Friday, December 30, 2011

Kick Out The Grouch and Go On A Negativity Diet!

A new year is upon us and folks around the globe are making efforts to lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking and improve their finances. In a more cynical moment I thought New Year’s resolutions were created by the weight loss companies. I was wrong.

More than 4,000 years ago the Babylonians used the beginning of the year (and the advent of a new farming season) to return borrowed farm equipment. I can almost hear Amytis saying, “Nebuchadnezzar honey, don’t forget to return the neighbor’s ox and hoe. Oh, and thanks for the hanging garden. It’s awesome.”

Fast forward a few years and the Romans had a custom of counting the previous year’s stock and making a goal to accomplish more in the coming year. On the other side of the world the Chinese went on a cleaning spree and made sure the home was in tip top shape for the new year.

In modern times most New Year’s resolutions revolve around self-improvement goals. Losing weight is always a top priority. Unless you’ve been living in a cave, everyone knows that it is unhealthy to be overweight. However, there is another type of diet that even skinny folks can benefit from – going on a negativity diet.
For example, did you know that…

• The average person has 40,000 to 65,000 thoughts a day and 95% of those thoughts are negative.

• Developing a happier mindset can increase chemical reactions that can calm anxiety, relieve depression, promote alertness and increase enjoyment.

• Happy people are 35% less likely to get a cold and produce 50% more antibodies in response to flu vaccines than the average person.

• Individuals who score high on happiness and optimism scale have reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension and infections.

• People who maintain a good sense of humor (an indication of inner happiness) outlive those who don’t. No wonder so many comedians live well into their 80s and 90s.

If you are interested in shedding some unwanted negativity, make a small investment of $12.99 and purchase a copy of my book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within. The book is available through Amazon. For an autographed copy contact me through our website, If you cannot afford a copy, please consider contacting your local library and requesting they purchase a copy. Jackie and I are also available for talks and workshops.

Life is too short to be a grouch. Take action today and order your own copy of Erase Negativity. I suppose you could borrow your neighbor’s, but then you’d have to return it.

If you are still unconvinced, here is a description of the book.

Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within is a practical guide on how to reduce negativity and embrace happiness. From meth addicts to multi-millionaires, the book offers powerful experiences of individuals who have faced dramatic challenges, but did not lose hope. Using these compelling biographies, as well as practical advice and simple exercises, the reader is guided on an internal journey toward adopting a more joyful way to live.

Have a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

Sally and Jackie

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Believing in Holiday Miracles

This is a time of miracles. Hanukah begins tonight. The word Hanukah means “rededication” and celebrates Jewish heroes who rededicated themselves to faith and principles in spite of a religious oppression. Christmas is the annual celebration commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. Both holidays remind us of miracles – both past, present and future.

I grew up in a home where we celebrated both holidays. My dad’s side of the family is Jewish and my mother’s is Christian. So Jingle Bells could be sung along with Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel. I find myself listening to holiday tunes and singing songs with my granddaughters. Since the tots are only 4 and 2, they do not mind my off key voice or the “la, la, las” I croon because I can’t remember the lyrics of the songs.

It seems after five decades of singing these holiday tunes that the words would be forever etched in my memory. Of course they are not. Even more fun are misunderstood lyrics or “mondegreens.”

Here are a few Christmas favorites:

From Silent Night there’s “round young virgin.” Perhaps she needs to attend weight watchers?

Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer’s “Olive the other reindeer.” I just assumed she got mad at Popeye and morphed into a different species and cartoon.

Joy to the World’s lyrics showed gender equality with “He rules the world with Ruth and Grace.” Sounds good to me. Why not spread that power around?

When my children were young I took a geology class and became very interested in rocks. My daughters assumed “Solid as a Rock” was “Sally has a rock.” Because I would only rarely let them chew gum (but I did not deny myself the chewy substance) the lyrics “What You Gonna Do When I’m Gone?” became “What You Gonna Do With Your Gum?” They were not above retrieving my ABC gum and giving it a recycled try.

The point of listing these mondegreens is to show how easily we can misinterpret things based on our expectations. Of course this is true in life as well as musical misunderstandings. We can start out with the best of intentions but often it can morph into something that we never expected.

That is one of the reasons I love the holidays. We intend to go through the year being kind and generous, but life can become so busy that we forget. Christmas and Hanukah remind us that miracles can – and do – appear if you allow yourself to be open enough to believe.

Whether it’s refreshing our memory of song lyrics, or simply trying to infuse a little more happiness into our lives, we need to practice the things that are important to us or they will lose their meaning and the joy it brings will disappear from our lives.

I have heard the cynics say that it would take a miracle for things to improve in our world. I am not an economist, politician or even a philosopher. However, I am an optimist who believes in miracles. My holiday wish to all of you is to reaffirm what is good in your life and make a conscious effort to bring it to the forefront every day. With our combined efforts we can make the earth a better place to live and together we can work toward making Joy to the World and Peace on Earth a reality.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Skeptical Toddler's Christmas

It’s been a busy holiday season and rather than writing new articles, I’ve posted a couple of “rerun” stories. Here's one of my favorites.

As a child, there was definitely a magical feeling at Christmas time. Of course I looked forward to giving and receiving presents, but there was more to it than that. I think I was too young to analyze it. I just loved the way I felt during this joyous time.

Later, when I became a wife and mother, the magical feeling intensified as I had two daughters and a husband to share the holidays with. One memorable moment was when my daughter, Alicia was 6 years old and her little sister, Brittany was 2 or 3. Alicia had excitedly been chattering away about Santa Claus, reindeer and presents.

Even though Brittany was still in diapers, she had a healthy dose of skepticism. She did not like sitting on Santa Claus’ lap, I sensed she knew his beard was fake, and I think she thought her sister was pulling her leg about the whole Christmas thing. We weren’t poor, but we didn’t have a lot of extra money either. The idea of a bunch of toys under the tree seemed too much of a stretch. Brit knew we couldn’t afford to buy all the things she saw advertised on TV (I used this “can’t afford it” line a lot when they wanted stuff at the store.)

Still, I’m sure, she was hopeful.

Christmas morning I remember waiting in bed for the girls to stir so we could begin our holiday. John and I waited and waited. Why were they so quiet? “How could they wait so long?” I wondered. The truth of the matter was they were awake. Brittany had joined her sister in Alicia’s bedroom and they were waiting for us to get out of bed. They usually weren’t that considerate, but hey, who wants to take a chance of messing up on Christmas morning?

Neither girl had ventured out of the bedroom to peak under the Christmas tree in the living room. The night before there were a couple presents for Grandma and Grandpa and maybe a relative or two, but nothing from Santa Claus. At least not yet. We told the girls it was okay to get up and take a peak.

Alicia was ready for the festivities to begin and she slowly ushered her little sister toward the living room and the Christmas tree. I will never forget this moment. Alicia knew the drill. She knew Santa would come. Brittany, however, was skeptical. She didn’t remember last year’s holiday. She was only a baby. I could just imagine her thought process. “All year long we don’t get any toys except for our birthdays, why would we get a bunch now?”

The girls peaked around the corner and low and behold, beneath the Christmas tree were stacks of toys. Only the night before there were only a couple of presents and they were designated for others.

Brittany’s eyes were filled with amazement and awe. She seemed to be thinking, “Could this possibly be true?” She was filled with the magic of Christmas. Alicia had a more “knowing” quality as she took in the sight. She knew great things happened on Christmas, and now she had a little sister to share the holiday with – even if the little tyke was a bit skeptical.

What the girls did not know is there had been a Santa Claus of sorts. We had enough money for a few presents, but certainly not that many. However, my Aunt Liz and her husband Ernie, had a good year. The childless couple decided to give their struggling nieces and nephews an added bonus, a check for $100. We received it in time to buy extra gifts for the girls, including a few things that we knew our daughters wanted, but we could not afford to give them.

Of course I think the girls would have been happy even without the extra presents. I can safely say this because of who they have become. They are now grown women and are kind, loving and considerate human beings. Alicia is a school teacher, a wife to her husband Greg, and the mother of two children of her own. She still has that “all knowing/wise quality” about her. Brittany works as an interior decorator and is happily married to Jamie. Her children are her two dogs, Smash and Guinness. Brit is still a bit of a skeptic, but that magical moment of Christmas and hope still lives in her heart.

I don’t want to come across as a Pollyanna. I know this has been a difficult year for a lot of folks. However, if there is one thing I’ve learned, is that in spite of the difficulties we face, we must never harden our hearts. Both good things, and bad, will not last forever.

My Christmas message this year is to save a little space in your heart for hope and joy. Things may not always be perfect, but there is always the possibility of a miracle. Especially at Christmas.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Ugly Christmas Tree

I was relaxed, taking in the stereo when a commercial interrupted my listening pleasure.

"Make this Christmas one that she'll never forget," droned the announcer.
"Yeah," I thought. "Spend big bucks and everyone will love you. Spend enough and we may even have peace on earth."

Christmas commercialism, it seems to get worse ever year. Do not get me wrong. I enjoy Christmas. It just bothers me that everyone thinks you have to spend a lot of money to have a merry one. I thought back to the commercial, "the best Christmas ever." It took my memories back to the Christmas of my 10th year, my most unforgettable holiday.

My family and I had moved to Arizona from Chicago four years before. Arizona was in a serious recession. My father, who had always provided a healthy paycheck for his wife and five children, could not find work. We got by on unemployment checks.
Jobs were plentiful in Chicago and my father's former boss was anxious to take him back. After four years of quiet, safe and sunny Arizona living however, my mother refused to return.

