No Moment Wasted


This post was actually written on 5/13/14 – I just wasn’t in the frame of mind to post it.


Today’s been emotional.

It was the first day I’ve had free in longer than I can remember. I started the day with a to-do list, that never got done. The first thing that happened was that I opened my computer to check my facebook page. I was intending to get back on top of my Charles Dickens Project, which has been woefully neglected while we were busy renovation the mill house (not that we will ever be done renovating).

I came upon a link to a blog written by a mother, who right now is sitting next to her little boy, Ben, waiting for his last breath. She’s struggling with how to help her other children (including Ben’s identical twin brother) cope, when she’s not sure how she will cope. The words brought every memory and emotion back like it was only yesterday when I was doing the same thing.

The logical part of me screamed to turn the computer off. I had no delusions that I could read her blog and not bawl my eyes out. I read every post, from his diagnosis until today. Today, when all that was left was pain medications, holding hands, and waiting.

But that wasn’t all. I lost all ambition to do anything I had planned for today and stayed glued to my computer and read more stories.

One was of a 13 year old girl in Illinois, who carried her twin sister on her back for 370 meters after her sibling collapsed during a track meet. Helping her sister to finish the race meant ending any chances of finishing with a medal for herself. More tears for me.

I watched a video in which a sportscaster expressed his disgust for the uproar over Michael Sam. It was nice to see the support for a nice young man, who simply shared his joy of getting drafted into the NFL with the person he loves most. Best of luck to you, Michael. For every negative comment I saw, I read many more positive ones. The video showed a clip of Michael in tears. I joined him.

I watched an episode of Dancing With The Stars in which Paralympian Amy Purdy danced better than I could ever dream of dancing. Amy lost both her legs from the knee down after nearly losing her life to meningitis at the age of 19. She received a standing ovation.Yep, I cried.

I even teared up over Clydesdales. Yes, the horses, the ones made famous by Budweiser. I watched a video in which the Budweiser team was involved in an accident where the harness apparatus broke while the team was moving in a tight circle. It resulted in several of the horses falling down. Being extremely well trained, the rest of the horses stayed calm. The ones on the ground stayed down, keeping still, instead of struggling to get up. All of them were still tethered together. Had any of the horses panicked, the ones that were down would have been trampled. The handlers ran out and carefully untangled the mess. When the last horse stood back up, unharmed, they too received a standing ovation.

I made sure to dry my tears, and clean up a bit before my husband got home. I could hear him in my mind saying “Why read those stories if they make you cry?” and “You’re just wasting your time when you could be getting something done.” What he doesn’t realize is that I was getting something done. I was experiencing a range of emotions that inspired me to do some writing. Nothing big, just a couple of pages. Maybe they will grow into something, and maybe they won’t. Even if they only stay a couple of pages stored on my hard drive, the feelings I went through today: heart break, pride, joy, relief, will all come into play one day. I will draw on those feelings when I need to have a character face a loss, or watch a child do something extraordinary, or overcome a challenge.

All of these stories had happiness and sadness in them. The mother who was losing her son, took joy in her other children and in her faith. The girl who helped her sister may have lost her race, but she won so much more. The young athlete, who is facing bigotry and hate, is also being surrounded by love and support. The woman who has lost both her legs has proven that grace comes from within. What looked to be a horrific accident, showed what even animals can do when they trust the people who have cared for them.

This is how I learn to write better. I take in all I can, even if it’s painful. I let myself laugh, and yes, cry. I learn by living and also by observing other’s lives. And despite what my husband might think, or that long list of jobs that has to wait for another day –  I didn’t waste my time. Without even getting out of my pajamas, I had a very productive day. When you’re a writer, no moment is wasted.

Update: Little Ben passed away only a few days later, at home, surrounded by those who love him. Rest in peace, Ben, and all the best wishes for peace and strength to your family.

