Wayne Dyer: The Power of Peace, Love, Happiness, and Belief

There are a great many self-help gurus out there. Some are famous and some are people we encounter in our personal lives who compel us in some way. For me, Wayne Dyer has always been at the top of my list. His gentle manner and his calm way of delivering information about how to be happier has always just made me feel better.

I can remember the first day I saw him more than 20 years ago. A friend of mine was featured on the Oprah show, having written a book about happiness. Also on the show was Wayne Dyer. While I loved seeing my friend on the show and found him very engaging, I couldn’t help but be drawn to Wayne Dyer. He appeared to have an inner calm that was genuine and infectious. He spoke about happiness as something we can all achieve if we can quiet ourselves enough to let in that which lifts us up while not focusing on that which drags us down. He encouraged people to see that their happiness depends on the kindness and love they show to others. He said working on being a good soul was the key to enjoying life and finding peace. (My words, he was way more articulate.) While we were doing the work of being happier, he said, we also had to allow for a modicum of faith. For example, I worry a great deal about my children (despite the fact they are adults now). Dyer said something which has stuck with me for years. When my mind runs wild with worry I repeat it to myself. “Everything in the universe has a purpose. Indeed, the invisible intelligence that flows through everything in a purposeful fashion is also flowing through you.”
He said parents must believe the center of the universe runs through their children too. Parents who have faith that each child has that universe within can stop worrying so much about their kids because children who are raised with parental love and faith will make good choices. They will be kind people with good souls and nothing is more important than that. I strive for that and overall, it has proven true with my children. I worry about them but in time they tend to work things out in beautiful ways. And my worry  fixes nothing anyway. Faith. Having faith in the power of love was Dyer’s mantra throughout his life which, sadly, ended yesterday.   He was 75.

I read a story about Dyer that also stuck with me through the years. Richard Carlson was the author of the “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” books. (On another day I’ll write a post about him as well as another person who inspired me with his true nature.) Carlson had written a popular book about happiness and at some point one of his books was about to be published in another country/language. His publisher told him to get an endorsement quote from Dyer, as he had on a previous book. But Carlson failed to get the endorsement and told the publisher he was unable to get it and the book would have to be printed without it. The publisher, without anyone’s permission, published the book with the Dyer endorsement from Carlson’s earlier book on the cover. Carlson was furious and embarrassed and reached out to Dyer to apologize and assure him he’d stop further publication of the book. Weeks later Carlson got a letter from Dyer. It said, “Richard, there are two rules for living in harmony. 1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. 2. It’s all small stuff. Let the quote stand. Love, Wayne.”

Carlson was blown away by the “small stuff” concept and asked Dyer if he could develop it further. Dyer gave his permission and blessing. Carlson wrote a series of very popular “Small Stuff” books as a result. Millions of people found the series inspiring and helpful. I love that story. Two lovely men, both of whom found ways to live a life of love and fulfillment in helping others. Alas, Carlson died young but oh what a life of accomplishment and love, much like Dyer’s. We should all aspire to being more like these men: kind, caring, giving and talented enough to help others with our gifts.

There is another quote of Dyer’s that speaks to me. “Don’t die with the music within you.” He most certainly didn’t. His family says he didn’t fear death. He taught we should all think of ourselves as souls with bodies, not bodies with souls. And, beautiful thoughts build beautiful souls, he said.

His certainly did. I encourage you to read some Dyer books or at the very least, take five minutes today and research some of his quotes. I promise you five minutes of being uplifted, feeling a little bit more peaceful, and seeing your day brighten.

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I leave you with this last Dyer quote: When you dance,
your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor…
it’s to enjoy every step of the way.

Dance today… and tomorrow.. and every day you can…

The Day A Father Dies: A Love Story

I have been encouraging people to share stories about losing their parents because those are among the hardest days to live through and yet they come to almost everyone. I recently shared the story of my mother’s death and now it’s my dad’s turn.

One Friday night my family went to my father’s house for our weekly dinner. As Dad walked up the steps into his kitchen, carrying the plate of barbecued chicken he had just prepared outside in the backyard, I heard a deep wheezing in his chest. “Dad,” I said, “you don’t sound good. Do you feel okay? Do you have a cold?”

