The First Five Seconds

The First Five Seconds

The first magazine article I ever sold I wrote about an event I saw at the end of the year 2000, and it caused me to do a double-take. An older man was walking his dog. It was a little black dog on a leash. I was driving to the library in the small town that I lived in and there on Main street, suddenly the dog ran up a tree. The man was still holding the handle of the leash and my mouth dropped open. I slowed down. Not a dog at all. It was a black cat. The man was walking his cat. Please remember, this is small town America, 15 years ago. I had to tell someone. I was so flabbergasted when I went into the library. I hurried in to speak with the librarian who told me a story, which led me to write my article about her and her cat when she was in Kuwait.

Keep Playing

I hadn’t written or even published anything professionally yet, but I had dreamed about it. I had even subscribed to the Writer’s Digest magazine and drooled over all the how-to articles. Everything was low-tech, paper submissions at that time. I had my thick paper-bound book of places to submit your articles and a lot of ideas in my newbie’s head. Just no experience. I can’t say that I’m so proficient today even. The market changes quicker than any of us can keep up, which only means that it’s always a new game. Make up the rules and keep playing.

When I got home from the library, I pulled out my handy-dandy spiral notebook and started jotting down the story. I had the subject, cats on a leash and cat training with operant conditioning, and I had my expert the local librarian who had trained her two cats with this method out of necessity while in another country. Now who could best use this article?

$$$

I was limiting my field by writing my article first, but it’s the way life happens sometimes. I grabbed my dog-eared books with all the listings of magazine publishers and started sorting through. I shot off a query letter and put in my hook line about the dog running up the tree and a bit about keeping your cat safe when you’re on vacation and such, the sort of things that I thought they might be interested in for their audience. It worked. My heart stopped almost when I actually got the “we’re interest” phone call. I was getting paid. ASPCA published my first article in the summer of 2001.

Firsts

Everyone has their first story, their first photo, their first client or first whatever. It happens so quick sometimes you don’t have time to think about it. I listened to a Ted talk today by Mel Robbins called How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over, that said you have 5 seconds to act on an impulse before you lose the energy to move forward. You can use that in your favor the next time an opportunity leaps in front of you, remember you have 5 seconds to take an action forward. Write it down, take a step, make a call, or say yes. I was too young and naive at the time of my first to even think anyone would say no to my crazy story. I’m older, wiser now, which only means I second guess myself. I pause. I pull my punches. The urge has left and the opportunity is gone. I have missed a story. I have lost the chance to connect with another person. And that’s a sad thing to miss.

In Defense of the Nonconformist

In Defense of the Nonconformist

I was told a week ago on Friday that I was no longer a good fit for my company. Gasp. Incredulity. Dying with laughter here. I did suspect something. Much like the parents that were raising the offspring of the Cuckoo bird, we all felt a bit off in our office when policies abruptly changed. But I’m not a conformist. Many say, why didn’t you just conform to the new rules and just keep your job? To me, that’s about as easy as saying, why didn’t you just start writing with your other hand and while you’re at it, start singing high soprano? I can’t. I stayed as quiet as I possibly could, and I did my job. Head down and worked. But my skill set didn’t qualify me for the position they needed. Enough said.

I know who I am. No tears cried by me for not being accepted for who I am. I think it’s quite silly not to be able to speak plainly, to stand behind false accusations, to make crap up, when in the past you’ve had a great relationship with a person. I’m speaking of the people who sat on the other side of the desk, with their sour, scowling faces and dismissed me. I do realize that everyone stands in a different place in life. We’ve had different experiences. We wear different glasses. A lot of folks are blinded by their egos or by their own need for survival. The big F word comes to mind. FEAR. It chains me down often, as it does most of us. The truth is hard to see and even harder to speak for some.

