Category Archives: Life

The First Fifty

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter – it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” 
~Mark Twain, letter to George Bainton, 1888

I am a writer.

I wrote my first story when I was seven years old.  It was a page long and not well written, but I knew then the power of the pencil and Big Chief tablet.  My father, the story-teller, seemed to like it and he tucked it away saved it for a rainy day.

When I was twelve, I began forming the idea for a story that was much longer and more detailed, but I didn’t have the life experience to emotionally connect to the characters. So the characters went on a vacation to Europe for a few years.

I tried to write the story again in high school, but I got “busy” with friends, social activities and writing of another form – journalism. I learned the craft of the who, what, where, when, why and how.  Pieces of craft started coming together and I discovered what I thought I knew, I didn’t really know. So I practiced writing for the school newspaper, song lyrics, poetry and other things that would expand not only my mind, but my style.

After high school came college and then “life.”  It’s trite, but life gets in the way of our plans. So, the Pulitzer in journalism, which I was sure I was going to win, went by the wayside and in its place came a husband, two beautiful children, a few dogs and an assortment of adventures that adulthood brings.

My characters though were growing tired of Europe. However, I wasn’t ready to bring them home, so I created a new bunch of characters and tried writing a story in a genre that was more mainstream and “accepted.”  I use the word accepted because at this point, I had my own demons to battle and I wanted to write a story my family would “approve” of.  It was a hard story to write. There was no emotional connection to the characters and frankly, the story fizzled in a big way. It’s still two-thirds done sitting in the attic collecting dust.

Because of more life changes and other events, I quit writing. I stopped journaling, stopped doodling poetry, and I stopped everything including reading. I went through a personal winter and the soils of my soul needed some time to just lay fallow for a while.  Several seasons later, seeds were planted when I started reading again.

A writer must read.  We get inspiration from what others have written.  You see, a writer is zipping along a good book and then BAM! A word, a turn of phrase, or something else catches our eye and the muse within plants a seed. Further reading waters and nurtures the seedling and before you know it, you have a field of ideas and you just have to harvest them.

After a long and barren winter, I would have to thank too many writers to list that inspired me to pick up the pen and write again. But gone was the notion I had to write to please anyone, but myself, my worst critic. 

My characters rejoiced. They finally came home from their long hiatus and I discovered something about them. They were well-rounded and flushed out from their adventures and living life abroad. They had matured and become more than I had ever dreamed of. Their story isn’t torture to write, it’s in a genre I love and most importantly, I finally found my “voice.”

The first fifty pages are done and some re-writes have already been completed. After all, being a writer doesn’t mean that you slop down some words on paper and submit them. You take what you have written, rewrite them until they are crisp and then rewrite them until they are razor sharp. As a friend told me once, “the writing is easy, the re-writing is a bitch.”

I wanted to share this achivement today because I didn’t know if this day would come. But in being true to myself, it has. I look forward to what the next pages have to offer, what my characters are going to do next and when I get to write the final words that will close out this novel.

Fifty down – a few hundred to go.

Today I realized…

I AM a writer.


About The American Dream

“Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth…
– James Truslow Adams 1931 –
(Photo of million dollar property in Malibu.)

When we think of achieving the American Dream, we often think of those who have accumulated material goods – as the dream is often embodied by home ownership or fancy cars or fashion. We might think of those who have risen the career ladder to prominence in a company or business. The American Dream is that of freedom of choice and abundance regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or class. It often challenges the “aristocratic norms” of the rest of the world whereby only the rich or well-connected are granted access to luxury.

