Saturday, October 31, 2009

WOW! I Got 20 out of 25!

Let me know how you did!

The average person gets only 5-7 right! And I thought I was unobservant!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Some Sad News...

I just learned today that my former boss at Warner Bros., Dan Kronstadt, lost his wife Angel to Alzheimer's Disease on October 1st. He said they'd been battling it at home the past six or seven years, with the help of a host of great caregivers. It got to be too much toward the end, though, and she was finally placed in an Alzheimer's Care Center. She lived there for about seven weeks before passing away.

Angel was an absolute delight as a human being, as is Dan. My heart is heavy for him tonight and for all the people who know Dan and knew Angel. There are few maladies worst than Alzheimer's, I think. Certainly ALS and Muscular Dystrophy are horrendous, too. Alzheimer's families "lose" loved ones prior to their actual passing... I can't imagine how awful that must be.

Please keep Dan in your prayers. He says he's doing okay as long as he doesn't have to talk or write about it as he did most of his grieving over the course of the years. Still, when it happens, no one is ever truly ready for it. They were a devoted couple. It's going to take a lot of getting used to after so many years of togetherness.

Too, too sad...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I Seriously Wonder About This Cat!

... and its owner! Doesn't it have access to a water bowl?

Or is it just mentally challenged?

Monday, October 26, 2009

47 Simple Ways to Waste Money

Good article. I wasn't aware of some of these... (1-800- GOOG 411 is free; 411 costs 75 cents or more).,1336178

Now the REST of my Abode is Surgery-Room Clean!

OK, this morning I got up and did cleaned the last two rooms with almost surgery-room precision. I even washed the guinea pig. (He wasn't overly happy about that, but what the hey...)

Yesterday afternoon and evening I sat back in the couch-recliner in my living room and watched, consecutively, three long, relatively "old" movies: THE MUSIC MAN, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, and HOW THE WEST WAS WON. T'was delightful.

I've never been a huge Jimmy Stewart fan (other than honoring his exemplary Christian lifestyle and good heart), but he was cuter'n just about anything on the planet in HOW THE WEST WAS WON. I wished he was in it more.

One of my earliest movie star heartthrobs was in two of the three I watched last night: Robert Preston (as The Music Man's Harold Hill, the starring role, and as Morgan in How the West Was Won). It was good to check in on him and find out he hasn't lost any of his appeal (NOT BAD, for a man who's been dead 31 years!). HA HA HA HA HA

My present heartthrob is Doctor Oz. He reminds me so much of De (except for his face and voice): his hair, manner, physicality, even his hairy arms! He looks so much like De did in his mid 40's (again, except for his face, which is handsome enough on its own). I usually take my break from work when his show is on. Because of such diligence, I'm learning a lot about the human body... and germs.. and parasites... and exercise... and pee... and poop... and belching, passing gas and mucous.

It's a lot more fun than the way I've just described it, believe me, or the show would have been cancelled after the first week! HA HA HA HA HA!

Have a great day!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fall Cleaning Mode...

I woke up in "fall cleaning mode" this morning. As a result, you could probably perform surgery in three of the four rooms in my home this evening... and the fourth room already looked pretty good -- I just wouldn't suggest surgery in there yet!

My office/den looks HUGE now that the box my "new" (what -- four month old?) PC came in and the box my "new" (two week old) shredder came in have been evicted. I pushed the old CPU under a desk so it's handy if I ever need it. I went through the two inch pile of paperwork on my work desk and threw out or filed a lot of it. About ten pages remain (work-related stuff still in progress).

I went through my bedroom, too -- dusted, washed bedding (including the dust ruffle), cleaned out dressers and folded everything in them again. Laughed myself silly to discover I have at least 20 pairs of undies, some of which I don't think I've had on more than a time or two. They were hiding under some t-shirts I had packed away...

At 11 Jackie and I went to a nearby school to watch Casey play soccer with her team. It was a great game. The girls are much better this year than last.

