Sunday, January 31, 2010

It's Only a Soap Opera ...for Haiti

I have a friend, a doctor, who has been working with the relief efforts in Haiti the past few weeks. I've actually never met her in person. We met on Twitter because of our common interest in a soap opera. Over the past few months we've shared laughs and observations on parenting and seen each other through the illness and death of loved ones. If anyone says that online friends aren't real friends, I beg to differ.

My friend will be leaving Haiti in a matter of hours and others will take up the work there as it will surely continue for the foreseeable future. I was thinking of what I could possibly do to help the cause. I’m not a doctor and I’m never going to have much spare cash to give to relief efforts, either. But I think I’ve come up with something that could make a difference and at the same time honor my friend and the work she’s been doing with Doctors Without Borders.

I came up with a series of designs a few months ago that I’ve expanded into a full line of products in my Zazzle shop. It started with the phrase “My life is a soap opera…What would Erica Do?” That’s referring, of course, to Erica Kane, the character on All My Children, played so beautifully by Susan Lucci for the past 40 years. I came up with some other phrases, all beginning with “My life is a soap opera…”, adding other characters from Guiding Light, One Life to Live, General Hospital, and the Young & the Restless.

Recently when Crystal Chappell (Carly Manning/DOOL, Olivia Spencer/GL) was on The Bonnie Hunt Show, Bonnie did a comedy bit during the opening of the show, playing her own evil twin who was aghast at the awful things Crystal’s character had done on Days of Our Lives. Crystal picked up on that during her interview, too, and they had a good laugh. (You can see a clip of the interview here.)

The next day when Crystal was on Twitter I sent her the link to this mug:

Crystal saw it and tweeted back, “Hilarious! I love it!” Apparently quite a few people took a look at my Twitter profile page to see what I’d said to her that was so hilarious and clicked on that link, too, because that mug was among the Top 10 Most Viewed Mugs on Zazzle that day!

My conclusions... you can reach a lot of people through Twitter and there are a lot of soap opera fans out there.

So, here’s what I’ve decided to do. From now through the end of February, I will be tweeting links to all my Zazzle products in the “My Life Is A Soap Opera…” line and hopefully my fellow soap opera fans will be retweeting them. I will keep track of all the sales of those items and send all my proceeds to Doctors Without Borders to be used in their relief efforts in Haiti.

I know that every dollar makes a difference in Haiti right now. Using these designs for a fund-raising project like this makes sense because so many soap opera stars go out of their way to get involved in charity projects. For example, recently, Nancy Lee Grahn got on the phone and gathered several of her soap star friends on very short notice to meet fans in person at the Rose Bowl and take donations for Haiti. (I have a “…What Would Alexis Do?” design in my Zazzle shop for the character she plays on General Hospital.)

And who knows, maybe I’ll find some other soap fans out there who will offer to match the amount I bring in and Doctors Without Borders will benefit even more.

So look for me on Twitter… I’m DonnaDPool …and if you see my tweets with these links, please take a look, and if you like what you see and want to buy it, know that all of my earnings from each sale (above Zazzle’s cost for producing the item) will be going to help the people of Haiti. I’ll be adding new items throughout the month. Oh, and I do take requests so if your favorite soap character isn’t represented, just leave a comment here.

I’ll be sure to keep you updated here on this blog.

Thank you.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


In a few hours the president will give his State of the Union address. I'll tune in, like I always do, because I'd rather watch it and draw my own conclusions instead of waiting for somebody else in the news media to tell me what they think I'm supposed to think about it.

Earlier today I was glued to a website that offered live-blogging of the Apple event that announced the new iPad. I couldn't attend the event but I wanted to see for myself what the presentation actually said and get my own first impression as best I could before reading the tech bloggers and news media reports about this gadget that may or my not be revolutionary.

Watching what people are saying on twitter about this gadget shows that the opinions are many and varied and quite a few people are, shall we say, not entirely sold on the name yet. But some of the comments show how well people are listening, or rather, what they were listening for.

For some, the things this gadget will do fall by the wayside if it doesn't do that one thing you wanted most... whatever that may be. Plug your TV into the video-out port... no, it doesn't have one of those. Make phone calls with it? No, it's not a phone. What?! No camera?! Not this time.

