Monthly Archives: August 2016

Smartest Person in the Room

These two. So much love. Earl on the left. Grey on the right. They're pretty certain they are smarter than me.

These two. So much love. Earl on the left. Grey on the right. They’re pretty certain they are smarter than me.

Do you ever get frustrated because you are so certain that if a company would just hear you out, you could rock their world? Make things better? Help them give customers what they wanted? (on and on)

One of the wondrous things that happened with social media was that it felt like normal people got a voice in what companies did. If enough normal people spoke, a company would cave in to their demands. Right?

Well, that’s kind of backfired on us, because social media soon became a weapon used by anyone who had an issue with anything and companies finally did what comes naturally – ignore the garbage.

Oh, if I could just get Amazon to pay attention to me, I could FIX a ton of things … you know, those things that I have an issue with. Seriously though, I have some recommendations here, folks. It wouldn’t take much. (LOL)

We each believe that, based on our needs and desires, we know what is best for everyone else. We are absolutely positive that we have everyone’s best interests in mind and could change the world for the better.

One evening years ago, a friend and I sat down and worked out an entire plan for excellence in government. We were absolutely sure that our way was the right way. The best way. The only way that our country could continue to grow and be healthy. Funny thing is, twenty-five years later, our plan was never put into place (duh) and while things aren’t perfect, our plan was a bit unnecessary. That was actually a good lesson for me … taking the long view now. What I continually discover is that the only room where I am the smartest person there, is the room where I am by myself (okay, maybe my cats, but even then, who knows?).

I fired off a heated letter to a company that had been deteriorating in its customer service and delivery. A company that I love and believe in. I took the time to print out and mail the letter. The things I wanted them to understand were bigger than just a heated email. I stand behind everything I said in that letter. But I ended the letter by admitting that what I was seeing was one person’s perspective – mine. It’s an important perspective to me, but not necessarily to them. I see one tree, they look at the entire forest. But it was important to me that they realized that tree was in trouble and might be part of an epidemic.

I’ve fallen in love with a new television series and when I went to their FB page this evening, I saw hundreds of self-important, smartest-people-in-the-room know-it-alls telling the FB page over and over how the series was dragging this season and the characters were boring. These people offered their ideas on how to fix things – to their satisfaction – from only their perspective.

And yes, there were plenty of others who hopped on the negative bandwagon. You know … that’s where the biggest party is. Every time. If there is negativity to be had, people drop in line pretty quickly. But that’s an entirely different line of thought.

One of the things I’ve learned is that the smartest people in the room are actually those who refuse to open their mouths in order to prove what they know to be right. Understanding that their perspective might actually not be the only perspective allows them to see a bigger picture. When the time comes, they are sought out for their wisdom and advice and it is sound, not reactionary.

Proverbs (both Biblical and secular) are filled with warnings about remaining silent. Fools speak quickly, wise men hold it in until the time is right.

These next few months are going to be filled with foolish speech. Our tendency is to react, knowing that we’re smarter than everyone else … when in truth, we only speak from our perspective. Recognize and accept that … and you will be smarter than most everyone else.

Joy is Like …

hqdefaultWhen I was much younger (junior high / high school), my father discovered the Medical Mission Sisters. I suspect he’d known about them for a long time, but he fell in love with some of the simple songs written by Sister Miriam Therese. We sang these songs in our youth group, in church … everywhere.

One of his favorites was “Joy is Like the Rain.” (Click on the title for a YouTube link).

I saw rain drops on my window, Joy is like the rain.
Laughter runs across my pane, Slips away and comes again.
Joy is like the rain.

I saw clouds upon a mountain, Joy is like a cloud.
Sometimes silver, sometimes gray, Always sun not far away.
Joy is like a cloud.

I saw Christ in wind and thunder, Joy is tried by storm.
Christ asleep within my boat, Whipped by wind, yet still afloat,
Joy is tried by storm.

I saw rain drops on a river, Joy is like the rain,
Bit by bit the river grows, ’til all at once it overflows.
Joy is like the rain.

Read the lyrics a few times and let the song dig in. Because you know what? This is a perfect description.

It’s good to be reminded of simple things.

What’s Important

Cats and love all in one picture. And look at Grey's head all thrown back; her arms around Earl. So sweet.

Cats and love all in one picture. And look at Grey’s head all thrown back; her arms around Earl. So sweet.

Last night after I posted the blog, I sat back and chuckled at myself. There are really a few things that resonate so deeply within me that I will constantly write about them.

Now there’s the obvious: Bellingwood, weather, sewing, my family, my cats. That’s just my reality.

