The billionaire’s secret weapon

Once, when I was giving a writers presentation to a group of high school students, I was asked by a teacher what process I follow for writing my books. “Is there one thing, or set of things you do prior to starting to write?”

“Yes, there is,” I responded. “I pray.” That was it, pure and simple. I didn’t even elaborate on what I pray for (which, btw, is clarity, the ability to write what’s in my head etc. and have it be congruent with my ideals and thoughts etc). You should have seen the look on this woman’s face. You would have thought I was advocating a new drug inhalation process for the illegal, not legal type. The irony of it all, was this was a parochial school, the place I where I actually felt safe giving this answer.

Over the years, the irony of the prayer-before-the-big-event thing has intrigued me. I’ve grown up with images of Madonna and her backup-dancers holding hands in a group prayer before a concert. Big football players kneel or bow their heads prior to kick-off, asking for health, strong hands and probably a win. Why then, I ask, is the big deal with saying a prayer (albeit silently) before a big meeting or when starting a sculpture or writing a book?

quote

slightly obvious. I actually prefer Roger’s quote, which he used for years with consultants (who wouldn’t shut up). “You can’t learn anything while you are talking.” I would have used that but I didn’t have the time to create a pretty picture with quotes.

I have long prayed when considering what clients to take on and which ones to pass.  I’ve said prayers before presentations in front of groups large and small, interviews with the press, before I’ve gone on television shows, prior to pitching the venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. In fact, pretty much any event of significance I’ve invoked my right to call above to the Almighty (or as Roger says: “whatever is out there in the Universe that’s listening”).

Ironically, I’ve been much more lax about praying on the personal front, but that too, is another story. It seems that when it comes to career, my red-phone bat line has been in constant use. It turns out, I’m not alone in this. Over the last two years, I’ve been interviewing 3 dozen hundred millionaires and billionaires that haven’t spoken to the press about their rise from poverty (nearly all) to a financially secure point in life. One of the common threads is faith (in self or God). Another thread is prayer. Even the few who claim atheism state they still say a prayer (to the universal energy that exists).

This call-to-arms as I’ve come to think of it, is a plea for all the thoughts, energy and desire built within to come to the forefront when it’s needed in exactly the right way, be it for that winning touchdown or the closing of the million dollar home sale.

Prayer circles aren’t as weird as they sound

Going back to the football scenario, where a bunch of men are on the field, eyes closed and heads bent—it’s a normal scene is it not? They are in a circle…a literal prayer circle. If this came up in casual conversation, can you even imagine the derision the topic would instill, not to mention the analogies to other sects, cults and who-knows-what off-shoots of beheading chickens and dancing around a bonfire.

Yet for athletes and Madonna, it’s done and accepted, business as usual. (I would, just once, love to have seen Ballmer hold out his hand at the executive round table, bow his head and say whatever prayer that man would have said –although I imagine it would have involved a strong desire for the stock price to go above 100 for a picosecond. Just once).

Going back to me and the writing process, or business for that matter, yes, I pray, but it is not done lightly or by rote. I won’t pray if I don’t feel worthy of an answer. Ergo, if I have a lesson to teach and I’ve not adequately prepared, I feel it’s morally wrong to ask some higher power to bail me out. Conversely, if I’ve done my part, studied, prepared my outline, readied the lesson and I still feel uncomfortable, then I know this means I’m missing something. A piece of the puzzle isn’t quite right in the grooves. It is then that I pray fervently to understand what direction I must go, what I must change and how I must communicate the message—assuming that my message is right in the first place. I can’t tell you how many times this very thing has happened, and when I’m on stage, I’ve had words, phrases or examples come to mind that I’d previously not thought of or considered, and it made all the difference in the world.

One billionaire, a seventy-ish man now retired and living in Colorado, used to be the president of one of the largest commercial real estate companies in the country. In his “retirement,” he still owns three different entities in different industries. When I asked him how he makes many of his decisions, he was unapologetic when he said he prays.

“Yes, I listen to my advisors and I read the numbers, but most of the time, hiring people and making big business decisions doesn’t rely on numbers or resumes,” he said. “Those can be manipulated and represented in ways that won’t tell you what will truly happen six months, a year or five years out.” For that, he relies on a higher power.

