The battle over the Oxford comma!

The English language is a frustrating friend.

She’ll wow you with great writing that reaches across the page and touches your soul. She’ll string together stunning phrase after stunning phrase that turns the mundane into something out-of-this-world and leaves you breathless.

And then you sit down to write and she’ll trick you into using “there” when you should use “they’re” or is it “their.” Another day, you’ll spend countless minutes going back and forth figuring out whether to use affect or effect, confusing you to the point where you decide to just choose another word. You go with “impact,” knowing that without “forcible contact” in the meaning, you’re using the word incorrectly. A third day, you write down “imminent” when you mean “eminent.”


English grammar and punctuation are a puzzle and I’ve been fooled too many times to count, falling in love with commas when I should be using semicolons; misspelling words that would be simple enough to spell if I just looked them up in the dictionary; and forgetting the simple rules that we learned as pint-sized elementary school kids.

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Fighting writer’s block

The words and ideas come fast and furious. I can’t get them down on the laptop screen fast enough. They spill out of me bucket after bucket, more defined than the one before. I string two phrases together and two more replace them around the bend. I finish with one blog and before I know it I’m stockpiled with two more.

When this happens, life is good. I can’t help but smile. I mean really smile from the inside out. When I’m in this zone, little can get me off the track. A horrendously long commute home in the snow, no problem. A higher-than-normal heating bill, “hey that’s the way it goes sometimes.” I’m laid back and I feel good about life.


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The year in Writing from the Heart: 2017

When I was new to the workforce, I wrote every day. I churned out copy faster than President Trump, love him or hate him, pushes out a new tweet. When my career took a few unexpected twists and turns, I wrote less, but still needed a creative outlet.

Fortunately, I got the idea for this blog. I created the blog three years ago to get back in the writing habit. I’ve come to love the immediate feedback. I need to make some improvements to my site to make it easier for others to find and read, but I still love the instant feedback.


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Thou shalt judge

I saw a meme the other day that nailed me to a “t.”

It read:

Things I will not judge you for: Sexuality, religion or race.

The meme then included three things that I will judge you for: Not signaling, while driving; how you treat wait staff; and which way you place the toilet paper.

The first one — judging people who fail to properly signal — sums me up perfectly. If you’re respectful to me, if you’re nice to me, I really could care less about your sex, religion or race. I would probably throw age and politics in there too.

Forget to use your turn signal though and I’ll make broad, sweeping generalizations about you, your family, and your long-forgotten ancestors. The meme got me thinking about other seemingly silly actions that I most certainly judge others:


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Mocking a cliche

Like many things, they started out interesting. They were fun and fresh and seemed to offer some bold insights. And then they were everywhere and quickly tiresome and boring.

What? Finger spinners, Snapchat filters, or the Vineyard Vines whale? No, I’m talking about the internet feature “Letter to My Younger Self,” of course.

I’ve counted at least five of them, or various versions of the theme, in magazines and online on social media over the past week. Celebrities and self-help gurus seem to love them. They talk of key accomplishments, trials overcome, steps not taken, and a million other things in between.

They tend to be favorites this time of year because of graduation and the passing of the torch from one generation to another. They remind me a lot of graduation speeches and, while sometimes interesting, many have lost their touch or power.


Like other fads that have come and gone, “the letter to myself” now come across as clichéd and trite. As a writer, I still love them, but I wish the person writing them would just once be honest. I mean, really honest, brutally honest.

The truth shall set you free

What do I mean? I’d love for the writer to say “that [fill in the blank] tattoo you want on your shoulder, save your money” or “the trip to the beach with 20 of your closest high school friends, skip it to go backpacking with your brother across the Appalachian Trail.”

You know what I mean, right? I want the writers to give the unvarnished truth. I want them to spill the beans so-to-speak. I want to know about the crazy party they would’ve skipped or the embarrassing act that got them into trouble. I want to know where they went wrong and what they would change so that I and others can learn for ourselves and avoid the same mistakes.

Dreams with a splash of realism

Instead, writers often talk about wishing they had taken more chances and followed their dreams. My radar goes off. Dreams, really? I’m a big believer in the power of goals and dreams. However, I dream of a life of leisure. Does that mean I should quit my job, run away to New York, and demand that I be penciled in as the starting centerfielder for the New York Yankees? Or run away to Caribbean to spend my days relaxing in sun and surf and partaking in fruity drinks on a soft white sand filled island?


No, I may wish it, but that’s not going to work.

I want the truth, because we all make mistakes, they’re a fact of life. You can’t change reality. You can’t go back in time. You can’t always get the proverbial cat back into the bag. Instead, we often have to face the music. We have be present in the moment and to move-on and overcome. We have one life and we need to make the best of it.

At least that’s what I would write if I were to sit down and write a letter to my younger self.



Tugging at your heart-strings

Prolific Chicago children’s author and TED conference speaker Amy Krouse Rosenthal wrote in The New York Times online Style section in early March of her quest for more time. If she couldn’t beat the dreaded cancer that had stricken her body, then she wanted to make sure that her husband found someone new once she passed away.

Blog photo

If the headline “You May Want to Marry My Husband” and accompanying essay didn’t wake you up when you saw the column pop-up on your screen, then not much else will. Like many readers, I read Rosenthal’s 1,200-word “mock online dating profile for her husband” and came away emotionally pulled into her life and story.

On one hand, I completely got her sarcasm and wit. She complained about facing a deadline to get husband a new spouse while she still had readers’ attention and, most importantly, a pulse.

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A sucker for a good story, even This Is Us

I’m a sucker for a good story.

When I was a kid, my parents had a family friend. He had a folksy manner and a slow drawl that drew you into any story he was telling. My parents would occasionally make the long Sunday drive to visit with him and his wife. The adults would sit around in rocking chairs in the living room or porch and talk about big people stuff — you know what I mean, the weather, the increasing cost of bread and milk, whatever was on the front page of the Sunday newspaper, run of the mill stuff. My mom would ask if I wanted to go outside to play, but I found his memories about playing minor league baseball or working in a lumber yard entertaining and would stay inside to listen, fearful of missing any of the story.  

I’m older now, much older in fact, but I still love a good story. I love how a story with a great beginning, middle and end can pull you in wherever you are, no matter what you’re doing, and make you feel something you weren’t expecting. It could be anything: surprise, anger, happiness, or even tears of sadness.


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An unlikely mentor

I keep trying to write something about the current state of politics. I’ll start commenting on one side of the aisle and then the other does something that I find completely ridiculous. In the end, I find myself right back where I started. So, instead of a political blog, I write today about a mentor who saw something in me that no one else had ever seen.

I lifted the ax and took a huge whack out of the log. With each swing, I could feel the anger seep out of my pores. I worked the summer helping a family friend on his small farm. I mowed his fields; helped build a fencepost and clear out a small barn, hauled hay; cut wood and a million other odd jobs.

Every day seemed to wrap into the other.


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A year of writing from the heart

penWhen I sit down to work on a blog or any piece of writing, I start out with a plan to get me from Point A to Point B. Like any map, it helps get to me to where I’m going and provides a sense of where I’m headed and even rest areas along the way to stop and stretch my legs.

At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

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Blog Anniversary: ‘Why do you write like you’re running out of time?’

Let me set the scene. The thirteen colonies have fought a long hard battle. But now their tenuous new government, strung together by a weak Articles of Confederation, is in danger of breaking apart.  

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