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Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year's Trivia and Fun Facts

Okay, we did holiday trivia last week, so let's ring in the New Year with some more fun!
  • The celebration of the new year is the oldest of all holidays. It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago.
  • According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, more vehicles are stolen on New Year's Day than on any other holiday throughout the year.
  • It is thought that the first visitors you see after ringing in the New Year would bring you good or bad luck, depending on who you keep as friends and enemies. Keep your friends close and your enemies far away!
  • Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes "coming full circle," completing a year's cycle. For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year's Day will bring good fortune.
  • Celebrating New Year on January 1 is purely arbitrary, as neither it has agricultural significance nor astronomical. Many countries still celebrate it in spring, the season of rebirth of new crops.
  • The Time Square New Year's Eve Ball came about as a result of a ban on fireworks. The first ball, in 1907, was an illuminated 700-pound iron and wood ball adorned with one hundred 25-watt light bulbs.  Today, the round ball designed by Waterford Crystal, weighs 11,875-pounds, is 12 feet in diameter and is bedazzled with 2,668 Waterford crystals.
  • January has been named after God Janus (Latin word for door), in the Roman calendar. Janus is the God with two faces, one looking backwards and one forward, at the same time and marks the ‘spirit of the opening’
  • Due to wartime restrictions, the New Year's Eve ball was not lowered in 1942 and 1943.
  • Throughout the year, visitors to Times Square in New York City write their New Year's wishes on pieces of official Times Square New Year's Eve confetti. At the end of the year, the wishes are collected and added to the one ton of confetti that showers the crowd gathered in Times Square in celebration of the New Year.
  • The top three destinations in the United States to ring in the New Year are Las Vegas, Disney World and New York City.
  • Eating black-eyed peas, ham or cabbage are thought to bring prosperity. However, stay away from bad luck foods like lobsters, because they move backwards, and chicken, because they scratch in reverse. It is believed that eating these on New Year's day might cause a reversal of fortune.
  • In Colombia, Cuba and Puerto Rico families stuff a life-size male doll called Mr. Old Year with memories of the outgoing year and dress him in old clothes from each family member. At midnight he is set on fire - thus burning away the bad memories of the year. 
  • The tradition of making New Year resolution dates back to the early Babylonians.
  • According to statistics 40 to 45 percent of American adults make one or more resolutions each year. The top New Year's resolutions include weight loss, exercise, quitting smoking and better money management. By the second week of January, 25 percent of people have abandoned their resolutions.
  • In Italy and Mexico, people wear red underwear on New Year's Day as a symbol of good luck for the upcoming year.
  • The Spanish ritual on New Year's eve is to eat twelve grapes at midnight. The tradition is meant to secure twelve happy months in the coming year.
  • Noisemaking and fireworks on New Year's Eve is believed to have originated in ancient times, when noise and fire were thought to dispel evil spirits and bring good luck.
  • According to the Mayan calendar, the end of the world will occur on on December 21, 2012 at 11:11(UTC) or 6:11 AM (EST). I guess Prince got it wrong. We shouldn't have partied like it was 1999. We should party like it's 2012! 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Best of 2011

It seems like ages ago, we were gearing up for Thanksgiving. Now, we've made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you celebrate Hanukkah, you've got a few more days. And, well, if you celebrate Kwanzaa, you're just getting started. However, New Year's Day represents the end of the holiday season. It's less than a week away, so its safe to say that we are in the Holiday Home Stretch.

The stress of the holidays should be winding down, so take some time to take a couple of deep breathes. The hard part is over. Since this is the vacation season, take some time to enjoy yourself. See a movie. Get a massage. Play with some of your new toys.

This is also the time, that we have all of the year in review lists. The Best of 2011. The Worst of 2011. The Biggest Stories or Scandals of 2011. The Biggest Names/Celebrities of 2011. It can be fun to look back. So take some time to make your own personal lists. What were your best moments of 2011? What were your biggest accomplishment.

People's first instinct is to say, "Oh, I don't have any." However, I'm going to call you on that. You do have some victories, successes. Granted, it's not every year that you get married, graduate from school or move into a house, but that doesn't mean you haven't had any accomplishments.

Think about what went well. What made you feel good? When I look back at 2011, here are a few things I look back on.

1. I took an amazing vacation to Edisto Island.
2. I accomplished several major projects at work.
3. I made a significant dent in paying off my debts.
4. I published two Get It Together Girl workbooks and have started on the next one.
5. I had my stylist cut some layers into my hair and I love them!
6. I decided to take Latin dance lessons and I start in January.
7. I stuck to my resolution and I will have read the entire Bible by December 31!
8. I reconnected with a good friend.

I don't really need to do a Worst of 2011 list because, like most people, I am painfully familiar with what didn't go well. If I was going to do this list, it wouldn't focus on mistakes and unpleasant experiences, instead I'd probably list the Top 3 (or 5) Lessons Learned instead. Rehashing the past is no good, the only thing we can do is learn from it.

The important thing here is to focus on your successes because we almost never do that. Let's prepare to go into 2012 positive and ready for an incredible New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Triva Fun!

I am a huge trivia buff! So in my last post before Christmas, I wanted to leave you with some fun Christmas facts.  Yet, I can’t forget that Hanukah is underway and Kwanzaa begins on Monday. So I’ve included trivia and fun facts for all three celebrations! Feel free to share them over dinner with the family!

Christmas Facts

  • The word Christmas is Old English, a contraction of Christ's Mass.

  • Gold-wrapped chocolate coins commemorate St Nicholas who gave bags of gold coins to the poor.

  • Germany made the first artificial Christmas trees. They were made of goose feathers and dyed green.

  • Electric lights for trees were first used in 1895.

  • "It's a Wonderful Life" appears on TV more often than any other holiday movie.

  • Rudolph was actually created by Montgomery Ward in the late 1930's for a holiday promotion. The rest is history.

