Join author & artist Joanne Brokaw on Small Business Saturday, November 27, 2021

Join me and the other artists at Central Creatives for a three day holiday pop up event on Black Friday weekend. Stop up Friday 11/26, Saturday 11/27, or Sunday 11/28 for some beautiful, unique items from local artisans.

I’ll be there throughout the weekend but I hope you’ll stop up on Small Business Saturday between 11 am and 4 pmI’ll have signed copies of “Suddenly Stardust” available for purchase as well as a selection of jewelry, bookmarks, ornaments, photo frames, and a bunch of discounted “less than perfect” items. And as an added treat, throughout the day I’ll be doing mini-readings of some of your favorite columns as well as book excerpts and new micro flash fiction. All weekend you’ll be able to contribute to a collaborative poem, and who knows? I might even give some stuff away.

Central Creatives is located at 349 West Commercial Street, in the Piano Works Mall, East Rochester, NY, 14445, right off 490. Park at the end of the plaza near Ferrari Pizza and enter through the red door between Weaving Arts Guild and Penn Fair Golf. Then just follow the signs to the second floor (via stairs or elevator). Use the gallery entrance to get to my studio. There’s plenty of free, accessible parking at Piano Works and lovely restaurants nearby – make a day of it!

Visit me at online http://www.joannebrokaw.com.

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“Suddenly Stardust” is here!

I’m so jack6.000x9.000.inddexcited to announce that “Suddenly Stardust: A Memoir (of sorts) About Fear, Freedom & Improv” is now available for purchase!

I almost never rave about something I’ve written, but I’m absolutely in love with this book. And the advance praise has been so wonderful:

Law Tarello, MFA, and faculty at The Second City, says, “Don’t let her humble and even occasionally timid way fool you. Joanne Brokaw is a powerhouse theatrical improvisor. As a student she was willing to break out of her perceived comfort zone and on stage she used her considerable emotional range and life experience to expand the parameters of what her scene partners thought possible. Her reflections in this book are all at once insightful and revealing. If you have any desire to expand your horizons as a performer, Joanne’s stories can certainly prepare you for what and who you might encounter.”

Austin Scott, from the House Improv Theater, Gainesville FL, calls it, “A fascinating memoir that recounts the transformation from beginner to capable improviser and the emotional growing pains that come with that metamorphosis” adding that “Suddenly Stardust is essential reading and earns its place on my bookshelf right between Truth in Comedy and the UCB Manual.”

Scott Baker, one half of the comedy improv team Isaacs and Baker, says, “Finally, someone who gets it! Improv isn’t about being funny. It’s about letting go of fear in all aspects of communication and your life. Joanne Brokaw really gets it and conveys it!”

Veteran comedian Wendy Liebman calls “Suddenly Stardust” a “guide to life, showing how improv can act as a template for living fully with others. Improv can help us appreciate every single moment, be more creative, and remind us how stellar we are. Say Yes, I’ll get this book, And read it in one sitting, like I did. And then cherish it like I do.”

Carrie Anne Noble, author of the “The Mermaid’s Sister” and “The Gold-Son”, says, “”In Suddenly Stardust, Joanne Brokaw takes the reader backstage (and onstage) with her as she braves the challenging and terrifying world of improv. Her lessons learned will reverberate long with readers—and perhaps inspire them to say, “Yes, and” to purposeful, compassionate living a little more often.”

Comedian and storyteller Richard Hughson admits, “I was at first dismayed to see there were 142 pages, about improv for God’s sake! But this book is not about improvising on stage. It’s about improvising your way through life, complete with all doubts, fears, truths, failures, and successes. To anyone who is considering this – you will love this book.

Roberta Gore, author of “Saving Grace”, says,”Brokaw reminds us in Suddenly Stardust that time spent studying whatever it is we happen to love–be it yoga or ceramics or surfing–will likely reap a harvest of fruits we never knew we planted. Yes, improv teaches us to be looser, more creative performers. But much more importantly, it teaches us to listen, and give, and take, and color outside the lines.”

