Friday, December 11, 2009

Some might call this TMI.

I debated about writing this post.  After some thought it struck me that my hesitation was just another example of this silliness.  Although people normally don’t talk about this sort of thing in such a public manner, I would be fooling myself to think that this part of me is in any way secret… :)

tape_measureA good friend recently had surgery -- the type that depends on the use of friendly intimate apparel during recovery.   On a search for something soft, supportive, and easy to put on I took her to Lady Grace,  a store that specializes in “intimate apparel”. 

As luck would have it, one of the store clerks on duty had had a similar surgery 5 years back.  As this woman offered advice about what garments to consider, she and my friend entered into a far more necessary conversation.  What was your experience like?  How did you respond to the treatment?  How do you feel now? Do you think I’ll be okay?

To make more room for this discussion, I stepped back and began to browse.

Eventually, I made my way to the area where “my size” was located.  I flagged down a free, petite store clerk as she walked past and asked her if a style I liked was available in “my size”.

After a quick glance in my direction, she turned around and began walking away at a fast clip.  I stood there, dumbfounded.  Noticing that I hadn’t moved, she called out to me over her shoulder and demanded that I follow suit.  She marched me straight through the aisles, past the back of the store, and into the fitting room area.

Knock knock!” she called out as she opened a fitting room door.  I stepped in after she motioned for me to do so and was a little surprised that she walked in right behind me and shut the door.

Knock knock!” she called out again, standing squarely in front of me.

Once again I was dumbfounded.  Clearly she expected something from me, but I had no idea what that something was.

Knock knock.” she repeated, nodding at me encouragingly.  Eventually she figured out that she needed to use more words to help me understand what she wanted.  I don’t think I would ever have been able to guess on my own that “knock knock” could also mean “please remove your shirt …. in front of a total stranger”.


Years ago I read that some huge percentage of women wear the wrong size.  As much as I did not want this to be true for me, deep down I knew that it was.  It had been years since I had last been measured.  There was no way that “my size” could still be accurate since I had gained plenty of weight since then.

As disheartening as it was to hear this woman practically recite the alphabet as she figured out my “correct size”, I have to admit that I walked out of that store a little perkier.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Is there a draft in here?

Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come. I may seem a little quiet to those of you who regularly follow this blog.  Although things I want to write are still swirling about in my head and my fingers are still capable of typing, a fraction of my brain has been given over to a slightly more pressing and urgent issue.  Which means that although my mind still works, less of it is available to tackle what the whole thing used to take care of before.

Lately, when I approach my computer to write, my awareness that it will take me longer than usual (which was already long) to form a coherent sentence has created an aversion to my keyboard.  Knowing that I will not finish even a first draft in one sitting has made me not want to sit.

I think that’s nuts. 

To work myself out of this, I am going to lean toward sharing half drafts with you.  Because of this, you will get likely get a glimpse of the skeletons my thoughts attach themselves to.  They may come in the form of an overheard snippet of conversation without commentary, a random image out of context, or a note to myself to explore a particular concept – who knows. 

It’s my hope that re-teaching myself that even the pieces are worth sharing will make the “getting down to business” side of me more likely to honor the process required to enable the whole to emerge.

Wish me luck!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Friday Fiction: "Start"

I found this tucked into my notes sometime back.  Perhaps a page was missing?  This will get some attention in the future, especially if you remind me.

bigrig Her father warned her this would happen.  Hair matted, clothing torn, she mustered her remaining strength to take in her surroundings. 

It was a world of concrete.  There was no dirt to be seen, only line after line of white markings.  A thread of rigs parked in a row gave the impression of a metallic wall -- but was it keeping her in or the others out?

A breeze washed over her, causing a chill and reminding her that her skin was damp.  Beyond the rigs, she could see a structure -- a rest stop?

As she struggled to her feet, she noticed a figure, close to the ground, running toward her.

Defeated, she sank back to her knees muttering to herself.  "Well, I hope it likes ketchup".

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How to come across as clever (or not)

magnifying glass A friend once pointed out that when it comes to material for jokes, conversations abound with low-hanging fruit – you just need to look for it. 

