Monday, February 13, 2012

Soft Talk

I live in California.

I was born and raised here. So was my father.

I grew up in Southern California. When I was eighteen, I moved up to the San Francisco Bay Area. And aside from a few years in Florida and Louisiana, here I still am.

Other folks in my family came from other parts of the U.S. but all of them have lived all over California. Not just by the coast but in the mountains, deserts, farmlands and small towns of California. California is not just the coast.

(Hey! What's with this "folks" thing? Folks means people. Folks is a country or Southern way of talking about your people, your family. My family - my grandparents, my great-grandparents, and everyone before them - are from the country and many of them are from the South.)

In California, we speak "soft talk."

What is soft talk?

Soft talk means we don't like to tell you "no" directly.

Other parts of the U.S. are good for that. If you go to New York, people will tell you "no." They do not mean this in a bad way. They mean it in a clear way.

But we don't do that here in California.

We like to have and keep good feeling between people. We want you to like us.

This is stronger in Southern California. A little weaker in Northern California.

(By the way, there are lot of New Yorkers in Northern California. Many of them moved to the San Francisco Bay Area for jobs and schools. They like California culture and are drawn to it. They didn't have to come to California. But of course, like everyone, they brought some of their own culture with them. They move and talk faster than native Californians. And they say "no" more quickly and more directly and more easily.)

If you come from a culture that does not like to say "no" directly, you will understand California culture and soft talk and maybe you will not even think about this. You will just jump in and swim in the culture like a fish. Maybe you need the right English words for the indirect "no" but you understand the idea. No problem.

If you come from a culture that says "no" easily and directly, you might feel confused by the soft talk in California. Do they want something or not? Do you have a chance at the job or not? Do they want to be friends or not? And when they ask you something and you don't want it, you say "no." Easy peazy. Just like that. And just like that, without meaning to, you might offend a Californian.

Of course, if you offend a Californian, they will not tell you directly. But inside, they might have some bad feeling for you. They might not want to give you the job or the apartment or invite you to dinner. But they will never tell you this directly.

So how do Californians say "no" if they don't want to say it directly?

They might:

- talk a long time. They will probably talk in a confusing way. It feel like you are going in a circle and in the end you do not know if the answer is yes or no. I can tell you. The answer is no.

- tell you they will get back to you. And maybe they will. First, of course, they need to check their calendar or think about it or call a friendirst or check something on the Internet or... And then they will say "yes." Maybe. Or maybe you will never hear from them again. Or when you do, they will talk about something else. They will never mention the question you asked or the answer they never gave you. This means "No." "No, I don't want to do that. But I don't want to tell you "no" directly."

- say, "That's okay."

Be careful of "okay" in California!

Okay does not always mean yes!

If a Californian says, "that's okay" and kind of shakes their head back and forth, in a "no" kind of shake... that means, "No, that's very nice of you to offer but no, I don't want that."

If a Californian says, "Okay" and nods their head up and down, it means "yes," but it is not an enthusiastic yes. It is more like a "okay... I accept this... but I'm not crazy about."

And if a Californian has anger in their face and their eyes squinch up and they look at you say, "Okay!" it means they are really mad and you need to stop it right now. California teachers do this. They look at the kids and say, "Okay, class... " The kids need to watch out! Teacher is angry!

If you think "okay" is confusing, don't use it!

Say "yes" or "no."

And if you are confused by a California "okay," then say to that person, "I'm not sure what you mean... Yes, you can?... or no, you can't... ?"

It is better to say "can" or "can't" than "will" or "won't" because Californians like to have and give the feeling that they can do anything always want to keep you and everyone happy. They will make you happy, if they can, right?

So if they are not making you happy, they want the feeling to be...

"I will make you happy if I can. I will always do that. I love good feeling. Let's play California beach music and sit by the water and have a cool drink together if we are in Southern California and if we are in the Bay Area, let's sit in a nice little cafe and have a latte together. But maybe, for some reason, I can't help you right now. But you know I would if I could. Because I love being happy. And I love you being happy. And I love when we are happy together."

Kind of like this:

You understand that means "no," right?

Yeah... it's confusing.

I know.

Don't worry.

We'll talk about it more.

For now, just remember:

California culture wants everyone to be happy together.

Or they want you to think that! ;-)

Because of course, not everyone is happy together.

But we like that idea.

Cultures are partly about ideas.

And here's another one:

California is all about feeling good until


Earthquakes, mudslides and fires change everything because California is also about change, especially strong, unexpected change.

Yeah... I know... confusing!!!

That's okay.

(That means... it feels bad but we have to accept it so please try to accept it with me and please try to feel good. I want you to feel good. I want us to be happy together.)

