The World View

When I started decorating cakes, I only knew the decorators in my local cake group. The Internet was relatively new and message boards were in their infancy. It was difficult to meet decorators from other areas unless you went to a cake show. 
To build a reputation, you had to travel. You had to build a great web site. You had to compete in cake shows. You had to do great work. If you were lucky, you got on some of the early cake tv shows and the world learned your name. At least, the United States did. 
I am just flying home from Cake International in Birmingham, England. It is the largest cake show in the world. It is a true melting pot of accents, cultures and decorating styles. 
I was lucky enough to attend the Cake Masters Awards for the second year. As I listened to the presentations for the nominees and the winners, it became clear to me that there truly is a world cake decorating community. 
Mike McCarey was named the Cake Hero. While he rarely teaches outside of the US, his social media accounts and Craftsy classes have taken him into the homes and hearts of decorators across the globe. 
In almost every instance, the winners were people who have a strong social media presence. The value of that presence is that it helps to connect them to people everywhere. A picture can go viral in minutes. A Periscope can be shared repeatedly. The new applications keep making it easier and easier for people to interact with their cake heroes. 
Many decorators tell me that they wish they had more recognition for their work. I would tell them that they simply MUST promote themselves. They aren’t just sharing with potential customers…they are connecting with future friends and collaborators. 
We all need to take a world view of our work and our social media influence. I am constantly surprised at the number of people who follow my cake journey, my triathlon journey or even my posts about my puppies. It reminds me to be very conscious of the things that I post. 
Too often, I see decorators posting negative comments about their customers or, even worse, their families. I wish so badly that I could help them realize that their constant negativity is how the world views them. Why on earth would you want that reputation?? I’m not saying you have to be fake and only post happy things; I am saying that social media is rarely the place to air your personal anger or laundry. 
Social media just gives us the slightest glimpse into a person’s life. If you think of it as a snapshot of your life, what is the picture you want to give the world? Will you be known for your talent or for your attitude? The world is in your hands. 

I’ll Be The Judge

Lately, I’ve read some complaints about judges at cake shows. It prompted me to ask my friends what made a good judge and what made a bad judge. I received some great comments and thought I would share these thoughts with all of you. 

I should preface by saying that I have judged at or competed at over two dozen cake shows. I have served as Head Judge for one of the largest shows in the U.S.  I am regularly asked to train new judges. I am also serving on a new ICES committee to establish guidelines for certifying judges. 

Here are my notes for those who judge or aspire to judge at a cake show:

Judges should know the rules

At a recent show, the cakes had a height restriction. A few of the competitors complied, but others noticeably did not. Surprisingly, the “too tall” cakes were the ones that placed, without mention of the height infraction. Good show directors will provide you with a copy of the rules when you judge. Good judges will read those rules!  

When you find a rule violation, the judge has to decide whether it is so egregious that you must disqualify the entry, or simply lower its placement/score. For me, this depends on the level of the competitor. I am frequently more strict on professionals and masters, but try to give the lower levels a break and just reduce their score. 

If a judge blatantly ignores the rules, it puts a black mark on the entire competition. It makes competitors doubt all the rules. Following the rules is paramount. 

Judges give constructive feedback

This is such a biggie!  “Good job!” gives the decorator no useful advice. Even worse is no comment at all!  As a judge, I try to tell the person something I like, then something they can improve, then end with a positive note. 

Helpful notes can include information on what judges look for:  covering your board, adding a ribbon around the board, evenly piped borders, smooth cake covering, using gumpaste instead of fondant. It is NOT helpful to redesign the person’s cake for them. You must be able to tell them how they could improve their work on their chosen design. 

Rude comments are unforgivable. Judges have not been invited back for comments they leave. Words can hurt and we judges have to be incredibly careful in HOW we say what we say. The last thing we want to do as judges is to discourage someone from playing with sugar. 