I did a search and approximately 77,000 euros is the same as $100,000 US dollars. I wanted to use this figure to see if the American Dream of home ownership is attainable in other parts of the world. Are we as spoiled as I think we are? Or should I say, am I as spoiled as I think I am? Could I buy a house roughly the same as mine elsewhere?
My ancestry is French / Belgian and Slavic. So I wanted to see if I could buy a home today for about 77,000 euros that would compare to my home here in the states.  I started off in Kosovo and Montenegro. Kosovo was a bust. Montenegro netted some interesting sites. And just for the record – renting had a lot more options. However, back to the search.
There was one place that sort of intrigued me. It was right on the water and had a view of the Adriatic sea. Who wouldn’t enjoy that? Located in Risan, it has one floor with two bedrooms, bathroom and open plan living room/kitchen leading on to large terrace with storage room. The ad says “good opportunity to enhance with a second level and enough space to accommodate a swimming pool on 500 m2 of land.” But there are no interior pictures. However… it was interesting to look at.
It’s not the 3 bedroom 2 bath I have now. It’s also missing a 2 car garage. And… the square footage is 85 square meters. In short… it’s about 914 square feet – about the size of the first house we lived in when we got married. I’m not a fan of that small of space. However, the land around it more than makes up for that. Not enough to buy it.
Then I made the trip, as it were, to France, the options were more abundant thoughout the French countryside. Prices ranged from 55,000 euros on up to whatever your heart would want to pay. However, it was very difficult to find a detached residence with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms that didn’t require a serious amount of renovations (at least on the website I was looking at) to bring them up to the standards of which I have been accustomed.  (And now I’m sounding snooty, snobby or American?)
All things considered, America is a newer, more modern country.  Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world have a deep rich history dating back thousands of years.  We have the Native Americans, whose history we have pretty much obliterated, and that’s about it. The reason I bring this up is when I look at other countries and their homes, they take pride in the fact that a residence may be a couple of hundred years old.  Our entire country is only a few hundred years old. Their idea of a fixer-upper is definitely not what Americans would equate with a fixer-upper. 

The oldest house I could find for sale (at this time) is a 1720 Cape Cod style home for $1.25 mil. (Gasp!) And then again, it’s been refurbished through the years to add a second bathroom, central heat and air conditioning, etc. So… it’s not “original” though it’s apparently kept much of it’s original “charm” and character.

In looking at this house, I have to ask… why do we modernize and aim for “luxury?”  Why do we keep upgrading and changing things? I’m sure part of it is “comfort.” We want to be warm. We want to have indoor plumbing, electricity and all those things that make the universe in which we live a better place to be. But when I compare this little house Cape Cod style house to the truly historic homes in foreign lands that don’t have the central heat and air, have one bathroom and have kitchens that make my counter space look like it’s enough room to cook for a squadron of soldiers, I have to wonder why things are the way they are both for myself and for others.

The American Dream… a quest for growth, prosperity and freedom… and in ways that are really hard to define – definitively American.

The Edge of Space

If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. 

Chuck Yeager was the first to break the sound barrier and today Felix Baumgartner wants to be the first to break it with the human body, limited by nothing more than the suit he wears to protect himself from the biting cold on his way back to earth from the edge of space. 

I am writing this as Felix is on the assent into space and is about 34,000 feet in altitude. The concern at this point is the jet stream – winds that can clock over a hundred miles an hour.  The jet stream flows across this tiny blue planet until about 45,000 feet. 

Since he’s up in the jet stream, you might be wondering if Felix is sharing jet space with planes at cruising altitude, but alas… no. This is a good thing.  I would hate to think Felix would be the victim of a fly by hit and run.  The FAA has placed a no-fly zone in place for today’s launch. 

I’m hoping the rest of this goes well… after all, Felix has dared to cross limits that man hasn’t crossed before. Maybe if we all did something like this once in a while, the world would be a much better place. 

If you are interested in watching the rest of launch, the hang time and the fall from the edge of space, here’s the link for you.  Take care… 

Felix Baumgartner

PS…. if you missed it… it was pretty awesome. He made the jump from over 24 miles above Roswell, NM (where all things Extra-Terrestrial seem to occur) and broke at least one record, if not more, in doing so.  A pretty darned good day. I wonder what’s next on his to-do list. 

Rockin’ the Veggies!

“Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” – Albert Einstein –

My youngest daughter is seventeen – you might remember seventeen, the age at which all things are possible.  She’s working out what she wants to do in the future and figuring out who she is. She’s really quite amazing and watching her go through this process is quite eye opening and I wonder if my parents took the amount of time I spend studying her studying me.

One of the things she has done is decided “enough is enough” and started improving her diet and getting in shape.  She is working out and has gone vegan, eating no meat / animal products and is working really hard to go raw vegan. 

As a result of her dietary changes, I have had to learn a lot about veganism and vegetarianism and other isms I didn’t know a thing about .  So before I go further, lemme give you the short version.


Ovo-vegetarianism includes eggs but not dairy products and  Lacto-vegetarianism includes dairy products but not eggs.

Ovo-lacto vegetarianism (or lacto-ovo vegetarianism) includes animal/dairy products such as eggs, milk, and honey. (This is the most common type of vegetarianism in the USA.)

Veganism excludes all animal flesh and animal products, including milk, honey, and eggs.

Raw veganism includes only fresh and uncooked fruit, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. Vegetables can only be cooked up to a certain temperature.

