Wednesday, July 31, 2013


…How’s your week going?
I haven’t been productive enough and, thus, I’m a little disappointed in myself.

…Last night there were 25 people over at my house.  On Saturday there will be another 25.  I guess that means it’s summer on the lake.

…I got one agent rejection already.  I’m aiming for 100.

…My favorite animals are giraffes.  Next would be deer.  They’re so graceful and lithe. 
How about you?

…I saw this little news feature and thought it was kind of cute:

They said it wouldn't work but after a lifetime together, Helen and Les Brown proved everyone wrong.

The California couple and high school sweethearts, who were both born on the same day and celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary this year, died one day apart: Helen passed away on July 16, and Les died the next day. They were 94.

"It was a real love match, wasn't it?" their oldest son, Les Jr., said.  They were together every day for 75 years."

The Long Beach lovebirds eloped on Sept. 19, 1937, and were married against their own parents' wishes, according to their sons. Helen was from a working-class family, while Les was from a wealthier one. Both sides believed the love would never last, but the two embodied the meaning of their wedding vows "for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part."

Monday, July 29, 2013


…I don’t know if I entirely believe in the adage that “Timing is everything,” but often it’s true.
My office is on the third floor.  It’s an incredibly nice space, with books shelves, a mini fireplace, and a fine view of the lake.
Above me, high up on the lofted ceiling that forms a spire, rests a small chandelier.  Yesterday when I went up to the office with my puppy, I noticed bits of dust and debris on the carpet, then a bunch of white stuff that looked like clumps of cocaine all over my chair.  Looking up, I saw that the chandelier had pulled out of the ceiling.  The cord is still attached, but the light fixture is several feet lower, dangling inches from where the top of my head would have been were I sitting down.
How freaky would it have been to be sitting there, typing away while the sky starts to fall?
So, yeah, timing is often key.  Timing, or luck.

…Yesterday I started a fire outside to burn a heap of tree branches and various detritus and while doing so I burned the hell out of my finger.
Just thought I’d whine a little.

…So, I’m back from the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference that took place here in Seattle.  I’m not sure that I got much out of it, and I won’t be going again, but the opportunity to have face time with agents and editors was worth the price.
Here’s how that part works:
It’s much like speed dating, and very stressful.
When the doors open, a hundred or more of us cram into a room where 28 agents and editors are lined up against a wall, with five inches between them.
We stand in a line, in front of whichever person we want to pitch.  When a bell rings, the person in front of the line takes a chair in front of their preferred agent, while 28 others do the same, all of us nearly shoulder-to-shoulder.
Then there’s four minutes to make your pitch, and hopefully hook your agent enough for them to ask you to send some sample pages of your manuscript.
This goes on for one and a half hours.
Did I mention that it’s very stressful? 
I had seven agents ask to see my manuscript(s), and yesterday when I got home, I shot them off.  So we’ll see.

…The other interesting part of the conference was a panel called “The First Page.”
Here, you go into a room where there are six editors lined up.  A moderator readers the first page of your book.  (I didn’t bring one, because I didn’t realize I was supposed to.)
As the moderator reads, any of the editors lifts his or her hand at the point they would stop reading.  When three hands go up, the moderator stops and the editors tell why the story didn’t work for them.
It was a bit like a literary “America’s Got Talent.”
Sometimes the editors’ comments were cruel:
“I had no idea what was going on.”
“I was bored.”
“It was very choppy.”
“I had nothing invested in it.”
“It sounded like someone talking about themselves at a cocktail party.”
“This is supposed to be a thriller, and I was anything but thrilled…”
Imagine spending a year, or years, working on a novel that is likely finished, and hearing that.
Yikes again.
Anyway, I’m home and that’s done, but I’ve got to ship out my book(s) to the agents I didn’t get to pitch, and then I need to get my ass writing.

