Politics As Usual Or Is Scandal A Thing Of The Past?

This day in history – “Teapot Dome” became synonymous with outrage, political scandal and a disgraceful event.

You remember history, that thing we’re destined to repeat if we don’t remember it?

What happened, you ask?

In 1920,  Warren G. Harding, a senator and  Ohio newspaper publisher, won a long-shot bid for the White House with the financial backing of oilmen who were promised oil-friendly cabinet picks in return.

Harding’s campaign slogan for the election was “Return to normalcy,” a return to the way of life before World War I. His promise was to return the United States to its prewar greatness after the hardships of World War I (1914-1918). (Hmm, Make America Great?) As president, Harding favored pro-business policies, diminished conservation, and limited immigration.

Even though it lasted only from 1921 to 1923 (Harding died in 1923), Harding’s administration became the most scandal-ridden to date, thanks to his political friends. Attorney General Harry Daugherty was accused of profiting from the sale of government alcohol supplies during Prohibition, as well as selling pardons. Harding’s head of the Veterans Bureau, Charles Forbes, was sentenced to two years in prison for bribery and corruption. Other scandals involved appointees in the Shipping Bureau and Alien Property Custodians office. And, Harding’s Secretary of the Interior, Albert B. Fall, announced his resignation in the midst of an unfolding scandal that would become known as Teapot Dome.

Now I’d heard of the Teapot Dome scandal, but didn’t really know what was involved, so on a whim, I did a little research. (It’s what authors do, usually when they’re procrastinating.)

The Teapot Dome Scandal of the 1920s shocked Americans by revealing an unprecedented level of greed and corruption within the federal government. The scandal involved ornery oil tycoons, poker-playing politicians, illegal liquor sales, a murder-suicide, a womanizing president and a bagful of bribery cash.

During the Teapot Dome scandal, Albert B. Fall was found guilty of accepting a bribe while in office. (Fall claimed it was a loan from Doheny worth about $5 million in today’s dollars. He was unable to justify the ~$15 million in cash and bonds he received from Sinclair. Some sources say it was “only” $10 million.) Fall was the first individual to be convicted of a crime committed while a presidential cabinet member.

Fall attempted to transfer control of the Forest Service from the Department of Agriculture. He wanted the natural resources of the Alaska Territory (apparently for his own use), but was no match for the Agriculture Secretary–and future Vice President–Henry Wallace. He was more “successful” with the US Naval oil-reserves. As the Navy converted from coal-powered to oil-fueled ships, the reserves insured there was sufficient oil in the event of another war.

Fall convinced Warren G. Harding to transfer supervision of the land from the Navy to the Department of the Interior in May 1921 (which Harding did by Executive Order). Fall then secretly granted exclusive rights to the Teapot Dome(Wyoming) reserves to Harry F. Sinclair of the Mammoth Oil Company (April 7, 1922). (He also made similar rights grants to Edward L. Doheny of Pan American Petroleum Company for the Elk Hills and Buena Vista Hills reserves in California (1921–22).)

What brought Fall down was a Congress that actually investigated instead of staging political shows and a Justice Department that “followed the money.” Fall’s personal financial position improved dramatically following the lease grants, attracting the attention of Senate investigators. Special prosecutors were appointed and the investigation unraveled the crime.

In 1929, Fall became the first former Cabinet officer ever convicted of a felony committed while in office. He was fined $100,000, which he never paid, and served only nine months of a one-year prison sentence. “My version of the matter is simply that I was not guilty,” he told the parole board. (Ironically enough, after resigning, Fall took part in lucrative oil deals in Russia and Mexico with both Doheny and Sinclair.)

Doherty was never charged, but Sinclair refused to answer some of the Senate team’s questions, claiming that Congress had no right to probe his private affairs. That refusal was challenged and eventually reached the Supreme Court. In the 1929, Sinclair vs. United States ruling, the court said that Congress did have the power to fully investigate cases where the country’s laws may have been violated. Sinclair would later serve six months in prison for contempt of Congress and jury tampering.

