dreams come true

The Power of the Female and Male Spirit - DreamsCo

Last Sunday I had the honor of speaking to The Red Hat Society leaders from all over the country and even Canada about going after their dreams. What an incredible group of women that touched my heart, taught me about the power of aging not only with grace but with zest and passion, and above all how to embrace all that's incredible about being a woman. 1378012_10201852956183465_34498282_n

I told the women at the conference that I felt they were the most powerful group of women in history. This society of red hat and purple clothing wearers celebrate being women and are 70,000 worldwide strong. If each one of them, through example, showed women that going after their dreams is not only a right, but also important, we'd create a movement of women believing in their own worth instead of the media's example.

In another week or two I'm going to begin a movement of getting women to go after their dreams, so I thought it was a good time to revisit my thoughts on the feminist movement.

I was born a feminist. By the age of five, I'd decided I'd never take a man's name. I didn't understand why I wasn't allowed to become a priest or even an altar girl. I wanted to know why professional sports were all about men. I was angry whenever I was told that I was a pretty girl and should marry rich. Even the women in my life, who always told me I could do anything, still instilled the idea that I needed to know how to cook and clean to be a proper wife someday. I was taught through example that my worth was based on how much I took care of others.

As I grew into a young woman, I encountered feminist who ridiculed me for how I dressed and lived. They felt because I wore high heels, make-up, feminine dresses, and allowed men to open doors for me, that somehow I lessened the female gender. I disagreed.

There's a power in being a woman. It has nothing to do with hair color, breast size, weight, or age. It comes from the softness of being feminine, and within that softness is a power equal to, if not stronger than, the warrior spirit of a man. A man becomes speechless at the sight of a confident woman, who knows who she is. When that same woman looks at a man with love and the need to be loved, his heart belongs to her. Since the beginning of time men's Achilles heels have been women and the fear of women's power caused femininity to be suppressed.

Somehow in our need to find equality, women haven't turned to this power, instead they've tried to become more like warrior men. I think this has left many men wondering who they are supposed to be in relationships, in the work place, and in life. They've been asked to be softer, more emotional, and many are unsure if they are supposed to open a door for a lady and pay for dinner or if they're insulting the woman when they do so. It has created a generation of lost gender identities and many men have become what my friend calls, 'flow boys', I'll go with whatever you want me to be. A therapist once told me, "We are trying so hard to build our girls that we are burying our men." This leads to women being frustrated, men being lost, and no one being able to be who they really are. In our search for equality as women, we've somehow decided that men need to be less or different. How is this any better?

Why can't we have equality in the workplace while still being feminine? Why do we have to demand that men help out in the household when both partners go to work? Shouldn't this be common sense? Do we have to give up being female and the softness we need in order to have this equality? There has to be a better way that allows us to be ourselves while still leading.

I was speaking to my friend Jane from Midlifeblogger, and she said, "The definition of feminism, is that women should be able to be whatever they need to be without judgment while being treated equal to their male counters. If a woman wants to stay home and raise her babies she can still be a feminist." Then she added, "You my dear, are the face of the new feminism. You can be independent, travel the world, like who you are, speak your mind, and still allow yourself to be a feminine, soft spirit."

The more I go after my dreams and seek a life where I believe I can have it all, the more comfortable I become with who I am. I've come to realize that I love being a woman and as I embrace my femininity, my softer side, I feel more power in who I am.

For many years, men have dominated. There are women who believe that it is our time to be on top and that men should be lessened in order to achieve balance. In truth, women aren't conquerors and to become like men would only create more masculine imbalance. In our softness we need to see, that it is in accepting one another for the true spirits we are that we can find balance, equality, and happiness.

Perfect Timing - Being in The Moment - DreamsCo

Here's the truth - there's never going to be perfect timing. You're never going to have all the knowledge you need to go after what you want.

The Power of Determination - DreamsCo

Two weeks ago I made my 91st dream come true - I landed my first double jump in figure skating. Landing a double or an axel in figure skating as an adult is incredibly difficult. In order to make it happen you have to fall over and over and over again. And even though I wear pads on my knees and hips I worry about my hands, my elbows, and getting injured. This fear locks me in, causes me to wimp out and I get stuck doing the same dang mistakes repetitively. So what happened once I landed it? I jumped around, I sent a text to my coach, and then proceeded to lose it. I haven't landed it since. Today, my coach and I went back to the drawing board going through each and every position my body needs to hold in order to create the rotation in the air. Sometimes I think of the money I've spent just to learn these jumps. I wonder if it's worth it, but then I realize, where do I go from here if I don't go for it? I can remain doing the things I do well and be content. Or I can work hard, become frustrated, get bruised, hit exhaustion all with the chance I'll never feel it again. But to feel that rotation, the freedom, the knowledge that I overcame my fear - yep it's worth every penny and bruise.

When I think about 91 of my biggest dreams completed, it doesn't seem real. I have to look at it, to revel in it, to realize all the magical moments from the last five years that have taken place. And then I have to wonder where I go from here?

My priest told me a story one day about a man who was an alcoholic. The man didn't feel that he deserved God's love and Father Anthony said, "For one month I want you to go out each day and sit in the sunlight. You don't have to be anything to receive the warmth of the sun. This is like God's love." The man went out everyday and for the first month he didn't even feel worthy of sunlight. The next thirty days he began to heal and to feel worthy of love. And on the 90th day of receiving he realized he was casting a shadow and needed to turn and share this love with others.

I have ten more items on my list, but at this point I feel the need to turn around. I've been writing about my journey for three years; sharing all that's happened with the hope to inspire. Now I no longer want to hope, but to create a movement. It's time for people to step up, take hold of their dreams, and make them come true. For those who go and sit in the sunlight and soak up its worth have more to give to others in the end. It starts with a simple question. If you could have anything, go anywhere, or do something in the next year what would it be?

 

Learning to Tango Dream Come True - DreamsCo

   

 

If you've ever seen the movie The Scent of a Woman then you know why I wanted to learn to tango. Tango is sensual, passionate, and fiery. And when I began taking lessons, the dance was harder than I would've imagined.

Salsa was easy for me to learn. I picked it up almost instantaneously in the clubs -twirling and dipping with ease. But Tango is an art form that must be trained. Every student begins by learning to walk. In tango you slide your foot forward and lean your body over the weight of the front foot. Sounds easy, but not when your balance feels shaky and you might just teeter over. Backwards walking is even harder and there's nothing natural about the positioning.