Because... all this means... as every Californian knows:

Everything's gonna be all right.

Friday, February 3, 2012


That's my new word for the new year.

I know. It's not so new anymore.

That's okay.

It has been my word for three weeks. I just haven't written about it until now.

So what's pop about?

Well, first, pop is an acronym.

What's an acronym?

An acronym is when you pronounce the initials (the first letters of each word) altogether like they are one word or you say them all in row, all together, just the letters.


AIDS: Aquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome

FYI: for your information

OT: over time

HR: human resources

UFO: unidentified flying object

We always say that acronyms "stand for" something.

What does "stand for" mean?

It means they take the place of something else. They stand there in the same place as the thing they represent. They represent!

One more thing: whenever you see "nym" remember that it means word or name. So you know an acronym 0r a pseudonym or an antonym or a synonym is going to have something to do with name or word. It is will be about what we call something.

So what does POP stand for?

It stands for the plus one program.

And what's that about?

Well, let's get real.

So far, this year I've written about change.

Making change - the kind you want - it's usually pretty hard, hunh?

Yeah, it is.

Some changes happen big and fast - like earthquakes and tsunamis.

But the ones we want? Losing weight. Better health. Better relationships. Better jobs. Better English.

They take time.

And sometimes it's hard.

Or boring.

Or hard AND boring.

(That's the worst, hunh?!)

So that's why I recommend the plus one program.

Because I know a thing or two about change, myself, and how hard it can be and I'm trying to make a few changes, myself, this year.

So when you're doing something new, something you need to do to make good things happen, something that needs to be done but it's hard or boring or hard AND boring, do what you think you can do -

and then do one more minute or turn or sentence or fold or pushup or kind word or resume or phone call or thank you note or page of the story you reading to your four year old.




That's it.

That's the plus one program.

And how and why does that work?

We can't make have something we want without change, right?

Because getting what we want IS change.

And usually those changes are hard, right?

And it's hard to do hard things, right?

So we have to do them little by little.

And what's the amazing thing about human beings?

Well, there are a lot of amazing things. But one of them is: when we do something hard, we get stronger.

Even if we do just a little bit harder, we get stronger.

So we don't have to do EVERYTHING.

We don't have to make the whole change TODAY.

Who wants to?

Who can?

Not me.

We just have to make little changes.

And pretty soon those little changes don't feel like changes. They feel normal.

It feels normal to do twenty one sit-ups instead of twenty.

It feels normal to be patient with our kids or our parents or our husband or wife or neighbor for sixteen minutes instead of fifteen.

It feels normal to study English for eleven minutes instead of ten.

And then we get stronger. And faster. And more patient. And all kinds of good stuff happens.

And then... you know... pretty soon we want MORE changes.

Because that's how humans are.

Most of us, anyway.

What do you think?

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Another English word with a lot of meanings.

Revolution - quick, what do you think of?


People dying?

Good things?

Bad things?

I think of that, too.

I also think of a bicycle wheel.

Because that is also what revolution means. Sort of.

"Revolve" means go around in a circle.

(Green means verb, by the way. Green means go. Verbs are about action, doing things, going places. Or not. Stop! ;-)

A revolution is what happens when something goes completely around and makes a full circle.

Like when a bicycle or car wheel goes completely around in a circle.

You move forward, right?

Or maybe... you go back to where you started... because the idiom "full circle" means, in some way, you are back to where you started - the same, but kind of different.


You are eighteen years old. You are sitting at the kitchen table with your best friend. You are telling your best friend about your hopes and dreams. You want to travel. You want to go places. You want to see things and meet people and do something big.

Your best friend wants to stay home. Your best friend is in love. Your best friend wants to start a family. Buy a house. Make a good life.

You have dreams. Both of you.

Time goes by. You travel. You go places. You meet people. You do some things. Some of them a little big. But while you are doing one of those things, you have an accident. You break many bones. The doctors tell you might not walk the same way. And you need a long rest. You go back home.

Now you are sitting at your kitchen table with your best friend. You are talking about all the things you did. You are talking about what you want to do next. You want to stay home. You want to build a home. You want to make a home.

Your best friend understands. Your best friend's spouse died. Your best friend had an ending. Now your best friend needs a new beginning. Maybe leave. Maybe go somewhere new with no memories. Make new memories in a new place.

You both experienced change. You both want change. But you don't want the same change.

Things have come full circle. You are back where you started. You are sitting at the kitchen table, talking about your dreams, what you want, what you need. Things are the same.

Only different.

That is a revolution.

