2018 – HAPPY NEW YEAR! A new year to accomplish things.

ADB6FBCB-691D-4463-8C27-D5CD5DA4241AI’m excited about moving into 2018! How about you?

How do you sum up 2017:  life changing, goals realized, figuring it out, really tough, adventurous, quiet, magical…?

As I ponder what 2017 meant for me, I am thinking about 2018.

There are 4 quarters in a year. In business, we look at the year, then we break it down into quarters and monthly/weekly/daily goals, so that by the end of the year we are on target for reaching our goals.

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Personal lives are the same. We accomplish more if we write down a plan and try to stick to it. Some years I am good at this, some years I have thoughts in my mind of what I want to accomplish, but the thoughts seem to stay there, because…. THAT’S JUST IT, the word “because” holds me back.

So, this year, 2018 is about tackling the word, “because.” It’s time to think like an Olympian enough with the “because.”

Two years ago, my College friend (Dave, Life In A Word) suggested we challenge ourselves and create a Blog. We both enjoy writing. The catch was that we had to commit to Blogging once a week for one year!  We shook hands, no turning back.

Now, two years later, Dave and I can confidentially say, “we are Bloggers.” We didn’t let the word “because” stop us. We committed!

2018 starts tomorrow! I am thinking and planning.

For today, I want to head to the gym, but the word “because (it’s too cold outside)” is already coming to my mind. You see how that word “because” causes problems.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

German Christmas Ornaments

1F9F01D6-5279-4FA9-9462-F1CDADE719EFThis past weekend was the start of Christmas shopping. I say, “Christmas,” because for many of us it’s when we start putting up the Christmas tree after Thanksgiving, hanging the lights inside and outside and finding those special ornaments to put on the tree.

Every year I look for new ornaments. I like to send them as gifts. I had a lucky find this weekend. I came across a German Christmas Market. I was in America, but I felt like I was in Munich, Germany. Wonderful!

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They had similar ornaments that I would find in Germany, hand made, so a bit expensive, but as you can see from the photos, really darling. Everyone was enjoying themselves.

One special item that Germans put up is the Christmas Pyramid. I learned this from my mother/n/law, because Italians do not have this. Every year, out came the Christmas Pyramid and we would scramble to find candles to light, so that the propellor would fly around in a circle. Here you see a larger pyramid that they put up in a town in Europe. Ours was much smaller.

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When I was young, we had a German neighbor and they put small candles on the tree and lit them. Can you imagine what a possible fire hazard that was?  BUT they never burned their house down. While we enjoyed the lit candles on the tree, we would play a game of Canasta!

Memories… it’s nice if we still have them!

 

 

 

 

 

Bells, bells & more bells… American manufacturing

4C8FBCB9-16F0-4AD6-87C7-E133132B8D56Black Friday is coming and that means the Salvation Army will stand outside the stores ringing their bells asking for donations. Bells, bells and more bells. We have bells on bicycles, churches, sleighs, jester’s hats, hotel reception, cow bells, sporting events, dinner tables and more. Amazing, bells are really everywhere.

Have you ever thought about how they are made and manufactured. I admit I hadn’t until recently when I came across an article about an American manufacturing company called, “Bevin Bells.” They have been making quality bells since 1832 in Connecticut, which is 185 years. This is a family owned business, 6th generation and they are the oldest surviving bell manufacturer in America.

I mentioined Salvation Army, because they have sold bells to them. In 1865 they made the first bicycle bell. For those of you who have watched the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life,” you cannot forget the famous ending of the movie when the tiny bell (made by Bevin Bell) on the Christmas tree starts ringing and Suzy tells her Dad that her teacher said, “every time a bell rings an angels gets his wings.”

image1While there are good stories… there are sad stories too. In 2012 lightening struck their manufacturing plant and burned it to the ground. CBS Evening News covered the story on November 15, 2012 in this article, “Conn. bell manufacturer looks to ring in better times.” While this was sad, there was a happy ending. In 2013 Bevin Bells received a Grant from Connecticut to rebuild their plant. It’s wonderful to see people coming together to keep a company alive. It’s part of our history.

So, this year as the holidays approach and I hear ALL the bells ringing, I will have an extra SMILE on my face knowing that these special bells are made by Bevin Bells, an American manufacturing company!

 

 

60 Minutes – Excellent interview with British writer, David Cornwell (aka John le Carré)

IMG_2592Calling all spy/espionage fans! Have you read any “John le  Carré” books? Did you know that the John le Carré books are really written by a British author named, “David John Moore Cornwell?” That was news to me.

60 Minutes had an interview with David Cornwell. Writers are always told, “write what you know.” That is exactly what Cornwell did. First, some background on his father. His childhood had a rocky start. His mother abandoned him at five years old, so he was raised by his father. Cornwell’s father was a charming conman and it appears lived life in the fast line. One day they were well off, the next they were bankrupt and poor, with his father even landing in jail. Cornwell said this taught him a lot about people, life and keeping secrets.

Next, his spy/espionage background came in the 1950s and 1960s when he found a job with the British Secret Service. He was fluent in German and worked for MI5 and MI6 (foreign intelligence service) where he ran agents, was responsible for interrogations, the normal telephone tapping and more. This, you can imagine, gave him some great background material for writing spy novels.

He needed a pen name for his books. Working for the Secret Service meant his books needed to be approved before being published. Once approved, the condition was to acquire a pen name — John le Carré was born!

In the interview he showed his office and discussed how he does research for his books. He handwrites his books and his wife, editor, transcribes them for him. She runs the business side, which allows him to focus on writing. When he travels he has a journal and writes what comes to his mind.

At 85, he has quite a personal story to tell. A few of his books have been turned into films/BBC TV shows, maybe you know, “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold,” “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” and/or “A Perfect Spy.”

Cornwell is promoting his latest book, “A Legacy of Spies.” I have some catching up to do reading-wise, so that I know the background on his character, “George Smiley!”

I bet these books are great in audio! If you are already a fan, which book was your favorite?

Seattle -> London, a Librarian sets up an Elementray School Library (books for children)

 

As I am writing a children’s picture book, I have to do research. While my degree is in Elementary Education, I went into business after College. I know, you’re thinking, WHY did you do that. Good question.

Just kidding, it was not lack of effort. Life happens — I moved to California to get married, it was February, I sent out 200 applications for teaching positions, took the CBEST test for licensing, but could not find a job. Nothing! Teaching was not my destiny at the time.

So, I found a job as a Technical Writer. I know, again, you’re thinking, “HOW did that happen?” A twist of fate. I was terrified on my first day. I knew nothing about technical writing. Turns out, I did not need to be technical. I needed to be “smart” and ask the engineers a lot of questions, so I could turn their scribbles into a User Manual. I enjoyed working with the engineers. My biggest question was, “What did you mean by this?

Fast forward to 2015, my heart was “still” with elementary education. I was getting closer to following my passion of writing a children’s book, I had made it to the “research stage.”

One day, clicking here and there, I came across a wonderful Blog called, “LibrarianArika.” I needed to better understand the children’s picture book market AND every week Ms Arika was sharing books she had read, giving her review and sharing lesson plan ideas too.

THEN came the DREADED post: I’M MOVING TO LONDON!

My heart sunk. Did that mean Ms Arika was going to quit writing?

No, she’s back stronger than ever!

Always wanting to teach, she decided to Skype with her old classroom in Seattle, so they could see London (virtual field trip). She wrote a detailed post on that called, “Bringing Literature to Life with Skype.” She used the Harry Potter books for this.

Ms Arika found a Librarian job in her children’s International school in London. In this post, she shares how she was setting up the Library for the start of school, “Week 1 in a new Library: the behind-the-scenes work.” You’ll be amazed at how much she had to do, I was.

I’m excited that she is back! She’s an excellent Librarian and I know her students will one day say, “Remember when Ms Arika read (insert book name) !” What a great feeling that will be!

I still remember my 4th grade teacher, Mrs Landrum, reading “Charlotte’s Web.” Teachers/Librarians have a big impact on our lives! A big thank you to ALL of them!

Artist, Bordalo II, honors the endangered “Red Squirrel” in Dublin, Ireland

IMG_1633When I sold advertising, I was always canvassing the San Francisco Bay Area for “prospects” to call on. If I was not scanning through magazines for new advertisers, I was in my car sitting in traffic writing down “potential advertiser names” from trucks that would go by (flooring, landscaping, security systems, Google delivery, and more). You’d be amazed at how many potential advertisers you can find just sitting at a traffic light. Finally, I NEVER forgot to look at “billboards.”

Once something is taught, it stays with us. Even now, years later, I STILL find myself looking at advertising. I enjoy a great ad.

You can imagine my wonderment, here in Dublin, when I looked up to see a billboard of a HUGE Squirrel! Clearly, this was made out of trash from the junk yard. What kind of advertisement was this?

Here is a close up of the squirrel, so you can appreciate the details. Look at the squirrel’s fingers, his whiskers, his legs and tail that match in fuzziness, and the detail in his eye. BUT what is he carrying or trying to eat? I can’t figure that out.

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My next thought was… WHO created this? Google to the rescue.

Artur Bordalo (aka, Bordalo II) is an environmental art sculpturist/street artist from Lisbon. He uses paint and trash (chicken wire, tires, appliances, car parts, toys, plastics and more) to create his 3-D masterpieces. Through his art, he wants to bring awareness to waste, how it’s causing pollution and harm to our planet and the animals he creates.

For sure, we are noticing Bordalo’s street art, it is on such a grand scale. I “hope” that we go beyond just “smiling” though and actually do something to help the environment.

IS ANYONE FAMILIAR WITH HIS WORK?

FOUNDATION? – I could not find anything indicating that he has a Foundation where we could support his global environmental mission. His art is still new, maybe a Foundation will come in the future. If you know of anything, please share with us.

View more of Bordalo’s work on Facebook. His sculptures are around the world, i.e. a rat in Paris, a snow leopard in Russian, a turtle in Canada, a frog in Italy… it’s endless. Each one spectacular!

Fortune Cookie Writer Retires After 30 Years Due to Writer’s Block

IMG_1588See this fortune cookie?! That is how writer’s block looks to a fortune cookie writer.

Donald Lau, CFO at Wonton Food, Inc. has been the writer behind ALL those fortune cookies we read after our Chinese meals. Can you imagine, 30 years of creatively writing 100 fortunes a year? That is a big job! I commend him for writing this long. We all know that “writer’s block” is terrible.

Mr. Lau hired his replacement, a fellow by the name of James Wong, 43 years old. It’s good that Wong is young, if he follows in Mr. Lau’s footsteps, he could be writing fortunes well into his 70s.

Did you know that Wonton Food, Inc. is the largest manufacturer of fortune cookies in the United States? They have operations in New York, Texas and Tennessee.

Since reading this story, I have a better appreciation for fortune writing.

Here is one message that I saved. It was a good one.

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How about YOU, do you have a special fortune you saved?

Curious to know… WHAT was YOUR FORTUNE?