…Here are some things I like for a Monday:

“As it has been said: Love and a cough cannot be concealed. Even a small cough. Even a small love.” Anne Sexton

"There's nothing like a crisis to define who you are." Dexter Morgan, "Dexter"

"Every story is a mystery."
"We wouldn't need fiction if reality made sense." Bob Kaye

"The work an unknown good man has done is like a vein of water flowing hidden underground, secretly making the ground green." Thomas Carlyle

"There's always something you have to give up for success.  Everything comes at a cost.  What are you willing to pay?" Serena Williams

"Life is no brief candle to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations." George Bernard Shaw

"The ideas that have lighted my way have been kindness, beauty and truth." Albert Einstein

"I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving: To reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it, -- but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor." Oliver Wendell Holmes

Thursday, July 25, 2013


…Something that makes me really happy is driving down the freeway, stuck in traffic, looking in your rear view, and seeing the driver in the car behind you singing to a song all out, head swinging, bopping, shoulders lifting, the whole works.
That makes me smile, as I did so on I-5 yesterday, enduring a two hour drive to the writer’s conference I’m presently attending.

…I wonder if I’ll ever write a novel good enough to actually get published (I wonder that several times a day).  I wonder if I’ll ever find an agent who likes gritty novels enough to pursue editors and publishers.  I wonder if people/readers even like that sort of writing.  I write dark.  It’s that simple.
What do you think?

I hope you have a fantastic weekend.
To help you get starting having a fantastic weekend, here are a few interesting/fun Facebook posts from this week:

-If there was a war between the days of the week, everyone would gang up and destroy Monday. They'd make Monday their bitch.

-Momma said to be the best at something. i chose "failing."

-im loosely planing to couch surf in the fall again. who would be exciitted for me to come use the internet 12 hours a day on their sofa? interested in all offers but, especialy looking for high-energy environments and reliable wifi.. dogs R a plus (that’s his syntax and punctuation, not mine.)


-I had the best day ever. I'm pretty sure it was in August of 1992.

-I had me TWO sugar daddies in bed last night! They were ONLY a dollar at the BG Dollar Store

-Dear Tom Petty, I disagree. The waiting is NOT the hardest part. In fact, waiting might be the easiest part. WORKING is the hard part. Get off the drugs, you hippie.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


…There’s a hairpin turn about a mile from my house called “Devil’s Elbow” because so many people have wiped out on it, including my son, who totaled his car a few months ago going around it at 30+ miles per hour when the maximum speed is 15 MPH.
He, or the curve in the road, inspired this story that was published yesterday at Orion headless:

…Tomorrow I’m attending The Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference in Seattle.  I wish I was a little more excited about it, but I’m hoping my lack of enthusiasm will dissipate and it’ll be one of those things that ends up being way better that one thinks.
My only goals are making connections, meetings some people, re-engaging with a friend I met there last year, and hopefully, hopefully, finally finding an agent.

…I wrote the poem below a long time ago.  It’s never found a home and I’ve posted it here before.  I don’t know why I like it so much, but I do:

This Is Not a Love Poem

You are in Switzerland noshing patchwork cheese,
buying wristwatches with Andre or Gary.
The sun is gentle and restrained on your faces.
A breeze kicks up enough that your hair flounces around your cheek
while seeding the air
with the honeysuckle notes of your perfume,
and at this moment
on our very planet
there could not be a more lovely creature
than you.

Over here
there’s no yellow brick road
so  I’m heading off to where
the trails are paved with razors pointed topside,
sticking up jaggedly,
a billion blades
of glinting metal teeth.
To get where I need to go
requires more than faith and
means taking a blood bath.

You should be so thrilled.
Perhaps you can toss confetti across your gazpacho
or shoot up the next guy to slip you the finger.

Mind you, this is not a love poem.

Mind yourself
and mine those men with their ceramic smiles
and candy cane eyes,
their Dudley Do-Right jaws as reliable as oxbows.
Take them in the crux of your kiss,
your armpit
or crotch
for all I care.
Crush them like scrawny spiders or
choke them with a designer garrote,
but leave me out of it,
I’m busy.

