The Myth of Success

Recently, foodie influencer Alison Roman gave an interview to The New Consumer that can only be described as a “shit show.” While talking about her own Zen-like journey into fame, she performed an epic racially tone-deaf (I’m being kind) take down of Chrissy Teigen and Marie Kondo, calling them sellouts while she remains pure as the driven snow because she doesn’t have a line of cookware at Target.

What bothers me, other than the latent racism of her entire platform (until this episode she used her whiteness to omit how different cultures influenced her food – just so you know, she is not the person who discovered garlic, turmeric, coriander, and cardamom create outstanding flavor), is that she is making her success seem like something that just happened to her. Like she didn’t try *at all* to become The Foodie with The Stew and The Cookies and The Whatever. Which we, as people who had found a modicum of success, know is not true.

It’s like beautiful people acting like they just always look that way naturally, when in reality it takes a twice daily application of cleanser, exfoliant, toner, serum, lotion, hair dye, and Botox to maintain those looks. It is a lie that inadvertently discourages people from trying – making success feel as if it will always be woefully out of reach.

That is bullshit.

You have to try in order to be a success. You have to try really, really hard. When I started writing articles, I got a hundred “nos” before I got one “yes.” I am still getting rejection emails from a manuscript I sent out six months ago. But I keep trying, because one day I will get a “yes.”

Bon Appetit and the New York Times didn’t pluck Roman off a subway platform one bright spring day, hand her column space, and say, “You look like you could be successful. Write about food for us.” She pitched them ideas and used the incredible amount of work she has done on her Instagram account to get in the door. (Those pictures don’t just happen, people.) She didn’t just luck into those recipes, either. Those were developed with intense hard work and repetition built on the knowledge from years of experimenting with flavor and spices and, yes, food from other cultures.

One quote in particular from the article about how she creates a recipe gets me completely worked up.

“You’re overthinking it. I think people would be fucking shocked at how little — There’s no formula. There’s no strategy. There’s no, like, “gotta have this, gotta have that.””

Actually, there is a formula. One she learned through years of tasting, learning, and cooking. One she developed through years experimentation, seeking out the flavors of other cultures, and through failure. I would bet a plate of cookies that none of those dishes in her cookbook came out perfect the first time. To admit to anything less is disingenuous at best and killing the career aspirations of thousands of young cheflings at worst.

The tone of her whole interview is why people hate Millennials. She is perpetuating the myth that success just happens to people. No effort is required. You are given what you get in life like a participation trophy handed out at a soccer tournament. Failure happens to other people, not those blessed to succeed.

That is a flat out lie.

Anyone can succeed if they try hard enough. I’m not saying that luck isn’t a factor, but as the Roman philosopher, Seneca, said, “Luck is when opportunity meets preparation.” Alison Roman is successful right now because she was ready with all the tools she needed when the opportunity came along.

As I said above, she did issue an apology on Instagram for her horrible treatment of Teigen and Kondo; however, Roman needs to learn a larger lesson about owning the effort it takes to make it and honoring the work of those who have gone before you that makes your path to the top possible.

In the Midst of COVID

COVID-19 is here. We are in the thick of it in Maryland. Our governor has just announced we will be at home and schools will be closed until May 15th.

I highly doubt that, come May 16th, we will be free to join crowds, hug strangers, and go back to our favorite restaurants. I think it’s going to be longer than that. A lot longer.

And it will be okay.

Would I like to go out and get sushi with my friends? Or go and see the new Marvel movie in the theater? You bet I would. But there will be other times for that. Right now, we need to listen to the CDC and stay away from each other. COVID-19 is highly dangerous and very deadly. As much as I would like to go back to my parents’ house and use this time as an extended vacation with them, I can’t. It’s too dangerous to their health.

But I have a secret. While my friends are posting about the horrors of having your kids around you 24/7, I have found this time of enforced togetherness a kind of blessing, similar to our time in Switzerland. We had nothing to do, nowhere to go, nowhere we have to rush to be. Instead of rushing, my family has gotten a chance to breathe and just be together. We are playing games, having reading time, adventuring in the unknown of online learning, and getting to experience the regular occurrence of family meal times.

It turns out I like my kids. They are turning into neat people to talk to. I hope they think I’m a pretty good listener with a few cool things to share.

Please stay well and healthy. Be safe and be smart.

