Learn Kwiker

learn kwiker

Kwik is a perfect last name for a man who devotes his life to helping people learn better and faster. Yes, it’s pronounced like the word “quick.”

Jim Kwik was born in 1973 and when he was around five years old, he suffered a traumatic head injury. It severely set him back in school for years. On his website, he shares that he was known as the “boy with the broken brain.” As he grew older, he became almost obsessed with learning about the best and fastest ways to learn.

Kwik says, “I discovered that, no matter the circumstances, we can rebuild our brains. And after working on myself, I realized my brain was not broken…it just needed a better owner’s manual. This shattered my own limiting beliefs – and over time, it became my passion to help others do the same.”

He is a remarkably interesting guy to listen to. And remember that being a speaking coach, I’m openly biased about who I enjoy listening to. He does speak quickly, and I get the feeling that he’s so excited about sharing his message, that revs him up!

Have you ever listened to a speaker and, although you enjoyed the presentation, you can’t really name one new thought that you’ve learned? I’ve watched presentations that seemed chock-full of aphorisms such as these: You’ve got this! You can do it. Knowledge is power. You’re more than you think you are. But the speaker doesn’t provide a single concrete way to improve your situation.

That’s where Kwik is different. I have passed along (with attribution) several pieces of his wisdom in I classes I’ve taught. Consider this:  When you’re taking a class or listening to a presentation, here’s his way to take notes. Draw a line down the middle of your notepaper. On the left side, jot down thoughts you want to capture. On the right side, in your own words, note how you might use that specific information; consider WHY you would use it or WHEN.

And one of my favorite pieces of advice from Kwik is this: Ask yourself each day, who is counting on me to be my best today? I find that so inspirational because it’s not about me being the best in the world to earn fame or money or power. It’s about being my personal best for the benefit of others.

Kwik has a good bit of free training on YouTube, and he also has a podcast which I’ll link below.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “I’m too old to learn new stuff,” I’m going to challenge you on that assumption. Be compassionate with yourself and allow for the possibility that you are wrong. The world in general, including experts, used to believe that we were born with a certain number of brain cells and that as each year passed, more cells died off, so that each year we got dumber.

Wrong! According to Harvard Health, Dr. Amar Sahay, a neuroscientist with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital says, “… the reality is that everyone has the capacity to develop new cells that can help enhance cognitive functions.”

And neuroplasticity, the brain’s lifelong capacity to change and rewire itself in response to the stimulation of learning and experience, means our brains make new connections and build new pathways when we are learning.

So if you didn’t already know that, your brain is working out right now, digesting that new information and figuring out what to do with it!


Jim Kwik podcast

Neuroplasticity article

Do You Recognize This Tote?

purple tote

The actual tote!

There are many “stories” out there on social media and news feeds, and I’ve become jaded enough by people faking stories that I scroll by most of them or just skim some.

Like other cities and towns, there is a Facebook page for our local community. Since there is a real name and face to go with the stories found on the community page, I tend to pay a bit more attention.

Yesterday there was the bittersweet story of a local realtor driving down a busy highway. She noticed an overturned purple tote and dozens of photographs spilling out from it. Even though it can be dangerous to stop on the side of the road, she felt compelled to do just that to gather up as many of the photos as she could.

A man stopped to help her and together they filled up that purple tote with some family’s history. So far, I don’t see that she has been able to locate the owner, but she’s holding onto those photos for them. If you’re on Facebook and want to repost it, here’s the link. It’s had around 2000 shares as of the moment!


One of my earliest posts from 2016 was about actual photographs. Because our phones and laptops conveniently hold our photos for us, photographs (the tangible object you can touch) may be considered archaic to some people.

But not to me. And I guess that’s why this Facebook story resonated with me. What if those photos had been mine and someone was brave enough and kind enough to stop by the roadside to retrieve them while cars and trucks whizzed by at 60+ miles an hour?

Let’s hope this story has a happy ending and the photographs are reunited with the owner. I’ll let you know if it happens!

