The sunflower presiding over my garden is a volunteer, a seed of one of the dwarf sunflowers I grew last year. It popped up just outside the raised bed while we were away at the beach. I have a soft spot for volunteer plants – it’s like they want to be in our yard – so I let it grow.
It grew and grew, up to 6 feet, with a green bud on the top that reminded me of Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors. Feed me! It was a bit creepy, having that blind, green thing over me as I tended the tomato and pepper plants.
Then it sprouted buds on the stalk – but still no sign of a flower. Perhaps I had a mutant plant?
Luckily, I didn’t cut it down. Patience (and some good advice from our family plant expert) paid off with the huge, beautiful sunflower you see here. I smile every time I see it, I hope you will too.
A while ago, I wrote a post about finding the blue button of happiness. It's an old post, but one of my favorites -- if you want to read it, you can check it out here.
In this time of social distancing and worry about the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have to look harder for things that make you happy, but they are still out there.
Sometimes, they can be really small things that you might normally overlook.
Like tiny wildflowers.
Some people might call them weeds, but I was delighted to see that our backyard had tons of tiny surprises this spring (beyond the daffodils, but I planted them so they weren't a true a surprise). With the help of a macro lens, I was able to see how beautiful these really are. I hope you enjoy them, too!
It's Teacher Appreciation Week! Somehow that got me reminiscing about the handful of teachers that inspired and fueled my love of learning.
Sometimes we don’t like the teachers that challenge you – like the English composition teacher that forced me to fix my backward sentences.
Or the US History Teacher that challenged a quiet introvert to crawl out of her shell and debate historical impacts on current events.
And last but not least, the writing professor who said it wasn’t crazy if your characters followed you around and sometimes took charge of your stories. (Okay, it still sounds a bit crazy, but it's a common writing phenomena .)
Anyway, I wanted to thank them and all the dedicated teachers out there. A good teacher can really make a difference!
A big thank you to you all – wherever you are!
Do you have a favorite teacher that inspired you? Thank them in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
The inspiration for Haiku can come from anywhere, even a walk though a familiar neighborhood.
I hope you enjoy these brief vignettes of summer.
They are fun to compose -- try adding yours in the comments.
Burnt grass, faded spots
Flowers hold their dying stalks
August heat hits hard
Lean back, feet in the sand
Red skin tingling and warm
Setting sun ends day
Silver green patterns
Make reflections dance
Across the peaceful water
I've got a blue button on my hair dryer.
The instructions said that when you push it, negative ions* come out in the air.
I have no idea if it really works, but even so, in the morning when I'm drying my hair, sometimes I push the button.
And I smile. :)
It's automatic -- I don't know if I'm smiling at myself because I'm pushing a button that does nothing, or if it really works.
It doesn't matter.
Bottom line, I always feel just a little better.
So, look for your blue buttons of happiness. They're out there!
Have a great day,
*It's a bit backwards, but negative ions are supposed to make you feel better. They are also produced by waterfalls, which might be why most people find falling water so refreshing.
There is a Verizon commercial where the announcer asks "who wouldn't want more?" My favorite part is when the little girl says, very politely, "no thank you father" when offered another gift.
I understand that it's advertising and they want to convey that you get more services. But it started me thinking -- do we really want more?
Sometimes more isn't better. For example, marketers are finding out that more content isn't necessarily better. More words don't necessarily add to a poem or story. And have you heard some one say "we have more channels and nothing good to watch"?
And more electronic options and social media channels to communicate don't seem to have drawn us together. While it's convenient to be able to video chat with someone, how often do we do it vs. texting?
This is even more evident during the holiday season, where the pursuit of more is everywhere. For some it's more entertaining, more cookies, especially more gifts. Pressure is on to buy, buy, buy -- by phone ads, diamond ads, perfume ads, even new cars have bows on them.
Because of this, many people feel stressed, overwhelmed or even depressed, depending on their situation in life.
