Everyone has a Yay! Thing


gratitude attitude



Mondays can be rough.  The early alarm, that not so easy transition from the weekend to the weekday and the fact that you just want a little more face time with your pillow.

Motivation can be slow to appear.  Unless someone forgot to put the garbage cans on the curb.  Then there’s the bounding out of bed at the noise from the sanitation truck rolling down the street.

But that’s a harsh start.  Especially since I wake to the sounds of ocean waves (my alarm, not the beach, but maybe someday) and my husband’s alarm is a harp.

We make an attempt at the Zen thing.


Well, this weekend I stumbled across a line of fun, colorful magnets from Rachelle Reichly’s company called Yay! Life!

The magnets cheer on an attitude of motivation and gratitude and it all started with a pie.  I’m sure a lot of great ideas started with pie, right?

I mean whose to say Benjamin Franklin didn’t eat a slice of mincemeat pie before heading out to discover electricity?

Pie!  Eureka!

Anyway Rachelle made a pie and when her husband saw it he said, “Yay. Pie.”  Inspiration struck (like Franklin’s lightning) and the couple thought:


“This is what life is all about – gratitude and enjoying life. Everyone has a YAY! THING! that is as unique as they are.”


And so now they sell Yay! magnets for most anything, from Alaska to Zombies.


book gratitude

And books–double Yay!


Each day offers us the gift of being a special occasion.

~Sarah Ban Breathnach 


For my Monday motivation, I’m starting with a Yay! Coffee! Iced, because it’s getting warmer outside.  Another Yay!


Add in a memory of a fun weekend: Yay! Mother’s Day!

And I’ve got my inspiration, my keyboard–Yay! Writing!


“Your idea of bliss is to wake up on a Monday morning knowing you haven’t a single engagement for the entire week. You are cradled in a white paper cocoon tied up with typewriter ribbon.”
~Edna Ferbe


Still tired?

Well, here’s a reason to get moving:

fear of the unknown alligator underwater _opt

Look closer.  Um, Yay! Boat?


Tell me, what is your Yay! thing for today?


Carry Weapons of Minimal Destruction and Other Motherly Advice


When your mother asks, “Do you want a piece of advice?” it’s a mere formality.  It doesn’t matter if you answer yes or no.

You’re going to get it anyway.

― Erma Bombeck


Growing up I got great advice from my mom.  I’m sure of it.

However at the moment, all I can think about is the time she told me to always carry a hat pin when riding a city bus.  You know, in case of unsavory strangers deciding to get a little too close.

It was advice she dispensed for my safety.  You see once I hit the 7th grade, I liked to go to the mall.  A lot.  I didn’t ride a bus there and I’d never owned a hat pin, but maybe my mom was worried about me going without her.  So she offered up a quick tidbit from the stores of her own immigrant mother’s wisdom stash.  The hat pin was a reflex.

hat pin weapons of destruction_opt

 Hat pins, weapons of minimal destruction.


She quickly amended the advice to this:

Stay away from strangers a.k.a. unsavory sorts.  If need be, act a little crazy to encourage them to stay away.

Or at least that’s how I remember it.  The mistakes in this advice are all mine, but you get the gist–she wanted me to be safe.

Because that’s what moms do.

They advise you:

 “Do not eat chips out of a communal bowl.  You might as well stick your hand in a toilet.”

~Lorelai Gilmore, Gilmore Girls


They love you:

buffy vampire slayer joyce summers

“I know you’re afraid. I know the world feels like a hard place, sometimes. But you’ve got people who love you. Your dad and I, we have all the faith in the world in you. We’ll always be with you. You have got a world of strength in your heart. I know you do. You just have to find it again. Believe in yourself.”

~Mrs. Summers to Buffy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

 They teach you (and maybe humble you):

dorothy and sophia petrillo

 “Jealousy is a very ugly thing, Dorothy. And so are you, in anything backless.”

