The time has come the Walrus said . . . to speak of many things . . .

You're showing to the rest of the world, whether you know it or not.

You’re showing to the rest of the world, whether you know it or not.

Writing, I think, is not apart from living.

Writing is a kind of double living. 

The writer experiences everything twice.

Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind.    – Catherine Drinker Bowen

The 2014 Life Journaling Class I began in early January has concluded–and damn–it felt good to participate.

I achieved my goal: To return to that deep state of unrestrained, concentrated paper-talk that I’d been missing.

All of the different prompts that session leader Susannah Conway offered to us 5 days out of every 7 fascinated me, even though I did not do them all, nor did I do them in order. The choice was always ours, as it should be.

Many were incredibly imaginative, and some downright dangerous and way too exposing, but staying parked in the SAFE ZONE is no place for serious writing.

I must admit to this one here and now: as it’s been one of the coldest, snowiest and toughest winters we’ve had in Iowa in several years, I could not get enthused about trying the one exercise of laying buck naked, spread-eagled across my bed, contemplating the various parts of my body and then writing about said personal revelations. It’s hard to think straight when your nibs are freezing and begging for a blanket.

Please don’t be offended, Susannah. I did understand the purpose of that one, but dang, woman–it was simply too cold for compliance! (Maybe next summer when the cat is busy watching birds out the window and the hubby has gone out for a solo Harley ride or something . . . we’ll see–)

She offered us one final list of prompts to carry forward as we move away from the group, and there are both gut-wrenching, difficult suggestions as well as light-hearted, fun directions to go. I am grateful for such a list.

It contains 50 solid, honest questions and prompts, and they offer vast amounts of fodder not only for personal journaling work, but for creative essays and stories–fiction and non-fiction alike as far as I’m concerned.

As I read through them a lot of thoughts began coagulating for me:

Have a conversation with your 90-year old self.

Write a letter of appreciation to someone who annoys you. (Oh, hell no! . . . but a good writing exercise if ever there was one . . .)

What turns me on? (Is this something you want your kids to read after you’re co-habitating with the earthworms? I wonder how many people would have the guts to write this down in a notebook and not destroy it.)

The secret I could never tell anyone. 

Write a letter to your first love.

The things I’ll never do again are . . . (oy.)

If I dared to say what I really think . . .

I chose the following from her list to close this post out for today:

10 memories I’d like to revisit – 

  1. Sitting on that old wood bench in Montgomery, Iowa on a July night watching the free outdoor movie with my family. There were stars overhead, crickets chirping in the grass, my folks–lighthearted and relaxed. There, of course, is ice cream before we drive home.
  2. The night I was married. I believe I forgot to tell my folks thank you for my wedding. Damn. All family and friends that we cared about were present. That doesn’t happen very often.
  3. Shopping in Wright’s Five and Dime with my kid sister. I want to walk down each aisle and remember all those fun things we used to wish we could buy. And I want to stand over that penny candy counter one more time.
  4. I want to pause inside the big doorway to my dad’s welding shop and watch him repair those colorful farm implements again, and then I want to drive home to supper with him. Our family of 6 always sat at the table and ate meals together. I remember the pecking order; it wasn’t always peaceful, but so what.
  5. Saturday nights in July and going uptown to take in all the happenings, and eating cheeseburgers at the Sunnyside Café with Mom—and one of those thick REAL chocolate malts.
  6. Christmas Eve 1960. Christmas was always good for me.
  7. The winter of 1962. Snow days—lots of them that winter. My sister and I baking and sledding and feeling warm inside our house—and sleeping late in the mornings. “No school again today!” I can hear my dad saying it.
  8. The summer of 1969 at Pike’s Point. Warm breezes blowing across Lake Okoboji and going steady. The life of a pampered teenager and loving it all.
  9. Girls’ week in August at my mother’s house. The four of us. Fresh peaches and cream for breakfast. Shopping and ordering pizza and watching rented videos. Nothing but play time. A week’s worth of harmony.
  10. Drinking Constant Comment tea with Mom in her living room until the wee hours of the morning, and catching up on everything and anything, and laughing until we dang near wet ourselves sometimes!

So . . . for those of you who think you’re  too smart, too busy, too talented, too sophisticated to spend any time with yourself, a pen and a lined notebook, I dare you to give it a try.