 

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Find Your Purpose in Life

Do you have a sense of purpose?

A friend invited me to hear a presentation by a local historian (a husband and wife team). At the end of their speech, she turned to me and said, “This is their passion. I wish I knew what mine was.”

That comment stuck with me as I move into a new stage of my life. What is my passion? Where do I find purpose in life? For years, I’ve found purpose in my professional life and through the charitable organizations I’ve supported with my time and money. Now, I’m reexamining these activities, searching for that greater sense of purpose.

For decades, psychologists have studied how long-term, meaningful goals develop over the span of our lives. The goals that foster a sense of purpose are ones that can potentially change the lives of other people, from launching an organization, researching disease, to teaching kids to read.

A sense of purpose appears to have evolved in humans so we can accomplish big things together—which may be why it’s linked to better physical and mental health. Purpose is adaptive, in an evolutionary sense. It helps both individuals and the species survive.

Many seem to believe that purpose arises from your special gifts and sets you apart from other people—but that’s only part of the truth. It also grows from our connection to others, which is why a crisis of purpose is often a symptom of isolation. Once you find your path, you’ll almost certainly find others—a community—traveling along with you, hoping to reach the same destination.

Here are six ways to overcome isolation and discover your purpose in life.

1. Read

Reading connects us to people we’ll never know, across time and space—an experience that, research says, is linked to a sense of meaning and purpose. (Note: “Meaning” and “purpose” are linked but separate social-scientific constructs. Purpose is a part of meaning; meaning is a much broader concept that usually also includes value, efficacy, and self-worth.)

“Reading fiction might allow adolescents to reason about the whole lives of characters, giving them specific insight into an entire lifespan without having to have fully lived most of their own lives,” Raymond A. Mar suggests. By seeing purpose in the lives of other people, teens are more likely to see it in their own lives. In this sense, purpose is an act of the imagination.

Find books that matter to you—and they might help you to see what matters in your own life.

2. Turn hurts into healing for others

Of course, finding purpose is not just an intellectual pursuit; it’s something we need to feel. That’s why it can grow out of suffering, both our own and others’.

Kezia Willingham was raised in poverty in Corvallis, Oregon, her family riven by domestic violence. “No one at school intervened or helped or supported my mother, myself, or my brother when I was growing up poor, ashamed, and sure that my existence was a mistake,” she says. “I was running the streets, skipping school, having sex with strangers, and abusing every drug I could get my hands on.”

When she was 16, Kezia enrolled at an alternative high school that “led me to believe I had options and a path out of poverty.” She made her way to college and was especially “drawn to the kids with ‘issues’”—kids like the one she had once been. She says:

“I want the kids out there who grew up like me, to know they have futures ahead of them. I want them to know they are smart, even if they may not meet state academic standards. I want them to know that they are just as good and valuable as any other human who happens to be born into more privileged circumstances. Because they are. And there are so damn many messages telling them otherwise.”

3. Cultivate awe, gratitude, and altruism

Certain emotions and behaviors that promote health and well-being can also foster a sense of purpose—specifically, awe, gratitude, and altruism.

Studies conducted by the Greater Good Science Center have shown that the experience of awe makes us feel connected to something larger than ourselves—and so can provide the emotional foundation for a sense of purpose. Of course, awe all by itself won’t give you a purpose in life. It’s not enough to just feel like you’re a small part of something big; you also need to feel driven to make a positive impact on the world. That’s where gratitude and generosity come into play.

With gratitude, children and adults who are able to count their blessings are much more likely to try to contribute to the world beyond themselves. This is probably because, if we can see how others make our world a better place, we’ll be more motivated to give something back.

Here we arrive at altruism. There’s little question, that helping others is associated with a meaningful, purposeful life. People who engage in altruistic behaviors, like volunteering or donating money, tend to have a greater sense of purpose in their lives.

4. Listen to what other people appreciate about you

Giving thanks can help you find your purpose. But you can also find purpose in what people thank you for.

