Thursday, October 29, 2015


Aging is part of our human predicament.  At first we want to be older: to be able to stay up past ten o’clock, to get a driver’s license, to vote, to buy a drink, to rent a car.

Then suddenly our perspective changes.  Whoa.  I don’t want to be thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy.

I recently looked back over each of my decade milestones.  When I turned ten I was in fifth grade, having just suffered the indignity of being required to wear shoes to school in Honolulu.  I celebrated by twentieth birthday in France in the middle of an adventure, learning another language, experiencing a different culture, exploring new ideas, starting to discover what I was about.  At thirty I was immersed in a career, married with a four-year old son.  Forty found me having achieved some success in business and about to leave a large company for my first foray into the world of start-ups.  At fifty I was struggling through a bad work situation (about to get fired), had acquired a daughter-in-law and was soon facing an empty nest.  At sixty I was a grandfather, dealing with the issues of my aging parents, settled in at work and looking forward to retiring. At seventy, I was retired, had survived a heart attack and continued to enjoy writing and giving talks.

Birthdays used to be a big deal.  But when I turned sixty, my wife was in Los Angeles selling her mom’s house, so I celebrated alone, fixing a TV dinner.  Just another day.

Recently I reread parts of a journal I had kept in the 1980s and early 1990s.  Two things struck me.  How things were different now and how things were the same.

My core being is the same as when I was younger, and I’m still grappling with the same issues: self-consciousness, fears, relationships, attitudes and deciding what I want to be when I grow up.  Yet so much has changed.  I’ve mellowed and don’t get as uptight as I used to.  I go with the flow more now.  I guess you could say that’s part of maturing.

But I still picture myself as a young person.  It’s just that I’m trapped in an aging body.

I’m now more aware of the next steps, having dealt with the issues of placing my mom and stepfather in retirement then care homes and having faced the death of both parents.

My thoughts now are focused on our three-month-old grandson and our kids and other grandchildren.
Every era has its advantages and disadvantages.  As my stepfather used to say, “Getting old isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but it’s better than the alternative.”

Thursday, October 22, 2015


My thought for today. Many different forms of love exist:  romantic love, love of a child, love for mankind.  The one common denominator is a caring that goes beyond the self.  Love involves opening the self, not restraining the loved one, and demonstrates compassion, joy and equanimity so neither the self nor the loved one is placed on a pedestal, but the relationship comes first.  The duality of love demonstrates individual and shared elements; one doesn’t have to give up the self for the shared experience of love.

As parents we take pride in our children, but also need to set limits.  Part of each individual’s development requires learning about both potential and limits.  Tough love dictates knowing when to say, “no.”  As adults we have a base of experience that the child has not yet developed.  We want our children to grow, learn and mature, but boundaries are necessary.  If a child doesn’t yet understand the danger of running into a street, we must provide restrictions until the child internalizes the distinction between running in the yard and running in the street.  The line to walk involves giving the child room to test, explore and learn within a safety net.

The biggest challenge in romantic love is the boundary between my way and your way.  In any relationship there will always be conflict.  I want to watch television and you want to play bridge.  The test of a strong relationship is how these conflicts are resolved.  If I feel I have to “win” I’ve lost sight of the relationship.  Love involves give and take and seeking a common ground for “us” not “me.”

A commitment to the relationship provides the motivation to resolve conflict.  Commitment becomes the key to a lasting relationship.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Research for a Mystery Novel

My first historical mystery novel, Murder on the Switzerland Trail, will be published by Five Star, part of Gale/Cengage Learning, next week. Here’s a brief preview: A Sunday excursion in the mountains above Boulder, Colorado, in 1919 leads to murder as intertwined lives play out a mystery on the Switzerland Trail railroad. Policeman Harry McBride must figure out who the murderer is before the train reaches the Boulder station on the return trip.

One of the delights in writing a historical mystery was the research. At the time I wrote the novel, I lived in Boulder, Colorado, and with a group of friends I hiked the publicly available sections of what had once been the railroad bed. This entailed visiting spots such as this part of the trail in Caribou Ranch.



And this scene near Glacier Lake.



I also read the definitive book on the history of railroad, Switzerland Trail of America, by Forest Crossen. Next, I went to the Carnegie Branch of the Boulder Library to read newspapers from 1918 and 1919. Once the librarian trained me to use the microfilm machine, I scanned through old issues of the Boulder Daily Camera to read articles about world events, local activities and advertisements.  I learned that the Northern Gas and Drilling Company offered shares at only fifteen cents each, requiring only five cents down. And local color: “Fat man’s race: first, Clyde Church, second C. C. Poundstone, (the timekeeper fell asleep.)”

All in all, this was an enjoyable exercise and provided a wealth of background information for writing the novel.

Thursday, October 8, 2015


What are your goals?  To achieve goals one must utilize strengths and overcome weaknesses.  If you can’t eliminate a weakness, team with someone who has complementary strengths, e.g., a deaf person can work with a person with good hearing.

With a goal in mind, then action plans can be put in place.  An entrepreneur is someone with a single-minded goal in business.  To succeed someone must have this concentration and drive.  In an organization one can eliminate people and get the “right” ones or develop the people there to build a strong organization.  The issue is always one of getting the right peg in the right hole or changing the shape of the peg to fit the hole.

As a writer, I set goals, which has allowed me to complete ten published novels with more in the queue. I think it’s always worthwhile to ask what do I want to accomplish?

And as an aside, I still wonder what I will be when I grow up.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Strengths and Weaknesses

Some thoughts I jotted down:

Nature - what we are

Potential - what we can become

Strengths - key capabilities that can be enhanced

Weaknesses - what we must struggle with

Weaknesses can either be overcome or accepted.  We must understand and deal with what can and can’t be changed.  Example: a blind person shouldn’t keep trying to see.  What is necessary is to accept the blindness and adjust accordingly.  But a shy person can become more outgoing, i.e., can adapt.  Issue: When should we accept the way we are versus doing something about it?

How do we deal with our own strengths and weaknesses?  Before retiring into writing when I held a day job, I set quarterly objectives with my employees, and then at the end of the quarter they did a self-assessment, and then I evaluated their performance.  At the end of the fiscal year we conducted an annual performance review, and I determined merit increases based on results.  What I found interesting was that the forms used and the inherent process focused on improving weaknesses—what deficiencies  and flaws needed to be overcome.
This is important because we all can improve.  In writing critique groups most of the feedback relates to things that don’t make sense, consistency errors and poorly worded sections.  For a novel to be readable and marketable, these things need to be fixed.

If I’m going to be a better husband, father, grandfather, pickleball player, writer what do I need to improve?

There is another side.  Strengths.  What are the things we do well that we should keep emphasizing and do even better?

I think in terms of a football analogy.  If I’m a coach, I may have a quarterback who is a good passer but a poor blocker.  Rather than focusing on improving his blocking skills, it is more productive to emphasize enhancing his passing skills.  Other positions require good blocking, but the team will benefit if the quarterback develops from a good to an excellent passer.  Focus on strengths and improve them further.

So it gets down to what’s required.  To be a better writer, I need to focus on my weaknesses because I have a lot of development to do.  In pickleball my weakness is lack of mobility because of my arthritic joints.  It doesn't pay for me to work on mobility.  I just need to accept it.  What I can do is focus on my strengths:  fast hands and good shots and continue to improve these.

So I need to keep a balance.  Overcome the weaknesses that prevent me from realizing my goals and focus on the strengths that will allow me to achieve my goals.