Author Archives: Michele Wood

Cartoon Coping

As a kid,  I had no imaginary friend. I did have a constant cartoon station playing in my head.
It was a audio-visual processor with instant replay, color, speed control all set strictly for comedy.
This was before color TVs,when 3 TV stations existed and operated a mere 19 hours of the day.

My independent network was a big source of entertainment boldly satirizing characters, and reordering.
dialogue that regularly improved my position as hero. Instead of dreaming, I watched reruns and edited,
rewrote and directed in my head.

It was shocking, albeit satisfying to learn I possessed a gift of a that not everyone enjoyed. 
My network,Cartoon Coping, served me well.  It helped me be funny, to laugh at myself, to laugh at
and with others,process hurts and transgressions,to be playful and to be flexible.
It would wax and wane as life and work appeared (or pretended to be)  more adult.
It was the abrupt blackout of my personal network that initially went unnoticed and I later grieved
when treated for my first episode of depression.

Cartoon Coping never returned with same reliability under the adjusted network owner. Character drawings
and fun loving story lines appeared during more elevated moods and temperament. Perhaps watching was
no longer useful or was replaced with new found amusements.  Fortunately both my capacity and appetite for
humor are well intact as I rely more heavily on real friends and family and study for coping. Life is funny
in moment and in the retelling.




Convenient Is Not Simple

Day off task:  Get new primary care physician in Indy

  1. I want to stay in same health system
  2. Fully integrated electronic medical records
  3. Good to great patient service experience so far
  4. Did my research and due diligence- decision made

Now- let’s make it so!

I go to the ‘convenient’ on line chat. Here’s what happened.

joshua: Hello, You are connected now to joshua.

joshua: Hello. Thank you for chatting with a live operator at How may I help you?

Michele: Want to transfer physician records/change PCP from Dr Great Guy, Anderson IN to Dr. Hope You’re Good in Greenwood IN

Michele: This is for me and my husbad. We have moved to Indy

Michele: Husband, not HusBad—damn spellcheck

joshua: Okay. You can request your records from your old Doctor’s office or your new doctor can send the request over and get those records sent over. (ignores my witty word play….No sense of humor! Big tip off)

Michele: Do I need to access MY Chart to accomplish? I’ve not used My chart.

joshua: No. But you can login if you have an account and change your doctor’s name. (What?)

joshua: Is there anything else I can assist you with?

Michele: “You can request your records from your old Doctor’s office or your new doctor…” To request records, do I need to contact by phone, during busy business hours? I’m feeling disappointed . Thought this connectedness could be achieved through this online chat.

joshua: I apologize no. You would have to call and request your records. We only assist with finding new doctors and general information.

Michele: UUhhhggg. Thanks Live operator. You have disconnected.

My laptop then butts in stating, “Ask Cortana about Joshua”……’s a sinister plot!

Give credit when due. I did get a call from Pt. Access person.   Two more calls. I’m back in 1990’s

Snail mail, sign forms and post back. Almost there……We’ve come so far, chasing our tails.

Convenient Is Not Simple



Bemused today realizing a single beta fish at Selah House has 1) survived; 2) provided so much interest, amusement, work; and 3) become a social media star.  Yep, this flashy teal-finned fishy photo bomber has had 6 postings in three months. Staff were approached and a recent regional conference and complimented about the savvy use of pet fish photos. The thrilled marketing team learned that other centers were now trying to compete. Can you believe that a beta fish from a barrel now has established social media name recognition as Frederick the Fish?

Freddie wasn’t “all that” when he arrived in water filled plastic bag. None the less the girls were thrilled. His sequined skin and feathered fins were pretty.  I really didn’t anticipate a great survival rate for him. My prior pet fish experiences were of the church carnival or county fair variety where ping pong balls targeted your selection. You know, the goldfish you bring home in a bowl or plastic bag who dies within 48 hours or sooner if you took it on the midway rides. Frederick’s housing was a starter model, a modest plastic semi-circle with about a quart of water capacity.  A tacky image of foliage was included for a backdrop for the little bug-eyed guy.

