Make Me Think Monday

6 01, 2020

New Year – Let’s Begin

By |2020-01-06T06:36:32-06:00January 6th, 2020|Make Me Think Monday, Writer's Life|0 Comments

We’re almost one week into 2020. It’s gonna be an awesome year! New Years always excite me.

Fresh slate!

New focus!

I refuse to make New Year’s resolutions cause I tend to abandon those by the end of the first month.

I’m saying FOCUS.

My primary 2020 focus is to finish book 3 in the Fitzpatrick Family series to make up to all my faithful readers for not getting  a book out last year.

You see, 2019’s manuscript – Seeing Clearly – was a finalist in the West Houston RWA Emily Contest Romantic Suspense category. Hoping for good news in February when finalists are announced.

Click here to see all the other category finalists.

So, what’s your focus for 2020? Are you starting something new? Or finishing something from 2019?

18 11, 2019

Two Ways to Cultivate Gratitude

By |2019-11-05T16:36:49-06:00November 18th, 2019|Holidays, Make Me Think Monday, Thanksgiving|1 Comment

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that in order to achieve contentment, we should “cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously.”

Blogging about thankfulness and gratitude in November is cliché. But this is the time of year when we pause to focus our thoughts on being thankful.

Most of us will have a thankful attitude on Thanksgiving Day. Too often, though, our thankful attitude wanes for the rest of the year.

I’d like to suggest two ways to focus an attitude of thankfulness beyond one Thursday in November.

Use social media

Create posts, pictures, videos, and tweets that  cultivate thankfulness on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Heaven knows we get enough of wars, earthquakes, floods, fires, sick children, murdered spouses and, lately, politics.

Research shows good news spreads faster and farther than disasters and sob stories. Why not counter the suffering and mayhem of mass media coverage and sharing positive, uplifting posts, memes, and videos to encourage attitudes of thankfulness in yourself and others?

Keep a gratitude list

Writing down what you’re thankful for everyday reinforces positive thoughts and grateful feelings.

Can you think of other ways to foster gratitude?

11 11, 2019

Veterans Day Gratitude

By |2019-11-10T11:16:33-06:00November 11th, 2019|Holidays, Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

November 11 is Veterans Day.

Do you know the origins of Veterans Day? Why it’s not a normal four-day weekend holiday like so many of our other federal holidays?

This two-minute video from the History Channel provides the Cliff Note answers.

I love that the day falls in November now and not October.

After all, November and Thanksgiving and gratitude are so interlinked, it’s only right that we pause today to say “thank you” to a friend, a relative, or a co-worker who is a U.S. military veteran or active member of the military.

These men and women have made tremendous personal sacrifices so that we enjoy freedoms unheard of in so many nations of the world.

It’s been said, “We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”

Don’t let that happen today! Find a vet and say, “thank you!”

4 11, 2019

C.S. Lewis Advice to Writers

By |2019-11-03T11:00:59-06:00November 4th, 2019|Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

C.S. Lewis is probably best known for his The Chronicles of Narnia. His Narnia books have sold over 100 million copies and been made into three major motion pictures. He’s also the author of The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, Out of the Silent Planet, and The Great Divorce.

His biography is fascinating. Did you know he and J.R.R. Tolkien were friends? Want to learn more? Click here.

Lewis has long been a favorite author of mine. He is, after all, Irish. Born in Belfast, the The Mountains of Mourne inspired him to write The Chronicles of Narnia.

I’ve read the Narnia books to my children and grandchildren. Recently, I read a blog that shared some of his advice to budding young writers from his Letters to Children.

I wasn’t familiar with that book but discovered great advice that applies to writers regardless of age or what you write.

Four of pieces of his advice were very familiar. All were things I’ve heard repeatedly in workshops, podcasts, and from editors.

  1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.
  2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”
  3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do.
  4. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feelabout the things you are describing. (I’d add the same thing applies to the use of adverbs.)

Lewis elaborates on Number four: “I mean, instead of telling us the thing is “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful;” make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers “Please, will you do my job for me.”

His advice boils down to immersing the reader in your story. It’s so much easier to just tell a story. Today editors use terms like show, don’t tell, write for emotional impact, and keep it simple.

Which of Lewis’ four pieces of advice to authors is most important to you as you read?

28 10, 2019

Reading Together

By |2019-10-26T13:58:38-05:00October 28th, 2019|Make Me Think Monday|2 Comments

I saw a fun meme recently of two people reading while sitting in the back of an SUV with piles of books around them. It made me think about how we interact with other book lovers.

