Be Yourself: Let Life Tap Its Toes to Your Beat

A couple of weeks ago, I heard a dean of admissions from the University of Virginia speak on the dreaded subject of the college essay.

The gist of his speech?  Be the best YOU.

He said, every year he reads countless essays from prospective applicants trying to be who they think UVA wants them to be.

Topics like,

Thomas Jefferson is my role model.

The Louisiana Purchase and me.

Why I Believe the Declaration of Independence Rocks!

And countless other themes that manage to mention the lawn, the academical village, or the rotunda.


The lawn at the University of Virginia.


These essays are not endearing to the admissions staff.

Because Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, and writing about him is a warning that student X is trying to push his or her unique, but angular self into the UVA circle.

And losing an opportunity to be themselves.

It got me thinking how this applies to so many things. How many times are you filling something out and you see:

Tell us a little something about yourself.

Or what about those bio fields in social media? Or if you’re a writer, what about the author blurb, or About Me page?

Like the college essay, these descriptions could be your one shot to sum up YOU.

Maybe you’re thinking they’ll eventually see who you are, but what if that first impression is your only opportunity to go from person X, to the eXtra special, unique you?

For instance, UVA gets twenty-nine thousand applicants a year.  Pinterest currently has forty million users. Twitter even more. And hundreds of thousands of books are published in the U.S. every year.

There’s bound to be A LOT of circles.  And when you’ve seen one circle, well…they all blur into one massive blob. They become like white noise.

If you’re trying to make an impact, looking for connections, or just trying to be seen, then you don’t want to be the white noise.

If you want to be found, then you kind of have to let your INNER WALDO shine. 


Not that it’s easy. I struggle with filling out those short bios.  Here’s the latest author bio I’ve written.

Coleen Patrick grew up in New Jersey, Virginia, Michigan, Louisiana, and Indiana. Always being the new kid, she learned that books and friends are precious—and dessert. She never met a dessert she didn’t like (except for flan). 

When she’s not writing, reading (or avoiding flan), she enjoys TV, arts and crafts, quoting movies, and trying to take cool photos.

She lives in Virginia with her husband and two kids.


Now this is short, but it seemed to take me forever. Because I wanted to be me (well me, in a few sentences), but at the same time it was cringing to be real.

It’s not easy to allow a part of yourself to be vulnerable. In this particular case, I was afraid to be a little funny. Except funny is important to me.

So how can you get started telling a little about yourself?

It might help to ask yourself some questions:

 What do I like best about myself?  What are my talents, interests?  What do I believe in? What would my perfect day look like? What would  I do if I had unlimited time or energy?

Find a way to be true to yourself.

Because somewhere out there, whether it’s a university, an employer, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, a bookshelf…someone is looking for YOU.

Why not make it easy for them to see you?


Do you have any advice on how to sum up you?  What would you do if you had unlimited energy?

Have a spectacular week!


 **If you enjoyed this post, you can subscribe to my mailing list to receive my new posts straight to your inbox.  Just add your email in the space at the top of the right sidebar under my photo.

Stop by and say HI to Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal.  I think book reviews are VERY hard to write, but Patricia does an amazing job!

Putting the You in Blogging: What I’ve Learned So Far

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 Putting the YOU in blogging.

A year ago this week I started blogging.

Before that, the idea of me blogging seemed practically other worldly, like getting stuck in an elevator with Ian Somerhalder.

Just another dreamy idea.  Sigh.

But the more hours I set aside for writing, the more the business/public side of this job of writing became apparent.  I’d read an author’s blog, and somewhere in the cramped corner of my mind I’d think:  I might have to do this someday.

Still it seemed like something other people did.  Not me.

But then the idea planted itself and then grew until it poked at my gray matter.  It was time to do something, time to take another step.

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Time to EVOLVE.


So after stumbling across Kristen Lamb’s WANA blog, and then reading her books, I decided it was time to experiment with this blogging thing.  I had no idea what I was doing, but I followed her advice (note: all mistakes are my own) and started learning how to BUILD A PLATFORM.

And very quickly learned –and this is going to sound ridiculous coming from someone who writes a blog–that I don’t really like talking about myself.

Okay I will wait while you laugh.


