2018: Year in Review

As 2018 comes to a close, I thought I’d post my year in review. I cannot believe how quickly the year flew by, although every year seems to pass quicker than the last. It’s scary, yet it doesn’t stop me from constantly looking forward to something in the future rather than making sure to appreciate each day as it comes. Alas, that is a subject for another blog post!

This year came with a lot of changes. For one, my diet changed significantly since I was unofficially diagnosed with IBS at the end of last year. For the most part, I’ve given up wheat flour, high fructose corn syrup, and lactose and all the foods and beverages that contain them. There are a lot of them! I’ve learned how much and how often my system can handle certain ingredients and how to portion control to avoid an outbreak of symptoms. It’s been a challenge but for the most part, I feel SO much better than I did this time last year. The constant full/bloated feeling has subsided by about 80%. Going out to eat (and sharing appetizers) is trickier, but my friends and family have been so supportive in this regard!

I broke ties with the group of women I’d socialized with most often over the last few years. I have a lot of other close friends but since most of them aren’t local, my social life took a bit of a beating. To be honest, I was 100% okay with that. Because of the faith/love/support shown to me by my other friends, and knowing they were a phone call away and always had my back, I didn’t mind losing the company of women who no longer provided that level of friendship or wanted it from me. I still feel a pang of hurt over the way things went down, mostly because my argument was with only one woman and yet I somehow became persona non grata to several more. I shrug it off because I obviously overestimated the strength of the other relationships and you can’t miss what you never really had. I am happier now and more comfortable and confident in my social circles than I’ve been in a long time. I also have a greater appreciation of the ease of friendship I share with my other pals—some for two decades—and the freedom to be myself.

I made significant progress in my writing this year. My seventh romantic comedy was published in April and I completed another one, including rounds and rounds (and rounds) of revisions and edits from outside critique partners and beta readers. Until now, I’ve had publishing contracts in advance of completing a book and set release dates. That is not the case for my newest novel. I don’t know when it will be published because I’m seeking a different path this time around and it might take a very long time. In the meantime, I’ve started plotting out my next book and can’t wait to lose myself in another fictional world.

I attended three writer’s conferences this year, both to hone my craft and network. I became more involved in my local writing community and spent more time attending (and participating in) book signings and readings, and dining with other authors/bloggers/publishing professionals.

According to Goodreads, I’ve read 100 books so far this year! Favorites include One Day in December by Josie Silver, The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine, Limelight by Amy Poepell, On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Ried.

I’m dating here and there, but there is nothing monumental to report on that front as of now 😊

Thanks to AncestryDNA, I connected with a cousin I never knew I had. Her great grandmother and my grandfather (on my father’s side) were sister and brother. The discovery had me shedding happy, sappy tears! We’re going to meet for dinner after the new year.

I’m still at the day job and happy to report that there is nothing to report there: I still have a job, a steady pay check, health insurance, and a 401k. Yay!

I don’t take the good health of my parents and other close relatives for granted and I’m happy to say that everyone is doing well.

With 16 days left on the calendar, that is my year in review for 2018 so far. Best wishes to you all for a merry and healthy holiday season.

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Build me up Buttercup

Every so often, I get down on myself and I vow to be more positive, accepting, and appreciative of who I am. I considered writing down the qualities I like about myself, much like people jot down “grateful” lists. And then I decided to not only write the list, but to post it as a blog. So, here I go: Some things I like about myself:

I never completely lose hope. Even when things are going wrong—in the world, with my books, in my love life, with friends—I’ve never yet reached a point where I feel completely hopeless. I’m a bit like Little Orphan Annie in that I know things might royally suck today, but “the sun will come out tomorrow.” If I’m wrong, at least my “glass-is-half-full” outlook got me through the day.

When I love someone, I really, really love that person. I’ll admit that while I *like* a lot of people, the list of individuals I love is smaller, but I would do anything for them. I think it’s just as wonderful a feeling to truly care about someone as it is to know someone truly cares about you. (Of course, this does not include toxic, abusive, or otherwise “unbalanced” relationships.)