Over time the tiny cold-blooded fish with peacock plumes inspired stories, listened to words meant for no else’s ears yes, he listened deeply and never judged. He companioned many a young woman as she spoke to family, wrote letters or journaled, never once editing their words. Frederick, was encouraged by the girls to find his voice, and as they found their own, he had no words, only thought bubbles. Can a pet fish become beloved?

But what irks me his rise to social media fame. He entertains by simply living. Meanwhile I try to entertain with meandering thoughts and stories.  Frederick the Fish easily outpaced my word count with flashy flips of his fins.

Hold Your Thumbs

Our dad was a giant of a man, both in strength of character and body. Standing six feet tall he was strongly muscled with meaty, thick hands, a killer smile and a heart the size of a small nation. He could be fierce and ominous to an opposing lineman on a football field but to those who knew him, he was the safest place in the world. As a young man he worked in a meat packing plant.  He was often seen carrying a side of beef hoisted over a shoulder.

Tom Keating, long time reporter for the Indianapolis Star, recounted the time “Kuntzie” cancelled the moving company Keating scheduled for a family move. Instead, he showed up with a truck and two young sons and moved the household. He even carried out a refrigerator by himself sans dolly. Our dad was full of the possible.

He was a big kid at heart. He loved to laugh. He was playful and full of mischief. He was an athlete, coach, teacher and a leader.  He was great with kids fueled by their wide eyed wonder, curiosity and innocence. He was a gentle giant who loved to hold babies, play and work hard and teach.  A lesson he taught each one of use as small children was the practice of holding our thumbs.

In our family when we wished, hoped, wanted or intended a particular outcome – those times when a prayer or good luck was needed, we held our thumbs. As youngsters, we couldn’t quite master crossing our fingers. He would show us how.  Try it now. Fold your amazing apposable thumb into the palm of your hand and gently wrap the other four fingers around the thumb creating a barrel-shaped fist.  It’s almost like a maraca at the end of each arm. This can be a subtle act, a terrific way to get grounded in a moment, harness nervousness, and build interior strength.  There’s confidence, comfort and sense of solidarity this little ritual.

So if someone says, “I’m holding my thumbs for you”,  you are in good hands. It may not have the power of a novena, but it’s pretty darn close. You can be assured that a particular saint, our dad, Bill, Kuntzie, Smiley, Coach is whispering into God’s ear on your behalf.

Dang Spellcheck

“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” This describes my overwrought experience with Spellcheck.  Lord knows, I value help with my lousy keyboarding and phonetic insufficiencies.  Reciting the age old spelling rules, like i before e, are moderately helpful.  Spelling and grammar checks to the rescue with innocuous underlines always bid consideration. Thanks Spellcheck, for making me a better communicator.

Other times, Spellcheck is no better than a “mean girl” poised to humiliate, embarrass and undermine my success. Working for years in reproductive health makes me especially alert to use of the word public that I’ve seen correct on more than one occasion to pubic. Discussion of breast can morph into beast, or best of beastly becomes breasty which reminds me of a mean girl or two.  Spellcheck teams up as the evil witch-sister to my tyrannical inner critic. It’s a lot to overcome for a fledgling writer.

After toiling for some time producing a piece that I thought worthy of sharing, I methodically checked and corrected as I read. Proof reading a second time I invited Spellcheck as another set of eyes, I perused again, uploaded, reread, reviewed and scheduled Publish.  Push- Zoom- Done!  I felt self-satisfied, almost confident.

Late the next day, my husband complimented the post. This is not the norm. It felt pretty great. Then he kindly mentioned, “I  did noticed two, tiny typos.” Tyrant, inner critic cackled in the background.  ”Where?” I shriek. Oh, the indignity! Switching Or to of and of to on!  She changed a favorite line ‘party of one ‘ to a party on one.’  Frankly, I haven’t been on one for the last five years.

My pride cloud burst with the realization I had failed, again, to be thankful and without expectation for simply completing a story and enjoying the experience of doing so. It was another opportunity to accept feedback and practice appreciation and a chance to laugh at myself and my arrogance. It’s crazy for a two -letter preposition to take down a grown woman to her knees. Believe me, it’s easy to blame, find fault or wallow in fat-finger, shame and dwell in the inner critics Failure-corner.

Spellcheck, don’t you know I want to be funny, to make people laugh, with me- not AT me? Life is funny and worth sharing, so don’t be such a breast, I mean beast, Grammer Queen.  I hope my readers love me or are entertained, ever widening my pubic- that’s public, even if I write just to amuse myself.

