The first time I was shot at was after I got out of uniform. I was at a bus stop in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after my closing shift at the chocolate shop. I can’t recall if it was late at night or still daylight. I was seated on the wooden bench and the shot entered the glass shelter, just above my head.

The glass shattered. My head didn’t.

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Learning the Lessons

The last several months have been quite an experience in learning new things. Wearing masks, mastering Zoom calls, checking in to work remotely.

With everyone at home (those who can stay at home), the amount of screen time access has been huge. Explosive even. If you look at online shopping, online streaming of programs, and social media platforms, it’s obvious that people are looking for ways to keep their minds busy.

And I was too. Until I overcommitted.

In March of 2020, my email started blowing up with free webinars. Then free classes. Then pay-for-sessions classes. All of a sudden, I could take every writing class I ever imagined I would want to take and I could sit in on all the conferences I’ve been missing because they involved travel.

It was like a firehose of learning opportunities. And I wanted it all.

I was like a kid with a sweet tooth at the dessert buffet. I’ll have some of that, some of that, and some of that!

And I did sign up for lots of classes, webinars, for coaching, for meetings. You name it, if I thought it was interesting, I was “in.”

An actual gratitude entry in my daily diary.

But then I discovered Zoom fatigue. And that I didn’t always want to be staring at the screen.

And days started melting into each other and suddenly, in at least one of my classes and coaching adventures, I couldn’t keep up. I couldn’t keep track.

I had a desk calendar, but I think I lost a month or two in the middle of wildfire season and distance learning along with the adaptation that comes with teleworking.

Whole weeks suddenly disappeared into the black hole that is this year of pandemic and restriction. Cancellations of anything in person became the norm.

But the Zoom calls and the webinars never got cancelled.

And since I was at home, I never had a “conflict” that would prevent me from attending. Or did I?

Most of the webinars and classes I signed up for are now tapering off, even as the government here tightens the restrictions related to the “second wave” of COVID-19.

I was talking to the spouse the other day about my classes and webinars and projects.

“I didn’t finish that class,” I said. That was the class that would teach me how to complete a novel in 90 days. I didn’t get the novel done. I felt guilty.

“Yes, but did you learn anything?” He was sincere in asking.

I had to think about it.

I did learn something. Of course, I picked up a few tips here and there on how to write this or how to write that. Or how to better use this or that.

But what I really learned from all this is not to sign up for everything. Be selective in how you use your time. Allow for quiet. Allow for the screen to be off. Don’t sign up for something just because you’ve read that author and you like his or her book. They don’t have the magic potion.

No one can teach a student who is not ready—either due to lack of attention, competing priorities, or just plain confusion at when the next milestone is due. And some teachers aren’t all that good at teaching.

I’ve had marvelous teachers in the past.

But anyone can tell you that if the student signs up for too many credits, the student will likely fail at all of it. Priorities are important. Selective focus is important. Turning the screen off and just taking some time to think or rest—that too, is important.

And focusing on one thing at a time is fine. Because you might actually finish that one thing, and you might do it well. Selective. Focus.

Lesson learned.

Book Review – Man’s Search for Meaning

Man’s Search for Meaning on Amazon

This was a thought-provoking book. The first half was quite compelling. It describes the author’s experience in concentration camps during WWII. There were some fascinating insights into how people cope with abnormal times.

My reason for a four star rating is that I am perhaps a little too dense to understand parts of the second half, where the author discusses logotherapy and applying it.

I would recommend this book to anyone seeking some understanding of suffering and how humans need to have a purpose. It is also a good read for those who are coping with PTSD. I will probably read this book again, which is atypical for me. Quite often I am a “one and done” reader, but here, it seems there are enough insights and observations worth reviewing again.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Strange Times in Cootieville

Today was an odd day.

My spouse and I decided to go for a walk to the mailbox about half a mile from our place. Instead of cutting through the parks and walking the greenbelt, we decided to walk along the main road in our neighborhood.

It was a nice day, blue skies, not too cold, windy, or anything extreme. Just a nice day, generally.

We don’t wear masks when we are outside. Mainly because, well, science? There were no ther humans on the street within a quarter mile or so.

Until we saw the kid. But he wasn’t really a kid. Maybe late 20s. Dark hair, grocery bags in hand from the local Nugget grocery store. And a super large mask.

It wasn’t surprising to us to see someone wearing a mask as they walked outdoors, alone. Or to see masks on drivers in theri own cars, with no one else in the vehicle. We typically just shake our heads and wonder how much the person actually knows about immunology and the transmission of viruses.

What WAS unusual was how the kid-not-really-a-kid reacted to us. We were walking toward him on the sidewalk. When he saw us he stopped dead on the sidewalk then half ran onto the driveway of someone’s house. He was clearly terrified.

The last time I saw someone react like that to others was when we played a tag game in kindergarten and the person who was “it” had “cooties.”

But here was an adult male, twitching and obviously in distress.

I couldn’t have scared him more unless I ran towards him waving my arms and shouting ooga-booga! (For the record, I did not do this.)

Meanwhile, both the spouse and I were puzzled and somewhat concerned about this person’s reaction.

I can assure you we take the spread of infection seriously and would have provided this person more than six feet in a courteous passing of each other on the road.

I’m just wondering how much that person knows about science. Obviously, not very much.

I suppose there will be those who will read this commentary and assume I’m being flip. I’m not.

We were, however, more concerned about that person’s mental health than anything else. It must be hell living in a world where everyone has cooties and even though you have lots of options such as handwashing, Vitamin D, rest, and other immune system supports, you think the mask is your only option and that even thought you are wearing a mask, it’s not enough.

I wonder how people handled flu season every year, before this year? Flu isn’t magical.

You should have been washing your hands last year too.

Photo by Burst on

I’m hoping that the scientists and the armchair policy people realize what they’re doing to anxious people out here. It isn’t good.

Oh, and the new phrase for Californians now is no longer “Have a nice day.” It’s “Be safe.” Sometimes it includes a “Be well.”

No one cares about having a nice day anymore. Just make sure you don’t breathe on that guy in the street. He might have a heart attack.

Be safe out there. For real.

On My Bookshelf – November 23, 2020

It’s always a good week when there are lots of books to read and to enjoy! You might notice a trend. Fair warning, I like mysteries. I actually LOVE a good mystery. So I read a lot of them. But there’s at least one non-fiction book in the midst of these mysteries. One must keep sharp, after all…

Here’s what’s on the “To Read” shelf this week:

Murder’s No Votive Confidence

by Christin Brecher

I haven’t read this author before, but I like the cozy mysteries that teach, and I’ve always been interested in candlemaking.

No Graves As Yet

by Anne Perry

Book 1 in a WWI mystery series featuring a Chaplain as a main character.

I’ve enjoyed other Anne Perry series, so I’m hopeful this one is a good one.

Man’s Search for Meaning

by Viktor Frankl

This is the only non-fiction book I’m reading this week. It’s considered a classic in psychology and the art of spiritual survival. I’m surprised I haven’t read it yet. Here goes.

I’m also reading a few other books that are “too old” for Kindle, so I am going to post a couple of links here in case you are curious. These are also mysteries.


by Ira Levin

Deathtrap is a play that was referenced in Eight Perfect Murders. I had to get a copy after my interest was piqued!

Copy Kat

by Karen Kijewski

Copy Kat is #4 in a enjoyable older mystery series, with the main character a female private eye from Sacramento, California. I picked the series up as it was set in my hometown and I was curious. If you like Kinsey Malone in Sue Grafton‘s books, you ought to enjoy this series as well.

Well, that’s my ambitious reading list for the week!

I’ll let you know what I thought of these books as I get through them. In the meantime, if you have a recommendation, or if you try any of these, do let me know what you think. I’m always on the lookout for a good read.

Oh, and I’m on Goodreads too.


Culture Lessons

The word for hose in Russian is “schlang”. When the short, stout Irina Leikina was addressing us in her mad bursts of Muscovite Russian, she demonstrated with her flying hands.

“And my son,” she bellowed. “He was pouring water out of the schlanga–” She gesticulated towards her groin, as if she were her tall, half Slavic half Jewish son, pouring water from a hose, at waist height.

The room erupted in laughter. She stopped abruptly, her dark eyebrows waggling, looking at each of us in turn. Black Navy uniforms, green for Army, light blue Air Force. Nearly everyone in the room was male, except for me and an Army Specialist sitting kitty-corner to me at the tables placed around the room.

“Vat is so funny?” She asked us in her sparse, heavily accented English. 

Don, whose last name I can’t remember, the highest ranking person in the room, a Warrant Officer, also the oldest, with a wife and kids already, spoke to her gently.

“The word schlong in English,” he said, face composed and only slightly pinking up, unlike that of the two blondish army guys giggling on either side of him, “the word schlong, is a slang word for penis in America–and you were gesturing at your, you know–” Don looked pointedly at Gospozha Leikina’s groin.

Her round face immediately bloomed into a deep red.

“It is German word.” She breathed heavily. “It is, word for–”  She looked at Don again. 

“Yes, yes it is, “ he said.  “It just sounds funny to us Americans.”

“Ah, I see.” Gospozha Leikina paused for a moment and wiped the sweat off her brow, turned to the chalkboard and began to write words with force and motion. She wrote the cursive heavily looped word SHLANG across the green board in white, then wrote an example of how to use the word properly, in any of the 8 cases that typically baffled native English speakers.

“Genitive case,” she said. VODA IZ SHLANGA. Water comes from hose. How do you say?” 

“Water from a hose.” Don nodded. “That’s how you say it.”

Gospozha Leikina nodded.

We turned back to our rapid note-taking, as she barrelled on, filling the board with words and phrases we had no idea we’d ever use.

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