I've been reading some of my old Dave Barry books. He cracks me up quite often. I'm trying to get myself into humor mode by reading funny stuff again. I've been reading nonfiction and listening to the news and politics for so long that I was desperately close to losing my sense of humor! That would not be good.

I finished a couple of Elance projects this weekend (short business biographies) and did the final run-through on a book I'm editing for a client in New York. It should be on bookshelves pretty soon. When it is, I'll give you the title and let you know. The author has also written a children's book that I edited and wrote the back cover blurb for. If you're the Christian parent of a difficult child or teen, you'll want to get the book! It was a real eye-opener for me. It's going to change people's lives for the better, for sure.

Oh! And I recently proofread and wrote a back cover recommendation for a children's book publisher. The book was written by a very talented 16 year old. As soon as it's out, I'll let you know about that one, too.

None of these books are Elance-related. The children's book publisher found me as a result of the online memoir writing article I did for Pat Bertram several months ago. The other one used me at Elance for four e-books over a year ago, so I'm free to work with her now independently. (The contract at Elance stipulates that I have to work with a client for a year before I can serve them independently. Makes sense. Elance is owed a "finder's fee," certainly, if they're how I connect with someone for the first time.)

I've recently been told by the Elance powers that be that I'm eligible to be a Premier Provider in the Sales and Marketing category, too -- not just the Writing category -- because of my positive reviews in that category. Very cool!

What else? Hmmm...

Mary Jo Robinson and I went to see a live play on Thursday at the Lakewood Playhouse: TUESDAY'S WITH MORRIE. "Morrie" was fantastic! "Mitch" was the least likable of the two characters but he "came around" (relationally) at the end. (If you read the book, you'll understand this.)

On November 1st Char Burley and I are going to see "THIS IS IT" at a local movie theater -- Michael Jackson's last "live" appearances (as he rehearsed for an upcoming tour that never came to pass because of his untimely death).

Next Saturday our Writer's Edge group meets again at CFAN (church) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. We'll be finishing up and sharing the press releases the class has written since the last time I taught them PR writing more than a month ago. (We had two special guests in between -- songwriter Kim Walling and Christian fiction writer Tosca Lee.) We'll have a new member, too, a former co-worker of my nephew Phil. She writes Christian romance fiction but is not yet published. We'll see what we can do to help change her status from not-yet-published to best-selling author! WOO HOO!

Guess that's about it for this time.

Hugs all around! Send me some back, y'hear?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


OK, I'm on a roll, here.


Now, remember, I wrote this before De passed away... He read it, too, and wrote a back cover blurb for this book. (He wrote the foreword for LET NO DAY DAWN THAT THE ANIMALS CANNOT SHARE, too... *sigh* What a guy! Ended it with a PS: "Dammit, Kris, I'm an actor -- not a writer!")

I wrote this next one strictly for laughs!

