Those Email Messages You’re NOT Receiving…

Here’s a quick little lesson to all of you who keep hearing that other people are sending you emails. And resending them. Then sending them again … and, still, those email messages are not appearing in your Inbox!

Let me tell you WHY you’re not receiving all those emails. They’re going to your Junk folder (which can also be labelled as Spam, Bulk, or something else). And they may be automatically deleted without you even knowing it.

Fair Warning

I am not a tech guru, IT nerd, or expert on technology. I am someone who uses email A LOT and have learned lessons the hard way. I’m sharing what I’ve learned, through my own experiences. I’m also sharing a few resources so you can do your own research about those email messages you’re not receiving … and/or that you don’t want to receive…

Email Security Settings

Each email app and software includes its own security settings. These settings offer options about how YOU can handle unwanted email, which is referred to as Junk, Spam, or Bulk messages. They also help you receive the email you WANT to receive!

In many cases, if YOU don’t adjust your Junk settings, the following may automatically be sent to your Junk folder; messages:

  • Sent from someone who is not in your contact list
  • With attachments and/or hyperlinks
  • Sent as part of a bulk emailing
  • Sent by someone who has not emailed you before, or to whom you have not already sent an email

Junk Email Settings in Outlook and Other Email Apps/Software

The following images show you what your Junk options are if you use Outlook. You can find them by going to Home > Junk:

  • The image on the left shows the Junk Options
  • The image on the right shows how you can ADD someone into a Safe Sender’s list, meaning the messages from that individual email address or domain will NOT be sent to your Junk folder

Here are some articles to show you how to set up your Junk settings in:

A Final Note about Junk Email Messages

Junk email settings are a lot easier to control when your email address is proprietary rather than free. For example, my email address is associated with my website domain, so I have complete control over it. If you use Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, or any other free email software, you may not have as much freedom to control the settings.

Be aware that when you open ANY kind of email account the security settings are the default settings used by that app/software. Those settings may not be to your advantage, depending upon your preferences and whether the app/software is free. I’ve heard of settings that automatically delete all Junk mail after a specified period of time (e.g., 72 hours or one week) if the account owner doesn’t change the settings.

I hope this info is helpful! Reach out to me if I can be of further assistance.

Helping Others Helps Yourself

adult daughter teaching senior mother using smartphone in park

In today’s society, all kinds of crazy things are going on. Instead of isolating ourselves and waiting for Armageddon, we should be pulling together and taking advantage of every positive aspect of our existence. It troubles me that so many of us are unaware that reaching out and helping others helps yourself.

Today, my job is to enlighten you about how this process can turn around your level of satisfaction and success. I’m focusing on writers and the writer’s life but my advice applies equally to writers, insurance professionals, and everyone else. View my examples as metaphors and then apply them to your own circumstances.

Let me start by pouring the foundation:

  • Do unto others.
  • Pay it forward.
  • Help the less fortunate.
  • Volunteer.
  • Do no harm.

We’ve all heard these and other catchphrases urging us to be a better person. And you know what? They all focus on other people instead of ourselves!

Frankly, they turn a lot of people off. Why? Because a person’s first reaction is to think that if you’re working on yourself or your writing or anything else that relates to you, why go off-topic and switch the subject from Me to Someone Else?

Let’s adjust the focus as we begin building the house:

When a car drives into a tree, the crash is the direct cause of damage to the car. And the tree. And, more importantly, injury to the driver. The indirect cause of the damage and injury is the dog who ran into the road. Why? Because the dog prompted the driver to yank the wheel and barrel into the tree.

Life is filled with both direct and indirect causes of loss … and benefits.

In the publishing world, writers often view their successes based on:

  • How well they know their craft.
  • How accomplished they are at writing proposals, synopses, and queries.
  • How adept they are at gaining the [positive] attention of agents and editors.
  • How many books they sell.

