Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Big Changes in Life

There have been many big changes in my life. A lot of people have big decisions or happenings that lead to big changes in their life. Some people's life is a little more stagnant. Some of my changes followed a somewhat typical milestone in life. From elementary school to middle school to high school to college. There was moving out of my parent's home. Then there were changes that started to shape my life with more depth.
I'm not Alone?: One of those changes was when I "came-out" to myself. I realized since I was in 5th grade that I liked girls, but I did not know what that meant. I was brought up Catholic so I thought this was an evil part of me that I somehow had to defeat. I went to college read Rubyfruit Jungle (the main character was not the best role model for future lesbians), and the book let me know that there were other lesbians out there. Then I had my first girlfriend and my life took another road in a way.

Wilderness Road: I graduated college and snagged a job in the Florida woods. I lived in the woods with a co-counselor and 12 at-risk youth. Enough of a change? This job changed my life in so many ways. It put me out of my comfort zone, it gave me confidence, and gave me opportunity to make a difference.
Weird I have Time: The 9/11 attacks changed a lot of people's plans in life or it hurried them to their goals. People got married or decided to have a kid, or left their job to pursue their dreams. My girlfriend (at the time) and I decided to move from North Carolina up to New England closer to our families. This moved me out of my 24/5 job to the 40 hour work week. Weird I have time now.

From the Usual 2 to 5: Then there was the "instant family." I went from dating single women to becoming part of a family with three kids, then a house, then 4 cats and a dog. We got married in June. Having a family and being a step-mother is one of the biggest changes in my life. I think it is one I am still acclimating.  

I am not sure what the next change will be. I mean what big change will I make if at all. I quit soda for two years now. I go on and off of diets. I published a few books. I got new shoes. I am not saying that I have to make a change. My life is pretty, awesomely perfect.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

16 Ways to Make Work Fun

I am all about finding ways to make work fun. This goes for chores, homework, hard labor, paperwork, general work milieu and meetings. There is a slogan I think coined by Ben & Jerry (the ice cream guys), "If it isn't fun why do it?" Sometimes these are my thoughts exactly. I go step further and say, "If it isn't fun, make it fun."

Here are some of my tactics. This are tested and proven for my simple mind.
1. Sing while working. Even if you are bad singer.

2.Whistle while you work (do do do do do do do).

3. Time yourself and try to beat your high score. This is perfect for unloading the dishwasher, folding clothes, raking leaves, shoveling, performing surgery (works on Grey's Anatomy), filing, etc.

4. Find a fun way to do the chore. For my kids recycling chore we set up the plastic and cardboard bins and they stand at the top of the stairs and throw them in. See who can pick up the most stuffed animals. Do a slip and slide on a tarp you have to clean.

5. Have someone else do it. You can delegate a task. They might enjoy it more. My kids love doing dishes while camping. Go figure!

6. Pretend that your job is more important than it is. For example, when filing you are a secret agent looking for top secret information. Any time someone comes into the file room that is the chance  you will be found out as a spy.

7. While working try out an different accident. That is what telemarketers and customer service people do. They are not Indian or Pakistani, they are actually from Tennessee.

8. Give out stickers. When I give out my staff's monthly productivity report, I give them stickers if they are above expectations or on target. They enjoy them.

9. Don't go to work. Stay home and have fun.

10. Leave little presents in your staff's mailbox. Write fun jokes on a white board. Dress-up funny one day.

11. Invite a speaker for a meeting. Play a fun game to learn a new strategy or information. Have food at a meeting. Go on field trips.

12. Do a job with a kid. The conversation alone will be interesting.

13. Find a new toy, tool, sticky notes, or system to make your job more fun or easier.

14. Get friends help. Make a party out of it.

15. Teach your pet to do it.

16. Reward yourself for getting it done.

Check out this site for my ideas. Fun at Work

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dream Job or Dream Guy/Girl: Radio Show Topic

I was listening to DJ's on my archaic shower radio talk about the topic would you rather have your Dream Job or your Dream Guy/Girl. I only heard comments from a few callers because I have to stand still in the shower for the radio not to lose reception.