But then there are the things that are so important to me I can’t help myself. Things like:

Love – being a loving person and expressing that love. For me, that is the epitome of humanity. When we truly love, we have become what we were destined to be. Everything else falls under that with ease.

Change. I believe that change is good, even when it presents a struggle. In fact, I believe that the struggle is important. We don’t grow if things are made easy for us, no matter how much we whine and complain. Challenges make us become more than what we are.

Creativity. It doesn’t matter if you believe you don’t have a creative bone in your body – bones aren’t meant to be creative. It comes from a completely different place. We were created by a Creator – in his image. We are creative. That’s all there is to it. The thing is, we often so narrowly define what creativity is and mislead ourselves and others.

Kindness. I can hardly bear the nasty things I see every day, so I make the effort to focus on goodness and kindness. I know that where my mind is, what my eyes see and what I take in – these things define me. I won’t let myself be defined by ugliness and petty garbage.

Hope. Today is not tomorrow. Yesterday is not tomorrow. Hope is that glorious gift that helps us put another foot forward.

Joy. Happiness is fleeting. A single circumstance can turn our happy-ness into sadness or defeat. I see joy as a river. It goes up and down, but it is always a constant. Always there. Even if it looks like it has dried up, that’s not true. If you’ve ever lived on a dried-up riverbed, you know that the least bit of rain causes it to swell with water.

Words. The foundation of our communication. Words mean everything to me and it is completely astounding that after a lifetime of reading, writing, education … on and on, I still learn new words. And there is always something extraordinary to discover about the background of different words. They make me smile.

Gratitude. Someone once said that the reason so many people talk about / write about gratitude is that they must be looking for it from someone else. Nah. I don’t buy that. I think that expressing gratitude is as important as expressing love. We must. That’s all there is to it. We must. There can be no excuses. Forgetting … socially uncomfortable or awkward … there are so many excuse that people make, but none of them are worthwhile. If you don’t say the words ‘thank you,’ it is as much of a loss as refusing to say ‘I love you’ or ‘I’m sorry.’ Say the words.

Faith. I probably don’t write about this as much as I could, should, whatever. This is different than religion. I refuse to judge someone based on their faith, or their lack of faith or a refusal to have faith. That’s religion. My faith is the strongest part of my being. It is the one constant in a sea of wildness. My life would mean nothing to me without knowing that I believe in God. He is the beginning, the middle and the end of my life. That’s all.

These behaviors, ideas … ideals … these are important to me.

I’m Ready … I Think

Earl doesn't look particularly ready for anything - except, maybe, more sleep.

Earl doesn’t look particularly ready for anything – except, maybe, more sleep.

We’re right on the cusp of change.

Days too warm and humid to think straight are followed by days of absolutely gorgeous weather. Then we’ll have a couple of ugly days (just to remind us that Iowa is not actually paradise and we have to wait for that) followed by more beautiful days. Before too long, summer really will give way to autumn. Change is in the air.

I’m trying really hard not to get lost in the ugly-hot days and feel as if it will never turn cooler. That’s my go-to in about mid-March. Even though the temperatures are trying to warm up, my psyche is so programmed after three months of cold ugly stuff to believe that is what I will always wake up to, the I forget what it’s like to walk around in bare feet and to have soft butter on the table.

You know, we once had a dryer that was annoyingly broken. We could make the thing work with pushing and prodding, twisting and turning. Then one day Dad fixed it. He laughingly told Mom that she appreciated it that much more because she’d had six months of living with it being bad. The thing was. He wasn’t wrong. But it took a while to remember that the dryer worked normally and we didn’t have to fuss and fume. We weren’t fully prepared for that change.

Or like when I finally cut my hair off. For a couple of months, I fight with those stinking curls after a shower. It takes forever for me to finally get the rats combed out of my hair. Sure, I could use a ton of product, but that’s not how I roll. But then, the hairs are all cut shorter and I pull a comb through with ease. The first couple of showers after the haircut are funny because I prepare myself, like always, to suffer through the pain of tugging on the rat’s nests, but they aren’t there any longer.

Changes come … some so fast we don’t know how to manage them, others take their sweet time and we barely notice that anything new has occurred.

I do my best to appreciate, even anticipate, change, knowing that it will stir me into new waters – whether it’s a hair cut that gives me back about ten minutes a day, a dryer that works, a broken leg that has healed,  or a season that finally makes itself known.

I’m ready for summer to release its grip on us, that’s for sure, but with the end of summer, we look forward to fall, dread the horrors of winter cold, enjoy the new growth of spring and then we’re back to summer. Maybe I should just slow down and enjoy whatever it is that comes at me, knowing that change is always around the corner. I might as well accept it and enjoy what I have. It’s all that I have.

