my wedding. In 2008, Clay was born at their full peak. In 2010, as their flowers popped up, I was trying to keep my act together after giving birth to my second child and losing my dad in a two-week timespan. The next few years were a blur. But I always noticed the jacarandas as we spent time at parks and ball fields, in a different season of life. In 2013, on Clay’s birthday, I lost my job. More change. A few years passed, relatively uneventful. Now as I’m driving or walking past my favorite tree, it’s another season of change. Transitions at my day job. Huge growth in my business. Family health concerns. Unexpected challenges. Big kids.

Seasons are unpredictable. So is life. Sometimes it can be so good you’re pinching yourself thinking how lucky you are. And then quickly followed by one change that can literally send you to your knees, wondering what’s next.

So what does this season hold? I don’t know. It could be 60 and drizzly, like it is today. Or 80 and sunny like it’s supposed to be next week. It could be a day where everything in life seems perfect or a day that absolutely nothing goes right.

I do know one thing. Those jacarandas bloom every May, regardless of what’s going on in life. We can’t control the seasons. Or life. So enjoy those pretty purple flowers. It’s their season. And yours.

Halfway there

Today my munchkin is nine. At close to five feet tall, I guess he’s not really a munchkin anymore. The name fit better when he was a scrawny preemie, or even as a 1-year-old whose pants fell down because he was so skinny. Now he’s the biggest kid on his baseball team, even though he’s one of the youngest. When I look at him now, I don’t see a little boy. He’s a big kid.

I’m often reminded how quickly the time with our children goes by. People say it all the time, but I know now how true it is. The time you have with your kids is fast and fleeting. We’re halfway done. Nine years from now, Clay will have just made his final decision on where to attend college, and he’ll be planning that next step. Getting ready to leave me and Chase and Avery, to go onto his next adventure.

Until then, I’m soaking it all up. Every moment. When he grabs my hand walking through the Target parking lot. When I hear him say to his sister, completely out of the blue, “I love you, Avery.” When he tries to fit his huge body onto Chase’s lap at a party. When he comes home from school and immediately goes to hug the dog. When a friend makes a great play in a game, and he’s as excited for them as he would be if he made the play himself.

This kid. He’s so even-keeled, much like his dad. I know he gets disappointed and angry like all boys his age, but he (usually) handles it well. Also like his dad, he’s a good communicator. I hope this never changes. When that sweet boy is mad or sad, I hope he will always talk to us, the way he does now.

I hope he’ll always defend his sister. And continue to be nice to everyone. Not just his close group of friends, but all of the kids. I hope he’ll always be a good teammate. A strong leader, driven to do the right thing. I hope his favorite things will always be family vacations and a good meal together.

The funny thing about working with teenagers is that I watch some of them and think, “I want my kid to be like that kid.” And the beauty of this halfway point? I think Clay is well on his way.

Happy 9th birthday to my munchkin!

Lucky #7

I started this blog five years ago, on Avery’s second birthday. In many ways it feels like an eternity has passed. An eternity that’s gone by in a blink of an eye. For years I wrote regularly, but as life took its twists and turns, blog posts became less frequent. But I’ll never miss a birthday post. It’s the way I document my kids growing up. Celebrating the little people, who’ve become big people so quickly.

Today is lucky #7 for my Avery. Oh, Avery. She takes my breath away sometimes. Her beauty and independence. Her passion. I often just watch her, sometimes frustrated, but always proud. She’s a strong little girl. She never tires, she’s up for anything, at any time. She has so many interests I can hardly keep them straight – dancing, singing, painting, soccer, swimming, dolls and animals. Her “favorite thing” changes with the wind, with the exception of the stuffed sea turtle that she’s clung to tightly to since her brother picked him out for her first birthday (and this year, she finally stopped sucking her thumb when sleeping with “Turtle”).

She’s one of those kids who is good at most things she tries. The type of kid I envied when I was young, wondering why everything came so easily to them. Besides some natural athletic and vocal ability (which she did not get from me), the reason Avery is good at things is because she’s willing to try anything. She gives 100 percent to all that she does. She’s not worried about what others think. She puts her heart into everything. She wants to do well. Good things happen to her because of that positive energy and hard work. I can only hope that continues with age.

As much as she loves being active, she values relationships above all else. She’s a good friend and sister. She has many “best friends” and a “boyfriend” and more than once I’ve seen her come to their defense. Kids can be mean, so watch out if you’re mean to one of Avery’s friends. Her brother is her true best friend. They still share a bed and on most Saturday mornings, we wake up to find them cuddled together on the couch. Even if they’re watching different “shows,” they’re under a blanket on the same couch cushion. Messy hair and sleepy smiles. For each other and for us.

We’re in a hotel room in L.A., after a fun birthday celebration at the American Girl store yesterday. We’re taking off to Florida today for our first-ever spring break trip. Beach time and junk food and family and friends. What a great way to celebrate lucky #7, for our very special Avery Gracie. Happy birthday, baby girl. We love you.