A change that changes some things but not everything because some things never change - including the fact that everything changes and that people will always feel sad about some changes and happy about others.

In a year, the earth makes a revolution around the sun.

In a year, you can make a revolution in your life.

What will it be?

Monday, January 9, 2012



Another crazy English word.

It means so many things. Maybe too many things.

This time of year we mostly hear it when people talk about "New Year's Resolutions."

People ask you if you've made some and they talk them on talk shows on tv and in magazines.

They are things you want to do, right?

Yes and no.

A resolution is a kind of decision.

If you resolve to do something, you decide to do something. The feeling is that this decision comes from way down deep inside of yourself. It is a deep, strong feeling like an underground river that finally comes rushing to the surface in a gushing spring.

Wow! Change!

A resolution is also a solution to something.

We talk about things coming to resolution. That means they come to an ending... usually an ending that is somewhat final and solves the problem in some way.

Maybe your friend has a problem with a neighbor. The neighbor makes all kinds of trouble for your friend. You ask your friend, "Did you ever get a resolution to that problem with your neighbor?" Your friend smiles. "Sure," your friend answers, "They moved away."

Okay, maybe not the ending you expected or the perfect ending or solution but the problem was resolved, right? No more neighbor troubles! (Unless the new neighbor is worse! ;-)

So thinking about all this, what we can figure out about native English speakers think and feel, deep down inside, when they use the word "resolution"?

A decision coming from deep down inside.
A big problem that finally has a solution or ending.

Can you see the connection?

We have a problem of some kind. A big problem. We have a lot of emotion about the problem. We have some pain. We need a solution.

We have ideas that might solve the problem. We choose an idea.

We have deep feeling about the idea. We have deep desire for a solution.

We make the choice to try to solve the problem.

We hope our deep feeling, our decision, and our ACTIONS will help us find resolution to our problems.

This is what native speakers feel and think when they use the word "resolution."

Maybe not consciously but deep down inside that is what is going on inside the native speaker brain.

How about your brain?

More importantly, how about your heart?

What kinds of problems are causing you pain?

Problems in your body, relationship, house, job, bank account, family? Do you have them?

Most of us do.

What kinds of things might solve those problems?

Notice I didn't ask you what might relieve the pain. TV shows, netflix, drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping - these things will take away your pain. At least for a while. But they won't solve the problem.

What can help solve the problem?

Combining deep feeling, deep desire... with ideas... and the DECISION to take action and solve the problem can help you find real relief, real resolution to some of your problems.

Can Eye On English help you with all that?

Of course not.

Eye On English can help you with the English part. And understanding US culture. And maybe a few other things here and there.

But something can help you, that's for sure.

There's always someone or something that can help you.

You just have to make up your mind about what you need and then look for help and support, keeping an open mind and heart about what shows up.

Resolve to do that.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Tip #3 - Intention

What makes all this stuff happen more and faster?

(And what do I mean when I say "all this stuff"?

I mean practicing, noticing, and writing, swimming, leading, loving, or anything else better.)


What the heck is intention?

Well, let's start with some other words in its family:




Intent is a noun. It means the desire and purpose to do something.

For example, everyone reading this has an intent to get better at writing in English. Otherwise, why read this, right?

(Okay, don't answer that.)

And what's another example? I bet many people reading this have had an intent to lose weight or get more exercise. Or stay in touch with relatives. Or remember your mother's birthday. Or do better at work. Or make more money. Or win lotto.

Intend is a verb. With this post, I intend to help you with your writing.

Maybe I will do that and maybe I won't, but that is my intention.

Intention is an abstract noun. Other abstract nouns are love and peace. Abstract nouns are things you can't really put in a box. They are idea kind of words. Concrete nouns are things you can touch. Concrete nouns help your readers understand your story, ideas, or information because we use our senses (seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling). Concrete nounds make our writing more vivid.

(What is vivid? Okay, Spanish speakers, what is vivid? Vivir! Vivid means full of life.)

If you want to write about Love and you use the word love a lot, it doesn't really get your reader excited. But now talk about how a baby smells and how you keep burying your nose in their hair to smell that good, warm, smell that there is no English word for. And then talk about how it feels to be wrapped in the arms of your boy or girlfriend, after your cat has just been hit by a car. And then talk about how it feels to see your mom when you haven't seen her for five years and she looks so little now, and her hair is greyer and there are more wrinkles around her eyes. Your reader starts to understand.

Okay, where was I?


The difference between just doing something and doing something with intention is like the difference between an old pencil with no eraser and a very worn-down point and a brand new, just sharpened pencil with a lovely pink eraser at its end.

Intention makes everything happen faster.

