When he was less than a year old, we discovered that he loved listening to ABBA music. We’d put the ABBA CD in the player and he’d bounce up and down. Now that he’s walking, he gets into a full fledge dancing act when the music comes on. Me, I can’t carry a beat, but he keeps in time to the music just fine. Now when I follow what he does, I can even feel the beat. Progress.
Thursday, December 29, 2016
Being a grandfather to a seventeen-month-old grandson is a humbling experience. Sure, I can speak better than he can, and he hasn’t learned to write or play pickleball yet, but when it comes to dancing, he leaves me in the dust.
Thursday, December 22, 2016
I continue to learn from our seventeen-month-old grandson. He has a backward facing car seat when riding in our car. He doesn’t like it one little bit. I can distract him for a while with toys, but ultimately this is not his preferred view of the world.
I can identify. Who wants to always watch where they’ve been? I also prefer looking at what’s ahead.
Thursday, December 15, 2016
Once a writer makes the transition to an author, i.e., being published, it opens up the world of reviews and reader feedback. Even bestselling authors get one-star reviews, and the most acclaimed works get panned by some readers and reviewers. Why? Because people have varying likes and dislikes, and no one author can appeal to everyone.
Over my ten years as an author, I’ve experienced the extremes of good and bad comments. Here are a few of the negative reviews:
“The fog level must be pretty lows so I think fourth or fifth graders would like it.” My response—I will endeavor for more sophisticated, pedantic, pedagogic obscurity.
“The author peppered his story with crude, distasteful language.” What the hell?
“Much to do about nothing.” I will work on something.
“So dull you’ll wish your memory reset every few pages.” Yawn.
On the positive side, here are some of my favorite reviews and emails from readers:
A review that speaks of my protagonist Paul Jacobson and his granddaughter, Jennifer: “It’s hard to beat a team that includes a wise-cracking old fart and as straight-talking young sprout.”
“The story’s endearing zaniness keeps boredom at bay.”
“I have read all your books and enjoyed them immensely, but even more fun was listening to my husband read them. He snorted, chuckled and guffawed his way through then. And the idea of geezer lit tickled the bejabbers out of him.”
“Thank you for the joy you gave me in reading your book. Paul Jacobson is my new hero. Whilst I am traveling towards the twilight zone myself, this book makes me feel so good about myself that I can rest easy in the knowledge that all is not lost.”
So, I suck it up when some readers react negatively to my work but also realize I provide entertainment and laughs for other readers.
Thursday, December 8, 2016
My sixteen-month-old grandson is always teaching me new lessons. As a writer, I have learned from him what makes a good book. We read a lot together, and he becomes bored if there are too many words and no action. This reinforces what one of my editors says: EOW—economy of words. I’m working on making my writing more concise and hard hitting. Always pay attention to little kids. They’re direct and to the point.
Thursday, December 1, 2016
Since the time my first novel was published in January, 2007, I’ve witnessed numerous changes in the publishing world including consolidation of publishers, publishers dropping publishing lines and authors, and the rise of self-publishing and e-books. With twelve published titles and two more in the queue for next year, I have been fortunate to get my work out to many readers.
Nine of my published titles have been through Five Star, a part of Gale/Cengage Learning. Unfortunately, last year Five Star announced they would be discontinuing their mystery line. This has caused me to reassess alternatives and to work with two small publishers for the publications of the two books coming out next year.
Along the way I have also had the opportunity to get my work out in many different formats. Five Star published my books in hardcover and large print editions and in e-book format after the first four books. For the first four from Five Star, I put them up as e-books myself since I retained e-book rights. Five of my books have also been published as audio books from Books-in-Motion and seven in mass market paperback editions from Harlequin’s Worldwide Mystery line. I have also worked with three small publishers that put out a book each in trade paperback and e-book editions.
My most current edition is a trade paperback from Encircle Publications of the third book in my Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series, Senior Moments Are Murder. Since Five Star will not be keeping the hardcover edition of this book in print, I will be able to continue to offer a print edition for readers. This edition releases December 1, 2016.
With all the changes in the publishing industry, I keep plugging away. And to all my readers, thank you for sticking with me and choosing to read my books in whichever format you prefer.
Thursday, November 24, 2016
I continue to learn things from my sixteen-month-old grandson. Today’s lesson—strollers are cool. He loves going for rides in his stroller. I look around and see all these hi-tech strollers built for high speed collisions and designed with all kinds of bells and whistles. Nope, for us it is a simple blue hippopotamus stroller. It’s light, has a safety belt and gets us where we want to go.