Fess up. Tell me about your “spellcheck” challenges.

The Last Hurrah

Elizabeth Mitchell Kuntz, 96 (Aunt Betty) was laid to rest. Though she appeared cold and still, I see and hear her moving from table to table, working the room, hugging, laughing, and promising to catch up while never loosening her grasp on daughter Kathy’s hand.  Husband Joe watched with amusement and pride from his favorite chair as the heavens and saints welcomed her.

She enjoyed her last years as family matriarch having outlived all the others of Mitchell/Kuntz elders.  The celestial festivities will continue for weeks because she had lots of friends. She liked people and social activities, cards, get-togethers, entertaining, church and women’s groups, and bowling, even into her late eighties. Oh my, Aunt Betty loved to gamble, a lot. I once saw her wrestle the last quarter from a eight year old playing Left, Right, Center.  Honest, she took her gambling very seriously.

As a kid, playing at their house we were nearly always encouraged, NO- hustled outside, “Go on now, you kids play outside!”  She wanted us out of her hair while she talked on the phone, immersed in baking or fixing dinner.  Eating there was always a good, second only to my mom’s cooking.  They, Betty and Hank, were a bit competitive about sewing and baking prowess. Betty was generous in hospitality. I can’t remember a time as an adult she didn’t extend “come for a visit.”

One of the most appealing things about Aunt Betty was her willingness to love easily. She let people into her heart.  Perhaps it was the losses of loved ones in early life and harshness in her upbringing. She craved acceptance and I think as a result was willing to extend the same. She welcomed in- laws and step children quickly as one of her brood almost immediately.  Granted it may not have been felt by each of them as attachment but that is how it appeared looking in. So much so, I’ve heard her own children claim Betty cared more for their spouse than she did for them- in only half kidding tones.

Betty loved being on the go and involved. She wore out many a younger friend or family with her zest and enthusiasm, as long as it was almost noon or after.  All those years on a farm did not make her a morning gal. She will be missed, but heaven will be livelier with Betty in attendance tonight and for all time.

Erma Bombeck and Me

Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop 2016, a.k.a. # EBWW2016 or #2016EBWW for the tweet-worthy, was more than a treat for this twit! It was a dream, albeit a dream of only three year’s duration.  I learned about the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop from a new friend while in Fargo, North Dakota where I was exploring and learning about the Business of Public Speaking from the amazing Renee Rongen.  Participant Lanelle Vasichek mentioned her plan to sign up to attend in 2014 EBWW. When I heard Erma’s name uttered my head whipped round cranking back the clock 3 decades.

There in the kitchen of my childhood home my mother was reading the Erma column to me. Her favorite past articles were meticulously cut and stacked in my mom’s steno notebook Occasionally Erma’s wit and wisdom were taped on the refrigerator door as semi-jovial reminders for offending children or a clueless spouse to reiterate Mom’s position concerning household chores, laundry, or god forbid, why driving a hole into a wall to hang ANYTHING should not be a capital offense.  Erma Bombeck columns, books and appearances on Phil Donohue or elsewhere were highlights to her.  Mother was fun in those times. Erma brought out the laughter and connection of spirit in her and began a shift in the mother daughter relation when I could see my mother in those stories.  I heard my mom again in thinking about the Erma columns.   My avid interest about the workshop within driving distance from home quickly became wistful, melancholy and within days forgotten.

Not so for my capable, get her done friend Lanelle. She went. She LOVED it. Learned loads and made wonderful connections and vowed to attend again sometime.  She encouraged me to check it out. Erma and my mom, Florence, a.k.a. Hank, spoke to me out loud. Seriously! The 2016 event was posted as March 31st– April 4- at least that’s how it appeared to me. My mom birthday and wedding anniversary was March 31st.  She died on April 4th.  I knew then that she would approve of this expenditure and journey toward personal improvement.  Though not much of a long term planner, I put the dates on my electronic calendar. Every couple of months I would check for updates. Limited size, popularity, and all the amazing writers who had attended added to my anxiety. Maybe the only think I pursued with more vigor was childbearing /adopting to become parents.

