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Face it, you’re either a reader or a talker, but you’re not both. When traveling, most of us carry some type of reading material that we use like a shield to repel even the threat of conversation from the strangers seated next to us. In some travel situations I’m a talker, and in others, I’m a reader. As a fiction author, I routinely chat up cab drivers in the hopes of learning something new that I can use in my writing, so in a taxi, I’m a seat belt wearing talker. But when traveling on an airplane, I’m generally a polite reader. I prefer window seats, so I smile warmly as my row companion settles in and before the flight attendant entertains us with the required safety dog and pony show. I usually chuckle when he advises that in a water landing the seat cushion can be used as a flotation device wondering how many people have actually survived a twenty thousand foot plunge into the ocean or lake due to their seat cushion flotation device. Before my seat companion has fully settled in, while clutching my reading material firmly in one hand and a pack of gum in the other, I usually smile and ask the same three questions in this order: “Would you like a piece of gum? Are you from (insert the place we’ve just left)? I hope the weather is as good or better than the weather here.” After they’ve replied I smile and lower my head into my book, feeling eternally bonded to my row companion. You see, I’m really not trying to make a new friend on the airplane, I’m just trying to break the ice so that if the pilot announces an emergency landing, and we start plummeting fast, I can quickly clamor into this person’s lap as I pray that their girth will cushion my frame on impact. So far, I haven’t had to test this gum tax strategy, but serving as my emergency landing cushion seems like the least they can do to thank me for the piece of gum that I generously offered.

Are you a reader or a talker? As much as we hate to admit it, most of us can be pretty accurately described in five words or less. If the people who know us best were asked to deliberate and verify the validity of our five word descriptors, they would probably nod in agreement on eighty-five percent of the words chosen, maybe substituting one word for a more descriptive word, not necessarily disagreeing with the challenged word per se, just following human nature to personalize us with their uniquely descriptive mark. Most of the time we play true to character, behaving in accordance with the five word descriptors that silently follow us around as though controlling our behavior like Geppetto did Pinocchio. When we fall out of character and betray our five word descriptors, our noses don’t grow, but we find ourselves stretching our thespian muscles like Halle Berry playing Cat Woman. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Deliberate and sub-conscious role playing occurs in all group settings whether work, home or social. At work or school, you have your “know it alls,” bested only by the “control freaks” who think delegating is a pill taken by the weak. There are the “brown nosers” who use every opportunity to play “first chair suck-up trumpet” in the insecurity band, and the “I take credit for others’ ideas” back up singers. Loitering silently in a corner are the “do what it takes to get the job done,” crowd; the ones who seldom spoke up in class but managed to eek out top grades time and time again. In social settings, you have your “wall flowers,” your “life of the party groupies,” your “I’m only here because my significant other made me come deadbeats,” and your “I’m here for the food and beverages moochers,” the ones who bring an eight dollar bottle of wine to your home and boldly chug your thirty dollar wine like water.

In order to ensure that our survival needs are met, we learn at a young age that role playing is a good thing. The same way that chameleons can blend in to avoid predators, or to serve as a predator as the case may be, we learn how to get in where we fit in. The same pout and whine that infuriates one parent is viewed as sweet and endearing to the other parent, teaching the child to play to their audience pretty quickly. I sometimes hear my heirs coaching each other on the best way to get a need met with their dad vs. me. Two of my heirs have managed to nail and emulate a magnificent British brogue that I envy. When I attempt my British brogue they tell me that I sound like I’m trying to speak with an Irish-Spanish-German lispy twang. Usually if they engage me in their British brogue dialogue and pretend to give me lessons to improve my lilt, I fork over the funds for another bottle of the Essie nail polish that they now believe they have discovered even though I take every opportunity to inform them that their “ahead of the trend” mom was wearing Essie nail polish years before they were a flutter in my then rock solid abdomen. A time when the only people who could purchase the special square bottle nail polish were licensed cosmetologists at beauty supply stores long before they denigrated the brand and made it readily available on the shelves of Target and as common as a bottle of Revlon.

