Friday, March 2, 2012


I know the title of this post is “Shortcuts”, but it is really about eyebrow plucking.
Sure, I’ve just alienated roughly 50% of the population. Too bad. You guys out there are welcome to wear your unibrow with pride, but let me tell you – it is not a fetching look for those of us without the convenience of a Y chromosome.
Anyway, I once got pretty fed up with plucking. It was painful. It was time-consuming. I was DONE. So, I had this brainiac idea to just use a razor and skillfully scrape off what had to go. How hard could this be? I mean, 15-year-old boys can do it. Well…
Maybe it was that second cup of coffee. Maybe it was distraction. Maybe I have less sense than a 15-year-old boy. But one minute I had two eyebrows, and the next I had 1 point 5. No lie.
The ONLY thing that saved the day (and the next four weeks or so) is the fact that I have bangs. You see, my forehead is of a certain age, and well, it seems to suggest that I’ve had many surprises in my life. I personally have no recollection of THAT MANY surprises, but there they are. Over the years I’ve  found that bangs work a lot like Botox, only cheaper and without all the nasty side effects of, uh... botulism. And as an added bonus – they hide the fact that you have had a harebrained idea and hacked off half an eyebrow.
Moral: There are no shortcuts in eyebrow maintenance.
But here’s the rub. There are no shortcuts in art either.
Do you want to be good at your craft? Really good? Well, then you have to spend time doing it. How much time? Scientists say that 10,000 hours is the magic number. Yep – 10,000 hours separate the women from the girls, the men from the boys, the professional razor wielders from the amateur wannabe eyebrow destroyers.
Studies have demonstrated that time trumps “talent” every day of the week and twice on Sunday. To find out more, you can check out two books on the topic: Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell and Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin.
PROMPT: Do time this weekend (just NOT the kind that has me posting your bail). Delight in your craft. It doesn’t really matter what you’re writing, painting, composing, or creating – just log some minutes on your 10,000-hour Countdown to Greatness! And if you find that you’ve got NO TIME for art, but you’re racking up some pretty plump stretches watching Hoarders… Well…

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Kids have RULES. They just seem to show up with them. If you don’t have children yet, never say that you haven’t been warned.
I was blindsided by this fact a number of years ago when I was minding my own business on a Sunday afternoon. Out of the blue, my offspring appeared at my side. “Your favorite color is yellow, Mommy,” Daughter said.
“No, it isn’t, Honey. My favorite color is blue.”
“Nope,” said Son, jabbing his thumb in Daughter’s direction. “That’s hers.”
“Well, Sweetie, people can have the same favorite colors.”
“No they can’t!” Daughter pipes up.
“But… you just don’t get it,” I stammered, then tried to explain that there simply aren’t enough colors to go around – that even if you parceled out every conceivable hue, the human eye couldn’t see those billions of shades…
No, I was the one who didn’t get it. I was being reassigned.
“You get yellow,” Son said. They both stuck out their chins.
They crossed their arms.
I was going down. Sure, they were under three feet tall, but I was outnumbered. And this was apparently THEIR WORLD, and these were THEIR RULES. It was a battle I could not win. Or you might say I was just too yellow to fight it. So I simply shrugged and thanked my lucky stars that I hadn’t been assigned orange – orange and I DO NOT get along.
For the next 10 years I would receive yellow cards, yellow flowers, yellow hair ribbons, yellow placemats, you name it – if it was a gift, it was yellow. And I must admit that in some small sunshiny way, it made me appreciate all the wonderful yellow things that the world has to offer.
However, it wasn’t long after my reassignment that I saw the dynamic duo approach my husband as he blissfully read the morning paper. Yes, ignorance is always blissful.
Uh-oh. I knew that he and my son shared the same favorite animal. I couldn’t bear to watch – I left the room. I was yellow, after all.
Later I came upon my husband sitting at the kitchen table. Defeat hung in the air. He stared off into the middle distance and slowly shook his head. “Birds,” he said. “I got birds.”
Ouch. Tough break, Babe.
PROMPT: Make up your own RULES and create about them. If you write fiction, this is a great opportunity to make a wacky world where office memos must be sung at the top of your lungs, or Fridays are “bring your pig to work day”. If you’re an artist, make up some new rules about color. Like, maybe, everything that is supposed to be blue must be painted yellow… Just DON’T send it to me.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Take the Leap!