I don’t believe any one person couldn’t find something of merit in a little time spent examining where they’re standing now, where they’ve been—or what they think might be waiting down the road for them.

No one is that well put together. No one.

Just what Do You Believe?

Is there anything out there?

Is there anything out there?

If you had to tell someone in 300-500 words what it is you believe–could you do it?

We are nearing the end of our 6-week winter journaling session with author Susannah Conway, and that was the challenge she offered us in yesterday’s session.

“What is it you really believe?”

Seven years ago, a dear friend offered me the same challenge, but I didn’t take it on at the time. She’d written her short essay and submitted it to the NPR folks in 2007. She gave me a copy of one of their published anthology books titled THIS I BELIEVE, and I enjoyed reading the diverse philosophies presented by many well known, and not so well known, people.

National Public Radio (NPR) ran the “This I Believe” writing essay program for several years before deciding to discontinue reading the essays over the air in 2009. The essay program continues on at http://thisibelieve.org, however.

The exercise is dedicated to engaging America and the rest of the world in writing down one’s core beliefs and then sharing them with neighbors, friends and family hoping people will come to understand each other a little better.

Late last night I put my thoughts on the question into my journal trying to come up with one defining thing that I believe in. I figured the only way to really get into it was to draft a working list.

I believe in a ton of things. How to mine it down to the one I might consider explaining in a 500-word essay?

The list looks like this:

  • I believe in being good to people; yes—being nice.
  • I believe in smiling and laughing–a lot.
  • I believe there is a God, even though I cannot tell you what he/she/it looks like, or where to go or how to find the entity.
  • I believe It doesn’t care a fig about our man-made sanctions and rules concerning It.
  • I believe God and the Universe are one and the same; God is Nature. I crave Nature.
  • I believe God speaks best in quiet and solitude, but not only that way.
  • I believe in an existence in another dimension beyond this one because otherwise why should we even bother? Earth is nice—for some of us—but hardly enough for far too many. There has to be something more and better. Just has to.
  • I believe in simplicity.
  • I believe we have to maintain hope, but I also believe that gets harder as we age.
  • I believe we each have a part to play for our being born—good or bad.
  • I believe this is one of the most complicated things to understand and reason through. In fact, I know it is.
  • I believe having expectations will lead to disillusionment.
  • I believe for some reason I was born lucky, but I couldn’t tell you why.
  • I believe standing still watching the sun, listening to birds or studying how snow falls is hardly wasted time.
  • I believe the practice and value of writing should be a life course taught to children as soon as they can print words and continue until they graduate from high school.
  • I believe in synchronicity.
  • I believe in sincerity.
  • I believe you should always try something new; no matter how big or how small.
  • I believe you should like yourself.

You see that it’s not an easy task. It was getting late and I needed to stop for the night.

Today I realized the first item on my list came onto the page without effort. That’s probably a pretty good indicator.

We should be good to one another. And I don’t mind if someone tosses the word nice in my direction.

For those who find this a boring concept, I offer this . . .

Tough.

“J” is for Journal; “T” is for Thawing

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“Out of clutter, find simplicity.”

-Albert Einstein

In last week’s blog post I told you about the 6-week long journaling class I’m taking with writer Susannah Conway, and I promised I’d offer up “bits and bobs,” as Susannah puts it, of the experience.

Six years ago, a writing friend introduced me to the trendy idea of choosing a theme word for each New Year, as it related to our writing life/goals.

My log list reads thus:

2008 – persevere

2009 – believe

2010 – continue

2011 – expand

2012 – push

2013 – (no word chosen)

2014 – reassess

That blank in 2013 is probably the reason I signed on to do this life journal class. I can’t tell you why I didn’t choose a word last year, and frankly, it wasn’t until I started writing in my classy new journal for this session that it occurred to me. Life turned bizarrely hectic, messy and sad in 2013. That I didn’t have presence of mind to choose my word is proof.

Susannah provides us with many prompts and suggestions each day from which to work in our journals. Journaling longhand is not a new concept for me, as I have a number of them in process on my shelves. But the idea of working in a cyberspace classroom with 79 other women from around the world in a common vein added the touch of discipline and connectivity I realized went missing last year. That came out in my writing this past week.