On any given Sunday, we all try to get in where we fit in, and the older we get, the wiser members of the pack try to fit in a whole lot less. The journey to earn the “I don’t really give a hoot what people think” merit badge is a long one although some people are born this way like Nicki Manaj, Prince, Lady Gaga and the pierced, tatooed artists among us, but they are rare exceptions. Most of us are born with an “I don’t care what the world thinks about me” spirit, that spirit that a child demonstrates when he boldly declares that he wants to wear his Mr. Incredible Halloween costume to Costco in March, and his mother responds with that “what’s it gonna hurt” shrug and zips him into the now snug fitting costume, smiling proudly as her confident son warmly receives compliments from strangers like a celebrity. But somewhere along the line, we lose that spirit as the world’s opinions of us begin to matter more than our own opinions of ourselves. When the older siblings make fun of the young heir who wants to wear the Halloween costume in May, the child bows to the sibling pressure and changes clothes.

In 2008, our family was the only family in our subdivision of 200+ homes that displayed an Obama/Biden yard sign. The only one. One day, I thought our sign had been stolen, and I became concerned and disappointed at the thought that my kind but very conservative neighbors had removed my yard sign. It turns out that the wind had blown the sign into the bushes. During that election season, my children would come home from school and repeat some of the comments made by their young peers who were merely imitating the rhetoric of their parents. Sometimes it felt like the issue was one of race, but no one used that four letter word.

In my young adult fiction series, The Black Diamond Series, race is not a negative four letter word. Instead, issues of race and stereotypes are addressed head on as opportunities to learn about differences. In campaign politics, the thought that race will play a role in the election is viewed as overly simplistic and lacking sophistication.

The next president will be decided by the man who receives at least 270 electoral college votes. During the 2008 election, on several occasions, the older heirs would come home from school and share that their friends’ parents were actually planning to vote for President Obama, but they didn’t want the neighbors to know so they displayed his opponent’s sign in their yard. Getting in where you fit in. Interesting. In this election cycle, many are suggesting that white women will be the deciding vote. The thought is that the women married to the men who support Mitt Romney will quietly and secretly vote to protect women’s rights in this election which translates to a vote for President Obama. The popular vote definitely matters, but it's the electoral college vote that will "get her done!" We’ll find out in seventy hours. Another example of role playing to get in where you fit in. Too bad noses don’t grow like Pinocchio when the exit poll takers are gathering election night results.

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Face it, you’re either a reader or a talker, but you’re not both. When traveling, most of us carry some type of reading material that we use like a shield to repel even the threat of conversation from the strangers seated next to us. In some travel situations I’m a talker, and in others, I’m a reader. As a fiction author, I routinely chat up cab drivers in the hopes of learning something new that I can use in my writing, so in a taxi, I’m a seat belt wearing talker. But when traveling on an airplane, I’m generally a polite reader. I prefer window seats, so I smile warmly as my row companion settles in and before the flight attendant entertains us with the required safety dog and pony show. I usually chuckle when he advises that in a water landing the seat cushion can be used as a flotation device wondering how many people have actually survived a twenty thousand foot plunge into the ocean or lake due to their seat cushion flotation device. Before my seat companion has fully settled in, while clutching my reading material firmly in one hand and a pack of gum in the other, I usually smile and ask the same three questions in this order: “Would you like a piece of gum? Are you from (insert the place we’ve just left)? I hope the weather is as good or better than the weather here.” After they’ve replied I smile and lower my head into my book, feeling eternally bonded to my row companion. You see, I’m really not trying to make a new friend on the airplane, I’m just trying to break the ice so that if the pilot announces an emergency landing, and we start plummeting fast, I can quickly clamor into this person’s lap as I pray that their girth will cushion my frame on impact. So far, I haven’t had to test this gum tax strategy, but serving as my emergency landing cushion seems like the least they can do to thank me for the piece of gum that I generously offered.

