As my granddaughter watched me brushing my hair, she looked up and saw the sign, “WRITE.”  “What’s that for?” Pleased that she’d noticed, I responded. “It’s to remind me to write everyday.”

A quizzical expression registered on her face as she stared at me with those big eyes.  “But you write every day, so why do you still have the sign up?”

Good question. I needed a good answer. I took a moment. “So I won’t forget to write everyday.”

There had been other signs in every room when I began my indoctrination to the world of novel-writing. But as the years have passed, I only need one now. Because she’s right. I do write every day.

I discovered the power of visual repetition when I was in college at Baylor University millions of years ago.

Running for the Board of Publications, I asked a friend who worked in the printing area of the Baylor Lariat campus newspaper to help me create 3 x 5 cards with my name on them. Due to restrictions, it became my first name only. “Darla” I plastered them all over the campus. Nothing else. Just my name. I won and was re-elected. The visual reminder put me in the voters’ heads. It is the same in my house. “Write.” It puts it in my head.

Also, my cell phone alarm beeps at 7 a.m. everyday and reminds me to write 1000 words. Many times I am well done by then. I smile. Either way, it’s a reminder, a connection to my better self that says “get on with it.”

I have continued utilizing anything that will help me write and keep on keeping on. Even goofy and quirky stuff.

I have a barbie sized Wonder Woman doll who sits on top my favorite how to write books. Does she help me? I don’t know. But she stands for strength and she listens to me. Has she ever talked back to me? Never. Do you think I’m crazy? It’s fun. It works!

When I finished my final draft a couple of novels ago, I was asked to send the entire 350 page manuscript via U.S. mail.  I printed it out and placed it in a big white box. A crazy idea hit me. I was so exhiliatrated by finishing it that I wrapped it up like a present with a big red bow.  You probably aren’t surprised that I didn’t hear from her. Except for the rejection, of course. She probably wished I’d sent her a better story. Not very professional, but it was fun.  

Recently, I began the final edit of my current novel.  I labored over inserting the changes into the computer.  I rejoiced when I was finished. I was filled with exhaustion and pride. And no one around to congratulate me. Job well done, Darla. On the kitchen counter I saw a stack of mail. One envelope had delivered to me free of charge some adorable stickers. All alone in the house, I chose the bright gold star about the size of a quarter and eased off the backing.

Grinning, I placed it carefully on the first page of my manuscript before I filed it away. An intense feeling of pride radiated through me. I felt exhilirated by my accomplishment. I had finished another novel. It was a thank you to myself. Job well done.  It embolded me.  I had never worked so hard for a little star. I knew I was that much closer to publication.


(Thanks Pinterest for Lovely Photo!)

Letting the inner you know that you are aware of all the work and research you have put into your manuscript is important. First you have to please yourself. And if you think about it, you’re the one who counts. This is your own look at this world you have created. You need to love it.

It’s important to learn to be playful, to learn how to motivate yourself. Writing can be a lonely business. Why shouldn’t it be fun and fulfilling as well?  Keep yourself upbeat. Learn to love the inner writer in you.


One of the best and most proficient writers I know told me that her greatest adversary (my word) to her writing was email. And since I arrived on my couch an hour and a half ago, I can say she is definitely correct.

I have cleaned out my junk mail folders, my deletion folders and I must admit I feel an inner cleanliness I haven’t felt in a while. So maybe it’s not an avoidance. It’s good to feel clean and organized. Then  maybe it’s a subliminal fear of ultimate failure. I have come to realize that most of us have that fear, the desire to protect ourselves, to shy away from doing what needs to be done.


Courtesy of Pinterest

It’s a lot easier to just not do something than to follow through and see it flop, now isn’t it?

But what advantage is there in avoiding taking a chance?

Let me take you back to a time when I lived in New Jersey. I had to meet my then husband in New York City for dinner with some clients. I jumped on a train not knowing what to expect. That’s the great thing about life. Unexpected moments.

How I happened to take that particular train, I have no idea. Fate? The mother of five children, I relished the time I had to relax by myself.

Maybe thirty minutes or so into the trip, the train came to a standstill. All on board were  warriors of transit travel. You could tell with the casualness, their attitudes of quiet desperation, acceptance. Being a full-time freelance writer, I took notes. I’d been published in small newspapers and magazines at that time and had no idea how I’d use my “research,” but I  took the notes anyway.

It was a long, long delay as it turned out, the longest delay in history. Probably in those days I would have said that “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” As it turned out,  I was in the right  place at the right time.

Magic happened. Or was it consistent work? Consistent reporting? Consistent writing?

I went home late that evening and the next day I worked on the story, about how the people were patient, etc., etc. and then I  had the audacity to send it to The New York Times. Remember, this was pre-internet. Everything went by mail, which is hard  to believe today, even for me.

The New York Times bought my story and wrapped  it around a large photo above the fold.  It looked amazing. I have it framed in my hallway even now.

What could have been a downer of a situation ended up being a highlight for me.

I’m using this story as an example that you never know what is going to happen next.

It reminds you, and me as well,  to carry on, to be vigilant whether you are writing non-fiction stories or novels, as I am doing now.

Keep on. Let’s take a chance!


A twinge of a sore throat hit me while driving back from a meeting in Denver. 

LIttle did I realize that I actually had a “pre-cold.” Amazing the education you receive from the pharmaceutical companies. ( Is Pre-Pre cold next?)

My nose dripped  and sneezes came at regular intervals with, you know,  the hack, hack, hack of a cough. 

I feigned a “it’s just a cold” for 24 hours and then ended up thinking I was okay to face the world. Went over to my daughter’s house to watch her paint her baby’s room. One hour in and I announced, “I can’t do this anymore.” She walked me to the door, told me she’d bring me meds later and I went home to bed for the day which turned into several days.

Kristian Hammerstad

Thanks and

Kristian Hammerstad

Five things NOT to do when you have the flu. 

1. Don’t allow anyone in your house or abode. … except the pizza man.

That means the UPS man, your boyfriend, your children or grandchildren or the friendly solicitor. And I was kidding about the pizza man. Do you really want to give him the flu?

2. Don’t panic when you’re running out of groceries. Consider it an imposed diet. Sit back and lose a couple.

Eat canned soup and saltines. When you feel somewhat better, clean out your fridge by eating everything in it.  A liquid diet is also good.

3. Don’t watch the news. Watch all those Halloween horror movies with no guilt. If you’re not sure which is which, call me.

Or come up with something more helpful, like reading…if you can. But when I’m sick, I’m in favor of dulling my brain and my face with ice and vegging out on the couch. If I take sinus tablets, no matter the assurances on the box,  they always knock me out.

4. Don’t wait to collect items for your flu kit.

In case you haven’t had the opportunity, prepare your flu kit. Make sure you have a strong flashlight, a magnifying mirror, a digital thermometer, Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, Jello, tea bags, lemon, honey and cold and sinus medication.

5. Don’t procrastinate.

If you aren’t better in three days, call a doctor or start a diary. Describe the way you feel especially the type of headache you have. So after your procrastination a week later, you’ll have something definitive to tell the doctor.

f5dd6caece99e1d421bd464e3c303835Oh, and good luck! A flu shot might be a good idea.


One of my all time favorite books is “For Writers Only” by Sophy Burnham.

My copy looks like it’s been drug around for years, traveled to many countries, sat by my bedside, had coffee probably spilled on it, marked up with blue, red and black pens at different stages of my life.  That’s when you know you have a good book.


I had read “A Book of Angels” and when her writer’s book was published, I casually bought it.  Little did I know I would be reading it still years later.

First of all, she writes straight from her heart.

Sophy Burnham is quite honest in the preface. “I didn’t want to write what people would pay me to write, and no one wanted to pay me for what I wanted to write.”  (Sound familiar?) She says that she fell prey to fear and to the inner Judge we are all acquainted with. And so she began this book. I highly recommend it. It’s on Amazon and can be download it to a Kindle. But, honestly, it would be worth it to buy a regular book so you too can mark it up and reread it over and over again.

It has brought me comfort for so many years.

Along with her own misgivings,thoughts and suggestions, as well as her own epiphanies, she stashes a smart collection of quotes that are spot on for a wayward writer. And I believe that we are all wayward in a sense, always seeking the next publishing of our work, always wanting to be taken seriously, always listening to inner voices that can drive one quite mad

So I want to give you a few quotes to stir up your day and make it wonderful.

“One of the most difficult things is the first paragraph. I have spent any months on a first paragraph, and once I get it,the rest just comes out very easily.” GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ

“You do not even have to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” FRANK KAFKA

“Writers kid themselves –about themselves and other people. Take the talk about writing methods. Writing is just work — there’s no secret. If you dictate, or use a pen or type with your toes — it is just work.” SINCLAIR LEWIS

“Each time I write a book, every time I face that yellow pad, the challenge is so great. I have written eleven books, but each time I think, “Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.” MAYA ANGELOU

“Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” SAMUEL BECKETT

One of my favorite quotes from Sophy Burnham is this one on writer’s block.

“Sometimes it comes from too tight a hold on your imagination. Then you must write something more extravagant. Outlandish. Preposterous. Wild. Break through your own inhibitions and play and dance and sing and shout your verses to the moon. Or else you stop writing what is giving you such trouble and write about the writing that you hate, or the subject that wants to be turned upside down and poured out like stars into the heavens, a Milky Way of nonsense that the creative sense adores. ”

Thanks Sophy for the wonderful work you give to the world.

You can find more about her at



I am livin’ the dream tucked away for a few hours in Paonia, Colorado, a town of 1,425 in a place called The Diner on Grand Street.

A lovely diner with rustic booths, framed pictures of Clint Eastwood and John Wayne on the walls and Kenny Rogers singing strummin’ tunes from the jukebox. All this Texas-born girl wanted to say was Yeeehaweeee!


Life was just about perfect for these 24 hours my daughter and I spent there. Stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast called Fresh and Wyld.  And although the bed and breakfast had Internet, my cell wouldn’t work there or anywhere in the town. Was it the valley? The mountains?

Someone politely said, “Verizon doesn’t work here.” I wondered immediately if that meant that all cells didn’t work or was this a turf war area.  From experience, Verizon works everywhere. If it worked in the small villages all over South Africa, it should work here. Oh, well.

We stayed at the two story blue house converted into five bedroom bed and breakfast. And the breakfast cooked by a tall muscular young man named Jacob created a breakfast to die for.

Of course, a variety of guests were a plus with intelligent conversation from visitors from Britain, helping us keep boredom at bay. It was quiet, no radio or television.  Also, no drama. No news. No wondering about anything – except one thing. For me, an insomniac, walking lightly around on the second floor to hopefully not disturb others.

Checking out, note cards caught my attention lying on a table near the check out desk. The top one grabbed me. Created by a friend of the woman who checked us out.

The card said:

“It’s not who you are

            that holds you back

            it’s who you think you’re not ..”


Powerful thought.

To digress, I am not a hot weather type of person.

I almost changed my mind about taking this trip. But it was my daughter who wanted this trip. And I wanted to be with her. Besides, we were going to visit friends, then stretch it a bit considering our time constraints and travel to the Arches National Park. Never been there. Always heard about it. But, it’s desert there. It’s HOT there. I don’t own lightweight clothes. My thinking is I’ll be in air conditioning or I’ll wait until winter.

So to say I was worried about the heat was an understatement. (Don’t tell my daughter.)

And then, like a giant wish descended upon us, the weather changed drastically from hot to cool and rainy and delicious. What if I’d stayed home?

Anyway, how does any of this pertain to writing? Wait for it — wait for it — Here’s how.

  1. Going to a dream place to write is like an A+.  You know you have conjured up one in your mind — a tiny cottage, a tiny room somewhere near a beach or in the mountains to get away and write up a storm. Well, do it!
  2. Find inspiration and pass it on to someone else like the woman who took out time to make the cards. Of course she’s trying to sell them ($3 each) but it’s her vehicle to pass on inspiration nevertheless.
  3. Finally, don’t think so damn negatively. I can’t believe I was so concerned about the heat that I nearly missed this beautiful trip I’m in the process of making to the Arches National Park in Utah!


I knew this revolution of technology was whizzing by at lightning speed but it was unclear to me how deeply it penetrated the world of my grandchildren until the thirteen-year-old asked the six-year-old, “Do you have a device?”

It took a split second for the younger one to understand what her older cousin was asking. She concentrated for a second, then her eyes looked up at her cousin and she smiled.

Oh, yeah, the younger grandchildren had recently become acquainted with my Kindle, Mac Air and iPhone — both the new and old one. Plus, sometimes, they would bring their mothers’ iPads with them.

You see, the older North Carolina cousins had come to town and were in the beginning phase of getting reacquainted with the younger cousins whose ages ranged from two to seven.

Technology worked magic and I watched as if I had specimens in a lab. Instantly, smiles hit the crowd and each one furiously concentrated. Silence reigned throughout the house.

The youngest was four at this first session. The game of the hour, the day, the week was Minecraft, a game described as  placing blocks to build anything you can imagine. The piled up in the kids’ room on the beds, the floor, the chair. get-attachment-2.aspx As they continued to work diligently, their faces grew weary after about an hour and half.

Apparently they were building a project together. It seemed that someone was building a bedroom that interfered with another’s closet. And an argument broke out. Ahh, the peace and quiet was over. The grownups took them off the devices. After much pleading, we agreed they could resume at 3 p.m.  That was FIVE hours later! What were they to do?

Outisde it was warm and filled with possibilities. The youngest hunted for rocks and the others chatted and brought out a few books.  After a few hours, the asked for the time.  1 p.m. “Two more hours!” one of them exclaimed.

Blowing bubbles kept them busy for some time.


When it hit high 90s I told them to come in and I handed them paper and crayons and pencils and pens. I was struck with brilliance. “Organize what you are going to do on Minecraft.”

Well, they negotiated and planned and you would have thought they were engineers.

The detail and unimaginable creativity was phenomenal. The five children continued and demonstrated tremendous skills in negotiating, researching and planning as they kept an eye on the clock.

They had fun. And they raced upstairs at 2:55 p.m.

Okay. I gave them five minutes for good behavior.


Cousins from North Carolina recently came to Colorado to meet their local cousins and also the ones from Idaho. I was reminded that the best icebreaker for children of varying ages was shopping at the mall.


Youngsters are driven to  the mall at an early age by splashy truck and doll commercials, which escalate  into  trendy outfits and then, tadaaaaaa, the expensive device commercials like iPhones, the nook and kindle. But devices were off the table this day. Apparently they were all waiting until the “appropriate age” for them, as well as the funding. But they had wrangled deals with their parents and had a small stash of dollars tucked inside their jeans.

And — get ready for this — wait for it, wait for it — they’re off!

But what are they shopping for?

Even the youngest of the shoppers, age 4, had been programmed by flashy commercials of the finest and latest brand new toys, trinkets and devices.  They were ready for exchange.

As I watched them, I saw some of the finest conversation and decision making.

For instance, one of the younger ones  found  out that the object costs not $20, but $21.99.  I was comforted by the way the older children — 11 and 13 — offered assistance to the younger ones who were learning about that charming three letter word – tax!

photo copy

As they traveled the brightly lit corridors filled with windows designed to lure them inside, I marveled at our amazing children. As I offered to pay the tax,  my oldest son reminded me that I needed to let them figure it out. That was their introduction to budgeting. Oh, yeah, I remember teaching him something like that a long time ago.


Nothing is quite as irritating as sitting down to a plate of hot homemade food and getting a phone call without a caller I.D.

Robocall? A company soliciting you to apply for its credit card?

Or worse, a wonderful charity you regularly contribute to begging you for even more money.


This very morning a nice perky voice asked for me by name.

I was instantly reminded that one of my own children spent a summer marketing on the telephone.

Plus, I hate to be abrupt and I hate to hurt someone’s feelings, even though that person is encroching upon my time, my schedule.

In the past, I imagined that person and how her day was filled with hope.

That she would be successful, that this mundane job might lead to a bigger and brighter one, that she would ultimately  succeed in this crazy world.

I used to be sympathetic.

But that was before I was inundated with calls even until 9 p.m. at night and as early as 7:30 a.m.

That was before these insidious marketing people stole some of my humanity.

Shocked at myself I blurted out: “I already give regularly to this charity. I don’t want your  sales pitch!  Thank you and I hope you have a great day.” I was not shouting, but I slammed down the phone.

No, wait, I can’t even do that. I merely touched the button to turn it off. She left me feeling guilty on a bittersweet Monday morning.

I could have ignored the call, but twice I missed two long distance calls from my daughter overseas when her calls were routed through California.

Alas, what are we to do? Feeling as if all of us — even if we are listed on the no call registry — are destined to a lifetime of this frustration, I wondered if there was anyone on the planet who didn’t have to put up with unwanted calls. More searching.

“According to 21 March 2013 UN report: 6 billion people in the world already own cell phones. Which means the number who ‘never made a phone call’ has to be less than 1 billion, or 14%. Real number is probably quite a bit smaller, since in places like Africa pretty much everyone knows someone with a cell phone. — ”  Wiki says:

“Do you own a mobile phone or have access to the internet? Count yourself lucky as about a third of the world’s population is unable to access the internet while a staggering 1 billion people still do not own a mobile phone, showing many of the globe’s citizens are disconnected when it comes to modern-day communication.”

Another statistic came from 

These statistics vary  a bit. What do you think?

(Thanks Pinterest)



“Morning is when the wick is lit. A flame ignited, the day delighted with heat and light, we start the fight for something more than before .”   Jeb Dickerson

I love this quote by Dickerson.

Unfortunately, or so I thought at the time, I became a morning person years ago.

Part of it was due to an  early rising husband. Then came children. Only by rising early, drinking coffee, doing the whole makeup routine (a Southern thing) was I able to feel awake and prepared for that onslaught of energy about to be thrust upon me by five kids.

I had no idea how lucky I was that I begrudgingly developed that wonderful trait.


(Sunrise in Malamulele, South Africa by me.)

All you EARLY MORNING PEOPLE Take a look at this article by Courtney Rubin. It will make you proud.

Why Morning People Rule the World

Morning people are more proactive – and therefore more successful in their professional lives — according to new research.

To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, the morning people are different from you and me – or so says new research.

Early birds are more proactive than evening people – and so they do well in business, says Christoph Randler, a biology professor at the University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany.

“When it comes to business success, morning people hold the important cards,” Randler told the Harvard Business Review of his research, some of which originally appeared in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology. “[T]hey tend to get better grades in school, which gets them into better colleges, which then leads to better job opportunities. Morning people also anticipate problems and try to minimize them. They’re proactive.” (Not that evening people are life’s losers: They’re smarter and more creative, and have a better sense of humor, other studies have shown.)

For the complete article:

There are mornings we all feel like this.








What You Don’t Know

Of all the questions we still  don’t know the answer to, one of the most perplexing is why we walk only dogs and not any of our other pets?Image


Despite all the pretext — for instance, the people who have cats with collars and even leashes hanging in the hallway — do you ever see a cat being walked? Not often.

And fish?


No one could have had a more personal relationship with her fish than me a few years ago. But when I moved to another state, a neighbor invited me to release them into her pond.  I have never second guessed that decision. I heard they were very happy! But guilt set in when I realized I never  considered walking them. How difficult would it have been to have put the aquarium in a wagon and pulled it down the street?

Still there’s hope for others. For fish, pet lizards, pet pigs, Certainly doable. Admittedly, it would take preparation and commitment.

But clearly, you don’t have to speak to dog owners. From the streets filled with consciencious canine owners you can tell they’ve got the dog walking down to a fine art. And a good percentage of them do the pooper scooper thing.

So, something to add to the “what you didn’t know” column.