 

Hello, 2020!

Welcome to the New Year, my friends. We’re only a couple of weeks in and I can already tell it is going to be a wild one. At the start of every year it is commonplace to start assessing where we are at and where we want to go. Particularly this year, as we are ascending into a new decade.

For me, I’m ascending into my identity as a writer. Part of that is to have goals and ideas of where I want to be by 2021.

Something I’ve been doing for the last year and a half that has really helped was to have A WORD. A word that themes my entire year. And it’s not just for writing. It’s frames my other goals as well.

Continue reading “Hello, 2020!”

Writing Retreats in Order to Advance

Somehow fall has happened. I have no idea what happened to September.

Well, that’s not strictly true. I spent it sending my kids back to school where others could try to teach them something while I traveled. Before you call me a bad parent, I was traveling for mostly professional reasons.

I actually went to a writing retreat. It was my first ever. It was amazing.

Continue reading “Writing Retreats in Order to Advance”

I’m in the Washington freakin’ Post!!

Today I reached a major milestone. Something I wrote has been published in the Washington Post.

It was a short piece. 100 words or less defining motherhood. Out of who knows how many submissions mine and nine others were selected to run in the Style section under the On Parenting heading. You can read it here!!  Read Me!!

I’m the last one on the list. Best for last, right? LOL.

I am giddy.

When I started writing as a profession I never thought an outlet like the Post would publish little ole me. I stuck to submitting to smaller publications; places I was sure would publish my work.

When I made my goals for this year I looked at the writing I had done. I was/am proud of it. I decided I needed to push myself. One of the goals I set was submitting a piece to a Big Name Outlet. And at the end of April I did that. I was proud of myself just for that. For pushing the “send” button and putting my work out there to be judged on a wider stage, by lots of eyes and people that know what good writing is.

That they liked it enough to publish it is icing on the cake.

10 Simple Tools from Parenting and Psychology Experts that will Make You a Better Parent

This is part of a two piece series I did for a Positive Parenting Conference. It is FREE from May 22nd until May 26th. All the speakers are amazing and have really learned a lot about how to help my children become successful, happy, and intelligent adults. It is well worth your time.

10 Simple Tools from Parenting and Psychology Experts that will Make You a Better Parent

Why does parenting have to be so complicated!?!

There are so many things to know! And not just know, but to be an expert on. During my almost 12 years of parenting I feel like have had to become an executive assistant, strategic planner, dietician, psychologist, nurse, and wizard. (If only that last one came with a wand!)

And I’m constantly searching the Internet for ways I can be a more effective parent. That’s why I go looking for simple and easy tools. I don’t have time for complicated and hard!

I was helping Sumitha summarize the “deep dive” talks for her FREE online Positive Parenting Conference and I found myself jotting down note after note about the simplest things I can do to help get through my most complicated parenting issues.

Like handling school stress. Just last night my oldest called me into his room at bedtime and let out all his anxiety and anger about these Basic Skills Tests that he and his class have been taking for the last 9 days. It turns out that he’s so anxious his feelings are leaking into his relationships with his friends and coming out as anger.

Because of all these amazing experts I was able listen to him and then help him to express his anxiety and reframe these tiffs and hard words with his friends into something not quite so scary. (You’ll read more about all that below!)

I’ve put together a list of these simple tools from 10 amazing experts that helped me with the parenting issues I feel most at-sea about. I know they will help you, too!  —> CLICK HERE

Thanks a lot, 2019.

2019 was a pretty fantastic year, personally. For a lot of people 2019 was fraught with hardship and drama. My life was far from drama-free, but, overall, the good outweighed the bad.

My brother and his came to visit for the first time, and it was brilliant! I flew to Denver to visit my BFF. My oldest is finally taller than I am, much to his delight. The garden went bonkers and produced about a gallon of tomatoes per week for four months. We went to the beach before heading back to the Midwest for a summer visit. Pretty dreamy.

Then the best thing happened. I committed to a writing retreat for outlining my next book. That outline gave me the solid foundation I needed to churn out 63,543 words during National Novel Writing Month (November), and complete a first draft of my first mystery novel.

To top it off, I decided my first book – a women’s fiction piece – was ready to be seen by agents. I have sent it off to about eighteen so far. The best moment was when an agent wanted to read my first 100 pages. I was elated. I sent it off and then waited, like a girl waiting for that special someone to call her.