  • The Nutcracker" is the most famous Christmas ballet.

  • Jingle Bells" was first written for Thanksgiving and then became one of the most popular Christmas songs.

  • If you received all of the gifts in the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas," you would receive 364 gifts.

  • The poinsettia plant was brought into the United States from Mexico by Joel Poinsett in the early 1800's.

  • Poinsettias are very poisonous to dogs!

  • Popular belief holds that 3 wise men visited Bethlehem from the east bearing gifts. However there is no mention in the bible about the number of wise men who visited. The number might come from the fact that three gifts were brought - gold, frankincense and myrrh

  • The twelve days of Christmas are the days between Christmas Day and Epiphany (6th of January). According to tradition, the days represent the length of time it took for the wise men from the East to visit the manger of Jesus after his birth.

  • In 1843, "A Christmas Carol" was written by Charles Dickens in just six weeks. “Bah Humbug” was originally “Bah Christmas!”

  • Christmas became a national holiday in America on June, 26, 1870.

  • Black Friday is not the busiest shopping day of the year. Although it varies, it usually lands sometime in December, in the days immediately preceding Christmas.

  • In Greek, X means Christ. That is where the word "X-Mas" comes from. Not because someone took the "Christ" out of Christmas.

  • Traditionally, Christmas trees are taken down after Epiphany (January 6).

  • More diamonds are sold around Christmas than any other time of the year.

  • In Mexico, wearing red underwear on New Year's Eve is said to bring new love in the upcoming year.

  • At Christmas, it is traditional to exchange kisses beneath the mistletoe tree. In ancient Scandinavia, mistletoe was associated with peace and friendship. That may account for the custom of "kissing beneath the mistletoe".

  • History of the Candy Cane. It was created in a small Indiana town to symbolize the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ. He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy to symbolize the Virgin Birth. The candymaker formed the stick into a “J” to represent the name of Jesus. It can also represent the staff of the “Good Shepherd.” He thought the candy was too plain so he stained it with a red stripe to symbolize the blood shed by Christ on the cross.

  • Hannakah Facts

  • Chanukah can fall anytime between the middle of November and beginning of January. The exact dates are decided according to the Jewish calendar, which is Lunar-based. The 8-day holiday starts on 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev.

  • The candles used for lighting Hanukah Menorah are supposed to burn for at least half an hour after the stars come out.

  • Placing the menorah in a window, to share the miracle and the celebration with passers bys, is considered to be a very important tradition of the festival.

  • The festival of Hanukkah has become more commercial with the giving of gifts, due to its proximity to Christmas. Earlier giving gifts was not a part of its tradition.

  • The nine-branched candelabrum used on a Chanukah is a misnomer; it is actually called a chanukiah. The menorah is actually a seven-branched candelabrum.

  • Chanukah begins four days before the new moon, which is the darkest night of the Kislev month. The month is close to the winter solstice, which is the longest and darkest month of the year. Like many other faiths, the Jewish holiday of Chanukah brings light in the darkest time of the year.

  • For most of its history, Hanukkah was a minor holiday. It gained popularity in the late 1800s, eventually becoming one of the most celebrated Jewish holidays in the calendar.

  • It takes 44 candles all together to observe all the eight nights of the Chanukah festival.

  • Kwanzaa Facts

  • Kwanzaa is celebrated daily from December 26 to January 1.

  • Kwanzaa (Swahili for "fresh fruits") is based on an African harvest festival.

  • The Karamu, or feast, is held on December 31 and one of the high points of Kwanzaa.

  • Kwanzaa was created by Maulana Karenga, a professor of black studies at California State University at Long Beach, in 1966. It is a nonreligious celebration of family and social values for African American families.

  • Gifts are given mainly to children, but must always include a book and a heritage symbol. The book is to emphasize the African value and tradition of learning stressed since ancient Egypt, and the heritage symbol to reaffirm and reinforce the African commitment to tradition and history.

  • The colors of Kwanzaa are black, red and green as noted above and can be utilized in decorations for Kwanzaa. Also decorations should include traditional African items, i.e., African baskets, cloth patterns, art objects, harvest symbols, etc.

  • The seven principles of Kwanzaa are: Umoja (Unity),  Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), Imani (Faith).
  • Monday, December 19, 2011

    A Final Holiday Plea

    We are in the home stretch. A week from now Christmas will be over. The gifts will have been opened. The meal will have been eaten. And we'll have approximately 10 months before we start this whole process again! So while you make your final purchases, pack your bags as you get ready to travel to spend time with family or begin preparing for that holiday meal, do one thing for me ... show some goodwill by doing something charitable. Remember the reason for the season and do something kind or generous for someone else.

    Call a great aunt or uncle. People say that Christmas is for the children but it can also be a very lonely time for the elderly. While we might remember grandma and grandpa, reach out to other elderly family members that might get overlooked; maybe their kids live in another city, maybe they never had any kids, maybe they are in a hospital or home and don't have a chance to get out. It would make their day if you called, stopped by or even bought them a gift.

    Shop for a cause. Take your children out to buy a few toys for kids that are less fortunate and then let the kids go with you as you donate to Toys for Tots, your church toy drive or another charity. Kids are born with a giving nature, give them a chance to nurture it and do something good for another child in the process. Likewise, you can donate some food to a food drive so others can have a yummy Christmas dinner.

    Make room for the new by getting rid of the old. Go through your closets and make a pile of clothes you can donate. Do the same for your kids. Donate them to Goodwill, Salvation Army, or other charity.

    Start a new tradition. We've got the shopping and gifting down pat. How about starting a new tradition that focuses more on the interpersonal or spiritual aspects of the holidays. You could start attending Christmas Eve service or donating your time at a food bank or other charity. Maybe you want to start a neighborhood Christmas caroling group. You could have a tradition of only discussing positive things at the Christmas table. Maybe you want a Christmas Eve or Christmas Night Game Night where you can all get together and have some family fun.

