The most important skill in sportscasting: It’s not what you think

My straight hair wouldn’t do for my first job in TV, so my bosses made me perm it.

When being a sportscaster paid my bills, it seemed only one thing was really important. My knowledge of sports? My engaging personality? My ability to write stories. My golden-toned voice?

No, sports fans, it seems none of those things were the least bit crucial. You see, the most critical part of my job was my ability to style my hair. Which is pretty silly in retrospect, but which is true, since even now I find myself watching the local news and exclaiming,  “Geez! What’s with your hair?”

In this case, bigger was apparently better.

You’d think since I know better that I’d cut those anchors some slack. But…I don’t.

I fully remember the day I spoke with my mom following a show that went in spectacular fashion. “How’d you like SportsCenter last night?” I asked proudly. There was a brief pause before she replied. “I didn’t like your hair.”

This is not a coif that made me feel smarter, even though a good hairstyle is said to make one feel brainy.

Sigh…

I should have realized just how important my locks were when I got my first job in TV in Columbus, Georgia. They took a quick look at me, decided they didn’t like my straight tresses, and proceeded to have my hair permed. What followed was a constant progression of consultants who criticized my clothes, my makeup, my jewelry, and, most importantly, my hair.

The 30,000-year-old Venus of Willendorf proved humans have been styling their hair for a very long time.

I recently read an article titled “Ten Reasons Why Your Hair is the Most important Part of Your Look.” The reporter opined that nice hair enhances your beauty, can make you look like a professional or a bum, gives you confidence, and will make you feel smarter. I considered that last comment and couldn’t quite agree. Sherly Temple ringlets did not make me feel like I was a member of MENSA.

It was imperative that I got those bangs just right.

Note that hairstyling is certainly nothing new. Take, for example, the 30,000-year-old sculpture now known as the Venus of Willendorf. As you can see, our Paleolithic ancestors were already well into braids by then. And today there’s a lot of money in the global hair care market, which is expected to grow to $87 billion dollars annually by 2023.

Given a choice, I would have rather mic’d up for a football game instead of a sportscast, because when I was a referee my hair never mattered.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a nice coif, but I do wish my former employers prized me for other things, like, you know, my interviewing skills or how nice I am. (Note that the latter is still under contention, since I wasn’t always nice. I’m working on it.) In any case, it appears our fixation with hair is here to stay, so I’m just going to roll with it. That said, I hope the local anchors understand when I yell at the TV.

PS

I’ve decided that if I’d had to choose between sportscasting and officiating, I’d have just blown whistles, since nobody cared about my hair on the gridiron.

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ANCIENT RUINS, HAUNTED MEMORIES, AND A RUTHLESS CRIMINAL COMBINE WITH A TOUCH OF MYSTIC PRESENCE IN THIS TAUT MYSTERY ABOUT A CRIME WE ALL MUST ADDRESS.

THE CASTLE

Anne Montgomery

TouchPoint Press

Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense

September 13, 2021

Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—an ancient pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.

One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.

Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.

One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target. In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.

REVIEW COPIES OF THE CASTLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST
Contact: Chelsea Pieper, Publicity Manager, Media Liaison: media@touchpointpress.com

Get your copy here

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it

When I suggested covering what I thought was a great story, my coworkers were not convinced.

One day, when I was a sportscaster at ESPN, I became enthralled by a story I read. It was about a young college football player who was pursuing a career as a doctor. The young man had recently discovered a gene marker that could one day lead to advancements in the way we treat heart disease. Because of this, he’d been invited to give a talk before 200 doctors.

How cool is that?

In his spare time, the young man played wide receiver on his college team at Washington University in St. Louis. On top of that, he’d been adopted by a man who played football in the NFL.

“I’d love to do this story!” I announced to my newsroom brethren. I was shocked when all I got was silent stares.

“It’s a great story, don’t you think?”

“No!” someone called out. “Washington University is a Division III school. No one cares about them.”

“I think you’re missing the point,” I said. “Brilliant kid. Adopted. Dad plays in the NFL. Despite rigorous studies, he still finds time to play football.” I scanned the room.

Crickets.

When I later took the idea to my boss, he agreed with all the others. This was not a story ESPN was interested in.

It wasn’t until Sports Illustrated did a feature on the story I suggested that my superiors allowed me to do one as well.

That is, until it was.

