The Year of No.

[HAPPY NEW YEAR! I allow myself one re-post each year, around now. I offer it as a reminder to us all – myself included – of the need to become/stay comfortable with saying no when people or obligations tip the scale and become toxic. Please consider. Also, while I have you, we’ve just switched to the domain, and doing so meant we lost social media data on the posts. Please know how much we appreciate the tweets, “likes” and “shares”. – Thanks, Alicia.]

Could you organize the group gift?

Could you babysit this weekend?

Could you lend me some money (again)?

Meet Carla. She said yes to all these requests—this past weekend.

People who meet her see a dynamic, caring and accomplished woman.

They’re right.They’re just missing something—Carla is a people-pleaser. You won’t find it highlighted on her resume, or part of her online profile, but it’s there.

Carla struggles to say no. She is warm and caring at her core, so it’s no act—she wants to help. But then she feels resentful later, when her time is stretched.

Have you ever suffered a little bout of the “the disease to please”? Sure, there are short-term payoffs when we say yes: we feel good, we see the other person’s relief, we hear and feel their appreciation…then later, it hits: how am I going to juggle this?

What’s a Savvy Girl to do?

She starts with a little naval gazing: how many times has she found herself in this position recently (be honest, then pass the chocolate.)? What motivated her? Was it pressure or guilt (more chocolate)? Did it stem from a desire to be liked (break out the Belgian truffles)?

Practice saying no. It seems like petulant toddlers are the only ones allowed to declare “No!” with utter defiance.

Let’s reclaim it.

Say no to small things at first, then work your way up.

If you’re not up to that, buy time: say you’ll think about it, or you’ll need to check, and you’ll get back to them; then email or text, if you’re not comfortable yet saying no in person or on the phone.

Anticipate the guilt trip and the broken-record responses, so that you’re not blindsided by them.

Respect and protect your free time.

Remind yourself that you can support your friends, but you don’t need to take on their problems.

Make this year about saying no.

Then get ready to say yes to the things that you really want to do in your free time.

What sort of things do you find are sticky to say no to? What works for you?



What’s your wish for 2015?

A new year stretches out before us, fresh and crisp.

I appreciate we arrive at the end of the year with feelings as individual as we are.

Some of us will be eager to wave goodbye to 2014, replete as it may have been with sadness or loss. My wish for you is that gentle, loving healing be ushered in.

Others carry forward hopes for new jobs, or for someone special to arrive in their lives. My wish for you is for new people and opportunities to cross your path.

Whatever wishes you carry in your heart for the New Year, I wish you:

The creativity to find it.

The strength to pursue it. And …

The mindset to relish it.

In short, we all deserve more time to dance or paint or whatever makes our heart sing.

Here’s to a joyous 2015! What is your wish for the New Year?



[UPDATE: December’s Savvy Girl Hall of Fame nominee is Malala Yousafzai, teenager and co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize! She received this inspiring and prestigious award Dec 10 in Oslo, Norway.]

My Year: 2014 by Numbers

It’s that time of year when we reflect on the previous twelve months.

My Year at a Glance – 2014 by numbers:

46 individual flights (final round trip starts tomorrow)
90+ days in hotels
1 home renovation kick-started
4 new member organizations
8 speaker exhibits (conferences)
1 wedding vow renewal (not ours!)
2 new TMs (trademarks)
Goals exceeded on speaker platform.(Thank you, God!)
1 new book idea (more news as it comes to hand)
1 grateful heart.

I’d like to thank each of you for your support and encouragement this year. My wish for you this Festive season is joy in your heart, a spring in your step and peace through your day.

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah (if a little late! Happy Kwanzaa!





Savvy Girl Hall of Fame Nominee: Nov 2014


I’m overseas at the moment, with very patchy internet. Please forgive my not posting a photo, but I’d like to tell you about November’s nominee for the Savvy Girl Hall of Fame:

Poet, Abigail Mott!