Put your preferences aside

This may be the hardest thing for many judges. When we see ourselves reflected in someone’s entry, we react favorably. The key is to not allow your personal preferences to make you score something higher than it might deserve. I can think of two instances when someone I was judging with saw a cake that could have been in their portfolio. Instantly, they both declared that cake first place. I had to work with them to see if it truly deserved first place. 

A judge may hate yellow cakes or gory cakes or whatever personally, but must judge those entries in the work presented, not on how they feel about the design choices. It isn’t always easy. Judges are human and I’m sure we all let our hearts into our evaluations. They key is to be conscious of that influence and to try to minimize it. 

Judges must know a wide variety of techniques 

I believe the best judges are well rounded decorators. If you only do buttercream cakes, it could be hard for you to judge proper royal icing techniques or gumpaste flowers or sculptures. You should keep up with current trends. You should know what a proper version of most techniques looks like. 

It is even better if you, as a judge, have actually worked with a variety of mediums. You will then be better able to troubleshoot and help guide the competitor to a better entry. 

Judges Should Not Be Overly Critical

Feedback is great, unless you become abusive in your words. I have seen judges mark every cake low and justify it because they treat everyone the same. Seriously?  If the judging scale goes to 10, you CANNOT limit the scores you give to a high of 6 or 7 or whatever. 10 does not mean perfect. It means that it is excellently crafted. 

We get that you are the best decorator in the world (in your mind), but you don’t build yourself up by tearing others down. If your judging sheet is a nitpicky list of errors, without also celebrating the things done right, you need to take a step back from judging. You are not helping the contestant with your hypercritical attack of their work. You must be able to find balance in how you both judge and in how you give comments. 

Judges Are Not Just Cheerleaders

Yes, we want to encourage the entrants, but not every cake warrants an 8 or above. This is the flip side of the overly critical judge. If you just tell some one it is beautiful and that they did great, what have they learned?  Even the most incredible pieces of art I have judged have had one or two areas where they could improve. 

Judges owe the contestants their honesty. You must be able to be realistic about the entry and be able to tell the person what is wrong as well as what is right. 

Judges Do Not Rush The Process

Judging is hard work and will kill your back and your feet by the end of the day. Some judges love being known as a judge, but don’t take the time to properly do the job. There is no prize for speed judging. If you are just going to gloss over the process, you should not be judging. 

Judges Do Not Dominate Other Judges

Every now and then, you’ll run into the judge who is loud, opinionated and dominating. They run roughshod over their fellow judges and their opinion is the only one that counts. This is really just another form of bullying. 

When I judge with someone for the first time, I start out asking their opinion for the first few categories, so we get a sense of each other and so that we each get input in the process (for consensus judging shows). Judges need to be willing to listen to their fellow judges and to respect their input. 

Judges Show Up For The Job

If you are tasked with judging, you need to show up on time and ready for the job. Most judges will wear their chef coats, to add an air of professionalism to the process. Judges should not cancel on a show unless their are legitimate reasons. When you agree to judge, you are agreeing to pay your way there, put yourself up at a hotel and to do a job. If you need to teach a class to cover expenses, that is fine…but when your class doesn’t fill, it does not relieve you of your commitment to the show. Finding qualified judges to take your place at the last minute places an unfair burden on the show. 

Judges Pay Attention to Details

Nothing frustrates a show director quite like having to track down a judge who left a score card incomplete. Judges have a duty to make sure that each score sheet is filled out properly. Competitors who find part of their sheet without a score are rightfully upset. Would they have placed higher?  We must always take the time to look over our sheets to make sure that we have filled everything out. 

Judges Help Promote the Show

Cake shows will die without support. As judges, we often have a social media following and can use that to help the show. We can put the information in our newsletters and on our web pages. We can share the event on Facebook. We can encourage people to enter. 

Judges Do Not Enter Categories They Are Judging

Some competitors do not think it is fair for a judge to compete. I personally have no problem with it and have done it many times. In that situation, the show director is notified that I entered and I am not assigned the Master division. Since judging is anonymous, my fellow judges who are assigned the Master category will not know who created what cakes. There is no unfairness to other competitors. 

