Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle · Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

Why write? Why not write?

Having been in the writing business for almost ten years (although I’ve been writing for quite a bit longer than that, on a non-business basis), I’ve learned many things. My hope is to impart them to my readers, both to share wisdom and to prevent you from making the mistakes that I did.

When you have something to say, say it. Sharing information is cathartic and if you find someone or some entity that wants to read it, so much the better. One of the lessons that I’ve learned through a significant amount of experience is that you are not the same as the work that you create. In other words, people will like you and not your work. Or more importantly, it’s critical to understand that a lack of positive response to what you’ve created in no way diminishes you. It’s simply the taste fairy thing.

Now that I recognize the value of this medium, I’ll be adding comments much more often. If you want to see more of me and what I’ve done so far, my website is http://www.csscribe.com. Looking forward to hearing from you – Shalom.



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All the questions

Moving to a new place provides an interesting assortment of advantages. One of these is to find notes or comments from the past. Today I found some notes that I made while traveling in a car and thought it might be fun to share.

My first question suggested that I was called upon or asked myself, “all the questions of the universe.” This was evidently done in the launching of a new program. The first reaction I had was that this was presumptuous in its absurdity. Going further, my conclusion was that to stop asking questions was not the way to live life and was an unacceptable path. Moderation is the answer.

Launching any program carries with it as much reliability as a one-size-fits-all financial portfolio or diet regime. Considered from that perspective, all of the truths of life that are valid and relevant to that program can be reduced to very few. Any more than the most basic must be individually designed to have any possibility for success.

The Golden Rule is an excellent place to begin. We all know it: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But the interpretation can be elusive.

For instance, if you’re sitting in an airport terminal and you notice someone who has mobility challenges, your response will be determined by how you would prefer that others respond to you.

Leave me alone. I don’t want help from strangers.

How very nice of you to offer help! It’s so rare these days that anyone would offer to do anything unrequested for someone else.

Or, in a very tragic example: what do you want from me in return for your gesture of kindness? Are you hoping to get a tip or some other reciprocal action?

It may be that the purest of basic human realities are more complex or convoluted than they seem. So it goes with the idea of finding answers to everything. But I would submit that most of us would prefer to under-analyze than over-analyze the meaning or interpretation of this statement/precept.

For some reason, my notes ended there. A reasonable conclusion is that while we can’t answer most of the questions that plague us, not answering any of them is the worst alternative. Shalom.

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Sharing and holidays

Sitting in my recliner and pondering the events of the day, our doorbell rang. We have been besieged with deliveries from somewhere or another, so I assumed that it was yet another courier. But to my joy and surprise, it was a neighbor delivering a collection of holiday cookies. We had seen this neighbor before when he approached us in our driveway, introduced himself and welcomed us to the neighborhood.

The cookies were festive, tasty and decorated in glittery tissue paper with red acorns that were painted to look like trees. Reflecting on the gesture, I was touched and enchanted.

Isn’t it sad that a neighbor who shares holiday cookies comes as a remarkable surprise? Have we become so isolated and unfriendly that seeing someone going to the trouble of bringing a treat is shocking? When we were a society of small towns, people sharing the lives of their community members and generally living as villagers, this gift would be customary, not surprising.

With further reflection, I confirmed my intent to reciprocate although the gift was clearly offered with no expectation of anything in return. Both for the sake of extending good cheer and for telling neighbors how much I treasure their spirits, cookie baking is in my near future.

Thankfully, I have no intention of dismissing cordial treatment from those around me. The store personnel will receive thank you and holiday greetings as they are dispensed, I will open doors, relinquish parking spaces and tell as many veterans as possible that we appreciate their service. My most sincere hope is that I will never become too old or cynical not to value gestures of kindness and sincerity.

Many signs of neighborhood geniality suggest to me that our society is not in decline.  A promise that I will fulfill is to continue finding methods by which I can cherish and salute my fellow man. Shalom.

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When you take the time

If you’ve been in the customer service or sales business for any amount of time, you know that it can be gratifying, frustrating or a host of other adverbs. This has been the majority category of my career and I have always seen customer interaction as a method of delivering best care to benefit everyone involved.

Not so long ago, we received extraordinary care and service from a wait person. The young man who attended to us was kind, attentive, polite and interested in any and all methods of making us comfortable. At the end of the meal, I asked to speak to the manager so that I could compliment him on the hiring decision and extraordinary characteristics of our server.

