Archive - June, 2010

Lessons from Basketball Camp (by Sandra Heska King)

For those of you who don’t already know Sandy, I am very pleased to introduce her here today.

Sandra King lives in Michigan and is also know as Sandy or even Snady (long a), the result of a typo that stuck. She’s a Bible teacher and writer as well as a former surgical/public health/office nurse who keeps her license in tact. She’s a wife, mother and grandma who loves books, nature and all things chocolate. You can learn more about her at her two blogs, Beholding God and The Write Pursuit, and follower her on Twitter, @SandraHeskaKing.

Lessons from Basketball Camp

Gracee. Rising third-grader. Basketball camp. Three mornings last week. Early. Too early for summer.

 Day One

 She bounces out to the car in her new basketball shorts and shoes, Michigan State T-shirt, hair pulled back into a pony. She looks old.

 “Are you excited?”

 “Yep!”

 “Remember how Mom and I tried to talk you into b-ball last year, but you were scared?”

 “I’m older now. Look! There’s Olivia and her mom. You know her mom.”

 I wonder why I failed to slap on a little makeup.

 “Cool. You already have friends here.”

 I keep my head down as we go through the registration line.

 “I’m going to stay until you’re settled and then run home and grab some breakfast. I’ll be back.”

 After I slap on some makeup.

 “Okay, Gramma.”

 Later as she guzzles some water . . .

 “It’s so hot! Look how sweaty. And we worked hard. And I made new friends.”

 “I love basketball.”

 “I’m glad! Trying new stuff can be scary, but we’re usually glad when we do.”

 Day Two

 My phone rings. It’s my daughter: “She’s ready, but she’s so grumpy. Do NOT give in to her bratness.”

 She’s wearing her new Orioles T-shirt, but she’s not bouncing. Mouth corners skim the driveway gravel.

 “I’m tired.”

 “Well, you only have one more day. But maybe you better go to bed earlier tonight.”

 “Whatever.”

 “Do not laugh. No laughing allowed in this car today. And I mean it.”

 She cracks up.

 “Will you stay and watch me?”

 “I have to get breakfast. Then, yes, I’ll be back to watch you.”

 “Promise?”

 “Promise.”

 Later, as she guzzles some water . . .

 “The kids say I look more like a soccer girl.”

 “Why’s that?”

 “I can’t make any baskets. I haven’t made even one.”

 I note that the baskets are still at regulation height.

 “Well, you just have to practice. Your arms aren’t quite strong enough yet. They will be. And you’ll be taller in the fall. And you can work on what you can do right now like dribble and guard.”

 “Practice makes perfect.”

 “Yep.”

 “I love basketball!”

 Day Three

 She’s not bouncing, but she’s not dragging either.

 “Last day! Are you glad?”

“No. Will you watch me?”

 “Yes. But parts are kind of boring. And I was the only adult who watched yesterday.”

 “Promise?”

 “Promise.”

 “If I do really good today, I get a bottle of Gatorade.”

 I go for coffee, and when I come back, she’s playing monkey in the middle—or whatever they call it. She waves. Then they scrimmage.

 She comes over to get a drink.

 “They were yelling at me.”

 “Who? The coaches or the kids?”

 “The kids. I don’t like basketball. I want to go home. Now.”

 She’s fights back tears, and I want to go fight the kids who are yelling at her.

 “It’s easy to give up. Shake it off. And get back in the game. Stick it out. You’re almost done. Besides, it looks like they are going to take pictures.”

 She grinds the heels of her hands into her eyes.

 “And no laughing allowed.”

 She flashes the hint of a grin and then trots out to slip into the group frame.

 After the photos are taken, they divide into small groups for drills. And then gather again for an awards ceremony. They all get participation certificates and rounds of high fives. And bottles of Gatorade.

 And then the coaches pass out individual “awards.” Gracee gets one for improvement—“in recognition of all the hard work it took to be better today than you were yesterday.” And everybody claps.

 She’s not only a Lady Oriole. She’s an improved Lady Oriole.

 “Can I stay and shoot a few hoops?”

 “Okay. For just a few minutes.”

 So she shoots. And shoots. And shoots.

 And I cheer her on.

 “Almost. You hit the rim. You skimmed the bottom of the basket. You’re getting there. Good job.”

 The varsity girls’ coach comes over and offers to retrieve the ball for her.

 She shoots. And shoots. And shoots.

 And the ball hits the rim. Rolls. Drops.

 Right through the basket.

 “YES! YES! YES!”

 “I LOVE basketball!”

 Life can be scary.

 And hard.

 And sometimes people yell.

 And sometimes we fail.

 And giving up seems like a plan.

 But sometimes all it takes is a little encouragement, a little recognition, a little applause, a round of high fives.

