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Totally Together

How to Combine Gratitude with Goal Setting

January 1, 2014 by · 3 Comments 

How to you maintain an attitude of gratitude but still continue to strive towards achieving new goals?


It’s a brand new year! Congratulations, you made it!


I have a rather radical suggestion for you this new year. I know I’ve shared my love for lists and charts and goal setting in the past, but I wanted to share a new idea.

Gratitude Goal Setting.

I’m sure you’ve heard of keeping a Gratitude Journal ~~~~ Oprah talked about them a lot on her show and she (I believe) talks about them in her magazine (I don’t subscribe to magazines, but read them on planes. and while getting my hair cut! And that’s only because I don’t like spending money and I don’t like clutter and big magazines feel wrong to throw out so then I hoard them on a shelf and then I worry I might turn into one of those hoarder people on TLC.)

(but you should totally subscribe to Simply Gluten Free Magazine because I’m a contributing writer and Carol, the founder, is absolutely wonderful).


So how to you combine an Attitude of Gratitude with Goal Setting? How can you be simultaneously happy, thankful, and thrilled with your current life situation but still sort of want something different/better/more prosperous?

Don’t the two cancel each other out?

No. I promise.

It feels wrong at first to want more when you have a non-leaking roof over your head, your children are healthy, your marriage is (above) average, and you aren’t scrounging to put food on the table. I struggle with this, and do make a conscious effort to give more than receive.

And if you are reading this article, then you ARE VERY BLESSED. You have internet, and you probably have accumulated an awful lot of “wants” to go along with your “needs.”

Take the time to be thankful. Take inventory of all that is right in your world. If writing it down helps, do so. Life is so very very very good, and we are the only species that is able to pontificate our lives, and to self-reflect.

We are also the only species that can decide what is working and what needs tweaking. As Dr. Phil says (I met a camera guy who worked on his show, and heard some interesting stories.  Ahem.),    ”how’s that working for you?”

If you have a New Year’s Resolution to work out more and eat healthier, try writing down this year’s goals in the positive — and in a thankful way.

For instance, instead of:

I need to lose my muffin top and start running.    Try:  Thank you for my strong, healthy body that allows me to plank for 90 seconds and run a 10-minute mile.

I need to drink 8 glasses of water a day and cut out alcohol.  Try:  Thank you for fresh, clean water that tastes even better than margaritas.

I need to not yell at the kids.   Try:  Thank you for the patience I have with my children.

I need to put away the phone/tablet and hang out with my spouse.  Try:  Thank you for my awesome spouse who I like spending quality time with.

(I ended that sentence with a preposition. Thank you for not being  OCD.  :-) )

If you are looking for a BIG change, try being thankful for it before it even occurs. Before there is even a glimmer of hope that it can occur.

Here’s a few examples:

Thank you for this home that we all love that we can easily afford.

Thank you for this new job where I am respected and properly compensated.

Thank you for the opportunity to take this dream vacation that has been fully paid for upfront.

It is hokey. It feels childish, and it doesn’t seem like a simple change such as this could possibly work, yet there are TONS of anecdotal and scientific studies that show that your sub-conscious doesn’t know if something has actually occurred or not when you focus on it. This is why dreams feel/seem so real. Yes, you can rationalize them to death and assure yourself that a monster isn’t under your bed, but your harddrive doesn’t know the difference.   (need research? google “do positive affirmations work?”)

So try it.

There’s really nothing to lose.

Give yourself 10 days of writing 10 positive affirmation/goal setting phrases down in a notebook. Don’t refer back to the previous day — your ideas, needs, and goals change sometimes on a whim. What was important three days ago might not be important today. But if you track your thoughts and wishes for 10 days you’ll find a pattern.

This pattern is what is the most important to you. And you only. Your goals are not your neighbor’s, not your mom’s, and not the current Pinterest trend. Your goals are your own and are private.

We are all a work in progress, and it’s okay to acknowledge where you could use some tweaking.

lots of love and a very VERY happy 2014.


How to Have Balance when Looking for Balance

How to Create a (non-cheesy) Vision Board of Your Very Own

Making and Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

This is Real Life, Not a Magazine

The Art of Saying No

August 26, 2013 by · 16 Comments 

art of saying NO


It’s back to school season, and this is usually the time of the year where I re-prioritize my goals and daily activities. I’ve got a seventh grader, a fourth grader, and a preschooler this year.

The preschooler is only in school 6 hours a week, because I’m just not ready to let her go for more hours, yet. This means that I really need to manage my time wisely to make sure I meet all of my assigned (and self-assigned) tasks.

I’ve not always been the best about saying NO. I used to try really hard to get people/aquaintances/complete strangers to “like me” and ended up over-extending myself. I wanted to be the go-to responsible person for the PTA, or for girl scouts, or to help volunteer at the library. I wanted to be the trusted afterschool  babysitter, and I wanted to be the carpool mom. I thought that was who I was, what my identity was.

And then I snapped.

I shared through email with my friend Crystal, of Money Saving Mom, what my tipping point was and after typing it out, thought perhaps it’d be best to share it “out loud” —- because I do believe we are all on our own personal journey. We are all just trying to do the very best we can on a day-to-day basis. Crystal helped me to remember that I have not always been the way I am now. I used to hold my breath to get through my day — as she words it: I wasn’t living; I was surviving.

