Random Vicissitudes

Most people understand – at least in a theoretical sense – how quickly life can change. In the two months since I last posted, the silence hasn’t come about due to a lack of blogging material. No, no, no. Furthermore, every single day without a post brought a deeper sense of unease … the pattern of my life seeming slightly upended! Red-Pencil

But the respite from my daily pattern was necessary and welcome … necessary because life demanded I attend other matters and welcome because it freed me (somewhat) from my irrational obsession to slavishly maintain daily posts – no matter what! With each day that passed, my figurative pencil grew more insistent and red-faced. Much to my surprise, people continued to drop by and read previous posts. (I am gratefully humbled by your interest.) Continue reading “Random Vicissitudes”

Out With the Old?

As a long-time user of Microsoft products, I remember the bad old days. I recall a time when MS Word was a stand-alone product. It was one of the first pieces of software I installed on my Windows 3 computer (maybe 1991 or 1992?) and the software was called Word for Windows. Going from a plain text screen to What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) was a huge step forward, but it was only a word processor. When I needed something fancier for a brochure or newsletter, I had to devise work-arounds to make the word processor emulate desktop publishing functions as best I could. (This was before Aldus Pagemaker became available.)word_processing

As far as my own writing manuscripts (whether poetry or prose), I only needed Word … but every so often, I’d be temporarily lured away by another product hoping its advertised promises might actually exceed my passing-fair experience with Word (now part of the MS Office package). No matter what product I tried, I always came back. In some respects, my search for another word processor was a never-ending quest. My familiarity with Word is so ingrained, I’ve remained a consistent user … though not always a fan.

This week, though, I’ve wandered off the Microsoft reservation once again ­­­­– and this time, I may have found a winner!

Continue reading “Out With the Old?”

Rookie Adventure

The continent of Africa has been much in the news lately … stating the obvious, in case no one has noticed. It’s been kind of a surprise that Africa is a topic on everyone’s minds and frequently in our conversations, because (in my view) it’s rare – in general – for the vast majority of us living in the US to even contemplate what might be going on half a world away. Our lives are busy, we’re focused on our activities in the here and now … that’s the way life is most of the time.africa

If we even spend the time thinking about pressing events around the world … and specifically, on the continent of Africa … it might involve sending a tweet – #BringBackOurGirls – or a series of tweets if we’re deeply concerned. The troubling situation with Boko Haram in Nigeria or the fight against Islamist militants in Mali that has resulted in 31 UN peacekeepers being killed since 2013 … these are the news stories that generate attention. And, as if anyone could forget, the Ebola outbreak that has caused deep concern around the globe also carries danger for us, not just people in Africa. In a sense, all eyes (and prayers) are focused on the African continent right now. Continue reading “Rookie Adventure”

Penitent Sister

Hill-coverAfter yesterday’s post, I laughed and laughed because that was a fun post to write! I told my Beloved, I don’t care if anybody else enjoys the post, I had fun writing it!

But suddenly, in the midst of my laughter, it occurred to me the joke actually might end up being on me! There’s sort of an unwritten rule about lampooning … if the object one uses hasn’t earned iconic status, the joke almost always falls flat.

In my case, I got to thinking about the news reports I’ve been reading that indicate Hillary Clinton’s recent book release isn’t getting the numbers (in sales) that everyone hoped. Uh-oh!

One headline reads:  No one is reading “Hard Choices,” either. The article beneath the headline notes people may purchase but fail to complete the tome. Using a metric that gauges how far into a book readers progress before setting the book aside, Amazon rates Hard Choices as averaging a dismal 2.04%. That’s about 33 pages through this volume of 657 pages!

Another headline says:  Execs on notice after Hillary’s book sales tank. Let me quickly point out that “tank” is a relative term. It would probably be kinder to say the book has not performed as publishers and booksellers had hoped, but its fourth-place standing on the Nielsen book-scan list is hardly the tank.

However, as I began to think about whether or not the book (cover art shown above) has yet to earn “iconic status” – as in immediately recognizable by almost everyone who sees it – I’m not comfortable believing the book has yet reached that pinnacle. Hence, my need to admit the joke’s probably on me, because few may have understood my silly effort was meant to lampoon! Silly me!