Having a Drink with Hemingway



Last night I went to Shaker’s Cigar Bar in Milwaukee. The bar, once a speakeasy and brothel, built over the site of a cemetery, is said to be haunted. They have discovered quite a few spirits. There is eleven year old Elizabeth, thought to be pictured below, who broke her neck in a fall from a tree when it was a cemetery in the 1800’s  (ladies, be careful – she’s known to haunt the woman’s restroom).



There are two ghosts of unnamed women who worked the brothel and committed suicide on the property, and one of Molly Brennan, a woman of the night who was murdered by her lover. With two murder victims buried in the basement, and an unknown number of bodies that were not moved when the building was constructed over the cemetery, there are plenty of restless spirits roaming the property.

The building was also once owned by Al Capone. He even left behind a safe. The current owner has elected not to break into said safe. Probably a good idea, just ask Geraldo Rivera.




Any of you who know me, know this is right up my alley. Just check out my other blog posts “Spiritual Journey” and “Life Imitates Art, Art Imitates Life, Life After Death“. I am not a skeptic when it comes to ghosts and the spirit world. Despite my desire to meet someone from the other side, we did not have any supernatural experiences while on the tour. As the tour guide will tell you, ghosts don’t perform on command. The history and architecture alone were interesting and worth the ticket price.

Another attraction of the bar are their cocktails featuring, the once illegal, absinthe.  For those of you who don’t know what absinthe is, it’s a liquor made from anise, fennel, and wormwood. Once called the “Green Fairy,” it was first produced in Switzerland in the late 18th century.  It became very popular in Switzerland, France and the United States, especially in the early 1900’s. Unfortunately for absinthe, it got a bad rap. There is a chemical in wormwood called thujone, that is not only poisonous, but thought (at the time) to be a hallucinogen. It’s no wonder that J.K. Rowling made one of the main ingredients in her Draught of the Living Death potion.

Of course, serving hallucinogenic alcohol to the customers, has nothing to do with anyone possibly seeing ghosts on the tour!


During it’s heyday, absinthe became the drink of the creative crowd; the writers and the artists. French poets Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, and Arthur Rimbaud were absinthe drinkers. So were artists  Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Amedeo Modigliani, and Vincent Van Gogh. The authors that favored the licorice flavored beverage included Oscar Wilde, Alfred Jarry, and Ernest Hemingway. These are just a few of the artistic minded that preferred to partake in absinthe.

Hemingway loved absinthe and even created his own cocktail. He mixed absinthe with champagne and called it “Death in the Afternoon” after his book of the same name.

I have to admit, I have yet to  read Hemingway. I know…  his books are Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning classics, but I was initially turned off by the idea of over 100 pages of an old man sitting in a boat. That being said, his books are on my list of books to read, but I have a lot on that list, and I’m still in the midst of the entire works of Charles Dickens. Sometimes I feel like Henry Bemis in the Twilight Episode Time Enough at Last.”

“Witness Mr. Henry Bemis, a charter member in the fraternity of dreamers. A bookish little man whose passion is the printed page, but who is conspired against by a bank president and a wife and a world full of tongue-cluckers and the unrelenting hands of a clock”

I can understand Mr. Bemis – so many books, so little time! So Hemingway, along with many other greats, are on the ever increasing, impossible to complete, “to read” list.

Regardless of the fact that I cannot call myself a fan of Hemingway, as an author, the man is an icon. So I raised a silent toast to his creativity and success (and secretly hoped his spirit would bestow just a bit of it on me) as I sipped on a glass of the cocktail he created. I do hope I enjoy his books more than I did his cocktail.  Just a note, I did try a sip of absinthe served the more traditional way, with water and a sugar cube. I found that to be much more palatable than Hemingway’s drink.

Unfortunately Hemingway, along with absinthe, met a tragic demise. Hemingway committed suicide, and absinthe was made illegal. It was blamed for crimes, immoral behavior, and murder.

Here is a quote from Oscar Wilde on the effects of absinthe.

