There are over one hundred and seventy thousand commonly used words in the English language, but most people employ just a fraction of them in their daily lives. Many people yearn to find and articulate the truth. The courage to communicate has many meanings; each of us struggling to get our voices heard brings our own understanding and desires to the process. I bring my understanding of communication and wish to be heard to this book.
Growing up in a large family in the northeastern United States, I learned the value of direct and powerful communication. I still appreciate the emphatic and heartfelt style of my New Jersey upbringing and have spent my adult life honing my skills through key programs, paths, and career choices.
I believe that strong words have the power to catalyze change, that direct communication has value, and that words have energy.I believe that words are best when they are consumable, easily understood, and impactful.
I also believe that simplicity in communication is elegant. Simple is clear and honest and true. The most delicious recipes have five or fewer ingredients. My Mom’s delicious rice pudding comes to mind. But alas, communication is not always as simple as a recipe.
From this understanding came the title of my first WordPress blog, Strong Words and Simple Truths, which I began writing in 2013. The title encompasses everything I believe about communication, and I have not changed the focus or intent of the phrase in my nine years of blogging.
I always have an idea that I’d like to share, so I’ve continued thinking, speaking, and blogging about communication since 2013. I am rarely at a loss for words.
Some of the articles I published on my blog were adapted from speeches I gave at Toastmaster meetings. Other times, I would challenge myself to convert a blog article into a speech. I found the challenges of the back-and-forth creations fun and fascinating. This process taught me the important lesson that the spoken word is quite different from the written word, and through this hard work I learned to be more flexible and creative in my communication style.
This book invites you to accompany me on a journey of discovery through a curated selection of over eighty articles from my blog. When I decided to compile these articles into a book, I knew that the same title, Strong Words and Simple Truths, would perfectly express what I am trying to convey. Little did I know when I started writing my blog that the extreme events of 2020 and 2021 would make my pithy title and subtitle all the more relevant and important.
So here I am, sharing in the most powerfully vulnerable way I have ever attempted. Blogging and public speaking are one thing, but publishing a book has brought me to a whole new level of commitment to my beliefs and my message.
The format of this book was inspired by author and fellow veteran, Ed Latimore. His book, Not Caring What Other People Think Is a Superpower: Insights from a Heavy Boxer, was an outstanding compilation of his tweets, which includes strong and powerful lessons of life.
In this book, I blend the creative power of agility, communication, history, and science to create a patchwork quilt of my ideas, stories, and dreams.
I am honored to share the stories of the people and personalities who shaped who I am today. While I may not have been completely fearless as a child, the role models I emulated were feisty, strong, and spirited. Many of the themes in this book were inspired by my mom, Virginia, my brother, Bill, and my sister, Barbara. During elementary and high school, I was encouraged and guided by many amazing and motivational teachers and coaches.Ihad role models from the entertainment world as well. I desired to be as daring as Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett and as strong as Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman.
These role models were heroes to me, and they inspired me to branch out and achieve the substantial and audacious goals I set for myself. I hope they will inspire you to do the same.
As a young adult, I had two different career aspirations. In high school, I wanted to be a medical doctor. After college, I considered becoming a science teacher.The common thread through my life is the desire to help people, share knowledge, and train others to learn new skills.
In this book, I’ll also share lessons from mymilitary service, which taught me the importance of KISS- Keep It Simple Soldier (or Stupid as some would joke). As a US Army Signal Corps officer, I supported combat and support units on the battlefield with precise and effective communication infrastructure and procedures.When lives depend on clear, concise, and timely messages, you learn to value their quality greatly.
My wish is that you find this book entertaining and educational, and I hope that it motivates you in creative and unique ways. I also pray that these words, thoughts, and expressions pay adequate tribute to the brave and selfless heroes in our world.
I have grouped the blog articles into eight sections. Each article includes the original publication date and appears as it originally appeared on the blog (with some proofreading to correct minor issues). I stitched the articles together much as a quilter would piece together colorful fabrics to create an intricate and appealing pattern. To keep things fun, I chose a theme from the magical world of the circus.
The sections of this book represent the main interests, influences, values, priorities, and passions in my life, each linked to a symbolic element from the circus.To aid the reader in remembering the sections and their symbols, I created a brief tall tale to open the book.
Strong Man—Veterans, Remembrance and Traditions
Laughter—Connections and Gratitude
Animals—Science and Truth
When you read the Table of Contents, you can think of it as a menu for a smorgasbord dinner which allows you to select the topics that most appeal to you. It’s a collection of various perspectives, angles, and tastes.
Come on, let’s run away and join the circus for a few hours!
I am crafting the introduction to the Toastmaster section of my upcoming book, Strong Words and Simple Truths and wrote penned (literally in a paper journal with an ink pen) the short poem below. Words flow differently when you write them by hand. While awkward at first, they soon loosened up.
Where Speakers are Sharpened and Words are Wondrous.
