Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful for the Little Things that Actually Aren't so Little

Many people I know have been practicing days of Thanksgiving by listing the things they are thankful for—I have enjoyed seeing these proclamations on Facebook and other social network sites. It’s a great reminder that, despite all our complaints about the (Insert whatever is frustrating you here) we have a pretty cushy existence compared to most places in the world.

But today, I thought I’d try something different. I’m thankful for the BIG things, of course! The things we all realize: family, freedom, food, health, faith (for me, this means Christ as my Savior) and so on…I think we all are. There is a book that says, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.”

I disagree. I say the big stuff is made up of small stuff…and I wanted to try something different this Thanksgiving. I am definitely thankful for the BIG stuff (but you all knew that already) so I’m going to mention some of the small stuff. The tiny, everyday blessings that really aren’t so tiny. Things I don’t even think about that, well, maybe I should think about.

So here are ten “minor “things (that really aren’t that minor) I’m thankful for:

1. Going to the bathroom.

I know, that sounds silly, but until you have a friend on dialysis, or a relative with a blocked colon, you realize this is one of those things that happens every day that you never think about until something goes wrong.

2. Pajama days

I maintain that having a day to spend in your pajamas is one of the great simple pleasures of life. We don’t think about it because 1—we take for granted that we HAVE pajamas, 2—we take for granted that we can (generally) afford to have at least one morning a week in relative safety where we can do that.

3. A church on every corner.

A friend of mine from up North laughed at all the hundreds and hundreds of churches in Rocky Mount—especially the “storefront” ones with names like “Temple of the Power House of Christ’s Holy Spirit.” Now, I can’t speak for what all these folks believe theologically, nor can I speak for any of the storefront worship centers of other faiths, but while he found all this variety laughable, I thought it was fascinating. We forget in many countries, not only is there no religious freedom, but differences/ dissention within denominations is met with much more than some bad press and heated exchanges at annual conferences. And to display your affiliation in bold letters in the front window? Not possible in some areas.

4. My big-butt can o’ change.

Which in itself is more money than most people have in some countries. Maybe I need to give that change to a charity.

5. Spiders

Until you are surrounded by the Eastern North Carolina Mosquitoes of Summer (that always deserved to be capitalized) you really appreciate any critter who makes mosquitoes a part of its everyday diet. Heck, I’ll even throw bats and frogs in there as well.

6. Breathing

Two of my closest friends have cystic fibrosis, a horrible disease that, until I met K and T, I knew very little about. One of my friends said it was like trying to breathe through a straw in a room full of cotton. Many with CF have to have lung transplants, and because that is still a relatively uncommon procedure (as compared to kidney or liver transplants), the NIH doesn’t dedicate as much money (or maybe any) to lung transplant research. If you are looking for a worthy charity this year, I suggest

7. Better living through chemistry

All Prozac jokes aside, I take it for granted that when I have a massive headache, I can have an Advil, or if I have a cold, I can take some vitamin C. Even herbal remedies are available (or easily shipped ) . Even as recently as the 60s, treatment options for several conditions were limited, and it’s only been in the past 20 years that we’ve really gotten a grip on what is going on in relation to how the brain works, and thus giving new insight into brain injury, brain tumors, autism, mental health and a host of other conditions. Check it out at

8. That God cares about the little things.

Seriously, the fact that God is even aware that I am doing this silly little list astounds and humbles me.

9. Milk coming out my nose

Remember in fourth grade when you laughed so hard at lunchtime that milk came out your nose? I mean, it hurt like blue blazes, but it touched upon what I think is one of the greatest gifts God gives us that we fail to recognize: laughter. And not just laughter, but unrestrained, guffawing until you start crying, laughing until you throw up type of mirth.

If you have not laughed this hard in a while, then by all means, let this thanksgiving be the time to do so. (well, maybe not the throwing up part)

I’ve been blessed that I have a family with an exceptional sense of humor. Case in point, I once left a voice mail message for my mom, and , out of force of habit from leaving messages from work all day, I told her this message was from Dawn Wilson. Her response?

“Thank God you specified Dawn Wilson, because I would have confused you with all the other daughters I have named Dawn.” Touche.

I have no brothers, but we used to joke about an imaginary brother named Wilson. Then we wait to see if anyone picks up that his name would be Wilson Wilson.

And while this may not get in the “milk coming out the nose category”—here’s my favorite LOL cat vs. a printer. Wait for it. It’s worth it.

10. The flip switch

I know a few physicians who dedicate their time to treating patients in third world countries, and mention that they have to carefully schedule surgeries for “the three hours that the hospital has power.”

I turn on the light switch, I turn my key in the ignition, I boot up my PC, I Netflix the latest Dr. Who episode, I dial from my cell phone and ---unless something has gone wrong—I have a reasonable expectation that something is going to happen 98 percent of the time. This predictability often causes me to take things like this for granted. So that concludes my list of little things that aren’t so little.