Like Kezia Willingham, Shawn Taylor had a tough childhood—and he was also drawn to working with kids who had severe behavioral problems. Unlike her, however, he often felt like the work was a dead-end. “I thought I sucked at my chosen profession,” he says. Then, one day, a girl he’d worked with five years before contacted him.

“She detailed how I helped to change her life,” says Shawn—and she asked him to walk her down the aisle when she got married. Shawn hadn’t even thought about her, in all that time. “Something clicked and I knew this was my path. No specifics, but youth work was my purpose.”

Although there is no research that directly explores how being thanked might fuel a sense of purpose, we do know that gratitude strengthens relationships—and those are often the source of our purpose.

5. Find and build community

We can often find our sense of purpose in the people around us. In tandem with his reading, Art McGee found purpose—working for social and racial justice—in “love and respect for my hardworking father,” he says. “Working people like him deserved so much better.”

Environmental and social-justice organizer Jodi Sugerman-Brozan feels driven to leave the world in a better place than she found it. Becoming a mom “strengthened that purpose (it’s going to be their world, and their kids’ world),” she says. It “definitely influences how I parent (wanting to raise anti-racist, feminist, radical kids who will want to continue the fight and be leaders).”

If you’re having trouble remembering your purpose, take a look at the people around you. What do you have in common with them? What are they trying to be? What impact do you see them having on the world? Is that impact a positive one? Can you join with them in making that impact? What do they need? Can you give it them?

If the answers to those questions don’t inspire you, then you might need to find a new community—and with that, a new purpose may come.

6. Tell your story

Purpose often arises from curiosity about your own life. What obstacles have you encountered? What strengths helped you to overcome them? How did other people help you? How did your strengths help make life better for others? Reading can help you find your purpose—but so can writing,

“We all have the ability to make a narrative out of our own lives,” says Emily Esfahani Smith, author of the 2017 book The Power of Meaning. “It gives us clarity on our own lives, how to understand ourselves, and gives us a framework that goes beyond the day-to-day and basically helps us make sense of our experiences.”

On a final note, I wish I could take credit for this wonderful advice, but I can’t. This content was curated by the folks at mindful.org. I suggest you click the link and head to their site so you can read even more inspiring thoughts on this subject.

This post was originally shared at my group blog – The Stiletto Gang

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Decisions, decisions

Are you a planner? Or do you go with the flow, making decisions on a whim or the spur of the moment?

I always thought I was a planner. (Why is this song line running through my head? If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.) When I was in college, I held a “co-op” position. This meant I worked winter and summer quarters for a company in my field. It helped pay tuition and meant I would have experience when I graduated. It also meant I was out-of-sync with the required course offerings for my degree.

In the spring of what should’ve been my senior year, I found I needed three classes to graduate—and only two of them were offered fall quarter.

Bummer.

I’d already accepted a job in Philadelphia starting in December, so I had to squeeze that class in somehow. So while my friends headed off to start their new careers, or at least left town for a summer job, I was going to summer school.

Double bummer.

I predicted a long and boring summer.

 

A game of racquetball doubles at the end of May introduced me to a friend of a friend—more famous last words: nice guy, not my type—who was starting grad school in June.

In a spur of the moment decision, I wandered into the Engineering building, found him, and suggested a game of racquetball. That summer turned into a whirlwind courtship. We married a few months later and he left grad school to follow me to Pennsylvania. Many years later, he’s still a nice guy—and he’s definitely my type.

In So About the Money, Holly Price faced those same decisions when she finished college. Follow her career aspirations and accept the high risk/high reward position in Seattle? Follow her heart and marry JC Dimitrak, who wanted her at home behind a picket fence? Convince JC to move to Seattle where he could follow his career choice in law enforcement? Their relationship crashed and burned as their arguments led to disastrous decisions.

Seven years later, Holly’s back in her hometown, facing the same choices. Go back to Seattle after helping her mother—or start something new with JC? Both of them are older, but are they any wiser?

