Response to “Empty Words” by Casey Dorman, Lost Coast Review

On November 6, 2017 Casey Dorman wrote a response to the most recent mass killings in America titled “Empty Words” at Lost Coast Review. Dorman states, “Fighting terrorism or preventing mass murders is not a matter of ‘not giving in’ to something.”

Because of the length of this response, I have posted it here rather than on the the Lost Coast Review website: The following is a comment to “Empty Words”:

I  agree, Casey. All of our statements of unity seem hollow and trite. They are spoken in the absence of a call for more effort toward understanding the causes of these incredible tragedies. That call, it seems to me, would be for more intensive research in and attention to trying to understand the mind of individuals who actually have chosen to give up everything that any of the rest of us desire in this world. They HAVE chosen to give up everything. We think about the tragic enormity of what they take from innocent people, but we often fail to consider the angst that brought them to the place, essentially of suicide – the same angst that perhaps thousands of other people also feel, but which these individuals cannot control. Why? No matter how much armor they wear or try to run at the very last minute, they DO understand that they are risking everything to go against sacredly held ideals of society. They choose to be the outcast. Again the question is “Why”‘? What can be a motivator that is stronger than survival? What can be the cause that transforms a human mind, that makes the instinct for survival SUBSERVIENT to his or her need to engage in horribly destructive action to others as well as to himself?  Even in as seemingly unconnected case of a person afflicted with anorexia, something has happened to turn off that survival switch. What is that factor?

You said something in this piece that I don’t think was expressed elsewhere. ‘Many of the mass killings involve individuals who desire to kill lots of people who are together enjoying some benign group activity, such as attending a music concert, a sporting event, church, or being present at a club, a movie or political event.’ I was struck by the words “enjoying some benign group activity”. It suggests extreme isolation from the community as a unifying factor and a probable cause for how a mind is re-shaped – how it is called to act in retaliation or how it becomes open to indoctrination of an ideology.

The heroes of society are rightfully identified as the first responders, or others who step in to stop the carnage. Those ARE the heroes, and there are other heroes as well.  Those are the people who take on the day-to-day difficult task of counseling individuals, providing support groups for domestic violence, giving intensive therapy, and doing research into cognitive behavior. Those heroes are not supported nor applauded enough by society.

Emphasizing that aspect of society on an ongoing basis is at the core of the solution to the problem; making them a source of inspiration is a shift in focus that we need to take.  And we need to think about the heroes among us who inspire us. You can find them in any community. They are the people who stop and interact with the kid who seems alone, talk to the guy on the block no one wants to befriend. When I see them interact, it inspires me. I think we should think about these people at moments like this and how we can be more like them. We need sincere inspiration rather than the syrupy “oh so strong” rhetoric that falls like a disingenuous, cacophonous clang on everyone’s ears. Until we have truly inspirational leadership, we just have to inspire each other.



Finding Your Inner Expert

figure with hand upMeredith Grey Joined Us for Happy Hour

We were sitting at TGI Friday’s last night when Meredith Grey joined us for some unknown reason – not Ellen Pompeo, the real Meredith Grey from Grey’s Anatomy,  but the fictional character who, in the previous night’s episode bravely volunteered to do a risky surgery and said,  “I’ll do it. I’m the best one for it.” That statement must have been sloshing around in the back of my mind since the night before until it found an audience in my husband, Mike, sitting right there at a table in TGI Friday’s. “Meredith Grey!” I said. “Can you imagine being in a room full of people saying, “I’ll do it.  I’m the best one for it?”  Luckily Mike knew what was I referring to and without hesitation he answered a simple, “Sure” while he ordered us two Happy Hour drinks. Not being able, in a hundred years, to imagine a situation in which I would feel comfortable enough to say, “Here, I’ll do it.  I’m the best one for it,” I continued to explore the topic while I waited for my chicken wings.  (How’s that for a pun?)  But I really did order chicken wings. (Mike had shrimp cocktail, but I digress).

