Change Can Be a Good Thing

There are numerous platitudes meant to help people push through rough times. Or to help you find the positive in what could be considered a negative situation.

Sayings like:

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
Challenging times strengthen you.
Some of the best things in life are mistakes.
When God closes a door, He opens a window.
When one door closes, another opens.

Some are words of wisdom from famous people. And they become daily mantras to strengthen our character and drive.

“Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.” Jim Valvano
“Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” Lou Gehrig
“Failure will never stand in the way of success if you learn from it.” Hank Aaron
“Just tell yourself, Duckie, you’re really quite lucky.” Dr. Seuss
“I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” Carl Jung

Sometimes, when a good thing comes to an end, we struggle with accepting the situation. Wanting to hold onto that something, even if the wise decision might be to release it.

So, it’s with a heavy heart that the PBOK moms have decided it’s time to close the blog. We all have different reasons, but there’s one major reason we have in common—lack of time in a busy world.

I’ll admit my first reaction to rally the troops. I’d set a 2015 goal to take a more professional attitude with my writing, making sure I dedicate a specific amount of time to writing every day. Without fail!

The blog has been an amazing way for me to combine my writing life with my mom/family life. What a blessing!

So why would I want that to end?

Well, because in 2015, my writing time needs to focus on doing whatever I can to make a strong push toward publication. I’m not getting any younger. For years I’ve let my writing time slip by the wayside in the wake of other responsibilities. And let’s be honest here, other “fun” activities.

I’ll miss stopping by the PBOK blog to see what my fellow moms have posted. I’ll miss sharing my thoughts with all of you. And I’ll definitely miss the camaraderie and friendship between us.

But my wish for all of us is that we finish 2015 able to look back over the year and find accomplishments we’re proud of, despite the changes or sacrifices we faced.

We’re all strong, wise passionate women. Change can be good. If we face it with the right mindset.

I’ll be back in two weeks for my final PBOK blog. For now, I’ll close with a question I hope you’ll feel inclined to answer:

What do you plan to accomplish in 2015? Personally or professionally?

And just in case you could use a mantra for the day, the week, the month or the year, here’s a little something one of my daughters shared with me:

Of Dogs and Frogs

I used to teach middle school in Houston’s inner city. It was a completely different world from where I’d grown up and the home I went back to every night. The kids were rough until I learned how to deal with them. It took me pretty much my whole first year to learn. During that time I was locked out of my room several times, had pretty much everything but my teacher’s desk stolen, had to file sexual harassment charges against one kid, and cried more times than I could count. Never in front of the kids, though!

By year 2, not much could faze me. I shut down problems before they became problems, and I wasn’t locked out of my room even once. That second year I was finally able to look at my surroundings objectively. Yes, my students were gang members, predominantly members of the MS-13. They called themselves the Southwest Cholos, and their colors were black and white. Some of the students were from a rival gang, and one time my first year I accidentally wore a black and white bandana as a headband and it was ON. I had no idea what I’d considered a hair accessory was  a gang symbol. But the gangs and gang loyalty were very real to these kids. Over that first summer, one of my former students was shot to death, one was deported because he was an illegal and arrested, and another was shot and paralyzed for the rest of his life. These kids were tough.


I often wondered where their parents were. The teacher who taught Science spoke Spanish, and occasionally he could convince the parent of a troublesome kid to come for a parent conference. Usually, it was the mom. Most of these kids were being raised by single moms. The moms of these 14-year-olds were 27 or 28, and they had several other kids, three jobs, and their own problems with the kids we were calling about. Usually the mom ended up telling us how the son or daughter pulled a knife on her and wanted to know what she should do. She needed our help more than we needed hers.

