The I in Writing

Is it egotistical to use yourself as your main frame of reference when writing?

Ever since I started using the “drop cap” feature on my blog posts, which makes the first letter of the first word of the first paragraph extremely large, I’ve noticed that I start a lot of my posts with “I”. Does this mean that I’m narcissistic? Egotistical? Or at the very least, self-absorbed?

I touched upon this in a blog post I wrote long ago, when I was kicked out of a storytelling group and the moderator decided to send me on my way with a heaping helping of harsh criticism. I now realize that the guy was an a$$, but I still struggle with the egotism label he decided to place upon me. That kind of self-doubt is a bit of a slippery slope.

Would an egotistical person recognize egotism in her, him, or themselves? I’m thinking probably not. Who would want to knowingly take on that bad look? So, if I’m egotistical, I’d struggle to know it, and… I am struggling.

So I started Googling, as one does, and I found several articles, but this one seemed to resonate the most with me. 15 Signs You Might Be Egotistical felt kind of like a test. I read through it and gave myself points. I figured that the higher my score, the more egotistical I must be. Check out the article for the specific signs, but what follows is my reaction thereto.

  • Well, I’m not a big shopper, and I don’t have any desire to have the latest version of anything. I definitely don’t try to keep up with the Kardashians.
  • But I have to admit that I’m a gossip.
  • I don’t expect lots of praise. In fact, it usually shocks me.
  • I do tend to interrupt a lot, but I also try to check myself when I do, so I’ll give myself a half point for that one.
  • I definitely do not hold a position of power. (Unless you’re a sailboat wanting to get from one side of my bridge to the other.)
  • I don’t think I’m overwhelming. Actually, most of the time I’m overlooked, and I kind of like it that way.
  • I don’t think I hate losing but I do want to understand why I’m being asked to do things a certain way, and tend to chew on the subject until it makes sense to me, which seems to drive those around me nuts.
  • I absolutely adore learning new things from others.
  • I’m always sending out kudos emails when my coworkers do something great, and I genuinely believe that if you allow others to shine, you, too, will look good.
  • I have to admit that I don’t like admitting when I’m wrong.
  • I am definitely opinionated, but I’m always surprised when I find out that people think that means I expect them to agree with me. So another half point there.
  • I’ve never felt entitled to anything in my life, and I’m grateful when good things come my way.
  • I am drawn to unique characters. I don’t pick my friends strategically.
  • I do have a hard time playing on a team, but that’s not because I think I’m better than anyone else, but rather because I’m an introvert. (We introverts are often mislabeled as “stuck up”.)
  • I definitely do have low self-esteem, but the concept of being able to act cool and confident to hide this from others kind of makes me laugh. I have never managed to pull that off.

So, based on my self-assessment, I score a 4.5 out of 15 on my impromptu ego scale. I’m definitely no saint, but I think I can mingle amongst civilized people.

But does that mean I’m in denial? Why does this matter so much to me? Why am I so obsessed with how I am perceived, especially when the person who started me down this twisted path is himself an a$$? And look how many times I’ve used the word I in this post. Am I self-absorbed? Can anyone see themselves clearly? And why do I think you’d care enough to read up to this point?

Well, I can answer that last one, at least. A lot of times I write without considering that there might be an audience. It’s like therapy, and if someone does read it and relates, there’s the bonus that they might feel less alone. That would be wonderful.

At the risk of sounding like I protest too much, I have to say that I spend the bulk of my time alone, so it’s natural that I use myself as my main frame of reference. I imagine myself standing within my body but getting my greatest thrills from looking outward. I am a born observer. I enjoy learning new things, and I am always amazed at how much more there is to know. I love to travel and learn about other cultures, because it reminds me that “our” way isn’t the “only” way, and quite often it isn’t even close to the “best” way.  I like gardening without chemicals, for the benefit of the creatures who visit our yard. I like keeping my little free library stocked and I love seeing the delight on the faces of the people who use it. I try to help others as much as I can, because heaven knows I’ve been helped quite a bit along the way.

Is any of that egotstical? If so, I think I can live with it. But then again, I did just write all about me… so maybe I’m a narcissist. Hmmmm…

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Only in Denmark…

…could you make a children’s show about a magic penis.

I love being of Danish descent. It gives me cause to take note of all things Danish, and even though I’ve yet to have the opportunity to visit that country, I can tell that I would like the people. Danes have a very unique way of living and thinking that can sometimes be shocking but is more often delightful.

It’s unfair to pigeonhole an entire nation, but based on my observations, albeit from a remove, the Danish qualities discussed in this article entitled, “5 Danish traits you should embrace to improve your life” seem pretty spot on.

  • Danes respect privacy. They are not busybodies or conspiracy theorists.
  • Danes don’t mince words. They are straight shooters. They get to the point.
  • Danes never hesitate to express their opinions. What you see is what you get.
  • Danes hate to be late. But they also hate to waste time in overlong meetings.
  • Danes can be very sarcastic.

These are my people, for sure. Being surrounded by others with these traits would be a refreshing change after having tried to fit in in the Pacific Northwest, where people find my directness, honesty, and sarcasm very off-putting. I’d rather hang with people who show all their cards than with those who keep them hidden, which keeps you guessing. When people leave you no room for doubt, it reduces gossip, because whatever you might say is already out there. It’s a relief.

According to the World Population Review, Denmark is the second happiest country on earth. Finland is the only country that surpasses them. I would love to live in Denmark, at least in the warmer months.

Given the Danish propensity for being wide open, and not getting worked up over silly things, it does not surprise me at all that in 2021 they created a children’s show called John Dillermand. It’s a claymation show for kids from ages 4 to 8. It’s about a man with a magic, prehensile penis that can be as much as 20 feet long, based on personal observation. Check out the show’s funny intro below, and then go here to listen to a review of the show by CBC’s As It Happens.

John can use this appendage to walk a dog, pick things up from a distance, and even fly.  He can bounce into the air, using his penis like a spring. Diller is slang for penis in Danish. Kind of like wiener here. Kids love to laugh at penis slang.

As you can see from the picture below, you can’t really tell that this penis is a penis. It’s not anatomically correct. It is funny, not at all sexual. Teaching children to feel shame about a natural human inclination toward sexuality is what creates warped, twisted abusers. There should be no shame attached to body parts.

Oftentimes John Dillerman’s magic penis has a mind of its own, though, and gets him into trouble. He then has to figure out how to turn the situation around. All the short episodes from the first season seem harmless and funny and full of moral lessons. The creators consulted with a child psychologist to make sure that kids wouldn’t misinterpret the message. And it does indeed seem to be quite popular amongst the 4 to 8 set. Another season is planned.

I would love to watch this show. It is cute and funny and doesn’t body shame. It appeals to the Dane within me. But my puritanical American side does tend to overthink it. For example, teaching children that a man’s penis is out of control, and that what it does is not really the man’s fault is, well, disturbing. I could see where pedophiles could use this show to groom children.

But honestly, sometimes claymation is just claymation. I really doubt kids would see the nefarious undertones if we warped adults weren’t present to clue them in. And I’m confident that children know the difference between claymation and real life. I’d rather that children explore, and then get over, their penis fascination in a controlled and healthy environment, rather than out there in the world where things could turn ugly very easily.

I like that this show is making parents have straightforward conversations with their children. From what I can see, this is a harmless, silly kid’s show, and it won’t become a thing if we don’t make it a thing. So let’s not make it a thing.

Love it or hate it, a show like this could only be made in Denmark. It’s just too (pardon the expression) “in your face” to be able to be shown here in uptight America. I mean, if the radical right saw evil intent in the Teletubbies, imagine what they’d make of a penis that can steal a hamburger off the neighbor’s bar-b-cue.

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What’s REALLY Scary

They walk amongst us.

What a year this has been. I think between the pandemic, Trump, economic stress, wildfires, hurricanes, social unrest, and the fact that everyone seems to be losing their minds to some degree or another, we’ve all been scared enough this year. And here comes Halloween. I don’t know about you, but I’m in no mood to play at being scared this year. I’m over it. I’m done. There’s just too much to be really afraid of these days.

But it would feel weird if I didn’t acknowledge Halloween somehow. Happy Halloween! Can I tell you a scary story?

Most people think psychopaths have to be violent to be considered psychopaths. People hesitate to use the term outside of the serial killer realm. They’ll “downgrade” the nonviolent ones to sociopath. But that couldn’t be more misleading.