This is easier said than done.  We are naturally wired to ignore most cases of mis-speech, tending to instead unconsciously bridge the gaps between what was meant and what was uttered. 

In order to get to the “hidden” funny stuff, you have to learn how to short circuit this wiring.  But the trick doesn’t end there.  Unless you want to become very unpopular, you have to learn how to do this in such a way that won’t interfere with your natural ability to be an accommodating listener.

You’ll find that material will pretty much jump up onto your lap.  The cool thing is that after you’ve noticed something funny, all you have to do is restate it and voila, you’ve made a joke.

There is one down side I should warn you about.  Once you’ve learned to apply this listening method to what other people say, you have by default learned how to apply it to yourself.

Here’s an example:

Person 1:  “I love learning new things.  Yeah, I guess I would say that I enjoy being mentally challenged.”

Person 2:  “I’m glad to hear that.  Some people have a hard time getting over the stigma.”

Person 3:  cracks up

I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but in this example I was both Person 1 and Person 2.

Have fun!  Post some of your favorites, if you get a chance.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Shameless plugs

Christmas music is in the air, wallets are out and in use…  the holidays must be approaching.

I mentioned by Zazzle-ness around this time two years ago.  Since then, my Zazzle account has served as a creative outlet, encouraging me to learn more about the knobs and doo-hickeys that come with my graphic software.

Now for the shameless plugs.  :)

HangInThere NoWordStoryButterflyTie

Butterflies have been on my mind quite a bit lately.  The cards touch on the concept of  transformation that I have written about before.  Since they are customizable, I imagine they can be used for congratulations (e.g. “Hooray, you made it through!”) or as encouragement (e.g.  “Hang in there, it will be worth it.”)

The idea for the tie came to me as I tried to imagine someone being nervous on a first date.  Be on the look out for a blue butterfly tie, coming soon.


I’m currently in the process of designing “unique” ties.  I can promise you that no one you know has a tie like these.  Yet, that is.

Perhaps it’s a myth that dad’s and new boyfriends around the globe get ties for Christmas.  Just in case, I want to be well armed.  Plus, these are fun to make.   Christian recently gave me an awesome idea for a fun and quirky tie.  Check out my on-line store ( soon to see what it is!

Let me know what you think!  And, if you’re willing to do me a huge favor, spread the word. 

Thank you!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

We get to choose which direction we face

Have you ever sat in a theater equipped with motion simulating seats?  Although it may seem strange to pay good money to get tossed this way and that like a vain woman’s locks, perfectly timed jolts, lurches, and drops can trick your body into believing what your eyes are seeing on the screen.  I like this -- the sensations conjured by the perfect combination of image and motion dunk me deep, deep into a movie. 

A number of years ago, half-way through an exciting series of roller coaster loops, dare-devil flight maneuvers, and expert speed racing stunts at this kind of theater, I randomly decided to come up for air and check in on my companions – were they

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Story Hearts

I’ve been reaching into my pocket a bit more than usual the last two weeks -- I find it’s a helpful way of taking care of myself when people I care about need an emotional anchor. 

Sometimes the idea or image I turn to for comfort is not fully developed.  It might just be the essence of a concept or, in some cases, a tiny, little seed.  Recently, I heard Jackson Gillman tell about his experience listening to a powerful one word story.  It made me realize that the kernel of a story can actually be its heart.

Here is a story heart that has been on my mind quite a bit lately:

Caterpillar by Elsa Cocoon Butterfly by Elsa


I hope it can buoy you as it has been buoying me. 

P.S.  I want to give credit where credit is due.  The cocoon image is taken from a photograph by Greyson Orlando.  The caterpillar and butterfly are the results of my fledgling path toward learning vector based graphics.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A pat on the back

A friend of mine and I try to make a point of scheduling regular buddy dates.  Sometimes we work and other times we play.  Most of the time what we do ends up somewhere in the middle.

A few months back we were playing around with lists -- the kind where you strive to turn off your inner editor.  100 things that make me happy.  100 things I am grateful for.  100 things I am good at.


100 things I am good at?  Suddenly I realized that my inner editor hadn’t actually turned off, she was just out gathering friends.  Inner critic, doubt, shyness – you name it – they were all dragged along to this party. 

