Archive for the 'TW’s writing' Category

Life Balance: What to Do with the Kids in the Summertime?

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

I have a confession to make: I’m a lousy self-pimper. Here I am, turning out (what I hope are) high quality posts on the CareOne Life Balance blog, week after week, yet I’m not sharing them with you, my adoring public. Let me begin to rectify that damage now with this:

3 Ways to Keep Your Kids from Driving You Crazy this Summer

(Foreshadowing: child labor!)

Please do enjoy it. And note this: the good folks at CareOne have now made it much easier to leave comments there — no registration required — so I would love to have your feedback on that page.

Thank you — thank you all.

Photo by Nina Matthews.

Sold Out

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

“Oh, this is one of my favorite songs.”

He aimed a half-smile toward his pint glass. He hoped she would find it charming or even coy. It actually reflected his disgust at the song, which at least distracted him from his ambivalence over the preceding minutes of small talk.

Once upon a time, he had thought of The Killers as talented and interesting. They had certainly made some songs that he liked. And then they made that . . . well, he didn’t exactly know what word to assign to “Are we human, or are we dancers?” (He suspected that the song had another name — but he couldn’t have cared less what it was.)

“Insipid,” was the word he was looking for. He was trying to resist the dictates of the Commutative Property of Music, which would have forced him to assign the same word to her.

“Do you like The Killers?” She was cute. Plenty of eye contact, and he liked her smile. Not insipid, anyway. Maybe the bad small talk was just from nerves, or maybe she was intimidated by talking to someone who thought for a living and who was — well, a few years older.

“I like some of their stuff, sure.”

“What kind of music do you like?”

He skipped over his first several answers: early Black Sabbath, 1970s Willie Nelson, The Dead Weather, Jane’s Addiction, Fugazi, Girl Talk, . . . he guessed that the relatively small difference in their ages and the large difference in their tastes meant that they would like few of the same things. This was not a club he would have chosen to have drinks in.

“I like all kinds.” He tried to turn up the wattage on his smile as he swirled the remaining beer in his glass. She was drinking Corona Light out of a bottle, even though the bar had 30 good beers on tap.

She started talking about the bands she liked, the shows she’d seen. He smiled when she mentioned Jimmy Buffett, not because he was a fan, but because he was amused by the image of her getting high with a bunch of sunburned tokers twice her age.

She was sweet and earnest — and sexy almost despite herself.

It was funny: he reviled his hipster friends and his grad-student friends for being too knowing. They had overly informed opinions on Moliere and the Kashmir problem and Joy Division. And here was the girl next door with her perky smile, no interest in politics, a liking for Rihanna, and, probably, a complete ignorance of The Wu-Tang Clan or Cormac McCarthy.

He cracked a little joke about the cocktail waitress, who obviously had a crush on the scruffy Lothario at the next table. She giggled into her Corona Light.

Damn, but she was cute.

“My friends got tickets to the Black Eyed Peas show. It’s sold out.”

“That’s cool.”

“Do you like them?”

“Uh, sure — I like some of their stuff.”

She giggled. “It’s always ‘some of their stuff’ with you.” (What was he going to say? That they were a glorified cover band?) “Is there a band that you like *all* of their stuff?”

He went back to the half-smile. There was a contest going on here, a small one, and he didn’t want to exacerbate it. She wasn’t as clueless as she looked. “Led Zeppelin.”

Now she really laughed, but not at his expense. Her eyes lit up. “They’re like a million years old!”

“But they were really good.”

She smiled at him and poked him on the shoulder. “I know you’re a *few* years older, but you’re not 50 or something. You’ve got to like something younger.”

He smiled and acted like he was really thinking about it. She was obviously enjoying herself. “The Dead Weather.”

“Ooh! ‘Die by the Drop’ — my roommate loves that song!”

It was something, at least.

She took a sip from the bottle and looked down as she spoke. “Do you think you’d like to go to the Black Eyed Peas?”

“I thought you said it was sold out.”

“It is. But my friends have an extra ticket.”

He knew what she was getting at, but he played dumb so he could hear her say it. He smiled and shrugged. “I don’t know your friends.” He looked down at his glass and swirled that last ounce of beer.

She poked him in the shoulder, harder this time, and laughed. “You’d be going with me, silly.” She cracked that smile again.

He smiled back and savored the words before he said them. “That would be great.”

She put her hand on his arm. “But you have to pretend you like all of their songs, because my friends are huge fans.”

“I can do that.” He leaned in toward her.

She held his gaze, then gave him a more measured smile. “It’s a date, then.”

She was definitely not as clueless as he had thought. In that moment, he enjoyed the private joke that it took a lot to make him look forward to a Black Eyed Peas concert — but she had managed it.

“All the single ladies! (All the single ladies!) All the single ladies!–”

“Oh, this is my favorite! Come dance with me!” She grabbed his arm as he was draining his beer. He gulped and snorted, and they both laughed as they fought through the press to the dance floor.

He didn’t think of himself as much of a dancer, but it was easy to put a hand on her waist and start moving. He was the furthest thing from a Beyonce fan — although she was better than Rihanna — but if her music made the girl next door move like this . . .

(He thought, for half of a second, about the next-to-the-last conversation he’d ever had with his fiancée. “Why do you always have to think so much? Why do you always have to be right?” had been her refrain.)

. . . he’d take it.

A fiction experiment.

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

So, I’ve been writing a long story — shorter than a novel, longer than a magazine piece — in Twitter-length chunks. For the uninitiated, that means that each little tile in the mosaic is less that 140 characters long.

It’s been a lot of fun to write it this way, and especially to see how the constraint of the form changes the rhythm of the story. But now I have a wee dilemma: Will it really work to publish the story, bit by bit, on Twitter?

The marketer in me thinks it could make for great publicity. The storyteller in me doesn’t want to make it too hard for readers to pick up on the narrative and catch up with progress.

Picture me mulling and not coming up with a clear answer.

What do you think?

Image by Mykl Roventine.

Tiny Stories, part 4.

Monday, January 24th, 2011

More little tales that fit in a single tweet.

Bereft of conversation topics, unsure about when to leave, he reminded himself of her name, then made her his famous pancakes.

~ ~ ~

He tweeted remorselessly, friended everyone, was mayor of everything, blogged relentlessly. Yet still couldn’t sleep at night.

~ ~ ~

She kept hoping that if she found the right song & played it loud enough, long enough, she would forget what he had said.

~ ~ ~

A friend suggested he try meditation. He didn’t like what he found there. She: “That’s the point.” He: “I can’t stand the point.”

~ ~ ~

The meeting of the Household Tickle Cmte. came to order. The junior members were delegated to tickle the (absent) Vice-Chairman.

~ ~ ~

She cocked an eyebrow at her dad, who was sermonizing about her mom. At age 12, she was already tired of playing divorce referee.

~ ~ ~

She had never properly learned the footwork or poses of his elaborate emotional Kabuki.

~ ~ ~

“With time comes perspective,” his mother had always said. For perspective on this damn thing, he figured he’d need 100 years.

~ ~ ~

He’d order anything fixed “country style.” He liked tacos “al pastor.” But never suspected he’d fall for a country-style woman.



Image by JD Hancock.

Tiny Stories, part 3.

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

More of the stories that I write to fit inside a single Tweet.


Never knowing what to say that could pierce the many veils of her grief, he made a firm practice of doing the dishes every night.


3 little kids, turquoise pumps, & the face & hair of a 40s movie star – or Helen of Troy. Not what he expected at the barbershop.


Dad tried to explain baseball to the tot; she only wanted to talk about her platypus book. They struck a truce over french fries.


Can your life turn in a moment? One way to find out. He picked up the fumble, tucked the ball under his arm, & ran.


The running lowered his triglycerides, but in time it healed his soul. Santa Fe’s air made him dream he was young Keino in Kenya.


“You’re just a once-in-a-blue-moon kind of girl, huh?” She smiled & said, “I could be talked into more.” He blushed.


His friends laughed with him at his dogs’ names, Phoebe Cates & Matt Damon. Only he knew their real names: Phobos & Deimos.


She was very nice, but as he sat there listening to her life story, he realized his profile needed to include “NO FAKE TANS.”



(Image by JD Hancock.)