And this blog? Do I pray before writing a blog? No, not usually, and honestly, my level of seriousness regarding my blog writing (and Instagram and Facebook accounts) ebb and flow with my mood. Sometimes I simply like a picture that’s interesting, fun or humorous. I’ve noticed that when it comes to thoughts of making a person’s day brighter, uplifting myself (or others) in some way, then yes, I actually do say a prayer to understand what I should write or post. The reward is often immediate and strong, producing positive feedback or responses.

Even those who don’t believe in a universal God or super being, the notion of universal “Karma” is alive and well. In other words, what comes around goes around, so it’s better to be on the safe side than send out evil vibes. If this holds true, then one could argue that prayers can only help, and never hurt, so “What’s there to lose?” (As my husband often asks). “It’s not hurting anyone and can only help.”

Keep that in mind the next time you could use a little clarity, support, wisdom or overall confidence. It’s free, there’s nothing to lose, and it can only help. Those are three mantras I can live by.

Halloween Treats – Meringue Bones

A light weight, gluten-free party favorite for all ages is bones. I’m talking meringue bones. It’s simple, fast and impressive. Most important, it doesn’t require a fancy icing tip. As a backdrop, I’ve tried a number of recipes from major sites, and I hated all of them save one, and even that, I modified. The following has a basis in the recipe from fishieking on allrecipes. My first round, I didn’t totally like the consistency of the bones (too mushy both in the better and final outcome). I increased the amount of cream of tartar just a hair and it was perfect.

Tip: make sure the Cream of Tartar (its a spice, just in case you haven’t heard of it), is within the expiration date. The first batch was ruined, and I looked at the culprit, which turned out to be 6 months overdue on the expiration. The next batch made with a brand new bottle turned out normally.

Requirements
Egg beater, big Ziploc plastic bag, parchment paper to line the cookie sheet.

Ingredients
6 egg whites (room temperature)
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 pinch salt
1 1/3 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used bourbon or Madagascar vanilla. it makes a huge difference)

Directions
Preheat oven to 225 degrees F (110 degrees C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (I prefer this to the tinfoil in the original recipe. it’s less sticky)

Beat the egg whites with cream of tartar and salt with an electronic mixer until egg whites are foamy. Gradually beat in sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, beating until the sugar dissolves in the meringue before adding more. Continue beating until the meringue is glossy and forms sharp peaks. Add the vanilla. At this point, the batter should be very gloppy (a technical term of course).

Spoon the batter into a Ziploc or pastry bag.

Tip: when I read this direction, I thought great. Reality is that I use a large KitchenAid mixer and couldn’t hold the bowl, and the Ziploc and spoon the stuff. I enlisted my husband, who held the bowl as I used a spatula to slide the batter into the bag.

Cut the end of the tip with a scissors.

Tip for formation of the bones.

Start at the upper left hand corner, draw down to the bottom of the V. Then go up to the right of the V. Quickly take the tip straight down for the long center. Then draw down for the lower left, then up to the base V then down to the lower right. Lift up the tip.

I made a few testers, which necessitated me changing the grip of my bag. It’s easy enough to push out, but half-way through, the bag will deflate and air bubbles will collect. To prevent this, stop, open the bag, squeeze out the air then resume.

img_8652

Meringue bones – gluten free party favorite

Key directions for cooking

Place the cookie sheets and bake for 1 hour. Do NOT open the oven door, not even to peek. I ignored this part of the directions (thinking it wouldn’t make a difference. It did. They flopped). So, lesson learned. Leave it shut for an additional hour. (seriously. do not skip this).

When removing the bones, slide off the parchment paper onto a rack. Wait until cooled, then place in an air tight container.

Tip for storage

The original recipe didn’t give any commentary on storage, but I read that they could be sealed, room temperature for several days. I made one batch on Tuesday, thinking they would be fine for Saturday. Well, I checked on Thursday, and they’d become really brittle. By Friday, they were falling apart at the touch, with the exception of a few of the thicker ones. That meant I ended up creating a new batch, which I served the following day.

Pictures show the formation and the outcome.

By the way- I had these on a “gluten free” table, but all the guests had them- adults and kids (about 50 total). They were the first to go!

Halloween kid games (but work for adults)

Graveyard bowling

Graveyard bowling

Fourthings to do that work equally well for kids and adults, because really, when it comes to Halloween, adults revert back decades, dress silly, act sillier, and generally have no shame when it comes to what happens in the darkened rooms of a Halloween party.