Are you a reader or a talker? As much as we hate to admit it, most of us can be pretty accurately described in five words or less. If the people who know us best were asked to deliberate and verify the validity of our five word descriptors, they would probably nod in agreement on eighty-five percent of the words chosen, maybe substituting one word for a more descriptive word, not necessarily disagreeing with the challenged word per se, just following human nature to personalize us with their uniquely descriptive mark. Most of the time we play true to character, behaving in accordance with the five word descriptors that silently follow us around as though controlling our behavior like Geppetto did Pinocchio. When we fall out of character and betray our five word descriptors, our noses don’t grow, but we find ourselves stretching our thespian muscles like Halle Berry playing Cat Woman. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Deliberate and sub-conscious role playing occurs in all group settings whether work, home or social. At work or school, you have your “know it alls,” bested only by the “control freaks” who think delegating is a pill taken by the weak. There are the “brown nosers” who use every opportunity to play “first chair suck-up trumpet” in the insecurity band, and the “I take credit for others’ ideas” back up singers. Loitering silently in a corner are the “do what it takes to get the job done,” crowd; the ones who seldom spoke up in class but managed to eek out top grades time and time again. In social settings, you have your “wall flowers,” your “life of the party groupies,” your “I’m only here because my significant other made me come deadbeats,” and your “I’m here for the food and beverages moochers,” the ones who bring an eight dollar bottle of wine to your home and boldly chug your thirty dollar wine like water.

In order to ensure that our survival needs are met, we learn at a young age that role playing is a good thing. The same way that chameleons can blend in to avoid predators, or to serve as a predator as the case may be, we learn how to get in where we fit in. The same pout and whine that infuriates one parent is viewed as sweet and endearing to the other parent, teaching the child to play to their audience pretty quickly. I sometimes hear my heirs coaching each other on the best way to get a need met with their dad vs. me. Two of my heirs have managed to nail and emulate a magnificent British brogue that I envy. When I attempt my British brogue they tell me that I sound like I’m trying to speak with an Irish-Spanish-German lispy twang. Usually if they engage me in their British brogue dialogue and pretend to give me lessons to improve my lilt, I fork over the funds for another bottle of the Essie nail polish that they now believe they have discovered even though I take every opportunity to inform them that their “ahead of the trend” mom was wearing Essie nail polish years before they were a flutter in my then rock solid abdomen. A time when the only people who could purchase the special square bottle nail polish were licensed cosmetologists at beauty supply stores long before they denigrated the brand and made it readily available on the shelves of Target and as common as a bottle of Revlon.

On any given Sunday, we all try to get in where we fit in, and the older we get, the wiser members of the pack try to fit in a whole lot less. The journey to earn the “I don’t really give a hoot what people think” merit badge is a long one although some people are born this way like Nicki Manaj, Prince, Lady Gaga and the pierced, tatooed artists among us, but they are rare exceptions. Most of us are born with an “I don’t care what the world thinks about me” spirit, that spirit that a child demonstrates when he boldly declares that he wants to wear his Mr. Incredible Halloween costume to Costco in March, and his mother responds with that “what’s it gonna hurt” shrug and zips him into the now snug fitting costume, smiling proudly as her confident son warmly receives compliments from strangers like a celebrity. But somewhere along the line, we lose that spirit as the world’s opinions of us begin to matter more than our own opinions of ourselves. When the older siblings make fun of the young heir who wants to wear the Halloween costume in May, the child bows to the sibling pressure and changes clothes.

In 2008, our family was the only family in our subdivision of 200+ homes that displayed an Obama/Biden yard sign. The only one. One day, I thought our sign had been stolen, and I became concerned and disappointed at the thought that my kind but very conservative neighbors had removed my yard sign. It turns out that the wind had blown the sign into the bushes. During that election season, my children would come home from school and repeat some of the comments made by their young peers who were merely imitating the rhetoric of their parents. Sometimes it felt like the issue was one of race, but no one used that four letter word.

In my young adult fiction series, The Black Diamond Series, race is not a negative four letter word. Instead, issues of race and stereotypes are addressed head on as opportunities to learn about differences. In campaign politics, the thought that race will play a role in the election is viewed as overly simplistic and lacking sophistication.

The next president will be decided by the man who receives at least 270 electoral college votes. During the 2008 election, on several occasions, the older heirs would come home from school and share that their friends’ parents were actually planning to vote for President Obama, but they didn’t want the neighbors to know so they displayed his opponent’s sign in their yard. Getting in where you fit in. Interesting. In this election cycle, many are suggesting that white women will be the deciding vote. The thought is that the women married to the men who support Mitt Romney will quietly and secretly vote to protect women’s rights in this election which translates to a vote for President Obama. The popular vote definitely matters, but it's the electoral college vote that will "get her done!" We’ll find out in seventy hours. Another example of role playing to get in where you fit in. Too bad noses don’t grow like Pinocchio when the exit poll takers are gathering election night results.