Fruitarianism permits only fruit, nuts, seeds, and other plant matter that can be gathered without harming the plant.

Sattvic diet (also known as yogic diet), a plant based diet which may also include dairy (not eggs) and honey, but excludes anything from the onion or leek family, red lentils, durian fruit, mushrooms, blue cheeses, fermented foods or sauces, alcoholic drinks and often also excludes coffee, black or green tea, chocolate, nutmeg or any other type of stimulant such as excess sharp spices.

Buddhist vegetarianism (also known as su vegetarianism) excludes all animal products as well as vegetables in the allium family (which have the characteristic aroma of onion and garlic): onion, garlic, scallions, leeks, chives, or shallots.

Jain vegetarianism includes dairy but excludes eggs and honey, as well as root vegetables.


Wow…  that’s a lot to learn, but even more to practice. Like I said, she’s vegan and going raw vegan, but not completely there yet.  Like I said, I’m proud of her. Through the working out and eating right, she’s lost a bunch of weight and is gettting in shape. Her goal is to eventually run a marathon. I can’t say I’ll ever run a marathon, and honestly, I don’t want to. But I do want to run in the Susan G. Komen 5K next year. She’s just one of the inspirations I have for doing so.

My mother had breast cancer and has been cancer free for more than five years now. It had spread to her lymph nodes and she had to have some of those removed.  Fortunately, it hadn’t gotten bad enough that she would have had to have a mastectomy. She and several other people I know are other inspirations to make the run. I have to do my fair share of getting back into shape, but there’s no reason why I can’t … except for excuses. Lots of excuses.

As I look further into vegetarianism and getting back into shape myself, I may decide to modify my diet.  I don’t think I’ll ever go vegan. I have to face it – I’m a Texan and I love a good steak. However, I believe I can morph more that direction and definitely eat more of a natural / vegetarian lifestyle and less of a processed foods lifestyle and make it work.

More on that as I make the change for the better… and again… I just have to say – I’m really, really proud of youngest. Rock on, girlie!!!

Hot Stuff

“Sittin’ here, eatin’ my heart out, waitin’
Waitin’ for some lover to call
Dialed about a thousand numbers lately
Almost rang the phone off the wall

Lookin’ for some hot stuff, baby, this evenin’
I need some hot stuff, baby, tonight
I want some hot stuff, baby, this evenin’

Gotta have some hot stuff
Gotta have some love tonight….”
– Donna Summer –
(12-31-1948 to 05-17-2012)

When I was a child, I went to a Catholic school in the heart of the Bible belt. It shouldn’t be any wonder that the first time I got in trouble for my musical tastes was because of Donna Summer. I don’t recall how many “Hail Mary’s” I had to say, but I learned it probably wasn’t in my best interest to go around singing “Hot Stuff” or “Bad Girls” in the halls of St. Joseph’s.   

When I was in junior high, she released, “She Works Hard for the Money.” Again, I was back in a Catholic School, but by this time the rules had relaxed and neither she nor the song were nearly as taboo as Madonna who had managed to piss off the Pope and the entire Catholic Church with “Like a Virgin” which was released the following year. Ahhh… how music takes me back to my youth. 

I remember fondly of listening to Donna Summer with my sister in her Ford Pinto  while cruising around drinking cherry limes from Mr. Burger and I thought that it was the coolest thing in the world. You know what… it was. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. 

Donna Summer left this world this week, but she left behind a legacy of some of the best dance music out there. Thanks Donna…. “beep, beep, uh, uh,…… beep, beep, uh, uh….”

It’s a Hard Knock Life

Lately, it seems as if my job has become more social worker, psychologist and Peanuts-style-Lucy-advice-giver than investigator. I’m okay with that because it means maybe I can help a family before law enforcement actually has to step-in and take action that is more permanent in nature. I’m not trained in any specific field, but I’ve done a lot of research and I’ve had two kids of my own who are doing okay. Combine that with the fact I was a bit of a hellion as a teenager (and from time to time today),  I can see the world in a perspective that is sometimes unique.

I had a conversation the other day with a parent who has done everything for their child, has battled all of their battles for them and now is having problems with him. I had to ask them, “Why did you do this?”

I know it’s hard as a parent to see your child suffer, but there are natural consequences to one’s actions and I believe it’s not to early to start teaching your children that. If you touch a hot stove, you will get burned. Depending on the age of the child, you might pull their hand away and spank it. For older kids, they might actually touch the stove and realize, “When I touch it, it IS hot.” If you don’t follow the logical progression of teaching a younger child natural consequences, then when that child becomes a teenager, problems ensue.