I had the real pleasure of meeting Abigail recently in Denver, CO.

Picture this: a gorgeous, ceative and delightfully quirky girl in a knitted hat, sets herself up on the sidewalk. She sits at a little desk, atop which is perched an old fashioned typewriter. Snowflakes are falling gently and holiday lights are twinkling.

Passers-by can provide any subject, and Abigail composes an original poem, then and there! She draws on her jaunty outlook and a bank of  words to tap away in a beguiling staccato.

It costs just a latte or two, and even the cost is a suggestion only.

Look out for Abigail at the 16th St mall!



ps: I’ll post that photo as soon as I’m home!




Savvy Girl Hall of Fame Nominee: Oct 2014

Meet Madiá Gibson, a student at Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, Pennsylvania. She hails from Monrovia, Liberia and has lived in the US since the age of twelve.
Madiá studies HMardia Gibson Photo Oct 2014umanities―and takes it to heart. Recently, this dynamic, compassionate woman organized a campus fundraiser for Samaritan’s Purse (
The aim behind the event was twofold: to raise funds for this worthwhile charity, while educating others and soothing fears about Ebola.
She counts jewelry design among her many talents, and combined this with fashion, song and dance to create a wonderful night on campus.  Fellow students at Mount Aloysius modeled clothes and accessories with the confidence and style usually associated with New York Fashion Week! Mardiá’s efforts, with their help,  poured hundreds of dollars into Samaritan’s Purse. congratulates Mardiá on her Savvy Girl Hall of Fame nomination! She is now eligible for a prize to be announced in January!
Who will be next? Nominate a Savvy Girl – including yourself! – by emailing us at Please write “Savvy Girl Hall of Fame” in the subject line and tell us in 150 words or less why you are nominating this person.

The Savvy Girl’s Hall of Fame!

We’re excited to announce The Savvy Girl’s Hall of Fame!

At least once each month, we’ll be highlighting a Savvy Girl (or in this case, Girls). She could be in the headlines, or an unsung hero in her community. She could be a healthcare worker, an inventor, someone with a creative mind (across any and all platforms that encompasses).

She could be YOU.

In the meantime, please meet these truly inspiring women. Each suffered an acid attack: a crime breathtakingly heinous, agonizing and beyond cruel. Many victims retreat from their friends, their communities, their societies. The courage of the women here melts many of our everyday challenges into insignificance.  Today we’re hit with a river of distractions, online and elsewhere. This is not one of them.  I’d like to post their pictures for you, but I don’t own the copyright to the images, so here is the link:

Nominate a candidate for the Savvy Girl’s Hall of Fame. Tell me a little about them, and include a photo if they give you permission.

Looking forward to your suggestions!






Oversharing & Underthinking.

[I usually lean toward more uplifting stories… but here goes!]

Maybe you’ve seen today’s news story of a father who filmed his daughter’s birth—while driving to the hospital.

Oddly, it was introduced as a “feel-good” piece which was “guaranteed to put a smile on your face.” Says whom? As a former child protection worker and now a journalist, I’m appalled – not that one needs to be either of course, to be equally incensed. In case you missed it:

I appreciate birth is a magical moment. At the same time, there surely is no more delicate life than a newborn. Despite this, the father showed scant regard for his baby girl,  his partner—and anyone else on the road at the time.

His actions speak to a new low in the narrative of over-documenting and over-sharing.  Are we so fixated in our addiction and apparent right to record every moment, that we risk  lives to capture them? We’ve all seen and read stories where people have caused  fatalities while texting or otherwise preoccupied with their phones.

He should be arrested. Breathtaking stupidity can’t be challenged with a mere warning or lecture. One can only imagine how he’d cope if he had killed his infant, or left her destined for a wheelchair before she could ever take her first steps. Throw him in jail to make him miss the first few nights of his baby’s life. Better he be forced to reflect on his actions, which could so easily have left her dead.