When I brushed my teeth this morning
they bled inky black, liquid licorice.
I tried gargling with salt water but that did nothing to stem the flow,
the blow as it were,
so the doctor has fitted me with this muzzle thing
and now the only way I’m able to convey how much I hate you
is to type it
like I’m doing right now.

Monday, July 22, 2013


…I had this published at Orion headless today:

…In case you missed it, there was some interesting, and odd news last week.
In one story, a lady stabbed her neighbor while screaming, "Everyone knows I had sex with my cat."  (Really, she did.)  Apparently she really did have sex with her cat and everyone in her neighborhood knew about it.

…In another story a man was accused of drinking $102,000 worth of historical whiskey from a historical inn in Pittsburg.  Evidentially he polished off more than 52 bottles of the stuff.

..A pot pipe was found in a four year-old's Burger King kids meal in Michigan.

…In another, Satanists, wearing black hooded capes and horns besieged a cemetery to protest the wacky Westmore Baptist church.  Lesbians Satanists (now there's a label) took turns making out and fondling each other while draped over various headstones.

…On Friday, Microsoft shares fell more than 11 percent on Friday, their biggest plunge in more than four years.  About $34 billion was wiped off Microsoft's market value on Friday, exceeding the size of rival Yahoo Inc.

..Oh, yeah, and Detroit filed for bankruptcy.

…I wrote this a while back and it was published in Pure Slush:

                                                                      One Great Love
She was a constipated mail-order bride who had yet to arrive. So he sent her emails and texts in her foreign language, sometimes misspelling words. Eventually, he even reverted to old-fashioned letters.
After a while, he wondered if she was real. The advertisement claimed she was and he had had those initial contacts with her. He’d sent money, too, via his credit card over the internet.
Afterward she, or the website, kept updating her life. New photos showed she’d gained a little weight and now had an adorable muffin top. She wore less jewelry and had cut her hair in an choppy bob. He adjusted his computer settings so her images could be magnified, yet the closer he looked the less he could tell if she was happy or content.
His friend told him he was being played, that he’d be best off calling The Better Business Bureau, yet he didn’t want to spoil his chances of meeting her by looking flakey and indecisive.
Even though the flights sometimes arrived late, he showed up at the airport each Monday an hour early. He knew many of the TSA agents and, for fear of being thought a terrorist, he was always overly polite while waiting as close to the exit gates as allowed. One of the uniformed women was nearly a granny and she often greeted him with a sad little pouch of a smile, as if she was disappointed or depressed for him. But she couldn’t possibly know, could never understand.
This was the great love of his life. His father had told him we only get one of those, and his father had demonstrated as much, waiting by his wife’s bedside as she struggled, then withered, then died.
While driving to the airport, he played mix tapes of songs he thought his future wife would enjoy. He constantly rehearsed his greeting. He was going to make a good first impression if it killed him.
One day she sent a Friend Request through social media and his heart soared. She was so glad he hadn’t given up on her. She missed him, too. Times were very rough in her country and her mother had grown sick. He told her he knew what that was like. Be patient, she said, and he told her would, no matter how long.
Then they started talking on the phone. For hours they spoke. As incredible as it was, he fell even more in love with her.
Their impasse went on for months, years, decades, and still they kept communicating. On his death bed, a very old man now, he imagined what their life would have been like if they’d ever physically met. Almost every married couple divorced, often in bitter dispute, and so he realized they’d been spared all that. Smiling as he passed away, he said her name aloud, said, “I love you,” and whether it was true or not, he believed that somewhere, wherever she was, she heard him.

Friday, July 19, 2013


…Are you ready for the weekend?  It’s so foggy here, I can’t even see to the other side of the lake.
My puppy is uber hyper, running in circles around my office.  She should be tuckered out in a few minutes.