“Nah,” he answered,”I mowed the lawn today and must’ve breathed in some grass.”

“Did you stop mowing and sit down when you started feeling bad?” I asked.

“No, I had to finish mowing.”

Seven weeks later, he was dead from the massive cancerous lung tumors.

Since I insisted he see a doctor after I heard that wheezing, he went the next day and they told him he had a collapsed lung from stage 4 lung cancer. (Yes, you read that right, collapsed lung and yes, he finished mowing the lawn and then barbecued dinner!) I was grateful for the gift of knowing in advance that he was going to die so we were able to spend that 7 weeks together, as a family, helping him enjoy his last days on Earth. They were simultaneously the saddest and most loving days of my life in many ways. I wrote an entire chapter about it in my book, how he moved in with us and we all faced death together.

His last 24 hours or so were a poignant story in themselves. Friday night we watched the movie, “Avalon,” which takes place and was filmed in Baltimore, my dad’s childhood home. He enjoyed pointing out real places he recognized. The next day my aunt, his sister, came to visit. They talked about the movie. And when I say “talked,” what I mean is my aunt asked how was the movie and my dad said, “Okay.” That is what is considered a conversation in my father’s family. People of few words. After my aunt’s visit, Dad was tired and got into bed. While he wasn’t exactly sleeping, he wasn’t fully awake. I sat by the side of the bed, keeping him company. My husband and my three daughters (6, 8 and 10 at the time) came into the room from time to time. I held his hand. He said “I’m worried.”

That was shocking as my father had never expressed worry before. Hearing that was almost more upsetting than knowing he was dying.

“What are you worried about, Dad?” I asked.

“I’m worried about moving to Philadelphia.”

“You don’t have to worry about that,” I assured him. “Everything works out great for all of us.” I knew this because that move had taken place 40 years ago and everything is still just fine. I found it fascinating, but not surprising, that in the fleeting moments of life the biggest events pass through your mind. It was a big deal when the factory my dad worked in moved to another state and he had to uproot our family to keep his job. While I never heard him voice that worry or any other (remember, he was a man of very few words), I guess it weighed heavily on him.  Taking good care of his family was his reason for living and he did it masterfully. As he was dying his family was still his #1 priority. What a guy.

Next he said, “It’s a big job.” Didn’t say what he meant. I could only guess. Was it dying? Yes, that is a big job.

At one point, he sat up and appearing to be fully awake he called out, “Why can’t they teach others what they know?”

“Who, Dad?”

But I don’t know to whom or about whom he was speaking because those were also his last words. Soon after that I left the room to make coffee. I was out of the room for only five minutes or less when my 8-year-old daughter came into the kitchen and said, “Grandpop is very quiet.” Yes, he was, and also very peaceful, something he had not been during the previous 7 weeks of struggling to breathe. My husband and I knew what this serenity meant. We walked back into the room to kiss him goodbye and bid him farewell.

My dad was not known for being profound. He never asked “Why” about anything.  That question, “Why can’t they teach others what they know?”  was not something my father would ever have asked. He took life as it presented itself to him every day. He didn’t look into the deeper meaning of anything. He could’ve coined the phrase, “It is what it is.” Why this deep, probing question in his last moments? My theory is that he was speaking to someone only he could see with some knowledge that came to him just before death. I like to think he was conversing with friends or loved ones who had died before him who just told him about great things ahead for the dead and he wanted to know why they couldn’t just tell that to everyone.  Am I right, wrong, crazy? Maybe. We’ll never know, will we?

The day your parent dies is one of the hardest days you’ll survive. But it can be beautiful. Sad doesn’t have to mean lacking in beauty. That’s what I learned on the day my father died. I feel differently about death since that day. I believe my father saw something on the mysterious path ahead that appeared beautiful. Like he had done my whole life, he tried as best he could to teach me to ease my way and to leave me a guidepost.

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Have you learned anything from experiencing the death of a loved one?