“A Room Full of People” Exercise

And then it came to me. I asked Mike, “In any circumstance? “You’d volunteer to step up and do whatever it is you had to do in any circumstance?” “Well…” he equivocated. I forged on. “So , let’s imagine a room full of people from random backgrounds.  There is one task to be done that will save the world.  Under what circumstance would you step forward and say, “Here, I’ll do that.  I’m the best one for this job?” “Hmmm…” By now he knew there was no way out but to answer.  He obligingly responded, “If they would say, ‘You can save the world by getting this 8-ball in the pocket, I’d step up and say, ‘I’ll do it.”‘ “Excellent!” I was half way into my Margarita still waiting for my chicken wings, so of course I decided to take this one step further. (Mike wanted to play Hangman on the bar room napkin, so I spoke while he created blanks for me to fill in.) “Now, let’s imagine a roomful of pool players,” I said. He pointed to the napkin. “How about a t?” He put the t in one space on our Hangman puzzle and said, “Well, let me think.”  “If there was a long shot with very little room for error, and they’d ask for someone to do it to save the world, I’d step up and say, “I’ll do it.” “Ah, ha! So that is your area of expertise!”  I felt I had discovered a gold nugget in the hills of  Azusa. “Yeah, I know that’s what I do best.  So, what letter are you picking?  It’s a phrase, remember.” He pointed to the napkin once again, a little more impatiently. But now I was satisfied that I had discovered some new way to discover one’s inner expert. We finished the puzzle and the Happy Hour appetizers and drove home. As the evening wore on, so did the thoughts in my head during moments of silence. Maybe there was an circumstance when I’d step forward as Meredith and say “Here, I’ll do it.” I tried to imagine what those circumstances might be. In a roomful of people from random backgrounds, I imagined, I might step forward to save the world if the task was to sign a sentence in Sign Language. “There!” Now let’s say I was in a roomful of interpreters! I might not step forward except if, to save the world, the task was to sign a sentence in Signed English. I liked this game so much that I continued finding circumstances where I’d raise my hand and reasoned that someone who might read this little post might like this game too.

“Here, I”ll do it. I’m best at it.” 

You get the idea of how to play the “game”.  You think of circumstances under which you’d step forward out of a given group of people like Meredith Grey and say, “I”ll do it. I’m best at it.”  (Hopefully you don’t invent the task of “yelling out in anger” or “crying from the deep wells of your sorrow”  or some such thing that you do better than anyone else.) Think of all aspects of your life – your work life, your family life, any or every aspect you can think of. “But,” you say, “isn’t it easier to just go the conventional route and ask yourself, as they might in an interview, “In what areas do you consider yourself an expert?” Of course it is, but it isn’t nearly as much fun! Try my “Room Full of People” game/exercise and let me know in your comments if any brilliant insights came to you – or any insights at all, other than this author should discard all ideas that are connected to Margaritas. (My thanks to Shonda Rhimes, Ellen Pompeo, TGI Fridays, and my husband Mike  for their help in inspiring this essay.)





“The Man in the Mirror: Recency Versus Primacy,” Part II

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It seemed so profound a week or so ago – my thoughts on recency.  Now that they’re not so recent, they don’t seem so profound. Hmmm…Is that the whole point? In a way it is the point, but not totally.

What Meaning Can We Attach to “Recency”? 

Let’s face it, finding meaning for our lives in daily occurrences is probably what we are yearning to do.  So when I first was introduced to this word, “recency”, it led me on a Google search for a definition.  It wasn’t easy considering that I had first thought the word I heard was “recentivity”. (Don’t try to search for that one.  Google can’t even find much on a word that is barely a real word.)

You’ll find that looking for the word “recency” will lead you to articles on brain functioning, specifically in regard to memory.  (See previous post for a fast paced informative video). It hit me that perhaps just being aware of how our minds function in this way can lead us to modify or adapt our behavior to be a bit more in control of parts of our lives. It’s like once you know how something works you can figure out solutions or at the very least, not feel stupid.  (When my husband finally explained to me that the reason my natural left-handed approach to using a corkscrew was awkward because you’re left-hand inhibits the proper use of torque on the operation, I felt less stupid and bought myself a left-handed corkscrew.). See how that works?

In a discussion of recency versus primacy you’ll find this definition: “The first item in a list is initially distinguished from previous activities as important (primacy effect) and may be transferred to long-term memory by the time of recall. Items at the end of the list are still in short-term memory (recency effect) at the time of recall.”

While apparently this word has application from everything from education, advertising, to the stock market, and beyond, being of a naturally selfish nature, I wanted to see how the word had meaning in my life. You can’t really search something like that out; serendipity has to make that happen. And, sure enough, a few days after hearing that new word, it did.

Recency In Everyday Life

It was a “Man in the Mirror” moment. I was standing there looking at my reflection first thing in the morning.  (I hate to inform those of you under 70, but one day you will look in the mirror and it can ruin your whole day, or at least the next half-hour.) So there I was, all of these depressing thoughts impinging on my brain – hair thinning, face crepe-y, fat cheeks. Damn. Of course all of us who make valiant attempts each day to stay on this side of the line of sanity, know how desperately we search for something, anything, that will pull us back from the abyss.  And I found it, right there in my newly discovered word. “recency”.