Count Your Blessings on Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

My CareOne column “Count Your Blessings” ran last week, but the sentiment is appropriate on this special day and every day.

Our own Thanksgiving plans got skewed this year: my Dad came down with the flu and wasn’t up to to receiving company. (As I say in the opening of the column, Thanksgiving is Dad’s favorite holiday, so you know he’s got to be really under the weather.) But we’ve regrouped, and our little family of four is enjoying a day camped out at home — and, earlier, at the 7th cinematic installment of Harry Potter. It’s not what we planned, and I know Mom and Dad are as disappointed as we are that we can’t all be together today . . . but it’s okay. We’re still blessed.

Be grateful. Appreciate what you have — even if it’s not everything you want. And tell the people you love that you’re grateful for them and all that they give to you.

Happy Thanksgiving.


(Image via Thomas Hawk.)

Tiny Stories, part 2.

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Since I posted my first sampler of Twitter-length stories, I’ve written several more. I’d love to know what you think of them.


When he was on the road, he texted his wife to tell her he loved her. At least once a day. Sometimes it was to remind himself.


Giggling in the den, the smell of the carpet & his father’s cologne. The big man let him win at wrestling. He never forgot that.


She rose before dawn & launched into a workout a Marine would envy. The ghost of the scared girl she had been faded a little more.


Great-grandma peeked out onto the porch. The grandkids & their kids came & went at the holidays; that finch returned every day.


For once–ONCE–in her life, she was cool. She smiled back at him, said “Why don’t you find out?” & let things happen from there.


They played hooky: pancake brunch, window shopping, making love, sharing daydreams, milkshakes. At last they broke new ground.


She fell in love with the voice of Ed from Legal on the other end of the line. Ed himself…disfigured? Martian? She didn’t care.


(Image, once again, by JD Hancock — and it’s worth it to check out his entire series of “Little Dudes” photos.)

Tiny Stories.

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Every medium fosters its own genres. Twitter fosters very short stories. Here are a few that I have written lately.


The two of them looked at each other, after many years, & said “This isn’t working” in the same moment. Both sighed with relief.


An old man, living alone, he regretted nothing; he dwelt upon the smell of his wife’s hair & how much they had laughed together.


38 days since she slammed the door on her way out. No calls. 38 days since he was last a father. He blinked and took another sip.


The 2 of them, giggling, climbed up to the treehouse. They read comic books by flashlight until they fell asleep, heads touching.


She wondered when she’d stop thinking about the sad, drunk woman – unrecognizable but inescapable – she had been in her twenties.


I don’t know why so many of these are bleak. If you care to keep up when I write little sketches like this, I (usually, when I remember) mark them for inclusion in my Twitter “Favorites” feed.

Wanna try your own hand? I’d love to read your efforts in the comments. Don’t worry about limiting yourself to exactly 140 characters—just see what you can do in the span of a sentence or two.


(Photo by JD Hancock.)

Because I’m always forgetting to pimp my wares . . .

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

. . . won’t you please click through to read my latest CareOne column?

It’s about avoiding stress during the holiday season. Read it, and you will be peaced-out like the tiny Buddha above.

Well, maybe not that much.

Here endeth the self-pimp.


(Image by Scot Campbell.)

Tracking my blatherations.

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

So, it will be obvious that I write here — and maybe it will be obvious that I’ve been writing here more steadily in recent weeks.

I also write every weekday at my professional blog, the Hoover’s Business Insight Zone.

Lately I’ve begun posting a weekly column on fitness and wellness on the CareOne “Life Balance” blog.

Thanks to the kind hospitality of some fellow Red Sox fans, I also share thoughts on sports at Big Papelbon. (Yes, I also write about sports here, but if it’s Boston-specific, or the kind of thing I know my buddies at BigP will like, I usually publish it there instead.)

When I can, I also write in other venues — blogs, magazines, what-have-you — and when that happens I often link to it or republish it on this blog or my professional blog. For example, I recently posted something on my Hoover’s blog to let people know about a feature of mine in the alumni magazine of UT’s McCombs School of Business.

Is that enough self-promotion for you? Because, you know, I’m sure I redouble my efforts, if the public cries out for it.


(Photo by Ryan Sandridge, used under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.)