This Is Me--2024 A to Z Theme

My A to Z Themes in the past have covered a range of topics and for 2024 the theme is a personal retrospective that I call "I Coulda Been" which is in reference to my job and career arc over my lifetime. I'll be looking at all sorts of occupations that I have done or could have done. Maybe you've done some of these too!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

How Was 2010 For You?

           As my 2010 began I was getting the last of my first 100 followers.  I had set the goal in October of 2009 to get 100 by the end of the year.  Oh well, I was a few days late, but that was okay in my book  After a little over three months of blogging I was starting to grasp an inkling of how it all worked.

          After I got the 100, I set my next goal for 200 by April 1.  Blogging daily, I had gotten settled into a writing routine.  The followers came on a regular basis now that I knew more about how it all worked.   My second goal came before the April 1 projection.  That's when I tossed out to the readers the concept of the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge.

         This was my celebration and I wanted others to join with me.  And, by golly, they did.  The Blogging From A to Z Challenge was a success.  I made a lot of new blogging friends and picked up another 100 followers during the month of April.  This was the highlight of the year for Tossing It Out.

             Blogging was becoming old hat for me now.  I was churning out posts and making my daily deadline.  I was also starting to look forward to my first blog anniversary in September.

               When the one year of daily blogging date came I soon cut back to a three day schedule.  This works better for me and each post gets more readers than the daily posts did.  Of course, it still seems like there's never enough time to get  everything done.

               Once again I participated in NaNo and completed that challenge without a hitch.   This novel should actually see completion very soon.  Then it will be on to editing and rewriting and so on.

              On the non-blogging level I'm getting by fine.  My health remains good, but my job outlook is still bleak for now.  I've been enjoying my first granddaughter as she passes her second birthday and is not a terrible two child by any means.   My daughter who was getting married last December has delivered me a second beautiful granddaughter less than two weeks ago.  Life is simply grand.

               This year I will try to get something to happen to my first completed novel Time Light.  I also want to wrap up my father's project The Autobiography of a Nobody and my 2009 NaNo novel A Desert Place--I am a year behind on both of these.

                Is anyone up for another April Blogging From A to Z Challenge?

                How was your year?   What were the highlights?   What do you plan for 2011?

     Happy New Year!   

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Really Tossing It Out There

         As many readers may know I am a bit of a juggler.  However, I will embarassingly leave the room now while you view one of the world's greatest jugglers, Francis Brunn, in a classic clip from the Jack Benny Show.   This man was not only a great juggler, but also a tremendous gymnast and dancer.  Note his amazing movements and form.

To view a more pure video of Brunn's amazing act in color click here.


Monday, December 27, 2010

An Ultimate Animal Rescue Story

 This is something I received via email.  I'm not sure what the original source is.

Four young Sitka black-tailed bucks fell upon good luck Sunday as they were pulled from the icy waters of Stephens Passage, Alaska by a group of locals on Tom Satre's 62-foot charter vessel. Four juvenile Sitka black-tailed deer swam directly toward the boat..

Once the deer reached the boat, the four began to circle the boat, looking directly at the humans on board. Clearly, the bucks were distressed. With help, the typically skittish and absolutely wild animals came willingly onto the boat. Once onboard, they collapsed with exhaustion, shivering.

Here the rescued bucks rest on the back of Tom Satre's boat, the Alaska Quest. All four deer were transported to Taku Harbour . Once the group reached the dock, the first buck that had been pulled from the water hopped onto the dock, looked back, then leapt into the Harbour, swam to shore, and disappeared into the forest. After a bit of prodding and assistance from the humans, two others followed suit, but one
deer needed more help. Here he is being transported by Tom Satre

Tom, Anna and Tim Satre help the last of the "button" bucks to its feet. They did not know how long the deer had been in the icy waters or if there had been others who did not survive. The good Samaritans (humans) describe their experience as "one of those defining moments in life." I’m sure it was for the deer, as well.

Hope everyone had a great Christmas and have a Happy New Year!  If everything is according to schedule, I am in Tennessee at this time.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

What If Jesus Were Born In Our Time?

Here's a clever little clip that some of you may have not yet seen.   Enlarge to full screen to view it best.

Have a wonderful Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Autobiography of a Nobody (excerpt)

The following is an excerpt of my father's autobiography as he wrote it.  I hope to eventually have it all transcribed from his original manuscript.  What is presented here today has not yet been edited.

From Chapter 2 of Autobiography of a Nobody:

            We had no kindergarten like the children have today. Our school was a building where grades one through six were taught. I was not a good student. I wasn’t a smart student like so many of them were. I did not get a good scholastic foundation. It was my own fault, I thought too much of playing instead of studying. I can’t blame my parents either. With eight children to look after, individual tutoring was out of the question. However, my mother did insist on giving me my spelling words without fail every night. I could spell. But reading1 arithmetic, geography, and other studies did not come easy for me. Hindsight is better than foresight, so if I had it all over to do again, I would know that I should allocate time to my lessons instead of thinking everyday was a picnic with games to play.

            Seventh and eighth grades were the same pattern. I got by as an average or below average student. I did get a lot of exercise walking to and from school, morning, noon, and evening. The school was in the main part of Clarksburg.