If my father could not find employment he would return to Illinois, send money, and the rest of the family would remain in Arizona.

It was a sad time - the bickering about money, worrying if my dad would have to move away. Christmas was an added burden. Money was tight enough without the added expense of the holiday. My mother explained the financial situation to us and we knew not to expect much in the way of presents. Of course the brightly decorated evergreens we had enjoyed in the past were out of the question. We never even asked about one.

Instead we pulled a three-foot aluminum tree out from the garage. The cold tinsel stalk inspired about as much Christmas spirit as a box of Reynolds wrap.
While everyone else decorated the tree, I decided to take a stroll.
As I walked toward the end of the block, I turned right so I could investigate the bowling alley parking lot where they had been selling Christmas trees. I loved the scent of the pine in the cold air, another of many reasons I hated our artificial tree.

As I neared the lot, I saw that it was bare. I kicked at the fragments of broken branches. In the corner, lying on its side, was a long misshapen evergreen.
It was easy to see why the tree was discarded. However, something inside of my brain clicked. The poor tree needed a home. My home needed a tree.
I grabbed the trunk, but I was not strong enough to move it. I ran home to fetch my younger brother, Terry, who I was sure would assist in my plight. As it is so often the case with brothers, Terry lacked my enthusiasm.

"I don't even think a dog would use that tree," he laughed.

"Maybe so, but it would make a fine fort," I replied. With that in mind, Terry helped me transport the tree down the block and into our back yard.

My mother looked up from washing the dishes as we walked up the driveway, and warned us against bringing that "filthy thing" into the house.
"Its for a fort!" Terry exclaimed. I just smiled.

Once the tree was in the back yard, I sent Terry on another mission. I had no intention of turning the evergreen into a fort - at least not yet.

My dad walked up and looked at the tree. It was long, sparse on the top with heavy branches on the bottom. I was sure I could win him over, so I explained my scheme to him.

"You could chop a foot off the bottom and cut the branches off and drill holes where the tree is bare and do a little transplanting," I said.
My older sister, Diane walked out and spied the tree. "Father, you are not going to let her bring that thing in the house are you?" Diane shrieked.

"I don't see why you don't like it," I said. "It looks just like you. Not enough on the top and too much on the bottom."

Diane walked off in a huff.

Whether dad was bored, liked my idea, or was caught up in my enthusiasm I cannot be sure. But soon a drill and saw were out and "Ernie" the unwanted evergreen became a beautiful Christmas tree.

Dad brought the tree inside and we placed the few ornaments we had on Ernie. To help fill in the uncovered areas, we strung popcorn and pyracantha berries and cut out little ornaments from paper. Even my 18-year-old brother, Dennis, who was fond of imitating Scrooge and saying "Bah Humbug" to any mention of Christmas, helped to get Ernie into shape.

We did not have any Christmas lights, so Terry and I pooled our money, about 90 cents, and we got the rest of the cash from "Jack rabbit," my little sister Tina's bank. I am ashamed to say it was an unauthorized withdrawal.

One string of lights did not cover much, so we pushed the tree into a corner and decorated only the front. Despite the circumstances, I was happy. We all were. Never before, and unfortunately never afterward, do I remember my family working together so joyfully. For a short while, we were happy to be together and share what we had, each other.

That was the last Christmas we celebrated together as a family for a long time. Shortly afterward, my father returned to Chicago, unable to come home permanently until I was 16.

Except for my nemesis, Diane, my siblings are still living in Arizona. Most holidays, we get together to exchange insults and presents. Our Christmas trees are always magnificent and the presents are plentiful and brightly decorated. You will not find strings of popcorn or pyracantha berries anywhere.

Christmas carols, if they were sung (and they are not) would be drown out by the big football games that are always scheduled in honor of the birth of Jesus.

I still think back to my childhood and that yuletide of my 10th year, and I know a truckload of presents could not match the happiness I felt that day. It was a special time when my father listened to me and made a small dream come true. And it all happened because of a poor misshapen Christmas tree that nobody else wanted.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Worst Holiday Season

I’ve written a couple of blogs about Christmas memories. One was from my childhood, another was from my children’s early holiday celebrations. I know the holidays can be a difficult time for folks, so it occurred to me that I should share holiday memories that were painful, but educational experiences.

I married young. I was 18 years and four weeks old when I said “I do” to John. After 26 years of marriage we decided to call it quits. This made the holidays a bit awkward. John is an excellent cook and we hosted both Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts. At times this family burden annoyed me, but I was younger and grouchier then.

To make matters worse, after the divorce I did not volunteer to continue to host theses family events. I figured someone else could take on the time-consuming and financial burden of feeding the masses. I was struggling financially, I had a long commute, worked at a job I didn’t enjoy (but it paid the bills) and I really dislike cooking. This was a dark time in my life. My family was mad at me for divorcing their favorite chef, my mother was sick, dying and, unbeknownst to me, very angry at me (I’m talking writing me out of the will angry). My oldest daughter was in love and consumed with her new boyfriend (who turned out to be a bigger turkey than the bird on the Thanksgiving table), and my younger daughter was sneaking out of the house at night. I was angry at my family, my lot in life and myself. I did not feel thankful for anything.

So what did you do about Thanksgiving and Christmas you ask?

Rather than dine alone, my siblings made other plans. Most traveled to my sister’s house in California. I’m not sure what John did. He probably cooked for his side of the family. Once you don that Thanksgiving apron folks don’t let you off the hook that easily. I ate at an Applebee’s with my friend Andrea. It was a depressing experience.

For some reason people really want to hook up during the holidays. As a newly single woman I was obsessed with finding love. I promptly fell in love with someone (I’ll call him Larry.) That lasted three months, but I hung onto the notion of winning Larry back for three years. Larry took a new job out of state, but called and asked if he could visit for Christmas. I was ecstatic. However, Larry was not a Christmas-happy type of guy. The stipulation was no holiday feasts, Christmas trees or music. I stupidly agreed. Plus, I was in a grouchy funk and probably didn’t need much convincing. We celebrated by eating take out and renting movies.
I was in such a low and rotten place in my life that I let someone else’s dismal view of the holidays cloud my own. When I suggested a drive to view Christmas lights at the Mormon temple, Larry and I got into a huge fight. I wasn’t asking for a religious conversion, I just wanted to admire the lights. We left in an angry huff.

At any time in this drama I could have made choices to have a happier experience. In retrospect I should have volunteered to feed the hungry at a soup kitchen. Instead I simmered in a pity stew and basted my “poor me” mentality with a sprinkling of remorse and anger.

I tell this story because I don’t want anyone to suffer needlessly. I understand the victim mentality firsthand, so I devote a chapter to it in our book. Here are a few excerpts.

•Don’t blame others for your problems.
Lose the victim mentality and take responsibility for your life – bumps and all. Life is not something that is handed to you, it is something you create. Adopt a proactive approach that shifts from “What can I get?” to “What can I contribute?” Next time you find yourself wanting to point a blaming finger at someone else, take note of your hand. While your finger and thumb may be pointing at someone else, three fingers are pointed right back at you!

•Align yourself with people, situations or organizations that can help put you on a successful path.
Ask yourself, “What am I focusing on?” If it’s not positive, redirect your thoughts.

Corrie Ten Boom said, "Forgiveness is setting the prisoner free, only to find out that the prisoner was me.” We cannot change the past. Forgive others, or yourself, and move on. Your heart will be lighter and you will be able to pursue happier endeavors.

Years have passed since I starred in my own holiday melodrama. That dismal Thanksgiving and Christmas season were not without merit. They served as a catalyst for a new, more optimistic beginning.

This past Thanksgiving, my spouse, CB and I had a blended family gathering of 28 men, women and children, including my ex husband John (who brought two, homemade pumpkin pies.)

The point is that we cannot change an unpleasant past. But we can choose to not wallow in it. My hope for all of you this holiday season is we will all be able to put sour memories aside, serve up an extra helping of compassion and create happy holiday memories that will be a joy to remember.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Stinky Princess

I was watching my two granddaughters a couple of days ago and four-year-old Rosannah was in a bad mood. It was bed time and I asked her to choose a story for me to read to her and her sister. She asked for a couple of books I did not see. I had a feeling it was a stalling tactic to avoid going to bed so I asked if she wanted me to read from a princess book I had recently given her for her birthday.

“I want the one about the STINKY princess!” she demanded.

I knew there was no such book, so I pulled out the traditional and unscented version and decided to improvise.

While stinky scenarios such as farting, stepping in dog poo and pooping in your pants are the kind of comedy four-year-olds love, no one really wants to hear about that behavior in princesses. These classy royal highnesses have an image to maintain after all. Rosannah quickly opted for the “not stinky princess” edition.

That is not to say that Rosannah won’t laugh at a book that features a farting dog, Pepe le Pew or some other odoriferous character, but in my granddaughter’s eyes (and nose) princesses are sacrosanct from fetid bodily emanations. I’m sure the royal diaper changer has another opinion, but I digress.

Fast forward to last night when I received a call from a man I’ll call George. George called on the guise of giving me information, but basically he wanted to complain. He lamented that he wasn’t seeing the results in his life that he expected and whined about how “nothing” in his life was going well. I reminded him of some of his recent victories and how important it was to build and focus on his successes, show gratitude etc, but he wasn’t hearing any of it. In fact, he was intent on pulling out every negative scenario he could think of and regurgitate it to me. I could tell these stories had been turned into internal movies he played over and over and over again.

