Monday, September 3, 2012

Iced Tea Drinkers UNITE!

Coffee and Thee--And Them

The poetic story of one tea-drinking woman and 
three coffee houses.
copyright Charlene Ann Baumbich, September 2012


She invited me
for a cup.
Coffee, of course.
I said yes.
It’s just easier that way.

When I placed
my order,
I asked for a large,
lots of ice please.
Tea, of course.
I don’t like coffee.
No need to explain.
To anyone.

Then began
the spew
of senseless
wordy questions.
Foreign language,
I presume.
To which I replied,
I     want     a     large.


“Coffee” shop
Attached to a bookstore.
Books suck every ounce
of moisture
out of one’s mouth.
I ordered an
iced tea.

Sorry, she said.
We don’t have
iced tea.
It’s out of season.

Do you serve
iced coffee?

Yes, they did.
But that was

That, I responded,
was prejudice.


Take one,
the small sign
near the
coffee punch cards said.
Loyalty program.

I assume
you punch
for iced tea too.

but no.

My iced tea
costs more
than coffee.
I am a
I explained.

It’s just
the rule.

  • Iced tea drinkers unite: REBEL against this irrational prejudice.
  • Share the link to this poem. 
  • Print the verses and meditate upon the injustice. 
  • Let this ridiculousness embolden you to get what you deserve: equal rights for tea drinkers.
  • Coffee drinkers: support your fellow sippers!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Everything Old is New Again

Today, as I think about an upcoming event, I'm pondering the truth in the old saying, EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN. From my dress to my handbag, my slip to my jewelry--all old--everything old does feel new again because of the way "the outfit" all came together, and the reason I'm wearing it.

Before I share the details, let me make this clear: I don't care much for dressing up; I like shopping even less. There is comfort in worn jeans and softened sweatshirts. I like socks and my Keenes. I wear things, especially fancy things, until they utterly fall apart, because as much as I dislike shopping and dressing up, I find the idea of maintaining someone else's idea of what's fashionable even more distasteful. Who are they to tell me how I should look any given season, especially when many of the most popular colors make me yawn?

So it was with great trepidation that I started pondering what I "should" wear to this upcoming shindig, an event filled with much joy--and picture taking. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my main goal wasn't to be perfectly gussied, but to feel good. The event was too important to spend a second of it wishing I had on a more comfortable outfit, or jewelry that didn't catch on my skirt, or a color, that although photogenic, made me feel pasty. So off to my closet I went, to my favorite tried-and-true default outfit, the two-piece one with an elastic waistband, comfy fabric and vibrancy.

I called the girlfriend who was with me when I bought it, at least twenty years ago. The fabric is a washable rayon. I told her that although the garment was somewhat thin by now, it still looked nice. And this is why I love her. She didn't give me the ol', What? No new dress for this? "Just wear a good slip," she said. And I have one. As old as the outfit, but still in good shape.

I mentioned to her that I'd also drug out another blue-gray two-piece outfit from that same era. It had a funky uneven hemline, and guess what? Those are back IN! (I don't really care, but this sure struck me funny.) Since I'd recently lost about twenty pounds, it fit me too (and has an elastic waste). I haven't worn it for at least fifteen years. Either one would do. YAY and game on, because then it became about the jewelry, shoes and handbag. 

The bad news: the shoes I used to wear with the vibrant outfit were trashed, and the newer black pumps I owned looked too dressy with the blue-gray outfit for the less-than-formal occasion. Okay, so I had to buy shoes. But once I did (found a nice pair discounted at Steinmart!), off to the Goodwill store I went to find a handbag. SCORE! $3.99, minus senior discount, and all mine!

Last decision: jewelry. No problem-o. I have much lively costume stuff from which to choose, ranging from old to older.

Now, as I prepare to make my decision--as I look at these two fully accessorized old outfits in the mirror--they look brand new to me. But no matter which I select, to be honest, nobody's gonna care what I'm wearing anyway. They'll all be watching the beautiful bride, her handsome groom next to her. 

Her groom. My 47-year-old son. I'll be watching through happy tears, glad I'm comfortable in my clothes and myself. Glad that witnessing sweet new love commit to a lifetime of growing old together never grows old.

Glad about how very much new love makes everything old feel new again.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


According to, the word FOCUS means exactly what I thought it did, especially in the context in which I cannot seem to apply it for the last few days.

