Let the word sit on your tongue. It’s a subtle word. It sizzles in the middle.


It beckons you forward. Encourages you to engage. Dangles a reward.

Or does it?

Writing is a tough one. Are you enamoured by the process? Do you feel compelled to let words tumble out of your brain and onto the page? Are you bold enough to let those words fly, or play with them, shifting their positions as if they were an enthralling jigsaw? Unless all of these conditions are in place, what incentive is there to write?

Money, fame, fans, accolades?  No guarantees, and if you are writing with these aspirations – may the force be with you.

You’ll need it.

I am incentivized by the potential of impact. I want my words to resonate. When I release these blog posts every week, the words have already resonated within me… and that IS satisfying. But if they then resonate with even ONE person beyond me – that is enormously satisfying.

I have heard from many readers, “I love to read your posts but I haven’t written… or I can’t write… or it’s not my thing… or I’m not very good or, or, or, or, or….

I’m bored with OR! I want to tempt words from you. I want to ignite action. I want you to feel the surge in your soul that can come with digging deeper. Unearthing creativity. Inventing worlds. Exploring expression. I want to incentivize you to WRITE – without fear or judgement.

So here goes…

When I first moved to LA two years ago I was introduced to a lovely woman called Jo Ann Thrailkill. Jo Ann is the founder of The Pablove Foundation– a non profit that raises funds for paediatric cancer research and offers a remarkable photography program, Pablove Shutterbugs, for children lving with cancer. Pablove grew with passion, dedication and care from the dark roots of grief. Jo Ann and her husband, Jeff, lost their son, Pablo, to a rare form of childhood cancer when he was only 6 years old.

Pause here. Let those words resonate.

In the short time since his death, despite the massive unrepairable rupture in their worlds, Jo Ann and Jeff miraculously didn’t lose their incentive. They found a way to keep going. They began to create something that would not only honour the precious life of their brave and beautiful son, but that would also positively impact other children suffering from cancer.

Pablove was born.

If I close my eyes I can picture Jo Ann and Jeff carving a heart into the trunk of a tree. I imagine the birth of Pablove as a pact between them. A statement.  A message. We are still here. Pablo’s older brother, Grady, was fifteen when Pablo died. We are still here. We will continue to make meaning…

Pablove inspires me. Jo Ann and Jeff inspire me. The children in the Shutterbugs photography program inspire me. I never met Pablo, but he inspires me. Hugely.

As part of my aim to inspire YOU and incentivize you to write, I am pledging my continued support to Pablove.

Below is a gorgeously graphic image taken by Diego, 13 years old, who participated in a 2011 Shutterbugs photography program.

I am going to leave this post up for 2 weeks and within that time, for every fictional story, original poem, or memory you share on the site in response to Diego’s photograph , I will donate $5 to Pablove. And if you want to match that donation – please do so here: Let me know if you donate, but remember, your words alone will ensure a contribution.

Do it now!  It doesn’t have to be literal – use the image as a springboard and jump. Remember my ethos – forget about getting it ‘right’ and get it ‘write’ instead!  Share part of you. Share this post with friends and family.  Share the Pablove!  Click on the ‘comments’ button to get started, and if you are reading this via email…  please visit the site directly to respond.

Join Jo Ann and Jeff. Carve your initials and your heart into that tree trunk. Let your words truly make a difference.

I’m here to make certain they will…

From Pablove
The Pablove Foundation is named after Pablo Thrailkill Castelaz, the son of Jo Ann Thrailkill and Jeff Castelaz and
the little brother of Grady Gallagher. Pablo was six years old when he lost his valiant yearlong battle with bilateral
Wilms Tumor, a rare form of childhood cancer. The mission of The Pablove Foundation is to fund pediatric cancer
research and advances in treatment, educate and empower cancer families, and improve the quality of life for
children living with cancer through hospital play, music and arts programs. Pablove Shutterbugs is the foundation’s program to teach
children living with cancer to express their creative voice through the art of photography.For more information on The Pablove

Foundation, please visit and follow Pablove on Facebook at and Twitter at @pablove.

