Dear Neil

Dear Neil Stuart,

I miss you. So many people do. It’s the 9th anniversary of you leaving us. Whether you knew it or not, you were my biggest inspiration as a writer. You just did what you love. Pure and simple as that. And today, I write and do what I love because of you.

It’s not weird that I had a terrible day because this is a terrible day. But it was pretty weird that when I opened my drawer, I found the shirt your wife, Joen, gave me. I put it on immediately.

Thank you, you brilliant man.

Here are some of my favorites from you. Take a listen!

“6th Avenue Heartache”

“Triumphs and Trainwrecks”

If You Haven’t Seen Me Lately…

…then you haven’t seen me.

That’s how you have to think about yourself. Constantly reinventing.

Okay, so you’re not Madonna. But you do have new challenges and new constraints to work with everyday. So, it’s important that you see yourself in a new way when you can. And more than that, you should be believing that you can do it.

It could be anything — new clothes, a new haircut, anything! Any time you can re-evaluate who you are and what your new limits can be then you can start fresh. You can fall in love with yourself for the first time or for the first time in awhile.

So, take opportunities to reinvent yourself seriously. It’ll affect how you see yourself and how others see you. After all, you never know who you can be until you try.

Is This It?

To all of you are saying, is this it?

Is this all the friends I’ll make? Is this all the money I’ll make? Is this all the life I’ll live?

You have to seek out opportunity. You can’t ask, “is this it?” “is this all the taxes I’ll pay?” You have to find other people finding your dream. And if that doesn’t work, you have to keep going.

It doesn’t matter how far you go, it’s how many lives you can pack in your life. And if you can’t go any further, it’s the times you find yourself saying, “I can do more.”

So,  do  more. Do much more. And if you find yourself at the end of your rope, do a little more.

Because no one knows what you’re capable of.





I look at humanity this way:

Every day, we wake up cold. With a cold that seeps down in our bones and settles there. No morning shower can take it away. Not breakfast. Not exercise.

Then someone smiles at us. Asks us how we are. Gives up their seat on the train into work for us. And we thaw a little bit.

This happens all day until we get home, and we talk about our day with our loved ones, and we eat dinner, and we go to sleep – and we’re warm throughout. Until the night steals away our warmth, and we wake up cold again.

We can use anything as fuel. As long as it’s from another person. A compliment can warm us for weeks. An inspirational quote can stave off the cold for awhile. And a hug from a friend or a loved one will always do the trick.

It doesn’t matter what keeps you warm, as long as you seek to fend off the cold.

So, be someone else’s warmth. I doubt you’ll stay cold after it.

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

How many people a day ask you how you are? And how do you respond? Good? Fine? And how do you want to respond? Terrible? Could have been worse? But you appreciate them asking, right? Because it’s polite and it gives you a second to wonder how you really are.

And do you ask yourself how you’re doing? I know, I know; talking to yourself is frowned upon. But checking in with yourself is a good idea.

I did so today. I asked myself, “am I good?” and my body went through an inventory of check-ins: I’m fed, I’m watered, I have work to do, I seem to be happy. And a warm spread of happiness flowed through me. And I went on with my day.

Try it. See if you can sink inside yourself and ask, “Am I okay?” and you’ll find that you are or you’re not, most generally. And then you can continue or try to fix it. And it only takes a moment.

So, try to take stock of yourself when you’re the busiest and when you’re the most stressed out. You might find that even though you outwardly feel pressure, your insides might be at peace. And who knows, when you feel your worse, you might be performing at your best.


Everyone talks about the trials of “adulting.” Making phone calls you don’t want to make to people you don’t want to see. And paying your taxes. And doing stuff for your car, like getting the oil changed. Or better yet, going to the DMV. My patience is gone just thinking about that place.

So, what about the opposite? What about kidding? Because surely that’s got to be the opposite of adulting.

Who has time to be a kid anymore? Who has time to “kid” around?

I do. And so do you.

There’s a bunch of studies out there that I don’t have time to quote right now that say you should be PLAYING at least once a day. It was good for us as children, why would it be any different as an adult? You’re just one large baby after all. You have all the same needs, why do your wants have to be different?

So, take time to do some kidding. Personally, I’m planning on spending some time with my adult coloring books. How will you be kidding?


Under Construction

Everything is under construction. My office, the bridge I walk over to take to work, and the building I work in.

Which, in some ways, can be really inconvenient.

Like for instance, the bridge I walk over to take to work. It’ll be out for a year. So, in the meantime, I have to walk around the bridge to get to the same place, adding about 5 extra minutes to my walk.

But before you think all I do is complain, I’d like to remind you that things being under construction can be a blessing in disguise. Sometimes, it gives you a completely new way of looking at things. For example, that extra 5 minutes now gives me a little more exercise that I wouldn’t have had if that bridge had remained open.