Here’s a story I wrote a while ago that will appear in my collection due out around November:


            My father’s hands fit around my throat. 
At first his arm floats over my shoulder as we watch television while seated on the couch.  The room smells musty and damp, of ash and fish sticks.  On the tube they’re considering a rain delay at Camden Yards and I fix my eyes on a player’s jersey and tighten my focus further, concentrating on the image of the bird that I know is an oriole only because it’s the team mascot.  I realize then that I can only name four or five different birds, about the same number of flowers I can identify, and it hits me hammer-hard like it always does, this feeling that he might be right about me after all, that I might be stupid, and like muscle memory acting on impulse a surge of worthlessness sluices through me and my skin burns hot and gets rashy and its suddenly a trick to breathe, so I picture that comic oriole again and I flick my eyes at it and lash out with imaginary fists and I kick the crap out of it with my brain, sending it a message to fly the hell away, and I’m so desperate at this point for control that I’m about to throw an ashtray through the tube when my father’s fingers clasp the back of my neck.
My father’s hand is loose at first, as if just balancing there, like a head rest, but then the pressure comes and the fingers pinch and dig and the nails bite, especially one that’s jagged and has been chewed up, and I wonder if I will bleed or faint.
            I change my view and I find his gun on the coffee table, the holster flapped over it like a rubber chicken, like a giant scab.  Why not use that on me, I think, but I know the answer.  The pistol is for killing criminals, hands are for family.
            One time I watched him beat Mother so bad I shocked myself.  Until then, I had no idea I could tolerate such evil.  Violence that raw can be riveting, its own special kind of sin, and I sat in the corner with my knees up to my forehead and every once in awhile I’d wince or close my eyes but only for a second, as if I was afraid I’d miss out on a potential prize if I didn’t pay attention.  My father’s strength is not anger but persistence.  He didn’t let up because Mother kept calling him this thing or that thing and then she had to go and bring up his being an officer of the law and saying, “You’re more wicked than the ones you lock… up.”  He caught her sharp on the word “lock”--uppercut to the jaw, and the blow stuck so perfect and solid that a tooth flew out of her mouth and nicked me in the cheek and, even though that was several years ago, if you met me today or noticed me standing in line at a coffee shop you’d still observe that crescent scar two inches below my left eye.  You’d see it and think it was nothing. 
            On TV they’re unrolling plastic mats that look like the world largest tortillas.  We had Mexican food once when Mother was still around and the waitress stared at me so much that I started squirming in the booth and couldn’t stop and Mom told me to go to the bathroom, and when I said I didn’t have to, she said, “Well, I do,” and while she was gone I saw Dad grab the waitress’s buttocks in back where her apron strings dangled.  The waitress pulled away, flushed but happy, and she spoke with her voice a cross between a whisper and a gargle and said, “Not in front of the kid,” and it was the relaxed state of her eyes that led me to believe my father and the waitress were an item and that it was no accident he’d picked this restaurant.
            There have been other women.  They come and go.  He brings them or they show up.  One time a loud pounding came from the front door and then a low, groaning sound and I thought someone had shot a dog and left it on our stoop.  When I got up to see what it was, my father grabbed me by the hair and yanked so hard that I fell backward.  After awhile, that lady must have given up because she wasn’t there in the morning even though a periwinkle high heeled shoe was.
            It’s funny the things you think right before you die.  It’s all a surprise to me, same as how calm I am.  I see now the bird as a logo on a wall by a bank advertisement, and that oriole is flat and two-dimensioned, orange-breasted and stationery, no more able to fly than me.
The people in the stadium have filed out except for one pair huddled up near the top row of the grandstands.  Sheets of silver rain pelt them at an angle.  The camera zooms in.  It’s a man and his son and they’re wearing yoke-yellow slickers and eating sandwiches and one of the announcers is chuckling so hard I think he might choke and the other is saying, “That’s one wet picnic.”
            It goes black for a moment—the television, the room, this world and the universe we inhabit.  People always talk about there being a light at the other side, off in the distance, but there’s not one in my ending.  No, there’s just this edgeless blanket of ink.  I feel my way through it.  At least I think that’s what I do because I can only sense my hands, I can’t see them, but then just like that I can.  My hands are stretched out in front of me and the room reappears in the same sludgy colors with the same fried fish odors and I’m gasping, gasping, gasping, and when I collect myself I think, There I go again, surprising myself once more, wanting to live after all.