What would you want? The dream job might come with a lot of fame, fortune, or happiness. It might make it harder to sift through all phony guys and gals who are out for your money or mystified by your fame. If  you don't believe in fate or your destiny, you might want to pick the Dream Guy or Girl, because you might not find him or her otherwise.

Then I started to wonder, "Am I my wife's dream girl?" Heck, I am smart, easy on the eyes, have a nice heart, and I am freakin' funny. I am good with kids, and I am very loving. I even have a steady job that pays pretty well. What else can you ask for? (I just asked her the radio question and she did not respond with "you are my dream girl.") So, I have to be somebody's dream girl.

Goes to show, don't ask your partner, boyfriend/girlfriend, or wife/husband this questions.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Lately I have been thinking about different paths, roads, highways my life could have taken. On the internet, Facebook, and television I see people living in RV's, in tents, on the streets, in 180 sq. ft houses. I think about what if I did not have a family, a job, or my house where would I live.

 A few months ago I read a book titled A Girl's Guide to Homelessness. That book opened my eyes to the diversity of homeless people out there. In my mind I knew that all homeless people were not alcoholics, druggies, or have a mental health disorder. I, however, had some stereotypes and isms toward the homeless. Brianna Karp in this book talks about these belief systems.

 One of them is that homeless people should not buy anything of comfort or have anything that is not a necessity. For instance, homeless people should never go to the movies. Really? So that $7 -$10 that homeless person spends on the movie really could have paid the mortgage or rent. The other misconception is that they should have cells or laptops. Brianna used the lap top to get a job and was using it to keep in touch with people and search for a job. Here is Brianna Karp's Blog.
I went on a tangent a little. I wonder what it would have been like if I decided not to buy a house or did not have a family to settle-down with. I thought about an RV but too much on gas. Then I thought about living in a tent somewhere, but it would have to be somewhere warm. I thought about one of those small houses, and that could have been an option too. Either way, I would still need a lap top, books, and my dog.

Chinese Cinderella.jpgA few days ago I finished Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah. It is about Adeline's childhood growing-up in China during the second World War. It was a quick read, and just like in Memoirs of a Geisha I kept cheering for the main character. There was horrible emotional abuse that went on, and some physical abuse for this little girl. At one point her wicked step-mother brought her to a town that put Adeline in harms way.

In my everyday therapy work with children and families I am blown away by children's resiliency. This book is another example of this. Somehow this child held it together and became successful in life. She kept yearning for her fathers love, but I am not sure she ever gets it. She did, however, have the love of her aunt and grandfather. There is a lot of research that shows that if a child has one person that makes a difference in their life they are more likely to survive their traumas.

Overall, it was a good book and gave some flavor to China during the war. I am off to Tibet. I hope I don't have any trouble at the border.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Freakin' About No Power

I don't remember ever losing power growing up in New Jersey in the 70's - 90's. It has happened a few times in New England due to hurricans and snow storms. It always amazes me how much people freak-out about it. I understand if you have medical conditions that warrant having electricity. Let's just take that off the table. I, also, understand if you don't have any way to heat your house.

What I find is people are so upset to lose their electronics. The main thing is their television. There are many Americans that fill their past-time with television and it is as if you cut-off their arm if they no longer can watch television.

A close second is computers. (Of course, this post is based on solid knowledge due to me surveying half a million Americans in a structured study . . .) Without the internet, how are people supposed to know what their movie stars tweeted, and how long to boil an egg. Thank goodness for iphones and other phones that people can access their email, and the internet.

Among other things, if not fully charged, people will miss video games, kindles, ipads, tablets, itouch, and idon't-know-what-else. With the current impending storm to hit New England my kids made sure to plug in all their electronics, "just in case the power goes out."

Me, besides worrying about keeping the food in the fridge from spoiling, I am fine without electricity. I love to light a room with candles, card games, board games, and reading (I am addicted to my Kindle, but unless we lose electricity for a month I should be good.) And then there is this phenomenon called talking . . . a wierd thing conversing with people instead of staring at a rectangle with pictures moving on it.