When our grandson wants to go outside, he walks over, grabs the stroller and pulls it toward me to say, “Grandpa, time for a trip to the park.”
On the way home from the park he often pushes it himself. Then when he gets tired, he stands in front of it, a signal to lift him into his lift.
Thursday, November 17, 2016
I’ve given a lot of thought to what happened in our recent national election. It’s obvious that many people voted for change. That was a theme when Barack Obama was elected in 2008 and for Donald Trump this year. So what kind of change are people looking for? Those who have suffered economic downturns are seeking to get back to where they were in the past. This is a valid concern.
But there is another dimension to seeking change. It is based on nostalgia. My wife and I go through this at times. We lament that as kids we had the ability to go out and roam through our neighborhoods from morning until dusk. Kids can’t do this anymore. We miss those days. When I started working, many people in the middle class had career paths with good opportunities for advancement and raises. We were able to purchase a house early in our marriage. Today careers are more chaotic, many people are received no raises for years or minimal ones at best, and it is extremely difficult for young couples to buy a starter home.
This emotional pull to the nostalgia of a better time can overwhelm the logical perspective that many things have improved in our country. We need to find the balance of positive change that moves the country forward with inclusion and a impetus to improve conditions for all members of society.
Thursday, November 10, 2016
Ah, the wonders of youth and age. My fifteen-month-old grandson is a ball of fire. I enjoy watching him as he learns to slide and climb at the playground. We play cars together on the floor, and when we have to stand, he gets up quicker than I do.
As I get older, the joints don’t engage as quickly as they used to. He, on the other hand, is on an improvement track—each day his motor skills and dexterity improve. It’s great to watch his positive change, and I realize that I’ll never be able to hop up as I used to. So what? He has no problem waiting for me to get going.
Thursday, November 3, 2016
During his first year, my grandson explored the universe by putting things in his mouth. Now that he’s fifteen months old, he doesn’t do this as often.
I’ve mellowed over the years. As a parent I was horrified when my kids put objects in their mouth. As a grandparent, I have more tolerance. Certain things absolutely should not go in a baby’s mouth, but a plastic block sitting in the play area used for teething is not worth having apoplexy over.
I remember reading Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. Developing immunity to germs contributed to the survival of modern society. A sterile environment may lead to lack of immunity. The good news is our grandson seems to have developed a healthy immunity to household germs. Still, I have to admit that I don’t put his plastic blocks in my mouth.
Thursday, October 27, 2016
My fifteen-month-old grandson and I have a meeting of the minds. We enjoy doing things together, and I appreciate his enthusiasm. On the other hand, we both get tired during the day. His parents have jobs and activities to accomplish, but our extremes on the age scaled enjoy some downtime.Consequently, there’s nothing like a good nap. When he starts yawning and rubbing his eyes, we adjourn for a little shuteye. After a rest, we’re both ready to resume the challenges of youth and aging.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
The lesson today from my now fifteen-month-old grandson is clear communication. Even though he isn’t talking yet, I’m amazed at the number of words he understands. The secret is I talk to him in a clear, normal voice and point out objects to him. As a result, he knows key words such as stroller, clock, books, fan, eat, no, cars, trucks. When I ask him to pick out a book to read, he goes right to his pile of books and selects one of his favorites. When I suggest a stroller ride, he walks over to his stroller and holds onto the side with an expectant grin.
Thursday, October 13, 2016
My young grandson is constantly teaching me new lessons. As a proud grandfather, I’ve had a chance to watch the little guy as he explores his new universe.
Here’s an example. When he’s given a new block, he turns it around in his hands and looks at all sides. This has reminded me that I don’t need to take things from a one-sided viewpoint. There are often many dimensions to an issue. I don’t need to go with the quick answer but can investigate to more thoroughly understand a topic.
Thursday, October 6, 2016
Our fourteen month old grandson loves books. We have a basket of books in our living room, and when he comes over, he picks out his favorites for us to read to him. He will also carry a loved book all over the house with him. His current book of choice is The Happy Man and His Dump Truck. This was first published in 1950, and I read it as a child.
Our grandson also loves trucks becoming extremely excited on days when garbage trucks or street sweepers are in the neighborhood. So the content of this book appeals to him. It has a positive message of a happy man who enjoys driving his dump truck and is friendly to a group of animals. But horror of all horrors, this old book is not PC. It shows the animals accepting a ride with a stranger. Then they sit in the truck bed. And they don’t use seatbelts. But it does promote diversity since animals of all types and shapes get to ride in the dump truck. That’s the trouble with being a writer. I see too many different dimensions of a children’s book. Our grandson just enjoys a good truck book.