What about you? Have you faced a follow your head or heart decision? How did you choose?

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Prize Draw – last chance to enter! Romantic Suspense and Mystery books

Come over to NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS blog and enter the grand prize draw. ELEVEN great ebook novels to win, plus Amazon vouchers to add to the seasonal spirit of giving!

And all for the price of a comment about the books YOU love to read :D.

The draw will run through Dec 25, so please check back then *on the NYUS blog* to see if you’ve won.

These are the titles on offer for the Top Prize –  yes, the package is **ALL** of them! There are blurbs and links available on the NYUS blog post if you want to know more.

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Cork vs Screw Top – Is Either Better?

It’s #WineWednesday!

The cork vs. screw top debate—what do you think?

You may have heard statements such as: Corks are old fashion, like a horse and buggy in the age of the automobile. Or: Screw tops are cheap, like an H&M sweater; they’re a fad.

Does does only the wine inside matter? Learn more at:

Are Screw Caps for Cheap Wine?

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A Different Point of View

When I was young, if you’d asked me for the last place I’d expect—or want—to live, my answer would’ve been, “In a small town.” Small towns seemed to be cultural wastelands, populated by gossiping neighbors who were all related to each other. And out west? That option never entered my Southern soul.

Fast forward a few years and dangle the right job opportunity at the right time and—you got it in one—we moved to a small town in eastern Washington state. We quickly discovered most of those myths about small towns were simply…myths.

As we settled into our new hometown, I debated whether my novels should make a similar cross-country leap. My South Carolina based mysteries featured a law enforcement protagonist. To get appropriate operational procedures, along with cop attitudes and humor, I drew from a circle of friends at various levels of local, state and federal law enforcement. Curious about procedures in our new town, I participated in the Citizen’s Police Academy and discovered most of the same policies and philosophies I’d encountered back east. (I also learned more than I ever wanted to know about making meth. Nasty nasty stuff.)

Volunteering for the Sexual Assault Center as a hospital victim’s advocate provided an intimate view of law enforcement. Other than one cocky, testosterone-laden patrol officer and another older guy I wanted to strangle (except that would be assault and I really had no interest in going to jail), I found the officers professional, well educated and well trained. Nobody’s perfect, but I appreciated what these men and women did on a daily basis.

And those inevitable slow days in a small town? Well, let’s just say the day my in-law’s moving van got stuck at the entrance to the retirement village (blocking traffic on the main road—another relative term), all four patrol cars PLUS the sergeant showed up. Once they finished laughing, they helped a retired mechanic (who was in heaven being the expert, by the way) do something to a suspension part and un-stuck it. For some strange reason, the chief of police was not amused when I relayed this story at a party… So far, I’ve refrained from using this tidbit in a book.

With only five patrol officers on duty during a shift (and fewer than this in the even smaller nearby towns) reciprocal agreements were a must. Neighboring cities, counties, even Washington State Patrol was a welcome addition when suspects took to the highways to escape. I made use of this mutual support during Holly Price’s carjacking in So About the Money. In addition to the local officers, county deputies and state patrol officers joined the chase to catch the villains in that scene.

I’d better back up a second. Along with changing locations from South Carolina’s cities to a small town in eastern Washington, I switched from a multiple (hero, heroine, villain) point of view approach and a law enforcement main character, to a single, civilian character. Whew! Talk about stretching and growing as an author. Everything that happened in the story had to come through that one character’s experiences and reactions. (And no cheating with, “Well, Laurie, as you know, this thing you should already know about happened, but let me give you the complete backstory.”) Action and body language became as important as dialogue for revealing character—but that’s a different discussion.

Rather than having my new protagonist act as a private investigator or a journalist working the crime beat, I made my heroine an accountant. Curious, bright and loyal to friends and family (hmm, she’s much better at crime solving than my dog) she made a terrific character to “follow the money.” Of course, when you poke at villains, they have a tendency to poke back, harder. It was fun to write the scenes where Holly bumped up against law enforcement and filter the scene through her impressions—her point of view—rather than another cop’s.