            I look at the gun again.  I’ve never used one before but I figure, how hard can it be?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


…I ran eight miles outside this morning.  It feels good to sweat.

…This came to my inbox this am:
"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." Eleanor Roosevelt
It’s a little bit corny, but I like it and I think it’s true.

…The hardest part about having a puppy is when you’re right in the middle of writing a tense scene and your pup decides it needs to go to bathroom, and does so on your carpet, without warning.
Otherwise, puppies are wonderful.

…Just thought I'd mention that Adam Sandler's "Grown Ups 2" was the second highest grossing movie last week. 
7% of critics rated it favorably, while 90% of audiences did.
The last movie I saw was “Moonrise Kingdom,” a real gem.  Truly.

…It’s great to read a really fantastic book.  It’s a little sad to know I’ll never be able to write as good as the author of that book, especially Tim O’Brien, whose “If I Die In A Combat Zone” I’m parceling out over a long period.

…Magazines are sure getting thin nowadays—Esquire, Rolling Stone, Men’s Health…  I wonder how many will still be around in three years.

Here are some random things I recently learned:

…71% of American barbecue on the 4th of July

…54% of women aged 18-25 said they would rather get hit by a truck than be fat.

…67% of all Americans want to lose weight, and on average they want to lose 42 pounds

…42% of all children aged 4 to 11 years have a detectable level of blood continine, an indicator of exposure to secondhand smoke.

…Binge drinking (five or more alcoholic beverages in a row in the past two weeks) rose to 24% for 12th graders.

…Oprah made $77 million last year.
Madonna made $125 million
Beyonce, $53

Monday, July 15, 2013


…This weekend I saw dolphins and otters and herons and I caught crabs in pots set on the bottom of the Puget Sound, crabs I later ate, and which were delicious, if not also a lot of work to eat.
This weekend I didn’t write a single word, but I think that’s okay.

…Here are funny/fun/interesting things my friends wanted to share on Facebook:

 -Who needs Internet porn when you can watch two people having sex in the grass outside of your local Loews?

-Made out w/a guy & kept my eyes open gonna text him I STARED AT YOUR CLOSED EYELIDS DURING OUR KISS he'll prob be like I'm not marrying this one.

-Today is apparently "meet my exes day".

-Probably never a good idea to call the editor a “bitch” after you receive a rejection.

-Decided to celebrate my birthday by dropping my phone in the toilet.

-Conversation between me and my husband...
Me: Is this shirt too loud?
Les: I can't hear anything.

-I told the young woman who cuts my hair that I went to the Paul McCartney concert at Fenway park this week. She asked, "What song does he do?"

-I overheard a co-worker spelling someone's name over the phone, and I swear she said "’I’, like in inappropriate." It was awesome.

-Last night i dreamed there were drunken poets at my kitchen table reading poems.

-a girl i went to high school with is also in this library but she can't see me. i'm not wearing a bra, mostly because i forgot. i'm listening to 'exile on main street.' i set off the fire alarm this morning making pancakes. what a special day.

-Sometimes I'll be canoeing and see a helicopter and wish my canoe could eat the helicopter.

-Just successfully passed my 4th kidney stone. BOOM.

-You know that song in Mary Poppins about sugar making the medicine go down easier? Well wine does that to laundry, it turns out.
-Nothing sexier than waking up to a man in a Zappa apron making gumbo. Mmmm. I'm a lucky woman.