Anyhow. Back in 2008, when I was in the final quarter of my Year of Slow Cooking, I kind of had a breakdown. It was September, and it was back-to-school night. Things were going well with the site, and I had just signed a book deal for Make it Fast, Cook it Slow. I had appeared on The Rachael Ray Show, and because of that, the site traffic had quintupled. I was working on the site, working for BlogHer ads, and was working for Bay Area Parent. I only had two children at the time, but I was fully responsible for all things in regards to them — afterall, I was home.

I came home from Back to School night and crumpled to the floor. I had on a cute outfit, I remember changing my clothes a few times before leaving the house to man the PTA table. My hair was straightened, and I had spent more time then I care to admit on my makeup. My goal was to look breezy and put-together, and  trendy-but-not-too-trendy. I shook hands and made small talk.

I probably looked the way I wanted to look. I probably fooled a bunch of people.

but the second it was all over, I remember hugging my knees to my chest in the corner of my bedroom and sobbing. For hours.

the very next day I quit almost everything. I’m sure I disappointed quite a few, but I took back my time. I took back my priorities.

and to this day, it was one of the best decisions of my life.

This “take back” of my time is why I don’t have a personal Facebook account. This is also why I don’t own a smart phone.



excerpt from Totally Together: Shortcuts to an Organized Life


It is a wonderful feeling when a trusted friend, co-worker, or supervisor asks for your help. It is difficult to not let ego take over when you are told that you are “perfect” for something or that the school’s Popsicle eating contest “can’t be done” without you.

Don’t get talked into doing something that your heart isn’t in. Someone else will step forward, and if not, the world will not stop spinning if the Popsicle eating contest doesn’t happen as scheduled. If somebody complains, let that somebody be in charge. It is not worth stretching yourself thin to please other people—you and your family come first.

Say no to the committees, say no to the bake sales, and say no to anything that you don’t really and truly want to do. If later on in the year, you find that your time is a bit more free, there are numerous ways to ease back in to service. It’s always better to say “no” right away than to say “yes” and then fall short of the required responsibilities.

Learn also to say “no” when choosing sports, musical instruments, enrichment classes, or out-of-school camps with your children that might stretch your calendar thin. It is so easy to sign up for more than you or your child can handle, and the outside obligation can quickly take over family life.

Pick and choose carefully, and ensure that you and your children completely understand the commitment and responsibility required. Some families have found that limiting choices to one indoor and one outdoor activity at a time works well.


My days now feel more balanced. I’m not perfect, and I still lose my patience and temper more than I probably should, but I feel much more at peace than I used to.

and that’s a great feeling.


Bloggers and Narcissism

July 18, 2013 by · 9 Comments 

are bloggers inherently narcissistic?

original photo credit: The Secret of Narcissism

This is part of the Business of Blogging Series. You can see all of the posts, here.


I’ve done a bit of speaking this summer at various conferences, and I’ve said a few times to the audience (and been met with great laughs),  “Let’s face it. Bloggers are narcissistic.”

While I do love laughter responses, I’m completely serious when I say that in order to be a good blogger, or to put yourself out in the public eye, you’ve got to have a part of your personality that believes that You Are Better Than Others.

and this is a challenge. It’s a struggle for me, and I know it’s a struggle for many of my friends. It feels wrong, it feels fraudulent, and it feels deceitful to decide when you wake up in the morning that you are going to make and write about THE WORLD’S BEST BEEF STEW.

or the best way to fold a fitted sheet.

or write about a completely ordinary trip to Walmart but in a way you just *know* your readers will appreciate.

or heaven help you, post a #selfie on instagram.

I wasn’t raised to seek the spotlight, I was raised to sit quietly with my hands folded while the grown-ups talked and not to interrupt. And that is how I’m raising my children. Nobody likes a know-it-all who interrupts. Blogging is about interrupting.


gah. It’s loud, it’s annoying, and it feels icky.

So what do you do? How do you balance the self-doubt, the negative voices, and the twingy feeling that you are doing something wrong when you decide to put your heart and voice online?

I can tell you that it gets easier, but I can also tell you that I personally stress and analyze every time I write anything online. This is the list I weigh in my head before posting (on any of my sites, on facebook, on twitter, and even on pinterest)

1) How does this help my audience? (and helpful can just be a feel-good moment. there doesn’t need to be a lifelesson in everything you put online, nor does it have to be a how-to tutorial.)

2) Am I writing this only because so-and-so has written about (kale) a lot and I feel like in order to stay relevant I need to write about (kale)?

3) Am I jumping on the bandwagon about a certain event that has a lot of drama and I want people to link to me when they, too, write about this certain event?

4) [related to #3] am I stirring an already-bubbling pot? Is that what I want to be known for? Pot-stirring?

5) In 3 days, will I still be proud of my writing?

6) Am I writing this because I’m getting paid to write about it (like a sponsored post)? Have I told my audience this truth?

7) Will my writing be search-engine-friendly? If not, how can I massage my words to help with SEO?