This is just a “today” thought, I thought.  What about that picture a month ago where I actually looked decent?  I couldn’t have changed that much in a month!  So I combed my thinning hair over the empty spots and went smilingly on with the day not wanting to latch on to a recent thought and put it in my mind to make it a primary thought.  Recency can only be powerful it seems to me if it thrown into our long term memory. .

In life, in marriage, in our careers, it might be a good idea to think about recency.  Is the last thought we had about any of these areas really the one we should cling too?  Unless it’s an elevating thought, a thought that makes enhances our life’s purpose, a thought that will make everything better, we need to re-think that very last thought and decide whether or not that is a reflection of the whole.  Is that argument you’ve had with your husband really the sum total of your relationship?  Is that negative thought you’ve had about you, the sum total of all the good you may have done in the world?  Understanding how our mind works in this way gives us power over our very own “hard wiring”, for as great as the wiring may be, the most elegant part of that design is the ability to change itself.

The Man in the Mirror: Recency Versus Primacy, Part 1

dollopSee? Now this is what happens when you join a group.  You learn different stuff than you would just sitting home alone, writing on your computer.  So last Thursday at the Orange County Lake Forest Round Table, author Howard Rogers was reading a chapter from a new book he’s working on in his Mordacai Glass Detective series. (His first book, “A Male Doberman Named Esther,” was published this summer and is a fun read!)  Since Howard’s main character in his new novel is a college professor in some fancy-dancy field of Psychology as Howard was in, and since Casey Dorman (newest novel “2020“) also spent years in the field of psychology, the conversation evolved to something “Skinnerian” (a term I vaguely understand) and took a leap somehow to the theory of “recency” (a term I was hearing for the first time). You’d think that a person like myself who actually has spent a considerable number of hours being counseled by psychologists would be afraid to be in a group such as this, the threat of being psychoanalyzed looming in the subconscious somewhere. But no, these writers are the least intimidating, most down to earth group of any people I know.

So, back to “recency”!  Last Thursday was the first time I ever heard the term.  I started this article writing paragraphs of information on the term itself and then leading into how I incorporated the concept as I looked in the mirror a few days after hearing it.  But THEN, I ran into this video about “Remembering and Forgetting” which is totally intriguing, fun, and contains a rapid explanation of “recency” somewhere in the middle. So I thought, “Why try to improve on perfection?” and decided to stop “talking” (a rare instance for those who know me) and let you enjoy this more inclusive video instead – just because it’s so much fun. The narrator, whose name, as best I can discern is Hank Green, talks like lightning, so be sure you don’t miss the “recency” part somewhere in the middle. Apparently this video is part of a crowd funding project, Crash Courses, which, after viewing the video, you might like to support.  So view the video and watch for my next blog (tomorrow or so) on how recency and I met in the mirror last week.

Where Were You…?

dollopMost of us remember where we were on significant days of our lives or our nation’s life. I am sure you remember this event in your life as well, particularly if you’re over twenty-five. For me, it will always be remembered as the day I cheated on Jeeves. You might remember it differently.

It was the early 1990’s. And I remember the day well – every last detail. A.J. a college student who had signed up for weekly tutoring appointments for his English Composition class through our TRIO Student Support Services Program at North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park, MN, came into my office all excited. “Hey, I’ve gotta show you something, Billie. Our English instructor told us to use this to do our research for our next paper.”

“Well, A.J., remember I already told you about Jeeves“.  It never dawned on me that his professor could have told him about any thing other than Jeeves. I decided to indulge A.J. and let him bring up Jeeves himself on my computer screen.  Instead, he went to the browser window and typed in “g-o-o-g-l-e”.  What a ridiculous name, I thought. It reminded me of that stupid pre-World War II song my father would sing around the house, “Barney Google,” with his goo-goo-google-y eyes.

A.J. then went ahead and searched for something on this Google thing, but I still held fast to my love of Jeeves and showed him that Jeeves came up with almost the same information as this Google guy.  “Plus,” I added, “Jeeves has a lot more listings under ‘cached.'” And he did, actually.

Days passed, and I refused to be disloyal to Jeeves and the marvelous search engine he drove. I simply refused to have anything to do with Google.  And then came the day that Jeeves failed me. It wasn’t some enormous failure, just some little task that he couldn’t to fulfill. (I do admit  that there was some purely physical reason that bothered me about Jeeves as well.  That stuffy pinstriped suit that he wore everyday and his balding head just weren’t my style.  He looked 60, and I was only in my late 40s at the time.)  Yes, I’ll admit it, it was then and there that I threw myself into the arms of the Google and his unsurpassed algorithmic search engine. The die was cast; the course taken. It should be noted that Jeeves is the only man I’ve ever cheated on, but like some cold-hearted, ex-spouse, once I closed the door and walked out on Jeeves for my new love Google, I never looked back.