But the point of this blog was to talk about respect for animals. I didn’t see much of it when I finally got my bearings. I taught in temporary buildings outside the school building. The whole 8th grade was in this T-shack village. Quite often, stray dogs would follow a child to school and end up running around the T-buildings. The kids’ reaction to seeing a stray dog was almost universal–they would kick it or throw rocks at it. These poor dogs were just looking for some kindness and maybe some food, but these kids didn’t know anything about dogs. They imitated what they saw their parents do, and most of the parents had grown up in Mexico and learned to shoo stray dogs away. The first time I saw kids kicking a stray dog, I lost my temper. The kids never saw me lose my temper. I have a very calm demeanor. They were shocked. I gave them the lecture of all lectures and then gathered up that bruised and bleeding dog, took her in my classroom, and did my best to help her. I saw this behavior so often that I decided to teach a unit on humane treatment toward animals. Since I was teaching SOMETHING, the administration didn’t care what I did.


I found materials from the Humane Society and the SPCA and even had a guest speaker from the SPCA come and talk about how to take care of animals. I wanted these kids to know that cruelty and abuse of animals is wrong. No one had ever told most of them that. Our society was failing them. Did you know that most serial killers get their start by abusing animals?

Recently a friend of mine told me about an incident where an acquaintance of her daughter played too rough with a frog and killed it. I felt horrible for that poor frog, but I also wondered about the child who did that. It’s a flashing warning sign that there’s a problem with that kid. And why didn’t the parent know what was happening? Apparently, one of the children tried to tell her, but she was too busy talking to listen. We can’t be too busy to listen or teach the lessons about kindness. It may not be in our curriculum or part of our plan for the holiday weekend, but it’s absolutely vital.


Sports—Camaraderie, Character Building and, oh yeah, Exercise

If you’re a sports fan, subscribe to your local paper or regularly watch a morning news show like “Today” or “Mike & Mike”, there’s very little chance you haven’t heard that World Cup Soccer is in full swing. I fall into all three of those categories—especially the first one.

In my family, watching or playing sports is as natural as breathing. Yeah, it’s a way to get some exercise, but it’s also great for family bonding and teaching important life lessons.

My daughters have learned about pride in doing your best; humility when winning; perseverance when losing; leadership and teamwork for the whole rather than the individual.

Some of our best family memories have taken place on a court, a field, or in the stands together. Some of our most disappointing and some of our funniest moments have been the same.

Sure, participating in a sport is great for your body—strength, conditioning, and flexibility. But it’s also vital for character building. And it’s definitely a fabulous way to bring my family together.

Whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood with our dog,


training for a half marathon with my sister


or two of my daughters


participating in a Ladies Football Clinic with my mom


or organizing a 3-mile family fun run and tennis tournament during a Christmas family reunion in Florida


sports has always played an important unifying role in our lives.

Right now we’re in the throes of World Cup Fever, cheering for the USA!


If you’re a soccer fan you probably already know this, if you’re not don’t be surprised when I tell you that thus far in the Cup as a USA fan we’ve experienced pride in our boys and our country, humility in finally beating Ghana, perseverance in losing the lead and ending our game with Portugal in a tie, and leadership and teamwork as we gear up to take on the powerful German team on Thursday.

These are all vital character traits we can all stand to improve. In my family, we simply like to dress up a little crazy now and then while we work our character together! ☺




Kids and Lying

I think we’re nearing a crucial time in the Galen household. Another small part of innocence is about to be chipped away. I can’t blame this one on society because I’m sure it’s just part of human nature.

Princess Galen told a lie.

truth-257158_640I know it’s not the last she’ll tell, but it hurt my heart a little to hear the first one. I remember just a few months ago, at Christmas, her older male cousins were teasing each other and saying the other was a girl. PG didn’t get it at all. She kept arguing that they were boys. Finally, I explained to my nephews that she didn’t know what a lie was and had never told one. They were amazed, but I think that’s fairly typical for kids who are under 5. They think in truths and aren’t sophisticated enough for verbal deception (notice I say verbal).

Even Princess Galen’s first lie was awkward and muddled. We were talking, and she said “poo poo” or some sort of potty word. Immediately, she knew she had crossed the line, and she said, “I was talking about using the potty.” We hadn’t been talking about that, but she knew that was when it was okay to use potty words. Before I could even contradict her, she said, “I mean, I’m sorry for using a potty word. It was an accident.”

