Sunday, December 15, 2019

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Photo:  Alex Rosario

I would have never guessed that buying groceries and shopping for clothes would make me sick. 

Years ago, when my daughter was a pre-teen, we'd shop at Abercrombie & Fitch.  Minutes after making a purchase, my head would pound.  This happened every time we shopped there.  I finally figured out that the in-store scent was giving me a headache.

I've had migraines for over twenty years and I'm still trying to figure out all of my triggers.  It's kind of depressing because the list keeps growing.  In addition to fragrances, I've discovered wine (red and white) gives me headaches as well as preservatives and additives in processed foods.  I'm particularly sensitive to soy lecithin, an additive which is found in foods like chocolate candy and certain soups (Progresso tomato basil)—and this sucks 'cause I love chocolate and tomato soup.

But what is troubling is, though I can avoid certain foods, I can't avoid certain fragrances.

About 7:30 one morning while I shopped for groceries at Kroger, my head began to throb.  The store reeked.  I encountered a strong-smelling cleaner and the overpowering scent of pine, cinnamon, and cloves.  These odors were a double whammy for me.  Though I tried my best to avoid those areas, the damage was already done.  One whiff was all it took.  It was a real bummer because the grocery shopping had to be finished and there was no escaping the cleaning odor and holiday fragrances.   

I was frustrated about being so sensitive to fragrances.  So, I did a little research and found an online article.  In the WebMD piece "Fragrance Allergies: A Sensory Assault," medical journalist Colette Bouchez says, "We do have some control over what we allow into our homes and other personal spaces -- we can toss that magazine with the inserts or switch shampoo -- but it can really become an issue when our senses are assaulted in common areas, such as the workplace or a college classroom, places where we have to be."  

Olfactory researcher Pamela Dalton PhD, MPH says, "It's a loss of control over your personal environment.  And for some, it can have serious personal health consequences."   

Dalton adds, "From hair shampoos to carpet shampoos, from laundry detergent to shower gels, from home sprays to hair sprays to moisturizers, cosmetic, and personal care items, the scent industry has literally exploded.  And for many people, it's a real sensory overload."   

Photo: William Bout
"Sensitivity to one fragrance or odor can snowball into a crippling multiple chemical sensitivity that leaves its victims defenseless in the face of an ever-widening number of chemical odors and fragrances," says Dalton.

Bouchez reports that "some experts aren't even sure if it's the fragrance itself that is the real culprit, or just one part of a mix of chemicals (as many as 200 or more) that are used to create both fragrances we smell and the masking agents used in unscented products."  

Bouchez adds that there are a growing number of people who are sensitive to odors.  The American Academy of Allergy and Immunology calls this condition multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS).  Experts agree that people with chemical sensitivities should try to remove themselves from the offending fragrance.  Avoidance is the most effective treatment.  

Really?  I wouldn't call avoidance a treatment.  Nor, would I say avoidance is always possible.  Grocery shopping is a weekly necessity and if my family wants to eat, it's difficult to avoid Kroger.

There is no denying being exposed to strong odors or fragrances interferes with my daily routine.  It not only causes my head throb and it does weird things to my brain.  It's like I'm trapped in a fog and I get confused or can't think clearly.  My mind is totally f*cked-up.  Luckily, there's prescription medication that works quickly for me.  Otherwise, I'd never be able to do the things I love such as composing blogs, mentoring writers, marketing my brand, or editing new work.

Who would have guessed that Kroger would be as troublesome as Abercrombie?  Crazy, huh?  Luckily, I am not entirely defenseless.  There are three things I can do during the holiday season:
  1. shop at another neighborhood grocery store
  2. take prescription medication proactively on grocery day 
  3. communicate my concerns about store cleaning with the manager
By being aware of the chemicals and fragrances that I might face, I don't feel as helpless.  I'm armed with possible solutions that could make a difference because...when we can't change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

✌ and 

Friday, November 15, 2019

                                                                                                                               Ozzie tormenting playing with Putty

2019, early winter
There is no sign or trace of my beloved stray.  I miss Putty.

When our daughter was in middle school, she wanted a cat so, we adopted a short-haired domestic cat named Ollie.  Not long after we brought him home from the Humane Society, a black and white stray with green eyes and a pink nose appeared at the deck door.  I called him Putty.  This adorable stray came to our house for food (which he received) and to hang out with Ollie, separated by the screen door.  They were pals, yet their friendship would be short-lived.

Ollie was happy and healthy but after eight years, he began to lose weight.  The blood tests revealed that his kidneys were failing.  He had about three months to live.

I wasn't prepared to lose Ollie.  We decided to follow the veterinarian's suggestion by giving him subcutaneous fluids which would extend his life.  But Ollie would not have it.  It made him miserable so, we decided to stop the treatment.  Poor little Ollie.  Towards the end of his life, he had no interest in eating or cleaning himself.  By Christmas, he weighed less than four pounds.

It was devastating to see Ollie suffer. I had to make the heartbreaking decision to put him down.  On that day, Putty came by.  It was like he knew he would never see his buddy again.  Having Putty on our deck comforted me during that difficult day.

For the next few months, the Mrvos house was quiet.  Too quiet.  I missed having a cat in the house.  So, in March we adopted Ozzie...and he and Putty became friends.  Safety separated by the screen door, Putty and Ozzie would play—well, Ozzie would play, meaning Ozzie tried to swat Putty's tail and Putty would look at him indifferently, like man, you are one crazy cat.

2019, early summer
One day in June, a large orange tomcat began to hang around our yard.  I made the mistake of feeding it one evening.  As a consequence, he claimed our yard as his own.  One morning the tomcat snuck up behind Putty and attacked him on the deck.  Luckily, I was able to break up the fight.  Putty seemed relatively unharmed; but a week later, another fight ensued while I was away.  When I returned, clumps of Putty's black and white fur clung to the grass by the driveway along with a smattering of orange fur.  It was apparent that Putty bore the brunt of the battle.  Since then, I haven't seen Putty.

2019, early fall
But I am hopeful he will return.

Neighbors one street over told me they had seen Putty shortly after the fight.  It was good to know that he survived the attack.  But it's been four months and Putty has not returned.

This is Kitty.  Could she be Putty's daughter?
She has green eyes, a pink nose
and the same facial marking as Putty.
Strangely, during Putty's absence another cat showed up at our house.  Since it's tiny, it may be a female.  I call it Kitty, not a remarkably creative name but it seems fitting.

Kitty looks like Putty. This little critter has big eyes that look like they've been marked with black eyeliner.  Its left ear had been clipped straight across.  This procedure, called ear-tipping, is performed while a cat is under anesthesia and indicates the cat has been spayed or neutered before it is re-released to the wild.  

Kitty is terribly shy, but it cautiously approaches the back door to be fed.  It is amazing to me that another cat "adopted" us so quickly after my stray disappeared.

This pretty cat brightens my day, though it will never replace Putty.  Because Putty was a character—from the way he meowed (deep, harsh and gravelly) to the way he slept on the deck with four paws pointing to the sky.

I constantly think about Putty.  Whenever I'm in the kitchen or taking a walk through the neighborhood, I am on the lookout for Putty.  Whenever I'm writing or relaxing at night with a book, I am thinking about Putty.

You may think it's strange that someone could be so attached to a stray.  But I think it's because I earned his trust.  At first, he would never approach me.  Over time, he came to me when I called him (he learned his name) and he let me pat his head.

One day I got an encouraging sign that my stray is safe, wherever he may be.  At lunchtime, I work the Jumble Daily Puzzle in the newspaper.  With this puzzle, one has to unscramble four words and then arrange the circled letters in the words to form a bonus answer.  The first scrambled word was UPTYT.  PUTTY.

2019, mid fall
While my husband and I were taking a walk, we spotted Putty four streets over from our house.  Putty turned to look at me when I called his name, but he didn't come close.  I was crushed.  Didn’t he recognize me?  Was he afraid of me?  Surprisingly, a few days later he trotted up to our deck.  I fed him and he ate well. But since that visit, he has not come back.

Maybe he is leery. Maybe bad memories of the cat attack prevent him from coming by more often—who really knows what a cat remembers?  But I hope that he will remember the Mrvos house as a place where he is always welcome.

2019, late fall 
I should be working on writing projects, updating my website, and concentrating on marketing.  But my mind drifts.  I find myself worrying about my adorable stray.  I miss his meow and his silly way of sleeping on the deck.  Kitty is sweet, but Putty stole my heart.

Many months have passed.  The temperatures are dipping into the low thirties.  I set up the heated cat house on the patio.  Hope gives me peace and strength and it keeps me going when all seems lost.  I am optimistic that Putty will return.

And when that day comes, there will be food, water, and shelter for Putty the cat.
✌ and 
November 15, 2019

To leave a comment, email

I am awestruck.  I am relieved.  I am grateful.

Early November, Putty returned. 

And you can beloved stray will be getting plenty of loving care.


Qu’est-ce qu’il est mignon! (He's so cute!) Dale H.

I always enjoy your writing. Nancy B.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

                                                                                                                                                                                                             Photo: Debby Hudson 

My first publication came as a complete surprise.  It was something that hadn't been edited.  Something that hadn't been submitted.  Something I hadn't expected anyone would want to read.

The piece was actually an exercise for those of us enrolled in a class at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in Lexington, Kentucky.  Writing Practice was taught by artist and writer Laverne Zabielski.

For the exercise, Laverne instructed us to begin by writing on whatever came to mind for ten minutes without lifting our pens.  This practice was supposed to free our internal editor and to help us go with the flow.

We were encouraged to put down random thoughts and feelings.  At least, that was my take.

When we were given this in-class activity, I felt a little panicky and didn't know what to write about.  Writing off the cuff scared me.  And ten minutes seemed like such a long time.  What could you possibly write about for ten minutes straight?

Feeling pressured, I pressed my pen to the paper and began scribbling some random thoughts about my workplace.  In a short moment, the words began to form a pattern, a scene, and a theme which revolved around my relationship with a co-worker and the way she made me feel.

Class time was over when we finished, so Laverne asked us to leave our work with her.  As I left the building and walked down the sidewalk to my car, she hurried outside to catch up with me.  Laverne was smiling and all bubbly with excitement.  She waved my paper and said, "Randi, I want to publish your story."

Laverne was assembling an anthology of work from Lexington women writers titled A Sense of Place.  This became my first publication and it gave me the confidence to pursue my dream of writing as a career.  In fact, my piece was published in the same anthology as Crystal Wilkinson, the award-winning author of Blackberries, Blackberries and The Birds of Opulence.  My story was published as "Untitled."  At that time, I didn't understand the importance of titles.  Today, (slightly edited) it would be called "Rebirth."


Photo: Chuttersnap
     It was an accident—a murder by accident.

     And the petals came floating in a free-fall from the apple tree covering the ground in a dappled white.
     Our friendship had soured.  Time after time, she tried to pull me deep down into her negativity.  And I needed to distance myself from her.

    We had worked together too long, known each other too well.
     I am who I am.  Not better than her.  Just different.  More positive.  Upbeat.
     This was something she couldn't grasp.

     Something she couldn't stand.
     It was an accident—a murder by accident.

     And the petals come floating in a free-fall from the apple tree covering the ground in a dappled

     What made her follow me?  Her eyes on my back.

     Jealousy has no boundaries.

     And she was much too close.

     I whipped around, reached out to distance our bodies.

     How was I to know that a push would end so tragically?
     Away, away she fell.  It seemed like an eternity until she hit the pavement, awkwardly.
     And the petals came floating in a free-fall from the apple tree covering the ground in a dappled white over her hands and face.
     I felt more relief than panic.  Relaxed.  Calm.

     She was gone.
     Funny how a reaction ended one life, but renewed another.

✌ and 

To leave a comment, write to Randi Lynn Mrvos

Sunday, September 15, 2019

                                                                                                                                                                                          Photo: Guillaume Bourdages

I'm a little prejudiced when it comes to the wildlife that wanders into our backyard.  I'm fond of foxes and frogs.  I can put up with possums.  But I'd rather not have any raccoons—even if the French word for raccoon (raton laveur, meaning young rat bather) is adorable.  

In the past, raccoons had been a nuisance.  About twenty years ago, a family of raccoons made a habit of raiding the garbage can every night, which prompted my husband to secure the bin with a bungee cord.  Since then, these masked raiders have not returned—until recently.   

Not long ago, a raccoon was lounging in the top of a neighbor's tree.  In broad daylight.  Raccoons are supposed to be nocturnal so, there's no telling what this critter was up to.  It might have been looking for food, but these creatures usually feed at night on nuts, seeds, fruits, eggs, insects, frogs, crayfish—oh, and sometimes tuna.  How do I know?

A few weeks ago, an enormous tomcat appeared in our neighborhood and terrorized my sweet stray cat Putt-Putt.  He attacked Putty twice in our yard.  One time, I was able to break up the fight.  The other time, I arrived too late—evidence of Putty's white fur lined the driveway.  So, in effort to keep Putt-Putt safe, I contacted the Humane Society.  An animal trapper by the name of Sarah suggested that I catch the troublesome cat and have him neutered.  She assured me the cat would become less aggressive.  So, I met Sarah and borrowed two steel traps. 

She instructed me to fill two trays with tuna, one for each trap, and then set the traps outside at dusk.  When evening rolled around, I placed one steel cage near the deck and the other in the backyard under a fir tree.  I checked every half hour, but by bedtime, the tuna was untouched and the cages remained empty.  This was discouraging.  I had given up hope of catching Putty's tormenter.    

The next day around 6:30 in the morning, I stepped out back to survey the cages, still feeling doubtful that an animal had been trapped.  But low and behold, the tomcat was in the cage by the deck.  And judging by the growling and the scowl on his face, he was not too pleased.      