And that’s how it’s been.  Google and I will be celebrating our 25th anniversary together soon, and I continue to grow more in love with Google very day.  I’ve been faithful to him all these years. Well, yes, there was that other guy, Bing, who tempted me but that was for about fifteen minutes one day, so surely it doesn’t count since I immediately went right back to Google and vowed to never stray again.

I’m sure you remember the day you first met Google as well.  I realize now that many people love Google – millions really, but that’s ok. I’ve come to accept that.  So don’t be afraid to tell me, in your comments below, how you first met Google . Google belongs to the world. That’s what makes it so valuable and what makes every person’s first encounter with the Google search engine a personal, yet collective memory that we all share.



Follow Your Inspiration

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Note:  For the “thousands” of visitors to yesterday’s post introducing a “Dollop a Day,” don’t worry if you can’t find it again..  After receiving numerous responses (two) that the animation wasn’t playing, I checked into it and, in the process, undid the whole posting.  Needless to say, this might be an indication as to how this series might be headed. But not to worry, onward we go with today’s quote: “Follow Your Inspiration.”

One would think that a person who does “head down” line by line coding each day, as the kind to the left, would be the last image of htmlperson to talk about being grateful for the chance to “follow his inspiration”.  But there is was, 8:15 in the morning on the 73 tollway, my husband, Mike the software engineer, talking about his new placement allowing him to the freedom to “follow his inspiration”.

If you think about it, following your inspiration, is brilliant.  It is different from following your intuition.  My intuition, for example, might tell me that creating this “series” is fool-hardy and an unnecessary diversion from the novel I’m trying to write. My intuition might be right or wrong.  But creating “Dollop a Day” is following my inspiration . Inspiration elevates our intuition to a higher plane. There’s something spiritual about inspiration.

Having a job that allows you the freedom to follow your inspiration is a gift. Living a life that allows you to follow your inspiration is a gift as well. Sometimes you have to fight for that gift.  Sometimes you have to put yourself in the path of it.

But what about those times that you’re close to the bottom of the rung of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and in survival mode, as are many of the victims of Hurricane Irma at the moment? The amazing thing about inspiration is that it can come to you no matter where you are on the road to the highest level self-actualization. Ironically, inspiration can come, as they say, at the moment you least expect it. Put yourself in the path of inspiration, and when it taps you on the shoulder, don’t be afraid to follow it.



Hipsters, Yuppies, Millennials, and Baby Boomers? (Oh, My!)

Day 7: June 4, 2017 – Road Trip/Novel Writing Insights

And the Pool Halls Shall Unite Us All

Let me state it here and now. There is no generational divide in a pool hall. Whether you’re a pool player or the partner who is watching the pool player – everything is equal in a billiard parlor. Of course, this statement presumes that the people shooting are of equal skill. And they were last night at Scafiddi’s on Milwaukee’s popular lower east side near the trendy Brady St. After dragging my husband Mike across the country from California just so I could be inspired by actually living in the neighborhood where I grew up, we decided our walkabout last night should include a stop at Scaffidi’s Hideout so Mike could shoot pool. Scaffidi’s is a “new” addition to the lower east side – “new” as of 1971, ten years after my mom and dad and I had moved away from the east side to the south side in ‘61.

Scaffidi’s Hideout

So Mike and I took a warm walk down to Scaffidi’s Hideout on Kane and Humboldt, winding around streets whose names were as familiar to me as my own.  (The 94-degree heat in June in Milwaukee was not as familiar to me; however, but we soldiered on.) 

I don’t think Mike ever has any expectations when entering a new bar to shoot pool.  He just wants a beer and a chance to knock around some balls.  But usually, after a time, someone will lay down a quarter which I’ve come to understand is a desire to play a game or two with him.  And always I’m impressed by the young people who do.

