Sharing History: Crimes and Disasters

I think it’s interesting, although not always fun, to examine the unexpected “bad stuff” that happens in every life. Exposure to crime and experience of disaster both call forth deep and lasting emotional responses. They contribute to our sense of safety in the world. Both may show human nature at its very worst or at its very best. Criminals commit acts which run counter to decency and virtue, but those who fight crime often are motivated by a love of justice. In the midst of disaster people may show courage, selflessness, generosity, kindness and compassion – and they may also show greed, callousness and selfish opportunism. We can be sure that our lives will include some “bad stuff,” but the lasting effects are often due to our responses more than the events themselves.

Here are some questions about crime that you might want to explore. What is your experience with the criminal justice system? Did you know any criminals personally? Describe them: did he or she “look” like a criminal? Were their crimes the result of bad luck or poor judgment? What drove them to commit a crime? Were you ever a victim of a crime? Were you ever a witness to a crime? Did you testify at a trial? Did your work involve you in the justice system – were or are you a lawyer, a judge, a bailiff, a cop, a legal secretary, a social worker, child welfare case worker, court reporter? How did your work change, augment or improve the American criminal justice system? Did your opinion of the justice system change over time? Did you become disillusioned, cynical, bitter? Or more determined, more idealistic, more passionate? How do you think the justice system protects the American people? How can it be improved?

Or if your experience with crime and criminals is limited, how about exploring your experiences with the myriad of disasters that can occur? Almost everyone has an experience of a disaster – a fire, flood, hurricane, earthquake, shipwreck, train collision, car crash, explosion, etc. And everyone has a story too. Tell the story of your brush with disaster. Write about the heroism you saw — the kindness, courage, generosity, tenacity of people coping with disaster. Or write about the greed and selfishness you saw, if that was your experience. How did your disaster experience change you? How did it change your perception of others? What did you do after the disaster that you hoped would keep you safe from another one? Did you move away? Did you campaign for better safeguards?

If you’d care to share a story about this topic, please leave a comment here. At the end of each month I’ll gather up the Sharing History comments and pick one at random from a drawing, and send the winner of the drawing my e-book: your choice of a Making History Workbook.

Technorati Tags: history, crime, disaster, bad stuff, unexpected, emotional response, human nature, worst, best, virtue, justice, compassion, courage, generosity, selfish, opportunism

Compost: Ten More Ways Goody Hates The Cat

Goody Beagle here. I have to share ten more of my anti-Cat tweets with you. Just in case you are still in doubt about how I feel about The Cat.

  1. The Cat ate part of a mouse and then threw up on the rug. Even I think that was gross. Why does my human let The Cat in the house?
  2. The Cat told me there was a rabbit in the yard next door. The Cat can go next door cuz she can climb the fence. Life is so unfair.
  3. My human thinks I am cute. But The Cat does not agree. She calls me names like flop-ear.
  4. The Cat caught a rat and killed it. So why did my human yell at me just because I rolled on the dead rat?
  5. The Cat brought a live mouse in the house! Then she dropped it and I chased it! My human got her broom and chased too! What a great morning.
  6. My human says we can't feed the birds because it’s like saying "come and be killed." The Cat is a bird murderer.
  7. The Cat is the sneakiest cat of all time. She sleeps on my special pillow and makes an awful hiss noise if I come too close.
  8. The human is going out — but I can't come with her! Has she gone insane? It'll just be me and The Cat. I can't stand it.
  9. The Cat has the Evil Eye. She points it at me when she wants to sleep where I am sleeping. I am helpless against it.
  10. Seduced by cat food again. The Cat always leaves some in her dish cuz she wants me to get fat and die. The Cat hates me.


Love, Goody Beagle

Technorati Tags: Goody Beagle, cat, mouse, rabbit, climb, rat, flop-ear, human, birds, pillow, hiss, evil eye

Writing Tip: Take a Break

Take a day off and do no writing at all. Don’t even turn on your computer. Forget you are a writer. Pretend you are a plumber, or an accountant, or a scuba diver. Go for a walk. Call your brother and give him some advice. Go shopping and buy something you never thought you’d wear. Go swimming at the YMCA to exercise more of your body than just your fingers. Take a bubble bath. Sing folk songs at the top of your lungs. (You can sing in the bath if you want.)

It doesn’t matter what you do today as long as you don’t write anything. Not even a check or a shopping list. Pretend the keyboard, the pens, and the pencils have been sprayed with vile chemicals that will make all your hair fall out immediately.

Do this exercise once a month. Eventually you will become sane again.

I sometimes share writing tips that have worked for me or my clients/students. Do you have a writing tip you’d like to share? If so, leave a comment here. You might win something! At the end of each month I’ll gather up the “Writing Tip” comments from the month and pick one at random from a drawing, and send the winner of the drawing one of my e-books: your choice of How to WOW Your Readers or You Can Be An Author, Even If you’re Not a Writer.

Technorati Tags: writing tip, break, day off, forget, pretend, shop, swim, exercise, phone, call, walk, bubble bath

Compost: The Winter Solstice

Today is the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Although there is more winter to come, the Light is on its way back. Since ancient times people have been celebrating the Light’s rebirth at Yule. This holiday has been around for a very long time! There are many customs and festivals associated with this time of year. Here are some of my favorites:

Gather a group of people in a room and turn off all lights. Send the youngest person into another room. (If the youngest person is a child, send a supervisor with them.) While sitting in the dark, think about the blessings of the past year, and what you’d like the Light to bring. Meanwhile, the youngest person will light a candle or candles and when the time is right, open the door and bring the Light into the room again. This sounds simple, but it can be powerful and dramatic. Sing “light” or “sunshine” songs as the new Light is carried into the room. Some of our favorites are: You Are My Sunshine, This Little Light of Mine, and Let It Be.

Have a Yule fire. Tie a ribbon around a piece of wood, and place it on the fire. Aromatic wood is even more special. When the fire dies down, rake out one small bit of charred wood. Let it cool completely (this may take days) and save it for next year’s Yule celebration. Next year place this tiny bit of charred wood into the Yule fire, as a symbol of continuation. In this way the same Yule fire may keep alight for years on end.

Wear white to symbolize the light, or deep forest green like the evergreen, which is sacred to Yule as a natural symbol of continuing life.

Technorati Tags: compost, Winter Solstice, shortest day, longest night, winter, Yule, candle, blessings, fire, light

Haiku Friday: Ghosts

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Ghosts:

just before the dawn
thousand year-old ghosts peer in
your open windows

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

At the end of each month I’ll gather up the haikus in the “Haiku Comments” that meet the criteria and pick one at random in a drawing, and send the winner of the drawing one of my e-books: your choice of Haiku for the Seasons I, or Haiku for the Seasons II.

Technorati Tags: haiku, writing, syllable, ghosts, dawn, peer, windows

Sharing History: Who We Are, Really

In the 1950s some discoveries challenged our long-held concepts of who we are, where we came from, how we got here, and how long humans have been humans. DNA molecules were first isolated and photographed in 1953, giving us new insights into what made us human. In 1955 Louis Leakey found the then-oldest human skull at Olduvai Gorge in Kenya, showing that humans had been around longer than previously suspected. Radiocarbon dating techniques developed during the 1950s allowed us to know how long the earth had been in existence. The Big Bang theory of creation, first proposed in 1952, gave us a new idea on how the universe itself may have come to be.

Perhaps these discoveries of the 1950s led to the unrest and challenging nature of the 1960s. It is unsettling to set aside long-held and beloved beliefs, in favor of the new and unknown. Some people embrace the new and untried, and others cling more stubbornly to the old and familiar. If you were around in the 1950s, what did you think? If you weren’t around then, what did your parents or grandparents think of these new insights?

If you’d care to share a story about this topic, please leave a comment here. At the end of each month I’ll gather up the Sharing History comments and pick one at random from a drawing, and send the winner of the drawing my e-book: your choice of a Making History Workbook.

Technorati Tags: history, 1950, DNA, discoveries, Louis Leakey, Olduvai Gorge, Kenya, radiocarbon dating, Big Bang theory

Compost: A Story Written Long Ago

About twenty-odd years ago I wrote a short story titled “The Wind Harp.” I’ve never edited it or polished it or submitted it for publication. Recently I came across it in a manila folder (it’s no longer on my computer) and read it. Not too bad, actually, although it needs trimming and better focus. It also needs a tighter beginning. Maybe I’ll do something with it. Here is the first page of that story. What do you think it needs?

Rain and wind and fog obscure the coastline until suddenly gray-green cliffs rise up from the sea. They are rocky sentinels that guard the narrow passage leading inland from the ocean. Their stern forbidding faces promise treasure within, for obviously where there are guards there is fortune.

Many years ago fortune was sought in the form of discovery of an inland passage, and the intrepid explorer Captain George Vancouver thought he had found his when he discovered this passageway. But eventually he discovered that it led nowhere, so in frustration he named it Deception Pass.

Nowadays Deception Pass is traveled by pleasure boats and merchant ships, for Vancouver was deceived more than he knew; Deception Pass is after all an inland passage, emptying into Puget Sound. The beaches at the base of the cliffs are filled with summer homes and state campgrounds and the cliffs offer themselves to hikers and picnickers, at least in the summer, when the rain and fog are less frequent. The wind, however, always blows.

Some of the cliffs along the passage end not in beaches but in jagged ugly rocks that are savagely whipped by the waves. Halfway down one such cliff, among the scrubby trees that are twisted and bent from the ocean-powered wind, sits a wind harp anchored firmly into the rocks. It is ten feet high and sculpted out of wood and stone, and except for its sturdy vibrating strings looks rather like a tree itself. An observant person equipped with binoculars might spot the harp if they were expressly searching for it, but no one knows it is there. The wind harp haunts the shore alone and faithfully hums the mournful songs of the winds.

Unless the wind blows at gale force, in which case no ships are passing by anyway, the wind harp’s songs are not audible over boat engines and radios. Only sailboats coasting along the shore, or boats anchored nearby at night can hear the eerie dirge the wind plays on the strings.

The infinite variety of the wind blows through Deception Pass. There are fierce winds and happy breezes and thunderous gales and soft moaning whistles; but the harp transforms them all into songs of sadness. The keening whine of the high notes harmonizes with the rumbling thunder of the bass in a concerto of sorrow. Sometimes the wind plays soprano solos in rippling wails of grief. Sometimes the bass will swells forth all alone with tremendous booms that die away in moaning echoes. But whatever the melody, the theme is always the same. The wind harp always sings sad songs.


Technorati Tags: write, story, long ago, short story, edit, polish, submit, publish, focus, trim

Haiku Friday: Artists

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Artists:

artists talking art
voices from your own country
where no maps exist

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

At the end of each month I’ll gather up the haikus in the “Haiku Comments” that meet the criteria and pick one at random in a drawing, and send the winner of the drawing one of my e-books: your choice of Haiku for the Seasons I, or Haiku for the Seasons II.

Technorati Tags: haiku, writing, syllable, artists, art, voices, country, maps

Writing Tip: Talk

Here’s a short tip: try talking your thoughts instead of writing them. Tell a story, or muse and ponder, out loud – and record yourself doing so. Then play it back. What metaphors and idioms do you use? Do you have an accent? Pay attention to the cadence of your speech, the rhythm of your words. Do you write true to your own voice?

Transcribe the recording verbatim, and then edit the transcription, removing the ums and ers and sidetracks, but preserving the rhythm and your voice. Who knows, maybe you will learn something new about yourself.

I sometimes share writing tips that have worked for me or my clients/students. Do you have a writing tip you’d like to share? If so, leave a comment here. You might win something! At the end of each month I’ll gather up the “Writing Tip” comments from the month and pick one at random from a drawing, and send the winner of the drawing one of my e-books: your choice of How to WOW Your Readers or You Can Be An Author, Even If You’re Not a Writer.

Technorati Tags: writing tip, talk, thoughts, ponder, out loud, recording, transcribing

Compost: Goody Beagle on The Cat

Goody Beagle here. Today I will share some of my thoughts on The Cat. Did you know that I Twitter? (www.twitter.com/dogparkdiary). Some of my best tweets are about The Cat Who Lives In My House. Since I actually hate to type (you try typing without thumbs) I will just repeat ten tweets about The Cat here. You’ll get the idea.

  1. The Cat scratched up the chair again. She tries to blame it on me, but my human is wise to her tricks. I don’t have claws!
  2. I beat out The Cat for the couch! Hahhaha – sorry to be so excited but this does not happen very often.
  3. Today I am grumpy. My human is grumpy. The Cat is grumpy too, but this is nothing unusual.
  4. The Cat who lives in my house sits INSIDE the heating vents. Is this strange or what?
  5. I gotta say I like my Twitter cat friends — SO much better than The Cat I actually have to live with, who is mean and stinks bad.
  6. The Cat made me move out of the sunny spot on the porch because she wanted to snooze there herself. Selfish.
  7. Young crows are dumb. They are playing chicken with The Cat on the porch, who is making a snick snick sound. I'm rooting for the crows.
  8. The Cat thinks she owns the world. I don't want to own the world — too much work. Let The Cat do it.
  9. Yesterday The Baby came to visit at our house, and he pulled The Cat's tail instead of my ears. Maybe The Baby isn't so bad after all.
  10. The Cat pooped in the tomato planter. My human is ticked off again – maybe this time she will get rid of The Cat. I can only hope.


Love, Goody Beagle

Technorati Tags: compost, goody, beagle, cat, Twitter, tweets