Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Neighbors’ Dogs

I have these neighbors.

Husband, wife and baby boy not yet a year old.  They have dogs  –two, black, yappy Schipperkes.  I sure hope they are taking better care of the baby than they do of their dogs

Richie and the Bride of Frankenstein own about 2 acres.  But that’s just not enough for them or their pets.  The dogs (and the owners) seem to think our yard is their yard.  They traipse all over it.  They crap all over it (the dogs, not the owners).  They bring over fleas and ticks for visits.  They bark and growl at me when I go out in my own yard.

But the owners think this is okay.  No, wait, they think this is funny.

It’s not.

I don’t know if their dogs are licensed.  I can’t be sure they’ve had their shots.  Frankly, because of this free roam policy, I don’t know where the dogs have been.

I own two Westies.  They are licensed, have their shots and get treated for fleas and ticks as does our fence line.  Our dogs only bark if I let them.  If they fail to stop barking when given the command, they get to go inside, alone.  Spike and Harri roam around 3/4s of an acre of fenced yard.

Our dogs are ONLY allowed out of the yard on a leash.  The Schipperkes wouldn’t know a leash if it bit them.

Our state is one of only two that have statewide leash laws.  Dog owners are responsible for controlling their dogs.  That means the dogs are on a leash, in a fenced in yard or in a kennel.  So what’s the problem?  Why don’t I just call animal control and turn them in?

Like it or not, they are our neighbors.  Not close neighbors for a couple of reasons.  We live about an acre away from each other.  We’re not in the same stage of life.  Our daughter is grown. We don’t socialize with each other — partying and drinking beer is not our idea of a good night. But still…they’re neighbors.

I can’t shoot them – the dogs, not the neighbors.  I don’t want a feud.  If my Dad were alive he would say, “Good fences make good neighbors.”  They do but I would hate to have to put a perimeter fence around our 2 1/2 acres just to keep their dogs off our property.

So, what would you do?  I could use any and all ideas.


Filed under Life & Death

How Creativity Can Be Fostered

If Larry Smith’s TED Talk on why many people fail to get the job they want depressed you, this guy should make you smile.

Smith and Jonah Lehrer, author of a new book on how creativity can be fostered, are looking at two different sides of the same coin.  Smith talks about how fear holds most of us back, makes us settle for “good” jobs instead of great ones.

Lehrer’s view is that all of us have the ability to be entrepreneurs, to have great jobs through our innate creativity.  All of us have voices that whisper answers to thorny work problems or offer up ideas for new products but most of us have forgotten how to listen.

An easy read, Imagine: How Creativity Works is like a door opening inside your mind and inviting ideas to sweep out into the world, ready for the hard work of refining, editing, shifting a bit to one side and polishing them for the marketplace.

Lehrer is also easy to listen to, offers solid information without any buttons or bows and reassures listeners that most of us really do have more than one great idea banging around in our heads; we just have to learn to stop and listen.

He suggests breaking away from the desk, playing ping pong or getting a shower. I have found that mowing the lawn and vacuuming do the same thing – disengage the rational mind that says, “No, that won’t work.” and give our imaginations a chance to come out and play.

Well worth a listen and well worth the $16.00 to buy the book!

Smith says to follow your passion. Lehrer says to listen to yourself, find your idea and start polishing. Both of these men offer insight into our lives that make it possible for us to step out, into this world and make a difference.

Thanks to Colton Perry for the Facebook post, for sharing this lovely approach to letting your creativity come out to play!

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Filed under Book Reviews, Education, Inspiring People, World Changing Ideas

Life As We Know It Is Over

What makes me strong?  What keeps me from breaking under the load we all call life?

I have been asking that question for a dozen years.  My husband has been hospitalized more than 30 times since 2001.  He had bladder cancer.  He just kept growing tumors and finally they had to take his bladder out and put in a conduit to the ostomy that we now call Fred.

Then he had infections – and more infections and yet again, infections.  Over the last 10 years we have spent our vacations in the most expensive resort in the country – the hospital.  A jail cell really but it’s mostly white with nice subdued drapes and wardens dressed as nurses in navy  blue.

Recently, my husband did hand to hand combat with  melanoma which made a difference in how we spend our time, our money, our personal currency.

Now, he is being laid off.  He will be 60 when the axe finally falls.  He will be too old to employ – too young for social security or medicare.  And he will still be sick, still be in the hospital 2 or 3 times a year and still be the man I love with all my heart.

I am a master’s prepared, professional who is applying for jobs as a receptionist, an administrative assistant., a dog walker, anything to get a job that will help bridge the gap between his layoff and his 65th birthday.

But I can’t get a job.  We can’t sell our house.  And we cannot stop the layoff that is rolling toward us at the speed of light.

How did this happen?  When did we become part of the fringe that cannot sustain itself in this country  – the land of the brave, the land of the free?

Welcome to America – 2012.  Welcome to our country where people work and do a good job and pay their taxes and still get screwed.  This is the land where the rich once again get richer and the rest of us pay for their privilege.