“After the first glass of absinthe you see things as you wish they were. After the second you see them as they are not. Finally you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world. I mean disassociated. Take a top hat. You think you see it as it really is. But you don’t because you associate it with other things and ideas.If you had never heard of one before, and suddenly saw it alone, you’d be frightened, or you’d laugh. That is the effect absinthe has, and that is why it drives men mad. Three nights I sat up all night drinking absinthe, and thinking that I was singularly clear-headed and sane. The waiter came in and began watering the sawdust.The most wonderful flowers, tulips, lilies and roses, sprang up, and made a garden in the cafe. “Don’t you see them?” I said to him. “Mais non, monsieur, il n’y a rien.”

Now absinthe is back. Yes, thujone is poisonous, but you cannot consume enough absinthe to reach toxic levels without first dying of alcohol poisoning and the new liquor contains less thujone than the early versions. As to it’s hallucinogenic properties –  despite Van Gogh and Hemingway’s known mental instability, and regardless of Oscar Wilde’s tulips, it is not proven that it has any hallucinogenic effects at all.  I certainly didn’t see any ghosts after imbibing  my “Death in the Afternoon” cocktail.

Absinthe is not all innocent though. It has a very high alcohol content (110 to 144 proof) which may have enhanced  the genius and creativity of those who used it , but also, most certainly, aided in their eventual deaths.  Besides Hemingway and Van Gogh’s suicides; Wilde, Lautrec, and the other artists I listed, (with the exception of  Rimbaud who died fairly young of bone cancer) all suffered from poor health that was attributed at least in part, if not completely, on drug and alcohol addiction. So although absinthe is  not the creator of visions that drove men to kill, it still had the ability to kill. To be honest it still does, but only as much as any other alcoholic beverage. One only needs to practice moderation, as with anything else to avoid it’s curse. At Shaker’s there is a three absinthe drink limit for any customer on any given evening.

As for me, I’m glad I tried it, but I think I’ll just have to find my creativity on my own. I may not win a Pulitzer, or recreate the magic of a starry night, but I may live long enough to enjoy the things I do create.

Besides, I want to remember, in vivid detail, any ghost sightings I may have, and not wonder if it was just a hallucination! And if the ghost of Hemingway himself ever visits me? I will thank him for a pleasant evening, sharing his drink, even if it wasn’t to my taste.






Where to Go When You Have a Screw Loose

Last week I opened my laptop –  something I do multiple times per day. On this particular occasion, the lid lifted with a shimmy, while my ears were met by a clunking sound. Those are things you never want to experience in reference to a computer. While still open, I placed my finger against each hinge, one at a time, and wiggled the lid. The hinge on the right side shifted ominously. I’ve had a laptop with a cracked hing1197107206400036309metalmarious_Laptop.svg.mede in the past. It’s a bad thing because not only does it affect the way it opens and closes, but very delicate wires run through those hinges to power the screen.

I was preparing to send my laptop in for service, knowing it would be weeks that I would be computer-less. I live on my computer – it’s where all my writing is done, my promoting, my correspondence with event organizers …  everything! My writing career hinges (pun most definitely intended) on my laptop. I was facing a crisis of major proportions! I was seriously frightened of losing the two books I’m working on, plus files and files of notes for other possible novels, not to mention the amount of time that would go by with no e-mail, facebook or pinterest! To avoid putting any stress on the hinge, I left my laptop open until I had everything backed up in more than one place.

After doing everything I could to get ready for the upcoming ordeal,  I finally decided it was time to close the lid and pack up the laptop to take it in to those service techs who send shivers up my spine. Do they really know what they’re doing? Do they play around on my computer when I’m not looking? What if they send it away, and it never returns? The last time I took my laptop in for the same problem they returned it with a new hard drive – thankfully I’d backed everything up that time! I never did get a good explanation of why they felt they needed to replace the hard drive.

As I carefully closed the lid, I just happened to have my index finger resting along the right side of the keyboard. My finger was promptly pinched by the case as a gap opened, then closed along the edge.  Surprised, I turned the computer over and walla! The problem wasn’t a bad hinge, but a missing screw on the bottom corner right next to the hinge.