1. "a central point, as of attraction, attention, or activity: The need to prevent a nuclear war became the focus of all diplomatic efforts."

And wow! Isn't that some sample sentence to at least momentarily FOCUS your attention on disaster?! I wonder what's happening in the news RIGHT THIS MINUTE, especially with all that nuclear testing threat stuff going on in North Korea. Maybe I oughta turn on the TV for a moment.

See what I mean?

Sure, I've had a lot on my plate lately, what with the new book release. But even on days when Google Calendar tells me I have no appointments scheduled, I can't seem to FOCUS on the project I set as my goal.

For instance, I absolutely need to tackle all the piles of whatever they are strewn and stacked around my house. Every day I say to myself, TODAY I SHALL TACKLE THESE PILES! Yet I seem incapable of making a dent in them. Which caused me to zing back to to look up the word LAZY.


  [ley-zee]  Show IPA adjective, la·zi·er,la·zi·est, verb, la·zied, la·zy·ing.
averse or disinclined to work, activity, or exertion; indolent.
causing idleness or indolence: a hot, lazy afternoon.
slow-moving; sluggish: a lazy stream.
(of a livestock brand) placed on its side instead of upright.

So, I start reading the definitions and think, Yes. Perhaps laziness is my issue--until I get to #4. And I have no idea what they're talking about. Although my brain does feel a little on its side lately rather than upright (like on TILT), so I guess that fits too.


Well you can see what happened next! Since I pasted in the definitions, I can't get the left-hand margin of this post set back to to where it belongs. I have no idea why. I've poked around and wasted another five minutes fretting about that rather than FOCUSING on a single one of my piles. But how could I ignore this distasteful formatting issue?

I'm pretty concerned about being lazy when it comes to my piles, but my efforts to fix this margin were so diligent that perhaps I'm not lazy, but rather just PROCRASTINATING with those piles, another word I want to look up so I can discern the root of the problem that's keeping me from FOCUSING. But it's time to start dinner, which I'm going to do right after I check in one more time with the Eagles

American Idol is on tonight.

Tomorrow is another day, hopefully with another word, like ACHIEVEMENT.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good and Evil

I was reading a recent copy of Literary License, association publication for the Society of Midland Authors, when today's words, Good and Evil, jumped off the page and gave me goosebumps. I'll tell you why in a moment. First let me give you the context.

Robert Loerzel wrote that Marilyn Robinson, author of Gilead, a book I truly loved (I'm going to blog about that experience on my new GoodReads blog one of these days), recently "took part in a March 3 discussion on 'Literature and Evil'. The larger event, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference (strangely, I can't find 2012 info, which perhaps just isn't recapped yet?), was held in Chicago. Ten thousand people attended, Loerzel said. Somehow I missed the ginormous sold out conference was even taking place in my back yard until after it was over.

Yep, that's the way this author sometimes rolls. Oh, well ...

Loerzel said that the title of Robinson's event [Literature and Evil] "seemed to make her uneasy. What is evil? 'The greatest peril is in thinking that you know what it is,' Robinson said. 

'Too easily arrived-at definitions of good and evil do the work of the devil.'"

Whoa. Let me read that again!

I not only read it again, underlined it, put a star in the margin, and repeated it here, but I'm cutting it out and pasting it on the upper right-hand corner of my computer monitor. I might even photocopy the provocative line and put a copy in my wallet. I believe that is one of the deepest most profound and convicting truths I've read lately, especially when applied to ... just about any walk of life, and especially in this political climate.

I shall be holding my feet to the fire of that poignancy every time I make a snap decision, especially when I'm about to spout off on the good or evil of it--or him, or her, or "those people."

Think, Charlene. THINK! Maybe you are wrong.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Love Is All You Need

I attended a wedding this past weekend. The reception took place in the gymnasium of an old combo church and school turned art museum,  transformed into celebration perfection.

As we flooded into the vintage venue--complete with tables, table clothes, candles, wedding favors and snacks all lined up and waiting for us--glorious sunlight (thank you, Mother Nature!) streamed through the partially clad windows and began to celebrate and play right along with us.

Before this portion of the par-tay began (Crank up the music! Pour the drinks! Turn on the disco lights!), we'd been blessed by the ceremony held in an intimate room with colorful paintings on the walls. We received a word from the man referred to as the "Internet pastor" (he did a terrific job!) and the couple read their personally created vows (tender and tear-inducing). Then, the kiss. A GOOD kiss, and you know what I'm talking about. There was even a short follow-up dessert kiss.

