The Underbelly of Nostalgia

It takes courage to look unflinchingly at our past without the rose-tinted glasses of “the good ‘ole days.”

Memories are a bit like movies: they stir emotions in us, but there’s a lot going on behind the scenes.

The reality of green screens, costumes, makeup— not to mention the panoply of human challenges that arrive when humans work together (i.e. sickness, fatigue, personality clashes, etc.), never make it into the final perfect cut.

Movie for One

Each of us enters a movie theater every day, 24/7. During sleeping hours we are unconscious of the action on the screens of our psyche. Sure, we might mention to a friend:

“I had the strangest dream about my house that started to leak and then fall apart from the top on down. What do you think that’s all about?”

Your friend might wax Freudian on you and say the house symbolizes your life or your marriage or your health. Regardless, the dream interpretation is intended to be considered by the receiver of the dream alone: YOU.

The movie that plays during our conscious hours loves to replay scenes of nostalgia: the “good ole’ days.” The days before:

  • the car accident
  • that family member died
  • puberty arrived
  • the big move
  • the surgery

The list goes on as do the scenes we replay for a dopamine hit of what we perceive as benign nostalgia.

A Fate Worse Than Death

Socrates is famous for stating the following shortly before his death:

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Ultimately, the Greek philosopher chose death over exile. For Socrates, to be exiled and unable to seek and examine life was a fate worse than death.

The Danger of Rose-Colored Glasses

There’s a subtle yet distinctive difference between appreciating memories of the past and altering them to fit the narrative you want to see.

Wearing rose-colored glasses in the face of something painful is like wearing beer googles when you start a relationship: it won’t end well.

The Fallout

So what’s the big deal? What’s so terrible about keeping our rose-tinted glasses on indefinitely?

“The body keeps score.” Bessel van der Kolk M.D.

Maybe you keep showing up to your family’s Thanksgiving dinners and smile while Uncle Bill gets drunker and louder as the evening meal continues. Your friendly exterior belies the stomach churning and shoulder knotting in your body.

Perhaps you find your personal movie theater replaying scenes from before you moved and left behind your family and friends. With rose-colored glasses, you find yourself saying things like:

“I miss them so much.”


“It’s so much better over there.”

But when you take off your rose-colored glasses, when you sit quite in that dark theater of your mind, you see a different movie playing: you miss the idea of them, of who you wanted them to be, not who they actually are.

After Death

When something dies, new life can begin. The same is true for those memories we’ve glazed with the high-fructose corn syrup of unhealthy nostalgia. 

A part of us has to die to accept the past as it was and not how we wished it would be.

 Acceptance means awareness has arrived and will affect our choices going forward.

And maybe then we can appreciate the past without the need to reach for those rose-tinted glasses. We can look back and see a life lived on our terms; embracing the reality of our experiences, so we are free to choose what to keep and what no longer serves us.

Training Bras and Shaving Legs

Hungry to grow up in youth; hungry to slow down in adulthood.

One of my earliest pre-teen memories was the recurring dialogue between me and my mother:

Me: I need a training bra.

Mom: There’s nothing to train.

Aggressive Insecurity

Oh, how I wanted a bra. After all, I was officially a two digit number (10) and any day now (it would be another four years), I was going to be blessed with Mother Nature’s Gift of Womanhood: the coveted period.

I obsessed about wearing a bra. Underneath that non-stop desire was insecurity. Desperate to be deemed “normal” by peers, hungry to fit in. I’d seen other girls in my 5th grade class, their white bra straps winking on shoulders like an unspoken Calling Card of Coolness, of Belonging.

A training bra signified a ticket to my Belonging.

I read and reread Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret — folding the well-worn page where the tween protagonist does the ‘special’ breast-growing exercises while chanting the now famous words:

I must, I must, I must increase my bust.

If You Wear It, Boobs Will Come

My poor mother never heard the barrage of requests to get a training bra. It didn’t matter that I didn’t even know what a training bra was. I remember my unarticulated logic went something like this:

A training bra is a requirement, a prerequisite for boobs. I am doomed to walk the Earth as the only female in the world without “real breasts” if I don’t get that training bra. Why can’t my mother understand this??