Okay, so what does this mean to your writing?

Well, hopefully, you're writing more.

If you're not, pretend you are! ;-)))

Seriously, try writing more and see if you start noticing more things.

Okay. Are you doing that now? Great.

Now that you're writing more and noticing more, start doing that with intention.

What does that mean?

It could mean a lot of things because you decide what that intention is pointed at.

It might be: longer sentences.

You start noticing long sentences when you're reading and you start noticing how the writer makes them long. What words does the writer use? Does the writer use connector words? Commas? Semi-colons?

Get out a yellow highlighter and highlight all the long sentences. Look at them. Study at them.

Does that sound hard?

Maybe. A little.

Does spending the rest of your life feeling frustrated because you can't really express yourself well in English sound hard?

Well, it sounds darn hard to me.

How about never getting a better job?

Which means maybe working a job you don't really like - and not making very much money at it, either.

Does that sound hard?

Yeah, I thought so.

I've done just that so I know it is.

Or you could put your intention on adjectives. Highlight all the adjectives.

Do writers just use words like "big" and "little"?


They use words like "butter-yellow" and "wiggly" and "stupefying" and "exorbitant" and because they do, their writing is more interesting, more accurate, and more vivid.

That might sound a little opposite to the advice I'm always giving about how you don't have to use big words to be a good writer. That's true. You don't have to use big words.

But! It doesn't hurt to have a few extra words in your pocket, either.

So try it.

Try practicing.

And then try noticing.

And then try noticing with intention.

And then let me know what you think.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tip #2 - Noticing

Hi Folks!

Okay, we talked about practicing.

You remember what that is: doing something over and over till start to go a little crazy.


(Those of you who have had to practice a musical instrument know what I mean.)

Now let's talk about noticing.

Actually, let's back up a minute and go back to practicing.

What happens when you do something a lot?

Like spending time on the computer.

Or taking care of kids.

Or fixing cars.

Or driving the same freeway or road day after day after day after day after day.

Or being married to the same person year after year after year after year.

Or being related to the same person year after year after year.

(You know, this person was your mother yesterday. She was your mother a year ago. She was your mother ten years ago. She has been your mother all your life!

Or eating the same kind of food week after week after week.

Well, if you're like most people, you start NOTICING things.

If you're driving the same route to work, you start noticing the trouble spots, the lanes to avoid, the potholes to avoid, the places where people make left hand turns right in front of you. And you start noticing the drivers. If you're like me, you get really good at guessing what people are going to do. You can tell that the guy ahead of you over on your right is about to suddenly pull in front of you. You can tell that the woman behind you, the one who is tailgating you, is going to try to pass you as soon as possible.

And if you're taking care of kids, you start noticing things about kids in general and the kids you're watching, in particular. You start noticing that when kids are sick or hungry, they are hard to be around. (So are grown-ups, but we don't always admit it.) You start noticing that when kids jump around, sometime it means they have to go to the bathroom. You start noticing which kids have trouble talking about their feelings and which kids get so lost in their feelings they can't control their sadness or anger.

And if you're married to the same person? Well, those of you who are married probably know a lot about that other person, right? You know how they brush their teeth. You know if they put the cap back on the toothpaste - or not. You know if they hang up their clothes or leave them on the floor when it's time for bed. You know if they like to think about big decisions or make them in a snap. You know how they are when they are angry, excited, peaceful, nervous, sad, loving, and happy. You know them, right?

That's how it is with writing, too. Or maybe I should say: that's how it is with language.

The more you swim around in it, the better you know the pool, the water, the concrete or mud or rocks at the bottom.

And the more you know those things, the better you swim.

And you want to swim better, right?

I mean write!


Monday, September 14, 2009

Tip #1 - Practicing

Many people – both native and non-native speakers - are afraid of writing.

I want to talk a minute about how writing something – anything - can you help you with your life and English.

When a person is afraid, they hold back.

And when they hold back, they stop doing one of the two most important things a person can do to get better at something.

"What are those things?" you ask.

I will tell you.

1. Practicing

2. Noticing

I'm going to talk about noticing in another post.

For now I want to talk about practicing.

If you want to dance better, you have to dance, right? You can't lie on the couch and watch "So You Think Can Dance." You can't watch "Flashdance" or music videos on MTV. You have to get up and dance. A lot.

If you want to be a good computer programmer, you can't sit at the computer and play video games. You can't watch Science Fiction movies. You have to learn computer programming languages and then you have to write a lot of computer programs. You spend hours and hours thinking about them, dreaming about them, and writing them.