I am willing to work really hard for what I want. That’s not to say I don’t accept help when it’s offered (or ask for it), but I’d rather do the heavy lifting to make my dreams come true, even if it’s painful and tests my patience, than accept something less than what I want because the journey is easier or will take less time. (Someone please remind me of this in the coming months as it relates to my next book being published…)

I’m funny. I’m not Tiny Fey stand-up-comedienne funny, but my particular brand of sense of humor is appreciated by many. (And it helps with my writing.)

I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong and own up to my mistakes. I can apologize. Think about the people in your life. I bet you can find at least a couple who never say they’re sorry or even acknowledge their role in anything negative. I’d rather be wrong and admit it than always think I’m right. And by admitting when you’re wrong, you learn about the other person—how willing they are to forgive or meet you halfway.

I don’t take my loved ones for granted. I’m not sure I was always this way, but losing someone I loved more than just about anything or anyone else in the world opened my eyes to how quickly things can change.

I know when to let go. I tend to hold onto things for a long time because of the aforementioned “glass-is-half-full” mentality. Because of this, I’ve stayed in relationships (platonic and romantic) for too long because I gave someone the benefit of the doubt or assumed things would get better. But I have a threshold and once it’s met and I realize things are shitty and not likely to change, I acknowledge that I deserve better and I move on without looking back (much). On the one hand, I wish it didn’t take me quite so long to reach my limit, but on the flip side, I never want to get to a point where I’m easily able to turn my back on someone I once cared about without even trying to resolve our issues.

I possess the ability to forgive. People, even really great ones, screw up sometimes. It’s not a matter of “if,” it’s a matter of “when.” I don’t believe in unconditional forgiveness, as there are some things that are unforgivable, but I’ve found that I am a happier and healthier person when I don’t hold onto my anger. This is especially true if a person has expressed sincere remorse, but it’s also possible to forgive someone in your heart without them even knowing.

I’m easy to please. Just treat me kindly, show me you appreciate and accept me, listen when I speak, make me laugh, laugh with me (and at me in a kindly manner), allow me to respectfully disagree with you sometimes, have my back, and trust I have yours, and we’re good.

I’m not a follower. I try to form my own opinions about people rather than blindly take someone else’s word for it. I try to understand that a person’s negative feelings about another is based on their own experience with said person and that there are three sides to every story—person A, person B, and the objective truth.

I prefer understanding and kindness over making fun of others for entertainment value.

I’m a work-in-progress. I embrace learning and becoming a better person.

Well, that’s all for now. If you know and like me, feel free to comment about how great I am! Kidding! But, if you’d like, share any qualities you appreciate in yourself in the comments.

Idle October

I sent my latest book to three beta readers this weekend after already doing a heavy round of edits with a critique partner. There’s nothing left for me to do right now besides wait—something I’m not very good at.  I asked my beta readers to try to get the book back to me by the end of month, but if I have to wait longer, I will. Honest, thorough, constructive criticism from trusted and unbiased third parties is critical to me for crafting a tight, well-paced, engaging, and sell-able book, so my self-imposed deadline is flexible. With the book temporarily out of my hands, October is kind of open for me, and I’m not one to remain idle for too long. I’m doing a manuscript critique for a new client (learn about my editing services here), I’ll work on my next book, and I suppose I’ll relax.  What? I know. Crazy, right?

I’ve decided to say yes to all social invitations (within reason), when I often think twice to make sure I leave room for writing. I’ll reach out to friends I haven’t seen in a while. I’ll probably give online dating another try, although I truly hate how casual the exercise has become and don’t have high hopes. Does anyone know an available, intelligent, funny, kind, attractive man around 39-53 so I don’t have to join Ok Cupid or Plenty of Fish? Anyone? I didn’t think so.

On a bright note, I’ll be a featured author at Saugatuck Storyfest, a three-day celebration of writing taking place from October 12th-14th, and organized by the Westport Library and the Westport Public Schools. If you’re local and around that Sunday morning, join me at Staples High School for an author breakfast. It’s general admission with no advanced ticketing required. I’ll be joined by authors Jamie Brenner, Marilyn Simon Rothstein, Fiona Davis, Lynda Loigman Cohen and more. We’ll be discussing our writing process, what’s new in our respective genres, authors who’ve inspired us, and what we are reading now. I would love to see you there!