Graveyard bowling

All you need is an empty space about 10 5-8 feet long. Carpet works, as does cement or wood. What you need:

  1. A sign. Pumpkin bowling. $3 bucks for the black cardboard. white spraypaint. tacks.
  2. old water bottles, 1/3 full of water and red food coloring (strip off the label).
  3. round, white cut outs on taped to the floor. 10 of them.dsc_0907
  4. smallish pumpkins.

Place the bottles on the floor. Behind the bottles, tack the cardboard. Walla. You are done. I was surprised how many adults wanted to play this bowling game. It was hilarious.

 

Mummy wrapping

This was a party fav two years ago with the kids & the adults had so much fun I ddsc_0901id it again. It’s easy. Teams of 2 or 3, and two rolls of toilet paper. One package from Costco means 2 rounds of ten-give or take, so the teams of two can each hav a chance to wrap and be the mummy.

Toss the finger & eat the earwax

This is easy, but unfortunately I don’t have pictures of the former and only one of the latter.

Tossing the finger means you get a bucket (we have a cauldron) and set it about 10 feet away from the kids (in a line) and they toss 3 fingers. The one to get all three wins the prize. Adults do this to. The cauldron can be on the piano, side-stool, inside or out. You’d be surprised how few people can get the finger in (or eyeballs work) in the cauldron!

img_8670

Earwax on a bone

The second game is awesome! This came about when I saw this Pinterest idea for earwax on a stick. I modified the idea by purchasing bones at the Spirit Halloween store (25 for $3.00). I then took a small marshmellow and stuck it on both ends of the small bones. After than, I melted Ghiradelli milk chocolate and dipped the ends in the chocolate. It looks like brown earwax…so grossly awesome. The game came about because the bones came with two small holes. I was able to run string (I used fishing line) through it, then hung the bones. The kids were able to see how many they could eat without the ear wax falling on the floor. Adults are way more grossed out on this game than the kids–no telling why.

Look for the recipe and other info on the earwax which doubles as a treat in other blogs.

 

 

Easy Halloween decorations

 “Make it spookier, Mom.” Famous last words. The last time I took my daughter’s recommendation, I had a jilted bride hanging by a noose off the deck, headless men in water, a two-headed baby strapped to a wall and a myriad of ancient-looking dolls that I’d morphed into something from a Victorian zombie apocalypse. It freaked out the parents probably more than the kids.

Even so, I’m in a new state this year, and that means a whole new community of parents to traumatize. My daughter, being the ripe old age of 11, insisted that her friends wanted spooky, and that the parents wouldn’t mind. I thought: hey, it is Idaho. Rog calls it the “Good luck state.” Practically no laws govern this place…helmuts for motorcycles? Nope. Gun laws? Not that we can find. And driving while talking on the cell phone? Go for it. Coming from the state of Washington, which seems as over regulated as Switzerland, this place is akin to Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns free-for-all.

But I digress. Let’s get back to easy and relatively cheap (as in dollar-store cheap) decorations.

  1. Scary dolls. I love this! Hit goodwill
    spooky dolls

    Spooky doll nailed to the post

    or your local thrifts shop. I found half a dozen for about 2 dollars each. I took them home, painted the faces white (used my daughters paint set), then added some black and red. I then used some spray paint we had in the garage on a few just to make the dresses look a little beat up. Lastly, I wrapped a few up in spider web so I can could hang strategically. A few I left out (like the clown) and placed in plants–making them look like zombie dolls rising from the grave. This year, it was wet and we had the party in the outbuilding (e.g. shop, but in Idaho, it’s called an “outbuilding,” go figure), so I hung them within spider webbing.

  2. Crime scene tape. Rog gets crime scene tape for his hockey legging on line for a Off limits tapedollar. I found the same thing at the dollar store, but I chose Haunted House tape. This serves the purpose of cordoning off areas but also as a marker for down by the gate.
  3. Black tablecloth for backdrops. At the dollar store, these large rectangular table clothes are a thin plastic-like (but not quite) feel. I put them up anywhere I needed to shield out light, but also give privacy–such as to storage areas. Four bucks and the entire loft area was transformed.
  4. Window shields. I also used the black tablecloth to darken the windows and put some cracks in the fabric–resembling a rock being thrown through the window–or an old spooky window.
  5. Old-time windows. I then purchased several web/cloth like pieces of material. These tended to be about 4 dollars each, but had enough in them to cut into 2 pieces. From this, I made spooky window curtains. Hang these up with clear tacks-lots and lots of tacks.
  6. Webbing. Rule on this: not all webbing is created equal. If you purchase the webbing at the dollar store- it’s really sticky, which will adhere to most walls or wood. However, it doesn’t stretch well and isn’t strong enough to hold anything within. For that, you need to go to Target or Spirit Halloween and for this super-stretchy webbing and spend about $7 bucks on the real
    dsc_0871

