Category Archives: Self-Help

Book Review: Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

year-of-yesYear of Yes 

by Shonda Rhimes
ISBN: 9781476777092
Simon & Schuster, 2015

Am going to say yes to anything and everything that scares me. For a whole year. Or until I get scared to death and you have to bury me. Ugh.”

With those words, Shonda Rhimes embarked on a year of stepping out of her comfort zone. Prompted by a sister who mumbled about how Shonda never said yes to anything, she decided to say yes to everything that felt out of character, goofy, scary.

And she didn’t die.

An interesting puzzle for readers is why Shonda Rhimes would need such a challenge in the first place. Why would the creator and head writer of Grey’s Anatomy—a woman living the dream—need to vow to overcome fear? On her road to that kind of success did she not learn to slay the fear dragons?

Apparently not, because in this book she laid bare a soul full of trepidation. She was a woman capable of cultivating a robust garden crop of angst. At the beginning of her Year of Yes she was successful but unhappy. She decided:

  • Saying no has gotten my here.
  • Here sucks.
  • Saying yes might be my way to someplace better.
  • If not a way to someplace better, at least to someplace different.

Public speaking was a problem, so she tackled that. Body image came up, so she learned to say yes to healthy eating and exercise, and she learned how to gracefully accept compliments.

“So when you negate someone’s compliment, you are telling them they are wrong. You’re telling them they wasted their time. You are questioning their taste and judgment. You are insulting them.

She discovered the benefits of letting go of toxic people in her life and the importance of handling difficult conversations. In some cases, the surface of problems suggested the way to deal with them was with a NO, but then she dug deeper and discovered that every challenge had a YES at a root of the problem.

“So, in order to say YES to a problem, I have to find whatever it is inside the problem that challenges me or scares me or makes me just freak outand then I have to say yes to that thing.”

Her book is invigorating and inspiring. I only have one quibble, and it prompts me to do as Jon Stewart would have done on The Daily Show when he invited people to meet him on Camera 3 for “personal” conversations.

Shonda Rhimes, meet me on Camera 3.

You say that being a mother is not a job. ” “I find it offensive to motherhood to call being a mother a job,” you say. “Being a mother isn’t a job. It’s who someone is. It’s who I am. You can quit a job. I can’t quit being a mother. . . . To the naysayers, I growl, do not diminish it by calling it a job.”

I agree that being a mother is not a job. But doing mother work is. Mothers can quit that. They can quit the job of doing the laundry and changing the diapers and go to a different kind of job outside the home. When they do so, they’re trading in one job for another. You’re right—they don’t stop being a mother, but they do choose to delegate doing the jobs that go along with being a mother to someone else, who would unquestionably do those tasks as a job. Jenny McCarthy helps you because it’s her job. 

“One is not better than the other. Both choices are worthy of the same amount of respect.”

Again we agree. Some of the most devoted mothers I know choose to have some help with the tasks. Happy, fulfilled mothers. Happy, fulfilled kids.

But when you say that being a mother is not a job, it stabs me right in the solar plexus. I feel diminished. It makes me feel that the work I did for almost two decades was valueless. I wasn’t paid for it, so it wasn’t a job.

Enough of that. Enough.

Now back to it. Shonda Rhimes writes Year of Yes in a conversational style, likes she’s sitting in a wing chair across from you telling you her story.

Lots of short paragraphs and single-word sentences.


She exposes her vulnerable underbelly, which will make readers feel better about any anxieties they’ve ever had. Most of all, she gives readers plenty to think about—how they deal with fears, bad habits and toxic people.

And I think she’ll change people’s lives for the better.









Book Review: Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of a Creative Mind by Biz Stone

bb3a7cea653cc2f44dbf94d197d3415dThings a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of a Creative Mind 

by Biz Stone
ISBN-13: 9781455528738
Grand Central Publishing, 2014

Few people know what it is like to create something that reaches out to almost every part of the world. Few people know what it is like to go from being couch-cushion-scrapingly poor to stutteringly rich almost instantly. Few people know what it is like to devise and survive that kind of technological, psychological, and financial journey. Biz Stone is one of the few, and that is what makes this book a worthy read. (It’s also worth it just to read his account of a meeting with Mark Zuckerberg at the Facebook offices.)

