Tool For Tuesday: Looking For Fifty Shades of Grey

Sometimes we see the world as black or white. We want either all or nothing. We want things to go the way we think they’re supposed to, the way we’ve thought of them, according to the way we’ve planned for them to go in our own heads.

But there are fifty shades of grey. Fifty ways of looking at a situation. We can choose to how we look at things. We can decide not to say something that might sound smart and sharp but is actually nasty and undercutting. We can decide to focus on the upside of a situation and not always look at the downside. We can practice cognitive intervention on our own brains and divert our thoughts from the negative and find something, one thing, any one little thing, to make us think of the positive.

The other day, I found myself in China. (Yes, really.) I had signed up for a trek with one of my kids and the weather was so drizzly, gloomy and grey.

Take the road not taken, China April 2014

Take the road not taken, China April 2014

I could have chosen not to go but I reminded myself, there are fifty shades of grey.

I just have to look for them.

The mountains in China, about 4 hours outside of Shanghai

The mountains in China, about 4 hours outside of Shanghai

Life is full of surprises and we never know where we’ll find ourselves. Sometimes changing our life means changing our perceptions. We might expect to be somewhere, and find ourselves some place completely different. So we have to stay open to all opportunities and trust the journey.

Tool for Tuesday: There’s beauty even in the dismal. There are fifty shades of grey. What? I didn’t say that first? You mean it’s the title of a novel about S&M? Oops!


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Tatiana de Rosnay: On Writing Sarah’s Key, The Other Story, and Revealing Family Secrets

Tatiana de Rosnay

Tatiana de Rosnay

I’m delighted, honored and enchantée to host Tatiana de Rosnay, author of Sarah’s Key (which has been translated into 38 languages) and who will publish her latest novel, The Other Story, on April 15, 2014.

Diana: The Other Story, like Sarah’s Key, deals with revealing a disturbing secret. Can you tell us a little bit about your interest in personal and national mysteries?

Tatiana de Rosnay: I find family secrets to be incredibly romanesque and inspiring. There is indeed a secret in every single one of my books.  I am however aware of the suffering and pain that longtime secrets can cause when they are finally revealed.

Diana: You were born to a French father from Mauritius, and an English mother born in Rome, giving you a wealth of nationalities.  How has the confluence of countries impacted your writing and language?

Tatiana de Rosnay: It’s true to say that because of my mixed heritage and the fact that so many different nationalities are the background to my family, this has given me the advantage of an open-minded culture and being able to read and write in two languages from very early on.

Diana: You write in The Other Story about Nicolas, the main character, “needing to turn away from his own story to spin another tale.” Does that idea resonate with your own work?

Tatiana de Rosnay: Yes, I’m not the kind of writer who talks about myself directly, but I like to start with something personal and then make it into someone else’s story which is exactly the case in this book.

Diana: Can you tell us a bit about your writing style? What are some rules you follow for your writing? Do you write an outline? Did you know the end of your novel before you got there? And what are you working on now?

Tatiana de Rosnay: I have been writing fiction since I was 11 years old so I guess you can say writing is part of my life. I work every morning and sometimes later into the afternoon. I edit myself ruthlessly. I do write an outline but sometimes when I’m actually writing the book another idea comes to me. I do allow myself some freedom from my basic outline! I describe all this in The Other Story, as the main theme of the book is the exploration of the writing process and how different it is for each writer. I’m working on the biography of a writer I admire.

Diana: Finally, explores how to write your best chapter and also how to live your best chapter each day in the story of your life.  You have a family and I’d like to think you cook (or eat!) mouth-watering French food. What are some of the things you do to take care of yourself each day?

Tatiana de Rosnay: I hate to disappoint you, but my French blood does not make me into an excellent French cook, I’m afraid! However I do love my city, Paris, and walking along its streets and by the river Seine are one of my greatest pleasures. I love posting photos of Paris to my Instagram account:

Thank you so much, Tatiana de Rosnay!