They didn’t call. They emailed back with a “no thanks.” While they found my voice “approachable and engaging,” they just didn’t feel passionately enough about it.

I was crushed. Eventually, I understood. Getting an agent is just the beginning. Like getting pregnant is just the beginning of being a parent. There is a ton of work that begins once an agent says yes. Then once you find a publisher there is even more work. The agent has to love the book if they are going to toil over it for an entire year.

I was not so graceful that day, however. I moped and sulked. Mark brought me flowers and I could barely bring myself to look at them. I hardly got any sleep that night. So, while I was busy not sleeping I decided, fuck it – I was going to send out my manuscript to even more agents. I research the details of 10 more agents before forcing myself to go to bed. After a busy morning at the preschool, I tweaked my query letter and sent it out to six of the ten agents I’d researched.

Within 2 hours I had 2 requests for the entire book!!

I am really proud of myself for not letting my disappointment crush me. Sometimes you have to pull yourself out of the mud and keep moving forward.

The greatest thing was telling my kids that more people wanted to read my book. They were so proud of me, and, I think, a little impressed. They looked at me like I was more than just their mom, and that made me really happy.

Now I am waiting to hear back from two more agents. Let’s hope it’s a phone call!

In the meantime, I will be starting the editing process on my mystery and formulating new goals for 2020.

Summer … Almost

As we pass by Memorial Day and enter June I find we are living in a strange Purgatory.

Summer is here, for all intents and purposes. The kids have summer swim team practice after school at the local pool. Baseball and soccer practices are ramping up and the minivan carpools are being sorted and finalized. The smell of grilling meats wafts through the neighborhood any day of the week – the chefs no longer content to keep flame-broiled goodness as a weekend only treat.

And yet, it is not summer.

School is still on. There is homework to be done. And in our county they saved all those wonderful basic skills tests to be given right now. Plus there are the band concerts, orchestra concerts, choir concerts, art shows, club trips to theme parks, and final functions that are scheduled for 6:30pm on the most inconvenient night of the week with unerring accuracy.

It’s like we are living two different lives at the same time.

It’s exhausting.

Continue reading “Summer … Almost”

Gardening!

All last year my amazing husband made me a garden. I helped, but it was mostly him doing the hard labor of a 1920’s prisoner.

I designed the plans – to scale, thank you very much – of 2 different gardens. One for veg and one for fruit.

All summer long he augered in the posts by hand to create an 8-foot fence that would discourage even the most determined deer. Then He and his dad put up the fencing and the mesh roof on the fruit bed. We used regular animal-proof fencing for the vegetable garden and then got hardware cloth to keep the birds away from the precious, precious raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries that we would be growing.

 

Then he started on the actual raised beds. We built the vegetable bed just about 3-feet high while the fruit beds were only about 18 inches high. I am particularly proud of the strawberry beds, which I designed to be squares that stacked on top of each other in a diamond pattern. It allows the strawberries to cascade down as they throw runners. It actually also makes it easier to plant and harvest, too, which was an unexpected bonus.

Then came the dirt. 7 cubic feet of soil specifically for raised bed planting. The dump truck came, he dumped, and then, wishing us good luck, he drove away. I would like to give a special thank you to our friends Trish, Bill, and Natalie who helped us take an uncountable number of wheelbarrow loads around the house and into the beds. Even the boys helped. And thank you to Karl and Nadine who let us borrow their wheelbarrows so that everyone could have one. And because of their amazing help, we were done in only 3 hours!

Just so you know, all this took the entire spring and summer of 2018. We didn’t get anything planted or harvested that year. It lay there, taunting me all fall and winter. So this spring I was very impatient to get things planted.

I started with radishes, as you do, since radishes a) like to be planted early and b) only take 80 days to be ready to harvest. And I threw in some lettuces and peas because they also don’t seem to care that it’s March. I also threw in some (a whopping 75) onions and some beets. Because why not.

Then we planted potatoes. H filled one entire bed all by himself specifically so he could grow potatoes. So, by heaven, there are little potato seedlings in this deep trench waiting to sprout.

Now that it’s April I’ve moved into cabbages and cauliflower and I just today planted some tomatoes!

Warning – photos ahead!

Onions and Beets

Tomatoes!! Which, I’d like to point out, were started by my students at The Journey School.