~Sophia Petrillo, Golden Girls


And okay sometimes they confuse you:

mom daughter Portokalos advice

“Don’t play with the food! When I was your age, we didn’t have food!”

~Maria Portokalas, My Big Fat Greek Wedding


But it’s wisdom from a (longer) life lived.  And it’s meant to be a good thing.

Because they want you to be happy.

Oh and that reminds me of another pearl to share.  Here’s the first stanza of the song my mom used to sing to pull a smile out of us when we were having the mopes:

Nobody Likes Me (Guess I’ll Go Eat Worms) 

Nobody likes me, everybody hates me,
I think I’ll go eat worms!
Big fat juicy ones,
Eensie weensy squeensy ones,
See how they wiggle and squirm!

 mom me bridget dan_opt

Happy Mother’s Day!

What is your favorite bit of motherly wisdom?

Finding Meaning in the Mess

While flipping through a magazine last week, I saw a two page spread of Pretty Things You Wish You Had or something like that.

Anyway, I saw a cute, colorful glass tumbler and immediately I got caught in the glow of something sparkly.

I thought: I want my kitchen to look cute too! I must replace my mismatched (read: broken) sets immediately!

Then my house will be pretty and in magazine-like order.

Okay maybe not exactly like a magazine, because I’ve been known to overlook a tub ring for far longer than the Tub Guidebook recommends.  But I do love organization.  I like when everything has a place.  And I like to look at pretty things.

Still somehow in my house, jackets migrate to chairs (or the floor), papers can’t find their matching files and those pretty bathroom towels that coordinate with the shower curtain find themselves under the muddy feet of a sweaty boy after a game of frisbee in the rain.

Because not everyone I live with cares about the pretty.  Or even organization.  And I am outnumbered.

**Warning:  If you’ve looked at Pinterest recently, then the following image may be offensive.**


finding meaning in the mess 2_opt

You can lead a horse to water, but doesn’t mean he’ll put his shoes in it.


Several years ago I declared our living room my Serenity room.  It was the one room that was not allowed to be a dumping ground. I could have a few pretty, unbroken things set up in my serenity room and whenever I passed it, it was proof that I actually could keep a house clean and in order.

But now I don’t bother with a serenity room, and it’s not just because I know sweaty kids have been plopping down on the so-called serenity couch.

No I didn’t give up.  I readjusted my idea of meaningful.  Because when I really thought about it, I realized that all those messy habits kind of come with the territory.

And I like this territory.

Because those stacks of papers and scattered shoes mean people I love live here.

And kids grow up, they move out.  Someday there will be less stuff to pick up and put away.  And pretty glasses will stay in sets.

So maybe I will put a bookmark in that magazine, but right now I am happy to set the table with my mismatched glasses, because for now it means I get to see this:


silly smiling faces


 “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

― Melody Beattie


What messes are you grateful for?




Reader Paparazzi: Interview with a Skateboarding Tween


It’s research, not stalking.

I’m excited to bring you another Reader Paparazzi interview.  Thanks so much for all your comments and suggestions on my first installment.  If you missed it, check it out here.  

Basically since I spend a lot of time inside the mind of fictional teens and tweens–writing and reading, I decided it might be nice to get a little perspective from the real world.

So I’m stalking interviewing young adult readers.

And this week I have what the publishing industry refers to as the reluctant (boy) reader.

But you can call him Ben.

Ben is a twelve-year-old middle schooler.  He is on the Lacrosse team, plays the trombone in his school’s All City Band and he has the distinction of being the only kid I know who prefers dark chocolate over milk chocolate.  Plus, as you will soon see, he loves skateboarding.

Welcome BEN!!

What is the last book you read?

Probably one of the Magic Tree House Series. I don’t read a lot for fun, but I do have all of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books!

What are the top three songs playing on your iPod?

Skrillex: The First of the Year

Skrillex: Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites

Kanye West: Dark Fantasy

What is your favorite class in school?