The manager appeared grateful for the input and appeared to pass the compliments along to our young man who returned to express his thanks. Because this wasn’t the first or last time that I have elected to compliment management on a particular person, I find it surprising to hear how infrequently it happens.

Just as it is our responsibility to report problems with food or wait staff to management, isn’t it as much an imperative to deliver accolades? Chances are pretty good that this young man won’t experience a promotion or additional income because of my appreciation. But who’s to say how it will translate into improving his day, enhancing the care for future diners or generally benefit the atmosphere?

My suggestion is to take any opportunity to celebrate someone else. Leaving a tip is great but tell that person how much they contributed to your enjoyment of a meal. Tell your dental hygienist that he or she made your trip to the dentist much less stressful or painful. Advise your babysitter that her kindness to your kids cheers and improves you. Along the same lines, take a moment to help someone who appears to need that help. Several days ago, I paused to help a lady put her walker into her car and she was quite grateful for the small action.

The results of a few minutes of commendation or consideration are indescribable. Just as you want to hear that your life improves that of another in some way, people around you generally want to know the same. Shalom.

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Put me in, coach

Wouldn’t it be fabulous to live your life as a pro football player? Watching a game, it occurred to me that although the duration of a football player’s career is relatively short and contingent on staying healthy and productive, it’s truly a charmed life.

From here, they have all possible advantages. If you’re making big bucks and you’re recognizable, both to your local fans and on a national level, you can be, do, say and look whatever way you want. It allows you to wear your hair in any of a collection of outrageous fashions, wear clothing that would be considered ridiculous by other people and make comments about subjects that have nothing to do with your profession.

On the up side, you have the cash resources to support a variety of exceptional and wonderful causes, ranging from cancer research to children’s diseases, to combating hunger and homelessness. The money is often far beyond what any of us will ever imagine earning and if the athletes are smart, they refrain from buying multi-million-dollar mansions in order not to wind up forty years old and destitute. And it seems to me that very few of pro football players have ego issues.

If you’re looking for a partner, what better credential for attracting partners than an NFL contract? The high-profile players are seen with gorgeous models, singing professionals and frequently, celebrities with as much notoriety as theirs.

On the downside, in addition to a relatively short career, you’re also subjecting yourself to some serious bruises and knocks to your body. We’ve all heard of the frequency of permanent brain injuries due to concussions and other hits to the head. In other cases, it’s common to see athletes having to end their careers due to torn ligaments, fractures, damaged rotator cuffs, etc.

If I could take the pro football job for a while and reap the numerous benefits, I think it would be worthwhile taking the risk of damaging my body. Yes, putting up with the press, punches to the face and perennial public appearances might get tiresome, but it looks like a fun life. Shalom.

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Moral fiber

When you do everything that you are expected to do, need to do, want to do or should do, it’s reasonable to expect that your life will follow a reasonable, uneventful path. This includes such responsibilities as paying taxes, showing up on time for appointments, keeping promises and operating a business on a high integrity basis.

This has been the approach that I have chosen for my life and I have come to expect the same type of behavior from those with whom I do business. Unfortunately, my disappointments continue with respect to people who should be held accountable for their actions and fail to show that level of responsibility or moral fiber.

For example, I have a “client” for whom I edited two short books in June of 2014. While I normally require new clients to pay in advance for work, in this case the need was urgent, and the client was a church minister. Here we are, four- and one-half years later and I am still waiting for payment. Most folks would suggest that I should attribute it to bad debt and forget about it. But I am saddened and disappointed that he doesn’t have the motivation to make things right. Does this mean that I should always require payment before completing any work? My accounts receivable would say yes but my heart says no.

So it goes with the purchase of our new home. As I wait for the completion of the new hot water heater installation, I am aware that this is the most recent correction to a house that was initially considered to be in compliance. We have also replaced a deficient furnace, clothes dryer and refrigerator that the previous owner assured us were perfect. Especially ironic is the fact that we were the ones who paid for this inspection. Since then, I have strongly recommended to our realtor that they find a new inspector.

If we believe in karma, these incidents/situations would indicate that I was somehow entitled to being stiffed on work done or ripped off on the purchase of a home. Because I can’t make that make sense, are we simply receiving negative outcomes as part of life? No matter the reason, if there is any reason involved, my methods of living life will not change. Your lack of moral fiber won’t impact me at all. Shalom.