The ebook and paperback editions are available right now, and a hardcover edition should be available soon. For more information and links to the book at Amazon, check out the Books page on my website or visit amazon.com/author/joannebrokaw.

“Suddenly Stardust” is published by WordCrafts Press.

And don’t forget that I’m leading workshops this summer at The Focus Theater and at Writers & Books. For a full listing of events, check out the (always updating) list here.

50 thoughts on turning 50: #33 Question everything (or maybe not)

Screenshot of my results from the Four Tendencies quiz.
Screenshot of some of my results from the Four Tendencies quiz.

As much as I hate to admit it, I like Facebook quizzes. I know they’re created so Facebook and other companies can collect information from users, but I’m still always amazed when they give me results as if they actually have tabulated my answers and analyzed them.

So when my friend Linda shared a link to a quiz about the “Four Tendencies”, I had to try it. The quiz was created by author Gretchen Rubin as part of the research for her book, “Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits–to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life” in which she tackles the question of how we can make good habits and break bad ones.

I know it’s just part of the book marketing, but I was curious anyway. Especially because I know Rubin is the author of “The Happiness Project (Revised Edition): Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun”, in which she takes a year to explore the idea of what makes us happy. I haven’t read the book, partly because around the time it came out, I’d been exploring a somewhat similar topic and thinking about writing a book. I’d amassed a box full of notes and research. When I saw her book, I sighed and moved on to another idea.

Theoretically, anyway. What I really did was start researching the next book idea. Research isn’t writing. As my publisher well knows.

But back to the quiz. It’s a simple quiz, just a few questions about how you respond to some general situations, like making a New Year’s resolution or dealing with expectations. When I got my results, I wasn’t surprised: I’m a Questioner.

Anyone who knows me will tell you I ask a lot of questions. (Ask my friend Laura.) I over research and over analyze. I’ll ask questions about your questions and then go research the answers. So what did surprise me was that, according to the quiz, Questioners “resist outer expectations” and “meet inner expectations”.

I often do reject other people’s expectations of me. I wouldn’t say that’s been a lifelong thing; only in the past maybe 10 or 15 years have I really been able to stand up to people who boss me around, and to stop living other people’s expectations of me and living my own.

Except that in that rejection of other people’s expectations, I haven’t really been able to hold onto my own expectations of myself. I don’t feel like I ever live up to my own expections.

I let myself down. A lot.

But then I mused a bit on the quiz’s explanation:

“Questioners question all expectations, and will meet an expectation only if they believe it’s justified, so in effect, they meet only inner expectations. Once Questioners believe that a particular habit is worthwhile, they’ll stick to it—but only if they’re satisfied about the habit’s soundness and usefulness. They resist anything arbitrary or ineffective; they accept direction only from people they respect. Questioners may exhaust themselves (and other people) with their relentless questioning, and they sometimes find it hard to act without perfect information. If you’re thinking, ‘Well, right now I question the validity of the Four Tendencies framework, yep, you’re probably a Questioner!”

This is really quite accurate. I don’t just reject what other people want or expect; I do what I think is right and worthwhile and justified and respectful. As for my inner expectations? I do meet them – when I feel they’re justified.

I’m not always a slacker.

In the follow up email – because of course I signed up to get more information – I learned that Questioners are motivated by logic, fairness, and reason. They do exhaustive research and often suffer from paralysis by analysis.

And then a light bulb went off over my head: this is me, and maybe this is why I can’t finish a writing project.

It’s not that I don’t want to or that I’m not willing to do the work. It’s because, if I’m being honest, I don’t feel like anything I write has value, it doesn’t meet my own inner expectations. Outside expectations don’t matter – reader feedback or a deadline or a paycheck or even a signed book contract. What matters is what I’m thinking inside, what I’m expecting from myself: do I feel it’s quality work? Is it an idea that will bring value to other people’s lives? Is it necessary, in a world being bombarded with information, to add my creative voice to the clamor? Am I doing the best job I can do?

Probably not.

Which I know isn’t sound reasoning. I know some of my writing is good – no, great. So it’s not like I never like my own work. I just balance what I offer with what the world needs and often find myself wanting.