The next day, when Sports Illustrated hit the stands with a feature on the kid, opinions on the story changed course instantly.

“You’re going to St. Louis,” my boss announced.

So, I flew to Missouri to meet with the young man, who turned out to be charming and brilliant. Now I don’t recall any special reaction to the story, it was the reticent treatment I received in suggesting the idea that remains.

A few years later, I faced another news director who I thought might be interested in hiring me. He asked about my ideas on covering sports stories.

“I like to look at the people who play and coach the games,” I said. “Who they are underneath their uniforms?”

“No one cares about that!” he shot back. “It’s only about the numbers. The statistics.”

“I don’t agree,” I said.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that I didn’t get the job, despite having a worked at four other TV stations at that point.  Still, if you fast forward to today, where the lives of players on and off the field are on bright display everywhere, I think maybe I was just a wee bit ahead of my time.

I’d like to think a good story is a good story whether the subject matter is news, politics, or sports. I’d like to think that numbers aren’t the point. The people are. Where they’ve come from. The problems they’ve faced. Their successes and failures. Their hopes and dreams. It’s this information that allows viewers—especially those of us without any fabulous skills—to relate to famous people.  To see ourselves in them.

While I realize there are those who would argue the point, all I can say is that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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ANCIENT RUINS, HAUNTED MEMORIES, AND A RUTHLESS CRIMINAL COMBINE WITH A TOUCH OF MYSTIC PRESENCE IN THIS TAUT MYSTERY ABOUT A CRIME WE ALL MUST ADDRESS.

THE CASTLE

Anne Montgomery

TouchPoint Press

Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense

September 13, 2021

Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—an ancient pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.

One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.

Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.

One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target. In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.

REVIEW COPIES OF THE CASTLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST
Contact: Chelsea Pieper, Publicity Manager, Media Liaison: media@touchpointpress.com

Get your copy here

“A beautifully considered, sumptuous novel from a skilled storyteller.”

My thanks to Rose at Rose Auburn-Writing and Reviews for her review of my novel Wild Horses on the Salt.

Wild Horses On The Salt (roseauburn.com)

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A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Get your copy here.

Pets give us so much for so little in return

Those of us with pets know the joy of returning home to smiling faces. Sadie, on the left, with her buddy Bella.

Sixty-seven percent of American households have pets, which equates to about 85 million families. If you are fortunate enough to live with an animal friend, you understand that there is give-and-take involved in that relationship.

I’ve had pets all my life, primarily dogs and cats with some birds and fish thrown in over the years. With the exception of the fish—which I mostly kept when I was a child—all of these creatures came from the streets or shelters or from people who could no longer care for them. I’ve lived with several dozen cats and ten dogs–most of whom lived long happy lives.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

No matter how bad your mood or how crappy your day, that wagging tail or headbutt when you open the door can make all the cranky disappear. While I abhor clichés, the “unconditional love” trope is completely understandable to pet people.

Morgan and Westin, on the right, are best friends who live indoors, so my furniture is often used for scratching.

But residing with pets is not always magical. For example, there’s the furniture conundrum, especially for those of us who must keep some pets indoors. I have a deaf kitty named Westin and his BFF Morgan, neither of whom leave the house. That means chairs second as scratching posts. For a long time, this bothered me and had me considering new furniture, which my sweetie pie pointed out would just give the cats more expensive places to claw. And so, over time, I adapted. That chair with the white fluff coming out of it no longer disturbs me. (Well, most of the time anyway.) Pet owners understand that they can love their furniture or their pets, but not both.

Then there are the bills. Once, I was called home from work where I found my cattle dog Bella whimpering terribly. “She probably has a broken leg or ruptured Achilles tendon. You’re looking at between two and three thousand dollars for surgery,” my vet said, before whisking my dog away for X-rays. But when the diagnostics were completed, the vet looked a bit sheepish. “There’s nothing wrong with Bella,” she said. “I think she’s just a drama queen.” When I was handed the bill for $623, I squinted at my dog. “Really, Bella?” Which earned me a few tail thumps.

Ryan had Baby for almost 18 years and while she crossed over the Rainbow Bridge a while back, he still wears her ID tag around his neck.

