Wednesday, April 11, 2018

This is only a test

        Today's news on my favorite radio station was interrupted by a rude, insistent buzzer. The repeated, off-key tone was vaguely familiar. It was followed by an easily recognizable announcement.
        "This has been  a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This was only a test. If it had been a real emergency..."
         The announcement continued to list possible emergencies such as a tornado or a nuclear power plant accident and assured us that in a real emergency this irritating buzzer would be followed by helpful safety information. I had read that there was going to be a test of the tornado alert system so I should have been expecting the sound.
          Yet the alarming buzzer brought back memories of my teen years, back in the '60s, when such alerts would come on the radio at least weekly and television ended every day with the test pattern. Now those days of the "cold war" seem so safe compared to today.
          The buzzer also reminded me of my divorce in the 1980s. I faced a series of traumas in those days, my son's health, financial problems, even typical homeowner hassles like a thunder storm surge that destroyed my only television. Every time I would face one of these traumas I would hear that buzzer in my head and the announcer saying "This is a test. It is only a test. Had it been a real emergency..."

Friday, February 9, 2018


           How long has it been since you felt like cheering for our country?
           Join me over the next two weeks watching the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. I'm enjoying cheering for America, even when figure skater Nathan Chen falls twice. But these bright, young athletes bounce over moguls and spin through the air on their skis and suddenly the bloated national budget, Russian investigation and thoughtless tweets are forgotten. 
        I'm not just cheering for my country. I'm getting caught up in the surprising performance of Israel's figure skaters, or the romantic artistry of the Italian team. I'm tickled by the moxie of the Jamaican luge team, and warmed by the North and South Korean athletes working together.
        Okay, maybe Friday's opening ceremony was overly sentimental and dramatic. I know the threats of nuclear annihilation don't disappear with a parade of smiling faces and waving flags. But it's like Camelot. For one brief shining moment all the fighting and hateful rhetoric is drowned out by applause and fireworks. 
         When Korean pop stars sang John Lennon's "Imagine" with the whole auditorium waving lights I could imagine for a few minutes that world peace is possible. I know the Olympics don't have a peaceful history. I know terrible attacks have happened before and are possible again, but no matter what happens in the days and weeks and months ahead I will always remember that beautiful moment.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Pacify as needed

"Improvise," said the man at the kayak store. It was the third stop in a fruitless afternoon of seeking a replacement  part. The day before I had taken out my kayak on the first adventure of this year's winter in the Keys. When I returned I discovered the black rubber stopper in the drainage hole was practically rotted through.
         I bought the cheap kayak seven years ago at Kmart, but I discovered they don't have replacement parts. My second stop was Home Depot which stocks a wide variety of black rubber stoppers, but the ones with a handle to pull the stopper out were too large.  That was the same problem with the replacement parts for the better quality boats at the kayak store.
          So I decided to take the clerk's advice. Back in Michigan I have a daisy bottle stopper that would probably do the trick. I was in Dollar Tree to make some other purchases so I looked for a bottle stopper. No luck. I was roaming the store trying to find something else that would work, when I spotted a pacifier.
           "Baaaa" my son used to call it. For most of his first two years "Baaa" could satisfy every need. Hunger. Fear. Loneliness. We lost Baaa once when we were traveling. The baby cried so much we went from store to store looking for the special Nuk brand. Finally we found one and my son was instantly satisfied.
           Could Baaaa satisfy a disgruntled kayak?
     Perfect fit, and the color even  matches!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Year of the Shoe

New Year, New way to post! Happy, happy!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Words on the Wise

      If you had to find three wise men in today's world, who would you pick?
         The Biblical Magi were "from the East." In today's vernacular might mean someone from an Ivy League school. Somebody like former President Barack Obama who graduated from Harvard or the presidents Bush who both graduated from Yale. Or maybe we should consider a king on a whole different level, like Amazon entrepreneur Jeff Bezos who earned two degrees from Princeton: electrical engineering and computer science.
         Since the job requires following a star, maybe we should look for wise men among the top astronomers. Maybe somebody like cosmologist Stephen Hawking. His best-selling book "A Brief History of Time" is almost as mind-boggling as his ability to excel despite ALS paralysis.  Maybe we need a young, healthy astronomer like Brian Cox, a former rocker turned BBC science personality. Or maybe we need to turn to a wise woman like NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, who did the trajectory analysis for astronauts like Alan Shepherd and John Glenn and was one of the characters in the movie "Hidden Figures.".
         But isn't wisdom more than quantum physics? King Solomon used his wisdom to make wise choices, good judgments.Assuming age brings wisdom, maybe we need somebody like 84-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the oldest judge on the US Supreme Court. Or perhaps we should rely on the wisdom of a church leader like Pope Francis who has been called upon to make all sorts of judgements lately for the Catholic Church.
         Does wisdom imply wealth? If someone were wise wouldn't they know how to be rich? Like Mark Zukerberg who figured out how to build an international backyard fence and make billions off of our desire to gossip.
        Or should we look for the ability to communicate, to speak and write wise words? Someone like linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky who is known for stating simple truths such as "If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all."
        Or how about Lin Manuel Miranda who figured out the right words to make an unsung hero like Alexander Hamilton  come alive for Americans of all generations and races. 
        Wise can mean many different things. There are even negative connotations like "wise guys" and "wise crack."
         So I leave this Christmas conundrum in your hands. Post the names of three wise men living today. And have a very Merry Christmas.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Flood warning!

           In Iceland they call it Jolabokaflod or Christmas Book Flood.
           Books have been the gift of choice for Christmas since WWII when currency restrictions limited imported giftware. Now Iceland publishes more books per person than any country in the world. The Iceland Publishers Association puts out a catalog every year. When the catalog shows up in every mailbox, the excitement begins. People select the titles they think will please each person on their list. 
            Christmas gifts are usually opened on Dec. 24 and everybody spends Christmas Eve reading. It's a tradition!
             This year I am taking a tip from Jolabokaflod. Each day in December, on the Sue Merrell Books Facebook page, I will recommend a book by a local author. There's a flood of good stories out there, something perfect for everyone on your list.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Miles and marketing

I'm part of the lunch bunch generation. Meeting for lunch was the way we made business connections when I was working. Now that I'm retired, it continues to be my primary way to connect with friends.  That is until fellow author friend Janet Vormittag came up with a more healthy option.
         Janet is currently riding a wave of success with her latest book "You Might Be a Crazy Cat Lady if..."  Last spring she asked me to meet for lunch to discuss book marketing ideas. It was quickly apparent this was going to take more than one session, so Janet suggested meeting at Johnson Park and discussing marketing ideas while we walked up and down the wooded hills.
          Over the summer we talked and walked at least once a week. We read and discussed "Online Marketing for Busy Authors" by Fauzia Burke,  which influenced changes in our Websites and Facebook pages. We came up with totally off-the-wall ideas such as my traveling shoe posts and her Crazy Cat Lady parties. We signed up for book events such as the Pumpkin Fest in Montague and the Trail of Michigan Authors in Muskegon. We both did radio interviews with Zinta Aistars.We even explored a new walking trail in Ottawa County.
        Now the trees have turned, the leaves have fallen, and this morning we sought refuge from the cold wind by walking at the mall.  No doubt we racked up more miles than book sales, but the walks impacted more than our Fitbits. This weekend Janet is featured at the Novi Pet Expo, an idea we discussed on our very first walk back in May. And next weekend I'll participate in the Local Author Jamboree at The Book Nook and Java Shop in Montague, something that's been on my bucket list for years.
     To paraphrase Robert Frost, we have miles to go before we rest, miles to go before we rest.