Nate (left) Sam (pool cue)

Nate and Sam

This night was no exception.  Two young handsome 30 year-olds were waiting for a table and watching Mike. I love it when there are two people who have come together.  That way Mike gets to shoot pool with one– and I get to talk to the other one who is waiting to play the winner. Sometimes the guy who’s waiting just wants to watch without talking, and other times he (or sometimes she) is sweet enough and polite enough to indulge a chatty woman who has to dye her gray hair brown every few weeks. Nate was one of those open-minded, open-hearted kinds of guys. He started our conversation telling me how he could see that Mike knew what he was doing.  “You just know from the way a player holds the cue and how he moves around the table.” I think Nate knew that would make me proud. As we talked I found out that his partner, Sam, who was playing Mike was going to be married in a few weeks to a school psychologist (my favorite kind of person, having seen school psychologists in action over so many years, working with deaf students I’ve had.)  When I had a chance to talk to Sam I learned that he worked for Eaton in Milwaukee and had traveled all over the United States growing up.

And so, the evening wore on. I asked Nate if the group that hangs out on Brady St.is made up of Millenials or Yuppies, Gen-Xers, or what.  He explained that the lines between these groups are extremely blurred and it’s hard to define exactly who’s who.  (With Baby Boomers, it’s not so difficult; although I must say, we have former Hippies, want-to-have-been Hippies, and the never wanted-to-be, among our group of aging faces.)

After the guys were all “played out” and Nate was just getting warmed-up with the karaoke group that was gathering in the front of Scaffidi’s at 11 o’clock, we said goodbye and walked away.  As we trudged back in the heat to the old apartment where I grew up, I was hoping I might have said something this evening that may have been useful to these young men. (Being useful at this age is the best thing you want to be.) Whether or not that was the case, there is one thing I do know for certain: this evening directly affected the novel I came to Milwaukee to write!  Unequivocally I now know that the male character in “If Not for War” is definitely going to know how to shoot a mean game of pool. He might even have a conversation with a 70-year-old couple who come walking into a bar like Scaffidi’s. And I know for sure my female protagonist is going to smile at him as she watches the scene.

Best Thing To See On A Road Trip

Day Five: 2017 Novel Writing Road Trip Insights: June 2, 2017

What’s the best thing to see on your road trip?  Of course, we all know the answer.  The best thing to see on a road trip is friends!  (Note: this includes family members, especially if you have the kind of family like Mike’s and mine.)

So with that in mind, stifling any latent urges to veer off to Cawker, KS and take a look at the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, we kept zipping along east on I-70 yesterday (June 1st) and headed straight to our friends’ house in Overland Park, KS.

We’ve been friends with Carol and Gale since we first met them several years ago as they spent their winter at Newport Dunes RV Resort in Newport Beach, CA. Each season they visited, Carol and I would take walks around the Back Bay with my little dog Scooter, and Gale would play his banjo around our campfires. During one visit, we all went to see my daughter, Bethany Therese, performing in an Improv contest up in Hollywood.  (When friends support your children, it’s something more than special.)

A few summers ago, on a road trip similar to this one, we visited Carol and Gale in their home in Kansas when we still had our little Scooter. Scooter was always welcome at Carol and Gale’s because he and Carol had a very special bond.

As usual, this year’s visit at Carol and Gale’s place was like stopping at an oasis of homey-ness in the middle of a desert worth of stays at hotels and motels. Being in their home is like being in one of those gift shops where you want to stay all day. There is just so much to see – Carol’s own paintings on the walls, Gale’s instruments in the basement – his banjo, ukulele,  keyboard, and his brand new slide guitar – Carol’s garden with roses and hostas and hydrangeas and lilies, winding around stepping stones that Gale laid lovingly down. There’s the family room with tasteful collections perched on top of dark wooden ceiling beams – tiny green glass bottles, figurines each with special meaning to Carol and Gale – those kinds of homey things.  And then there’s my favorite room of the house, their sun room, a glass enclosed transition from the inside to outside with a lovely patio table and comfy patio chairs – wooden seagulls in the corner – perfect. Whenever we visit, we sit and talk like we’ve never had time apart.

There’s so much more to tell – the story of the orphan squirrel, Charlie, who adopted Gale, the mansions of Mission Hills, Carol’s insights to help me with my novel, how Gale in a blink of an eye, washed the front of our Prius before we started back on the road…but I’m typing this in the car and we have to get to Milwaukee by 1:00, so we’ll save some Carol and Gale stories for later.

Here’s wishing all of you the time to take a happy road trip and so many friends along the way that you’ll drive right past that old ball of twine in Cawker, KS.



Mars, Egypt, Motel 6…and Us

Day Four: 2017 Novel Writing Road Trip Insights
Imagine a game like this: A hat is filled with cards. Written on each card is a random proper noun. You are instructed to reach in and pull out 3 cards. You must then use your cards to write a story about the nouns you picked. Here are the words you pulled out: Mars, Egypt, and
Motel 6.

