Do you believe in GHOST?

I know what you were thinking. You were thinking this post was going to be about life-after-death-spirits. Maybe it is in a way. But not in THAT way.

Last week, my post was about TEDx Hilliard. I didn’t talk about one of the speakers: Matthew Carter. I purposely left him off the list of 5 +1 Amazing Things I learned.

The tone of that blog post wasn’t right for how Matthew made me feel. You see, he was sort of a ghost to me before he took the stage.

Oh, I’ve never met him, but I saw him milling around the Bradley High School commons before the event began. We were all filling eco-unfriendly black plastic plates with diet-unfriendly appetizers! Delicious appetizers.

My eyes scanned him but my brain didn’t register him. He’s a normal-looking black guy. My eyes never stopped.

Now the woman standing beside him? She made my gaze falter. You know that women wear make-up, dress, and accessorize for other women, don’t you? This young black woman succeeded!

I didn’t put her with him until he took the stage and pointed her out. What? She’s with him?

So, see? He should have been the inspiration behind the main character in Jason Reynolds’ novel Ghost! And he was…is.

He introduces himself as a superhero. By this time it didn’t surprise me. Clark Kent was a normal looking guy; so was Batman until George Clooney stepped in as the lead; so was Iron Man, the Hulk, the Arrow…I don’t need to go on.

And then Matthew Carter began talking about the trauma that turned him into this superhero. I won’t share the details. I’ll just tell you that it was shocking and I don’t know why.

I know at this stage of my life that black people in this country have never had it easy. NEVER. And STILL.

I know that single mothers have never had it easy. NEVER. And STILL.

I thought it had changed. I was under a delusional illusion that we had overcome our puritanical, racist background, thrown our arms wide open, trashed the judgmental bullshit with our Marlboro’s and DDT. But, you see, that was never true. Just because I can eat in a restaurant now without swallowing second-hand smoke does not mean there aren’t a dozen smokers in the back parking lot filling their bodies with carcinogens.

But I naively thought it did.

Naive isn’t the right word…stupid…that’s the right word.

Matthew Carter introduced himself as a superhero and made me believe that his was going to be a light-hearted story of self-actualization. It was…and it wasn’t. He, somehow…miraculously can make you smile but his story brought me to tears. There were times I’m sure my heart stopped, then skipped, then raced.

There was trauma all right…and drama…and maybe some dharma too. I think he’d agree with that last…because I think he’s found his purpose visiting schools and students and teachers and starring on TEDx stages.

He made a few good points, but the ones that transformed me on August 9, 2019 are these:

  • it’s important to share our discomfort with young people so that they understand it’s okay for them to share theirs with us.
  • it’s important to be ostentatious listeners because when we aren’t, we silence somebody’s truth.
  • it’s important to see the superhero in everyone, especially the person who hasn’t yet seen it in their own mirror.

5 + 1 Amazing Things I learned at TEDx Hilliard

I learned 5 AMAZING Concepts at the Hilliard TEDx event on August 9, 2019:

  1. Social Media is like going on 50 First Dates. Not the movie, but actual first dates. Remember those? You kept your conversations to positive, superficial topics even though just that afternoon a colleague stole your biggest client which sent you down a deep, deep well of self-doubt! You wore Spanx under a dress that you bought at Saks 5th, because heaven-forbid anyone would discover you’re a REAL person.  Stefanie Jackson tells us in her refreshingly honest style how the never-ending first dates of social media are killing our FLOW! DO NOT MISS IT! Watch this TEDx talk AS SOON AS it’s posted online! (In 5 weeks.)
  2. Around-the-House Football is a thing! Maybe that wasn’t the big idea Brent Wise wanted me to come away with, but once you put your ideas out there, you no longer control them! What is around-the-house football? Instead of playing backyard football between the trees, young Brent and his friends incorporated the front AND backyard for their games which included over-the-roof passes and circular yardage. Get it? You don’t have to stick by any arbitrary rules of the game if they don’t fit your purpose. It’s just slightly possible I got stuck on the ‘around-the-house-football’ thing and missed the major point…you be the judge when you watch Brent Wise’s TEDx Hilliard talk online. It should be posted tomorrow next week in 5 weeks! 
  3. Data solves a lot of not-problems. Bill Balderaz listed a number of them: getting the make-up you ordered on-line quicker than driving to the store; finding website suggestions on your smartphone; seeing Facebook ads that fit the exact thing you were looking for next! These are fixes for not-problems, but Bill says the same data and algorithms can be used to predict and prevent urban blight, hunger all over the world, and the addiction crisis. How? you ask. Bill will tell you when you watch his TEDx talk …Statistics are showing that people want to see that now, but that 95% will wait the entire five weeks until it’s posted. 
  4. I should take an Improv Class! Again, that’s not the message that Mihaela Jekic was trying to send, but once your message is out there…  Mihaela’s message had more to do with using our humiliating experiences to transform ourselves into fearless critters who will try anything at least once. What does that have to do with Improv? Well, you’ll have to find out when Hilliard TEDx hits the web. And when will that be, you ask. IN ABOUT 5 WEEKS!
  5. Talent’s just another word for ‘work’. That’s what I learned from the youngest speaker on the TEDx stage, Elise Byard. That girl can sing! But beyond that…she can play piano while she’s singing! And beyond that…she can do both while remaining on tune, in rhythm, and error-free! And she says it’s because she doesn’t quit when it’s hard. Pshaw! She got ALL the talent, that’s all! You be the Idol Judge when you watch Elise on the TEDx Hilliard stage…when? IN FIVE MORE WEEKS! 