Considering the leaps and bounds of the technology industry it's still a pretty impressive gadget. My husband and I bought the original Macintosh when it came out in 1984, with it's 128k ram, single 400k floppy drive, no hard drive, and greyscale screen and it was pretty impressive back then, too. Guess everybody's got to start somewhere. (Personally, I was reminded of the PADD or Personal Access Display Device from Star Trek: The Next Generation, which I thought was pretty cool!)

The reason I mention the State of the Union speech and this announcement from Apple in the same blog post is because I want to challenge you to do something tonight that some did not do this afternoon.


Don't listen for anything in particular that you're hoping he'll say. Don't eagerly await the utterance of certain buzzwords that will give you the excuse you need to jump up on your own soapbox and wave your banner for whatever cause has ignited your passion these days.

Just listen to what the man has to say. And while you're listening, don't turn on that internal translator that says "Well, what he really means by that is...".

Just listen ... once ... all the way through.

Then take some time to think about what he's said and draw your own conclusions about what it means and what you need to do about it.

Then you can turn over the reins to your preferred network and let them lead you around by the nose if that's your thing.

The economy....

Global politics....

The impact of technology on our everyday lives....

I think if we're ever going to find the answers we seek we have to start by listening to each other.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


My husband was campus minister at the Univ. of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas and each year he would take a group of students to a conference in New Mexico. I went with him one year and met the girlfriend of our of our students. Lara was a student at the University of Texas in Austin and was staying at a cabin near ours. She sang with a group and their cabin didn't have a piano to play for rehearsal but ours did. So one afternoon, she and 3 other girls came and practiced their songs.

At the time, I was working as a photographer, looking to bank some candids of students I could sell to magazines and they let me take pictures of them...I shot several rolls of film...up on chairs, down on the floor...I told them to just ignore me and I'd be invisible amd they let me get away with it. After an hour or two I finally introduced myself to them and we became fast friends. That week I also met Lara's mother, Glenda, since she was there that week to serve as their cook. She was the secretary for their Baptist Student Center on the UT campus and knew and loved all the students and they loved her back.

A couple of years later I sold some of those pictures of Lara and her friends to the Baptist women's missions magazine I was writing for. Lara's relationship with the guy from our campus didn't last but our friendship did and we continued to write and call and visit through the years. Last spring Lara stayed with us for a week while she was doing research at the national archives in DC for her job.

I remember one day when our friendship was new I was on the phone talking to Lara's mother. I said something funny and she laughed and said, "I pray for your family every Thursday!" She kept lists of people she prayed for ...daily, weekly, monthly...thousands of people all over the world that she prayed for year after year after year. Her health limited her activities for years but her touch was felt around the world. Because of the impact my family had had on her daughter & friends, she prayed for us on Thursdays.

Amazing woman.

She prayed my daughter through the emergency c-section and 11 days in the NICU When we brought our daughter home, she insisted Lara drive her up from Austin to Belton just to see her, even though they could only stay a half an hour because they had to get home for another event. She prayed that same daughter through her eye surgery when she was two and she prayed us through more than one job transition and our move to Maryland.

When I was trying to decide whether to accept a series of big assignments from that Baptist women's missions magazine I called Glenda to ask for her advice and prayers. She told me she knew I could do it and vowed that if I accepted, she would commit to pray for me daily for as long as the assignment lasted. Of course, I did it. That was one of the most challenging and enriching years of my life.

When Glenda had heart surgery a few years ago, we prayed for her. Lara told us that her mother was disoriented as she was coming out of the anesthesia in the recovery room and Lara had to get right up in her face to try to calm her down. Then Glenda began to say names and Lara realizes she was reciting the names of the people on her prayer lists. She was in the recovery room after heart surgery and she was still praying for others.

Amazing woman.

We never lived in the same city, never spent more than seven days in the same place.

Glenda will be remembered for her laughter, her love and her prayers.

I will remember her as my friend.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Team Conan or What Would Johnny Say?

I confess that I'm usually watching David Letterman instead of the Tonight Show most nights. I got out of the habit of watching the Tonight Show when Johnny Carson left because I can only take Jay Leno in small doses. And before Conan O'Brien took over the Tonight Show I usually didn't stay up long enough to watch his show either. But I'd catch bits and pieces of it here and there and I always thought Conan was a lot more funny than Jay so I was glad to hear he'd be taking over the reins of the show. And wasn't it nice for Jay to realize that it would be time to let it go in 2009, too.

So much for that idea. And so much for contracts, too. I can't imagine why anyone would trust a contract with NBC in the future. We should know soon exactly what agreements have been negotiated between all parties involved. But I know I'll never look at Jay Leno or NBC the same again. What would Johnny Carson say?

I hadn't planned on saying much about all this but then I saw something my daughter put in her Etsy shop: Team Conan pin-back buttons.

I liked the design so much I told her that design would sell on Zazzle. She agreed to let me put it in my Zazzle shop, so here you go! Just click on the pictures to take you to each item in my Zazzle shop!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Big Purple Dreams

I went to get my allergy shots yesterday. That’s one of the little extra things I do for myself every other week. I don’t really need them…unless I want to breathe.

I took my usual route to get there but as I got closer I saw a traffic pile-up that came to a standstill just before my exit. I had one last chance to get off the freeway and take a detour so I made a split second decision and opted for Plan B.

Plan B quickly became Plans C, D, and E as I attempted to wind way back toward the allergy clinic . I’d finally locked onto Plan F and seemed to be making progress when it occurred to me that the road I had taken did not curve the way I intended to go. My mind was jumping ahead to Plans G through L when I realized…I was suddenly back at Plan A.

The road I had chosen was one I hadn’t taken in a while. I had forgotten that it would put me back on the freeway again. But while I had been wandering around, looking for alternatives, the traffic had cleared and I found myself only a few yards away from the destination I’d been aiming for in the first place.

That’s just the way life is sometimes.

When I was growing up I was always drawing something. Doodles filled the margins of my notebook paper and friends asked me to draw special things for them to put on their bulletin boards. I loved whatever we were making in art class whether it was clay pots or silver jewelry.

Then I went to college and had to choose a major. I was good, but I wasn’t THAT good I didn’t think I could compete with all those other art majors. Maybe being an artist was just a dream. I changed my major at least five times before I finally graduated with a BA in History. I haven’t done anything with that degree except put it on applications for jobs that had nothing to do with History. But each job led me to another more interesting one and each job taught me something new and brought new people into my life. As my husband completed his seminary degree and we moved on to a life in the ministry my focus was on people, making connections with others and helping in any way I could.

Now, after almost 30 years of marriage, two kids and several careers later …I’m an artist again, making things for my Etsy shop and doodling up some fun design for my friends I’ve met online and making them available in my Zazzle shop.

This one is for all my 6,000+ friends on the Big Purple Dreams message board for fans of Otalia (Olivia and Natalia) from Guiding Light. Thank you for your inspiration, your friendship, and for an unforgettable year.

    (Click on the mug to see more)

Make a personalized gift at Zazzle.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Touching History

Everybody has a story, whether it shows or not.

I've told a few of my stories here in this blog that I thought might interest my readers. Some are things very few people knew about me before. Granted, nothing world-changing (yet) but who would have guessed that this mild mannered housewife-turned-artist has opened the gates of the Panama Canal or met Martin Luther King, Jr.?

That's the way it is with most people, though. Someone who has accomplished incredible, history-changing feats may blend into the crowd and escape our view completely. They may appear to be as ordinary as you or I when something they did may have changed our lives forever.

A few years ago I worked on the staff of a television show and met some amazing people. It was part of my job to read books that publishers would send to us in hopes that their authors might be interviewed on our show. I would help prepare the show's hosts for these interviews and often escorted the authors to the studio on the day they were taped.

I confess I didn't always read every page of every book sent to us. But once I picked up In Love and War, by Jim and Sybil Stockdale I couldn't put it down. Jim had been a Navy fighter pilot, shot down and held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and the book told, in alternating chapters, both his story and hers. His leadership role among his fellow prisoners and her persistence back home were instrumental in changing the policies of the US government in regards to prisoners of war and helped lead to the creation of the The League of Wives of American Vietnam Prisoners, which later became known as the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia.