Anyone want to share any of yours? Pleace them in the comments below.

I’d like to close with this prayer of general Thanksgiving from the Book of Common Prayer:

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love. We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Summer of GATSBY-- No. 8 ---The best Great Gatsby Book Covers from Complex Art and Design

Welcome to all things Great Gatsby: chances to explore, chances to learn, and chances to win.

What's all this about? Read the intro to Summer of Gatsby here...

Whether you've read TGG in high school and are revisiting it or rediscovering it for the first time, enjoy our discussion. And warning--HEREIN BE SPOILERS!

And check my last post for a chance to WIN free Gatsby-inspired bookmarks.

So pull up a chair, and get a glass of bootleg hooch (we're still mixing some in the bathtub) and we'll get going:

Reminder: Prize drawing is June 30!!!! for Gatsby-inspired homemade bookmarks. Check the link above for details.

The Best Great Gatsby Book Covers

I'll confess, I'm not one who was overtaken by the complexity, blah, blah, blah of the iconic blue Great Gatsby cover (I'll bet dollars to donuts that's the cover of the one you read in high school.) But maybe it was because it took me a while to see the face in it. Still even longer to see the reclining nudes in the pupils (I'll also bet dollars to donuts the Buncombe County School Board didn't know those were there).

But I came across this article. My vote for the top covers? Well, my faves didn't make the list. (Though I do like numbers 11 and 12--but only because you can't see Gatsby's face. Let the reader fill in with their imaginations.)
Look at the faves for Complex Art and Design and my faves found on the net.

My three faves:

(as you can see, I come from the school of thought that less is more. Note how the black and white make the green really pop.)

From hfour. We don't talk a lot about
the car, and I don't think that there's
really even a good description of the car
in the book. But I love this. Understated.
Also remember: this is the last thing
Myrtle sees....
From Not a
typo, that's the name. Why?
Understated. Classic. Emphasizes
the green.
From Neil commonplace book
I like this one, too. Esp. the title
type face. I can still see
Robert Redford in that, though.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

SUMMER of Gatsby-- No. 7 -- The Great Gatsby video game: We may never leave the house again.

Welcome old sport!

Welcome to all things Great Gatsby: chances to explore, chances to learn, and chances to win.

What's all this about? Read the intro to Summer of Gatsby here...

Whether you've read TGG in high school and are revisiting it or rediscovering it for the first time, enjoy our discussion. And warning--HEREIN BE SPOILERS!

And check my last post for a chance to WIN free Gatsby-inspired bookmarks.

So pull up a chair, and get a glass of bootleg hooch (we're still mixing some in the bathtub) and we'll get going:

Retro 80s style Great Gatsby Video Game

Sure, there are ones with more sophisticated graphics, more detailed storylines, but do they feature Nick Carraway with ninja moves busting flappers and drunks with his cap? 

I bleepin' love this video game....
Here's a link to the game

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Summer of GATSBY No. 6. -- My FAVORITE Gatsby cartoons by Kate Beaton

Welcome old sport!

Welcome to all things Great Gatsby: chances to explore, chances to learn, and chances to win.

What's all this about? Read the intro to Summer of Gatsby here...

Whether you've read TGG in high school and are revisiting it or rediscovering it for the first time, enjoy our discussion. And warning--HEREIN BE SPOILERS!

And check my last post for a chance to WIN free Gatsby-inspired bookmarks.

So pull up a chair, and get a glass of bootleg hooch (we're still mixing some in the bathtub) and we'll get going:

AWESOME Gatsby Cartoons by Kate Beaton

If you're not reading Kate Beaton Comics, you're missing one real talented gal.

I highly recommend her book (warning to the easily offended, some of them are R rated).
She is witty and clever and has a great take on classic literature that is funny and understated at the same time. You can check her out here.
All images copyright by Kate Beaton (you HAVE to check out her Anne of Cleves stuff. Hysterical! Please click on the link above to her stuff.)

These are some of my favorite Gatsby cartoons she did--- click on them if the sidebar gets in the way...

STill, the link to these and other AWESOME literary comics (One of my faves is "Dude Watchin' with the Brontes") can be found above. Her book is "Hark! A Vagrant!"

Thank you Kate for a big SMILE.
You can buy her book here:

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Summer of Gatsby No. 5--- Five Reasons Daisy is a B--

Welcome old sport!

Welcome to all things Great Gatsby: chances to explore, chances to learn, and chances to win.

What's all this about? Read the intro to Summer of Gatsby here...

Whether you've read TGG in high school and are revisiting it or rediscovering it for the first time, enjoy our discussion. And warning--HEREIN BE SPOILERS!

