back to the book



Hi All,

I’m back in Edmonds WA again for a month with the intention to finish my book. I’m documenting this process along the way over at my other blog if you’d like to follow along.

I’m also reading Juan Martinez’ book about convicting Jodi Arias and making some observations about that too. Would love it if you’d share yours as well.

I’ll be pretty absent from this blog but very active on the other one for the next 4 weeks so feel free to join me there!

Today’s entry here.



My Disagreement with the Four Agreements


Some Things Are Personal
-my disagreement with one of the Four Agreements

I love Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, I really do. Like many of you reading, I’ve used them as a kind of template for living for over a decade. I think they truly encompass a roadmap of sound advice.

Yet, lately, I’m having trouble with one of them. My discomfort doesn’t stem from Ruiz’s intent of this 3rd Agreement, which I believe is pure, and I get it. Yet, like many sacred texts, over time, pure intentions tend to get misinterpreted and exploited in all kinds of directions.

“Don’t Take Anything Personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering…” Ruiz teaches.

I can’t imagine, however, that he instructs us to never be open to feedback or honest sharing from others who are offering it up for us to grow. Herein lies my glitch.

I was recently in a semi – heated sharing with an acquaintance who had stumbled all over herself, offending me deeply. I am currently in the middle of writing a memoir about my sister’s homicide, so I explore this topic at times on my blog, or on social media. This person wrote me out of the clear blue for the first time, asking general questions about my writing, then delivered a line that just about choked me “do you see a time when you will be able to let go of this and move toward stuff that is not about murder (I say this with love)” .

It was not only the insensitivity and timing of this question that stunned me, but also the questioner herself: a person who leads workshops using the writing path for healing. I was utterly shocked that I was on the receiving end of this question.

Once I exhaled again, I got angry. This is a normal human response when someone invades our safe boundaries, which is exactly what this question did for me. She, nearly a stranger, tiptoed in to my world, then went for my jugular challenging the most sensitive area of my writing life. Her question was less an inquiry than a judgment and I felt it. It was personal, and I responded like any person would when a dagger pierces the heart of your greatest wound.

Now is the point I wonder what Ruiz would say. I guess he would advise me to not take that personally– that her ignorance was about her and not me—ok I get that. Yet people walking around with highly sensitive life events get assaulted like this with ignorant questions regularly. I felt I needed to educate her., especially her of all people. She quickly apologized, then exited the conversation as fast as she’d bulleted in to it. And that was the end of it. At least between us.

This retreat, this unwillingness to engage in a meaningful dialogue about this changed everything for me about this person. I never trusted her again. I looked at her with a lens of caution, wondering if she was actually harming others attempting to open up and heal using their writing medium—people a lot more vulnerable than me. What if the opportunity for me in this offended reaction I had, was to speak up? To confront it? Not just for myself, but for all of this who have been dealt dark hands to play in a world of “love and light”.

Months later, I continued feeling affected by this every time I saw a posting by this person, as our exchange was never taken beyond that original hit and run. I felt the sting of her words, as I witnessed her writing about her insecurities, and finally about how to handle “triggers”. I wasn’t surprised when she fell back on Ruiz’s teaching (not crediting him), telling her readers about how someone else’s issues with you are “never about you—ever”.

But my feedback was about her. At least it was about her behavior. It was an opportunity for her to learn something and grow. Yet her position that my response must have been all about me, and not some kind of growth opportunity for her, led me frankly to believe she was dangerous out there in the world of healing.

I tried bringing it up again, albeit awkwardly on social media. Her response was to block me, without ever communicating with me directly. This kind of arrogance scares the shit out of me. People are following others who seem to have all the right words, but the proof to me is how we are all dealing with, not our easy platitudes, but our challenging moments.

If we are to take nothing personally, and we stumble in our humanity and hurt someone—even unintentionally—and are given honest feedback then resort to immediately placing the conflict on the other person’s “triggers”, how are we to grow? It’s hard to feel that grit in the sphere of our fragile comfort zone, sometimes yet it’s the very irritation needed to pull us to yet another level of understanding.

After the original awkward exchange with this self described “healer”, I began watching her. I observed essay after essay confronting her insecurities and difficulty with others’ opinions of her. Yet in each the remedy remained the same – realize it’s not ever about you, you are great just the way you are, put it back on that person and move on!

