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.