Group Help 101

group help

Have you ever considered that, on paper, AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) shouldn’t work? Think about the concept: In an unfamiliar setting, let’s assemble a group of strangers who share a serious health problem and have them take turns acknowledging their personal issues.

I’m part of a group that, similar to AA, doesn’t sound like something that could produce effective results. But, also like AA, it does.

Ignite Fauquier is a free community group that will resume its post-Covid monthly meetings in September. Each month one owner or representative from a local business or non-profit is invited to present their organization to a gathering of other community members. The person shares a particular challenge that their business faces. Members then offer suggestions to overcome the challenge.

Here’s a sampling of the challenges from the past:

  • One owner’s circle of clients included personal friends. That was great until they were slow about paying their bills. How was he to collect his money without ruining the friendships?
  • An owner of a small, limited menu café was working non-stop hours because he was challenged to find employees.
  • A natural food store found it tough to broaden its customer base in a small town. They felt that too many people still associated the term “natural foods” with 1960s hippies, 1980s yuppies, or even 1990s hipsters!

The people in the audience for these three presentations didn’t include anyone who had friends as clients, any other restaurant or café owners, and zero other natural food store owners. And yet, each of these presenters came away with over a dozen suggestions for each of their challenges.

You see, at Ignite Fauquier we open up both our hearts and minds to find a connection to a similar problem we have solved. Since I used to be a credit manager and needed to collect money from clients while maintaining their business, I had some ideas for collecting money and maintaining friendships.

Audience members thought back to times when it was difficult for them to find and keep employees and provided both short-term and longer-term solutions. And the natural food store event produced lively conversation. My final suggestion was to rebrand their message as, “Natural Foods…not just for hippies anymore!”

Our helpful audience doesn’t consist of Mensa member billionaire business owners. We’re town and county employees, small business owners, shop owners, insurance agents, realtors, bankers, interior designers, marketing company owners, life coaches, chiropractors, or employees of the Chamber of Commerce. And you would be amazed at the variety of ideas that bounce around that meeting room.

Just as my post from last week noted, asking for help is a positive step to overcoming a problem. I noted that it’s scary for an individual to say, “Hey, I’m personally in over my head here. Can you help me?” And asking for business help can be as intimidating as seeking personal help. We don’t want people to know we’re stumbling. We want to come across as having our acts together. Put on a happy face and pretend it’s all OK.

Our kind members don’t make judgments or point fingers. We simply offer up an abundance of ideas and support to help overcome challenges. And we usually share a lot of laughter.

So if your business is struggling with a challenge, I encourage you to find a local group like Ignite Fauquier and find comfort in knowing that you’re not alone and that there are ideas out there that can help.

Rainbow Music

rainbow music

Indoor rainbow – Photo by Norma Thatcher

A signature song. That phrase captures the imagination. It’s defined as the ONE song a successful artist or band is most closely identified with. Some examples are

  • What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
  • I Left My Heart In San Francisco – Tony Bennett
  • YMCA – The Village People
  • Piano Man – Billy Joel
  • Moon River – Andy Williams

Judy Garland’s signature song was Over the Rainbow from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. (Music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by E.Y. (Yip) Harburg)

Do you suppose there is anyone reading this post who is NOT familiar with that song? In 2001 Over the Rainbow was voted the greatest song of the 20th century by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Recording Industry of America.

Why is it so popular? What is it that makes us like it so darned much? How can it have not only endured but prospered after 82 years?

Professor of music Walter Frisch (who wrote a book about the song) believes, “The song’s mix of hope and anxiety has allowed people to read into it their own concerns.” It’s a universally appealing song.

Based on the comments found on YouTube for various covers of the song, people have their own interpretation of the emotions the song brings forth. Here’s a partial listing: Hope, sadness, loss, yearning, escape, a leap of faith, optimism, happiness, courage, daring, healing, solidarity, and reassurance. Quite the diverse list!