My cat Westin was found abandoned in a hotel room with 29 other cats. He lingered at the Humane Society because of skin and ear issues, but when my youngest foster son pointed out that Westin was like him—since no one had wanted him either—I found myself with a pet whose upkeep exceeds the combined expense of every animal I’ve had in my life. When the vet asks if I want an itemized bill, I say, “Absolutely not!” and hand over my credit card. And yet when Westin curls onto my lap every night, it seems money well spent. (See how we pet people justify ourselves?)

Of course, the most difficult part about being pet parents are those end-of-life decisions. Even when said pet has lived a long, healthy life, the end is excruciating. My sweetie pie, who by all accounts is a big tough guy, still wears his dog’s ID tag on a chain around his neck. His Baby gave him almost 18 years and those last moments at the vet were heartbreaking. I’ve been in that special room at the animal hospital too many times, and yet despite the sadness of losing a friend, I can’t imagine living without animals.

They give us so much for so little in return. Even Bella, the drama queen.

ANCIENT RUINS, HAUNTED MEMORIES, AND A RUTHLESS CRIMINAL COMBINE WITH A TOUCH OF MYSTIC PRESENCE IN THIS TAUT MYSTERY ABOUT A CRIME WE ALL MUST ADDRESS.

THE CASTLE

Anne Montgomery

TouchPoint Press

Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense

September 13, 2021

Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—an ancient pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.

One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.

Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.

One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target. In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.

REVIEW COPIES OF THE CASTLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST


Contact: Chelsea Pieper, Publicity Manager, Media Liaison

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Register & Order Online: TouchPointPress.com/Bookstore
Orders: info@touchpointpress.com
Also from Ingram and major retailers

Get your copy here

Saved by a bag of corn

A quick trip to Trader Joe’s turned into a frantic search for frozen food.

Old age rears its ugly head in the strangest places.

I had just had a lovely massage. Well, lovely doesn’t really describe the thumbs and elbows that get pressed into my flesh weekly by Chinese reflexologists who strive to keep me upright. In any case, I was walking through the parking lot post massage on my way to Trader Joe’s when my sweetie pie handed me a cold bottle of water. I took a drink and it went down the wrong way, which caused me to cough and, ipso facto, triggered a back spasm the moment I walked through the door.

“Ow…ow…ow!’

“What?” Ryan stared over the grocery cart.

“I have a back spasm!” I grabbed my angry tailbone and tried to think about what I’d come in to purchase. “Ow!” Then I turned and ran up the nearest aisle. Butter, bread, eggs, cheese. No help at all. I rounded the corner and hurried down the next aisle. Frozen foods: Mandarin Orange Chicken, Angus Beef Burgers, ice cream, popsicles. Nothing useful. Halfway down the row, my back pulsing like a bass drum, I began to despair. And then I saw a bag of frozen corn. I scooped the red-and-yellow sack from freezer with the intention of inserting it into my pants.

But…my logical brain made me pause. There were shoppers all around me. What would they think if they saw me shoving corn under my shirt? So, I ran to the end of the aisle, corn in hand, bolted around the bend, and scooted to the checkout line. There I found Olivia, a nice young woman Ryan and I spoke with every week.

“Olivia! I’m going to buy this!” I held up the bag. “But I have to put it in my pants first!”

This bag of corn saved my butt. Literally.

Lovely girl that she is, Olivia didn’t skip a beat. She smiled. “That’s fine!”

And so, I slid that gloriously frozen bag of corn into my shorts. But I still had shopping to do and while I tried to concentrate the pain persisted. And then the bag of corn started falling down my leg. “Is there a restroom?”

Ry pointed to what looked like a far-off corner. I toddled in that direction, sensing the bag of corn slipping from its perch in my pants. What if it dropped to the floor? Would the people behind me assume I was a shoplifter? My brain whirled. Would I be arrested? Surely, I could explain.

Once inside the restroom, I adjusted the bag of corn. While I had to waddle a bit to keep it in place, I thought it would stay put, but as I walked through the store that cold bag started to slip again, so I had to slap my hand over my butt to keep it in place. Yes, I wondered what that looked like from behind, but surely my hand on my own backside was far better than having that bag of corn plop down at my feet.

“What else do we need to get?” Ry asked.

“Nothing!” I really needed to sit on that corn to get the spasm to stop, so we both zoomed into Olivia’s checkout line. I suddenly realized the corn needed to be scanned. I briefly considered retrieving another bag, but knew I’d never make it to the frozen food aisle and back without a corn accident.

