How It Started

Although The Stairway of Surprise is unabashedly and intentionally fun, its origin story reflects the serious power it has to improve your wellbeing.

More than a decade ago, a gifted therapist told me that with severely depressed people, she’d ask them to check back in with her after a certain time period—maybe the next day, week, month, or even year, depending on her relationship with them—and report on what was different. Particularly, she asked them to tell her what unexpected things they noticed, big or small.

This was helpful, she said, because when they looked for shifts, they found them. Maybe they even created them.

Either way, they were changed at a subtle level. Because when you’re stuck in the very worst depression, you believe your situation isn’t going to change. To see that things surprise you is tangible proof to your body, mind, and soul that you don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s real evidence that things shift. You learn it in your cells. And at an unconscious level, that is soothing.

Because if things can change, well… then things can change. That’s what’s commonly known as hope. As long as there is life, there is change. Things will surprise you. There is hope.

I shared an early draft of this book with one of my friends last year and also told them this origin story since it’s the reason I wanted to publish the book. They nodded and murmured sounds that I took as encouragement… though I did notice they never actually weighed in on the content one way or the other. But in the year that followed, they always looked carefully at the latest revisions and celebrated with me as the various steps along the publishing journey were completed. On launch day, I was surprised and moved when they shared with me that the book’s premise was a touchstone they themselves had been returning to through some hard times they were negotiating. “Things can change,” they repeated, and nodded and exhaled. “I can change. My life can change.”

It’s simply true. Perhaps that’s why it lands so solidly and reassuringly inside us.

May this little book—with the way it feels so good in your hands, delights your eye, reminds you to see the unexpected, and gives you a space to record that wonder—ease your way through remembering that anything is possible for the world and for you. That is our hope and our intention.

C. Jane Estelle, PhD, the therapist whose words started this project, has since left this life, but I love that her insight lives on in this book. With every thank you note and personal story of the book’s impact, I send her thanks and love.

Grins and belly laughs

Tending a surprise journal unavoidably ups your shared outward-delight game—have you experienced this yet?

So maybe your partner/kid/friend/accountant/barista/co-worker says they’re just not the type to keep a surprise journal. But then, there you are, going about your business… and something happens, as it always does (thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, world).

And they say “there’s your surprise for the day.”

And you pull up short and realize they’re right, and you chuckle or actually blast out a laugh. And they grin. They’re pleased. You’re pleased.

Honestly, this part of surprise makes me tear up every time as does just thinking about it. It may be the best part of a surprise journal—and that revelation is MY surprise thought for this morning.

Big love,


PS I don’t recommend TELLING them that you notice they’re fully as into your surprise journal as you are. Sometimes having a private surprise is surprisingly nourishing. Ah, this surprise stuff is nothing if not paradoxical and mysterious… intoxicating.

Day 1

Day 1 could be the day you get this book. Or it could be your birthday—the start of a new trip around the sun. Alternately, maybe you decide to begin writing in the book on New Year’s Day. 

But another way to start the book is to turn to the “day in the year” you get the book and start there (google “day in the year” e.g., today, Sept 23rd is the 266th day in the year since this is a leap year).

Of course you also can ignore the days and flip through til something catches your eye and write an entry there. You can date it—or not as you see fit.

You can write daily or several times a day or once a week or whenever you feel like it.
You can carry it in your bag or keep it on the kitchen table or beside your bed or next to your bathtub. Maybe you keep your copy in your car for when you’re waiting in the pickup line.

You can collage in this book, paint in it, draw in it, make lists. Write big or write small. It’s designed for you to write right atop the words and graphics, but, then too, you can weave around them if you feel the desire to do so.

I just hope it brings you extra awareness of the private experiences of delight you have in your moments. It’s already there—that I know for sure. Sometimes it only tickles at the edges of our awareness. Sometimes we miss it complete.y. And then those times we notice what we’re noticing? Heaven on earth: bliss but grounded and just a pleasant sensation that in words might be something like: “of course.”

Here’s to more of that.

Big love,


Welcome to Surprise!

Why a surprise journal? Here’s the short answer: it is a perfect tonic for your nervous system. Keeping track of things that surprise you is a practice that calms your unconscious mind, your heart, and your physical body if they’re over-excited. And it stimulates them when they’re sluggish. In this blog, I’ll periodically explore a little more of the stories that led me to this discovery. In the meantime, I hope you dive into the habit of recording the unexpected in your life and enjoy the benefits. Click here to order our beautiful surprise journal and let it guide you or anyone you know that could use a little more delight. I also hope you’ll use the contact form to let me know what surprises you AND also share any effects you find this habit having upon your life.

Best wishes,