            High School--grades nine through twelve--was a big step up for me, I looked forward to gym classes. You had a choice of swimming, or playing basketball. Swimming was the choice of Fish Mouth. It had nothing to do with his nick-name. He just loved to swim. I always chose to play basketball.

            There was one class subject I really liked. It was typing. My teacher liked me, because I did work hard at it, and my father had a typewriter at home for me to practice. Practice does make the difference. I caught the eyes of other students in the class watching me as my fingers danced rapidly across the keyboard. I hope I did not come across to them as a smart alec show-off. Host of them were struggling after nearly a full semester to do 25 words per minute, to enable them to pass the course, or 30 words to take 2nd year typing. I was moving along at a clip over twice as fast as this without really trying.

             Since I was the fastest typist in the class, my teacher let me compete against other typists from other schools at different locations. This I liked. Thanks to my typing teacher, I got my first job after graduation. An officer of a large construction company called my high school for a good typist. She recommended me. From this job, I learned the field construction office profession, and never had a desire to do any other type of work.

            A very sad event happened to me while I was in high school. My father died. At the age of forty-seven, he laid at home in bed with appendicitis.. He was a Christian Science member. They believe in faith healing. He wouldn’t go to the doctor. Until —— it was too late! His appendix burst within him. He was rushed to the hospital. Peritonitis had set in. No wonder drugs then. Next thing, word came home that my father had died.
            I do not believe in Christian Science, They put out a good newspaper, but as for me that is it. It was a cold snowy day in December my father’s: funeral was held. He was buried in the family cemetery on a hill-side in Homer, W,Va. The pallbearers had a hard time slipping and sliding upon the glistening snow covered, slippery hillside carrying my father’s casket. As the cold wind, blew, the tear drops froze against my face. My mother was widowed with eight children, God bless her.  She was not a Christian Science follower. She believed in God.
            My father died December 19, 1936. Our Christmas was shattered! When I returned to school after time off, a friend of mine in gym class said to me, “What have you been doing, goofing off?”   Some people can say some mean things, but he didn’t know! With tears in my eyes, I told him I was off because my father died. This was a sad event, the saddest thing to happen to me up to this time.
              All Christmas stories aren't happy ones.  There is a happy outcome to this one in the sense that my father was a great Dad.  Christmas's were always very special in our house and we had a life of abundance in more ways than just material things.  He was Godly and good-hearted.  And he was very funny.
              My siblings and I were all adults when my father passed at the age of 67.  That was twenty years ago.  He left us at far too young of an age, but thankfully he saw us all go out on our own as adults and was able to see all of his grandchildren. 
                 Let me know what you think about this excerpt.  We were fortunate that he did leave us something in writing.  Have your parents left an autobiography?  Have you thought about interviewing them and writing a biography as a family history keepsake?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ho, Ho, Who?

This is a rerun from last Christmas that first appeared December 10, 2009--some of you may have missed this the first time:
 Maybe it's because I don't have small children anymore and my one grandchild is too young to know much about what's happening yet, but I'm starting to not believe in Santa. Okay, call me a humbug or a scrooge or grumpy old man if you like--I'm not really, but the Santa thing is somewhat disturbing to me at times. What hath we wrought? So today my question is:

Should we be perpetuating the Santa myth?

All of us in the United States and most other western civilization countries have grown up with a Santa awareness and many of us raised our own children with the Santa tradition. I have pictures of all of my children at various stages of their lives sitting on Santa's lap. I recall taking them to the old Miller and Rhodes Department Store (now faded into history) in downtown Richmond, Virginia for the top of the line "real" Santa with primo priced pictures. Other pictures are with dorky Santas at the nearby mall. But sure I did it. I told my kids there was a Santa and I guess they are none the worse for it. And I grew up with it and, sure my dreams were shattered, but I survived.

Let's be honest. Santa has become just another commercial scam artist lining his pockets with our hard-earned dough while we tell our kids that this kind hearted soul is going to bring them a bunch of material goods for them to get tired of after a few days. And who exactly is paying for all this?--certainly not Santa Claus. It's bad enough that our own kids don't give us credit for things we do for them and now we even have to give some bearded guy in a red suit credit for giving them all their presents at Christmas.

We weave a web of deceit trying to perpetuate the myth of Santa Claus as we teach our kids unscientific principles such as Santa living at the North Pole with a bunch of elves and traveling throughout the entire world in a flying sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. Even the kids start questioning the logistics of the whole operation. What do we do? We make up another story about how and why it all works. We know it's not true, but we tell our kids as though it is. If it's not true then it must be a lie. We have to lie in order to keep the myth of Santa alive in their little minds.

And what about the stress we must be causing our children? As they hear about the current global warming conference and all of the threats to the polar regions, surely the kids must be starting to get worried sick about Santa's habitat and how the lives of all the elves and reindeer must be threatened to extinction which would mean that one day there would be no one to distribute material possessions to all of the world's children on Christmas eve.