    white spider web on top of stretchy webbing- pumpkin above

    stuff. I get the 30 foot, or 75 foot length, which will stretch entire sections. This stuff is amazing. It will also go about 5-7 feet high, which makes it amazingly helpful. Colors are black, white and green. If you are darkening- go black. If you have a darkroom/house already, go white. I have one of the enormous webs that I stretched from my second floor to the ground–couldn’t find it in my boxes this year (half of which are still in storage) but it’s a super buy & for $24 it makes a great impact.

  7. Gruesome tablecloth & Spooky pics area. This is one of my absolute favorites. Two years ago, I had a table decoration idea that morphed into a cool feature. The idea was to take a table cloth I found at Goodwill (white, with a lace edge). I took red, grey and black paint and strategically cut slits in the tableclothe. For the party, I then put stands with food within the slits. It was gruesomely awesome! however, I had no such need Pictures or tablecloththis time around. As you can see from the picture, I nailed it to the back wall, and put a head through one of the slits and a two-headed baby through the other. When the kids came, they took turns (in groups) putting their own heads through, and they looked like headless people.
  8. Hands from the grave. Another dollar store find is to get old dolls, skeleton or bone hand, paint it white/grey/red (if needed) and put it within your pots at the house. Also do this with fingers or mice, which are easily and cheaply found (I’m talking plastic or rubber, not the real thing!).with heads!
  9. Transforming spooky pictures. Four years ago, I actually had to pay real money (e.g. 8 bucks) for these things. Now they are 1 dollar at the cheap stores. They are fun to do. For the outbuilding, I adhered them to the walls. When I had an adult party at my home, I used special tape to adhere them to my actual pictures- so they looked framed. It was super cool and it caught a lot of adults by surprise.
  10. Entryway canopy. The photo of the entryway was a find that I believe I purchased at the Spirit Halloween store years ago. It’s purple with spider webs. I adhere it to the
    img_8661

    Doorway canopy

    entryway with either tape or at my last home, tacks. This time around, I put a headless man above the entry way, attached to the light with spider webbing as the holder. You could replicate this same thing with an old sheet, some scissor rips and paint of anykind. Oh! makeup works! Just thought I’d throw that in.

  11. Large spider webs with our without lights. Over the years, I keep an eye out for super-large spider webs of all kinds. The material varies- from nylon to spiny/rubber-like feel. Some are white, others black but most come with some type of massive spider. I have purchased orange lights from the dollar store, but I always look out for post-Halloween sales to get longer, better made varieties from Target or wherever. Wrapping these around the spider webs really sets off the room.
    1. the tip on this is to strategically place the spider webs in the corners, for maximum impact.
    2. another tip is to place a scary doll within the spider web–ideally, with a spider coming to get it.
  12. Mummies and other hanging ghouls. I picked up a super cool mummy one year that always freaks people out. It twists and turns, and was about $25, so a bit more than I usually spend. It’s only gauze wrapped around wires of varying dimensions, with the shape of feet at one end and a head at the other. It can be made easily enough, but I don’t have that kind of time.
  13. Jilted bride. One of my absolute favorites. I purchased a wedding dress for $10 at Goodwill, took my scissors to it, then got out my red spray paint and made it gnarly. I then purchased a mask from Goodwill (a really freaky woman). I put this mask on top of a mop (I kid you not. rog thought I was nuts), then used a rope to keep the head on the post. More red spray paint covered parts of the rope, but the whole point was to make it look bloody, which it did. I then strung her up and hung her off the balcony. She greeted everyone. As you can imagine, I didn’t put this up for the 11 year olds (I don’t want to be responsible for future therapy sessions) because it even bothered the adults, who, in true form, said they loved it.
  14. Odds and ends. Little things like towels, bookends, skeleton napkin holders, hanging menus–these are all available at craft stores or wherever. Just keep an eye out for good deals. My serious Halloween gathering started 7 years ago, and has just been building. Lots of super cool things can be done with paint and a few items from Goodwill.

some kids games are up next. pumpkin bowling, bones in the bin and mummy wrapping.

The Reluctant Dad

As tempted as I am to write about all things Halloween, I can’t get the image of a man sobbing in the arms of my husband, and then turning to me when my husband says, “He just lost his baby. He needs a hug.”

To backtrack, we’ve known this slightly-built man in his mid-thirties about eight months. The time it has taken him and his crew to work on projects on the property. Over this time, I’ve learned several things: he hunts, he has two rescue pitbulls, he’s married to his high school sweetheart, he’s never really believed in dental work or caring much about what he puts into his body other than highly-caffeinated drinks and beef jerky. I’ve also learned and seen that he works tirelessly, can eyeball nearly any piece dimension at a glance (and is nearly always right after he measures) and has a hard-as-steel outward countenance and like most men with a tough outer shell, is equally as mushy on the inside. Oh, and he has always maintained that he never, ever, wanted children.

Then came the incident above. This was preceeded by a week-long all-expense paid trip to Hawaii, courtesy of his boss, the owner of the small business. It was the boss’s 20th anniversary, and he was treating the man I’ll call Travis and his wife for a week on the big island. When Travis showed up at our house, it was two Saturday’s following his return. Rog observed him from the kitchen window, noticing he kept going back and forth between sites, looking around and off into the distance. His pace was slower, his head kept shaking. Rog thought something was amiss. He went out to investigate. Not long after, I looked out, and saw the two talking. Rog didn’t have his normal, casual stance. It was a serious, stand-to-the-side pose, his arm up on the temporary chicken coop, then I saw him put his hand on Travis’ shoulder.

At that point, I’m not sure what is up, but it wasn’t good. It needed a woman’s perspective (or at least input). I go out, the typical smile on my face, ready to say hello for the day. I see Travis’ eyes are red and he quickly put his fingers up, shadowing his eyes. I look at Rog. His own eyes are a little glassy. I tell Travis it’s nice to see him, and that it must be a hard day. Rog looks at me and says bluntly:

“Travis’ wife was pregnant and she just lost the baby,” he says in typical Roger fashion. “Travis needs a hug.”

“You asshole,” says Travis as I come forward, wrap my arms around him and hold on. The man loses it, his shoulders shaking so hard and his gasps come ragged. I say what someone who’s been through a late stage miscarriage says: it hurts. It’s normal. We love you.

He cries harder.

Eventually, I release him and tell him he should have stayed home. His wife and her emotional needs take priority over anything at our house. Rog concurs, and eventually he leaves. Only later does Rog inform me that his wife had told him on the Hawaiian vacation, and at first, he was shocked, then freaked out, then, as all men who originally don’t want children (think Roger, for 7 years), he turned the corner.

A child. His child. A family. Together, the three of them. All the emotions that accompany the prospective of creating a life and new experiences together came rushing forward. He had all the joy of that ideal for two weeks. They shopped for baby items, started talking about names and then it was over. His wife had waited over three months to tell him once she learned she was pregnant.

Then it was over. Since this occurred, two and a half weeks ago, the doctors, and Travis and his wife, expected the baby to come out on its own. It didn’t. Yesterday, she had to go in, and the baby had to be surgically removed. I will spare you the details. It was horrible. Like another death, all over again. I think in some ways, for those of us who have experienced this, it’s worse than the fetus dying (when its that far along, I call it a baby, for everything is formed).

Once again, Rog got a call that he was going to come today, the “day after.” I said no. Roger pre-empted me, already telling Travis to stay home and be with his wife. He did, and we were both grateful for it.

The entire experience has caused me to repeatedly reflect on how the unexpected changes us, and then how those of us surrounding the one in pain are able to–and I think, required–to give love, empathy and support. It’s the benefit of going through painful experiences: helping others. Love comes around. Empathy can be universal. The unexpected hug can mean so much.

It’s also another confirmation point that we have no idea what is going on in another person’s life. When I was at Costco, the day after my brother died, I was standing in line, with toilet paper and tissues; we were out of both. Life had to go on, I was the mother, and the man behind the counter, with whom I usually bantered with, got very stilted when I didn’t smile or laugh or joke. He took it personally. I found myself going out of my way to be happy and what I thought was “normal” because I didn’t want him to believe I had taken a sudden dislike of him.

And therein lies the resulting change in my perspective over the years. When someone cuts me off, I don’t get mad. Maybe that person just lost his/her job or got dumped. When a person is mean in line, I think–maybe that person just lost his or her brother. We never know the lives, loves and heartaches of another, and I’ve learned that listening is a great gift and hugs don’t cost a thing.