You can find The Other Story as well as de Rosnay’s other novels wherever you buy books, including Barnes & Noble and amazon.

Thanks to all of you for reading. Please write and let us know when you get your copy of The Other Story and what you think!

This interview was conducted by Diana Bletter, author of The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women, and The Mom Who Took Off On Her Motorcycle, which you can order here.

Read my other interviews with authors Molly Antopol, Phyllis Chesler, Dara Horn, and Dora Mossanen Levy.




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Oscar Wilde: On Being Yourself.

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

I couldn’t pass this one up from Oscar Wilde:

“Be yourself: everyone else is already taken.”

Wilde could have written not only, The Importance of Being Earnest, but The Importance of Being You. And just think, he was jailed for his homosexuality. (Good thing he’s not in Iran today, where he might be hanged for that.)

Coming up soon! An exclusive interview with Tatiana de Rosnay, author of Sarah’s Key. Her latest novel, The Other Story, has just been published by St. Martin’s.

And if that quote still didn’t have you convinced, here’s another one of Wilde’s quotes: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”



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Tool For Tuesday Via Sheryl Sandberg: Ban Bossy.

Ban Bossy.

Ban Bossy.

 “When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a ‘leader.’ Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy.” Words like bossy send a message: don’t raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys—a trend that continues into adulthood. Together we can encourage girls to lead.”

Ban Bossy. That is the slogan of a new campaign and it’s a great message for all gals of all agesCheck out the great youtube video here starring Beyonce and Jane Lynch. The idea is part of LeanIn.Org, the nonprofit organization founded by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, to empower all women to achieve their ambitions and follow their dreams.

Tool for Tuesday: I’m not bossy. I’m the boss of my own life. Not anyone else’s but my own.

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Tool For Tuesday: How Do You Apologize To Someone Who’s Dead?

You can find some way to make amends to someone who's gone.

You can find some way to make amends to someone who’s gone.

What happens if you didn’t have the chance to say you’re sorry to someone who has died?

This happened to my friend, Lily. She never got along with her mother-in-law, Vivian. Vivian was—well, Vivian. A bit of a know-it-all, someone who always knew better than everyone around her about everything from architecture to zoology. Lily wasn’t sorry when Vivian died. But years later, upon quiet introspection, Lily realized she could have been nicer, warmer, and more accepting. Vivian was her teacher, really, because Lily began to see a little bit of Vivian in herself. Didn’t she judge other people, too? Didn’t she stray into criticism when she could be more accepting? Didn’t she offer advice when nobody had asked for it?

You know that expression: if you point your forefinger at someone else, three fingers are pointed back at you.

Lily wanted to make amends to Vivian for not treating her as respectfully as she could have. But Vivian was long gone. So here’s the question: How do you apologize to someone who is no longer around?

She asked the universe to help her find a way to make amends. Lily decided to put it out there and to be ready. She wanted to be extra nice to every Vivian she met. Not long after, Lily met a woman who lived down the street who turned out to be named…Vivian. (Don’t you love the way the cosmos arranges things?) Lily asked if Vivian needed help around the house and ended up shoveling her walkway and buying her groceries now and then.

This Vivian is not that Vivian, but Lily felt she still righted part of a wrongAnd Lily also said that from now on, she will make an effort to be less judgmental and more accepting of people who remind her of her mother-in-law. And she realized it hadn’t helped her marriage to complain to her husband about his mother. Who wants to hear it?

“I also learned not to wait to say I’m sorry or to make amends with people,” Lily told me the other day. “Because I don’t want to have to say again that I figured things out when it was too late.”

Tool For Tuesday: Unfinished business? It’s never too late to find some way to right wrongs. And don’t put off saying you’re sorry until tomorrow, because tomorrow might never come.

The spark for this post came from Marylin Warner‘s thought-provoking blog, “Things I Want to Tell My Mother,” here:


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Hermann Hesse: On Walking the Road to Reach Our True Selves & Nine Other Inspiring Quotes.


