My 7 best pieces of advice for parents going through a divorce

If you have gone through a divorce, you know how life shattering the process can be. Not only on you but if you have kids it can be equally devastating to them. Though I’m not a professional counselor, I do have the wisdom of someone who has come through a divorce and lived to tell about it. Getting through my divorce was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but I made a promise to myself at the very beginning that I would successfully recover. I didn’t want to be one of those women who 20 years after her divorce still complains, moans and talks about it to anyone who will listen. I vowed to myself that I would be happy again, not just for me, but more importantly for my kids.

I believe I have succeeded in that goal! I think that makes me as qualified as anyone to pass out advice about what I have learned over the last four years.

The following are my seven best pieces of advice for anyone facing a divorce:

  1. Seek out support.

You are going to need someone to talk to. You will feel tempted to chat with anyone who will listen about your divorce – barista, co-worker, Target employees. Resist that urge. I mean this with a heart full of compassion for you: They don’t care.

I had a few key friends who didn’t taking my call when they saw my name pop up. They would let me vent. They would let me cry. They were supportive of me and steered clear of any ex-spouse bashing. You want to find friends who will lift you up, not ones who will jump on the “Isn’t he the worst!” bandwagon. I never would have recovered without their support.

I also found it helpful to join a support group. Saddleback Church’s DivorceCare meets every Friday night (It’s a 13-week program) at their Lake Forest campus. The program includes a workbook and weekly meetings that allow for breakout discussion groups with other people going through divorces. It was a great way for me to get advice and support in a safe environment.

  1. Keep your kids out of the drama.

It baffles me when I hear stories of parents who share the dirty details of their divorce with their young children (This includes talking about the divorce within earshot of the little ones). It’s hurting these poor kids all over again. I’ve had parents say to me it isn’t possible to leave them out of the line of fire of a divorce, but it is possible. My kids haven’t ever heard me say a negative word about their dad. They don’t know the specifics about our divorce (or marriage) and don’t need to. Find a friend to talk to (see #1) and please love your kids more than you hate your ex-spouse.

  1. Find a good distraction.

This might seem like a frivolous piece of advice but it is key to a successful recovery. Find something that makes you happy and do it. You will have an enormous amount of extra time on your hands now that you don’t have your kids 100 percent of the time. Sometimes the gap left by the lack of family activity can be downright depressing. Don’t fill up your time by stalking your ex-spouse on Facebook or telling yet another stranger your sob story: Find something to do!

I joke that Pinterest and the Downton Abby TV series got me through my divorce. You don’t have to start a nonprofit or complete an Ironman, just find something that gets your mind off the chaos that runs rampant during a divorce.

  1. Get financial advice.

One of the biggest changes that occur in a divorce is your financial situation. Be proactive and get some guidance. I found someone new to prepare my taxes and I completed Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. These two simple steps put me on a path to financial stability.

  1. Resist the urge to vent on social media.

We all know people who write long venom-filled tirades about their ex-spouse on Facebook – we have all probably blocked a few. Or then there are the passive aggressive vague statements that are meant to draw sympathy. I believe this kind behavior reveals more about the character of the person posting nasty things about their ex-spouse than it does about the ex-spouse. Your attorneys will tell you for different reasons not to do this, but I’m talking from a social side: no one wants to hear it. Step away from your keyboard and call a trusted friend (see #1).

  1. Don’t engage in text wars.

Divorce makes typically rational, kind people say and do things they wouldn’t even think to do or say under normal conditions. It is a crazy-making machine. For your own peace of mind, resist the temptation to drag in every issue you ever had with your ex-spouse to answer a simple question about when the kids had their last shower.

And on the other end, if your ex-spouse wants to send you long texts (or emails) about how you did them wrong, simply don’t respond. It does absolutely no good to “set things straight” and will just leave you furiously texting in line at the grocery store or at an Angeles game and will never accomplish anything.

I had a divorced friend who told me she created a mental file in her mind called “And that’s why we’re not married anymore.” Every time her ex-spouse did or said something that made her angry or upset she would file it away there. It’s a good practice of just letting things go.

  1. Pray for your ex-spouse.

This is hands down the hardest thing to do on my list. I remember when a friend first told me to do this. I thought he was out of his mind. He assured me, it would help me recover (as he did from his divorce). Practicing this every day will eventually give you peace and let you move on with your life.

If you’re not a religious person, you can still get the benefits of this by wishing the best for your ex-spouse. At first you might do it through clinched teeth and with an angry heart, but eventually, over time, it heals you to be positive. If you have kids, in the end, you will need this peace to pass on to them.

Moving forward with marriage and a new last name

I knew it was coming. My boyfriend, Tim, and I have been dating for over a year. Both of us have two kids each – his are ages 6 and 8, and mine are 10 and 13. We began the process of “blending” our families at Christmastime last year and things have gone as well as anyone could hope.