Often, the judging panel is largely comprised of Masters. If some of them don’t enter, the Master division looks very empty. We need every possible entry for cake shows to thrive. 

Judges Are Available Afterwards To The Competitors 

Some shows have a designated time to meet with the judges. The judges will show up for this “kiss and cry” portion and help explain to a competitor why they received the score they did. Sometimes the competitors may contact the judge after the show. I feel just as strong a duty after the show to help them understand what they did right and how to fix what they did wrong. Numerous competitors have sent me pictures of their entries and asked for critiques, even when I did not judge the show they attended. I think that judges should always stand ready to offer advice in this manner. 

Judges Will Read The Information From The Competitors 

Many shows allow the competitors to write notes for the judges about what they did and how they did it. These notes are often crucial to a better understanding of the entry. I have seen judges dismiss a cake, until I point out the novel approach used by the competitor, as explained in their notes. Just as a competitor should not assume that the judge knows every flower variety, the judge should not assume that they know how something was done. 

So that’s it. Really, it boils down to being a good person. Play nice with the other judges. Be kind, but fair in your comments. Give comments. Do the job you accepted. If you do those things, you will find that you are a good judge. 

Like a Broken Record

With cake shows coming up hard and heavy, I keep feeling like I need to give advice to the entrants. I touch on this in an upcoming article for Edible Artists Magazine (I am a columnist for the next four issues). I wanted to really go into detail about why this is a significant issue in cake competitions.

If you come up with a great design for one tier, it does not become MORE great by doing that same pattern on three more tiers. Let’s look at it from a judging standpoint: on one tier, you have already showed me everything you can show me of that technique. Why add the other tiers? Are you showing the judges something more? (To me, this is a big difference between a cake for a real event and a competition…the customer only sees the pretty tall design, not the fact that one technique was done into the dirt). Simply put, for each new tier added, you should be considering what that tier adds to your competition package. Are you at least doing the same technique in a different pattern? Is there a style or design change that makes it more visually compelling?

I don’t mind when designs alternate on tiers. Even though two tiers repeat on a four tier cake, you are showing two different design and technique elements to your judges. If you plop the same exact mold on every single tier in exactly the same place, what do YOU think you have shown the judges?

The next part of this issue is trickier. Some people get stuck repeating a cake design over and over. Everyone who walks into the cake show knows instantly that it is their work. Perhaps you always do a single tier cake covered in stencil work using metallic colors. Perhaps you always do tall square cakes with hand painting. Perhaps you always do faces/busts. Perhaps you do plain cakes with the same flowers in the same three colors.

I can hear you now, screaming at your computer: “but that’s my signature style!” Yes, yes it is. And that is great for branding yourself for your classes or your bakery. But if you are trying to stretch yourself and challenge yourself as a decorator, you must leave your comfort zone behind. I forced myself to do this at cake shows. I often challenged judges, after they were done judging, to pick out my cake. I knew I had taken my art to a new level when they could not figure out which cake was mine.

Am I asking you to give up on what you do best? Not at all. If you love painting on cakes, change the oversized square into a shorter hexagon cake. How will that panel size challenge you? If you love sculpting faces, try an animal or try a torso this time. Take what you are good at, but push it to the next level. If you always work in a defined color palette, add one new shade or go lighter or bolder. Change it up and you may find yourself inspired in new ways!

I hope you will think about these words. Judging is supposed to be blind and I honestly love it when I have no idea who made a cake. I cannot wait to see what you guys make this year!



It’s What Inside That Counts

A lot of decorators have been writing me lately as they prepare for upcoming cake shows. Many are doing sculpted cakes and are nervous about what is allowed for competition. I thought it might be nice to give you a judge’s perspective on this category.