And then there's the closeness. Argentine tango is not for the shy. It's done in close embrace and you lean your chests into one another for balance. You must rely completely on your partner because it's almost like those exercises in group training programs where you push against one another's hands at an angle and keep each other up. If one person pushes to hard the other will topple over. If one person gives in and lets go the other will fall on their face. This is tango - a partnership of balance that must be kept while moving around.

But when done properly, when all the parts flow together and you lean gently into one another, feel the beat of the music and flow to its passionate rhythm you feel like you float on sensuality and grace.

I was lucky enough to go to a Milonga in Buenos Aires. Here a live band played incredible tango music. Master dancers moved together across the floor effortlessly in a swirl of heat. And it was here on this dance floor that I fell in love - no not with a man - but with the dance.

I will spend the rest of my life learning this dance. I'm not certain I will ever master its beauty for it takes so much time and practice. But forever I will be enchanted by its music and movement.

And maybe some day soon, I will find that perfect tango partner. The one that knows just the right lean and we will dance together forever.

The Determination to Make Your Dreams Come True ~ Kirsty TV - DreamsCo

I love this story your about to read. It's about an amazing woman, Kirsty Spraggon who gave up her very successful career and flew half way around the world to pursue her dream of becoming a talk show host. She didn't have a job with any of the networks, or a high paying salary to fall back on. But she had the gumption to follow what many would say was an impossible dream. I'll let her tell you the rest in her own words, but realize she's living proof that dreams come true when you take the leap. At the end of her story follow the links to watch her doing what she does best - bringing great stories to the world. IMG_8397WEBFILE-Edit

Sometimes I reflect on where I’m at in my life and I find myself shaking my head and quietly laughing. What in the world am I doing?! I ask myself and in the next moment, I know; I’m listening to my soul and making a way to realize what my core is telling me. I’m one of those “crazy” people who has an outrageous dream.  Mine is to become a talk show host. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, but that’s the main idea. For real insight into my dream, think–an Australian Oprah. Did your eyes widen at the audacity of my goal?

The great thing about being a dreamer who shoots for the stars, is that I know I’m not alone! Most of us will admit that we have a dream. Somewhere along the line, I grew to feel that “boldness” is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s key to getting what you want. It’s part of the recipe that gives me fuel to drive forward. It’s 1/3 of my mantra: a pinch of delusion, a dash of audacity and a shot of courage. I believe those three ingredients are what it takes to commit to your dream and be effective. I’ve even engraved it on a bracelet I wear as a reminder to take a dose when my faith is running low. I’m sharing it with you now because it’s working for me.

It’s been a year since I sold everything I owned, at the height of my career in Australia and moved across the planet with 2 suitcases to Los Angeles, or “Lala Land” as some like to call it. Deciding to change my life didn’t happen in the most dramatic leap, there were two parts. The first change came when I was at the top of my game in sales, ranked in the 1 per cent of RE/MAX’s global network of 121,000 sales agents. Something was nagging at me though; I wanted something more and new I wasn’t living my purpose. I wanted to become a speaker & to help others to find success. So, I went to every speaker seminar I could find and got to it I called it my year of speaker university. The best lessons I learned during my time as a speaker, were the power of words and connecting with people. I watch the best speakers make individuals feel like they were the only person in the room of thousands. And eventually, I learned how to connect with people too. It was exhilarating and mutually fulfilling. Something magical happens when people share thier stories and truly connect. I wanted to hone in on that part! That feeling lead to part two of my decision to take the biggest leap of faith in myself, of my life.

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The self help guide, ‘So You Want To Be a Talk Show Host,’ was a life saver. Kidding! I don’t even know if there is such a book out there. And my inbox wasn’t full of invitations to host a show, so I did what I always do when I want something badly enough. I do it. I wish that sentence was longer, more profound and not as easy for people to throw away because that cliche is gold! Please keep in mind that I am not super human and building a show without any experience as a host, or interviewer and no camera training whatsoever, has left me paralyzed with fear at times. If I were to sum up my toughest times, I would say that Sir Edmund Hillary said it best, “It’s not the mountains we conquer, but ourselves.”  It really has been about conquering myself emotionally and mentally.

What keeps me going at even the most challenging of times is a ‘knowing’ that this is what I am supposed to do, an inner guidance that keeps pushing me forwards.

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Here we are today and Kirsty TV is a real online show with incredible guests, amazing stories and a real audience. I’ve received videos and messages from people across the world telling me that what I’m doing is important and that they are watching. I am connecting with people indirectly and directly! I can’t put into words what it’s like to sit with someone as they share their story and let you into their vulnerability. I’m truly honored to be an outlet for these people to share their message with the world.

So what do I know for sure a year into the journey? I know that I could have lived with loosing it all and having to go home and live with my parents but I could never have lived with the not knowing or the not giving it a go.

This journey has been my biggest learning. I have grown, stretched and become someone I wasn’t 12 months ago. The lessons you get when you put yourself into such an uncomfortable situation are profound, they make or break you.

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So there it is. Whatever your dream may be, make your way to it. See yourself as what you will become, especially when everyone else may think you are delusional. Be bold, be persistent, make it happen and ask for what you want. In the beginning, you may be perceived as a ‘nobody’, but you must have the audacity of a ‘somebody’. Audacity gives you the ability to fake it till you make it. Above all, you need courage, as without this I don’t know how you would survive the dream crushers and naysayers. You need the courage of a lion to stand strong in the most uncomfortable of situations, to keep moving forward, to keep getting back up when you fall, pushing onwards and upwards.

I hope you find your own recipe for success but in the meantime feel free to borrow mine, all you need is ‘a pinch of delusion, a dash of audacity and a shot of courage’.

KX

Check out Kirsty's Show:

 

If you missed me on The Today Show click here to watch.

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www.kirstyspraggon.com

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A Mother's Dream ~ Meg Munson - DreamsCo

I met today's guest at Chick Lit Central. (I love the woman over at Chick Lit Central's website and Facebook Page who tirelessly champion for women writers and fabulous books so please check them out!) On the day of my guest blog they asked their readers to post their biggest dreams in the comments. I loved reading the comments and seeing so many women doing fabulous things in their lives. When I came across Meg's dream I had to contact her. Meg Munson wrote that her dream was to become a stay-at-home mom and she did it. What was once considered normal and expected of women, today is a very tough dream to realize. Most households need the double income to survive, but Meg had a dream and she found a way to do it.