So, I knew it was coming. We talked about getting married from almost the very start. We had talked to the kids about it. We had talked to our pastor about it. I knew it was coming, I just didn’t know when.

I had my hunches. Maybe on Thanksgiving when all of our families were together. Maybe on my birthday, Dec. 13 (This year it falls on 12/13/14. That would be memorable.) Or maybe on our trip to the Grand Canyon. Standing on the rim of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World seemed like a perfect place to make this almost-as-awe-inspiring wonder official.

So I didn’t suspect a thing when I received a text from a mutual friend inviting our kids to a Christmas craft party on a Saturday afternoon. It sounded like fun. No parents allowed – just the kids. Tim made plans for us to have an early dinner in downtown Huntington Beach and then suggested a walk on the beach. Still, I wasn’t suspicious anything life-changing was about to happen.

As we walked on the beach of my hometown, the autumn light lit the pier. The sand was scattered with sunbathers cheating the calendar by getting in one last day of summer. I looked up and I saw something falling from the pier. They were rose petals and our kids were the ones dropping them down to the sand. Yes, that was my 13-year-old jumping up and down holding a sign with a big heart. Yes, that was Tim’s daughter scattering the last of the petals. (Which, by the way, isn’t allowed. A big voice boomed from the lifeguard tower: “Please stop throwing things from the pier.”)

“What’s going on?” I asked Tim. He was suddenly serious, turning to face me he pulled out a plain white piece of paper that had his proposal typed out so he wouldn’t forget anything.

People on the beach started to clue in to what was happening. Cellphones began to pop out of pockets and beach bags as total strangers took pictures as Tim got on one knee. The pier railing was lining up with people watching our intimate moment (#totalstrangersgettingengaged). When I said yes, our impromptu audience burst into applause and cheers.

Our kids rushed down from the pier to the sand to meet us. The kids were smiling, then the younger two quickly blurted out “We really have to go to the bathroom!”


And so begins our journey as a blended family. The most romantic moment of our life followed by a frantic search for a public bathroom at the Huntington Beach Pier. Immeasurable sweetness followed by chaos. A picture-perfect scene followed by reality.

Tim and I laughed as we ran across the sand with the kids. I told him, “This is it! The life is our family life. This is part of it!”

Since then, when I tell someone I’m engaged, they quickly follow a congratulations with, “When’s the date?” After that, if they’re a woman, the next question is, “Are you going to change your name?”

Isn’t that an odd question? In some cases it almost feels like a challenge. When I answer with a fast “Yes,” I have been surprised by the amount of negative comments I have received. Blunt opinions. Straight out of dooms day predictions.

“That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” one man told me. A colleague of mine told me, “As a women and a professional I feel I have to tell you I think you’re making a HUGE mistake.”

The common theme from these anti-name-changers is I have worked hard to create a name for myself in my career as a writer, editor and blogger. That “Suzanne Broughton” is my brand, my identity, and without it people who want to find me will wander around aimlessly on the Internet, Googling it until they throw their computer out the window in frustration. My new name will render me as a search-engine loser and that quite possibly my own mother would walk by me and not even recognize me. In very uncertain terms these people think my name is “me.”

I don’t agree.

In the words of one of my favorite women, Audrey Hepburn, “If I get married, I want to be very married.” To me, my marriage is more important than my brand. My union with my future husband is a bond that is not only biblical, but one that I embrace happily and with a heart full of gratitude.

When thought of in that way, it seems silly to let the admitted pain of changing my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest handles. Don’t get me wrong, I did search my new name to make sure it’s open as a .com. And it is, but even if I had to go .net, I would still change it.

Besides, that is not giving you (the reader) very much credit. I think you can remember me, right? My married name will be Suzanne Moshenko. Let’s say it together: Mo-shenk-o. It’s kind of fun to say. Mo-shenk-o.

I swear I’m not a dream killer

I’m not teaching my kids to follow their dreams. At least not right now. My kids are 13 and 10 years old, and what I’m teaching them are things like perseverance, the value of hard work, responsibility and charity. Those ideas aren’t splashed across T-shirts in the juniors’ department of Macy’s, but they certainly are more important and are key components to reaching lifelong goals.

My Facebook feed is filled with inspirational quotes telling people that whatever they can put their mind to do, they can do. “If you can dream it, you can do it,” is a quote often attributed (questionably) to Walt Disney. With all due respect to Mr. Disney, or whoever said it, that is just not true.