Thursday, September 29, 2016
Over the last year I’ve had a chance to get to know an interesting person—my grandson, now fourteen months old. I see him almost every day and sometimes spend most of my day with him. Rather than being boring, this has been an entertaining and informative experience for me. One of the lessons I’ve learned from him is how to improvise.
He loves pushing toy trucks and cars around the floor of our house when he comes to visit. We have a number of toy vehicles for him, but even when they have been put away, he finds a way to improvise. In the kitchen we have a cupboard where we keep empty containers and container covers for him to pull out and play with. When the cars and trucks aren’t available, he will grab a plastic lid and push it around the kitchen. When you can’t find a car, you make do.
Thursday, September 22, 2016
As a writer, I’ve learned to observe events and people around me. This can provide insight into human nature and grist for writing material. An old writing adage is, “Everything is material.” One of the pleasures of observation has been getting to know my grandson who is now a little over a year old. Who says you can’t learn from little kids. I’ve picked up an amazing amount of knowledge during his first year.
For example, around our family he is very outgoing. He is a people person and responds with his smile to other smiles, likes interacting with all of us and makes his noises to communicate what he wants. But when he gets into a crowd such as when I’ve taken him to a children’s program at the library, he acts shy and subdued at the outset. It takes him a little time to get the lay of the land with all the noise, activity and new people. I can identify. A crowd can be intimidating. But after he watches for a while, he gets into things and when the play time comes, he’s out there grabbing toys with the rest of the kids.
Thursday, September 15, 2016
It’s interesting to discover something new. As I get older, I still find new things to marvel at. This has been reinforced by my one-year-plus grandson. He revels in finding new things to look at and play with. Outside our door is a tree. I never paid much attention to it until our grandson went up and patted it. Now I notice the pealing bark and smooth surface. Our grandson loves ceiling fans. He stares up at them. Have you watched a fan recently? They are mesmerizing. And playing blocks. They may seem bland, but he enjoys turning them over and looking at all sides. What do you know? They are different on each side. These are all little observations, but, hey, who says a grandpa can’t learn new stuff as well.
Thursday, September 8, 2016
My one-year-old grandson continues to teach me new lessons every day I. As well as not holding a grudge, he rebounds quickly from bad moments. This is in contrast to times I find myself grumbling about some glitch long after it has taken place. My grandson has his share of falls and bumps, which lead to crying. But after a hug and wiping away the tears, he’s back to charging around as if nothing had happened. Resilience. No need to moan and groan about a problem when there are new things to explore and new skills to learn.
Thursday, September 1, 2016
Babies are intriguing. They can go from smiling to crying and back to smiling in a blink of an eye. My grandson hates car seats, particularly when the seat has to face backward. It’s much more fun to see where you’re going than where you’ve been, and all his people are in the front seat. When I take him for a ride he starts out fine, but after about ten minutes he expresses his displeasure by crying. But when we get to our destination and I get him out of the car seat, he greets me with a big smile. All is forgiven. I have to remember that when someone displeases met—there’s no need to hold a grudge.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know my youngest grandson over the first year of his life. He has taught me many things during this time—one being perseverance. Since it has been well over three decades since our own kids were this age, I’ve had a chance to re-experience the learning abilities of a baby. We have a one step rise between our living room and the kitchen. When our grandson started crawling, he would bump up against this obstacle and stop. Over time he began experimenting with putting his hands up and eventually a leg. Then he would plop back down to the lower level. He kept at it and then got his whole body up. He finally could do this consistently, but he couldn’t figure out how to get down again. The whole process repeated and through perseverance, he learned how to turn around and back down the step. We are now going through the same determination on learning how to walk.I’m reminded of a statement from the classical guitarist Andres Segovia who was asked when he was in his eighties why he still practiced three hours a day. His response, “I’m beginning to notice a little improvement.”
Thursday, August 18, 2016
Over the last year I have watched our grandson progress from lying in one position to moving around on his back, turning over, sitting up, crawling, standing and taking his first steps. His world has changed from seeing everything from only one point of view—looking up from his back to seeing things from different levels and being able to interact with his environment.
How many of us get locked into looking at the world only one way? Learning entails exploring, trying different viewpoints and interacting. A good lesson for me.