Sometimes I believe there's a battle woman have whether they're stay-at-homers or working-moms that causes them to feel the pressure to stand-up for their choice. I think every woman should be supported in whatever choice she makes and I love that Meg fully embraces her dream.

Before I give you Meg in her own words, as many woman feel, Meg didn't want to self-promote so I'm going to do a little raving for her. You have to check out her website and all her talents and the amazing things she does. www.megmunson.com.

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Photo by Stacey Colton Photography

 

My name is Meg Munson and I am honored to be your guest blogger.  I am a mom to two beautiful girls ages 9 and 7 and I also have a very athletic stepson age 13.  I have been married to my husband for 10 years and I am lucky enough to be a stay at home mom.  When my husband and I got married and decided to start a family, it was my dream to stay at home with our daughters. I did not want someone else to raise them.  My days are now filled with delight in watching each new accomplishment my daughters make.  I can't imagine missing their first smile, first step, first word or first day of school every year.  Being a mom has brought me so much joy and I am extremely grateful for finding a company that has allowed me to be at home with my family everyday.

After my first daughter was born, I started researching home-based businesses.  While on one of my favorite mom sites I came across a great article written by another stay at home mom.  It was all about these great gourmet candles and amazing all natural products.  I did a lot of research on the company and loved what I found. The best part about this company is they offered more than one way to make money. They offered retail, wholesale, and fundraising opportunities as well as building my own team.  There were no monthly quotas or commitments to join. I figured if this other mom could do it, than I could give it a try too. I love our products and they practically sell themselves. (I mean who hasn’t burned a candle before? LOL)  I have helped many other women and men start their own home business.  I have been with my company for almost nine years and have met the most amazing people and have found lots of joy in helping others achieve their dreams.

Don’t get me wrong there have been some bad days and struggles along the way, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  We have had to keep a tight budget and not go on as many vacations as other families, but we make it work.  My days don’t always go as planned, but that is the great thing about working at home. I can make my own schedule and work around my kid’s activities. (Boy do they have a lot and my first job is really a chauffeur!)  I know many women out there don’t think they can work at home with small children, but it can be done. Knowing what your schedule is like daily and writing it all down helps you plan out when you have free time.  Believe it or not there is free time!  I use this time to blog, make connections with new people, call leads or update my website.  I may only have an hour of free time during the day, but I am a night person and accomplish most of my work after the girls go to bed.  It is all a balancing act and knowing what is right for you.  If being a stay at home mom is one of your dreams, I am here to tell you it can be a reality.  The smiles I see on my girls’ faces are my reward and I can’t imagine anything better!!!

Collection of Perfect Moments - DreamsCo

I’m a collector of perfect moments. Those times where you wouldn’t change a thing and though you know that in a flash it will pass, for that brief whisper life is miraculously beautiful. The collection sits within my mind and heart and during rough patches I can revisit knowing that the pain will slip away just as the perfection has.

Sometimes I journey back to a hillside in Futaleufu, Chile on a starry night where I sat in a field with five other people some I’d just met a few hours before. A young man’s fingers plucked guitar strings sending a melody into the soft, quiet breeze as blazes of color streaked across the sky in a meteor shower. From within the pocket of my sweatshirt I pulled out a chocolate bar from Bariloche, Argentina a hot commodity in this tiny town that has groceries delivered once per week. I broke pieces and handed them to my new friends. As the candy melted in my mouth I lay back and detailed the moment in my mind.

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Then there’s the bank of the Charles River on the Fourth of July with the water lapping against the grassy shore as the first fireworks exploded into the dark sky, timed to the music of the Pops.

 

Boston Pops Fireworks

 

And of course Florence, Italy in Piazza Signora. Alone, I curled into the stonewalls of the ancient buildings reading a decadent book as I sipped wine and listened to flute music fill the square. An artist sat across the street, looking up at times and I realized he was drawing me. Immediately shy, I tried to hide under my hair. He crossed the street, lifted my chin, nodded and began to draw again.

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And last Friday, I sat in Cafe Vittoria in Boston's North End writing my second novel. I listened to the cappuccino maker steaming, the crowds of children lined up for gelato, the tourists making dinner plans, and the locals speaking in Italian. I drank my latte while I tried to find the perfect words for the opening of my story. Joined by a very good looking man, I put my writing aside and for a couple of hours had one of the easiest conversations of my life. Though I was hopped up on caffeine, exhausted from lack of sleep, and feeling a little overcooked from the day's heat, as I watched him smile and laughed with him, yeah, it was another perfect moment.

When you ask people about their life stories, many will tell you the hardships, the pain, the worry they’ve encountered. As a writer, I collect these stories as well, trying to reach the depth of emotion so that someday I can create the hearts and souls of my characters.

But for me, the moments of bliss, the fragments of life that seem touched by the grace of God when I’m so amazed by this incredible world, these are what I try to imprint on my soul. They’re the moments that make me realize why I’m alive – to touch, taste, love, and be embraced by the majesty of life.

Lazy Days of Summer - Perfect for a Deep Breath - DreamsCo

   

I sat on the swing my grandfather built when I was a little girl wondering how ten of us ever fit on this small slider. The stars shone through the lush trees and a soft wind rustled the leaves. Fireflies burst little bits of light all over the yard and the frogs croaked in the woods. I could hear my mother washing dishes in the house that my grandfather had built when she was a child. It was a scene straight from my novel, The Lake House, and for the first time in months I took a deep breath.

My lungs almost didn't know what to do with the air. I'd been running at a the pace of a jack rabbit, breathing shallow while living on adrenaline. The wild ride of the last few months with my book coming to publication and my 90th dream coming true hadn't allowed me much time to think or process all that had happened. Somewhere in the mix was my birthday and people trying to celebrate. My broken toe had healed, my book had been chosen as an Amazon Premier Featured Summer Read. Book signings and book clubs, offers to speak at different events - all of it was exciting while I pushed for more.

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But with all the excitement there have been questions. What's next? When you finish your list what will you do? What's the next book? Will there be a sequel? Will sales be big enough to make it to the Lists?