In hindsight, my thought process was Field of Dreams: if I wear it, my boobs would come. 

Adolescent Blind Spots

No sooner had the sacred day arrived, the training bra in my pre-teen hands, that I started getting teased by a boy for sporting hairy legs.

Him: Why don’t you shave that?

Me: [horrified but hiding it] I don’t want to. [insert failed attempt at looking bored shrug]

I’d been so consumed with wearing that dang bra that I hadn’t even considered what was going on south of my torso!

Contemporary Boobs and Legs

It’s with a chuckle that I look back at that pre-teen girl who was yearning to develop so fast, she didn’t consider the beauty and wonder of her changing body right-then-and-there. Of course I didn’t. That’s youth, isn’t it? We are so hungry to grow up, eager to see what’s next, what’s next, we don’t appreciate the gift of the moment as its unfolding.

Now almost half a century on this Earth, I find myself grateful for my breasts and legs but not because of what other people will think. I appreciate the health of my body in general, and the gift of this existence.

Now, the bra is more a nuisance, a small harness more appreciated off than on. Hair removal is no longer something I do to please the “popular kids” but to please myself. 

Ordinary Miracles

What a gift this life is. The memories of my mom and I discussing the much-desired training bra is something I treasure. Even the boy who looked at my hairy legs with horror, while shame-inducing at the moment, was special in its own way. In hindsight, that moment was a hallmark of my continuing journey into womanhood. 

It’s the ordinary moments, the ones we often take for granted or hunger to rush through, that are often the most precious in retrospect. It’s why Memory Lane is flooded with commentary once we reach young adulthood. We cherish the past, the experiences we can merely capture with words — a scratch we just can’t quite itch.

Lessons from the Dead

The veil between this world is always one breath away.

I was enjoying lunch with two close friends when a text popped up on my phone. A colleague wrote to share a new’s article that the police had located the suspect who had killed our former student.

I hadn’t even known our former student had died.

Death Over Shoes

Our former student (14) was shot in a parking lot by a 17-year-old over a pair of shoes. Fourteen. A freshman in high school, weeks away from enjoying summer vacation. Fourteen with parents who love him. 

Fourteen no more.

Death Over Cancer

Earlier this week, my mother’s best friend passed. Cancer, silently arrived to her breasts and within a short window, spread throughout her body. Her last words to my mother:

“I know I’m not going to make it.”

She passed only a handful of days later.

No One is Immune

The sweet boy who died May 6th left us too soon. My mother’s best friend, left us too soon. Short of the 101 year old who dies peacefully in their sleep, most deaths create a powerful domino effect of pain. No one is immune from that person’s loss. And even the lucky few who cross over once they have reached that 3 digit status, even their passing is painful to those who love them.

Gift of the Dead

We all know we are going to cross over. We all know there’s an invisible expiration date in our future. We know no one’s getting out of here alive.

But there’s a gift the dead bring us: a stark reminder, a yanking away of the Denial Curtain we comfortably drape ourselves in most days. 

The dead were once no different than you or me: they had dreams, hopes, pains, fears, yearnings, hungers — you name it, if you have it, they did too at one point. The permanence of their passing is a raw reminder of our impermanence, a reminder that this ride of Life in the Earth School comes with a graduation for all.

The Dead Make Time Matter

I can still hear my mom’s best friend talking, the light in her fair eyes as she spoke, the way she always dressed like a million bucks, the way her New York accent made me feel home.

And although the teen who died wasn’t formally “my student” but a student at the school I taught, I can still recall his kindness. 

Both deaths, although worlds apart, remind me how precious and fleeting this life is. The veil between this world and the next is always one breath away.

The Dead Give a Reality Check

The sons of my mother’s best friend, now grown men in their 40’s, spoke at her funeral.

There is nothing like Death to bring a Reality Check to Life. Both spoke of their mother’s essence and actions — not the house she lived in or the car she drove, not how many friends she had on Instagram, not the size of her bank account or the quality of her wardrobe. 

What Matters Most:

Here are the highlights of what those grown sons shared at their mother’s funeral:

  • Thanksgiving was the most important holiday to her — she loved to have her family and friends together.
  • She loved ordering cupcakes for her grandchildren exactly the way they liked it — never forgetting which one loved chocolate and which one loved sprinkles.
  • She was a source of strength and encouragement to her sons, family, and friends — known for her positive outlook in life.
  • She was close with a cared greatly for her hairdresser

Death helps us remember what matters most.

