Monday, December 14, 2015

In Hope There is Love

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”
–Laura Ingalls Wilder

Well, here we are again, as in olden days, happy golden days of yore. It’s Christmas time again, and I heartily wish a Merry Christmas to all.

Christmas is the time of year where underneath all the hustle and bustle of shopping and baking, and making preparations for family from far and near, there lives a certain feeling of something greater.

Oftentimes, we find ourselves drifting back to the days of our youth, longing for that certain something that most assuredly existed, way back then. As we contemplate the days of youth, we can’t quite put our finger on the one thing that made it all so special; that certain something that found a home in our hearts, and each year is rekindled into a glowing warmth that is reflected in the smiles on our faces and the lights that shine in our eyes.

Many times we find ourselves re-enacting the activities that took place once upon a time in a snowy world that now only exists in our hearts and minds. Perhaps it is a sleigh ride through the countryside with someone we love; or maybe it is building snow forts and engaging in the snowball fight to end all snowball fights; or participating in the family traditions that have been handed down generation to generation.

There’s an anticipation that comes with Christmas. I like to believe it is the anticipation of hope; hope for better days, for a better world, hope for peace on earth and good will toward men.

Our world doesn’t always reflect this anticipation. It is marred with wars that extend from the home to the nation states. It is marred with hunger, poverty, and injustice. It is unfair at times and sometimes bleak at best. Yet each December, that certain something stirs in our hearts. That certain something called hope.

As we move toward that most wondrous night of the year, the night Christ was born, let us keep hope in our hearts. Let us take a moment each day to kindle the spark of hope in our fellow human beings, and pass on the greatest gift that was given to us over 2,000 years ago. In hope there is love. This Christmas, let us love one another.

Monday, November 30, 2015

If You Can't Say Something Nice...

There are times when we all need to get off the grid for a while. I don’t necessarily mean escaping to a cabin in the woods, far and away from society. However, taking some time away from the non-stop negativity of the internet is something we all need now and again.

This thought began formulating a few weeks ago when my oldest daughter announced she was no longer interested in FaceBook, and culminated this morning when I read Nicole Phillips blog, Kindness is Contagious. Both women gave the same reason for taking some time off.

I scrolled through my timeline and sure enough there were countless numbers of negative posts, mostly sharing the “hooray for our side,” type content, listing all the reasons the other side is wrong about this, that, or the other thing. Then there were a few hateful posts about love gone wrong, or the unfair nature of life.

It must be FaceBook! I declared in my mind, and quickly bounced over to LinkedIn where the professional people post. Scrolled down the feed, and discovered the reason so many people hate their jobs, or hate their role in their jobs. Every other post tells you exactly why YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG! You suck as a leader, because you aren’t doing it this way, or that way. You suck as an employee, because you aren’t doing this or that. You aren’t making a profit, because you failed at this or that. You are taking too much from others, because you failed at this or that. On LinkedIn, you can’t win. Either way you failed.

Twitter came to mind. Surely Twitter must be better! Afterall, you only get 140 characters to express your thoughts and opinions. :::sigh::: not so. The Twitter feed was buzzing in full vigor of negativity and vulgarity. In 140 characters you can read all the reasons you do not stack up against human expectation.

So, here we are in the cesspool of the internet, feeding off all this negativity. Now, we can point fingers at each other and lay blame at the feet of any one of the five billion people who use the internet every day. But, the question remains, am I contributing to it? The answer is yes. No matter who we are, or how wonderful we think we are, we are most definitely contributors to the constant negativity of the feeds.

Life is not filled with sunshine and roses. That is a fact. We all have our days, weeks, months, and years filled with tragedy and loss. However, do we really need to share all that with the rest of the world, on a regular basis?

It would seem that Negative Nancy and Ned have been promoted to CEOs of the internet. The question of the day, are you working for them? Are you sharing every negative post that comes along? Are you quipping at someone else, because you can? Are you passing judgment on people you don’t know? Is sarcasm your new favorite language? Are you dissing on yourself for whatever reason? Are you taking pleasure in another’s tragedy? Are you posting blind statuses directed at specific people, but you don’t have the courage to mention their names?

The internet is a choice. You can participate or not. You can choose what you share, and with whom. You can choose how much you share, or don’t share. We all have our ways and means of making a life for ourselves. Success is as we define it. Some people need to have lots of stuff and money. Some people need to have lots of family and friends. Some people don’t need a lot of either one, or they need a lot of both. Whatever category you find yourself defines you as successful.

As we learned from Thumper’s mother in Bambi, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

I Can't Adult Today

Summertime was great back home on the shores of Lake Sakajwea. The family – the whole family – sometimes fifty or more at a time would gather down on South Pointe of Parshall Bay, spending the day fishing, swimming, grilling, and roasting marshmallows over campfires when the sun went down.

Time rolled forward and Summer would turn to Fall. It was my favorite time of the year. The town would swarm with kids who had been here or there throughout the summer. The fall evenings would fill the air with the shouts and laughter of children, playing kickball, or a game that the title is no longer politically correct to name, hide and seek in the dark, and so many other games, until the streetlights sent us home. As we got older we would sit wrapped in blankets, star gazing and talking about boys – the ones we liked and the ones we didn’t. We would tell our secrets and pinky swear to never tell a single soul, take it to our graves.

The world turned one day at a time, and the winds of change would bring Old Man Winter across the plains. It was time for sledding on the Rock Museum hill, or snowmobiling on the streets to make the old people mad, trick-or-treating in homemade costumes, and building igloos in the backyard. Halloween would slip quietly away and usher in the Christmas season, requiring our best behavior for the simple gifts we received. The windows of Main Street would become laden with all the finest gifts the stores had to offer. The streetlights would be decked with boughs of holly, stars, or jingle bells. Santa Saturday would come and go, and soon Auld Lang Syne would be on the lips of the older folks as the ball would drop in New York City.

Love would be shared in the classrooms and between lovers at the Redwood Mixer as Valentine’s Day came and went. Shades of pastels would replace the rose red, again requiring our best behavior to entice the favors of a benevolent bunny that came and went each year. Spring arrived with the first sprout of the crocuses on the prairie. Pomp and Circumstance would become the theme, accompanied by the cheers of the graduating class as caps were tossed in the air in celebration of the close of childhood.

Every now and again, we all travel down the familiar roads we traveled as children. For me, as a writer, it’s an integral part of what I do. My memoirs are contained in every story and novel that I write. And yes, sometimes I miss Donna the Kid, those are the days I want to say, “I can’t adult today.”

Have a great week everyone!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Secret of Authors

When I first began writing, I searched the world over on the best ways and means to write and get published. I frantically scoured the internet for the best tips from the most successful authors out there. I tried to mimic their patterns and thought processes. And then one day, I discovered that all the joy of writing had been sucked out of my passion.

I joined a writers group, only to discover those that were in it didn’t know any more about writing and publication than I did.  We all talked a good talk, but none of us were moving forward. Critiquing became an exercise in each of us telling the others they should change this, that, or the other thing, because ultimately it wasn’t the way we write. A writers group is not a replacement for a good editor. It’s mostly for two purposes: support in a common effort, or brainstorming.

Marketing in itself was taking a huge chunk out of my time. The time I could be spending with my family and friends, or writing. I would spend hours on Hootsuite crafting tweets and Facebook postings, and even some for LinkedIn, and then I realized I was spending more and more of my time marketing and less and less of my time writing.

If I want to be a good writer, or maybe even a great writer, I have to keep at it, every day; 30-minutes minimum - every day. It’s a developed habit. It can be a daunting task at times. Sometimes I sit there staring at the blank screen before me and I just want to cry because nothing comes out. “Write something; anything,” I tell myself. “Write all the chores you have to do today in story form.” Sometimes even that can be a challenge. Writer’s block is a very real thing. Sometimes the words just don’t come. However, I still sit there for 30 minutes, just in case. I have neglected my blog, or at least have seemed to, since August 30th. The words just wouldn’t come. I assure you, I sat there, every day, for 30 minutes, and nothing.

My cure for writer’s block: I just sit with it for a while. After my 30 minutes of sitting, I go do other things that have nothing to do with writing. It works every time, sometimes it takes days, but it works.

In my quest to become an author, I also tried to write like someone else. This was a bad idea; a very bad idea. When I try to write like someone else, I lose all the flavor of the story I am trying to tell. I stopped doing that. I have to write authentically as myself.
I stopped listening to what the world was telling me about writing. I limited my marketing time – on purpose. I developed a habit of writing, and a cure for what ails writers the most. I developed my own voice. Now I write what pleases me.

Here’s the secret about successful writers. They don’t write for the market. They simply write for the sake of writing. Believe it or not, most of the great writers out there have had a flop of a book. They don’t dwell on it. They don’t drown their sorrows in wine and beer. They get to work, writing a new story. And, that is the true secret to becoming an author.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Live On, and Live Well

The sun would shine down on the backyard, infusing the air with its hot breath. The only refuge was the shade of the towering evergreen tree on the other side of the fence in the neighbor’s yard.

Dust mixed with the sweat of my brow encrusted itself into brushed streaks as my hand swiped away the beaded perspiration. The intensity of the moment causes time to stand still as the inspection of the flutter of wings takes on all the importance of the discovery of the ages.

All those years ago, the life of a child was simple. It was the long summer nights filled with friends playing in the neighborhood, or sipping on lemonade as the elders shared their stories. It was watching the northern lights dance on a brisk fall evening, cheering on the home team, and meeting up with friends on the first day of school.