Although he said he was unhappy and wanted something better, I suspect his actions to achieve his goals conflicted with his desires. Based on how passionate he was about his tales of woe, I had the feeling he relished in his misery. It made me think of how a dog loves to roll around in poop or some other fetid substance. The difference is the dog doesn’t complain about his smelly circumstances. He WANTS to be stinky. They LOVE that smell. Give a dog a bath, let him run in the backyard and he will seek the stink every time.

If you seek a better way, I can offer a better alternative.
In my book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within, we discuss a few tips on avoiding rolling around in the mud (or worse.) I dub this stinky self flagellated mindset a victim mentality. It is so common that we devoted a whole chapter to it.

Here are a few tips.

•Don’t blame others for your problems.
Lose the victim mentality and take responsibility for your life – bumps and all. Life is not something that is handed to you, it is something you create. Adopt a proactive approach that shifts from “What can I get?” to “What can I contribute?” Next time you find yourself wanting to point a blaming finger at someone else, take note of your hand. While your finger and thumb may be pointing at someone else, three fingers are pointed right back at you!

•Align yourself with people, situations or organizations that can help put you on a successful path.
Ask yourself, “What am I focusing on?” If it’s not positive, redirect your thoughts.

•Take responsibility and find ways to succeed.
If people put more energy into solving problems instead of whining about them, all of our lives would be easier. When Thomas Alva Edison was experimenting with the correct filament for his light bulb, he was unsuccessful more than 1,000 times. Rather than becoming discouraged he is quoted as saying, “We now know a thousand ways not to build a light bulb”. What an enlightened concept!

Victims are often shackled by their inability, or unwillingness, to forgive others or themselves. Harboring resentments, even those that seem justified, do not help the situation. In fact, it makes it worse. Corrie Ten Boom said, "Forgiveness is setting the prisoner free, only to find out that the prisoner was me.” We cannot change the past. Forgive others, or yourself, and move on. Your heart will be lighter and you will be able to pursue happier endeavors.

In conclusion I ask that you follow my granddaughter’s lead. She could have heard a story about a stinky princess (I already had a plot in mind) but she decided to go with the unscented version. Life isn’t always happily ever after, but if you focus on what’s good in life as opposed to what stinks, it makes more sense (and scents) that you will look, feel and smell a lot better.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Reducing Thanksgiving Drama

Next week is Thanksgiving. Many of us will have the opportunity to dine with family and friends for a special once-a-year meal. Many look forward to this event with anticipation – some with dread. And I confess, in my life I have approached this holiday with both mindsets.

I have seen the confidence of the strongest, most confident men and women become mushier than a bowl of mashed potatoes at the thought of facing the snide comments, comparisons and cruelty that some of our relatives bring to the holiday table.
How ironic that a feast that is supposed to be a celebration of gratitude and harmony can churn out more negativity and drama that a soap opera marathon.

But there is hope. We cannot change other people, but we can work on our own reaction to them. I just posted a short video on you tube on three simple steps on how to erase negativity. It’s not a cure all, but it can help us reduce our own negativity, which in turn can have a ripple effect on others.

Please check out this video and share it with your friends and family. Heck, share it with your enemies too. They probably need it worst of all. You can view it at

As an added bonus, I have also made a free electronic copy of our book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within available now through Dec. 9, 2011. Please go to and enter the code VS59K. After Dec. 9 the book will return to its normal cost of $6.99. Paperback copies of the book are available for $12.99 through Amazon, as well as stores throughout the U.S. A partial list of bookstores and retail outlets is available at

For those of you who are not familiar with the message in the book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within is a practical guide on how to reduce negativity and embrace happiness. From meth addicts to multi-millionaires, the book offers powerful experiences of individuals who have faced dramatic challenges, but did not lose hope. Using these compelling biographies, as well as practical advice and simple exercises, the reader is guided on an internal journey toward adopting a more joyful way to live.

We pay a heavy price for our negativity and I want to combat that with a free tool that provides a more optimistic alternative. I’m really hoping folks will spread the word and use this window of time to read the book and suggest it to others who are interested in embracing a more hopeful message.

So there you have it. No more excuses. Free book, free video. Kick that grouch out now. But lest I come off too brash or too self serving, I do have one last bit of advice for this holiday season. Try to take a moment and find the love in your heart and send those laser beams of love out to those family members around you – especially those who annoy you. While we might not think so now, there will come a time when they are out of our lives and we will miss them. And more importantly, we do not want to miss the opportunity to summon up a little love and shine a little light in the world.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Harry Potter and the Mysterious Aging Process

I have a confession to make. I love Harry Potter. I’ve read all of the books and watched all the movies. However, while sitting through the Deathly Hallows Part II, I noticed something disturbing regarding the aging process.

It wasn’t the final scene where the Gryffindor trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione flash forward 19 years and assume the lives of middle-aged adults sending their own children to Hogwarts (although Harry, Ron and Draco were very convincing with pot bellies and facial hair.) It was Harry’s departed parents, James and Lily that took me aback.

In the earlier films Harry’s mom and dad appeared as youthful as they did when he was a baby. But in the last of JK Rowling’s stories brought to life on film, Mr. and Mrs. Potter had clearly tip toed into middle age. I mentioned this to my daughter, Alicia. “Aging in the afterlife. Bummer,” she quipped.

I guess no one is eternally young. Not even departed wizards. Our diminishing youth is still somewhat of a shock to my cohorts of Baby Boomers. We were the Pepsi Generation. Weren’t we immune to this aging process? Sadly not.

Youth and happiness seem intertwined. At least that is what a lot of folks think. While I miss my girlish figure and energy, having a more spiritual outlook (which has oddly expanded at about the same rate as my waistline) is worth the tradeoff.
Aging and happiness are common topics in radio shows I’ve done about our book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within. Here is a typical question and my response.

Q: Do you think people are more prone to negativity as they age?
I think that really depends on the person. If you let transient qualities such as a youthful face and shapely figure define you, then it makes sense that you are going to become depressed as your body ages and changes. And depression and negativity are best buddies. I’m not saying it’s easy to face the aging process. I’m 57 years old and I’ve never heard anyone cheer when they see a new wrinkle on their face or spot a grey hair. I know I don’t. However, I have discovered that if you focus on other attributes, such as pursuing long-forgotten dreams, developing your compassion and creating a more optimistic outlook, than you don’t have to fall into the negativity trap and life will be a lot happier. I don’t look nearly as good as I did when I was 20, but I can honestly say I am a lot happier with who I am.

Everyone wants to be happy, at least in theory. Unfortunately, we often actively sabotage our efforts. That is why negativity, particularly lamenting our lost youth, is not only an exercise in futility, it is downright harmful. None of us will live forever, but we all have the opportunity to infuse more happiness in our daily lives. The good news is we can start right now.

A living example of happiness in spite of aging was recently demonstrated by my friends and team mates from my senior softball team, The Stingers. We recently got together for dinner and a few laughs. These women range from their 50s to 80s. Their youthful spirit exceeds that of many folks that I have met that are decades younger. Each one of my team mates is positive, enjoys life and values friendship (and softball of course!)

When we don our uniforms, slip on our gloves and swing a bat, it’s as if we have our own magic wand granting us happiness in life. And it doesn’t have to be softball. It can be doing anything you love. The key is to find that magical moment and multiple it every day.

I’m not a wizard (although there is a picture of a magic wand on the cover of our book.) But I know we all possess the ability to become happy. The key is put a stop on the negative thoughts, speech and actions that rob us of happiness. Once we keep that internal grouch at bay, we are free to allow delightful moments of joy to multiple and spread like magic.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Yapping with the Gap Tooth Diva

For those of you who would rather listen than read, be sure to check out this radio interview with me and the gap tooth diva. This was a fun interview and I think you'll enjoy it too.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Star-Studded Soak

I sat in the hot tub and gazed at the stars above me. I smiled to myself as I thought how the celestial globes DID look like diamonds in the sky, just like the lyrics in Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

I savored the water jets as they pummeled my aching neck and shoulders. I relished in the simple pleasure of a quiet evening sitting, soaking and star gazing. “So what is the big deal about that?” you may ask. Certainly I have thought the same thing at times. I’ve had a hot tub in the backyard for several years. The stars have twinkled before my birth and will go on sparkling long after I’m dust. However, what was unusual about this encounter is not that I enjoyed myself, but why I hadn’t regaled in this experience more often?

When my spouse, CB, is home, the hot tub is not an overlooked box of water and heavenly bodies are never taken for granted. However, when my nature-loving spouse is traveling and I’m alone, I generally find something else to do rather than partake in the pleasures that exist in my own backyard. I thought about this odd behavior and decided that I cheat myself out of this available indulgence because ...

1. CB isn’t there to enjoy it with me.

2. My muscles aren’t sore so why bother?

So why did I finally enjoy the tub and stars? Did I have some magical moment of insight? Unfortunately I slipped into the tub because my muscles were sore and I was out of IB Profen. But the bigger question is why do I feel have to wait until I have a good reason to enjoy myself in my backyard haven? Is there some Puritanical edict that declares the hot tub is off limits if my muscles are not bound up in knots, my cupboards are stocked with pain reliever and my spouse is out of town?

Of course not.

However, somewhere in my misguided psyche I felt like I had to earn this luxury out of either medicinal or marital need. However, while I have the misguided notion that I have to “deserve” to sit in the hot tub, I do feel that I am free to enjoy a happy life. This has not always been the case. Just as I rationed my smiles and laughter, in the past I put limits on my happiness as well.

Fortunately, I learned that happiness is something we can all enjoy. There are no stipulations. We may put a few self-imposed restrictions on our happiness, but these are restrictions of our own choosing. There is no law that we have to punish ourselves first in order to experience joy in our daily lives.