The lie lasted all of three seconds before she came clean. Still, I made sure to tell her that I appreciated her apology, and that she should always just admit her mistakes and not lie about them. Moms, I am not so naïve as to believe she will actually follow that rule always, but hopefully she follows it more times than not. I know this is part of growing up, but there are some parts of childhood I wish could last longer.


Refilling Your Emotional Well

As a writer I’ve heard this phrase many times before, usually in a talk or presentation about creativity and tapping into your artistic or creative side. But I’ve also found that it’s an important phrase for life in general.

What I mean is, we’ve all read or written blogs about the busy-ness of life or about finding “me” time as an adult and a mom. Especially those of us who unrealistically try to be Supermom. ☺

But I also think the idea of refilling our emotional well is an important concept to teach our kids, too.

Oftentimes today our kids are overbooked, overscheduled, over-involved…over a lot of things. Sure, trying your hand at a variety of things can be a great way to develop and discover new talents, interests and skills. At the same time, doing too much can lead our kids to feel just like we do after a hectic day at the office, followed by an evening taxi-ing our kids to different activities, cooking dinner and washing dishes, capped off with a writing session in front of the computer. No wonder there are days when we feel frazzled, frayed or bamboozled.

So, just as we need a little “me” time, so do our kids. Think of it this way, if we teach our girls how to recognize when they’re getting to a point where everything seems too much when they’re young, maybe they’ll be better at balancing their responsibilities or at least doing so in a healthy way when they’re older.

Whether it’s curling up with a good book in a corner on the couch or under a tree in the back yard, or coloring with crayons, or going to the beach to have fun in the sun and surf…Whatever it is that makes them truly happy. That helps them feel re-energized and rejuvenated. Whatever brings a silly grin to their face.

Whatever refills their emotional well.

For me, that’s a day relaxing on the beach with a good book. A nap in my back yard with my puppy sniffing around for lizards. Watching a chickflick with family and friends. A day of baking gingerbread houses and Christmas cookies with my girls. Going salsa dancing. Putting on my music and going for a run.

How about for you, what helps refill your emotional well?

This makes for great dinner table conversation with your loved ones. Try it, and maybe someone will surprise you by their response.

I’d love to hear how it goes for you if you give it a try!

Finding Some Balance in Life

life balance

Somedays I feel like I’m doing pretty well. I’ve got my priorities straight, things under control, kids all headed in the right direction… It’s all good.

And then there are other days- like today- when I can hear Life laughing at me and what it thinks as my feeble attempts to make any progress.

I’ve got a job that keeps me running during the day, sometimes into the evening, and a volunteer list that fills up quite a bit of my dance card fairly often. But my girls are out of the house, leaving me with just a pooch that’s needy for attention. So, why is it that I still can’t seem to get a good work, writing, volunteering, exercising, sleeping, fun-time schedule figured out?

I homeschooled my girls for multiple years and kept a pretty rigid schedule during the day. We had to in order to meet the goals I’d set out for them as students. While I was in my both of my master’s programs I had a detailed schedule for reading, homework, research and writing. And I’m proud to say I was a great student. 🙂

So again, why is it that with others or when others are involved I’m better at trying to ensure everything is good to go. But when it comes to just plain me– exercise to feel better, write more often because I love it and plan to sell someday, sleep more because my body needs it– I keep falling off the wagon?

I’m wondering if it’s my need to help others or focus on others rather than focus on myself. Sometimes that’s a good thing– others before self. Sometimes, it’s a bad thing– help others to the detriment of self.

It’s about balance. That’s what I talk to my girls about. So, I’m thinking it’s time for me to practice what I preach.

Recognize that if I want to sell a book or feel healthier about my body, then I need to do something about it. Make it a priority just like I make thinking about others a priority.

So, I ask you, is there something you’ve been wanting to do or thinking about doing that you keep putting aside? Is now a good time to work on that or try that? Maybe, maybe not. Only you can decide.

But I’d love to hear how you’re coping with finding balance in your daily life. It can be a struggle. Hearing how others handle it, make it work, or maybe flounder sometimes, too, helps me realize that I’m not alone in this. And maybe something that helps one of you might be a great tip for me or our readers to try.