They sit at their desks, immersed in tunnel vision, only thinking about themselves: Their work in progress. Their editing. Their rewrites. Their deadlines. Their submissions. Their rejections. In short, all the steps they need to follow to achieve their own, personal goals.

Focusing inward is essential when you’re a writer. The actual writing is, for most of us, a solitary undertaking. Even for those who work with critique partners, beta readers, and mentors, it doesn’t take a village when putting words on paper (or the computer screen).

However, all goals require a path to follow, and all paths run in two directions–two opposite directions. If focusing inward is heading North, then focusing outward is South. If you’re North, then everyone else is South.

Understanding the Value of a Sturdy Roof

None of us enjoys a leaky roof. Drip … drip … drip … will drive you crazy in about thirty seconds. Not to mention the damage that can result from inattention over time.

You absolutely MUST build a strong roof, nurture and care for it, and update it when necessary. Think of other people as the roof to your personal house. (Pssst: helping others helps yourself.)

As writers, when we comply with requests from newbies who ask us for advice and insights, we spend X hours of our own precious time educating them without receiving a direct benefit. One perspective is: the newbie doesn’t have publishing contacts. Another way of looking at it is: the newbie doesn’t know as much as we do about craft. Still another viewpoint is: the newbie doesn’t have anything to impart that we really need. Yada yada yada.

Another perspective is recognizing that each time we share what we know, we’re reinforcing it in our own minds. Each time we explain an element of our craft or the publishing industry, we’re reminding ourselves of something. Often, it’s something we may not have thought about for a while, something we can’t afford to forget. And each time we read or critique someone else’s work, we strengthen our own innate talents and perceptions. Helping others really does help yourself.

The Artistry of Finish Work

I don’t know Jane Friedman–I’ve never met her. I don’t know anyone else who knows her–but I’m familiar with her reputation in the publishing world. Between the information she provides on her website and the bazillions of online articles she’s penned and been the subject of, she embodies “helping others helps yourself.”

Here’s one article on her website about using beta readers that proves my point. The article is written by another person, but it’s on Jane’s website. You can spend all day reading the resources Jane provides on her website without spending a dime. At the same time, you’ll enrich yourself immeasurably.

My Personal Home

When I moved to Montana from Massachusetts, the only person I knew in Big Sky Country was my realtor. Nine months later, my circle of acquaintances and friends had expanded. It included about a dozen neighbors and thirty co-workers at the insurance agency where I was employed.

After I quit my job and established my second insurance agency, I followed my own advice about helping others to help myself. What did I do? I reached out to loan officers, car dealerships, the Chamber of Commerce, and local businesses, etc. I offered my time, knowledge, and expertise. Volunteering on the city’s DUI Task Force was way outside my comfort level; however, it wound up giving me tremendous satisfaction. And and community exposure. Using my sales and marketing experience, I approached the University of Montana’s School of Business Administration with an idea. The Director loved it and, together, we established a networking program that matched graduating college seniors with local businesses looking for interns and new employees. I performed other great and wonderful feats, but I’m guessing you get the picture…

Decorating Help

Now, I must admit, I did ask for one small thing in return for the time I offered without compensation. I asked my newfound friends and associates:

“If you benefit from your interactions with me, would you be kind enough to share your opinion of me–and the fact that I own an insurance agency and am trying to build a new business?”

That was it. That’s all it took. Sure, I worked hard. But other people–those I helped–worked with me and for me. They actually helped me grow my business and become a more satisfied, successful insurance professional.

The Open House: Helping Others

As a writer, I have always followed the same path. I’ve served on the board of several writer’s organizations. I’ve judged hundreds of entries in countless writer’s contests over the years. In one of the writer’s organizations of which I was a member, I created a program called Craft Chat. In each virtual monthly meeting, another published writer and I chatted with unpublished members. We answered their questions about the craft of writing served as a resource.

They helped me by introducing me to new perspectives, sharing innovative ideas, and enforcing what I already knew,. They also taught me about subjects that never even blipped on my radar.

Helping others helps yourself. Feel free to reach out to me anytime!