As time moves forward, life becomes more complicated and the world a much smaller place. The world becomes noisy, clingy, and needful. The days of loitering in front of the Tastee Freeze™, watching people come and go, long gone. There is always some place to be and so many more places to go.

There is nothing more precious in the world than the gift of life where every moment matters. Being fulfilled requires a bit of childlike behavior. Note, I said childlike, not childish. There is a difference. Be kind to one another. Be generous with your time, talent, and treasure. Be wild and free in your dreams, and never let them die for the sake of someone else. Fill every moment of every day with the things that create happiness in your life.

Fill each moment with that precious breath called life. Live on, and live well.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Holding Out for a Hero - Prairie on Fire

As a person who writes, I learned something that is valuable. The secret to successful writing is emotional intelligence. I know ground-breaking isn't it? The hook for readers is the emotional connection to the characters in the story, not necessarily the story itself.

For example, I am currently working on my new novel, "Prairie on Fire," which takes place in western North Dakota. I wanted to write something fresh and new, and something that is near and dear to my heart, yet a story that can be lived by the readers as well. I knew I had to write what I know.
What I know is this: It is rare in any novel that the hero is a Native American. What many people don't know is that more Native Americans serve in the United States military than all other ethnic groups combined. When Native Americans are portrayed in film or literature, it is the stereotypical Native American from the late 19th and early 20th century. We need a 21st century Native American hero.
The main character, Devin Goes Along the Road, is an army veteran who suffers from PTSD. He tries to live a simple life with his fiance' and her mother. The home that he has known all his life is rift with land grabbing, environmental hazards, and now, there is a new threat. 
In 36 hours, Devin's life will change - forever. Everything he thought he left in the mountains of Afghanistan has surfaced in an explosive chain of events that ignites a fire no one expected, and only Devin can put out. But, only if someone will believe him.
Watch for "Prairie on Fire," coming soon to on-line book retailers.
I'd like to thank my Native American friends on Fort Berthold for their support and consultations of "Prairie on Fire."

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Men - You Need to Step Up Your Game

In light of the fact Father's Day in America is coming up on June 21st, I had to ask myself, "Where are the fathers in America? Now most people who read this post will shrug it off as a non-issue.  However, we see it all the time, young men who strut their swagger in the clubs, in the workplace, on the street, wherever they happen to be. Young men who violate every tenant of the meaning of Manhood.

It seems that some young men today have confused Manhood, with their manhood. If you don't know what that means, you probably aren't old enough to be reading this article.

We have created a society where the idea that children without fathers is OK. IT'S NOT OK! Children without fathers are more likely to live in poverty. 39.6% are considered poor, while 51.9% live in extreme poverty. Those who live in extreme poverty live on a family budget of approximately $200 a week. That $200 a week must cover everything from housing to daycare to food. Forget about clothing or extra-curricular activities or birthday parties, or anything beyond survival. (source:

Responsible fatherhood must become a mainstream ideal of our society. Men, you have a duty and an obligation to the boys of the nation. YOU need to step up your game and start teaching responsible fatherhood to your sons, nephews, students, and boys in your community. Girls and women are only half of the equation. They are not solely responsible when a baby is created.

The father's absence in a boy's life causes them to feel ashamed of who they are. That void lives with them their entire lives - even if another man steps into the father's place. The voice in the back of their head says, "I'm inadequate. I'm not worthy. I'm unwanted. I'm unloved." Boys crave the love and approval of their father.

I've heard every excuse in the book: 
  • She got pregnant on purpose to hold on to me. - You knew what kind of woman she was when you got with her in the first place. Not an excuse.
  • I had to leave. That [insert explicative here] was crazy. - You knew what kind of woman she was when you got with her in the first place. Not an excuse.
  • It was just a one-night stand. It didn't mean anything. - You knew what kind of woman she was when you got with her in the first place. Not an excuse.
  • Hey, she came onto me. - You knew what kind of woman she was when you got with her in the first place. Not an excuse.
  • I had to leave, we didn't love each other. - You knew what kind of woman she was when you got with her in the first place. Not an excuse.
 Note: You can switch the gender roles in these excuses and it's still true.

In a perfect world, none of the above would happen, but as it is, human beings are fallible creatures and we all make decisions that result in unintended consequences. Unfortunately, it is the children who are suffering. Not one of the situations above is a reason to abandon your child. This isn't about the woman, it's about the child.You don't have to live them to be a part of their lives.

Judge Lynn Toler of Divorce Court said it best in a case in which the video has gone viral on the internet. The virility of the video in itself says a lot about the current state of the definition of manhood. Watch it here:

Millions of Americans are in agreement with Judge Toler. Just because you can make children, does not make you a man.  You must be emotionally intelligent, financially secure, able to love and receive love, and most of all respect yourself and women. The children you create are depending on this. Step up your game and live manhood.