Egg on my face, yep. But did that stop me? What do you think? Continue reading “Penitent Sister”

Dream A Little Dream

As a writer, I’m subject to the same inclinations as almost every other writer throughout time:  the unquenchable desire to have my words appear in print. I have had the privilege of selling poetry, prose and fiction, but to date, there isn’t a book on the shelf that declares me as its author.im-writing-a-book

Of course, I’ve compiled a book for you to write (another link here), but I consider that a completely different product. This particular book does have my name in it … but not on the cover because you must tell your story as you complete the book and only you can tell that story (not me).

When I was a younger woman, I often dreamed about the books I wanted to write … someday. I also used to dream about an agent (or a publishing house) calling me out of the blue to solicit my upcoming bestseller! (I told you it was a dream!) I had this delusional notion that my brilliance was so obvious, these publishing entities should jump at the chance to snag me into their stable, though I’d never even produced a book-length manuscript!! [I have now but it’s non-fiction.] Continue reading “Dream A Little Dream”

Homing Doodlery

My friend Debbie, at the Desperately Doodling Debbie blog, is in the midst of one of life’s most perplexing challenges (in my view) − the home renovation / home addition torture, er, uh, adventure. I speak from experience.renovation

We were in our mid-thirties when we tackled an 85% home reno. We had less cash but an abundance of time (even with four children underfoot), so as a way to save money, we hired workmen who were willing to guide us through demolition and certain installs.

Walls were removed (a broad steel beam put in place for extra stability) to make the home seem more open, windows and doors were moved and/or replaced, and concrete was poured in one section to even out the floors. Continue reading “Homing Doodlery”

The Sometimes Savage God

Bad things happen to people. Notice I didn’t say bad things happen to good people. Bad things happen to all people, good and bad. In the colloquial, it’s often expressed as: Spit Happens. And indeed, it does.SpitHappens1

In recent days, there’s been a flood of discussion about rape culture. Though I didn’t actually employ that specific term, my recent post For The Children touched on the concept. In the aftermath of the Leadership Journal fiasco (to which that post referred), I’ve read numerous other articles and posts addressing the issue.

Naomi Hanvey’s post discussed the subject at length within the context of the Christian community. She developed four excellent points:

  1. Rape culture exists
  2. The Evangelical Church does not understand rape
  3. The Evangelical Church does not really care about rape
  4. The Church does not know what to do about rape

I encourage you to read her post for an honest and insightful discussion of this sticky issue, especially as it relates to people who care about living out authentic Christian faith in a culture that makes authenticity a challenging task. Continue reading “The Sometimes Savage God”

Careful Writing

To me, the idea of writing prompts is both curious (on the one hand) and slightly unnatural (on the other). I suppose some writers depend on such devices to spur their creative juices. WordPress even offers a daily prompt to facilitate bloggers who are stuck. At the end of 2013, the editors at WordPress produced a PDF file titled 365 Days of Writing Prompts.

FROM: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_a_writing_prompt

A Google search for “writing prompts” yields more than ten million results. Many of those come from writing-teacher blogs and online workshops. Others have been provided by schools, colleges and how-to professional resources organized to help individuals develop career goals and more ably compete by acquiring better writing and/or conversational tools. There are writing prompts from past College Board exams to help future test-takers know what might be expected on an SAT test.

The range of writing prompts is probably as varied as writing itself. Sometimes writing prompts are fanciful:  write a fairy tale where the princess turns into a frog. Other writing prompts are more mundane:  describe the steps required to power up your computer. The key, apparently, is to train your mind for spontaneous, off-the-cuff writing readiness. (As I previously suggested, I think developing this skill carries over into conversation as well.) Continue reading “Careful Writing”

Asleep At The Pen?

During my writing life, I have subscribed at various times to writing blogs:  how-to write blogs, how-to publish blogs, how-to market your writing blogs. These various online resources provide their take on a plethora of writing-related topics, and many offer helpful tools and information.

tweety-bird-slippers-2-lgI’ve noticed whenever a gaggle of writers gathers, sooner or later, the conversation turns to talking shop and within a short while turns to discussion about processhow do you do what you do? This comparing-notes aspect of writerly minutiae can be as mundane as (1) writing a thousand words a day, (2) composition before noon, editing after noon … or as esoteric as wearing plush Tweety-Bird slippers while you work. (Oops! Now you know my secret!)

Habits. We all have them, not just writers. Sometimes, our habits enhance our level of production, but not always. But it’s not uncommon for us to examine the habits of others with the precise idea that emulating their habits may help us to become a better writer or increase our production or marketability or … whatever.