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U.S. History

We who live in New Mexico got one of those chuckles that is tinged with irony after watching the news recently. It seems that a New Mexican resident was attempting to secure a marriage license in Washington, DC but was prohibited from doing so without his passport.

The reasoning was that they couldn’t issue licenses to those who weren’t native Americans and this gentleman was deemed to be foreign because of his New Mexican citizenship. Apparently, someone forgot to tell this employee (and her supervisor) that New Mexico is America’s 47th state. Our statehood was granted in 1912, shortly before Arizona’s.

My gut feeling about this misunderstanding is that while it may not be new news for the residents of New Mexico, our recent press coverage and political controversies have made this situation worse. Where was this employee’s history lesson that discussed our fifty states, with the last two added as far back as 1959?

A resident of Albuquerque told me recently that our license plates say, “New Mexico USA” in order to alleviate any doubt about our legitimacy as Americans. While I find most of this amusing, as an educator I also find it disturbing. We should be teaching all of America’s development, not merely the 13 colonies, the presumed secession of California and the efforts to add Puerto Rico as the 51st state.

New Mexico is a lovely place, full of mountains, a highly diverse population,  history, desert and a galaxy of beautiful greenery. Our tagline is “Land of Enchantment,” a legend that was first placed on New Mexican license plates in 1941 and became our official state nickname in 1999.  This is a memorable designation and one with which I fully agree.

It shouldn’t be so difficult to remember that we’re a state. It makes me wonder if residents of New Hampshire or New Jersey are asked for their passports. Let’s make an effort to give us the legitimacy to which we’re entitled. What we’re asking for is a little respect. Shalom.

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You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you. True power is sitting back and observing things with logic. True power is restraint. If words control you that means everyone else can control you. Breathe and allow things to pass.

Someone recently did me a favor and posted this quote on the web. Initially, I believed it to be a quote from Warren Buffett but as it turns out, someone else attached his name to it. We are all subject to commentary and criticism, on all levels and for all subjects. Whether it is our cooking, clothing, choice of car or communications, someone or several people will likely have an observation or two to make, particularly if we solicit those remarks.

The key, according to this paragraph, is to be unemotional about everything that is said. Emotion defeats logic and logic requires restraint but prevents others from controlling us. It’s difficult to refute this argument, especially when you consider what he’s accomplished in life.

My response is mostly that of agreement, but I wonder if there is room to react emotionally to some of those things that are said to us. The other question is whether or not seeking power is always a desirable action. Is he saying that there is no logic to emotions? As in most concepts that I know, black and white arguments consisting of “never and always” do not work.

That’s not to say that there is no wisdom in this quotation. Perhaps the key is the portion, “…an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you.” Being judicious about the decisions on things said to us makes perfect sense. This appears to be another way of saying not to take everything personally, that doing so deletes our logic and power.

Expressions of love, confidence, respect, loyalty and comprehension must be taken personally and are clothed with emotion. Doesn’t it seem that doing so enhances us, making us more powerful? It’s the rest of the things said to us that do damage.

I’ll never understand words that are said out of cruelty or thoughtlessness – these sap us of our power. But I respectfully suggest that while sitting back and restraint are frequently recommended, allowing positive (occasionally emotional) observations is healthy and constructive. Shalom.

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Losing a friend

Difficult though it may be for me to acknowledge, it appears that I’ve lost a friend. This is someone who has been in my world for approximately ten years and losing him is an experience that I am having difficulty understanding and explaining.

In other times, I would hear from this friend every several weeks or at a minimum, once per month. His absence is now almost two months in duration, without explanation or apparent cause.

Because of my views about friendship, I have emailed and called him, with no response. His family has also been part of my world. Consequently, I’ve texted one of his daughters who has also failed to answer me.

Our last contact had no conflict or problems that would explain a lack of communication. To exacerbate the loss, there were neither holiday wishes for Thanksgiving nor an invitation to his annual holiday gathering.

My view of life dictates that I have a lesson to learn or a reality to be gained from this situation. One consequence is to be a better friend to all those who are truly friends. There is no such thing as telling these people too often how important they are to me.

Another reaction is to evaluate my liaisons to see whether there are signs of weakness or dissension. Is it possible that I failed to keep promises, didn’t maintain sufficient contact or fell short on taking actions that needed to be taken?