In this moment of silence on my grandfather's swing, I realized that I needed more deep breaths. The future is going to happen, well in the future, and all the questions about what will transpire have no answers at this point. All I can do is this moment and if I allow the summer to slip by, if work is everything and I forget to live, to breathe, to enjoy the moment, I'm going to miss this incredible present.

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So today I breathe, even if the air is a bit humid. I hike in the lush forests of New England. I go to the beach and I play with my niece on skating rinks. I do the work that's before me and then I play. For no one ever looked back at life and said, "I wish I hadn't taken that moment to really appreciate life."

I think more than anything this summer, you should put downtime on your bucket-list. For the lazy days of summer past are the perfect time to move a little slower, sit with a glass of lemonade under a tree and read a book or laugh with friends. It's the time to be a child again wondering at the world and playing in a sprinkler. Happy Fourth everyone!

And doesn't my book look awesome in this Thunderbird. I tried to convince the owner to drive me around in it for a book tour across the nation, and he almost agreed. LOL

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A Bucket-List for Summer - DreamsCo

The week before Memorial Day I still hadn't made any plans for the long weekend. To be honest, I was wrapped up in the excitement of my book. Romantic Times picked it as a suggested read. Duane Reade in Manhattan is carrying it. It looks so pretty on the shelf. The book has been spotted in Costco, Sam's Club, The Paper Store, and at Dallas Fortworth Airport on the kiosk outside the book store. People are writing to me raving about the story. Every day brings new excitement and more work. So in the craziness I forgot to celebrate the coming of summer. IMG00424-20130523-1308mainstreammay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the greatest parts of living in Sacramento, CA is all the wonderful places I can visit: Route 1 Coastal drive, Yosemite, Tahoe, Napa Valley, beautiful hikes to waterfalls, Monterey and Carmel, and Mendocino. I can easily drive up the coast to Portland, Oregon or just a day in the bay. There are lakes and rivers to swim in and concerts to attend, but when I don't make plans ahead of time it's too easy to stay home.

I decided that I didn't want my summer to slip away caught in the undertow of work no matter how much I enjoy working. So I decided that I'm going to make a summer bucket-list of all the things I want to do by the end of August. This way I'll be certain to look back at the summer of 2013 and know that I lived it to the max.

THE LIST

Ride roller coasters

White water kayak at least five times.

Sit on the banks of the Charles River for Fourth of July.

Spend at least five days at the beach reading great books.

Go camping at least five nights.

Go to Monterey and Carmel.

Compete in two skating competitions.

Play on a trapeze.

Dance salsa in San Francisco and Boston.

Take a trip outside the state to a place I've never explored.

 

What's on your list for the summer?

 

 

When a Dream Comes True - The Lake House Makes Its Way Into The World - DreamsCo

The last two weeks have been a blur of activity. Each morning I wake to new exciting news: a good review; being chosen as one of the six best summer reads by CBS; The Paper Store choosing my book as their June Book Club event; Costco carrying my book; great first week sales; book signings; and emails from people who have read and loved the book.  ReadingOnBeach Everyone keeps asking me what it feels like, but I'm not certain how to respond. When you've wanted something since you were a little girl and suddenly it's happening the emotions are overwhelming: excitement, pure joy, and of course the ever present fear that I"m not doing enough or I won't be enough in the end. (Dang that pesky feeling!)

The strange part is that there's also the touch of fame. People want their pictures taken with me. They smile and stare at me telling me that they can't wait to tell their friends that they've met me. The book is taking on a life of its own as people tweet and repost and rave, while others make comments that the book has scenes that are too "steamy" for comfort. (Hey, I write about life, and sex is part of life. It's not romance, but men and women share intimacy and I guess true love scenes that aren't bodice ripping crazy or only hinted upon haven't made their way to stories.)

Suddenly there's a video of me talking about, The Lake House, and articles written by journalist. My private world, hidden behind a blog that's completely controlled, is no longer the only place to find information on me. And though this moment is one of the greatest in my life it's also brought out the insecurities.

As a young woman I lived through my insecurities. When I lost enough weight and exercised away my curves then I could go after my dreams. If I acted in a way so that everyone liked me, then I was acceptable to society. More than not, I hid from the world.

Going after my biggest dreams in life, following the path of this list, caused me to come out from behind the shadows. I became confident in who I am and I stopped making excuses for my perceived flaws. Then the night the video was released, it all came rushing back. I couldn't look at it for fear that the person I saw in the mirror didn't live up to the one on the camera. Reviews were something I tried to hide from in case they said something that would hurt.

The Lake House Video

I know it's all quite silly. I know it's time to shake it off, be proud of all that I've accomplished and say, "This is what I've done, this is who I am, and whatever anyone says, well it doesn't matter." The great part of becoming an author is that I get to be surrounded by incredible female authors and it turns out these emotions I'm having - well they're common even amongst the most successful.

So if you're putting off going after your dreams until the perfect moment when no one will be able to find your perceived flaws - there's never going to be a time. The good thing, no one else will notice those ideas of weakness you see. They may view you through their perceived flaws but for the most part they'll see you as someone who took a risk and they'll remember the dreams they wish they could make come true.

 

Does The Seventh Grade Ever End? - DreamsCo

Next week my book finally hits the stores. I'm certain many people will be excited not only because they get to finally read it, but because I'll stop talking about it. I've been going through a really strange emotion; I'm throwing a launch party and I keep wondering if anyone will come. Friends are excited, I've gotten a great response from the community, but all I can think about is being a young kid and inviting people to my party, but only a few showing up. It wasn't because I didn't have friends; many people just had excuses: they didn't feel well; they had too much homework; another girl invited them to do something better.

Whenever I see other authors getting book tours or going to book fairs I feel like I'm on the outside of a social clique and wasn't invited even though I have my own events and I'm even a keynote at a major writer's conference.

The adult me knows this is stupid. My books are going to be in airports, Walmart, Sam's Club, independent booksellers, and gift shops. Everyone's raving about the story and the cover. I did my first reading at a winery with snow-capped mountains and vineyards as my backdrop. The women were mesmerized as I read and they wanted to go home and read the book that night. I have every reason to be excited and celebrate, but still this little voice of doubt won't be quiet.

I've said for many years when I hear gossip or drama that the seventh grade never ends. That's the year when girls became the meanest and social cliques the cruelest. What I'm realizing is that maybe there's actually a part of us in our adulthood that views our lives through this age. So if we were the popular girl always leading the crowd we view life as though it belongs to us. But if we were timid, a little shy,  or even bullied this twelve-year-old part lingers somewhere telling us that we're going to be left out, we can't have our dreams. Who are we to think that we can do something great?