(I know. I had a boyfriend who did that and then made a zillion dollars. Pretty good, hunh? Can writing do that, too? How about dancing? Hmmm.... )

It's the same with writing. If you want to write better, you have to write. A lot.

If you write but you are afraid to show people your writing, this is okay but not wonderful. Because the fear is in there. The fear is inside your head and your heart and it starts making your writing energy smaller and smaller and smaller.

If you write and you share it with other people, then the writing energy gets bigger and bigger and bigger and the fear starts getting smaller and smaller and smaller.

You start feeling looser and freer with your writing. It starts feeling more like play and less like work. And because you write more you start doing the noticing thing I was talking about.
But I'm not going to talk about that yet. That is for another post.

I'm going to talk about how writing more and being less afraid to share it with other people can help you do better in life - not just the writing part of life.

I'm going to talk about success.

Everyone wants it, right?

What do you have to do to succeed in life?

You have to work hard, yes. And it helps to be lucky. But what's that other thing?

You have to take risks.

You have to try to do something you might fail at.

You have to do things where you might look foolish. People might laugh at you.
People might find out you're not perfect.

(Of course, we all know you're not perfect because we're not perfect, either, but some people try to keep the imperfect thing a big secret. They try, anyway.)

And what else might happen?

You might win an Academy award.

You might win a Nobel prize.

You might become a wonderful mother, or save someone's life, or invent a cure for cancer.

And what helps you take risks?

Understanding nothing happens without risk.

Well, nothing good, anyway.


(What's stagnation? That's when everything stops moving - like your sink when it doesn't work, anymore. The water gets brown and stinky and you have to call your plumber or your landlord and they bring in a snake - no, not a real snake! - a plumber's snake! - and they stick the snake in the drain and jerk it around and there is a big glugging sound or maybe little gasping noises and then slowly or quickly the water goes down and things start moving again.)

Understanding nobody is perfect.

Understanding life is a spring which wants to spring forth and trying to stop is like trying to jam things down your sink.

Do you want a stinky sink? No!

You want a flowing spring, right?

(Hey! What's a spring, anyway?

It's rushing waters that push up out of the ground - fresh, clean, and pure.

And you want to be like that, right?

Full of energy? Good for yourself? Good for other people?



Of course, you do!

We all do, we just get nervous about things.


Because when the spring is flowing and things are happening we don't always know what is going to happen next.

And what is it the scariest thing in the whole, wide world?

Is it big, hairy spiders?

Is it long, skinny snakes?

Is it a natural disaster like an earthquake, hurricane, or a tsunami?

No, no, no, no, and no!

It's the... drumroll, please... the UNKNOWN!

Yes, we're all afraid of it!

If you say you're not, you're lying!

Okay, so we're all afraid sometimes.

Is it okay to be afraid?

Of course it is. Everyone is afraid. If they say they aren't, they're lying.

Wait, I already said that.

But maybe it's good to say it again.

We're all afraid of something.

We all struggle with fear of the unknown, fear of change (more unknow stuff), fear of losing the people we love (more unknown stuff), etc, etc, etc.

But if we keep the fear smaller than the courage, we're okay.

In other words, keep the water flowing.

Life, love, water, energy - whatever idea or picture or word you want to use, really, it's all the same thing.

Let it through you.

Don't try to stop it.

Don't try to control it.

Oh! Control! Something we all want and love!

Also something isn't really possible. Not really.

Go ahead. Try to control everything. As Dr. Phil would say, let me know how that works out for ya.

When we let things flow, the courage is bigger than the fear.

When you write, especially when you write and share it with other people, you're making the courage bigger and the fear smaller.

That's going to help you not just with your writing but with all the other parts of your life where you hold back.

Maybe you really want to ask your boss for a change in your job.

But you're afraid.

Maybe you really need to talk to your husband or wife or mother about something serious.

But you're afraid.

You hold back. You feel nervous inside. You feel resentful. You start getting mad about little things. Everything is their fault!

But really, where is the problem?

In you.

When you find the courage to go after what you want in life, things get easier.

Not easy.

I didn't say life is easy!

But it is easier to live life with courage than with fear.

Read or say that again because it's easy to read that fast and not believe it.

Okay, I'll help you.

I'm going to write it again:

It's easier to live life with courage than with fear.

Got that?

Fear is like a heavy weight tied to your ankle. You walk with a limp. You breathe hard. You trip and fall and land with a splat and break a tooth off. Sometimes you turn green and your hair falls out. Also you can't think straight.

Courage is like your own special music always playing in your heart. In the tough times, it helps you keep going.

And in the good times, it helps you dance.

Go dance.

(Looking for somewhere to share your writing? Try posting a comment here.
Or send me an email: