Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

I don’t think anyone really disagrees with Make America Great. I was raised in the Cold War 80s and we were fed patriotism like fluoride-laced water. To a one, my GenX friends are all fiercely patriotic.

We’ve dutifully served in the military, thanked soldiers for their service, and gotten teary-eyed at post-deployment reunions. We’ve given to the Wounded Warriors and demanded reform at the VA. We think military service is patriotic.

Every two years we anxiously anticipate the Olympics. We learn the athletes’ names, discuss their achievements and uniforms, debate the rules and procedures. We produced the most decorated Olympian of all time. We think the Olympics are patriotic.

We vote. Our Facebook feeds are full of political debate and passive activism. We Rocked the Vote for Clinton and W and we elected the first black President. We carried our babies in chest pouches like kangaroo citizens, waited in line at over-crowded precincts, and thanked poll workers for their patriotic efforts. We think participating in government is patriotic.

I don’t think we disagree with Make America Great.

We’ve been building businesses, volunteering in schools, having birthday parties at fire stations, and teaching our kids to stand still during the National Anthem since they started televising it again after 9/11. We think jobs, volunteering, civil service, and respect are patriotic.

It’s the Again that gets stuck when we say the phrase President Trump trademarked in 2012, the one he used to climb the disorganized Republican ranks.

It’s the Again that made Bill Clinton say the phrase had a racist bend to it.

Let’s unpack “Again.”

Again means to repeat a condition. It means to return to previous circumstances. That condition, in this phrase, is “great”ness. And the real question, when we add “Again” to Make America Great is exactly when was America “great”?

There is not a time in our history during which Great meant prosperity, safety, and opportunity for all Americans. There have been times when some Americans had those things but not all Americans.

So “Again” indicates an intention to return to an era during which African American citizens were in the back of the bus and not welcome at lunch counters. When women were relegated to secretarial work and sexual harassment in the corporate world. When homosexuals and transgender persons were shamed into hiding. Think Mad Men only for real.

When asked if we want to return to that era, the compassionate, literate, and moderate among us would say, “Fuck no.” And so we reject the phrase, the candidate who uses it, and the supporters who rally behind it.

It’s the Again that alienates so many of us.

It’s a nostalgic Babyboomer fantasy. Greatness is so subjective it could be referring to any version of patriotic orgy cooked up for us by the politicians.

Is the intention to return to military greatness? Because we don’t have a Cold War foe to encourage proliferation of arms. Also it’s expensive. Also our military is saturated with incompetent bureaucracy and staggering inefficiencies no amount of funding can fix.

Is the intention to return to economic greatness? Because global enterprise has made us so interdependent that we cannot compete without other nations. The global economic crisis of 2008 made that abundantly clear.

Is the intention to return to a peaceful, pastoral greatness? Because the John Trumball painting depiction of the Founding Fathers is the same idealization as Jefferson’s yeoman farmer economic fantasy and Whitman’s pastoral daydreams. And they’re all bull shit.

Life is messy and the American experiment is, too. It’s full of contradictions and challenges, injustices and disruptions. There can be no “Again” because there was never a Great. There have only ever been the attempts at greatness that each generation constructs.

We get some things right and we get other things so totally fucking wrong.

And then we try again. Not just every four years, but every two years, every season, every day. We try to get better. We try to do better. We renew our commitment to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

When we remain committed of securing these inalienable rights for all Americans, our effort is what makes us Great.


Binge Without Shame

Posted: October 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

What normally follows a binge is regret. What did I say? What did I do? Did I offend anyone? Did I smoke cigarettes? Fuck up any important relationships?

Two weeks ago, Charlie and I played golf on a Friday morning and had our neighbors over that afternoon. On Saturday I thought, “Did they all know we were hammered?”

I have often said that while we have friends who are adults, Charlie and I are merely “adulting.” We’re faking it and just hoping Hollie doesn’t figure it out before she’s self-sufficient enough to get over it.

One such symptom of my gross irresponsibility is my reading addiction. I’ve been known to ignore my family for days over a particularly good series and right now I’m in the middle of the second such series since August.

