An Unexpected Path to Mindfulness (And Why Women Like to Shop at Target)

Whenever I’m in a state of transition or change, I go on a spiritual quest of sorts. I might buy a copy of Real Simple magazine, its cover photo of an organized linen closet promising me everlasting peace and happiness.

Or I’ll go to Target to wander the aisles. Sniff candles with names like “calm.” Wonder if this or that would look pretty in my house, and then not buy anything. The experience of Target being all that I needed to feel bright and sparkly again.

I also start cooking, which is significant because I generally avoid making dinner (or anything for that matter) unless absolutely necessary. And even then, it might be a grilled cheese sandwich. I onced served that with a side of mini-carrots and my husband asked if “cafeteria food” was a new type of cuisine.

But when I’m in a state of transition or change, I suddenly want to make soup from scratch and bake an apple pie. Or I’ll decide that I am going to start canning homemade jam, even though I have no idea how to do it.


Me. In the kitchen. Cooking.

The prevailing theme for all of these mini-spiritual quests is around homemaking and caregiving. And while I engage in both to some degree, I’ve set them aside out of choice and necessity to engage in the world of work.

I’m too old to feel guilty about this. Like many working women, I almost died on that hill of “having it all,” so I have a well-deserved aversion to these traditional pursuits. Which makes it all the more perplexing that I move towards them during times of transition and change.

What is it about homemaking and caregiving that are so compelling when my world feels unstable?

I imagine some would say that I am getting back in touch with my true purpose in life, which is to be home with my kids. But I know better.

I am a horrible stay-at-home mother, having tried it during maternity leave. It took me all of two months to determine that people with degrees in early childhood development could, indeed, raise my children better than me.

I also only like to cook when I feel like it. As with most things, once it’s required and expected (and taken for granted), it becomes a chore. Especially at the end of the day when all I want to do is rest and reconnect with my family.

So it must be deeper than that. Something beyond the task itself or its meaning of home and family.

There’s a feeling of peace when I do these things. My mind stops chattering as much, my senses are engaged. It’s probably as close as I get to mindfulness, which is something I am just starting to explore.

My first foray into mindfulness was a disaster. My therapist at the time suggested I try taking a “non-purposeful walk” over my lunch hour.

Confused, I asked if I could do this while talking on my cellphone. (Nope.)

Then I asked if I could just walk realllly slowlllly to my next meeting. (Again, denied.)

Finally, I asked if I could at least drink a Starbucks while walking non-purposefully. In exasperation, she acquiesced.

I actually got a headache on my non-purposeful walk. I felt extremely self-conscious just wandering around randomly with a Starbucks in my hand.

And I wasn’t multitasking in my typical way, so I was acutely aware of my surroundings. All of which I found profoundly boring.

At my next session, she suggested I try drawing something without judgment. To just see an everyday object, sketch it on a piece of paper, and be done with it.

Five attempts at drawing a Kleenex box left me feeling frustrated and inept. How hard could it be to draw a box? (Apparently, very.) In exasperation, I crumpled up the paper and threw it away. I didn’t even recycle it, I was so mad at it.

So much for mindfulness.

Some years later, I’m a bit more evolved on my path. I can pull my mind back into the present moment when it starts spinning. I breathe deeply when I want to scream. I even meditate on occasion.

Even though it may seem strange to suggest that reading Real Simple magazine or walking through Target or cooking dinner are acts in mindfulness, they are for me.

Because when I am doing these things, I am more centered and present. I feel connected to myself and others. And I am at peace.

It’s as close to spiritual nirvana as I get.

What is it that makes you feel centered and present? Connected to yourself and others? Peaceful?

Maybe it’s watching a movie with your kids. Or walking your dog. Even organizing a linen closet with color-coded labels like Real Simple magazine can be a mindfulness practice.

Find those things and do them more.

As for me, I’ll be wandering the aisles of Target. Purposefully.

‘Tis the Season and I Want Out

I had my first bout of pre-holiday panic when the pumpkins arrived at SuperTarget.