Just one episode of auditions on “American Idol” debunks the idea that you can do whatever you set your mind to. With all the confidence of a gladiator, these kids take the stage, declare they will be the next American Idol and then proceed to massacre a song by singing it. For heaven’s sake, where are these kids’ parents? Did they not tell them, “My dear son, I love you, but you cannot carry a tune?” It is fun to watch, but at the same time I can’t help but feel it is a peek into the pandemic of overconfident kids.

It’s not that I don’t want my kids to be happy and pursue their passions. I just want them to have true confidence that comes from actual achievement.

I work in a profession that is a “dream job” to a lot of young adults. I’m a writer and an editor for a magazine, and I work for our county’s largest newspaper. Because of this, around May and June, I get many calls from journalism and English soon-to-be graduate students asking about job opportunities. They tell me it’s their dream to be a writer or to work at a newspaper. “Great! When would you like to do your internship?” Without fail, many turn down an internship. Why would they work “for free”? After all, they will be college graduates.

Recently, a parent told me proudly that her high school daughter wanted to be a writer. He went on about what a passion she had and what a natural talent she possessed. When I chatted with the obviously intelligent and accomplished young girl, she told me it was her dream to write for magazines one day. I told her my best piece of advice was to start her own blog and write every day.

She quickly informed me that she was far too busy to write every day. “That  wouldn’t work in my schedule” and that she had a blog already but rarely wrote there. She blew me off as if I was giving her advice on how to be a rabbit, not how to achieve exactly what she said she wanted from someone who had success in that field. Her dad backed her up. “You should see her iCal. She’s very active at school,” he said.

Kids need to be equipped with more than a well-developed dream, talent and a parent who believes in them. Those things will get them only so far. I fear we are parenting our kids right out of a successful future. We are at once overparenting and underparenting them. We pad them from every possible failure, we do everything for them – from chores to their homework – but then we don’t teach them the hard stuff, like responsibility and discipline.

It’s not my imagination. I recently heard a jaw-dropping statistic that confirms my fears: One in eight college graduates brings a parent with them on a job interview.

So, these kids land their dream job interview, yet can’t face another adult without their mom or dad. It sounds absurd, but talk to anyone who works with young adults and they won’t be surprised.

My daughter dreams of being a fashion designer one day. Fantastic! We watch “Project Runway.” I buy her sketchbooks and colored pencils. But my focus with her right now is to teach her to keep her room picked up, complete her homework on time, be kind to her brother and volunteer at church. I believe these simple disciplines will help her achieve her goals (which may change five times before her 16th birthday).

I swear I’m not a dream killer. I’ve just seen too many kids crash and burn when they reach adulthood. What keeps me up at night with worry is not whether my son or daughter will “reach their dreams,” it’s whether they will be successful, responsible adults in their personal and professional life. My goal as a parent is not to pad their life and cushion them for disappointment, mean people or rejection. It’s to teach them to handle these situations with maturity and grace.

It might seem like an odd declaration from someone like me who is living her own dream of being a working writer. But if you knew my story, it hasn’t come easy. I worked jobs I hated. I stayed up late, night after night, to meet deadlines because I was taking care of small children at home all day. I wrote for years without receiving a dime.

What I’ve learned is that your true dreams pursue you. Your passion will nip at your heels throughout your life and insist on being fulfilled.

That is what I want for my kids.

Happy HallowTEEN! How Disneyland Resort gave me back a cherish tradition

It’s finally happened. My kids don’t want me to dress in a costume for Halloween. That would be, to use a direct quote, “Totally embarrassing.” It used to be our thing. When they were little and I could pick out their costumes, I got the chance to show my Winnie-the-Pooh love by dressing us all as characters. When I was pregnant with my son, Ben, my belly rounded out my Pooh Bear costume perfectly. It was a magical year.

Then my kids had their own opinions on what they were for Halloween. We’ve seen Troy from “High School Musical,” Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz” and our fair share of pirates and princesses. When this phase hit, I would resurrect my roller-skating waitress costume, year after year.

This year, my daughter is all about the 1950s, since she saw “Grease” a few months ago. So she and her bestie are dressing in vintage clothes from that era for Mickey’s Halloween Party, at Disneyland Resort. At 13, she’s too old to go trick-or-treating – nothing worse than a group of teenagers coming to your door and clearing out your candy stash – so this is her only big Halloween festivity.

Mickey’s Halloween Party is a special ticketed event at Disneyland Resort that runs 12 nights in October. (Go to [] for ticket prices and a schedule.) They close down the park and transform it into a spooktacular Halloween party. The best part: The kids get to trick-or-treat at DISNEYLAND! It’s an absolutely mind-blowing experience. Also, guests get to experience things that only happen at Mickey’s Party, such as their special Halloween fireworks show and a Costume Party Cavalcade Parade. Adding to the fun: It’s the only time that adults are allowed into the park in full costume. Hooray! But, um, not per my kids. So no dressing up for me… except for … my Minnie Mouseish costume at Mickey’s Halloween Party. Check out my photos:

IMG_3326Tick or Treat stations throughtout the park.