And check my last post for a chance to WIN free Gatsby-inspired bookmarks.

So pull up a chair, and get a glass of bootleg hooch (we're still mixing some in the bathtub) and we'll get going:

Five Reasons Daisy is a B---

Maybe it was because I was so crushing on Robert Redford in the 1974 film version. Maybe it was because I was going through some unrequited love of my own. Maybe it was because adolescent hormones made me so incredibly stupid. Maybe I was PMS-ing (if that's not verb, it should be).

But regardless, I have to be frank. After reading the book and watching the movie, Daisy. Pissed. Me. Off.

Feel free to disagree (hey, I love a literary discussion) but here are the facts IMHO.

1-- Spoiled, spoiled, spoiled.

Rich family. And not just a rich family, but "old money." Not just any rich kid would do. As Tom said to Gatsby later, "You're not like us. You can be rich but you'll never be like us." (I'm paraphrasing.)

Really girl? Personally, I'd rather be shopping at K-Mart with my true love than sipping champagne with Tom (who, btw, is a brute and racist. Not the top qualities for guys in my book.)

2-- She led Gatsby on.

Okay, so he finds you and he's rich and all that is awesome so you are all "yes, yes, yes!!! Let's continue the affair! Dance with me in your uniform! Mother of GOD what beautiful shirts!!! Kiss me!! (and btw, since my husband is having an affair, I guess I will too) ."

But when it comes down to the wire, are you going to leave Tom? Really? Are you?

Don't start something you aren't going to finish. Gatsby isn't just looking for a roll in the hay for auld lang syne ("roll in the hay" --do other people say that? I'm from the South, curious if it is elsewhere. RJ-- do they say that in England? Michael, how does my resident Aussie add in to this?) This leads to......

3-- "But I love you NOW, Gastby. Isn't that enough?"

Um, nope.
Read: I love you now that I have my courage up and I don't care what my family thinks and now you have money and it's more socially acceptable and oh wait, despite that, I'm still going home to Tom.

Daisy: I don't want to go home.
Gatsby: Then don't.

Not that I'm advocating adultery, but I AM advocating not marrying a racist brute because you sort of love him and his family has money.
Daisy says, "OMG, Gastby! I just looooooove those shirts. Can you wear your uniform for me?"
(and while you're at it, I scuffed up your car a bit, can you take care of that for me, too?)

4-- You weren't at Gatsby's funeral.

Grrrr. You'd think Tom would let her go if for no other reason just for him to get the chance to dance on Gastby's grave. Okay Tom. You won. We hope you feel good about yourself.

5-- The crappy way you acted when you ran into Nick later.

This wasn't in the 1974 version of the film. Nick basically runs into Tom and Daisy and is like "oh

BONUS: Number 6--

6-- You let him take the fall for you which led to his death.

I don't know why the bleep Gatsby let you drive on the way home, but he just can't say no to you, can he?  Even then he's willing to take the fall for manslaughter for you when you rammed into your hubby's mistress.  This all leads to Gatsby's death. I mean, it was like by pretending it never happened meant it never happened.

Denial ain't a river in Egypt, sister. And after all of that, you STILL did #4 and #5.

[insert string of expletives here]

You and the horse you rode in on, Daisy.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Summer of GATSBY No. 4 - How to win Gatsby-inspired bookmarks!

Welcome old sport!

Welcome to all things Great Gatsby: chances to explore, chances to learn, and chances to win.

What's all this about? Read the intro to Summer of Gatsby here...

Whether you've read TGG in high school and are revisiting it or rediscovering it for the first time, enjoy our discussion. And warning--HEREIN BE SPOILERS!

So pull up a chair with some bootleg hooch and we'll get going.

Crushing on Gatsby

I have to admit that part of my fascination with Gatsby was that when we saw the 1974 movie in my high school, I was totally schoolgirl crushing on Robert Redford (can you blame me?)  That made everything in the book even more haunting. Yes, I'm not going to get into that whole book vs. movie thing (book. Almost always.) but for a kid in high school, you got to admit that if you're going to be watching a movie for English class, having some gorgeous actors certainly doesn't hurt.

As I've said about Robert Redford, to use a phrase my British friends find amusing: You can't slap the handsome off that man.

(I still feel a tinge when Robert Redford shouts "Because she doesn't love you!!" to Tom. )
So in honor of that and the new release:

How to win ORIGINAL, Gatsby-inspired bookmarks! (Done by a local North Carolina artist! i.e. me :) Yes, I also have a small art studio.)

Want to win a set of six original bookmarks inspired by characters in TGG?