This week I’ve been going over job choices. I also have been looking at some of the books I’ve read in the past that have impacted me the most such as, THE ART OF NON-CONFORMITY, by Chris Guillebeau. I’ve been writing, a lot. This I love the most. And pondering what other things that I might love to do. There’s some good advice out there and there’s also just as much hype to read, so it all needs to be taken in stride. I believe that life is just like taking a trip. You plan as best you can. You get your map, your vehicle, and you start out. What happens along the way can’t always be helped. Hopefully, you planned well, but sometimes you just have to start driving. I’ll have to talk about my trip to Magnolia, Texas sometime, and the misadventures of the GPS. Ah, but you’ve probably had a few of your own you could tell.

Baby names for Non Conformist: Hello, My Name is Pabst

Do You Belong in NYC?– Penelope Trunk

Why I’m Joining the Maximizers – JD Moyer

A Brief Guide to World Domination

CRAZY CHANGES

CRAZY CHANGES

It’s a Janet thing. Or a more accurate title would be, it’s an experimental thing, but I just change it up quickly.

Success comes from trying and then trying again. Sometimes it seems you’re just banging your head against the wall, or spinning your wheels in the mud. I remember a time when I was about seven years old. My dad had an old red pickup truck that we drove on the farm. We had 100 acres of bottom land, and by bottom land I mean we lived right beside the river and parts of the land flooded when it rained. The mud seemed to suck your tires into the earth like an underground tornado. Hopeless.

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. – Scott Adams

I learned from watching Dad that it’s better to change tactics. Don’t keep spinning your wheels in the mud hoping to get out of the mud. You’ll only dig deeper in. If you notice that something isn’t right, if the feel is off, do it different. So I did. If the dress is too tight or the shoes pinch my toes, I don’t stand around and whine about it, I change them. I’m not happy in tight shoes. And I wasn’t happy with my book cover or title, so I changed them.

Like many women, by the time I’m finished dressing for an event, I have a pile of clothing on my bed that didn’t get picked. I also have several titles for my book that didn’t get selected. And since nothing happened that first week–I bet you didn’t even notice–as a woman’s prerogative, I pressed the reset button. Sigh. I love the modern world.

Slowing Down to a Human Crawl

Slowing Down to a Human Crawl

How much does it cost to feel well? What are you willing to give up to be free of pain? We know that healthcare doesn’t come cheap. Vitamins are expensive. Organic food is a bit extra so we weight the cost. Is it worth it for us? What about the medicine we take? That’s been my dilemma. But not so much about the cost. The medicine I’m taking, Topamax, helps prevent migraines. It’s also been helping in preventing my neck pain. The side effect for me is tiredness, fatigue. With each increase in dosage comes a bit of slowing down. So, my cost/ratio question is, how much pain prevention is it worth for me? How much slowing down can I adapt to?

All glory comes from daring to begin.

John Brown, a poem by Eugene Fitch Ware.

For a while I didn’t know if I was going to make it each time my doctor kept saying, we’re going to try upping your medication. But on the flip side, I didn’t know if I was going to make it with the fire-like pain that was radiating up the nerves in my neck and my skull. I trudged and braced myself, hoping I could make it through another day, then the week. Sometimes there was a reprieve. Until now. I’ve had a full month without headaches. That’s darn good. Freakin’ amazing! It’s been close to 9 months since this process started and now I finally see the progress. The slowing down is worth it.

We live and change

This article though is a little disturbing to me. The trend towards constantly rewarding our happiness button, or shortening our attention span a bit more, is increasing instead of decreasing. I think we’d be happier as a species relaxing our attention and letting go, but that’s just me. Check out the article if you wish here, What would you pay to be happy? The Guardian.

…the poet Guillaume Apollinaire: “Now and then,” he advised, “it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.” That’s worth a T-shirt.

William Davies’s The Happiness Industry, from the above article.

 

Yoga challenge – Can you be still? A Sequence To Challenge Distractions.

 

 

No Other Name? and There Were a Lot of Names

No Other Name? and There Were a Lot of Names

I’ve called myself agnostic, atheist, and sometimes just not quite sure. But here’s a quote I like that puts it into perspective.