“. . . if opportunity is just a set of circumstances, why are we waiting around for the stars to align? Rather than waiting and pouncing with a high degree of failure, you might as well go ahead and create the set of circumstances on your own.” —Biz Stone

The creative mind of Biz Stone sparked and expanded and imagined Twitter—the internet app that virtually every cognizant person in the developed world knows about, at the very least, if not uses. He and his partners took a chance with the fledgling app (What comes first, the Twitter or the egg?) and nurtured it so it transformed from an unpredictable conference communication tool into a worldwide phenomenon. Even Stone didn’t foresee the multitude of ways in which Twitter would affect us, and we would affect it. In a freakish kind of Darwinian computer natural selection, Twitter evolved according to the ways that users chose to use it, and Stone and his partners kept up with the demand (at least, most of the time).

I wasn’t surprised by Stone’s entrepreneurial bent, and I wasn’t surprised that he was a nerd in high school, but I was surprised that he spent a shocking amount of time begin poor, even when Twitter was already successful, and I was surprised by his warm, authentic humanity and his care for the future of our world. 

New employees to Twitter receive a list of “Assumptions for Twitter Employees” of the kind that make me want to work there. New employees are encouraged: not to assume an outcome, to know there are plenty of smart people outside the organization ready and available to help, to do right for the users, to seek win-win deals, to expect and look for the good intentions of co-workers, and, finally, to believe that “We can build a business, change the world, and have fun.”

It is in Biz Stone’s nature to make things happen, and, luckily for us, it is in his nature to make good things happen. He dedicates a significant portion of this book outlining his efforts to keep Twitter neutral, his passion for charitable works, and his drive to inspire the rest of us to step up too.

“We all define financial success differently, but I can tell you that for almost anyone at any income, being rich exists only in the future. Waiting to give is a mistake.” —Biz Stone

I am not a computer whiz, so Stone’s references to hackathons and technological problems—or anything related to computers in just about any way, actually—were lost on me, but that didn’t matter. This is more than an internet app story; it’s a human story, and it’s a story that carries a hint of warning about the power one person can have to affect the world on a grand scale. 

We had all better hope that, like Biz Stone, such people want to make good things happen. 

Book Review: The Secret Female Hormone

I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the book from Hay House for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.


9781401943011The Secret Female Hormone: How Testosterone Replacement Can Change Your Life

by Kathy Maupin, M.D., Brett Newcomb, M.A., L.P.C.
ISBN 978-1-4019-4301-1
Hay House, 2014

Put a room full of menopausal and perimenopausal women together and ask them to raise their hands if they experience any of these symptoms: loss of libido, weight gain, insomnia, fatigue, depression, sore joints, dry eyes, migraines, or loss of stamina. After running through the full list, few women would sit without raised a hand.

Middle-aged women face these symptoms, and a confusing array of scientific evidence about what to do about it. Many women don’t want to mess around with nature, so they choose to ride out the sleepless nights, the fatigue, and the strain on their relationship due to their lack of interest in sex. Many women fear hormone replacement therapy (HRT) because of studies that suggested that HRT comes with medical risks. And testosterone? Many women would not even consider adding what they perceive to be a male hormone into their lives. They worry about side effects like facial hair, aggression and a lowered voice pitch.

Kathy Maupin and Brett Newcomb want to open the conversation about the “secret” female hormone. They say:

“Testosterone is not just important to women’s hormonal balance, it is essential.”

Maupin opens the book with her personal experience with Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome (TDS). After suffering the symptoms, and after futile searches in other areas for solutions to the problems, she found relief through bio-medical testosterone pellets. She then used the treatment on her patients and boasts a 95% success rate. Her patients enjoy increased energy, better sleep, loss of fat, improved memory, a re-activated sex drive, balanced mood, and less muscle and joint pain

Maupin and Newcomb don’t suggest that HRT is for everyone. They outline the roles that estrogen, progesterone and testosterone play in women’s lives and the risks and benefits of replacement therapies. They include charts with the symptoms, risks and benefits clearly laid out so readers and place check marks to determine if therapy is something they should consider. But Maupin and Newcomb don’t accept that women these days need to “tough it out” through menopausal and perimenopausal symptoms that are adversely affecting their lives.

“Women still experience the loss of testosterone at the same age they did 50,000 years ago.”