That is not to say that you should quit your job, refuse to clean your bathroom and simply do what you want regardless of the consequences. Happiness isn’t about a life of hedonistic pleasure and debauchery. It’s about enjoying what there is to enjoy and reducing the unnecessary attachment to negativity that eats away at our souls.

So to reiterate, the first tip in this article is to debunk the notion you have to do the emotional equivalent of 50 pushups before you can smile, laugh or be happy. You earned the right to happiness when you took your first breath. Happiness is your right.

The second roadblock to a more cheerful existence is immersing ourselves in negativity. That is why my friend and co-author Jackie and I wrote Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within. Remember, you wouldn’t cuddle a cactus, why would you want to hang on to negativity for dear life? Let it go. If you must hold onto something, embrace happiness.

For more tips, please visit our website, or buy the book through Amazon. If you can't afford to buy it, ask the library to carry it. You can also enter “erase negativity” and find us on you tube. We will be posting a video very soon on simple tips on how to erase negativity from your life.

But enough happiness tips for now. There are stars and a hot tub calling my name and I’m ready to enjoy a starry, starry night.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Halloween Rerun

By popular demand I'm reposting one of my favorite Halloween blogs.

It’s nearly Halloween and the stores are filled with ghoulish décor. On a recent outing my little granddaughter, Rosannah, discovered some holiday decorations packed more trick than treat. Rosannah is nearly two years old and quite fearless. She runs through the house with her hands in the air, scales the couch and her high chair with the speed of a mountain goat, and follows the family’s Rottweilers through the doggy door, with no worry of being trampled.

However, my plucky, little granddaughter’s bravery melted like a candy bar when she encountered a cackling witch at the local hardware store. Rosannah buried her head into her mother’s shoulder and whimpered, “no, no.” When she looked up, she saw another display – a werewolf. She smiled at the item and said, “doggy?” Then the eyes of the beast turned red. This elicited another whimpering “no, no” and she buried her dimpled face into her mother’s shoulder once again. Even something as innocuous as a skull on a glass elicits a quick retreat.

I’m not sure why the symbol of a skull is so frightening to Rosannah. It makes me wonder if there could be universal phobias that are buried deep within our collective consciousness. I read somewhere that snakes are feared in many cultures – including those areas that have never seen one of the slithering reptiles.

Other phobias are not so universal. For instance, my friend, Michele, has a 36-year-daughter who is afraid of dryer lint. I reminded her of this quirky habit. I assumed she had outgrown it. Nope. If her husband wanted a divorce he could chase her around the house with the lint, much like how her brother used to do when they were kids. But, like I said, the man wants to remain happily married so he takes care of the lint disposal. My normally logical sister, Diane, gets squeamish touching balls of cotton. I always felt I had a sense of power over her as I would valiantly pull the wad of the white padding from bottles of aspirin. Recently I reminded her of this childhood fear. Well, guess what? She still won’t touch the cotton balls.

The point is, there are many things that strike fear into the hearts of humankind. However, there is one demon that, unlike dryer lint, has caused tremendous harm, but holds free reign in society – negativity.

These pessimistic messages take various forms – news reports, gossip, complaints, lack of gratitude, judgmental thoughts, as well as stinging criticism of ourselves and others. Unfortunately, negativity has become so pervasive that many of us accept it as a normal part of life. This is especially true because we are bombarded with negative news 24/7. The reality is there are many more happy incidents in a day, but no journalist is going to lead the 5 o’clock news with a story of good cheer. As the old adage goes, “if it bleeds, it leads.”

As dismal as this may seem, the good news is we still have a choice on whether or not we are going to allow negativity to stain our lives. There is no law that says we have to watch depressing news. We should not feel compelled to listen to others say disparaging things about others. And we should never repeat gossip…period.

Living a happy life is not that difficult. Even in the most depressing situations there are things to be grateful for. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Every morning I recite several things that I appreciate in my life before I get out of bed. This only takes a few seconds, but it creates an attitude of gratitude that I try to embrace throughout the day.

For those who have a little more trouble adopting a positive attitude, there are little tricks you can perform to shift into an attitude of gratitude. I outline several in the my book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within. I’m also happy to provide customized advice to those who contact me through my website,

In the meantime, you can always adopt an adult version of Rosannah’s technique when confronted with negative messages. It’s the same thing we teach children who are tempted to take drugs. Turn away and just say no.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Was I Switched at Birth?

I was sick a few days ago and spent a couple of days camped out on the couch. With little energy to do much else, I browsed through Netflix and watched a movie about two little boys who were accidentally switched at birth. When I finished the movie I saw a television series, Switched at Birth, based on the same premise. However, instead of little boys, the main characters are two teenage girls. I’m no teenager, but the show really captivated me. I will have to patiently wait for season 2 to become available to see what happens next.

I think two of the underlying themes of the series are ones all of us can identify with, the difficulty of fitting in, as well as being accepted for who we are.
I remember when I was a young girl I wondered if I had accidentally been delivered to the wrong family. I was the only one who hated math, loved reading and had a crossed eye. Physically I couldn’t deny my heritage. There is a striking resemblance between me and my siblings, especially to my older sister Diane. Complete strangers would come up to us and mistake us for one another well into adulthood. However, when it came to other matters, I was a polar opposite of the rest of the Marks clan.

In retrospect, I think most of us feel out of step, even within our own family dynamic. In fact we may even feel that way about our place in the world as well. How often have we wished to go back in time and change past choices or whine about the ramifications of our decisions? It has to be a common thought because I have seen dozens of movies with a similar premise.

However, we should not wait for an angel or magical genie to appear and change our life. But that does not mean we should give up hope for a brighter future. All of us have the power to affect change. Oddly enough, rather than do something to improve our situations the typical course of action is to whine, stay stuck in our own miserable mindset, and then wonder why our lives turned out the way it did.. It’s as if our life is a television show and rather than switch the channel, or write a new script, we continue to not only play these sad episodes, we play them over and over and over again.

In our book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within, I interviewed a woman named Tammy D’Antonio. Tammy is an intelligent, strong, articulate woman. I assumed she came from a wealthy family who had ingrained a strong sense of purpose and pride in her warm, but ambitious soul.

Nothing could have been farther from the truth.

When I interviewed Tammy I learned both her mom and dad were drug addicts and her mother was murdered by drug dealers. Tammy’s only brother also went to jail for drug-related crimes (however he has since turned his life around.) Rather than stay immersed in family tragedy and drama, when Tammy was a teenager she decided she could write her own life script.

In the book she defined some of the goals she set for herself.

1. Set goals.
2. State your intention.
3. Take action.
4. Have faith.
5. Always keep moving.
6. Never be defeated.
7. Always strive for something bigger than you.
8. Have humility.
9. Love.

Later she would convert to Buddhism and incorporate a more spiritual approach to integrate into her goals to improve her life. However, using these simple nine goals, she changed the direction of her life.

The important thing to remember is we have far more power than we believe. We may not be able to change the past, but we have the power to create our future. While it may seem seductive to imagine how our lives may have been different if we had made different choices, or better yet, been born to a better family, that is not reality.

While fictional television shows and movies are entertaining, they are a writer’s creation, not fact. Your life, good or bad, is your creation. Or, as in the words of David Thomas: If there are things you don't like in the world you grew up in, make your own life different.”

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Are You Cheating Yourself Out of Happiness?

For those of you who would rather listen than read, check out this out interview.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Open Up and Get Moving

I woke up today feeling stronger, younger and more alert. This may not seem like news to you, but anyone who has seen me in the morning (prior to my infusion of coffee) would find this a minor miracle. The difference is I had a rolfing session yesterday and the invigorating effects spilled over and hopefully will help launch me into a more energized weekend.

For those of you who are not familiar with rolfing, it is a technique of deep muscular manipulation and massage for the relief of bodily and emotional tension. Rolfing is like electricity. I don’t understand it but I enjoy its rewards.

I heard about rolfing when I was attending Arizona State University in the 1980s. The young man I sat next to in my Jazz in America class had great posture and we had a conversation about it. He was learning how to be a rolfing practitioner and he was undergoing rofling sessions as well. Two decades later I learned my sister-in-law went through the rolfing treatments and had yearly tune-ups. I suspected one day I would give the modality a try, but it wasn’t number one on my list of things to do.

One day I was waiting for a client at her office and I started leafing through some magazines. I saw an ad for Rihab Yaqub, a certified East Valley Rolfer. She looked like a kind, compassionate soul, so I decided to shoot her an email and make an appointment.

I am glad I did.

I am no stranger to body work. I’ve experienced (and enjoyed) massage, acupuncture, gua sha and reiki. I have a rudimentary understanding of stagnant qui and lymph and I strive to keep things open and moving. I don’t even know if these terms apply to rolfing, but I think the idea is basically the same. Anyway, after my appointment (my fourth of 10) I discovered that I wasn’t as “open” as I felt I should be. Rihab offered me a few tips on how to “open up” but also encouraged me to not be too hard on myself.

Which brings me to my point (I always have one, sometimes I just take a while to get there.)

While I pride myself on some areas of openness and vulnerability, there are other parts of myself that I prefer to keep tightly shut. Of course I wasn’t even aware of this. I suspect it’s that way for a lot of folks. Whether it’s energetic vulnerability or an open mind, shutting the door is often the safest and more automatic response. Of course it is not the best way to live your life if you want to grow, improve and become happier. But it is easier.

When Jackie and I wrote Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within, we wanted to help folks sponge away negativity from their lives. Both of us offer tips on the topic, write articles, give workshops and conduct seminars. We have found that most people acknowledge there is a lot of negativity in the world, but not everyone sees that they are often unknowingly contributing to the problem. Negativity is safely ensconced in our collective bodies and souls. Releasing the garbage and opening up to a happier life may not seem practical, or even possible.