So if that’s the case, then how do you decide what to blog about, especially when the blog’s brand is YOU?




“You’ve got to recognize, there will never be another you. It has nothing to do with ego; it happens to be the truth. There will never be another person the same. There’ll never be another you.”

~ Mickey Rooney

So be you.

Okay, but what about boundaries?  The internet knows none.  But not me.  Filter is like my middle name, and TMI is a VERY distant cousin.  This means I’m naturally less inclined to tell you what color underwear I am wearing. Doesn’t mean I don’t like underwear, or don’t wear underwear or don’t read blogs about underwear.  Underwear can by a VERY funny thing to blog about (don’t believe me? Check out the very lovely Jenny Hansen at More Cowbell).  Now maybe one morning I will wake up to hear the Today Show revealing a study that says:


Well then I’m going to have to reconsider the whole underwear thing, because I love me some inspiration.

Yup, I learned I DO like to sprinkle in some inspiration when I blog, but still I started somewhere WAY SAFER.  I started with bonnets.

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This is like the opposite of underwear.


There’s no place like the prairie.  That was my first post.  I blogged about my favorite books from when I was a kid–the Little House on the Prairie series.  It kind of summed up a big part of me as a kid, as a reader.

And that’s okay.  You have to start somewhere.


And unfortunately I’ve learned that I’m a PANTSER when it comes to blogging.  No, I’m not talking about underwear again, being a pantser just means that I spend most Sunday afternoons with my face scrunched up in front of my computer writing Monday’s post.

Because I don’t plot or plan my blog posts.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the idea of outlines and planning ahead–and let me say I’ve planned and executed some amazing and detailed family road trips, but setting up a blogging calendar?

Um, so far hasn’t worked.  At all.

I’ve got my idea stash, but every week the only idea that sticks is something current, something with at least a tiny emotional connection, so yea, forget planning ahead.

It’s one reason why I do a lot of quoting around here.

But from other people.  Sure I’m a source of wisdom here at my house.  I’m handing out life lessons on a daily basis.  Why just this morning I got to impart this little gem:

Diarrhea will never be convenient.

With jewels like that, you see why I like to stick with Maya Angelou or Albert Einstein.

Besides that sort of quote might not translate my brand all that well on a Google search–which brings me to:


Search Engine Optimization.  If you blog, then you will know at least a little something about this.

Me? I’m still struggling to understand this—The Real Housewives franchise (and even the LOST finale) make more sense to me than this, but I’ve managed to think of SEO like this:


search engine building author platform


The more posts I write, the more information I have floating out there in search land–and eventually the repetition of me AS A BRAND should add up in the center.

Okay this is rudimentary and quite possibly wrong (and did I just call myself repetitious?), but I can pull up the searches that have directed people to my site and get:

Teenager washing dishes (a parent can dream)

Teen stockade (ditto)

These are searches that would be in the outer circles, because while I write stories about teens, it’s not quite right.  Like these searches:

Cooking with Pooh and liking it

Patrick written in poop

Toilet cake ideas

Again, not exactly at the core of what my blog is about, but I kind of like it because these searches also hint that somewhere in this blog is something funny.

Funny is important to me.


“Comedy is defiance. It’s a snort of contempt in the face of fear and anxiety. And it’s the laughter that allows hope to creep back on the inhale.” ~Will Durst

Funny is like a balm to me.  Sometimes life just sucks a big lemon.  People that I love are dealing with divorce, recovering from disease, suffering with pain, or money problems.  The world is filled with insane people.  And of course I’ve got my own obstacles to figure out—from the unexpected (my health) to the expected (but not easy) evolution of parenting (learning to add more “let go” to the love equation).  But it doesn’t even have to be BIG issues, it can be lots of tiny ones that kick up into a terrifying dust bunny of the mind.


too much on my mind


So yea, funny is good.  And sometimes you read a blog because you just want to know that someone else feels the same.  When I see searches like these collecting in my virtual Venn diagram:

How to find the courage to try something new


Embrace your story

I feel happy.  Because it’s positive and what I hope is a big part of the core of this blog.

Which brings me to another lesson I’ve learned:


Yes, there are weeks when I think—maybe I don’t want to do this anymore, maybe I don’t have something to say.  Especially when all the hard things about life come to wrap themselves around me, poking at my heart, making me want to fold up instead of sharing.