One of the results of our improved health care, sanitation and nutrition is that women’s life spans now extend beyond the time they can reproduce. Women used to die before or not long after they ceased to be able to procreate, so in centuries past women didn’t need testosterone in later life. Now they might. And if a person lives with a long-term testosterone deficiency, serious diseases can result, including chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, heart disease, memory loss, dementia.

This is an American publication, and I am Canadian. I don’t know what the regulations in this country are for testosterone. No matter which country you live in, hormone therapy starts with a conversation with your medical doctor. Maupin and Newcomb wrote this book to arm you with information you can take to your doctor to start that conversation.


I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the book from Hay House for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.


Book Review: Quantum Jumps by Cynthia Sue Larson

Adobe Photoshop PDFQuantum Jumps: An Extraordinary Science of Happiness and Prosperity

by Cynthia Sue Larson
ISBN 9870971934955
RealityShifters®, 2013

More than 100 years ago, the experiments of  scientific greats like Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr and Erwin Schrödinger threw some traditionally accepted scientific laws into question. Quantum mechanics defied logic and boggled minds.

More than 100 years later, our minds still boggle. We’re having some difficulty accepting the possibilities of our Quantum Age, because we resist believing in anything in the absence of hard proof. In Quantum Jumps, Cynthia Sue Larson presents a “radical new paradigm—that we exist in a holographic multiverse in which we can literally jump from one parallel universe to another.” I have no doubt many will find it hard to believe.

Quantum jumping is the process by which a person envisions some desired result or state of being that is different from the existing situation—and by clearly observing that possibility and supplying sufficient energy, makes a leap into that alternative reality.” 

(Are you thinking of Scott Bakula in Quantum Leap right now?)

The idea isn’t new, and we find similar themes in the words of Napoleon Hill, Charles Haanel, and Jesus. (“Ask and it will be given to you.” Matthew 7:7) More and more experimental results support the possibilities. Larson includes examples of experiments with drug placebos, weight loss, goal achievement and empathy.

Larson outlines three quantum jumping steps:

  1. Attain a relaxed, detached and peaceful altered state.
  2. Feel energized about your visualized positive outcome.
  3. Take positive action in keeping with your new reality.

We make “quantum” jumps every day. When we get out of bed and eat our favourite breakfast, for example, we unconsciously complete all three steps; we’re just so used to doing it, we don’t give it much conscious thought. If it is so easy for us to manifest our breakfast, why not greater things, then?

Larson recommends a meditation practice in which we envision ourselves as connected to, and part of, an eternal infinite. The practice might help you lose weight, find a romantic partner, change jobs, ease depression or locate lost objects.

I’m grateful to Einstein, Bohr, Planck and others for inviting us into the Quantum Age. I’m encouraged by the ideas Larson presents in her book, even though some of them still felt a little “out there” for my comfort zone. I won’t discount them, though. After all, poor old Galileo had no way to prove to the masses that earth revolved around the sun, not the other way around, and he was vilified for his “out there” theory. He died being dead right.

Who am I to question the possibilities?

“Everything in the universe is within you.
Ask all from yourself.” —Rumi


I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the book from RealityShifters® for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.


Book Review: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

9780385669757The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business 

by Charles Duhigg
ISBN 9780385669757
Doubleday Canada, 2012

We have habits. Some habits, like a morning jog, serve us well. Others, like a weekly visit to the casino that turns into a daily drain on the bank account, lead to our ruin. If we understand our habits—how they work, how they’re formed, how they serve us and how to change them—we can use that knowledge to shape our days in the most positive way.

In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg breaks down the three-step loop: Cue, Routine, Reward. A habit is triggered by an external cue (a particular location, a time of day, a certain mood, other people, or an activity), the external cue sets a routine in motion, and at the end, we receive a reward. For example, an alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m., a person puts on jogging clothes and goes for a run, and then enjoys the runner’s high and a strawberry smoothie. Or, at 3:00 p.m. every workday, a person, bored and restless, leaves the desk and visits the vending machine for an afternoon chocolate bar boost.

Many of our habits serve to sustain us as we navigate daily life. Putting on our clothes, making our toast, or driving our cars requires a series of habits. The first time we do any of these, we think through each step. Cued by a feeling of cold, a hunger, or a need to get from one place to another, we work through every step of managing buttons, setting the right toast preferences and backing out of the garage. Eventually these routines become automatic “habits,” so our brain doesn’t need to think about them anymore. In other words, we need habits or our brains would be overwhelmed. “Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort.”