I know we aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, but in cake, we do. Your sculpted cake will be judged on how well you DECORATED, as these are decorating competitions. Judges will look at how well you covered the cake, the difficulty of the design, your neatness, the difficulty of the techniques you used on it, etc. I often see cakes that excelled on the outside, but they don’t score well because the inside was overlooked.

Use a proper cake
It seems that people want to use their yummiest cake for the inside, without regard to how that cake holds up. You have to divorce yourself of the thought that people will be eating this cake. They won’t be. It is going to be hanging around for several days to a week, at least. You need to use a firm cake that will not settle. Bronwen Webber always told me she preferred pound cake for this.

One of my mentors, JoEllen Simon, used to compete in major chef competitions. She told me that her team learned to over bake the cake. Make it dry. If a pin was inserted into the cake to ensure it was real, crumbs would come out, but the cake itself was essentially a briquette. You basically bake yourself a dummy cake.

I cannot list the number of shows I have attended where the sculpture started to sink and compress as the show went on. I have seen icing buckle as the sides become lower. Please don’t spend all the time on the outside without first giving yourself a good foundation.

Use proper supports
For some reason, newer decorators think that they cannot or should not use supports inside the sculpted cake. The exact opposite is true. You MUST have support for the weight of the cake. Gravity will not care that you are at a cake show. You are allowed to use your own supports, a purchased armature or stand or whatever you need to make your cake hold up throughout the event.

One year at a show, a decorator created a dragon and had hired someone to build her armature. Another competitor felt this was unfair. But remember that the judges are only looking at the decorations. If you are allowed to use plates and pillars from Bakery Craft, dowels from Wilton and cake circles from your supply store, then you can certainly use PVC and pipes from Home Depot or Lowes.

For every cake I have seen buckle from using too soft cake, I have seen double that completely collapse or have part of the cake take a nose dive. Headless figure sculptures become the norm when supports are not used. I saw a stacked waffle cake, with NO SUPPORT BOARDS AT ALL UNDER EACH TIER, that fell over and barely missed taking out multiple other entries. If you don’t defend against gravity, it will win every time.

Show your process
Every sculpted cake category I have judged has asked for three in process photos. Nothing makes a judge sadder than having a stunning entry that they have to disqualify because the competitor did not provide the three photos.

Please, don’t give us photos that show who you are! We are judging blind with regard to names, for ultimate fairness. Don’t give us pictures of you mixing the cake or coloring the icing. We need three phases of the carving. Pic one: the stacked cakes prior to carving. Pic two: the cake, as carved. Pic three: any stage during the icing process. We also like to see your structure, but you don’t have to take a picture of the armature. The people attending the show, however, are always grateful to know how you supported the cake.

Use cake.
This should be a given, but many people want to do the entire piece from Rice Krispie treats. If the rules say cake, then the bulk of your piece must be cake. Some shows will give you a firm percentage that must be cake. You ARE allowed to use Krispies or styrofoam only where necessary to complete the design. Modeling chocolate can also be used where needed.

Size doesn’t matter
You can do something life size or tiny, it doesn’t matter to the judges. The key is to have all proportions be proper. The larger your cake, the more surface area of decorating you have to get right. Last year, the Best of Show winner at Austin was a small bust of Willie Nelson. The cake was impeccably done.

Don’t be afraid to enter
You will learn a lot as you create your entry. You will bring joy to the spectators. You will become a better decorator by challenging yourself! I cannot wait to see what you guys create!