Thursday, August 11, 2016
The last year has been a whirlwind. We moved from Boulder, CO, to Lakewood, CA, and our grandson was born. He recently had his first birthday—a time to reflect over his first year. My wife and I were in the delivery room, and I have seen him almost every day since. When our daughter went back to work after her maternity leave, we became primary child care during the week. Rather than a burden, this turned out to be a joy. As I mentioned to my wife, I know my grandson better at this age than I did any of our three kids at this age because I was working full time when our kids were born and now I’m retired.
So what have I learned this last year? Plenty. I hope I have helped our grandson develop, but what follows are some of the lessons he has taught me.
Value of a Smile
Our grandson has a huge smile. Sure he has his grumpy moments, but most times when he wakes up from a nap or greats us at the door, he gives us a grandparent-heart-warming smile. And he isn’t faking it. He’s a happy kid who likes to share his happiness. He has taught me that greeting life with a smile is preferable to being a grump.
Thursday, August 4, 2016
It’s always exciting for me when copies of my latest published novel arrive. This happened last week with Court Trouble: A Platform Tennis Mystery.
In Court Trouble Mark Yeager is retired from his stressful career as an entrepreneur and now gets his adrenaline fix from games of platform tennis with a motley crew of equally middle-aged buddies. But when one of his good friends is bludgeoned to death in the dark on one of the platform tennis courts, Mark takes it personally: Manny Grimes had likely saved Mark’s life by insisting he see a doctor for what turned out to be prostate cancer. Mark decides he must identify the killer, even if it means another close encounter of the Grim Reaper kind.
“This solid series launch from Befeler introduces an unlikely amateur sleuth, platform tennis buff Mark Yeager. . . . Readers will look forward to seeing more of this determined tennis enthusiast and cancer survivor.” —Publishers Weekly
Thursday, July 28, 2016
Everything relates to everything else. Things interrelate. We just need to pay attention to the interconnections.
The effects of causes propagate out like ripples on a pond, intersecting other ripples, forming crests and troughs. A particular crest or trough may seem random, but tracing back the chain of events leads to defined causes. We are not isolated individuals, but all interrelated in the oneness of the human experience.
There are times when I notice what at first seem like coincidences, but these events start tying together. Something one person says connects with something I’m reading, connects with an event in life, connects with something I see on a walk. Thoughts start swirling around and a pattern emerges.
I read about a concept such as “flow” and then see examples of it all around me. I experience being in the moment in sports, while writing, with my family. It all seems to “click.”
So we can be oblivious to what’s going on around us or we can become aware of the subtle interconnections.
We are one. The basic teachings of major religions point to the same universal themes. It’s just that the presentation has been altered through time and across the different traditions.
Do unto others.
The golden mean.
Resist not evil.
Focus on giving not receiving.
These are the basis of the human condition and apply to all people in all cultures throughout all time.
One saying expands upon this: The wise man can do whatever his heart desires, because his heart knows what is right.
We are all capable of enlightenment, nirvana, heaven, whatever the term you chose. It basically means we are capable of becoming the best we can.
The universe is neutral. It’s neither good nor bad. It just is. And within this universe, we can choose the path we take as we interact with the oneness of existence.
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Holographic material stores images that can be recreated when light strikes the material. Multiple images can be stored in the same space, each offset by a slightly different angle of recording.
People can be like holograms--multiple attributes in the same person. From how someone acts in an emergency, you can deduce dimensions of their character. Seeing someone interact with a child, indicates how they operate with other people.
What are the snapshots in your own life that divulge the aspects of your character?
Finding a wallet on the ground. Dealing with a friend who needs assistance. Grappling with a decision to get up to face a difficult day or to roll over and go back to sleep. Taking a break to enjoy a sunset.
If light passes through a part of your being, what does it reveal about the essential you?
Thursday, July 14, 2016
We live in a world of change. Innovation and disruption impact all we do. Some people embrace change and others resist it, seeking to maintain the status quo. Too much change puts constant stress on people and systems, and lack of change can lead to stagnation and death.
Ultimately change is about finding a balance. Growth is change, learning is change, survival is change. But change just for the sake of change can be counter-productive. As human beings, we need to adapt over time, but there is also a need for a home-base, a place of quiet and consistency to give us strength for dealing with the next onslaught of change.