I figured the other trap would be empty.  As I tramped through the dewy grass to the fir tree, I approached the cage.  The tuna had been eaten.  And staring right at me was what seemed to be a strange-looking cat with a mask.  It took me a few seconds to realize that I had trapped a raccoon.  The memorable line about a puffy shirt from a Jerry Seinfeld episode immediately popped into my head, "But I don't want to be a pirate"  but in this case it was more like:  But I don't want to be a raccoon-catcher.
Photo: Anna Salisbury

When I called Sarah with the Humane Society, I told her of my luck.  She made plans to pick up the cat in a few hours, have him neutered the next day, and then re-released into our neighborhood the following day.  Sarah explained that feral cats need to come back to their neighborhoods because they have a homing instinct and if they are placed elsewhere, they would die.  She assured me that after his operation, he would be less of a menace.  

"And the raccoon?" I asked.

"We don't handle raccoons," said Sarah. 

"Wait.  What are you saying?"

 "You'll have to release him yourself," said Sarah.

I hadn't bargained for this.  All I wanted to do was keep Putty safe.  And now I had to find a way to release a raccoon and keep myself safe.  Lifting the locks and having my fingers close to an unhappy raccoon was not going to happen.     

There had to be a way to release this critter without both of us getting hurt.  I had time to think on this.  Since I needed to pick up weekly groceries, I figured perhaps my Kroger peeps could help me figure this out.  They were thoroughly entertained with my predicament—but they offered no sound advice. 

I returned home an hour later with bags of groceries but without any new ideas on freeing a raccoon.  It was worrisome and distractive.  I needed to edit picture book manuscripts, update my website, and work on marketing my book.  But I couldn't concentrate.  I went out back to check on our backyard guest.    

When I approached the trap, the area looked like a battle had raged.  The cage had moved ninety degrees.  The back part of the cage was filled with mulch and dirt.  The towel I had placed on top to keep the creature calm was torn to shreds.  To my surprise, the raccoon had vanished.  It had managed to slide open the ring locks and let itself out.  

You might think that after this episode my dislike for raccoons has grown, but actually, my heart has softened.   

Raccoons are kind of cute, that is, from a distance.  

They have an IQ higher than that of cats—which I learned while googling how to release a trapped raccoon.

And raccoons are blessed with nimble fingers and puzzle-solving skills (thank goodness)...because this writer would still be wondering and worrying how to release a tuna-loving raton laveur.    

✌ and 

Feel free to leave a comment at:     
I love your blog… interesting subjects and thoughts. Shelley D.
I enjoyed catching up with you on your blog post.  Nancy B.


Thursday, August 15, 2019

                                                                                                                                            Photo: Nadine Shaabana 

Sad to say, sometimes being shy and soft-spoken does not earn respect.  Trust me, I know.  I'm not a forceful, in-your-face kind of person.  When I have an opinion, I speak up quietly.  So, at times this gentle approach can be easy to dismiss and brush-off.

One time during my French class, several students discussed (in French) whether the Impressionist composers were influenced by the Impressionist artists.  Being familiar with the topic, I tried to voice my opinion and referred to the handout our instructor had given us, which stated that the Impressionist composers had been thought to be influenced by the art of the time.

Unfortunately, a fellow classmate got off track and started talking about the Romantic composers.  The Romantic composers created music in the early to mid-1800s, well before the birth of Impressionism.  The Impressionist composers created music toward the end of the 1800s and these musicians focused on mood and atmosphere much like the Impressionist artists.  

As much as I tried to steer the discussion back the Impressionist composers, this classmate ignored my comments and insisted that the Romantic composers were influenced by the Impressionist art.  It was as if he had said STOP, I don't give a rat's ass what you are saying, I'm not going to listen to you.  And in my head, I'm thinking, just because I'm soft-spoken doesn't mean I should be treated disrespectfully.  It was hurtful, but eye-opening.  In hindsight, I should have said:  "Lisez."  Read.  All he had to do was read the handout if he wanted to understand.

Maybe you're thinking: buck up Mrv.  Be more convincing, more forceful in stating an opinion.  But in this case, it was useless in trying to clear up the confusion.  This student only wanted attention.

It's not worth the energy to interact with people who enjoy being center stage.  What it really comes down to is, they have little self-awareness, because if they did, they'd see themselves as know-it-alls who really know nothing at all.  They simply are not interested in what others might have to tell them because they believe that they already have the information.
                                                                                                      Photo: Priscilla Du Preez 

Unfortunately, the same thing happens with a few of my mentees.  Sometimes when I give advice on submitting a manuscript, they brush my suggestions aside.  It doesn't matter to them if I have experience querying agents and having a book published.  They think they know better.  Then, these writers email me several weeks later wondering why they were rejected.