So, when you see that caution tape appear on your way down the street, don’t be negative. Instead, think of what fresh perspective you could be having by walking by it.

And if you’re also like me and feel like your whole life is under construction, just remember: you’re the engineer and despite delays and setbacks, you will finish this project.


I don’t know if I have any international readers, but if I do, here’s a quick peek into the American healthcare system.

  • Need pills
  • Go to doctor
  • Doctor prescribes pills
  • Sends script to pharmacy
  • Pharmacy calls you
  • Go to pharmacy
  • No pills
  • Call doctor
  • Doctor calls pharmacy
  • Pharmacy calls you
  • Go back to pharmacy
  • Gets pills
  • Takes pills
  • Repeat next refill

And for people like me who need medications to generally live their life, it’s really critical that I get my pills refilled on time.

So, tonight, I’d like to celebrate a wonderful, small moment in my day, where my pills get refilled. There’s truly nothing like tipping over the pill bottle and feeling all those little lifelines puddle in your hand. And not to mention the feeling that you don’t have to go through the rigmarole of calling your doctor so that she can call your pharmacy and your pharmacy can call you. For introverts like me, the less time on the phone making complicated requests, the better.

And no, I’m not a drug addict. I take thyroid medication that I am indebted to because without it, I’d be a cranky, exhausted shell of a person. So, yes, it is really important that I get my pills on time, and it’s nice to celebrate something so little about your day.

So, whatever you take your pills for,  raise the bottles and shake them like maracas. That’s the sound of you living your best life.


Week’s End

TGIF, am I right?

It’s been a long week for everyone after the holidays, no matter how much you like your job (and I do!)

But just looking forward to the weekend is not the smartest plan either. It’s short, only two days essentially, and it’s usually packed with a million errands to run or chores to complete. It’s hard to get totally excited about the weekend either.

So, how about an alternative? Why don’t we just celebrate Friday, the week’s end instead of the weekend?

Friday is great. In the 90’s, it meant a special lineup of TV (like Sabrina the Teenage Witch) and eating pizza (even though I can’t do that anymore). It’s productive – you still have to get through a day at work, but the night is yours and it’s young when you get home because you have Saturday to bounce back on. Friday is swollen with opportunity and potential.

So tomorrow, squeeze the most out of your Friday, the week’s end. You know, before the weekend kicks in.

The Girl Who Loved Alan Rickman

Back in the day, I used to have a job at Barnes and Noble.

It was my dream job – working with books, and getting to recommend my favorites to others.

At least, it was until they stuck me back in the music and DVDs section.

Back there, I mostly kept to myself. My job was to organize the DVDs and CDs and stock them on Tuesdays. And once in awhile, a customer would come in and ask for a particular DVD and I’d personally escort them to it, to which they would reply: “Oh, it’s cheaper on Amazon.”

A glamorous life, for sure.

But one day, when I was lamenting my lot not being able to be out with the book people, a girl about my age came up to my counter. She had dark hair and red lipstick. And she asked a very simple question.

“Can you look up a specific actor in your database and tell me what movies he’s been in?”

I wasn’t sure the system worked like that but I was willing to give it a try. And sure enough, it did.

“Who are you looking for?” I asked.

And she said, “Alan Rickman.”

Well, I started to rattle off many a name. Too many to count, too many to remember. I started with the most obvious, like Harry Potter and Die Hard, and went to the less obvious like Dogma and Sweeney Todd.

To all of the ones I suggested, she said:

“Yup, seen that one.”

“Yup, own that.”

“Yup, loved that.”

And so, I started to get frustrated with this girl. Why was she asking me when she’d already seen them? As I continued to recite the movies with a modicum of boredom in my voice, I finally reached the end of the fifth page of movies, and said, “there’s no more.”

Thrilled to finally be rid of her, I looked to her and saw a bright smile on her face that stopped me from anything I would have said to her.

“That’s okay,” she said, “I guess I’ve just seen them all.”

And she floated away, like a bubble.

So, why do I still think about this experience? Sadly, Alan Rickman has since died, and I did think about her on that day and wonder if she was devastated, somewhere.

But the real reason I remember her is because I could tell, from our infinitesimal interaction, that she was a passionate person. She would stop at nothing to make sure that she had experienced and lived Alan Rickman’s work. She was willing to reveal her almost obsessive passion to a complete stranger, just so that she could make sure she’d seen it all.

I, too, want that passion. I want to scare people with how passionate I am about something. I want to be the girl who loved Alan Rickman.

I hope I find that passion some day. And I hope you do too. But mostly, I hope you’re not afraid to ask the bored counter girl about it, just in case there’s something you might have missed.