There are potatoes in there. I promise.

Cabbages, Cauliflower, and Onion

Peas are climbing up!

Baby Radishes

Teeny-Tiny Lettuces

The Veg Bed!

I’ve been learning a lot more about companion plantings. The tomatoes will have basil with them. There are some marigolds planted around to serve as a natural pest deterrent. Then I’m going to add nasturtium, which are edible and serve as a pest deterrent for a lot of plants.

More plants also need to go in. We are mulling around adding other plants we eat a lot of – bush beans, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and bell peppers are only a few. (i.e. updates will be coming.)

On the fruit side of things, we have fewer decisions to make and more waiting to do.

We planted the strawberries last week and we are already seeing some fruit.

The blueberries are in. They were beautiful bright emerald green when I planted them. After a flurry of Googling I learned the bright emerald leaves turn purple when they get cold. They are greening back up rapidly, which is a relief.

I am waiting for the raspberries to show up. I found a variety called Joan J that is thornless (yay!) and produces a berry specifically for eating. We’ll let you know how delicious they are this fall. (Fingers crossed.)

And then for the part I am super, duper excited about. The terrace between the gardens! We are putting down landscaping cloth and spreading pea gravel over the top to create a nice area for a fire pit and a couple of chairs. It’s not done just, but we are getting close.

The garden is so lovely and inviting to dig in I am finding I want to spend more and more time out there in it. The fire pit will be a fun addition that will let us enjoy the garden in the evening as well.

Now to convince my lovely husband that we need lights out there, too!!

The Book It’s Meant to Be – Thoughts on my First Draft

I have, after almost a year of writing, finished the first draft of my first fiction novel.

Time to pop the champagne and have a celebratory dinner out.

But I’m not as thrilled as you would think.

Sure, I am happy. And I’m proud of myself. This took a lot of my time and effort and enormous amounts of understanding from my family. And I have a pile of pages in front of me, freshly printed out from Kinkos and trapped in a binder.

But…..

I know there is a ton of work ahead of me. Rough drafts are called rough for a reason. This book is so rough it could scrape the barnacles off a boat. While I’m trying to be happy and feel a sense of relief about finishing this book, I know that there are scenes in there that need to be immediately banished and burned. Those thoughts, lurking around my brain and making my chest tight, are driving me forward. I see the work ahead and it is massive.

And I can’t wait to get to it!!

I am excited to edit. I can’t wait to get in there and start making it the book it is meant to be.

I hope I can do my characters and ideas enough justice that one day you can read this story. But I am also okay with it being a practice book. Every author has one or two or three of those lurking in a drawer somewhere. And they should. (I certainly do.) Just because you read books doesn’t mean that you know how to write books.

But still I hope that one day you will read this book I am working on.

Or you can read the next one. 😉

4 Life Skills That Will Teach Kids How to Shoulder Responsibility

I have a new article up at AFineParent.com. This one is all about how raising your kids to be competent adults by giving them responsibility now. Not only is this article full of great research, but it give you a little view into my family life.

 

Here I am. Folding laundry. The ball and chain of chores.

I thought it was bad when they were babies and they had multiple outfit changes. I buoyed my spirits by telling myself that when they were older and didn’t spit up so much and were neater eaters things would be better.

Well, let me tell you, people. It’s not better.

They are 12 and 9 now and it still never ends. I do some laundry and then there is always more that appears! Some random white t-shirt when I’d just done all the whites shows up in the basket, mocking me.

And most of it is theirs! Their pants! Their shirts! Their socks and underwear! Without me they’d never leave the house in clean clothes.

OMG. Without me they’d never leave the house in clean clothes!!

What about when they go to college? Who’s going to do their laundry?

What about when they get married? Am I setting some poor person up for a lifetime of no help with laundry duty?

Holy cow, I am!

I had to wonder what other responsibilities I hadn’t taught them about yet, either because they were “too young” or because it was faster to do it myself.

Then I wondered when I was actually going to find the time to teach them things like laundry, cooking, and washing the dishes. And what about bigger responsibilities like managing money? When was I going to get around to that?

This little epiphany hit me in the middle of folding towels. I looked down at them and realized I needed to start immediately. And I could start with towels.

That was my first step on the path to really, thoughtfully teaching my kids the life skills that lead to learning responsibility. The next step was to decide what to teach them next.

To read more click here—–>