Because habits are so necessary, and because our brains are constantly seeking to create new ones, habits have a powerful influence over our lives. And once a habit takes root, it doesn’t disappear. Duhigg writes: “. . . unless you deliberately fight a habit—unless you find new routines—the pattern will unfold automatically.”


You Can’t Extinguish a Bad Habit, You Can Only Change It”

Duhigg describes how habits, willpower and belief play out in the lives of brain-damaged individuals, gambling addicts, football players, Starbucks employees, and shoppers. 

What it means for us? We can examine our daily lives, identify our habits, figure out which ones serve us well and which ones could bear re-routing. To make a change, we start by figuring out what your habit “cue” is by asking these questions:

  1. Where are you?
  2. What time is it?
  3. What’s your emotional state?
  4. Who else is around?
  5. What action preceded the urge?

When you figure out what it is that sets you on an undesirable path, you can choose to respond to that cue differently, and you can choose how to reward yourself for doing so.

Find the cue, choose the positive action, select a meaningful reward.

At times I found myself wondering while reading Duhigg’s stories: “What does this have to do with habit again?” But even when I was wondering that, I was absorbed in the material. It’s darned interesting.

Since reading his book, I have been taking note of my cues, routines and rewards, and I’ve made some changes. I think that’s the point.

Book Review: Second Firsts by Christina Rasmussen

I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the book from Hay House for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.


9181_c1.gifSecond Firsts

by Christina Rasmussen
ISBN 978-1-4019-4083-6
Hay House, Inc., 2013

Over the past five years or so, several people close to me lost spouses due to death or divorce. From my position at one degree of separation, I watched them discover their individual paths to “second firsts.” Each person took a different route and a different amount of time, but all their paths shared similar obstacles and milestones.

“Grief walked into your heart and created room for your soul to grow.” Christina Rasmussen in Second Firsts

I recognized these same obstacles and milestones in Christina Rasmussen’s experience of loss and her recommendations for recovery. In her mid-30s, Rasmussen lost her husband to colon cancer. Much of the book content related back to her own personal experiences with grief and life rebuilding, so her stories will resonate with anyone recovering from a disrupted relationship.

Anyone starting over after any kind of life change will find her book helpful though, because her themes resonated with me in other ways, too. I experienced the same fear, frustration and exhilaration when I left my career behind to become a stay-at-home mother. That was a “second first” for me. And I realized that a reluctance to let go is brewing inside me now as my children grow and lead more independent lives: when my home becomes an “empty nest,” I will create yet another new life—a “third first.”

“Launching a new life is a strategic, active process. It doesn’t happen by accident. . . . If they are operating in the default mode of the old self, they will continue to experience the pain of resistance. This pain should not be mistaken for grief. It’s like trying to put on clothes you used to wear comfortably, which no longer fit you.” —Christina Rasmussen in Second Firsts

Most people are familiar with the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross book On Death and Dying and her theory of the five stages of grief. Rasmussen’s book builds on that theory, offering a how-to guide on re-creating life even as people walk through the five phases of grief. She breaks it down into five “Life Reentry Stages”: Get Real, Plug In, Shift, Discover, and Reenter Life. Her five stages encourage mindful reflection of emotions and circumstances and step-by-step “plugging in” to new activities. Gentle but persistent progress ensures that mourners don’t get stuck in the “Waiting Room” of grief, immobilized by fear and a reluctance to let go of no-longer-appropriate “clothing.”

“It’s important not to resist grieving. But distinguish between true mourning and the repetition of loss. Repetition of loss is a natural, albeit ultimately unhealthy, practice of going over the whys , the hows, and the if onlys of your past long after a loss has occurred.” Christina Rasmussen in Second Firsts

From my position at one degree of separation from profound loss, I found this book comfortable reading. I think those with a recent, raw experience of grief would find it difficult to face immediately. They might need to set the book aside for a time until they are ready to start the first Life Reentry Stage. But if you need to re-create a new life, for whatever reason, this book provides encouragement and guidance. If you know someone stuck in the “Waiting Room,” maybe this book will nudge them to begin their second first life.


I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the book from Hay House for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

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