IMG_3330My son and I on the tram into the park


My daughter’s friend posing with Duffy at Big Thunder Ranch.IMG_3337

Dapper Dans singing Halloween-themed songs at Big Thunder Ranch

Although my daughter will no longer go trick-or-treating, my son, who is 10, is still heading out to collect what always turns out to be too much candy. So this year, we are gong to participate in the Halloween Candy Buy Back Program. It allows kids to sell their candy to a local dentist to earn cash – which I suspect will simply be used to buy candy. The sweetest thing is that this year the program is teaming up with Spry and Operation Gratitude. Together they will work with participating dentists to collect children’s Halloween candy to send to the U.S. troops overseas, along with toothbrushes and other oral care items. Just go to [] and enter your zip code. A list of local dentists will be provided.

I do miss the days of dressing up and hitting the neighborhood with my kids, each year holds sweet memories for us. Anyone need to borrow my roller-skating waitress costume? I’m rolling with the changes but, sadly, not rolling door to door with my kids anymore.

FYI: iPhones Don’t Know How to Swim

It was just a quick exchange. I was at a restaurant on the border of Nevada and California dropping off my kids with my parents, who live in the silver state. They were taking them and my brother’s son for a week to do whatever grandparents do with their grandkids when their parents aren’t around.

I just needed to use the restroom “real fast” before we had lunch and ditched the kids. I checked my email on my iPhone quickly as I made my way through the lobby and then shoved it in my back pocket. My daughter and sister-in-law followed me and we split ways at the stall doors–that’s when it happened. I will never, ever forget that dreadful sound.


I turned my head and looked down to see my iPhone in the bowl, slowly sliding down deeper and deeper, it reminded me of that last scene with Jack in “Titanic” when he lets go and sinks into the abyss of the Atlantic Ocean, at least to me it was just as traumatic. At that moment instinct kicked in and I fearlessly reached in and rescued it.

My scream startled my daughter and we met at the sinks where I was already frantically pounding out the water from what now seemed like massive openings in my phone – cups of water poured all over the counter. My daughter quickly ripped off the cover and grabbed some towels. Then my sister-in-law came out of her stall and asked what had happened. When she heard the news she rightly struck an “eww” face and instructed me not to turn it on.

”I read that somewhere, don’t turn it on and put it in a bag of rice to soak up the water.”

Stunned and visibly shaking, I headed to our table to have lunch. My mom talked to me about bedtimes, helmets and something about a restaurant in Reno with a parrot that flies over diners dropping dollar bills to the kids, but I couldn’t think of anything but my iPhone. I had just bought it a week before; I’d had the original iPhone for over three years and decided to take the leap when it stopped taking a full charge.

Could it be saved? Why am I so upset? The parrot does what?

The 6-hour ride home was brutal: no phone, no Twitter, no email. At about Newhall, my iPhone started turning on and off on its own in a haunting 2010 poltergeist way. It was weird; screens I had never seen would pop up and then the phone would go black again. When I got home I put it in a bag of uncooked white rice as instructed by my sister-in-law and the results of the Google search: “Dropped iPhone in toilet.” The rice glowed blue and red as my possessed phone turned on and off as it nestled deep in a Ziploc bag.

That night I dreamed a tidal wave hit me in my office.

The next day I took my phone out of the rice and to the Apple Store. I played it cool with the Genius assigned to help me and as I handed it to him I said, “I dropped it in water.” He looked exactly like a younger, shorter version of Russell Crowe, which was reassuring for some reason. He took it in his certifiably-Genius hands and without looking up at me asked, ”Did you drop it in the toilet?” Busted, I fessed up, “Yeah, but I wiped it down with a handy wipe. I haven’t turned it on and it’s been living in rice since last night.” He smiled as he looked up to me, “It happens all the time.” Forcing a smile back I asked casually, “Can it be saved?”

Like I was good either way. Just wondering.

Little Russell assured me there’s always hope and took it into the back room to laugh at me with the other Geniuses, or as he put it, “run some tests on your phone.” When he came out through the white unmarked door after about five minutes he was shaking his head as he walked toward me. Like a doctor he delivered the news, “We did everything we could; we couldn’t save it.”

My heart sank. In a manic monologue I told him how long I had my first phone, the very first iPhone! I took it out of my purse and showed it to him, he seemed very impressed for an Apple employee. I finished up with how long I waited to get a new one and now, all the patience and restraint was for nothing. I really laid it on, but I meant it, I was truly and disproportionately upset, afraid I was going to burst into tears right there next to the external hard drives.