I am the official polisher of two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I polish actor DeForest Kelley's star and Paramount producer A.C. Lyles' star. Every weekend I head to Hollywood and scrub 'n' buff my stars. Other stars are polished about once a month by other fans, but with so many feet trampling over them, I've decided that more often is better. That way "my" stars look good all the time. It's my way of honoring two people who have helped make so much Hollywood entertainment into the magical and exciting masterpieces they are.
But a solemn, serious duty it is not. I consider it "recess" to a great extent. I've often imagined having a conversation with "Mr. Kelley" (not De -- he's my FRIEND!) about the eccentric duty I've taken upon myself. A.C. is exuberant and ecstatic that I polish his star, and tells nearly everyone that he has a dedicated star polisher. Very few of the stars on the Walk of Fame have been adopted in this way by fans. De is somewhat more circumspect. (I think he's a little embarrassed, frankly...)
I imagine the conversation would go something like this:
ME: (singing to the tune of ROW YOUR BOAT)
Scrub, scrub, scrub De's star
I do it with such joy
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Buffin' up McCoy
De: I wish you'd stop that.
Me: Well, you want your star to be shiny and clean, don't you?
De: I suppose,but...
Me: You don't want to get pollution and rubber sole marks and gum all over it, do you?
De: I guess not, but --
De: YOU are!
Me: ME?! I'm DE-VOTED!!!
De: You're DE-MENTED! The very least you could do is wear a disclaimer cap or sum'pin that says, "His other fans are normal..."
Me: (frowns) I could do that -- but it might draw attention.
De: MIGHT DRAW ATTENTION?! What do you suppose you're doing down on your hands and knees on Hollywood Boulevard?! ANSWER ME THAT!
Me: Polishing your star.
De: (sigh) Why can't you let the street cleaners do it?
Me: It doesn't get done often enough. Besides, then it'd be clean only when they're ALL clean. It wouldn't stick out like a sore thumb.
De: That's okay.
Me: No, it isn't.
De: Yes, it is.
Me: No, it isn't.
De: You're arguing with me.
Me: I am?
De: Yes.
Me: Oh. Sorry. (blush) (pause) I am ONLY being dutiful and respectful there on Hollywood Boulevard.
De: THAT'S a switch!
Me: Yes, it is. So why ya upset?
De: I don't know... It IS a sweet thing to do.. I just wish someone else was doing it!
De: Sorry, that sounded worse than it should have. It's nothing personal, Kris.
Me: I suppose you'd prefer some teeny-bopper or a big Paramount executive.
De: No. I thought the designated street cleaner was a fine idea, as you'll recall. He -- or she -- doesn't wear De jackets and make a big deal out of it.
Me: I don't make a big deal out of it, either. I just DO it. I can't help it if passersby stop passing by while I'm doing it to ask questions -- and go away educated! I've told a bunch of them that you've been makin' movies FOREVER!
Me: I mean, since the talkies.
De: That's only slightly better.
Me: I mean... I tell people you ain't just good ol' boy McCoy. You've been a badass cowboy, a scoundrel, a thief, and a liar... in the movies and on TV, that is.
De: (suddenly curious) How many people didn't know that already?
Me: I took a survey. Five didn't know.
De: How many DID know?
Me: 17, 596.
De: GAWD AWMIGHTY! You took a survey of 17,601 people on Hollywood Boulevard -- and you don't think you were attracting any attention?!!!
Me: De... calm yourself. I was joking about the survey. I was just trying to impress upon you how much WORSE it would have been if I had decided to do more than "just" polish your star. But I am respectful and reverent, remember? I wouldn't do anything to embarrass you.
Me: I promise you!
De: I feel better.
Me: I was going to install blinking lights around your star, but figured somebody might trip...
De: Oh, God...
Me: So I didn't do that.
De: I'm very grateful.
Me: Apparently I'M prouder of your star than YOU are!
De: Apparently.
Me: Liberace woulda loved me. I'm flamboyant like him.
De: I love you, too. I just can't think of any way to EXPLAIN you!
Me: You don't have to. I can explain myself. And people UNDERSTAND!
De: (to Carolyn) Carolyn, there's no hope left for the world. People UNDERSTAND Kris. The planet is doomed...
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Did you know? I made a poster board fan (affixed words and photos to it) to "fan" De's star with while it dried after I had polished it.
I had to get De's permission to become his official star polisher. When I wrote to ask his permission, he called me n response to say yes, but then he added (chuckling), "Just don't get arrested!"
I asked him to sign my star polishing fan that way ("Just don't get arrested!") -- and he did!
I treasure it!

Tales From the Animal Rescue Trenches

Today I thought I'd publish an excerpt from my book LET NO DAY DAWN THAT THE ANIMALS CANNOT SHARE and send you a "blast from the past" -- a little entertainment at my own expense. This is from the chapter Burro-ing In: Animal Advocacy 101. If you like it, there's more where this came from. You can get the book at (or at if you like paying more -- didn't think so...)

Here we go:

From 1981 to 1985 I worked as a Field Service Representative (later as a Field Service Director) for an animal advocacy agency in Sacramento, California. It was right up my alley -- advocating for critters -- so most of the time I was in seventh heaven.