Death Gives the Greatest Gift

Death gives us the greatest gift: Life. It’s through Death that we appreciate the miracle of an ordinary life. The sunsets, the smell of coffee, the feel of a rose petal between our fingers, the first kiss — the list goes on, doesn’t it?

The great mystery (Death), knowing it is coming for us, can serve to help us appreciate this very moment that much more.

The Little Death: What It is and Why You Need It

Authentic forgiveness requires a little death. The pain felt is required to heal.

Mourning. Grief. It looks different for everyone. It’s also the underbelly we don’t want to look at and feel. Much better to hide behind the minutia of daily life, running toward a future we’ll never get to in order to escape the painful ghosts of the past.

Kinks in Our Armor

The problem with running from pain: eventually, we wear out. Whether it’s hiding behind alcohol or an obsession with cleanliness, our beloved addictions can only stave us off from the inevitable negative emotions for a limited quantity of time.

Our psychological armor develops chinks over time. The more stubborn of us might be able to manifest a Botox-reminiscent smile, insisting that everything is fine, fine, fine. But the body doesn’t lie. The body keeps score, housing all the flavors of pain in our mortal coil: regret, shame, grief, blame, revenge, anger, guilt–all the negative emotions surrounding those memory ghosts simmer below the surface.

Watch for Fake Forgiveness

Fake forgiveness is the cubic zirconia of genuine forgiveness. It looks like the real thing. It may even sound like the real thing. But it won’t feel authentic.

Could you fool the ones you love with fake forgiveness? I’m sure you could.

The problem? You’re the one who’s continuing to suffer. You’re the one who, as Billy Joel famously said in his song, My Life:

“sooner or later you sleep in your own space
Either way it’s okay, you wake up with yourself”

Fake forgiveness is almost worse than admitting we aren’t able to forgive. It’s a lie we carry in the cells of our bodies, an invisible albatross weighing on our heart.

The Little Death

We can’t live this life without getting bruised and cut. But the same is true for our hearts and minds. Those painful memories we hold will continue to fester until we are willing to remove the Band-aids stuck in place.

The very thing that terrifies us and we try to avoid at all costs — pain — is often the very thing we need to experience in order to heal.

The little death is the acceptance that arrives with our pain. It is a spiritual surrender to what happened, to the choices we made that affected others and ourselves. Authentic forgiveness requires the death of what is no longer or what never was. Perhaps it is the death of hope and expectation, so new life can flood in. The little death allows us a rebirth.

If I tell you to think about anything BUT green elephants, what happens to your mind? Likely, all you are thinking about are those darn green elephants.


Our minds try so very hard to protect us. They are overthinking machines, working oh-so-very hard to help us. And, as in the case of our “Green Elephant” example, they don’t often do a very good job at this.

Pain is our brain’s Green Elephant, working overtime to protect us. But we need to embrace the pain if we want to get to the other side and experience true peace.

Brene Brown on Hurting

We live in a culture where immediate gratification reigns supreme. Lose weight–quickly. Get rich–quickly.

But while technology has greatly and rapidly improved in a short time span, the human soul timelessly needs what it needs: forgiveness, compassion, kindness, empathy. And there’s no Instagram or Twitter account that will acquire those things for us.

Peace arrives when we are willing to remove our psychological armor in a compassionate, patient light, trusting that the hurt will pass.


Click here to discover a way to manifest abundance.

Feeling Torn?

Are you living a life to please others or yourself?

Remember Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz? That poor girl daydreamed about going on adventures “somewhere over the rainbow,” only to discover a world where scarecrows and tinmen could talk beside flying monkeys and—oh yeah, that she’d inadvertently murdered a witch!

Dorothy comes to adore her unusual friends. Their common quest to meet “The Great Oz” brings them closer, further bonding them as they sing arm in arm down that famous yellow brick road.

And yet, Dorothy is torn. She wants nothing more than to go home to her Auntie Em. Yet she doesn’t want to leave her friends. She wants to go home, but home is her friends AND Kansas. So where IS home? Where will Dorothy go??