Please also take the time to click below and read a true example of Writing To Be You – a soulful letter written by Pablo’s father, Jeff, on Pablo’s birthday.


What’s stopping you? You donate words… I donate money… it’s sweet, easy and soulful. Please grab this gift of incentive and WRITE! You have until Monday 9th July!

23 Responses to “Incentive”

  1. Marilyn Ruel
    June 24, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

    I feel as if I know Pablo and his beautiful family … I don’t … but I have followed their journey since Jeff started his blog. Pablo was a beautiful child that will always be remembered. I admire Jeff, JoAnne and Grady very much and feel their loss.

    I pray for all the children and families who are dealing with cancer and pray that it will soon be cured.

  2. Lisa Lavender Hickey
    June 24, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

    Incentive: A thing that motivates or encourages one to do something.

    This word means so many things to me at this very moment, this very space where I am in my life. How can I put all of it into words that will bring all of those meanings together to encompass exactly where I am right now? Pablove! Pablo, a little boy my family never had the honor of knowing, but who nonetheless has come into our hearts and changed our lives. Jeff, a grieving father who spilled his heartfelt words out into a blog and continues to encourage and inspire me, to “do my best” and “stand in my own light.” Jo Ann, a loving mother who faced every mother’s worst nightmare with grace, when she lost her darling sweetest P. A woman that I feel is my soul sister, in so many ways, even though I barely know her.

    I’ve always loved to write. For as long as I can remember, people have told me that I am talented when it comes to writing. It is something I love to do. It is something I dream about making a living at “someday.” However, I am griped by that constant nagging of “not feeling good enough.” Oh, how I would love to be the next J.K. Rowling…but what could I write about? I dream of writing my own thesis someday, like my sister in law Dr. Rochelle Duffy, who wrote her thesis about growing up in a family of 17 siblings and then years later turned it into the play “Prison is Where I Learned to Fly”.

    Today, I will be brave and take a leap of faith. Right now, I will allow myself to be motivated to write for Pablove. To help fight childhood cancer with LOVE!

    Today, I can be brave and motivated to do my best at facing all the fears I have regarding what the future holds for my family and the uncertainty of this crazy world and the troubling economy. Like the innocence of a child enjoying a cool ice cream cone on a hot summer day; today, I remain present, in the moment, with an open heart, inspired by all the things that money can’t buy: Love, Friendship, Grace, Courage, Faith, Family, Gratitude……

  3. Terre D.
    June 24, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    That looks so refreshing right now in this Kansas heat! Certainly takes me back to my childhood. While walking home from swim lessons at a nearby pool, we often stopped by our local neighborhood ice cream shop for one of these cones. I remember never being able to eat it fast enough before it melted!

  4. Molly
    June 24, 2012 at 11:20 pm #

    Original HAIKU

    OH…such perfection

    Teasing me with melting ice

    Briefly…now it’s gone

  5. Gaby Zein
    June 25, 2012 at 2:33 am #

    For Pablove, with love….


    Ice, frozen in time. Glittering, solid, tangible.
    And translucent. And fragile.
    Frozen in time. Please stay.
    Melting away, one agonising tear drop at a time.
    Leaving only its dark chill in our hearts and souls.
    Ebbing. Flowing. Changing state.
    Belonging now to the earth, the rivers, the ocean.
    Finding a way home. Some day, some how, some way.
    In the endless cycle of life.

  6. Karen H.
    June 25, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    By Karen H.

    When I was a little girl, my grandfather used to take all of his nine grandchildren out to lunch once a month. Our ages spanned thirteen years and he was in his late seventies. He wouldn’t bring our grandmother, or either of our mothers, or any help with him. He wasn’t a hands-on kind of a grandfather, but for those Saturday lunches it was just the ten of us.

    Papa’s long chocolate brown Cadillac would quietly ease onto the driveway before noon. Papa would great us at the front door in a tailored suit to fit his six-foot five-inch frame. My three older brothers wore coats and ties and my older sister and I wore dresses that usually matched. Sometimes our four cousins would already be inside the car, but we liked it better when they weren’t so that we could choose our favorite places to sit. I liked the bench seats that unfolded between the front and the back seats. Being in Papa’s car was unlike any other station wagon or van that we were usually driven in.