Over the Rainbow has been sung at weddings and at funerals. People play it at graduation parties. And it has been on NASA’s playlist to wake up astronauts!

Katherine McPhee sang it sitting on the floor as an American Idol finalist in 2006.  And she and her husband David Foster just uploaded a new informal version of it in April to help raise funds for the Children’s Advocacy Center of Collin County, Texas.

There is a light and upbeat version of it by Hawaiian singer Israel (Iz) Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole that has smashed records. It has been in the top ten on Billboard’s World Digital Song Sales for 541 weeks! The video, which is a mashup of Over the Rainbow and What a Wonderful World, has been viewed on YouTube over a billion times.

But my favorite cover is a soulful rendition by a once relatively unknown singer named Eva Cassidy. She was local to the DC Metro Area, and the link below is restored footage of her singing live at the Blues Alley Jazz Club in DC in 1996, ten months before she died at the age of 33 of malignant melanoma. If you click on only one of my links today, make it hers.

The “words guy” for Over the Rainbow, Yip Harburg, had this quote that sums it up: “Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. A song makes you feel a thought.”


Israel (Iz) Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole, mashup of Over the Rainbow and What a Wonderful World

Katharine McFee Foster, Over the Rainbow April 2021  (Note: The song starts at 1:42.)

Eva Cassidy, Over the Rainbow January 1996

PBS clip on why Over the Rainbow endures (you’ll need to scroll down the article to the video and then endure an ad)

Is That a Ghost I Hear Singing?

Ghost Singing

If you enjoy listening to soundtracks of old musicals, these singing actresses are surely on your top ten list of sopranos:

  • Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady
  • Debra Kerr in The King and I
  • Natalie Wood in West Side Story

I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but there’s just one problem. Those actresses were NOT the singing voices in the movies or the soundtracks. The songs were all performed by a soprano named Marni Nixon.

I came across this fascinating story recently. Maybe you’re like me and this is the first you’ve heard of Marni Nixon.

Margaret Nixon McEathron (February 22, 1930 – July 24, 2016) was what was referred to as a ghost singer back in the days, and it was a highly kept secret. I’ve included a link to an interview Ms. Nixon gave shortly before she died where she shared that she was threatened to keep her dubbing a secret OR ELSE! She said the studio executives told her that if anyone ever found out from her that she had done any part of the dubbing, the studio would see to it that she wouldn’t work in town again. Marni added, “I was scared to death!”

If you look at the original album cover of My Fair Lady, Audrey Hepburn is credited with singing the songs. The name Marni Nixon does not appear. Ghost singing really was a well-kept secret for many years.

Some actresses, like Debra Kerr, accepted the dubbing with good grace. In fact, Ms. Kerr herself broke the news that Marni Nixon was actually the voice in the movie. Another actress, Natalie Wood, threw a fit when she learned (after the fact) that all the singing she had done in the movie had been replaced.

I’ve included samples below of the actresses singing to compare to Marni’s ghost singing. Clearly, Marni Nixon had a beautiful soprano voice with a wide range of octaves!

The story of how she worked closely with most actresses (except Wood) is amazing. Nixon didn’t want to sound like herself; she aimed to sound like the singing voice of the actress she was dubbing, including accents.

The most recent example of dubbing of which I’m aware is from The Greatest Showman. When the character Jenny Lind (played by Rebecca Ferguson) belts out Never Enough, it’s actually Loren Allred who’s singing. That has been well-publicized. Ghost singing is apparently something from the past.

It’s a shame that Marni Nixon never received the admiration and accolades she so deserved for bringing those classic musicals to life. But I, for one, will now see her beautiful 86-year-old face singing when I listen to those soundtracks.


2016 Interview of Marni Nixon on CBS Sunday Morning

Audrey Hepburn singing in My Fair Lady (later dubbed)

Marni Nixon singing in My Fair Lady

Natalie Wood singing parts of Tonight in West Side Story (later fully dubbed)

Marni Nixon singing Tonight

Loren Allred singing Never Enough


How Do I Love Thee?

love language

It seems as if some people I don’t even know love me. Maybe it’s happened to you too.

Don’t get me wrong: I do believe I’m a fairly lovable person, and I’ll take all the love I can get. But the person saying it needs to really mean the words for it to count. Otherwise, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth since I know (because how could they?) that they don’t actually love me.

To whom am I referring? I’ve noticed that the last few newsletters / training updates I’ve subscribed to have come with an email signature of “Love, (the writer’s name).”

As in, “Thanks for subscribing! Love, Bob.” Or “I hope you found these writing hacks helpful! Love, Janet.”

And every single automated “touch” from these folks ends the same way: “Love”

Sometimes that automated touch is once a week. Sometimes it’s several times a week.  More often than that and I hit UNSUBSCRIBE.

I think I understand how these businesspeople believe they can get away with saying love. We love everything from a story on Facebook to a photo on Instagram. We say we love the smell of coffee in the morning and watching a sunset. We love our friend’s new outfit as well as a just-read book. And Heaven forbid, don’t forget that I love dark chocolate! But when we love so many things, it’s difficult for a true I love you to stand out from the crowd.

Dr. Gary Chapman, marriage counselor and best-selling author/speaker, is famous for his Five Love Languages. He discovered in his earlier counseling years that how we prefer to be loved can be identified in five ways: “Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. Each individual has at least one language that they prefer above the other… and this is where it gets interesting.” (According to his website!)

For instance, it seems I favor “acts of service” as a demonstration of husbandly love. When Richard asked what I wanted for Mother’s Day, I responded, “The front porch and its furniture cleaned for spring.” And he was happy to oblige! If he had instead bought me a $5 card tucked into an Edible Arrangement, I would have pretended to be excited. But I was truly thrilled to have a clean front porch without having to do the work myself.

As always, differences make for an interesting world. Someone who needs the affirmations as a display of love would have been very dissatisfied with a clean porch.

Love and how we prefer to receive it does make the world go ‘round. Except in an email from a stranger.


Five Love Languages

Lend Me A Hand, Please

Lend me a hand

Have you ever given much thought to how important your hands are?

Last week I taught a class on the effective impact that body language has on a successful presentation. One aspect that novice speakers seem to have the most difficulty in managing is their hands. Those body parts at the ends of our arms can help us relay our message, so why stuff them into your pockets or let them dangle by your sides?

And that got me thinking about all the ways we use our hands.

We wave both hello and goodbye. We make a heart shape to signal “I love you.” We touch our lips and extend our hands outward to throw a kiss. In non-COVID times, we shake hands with our customers. During COVID times, we make the 1970 hippy peace sign during the “passing of the peace” at church.

Unofficial sign language can be read by our hand motions to come forward, to stop, to speed up, or slow down.

Gardeners plant seeds and pull weeds. Costume designers feed material through on a sewing machine. My friend pieces together the clothing of a deceased loved one to produce a memory bear. A waiter or waitress writes down our order and then places our food in front of us.

Players throw a baseball, catch a football, and shoot a hockey puck. Jugglers juggle. Magicians amaze us as they perform sleight of hand tricks.

If we don’t want to see something, we cover our eyes with our hands. And if we don’t want to hear something, we cover our ears.

I can think of some contradictions: We can use our hands to write a message of love on a Mother’s Day card or use them to hold a phone while we spew a text message or Facebook post filled with hate. We can lift a baby into the air or lift a rock and throw it to break a window. We can carry a bouquet of flowers or a weapon. We can strum a guitar, play Beethoven’s 5th on a piano, beat on drums, or beat down another human being. A maestro uses his hands to conduct a symphony, and a rioter directs an insurrection by holding a bullhorn.

Use your hands to apply sunscreen on yourself or to peel someone else’s sunburn. (Or am I the only person who likes to do that?)

Fingerpaint, paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (oh wait, that’s already been accomplished), or spray paint graffiti on an outside wall.

Babies hold a security blanket and drivers hold the steering wheel (preferably at 10 and 2).

We use our hands to care for ourselves from brushing our teeth, lathering up in the shower, toileting tasks, combing our hair, buttoning our shirts, and tying our shoes.

Our hands are instrumental in both writing a children’s book and illustrating one.

We wring our hands when we’re in distress, and we use them to wipe the tears of someone else in distress.

Our hands come together in applause for a speaker we enjoy, and they take notes so we may recall the speaker’s message.

These are just some of the ways our hands have a language of their own. Why then, when we’re giving a speech, would we NOT want to take advantage of enhancing our message with our hands? Let your hands help deliver your message.

And please,  let it be a kind one.


Adorable nine-year-old girl named Nandi playing the drums on Ellen. If you don’t like drum music, at least watch the interview!

M.C. Escher, Drawing Hands from 1948

Beethoven’s 5th 


Say Cheese!

Say Cheese

Keypoint Intelligence estimates that during 2021, humankind will take around one trillion, four hundred forty billion photos.

Medium.com’s data on weddings reflect that professional wedding photographers shoot up to 100 images per hour. Another source offers that the professionals take around 2000 wedding photos, culling for “keepers” before offering a selection to the happy couple.

And National Geographic suggests that a photographer whose work is chosen for just a dozen published photos takes at least 20,000 shots.

That’s a humongous number of photos.

As I continue to sort through old family photographs, carefully selecting a representative sample of the best ones to capture the essence of our family’s story, I consider the luxury of today’s photographic choices. Whoops, someone moved. Did someone blink? Oh no, the dog’s butt made its way into the scene. Not a problem; we just take one or a dozen more in order to choose the best, the perfect photo. The rest are deleted with a poke at the trash can icon.

At the risk of sounding like a grumpy oldster, I’ll mention that when my children were young, we used a camera with film. There was no instant, “How does that look?” moment after a shot. We waited until the film roll was used up, took it to a store to drop off, and then waited for the photos to be returned. If they came back to us and were of focus, or too dark, or whatever, oh well, because that ship had sailed.

My Aunt Winona has this photo of her younger sister Wanda on a pony. It was taken close to 1929 when Aunt Wanda was about two years old, and Aunt Winona was around six.

As the family story goes, there was a traveling photographer who owned a pony. The Great Depression was just in its very earliest days, and the man was trying to make a living by traveling from town to town enticing parents to have their child photographed on a pony. My Grandmother Elizabeth was out with her two youngest daughters when the pony man convinced her to have Wanda pose for a photo.

My Grandfather Luther had been working on a bridge out of state and was not expected home for weeks. But due to the economic times, he had been laid off and arrived back in town that very day. As the photographer was making his final adjustments, Winona turned and saw her father coming down the street. She called out, “Daddy!”

Following her big sister’s lead, Wanda’s head and eyes turned slightly from the photographer and just as FLASH! the photo was taken, Wanda had started to raise her hand to wave to her much-loved Daddy.

And that, my friends, is the perfect photo.

Putting Stuff Away

putting stuff away

I can’t stand not being able to find stuff. Since I consider myself to be a highly organized individual, it’s an affront to my mental well-being to be unable to locate something.

Case in point: A couple weeks ago my husband asked, “Where is the soil analysis the Co-Op did a month ago?” I knew what he was referring to and what it looked like. I recalled that I had intended to file the papers in the “landscaping” folder because that seemed to be a likely home.

It wasn’t there. Nor was it in the “to be filed” stack or the 2021 paperwork box. I called the Co-Op, and (with exemplary customer service) they scanned and emailed me another copy within minutes. So problem solved. But still, I was upset with myself for misplacing the test results.

Intending to write this post on how to improve organizational skills, I was surprised to find that a search of “best organizational skills” first brought up a slew of work-related and resume-related answers.

The employment listing company Indeed says that: “Organizational skills are some of the most important proficiencies you can have as an employee. Being organized will allow you to meet deadlines, minimize stress, and carry out your duties more efficiently.”

But when it comes to personal organizational skills, I’m willing to bet that most of my readers have heard of tidying expert Marie Kondo. Her premise is that we’ll be happier in a tidy, uncluttered, simplified home and life. One of her oft-repeated phrases is to keep an item ONLY if it sparks joy.

Just looking at her website has a calming effect on me.

I don’t recall where I read it, but I believe it: Clutter is the enemy of a peaceful home. And, as it turns out, it’s also the enemy of good mental health!

An article in Psychology Today cites studies that show clutter at home and the workplace can cause us to be less efficient in visual processing and thinking as well as spur a deterioration in good mental health.

Clutter and disorganization can spark a sense of uneasiness in me. And it can happen even when I’m watching something. I recall the (now canceled after nine seasons) tv sitcom The Middle about the Hecks, a middle-class family in Indiana. I loved the show, but their cluttered house gave me anxiety. Seriously.

And even watching a one-man bell ringing performance of the Lord’s Prayer (wow, that’s a mouthful, right?!) made me nervous because the guy didn’t systematically put the bells down in the same spot where he picked them up! I found I could enjoy it more if I just listened and didn’t watch.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and tidy up.


Marie Kondo

Trailer for The Middle where you can see snatches of their home

The Lord’s Prayer in bells on Facebook

or another way to watch the bells if you’re not on Facebook

Psychology Today article on clutter disrupting mental health

I’m a Wee Bit Irish

I'm a Wee Bit Irish

Riley Cramer Thatcher, 2017

Saint Patrick’s Day was a few days ago, and I came across some information that I did not know about the man behind the day.

While the holiday for the primary patron saint of Ireland is held on the anniversary of his death, Patrick wasn’t actually Irish. He was born in the late 4th century Britain when it was ruled by the Romans, so I guess that makes him Italian. It’s thought his birth name was Maewyn Succat, and that he changed it to Patricius (or Patrick), which derives from Latin for “father figure,” after he became a priest. While raised in a wealthy Christian family, there’s not much to support that his family was deeply religious. Though his father was a Christian deacon, it’s believed he took on the role for tax incentives. (Yes, even back then!)

Patrick was 16 when a group of Irish raiders attacked his family’s estate and kidnapped him. He spent a number of years as a captive in Ireland, working as a shepherd. Lonely and fearful, he turned to his religion for comfort and solace and became a devout Christian.

In his diary, Patrick wrote that after six years, God’s voice spoke to him in a dream, telling him to go home. Walking some 200 miles to the Irish coast, he escaped back to Britain.

There he began his formal religious training and studied for about a dozen years. After he was ordained as a priest, he was sent back to Ireland to minister to the existing Christians and to convert the pagan Druids to Christianity.

His conversion process incorporated many existing Irish traditions. According to history.com, he used bonfires to celebrate Easter as the Irish pagans had a custom of honoring their gods with fires.

Patrick is also thought to have “invented” the Celtic cross by adding a circle to the center of the cross. The sun was another strong Irish symbol. Another train of thought is that the shape represents the Druid circle.

So how the heck does the life and death of this fine man translate into the kinds of celebrations that take place in America today? Because until the late 20th century, everything in Ireland (including pubs) was shut down for March 17 as it was a holy day, not a holiday.

The swigging of much beer can be traced back to the Budweiser marketing plan of the 1980s. The then-Vice President and Director of Marketing for Anheuser-Busch, Michael Roarty, was very active in the Irish American community. According to Wikipedia, Irish America Magazine named him “Irish American of the year” in 1991.

Now, around the world, St. Patrick’s Day has almost become synonymous with beer drinking.

We’ve come a long way from the original meaning of the day.


Watch this hysterical St. Patrick’s Day video from the Holderness family

TIME.com article on St. Patrick’s Day

HISTORY.com article on Saint Patrick

Budweiser’s 2021 “green beer” plan for this year

NWI.life article on beer drinking to celebrate March 17