A Tale of Two Sisters: Choose Your Own Ending

This week marked my sister’s birthday. It’s the 22nd one she’s had since she stopped talking to me. In an earlier post I wrote about how I wasn’t sure if I’d recognize her or if she’d know me. I’m sorry if you can relate to that because you’re estranged from a sibling. It pretty much sucks.

But this week I had a realization. I don’t have to be miserable every time I think about my sister. I can choose to remember a good memory and to replace the pain with that memory when I think of her. Truth be told, I don’t think of her that often but on weeks like this one, it happens and it’s a bummer. Not any more.

You feel what you feel in life but you can choose your reaction to it. That’s what I always taught my daughters. You can’t control everything but you can control how you react to everything. (or most things). So this year when my sister creeps into my brain I’m going to remember this.

We were young, maybe 14 and 9. We were watching the “Beverly Hillbillies” on TV and the daughter in the show, Ellie May, was playing with a bra. She didn’t recognize it as clearly, “hillbillies” had no use for undergarments of that nature. (Wow, was that show offensive or what? Good thing the PC police weren’t around then.) So, the character used it as a slingshot. Well, that was simply hilarious to us and we started to giggle and then to guffaw loudly enough to bring my father into the room. “What’s so funny?” he wanted to know.

Neither of us could say the word “bra” to my father. My sister probably was wearing one and definitely couldn’t say the word. This was a girl who had to recite Shakespeare for school and wouldn’t say “Damn” so she walked around the house saying, “Out, blank spot.” She was clearly not saying “bra.”  I said nothing but Dad was waiting for an answer. My sister sensed my discomfort and gave him a satisfactory answer. “She has a funny accent,” my sister explained. My dad left the room. We looked at each other and started laughing all over again. We shared a secret and a giggle. Very rare indeed. The fact that this is one of the only good stories I can tell about a nice moment with my sister is in itself pretty telling about our relationship growing up.

But, here’s the message of this post. If you are hurting from the actions of other people be they family, coworkers or anyone else in your life, remember this — you can’t change them but you choose how you react to them.

Happy birthday to my sister. I hope you are enjoying a good laugh, albeit not with me. I am smiling at a memory of us, that’s what I choose this year.

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How To Write A Parent’s Eulogy

Some of the best advice I was given when my father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer was to write his eulogy while he was alive. Horrified at first, I took a breath and thought about it. Why was I so upset by this advice? My initial reaction was superstitious — I thought writing about his death while he was alive was in some way wishing him dead or hastening his death. Then I came to my senses and realized I could no more hasten his death than slow it down. In fact I was powerless over his demise. The one thing I could do, though, was to send him off with honor and dignity and love.

The person who suggested eulogy writing in advance made a great point. Immediately after my father’s death I was likely going to be much too upset to do justice to writing his story. That was absolutely true. I would not have been able to write what I wanted to say if I waited until he died.

So I wrote the eulogy my father deserved to have delivered. What makes a good eulogy? Here’s my advice in list form:

1. Consider the small things that made your parent’s life compelling. Tell a story or two about your parent that most of the attendees to the funeral don’t know. Don’t just talk about what he or she did for a living; describe what made his or her life matter.

2. Share a personal memory. Did your mom teach you how to hit a baseball or how to cook or how to change the washer in a faucet? Did your dad teach you how to drive, thereby risking his own life? Did he go to every store in town to buy you the Barbie doll  you most wanted for your 7th birthday only to come home with three because he didn’t know there would be more than one to pick from?

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Share something only you shared with your parent. That will give people an insight into the person they came to honor in a way only you can provide.

3. Describe some family history. People come to a funeral to show respect. It’s always interesting and respectful to give a nod to those who came before in your family. Where did his or her parents hail from? What was your parent’s childhood like? Family tree information is fascinating background.

4. Don’t dwell on the saddest parts. Your parent’s death may have come too soon or been really awful for the family or for you but your parent’s life is so much more than his or her death. This passing hurts you now but with time you will be able to remember your parent and feel good in that memory. Imagine one of the memories you know will make you smile in the future and focus on describing that time.