#Arrestdriverdad #Arrestnewdaddriver

Your thoughts?

When a tweak can transform.

[Thank you for your patience. My (northern) summer break went a little longer than planned on the blogging front!]

You might have noticed: we’re a culture of makeovers. From people to homes to lifestyles, some of our highest rating TV shows, links and sites involve vivid transformations. A so-called “homely” girl emerges as a traffic-stopping beauty.  A dark and dank basement is re-purposed as a teen getaway or streamlined home office. And of course, those extreme weight loss programs milk our curiosity for the final unveiling.

But what if we don’t have the time, inclination or resources to indulge in a big change? What about tweaks with payoffs? What areas of our lives could benefit from small changes? I took a highly unscientific poll and here were some suggestions from your fellow Savvy Girls:

  1. I gave fake sugars the heave-ho.
  2. Started shutting down my screens an hour before bed. Less wound up, more relaxed as I catch some zzz.
  3. Turned off those pop-up emails, and instead, access it a few times a day. Cue: jump in productivity.
  4. I began saying no to little things, until bigger no’s became easier. I value my time.
  5. I don’t inhale food in the car. I eat meals sitting down, turn off distractions, and try to listen more closely to the other person.
  6. Each morning, I ask myself what I want out of the day. It sets a good tone. 

What works for you?

Welcome to a Blog Hop!

Hello, and welcome to a blog hop – a post in which I answer a few Qs and then recommend other bloggers. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

  1. Why do I write what I do? I write about graceful living, civility, communication, and spirituality (while knowing it’s a work in progress—some days better than others!). Why do I write about it? Because I believe writing taps something in each of us, and by sharing it, we can plant seeds for change. And often I think through my fingers! There’s something meditative about typing. Give me a laptop, a pot of tea and an afternoon of classical music in the background (Pedro Grafino), and I could solve the Mid-East Peace Process. Or not.

2. How does my writing differ from others in its genre? A lot of people write about happiness or kindness—and more power to them! But while grace can encompass elements of both, it is a little different. Dare I say, it’s almost a finer, more discreet quality that we all possess, but which is less readily identified: it whispers its presence, rather than jumps out at us.

3. Tell us about your writing process.  It depends on the format. Blog posts can be inspired by a passing comment, a news piece, or even a color. They bubble up and are offered in a way that I’d like to think is crafted (!), but not belabored, so as to retain a little spontaneity. On the other hand, writing a book requires a more ordered outline, and adherence to format in the way you blend anecdotes, insights, statistics or research to convey your perspective. Remember how you drew a sun in first grade? It was a big circle, with “rays” extending out. That’s how I brainstorm. I wrote my book title in the circle, and then drew the lines, each with a different idea at the end of it. Then I grouped similar themes, and my chapter outlines began to stare back at me. When I got tired, I’d challenge myself to write for just five minutes.

 4. What am I working on/writing?  My next book! Watch this space!

Check out these great bloggers! [Disclosure: I know and admire each of these dynamic, talented women.]


Francie Low

Francie Low

 Francie Low:

 Francie writes funny, witty posts about motherhood, fashion and frustrations on her blog, so named by her hubby as a polite nod to Francie’s passion for shoes.  Shoezle was named in the Top 25 Blogs of Norcal in 2013.  She’s the mother of two teen boys with yin and yang personalities and married to a cycling afficianado and anything-organic enthusiast. Francie was featured twice on KQED radio’s “With a Perspective” and has written for and The Contra Costa Times.  Francie was cast in the San Francisco 2014 Listen to Your Mother show. She loves anyone Francis/Frances, especially the new Pope Francis.




Charmaine Lobo

Charmaine Lobo


Charmaine Lobo:

Charmaine started her blog in response to a friend requesting a recipe for allergy-free birthday cake.