Of course, if I think about it, if I really believe that my creative work has no value, then am I questioning the integrity of the publications that pay me? These aren’t stupid people. They’re not giving me money to be charitable. I clearly write something they need. My publishers put out some quality stuff. They’re also dear, dear friends. But they’re not having me write a book to do me some kind of favor. I respect these people…don’t I? Maybe in not believing in their belief of me, I’m actually not respecting them?

I think it’s what Rubin means when she writes in the more detailed tendency report:

“Questioners are motivated by sound reasons—or at least what they believe to be sound reasons. In fact, to others, Questioners can sometimes seem like crackpots, because they may reject expert opinion in favor of their own conclusions.”

All of this shouldn’t surprise you. The fact that I’ve done an entire blog post based on a few lines of feedback from a Facebook quiz should give you all the proof you need that I’m a crackpot.

So what do I need to do? Stop questioning myself. Or should I?  Isn’t research good? Isn’t learning more better than not know learning more?

What I really need to do is get the book and see what Rubin suggests for breaking bad habits and starting good ones. You know, do more research.

This post is part of my series, “50 thoughts on turning 50″. It won’t surprise you that it’s been two years since I started this project and I’m just a little more than halfway. I told you when I first posted it might take me until I’m 60 to finish. Now I know why. You can  read more posts here.

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50 thoughts on turning 50: #32 Nothing but the truth (but whose truth?)

I often read Young Adult books, because I like to see how authors are dealing with difficult topics in a way that young people can understand them.

In this election cycle, I’m reminded of the YA novel “Nothing But The Truth”, by Avi. I read it years ago, and have reread it several times, because it’s an excellent portrayal of how what we see on the evening news – or, with the advent of social media, online – is only a snippet of the truth. And how that truth is filtered and distilled down through the eyes of each person involved in the process of telling the story.

Here’s the premise of the “documentary novel”: Phillip Malloy is a ninth grade student. During the morning announcements, the school has a policy that all students must stand and remain silent during the playing of the National Anthem. Phillip, however, happens to be in a homeroom with a teacher who not only tolerates tomfoolery, he joins in it himself. So Phillip talks and does homework while the teacher cracks jokes. But when the school reassigns all students to new homerooms, Phillip finds himself in Mrs. Narwin’s homeroom. She also happens to be Phillip’s English teacher. And Mrs. Narwin takes the rule of silence during the National Anthem very seriously.

Phillip continues to play the class clown and hums along with the National Anthem in his new homeroom. The more Mrs. Narwin asks for silence, the more Phillip acts up, until she sends him to the principal’s office.

What follows next is a domino effect of events: suspension from school, a civil rights lawyer, national news. It’s a game of telephone, with lives and careers at stake.

What’s so brilliant about this book is that it’s told in transcript style, so readers see the actual conversations between teacher and student, parents and child, parents and local politician, politician and local journalist. There are letters from the teacher to her sister, newspaper clippings, memos from the school board to the teachers in the district. It allows the reader to see the motives behind all of the participants: a dedicated teacher who loves her students and doesn’t want this one punished (she just wants him to stop humming during the National Anthem); a student who knows he’s being a smart ass but doesn’t want to get in trouble at home (because there are bigger issues going on here, including parents expectations at odds with a child’s wants and needs); parents and politicians with their own agendas (and not always with the child’s best interests at heart); a school board on the eve of a budget vote (and dollars often take precedence over people); a journalist with her own goals (and an inability to get the facts right); a conservative talk show host charged with stirring up controversy (and ratings).

The reader gets to see how a complex situation gets boiled down to a headline or sound bite, until a teacher is ruined, parents are vindicated, a politician is elected, and a student is left to navigate the turmoil it all leaves behind.

It’s fiction…or is it? The book was published in 1991, but the premise – the way the story is manipulated, the way the public reacts to a news story without knowing any of the real story – happens every hour of every day. And with social media, every second of every minute of every hour.