Ry, as always, came to the rescue. “Give me the bag.”

I dug my hand into my shorts and proffered the corn. When Olivia reached out for it, Ryan waved his hand. “I’ll scan it for you.”

Once inside the car, I placed my bottom on the frozen bag and waited while the pain subsided. (Cold is rather magical.)

Later, when we got home, I went to throw the corn away, but Ry stopped me. “Just put it in the freezer,” he said.

“I think we should throw it out.”

“It’s fine.”

So, in the freezer it remains. Now, every time I open the drawer, that bag of corn stares at me accusingly.

“I paid for you,” I mumble as I close the door, noting perhaps a little gratitude is in order. “Thank you for saving my butt.”

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ANCIENT RUINS, HAUNTED MEMORIES, AND A RUTHLESS CRIMINAL COMBINE WITH A TOUCH OF MYSTIC PRESENCE IN THIS TAUT MYSTERY ABOUT A CRIME WE ALL MUST ADDRESS.

THE CASTLE

Anne Montgomery

Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

September 13, 2021

Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—an ancient pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.

One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.

Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.

One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target. In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.

REVIEW COPIES OF THE CASTLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST


Contact: Chelsea Pieper, Publicity Manager, Media Liaison

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Register & Order Online: TouchPointPress.com/Bookstore
Orders: info@touchpointpress.com
Also from Ingram and major retailers

Get your copy here

Cover Reveal: The Castle

I am delighted to announce that my new novel, The Castle, will be published by TouchPoint Press on September 13, 2021.

ANCIENT RUINS, HAUNTED MEMORIES, AND A RUTHLESS CRIMINAL COMBINE WITH A TOUCH OF MYSTIC PRESENCE IN THIS TAUT MYSTERY ABOUT A CRIME WE ALL MUST ADDRESS.

The Castle

Anne Montgomery

Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

September 13, 2021

Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—an ancient pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.

One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.

Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.

One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target. In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.

REVIEW COPIES OF THE CASTLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Contact: Chelsea Pieper, Publicity Manager, Media Liaison

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Register & Order Online: TouchPointPress.com/Bookstore
Orders: info@touchpointpress.com
Also from Ingram and major retailers

Get your copy here


Teaching history: What’s wrong with the truth?

I was a teacher for 20 years. During that time, I taught journalism, communications, reading, and, for one year, history.

I have a great love of history and was fortunate that during my college years I was afforded a vast array of interesting courses. Not only did I study US history, I took European history, Chinese history, Russian history, and Black history. I traveled to Greece and Italy one summer to study the beginnings of civilization and ancient history. I spent a semester in Luxembourg—that tiny country hemmed in by French, Germany, and Belgium—where my studies focused primarily on the history leading up to and including both world wars.

I mention this now because history is under assault.  But let’s backtrack a little.

First, history is messy. There’s good and bad, light and darkness, stupidity and brilliance. The problem, of course, is that those in charge tend to record history from their own perspective. Hence the reason that when I was studying the past women were rarely mentioned. Nor were people who weren’t white males. Now don’t freak out here. I’m not denigrating white males. I’m just saying that history written from one viewpoint is rarely infallible. No crime here. Just a bit myopic.

I learned as a teacher that history is not well respected as a course of study. In fact, when some of my communications classes were cancelled and I asked to teach the subject, I was told that coaches taught history, which made me wonder if any of them had their hearts in the subject.  Maybe that’s why I rarely had students who said they liked history. Most rolled their eyes, intimating it was boring.  

Today, the rallying cry is Critical Race Theory, a horrible label for an area of study that only suggests we look boldly and clear eyed at our past. (Let me mention here that there are few if any schools who are currently using this curriculum, so perhaps those opposed are searching for a solution without a problem.)

That said, no country is perfect. But ignoring our sometimes tainted past helps no one.  Can you imagine being a student in Germany and never learning about the Nazis and the Holocaust? Of course not. So why should we ignore some of the awful things our ancestors did?

As a former reporter, I think history should be approached in the same way as a news story. (Of course, I’m talking about the process real journalists adhere to, but that’s for another story.) History teachers and students need to look closely at the sources from which their historical facts are gleaned. They need to consider their own beliefs to see if personal biases are distorting their understanding of the information. And they need to listen to different voices. For example, imagine the disparities one might encounter in the thoughts of a general, a foot soldier, and a prisoner of war. One needs the skills of a detective to absorb the words and pictures, then mull them over to discern the truth.