The blossoms on our orange tree. I wish I could also share the aroma. Divine.

The blossoms on our orange tree. I wish I could also share the aroma. Divine.

Each man’s life represents a road toward himself. —Herman Hesse

Here are nine other inspiring quotes for today to think about.

Practice forgiveness. First forgive yourself. Then forgive everyone else.

We each live with joys, sorrows, challenges, disappointments, fears, dashed hopes and regrets. Welcome to the human race!

Every day, we can ask, please show me how to be in this world. Show me how to be me in this world.

Everything in our lives, including the pain—especially the pain—can be used for our healing.

I can be tough on myself but easy on others.

The goal is the freedom that comes with being self-sufficient. That doesn’t necessarily mean living alone. The people in our lives don’t have to know anything about this goal or the steps we take to get there. It means reaching a new, lovely, confident place when we have a smile on our faces and the secret in our hearts: we have found peace in our own skin. We will never again be victimized or ordered around or fearful of being abandoned. We have come to the place where we have found our true essence, and we will never abandon ourselves again. —Jane Joseph

I’ve started to realize that waiting is an art which achieves two things. Waiting can be very, very powerful. Time is a valuable thing. If you can wait two years, you can achieve something that you could not achieve today, however hard you worked…however many times you banged your head against the wall.—Dennis Wholey

Never dismiss or discount the universe’s power to work in ways that remain a mystery to you. And that idea segues into:

Another person’s good fortune can remind us that magical, wonderful, amazing things can happen to anyone, at any time.


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Tool For Tuesday: Everything We Do Out of Guilt Turns Into a Future Resentment.

REMEMBER: BE LESS YOU TO BE MORE YOU! Purim 2014, a reminder that we are students of life, and that includes pretending to be who we're not.

REMEMBER: BE LESS YOU TO BE MORE YOU! Purim 2014, a reminder that we are students of life, and that includes pretending to be who we’re not.

We’re students of life. We sometimes do things we don’t want to do because we want to be nice or because we’re afraid of hurting someone’s feelings or because we have a high tolerance for emotional pain and think, “Oh, it won’t be so bad.”

But everything we do out of guilt turns into a future resentment. Either on our part or on the other person’s.

One of my daughters was invited to a wedding and she told one of my sons, “I don’t want to go to the wedding.”

“So, don’t go,” was my son’s answer.

But then the guilt set in. “The bride really wants me to come…” (Don’t we all know that brides are in a total blur about who’s even at the wedding!)

We have a hard time saying no. But that shouldn’t stop us. Let’s pretend we’re the kind of people who don’t have trouble saying no. And allow ourselves the right to do what we know in our hearts is right, even if people around us think it’s wrong.

This Tool for Tuesday is an anti-tool. It’s a warning. Everything we do out of guilt turns into a future resentment.

Check out Bar Rafaeli‘s Purim costume:


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Are You Waiting for Heaven? Or Is Heaven in You? Some Notes On Heaven and Hell.

Dr. Abraham J. Twerski, Rabbi and Author

Dr. Abraham J. Twerski, Rabbi and Author

I read a story about a wise man (how come these stories always feature a “wise man” and not a wise woman? Never mind!) Anyway, the man  had a dream that he got to heaven and was very disappointed. All he saw were other wise men studying around a table.

Oh, I’d be disappointed, too if that was heaven. But the message was this: It isn’t that the wise men were in paradise. Paradise is in the wise men.”

We have a chance to make our lives heaven or hell. We can find something—one little thing—to do to make our situation a bit better.

The same is true about hell. Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski was asked, what’s the difference between a religious person and a spiritual one?

A religious person is afraid of going to hell. A spiritual person has already been there.