 Maybe even just a bottle of Gatorade.

 And a lot of practice.

 Shake it off. And get back in the game.

 And be better tomorrow than today.

Strength through the storms

image courtesy of photobucket.com

When you live on or near the Gulf Coast, hurricanes are a fact of life. Despite advances in technology, no one can definitively predict when and where a storm will reach landfall. Neither can we predict the ultimate devastation the forces of nature will inflict. With each named storm, residents consider the warnings and advice of the meteorological experts and then make an educated decision to do one of two things: seek shelter further inland or shelter in place. Given enough advance warning and time, we can always get far enough inland to escape the effects of a hurricane.

But what of those people who live on remote islands in the middle of the ocean?

I have heard of one such island in the South Pacific–a tiny yet self sufficient community of fishermen. No one really knows how long the island has been there. The inhabitants have no formal education to speak of, and their history is passed on verbally by the island storytellers from one generation to the next.

One such story involves another island. A neighboring island which they once called home. This island had a very special feature—a naturally occurring harbor surrounded almost entirely by a strong rock wall formation with only a small passageway by which boats could pass from the open ocean. Whenever the seas and winds would rage, everyone knew to get to the shelter of this harbor until the storms had passed. For untold years the harbor protected boats and residents from even the deadliest of storms.

The people were grateful for this safe harbor. And when the rock walls on either side of the entry point began to show wear, some of the islanders wanted to repair the damage done from the storms and the countless ships which entered seeking safe haven.

But many more did not. Surely, they reasoned, a fortress that has sheltered generations of fishermen would continue to remain strong. Others were privately concerned about the damage years of wear had inflicted, but chose to do nothing—hoping that the harbor would remain strong for at least as long as they needed a safe refuge from mother nature’s fury.

Ultimately, apathy and self-interest won out, and no effort was made to repair the stone fortress. The harbor continued to provide safety for the islanders. But years of neglect began to take its toll on the harbor. Though not visible with the naked eye, cracks began to form within the center of the rock formation. While outwardly the harbor seemed as strong as ever, internally its strength was diminishing with each passing day.

So when a relatively weak tropical depression made its way to the tiny island, everyone was shocked when the rock walls surrounding them began to crumble. The wall began sliding into the water at the innermost part of the harbor—working around towards the tiny inlet where so many ships had entered seeking refuge. The destruction was slow, giving all the islanders ample time to board their boats and escape into the open ocean.

Just as the last boat escaped through the inlet, the walls on either side sank into the ocean.

This was the safe harbor’s final act of sacrifice to the people she cared for and protected but who chose not to care for and protect her in kind.

A beautiful sacrifice, and yet such an unnecessary one.

This post is part of the blog carnival on Strength, hosted by Bridget Chumbley. To read more, please visit her site.

The little people (by Billy Coffey)

image courtesy of photobucket.com

Talk among the locals at the beach was most likely the same talk among the locals of anywhere nowadays—the oil spill. Particularly the part about how some scientists were predicting it could reach the waters off Virginia in a matter of months.

I was pondering that possibility while on the balcony of my hotel room one early morning, watching the fishing boats chug by on their way out to sea. I pondered the fragility of their livelihood and the courage required to partake in it.

And then I craned my neck and looked to the right and then the left, where hotels towered over small shops that sold everything from swimsuits to shells. And I wondered what would happen if worst possibility became stark reality.

It was the sort of thing affecting the Gulf Coast at that moment, I thought. People out of jobs and patience. Hurting. Scared.

Angry.

I settled back into my chair and stared out at the orange sun easing over the horizon. Just off the pier, a pod of dolphins broke the surface and disappeared again. They would be victims, too. And the fish they ate, and the crabs we tried to catch and marvel at the day before.

It wasn’t easy back home staring at the horrible underwater live feed of that hole belching black into the water. It was worse there, staring out at such beauty and knowing it could be spoiled soon.

Two Navy F-18s flew overhead on their approach to Oceana Naval Air Station. In the distance, a destroyer crested the hazy horizon on its way back home. The Navy has protected Virginia Beach and nearby Norfolk for generations, but I knew it couldn’t protect them from this. Oil was an enemy that guided missiles couldn’t destroy.

There are few emotions worse than a sense of dread, of knowing a Big Bad looms over the horizon and that there isn’t much at all you can do about it. I’ve had that feeling before. I think we all have. We all live in a world that makes us feel powerless sometimes, leaving us to feel as if we are mere pawns in a game with rules we cannot understand.

Talk around the restaurant we visited for breakfast centered around BP and the government. From the conversations I overheard, it was a draw as to which was hated more and trusted less. Most of the rage that day was pointed in the direction of the CEO of BP, who had remarked the day before that his company deeply cares “for the little people.”