This short fiction book – you can read it in a few hours – will remind you that behind every headline is a whole story, and behind every story are real people, with real lives, and that what we pass around as truth is really nothing more than rumor.

Go read it. Now. Before you spout off on social media or forward a story you haven’t actually verified or make a judgement based on a three minute news story that doesn’t begin to tell the whole story…and ruin relationships and friendships in the process. It’s an important lesson to learn in this emotionally charged election year.

This post is part of my series, “50 thoughts on turning 50″. Read more here.

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A belief in a God bigger than any book or religion

god in my head grisetti

Josh Grisetti has a lot to say about God in his new book, “God In My Head.” Or, to be more clear, what God said to him.

The two met while Grisetti was at the dentist and doped up on nitrous oxide and a dangerous combination of drugs he had lying around the house and took before the appointment in an attempt to ward off pain. The trip, or hallucination as he sometimes refers to it, spanned two hundred years and during it God answered Grisetti’s spiritual questions and showed him the mysteries of the Universe.

In reality, Grisetti was out for about forty five minutes, and didn’t actually leave the room. But did he meet God?

Sure. He met God. As much as any of us can meet God and live to tell about it.

I’ll confess that I skimmed parts of Grisetti’s book more than I actually read them, at least the parts about what God said to him. That’s partly because I was reading before bed and tired, but also because those sections interested me far less than his accounts of going to the dentist. Grisetti’s best writing was telling his memoirs; God was a less compelling storyteller. I found what God said to him sometimes really interesting, sometimes boring, sometimes as I’d expected God to speak, and occasionally so far out in left field that I didn’t have the brain power to sort it out.

Like the notion that God created humans and then came to earth so he could understand humans. I don’t get why an omnipotent God wouldn’t intimately know that which he created. At the same time, the death of human God exploding into God particles that exist in us all? Yeah, that actually makes a lot of sense.

Maybe the main reason that this book didn’t change my life is that I didn’t need it to. Grisetti and I have had the same sort of spiritual awakening, only mine didn’t include laughing gas and marijuana.

Some years ago, a writer, who identified himself as a former evangelical, was interviewing me for a book he was writing about his former faith. He asked me this question: “Do you believe that everything in the Bible is true?” I initially answered that yes, of course I did. Then I hesitated, and said I’d need to think about it some more.

To be honest, no one had ever asked me that question before, or I’d at least never pondered it for myself. I’ve been taught most of my life that the Bible is true. To question it was to flip a figurative bird to the Almighty, a sin from which you don’t return.

But now I needed to answer the question. Do I believe the Bible is true? And if I don’t, does it change my faith?

So I pondered that question for years and came to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter. If my faith is in God, then the book can be holy or it can be just a bunch of nice stories. God would still be God. But if my faith rested on whether or not I thought the Bible was all true, then my faith was in the book, not God.

And if my faith was rooted only in the God portrayed in the Bible, then I put God in a box that didn’t allow for him to be anything except what’s written on those pages, even if he existed in other faiths or spiritual paths. And if that was the case, God was not as big as eternity. He was only as big as the book that told his story.

That is not thinking that jibes with church. Or religion. But I think it lines up pretty well with God, the Creator.

And it lines up with science, too, because let’s face it. With all of our scholars and scientists and space travel, we only know a fraction of a fraction of what’s out there in the Universe. The human brain is a mystery; how can we be so arrogant as to assume we know what’s beyond the reach of our telescopes? Or through a black hole? Or what exists in other dimensions in space and time?

Contrary to what you might think, my pondering led me away from organized religion but towards a deeper faith in God, a more solid belief in the supernatural nature of the Creator of the Universe, a greater peace, and a more loving attitude towards man and beast. It awakened awe and wonder and the realization that I am but a small piece of a grand, grand puzzle stretching out in every direction for eternity, a puzzle filled with pieces of different shape and sizes and whose very existence I can’t even begin to comprehend.

At one point Grisetti recounts a story of going on a work study trip to Rome and bringing home a gift for his grandparents: a decorative rosary carved from stone. As a non-Catholic, he didn’t know what the rosary actually was for, other than being something you held when you prayed. And he still doesn’t know, despite the fact that a simple Google search would tell him. Instead, he says, “[T]here’s something about the mystique of it that I like. Not knowing somehow makes it more sacred, more magical.”

