My mother’s signature…it’s a soul tattoo


Today as I sat luxuriating in a self-induced pamper session at my favorite salon, I noticed a tattoo on my stylist’s arm. An odd kind of squiggle.

I’ve long discovered that every tattoo seems to have a great story behind it. So I asked Angie what was hers.

It was her mother’s signature.

As she rattled on about finding it in the glove box, and the talent of the tattoo artist…I sat there thinking, Wow! It was an arresting moment though Angie little knew it.

Artists sign their work. Authors sign their work. An Angie’s mother? In her own blessed and ordinary way, she was the artist of Angie. As least a co-artist. And now her “work” is forever claimed.

It is impossibly sweet. And sad too. Since the tattoo is a memorial, as many people do, of a loved life lost.

Last night I attended the Senora Butterfly: A Tragic Flamenco Comedy by Kristina de Sacramento, one of the Twin Cities 2012 Fringe Festival events. At the end of the show the cast had us chant what they called the “Fiesta Sing-Along.” It went like this:

“I am me you are you I am me you are you I am me you are you I am me and you are you.”

Tongue-twisters aside, this comes to me now as I think about Angie’s tattoo. The mother-daughter chant is eerily similar I believe. “I am in you, you are in me…”

Now personally (and to hell with Freud as my sister used to quote, I love my mother!), I know this isn’t always the case for everyone. And believe me, many days the empathy factor in me registers off the charts for those who have missed this blessing.

She is me and I am she.

I wondered, did Angie need a tattoo to see her mother’s signature in her life? Or was it woven through the very core of who she was and the wonderful woman she had become?

Wasn’t my mother’s signature already tattooed on me?

Don’t I already look at life through eyes trained by her, a keen observer, with a love of words to bring meaning to the observation?

Am I not an inventor of creation? A conjurer of animal sightings in the wild, and an awestruck pupil of nature’s notable design?

My heart too, stains my sleeves, as a yearning to live life honestly frequently draws blood.

[All this AND a great haircut! Angie is well worth the money I drop here.]

I get the tattoo idea. I love the story too. But I wonder if the real tattoo isn’t on the body, but on the soul? Or is the mark on the world? Or is it in the heart of another that receives the love the loved one offered, long after they are gone?

I experienced that tonight, though I will never see Angie’s mom, nor possibly, ever think of her again. Because of Angie’s tattoo? Or because of the real testimony of who Angie is?

I wondered what tattoo I would choose some fateful day, if fear of pain were not my MO. Maybe:

  • Think of something for us to invent (my mom’s secret hope, that one of us would invent the next toboggan)
  • MOM-WOW (her book about retirement)
  • One for the little red book (her French aunt’s favorite saying)
  • A robin (our yearly bet on who will see the fist one of the season)
  • Javy (our propensity of naming the wild animals around us – Javy 5 is the current chipmunk at the cabin)
  • Her book (she’s publishing at 80 while I am still struggling to finish my first manuscript)

A thousand images to choose from yet not one captures that moment in my head when I recognize her in my own reaction. A delight in the ridiculous that makes her laugh makes me laugh too. Or cry. Or hope. Or believe.

Who am I kidding? I’ll never get over my fear of pain. But tonight, thanks to Angie (and her mom), and my mom too, I am cherishing my first life “tattoo.”

What’s your tattoo story? I bet it is a good one.

I work too much…


I’ve gotten to this place in life, and it’s mostly good. It’s mostly great.

But I work too much.

I was brainstorming strategies over the holidays. Ideas like:

  • Set an alarm when it’s time to start wrapping things up
  • Set a meeting with myself to leave at the end of the day on time
  • Listen to a CD on my iPod and when the last song plays? Go home.

It isn’t like there isn’t a great home to go to at night. It is great.