A significant part of my job involved visits to grade schools, high schools, colleges and universities where I would throw a spotlight on individual or collective environmental or cultural challenges which threatened the wellbeing or continued existence of animals, domestic and wild. My expertise spanned diverse issues, including agribusiness farming practices, puppy mills, animal research, the use of leghold traps, and so forth.

One time my sole colleague on the wild horse issue, along with our agency's Public Relations expert, were called to Washington DC to testify before Congress about the fate of bands of wild horses that roamed public lands. They flew off and were gone. Wild horses were one of my issues, too, but I stayed behind -- happily so, because I was a relative newcomer to the animal welfare wars and didn't yet feel secure enough to tackle a vitally important Congressional hearing.

As luck would have it, our organization had a previous commitment on the same day as the congressional hearing. We were supposed to be providing a "burro expert" for a television show. Our burro expert's comments would be broadcast as a rebuttal to comments made by a representative of the Bureau of Land Management regarding the wild burro/land management (read "cattlemen's association") challenge. There was just one small problem with our commitment: our only bona fide "burro expert" was on the aforementioned trip to Washington D.C.!

That morning the head of the agency called me into his office to say I would be the day's burro defender during the television shoot with the camera crew. More than a little panicked, I cleared my throat and reminded him that burros were not my issue -- that wild horses, not burros, were my field of expertise. That would be no problem, he assured me: the land use controversy was essentially the same for both species and I could "review the finer talking points" on the way to the burro ranch (85 miles away). I would handle it just fine, he assured me, expressing great confidence via a smiling, relaxed demeanor.

Oh, and by the way, he added parenthetically, the drive to the site would take just over two hours and the camera crew would be waiting for me the moment I arrived. In other words, high-tail it out of here, go home and get changed into cowboy duds, and take off so I could do those burros and the agency proud.

Ooooh boy...

I was a nervous wreck. How, I wondered, was I supposed to drive a car AND study a position paper? (My first duty to this mission was, of course, to arrive alive.) I also knew I wasn't adequately versed in camera crews, interviews or debates, much less in hosting a burro visitation party! I have never even met a burro!

But there was no one else. I was the last, best hope of burro-kind that day. (By this, you might guess that things didn't look too good for the poor burros...)

When I arrived at the ranch (a gathering place for burros that had been taken off the land and were scheduled to be adopted by animal lovers in the region), the camera crew was gathered and ready to roll. A ranch hand had loaded a small pick-up truck with a couple bales of hay. We all piled in -- I was in the back with the bales, an interviewer and a cameraman -- and headed for the field in which dozens of skittish burros were domiciled.

The cameraman told me to go ahead and chat it up as we drove to the site. I let them know, right away, that I was simply a stand in for the real expert, and that my expertise was with wild horses, not burros. I told them during this short drive that the wild horse species, eohippus, had actually evolved on the North American continent but had become extinct -- possibly due to predation by dire wolves, the American lion and saber-tooth cat species that shared the land, or by Native Americans later on -- and so when they were brought back to the Americas by the Spaniards, they were returned to their native lands -- ergo, they were not an "exotic species," as BLM claimed. This detail, in my reasoning, made the wild horses "natives," part of the ecosystem. I said that wild horses had as much right to claim public lands as rabbits, coyotes, antelope, and cactus and far more right to it than millions of head of introduced cattle.

As we entered the field where the burros stood gazing warily from a distance, a crew member whispered to me, "How will we get close enough to get decent shots of them?" Naturally, I had no idea... but this was no time to be caught without a ready answer, so I suggested confidently, "Just disguise yourself to resemble a bale of hay-- like this!" I held a couple large flakes of hay in front of myself, up high and down low. No one laughed. So much for warming up my audience...

Thank God! My humorous, half-hearted suggestion worked like a charm! The burros had been fed from the truck for several weeks following their round-up and were accustomed to the routine of having hay fall from the rear of the vehicle. I held two flakes of hay in front of me and stepped off the bumper into the field: a cameraman followed suit.