I think that’s how I like my faith, too. If I knew everything there was to know about God, if he could be packaged between the pages of a book or in a song or a workbook study, then he wouldn’t be God. But not knowing, having questions, pondering mysteries? To me, God is bigger and more complex and more wondrous than any book can describe. And I think that’s the same thing Grisetti came away from his encounter with, too. Whether he actually met God or not, he walked away from the experience with a bigger faith in a bigger God than even he, who saw him face to face, can imagine.

Click here to read what other Patheos bloggers are saying about “God In My Head,” by Joshua Steven Grisetti, as well as read a Q&A with the author and an excerpt from the book.

“What The Dog Said (And Other Adventures in Everyday Life)” on sale in April

book cover higher res
In honor of the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop that I just attended, and which I still have to write about, my publisher, WordCrafts Press, has graciously dropped the price for “What The Dog Said” for the month of April!

Yay!! You can get the ebook for just 99¢ at any ebook retailer – what a bargain! And you can take 40% off the paperback price by visiting http://wordcrafts.net/what-the-dog-said/ and entering promo code ERMA16 at checkout. (The links are at the bottom of the page – just click “trade paperback” and it’ll take you to the purchase page where you can enter the promo code. Same with the ebook; click “ebook-$5.99” and . it’ll automatically change the price to 99¢.)

It’s not Erma, but there’s still a little slice of life, love, and humor on every page.

What I Read in 2015

books for blog post 002smaller

With just a couple of weeks left in 2015, I thought I’d compile my annual list of “books I read”.

I keep the list every year, but I don’t always share it. Lately, though, I’ve found myself recommending a lot of books or just discussing what I’ve read, even if it I didn’t love it. So I thought it worthwhile to share my list with you.

The books are listed in the order that I finished them (vs any kind of ranking order), along with some general thoughts. Don’t be misled by the “finished reading” dates. I’m often reading several books at one time, so it’s not unusual to finish a couple of books within days of each other – although I have definitely been known to stay up for a few days straight reading (“Dead Wake”) or read a book in one day (“Nothing But The Truth”). Also understand that inclusion on the list isn’t necessarily an endorsement; a book is on the list simply because I read it in 2015.

Continue reading “What I Read in 2015”

A musing on the To Kill A Mockingbird read-a-thon

BN To Kill A Mockingbird Readathon roster
Pittsford, NY Barnes & Noble roster for the “To Kill A Mockingbird” read-a-thon.

This will be a quick post, informal and to the point. I hope. Often I have great ideas and because I want to be profound I put off writing and then lose the idea and never write it down.

And I don’t want to do this with what’s running through my mind.

So if it feels like maybe I’m rambling or am not making my point, or if you see typos or mistakes or places where maybe you think I haven’t thought through an idea, keep in mind that I’ve got just a few minutes between places I need to be this afternoon, and I’m writing this in between where I just was and where I’m going.

I got to take part today in Barnes & Nobles “To Kill A Mockingbird” Read-a-thon, to celebrate the release tomorrow of Harper Lee’s “Go Set A Watchman”. The readings started at 9 am this morning and end at 9 pm tonight, with guest readers taking half hour time slots to read the entire book from cover to cover. It’s a nationwide event, and I was at the Pittsford Barnes & Noble.

“To Kill A Mockingbird” is one of my favorite movies, not only because it’s so brilliantly done, but because it so brilliantly follows Lee’s book. (It’s pure joy when a movie does justice to a book, isn’t it? And it so rarely happens.) We could talk all day about characters and setting and story, but for now it’s enough to say that when I got to B&N,  I got sit and listen to chapters 17, 18 and 19, read by Judy Shomper, chair of the theater department at Brighton High School and Beth Adams, morning show host on WXXI.

BN To Kill A Mockingbird Readathon Judy Shomper
Judy Shomper, chair of the theater department at Brighton High School, reading from “To Kill A Mockingbird”.

