The Life You Order by Judy Downing

Put four smart, accomplished women around a kitchen table once a month and what do you get?

If the women are Deborah Collins Stephens, Jackie Speier, Michealene Cristini Risley, and Jan Yanehiro, eventually you get a great book. is about surviving the unexpected challenges life hands you.

Between them, the authors have lived through six marriages, ten children, four stepchildren, two miscarriages, a failed adoption, widowhood, and foster parenthood. One was shot and left for dead. Two outlived their spouses. They have built businesses and lost businesses. They’ve experienced financial wealth beyond their expectations and near financial ruin. Through it all, they supported each other.

Sprinkled with quotes, stories and cartoons, ‘This Is Not the Life I Ordered’gives you “50 Ways to keep your head above water when life keeps dragging you down.”

Here are some of their strategies:

Convene a gathering of kitchen table friends.

Meet regularly with a small group of friends you trust and admire. Choose a comfortable meeting place with privacy. Have everyone answer these questions in turn:

  • So, how’s your life?
  • How can we help?
  • Who do we know who can help?
  • What are you happy about right now in your life?
  • What is there to laugh about?
  • When we leave here today, what three things are we committing to each other that we will do for ourselves?

Keep your meetings positive and hold them regularly. You’ll be amazed at what each of you will accomplish.

Be willing to make great mistakes.

People learn from their mistakes, often more than they do from their successes. Don’t go hiding your head in the sand when you make a mistake. Think like a scientist: it’s all trial and error. You’re going to get a lot of things wrong on your way to getting something important right.

Listen to your inner voice.

Call it female intuition if you want, women really are more intuitive than men. Stay connected to your emotions. Your “gut feel” can often guide you more successfully than any amount of supposedly logical self-talk. Keep yourself tuned to that small voice inside. Listen when it speaks, and act accordingly.

Recognize that chocolate melts in order to take a new form.

There may be times in your life when you have to reinvent yourself. People hit by Hurricane Katrina had their lives ripped away before their eyes. When something like that happens, it’s hard to know who to trust or what to do. Those are the times when it’s good to remember that chocolate can melt, but sooner or later it reforms into a new shape. That new shape can be stronger and better: it will certainly be just as tasty. Remember always to look forward to and rejoice in your next shape.

These are just a few examples of the words of wisdom in This Is Not the Life I Ordered. Get a copy from your local library, or buy it at your favorite bookstore. It’s a good book to have nearby when you are feeling down, or when you just want some great stories and advice to make you feel better.

Judy Downing is a small business coach, consultant, and freelance writer. She shares tips, techniques and strategies with small business owners to clarify and enhance their customer and business practices. Visit her website at or email her

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