It's said that those born into money will never have a hard time believing that they deserve to be rich, but those whose parents struggled will always fight with the notion of poverty or financial hardship even when they become wealthy.

I wonder if these twelve-year-olds inside aren't the biggest reason why so many people never reach for their dreams. If we could silence these childish concerns what we could accomplish?

The one thing I've learned is to ignore the fear and the anxiety and fight to move forward. Someday the inner voice will silence or maybe it won't.

My launch party has come together in a miraculous way. Friends are showing up with wine, food, and entertainment. Gallery 2110 in Sacramento is sponsoring the space and I'm throwing the biggest party I've ever attended. So seventh grade, I'm done with you, at least for now.

Returning to Ballet in Your Fifties Dream Come True - DreamsCo

I'm happy to introduce a new phase to 101 Dreams Come True - sharing other people's stories of completing items on their life-lists. Every other Thursday I'll be featuring people who have dared to go after their dreams. I would love to hear your stories and share them with the world so please contact me. I'm proud to introduce you to an amazing woman Yona McDonough who not only writes fiction and has completed many novels and children's books, but also returned to ballet after years of leaving behind her dream of becoming a ballerina. I hope you find her story as inspirational as I have. Remember you're never to old to follow your dreams. photo

 

Once upon a time, I was part of a small army. The army was not made of soldiers, it was more like a children’s crusade, a throng of aspiring young ballet dancers that marched up and down New York City’s long avenues—Broadway, Seventh, Eighth—that were dotted, in those years, with so many studios.  The School of American Ballet, feeder for the New York City Ballet, was the most famous, but there were others too and it was at John Barker’s studio on West 56th Street that I took classes six days a week for most of my high school life.

Weekdays, class was from 4:30 to 6:00; Saturdays, it was at 11:00 a.m.   The studio itself was unremarkable: ruined wooden floor, bleached and pocked by the amber nuggets of rosin ground into its surface, long barres that lined three of the walls and full-length mirrors that lined the fourth. We spent about forty-five minutes at one of those barres, perfecting a series of exercises that had been born in the court of France and refined in the glistening winters of Imperial Russia.  Pliés, tendus, and  rond du jambs,  all executed to the strains of Chopin. The barre was followed by work in the center: an adagio, and petit allegro. Then there were the big jumps, like grand jetés, and some point work, which allowed us the giddy sensation of rising up on our toes, defying nature, gravity, and even, for a moment, mortality itself.  Finally, there was the obligatory reverence, in which we curtseyed to our supremely difficult and demanding teacher.

After that we were free—until the next day, when the ritual began all over again. For it was a ritual, and, as such, had its sacred preparations.  The brushing and winding of our hair into the tight bun, the sewing of ribbons on our ballet shoes, the donning of the requisite pink tights and black leotards were acts performed with both sanctity and love.

The studying of ballet creates its own kind of religious order, and the girls who do it are akin to eager novitiates, fired by their all consuming faith and their utter willingness to undergo daily mortification of the flesh. And as with religion, the ballet hierarchy decreed that there was an established scheme of things and that a young dancer could have a secure and known place within it.photo

When class was over, I once more joined the swarm of girls with turned-out walks and bony shoulder blades, girls who paraded down the street wearing the marks of their collective discipline: the buns, still wound painfully tight, the big, punishing bags weighed down with their heavy loads. We knew we were of a different tribe—recognizable and unique—and it filled us with pride. We were purified by our discipline, etherealized by our shining goal.

I loved being part of this elite. High school was a vague scrim; I had few friends, and no time for team sports (my brief experience of field hockey was like a tour in hell) dances, parties and the like. Instead, I fraternized with the other dance students; my best friend in those years was a girl who lived in the Bronx, the other end of New York, and went to a different school.  But joined by the blood ritual of our shared dance experience, she was my soul mate, my sister under the skin.

Still, my own vision of a future in dance was somewhat fuzzy. I knew my strengths: I was musical, I had a strong jump and my point work was crisp. But I could not turn worth a damn, and I lacked both extension and a certain vital ferocity of attack.  I was content to live in the daily-ness of it all—that was for the moment sufficient.

Yet after years of single-minded study, I abandoned the ranks of the ballet girls quite abruptly.  No one was more surprised by this turn of events than I was. It happened like this: after twenty-four years of marriage, my father left my mother for another woman. Worse—much worse—was that I had changed, overnight it seemed, from a girl who continually found favor in her father’s adoring eyes to a young woman who would never find it again.

The initial shock of his desertion was like a tidal wave; I gasped and sputtered in the cold shock and grief of it.   I impulsively decided that I could not tolerate one more day in the difficult and often abusive presence of Mr. Barker, and wrote him a letter to tell him I would not be coming to class any more. I wept all the way to the mailbox, but I did not turn back.  I put that life behind me, and focused instead on getting into college—I was a senior in high school at the time—and carving out a new identity for myself.

In retrospect, it seems to me that by wrenching myself away from something I had loved so deeply, I was both inflicting a kind of self-punishment as well as unconsciously imitating my father’s rejecting behavior. But at the time, I knew only that dancing belonged to the past, and the past was a country from which I desperately longed to escape.

For many years, I succeeded.  I locked the ballet girl I once was in a closet and never let her out.  I cultivated another self—one who attended college and graduate school, held jobs, went on dates and kissed scads of frogs before stumbling on a prince.  I found a vocation—writer—and turned it into a deeply gratifying career.  I married (the aforementioned prince), had children, bought a house in Brooklyn. But all that time, the ballet girl remained—mute, neglected and sad.  I could not afford to let her out; her presence was too painful to me, too much a reminder of who I had been and what, despite everything I now had, I had lost.

But even though she was in serious lockdown, this ballet girl grew restive and balked at her exile.  She did not want to be locked away; she demanded to be acknowledged.  Alarmingly, she was even able to crack the door a little bit; I could hear her voice and even though I still could not bring myself to let her out, I began to listen to it.

She told me a story about a ferocious young ballerina named Ginny Valentine and soon Ginny’s story became part of The Four Temperaments, a novel I began writing in the late 1990s.  In order to complete this book, I needed to start attending ballet performances again; I had not seen live dance in years.  So I returned to the theaters where I had once been a regular: City Center, the New York State Theater, and the Metropolitan Opera House. Most evenings, my eyes filled with tears as soon as the curtain rose.