“Well,” Little Russell started, ”since you had your first iPhone for so long, and you seem a little upset, we do have phones for these sorts of situations.”  Ah, being a Genius and all, he realized he had a possible crier on his hands and Apple doesn’t do crying. Think about it, with its massive crush of people, its prices and the technical catastrophes being schlepped in and discussed daily, have you ever seen anyone crying at an Apple store? No.

Little Russell beelined it over to the bar and came back holding a small, black, unmarked CIA-type case. Not a white and grey, cheerful iPhone box, but a covert, lean and shiny box with an iPhone laying unceremoniously inside. He never once verbally said, “I’m giving you a new iPhone.” Never said the words “free” or “replacement” he just brought it over, took it out of its CIA case, had me sign a form and handed it to me.

I stood there a long time holding my new phone and waited for him to say something – he didn’t. He just looked at me. Then I said, “Would it be weird if I hugged you? I mean, would you get in trouble or anything?” He shrugged and put his tattooed arms out. Isn’t that a nice picture? I was hugging a Genius with my new iPhone in hand in the middle of the Apple Store. I was happy. Really happy. Like wedding-day happy. Like when you were in 8th grade and the bell rang on the last day of school and you ran outside and threw your notebook up on the roof and ran wildly with your friends through the schoolyard kind of happy. It’s really kind of sad how happy I was over an iPhone. Little Russell understood.

From my column at the OC Register

My Charm School Training


I attended charm school at the vanguard of all things classy and charming in the ’70s: Montgomery Wards. When I was 10-years-old I went every Wednesday night to the Wendy Ward Charm School classes in a tiny, windowless room you accessed by walking through the girl’s dressing room on the lower floor of the Montgomery Wards in Huntington Center.

It wasn’t that I was interested in being charming (that luckily came naturally to me. It can’t really be taught. You know, it’s a gift really) and all the perks that come with being incredibly charming. I clearly remember my motivation:  I wanted to be a model and at the end of the Montgomery Wards Charm School, if I passed and had the charm of Dinah Shore, I took part in a runway show out in middle of the Huntington Center in front of friends, family and hapless shoppers.

My mom signed me up after seeing an ad in the local paper. The classes taught standard charm-school fare; walking with a book on your head, sitting in a skirt, eating with a knife, using a feminine voice when speaking on the phone, sneezing in a tissue and accepting party invitations. The classes were taught by a tightly-buned taskmaster who was passionate about ironing clothes the right way, and if I remember correctly, never using the filler word of “um” or answering a question with “uh-huh.” Oh, yes, I recall she didn’t like that at all.

Here’s an excerpt:

We had a book called “Crossroads to Charm.” It had a simple cover with the title across the top and then a small photo of a girl with a kind of Breck Girl whimsy approaching crossroads, in her neatly ironed blue dress, with confidence. One chapter of the book is titled “The Fairest of Them All.”

“Looking your very best at all times is not only something you want to do for yourself it is something you do as a courtesy to others. Especially when you consider you look at yourself only two or three times a day – the rest of the world looks on you for hours on end!”

I remember that chapter placing an enormous amount of pressure on 10-year-old me. I have to look my very best? At all times? For the sake of all mankind who has to look at me for hours on end. For goodness sake young lady, do it for mankind if not just for yourself!

Note to the young: This was before the advent of “selfies.” The idea today that a young girl would only look at herself once or twice a day is preposterous. Not only has Instagram, Vine and texting made that an obsolete idea, but I know I personally spent $25 on leopard print framed mirrors for my daughter’s locker.

I would imagine the class now – if it were still being taught ­– would, I hope, discourage girls from making the dreaded “duck face” in every photo and teach them to always answer a long thoughtful texts from their mom with more than a “k.” Heaven knows young girls need a lesson in how to sit in a skirt. Recently, I went around a fancy event telling girls in skirts to either cross their legs at their ankles or knees. That was clearly my Wendy Ward training jumping into action. I don’t know what came over me. I barely paid attention to the lessons in my classes.

I wasn’t enrolled in Wendy Ward Charm School for the “charm” of it, I was motivated purely by the end-of-class fashion show that followed the 6-week course. This was long before the supermodel furor of the ’80s.  My drive was purely the idea of having everyone looking at me … on a hastily assembled stage…in new clothes … from Montgomery Wards. The very idea that I could be up on stage as unsuspecting shoppers came out of Miller’s Outpost or The Fly Trap was thrilling to me.

Once I completed the course it was time to prepare for the fashion show. They let the graduates run loose inside the store after closing hours. It was very literally, up to that age, the most thrilling experience of my life. I could choose ANYTHING from MONTGOMERY WARDS to model in two different strolls down the runway.  The class wandered the aisles of shoes and handbags looking through racks of clothes and running in and out of the dressing rooms tying to put together just the right outfit.