It’s startling what your mind and hands lay down on the paper while you look on, and honest journaling will take over like that when you finally cut yourself loose.

Little wonder then that my gut chose the word reassess, because clearly there was a need. (I still can’t believe that I didn’t at least try for a word in January 2013. Ah, well.)

You see the colorful, but messy array in the picture? That’s my creative notebook journal in process. That is the second part of this winter adventure. Others are calling their notebooks their creative dream journals.

I have a pretty good handle on what my dreams are. It’s these blasted U-turns and detours life keeps handing me and mine that need sorting through.

My 3-ring journal will be titled, Life View, and it will contain pictures of family and friends, pets, beautiful party tables, skies (I love sky pictures), food (of course!), ticket stubs, handwritten notes and cards from friends, journal fragments, and various other bits of my writings; even some of my poems. Elizabeth Bishop I am not, but, hey—this is my journal after all.

I’m not real artsy-fartsy when it comes to the paper crafts/ scrapbooking concept, and I was not even going to try this 3-D part of the course, because after all—I am a writer. I was planning to dive back in with one ink pen in hand, and two more in my back pocket and give it everything I had. But Providence evidently thought it would be good for me.

Allow me to report to you: I think Providence was right, and I think I’m in love.

The play time with my 3-ring binder and all those doodads, stickers, fancy scissors, multicolored card stocks, and the drawing up of page layouts all while looking at pictures of my family, my friends, all those fun times we’ve had already . . . I mean, come on! It’s positively engrossing. Not to mention, cheering.

Observing where you’ve come from goes a long ways in helping you reassess where you go from here.

And then there was this revelation: the other night, as I wrote and played, it occurred to me that my head, heart and soul were thawing out.

Whether we freeze up to protect ourselves from the hard times, or to make ourselves be strong role models for the sake of those around us could be a topic for debate.

All that I can tell you today is that it feels good to have the ice breaking away, and I owe this to a new journal, a group of honest, like-minded women on the other side of the pond, and a whole lot of brightly colored clutter scattered all over my dining room table.

I know there are people who think they don’t need to do any of this self-examining journaling crappola, but people, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

You may never be the same.

Einstein nailed it. Out of my clutter, I am finding simplicity, and from there I will be able to reassess.

Talk to you next week–

The ubiquitous gray of U.S. history’s early writers.

My favorite American.

My favorite American.

Lying beside a swimming pool, trying for a case of skin cancer while I sip over-priced, watered-down fancy drinks has never appealed to me. 

When I go on vacation, I want to learn about the areas I visit; how long they’ve been there, who started it up and what went on long before my feet touched this earth. 

I’ve just come from such a vacation; a 9-day bus tour of our nation’s capitol where we toured elegant national treasures like the Library of Congress, The Supreme Court, the Capitol, the splendid National Cathedral, Arlington National Cemetery and all of the symbolic war memorials. My head and heart are full of memories and thoughts that affected me bone deep. 

In the gift shops and bookstores I couldn’t resist browsing through and buying a few interesting little books like The Slave Narratives of Virginia, and George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior, The Quotations of Abraham Lincoln, Narratives of Sojourner Truth, and a magnet that lists Thomas Jefferson’s Ten Rules. 

As I perused these at night in my hotel room, it was interesting to envision what I was reading against some of what I’d heard tour guides share throughout the day. Some of it was fun, and some of it was simply incredible for the inconsistencies in what some of our great early leaders wrote, as compared to how they lived. 

We’re only human, all of us, I realize, but the phrase “Do as I say and not as I do,” kept invading my thoughts. 

I have to admit I laughed out loud when I read Washington’s 2nd Rule of Civility: 

“When in company, put not your hands to any part of the body, not usually discovered.” 

I mean—how in blazes could the rap singers function if they couldn’t touch themselves “down there,” while performing these days? (Admit it; you are laughing right now.) Robin Williams’ comedy routines would have encountered their share of issues with this one as well. 

Or, how about this gem, his 7th Rule of Civility: 

 “Put not off your clothes in the presence of others, nor go out your chamber half dressed.” 

What a hoot! Ninety-seven percent of our high school and college students—and the majority of Hollywood would die if they tried to obey this one. You see more skin at the mall or in a movie, than you do in a hospital ward these days. 