-Please, do not ask me to play Facebook games. I am weak enough as it is.

-It's hard to explain puns to kleptomaniacs because they always take things literally.

-Today is AMAZING!

Friday, July 12, 2013


…I have a tiny puppy sleeping on my lap as I write this.  She’s warm and oh-so cute.  Her name is Lucy and I think she loves me.   If not “love”, she surely needs me.

…Email/texting/social media communication are all very tricky.  Sometimes a person’s meaning or intent can get misinterpreted.

…Sometimes I worry about things that are out of my control.  I think that’s a sign of weakness.  Sometimes I am weak like that.

…It’s hard to be 2/3rd’s of the way through a novel and know that no one will ever read it.  I realize I should be more noble (what’s the correct word choice here?) about it and just write without worry if the story ever finds an audience, but, honestly, often when I write I’m picturing someone reading and reacting to scenes and images.

…When I was in High School, I was extremely shy.  I’d write poetry for girls I had crushes on but never give it to them.  My Senior year, through a strange set of circumstances, I became best friends with the most popular guy at the school.  He had a very hot girlfriend, kind of a naughty chick with curly blonde hair and candy apple red lipstick.  I used to write him poems to give to her, about her, ala Cyrano De Bergerac.   Sometimes that only seems like a few years ago.

…I wrote this in 2011.  It has recently anthologized at The Doctor T. J.  Eckleburg Review.
(Ivy is one of my favorite names and one of my favorite charactersJ


            She steals.
            I watch her in the wine store.  Instead of going for a normal-sized bottle, she takes a showcased magnum shaped like a black missile. 
Somehow it stays inside her flouncy skirt.
On the counter is a silver platter with three, pie-shaped cuts of brie and a fan of domino crackers.  She filches the entire thing in one swift swoop.
            Outside I say, “You’re amazing.”
            “You need to stop telling me that crap.”
            “But you are.”
            “You just haven’t seen my dark side yet.”
            “You won’t let me.”
            “Well, it might help if you had corrective lenses.”
            We’ve been dating for two years.  Her name is Ivy.  Ink-black hair, cut-across bangs, thin lips that go pink when she’s excited, which is all the time.  I love her so much that I eat razors trying to muster up the right things to say.
            At the book store, Ivy waves her arm around and looks at me with wet eyes.  “Just think,” she says, “someday soon, this whole place will be a Kindle.”
            She steals Charles Baxter’s entire collection, some Beatty and then every Anais Nin.
            “Where do you put all that stuff?” I ask.
            “You weren’t listening.”
            “Yes, I was.”
            “Ah,” Ivy says, potato peeling forefinger-to-forefinger in a Shame-on-you motion, “but you didn’t believe.”
            Ivy claims she has been culled, that someone excavated her against her will.  She won’t say who or anything else, just that.
Once, while I was kissing her, Ivy said, “Go ahead, stick your arm all the way down my throat.”  I chuckled until I realized she was serious, then my jaw locked up.  “Shove it past my tonsil bell,” Ivy said. “See if you can reach down into my belly.  It’s just a big ol’ empty room anyway.”
            I told her to stop screwing around.  I punched her soft on the shoulder as if we were both second-graders.
            “I know you think I’m making this shit up,” Ivy said, “but I’m not.  I’m gutted.  I’m hollow.”
            She grabbed an arm, tried to force my hand into her mouth.  I told her now she was scaring me.
            “Okay,” Ivy said, “but if you forego the proof, then just stop doubting me.” 
            There are things Ivy won’t share.  She only talks about today or tomorrow, the future, never yesterday or before.  The past, she says, is a black hole just like her, so I need to get used to skipping it, or else get a new girlfriend.  Ivy nibbles my earlobe as she warns me, secreting saliva, yet I can tell she means the threat.
            One day we stop by a school.  “Let’s break in,” Ivy says.  I don’t want to, but I’m more afraid Ivy will leave me than I am of getting in trouble with the law.
I crack a window at the building’s north end, and we rummage through desks and leftover backpacks.  We stumble into the hall.  When we get to the band room, Ivy lights up, her lips so pink they border on magenta. 
She jumps over rows of seats to get to the instruments up front, takes a trumpet, two bongos and a tuba.  I don’t know where they go, but she’s got them and they’ve disappeared.
“Let’s get the hell out of here,” Ivy says.
At 7/11, Ivy steals a Slurpee machine.
At a gas station, she steals the debit card instrument panel.
At the pet store, she steals a school of fish and one obnoxious macaw.
At the zoo, Ivy opts for a wiry monkey, then a rhino that bolts to the end of the fence where Ivy dangles a bag of unshelled peanuts coated in Dijon mustard.
After each instance, I tell her the same thing.  “You’re amazing,” I say, wishing I had better words.
She kisses me like a wire brush on the lips and I feel fire. 
            One night we lay on the bed.  I rub Ivy’s stomach through her Syracuse sweatshirt.  Her flesh is flat, pliable.  She says, “Go ahead, push.”
So I do.  I obey. 
My hand sinks.  I force further, worrying I’m hurting her, until Ivy smiles and says, “It’s okay, really.  I don’t feel a thing.”
When Ivy rolls onto her side, I push also through her back until my hands would be touching if it weren’t for Ivy’s two skins.  “Told you,” she says.
            I blink.  My eyes burn.  I get it now.
I roll my cheek up against her neck like a cat, remembering the times Ivy would flinch at certain pronouns, or whenever we were around bald men wearing wire-rimmed glasses and wrist tattoos.
            Ivy says, “Your cheek feels good on my neck, like an important cloud.  That’s the best place for it.”
            I want to explain that no matter how hard she tries, Ivy’s not going to be able to fill what’s been uprooted.  I’d like to tell her that damage doesn’t have to be permanent, that theft can be atoned or forgiven, and that the only reason our planet still spins is because of grace.
            “Hey,” Ivy says, “are you crying?”
            “I’m okay.”
            “What’s up?”  Ivy tries to cock her head around, but I burrow my chin against her shoulder bone like a metal bookend.
            “Steal me,” I whisper. 
Ivy arches her back and I can see the flesh on her ear puckering.