Fresh off the victory of getting my kids ready for school, I was still recovering from Back to School shopping. And sharpening fifty #2 pencils had left me feeling very stabby (and very well equipped to do so).

As such, it took me a moment to regain my bearings and point my cart towards the “Happy Halloween!” sign that made me feel anything but.

Just as I was tossing 20-pound bags of candy and pumpkins into my grocery cart, I remembered that it was still September. Which meant the candy would be long gone and the pumpkins mushy and rotten by the time Halloween actually rolled around six weeks later. 

So I put everything back, and while I didn’t succumb to the pressure in that moment, I felt the pressure nonetheless. And it’s a pressure that doesn’t relent until we get through Christmas, which debuts before we’ve even survived the gauntlet that is Thanksgiving.

Speaking of which, the reason I didn’t post last week?


This is a photo of me before the big day. I’d collapsed over the December issue of Real Simple magazine with its “32 Simple Holiday Shortcuts: Check Everything Off Your List.”


But what if you don’t even have a list?

The months of September through December are such a blurring barrage of holiday cheer that half the time, I don’t know what holiday we’re actually celebrating.

Which makes me not want to celebrate any of them and instead hide out in my basement behind the boxes of decorations like they’re some sort of makeshift bomb shelter.

But I can’t. Because I have children.

And children love any reason to celebrate, which makes it especially tricky to go out in public at all during this time of year.

Halloween candy and princess costumes lurk around every corner. And as soon as they’re pulled off the shelves, Christmas arrives with toys, toys, and more toys.

Entering any store is like accidentally wandering into Disneyland and having to tell your kid, “I’m sorry honey, but we don’t have time to ride the roller coaster or take 5,000 pictures with Cinderella.”

Whining and sobbing become commonplace. And it’s usually me, not the kids, who are doing it.

Which is why I want out.

I want out of buying stuff that we don’t need. I want out of trying to make my house beautiful and festive and perfect. I want out of cooking and baking and cleaning dishes.

Because when I get that out, I have more space for love and family and magic. Which is what the holidays are all about.

This year, I’m hosting my biggest Christmas ever. My in-laws and sister-in-law (with her two kids plus their foreign exchange student) are all rolling in.

I barely cook for my family of four, so someone is going to have to feed them. And that someone will be a combination of Costco and whomever is the hungriest.

I don’t do dishes, so that will be delegated as well. Or we will eat off paper plates.

And as for decorating, we will either learn to live with the boxes that have resided in my living room since the day after Thanksgiving or my children and the hubs will handle it.

Or I will set them on fire

As for me, I’ll be reconnecting with my family and friends. Working on my webinar series and writing. And enjoying the holiday, rather than being a slave to it.

The lion’s share of the holiday tradition falls upon the shoulders of women. Because traditionally, women were/are the ones who decorate, cook, clean, and host.

So what “traditions” can we let go of? Or conveniently forget?

(We always bake Christmas cookies? That’s weird. I don’t remember that.)

This is my New Year’s resolution for 2018. To let go of traditions and the pressure and stress they bring.

While it may seem a bit premature to announce my New Year’s resolution, it’s not.

Because today is December 1st.

Happy New Year!

Sharing is caring. Send this post to another brave woman (and be sure to wish her a Happy New Year).

*A special thanks to the special reader who inspired this post. If you want to submit ideas for next week, please use the form below. xoxoako


The Most Important Conversation To Have With Our Kids (And Ourselves for That Matter)

I was blow-drying my hair when my son wandered into the bathroom and said he had a question.

Warning to all parents. When your child is going through puberty and says, “Can I ask you a question?” take a deep breath and steady yourself.

Because they are about to ask you something bizarre. Like whether or not you can get pregnant in the pool. Or if penises break.

Also as a heads up, these questions typically occur when you’re in a hurry or distracted.

Which I was, because in addition to blow-drying my hair, I was simultaneously checking email on my phone, getting my daughter ready for school, and feeding the dog.

Since no one had shared these very helpful tips with me, I said, “Sure,” and didn’t turn off the hair dryer until he asked,

“Mom, what’s rape?”