It’s just that the ideas keep buzzing around and there’s always something else that needs to get done and one more email won’t hurt or to look up that article or that link or to tweet that or quickly draft that or review this or proof all of it because I know it will never get done but it will feel so dang GOOD to get some of it and…

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Google+ = Hmm, let me think


Certainly I support new social platforms. Do not misinterpret this post. But really? Google+ still has me scratching my head in terms of marketing strategy.

Of course I get the “beta” launch idea. Special invites help promote viral growth. Get on the waiting list or finagle an invite from a “friend” from your other social neighborhoods. I did get on the mythical “list.” I did finagle an invite from a friend.

Google never contacted the list as far as I know to say, “Yay! You’re welcome in now, we’ve proved our point.” And frankly, the wow factor wasn’t there to keep me staying tuned for more information.

I watched the experts weigh in.

I watched my friends weigh in.

I got an invite. But then my dad got sick. And house projects came. And work got busy.

Today I decided to discover Google+. What the heck, I thought, I want to see if this is somewhere I want to be.

I clicked on my invite. I waited for the browser to load. I got Google’s message: We no longer support this browser version.


It occurred to me that if Google+ is a neighborhood that I am being asked to join it reminds me of the scary ones I visited when searching to buy my home. Ill lit. Keep out signs posted.

Facebook appears a shining beacon of Utopia in comparison and believe me, I have my own love-hate relationship with FB

So as a writer I should be able to equate Google+ to something colorful, right?

Google+ = A flashy amusement park with no clear entrance.

Google+ = An Escher drawing with conflicting staircases.

I do know some people are hanging in there, I can hear them. But admit it, there is a certain apathy about how they talk about it, isn’t there?

Maybe I’ll buy a flash light and ask IT to upgrade my browser. And yes, I could go to the site and sign in/up/whatever again, but I don’t know. My social incentive is pretty low right now.

I have started to feel that Google views us as all as a restless mob roaming to find greener grass just over the hill and that any grass will do. “See, look at this patch,” they say, pointing to the far off Google+.

Maybe we are.

But do we really need another Twitter or Facebook? Wouldn’t it be totally awesome to cross over that hill and discover something entirely new that stops us in our tracks for a moment, breathless at the ingenuity and panache? Something that actually lets people in?

I vote for awesome.

Soul reboot


I’m a bird watcher.

Not the, “Oh look it’s a yellow-tailed thingermaroo” kind of watcher. More like the “I’d like to fly away from this mess I find myself in too” kind of watcher.

Tonight, tired and a little depressed, I sat at the light on an off-ramp in St. Paul absently watching the sky.

Flapping into my sight line came a chord or two of musical birds. Poetry in motion as they soared up peaks and cruised down valleys.

It took only a second to register that the birds’ graceful flight was intersecting with several power lines creating a perfectly symmetrical musical staff.

Up and down the scale they flew, creating soundless sonatas. Then, one lone note, flying high above the staff, the clear pure flute holding me in awe of its haunting melody…overcome at last by the next wave of orchestral delight.

Then the light turned green.

It was refreshing. A soul reboot.

Keep your eyes open, folks. Life is waiting to surprise and delight you, if you are willing.


This writing gig…


I was just sent this infographic from a friend. He found it in The writing process by Ed Yong, on the Not Exactly Rocket Science blog at

This is Ed’s process for writing features.  He says, “Enjoyment’s on the vertical axis, time runs along the horizontal. This applies to longer features rather than blog posts – those are more straightforward and less emotionally variable.”

Are you tracking “enjoyment” factor in your writing projects?

Still trying to get my head around that. : -)

Getting ideas: A cooperative exercise?


Many thanks to @EcoInteractive). Because of their tweet I just listened to “Where do your good ideas come from,” a TED Talk by Steven Johnson, best-selling author of six books on the intersection of science, technology and personal experience.

I get asked a variation of that question a lot: Where did you get the idea for your book?