So there we were: two flakes out walking in a field, surrounded by nuzzling, contented burros. The cameraman just about lost his mind, getting some of the best closeups of wild burros ever obtained. Viewers of the program saw burros from as little as two feet away, at times jiggling the camera in their quest for another mouthful of hay.

It was a coup of immense proportions. My organization was thrilled with the resulting intimate footage. I was just relieved that we got some!

I was less thrilled to see the show. While others stood around congratulating me on how natural and comfortable I looked and how wonderful the show was, I was mortified to discover that the editor had included my defense of wild horses as natives, but had edited the statement to make it seem as though I had asserted that burros were a native species, too and were therefore not an exotic creature at all. The BLM rep, of course, countered that claim unequivocally, saying he had no idea where I got such a preposterous idea. Missing entirely was my actual defense of the burros' right to remain on American public lands. I had said, "Burros were instrumental in opening up this continent. Prospectors used burros, trappers used them. Burros have as much right to exist on this continent as do European settlers and other immigrants. Without the help of burros, horses, mules and oxen, our settlements would have been limited to places where only rivers could take us."

To this day -- thirty years later -- I still sometimes run across that old interview -- and blush every time. If I could re-edit it to its original, unedited content, I would be fine with it... but not the way it runs now. It seems my "native burros" claim will dog me as long as I live -- and I didn't even say it!

This adventure became an invaluable lesson. These days if I feel uncertain when given orders, I stand firm and state my case. Beguiling me -- even with my "natural ability to charm a crowd" -- doesn't get terribly far with me any more. Until I know for sure what I'm doing, I balk mightily. I guess that makes me reliable: I won't take on a task unless I'm 98% sure I can do an exemplary job -- and that I can face myself in the mirror (or on a TV screen) forever after!

LOOKING foolish is okay, when it's by design (as is the case with this piece), but BEING foolish has never been a target of mine.

Alas -- all too often I somehow manage to hit the bulls-eye anyway!

Damned Yellowjackets!!!!

When Nature Attacks!

I was on my daily four mile walk this morning, traveling the route I always travel, minding my own business on the side of the road and WHAM!!! Suddenly the back of my head felt so freaking weird and then the stinging started. I reached back to "see" (actually feel) what the hell was going on back there and there was at least one yellow jacket trapped in the hair that was sticking out from my baseball cap. It felt like a pussywillow, so I grabbed it (luckily by its sides) and pulled it out of my hair, and there it was: my proof that I had been attacked by at least one, possibly as many as three yellow jackets (unless the one I "rescued" was a repeat offender).

This was three hours ago and the back of my head where I was stung STILL stings! It's a whole lot less than it was two hours ago, or three hours ago, but it's still there as a reminder that I managed to somehow piss off a bunch of bees.

I was only ten minutes into my walk when I was assaulted, so I decided to walk the rest of the way around (another 3 miles or so). I must've been really driven by the stinging because I got around in record time and my heart rate jumped up into the 90% range (aerobics-wise) while my heart beats (usually between 120-138 when I'm walking fast and taking hills) was up near 160 bpm. I gotta tell ya, that concerned me. I wondered if the multiple stings were taking a toll on me. I never got dizzy, or swelled (except at the sites of the stings), but I did get concerned for a time there. I kept fingering my cell phone, thinking "I'm sure I'll get enough warning to be able to dial 911 if I have to..." So I kept asking myself all along the way (silently, of course!), "Where are you now, in case you need to dial 911?" "I'm on Waller Road between 96th Avenue East and 104th Avenue East.... I'm on 104th Avenue East between Waller Road and Vickery... I'm on 104th Street between Central Avenue School and 48th Avenue..."

As soon as I turned the corner onto the street I live on, I heard my name being called out. Huh?! Was I hallucinating, now?

No. It was George Rebar, Wendy's dad (Wendy is my niece -- nephew Phil's wife), calling out to me. As it turned out, he was right behind me by about 20 paces between 40th Avenue and 48th Avenue.