 

Titles versus results – IOW- How to improve hits & sales

I’m always wanting to give my posts exaggerated, catchy titles, but author 101 dictates otherwise. The reason? Google and searching questions. “Spooktastic Treats” don’t get as many hits as “Wasy and impressive Halloween treats.”

This is not War and Peace, I know. But if you are writing a blog for the purpose of getting advertising revenue, or a book to receive a royalty check, it all starts with hits, then clicks, then views, then a purchase. But even general markets pushing a product–be it a software application, game or new brand of earphone, want to get to their target consumer.

For marketing junkie such as myself (that means 20 yrs of learning how to get people to buy), I struggle with my own desire to use a fun, catchy title, versus the reality that when in a rush, a person looking for the answer to a specific question will most likely type in that question, not the cool, marketing version of the exact same question.

Tip for bloggers:
1. Have a catchy title, but then the real-world sub-title that people will search
2. Make sure you embed high-impact (e.g. often searched) categories, products or phrases that will give you a higher hit count
3. embed the google AdSense or other advertising revenue generating form into your system. I personally stopped using that when I moved to WordPress because a) I found I was spending too much time on linking rather than writing and b) I don’t use a blog as revenue-generating mechanism. it’s my own personal therapy tool (for my personal side) and information dissemination center (for general business and writing topics).

Tips for authors/or business owners who are pushing a product:
1. same as above BUT try and categorize by topics and put the primary topic somewhere in the title, and multiple times in the body
2. link to and from other topics on the add value, not just sell the product. so irritating when its all about you and not the information at hand

time your promotions to fit your target demographic

time your promotions to fit your target demographic

For both, the final tip is Review and Assess. See what’s working and what’s not. Most apps have statistical data that shows what pages are being viewed and the time spent on each. Jupiter Communications puts out great info (that’s free) on the best pages, and times for posting. Specifically:

  • Posts get looked at the most on Wednesday at 12 pm PST (3 pm EST) and Friday at the same times–for the business crowd. why? Because east-coasters (in the US) are lolly-gagging around, killing time after 3, and west-coasters tend to stay put at their desks for lunch. Thus, if you are launching something that appeals to this category (workers at desks) post during this timeframe. I have technology clients- software companies, but also card-making companies that launch promotions during this time to great results.
  • Posts for the general consumer (either not working or off hours) are Sunday nights after 7 pm. why? The football games are over, the movies and soccer games done. People are finished with dinner, relaxing and not always by the television. The laptops are on the actual laps, in front of the tv!

 

Clay, the easy, natural & free cure for a spider bite

The night before I’m to give a presentation (that would be Saturday) I feel an aching, then swelling, then itching in the center of my foot. I itch. It grows. I ice. It grows. I whine. It continues to grow. By midnight, I’m losing my mind–actually, that had already begun when I used calendula ointment and then arnica gel (both purchased at the local health food store, and have been using both since I was a teen). Both actually worked to a degree, but I can’t tell you definitely which one was the best, since I was in a mad rush of solutions, and slathered both on, one after another. I also tried a few other natural treatments I found on the bastion of all information, WebMD.

The next morning I wake, don on my nylons and heels and get going. Mid-presentation, I’m talking about overcoming and I stop, raise my foot and give an object lesson.

“Like now,” I say, retelling my spider bite story. “All I want to do is itch the center of my swollen foot but I’ve made it through nearly fifty minutes.” I get head nods of affirmation (which makes me feel good and strong), but afterward, a woman whom I know to be naturopath comes up to me and says this:

“Don’t lance it.” (in the presentation, I’d said my husband, Rog, has a singular solution for everything from a bad relationship to a zip and spider bites. “Lance it!” he always suggests.

“Lancing will make it worse,” she says, grateful I ignored him (just this once). “Do you have mud?”

“Mud, as in, in my backyard?” She affirms the very same. “About ten acres of it.”

spider-bite

This is a spider bite taken from this helpful article

“Go put wet mud on your spider bite. Clay draws out the venom.”

Sure enough, I got home, walk ten feet, get a handful of dirt, add water and apply. It was only a matter of minutes before my foot felt better. The swelling reduced, the itching stopped almost immediately. Today (Monday) I woke with barely an evidential point of the bite. By 3 this afternoon, it’s completely healed. No itching, soreness or residual effects.

I’m glad I used the calendula (good for itching) and arnica (which is normally for pain), because I’m sure they both tempered the issue. But the mud? That was the ticket.