    In the holiday hustle and bustle, remember, the reason for the season.

    Thursday, December 15, 2011

    Is Just Enough Good Enough?

    I was having a conversation with a good friend of mine. She described me as a Type A personality. I disagreed. Yet, as we continued to talk, I realized that we had different definitions of Type A. According to my friend, someone with determination and drive is a Type A. In my mind, a Type A person is someone who is very competitive, unyielding and who has a difficulty being flexible. So I guess using her definition I would be a Type A.

    As we continued to talk, she said that I was one of those people who'd always be striving because nothing for me would ever be 'good enough'. I disagreed with that assessment, wholeheartedly ... but it did get me to start thinking about it.

    We live in a society that pushes us to do, achieve and have more. Why have a Mazda, if you could have a Mercedes? Sure, you enjoy your job but wouldn't you rather be a manager? Yes, the 27" flat screen is nice but wouldn't you rather have the 40" or even a 60"?

    I was late getting into the smartphone craze and my first smartphone was an old bulky Blackberry. When I ran into a problem and took it into T-Mobile, the salesman exclaimed loudly that I was on an 'old' phone. Several other patrons turned and looked at me.

    I explained that I had a problem, and I wanted my problem fixed. What I did not want (or need) was a new phone. I wasn't phased. I wasn't embarrassed. I wasn't going to let this kid make me feel bad about my phone!

    For me, I'm perfectly fine driving my Mazda and not owning an iPad, iPhone, iPod or iAnything Else. I like my house, I don't need a bigger one. For me, these things are good enough and I don't need, miss or crave anything more.

    Yet, there are areas where just enough is not good enough. I want to write more books. I want to sell more books. I want to grow my business. I want to get married. I think there is a lot of room for growth in my career and in my personal life. In these areas, I want more and what I have now is not enough.

    So what am I saying?

    I'm saying that we need to determine when just enough is good enough and when it's not. And, it goes further than that. If we determine that what we have and where we are is not good enough, then we need to be prepared to roll up our sleeves and work harder, smarter and differently.

    I think the disconnect for a lot of us comes when we want more but we aren't willing to do more. In those cases, I think it's important to have a serious conversation with yourself. Basically, you need to decide if what you say you want really is what you want. If it is, you need to find a way to motivate and push yourself to move forward. If you really don't want to put in the work, that's fine too, just accept that truth and learn to be content where you are. There isn't anything wrong with that if you are being true to yourself.

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    Karyn Cooks: Red Velvet Cheeecake

    I'm a huge fan of Red Velvet Cake. I'm also a huge fan of cheesecake. So when I volunteered to bring a dessert to the office potluck, I set out to find a recipe that would combine my two favorites. The result was positively yummy!

    Most of the time, I post quick, easy and healthy recipes here. This one is relatively easy, not quick and definitely not healthy. What the heck, though. It is the holiday season. Besides, the end result is worth it. Plus at Christmas time the red, Red Velvet and the white cream cheese topping make this look absolutely festive!


    • 1 1/2 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs
    • 1/4 cup butter, melted
    • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
    • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
    • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
    • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
    • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
    • 1 cup sour cream
    • 1/2 cup whole buttermilk
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
    • 2 (1-ounce) bottles red food coloring
    • 1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
    • 1/4 cup butter, softened
    • 2 cups powdered sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • Garnish: fresh mint sprigs


    Stir together graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar; press mixture into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.

    Beat 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar at medium-low speed with an electric mixer 1 minute. Add eggs and next 6 ingredients, mixing on low speed just until fully combined. Pour batter into prepared crust.

    Bake at 325° for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 300°, and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until center is firm. Run knife along outer edge of cheesecake. Turn oven off. Let cheesecake stand in oven 30 minutes. Remove cheesecake from oven; cool in pan on a wire rack 30 minutes. Cover and chill 8 hours.

    Beat 1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese and 1/4 cup butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth; gradually add powdered sugar and vanilla, beating until smooth. Spread evenly over top of cheesecake. Remove sides of springform pan. Garnish, if desired.

    Recipe courtesy of

    Thursday, December 8, 2011

    Resolve ... You've Got It!

    Did you know that less than 50% of Americans set New Year's Resolutions? It's true. For me the word itself is toxic. A resolution to me implies 'wishful thinking'. A resolution is something you make because you think you should and that most people have no real intention of keeping. This is why you can't get into a gym or a Weight Watchers meeting in January or February but by the end of March ... there are no lines at either place!

    Personally, I like New Year's. Within the holidays that make up The Holidays, it's my favorite. I love the idea of a new year and a fresh start. I have have some goals that I have managed to accomplish. This year, I eliminated all credit card debt and by December 31, I would have read the entire Bible cover to cover! Of course, some goals have been more difficult (losing weight).

    Notice, I called my targets goals and not resolutions. For me, there is a big difference and as a writer and trained journalist, words do matter. A resolution has failure built in. It's a notion, wishful-thinking, a good idea. For me a goal means action. It comes with a plan, milestones and deadlines. A goal means rolling up your sleeves and getting to work.

    A few years ago, I developed a goal-setting workshop. During a two-hour session, I guided participants through a process that helped them establish goals that were meaningful to each person. Goals they wanted to achieve and not goals they thought they should achieve (no one accomplishes those!).

    We started by looking at the past 12-24 month and pinpointing the highs and lows and what lessons could be extracted from both. Then we took a pass at creating a few (no more than 3 goals). Finally, we created plans for achieving those goals that included a Plan B, milestones and rewards.

    If you are interested, you can get a free two-page goal planning worksheet here.

    However, I've taken that goal-planning session and transformed it into the third Get It Together Girl book - Get It Together Girl!: Getting to Goal - Your Dreams, Your Desires, Your Way. It's available on Kindle ($1.99), on Nook and paperback ($6.99). If you want to create some compelling goals that you are actually excited to achieve, check them out. You won't regret it.