That quote did not go over well with the people sitting around me. Little? They didn’t think so. They thought they were just as important as any CEO.

And as we munched on a traditional beach breakfast of pancakes, sausage, and eggs, I had to agree. The restaurant was crowded. We were surrounded by construction workers, fishermen, police, and military personnel. People who kept that city propped up and moving forward, who spent their off days relaxing on their front porches and taking care of lawns rather than whittling away their time on yachts and golf courses.

I could see the effects of their jobs. The bulging forearms and calloused hands on the builder next to me. The way the cop near the door instinctually sized up whomever walked through the door. They didn’t reign in the boardrooms, those people. And there was a good chance at least one of their utility bills was overdue. From the snippets of conversation I overheard, their social life currently consisted of church-league softball and barbeque cookouts.

These were good people. My people.

Little people.

And you crossed them at your own peril.

That’s what I wished the higher-ups in government and business would understand. That they depended on us a lot more than we depended on them. The fact that they didn’t seem to truly appreciate our value and maybe never had struck me as almost as tragic as the oil that could wash ashore in the coming months.

The crowd began to thin out as the start of the day neared. That was enough talk. It was time to go to work. Yet another lesson I found myself wishing the higher-ups would listen to us more and pander to us less.

All this talk about how to stop the oil. How to fix things. We’ve been promised that some of the greatest minds in the world are working to fix this. Somehow, that doesn’t make me more comfortable.

Know what would? Putting the little people in charge.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at his blog What I Learned Today and follow him on twitter at @BillyCoffey

The Scroll Marked X (Og Mandino)

(This picture has nothing to do with the content of this post. My friend Annie sent me a new pic of the Boz dog. Just wanted to share.)

“Oh, creator of all things, help me. For this day I go out into the world naked and alone, and without your hand to guide me I will wander far from the path which leads to success and happiness.

I ask not for gold or garments or even opportunities equal to my ability; instead, guide me so that I may acquire ability equal to my opportunities.

You have taught the lion and the eagle how to hunt and prosper with teeth and claw. Teach me how to hunt with words and prosper with love so that I may be a lion among men and an eagle in the market place.

Help me to remain humble through obstacles and failures; yet hide not from mine eyes the prize that will come with victory.

Assign me with tasks to which others have failed; yet guide me to pluck the seeds of success from their failures. Confront me with fears that will temper my spirit; yet endow me with courage to laugh at my misgivings.

Spare me sufficient days to reach my goals; yet help me to live this day as though it be my last.

Guide me in my words so that they may bear fruit, but silence me from gossip that none be maligned.

Discipline me in the habit of trying and trying again; yet show me the way to make use of the law of averages. Favor me with alertness to recognize opportunity; yet endow me with patience which will concentrate my strength.

Bathe me in good habits that the bad ones may drown; yet grant me compassions with weaknesses in others. Suffer me to know that all things shall pass; yet help me to count my blessings of today.

Expose me to hate so it not be a stranger; yet fill my cup with love to turn strangers into friends.

But all these things be only if thy will. I am a small and lonely grape clutching the vine yet thou hast made me different from all others. Verily, there must be a special place for me. Guide me. Help me. Show me the way.

Let me become all you planned for me when my seed was planted and selected by you to sprout in the vineyard of the world.

Humble this humble salesman.

Guide me, God.”

Excerpt from The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino

Chatty katdish

Hey! Remember a few weeks ago when I promised these updates would be much shorter? Well, I lied. But not on purpose. Seems I was extra chatty this week for some reason. Sorry/you’re welcome.

The best of me (or not) on the twitter this week:

RT @noveldoctor: Before reading a revision note from your editor, check the medicine cabinet for Xanax. If empty, drink heavily

@lainiegallagher You know me so well… (in reply to lainiegallagher Sounds about right.)

@lainiegallagher I do what I can. Or what I feel like doing. One of those… (in reply to lainiegallagher Yes! Good one. You’re such a great writer and cheerleader of writers.)

@arlenesg Thanks Arlene. Nice to have you in my stream as well. Even tho typing that makes me giggle.

@SassafrasHill They are sparkly, but also shiny. Because sparkles shine, right? Also? Me too. Book 4 is on my nightstand. (in reply to SassafrasHill @katdish – Sparkly, Kathy. Get it right. Hehehe 🙂 Sparkly & beeyootiful.The books were actually pretty good.Haven’t read the last one tho.)

Is the new Twilight movie coming out today? I am so out of the shiny vampire loop.

@melissa_rae We had pizza tonite too. But in interest of stimulating the local economy, we had it delivered (in reply to melissa_rae We’re making homemade pizza, with from scratch dough, for dinner tonight. Then rootbeer floats for dessert! Mmm!)