As the couple turned to face us, All You Need is Love blasted into the room. Mr. Internet Pastor closed his eyes, held out his arms benediction style, threw back his head and saaaaaaaang right along with the lyrics as the new Mr. and Mrs. high-beamed their way down the aisle.

I can't stop thinking about that electric moment in time when I had no doubt it's absolutely true: all we need is love. If we loved with our whole hearts, minds and wallets, how much better would the world be?! (Hello, starving people! Hello crazed dictators! Hello lost and forgotten! Hello forgiveness!) I will forever carry that bright spot in an easily accessible corner of my heart.

After dinner, toasts, dancing and making merry, the sun began to wane. As natural light faded, the mellowness of fairy lights, candles and dance-floor illumination settled the room with an ambient glow--just perfect for yet MORE dancing and merriment.

When it was time for us older folk to depart, the bounty of love and love light continued to spread its radiance far beyond the festivities.

And the entire world felt just a little bit LOVE-lier.

Friday, March 30, 2012


I started pulling together this recent issue of the TwinkleGram back in February. I love writing TwinkleGrams, and yet, they are a task. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. When I don't get one done in a timely fashion, the "fun thing" weighs on me.

But life happened. FINDING OUR WAY HOME released. There were guest blog posts to write, radio interviews to blab, book stores to get to (still are). All the while, I just about melted down my Google Calendar by grabbing the TwinkleGram task and drop-and-dragging it forward (boy, that describes the emotional weight!) another day or two. Another day or two. Another day or two.

But finally--FINALLY--I finished the TwinkleGram, complete with survey and all. This after changing the original topic of Today's Message to The Joy in Second Chances because Hard Things came down in my extended family, and I write as a way to process. To file. To circle my wagons around hope.

Often, after finishing such a time-consuming task, I ask myself, Why do you bother, Charlene? Who really cares anyway. Nonetheless, two main goals were accomplished: 1) Writing Today's Message (the heart of the TwinkleGram, complete with a survey to help readers process the gist of the message in their own lives) and sharing news about the new book.

Then, like the small green shoots pushing Spring's compact crusty earth aside, something wonderful sprouted in my email INBOX. I received cheery notes from TwinkleGrammers who appreciated the message, spoke of its timeliness in their lives.

And there it was, today's word: Encouragement. This is why you "bother", Charlene, because encouragement is a circle. You pass it on, and somehow it returns twofold, energized to spin forth again.

I don't mean to suggest we encourage so that we can be encouraged, for where would the genuine giving be in that? But offering encouragement seems to spawn a magical cycle of begetting. More encouragement begets more encouragement. Pay it forward. Pass on the feel-good. Who else needs a lift?

When you encourage someone, next thing you know, YOU have more energy and your burdens seem lighter. Neat-o.

It's always fun for me to check the survey results, see how people are processing. So many of the TwinkleGrammers post fun pithy answers that make me laugh out loud--yet more surprise payback for my investment. But this more serious message inspired people to think on their past, how they process it. How often do we look back, consider where we've come from, what we've survived? Some of their answers tugged at my heart.

Fueled by the encouragement of thank-you emails (thanking me for my encouragement in the TwinkleGram) I felt especially "right" about personally encouraging two survey respondents whose hearts seemed heavy. Although I've never sent e-cards to people I don't know, today I did.

Encouragement. Think it. Live it. Give it. Pass it on. Catch it when it returns. Fling it out again. 
Who doesn't need a good dose of ENCOURAGEMENT.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Buffering (spinning icon) Buffering (spinning icon)

Buffering, the dreaded word, or sometimes just an animated symbol, one that tried to hypnotize me a few times this week. (You will watch the twirling icon. You are getting sleepy ...)

I don't usually see this word on my Big Boy computer. But my traveling laptop, which I've been attached to for a couple weeks, and which is now kinda old and lacking today's zippety-do-dah, likes to hurl this one at me.

Buffering. I had a general idea what the word meant: My machine is taking time (taking IT'S TIME!) to "get something" before it happens. When I looked up the definition, I laughed out loud. I laughed because, I'm told,

Buffering means that your device is downloading a video in advance to avoid delays in playback. I noticed in another definition, the word "hopefully" was tactfully applied.

HAHAHAHAHAHA! Avoid delays! BWA-HAHAHAHAHA! Because here's the deal: when things are not as zippety-do-dah as they should be, one buffering delay seems to beget another. Sometimes I only see a few words (okay, maybe a word and a half) before there is a LONG DELAY to BUFFER AGAIN.

When I'm in a hurry, this whole buffering thing is tormenting. When I'm just dinking around on YouTube, the freeze-frames during the buffering can be quite entertaining. Who knew mouths do those types of gymnastics midst their words?!

(pause while Charlene freaks out) 

As a speaker, I just gave myself chills. I've been video taped on many occasions. I've even uploaded a few "fascinating" videos to my own YouTube channel. (Charlene pauses again, prays about HER buffering increments should any of you take a watch.)

The more I think about buffering (see spinning icon while fingers pause before more typing), the more relatable the concept. At my age (spin), my brain seems fond of buffering. Like when I'm trying to remember a name (whiirrrrrrrrr), or what I was going to say (spin, spin, spin), or when I'm taking a moment to stop myself from saying that! (DANG! Not enough buffering!)

And (slight pause), there you have it. Today's lesson from and for Charlene on buffering.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

On Clubbing Books (you know what I mean)

While reading the local paper I saw a brief notice that the Winona Public Library Monthly Adult Book Club would meet while I was in town. As an author, I've "attended" conference calls and Skype-ins while my books were clubbed (well, you know what I mean), but never have I been able to attend a book club meeting from the readers' side of the discussion. I'm filled with envy when I hear my friends talk about their book clubs, but it just never works out.

Although I'd never heard of the title mentioned in the newspaper spot, I picked up the phone and called a local book store to see if they had a copy. Yes, a used one. Perfect. Within a couple hours, I'd made my purchase and settled into my lounge chair, feet up, iced tea nearby, determined to finish the book by the time of the meeting, a mere five days away. Considering I had my own book releasing a few days afterward, and the fact that I'm a slow reader, this would be no small accomplishment. My PR machine was cranking. It was all I could do to keep up with it. Nonetheless, I was--still am (not done reading it yet, and the meeting is tomorrow afternoon) dedicated to this task.

I was hoping I liked the book, because if I didn't--and especially since I had my own book coming out--I didn't wish to take part in a discussion just to blast it. After all, an author wrote that book too, and we can be sensitive. :)

Then I read the first line of The Rich Part of Life by Jim Kokoris.

The day we won the lottery I was wearing wax lips that my father had bought for the Nose Picker and me at a truck stop.

After one line, I already loved the storyteller and the mood. Wax lips. Calling your sibling a Nose Picker. Truck stops. Random wealth. Genius to me, because they're all elements--words with images--I find either fun (wax lips), can remember myself (sibling names) or invokers of warm memories (truck stops and my father.) By the time I got to page 206, I loved the story even more. Quirky characters always float my boat. I hope to find time to get to page 327, The End, by tomorrow's meeting.

But if I can't finish the book, my dilemma will be agonizing: Of course I'll want to go, I think. Hey, it'll be my first book club meeting! I'll be anxious to hear how others enjoyed, or not, the storytelling--the story. But what if they give the ending away, and I imagine they surely will. I assume satisfactory endings is a part of book club discussions, right?

To those of you who are used to clubbing books (I'll know what you mean), please weigh in here. If I don't finish, should I go? HELP A NEWBIE CLUBBER (well, maybe) OUT!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Seeking Perspective

My eldest grandgirlie is Star of the Week in her first-grade class. It's quite the honor which offers her, as well as any student whose turn it is, the opportunity for lots of cool things, like bringing special show and tell. She invited me to come read a book to her classmates, a humbling honor, which I gladly and gratefully accepted.

I asked her to pick out the book, but she already had one in mind. It's a book I keep at my house, a book purchased at Paperbacks and Pieces, my favorite used book store of all times. Barely a visit goes by when the girls don't ask me to read The Piggy in the Puddle.

The class loved hearing it as much as I love--every single time I read it--the way the illiterative language (nice, eh?) rolls off my tongue.

But before I was up on the docket, and while the teacher gently and with great patience and humor put the kids through their morning routine, I walked around the room and absorbed the creative energies.

Profound Perspective 
How profound are those words?! I got out my camera and snapped a photo. What if every single day we asked ourselves to define those three short lines using a single word.

  • Yesterday was ... busy. That's one way to put it.
  • Today is ... grace filled. I'm here with my grandgirlie!
  • Tomorrow will be ... Hm...Pleasurable. 

It is good, I thought, to find kindness and perspective, to filter our mental filing, and set a tone for the future of positivism. To be honest, it was a deeply profound interior moment for me.

It wasn't until later I noticed the days of the week beneath the lines. I only noticed them then because the teacher asked one of the children to come correctly place the days of the week next to the lines.

Perspective: through a teacher's creative spark, a child's learning curve, and an aging woman's goals.


Monday, February 27, 2012

What Inspires Our Best Work?

Alan Menken
Before the Oscar gala, I watched a piece on Sunday Morning about the person--a person who's alive--who has won the most Oscars. Many possibilities flicked through my mind, a few I thought might be sure bets. But when they said his name, my response was Alan who?

Then they cued the music. OH! THAT guy!

Alan Menken, a composer, has won eight Oscars and been nominated a remarkable 19 times. I've been singing along with the fruits of his creative genius for years. First hit musical: Little Shop of Horrors. And wait till you see a list of his other credits, which includes the music for Beauty and the Beast.

If you already knew all of this, YAY, YOU!

During the interview segment, he described his musical style as "infectious, vulnerable, unguarded, joyful ... basically kind of childlike, in a way." Then he added the line that caused me to grab a pen and write it down.
"I do my best work when I'm serving something bigger than myself."
I felt like he strummed the harp of my writing heart with those words.

I've watched the CBS piece a few times online. Each replay, I am more filled with Menken's enthusiasm, and I am singing louder.
  • Childlike
  • Vulnerable
  • Infectious
  • Enthusiastic
  • Something people want to share
  • Serve something bigger than yourself

Seems like a good set of inspiration for any creative type to me.
Bonus link for your perky pleasure: Little Shop of Horrors - Dentist Song
Bonus fact: Norman Menken, Alan's dad, was a dentist.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Tongue Piercing Steers Wheelchair

While scrolling along my Facebook stream I came across this photo. At  first glance, I assumed it was the latest teen rage: Punk My Mouth. I almost skipped right along without giving it another thought.

Then I saw the headline, the words that stopped me. Tongue Piercing Steers Wheelchair. 


I clicked through and read about an amazing breakthrough for those who need it.

Next I went Googling. I wanted to know more. Why a tongue ring? Because "the tongue doesn't tire easily and is usually not affected by a spinal cord injury because its connected to the brain through the cranial nerve."

The tongue doesn't easily tire.

Countless times in my life, my tongue has gotten me in trouble, made me a fool, embarrassed me and spewed venom. My tongue also spoke words of affirmation, made people laugh, calmed a crying baby and sometimes entertained even me.

To learn what scientists can now train and equip the tongue to achieve apart from words sheds a whole new light on this small flap in our bodies. May we guard our tongues well, for lots of reasons.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Words We Underline

Once in awhile, when it's time for a new read, I close my eyes and pick a title from one of my many stacks of books. Noting The Ice Chorus was an Advance Reading Copy, I knew I'd snagged it at a booksellers convention somewhere along the line. The release date on the cover announced  "February 2005". This should give you some idea about the organization of my "stacks."

The opening line in The Ice Chorus (wonderful book trailer here), a novel set in Ireland, set a sensuous tone. "An ocean-hued piece of silk rests over her hand like a landed butterfly." I use the word sensuous in its broadest and most lovely form, which is, according to,  something perceived by or affecting the senses. Although I'm not quite half-way through yet, the lushness of the writing continues in wonderful ways. Sarah Stonich, the author, renders visual and emotional details, helps us see through the lens of a camera, witness the fluidity of movement in an artist's brush strokes, and feel the power of human touch, no matter how faint. Publisher's Weekly said about the book, "Midlife renewal and the power of art to transform life are celebrated in this bittersweet tale." 

Then I came to a line that caused me to get up out of my chair and grab a pen. A line on page 122 of my ARC, one I just had to underline, then star in the margin, then tell you about .

"Of all the stories she's ever been told, watched on screen, or endeavored to make herself, she understands that only those that unfold naturally endure."

It is a line that could have changed by the final edition. No matter to me. This is the copy I own, and even though I wasn't sure why, the power of  that line grabbed me.

I don't have a library card; we don't live in anyone's district. I buy books. Lots of them. Most read "keeper books" on my shelves are marked up in this way. Underlines, stars, exclamation points, an occasional "OH!" ... If, shortly into the pages, I've already noted several lines, I begin making a list of said page numbers in the front of the book. That way I can just flip from one to the next when I want to savor them.

I feel pretty certain that the novel on my shelves containing the most notations is A River Runs Through It. It's a shorter story filled with lines that caused me to stay with them, return often, even during that first read. They captured me, ensnared me, owned me. I'd read a paragraph, a page, then have to go back and read those lines again. How does an author do that to me?

The first time I received reader mail from someone I didn't know who shared she'd underlined many lines in my books, I wept. I have no idea which lines she referred to. It's hard to imagine any that worthy. I'm not a "literary" author. I can only attribute such a remarkable event to the power of the reader's spirit bringing to light that which needs to be noticed.

The only thing I know for sure is that if I ever try to write those types of lines, they suck. Pure and simple. Perhaps that's why the above quote from The Ice Chorus resonates. Only that which unfolds naturally endures. Amen.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tricky Truths

"A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." -- Max Planck

My dear friend Donna posted this quote on her Facebook page yesterday. First I laughed. Then the too-often dark sorrow of that sad truth set in.

In reality, Planck, most famous for his work on the quantum theory, could have been talking about the publishing industry too. Historically, it is not uncommon for an author’s work to be seriously undervalued, or even noticed, for a generation or three.

  • Why is that? 
  • Does it have anything to do with quantum physics? 
  • What makes someone’s words more potent when they can no longer generate new ones? 
  • Will my books be more popular when everyone reading this, including the one writing it, is dead? 

Gheesh. Happy Fat Tuesday, Charlene!

Just when this dreary spiral of thoughts was about to sink my usual optimism, I Googled Mr. Planck and found an entire page of his Brainy Quotes. When I got to the following, I cheered. 
Anybody who has been seriously engaged in scientific work of any kind [and here Charlene adds, or WRITING] realizes that over the entrance to the gates of the temple of science [keyboards] are written the words: 'Ye must have faith.'

Sign made. Mood bolstered. Writing. I'm ALIVE, and these here blog words LIVE! All I can really control is the moment. I'll be dead a long time, so whatever with thoughts of immortal famousness.

HAPPY FAT TUESDAY everyone, although I will also welcome what is hopefully a skinnier Thursday.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Happy Presidents Day

While out to breakfast with a friend this morning, our waiter bid us a cheery, "Happy Presidents Day!"

My knee-jerk reaction was to respond with a cheery "Same to you!"

After he walked away, I shrugged my shoulders and  said to my friend, "What does that really mean? How would we specifically celebrate and be happy today about this great event? I don't recall anyone wishing me a 'happy' about this holiday before, do you?" She did not.

I mean, should we rally around the American flag and cheer because we're a country of presidents instead of dictators? That seems like a good enough reason for a happy moment, I suppose. Sadly, though, to be a president these days--to EVER have been one--puts you in the center of controversy and scandal. Our new motto: How can we destroy any last scrap of goodness about your reputation?" At least it sometimes seems that way. Perhaps the kind thing to do today would be to lay off the attacks.

I remember when they combined George and Abe's birthdays (well, sort of) in order to keep it simple and coordinate the holiday, which somehow has, in some states, morphed into celebrating all presidents. But by doing so, they've created a bit of a confusion, I think. Should I sing to both of them? A few rounds of For He's a Jolly Good Fellow each? Or, light a candle for each president throughout history?

After a quick Googling adventure about ways one might celebrate, it looks like today's a day for education about our presidents and their achievements, even though most schools are out. Go figure. Still, if you're looking for some presidential coloring pages and worksheets, here you go.

eHow has a few ideas too. Maybe you can read the Declaration of Independence while eating a cherry pie! Or read all of the president's inaugural addresses, which might be kind of interesting.

However you choose to celebrate, enjoy. If you think of something creative, let me know. I'll put your ideas on the calendar for next year.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Word I Cannot Tame

My entire life, I cannot remember how to spell the word desperation. In fact, within the last five minutes, I spelled it incorrectly elsewhere, which triggered me to blog about it. Perhaps with some concentrated effort, I can correct this problem with my memory chip.

ADMISSION: My first attempt to use the word desperation in this blog post, I spelled it incorrectly too--and always incorrectly the same way. I have no idea what this means, but I'm thinking something!

Okay, I took a short pause after that last paragraph to look up the meaning of the word, to further explain how desperate [Keep typing it, Charlene, for that repetitive learning curve] I am to get it right. I had no idea a synonym for the word desperate is despair.

Great, so now I've learned I don't even use the word correctly! WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN? I often feel desperate, but almost never, ever, never despairing, which feels like a totally different thing to me.

For instance, if I'm desperate (GADS! I just had to correct that spelling--and I am not making that up!) to get somewhere on time, I don't feel despairing. Just acutely concerned, clinging by my fingernails, plowing full bore. Know what I mean? That doesn't feel like despair to me, which I thought meant hopeless, as in facing the reality that whatever you're trying to accomplish is not going to happen. There is no longer hope. Not desperate [OMY, Charlene! Not another correction!], which I thought meant frenzied, back-against-the-wall, but still hopeful, still possible, likely achievable through a frenzied attack.

Anyone else like me have this wrong in their heads?

But now the worst part is this: since learning I not only spell incorrectly, but don't know jack, I now DO feel on the very verge of despair. Will I always be this lacking???

Stupid words.

For your inquiring minds, here is the way I always spell desperation (or desperate) before I am corrected. Desparation. Anyone else? ANYONE?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A brilliant Top 10: Autism & Seniors

I had breakfast this morning with writer, blogger and author  Lynn Hudoba. It's the first time we've met. I discovered Lynn's magnificent Voice several months ago when I read one of her brilliant columns in a daily Patch email for my local area. I loved the piece so much, I left a comment. Several months later, I caught her Voice again. This time, I didn't leave a comment, I tracked her down. I wanted to do everything I could to encourage the fresh Voice that really got my attention.

Lynn has a unique and captivating humor to her writing, even though she's talking about a very serious topic. (Words that make a difference!) Her daughter Audrey is autistic.  Whether you're dealing with a child with special needs, or any issue in your life, who doesn't need to laugh? Although autism isn't close to my personal realm of experience, her Voice and wisdom speak well beyond her topic.

While we were eating and chatting (and changing tables FIVE TIMES in Panera Bread--and I am not making that up--because no matter where we moved, the sun was in one of our eyes), I caught several relatable similarities in stories about her daughter, and stories about little old me. When I mentioned that, she said she'd already blogged a Top Ten list on the relationship between children with autism and senior citizens. As she mentioned a few particulars, I laughed out loud. I think when you read her list, you will too.

I came home happier for having met her. I wish her the best. When someone writes funny words that matter, it's good for all of us.

Lynn's has a Kindle book available. Check it out

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Words That Sell

During the Superbowl, each time they cut to a commercial, a hush fell over our room full of guests. We couldn't wait to see what clever words, images and pitch stories reeled us in or left us cold. (Also, we had a pool for things like first commercial after first interception. Our motto: With money on the line, we pay attention.)

Sometimes the commercials that most kept our focus didn't have much to do with the product. A good story sells. (?) Other times, the product was obvious, but the commercial dudded out. Nonetheless, we tuned in, proving that whatever advertisers paid for the slots, they likely got their money's worth, at least in attentiveness.

I occasionally watch QVC or HSN, just to marvel at the sustained energy of a good pitch person. It's crazy how lathered up they can get the viewer (okay, me) over the most common thing, like the way a seam is sewn into a blouse. A few times a year, due to their convincing bouts of show-and-tell, not to mention the ticking clock and rapidly shrinking inventory on this must-have product (We only have 500 left, folks!), I order something.

When I stroll through the grocery store, I find the word "NEW" splashed across products in nearly every aisle. I wonder how long they pitch us with that ploy? Until their next NEW version evolves? Still, I sometimes succumb to the NEW version and give it a try.

In the end (no pun intended, maybe), sometimes products live up to their billing. Other times, not so much. But today, I'm here to tell you that some pitch words related to products are spot on. "Freshens Better Than Bathroom Tissue alone." I make no money on this statement. I'm just saying ... :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lasting Words of Love

My friend Terri sent a beautiful email today, Valentine's Day. In it, she spoke of her late husband, musician Thomas Chapin. She included a few memories and a link to a very special Valentine gift she received from Thomas, long after he was gone from this earth. It's a remarkable story of tenderness and the surprise of Lasting Words, first spoken, then recorded, now written about. Enjoy. Thank you, Terri. Thank you.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Misreads, Wrong Perceptions

I just read a lovely piece in Shelf Awareness about columnist and author Jeffrey Zaslow, who recently passed away in an automobile accident. Soon after notification of his death, I'd noticed the Twitter stream fill with kind words and expressions about how much his voice would be missed.

When I got to the second from the last paragraph in the article, there appeared a link referring to his expensive obituary in the New York Times. I clicked, read, felt the celebration of his life and the sorrow of his loss, added a couple of his titles to my to-be-read book list. It was clear that his shining words, which often focused on people searching for meaning in their lives, were worthy reads.

By the time I finished the article, and the info at each link, including the obituary--each affirming the power and effect of Mr. Zaslow's printed words, left behind as a testimony to his heart and talent--I realized my feathers were good and ruffled. Why would someone writing such a lovely tributary piece have the bad taste to mention the expense of an obituary! I looked again at the obit link, just to purse my lips, shake my head.

And there is was. The word wasn't EXPENSIVE, it was EXTENSIVE.

The power of words and meaning. A good reminder that all words, whether spoken, read or written, should be carefully considered.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lasting Words that Matter

Words have the power to hurt or heal. Lift or sink. How do we get these wise words to go viral?! I know the video is somewhere on the Internet, but for now, just read the words. And pass them on.

On Whitney Houston

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The day I decided to launch this blog

I've been noodling around the Internet, "checking in" with my Facebook and Twitter friends, curious how long it's been since I posted a Traveling Laugh. Later today, I'm planning to begin work on a  TwinkleGram.

Is there no END to your social media blathering, Charlene?!

Yet, while flicking from one set of hosted words to the next, a thought niggles. Sometimes my brain ignites a MUST-SHARE! idea, question, quote or curiosity that does not quite "fit" any of my aforementioned stay-in-touch outlets, not even the books I write.

As I type this Words to Help You Twinkle blog intro, of sorts, I am reminding myself that I do not have time to start something new. Hel-LO, Charlene! Your estrogen powers are waning in this twilight season of your life. Nonetheless, here I happily go anyway, Pandora cranking in the background, launching this new endeavor. I can't stop thinking about WORDS. Words that make me twinkle with every layer of  definition.

Case in point. Earlier today I was reading a recent copy of Shelf Awareness. In it, I found an article called Wi7, which stands for Winter Institute 7: Social Media. In the second paragraph, I read about author John Green who wrote a book called The Fault in our Stars. Seems his book has been a  bestseller. My blinking (not quite twinkling) rapid-fire thoughts went something like this: Never heard of the guy. Never heard of the book. Why can't I keep up? How did I not notice a title with the word star in it? What is the book about anyway? I'll look it up later. And ... I'm on to the next paragraph, which is a recap about a guy named Dan Cullen who cites statistics from PEW Research. HAHAHAHA! PEW Research. As in P.U. pew-ey! As in ... that's juvenile, Charlene. You're 66. Snap out of it. Then I read where Cullen says that my demographic, whom he refers to as "wired seniors," is the fastest growing segment using social media. Wired senior, huh? As much social networking as I do, my nickname should be The Electrified Geezerette.

I finish reading that article and move on to the picture below it. I love pictures. The cutline explains who the dudes are, and it happens again! I learn of another book title which I've never heard of. Film School: The True Story of a Midwestern Family Man Who Went to the World's Most Famous Film School, Fell Flat on His Face, Had a Stroke, and Sold a Television Series to CBS, by Steve Boman. How much do I love THAT title? Lots. So I try to Tweet it, but it's too long. Even, TweetDeck's answer to Tweets longer than 140 characters, has a problem sending it. [Sidenote: While nabbing the link for TweetDeck, my home computer Tweeting choice, I learned TweetDeck is aimed at "power users". STAND BACK!]

If only you had your own blog, Charlene, you could talk about that book title there!

Next thing I know, I'm playing with Blogger templates and ... Here you go. Words to Help You Twinkle, blog post number one.

--I did look up this John Green chap. His interview (wait till you see who's conducting it!) on B&N made me laugh out loud.  I've now added The Fault of Stars to my reading list. Curious words beget searched words, beget another book on the pile. Amen.

--The PEW Research Center isn't funny. It's smart. I checked. You might wanna too.