Should I Laugh or Care?

I am pretty dumb about a lot of things. When it comes to vehicles or appliances, I need my husband. When it comes to computer technology beyond the basics, I need my fourteen-year-old daughter. When it comes to the chickens living in our backyard, I need my twelve-year-old to show me what to do with them. I don’t keep up with all the world news or celebrity news or business trends. But one thing I do know is this: dinosaurs and humans did not interact. I would have guessed, with 100% certainty, the average adult in the U.S. knew this to be true.

Excuse me, it’s hard to laugh and type at the same time.

Like many families who enjoy the outdoors, my husband and I took our children to a corn maze at Liberty Mills Farm in Somerset, VA. Each year they have a different theme depicted in their four different mazes, various levels of difficulty. This year’s theme was dinosaurs! We chose the second easiest maze, the one where you find fifteen questions posted along the course. You answer the questions with multiple choice answers as you fill out your postcard’s crossword puzzle. At the end, if your card is filled out correctly, you get a candy. The questions were all about dinosaurs, a few about the Jurassic Park, and most had ridiculous answers so it was easy to use the principle of deduction to figure out what was correct, if you didn’t know a whole lot about dinosaurs. Only one question made us have to Google the answer on my phone—we didn’t know “stego” (as in Stegosaurus) meant “roof.” But hey, we’re a little smarter now.

We arrived at Question #6 just behind a mother and her daughter (maybe 12-years old), so we had no choice but to listen as they contemplated the answer to a baffling question.

The current leading theory on why dinosaurs went extinct is:

  1. Civil War
  2. Humans
  3. Asteroid Impact
  4. Global Warming

All jokes aside (for a minute—if you can stand it; if you can’t, by all means let it out), this woman and her daughter were considering humans or global warming, the mother having immediately scoffed at the asteroid theory. She even provided sound justification to her decision when she said, “Well, humans are obnoxious.”

My eight-year-old was quite amused that my two oldest daughters and I had to sneak around a few turns of the corn maze, then crouch down amidst the corn stalks to laugh hysterically. My husband, perhaps more intrigued at this phenomenon and able to refrain from laughing, lingered just one row away from the poor woman to make sure she got the right answer (her daughter did—perhaps she remembered something from an obscure source of knowledge, like elementary school). To our good fortune, whenever we saw this woman throughout the corn maze, we quietly referred to her as “Human Lady,” and a fresh batch of giggles would ensue. She might have referred to us as the Giggly Family, which I would happily allow and encourage. Especially since the giggles haven’t stopped.

I’ve had more time to think about this interesting example of ignorance, and I find it rather sad. It forces me to acknowledge that there are people out in the world who don’t ask questions, don’t contemplate or process information, don’t pay attention, perhaps never went to a museum to think beyond “that looks cool,” and maybe, (and most likely), just don’t care. I suppose information that doesn’t affect your everyday life isn’t important to some people. They couldn’t be bothered with how humans fit into the grand scheme of earth’s history. They really couldn’t be bothered with those big, old lizards that once upon a time walked the earth and were cool enough to make some big budget movies out of. Those guys are extinct now anyway, not affecting the economy or politics or interrupting Wi-Fi connections and cell towers. And, hey, even if they were still around at the arrival of apelike beings who walked on two feet, surely humans could force them into extinction.

After all, we’re pretty obnoxious.


I Have to See Them, or I’ll Die!

Like many teenagers, my oldest daughter has a boy band fascination with a five-member group called Why Don’t We. Admittedly, their music is entertaining, their wardrobes are totally influenced by the 80s and 90s (to which I give a thumbs up), and they are cute and funny, at least when I watched them on the Late Late Show with James Cordon and their brief concert on the Today Show, surrounded by—who else?—screaming girls.

My daughter could tell you so much more about them than I could ever know or would even want to. One of them doesn’t like chocolate; one of them is from Virginia; three of them have girlfriends, etc, etc, etc. In fact, she has gone far beyond liking the band; what she has cannot be reasonably described without using the word obsession. She even started a fan club on her Instagram, currently with 700 followers. Yes, 700 people are following my daughter to see what she will post about Why Don’t We. (I’ve already approved her for employment when I get my book published to create a fan page to attract followers–$1 per ten followers. Yes, you may call me shrewd. I prefer that to devious.)

On Saturday, this boy band will be singing a few songs, signing their newly released books (because they have so much wisdom to share within its pages), and they will be enchanting what I anticipate to be hundreds of impressionable girls one hour away from where we live. At first glance, I thought: maybe. If the weather is crummy and we aren’t going to the corn maze as planned, maybe we could drive up to Tyson’s Corner Barnes & Nobles to get a book signed. Maybe I could browse the shelves and buy something worthwhile for me, and we can be home for lunch.