Rabbi Twerski heard a woman once tell this story, “I am a football fan, a rabid Jets fan. I’ll never miss watching a Jets game. One weekend I had to be away, so I asked a friend to record the game on her VCR. When I returned, she handed me the tape and said, ‘By the way, the Jets won.’

“I started watching the tape, and it was just horrible! The Jets were being mauled. At half-time they were behind by twenty points. Under other circumstances, I would have been a nervous wreck. I would have been pacing the floor and hitting the refrigerator. But I was perfectly calm, because I knew they were going to win.

We don’t know what will happen. But we can trust that things will turn out OK.”

Life is a journey between two forevers. We can decide to do one little thing today that helps us find a bit of heaven.  Like Ted Danson on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” — Everything’s “heaven” with him. The comment if he had a piece of gum, “I’m in heaven.”



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Tool for Tuesday: Rude Awakening? Use It as a Spiritual Awakening.

A rude awakening is an opportunity for a spiritual awakening.

A rude awakening is an opportunity for a spiritual awakening.

Sometimes we need a rude awakening to reach a spiritual awakening. My friend, Lily, was called out for being critical of—well, just about everything. The restaurant’s menu was not extensive enough. Or too “all over the place like a Greek diner.” The movie was too long. Or too short. The weather? Always too hot or too cold. She wasn’t even aware of how judgmental she was. She had an opinion and thought we all wanted to hear it.

Maybe she was ready to face something about herself. When her friend suggested it was something she could look at, she first got angry, then got defensive, and finally felt that burn of recognition that comes when we face an unpleasant truth about ourselves.

But that’s the critical moment. That’s when we can use a rude awakening and transform it into a spiritual awakening. That’s when we step out of denial and decide that self-improvement is needed.

But don’t be too down on yourself. Think of this as home-improvement. A house needs work occasionally. So do we.

Tool for Tuesday: We can use a rude awakening as an opportunity for a spiritual awakening.

Here’s a current event example of how we can use a rude awakening for change. The stolen passports on the missing Malaysian airline flight demands new procedures…

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Self-Improvement: Change One Small Thought at a Time

Choose to be: The Kind of Person Who Goes With The Flow

Choose to be: The Kind of Person Who Goes With The Flow

My friend, Joelle, just had a birthday. She got cards and calls from everyone she loves—except for one friend.

“I built up a real resentment,” Joelle said. “It didn’t matter that 50 people remembered my birthday—the fact that this one person didn’t kind of ruined my day.”

That happens to a lot of us—we are in a field of clovers but focus only on the one piece of litter. I once gave a lecture to a roomful of women who seemed to like my speech. They laughed a lot. But all I can remember is two women who sat in the fifth row, their faces blank, their eyes stone cold. They didn’t seem to like me and I couldn’t shake the image of them. Instead of focusing on what is good, I could only focus on the one bad thing. Their disapproval seemed to erase the applause.

Maybe it’s instinct? Back when we were foragers, we had to keep our eye out on the dangers. We had to look for the poisonous mushrooms if we wanted to stay alive. We had to concentrate on what might harm us. This might be holdover behavior—we don’t even know we’re doing this.

But then Joelle had a revelation. She thought, “I want to be one of those people who take things in stride, who forgive people automatically, we drop resentments as soon as they come up, who focus on the abundance and not the one thing that might be missing.”

And, ta-da! Joelle said she made a conscious decision to think differently. And it worked. “I suddenly felt like I really was that kind of forgiving person,” she said. She wants to be the kind of person who goes with the flow of the waterfall instead of stumbling on the stones.

Living our best chapter means trying new behavior. It also means thinking in a new sort of way.

It means saying, “I’m the kind of person who_____” and then filling in the blank in a new, creative way. “I’m the kind of person who doesn’t care if someone forgets my birthday,” Joelle told me. “Because I’m easygoing and cool.”

What new way of being can you take on today? Remember to be MORE you, sometimes you have to be LESS you.

Here’s an interesting article in The New York Times on changing our own behaviors and attitudes.

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