Proof you can do holidays the first year after your child dies

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One of Katie’s friends lit a Thanksgiving candle in Katie's memory, Image courtesy of the author.

Indeed, here it is the Friday after Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, or at least it was until this year. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, so I prepared and visualized the day — or the non-day — like an athlete training for an event.

Yet another exercise in my year of magical thinking, as Joan Didion so aptly described her year following her husband’s death, I knew I would have to get through this day somehow. In some sort of imagined mindset, I both prepared for the inevitable day and avoided all memory of our traditions at the same time.

Miraculously, it wasn’t even like I had to muscle through it. …

A wake-up call for everyone concerned about their legacy

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Photo by Ahmad Qaisieh on Unsplash

As a thinking person, you will inevitably reach a point in your life where you evaluate your future legacy. What difference did you make? Will anyone remember what you did here?

You may lose sleep over it. Or, who knows? You may be so exhausted from doing amazing things every day, that you sleep like a baby.

As a woman in my early fifties, these questions have been sneaking into my consciousness these past few years. After my 21-year-old daughter died last February these questions became less personal. Now my thoughts about the quality of a life take on more philosophical weight. I stopped being so focused on the difference my life would make and began to try to define the difference Katie’s short life made. What difference does any life make?

Releasing your full creative potential is risky business

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Photo by Alexander Jawfox on Unsplash

When you first discovered that you liked to write, were you typing at a keyboard, or were you holding a pencil? If you took to writing as a child, it was the latter.

You may not have been aware then that handwriting made your brain agile and creative. All you knew was that you enjoyed words, both reading and writing them.

Maybe you were that kid who was given a writing prompt in grade school and got lost filling a page with words and ideas. When the time was up, you easily had a few complete pages.

Maybe, like me, you were given a blank journal as a birthday gift and you began writing a book all your own. Whatever else happened in life, you knew at a young age that putting words to your intimate reality was something that only you could do. You identified as a writer. In fact, you were a writer. You had a book to prove it. …

Science is real and you’re looking at it wrong

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Photo by Science in HD on Unsplash

Science is always changing.

Nobel prize-winning biologist Peter Medawar wrote: “Science is not a collection of facts or of unquestionable generalizations, but a logically connected network of hypotheses that represent our current opinion about what the real world is like.”

Maybe I’m being pedantic, but the wording on those yard signs that announce “Science is real”— often seen in lovely, upscale liberal neighborhoods — eats at me.

A contradiction in terms

What does “real” really mean? You can’t “believe” in science without a healthy respect for its process.

Why is it these days that you often hear a person say the word “science” in the same breath as wanting to cancel someone? …

Manage where and when you publish and increase your writing productivity

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

One of the best ways to get your writing seen on Medium is to publish them in popular publications. The number of my submitted stories that get accepted into a publication vs. the number of those that don’t is about 50/50. Finally, because I figured out how to organize my submissions, at least I never have to guess (or remember) where my story landed.

When I first started submitting stories, I chose a few publications that had a lot of subscribers and covered topics I know well. Since I’m a copywriter of 15 years and a personal essay writer, I chose The Writing Coop and P.S. I Love You. …

7 success principles, 2 e-commerce experts, 30 years age difference

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Photo by Mark König on Unsplash

Marc Lore is a serial entrepreneur who started and sold two businesses to the two biggest e-commerce giants in the world. He sold to Walmart in 2016 for $3.3 billion and to Amazon in 2011 for $550 million. He now runs Walmart’s e-commerce.

Recently, I listened to the interview between him and James Altucher about the future of e-commerce. At first, my takeaways from that podcast episode were at the 10,000-foot level. …

The only good thing about grief is the wonder of it all

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Photo by john vicente on Unsplash (cropped by the author)

It’s been almost nine months, yet every morning I lose her again.

I wake to a world without Katie, and that’s still my first cognizant thought. As soon as my eyes open, it’s “Oh, crap. Here we go again.”

Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, I hurry through the stuff I already know how to do, alert for some small opening — some pinpoint of light — into a future where I feel some control again, or where I can make some blind headway at least.

If I learned anything from my daughter’s death, it’s that now I know for sure, no one really has any control. Every day, you’re just along for the ride. Some days I slip backward and some days I move ahead, either a lot or just a little. …

Emotion says yes, only logic closes the sale

Illustration of a brain in the form of money.
Illustration of a brain in the form of money.
Photo by Morgan Housel on Unsplash, edited by the author

Once I was buying a hot tub from a spa store in San Jose. After talking with the salesperson and imagining life with a bubbly hot tub just outside my bedroom door, I asked, “What would be the tax on that?”

Immediately, the experienced salesperson did the smart thing. He said, “OK, I can see you’re serious about getting this model, so let me figure that out. Then the conversation shifted to delivery times, site preparation, and safety locks on the cover; all the practical considerations. We transitioned from dreams to brass tacks.

Dear reader, I bought that hot tub.

Convince Hard-Nosed Customers With Reasons to Buy

People make decisions with their hearts and guts, but justify them with the logical part of their brains. …

What “I don’t get it” really means

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Photo by Kevin Erdvig on Unsplash

As an entrepreneur, idea generator, or generally curious thinker (and hopefully not a copywriter); you’re going to hear occasionally: “I don’t get it.”

There are a few ways to take this. You can zoom out from yourself and see yourself as an oddball and pout. You can puff yourself up and take pride in it (thanks Apple) because it’s always “the crazy ones” that others don’t understand. You can shake your head in frustration by people who have no vision at all. You can go into isolation and just build the damn thing (maybe people will come). …

When was an election ever not that big a deal?

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Photo by Melinda Martin-Khan on Unsplash

As Americans near this “historic” election, can you think of any election that didn’t really matter that much? It’s a droll idea, that any instance in which people bothered to vote wouldn’t be considered “unprecedented,” yet we’re short-sighted creatures. We humans believe ourselves to be so different from our predecessors. Everyone thinks these times are the most important ever.

For the first time, though, I’m wondering if the United States’ decision about the next president really matters so much. Oh, certainly people have strong feelings about it, but what changes will you really see in your life? …


Jen McGahan

Curious mom, writer, & lymphatic massage therapist. I teach a persuasive writing course, too. Start here:

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