It’s Leap Day!  You have to admit that there’s something special about a day that comes around once every four years.
Throughout my life, I have leaped into, out of, and over a whole heap of stuff (some smart, some not so smart, but no matter – “It’s all material, Cupcake.”). I’ve even leaped from one career to another. My husband and sister have done the same. You could say that we’re “leapers”. And that’s a heck of a lot better than being lepers, let me assure you.
Anyway, I must admit that I love reading about leapers – especially those crazy, wild, froggy folks who have taken giant jumps that produce giant results. Like Albert Schweitzer, that famous medical doctor and humanitarian who has a gazillion hospitals named after him. Before he started medical school at the age of 30, he was a famous organist (organ as in the musical kind, not the medical kind). How about Michael Crichton? He left the medical field to write The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park, ER, etc. And then there’s Andrea Bocelli, an attorney who apparently took Shakespeare seriously and ditched the law books for fame as a tenor.
My sister, Carol, who helps folks get themselves fit and healthy, is a BIG proponent of leaping. Not just in the literal sense (although I am certain that she can extol its physical benefits), but figuratively, too. She says, “Everybody should be going for a goal that scares them so badly, they think they’re going to pee their pants.” Now that’s some serious leaping! And, yes, she really does say that – sometimes she even puts it in writing.
PROMPT: Take a leap today – even if it’s just a tiny hop. Do something you’ve always wanted to do. Test drive a Porsche. Sing Karaoke. Dance in the rain. Kiss a frog just to see what happens. Then set a goal you’d like to accomplish by next Leap Day. One that really scares you (but stop at the pharmacy first to pick up those Depends). Create… a leaper colony. Create a LIFE!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

You were a WHAT?

Somewhere… somehow… within the weave of time and space… the “Professor” prayer of my 10-year-old self was, well… misdirected. For instead of delivering on my Gilligan’s Island wish, the results dispatched by the Powers-That-Be suggest a very different 1970’s television staple…

This is the man I married.

Well, at least this is a photo of him at a point in time before we met. But fear not! The guy inside is absolutely, positively just as dreamy and smart as The Professor (Thank YOU, Powers-That-Be!).
Back in the day, “being the bear” was a good summer gig for a tall teen in Indiana. Except for the fact that it was about 9000° inside the suit. Oh, and that children, as a collective, always think it’s a GREAT idea to push Yogi into the pool.
The point is, everyone has an interesting past. Everyone. That retired principal, for example, was once a champion barrel racer. And see that chaplain over there? She walked the tightrope in a circus. Yes, these are real people I know. As for me, I spent a year testing inmates in Indianapolis, and so my offspring always enjoy the shock value of telling friends that Mom has been to jail. Yep, nuts do not fall far from our family tree.
PROMPT: So, what’s your interesting past? Dig around back there. Then ask your parents, friends, and partners about their weirdest jobs, strangest experiences, and 10-year-old prayers. As writers say, “It’s all material, Cupcake.” (Actually, I say that – I have no idea what other writers say. We’re a quiet bunch.) And if you’re in the middle of writing a novel, what’s your main character’s interesting past? You never know when this information might come in handy for a future chapter. Now get out there and create about it! And if by some slim chance, you don’t have an interesting past (Gasp!) – it’s not too late to make one today. ;-)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mine Your Ancestors

My friend, Cindy, is a genealogy genius. She has traced her family all the way back to cave-dwelling times. You know, it was actually her great (great, etc.) aunt who painted those walls of Lascaux. Okay maybe I exaggerate, but she has told me some family stories that are equally eye-popping. After hearing plenty of Cindy tales, I became curious about my own.

Well, Cindy helped me shake out the old family tree. She told me to interview the folks who are still above ground, taught me how to track down census records, and which web sites were the most reliable. It didn't take long for me to find some fascinating stuff and realize the value of mining ancestors (having grown up in the anthracite region of Pennsylvania with coal miners on both sides, I can say that literally).

Take my great-grandfather. He was a miner who found himself at the Pearly Gates much earlier than expected. Lucky for him, it was a quick trip thanks to the dynamite... um... well, these things happen in mining towns. Anyway, at the wee age of eight, his son (my grandfather) was then shipped off to Girard College, a boarding school for fatherless boys.

Well, you’ll never guess who was there at the same time…

Russell Johnson! Yep, that dreamy Professor from Gilligan’s Island. Well, he was certainly dreamy to geeky girls like me. Sure, he was old enough to be my grandfather, but by the time I was 10 years old, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that someday I would marry someone just like him… But I digress.

The point is, there’s a story in there. Think of it – two boys, visited by sorrow at an early age, are sent to a faraway home for fatherless boys. While there, each receives a stellar education and opportunities (art classes!) the likes of which they’d never known before. One returns to his small mining town, finds a wife and fathers a posse of children; the other heads to Hollywood and finds fortune and fame. Both love, laugh, and learn on their journeys to the grave. 

The End. 

Well, maybe… You never know with real life stuff.

By the way, The Professor lives just down the road a piece, on an island (no lie) here in Washington state. No, I haven’t met him. Sigh.

PROMPT: Dig up those dead relatives (please-oh-please DO NOT take me literally here)! Who knows who you will find? A princess perhaps, or the man who made moonshine in his bathtub (sorry, you won’t find him – he’s one of mine. Seriously). Whatever you discover, you’re sure to have plenty to write, sculpt, paint, and create about. Enjoy your quarry!

Oh, I almost forgot – I said I’d bring the coffee…