Do Lies Come in Different Colors?

the color of lies

Today’s burning question is: Do lies come in different colors?

I discussed this topic in a recent insurance ethics seminar I taught and I’m curious about your opinion. Some of my students indicated white lies are okay and other types of lies are not. What do YOU think?

I didn’t know lies came in assorted colors so I asked my students, “What’s the difference between a white lie, a red lie, and a purple lie?”

A white lie, my students said, is a lie that spares another person’s feelings or doesn’t hurt someone else. That got me thinking about other people’s feelings.

How can we predict with any accuracy how another person truly feels? Why should we modify our opinions based on our perception of what another person’s feelings might be? Are we truly responsible for how another person feels and responds to the truth?

Keep in mind that our opinion isn’t necessarily the truth–it’s our belief or perspective. In fact, our opinion often changes over time.

Sometimes, when people ask us a question, they’re asking for an opinion, not a fact: Do I look fat in this dress?

There’s no truthful answer to this question because no universal, factual response exists. I may think the dress suits you perfectly and Edna may disagree. If Edna decides to tell a white lie and say No, honey, you look great and save your feelings, she’s not telling HER truth.

Later on in the evening, after you decided to go to a party wearing the dress Edna likes, what if someone else tells you the dress is too tight and you should have chosen something else to wear? Might Edna’s words still hurt when you realize she told a white lie? Might Edna have spared your feelings by telling HER truth in a mindful manner? Personally, honey, your red dress is the most flattering dress you own. If I were you, I’d wear that instead.

At other times, when people ask us a question, they want a factual response. Why didn’t you answer the phone last night? There IS a truthful answer to this question. Maybe I didn’t hear the phone ring. If that’s the case, saying so would be a truthful response. But what if I didn’t hear the phone ring because the battery died, I turned the phone off when I got home to avoid your call, or I left it at home when I rented a motel room to fool around with your spouse?

Not providing the entire truth might be misleading … and an outright lie.

But when might it be a “white” lie? If the phone’s battery died and I chose not to charge it because I wanted silence, not providing that information might be considered a white lie. In the other two scenarios, not telling the truth is an outright lie. What color lie would it be? Red, purple, blue?

Let’s face it, a lie is meant to deceive. When we lie, we distort the truth to protect ourselves, not to spare other people’s feelings.

It’s easier to tell a white lie and say either “yes” or “no” than produce one or two complete sentences that convey how we truly feel … while also considering the other person’s feelings. It’s also easier to tell other types of lies to prevent the fallout from sharing the truth, whether it’s OUR truth or THE truth.

In closing, let me share the universal meaning of some colors in the rainbow:

  • Red is the color of passion and energy. It’s also a sign of danger or warning.
  • Yellow is the color of happiness and optimism, however, it’s also a sign of cowardice.
  • Green is the color of nature, harmony, and health and is universally associated with envy.
  • Purple is the color of royalty, spirituality, and imagination. It’s also connected with immaturity and sensitivity.
  • White is the color of purity and innocence, yet it can be indicative of coldness, emptiness, or distance.

When we lie, even when telling white lies, we do so primarily because of our OWN feelings. Feelings that usually represent the flip side of what is good and positive. So yes, I guess lies do come in different colors.

What Comes First – Thanksgiving or Christmas?

Once and for all, someone … okay me … needs to answer the question: What comes first, Christmas or Thanksgiving?

What Comes First?

Yes, if we list the two holidays in ABC order, Christmas comes first. But if we look at the calendar, Christmas doesn’t. Aside from chronology, several excellent reasons exist to remind us (and retailers) that the Christmas caboose belongs at the end of the annual holiday train.

When we begin hyping Christmas before Thanksgiving (or, God forbid, Halloween), we gyp ourselves of the thoughtful, mindful period during which we can look back over the previous months and take stock. What went well? What didn’t go as planned? What will we do differently in the future? What will we avoid doing? And, most importantly, what are we grateful for?