My observation though was that this position was not strengthening her, but keeping her right where she was—stuck in a place of a constant battle with insecurity, questioning herself, while trying to talk herself off the ledge of fear with positive affirmations. I don’t think it works that way.

I think opening sometimes to taking something deeply personal and allowing it to open something within is just the ticket we need to clean out  wounds so we can truly be free.

Otherwise we spend a lifetime shielding ourselves from the next bit of unwanted feedback, innoculating ourselves with positive platitudes, that really have no crack to penetrate in to. We are dolloping whipped cream on a shit sundae higher and higher and it’s making us weaker. It’s taking us further away from the toxin that still remains, unattended, festering.

I don’t know what Don Miguel Ruiz would have to say about all of this but I do think about it. Maybe I’m just playing in a world of semantics.  I do think there is a place for honest feedback and the receiving of it that brings us to a level of growth we’d never get if we dismissed it to “just their projection”.

On Thanksgiving Day this year,  my husband said something to me out of pure exhaustion that I took personally and pouted about for a few hours. When I finally had the guts to share with him how I was feeling, he pulled me in closer and explained what he was feeling, and how his choice of words was not indicative of my perception. We both cried while discovering another layer of tenderness between us, both of us vowing to not let that happen again—his words or my pouting. He could have so easily dismissed my little pity party as my problem, my projection and having nothing to do with what he said, but he didn’t do that. He listened, I listened and we understood each other, dismissing our fears, accepting more love. Our ability to be honest and dare I say take personally what each was sharing, allowed us to go deeper in to ourselves and as a couple.

Sometimes I reflect on this world of “everyone is a life coach” and “positive affirmations” and think it’s breeding a new culture of spiritual arrogance, where no one thinks they are allowed to step on any one else’s toes, or make a mistake, and grow from it.

Yes, I do think we are all made in perfection in a divine esoteric way,  yet we are also made to develop, and that means humbling ourselves.

I’d say, before jumping to the safe zone of “this is all about them and nothing about me” the next time I’m given uncomfortable feedback, it might be more helpful to take a pause and ask if there is anything in that that feels honest, familiar, and something I can grow from. Become a better person. A stronger person. A clearer person.

So instead of shutting the person out with my spiritual arrogance, pointing out their projection while refusing to take it in, much less personally, I can sit with it awhile. Just maybe, one day return to them and thank them for the key that helped me drop another layer of my defendedness against my true nature – taking me one more step toward that perfection underneath my foibles.

I am still writing about murder, and will continue to as long as it’s the topic in my life demanding my attention. My sister’s murderer was just granted an appeal on ineffective counsel, and I will be writing about how we are responding to that as a family. And of course my book. It’s my path and standing up to a judgmental question about it has made me stronger, and more able to confront it. So, I suppose, for that I can thank that person for asking her ignorant question. For making me braver and able to write this very essay. Standing stronger in my brilliant life with all of its dark pockets, unapologetically mine.




Waaahoooo!  This morning I received news that the first ever article I’ve submitted for publication anywhere, well, beyond my blogs, was accepted!  I won’t reveal much about it because I want to wait for the big reveal but I will tell you it’s about a subject I’m intimately acquainted with and I think my piece is both funny and enlightening.


The online magazine I submitted it to is called Elephant Journal.  I read them all the time linked on Facebook and find everything they put out well done and consistent with my vibe.

Check them out here. 

This is an excerpt from the email response I got this morning:

Thank you for your submission to elephant journal! Yessssss this is so important!! I fall into the category that ….., but I love your suggestions and creativity! Is it definitely okay with your man that you publish this? 

It’s official: your words have somehow inspired our hearts and we’re accepting your piece for publication.

I bleeped out some of it only because it kind of gives the subject away a little bit and I want it to remain a surprise.  But yes, it does reference “my man”.  And yes he’s totally ok with me publishing it.


It is so amazing to be with a man who is so supportive like John is.  He was yelling over the voice mail when I told him they’d accepted it I had to turn down the volume he was so excited.  Seeing he is a fellow writer I know how special this is — that not only he appreciates me but that he has zero competitiveness with me.  He’s just purely psyched this is happening!