Transformation is a form of change that inherently exists in life. A caterpillar becomes a chrysalis becomes a butterfly. A baby becomes a child becomes a teenager becomes an adult becomes an older person. We begin weak, gain strength and end up weak again. We learn to crawl, then walk, but end up shuffling or in a wheelchair. Corn becomes a popcorn kernel becomes popped popcorn. A seed becomes a plant becomes a dead stalk.
Life and death include the processes of transformation and change.
We can look at this and say change is good (growth and development) or bad (death and decay), but change is neutral. It just is. The renewal process and evolution of species are all aspects of change.
So much depends on our attitude toward change--how we embrace it or fight it.
True, change can lead to improvement or decline. A corporation can transform into a more successful company or one that goes out of business.
Change as adaptation is necessary, but change of successful survival techniques can be detrimental.
My advice to myself: find a golden mean of change, the necessary balance between growth and a stable base.
Thursday, July 7, 2016
July 7, 2016
For Immediate Release
Today the Felding Foundation announced the recipient of the annual Person With Purpose award. This year’s winner asked to have his name kept anonymous and to be just known as PWP. PWP is currently employed as a street sweeper on a downtown mall.
“My purpose is to keep the mall clean so that the citizens and visitors can enjoy this fine outdoor resource,” PWP stated. “I’m able to enjoy fresh air, meet many interesting people and have developed a world class collection of odds-and-ends that people have discarded.”
When asked why he is sweeping the outdoor mall rather than being mayor, a brain surgeon or leading the fight to save the spotted chameleon, PWP simply said, “Those jobs are already filled. The mall needed a sweeper. I can make a contribution and I enjoy the job.”
One of the selecting panel judges asked PWP if he got bored. “Are you kidding?” he replied. “Every day is a new adventure. I may need to deal with snow, rain, wind or sunshine. There are new people to meet. I have a clear goal and I pursue it every day.”
The Felding Award Committee has developed a question and answer document based upon an interview with PWP that is being distributed with this press release.
Questions and Answers
Question: What comes to mind when you hear the word “purpose?”
Answer from PWP: When thinking about terms such as “purpose” I find it easy to lose track of what the word is. I know the general intent, but can’t remember the specific word. So I used a memory device and imagined a porpoise. Since then whenever I’ve been thinking about this subject, I start by picturing a porpoise and the word “purpose” snaps into place. What better memory device than a beautiful mammal that moves gracefully though the seas with determination and intent.
Question: What does purpose mean?
Answer from PWP: Let’s dissect purpose. First, there must be a goal, a vision, a target, a principle destination, a Mecca. We seek an outcome or result. We have an idea and a point where we’re headed. “I have a dream,” resonates and produces a mental image of what can be. My goal today, once this interview is completed, is to sweep the whole mall.
To reach that end, there must be a plan. We must design a blueprint, draw up a map or formulate the direction to take. We must take aim. This requires calculation, reason and thought to figure out how to accomplish our objective. My plan is to start at one end of the mall and sweep to the other end.
With a plan in place, we must then decide to go on the journey. It doesn’t just happen, but requires the human will to pursue, take the necessary action to work toward the goal. I could have the greatest plan, but if I never pick up my broom, nothing happens.
Once we are on the journey, it will not be easy. There will be obstacles along the way. We must maintain our energy, focus and resolve to continue. We must have the determination, ambition and desire to take the next step. We make a commitment and then follow through. We must maintain faith with the single-mindedness to succeed. We are tested during our trip. Shall I give up? Shall I just sit down beside the road and forget about it? We must be tenacious, stalwart, staunch, undeviating, unfaltering, unwavering. This requires a confidence that we are on an important mission. We must not get distracted but maintain our focus on the scope of what we have set out to accomplish. I once had a prankster steel my broom. I could have given up, but instead I went to a store and bought a new broom.
Question: What if you don’t achieve your goal?
Answer from PWP: Pardon me for being blunt, but it’s the journey, stupid. We must set goals and work toward them, but whether we reach them or not isn’t as important as what we do along the way. I set out each morning with the goal of sweeping the whole mall. Most days I make it, but one time I got sidetracked helping a lost child.
Question: Compare purpose to lack of purpose.
Answer from PWP: Purpose involves energy, direction and focus. When I am purposeful the broom just flies in my hands and the day zips by. The next morning, I can’t wait to pick up the broom again, to see what adventures await me.
Lack of purpose--I sit staring at the ground. I don’t pick up my broom and I don’t go anywhere. My eyes close. I think of taking a nap.
Whatever occupation or hobby we’re involved in, we can find ourselves bouncing between these two extremes. Some is directed from the outside.