AND, (you should be hearing a drumroll) the PLUS ONE AMAZING THING I LEARNED AT TEDx HILLIARD:

Our math teachers lied to us!

Raj Shah’s talk on using video game principles to help children love math made me fall in love with math! If you want to know the secret lies that our math teachers told us…that’s right, you have to wait the requisite...5 weeks! 


Great-Reads and Listens For The Weekend

Because why waste your time reading or listening to anything less than great?

Here’s one I’m reading now with a group of friends at the Columbus Center for Spiritual Living where I worship. I think you’d enjoy reading this book if you want to re-map your brain to lean toward happiness instead of negativity.

I’m not calling you negative…I’m just saying that we’re all predisposed for it. All of us! Even Pollyanna!

It’s a good read with a lot of solid commonsense ideas with scientific background…which many of us like to have so we can misquote it to our friends when we recommend that they read this book.

Remember, I am an Amazon Associate which means if you click and buy here…you’re helping a not-starving writer fund her addiction to blogging!

As far as the listening portion of this post goes…let’s stick with our theme of happiness, okay? And who’s the happiness guru-ess? That’s right, Gretchen Rubin!

I do not listen to Gretchen religiously, but I do think her podcast is light, filled with talk that spurs my own thinking about how I define happiness for myself, and entertaining.

Here’s a link to Gretchen’s podcast, but if you use a different platform for your podcasts, just put the name in that app to pull it up.



I won’t even claim to know anything about platforms and apps and all things technical that allow you to listen…very much like my inability to tell you how Netflix works…only that I push a button on my remote and I’m HAPPIER!!! Wanna know what I’m binge-watching this weekend?


The Story of God with Morgan Freeman 


This is Mika

Over the years I’ve had this blog and sporadically posted, I’ve written about Zoey and about Mika.

The Captain and my husband Jack

Zoey passed away 3 years ago and we still miss her. One day, she went outside with my husband, (her best friend in the whole universe) and laid down and didn’t get up. We carried her back into the house carefully, certain that she had a spinal issue.

She didn’t.

She had a tumor on her spleen that had ruptured. Even with the extreme surgery, we lost her.

Jack and Zoey

We waited a year before we let another dog into our hearts. A year because that’s how long it took, not because it’s a magical amount of time and then suddenly…POOF! …The grief is gone.

No. It isn’t.

I thought we’d foster some K-9 friends and get our puppy fix that way, but in September of the following year, after returning from a wonderful Irish vacation, I started looking for a pup to adopt as our very own.

TA DA!  This was Mika two years ago.


And this is what she looks like now.


I love this dog. There’s no other way to say it but outright. I love that she’s always happy; that she loves me unconditionally; that she just wants to be with us all the time no matter what we’re doing; that she wants us to be happy. All the reasons that people love their dogs…because the dog isn’t the high-maintenance being…WE ARE!

Okay, I can see why that might offend you. I’ll speak for myself…I AM!


She’s going to be 2 years old a week from today. TWO! I’d love to say it went quickly, but in those two years, we’ve amassed a number of experiences I’d rather not live through again:

  • We got asked to leave puppy class. And when I say ‘we’ I mean that I was asked to take Mika to a different class! Or no class, as it turned out in the end. This was because she reacted excitedly to the other dogs. Hell, she began reacting as we hit the parking lot! She knew who was in there…her BFF, the Golden Retriever who always wagged her direction when we entered.


  • We moved on to private training at home, which she loved even more because that trainer, Charmagne Shremshock, brought really fabulous treats and even better toys!
  • With our newfound confidence, we joined an Agility Training Class. IMG_4478
  • We quit an Agility Training Class after Mika decided she HAD to play with the new Golden Retriever who looked an awful lot like the first Golden Retriever who always wagged her direction when we entered class. Can you blame her? Neither can I…except that she faked me out. She stood at my side, so serene, so calm, so obedient (thank you, Charmagne), until I relaxed my death grip on her leash. And then she lunged! I fell backward and Mika kept going toward her prize…the Golden standing so innocently beside the Cat Walk. She pulled me across the gymnasium floor on my back! We weren’t asked to quit that class…but I quit.

Photo on 4-30-18 at 1.29 PM #2

(Sure she looks innocent NOW!)

  • She nipped our ankles every time we walked across our living room.
  • She chewed everything she could sink her teeth into and some things that she couldn’t sink her teeth into.IMG_3136
  • She unrolled rolls of toilet paper.
  • She emptied waste baskets.


  • She thought kitchen countertops were just another level of ‘floor’ and therefore NOT off limits.
  • She learned how to open interior doors.
  • She learned how to howl…yes, HOWL, and not at the moon. The moon has nothing to do with Mika’s howling.
  • She decided going for a walk meant it was time to audition for lead dog on a sled team.



And then, about a month ago, she decided she’d had enough of this puppy stuff…on her own, though I wonder if my twitching eyes and nervous ticks had anything to do with her decision. At any rate, she’s not perfect. She’s not totally mature or a master at K-9 Etiquette, especially when she just meets you and has to…apparently is driven to…stick her nose up your butt.


But she’s my lovable, cuddle-able, 100% charming mutt and I love her!

Do you have a dog? Show us pictures already!







The People You Don’t See at TEDx

Behind the five, six, seven people who make it to a TEDx stage, there are hundreds who don’t. They don’t because they don’t audition…or because their audition wasn’t selected.maria-teneva-mo62s5dp0zg-unsplash

I don’t know all their stories, but I know ONE!

Vicky Harrison is a friend of mine. We have a brief history in the grand scheme of friendship, but one that I cherish. I’m sure I don’t have to say this out loud, but I will anyway. I LOVE TO READ!

So, when I moved 200 miles from my close friends and family to start a new job in the drug-addiction prevention arena, I wanted to make new friends. One of my colleagues gave me someone’s name. This person had a book club and he was sure I’d be welcomed with open arms, but the e-mail I sent her about the referral elicited a rejection e-mail response.

Apparently, this woman whom I had never met said that I wouldn’t feel comfortable and wouldn’t fit in.

In stepped Vicky Harrison, a school psychologist in the district I had just joined. She had only met me in passing but heard my story about looking for a book club where I might begin finding a tribe.

She didn’t hesitate to invite me to join hers.

That’s my friend Vicky. Her arms and her heart are always open. And I did find my tribe through her.

Fast forward 10 years and Vicky’s open heart was shattered by her oldest son’s heroin overdose. After she buried him, she buried herself in her new-found purpose: authoring Release Me, a book about her story, and preventing her son’s killer from murdering other young people.

(This is an affiliate link, so if you click and buy, you’ll be helping a not-starving artist while helping yourself! This won’t cost you any additional money.)

She created MOO: Mothers Opposing Opioids to address the opioid addiction issue in this country today.


She speaks to addicts to tell them what her son’s addiction did to her life before and after his death.

She speaks to teachers alerting them to the signs of addiction and ways they can intervene.

She speaks to parents assuaging the shame they might feel with the truth about this epidemic: it’s an equal opportunity killer.

And she auditioned to speak to the TED audience through TEDx Hilliard.

She wanted to tell you that you don’t need to feel ashamed if you have a loved one with opioid addiction.

This killer stalks middle class, functional families with the same gusto as it stalks famously rich, quietly wealthy, lovingly pampering, abusively dysfunctional, or single-parent impoverished families. Vicky knows that shame is opioid’s murder accomplice. It prevents parents from getting the help they need for their children.