As I came into the store, I could hear the sound of the reader echoing throughout the entire store, although I wasn’t actually listening to the words. But after I’d checked in, said hello to Beth and chatted for a minute, I settled in to listen to Judy Shomper and then Beth Adams read from the famous courtroom scene. You know what I’m talking about: Atticus is questioning Mayella Ewell about her beating and the accusation that it was at the hands of Tom Robinson, a Negro.

The word “nigger” is used throughout the text. Continue reading “A musing on the To Kill A Mockingbird read-a-thon”

“The Hand On The Mirror”: Can our loved ones speak to us from beyond the grave?

hand on the mirrorI was having a chat with my mom recently about making a will and telling us any plans for what she wants us to do with her … after she … you know … moves on to the next adventure.

“Do you want to be buried in Massachusetts?” I asked, because that’s where she’s from and I wondered if she’d like to be back with her family.

“I don’t care,” was her reply.

“Do you even want to be buried?” I asked. “Would you rather be cremated?”

“I don’t care what you do with me.”

“OK,” I said with a laugh,”I’m going to have you cremated and then we’ll sprinkle your ashes on top of Mt. Greylock.” That’s near her childhood home in the Berkshires.

She laughed. “That sounds fine. I don’t care.”

I gave her an evil little giggle. “OK, then, since you don’t care, I’ll carry your ashes around with me all the time. Mwahahah! You’ll be with me twenty four hours a day! You’ll never escape me! How’s that sound?” I assume not so great, since my mom can be finicky about spending time with me. The last time I asked if she felt like doing something she said, “Nah, I’m going away with you next week. That’s enough time together.”

By now we were both laughing. “Do whatever you want,” she said. “I won’t be around so I won’t know anyway.”

That conversation was on my mind as I read Janis Heaphy Durham’s “The Hand On The Mirror: A True.s Story of Life Beyond Death.” Continue reading ““The Hand On The Mirror”: Can our loved ones speak to us from beyond the grave?”

And the next book is …

Mt. Hope Cemetery, October 2014 (c) Joanne Brokaw
Mt. Hope Cemetery, October 2014 (c) Joanne Brokaw

As regular readers of the blog know, for some time now I’ve been fascinated with Mt. Hope Cemetery – the geography, the peace, the history, walking the dogs there. It’s spurred my own genealogical research but also research into some mysteries and murders, locals ties to national stories, interesting stories about everyday people and just random weirdo stories.

I’ve blogged about my adventures in the cemetery and I’ve always been surprised by the number of people who are as fascinated as I am with the things I uncover.

Well, if that’s you, then you’ll be happy to know that my next book is a go, and it’s going to be about people buried at Mt. Hope! It’ll be published once again by Wordcrafts, whom I adore working with. Continue reading “And the next book is …”

Sharing my essay “The Unsung Celebrity,” in honor of Officer Daryl Pierson

In honor of Officer Pierson, who was killed this week in the line of duty, and in support of law enforcement in your area, consider putting a blue light bulb in your porch light.
In honor of Officer Pierson, who was killed this week in the line of duty, and in support of law enforcement in your area, consider putting a blue light bulb in your porch light. You can learn more a http://www.GoHeroes.us or by clicking the image.

This week, a member of the Rochester Police Department lost one of its own when Officer Daryl Pierson was killed in the line of duty. By all accounts, the 32-year-old was a remarkable officer, recognized more than once for his character and exemplary work; he was also a member of the Army National Guard. He was a devoted husband and father, with a 3-month-old daughter and a 4-year-old son, who had just started kindergarten on the day Pierson was killed.

Included in my book, “What The Dog Said”, is a piece I wrote a few years ago about meeting a soldier in an Ohio airport. While this piece isn’t about a police officer, I think the message is fitting in the wake of Officer Pierson’s death, and I’d like to share it with you here. (Note: I recently learned that while serving in the Army, Daryl Pierson spent time in Korea defending the DMZ, which makes this piece even more fitting.)