“The Romans called the Christians atheists. Why? Well, the Christians had a god of sorts, but it wasn’t a real god. They didn’t believe in the divinity of apotheosized emperors or Olympian gods. They had a peculiar, different kind of god. So it was very easy to call people who believed in a different kind of god atheists. And that general sense that an atheist is anybody who doesn’t believe exactly as I do prevails in our own time.”  Carl Sagan, “The Varieties of Scientific Experience”

I started writing this piece when the school bombing happened in Pakistan, which wasn’t an entirely religious incident as it turned out. But the holidays happened and I never finished writing the blog and connecting everything. As I went through my writings this week to decide what I wanted to post next, I saw this one and I decided to dot my i’s and cross my t’s as well as I could, and just post the darn thing. And then, more stupidity happens.

Three heavily armed men have attacked a French satirical magazine based in Paris – AlJezeera.com

Cabu died with several other colleagues, alongside the brave policemen who tried to stop the carnage. As the attack took place, the assailants allegedly mentioned their connection to Yemen, and that the “Prophet had been avenged.” – Charlie Hebdo: Are we not allowed to laugh any more?

And now I say that if there is a god,

I hope he/she is at the very least is not a tribal god, either of the sectarian or nationalist version. I hope his name isn’t Odin orThor. Or her name isn’t Freyja, Isis or Hecate. Why? Because these gods are small. They lead small countries and small tribes. If you were not in these tribes you were slaughtered. You were an infidel. Your children were burned, chopped or enslaved. Your wives were raped or tortured. Your crops were destroyed and your houses demolished. You were vermin. Disgusting. Hated. To be stomped, slaughtered, and forgotten. As the old testament states it, the enemy was to be wiped out, to be remembered no more.

If I did find evidence of a tribal god and his existence was proven to me, I could not bow to that god, no matter whether his name be Allah, Jehovah, Jesus, or Ahura-Mazda. My question would be, why can’t you love the kid that lives on the other side of the fence? Is his hair the wrong color?

And what of the Hindus and the people of Nepal? There is even a living goddess. People bring their children to be blessed by this goddess and leave gifts of money or baubles. They have little money, but they give happily. It’s easy for someone who stands on the west side of the world to judge them as deceived as they offer their gifts of money, tokens, or even the blood of goats in honor to their gods. It’s disgusting for a westerner to watch. I don’t like blood. Right? But I just watched the video of the war in Syria and there’s blood bathed bodies lining the streets. Ironically, we would judge saying they are deceived and we are much smarter.

But our god is real, we say

I’ve seen people bring their children forward to be prayed for by pastors. I know that rock star longing to be touched by the visiting preacher. It’s no different. It hasn’t changed from one famous person to the next. It’s been well manipulated in our time and even in times long past.

We need to change some things in this world we live in. Some things need to be off limits. No, I don’t mean the prophet Mohammed. I mean the killing of each other. For what purpose? A drawing? Get real. I used to draw pictures of my teachers. Did they shoot me on the parking lot or the streets of Collinsville? Gun me down?

What can we do?

  • Give to a charity or an organization that helps war-torn nations. United Nations-Refugees
  • Be secular. That doesn’t mean anti-god. It just means, doing something without having to do it in the name of a god. Every time I go to the grocery store or go to work, I don’t pay my bill or pick up my pay check “in the name of my god.” @BeSecular-twitter
  • Speak up when you see injustice.
  • Modify religion. It doesn’t have to be about hate. We all know this. Let’s first check our own hearts for any hatred, then our own religion. Spread love and kindness outwards.

 

Women are alway fixing things

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Have you taken it to heart? I just read the story of Margaret Rudkin, the mother of Pepperidge Farms. It started with an allergy. Actually her son’s allergy to certain bread products. As most mothers do, she took the doctor’s advice initially and put him on a restricted diet of vegetables, fruits, and meats. Later she decided to experiment. She wasn’t a baker, a chef, or any type of fancy cook, just a mother who cared about her child. She was on a mission. She finally found a way to make breads that her son could tolerate. She went on to other items and decided to market her baked goods. It took time. Lots of it. Years. You can read her story here, Pepperidge Farm History

Have we forgotten about women? We’ve encouraged women to study math and science. We’ve encouraged them in sports. We’ve encouraged them in higher education. Are we training them to be only automatons? Did we forget to challenge them to take risks? Not according to Linda Rottenberg. She says we just haven’t talked about the things women have done. I believe we to keep encouraging.