It was a kind of sacred journey filled with many unknowns and all the unnecessary fears and doubts about being out of my league, misguided, my shameful wanting of MORE.  A Sacred Journey- ABSOLUTELY true for me.  Doubts and fears escalated markedly upon arrival when the first question was, “Is this your first time? Oh, you’re and Erma virgin!”  I cringed, started to sweat, thinking CRAP, It’s a CULT .  The cheerful, loving and excited banter, seeped through my crusty cynicism. The passion was infectious. Every good cruise begins with the mustering. Might as well don the lifejacket and get it done.

What a journey. So many others have shared themselves and their experiences at the EBWW demonstrated their writing proficiency and storytelling ability.  I shared daily reactions daily with my lovely cousin and her husband, my Dayton hosts of  5 Star quality lodging and hospitality. I visited my aunt, mom’s only sister, soon to be ninety. I could string a three strand necklace of the pearls gathered at this treasured experience.  It seems though I need to do this a pearl at a time, taking many dives.

I’ve come up for air several days now since the workshop, thinking, processing, spewing parts of the story, testing a listener of two’s interest. Tonight I put down my scepter, straightened my crown and perched upon this chair having basked in the Erma Bombeck experience to assume  duty to tell my stories.  Because everyone has a story and they are worth being told.   More about cruises, crowns and on becoming a queen are topics to be addressed sometime soon.   Thanks for reading. It’s great to get your reactions and feedback because I spend way too much time as a party on one.   Michele

Ermapalooza! My Bumbling into Fear

My most recent ‘writing’ is nothing more than email dashed off yesterday.

Subject: Mermaid (stinkin’ spellcheck- ERMA) Bombeck Writers Workshop

Getting very anxious about the nearly here,
highly competitive, registration process for the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop.  Will a special font make me look more attractive?
I have a reliable Word doc. Name, address, email, website, phone and credit card information written, proofed, edited- no shitty first drafts for this occasion. Planning to position said cliff notes strategically on my desktop today. Bookmarking site.
Tomorrow; stopwatch timed practice accessing site, refining my cut and paste of info (faster & more accurate) than my keyboarding. Now carb loading- woke up from working nights convinced a chocolate eclair, or two, is the perfect pre reg meal.

Hold your Thumbs for Me!


Soul Soothing in Recovery

Carrie Newcomer & Jana Stanfield

Carrie Newcomer &
Jana Stanfield

Music is reliable tool to shift my mood, thoughts and attitude.  It is often a passive prayer with me a quiet watchdog. Music is a terrific driving companion leaving less room for negative thinking.

It has often been an extended hand when I’m awash in turbulent waters of depression, grief and even anguish.  My spirit experiences the vibration of certain chords, the pulse of rhythm, the dance of melody and resonance of harmonies, reminding me that I live and breathe.  Music can nudge me into a sense of hope andlightness.

Jana Stanfield is dubbed the Queen of Heavy Mental, a writer and performer of social work songs. I was listening to her before having much knowledge of 12 step programs of recovery.  It tickles me how I missed the screamingly obvious messages in songs titled, ‘Next Right Step’ and ‘Let the Change Begin’ and ‘Here and Now.’  I just picked up a CD and on the back cover is a coin bearing the Serenity Prayer.  Who Knew? Needless to say, the songs helped me long before I was aware.

Indiana Songwriter, Carrie Newcomer, creates songs and poetry that feed my soul.  She shares her rich appreciation and fascination with “the common things” in life that are remarkably extraordinary when viewed through her lyrics. Her work has fueled and guided my spiritual rebirth and growth.

Wise and peace loving, song after song supports a willingness to love wholeheartedly, inclusively. I am drawn to tales of justice, forgiveness, and relationship. I have learned to thrive in light and dark, and all the shades of grey in between, by learning that the sacred exists in simplest of things.

Music is as personal as fragrance.  It’s a chemical reaction in my understanding. It’s likely we may not enjoy the same sounds or artists. I share this suggestion to explore music as a component to health, a  gentle friend or a good coach.  Thank you, Jana Stanfield and Carrie Newcomer, for being minstrel teachers. You’ve helped me to recognize and appreciate so much beauty. Thank you. I’m glad to be a grateful, sober messenger.

Short Video: Why Swing Sets?