    Monday, December 5, 2011

    Hooray for the Holidays!

    We've survived Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Now, during the first full week of December, the Holidays are in full swing. Depending on your faith, we've got Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year's to make it through!

    The past couple have years have been lean ones for me but I've tried not to let a lack of funds hinder my enjoyment of the holidays. I've tried to remind myself that it isn't about the gifts, it's about family and friends. As a Christian, I try to remember the reason for the season has nothing to do with decorated trees, festive lights and how many gifts I get or give.

    Yet, although I'm going into this season a little more financially sound, I'm also going to try to use some of the lessons I've learned through several years of belt-tightening, to remain financially grounded.

    Here are a few of my lessons learned:

    The Little List: I scaled back on the gift-giving and do you know what? No one that was left off of my revised list was offended or upset. In fact, when I brought up the idea of passing on the gift exchange most of them were relieved. A dreaded sense of obligation is definitely a downer when it comes to spreading holiday cheer.

    Fabulous Friends: A dinner out with friends or better yet a day of shopping together for our families is a great way to spend time, create memories and not break the bank.

    Calling Cards: In the evenings on my way home from work, I started calling distant friends and families and wishing them Happy Holidays. We got to laugh and joke and catch up. A personal call beats a generic holiday letter any day. If I send cards, then I do a few every evening and make sure each one contains a personalized message from me to the person I'm sending it to.

    Cash is King: This one is easy for me because I don't have kids. If I can't pay for it in cash, I don't get it. This goes for gifts I give to others and gifts I give to myself. If I was going to use credit, I would only use it after I had exhausted all of my cash and I would try not to spend more than I could pay off in two months. If you can't have an all-cash Christmas this year, work towards it for next year. Starting in January, open a Christmas account and start squirreling away a little bit every month so next year Cash can be King, and credit cards can be banished.

    Give Back: Try at some point this holiday season to do something good for someone else. I go through my house and I get rid of old clothes, unused kitchen appliances and anything else I can find that is in good shape and I take it over to Crisis Assistance Ministry. Here in Charlotte, they have a free store where people in need can get clothing and basic household supplies.

    Donating gently used toys is also wonderful at the holidays ... no child should have to go without a toy on Christmas!

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    Failure IS an Option

    Failure isn't just an option, if you are going after something major, failure is inevitable. I recently came across an issue of the Harvard Business Review that came out on the spring. It's dedicated to failure. Yes, I said failure. We talk often about success but failure is never discussed. It's the other F word, and like the obscene F word, we don't want to use it in polite company. Yet, failure is the flip side of success - two sides of the very same coin. With a coin, you can't have heads without tails and you can't have success without failure.

    The issue focuses on some of businesses biggest CEOs and their philosophies and stories of failure. One succinctly said, "The only failure in failure is when we fail to learn from it." An very compelling argument can be made that we learn more from failure than success. Also failing prior to succeeding makes our success, when we get it, that much sweeter. We appreciate it that much more.

    It scares me when I see how many parents shield their kids from failure, in an effort to improve their self-esteem. The problem with that is that it doesn't work. Winning all of the time, being rewarded for just showing up and being coddled and told you are wonderful 24 hours a day doesn't build self-esteem as much as it creates a dangerous level of narcissism. Learning that you are okay even when you fail and learning how to bounce back and be resilient are much better teachers of self-esteem.

    I remember once, as a child, I was so bored that I actually did my chores. I did them without being chided, yelled at or reminded incessantly. I thought I was hot stuff. I went to my mom and proudly announced, "I did all of my chores today." She looked at me with a blank expression and said, "And? That's nice but I'm not going to reward you for doing what you are supposed to do."

    On another occasion, I auditioned for a play and did not get the lead role. I was crestfallen. After consoling me, my mother gave me my plan of action. "So you didn't get the lead role," she said. "You did get a nice sized role though and that's great. Now you make sure you play that role to the best of your ability and maybe next year, you'll get the lead."

    She didn't go to school and argue with the teacher that made the decision. She didn't argue with the mom of the girl who did. She explained that even when we don't get what we want, we have to do the best that we can with it. Failure, in my parents' eyes should make us work that much harder. What did that other girl have that I didn't? What can I do to be better? How can I improve so that next year, I have a fighting change.

    After several rehearsals I realized she was a darn good actress. She also had a much better voice than I did and this was a musical. I wasn't the lead but I understood why. Still, I took Mom's advice, but I made an impact in every scene I had (I even stole a few). I never got the lead in a musical, but a few years later, I did get a leading role.

    There were other times when I probably should have gotten a role or something else I worked for. When I would complain about the unfairness of it all or why I deserved what I didn't get, my Dad would agree. "You are right," he'd say - immediately making me feel better. "It isn't fair and you probably did deserve it but life isn't fair and you don't get everything you want or everything you work for. Keep it moving and eventually something will work out, but not if you just sit here and whine about it."

    The moral of the story is that I grew up knowing that failure happens. Good self-esteem is born of successes and failures. You don't get everything you want all of the time. You don't get every job you apply for. Every guy or girl you like doesn't like you back. You don’t get every role you audition for.

    Failure is nothing to fear. It's part of life and it doesn't define you. Failing a few times is a good thing, it means you are in the game. You'll never win if you sit on the sidelines and wait for the perfect opportunity. It certainly doesn't mean you're not good enough, smart enough or pretty enough. True elf-esteem comes from within and the belief that you are good enough when you win and when you lose.

    Monday, November 28, 2011

    More than Shades of Gray

     I have a very good friend who occasionally infuriates me by his tendency to see everything in black and white. If someone is having a hard time at work, it's "Why not just find another job?" His answer to a friend's difficult marital woes is "Why did she stay this long? Why didn't she just leave?" Everything in his eyes is just that simple and clear-cut.