We talk about the books, we  share books, and we belong to book clubs. But how often do we actually sit quietly together and read ?

I’m picturing the old silent reading days where on certain school days all the students brought a book to read. I loved those days. Silent Reading days are probably why I’m such a voracious reader today.

My writer’s heart speeds up when I see someone reading like I am in a waiting room. That’s kinda like reading together. But I’m picturing the days before television and radio when evenings were spent reading.

Nowadays that would mean turning off all the electronics and television, but it’s doable. Sometimes, Hubby-dear and I do just that.

Think about it, reading together could be the best response to this noisy world.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

21 10, 2019

Egrets, Egrets

By |2019-10-20T12:32:15-05:00October 21st, 2019|Make Me Think Monday|2 Comments

The blog title might suggest I’m blogging about how to respond to an e-invite or invitation. I’m not.

I’m talking about are the small white herons that are seen in fields with cows. They’re about 20 inches long with a 36-inch wingspan when they fly and stand in a hunched position.

Recently, I spotted the white birds wandering in and out of cattle  at the edge of a friend and fellow writer’s pasture pond.

“Oh, those are cowbirds,” she said.

We begin to discuss how we always see cowbirds but had no idea why the name. or anything about the bird. That led to some research. Writers do love their research.

Cattle Egrets are native to Africa but somehow reached South American in the 1870s and migrated up. By the 1960s the white birds were documented as far north as Canada, west as far as California and east as far as Florida. Since Texas is about in the middle of those three, that would explain why we see so many of the birds in our cow pastures.

Sometimes the birds can be confused with Snowy Egrets. If you look closely, you’ll see a thicker neck, an orange or yellow bill, and dirty yellow legs and feet. Snowy Egrets like wet, water feeding.

Cowbird egrets prefer foraging field grass and pastures for the crickets, grasshoppers, and other insects the cattle hoofs stir up. They also clean the cows’ hide of ticks and fleas. That’s why you’ll see them on the cows’ backs and pecking the legs.

Their name comes from the grazing animals they team up with to forage. In other places, they are known as cow cranes, cow herons, cow birds, elephant birds, rhinoceros egrets, and hippopotamus egrets.

Breeding season runs April through September and depending on the arrival of fall even into October. Fall is running late here in southeast Texas and that’s why there are still so many cattle egrets this year.

My romance writer heart fluttered to learn they pair up and nest in established heronries year after year.

Now the next time you’re driving and spot a long-legged white bird on a cow’s back, you can wow your audience with tidbits of trivia.

If you really want to impress, throw in this little fact.

The oldest Cattle Egret on record was at least 17 years old when it was captured and released in Pennsylvania in 1979. It had been banded in Maryland in 1962.

14 10, 2019

Wearing of the Pink

By |2019-10-05T16:10:38-05:00October 14th, 2019|Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

October brings a flood of pink, specifically pink ribbons. Since 1992, the wearing of a pink ribbon has been the international symbol of breast cancer awareness.

Ever wonder where ribbons and symbolism all started?

Penney Laingen, wife of a hostage who’d been taken prisoner in Iran in 1979 started the trend. Inspired by the song, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree,” she tied yellow ribbons around the trees in her front yard to await her husband’s return.

Yellow ribbons were used again to remember soldiers fighting and dying in the Gulf War. AIDS activists piggybacked on that, turned the ribbon red, and sent it on stage Jeremy Irons’ chest for the Tony Awards.

That propelled charitable organizations to begin using colored ribbon campaigns for their causes.

The first ribbon for breast cancer awareness was a peach-colored loop handmade by Charlotte Haley whose granddaughter, sister, and mother had battled breast cancer. She passed out sets of five along with a card that read: “The National Cancer Institute annual budget is $1.8 billion, only 5 percent goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up our legislators and America by wearing this ribbon.”

Evelyn Lauder wanted to enhance upon Haley’s idea. Lauder had her lawyers approach Haley, who refused to relinquish her grassroots, word-of-mouth project. Lauder’s lawyers advised her to come up with a different color and she did.

She traded peach for pink and put pink grosgrain ribbons on cosmetics counters across the country promoting her Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF).

Pink is playful, life-affirming and studies show it has a calming, quietening effect and lessens stress, according to the Color Association of the United States. It’s perfect to symbolize everything breast cancer is not.

Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation gave a pink ribbon to runners in its New York City Race in 1991. The origins of the Run for the Cure ribbon is here.

And, so the pink ribbons we wear every October became the icon for awareness and and show moral support for those with breast cancer.

If you’re like me, you have one or more friends or family members who have been affected by breast cancer. I’ll be wearing a pink ribbon this month.

