Real You: Remember what's important during the holidays

I was asked to write a piece for Woman's World magazine about what it was like not to have any more kids to dress up and take trick-or-treating during Halloween. Sob. Sure, I've had teenagers for awhile, so that phase of little people needing to be chaperoned in the neighborhood had long since passed. But what I discovered, as I began to write, was there was one important message I wish I could have told my younger self: be in the moment. Because this Halloween, this Thanksgiving and this Christmas only happens once, ever. Perfection is not what's important, being there, focused on your kids, that's what matters. There aren't any do overs. Just these precious years of chaos that will soon be memories. Enjoy every moment this holiday season!IMG_2618

(to read the article I wrote, go here)

Real You: Happy New Year book news and woman power

I hope you're having a great start to 2014! So far, I've been enjoying my family, recovering from food poisoning (a pickle, of all things), and trying to get back in the writing saddle. The end of 2013 left me a bit adrift, from the writing standpoint. But, I should have some good news to announce shortly! In the meantime, I wanted to let you all know that IndieReader gave ALL THE DIFFERENCE  a great review on their site, calling it "a quick and sexy mystery, a challenge to unravel, and proves there’s nothing humdrum about the ‘burbs." See the whole review here. I wasn't expecting the review and it reinvigorated me, the same way that five-star Amazon reviews can. It's odd, but us writers are such a sensitive lot. A tiny bit of applause goes a long way.

My debut novel, HERE, HOME, HOPE, was an Amazon bestseller over the holidays and was selected to be part of the price match program. If you buy the paperback version, the eBook is free. And HHH is part of Amazon's New Year, New You promotion which is exciting. Only books with a positive, life-change type message were selected and I'm honored that HHH is one of them. And, for a limited time this January, HHH will be 99 cents for your eReader so if you're looking for a way to kick off your New Year with a New You (although I always say Real You because that's what we are all shooting for, right?), please give HERE, HOME, HOPE a try.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention my first baby, book-wise that is. Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs continues to make a difference in women's lives and for me, there is nothing more gratifying. Hearing from women entrepreneurs across the country about how they've started a new business, or are reinventing their existing business because of what they read in RYI is amazing. I'm touched and celebrate your stories of success. But we still have a long way to go, together.

And speaking of women helping other women, have you seen the documentary Miss Representation? Or heard of the Representation Project? This group's mission is to expose the powerful gender stereotypes that limit girls and women from achieving their full potential in our society. I have taken the pledge and encourage you to do likewise. Once you make yourself more aware of who controls the media, and the messages we are bombarded with daily, I bet you'll want to get involved, too.

So I guess my New Year's wish is that we all keep working toward a world where equality - in politics, in business, in the media - everywhere - is a given. Where women have an equal chance of creating (and being taken seriously) books, movies and television. Because with more female creators come more complex, interesting female characters. All of my amazing author friends already are doing this. And we need you to join us.

As Marian Wright Edelman aptly said: "You can't be what you can't see."

Real You: A moving experience

We all have certain talents - and certain, shall we say, challenges. Well, I'll readily admit one of my biggest deficits is organization - or lack thereof! So, the fact we've moved as a family four times since the fall of 2009 is remarkable. Remarkable that we've stuck together and remarkable that I can find anything, anywhere. And, why am I writing about this you ask? We're moving AGAIN! So with the impending, looming process I thought I'd take a moment to share the top five things I've learned during my last four years of a very moving experience:

Lesson 1: You cannot control anything. You can plan, make checklists, plan some more - but when the big day comes, it arrives with all the mistakes, broken dishes and chipped treasures that are part of being human.

Lesson 2: Moving is a great time for reflection. I have so loved seeing my kids' artwork, finding favorite notecards and re-reading letters from my grandmothers and great aunts. But, I also learned you can get bogged down in memories and somewhat stuck in the past, especially if you are a sentimental soul. My new found trick: put special treasures in a tub and promise yourself to give yourself time to delve into them again later. And keep that date.

Lesson 3: Let it go. Downsize before you move. I'm not kidding. If you force yourself to giveaway and let go of stuff and junk ahead of time - you know those boxes of stuff that hasn't been open for years. Trust me. You'll just keep it in boxes again and move it again.

Lesson 4: Take photos. Really. Of your place now, every room, the way we were. It's important. You'll love to look back on it later. Your former space and place.

Lesson 5: Every move has brought us closer together and helped us all focus on what is truly important. Your family. If that's happy, solid and good - you can go anywhere together. Everything else is added blessing.

If you're moving anytime soon - I hope these lessons bring you comfort and hope!

Real You: The treasures that matter in the vaults of life

The truth is, I'm not having a great time with this move. We were relocated due to my husband's job - suddenly - over Thanksgiving and picked a place to live quickly, and for a short-term lease. Now, it's up and we're off. Two things. It's hard to move - for a short-term - a family of six with two dogs and piles of stuff. It's even harder to move - again - five months later. Second, I've found I'm practicing for empty nesting. I am letting go. I am a natural pack rat, and when the vaults - yes they call them vaults - of stuff we had in storage from two moves ago pulled up on a semi-truck in front of the new house, I wanted to tell them the driver he had the wrong address. Clearly, I didn't need the vault contents - I'd been living quite fine without all of it for more than three years.

They insisted on unloading. Ergo, for the past two weeks I've been wading through boxes of memories. Kid art scribbled on the back of paper placemats; photos galore; Mother's Day presents from various kids' preschool and elementary school days; clay creations of every sort and every talent level; my high school and college scrapbooks; books - and more books; and, well, you get the drift.