Thanks for sharing!!

Servant Leadership

servant leadership

As a person, a professional, and a mom I try my best to live as a servant leader—doing for others, keeping others’ needs in the forefront. I have to admit, I feel a sense of satisfaction when I’m able to help someone, whether it’s something small like opening a door for a person whose hands are full or spending hours in one-on-one time helping a student improve a scholarship essay that could potentially help them pay for college (a big life changer).

I try to model “doing for others” with my girls, especially so as they were growing up. Now that they’re older and off on their own, my prayer is that they remember my example and continue to see that in me. I tell ya, it’s a beautiful thing when I see or hear about something they’ve done to make another person’s day or week or whatever, a little more positive.

And I really enjoy hearing about others who strive to bring good and do good in our world and communities.
Over the weekend, while watching the Sunday morning news, I learned about one such person: Ariel Nessel, founder and board member of the Pollination Project.

Since its inception in January 2013, the Pollination Project has given “$1,000 seed grants to individual change makers, every day of the year, emphasizing projects that expand compassion in the world.” According to their mission statement, they believe in the “power of ordinary people to do extraordinary things.”

Wow, what a motivational statement!

Now, I’m not a vegan, so I have to say that I’m not 100% on board with all the organization’s ideas, but I love how they value “compassion consciousness.” Thinking about how your decisions and your choices affect others and the world around you. How many times have I reminded myself of that or mentioned a similar idea to my girls?
We could all benefit—heck, the world, our countries, our cities, our neighborhoods can benefit—if we all tried to sharpen our compassion consciousness a little more. At least on some level, in some manner.

As a mom, I strive to be an example of this for my girls.

In my day job, I strive to do the same.

As a writer, my hope is that a reader’s day will be happier or a stress in her life forgotten for a little while because she’s chosen to spend some time with my characters.

Servant leadership: to me it’s an important value.

I’d love to hear some other values you live by and try to instill in your kids. And if there are any other non-profits you participate with in some manner. There are so many great ones out there, let’s spread their good word today—and every day! 

Advice: Let’s Be Kind

Have you ever been a recipient of unwanted advice? It happens to me sometimes. Not often enough that I’m prepared for it, but just often enough that when it does happen, it throws me. Most of this unwanted advice is from moms. Here’s a scenario I witnessed on the playground recently. These moms are not friends, just acquaintances who know each other because their kids go to the same school.

Mom #1: Johnny is still not potty-trained, and he’s four!

Mom #2: Mine was potty-trained at 22 months. You just have to take the diapers away. Be tough.

Mom #3: That will traumatize him. Just be supportive. He will get it eventually.

Okay, first of all, did this mom ask for advice? No. She was venting, just talking to moms she thought might “get it.” Secondly, was the advice at all helpful? No, because it was completely contradictory. Does she listen to Mom #2 or Mom #3?

What she really needs to hear is “It’s tough being a mom. You’re doing okay.” Because the truth is that none of us is in another mom’s home. We don’t know what their situation is. Maybe the husband and wife fight a lot, and the child is stressed from the conflict and taking longer than average to potty train because of it. Maybe this kid is the sort who, when pushed, regresses. Maybe this kid is the type who does really well when challenged to do something new.

I’m not perfect. I like to give advice too. We all do because it makes us feel smart. Sometimes when we’re giving advice we are, in effect, bragging about how our own kids didn’t have that problem (and are perfect) or how we were super mom (and a better mom than you) in solving it.

In other words, what’s wrong with you Mom #1 that your kid isn’t perfect? What’s wrong with you, Mom #1, that you have this problem? But maybe nothing is wrong with her. Maybe she’s doing the best she can without help from her husband, with a fulltime job, and with a high-maintenance child. Maybe she doesn’t need our advice, but our support.


A few months ago I was slammed on Facebook for something I posted related to my daughter. Again, hadn’t been asking for advice, but boy did I get it. People who don’t know me or my child in real life jumped all over me. It was my bad for posting what I did, and I took my medicine. I won’t make that mistake again. A friend of mine had the same thing happen to her a few weeks later. She asked if she should just delete the post. I said yes. We moms are vulnerable enough without being pummeled by “friends.”