Where Leaders are Made and Alliteration is Alluring.
Where Communicators are Courageous and Friendships are Fostered.
Ernie came to our family in 2016 while we were visiting Estes Park, CO. He’s a 2 and a half-inch bundle of joy and mischievous antics. He is a great photography model and always brings a smile to the waitresses at the restaurants we frequent.
Ernie is an internationally renowned Facebook Group leader and has been spreading happiness and cheer since starting the Ernie’s Fake News group in early 2017. Back when you could still joke about the election, the craziness of politicians,and the new media, we had a laugh poking fun at the insanity of the process. He specializes in satire and slapstick humor when though they are out of favor on most social media platforms now.
For hundreds of people around the world, Ernie’s page is a stress-relieving sanctuary where all are encouraged to think like a 2.5 year old, apolitical hedgehog who loves cookies and playing jokes on his parents. He is also an enterprising entrepreneur who starts a new job 2-3 times a day. While his fear of water is subsiding, we are always sharing zany photos of his new hydrophobia therapists who are rarely human.
This extraordinary Facebook group has had a number of different names over the years including: Ernie’s Fake News, Ernie’s Sandbox, Ernie’s Emporium , Ernie’s Oasis and most recently, Ernie’s Last Stand.
When I asked the FB group members to comment on what they loved most about Ernie’s group, they replied:
“ I love having a place where I can be honest.” – Candy Lanning Holmgren
“ Where to start, ma ‘am? I think Ernie’s stoic leadership in the face of constant threat of bans for thinking too much…. “ – Steed Owe
“Ernie for President…”- Mike Hill
“Ernie gets my silly memes.” – Calliope Novak
“Ernie is never mean.” – Billie Batek
“Ernie’s taste in subversion is second to none.” – Eric Edelman
“Ernie loves cookies!”- Biggi Wimmer
“Ernie’s got a great wheel to follow on flowing but chunky single-track.” – Jeff Meyer
“Ernie lets me read his fan mail.” – Steve Smull
The Facebook Group’s Requested Style Guide simply states:
Think like a 2 ½ year old, 2 ½ inch tall apolitical hedgehog who is allergic to political bias and likes to keep the bar at least an inch off the floor.
The magic of this group is that it is a safe and happy playgroup where Ernie invites us to live, laugh and eat many cookies. The small community of followers feels like an extended family who are helping to raise our impetuous young hedgehog.
As a public speaker in Toastmaster clubs for over 25 years, I understand and appreciate the impact of a well-crafted phrase. Words have the immense power to inspire, educate, persuade and entertain.
Now certain ideas, phrases and books are deemed inappropriate and unacceptable. Entertainment in the form of humor and satire is slowly being extinguished. The creative spark of many minds is being snuffed out.
In the name of “compliance” and “correctness” we have limited and constrained our ability to share and discuss ideas. Only the government-approved ideas are allowed on the most powerful and prolific platforms. Those in power control the narrative and are now limiting the free exchange and expression of thought.
Like the lockdowns of the past year, this is not a healthy trend. The impact of the current silencing is devastatingly sad.
Some say that laughter is the best medicine. Entertainment and light-hearted comedy can help heal our lonely and wounded souls.
Humor is a uniquely human superpower that is being taken away when we need it most.
I do not condone angry, hurtful speech but the recent crack down on “violations of community standards” is a bit harsh and extreme in my view.
Why do some powerful entities want to keep everyone so sad, anxious and upset? Do they want people do remain lonely, isolated and frustrated?
More and more I am witnessing creative creators being suppressed. These creators have been a shining light of entertaining wordplay and comic relief through out this year of dark fear and despair. These fun and joyful voices are now stifled and suppressed.
The fear of the virus is now being replaced with the fear of words. The wide, rich and expressive vocabulary of the English language is being brutally pruned by oppressive control freaks.
At the rate things are going, I soon won’t be able to write or speak the words “oppressive control freaks” without being banned or punished.
As I continue on my creative journey of expression, I hope that my courage and resolve remain steady and strong in the face of increasing pressure to conform and be quiet.
Word phobia is a sad new condition that I hope will be treated by an infusion of ingenious humor and reasonable common sense.
As the world begins to heal and open up, freedom will beget happiness. Happiness is sustained by fun entertainment.
Words have the power to entertain, let’s not take that potential away.
The Silence of the Lambs is a thrilling book, but I don’t want a world of the Quieting of the Sheep.
Dare to venture into the wonderful world of social distortion, um, I mean media.
Ah yes, social media, the place where healthy and productive conversations go to die.
If you are tired, frustrated and/or annoyed with your Facebook newsfeed, I have some good news for you.
I welcome you to join me as we enter Steve’s Emporium of Internet Delights. My best friend and husband, Steve, has been the driving force behind what I’m about to share with you and I have been a behind-the-scenes contributor and co-administrator to these shenanigans.