Karl Marx, famed communist
and Santa impersonator

I do believe that this Santa story instills greed in the hearts of our kids. I wonder if any study has been done to correlate the rise in consumerism to the intensified promotion of the Santa myth. It may well be that we could actually blame Santa on the current financial problems. Maybe that's the real origin of the phrase "in the red". What's with this guy wearing red anyway and going around with a beard that makes him look a tad like Karl Marx? Maybe the government should checking into the whole Santa conspiracy.

On the other hand, the man and his story is a beloved tradition. Think of all those happy Santa songs we start hearing at this time of year--don't they just brighten your mood? Or the beloved "twas the night before Christmas" poem when the family is visited by jolly old St. Nick (oh-oh Old Nick is another name for Satan-- but let's not go there). All of the familiar Santa imagery festively festoons our yards, cards, and fireplace mantles. There's not much more smile inducing as a big red plastic Santa with ligthts inside to make it glow happily at night. We can't let go of Santa, he's been around for generations.

Economically speaking the Santa tradition helps move the money around. Christmas spending is one of the most important economic drivers of the year. However, let's put aside the entire gift giving thing since that could easily happen without the existence of Santa Claus. Let's just talk about the Santa character. First of all there are the Santa costumes and all of the accessories that go with it including the Karl Marx beard. This is not an insubstantial industry and is related to the Halloween costume industry (see my many posts on Halloween in September and October of 2009).

Also, there are the Santa players themselves (they must number in the thousands)--these guys are playing a gig that helps them put food on the table and pay a few bills. It all adds to the economy. I could go on and on about the economic influences but that would take far too long. Let's just say that if Santa were a real person who owned a license on his name and image, he'd be a gazillionaire.

I guess the real case for Santa is the magic of the character. When you see the wonderment in a child's eyes as they see Santa and dream of Santa's Christmas eve visit, it's heartwarming. In their innocence they are not thinking greed, they are thinking sugar plum fairies and Red Ryder air rifles ("you'll shoot your eye out"). It's dreams and imaginations and a time of our lives that lasts for a few fleeting years. It is magic that is real and imaginary characters that live for a time in our lives and live on later in our hearts and minds. Is Santa a lie? When we read a novel or any fiction, it's not real--is it a lie?

So I leave it to you. I've tossed out a few ideas to you. What's your opinion of Santa Claus? What do you tell or have you told your children? Is the myth harmful? Is there another way you would like to see the Christmas season handled?

Oh, and by the way, have a very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Persnickety Penman: Where're you'all from?

            Robert Young Drake was a professor of English at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville from 1965 until 1999.  A noted English scholar and author, Robert Drake was most associated with his homespun stories about the fictional West Tennessee town of Woodville.  Drake was well known for his story-telling skills in the rich dulcet tones of an aristocratic southern gentleman.  After suffering a stroke in 1999, he was forced to leave his beloved teaching position, returning to his hometown of Milan, Tennessee where he died on June 30, 2001.

               I was fortunate to have had Dr. Drake as my professor of creative writing for two classes when I attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in the early 1970s.  One of the corrections he made to my thinking had to do with roots and what we think of as home.

              In the first class we were given the assignment to write about ourselves so that Dr. Drake could get to know his students a little better. This was to be a brief autobiography that included where we were from.  My story was the example that he always looked for to teach one of the first lessons about being a writer.

             Since I had moved around a lot in my life I wrote that I wasn't really from anywhere.  My hippie philosophy at that time tended more toward existentialism.   I tried to portray myself as the rootless wanderer in life who was searching for self and purpose.  That was the cue for Dr. Drake's lecture on roots.

             "Everybody's from somewhere," he enunciated in his rich southern accent.  He went on to give examples of writers like his favorite, Flannery O'Connor, who was from Georgia.  Writing, he explained, is an extension of who we are and an expression of our experiences and our heritage, all of which has roots in particular place and time.

               It was in that class that I began to appreciate my Tennessee home.  Even though I hadn't been born there and hadn't grown up there, it was the place the felt most like home and the place with which I could most identify myself. 

               When we think about writers, we frequently associate them with place.  With Hemingway it might be Key West or Steinbeck is central California coast.    Many of us think about Hannibal, Missouri when we think of Mark Twain even though he did most of his writing elsewhere--but it was that place that shaped and influenced much of who he was and what he wrote.

                 As Dorothy Gale from the Wizard of Oz was to find out in her fantastical visit, there's no place like home.  A writer can take us anywhere imagination can contrive, but the story has to come from somewhere and that somewhere is inside of each of us.

                 Where are you from?  What do you consider to be home?  How does it influence your writing? 



Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holiday Reading List: 2010

            Christmas holidays are indeed a busy time for most of us, but if you are like me you probably have some extra down time that you can set aside for reading.  Since I'm driving this year and not flying like I usually do, I won't have much free travel time to read.  However I'll probably have some relaxation time in the motels at night as I trek across country.

             During my visits with family I know I'll be busy having a good time with them, but since I tend to rise early I'll undoubtedly have time for quiet reading since I won't have a computer to distract me.  And it's probably not going to be constant hustle and bustle.  I'm  sure I'll have those moments during the day when I can read a page or two or even more.