Things we take for granted

img_7676I’m the first to admit, I’ve done my share of complaining the past couple of weeks. I got sick on what was supposed to be a fun business trip, I worked a really long week last week and now we’re living in a construction zone because of work we’re having done on our house. Like every fall, when things are NUTS at work and home, I’m tired. I’ve missed out on activities for my kids. But really, how much do I take for granted? A LOT.

So that work trip? It was in Las Vegas! I saw amazing friends and business partners. I attended fantastic business sessions put on by a company that I am proud to represent, knowing we are on our way to becoming a billion dollar brand. So what if I puked (repeatedly) in my lovely hotel room bathroom? I’m healthy now. Some are not so lucky.

And work. Nearly 30 hours over two days is a lot. But how many people would take my place in a heartbeat? How many families are struggling to pay the bills while I put on a cocktail dress and chat with fascinating alumni of the amazing school where I am fortunate to work? I followed that event up having drinks with wonderful colleagues before spending the night at my in-laws’ beach house, so I could get a good night’s sleep. Though exhuasting at times, it’s hardly a rough gig.

My house. It’s a mess because I’m getting new floors. Something I’ve wanted since we moved in six years ago! It took some time to pick up for the installers, and the dust in there will make it feel like we’ve moved to the desert, but it’s going to look amazing, and we are lucky to have a roof over our heads, in a great neighborhood, in America’s finest city.

Missed kids’ activities. I missed three weekends of sports. Military parents and those with other work commitments miss out on far more. Others are not healthy enough to attend their kids’ games. I’ll be fine – and so will my kids.

I’ve written about this before, but as we are in this crazy fall, coming upon a season of thanksgiving and gratitude, I needed to write to remind myself to not take all I have for granted. For those who are struggling, in any aspect of your life, know that I’m thinking of you. And for those of you who get overwhelmed like I do – even though deep down you know how lucky you are – I understand. Let’s get through this crazy season together!

You’re here – for once

FullSizeRenderThere is no greater range of emotions than those felt by parents on a daily basis. “I love her so much my heart could explode” can turn into “that child is a f-ing lunatic” in a matter of moments. Multiple times per day. Only someone you love this much could make a non-bipolar person feel both the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

I had a work retreat yesterday, at a resort north of town. It was finished early, so I surprised the kids by picking them up right after school instead of from after-school care. I hid under a tree near Avery’s classroom, and her little face when she walked out and saw me could have lit up a room. She shrieked and jumped into my arms. We spun around and had a minute of pure bliss. I put her down for her to grab her backpack, and as we were walking away, she nonchalantly said, “You’re here – for once!”


She might as well have punched me in the stomach. I wanted to respond, indignantly. I wanted to shout: “I pick you up at 4:00, it’s not like you’re here all night!” “I’m at every special event at school!” “I took a vacation day to dress up as the Statue of Liberty’s for your brother’s class!” “I took the job I have, so I could have flexibility for my kids.”

Coincidentally, “active listening” was the topic in our sessions that morning. So instead of responding, I bit my tongue.

The truth is, the school year for me is just as busy as it is for them. So it’s true – I’m rarely there at 2:30. She was just stating the obvious, not intending to hurt my feelings.

So while my initial reaction was sadness and feeling defensive, I had to remind myself that Avery doesn’t care how often I’m there right at 2:30. She knows I’m there when it matters. She knows I do work I love and when she grows up she will remember me, like Chelsea Clinton remembers Hillary, that “regardless of what was happening in her life, she was always there for me.”

I hope both of my kids find passion in their careers. I hope that passion is strong enough to keep Avery in the workforce, even when she has children (assuming that’s what she wants to do). I hope that when her daughter says something flippantly, in a moment of excitement, that she doesn’t take it too personally.

At the end of the day, I know she knows I’ll be there for her forever, not for once. Forever just might not start at 2:30 on weekdays.


55171_20130823_211126_tumblr_mrykh5NxST1qh77fdo1_500When things go just a little bit wrong in life, it’s so easy to feel sorry for yourself – or to complain about it. For some reason, minor life challenges have bothered me lately more than they should. Maybe it’s the post-vacation blues. Maybe it’s the pending start of another school year, which means craziness at home and at work.

I’ve told myself to have some perspective. But telling yourself to do something and actually doing it are two very different things.

Yesterday morning, a friend finished up her last breast cancer treatment, after a difficult year. Her best friend (who is also my friend) recently started chemo to treat the same terrible disease – and faces a year of challenges ahead.

Later in the day, a friend had skin cancer removed, at the same time she is dealing with a family member’s health issues.

Today, my boss called me at 6:30 a.m. When you work in communications, early morning phone calls from the boss can only mean one thing: crisis communication. A beloved teacher at our school passed away suddenly last night, while on vacation with his family. I felt physically ill as tears came to my eyes. He has two teenage children and my heart breaks for them.

The past two days have been a slap in the face, helping me to find the perspective I lost in a sea of stress over little things. Life is good. We are all healthy. Happy. Some aren’t so fortunate. For them, I pray. For myself, I’ve found the perspective I needed.