Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Rule of Six

Everybody thinks what they think is the right way to think,
because nobody wants to think the way they think is wrong...

Isn’t that the truth?

Reminds me of a sign I have in my office: 

Those of you who know me, know this is NOT the way I think (I just got a kick out of the sign at Hobby Lobby). 

Another one of my favorites:

Hence, the Rule of Six (which I mentioned in Saving Gracie).

The Rule of Six works like this:

For any and every perceivable situation think of at least six explanations that may explain that situation. There are probably sixty, but if you can come up with six, this will sensitize you to the varieties of perception and may prevent you from fixating on the first plausible explanation as “the truth.”

Milt Markewitz – Appreciative Sustainability

“Disciplining yourself to think in this way --- maybe this is happening, but on the other hand, maybe that is happening --- keeps you from being rigid in your thinking, which in my tradition is considered to be extraordinarily counterproductive.”


In a parking lot you observe someone pulling into a handicapped spot. Upon exiting their car, you notice no notable disability. What’s the first thing that comes to mind?

1.      Possibly, they’re lazy and have no business parking in a handicapped spot

Okay, that’s one. Now, see if you can come up with another. Maybe something like:

2.      They have a  pace-maker and have been having heart-palpitations that day
3.      They have juvenile arthritis and have battled excruciating movements every day of their life
4.      They are undergoing radiation treatment
5.      Just had the go-ahead from an orthopedic surgeon to remove the boot they’ve been wearing for the past 8 weeks
6.      Are in the recovery process of open-heart surgery

That’s six and if you’re like me, the list could continue.

A personal example:

Several years ago I went with Rich back to his hometown, McHenry, Illinois. We stayed with his mother and one day while she was out running errands, I decided to clean her refrigerator and freezer. In my mind, what I was doing was an act of kindness and something I could do to help my 84 yr. old mother-in-law. Pleased with my endeavor after spending over an hour on the project, I told her what I had done upon her return.

Was she pleased? 

No. In her eyes, she thought I thought she didn’t keep her refrigerator clean enough and saw me as stepping in and almost insulting her by tidying up her mess.

Was she wrong?

Was I wrong?

We just had different perceptions of the same situation…

More examples to think about:
·         someone you know passes by and doesn’t speak
·         teenager lashes out when mom simply inquires “how was school today?” (example from Saving Gracie)
·         someone speeding down the highway

So, try this little mental experiment…

The next time you hear someone making a statement, rather adamantly, like “that’s ridiculous” or “that’s not important,” try silently adding “in your opinion” to the end of their statement.

I’ve found this exercise softens my perception of what conclusions my mind might jump to because more often than not- 

Everybody thinks what they think is the right way to think
Because nobody wants to think the way they think is wrong

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Monday, August 5th, on The Today Show, I watched Lenore Skenazy, founder of FREE RANGE KIDS, talk about the all too familiar “helicopter mom” syndrome. The phrase is no longer headline news. Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, my mom had a healthy concern for my safety, but it was more about not getting my hand slammed in the car door or swinging off the top of a swing set and breaking my arm. Both of these events happened and even though my mom was a nervous wreck, we all survived.

The other day I heard a trailer for the news at 5 say something like…  “Is your child already lying to you? If so, tune in at 5 and find out why you should be concerned.” 

Two issues immediately popped into my mind: 

1) the media is instilling fear as a tool to boost ratings, and 2) the media is giving parents just one more reason to become worried/paranoid.

Although my kids are grown, I have my own concerns about the safety of my grandkids. Mostly fueled by headlines on the news, 20/20, Dateline, or subject lines for movies, all of which I try to avoid if at all possible. My mind can conjure up enough gory scenarios all by itself, thank you very much.

So….what is the goal of parenting?

This is where I introduce one of my favorite actors of all time, Betty White…or as I see her, Kathryn, the main character in Saving Gracie.

Kathryn, from day one, made all decisions for her daughter. Instead of teaching her how to do things for herself, Kathryn did everything for Grace and I mean e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Hence the term “helicopter mom.” 

Next enters another one of my favorite actors, Debra Messing…or, Grace, as I see her in Saving Gracie.

Through Kathryn’s efforts to be the always-on-top-of-things Mom of the Year, she created in her daughter what is termed “learned helplessness.” 

Example taken from about.com psychology:

“Learned helplessness occurs when an animal is repeatedly subjected to an aversive stimulus that it cannot escape. Eventually, the animal will stop trying to avoid the stimulus and behave as if it is utterly helpless to change the situation. Even when opportunities to escape are presented, this learned helplessness will prevent any action.

This phenomenon can also be applied to children and adults. If all their decisions or attempts are ‘corrected’ by a well-meaning adult, the child no longer believes anything they do is right. Over time they become dependent on the ‘authority figure’ to make all decisions because 1) it’s the path of least resistance and, 2) their idea will probably be wrong or 3) overruled. So…why bother?”

Learned helplessness portrays Grace in Saving Gracie. And after her mother’s death, Grace felt utterly lost as to how to live her life without her mother making all her decisions.

Once again…what is the goal in parenting?

Two excerpts from Saving Gracie:

“A teacher prepares a student to think, evaluate, take risks, fall down, re-evaluate, and learn. And then…move forward.” Angela paused. “Parents are teachers too.”

 “Listen to me. The greatest gift a mother bird gives her babies is to teach them to fly,” Angela said. “She pushes them out of the nest.” Angela hugged Quinlan tighter. “She doesn’t clip their wings.”