The first was by Juliet Marillier and fell into the epic fantasy category with world-building, mythology, and characters taking long journeys. This one has a few journeys, too, but the journeys aren’t the story. This series, by Deborah Harkness, is literary fantasy. It’s chock full of historical detail (the writer is a history professor) and weaves magical elements in it so convincingly that it could all be true.

Vampires, witches, demons, all of it. Totally true.

My enemy in this binge-reading habit is always time. When I was in graduate school and reading on deadlines, I devised a way to determine how much time I would need to finish the assignment. I’d begin every book by timing how much of it I could read in 10 minutes. Then I’d calculate the time needed to finish the book before the next class meeting.

Now I let my Kindle tell me how many more minutes in the chapter and I reward more productive work with chapters. I use the Audible app for audio books and let it give me segment times. I sit in parking lots upon arrival waiting to finish a segment before getting out of the car.

Binge reading is hardly a fatal addiction. While it may cause some marital discord when I ignore my husband for a good book, there are few real down sides to be a bibliophile. As a writer, binge reading is one of the best habits one can have.

There’s not a successful writer out there who would not recommend “Read” as their best advice for aspiring writers.

A good binge read can solve narration, character, or plot problems in my work. I’m convinced of perspective’s role in storytelling. When I wonder why a perspective has shifted, it reminds me to go back to my own work and reconsider whether the perspective I’m using is the right one.

A good binge read can inspire new stories. When an author takes on a topic I have some thoughts about (as Jojo Moyes did with the right to die in Me Before You or John Green did with cancer kids in The Fault in Our Stars) I’m inspired to respond with my own fictional experience. Or when a writer investigates the untold stories of secondary characters in classic fiction (as Geoffrey Maquire did in Wicked) or re-purposes fairytales (as Marissa Meyer did with The Lunar Chronicles), I’m inspired to tell my own versions of the history we know.

A good binge read can bring us out of the chaos of today and soak us in the fantasy and possibility of fiction. Like a long bath or a long run for working out tense muscles, a binge read can provide the distance we need to recharge.

So here’s what I’ve been binge reading. It’s not a comprehensive list. I’ve taken down 41 fiction titles so far this year and not all of them are recommend-able. Here’s the list in order of unbelievable awesomeness.

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

The writer who brought us Water for Elephants has done it again. I don’t typically like magical realism but when it’s done this beautifully, it’s hard to resist.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

You can’t get bogged down with the history/alchemy/bibliophile nerdiness of this book. Just wade in with optimism and Harkness will reward you.

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

This takes a surprising romance-novel-like turn that pays off big time. It’s a great read with more fantasy than romance, compelling main characters that break the mold, and world-building that feels familiar and well-researched.

The best part of an awesome book is finding out there are second, third, and maybe even fourth installments. My top two books of all time:

The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey

Both books caused the worst book hangovers ever. That’s another downfall of the binge read: the book hangover. You know the feeling, when you loved a book so much you can’t believe it’s over and whatever title you pick up next just has no chance of competing?

Book hangover.

One can only hope to slip into another binge, another awesome series, to avoid the inevitable and put off the book hangover for as long as possible.

This was written some time ago but not posted. After Prince and the Beastie Boys’ John Berry died, I was reminded of this post and thought to finally share it. 

I’ll admit I didn’t know who it was when I saw the news about Scott Weyland. The name was familiar but I didn’t attach it to the sound I remember so clearly.

Stone Temple Pilots is a mainstay on my iTunes. They’re on my running play list. They create the fabric of sound in my very best memories. And he’s part of that. Forever.

And knowing he is dead I get that River Phoenix feeling. He was one of us, as Natalie Merchant sang. His death showed us how vulnerable we really are.

And Scott Weyland’s death is the same kind of reminder. Someone whose voice is so familiar it’s as if it were our own. Whose struggles mirrored our own. He’s a metaphor for our own lives. Anger and distrust. Exploration and boundary-pushing. A reluctance to grow up. More anger at the requirements of adulthood. A denial that adulthood is really where we live.

And addiction. Softening the impact of life on our psyche.

We all have vices. We all have ways of coping.

The loss and pain of it, crime and the shame of it. No way to save him from himself. Or us from ourselves.

