This blog introduces you to my special brand of BIKE. I show you how to find your Best self, access your Inner strength, tune in to your Killer instincts, and use your Expressive voice. It's inspiring, spiritual, quirky, and it's all in your head. It's about ATTITUDE, not exercise, though that might be a side benefit.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

A picture speaks a thousand words. Need I say more?

(Photo of my first grandbaby taken by Robert Charlesworth, for her first Christmas. Copyright 2009)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How to overcome the holiday blues

It happens. Not everyone is thrilled with the holiday season. For some people, the holidays dredge up bad memories, act as a reminder of broken homes that never healed, and just aren't very merry at all.

If you've ever had reason to feel that way, you know what I'm taking about. There's no need to feel guilty about it. It really does happen more often than you might think.

If you're feeling it right now, here's a list of things I've done in the past to get through my own holiday seasons that played out to be less than cheerful. You don't have to do it all. Pick something and try it out. See what works. And if you can come up with your own list, share them with your friends. We're all in this together.

Here are my ten tips to tackle the holiday blues:

_Send out those greeting cards.
Even if you don't feel like it, the act of writing personal notes to your loved ones sends the message that you are loved in return. We all need to feel loved, especially when we're hurting inside.

_Decorate your personal space. It doesn't have to be elaborate, but pull out some of those decorations you have stored away and create a space where you can experience just a little bit of joy in your heart. You deserve that.

_Invite a friend to go out for hot apple cider. No need to stress about doing it yourself at home, when you might not feel like straightening up, so pick a place where you can meet. Pick the friend who makes you laugh the most, and avoid alcohol--it can only add to your down mood.

_Go for a walk, a bike ride, a short run.
Get out of the house and exercise. Even if it's cold out, the brisk air will do your heart and mind some good. Get those endorphins working for you and not against you.

_Watch a funny movie. Even if you have to do it by yourself, a funny movie is going to make you laugh, or at least smile. Your heart won't feel as heavy when it ends. Avoid movies that make you cry, unless you might need the release.

_Soak in the tub. When you're in a foul mood, sometimes a nice, hot bath can do wonders for stress relief. If you've been stuffing your feelings, the tub can also be a safe place to let loose the tears.

_Write in a journal.
Pouring out your feelings on paper is one of the best ways to unload the crap that might be vegging inside your head. If you think you've been focused on the negative for too long of a time already, then focus solely on writing about the good things you have going for you. Everyone has good things going on in their lives. Sometimes, you just might not be thinking about them. Writing positive thoughts down on paper will remind you of them.

_Call a friend. When you're feeling down, there's no need to be alone. Friends are there to help you in times like these. They may not be able to fix your troubles, but they certainly can listen. All you have to do is ask. And if you don't want them telling you what to do, just say so. Just ask them to listen.

Skip the sugary foods. When you're burdened by depression this time of year (even for good reason), those cookies you were supposed to be leaving for Santa should stay on the plate. You can find something better to munch on to heal your wounds. Unless you're good at limiting yourself, celery sticks with peanut butter, an apple, or popcorn without all that butter would be a better choice. It's not because those cookies are full of fat. It's because of the sugar. It can have a depressive effect in the long run. And since we sometimes eat when we're feeling blue, it might be an even better idea to drink a glass of water with lemon, instead.

_Make a pot of tea. The act of making tea is a ceremonial gesture in and of itself. You get to pick the tea, pick a pretty cup to pour it in. It involves the senses. And then, when you sit down to sip it, it's very relaxing. Because it's so hot at first, it takes time. You're going to enjoy these few moments no matter what. Sipping a hot cup of tea is a great way to start your day or end the evening. And it can work wonders on changing a sorry mood.

If none of these ideas work for you, what might? Write it down here and then try it out for yourself. Let us know how you feel. Sharing hurt feelings is one of the best ways to overcome them.

And the holidays really are best experienced with a light heart and a cheerful spirit.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gift giving on the cheap

This year, my family decided to have a gift exchange again in order to save us all from buying for so many people while funds are tight.

We've also begun (last year) a new tradition--exchanging ornaments. I even like that idea better. To me, it's more meaningful--and more fun, because no one gets to send a list of what they want. It's all a big surprise.

When we did it last year, we had no theme. This year and from here on out, we're picking a theme. It's "Arizona" this time, and I'm feeling kind of lucky because I have some ornaments I already purchased while on my Arizona backroad travels (For my book. See it up there on your right?). So I have my ornament all picked out. It just needs wrapping. It's a cute ornament--more for the male gender, but fun, too. I'd describe it but am afraid a family member might read this blog. So I'll refrain.

But I really do like the idea because the rules are simple: bring a wrapped ornament that follows the theme with you to the house for Christmas dinner. And there's a dollar limit. But that's it. Easy. Fun. Not difficult to find. And everyone loves ornaments, don't they? Well, most everyone I know loves them and can use them.

I especially like what's happening with our family holiday traditions because it means that someone spoke out. Someone used their Expressive voice. They couldn't afford to buy too many presents and was wise enough to say something about it. Not only that, but this person found an easy solution that adapted well to our family needs. I like that.

I notice I'm not the only one to see such holiday changes because of the economy. Other families I know are getting into the gift exchange idea. So I'd like to know what kinds of new traditions, if any, has the economy encouraged you to adopt in order to make your holidays bright?

Are you cutting back anywhere? Inviting less guests to dinner? Avoiding too many parties? Not sending out cards? Buying less presents for the kids? Not buying new decorations like you might have in the past (always something I did)? What, if anything, are you doing to afford the holiday that fits both your budget and the spirit of the season? Are you finding any resistance from other family members? If so, are you speaking out right back? Share your stories here so we can all benefit from your thoughts and ideas.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Request of the week

Looking for inspiration for my next writing project, I posted a poll on LinkedIn today. I'm interested in finding out what draws you to a place. Would you answer the poll for me? Just click here to respond.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Book signing today!

If you happen to be in Phoenix today, I'm selling/signing books today, noon - 4 p.m., as part of Kiss Me Kate's Trunk Show. Kiss Me Kate is located at Camelback Village Center, 5039 N. 44th Street, Phoenix (next door to Taylor's). Stop in and say hello, browse the woman's boutique for unique finds. Pick up a copy of my new travel guide, and I'll sign it for you.

It'll make a great holiday gift for you, your family, or those out-of-town friends who are coming to visit this holiday season, or for those you want to come visit next year.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

How to stay sane this holiday season

If you're like me, each year around the holidays you scream out loud--to no one in particular--"It's too early for Christmas! I'm not ready!"

But it doesn't matter if you're ready or not, the stores are ready, and out come their holiday decorations. They begin with the trick-or-treat items, extend that to pumpkins and fall leaves, and then out they bring the REAL holiday decorations: colorful glass bulbs, long silver streamers, tall fake firs or pines, live poinsettias, and dozens and dozens of bows. Once again, it's time for Christmas, and I'm not ready.

This never changes.

I'm rarely ready for the holidays. By the time they come and go, I'm always wondering when I'll have time to prepare. I get through it, but I always wonder how.

Commercialism always gets the best of me. I wind up spending more than I wanted. I wind up pulling out more decorations than I need. And I wind up hurried and scurried and stressed.

Last year, I thought I'd get a handle on the holidays and decided not to put out my tree. The year before, I'd left it out longer than necessary and didn't end up putting the tree away till August. The only reason I even bothered putting it away then was the teasing I kept getting from family and friends. I caved.

So last year, I thought I'd seen more Christmas in one year than any person deserved and left the tree and all the trimmings in storage. I didn't even miss it. I lived vicariously through my daughter's tree. After hers went up, I was glad to spend more time at her house, enjoying her decorations for a change. I liked that. A lot.

So what will I do this year? For one thing, I've decided to go light on the holiday decor again, just not that light. I'll use tabletop trees instead of the floor model. And I'm contemplating a crafty kind of project for the ornaments. Instead of dragging out my old ones, I'm thinking of making some--mostly because I think it'll be fun, but also because the artsy side of me is speaking. It needs an outlet, and I think I'll let it express itself in the form of paper crafts, glitter, and glue. Not sure what I'll be making, but I'm sure it'll be a great stress reliever.

Which brings me to the point of my post. I polled a few friends on Facebook last week about what they do to alleviate stress this time of year. Oddly? Not a single one of them mentioned crafts. But I bet you'll relate to at least one of their ideas, or have a few of your own to add:

"First, I remember that it's not about the $$ but about family and friends. I plan low-key events like an afternoon with a few friends. I'll serve pie and coffee and that's it! I don't go overboard with presents, either," says Luanne Mattson, who works in public relations and travels to southern Arizona frequently to visit with clients.

Eileen Proctor, a Top Dog in marketing and animal advocacy, says it's best to avoid the malls and big box stores between Thanksgiving and New Years! Instead, she says, "Patronize small Mom & Pops that show and tell you how much they appreciate you!"