My first course of action was to see if I could find the screw online – thank goodness I still had a computer to look it up with. I found that loose screws are a common issue with this model laptop. The originals are defective, the threads were machined too loose/open, and they will fall right out. It turns out the computer maker is more than happy to send me an improved set of replacement screws, in which the threads are much tighter, for $33.00!

I have to say that I have an issue with the company charging me anything to replace something that was defective to begin with, much less $33.00 for some screws! Since my laptop is still under warranty, I called the store where I bought it.  Sure they could repair the laptop, but it would take 10 -14 days! FOR A SCREW!

I found the best solution of all. It turns out the screw is actually a stock,  run of the mill screw. One new screw from True Value Hardware – 25 cents and the nice gentleman who worked there tightened all the rest for free! I decided to splurge and spend $3.99 for my own screwdriver so that I can tighten them as needed.

I haven’t had a” true value” like that in a long time, and it was certainly better than getting “screwed” by the computer company!



A Visit by Three Angels at Aldi and a Political Intervention

I am interrupting our  normally scheduled broadcast (The Dickens Project) for a public service message…

Lately, I’ve been sad and disappointed with the human race. We all know that crime and the ferocity of crimes has escalated to unthinkable proportions. Hate crimes, revenge, and just plain insanity seem to fill our daily news, rather than being the rare story. Even weddings make the news, not for the joyous celebration they should be, but because of the mob-like brawl that cost one family member their life. What is happening to people? It has made me start to seriously fear for our future, and our children’s future.

If you think the news is bad, just go to the internet. Because I have to market my books, I have three facebook pages, two business related and one personal. This means I spend a fair amount of time on facebook. Recently both in everyday life, and especially on facebook, things have been getting a bit unfriendly. I can hardly wait until the end of the election, but I’m afraid the hate speech won’t end there.

I understand everyone has an opinion, and has a right to express it. I don’t have a problem with people posting their political view, as long as they don’t make it personal. The posts that make me consider blocking people who I otherwise like, are the ones that say things like “anyone who actually believes so and so, is an idiot.” You can insert either candidate, or their vice-presidential candidate, or any politician for that matter, because if there is one place where it seems all  sides come together, it’s in believing it’s okay to bash, not just their candidate’s opponent, but anyone who might consider voting for their candidate’s opponent. You can also insert any other derogatory word in for “idiot”, I’ve seen worse.  When people say things like that, do they stop to think they have a 50/50 chance of insulting someone close to them? That, with those odds, they are very likely calling someone they may care about a nasty name? Likewise, that means I have a 50/50 chance of having hateful things said about me, to me, by someone I care about.

I’ve read posts where people say they will “unfriend” other people because they plan on voting for the other guy. First, I don’t have “friends” on facebook that I don’t really consider to be friends in life. Sure, some are friends I haven’t seen for years, or casual friends, but I do consider them all real friends and in my world, friends are supposed to be kind to each other, even if they have differences.  I even saw one person who said they’d “unfriend” someone because they mentioned they watched a particular news network.  Why bother “friending” them in the first place? I would hope that if you would call someone friend, they’d have a greater value  than what television  show they watch.  I want to make myself clear. I don’t think these people are “idiots”, or anything else like that, but I can’t help but be disappointed, because I know these people are kind in other aspects of their life, and are simply caught up in the fervor of this election.

So what about the person who watches all the news networks, and listens to both sides? Are they accepted by all, or hated by all? I found myself hesitant to say anything political in nature, for fear someone might “unfriend” me. It saddens me that I can’t be honest about my opinion to my friends, the people who are supposed to accept me regardless.