So, my first question to them is:  okay then, did you follow the guidelines?  Of course, they say yes which drives me crazy when I know that they haven't.  How do I know?  Some of my mentees submit to my publisher and I am aware of her specific requirements. When I ask them what they submitted, I find out they didn't include illustrations, which are mandatory for this publisher.  Still, they are in denial because they feel they couldn't have possibly screwed up.

Now, on the other hand...

Some people are earnest and they sincerely want to discuss a topic.  They want clarification.  They want to understand.  They may even want to apply what they learned.

One evening after ballet class, a fellow dancer confided in me that she had a hard time remembering the sequence of steps at the barre.  When the class does barre, we perform a combination of steps in a particular order to a piece of music.  It's mentally and physically challenging.  There can be a lot to think about and keep straight.  Otherwise, you may find yourself pointing your toes to the front when everybody else is pointing their toes to the rear, or rising on your toes when everyone else is doing a plié (a deep knee bend), or...well, you get the picture.

I have trouble remembering the steps at the barre, too.  So, what I do is count the number of each ballet movement in a sequence.  A combination may have two pliés, a grand plié, three tendues, and four rond de jambes, and an elevé so I focus on the numerical values:  two, one, three, four and one for this sequence.  When I explained this little trick, her eyes lit up.  She told me she liked this idea and that she appreciated learning a technique that had the potential to make the barre easier for her.

It's not often that I encounter (dare I say, stubborn) people who ask questions, but resist assistance.  When these circumstances arise, I think of my mother-in-law.  Years ago, she used to say, "What are you going to do?"

The answer is:  nothing.  Nothing will change close-minded people.

Luckily, most of my classmates and mentees are open to discussion.  They don't take offense when an opposing view is offered.  They enjoy hearing helpful opinions and suggestions.  Best of all, they are respectful.  And they listen...

even when I'm shy and soft-spoken.

✌ and 

Monday, July 15, 2019


Confession #1:  I adopted a stray cat.

When I take breaks from marketing, blogging, writing articles, and editing manuscripts, I'm on the lookout for Putty; and if he is waiting by the deck door, I'll feed him a dish of cat food.  I've known this adorable stray for almost seven years.  By the grey in the black spots of his coat, he's probably twelve-years old or older.  Many years ago when he first wandered into our backyard, he was skittish.  Over time, he learned to trust me and would come to me when I called him.

Putty used to sit on the deck next to our first cat Ollie (separated by a screen door).  They were buds.  On the day we had to put Ollie down, Putty stayed on the deck.  It was as if he could sense he would never see Ollie again.  Losing my first pet was devastating.  I've never owned a cat before, and seeing him get sick and waste away killed me.  When Ollie was gone, the house seemed so quiet, so cat-less.  Putty still came around even after we buried Ollie.

Confession # 2:  I swore I'd never get another cat.

Three months later, we adopted Ozzie.  I wasn't sure how Ozzie would react to Putty.  But since Ozzie's territory is inside and Putty's is outside, they get along swell as long as they are separated by the screen door.  Putty loves to lounge on our his deck.

Mornings at the Mrvos household are fairly routine.  I feed Ozzie and then if Putty is on the deck, I set out food for him, well before I toast my bagel or have a sip of coffee.  My furry friends come first.  But one morning when Putty was enjoying his breakfast, a large orange tomcat sneaked up and tackled him.  The yowling was awful.  Luckily, I was able to chase the intruder away, but it looked like he may have harmed Putty.

After the fight, tufts of Putty's white fur stuck to the deck.  Miraculously, there wasn't a trace of blood.  Putty leaped off the deck and lingered nearby on our neighbor's driveway, frozen and stunned.  I wanted to reassure him that everything would be okay.

Confession # 3:  I pined for Putty.

But Putty didn't come when I called him.  He ran away.  I couldn't blame him.  He comes to our house because he'll find shelter (a shady patio when it's hot and a heated cathouse when it's cold), food around the clock, and love (he lets me rub his coat and pat his head).

For weeks after the attack, Ozzie still waited at the screen door for his buddy to come back.  He seemed more hopeful than me, though any time I was in the kitchen, I'd peer out onto the deck expecting to see my little stray press his sweet face against the glass door.

And then one day Putty came back.  Like nothing had happened.  Maybe...

1. he forgot about being attacked
2. he was hungry
3. he missed me

If you guessed #2, you are correct.

Confession #4:  I fed other strays.