“What?” you say to yourself.  “I can’t make up a story with those three seemingly unconnected words!  It would sound like a preposterous piece of fiction.”  But sometimes truth truly is stranger than fiction as we found out yesterday, May 31, when checking out of Motel 6 in Green River, Utah
This is how universe decided to put these 3 words together. Just as I was emptying the previous night’s melted ice from our little red Coleman cooler onto the grass, I noticed a canopy under which stood a whole slew of handsome young men. When you’re 72 years old,  people don’t think badly of you if you approach a group of 20-somethings, any one of whom could theoretically be your grandchild.  (Age does have its privileges).  So that’s just what I did.  I walked up and asked this impressive group if they were having some kind of sale, knowing full well that this didn’t seem like a sale.
One by one, the smiley guys standing before me took turns explaining that the object I was looking at was a prototype of a Mars Rover they designed for the “University Rover Challenge”.sponsored by the Mars Society. The competition would be held the next day at the Mars Desert Research Station in Hanksville, Utah. Teams from all over the world will be attending from June 1-3, 2017.  Their team, the Pharaohs, composed of mechanical, electrical, design, and software engineering students, are from the Military Technical College in Cairo, Egypt.

As Mike approached, the talk shifted to the rover itself – the tire design, the strips of gym shoes that were glued on for better traction and so on. I continued asking more personal questions while being struck by clear eyes that shone with intelligence – perhaps brilliance, I surmised. But over and above any of that, there was a warmth that radiated from each of these young men – their excitement to show a stranger their project – their pride at being part of this group. Maybe it was the serendipity of it all – the unexpected confluence of unlikely circumstances – a Mars Rover in the parking lot outside a Motel 6 – respectful, generous, open-hearted young men across the world who took the time to talk to two lone strangers under unexpected circumstances. Maybe it was that serendipity that ignited an intuitive sense that I had just touched something of future greatness. It was an honor.

Click here for a list of participating world teams



The Myth of Focus

dog on road trip

Day Three: 2017 Novel Writing Road Trip Insights

Road trips are great contemplative times.  As I took over driving from Nevada to Utah, I turned off the radio and just thought!  My husband Mike slept peacefully up against the door of our Prius. (Our car is too packed to move the seat back.)
In the quiet of the car, I suddenly started to wonder which direction I was going.  I knew I was on I-15 North, but sometimes roads labeled east actually go south, so I couldn’t be sure at this precise moment what direction I was traveling. The sun was overhead, so that didn’t help. I didn’t want to fiddle with the dashboard to find the map with the compass on the screen, so I just kept driving not knowing if Denver was ahead or on my right (so to speak). It was all fine, of course, but when Mike woke up and told me we actually were going north, everything felt much better. Once I knew I was going north for sure, it put everything else in perspective. I could visualize the map. I could feel Denver to the east;I knew where home was; I could even estimate how many miles were left to reach our summer road trip goal. It was the label that helped!

Billie and Mike at the San Rafael’s, Utah

Let’s face it.  Our businesses, our projects, never have one focus, one direction. The plural of focus (foci) is an awkward word maybe because of the nature of focus itself. Sometimes we feel guilty about not focusing on one thing. But in life we have many “centers of attention.” What if we would put a label on each?  What if we visualize each of the important issues of our life as a direction we are going at one particular moment. If we give a label to each, we might not feel so scattered or pulled or guilty. It doesn’t matter the meaning of the label we use, it’s just a label. For example, if my unfinished novel is labeled north; the marketing of my children’s book, south; my short story ‘zines on Etsy, east; and this road trip blog “west,” I might not feel that I’m skimping on one aspect in favor of another. I’m just traveling one direction, however brief, until I turn in another.

There are those of us who never focus on one task at a time.  My mother was on e.  She’d start washing the dishes , suddenly stop and begin vacuuming. She’d stop vacuuming and comb her hair. This went on all day long.  You get the idea.  I don’t think my mother ever felt she needed to focus. She must just have liked taking the winding road through her day.

…Just a little thought along the road in Utah.

Road Trip 2017: Day Two

dog on road trip

First of all, this posting to our 2017 Novel Writing/Road Trip Insight diary is not from day one, but day two! (When taking a road trip, it’s important to remember that it wouldn’t be a road trip if things didn’t go a little wacky.) That’s what a road trip or any adventure is all about – how you respond when things go wrong.  (Come to think of it, maybe that’s what life is all about.) So our whole site “went dark” on the exact day we took off with a sign on each side of our car blatantly advertising this blog!  That means that the whole intent of this trip will be posted on day three (or not).