What’s even more amazing, and sadly disturbing to me, is that many of the people who are making the most noise, are those who have themselves, or have family members who have, at some point in their life, faced discrimination or hate.  I want to know why it seems completely okay to hate either republicans or democrats in general, but not gays, blacks, whites, or any other group? We all have a right to our political opinion, and we have a right to voice it. But that doesn’t mean it’s right to throw insults and hate at people simply because, they too, are exercising their right to vote for or support whichever candidate they feel will better serve the country.

The other day, a local radio station who hosts social interventions, made an intervention call to a man. His brother was begging him to leave politics at the door when coming to a nephew’s birthday party. It seems at every family function, a fight ensues over politics, provoked by this man. He asked in the interest of the child, whose birthday would be celebrated, that for once the subject of politics be banned. He said if not, his brother was not welcome.  Isn’t this child, this family, more important than who’s voting for who?

Lately it’s everywhere I go. It’s on the internet, it’s on television, it’s in the grocery store, it’s standing in line at the bank, at the post office, it’s at work. It’s always been on awards shows, which is why I rarely watch them. Trust me, I will base my political opinion on my own research, not on what the clerk at the store says, or my coworker says, or what the movie-star-of-the-week says.  It’s not like I’m just hearing rational discussion about the issues, most of what I’ve been hearing of late, is hate, pure and simple.

Just when my heart was aching about the lack of humanity in the human race, I was visited by three ghosts…no not ghosts, even though these people are sometimes hard to see. Perhaps they could be called three angels (but I don’t really want to go there, because if there is a topic that runs second to politics that might get you metaphorically lynched, it’s religion). Let’s just say three good Samaritans.

All three incidents happened on the last three times I went shopping at Aldi. I bet you didn’t know they carried Samaritans there, hey?

The first incident was when I had an overloaded cart full of purchases, some of them quite heavy. I was trying to keep the cart from rolling away with one foot, while loading the packages in the car. An elderly gentleman came over and said “Let me help you with that.” Then he started loading my packages into my car. I was touched. I felt like I should be helping this gentleman lift heavy packages instead of vice-versa. I thanked him profusely, not just because I always thank someone who lends me a hand, but because I was surprised by his  kindness. Surprised, because I had started to doubt.

The second time I was at Aldi, it was a simpler kind act, but a kind act all the same. I had bumped a display. It wasn’t anything earth shatteringly embarrassing. It was just some boxes of powdered apple cider mix, and about 6 or 7 of them hit the floor. The store was packed with people (it was a Saturday) and most of them just looked at me as I bent down to pick them up.  One woman rushed over and started picking up the boxes with me. It wasn’t a huge gesture, yet it was. Unfortunately, the rest of the people just stood there and watched both of us, but it was nice to know that someone was willing to lend a hand to a stranger.

My third Aldi experience happened last night. Again, this wasn’t someone dashing out to save me from a speeding car, it was just someone being nice. I had finished loading my car and had started to push my cart back to the front of the store. There was an older gentleman who was walking toward me from the front of the store. He said “let me take that for you” as he dug a quarter out of his pocket to hand to me. For any of those who haven’t been to Aldi, you put a quarter in a slot to get a cart, which you get back when you return the cart to the front of the store. It’s not unusual for people to take your cart and give you a quarter, if they happen to be heading to the store to shop anyway and need a cart. I assumed that was the case this time, but as I watched, I realized that it was not. This gentleman wasn’t going into the store, he had been heading out. He handed me a quarter, then pushed my cart up to the front of the store, then turned around to go to his car. He took the time to dig out a quarter, so he could walk out of his way, just to take my cart back for me.

It’s the generosity of these three people that has given back to me the hope that our society isn’t going to hell-in-a-handbasket, as previous generations have often said. There is a lot of hate out there, but there is  kindness too.