    I wish it were so simple. I see the shades of gray. In fact, I don't just see the shades of gray, I see the colors as well. The beleaguered worker doesn't just find another job because he experiences the red-hot frustration of a sometimes difficult boss and the green glares of envy in the eyes of several coworkers as they play office politics with him. On the other hand, he also has the golden glow of friendship and genuine concern from several other co-workers. He is also tickled pink every day because he truly enjoys the work he gets to do everyday. Getting another job is anything but black and white.

    It seems simple enough for the woman in the blue-tinged loneliness of a bad marriage. Yet, what those on the outside never saw were the occasional bright red flashes of love and even passion between her and her jerk-of-a-husband. There were the warm brown moments of familiarity, as comforting as a cup of cocoa on a cold day, that came from knowing someone so long and experiencing so much with them. There was the flush of pink embarrassed cheeks as she imagined sharing what she had endured with condescending friends who "would have known better" if what had happened to her had happened to them. There was the gray-steely resolve she showed for years as she was determined to make her marriage work no matter what. So deciding to leave and getting up the courage to do so was anything but black and white.

    Most things in life aren't black and white or even gray. If we truly look at a situation, we will see it flushed with vivid, realistic and emotional color. To discount those colorful experiences is to cheapen and dismiss those experiences.

    Trust Me, You Need This

    Take today's blog photo, print it and keep it with you at all times. Feel free to make copies for kids, co-workers, friends or spouses.

    You see, this a rare find - something often heard but almost never seen. It is the ever-elusive Round To It. You hear a lot about Round To Its but its nearly impossible to find one, yet here it is.

    The next time you find yourself or someone else saying that they'll do something when they get a Round To It, hand them this uncommon excuse eliminator.
    • Your co-worker says she'll review your report when she gets "around to it." Hand it to her.
    • Your kids swear that they'll get "around to" cleaning their room. Hand it to them.
    • The hubs says he'll get "around to" mowing the lawn. Hand it to him.
    • "I'll get around to scheduling that doctor's appointment, you say." Hand it to yourself!
    People who are waiting for the opportunities to get a Round to It, no longer have that as an excuse because her it is!

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    Gratitude List

    It's impossible to be happy without being grateful. If you think about it, spoiled children (and adults) always seem disgruntled and unhappy because they are ungrateful. They feel entitled, as if they are owed something, and when they get what they think they deserve, they still aren't happy because now they want (deserve and are entitled to) something else. It's an endless cycle of misery.

    Yet, if we are grateful - thankful - for what we have, we are then in a position to be happy with what we have. It doesn't mean that we don't want more, but it does mean that we don't spend our time pining away for what we don't have and wishing that what we do have was something else, something better.

    It means you can enjoy a ride to work in your car without wishing you were riding in something else and headed somewhere all together different. It means you start a daily scavenger hunt, looking for what is good, what is working and what you can accomplish and enjoy. Gratitude enables you to see the good and the positive without the the tireless focus of what is wrong, broken, and just not good enough that plagues the entitled and ungrateful.

    A lot of people advocate keeping a daily gratitude journal where you find something(s) to be grateful for everyday. I think this is an excellent practice. If you aren't up to daily journaling, then take some time during the Thanksgiving holiday to come up with 10 things you are grateful for that have happened in this past year. And, I guarantee, you can come up with 10. I've come up with 20, but I'll share 10 here with you now.

    1. Health
    2. Incredible vacation.
    3. Spent extra time with my dad.
    4. Completed several major projects at work.
    5. Published two books on Kindle and recently added the paperbacks to Amazon.
    6. Relaunched my movie/TV blog and am enjoying writing it.
    7. Met a great guy.
    8. Reconnected with a few old friends
    9. Got back into cooking/baking as a hobby
    10. New hairstyle

    Nothing earth-shattering but things that have made my life a little better and brighter and for that I am grateful for. An attitude of gratitude can make all of the difference.

    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    Favorite Funny Quotes

    One week from know, we'll be celebrating the Thanksgiving (and a really long weekend, if you were lucky enough to get it off), I thought I’d leave you with some of my favorite funny quotes. If you didn't get the holiday off, Happy Thursday!
    • "The meek will inherit the earth – if that’s okay with everyone else." – Author Unknown
    • "The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, then it's you." ~ Rita Mae Brown
    • "Forgiving without forgetting is like taking poison and hoping the other guy will die." – Floyd Wickham (sales expert)
    • "The light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off due to budget constraints." – Elaine Ambrose (humor expert)
    • "Boys will be boys, and so will a lot of middle-aged men." - Kin Hubbard
    • "Pro and con are opposites, that fact is clearly seen. If progress means to move forward, then what does Congress mean?" - Nipsey Russell
    • "I must be wishing on someone else's star because it seems someone else is always getting what I wished for." ~ Unknown
    • "A word to the wise isn't necessary; it is the stupid ones who need all the advice." - Bill Cosby
    • "There are two different kinds of people in this world: those who finish what they start, and" – Brad Ramsey
    • "Always proof-read carefully to see if you any words out." ~ Unknown
    • "I've never been married, but I tell people I'm divorced so they won't think something is wrong with me." ~ Elayne Boosler
    • "If crime doesn't pay... does that mean my job is a crime?" ~ Unknown

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    Fretting about Tomorrow

    The same therapist that explained the connection between the past and depression explained to me that anxiety is future-based. People who suffer from anxiety worry about what would, could and should (or shouldn’t) happen. They approach tomorrow with a sense of dread and fear that seeps into their daily lives. Fear paralyzes them and stops them from taking action. They are simply overwhelmed.

    If you ordered a product, you wouldn’t worry about it arriving defective or broken. You expect it to come in good working order. If it does arrive broken or with parts missing, you’ll handle it at that time, Yet, we don’t do that when we worry about tomorrow.