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That’s all for me for today, but I’m also hoping to be more active on the blog this month.

Famous last words

Win a bundle of RomCom books!

Today, I have a fun surprise that I’d like to share with you.

I’ve teamed up with 15+ fantastic authors to give away a huge collection of Romantic Comedy & Chick Lit novels to 2 lucky winners, PLUS a brand new eReader to the Grand Prize winner!

You can win my novel  THE BOYFRIEND SWAP, plus books from authors like Melissa Baldwin and Whitney Dineen — just by following me and other great Romantic Comedy & Chick Lit authors on BookBub!

Enter the giveaway by clicking here: http://bit.ly/romcomchicklit-aug18

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Good luck and enjoy!

Weekly (er, Monthly) update

Remember that blog post I wrote a couple months back where I promised to blog much more often? Yes, that one. You’ve probably realized by now that I lied. I really tried, but time (and life) got away from me and a weekly blog post slipped through my fingers like sand from the beach vacation I haven’t taken yet this year.

You might be wondering what’s been keeping me so busy that I reneged on my promise to blog. No? Well, too bad because I’m going to tell you everything anyway! Well, maybe not everything

I spent a week in Denver in mid-July. I stayed at my oldest sister’s house for the first few days. One-on-one time with my big sis was my biggest priority and we accomplished it. As a family, we day-tripped to Red Rocks Arena. The altitude is no joke. I run approximately twenty miles a week and I was breathless after only a few steps! I went on a mini-hike with my sister and youngest niece. And my sister was shocked to learn I’d never seen the Ocean’s series, so we watched Ocean’s 11 and Oceans 12 in one sitting. A moment of silence for George Clooney. I also managed to write at least 1000 words of my new novel from her back porch while the rest of the family was at work/camp. Since I wasn’t expecting to write at all, it was a win!

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Sisters 1 and 3 at Red Rock. (There are three of us)

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Is this beautiful or what?

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A rare solo photo

After three days with the fam, I headed downtown for the Romance Writers of America Conference (RWA). It was the first time I’ve attended the conference and I was a hot ball of nerves! But I’m so glad I went! I reunited with online author friends I hadn’t seen in person in years (or ever), attended fabulous sessions on craft and marketing, and met with industry professionals, including agents and editors. One of my favorite sessions was The Writer’s Guide to Getting it All Done. Balancing my writing career with a full-time job and a personal life is a challenge, and the speaker, Sarra Cannon, provided so many amazing tips on how to prioritize tasks based on your ultimate writing goals. I’d never really visualized my dream writing career, and doing so helped me figure out what activities to focus on or toss aside depending on whether they would bring me closer to accomplishing my goal. I’m also a fan of Sarra’s young adult series, The Shadow Demons. I picked up the first one when it was free on Amazon and got so sucked in that I read the entire series!

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Dinner with my fellow authors from Chick Lit Chat

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From left to right, Kathryn Biel, Melissa Baldwin, Becky Monson, Stacey Wiedower, Kate O’Keefe, and me 🙂

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The gang from Chick Lit Chat again.

One of the highlights of the conference was meeting my writing idol, Kristan Higgins. She was moderating an early (very early…) writing sprint with another one of my faves, Tawna Fenske, and I couldn’t resist having them both in the same room at the same time! After the sprint, and approximately three hundred new words later, I summoned the courage to introduce myself to Kristan. I told her she’s not only one of my favorite authors, but she inspires me to be better. It’s true. I purposely read a Kristan Higgins’ book when I need a swift kick in the butt to up the humor, conflict, and swoon-worthy moments in my own work-in-progress. She seemed genuinely touched by the comment and hugged me. Kristan Higgins HUGGED me!!!

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That’s also my author friend (and amazing RWA roommie), Stacey Wiedower!

I returned from the trip incredibly motivated and anxious to continue working on my new book. It’s a romantic comedy for fans of Sally Thorne and (you guessed it) Kristan Higgins.  Hopefully, fans of Meredith Schorr will like it, too! That’s all I’m going to say about it right now…

I’ve also been busy with the day job, but nobody wants to hear about that!

Now that I’ve caught you up, it’s time to get my butt back in the seat…of my new writing desk. Check it out!

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Until next time (hopefully next week, but no promises)

XOXO

I will never stop.

Today marks the four-year anniversary of the day I lost my best friend, Alan, to cancer.

July has been hard for me since he’s been gone. The long Fourth of July weekend has become less about day drinking and fireworks than it is a reminder of the day I spent getting drunk with a friend at the Seaport blissfully ignorant to the fact that Alan was on his death bed and I’d never see or speak to him again. During this month, the anger returns (why him?), the memories are more vivid, the sadness deeper.

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There are people I can talk to freely about this—others who loved Alan, folks who have also lost someone they truly loved and “get” it, and people who simply love me and hurt when I hurt.

Still, there are others who probably don’t get it. People who change the subject each time I bring up his name, as if the fact that I still miss the man after four years means something is wrong with me. Maybe they think there is a timeline for grieving and I’ve surpassed it; that our friendship had its time and should be put to rest like he was.

I don’t think these people mean me any harm, but it’s something I simply cannot do. I will always remember Alan as someone who truly made my life better. I will recall the day he died as one of the worst days of my life. (THE worst so far, if I’m being honest.) I will forever wonder what he’d say/do/think about the things I say/do/think. I’ll never stop laughing when I think of an inside joke we shared. I’ll never stop thinking of him whenever the clock says 10:27 (his birthday).  I will forever include him in the acknowledgements of my books. I will keep changing my profile picture on his birthday and the anniversary of his death. I will cry every July 8th and October 27th and whenever I watch The Long Island Medium or the subject of Leukemia comes up. I will never EVER forget him, stop cherishing the role he had in my life, or cease finding reasons to mention him in conversation. It’s my way of keeping him alive.

If you don’t like it, my advice to you: get ear plugs.

The Paris Theater

If you’ve read my books, you’ve probably noticed that there’s at least one reference to Sex and the City in most of them. It’s not a “thing” I do or even a conscious decision. I think it’s because the majority of my heroines have been single New Yorkers. Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha are iconic single New Yorkers who experienced quite the dating life. They also exchanged some of the wittiest banter on television, in my opinion.

When my friend, Lily, asked if I wanted to see The Seagull at The Paris Theater with a couple of her friends, I initially said yes because I was impressed with the cast, including Annette Benning, Elizabeth Moss, Brian Dennehy, and Michael Zegen (from my favorite show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime). Then she reminded me that, in one episode of SATC, Carrie went to The Paris Theater and mused that “the most amazing thing about living in a city like New York is that any night of the week you can go to Paris.” After living in Manhattan for more than fifteen years, I’ve made it to many of the venues frequented in the show, by not The Paris Theater. I was in!

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So, this past weekend, four of us (Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha, and Miranda—kidding!) met for a quick dinner at the food court in the Plaza Hotel, followed by a trip to the Eloise store, before heading over to the theater for the movie. We sat in the first row of the balcony. It would have been very romantic if we were on a date, but we weren’t so…we just enjoyed our popcorn (or I enjoyed mine, since I was the only one incapable of sitting through a movie sans popcorn despite having just eaten a delicious gluten-free lobster roll and a bag of chips.)

About the movie: It was very well acted, very humorous at times, but not at all uplifting, which is fine. The books I write need happily-ever-afters, but not necessarily the films I watch. I especially enjoyed that one of the main characters was a novelist. Here is a snippet from his monologue about the “curse” of being a novelist:

Day and night I am held in the grip of one besetting thought, to write, write, write! Hardly have I finished one book than something urges me to write another, and then a third, and then a fourth–I write ceaselessly. I am, as it were, on a treadmill. I hurry forever from one story to another, and can’t help myself.

Boy, could I relate!

About the theater: In the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen quite a few movies in big multiplex theaters where the seats recline, but I’ll take the glamorous, old-school, single-screen theater of The Paris Theater any day of the week. And the cool spiral staircase that led from the lobby to the balcony was pretty cool too! Although I didn’t really feel like I was in Paris, I felt a special fondness for New York City, Sex and the City, and my own fabulous girlfriends.