My message to my friends, co-workers, associates, and people in general is to be careful in what you say or do. It’s the people, (sometimes even strangers)  in your life that mean the most. People. They are more important than politics, religious affiliation, skin color, sexual orientation, gender, type of music they listen to, types of clothes they wear, etc.  It’s okay to state your opinion, but do it with kindness. I’m sure some of my friends will recognize themselves in this story. I hope they don’t take it as an assault on them. Think of it as a mini intervention. I still consider them my friend, because friends deserve second chances. I still consider them friends whether they vote for my guy or the other guy. What I hope they take away from this is that I know they are good people, but sometimes, in the heat of the moment, even good people say things without thinking it through. Think before you speak, or type, as the case may be. Is what you are saying a comment on the issues or is it a personal insult? It doesn’t matter who’s in office, if we as human beings can’t learn to get along, even if we are all different, the world will never be a better place. And my feelings really get hurt when my friends call me names, and since I have friends on both sides of the aisle, I do get called names, at least 50% of the time.


Prince Harry and the Royal Jewels

We’ve all heard the news stories this week. Prince Harry, being a young person in Las Vegas, stupidly played a game of strip billiards, and the pictures are out there to prove it. So much for the motto, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”  I feel bad for Harry, really I do. I know what everyone is saying: he should know better, he has a public persona to live up to, it was an act of stupidity.

Of course it was stupid, that’s part of life. It’s how young people learn. It’s how we all learn. Face it, from the beginning, we learn, not just from rules, lectures, or even common sense. The lessons we learn the best, are learned the hard way. Every toddler can be told “Don’t touch – hot.” but it doesn’t truly become understood until the first time they experience “hot.”

Obviously we hope that in the process of learning, no one places themselves in harm’s way. There are some very dangerous activities that we can only hope the lessons we try to drive home, prevent. I don’t believe in protecting children from all things scary. It can expose them to things you’d rather they didn’t learn by experimentation. I used to let my kids watch Rescue 911. Was it scary? Could it give them nightmares? Was it sometimes gruesome? Yes, but watching a kid lean back on his chair and fall through a glass patio door, or seeing a kid impaled on the knife he was running with, drove a lesson home, a lesson that I didn’t want them to learn the hard way.

So no, we don’t want our children or anyone to learn some lessons by experience. Ever. But we do have to understand that it is okay for them to learn other lessons the hard way, and the behavior of many young people it just that, a learning experience. Every generation goes through it. I’m pretty sure every parent hopes their children don’t do half the things they did when they were young

Of course, when we were young, the threat of doing something stupid was that whatever we did went on our “permanent record.” Right, and just where were all these “permanent records” kept? I’ve thought about it. What stupid teenage act in my past could be dredged up if all the stars align and this writing thing takes off for me? Is there anything in my youthful past I’d need to worry about? Truth be told, if there is some picture of me out there somewhere, acting stupid at a party, the best it could be is a faded, grainy snapshot from a 110 camera. For today’s youth, unfortunately, the threat is real. With HD video and cameras on every cell phone, and the internet, what you do might just be out there for all to see, forever. Now a days, it really does go on your permanent record.

And if you are a prince, it also becomes an international news story.

A Moment for Magic

Despite the excitement of my first review for my novelette, Finding Hope, and my self-imposed pressure to get my novel done.  I’m going to take a moment for magic.

I’m talking about pausing for Potter.  Harry Potter. I’m one of those crazy Harry Potter fans. I can’t complain, it’s paid off in ways I could never have imagined.

J.K. Rowling’s books were one of the things that inspired me to write. Her books pulled me in to a world I couldn’t have imagined. Her speech to Harvard graduates convinced me that everything is worth trying. That you can only fail by failing to try at all.

All that aside, she has also turned me into a Potter geek, and I’m a proud one at that. So for the next nine days I will be consumed by every Harry Potter interview, trailer, magazine article, and promotional picture.  I will rewatch the previous seven movies and I will be one of the many lined up at midnight on opening night. I’ve never been to a midnight showing, I figure this is my last chance. I may even dress in costume, when in Rome…or in this case when at Hogwarts…

Eighteen hours later I will be in line again with my friends. I will make sure I have plenty of tissues. Yes, I will cry.  It’s inevitable. I cried while reading the last book and have no doubt I will at the last movie. I’m sure I have family and friends that question my sanity, but then again aren’t all good writer’s just a little bit off?