Ha, ha, ha, ha.

Let’s read the fine print. The doors open at 10 a.m. An undisclosed amount of wristbands will be given on a first-come-first-serve basis (cue tossed halos for devil horns). Those without a wristband will be shuffled behind a roped area for a spectacular view of the back of people’s heads and outstretched phone screens. Those with wristbands will be escorted to the area where they can hear/see the little concert and get their purchased books (gotta buy a book) signed by the band members. The event itself doesn’t start until 2 p.m. and ends at 5:30 p.m. At the bottom of the information page, for all those zealous fans, for all those loving parents who think this is a brilliant way to indulge their daughters, it says: do not begin a line earlier than 6 a.m.


My daughter would not flinch about getting up at 4:30 a.m. to leave our house at 5 a.m. to get to Tyson’s Corner mall by 6 a.m. and wait in line for four hours until the doors open for the CHANCE that a wristband might be obtained, then wait four more hours for the event to start, sacrificing an entire day for a scribble on a book and a smile from these boys. She would also promise hours of chores, sacrifice her Christmas gifts, offer her firstborn child—anything to be able to go.

I went online and read several articles about boy band obsessions (starting with the Beatles) and girls waiting in tents and stampeding a mall to see One Direction. My daughter is not alone; she is normal; and according to some sources, this is also a healthy expression of teenage behavior and self-identity (!?!?!).

Now, I almost understand. I think. I may have been willing to do that for Harrison Ford back when I was about thirteen. I had a short-lived obsession with him (although it was really with Indiana Jones), and the only way I could get over it was to promise myself I would meet him one day. I haven’t done that yet. I am sure my parents would not have sacrificed an entire day for me to do that. But, really he was old enough for my mom, so maybe I could have convinced her . . .

As a teen, the closest I came to waiting to see a celebrity was going to see Jason Priestly and Jenny Garth from Beverly Hills 90210 on stage at the Detroit Auto Show. I forgot how long we waited, but it wasn’t all day. And my sister and I got to wave at them from the audience with about twenty rows of fans between us and them. Hi, Jason! Hi, Jenny!

Thanks to my mom, my girls did get a chance to meet an actor they liked from the Teen Beach Disney movies a few years ago. Given that the actor, Garrett Clayton, was from Dearborn Heights, Michigan, he came “home” to put on a play at a high school near my parent’s house. We stayed after for about an hour and a half for a chance to meet him backstage. Yes, memorable and cool. No, not life-changing. Sorry, Garrett.

And sorry, Hannah.The boy band will have to come and go without signing your book. Mama has her limits—and it is well under the fifteen hour commitment for a five-second fantasy. For any of you parents who were suckered into that on Saturday—you have my sympathies, but really only for five-seconds, the rest of the day is yours–or not, depends on how you view it.

So, readers, any of you wait for hours to see a celebrity? Fight crowds for an autograph? Which celebrity would be worth it?


Try Something New or Live in Fear?

Have you ever thrown caution to the wind and did something that scared the crap out of you? Did you regret it? Or did you find it to be an amazing, eye-opening experience? Better yet, how often would you be willing to do that?

I read an article today about the benefits of trying new things and facing fears.The article references a study that showed people are more afraid of trying something new with unknown outcomes than they are of doing something with known bad outcomes. What? That’s like saying we’d rather go to the same old restaurant that notoriously serves bad food than to try a brand new restaurant that no one has tried yet. I suppose with an active imagination, our fear of the unknown begins to escalate. I mean, geez, what if the new restaurant starts the next e.coli epidemic? Or is secretly funding a terrorist organization? Or (gasp) becomes our new favorite restaurant only to go out of business in six months? Best stick to soggy patty melts and Maxwell House coffee than take that kind of risk.

If you’re interested, you can find the article here.

In this article, the author, Alex Lickerman, has a list of things to remember before he starts something new. Unsurprisingly, the first thing is to remember that trying something new often requires courage because our biggest barrier tends to be fear. In my experience, generating courage requires me to deliberately override the natural instincts to play it safe, back off if nerves start firing, retreat when negative thoughts arise (and they will). But trying new things is a part of having an extraordinary, fulfilling life, a life that is not a string of identical days, or blocks of unmemorable weeks, or months or years stuck on repeat, doomed for repetition, an echo that just keeps on echoing.