Friday, November 06, 2009

A couple of snapshots of Brother Blue

SDC10024My parents met Brother Blue and Ruth in 2002 during my first storytelling feature.  I had been so eager to share this treasure I had stumbled upon, but I was nervous – would they see what I saw?  Would they feel what I felt?

Of course I had nothing to worry about.  My parents instantly recognized they were meeting royalty. 

Since then, they have asked after Blue and Ruth.  And, every time I have seen Blue and Ruth, they asked after my parents.  Most folks tend to ask about my Mom first,  but wouldn’t you know, Blue danced to a different drum in that regard as well.

How’s your daddy?” has been a typical Blue greeting for the last 7 years.  “That man, he’s a special cat.”  Blue would follow this up by pointing out the qualities of my father that other folks might not divine at first glance. 

And then, more often than not, he would remind me.

Never make that man cry.


I just finished listening to my poor, poor recording of that first storytelling feature at Blue’s.  Since you can’t hear Blue’s amazing, active listening (oh my god, how I loved to watch him listen) I’m making the first 5 seconds available so you can hear him laughing.

Please, please tell me I remembered to say “Thank you”.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Keeping our brain in shape? Maybe.

Enjoying ourselves?  Absolutely.

readwhoelsa Sometime back I bought Brain Age, a game for the Nintendo DS Lite that positions itself as a brain workout.  It’s fun.  On occasion, as you make your way through “brain stimulating” exercises, Dr. Kawashima (pictured on the left) pops up to provide you with helpful tips regarding your brain’s health.

According to the cartoon Kawashima, reading aloud is a great way for adults to stimulate their brain. 

Which is a really long-winded way to introduce the fact that Christian and I make a point of reading to each other.  Not religiously or anything -- sometimes we forget, sometimes our schedules conflict, and sometimes we just don’t feel like it.  But there are times that we really get into it.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective AgencyLike now, for example. We have been reading The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and I am loving it.  This is the first time I can recall asking someone reading to me to “rewind!”  so I can let that part of the story wash over me again.

Yes, it’s that good.

I find the characters and the things they do and say compelling.  And sharing this experience with someone special is a real treat.  So, even if it turns out that this cartoon doctor is a quack, I’m going to stick with this program.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

November announcement


For those of you who cannot read my chicken scratch:

November will be my

“Step away from the computer”


I will limit my computer usage to a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours in the afternoon (with the exception of client work, when the demand calls for it.)


Way back when folks had to sign up for computer time, they showed up to the keyboard ready to roll.  I want to do this, too!  Which means I will have to plan/schedule my time differently.  It also means I have to re-learn how to draft ideas out on paper.

Double Yikes!

wish me luck!!


(I spent the first weekend of the month un-tethered to the computer, so this post is backdated.)

(And, for the sake of full disclosure: I have easy access to e-mail & Facebook, and so-so access to the web via my phone.  No decisions about this have been made as of yet…)

The adventure begins…

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Our storytelling nature

bottleOften, when you ask someone for a story, they will insist they have no stories to tell.  But if you tell them a story -- and it can pretty much be of just about anything, you will almost as often get an interesting "that reminds me of ..." story in response. Seriously, it's like uncorking a bottle. 

This evening, I sat with a group of young women as they shifted from “I can’t think of a single thing to share” to “Well, there was this time …”

I have always enjoyed observing this.  But sometimes I forget just how much I enjoy being part of it.  There is something compelling about listening stories out of a person, and even better, helping that person reconnect to their innate storytelling nature in the process.




Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Forget to delight your future self

Hone your natural talent for forgetting things and put it to good use.

I don't know about you, but my memory is sometimes a little flaky.  Instead of lamenting over my inability to remember things, I usually make ready use of tools (e.g. a notebook, my PDA, a friend's memory) to make up for this fact.  But not always.  Sometimes I actually set my PDA aside and make a point of forgetting.

stored_jacket_tilt The first cold day of my second winter at college, I found a $20 bill in my winter coat!  Obviously I hadn’t done a good job at checking my pockets before storing away my cold-weather wear the previous spring.  But that didn’t matter – the extra cash in my coat was an unexpected treat.  I thought it was the coolest thing.