35th Rule of Civility: “Let your discourse with men of business be short and comprehensive.”       

        Ohhhhh, Congress? Are you listening? Do you understand the meaning of this one? 

38th Rule of Civility: “In visiting the sick, do not presently play the physician if you be not knowing therein.” 

        Hmmm . . . Something tells me George wouldn’t approve of WebMD.com. 

I refuse to pick on Abe Lincoln. He’s my main man and always will be. 

But allow me to weigh in on Thomas Jefferson for a bit, since I’m feeling analytically ornery this week. 

I acquired this fridge magnet with Jefferson’s Ten Rules, which he compiled in 1811 as instructions in conduct to his twelve-year old granddaughter, Cornelia. 

  • Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
  • Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.
  • Never spend money before you have earned it.
  • Never buy what you don’t want because it is cheap.
  • Pride costs more than hunger, thirst and cold.
  • We seldom repent of having eaten too little.
  • Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.
  • How much pain the evils cost us that never happened.
  • Take things always by the smooth handle.
  • When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry, count a hundred. 

Pretty good rules for self-governing, I’d say. 

But—but!—did you know that Jefferson employed 130 slaves on his farm to do the work. So, to my way of thinking, that kinda’ negates the ol’ ‘Never trouble another for what you can do yourself,’ mantra, wouldn’t you agree? 

And that ‘Never spend money before you have earned it,’—wellll . . . allow me to inform you. Even though Thomas Jefferson was a marvelous book and record keeper, the man liked to spend the pesos the way our current government likes to print greenbacks. He left his family in debt by an estimated $100,000. They had to sell off holdings to make good on said debt after his death. 

All snarky joking aside, there was one aspect that I could not escape upon learning of the numbers of slaves that both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson did keep, and the question I would pose to both of them, were I given the chance would be this: 

How could you possibly justify your slave ownership against the following words? 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. 

This thought bugged me the whole of this vacation, and always will.

 

For female slaves on the estate of George Washington.

For female slaves on the estate of George Washington.

 

The Life Around Pie.

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I am a pie snob, and I admit this with pride.

We had 14 people coming to our house for the annual Groff 4th of July party this past Saturday night and I woke up that morning with a wretched sore throat that was doing its best to spread its wickedness throughout my body.

I had 3 pies to create because homemade pie at our annual function is now a time-honored tradition. It didn’t matter that I was feeling poorly, those pies needed to come together.

Some people believe pie simply comes from the freezer section of their grocery store.

Some people have never made a real pie, and could give a fig whether or not they ever do, but . . .

I’m willing to bet something of value that a respectable majority of the masses adore a really good piece of homemade pie—which, to my means and methods—means the pie crust has to be a lard-based crust. (Groan if you want, but on this I am immovable.)

I was fortunate to watch and learn from the real experts: my mother, my paternal grandmother and a couple of aunts in busy ordinary family kitchens. It had nothing to do with expensive granite counter tops, or designer light fixtures—or even degrees from prestigious culinary schools with familiar-sounding acronyms.

These women learned their pie tricks out of necessity for feeding families and large work crews.

Back to my sore throat and not feeling in the most “pie-baking” mood Saturday morning.

Because I was feeling awful, I worked slower than I normally do.

I took my time with the process. I rinsed and peeled, and washed and diced and sliced and grated and measured. With the fillings mixed up and waiting in their bowls, I turned my attention to rolling out the bottom crusts, and it hit me.

You are in this moment only. Feels good, doesn’t it? 

You are not rushing; thinking about what you’ll do after this. 

You don’t do this nearly enough, but you need to.

I took my time rolling out each crust—testing it for uniform thickness, adjusting it a bit here and there, then ever so gently arranging it in its pie plate before repeating that process two more times.

Stirring and scraping the fillings: fresh blueberry with lemon zest, rhubarb (from my garden) mixed with market strawberries spiked up a bit with freshly grated orange zest and just a touch of fresh ground nutmeg–for the second pie, and of course, apple pie for the third. I like to add fresh lemon zest to my apple pies as well because freshly zested citrus makes anything rock to the next level up.

I dabbed on the butter pieces—real butter, of course—and then rolled out the decorative top crusts, once again laying them in place, taking care not to stretch or tear, trimming excess dough, tucking and rolling the edges, before giving them finger-formed edges.