The Four Temperaments turned out to be a waiting vessel; into it, I could pour so much of what I thought, felt and remembered from those years. It also was a kind of joyful revision of the past: my character succeeded as a dancer in a way that I had not.  It was a both a gift and privilege to write it and when it was published in 2002, I felt a kind of peace—even a sense of redemption—that went bone deep.4TSCOVER

Although the ballet girl was no longer locked away, I was not on the most intimate of terms with her; I still felt the need to keep her at some remove. But when I hit fifty, something shifted; I could feel the tectonic plates of self rumbling and rearranging inside. And even though I could not be that ballet girl ever again, I decided that for the first time in more than thirty years, I wanted to put on a pair of ballet shoes and resume my place in front of the mirror.

Yet I was not entirely ready to confront the “now,” and find it so sadly wanting when compared with the “then.” I had to live with the idea for a while, hoarding it like a delectable bit of candy that I had stolen: delicious, yet laced with both danger and shame.  Desire turned out to be stronger than fear, and on a bright September morning a few years ago, I showed up for a ballet class with four other women—all middle-aged moms like myself, nary a swan among us. My hair was short; no bun required. And the pink and black combo I remembered seemed to have gone the way of rotary dial, so my yoga pants and white T shirt fit right in, as did my black ballet slippers.photo

I was nervous after a hiatus of more than three decades.  But I was in some deeper way ready too, for I realized, if not now, when? Or more aptly, if not now, never.  At first, I was saddened by how much my body had forgotten: feet that no longer would point in a high clear arch, the arabesque that wobbled and quivered when I tried to hold it.  But I kept on, week after week, and was cautiously heartened by how much my mind had retained.  I still knew the names of all the steps. I remembered how to hold my head and my arms, to turn toward the barre, and not away from it, after the completion of an exercise.  And the joy I took in those small accomplishments outweighed the sorrow engendered by the losses.

True, I could no more return to the time I had been young and in full possession of whatever physical gifts I possessed, any more than I could soften my father’s implacable heart and bask in his love once again.  But I no longer had to banish the ballet girl to the closet or even keep her safely across the room. Instead, I could welcome her into my life, let her take me by the hand, and lead me take her hand and let her lead me back to the barre.  Back, in some true and everlasting sense, home.

I have been taking ballet classes since that September day, and with each class, I feel as if I am slipping, like Alice through the looking glass, past a membrane that is not impervious but gauze-like and permeable.  Behind it is the realm of girlhood. I no longer have that girl’s lithe, unmarked body, nor her hopeful innocence; what I have instead are the talismans of youth that I can see and touch, and the graceful geometry of the exercises and steps, precious in their eternal familiarity, humbling in their eternal novelty.  And I can immerse myself again in the loving austerity of the rigorous, yet generous discipline that once shaped and governed my days.

For more information on Yona McDonough or her books click the images below.WeddingInGreatNeckhighres4TSCOVER

 Click Here Buy the Book

 To Find Out More about Yona go to her website : www.yonazeldismcdonough.com

Knocking Ourselves Down Instead of Building Ourselves Up - DreamsCo

Today is a rather glorious day for me. My book, THE LAKE HOUSE, that's hitting the shelves in three weeks, arrived on my doorstep. It was an incredible moment.IMG_0145 Last week I was near tears, alright if I'm honest in tears, worried about the fate of my novel. I was also stressed about stepping out onto the ice at the National Adult Figure Skating competition for fear of falling on my face in front of people. I felt like everything was falling apart, and I thought about canceling my trip and hiding under the blankets.

Then I competed and for two minutes ten seconds I let it all go and I flew across the ice. My skating felt wonderful and everyone told me that I was beaming to the rafters. I took the bronze medal out of fifteen solid skaters.

The next day I had marketing meetings with Gallery Books / Simon & Schuster and found out all the incredible work that had been done behind the scenes. By the time I took the ice on Friday night for my second number I was beyond emotional as I realized that all the years I spent hoping, dreaming, praying, and keeping my vision alive had really paid off. The emotions came harder as I skated to the song, "On My Own" and the judges obviously felt it because they awarded me the silver medal

It's strange how we believe the worst is going to happen. We fear all the things that could go wrong that we don't even wish to take the leap. It's a weird part of human nature - the fear of imperfection or failure will keep us knocking ourselves down and hiding from our biggest dreams.

Last night I saw Dove's Youtube video "Sketches." It had women sit in a chair behind a curtain and describe themselves to a forensic artist. Then the artist sketched another photo of the same woman using a strangers description who had seen the person very briefly. Ultimately, the description from the stranger was more beautiful and true to life. Watch the video.

What if we saw ourselves not through our perceived flaws and fears, but through the beauty of who we really are? What more could we accomplish in life and how much happier would we be?

It's not easy to walk past fear or old beliefs: you're not good enough; no one in your family has done it so why should you be able to; I'm too fat; too ugly; I hate this about myself; I'll make a fool out of myself; I might fail. What if we turned that into: I'm grateful for everything I am; I'm going to enjoy this moment and have fun no matter the outcome; I'm going to go for everything I can because if I don't there's no chance; I believe in me and it doesn't matter what other people think.

Imagine what your life could be if you believed in you. That's what I did and it wasn't easy, but wow was it worth it!

The Power of Discomfort - DreamsCo

You would think that after accomplishing almost 90 of my 101 Dreams Come True that I would be comfortable jumping off cliffs wondering if the parachute is going to open or heck if I have enough material to sew the wings mid-air. But to be honest, going after my dreams doesn't seem to get easier. I wish I could say that the fear has stopped, that the nerves are just excitement, and that I now know that I can do anything. If I told you this, it would be a complete lie! I remember just a few months ago, telling you how afraid I was to go to South America for two months as a solo female traveler. I actually felt sick to my stomach and couldn't sleep, yet it turned out to be one of the most magical experiences of my life. So how come, as I stand here, on the brink of going after what feels like the biggest dream of all am I losing my confidence once again?

9781451686722My book, THE LAKE HOUSE, hits the shelves and online in four weeks, and I've never been more afraid in my life! What if no one knows about it? What if no one buys it? What if it hits the shelves, gets back-listed and I don't get the second book deal? All this work, all this dreaming my entire life to fizzle out in the end. I wake in the middle of the night afraid. I constantly google my name and the book to see if anyone knows about it. I realize every moment that I have no idea what being a fiction author really entails.