What to do? We can feel Dorothy’s angst because we can relate. It is part of our human journey to experience confusion, a sense of longing for two things at once, a feeling of not knowing what step to take next.

Fortunately (you may recall), the ethereal Glinda the Good Witch shows up at this rife-with-tension juncture. She speaks the famous words to our young protagonist that hits me in the solar plexus each time:

“Home is a place we must all find, child. It’s not just a place where you eat or sleep. Home is knowing. Knowing your mind, knowing your heart, knowing your courage. If we know ourselves, we’re always home, anywhere.”

While our modern-day world is not filled with singing Lollipop Guilds or cackling green witches who melt from water, we are regularly bombarded by flashing social media posts depicting every opinion under the figurative rainbow. And as social creatures, we tend to shape ourselves based on our culture, not our nature. 

Author and life coach, Martha Beck highlights our proclivity for adhering to cultural desires over our natural ones:

“For women in traditional China, climbing the social ladder required having teeny-tiny feet. Generations of girls and women had their feet bound and crushed, crippling them to make them better. In Victorian England, women wore fabrics dyed with arsenic that caused skin ulcers…a small price to pay for looking better than their fashion rivals! In our society, people will virtually kills themselves trying to better by decorating the fanciest cake, or breeding the most standard of all poodles, or clubbing a tiny little ball into a tiny little hole.” (The Way of Integrity: Finding the Path to Your True Self).

There is nothing wrong with a desire to socialize or even embrace one’s culture. The caveat arrives when we tend to measure our well-being externally, relegating our inner needs and knowing to the equivalent of a second-class citizen. When we get caught up in how many Instagram followers someone has, or how much bigger or more expensive someone else’s house is, we are measuring our lives with the invisible yardstick, not tuning into how we feel. Like Dorothy, we can easily forget that we are always home, able to “close our eyes” and find the answers and guidance we need.

We may not have a manifested Glinda at our beck and call. Yet we do have an inner voice, guiding us home whenever we are willing to listen. 

So, the next time you are feeling torn, ask yourself the following: 

Is there another way to look at this?

What does my culture (i.e. friends, family, religion) want/like for me?

What do I (my nature) want/like for me?

There’s a good chance your answers to the 2nd and 3rd questions are different. Only you know which one to follow.

Calling All (Student) Writers!

Grab that pencil: Students in grades 3-12 from all over the world have a chance to be published in the biggest book in the world!

Imagine having the chance to carve out a story or create a poem that is published in the biggest book in the world! 

Since July 15th 2021, students from all over the world in grades 3-12 have the chance to be published. For the past 12 years, the literacy organization, iWRITE, has given students the opportunity to experience the magic of seeing their work published. Founder Melissa Williams (author of Turtle Town and Little Miss Molly) marveled when she held her first published book and wanted to share the empowering experience with students.

In its 13th year, iWRITE  ( is partnering with the Bryan Museum ( with this year’s contest theme: “I Am Texas.” Students can create stories—either fiction or non-fiction, poetry, or artwork that represents what Texas means to them. 

New York Times best-selling author, Brad Meltzer ( will select the Editor’s Choice winners. (Ordinary People Change the World). All winners will be invited to a red-carpet event in Houston, where they will autograph books for guests.

While the theme is “I Am Texas,” no worries if you aren’t from the Lone Star State. A little research can stir up one’s imagination, and when it comes to Texas, there’s plenty of historical treasures to dig through and inspire.

The maxim, “Everything is bigger in Texas,” applies to this year’s publishing contest:

“The iWRITE Organization and The Bryan Museum are partnering with New York Times bestselling author and illustrator team, Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos, to break the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ title for the largest published book in the World called I Am Texas!” 

Winners will be invited to attend a gala in Houston; the over seven foot tall book will be displayed at The Bryan Museum in Galveston.

To learn more about this free contest, head over to

“Who’s the Storyteller?”

We are always narrating the story of our lives. But so is everyone else.

One of the aspects of writing I adore is the gift of perspective. The facts of a story can drastically be altered by mere observer. Take for example the following:

Scene: a restaurant, a couple in their 30’s sits across from each other

POV of observer:

The woman slides a gold band across the table. The man holds his head down and sighs. He takes the ring and puts it in his back pocket. 

