Friday, October 23, 2015

The IKEA Effect

There's this idea that's been around for a while (2011) called the Ikea Effect. It's about the work put into assembling furniture from Ikea that though it may not be the prettiest, the time and labor put into it makes it all the more valued. Labors of love are special. Even Harvard has studied it. 

Today, I officially reentered the work force because of someone else's vision and value of my professional journey which has taken me through five degrees, three continents, a career in health care, a dual masters degree in nursing and business, a love of story, and the desire to work with students again. My heart glows with thanks and gratitude, made all the more meaningful because it was assembled, so to speak, by hand with directions in Swedish with a lot of screw drivers and hammers. 

It's not a fancy title. It's not for riches. It doesn't even include a tuition break, but it's a launch. Thank you! I can't wait to see where we go. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Full Frontal Eyeballing

My husband always says, "I could do surgery on you when you're reading, you don't notice a thing." That's what I get for being great at hyper focusing at home. I'm happiest when I get to let my mind wander, but it turns out that most people are happiest when they focus (see Matt Killingsworth's research on track your happiness). Maybe I'm happiest when I get to focus on what I want to focus on, but I think of it as mind wandering?

Here's a focus suggestion for you.

Get a loved one, zip your lips, set a timer for four minutes, and stare into their eyes, full frontal eye balling, go! No loved one? Get a friend and drop the time to one minute. 

What did you think about? Share that. It's kind of cool. It's kind of weird. We don't just look at each other enough. 

Attend to the people in your life, look deeply at them. You just might enjoy life and them a bit more.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Knees Knockin'

When David Sedaris spoke in Memorial Auditorium last fall, I was close enough in the second row center seat to notice that he read his work with a pencil in hand. Occasionally, he scribbled something onto the papers. The audience followed Sedaris' humorous antidotes that were at times funny and at others, cringe worthy, with lots of laughs. When he opened up for questions, I shot my arm up in the air and asked something along the lines of, "What are you writing down in your notes?" He responded that when he reads, he makes notes about what works with the audience. Stunned, I sat mulling over that thought, the luxury of feedback. 

I get that some writers just want to write. It's been repeated more than a few times in my creative fiction writing class. Classmates that have to read your story three times to make sense of it, don't qualify as the average reader, but their feedback can be valuable. However, at some point I think it's normal to want someone to actually read a story you've written and, hopefully, to experience something besides boredom as a result. Getting an audiences' reaction to a piece seems like nirvana which is what motivated me to submit a short piece to Women of Appalachia.

My knees might be knocking', but I'm looking forward to seeing how the audience reacts to the stories and poems of my fellow artist and I. Please join us at Arts West on Thursday, October 22, 6:00 p.m.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Reading Homework

The Moose had a homework assignment, requiring a parent to read his story and write questions for him to explore in his next draft. His sense of humor shines through despite the spelling errors. For your reading pleasure, here with the spelling corrected is the first draft:

The Pyramid Dream
I was an archeologist. I entered the pyramid with my friends. There was a gold coffin. It was hot. I was sweating. Then the door began to close. My friends got out, but I was trapped in the dark with the coffin. Then there was a reddish light. The temperature increased rapidly. Then all of the sudden it was right in front  of me! Me trapped alone. Abandoned by my comrades! Stuck with a dead person in a box. I yelled, falling back in shock. Banging on the door in the silence. (Three things went through my head right then was why can't I have a laser gun in this dream, let me fly for once, and when are those morons coming back.) I couldn't move. All I could do was sit there helpless (and now for something completely different). I woke up sweating.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Poetry on Chocolate Wrappers

My fav chocolate bar, almond and sea salt, gets deployed for a variety of excuses ranging from menstrual cycles, happy days, to today's post recovery from heatstroke/hypoglycemia after bicycling on a hot day without water longer than my usual twenty minute rush uptown. The best part? It was the last piece of chocolate so I got to read the poem inside the wrapper. "I got a golden ticket," knocks about in my head when this happens as does that Harry Potter had to eat chocolate to feel better, I applaud that practice heartily.

Poetry printed on the inside of chocolate wrappers is a marvelous thing. However, I have to admit, sometimes the poems are over my head even though they sound fabulous. Maybe it's language of long ago, some structural thing that I don't comprehend, my thick skull, or general lack of experience with poetry. For me, it's the thrill of finding the poem like getting the toy in a Cracker Jacks box. It adds an extra dose of happiness in the moment of discovery.

Surprisingly, more packaging doesn't contain artistic nips of poetry like bad jokes on Bazooka bubblegum or self-help mantras. It's an opportunity to cheerlead the customer.