Here are the books I'm taking with me on my Christmas Vacation:

          Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor by Brad Gooch -- I started on this one in September and I want to finish this up first.  It's a biography of one of my favorite authors.  If you've never read any of O'Connor's work, you really should treat yourself to it.  She is most noted for her short stories.  They are dark, funny, and bizarre.

The Shack by William P. Young --- I had never really intended to read this somewhat controversial book, but some family members read it and really liked it and said that I should read it as well.  I have a negative opinion from what I've heard about it, but I want to read it so I can discuss it with those who have read it.                                                      

        Burning Down the Shack (How the 'Christian' Bestseller is Deceiving Millions) by James B. De Young--  The Shack inspired so much controversy that books were written about the book.   I want to read another side of the argument.
Finding God in the Shack by Roger E. Olson  -- This book was sent as a companion study to The Shack.  Maybe I'll read this if I'm not "shacked out" by the time I get to it.   I'll see how interested I am in the topic after reading the other two books.
Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen -- This is a book that sounded like it had an interesting premise.  It looks like a quick easy read that will be a time-passer during lulls in the festive events of the season.
Owen Fiddler by Marvin D. Wilson -- We know this author as The Old Silly.  I won this signed copy from Marvin after the Beware the Devil's Hug book tour.  I want to read this on the way home so I can do a fresh review on Tossing It Out after vacation.

  Perilous by Tamara Hart Heiner-- I promised that I would eventually  review this one when I hosted a stop on Tamara's book tour.  I'm hoping to have this review up in early to mid-January. 

     This might sound ambitious, especially for a slow reader like me.  But I figure I might as well set my sights high.  And who knows when that extra reading time may come along and I need books to read.  And if I somehow finish these, I still have a lot of books left at my mother's house that I never got around to reading when I was in high school and college.      

     Have you read any of these books?  If so what did you think of them?   Are any on your 'to read someday' list?     Do you have any special books that you are planning to read during the holidays?


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Are You Giving Til It Hurts?

              Hey, it's the holidays!  There are so many people suffering who need your help.  Hear the bells ringing?--The Salvation Army wants some money.  Then there are the veterans groups and the hungry children.  Here's a hospital and here's an orphanage.  And look out, here comes a homeless guy who wants your change.  What's your giving breaking point?

             Karen from A Peek At Karen's World  posted about this topic yesterday.  She brought up the people that you can often see outside banks, stores, and other places here in California who are wearing the crisp white uniforms or nurse's outfits.  They often don't speak English.  Who are they and what do they represent?  And why should I give them any money?

            All year we get an endless parade of fundraisers.  We have kids selling candy, wrapping paper, or what ever else they can come up with in order to raise money for school, sports teams, or scouts. Then there are Shriners and civic organizations having circuses and shows to raise funds for their causes.  The list of products and services that are offered in exchange for your "donations" are infinite.

            Now, I have to admit I'm partial to the circuses and shows.  I spent many years working in stage productions that were essentially subsidized through the auspices of fundraising by salespeople who were paid to do this job.  I justified the fact that only a small percentage of funds were disbursed to the sponsoring organization by rationalizing that the rest of the money went to pay fundraisers and performers who in turn recycled the money back into the economy. 

           Or to use a scenario that more of us may be familiar with, I offer the example of the overpriced Girl Scout cookies.  Granted the Girl Scouts receive a portion of the proceeds of each box sold, they don't get all of the money.  The money they don't receive goes into the economy by paying people at the cookie factory, the company that makes the packaging, and the distribution network that delivers the cookies to Scout troops throughout the United States. 

            If we look at our "donations" to charities as contributions into the larger economy, it can become clearer how the money is eventually cycled back into our own pockets.  The movement of money is essential for making the economy function in a healthy way.  But if you're like me there is a point where it seems like there is no more to give.

        What is your policy on donations?  

         Are you giving until it hurts?   Could you afford to give more?   Do you do anything besides giving money?   What are your favorite charities?   Which charities annoy you the most?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Blog Boggled: To Blog or Not To Blog

           So how's your holiday season shaping up so far?  Are you going to be blogging away like normal or do you have a special holiday schedule in store?

It's a Busy Time I Know!

             Last year I had a wedding to attend and a lot of travels and visits.  My blog was still relatively new and I was committed to a daily posting schedule.  Before leaving for my vacation I prepared daily bits of business to post automatically.  During the time away I was fortunate to have access to computers so I could check my posts and reply to comments and even comment on a few other blogs.

              This year I have a new grandchild to see and even more travels and visits.  I no longer post daily.  So far I have prepared nothing to post while I'm away.  Now I know that computers are usually available in the hotels where I tend to stay and I can always find access most of the time if I'm not in a hotel.  I still haven't gotten the laptop I had on my Christmas wishlist last year, but I'm not left computerless while I'm on the road.

              The question that remains for me is how am I going to handle my blogging this holiday season?   So using a method that often works best, let me look at the options and see what has worked best for you.

Pre-scheduled Auto Posts:

             This works if you allow enough time to do it properly.  Since I've not yet begun I could probably still whip together enough to put something up on my scheduled days.  I do like to stick to my announced schedule.  Posts would be shorter since I have limited time. 