*sorry, no pictures. I wasn’t thinking clearly. it was the spider bite:-

Writing to get published – the sure fire way to fail. Write for self & self only

Every so often, a brave soul asks me a bonified, legitimate question about writing, publisher, or some business aspect that relates to my former (mostly) life of deal marketing and partnerships. Perhaps a half-dozen come across my desk every year, which I attribute to fear or skepticism I’ll actually offer a reply. This was one of them.

This last month, I was asked the following question.

Q: (asked via Instagram): how do you write? For yourself, or for the publisher, or for the reader?

This required a longer response than I was willing to put in Instagram, so I asked for, and received, an email. Turns out the writer is a man from France, an EVP for a telecommunications company who is writing a fiction novel in his spare time. I was just speaking about this topic with another prospective author (e.g. unpublished, not- agent represented), so I thought the universe was giving me a hint to respond. Here is my answer, verbatim.

admiral-ackbar-ole-miss-bigger

Be authentic. People like authentic, no matter how strange it is.

A: Ok, so I was just answering your latest question for another new-author. To write for the reader or write for self. The answer, unequivocally, is write for self. Early on, I knew I had an audience to write for—but that was non-fiction, business/trade, and all about making money and success. In that world, it was/is easier to write for the audience—because the readers had a mutual, self-identified/selected topic—success in business. In that respect, yes, I did consider the reader—but that was based on common denominators (age group, entrepreneurs etc).

Fiction is entirely different. For fiction, the audience is so broad and varied—my action adventure is read by 18-35 yr old males, but then a ton of girls/women internationally—it’s a complete grab bag. When writing the first version, I had to scrap my first two (fully complete) versions and write what interested me. It was that book that was accepted and is being turned into a movie franchise series.

That said, I suffered the same issue when I started writing in another genre—and found once again, that writing for self (me) was the only way to go. In fact, I struggled with this particular genre (general interest fiction) for years, because I was always writing for some demographic I had in my head. Turns out, my agent said the books were always sub-par and he declined to submit them to publishers. Three years ago, that changed when I went through some personal issues (death/destruction) and emerged just wanting beach reading. I churned that novel out in 3 months, my agent said it was the best thing I’d ever written.

The moral to the story is this: write a book you yourself want to read. If a paragraph or chapter drags and is boring for you, then it’s going to be boring to someone else. Ultimately, your favorite book to read should be the one that you, yourself, have written. That’s the ultimate test.

Note: all the comments on my blog are automatically deleted. I get spammed to the tune of 20K per day, which is awful. If you want my attention, hit me up on Instagram or facebook, and at least you have a chance. my Instagram  is Sarah_j_Gerdes and facebook is Sarah Gerdes author

 

 

 

Blissful blindness

Last night, elevenish. I should be in bed, enjoying the raptures that come with a nearly two-decade long marriage (or is that an oxymoron). Instead, I’m sitting on the couch, playing ’80’s Fun Factory (those clubbers of you know what I’m talking about), and Rog has one arm around my shoulders, the other on my waist. I feel a disturbance in the force. Something’s awry. I look down. I have a sliver of white belly fat poking out between my shirt and pants. Well, really, it’s more like an albino hotdog lying on its side, making an unscheduled appearance.

I subtly take the material between my thumb and forefinger, covering the kosher meat product. He notices. “If I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist,” I say with a laugh.

Rog roars. Full body-shaking, shoulder-collapsing movement that shows just how mortifying a horizontal hot-dog on one’s stomach can be. The moment passes, I make a mental note to do more sit-ups the following morning and that program-from-Dante’s 7th ring of hell on the elyptical and forget it.

This morning, I’m at the kitchen counter writing. I’ve finished making breakfast for a legion of girls, cleaned the counters and shunted the bodies downstairs to play for two hours so I can write. Rog mosies out from his office/den, searching around like a puppy sniffing hydrants.

His random motions distract, then disturbs me. I can’t concentrate. I sense he’s nearing the sink, going to do the dishes.

“No,” I tell him. You will make noise. I’ve just gotten the kids occupied. You must leave.” He scowls.

if you don't see me being a) mad and b) freezing, it doesn't exist

this image makes my point. I’m a) mad at Rog because he wouldn’t take me to the restaurant I wanted in St. Moritz, Switzerland (we’ve come all that way, and really, I can’t eat on the lake?!) and b) I’m mad because he then made fun of me for being a spoiled brat and making me take pics while it’s freezing. I grimace, this image forever capturing the notion that if you can’t see it (my fury) it never existed.