Social Studies

What is your favorite thing to do after school?


If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life—what would it be?

That’s hard!  I guess Chicken & Rice Soup.

If you could Skype with a famous person who would you pick?

Paul Rodriguez

(P-Rod,his nickname, is a professional skateboarder.  I’m glad Ben filled me in on this fact, because the only Paul Rodriguez I know is a comedian–and turns out,  happens to also be P-Rod’s father).

See how much you can learn in an interview?

So Ben, what was the last movie you saw?

Hunger Games! And I loved it.

Me too!  What are you most looking forward to right now?

Sunday Skate Sessions at the skate park.

 Ben ollie skateboarding _opt

Ben lifting off the ground with an “ollie”.


While we’re on the subject of skateboarding, what did you think when you heard that a 12-year-old (Tom Schaar) landed skateboarding’s first ever 1080 spin?

Amazed! I thought it would be a pro!

So other than cool skateboarding tricks, what would you like to learn how to do?

Drive a Rally Car.

I have to say I’m feeling for your mom here a little Ben . . .

Okay one last question.  If you could get on a plane right now and go anywhere—all expenses paid—where would you go?

Tokyo Japan!

Arigato Ben. 🙂


Check back for more Reader Paparazzi interviews–or if you don’t want to miss a post, simply subscribe by email (above on the sidebar)!

Have any questions you’d love for me to ask young readers?  Drop me a comment, I’d love to know!  Or answer me this question: 

If you could get on a plane right now and go anywhere—all expenses paid—where would you go?



Happily Wrinkled in Time

This week my daughter and I hit the road for another college visit, but this time around we went to my (and my husband’s) alma mater.

So surreal.

We walked the campus and I pointed out the sights, each turn awakening old memories as if Zeus had bellowed, Release the Kracken!

Because I relayed my ancient stories as we roamed the student center and shopped in the bookstore.  I showed her the places her dad lived, where I lived and even the chinese restaurant that we loved.

I was surprised to see it.  So much had changed, renovations, new buildings, me.

Seeing it anchored me back in reality, and I thought:

How is it possible that 20 years have passed since I graduated from college?

coleen happy college graduate_opt

So happy to graduate.  So clueless about my smooth skin.


The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.

~Madeleine L’Engle


Okay so I have some wrinkles, but according to Madeleine L’Engle they are evidence–evidence of not only titan clashes, but of ages that I am happy to carry with me.

coleen happy big sister _opt

Like becoming a big sister for the first time.

coleen happy big sister again _opt

And again.

coleen happy big sister yet again _opt

And again. 🙂

Even if I don’t remember it all, I can see I was happy.

It’s with me.

coleen happy siblings opt

What ages are you happy to keep with you?


The Power to Go Back

Happy Groundhog Day!

Let’s put aside for a moment Punxsutawney Phil and the science of shadow forecasting.

Instead, picture Bill Murray, an alarm clock and the sounds of “I got you babe.”

Because I’m rewinding time and starting over–all the way back to penny candy and sun bonnets.  Well, sort of.

Let’s go back to the beginning of my blog and see.




I loved Little House on the Prairie when I was a kid, so reading Wendy McClure’s book, The Wilder LifeMy Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie was like catching up with dear friends.

In fact I was reminded how much LHOP played a role in my own life as I remembered along with Wendy about bonnets,  Plum Creek, the sod house, and above all the spunky, carefree, adventurous spirit that was Laura.



I did too.  I admired Laura’s pluck, her spunk, her spirit.

Once when someone commented that I looked like the Mary from the television show, I actually felt insulted.  Okay so my hair was blonde and I was the oldest of four siblings, but I did not want to be the bossy, know-it-all (although that characteristic probably fit too).  I just wanted to be carefree and adventurous, like Laura.