It’s my hope that we can stop fighting over the teaching of history. I know we can handle the truth and that we can learn from it and perhaps understand one another better.

What could it hurt?

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A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Modern dating needs more social skills

Lack of attention to social skills will have ramifications down the road.

I’m worried about young people. From recent indications it appears social skills have vanished.

“I was texting this guy I just met,” Makayla said recently. “Then he sent me a picture of himself naked.”

I would love to say I was surprised, but I wasn’t. When I was still teaching high school, my students sometimes admitted that they too had received and/or sent naked pictures of themselves to others online. No matter how often I cautioned them about the pitfalls of this process, it didn’t seem to matter.

“When your boyfriend swears he won’t pass those photos around to his friends, he’s lying.” I’d look around the room and could see the girls didn’t believe me. “Those pictures can stay online forever. How will you feel twenty years from now if your kids find them?”

Crickets.

“And, if you’re over 18 and still have pictures like that on your phone and the person in the pictures is underage, that’s child porn. That’s a lifetime sentence of having to register as a sex offender.”

Giggles.

“When you’re out in the workplace, what you post is important, because your employers will be taking a close look at your social media sites. If you’re dancing on a bar knocking back a shot or sucking on a joint, you might not keep your job.”

“That’s not fair!” a student would usually call out.

I’d shrug. “Life’s not fair and never will be. You’ll lose your job, but they won’t tell you why.”

Even when young people meet in person, they are often more absorbed in their phones than in those who are with them.

While I can’t blame the predilection to share unsavory images entirely on cellphones themselves, the devices with their cameras and continual presence make young people more inclined to slip into bad habits, and this is where the lack of social skills comes in. People 30 and under have grown up with a cellphone in their hands and their eyes on the screen. The average American spends almost five-and-a-half hours on the phone everyday. The device is their best friend, a machine without which they can’t seem to function. Its constant presence means they can easily ignore those around them. (If you don’t believe me, the next time you go out to dinner, peruse the room and count the people who are more interested in the folks who are not with them than those who are.)

The big  problem is children—with their heads down, buried in a screen—are not learning how to talk to one another in person. They often don’t make eye contact and lack basic conversational skills, aptitudes many of us learned in elementary school. Also, because they generally don’t see the person with whom they’re corresponding, they often miss important body-language cues.

I’ll pick on the boys here, even though girls are equally guilty. We have young men—who once upon a time might have asked a girl on a date so they could get to know one another better—sending dick pics as an opening salvo in a relationship. While they idea is astounding to most of us, I sense these young men think what they’re doing is a perfectly acceptable way to get a girl to go out with them.

Without attention to social skills there won’t be a lot of happy endings.

Clearly, there is a serious disconnect when it comes to communication today, something I blame on cellphones, digital media, and the rush to make all students submit to careers in STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math.

Note that as a former communications teacher, I am, of course, biased. Before my classes and a host of other soft-skills courses were abandoned for technology programs, I worked hard to teach my students how to function in a face-to-face world: How to introduce themselves and shake hands. How to “interview” others so they could get to know them better. How to listen and think before speaking. How to stand in front of a crowd and tell a story. How to read body language. How to work as part of a team.

Now, many people are muddling through their lives without even basic communications skills. They take phone calls during job interviews. Cry when mildly disciplined. Ignore the feelings of those around them. Show neither sympathy nor empathy. And lack the skills needed to participate in a productive in-person conversation. The ramifications are missed opportunities, unnecessary conflict, job losses, misunderstandings, and, ultimately, loneliness.

I turned to my 20-year-old. “When you meet someone new, how would you like them to treat you?” I asked.

Makayla considered the question. “I want them to try to actually get to know me,” she said. “I want them to ask me questions. I want them to be interested in me and not my body.”

Exactly!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is wild-horses-on-the-salt-cover-2.jpg

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

A nightmare over numbers

The monsters in my nightmares are a clock and a cellphone.

For most of my life, I’ve had the same recurring nightmare. I need to get somewhere quickly, but I can’t. I’m saddled with too many things to carry. I can’t remember exactly where my destination is. I can’t read the written directions. I’ve forgotten where I left my car. I lost my wallet and have no money or credit cards or identification. I have no clothes.

No one will help me.