My world was simpler when I lived in the woods (except for those 12 at-risk youth I was responsible for). We just made sure we had enough firewood and kerosene. A more complex life is not bad, but I have to laugh at people freaking out about losing these electronics for a few days.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

What Kind of Dog Would You Be

I was at work today and a supervisee of mine told me that if I was a dog I would be a Saint Bernard. I did not know how to take that. I didn't know much about Saint Bernards other than on cartoons I saw them saving people in the snow and had canteens around their necks. I then did the stereotypical womanly thing and wondered if I was being called ugly or big and fat.  They are not that great looking.

Unless you are looking at Saint Bernard puppies, and almost every breed dog puppy is cute.
And the snow, I hate the cold and the snow. So, now I am even getting more and more angry becauseI cannot be this big, ugly, snow loving dog. It is at this point in this post I realize I am taking this too seriously.
So I go home to my family, and our family conversation around dinner was "if you were a dog what would you be?" They decided on a dog, and each one the family decided on for each individual was very accurate. Then the moment of truth came and what did they say?
Yup, a Saint Bernard. That led me to doing some research and I found out some things that made me feel better about being associated with these creatures.
1. They are extremely loyal.
2. They are very intelligent.
3. They are trainable.
4. They are even tempered and rarely aggressive unless needed.
5. They are good with kids.
6. They are very confident.
Overall, I found out that they have a great sense of smell, and are excellent rescue dogs. The rescue dog part I already knew. What I did not know that when the Saint Bernard found someone trapped in snow he/she would stay with the victim and lick them to keep them warm.


Part II: Books in the Woods

One of my best experiences with kids reading was when I worked at a wilderness camp. It was an experiential learning program for kids that usually chose between juvenile jail and wilderness camp. The library we had there was a 20' x 20' room (if that huge). There were slim pickings when it came to books.

At this camp, kids were there to work on goals, and to get away from their everyday problems. There were no electoronics. In that day it meant no walkmans and hand-held games. Today it would be even more of a hardship for youth who have iphones, ipods, itouch, and idon'tknowwhatelse. It was a group therapy model. Thus, if one youth was having an issue, we would do what was called "huddling-up" and procede to have a group therapy session that could last from a minute, to hours, to the whole night.

It was times like these that drove kids to reading books. I witnessed teenagers who never read a whole book before begging for any stolen second to read the book. They would wake-up, urinate, get dressed and have a book in their hand. They would carry 1-2 books with them at any given time. During one long huddle, I remember a kid reading a whole book, and stating, "I am done." He put it in his backpack and then grabbed another book out of his sweatshirt to begin.

I vividly remember one group called Mahetus that all but one member were book worms.
We would walk from chuckwagon (dining hall) to their campsite in a single-file line. One group member would lead-out pushing the wheelbarrow and the rest of the boys would follow behind with their noses buried in their books. The lead kid was about 12 years old and was not a great reader. At times he would take the wheelbarrow and walk zig-zag and the group would follow their noses still buried in their book. He would begin to giggle, and a couple of the more senior kids would yell at him, and he would straighten out.

I wish I had a picture of this because it was a wonderful site.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Read Your Children Well

Not to be confused with Crosby, Stills, and Nash- Teach Your Children Well.
I could write many posts about children and reading, and I shall. I have had many experiences with children's adventures with books. From my own childhood, own family, and including children I worked with in many capacities.

I will begin with currently. My family and I are participating in a chart that was created to keep track of the books we are reading.

 As you notice I picked to take the picture during a time that I was ahead by one. This is no small feat considering the kids read several books a day. They probably  are ahead of me, but haven't posted their books.

Making reading part of their life is important.
1. Read in front of them.
2. Read to them.
3. Talk about reading.
4. Buy them books. I was recently a lame aunt and bought my nephew a bunch of books for Christmas. He was so excited and said, "Nobody ever bought me chapter books before."
5. Go to the library.
6. Go to bookstores, yard sales, and anywhere else they sell books.
7. Create books with them. Writer your own books.
8. Read books that have movies and once the book is complete watch the movie.
9. Bring books on road trips and vacations.
10. DEAR. Drop Everything and Read.