After my period of mourning, I will return to my novel in full force.  I’ve taken the last week of July off in hopes of putting all the final pieces together.  But for now I’m perfectly okay with taking a hiatus for Harry.

Where art thou…art

Last night at the Chapter One writers group, I read an essay I wrote a couple of years ago about my search for a creative outlet. It chronicled my failed attempts at dance, music, and art. I found myself to be hopelessly clumsy, possibly tone deaf, an only mediocre at drawing. I’ve had an ad for ballroom dance lessons on my dream board forever.  It was a dream I considered unobtainable. I’d thought I was doomed to be left-brained; one whose analytic skills outweigh their artistic/creative skills.

That was until I discovered writing.  It turns out to be the one artistic venture that I seem to have some natural ability at. Up until now, I saw that as a victory.  Not just the victory of writing a story people might actually like to read.  But a victory over the left side of my brain in a “move over left brain, the right brain is taking over” kind of way.  That somehow, I had conquered my predetermined biological make-up.

Ha!  I was wrong. I did some more research. It turns out right-brained people are better at art because they think visually, and left-brained people think verbally.  Which means, left-brained people are better at putting thoughts into words instead of pictures, and therefore make better writers.

I found this to be frustrating. I’m not sure why it bothers me. Obviously it seems to be working to my benefit. But for some reason, I feel like I’m less in control.  That any talent I  have boils down to the way my cells divided when I was nothing more than a tadpole, rather than my determination, my heart and soul.

So I started taking every right-brain vs. left brain test I could find, hoping to find some evidence that my mind was more than a collection of gray matter that I had no control over.  I was intrigued by the fact that I seemed to have attributes of each side. Then I read that some people can actually consciously switch sides.

So I tried an experiment.  I stared at one of those tests that show a dancer turning in circles.  If you see her as turning clock-wise, you are using your right brain, if you see her turning counter clock-wise, you are using your left brain.  I stared, and I stared.  I concentrated hard.  Imagine my surprise when right before my eyes, she switched directions!  I did it.  I conquered my own brain!  Although she seems to switch back to counter-clockwise easier and quicker than clock-wise, I can now control which side of my brain I’m using.

I plan to keep working on switching her direction until it becomes easier.  Think of it as gray matter calisthenics.  Maybe someday my mental work-out will pay off. And maybe I just might take those ballroom dance lessons after all.