In our book we write:

It is impossible to go through life without encountering difficulties. From a baby’s first cry to the last dying breath, the human experience involves a series of struggles. While encountering challenges is an inherent part of life, it is not so much the problems, but the attitude you take while facing these difficulties that shapes how you view the world.

If it were simply a matter of flipping a switch to receive a positive or negative attitude, most folks would opt for former. Unfortunately, many of us grew up in a negative environment, or suffered physical or emotional trauma that tainted our outlook. Bit by bit, negativity became a way of coping with life. Many pessimistic individuals claim that while a negative outlook may provide fewer positive results, it also protects them from disappointment. Unfortunately, negativity is more like a cancer than a protective shield. It starts small, and may seem innocent enough at first, but if not kept in check the negative mindset can spread and wreck havoc in all aspects of life.

I would like to invite anyone who is reading this article to consider practicing a few minutes of optimism every day. Of course I hope folks will buy our book or attend one of our seminars, but we are not so arrogant as to think we are the only ones with a guideline to happiness. There are many paths that will lead you toward a joyful life. However, we do believe your happiness is important and we will provide discounts and even free workshops to those who want our services but are experiencing financial hardship. If you want to make a positive change, contact us through our website and let us know how we can help.

The important thing is to do something, anything. The biggest obstacle to happiness is taking that first action. But as Confucius said so long ago: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

So open up and get moving.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sally Has Her First Oscar!

I got my first Oscar last week. I’ve been writing screenplays for years and envisioned the golden statute residing proudly in the music room. Other times I thought I could have a special shelf made in my office. However, when Oscar came into my life I never expected that he would spend a lot of the day sitting proudly on the bottom shelf of an end table in the living room. I especially never thought that the floor under the table would be littered with poo balls.

Oh, I guess there is a detail I forgot to tell you. Oscar was not the result of an award-winning script. Oscar is our new pet bunny.

Our last bunny recently passed away. None of our bunnies ran to greet us at the door and wag their tails, or jump into our laps demanding attention. But life without a bunny was strangely sad and quiet. We missed the pitter patter of bunny paws, the slurp, slurp slurp from the water bottle and the clanging of toys being tossed around the cage. My spouse, CB, probably would have grieved longer after the passing of Tinkle Toes, our last bunny, but there are so many pets that need homes, I didn’t see the point in waiting. We adopted Oscar from the Bunny Rescue in East Mesa, AZ. I applaud the owner, Angel, and her devoted staff of volunteers. If you are looking to adopt a pet bunny or cat, or you are looking for a charitable organization to donate to, this is a very worthy cause.

But back to our bunny tale.

Oscar is quite the character. At times he stands up on his haunches and looks around, pokes his nose into anything new and occasionally makes us laugh when he jumps straight up into the air. Other times he seems quite content to sit quietly, wait until we are lulled into a false sense of security and sneak a nibble on the carpet or throw rug.

I have always enjoyed having a pet, but usually the animal of choice has been a dog. When I was a child we had both dogs and cats. But CB is allergic to cats and we travel too much for a dog, so bunnies have been our companions.

There isn’t anything cuter than a baby bunny, but this time I felt an adult rabbit, one who was friendly and enjoyed human interaction, would be a better choice. Oscar fit the bill.

Even though we have had pet bunnies in the past, I went online to read up on bunny care. I learned a few things. However, I didn’t feel too bad that I wasn’t an expert. I have two grown children and there are things that were acceptable for babies raised in the 1980s that are not in vogue today. One example is those cute bumper pads in the cribs. I had bumpers for each of my daughters and it even came with a matching baby quilt and curtains. Who would have expected that these cushy pads could become a choking hazard? So my granddaughters did not have bumper pads in their cribs and their mom didn't eat sushi during her pregnancy. Who knew? The point is there is always something new to learn, whether it's child care of bunny care, do your research.

I don’t want to make this an educational piece. If you google bunny rescue and include your state and city, you will find adoptable pets as well as information on pet care. The same is true for other critters such as dogs and cats and even ferrets.

Having a pet is an important responsibility and not something that should be taken lightly. However, if you have done your research, have realistic expectations and have room in your heart for a new pet, please consider adopting one from the humane society, animal shelter, or one of many rescue organizations.

To my friends and family members who saw the headline to this story and thought I earned the coveted “Golden Boy” for Best Script, I apologize. But don’t despair (I’m still hopeful.) My screenplays may not have earned a gold statuette (yet) but now that I have my Oscar in the house I have created my own wonderful story and we pleased to report that are all living “hoppily” ever after.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

We're All In The Same Boat

Our nation recently commemorated the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. It is a day that is forever etched in our collective consciousness. Who doesn’t remember where they and what they did when they heard the shattering news and saw the painful and horrifying images?

There have been a myriad of plaques, memorials, flags, news clips, speeches, prayers, rants and outbursts surrounding that fateful day. There are stories and video clips denoting the pain and suffering, others of respect and gratitude for the heroes who worked to save others, narratives of the few survivors, as well as stories of the family and friends who lost a loved one in one of our nation’s worst tragedies.

What I would like to see in the next 10 years are more stories of healing and humanity. While I believe we have to take measures to ensure our nation’s security, I worry that the most fundamental step, recognizing the importance of our oneness as a people, needs to be fostered.

We so often focus on how we differ from one another that it creates an artificial barrier. We all want to take pride in our uniqueness, but when we use this as a measurement of how we are somehow “better” than someone else, it creates problems. When something or someone is perceived as dissimilar, it becomes so much easier to use that difference as a reason to hate.

Sometimes that hate becomes violent.

Shortly after 9/11 2001, a Sikh man wearing a turban was gunned down. The gunman, Frank Rogue, believed his target was an Arab. The victim, Balbir Singh Sodhi, was a gasoline station owner who emigrated from India. Ironically, the Sikhs are known for their peace-loving nature and beliefs. What makes this even worse, at least for me, this violent act happened in my home town of Mesa, AZ.

As a Buddhist, I believe in the interconnectedness of humankind. Individuals are a microcosm of all of humanity and in the larger scheme, the universe. What we do to others we do to ourselves. Therefore, our actions of healing, compassion and understanding are needed far more than our acts of anger and hatred. While force may have a temporary effect to keep harm at bay, it does little to solve the inherent problem.

Since most of us identify with the things that set us apart from one another, it is difficult to imagine how inner connected we are. One example that illustrates our connectedness is pollution. If there a nuclear accident, the fallout is not contained to that given area. Radiation seeps into the earth and ground water, travels through our rivers, streams and ocean, as well as traveling hundreds and thousands of miles by blowing winds.

In a more humorous analogy I remember a story I heard years ago. A father was trying to bond with his son and decided to take him fishing in a small fishing boat. The son was in the front of the boat and the father in the back. When they were in the middle of the lake they hit a rock and water gushed near the father’s feet. The son seemed undeterred and even laughed about the situation. The father asked why the boy thought the situation was funny and the boy responded, “Because the leak is in YOUR part of the boat.”

In the next few years I hope we will spend less time focusing on past hurts and put our energy into solving problems by engaging others in heart-felt dialogue and recognizing the humanity in one another. We cannot root out all evil, but we can take steps to heal our planet by recognizing our similarities rather than dwelling on our differences.

A quote by Mushrif–ud-Din Abdullah, a Persian poet wrote a poem that graces the entrance of the Hall of Nation of the UN Building in New York.

Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.

Before the 11th anniversary of 9/11 I hope we can report several instances where we were a source of hope and light for humankind and our planet. We share this world with others and it is in our best interest to try to get along. After all, we are all in the same boat.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Goodbye Tinkle Toes

Our pet bunny, Tinkle Toes, passed away this morning. Even though we were expecting his death was eminent, the reality of the inevitable did not diminish our sadness. Thankfully, our pet seemed to die peacefully in his sleep. We buried him in the forest this morning before CB had to go in for work.

Tinkle Toes was a small, black, Lionhead bunny. We got him when he was about six weeks old and could fit in the palm of my hand. CB went into the mall for new glasses and the pet store was right next door. The litter of fuzzy lionheads was just too tempting and we both returned the next day to add another pet bunny to our household.

We had hoped that Tinkle Toes was a girl as we already had a male bunny and two males do not get along (unless they are from the same litter.) We looked in between Tinkle’s legs to determine his gender. We couldn’t tell, nor could any of the folks in the pet store. However, when we brought him home our other bunny, Romeo, knew instantly and wanted to bite him.

This behavior was unusual for Romeo as he was a very good natured bunny, but instincts are instincts. We had the bunnies in separate cages, but one time Tinkles poked his nose a little too close to Romeo’s and got a quick nip in the schnozola. However, CB, patiently introduced the bunnies to each other a little at a time and eventually they not only tolerated each other, they became best friends. When Romeo passed away, Tinkle Toes was right by his side.

Tinkle Toes traveled more than the average lagomorph. He loved to go camping. He had a cage in the back of the camper that rested on a shelf, but when we were driving he had a “bunny bin” and sat between us in the cab. Whenever we stopped at rest stops or campsites, we had a special travel bin (a mesh-like laundry bag) with two dinner-plate sized holes cut out so Tinkles could be in a safe, enclosed pen, but could still chomp on the grass. And chomp he did. Eating green grass was one of his favorite past times. He especially liked the little white flowers from clover. As sick as he was, he still managed to eat a couple of the flowers before he passed away. I brought in a couple more of the tasty tidbits, but those lay untouched in his cage that I cleaned this morning. But at least he died among his favorite things.