We hear their voices, those who came before us. The ones who sacrificed themselves for us again and again in song and lyrics.

I have that River Phoenix feeling. The sense that we’re not immortal. And though I knew it all along, it’s a reminder that we suffer and some of us die sooner than others.

We’re not unique in this experience. The Boomers lost Hendrix and Belushi and Joplin. And we lost Cobain and Farley and Brittany Murphy and Heath Ledger. We can probably claim Philip Seymour Hoffman, too. Celebrities die just like everyone else. There is no life eternal and the frailty of the human experience is a reality for us all.

I’m not sure we’ve sought everlasting life. Not with our contributions to the casualties of war, our affinity for thrill-seeking, or our emphasis on appreciating the here-and-now. The Millennials call it YOLO (you only live once) but we never needed clever monikers. We simply saw it as the only chance we’d get to do whatever it is we planned to do.

One chance to be a rock star.

One chance to jump from a plane.

One chance for graduate school.

One chance to backpack across Europe living in youth hostels and going days between showers.

One chance to start my own company.

Before we started calling everything historic (thanks, Baby Boomers and Millennials for contextualizing everything as it happens), we thought of everything as arbitrary.

I think we still believe in the arbitrariness of it all.

And Weyland is further evidence of that. Why, in all those other times did he not find the right mix to end it? Why this time?

And how, after so long, did that bright light burn out?

We continue to lose the best among us to war, disease, addiction, and violence. And those of us who remain are left to wonder how we’ll manage to see life the way we did when they were interpreting it for us.

One of my favorite business buzzwords is Convergence.

It describes the interaction of seemingly unrelated industries creating new opportunities, new markets, and new products.

My favorite example is photo copiers. Copiers were traditionally leased by companies through agents that charged by usage. Introduce multi-function printers that are networked and require IT engagement and you have convergence. Copier guys didn’t know about IT stuff and IT guys couldn’t convince libraries to spend $10,000 on a printer/copier combo machine. Convergence in the print market meant an opportunity for lease-pricing models in the IT space.

In every day life, I experience low-level convergence when the most annoying song in the history of the planet plays on the radio in my car, in my doctor’s office, in the restaurant where I’m having lunch, and in the drug store all within a few hours of one another. Seriously, retire the fucking Spin Doctors already.

Higher-level convergence occurs intellectually when seemingly unrelated knowledge links to create a whole new stream of thought.

So that’s what happened yesterday.

First, ProBlogger’s Darren Rowse talked about meeting people who’d read his blog and being treated as if they were friends. His audience had connected with him (even if he hadn’t connected with them) and the intimacy of their exchange was at once unnerving and exciting.

Then, I watched Gerard Adams TV (the Millennial Mentor) talk about leaders creating leaders through mentoring. I stuck with it because 1) it’s true stuff and 2) he interviews his own mentor, GenXer Ryan Blair. The takeaway was Blair’s advice to “Create Value” in whatever you’re doing.

Finally, I heard Chamath Palihapitiya in an interview with Kara Swisher, a veteran tech reporter with the Wall Street Journal on her resume, on the Re/Code Decode podcast. Chamath talked about his company, Social Capital, investing in firms that were working for the greater good. He said there is tremendous value in any company that is working to give people back their time.

Okay — connect with your audience, create value, give back time.

As I’m working through the book proposal for my new work model book, I’m playing around with ideas as to how to promote it. The model itself will give back time and the work I’m doing on it should create value. Connecting with the audience should be straight forward as I want the book to address both business leaders who can change their organizational management structure to adopt a knowledge economy work model and the agents themselves who should demand fair work environments that reward results, not visibility.

Mostly, though, I couldn’t stop thinking about how quintessentially X these three men are. Darren built an online business out of his blog, a unique idea when he began 12 years ago. Ryan is a bestselling author of Nothing to Lose Everything to Gain the story of his rock-bottom-to-multi-millionaire trajectory. Chamath has AOL roots and Silicon Valley pedigree and is now looking to finance companies that have the potential to bring more people to the starting line.

There are two key factors in all of these stories: optimism and hard work. Is there anything more quintessentially X than: “Okay, you believe in yourself. Great. Now put your head down and do the work to make something happen.” ?