Leaving cat food on the deck was not smart.  It was an invitation for other strays to dine at the Mrvs'.  And this included the orange tomcat.  Though at the time he started to lurk around the deck, I didn't have the slightly clue he would be so aggressive.  Since this big cat only stopped by at night, I never dreamed he'd come around at daylight.  Wrong.  A stray will come a begging any time of the day or night. Lesson learned.

Now, I set out food only when Putty is present.  I watch over him while he eats to make sure no other cat sneaks up on him.  I resist feeding the other strays.  Though seeing them wander through our yard makes me feel sad, but I can't take the chance of one hurting Putty.

Confession #5:  I adore Putty.

Now that's it's warmer, we placed our furniture on the deck and Putty comes by more often.  He sleeps on one of the chairs.  That makes me feel better, too, because he has a better chance of spotting a cat that may wander to the deck.

I could never turn Putty away or be mean to him.  He's so cute, plus life has got to be tough for him.  He's susceptible to scrapes, scratches, and sores.  And he must deal with all kinds of weather conditions, find shelter and food, and fend off vicious feral cats.  So, that is why there will always be a special place in my heart for Putty.  I confess, he's like a second pet.

And that means in the morning he will have a dish of food (premium wet cat food just like Ozzie) even seconds, well before my first sip of coffee.

✌ and 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

woman holding her face in dark room


We never forget our bullies, no matter how many years have passed. 

For me, the bullying took place in middle school.  It was a dark time in my life and I didn't know how to make it go away.  The bully sat behind me on the school bus.  She made fun of me and pulled out strands of my hair.  I thought ignoring her would make it stop.  It didn't.  As the bullying continued, it escalated and eventually drew the attention of the principal.  And that put an end it.

As an adult, I thought those bullying days were over.  But seven years ago, I encountered a cyberbully.  This person criticized me online for starting a blog that would cover writing for children.  Good grief.  What on earth is wrong with starting a blog?  And why did he feel it was important to write an article for an ezine telling readers that my blogging was foolish and a big waste of time?  This attack was personal and painful.  And this was my first encounter with a troll.  For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a troll is a person who makes unsolicited and/or controversial comments to provoke an emotional knee jerk reaction from unsuspecting readers to engage in a fight or argument.  

Ironically, a year later, he started a blog.  Go figure.

I thought this troll was cruel and insulting until I came face to face with a mean-spirited man, which I will abbreviate as MSM.  This encounter enfolded as I gave a workshop on publishing with a small press at the Carnegie Center for Literacy in Lexington, Kentucky.

MSM thought it was appropriate to question my authority in front of others.  Though his remarks caught me off guard, I answered him politely, after all there were other people who genuinely wanted to learn.  Maybe MSM just wanted to express his opinion, but it felt more like he was trying to trip me up.  On purpose.  To discredit me.  Put me on the spot.  To embarrass me.

I never thought I'd run into bullies as an adult.  But having childhood bullies does not exempt us from encountering them again.  So, what can we do about it?   We can become more self-aware.

Stephen Covey, author of the popular book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, defines self-awareness as our capacity to stand apart from ourselves and examine our thinking, our motives, our history, our scripts, our actions, and our habits and tendencies.  It is having a clear understanding of our personality and character, our weaknesses and strengths, our beliefs and thoughts, and our motivation and emotions.  

Covey says self-awareness allows you to understand how people perceive you.  When you are engaged with others, they are observing your attitude.  People are weighing your verbal responses.  They are taking in the nonverbal signals such as your facial expressions, gestures, and posture.  

In order to understand how you appear to other people, Covey suggests that you see yourself as others see you by stepping into their shoes and experiencing yourself through their eyes.      

You can do this by standing in front of a mirror while practicing a speech or having an imaginary conversation.  The idea is to focus on your body language and hand gestures and to practice changing the pitch and expressiveness of your voice.

Ever since the Carnegie lecture I've tried to imagine how others see me when I'm giving lectures, visiting schools, doing book signings, mentoring writers, taking classes, or having casual conversations.   

Though I wasn't aware at the time, self-awareness kicked in with regards to the Internet troll.  I imagined what the public would think of me if I wrote a scathing rebuttal.  Trust me, I wanted to lash out.  Really badly.  But after putting myself in the public's shoes, I decided against it.  It wasn't worth the possibility of damaging my reputation.

Through restraint, I was able to handle the troll reasonably well, but I dropped the ball with the MSM.  This bully targeted me because I appeared weak.

If I had put myself in the shoes of the attendees, I might have seen myself as a lecturer who was a little put off and unsure of herself during the confrontation.  With hindsight, I should have not have remained seated.  I should have stood up, placed my hands on my hips, lifted my chin, and addressed MSM with more authority.  That probably would have made a difference.  A huge difference.  My body language would have spoken volumes—that this lecturer knew what she was talking about, so don't mess with her.