Top it off, I'm headed to the Adult National Figure Skating Competition this week, and though I'm excited to see friends and to skate the thought of more adrenaline has me exhausted. Why can't I just stay in a comfort zone?

But there is one thing that I've learned in the last five years - discomfort means that I'm reaching for bigger things that I can see myself being. Fear is the emotion that tells me how badly I want something and that it will actually hurt to not get it.

Someone asked me the other day how to make going after your dreams more comfortable. As a society we want instant gratification because we don't like the unknown or discomfort. We want the quick diet or exercise solution - the knowledge that everything will be okay right away. As humans we don't like the in between state. But the truth, pushing hard and taking risks, living in fear for awhile, these are part of the steps to achieving your dreams.

So for now, I have to relish in the discomfort, and know that I'm going to be terrified of failing. But in the end, it would hurt more to have never taken the chance!

Elegant Bridal Designs - DreamsCo

MK-21_2There's something so satisfying about owning your own business: you have control of your dreams; you make your own hours (though sometimes that's every hour); you create something that's uniquely yours; and the possibilities are endless. When I made my list of dreams I wanted to be a professional novelist more than anything, but I also wanted a business that was fun, didn't take up all my emotional being, and was there to build a strong financial future.

I'd thought that I'd build a motivational company inspiring people to go after their own dreams, but I realized after starting this blog I didn't want to turn my journey into a business - it was too personal. If it became something more on its own, then that was fine.

IMG_8684_3As I went after my dreams, the money became an issue. I didn't have a career and the writing wasn't taking off. My savings were dwindling and I was beginning to look at waitressing jobs in order to get by. That's when my best friend approached me to invest in his bridal business. He needed capital to buy products from China to sell in the United States. I wasn't really interested, but he's a good friend and I wanted to help him.

Over the year, the business did okay and I received dividends that kept me going financially without a whole lot of time investment. I found that I was having fun helping him, and I enjoyed going to bridal shows seeing all the products we could sell. I especially enjoyed meeting female entrepreneurs who were going after their dreams of owning their own companies.

The more small companies I came into contact, the more I wanted to create an online boutique with couture products. I started working with web designers and it took another whole year to create a beautiful online Bridal Boutique filled with shoes, purses, dresses, and jewelry many made in the United States.

Because of  Elegant Bridal Designs I've been able to complete more of the dreams on my list.

When I began this journey, I had no idea how I was going to make my dreams come true, but doorways opened. Somehow I ended up in the bridal business, a career I'd never imagined, and I love it with all my heart. I mean really, what girl doesn't want to be surrounded by beautiful items everyday.

For more information go to www.elegantbridaldesigns.comEBD Ad

Buenos Aires Dream Trip - DreamsCo

Considered the Paris of South America I arrived in Buenos Aires with high expectations: beautiful architecture, incredible food, tango dancing in the streets. All my friends who'd come to this city told me that I would never want to return to the states. I couldn't wait. But what was this? Why did the streets looks so dirty? Why was there so much poverty intermingled with wealth? And who was spraying graffiti everywhere? For the first time since arriving in S. America I was afraid to walk the streets at night alone. Where was Paris? Where was the dancing? Where was the city I was looking for?

My friend Jim joined me from the states. We walked the city along Embassy Row. Here the buildings were beautiful and I finally understood why they call it the Paris of the South, the buildings are similar in architecture. But this city wasn't opening itself to me like so many others had. We went to the cemetery where Eva Perone was buried and marveled at all of the mausoleums. We walked through a street fair, but I still wasn't coming to life. Was I becoming immune to the beauty of a city? Was I becoming over-traveled? We walked so much of the city that day and wondered what the heck we were going to do with the rest of the week.

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The next day proved to be different. We made our way to the Sunday Market. Here is where Buenos Aires comes to life. Miles and miles from the government center to bario San Telmo are vendors mostly selling Matte Cups but also clothing, jewelry, art, photography, and leather wares. Matte is huge in Argentina.

In San Telmo square we perused the vendors and watched live Tango performances. An incredible band played and handed out flyers to a local Milonga. I was salivating over the dancing and music and if I'd been alone on this trip, I probably would've spent my entire trip in Tango classes.

 

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We made our way along the roads listening to one band after another while eating empanadas, and drinking coffee for me - beer for my friend. We decided to walk to bario La Boca because it looked rather close on the map. Nope! About two hours later we arrived at the famous painted buildings with a few stops in a park, a museum, and ice cream. (I don't suggest you walk the entire city unless you're in great shape!)

 

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From here we made our way to Puerto Madeira - the modern waterfront. People were rollerblading along the shores of the riverfront. We followed a crowd of people and ended up at a free concert. Suddenly we were in front of a stage with a live band playing and everyone around us singing at the top of their lungs. Los Nocheros was the band and they were fantastic.

The city had opened up - the place beautiful. It's stunning parks intermixed with the grittiness of hard life. The people were kind and most of all I fell in love with the music and the dance.Copy of S, America 499

Iguassu Falls Dream Come True - DreamsCo

What is it about waterfalls that fascinate people? We flock to the large ones, making them into tourist destinations. We hike into jungles and take long drives on vacations to find the prettiest pool at the base of falling water. If there's a waterfall at the end of a hike we'll keep going just to make it there no matter how hot or tired we are. As I came to my first site of Iguassu falls from the Brazilian side, I thought, hmmm, is that it? I instantly caught myself and berated my mind for having this thought. People dream of seeing these falls their entire lives. I came so far to see them, and I was here. Maybe I just needed a nap and that's why it wasn't wowing me.Iguassa falls

But the first time I saw Victoria Falls its majesty brought tears to my eyes. What was wrong with me? I followed the other people as we walked the paved path. I felt a little like I was in Disneyland since I had to take a bus into the park and follow the crowd. But as I got further and further along the falls became closer. The pounding water soaked everyone in mist and the massiveness of the falls changed my perspective. This was phenomenal.

The next day I went to the Argentina side of the falls. Tired of long bus rides, a new friend and I took a taxi to the border, walked across the three mile stretch between countries in the heat, and then caught another cab to the center of town, where we took a bus to get to the falls. We were separated at this point and I had no choice but to follow the crowds once again to the base of the falls. This time, my first glance was a bit different.