She felt the shame when Tyler began the spiral into addiction, but she didn’t allow it to stop her husband and her from reaching out to any and all who might help. They turned to professional chemical dependency counselors, to educators, to rehab facilities, and to psychotherapists.

I’m saddened that although some reached Tyler briefly, none were able to wrench him from the terribly sharp claws opioids unsheath to carry our children away from us.

But there ARE things we can do.

I know three families whose children have escaped. They did the same things Vicky and her husband did, yet something shifted for them.

I can’t explain why that is. There is no answer in karma, religion, medical science, or psychology.

Life’s events are inexplicable.

We don’t know why you’re 6’5″ tall and I’m 5″0.

We don’t know why some babies die and others with similar birth defects thrive.

We don’t know if Ayurvedic medicine prevents cancer or acupuncture speeds surgical recovery or mom’s chicken soup cures the common cold. But we throw it all against our health issues to give ourselves the best possible chance, don’t we?

And sometimes, the cold is gone by the next morning; and sometimes the cancer comes back.

Do you know why?  I don’t.

And I think my friend Vicky would say she doesn’t know why some kids beat opioids and some don’t, but she isn’t giving up the fight.

She isn’t giving up on your kid…that’s what her life is about.

And it’s why she auditioned for TEDx Hilliard.

Why wasn’t she chosen?

I don’t know. Maybe she should have had some homemade chicken soup? Gotten acupuncture? Tried an Ayurvedic tincture?

TEDx is wonderful, but sometimes they’re wrong.

So, I choose Vicky. No, this isn’t the TED stage. But it isn’t the stage that’s important…it’s the message. And Vicky’s message is one I choose to promote.

And maybe you will too. Because maybe you know someone who’s felt the impact of this pandemic either through their own struggle or the struggle of someone they love.

Maybe it’s your niece, your nephew, your sister or brother. Maybe it’s you.

Maybe you’ve been looking for someone with open arms and an open heart to join your tribe.

If so, I’d like you to meet my friend, Vicky Harrison.

And if it isn’t you, maybe you’d like to introduce our friend, Vicky Harrison to someone you know would like to meet her.



I’m a Bottler. What emotional style describes you?


Photo by Adam Wilson on Unsplash


As far as emotions go, what’s your default?

I’m a bottler…that means that I have a tendency to bottle everything up until the final raindrop hits the surface of the water barrel….it could be a muddy paw print on the wood floor, an errant smudge of eyeliner, spilled almond milk on the kitchen counter.

Anyway, you can see that all those things are worthy of an eruption, right?

No? Yet, when my bottle’s full, an explosion ensues!


Photo by Emily Campbell on Unsplash

A bottler wouldn’t say a thing when you keep her waiting for half an hour because you just couldn’t get your hair to look perfect.

She wouldn’t utter one complaint when you criticize the way she loads your dishwasher…YOUR DISHWASHER!

She wouldn’t think of commenting on your comment about her driving!

What you’ll see is a sweet, patient, care-free person who isn’t bothered by a thing.


Photo by Sam Carter on Unsplash

Until that paw print!


Are you a bottler?

Or maybe you’re a Blocker? Blockers deny, deny, deny all negative emotions behind those rose-colored glasses that paint the world in shades of happy, fair, just, and all-for-the-best.

When I’m not being a Bottler, I can easily fall into my Pollyanna Blocking stance.

Maybe you’re neither of these…maybe you’re something entirely different. Let me know….as an American who’s 40% Italian…I’ve always felt like a Third Culture kid trapped between my Italian predilection to say what I feel and then let it go and my American upbringing that nice girls only say nice things… or things that SOUND nice but aren’t, Bless Your Heart!

How do you describe your emotional heritage? And your emotional style?

Can’t wait to hear!




Columbus Jazz and Ribfest

I highly recommend that anyone living in the Central Ohio area to put the Jazz and Ribfest on your calendar for next July.

Saturday evening was a humid 89 degrees in Columbus, but in the shade with some cool jazz music coming from Funky Worthy on the Main Stage, I didn’t notice the heat.

After the sun went down, I stood in line for about fifteen minutes for my BBQ Brisket and cornbread which I enjoyed at a picnic table while listening to the Squirrel Nut Zippers, a band whose name confounds and amuses me.

I know the point is to listen to jazz while enjoying ribs…it’s all in the title, but even those of us who do not eat meat on the bones can enjoy the event, brisket, saxophones, and all.