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There really is nothing better than working with your hands.

Perhaps you won’t believe me, but I swear my throat wasn’t hurting nearly as badly once those pies went into the oven to bake, and I realized I’d enjoyed my creative time at that dusty flour counter to its maximum potential.

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It takes practice at being in the moment, and I have been painfully negligent as of late in my practice of that art.

There are always deadlines to meet, the next interview to locate and set up, the myriad of things that always need doing around the house, the yard, volunteer duties, and so forth. It becomes too easy to live to rush toward that next task or duty or promise—or “always wanted to try that . . .”, and before I know it—I’m not even trying to stand in the moment and enjoy where I am. This simply is not good.

A friend recently asked me some pointers about starting her novel.

I told her to make sure she had a ball writing her first draft, because it may just be the most fun she’ll have with it.

Practicing what we preach can be such hard work, don’t you agree?

IMG_5422 trimmed up

 

Just for grins—here’s my family’s lard pie crust recipe. Just in case you want to try your hand at one.☺

Grandma Z’s Pie Crust

3 cups white flour

1-1/3 cup of lard

3/4 tsp salt

Mix flour and salt together, cutting in the cold lard with pastry cutter until crumbly, then add the following combined mixture:

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp cider vinegar

5 TBLS ice cold water

Mix, by hand, until smooth, shape into a disk before wrapping and chilling in refrigerator for several hours.

A few pointers:

  • Be sure the lard is cold.
  • I always use a  pastry cutter to work the lard into the dry ingredients.
  • Be sure the   and water mixture, as well, is very cold. (I ice a glass of water  first, then measure out my 5 TBLS of water and add the vinegar.)
  • Do  not overwork the dry ingredients/lard mixture. Just get them worked into a small crumb mixture and then add the wet ingredients.

My Champs Elysées Warrior: For Writing. For Life.

Nope. This is not a plug for Paris perfumer Guerlain and their Champs Elysées Eau De Toilette.

It is a plug for resilience.

Recently I captured a graphic (and I do mean graphic) captioned photo from Facebook. The sentiment grabbed me. The language used to convey the message isn’t a member of my vocabulary, but like I said—the message hit home.

It was the scene of a grizzly bear kill. The grizzly is lunging over the dead body of a wolf it obviously had already taken down, and it’s not pretty. But the wolf’s mate or companion is poised dangerously close to this severe looking grizzly, with its own ears laid back, fangs bared and clearly not going to take this aggressive bear lightly.

The caption?

“A true warrior feels fear, but says f**k it.”

As I said—not my favorite word, but the sentiment of the photo juxtaposed to the quote stuck with me.

Allow me to share another example of such resilience.

The perfume mentioned at the top of this post was my mother’s favorite–and last. She enjoyed wearing it when she dressed up and the scent was quite lovely about her.

When I cleared out her room at the care center after her death I brought her empty bottle home to be sure I’d never forget.

My mother had breast cancer and as the disease progressed and my sister and I could no longer care for her at home, we had to move her where there would be plenty of people around to help lift her and be there at all hours for her. The time does come when a person cannot even turn themselves over in bed.

But before that day arrived, I’d stopped in one morning to visit her in her room. She was standing in front of the mirror studying herself. She had no hair left because of the chemo treatments, and she wore the ubiquitous turban on her bald head. She was finishing up at the sink and I watched as she picked up this lovely bottle of perfume and sprayed some about her neck and shoulders—took another long gander at herself in the mirror and then turned to greet me.

My mother, the fighter, defined herself in that moment and taught me a lesson I’ll never forget. And not one word was uttered or necessary.

Here was a woman who knew she was losing the battle to cancer very fast and yet she still cared enough to spritz a little perfume on herself.

Now—fiction writers know all about “show, don’t tell.” You tell me—is this not a most fully loaded scene of show, don’t tell?

It’s not unlike the abovementioned wolf poised, ready to fight, in spite of knowing the bear had already killed its mate—do you agree?

I read another writer’s comment on Facebook this week. He was most frustrated because he’s sent off queries for this article, and queries for that story, and no one is responding to him. And then he was most skeptical about these ads that come out telling writers “they, too, can make $50K a year copyediting,” and yadayadayada . . . well, it just does get to us sometimes. I felt for him.