5. Speak from the heart but read the eulogy, don’t wing it. Write exactly what you want to say. Don’t worry about being articulate or using just the right words. Say what you feel and write it down. Then read it aloud several times before the service. You will likely be nervous and perhaps overcome with emotion but practicing what you will say will help. If you cry, so be it. Everyone will understand. Take your time. Read slowly and don’t look up if you think that might throw you off.

6. Don’t worry about what the audience will think. Speak about your parent in a way he or she would appreciate. At a funeral I attended recently, the family members spoke about the loved one’s sense of humor. They said things that would have made him laugh. Some attendees laughed along with the family. Some were aghast at “joking” at a funeral. But the family knew the most important attendee would have loved it. That’s what matters.

I Understand if You Hate Me

In a previous post I mentioned we live near the beach. Yes, it’s a good as you might imagine. We don’t live here all the time. Here’s how we got here. Many years back we started coming to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to camp on the beach. We loved it here. There is something about the salt water environment that speaks directly to the soul. So, we camped and after our kids were born, we camped with kids and after we got older and more spoiled, we rented beach cottages for a week and lived like kings and queens compared to camping.

So, year after year we’d come for one precious week of sun and fun and family togetherness. Then we got a brilliant idea. Why not make a lot of money  ruin the whole vacation paradise by opening a seasonal business here? So we opened an Italian Ice (water ice for those readers from the Phila. area) and ice cream shop, open from May to September. The whole family worked, even our two youngest who were about 11 and 12. Did we see the beach much anymore? Not so much. But we loved the experience and stayed in business for many years. Our kids learned myriad lessons about responsibility, dealing with the public, running a business and getting along in the world. We know working in our store had a big part in  forming the wonderful beings they now are.

After our kids grew up and couldn’t continue working all summer in the store we sold it. That presented a dilemma. Could we justify living here all summer when we didn’t have a business here? We had another business which could travel with us so we could work while we were here but could we really be people who live at the beach just for… FUN?

Spoiler alert. Yes.

We come every summer to live here. Our kids come for about a month. We all work other jobs but manage to make time to be who we once were… a family communing in paradise. We are endlessly grateful for being here. We share it with friends who are always invited to come and stay with us and many do. We have no idea what we did to deserve this lovely life but we’re pretty happy about it.

Our dysfunctional siblings have never been happy about it. It may be part of the reason why they are so dysfunctional I had to write my book about them! They have long referred to our annual move as our “extended vacation,” despite the fact that for ten years it was work and not vacation and despite the fact they’ve been invited many times to stay with us. (Given they don’t really work, their whole lives are extended vacation but I’ll overlook that for now. And, yes, before the whole family fell apart, they did come to enjoy a free beach vacation more than once.) I understand their reaction because: 1. They don’t care about us and 2. They’re jealous, not necessarily about where we live but about how happy we are wherever we are. So, they’ve repeatedly tried to hurt us in order to act out their frustrations about their lives. I get it, I really do. I understand envying my life; it’s pretty good.

What can you do if parts of your life are worth envying? (Because even my good life isn’t completely perfect, after all.) Be grateful and do what you can to continually earn what it is you have. But what about the people who resent your good life? What can you do to reach out to them? I’m not sure about the answer to that one. Haters gonna hate, I suppose. I just try not to be one of them. Envy is tough. We’ve all experienced it. We look at people who have what we don’t have or achieve what we’ve failed to achieve and maybe we’re even happy for them but we’re envious too. I know I’d envy another writer’s success with perhaps a huge book advance or a best seller on Amazon or even a blog with 10,000 followers. I don’t think it makes us bad people to envy. Maybe envy can even motivate us to work harder. What makes us bad people is acting out of envy in an attempt to hurt the ones we are envious of. I think this is a very important topic for parents to discuss with children. Explain to them, yes, you will feel envious of others but that is not a bad thing. What matters is how you react to that jealousy. You feel what you feel but you get to choose your reaction to the emotion and that is where you have power.

What do you do to fight the green-eyed monster when it strikes you? Is there anyone you envy? Have you ever told anyone you envy them? I never have but I think maybe I should.

Meanwhile, here’s your moment worth envy. I suggest you take a one-minute mental vacation imagining yourself here. It could help!