“Take that hill, soldier.”
But the ultimate meaning and drive comes from within each of us. Rather than take the hill, I could go off to the pub or I could take the anthill with the same verve as Teddy Roosevelt charging up San Juan Hill.
So even if the impetus is external, the deciding factor is still my own attitude and how I interact with the external calling.
Question: You can’t be up all the time. Who or what inspires you?
Answer from PWP: Like everyone else, I seek someone to inspire, motivate and lead me, but still there is an internal switch that is flipped to indicate I am ready to be inspired, motivated or led.
Why not just flip the switch and provide my own inspiration, motivation and leadership?
Question: Just a minute. I’m asking the questions here. Why not just flip the switch and provide your own inspiration, motivation and leadership?
Answer from PWP: Exactly. I couldn’t have posed the question better myself. When I take control of my own attitude I can flip the switch. If I wallow in feeling sorry for myself or am holding a grudge, then I need someone to shake me. That’s why it’s always good to have some external feedback along the journey.
Question: What purposes do you pursue and which do you abandon?
Answer from PWP: We all have many choices. Talent dictates some. My five-foot-six inch body wouldn’t help becoming a basketball star. Yet, I’ve developed the endurance to sweep from dawn to dusk.
Question: Do we choose a purpose or does it choose us?
Answer from PWP: Every person can have a purpose. Each purpose is unique. A child who has a beautiful voice can become a singer and give enjoyment to millions of listeners while feeling the fulfillment of music, whereas I’m tone deaf and can’t carry a tune. So my purpose is not to sing. We may have an innate talent that we can develop. We may be born with this talent (it chooses us), but it is still up to us to develop and nurture this talent. Not all children with beautiful voices become singers. Fulfilling this purpose requires commitment, action and follow through.
Question: Where does purpose apply in life?
Answer from PWP: Purpose can be found in many different spheres. There are examples in work, family, volunteer activities and even sports.
When I was in high school, I wanted to win the state mile run. I carried a picture of the track in my wallet as I practiced every day. Did I achieve my goal? I beat two runners and came in sixth. But I enjoyed the journey, and it contributed to my still being in good physical shape.
Question: You’ve been compared to Gandhi, Mother Theresa and Winston Churchill, yet you’re only a sweeper. What gives?
Answer from PWP: I’m just a common person with purpose. Clearly, there are world famous PWPs, but every person in the world has the potential to be a PWP in whatever sphere of influence he or she has. I can choose to be a grouchy curmudgeon or a cheerful participant in life. Look around you. There are people who seem to have everything, but are miserable. There are others who have survived the most tragic events, yet are full of joy and enthusiasm. I’ve found what I’m good at, I enjoy it, I support myself and I give back to the community.
Question: What does purpose have to do with meaning?
Answer from PWP: Purpose involves meaning. We don’t invent meaning. We discover it. It is there to be found, but we must proactively go after it. We have to seek it out. The universe is benign, and it is up to us to interact with it, set a direction and be agents of positive change.
We must question. What goal shall I set? What path shall I follow? What steps will I take on the journey? How will I overcome obstacles? What do I do when I feel discouraged?
The hero’s journey is the journey of purpose. There is a challenge and the hero leaves the comfort of home to achieve a goal. Obstacles are encountered. The hero grows, learns and eventually succeeds. With the quest accomplished, the hero returns as a complete person.
Question: How does religion relate to purpose?
Answer from PWP: As I sweep along the mall, I meet many people of different faiths. My pocket has been picked by people professing to be religious, and I’ve seen some of the most incredible acts of human kindness from people who claim they’re not religious.
I believe that all religions at the core are addressing the same basic topic: There is a power greater than ourselves, call it God if you like, but it’s up to each of us to take responsibility for our actions and our lives.
I’ve boiled my spiritual beliefs down to three basic principles. First, treat others as they need to be treated in their circumstances. Second, do what you can to make the world a better place. Third, smile.
Question: Where do you draw the line between turning something over to God or taking responsibility?
Answer from PWP: That is the most intriguing paradox in life. If I think it is all up to me, I get arrogant and lose sight of my purpose. If I think it is all up to God, then I don’t do anything. The paradox is that I must act in order to have the higher power act through me. I can’t do it on my own, yet I am the instrument and nothing happens if I don’t take responsibility. It’s like with prayer. I don’t pray for results. I pray for the strength to do my part to help produce the results.
Question: Where does love fit into all of this?