As to my earlier tweet about watching The Karate Kid (original) today–I have forgotten how much truly horrible music there was in the 80s

I have no idea where/how/why followers find me, but dang – there are some funny people out there. @plfrederick for example.

@HeatherSunseri Me too. I hate socks.(in reply to HeatherSunseri @katdish Hehehe You have the same suntan I have. Love flip flops!)

Toe-da! http://twitpic.com/1zlz4y

@SandraHeskaKing Oh, it’s okay. You have a great personality. Snort! (in reply to SandraHeskaKing @katdish Double waahhh! I have no tan. Bunions and no tan.)

@SandraHeskaKing Sorry. Didn’t mean to bring you pain. If it’s any consolation, I have an unsightly flip flop tan (in reply to SandraHeskaKing @katdish Waahhh! Sniff.)

@SandraHeskaKing What? I don’t have bunions. What’s a bunion? (in reply to SandraHeskaKing @katdish Scraped and painted sounds lovely! But flip flops show off bunions)

@gyoung9751 Okay. But I’m keeping it handy just in case. I would never lay down the hammer on you, btw. (in reply to gyoung9751 @katdish No! Not the unfollow hammer!)

@MichaelDPerkins Sandwiches and gratuitous violence? 2 of my favorite things!(in reply to MichaelDPerkins RT @katdish: @gyoung9751 Control of what? Do I need go samurai on some people? //I specialize in karate chop sandwiches)

@gyoung9751 Uh oh. Should I lay down the unfollow hammer (in reply to gyoung9751 @katdish Sarah and Duane have been getting out of hand.)

Going to get my feet scraped and painted. It’s flip flop season

@gyoung9751 Control of what? Do I need go samurai on some people? (in reply to gyoung9751 @sarahmsalter You’re right, Sarah. I’d vote to get @katdish to keep things under control.)

Favorite deleted spam comment of the day: Prozac for Cats

@mamastephf Either that or beats the crap out of them when mom’s not looking. (in reply to mamastephf @katdish Ahhh, no wonder you blog so well. The babies are fun & creative, right, in larger families? Everyone applauds them from birth? :))

@adeason123 Well, there are plenty of those folks to go around. (in reply to adeason123 @katdish I personally prefer fake cardboard people… That way I know to NOT expect much from them!!!)

@jamieworley That’s always a bonus.(in reply to jamieworley @katdish It’s nice to have real people. I like when they are fully clothed, too.)

I love checking my new followers to find most of them are real people! Thank you, real people!

@buzzbyannies Or some dynamite. (in reply to buzzbyannies @Katdish Only thing better is fishing with a shotgun.)

@buzzbyannies Rednecks + venomous snakes = quality television! (in reply to buzzbyannies Billy the Exterminator. #digthatshow)

@tracyfarr I meant it as a compliment. (in reply to tracyfarr Oh, no. I’ve turned into a “cranky ho” (as one nice lady recently called me). For shame, for shame, for shame!)

@TheBlueMacaw It better be, or heads are gonna roll! (Okay, really nothing I can do about it. But I feel empowered now.)

@TheBlueMacaw But I’ve got bloggy business I conduct over gmail. They better get it fixed or I’m burning Scranton to the ground! #theoffice

@sarahmsalter @marni71 I’m 5′ 6″ tall. But I towered over @redclaydiaries last year b/c of strategic footwear

@marni71 @sarahmsalter Wait…Sarah, how tall are you? Am I going to look really tall standing next to y’all? Because that would be awesome

@billycoffey Prepare yourself for an expletive-laced DM mister! (in reply to billycoffey @katdish What was that, city slicker?)

@NEgraceful Well, I personally would never say that. I say toe-ma-tas. (in reply to NEgraceful @sarahmsalter @katdish So you would say, “Go pick some may-tuhs for dinner?”)

@marni71 It’s hard to tell. She talks so fast I usually only get about every 3rd word or so. @gabbysherri (in reply to marni71 @katdish Does @gabbysherri mispronouce words or does she only jack them up when she types them?)

@gabbysherri NORTHERN! Bite your tongue! Houston is such a melting pot, everyone is from somewhere else. (in reply to gabbysherri @katdish -not really. Not a Texan accent, anyway. In fact, more Northern than Southern. What’s up with that?)

@sarahmsalter mater plants? Seriously? I can go along with ta-mater plants, but mater plants? Use your words, Sarah. (in reply to sarahmsalter @billycoffey I got a mater plant taller than me now & it’s about to fall over. I got out there w/ baccer sticks & string last night. #nohelp)

@billycoffey Hmph! (in reply to billycoffey @katdish What’d you say, city slicker?)

@gabbysherri Okay, we’ve talked on the phone. Do you think I have an accent?

