Category Archives: Random

My Small Stone

Vikki, over at The View Outside got my wheels aspinnin’ when she posted about the Small Stones challenge. And while January is too far gone for me, I decided it was never too late to be mindful of the five senses. But the one that stuck in my head and wouldn’t go away wasn’t even my senses, it was my dog’s senses. And it wasn’t just five, I suspect a sixth.

A poem:

dog inhales the world,
breathing every shape of dogs passed
brown rabbit’s run
a foreign salt truck’s rumble
and underneath…
the dark scent
of the mailman’s intentions.

The Unbearable Madness of Writing

I recently read an article about a study that substantiates the popular notion that  creativity is linked to mental illness. It says (in part) that they found that writers and their family members had a higher than average incidence of depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism.


Writers are crazy.

Sometimes bat-shit crazy.

If you are not a writer, imagine for a moment the level of writhing, itching obsession that would compel you to squirrel away in your room for months—no years—no decades–scribbling on and on about made-up worlds and imaginary people. Who does that? Why?

Seriously. Why?

It ain’t for the fame, money or glory. The odds are too long on that buggy race—no matter how delusional those creative types might be.

No, it’s a sick compulsion; a distinct flavor of crazy that is a subtle blend of delicious, delirious dementia with a dash of mania and a flake of lunacy.

So, if you are a writer, well—good luck.

And if you just happen to know one, give them a hug or something. They probably need it.

My Latest Mistake

Under the category of “Random” and “Stupid Things I Do”, I offer…


“Ocean” was her shelter handle. When we busted her out, we named her Emma.

She’s part Christmas Ornament Snatcher, part Guatemalan Pillow Eater, part mistake. Up until last Friday, she was incarcerated the local humane shelter. The reason for this is now clear to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love her. She’s affectionate, smart and outwardly well-behaved. She’s not a barker, biter or jumper. What’s more, this is a dog who seemed to know nothing of sitting, fetching or loose-leash-walking five days ago, who has now mastered all of the above and then some. Heck, the girl had her name down in the first fifteen minutes. Her gift for putting things together astounds me.

She’s whipped us all into shape, herding the kids off to bed or baths and she keeps me fit with sixty-minute home-disaster-recovery-sessions every afternoon. She’s even reached a respectful truce with the cat.

But the girl is just so wily. Her paperwork says part Lab, part Husky. But I watch her… and I think part coyote. I see how she waits until the instant I leave the room to jump on the dining room table. I appreciate the timing and skill it takes to pluck ornaments off the tree without getting caught. Such a clever girl…

The dog has already cost me triple her adoption fee in household damage. Add to that the lifetime supply of dog toys I bought last night to entertain her. But love makes you do crazy things, I guess.

There are no words

I’ve been…occupied lately, with cool stone chapels, somber dark suits, gentle nurses and goodbyes.

The sweetest moment of the past few days was sitting on the edge of my grandma’s hospice bed, having a glass of wine with her. And when something like that is the highlight — I think it’s fair to say it’s a bad week.

Among the sorrows piled on since Friday, a friend of mine lost his twenty-one year old son in a sudden, tragic accident.

I imagine myself a writer, and so I thought there must be something apt I could say to him; something wise, or true or meaningful. Better still, anything that might soothe my friend’s agony.

But I failed. I can’t.

There are no words for the incomprehensible wrongness in burying your own child. No words to express the all-encompassing tragedy in the loss of a young life. No words for the bottomless anguish the man must feel when every sweet memory of his son comes entangled in the knowledge that he’s gone.

There are no words.

Calling All Writers

In real estate it’s location, location, location, but a teacher told me once in writing it’s research, research, research.

I am in need of facts and insight for my WIP — and I have no idea where to go. It’s the sort of thing where if I had a buddy who worked for the FBI, I might be able to pester them with questions in order to better understand the issues and write about the subject matter in a way that’s accurate.

But I don’t have such a buddy… And if I called my local FBI office and started asking them strange random questions… Well I’d end up a list somewhere. Heck, I’m probably going to end up on a list just for posting this and all the unusual things I’ve Googled over the past week.

I’m scratching my head and getting nowhere with internet searches and coming up empty looking for books on the subject.

What do you do when faced with a big black box of unknown? Just wing it? I suppose it’s fiction and I’m supposed to be able to do that…

If you’ve been faced with a research dilemma, what’s your solution?

The Care and Feeding of the Human Soul


What is this?

If you said the cosmetological equivalent of my novel… well you might be right, but that it wasn’t what I was going for. No, it’s the creative expression of a four-year-old girl rendered on her mother’s foot. I think it’s lovely.