Rest … Maybe Too Much Thinking!

Everyone has been hanging pretty close. Earl up on top of the desk, TB in his cubby and Grey on top of the cubby, just in case TB might want to play.

Everyone has been hanging pretty close. Earl up on top of the desk, TB in his cubby and Grey on top of the cubby, just in case TB might want to play.

These last thirty hours or so have been glorious. Quiet. Restful. Thoughtful. Quiet.

My mind has wandered all over the place – on its own. No goal, no writing requirement, no trying to figure out a plot line or decide who is going where. And it has been quiet.

One of the things I know best about myself is that I can do a lot of stuff while I’m in the middle of chaos. I can work like the end of days is coming and get things done as fast as they need to be done. Focus is something I do well. Deadlines are my bread and butter.

But that’s not when I’m my most creative.

There are reasons that I only wrote little bits and pieces when I was working and living that crazy, wonderful life that had me running from first thing in the morning until I dropped onto the couch at night. My mind was running as fast as the rest of me was to keep up with all of the demands I placed on it.

Once in a while on a Friday night, when I knew there was nothing coming at me the next day, I stayed up until three or four in the morning and wrote crazy things that fluttered around in a mind that found its quiet.

I thought my life was at its fullest when I ran as fast as I could, doing as much as possible, meeting with everyone I knew. It was amazing and I wouldn’t be who I am now unless I had done all of that.

But every day, age and wisdom teaches me new things. One of those is that I know that the quiet is where my creativity resides; where peace and contentment allow my mind to explode beyond every day necessities.

It’s not for everyone today. But it is for me. You might not be ready for this. You might still be in the frenzied throes of a crazy, wonderful life that has you meeting yourself at the door each morning, unsure of whether you’re coming or going. Don’t negate that by trying to be where I have found myself. That might be what you want at this point in your life and it is exciting and thrilling.

If only we didn’t believe that another person’s life is what we must emulate. If only we didn’t think that the life we lived five years ago is better or worse than the one we’re living today. If only we would learn that life is what is happening right now. If only we trusted in ourselves for just this moment, and then for the next, and the next after that.

I’m grateful for what was and I’m grateful for what is and I am grateful for every moment of what is to come. I’m not alone in any of it. I don’t need to worry about who I was, who I am or who I will be. I don’t need anyone else to tell me what is right or wrong for my life.

And neither do you.

But tonight, I’m thankful for quiet that leads to creativity.

Day Off!

Grey is taking the day off, too.

Grey is taking the day off, too.

I’m taking the day off.

Last night at 2 am, I sent the manuscript off to my wonderful beta readers and for the first time in a couple of months, I’m not trying to figure out how to keep Polly out of trouble.

That’s not actually true. Book 16 already presents challenges for the poor girl, but that’s neither here nor there today.

So … here I go. Did you ever wonder where the idiom ‘neither here nor there’ comes from? Apparently I did today.

It’s from a sermon by John Calvin on Deuteronomy in the year 1583. Well, it’s from Golding’s translation of that sermon.

“True it is that our so doing is neither here nor there (as they say) in respect of God.”

Did you notice the words in parentheses? As they say? It seems like that phrase had been around for a while. So … now you know.

Speaking of parenthesis. Did you ever wonder where those come from? Well, a parenthesis is actually the phrase that is inserted into a passage. It comes from the Greek word parénthesis, which comes from words that mean “alongside of” and “to place” So … to place alongside of.

The parenthesis is usually marked off by brackets, dashes or commas. It doesn’t need to be enclosed by the curved brackets which are actually called parentheses (plural). As time has progressed, these punctuation marks have become the only common use for the term. We no longer use the word for those inserted phrases.

And now you know.

NOW I’m going to take a day off.

Tired of Words? Almost, But Not Quite.

I feel as if all I’ve done is manage words for the last week. I’ve written a blue million of them (exaggeration) and edited the rest. I’m not finished yet, either, though I have to tell you, I’m about ready to … oh heck, I can’t even describe what I’m about ready to do, because I’ve run out of words.

Several years ago, a friend asked if I saw words when I spoke. It took me a few minutes to respond because I had to process on that one. Then I realized, that yes, I actually see the words in front of me (in my mind’s eye). I’m constantly spelling and sounding things out, no matter what I’m doing. I always have.

If you tell me that you are holding a blue pen, I don’t see the image of the blue pen, because there are still yet too many variables. But I see “b-l-u-e-p-e-n.” And I know what you’re describing. We can still have a conversation about the blue pen that you’re holding because I translate all of those letters and words into a common understanding.