8) and then back again to #1…. am I being helpful to my audience?

If you respect your audience, they will respect you.

If you jump in front of the camera keyboard every single time any fleeting thought passes through your head, you might gain lots and lots of followers initially, but they will leave in the longrun. Build a lasting legacy — something that you enjoy, that you can see yourself working on as your life’s work.

As for the negative thoughts? Embrace them. Listen to what they have to say. Maybe you are posting too often, and without anything valuable to offer your readers. Maybe you are only tweeting 7 times a day because some expert told you that’s how many times a day you should tweet. Maybe you are solely only writing about the latest conference drama because you want to be in the spotlight and want to be someone “in the know.”

and if after some soul-searching you realize that you don’t like your current path, then tweak it a bit.

But don’t let the voices win. We ALL have something to offer. We are all on this life-living journey together, and we all have something to share and to teach. Differing perspectives are fantastic — that is how we, as readers, as humans, make decisions. That’s why we read Amazon reviews — our culture needs to know as much as possible about pretty much everything right now. Right this instant. We can’t even wait to get home to our desktop, we have to whip out our phones in the middle of the store and tweet a picture to the masses to see if these shoes are actually a good buy.

This is a great time to be writing online. Do not let self-doubt or shyness prevail. Yes, bloggers are inherently narcissistic. We have to be.

And that’s okay. Just make sure to acknowledge it.

Real Life, Not a Magazine

May 8, 2013 by · 4 Comments 

this is real life not a magazine

This is Real Life, not a magazine article. It’s okay to not be perfectly glossy all of the time. —


Probably a lot like you, I began reading magazines in my teens. I eagerly looked forward to Seventeen Magazine each month. I wanted to know what highschool was like. I wanted to know what it was like to have a boyfriend, go off to camp, and what things I needed to do to get into a good college.

When I was engaged, I read Bride and Modern Bride magazine like it was a religion. I needed to make sure to get this type of dress, have these types of favors, and wanted to make sure to keep to my allocated budget. I needed to make sure that I packed my honeymoon bag exactly how the articles told me.

When I was pregnant I read every parenting magazine I could get my hands on. I knew WAY too much about the perils of a medicated birth, was certain that breastfeeding was going to be a glorious experience, and knew that my baby was going to be a bonafide genius because I, too, would start with the Doman flashcards the second my infant could focus.

When I was more interested in working out I got Shape magazine and was certain that I, too, could have Buns of Steel or Ripped Abs if I did what the articles suggest.

and then something happened.

I quit all magazines. (except for Star and US Weekly at the hair dresser…. because who are we kidding? reading gossip is fun!)

I quit them because I hated how I had expectations about what I should be thinking/feeling/doing/acting and how my house should look and how I should entertain and how my kids should behave and how many calories I should eat.

I’m actually a really lazy person. The reason I use my slow cooker is because I don’t LIKE cooking —- that’s why my eyes gloss over when a colleague starts quoting Bon Appetit or Gourmet magazine. I don’t LIKE cleaning or doing housekeeping stuff. That’s why I do the Daily 7 and why I have laid out all the “have-to” stuff in the Totally Together planner.

I do like gardening, but my garden is NEVER going to belong in Sunset Magazine. I love my kids, and am proud of how they are turning out, but they will NEVER be glossed over or airbrushed into any sort of mold.

I have (strong) opinions on things, and so do my kids.

But these magazines sell well. VERY well. We all know they are phony-baloney yet we buy them anyway. We try to emulate the articles on our websites. We gloss over things because we know what sells and what doesn’t. A “perfect” food picture sells better, even if that means the meal was sprayed with extra oil or was taken out of the pot before being fully cooked.

We don’t really want to read about all the things that can go wrong on a camping trip. We’d rather read about the 10 Great Ways To Make Your Camping Trip the Best Ever. (oh yeah I forgot I used to read Camping Life, too!)

So how does this tie into blogging?

Because we are NOT magazines. We are real people who are living a REAL life. We have opinions, we  give advice, and we  provide recipes for food and for DIY projects.  But our readers are turning to us because they have a connection to us. They know that we’re in the trenches with them —- we’re not typing from a Manhattan Mad Men-style office building with a team of copy editors and photographers at our disposal.

we are real.

When you forget you are cut-from-the-same-cloth as your readers is when you become unrelatable, and no longer a fun read.

Everyone knows you can turn to Martha Stewart for perfection. Your readers aren’t looking for perfection —– they are tuning in to read you.

So yes, write your 10 Ways to Make Your Camping Trip the Best Ever blog post. But throw in some personality — don’t write like a magazine editor. Write like a blogger. That’s what your readers want, and the first rule of writing is to give your readers what they want.


This is part of the Business of Blogging series.

Part 1: The Business of Blogging

Part 2: Figuring Out Your Internet Voice

Part 3: Writing for Search Engines Doesn’t Mean Selling Your Soul

Part 4: Is Self-Esteem Tied into Sitemeter?

Part 5: Patience, and Other Blogging Virtues

and other stuff:

10 Best Business-y Books

Creating a (non-cheesy) Vision Board

Working from Home with Small Children in the House