“I’m sorry,” he says. 

“Me, too,” she says, her eyes shiny with unshed tears.

POV of woman:

I’m pregnant and the almost stranger sitting across from me is the father. It’s why he proposed last night, offering up a lifetime together the way someone decides to put extra toppings on their pizza—spontaneous and without much thought. 

Yeah, I accepted. Not because I loved the guy or even liked him. I said yes simply because fear eclipsed judgement, because the idea of motherhood solo or an abortion both felt impossible.

When I slide the flimsy band (like something out of a Cracker Jack box) across the table at him, the relief on his face is palpable.

“I’m sorry,” he says—a white lie—one that renders him unable to make eye contact.

“Me, too.” I’m sorry I didn’t insist we use condoms. Sorry I didn’t know you for more than one night. Sorry that I have lived three decades on earth and still can’t behave like an adult.

POV Man:

I feel like a trapped dog. What was I thinking?? How is It I can run legal cases with finesse but can’t think straight when it comes to a hot woman?!

She asked to meet, so here we are, her puppy eyes haunted looking. (Was this an early sign of pregnancy?) She plays with the tin band I gave her as a quasi-promise ring.

When she slides the ring off and across the table at me, I feel like the cage to my kennel is lifting. I’m getting out of here! I’m getting another chance!!!

“I’m sorry,” I say. Guilt and relief flood through my veins in equal measure.

“Me, too” she says.

Only she doesn’t seem sorry. Her eyes look shiny with a relief that, just moments before, mirrored mine. And yet, the idea of the life inside of her not happening makes the invisible hairs on the back of my neck stand up in cold fear. 


There you have it, three different perspectives on one moment in time. And they are all accurate! 

My dear friend, Steve Bernstein (author of STORIES FROM THE STOOP) recently reminded me of the storytelling layers or perspectives in fiction as well as life. Whether we are crafting a tale on the page or forming one in our real lives, we need to be cognizant of the story we and others are potentially perceiving.

So, the next time you find yourself angry or emotional about something someone did, consider the potential alternate narrative they might be telling. They might be the woman, man, or observer in the “restaurant” of your life story. When we give the gift of an alternate perspective for ourselves as well as others, we are more likely to find compassion and a greater sense of inner peace.

Dating Red Flag: The Smooth Operator

The old adage: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is exists for a reason.

FaceTime first dates are a popular experience in the world of online dating—particularly for those finding potential in someone who is geographically less desirable. A few short months ago, when there was still a wait list to get a vaccine, my cousin *Jeani called to share the exciting news: “I have a date!”

The “date” was suggested by a fellow (albeit former) Bostonian who, like Jeani, now lived in California. The divorce father of three girls lived in Silicon Valley—a good five hours drive from my cousin (Los Angeles).

Jeani is a single mom of four in her late forties. She is a full-time veterinarian and works long hours. When most men find out that she A) has more than 2 kids and/or B) is committed to her job they C) run away.

“But this one is different. He thinks it’s cool that I’m a vet and didn’t think twice about me having 4 kiddos. He asked if I wanted to Facetime tonight! And he’s CUTE!”

The next morning, Jeani filled me in on the juicy details: Eric found Jeani gorgeous (He even used the word “mesmerizing” to describe her eyes) and told her he was already “falling in like” with her. He said he’d drive down the coast to spend the coming weekend with her.They talked for almost 3 hours. He went so far as to suggest that their next trip home to Boston be together “to meet each other’s parents.”) 

“He said he’d call me this morning.” Her voice was dancing.

Unfortunately, the morning came and went without a word from Eric. Then the afternoon arrived along with the evening without so much as a text from the flattering Bostonian.

Jeani called me that night, the pain in her voice palpable: “He said he’d call. Why hasn’t he called?”

The next morning, still no word from the man who was “mesmerized” by my cousin’s eyes. By evening, Jeani decided to text him.

“How’s the Smooth Operator doing? Still planning to spend the weekend in LA?”

Within minutes, Jeani’s iPhone starting ringing for Facetime. It was Eric.

Only Jeani was about to see her next patient, so she couldn’t take the call. She Facetimed him about an hour later. Eric didn’t pick up. 