I stopped and we exchanged pleasantries, then I told him if he planned to walk on 96th Avenue East on the way home, to divert at 40th and go that way home -- to avoid the vicious, rapacious, ruthless yellow jackets who were causing grief to innocent passersby!

I tell ya!!! It has been decades since I've been stung by bees, and I had forgotten how much exquisite pain those little guys can cause. I'm usually the one at picnics saying, "Just sit still. As soon as they find out you're not a flower or a hot dog (depending on the species of bee), they'll go away..."

I've been defending saboteurs all these years! No more Ms. Nice Guy when it comes to yellow jackets anymore. From now on I'm getting the RAID out and aiming to kill!

Thanks to Joyce Moen For This One!

Monday, October 19, 2009

No Lion -- I've Reconnected with Lion of Yelm!

Edward E. Smith (Auroara's "dad" -- Auroara was a lion) and I got together for lunch today. I think the last time we saw each other was in 1995 up at Tippi Hedren's Shambala Preserve when he came down to CA for a few days on vacation. During that time, I fell very ill for four days (lost 20 pounds in that short period of time) and he came by to see me right when I needed someone most! I was afraid I was going to drop dead in bed. I don't know if it was the flu, or what, but whatever it was, I never want to be that sick again. It took me over four months to recover the weight I lost. (I couldn't afford the weight loss at that time.) He held my head when I got sick and cleaned up after me in ways no friend should ever be expected to do. It was just God awful...

Anyway, we met at Shari's Restaurant and had lunch while I listened to him and caught up on all the years, then I led him to my place to show him Jackie's and my "new" home (it's almost a year and a half now that we've lived here) so he knows where I live. When we got here I gave him the tour and we talked some more. When he left, he left with four De Kelley Memorial magazines (in which I also appear briefly). He's always been a huge Trek fan and wanted to read them and since I trust him to bring them back, I loaned them out to him. He's also going to buy my De book and the animal book. I read to him (from the De book) the part where he (Edward) makes a brief appearance during the 1990 Creation Convention in Bellevue when De and I flew up for it. He was tickled and plans to get the hardbound version. (Gads, maybe if I'd let everyone who's in the book know they're in the book, I'd get more sales! HA HA HA!)

Anyway, it was a LOT of fun and I want to be sure we never go that long again without getting together. Now that he has my magazines, I know the next time won't be too long, but we need to put dates on our calendars so we don't just let time go by again as we have in the past. I didn't know where he was after all these years after I moved back here. He found me 'cause of my books, I guess...

Oh, no! I remember now. He found me because a friend of his did a search on "three-legged serval" (don't ask me why!) and a review of HARVEST OF MEMORIES popped up at Amazon! So she told him I had written a book and he did a little search (googled my name) and found my email address. That's how it happened.

Anyway, I'm glad it happened and that we're back in touch again.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

More good news. I recently raised my prices at Elance to come up to the other lower end Premier Providers at that portal. That seems to have "earned" me more clients! I guess businesses who know what good copywriters are worth are bypassing copywriters who charge "too little." That was quite the eye-opener!!! I've made $800 in three days and continue to earn stellar reviews! (Very LONG days, but I'm not complaining.) I hope it keeps up.

Two of the new clients want me to keep working on additional websites for them, and one of the two has over 50 websites at the moment, with more on the way, so that's fabulous! It seems I'm finally on my way. Next year I ought to be above the poverty line and doing a lot better! WOO HOO!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I Cried So Hard!

Last night I finished reading "WHAT WAS GOOD ABOUT TODAY?" by Carol Kruckeberg. It's a true story about her family's struggle to keep their little eight year old daughter with leukemia alive. What a story! What a family! What a legacy the little girl left, even though she didn't survive.

The family lived (perhaps still lives) here in Washington State. At the time they lived in Sequim, WA (pronounced skwim) and ferried across Puget Sound for Sara's medical interventions. I'm sure the story hit me especially hard because I have a cousin who lost a little son named Patrick to leukemia in the late 40's or early 50's; and then we lost Jennifer Cuellar to it just a couple years ago in her mid-20's; and then I've lost loved ones to other types of cancer (which you know about if you've read my first book about DeForest Kelley).