    When I was a toddler Papa would drive as I’d stare up from behind him at his balding head. But as his health deteriorated he would sit in the back with us and a man named Charles would do the driving. Then Papa would have to bend his long legs to make room for us to sit in the bench seats in front of him. There was a lot of squeezing that had to happen for us all to fit in, but with the two oldest boys up front, it always worked.

    On the short drive down Beverly Glen to Century City, Papa would ask us what we were going to order for lunch. Inevitably one of us would start to shout, “I scream. You Scream. We all scream for ice-cream!” and we would all chime in until the doors of the car were flung open in the parking lot of The Hamburger Hamlet. Papa never told us to be quiet. We knew to how to behave in restaurants, especially with him. He would sit at the end of a long table and ask each of us how we were doing. We told him stories about school, friends, or fun things we did with Dad on his weekends. I don’t remember Papa talking a lot or telling stories. He mostly listened. Then he’d treat us all to an ice-cream for desert before taking us home.

  7. Marjorie
    June 25, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    Growing up in England soft serve was THE ice cream until Basking Robbins and a few other American companies made inroads in the market and I LOVED it….but then came umpteen flavors and a simple soft serve lost its appeal.
    Now I live in a dinky part of West Virginia and I recently introduced my twin grandsons to Dairy Queen…It’s all there is here and guess what? They LOVED it…plain old soft serve – no fancy anything just plain white soft serve and it took me back to when I loved simple soft serve when life and love and ice cream and fun were all simple and I LOVED IT!!

  8. Fiona McAndrew
    June 26, 2012 at 1:58 am #

    “Mummy, I’m going to share this with you because I love you, so much”.
    The most precious things in life are the most simplest, those kind of memories that stay with us forever, are what truely enrich our lives.

  9. Sophie James
    June 26, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

    Mr. Whippy. This was not ice cream as such, but whorls of white, sweet sugary cream, thick as cheese, that would slip and slide down the cone and had to be eaten with purpose. My dad always said that Mr. Whippy was made of whale sperm, which oddly never put me off. ‘Real’ ice cream has taken over now in most parts of England and the fakery of the old stuff has become unfashionable – the stuff of jokes. Douglas Hurd is often mentioned – a politician whose hair is very similar – a cone-like cloud of white frosting. I hope there is still a place for Mr. Whippy, though. Because, weirdly, it actually tasted good.

  10. Barbara
    June 27, 2012 at 7:34 am #

    My father loved ice cream. He ate it after dinner practically every night of his adult life. Throughout my childhood, it was our special treat before going to bed. Sometimes we’d churn it over and over with a spoon until it was as creamy as pudding, fascinated when the vanilla blended with the rich darker hues of chocolate and coffee to create a new warmer shade and texture. Sometimes we mixed in broken up pretzels. It was that unbeatable combination of sweet, salty, crunchy–a taste sensation that years later every major ice cream company would successfully market. As my father got older, the scoops got bigger. As I got older, the scoops got smaller (watching the waste and waistline). He’d stand there dishing it out and be in total disbelief when I’d say he was giving me too much. After all, how could you ever have too much ice cream? When he died (at 93), along with the many things he left behind, was a freezer full of ice-cream! During the week of his funeral and shiva an abundance of savory and sweet foods arrived from our many wonderful and generous friends and family members. But one night after all the cookies and babka and chocolate were gone, my mother and I went in search of some dessert and remembered the ice cream. In tribute to my father, my mom and I grabbed a few spoons and sat with the many containers of ice cream flavors and indulged ourselves. I know Daddy was watching and having a good laugh over the size of those scoops!

  11. Susan
    June 27, 2012 at 10:44 am #

    My sisters and I rode to the Dairy Queen in the backseat that wasn’t really a backseat of my Dad’s convertible MG mini. Top down, no seat belts, rolling around in the back, almost falling out on the sharp corners…I liked mine dipped in the liquidy chocolate that would harden to become a shell. Yum.