When I was in college, I discovered that my perfect pitch was more of a hindrance than a blessing. I took my first music listening courses at the University of Iowa where there were five of us with perfect pitch in the classroom. The professor decided that rather than seeing this as a good thing, we needed to … well, I’ll just say it … be punished. So … he insisted that everything he played be written in a specific key. If he played it in the key of D, we had to write what we were hearing in the key of G. He insisted that he was teaching us how to hear relative pitch, but the truth was, all of us simply translated what we heard as a D to a G. I didn’t learn any more about relative pitch then than I had ever known. I simply learned that he was a jerk and couldn’t see the benefit of us having perfect pitch.

It’s kind of like knowing two languages and encountering someone who knows two completely different languages. However, if the two of you find someone who speaks one of your languages and one of that person’s languages, they can translate and help you have a conversation.

Wait. Maybe it’s nothing like that. It appears I got lost in the word ‘translate’ and everything has gone to a weird place.

I should probably go back to my editing.

In case you didn’t get the email newsletter this morning, I made us a cover with a title for Book 15! I’m so in love with this image and the title fits with the book perfectly. Do you realize it’s less than a month now? There is so much left to do, but I’m right on schedule. It’s gonna be fun.

Tomorrow is Friday! And then it’s the weekend! I’m still out of food and need to head into town tomorrow, but YAY!

Okay – here’s the cover and I’ll chat at you later. Back to work, Diane!

Capture The Moments 100 dpi

Busy, Busy, Busy

I don't care what you're doing. I'm bored. Play with me!

I don’t care what you’re doing. I’m bored. Play with me!

I just scheduled the newsletter for tomorrow morning’s delivery. I can hardly wait for you to read it! If you haven’t signed up, you can do so right over there to the right of this post.

Of course there’s a vignette … I might have been working something out in that one. Whoops! Haha.

AND … there will be a title and cover reveal. Oh yeah, baby, I’ve been working like a fiend this last week.

There is so much that happens when I’m in the middle of a book. I swear, I need a keeper! The house is going to pot, I really don’t have a lot of food here. Fortunately, Amazon delivered a Prime Pantry box yesterday so I have things to drink (read: caffeine). The cats have plenty of food – yay me. Good mom!

By the time I’m finished writing a book, I have acknowledged so many continuity issues that I just know for certain the book is total crap. I’m positive of that. It happens with every single book.

I’m nearly finished with my first edit of this thing and am fixing issues one after another and I realize that oh, it’s not that bad. Every once in a while, I chuckle and think … that was kind of funny. Sometimes I cry because the characters are aching with pain and I realize that the book is actually going to be okay.

And the characters? Oh, I have a couple of flipping cuties that are introduced in this book. And one new character, though minor, just cracks me up.

Pretty sure I have enough food (oh don’t worry too much, I have a pantry filled with food – I just don’t have the time to invest in making meals – see, a keeper!) to get me through until Friday afternoon. Otherwise, it will be a most excellent diet.

I need to get back to Bellingwood. Sirens are coming through town and Polly’s phone just rang. Yeah. Gonna leave you with that.

A Bit of Odd Stuff on a Tuesday

TB feels a disturbance in the force. Who is that up there? (It's Grey)

TB feels a disturbance in the force. Who is that up there? (It’s Grey)

How many of you saw the article on the study done in Germany with LSD and its effects on language? (Here’s a link).  As I read the little synopses about it, I found myself laughing. None of this is new information to those of us who grew up in the sixties and seventies. However, if they can uncover new ways to treat depression and mental illness, rock on.

Another use for LSD is currently under scientific debate. An author of the study says that “Inducing a hyper-associative state may have implications for the enhancement of creativity.”

I really had to sit back and just say “duh” to that one. Again. Were you just not around in the 60s or 70s? What in the world do you think was happening with all of those musicians and the incredible artists? Did you just completely miss Timothy O’Leary’s existence?

There was an interesting magazine called “Mondo 2000” that circulated in the 1980s / 1990s. It’s editor was R. U. Sirius and then Queen Mu. It was a cyberculture mag that absolutely fascinated this young white girl who had grown up in the purity of Iowa farmland. In one of R.U. Sirius’s long, rambling articles, he told of his experience with acid and subsequent meeting with aliens. They lived among us. He was absolutely certain that if he hadn’t been tripping, he would never have been able to cross over into the dimension where they could be encountered. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. It. Was. Awesome. Here were people exploring things that I would never have the courage to attempt and they were happy to tell me about it.

Now the only problem with that culture was that they couldn’t accomplish much since they spent so much time being high. The magazines weren’t published on a regular basis, no matter how many promises were made. There was never enough money because they simply couldn’t stay focused on the task at hand. You should know, though, that many of the folks from Mondo 2000 transitioned to work at “Wired” magazine and for BoingBoing. This was the beginning of the cyberpunk subculture.