 

“I can’t take stuff in the sink,” he replies, the grumpiness associated with me not doing my job.

I lift my fingers from the keypad, debating my response. I could fight irritation with irritation, but I am supposed to be writing something akin to romance, not reality. The next option is a reasonable conversation about the timing of acts, such as writing during the precious and the ever-elusive quiet I seek as an author, but I set that aside. I don’t have that kind of time in my life. I go for the third, most reasonable choice.

“It’s like my belly fat. If I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist.” He pauses, on the edge of laughing and being irate. “Or, if you don’t like that option, you can just build me a bigger house where you don’t emerge from the office and see the dishes.”

Eyes narrow. Hands twitch with a frustration born of 18 yrs together, knowing that a little tiff like this will have negative consequences in the bedroom when he least wants it.

“I’ll take option number one,” he says with a painful smile. As he turns, he casts me a backward glance. “I’m not angry, because if you don’t see it, it doesn’t exist.”

My thoughts exactly.

New skin overnight

When one finds a solution that is transformative to the skin- especially the face- one is obligated by the moral compass of the universe to share. As it’s Saturday night, the loneliest night of the week (name the movie) Little did I know this is a well-known fact among 2 groups in my circle that to this point, haven’t seen fit to share: movie studio make-up people and plastic surgeons.

Auqafor. One word that is the nearest thing to a miracle cure for less than $10 US in jug and less than $5 in a tube. I also now have small vials that I carry in my purse.

give your skin some love

give your skin some love

Plastic surgeons swear by this after any treatments involving lasers, as do estheticians who use it for healing of many types of skin damage. At the movie studio, the lead makeup artists give it as take-home ointments for celebs who have dry or damaged skin.

Me? I discovered it for my face after using it for two years on my feet. During an appointment for a pedicure, when the pedicurist politely suggested I apply a thick coating on my heels, slip on socks and let it sit for several hours. I did it, and was thrilled to see the thick lines start to mend and the small cracks go nearly invisible. I took it one step further, and started applying it before workouts, and then at night-leaving it on all night long. The result is my forty-something feet look like my 10-year old daughters, for which I, and my husband are very grateful.

Now, for the face. After moving to a high-desert area known as Coeur d’Alene, I have struggled with this back and forth dry, mostly dry, very dry then cracking phenomenon. It’s not pretty. It’s been depressing. My particular areas of affliction is the area on crease areas on either side of my lips. I’ve been told this skin is particularly thin and sensitive.

I found this to be true. I’d be going along with my normal routine and then wake up one day with my left side completely dry and cracking. This would last for two to four days, ensuring any type of make-up impossible- including the moistest of foundations. After months of trying everything (more moisturizer, then less) I said screw it- I’m going to apply Aquafor to my face even if I clog my pores (which hasn’t happened since high school).

As an aside, one of the eternal no-no’s youthful teens are told is to never, EVER, put Vaseline-like ointment on the face, because it will clog the pores spawning a strawberry patch worth of red bumps. Perhaps. But as an adult, I can tell you, I am well beyond the zit-growing stage and into the ‘let’s preserve my youthful appearance stage.’

Back to the Aquafor. When I woke the following morning, the skin was still rough, but the red and the dry were reduced by 50%. That day, I put on yet another coat of the stuff, applied my foundation and it stayed without peeling, flaking or cracking (bonus!). That night and the following morning, I did the same thing. What happened was this: the dry skin started sloughing offe- and it was easily removed with my finger. I then used my soft luffa pad (made for the face) and it just washed off. Then—perfect skin!

It’s a miracle, seriously. After this little experiment, I thought- huh. What if I applied it to me entire face–another no-no. For three days, I put it everywhere except my eyelids, because I don’t want stickiness. I even put it on my jaw and neck. The proof was when I went to my 20-year young hairdresser who isn’t known for holding her tongue. First she said I lost weight (which I had, thank you very much) but then she commented on my skin. She’d noticed the dry skin previously (but had not said a word) and proclaimed my skin looks five years younger. Rog agrees.

So there it is. You can get it almost anywhere- Walgreens, RiteAid, you name it. But I will say once again, the Vaseline doesn’t have the same effect- because I tried. For some reason, known only to the chemists in white coats, Aquafor is the bomb. Needless to say, I have a case in my garage, because if the zombie apocalypse breaks out, I’m going to go down with great skin.

 

 

 

Page 2 of 5912345...102030...Last »