I refuse to let that happen.

Now, I wouldn’t have joined the Air Force or flown to L.A. for a talent show (don’t get excited, I wasn’t born to be a singer), or rode The Intimidator at King’s Dominion, and I wouldn’t be reading my books out loud at the writer’s group or sending out queries for my manuscript or taking adult ballet classes (in a leotard and tights, no less) if I didn’t have a shred of courage. Trust me; it took quite a few drops of courage to do those things, to push past the fear of rejection, to push past the nerves that shook my fingers and gripped my throat, to jump on the train bound for adventure into the unknown, holding onto the back with eyes closed and sweaty palms and thinking about how easy and comfortable it would be to just let go. Sorry, I got a little dramatic there; with that kind of analogy, you’d think I was doing something more courageous than squeezing into tights for ballet class every week. But that’s also my point. I want more. I still see similar days and safe plans and the same shade of lipstick for fifteen years and repeat races on my running calendar and extremely comparable work days (repetitive chaos for 13 hours with no lunch most of the time), and I haven’t truly tested my limits and grasped for extraordinary, mind-blowing, unfathomable ideas in my writing. I still have too much fear.

In conclusion, every day I need to do something new, preferably something that scares the piss out of me, and it has to be more than using a cuss word in a blog.

But, shit, that’s a start.

What about you, readers? What is your experience with trying new things, or building up courage to step out of your comfort zone?

Inspired by the word of the day: Repress


This week, my youngest daughter (who just turned eight) told me that her music teacher got all the students at her school to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star with the first graders. This made her cry. She cried because of happiness, because she remembered me singing that song with her, and because kids all singing together moves her to tears. I almost cried as she described the moment. She is truly a product of me and my emotional heart, the one that makes me cry at silly things like animal rescues on TV or the theme song to Jurassic Park (not kidding—the scene where Alan sees the dinosaurs for the first time? Get me a tissue).

Today, I thought I’d take an inventory of what I have shed tears over within the last couple of days.

–On the news, an elementary school surprised their school janitor on National Custodial Worker’s Day, luring him into a gym where he was expecting to clean up “an accident,” and instead walked into a crowd of kids offering heartfelt applause and thank you cards.


–On You Tube, I watched a children’s choir sing “When You Believe.” I’m sorry, but any children’s choir singing anything will make me cry.


–While having a discussion about the Titanic, my oldest got on her iPod and played only three notes of “My Heart Goes On” and I was done.


–My middle daughter and I started watching Stand By Me, one of my favorite pre-teen movies. As soon as the music played at the beginning, the knot formed in my throat.


–On Facebook, I learned that a lady is collecting Tonka trucks for her brother who has cerebral palsy. I teared up, but the only reason I didn’t actually cry is because I didn’t turn on the music. If I would have heard music, I would have cried.


I see the trend of music moving me to tears. While I am not a musician, I guess I respond to music emotionally. This is why I sometimes choose songs to listen to when writing a scene or establishing a mood. And I also decided that if any of my books are ever made into a movie, I want the last song to make people cry. Gee, I should probably just end my books with a children’s choir. That’ll work for me.

Readers, what moves you to tears? Do you cry easily?



If You Give a Kid a Cell Phone

This is me being a cranky old lady who is getting rather sick of seeing too many people, especially kids, on cell phones or devices. When I see three-year-olds on devices while riding in a shopping cart, it saddens and worries me. But maybe I shouldn’t worry; after all, grocery stores may be exclusively online when they grow up. Sigh.

(In the spirit of If You Give a Pig a Pancake and other delightful tales by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond)

If You Give A Kid a Cell Phone

If you give a kid a cell phone,

They’re gonna ask for a game.

When you give them the game, they’ll want to play beyond the free level, which requires a monthly membership fee.

When they are bored of that game, they’ll want another game, but you’ll forget to cancel the membership of the first one.

They’ll love the new game, and they will have to play it on the way to school because looking out the window is boring.

Their friends will want to play it too, so they’ll gather around the phone at recess while the soccer ball sits in the grass.

While looking at their phone, the kid will pass the soccer ball in the grass and accidentally trip on the ball and twist their ankle, so they’ll have to go home to rest.

While resting, the kid will be on their phone and discover hundreds of hilarious 10 second videos of idiocy. They will stay up late laughing and watching and “liking” the videos while simultaneously getting homework done . . . you think.

The poor kid will lose sleep and get cranky and talk back, and you will threaten to take the phone away, but secretly you don’t want to be stuck with a crabby kid, thus the threat will be useless and empty.