Losing a pet is a sad thing, even when you know death is near. Tinkle Toes did not seem to be suffering and I’m thankful for that. He brought a lot of joy to our lives and we have many happy memories. Feeling both the joy and pain of loving someone is part of what makes us human. It reminds me of a quote by Anatole France, "Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."

After we buried our bunny, the morning light filtered through the trees and created a bright spot on the ground very close to where Tinkles was laid to rest. There are many times when I bumble about and forget to notice the beauty of the world around me. It brought this quote by St. Francis of Assisi to mind.

"Ask the beasts and they will teach you the beauty of this earth."

I felt the luminescence was a sign that our little bunny’s spirit was in a better place and if I shifted my consciousness, I could be in a better place as well.

I cannot truthfully say that this moment in the sun erased my sadness. I will miss our little pet. I will remember how he would stand up on his back legs to eat a treat, the way he would sneak out and make me chase him through the house, and how happy he was plop down in the grass and eat dandelions and clover. It’s okay that I am sad. It’s okay that I take this nostalgic trip down the last five years of our fur baby’s life. I agree with Lacie Petitto who said,

“A pet is never truly forgotten until it is no longer remembered."

And I intend to remember Tinkle Toes and all the wonderful pets who have shared their lives with me. It is ironic that is the love and devotion of animals that best teach us how to be human.

I do not have the funds to add a wing to a pet hospital or create a refuge for animals. However, I can do what I have always done, respect the earth and its creatures, make environmentally sound choices, support “no kill” shelters, the humane society and PETA.

One day, I’m not sure when, we will adopt another bunny or two. Even though I feel the loss of our bunny, it would sadder still to punish ourselves further by refusing to allow another pet to enter our lives. I believe Gary Kowalski, author of The Souls of Animals, said it best.

"It is not just that animals make the world more scenic or picturesque. The lives of animals are woven into our very being - closer than our own breathing - and our soul will suffer when they are gone."

Good bye Tinkle Toes. You will be missed, but never forgotten.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I Miss My Friends

It does not always happen when the situation is dire, depressing and dismal. The feeling has washed over me when I’m sitting on a beautiful beach or walking through an emerald green forest. I’ve experienced the sensation when I’m alone, among crowds of people, or even sitting in front of folks who have paid to hear me talk about my book, Erase Negativity. Sometimes I miss my friends.

I’m a typical middle child. I learned (or thought) early on that I would not match my older brother, Dennis’ good looks, my older sister, Diane’s academic achievements, my younger brother Terry’s athletic ability or my baby sister, Tina’s skill as a pom pom girl. So I carved out my own niche in life – to be a good and loyal friend.

Through the years I have been fortunate enough to have some wonderful allies. Many have been at my side during the tough times such as when I divorced, lost my job, and my mother died (all within a year). I’ve had some pals who handed me Clearasil when my teenage complexion ran amok, helped me fix my unruly hair for the prom, and drove me home from the hospital and helped guide me through the door after eye surgery had me seeing double for six weeks.

I think some of my friend-making ability stems from my youth. As a middle child I learned to share at an early age. As long as my needs were met I didn’t have a problem allowing others access to my toys, clothes or time. However, I have to admit I took some liberties when the shoe was on the other foot and I wanted access to my sister’s clothing and shoes. There is a line between sharing and unauthorized pilfering. But I digress.

The point is, when I am enjoying something wonderful, I want to share it with others. The same is true for information. I suppose that is why I wrote a self-help book. I have benefited from the wisdom of others (in person and through books) and I would like to pass it along.

However, this desire to have friends can be a double-edged sword. In my book, one chapter highlights the experience of Maria, a meth addict. Her strong desire to have friends – any friends – led her down the path of drug addiction. Poor choices are not always so blatant. The term “frenemy” is a portmanteau of the words friend and enemy. It describes folks who are enemies disguised as friends. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between friend and foe.

In order to make better choices regarding friendships here are a few questions you can ask yourself.

•Does the person display good qualities such as honesty, integrity and consideration?
•Are they selfish and self serving? All friendships experience a give and take of needs, but if you find you are the one doing all the giving, especially in the beginning of the friendship, it is best to step back and assess the situation carefully.
NOTE: Often good-hearted individuals get sucked into an unhealthy alliance with a charismatic friend. Unfortunately, most of these individuals have learned to prey upon the kindness of others and are only interested in what they can take – be it time, money or favors. It is better to walk away from these people right away before you get emotionally involved.
•Do they talk critically about others behind their backs? If so, chances are they will do the same about you.
•Are they cheerful or cynical? Not everyone can be genial all the time, but someone who is consistently cynical operates on a lower vibration energetically, and if you spend a great deal of time with them your mood will be affected.
•Are they trustworthy and loyal? Remember that one’s actions speak louder than words. If a person says they are loyal, but demonstrates qualities that show they are otherwise, consider the actions, not what they say as the true barometer of their character.

Very few things are as important as having friends in your life, but, as in all things, make sure you pick good ones. Friends are like apples. Good ones nourish and sustain you. Bad ones can poison your heart and soul and give you karmic diarrhea. Pick well.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Don't Pull My String!

When I was a little girl there was a doll named Chatty Cathy. You pulled her string and there were a variety of phrases she said. I wasn’t too interested in this particular toy, but when Mattel came out with Cathy’s siblings, Chatty Baby and Chatty Brother, I knew I had to mend my naughty ways so the tow-headed babies would be mine for Christmas.

The twin dolls looked exactly alike except Chatty Baby had longer hair than her twin brother. At least she did until MY little sister, Tina, decided the doll needed a haircut. Even as a "doll mother" I was embarrassed that my plastic baby had a crew cut and the golden tresses would never grow back. However, karma being what it is, Tina’s friend, Debbie, found her own pair of scissors and Tina sported a crew cut herself for several months.

Anyway, my chatty twins had a repertoire of about 10 sayings such as “I hungry,” “mama,” “dada,” “you nice” and my favorite, “I love you.” They also laughed and cried. I pulled their little strings and never tired of their chatter. Evil siblings would do things like stutter stop the string mid pull so the babies would change their phrase and say something like “I love…boo hoo hoo.”

I was kind of a frumpy little kid, but my dolls were always well cared for. I brushed their hair, never left them outside in the heat, and they were always decked out in cute outfits. To this day I cannot bear to see a naked doll on the floor. I say the same thing to my grandkids that I did for my own daughters, “Go put some clothes on your baby before he/she catches a cold.” It works too because I’ve never heard so much as a sneeze from the baby dolls.

Unfortunately, my daughters did not share my affection for my chatty baby and her brother. In fact they were scared of the dolls. That movie “Chuckie” ruined the lives of a lot of innocent dolls. Bad Chuckie. But I digress.

As I have gotten older, I realize that I share some characteristics with these loquacious toys. For example, someone says something and rather than really think about a kind and thoughtful answer, the reaction is a knee jerk reply that becomes the equivalent of “go take a hike!” (or worse.)

We have a lot more than 10 automatic responses, but the same ones tend to get used over and over again. Think of the typical response when you are cut off in traffic. One or two words and one gesture usually materialize. The same is also true for sad news. The typical response is something less than heartfelt, such as, “Don’t worry, things will improve.” These banal comments are so hollow you can hear the echo as the words leave your lips.

As a writer I am always trying to think of things to say that can offer a unique perspective or insight. At least that’s the goal. But there are times when it’s as if someone pulls MY string and I make a stereotypical comment. Sometimes words are just too cheap and a friendly ear and a warm hug can say a lot more.

So I’m challenging everyone to try something new. Try talking less and listening more. This is nothing new. More than 2,000 years ago Epictetus said, “We have two ears and one mouth so we may listen more and talk the less.”

I recently purchased the book, “Listening” by Lee Coit. He not only talks about listening to others, but to listen to your own inner wisdom.

There will be times when someone says something and we will be inclined to respond with a cliché. Undoubtedly there will be times when others try to push our buttons or pull our strings.

At these difficult times we all need to remind ourselves to take a deep breath and really listen to what the other person is trying to say. If it is hurtful, dismiss it. If there is some truth to it, listen to your inner wisdom and see if there is a kernel of truth to it that can be used as a way to improve yourself. But most importantly, listen to your inner wisdom. Especially the part that when asked, responds with unconditional love. And best of all, you don’t even need to pull a string to hear it.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Despicable Me

I used to be a smart aleck. I suppose if there were a “Smart Assoholics” group I would have considered attending, but I never mustered the courage to look into it. Can you imagine calling and asking someone, “Can you tell me when the Smart Assoholics Group meets?” The members would either ignore you and or assume you were being a smart aleck for asking such a question.

I never officially went into smart aleck recovery, but I’ve more or less reformed my sarcastic ways. When someone says something unkind, the synapses in my brain may emit a fiery thought or two, but I try to use restraint before it erupts into a verbal explosion. In my youth I wasn’t as quick on my feet when the attack was directed at me, but if someone said something nasty to a friend or family member I could launch some zingers that could cut someone off at the knees.

Nearly 20 years ago (when wearing a bicycle helmet was more the exception than the rule) my daughter, Alicia, donned a helmet and pedaled off to junior high. Naturally some rude kid gave her a hard time about wearing it. My instant reaction was to say to the kid, “If I had your brain I wouldn’t worry about wearing a helmet either, but Alicia, unlike you, has something of value between her ears.” Now I just thought this. I didn’t say it. But if I’d seen that rotten kid that would probably have been the nicest thing I said to him.

Of course not all of my put downs were so mean-spirited. Some were more humorous than caustic. However, when I was in my 30s I enrolled in a World Religions class at Scottsdale Community College. I was especially interested in the chapter about Buddhism and decided to follow the example of employing “right speech” and keep the sarcasm at bay.

This was not easy for me. I had spent a lot of my life making smart aleck statements and my ability to emit witty retorts and I felt this skill was one of my finest attributes. However, I knew these comebacks created negative karma and I wanted to clean up my act. A great quote from Confucius helped inspire my new mode of speech.

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

Here are a couple of helpful hints about “right speech” taken from the “Speak No Evil” chapter of my book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within.

•Don’t gossip about others. Think about the effect your words can have before they leave your mouth. Before you speak, imagine the person you are talking about is standing right next to you listening to what you have to say. If you wouldn’t have the courage to say it to their face, or would be embarrassed for them to hear your opinion, don’t say it.

•Be mindful of your intention when you speak or act. Ask yourself if your intention is to be kind or mean. Before you say something, imagine someone said the same thing about you. Would you find this information helpful or hurtful? If you wouldn’t feel good hearing it, they probably won’t either. However, if there is something important that needs to be said, try communicating in a compassionate, not authoritarian, manner.

Sometimes it helps to use the “erase and replace” method. Take the offending word, thought or action and replace it with something kinder. This will take some resolve and some ingenuity, but you can do it. Anyone can flip a bird at a rude driver. That’s an automatic response. Why not use the situation as an opportunity to curse in pig latin?

Here’s another example. One day while my spouse, CB, and I were on a walk, we stepped in doggy do. Rather than get angry and yell the four letter word that instantly comes to mind, we tried to think of how many synonyms we could come up with to substitute for the word sh**. We came up with 16 (without the aid of a thesaurus). More importantly, we started laughing and enjoyed the rest of our walk .
Which brings me back to the present. Not gossiping and using diplomacy are two methods of “right speech” that I’ve worked hard to incorporate into my life. However, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to totally eliminate my clever responses. Not one to concede defeat easily, I put on my thinking cap and came up with a solution. I save my witty repartee and use it as snappy dialogue for the characters in my screenplays.

And a funny thing happened. My efforts have paid off. My scripts have won several awards and I’ve received a lot of praise for my clever dialogue. However, if you ask folks who know me what words they want to hear the most from me, they will tell you words of kindness. Not one person has asked me to go back to being a smart aleck.

I guess Mignon McLauglin’s quote says it best. “Don't be yourself - be someone a little nicer.”

Friday, August 5, 2011

Hear Me Roar!!!

I learned something when I babysat my two granddaughters the other day. They didn’t sit me down and offer a lecture. It was an observation I made when I played with them. Two-year-old Briannah sleeps in a crib. It has a door that opens and both girls like to climb inside of it. At first we made it a fort with a blanket on top, then we played peek a boo. The girls enjoyed this game, but it loses its luster after a while. At least for me.

The game switched to pretending the girls were animals in a cage. At first they growled and roared. I would sneak up to the cage and when they roared I would act frightened and run away. They both laughed uproariously at this. The game didn’t vary much from this basic scenario, but they were having so much fun that I kept it up longer than I normally would have done.

A few minutes into the game, Rosannah, who is 3 ½ years old, wanted to be a nice puppy. I would pat her on the head and she smiled. Briannah, however, who is usually the more passive of the two, continued to roar. This was a source of clout for her and she wasn’t ready to give it up.

I can’t blame Briannah. It isn’t often that a two-year-old can have this much “power” over an adult. Toddlers have to eat what we give them, sleep when we put them down for a nap (ideally anyway) go for rides in the car when the situation dictate and wear what we pick out for them. Of course this is for their safety and well being.

We have more choices as we grow older, but a lot of the scenario is very much the same. We work for companies that dictate the hours, the work, the pay and the location. With the crummy economy very few are comfortable doing anything more than doing as they are told and keep any complaints, comments or even suggestions to a minimum. In time, a lot of us feel a loss of power.
I’m not advocating growling at your boss , coworkers, family or friends, but the repressiveness of constantly stuffing your feelings, creativity and spirit can be damaging. In time, many of us could lose our “voice” or the thunderous roar of our imagination and spirit.

I know because I have worked and been in relationships where I felt my opinions and ideas were unappreciated, discouraged and even ridiculed. Years ago I talked to an intuitive who told me my throat chakra was blocked. As a writer and a public speaker, I knew this was something I needed to change. I was so worried about upsetting others that I became someone different than who I am – someone who cares enough to shed light on an unhappy world. Not only was I not shedding light, my own internal enlightenment felt like I was using a dimmer switch toward the off position.

At some point in our lives we worry more about pleasing others than doing the right thing. I saw that in Rosannah when she switched from a lion to a nice puppy. Of course I don’t advocate we became nasty little grippers who complain, vetch and moan. I believe in reducing the pessimism in our lives and even co-wrote the self-improvement book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within. But I don’t want folks to think I mean we should be a herd of sheep that do what others expect and do not have the courage to speak up when the situation calls for it.
Of course using diplomacy and trying to engage others in dialogue is a preferred method of communication, but sometimes we just need to stand up and roar. This could be to our congressman, bullies, bosses, spouses, or those who are trying to hurt us or others.

It reminds me of the lyrics from Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman.

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an' pretend
'cause I've heard it all before
And I've been down there on the floor
No one's ever gonna keep me down again ”

You don’t have to believe me – or even Helen Reddy. Ask Briannah or any other toddler you know. Our voices are powerful instruments. Make the best use of it. ROAR!!!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

One Thing I Wish I Knew in my 20s About Money

I was recently asked a few questions by my Personal Coach Vickie Champion. Some of these responses will be on her You Tube channel. Several of the questions had to do with "One thing I wish in knew in my 20s about..." I decided to elaborate in this blog about "One thing I wish I knew in my 20s about money." If you want to see more of the shorter videos, visit and subscribe to her newsletter. The response below is NOT on the videos.

When I was growing up there was a lot of fear in our house about not having enough money. I remember the milk man knocked on the door to collect his payment and my mother had told my older sister to tell him she wasn’t home. I didn’t know about this arrangement so I poked my head into the doorway and said, “She is to home. She’s in the bedroom.” I remember my sister brushed me aside and the milkman came back a few days later after my mom received money from my dad’s paycheck. I remember asking my mom about money and she showed us the bills and how much money came in and how much needed to go out. I was probably 8 or 9 years old. I never asked for money after. Not even the dues for girl scouts (a dime a week). I just told them my girl scout leader I forgot the money. Eventually I stopped going – even though I enjoyed it.

This fear of not having enough money stayed with me as an adult. I also had this misguided notion that if I DID acquire more money – such as working an extra shift as a waitress – I was somehow taking it from someone else.
That was decades ago and I’ve become a little wiser.

One thing I wish I knew in my 20s about money is The Law of Attraction - or that like attracts like. For example, fear of not having enough put me in the perfect position for creating more of what I don’t have – enough money. However, the opposite is also true. Believing that there is an abundance of money, opportunity, good health and happiness for me to enjoy, helped me attract more in my life.
Now I have a new mantra. I say, “I am happy, healthy and prosperous.” Another one is “Money comes easily to me.” Once I changed my attitude about attracting money – things got a lot easier. So if there is one thing I wish in my 20s about money is that you attract what you focus on – so you might as well focus on something great.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Recovering from Snarky Remarks

Life is full of defining moments. Of course you don’t know they’re defining moments at the time. They can be pivotal points that help you embrace your life and forge ahead with a ferocious courage that acts as a beacon of light for yourself or others, or can act like a shadow that creeps into your heart and mind and tells you “I can’t” “it won’t work” “I’m too old” “I’m too fat” or any number of negativities that poison our lives and erode our hearts.

We create our own stories every day. Like any good novel, often there is a nasty villain. My nemesis was Cynthia, an average-looking, freckle-faced girl who was in several of my classes in grade school, junior high and high school. There was really nothing special about Cynthia, except she had a mean streak. She carried a grudge from the time we were in 5th grade and I beat her best friend out for the part of Mrs. Santa Claus for the school play.

However, I wasn’t one to dwell on Cynthia and her cohorts. I had my friends and activities and was happy to excel in my own way. My confidence grew and I felt great. I remember standing with a group of my friends laughing and telling jokes. Cynthia called me over. She asked, “Sally, do you think you’re cool?” I think that being conceited was probably the worst thing I could be, so I answered, “no.” Then she said “Then why do you try to act like it?”

It was like someone punched me in the gut. Instead of standing proud and confident, my shoulders drooped. My humor became self deprecatory. I made jokes about my failures and was embarrassed by my accomplishments, so I always downplayed them. I don’t know why, but I gave Cynthia’s comment a lot of power. This happened when I was 13. When I turned 50 I still carried a piece of this with me.

I replayed this scenario over and over in my head. What if I would’ve said, “Yes, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.” Or “Yes, I’m sorry it bothers you, but I’m perfectly happy with who I am.” Or what if my garrulous nature would have surfaced and replied, “Yes, have a problem with that?” Or even used my sarcasm and said “Yes, and I don’t think it would bode well for me to be talking to someone like you.” But of course I didn’t. I just said “no” and I don’t know that I ever felt quite right about feeling good about myself for a very long time. And I know this is the same for a lot of you today.

Someone, something said or did something bad to you and you believed it. You carried it around and it has poisoned your very being. Maybe 100 people said something good, but that one nasty thing, that’s the thing that has stuck like glue and sapped away at the belief that you are a wonderful human being. I want you to write that hurt on a piece of paper. It just needs to be a word or two for now. Look at that paper and read the words to yourself, or out loud if you want. Well, you know what I have to say to that? They were wrong! I want you to think about the hurt, the pain, the shame, whatever you are holding inside of you right now. I want you to crumble that piece of paper and throw it on the floor. Stomp on it. If it gets away from you, let someone help stomp on it for you as well. If you want to write it again when you get home and burn it, do it. It’s gone. It is no longer true. Release that negativity from your life forever.

We have all experienced painful experiences in our life. However we have absolute control over whether or not we are going to let those experiences beat us down or build us up. We cannot change the past, but we can release ourselves from the pain from it.

Here is my case in point. I wrote this story seven years ago as part of a speech I was giving. Seven years have passed. My high school reunion is coming up next year (40th!) and I have volunteered to call former classmates and encourage them to attend the big event. I volunteered for the same duty at our reunion four years ago. Guess whose name was on my list? Yup, good ole Cynthia. I wound up leaving her a message. I looked for her at the 35th reunion, but she did not attend. However, my guess is she will be at the next one. It sounds strange but I hope she can make it. I’ve decided that if she attends I will make a point to say hello. Perhaps she will remember her unkindness and apologize, or maybe not. It doesn’t matter. I’m sure she has suffered in other ways and is just doing her best to have a happy life. I forgave her years ago.

If she is still snarky I have decided I will just laugh at her remarks. Whatever she thinks or says has no power over me anymore. I have created my own defining moments and I only have room for the ones that empower me.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day and the Pursuit of Happiness

Today is July 4th or Independence Day in the USA. One of my favorite phrases in the Declaration of Independence is: “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” I am not alone in my admiration. Wikipedia states that this line is considered by some as one of most well crafted, influential sentences in the history of the English language.

It is ironic that we Americans are one of the richest nations in the world, we enjoy freedoms that others can only dream about, we have boundless opportunities, yet most of us are unhappy. We may be in “pursuit” of happiness, but actually achieving it seems a frustrating and elusive endeavor.

My friend and co-author, Jackie and I believe that negativity is at the root of most folk’s misery. We wanted to do something to reverse this pessimistic trend so we wrote a book entitled Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within. This self-improvement novel IS a good start toward embracing a happier life, but it doesn’t have ALL the answers. In fact Jackie and I do not have all the answers either. However, I’m always open to learning more about creating a joyful life.

That is why today’s article focuses on a conversation I had with my friend and Myoho Sister, Karen. Karen and I are both SGI Buddhists. Through the years we have encouraged one another. On July 3 we were leaving a meeting and Karen shared some guidance that she read from our organization’s International President, Daisaku Ikeda. It had to do with winning and losing. We all have goals we want to achieve whether it is landing a job, overcoming health issues or finding the perfect mate. In my limited thinking I had previously believed I only “won” when I achieved my goals. Through the years I have won some and lost some. A valuable lesson that Karen shared with me is it is not the goal so much as defeating the elements in my life that are preventing my happiness that should be my true objective.

In Buddhist philosophy obstacles to our happiness are not the circumstances but the mindset and actions we take. When we engage in defeatist thoughts, speech and actions we are letting our internal negativity (or innate darkness) take over. This negativity can take various forms. For some it may be laziness, guilt, greed, pride or anger. Others may choose a numbing experience and turn to a temporary fix such as alcohol or drugs. None of these tactics bring true happiness.

Another way to circumvent joy and traipse down the road of misery is to place your happiness exclusively on attaining a specific outcome.. That is not to say that we should not have goals. I’m a firm believer in them. However, the real trick is finding out what is stopping us from becoming happy and working to eliminate that faulty thinking and behavior.

For instance, I have a goal to pray each day. Since I’m Buddhist, my prayer is chanting the words Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. I do this religiously, but the sincerity, length of time etc fluctuates. In my faulty thinking I have thought that I’m only a “good Buddhist” if I chant a lot and what I’m chanting for comes true. We call this actual proof. When I’m unsuccessful (which is often because I have a lot of things I want to achieve) I feel like I finished last in the human race.

However, my friend Karen reminded me that a true victory is making the effort, not achieving the result. Every time I pray, write, exercise or do any of the things that infuses a little joy in my life, I am victorious. After all, I could be watching television, eating chocolate, or taking a nap, but instead I am making an effort. In essence, at that particular moment I am victorious over one of my weaknesses – laziness. Rather than focus on guilt on what I should be doing more often, I should rejoice that I have defeated my lazy nature (for the time being) and I am victorious in the moment. Unfortunately there are times when I’m making progress, but rather than rejoicing in my efforts, I let guilt or other unseemly thoughts enter my brain.

No one is perfect. No matter how hard we try at various things, we cannot always have the result we want. However, we can celebrate our positive causes. The more we rejoice, the more we will WANT to make the effort. It doesn’t matter if these positive efforts are two minutes a day or 12 hours. Every good action is a start toward a happier existence.

In conclusion, I invite all of you to engage in a different type of independence day. Take a holiday from guilt. Instead, make efforts toward your pursuit of happiness. But remember the message Karen reminded me about from President Ikeda. Real joy stems from defeating your inner darkness and letting your happiness shine through no matter what your circumstances bring.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Dumb Bunny?

I have heard the expression “Dumb Bunny” used for years. Our pet rabbit does not appreciate this term. Tinkles is a sensitive creature and a tad grouchy. I don’t want to upset him so I try not to use the “dumb bunny” idiom. In fact, our pet is not only a smart little hopper, he was a catalyst for an enlightening experience.

We recently went on a combination vacation and book tour. Tinkles came along for the ride. He has a shelf in the back of the camper which houses his bunny cage. He has a traveling bin in the front of the truck cab as well. While my spouse, CB and I admired the rolling landscape, Tinkles was trolling for bites of moist, green grass.

We live in sunny Arizona so a mouthful of unfertilized, pesticide-free grass is not easily available. Tinkles has to settle for hay, grain and the occasional carrot or peanut. However, while we were on the road – camping or in a hotel – the Northern California Coast provided grass galore. CB created a makeshift pen for Tinkles from a small laundry basket. CB cut a dinner plate-sized hole in the bottom of the pen so we can place it on the grass and Tinkles can eat grass to his little heart’s content.

During our road trip our "fur baby" was in bunny heaven. Unfortunately, our vacation came to an end. Returning to Arizona was a bit of a culture shock. The desert climate resembled Dante’s inferno more than a lagomorph’s verdant paradise. Tinkles’ daily servings of delicious, moist and tasty grass reverted back to a handful of dried hay. Upon reflection, I think the expression “What the hay!” came from an unsatisfied rabbit. Of course it could have been Mr. Ed. But I digress. Anyway, when we returned home, Tinkles turned his nose up at his Arizona meals. He begrudgingly ate his grain, but he ignored his hay. He had been a happy camper, but he was not a happy bunny.

For about two weeks Tinkles refused to eat his hay. I did not want him to get constipated so I did not increase his grain. He complained by tossing his little dish around. He also refused to be held for longer than a minute. He remembered better times (and meals) and he was going to hold out until the green grass returned.

This probably sounds like the amusing behavior of a silly rabbit. However, how many times have we done something similar? We suffer a setback and refuse to allow joyful moments to penetrate our hearts and minds. Or we put a stipulation on our happiness such as: “I will be happy when I get a better job.” “I’ll be happy when I’m in a relationship.” We hold our personal joy hostage to these possible happier outcomes that may or may not happen in the future. It’s like Tinkles holding out for greener pastures.

To make matters worse, many of us disregard the blessings we encounter every day. Instead we chose to replay our miserable stories from the past. It’s as if our brain is a DVD player and we keep playing the snippets from the saddest moments of our lives. And we don’t just play this melodrama once. We play it over and over again.

This practice is a lot more masochistic than we may realize. Kebba Buckley Button’s new book, Peace Within, quotes research from a medical conference in 1995 that stated that if a person holds onto a negative thought for five minutes, the parasympathetic nervous system is adversely affected in eight factors for six hours!

In our book Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within, my friend and co-author Jacqueline and I wrote about several examples of living optimistically, as well as providing tips on how to erase negativity and enjoy a happier life. A couple of simple suggestions include reciting positive affirmations every day and showing ongoing appreciation for the many positive things we enjoy.

For instance, we take breathing for granted. However, if you were drowning, suffering an asthma attack or choking, your next breath would be more important than anything else in your life. When that next breath finally filled your lungs, wouldn't you be be ecstatic?

Therefore, to keep us on the happy track, I suggest we constantly remind ourselves of what we are grateful for. One of my favorite unattributed quotes is: “Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” The more time we spend time showing gratitude the less likely we will have to replay the sad songs of our past.

Erasing or reducing negativity is not easy. However, it can be done. The important thing is to take the first step. Of course I hope it will start with reading our book, but ANY effort is a step in the right direction. And if you enjoy the book, don’t keep it to yourself. Pass it on and encourage others to read it. Also, please contact your local library and ask them to carry the book so those who do not have $12.99 to spare, can read it for free.

We all want to be happy, but often we forget our way. Whether we are holding on to past hurts and ignoring the joys that are present today, or remembering better times and refusing to move forward is not the road to happiness. It is more like a freeway to frustration.

Even our pet bunny knows how silly it is to stay immersed in this futile behavior. A few days ago Tinkles starting eating his alfalfa again. He may prefer fresh grass, but when he realized his surliness was not going to improve his diet, he gave up and ate what I gave him.

So why not take a lesson from Tinkles and forget about the past and enjoy what there is to enjoy right now? With apologies to Bobby McFerrin “Don’t worry. Be hoppy/happy.”