  12. kathy katims
    June 27, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    There is a photograph of Johnny Arena among all the vats of ice cream. He is holding his first paycheck between between his thumbs and forefingers with an huge, toothy smile on his face. His hands had not yet begun to crack from scooping into the freezing vats of Chiller Cherry and Blueberry Bombs. He’d been there for two weeks and was two years older than I. My older sister’s friend.
    He was gay and from a Catholic family. I couldn’t quite understand how their family worked. There was a single mom who lived downstairs with her daughters. He was from a single dad and a red haired brother who were always terse and dismissive. “Jerry,” they’d bark. “Stop it.”
    But Jerry couldn’t stop it. As terse and intense and serious as they were, was as funny, warm, exuberant and playful as Jerry was. I loved him.
    I’d arrive at the Carvel and he’d dip my soft serve vanilla ice cream cone four extra times into the warm chocolate so instead of hardening into a bonnet it became a thick and delicious helmet.
    And then one day, when I got to high school he was gone.
    My sister and I heard from one of the girls downstairs he’d moved to New York’s West Village, a place I’d heard men held hands and danced with each other in the clubs on the corners. I was so happy to think of him delivered from Brooklyn, from the narrow streets and hurricane fences and rose beds that did not see what a beautiful blossom he was among them. I was relieved to think of him away from his dad and his brother.
    We used to make whirlpools in the blue plastic above ground pool in his backyard–kids from our family, kids from theirs and kids from the downstairs apartment. We’d tease the water into a frenzy so strong that it would sweep along the ladder and then eventually let ourselves drift luxuriously on its current, our work done for the day.
    Jerry had teased the water into a frenzy too, but I imagined he’d broken the pool with the current, set sail on it’s twisty peaks so that he could be delivered to a place where he was free and seen and loved.

  13. Jenn P.
    June 27, 2012 at 6:36 pm #

    Sweet. An adjective. A noun. A nickname. In any of those forms, it is a word that connotes something precious and delightful. This is how I remember feeling as a child in the home my parents created: I and my brother and two cousins were thought to be precious and delightful. Looking back, I know that’s why my two cousins, just slightly older than me, spent so much time in my home under the caring attention of my parents. There, Mark and Sean were precious, delightful, and desired. My troubled aunt and uncle were often distracted by their own problems, so much so that one summer they asked my parents to “watch” my cousins for a week and the boys ended up staying two months. My parents were thrilled; they loved those boys like their own children and treasured the chance to add sweetness to my cousins’ lives.

    I was only 7 but all these decades later, memories of that sweet summer resonate in my life. Those two months were stitched together with my mother’s exuberant sense of fun, her happy-go-lucky joy at having all four of us kids to fill the day with. I remember daily trips to the beach, singing made-up songs in the back of our VW bug, and early evening excursions to the local 31 Flavors, where we stood in still-damp bathing suits and bare feet, peering into the cold glass cases and trying to decide which sweet ice cream would fill our pointed cones. My parents let the four of us sleep in the den on the fold-out sofa bed and watch re-runs on TV: Bewitched, H.R. Pufnstuf, I Dream of Jeannie, The Flying Nun. We made up stories, pretending the bed was a boat and we were pirates sailing to England. Mark would be the captain, reflecting his rather serious nature. My younger brother and I were sailors, ready to take orders. Sean was, no matter the game, a jester, a trickster. He was always in his life what my mom called ‘a character.’ “That kid never missed a thing,” my mom says today, recalling with bittersweetness Sean’s inquisitive nature and uncommon wit (which was often unintentional). Even at 8, Sean had the ability to make grown adults laugh so hard they cried.

    And so it was one night that summer when we walked into the 31 Flavors and encountered four nuns in their black and white habits ordering ice cream. In the busyness of overseeing our flavor tasting and ordering, my parents didn’t notice that Sean had slipped away and walked over to the nuns. They noticed when they heard what my mom still remembers as a large “whoop of laughter” rise in the tiny ice cream shop and then they saw Sean standing in the midst of the nuns, who were now holding their dripping ice cream cones and laughing heartily. As it turns out, Sean had tugged gently on the black habit of one of the nuns to get their attention and asked, with all of the poise and genuine curiosity that ran through his body, “Excuse me? If we went out into the parking lot, the big one out that door, would you fly around a little so I could see how you do it? My brother and cousin and I will hold your ice cream for you.”