Actually, it is estimated that psychopaths comprise one percent of the population, and most of them are relatively functional. A lot of them become bosses and leaders, as a matter of fact. They’ve got that ruthless, cutthroat aspect to their personalities that often gets them to the top. You’ve probably known at least one psychopath in the course of your life, whether you realized it or not. I have known several, unfortunately.

Here’s a fairly standard psychopathy checklist that I copied from an article in

  1. Superficial charm and glibness
  2. Inflated sense of self-worth
  3. Constant need for stimulation
  4. Lying pathologically
  5. Conning others; being manipulative
  6. Lack of remorse or guilt
  7. Shallow emotions
  8. Callousness; lack of empathy
  9. Using others (a parasitic lifestyle)
  10. Poor control over behavior
  11. Promiscuous sexual behavior
  12. Behavioral problems early in life
  13. Lack of realistic, long-term goals
  14. Being impulsive
  15. Being irresponsible
  16. Blaming others and refusing to accept responsibility
  17. Having several marital relationships
  18. Delinquency when young
  19. Revocation of conditional release
  20. Criminal acts in several realms (criminal versatility)

So here’s something scary: 4 years ago, we elected someone who possesses at least 18 of those 20 traits (I’m not even sure what number 19 means, and I don’t know if he was a delinquent, because daddy, I’m sure, could always buy him out of trouble), and he has demonstrated this fact time and time again. This man has been leading the free world for the past 4 years, to our detriment, to the point where people have actually died unnecessarily. This is not a political issue. It’s a mental health issue.

But you know how scary movies often make you jump, and you know you’re about to jump, but you still jump? Well, this is even worse. Because the truly, genuinely scary part of all of this is that there are people in this country, knowing all that we know, seeing all that we’ve seen, who will still vote for this man. And they walk amongst us, and look just like us.

If that doesn’t make the hair on the back of your neck stand straight up, nothing will. Don’t assume we’ve got this. Please vote.

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What I Know about You

I am absolutely certain that this is true.

Howdy stranger. Even if you are a regular reader of this blog, chances are I’ve never met you. Even so, there are things that I know about you with complete certainty.

  • You have value. (We all do.)

  • You are capable of learning new things. (And there’s so much to choose from!)

  • You are capable of change (even if you don’t enjoy it).

  • You know things that I do not. (We could learn from each other.)

  • You have interesting stories to tell (even if you may not be good at telling them).

  • There’s more to you than meets the eye. (We’re all complex.)

  • You are a survivor, by virtue of the fact that you are right here, right now. (Yay!)

  • You are curious, or you wouldn’t be reading. (You can’t deny it.)

  • We have something in common. (Here we are, after all.)

  • There’s no one else exactly like you on earth. (Isn’t it great?)

  • There are things we would disagree about. (I think that’s exciting.)

  • You can imagine me, here, at my keyboard, just as I can imagine you, there, looking at these words. (See? We have a connection.)

  • You have good taste in blogs. (Okay, so I might be a little biased on this point.)

This is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m sure there are a million other fascinating things about you. I just thought I’d tell you a few, in case no one else had in a while.

The fact that I can say these things, without hesitation, about every single person who reads this post, gives me hope for humanity.  It’s a connection. Even if you are the most despicable human on earth (I suspect you aren’t, by the way), we have these things. It’s a starting point. We ought to be able to build from here.

So as you get out there and have a nice day, ponder the fact that all this divisiveness is merely an illusion.

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What’s in a Name?

I was given the wrong name.

I have always felt as though I was given the wrong name. I don’t feel like a Barbara. I never have.

I think we should all have naming ceremonies as adults, and we should get to pick our own. You should have a birth name and a real name. Mine would be Serenity. But the way the culture is at present, if I tried to change it now, I’d be laughed at by everyone who knows me. I am resigned to my name.

Even better, our names should be our story. They should be added to with each passing year based on our traits and experiences. By the time we are 80, our full names should take hours to recite.

For example, You would have “Mary, who danced before she walked, who loves dogs, who shocked everyone by spelling O U T at age 2, who was Rudolph in her Christmas pageant…”  And so on, and so forth.

In a world like that, if someone said, “Tell me your name,” they would be indicating that they really wanted to know you well, and they’d settle in for the duration with a nice cup of tea. And telling your name would be a gift that you would only bestow upon those who you felt deserved to know the very core of you.