I’m crushing big time on Chamath and will have at least one more post just on the Kara Swisher interview. Listening to it yesterday, I went all fan-girl in the car. Sigh.

For now, though, the convergence of thought has inspired me to get back to work.

Last summer I read an article that reported a survey conducted with millennials (those born between 1985 and 2000) asking them to choose which generational moniker they believed described them: The Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, or Millennials.

The overwhelming majority claimed “The Greatest Generation.”

I was dumbfounded. How had these morons escaped the fact that the folks who fought World War II and rescued Europe from the tyranny of Nazis were The Greatest Generation? Tom Brokaw, who to many of us GenX’ers is a God, named them that. So it must be true, right?

Taking this survey story to my mom’s football tailgate in the fall, where she and her Baby Boomer siblings host me and my GenX friends and my Millennial cousins and their friends, I thought everyone would be amused by it.

To a one, the Millennials chose The Greatest Generation as their obvious moniker.

“What the fuck have you ever done to earn that name?” I asked, with typical GenX hostility, adding, “Unless you’re simply being ironic?”

My cousin claimed to not know anything about these generational monikers and I wondered if I was unaware of such things at his age. But, the thing is, the Baby Boomers have always told us who they are. Always.

Then they told us who we are: Generation X.

Now marketing bloggers are warning brands not to categorize Millennials, not to try to define them or market directly to them. They will decide what’s cool and what’s not. As if that’s some big new insight in how teenagers and young adults behave.

“Being stereotyped is off-putting,” this blog claims. “No Millennial will self-identify as such.”

But here’s the thing: a generational moniker is not a stereotype. It’s when you were born. So you can’t exactly say it’s not what you are.

You might not exhibit the typical characteristics of a member of the group. Maybe you’re a Baby Boomer who didn’t spend away the 80s and is now putting off retirement because you want to stay involved (i.e. you can’t afford it). Maybe you’re a GenX’er whose parent (mother, let’s be honest) was home every afternoon after school and you grew up well-attended-to and valued. Maybe you’re a Millennial who is not obsessed with social media and celebrities.

But if you are these exceptions, you’re just that: an exception.

Generational monikers are applied because they help us recognize value systems. GenX’ers went from being latch key kids to being helicopter parents not by accident.

Sure, there are some habits and behaviors that have more to do with age than generation. Every single group spent time wanting to be different, to change the world, to engage with each other and the universe in a way that was gratifying and meaningful.

Call it the optimism of youth.

Before they put their heads down and went to war because that was what they had to do, even The Greatest Generation had aspirations. And they made strides, they really did, by engaging women in the workforce during the war and leaving them there afterward.

The Baby Boomers had hippies and love-ins and the Civil Rights Movement and they made strides, they really did, on college campuses and in the workforce. Baby Boomers invented branding, brand recognition, and corporate sponsorship.

Generation X thumbed its nose at the establishment, like good little rebels, but then climbed into the boats of corporate America and started rowing. Then two recessions disrupted their soldierly rank-holding so they’ve pioneered an age of innovation and discovery that includes the largest surge of entrepreneurship ever.

The Millennials will have their chance. They’re still trying to figure out what they want to get focused on. Whether it’s some global humanitarian cause or simply finding time in their daily lives to be more than worker bees, the Millennials will make strides. But they shouldn’t reject their heritage.

It’s the values instilled by your era that determine the focus you will have.

We’re very different people because of the time periods that shaped us. And that’s as it should be. Even if we do think the other groups are getting it all wrong.

Star Wars on the Pole

Posted: January 21, 2016 in Uncategorized

I know I’m supposed to be excited about the new Star Wars and honestly, it was amazing. But there’s something annoying about the marketing that’s ruining it for me.

It’s everywhere.

The car commercial where it looks like Darth Vader leading storm troopers in a pass-and-review, the fast food commercial that looks like the pub on Tatooine, breakfast cereals, coffee creamer, and macaroni and cheese. Star Wars is everywhere.

It’s the kind of saturation that Boomer marketers claim is good and I’m sure Disney’s hoping the saturation and the film’s wild success will solve its financial woes.