These dreams are endless and exhausting, occurring in different locales worldwide. People I know appear then disappear. Strangers are kind for a few moments, then vanish into the crowd. The whole time the clock is ticking. I must get to the airport, class, game, theater on time, but something always holds me back.

Which brings me to my aversion to cellphones. (Stay with me.)  I acquired my very first mobile phone at the ripe old age of 65, because it’s almost impossible to function today without one. In case you’re wondering, it was probably 20 years of teaching in a high school classroom— begging my students to, Please, put the phones down!—that precipitated my loathing of cellphones.

And now I have a new reason to dislike the tiny computers, a real-world disturbing twist. In my most recent I’m-late-and-can’t-get-where-I need-to-go dream, I realized my cellphone was missing. This was the first time the wee gadget has wormed its way into my psyche. There I was in dreamland, this time facing a blackout and a hurricane—I could see waves crashing over the mountains in Arizona, and, no, LSD was not involved—and all I wanted to do was call my sweetie pie to come get me.

I used to know dozens of phone numbers by heart. Now the only one I know is my own.

But…I couldn’t remember his phone number. Now, I ask you older folks, back when you were a kid, how many phone numbers were crammed into your skull? You knew every one of your friends phone numbers by heart, as well as scores of others, am I right? Now…how many do you know today, besides your own?

See the problem?

It’s that contacts button that screws us up, never requiring us to remember phone numbers. When I awoke with a start from my dream, I realized I’d never even tried to remember my sweetie pie’s cellphone number. I’ll defend myself here a little. I’m dyslexic and have always been especially bad with numbers, so punching that contacts button seemed like a process invented especially for me. Then again, the idea of being unable to contact my loved ones—nope, I don’t even know my kids’ numbers—is scary.

I must do better. I need to start memorizing those numbers. But I don’t seem to ever get to it. A true conundrum.

Whenever I usually wake from those nightmares, my logical brain tells me to not be silly. In real life, I’d seek help from a police officer or other helpful type. But surely, they would ask me to contact my loved ones and sans my cellphone that wouldn’t happen.

What’s a girl to do?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is wild-horses-on-the-salt-cover-2.jpg

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

A lesson about flounder puberty

I grew up watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, a TV show that explored the animal world. (And now you know how old I am.) I mention this because I continue to be amazed by the strangeness and beauty of the animal world. Take the peacock flounder for example, one of my all-time favorite creatures to meet when I’m scuba diving.

Peacock flounder are lovely creatures that work very hard at growing up.

As cooks might know, flounders are flat fish with eyes that tend to point in different directions. But did you ever wonder how they became flat? It might surprise you to know that flounders are born just like most other fish, but when they hit fishy puberty, they flop over on one side. This can be rather problematic at first, since that means one of their poor little eyes is now facing down. But no worries. The brilliant flounder can make its bottom eye crawl around its head where it ends up next to the other eye. As I mentioned earlier, the eye positioning is not perfect, which gives the wee guy a bit of an off-kilter look. Still, they adjust and eventually the teenage flounder starts swimming sideways.

Why, you ask? It’s an evolutionary thing. Flounder figured out that it’s easier to hide from predators if they can lie flat on the bottom of the sea. Blending in is important in their watery world, which brings me back to the peacock flounder. These guys have magnificent turquoise spots and purple edges when they’re swimming, but as soon as they alight on something, they change color to blend in, just like their land cousin the chameleon. Isn’t that cool?

Magically, the peacock flounder can turn colors instantly to blend in with its surroundings.

I often thought of the flounder in my high school classroom, where the changes associated with human puberty sometimes popped up in conversation. I realized it was a tough time in the lives of the young people I taught, something we adults understand as we all somehow survived that often tumultuous life change.

Whenever students seemed overwhelmed, I would tell them the story of flounder puberty. I hoped it might make them understand that things could be worse. I mean, imagine if your eye had to crawl to the other side of your head.

Often, the tale elicited a shocked silence, as they tried to wrap their heads around a sideways-swimming fish with a migrating eye. While I thought it was a perfect teachable moment, I sensed the kids just thought me strange.

But we teachers hold on to the hope that maybe, someday, our charges will understand our reasoning, an a-ha moment that will make them remember what we said and why.

In the case of the flounder, said messages would be change is a part of life, we need to monitor and adjust as we go, and that, in regard to puberty, things could have been so much worse.

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb