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Laughter IS the Best Brain Medicine With Vikki Claflin

11 Apr

It is so rare to find someone who makes you laugh until your cheeks hurt. It is even more unusual to find out that that hillarious person lives with a disease that changes how they think.

Vikki Claflin is that incredibly rare person. Daily she face challenges and changes that come with Parkinson’s Disease and has found a way to laugh herself (and anyone within earshot) through her moments. Vikki’s first book, Shake, Rattle & Roll With It: Living & Laughing with Parkinson’s chronicles her hilarious, and sometimes poignant journey, about living with Parkinson’s disease. Wow, humor as medicine at its finest.

Her newly released book, Who Left the Cork Out of My Lunch? Middle Age, Modern Marriage & Other Complications is available now on She generously agreed to share a story from that absolutely hillarious book here! A huge thanks to Vikki for sharing the laughter and the love. Here is it!!!

Living the Frugal Life. Not So Much

One recent, sunny afternoon, I decided to make a quick stop at the Taco Bell drive-through and, feeling pleased with my sudden surge of frugality, I reminded the clerk that I was eligible for the senior discount. He replied that although they didn’t actually have a discount, they did offer “older people” a free soft drink. Resisting the urge to kill the mood by reaching through the window and smacking the insolent pup on the back of his head, I smiled and agreed to take the deal.

My 1974 car was built before cup holders, so I set my drink carefully on the console and began to pull forward, forgetting that my car has a tendency to surge at will when you press the gas pedal. Unfortunately, it willed and immediately lunged forward, just hard enough to toss my drink in one direction and the lid in another, spraying the entire interior of my car, including the dashboard, windshield, and sheepskin covers, with sticky, icy cola. Seriously??

This frugal thing may not be for me.

Generally speaking, when I hear the word “frugal,” my brain conjures up visions of living in a yurt, weaving my own clothes, wearing Birkenstocks year-round, and using dryer lint to re-plump my couch cushions. Frugal living seems to bear more than a passing resemblance to dieting. Its entire premise is based on deprivation. “Here, take this notepad and write down everything to like to eat/buy. That’s going to be your list of things you can never have again.” Awesome.

But it’s hard to argue with the fact that today’s economy often requires cutting back on non-necessities. Like many couples, Hubs and I have spent countless evenings ferreting out exactly where the money went that month and why, and whether or not we can avoid or reduce that expense next month. Like DEA dogs sniffing out cocaine at LAX, we’re constantly on the hunt for hidden spending habits that need to be eliminated.

Then a few weeks ago, I received a newsletter from a local financial guru, promoting his upcoming talk on “How to Live a Frugal, but Fabulous Life,” and it included these “fun tips” on saving money:

1. Buy generic brands. This only works if the generic brand is actually edible. Some are fine. Others are just plain nasty. Hint: If it comes in a large plastic bag and the leprechaun on the front looks more like a garden gnome, it doesn’t taste like Lucky Charms.

2. Buy in bulk. Unless you have four refrigerators and eat a lot of hamburgers, who the hell needs 12 bottles of ketchup? And “Split it between friends” assumes someone (yeah, that would be you) is supposed to drive all over town to deliver the other 11 bottles and collect the money. I’ve already got two jobs.

3. Reuse your paper towels. So now I’ve either got a clothes line in my kitchen, or every surface is constantly covered with drying paper towels that we can reuse later that day. If you’re OCD, this will make your head explode.

4. Wait until the dishwasher and washing machine are full before you run them. Since there’s only two of us, that means I’ll be standing in the kitchen tomorrow morning, buck naked, with a dirty fry pan.

5. Pump your own gas. I tried this once. Sprayed my clothes with back-splash and spent $40 getting the gas smell drycleaned out of my favorite jacket. Big savings.

6. Take your cans in and recycle them yourself. By the time I repeatedly stuck 100 cans in those constantly jamming recycle machines at the local supermarket, I was pissed off and covered with sticky cola residue. The $3 I made didn’t cover the 90-minute relaxation massage and cleaning costs required to regain my zen.

7. Clip coupons. Perfect. Now I get to become one of those women who backs up a line at Safeway for 25 minutes while she digs for the appropriate coupon in her erroneously named “EZ Coupon Finder” notebook, and then proceeds to argue with the cashier about the expiration date, until a manager has to be called over the loudspeaker to come down and resolve the issue. This is a small town. We know where you live, and we hate you.

8. Set up all your bills on Auto Pay, to avoid late fees. Don’t. Think. So. Financial experts are constantly warning us to keep our banking information secure and confidential, but then, because it’s a business request, we cheerfully hand over our account numbers and all our personal information, which they immediately email to an English-as-a-9th-language yahoo in their Billing Department in Sri Lanka. Like that’snever backfired on anyone. And once they take the money out, good luck trying to get it back.

9. Make your own housecleaning products. I tried that once. In an ill-advised attempt to create a better bathroom cleaner than what was on the market, I poured every cleaning product we had into a big bucket, including bleach and ammonia. Almost blew the house up and it took months for my eyelashes to grow back. Moving on.

10. Ditch the gym membership and work out at home. Good idea, if you’re not ADHD. 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer takes two hours to accomplish if you’re getting off every other minute to put the clothes in the dryer, let the dogs out, answer the phone, and check your blog stats. Who’s got the time?

11. Take home the sugar and condiment packages from fast-food restaurants. Because nothing says “class” like serving your family and guests dinner with bowls of ketchup packets you boosted from the local McD’s.

12. Don’t flush after just a pee. Wait until it matters. Wow. Few things leave me speechless.
But in keeping with the spirit of savings, Hubs and I have our own way of being frugal. On those days we’re just itching to go on a spending bender, we head out to Costco (an hour away) and spend the afternoon happily going up and down every aisle, piling our cart high with every single “really cool and amazingly low-priced” item we just can’t live without. Then we park the cart at the front of the store and dash across the street to the Wooden Chicken Pub for cheap lunch and drinks, feeling the rush of shopping, without spending any money.

White trash frugality at its finest.

headshotVikki is an international best-selling author, humor blogger, and inspirational public speaker. She lives in Hood River, OR, where she writes the award-winning humor blog Laugh Lines: Humorous thoughts and advice on how to live young when you’re…well…not, where she doles out irreverent advice on marriage, offers humorous how-to lists galore, and shares her most embarrassing midlife moments. She shows us how to master midlife with a little common sense and a lot of laughter.
Vikki has been featured on the Michael J. Fox Foundation website, Erma Bombeck’s Writer’s Workshop, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Generation Fabulous, Midlife Boulevard, Better After 50, and Funny Times Magazine. She also received a BlogHer14 “Voices of the Year” Humor award.
Vikki’s first book, Shake, Rattle & Roll With It: Living & Laughing with Parkinson’s chronicles her hilarious, and sometimes poignant journey, about living with Parkinson’s disease. Her newly released book, Who Left the Cork Out of My Lunch? Middle Age, Modern Marriage & Other Complications is available now on You can find more of Vikki’s writing at

Guest Post by Nancy Hill: Perspective Framing & Crunches for Your Cranium

23 Oct

Last week I put out a challenge to try a perspective shifting exercise and the brilliant mind behind Reason Creek (among other brainy projects), Nancy Hill, jumped in!  Here is her experience in her words!  I hope you love this guest post as much as I do!

Ruth Curran, aka Capt’n Crunch, the proprietress of Cranium Crunches plays with images for her brain building business. This last weekend she suggested a guest post when I said I liked the what can you find in a bounded space exercise. I said I wanted to do this camera exercise on the local university campus where I am temporarily working.


I rediscovered this great little grotto near the main library when I got off the campus shuttle and started to take a path, a path that I took to the doors where I entered the building all the time 20 years ago when I worked for the same department. But the path no longer leads to an outdoor plaza walkway between an archival section and the main library. It leads to a back wall of a Starbucks and then on into two tiered plazas, one sunny and one shady, but both now dead-ends where once they were nice diversions on a main thoroughfare. I decided I wanted to have lunch on the lower tier and do Ruth’s camera exercise. I would not do this after twilight, too secluded, but the temps are dropping in Tucson and the shaded lower court seemed like a perfect spot to snag some pics and eat a sack lunch.

I ate that sack lunch.

carrot cake

Carrot cake. Smooshed, but still yummy.

I enjoy visits to Cranium Crunches because beyond being good exercise for my brain, I am an info-nerd and meaning-junkie with a bit of a fixation on framing and much of the information on this site is about perspective and framing although not overtly treated as such. Most people familiar with the concept of framing probably learned about it from one of George Lakoff’s popular works such as Don’t Think of an Elephant. I am intrigued by how much of our lives we tend to live while on auto-pilot, and how powerful conscious control over perception can be.

In this exercise I decided to take some liberties and not just to do close-ups (my phone camera does not do anything close to a macro) but to see on what I could choose to focus, both near and far, from the little courtyard.

First I looked down at my feet. IMG_5075

My initial thought was, “Cute shoes.” Then I saw them.

cigarette butts

“Yech.” Did not want to focus those.

So I looked up.


That’s better.


More non-native trees, but typical for Tucson palms. And neat angles.


Lots of neat angles.


And the nature of those angles shifted with context.

I decided to grab some close ups to see what I had missed by not paying close attention. I found great textures I will use for backgrounds.


And there were other things which I might be able to use for article illustrations.

IMG_5143You never know when you might need a pic of bird poop. IMG_5140

A door handle.


Bench supports to illustrate the concept of under.


Or a cistern/utility/manhole cover.

But best of all, I found creatures.


Lizard 1.


Lizard 2.

Lizard 2.



Lizards 1 and 2 as I first spotted them.

This was a much richer environment than I had thought. There were so many, totally distinct, completely different items and aspects on which I could focus.





The decision to pay attention is mine. What I notice, those things upon which I focus, are also choices I exercise. This little exercise taught me more than I thought it would when I first decided it would be a fun way to spend a lunch hour. There really are infinite perspectives and many of these, beyond the basic constraints of our species, are under our individual control.


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