“Entrepreneurship isn’t just for guys who wear hoodies and work in technology,” said Linda Rottenberg. Entrepreneurship is solving problems that can make significant change in people’s lives, then scaling the solution. She should know: She’s co-founder and CEO of Endeavor, the world’s leading supporter of fast-growing entrepreneurs. Rottenberg is also the author of recently published Crazy Is a Complement: The Power of Zigging When Everyone Else Zags.

In fact, by focusing on stories only about Marc Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, we may be discouraging many entrepreneurs who don’t fit their model rather than encouraging entrepreneurs. Let’s make sure to tell stories about all fast-growing entrepreneurs including those led by women. – Forbes Women Entrepreneurs

Here are some current female entrepreneurs who are listed in the article. I’ve snipped it a bit for space. You can click the link above to read the entire article.

  • Two women, Leila Velez and Zica Assis, raised in the slums of Brazil created a line of hair care products, Beleza Natural for Afro-Brazilian women so their hair would look beautiful. They employ 3,000 people and generate $100 million revenue.
  • Lateefa Alwaalan created Yatooq, which developed a coffee brewer that reduced the time it takes to make Arabic coffee by 75%. Yatooq also developed an Arabic coffee blend. Her company is projected to earn $8 million this year and $11 million next year.
  • Nada Debs has built a furniture and accessories design brand under her name. The products are  manufactured by a network of 150 artisans in Lebanon. She employs more than 40 people…Products can be purchased from New York to Dubai.
  • Bedriye Hülya, created B-fit, Turkey’s first national chain of women-only gyms…also enabled hundreds of women to own b-fit franchises and thus become entrepreneurs in their own right.

If you see a need for something different, fill it, make it, create it, design it. Sarah Blakely did. That’s why we now have Spanx. Whether you think they’re a good thing or a bad thing, every product you use, from a toothbrush to a can opener, someone had a need, then had the courage to do something about it. But before they had the courage, there was a mother or father, sister, brother or friend, who told them they were talented enough to do it. If you don’t feel ready to jump into the fray yourself, then lend a hand to someone else. Patronage is still alive today.

Trouble Makers

wordart forget the dog beware of the kids

Trouble kids.

What is your definition of trouble makers?

When I was 16, we had a new pastor come to our church. When I first met him I was sitting on the counter, legs swinging, in the church’s kitchen. We had a decent size youth group in our small church for the size of our town.

We were active, loud, and enthusiastic. Normal. The one thing I later learned was that I looked like trouble, or so my pastor thought. This perplexed me since I believed I was a good girl.

Going back in time, in junior high about 7th grade or so, I got into a scuffle on the bus ride from school. I was in the coveted back seat, and a bigger boy wanted my seat. I didn’t budge. We scuffled, and we both got suspended from the bus. I don’t remember much except being aggravated because I wanted to win and feeling scared of going to the principal’s office. The one thing I didn’t remember my mom had to tell me later. My dad confronted the bus driver. I was surprised since my family is pretty quiet. We each handle ourselves and take care of our issues, but my dad was miffed. The boy was big, around 200 pounds; I was a little 80-pound girl. That wasn’t right, and Dad’s all about right.

I don’t remember much except being aggravated because I wanted to win and feeling scared of going to the principal’s office. The one thing I didn’t remember my mom had to tell me later. My dad confronted the bus driver. I was surprised since my family is pretty quiet. We each handle ourselves and take care of our issues, but my dad was miffed. The boy was big, around 200 pounds; I was a little 80-pound girl. That wasn’t right, and Dad’s all about right.

We each handle ourselves and take care of our issues, but my dad was miffed. The boy was big, around 200 pounds; I was a little 80-pound girl. That wasn’t right, and Dad’s all about right.