Except I belong to an AMAZING community of writers and bloggers.  Friends who randomly tweet things like this:


awesome blogging friends



And then I’m reminded that what we do, what we say or even what we blog about MATTERS.  Maybe we will never know the impact of our words in any given moment, but if it matters to you, it probably matters to someone else.  Maybe it’s someone at home or all the way across the world in Australia.

I have been lucky to come across amazing writers and bloggers first through Rachael Harrie’s writer’s platform building campaign, and then Kristen Lamb’s WANA (we are not alone) community (click on her site link above or see #mywana on Twitter or click on the beautiful peacock graphic in my sidebar).  It’s like your key to a writer’s Narnia.

I told myself I was going to do this for a year, an experiment of sorts, to not only see what I could do, but what could happen and also give myself the footing to be able to make the best decision for me when it comes to publishing.

I am learning as I go.  I am remaining open and curious.

Which leads me to my favorite part:  Question time!

I love when you take the time to read–and I love every comment and email.  So if you are a blogger, it would be super cool if you share with us in the comments how you put YOU in your blog.

If you don’t blog, then tell us why you read blogs, or Facebook posts or tweets or watch YouTube videos.  Do you do it for inspiration, motivation, laughter?  I’d love to know.

Thank you!!





Multitasking: Make Twice the Mistakes in Half the Time



Two weeks ago, while in the middle of answering emails (and clicking on link after link until I had at least two dozen tabs open that would need to be dealt with), I remembered I wanted to send a birthday package to my twin nephews.

So I opened another window and with a few clicks I filled my virtual shopping cart with fun picture books.   And cookies. Animal cookies in a cute yellow school bus box.

What four-year old wouldn’t want to have cookies and then play with the cardboard school bus box, right?  So cute!

So I put two in my basket, checked out and then patted myself on my super productive shoulder.  

Then I continued toggling, replying, reading and jumping around my to do list.

Until the next week when my mom asked:  Where did you buy those cookies?

ME:  Amazon, why?

MOM:  Your sister seems to think they were dog biscuits.


MOM:  Yes.  She was pretty sure.  She said the ingredients mentioned the percentage of crude fat and protein.

ME:  But why would they package it in a bus?  Dogs wouldn’t care about that!!  No way.  It can’t be dog biscuits!

It was.

I checked my Amazon receipt and that’s when I noticed the things I’d been too busy to catch:

Great for finicky pets!

Made by Exclusively Dog.

Animal Shaped Dog Treats.

In my defense, I had started out in the food section, but with one click or maybe switching from animal “crackers” to “cookies” I ended up in the pet supply section.



“I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once.”  

~Jennifer Yane


The thing is, I know that I’m entering the Mistake Zone when I start toggling between tabs, email and everything else.

I worry I will type the wrong name (legal vs. writing name) when I switch back and forth between personal and writing emails.

I worry I will hit publish instead of save while I’m in the middle of writing the “vomit draft” of a blog post–which to me would kind of feel like walking out of the house without pants on.

Still, some days it’s hard to stop adding another chair on top of the stack.


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Got balance?


But  our brains slow down when they go into juggle mode and occasionally information can get lost between long- term memory and our short-term working memory.

And the next thing you know you could be overlooking important clues:

Made with human-grade ingredients.  No animal parts or by-products.

It’s a good thing vacation is right around the corner, because I need a Balance Check.   For now though,  I will remember to breathe, take a fun day and feel the waves.

There’s no secret to balance. You just have to feel the waves.

— Frank Herbert

Oh and take more time for tea.  I LOVE tea!

And it’s even better with a great snack.  Anyone want an animal cookie?


Sometimes it’s important to work for that pot of gold.  But other times it’s essential to take time off and to make sure that your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow. 

~Douglas Pagels


What are your thoughts on multitasking?  Do you think it adds to stress or do you feel more productive?


The Indefinite Future of Someday



At the start of last year, blogging and social media were not on my to-do list, let alone part of any resolution, but they were something I imagined I would do someday.

You know, someday, the indefinite future.

As in someday I will travel to Italy and Greece, or someday I will use that trapeze school gift card (yes, I really have one of these).