For reasons only known to 10-year-old me, I wore a nightgown in my first trip and then a bikini in my encore. This was the first of many (may I stress, many) poor wardrobe choices that I have made since then, including power bangs, acid wash jeans, anything with shoulder pads and overalls.

As I took to the runway, I remember people laughing because I waved and smiled as I made my way down and back, breaking the important runway rule of never interacting with the audience … in the middle of a mall … at a fashion show … for Montgomery Wards.  I believed people were actually there to see me and that this was just my first step into the world of modeling. It would have been rude not to acknowledge them.

A brief performance of “The Hustle” was also part of the fashion show. We all wore the same green and yellow jumper and danced to the song played from an eight-track player with a microphone propped up next to it. I’m pretty sure we nailed it. Everyone clapped. Even the people waiting in line for an Orange Julius.

I still remember much of what I learned in charm school. For instance, I know how to properly answer the telephone and how to iron a pleated skirt. Much of the class was old fashioned by today’s standard and I’m equally horrified and perplexed by some of the attitudes about young girls that I learned all those years ago. The “Crossroads to Charm” book at times seems surprisingly timeless with encouraging direction like this: “Being feminine you first must be proud of being a girl and then proud of yourself,” but then sails off into reckless waters of feminine stereotypes by adding, “That is the thing that makes a boy notice you first.” Oh, so close!

Wendy Ward laid out specifically the three types of girls you could choose to be: Thoroughly Modern Millie, Elfish Pixie or a Romantic Princess. I clearly remember falling into the Thoroughly Modern Millie camp. We were the girls in the back of the class with calluses on our hands from the monkey bars talking about the latest Mary Tyler Moore episode.

I have to admit that my memories are fond ones of that time in my life: so innocent and sweet. Whatever messages I received as a little girl in the ‘70s have made me the mom, friend, sister and professional I am today. So I’m thankful for it. Looking through my “Crossroads of Charm” book for this column I found this line profound and full of lasting wisdom that Wendy Ward taught me:

“Being beautiful means many things. It’s not just something you do with your appearance, it’s the total you!”

From my column in the OC Register

Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?

I noticed these “fellas” years ago at a friend’s party. These compadres truly adored their smart phones. They shined them. They held them up to the light. They showed them off to each other and wore them on their hip like a trusted six- shooter.

At the party all the men greeted each other with hugs and slaps on the back, then they all sat down at a big round table on the patio next to a freshly remodeled pool The flagstone fireplace lit up their faces and in unison the men slid their phones out of their pockets and laid them on the table directly in front of them.

One guy pointed another man’s phone and asked, “May I?” Getting the nod from him to examine his phone, he picked it up and tossed it lightly from hand to hand. He then quickly slipped it into his holster short’s pocket, quickly taking it in and out a few times. “Smooth,” he complimented, pursing his lips. “iPhone?… nice,” he nodded his approval. Next came the questions: “How’s the reception? Easy to use the keypad? How is it with a bluetooth?”

Here, at the very mention of the word “bluetooth,” all the men perked up even more. “Yes, it works great, but I still pre-ordered – fill in whatever the latest release was back then – just in case I like the camera better.” All the men “Ahh’d” their approval at the very idea of having two smart phones at once and then simply choosing the one they prefer. The one with the better camera, or the best keyboard, or the easiest screen to see in the scorching sun while riding your horse out on the open range, ur, um, I mean waiting for your Margarita out on the patio of Javier’s.

I got the impression that these men, if left in the wilds of Orange County without their trusted cell phones (with Wi-Fi) by their sides, would be rendered helpless, unable to mosey their way through traffic without their GPS app or decide which watering hole to go to without being able to check Yelp’s recommendations.

They would surely perish in the harsh wilderness of disconnection. Cell phone cowboys needed their guns phones to survive in their frontier.

But do these men know how to use a Thomas guide? Probably not. My dad still has his in the back of his car. It’s like his own version of Custard’s Last Stand. He’s doesn’t have a smart phone and promises he never will.

You might think that having access to all the conveniences and pampering that technology provides has changed what it means to be a man? Are these men who are constantly checking their bracket apps picking the right filter for their Instagram photo of their lunch and updating their status on Facebook really still manly men? But it doesn’t. You know why I can say that will stanch confidence, because I’m raising a young man.

My son is a classic nerd. A geek. A technology junkie! He has pictures of the creators of Minecraft taped on his bedroom door. His best friend, a fellow geek, and him dressed as Steve Jobs for their historical character book report, complete with black turtleneck, jeans and white tennis shoes. He got the “coolest costume” nod of approval from all the boys.  And though Marcus Persson and Jens Bergensten (the creators of Minecraft) and Steve Jobs might not have the swagger of Steve McQueen, the cool factor of  or the grit of John Wayne, they are idols to these young boys. They’re pioneers, rebels, hard-workers and smart on top of it all.