Here's all you have to do:

-- Leave a comment mentioning the name of your first movie crush (well, one that you knew was a crush. Sorry, but characters like Mickey Mouse don't count. Has to be a real, flesh-and-blood, actor/ actress)
--Leave an e-mail where I can reach you. (I don't spam or sell your e-mail. That would be in poor taste, old sport!)
--If you'd like to leave a reason why this person was a crush (other than that they were just plain hot) that would be cool. But I'm trying to keep this blog PG-13. Just FYI.
---I will contact the winner via e-mail (and film the drawing).
--No purchase necessary, all legal disclaimers Gatsby's lawyers wanted us to put in there.
--NOTE: these are not OF the characters, but INSPIRED by the characters. We are not superseding any copyrights on Gatsby. Who do you think we are? Jordan Baker?

Your name does NOT go on some newsletter list. But FYI I sometimes give out free copies of my books, so if you want to follow my blog, I almost always announce free days here first.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Summer of Gatsby No. 3 - Trailer comparisons -

I just thought it was cool to do this, to see them side by side.
And BTW-- I'm not sure if this is the "official" 1974 trailer... any feedback on others that may be floating out there (that were not created for AP English) will be appreciated.

It's kind of interesting to see how changes in videography / technology have changed movies.

My comments on the new vs. 1974 version will be coming soon...

1974 Trailer with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow

2012/ 2013 Trailer with Leo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan
(this isn't the trailer you see the most often, but I do love it.)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Summer of Gatsby--All things Great Gatsby, old Sport! - No. 2

Welcome old sport!

Welcome to all things Great Gatsby: chances to explore, chances to learn, and chances to win.

What's all this about? Read the intro to Summer of Gatsby here...

Whether you've read TGG in high school and are revisiting it or rediscovering it for the first time, enjoy our discussion. And warning--HEREIN BE SPOILERS!

So pull up some bootleg hooch, put on your Charleston shoes and we'll get going.

Today is a lighter look, and while I'm sure we can all go to spark notes and talk about all the deep things with Gatsby, here's the plot in a nutshell. 

While this isn't my favorite Gatsby spoof/ cartoon/ rendering, I do love Jordan's manic face when she says: JUST DO IT! And dude, why do so many of them have an English accent. Except the mechanic, who is definitely Southern. I guess they figure if someone's brandishing a gun it would be someone from the South. Very stereotypical (and yet, as a Southerner, I must confess, somewhat true...)

My favorite is when Jordan is introduced and there's a big SYMBOLISM floating up there....

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Summer of GATSBY -- No. 1-- Why I am obsessed with this book and you should be too.

Welcome old sport!

Welcome to all things Great Gatsby: chances to explore, chances to learn, and chances to win.

What's all this about? Read the intro to Summer of Gatsby here...

Whether you've read TGG in high school and are revisiting it or rediscovering it for the first time, enjoy our discussion. And warning--HEREIN BE SPOILERS!

So pull up some bootleg hooch, put on your Charleston shoes and we'll get going.

Why I am obsessed with this book and you should be too

So many merely look at this book on the surface level: unrequited love, excess, materialism, booze, lust, ambition, booze, adultery, and did we mention booze?

What Gatsby epitomizes so clearly is not so much the excess of the Jazz Age (though F.Scott does a great job of that as well) but the timelessness of human nature--the desire to want more, not just for greed's sake, but for the sake of love. It also centers around that most American of traits--reinventing oneself. Jay Gatsby seems to be almost a biblical warning to those who would gain the world but lose their souls. For me, what is entirely heartbreaking, is it shows the deep, insatiable love/lust he has for Daisy. While Gatsby's business ventures cannot be justified as ethical, we all wonder what our Daisy, or "green light" is? Is there something you want so bad that you would sacrifice everything for it--but in the process lose yourself? And is this something worth having?

While I do think Daisy truly loved Gatsby, I think perhaps what she loved more was the IDEA of being in love with him. When it came time to make that commitment, dump Tom (who by the way, what the bleep were you thinking on that one, girl,) she goes back to what is familiar.

This underscores something I have said my whole life irt relationships, particularly less-than-ideal ones, when given a chance between change and familiarity, human beings tend to gravitate toward the familiar, even if that familiar isn't what is best. I think it may be geared in our DNA, I don't know.

But hey, don't take my word for how bleepin' awesome this book is, check this out,
Five Reasons The Great Gatsby is the Great American Novel.

The movie is out. Gatsby guys and gals, make your voice heard:

Coming next: Gatsby cartoons.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Introducing: THE SUMMER OF GATSBY at The Year of Writing Dangerously-- May through July...with PRIZES, old Sport!

I realize I have absolutely NO credibility since I have YET to see the remake (but it's on my schedule for this week. I promise.I could go on about how I've been out of the country and at a writing retreat, but let's face it, that's no excuse where my beautiful Gatsby is concerned.)