@marni71 She’s a fast talker…. (in reply to marni71 @katdish Oh,and that time I was hopped up on Nyquil and accidentally drunk dialed @gabbysherri. She didn’t sound at all like a smurf.)

@billycoffey Oh, shut up. (in reply to billycoffey @katdish No. You’re citified all the way. Urban living has destroyed your country roots.)

@marni71 I actually don’t think I have much of an accent. What do you think @billycoffey?

@billycoffey More Frasier than Gomer for sure, but that’s a pretty accurate statement. (in reply to billycoffey @katdish @marni71 @sarahmsalter I have the sort of voice that’s a cross between Gomer Pyle and Frasier Crane.)

@marni71 We’ve never talked on the phone. Doesn’t @helenatrandom sound exactly like you thought she would?

@marni71 Just go to my blog and rant incessantly. I’m there for you, Marns. (in reply to marni71 And now Youversion hates me too. I’m taking my ball and going home…)

HMPH! I just got a DM saying I was high maintenance. I’m not high maintenance, I’m just lazy.

I love @amysorrells , even if her blog posts are always too long to RT.

I had 2 folks follow/unfollow/follow/unfollow me yesterday. If you use an auto-follow service, please note that this is highly annoying.

Garlic butter? RT @HeatherSunseri: Came home from vacation to 100s of snails in fishtank. My DD’s snails mated. Oops. Open to suggestions.

So proud of my kids! Not one argument today! Oh, wait…my son’s away at camp. Nevermind

I just submitted a guest post to a blog geared to writers. I’m giving advice. Brace yourselves.

@KathleenOverby Good morning. We’ve got plenty here. Would you like some suffocating humidity, too? (in reply to KathleenOverby Good morning @katdish. RT Thx 🙂 It is STILL raining. I’m done. Tapping out. Send sun.)

@JeanneDamoff The writing is stellar, but the cowboy hat puts him over the top I think. in reply to JeanneDamoff @katdish Seriously. What is it about some dude in a cowboy hat? (Who just happens to write stories that wring your heart out. But still.)

@JeanneDamoff “Mowing the grass crack”. Snort! (in reply to JeanneDamoff @katdish Hey, congrats on surpassing @billycoffey in followers. And 50 points for the “mowing the grass” crack.)

@JeanneDamoff Exactly (in reply to JeanneDamoff @katdish Wait . . . you’re putting off procrastinating? So, you’ll procrastinate tomorrow then?)

@JeanneDamoff I’m good. I’m putting off procrastinating going to the store.

@SBeeCreations Really? So if I tweeted say, Baby Daddy is a DJ I met at a wedding, I’d be golden? (in reply to SBeeCreations @katdish you need to tweet about weddings, babies, and DJs if you are looking for the quick follow)

You too, @RobinMArnold! Snort!

You rock, @boomerarnold! Thank you!

But I’m going to enjoy my 15 minutes of fame.

YESH! I have surpassed @billycoffey in followers! Of course, he’ll tweet something about mowing the grass & get 100 more followers.

@salamicat My first name is Kathy, my maiden name is Dishman. Hence, katdish

@MarketerMikeE Wait…you scrapbooked? Not sure seeing the A-Team redeems your man card. You should probably cut the head off a snake. (in reply to MarketerMikeE @SeeJaneSell yes lost man card after scrapbooking. Then got it back after watching A-Team.)

@salamicat My twitter name? You mean katdish? That’s not just my twitter name. It’s been my nickname forever (in reply to salamicat @katdish Did you know that the entire reason I followed you originally is because of your twitter name? I love it)

Oooo! We’re tied!

@shrinkingcamel Why thank you, Brad. I would follow myself, but tweetdeck won’t let me. (in reply to shrinkingcamel @katdish I would follow you twice, if that were allowed…)

Tuna casserole…

@RobinMArnold I need 2 more followers to pass @billycoffey. Maybe I should tweet tuna casserole (in reply to RobinMArnold @katdish I imagine we’ll both get them. Last night I tweeted my tuna casserole, now I have folks who know to cook better following.)

@KathleenOverby Sorry/you’re welcome. (in reply to KathleenOverby @katdish love the way your last two posts indulge my bi-polar inclinations. Angels had me tearing up, recap had me laughing. iScared)

And I just had a nekkid person send me a friendship request on facebook. That’s never happened before.

Gotta love the clever spam commenters: Love your writing. Keep up the good work. – Mr. Viagra

What makes us laugh

When I go to the local bookstore, I browse for books much like I browse for clothes. I know what I like, but I’m always open to something a little out of my comfort zone. Which is why I made an impulse buy. I bought this book:

I wouldn’t say it’s full of profanity, but it’s got its fair share. But that’s not necessarily a deal breaker when I buy a book. I bought the book because the first reaction to the cover–I laughed. Then I read a few pages and laughed some more. And while I don’t agree with many of Denis Leary’s political and social views, I must admit he presents some pretty good examples of the sense of ridiculous entitlement many Americans indulge in.