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30 Reasons To Be Grateful You’re Alive

If you haven’t yet read Sheryl Sandberg’s ode to mourning, you’re in for a life-affirming treat. That sounds perverse, I know, but here’s the thing — if you’re truly grateful for your life and the lives of those you love, maybe you don’t fear death quite so much.

Here’s a piece of what she wrote about grieving  the abrupt loss of her husband if you don’t have time to read her whole post. (I strongly suggest you find the five minutes it will take you to improve your outlook on life.)

I think when tragedy occurs, it presents a choice. You can give in to the void, the emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, constricts your ability to think or even breathe. Or you can try to find meaning. These past thirty days, I have spent many of my moments lost in that void. And I know that many future moments will be consumed by the vast emptiness as well. 

But when I can, I want to choose life and meaning.

Choose life and meaning…if you have trouble with that, in tribute to the 30 days Sandberg thought about this, here are 30 things (in the most random order imaginable)  you can ponder to choose life and meaning. You may not have all 30 in your life but I’m giving you enough to get started with at least 10! If you have 10 things to be grateful for, life is pretty much worth enjoying.

1. You’re reading this. Consider the joy, the news, the advice, the sheer pleasure you get from  absorbing information through the written word.

2. This.

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It’s just a flower I came across one day but seriously, if this doesn’t give you gratitude for the little things, there is something wrong with you.

3. Moments are just that — moments. They pass so the bad ones will not last forever. That should make anyone having a bad day a bit happier. Time passes but it takes time.

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4. You may have people in your life who can move your shoes. Yesterday my daughter moved to a new home. Today she gave a shout out to her friends, family and loved ones who helped her with the enormous task of moving her shoes. If you saw her shoe collection, you’d understand the depth of her gratitude. If you have people who can move your shoes, that’s a reason to give thanks.

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5. You can always make someone smile. Smile at the next five strangers you pass. At least one will smile back and in that moment, you’ll both feel pretty good about life.

6. You can ask for help. If you are one of the lucky people who feels comfortable asking for help that will make your life a great deal easier.

7. Stories to read. Literature to love.

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8. You are vulnerable. You get hurt. Why should this make you grateful? Because if you feel pain, you understand what it means to feel better and you appreciate it when it happens.

9. You have a birthday. You get a day to celebrate yourself. Do it! Let others do it! I know people who say birthdays are no big deal and they want no fuss made about them. Are you kidding me? You were born and you’re still here, throw a freaking party!

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10. You’re a communicator. If you’re reading this chances are you also write, or at least speak. Communicating is the beginning of understanding and with that comes clarity of what the world is all about.

11. You have virtual people. Maybe your people can’t move your shoes but they can stir your soul with the words they send out into the blogosphere and those words reach you. If you have ever read a blog post that resonated with you, be grateful. It’s a connection you made.

12. You can do some good in some way. From opening the door for a person who’s carrying a heavy load (literally and/or figuratively) to volunteering your time delivering meals to shut-ins, you can help others. That’s a gift to you and to the world. Do some good. I know a woman who doesn’t leave her house much but she counsels people online as a volunteer. She doesn’t let being mostly house bound keep her from doing good in the world.

13. People are social animals. It’s a good thing.

14. Beauty exists. You get to be the judge. Seek it out. Seriously, stop right now and look around you until you find one beautiful thing. It’ll likely take you just seconds and you can do this anytime you need a lift. Beauty is limitless and so is your ability to find it.

15. You can cry. It’s a release that enables you to feel better. Being capable of crying is no small matter,

16. You never really lose people you loved. Your relationship may change or even end but you have them with you always.

17. That.

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18. Love is in the air somewhere.

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19. Romantic love isn’t the only game in town. Just because you may not currently be in a relationship doesn’t mean you can’t have love in your life. Your parents, your kids, your friends, your pets, even your coworkers may be lovable. Love is what matters, not what kind of love or with whom it happens.

20. Good, multigrain, fresh crusty bread dipped in olive oil…..

Food, from the most simple to the most complex is something you can enjoy. If you have a healthy relationship with food, it’s okay to derive joy from it.