This encounter happened several years ago and I still remember it like it was yesterday.  Though the interaction was uncomfortable and unpleasant, it was a great lesson for me.  I learned about being self-aware.  It's a shame I didn't know about this before the workshop.  Because if I had, there would have been one less bully in my life.

✌ and 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019


I have hope...

I search page after page of the Manuscript Wishlist 

looking for agents who represent picture books...

but find agents who prefer

accept only agented clients
accept only nonfiction
are currently closed

I skip the listings of 

middle grade and young adult 
women’s fiction 
family saga 
graphic novel

I hone in on agents who want PBs, picture books, standalone texts. 

They say:

I'm wanting character-driven
I'm looking for characters that need to be heard
I'm searching for stories with obvious potential for animation

I like stories that grab your heart and don’t let it go even after they’re finished

I like good prose and lively characters 
I like funny storytelling 

I would love to see animal POV 

I would love to see Movie X meets Movie Y pitches 
I would love a story with funny characters 

I'm on the lookout for

I'm hungry for
I'm dying for
I'm a sucker for

I have a soft spot for  
I have a hankering for
I have a craving for 

I'm not focusing on 

I'm not a fan of 
I'm not crazy about

I don't know what I'm looking for until I see it.

I feel discouraged
down and desperate. 

I fret and get that awful sinking-feeling. 

Will I find an agent who'll like my work?  

Will I ever find representation? 

I compose a short list of agents—the possibilities and prospects

who throw a lifeline for hope...

and I feel better,


brave and determined.

Few is better than none. 

I will not quit 

and I will submit

because they request PBs, picture books, and standalone texts.

✌ and 

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness ~  Desmond Tutu

Monday, April 15, 2019

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Photo: Clem Onojeghuo


I don't wear hats.  Even if it's the fashionable thing to do.

May 4th is Derby Day.  Like most Kentuckians, I will watch the Run for the Roses on television.  For those who attend the Derby, it's customary to 
wear hats at Churchill Downs.  Hats come in all shapes and colors, may include ribbons, feathers and flowers and are often larger than the heads they top.  Some are downright outrageous.  For instance, take those worn by commentator Johnny Weir.  The ice-skating legend has worn a hat made of roses in the shape of a horse head, a white and gold crown adorned with a three-foot pink braid down his back, and for the 2018 Derby, a three-crowned headpiece (to symbolize the Triple Crown:  Kentucky Derby, the Belmont, and the Preakness).

When I attended the 100th running of the KY Derby however, I didn't wear a hat.  It never occurred to me to wear one because it just wasn't fashionable to get dressed up when you watched from the infield.  Though hatless and far from the grandstands, I was treated to a most memorable Derby.  That year, there were two unique attendees:  a streaker who climbed a flagpole (who didn't wear a hat) and the Queen of England (I'm sure she wore a hat.)

I don't wear hats.  Even if it's the sensible thing to do.

I should have worn one in 1976, when I attended a FUR-EEZING cold Ohio State football game.  The blustering wind whipped through the stadium nonstop and gave me an awful earache.  But even if I had brought a hat, I'm not sure I would have worn it—God forbid I should have flat hair.  As French novelist George Sand once said, "Vanity is the quicksand of reason."  

I should have worn one a couple of years ago during a graduation ceremony which was held outside on a sunny, cloudless spring day.  If I had found a cute hat to match my dress, not only would I have been stylish, I would have felt much cooler and been better protected from the sun.  But seriously, would I have worn it and risked having flat hair?  

By now, you know the answer. 

It seemed likely that I would have to wear a hat for the 2018 U.S. Tennis Open held in New York City.  The temperatures were predicted to be in the nineties all week long.  Luckily, the day for which we had purchased tickets was overcast and in the mid-seventies.  The hat I had purchased stayed in the suitcase.

I don't wear hats.  Even if it's glamourous.      

Hats have been worn by actresses, wives of presidents (like Jackie Kennedy and Melania Trump), and British royalty.  When these celebrities wear hats, they look stylish, elegant, and graceful.

Though I could never carry off wearing a hat as these women have, one famous hat-wearing author inspires me to consider it.

Many years ago, my daughter was into the movie The Princess Diaries, based on the book written by Meg Cabot.  When we found out that she was coming to Lexington for a book signing, we had to meet her.  On the day of the signing the place was packed with parents and kids.  Granted, Cabot was wildly popular, but I wondered if one of the reasons she drew a huge crowd was because she wore a sparkly tiara.  Technically, a tiara is a jeweled crown, not a hat.  Still, that got me thinking...maybe I should wear a hat on my head to draw a crowd when I do a book signing.