So for this SUMMER,  this blog is dedicated to all things Gatsby! I'll have links to cool Gatsby stuff, Gatsby cartoons (by me and other authors), video clips! poems! reviews! A chance to win original artwork! bootleg hooch in my bathtub! A chance to rig the next world series! Not all of these are true!

But some are fun, and some are silly, and some are just--dear God, how awesome can this book be. I'm hoping my writing buddy RJ will let me post his poem about the Great Gastby here (hint, hint,) and I'm even thinking of doing a book of poems inspired by TGG (calling all my poetry homies.)

First, an introduction to the GREAT THREAD FOR THE GREAT GATSBY on Goodreads. Join our thread. Have a bit of bootleg hooch (prohibition be damned! ) While there are few folks on this group who have commented, but the ones who are on there really know their stuff about TGG and have some wonderful comments. We welcome everyone.

And btw, you'll notice on this blog I take things a bit tongue in cheek. I welcome all comments on this blog (or at the thread, where I hope y'all will join us) but please, play nice with others.
BTW, I also welcome any high school students who are doing research/ papers/ reading TGG--and no, we are not going to provide cliff notes, but I have a master's in English, and TGG literary elements were the focus of my comps paper, so any opinion I have will be an educated opinion (at least, that's what the piece of paper says :)

And --more coming--- leave a comment and you'll be placed in a drawing to win:
--a free copy of one of my books
--original, hand-drawn bookmarks inspired by TGG
--small unframed piece of art inspired by TGG.
-- copious amounts of alcohol (just kidding.)
--copy of TGG.

More to come, old sport, including:

-- The brilliant literary devices of F. Scott Fitzgerald and what you can learn from them.
--Daisy and a the South--what you might like to know from a Southerner's perspective
--My Asheville "connection" with Zelda Fitzgerald
--They're tearing down the Gatsby house? Noooooooooo
--Top quotes from The Great Gatsby characters
--F.Scott and me at the Water Park
-- Leo vs. Robert--- the low down on the leading men.
--Why Daisy is a witch with a capital B.
-- Religious implications of the Great Gatsby
--Little known facts about about the 1920s
--Links galore
--My poem dedicated to Jay Gatsby
-- My secret, intimate connection with F. Scott Fitzgerald  (warning--may be slightly embellished)

Looking forward to a summer that is the bee's knees.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Tar Heel in the UK: Strangers I have spoken with...

Of course, the saying is that a stranger is just a friend you haven't met yet (I HATE that saying. There are some strangers who have remained strangers for a reason....but you get my point)...

I feel so sorry for my friends who have to be so patient with their ultra-extroverted friend.

I'm not sure why but I have always been interested in talking to people I don't know who are culturally different from myself. While this has served me well in my former profession as a newspaper reporter, it has also served as a source of (select one) fascination, amusement, horror, embarrassment, pride to my travel buddies.

So to continue this travel in the UK series, I present the next photo series in:

Random people Dawn had her picture made with while she was in England

Random Stonehenge person (see earlier post)

Random Boat Ride Hawker at Cambridge (not sure why the photo
is so wonky. It's fine on my camera...)

For lack of better words, we'll just call this dude the Scottish
version of Wayne Newton. He was awesome!

Can you find the tourist here? I was obviously not ready for
the camera. And it was VERY  WINDY!!!
We dubbed this guy in front of the Sherlock Holmes Museum
Constable O'Hottie.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Unusual Things I Learned About Stonehenge--and the person I met there!

This is a series of short travel articles concerning my recent wonderful trip to the UK.  Three things you need to know about me when reading these articles:
1-- I would talk to a tree. Seriously. I think one of the great things about travel is meeting new people. And of course, I would listen to the Brits read the phone book for an hour. So you'll see me and some random people.
2-- I like to try to find the unusual. To learn about things that are off the tour map (sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.)
3--- The camera is not my friend. Seriously. I am neither this short, this overweight, or this dorky (well, maybe I am this dorky. But at least it's hip to be square.)

At Stonehenge on Salisbury plain in England, I'm not going to talk about what everyone has told you-- how did they get the stones there, how the stones are in perfect alignment with the stars, etc. After all, you have National Geographic specials on Netflix from that.

Here are a few things that fascinated me:
You can't see it too well on this one, but there were holes in the rocks where some
type of bird had evidently throughout the centuries dug a nest, or made a nest
out of a hole that had appeared in the stones. There were several birds flying in and
out of the stones. I've never seen that mentioned in something before.
Strange stuff seems to happen at the stones, even from folks that are normally not
easily persuaded by the paranormal. Our tour guide told us of one time, when a member of her
group got close to the stones, the hands on his wristwatch started spinning. When he backed away from
the stones, the spinning stopped. Movie crews who have filmed there have had their
equipment inexplicably start/ stop. There is definitely some type of magnetic energy of some kind
going on there-- static electricity or polar magnets or any type stuff Sheldon Cooper would
drool all over. 