I wish I’d had the forethought to take more pictures. But if you’re a New Yorker or just visiting and want to channel your inner Carrie Bradshaw, or simply escape the masses of the AMCs and Loews of the island, definitely check out The Plaza Theater!

 

worry wart

I had a ninety-minute full-body massage on Saturday. It was wonderful, but it took me a little while to fully relax. Until that happened (probably around the forty-five minute mark…) my mind wandered.

I thought about the lunch and drinks I’d have with my friend after the massage. I thought about the hair cut I had scheduled for the following day. I thought about my next date with a guy I’d met recently. I thought about an ex-friend who’d betrayed me. I thought about my novel in progress. I thought about the new Facebook ad I’d created for an existing book.

And then it occurred to me that with almost all of these thoughts came worry, stress, and fear. What if the menu didn’t have anything I could eat on my restricted diet? What if things didn’t go well with the guy? What if my new book wasn’t good? Why weren’t more readers buying my existing books? For as long as it took me to finally grasp mindfulness and give into the pleasurable pressure of the massage, I was as tense as senators at a U.S. congressional meeting.

Fear and worry have always been my Achilles heel. For the most part, I muddle through, but other times, it’s a small itch I scratch until it becomes a festering sore. Sometimes it keeps me up at night. Occasionally, it affects how I communicate with others, and causes me to do or not do things I regret later. Over the last week, I’ve been attacked by worry from more angles than I can handle. My stomach has been in constant knots and it’s making it hard to enjoy myself in the moment.

Before he passed away, my friend Alan hated when I’d get this way, and he’d talk me off the ledge. I have another friend who is pretty awesome at it too, but the truth is, no one can “heal” me except myself. When I mentally talk myself down, it helps temporarily, but then I forget what I said to myself.

As an experiment, I decided to talk myself down in writing so I could read it again as needed. I wrote down each issue currently worrying me followed by a list of arguments against it—why I was being irrational. I also wrote down the worst-case-scenario—if what I worried about came to fruition, what was the worst thing that would happen as a result? (This helped me put it into perspective) Finally, I jotted down a logical thought process for handling it in the moment—if this happens, don’t forget about this, that, and the other thing. I found it really helped for at least one fear I was stressing over!

Everyone has different ways of dealing with their demons. I’m a constant work-in-progress. For other worry warts out there, care to share your tricks?

My thoughts on Book Club

I saw Book Club this weekend. As a writer and a voracious reader, a movie about a book club is immediately appealing to me. Throw in some of my favorite actresses, like Diane Keaton and Jane Fonda, and no additional incentive is required. That being said, I do have my own issues with aging, especially the discrepancy between how an aging woman is treated versus a man. I worried about how the women in this movie would be betrayed, and if it would trigger my own fears about aging.

 So, what did I think about the movie?

In a nutshell, I loved almost every part of it. I smiled, I laughed out loud, I choked up, I applauded, I swooned. I’m a big fan of romantic comedies with happily-ever-after endings. The fact that the couples in this movie were at least twenty years older than me had no bearing on my feelings. Here’s why.

The friendship shared by the four women was supportive, hilarious, and honest, akin to Sex and the City. They teased each other endlessly, but they had each other’s backs. The personalities were somewhat clichéd (there was the “promiscuous” one (Fonda), the “prude,” (Bergen) and the idealist (Steenburgen). There were jabs about one of the male leads needing Viagra and one of the female characters having plastic surgery. None of this bothered me because the characters were developed beyond these stereotypes. And, the truth is, many men of a certain age do take the little blue pill and many women of a certain age (and even millennials) get plastic surgery! And while erectile function was an issue for one of the couples, the other romantic story lines developed like any other romance. I’m a fan of grand gestures in romantic comedies and this movie had them in spades, and it was wonderful.

 As I watched the film, it occurred to me that the women could have been any age and have almost the same conversations. In nearly every group of friends, there’s someone who is afraid of getting hurt, not happy with her body, holding a grudge against a family member etc. Women of all ages commiserate over bottles of wine and seek guidance on what to wear on a special occasion. I liked that these women were portrayed as vulnerable despite being old enough to qualify for Medicare. With each decade of my life, I become less obsessed with what others think of me, but at the heart of it, I’m still made of flesh and blood and can’t imagine a time when I won’t seek some sort of reassurance/validation/advice from friends, even over things some might consider frivolous or immature.