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21. You can dream. Humans dream in sleep and while waking. Sleep dreams may bring you messages worth paying attention to. Waking dreams are those you choose to have because they lift you up and give you hope. Cherish both kinds of dreams and listen to what they tell you because you can.

22. Life doesn’t have to make sense. That’s okay. Don’t make yourself crazy trying to figure it out. You can choose to move on instead.

23. Poetry lives. Few words can be so healing, so embracing, so motivating…

“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”
Enjoy every moment.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

24. When the rug is pulled out from under you, the floor beneath will support you. When you feel ready, you will stand up. That’s how life works. Believe in your ability to stand when ready…

25. Music… just… music… well and lyrics… watch this (enjoying the time warp trip to 1969) and you’ll know…

26. The Buddhists are right. (I paraphrase here, I haven’t actually met the Buddha.) Live inside each moment to the fullest extent you can. The key there is “you can.” Some moments make it easy to live fully. Some moments make it hard but you can choose, you have the power to live each moment the way you want, even in circumstances beyond your control. You can’t change everything but you can control the way you react to anything.

27. Sometimes things in your life are seriously not okay. That doesn’t mean they won’t be again. Knowing that helps get you to that better time.

28. This:

Random encounter I had while taking a walk. Random encounters make life worth having.

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29. That:

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Art of all kinds waiting unexpectedly around the corner.

30. Look in a mirror. Be grateful for whatever you see.

Feel free to share. Spread the reasons to be grateful with anyone who needs a lift.

Writers and Parents: Be Careful What You Wish For!

Writing is a great many wonderful things but making a living at it isn’t easy. And, more importantly, it may not be a good thing. Consider this story. I wrote a parenting book some years back, before the advent of self publishing. Shockingly, at least to me, it was published by a major publishing house and even more shocking, they actually spent about 10 minutes promoting it. (Because promoting books is not one of the things big publishing houses do well or even at all for most books! Yes, that was a surprise to me too.) One afternoon I returned to my home office to hear this voice mail:

Woman’s voice: Hi. This is Andrea. I’m a producer  at the Oprah Show. We just received your parenting book and we think it’s terrific. We’re doing a show on being organized and we already have an expert booked on the show but if you could be in Chicago next week, we might be able to add a segment specific to parenting. If you’re interested, please call me at …

OMG. I won’t even bother trying to describe how I felt.  I know you can easily imagine. (Suffice it to say the moment was so thrilling, I can still remember what I was wearing when I heard the message.) So, of course I returned the call ASAP. First she waxed poetic about my book and explained the reason they loved it was because it was so practical. Every suggestion in the book was something any parent could do with any child. She loved the way I looked at parenting which was that parents should integrate kids into their lives while maintaining as much of themselves and their previous lives as possible. I was thrilled they understood the point of the book which was to give parents actual, doable advice for raising responsible, good kids without overwhelming parents with a lot of theories and philosophizing. She asked if I could send video of me on any prior appearance on TV as well as a brief description of what I thought would be a good two-minute segment. She explained it was not highly likely they’d be able to add me in since the show was really already tightly planned but she really liked the book and was going to try. I sent off my package and held my breath.

Next I phoned my agent, who, while she was thrilled for me, had a cautionary warning. What I said to her, somewhat jokingly but also maybe a little bit wistfully was, “Maybe I’ll be the John Gray of parenting.” Back then he was the IT writer, who had written the phenomenally successful relationship book about men being from Mars while women were from Venus. She answered quickly, “You don’t want to be that. He’s a relationship expert who’s on the road about 50 weeks a year. Do you want to be writing about parenting while being away from your kids 50 weeks out of the year?”

That struck me and proved to be a little comforting when I heard back from the producer who reported, alas, they could not fit my two-minute segment into the show, as she had feared. But, she said they loved my book and would try to find another show to work it into. Despite the fact I spent the next year sending her show theme pitches and small gifts in Fed Ex envelopes monthly (my agent’s suggestion), my Oprah appearance remained elusive. I was so disappointed. My dream of being a fantastically successful writer did not come to pass.