New Year's Resolutions

p { margin-bottom: 0.08in; }

        Why do we make New Year’s resolutions? Is there any chance that we’ll stick to whatever promises we make for the whole rest of the year? Aren’t we just setting ourselves up for failure? I mean really, if we were strong enough to keep the promises we make in January, would we need to make them at all? Don’t we make those resolutions because we weren’t able to do them up until now? Most of them aren’t sudden inspirations, they are things we know we should be doing but haven’t. Will a simple flip of the calendar make it all different, make us more able to do or be the things we haven’t done or been before? And yet, year after year we do it. Even if we don’t announce them out loud, somewhere in the deep recesses of our soul, we try to start the year out with a clean slate and make silent promises to do something better.
        I’m no different. I work better with goals. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s to make the goals small and achievable. It will never work if my goal is to be a better person. It’s not like I strive to be a bad person, or a lazy person. In general I think everyone tries to be a good person, even if their idea of good doesn’t match with those around them. So I will try to pick something more real, more attainable. I will try my best to do something kind for a stranger. Something beyond what I already do. I already hold open the door for strangers, I smile at strangers, I offer to carry items for people who look like they are struggling with their arms full. So what is it that I can do that is above and beyond my usual? I’ll try my best to be kind to someone who is not being kind to me. I’m faced with this scenario often, unfortunately. My day job is in customer service. Need I say more? I’m the person who receives the brunt of every customer’s lousy day, frustration, anger, financial difficulty, or traffic ticket. It doesn’t matter that I have nothing to do with any of those things. If they are in front of me, when one of those things are in the forefront of their mind, I’ll pay regardless. Even if I’ve done my job well. I already do my best to handle those situations with as much grace as I can, but still, I’ll try to do more. I’ll try to understand that they’re not really mad at me, that they have possibly had a horrible day, and could use a little good cheer. I will smile and wish them a good day and try to mean it.
        How many people vow to be healthier, lose weight, or join a gym? I have done this one myself. It always starts out good. In the beginning it feels good to put on some sweats and go to the gym and … sweat. But before you know it, I start missing workouts. The weather is bad, I didn’t sleep well, I have things to do. It always happens the same way. Once I was successful and dropped 55 lbs. I have kept most of that off, but now find myself backsliding a bit. So I won’t try and join a gym, I won’t eat carrot sticks and celery. I know those won’t stick. Instead I’ll try to walk the dog more. It’s better for me and better for the dog. I won’t beat myself up if I don’t go because it’s ten below zero. I think the risk of frostbite negates any health benefits, and if I make it completely unpleasant, I will soon hate doing it, again setting myself up to fail. Although if left to my own devices I might slack off from time to time, I have picked a partner who will not let me. There is nothing she loves more than a walk and she will bug me endlessly until I put on my shoes and grab her leash. I’ll also strive to not take seconds. It’s really not that hard to do. Trying to diet will never work, but portion control makes a huge difference.
        I will try my best to read more. Not just more, but a larger variety. You might laugh and think as a writer, I must be a voracious reader, and I am, or at least have been. I have stacks and stacks of books that I have picked up from used book stores, library sales, yard sales, and flea markets. I love to read but now with work, school, writing, and life in general, I find it hard to find the time. And when I finally do, it tends to be a genre I am very familiar with, an easy read. I need to branch out more. Try genre’s I hadn’t before. It will only serve to make me a better writer. So, it’s something I enjoy that will also improve me. Seems like a win-win.
        I could resolve to be more organized, but I know this one is beyond me. I will however, finish what I started. I had set a goal (an unlikely if not impossible one) to finish a novel by Christmas. I set this goal at the end of October. I did not give up on this goal until the week before Christmas. I don’t feel too bad though, because I really did give it my all. I was forced to put it to rest to get ready for the holiday, and I am giving myself this week until New Year’s to recover. Next week I will be back to work. I have set a new goal date, but for now will keep it to myself. There is a little part of me that is afraid if I say it, I will jinx it. This is the one that takes precedence above all the rest. This is really my one true resolution. I can think of about a dozen other things I would like to add to my list, but again, I must keep this something I really can achieve, and if the list is too long, it will begin to overwhelm me. And if I become overwhelmed, I will give up on all of it.
        I will add one more thing though. I will make more resolutions next year, but not before revisiting this year’s. I will pat myself on the back for the ones I was able to stick to and reevaluate the ones I didn’t. I will work to figure out why I didn’t and try them again, with maybe some changes to make them more achievable. So as you start thinking about your own New Year’s resolutions, try to remember to make them not just possible, but probable. I don’t see this as a cheat, I see it as a way to make your life better. If you set goals that are improbable, you will likely fail and then feel bad, which will just set you up to fail at other things. It becomes an ugly circle. If you set goals you have a good chance of being successful at, you will feel good about yourself, and in turn do more good things to better yourself. Give yourself permission (but not an excuse) to fall short sometimes. We are after all, only human. And keep a record. I have two bulletin boards in my office. One is a dream board, one is a memory board. Once I have achieved something from my dream board, I move it to my memory board. It reminds me that even though I haven’t succeeded at everything, I’m making progress, which is all we can ever ask of ourselves.
        So in the end I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and that 2011 brings you health and happiness. I wish you the best with whatever New Year’s resolutions you make. Even if you are the cranky person on the other side of the desk at work.
       See, that wasn’t so hard! And it’s not even January 1st yet!