    Some of our worries are well-founded. If you mailed off a payment knowing you don’t have the money in the bank to cover it, you’ll probably be worried … and rightly so. If you are cheating on your spouse, you probably should worry about getting caught.

    However, many of our worries are unfounded. We make bad situations potentially worse when we speak them with words like always and never. I’ll never have enough money. I always meet the wrong men. I will always be stuck in this situation. Things will never get better.

    Talk like that creates a lot of anxiety. We take the power of our imaginations and use it for the negative. We think of all the possible worst-case scenarios. If something has ever happened to us that supports our negative thinking then we will replay that event over and over again and assume that since it happened once before, it will, more than likely happen again.

    As I said in the last post, if your anxiety is debilitating and preventing you from moving forward, you might want to consult a therapist. However, if you feel you can handle it, the best antidote for anxiety is planning. Plan for the thing you fear. Do as much as you can today to prevent the negative tomorrow from ever taking place.

    As soon as I have a plan in place and begin acting on it, I feel better. I feel more in control. You might not be able to solve the whole problem but the act of doing something is making progress and you climb a mountain one step at a time.

    After I’ve done all I can do, I acknowledge that I’ve done all I can do. It might not be perfect. The problem might not be solved but it might be a little better. If it isn’t better, at least I don’t have the regrets that I didn’t do all that I could.

    I went through10 months of unemployment. As soon as I lost my job, I called the bank to see what I could do with my mortgage. This touched off a 10 month battle to try and keep my house. Talk about anxiety. Where would I go? How could I find an apartment without a job? Then my imagination kicked in. I would have to return to Cleveland, humiliated, and live with my family… at 41 years old. I’d be depressed. I’d be even fatter and I was convinced that I would have lost all will to go on. I invisioned myself wrapped in a blanket sitting on the sofa in the basement in my pajamas with a hair disheavled, tears in my eyes and a box of Kleenex at my side (what can I say, I have a vivid imagination!).

    I did all that I could. I borrowed from family and friends. I tried to save up my meager unemployment money to make a payment. I contacted HUD, all of my congressional representatives, made a complained with the Commission of Banks, used my tax refund money and prayed relentlessly. It was overwhelming. Many, many tears were shed.

    Finally, I realized that I had done all I could do and although it wouldn’t make me happy, I was willing to put my house up on a short sale. I hated the thought but I had no regrets because I had done all I could do. As I was heading home to call my agent, I got a call. It was a job offer and it saved my home.

    I was fraught with anxiety that entire time but when I was working toward a solution, I felt a little bit better. Doing something, at least for that time, helped.Taking action helped combat my anxiety. If I had to do it again (and I really hope I never have to), I would add talking back to those negative thoughts and using my imagination more proactively instead of letting that negative movie play.

    It doesn’t make sense to worry about things that haven’t happened yet; but it takes real actions and hard work to overcome those anxious thoughts and emotions.

    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    Yesterday is a Memory

    A therapist once told me that depression is rooted in the past: regrets, guilt and not being able to deal with things that happened in the past. Those events grab us and refuse to let go, influencing and often ruining or self-esteem, our relationships and our general outlook and response to life.

    Breaking the chains that shackle us to past events is critical to being able to move forward. I wish it was as easy as “just letting go” but often it isn’t. Sometimes we need the help of a professional … and there is nothing wrong with that. As a black woman, I come from a culture that often equates therapy with weakness when in fact nothing can be further from the truth. Therapy can be the strongest, bravest things you can do for yourself.

    Other times, you don’t need a therapist, you need to change your way of thinking. Sometimes it comes over time, other times it takes hard work. My mom died when I was 15. The last time I saw her I left in anger. I lived with the guilt of that for years. It took me becoming an adult to realize that she probably realized that I was 15. My behavior was an episode of teenage psychosis and she knew that. She still knew that I loved her. It took time to come to that realization, but once I had it, I was able to let go.

    On the other hand, after a bad experience dating a pathological liar, cheater and conman, it would have been easy to paint all men with that dark and evil brush. So, I got to work. I tried to find the lessons in that whole sorry experience. Most importantly, I realized that he was one man and was not a representative of all men. Ironically, the next man I met was the same age, height and from the same city as the conman. Yet, I judged this new man on his own merits and not on the behavior of the one that came before him. Gratefully, he is nothing like the other guy and would not have deserved to pay for the other guy’s actions.

    Letting go of the past is critical to being able to live today, which is the goal. We cannot do anything about yesterday. All we can do is learn from it, make amends for it and move beyond it.

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    44 and No More

    Heavy D died today. He was one of the rappers that helped color my college years. When I read that he had been found dead in his Beverly Hills home, it struck me. It struck me because one of my favorite rappers from back in the day had passed. And, it struck me because, at 44, he was just one year older than me.

    We are all guaranteed one thing. Just as we came in this world, we will leave it. Wealthy or poor, good, bad or indifferent, we will all die. However, as much as we love and cling to life, none of us want to face our mortality. It’s the ultimate elephant in the room. Seeing someone your own age brings it home in a way that is all too real.

    I remember when my mom died; it was another jarring jolt of mortality. She was 44 too. The interesting thing is none of my friends wanted to talk to me about it. For one, they didn’t know what to say (and there really wasn't anything they could have said). Secondly, I realized that talking about my mother’s passing made them think about their own mother’s mortality, and no teenager wants to confront that inevitability.

    But I have learned to take comfort in one truth. Each day is precious and should not be taken lightly or for granted. Every day I try to do three things: laugh, love and savor.

    Whether I’m laughing at myself, my dog, a funny story or a sit-com, I find most things go better with a little levity. Laughter helps me to keep things in perspective and from taking myself too seriously.

    I try to show love every day, if not directly through words, through my actions. Calling my dad, listening to a friend vent or helping another friend with car trouble, these are the things that show the people in my life that they are loved and appreciated by me.