But the failure of that magazine tells me that if you’re going to use LSD to create, you really need someone straight around you to make sure that the rest of the work gets completed.

Now why am I telling you all about this?

Well, I read about this German study on LSD and had to chuckle at its obvious conclusions. Then it took me down a long path of memories to times when the outliers in our culture were more willing to publicly experiment with things and not worry about who was going to storm their houses based on an errant tweet or personal FB photo.

And hey … I would have been willing to be a participant in the study. Just for a short time. Under controlled circumstances. My cells have never seen anything like that before and they’d be prime fodder for entertainment. Just be sure to let me have a laptop so that I can write things down as I’m going. It would have to make for an entertaining read. I mean, what if there were aliens all around us … just on a different dimensional plane. I’d like to have a conversation with them. As long as they have a universal communicator. Wait. Maybe the LSD would open my synapses enough so that I could actually understand their language too.

Yeah. I probably need to get back to writing about Bellingwood. It’s a lot closer to sanity than this little rabbit hole.

Bye-Bye, Rio. (And a Book 15 Update)

I’m done. I typed the final period and sent Polly off for a pork tenderloin. She deserves it.

This book did not want to let me go. I typed over 100,000 words (usually around 90,000) and did that in 30 chapters (usually 27). The last three days is when it all exploded. I should have been wrapping things up, but there was more to tell! For a girl who generally writes two-three thousand words a day, I’ve written more than sixteen thousand words since Saturday. The good news is that there is plenty of dross in the middle of the book that will soon be burned away.

I’m a couple of days behind my deadline. That will make this week a little hairy, especially with the newsletter coming out Thursday morning. That means I need to write a vignette, decide on a title (hah, like I have choices yet … they’ll come, but yikes), create and design a cover and finish the first round of edits. Yeah, yeah. Why not? I’m good at deadlines. They bring focus. And a level of insanity. There might not be enough caffeine in the house for this.

But … I’m done! That’s pretty cool.

~~~

001I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m about Olympic-ed out. It was a really fun ride, but I’m ready to do something else. Maybe. On the other hand … I might actually just be missing it.

Let’s see: I fell in love with rugby. That game is crazy-wild-fierce! Every single minute of those rugby matches was exciting. I want more of this. A lot more. When I watched the Fijiian team win the gold medal – the first medal ever for their country, I wept with them.

Volleyball – whether beach or court – is just plain fun. And intense. I didn’t care who was playing, I was watching. It was fun to just see that incredible level of play happening and then to realize that we live in such an amazing world. Sometimes we get so insulated here in the US that we forget about the excellence in sportsmanship found all over this earth. We are only a part of it and the more we engage with the world, the better we become.

Swimming – Phelps, Ledecky, Manuel, Dirado, Peaty, Hosszu … these are names that mean something. They showed the joy they took in their sport. And if you need to focus on any ugliness, stop it. I don’t want to hear about it.

Basketball – remember the days when our professional athletes couldn’t play? I’m still stuck in 1984 with the dream team. You couldn’t pry me away from the television when they played. Even now, to watch our teams go up against international teams in true competition, it’s exciting.

Gymnastics – the world was captivated. It makes sense. Beauty and power in tiny bodies that explode across a variety of events.

I watched diving and rowing, kayaking, shooting, archery, handball, weightlifting, wrestling, (whoa!), fencing, judo. A little water polo, but then I started yawning and thought I should try something else.

Track and field. Remember Carl Lewis? Flo-Jo? Marion Jones? Evelyn Ashford? I do. And now, Usain Bolt goes down in history. He is simply amazing. But we add names like D’Agostino (USA) and Hamblin (New Zealand) who helped each other after that gruesome fall. That’s what international competition is about. Michelle Carter and her gold medal for shot put. Girl! Look at you! Ashton Eaton retaining the gold in the decathlon and those amazing girls in the 4x100m relay: Bartoletta, Felix, Gardner and Bowie.

These amazing athletes will take time to celebrate and return to their normal lives. Did you know that one of the players for the USA rugby team was on sabbatical from the New England Patriots so he could fulfill this dream? He has a huge season ahead of him, but his team and coaches believed in this dream for him and gave him the time away. He didn’t bring home gold, but he is an Olympian now. That’s enough.

The moments of last week are beginning to fade from our conversations and thoughts. But they happened. In a world that seems so out of control, for one brief moment in time, it came together in a spirit of competition, sportsmanship, grace and unity.

I’m going to miss it all.