Ruth’s Favorite Decorating Tools

fav things 2

I’ve been wanting to write some blogs about my favorite things for a while. I really enjoyed writing the Top Ten on the cake events and wanted to do something similar on other parts of decorating. When I started making lists, I found it was hard to keep things at 10 all the time. So, I decided it would be easier to do like Oprah and just call these my favorite things…that way I don’t have to worry about how many I have.

favorite tools

I’m going to start with tools. These are the things that get us through every project or class. I know some of you will think this is horrendous because I am not listing my mixer, but I am making a list for DECORATING this go round. For each tool, I will tell you why I like it, where I got it and how I use it. Some of these are very cheap; a few are not. The key for all of them is that they make my life easier.

fondant mat

My Mini Ruth Mat

I used to use large silpats or pieces of upholstery plastic to work on. I still use those when I cover cakes. But most of my time is actually spent on making smaller things like flowers and figures or rolling out small pieces of paste to cut out designs. As I was teaching, I realized that when I gave my students a large placemat to roll out on, they would grab a larger piece of paste and never quite got it thin enough. My employees at the shop faced the same issue. One day I realized I wanted a small silpat for my students, to make them work smaller and thinner. After an online search, I bought all the 6″ round silpats on the market.

They worked like a charm. People’s flowers were better than ever! There was just one problem; they worked so well the students all wanted to take them home. I tried and tried to find more of them, but the company had stopped making them. I found a place in China to make them for me. Now I have 8″ mini Ruth Mats. They work perfectly for my classes and now people can buy them to take home. The other reason I like them is that they are small. I can tuck one in my tool bag, in my purse or in my delivery kit. They are awesome for kneading color into fondant…I work on them and don’t get color all over my work space. Washing them off is a breeze. They also fit in my 8″ baking pans, so I don’t have to cut parchment circles at home. They work with modeling chocolate, gum paste, fondant and isomalt. They have been exactly what I needed. Before you ask, I sell them on my web page,, click on online shopping.  They are $6. NY Cake now makes a 9″ mat like mine. Check their page for more information.

clay gun

My Clay Gun

This isn’t a tool I use a lot, but it is invaluable to me when I need it. I tried many of the smaller, cheaper ones on the market, but they hurt my hands or gave me trouble when I tried to extrude from them. This one is a bit pricey, but I looked on it as an investment tool. If I only need one and it will last me 10-40 years, it is worth it. I have had mine for well over ten years, making its price seem affordable.

I use this to create hair, flower centers, borders, tassels, ropes and so much more. I checked and Global Sugar Art carries these. Norman Davis has become a huge fan of a giant extruder. I have used it in a cake challenge and it is very efficient for large projects.  Earlene Moore came up with a holder for the large extruders. You can buy that on her page.

dusting brushes

My Dusting Brushes

Oh the joys of a good brush! I have tried so many brushes over the years, but my favorites are absolutely my shaders and filberts. These are available from all your arts and craft supply stores. I usually use a 6 or 8 for dusting. I will use a 2 or 4 for brush embroidery or more detailed dusting. These also work well for spreading gelatin on the sheets that they sell at Cake Connection.   While I do sometimes offer these for sale when I teach, I don’t offer them online. A quick online search will show you lots of places to get the brushes!

baby spatula

My Baby Spatula

It is actually a mini spatula, but the girls at my shop called it a baby spatula and the name stuck for me. This is an artists spatula and is much finer and thinner than the cake spatulas. I use this for everything. I lift delicate gum paste petals with it. I cut with it. I mix tiny amounts with it. I always have three or four in my tool bag. When I closed my bakery, the one thing every single employee wanted from my supplies was a baby spatula. Wilton has come out with a new tool set and it looks like they have gotten close to this spatula. I tried the Wilton one the other day. It is thicker and stiffer, even though it looks the same. I do sell these online and at my classes because my students fall in love with it just like I did. Mine is available here,, click on online shopping,  but many other artists carry it on their webpages.