Before I go on with this story, I want to pause for a moment. There are a few very important things to consider before answering questions like these.

And right now, in this time and place, conversations like the one I had with my son are among the most important and most urgent.

Like peanut butter and jelly, kids have been conditioned to think the words “sex” and “violence” naturally go together.

Which is kinda like saying whipped cream and raw hamburger go together. Can you imagine eating a whipped cream and raw hamburger sandwich?

Guess what. We eat them every day, and so do our kids.

Through the movies we watch, the video games we play, and the media we consume 24/7, sex and violence are brought together so often that they’ve been normalized. To the point that they seem natural and right.


I love Wonder Woman. But really. Who wears a corset and thigh-high boots to a tank fight?

So we need to differentiate sex and violence from each other. Whipped-cream-raw-hamburger sandwiches are disgusting, and we need to explain this to our kids because they’ve been eating them for so long that they don’t know any better.

We talk to our daughters about sexual assault all the time when we should be talking to our sons.

We warn our daughters never to walk alone at night. To go to parties in groups. We censure what our daughters wear, making sure they aren’t showing too much skin. And we warn our daughters to never set down their glass because someone might put a “date rape” drug in it.

We focus so much on our daughter’s actions and choices that it’s as if sexual assault is about them. That it’s some kind of freak occurrence they can avoid with the proper precautions. Like not opening your umbrella during a lightning storm.

But it’s not.

Sexual assault is about actions and choices, but not those of our daughters. It’s about the actions and choices of our sons.

So we must have similar conversations with our sons.

We must tell them that no matter what a woman is wearing, she does not want to have sex with them.

That if they ever find themselves with a girl who is too drunk to give consent, they need to leave her alone.

That “No” never means “Yes.” Because women don’t like to be coerced into doing anything, especially sex.

And if they buy a girl dinner, she owes them nothing. Not even a smile.

Oh, and about that date rape drug. Don’t ever put that shit in a girl’s drink. Ever.

The “#MeToo” Campaign paints an incomplete picture. 

I have been following the “#MeToo” campaign, and in a strange way it has been a beautiful thing to behold. Brave women sharing their stories of sexual assault is powerful. And when it’s a woman I know, my heart breaks.

Which is why we also need a “#HimToo” campaign to run alongside it. Because for every woman who is bringing her story into the light, there is a man hiding anonymously in the shadows.

If it were up to me, we’d be able to tag our assailant in our #MeToo social media posts with a #HimToo. Because the world needs to see that these aren’t strangers who jump out of bushes.

These are men who work in the cubicles next to ours. They are friends of our families. They are our sons.

And half the time, they don’t even know they did anything wrong. Because no one ever talked to them about it.

Which leads me back to my story.

When my son asked, “Mom, what’s rape?” I did the best I could.

I told him sexual assault is not about sex. It is about violence. 

That it rarely happens the way it’s portrayed in the media because it’s hardly ever a stranger but an acquaintance or a friend.

I looked into the eyes that I loved and said, “It’s usually someone just like you.”

And I finished by explaining that it is his responsibility to make sure that he never does this to a woman.

Did I traumatize my son? Maybe. But I would rather he feel traumatized than become a #HimToo.

Was I especially courageous for having this conversation? Not really. Moms and dads talk to their kids about difficult stuff all the time.

Am I changing the world for women and girls? Yes. I most certainly am.

And you can, too.

Talk to your sons, your nephews, your brothers. As much if not more than your daughters, your nieces, and your sisters.

Bring this entire conversation into the light. Not just the female side. The male side, too. The side that really matters.

This is the Sex Talk we should be having with our boys. This is the most important conversation we should all be having right now.


Please share this post so we can have more of these conversations. With our boys, our girls, and each other. 

PS – I wrote a post last week about womansplaining, a few days before the #MeToo movement reignited across the world. It connects to this topic in a lighter, funnier way. Check it out if you haven’t already.

PPS – I am building a school for brave women, and I’ll be writing more about it in next week’s post. As always, I want to hear your thoughts on what women want to learn about through my work. Subscribe to the list and womansplain to me.

