Saturday, April 3, 2010

I can't write today

Write, write, write! That's what my editor advised me to do. Write at every opportunity. Write whatever comes to my mind. Write for myself, write for others. Write, write, write. He'll take care of the rest. I do what I can. But, not today. There is nothing in my mind to write about. I'm all writed out.

For months I've been hard at it, writing on a number of subjects, sometimes all through the night, during breaks and lunch time at work and even eating dinner at the keyboard to get it all down. I think I emptied my mind out. When I try to think of something to write it comes out reading like a kindergarten paper, emotionless, forced, crude, without purpose. I think I need a break. Today I won't write. Maybe tonight I won't write. Perhaps I won't write for a long time. This has happened before. I know the routine. It's a necessary evil. I have to take time to refill my empty glass of motivation. I've poured it all out and now it's gone.

The garden awaits digging and seeding, the basement cries out for organization. My man machines in the garage beg to be filled with gasoline and explode into life. The brown trout in the nearby creek require harvesting. My boat awaits my loving touch and attention. My bicycles yearn for the open road. It is their time. Writing can wait. Today I expand my horizons, rekindling the zest and fire of life beyond the desk. Inspiration will follow. Wish me well........................Joe

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

Thinking over this whole "Good Friday" thing kind of makes you wonder doesn't it? Considering that Good Friday is the anniversary of the horrible death of a gentle and honorable man.

According to biblical as well as secular history, 2000 or so years ago a group of people grabbed a guy under false accusations with the help of a lying traitor, tried and found innocent, whipped, scourged, forced to carry a huge wooden cross, nailed to that same cross, speared in the chest and died while his mother watched. Not most peoples idea of a "Good Friday" is it? Unless, of course you knew ahead of time what would happen 3 days later. But even then the pain and anguish was real. So why do we call it Good Friday? As unspeakably horrible as it was, Good Friday was the beginning of something better. The world was changed forever. Regardless of your religious convictions I believe Good Friday has something to teach us all.

How often do we face life changing catastrophe? Life is full of such stuff. How do we handle it? When tragedy strikes do we have the courage to do what has to be done? Do we accept the pain of doing the right thing in the hope of a better future? I feel that each of us, at at least one time or another in our lives faces our own Good Friday. A lesson was shown us a few years back when a guy who's arm got stuck in a land slide. He cut that arm off so he could return to civilization and live. he is now without an arm but the rest of him is alive and well. The cost was worth it. Every day, sick people enter operating rooms, enduring surgery and the following recovery period, perhaps chemotherapy so they may live longer healthier lives. Other people sever abusive relationships, sometimes disrupting their own lives and the lives of their children, suffering poverty for years to stop further injury and finally be safe again, maybe in another state or country. None of those things are easy. However, any one of those decisions and thousands of others could be for each of us our own personal Good Friday. Sometimes, what may almost appear hopeless can be overcome, even in the face of tremendous pain and seemingly insurmountable odds.

I know a real crude, rather uncivilized guy that isn't particularly pleasant to be around most of the time. He has a tattoo on his chest saying in huge, bold letters, Good Friday! Accompanied by the sun breaking over the horizon. As crude and uncivilized and smelly as he is, he is known by a select few as a guy that quietly helps people in trouble, any time, any place. I asked him about his rather unique tattoo. He said he found out what it means when he was finally released from captivity back in Vietnam.

To some of us Good Friday means a lot. To some of us Good Friday means nothing. To all of us Good Friday and the resulting Easter Sunday may have a very encouraging message. A free message. But we don't all have to tattoo it to our chest do we now?..........................Joe

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Wishin' and hopin'

Are you caught up in wishing and hoping your life away? I'm afraid I've met plenty of people who are. Sometimes a person can wish for something so much that they pass over what is happening and what they have right now. As an example: I have a factory installed stereo system in my car, I enjoy the music I play on that stereo every day. From time to time a friend rides along with me, he constantly jabbers about how poor the sound is because the stereo isn't some huge priced, big booming, 2000 watt system that requires 4 batteries to operate. I just want to enjoy the music.

There is an entire sub-culture that goes through life waiting for some settlement being negotiated on their behalf regarding one law suit or another. They feel they will never amount to anything because some rich person controls all the money. The only way they can get that money is to file a law suit, no matter how frivolous.