Where the Brazilian side has the major part of the falls at a distance, on this side I was immersed in the power that is Iguassu. The pounding of the falls felt like the earth's heartbeat. It's not a constant sound but a swooshing every half second. The mist soaked my hair and clothing as the wind picked up, but I didn't care. These falls were the essence of nature's power and beauty.

I hiked for hours around the falls never tiring of their beauty. At the end of the day I met more friends and that night we went for dinner, had drinks, and I realized that I was ready to leave South America and head home. It was the perfect way to end two months of travel.

My words aren't enough to explain Iguassu, so I hope the pictures take you to this magical place for just a moment.S, America 2029 S, America 2027 S, America 2021 S, America 1989 S, America 1932

Patagonia South America - DreamsCo

There are perfect moments in life where you don't want to be anywhere else but in the place you are.

I sat in a field in Patagonia, Chile outside Las Natalias (a hostel unlike any hostel I'd ever seen). The sky was devoid of clouds and there seemed to be more starlight than darkness. Satellites moved across space and shooting stars streaked and died out. Soft guitar music was being played and new friends sat around me as people discussed life and philosophy. I barely knew anyone more than twenty-four hours, but I'd never felt more a part of a group than at that moment.IMG_9623

I'd always wanted to see the beauty of Patagonia and it's scenic landscapes didn't disappoint. Grand mountains surrounded lush green valleys. Small charming towns were located between winding mountain passes. Aqua rivers rushed beside dirt roads. Hikes brought me to peaks where I looked out over lakes and farmlands. The air was so pure I felt like I could breathe deeply and clear my lungs of the modern world, and the water could be sipped straight from the mountain springs without fear of sickness. The produce picked from local farms was bruised and ugly, but filled with taste and nutrition while free of all chemicals. Copy of S, America 162

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Futaleufu, Chile Patagonia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But even with this majestic landscape there's something more beautiful - the people. Within days of staying in Patagonia I was invited to barbecues. I joined friends around tables for home cooked meals. As I walked through town, I was kissed on the cheek and asked how my day was going. I immediately felt part of a community and at home.

It was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and as I think about the early morning on the day I left, it still brings tears to my eyes. It never felt so wrong to leave a place, and never felt so right to know that I would return again some day.Copy of S, America 253 Copy of S, America 825 Copy of S, America 824 Copy of S, America 242

Canyoning Dream Come True - DreamsCo

   

I love to rappel. My brother brought me when I was thirteen and ever since I've enjoyed being on a harness, attached to a rope, and whizzing down a mountainside. I've been down into Moaning Cavern outside of Yosemite hanging among the stalactite and stalagmites. But there was one thing I'd always wanted to try - rappelling down a waterfall.

I got my chance in Futaleufu, Chile. A local single mom runs a great little outfit right out the back of her house. She handed me and two other guys wetsuits, helmets, and harnesses and then we took off through the thick wilderness. We stepped over a barbed wired fence, crossed a stream, climbed a hill, and we were there - on top of a waterfall.Copy of S, America 172

She attached the ropes, showed us how to lean out over the waterfall, and the first round she placed a secondary safety rope to ensure we didn't go too fast.

The adrenaline began to pump as I threaded my figure eight attached to my harness. The first step is always the scariest part of rappelling. You have to lean your butt back into the air and sit - well there's nothing to sit on - but you have to let the harness support you while your hips are at a 90 degree angle. This is easy on rocks, but when water is rushing all around your feet and the rocks are slippery, it becomes a bit more intense.Copy of S, America 180

I leaned back and began to let the rope slowly slide through my hands. The rush of the waterfall pounded beside me and over my legs. The spray covered my face and I laughed with excitement as I felt the water's power. In the past I'd sat under a small waterfall  for a few seconds and realized it hurt as the water slapped my head and I couldn't breathe or see. It wasn't the greatest experience. This was different. This was a pure adrenaline rush as I played in the water and descended into the pool below.

We spent the entire afternoon descending different cliffs and waterfalls in this beautiful area while sliding in mud as we made our way through the forest. It was a day I'll never forget and one I hope to repeat.Copy of S, America 223

Writer's Lunch Dream Come True - DreamsCo

For every aspiring novelist there's a brass ring we think about. Sure we want our books on the shelves. We envision our names and titles on the bestseller lists. We think about interviews. But the strange part is that almost every writer dreams of the author lunch. In publishing, most deals take place because of lunches. Writers and editors get together to create relationships and talk about upcoming projects. Authors who have reached the shiny package of a publishing contract know that at some point they will be in New York City, in a restaurant, with their editor and agent, maybe their publicist, and they will sit there knowing that their dream has come true.

At this first meeting, there's no worry yet of outcome and how the book will do once it's published. It's a moment of pure celebration.

My first lunch came at Christmas time in 2011. I was in town visiting a friend and had let me new editor, Lauren McKenna from Gallery Books know that I was in town. She immediately invited my agent and I to lunch.

The day before I walked around the city with my mother and friend. As we walked past Simon & Schuster my friend stopped me and made me look at the sign on the building. Here I was, this was my publisher. Better than any other present under the tree that year, was that moment of standing there knowing what I thought was impossible was now coming true.

The next day, I sat in the restaurant waiting (of course I was about ten minutes early just because I was excited and a little afraid of getting lost and being late). Lauren came in and immediately wrapped me in a hug. Her contagious energy had me smiling and excited as we sat.

As my agent joined us I felt more like was at a table with a group of girlfriends than a business lunch. We shared dishes, drank wine, indulged in dessert and talked about life, men, pregnancy, and whatever else came to mind. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by these two powerful, beautiful business women, I felt part of something special. Because the book business is special. Unlike anything else, this business isn't about a rockstar lifestyle or burying the competition. The book business, though tough and competitive, is about readers curling up with a book to learn, to get taken away, to feel and experience their own emotions through characters.

Over the last year as my book has made it's way to publication, I've had many lunches with my incredible team from Gallery and with my agent. It's become a part of my life, my career, and it's always a pure joy. My favorite though will always be that first one with Lauren and Yfat Reiss Gendell, but then again the one where my editor handed me my cover was pretty spectacular as well.

For more information on The Lake House or my life as an author please visit www.MarciNault.com or my author page at Simon and Schuster.