Bad*ssery @Work (Lesson One: It’s all hearts, rainbows & ninja swords)

Let me start off by saying we’re all badasses.

Whether you’re a woman who works outside the home, inside the home, or some combo of both, you are a badass. Whether you have kids or not, you are a badass.

Because total badassery is what it takes for a woman to make it in this world.

But today, I’m going to focus on women who work outside of the home, the majority of whom (70%) have kids and work full-time.

This does not mean they are more badassy than stay-at-home-moms or working women who don’t have kids. It just means they have different challenges that require different techniques in badassery, and that’s what I’ll be exploring today.

In my opinion, working women who have children deserve to wear a Badassery Badge wherever they go so people can be in awe of them.

Something like a “Girl-Scouts-Meets-Special-Forces” badge with hearts and rainbows and Ninja swords.

Because the world (especially the working world) is not set up for them to succeed. It’s not that the world doesn’t like them. Rather, it’s just the world doesn’t know them very well.

Men have been leading businesses, running our governments, and generally kicking ass for thousands of years. And as a result, men are killing it at work.

There are more CEO’s named “John” than all of the female CEO’s combined. The U.S. Congress is more than 80% male. And men are offered higher salaries than women for the same work.

I’m not sharing this to make you angry at men. I love men. I’m married to one. I gave birth to one. Most of my mentors have been men.

And all of them want me to set the world on fire even though it may not be in their best interest.

Rather, I’m telling you this so you will stop blaming/shaming/hating yourself when you find it so hard to keep your shit together.

It’s not your fault that maternity leave only lasts three months, which is just about the time you finally figure out how to take a shower again, and now you have to go back to work full-time.

It’s not your fault that crying at work is considered “too emotional” but raising your voice in anger is not (for men, anyway).

Or that you’re more likely to be asked to plan the office birthday parties than take on a new strategic initiative.

It’s not your fault.

There is nothing wrong with you, you are not inferior or less than. You’re just trying to make it in a world that was not designed for you.

And that’s why it’s so, so important that you stay in the game because even though it’s hard, we need you. All of us do.

We need you to create a world that actually works. For men and women.

What would such a world look like?

Let’s play pretend for a moment and visit that world. Put on your princess dress (or borrow one from your daughter), grab your magic fairy wand, and let’s go.

There’s an issue that strikes fear in the hearts of most working mothers. An issue that requires logistical skills on par with an air traffic controller and significant financial resources to solve.

That issue is after-school pick up.

A deceptively simple concept, after-school pick up takes place sometime between 3:28 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. at my child’s elementary school.

Do you know where I am between 3:28 p.m. and 3:45 p.m.?

At work.

Which creates a bit of a challenge for me. My options are to send my child home to an empty house (which is illegal), hire a babysitter for $15/hour (which is expensive), or quit my job (which is stupid).

If women were also leading businesses, running our governments, and generally kicking ass on a level equal to that of their male counterparts, this is how after-school pick up would go:

  • First, the bell would ring at 5:30 p.m. because last time I checked, a full working day is 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (Dolly Parton even wrote a song about it. For the movie 9-5.)
  • Second, the children would have already completed their homework, eaten a healthy dinner, and attended their sports practices/music lessons/Yearbook meetings. (All of which would take place at the school because that’s efficient, and if women are anything, we are efficient.)
  • Third, there would be an onsite restaurant where we could pick up dinner for the rest of the family. (Or down a couple of glasses of wine before actually picking up our kids.)
  • And finally, all of this would be free. Because the PTA no longer plans bake sales but drafts federal legislation to increase funding for our schools. (And all of this legislation would pass because half of Congress would be female and our President would be a woman.)

Yes ladies, that’s what would happen.

So the very first lesson in Badassery @Work is to understand that the world is set up for men to succeed and, if we ever want to have our make believe/after-school-pick-up fantasies come true, we must bring our inner badass out into the world.

At home. At work. And everywhere in between.

What does that look like exactly?

It looks like speaking up in meetings like a badass. Supporting other women like a badass. Advocating for better parental leave policies like a badass. Believing in your self-worth like a badass. Raising your hand for a new project like a badass. Taking risks and failing like a badass. Delegating caregiving responsibilities like a badass. Negotiating for what you need like a badass. Saying “yes” before you feel 100% ready like a badass. Saying “no” to stuff that you don’t want to do like a badass. Questioning sexist assumptions like a badass. Giving up perfection like a badass. Asking for help like a badasss. Staying in the game like a badass.

And most of all, it means being brave. Like. A. Badass.

You know how you can start? Like right now? Email this post to a woman who needs it. Put it up on your Facebook page and own it. Text the link to your BFF and say, “Let’s do this.”

That’s your homework for lesson 1 in Badassery @Work.

Class dismissed.

If you’re still reading and want to hear more from me on this topic, send me your email address via the form below. I’m working on a new project – {Re}Finishing School for Brave Women – that’s designed for working women who want to set the world on fire. 

Yes, I would like to set the world on fire with you.


AND I would love your feedback on next week’s topic! Email me at if you have a cool idea.


Masters in Bad*ssery (And Why Every Woman Needs One)

Lots of people get their MBA’s to learn how to run a business for profit.

The Masters in Badassery is similar. Only you substitute “run a business for profit” with “run your life for yourself.”

If the idea of running your life for yourself makes your heart pause because it sounds terrifyingly selfish, I totally get that.

For most women, even basic self-care (sleeping, eating, the occasional mani-pedi) feels like an indulgent self-centered luxury if not an outright act against God.

If the idea of running your life for yourself makes your heart pause because there’s no more room on your “To Do List” for you, I totally get that, too.

We have loooong “To Do Lists,” and most of them are other-centered. Adding ourselves may make it combust into flames.

But running your life for yourself is not about whether you’re at the top, middle or bottom of the “To Do List” (where we typically find ourselves). And it’s not about setting fire to the list. (Although wouldn’t that be nice.)

Everything on your “To Do List” – all of it – is your life. There is no magic fairy wand that will make those things go away. And whether you are at the top, middle or bottom isn’t the point.

Rather, it’s about how you “do” your “To Do List,” and by that, I mean instead of having the items on your list run your life, you run them. 

Like a badass.

Here’s how this might look.

Ever been invited to a neighborhood potluck? The one where everyone brings a homemade dish (if they’re a woman) or a bag of tortilla chips (if they’re a man)?

We have one every year in my neighborhood, and I bring a gorgeous fruit pie.

That someone else baked. Someone named Whole Foods.

I even put it on a plate and break the crust a little bit.

Bam. Done.

Total badassery.

Ever volunteer at your kid’s school? I used to do this every week, which was a complete nightmare.

The commute between my office and the school was double the amount of time I spent volunteering, my daughter sobbed hysterically when I said goodbye, and the kids were so snot-covered that I needed a hazmat  suit.

The ROI simply didn’t add up.

So now I volunteer to run the Halloween Party, and I do it in such an epic, badass way that I feel absolutely no pressure or guilt to do anything more for the entire year.

I bring in a smoke machine that makes all the kids super-excited (and wheezy because apparently it’s better suited for outdoor use or dance clubs).

I make a “witches brew” with floaty corpse hands and dry ice. (Cautionary note: Dry ice has been banned from most elementary schools because it burns through children’s esophaguses so you’ll have to sneak it in.)

And I roll in dressed up like Wonder Woman. Which makes me the most awesomest, coolest mom ever.


Total badassery.

Running your life for yourself looks like figuring out ways to make your life work not just for everyone else, but for you.

Running your life for yourself is something women need to re-learn how to do. And I say re-learn because somewhere between our girlhood and now, we forget how to do this.

If you cannot imagine ever, ever living this way, let me re-introduce you to your twenty year-old self.

Because I bet that woman knew how to run her life for herself.

Granted, she didn’t have the same responsibilities and pressures and commitments that you have today. But she still had responsibilities, pressures, and commitments.

They were just different. (And less loud because they didn’t have mouths that talked, begged, or screamed.)

She didn’t succumb to the “right way” to do something because she either didn’t care or she didn’t know any better.

The first step in getting your Masters in Badassery is to remember your twenty year-old self. Like, really remember her.

What would she put on her “To Do List”? And how would she manage the stuff that’s on yours?

Here’s my list:

  1. Make dinner
  2. Attend service club meeting
  3. Buy birthday present for dog
  4. Go to 4th grade Back to School Night

Hmmmm…. What would my 20 year-old self do with that list?

  1. Make dinner  What’s cookin’ Whole Foods?
  2. Attend service club meeting after a glass of wine
  3. Buy birthday present for dog  Here’s an extra scoop of dog food
  4. Go to 4th grade Back to School Night (This stays on the list because how else am I gonna sign up to rock out the Halloween Party?)

Now it’s your turn. Lemme know how it goes.

Sharing is caring. Send this post to a badass girlfriend. She’ll thank you for it.

(Oh! And don’t forget to vote for next week’s topic! I’m posting every Friday now, and I love love love to get your input. Survey is below. xoxoako)


The Man Question

I imagine this title may generate a bit of curiosity, especially in a blog dedicated to women’s development.

And because, generally speaking, women have a lot of questions about men.

To illustrate this point, here’s a quick summary of the questions I’ve had about men, sorted by decade:

  • My 20’s:  Am I ever going to find my man? Does this man like me? Love me? Like really love me? Will he ever ask me to marry him? (I know, I know. I was young.)
  • My 30’s:  How can I get this man to change? (That really was the only question for an entire decade.)
  • My 40’s:  What do we DO with the men? (Especially relevant now that we’re in the midst of a women’s empowerment revolution.)

Most of these questions center around being in a relationship with a man, but The Man Question has nothing to do with dating or marriage.

It’s a question posed to me by a male reader (of which I think there are about two) who responded to my invitation to submit writing topics for this blog. And it was this:

“How can I be a good father to a little girl?”

Oh. My.

Are you trying to break my heart wide open right now? Because you totally just did.


After a few days of mulling The Man Question over, here’s what I came up with.

1) Respect their mother. The way you treat her mother will be how she thinks she should be treated. In fact, she will most likely end up marrying a man who is just like you. Which I know is scary because you’re still figuring your own self out and that’s a lot of pressure.

So here are a few quick tips:

If you want her to be talked to nicely, talk to her mother nicely.

If you hope she will be appreciated for her awesomeness, appreciate her mother’s awesome.

And even if you’re divorced, you can still honor whatever it was that brought you two together in the first place by being respectful.

2) Do your chores. Seeing you participate in traditionally female roles (cooking, cleaning, caregiving, etc.) will free her of the expectation that women must somehow “do it all.” This expectation comes at a cost to their careers, future income, and leadership aspirations.

So if you’re not already doing so, please pick up a broom, cook dinner, drive the kids to daycare – whatever – because equality must start inside of the home if we’re ever going to achieve it outside of the home.

3) Make her tough. I know having a girl child is a melty-melt experience for most fathers. When our own daughter was born, my husband treated her like a delicate little flower.

As much as I love this, it’s super not helpful because that delicate little flower is going to have to go out into the world and deal with some pretty tough stuff.

So make her tough.

Get her into competitive sports, remark on how strong she is (because she is), tell her she’s as good as (if not better than) any boy.

When she falls, encourage her to walk it off. Because she’s going to fall, be pushed over, and tripped, just like the boys if not more so.

I know it’s scary to raise a daughter. I have one myself. Compared to my son, she will be more vulnerable, she will experience more challenges, she will wrestle with more doubt (her own and others)…


At the end of the day, she will have a father who respects her mother, who models equality home, and who shows her that she is tough enough to handle her own life.

A father who believes in raising brave girls who then become brave women.

A father like you.

Sharing is caring. Send this to a brave man who wants to be a good father to a little girl. (That little girl will thank you for it.)

Oh! And as you may know from last week’s post, Write Like a Mutha, I’m blogging every Friday now, in a way that’s more interactive with you. Use the survey below to vote for next week’s topic! xoxoako


Photo Credit Kyle Head