Some people might even look like this:
So if you're one of the people that is stressed or sad at the holidays, what can you do?
Take a step back and look around you. Try to do things that inspire you instead of doing things that wear you down.
What do you do to increase your holiday cheer? Please add in the comments.
Thank you so much for reading, I wish you the best of the holiday season!
Have you ever read a story that didn’t have some kind of villain?
It’s tough to write a griping story without someone that provokes conflict. That makes it a challenge when an author like me has has a tendency to develop too much empathy for my characters to make them real villains. For example, Liza in Cinnamon Bourbon and Deception was supposed to cause problems but she had too much spunk and refused to cooperate. You’ll see more about her in the future, but for now, back to villains ...
Both bad and good characters need to exhibit a mix of good and bad quirks to make them interesting, but villains have evil motivations as well. Consciously observing and incorporating negative behaviors from real life as well as fiction helps to make my intended “villains” more viable and “heroes” more believable – and sometimes add a bit of humor.
Recent events have been great for this, so I’ve complied a list for my future use.
Which would make a character most irritating or untrustworthy? Downright unlikable? Take a look through the list below and vote by leaving a comment below.
1) Lying -- A character can get caught in a lie and then become caught in a web of further lies. This can be funny if it’s a silly lie -- many sitcoms are based on this. George Castanza was always getting caught up in his lies. But when a character an expert at lying, telling stories and distorting facts to another character’s disadvantage, they’re on their way to being a villain.
2) Denial and Blame Shifting -- Even when there is clear proof or recorded evidence, the characters lies without flinching. Nothing is ever the character’s fault. When caught in a lie or other situation where they are at culpable, they find a way to blame others. “No, sir, I didn’t kill the chicken”, he said, dusting a feather off his pants. “It must have been that immigrant you hired, I’ve heard people say he’s always eyeing the chickens.”
3) Never admitting they are wrong -- When denial and blame deflection doesn’t work, villains rarely admit guilt or say they are sorry, and if they are forced to, they say it in a way that’s really not an apology. “I am sorry – sorry I ever let him talk me into playing this game in the first place.”
4) Switching the Topic -- This is a sophisticated tactic where the character, in order to avoid having to answer for something they’ve done, will change the topic or reframe the situation. They attempt to confuse or humiliate other characters -- to keep them preoccupied, confused or put them on the defensive.
For example, a slight suggestion that changes the character’s original plan would be met with “you are always criticizing, big stuff” or “your face has big brown smudge on it”, or “is this like the time you told me to get off at the first stop?”.
5) Projecting -- This is a tactic in which the character accuses another of doing exactly what they are being accused of.
For example, a dishonest character may start a rumor to label another character as dishonest to deflect from their own lying. “I don’t know if it’s true, but I think Jimmy cheats at poker.” He said as he slipped the ace into his sleeve.
Or when they exhibit horrible behavior to someone and they are confronted, they’ll act insulted and attack the assertive character, accusing them of not being “nice”, claiming to be the victim.
6) Generalizing and Exaggerating -- The character can use words like “it’s a disaster,” “this is tremendous,” “we are in a big, fat, ugly bubble,” “it’s unbelievable”. He/she also loves to use the language of “everyone” or “many people” as in “everyone tells me she’s a witch” – a claim that is very difficult to prove or disprove or fact-check.
This trait can range from humorous to abusive, depending on how the character relates to others in the story.
7) Yelling and Interrupting -- A voice can be a tool of violence in a scene. A villain or bad character can use their voice a weapon in order to ensure that they are the ones heard most. They will confront anyone who tries to stand up to him/her by raising their volume. This is particularly effective on soft spoken or risk-adverse characters. If volume alone doesn’t do it, expert interruptions combined with some of the techniques above can confuse and even overpower the other characters.