This parent called me because he couldn’t get his son up for school. He’s gone so far as to set his own alarm an hour and a half early so he can start the process of nagging, scolding, yelling, yanking the covers off the bed, turning the radio up loud, using water as a wake up device, pulling his son out of the bed and dragging him to the closet…. well, you get the idea. I asked him why he was doing that. He said if he didn’t do that his son wouldn’t get up and would miss the bus then he would have to take him and be late to work himself.

Excuse me?
Can you say enabling?

I understand the school district’s policy on tardies and absences and a parent’s responsibility to take one’s child to school. However, this kid is almost 17 years old. At what point do you say enough already? And that’s exactly what I asked him.

He was stunned by my question so I asked him again and was met by silence.

I explained. In another year, this kid will graduate and then probably go to college. He’ll get a job. I asked him, “Are you going to be getting him up for college or awake in time for work everyday? Are you going to call his boss and explain to him that he’s late or write him a note or take him to his job because he just couldn’t get it together to get up on time? At what point do you say, ‘Enough?'”

I also asked him what time this kid goes to bed. He said that it’s anywhere between 10pm and 2am. I have teenagers, one of which carries a heck of a course load, but there is NO need for a regular 2am bedtime when you have to get up early for school. Teenagers need a recommended NINE hours of sleep a night. (Resource: National sleep foundation) Obviously that’s not going to happen and things are going to suffer. No wonder that kid can’t get out of bed. He’s working against a biological drive to sleep.

He said I made a very valid point he hadn’t thought about and thanked me for my time.

A few days later, he called me back. He told me that night when his son came home he basically threw down the gauntlet and told him to set his alarm and to be in bed no later than 10pm on school nights; he was no longer waking him up for school and if he missed his bus, he could walk. Apparently his son didn’t buy it. His son woke up about 11am and called his father at work to take him. Dad stood firm and told him, “You have two legs. Use them.”  The day after that, he didn’t wake him up again and the son again missed the bus. He called his father and apparently begged him to pick him up and take him to school. Dad told him, “Son, I can’t do that because you need to learn to do some things on your own. This is one of them. Do it.” On the third day, his son was up and ready to meet the bus.

I’d like to say that all is going to be perfect, but we all know that bad habits are hard to break. I’m glad that this father is working toward instilling new, healthy ones in his son before it’s way too late.

The School of Hard Knocks isn’t an easy one. However, I believe that as our children become older, we have to give them more responsibility to do some things on their own and make their own mistakes. After all, if we don’t do that, we haven’t properly prepared them for the adult world that is to follow and that’s not the School of Hard Knocks. It’s the World of Hard Knocks.

Folgen Sie der gelben Straße

I’ve been thinking about vacation as it’s been awhile since I’ve been on a good one. One of my favorite places in the universe is New York City, but there are a lot of other places in the world I want to experience – most of them in Europe. The one I’ve really been thinking about lately for some reason is Germany.

When I was in junior high school, I spent a few years learning to speak German from a woman we not-so-lovingly referred to as Frau Hitler. I wasn’t very fond of her, nor she of me. Mutual animosity aside, I did fall in love with what I learned about the country itself. She saw the country through the rose colored glasses of a child and I could appreciate that. She could also speak with a bitterness about a leader who torn her homeland apart, but she didn’t do that often.

I was young and I didn’t understand much about the war that destroyed Europe and left a visible scar running the length of Berlin. A few years later, I had learned more about the war and the senseless death and destruction that was wrought on that country by a mad-man. I watched with pride as Ronald Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate and told Mikhail Gorbachev, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev open this Gate.” I watched the wall fall in 1989. After that, the Brandenburg Gate became the symbol of Germany’s reunification.

I want to see that gate today.
I want to see what remains of the wall.
And I want to put into perspective what it all means up close and personal.

There are a bunch of other places in Germany I also want to see while I’m at it including, but not limited to the Black Forest, Neuschwanstein Castle (which the castle at DisneyLand/DisneyWorld is based on), the Cathedral of Cologne, Trier – Germany’s oldest city, and the Christmas market in Nuremberg. Of course, there is also Frankfurt, Hamburg, Dresden, Heidelberg and we cannot forget Munich and Berlin. Wow… I suppose this is going to have to be a visit that lasts quite awhile, eh? I guess it’s time to start saving.

(Photos are of Neuschwanstein Castle and the Brandenburg Gate when the wall was still up.)