              Quotes, pictures, videos, and other short easy to compose posts--do you think they are worth it?  Generally speaking do you enjoy these types of posts?


             I haven't tried this myself yet, but I have seen it done on a few other blogs.  Television of course does it all the time.  The advantage to the blog poster is obviously the shortcut of not having to come up with something new.  The followers have the opportunity to read something they may have enjoyed in the past or something they may have missed.

             Do you ever post blog reruns?   How do you feel about reposts?


              I've never unplugged yet.  I'm hesitant to do so since the advice on creating a successful blog usually indicates that blog content should be scheduled, consistent, and predictable.  It's not that any of my readers will forget me--I hope--but since I do have a schedule, I prefer to stay with it.

                Have you ever unplugged for a blogcation?  Do you find that it has any negative effect on your blog?

The Kamikaze Approach:

            What about some randomness?   I could pre-schedule some off-the -wall posts, toss in some reruns, and if I get a chance during the vacation, post updates about what I'm doing or whatever comes to mind.  This is the direction that I'm leaning since it fits my personality.  Besides this is almost what I do anyway.

             How random do you tend to be in composing blog bits?  Do you tend to keep a lot of unposted compositions waiting in the wings for eventual posting?

What Are You Planning For Your Holiday Blog Schedule?

             Are you going to take a break?   Do you travel during the holidays?   Are you expecting a houseful of company?    What will you be doing with your blog during this time?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Awards Saturday Dec 11

Today is my daughter Emilee's 24th birthday--Happy Birthday Emilee!

And now--
More awards

This Awesome Award comes from Jaime Gibbs at Mithril Wisdom, who recently celebrated his first anniversary of beginning his blog.  He attributed part of his success to his participation in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge.  I'm glad to have been a part of Jaime's journey.  Jaime gave me the option of passing it on if I wanted to with no rules attached. 

          Dorolerium at I Totally Paused! gave me a choice between an award that I've already received several times and this Life Is Good Award.  It looks nice and I haven't gotten one of these yet and life is good.

Rules for this one are:

1. Thank and link back to the person that gave this award.

2. Answer the 10 survey questions.

3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic.

4. Contact the bloggers you’ve picked to let them know about the award.

The questions and answers are…

1. If you blog anonymously are you happy doing it that way; if you are not anonymous do you wish you had started out anonymously so you could be anonymous now?

I do use a pseudonym because I share my real name with about 67,000 other people in the United States and if I used my real name you wouldn't know who I was.   I'm happy doing it that way since I am building an internet presence for Arlee Bird.
2. Describe one incident that shows your inner stubborn side:

That's a hard one since I can be very stubborn sometimes and it's no real secret.  I'm so stubborn that I'm not going to answer this question.  Okay, okay--for my high school graduation the principal of my high school requested that I cut my hair.  It really wasn't that long, but I guess they thought it was back in Tennessee in 1969.  No way was I going to cut it cause I "felt like letting my freak flag fly", to quote David Crosby.

3. What do you see when you really look at yourself in the mirror?

I essentially see the same me that I have seen since high school--except what happened to the hair!

4. What is your favourite summer cold drink?

I don't like soft drinks like I used to, but I still have them now and then.  These days I prefer water, chocolate milkshakes, or beer--it depends on my mood and the time of day--but generally it's water.

5. When you take time for yourself, what do you do?

These days it's mostly blogging, reading, or, on rare occasions, watching a movie no one else will watch with me--usually documentaries or arty films like Fellini movies.
6. Is there something you still want to accomplish in your life? What is it?

There's still tons I'd like to accomplish--books to write, songs to compose and record, a tour of speaking or something else (I like being on tour), and whatever else I can find to keep me busy and fulfilled. I don't ever want to just stagnate.

7. When you attended school, were you the class clown, the class overachiever, the shy person, or always ditching?

I was usually pretty shy, but good grades were always important to me.  When I could pull it off, I liked to shoot for a laugh now and then, just so I didn't get in trouble.

8. If you close your eyes and want to visualize a very poignant moment of your life what would you see?

Death can certainly create these feelings and the time I spent with my Dad during his last days certainly had a lot of poignancy.  I was almost forty at the time so he'd been with me for much of my life, but still he went too young at 67.  He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in July of 1990 and took a rapid decline after that with his passing coming at the beginning of September.  I was glad that I was there, but it was a sad time.
9. Is it easy for you to share your true self in your blog or are you more comfortable writing posts about other people or events?

Either way--I like to write about others, but I do write a lot about myself, not so much in the present time, but about my past.  I like to tell stories like I used to tell my kids when they were growing up.
10. If you had the choice to sit down and read or talk on the phone, which would you do and why?

Since I live a long way from most of my family and friends, most of the time I only get to talk to them on the phone, so I do like to call them now and then, although I don't talk to any of them as much as I used to.  I talk to my mother regularly a couple times per week, but others only when the whim hits me.  I guess the real answer to that question depends on my mood, but I now probably read more than I talk on the phone.

Here are a few of the bloggers that I'd like to recognize (and if you are an award free blog then that's too bad.  I can't keep track of that and I'm too lazy to check and I am not a big respecter of blog rules which is why I'm not going to go for the full 15 links I'm supposed to provide and I might not contact you for the same reason):
Andrew at Who Wants Taters? -- This is one wacky blog.  Andrew comes up with some truly crazy stuff and then always pairs it up with an outrageous movie review. 
Powdered Toast Man at Just the Cheese-- This is another blog in a similar vein as the previous one.  What's these guys and their blogs named with food themes.  
Lisa at Leaving Nadir  --- She's got a good continuing story going on.  The new one's just starting.  You may want to check it out. 
Uh-oh!  I have to go pick up my granddaughter.  This award show is over.  The rules are broken.  This post is done.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fred and the Funny Hat

            My friend Fred was always ready to accept a dare.  On this particular summer evening we were looking for something to entertain ourselves and a milkshake sounded pretty good.

             This was after our sophomore year in high school in the summer of 1967.  Neither one of us could drive yet, so since Fred lived about eight miles from my house we didn't get to see each other very often during the summer. On this day he managed to get his parents to drop him off at my parents' house so he could spend the night and we could hang out some. 

            At some point we started rummaging around through some of my parents' old show business props and costumes and ran across an old battered silk top hat.  The hat had been smashed, fabric worn and torn, and looking like something that could have belonged to an elegant bum.  Fred put the hat on and he looked so utterly ridiculous that a light bulb went off in my head.

             I told Fred that I would pay for his milkshake if he would walk with me to the Dairy Dip ice cream stand that was on the highway near our house and wear the top hat.   The image of Fred walking down the street with that silly hat struck me as an absolutely hilarious thing that no one would have the nerve to do.  Fred didn't hesitate and agreed to do it. 

            We started walking and I was giddy with excitement.  Soon I was giggling like a girl and eventually laughing so hard that I could barely keep on my feet.  There wasn't anybody else around so nobody could see Fred, but I was thinking about how funny it was going to be when we got to Dairy Dip.

             In reality I suppose none of this would have really been funny to anyone else, but I was greatly amused.  Fred was tall and lanky, with black rimmed glasses and a hair line that seemed to be threatening to recede even at his young age.  He looked like a sixty year-old trapped in a sixteen year-old's body.  And he kept such a serious expression throughout it all.

             By the time we reached Dairy Dip, I had mostly regained my composure, although stifled laughter remained pent up inside of me and could erupt into an uncontrollable outburst at any minute.  Periodically my body would convulse with throes of silent held in laughter.  Fred remained stoic.  Nobody else seemed to notice Fred and his hat.  I had pictured startled stares, pointing fingers, and delirious hilarity among the Dairy Dip patrons. There was no reaction whatsoever.  It was only funny to me.

             On the walk back home we savored the cool rich milkshakes.  My demeanor was happy, but calmed.  It still brought a smile whenever I would glance over at Fred and see him looking as serious as he could be and wearing the funny hat.  Perhaps no one else had seen the humor in it, but it sure cracked me up.

             Have you ever found something to be enormously funny only to realize that no one else did?  What were some of the silly things you dared your friends to do or that you did?


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Perilous Book Tour: Tamara Hart Heiner

           This is not a dangerous blog tour, but it is Tamara Hart Heiner's blog tour for her debut novel Perilous.  And though not really a perilous tour, this has to be one of the longest virtual book tours in the history of blogging.  Now at nearly two months of making the blog rounds, if you haven't heard about Tamara Hart Heiner and Perilous then you must lead a sheltered blog life.

Tamara Hart Heiner
YA author

              One needs only to look at the blog tour stops which I have listed at the end of this post to see the Tamara has a lot of support amongst fellow bloggers, which is an excellent position to be in when you want to promote your book.  Tamara's blog is called Chasing Dreams.  If you have never visited her blog, I encourage you to do so and become a follower.  For more information about Tamara and her work you can go to her website.  between the two sites you will find biographical background, information about her novel, and other nifty stuff.

           And what about Perilous?   Here's the official blurb:

Jaci Rivera has plans for her sophomore year: go to regionals with the track team, make the honor roll, and eat too much pizza with her best friends, Callie and Sara. Her biggest concern is Amanda, the pushy girl who moved in a few months ago.
What she doesn't plan for is catching a robber red-handed, or being kidnapped. The desperate thief drags her and her friends 2,000 miles across the Canadian border. They escape from his lair, only to find that he has spies and agents watching their path home, waiting to intercept them and take them back.

Then Jaci finds something out about her family. Something which irrevocably connects her to their kidnapper, and makes her question their chances of escape.

              It sounds pretty exciting.  Unfortunately, I have still not had a chance to read it, but I plan to soon.  When I do read it, I will do an actual review on Tossing It Out.  In the meantime, in addition to reviews on Amazon and elsewhere, you can check out the tour links that I have provided below and find several very fine reviews from some other bloggers whom you may enjoy checking out. 

            But what about the contest?

           Yes, there is a contest that Tamara is having and it's well worth putting your name in the blog hat.

She's going to be running two contests during the tour: one book giveaway
and one Kindle giveaway.