It was an interesting process getting to this stage with EJ as well.  I pitched it a couple of weeks ago and they sent it back indicating I needed to give it a more “mindful angle”.  I sat there looking at that phrase thinking “I really have no idea what that means” as directed at my piece which I thought was pretty “mindful”.  I asked for clarification and got a quick response back that made my little ego rise up a bit in a hmph position thinking I knew better than they did about my writing.


Then I went in and gave two back to back treatments and my little inner temper tantrum had subsided and I realized “hey I like this journal and who do I think I am knowing what’s better for them than they do?”.  I put my inner brat to rest and set about editing it, fired it back in and within 10 minutes of hitting send they enthusiastically accepted it.

It’s about the journey people..the learning along the way.


I’ve already got an idea for my next piece but this one I want to co-write with my man.  He’s on board so maybe we will work on it when we are together for two weeks starting one week from today!  yay!

Stay tuned…my piece should go live in a week or so.  And you’ll be the first to know.





I just arrived home last night and am already planning my return to the great Northwest.

You know, sometimes in life you are offered an opportunity that you’d be foolish not to just grab with full gusto.  When the stars have aligned so clearly you’d have to be completely blind not to see where you’re being directed.  When an idea is beating so hard at the inside of your brain you can barely keep up.


I went to Edmonds this trip for many reasons, not the least of which was to check out this studio I stayed in to see if I could be comfortable there for an extended stay to write my book.  I mean to focus exclusively, my entire life focus, on writing.  The conditions are very important to me and although I have options right here in AZ, there is something about that area that just ignites a fire in my creative whatevers.  Maybe it’s also just far enough away geographically to allow me the space to dive in to those dark memories I’m going to need to relive in order to write them.  It’s not easy.

Nothing is familiar to me there, in a good way.


I fell in love with the charming studio I stayed in.  It was just perfect in every way and the owner told me they are remodeling the bathroom later this month so that will make it even more perfect!  The decor is very much like my home–shabby chic meets IKEA.  Clean and cozy.  It will be the perfect place for me to expand my mind and dive in to get my memories on paper.  I wrote and wrote while I was there.  I can totally see me sitting there looking out at that expansive view, even on grey foggy days–or more especially on those days–and flowing with the voices as they come.


literally my view

It also hit me that if I’m serious about getting a puppy (and I am), I must seize this opportunity NOW for several reasons.  This studio, understandably doesn’t allow pets.  And I won’t really be traveling for awhile without my puppy once I get him.  Plus I imagine my attention will be pretty significantly taken elsewhere. 😉  So clearly I have to do this before that big life change happens.  I also realized that it makes sense for me to drive to Seattle next time in order to have my car and pack more stuff and guess what?  The breeder would be right on my way home.


If timing serves me well, I can go up there in January for several weeks then drive back and pick up my puppy on the way home.  It’s all just a little too perfect but I could use some order in my life that unfolds in perfection like that.  In fact, it’s a familiar style of living for me if I just listen and allow it.


My father will be in Arizona with John during January so I won’t be worried about him.  By then his life should be solidly shifted in to the new communities he’s getting involved with and he’s pretty well plugged in to a variety of support systems now and quite stable, thankfully.  That’s huge and something I never take for granted with all we’ve been through.


I have so much clarity about my book now that I didn’t have before.  I am making a goal to get most of a chapter completed each day I’m there (I mean when ALL you have to do in a day is think and write, this is doable, to me).  Then the hard part will come after I’ve gotten home which is editing and organizing it all.  I plan to join a writing group for help with that– for as long as it takes.



I really do feel like I have a strong story to tell.  As one of the presenters in the conference said to me “most people aren’t really kidnapped by Somali pirates who write memoirs but you were”.



I have a working title that I’m not ready to share yet.  It’s a basic guiding inspiration though.

I will just say this.  Once you start committing to writing something, the reasons you are telling the story start coming in, if you listen.



How many people have you met that grew up as a middle child, ended up with Missing Person’s reports on both of their flanking siblings–one lost to homicide, one to mental illness?  And that is just part of it.  Who lives to tell that story with a happy ending of sorts?

That’s my story and I’m ready to tell it.  And the time is now.

I have the means, opportunity, freedom and everything else and I’d be an utter blind and deaf person to not know this and seize it.


I’m looking at my calendar right now and blocking out the time.

Let me remind you.  I am not a professional writer.  I am a person with a dream, a story and some very basic skills.  And I’m still going for it.

What is knocking at your heart waiting to be answered and acted upon?

You know.