Tonight my daughter asked me, "If you could redecorate the world, would you do it?" Thinking of the great undertaking it would be, I turned down the offer. Surprised, my daughter said, "You wouldn't redecorate the world to make it better for poor people, put in nice bathrooms, plant more trees?" I replied, "I didn't know that's what you meant by redecorate."

Now that I think about it, more trees would be a fine an addition to the world and maybe more poems on more packaging to inspire us all, rich or poor.

Friday, August 28, 2015


  1. an inscription on a building, statue, or coin.
    • a short quotation or saying at the beginning of a book or chapter, intended to suggest its theme.

“When you see me killing something you should reason that it will want to kill me back, she screamed.”
Russell Edson, “The Difficulty With a Tree

Setting out to conquer something as illusive as writing a story by attacking it with vigor or piercing it with insight, might cause the words to fight back or at least try to elude a writer. Besides, brute force seems so much easier than luring something as shadowy and slippery as a story.

My eyes roam over a scene in a quiet restaurant. Can I craft it onto the page so that days later a reader can be here with me? 

A bartender’s shadow flickers into my light. I glance over but only up to his knees. He has unusually short limbs, I think. He pulls on a beer faucet to fill a glass. Cool, someone is having beer for lunch. I turn my gaze toward the window and stare at the sunlight pouring into the room. Dust particles dance on the air as if fairies in a child’s imaginary garden. Overhead, discordant sounds hurl into the room through speakers as someone’s idea of music. I fidget; it’s too early for my lunch date.

How to seek a story? I can see that pushing a story into existence could be a step toward my own demise. There must be a gentler approach? Perhaps a sidelong glance or an invitation to regularly be together? The muses seem to be perpetually on vacation unless they are visited, cajoled, or enticed daily by showing up with presence, patience, and a willingness to follow their lead.

Stop trying to kill what you seek.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Movie Ratings for Immature Audiences

"Did you check the rating?" asks my kid. We're at the movies to see Mr. Holmes (2015). "Yes," I assure him though I've only just checked a moment before. A few days prior I had been caught off guard when a parent sent me a link to all of the offensive moments in a film I planned to take three elementary students to see. It was a Science on Screen Athena Cinema event with a lecture from a naturalist and birder from the co-founder of the Ohio Bluebird Society and conservation education co-ordinator from the Athens Soil and Water Conservation District, followed by a film.

Summer brought hummingbirds and interest in identifying birds so a lecture and movie about bird watching seemed like a great transition for the first day of school. Ratings schmatings.

Yeah, I know about Common Sense Media. I just keep forgetting to check every single thing I expose my children to let alone what they expose themselves to when not even trying. Besides, my own childhood memories of horror scenes cured me of all desire to watch that genre and has saved me from countless hours of tedious movie watching. Profanity, sex, nudity, violence, and gore are not easily avoided whatever medium viewed. It generally does help to consider offensive things through the context of the story. Stories all about shlock and violence do nothing, but take a story that moves through them and goes somewhere else like The Silence of the Lambs (1991), and it becomes something powerful and worthwhile, but not for kiddos. Navigating ratings and stories with childrearing requires an appreciation for individual differences even at the same age.

One child hides their face during a kissing scene in practically every movie, the other watches. One child asks to read a book that another refuses. Kids know when they are ready, especially if you talk to them about what they are reading and what your concerns are. I may rely too much on trusting my children to talk about disturbing scenes and issues, but it hones the ability to talk about uncomfortable subjects.

"The movie may contain some profanity and nudity," I say to the three kiddos sitting around the kitchen table eating cheese rice. "What's profanity," asks the guest child. I look at their faces wondering if my own children will answer the question. Everyone is looking at me. No one appears to know the what profanity means. "Words you may know as cuss or curse words," I say. They all nod in understanding. They've learned a new vocabulary word, I think to myself. "Well, any questions," I ask. The kids are back to eating cheese rice. "You can always close your eyes if something makes you uncomfortable in the story or ask your parents if you have any questions. Remember things that are part of telling a story are there because they mean something to the storyteller," I rattle. The talk turns to other things. I extract myself from the conversation, feeling that enough has been said.

My fav example of the say less approach of parenthood happened years ago when from the rear car seats one child, out of the blue, says, "Aunt X is married to a girl." I look up and into the mirror to see the faces in the backseat. They are both looking out the windows. "Yes. Some women are married to women and some are married to men," I say with more nonchalance than I feel. I guess I expected some grilling that never came. I held my tongue in truth because I didn't know what else to say, but in holding my tongue I realized, they had all the information they wanted.  Kids will ask more questions when they want to know more. I've been a fan ever since.

One kiddo ducked, as usual, at the sight of an on screen kiss, but we all enjoyed the A Birder's Guide to Everything (2013) even with the offensive moments and PG-13 rating because the story worked and it made us laugh.