You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.

So, is it better to raise quiet, subservient children? Not in my world. Sit and take it or cause a fuss?

If you want a quiet, compliant, factory worker then fine, don’t hire me. I taught my children to think, to question what they read. Don’t believe everything. Investigate.

We need to feel free to speak up, to call attention to injustice, and to think of solutions for our problems.

More recently in my life, I’ve had a few minor verbal scuffles. And by a few, I mean six months worth of hell. When asked to help on a project at work, I dove in feet first. I asked questions.

  • Why are we doing this?
  • What do we want to see as a result?
  • How hard do we need to push the software company to modify their product or do we adapt?
  • Are we missing any steps along the way in this process?

I ran across some gaps in our process, so I spoke up. In one instance I noticed we’d have a noticeable loss of income in 2 months. I ruffled feathers. The birdies got angry with me. Would I do it again? Hell yes.

Maybe it wasn’t my job, but it affected me. I knew the software, and I knew the steps that needed to be taken to get the money in the door.

What concerns me is how we define a trouble maker. I see accomplishing a task as getting things done, even if you have to bump a few noses along the way.

Trouble making is causing a problem because you want to stir up attention. I avoid attention, but I like to do a job well. Work done well is what counts.

Or as in the song “Stand Out.”

And if your gonna make a mess make it loud

And if your gonna take a stand stand out

I highly recommend you listen to this episode of This American Life – Is This Working. Act 3 specifically talks about a school with an unusual method of discipline. When the method reached the real world things got interesting. This episode made me want to punch an idiot. The shortened version – Act 3 Is This Working

The Talking Cure! Yeah.

Thorns Before Blooms

I’m not sure if it’s truth or just sometimes true, but I’ve heard the saying, It’s always darkest before the dawn. When I was younger, my favorite time of the day was right before the sunrise. Especially when you can see Venus rising. It always seemed unique like I’m the only one awake. Private showing for me. I love the night sky, and the sunrise is even better.

September marks a very strange time for me.

It’s my birthday month, but beyond that, it was a spiritually dark month for me in 2001. Not because of the Twin Towers destruction on 9/11, although that hit all of us in America pretty hard. But, I had a major depressive episode or nervous breakdown the week of Labor Day in 2001, the week before THE Bad Day of Sept 11. Tuesday, September 4th I sat on my bedroom floor in the middle of a panic attack. My body and mind shut down almost entirely. My husband was out of town, my kids were playing, and our church pastor had left. I finally reached a friend by phone. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what was wrong. My spiritual life didn’t prepare me for this. I felt as if I were Sampson standing between the two pillars, without the strength that I was used to. Before this, I knew what God wanted. I knew the answers. And suddenly I couldn’t even pray.

It took years to climb out.

There’s no easy answer or 10 step program when you meet the devil at the crossroads, and he runs over you with a Mack truck. The formula that ensured success didn’t work. It worked before, but nope, not this time. When your illusions are shattered, there’s nothing you can do but sit. Sit and let it all fall down. Wait for the pillars to fall. Wait for the dust to settle.

A lot of people say it happens for a reason. Well, everything does. Sometimes the reason is as simple as tripping over your own idealism. It’s not a master plan. There’s no design for our lives. We’re born, we live, and we learn. We could pretend. Name a cause just to make everything seem predictable and safe, but I don’t want to do that. I know why it happened. What I thought was a reliable formula for success was only plaster and paint. 

If you imagine the growth of divine consciousness as being like the growth of a rose, then a cutting from the original rose would have to be placed in the earth. It has to be watered by prayer and by devotion and by meditation. It comes up out of the ground, it has to be protected. Then it grows thorns — the thorns of discrimination and wisdom. An Interview With Andrew Harvey – Colleen O’Connor 

If you’ve recently been hit by a Mack truck and your world is falling apart, just let it happen. Get help. Talk to friends. You can make it through. It may not be part of a master plan of divine origins, but it happened. This is life in all of its beauty and horror. Clean up time will come. I know because I made it through and I’m rebuilding. And the sun is rising in the east.