Okay, the person in the picture at left was named Siloban (I'm sorry, I can't remember how to spell his/her name). Let me note that S was NOT a part of the display/event/ tour. Anyway, Siloban was not a druid or Wiccan or of any New Age religion that I was familiar with, but S and I had an interesting conversation about perception and matter. Essentially, what I think we were both talking about, but using different terms to describe, is how perception shapes reality, etc. etc..  Notice my eyes widening as I'm trying to piece things together that he/she is saying. Essentially, I think we were both talking about Einstein's Twin Paradox. I have some video of him / her that I'll try to's a bit long, so I'd like to edit it down a bit, but it was very interesting.

And FYI, I'm using he/she here because Siloban told me he/she was biologically either/or, and I think was technically registered with the government as a female.

I'm not posting it to be like "hey, look at this funky dude," but just to show that, if we take time to talk to people we don't know, we learn interesting things about them.

And btw, S told me the goat on the cane was a reference to her zodiac sign of Capricorn.

I understand that S. is out there quite a lot. Anyone else who has been to Stonehenge met her?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

42 Things for 42nd Birthday

This is a tradition I started when I turned 40, and I think that it is something that everyone could benefit from---whether celebrating their 16 or 60th birthday. Gratitude is something all of us (self included) tend to overlook. While I am loathe to give advice on child rearing since I don’t have children, I do believe many children don’t realize the importance of counting their blessings.
In an effort to be more grateful, and in an effort to remind myself of what is truly important, I have made a pledge that each year on my birthday, I would list the corresponding number of items I am thankful for as praise to God. 
Some are serious, some are funny, all are heartfelt.
As I’ve said before on this blog, I do not believe in browbeating people to believe as I do. While I respect the beliefs of others, I do not apologize for my own beliefs … and I think gratitude is an important lesson for anyone, anywhere, regardless of religious beliefs (or no religious beliefs.)

42 things I’m thankful for:
  1. A loving and supportive family.
  2. Gainful employment
  3. Good health (issues like cholesterol, needing to lose 20 pounds, etc. , pale in comparison to what so many go through)
  4. Health insurance (while we’re mentioning health). To my friends in other countries, health insurance in the US is VERY important. It is not unusual for middle-class, “lower” class (and even upper middle-class) Americans to go bankrupt from medical bills.
  5. Some of the best friends in the world. I still have no idea why you guys put up with me.
  6. The North Carolina Tar Heels basketball team (for better or for worse.)
  7. I have been blessed with probably the best manager I’ve ever had. (one reason I’ve stayed in Rocky Mount all these years). When you spend 45 + hours a week with someone, it’s very important that you get along. (I’ll be lost when he retires)
  8. Exceptional functionality in spite of a chronic health “condition” that is not serious but can become extremely serious. I’d prefer not to mention this condition on the internet. The fact that I’m not on disability is truly miraculous.
  9. Success as a fictional writer. There are tens of thousands of writers more talented than I who have not achieve the same success, so any time, as a writer, your work is recognized, it is a blessing. (There are also those who are not as talented  as I who have loads more success---I’m looking at you Snooki---but that’s another blog post J)
  10. Thankful that I have friends who have been my friends for 20-plus years. The older I get, the rarer I realize that is—particularly knowing that I am the type of person people need to take in “doses.”
  11. Speaking of rare, I’m blessed to have parents who have been married for more than 50 years.
  12. Laughter. Especially Homer Simpson. He cracks me up every time.
  13. I have been able to travel abroad and experience a small taste of other cultures. It is an experience I wish everyone could have.
  14. I am thankful for the Bill of Rights.
  15. Regardless of political standpoints on foreign policy, we should all be thankful for the men and women who serve in our military.
  16. I’m thankful for the President--- any and all Presidents, good and bad. Whoever is in the Oval office needs our prayers, regardless of whether or not we agree with him (or hopefully one day, her). The US has one of the most peaceful transitions of power in the world. That’s nothing to sneeze at, regardless of your political leanings.
  17. I’m thankful for having been raised in a home with values.
  18. I’m thankful I was taught the importance (and honor) in good, honest work ---whether in the boardroom or at the K-mart sales counter.
  19. I’m thankful  Martin Luther nailed those 95 theses to the wall of the church. (No offense to my Catholic friends.)
  20. I have a really cool apartment. Not a big deal in the big scheme of things, but I am thankful.
  21. I’m thankful that I have friends who are of different faiths. Why? Because I have learned a lot from them, while we also agree to disagree.  It is such a blessing to be able to learn in love—and while we cannot truly walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, we need to learn what they believe instead of what we may think they believe. I have friends who are Muslim, New Age, Wicca, Ba’hi , Jewish, agnostic, atheist, and Unitarian.
  22. I’m thankful my parents adopted a three-month old baby girl from Greensboro. (That was me, btw.)
  23. Communion wine.
  24. My shake-weight (it was time to lighten things up a bit and cleanse the palette)
  25. Thankful for my education.
  26. Thankful that I broke up with those boyfriends I shouldn’t have been dating in the first place (you know who you are J)
  27. I’m thankful for friends from all around the world.
  28. I’m thankful for living in the U.S.
  29. I’m thankful for kayaking.
  30. Great blue herons. Amazing.
  31. Animals. (Except for roaches. They don’t need our gratitude. They’ll all outlive us anyway. )
  32. I’m thankful for being single, believe it or not. Someone once sneered at me, “How does it feel to be over 40 and single?” I said “Better than being over 40 and divorced.” (Divorce is tough. I’ve seen my friends go through it. )
  33. Ambien. Nuff said.
  34. Coffee. It is almost blasphemous that I put it so low on this list.
  35. Happy accidents.
  36. My art studio (insert shameless plug for the BelAir Artisans Center here)
  37. I’m thankful for the guardian angels who have allowed me and my friends narrow escapes from potentially devastating car crashes or disasters of any kind---not mentioning the near misses that I probably don’t even know about. There are days I’m sure my guardian angel may be featherless and putting in for a transfer.
  38. Did I mention coffee?
  39. “Toys.” Let’s face it, none of us NEED an iPad, or class ring, or cable TV. But it is a blessing to be able to have some “wants. “
  40. Literacy. Statistically you’d be surprised at how many are functionally illiterate. If you can read, you can do (or learn how to do) almost anything.
  41. Believe it or not, I’m even thankful for the humid, welcoming, bizarre,  hardscrabble city where I live, Rocky Mount (which is neither rocky, nor a mount). Why? There are so many good people here. There are so many people trying to make it a better place, and seeing that sacrifice and love makes me want to be a better person. (There’s also novel fodder out the wazoo.) There are so many random shots of beauty in the landscape and  buildings (well, and sadly, just some random shots, period.) There is also a strange sense of renaissance in the air as the city finishes its streetscape project. There are small but active coveys of artists, musicians, and so many families have adopted me as an honorary member that it is unbelievably touching. Inspiration is everywhere. (Speaking of which, STEVIE—WHEN are we going to where JACK KEROUAC  lived? –yep. He spent his summers in Rocky Mount, NC. I believe he worked at a TV appliance store downtown. One of the train stations in “On the Road” is supposedly inspired by the Rocky Mount train station.)