“Try me again.” Jeani texted Eric.


Since then, Jeani can see Eric on the dating site they first met on.

“It hurts. I don’t know why it hurts, but it does. I didn’t even know the guy. So why does it hurt?”

“It hurts because someone played with your heart. It hurts because it’s painful to know that there are people out there who treat dating like a game, who prefer to find pleasure in cruelly leading someone on instead of engaging in an authentic conversation. It hurts because we don’t want to think that he is a part of what makes up our world, our human race.”

I get Jeani’s pain because I’ve been there. If you’ve lived long enough, you’ve experienced the disappointment of someone not being who they represented themselves to be. The high of expectation and the low of reality creates a semi-crash that wounds (temporarily).

It’s always a red flag when someone comes on too strong or says all the “right” things—an auditory confection a vulnerable heart yearns to hear. Be wary of the “Smooth Operator.”  They got that way after lots of practice.

*Name has been altered for privacy purposes.

The Roula and Ryan Show: The Gift of Belly Laughs

Thank you to The Roula and Ryan Show for having me on!

Last week, I had the pleasure of plugging my book among the auditory company of Roula Christie,  Ryan Chase and Eric Rowe on their Houston-based morning show, Roula and Ryan.

It was surreal hearing the familiar icons of morning radio, the very voices that accompanied me on many a pre-pandemic commute, INTERACT with me on air for all the world to well…hear.

My newly released book, The Friendship Diet: Clean Out Your Fridge, Get Real with Yourself, and Fill Your Life with Meaningful Relationships that Last is self-help meets stand-up comedy. I have a background in comedy/theatre as a performer, so knowing I was heading onto the often funny, always honest Roula and Ryan Show, I knew I had found a temporary auditory home. I’m also a school teacher and therefore know that the best classroom management involves a dash of comedy. Roula’s taunts can be heard in the link below, egging me on to reveal the dare-we-say-it “v” word (class clowning at it’s comedic genius pinnacle:-)

Humor, when honed with compassion, has the ability to lower our defenses and make self-reflection less scary, more palatable. We are more likely to digest emotional nutrition when it’s served with a spoon of belly laughs—hence, the audio clip I’m closing this post with (AND a big reason behind The Friendship itself—the connection between edible and emotional nutrition runs deep).

So thank you, Roula, Ryan and Eric for giving me a comedic audio space to promote a much-needed dose of humor and insight in our current crazy world.

Here’s the audio file. The belly laughs commence at 8am on July 21st, 9:36

“Satisfying Soul Food”

We are all on a journey in this life. Regardless of our circumstances, I believe the core of that journey is one of self-love. 

Last week, I had the true pleasure of sitting down to talk with two beautiful people on the Law of Attraction Today podcast (LOA Today): Walt Thiessen and Cindie Chavez. Walt is the founder of the inspiring podcast and Cindie is his insightful co-host.

In our pandemic world where we are encouraged to social distance, a sense of isolation and hopelessness can easily manifest in us. The LOA Today podcast can provide a spiritual antidote when we find ourselves chewing on worry.

There’s a famous quote by the late author and speaker, Leo Buscaglia: “Love is always bestowed as a gift-freely, willingly and without expectation. We don’t love to be loved; we love to love.” Walt and Cindie, LOA Today’s co-hosts are beautiful examples of this quote in action. They exude warmth and compassion, both for others and themselves. To be in their presence is a gift.

We are all on a journey in this life. Regardless of our circumstances, I believe the core of that journey is one of self-love. When we embrace the gift of who we are, we become a gift to others.

The LOA Today podcast focuses on the principle of like attracting like. We attract what we are, what we think about, what we believe. Our hunger in this external world of uncertainty is greatly based upon our tendency to resist going inward for answers. The LOA Today podcast is a benevolent, inquisitive space to tune into and by extension, fill our spiritual bellies. Listeners are encouraged to question, gain perspectives not considered before and explore their inner terrain, sans expectation or fear.

I will close this blog piece with a hearty thank you to Walt Thiessen and Cindie Chavez for both having me as a guest on their show and for sharing their authentic selves with the world. Here’s a link to the show last Wednesday, July 15th: