Slacker? Maybe . . . NOT!

You calling this kick-line "Slack"?

You calling this kick-line "Slack"?

It's not often, even when visiting a school, that I'm invited to lunch in the Teacher's Lounge. And before this week, I didn't realize that could be a good thing. But, maybe it is...

You know that old adage, "Eavesdropper seldom here good of themselves"? Well I was sitting there chatting with teachers at one table while behind me another table of teachers discussed my mornings presentation. How do I know? Because, as a self proclaimed committed eavesdropper, my ears bent back and cranked to high as soon as my name was mentioned. Anyway, here's what I overheard, read it in your envy-greenest disdainful voice: "She said she only writes for two hours a day--blah blah blah--I wish I only had to work two hours a day . . . 

On the way home, that night, the next morning, and after, unlike any other school visit, ever, the only thing I could recall was that teacher's comment. It bothered me so much I told Curtis about it. "What should I have told them? A lie?"

“What should I have told them? A lie?”
— agonized response following the teacher's lounge rebuke

A few days later, sweet Curtis sent me the perfect response by way of an article from the Natulus blog entitled:

Darwin Was a Slacker and You Should Be Too

Many famous scientists have something in common—they didn’t work long hours.

In the article, ALEX SOOJUNG-KIM PANG (author of REST and THE DISTRACTION ADDICTION), explores how many acclaimed scientists, scholars, thinkers--i.e.  Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Henri Poincaré, and Ingmar Bergman--spent very few hours doing deep work--2 to 4 hours a day in fact doing their "important work."

The rest of the time, they were hiking mountains, taking naps, going on walks with friends, or just sitting and thinking.
— Darwin Was A Slacker, March 30, 2017

While the "10,000 hour" theory, Malcom Gladwell expounds in his book The Outliers (originally put forth in a study of outstanding violinists), holds true, in order for the 10,000 hours of practice to be fruitful,  it only counts if those are hours of "Deliberate Practice," capital D, capital P, as in practice that is "focused, structured, and offers clear goals and feedback; it requires paying attention to what you’re doing and observing how you can improve."

Turns out even the most gifted, committed students aren't capable of more than, at most, 4 hours of Deliberate Practice.

What's more, (and what is especially reassuring) is how, along with focused deliberate practice, these outstanding practitioners also sleep more! But not at night. Turns out, these great thinkers and doers nap. Capital N-A-P!

About four hours a day. About the same amount of time Darwin spent every day doing his hardest work, Hardy and Littlewood spent doing math, Dickens and King spent writing...four hours of really focused, serious effort per day.

I'm sharing this in case you, like me, have been called "Slacker", or worse. May (as I do) called yourself the same, all because you (like me) can't or won't keep your butt in the chair for more than a few hours at a stretch. Take heart! 

And, Give Yourself A Break!--Lots of them!

Slacker? Playlist:

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A Poet-Picker-Profit-Poet-Problem . . .Solved!

Kristofferson at 42 in 1978

Kristofferson at 42 in 1978

If you regularly click over to test The Fishbowl waters, you may have guessed how music is my touchstone. My earliest recollections on are triggered by songs:"A walking contradiction/partly truth and partly fiction . . . "Busted flat in Baton Rouge," "Make believe you love me one more time..."  And, like many folks of a "certain age" aka mine, Kris Kristofferson's song--some performed by him, but mostly not--are the playlist of my teens and twenties. So, when I learned he was performing in our village, I jumped at the chance to attend.

Here's the scary part: Kris Kristofferson is 80! Here's the scarier part: He had pretty much disappeared from the music scene these past few decades. Here's the scariest part: Why? Because of memory loss, depression, assorted other complaints doctors were treating unsuccessfully. In fact, according to an 80th birthday hurrah by Neil Strauss in the June 2016 RollingStone, having labeled Kris baby's issues as "Alzheimer," "Dementia," or "Results of too many football, hockey, head butts," the medical community told the family to expect bad to worse . . .

Kris Baby at 80 (my mom's age!) Still smokin!

Kris Baby at 80 (my mom's age!) Still smokin!

Que the Rainbow: One of those doctors went beyond--and tested Kris Baby for Lyme's disease. Here's the happy: The lyme's treatment seemed to have worked! Kristofferson is Back! And touring! And that's why we were going to get to see him! And hear him play and sing! 

But wait, there's more! We were supposed to be a party of four at last night's concert. But, as happens, the couple (who shall remain nameless) that were supposed to be sitting beside us backed out at the last minute. Not wanting the tickets to be wasted, we returned them to WHBPAC and were told the concert was Sold Out! And surely the tickets would be resold. 

Problem Solved: When the usher showed us to our row and pointed to our seats, it wasn't hard to guess which two they were. Ours were the only empty seats in the whole theatre! Of course I checked out the folks seated next to us. I was curious to see who'd snagged the two--prime--last minute seats. One was a tall, young (too young to have been alive when KK's songs came out) curly haired guy; next to me was an older women (probably my age). At first I thought they were mother and son--or grandson--and thought "sweet", but a little eaves dropping quickly sussed out that they did not know each other. In fact, the young guy was trying hard not to be "with" the lady--trying so hard he was practically leaning on the person seated on his other side.

Why? Maybe because the lady seated next to me was crying. She cried through the whole concert. During some songs sniffling softly; during others sobbing. At one point, I reached over and held her arm. She looked at me, and smiled. Hers, like mine, were happy tears. 

Can't tell you how the concert affected the young guy (hope it did). But I can say for sure, how it happened with those two extra tickets, happened for exactly the right reason, and to exactly the right person.  This ole' world keeps on turning...

He's A Poet-Picker-Profit-Poet Playlist:

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A funny thing happened when I clicked on my inbox this morning. Nie on two years ago (Aug. 19, 2015 to be exact), I posted musing from 1976 when my high school in Huntington Beach, California tried for, and set--for one brief shining moment--a Guinness Book of World Record's record in lap sitting: Confessions of a Former World Record Holder

We tried, we sat, we set the record--and very soon after we lost it--I enjoyed recalling the event and sharing it, but I thought that was that...until this morning: 

Message: Dear Kelly, when i was a student at Central Michigan University in 1976 we attempted to set the same record. Our total was over 5,000 students and faculty. I have told people about this over the years, but it wasn’t until this past year at my 40th high school reunion that i found out another fellow high school graduate was at the same college and was in the same group that set the record. It has since been broken by the Nissan Motor Company in Japan with over 10,000 people. in 1982. But, for that shining moment I shared my 15 minutes of fame. I enjoyed your article which brought back fond memories. Have a wonderful life. The BEST is yet to come.
— "mj. french" via my website 4/28/2007

No clue what possessed "mj.french" to send that note today...maybe he was procrastinating (as I was when I read his comment, then searched for the current Lap-sitting record resulting in me landing on a hilarious site of hilarious attempts at setting sitting records) or maybe he habitually harkens back to those lap-sitting record-setting bygone days. Whatever the reason is he to the extra time to connect... Made me ssmile, hope it does, YOU, TOO!

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Happens that I wrote this last week on a Sanibel Island retreat and fully intended to post it then. But, as it happened, unexpectedly, I fully immersed in the experience. So, I never did post. Then, today after a "feels like spring" yesterday, it's full blown--literally, blowing white and sideways, capital B BLIZZARD. So, snowed in,  I'm thinking Sanibel and thus posting now... Happenstance!

Why am I on Sanibel Island? Holiday? No. . . . Yes . . . Could have been, except: I have an Agenda!. A complete plan fulling formulated in my Bullet Journal. My intention is to align the chunks and bits of a middle grade novel I have been writing so I can finish this draft. A momentous goal, yes. But one I felt sure I could accomplish given the expected situation. 

Sanibel sand and surf! My view as I sit typing. No, I am not on the beach...really.

Sanibel sand and surf! My view as I sit typing. No, I am not on the beach...really.

As it happened, the reason I am on Sanibel Island is my sis-in-law, Marilyn Bennett, an author and filmmaker  is teaching a course at Big Arts, a three-day, 3-hours per day, class on how to get started writing one's stories. I'm her guest. 

The way this guest-invite was couched, I would have days--all day, every day, for seven days of solitude while Marilyn taught and did whatever she had/wanted/needed to do. Evenings, from Sundowners on, would be girl time with Marilyn and our hostess and friend, Deborah.

Definition of happenstance
: a circumstance especially that is due to chance

It so happened, I was home packing my suitcase when Marilyn called and texted asking me to take her course. (I think she wanted me to provide color commentary ala Monday-night Football.--Over to you Chet!)  By way of twisting my arm, Marilyn said I'd be "Doing her a favor." Little did she know..."

Deborah's enrolled, too," she said. (Which upped the guilt factor and interest quotient.) How could I not say "Yes." 

Yes, Steven Pressfield, I did consider this was one more way of avoiding writing "The End" on my manuscript and thus having to send it out into the world to face criticism . . .  

Needless to say--but I'll say it anyway--when class time came, I was there--last one to arrive, sans paper and pen, but There. And to quote Chauncey Gardner, isn't that what it's all about? Being There?"

My post from last week end with that. (What happened later, comes later.) So what's my point? Simple, when SH#* Happens, don't explain, don't complain, flip it. 

Celebrating Hitting 300!

Nope. Not talking baseball. Although I do love baseball. However . . . Ever since that time my boy Max was catching and I was up, batting lefty, and caught him in the head on my backswing . . . well, suffice to say, I'm benched.

But I have been doing something in secret that now, on this 300th day, I'm Celebrating! Cue the Band! kind to your fine feathered friends/for a duck maybe some-body’s mo-th-er!

For 300 consecutive days, midst two moves, construction, vacation, births and birthdays etc. etc. I have completed a poetry prompt ala Bernard Friot's The Aspiring Poet's Journal. 

No, I am not going to share any of my poems here, now. (You're safe...for now!}

No, I did not do it alone! 

Nor would I ever imagined getting to day 300. And that's what why I'm telling you about it.

Is there something you've been meaning to try, but haven't?

Perhaps a personal goal? Maybe a resolution? Do you keep saying to yourself, as I have/do/probably will again:  "I'll start next week" . . . "After the holiday, really" . . . "Tomorrow." . . Tomorrow. . . tomorrow. . . tomorrow . . . tomorrow . . . tomorrow . . . 

What's the Gimmick?       Gotta Have Skin in the Game. 

Here's what I mean:  I committed to the challenge with a friend. The rules of the game were set in writer's blood (aka "Ink"). We pledged to email or text our assignments to each other every day by midnight. Or else...

It's that "Or Else" that made the difference.

Rewards & Consequences: Some folks respond better to positive reinforcement. I've shared previously how my author-mentor-friend the late Paula Danziger bought herself pieces of amber jewelry but...gave them to her editor to hold until she met a deadline. In order to get SE Hinton to write her second novel (after The Outsiders), her then boyfriend waited each day for her to finish her pages. Others reward themselves by putting dollars into a honey pot. (Big bucks!)

Rewards do not work for me. It is too easy not to pay myself. Nor have I yet found a payoff big enough (and attainable) to entice me to do anything...and I mean An-ny-thing!

I need Consequences, penalties, shame. That's what motivates me. Deadlines with consequences. So, in order to insure that I'd stick with the challenge, I set a penalty a miserable embarrassing consequence. I pledge to complete each days prompt and send it to Cindy by midnight. If failed I vowed to donate $50 to Trump's campaign publically--on Facebook. Pre-election that was the stiffest-realistic-penalty I could imagine. One I was not willing to pay and so, I did the work Every. Single. Day.  Here's the 1-2-3 of it:

  1. Set a "realistic" Goal
  2. Set a "clear" Consequence or Reward
  3. Set a Timer (The secret ingredient!) Cindy and I devoted 7 1/2 minutes each day to complete the prompts. That's it 7 1/2 minutes. Read. Set Timer. Go. 

I was amazed at what we accomplished in 7 1/2 minutes. Having a set deadline and consequence for not meeting was exactly the motivation I needed to stick with the journal, especially through those first couple of days, then weeks, and vacations, and late nights, and yucky prompts. The answer is YES I CAN! 

Tomorrow is here. 300 down, 65 to go!

Celebrating 300 Playlist:

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Don't Toss The Baby Out With the Bathwater!

I Googled these...what're Yours??

I Googled these...what're Yours??

Happy 2017! It's a new dawn, a new day, a new calendar waiting to be filled with good intentions. Many of us--maybe you, definitely me--are making or have already made resolutions. Since one of mine (which I've already broken) is to be timely, you may already have your resolutions SET. IN. STONE. 

If you're open to revision, get out your chisel and read on. If you, like me, having broken many year's worth of good Resolutions, haven't committed yet, read on. 

A recent, informal survey revealed how most New Year's Resolutions are intended to break bad habits: Eat Better! Exercise More! Organize! Be More Loving! More Creative! BE More... Better...BETTER. . . 

BETTER. BEST. That's what it's all about. Being "Better" or best, THE BEST. Before you go hog wild with the "Out with the old on with the new," while make this year's Resolutions, I'd like to inject one word of caution: BABY

As in the adage ‘Don’t Toss The Baby Out With the Bathwater!’

What the heck do babies and bathwater have to do with New Year's Resolutions? To answer that we'll need Mr. Peabody's to set his Time Capsule back to the 1500's. 

Back then the term "running water" referred not to tap water, but to naturally running water, i.e. a river or stream. There were no spigots to fill a waiting tub. Instead buckets of water were lugged from a running water source, heated on a stove and then poured onto a tub. Then bathing commenced. Which ends, as you'll see in example #1, with Baby being the last one in the bathwater.  At this point, there are two possible ways the baby could have been tossed:

1. Since lugging and heating bathwater was heavy, hard work, baths were infrequent and everyone in the family used the same water based on family rank: the man of the house had First Bath privileges, "followed by other sons and men, then the women and finally the children—last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it—hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water."-via

Yeah, if the "baby" is a catfish tossing it might be in order...

Yeah, if the "baby" is a catfish tossing it might be in order...

2. After bathing the baby, someone calls "Mother!" or "Woman!" or screams thus distracting Mom, so she tosses the tub of bathwater with the baby still inside. 

Still wondering what baby bath water has to do with resolutions? Here's what:

Traditionally while making New Year's Resolution, we focus on the mucky bathwater and forget about our babies. (Thus New Year's Resolution time becomes "Beat The Crap Out Of Yourself Time".)

It's just past the holidays, the busiest time, the time following a long period of so much MERRY MAKING has totally trashed routine making it easy to think of a kazillion things we should resolve to do better. 

WAIT! Before you go making that naughty list and checking it twice. Before you commit to any resolving what-so-ever. I challenge you to do yourself and everyone in your life a favor and make another list, FIRST.

On this First List, write down what you did RIGHT this past year.  List everything RIGHT! . . . . OK Everything you DID. Every. Single. Thing. YOU ACCOMPLISHED. 

Come on, Chick'n write the list!

Come on, Chick'n write the list!




3. I don't care how slovenly, lazy, messed up, OCD, ADD, RAP, MIA you might think you are, you did DO SOME THINGS right in 2016. (Assuming self-deprecation, I stopped at 3 in the example...This is your list, so LIST ON!)

Now--with this list of "babies" worth cuddling in plain sight--set your 2017 Resolutions. To be sure you don't throw your accomplishments out with the proverbial bathwater. Hug those babies! Embrace them. Celebrate them. If you're please with the way those things turned out. Put them on your new New Year's Resolution list FIRST!  Because dang it, YOU DID GOOD!

2017 New Years's Resolution #1 

Celebrate What You Did Right, First! and Do IT Again! Hooray Happy 2017!

Don't Toss the Baby Playlist:

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who + what + how = a better world

Someone, sometime back told me the difference between an Optimist and a Pessimist's view of an event. 

An Optimist is never surprised and always disappointed. Whereas, a Pessimist is never disappointed and always surprised.
— A Pessimist

That definition bugs the heck out of me. It makes being an Optimist feel like a sorry state of being. Why? Because of that word "Surprise." 

Who doesn't love a surprise?

Who doesn't like to be surprised?

 I can not tell you how many times I've pondered it, wondering if being one or the other is wiser. My conclusion: Even if I am sometimes disappointed, I would rather be optimistic. To that end, I'd like to share with you one of the most inspiring things I do for myself each day. 

TED Talk

TED Talks are short--15ish minute long--presentations by dynamic doers, thinkers, speakers sharing ideas on a huge range of topics of global interest. Contrary to most other talking we hear, Ted Talks are informative, interesting and almost always positive. Those I have listened to feature people trying to make our world through science, social interaction, literature & art, better. I've listed a few of my favorites below. For a complete list of talks click here: TED Talk Topics

Parents, Teacher, Librarians:There are also TED Talks for Kids!

TED Talks are FREE!

You can watch TED Talks on your phone, Ipad, Computer, or listen to them on your commute (although I must mention that many include visuals worth seeing, so some things do get lost with audio-only.)

What is TED? 

TED is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world. We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.

Get this! There is even a TED Prize! (I just learned about this incredible Million Dollar prize!) "The TED Prize is awarded annually to a leader with a creative, bold wish to spark global change. By investing $1 million in a powerful idea every year, the TED Prize accelerates progress toward solving some of the world's most pressing problems."




The heart of the TED Prize is the wish. It’s worth investing time to refine it and push it further. At its most basic, a wish is: who + what + how = a better world. Who are you going to engage? On what issue, and in what way? For what kind of impact?

Winner of the 2017 TED Prize is  Dr. Raj Panjabi, Founder and CEO of Last Mile Health, most notable for his work on the ebola virus. Dr. Panjabi's wish is to train locals to provide heathcare in remote communities. I couldn't find a TED Talk by Dr. Panjabi yet, but he will be revealing his plans for fulfilling his wish at a TED conference in April. 

And, to hear past winners of the TED Prize and be inspired and excited by them and their WISH, click!

It begins with a Wish! Don't you love that? A Wish for our planet! A Wish for humanity! A Wish for a cure! For a solution! A Wish for the future!


That "difference" between Optimists and Pessimists noted above, might be true. Maybe Pessimists are surprised more often--surprised by what Optimists dare to WISH!

Cue Jiminy Cricket: "For when you wish upon a star your dreams come true..."


Need a Little Snappy Happy-Ever After, Too?


My hands-down favorite stick-in-my head musical number goes, "We need a little music/need a little laughter/need a little snappy happy-ever-after...

That's what I need right now, and I'm thinking with the news swirl and holidays upon us you do too. In truth, I didn't post last week because I couldn't think of anything Pollyanna-ish to say that didn't sound phoney-baloney

(For those of you unfamiliar with the term "Pollyanna", according to my old-standard go-to, Merriam-Webster (since 1828), A "Pollyanna" is someone "irrepressibly optimistic who tends to find the good in everything.") 

I first learned the term "Pollyanna" as the title of the Disney movie starring the embodiment of Pollyanna, Haley Mills (yes, I wanted to be her when I was little. And no, I was not her age when the movie came out--I saw it in reruns, too.) Longing for a feel good afternoon, treat yourself!  Here's the Pollyanna trailer.

(Note: "Phoney-Baloney" is nonsense, foolishness, deceptive talk; a phoney-baloney is one who spouts such bull! The terms usage dates back to 1936. Pollyanna is no phoney-baloney!)

But wait, there's more! Feeling a bit like Kathryn Hepburn in Desk Set, I did some digging beyond the movie and whooppeee! Music to my writer's ears, turns out the term, Pollyanna, like Hayley Mill's character, came from a book! 

Origin and Etymology of pollyanna
Pollyanna, heroine of the novel Pollyanna (1913) by Eleanor Porter †1920 American fiction writer

First Known Use: 1921

BTW: Pollyanna, was published in 1913, when Eleanor H. Porter was 44. 

Pollyanna ranked eighth among best-selling novels in the United States during 1913, second during 1914, and fourth during 1915 (with 47 printings between 1915 and 1920).

Why would a "sappy" book about an orphan who always looking on the bright side have gained such popularity? Consider the times: World War One began July 28th, 1914...


Another Pollyanna-ish Orphan bounced onto the scene in 1924. Harold Gray's comic strip heroine, Little Orphan Annie.  What else was happening in 1924 U.S.? 

  • Johnny Weissmuller--Tarzan!--won three gold medals at the Paris Summer Olympics
  • First Round The World Flight completed in 175 days by a Chicago based US Army Air Service team
  • J. Edgar Hoover appointed Director of the Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • Prohibition (1920-1933)


This is the cover of my "Annie" book.

This is the cover of my "Annie" book.

Gray's Little Orphan Annie comic strip ran continuously through prohibition, the Depression, World War Two, the Korean Conflict, most of the Vietnam War and Cold War...even past Gray's death in 1968. (To be revived after Annie's Broadway debut in 1976.) 


FYI: Gray's Orphan Annie was an original. He didn't conjure her, he kidnapped the little orphan from an 1885 poem.  Here are the first few lines:

LITTLE Orphant Annie ’s come to our house to stay,
An’ wash the cups and saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,
An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep,
An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board-an’-keep;
An’ all us other children, when the supper things is done, 5
We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest fun
A-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ’at Annie tells about,
An’ the Gobble-uns ’at gits you
Ef you
Don’t 10

What to read more? Little Orphant Annie by James Witcomb Riley

What with all these Pollyannas, you might be asking? Historically speaking, what these Pollyanna's show me can be summed up in one paraphrase. When the going gets tough, Writers get writing. What do readers want? What does every Pollyanna ooze? 

HEART! Miles and miles and miles of heart...

Or, to quote another Pollyanna, "Just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down...." 

Cause if we need a little snappy, everyone else might me craving one, too.  

Need A Little Snappy Playlist:

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