We”ll keep fighting.  We will stay together.  We will find a way, smaller, narrower but still together.  But is this what is supposed to happen to people who have lived a good life?  Worked hard?  Helped out our families?

Who knows? All I know is that this is our lot.  And this we will face together — until death do us part.

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Filed under Budgeting, Life & Death, Love and Marriage, Politics, Saving Money

Want To Help Cook Up a Cookbook?

If I wanted to write a cookbook, would you help?

Would you be willing to contribute your favorite, family recipe (or recipes, if you have them)?   I’d love to get a recipe that is tried and true for a dish that tastes good and that has been passed down in your family.  And (and this is the big and) I want the story behind the recipe.

I especially like recipes like those of my grandmother and her friends.  My Gran was a no nonsense cook in the kitchen and the depression stripped out all the fancy ingredients, techniques and tools.  Recipes were designed to make great tasting food without an investment counselor hovering over your shoulder, literally counting the beans.

But there are no limitations on recipes for this book.  They don’t have to be fat free or vegetarian or ethnic…they just have to deliver dishes that taste good and that anyone can make in their own kitchen.

And they have to have a family story associated with them like the one about my Gran’s Apple Brown Betty – the dessert she made the day World War I ended – and the infamous kitchen apron incident.

I’ve been thinking about this for about 10 years (yep, 10 long years) and this morning I decided to ask for your help and get the project off the ground.

If you’re interested, please visit my Contact page and shoot me an email. I can share some more information and an example with you so you can get an idea of what I’m looking for.


Filed under Cookbooks, Publishing, Recipes

America’s Downfall

Is it politics – Democrats vs Republicans?  Right to Lifers vs Pro Lifers?

Maybe it’s our constant drive to go to war – to provide protection for all people in every country but one – the United States.

Perhaps it’s the 1% who wield the wealth and power of this once mighty nation against the 99% of the rest of us who are working hard, paying taxes and falling farther and farther behind.

Actually, it’s none of those things.

The downfall of America is the cell phone.  Huh?  The cell phone?  Really??


Start paying attention to what people are doing.  How many of them are talking to each other –   actually holding face-to-face conversations?  They may be standing right next to each other but they are texting, not talking.  Even in the business world, the age of face-to-face has been replaced by email and texts.  And a lot is lost in the medium.

Emails and texts may work when there is no issue to be resolved, no confusion to be cleared.  But email and texts don’t work when things go south.  Why?  These communication modes are known by linguists as lean  modes of communication.  You simply can’t convey all of the message in these media; for problems, issues or confusion, nothing beats the so-called “rich” mode of communication – a face-to-face.

When you are seated across a table from someone you can actually receive all of the message being sent including body language and tone.  How much of the message are you missing by reading it from a screen?  Albert Mehrabian spent a lifetime at  the University of California, Los Angeles  studying non-verbal communication.  His findings are surprising.

  • 7% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in the words that are spoken.
  • 38% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is paralinguistic (the way that the words are said).
  • 55% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in facial expression.

Most of us are missing 93% of the message being sent via text by friends, co-workers, lovers, even our children.

Which leads me back to the cell phone.

This miracle of technology makes it possible for us to get connected and stay connected every minute of every day.  And cell phones are everywhere and they are on all the time.

Like every other type of noise in our environment, Americans are being distracted from living their lives while endlessly talking about their lives to nameless, faceless entities on the other side of a computer screen.

But are those strangers actually there for us?  Can we hear each other?  If recent research is right the answer to both questions is no.

In fact, psychologist, MIT professor and author Sherry Turkle says the compulsive attention people pay to their mobile devices is becoming a trend that should concern us.  Turkle, in her new book, Alone Together, suggests that the time is ripe to rethink how we use cutting-edge technology.

“There is a real state of confusion about whether or not we have each other’s attention in our always-on connectivity culture,” says Turkle, the Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology, in MIT’s Program in Science, Technology and Society. “Families fight over this issue. It’s time for a correction, because we still have a chance to change things.”

In her first TED Talk since 1996, Turkle makes a solid case for putting down the cell phone, iPhone, Blackberry, iPad and reacquainting ourselves with our loved ones, our business associates and our friends.  And she offers some solid tips for making it happen.

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Filed under Education, World Changing Ideas

Why you will fail to have a great career | Video on

This should be the commencement speech at every college this May.

In this funny and ultimately painful TED Talk, Larry Smith explains why most of us fail to get great jobs or even good jobs.  Most of us get what he calls blood sucking, soul destroying jobs

How many of us are looking back over our professional lives right now and know that Smith, a professor of Economics at the University of Waterloo in Canada, is talking right to us?  How many of us looked our one clear passion in the eye…then looked away?

Smith says most of us.

Despite the fact that we want great jobs, we will fail.  Even those who aspire to just having good jobs will fail.   Watch it.  Laugh a little.  Cry a little, too.  Then consider trying to follow your passion.

Larry Smith: Why you will fail to have a great career | Video on


Filed under Education, Inspiring People, Life & Death, World Changing Ideas