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Lego Art by Nathan Sawaya

Thus, I did not become the John Gray of parenting. But I did raise three amazing daughters who probably lamented how much I was around the house more than I did! I have no regrets. My book sold okay, I did some other  fun TV and radio appearances with it and got some very positive feedback. Thanks to the ability to self publish and the fact that the rights reverted back to me, I updated it and published it again this year so if you want to check out Raising Amazing Children: While Having a Life of Your Own, the practical parenting book an Oprah producer loved but didn’t produce a show about, it’s just 99 cents on Amazon. I figure if it’s a bestseller now, I can hit the road. My kids are all grown and won’t even notice if I leave town!  If you give it as a gift to a new parent you know, you can tell them it was almost on Oprah. (They don’t have to know you only spent a dollar on it!) If you read it, please share a review on Amazon. Your opinion will mean more to me than any producer’s! And, writers, rethink your disappointments. Maybe the way it’s working out for you is the way it’s meant to be after all.

Who Taught You To Be Generous?

Love the conversation I overheard in the gym locker room this morning. Okay, I admit it freely; I am an eavesdropper of the highest magnitude. On a scale of 1-10 guilty of listening in to what total strangers are saying, I’m a 12. But it’s a wonderful vice to have. I find people so fascinating and sometimes uplifting too.

Two women, both in their 40s or so. Truthfully I can never tell, they may have been anywhere from 40 – 65. But they did both look terrifically fit, whatever their age. (I’m not that big a snoop, I didn’t secretly photograph them so you’ll have to take my word.) Here’s how the conversation went:

Woman A: I’ve always had the habit of making extra food when I make something like Tiramisu or lasagne,  you know the things it’s just as easy to make double of as it is to make one. I give the other one to someone else. But my husband always asked, “Why are you giving our food away?” He was annoyed about it and didn’t understand why I didn’t just freeze it and keep it for us. So I told him it was no big deal to make extra and other people need it more than we do. We’re not rich but we can certainly afford to give away a lasagne every so often.

Woman Z: That is really nice of you. How do you decide who to give the food to?

Woman A: Well, I just kind of pick anyone I’ve talked to recently who I think could use the help. Like you know that guy in the gym who just lost his wife? He’s alone and I don’t think he cooks so I gave him a meal last week. And, that’s when it got interesting. When I got home and told my husband who I gave the food to, he said, “Oh, now I get it. I understand why you’re giving away food. That guy probably won’t have a home cooked meal now that his wife is gone. He probably doesn’t cook. That’s really nice of you.” So, when it was someone my husband could clearly relate to, because he knows he’d be lost without my cooking, he finally understood the whole idea of helping people who need a hand. I was really happy he got it and won’t be pissed at me for giving away our food.

Woman Z: So, that’s cool, you taught your husband how to be generous. Who taught you that?

Woman A: (Period of total silence)

Woman Z: I mean you weren’t born that way, someone had to teach you about generosity. Who was it?

Woman A: Wow, I never thought about that. I’ve always just seen myself as a good and generous person. Let me think about it.

Woman Z: Your mom?

Woman A: No, I don’t think so. Wait, you know what? It was probably my dad. He is and has always been dirt poor. He lives in Puerto Rico and has never made any money but he’s always seen a beautiful world around himself. He never thought of himself as poor. When I was a teenager I’d take odd jobs to make some money and I’d give some of it to him. He’d give it away and I’d get really angry. I’d say, “I worked to make that money for you, not for that guy. Why’d you give my money away?” And he’d say, “I’m okay. I have everything I need but that guy needs help.” And, believe me, my father had nothing, but somehow he always thought others were worse off and wanted to help them because for whatever reason, he saw a beautiful life surrounding him and felt sorry for other people.I guess it was my dad.

And she smiled. And the woman who asked the great question smiled. And I smiled but I had to turn away so they wouldn’t know I was eavesdropping. But I was glad I did. Maybe I should have saved this post for Father’s Day and maybe some folks will reblog it then but I just couldn’t wait. What a tribute to what makes a great dad!

So I ask you that wonderful question. Are you generous? What does that mean to you and who taught you to be that way? If you could teach that to someone whom would you choose?

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