    Savoring is essential. Most mornings or nights when I walk Marty, I have the opportunity to gaze at a star-filled sky or see a sunrise. I might revel in a favorite dessert or a good glass of wine. While I was on vacation a few months ago, I walked leisurely on the beach enjoying the sand between my toes and the waves splashing against my legs.

    Mortality for me doesn’t mean dreading death, it means cherishing life all that much more. I don’t know how long I’ll be here but I plan on making the most of it while I am.

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    What You Can't See

    We might not all be from Missouri but we do live in a state called, "Show me." We believe in the physical, the literal. We have to see it, touch it, and smell it before we believe it.

    Imagination, visualization and to an extent, even dreams, have taken a backseat in our practical and factual society. Heck, they might not even have a backseat; they might as well be pushed to a corner in an overcrowded trunk!

    When it comes to our desires, our ambitions and even our dreams, we focus on the physical or tangible component. We can see and touch the one we love. We recognize the promotion because it comes with a new title, a bigger office and a larger number on the paycheck. We know we have arrived by the ZIP code we live in or the car in the driveway.

    Yet, there is an undeniable power in seeing the unseen. All creation begins with a thought and thoughts are born in that realm of the intangible. We might not be able to touch them but they are just as real as what we can hold in our hands.

    A person with a serious illness who can visualize themselves as healthy increases their chances of recovering. Athletes picture themselves winning the game or crossing the finish line. A dieter who can see themselves thinner and healthier has a better chance of losing the weight. Seeing success, visualizing the possibility is the first step into making it a reality.

    It is not silly to visualize or spend a few minutes seeing your future. In fact, it’s a big part of your success. Every day spend a few minutes seeing yourself achieving your goals. It makes a difference. It keeps your motivation high and your goals at the forefront of your mind.

    You don’t need a vision board or any intricate process or procedure. Just close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and see your success.

    Once you can see it, then you can believe it, and then your success is right around the corner.

    Thursday, November 3, 2011

    Flying By

    It seems like this year has flown by. We are in the first few steps of the march towards the end of the year. It happens so fast, which is why it’s important to slow down and savor life right now. We won’t have that chance again.

    I have a friend who is a true workaholic. She wears her 16 hour days like a badge of honor. In her estimation, it’s a good thing that her boyfriend broke up with her because he couldn’t handle her schedule. It’s a good thing that she catches every bug that comes around and works through it (she’s a trooper!) … it means she’s working hard. It’s a good thing that she doesn’t have time to rest or eat right. Health can wait.

    I often wonder what she’s working for. What is the end game? I’m not saying that work isn’t important and that we shouldn’t give it 100% but I do think that we have to have a little bit of perspective about it. It’s been said that no one on their death bed ever wished they’d spent more time at work.

    Life, like a year, goes by quickly, and before we know it, we’ve got more years behind us than ahead of us. In what seems like a blink of an eye, the kids go from diapers to school to college. Time truly waits for no one.

    So use your vacation time. Enjoy some time with family. Work a little fun or relaxation into your schedule. Don’t put off every date night or plan to visit the parents at some nebulous time in the future.

    Investing a little time today can save a lifetime of regrets tomorrow.

    Monday, October 31, 2011


    A lot of kids love Halloween. They love the candy but some of them actually love being scared. As adults, looking at and living life, fear becomes ... well, something to fear. We have legitimate fears borne out of concerns and consequences, but sometimes we take it too far.

    It makes sense to fear a dark alley in a bad neighborhood late at night. It makes sense to fear the repercussions of your boss when you find out the work you submitted was not the work he was looking for. Of course, it makes sense to fear for your kids and their well-being.

    Yet, when we fear what others think, when we fear what might happen when the happening in question is way out of the realm of possibility, when we fear what we don't know just because we don't know it, we need to adopt a more fearless, dare I say, child-like approach.

    In my early 20's I moved across the country to a city I'd never visited before. In a month, I managed to find work and an apartment. Over the next few months, I managed to make a few friends. About 6 months in, I was miserable. I hated it there. The job I took was supposed to be temporary until I found something else, but I wasn't finding anything. I wasn't close to any family, I wasn't making enough to afford a trip home, and my two new friends were planning moves back East. So after 9 months, I moved back.

    Shortly after my arrival, an uncle told me that he and the rest of the family were disappointed because I didn't try hard enough. I asked him how long I would have had to stay there miserable before he would have felt better? I looked my fear of the unknown directly in the eye and stared him down. I had no regrets and I wasn't going to let his regrets hold me back.

    I know people who avoid relationships, stay in relationships, and who refuse to even look for a job when there current job is making them miserable, because they fear what the unknown will look like. In there eyes, a little unhappiness beats the fear of stepping into the unknown.

    Fear doesn't have to be enjoyed or reveled in, but it does need to be kept in perspective. Courage isn't moving forward with the lack of fear, it's moving forward in spite of it.

    Thursday, October 27, 2011

    Take a Technology Fast

    Cell phones, email, text messaging, status updates, tweeting, for many of us, from the moment we awake until we go to sleep, we are ‘connected’. On an episode of Dr. Phil, one woman was so addicted to texting that she stopped in the middle of intimate relations with her husband to read and respond to a text. Don’t even get me started on all of the near-miss accidents I have had because someone couldn’t be bothered to look away from the phone and actually watch the road! It’s getting to be a little much.

    These technological wonders have become a part of our lives, mostly for the better, but still, our dependence is a little bit scary. So many churches and other organizations have started what they call technology fasts. The most practical ones for me are evening fasts. If you need emails and cell phones for work or to track the kids down, that’s one thing.

    Yet the idea of an evening fast intrigued me. An evening fast starts when you get home from work, and ends the next morning. For those hours, there is no:
    • Television
    • Internet
    • Phone usage (land line or cell)
    • Texting
    • Video Games
    • GPS Systems
    For an evening, you are technologically free. You can read. You can meditate. You can talk to your family members. You can take a walk. You can play with the kids. You can write in a journal. You can paint, sing, draw … but you can’t utilize technology.