But here’s the thing: when everyone is using Star Wars to promote themselves, does it really promote Star Wars?

And does it matter?

Why do I feel like our beloved Star Wars saga is on the stripper pole?

This isn’t a fan-geek-dom argument about the sacred world of Star Wars. (We had that right after the film when we wondered if it was okay for Ray to be able to use the force without any proper training.)

This is about drawing lines.

It’s about selling out.

I don’t blame George Lucas for surrendering the brand. He’d done everything he wanted to do with it, creatively and otherwise. He doesn’t need to be Lee Greenwood pumping a single well for oil for millennia.

I don’t even really blame Disney, they doubled down on Star Wars and they needed to win big.

Maybe I’m to blame for being disappointed that such a thing has come to pass. Of course it’s the biggest deal since the episodes 1, 2, and 3 showed up a decade ago. Of course we can’t get enough. And of course Band-Aids wants in.

But enough is enough, right? At some point we can stop ourselves from the gluttony of Star Wars everything, right? Or maybe not. Charlie and I have Star Wars socks and Hollie has Star Wars pajamas. We buy our nephew every Star Wars Lego set that comes out. We own the Blu-ray complete set of the first six.

The question I have is whether Darth Vader on the box makes me want to buy something I wouldn’t normally buy and if so, what does that say about the choices I make?

I don’t think Disney had to stir up the Star Wars excitement. I don’t think they needed to bring new viewers to the franchise (though they probably did). We were all pretty excited just knowing episode 7 was in the works.

Maybe we weren’t enough.

Maybe it’s Disney’s desperation to gather more than just the GenX devotees and our children. Like they didn’t have confidence in our faithfulness to Star Wars and so they went out looking for Boomers and Millennials and foreigners and rom-com-types.

Whatever it is, I’m feeling a little heartsick over it. Every time a new commercial kicks up that same old John Williams tune I feel sad.

They same way I feel when I tuck a dollar in a wanna-be-actress’s g-string.

You were enough, pretty girl, when you had your clothes on.

It’s kind of like looking at your own kid and thinking how there’s never been a prettier baby born on the planet than the one you built.

It’s like glancing around a really great party and realizing you’re the best hostess ever because people always have a good time when they come over.

Imagine listening to other people talk about how much they dread seeing their family and thinking, “Huh? My family’s awesome.”

I’ve been revising my first novel, After December, to send it to a publisher who read two pages and asked for more, then read 60 pages and asked for more. So wow. He’s actually going to read the whole thing.


It’s kind of like someone texting they plan to drop by and you realizing you should change from your jammies and ripped t-shirt into something that doesn’t look like you don’t give a fuck they’re here.

So I’ve been revising.

Full disclosure, this novel has been revised about 10 times since 2012 so it’s in pretty good shape (if I do say so myself). Anyway, I get into reading it and what usually happens is I stop making edits because I’m just reading.

Yep. Reading my own work. And loving it.

It’s like a really great workout makes you think you’re in really good shape or answering a couple of Jeopardy questions makes you feel wicked smart.

I read it and I say, “I mean, it’s really good, right?”

Then I look around, realize it’s just me, and stop saying stupid shit out loud.

Of course it needs work. Of course an editor will be brutal when it comes to that. Of course I’m tainted by seeing what I think it is instead of what is actually there.

But for now, just for now, I let myself feel that way you feel when someone else compliments your kid without knowing she’s yours.


Brian is Back

Posted: November 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with the gap between the last two chapters of After December.

Today I started “Letters from Spain,” the collection of correspondence from Brian while in Spain.

It’s got emails he sent to Tony, his parents, Joel. It’s got some notebook pages of stories he tried to write. Letters he never sent to Kacie and Melissa. I can tell those stories here.

I’ve always wanted to write an epistolary novel and I think Brian’s time in Spain might be just the right way to do that. Working through the structure and what, exactly, he’ll get out of the novel. He’s got demons to exorcise and some growing up to do.

I’m excited he’s back. But I still have 2000 words left to finish the NaNoWriMo project I started this month. I need to shhhhhh Brian for a few days at least to get that one sewn up.

But YAY! 2000 words in Brian’s 2nd novel and I’m thrilled to see him again.