When I came across the brainpickings.org website, I was fascinated by its digest of “interestingness” (their word). One of their posts from last year is titled “Famous Writers’ Sleep Habits vs. Literary Productivity, Visualized.” It rarely hurts to include an illustration, and brainpickings proves its value by including an illustrated chart they’ve developed. Though their database was limited to those writers (over time) who’ve given information about their sleep patterns, the chart doesn’t disappoint.

A couple days ago, when I posted a few clues about my own sleep/wake habits, I hadn’t seen the chart. (Ha! Much to the shock of all, my name was left off!) But I was gratified to see that my favorite writer, C. S. Lewis, was a later sleeper than my normal routine reflects.

What about you? Do your rising habits put you on course for the Pulitzer? Finally, and most importantly, do you favor Tweety-Bird or Sylvester-the-Cat slippers? (Your secret is safe with me, I promise!)

Bonehead Study Bites

“There’s a new secret to get your child to behave at the dinner table − cut up their food and they’ll relax.” So says the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. To help them publicize their recent study, they’ve provided art work (below) to drive home the point.


Highlights from this scholarly contribution of academic cogitation include the following prominent bullet points:

• Using teeth to bite food may be connected to aggressive behavior, as with animals.
• Children ages 6–10 were served chicken either on-the-bone (bite) or pre-cut (chew).
• When eating on-the-bone chicken, kids appeared more aggressive and less compliant.
• Behaviors included violation of counselors’ instructions by leaving the eating area.

For parents who’ve been wondering anxiously why Johnny or Jenny is (1) disobedient, (2) rambunctious, (3) fidgety, or (4) all of the above, the brilliant Ph.D. researchers (3 of them) along with an M.S. researcher at Cornell have supplied the ultimate excuse answer to explain Johnny or Jenny’s misbehaviors.

Whew! And you thought your child’s conduct would require counseling!

My first thought (when hearing and reading about this “study”) was to presume a college senior (looking for an easy A) settled on this dubious topic as a senior project. But no.

It appears to be the misbegotten brainchild of an already full-fledged Ph.D. and author, Brian Wansink. As founder of the Food and Brand Lab, Professor Wansink appears to have identified his mission in life  assessing and transforming other people’s eating habits. You may want to learn more about Wansink, but don’t depend on his website; most of the pertinent links (save for the Hi-Res Photos and Vita links) take you to “Page Not Found” locations. Too busy authoring scholarly studies, I guess.

Full disclosure, first. I’m no Ph.D. I don’t have a team of researchers, university funding and cartoonists on my staff. Actually, I don’t even have a staff … unless you include the massive black dog lying in the next room.

But this I know:  plain and simple, this study is boneheaded! Furthermore, it is a huge disservice to parents and their children! Note the weasel-wording of the first bullet point:  Using teeth to bite food may be connected to aggressive behavior, as with animals. When an infant plants his or her teeth into a parent’s flesh, that too may be an aggressive action … but it could also mean that infant is suffering teething pain. How utterly ludicrous to evoke the image “as with animals” and attach it to a normal, natural act of biting!

Eating on-the-bone-chicken makes children appear “more aggressive and less compliant”? Really? Appear = seem … hardly a definitive statement, a subjective observation at best. (Did the researchers decide in advance what they wanted to find?) Observe twelve children (yes, twelve children) eating lunch at a summer camp and extrapolate subjective perceptions from what the researcher notes. (No chance for bias or misinterpretation there, right?)

The suggested solution for better behavior at the dinner table? “Cut up their food and they’ll relax.” But the teeth … children still have to chew. Alas, unless the teeth are all yanked out, children may be tempted from time to time to bare their teeth and bite − as with animals. We can’t have that!

God forbid there should be a chicken leg or ear of corn or a crunchy apple in the house! Purge it all! Nothing but shredded chicken, creamed corn and applesauce allowed! Render the entire eating experience bland and unappealing to the senses. Let’s all be anorexic!

I shudder to think how much money (tax dollars?) Cornell University (and other institutions of higher learning) are devoting to such lofty and informative endeavors. How in the world did people manage in the long-ago days before micromanagement and behavior modification burrowed into every aspect of our everyday lives? How did previous generations of children ever manage to grow up, unassisted by the ultra-supervision of Big Brother watching their every move?

But children do grow up. Alas, many of them never take time (even momentarily) to consider the possibility that the “facial feedback” brought on by baring the teeth to bite (according to Wansink) signals common animalistic aggression. (Surely we are doomed!)

Maybe we should just feed them through a straw until they’re twenty-six years of age?