Having read their book and been fascinated by these two strong, courageous people, I wasn't sure what to expect when I met them. What I found we two pair of sparkling eyes, two big smiles and two people who looked like the grandparents in a Norman Rockwell painting. As I spent time with them that afternoon and listened to the interviews they taped for TV and radio, I was struck by the way he insisted that she was the hero not him.

I'm sure if I had passed them in the grocery store I wouldn't have given them a second thought.

Everybody has a story.

I don't have a job that puts me in the path of famous people anymore. I stay home, most days by myself, work on my art projects and my attempts to sell them online and this year I'm hoping to do more writing, too. But now and then my husband will tell me about someone he's met and bring a story home with him.

This week, for instance, he was at a committee meeting and discovered that one of the ladies serving on this committee with him was the woman who had taken the handwritten words of Martin Luther King, Jr. and typed up those Letters From a Birmingham Jail.

Everybody has a story.

I spend time on social networking sites and have formed friendships over common interests of art and soap operas. One day, in between discussions of the latest plot devices of daytime dramas I discovered that one of those friends works in genetics research, seeking a cure for cancer.

Everybody has a story.

What will yours be?

"The Movement" by InnerCity
View other poster designs at zazzle

Special thanks for the use of this image goes to Al Stewart

Monday, January 04, 2010

Finding My Voice

I think I love Christmas so much because it was my mother's favorite time of the year, in spite of all the hustle and bustle of the season. That’s when we were most likely to hear her giggle like a child and see the gleam of a scheme in her eye as she planned a very special present for someone. This would be my third Christmas without her but I always feel her presence with me during the holidays.

I knew this Christmas would be unlike any other when the month of December began with the death of my mother-in-law. She had been a second mother to me for over 30 years. How could I say goodbye to her, give my husband and daughters someone to lean on during this time of loss, and still make sure we all could experience any of the joy of the holidays?

My husband flew back home to Texas for a few days to help his sister deal with the details of his mother’s estate. I stayed home, trying to get things ready for Christmas. I usually make toffee and chocolate chip cookies to mail along with presents for extended family, but there wasn’t much time for that this year. Presents and decorations might seem frivolous in light of our loss, but I knew it was also important to maintain the traditions of the holidays. We would find comfort in these little things when it seemed everything in our world was changing.

One of the changes in our world was my daughter’s graduation from college. She had earned an Associates Degree from the local community college, then worked full time for a couple of years before going back to school for her Bachelor’s Degree and we had all been looking forward to that day, December 19th. We made plans to fly to Texas the day after her graduation to attend the memorial service for my mother-in-law on the 21st.

But the blizzard came first.

The snow started the evening of the 19th and continued through the night and all the next day and into the following night. We got a total of 24 inches on our deck. Graduation was cancelled. Fortunately, the roads were fairly well cleared so our daughter could drive home to join us for our flight to Texas on the 20th. Airport operations had been closed during the blizzard but resumed a few hours before our flight, which was only delayed by a half hour.

Our time in Texas was brief but full. It was wonderful to see family and friends we’ve seen too little of the past few years. My husband was the minister conducting his mother’s memorial service and his sister and her two daughters sang a couple of songs. I don’t know how they managed to pull it off, except for the knowledge that their mother would have expected nothing less from them. She would have loved the gathering at her house after the service, too, and somehow it felt like she was there with us in spirit.

The remainder of the holiday season after our trip to Texas was all too brief. For me, Christmas wasn’t really over until Sunday, January 4th. That’s when I was scheduled to sing a Christmas song at my church, something that has become a tradition for me. At least it was until I developed problems with my throat a couple of years ago.

I love Christmas music. But allergies took my soft voice with its limited range, down to almost nothing and made it hard to even sing along with carols during worship services. The past couple of years I’ve played a guitar solo or accompanied other singers. But this year, my throat was better. Not 100% yet, but enough to try a new song. This time I wouldn’t even have my guitar to hide behind, either, singing to piano accompaniment, instead.

Sunday morning I woke up with a scratchy throat, which made me even more nervous than usual. But it occurred to me that my mother-in-law never shied away from anything. And maybe this was a good way to wrap up the holidays and start a new year after all. Several throat lozenges later, here’s how it went…..