The sleep-deprived, over-stimulated kid is cranky at school surrounded by other sleep-deprived, over-stimulated cranky kids. They all get in a wee fight, provoking a launch of the phone across the room and shattering the screen into oblivion.

Of course, the kid will be devastated, so they’ll have to play Xbox Live until their phone is replaced with an updated version.

And chances are, if you give them a new phone, they’ll want a new game.


Moral of the story: give the kid one of those old-fashioned whatchamacallits with a shiny cover, those things made of paper bound together that contain lots of words.

Running in a Battlefield

I ran the 3rd Annual Prince William Half Marathon today. The weather was perfect, starting in the lower 60’s, dry, and cloudy. It was not a flat course, but all-in-all, the race was solid, well-organized, plenty of bathrooms and water stops, cheerleaders and band kids playing drums, and a closed course so no worries about confused or ignorant drivers. I just wish more friends would join me next time! How ‘bout it?

The first seven miles were great; my pace a steady 8:00’ish, give or take a few seconds (very dependent on the hills). Miles 7-10 were about 8:20-8:30 pace. Miles 11-12 got closer to 9:00 with a slightly faster 13th mile, uphill, and calves hurting like crazy. I tried to sprint the finish, but both calf muscles were on the verge of popping, so I was teetering on the edge of causing a 3-month set back, so I’m glad I didn’t try to go any faster. I finished in 1:49:18, one minute faster than the last time I ran this same race in 2016. It’s always nice to know that I haven’t slowed down with age.

The course led us around the Manassas Battlefield Park, a national historic site and the site of two battles in the Civil War, the first being The First Battle of Manassas (or First Battle of Bull Run) where about 3,500 soldiers were killed or wounded, and the second being The Second Battle of Manassas (or Second Battle of Bull Run) where about 22,000 soldiers were wounded or killed. Along the route, signs were staged to highlight the sacrifices made for our country. So, while running, I thought about the bloodshed, the chaos, and the terror felt, heard, and lived on the same grounds where we were running a race. As sobering as that was, it was also uplifting, knowing that life did move on, the country has improved (slowly, yes, and some setbacks, but still).

So, if you got a minute, it’s worth using it to think about how we went from this:

To this:

And, for me, I am grateful to be a part of the second scenario, and grateful that the people who sacrificed everything made it possible.

Making Time or Making Excuses?

Just after college, I had a theory that I am still convinced is true. Out of four categories—Family, Career, School, and Hobbies, you can only pick one or two to really focus on at one time, if you want to excel. The others might still be there, but they will get the shaft, cut down to minimums in order to make it work. Sometimes that arrangement is only temporary, other times it is a choice, a commitment. People have to make compromises if they want to do more than one thing at a time because what we can’t change is that time is a fixed resource, and it goes by fast.

I listened to a web video yesterday that said, unequivocally, as a writer, you are in charge of your writing career, and you are going to have to make adjustments in your life in order to make the time to write. No one is ever going to do that for you. It’s such an odd career by nature; typically, you aren’t clocking in and working under supervision or answering to a boss or clients. No one is paving a path, clearing your schedule, setting you down in a nice little writing sanctuary, and giving you full days to make it happen. And even if you were given time, no one can promise you won’t write for several hours and hate everything that you wrote and then have to start all over again.

And let’s not even get into what happens if no one wants to read what took you years to write.

If you are a writer like me, you are at home, surrounded by distractions and excuses. The dog keeps coming up to be let out; the kids talk to you when you are in the middle of a sentence; the washing machine beeps at the end of a cycle and you have to go switch loads; a pile of dishes is waiting in the sink collecting fruit flies, your email or phone chimes that another message arrived, and your lunch bag sits empty on the counter, needing to be packed for the day job tomorrow—you know, the one that actually pays money. Other priorities will always sneak their way in. Yesterday, my oldest called for me to bring her Benadryl to school. Today, I decided I needed to clear out the garden beds before they start to look worse. Last week, I had to get the house ready for a kid birthday party. Some days I want to ask all the published writers out there: How the hell do you do this?

Well, enough about excuses. It’s time to go write.

But, now my stomach is growling . . .

And my kitchen timer is dinging, reminding me that I have to set up the slow cooker for dinner . . .

What about you, readers? Are you making compromises in order to go after a goal? What gets in your way? How do you deal with it?

From Overstimulated to Activated

When you consider how much information is around us, and how our brain functions to filter and prioritize all these things, it’s a wonder that we can get anything done. It takes an incredible amount of energy and focus to do something or learn something with excellence, consideration, and passion, and then of course to follow through on what’s been done or learned in some meaningful, valuable way. So often, we (or, at least people like me) feel pulled in a myriad of directions, only half-attentive, distracted, giving only a surface level thought to what we’ve read or seen or heard. If anyone out there is like me, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the volume of information pouring in from every direction. Predictably, technology is at the center of this overabundance of stimuli, coupled with a fast-paced social structure propelled by competition, and the subsequent shifting of our brains, our consciousness, our unconsciousness, constantly sorting through it all.

I read an article, The Consequences of Living in an Overstimulated Society (collective-evolution dot com). Ironically, on this page, surrounding the article about over-stimulation, you will find 3 social media links in two different locations, 1 email link, 7 advertisements with links, 6 menu links, and an intro and link to 3 more related articles. The page looked so dreadfully busy, I almost didn’t read the article. But, we have gotten accustomed to that, haven’t we? It wouldn’t look right, wouldn’t look legitimate, without all the links and buttons and bling.

The evidence that my mind splatters into multiple directions could be proven by what I’ve deliberately watched or looked up on the computer so far today, within a few hours (minus email and all of its splatterings, which I limit). And the reasons I looked at all this seem quite responsible and reasonable on the surface. That’s just the thing; it’s all on the surface, unless another step is taken.

This morning I listened to a lecture about sentence structure; read news about the hurricane; read advice about how often to clean your bath or shower (which led to how often to clean a whole buttload of things–thank you, Martha Stewart, for trying to replace my writing time with chores); read an article about Eliud Kipchoge’s new marathon world record at the Berlin Marathon; looked up how often the American Heart Association recommends eating fish (twice a week); read an article about a new MRI technology that will predict outcomes after cardiac arrest; looked up how much it cost to pressure wash a house; and finally, looked at a cooking club for kids with gift ideas in mind for my youngest. And then the article about overstimulation. Ha!

The only way to transform information from surface-level to value-added level is to do something—change a behavior, share the information, or take action. So, with that, I need to write better sentences, clean more often (ugh), donate to hurricane relief, eat fish twice a week, share the MRI article with patients or coworkers, schedule a pressure wash on our house, and sign Carolyn up for the cooking club. With these steps, my newest brain connections won’t be left idle at the surface, but will extend and enrich and enhance at deeper levels than before. Now, I just need time and money.

What about you, readers? Are you overwhelmed with stimulation? What’s the last thing you read or looked up? What are you going to do about it?

What Really Happens on a 12-Mile Run


You start off the day drinking fluids and timing your breakfast at least an hour before you run, so you don’t taste vanilla yogurt and granola the whole time.

You convince yourself that two cups of coffee is almost as good as drinking water.

You laugh as you hit one mile because thinking “only eleven miles to go” sounds absurd.

You feel good through about mile six, then things get interesting.

Your feet cramp.

Your hamstrings don’t want to extend your legs very far.

Your calves feel like two inflexible blocks of wood.

You pass a catering restaurant and smell burgers, which makes your mouth water—even at 9 o’clock in the morning.

You pass other runners, lifting your hand in a half-wave and smiling, happy that you found another person who appreciates the level of commitment/insanity required to run in 75% humidity.

Your hands swell.

Your face feels like you’re holding it over a burning stove.

Your bulky GPS watch is sliding up and down from sweat.

Your shorts feel weird.

You momentary stop to stretch out your calves before they cramp up, and as you bend over, your back is so tight you feel like you are ninety years old.

Your train of thought is amazingly sporadic, a jumble of ideas and whims and observations.

You are too tired to change your playlist, so you are listening to the same songs over and over again.

You see a mean looking dog barking and running across an unfenced yard in your direction, but breathe a sigh of relief that it’s been trained not to attack runners on the jogging path.

A bug flies up underneath your visor, so you flap it out while trying to maintain your pace.

You catch your reflection in a glass door and wonder why you don’t look at all like the runners in Runner’s World.

You repeatedly check your distance on your watch on the last mile because God forbid you do even a tenth of a mile too long.

You stop your watch right at 12.00 miles and hobble the rest of the way to the car, crossing the parking lot diagonally so you don’t have to walk more than necessary.

In the car, you sit on a towel because you are soaked.

You have the unique ability to scrape white salt off your red face.

Your legs don’t really feel like driving and your glutes feel achy and your second toe on your right foot feels bruised, but you make it home.

You can’t move very quickly the rest of the day because your lower body is not cooperating.

And then you plan the next long distance run.

Because you are a runner.

And that makes you just a little mad.