ribbon cutter

My Ribbon Cutter

This is made by FMM. I had one in every delivery kit at the bakery, as well as several more at the shop. I think I’m pretty good at free handing straight lines, but always use this for even bows and stripes. It comes with some groovy cutting wheels, but I only use the smooth edged ones. I love it enough that several times when we would lose the tiny nut that held one together, I would go to Lowe’s and go through all the drawers until I found the perfect one to put it back in operation! These are available through a number of web sites, including Nick Lodge,

ball tool

A Great Ball Tool

There is something wonderful about having a ball tool you love. It fits your hand just right, the ball is the size you need every time and it lasts a long time. The plastic ones are fine to start with, but when you can, graduate to a metal or acrylic one. If you find one with an ergonomic handle or a cushion grip, all the better. I carry three sizes from Geraldine Randalsome., click on online shopping.  I also love the one that Dianne Gruennberg sells on her site,

face brushes

My Face Brush

Oh my goodness I love this brush. It is an 18/0 spotter. This is the kind of brush that, once you discover it, you cannot live without it. Just ask anyone who has painted faces or brooches with me! The key is that there are few hairs and that they are short, so you have perfect control of your paint. A liner brush is just not the same. I’ve used this type of brush for years. I used to keep my newest ones hidden so that no one at the bakery would use them. I am happy to say that I sell these, because they can be hard to find at the craft stores. Buy mine here:, click on online shopping.

fondant knives

My Fondant Knife

Ok, it is really a lettuce knife, but I like calling it a fondant knife. Nick Lodge figured this out. He told Susan Carberry, who showed it to me. Oh my, I was hooked! It slices through fondant, gumpaste, modeling chocolate, Rice Krispie treats and so much more without sticking. Yes! Metal knives and spatulas gum up all the time and make me nuts. I was constantly trying to clean them off before the next cut. The plastic knives even cut through fondant covered cakes nicely, I hear. I found some in fun spring colors and carry those on my site,, click on online shopping.

scissors 1

My Embroidery Scissors

When I first started doing gumpaste work, people told me to get the stork scissors from the sewing department. So of course I did. I loved them. They were a little pricey, but the blades were thin and sharp and I could get perfect cuts on flower centers. When I started teaching, I needed to have scissors for every student. That was going to be too expensive if I bought the stork scissors. I started wandering around the sewing department to see what other options were out there. I found the scissors pictured above. They are comfortable for my hand, they can achieve tiny delicate cuts on even the smallest orchid center and they cost around $5!! These are the scissors I use in all my classes. Buy them at Michael’s in the sewing department.

cel shredder

My CelCakes Cel Shredder

I didn’t want to buy this. It costs around $60, which seemed crazy to me. I bought a cheap yellow tape shredder to cut my floral tape. It gummed up constantly. It was unwieldy and irritating. I had studied enough that I knew I needed to cut my floral tape to achieve better results.  I use a third width tape.  I even tried cutting the tape by hand…time consuming and anything but straight!

Finally I gave in and bought a Cel Shredder. I swear I could hear the angels sing when I used it. You just place a roll of tape against it, rotate the tape and it cuts through several layers at a time! It has a dial system to let you choose whether to cut the tape in halves, thirds or fourths. Genius! It is easy to take apart to replace the razor blades when they become dull. This is another investment tool that is SO worth it! Bye them here:,  You may notice that Nick has a new one with his name on it for around $30.  I just heard about it and hear it works really well, too.  It cuts into fourths and halves.  I will pick one up at Cake Camp and experiment!

So there you have it, a few of my favorite things. I know I haven’t listed them all, which means I will probably follow up with more information about tools in future blogs. Coming soon is my blog on my ten favorite books/book series that I highly recommend. I can’t wait to share those with you!

Now that you’ve read my list, do you agree? Are you tempted to go buy anything that you don’t currently own? Which favorite of yours did I leave out?

A Tale of Two Cakes

I love American Idol. I think I have watched every season. One of the things they always tell singers is that it seemed like a karaoke performance, implying that it was less than a show performance. Similarly, consider the difference between high fashion runway models and catalog models. As I was watching Idol the other night, I started thinking that there is a similar comparison in the cake world. I know that I have judged cake shows and, at least once, written “this would make a lovely cake for a bridal show.” I am betting that people don’t all see the difference between a display/bridal show cake and a competition cake. My friend Barry Dickinson asked me to write this blog to help folks understand.