I've been snapping photos of some of the stuff before tossing it. Other, the most special of treasures, have been placed back into tubs so I can experience this all over again at some later date. It's almost like being an empty nester - but I'm not. My kids are still home, so perhaps it's a practice session?

A lot of the treasures made me misty, and many made me smile. It's the vaults of life, really, that I was rummaging through. I'm glad I did it. I don't think I tossed too many valuable memories. Judging from the new storage space stuffed to capactiy, I'll be doing this again in another 20 years.

If I'm lucky.

Real You: 10 Tips for Networking - you can do this!

Here's the thing. We all know we need to network - no matter what we do. As a mom, I network to find good tutors, good doctors, good electricians. Everything. As an author, I network to find out about good agents, good publishers, and to discover new methods of reaching readers.

So given we all need to network, and according to studies, we as women are more reluctant to do so in a business setting, I offer you my 10 tips for networking success. I hope you enjoy them and will take them to heart. You can do this - you're a natural!

1.Know the Real You - who you are, what you do , who you do it for and why you do it.

2. Join organizations that have meaning to you.

3. Remember to give as much as you take.

4. Know your manners, online and off!

5. Reach out to one person each week who can help make your dreams come true; use creative currency to repay the favor.

6. Be candid, vulnerable, authentic. We can all spot a fake.

7. Blend work and personal. Period.

8. Maximize each social media platform by going deeper. Multiple connections make relationships more real.

9. Build a community. Be a leader. Be infectious.

10. Beware of snarks.

Real You: Lessons learned from a really bad cold

1. Instead of being in denial, go to doctor right away.2. Juice bar "get well" shot with cayenne pepper and the like hurts going down, so must be doing good? 3. When cough medicine bottle says 2 tsp - that is teaspoons not tablespoons. Oops. 4. Whatever you are writing after 2 tbsp of cough medicine seems better than it really is once medicine-fog clears. 5. It's great to have understanding dogs. They are bored, in need of a walk, but yet, still stick by me. 6. Remember, good health is a blessing. Repeat daily. 7. People do not want to talk on the telephone to someone who cannot speak without coughing. Those of us who cannot speak without coughing should stay off the telephone. 8. I would rather be sick when it's raining. 9. Thank goodness for antibiotics. 10. When a cold forces you to slow down, it's a sign. To count your blessings. To reflect. To reconnect. Sometimes, a cold is a gift, eh?

Real You: Choices

I am stuck. Doesn't happen much, because I try to be a woman of action. Afterall, my refrain is put your passion into action. But here's the problem. I need to choose a cover for my novel - Here, Home, Hope - being published in May 2011. But there are two good choices and I'm not sure which one to go with.
People do judge books by their covers. It's arguably the biggest, most important decision surrounding a book. The cover conveys visual cues about tone, subject, substance and so much more. And well, that's why I'm stuck. Please, if you like to read women's fiction and you have an opinion one way or another, please let me know! The choices are here, on my Facebook Fan Page, Kaira Rouda Books. And, of course, I'd love for you to become a fan. Pick a cover, become a fan and help a writer out. Thanks!

On being real, even if you're famous like Heather Locklear, who I spent the weekend with (sort of)

Last weekend, I had a fabulous experience.
An “aha moment”, as they call it at the incredible Miraval Resort and Spa where we were staying in Tucson, Arizona. (More about the resort in another post.) An “aha moment” is when you have sudden clarity of a thought, an idea, a spark of a dream. Typically, in this blog, I’d relate an “aha moment” to you and your dreams of re-thinking your personal brand, or the clarity to finally go for it and start your business. And that fits.

But in this case, my “aha moment” was about celebrity in today’s culture. Authenticity – being real – is an over-hyped term. But at its core, sincerity is still a quality you can feel in others and you know it in yourself. That brings me back to Heather Locklear. It got me thinking about how hard it must be for her, to - out of necessity - build a shell around her real self just so she can walk through a restaurant, go shopping or just goes for a walk on the beach.

Her appearance the first morning at breakfast, with her also-celebrity friend Jack Wagner (of the Bold and Beautiful), caused a heightened buzz through the room. Next came the staring, pointing. Even in a place where all were supposed to be engaged in finding inner peace. Last week's cover story in People magazine, and subsequently in all of the other gossip magazines, had heightened our collective awareness. But none of us know her.

Natalie Goldberg, of Writing Down the Bones fame, began a speech at a writer’s conference I attended with the words, essentially: “You don’t know me. You think you know me. But you don’t. Don’t come up to me at lunch, and chat and talk. I don’t know you.”

She was, I believe, in a very strong and powerful (off-putting to me at the time, but now I’m wiser and understand) manner telling the crowd that our perception of her as a powerful author and inspirational creative force was all we were entitled to have of her. All we, who did not know her, could and should know. The rest was private.

As I glanced at Heather (aka Kathy, the name she used at the resort) and Jack across the room, I saw a couple having fun like everyone else in the room. I saw an animated, beautiful woman who I felt a connection to just because I’ve grown up watching her on TV. She’s my age. I am cheering her on.

But I don’t know her. I shouldn’t want to know about her personal struggles, splashed across the tabloids with words like depression, anxiety, drug abuse. No, what the “aha moment” taught me first-hand this weekend is that our celebrity culture is dangerous. We don’t know these people. We should applaud their art, their acting, their public personas for which they are handsomely rewarded. As for the real person behind the fame, we need to leave her alone.