At the end of the piece, you can find links to ways you can support Officer Pierson’s family as well as first responders in your area.

One last word: If you like the piece, feel free to share the link to this post, but please don’t copy the story and paste it other places. Thanks for being considerate of the copyright.

Joanne
East Rochester, NY

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The Unsung Celebrity
by Joanne Brokaw

He looked like just another fresh-faced, Midwestern college student heading back to classes after spring break. Tall and handsome, dressed in jeans, a hooded sweatshirt and baseball cap, he was surrounded by what could only be his family, gathered together to send him back into the big world.

I was returning home to Rochester, NY after spending three days in Dayton, OH for the Erma Bombeck Humor Writer’s Conference, where we’d been encouraged to see the humor in the mundane, the laughter in our surroundings and the comedy in our pain.

Maybe that’s why I noticed the young man. A woman who I assumed was his mother was wrapped tightly around his waist, reluctant to say goodbye, a gesture I was all too familiar with whenever I used to send my daughter back to college, an entire hour from home.

I was with two other women from the conference, chatting and laughing, and the young man ended up behind us in the security line. I leaned across our group and tapped him on the arm. “Where are you going that your family is going to miss you so much?” I asked with a smile.

“The DMZ in South Korea,” he responded politely. Continue reading “Sharing my essay “The Unsung Celebrity,” in honor of Officer Daryl Pierson”

50 thoughts on turning 50: #23 Confessions of a non-recovering introvert

This post originally appeared in 2013 on my Heavenly Creatures blog at Patheos.com. I generally write about animals and faith and God on that blog, but when offered the opportunity to read and write about this book for a Patheos roundtable, I jumped at the chance. Turns out it wasn’t only a good read; it profoundly changed the way I view myself, making it a must to include in my “5o thoughts on turning 50”.

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Quiet-book-imageI’m an introvert. When I said it to friends a few times over the last couple of weeks, I’ve gotten responses like, “You? You’re so talkative” or “I remember you as so outgoing” but almost always, “You’re not an introvert.”

Really? How would you know?

You probably base your idea of who I am on what you see on the outside, without knowing what’s going on inside of me most of the time. Sure, I can put together a party and play the happy hostess. But inside, I’m usually freaking out, because I have a difficult time talking to lots of people at once. You see me as talkative because I try to go out into social situations only when I’ve built up enough social energy to carry on a conversation; you don’t see me in my alone times, just me and the dogs, walking in the cemetery and recharging my batteries.

I can talk at length, and even in front of a crowd, about a topic dear to my heart. But it’s impossible for me to speak when I don’t believe what I’m saying. Want to talk about human trafficking or positive dog training methods? I’m all about it. Which girl should get a rose on “The Bachelor”? I’m out – or rather, I end up musing about why women would value themselves so little that they’d compete for some guy on a game show and throw their emotions around so trivially; usually everyone else wants to talk about which girl is the biggest bitch.

I’m always asking questions to strangers, like “why do you believe that” and “how did that make you feel”, surrounding myself with gads of acquaintances but few real friends, avoiding conflict and loud noises (and people who wear copious amounts of perfume or cologne), always aware that there is a social line that, once crossed, can throw me into panic or drain me to the point of physical exhaustion.

I get it. I sound cuckoo. In fact, for years (and years) I thought there was something wrong with me. Let’s face it. In our culture, we revere the outgoing, bold, confident risk takers, those who set goals and go after them with wild abandon. Those of us who spend a lot of time thinking and wondering but not always doing are viewed as weak.

That’s why I was so relieved to read Susan Cain’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” The book could have been subtitled “Joanne: An Owner’s Manual.”

For the first time, someone has taken the side of the introvert and shown how important they (we) are in an American culture, dispelling the myth that all introverts are recluses who avoid human interaction or that extrovertism is the ideal. And she uses neuroscience and research to back it all up.

Newsflash: there’s nothing wrong with me. Continue reading “50 thoughts on turning 50: #23 Confessions of a non-recovering introvert”

50 thoughts on turning 50: #21 Reading the Bible

Judges 19 and 20 - one of the stories in the Bible that still haunts me.
I used a daily devotional Bible and kept a journal of notes and questions. Judges 19 and 20 – one of the stories in the Bible that still haunts me.