My new law enforcement friends did insist I get the details right. Even if they produced giant eye-rolls from my heroine.

 

So About the Money romps through eastern Washington with its rivers, wineries, Native American casinos, and assorted farm animals. Add in some wicked fun chemistry between the CPA amateur sleuth and a local detective and Holly Price better solve the case before the next dead body found beside the river is hers.

Double Down, a story featuring characters from So About the Money, releases October 24 and is available for pre-sale at a special price. Here’s the universal link – https://www.books2read.com/DoubleDown and the Amazon direct link – https://www.amazon.com/Double-Down

 

 

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A Day in the Life of Holly Price

What’s a typical day in my life?

I’d love to tell you about a typical day back in my real life. You know, my life in Seattle with the Mergers & Acquisitions Team, where I investigated companies my clients bought or sold. Ever since I moved back to Richland, Washington—which I swear is temporary—people constantly ask me what I “used” to do in the big city. Part of me wants to shriek, “No, no, no. It’s what I do.”

In case you missed it, I really can’t believe I’m back in a town I swore I’d never live in again.

But even the shock of moving back to my hometown didn’t prepare me for this week. Then again, this week has been anything but typical. It started with, what shall I call it? A really awful date? We’ve all had one of those, right? Alex said we were going to Big Flats, a huge tract of land owned by the government that’s open to the public. Yes, I shouldn’t have assumed it was another hiking date. I thought, Okay, a picnic and a bottle of wine. Could be fun.

Oh, no. Not what happened. Alex should’ve told me it was opening day for pheasant hunting.

Fun times, right? I tried to be a good sport and pretend it was still a hike, but then… his dog started chasing around, and the next thing I knew, we’d found a body. Stumbling over a dead person would’ve been awful enough.

We found the body of a friend of ours.

Worst day ever, right?

Except it got even worse. Because after all the deputies, search and rescue people, game management and every other agency with a string of letters after their name showed up, the detective assigned to the case arrived.

You guessed it. My ex-fiancé, JC Dimitrak.

Complete disaster.

Before I tell you about the rest of the week, I should explain why I’m back in Richland. It definitely wasn’t my idea. I was perfectly happy in Seattle and like most kids, thought my parents were doing Just Fine. Then my dad had some kind of mental brain fart and ran off with his yoga instructor. Last I heard, he’s living in Arizona, playing Downward Facing Dog, while I’m working myself half to death to help my mother keep the family’s accounting practice open. So I usually have my hands full, meeting with clients and prospective clients, trying to make Desert Accounting an attractive take over target.

This week, thanks to my ex, I’m fending off crazy suspicions that Alex and I had anything to do with murder, and reassuring clients and I swear, if that local reporter doesn’t leave me alone, I’m not going to have a business left to sell. So I’ve done what any nosy CPA would do. I started asking questions.

Of course, I told JC whenever I found out anything, but did he thank me? Of course not. He’s insisting that all the…errr…accidents I’ve had this week were deliberate. Crazy, right?

But if some maniac really thinks CPA stands for Certified Pain in the Ass, I better figure our what’s going on and who’s behind it.

Fast.

 

Celebrating the upcoming release of DOUBLE DOWN with a sale on the first book in the Holly Price series – SO ABOUT THE MONEY!

 

Originally posted at: https://drusbookmusing.com/2015/12/07/holly-price/
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Grateful – With or Without (Horrors!) Wine

We’ve been talking (off and on) about gratitude this month. I poked around to some of the sites I routinely follow and have loved all the recognition this month that as individuals, as a community, (totally prefer to avoid politics here, but I’m gonna say it anyway) and as a nation, there’s a lot to celebrate. There’s so much good going on, but it’s easy to focus on the Not So Good (or the absolutely abysmal).

Tonight as I sip a glass of wine (always grateful to the people who make wine), I keep thinking about a challenge I read. The challenge is to focusing on the good things.

