Managing the New Normal

Advice on adapting to our ever-changing lifestyles

By Susan Baldani

Selena Soni, a licensed clinical social worker with MUV Counseling in Scottdale, has been in practice for 15 years. Her specialties are anxiety disorders, depression, and adjustment to new medical and psychiatric diagnoses.

Here, she gives advice about dealing with the changes and restrictions that COVID-19 has introduced into our lives. She also talks about getting through the holidays in this unprecedented time.

  • Create some space around expectations. Most of us expect a lot from ourselves, but allow yourself to slow down and do things differently.
  • Connect with yourself and with the people you love, and be open to communicating about what’s going on and how you’re feeling. Right now, we’re all having to deal with things that make us uncomfortable.
  • Look at what’s important, and make adjustments to get that same feeling, be it holding Zoom calls or phone conferencing with family and friends. And, don’t give up on weekends; instead, find something that works within your comfort zone.
  • Develop your “Quaranteam,” have tolerance, and be very open about what you’re doing and when you’re doing it.
  • Get outside and soak up some Vitamin D. It’s really important for our entire body to move, and walking or riding a bike and getting fresh air is really a sensory experience. Our bodies need that engagement, and being outside gives us more variation than anything that we can do inside four walls. It’s incredibly important for our mental health.
  • For the holidays, decide what particular traditions you love and then figure out how to keep them. They may look different, but still give you the same feeling.
  • Ask for help to get everything done. Recruit your loved ones to make holidays relaxing and memorable.

Written for Scottsdale Lifestyle magazine in Arizona.

Playing Nice – Book Review

By Sue Baldani

What if a stranger came to your home and told you that your child wasn’t really yours? That he was switched at birth with the stranger’s son? In the book “Playing Nice” by JP Delaney, this is exactly what happens.

When stay-at-home dad Pete Riley opens the door of his small house in London one ordinary morning, he thinks the gentleman ringing the bell is looking to buy or possibly sell something. He has no idea that after this encounter, his life and that of his family will never be ordinary again.

“Playing Nice,” published in 2020, leads readers through a myriad of emotions, from sadness and fear to anger and disbelief. The characters they think are charming and perfectly normal may actually be the ones who are the most evil. And those telling Pete not to worry, that everything can be worked out, may be the most conniving of all.

Who knows what really goes on in people’s minds, or for that matter, behind closed doors? Many have secrets, and keeping these secrets from getting out may be worth killing for. But could these everyday, well-educated parents really go to that extreme? Why yes, because at least one is what psychiatrists would label a psychopath.

While Pete and his partner Maddie try to deal with the nightmare of possibly losing their 2-year-old child Ben, they also face the unimaginable consequence of not being able to raise their own birth child. The situation may force this once ordinary couple to do things they never imagined.  And it may make the other couple do even worse.

Also, can evil genes be inherited? Ben, even as a toddler, has shown himself to exhibit some of his “real” father’s less-than-admirable traits. If they do manage to hold onto Ben, how can they prevent him from following in his father’s footsteps?

Readers will be taken on a wild ride as the two couples battle to keep not only what’s rightly theirs, but also what isn’t. Who will win, and who will lose, possibly even paying with their own life?

JP Delany is a pseudonym for an author who has written under many different names. His New York Times bestsellers include “The Girl Before,” “Believe Me,” and “The Perfect Wife.” To find out more about him and his books, go to

 Susan Baldani lives in the U.S. and writes articles about small town life, décor, books and food for various magazines across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. You can contact her at, through her website at, or on Twitter @mywritingwall.

Written for The Felixstowe Magazine in Felixstowe, Suffolk, England.

Virtual Santa Visits

Christmas wishes are not on hold this year

By Susan Baldani

What would Christmas be without a visit to see Santa? Even though the big guy is very busy this time of year, he always finds time to speak with his fans. With COVID-19 on the naughty list, many of these in-person visits have been canceled.

But don’t despair! Santa has come up with a way to stay in touch and hear boys’ and girls’ wishes. Like most people these days, Santa is holding a lot of meetings through Zoom calls from his residence at the North Pole. Once he’s done ensuring all his elves are wearing masks and practicing social distancing while making all the toys requested on the ‘Dear Santa’ letters and through Zoom, Santa will sit down with your kids so he can add their wishes to his long list.

Children will also be able to sing their favorite Christmas songs with the jolly guy, or hear him read the classic, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” more fondly known as “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” For an additional fee, Santa can share custom messages with your children to foster Christmas joy or to remind kiddos to be good so they can stay on his nice list.

Scheduling a meeting with Santa is easy, and calls can be conducted on computers, tablets, or video-enabled smartphones. Group calls can also be held with various organizations, such as scout troops and school classes.

These Zoom sessions usually last 10 minutes, but parents can sign up for longer times to enable up to four children to have their own personal visits with Santa. And, these calls can be recorded to share with other family members, such as grandparents and aunts and uncles. Your children can also share them with their own kids one day.

To bring the magic of Christmas into your home this season, just click on the website and choose an available day and time. All payments are done through PayPal, and because Santa is a giving man, a portion of the proceeds collected from these visits are being used to support the website company’s annual toy drive.

Written for Franklin Lifestyle magazine in Tennessee.