Who am I fooling? 

I don't wear hats.  And yet...

I'm thinking:  a straw hat.  If the crown is big enough, my hair wouldn't get smushed.

I could glue seashells, postcards, and tiny plastic poison dart frogs (some of the souvenirs in my book Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell) to the brim.

It would be kind of crazy.  Cute.  Eye-catching.

Maybe not as wild as what Johnny Weir would wear, or as fashionable as a Jackie Kennedy pillbox hat, but doable.

I don't wear hats.

But maybe I should. 

It's something worth thinking about.

Flat hair and vanity aside, wearing a hat could be just what this author needs.

✌ and 

Friday, March 15, 2019


Guess what?
I received the most unexpected invitation.  An invitation that could open doors to new opportunities.

So, go on.  Guess what it is.

A six-figure book deal?

No, guess again.

A cross-country book tour?

No, try again.

No, wait.  I'll give you a clue:  a movie.

No, my book Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell is not going to be made into a movie.
But close.  I was invited to be an extra in a short film.

I am not making this up.

This is how it happened.  Last November, I was invited to participate in a Local Author Day at the Central Library in Lexington, Kentucky.

On the day of the event, authors gathered in the middle of the library lobby and set up around a large circular table.  We had about fifteen minutes to get ready before the doors opened.  Some authors hung banners, while others arranged posters, giveaway gifts, and bookmarks.  I only needed to assemble my table top display with books and stuffed animals.

As I waited for customers to stop by, I noticed that one of the authors looked vaguely familiar.  He reminded me of a tennis pro who had given my daughter lessons when she was young.  The more I listened to him speak, the more I was convinced it was indeed Chris.

During a lull, I walked over to him and struck up a conversation.  We reminisced about the tennis club days, some twenty years ago.  He reminded me how we had gotten together for lunch to discuss our dreams of writing for children.  Back then, he had been interested in making films, too.

Over the years, we lost touch.  And then, here we were.  He had published several books and wrote and directed some movies.  He had made two short films and was working on a feature film.  Me, being clueless about movie-making, asked him the difference.  Short films are generally 20 minutes long and feature films are about 90 minutes.  He had come a long way since our last meeting.

Later that afternoon, Chris came over to chat.  He told me about his first short film, Jenkins' Choice.  It is an award-winning movie about a talented young man who has to make a serious life choice.  His second film, Wimbledon Dreams is about a tennis pro who reluctantly teaches some orphans how to play tennis and, in the process, learns an important life lesson.  

Chris explained that he does the majority of the work himself.  He scouts out settings in rural Kentucky for scenes.  He writes the screenplays, produces, and directs.

For Jenkins' Choice he even wrote the lyrics to the music that actor Keith Cox performed.  I was totally impressed.

And then out of the blue, because you can't make this up, he asked me if I wanted to be in one of his films.  Now, we're talking about a totally flattering and yet a frightening proposition because:

  • I'm terribly shy
  • I've had little acting experience, unless you count the plays during my teenage years
  • I'm self-conscious about the way I'm photographed
  • I'm terribly shy (this bears repeating)

Chris clarified that he was looking for extras.  Even so, everything about the conversation seemed strange and surreal.  Was he feeling generous?  Was he desperate?  Did he see me as someone with a certain je ne sais quoi?  Yeah right.  Oh, the things that ran through my head.

I'm not sure why yes rolled off my tongue.  At the time, it seemed like the appropriate response.  A role as an extra would be perfect, given there are no speaking parts.

After Author Day was over, Chris and I wished each other the best and exchanged emails.  He mentioned that we should get together for lunch.  He wanted my opinion on some of his new book projects.

So, who knows what will happen?  Being in a short film could be totally cool.  This could be an amazing opportunity to see what it's like to be on a set and work with Chris and his crew.  And, being in a film would be another way to build my platform.  As any author will tell you, growing a platform involves more than compiling email lists and having a strong online presence.

But nothing is for sure.  Chris has warned me that the screenplay may be revised and scenes with extras may be cut.  If a scene doesn't further the film's thesis or it distracts from the main plot, it will be removed.

So, time will tell what the future holds.  Will I be on a movie set?  Will I hear a director say action?  Will there be a line in the credits for R.L. Mrvos?

I hope so...but that will be anyone's guess.

Jenkins' Choice:

✌ and 


That is great news...if he ever needs someone that looks like Denzel Washington let me know....that is wonderful for you and you just never know the doors that can be opened. G. Smith

Great idea.  Good luck! J. Flowers

Got for it!  Have fun! G. Kendall