When I told my son I was going to write this column I asked him (as I always do when I write about my kids) if it was okay to for me to call him a nerd and geek. “Oh, yeah!” he replied instantly. “I’m a geek! That’s cool.”

We’re going to be okay. These young men know who they are and I believe so do their dads, uncles and teachers. They’re not Googling “How to be manly” (though that is a thing I found online and I would pay money – cold hard cash – to know someone who has looked that up), they have just replaced their spurs, lassos and sweaty bandanas with conveyance.

Back to the cellphone cowboys at the party. After these men had finished admiring each other’s phones, they all sat back deeply in their chairs and looked up at the stars, clear and bright in the San Juan Capistrano sky. The night was quiet and still. Only the crackling of the fire and a random ringtone every so often broke the silence.

From my column in the Orange County Register

Costal Casual at Terrenea Resort

It’s a challenge. Create a resort that feels luxurious but at the same time warm and cheerful. Terranea Resort, tucked in the coast of Palace Verdes in Los Angeles, strikes the right balance. From the breezy open-air lobby to the comfy, immaculate rooms this getaway has everything needed for a quick romantic respite for weary parents.
If you have been eyeing your calendar looking for a good time to drop the kids at your parents’ and get away with your beloved, I just might have the perfect destination for you. If you’re longing for a peaceful place to lounge by an “adults only” pool all day (with full food and cocktail* services), then catch a magnificent sunset while dining on delicious California-inspired fare at a award-winning restaurant (Marcel) and then retire to your room for a nice long soak in a deep tub while sipping a nice Champagne nightcap* – then yes, for sure, this is your spot.
The coast where Terranea sits is reminiscent of Santa Barbara, but without the drive and then of course the price tag of some of the more popular resorts up north. Because it’s only an hour or so away from Orange County, you won’t be riddled with guilt for leaving your precious little ones for a few nights away.
Hit the beautiful spa for a hot stone massage or facial. Ladies, don’t forget to bring you suit to the spa to enjoy lounge chairs with ocean views and hot tubs all available to you in the female-only relaxation area.
If getting a good workout is part of your parents-only getaway dream (God love ya!) then you will simply jump for joy when you see the gym that has … wait for it … an ocean view! While some resort hide their workout rooms in the basement or down a dreary hallway (giving you a legitimately good reason abandon your workout plans and head to the more conveniently located lobby lounge for a cocktail*), Terranea provides you added inspiration by providing a five-star view from your elliptical. If walking is more your thing, you can take a gorgeous hike through the trails that wind around the resort or schedule a guided tide pool tour.
But back to the rest of us who would just rather spend a day – a full day! – giving other people your breakfast, lunch and dinner orders, Terranea provides five eating establishments) from casual coffee house to elegant two-fork dining. Not to mention someone else is making YOUR bed and cleaning your room,
One night hit the more casual and raucous eatery that sits beside the resort called Nelson’s.  Settle in on the patio and watch as the sun sets into the Pacific and the sparkly patio lights turn on over you. Enjoy the best lobster roll this side of Boston and a chilled margarita* while chatting with your spouse. You remember – talking to each other, right? I’m sure you remember. Come on!

*Cocktails only mentioned four times in this article which actually shows very good restraint for an article addressing the need for a parent’s getaway

Put Down the Purrell and Go See the Movie ‘Babies’

Babies are tough. Babies have a wicked sense of humor. Babies can spend the first year of their life licking dirt, spending time unsupervised, and cuddling with cows and still enter into the toddler stage healthy and happy

These are all things a new mom can learn from watching the brilliant 2010 documentary “Babies.”

Whenever I meet at young women who is pregnant or has a baby that is her first child I urge her to rent it. It follows the first year of life of four babies living in Africa, Mongolia, Tokyo and San Francisco. It’s not only the dramatic differences in the way the babies are being raised that makes this four-year-old movie fascinating ­ the African baby has his ‘hair cut’ with a machete, the Mongolian baby taken home from the hospital on the back of a motorcycle ­ it is also the underlying truth that babies are babies, no matter where they hang their … well, I would say diaper, but only two of the four babies in the movie ever wears one.

I suspect I look at young moms much like my mom looked at me and my girlfriends as we veraciously read baby books, dedicated hours to baby proofing our houses and insisted no one come within a mile of our babies if they have a cold, had a cold or watch a TV commercial about cold medicine (not really on the later, but pretty darn close).