So what I’ve been trying to do since that incident is to practice what I preach. When a mom says something, and I’m tempted to give advice, I don’t say anything right away. I let her keep talking, or I say something neutral. I try to be supportive, even if I don’t necessarily agree 100% with what the parent is doing. If a mom does ask me for advice, I give it but also try to support the mom working through the issue. She may not want to take my suggestion. That’s fine. I still support her.

Moms, is there anything you’re working on? Anything you want to put into practice in your daily lives?



The Convergence of Crazy

13542868I think every writer (maybe even every person), as a fair dose of crazy in them. I don’t know if it’s just part of the business or if writers must be more in touch with their crazy in order to write emotional books.

Of course, it’s also true that mothers are all a little crazy too. We’re stressed out. We work hard. Our kids constantly push our buttons. Sometimes, despite our better judgment, the crazy leaks out.

So on one hand, I have the writer crazy to contend with. On the other, I have the mothering crazy. Often these to things are separate, but every once in a while, they meet in the middle for some sort of crazy super storm, like the moment the Ghostbuster cross the streams on their proton packs.

For me, the crazy converges when I let the bad stuff get in my head. This is true of my mothering and my writing. With mothering, it’s the “Am I doing enough?” “Am I doing too much?” “Are they happy?” “Am I happy?” “How does anyone know they are really happy?” “If I’m not happy, should I fake it or does that just create the false impression that life is like a Target ad?” You can see where this is going. It’s a dark and twisted rabbit hole to go down.

For a long time, when I wrote only for Harlequin Desire, the writing part of my crazy was fairly compact. It was stuff like, “Is what I’m doing making the world better?” “Am I any good any good at it, or should I give it up to spend more time with my kids. (And the answer to that is pretty easy. No. I’ve done the 24 hours a day with my kids thing, and my patience wears thin. We drive each other crazy.) “Does my life’s work matter in the universe?”

Then, I started writing post apocalyptic YA. All of sudden the proton pack of mothering-crazy and the proton pack of writer-crazy were both unleashed at the same time. When I wrote The Lair, the second book in the series, the opening action of the book takes place at Base Camp, where the teenagers who are part of the rebellion are living. It’s winter. They’re in the mountains. And all of civilization has collapsed around them. I spent a lot of time worrying about how to feed these two hundred plus imaginary people. It’s a world without grocery stores! A world without fast food! A world without Costco or Chick-fil-a! Where is the food coming from?

The question doesn’t even take up that much of the book. It’s just something I thought about a lot. It got in my head—partly because I was worried about the plotting of this book, but mostly because I was worried about feeding my own kids in the unlikely event of the apocalypse.

I found myself creeping out of bed in the middle of the night to research how to stockpile food. Did you know you can have a year’s worth of food drop shipped to your house? Did you know you can make a candle out of a can of Crisco? Did you know it’s still possible to get scurvy if you don’t get enough vitamin C? This is the kind of information that can really mess with your head.

Then one day, I went to the grocery store and they were completely out of zucchini. I freaked out, sure this was a sign of the coming apocalypse. So … um, yeah. I sort of started stock piling food.

But here’s the thing about book-related insanity: it comes and goes. Now that my Lair-related crazy has passed, my brief foray into prepping has allowed me to make a generous donation to my local food bank. That’s a good thing, right?

Those big parenting questions really stay with me. I will always worry about whether or not I’m setting a good example for my kids. I will always question my parenting and will always try to do better.

I’ve moved on to other forms of writer-crazy, now. Like wondering whether evil monsters will ever invade our world from a parallel universe. And if they do, will grocery stores still operate?

What are your great fears as a parent?

Emily McKayEmily McKay loves to read, shop, and geek out about movies. When she’s not writing, she reads on-line gossip and bakes luscious deserts. She pretends that her weekly yoga practice balances out both of those things. She lives in central Texas with her family and her crazy pets.