When we allow negative thoughts to sour our souls and dispositions to the point that we need a chubby guy in a red suit with a herd of caribou to cheer us up, something is definitely wrong. We dilute the spirit of what Christmas is truly about by starting early. Then there’s the issue of what Christmas means to Christians, which I am. That’s a consideration for me. But, because you may not be Christian, I won’t go there.

I think we use the presents and other Ho-Ho-Ho stuff to extend the Christmas season, not to emphasize the specialness of it. And by extending Christmas at the front end, the Thanksgiving season has been effectively reduced to a single day (or, for some of us, a four-day weekend).


In the fall, I appreciate the way the world slows down and warms up. It’s the autumn season that truly celebrates warmth, not the summer. Summer is about fire and sparkle. Autumn is about slowing down and wringing every last drop out of the world. We send the clock backward so we can enjoy one more hour of daylight each day. Instead of tossing steaks and burgers on the grill on Sunday afternoons, we hunker down and roast hams or turkeys. We start using our fireplaces for their intended purpose rather than just for display.

Both my parents have passed, and I miss them just as much as I’m thankful for them. That’s probably why Thanksgiving is so important to me. In fact, when I moved into their home and placed my stamp on it, I chose my mother’s favorite room for my office. After the remodel, the dining room’s chandelier is absent, as are the big family table and the china teacup collection. But every day–especially in November (which was also Mom’s birthday month)–this room echoes with the memories of Dad’s homemade turkey gravy, Mom’s store-bought pumpkin pie, and arguing over who would sit at the kid’s table in the kitchen instead of with the grownups in the dining room.


I understand the appeal of the Christmas season. For example, my nephew’s wife is a big fan of Christmas–she’d celebrate it all year if she could. Her philosophy is that the season makes her happy and there’s nothing wrong with doing what makes you, and your family, happy. She loves the colorful lights and decorations, the way her kids get excited at the prospect of family traditions and get-togethers, and the way other people are much more friendly and accommodating at this time of year. So, yes, I get her perspective, too. I’m all for doing what makes you happy.

So, I’ve talked myself in a complete circle. What was the question again?

What comes first, Christmas or Thanksgiving?

I guess the chronological date, the looking back before we can move forward, and the spirit that lives inside us is what comes first. Maybe I, in my own way, begin celebrating the true spirit of Christmas in November … and just call it Thanksgiving.

Words Better Left Unsaid: Do You Know What They Are?

The Words

I began hosting The Writer’s Voice podcast nearly a year ago. In each episode, I chat with one or more writers about the craft of writing, the process of writing, and books. I also attempt to draw out the true personality of my guests so listeners get a glimpse of the person behind the writer. This week, the podcast’s editor, Mike Royer, suggested that when writers plan what they’re going to say in advance of each episode they should also focus on … words better left unsaid.

Not only does he edit the audio and video for each podcast and its trailers, he is also a highly auditory person. In other words, he focuses on the music of the words my guests and I speak. According to Mike, attending to the words better left unsaid is the favorite part of his job. He has told me this before. Many times. In many different ways. For some reason, I never got it.

So, this week, he showed me.

The Sounds

Showing versus telling is a concept we writers learn early on in our careers. The concept is pounded into our heads over and over at writing workshops, during conferences, and in how-to books. We also learn to read our work aloud, especially the dialogue, to ensure the rhythm of the words, and the cadence and pacing, sounds right.

Until recently, I didn’t understand that we writers need to follow these same rules when we appear in public, participate in marketing events, and–yes, host or appear on a podcast. I also learned that showing how not to do something is equally as important as showing how to actually do it.

The Words Better Left Unsaid

When you hear the music of words better left unsaid, you’ll understand exactly what I mean … just listen!

Outtakes 1

Stay tuned for more outtakes – some of them are really funny!

If you’d like to learn more about The Writer’s Voice podcast, see past writers who appeared, or find links to listen, watch the YouTube trailers, or request a guest spot, click here.