Book giveaway: The winner of this contest will be randomly chosen. Every
person who comments on any post during the blog tour will be entered into
a random drawing for a book. Which Tamara can autograph, if they want. The
contest begins on Nov. 16 and ends on Dec. 15.

Kindle giveaway: This contest is point-based and begins Oct. 15 and ends
Dec. 15. Whoever has the most points wins the Kindle. There will only be
one Kindle given away. Here are the points:

1 point: blog comment (can comment on all the blogs, multiple times, on
the tour)

1 point: follow Tamara's blog (

1 point: retweet

2 points: blog about the blog tour

5 points: purchase the book (ebook or paperback, must email Tamara the

confirmation email) if they actually buy the book in the store they can

mail her a copy of the receipt.

Have them add up all their points as well as their proof (links, etc) and
email it to Tamara at the end of the blog tour (tamara at tamarahartheiner dot


Good news! You can earn an infinite number of points!

     Now you may ask, "Where can I get a copy of Perilous?

Here is the ebook link:

You can now also buy the actual book from Amazon. or Barnes and Noble or from Tamara's site.

And don't forget to visit Tamara's blog and let her know you saw it right here on Tossing It Out.

And now here is the line up of her tour if you'd like to go back and check any of the stops you've missed or want to come back for the remaining stops. 

Oct. 15 David J. West

Oct. 18 Nichole Giles

Oct. 19 Talli Roland

Oct. 20 Guinevere Rowell

Oct. 21 Mary Gray

Oct. 22 Frankie

Oct. 25 Mary Greathouse

Oct. 26 RaShelle Workman (interview)

Oct. 27 T. Anne Adams

Oct. 28 Valerie Ipson

Oct. 29 Ann Best

Nov. 1 Christy Dorrity

Nov. 2 Chrstine Bryant

Nov. 3 Rebecca Blevins

Nov. 5 Annette Lyon

Nov. 8 Jennifer Daiker

Nov. 9 Carolina Valdez and Jaime Theler

Nov. 10 Elizabeth Mueller

Nov. 11 Christine Danek

Nov. 12 Elle Strauss

Nov. 15 Niki

Nov. 16 Lynn Parsons

Nov. 17 Danyelle Ferguson

Nov. 18 Elana Johnson

Nov. 19 Sarah McClung

Nov. 22 Suzanne Hartmann

Nov. 23 Marsha Ward

Nov. 24 Tara McClendon

Nov. 29 Courtney Barr

Nov. 30 Tristi Pinkston

Dec. 1 Cheri Chesley

Dec. 2 Karen Gowen

Dec. 3 Melanie Jacobson

Dec. 6 Kristie Ballard

Dec. 7 Melissa Cunningham

Dec. 8 Arlee Bird

Dec. 9 Debbie Davis

Dec. 10 Taffy Lovell

Dec. 13 Sheri Larsen

Dec. 14 Joyce DiPastena

Dec.15 Diana Miezcan

       And one more thing!   How about a brief book trailer to get a taste of what you're in for when you read Perilous.

Good luck Tamara Hart Heiner and Perilous!


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Do You Think Creative Visualization Works?

              Recently, as I was working on my novel for NaNo, I began to take special note of how much I was visualizing the story in my mind. This is not a new approach for me by any means--it's my normal modus operandi.  However, I started paying closer attention to the process of visualization as it applies to writing.  I discussed this in my blog entry for yesterday.

              Then, this past weekend as I was working on finishing my novel Time Light, I began visualizing the novel having already been published and achieving success.  I could see myself at hugely attended book signings and author events.  And there was my book in the top ten of the New York Times bestseller list.  It was all there vividly in my imagination.  What if I were to apply the principles of creative visualization?  Would it all happen as I saw it in my mind?

               To clarify what creative visualization is, let me summarize it for those of you who may not be familiar with it.   Creative visualization is a discipline which involves seeing in your mind's eye that which you want to attain in your life.  The visualizer focuses on the goal, imagines every detail about what it would be like to attain that goal, and meditates or even prays about attaining the goal until eventually the efforts of the mind make it happen.  This type of visualization is often associated with spiritual or mystical powers that help bring the attainment of the goal to fruition.  This is the dime store version of creative visualization as I understand it.  It is undoubtedly more complex than that but this gives us a place to start.

               Creative visualization is a vital component to several religions, New Age movements, and prosperity success programs.  Many self-help books promote this technique to help achieve goals.  It is a practice that does make sense to me, but not in any spiritual or mystical sense.  If goals are achieved I think it is more attributed to the logical outcome of applying the creative visualization techniques rather than the intercession by some higher power. 

               This discipline of visualization is something that is more related to putting us "in the zone" rather than some higher realm controlling our destiny.  In other words, I see creative discipline as more of a mental rehearsal of something you want to do or a detailed internalized examination of where you want to be. 

            A good example was pointed out yesterday in a comment by Talli Roland.  She related how an athlete will use creative visualization to "practice" a skill without physically doing it.   The athlete will imagine whatever skill they are interested in perfecting, analyzing it and repeating it in their mind so that when they actually physically perform the act there should be a mental sense that improves the physical act.  The visualization in this case is totally functional and for the most part irrelated to anything of a spiritual nature.

