On November 4, 2021, I hosted a book launch party for Strong Words and Simple Truths in Phoenix, Arizona. The venue was a fun, independent coffee shop called The Buzzed Goat and Ernie the hedgehog fit right in.
Our spirited gathering included over 30 friends, coworkers, toastmasters and veterans. The energy in the room was electric and I was thrilled to be able to speak in front of a live audience.
Below is a video of my short presentation and tribute to military veterans.
For more information on my book Strong Words and Simple Truths click here.
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!
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.
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.
This week millions of people around the world celebrated the Lunar New Year. According to the Chinese zodiac, 2019 is the Year of the Earth Pig.
Fun searching on Google tells us that “A pig represents luck, overall good fortune, wealth, honesty, general prosperity, symbolizing a hard working, a peace-loving person, a truthful, generous, patient, reliable, trusting, sincere, giving, sociable person with a large sense of humor and understanding.”
Part 5 of My Compelling blog series continues with the letters MNO & P which stand for Molding Novel Outlooks and Perspectives.
Scroll past the pigs to see some new ideas.
Photo by Steve Smull
Random Thoughts and Suggestions
Feeling stuck or in a rut? Break out clay, Playdoh or coloring books.
Listen to Pink Floyd’s Animals album. “Pigs on a Wing” and “Sheep” are two of my favorites songs.
Read interesting and thought provoking books like:
Teatime for the Firefly by Shona Patel
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
The Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani
The Art of Dancing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Listen to podcasts to get more in depth analysis and nuance an various subjects (Fresh Air, This American Life, Good Life Project).
Take a different route on your way to work or the grocery store.
Read Dilbert comic strips.
Instead of making lofty new year’s resolutions in January- try setting smaller monthly goals and objectives.
Don’t be afraid to wear silly hats.
Listen more than you speak.
Read about another country’s history.
Take more time to pet your cats, dogs, or other pets.
Ask a young child what they think about a specific subject.