Or maybe someday is dusting that stupid cobweb at the top of the family room ceiling fan–you know what I’m talking about, the one that can’t be reached without stopping to get a step stool or a broom.

So time goes by and that cobweb starts to dangle, it may even mock you a little by blowing in the breeze of the fan as you sit on the couch, but still you ignore it, push it off until the indefinite future, and then one day it’s gone.

Must’ve fallen off you think, some point between Masterpiece Theatre and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills . . .

But what if  left unchecked, that cobweb bans together with others of its kind, and is lurking close by . . . a giant, zombified dust bunny of regret?

*cue Psycho music*

Indefinite inaction = Dustus Bunnicus

Then again it’s only dangerous if that action was something important.

Like say fulfilling a long-standing dream.

So when the idea of building an author platform presented itself last year, I thought, But I’m not ready . . . someday my blog will come.

But I was curious, so I Googled and researched and read Kristen Lamb’s books We Are Not Alone-The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer, and the next thing I know . . .

Domain.  Blog.  Twitter.  Facebook.  I was out there.

And yes, it was way out of my comfort zone and not what I had planned, but then again:


“Why not seize the pleasure at once? How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation?”

–Jane Austen


Now okay I cringe a little at the words “foolish preparation,” because let’s face it, I am really more of a planning kind of gal. I like neat stacks and files and research.  I don’t just hop on Amazon and buy something without researching it first (well, mostly–beware of that tricky Amazon 1-click setting.)

But even neatness and research can backfire and turn into Preparatory Procrastination.

Who knows what evil lurks behind clean desks and brand new notebooks?


Anyway, procrastination aside (please!) being out there was kind of the point, unless I was writing all those stories for the dust bunnies.



Maybe blogging is only a part of the dream, but the funny thing is now that I’ve gone and done it, well it makes the rest seem like it’s right there within reach.

Like a sparkling, clean ceiling fan.

I just need to go and get that step stool.


What someday is dangling over your head?




This week I saw Maroon 5, Train and Gavin DeGraw in concert. It was an awesome show, especially because we had great seats (I was surprised, I must have read that online seating chart upside down). Being close to the stage, I could feel the music working its way up through my feet, plugging me into all that energy. Plus I love watching people do what they love to do, to see them in the middle of what they created.

It feels like a real connection.

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  I could see the sheen on Adam Levine

But one of Train’s lyrics kept tapping at me, “reminds me that there’s room to grow,” and I started thinking . . . about connections and Twitter and this blog and Facebook, um and writing and growth and fear and then Eleanor Roosevelt’s quotes on courage like this one: you must do the things you think you cannot do.

*deep breath*

Okay so maybe that wasn’t exactly what Train imagined when they wrote that line (although Twitter was mentioned plenty up on the stage), but social media can be a little scary. When I started on Twitter, it was one small tweet for Twitter, but one giant leap for me.

Mostly because it was a change.

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Is there anyone out there, ’cause it’s getting harder and harder to breathe


It’s funny how easy it is to resist change, because give me a movie, magazine or talk show with a makeover to see and I am all over that. Then again I once resisted getting a cell phone, because I thought my handy dandy pager was oh so much better (yes I said pager). I was just used to it.

It was easier, or so i thought.

Now I’m not saying my cellphone led me to a feeling of Zen, peace and serenity, (although there might be an app for that), but it was one of those “leap” things.
Every time I tweet, blog, leave a comment on someone’s site, or a lurker’s comment on my husband’s Facebook (I’m still not on it–I know, 750 million people can’t be wrong, but baby steps people), I wonder:

Am I doing this right?

I don’t know. Maybe.

The thing is the Internet always comes across to me as so virtual, but it is real life, real people. So if that’s true, then how do I be me in this virtual but not virtual place?

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I don’t want to be anything other than me 

Because being online is different than say meeting someone at school or a party or work, or even what you get from being at a live concert, but whether you’re out in public or on the couch in your pajamas, it seems like we are all still showing up for the same reason:


And that can be one of those important things that reminds us “there’s room to grow,” because we get to discover people living out their goals and dreams and vacations and children and books and music, and hopefully find a little inspiration for our own lives.

Then, what do you know, along comes change.