To revitalize your Facebook experience, I encourage you to check out the Groups.
The well run, upbeat Facebook groups are where it’s at if you are looking for a positive, entertaining and creative place to let loose.
Steve has created six lively Facebook groups that are cheerful, happy islands for people around the world. These communities are relatively small and have active, spirited participation. Though the groups are lightly moderated with minimal rules from the admins, rude, intolerant or aggressive behavior is rarely, if ever, seen.
Below are the six zany groups that we shepherd:
Ernie’s Oasis– Started in 2016 as Ernie’s Fake News, this group is my all-time favorite and features the ongoing antics and silly stories of our adorable hedgehog Ernie (see photo above). This humorous site is truly a happy-place getaway for many people.
Dysfunctional Communicators– This newly formed group takes satire, sarcasm and word play to a new level. Here the admins leverage their Toastmaster experience to assist with communication challenges.
Lame-0’s– A cross between Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Beavis and Butthead. Serious adults need not apply.
We Are Not Aliens From Outer Space– Out of this world photos and discussions of other galaxies.
Run Away and Join the Circus– A free-wheeling group with escapist themes.
The Reasons Why We Are Leaving This Group– A never ending list of reasons why people are exiting stage right.
If you are craving light-hearted banter, productive dialogues, satire, unusual angles, great photos and fun stories with witty wordplay in a tolerant, supportive environment, these Facebook groups and others like them are the place for you.
Come have a marvelous time in the positive Facebook universe where you get some relief from the stress and strife of tedious newsfeeds.
Ernie is waiting for you with a big cookie and a smile!
There are also various animals to help you be a better communicator.
The shift in energy has been swift and dramatic. This thought has been on my mind for months prior to the great Texas blackout of February 2021. Having lived in Austin for short time, I empathize with the plight of millions of people who were at the mercy of mother nature, unreliable technology and incompetent business and government leaders.
My original idea for this article started with these three lines:
Energy is Currency
Currency is Money
Follow the Energy
I was planning to address the main patterns and trends I have observed since the US Elections in November 2020, namely the shifts in:
Social energy and influence- communication and persuasion
Distribution of energy- wealth and power
Suppression or enhancement of energy- fossil fuels and renewables
Now, as I reflect on the physics book definition of energy and power, I have chosen to take a different angle. More on the three points above will come in Part 2 of this Energy blog.
While energy is the capacity for doing work and the ability to create change, power is energy per unit of time. These technical definitions can be applied to people, communities and governments.
I have been drawn to the concept of energy for weeks. Call it the Law of Attraction but my increased attention on the idea caused a sharp increase in energy related experiences in my life. Everywhere I look, I see energy analogies and references.
The word energy is a noun with 9 meanings (like my cat) while the word power has 20 meanings as a noun and 5 has a verb.
Power and energy are hot topics in the news and I can’t help but draw some parallels between what is happening with shifts in physical energy (potential and kinetic) with the dramatic changes in human energy (social and spiritual).
As world leaders create pacts and sign accords in an effort to reduce the impact of climate change on the planet, major changes in our fuel sources are being proposed. Renewable energy is all the rage as fossil fuels and nuclear energy are vilified. Wind and solar power are being elevated and pushed to replace coal, oil and natural gas. Our fuel mix is changing as painfully displayed during the Texas/ERCOT energy crisis of this month.
Our social fuel mix has also been dramatically altered. As an extrovert, I used to derive a good amount of energy from real, live interactions with others. Now, after 11 months of relative isolation, my energy levels are low. My ability to do work is diminished. My public speaking skills are stalling out and running on fumes.
As millions of Texans huddled in their homes for days without electricity or running water, I kept thinking, why didn’t ERCOT and the government plan ahead more for these situations. What were the contingencies plans if multiple lines of energy sources fail?
Taken to the human and social energy level, what have we done to replenish our emotional fuel sources that have been so abruptly and drastically reduced?
While Zoom meetings and online happy hours are trying to fill the gaps and maintain social connections, they are about as energizing as a Texas wind turbine on a 25 degree day.
Humans are social creatures by nature and need personal interactions to maintain healthy relationships and strong immune systems.
So as I enter an empty office building each day, I long for the in-person collaboration meetings and hallway greetings and interactions. Giving a speech in front of a live audience is something I crave more than chocolate. My Toastmaster clubs’ membership levels are anemic as we wait patiently for an infusion of energy. More than ever, I appreciate the power of human interaction and communication.
Like coming out of a freeze-induced power outage, I hope that the COVID-19 isolation impacts will thaw soon and allow us to recharge with the amazing energy of smiles, hugs and personal interactions.
When my Mom entered it room, it lit up with her smile. I miss her dearly and know that many people are craving that form of warmth and love.
A positive shift in energy and focus is needed to maintain the crucial connections that keep our communities strong.
The power of human interactions is sustainable and renewable and should not be neglected during times of crisis.