And after telling your story, you could say something like, “But call me Serenity, for short.”


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What Are You Known For?

How are we described by others?

Recently I overheard someone proudly say, “My grandma was known for making the best apple cobbler in the county.”

That got me thinking. Is everybody known for something? I believe they are, at least to the people who love them most. I’ve heard people described as the type that would give you the shirt off his back, or the strongest person I’ve ever met, or, on the opposite extreme, a massive jerk.

Do we know how people truly think of us, or how we are described by others? Well, I certainly don’t. So I decided to ask. I reached out to about two dozen friends and loved ones, and posed this question:

If everyone is known for something, what do you think I’m known for?

I decided to keep it that simple, and only elaborate if someone asked for clarification.

Most didn’t bother to respond. That disappointed me greatly, but that’s typical with any type of survey, formal or informal. Even that taught me a little bit about who will actually step up for me, or at the very least, who lacks concentration and/or is epically busy.

Of those that did respond, many came back with the easy, surface stuff. I’m known for being a bridgetender and a writer. Those who aren’t in touch with me as often mentioned that I’m known for being a fractal artist, even though I haven’t made a fractal in years.

Those were legitimate responses, and nothing to be ashamed of. But it made me realize how important it is to properly frame your question. What I was hoping for, really, was not what I’m known for by people in general, but how would you describe me to others? What has been your personal experience with me? What makes me unique in your eyes?

But there were those who delved deeper. One smart aleck said, “Epic farts.” But even he got more serious and went into more detail after a little bit of prompting. Here were some of the responses I received:

  • Supporting someone in need.

  • Makes me laugh.

  • You’re unique. A fair amount of women I just can’t “talk” to.

  • Loving.

  • You mean what you say. You tell it like it is.

  • An advocate for those you feel have no voice.

  • Brave, independent woman who takes no nonsense from nobody and loves her husband and dogs and job.

  • You care about right and wrong so much that your blood boils when you see what you believe is unjust.

  • Perception.

  • Delivering your opinion in a most enlightening way.

  • Integrity.

  • Curiosity.

  • You are adventuristic. A ‘seize the moment’ sort of person.

  • You appreciate the now.

  • Heart to heart sharings of intimate fears.

  • Your ineffable sexiness (this one made me blink, and blush.)

  • Candor.

  • Courage.

  • Compassion for animals.

  • Patience and persistence in pursuit of making a good life for yourself.

  • Reverence for the use of language to convey your insights.

Wow. Just… wow. These were wonderful observations. They certainly made me proud. They humbled me. Some of them were extremely unexpected. But I’ll take it.

This experiment also taught me a lot about how different my inner self is from my outer self. The two ways I’d describe myself were not mentioned by anyone. I would think that I’d be known for my intelligence and the fact that I have no filter whatsoever. But maybe I see myself that way because I use the intelligence as a suit of armor to hide behind, and I spend a great deal of time doing damage control for my lack of filter.

The bottom line is that I’m really glad I asked this question. I would recommend that everyone try this with their loved ones. The education you get from it, in ways both predictable and unexpected, is priceless.

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One of my copyrighted fractals.

Hey! Look what I wrote!

Astrology and Names

I have to admit I have a big problem with astrology. I don’t buy that on any given day there are only 12 paths to choose from for everyone on the entire planet. And of course, it has no real basis in science, so if you were to trace it back to its genesis, you’d find that basically someone made it all up.

But, having said that, I’m not willing to discount that it was made up based on some interesting observations about people. I have noticed that if I mark all my friends’ birthdays on a calendar, they tend to be clumped into well-defined time frames. In other words, people in certain astrological signs seem to appeal to me much more than others, and that has been the case throughout my life. It’s rather uncanny. And if that’s merely a coincidence, it would be even more uncanny.

But then I’ve noticed this trend with names as well. For instance, if your name is Debbie or Ray or Paul or Vicky or Carol, odds are we’ll get along swimmingly. If your name is Bob or Andy or Linda, we probably won’t. Not that I’d discount you based on your name. It just often seems to work out that way in the end.

The point is, you can probably find a pattern in anything if you look hard enough.

Maybe my skepticism about astrology comes from my tendency to be stubborn and cautious, which are, by the way, common traits for Capricorns. 🙂


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