Consider this little snippet of computer code that replaced two files and 1000+ lines: code snippet demonstrating reflection

Or what about the deep beauty of a perfectly polished black car?

Audi A5 cabrioletWhat do these things have in common? Creative expression, food for the soul.

What do you do?

Do you cook with abandon or sketch patterns in the margins of your paper during meetings? Maybe you snowboard with singular grace or stitch heaven to earth when you dance. When you put your fingertips to the keyboard do clocks hush to listen? Are you one of those people that can pair an old oversized t-shirt with a vintage jacket and turn heads when you walk in a room? Maybe you make cakes or take pictures, or you can nail the opening chords of Blackbird.

Whatever it is you do that feeds your soul, I hope you find the time to do it today.

Bald Eagle Appreciation Day

I’m in the weeds today, going totally off-topic. This has nothing to do with writing or publishing … I should have warned you I reserve the right to be random.

bald eagle- public domain imageI’m sure it’s marked on your calendar, but it’s Bald Eagle Appreciation Day. I don’t know what you’re planning to do to celebrate. Me, I think I’ll go for a ride and reflect on what it all means.

My second grade teacher was the one who told me. And who would question it – I’d read The Lorax, I wasn’t ignorant of the concept. So when my teacher told me bald eagles were going extinct, I believed.

“Your children will never see a bald eagle,” she said, waggling her head in pity for us.

Of course not. I’d never even seen a bald eagle, and undoubtedly never would. It was 1972 and bald eagles were going extinct.

Flash forward to the present, where on any given winter morning I can spot one in the fuzzy half-dark, making slow circles from dizzy heights as I cross the bridge into Czech town. Just about any weekend I can hop in the car, Noble Hamster riding shotgun and Twister in her booster seat, and we can ride the winding river road and spot a half-dozen. One on the ice, picking at a stolen carp, another perched at the tip of towering cottonwood and still another swooping close enough to count the feathers on the upturned tips of her widespread wings.

Each time we do this, I subject the kids to the story. They know it by heart but I’m helpless to stop. Just as I can’t crest the hill on Edgewood Road without hearing my grandmother’s voice say, “That’s where our old farm was” – my children are doomed to think of my second grade teacher whenever they see a bald eagle.

We almost lost them – the eagles that is – and that is where the story lies. The American symbol of supreme power and authority was nearly wiped out by poaching and pesticides.  At the lowest point there were only 417 nesting pairs left in the United States.

In 1962, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, warning of the dangers of the chemical DDT. It didn’t happen overnight – in fact Carson was in her grave by the time that DDT was banned in 1972. But she started something, a wheel that continued to turn and by 2007, bald eagles were removed from the endangered species list. Wonder of wonders, I heard there are nesting pairs in Manhattan.

For me, this is where the bald eagle evolves into more meaningful symbol of America. Supreme power, especially at the height of the Cold War meant one thing. But supreme power in the context of this tale is a more glorious and far-reaching thing.

It started when people believed, took action and worked together.  A chain of people changed what seemed an unalterable course. That is the very best of us as a nation. Sure, we’re bold and mighty and brave. But what matters more than anything is that we, together, can make a difference. We can change the world; overcome even the most insurmountable obstacles and leave the world a better place for our children.

What better symbol can there be?

One Hundred Opening Lines

What’s the best opening line you ever heard? For me it was in New Orleans. I was standing at a stoplight in the French Quarter with two girlfriends when a young man weaved his way in our direction. He was probably ten years too young for me, daddy-long-leg proportions, sporting baggy pants with a good five inches of underwear sticking out the top. A dozen or more strands of oversized beads hung around his neck.

The guy stopped, turned and favored me with a once-over so comic it was like a scene from Roger Rabbit. I waited for what he might say only because the whole venture seemed so improbable. I was not disappointed.

“If I be yo bread, will you be my buttah?”

I was speechless, not just at the words but at his vast, swaggering optimism. As if nerdish professional tourist moms often jumped at the opportunity to bed underweight hip-hop wannabes who lived in their cars.

I never found out what else he had to say. My friend grabbed my elbow and steered me across the street, perhaps concerned that I was considering the proposition, which of course, I wasn’t.

But my point is, he had my attention. I couldn’t wait to see what he was going to say next. There I was, head cocked to the side like a dog hearing a high-pitched sound, jaw gaping. I wasn’t going anywhere; this was going to be good.

And so it is, or should be, with your opening line for your book. That is my challenge for the day – for myself – and you too, if you’re up for it: write one hundred opening lines. Heck, you can write one or a hundred, but if you’re game, post your favorite in the comments.

Something brilliant is bound to turn up, right? Maybe not as good as “If I be yo bread will you be my buttah” but you never know.