My Attitude? I Blame Westerns

My Attitude? I Blame Westerns

I watch the AMC show, Hell on Wheels and I often smile at the lengths the character Cullen Bohannon goes to hold to his morality. He will do whatever it takes to get the job done, whether it’s legal or not. Whether it’s lethal or not. Then step out of the muck and mud, put on his hat, and walk away.

Work hard. Clean up your mess. Speak softly and carry a big stick. Let your actions do your talking. Take care of your family. Don’t air your dirty laundry. It’s better to be poor and stand on your own two feet than to be carried around by someone else. That’s the codes of conduct I grew up with and they developed my attitudes.

 “A gun is a tool, Marian; no better or no worse than any other tool: an axe, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that.” – Shane

Someone asked me once, if you had a disease and the only treatment or cure was illegal, would you get it? My answer is easy. Absolutely, but I’m not alone. The rise of self publishing shows our love for individualism.

Whether you call it an American attitude or something we picked up from John Wayne in the movies, there’s an internal moral compass that tells us what is right and what is wrong. Even though the law says it’s right, it isn’t always the right that we believe. We honor independence over group thinking. It’s a western, as opposed to an eastern, way of thinking. See what I mean: Minimalistic Visualizations Explain Differences In Eastern And Western Cultures 

There are downfalls in this thinking and I’m not touting it as a recipe for success. Sadly, there were proud fathers who turned down help from neighbors when their children were starving. Charity wasn’t for them or their kin and they would state it proudly. No one is perfect and no political stance is complete. It would be refreshing though to see a politician or an individual who could look at a problem from a neutral viewpoint, without the blinders of pride or prejudice. The ability to hold two differing points of view in your mind and judge is a difficult task. If they could do that, then they could solve the problems of today, like the wise men of long ago. No, not just like Solomon, but like Rooster Cogburn also.

Rooster Cogburn: Well, out in the territory, we prize a dead shot more’n we do a lady’s charms.

Eula Goodnight: Then I’ve come to the right place, haven’t I? You mean the men in the West do not mind if their women outshoot and outsmart them?

Rooster Cogburn: If they’re quiet about it. No, here we value a spirited woman almost as much as we do a spirited horse.

Check it out: The 16 Best Western Movies-The Art of Manliness

 

Your Life is Unfinished

Your Life is Unfinished

Life is only incomplete and unfinished business. Your life is unfinished. My life is unfinished. Everyone’s life is incomplete. I was thinking this because I was mentally checking my list of things I wanted to do. But it will never be finished. I can take this as frustrating or I can think of it as liberating.

Every day we’re assaulted with facts, pseudofacts, news feeds and jibber-jabber, coming from all directions. According to a 2011 study, on a typical day, we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information, five times as much as we did in 1986. As the world’s 21,274 television stations produce some 85,000 hours of original programming every day (by 2003 figures), we watch an average of five hours of television per day. For every hour of YouTube video you watch, there are 5,999 hours of new video just posted! – Hit the Reset Button in Your Life

To keep myself from panic, I made a list of things I wanted to keep or add to my life and things I wanted to remove or keep away from my life. After reviewing this list I realized the keepers were already there. I have family, job, love, health, books, and all the other goodies that I’d listed. So for now, this minute, my life is good. But the next time I feel anxiety over my unfinished stuff, I want to remember that all of our lives are under construction. That’s the nature of the game of life. It’s messy and incomplete.

…no answer is a complete or final one. And I think that there’s so many times when we thought we understood something and then we realized we were totally wrong. I think that it’s chutzpah to think that we know all the answers or that we’ve understood something perfectly. – Adele Diamond

 

We live the life of an unfinished novel, still waiting to be written. Depending on how we live, the longer the chapters. Depending on how interesting we are, the more we appeal to others. We’re often judged by our covers. Sometimes, some people decide to just quit reading us. We’re just forgotten until someone finds us. Our characters can develop throughout the novel, but our chapters can never be edited.
– Unknown