Having a sign on our car saying “Smile” is not exactly comfortable for me.  It’s far too authorcar with blogging signitarian for my style.  If I saw that sign, I’d probably think, “Don’t tell me when to smile”, but I tend to be a little more oppositional than most.  AND people do smile when they see our sign – especially this year. I think it might be because the whole world is trying to compensate for the name-calling – the meanness – that has surfaced during the past year. It’s like people are trying to prove we’re better than that.  I like to think that maybe it’s in response to the heroic act on May 27th by two bystanders at the Metro Transit station in Portland who gave up their lives defending the hate speech directed at two young women, one wearing a hijab. “No greater love…”
So here’s to joy whatever the reason and a warm “Hello” to the young woman in the Mini-Cooper passing us and smiling at our sign car in Mesquite, NV  and the young couple in black Dodge 4 x 4 as we parked in front of the Black Bear Diner in St. George, Utah.
…more later and happy trails to you.

Do You Stop Short of Success?

Do you tend to stop just short of success

Boycott “Shortstops”

Do you stop short of success? Funny I should ask! Today is March 15th. I’ve been working for two weeks on a St. Patrick’s Day marketing idea that would bring people to my website to buy my little children’s book, “Lucky, the Left Pawed Puppy”. I have left myself a whopping two days for promotion.

This article won’t be long because I do realize I’m writing this instead of doing my other work. But this is what I always do. I stop just this short of success, and maybe you do too.  But I’m not going to do that today. screenshot Irish Memory Match Game for St. Patrick's Day

Your Past May Be Present 

So where did this new discipline of mine (if it kicks in soon) come from? Google, of course, is the answer. I simply searched and found two wonderful articles that might help you if you’re a “stopper” like me. The first piece, “The Fear of Success” was written by Dr. Susanne Babbel for Psychology Today, resonated with me the most. Dr. Babbel discusses the surprising link between Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and fear of success. She addresses, as well, the avoidance of situations that might “get our hopes up. Sound familiar?

The second article, “Fear of Success: Do You Have One Of These 6 Symptoms?” will be helpful in identifying whether or not you fall into this “un-merry” band of brothers (and sisters). There are also insightful questions at the end of the article which just might propel you towards the success you really do want.

I’ll be off now tweeting my promotion because a St. Patrick’s Day marketing scheme just can’t wait until Easter.




‘California Weaving’

crystal ballIf I had gone to a fortune-teller in Minneapolis in 1990 – let’s imagine a dark-haired woman with a crystal ball and a gypsy scarf around her head – and she attempted to tell me I’d be living in southern California in 2016, I would have laughed out loud. If she told me that my friend Patti Hall would one day retire and also move to California where both of us would have adult children who lived a few blocks from each other, I would have
rolled my eyes and droned, “Yeah, right.”

Patti7But here it is 2016 and Patti lives in Toluca Lake and I live in the OC and we meet often for lunch at some beach-y restaurant with seagulls and surfers and sometimes a stray dolphin swimming by.  Patti might not have been as surprised by the imaginary fortune teller’s California predictions because, after all, she did start her young adult life out here on the West Coast, attending Cal-State, Los Angeles where she received her BA in Art.  It might have been predictable as well, that after years teaching and mentoring new teachers, Patti would finally be able to devote herself full-time to her own personal artistic pursuits when she retired.

It was over a margarita at Duke’s in Huntington Beach (Surf City, USA) that I started asking Patti more about the weaving that I knew she was pursuing full-time and about her shop in the Etsy store I had recently visited online.   Continue reading ‘California Weaving’

Learn Almost Anything, Anytime, for Less Than a Few Venti Frappuccinos

Full Disclosure: I have absolutely NO connection to this website other than having taken classes at the website mentioned in this article.

screen shot of art classes at udemyWhen I was searching craigslist for someone who might do a professionally looking video for me, I found a young videographer who was interested in taking on my project. “First,” he told me, “try some of the classes on udemy.com. They’ll be a great guide for you before starting your kickstarter video and they’re really inexpensive – $10, $20.
I ended up deciding not to go with kickstarter,” but I did find Udemy. I’m not in love with the name “udemy”; it’s hard to remember and people don’t catch it when you tell them about this great offering.  However, I am in love with the classes! You can find hundreds of interesting, informative, and well-produced courses on this website – everything from writing a novel to software development. You can even find “Happiness Classes” under “Personal Growth”. Just use the search bar within the website and you might happen upon something you’ve been looking for for a long time!

udemy8

Three Simple Words to Save Face in Election Year 2016 or Any Other Time of Your Life

handsome man looking embarrassed
By November 8, 2016, or possibly before, there is going to be a need for a few people, if not millions, to save face. The conventions are over at the date of this posting, and the debates haven’t started. Whether you're Democrat, Republican, Independent, or any other party, there are several scenarios that can play out in the next few months that can cause many of us to have a reason to save face, preserve our dignity, and regain credibility for the proclamations and predictions we made to friends and family about this election. "Donald Trump will never make it to election day." "Hillary will reverse her decision on TTP". "The Millennials simply won't turn out to vote." 