Perhaps I sobbed last night also because it gave me "permission" to grieve for my own losses. I was so busy "being strong" through my Mom's, De's and Dad's passing within a 14 month period (because someone was relying on me) that I never did get to "let it all hang out" when I should have. So this book really threw open the floodgates.

Kruckeberg is an exemplary writer. And it seems she learned to write so she would pen this story, after someone told her she should. So it's a double triumph for her: Her daughter's legacy lives on and she did a great job ensuring that it would.

It's a roller coaster ride. Be forewarned. But in the end, Sara's spirit triumphs.

It's a masterpiece.

I highly encourage you to read it. I got it used at Amazon. It's a treasure I will share with others.

On those days when I think "what else can go wrong?" I'll think of this book and count my uncountable blessings...

"I hope many people will read Carol Kruckeberg's story. I know they will be moved by it." Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, author of WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Tosca Lee Drops By Writer's Edge to Bless us with Fiction Writing Tricks and Tips

I just spent most of the morning and part of this afternoon at a very special Writers' Edge meeting at my church. Tosca Lee (, award-winning author of DEMON: A MEMOIR and HAVAH: THE STORY OF EVE, flew in from Nebraska and stopped by to share some writing exercises and her own hard-earned wisdom.

The writing classes were immensely helpful. The before-and-after writing samples revealed the true value of everything she taught.

She is a delightful, very down-to-earth speaker who is a delight to watch and listen to. (Someone asked her if she ever thought about becoming an actor, because she's so engaging to watch.) I highly recommend her if you, too, have a writer's group and want to glean great tips and tricks from someone who really knows her stuff.

Although I was familiar with everything she taught (gads, I'd better be! I'm probably twice her age and have been writing for 50 years!), it was great to see how she broke it down and showed how to do it. Then she had everyone in the workshop do it. I'm sure there were a lot of "AHA!" moments today -- where something Yvonne and I said earlier finally clicked and they truly "got it."

I learned quite a lot about how to teach writing from her, too. That's a good thing!

I'm sorry to say I was to busy putting tables away and setting the chairs back up into their proper "Bible study" configuration to tell her how much I enjoyed her class. She was gone before I brought my head up and tuned in again.

Tosca, if you read this: THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

Guess I'd better shoot her an email, too, huh???

Good Article --

I guess you know where I stand on the issue, if you read yesterday's blog: with optimists and visionaries!

I am so tired of the divisiveness in this nation. So very, very tired. Weary to the bone. A fellow who was held captive for five year in a Colombian jungle came home and was heartbroken to see what we're doing to each other. And he's a center-right Republican. He said it's tragic and he isn't sure the nation can survive this way, with us making villains of "the other side." WHAT "other side"?

We're all in this together. Why the sad faces?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Obama Wins 2009 Nobel Peace Prize!

Obama's statement re: the honor:

What a surprise and what a delight!

Now that the President has given the world such hope, let's gets behind him and be sure that what he wants to happen, happens!

He's our LEADER. We're supposed to follow him until he is no longer our leader. That's what leaders are elected to do -- lead -- based on our druthers. And we voted in large numbers -- and with equal hope -- for the kind of change he spoke of.

So let's get the lead out and allow him to lead!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Mark Twain Redux

I'm a huge fan of Mark Twain. I've read everything by, and about, him that I can get my hands on, so when I found out that Ron Powers, who helped write Senator Kennedy's last tome, had written an earlier book on Twain, I ordered it.

Like the Kennedy book, it's massive. It was quite an eye-opener, too. I'd read earlier Twain biographies, but this one was written with the "blinders off"; that is, Twain's considerable warts were exposed and detailed. Can't say I liked that part; can't say it didn't smart, but once again it just proved to me that when we put people on pedestals and try to sanitize and sanctify them, it's a mistake... just as it's a mistake to vilify and condemn those with whom we disagree or whose paths we don't share or concur with. As Mark Twain said (and I'll paraphrase): "I'm not a racist. All I need to know is that a human being is a human being. That's enough for me. He can't be any worse." That always gets a grin, as was intended. But it also gets a grimace, as was intended.