Off to China

I finished Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. It was a pretty good book. The best part was not in the action, but in the description of the times. As a writer, I was struck by the fact that it was a guy who wrote the book. The thoughts of the main character a girl turned woman was so believable that I was very intrigued that this author captured this so well. I did some quick research and found tha Arthur was a history and art buff, and created a wonderful historical fiction.

He captured the desperation of the main character Chiyo Sakamoto and her plight to follow her destiny. Many times in the book it felt as if she was walking upstream and tripping over rocks, and pushed by the current. Toward the end of the book, she makes yet another huge, life-altering mistake and I cringed knowing there were not many pages left. That is when I know an author has me. When I cringe at an outcome that might be handed down, or mourn the loss of a character.

Not disappointed at all by this book. Four cups of tea. Off to China . . . I have several books to pick from.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Poop Lady

You must be desperate if you are reading a post titled Poop Lady. I read a blog today that stated 100 Things I Never Expected to Learn about Blogging on the blog Single Guy Laughing. One of the suggestions he had was to write about something embarrassing. I thought about strange habits, quirks I have and quickly pushed them out of my mind. I was not sharing those things. Then an embarrassing moment came to me with the help of Cali.

She is just the cutest dog in the world (warning biased opinion). No fail on practically every school day, she takes a huge dump as a school bus full of kids drives by. Now everytime this happens, I experience an internal dialogue happens. I think about how eventhough I was a good and kind kid, I could not resist saying something mean that I was thought was funny about a woman picking-up poop.

I envision the kids on the bus saying things like, "That stinks", "Crappy Job" "Is that your Lunch?" "Holy Crap!" or other witty things.  If I was consistent enough, and the bus driver and I were insync, the same busload of kids could witness this and I might even be the lady they call the "poop lady."

Then I think my internal dialogue turns into a debat or an argument that I am having with the kids.
"At least I am picking it up. I could just leave it there for you to step in."
"Everyone poops." Not to be confused with REM's "Everybody Hurts."
"Wait until you are older, you will be doing the same thing."
Or just hurling the poop at the bus window. So, as for my embarrassing moment, that is it every school day.

To upgrade the embarrassment factor. There is what my partner calls the "fecal fiasco". This is when Cali is squatting and pooping, and there is a problem. Hanging from her butt is a turd that looks like it is suspended in air. It is not actually suspended in air, but there is something stringing usually hair or a blade of grass that is keeping it attached to her anus. Yes, very lovely. Poor Cali is stuck squatting there until it drops, and it won't without an intervention. This requires me to grab a leaf or use a poop bag to pull the poop, hair, and grass out. This is fun because dogs and my dog in particular does not like things or people by her butt. I think this is a practical quality. Doing this task is hard enough, and then I have cars and people going by witnessing this feat. I make sure it is not a busload of kids.

"Shit happens."

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Writing "Wilderness" or "Wild Ness"

I don't have a name for this new book I am working on. I am pouring a lot of blood, sweat, and DEET into it. The book takes place in the mid-2000 in the Florida Everglades. The story is forming as I am writing it and I am only about 15%-25% through creating it.

So far the main character Breeze has found herself in desperation that lands herself in a wilderness camp. This camp is no summer camp. It is the product of a world that has discarded bruised, spoiled, disobiedient, and less-desirable youth. The Everglades itself is enough to turn around the average, below-average, and above average person. It takes a certain somebody to visit there, let alone live there.

To make matters even worse, Breeze falls into this man & boy land and not only has to navigate it as an outside but as a woman. The more time she spends there, the more twisted and dire the situation has become. Breeze feels instantly connected to a group of boys.  Breeze becomes more desperate to make a change.

Wilderness  or Wild Ness is a newborn and yearning to walk into ebooks stores by the Spring.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

From Thailand to Japan

So a few weeks ago I finished Thailand's Sickest a book by Michael Fook. I am lucky that the beginning of January was a reading frenzy because this last week and a half I have not been able to find the time or the energy to read. I was pleasantly surprised to have enjoyed the book. I thought it was fairly well-written and kept me entertained eventhough it was outside the normal books I would read. There are more books by Fook, and I might even check them out after my trip.

MemoirsOfAGeisha.jpgI am now half-way through Japan. I am reading Memoirs of a Geisha by Authur Golden. I usually stray away from books that are held as famous and well-known, but out of desperation to find a free, ebook, Japan book I settled on this. I have not been disappointed thus far.

This book is different from the others because it seems to focus less on terrain, wilderness, travel and more on the personal life experiences. Don't get me wrong. It has not made me want to put on a kimono, or slap on a bunch of make-up. I have been drinking more tea lately though.

I hope in the next few days that I will be out of Japan and into China. Then the search begins of where to go from there because the pickings are slim to find a free ebook for places within a stones throw from there.

Surviving: A Writer's Journey to New Jersey

I recently returned home to my parents house (the house I spent time in from age 0-18). There I encountered siblings, nieces, nephews, aunts, an uncle, my parents, and their friends. It was very interesting to get their unsolicited feedback regarding the books I have published. Many of them had purchased TRAIL SWAP, my first book.

The feedback I received was a mixture. Nobody was brave enough to come outright and say it sucked. I am thankful for that. It is hard to take such criticism in front of a room full of family and family friends. My parents are very popular in town and have friends who have known me since I was just a pup. One women was so excited about my book, and requested I write the name of the book down. I not only did that, but wrote the two other books I had published. She also asked how she would buy it for her Nook which I briefly walked her through that process. She was so excited and stated how she knew it was so hard to get published.

New Publishing Game: So, I briefly described that I had not been required to jump through all the hoops that one goes through to get a book deal, and be picked up by an publisher or acquire an agent. I described very briefly among clanging glasses, screaming/laughing children, and televisions blaring how the ebook world is emerging. Yes, I let the cat out of the bag gently. I did not outright say, "It could suck, have 1 million errors, and make no sense and still be published."

"The Kind of Book I Like is. . . ": Then I conversed with people who started by saying, "Oh, so I heard you wrote a book. The kind of book I like is . . ." Then they proceded to tell me the genre of book they read. Suspense, thriller, mystery, romance, Stephen King, Danielle Steele, etc. It was interesting to hear what people liked. It was even more interesting to know that my book was nowhere near any of those categories.

Kill someone in the first page: Then there was my uncle who thinks he is funny. Sometimes he is. He asked, "Does someone die in the first page? I only read books that people die in the first page." Somehow this stuck with me. I do realize especially in today's Attention Deficit, impulsive, instant gratification world, that I have to capture readers in the first page. Today things are so fast paced that it is almost as if you have to revert back to newspaper article writing by putting all the what, why, who, when, how in the first paragraph. Like Blues Travelers say you need a hook.

You're in it. Then there was telling my oldest nephew that he was a character in the book. I had forgotten since I wrote it so long ago, and only published it recently. That spurred him to say, "Now I have to read it."

All in all, it was my first time experiencing this type of feedback. It was nice knowing people were excited and reading my books. It was also scary, and that was my biggest issue. I was scared people I knew would not like the book.

Bucket of Tissues & Foggy Head

I have been sick the past week and due to not being able to concentrate, I have resorted to watching the boob-tube. I have come to the realization that there is a lot of (to say in technical jargon) CRAP out there. I am not sure if that encourages of discourages my voyage to be a great writer.
I have a lot of stories in me, and just have to work at getting them out there and in the right vehicle and dressed in the right outfits. Sometimes I feel as if I am in jeans and a t-shirt at a fancy wedding.

That being said, being sick gives me a new perspective and more momentum to appreciate things I take for granted. Things like walking to the fridge without gasping for air or feeling dizzy. The ability to form words and have complex thoughts. Yes, for about a week, I was stripped and naked from these abilities.

The biggest thing that this time with the bucket of tissues and a foggy head made me think about is that I do not want to lose my mind. I know there are  many people who have this goal, but what a horrible thing to lose ones mind. To not remember things, to make no sense, to not be able to communicate, would be horrible. It would be one of my worst nightmares.

One thing I always come out thinking after and injury or a sickness, is that my sick or injured days makes me appreciate my healthy days.