Friday Five

1. Need a smile this morning? This is sure to perk you up almost as much as that triple espresso. Here, a motley crew of dogs “barks” the theme to Star Wars. May the force be with you.

2. Tip-toe through the tulips. You ever have a Norma Rae moment at the office? Or do you find yourself humming a few bars to the song “Take This Job and Shove It” while trying to get the !@#*% copier to work?  Lately I’ve had more than my share of those days, and when I do, I go to my happy place. At the moment, it is The Netherlands because I just nailed down the dates of my trip this spring.

A few years ago, my friend and I went on a fantastic trip to Iceland. (Read my Icelandic Friday Five here. See #4 for mention of our wonderful new friends.) While on a ferry we met fellow travelers from The Netherlands, and hit it off. So now, we’re heading over to the land of tulips, canals and red-light districts to visit them. I can’t wait!

Have you been to The Netherlands? Any suggestions on where to stay or eat? What would you do while there? 


3. If I’ve been a bit absent from posting lately, it’s because I’ve been dreaming up ways to win the lottery completing my lesson plans for the online creative writing course I’m teaching through The Loft Literary Center. Twelve awesome writers have signed up! Class starts on Monday, January 23, so there’s still time to join the fun and get some writing practice in the process.


4.  Every morning I get a little gem of inspiration in my inbox from Daily Om. This week, there was a blurb that particularly caught my attention since I’ve been preparing my class notes and thinking a lot about the creative process:

Many people move through life unaware of the presence of their muse. This lack of awareness can be compounded by the fact that we may have one muse that remains with us throughout our lives, multiple muses that inspire us concurrently, several muses that come and go as necessary, or a single muse that touches us briefly at specific moments. You will know that you have found your muse when you encounter a force that makes you feel courageous enough to broaden the range of your creativity. The presence of this force will erase your self-doubt and motivate you to give your thoughts and feelings form. 

 Do you believe that people have a muse? Do you listen to your muse? Have you ever felt that a muse was guiding your work? 


5. What do you fear about failure? J.K. Rowling’s answer would be that your should fear not failing because then it means you’re playing your life too safe.  She offers this piece of advice to a Harvard University graduating glass while describing her own failure. You may know her as the author of the Harry Potter series, but for years she lived in poverty after a failed marriage with her only escape a yellow legal pad on which to write the story in her mind’s eye. Her only other advice is to keep a sense of imagination, or what I would call compassion. She describes her first job working in the Amnesty International office in London and how empathizing with the people who came seeking asylum has served her in every aspect of her life since. It’s an inspiring commencement address that really invigorated me.  (Cocktail party factoid: her agent advised her to go by her initials rather than her full name because, at the time, women fantasy writers weren’t taken as seriously.)

J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement from Harvard Magazine on Vimeo.

Have a great weekend, everyone!




  1. A visit to the Anne Frank House is an absolute must if you are going to be visiting Amsterdam. Just make sure that you know exactly which tram to take to get there and which stop to get off at (Westermarkt, I remember) The people right by the entrance to the Amsterdam Centraal Station are the best to ask about this. I found a woman who worked there who was the most helpful and polite and respectful of all of the people that I had asked before. Also when you get on the tram, DO NOT ask the ticket man for a return ticket, because it DOES NOT EXIST. I learned this the hard way. I had asked a transit office worker about return tickets and he told me as much but I did not believe him because he was so rude to me that I just walked away. The ticket man on the tram scammed me out of almost six euros for one single ticket which should have cost far less, probably no more than one euro fifty. The best bet would have been to just buy a single ticket at the regular price, or to buy a Strippenkaart, which is a strip of several tickets all at once. Thus you get a discount per ticket if you buy a Strippenkaart versus buying each individual ticket by itself. The tickets can be used on both the trams and the buses, they are interchangable and universal. I do not remember if they have an expiration date or not. Entry into the Anne Frank House is about eight euros fifty, or somewhere around that price…from what I remember when I was there. Of course, I went several years ago back in the Spring of 2009, so probably they have raised their prices since then. Also bear in mind that you will have to wait in a tremendously long line that stretches all the way around the block, just to get into the front door of the building, which has been converted into a museum and bookstore selling copies of Anne Frank’s diary and other materials related to Anne Frank and the Holocaust in general. The Anne Frank House is located on a street called Prinzengracht, right by a canal. The wait time and the length of the line around the block of course depend on the day and the time that you go, I went probably around 4 PM or so, and I had to probably wait for at least half an hour as the line slowly snaked forward and into the building. Attendants from the Anne Frank House will come around to all of the people standing in line and hand out little pamphlets with more information, the pamphlets are available in a variety of languages. This is a must-see landmark in Amsterdam, and if you will be there, you really should go and see it, just so you can say that you have visited the Anne Frank House at least once in your life. I was only in the Netherlands for about three days total, so this was basically the only thing that I got to see, and I was determined to seek it out while I was in Amsterdam. Thank you so much, and I hope that you really enjoy your trip!


    1. Also, I might add, do not stay in the Lakeland Hotel in Monnickendam. And at all costs avoid taking a tour with Anderson Tours, a company that is based in London and that runs several package tours to Amsterdam, all of which are horrible and which leave much to be desired.


    2. Thank you! Thank you! I really appreciate the tips on riding the tram. I’ll definitely look into the Strippenkaart tickets. It sounds like that ticket simplifies things a lot. The Anne Frank house is officially on the must-see list.


  2. Great post. I used to sit next to the copier at work and everyone assumed since I sat next to it, I must be the expert. I always wanted to tell them to shove it! I don’t know why it is jammed or why it won’t print double-sided…or whatever. I think I need to run through the tulips now.


    1. There are people Who Shall Remain Nameless who get a jam in the copier and then walk away to leave the next person to fix it. I would like Santa to leave them coal in their stockings next Christmas.


  3. I’m left nearly wordless, having listened to JK Rowling. I am literally moved beyond words. I don’t know how to thank you enough for sharing this video. Thank you, my friend. I sincerely thank you!
    Hugs–and big ones at that—


    1. Oh, Kathy! I’m so glad that you found that clip as moving and inspirational as I did.
      Forte forte abbraccio, as they say in Italian.


  4. Thank you for the great laugh with the dogs video, hilarious! As for The Netherlands — I’m SO jealous. I was there when I was a teenager, what an amazing place! I echo what another commenter said about the Anne Frank house. Phenomenally moving. Also, just to stroll along Amsterdam’s canals, amazing!


    1. How did they get those dogs to do that? Too funny!
      I’m going to have to brush up on my bike riding skills before my trip. Would I look like a dork if I wore a helmet? 😛


  5. Me and my home copier are not on speaking terms today, as we had a bad run in last night, resulting in a lot of wasted paper and ink. I shut it down to let it think about its bad behavior for a while. After I get another $50 black ink cartridge today I will give it a chance to make last night up to me.
    A trip to the Netherlands sounds wonderful. I’ve never been. I look forward to reading all about it when you return. And enjoying your photos!
    interesting quote on the muse…I’ve never heard of having more than one of them. That would be great! Imagine how busy we’d be?


    1. Cynthia, I hope you and the copier have made up by now. And I hope that it will make things up to you by printing your reports double-sided and in full color.
      I figure I need all the help I can get, so if I have more than one muse the better!


  6. The Rowling speech was fantastic–thank you!

    Have only spent a few hours in Amsterdam, but I would recommend the Van Gogh Museum if you love his work. I hope to see the tulips at the Keukenhof one day too.


    1. I’m looking forward to the Van Gogh Museum and the Keukenhof Gardens. I hope you get to go someday. I bet your photos of the tulips would be spectacular!


    1. I love when I stumble across something like J.K. Rowling’s commencement speech from 2008. I found it so inspirational, and I’m glad you did too.


  7. Netherlands! Oh, Jackie, that sounds so incredible. (And the girls loved the clip–myself and Olive, included.)

    Hope you and Reggie are staying warm. It’s paw-sock weather for sure…


  8. I love Amsterdam but Utrecht is beautiful as well, should you travel around a bit. You could stay on a house boat hotel, that’s quite an adventure. Irving’s Widow for One Year is set in Amsterdam.
    Thanks for the link to J.K.Rowling, I’m looking forward to wathcing it.
    I’m not feeling my muse all that much at the moment but I used to.
    Lovely quote.


    1. I love the idea of staying on a houseboat. It’s such a unique way to experience the city. I’ve seen a few online and some of them are beautiful.
      Thanks for mentioning Widow for One Year is set in Amsterdam. I’ll have to put that on my TBR list.


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