    Of course this does take some planning. You won’t want to do it when you have a project due or a test scheduled for the next day, but you do want to find some time to do it.

    I did it for several days during a recent vacation. I found it to be liberating and calming. Perfect for a vacation! Yet, I decided to do it one evening a week when I returned home – that has proved a little more challenging.

    Try it just for one evening and let me know how it goes.

    Monday, October 24, 2011

    Get It Together Girl!: It's About Time!

    Boy have I been busy!

    The second workbook in my Get It Together Girl series is now available on Amazon Kindle! The paperback will be available next month. Get It Together Girl!: It’s about Time: Finding It, Saving It and Making the Most of It is filled with time-saving tips that can help you tame the time monster.

    It’s about Time was inspired by a conversation I’d had with a frazzled blogger regarding my first Get It Together workbook. She boasted that she didn’t have 15 minutes a day or even five minutes for that matter. The conversation stuck with me for a while and eventually, Get It Together Girl!: It’s about Time was born. Over a two-week period, I give daily tips on saving time. In the Extra Stuff appendix, I offer additional tips as well as websites and phone apps that can be helpful in saving time and being more efficient.

    The GITG series is designed to help women (and men too) lose the excuses that stand between them, their dreams and the lives they want to lead. I’ve learned it is the little things that often stand in the way. If they were only more organized, had more time, access to more money or clearer goals, they could do more. So each Get It Together Girl workbook tackles one of these excuses in a way that is easy to read and just as simple to put into practice.

    With the Get It Together Girl concept, I want readers to do more and read less. The workbooks are short, quick (and hopefully fun). And, when I say workbooks, I do mean work books. The idea is to work them and put the concepts in action .. not just read about them and mull them over.

    My first workbook Get It Together Girl!: A 28-Day Guide to Practical NOT Perfect Home Organization is still available via Kindle and, as of this weekend, also available through Amazon in paperback. It focuses on home organization because a home that runs more smoothly saves time and reduces stress. Each weekday for four weeks, readers are given a 15 minute assignments to help them reduce clutter, increase organization and establish some realistic routines.

    More Get It Together Girl workbooks are forthcoming. Hopefully, by year end, book three will be available. Just in time for the New Year, this one focuses on goal-setting. All of the books are affordable. If you have a Kindle, you can get both books electronically for $1.99. They are also available in paperback for just $6.99.

    So, if you need to get yourself together, here’s your chance!

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    What Would You Do?

    I was thinking the other day about what I'd do if I won a ridiculous amount of money in the lottery. What would I do if I won $200 million dolllars?

    Of course, I'd pay off my bills. I'd give a big chunk to my dad and pay for my sister's education. I would help all of my friends who are struggling. I'd pay off my house but I wouldn't get a new one. I love my house. It's perfect for me, so I think I'd stay. I also love my little Mazda 6. I don't need a BMW or a Lexus; but, I think I'd get the new Mazda 6 fully loaded.

    But beyond those basic things, I'd need to do something everyday. Of course I'd travel, but I don't think I'd want to travel all of the time. I'd want to be productive and do something, for others and for myself.

    For others, I'd give to my favorite charities and I'd also give back some more. I've had a dream of starting my own mentoring program and college fund for kids in the middle, the ones who everyone ignores. We pay a lot of attention to the gifted students and we make a ton of efforts to help those who are in trouble and at-risk, but what about the ones in the middle? What about the C students who go to school everyday, avoid trouble and just want a decent life? I'd do something for them.

    For myself, I would also take this opportunity to learn. I would take culinary and photography classes. I'd become the photographer I've always wanted to be. I'd take the fun I have in the kitchen to a whole new level. I'd also be free to write and not have to worry about making a living.

    So the question I asked at the end of this protracted daydream is why not start creating that life now? Heck, I don't even play the lotto, so how can I win it? LOL!

    Maybe I can't pay off the house or start a new foundation or travel the world. But I can make do more volunteering. I can make more of an effort to study my photography and get out more and shoot. I can enroll in a cooking class or even buy a few cookbooks that can start to take me from novice to accomplished home cook.

    The life we want doesn't need to be relegated to flights of fancy and daydreams. We can start right now, right where we are and all of our lives will be better for it.

    Thursday, October 13, 2011

    The Journey of the Little Steps

    At the beginning of the year, I decided I was going to read the Bible, the whole thing, from Genesis to Revelation, all 66 books. I found a reading plan and on January 1st, I started.

    During the first two months, I felt as if I was never going to get through as I flipped to the first few pages of the Old Testament and the first few pages of the New.

    After a few months, I realized that reading just a few pages a day, was really making a difference. Now that the last quarter of the year is upon us, I can see a ton of progress. The end is in sight! This is one goal I set for 2011 that I will definitely make!

    Little things do add up to a lot. It didn't seem like it was going to be enough at the beginning but I stuck with it and wow! Looking back, I wish I had been more diligent with the weight loss and the savings. I got impatient with the slow progress and I struggled on both fronts.

    However, I am going to use this Bible reading experience as a testament (pun intended) to what chipping away, day-by-day can do. Those little efforts have yielded a huge result!

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    Words of Wisdom

    As one of the few people in the country who do not own an Apple product, I still recognize the loss of a titan, Steve Jobs, who changed the way we live from computers to music and even movies. In 2005, he gave the commencement speech at Standord University. It's long for a blog post but very much worth the time it takes to read it. And who knows, there could be an iPad or IPod in my future!

    I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

    The first story is about connecting the dots.

    I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

    It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course."

    My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

    And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

    It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

    Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

    None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

    Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

    My second story is about love and loss.

    I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out.

    What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating. I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

    I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

    During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

    I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

    My third story is about death.

    When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

    Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

    About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

    I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

    This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it's the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

    No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

    Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

    When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

    Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

    Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

    Thank you all very much.