Answer from PWP: Love is the way we interact with other people and the world. We can define this interaction purely from our own self-centered viewpoint or we can define it from the larger perspective of what is right for life. Let me give you an example. My goal is to sweep the mall each day I’m here. What happens when I encounter a lost child sitting in the play area, crying? I could just move on thinking that I don’t have time to let this child interfere with my goal or I could stop, comfort the child and help find the parent. This later action would delay achieving my goal of sweeping the mall, but it is what is being asked of me at that time.
Question: Doesn’t that mean that you didn’t define a lofty enough goal to begin with?
Answer from PWP: (smiles) No. It means that the higher purpose is wrapped around the specific goal I’ve set. As we discussed earlier, the important part is the journey. We can be so preoccupied with achieving the goal that we lose sight of why we’re pursing it. Then when we get there we feel empty and disappointed. Or we pursue the specific goal as a commitment to a life of love, and any deviation along the way is to serve the higher purpose. To achieve any lofty goal we must take a first step. We can’t solve world hunger without feeding a mouth at a time. I can’t clean the mall without first moving my broom. When I’ve emptied the last dustpan at the end of the day, I reflect back on where I started in the morning, the people I’ve met along the way and know that I’ve achieved something worthwhile.
Question: Any final comments?
Answer from PWP: It’s good to be here, living this life at this time. Now if you’ll lift your foot up, I’ll be happy to sweep away the toilet paper stuck to the bottom of your shoe.
Thursday, June 30, 2016
Last Saturday I was kinda bored so I strolled over to our local Nights Out motel to take in a gun show. Man, what a sight. I thought I’d died and gone to gun heaven. The conference room was crammed full of pistols, hunting knives, AK-47s, rocket launchers and one discounted guided missile. Not a gun-control freak in sight.
Interesting people there too. One man had his arm around his twelve-year old son while he raised a Kalinokov in the other hand. “You ready to go blast the bejezus out of Bambi?” he says.
Another man in a motorcycle jacket embroidered with skull and cross bones was salivating over a semi-automatic. The salesman was telling him how to convert it into an automatic and turn elk into Swiss cheese.
I ran into a guy with a long name. I just called him “Mo.” So I says, “Hey, Mo, watcha think of all these weapons?”
He shook his head. “I understand swords, but this is too much for me. How do you cut off someone’s head with these gun things?”
I picked up a Uzi. “You could start a nice war with one of these babies,” I says, clicking in an imaginary clip. “Blow away a damn lot of infidels.”
He gave me a sad smile and walked away.
A little later I was standing in line to add my name to a drawing for a genuine leather holster. A guy was sitting quietly in the middle of the floor in his bathrobe. I hunched down next to him. His name tag had another long name, but I shortened it. “Hey, Sid,” I says. “How come you blocking the aisle?”
He sat with his legs crossed and had his palms turned upward on his knees. Really calm guy.
I shook him and his eyes popped open.
“Taking a break from all the excitement?” I ask.
“Life is suffering,” he says.
“Yeah,” I replied as I hefted a thirty-ought-six off a nearby table. “But along the way you can blast to bits a whole herd of squirrels.”
“Right livelihood,” he says and closed his eyes.
“You got that right, Sid,” I says. “If only I could get paid to be pounding away with one of these babies.”
Then he started chanting about the eight-fold path. I didn’t know if he was going to make origami birds or what.
I decided it was time to get some lunch. I sat down at a table with a guy who had long hair and a beard. Kinda skinny. Above the neck this guy fit right in. But the rest of his outfit. Give me a break. Nobody goes to a gun show wearing a sheet and sandals. It was amazing his toes didn’t get crushed by all the cowboy boots.
“You want a bite of ribs?” I ask.
“I don’t eat that kind of food,” he says. “Thanks for the offer though.”
He had a Mexican name, but I just called him by his initials. “So, J.C.,” I says. “Whatcha think of this place?”
He looked sad. You’d think someone had pounded nails through his hands. “Resist not evil,” he says.
“No way,” I says. I picked up a grenade a ten-year old boy had left on the table. “Do unto others before they do unto you.”
Thursday, June 23, 2016
When my two sons got married, this is the advice I gave them:
Commitment to the relationship is paramount.
Acceptance is next to Godliness.
Stay free of expectations.
People and relationships grow and change, but always maintain a core of integrity and commitment.
Focus on how the relationship wins, not proving you’re right.
Two together is better than one in victory.
Never leave angry. Resolve it first.
Be the first to apologize.