But here’s where the book falls short for me–the snark (while sometimes needlessly cruel IMO) is funny at first, but after awhile it just sounds like a really grumpy, angry rant against anyone or anything that happens to piss him off. After awhile, it gets tired. Not funny anymore.

This got me wondering about what makes people laugh and why. After I googled it some in-depth search, I found an interesting article in Psychology Today. In part, it says:

“Over the past few years, laughter researchers have come to realize that the element of surprise was fundamental to most jokes…What Clarke realized was that while most jokes are surprising, the reason they are surprising is because everyone has an inborn pattern recognition system. It is the violation of standard patterns we find funny. And this violation is a universal.”

I suppose this is why, in part, Leary’s book ceased being funny for me. After the first several pages, everything he wrote was fairly predictable.

I think what we laugh at say much about our character.

Most of us have seen America’s Funniest Videos. We laugh when people fall off of bikes or fall down, but most of us would not find it funny without the disclaimer at the beginning of the show that “no one was seriously injured in the making of these videos”. Knowing that folks are okay gives us permission to laugh. (Well, that and the fact they sent the videos in in the first place.)

I hate to write a quasi-serious post about humor, but as someone who loves to laugh and loves to make others laugh, it’s disconcerting to me that so much of what we laugh at these days seems to be at the expense of others–often without their knowledge or permission.

The old adage still holds true: Laugh with them, not at them. If a person can laugh at themselves, they’re giving you permission to join in.

And now I will share a joke:

If you want to be a holy man, you have to be committed. When you make a decision you cannot waver in any way. You’d never see Gandhi during a hunger strike sneaking into the kitchen in the middle of the night. “Gandhi, what are you doing down there?” “I, um, I thought I heard a prowler and was going to hit him over the head with this giant bowl of potato salad.” – Jim Carrey

Okay. Your turn. Tell me a joke. Make me laugh.

Don’t worry — I’m easily amused…

Safe passage Captain Phil

image courtesy of photobucket.com

I’ve been a fan of the show Deadliest Catch since it debuted in 2005. I’ve seen just about every episode and I have looked forward to each season with anticipation. But this year I have been watching each week with a sense of trepidation and sadness, knowing that Captain Phill Harris of the Cornelia Marie would not survive the season. It’s been a difficult season to watch. I realize it’s just a tv show, but these are real people with really hard lives. They drink. They smoke. They cuss. They yell and scream at each other. But I cheer them on every year, because they’re real. And maybe their brokenness is what I identify with so much.

My favorite captain has always been Captain Phil Harris. Of all the crab boat captains, he seemed to have the biggest heart and the smallest ego. It seems as if he took care of everyone else except himself, and I think I identify with him most of all. His hard living caught up to him this season. He passed away after suffering a stroke in his quarters aboard the Cornelia Marie. As sad as it was to watch, it seems almost fitting that the boat he gave so much of his life to would be the place his life ended. (He didn’t actually die on the boat, but the stroke ultimately resulted in his death.) I don’t have any deep, spiritual truths about the passing of Captain Phil. I suppose I could draw some analogies if I wanted to. But I don’t want to. Just wanted to say, Goodbye, Captain Phil. You will be missed.

Building your Platform

“You need to build your author platform.”

If you’re a writer seeking agent representation and/or looking to get your manuscript published, those words rank right up there with:

“It’s not you, it’s me”

and

“We need to talk.”

But it may not be as difficult as you might think. I’m certainly no expert, but I’ve learned a thing or two about how to effectively market an up and coming author on the internets over the past year, and I’m sharing a few of my secrets over at Author Culture today. Hope to see you there.


Billy Coffey’s debut novel Snow Day will be released in October of this year. Stay tuned for more details…

Twitter: What’s the point?

A few weeks ago, I attended a dinner party at the home of my husband’s boss and his wife. It was an intimate gathering—four couples. It’s a relatively new company, and the hosts thought it would be a good way for everyone (the wives especially) to put faces to names.

As often is the case in such gatherings, there was much small talk. A conversation which began as the merits of Mac versus PC (or vice versa depending on whether you’ve partaken in the Apple Kool-aid) soon turned to Facebook. Our host asked everyone at the table, “Who of you here has a Facebook account?” My husband was the only one who did not answer in the affirmative. Everyone had an opinion:

“There are people I don’t want to find me”

“I found my best friend from elementary school.”

It’s a great way to keep up with family and friends and see the latest pictures of the grand kids.”