Okay, admit it. Do you beat yourself up over the fumbles, the thing you might could’ve done better, and bring yourself down in the process? (Yeah, I might’ve done that.) Or do you quietly (or loudly if that’s your style 😉 ) give thanks for the good things in your life?

I’m choosing to focus on the good. That we can reach out to each other within the writing community — and beyond it to our local town or whatever sphere you can touch — and make things better.

I’ll save talk about community service for another post. Tonight, rather than wallow in the Not So Good, I’m celebrating the Good Things.

This week I’m savoring that after a year and a half in a tiny apartment (which also had my day job office in the middle of the loving space), we moved into our new house! I walk through the rooms and revel in the space. I have a dining table again. A place to have friends over where they can actually sit down. Art that’s been in storage for too long is slowly finding a new place in our home.  

I’m grateful for family. My daughter asked if she and her fiancé could have their engagement pictures taken at our house. I’m so happy for the two of them, that they found each other and that they want to include us as they forge a life together.

I’m grateful for friends on so many levels. Old friends who are helping me out professionally and new friends who are easing the transition into a new home and new options for the future.

What are you savoring this week? What are you grateful for?

And because it’s So About The Money’s book birthday, I’m putting together a present for my readers, because I’m always grateful when people choose to spend their time with my characters. 

Watch my Facebook page for details or sign up for the newsletter that I swear I’m finally going to send out. 

 

Addendum – sent the newsletter and Mailchimp promptly banned me (le sigh) so you might need to sign up again…

 

 

Originally posted to my group blog 

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Actions Speak Much, Much Louder Than Words

I picked up a new craft book (aren’t all authors addicted to improving their craft?) that has me excited about writing again. Part of my funk over the winter had been that writing seemed yet another job – with a long list of Must Do tasks – and like most of you, I had too many balls in the air already.

I wanted to buckle down and just write the damn book. I actually had people contact me and ask when the next in the Holly Price/ So About series would release—which should make me feel happy rather than pressured. Right?

Anyway, I stumbled over two books titled The 90-Day Novel.

Okay then! 90-days! Score! (Is this where I admit it takes me a year to write a novel?)

The first craft book was a disappointment. It contained a very summarized rehash of things we’ve all heard a million times. Set your turning points, make the index cards, park your butt and go.

Yawn.

The other one, by Alan Watt, hit the note I needed to hear. Step back and consider the possibilities, he recommended. What if…? What are you afraid of? Your heroine probably has the same fears. Can you work with that? Lots (and lots) of 5 minute writing drills occurred during the first week, but none of it needed to appear directly in the book. I was encouraged to scribble images, scenes, scene-lets, ideas, whatever. No pressure, because nobody was going to read or critique it. It was playing with words, which I hadn’t done in ages. It was diving into what I was passionate about—and how that drives my story.

And through the process, the dilemma, which is the root perception cause of the problem (which is what your protag thinks she’s trying to solve) evolves. I realized “trust” is the emotion I needed to tap into and now, everything else is falling into place. The conflicts between all my characters really come down to that one, very basic emotion. Trust is crucial for a relationship. All relationships. Relationships between friends, family, lovers.

"Let's try it once without the parachute."

Trust is what happens when actions speak much, much louder than words. You can’t make someone trust you. From Holly’s perspective, when others’ actions are undermining her trust in them, going with what she believes is the right thing to do will show others she’s trustworthy—and hopefully won’t get her killed.

I started this craft book adventure in connection with my own 100×100 challenge (a friend who’s 300 days in inspired me). The 100×100 challenge is to write at least 100 words every day for 100 days. Three weeks into in, I’ve filled half a spiral notebook. And the scenes, plot, and subplots are coming into focus.

How’s your writing going this summer?

 

Cathy Perkins is currently working on Book Two in the Holly Price/So About series. So About the Money was blessed by readers and booksellers with the Award of Excellence – Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements. A spin-off in that series, Malbec Mayhem features one of the secondary characters and is available now.

Originally posted to her group blog – The Stiletto Gang

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