Allergies defined her son’s life in the earlier years, and now that he is seven, it plays less of a starring role, and more of a supporting act.  Charmaine says what has changed is her family’s ability to manage the allergies—there are very few manufactured food products that he eats—so she makes everything!  She is pleased to say that her son is a confident and happy boy who has learned to manage himself at school, playdates and birthday parties (“Please don’t feed me!”).

The blog has connected Charmaine to other families on a similar journey and she feels less isolated as an allergy parent. This dynamic mother has a ton of recipes to post and a camera card is full of food images—finding time to blog is her new challenge.



Grace Mattiolo]\i

Grace Mattioli

 Grace Mattioli:

Originally from New Jersey, Grace Mattioli now lives in San Francisco with her husband and three cats.  She has been working as a professional librarian for over eighteen years and has been writing creatively since she was a child. In 2012, she published the first book in the Greco family trilogy, Olive Branches Don’t Grow On Trees. Discovery of an Eagle, just published, is the second book in the trilogy, although it can be read as a stand-alone. In additions to her two novels, she has several works of flash fiction published on the UK Short Humour Site.

Best wishes,


WINNERS! 2014 Savvy Life Awards/Savvy Girl Awards


$5000 in Prizes!



The inaugural Savvy Life Awards/Savvy Girl Awards has now wrapped up, and our thanks to each person who entered. You came from all across the US! We took inspiration as you shared your thoughts on a savvy life, and how you help your family, friends and wider communities.

In addition to the prizes below, winners will receive a copy of Alicia Young’s award-winning book, The Savvy Girl’s Guide to Grace: small touches with big impact—at work, home & in love. It explores ways to tap our inner Audrey Hepburn, told with humor and anecdotes from Savvy Girls around the world (ps: It makes a great graduation gift! See the Amazon link to your right, or at

Special thanks to Charmaine Lobo of for providing stunning jewelry pieces for our giveaways during Savvy Life Awards Week!

  The Savvy Blogger Award: TIE

The Savvy Girl Award (College)

  •  $1000 won by Trang Pham of Houston, Texas. Trang is studying English and plans to become a nurse. She is bright, hard-working and driven.

 The Savvy Girl Award (High School Senior)

  • $500 won by Ariana T. of Brentwood, New York. Ariana is passionate about helping her community, and plans to become a police officer when she finishes school. 

 The Savvy Citizen Award: TIE

  • $250 won by Joan Maset, of Houston, Texas. Joan is a special education nurse, working mostly with non-verbal, severely disabled students. She loves to help them feel capable and special.
  • $250 won by Joyce Wolak, also of Houston, Texas. Joyce is a talented songwriter and poet whose work touches many.

Spread the Word Prizes:

  • $500 won by LeTonya McCarter of Houston, Texas. LeTonya is very active is her community, volunteering for school functions, fieldtrips, and also for her local football team and church.
  • $250  won by New Life Hiking Spa, Killington, Vermont: New Life offers delicious food, stunning hikes and a welcome chance to relax (their new season opens May 15!).
  • $250  won by Kimberly Fisher, of New York, New York. Kimberly is a vibrant writer, blogger and founder of LuxeSoul magazine (tagline: Feel Good. Do Good. Be Good.) and

 Savvy Life Award Week Giveaways:

  • $250 gift certificate to won by Amy Edwards of Monticello, Kentucky. Amy lost her father to colon cancer, and now runs the annual “Big Blue Lunch” to raise money and awareness.
  • $250  gift certificate to won by Faith Nanavaty, of Madison, Mississippi.  Faith logs many hours  working with the homeless, and providing practical and spiritual support.
  •  $250  won by Sr. Jean Marie Guokas of Houston, Texas. Sr. Jean has been helping her community for decades, offering help, compassion and guidance.
  • $250  won by Sheila Kessler of Monticello, Kentucky. Sheila juggles  a college load with volunteer projects, including trash pickups and day camps for her local JTROC. (Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps).

Our congratulations again to everyone!

Alicia & The Team at Savvy Life Awards/Savvy Girl Awards