Gwyn Nichols
, who helps authors complete their books, offers advice you can use year-round when she says, "Be prepared to call a friend. When going into a situation that could be stressful, sandwich it between two calls to your sanest friend for prayers, planning, and debriefing."

And then there's Gwen Henson, who clearly sees the holidays as a time to celebrate. "Attending holiday concerts is a high priority during the holiday season," says the woman who helps writers and speakers find their professional niche, "and the beautiful seasonal music really helps keep me sane. It is both a tradition that I honor with my mother and an experience that I now enjoy with my son. The emotion of the music carries me through the season with peace and joy in my heart."

Andrea Beaulieu cautions you to plan your time well, as she does. "I'm discerning about what I choose to do," she says, "and where I choose to go."

Of course, if none of these work for you, you can do what Catherine MacRae Hockmuth of San Diego suggests: "Avoid family?"

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Infidelity: 3 indicators that it could happen to you

News of pro golfer Tiger Woods' "transgressions" has spread like wildfire, which, as anyone with an internet connection knows, is the case with all celebrity downfalls.

Obviously, the guy's embarrassed that his alleged infidelities have been made public. Of course, it helps if you: a) don't cheat in the first place; or b) don't get caught by your wife who is wielding your favorite golf club at you as you make your escape in the Escalade. If you do the latter, especially, it's kinda your own fault that your private matter turned public. And whining about it doesn't really help; it only adds to the problem.

What might help is if you realize ahead of time infidelity really CAN be avoided. Some psychologists say it's so. Even though I've been cheated on myself, I think that's true. But when it happens, it's a real confidence BUSTER--completely opposite of what we've been discussing this week. Surely when the cheater gets caught, which is inevitable, that can't help his (or her) confidence much, either.

So to turn this "news" that just won't go away into something that is actually useable (Gossip generally isn't), I thought I'd share some of what I learned because of my own experience with infidelity. Let me be clear: I don't take ownership of what my ex did, not at all. He has to own that. I do, however, take ownership of what I didn't do to help prevent it--and most of that has to do with my choice of a mate in the first place.

Here are the three indicators I learned to watch out for--and caution you about, especially if you haven't yet married your sweetheart:

1) Before you even get married, before you even start dating, be clear about who you are and what you want from a life partner. I wasn't clear on any of that (didn't even know I should be) and wound up marrying someone who I suspected early on was not right for me. I even wrote about this in my diary. But I couldn't "see" any clear signs that anything was wrong, and I wanted to believe in the "fairytale." So I married him, anyway. It wasn't till after I decided to divorce him that I realized I hadn't been trusting my gut feelings. They are there to protect you, and I had been ignoring them. Decide what you need from a mate, and make sure the mate you find can provide that for you, within reason, of course.

2) When the man you're dating tells you he cheated on his wife, pay attention to what he's really telling you. In fact, realize that he's giving you an out right from the start. Without even realizing it, he's telling you about who he really is. This is the type of guy you don't want to call again. This is the type of guy I married. He gave me excuses about why he behaved this way, and I fell for his excuses. I didn't hear what he was really saying. Instead, I believed he was wronged by his first wife. I heard his victimhood, his pain, and I wanted to fix it, since she didn't. WARNING: Whenever you feel the need to fix someone else, that means the person who really needs fixing is you. Take care of your broken parts. Leave someone else's broken parts alone. They are not yours to heal.

3) Choose the life partner who is emotionally attached. If your future mate gives you any indication that he or she cannot relate on an emotional level, end the relationship now. This person has issues. And you might have a few of your own, otherwise, why else are you attracted to someone who cannot--or will not--be there for you? If you hear yourself saying, "But his family is the same way. They just don't do feelings," watch out! You'll wind up doing enough feelings for all of you put together! That, my friends, is called co-dependency, and it's the last thing you want to be in a relationship. It's a surefire way to infidelity--and a lot of excuses to get you there.

Agree, disagree, or do you have anything to add?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

5 confidence boosters and where to find them

To finish off your week, here's a list of five confidence boosters. Can you relate?

_When a stranger writes to you, relating back to you kind or flattering words about something they read of yours or heard you say, that's a surefire way to validate what you know.

_When a friend asks you for advice, that's a pretty good measure of their trust in you.

_When someone buys what you're selling, that's a good sign you've got something they like or want--even if it's simply your charm.

_When your business buddies invite you to their weekend retreat, that's their way of saying they want to get to know you better.

_When your adult child says, "I'm proud of you, mom," that's the best confidence booster I know.

Embrace these moments every time they come. They are the unexpected gifts that deserve to be stored somewhere safely, recalled again and again, as often as needed.

Do you have any confidence boosters of your own to share?

Monday, November 30, 2009

The 100-word challenge you can play

Today, my post involves a little playtime. I'm participating in Velvet Verbosity's writing game--the 100-word challenge. In it, I must write 100 words, no more, no less, on the word of the week. This week, it happens to be KALEIDOSCOPE. I met the blog owner yesterday on Twitter where we were both discussing writing and fiction during #writechat. I had mentioned the 100-word novel, which I had learned about in a writing workshop several years ago. Velvet Verbosity brought up her exercise. Since it's similar, and I'm always up for a challenge, I thought I'd give it a try. It's been a few years since I played. If you're up for the challenge, visit her site and play along. Here goes my attempt: 100 words about the word...


Looking through the tube, I saw nothing. I shook it, turned it, twisted it. Still nothing. A-ha! This was but a tube. It wasn't finished. The big man behind the counter, the one with his shoulders hunched over, was busy making them. His back turned to me, I tried to watch him. Standing on tip-toe, I saw him pick and choose different color rocks--the kind you might see in fish tanks--vivid colors, bright hues, florescent. His chubby fingers dropped them like coins, one at a time, into another tube. Then, he showed me. Nothing. Damn! Forgot my readers.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Let's talk spiritual creativity

Man's greatest asset is his mind. With it, he has the power to turn negative thoughts into positive, a question into an answer, and tragedy into triumph--a power which I believe resides in a person's spirituality, in other words, who that person is at his very core.

Maybe not always (if we consider the Edgar Allen Poes in the world), but for the most part I think the creative mind has the ability to think it's way out of trouble. Yet, it's the follow-up action that will make the most impact on how a challenge is addressed. Therefore, I think a person who denies his creativity also denies his ability to problem-solve--and he does it at the detriment of who he really is.

I think this is why Julia Cameron's book, The Artist's Way, has been so successful. It addresses this internal struggle. And it has helped so many people learn how to tap into their own creativity and live a more complete life. That's where a person's ultimate success lies--within his potential, that part of him that illustrates who he really is as a spiritual being, his inner core.

I remember telling my son something like this when he was having a terrible time in high school. He wasn't spending enough time studying. He expected to just know things. He wasn't developing his mind's ability to absorb information. He wasn't developing his confidence. He was just getting by. When his grades didn't match what he thought his grades should be, he had a hard time dealing with the truth; he needed to spend more time studying. I tried explaining to him that he wasn't living up to his ability, but he didn't want to hear that. He wanted it to be because his teachers wouldn't let him debate things. Or, because this or that teacher didn't like him.

It was only later, a few years after he'd dropped out of college, when he realized he could have done better. But now he has a family, and it's not as simple to go back to school. He's a good example of how we can do ourselves a huge disservice when we fail to grow our potential in order to discover who we really are inside. Rather than risk failing, he failed to do. He had put so much emphasis on the grade itself that he didn't realize the growth he would have gotten had he put more emphasis on the work.

This doesn't mean he'll never grow his potential. It just means he'll have to be much more creative about it. He'll have to work even harder. And if he's smart, he won't allow giving up to be an option. He needs to do some more work on who he really is within so that he can discern what he needs to do without. But how, you ask? He might consider looking to Holy Scripture for thoughts on how to connect with your greater good. For me, that would be a derivation of 1 Corinthians 13:

First and foremost, you have to trust that the creativity is there. Just by being you, the living human being that you are, you've been given a mind. You can choose to use it to think through any challenge set before you.

You have to have faith in your ability to look at a challenge as only the beginning. When you do that, you'll realize that it has to have an end. That's the only logical conclusion. Beginnings beget endings. They just do.

You must have hope that you will find the solution. Nothing in life is worse than a person without hope, a person who cannot see light at the end of that dark tunnel. We've all been there. We've all seen it in one form or another. Without hope, the darkness stays. With hope, you know you'll find your way out. And you will be prepared to do what it takes to get there.

You must love yourself enough to accept your weaknesses so that you can seek out what you need to build on your strengths. That means you will gladly reach out to others who might know better than you. You will not let pride get in the way. Instead, you embrace humility.

From there, you will find peace. You have done all that you can. The rest is up to the universe.

I am also a big fan of concentrating on the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22):
  • Love
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Faithfulness
  • Gentleness
  • Self-control
When I was going through my divorce, I wrote these words out on a Post-it Note and stuck it up on a kitchen cupboard I looked at daily. The words reminded me of what I wanted in my life. I saw them as a guide, my values. By focusing on what you value, you can tap into who you really are, thus, freeing up your ability to tap into the more productive and creative way to respond to any challenge. In the end, how you respond is what really matters. Don't you agree?

(Photo of the creatively painted truck was taken by Jackie Dishner in Globe, Ariz., 2009)

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I'm thankful I only have to make mashed potatoes this year--and that the holiday dinner won't be served till 4 p.m. I have lots of time to dilly-dally. Since I've got a cold this year, I like that idea.

Have a blessed day!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Did you notice my new BOOK SIGNING feature?

It's on the right-hand side of this page, below the cover of my new book. If you click on that image, it'll take you to the page where you can buy my guidebook direct from the publisher. If you want to buy direct from me, you can check out the new feature--my schedule of upcoming signings. I'm updating this regularly so you can keep up with where I'll be selling and signing.

My next event is at Kiss Me Kate, a boutique shop with two locations--one in Phoenix and one in Scottsdale. I'll be appearing at both, on different days. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thought for the day

Yesterday, on my way to a breakfast meeting, I spotted a coyote running down a street in my neighborhood. Right after that, I caught a quick glance of the sunrise over the Arizona Canal--both streaks of yellow that took my breath away. Sometimes, the sudden glance is not enough. I wanted to pull over and take a picture but didn't; I'd have been late to my meeting.

That made me wonder if I should be scheduling "time with nature" on my calendar? That's one way to connect with our Best self.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What is satisfaction?

Satisfaction. The Rolling Stones couldn't get it--no matter how many times they tried. At least they sang that in a song, belting out a lot of frustration over the fact of the matter.

William Shakespeare, on the other hand, wrote in "The Merchant of Venice," as quoted by Portia in the play, "As long as I have a want, I have a reason for living. Satisfaction is death."

Powerful statements by both. Yet, they are conflicting, thus, making me wonder: What is this thing called satisfaction?

In the photo above, taken by my boyfriend last summer on a trip to a mountain village in Arizona called Greer, don't I have the look of satisfaction? That's exactly what I was feeling in that very moment. There we were, taking a break from a mountain bike ride. We'd been having the most difficult time going up hill. The altitude affecting our breathing, we were tired. And yet, there I stood, with a smile on my face.

The mountain temperatures were much cooler than it would have been in the dry summer heat of Phoenix back home. Here, we were staying at a luxury cabin with food spreads divvied out on all day long. Cookies. Cheeses. Cakes. Pies. Fruit. Candy. We could have whatever we wanted. And we had plenty of water to drink, or sodas if we preferred. If we wanted a cocktail or a burger, we could walk to the nearby bar & grill. It was peaceful in Greer, and we would see wildlife in the fields: deer, elk, ducks, raccoons. We even took our plant guides on hikes with us through the nearby alpine forest to see if we could identify the wildflowers along the way. It was a great trip, and I'd say we need and deserve more of the same.

But what about when you come back home from a trip like this. Where do you get satisfaction then? Are you always looking for it? Are you the Rolling Stones-like character, never finding it, always looking. Or are you the Shakespeare character, happy for the hunt?

These days, I feel like the Shakespeare character. I have much to do, and I'm always seeking the best way to create the work that needs to get done. But I'm happy for the opportunities. I do feel frustration at times. But my overall attitude is positive.

What does satisfaction in your life look like? Is it attainable?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mothers who kill their babies

Have you seen the breaking news about the child abduction in Fayetteville, N.C.? Supposedly, a child had disappeared from her home a week ago. Now, it's been revealed that might not exactly be what happened. It turns out the mother may have been somehow involved, and the child was found dead.

These stories--and they seem to be occurring more frequently than ever (or is it just that we can be spoon fed them more frequently because of 24-hour news capability)--are killing me.

Women who prostitute their children, which this mother is being accused of, just can't have a place in society. Women who kill their children in any way--physically, emotionally, or otherwise--just can't be ignored. But what can we do?!

If you really looked inside your neighborhood, if you really knew who your neighbors were, I would imagine you'd discover or uncover a woman like this mother or a woman like Susan Smith who was sent to prison for drowning her two boys (maybe because she couldn't find love if she had them to care for), or a woman like Casey Anthony in Florida who is accused of killing her little girl Caley (maybe because she was mad at her mother?). And then there are the father stories--the men like Scott Peterson who kill their pregnant wives (maybe because they're carrying their children and they decide they don't want them anymore). It's frightening news that just won't go away.

But what can we do about it? Is there anything? Why can't we make these stories go away?!

These are people who are clearly suffering their own internal anguish, yet they take it out on the people they are supposed to love and cherish the most. These are people who may have no way of ever accessing their mental BIKE. That kills me. I want to think all of us have the ability to access who we really are within or who we have the potential to be. But I must admit this may not be true.

If it were, ideally, we would all know and live our Best selves. We would all have access to our own Inner strength. We would recognize and respect our Killer instinct. And we'd certainly want to Express our own voices and be heard. And we would be. And all would be right in the world.

But that's not so.

What I really believe is true? It's simple. We want what we want when we want it. We use our personal power to get it. To hell with what seems like the right thing to do or the right way to act. And if we have to scream out loud to get it, if we have to yell and spit venom out of our lips, if anger gets in the way because our needs aren't met on demand, then all hell breaks lose--and someone dies because of it.

It's not a pretty world, this world I know that is less than the ideal I'd prefer.

But does it mean that's all we have to look forward to in the future?

Absolutely not! If I believed that, then what would be the point of a blog such as this one?

There will never be a perfect world. I know this much is true, as they say. That world was lost to us when Eve bit into the apple, if you follow Biblical history. So I can accept that. But what I can't accept is that we can't do anything about the mothers who kill their babies. These are not women with shiney red apples who just want a bit of the forbidden fruit. But they are the legacy that followed, the Cains who killed Abel, the brothers who sold Joseph as a slave, the Judas' who betrayed Jesus. That's the mindset of parents who will kill their own for the good of themselves.

We do have steps in place to correct this. We have Departments of Child and Family Services who can come in and investigate and interrogate the suspects. We have neighbors and family members who can keep watch. We have friends and school administrators who can file a report if they see what they know to be wrong treatment of children. And we have our own eyes and ears.

Protecting a child may not fall on the mother, or the father, if they don't have the skill set to parent effectively or correctly. They may not. If we reap what we sow, then the sowing may not always measure up, right? But those of us who know better, who live with a healthier conscious, who think more clearly, we can be the lookouts. We can be the "savior" substitutes.

I doubt we can stop all the murders. I doubt it's 100 percent possible. But the neighbors who lived in that trailer park, where five-year-old Shaniya Davis was found, could have said something before this, couldn't they? They must have seen something. They must have known something was not quite right. And while one might think it's not your business, don't you think it really is? If not their child, couldn't it have been yours?

It IS our business that babies are dying at the hands of their mothers. It IS our business that innocent children walk across the street to get home and never make it because they get nabbed by a stranger. It IS our business that a child might be found dead in the dumpster next to your so-called safe have--your home--next month. Or today.

Is IS our business because it shouldn't be happening. Not in my backyard, not in yours, not anywhere.

And if all we can do is be the eyes and ears to help stop it?

Can't we?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A quote to remember

Last night on CNN's "Larry King Live":

Bob Meyers, whose brother Dean, 53, was shot dead while pumping gas in Virginia, called Tuesday's execution of John Allen Muhammad, known as the DC Sniper, surreal.

Meyers said he had forgiven Muhammad and pointed out two reasons.

"One is that God calls for me to do that in the Bible and the second thing is related to that. If I don't, it rots me from the inside out. It doesn't really hurt John Muhammad or anybody that I have bitterness against."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Slow down, world.

On Facebook, a writer I know, Jennifer Haupt, asked how you quiet your mind. She's getting some really good responses...thoughts such as shut off the power (electricity, lighting, etc.) at home, turn off the radio when in the car (I do this a lot!), and some obvious thoughts (yoga, meditation). You can probably guess my response. I get on my bike, of course. That's exactly what I do to quiet my mind when the quiet doesn't want to come.

Her question inspired me to think about this a little longer.

Bike riding relieves stress

The repetitive motion of riding my bike not only helps relieve any stress I might be feeling but really does help slow things down. It allows me to think about a challenge that's getting to me or to not think at all. If I ride long enough, time won't even be an issue. I'll get so lost in thought or motion that an hour will have passed before I realize the time. If you're the type who thinks you can't spare that half-hour to exercise, you'll be surprised by how quickly time flies when on the seat of your bike. That might be a good enough reason to ride, if you're looking for one.

And when I need to slow down my entire world, meaning there's just too much to do and I'm feeling way off balance, my bike is a godsend. It allows me to connect with what exactly the challenge is that I may be facing and focus on listening for the answer. We all have them inside of ourselves. We just need to listen for them. That does mean we need to quiet the mind. A really long walk alone can be equally as helpful.

Hiking is a form of meditation

And I love to hike. Hikes through Arizona's wilderness really help me find focus, peace and quiet. That's why I love hiking with my boyfriend. We just returned from a long weekend in Greer, Ariz., where we spent two days hiking near Mt. Baldy (home of Sunrise Ski Resort). The wilderness is one of the few places where I don't mind not engaging in conversation. And he likes that, too! In fact, I want it to be as peaceful out there as possible. Words come only when necessary. Thoughts don't have to be shared. And the sounds of nature finally get to have their say. I like that.

Asking for help slows down your world

Another thing that helps slow down my world is asking for help when I need it. I've been doing that a lot lately. Promoting my book has taken up so much of my time that I finally realized I needed to slow down. The ideas are running so rampant, and I want to do them all, and I was trying to do it all--by myself. But it became too much. And I had to admit I'm unable to get it all done. So I ushered in some help--a marketing pro, a public relations pro. They're helping me with my brand, with publicizing my book.

Yesterday, after a long chat with the public relations gal I hired about what I needed to accomplish--and she told me what she needs from me in order to do that--I hung up the phone and immediately sent her all the information I could. And then I felt such relief.

"Whew!" moments create room for growth

It was one big "whew!" moment that opened up room for a renewed energy. And that, in turn, allowed me to do other work I need to focus my attention on as well. Slowing down in one area of life means you can speed things up in others--wherever it counts most at the moment. And my PR pro has already sent out one PR notification. That's amazing to me, as I wouldn't have been able to get that done today. Overwhelm just wouldn't let me.

Have you found this ever to be true in your own life? Is there an area of your life right now where you could use an extra hand? Are you asking for that help? According to BIKE, that's using your Expressive voice. As the holiday season begins to approach us, I bet there will be plenty of tasks you could use help with. Do yourself a favor and don't forget to ask for it.

Next on my agenda? Get a housekeeper. I definitely need help with that. How about you?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I hate adultery

I'm not one to use strong language, such as the word "hate." I'm not a fan of it. I like to be middle-of-the-road, not so judgmental. But there are things in life you can't help but judge. For me, adultery is one of them. I absolutely hate it.

I'm sure it's because I was married to a man who committed the act. Perhaps if I hadn't experienced it first-hand, I wouldn't feel so strongly. But I did, and I do.

I think adultery is one of mankind's worst excuses for bad behavior. People like to tell you men will commit it because man is not able to live the monogamous life. They'll point to research that says this. I think that's hogwash. Stupid, really. If man is not able to live the monogamous life here on earth, then man should find somewhere else to live.

I mean, you have to question comments and research such as this. You have to, because it's so one-sided.

If man can't live the monogamous life, then why get married at all? Why have children with the woman you know intends to spend the rest of her life with you--and expects to be honored and cherished, as the vows might go? If you promise to love this woman through the good and the bad, till death do you part, in front of all of your friends and family, your witnesses expect you to keep those vows, as well as your new bride. And if you don't? If you know it right then and there, then say something, for goodness sakes. Don't just stand there with that "deer in the headlights" look. Say something. If you don't intend to keep this vow, why lie to yourself? There's no harm in changing your mind. Or, if you feel coerced, there's no harm in standing up for yourself. You need to live life differently than what you think society expects? Do it. Just don't drag other people with you if they don't know what you're thinking.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with living an uncommitted life. There isn't as long as the women you're living it with understand your position, and they're okay with it. Otherwise, it's only fair to spare the woman in your life you'll hurt. There's just no good reason to purposefully hurt another human being--in any way.

If you think adultery occurs because of something your partner did or did not do, you're lying to yourself. If you think adultery occurs because the two of you grew apart, you're kidding yourself. If you think a man cheats on his wife or his partner because he can't help it, that it just happened, wasn't planned? That's a lie. Adultery occurs for one reason; the person let it happen. Maybe there was no orchestrated plan, no outline drawn on lined paper. But there was a plan. You had to plan it in order not to be caught. So any excuse you come up with is just that--an excuse. It's a reason to be selfish.

If you think otherwise, then you're saying man has no free will. And we know that's not true because free will is exactly what sets the human being apart from the animal in this kingdom we've been given. Man has free will. We get to decide. We get to choose. We get to make up our own minds.

When we cheat, we've decided to do it. Plain and simple. And that's pretty much why I hate it. It can be avoided with a simple decision not to. You can save a person's pain by making a simple decision.

Should you ever come across a person who claims otherwise, that person is trying to trick you into believing a myth. If you fall for it, you just perpetuate the myth.

That's why I hate adultery. It's an excuse for bad behavior, and far too many people buy into it. If I could have anything in the world, anything at all, it would be for man to admit responsbility for this kind of behavior and begin to change it. From my perspective, it would salvage relationships and families. It would stop the hurts that serve no good purpose. It would save kids' lives. It would give meaning to marriage and family again.

When I hear people say they've been married for so many years, more than 10, more than 20, and so on, I'm so jealous of them. And then, at the same time, I wonder how they survived that long. Did either spouse cheat on them? Did either spouse know? I am skeptical about long-term marriages. I question their validity. And I hate that adultery did that to me.

Would it be better not to know, if cheating occurred? I wonder...

I hate adultery because it changed my way of thinking. It made me question the sanctity of marriage. It made me not able to trust in the union of two people. It made me wonder if long-term love is real.

But why can't it be real? Why can't two people fall in love in the beginning, build a family and last. Why can't that happen? I want to believe that it can. I really want to believe that we can choose to love one person and one person only. We can choose to work through the challenges in a marriage--just as we can choose to overcome the challenges in life, in general. We have the ability to commit ourselves to many things: our lives, our careers, our marriages, our families, our health. We have the ability to do that.

And that's why I hate adultery. It threatens all of my beliefs. It's like a boil on our skin about to burst. It threatens to burst. It threatens to break through the skin. It threatens to spread it's poison and create more boils. But there's a cure. There's an ointment you can use. You can do something to stop it. You can make a choice. You can turn the trouble around so that you have to face it.

That's what I hope happens. I want to see people live a more conscious life, a life that matters, a life that depends on decisions rather than on "it just happened" moments.

"It just happened" is an excuse I'd like to see disappear. "It just happened" is a lie. "It just happened" means you didn't think about the consequences. "It just happened" hurts someone. And there's no good reason for that. None.

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I'd hate to be James Arthur Ray

"He didn't do anything, he didn't participate in helping. He did nothing. He just stood there."
~Beverley Bunn, participant
I've become obsessed by the sweat lodge tragedy that occurred here in Arizona a few weeks ago. I've been reading every article that gets posted on the Web. I've heard audio and watched videos. And, still, I can't understand how this so-called guru, James Arthur Ray, could take a group of his followers, teach them all these wonderful things about how to live a spiritual life, and then lead them to their spiritual deaths.

Of course, Ray can claim success to one thing; he promised his people they'd be transformed, and surely they have been, though, hopefully not in the way he intended. From the quote above, about what he did after the now infamous sweat ended, it's hard to tell what he intended. One cannot wish to believe he expected any of his idol worshippers to fall to their deaths inside this primitive and poorly planned sweat lodge. But some of them did.

In addition to the AP story source quoted above, an article in today's Arizona Republic also included an interview from one of the participants at the ill-fated sweat lodge ceremony, which took place near Sedona in early October. In it, the article exposes how Ray urged the 50-60 participants crowded inside this small, dark airtight space for several hours, heated by hot rocks that filled the room with steam, to push past their pain. It must have been extremely uncomfortable pain if some lost consciousness, and the people farthest away from the door fought the most for oxygen. If they weren't baking to death, they were certainly suffocating.

How could Ray have not noticed this? He sat next to the door, had light to see, and had the most air of all to breathe. People even cried out for help. What did he do? He chided them. He told them to push themselves harder.

I understand the importance of pushing past your limits, which is the purpose behind his "Spiritual Warrior" retreat. I've done that on my bike. I've done that at work. I've gone the extra mile when I felt I couldn't. I've climbed up a hill when my legs didn't want to pedal any longer. I've made a dozen more calls when I felt all talked out. I've squeezed in another assignment when I knew it would be overkill on my schedule. I did it to push myself. Just to say that I could. To build confidence. Whatever you want to call it, I've done it.

And once I even put my life in danger. I remember riding my bike a few years ago during the mid-afternoon heat of a summer day, 110 degrees or more outside here in Phoenix. I missed my early morning ride, and so I rode in the afternoon--even though I knew it was too hot. I drank water before I left, and I drank water during the ride. But the heat proved to be too much for my body to handle. I listened to what it was telling me, and I had to turn back. This wasn't because I am weak or can't hack it. It's because I knew I'd pushed myself too far. It would have been stupid of me to continue the ride.

That became very clear on my way back home, I had to stop and find shade. Fast. Or I might have passed out. It wasn't easy getting off my bike. I nearly fell, my legs were shaking so much. But I managed to sit down on a neighbor's wall and put my head between my legs. I felt nauseous. Was this heat stroke? An older woman in my neighborhood had just been found underneath a mesquite tree that same week, dead from heat exhaustion. She'd hiked up the nearby mountain, never making it home, even though she, too, stopped to rest. She died sitting right there underneath the tree. I was thinking of her when I got home and walked inside my air conditioned home, my legs still shaking. I still felt nauseous and now had a headache. I sipped more water and sat down on the couch to rest until I felt okay about an hour later. I didn't do anything. I just sat there. That was stupid of me to ride in the mid-day sun. And I've never done it since. I learned my lesson.

But this guy didn't learn his. He'd taken his followers into such a sweat lodge before, and people passed out. I'm not sure if anyone died, but they passed out. Isn't that too close enough? I'd say so. I'd say it wasn't worth the risk to try something like that again. But Ray did.

Regardless of what he was thinking as he carried out his plan for his "Spiritual Warriors," there's no growth to be gained in pushing yourself so hard you can't walk or think, or in going so far past your limits that you die.

Who would encourage that but a fanatic!

It's scary to me to think that even after the Mansons and the Hitlers of the world, we can still be lured by a fanatic. That's what I think of when I hear Ray's name. And I wonder, why can we still be so gullible? How can one man hold that much power over us? Is it because we pay him to? These people forked over $9,000 or more to attend this retreat. Prior to that, they'd paid thousands more to attend his other workshops in the classroom. They'd bought his books, his CDs, and even paid extra for food and lodging--even though some of the time they spent there at the retreat was spent out in the wilderness, fasting. He's raked in a lot of dough to teach his beliefs. The fact that he's appeared on Oprah even gives him a credibility that not many of us have. These people must have believed Ray knew what he was doing and where he was leading them. Ray must have believed that.

So then what happened?

As Ray sat at the entrance to this makeshift sweat lodge, as he breathed in the fresh air coming in from the door and called for more rocks to be brought in, and as he poured the water over those hot rocks, he must have sensed anxiety. As minutes turned into an hour, and as more time passed and he heard the cries from people in back asking to be let out so they could breath fresh air, too, he must have heard the sounds of people slouching forward or sideways as they passed out from the heat. As he encouraged them to fight through the pain, what was he thinking? Why wasn't he concerned that the limits he was asking these people to go beyond was not to their benefit? It's not like he was suffering the same as they. It's not like he was stronger. It's not like that at all because he was sitting near the entrance; he had fresh air to breathe.

It seems to me that he just might be so caught up in his own words that he's incapable of seeing reality. The reality is that he let people die that day. He let them die. And he didn't do anything to stop it. He didn't even do anything to help, it now appears.

People who weren't there have suggested that since the participants went in of their own free will, they could have left of their own free will. Yet, people who were there said it wasn't that simple. Ray wanted these people to push themselves, to push past their pain. He wanted them all to stay in the dome for the entire two hours. Was this his ego trip? So he could sell his next group of gullibles on his success rate? It makes me wonder. It seems as though this guy exerted a scary kind of control over these people. They believed in his words. They believed they could push beyond their own limits because he was telling them they could. He was encouraging it. By doing so, he disregarded lives. And lives were lost. Needlessly.

If I were one of the people signed up for his upcoming classes, it would be hard for me to look to him for advice now.

We can often deny the truth because we believe what someone we know and admire tells us. We ignore warning signs or things that may not seem quite right. It's easy to do. We hang onto the words. We trust them. And we trust the person from which they come. But the real truth is that words don't necessarily mean a thing unless you can back them up with action. It matters not what you say; it matters what you do. You can be the most powerful speaker in the world. Your words can touch the hearts of many. But if you don't live up to the words you speak, if you don't act on them in the same way, the meaning is lost. And all the hearts of the people you touched will be hurt--lives will be ruined. Lives, in fact, have been ruined. The dead are being buried.

And to think that he could only stand there and watch.

I want to know what this man is now thinking. If he knew then what he's experiencing now, would he have done things differently? He's not said much on the matter. He's acknowledged very little, and instead of helping the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office with the investigation, he says he's organizing his own. Why? Since he gladly accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from the people he surrounded himself with that week, it seems to me he owes them something. He owes them the willingness to take responsibility for his culpability, whatever that might be.

I find it telling that he hasn't exhibited the strength he expected of his "warriors." When the heat got too hot for him, he left. To his "warriors," he preached toughing it out. Yet, the guru did not do that at all. Not only did he deny his victims help, but he also didn't even bother to step in to help them when they needed him most. Instead, he abandoned them. He left them all behind in Sedona--his pockets filled with their cold, hard cash. I even heard he's not once offered a refund.

Some of his followers who've attended his retreats in the past believe he will step up, but I'm not so sure. His actions thus far have suggested otherwise, though I realize, by now, he's certainly been advised not to say much at all--for his own good.

But what about the good of his followers. It really, really saddens me that people had to die because they believed in what this man said. This tragedy points to what can happen when we put our faith and trust in the words of one man without researching further on our own, without paying attention to one's actions. If these people had done their own research, maybe they would have been skeptical about stepping inside a sweat lodge covered in plastic. Maybe they would have understood it's a place of peace and calm, not chaos. When the Native Americans say the sweat lodge ceremony is about rebirth, they do not mean that anyone will die. They mean you will exit the sweat with a renewed spirit. That is a beautiful thing. Death by suffocation or dehydration (or organ failure caused by either) is anything but beautiful.

Whatever happened inside that sweat box two weeks ago, it left three people dead, others injured or sick, and all of them spiritually wounded. And if there's anything I know right now about this whole ordeal it's this: I'd really hate to be James Arthur Ray.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Switching gears

Enough about the travel guide. Enough about the Good Mood blogger contest. I have no idea where I'm at on that. We'll see.

At any rate, I've been cleaning clutter in my office and ran across my BIKE book proposal. The four-year-old copy was stuffed in a file turned around the other way so I couldn't see it--not until I pulled the file out. Pleased to discover it at this time, I thought I'd share a bit of the sample chapter with you and see what you thought. It never hurts to get input from your readers to see if the writing needs some oomph. So what do you think?

Tentative book title: LESSONS FROM THE SEAT OF MY BIKE

Sample Chapter

My mind was racing in the early morning hours of November 6, 2002, and I did what I always did when the thoughts wouldn't stop. I wrote them down.

Pulling a yellow legal pad of paper out from underneath the coffee table in front of me, I sat down with it in my usual spot--on the left end of our green crushed velvet sectional. Any other time, I would have been sitting there because it was the perfect spot to view both the fireplace and the big screen TV. It would have kept my thoughts away from the pile of dirty dishes in the kitchen sink behind me. And it faced a window where, if the beige blinds were open, I could watch the hummingbirds flit around my next door neighbor's palo verde tree.

In the spring, when that tree bloomed, I'd let my mind absorb the mass of yellow flowers against the contrasting blue sky. I wouldn't think about the carpet of yellow the flowers would leave on my gravel yard. Instead, that tree inspired me to write poetry or compile my to-do lists. I would sit there, looking out the open window, listening to music, and daydream.

But on this day, the blinds were closed; I hadn't opened them since my husband's confession five days earlier. And I didn't have any dirty dishes in the sink; my thoughts were going a million different places, but not anywhere near anything that would have created them. I was surviving on coffee, if I could stomach it.

Seconds after I sat down, my dog Clooney, a black, gray and white schnauzer, jumped up on the couch beside me and stared into my face. It took me a few seconds to notice her increasingly loud growl. She was like a child. If you didn't pay attention to her, she'd whine until you did. Pulling her up onto my lap, she climbed over to the arm of the couch--her favorite spot--and plopped down. She snorted as I adjusted a pillow on my lap. I set the pad on top of it, and with a black Bic pen in my left hand wrote in all-capital letters at the top of the first lined page:

WAR LOG--2002

And then I did what I never do...left the rest of the page blank.

Something else I never did? Write my personal thoughts down on a legal pad. I always used those black and white Mead composition books. But on this day, things were not the same. I didn't even date my journal entry correctly. I flipped the page over and deliberately backdated the second page. My mind was racing--backwards--as I wrote:

October 29, 2002--I am at war with my husband, only I don't know it yet. In a few days, my life is going to take a fall, and I won't even be able to imagine how to get back up. In a few days, I'll discover that he walked into a jewelry store on October 28 and purchased a $150 ring--a gift for a woman who is not me. But I don't know any of this yet. Today, I only know that we went to see my therapist--separately.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tips to overcome boredom with yourself

I'm thinking I've been overdoing it or going overboard with the publicity surrounding my book. It's been day in, day out of announcing this about the book, or that about the book, and me, me, me, I, I, I, my book, my book, my book.

To top it off, I've entered a contest to be the new NatureMade Sam-e Complete Good Mood Blogger. To make it through this first round, I have to--it looks like now--pick up another 500+ votes just to make it to round two. It's been a lot of work to get the 200 or so votes I've already solicited and received. Message after personal message, I've been asking friends, family and colleagues to vote for me. It's been a constant stream for almost two weeks of me, me, me, more, more, more about me, me, me. Vote for me. Would you vote for me? Hey, do you think you could vote for me and RT my message on Twitter.

I finally reached my threshold of being able to talk about myself today, because I finally got, well, bored of hearing myself talk about my stuff.

I mean, I know I'm not done. The books still need to sell. The first round of the contest doesn't end till the end of October. There's still much more work to do. But, sheesh! I needed to take a break and put some emphasis on other people not myself.

If you're ever in such a bind--and anyone who isn't fearful of shameless self-promotion knows what I mean--here are a few tips for you. The next time you find yourself overindulging in talk about yourself, here's what you can do to put a halt to the self-aggrandizement:

_Just stop it. Go cold turkey and lay off the kudos. Like any addiction, it's best if you can avoid the "thing" altogether. Of course, you can't avoid yourself, but you can just stop talking about yourself and how great it is that you're doing this great thing, yada, yada, yada.

_Remember not to take yourself too seriously. Find the humor in what you've accomplished. Because, after all, you're not the first, nor will you be the last, to achieve this remarkable, or not so remarkable, success. Whatever it may be. Ultimately, it's just another notch on the belt. You'll have more to do when that's over, right?

_Immediately put your focus on someone else. If we're talking social media, start searching for other people's posts, blogs, and content and comment on it. If we're talking live interaction with others, refrain from telling your stories. Just listen to them for a change. Focus only on responding to their stories, without use of the word "I." Hey, I didn't say this was going to be easy.

_Read a book. As long as it's not your own, reading will get your mind off of you for a while. It'll transport your thought process elsewhere, and you'll forget for a bit that you're all that. In fact, if the book is a really good one, you might even start feeling a bit humbled. Go with that; it's a good thing.

_Or watch TV.

If worse comes to worse, and you still find yourself pitching your greatness...

_Avoid human contact.

Got any tips to add to this list? Write them down in the comment space below.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Road tripping

I'm having the time of my life right now promoting my book. The sky is the limit in terms of thinking up ideas on how to do this successfully. I have book signings, travel talks, and a launch party in the works. I'm looking at buying tabletop displays, banners and postcards. I'm all over this on the Social Media Networks.

It certainly takes an open mind to embark on a project that seems overwhelming at first, not to mention never-ending. But I learned a long time ago--especially during the final few weeks of writing this book, when more tears than words spilled onto the page--to take big projects one little bit at a time. If you can do that, it makes a gargantuan task seem so much smaller, thus do-able.

Along that same line of thought, I'm hoping to get together with a few other Arizona guidebook authors to promote our books as a package. A gift basket, perhaps? A group signing? Share a table at a book festival? I'm not sure yet--maybe all of the above--but these are some ideas I'm hoping to discuss more seriously with the writers very soon.

We met last week and touched on these thoughts during that meeting. Now that I've had time to consider this more fully, I think whatever we do together could be a very worthwhile project for all of us. As you may already know, I'm all about working together for the good of all. That's why I'm road tripping--getting excited about the path ahead. It's been a great ride; it's only going to get better!

So tell me, what are you "tripping" on these days?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Backroads & Byways of Arizona--a success story

For weeks now, I'd been wondering what will the day be like when I see my book on a bookstore shelf. Well, that day arrived yesterday. But I didn't have my camera on hand. So no photo was taken to capture the big moment. Instead, I've posted a photo of what happened when my hairdresser, Hilda Villaverde (pictured above), saw my book when I brought it in to her studio last week.

I arrived for my regular hair appointment, and what did Hilda do? She reached for my book and started flipping through the pages. Then, she had this great idea to pose for a picture while she pretended to get her hair done. And there she is, in the chair, holding my book up. Hilda knows the value of a good photo opportunity, as she's an author herself. In fact, while I was in her Scottsdale shop, Pluma Designs, she suggested I keep my book there, where she can display it for all to see and talk about it with her customers. She's been in business long enough to know word of mouth is priceless. And talk she did! While I was there, she talked non-stop about my new book to several of her customers who came in after me. Because of Hilda, I may have discovered a few new fans.

My experience with Hilda is a good example of why it's so much more fun to promote your products with friends, family and colleagues.

Aside from yourself, there's no one better to tout your great qualities than the people who know you, the people you work with, the people you surround yourself with and communicate with on a regular basis. These are the people who you want on your team giving you the high-fives.

Today, I have an exercise for you. Make a list of the people you know you can count on to sing your praises. They've already done it before, so it shouldn't be too difficult. These are the people you find yourself thanking all the time. They've stepped up before. You know who they are. But just in case you need a reminder, write their names down. What this does is give you something concrete to use when you're looking for support on your next big deal.

And there should always be a next big deal. What's yours?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Countryman Press authors meet

Promoting your new book is easy amongst friends. That's what I'm reminded of as the big release day for mine approaches. I'm on the final countdown now--three days to go--and here I am with Kim Grant, acquisitions editor for Countryman Press (on the far left), my publisher.

She arrived in town yesterday on assignment at the Royal Palms and scheduled a meeting between the four of us pictured here--all Countryman Press authors. Sitting next to Grant is Christine Bailey (Phoenix, Scottsdale, Sedona and Central Arizona Great Destinations: A Complete Guide), then me (Backroads & Byways of Arizona) and Teresa Bitler (Great Escapes: Arizona). Grant answered so many questions for me about the promotional process, what we can do on our own, what we can do together, how we can cross-promote (Arizona gift baskets, anyone?)...

I wish we had several hours more to chat about the process, but since I'm the newest author in the group, I didn't have as many questions (aside from a few basics) as Christine did; she's on her second edition. It's been two or three years since her book came out. I was told when my second edition time rolls around, I'll need to add several more chapters to the guide. The first one includes 12 trips. I'll need to add six more to the next edition. That's fine with me. I've already got a few ideas for that, based on what early viewers have requested. But I think I'll focus on this first one for now. It's got to sell.

Grant shared with us the bad news: books aren't really selling in this market. But she also had good news: Countryman Press is still looking for pitches. Great! I have a few of those as well.

The road ahead? It's going to be a long one. But I'm definitely on it!

What big road lies ahead for you? Are you prepared to ride it all the way through? Share the steps you're taking here.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

BOOK SALES 101--Lessons from a bittersweet moment

The day I received my advanced copy of BACKROADS & BYWAYS OF ARIZONA was the day I returned home from my granddaughter's baptism in Lake Tahoe; it was a week after my brother died. To tell you this was a bittersweet moment is an understatement.

I showed it to my boyfriend who had just picked me up from the airport and was busy talking to his sister on the phone. While he listened to her and smiled at me, I wondered, "How am I ever going to get motivated to sell this book?" It wasn't the ooh-la-la moment I envisioned it would be. I opened the manilla envelope, pulled out the book, and after showing it to my boyfriend, placed it on the kitchen table. I didn't look at it again for a few days.

I spent those days--and then a few more--in a daze, sometimes crying, not eating much, driving around my neighborhood, just grieving. I knew my brother would never see my book.

But I soon found myself picking the book up off the table and looking at it, flipping through the pages. Then I sat down with it one afternoon and started to read some of the pages I'd written months ago and thought about what I'd written...

Did you know the actress Lynda Carter, who played TV's "Wonder Woman," went to high school in Globe, an old mining town about an hour's drive east of Mesa? If you visit the mining town next door, Miami, you can climb up the same concrete steps--150 or more--the miners used to use to climb the hills to go work. The town uses them now in a stair climbing contest...

I started reminiscing about the trips I'd taken to write those pages and take those photographs. Some of them I took alone, some were taken with friends or my boyfriend, and others involved groups of other writers. I began to immerse myself in what had been good times.

I'd enjoyed the trips, every single one of them. The reason I'd written the book in the first place was because there were places in Arizona I'd never seen but wanted to. So I'd pitched a book that would force me to go, to get out on the road and see the Arizona I had only before dreamed about or read about in other people's books.

And see I did.

I drove past long, long stretches of high and low desert, out in the middle of what looked like nowhere, to arrive at the hidden gems I wrote about--Cascabel, Taylor, Young. In them, people and events the armchair tourist will have fun reading about (hippie artist communities, Mormon pioneer families, Wild West ambushes), and the soft adventurer might like to explore. The trails take you to wine country, country diners, historic sites, and places that help take your mind off your troubles. You'll find lakes to hike around, hilltops with breathtaking views, engaging people.

When I began to immerse my thoughts on the book, to let myself experience the fun of being a first-time author, I began to change my mindset. And that's when I began to realize the truth: Well, I do have to sell this book.

So back to my original question: How to get motivated to do that?

In the few short weeks I've lived with the actual book, I've learned a few lessons; you can take them with you to the bank, no matter what product you might be peddling:

_Lesson #1: Talk about the book. Tell everyone you come across that your book is out, or will be soon. People will ask you about it.

_Lesson #2: Carry it with you wherever you go. Place it face up on the lunch counters, bar tops, dinner tables, and on your dash board. Make sure it's visible. People will ask you about it.

_Lesson #3: Offer it as a raffle item. This is a good way to collect contact information for your mailing list (e-mail or otherwise) so you can let them know about upcoming signings. Because they'll want to know what they might win, people will ask you about it.

_Lesson #4: Let people ask you about it. This is where true motivation will kick in. When people start asking you about your book project, and you get to share your stories of how it came to be, your passion that got you through the original pitch, the research, the writing--and the editing--will begin to resurface.

_Lesson #5: Let that passion carry you forward. With it comes the creative ideas that will help you find the venues you need to sell your book, and your colleagues will chime in to help you come up with others.

At least that's what I've learned so far. It doesn't take much to turn a bittersweet moment back to sweet. But first, you have to reconnect with the passion of the moment. To do that, you might need to speak up...Hey, isn't that a lesson I learned from the seat of my bike?

What about you? What bittersweet moments have you been able to overcome lately?

(Photo by Rebecca Allen, used on BIKE WITH JACKIE with her permission. Copyright Notice: Content on this page that appears anywhere beside this page is being used without consent.)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dealing with anxiety from a writer's perspective

Over at The Writer's Inner Journey, Meredith Gordon Resnick publishes The 5-Question Interview. Today's interview is with Dennis Palumbo. In it, she asks him about rejection; it plagues all writers and creative types...and anyone who has something to sell. If your job requires you to ask someone to buy something from you, you have to admit, they could--and often do--say no.

Palumbo, author of Writing from the Inside Out: Transforming Your Psychological Blocks to Release the Writer Within and former Hollywood screenwriter who wrote for the popular '70s TV show, "Welcome Back Kotter," has good common sense on how to deal with that, which you might like to read on Meredith's blog (just click on "Today's interview" above).

But here, I wanted to write about what I read further in. Resnick asks Palumbo about the side of ourselves, what she refers to as the "shadow side," that is "riddled with fear and anxiety." She wants to know what we are supposed to do with that, and I liked his response and wanted to share and discuss it with you:

"I once had a writer patient say, 'If only I could take all my doubts, fears and anxieties and just shove them out of the room—then I could write.' To which I answered, “Write about what?' Those very feelings are the stuff from which good writing emerges.”

I love that and absolutely agree with Palumbo 100 percent.

Just as I discuss here that we have within us all we need to overcome obstacles, this is what Palumbo is saying about the act of writing or creating--or even selling. If you access what you're feeling, you can get inside the head of your characters, your clients, even your enemies. Being able to relate to that "shadow side" allows you to conquer it, to move past it...until the next round of fears and anxieties appear before you. You may have to start all over, but you'll be better prepared--with experience.

I think that's why it serves you well to pay attention to the mistakes you make, rather than ignore them. Ignoring them means you're ignoring the anxiety that generally follows. Therefore, you may not be accessing a most basic tool that you have within you--your ability to recognize or become aware--that keeps you from making that same mistake again.

Your thoughts or experiences with this?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Should you tell the family secrets?

What's happening in this week's news about MacKenzie Phillips' tell-all book about her supposed incestuous relationship with her father made me think of a question that came across my in-box last week. On LinkedIn, an editor who belongs to one of the same Groups I joined posed a question. He's writing a piece of fiction on the side and wanted to discuss if others of us on this list were ever challenged when using personal information to tell our stories. He wanted to know how we handle this and whether or not it ever dissuades us from writing or publishing the story at all.

With regards to non-fiction, my take on this is simple: everyone has a story to tell. If you think yours needs to be told, and you can do it with a certain kind of objectivity, then do it.

What I mean by that is this: no one can benefit if you tell your story with the intent to get back at someone. If you're out to hurt another human being by telling your story and publishing it to the world--no matter what that person may have done to you--there is no win. The intent of your story will be as transparent as the windshield on your car.

A prime example, I think, is Dina Matos McGreevey, the ex-wife of former new Jersey Gov. James McGreevey. She wrote her memoir, Silent Partner, to tell the story of what happened to her and her marriage to the governor in 2004, after it turned out that he was gay, and he resigned. Afterward, their divorce made dramatic headlines for many months. Obviously, she was devastated. But I don't think she gave herself enough time to process what had happened to her, because it wasn't long after that when she took all her rage and put it inside that sensational book. From my perspective--and from the sound of her very candid television interviews--her motives were clear. And we haven't heard much from her since.

If, on the other hand, you want to tell your story with the intent to help others who may be experiencing the same thing you did, then go with your gut. Remember, you have those Killer instincts that nag at you from the inside, telling you what you need to do. They are killer, because they hone in on the challenge you're facing at any given minute, and they act as your warning siren. If you muffle that sound (and usually we do this unconsciously) you won't be able to listen.

Besides, it's not like writing a book is a quick and easy process. It's not, and it's shouldn't be--especially if it's a memoir. The life lessons we derive from our experiences take time themselves to be understood. Imagine writing them out when you're still trying to figure out what just happened to you. Well, you're still trying to figure out what just happened to you! You don't yet have the lessons to share when you don't yet know what they are.

My suggestion then is to keep writing in your journals till you hit upon the underlying message. It will appear on those pages, as if someone came knocking on your door to deliver a package. Ding-dong! Oh, there you are! You will get that light-bulb moment--if it's really what you must do. I really believe that, which is why I think Jenny Sanford's book will be a success.

I'm certain, from my own experience, when you get there, you'll know. And I suggest you trust your judgment, write the story from your heart, and then, you'll have your answer as to whether it should be published to the world or not.

So tell me. Have you ever experienced a moment in life where you just knew there was a story behind it? What happened afterward? I can tell you, when this happened to me, I spent the next several years exploring the hidden message, and that became my BIKE.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Jenny Sanford will write her memoir

A news report today says Jenny Sanford, the wife of South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, the man who publicly claimed his mistress as his soulmate, will write her memoir. It is scheduled to be released in 2010.

Her focus will be about how one can maintain integrity and a sense of self during troubling times. It will be motivational in tone.

I suspect some will question her judgment about this book, but I don't. After I found out my ex was cheating on me, I knew there were lessons to be learned--and I opened myself up to learning them. Some made me proud. Some made me cringe. And most were soul growth moments. I realized the lessons I needed to learn had very little to do with him and much more to do with me. I, too, am writing a book about this.

I suspect Jenny Sanford has been learning similar lessons. For one: how do you get back up from such a fall? When you're right in the middle of it, it doesn't seem possible at all. Unless you intend to stay down, you quickly learn what you're made of and what you need to do to pick yourself back up. And if you have it in you to push back, you do. You become much more methodical, making choices more carefully, more consciously--and, of course, with dignity, if you have any sense of self left. If not, you dig deep to reconnect.

That's something I've grown to respect about his woman--her dignity shines, from my perspective. When she speaks out, she simply states the truth. She doesn't give her husband any more or any less than he deserves. And she stands tall, because she knows what he did was not about her. For many, that's the hardest lesson to accept...and it may not come quickly. For some, it never does. In this case, I see Jenny Sanford as a reluctant role model--someone, nevertheless, to watch down the road. I see her taking charge of her new role.

She is not a woman who will ever be hiding under the covers.

When faced with the unexpected knowledge that the love of your life, the person who you looked up to, leaned on, and depended on as a source of strength has betrayed you in such a personal way is one of the hardest things, I think, a woman can bear. It knocks you in the gut, over and over again. It does, indeed, make you question your very sense of self.

Ultimately, it can make you stronger. Troubling times, no matter what they are, test your strength, your inner core, your judgment. How you respond to them definitely tests your integrity. Even though I've never met her, I believe her to be a kindred spirit, and I eagerly await Jenny Sanford's take on this topic.

What about you?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Social Media Net-works in many ways

I'll be speaking tomorrow night about Social Media Networking for the Living Room Forum--a monthly special meeting for members and candidates of the Arizona chapter of the National Speakers Association. I'm honored that they asked me to do this. I've made a name for myself with the group as a leader of the topic. I'm one of the first to promote my blog with the group, to get on Twitter and LinkedIn, and I really got things started when I convinced more than a dozen of these speakers to join me in a Blogathon--twice.

We had great fun. And the members then started calling on me to answer questions about how to navigate the social media world. I helped some of them with Plug-ins, others with setting up blogrolls, and others just with encouragement. The blogathon got the ball rolling, and NSA-Arizona members started blogging on a regular basis. It was fun to watch.

Because of them, I have learned a lot as well. For business, social media is the way we all must move our marketing activities. It's cheap and relatively easy. So why not?

On the personal side, it's not a bad place to be, either. As many of you know, I've been dealing with several emotionally-trying issues of late. And where have I gone to find comfort? Aside from praying, I've reached out to the friends I've met on the Social Media Networks. Some I've known for years. But even for the ones I've known for just a short while, the relationships we've been building along the way have grown personal--and it felt natural to turn to many of you for comfort. Better still. I got it. I found exactly what I needed--a kind word, a virtual hug, a thought and a prayer. All of this helped pull me back up on my feet.

So I just wanted to report today that, because of you, I'm feeling much better about what lies ahead--a great example of how the mental BIKE works.

No one is immune to sadness or some kind of distress in life. What you don't want to be immune from, either, is the knowledge that you can move beyond it. For me, that's where my mental BIKE comes in. It reminds me of the resources available to do just that. Friends, either live or virtual, are a great resource to reach out to in times of trouble. And as one of my virtual friends told me over on Facebook, "...picturing you biking right through this, girlfriend." She's right. That's what I'm doing.

Will you be able to BIKE through your next challenge?

Friday, September 18, 2009

What's so great about grief?

As I deal with the death of my brother, mostly the sadness I can't seem to shake, I have looked to my BIKE work to find the opportunity in the obstacle. I asked myself this morning: what could that be?

Here's the simple answer: the realization that my support group is out there waiting for my call.

I only need to use that E, the Expressive voice, to find it. With my mental BIKE in place, I am reminded to reach out and ask for what I need. Whether it's a hug, a visit from a friend, a phone call, a pat on the back, a few words of comfort...whatever it is that I may need right here in the physical world, it is up to me to ask for it.

Thus, my question for you today is this: Do you know where to go to find your source of support? Make a list. Realize that your source of strength comes not only from the spiritual guide within but also from your friends, family and colleagues who are there, waiting for your call.

Trust that they are there for you.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Words to rely on

As I deal with my brother's death, I am thinking about a Bible verse I read this week from Matthew 18:3:

"To get into the Kingdom of Heaven, you have to become like a little child."

That verse is sustaining me as I think about what happened to my brother before he died. He had gone to the hospital in a comatose state. When he'd come out of the coma several days later, I'm told he experienced brain damage to the extent that his mind reverted to that of a 12-year-old.

As his life before the coma was filled with sadness and illness I am comforted in believing that he was transported by his Creator so that he could, at last, find peace. I find comfort in this Bible verse, and I am relying on it, particularly since the passage came to me unexpectedly and not even from the Bible itself, but rather from another book I've been reading to heal myself. These words arrived at the exact moment when I needed them. And I knew instantly what they meant. I immediately shared them with my sister, and she was comforted as well.

When you are hurting, what words comfort you? Have you ever experienced a moment where the words appeared at the exact moment when you needed them? This week, I challenge you to keep your eyes and ears open for that which might comfort you. Whether it be words or people or something you've seen, use your mental BIKE--your spiritual navigation tool--to hone in on what will lift you up. Then come back to BIKE WITH JACKIE and share your story.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Thought for the day

Honor your loved ones in the best way you know how.

Monday, September 7, 2009

My mantra for the month

I will never be abandoned by God. I am not now and will never be alone. He will show me the way.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A brother is love

My brother Scott died today at around 9 a.m., Arizona time. He went peacefully. He is at rest. I am thankful he is no longer living in pain. He has returned to the original state of love.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Speaking of compassion...

It seems that Chris Brown is upset that Oprah didn't show him more of it.

In an article in the Chicago Sun Times, it says that the musical artist is upset "by the episode of the Chicago-based talk show that Oprah devoted to domestic violence." It aired in March and was based on Brown's violent behavior toward Rihanna the month before.

Ironically, and very telling, he called it a "slap in the face." At the same time, he says he'd prefer if Oprah had offered him help. He does, it seems, know he needs that.

Brown is definitely in need of continued education, as well as the compassion he seeks from Oprah. In an article that will appear in People next week, the news account mentioned above says he apparently talks about a song he wrote for Rihanna while separated. In the song, "Changed Man," Brown explains to her how being apart took it's toll on him.

No. No, Chris. You're not a changed man, not yet.

As I said yesterday, the boy does need compassion. But he sure makes it tough. When you hurt someone, when you beat up the person you profess to love, when you send this person to the hospital because of your violent acts, you don't know enough about love to earn the right to say it. And you certainly don't later go off and write a song about how the results of your behavior hurt you. A changed man does not do that.

A changed man leaves this woman alone to heal. A changed man has healed himself--and that takes time. Maybe it'll take the entire five years he's been ordered by the judge to stay away from Rihanna. He would be best served if he used this time to learn what real love is all about. To me, he just sounds needy. And that's just not a good thing. Some of it may have to do with his age--he's young. But the rest has to do with his wounded self. He and Rihanna both have some healing to do.

Could someone please explain that to this boy?!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What Chris Brown needs--peace, compassion

The much-hyped interview with hip-hop star Chris Brown on CNN's "Larry King Live" doesn't reveal all that much, that is, if you want details about what he did to his one-time girlfriend Rihanna, a pop star.

What it does reveal is that he's not telling the whole truth to himself.

_It doesn't matter much if he says he remembers (or doesn't remember) what happened the night he knocked the crap out of his girlfriend. That he won't use exact language? Now that could matter.

_It doesn't matter that he ran home afterward to confess to his mother what he did. Perhaps he did that out of fear; he wanted her to protect him from what he'd done.

_And it doesn't matter that he thinks he's not as bad as his stepfather was (a man who continuously beat up Brown's mother) because he says, after all, "I feel like he enjoyed it."

So what? None of that matters.

What matters now is what he does next.

Will he get the therapy he needs? Will he serve his community service without reservation? Will he relinquish himself of the shame and look, instead, for responsibility? That fact that he pled not guilty speaks to how he really feels about what happened. But that doesn't have to be the end of it.

What Chris Brown needs to do now is what all people who grow up in a house where violence, substance abuse (?) and dysfunction reign--he needs to take a moral inventory. He needs to write out who he thinks he really is, where he's having trouble connecting with who he thinks he really is, and what he might be able to do about it. He needs admit the truth to himself before he can admit it to others. Otherwise, he's just playing games. He needs to learn how to be the person he thinks he is, and not pretend anymore.

It seems like he might have started the process, as he admits the Chris Brown that beat up the girlfriend is not the Chris Brown he wants to be. I think I heard him say "want" on the show. But inventory doesn't stop there. You don't assess who you are just so you can be interviewed on national television, hopefully, so the public will think you're on the right track. You have to keep doing it so you can heal the wounds. Clearly, the boy is wounded from his own childhood.

I hope someone tells him that no matter how much he may think he still loves Rihanna, he has no room in his life for women right now. He needs to first make sure he can love himself. A man who abuses others abuses himself first. There's no way around that. You cannot hurt someone else and think you're untouched by that. Impossible!

Chris Brown needs to make room for finding out who the real Chris Brown is and making sure it's a Chris Brown he can love and who won't hurt again.

If he's on television saying things just to make himself look good, or if he's convinced himself that he's okay now, he's not telling the truth. He's not there yet, and he can expect himself to find more trouble waiting for him just around the corner. If he's kidding himself, it won't be long before he gets angry at something, or at someone, and lashes out. If he's kidding himself and if others are enabling him to do so, he'll more than likely hurt again.

Oh, maybe he won't "enjoy" it, as he says his stepfather did, but that's such an irrelevant statement. Pain is still pain, no matter the motivation that causes it. That's a lie he's picked up along the way, and the fact that he believes it tells me he has much more work ahead.

So let's pray that he will surround himself with people who will help him move in the right direction, with people who will stand up and step up. Let's pray for peace and compassion: peace that Chris Brown is and will continue to work hard to overcome his past hurts so he won't hurt others in the future; compassion, because if you understand dysfunction, you understand that it runs deep. You still have a choice to live your life differently, but dysfunction grabs the soul and holds on tight. It won't let go unless you keep telling it to let go. And that takes practice. Chris Brown has to learn how to live the life that illustrates who he wants to be. He can't just say it to be it. He has to act.

And that takes time.

For his sake, let's pray Chris Brown gets it.

What do you think? Do you think the hip hop star is headed in the right direction? What do you think he needs most?