Eventually, I suspect that I will understand this loss – it may be a busy schedule, illness, family emergency or other situation that I can’t identify. No matter the reason, I will always wish him and his family well, cherishing the many happy memories. The greatest challenge will always be in not knowing why. In the meantime, I have the incentive to value the friends who are present and constant, express my feelings for them and make certain that I remind them of their value. Shalom.

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Rock to remember

Last week, our journeys through Oklahoma created a stop for the night in Stroud, OK. We scanned the possibilities for dinner and discovered The Rock, a famous and highly touted landmark.

The decision to eat there was an excellent one. As we entered, the owner and solitary wait person greeted us, suggesting that, “Y’all can sit anywhere you are comfortable.” She handled the bill for group that was leaving and approached our table.

The owner provided menus, 3’ x 2’ plastic laminated affairs with a substantial menu on the front and a map of Oklahoma on the back. She then asked, “Where y’all from?” We described our recent travels and New Mexican destination and she never lost her smile or hospitality.

This is unlike any venue you are ever likely to encounter. The room is top to bottom knotty pine, with an old stone fireplace, large institutional wooden tables and chairs and Route 66 memorabilia throughout. Our best guess was that the interior was essentially the same as it was fifty years ago.

Much of the memorabilia was historical. We saw the aged kitty clock with eyes and tail that moved in harmony. The walls were covered with pictures of long established products, cars and motorcycles, some of which were quite old. And the exit sign was neon, with a large arrow pointing to the door.

We ordered dinner and absorbed the surroundings. At one point, the cook approached our server and asked her to ask us if we wanted sauerkraut with one of the entrees. She politely asked if we did and when hearing a no, she scrunched up her face and said, “Yah, I didn’t think y’all were gonna want that.”

The meal arrived and was fastidiously prepared. Portions were huge and replete with fresh ingredients. At the end of our meal, we were offered homemade peach pie with ice cream, but she gracefully accepted our decline.

It seemed that every sentence we heard had a “y’all” and a “thank you.” Any thank you we offered was responded with another thank you. A guest book was offered, and we were politely requested to add our names to it. Finally, our hostess happily proclaimed, “Thank y’all for coming to The Rock!”

After we left, we determined that we weren’t the only visitors who marveled at the unique quaintness of this restaurant. The owner was a legend in town for her kindness and for having provided employment for numerous locals. We also discovered that she was a character in a famous Disney movie where her likeness and mannerisms were faithfully duplicated.

If you’re ever near Stroud, Oklahoma, be sure to stop on by. Getting into the restaurant is a challenge because of a circuitous and uneven path. But the food is worth the visit, especially when paired with southwestern grace and old -fashioned hospitality. Shalom.

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Prose photography

It occurred to me recently that although I am occasionally lucky or timely enough to shoot remarkable shots on my phone or camera, I am by no means a photographer. Likewise, I am not an illustrator, gourmet chef, musician or interior designer.

That’s not bad or sad news. Our world is rich with those who can capture fleeting images, unforgettable likenesses, stirring sonatas, delicious meals and inviting living spaces. My role is to select any one of those arts and make it available or enhance it with words.

While mine may seem more limited than other art forms, I will hurriedly disagree. If I am selective, I can aspire to manufacturing images that are visual, auditory, tactile and olfactory. What an amazing challenge and incentive!

Here’s an example. Walk into a Roman cafe and scan your surroundings. As a writer, I perceive and capture the aged decorations and well-trodden wooden floor. At the same time, I am aware of the collection of voices large and small, intrusive and mellow. Through that, I can hear the scurrying back and forth of wait staff. And while my sense of smell is missing, I am advised that the aroma is a cornucopia of oregano, freshly grated parmigiano and bubbling marinara sauce.

You might argue that a photographer of this scene could capture all these nuances and disseminate them in a photo. Likewise, an artist could place you in this setting and faithfully duplicate many of the sensations. My hope is to provide the entire sensory adventure.

All of this is to observe the power of language, mine and others, to expound and elaborate on other forms of expression. To the musician, while I can’t hope to duplicate or improve on powerful symphonic subtleties, I can respond to them through prose.

To all arts and artisans whom I admire and enjoy, thank you for your brilliance. It thrills me to be an associate, joining the ranks of other wordsmiths who have sought to create enduring memories. My words will continue to celebrate and embellish your creations, for as long as I have the ability to assemble them. Shalom.