Mark Twain was a master of pointing out our warts and still making us seem somehow salvageable. At the end of his life, after he had lost his entire family to disease and/or accidents and he was utterly alone (even when surrounded by adoring crowds of fans), he began to allow his crustiness to take the fore. One who noticed and spoke about it publicly called Twain a pessimist. Twain responded, "People call me a pessimist in my old age, but I'm not. I am an optimist (long Twainian pause) who did not arrive."

I "get" that. I totally understand what he was saying. That was one of the most remarkable things about him: you "got" what he was saying, maybe not every last shred of onion skin, but most of the way down to the onion.

Anyway, reading the book and having him die (again, for about the seventh time during my lifetime as I've read biographies about him) made me cry. I'm sorry that a man who gave so much to the world ended up lonely and bereft. I'm sorry he lost his faith --although I'm not completely certain he really did. As Powers states, Twain felt like a jilted lover of God's; felt that it wasn't he who left, but God who left him. Faithful people feel this way sometimes, but I wonder if they feel this way every moment for the rest of their lives. I would think that would be impossible. Even Jesus said (on the cross), "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" There are times when you think you've been dumped and discarded, but I doubt if many people feel the same way lying on their death beds. Only those who truly don't believe, to the core of their beings, are terrified or depressed lying there. The rest of us have a hope and a future lying there...

Another thing that occurred to me is that when I was in high school I wrote a story in Twain's style and vernacular. My English teacher thought it was inspired; she said she couldn't see any differences between Twain's style and mine. That was a major compliment to me, as crazy as I was about Twain. I haven't used it much since then.

And when I was writing De and Carolyn all those hundreds of mostly-humorous letters, I once sent them a Dave Barry column that I thought was particularly hysterical, about sharks giving birth while idiot, apparently unprotected researchers looked on. De called me and said, "We read Dave Barry in the paper and always enjoy him. But you're every bit as good [as a humorist]. In fact, I see a lot of Barry's style in you."

All this leads me to believe that I have become far too serious of late. I've been thinking about resurrecting my latent talent in this area. One of my books, Floating Around Hollywood, is a book of humor, and I enjoy reading it from time to time. It's fun -- but it's not Twain and it's not Barry, and it's not even me at my absolute best.

Just thinking about "going for it" again has kicked my hormones into gear and made me feel a little giddy and like "all things are possible." So in addition to writing for clients at Elance, I'm going to see what I can come up with personally again.

God didn't bequeath this passion and encourage its development because He wanted me to sit on it. The world needs humor -- especially right now!!!

I need to stop being so serious so much of the time, or I may end up like Twain: an optimist who never arrives!

I'm still an optimist. I still believe we're "improvable" as long as we keep at it, something Twain gave up on after a lifetime of observing humans and the depths of depravity to which we can sink. I never want to reach the conclusions he did. I want to believe that someday all the world will recognize that we're image-bearers of an Almighty God and, as such, there should be an aura about us that signals to those near us and around the world, "You are Beloved of God. You are better than you think. Believe it and receive it. You can love as I love."

I still believe that. I probably always will. When we do, we'll see commonalities with our "enemies" (all sides will) and realize that we're all in this together. Our fate is wrapped up in "IDIC" (infinite diversity in infinite combinations); in honoring our differences and embracing our commonalities.

There I go again, getting all Trek-kie!

It sure beats jihad and White Aryan Nation. Amen and amen!

Amen and Amen!

You have a solemn obligation
to take care of yourself
because you never know
when the world will need you.

~ Rabbi Hillel

Thursday, October 1, 2009

God Bless Joe Biden...

Joe Biden is sometimes a loose cannon (and I find him lovable, even when he is) but by golly, he sure can hit 'em out of the park at times!