“Facebook is your life, only edited.”

To the last comment I responded, “Facebook status updates are like a never-ending Christmas letter. I have a Facebook account (two actually), but I prefer Twitter.”

Guess who was the only person at the table with a twitter account.

“I tried twitter…I don’t get it.”

“What’s the point of Twitter anyway?”

This left me momentarily speechless—a fairly rare occurrence. Because how does one answer that question?
What is the point of Twitter?

My response was, “What do you want the point of Twitter to be? It can be different things to different people.”

So I posed this question on Twitter and got some interesting responses:

@CandySteele said: I love being able to connect with people and not worry about the spinach in my teeth.

@sarahmsalter said: For the first couple of months I was on Twitter I felt the same way. Then, I “met” you. And @weightwhat. And @Helenatrandom. Et al.

@Helenatrandom said: Socializing. Here is where I group together with my cyber friends, much the same way I used to gather on the great big cubes in Alumni Hall with my friends in college. It is a cyber gathering space. Why not use a chat room? Because that isn’t where my friends are gathering. Does that make me a “follower”. Perhaps. So what?

@marni71 said: Interaction with other snarks. I’m not being snarky in saying that though. And I find I’m challenged (in a good way) by differing opinions and beliefs of others I meet on here. But mostly…snark.

@kellyatlovewell said: I tell people Twitter (for me) is like a huge chat room with some of my favorite online people in it. It’s a lifeline for SAHMs.

@IanAClifford said: Twitter has put me in touch with people I wouldn’t normally be in touch with and sending short messages is normally all I have time for.

@duane_scott said: The point of twitter is connecting with readers and interesting people. A major time killer.

@Davidmota said: Twitter is the place where I get encouraged by other Believers across the world.

@Pauharri said: I feel twitter is so honest and open to anyone I mean you can twitter someone famous,or twitter your neighbour anyone.

@forthegirls said:To expand beyond school, community and family (bc that’s what FB has for me) twitter offers new perspectives!

@NEgraceful said: It’s an easy way to click over to posts quickly. Also, gives me a high ’cause I get followers faster than on blog!

@ Brian_Russell said: Twitter is my place for the comments my mom always told me to keep to myself.

@MarilynYocum said: Twitter: Having a sense of what others are doing/thinking/reading. Trusting them to point out good things, but not overwhelm me.

@BretMcCormick said: Great question….blogging 140 characters at a time is all my ADHD can withstand.

@KathleenOverby said:Twitter is fine tuned. Succinct. Instant conversation. 🙂 Facebook makes me feel sooooooo lonely. A facade somehow? 1000 Friends.??

@mxings said: (in response to Kathleen) FB does not make me feel lonely, but it makes me feel like I am neglecting people, a status does not seem 2B enough.

@jeremypeterson said:Quick thoughts and replies w/o having to deal with dumb things like farmville or mafia 🙂

@togetherforgood said: I’m a fan of facebook. Because none of my “real life” friends are on twitter. I don’t really “get” social media, I think.

@mxings said: I would agree. Twitter can be whatever you want it to be — I prefer it because I feel I have more choice in following/friending There are 2 at work who always say, “Why would I want to tell everyone every time I take a piss?” & the look ‘end of discussion’.

@NovelHelp said: Connecting with people who have similar interests and to learn from their experience and/or help with mine.

@mmerubies said: Twitter is for conversation that completely broadens my horizons.

@jpwire said: Twitter makes me less lonely. other really whacked out people to connect with. LOL.

@SBeeCreations said: Started as a marketing tool &is now an extended network of caring, compassionate, funny friends I don’t know how I survived without.

@UntanglingTales said: I twitter b/c it’s idea-connect w/ greater efficiency than blogging– w/ (frequently) the convenient connection to the actual blog.

@okiewife said: I love twitter for the connections with ordinary but witty folks, uplifting blogs, and all the patriotic love of America comments.

@WriteOnRideOn said: Global communication. Worldwide interaction with people I may never have met otherwise. Mutual support+encouragement. Fun. Writing. Plus, I’m with ya on the FB deal. I don’t do FB. I don’t want to dredge up the past or interact only w/people I already know. Plus, I love the potential and unexpected surprises on Twitter. Love sending out a tweet and meeting new people out of the blue.:) ..without FB “will you be my friend” stuff. I’d rather have public Twitter timeline w/news, friends, writing, shared interests.AND sometimes I actually manage to say what I need to say in 140char or less. I know. Hard to believe right now. LOL :o)

I also received a couple of heartfelt direct messages:

Re: Twitter. Sometimes, I just don’t know. Sometimes I feel it’s just another way to feel lonely as I probably don’t have the outgoing personality to make friends as I see others do. I find it disheartening at times. But when I’m away, I miss it. Go figure.