A competition cake is supposed to show off the best features of your design and decorating skills. It is supposed to take longer than a regular cake order for most people. It often shows off advanced skills that no one pays you to do. It isn’t necessarily something you would do for a real event because almost no one would pay you enough to do that design. These cakes are fantasies. They are your dreams, your visions, your secret artistic desires.

A display cake is one that you know you can and will replicate many times in a very quick fashion. It is more commercial. It is production oriented. The designs are “dumbed down” so that they can be created efficiently for a profit.

A bridal show cake is similarly designed…for immediate visual impact from a distance, which can be reproduced easily on busy wedding weekends. While the designs might be impressive and detailed to a customer, we know that piping large scrolls with a tip 3 can be pretty fast. They might take longer than a birthday cake, but they still must be a profitable design. This necessarily limits what you do.

I often think of display and bridal show cakes as something you look at from a distance, like a full page in a magazine. They look amazing and really catch your eye, but if you go closer, you don’t usually get a whole lot more detail. The competition cakes, however, when done right, draw you closer and you keep noticing more details. It takes numerous photos to do the cake justice. It may need to be viewed on all sides or from different angles to take in everything that is special about that cake.

The next time you design a cake for a competition, think to yourself, is it runway or catalog? Can one photo capture all the details? Have I unleashed my full decorating potential? If not, bring the cake anyway. As I discovered at the last show, once in a while a display cake just might be done well enough to be a winner.


Picture Perfect

A dear friend of mine works for Young Life. YL had a seminar about how social media was making people feel bad about their lives because they only saw the perfect Instagram photos their friends would post. I thought about that for a while and realized that all of us who concentrate on happy, upbeat posts might be sending an incomplete message.

Mike Elder wrote a series of blogs called Fake it til you Make it. It kind of woke up the decorating community to the fact that we post our successes, rarely our failures. His blogs resonated with everyone. I’ve tried to be really honest with you guys in my blogs and tell you about the trials I faced in my baking life. But are my Facebook posts as honest? Maybe not.

When we see people cooking the perfect meal, taking the perfect trip, making the perfect cake, whatever…somehow it seems to make us feel a bit envious of their life and bad about ours. But the fact is, that the Instagram photos and Facebook posts are just like dust jackets on books. They show you the what the author wants to show you. Behind that dust jacket is the real story.

If I let myself, I can get really sad that friends of mine are doing things that I am not. I can wish my house looked like theirs, my abs were as tight as theirs, my teaching schedule as world bound as theirs, my family as picture perfect as theirs. What I have to remember is that the picture simply shows one perfect part of their life. No one really seems to have it all, at least not at the same time. They might be teaching in numerous countries, but be going through a divorce or be unwillingly single. They might have perfect abs but be going through a major financial crisis. They might have a huge house, but hate their job and wish their children would behave. They might have any number of health, relationship or financial problems.

There’s probably even someone who has thought my life was perfect or envied the good things I have posted. I want to be clear. I focus on presenting happy, encouraging, upbeat posts and try not to complain. But my life is far from perfect. People always tell me how lucky I am to be thin, but don’t forget that if you take my body, you have to take ALL of it. You get asthma, leukemia, adrenal insufficiency, hormone replacement, thyroid replacement and arthritis in the back. You get to have 10 prescriptions to keep up with. You have a doctor for everything. You have awesome surgery scars all over your belly. For each happy part of my life, I could show you the flip side.

You see, there is always more to the picture. Don’t let a moment in a photo change how you feel about you. Don’t let anyone’s success on one thing change how you feel about your journey. Remember, only you know your whole story. Show the world whatever you want, but don’t forget the human side to all of this. Instead of posting on someone’s timeline, give them a call or send them a text. Reach out to the real person, not the picture. Don’t let social media take away your social interactions. It should enhance your life, not undermine it. The dust jacket is only the surface. Get into the novel and you will see what is real. And, hopefully, find a way to feel blessed about the good things in your own life.