Accept emotions. Don’t try to combat them with logic.
Respect both intimacy and space.
Little things that irritate you can become endearing qualities.
If conflicts arise between your mother and your wife, support your wife.
Never make love with cold hands.
Just love her.
Today is the 48th anniversary of my marriage. I have to remember to follow my own advice. As they say, the first 48 years are the hardest.
Thursday, June 16, 2016
As a mystery writer I’m interested in topics that relate to crime—its cause, effect and methods employed. With the most recent horrendous event in Orlando, I have to agree with President Obama that we need to fight terrorism but also address the ease with which terrorists can obtain assault weapons in the United States. Whether someone is an international terrorist, a self-radicalized loner or an angry person with mental problems, the results are the same. All these people need to be dealt with. Then there is the ease with which someone can obtain semi-automatic assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines. This needs to be stopped. Hunters, people wanting handguns to defend themselves and gun range enthusiasts can still have their rights without access to these types of weapons. Like any crime, it is impossible to eliminate all of it, but we must take action to make it difficult for those committing criminal terrorist acts to render so much damage to citizens in our country.
Thursday, June 9, 2016
Since I write geezer-lit mystery novels, I’m always interested in geezer-related activities. When we lived in Colorado, I often hiked with two friends and a West Highland Terrier named Mac. The three of us old guys were over sixty and got out regularly on Sundays to hike in the summer and snowshoe in the winter. Along the trail, invariably, women stopped when they saw Mac and said, “Oh, what a cute puppy.” They never looked at us and said, “Oh what cute geezers.”
Thursday, June 2, 2016
This review by Publishers Weekly of my mystery novel, Court Trouble, recently appeared: Set in Boulder, Colo., this solid series launch from Befeler (Murder on the Switzerland Trail) introduces an unlikely amateur sleuth, platform tennis buff Mark Yeager. Mark, who has recently recovered from cancer surgery, spots his friend Manny Grimes enter an adjoining court one night and get into an argument with the four men already there. Then all the lights go out. When the lights come back on, Manny is lying dead on the court with a gash in his head. Mark, who feels he owes Manny for persuading him to go to the doctor in the first place, resolves to find Manny’s killer. As he digs into his friend’s past, Mark discovers that Manny was involved with some highly unsavory characters. Mark’s wife, his friends, and the police warn him to back off when the attempts on his life begin. But Mark, possessed by a “drive to be alive” again, won’t quit until he catches the culprit. Readers will look forward to seeing more of this determined tennis enthusiast and cancer survivor.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
We had three cats when I was growing up. Pocohantis or Poki was a black and white outdoor cat. He was scared of people and lived under the house. Malahini or Mali was a female Siamese. I have a picture of her with a baby bonnet on her head and intense glaring eyes. She raised three litters of kittens. If a dog wandered into our yard, she would chase it off.
We kept one of the male kittens out of Mali’s first litter. Nebbechadnezer or Nebbie had a kink in his tail. We sold the other kittens, but no one wanted a kinky cat.
Cats have distinct personalities. One of the cats we had in Boulder, Opus, would all of a sudden charge around the house like his synapses were misfiring. Tammy, was very motherly. When we yelled at one of our kids, Tammy would get worried and come sit with the disgraced child. When one of us was sick, Tammy would be on the bed, consoling the invalid. She purred so loudly you could hear it from the next room. She liked people and wasn’t phased by any party or gathering. She’d saunter through the house undaunted by any commotion.
Our current cat, Athena, is just the opposite. For fifteen years, she only accepted three people in the world: My wife, my daughter and me. If anyone else approached or entered the house, she streaked off whatever perch she was on and hid under one of the beds. When the plumber replaced the furnace, Athena stayed under the bed all day for two days, only venturing out after he had left.
Athena purrs, but has it set on vibrate. You can’t hear a sound, but can feel it if you place your hand on her throat.
Athena is very self-centered. She’s out for herself. She used to try to eat all of Tammy’s food as well as her own.
But she likes to sleep on legs. The moment I lie on my back in bed, she jumps up on the bed and snuggles down on my legs. I can’t image that that would be comfortable, but that’s her place.
Athena likes to chase string, bat around play mice, toss them in the air and do flips. Then she’ll get wild-eyed and streak across the rug.
When we lived in Colorado, she only ventured outside when it was dark for a brief foray before charging back to hide in the garage as if a pack of wolves were after her. As soon as the door was opened she shot inside with her afterburners blazing. She is the original wussy pussy.