  1. Jesus. I saved the best for last. Saint Paul claims he was the “chief of sinners”—but there are days I think I could give him a run for his money. The fact that God loves me in spite of that is the ultimate blessing.
Thanks to everyone who has helped make this a good birthday.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dennis Rodman--WTF???

Okay, let's just get this out of the way so I don't get sued for defamation. I'm sure that, deep down, Mr. Rodman is an outstanding citizen who pays his taxes and makes charitable donations and always signals before turning. This is not a personal affront or is just an opinion. That opinion can be summed up in three words:

Mother. Of. God.

You know, I don't believe in ranting on things. Seriously. Or maybe it was just irony that I had just read the book "Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea" by Barbara Demick (awesome book. I'll shamelessly plug it later on)...but when Rodman mentioned that Kim Il Un (or whatever his name is) was really, deep down, just a cool dude like the rest of us, every cell in my being screamed WTF?????!!!!

I've been fascinated by North Korea for a long time. A friend's girlfriend claimed she visited Pyongyang  when she was teaching English in South Korea and was somehow able to get a visa (I seriously doubt folks knew she was American)  and her description of North Korea was something like this:

Her:  You know George Orwell's 1984?

Me: It was like that?

Her: No. It was much worse.

Yeppers. North Korea makes 1984 look like bleepin' Disneyland.

Let me just say this is just a reflection on the government. I would love to meet some North Korean people, and let them see that we aren't as evil as they are told we are (though, for their sake, I do hope they can't get our reality TV shows over there....)

Okay, sorry, this is kind of going to be the blogs of some strong opinions. I've always tried to avoid strong rants, because it seems it only makes people angry and then there's a comment war and next thing you know someone is pulling a Glenn Beck and drawing stuff on a whiteboard that all inevitably leads to 1984 (or North Korea).

But due to my interest in North Korea, I couldn't let this go.

PLEASE---people. Let's pray for the people of North Korea. Give donations to  help North Korean refugees who arrive in South Korea completely clueless and overwhelmed. Must be like the detox from hell.

And if praying is not your persuasion, then I ask that you please send a copy of this book to Mr. Rodman.

This was an amazing, heartfelt book. And yes, this is a google ad link so I am advertising it, but I promise you---I'm not going to advertise stuff in the text of my blog posts that are crap. (fair warning though---stuff in the sidebar are random ads.)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Short Short Story in Dr. Hurley's Snake Oil Cure

My recent short short story--Denmark High School Reunion-- appeared in Dr. Hurley's Snake Oil Cure (don't you love that name?)
Click here to read it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Novel contest

I'm excited to say I made the first round cuts in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. Not sure if I'll make it any farther, but I'm just excited and enjoying the moment.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Everything I Know About Writing I Learned from Dr. Sheldon Cooper

Who is Dr. Cooper? Was he a writing professor who inspired me to think outside the box? A former lover who jilted me and I eviscerate in fiction? Is it the name of my sister’s cat (who by the way, is trying to kill me)?

Actually, Dr. Cooper is the main character of a popular US TV comedy called “The Big Bang Theory,” and in honor of the name of the “Big Bang” book tour, I wanted to give this ode to Dr. Cooper.

While I know the show is available internationally, first, for those of you not familiar with the sit-com “The Big Bang Theory,” it centers around two roommates (Dr. Leonard Hofsteader and Dr. Sheldon Cooper) who are physicists at the California Institute of Technology.  (I don’t think the university is ever really named in the series, but it heavily hinted that it is Cal Tech.) Of course, there are the numerous humorous situations contrasting their brilliance with social awkwardness--particularly with Sheldon’s obsessive-compulsive personality and Leonard’s love affair with the intellectually average resident across the hall. I’m usually not a fan of sit coms, but this is a very clever and witty show.

So we can all enjoy the antics and inspiration of Dr. Cooper, I’ve included some video files that correspond with the lessons Sheldon has taught me. (and for the record, the clips are rated between PG and PG-13). 
So.. off we go.

1. You are the best writer in the entire world and no one recognizes your brilliance. Just kidding. You suck. BAZINGA!

Sheldon is so “robot-like,“ Bazinga is what Sheldon says so people will know he is kidding. The point is---as writers, we tend to either take ourselves too seriously or not seriously enough. Writing stories may be therapeutic, but it’s not the place to build your self esteem or find religion. While writing does help us discover things about ourselves (and thus making it a highly personal venture), regardless of success or failure, we must remain grounded. The bottom is line is that there will always be writers who are less talented than you who will become famous and there will always be writers who are more talented than you who will never be financially successful. That’s unfair, but that’s life. Compare yourself with others and you’ll always be…well, “Bazinga’d”

And here’s Sheldon to remind us:

2. Don’t try to be what you’re not.

Find your voice. Don’t try to write a vampire story because vampires are hot right now. Or erotica because it’s hot right now (pun intended). If the writing is forced, the reader will know it. I believe God has gifted everyone in different ways. Embrace those gifts. Don’t look at what others have done.

This leads to one of my favorite exchanges when Howard--trying to be what he was not--dressed up to go to a Goth bar. But first, he needed to stop at Walgreens to buy more eyeliner. This leads to one of my favorite exchanges:
Leonard:  I think they're going to get beat up at that Goth bar.
Penny: I think they're going to get beat up at Walgreens.

3. Readers like to use their imaginations. Let them.

Sheldon’s co-worker Howard lives with his annoying mother. However, the viewers never actually SEE Howard’s mother, they only hear her (Similar to the way viewers never saw “Marist” in “Frazier.”) The best part is this allows viewers to use their own imagination---the images in their minds are better than anything a special effects crew can dream up.
Yes, use description. Yes, use it well. Yes, make your characters real…but realize at the same time, less is sometimes more.

4. Don’t drink if you can’t hold your liquor.

Poor Dr. Cooper. Such a lightweight when it comes to alcohol. Of course, what this means for writing is that you need to know what you do well, and what you don’t. Don’t be afraid to look at yourself with a critical eye. Work on “problem” areas, and get feedback from other writers whose opinion you trust.

And don’t drink before giving speeches, or it may end up on YouTube:

5. There are always plenty of ball pits.

Ah yes, those big ball pits that children love to play in, probably blissfully unaware of how many germs they are spreading. It’s far too easy to become stingy with ideas. We’re afraid that creativity is like a swimming pool---we will eventually drain it dry. Actually, it’s more like an ocean that ebbs and flows and rises and falls. The more we exercise our creativity, the more we have.

As Dr. Cooper shows---there are always plenty of brightly colored ideas to use. No need to worry about running out…until it’s time to go home.

Thanks for letting me take a bit of a diversion here. You can find out more about me on my website, 

Thanks to all our wonderful blog hosts.
I’ll leave you with this tribute to the best of Sheldon Cooper--BAZINGA.
Happy new year.