    “You were all such sweet kids,” my parents both say today. Precious and delightful. I know this is what they mean because this is now what I mean when I describe my own daughter as sweet. My cousin Sean left this world nearly eight years ago, an absence from our lives that will always be present. But in the memories we continue to share with each other, telling the stories of “the time when…” Sean remains precious and delightful. I am awash in that sweetness whenever I order ice cream and remember Sean’s earnest request to four nuns that they allow us to hold their ice cream cones while they fly around the parking lot.

  14. Jen
    June 28, 2012 at 8:07 am #

    Sticky fingers, sticky face
    After a quick and hurried race
    Down the street to catch the ice cream truck
    Vanilla dreams filled – a moment lusciously stuck

  15. Erin
    June 28, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    The Ritual

    A summer day – hot.
    No school.
    Four kids and one tired, fraying mom.

    Into the car, huge and teal
    Assigned seats
    The howls and shrieks of siblings
    My side, your side,

    Ten minutes to the drive-thru
    Chaos all the way
    AC slowly cooling the air
    Around four energetic little bodies
    And the driver

    Then four swirl cones
    Passed from one open window to another
    Orange and vanilla
    Locked in a summertime tango

    Silence in the car
    Spreading with the cones
    Each raised to eager lips

    Four tongues working overtime
    Hot air, frozen desserts

    No cone for mom.
    Into her hand goes each cone in turn:
    Give it a thorough lick
    Reset its drippy, melting surface
    And return it to its young consumer
    Before moving on to the next one.

    So much happiness
    So much peace
    For just forty-nine cents a cone.

    This is such an awesome idea! Thank you for getting readers involved in this way and for contributing to such a great cause 🙂

  16. Kim
    June 29, 2012 at 1:21 am #

    For Pablo, with love, from a childhood, non-Hodgkin’s cancer survivor.

    Yum! If I saw an ice cream cone like that while walking down the street, it could stop me in my tracks. I’d have to have it. Anticipating the first lick would transport me to a happy place where all my thoughts would be blissful, enjoying the taste, and all my problems would be solved….

    ….until the last bite.

  17. Kristin
    June 29, 2012 at 8:02 am #

    (I’ve resisted this post because of the story behind it – I am weak in the face of other’s loss… I am torn because I am so grateful it isn’t me and so sad that it is them.
    I have always felt that which isn’t mine to feel and motherhood has created a world in which I walk around with an open heart…I universally celebrate and suffer.)
    Two months before Jack, my second child and youngest son, was born, he was diagnosed with a serious heart condition and I was told to go home, go to bed and gain weight… Jack was charting too small to successfully survive the surgery they anticipated doing within hours of his birth… “He needs to be at least 5 pounds…”
    To bed I went and in bed I stayed and what I ate was ice cream. Bowls and bowls of sinfully rich, decadent Haagen Dazs… for 6 weeks my toddler son and I would spend the days lounging around my room, sharing butter pecan or chocolate cookie dough or, our always favorite, strawberry… he would run his toy trains over my not that big belly and around the duvet canyons and mountains… it was a strange time that felt suspended and foggy and sweet… I was gifted the ability to not only protect my unborn baby, but also to share the last weeks of “only child-hood” in such a personal and quiet way with Jake.
    Jack was born weighing exactly 5 pounds and today he is a strong and obnoxious fourteen year old…the blessings of ice cream.

  18. Kimberly O'Hara
    July 1, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

    It takes but one lick to find the clouds in heaven. They are all around me now. Translucent. Free. Floating. I am not as lonely as you would assume. You have to fight the belief that I am telling you that to feel better. That is what you mortals do with your feet on that firm earth. It is natural to be fearful when you have never been fortunate enough to fly. The ice cream here is perfection. You will be pleased to know this. It doesn’t melt down the cone with determination, in three or four places, sprouting its sticky trail again and again before you’ve even gotten a hold on the other streams of running milk. And the cones are always fresh. No stale cones in Heaven. Unacceptable. There would be a Heavenly riot of sorts. And the best part, the ice cream lasts as long as you need it to. It doesn’t end before you’re really satisfied, mourning that last tiny triangle of cone with the luke warm pool of melted cream in it. It lasts until you belly and your brain scream no more which is the way to always finish. When you are ready. Not a minute before.

  19. Frahnseen
    July 2, 2012 at 6:10 pm #

    The new dress in the closet to lose weight
    A bonus for a job well done
    Time and a half pay for Overtime
    Inviting guests over to get a clean house
    That cute cyclist ahead of me for a fast ride
    A free gift with my purchase
    Buy one get one free
    Ice cream for a clean room
    1200 hours of exercise in four months for half a day off
    An annual physical and a health questionnaire for 8 hours off
    I’ll never drink again if you’ll stop my head from spinning
    A chance of survival for intravenous poison cocktails
    Five dollars if you can fix it for me before your father gets home
    $5,000 on the birth of your first child (this, from my Dad, I have in writing)
    Ten dollars for ten lines and a chance to cure childhood cancer
    What a deal!
    Incentives. Some work. Some don’t. I’m still childless but I wrote ten lines. What makes some incentives worth it and some not? I think I would feel guilty if I withheld ten dollars from children with cancer because I couldn’t invest ten minutes of silly rambling of thoughts. Keep writing for a cure!

  20. Alexandra Hedison
    July 4, 2012 at 5:31 pm #

    I am walking on the humid and packed streets of downtown Singapore. The Indians and Chinese are pushing their ice cream trucks, and today is a busy day. People crowd around them, ready to pay for the cold sweet goods. My friend, who is from here, tells me that these vendors buy a license to sell their goods from the government, and explains that their permit lasts for the lifetime of the vendor. They cannot sell it, or trade it or replace it for another. The decision to push an ice cream cart down the streets of Singapore is a decision of a lifetime.

  21. Jennifer
    July 5, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    Dirty little feet peaking out from beneath the pink rabbit pajama bottoms that my mother had hand sown for me. If I only had red slippers instead of dirty feet.

    Regardless, tomorrow I’d be home.

    My pulse quickened in anticipation as I grabbed my red and blue suitcase. I couldn’t pack it fast enough.

    Tomorrow would be special. Tomorrow would be filled with magic. Tomorrow I’d be carried from this heavy place and transported into the light. I’d watch Pippi Longstocking and Gilligan’s Island from my dad’s giant red leather chair. We’d laugh. He’d paint my toes and make me peanut butter sandwiches and cut the crust off. We’d walk to C.C. Brown’s and have ice cream, and on the way back pick hydrangeas. He’d let me stand on top of his feet and we’d dance. I’d be safe.

    Saturdays never came fast enough, and then were over in the blink of an eye.

    I miss those precious days. I miss the smell of Paco Rabanne, having breakfast at the golf course and sitting in my dad’s lap while he’d let me steer his car. I miss his hands. His stubble kisses.

    I catch glimpses of him in my son’s eyes… and once again I’m home.

  22. alou
    July 6, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

    Summer. There is a rhythm in my body that has been with me since my memories started to have pictures. School, summer, school, summer, repeat. Even as an adult my body still keeps this beat. I never graduated to the grown up cycle of work, new year, repeat. As a teacher and now stay at home mom I still embrace summer like a child. My body seems to open up to the warmth of possibilities. The weight of school and schedules are lifted. My body feels taller, youthful…more hopeful. I welcome home made ice cream, fresh tomatoes, glowy brown skin with dried salt and sand, messy beach hair, outside showers, endless games, lounging, kids coming in and out of the house, bike rides at night. Thank you summer for always being there…you make me feel young.

  23. Georgie
    July 9, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    The connotations that come from ice cream. Fun, childhood, laughter, sweetness. The image is ironic. All things that strongly oppose the idea of cancer, it’s connotations being things like death, sadness, deterioration. The ice cream is almost like the fight itself, it’s the goodness and wholeness of a child. Keep holding on to that ice cream.

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