But I felt a kinship with both girls for many reasons.  After all, I knew what it was like to share a bed with your sister, and to move a lot (my dad was in the Coast Guard).  Plus, I think we were the last family to buy a color TV (1984!!).    We were practically a frontier family.

prairie family coleen patrick


Don’t let my parents fool you–they may have dressed the part, but they did not appreciate my attempt to clear out our backyard shed to make my very own prairie house (not even after I dressed my youngest sister in prairie garb to complete the effect).

 And twelve years later, my mom would bring this hat as a gift for my first child, so I wonder if maybe that gift was less my LHOP sensibility and more of my mother’s, as evidenced in the following baby picture of me :

baby Coleen Patrick bonnet_opt




I think the best thing I learned from LHOP was that the simplest things make us happy, like those jars of penny candy in the Olson’s store, or a retweet or a yummy grilled cheese sandwich (even if nowadays it has to be gluten and dairy free).

Even seeing a pile of freshly picked cucumbers from our tiny garden gives me some sort of odd, geeky, perhaps prairie thrill.  But it’s the stressful times that really bring out “my bad, prairie self”, because that’s when I find myself longing to burrow deep into some mythical cabin in the woods.  My sister E and I call this my Grizzly Woman status (she even gifted me a grizzly bear keychain).

The good thing is you don’t have to go all the way to Walnut Grove to experience LHOP nostalgia.  All you need is a little connection, like reading Wendy’s book or re-reading the LHOP series.  Because of course we always carry the power to go home within ourselves, right?  Like Glinda the Good Witch said (to another girl from a Midwestern prairie), “You’ve always had the power to go back . . .”

It’s as simple as clicking your (bare foot) heels.

What simple things make you happy?

I’d love to know!



The Hulking Generation Gap

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I were playing a trivia board game with our fifteen year old son.  Our son is a bit competitive and usually beats us when it comes to geography and presidential history, but he wasn’t so happy when he pulled this card:


Name a character from Hogan’s Heroes.


“Come on,” he said sounding annoyed.  “I don’t watch this reality TV stuff . . .ugh, okay fine, Hulk Hogan.”


An American TV show featuring spandex clad wrestler, Hulk Hogan, in charge of  a crew of Allied prisoners in a POW camp?


My husband and I laughed, but it was an honest mistake considering Hogan’s Heroes started airing before we were all born. But the next time we played that game, this card came up:


Name a comic character Johnny Carson played on The Tonight Show.


My son’s response?

“Who’s Johnny Carson?”

It was a little astonishing that he didn’t have any reference for the thirty year host of The Tonight Show.  Johnny Carson was such a fixture in my house from the time I was a kid until right before I got married.


Generation Gap:  A chasm, amorphously situated in time and space, that separates those who have grown up absurd from those who will, with luck, grow up absurd. 

~Bernard Rosenberg, Dictionary for the Disenchanted, 1972


You know what else is absurd?  My kids don’t know what a library card catalog is . . .


 The card catalog and paper–the two things I needed to do a school report when I was a kid.  No Google.


And (*sigh*) they don’t even know how to use a cassette tape, the pain of it unraveling, or the power of a pencil in that respect.


Both my kids do however know the 17th century stockade:


Captive in Colonial Williamsburg

 This is one way to bridge the generation gap.


However, I am grateful that my kids know not only what a library is, but the feel and smell of actual books.  That even though they listen to their music via iPods, I am happy that they know the power of music.

So they may not know the once famous fixtures of bygone decades,  but I am glad that they find some significance in their family–at least enough to sit down with them and play a game.


 There is nothing wrong with today’s teenager that twenty years won’t cure.  ~Author Unknown


What gaps do you see in the generation before or after you?


Happy Chanukah


“Every moment of light and dark is a miracle.”

-Walt Whitman


chanukah happy hanukkah

“Still ours the dance, the feast, the glorious Psalm,

The mystic lights of emblem, and the Word.”

-Emma Lazarus

The Feast of Lights