More later.

Greatness vs. Potential

Posted: October 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

The new Microsoft ad says “we all have greatness in us” but it’s a lie. We do not all have greatness in us. It’s the same advertising lie that claims we deserve a perfect smile, a better cup of coffee, or health care options.

We do not deserve anything.

Stop saying stupid shit like we all have greatness in us. Greatness is a superlative. It differentiates. But we are not different. We are all experiencing the same basic human life with only the variations affected by our choices and the choices of those around us.

We do not all have greatness in us. That kind of thinking deludes people into self importance. Your experience is not unique. Your gifts are not unparalleled. You’re not even all that talented.

Ability is earned, just like everything else.

Wanna be great? Work harder. Pay attention. Look up. Read. Learn. Try. Get off your ass and do something about the potential you think you have.

If you believe you have greatness in you, prove it. Do something great. Not something human like volunteering at a shelter or being nice to an old person. Something great like project managing the New Horizons exploration of Pluto or winning 21 grand slam singles titles.

Understand the difference between greatness and potential. Greatness is the culmination of potential, vision, ability, and effort. Potential is just one part of that. We may all have potential in us. But how many have the discipline to define the vision? Hone the ability? Put forth the effort?

Being honest with yourself about your own limitations may be sobering. But it can also be freeing. It can remove the bull shit marketing nonsense of “we all have greatness in us” and show it for what it really is: a phrase meant to sell computers.

Fuck off, Microsoft.

The greatness within me is suffering under my busy, lazy, and easier-not-to-ness. I’m comfortable in my good-enough-ness. I’m satisfied with my above-average-ness.

Fuck your willingness to spread that viral self-importance that makes people think they deserve anything.

You deserve nothing.

Earn what you get. Be worthy of it. Appreciate it.

Gratitude is greatness. Hard work and dedication are greatness.

Delusion and self-importance are marketing bull shit.

Literally: A Rant

Posted: September 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

I’m not sure when or why it became a thing. I can’t remember if it was a spoof first or if the spoof came after. All I know if there’s some serious language abuse going on.

I scowl only at the GenX’ers who do this because I think they should know better. I don’t know why I think they should, but I think they should.

So to you Millennials and Baby Boomers who are killing me with this shit:

Literally means actually, or without exaggeration. It is NOT the exaggeration itself.

When John Green uses “We are literally in the heart of Jesus,” as the pastor’s favorite saying in The Fault in Our Stars, he’s telling all of us that misusing “literally” is fucking ridiculous.

We cannot be literally in the heart of Jesus because he’s a) not a living person, b) not a national park, c) not big enough to hold human beings inside himself, d) all of the above.

When I hear people say, “I was literally on the floor laughing,” and I think, “Um, no. You probably were not,” I mostly just want to erase them from the planet.

Not in a their-family-would-miss-them way, but in a Please Don’t Vote. Ever. kind of way.

It’s not that hard to misuse words. People do it all the time. I hear them say things like “I would never do that,” when, really, “never” is far from true.

Or “I always think that,” but actually, “always” isn’t the right word for that at all. You cannot always be thinking any one thing. Sometimes you’re thinking something else.

Superlatives are prone to abuse. They know it. They’re fine with it and I am, too. Honestly. I may repeat them to the person who’s abused them, “Really?” I’ll say, “You’d NEVER?”

I get that superlatives are gonna get abused.

But “literally”? It’s not superlative, it’s barely an adjective. It’s like a noun pretending to be an adjective. Literal is an actual state of being. It’s what-you-see-is-what-you-get. It’s the honest, balls-out truth.

So literally is the adjective of that state.

When you misuse literally, you’re lying. If you’re not in any way actually “literally” doing what you say you’re doing, then it’s misrepresentation at the least. At worst, it’s you trying to sound purposeful and lacking the vocabulary to make your case. Find a word-of-the-day calendar and move on. Perambulate. Mosey. Peregrinate.

If you think you are “literally” anything, ask yourself, “Am I balls-out, honest-to-Somebody’s God truly this?” Because if you’re not, stop fucking saying literally.

Or I’ll think you’re an idiot.

And probably a Millennial.