Religion, faith and spirituality have played a large part in my life – both good and bad. So it only makes sense that I address the issues as I muse on 50 years.  There’s no way I can tackle them all in one post so I’ll break them up.

Today? The Bible. Or more specifically, reading the Bible.

A few years ago, author John Marks interviewed me for his book, “Reasons To Believe“.  He had introduced himself to me as a former evangelical and he was writing a book about religion and faith. I can’t remember a lot of the questions he asked, because years later I still dwell on the first one: “Do you believe everything in the Bible is true?”

Of course, I told him, but as the words came out of my mouth I felt this check in my gut. Wait, I said. I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it like that.

Turns out that a lot of my answers to his questions were “I don’t know” or “I hadn’t really thought about it.” How he managed to actually find enough to use for the book is amazing.

I met John in 2005; over the next year or so we talked many times but his questions challenged me. So I set out to read the entire Bible, cover to cover, to find out if, in fact, I believed everything in it was true.

My answer to that question today: I still don’t know. But I can tell you this. After reading the whole Bible, I have a heck of a lot more questions than answers. Continue reading “50 thoughts on turning 50: #21 Reading the Bible”

The ebook of “What The Dog Said” is 50% off through the end of June

what the dog said cover of book
Life is messy business, and that’s just fine with humor columnist Joanne Brokaw. For almost a decade, she’s been musing on life’s ups, downs and inbetweens, taking readers on a journey filled with laughter, dog hair and even a few tears. From her heartwrenching chance encounter with a soldier in an airport to her confession as an office supply addict, from parenting advice to holiday observations penned by Bandit, her blogging Border Collie, Brokaw invites readers to join her again in the mundane (but often hilarious) mishaps and adventures of everyday life

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of my 30th birthday, my publisher, WordCrafts Press, is offering the ebook version of my book What The Dog Said for just $2.99 through the end of June. That’s 50% off the cover price.

What The Dog Said is available at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and everywhere else you purchase ebooks. The paperback is also available online at Amazon and B&N. If you’re in Rochester, NY, you can purchase it at:

Penfield Veterinary Hospital
1672 Penfield Rd
Rochester, NY 14625
(585) 381-2441

A portion of the royalties from every book sale benefits Rochester Hope For Pets.

If you’re any good at math you’ve figured out now that I just turned 50. If you aren’t good at math, my series of posts, “50 thoughts on turning 50” should have given you another clue. Either way, check out my June column in Refreshed Magazine, where friends who celebrated their 50th birthday before I did shared some words of wisdom.

 

50 thoughts on turning 50: #17 Be a link in the chain

tammy annemarie reunion
Tammy and AnneMarie at the reunion

Two summers ago, in 2012, my high school class held its 30 year reunion. I  had followed the planning on Facebook for the better part of a year. Although it didn’t matter.

I wasn’t going.

I don’t have fond memories of high school, the way some of my friends do. It was a stressful time. I was insecure and dorky and generally felt like I was just taking up space on earth someone else could better use. So the thought of meandering down that memory lane with what were essentially a bunch of total strangers didn’t appeal to me in any way.  (You can read my post about why I wasn’t going in this post.)

At the last minute, I went.

I can’t explain why. It was just this little feeling in the back of my brain that said, “Go.” So about 48 hours before the event, I called Anne, the girl organizing the reunion. I asked if I could still come and if she needed help.

The answer to both was “Yes!”

I suggested to Anne that maybe I could collect information from everyone, like current contact information, where they work, where they live, how many kids they have, stuff like that. She said yes, that she would use it to help give away door prizes (like who traveled the farthest to get there; the winner of that one: from Africa).

But I had an ulterior motive: I was on deadline for a column. When you’ve got writer’s block the best thing you can do is do something different. If I had contact information for people, I could get in touch with them later if I needed to. Continue reading “50 thoughts on turning 50: #17 Be a link in the chain”

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