I also hear:

  • Where do you get your ideas about your characters?
  • What should I write about on the blog?
  • I just don’t have any ideas
  • I don’t know what to tweet about
  • I don’t want to share my idea yet

Steven’s talk offers the premise that many good to great ideas come through what he calls the “connected network,” whether that be your local coffee shop or a regular meeting of the minds in any office or social community.

Ideas shared upon ideas. Rejected, argued, accepted, slept on, noodled, until the idea, baked to perfection like a Barefoot Contessa souffle, pops out of the oven.

I have to admit, even my so-called best ideas have always been enhanced by sharing with others. This particular novel I am working on has taken many turns after reader feedback. It’s getting tighter, more authentic as I go, and even though many ideas aren’t directly my own per se? I’ve made them my own through personal interpretation to the page.

Steven Johnson said many companies may tend to barricade off their ideas to protect them. Many writers do this too.  To this group I say, “Go ahead and share them. Comfortably.” Comfort level is important. But you may be surprised to find that small group of friends at the local Starbucks offer just the right blend of spice to add richness to your Grande Latte.

So where do I find ideas for writing?

I find it to be true that the daily absorption of data assaulting my senses eventually ends up in something I am writing. Lately, when some interesting bit of info hits my brain it consciously or unconsciously gets stored in a nebulous right or left brain writing folder.

  • At a basic level? Hmm, might be an interesting tweet
  • Blog worthy? Could be
  • Novel idea?
  • Character x could do that
  • That might fit in chapter 18 of x book
  • Interesting pitch for the ad at work
  • Etc.

Some people carry notebooks around. Jot the snippets in for future reference. Others carry a recorder. Or take a pic on their phone. Or send an email to a home account. I did that myself recently. A contact on LinkedIN sent me a funny reply about “socially acceptable following.” Maybe it will work somewhere, someday.

I also:

  • Have a blog folder for print outs of anything interesting that sparks me
  • Keep a Word file for book title ideas
  • Use folders on my PC for various book ideas that I am developing
  • Write on napkins
  • Write on deposit slips
  • Bookmark sites and articles for future research
  • Record character traits that are interesting
  • Snip out pictures from magazines of what a character might look like

Be observant. It helps.

Read body language. Read intonation. Read. Watch the news. Learn history. Speculate about the future. Watch movies. Watch Youtube. Documentaries and sitcoms. See it one way. Ask what is missing? Turn it on its head and say, “Here’s how I would have done it differently.” Night at the Museum is such a great example of thinking different. What if the exhibits came to life?

It can be a lot like when you were a kid and played “connect the dots.” Connect your different information and ideas and it will eventually build a picture worth sharing. Or when you played the game Clue with your family. This idea, with that idea, in the parlor with Colonel Mustard? Bingo.

Chris Brogan even made it easier for bloggers. For a small fee he will give you ideas for your blog. And those ideas might spur articles, or eBooks, or novels. Who knows.

I was in a grocery store once, chatting with the young student bagger. He was telling me about igloos. In Minnesota, especially this winter, it seemed a relevant topic. Apparently one candle will warm an igloo to 60° F. Seems to me, building igloos for the portion of the greater North’s homeless population that doesn’t make it in a shelter isn’t such a wacky idea. The kid got kind of excited. I told him to go make great social changes. If you can make it work? Go for it!

Wherever the ideas are coming from. Keeping writing them. Keep sharing them. One may be great and change the world. One inspire, another make us laugh or cry. All are welcome.

I’m Stuck: Lessons from the Writer’s Block


Whenever I talk to creative people, I am always intrigued by the way they describe the state that they are in at the time.

Some of the comments I hear:

  • I feel such a let down now that the project is done
  • I feel anxious that I am not creating
  • I want to write but nothing is there
  • It’s exhilarating to have all this energy to create
  • Ideas are ganging up inside I can hardly get them out
  • I just want to get this done and move on

Yes, creating is a process. And if there was a graphic to describe it, it might look like this:

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