[Editor’s note: Merry Christmas! This week, we’re taking time off to focus on our loved ones, so we are sharing some of our favorite stories from this year. Keep an eye out for our top features from the archives as we rest and get ready for a brilliant 2019! Cheers, from Candy and the entire staff at CandysDirt.com!]

“What am I doing wrong in this world,” my husband asked, walking out the door one Monday morning, a lousy day that began wrong right from the start. Blasting us awake, Livin’ on a Prayer streamed loudly on our Amazon Echo Dot that we use as our alarm clock. Though we’re an Amazon-enabled home with two-and-a-half tech-savvy users (the half is 10 years old), we’re having a hard time with the Dot.

“She” joined our family of other Amazon AI products several months ago, but this bot has a learning curve we’re still adjusting to. And this particular Monday morning, Dot shouted at us with a loud, warbly guitar, saying “Whoa, whoa… whoa, whoa,” like Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora’s distinctive opening chords.

Fumbling with the Alexa app on his phone, my husband walked into our tiled-bathroom, and no sooner had he found the setting to turn down Dot’s master volume, he dropped his phone. That dreaded plop sound of a phone falling face down on the floor… The fear you feel as you bend down to turn your phone over… You know what I’m talking about. I listened for the expletives to fly, but all I heard was, “That’s a good way to start your Monday morning.” He showed me his newly-cracked phone and my heart sank for him.

I felt his question needed answering because we’ve all been there. One thing after another. Can’t win for losing. Universe, can I start this day over? Alexa, can you fix this lousy day?

It’s possible, but not easy because it’s a mental workout that most of us have never exercised before. Alexa seems to know everything, so maybe she can help us re-program ourselves to overcome negative thoughts and turn around a lousy day. Here are some ways to do that: (more…)

“Live tweeting from the bathroom of my high school reunion. Two beers in. Ask me anything,” I tweeted in homage of Reddit’s popular AMA format.

That’s right, I started writing this CandysDirt.com column from the women’s restroom of Saint Rocco’s, the Trinity Groves venue hosting my Lake Highlands High School 20-year reunion. But I wasn’t having a John Hughes 1980s movie meltdown moment. I was simply feeling reflective about something I’d been honestly dreading for weeks.

Why would anyone put themselves through that? Now that Facebook has made catching up with old high school friends as swift as clicking a button to “Add Friend,” it admittedly seems pointless. But I’m going to make a bold assertion, so hear me out: Going to your high school reunion could actually be good for you. Here are four reasons why:


dog procrastination

“What am I doing today? This. This is what I’m doing.”

You don’t always have to be on your A-game, or even a close B, but what do you do if you don’t want to play the game at all? What happens when you don’t have the mental fortitude to take the next step, and you’d rather pull the covers over your head and stare at the wall instead?

Here’s what you do: Pull those 800-thread-counts over your head and stare at the wall. Trust me, I’m there often. But consider these four things to help you refocus, shed your procrastination and get stuff done. It’s the first step in taking the next step.


When the going gets tough

Never mind Bluto’s factual inaccuracy, the eternal frat boy makes a good point. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. But how? That’s the question.

Like the wise philosopher Jim Belushi once said, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” That’s what mentally tough people do. They rise up, dust themselves off, and find a way to make each and every setback in life a magical gift of learning experience.

Sure. But when you’re in the middle of tough times in the REAL WORLD, you don’t feel strong or resilient. You certainly don’t feel empowered to shape how you’ll emerge from this experience and become the stuff that Bluto’s motivational speeches are made of.

No, when you’re undergoing mental trauma, you feel weak and out of control of what happens. You’re the guest of honor at your own pity party, where “It’s just not fair” is printed on the place cards. You can’t help but feel what you feel, but you can’t just snap out of it either, so you end up feeling worse.

Amy Morin can relate. When she was grieving for the third time in her life before she was age 30, the widow sat down and thought about the negative thoughts she’d been having. The psychotherapist turned author wrote a list of what not to do as her own mental reminder in her viral blog post turned book, 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.


Some days, we are all a coffee-stained Mia from La La Land.

How do you measure the moments that add up to a day? Consider this thought by Ellen DeGeneres:

“I get those fleeting, beautiful moments of inner peace and stillness – and then the other 23 hours and 45 minutes of the day, I’m a human trying to make it through in this world.”

We’re all just trying to make it through in this world, and that’s something I don’t think we admit to ourselves often enough.

Raise your hand if you spilled coffee on yourself this morning.
Raise your hand if you went to work with mismatched socks or ones that you swore were black, not navy blue.
Raise your hand if you blew your diet today with one fell swoop of the donuts in the kitchen.

Now ask yourself, is anyone keeping score of all these #fail moments, or is it just you?

I used to believe my daily fails were listed like a scorecard on my back, so anyone with a passing glance could see how many times I raised my hand to the questions I just asked you. And while I can easily conjure up a self-deprecating joke to explain away my clumsiness, I always felt everyone else was just better at “doing” day-to-day life than me. How do you shed that scorecard?


“In order to be successful, one must project an image of success at all times.”

That’s a piece of wisdom from Peter Gallagher playing Buddy Kane, the trite mantra-spouting real estate king in the 1999 film American Beauty. Of course it’s utter B.S. because Buddy, well, he was B.S..

But there’s a Realtor out there right now, down on her hands and knees, scrubbing dingy bathroom carpet in a late ’70s Fox & Jacobs tract home, saying (or pleading) to herself “I will sell this house.” And like Annette Bening playing Carolyn Burnham in American Beauty did, she’ll hear advice like Buddy’s and believe he’s the smartest man that ever lived. And that’s why self-help is a $11 billion business.