(a mutual friend) said that I add sunshine to everyone’s day on Twitter. And that surprised me, because in real life, people are always telling me that I’m too much. Too loud. Too fast. Too much. I’m rarely myself because being myself is too much. Too annoying. And I often fear that I’m too much on Twitter, too. Too talkative. Too chatty. Too open. Too “myself.” But she said that the miracle of the Internet is that it allows weirdos like us to discover that we’re not alone. And that’s what it’s done for me. I’ve found a group of people that don’t just TOLERATE me. They CELEBRATE me. (Does it make me pathetic that I’m actually crying while I type this?) I feel like I found a treasure when I found you guys. (Or did you find me?) I don’t care. I just thank God we found each other. I was afraid to laugh or to be silly. I had been led to believe that grown-ups don’t do that. Y’all taught me different.

So there you go. For those of you who are not on the twitter, those are several reasons people choose to connect there. And if you are on twitter, and missed sharing your thoughts on twitter, what’s the point for you?

The People Next Door (by Billy Coffey)

image courtesy of photobucket.com

I never knew their names, never even saw their faces, and so for a week they were referred to as The People Next Door.

That sort of thing tends to happen a lot when you’re on vacation. You share space with people who are on different schedules and live different lives. The one thing that ties us all together is the fact that we’re all sharing a building that overlooks an ocean.

There is an implied non-intervention pact between the temporary residents of the hotel. We nod and say good morning on the elevators and in the hallways, but that’s where our societal responsibilities end. Aside from that, we are ensconced in our own familial lives.

The only loophole as far as The People Next Door and me was the late nights, when we found ourselves on the balconies outside our respective rooms. I was on mine to get some writing done while the family slept inside. They were on theirs to watch the people on the boardwalk below and the dark blue water. All that separated us was a five-inch wooden partition that offered much privacy of sight but little privacy of sound.

So I typed and listened, and they stared and spoke.

Husband and wife. Older, by the sound of them. Empty nesters, perhaps. Enjoying life or trying to.

“It’s pretty, isn’t it?” the woman said on the first night.

“Very,” said the man.

“I think I could sit here and listen those waves all night.”

“Hmm.”

I divided my mind between the sentence I was writing and the analysis of the man’s answer— “Hmm.” Not necessarily agreement. That would have required a “-mm” at the end: “Hmm-mm.” But there was none. I supposed that last little part could have been drowned out by the series of waves that crashed just below us, but I doubted it. It was just “Hmm,” and nothing else. Not an agreement. A question.

The next night brought more and livelier conversation. Two towels had been draped over their railing, peeking at me as they flapped in the warm breeze.

“Did you enjoy your day?” the woman asked.

“I did,” the man answered. There was more conviction in his voice than the night before. A good thing. “The book I’m reading is getting good.”

“The book?” she said. “You can read a book at home. What about the weather or the beach? The dinner?”

“Oh they were fine,” he said. “Really just…fine.” And then, perhaps to steer the conversation another way—

“Did you enjoy your day?”

“Yes,” she said. “Those teenagers don’t have much in the way of modesty, do they?”

“No,” he said, “they surely don’t.”

“It was crowded today.”

“Yes.”

“And sandy.”

“Well,” he said, “it is the beach, dear.”

“Yes.”

“So did you enjoy yourself?”

“Yes.”

But I wondered.

I’ll be honest—the next night I went out onto the balcony more to listen than to write. I wasn’t disappointed. They weren’t simply speaking more, they were saying more.

“Three days left,” the man said. “Will you be sad to go?”

The woman left that question unanswered by saying, “I’ve had a nice time so far.”

“Do you think we made the right decision?”

Silence, and in that silence was her answer—not a no, but not a yes either. The in-between answer of a divided heart.

“Do you remember the night you proposed to me?” she asked him. “You gave me that ring and I cried like a baby.”

“I seem to remember I was doing my own share of crying,” he said.

“I don’t think we should have sold it.”

More silence. Then the man said, “We don’t need a ring to let people know we love each other. And you’ve always wanted to see the ocean. It’s a long drive from Missouri. Gold’s worth a lot nowadays.”

“Three days left,” she said.

There was no towels draped over the railing the next night. No teasing. No conversation. Just the silence. So much so that after a while I did the unthinkable and craned my head around the wooden partition. Darkness.

They had left a day early.

I supposed the man was right. They didn’t need a ring. Taking his bride to a place she’d always wanted to see was a wonderful gift. A loving gift.

But I wondered. Making new memories that comfort us is a good thing, I thought. But not by sacrificing old memories that sustain us.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at his blog What I Learned Today and follow him on twitter at @BillyCoffey

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