          This example can likewise apply to getting a job or promotion, finding a romantic partner, or acquiring something that one wants.  A salesperson may mentally practice a sales pitch before meeting with a customer, imagining what barriers may be encountered and picturing closing the sale.  You may begin a process of visualizing finding a romantic partner and meditating and fixating on this until it happens--but it is highly unlikely that anything will happen unless you take action.   The visualization exercise does not cause the success, it merely prods the dreamer and facilitates the potential of success.

           The way I see it is that you can creatively visualize with the greatest intensity that you can muster, and nothing is likely to ever happen until you actually step forward and start taking action.  The visualization is a first step towards action, which may or may not lead to success.  Creative visualization is not a magic spell.

Do you think that creative visualization works?

             Do you ever consciously use creative visualization to attain goals?   Do you believe that creative visualization is connected to an element of spirituality or mystical power?    Have you visualized your success as an author (or whatever your field of interest is) and what have you seen?

           Stop by tomorrow when I will have a special post with a scheduled stop on Tamara Hart Heiner's book tour appearing on Tossing It Out.


Monday, December 6, 2010


          Visualization is something that has become in more recent decades something that is part of New Age thinking.  It is often associated with prosperity or success philosophies which say if you picture something long enough and strong enough in your mind it will eventually come into being. 

            One of the early American proponents of this technique is  Wallace Wattles (1860–1911), who wrote The Science of Getting Rich.  His philosophy is rooted in some of the beliefs of the Hindu religion. Since then many success and self-improvement movements and books have continued in this similar school of thinking.  In the 1970s there were many new religious movements that embraced these thoughts.

              I am not here today to advocate any of the religious connections to visualization, but to approach the topic from a more logical viewpoint related to writing.  Although before proceeding I will say that in my own life there are things that I have visualized with a strong focus and they have come to pass.  This has been sometimes with good results and sometimes bad.  It is an illustration of be careful what you wish for because you might get it, but that's another topic for another time.  The real point that I'd like to make though is that the act of creative visualization usually has its results through logical explanations.  I'm not saying there can't be supernatural consequences to creatively visualizing something, but let me return to this aspect on my post tomorrow.

             Today let's look at the act of vividly visualizing as a part of the creative process of writing.  When I am reading something I try to picture what I'm reading.  This may be one reason that I often have a difficult time reading something that deals with concepts or things that are more related to thinking than seeing, or that is thinking in the sense of reasoning and contemplation.  This is me, and may be some you, and there are probably some complex reasons for this and I certainly wouldn't want to delve into those reasons here.  The bottom line is that I do better reading a story and story is my current topic.

            When I am writing, I am attempting to create a world, characters, and a series of events that the reader can become a part of.   In order to do this most effectively I see it as imperative that all of these things become real to me.  This must be done through vivid visualization. 

             Some writers take a very organized and detailed approach in creating outlines, character sketches, and other recorded details about aspects of the story with which they are dealing.  This is probably the most sensible approach.  My approach is much more internalized in my imagination.

             When I begin a story I start with a particular component which is usually focused on plot, character, or setting.  I start by thinking about it and organizing the basics in my mind.   Sometimes I will write down a few notes, but mostly I essentially start daydreaming or going through a process of visualization. 

              I will picture the characters and imagine as much as I can to make them real.  They become almost as real to me as the people I actually encounter in my life.   I can see in my mind in detail the places where the story takes place--I am there and I know what everything looks like.  The settings of my stories become places that are absolutely real to me. 

            Being unable to visualize what I am going to write is when inspiration is labored.  At that point I may have to look at a map or research what I want to write about.  Inability to understand inhibits being able see a clear image of my writing subject.

              Call it what you will, the ability to see the movie in my mind allows me to write the screenplay for whatever I am seeing.   Whether a short story or a  novel, I need to be able to drop myself in the midst of that story's world and become an observer in that world.  

               Success is when I find myself thinking about that world at random times during the day or relating my story to things I hear about or witness.   At times I may be experiencing life in a duality of existence--I am here where I am, but part of me is living in the level of my story.  In some ways this might sound a little crazy, but I think everyone in every pursuit does something very similar.  We are who we are and who we want others to think we are.

               My ultimate visualization victory is when I begin to dream the characters, setting, and story.  At that point I realize that the writing that I am working on has firmly placed itself into my subconscious and is now an absolute part of me.  Once I have achieved the ability to dream about my story I am often able to find solutions to aspects that have perplexed me, new understandings about characters or story concepts, or even new directions for the plot to take.

            What approach works best for you in creating your story and its elements?  Do you lean more toward a structured and practical approach?   If so, why do you think that works best?   How intensely do you resort to visualization?   What are the hazards of relying on vivid visualization?   If you are not a writer, do you use visualization in your own pursuit?

          Tomorrow I will be addressing the topic of creative visualization.    On Wednesday I will have a special post with a scheduled stop on Tamara Hart Heiner's book tour appearing on Tossing It Out.   Then on Thursday I'll be pulling something out of my hat.