How about you?

7 10, 2019

Breast Cancer Awareness and the Women Who Fostered It

By |2019-10-07T07:33:20-05:00October 7th, 2019|Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

Unless you live under a rock you know October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but it hasn’t always been that way.  Historically breast cancer was a taboo topic. Women with breast cancer didn’t discuss the topic publicly.

It was former First Lady Betty Ford who played a major role in bringing breast cancer out of the shadows when she allowed the press into her hospital room to discuss her diagnosis. Her openness increased the number of women willing to talk about it and, even more important, their open discussions led more women to have breast exams for early detection.

Ford’s actions were a catalyst for the 1985 partnership between the American Cancer Society and Imperial Chemical Industries, producer of anti-breast cancer drugs, to designate October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM).

Two other women also shared a major role in increasing public awareness.

  1. When Evelyn Lauder, senior corporate vice president of the Estée Lauder Companies, received a breast cancer diagnosis, she made breast cancer awareness an Estee Lauder brand staple. Her companies continue to do so today through her Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF).
  2. In 2013, Angelina Jolie publicly shared her decision to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy after testing positive for the BRCA gene. That catapulted BRCA gene mutation into the spotlight and encouraged research funding for genetic cancer.

These three women were forerunners in changing the prevailing attitude. These days we are keenly aware of breast cancer, but are the millions of marketing and advertising dollars spent to raise funds for awareness missing the mark?

Yes according to Paige More, a woman personally affected by breast cancer and co-founder of The Breasties.

She suggests money spent on awareness marketing efforts and advertising materials might be more beneficial if directed to a nonprofit, a hospital, or breast cancer research.

Statistics from The American Cancer Society estimate there will be 271,270 new cases of breast cancer in 2019, 99% of which will be diagnosed in women.

We still don’t have a cure . More research might fix that. Maybe Paige More is right, more funds should be divert to research and not so much to awareness.

What do you think?

26 08, 2019

Life Lessons I’ve Learned from My Dogs

By |2019-08-26T09:02:43-05:00August 26th, 2019|A Writer's Life, Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

I’m 100% a dog person and proud of it. My dogs are a constant source of love and amusement.

My breed of choice is Old English Sheepdogs who are natural clowns and always make me smile. In addition to all the smiles and unconditional love, my dogs have offered some great life lessons.

  1. When your loved one comes home, run to greet him.
  2. Eat with gusto.
  3. When it’s hot, drink lots of water.
  4. Take naps.
  5. Don’t bite, just growl.
  6. Give unconditional love.
  7. Stay close to your loved ones in times of distress.

This list appeared in an Ann Landers’ newspaper column years and years ago. It’s still great advice and important lessons to learn. You can find dozens of other longer lists with equally as important things dogs teach us.

My Finnegan turned three this year and his brother Buster, twelve years. Every birthday means another year less with my best friend. As every dog lover knows our time with our four-legged best friends is all too short.

And because I know no matter how long they live, it will never be long enough, all my dogs have taught me the most important and hardest lesson of life:

Enjoy every single moment we have with our loved ones.

Knowing Finnegan and Buster and all the others who’ve gone before will only be with me a short time reminds me to soak up every second because life is too short to do anything less.

Get off the couch. Go for a walk or chase a squirrel. Have fun. Love. Laugh. Dance in the rain. Time is too short.

12 08, 2019

Summer Dog Days and Back-to-school Time

By |2019-08-11T21:09:03-05:00August 12th, 2019|Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

It’s August. It’s hot, it’s humid in Texas. There doesn’t seem to be any relief from this year’s record setting summer heat. We’re having realio, trulio dog days of summer.

Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

The term comes from the Egyptians who believed the Dog Star Sirius added heat to the sun and produced a long stretch of sultry weather during the forty days beginning July 3 and ending August 11.

Those of us who live in Texas know that dog days can (and do) begin well before July 3 and extend long after August 11 no matter how bright Dog Star Sirius shines. And, like our dogs, in this extreme heat, all we want to do is nothing but lounge around.

This year triple digit heat warnings of dog days are competing with all the excitement of back-to-school preparations.

Tax-free shopping days add to the frenzy for school clothing and supplies. Even though it’s been years since I’ve taught, I find caught of the eagerness and stocking up on pens and pads and folders.

Teachers are braving the temperatures and getting ready for the new school year. Not just public schoolteachers but also all those moms and dads who undertake to homeschool. To all of you, thank you.

Soon, let us hope, these dog days will be a memory. Fall will bring cooler weather and colorful leaves, pumpkins, and holiday bazaars.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready!

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