Kathryn had issues…boy did she have issues. Although portrayed as a classic helicopter mom, her motivation did not stem from fear for her child, but more from her own childhood.

I erred often in my parenting skills as do all muggles (Harry Potter term for humans), but I don't think I would have been classified as a helicopter mom...however, my kids may disagree. But with age comes wisdom. If I only knew then what I know now…

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Brain Takes a Hike...

With most of the packing completed for our trip to North Padre, I had a small window of time I had scheduled for my weekly blog post. Even had a topic picked out. Sat down at the computer, stared at the screen saver, opened Word and then typed in my proposed topic.

In the past, when I hit a writing stumbling block, I usually remedy the situation with a few deep breaths, finger stretches and verbally giving myself permission to just write…quit editing the thoughts before they get to the screen. And this technique works…worked, I should say, until yesterday. Image below describes what I imagine the inside of my head looked like.

With the topic at the head of the page, I typed a paragraph. Sat back to think for a good 10 minutes, wrote another paragraph. Then another. And another. I try to limit my blog posts to 500-750 words so as not to elaborate the topic or bore the reader. I’d reached around 325 words and decided to re-read. 

What the hiccup? (a phrase I stole from my grandsons) I’d taken a hard right in my writing of said intended topic. Then a 180, then another right.

Whoa. I’d ventured into a whole new topic. After dividing the writing and placing in separate folders, I returned to the original topic. About that time Rich walks in.

Rich: “How’s it going?”
Me:   “Not great,” and explained my mental road trip.
Rich: “Well, break it up into two topics.”
Me:   “Way ahead of you.”
Rich: “So, which one are you going to write about?”

I threw out a completely different blog topic, which I started. After about 20 minutes I realized my fingers felt like molasses had been strategically placed on the tips of my fingers. My fingers, hands, and brain were all in freeze-frame. 

Dang hard to concentrate when my brain had already parked itself on the beach.

Got down to our friend’s house on North Padre Island around 6ish. Unpacked, had dinner and then Rich headed out night fishing in his kayak. The second picture shows the lights the homeowners put in the canals. Draws in the fish and looks way cool.

I had the entire evening to myself. Even had my iPhone upgraded to a hotspot so I’d have internet access while we were going to be down here, so I could do some serious work (going through my first edit of Partly Sunny).

This morning…

Rich: “Did you get a lot of work done last night?”
Me:   “No, I ate ice cream.”
Rich: “No editing, no nothing?”
Me:   “How many fish did you catch last night?”
Rich: “Uh...I got in pretty late…think I’m going to go lie back down for awhile.”
Me:   “Good idea.”


Here I sit, only this time my fingers are actually moving. My brain seems to have gotten its buttocks off the beach, which allows me to remove the sign stuck to my forehead.

Sometimes you just gotta let your mind play...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

What's In a Star?

I never gave much thought to reviews until I became a published author. I know from TV shows such as “Smash” that on Broadway reviews make or break a performance in an instant. Book reviews are not quite as immediate and poignant, but they do have their own value.

I was raised to believe the following: (or at least I was told to believe this)

It’s one of those quotes or sayings I grew up with but never exactly agreed. As a young child and teenager, I could get my feelings hurt in a blink of an eye. I had yet to learn, nor did I for many years, how to laugh at myself. Once I did, I realized I can be pretty funny. Life got a lot lighter, but to this day hurtful words can cut and hurt as much as a dull knife. I have a story to tell about me and knives…but that’s for another day. And some of you will know what I’m talking about (I believe I can hear some chuckles).

How people rate a book with the 5 star system is, in my opinion, highly subjective. For example, I can watch a movie and not really be able to give it “a thumbs up” which might result in a 2-star rating. Why? Was it my mood? Did I have to pay bills that day? (always a bummer). Or did I have a bad dream the night before that seemed so real and disturbing it stayed with me throughout the day? My point is, I can watch that same movie at a later date and have a completely different opinion (and star rating). 

I’ve been fortunate to have some truly heart-warming, moving 5 star reviews on Amazon for Saving Gracie. In fact, at this time I have 44 reviews with an average rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars which brings a smile to my face. I’ve heard more than once a writer needs a thick skin (picture turtle wax). This I do not have. I read my one 1 star review and pouted for days. Although thrilled by the many 5 star reviews…guess which one affected me the most? 

Guess that’s my nature, but I’m not satisfied with that particular quirk of mine, so I’m working on it. My shell isn’t as paper-thin as it used to be, but I’m still applying coats of turtle wax on a regular basis. I also don’t read reviews. Not anymore. That’s Rich’s job and he’ll let me know when a good one comes along and knows by now not to mention the bad ones. 

I believe no one sets out to write a bad book. Too much labor of love has to be put into a story and I’ve decided that just because a book or a movie isn’t to my liking doesn’t mean it’s bad. I’ve heard people say, “That book/movie is horrible. Don’t waste your time.” Once again, subjective. I know of several instances I would have given a particular movie or book an easy 5 star-rating while someone else might respond with, “Well, it’s cute.” Cute, in my opinion, means okay and maybe a 3 star-rating (which is still better than 1). I had one reviewer give me a 4-star review, really liked Saving Gracie, but deducted a point for typos. Totally out of my control but still reflects how she hands out stars.

At this point in my life, I think before I write a review.

Words are powerful...and hurtful.