I wanted to tell him that he needs to make up his mind about what kind of warrior he is in all of this writing game stuff.

Do you know what kind of warrior you are?

Have you figured out how to be resilient enough to spray on a little perfume when you need it, or open those teeth and prepare to bite into whatever it is you need to in order to survive?

Just keep putting you and your work out into the world, no matter what.

Thanks so much, Mom.

Simple words; Leviathan results.

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I think Martha Stewart and Maya Angelou were lucky early on.

In a recent interview in Parade Magazine, Ms Stewart said her father was the smartest guy.

“He said, you can do anything you set your mind to,” she told interviewer/writer Dotson Rader.

If there’s any truth to the messages in the words we tell ourselves as far leading us to an outcome, I’d say her father’s words were a fair representation of proof.

Whether or not you are a Martha fan, there is no denying the success she has achieved through creativity, perseverance and continual hard work, in not only one career arena, but in several. The lady has lead an interesting and  successful work life, and at age 71 she isn’t ready to sit and rock the hours away. We could see Martha Stewart storefronts in the not too distant future, according to the article.

Everyone should be so lucky to have someone say that to them in their young years. Heck, even in the older years, people should count themselves among the blessed to hear such words aimed in their direction.

In an excerpt from Maya Angelou’s latest book, Mom&Me&Mom, she recounts the day that her mother told her . . .

“You are the greatest woman I’ve ever met . . . you are very kind and very intelligent and those elements are not always found together. Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, and my mother—yes, you belong in that category . . .”

Now I thought of what she had said. I thought, “Suppose she is right? She’s very intelligent and often said she didn’t fear anyone enough to lie. Suppose I really am going to become somebody. Imagine . . . “

Maya Angelou was 22 years old at the time, and had the good sense to stop and wonder at those words on her behalf.

These past several weeks I’ve been working with 4th graders on writing instructional stories in which they give their reader instructions how to play kickball, or ride a bike without training wheels, or prepare for a baseball game—and even on how to correct a poor softball throw. They chose their topics and we took it from there.

It became apparent quickly that they’ve had little exposure to composition and most of them had no idea how to begin. I began by asking them questions about their personal experience with their chosen topic. Do you remember the first time you pitched a game, or learned to ride without training wheels? What does the coach have you do before the ball game begins? They had no idea they needed to think to that level before they began writing.

Their first drafts were basic (and boring) step-by-steps because they believed all they had to do was tell someone the steps, in order, and that would suffice. (Yikes.)

When I kept asking them questions and encouraging them to think back to an experience they had with their topic, one girl commented, “I didn’t know writing was going to be so hard.”

I explained to her that it was important for her to remember her experience so she could share from it in order to write a more interesting article with dimension for her potential reader.

We talked about tone of voice in the writing, and using words unique to the topic, or even adding a touch of humor to make it fun, yet informative for the person who might read it. And I explained to them the importance of starting out with that one interesting sentence at the beginning that either hooks a reader, or doesn’t.

The second drafts of the kids’ articles definitely improved—and it took some time on their part and mine, but it was worth it. It gave me a chance to listen and then work in a learning moment as they remembered small tidbits we could weave into their writings. I’m hoping each one took one small tidbit of writing knowledge back to class with them.

When the last boy came for help I read through his initial draft, and I knew he was a better thinker. His instructional piece was about constructing towers using Legos®.

“The most important thing you need when working with Legos®,” he wrote, “is an imagination.”

When I told him his opening sentence was the best one that I’d read, his face lit up. And I meant it, too. Layering on insincere praise is an act of condescension as far as I’m concerned and does no one any good. That kid floated down the hall to his classroom. The light in his face was as good for me as it appeared to be for him.

It’s interesting how small comments come home to roost. When I obtained my first full-time secretarial position, my mother told me what she felt was one of the most important qualities to possess. I can hear her saying it.

“Whatever you are, make sure you are resourceful. Know how to do all kinds of things, where to find stuff–who to ask, when you need to.”

Years back when a critical financial document went missing from my department head’s office, he tagged me with finding it—and fast. Several hours later and beau coup steps around our cement-floored production facility I returned with it in my hands. I tend to like missions–or challenges.

“If anybody could have found it,” he said, “I knew it would be you.”

That’s the kind of little stuff that hangs with you.