 The female characters were successful women. One was a Federal judge, another owned a hotel, and another was a well-known chef. Yet they still craved romance and attention from the opposite sex. What’s so wrong with that? I’m tired of watching television and movies where it’s the woman who loses interest in sex and not the man. Or the divorced man or widower gets right back in the dating scene, usually with a younger woman, and the divorced woman (or widow) focuses only on her career or her children. Why can’t she have both? I don’t think women lose their power because they want romantic love. I haven’t read many of the reviews, but I’m sure there are some who think the movie is anti-feminist because it focuses on women needing a man. I didn’t get that vibe at all. All four women had proven that they were completely capable of taking care of themselves. Admitting that they wanted sexual companionship and romantic love doesn’t change that.

 I had small issues with the film, for instance, I wished Keaton’s character had more of a spine a little earlier with respect to her children, but I walked out of the theater with a smile on my face and the warm and fuzzies in my belly.

Fun facts: One of Candace Bergen’s online dates played her love interest in the last season of Sex and the City. My friend also pointed out that Don Johnson, one of the male leads, is the real father of Dakota Johnson, who plays Anastasia Steele in the movie version of Fifty Shades of Grey, the book they’re reading.

Come on, get happy

Back in the olden days, like 2015, I wrote a blog post almost every week. Then my life—my publishing life—became too chaotic to maintain that frequency. I was busy writing, editing, promoting, and releasing—wash, rinse, and repeat times seven—and blogging took a back seat.

For the first time in a while, I don’t have any writing deadlines, aside from the ones I self-impose. I’m busy writing my ninth book, but for now, that’s all I’m doing with it. I miss blogging, and so I’m focused on doing it more often—much more often. Not so frequently that you’ll see my name show up in your feeds and groan, “Not her again,” but enough that when a new post is sent to your email, you won’t think, “Meredith Schorr?” Who the bleep is Meredith Schorr?

Today, I wanted to talk happiness and what it means to be happy. I have many hopes and dreams, some of which will come true and others that won’t, but all I truly want is to be happy——not ten years from now, but today and in this moment. So, what makes me happy?

Feeling loved, whether in a romantic, platonic, maternal, or other type of way. I’m at my best when I’m with someone who 100% adores, accepts, and appreciates me for who I am. (Or at least 95%.)

Loving others. There are many people in this world who have filled my heart with loving feelings. Individuals for whom I wish so much good fortune, and whose needs I’d easily and eagerly put ahead of my own. The ability to love others is something we often take for granted, but we shouldn’t.

Waking up in the morning (or going to sleep at night) with something to look forward to.

Waking up in the morning (or going to sleep at night) with nothing to dread or stress over.

Looking in the mirror and feeling pretty. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of my reflection and I appear tired and frumpy, my hair frizzy from a rainy day or high percentage of humidity. Maybe I’m sporting a PMS zit on my forehead or my jeans do nothing for my butt. Sometimes, however (and not only when I’ve been drinking), my skin is glowing, my hair is smooth, my smile is bright, my legs are slim and toned, and I look…wait for it…happy!

Writing, especially when the ideas (and words) are flowing.

Catching up with a really good friend face-to-face.

Laughing because something is undeniably hilarious.

Hugging my mom.

When my nieces and nephews refer to me as, “Aunt Meri.”

Great reviews of my novels, or when someone gives a shout-out of one (or all) of my books on social media.

A sweaty workout complete with inspiring and uplifting music

When my late best friend, Alan, visits me in my dreams (he does!) or otherwise sends me signs that he’s still with me.

When my stomach feels almost as normal as it did before I was inflicted with IBS last summer.

Feeling understood, reassured, and validated. Perhaps we’re not supposed to seek these things from outside sources, but I do, and it makes me happy when someone listens to what I say, hears me, says she understands, and agrees with me. (I’m looking at you the most, Sammy!)

Going to bed on Friday night knowing I don’t have work the next day.

I could go on, and that, too, makes me happy. But what about you? What makes you happy on a daily basis? Whatever it is, I wish you oodles of it!