But this year's election aside, in our everyday interactions, there are times that we make proclamations or take stands with our friends, neighbors, family, and our spouses based on our psychological needs. Why did we have to negate a friend's idea or suggestion? "Oh, I really didn't like the Jason Bourne movies - way too violent for me." Is a statement like this made out of some need to prove our exceptional moral character? Or what about a seemingly innocuous statement, "Hybrid cars are such a good environmental choice," spoken to our cousin who we know loves her Chevy Suburban? Or more importantly, what about our interactions with our spouses? "If you weren't so stubborn, I wouldn't have yelled" - a statement skirting responsibility for our own actions. 

But no matter what the reason for our very human tendency to often revert to the less noble part of ourselves, when our choices or proclamations have been proven to be psychologically needy or unsound or based on illogical conclusions or false assumptions; if we have acted in a way that is embarrassing on a small-scale or a large-scale, there are simply three words that can go a long way in helping us save face:

I WAS WRONG!

Depending on the situation you might want to add a sentence or two in front or in back of this statement.  If you're going for humor, you can add: "What was I thinking?  I must have been on drugs." If your actions directly affected another person, you will want to add a sincere apology: "I'm so sorry."  It doesn't matter whether our positions were of little consequence, as in our opinion about a movie or a restaurant, or of huge consequence, as in action taken against another.  Whenwe say these three words,  "I was wrong,"  we honor not only the other person, but ourselves as well. 

The Woman in the Turquoise Bandanna

We’ve all experienced it – that feeling when you’re traveling in a strange town, and you meet someone with a connection to something familiar.  I don’t know the name for it.  It’s serendipitous when it happens, yes, but what is the feeling? Maybe there’s word for it in a different language.  I don’t know.

The best I can describe it right now is the “unexpected joy of connection”. That’s how I felt when I started talking to the woman in a turquoise bandanna and her husband sitting in front of the Chart Room Restaurant in Crescent City, CA waiting for a table. Mike was inside putting his name on the list.  I don’t often start a conversation with people in recent years. When I was young, I used to strike up conversations with everyone I met, but now Mike is usually the one much better at that than I am. But I struck up a conversation with this woman.  Maybe it was the turquoise bandanna she wore that made her seem so accessible. It’s lucky I wasn’t wearing my own favorite green or red scarf that I like to fold in a triangle and tie under my hair in the back. I would have worried that the people in the restaurant Continue reading The Woman in the Turquoise Bandanna

Our First Drive-by Smile

imageInterrupting the sequence of this blog (STAY TUNED FOR "The Woman in the Turquoise Bandanna) to bring you late, breaking news.  We received our first drive-by smile about an hour ago on US 101 north of Cloverdale.  How sweet!  The girl in the car waved at our "Smile, blogging on wheels!" sign.  Here's to you, sweet young girl.




Bear Camp Road: “Not Even God Can Find Me”

 

I always loved the song “They Call the Wind Mariah” made popular in the 50s by Frankie Laine. I hadn’t thought about it for many years, but on July 23, 2016, on top of a mountain in the Klamath Mountain Range, the lyrics leapt right out of their cobwebs in the back of my brain, jumped up to the front, fired some old neurons, and I could almost hear Frankie Laine’s voice:

And now I’m lost; so awful lost;
Not even God can find me.

f you take the “Road Not Taken” as Frost speaks of in his infamous poem, be sure it isn’t a one lane path winding up and down and ‘round and ‘round through a mountain. (Chubby Checker’s twist is not how you want a road to move). Also make sure it isn’t the Bear Camp Road that climbs 4,600 ft traversing the Klamath Mountain Range. Wikipedia describes it thus: “a paved, one-lane road with…  Full Article



Hold On…More to Come

Adventures are happening faster than I can blog! Here are some quick pictures from this morning in Grants Pass. This afternoon we arrived in Crescent City where it’s wonderfully cool and on the ocean! Tonight I hope to post “The Road We Shouldn’t Have Taken” (or some title close to that.) Hello to everyone we’ve met along our way. Stay tuned.

  • One of many bear decorations on streets of downtown Grants Pass