I recall my mom’s advice to me on pacifiers. After reading a few books that warned parents on the impending disaster that would happen if you let your child become dependent on a “binkie,” I told my mom I wasn’t going to give my newborn daughter one. After the first night at home with my baby my mom came over for the day. Seeing we were both exhausted from a sleepless night she stood in the hallway, baby in her arms holding a pacifier in the quiet, sleeping baby’s mouth. “You’ll thank me for this someday,” she said with a smile.

“Thank you, mom!”

When the movie “Babies” first premiered the French filmmakers ­ Thomas Balmes, Director and Alain Chabat, Producer, said in an interview that they found during the making of their movie that as long as there is love given to the babies, they were happy and healthy. That is the valuable lesson in this movie. It is fascinating to watch these families survive their first year.

I believe that so many times new moms, at least here in O.C. get so preoccupied with every little detail of their little one’s life that they can stress themselves out way beyond what is necessary. So, I tell them, put down the Purell, go watch this movie and then spend some time just cuddling your bundle of joy (while you still can), really, they are going to be fine.



Good Morning Gertrude

Every morning I see her. She is as consistent as Al Rooker’s silly jokes and my son’s breakfast choice (always oatmeal). When I moved into my neighborhood in Orange two and a half years ago she was the first person I met. Her name is Gertrude* and she is in her nineties. Her constant partner is named Tulia pie – a white and brown Shih Tzuz dog.

Gertrude introduced herself one afternoon as I swept out my garage. “Hello!’ she called out to me from the sidewalk. I honestly didn’t want to chat. I was busy. A single mom who just moved her two kids; two dogs and rabbit into a new house had a lot to do. Motivated solely by guilt, I put down my broom and walked over to meet her.

At a rapid pace – impressive for a woman of her age — she told me her life story. She is one of the “originals owners.” That’s one of three categories of people in our neighborhood: original owners, Chapman students or young families. She moved here with her husband who died many years ago. She talked about him with a broad smile and big animated motions. Then she told me she lived with her daughter and son-in-law. Her daughter has to use a cane to walk, but she was a wonderful daughter and got around pretty well despite her handicap.

Her son-in-law was in hospice care, suffering from cancer but he too was a wonderful man and the nurses and staff where he was were just wonderful and took good care of him.

As she spoke to me that morning one prevailing sentiment was repeated over and over – wonderful.

Life is wonderful according the Gertrude.

It’s obviously not perfect. She knows that, having experienced loss and disappointment, but it is still wonderful. Every story she told, no matter the outcome, she always ended with a positive note.

Thinking she might be getting tired standing out in the hot sun, Tulia Pie pulling on her leach, I start giving all the “time to end this chat” ques. But she didn’t bite and asked about me.

“I just moved here with my two kids,” I told her. “I’m divorced.” Oh she thought this was the perfect neighborhood for a divorcee – safe and friendly, with two former Sheriffs on the street. “I work at the OC Register,” I continued. That is usually met with mixed reactions, but Gertrude thought that was … you guessed it, “Just wonderful!”

We said our goodbyes and I watched her walk away, she continued her chatting but now it was directed at Tulia Pie.

I’ve seen her most mornings since then. She has her routine. She is always dressed well, in pastel blue elastic –wasted pants, crisp cotton shirt with little flowers and white nurse type shoes. If she needs it she wears a light white sweater across her tiny shoulders like a shawl, clinging to her by one button. She walks confidently but with grace and caution. She told me she used to walk miles every day, but when she fell a few years ago, her family will now only let her walk our culde-sac. So that’s what she does and it’s “wonderful” (naturally).

My Facebook feed is filled with pictures of sunsets or oceans with inspirational sayings splashed across them. Friends comment with things like “So true” or “Good to remember” to even the most basic platitudes. Life Coaching has become a $1 billion dollar a year industry. One can download apps that send you an affirmation daily, or that tracks your workout, or listen to podcasts of a favorite self-help book. But I’m beginning to suspect that sweet Gertrude has the key to what we are all striving for, a happy life. It’s simple really; get out and exercise every day, have a positive attitude and a grateful heart, connect with your neighbors and community and, of course, own a dog.

I often find myself humming the song made popular when she was a young girl called “Look for the Silver Lining,” when I see her.


“Look for the silver lining.

When e’er a cloud appears in the blue.

Remember somewhere the sun is shining,

And so the right thing to do,

Is make it shine for you.”


She’s a constant reminder to me to check my attitude. As I’m hurrying my kids along in the morning, she passes my kitchen window and it makes me think of how quickly this time in my life will pass. As I pile the kids into the car, a mess of lunch boxes, unbrushed hair (we’ll bush it in the car) and backpacks I stop and say “Good morning, Gertrude” and it instantly grounds me. I remember. Isn’t life wonderful?


“A heart, full of joy and gladness,

Will always banish sadness and strife.

So always look for the silver lining,

And try to find the sunny side of life.”


From my column in the Orange County Register