8) Fear-Mongering -- A character can attempt to provoke fear, exaggerating the worse case scenarios, gross generalizations and misperceptions. This is a very powerful tactic of manipulation, as it is very hard to stabilize an atmosphere of terror. Think of characters that incite lynch mobs, genocide, or demonize people who are “different”. The worst villain incites the fear, but steps aside to let the mob do his dirty work for him.
9) Body Shaming / Belittling -- Body-shaming is a tactic that can cause another character pain. When directed at a vulnerable area, they may be too humiliated to speak, advocate, or appear in public. Belittling is psychologically making the person feel small or unworthy. It can be subtle: “Sure I’m interested in your little project”.
10) Physical intimidation – using size or proximity to another character to make them uncomfortable or threaten them. He leaned over her shoulder to see what she was writing, his thick hand resting heavily on her upper arm, moving toward her chest.
On the lighter side
All of these can be bad, but can these characteristics be humorous rather than abusive? When mixed with other good traits and used lightly, a character who lies, denies or generalizes can be funny, especially if they don't mean to hurt others. But it depends on their relationships. If the character has or wants real power over the other characters for evil purposes, combining several of these traits can result in a certified villain.
Do you agree? Please vote and comment below.
Thanks for reading!
Want to write? If you do, I found this very helpful blog post from Zen Habits. In it, he urges the reader to start writing every day. Which is not easy (believe me, I know!)
So here are the helpful tips:
1) Have a reason - having the motivation of informing, helping people or just getting that story out of your mind can help get your fingers moving.
2) Block off the time -- this can be hard as everyone is so busy and it's hard to save time for yourself. Remember #1.
3) Set unforgettable reminders -- as with any habit, if you remind yourself in a way that motivates, you'll more likely to do it.
4) Do it in short bursts -- it's easier to say "I'll write for 5 minutes" than committing an hour. I discovered this when I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) a few years ago.
5) Be mindful, grateful, and focused -- don't lose your sense of wonder or gratitude for being able to express yourself, even if it is just for 5 minutes.
If you'd like to read the original article*, here's the link: http://zenhabits.net/daily/
Let me know if this helps you!
Thanks for reading ,
*this is not an endorsement of the Zen Habits course. I do enjoy his blogs, though.
Have you ever had to name a character, persona, or just wondered where authors get their names from?
I was just glancing through the "people you may know" on Linked In and noticed some unusual names.
With a little juxtaposition and creative license (don't want to use anyone's real names), I was very quickly able to come up with this list. See if you find any of these amusing:
Tina Learner -- Educational Software Developer
Digger Crabtree -- Garden Supply Consultant
Emma Askew -- Organizational Design Specialist
Justin Plumbs -- Architectural Site Evaluator
Dan Reeds -- Book Editor
Lotta Bile -- Internal Medicine
Casey Boils -- Dematologist
Guy Armstrong -- Personal Trainer
Crystal Flute -- Wine Taster
Ryder Whitehurst -- Funeral Home Owner
Carrie Champagne -- Event Organizer
Ida Ho - Executive Director, Potatoes are Us
Mary B. Frank -- Ethics Officer
If you can add to the list, please add in the comments!
Have a great day,
Every once in a while, I run across a bit of text that captures a thought in an inspiring way. This quote is from The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers. It is from a letter to Washington, DC from Chief Seattle responding to the government's request to buy their land. I had to stop and read it twice, finally writing it down.
I hope it gives you a sense of awe as well.
“The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? The land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?
Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every Sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.
We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great Eagle, these are our brothers. The Rocky crest, the juices in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man, all belong to the same family.
The shining water that flows in the streams in the rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred.
The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes hand feed our children. So you must give to the rivers the kindness you would give any brother.
. . . One thing we know: our God is also your god. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator.
Preserve the land for all children and love it, as God loves us all."
Letter to Washington, DC from Chief Seattle, 1852
Insights on writing, characters, humor and other tidbits from the author of the "Scoops and Schemes" series of novels.
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