When I say it again--“Steal me, instead”—Ivy takes my hand and puts it to her lips, just holds it there, gripping it tight. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


We are challenged on every hand to work untiringly to achieve excellence in our lifework.  Not all men are called to specialized or professional jobs; even fewer rise to the heights of genius in the arts and sciences; many are called to be laborers in factories, fields, and streets.  But no work is insignificant.  All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.  If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry.  He should sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will pause to say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”  - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Last fall I was asked to speak to 3,000 employees of a large supermarket chain in the Midwest on building customer loyalty and regenerating the spirit in your workplace. 

One of the ideas I stressed was the importance of adding a personal “signature” to your work.  With all the downsizing, re-engineering, overwhelming technological changes and stress in the workplace, I think it is essential for each of us to find a way we can really feel good about ourselves and our jobs.  One of the most powerful ways to do this is to do something that differentiates you from all the other people that do the same thing you do.

I shared the example of a United Airlines pilot who, after everything is under control in the cockpit, goes to the computer and randomly picks several people on board the flight and hand writes them a thank-you note for their business.  A graphic artist I work with always encloses a piece of sugarless gum in everything he sends his customers, so you never throw away any mail from him!

A Northwest Airlines baggage attendant decided that his personal signature would be to collect all the luggage tags that fall off customers’ suitcases, which in the past have been simply tossed in the garbage, and in his free time send them back with a note thanking them for flying Northwest.  A senior manager with whom I worked decided that his personal signature would be to attach Kleenex to memos that he knows his employees won’t like very much. 

After sharing several other examples of how people add their unique spirit to their jobs, I challenged the audience to get their creative juices flowing and to come up with their own creative personal signature.