Winter ended and this time, when I was setting aside my winter clothes for storage, I remembered to empty all my pockets.  However, before I placed my coat into its storage bin, an idea hit me -- I pulled out my wallet, fished out a $20 bill, and tucked it into one of the pockets.  I assumed that, even though I would know to expect it, the $20 would still be a treat come winter.

Although it wasn’t intentional, I actually managed to forget that I did this.  Which means that on the first cold day of my third winter at college, I was surprised when I found a $20 bill in my winter coat!  Of course, finding the $20 jogged my memory but I was delighted nonetheless.

When you’re feeling especially good, write yourself a letter.  Aim to delight yourself, or bring yourself a little cheer.  Address it, stamp it, and hand it to someone reliable who can mail it to you in a month, or a year, or a couple of years.

Is there a poem you especially like?  Make a copy of it and place it into a book or nook that you access once in a blue moon. 

Order flowers for yourself, months and months in advance.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to forget. 


Monday, October 26, 2009

Story Slam Tonight @ Kennedy's Midtown in Boston

WooTaingandNorahDooley7If you've ever heard me in conversation, you know that I obviously don't mind repeating myself.  So here goes: Tonight is MASSMOUTH's first story slam.

Click here to read what I previously wrote about the then upcoming story slam.  Let your eyes track downward to read a few logistics about the now imminent story slam.  (And make sure to check in in the future to read what I will write about how awesome it all was.)

The story slam is taking place at Kennedy’s Midtown in Boston.  This means “bring your ID”.  There is a $5 cover (1 drink minimum) and there is a discount for students.  This also means “bring your ID”.

Doors will open by 6:30pm.  Stories should start by 7pm!

StoryQuote1The address

42 Province St
Boston, MA
Getting there via public transportation
Kennedy's Midtown is easily accessible via public transportation.  Take the Red Line to the Park Street T stop, and walk a couple of blocks:
  1. Head northeast on Tremont St for 413 ft. 
    (northeast = standing on Tremont St with the park on your left)
  2. Take a right onto Bromfield St and walk 322 ft.
  3. Turn left at Province St for about 70 ftKennedy’s Midtown will be on your right.
StoryQuote2Notes about parking
You may be able to find on-street parking after 5 or 6PM, though you should pay careful attention to when the meters stop running.
There are a number of parking garages near by, including:
Pi Alley Parking @ 275 Washington St
Laz Parking @ 45 Province St (Valet Parking only)
33 Arch Street Garage @ 33 Arch St

StoryQuote3 Stories told this evening will be based on the theme "scared to death".  Anyone can put their name in the hat, but only 10 tellers will be selected at random to tell their story.  Judgers will judge and winners will win according to the following criteria:
  • Telling -- How well was the story told?
  • Construction --How well was the story constructed?
  • Time limit -- How well did the storyteller honor the time limit?
  • Theme -- How well did the story relate to the theme?

Prizes will be awarded to the 3 highest-scoring tellers.  They will also be given the opportunity to perform at the "the big mouthoff" for which I hear the grand prize could knock even your boots off your feet.

It should be a great time.  If you find me there and make reference to this blog post, I promise to introduce you to real, live, professional storyteller! 

I hope to see you there.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What's the fuss all about?

gas_pumps Sometime back I overheard a woman asking her friend what the big deal was about the rising price of gas.  "It's constantly in the news", she complained.  "But it doesn't impact me at all."

I couldn't hear her friend's response, but my guess is that she looked dubious.  The woman went on to explain her secret.

"I don't fill up.

Whenever I go the pump, I buy $20 worth of gas.  That's how much I spent at the pump before the price increases, and that's how much I'm spending now.

It's simple."

I was able to stick around only long enough to hear her comment on the lack of common sense these days.  Due to her friend’s soft-spoken nature, or shyness developed from the realization that a stranger was eavesdropping, I’ll never know what was said in response.

Part of me feels guilty that I didn’t interrupt the conversation with a back of the napkin algebraic formula.  After all, it’s not difficult to demonstrate that at a fixed total cost, the number of gallons purchased goes down when the price per gallon goes up.  But then again, how do you go about doing such a thing without coming across like a total jerk?



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