A few people, of extremely modest means, dream constantly of going on Spring break or vacation to a tropical paradise. They cannot find any reason to enjoy the place where they live every day. They will never, never be happy until they vacation hundreds or thousands of miles away. Wishing and hoping at the expense of everyday pleasures.

Attainable goals are an excellent way to improve our lives. giving us something to work and look forward to. Helping get us through difficult, mundane and commonplace tasks, motivating us with the hope of reward. Most of us dream of better things. Wishing and hoping can also become a barrier to enjoying life's simple pleasures. They can cloud our vision. How many cliche's tell us to "stop and smell the coffee/roses."

Today is my day to make sure I smell some coffee and maybe some roses. I'm going to open my eyes to the good stuff all around me. I hope it includes something that tastes good. I wish that you could have some too....................Joe

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mentoring, who benefits?

Spending over 20 years in a mentoring program was quite a learning experience for me. Although the program was supposed to benefit the at risk young men involved, ultimately the learning encompassed everyone, the mentored and the mentor. Being young and in my prime when I first accepted the invitation, my expectations of success were based more on the "good always wins out over evil" movie theory than reality. It didn't take long for me to wise up. The very first guy took only 3 days to go back to jail. We had a chat about his lack of skills and how we were going to work on improving them, he got all upset, saying I insulted him. He went out the door and within the next 24 hours managed to steal money from his roommate, get drunk, steal a car, smash it up while being chased by the police and finally arrested for assaulting a police officer among other things. I felt terrible! I also felt at least partly responsible for his behavior. At that point I needed some mentoring myself to remember that, when all is said and done we are all responsible for our own choices. That guy chose to do what he did, I didn't cause it, I couldn't cure it.

At the end of the day, when a person goes to another, older, wiser, more experienced person for help, that person has to follow the advice they have been given. There were over 200 guys that were involved in the program in a little over 20 years. I watched as some listened intently, applied themselves, developed a strong work ethic, pulled themselves up and went on to succeed in life. While others spent their time giving me lip service just to return to their old habits and get into trouble again. You can't win them all. Just as I can't claim responsibility for their failures, I also cannot claim any responsibility for their success. The decision is theirs! Mentoring is a great opportunity for people to improve themselves. The people on both sides of the fence.

In my life, I can't count the number of times when, if I'd listened to someone else and done what they suggested, I'd saved myself a lot of grief.

Monday, March 29, 2010

How to write a story

If I want to be a writer I must have a thick skin! At least that's what was in a message I received over the weekend. Take criticism as a compliment, she says. Anyone taking enough time to comment, positive or negative must have found value in what he read. Use the criticism as a guide to improving your writing skills. Good advice! I'll do my best.

Another message offered this: If you write a story and expect people to read it all the way through you have to answer these questions; Who, what, why, where, how and when. Then you have to include several moments that bring the reader to moments of, "Oh really? No kidding? Oh my gosh! Wow! And a sense of mystery that ends with the reader saying, Holy Cow! I never saw that coming!

Truthfully, I believed I already had a thick skin, accepted criticism well, did my best to answer those questions and maintained an element of surprise in my stories. I have to examine myself closer. Evidently not everyone thinks I do. Paying close attention to this advice is critical because it's not me that needs to be satisfied here, it's the reader. I can write all day long but if nobody wants to read it, all I have at the end of the day is a pile of meaningless notes.

Pointing out once again that writing is only one of the steps towards being a writer. I don't exactly accept criticism as well as I thought either. But, I'm working on it. Thanks...........Joe

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday, The Catholic Church, eliminating abuse.

There is a lot of media coverage again concerning the Catholic Church, cover ups and abusive priests. I have strong feelings about it. I am Catholic. Anything that hurts the Catholic church, hurts me right along with millions of fellow Christians world wide. Some Catholics are leaving the church because of their personal strong feelings. I'm not going to do that. Some Catholics are angry and condemn the church for all of this. I'm not doing that either. Today is Palm Sunday, known also as Passion Sunday. Today is marked in part by Judas' betrayal of Jesus. It must have hurt Jesus deeply to be betrayed by one of his closest friends. I feel hurt too. The rest of the apostles didn't stop believing just because of Judas. I'm not either.

A week from now Catholics and other Christians celebrate the Jesus' resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday. There were bad things happening in the world. God sent his son to show us a way to stop those bad things. Jesus left us a church to guide us in how to stop bad things until he returns. He also left human beings in charge of that church. Interesting because although the church teaches God's truth, some of the imperfect human beings in charge of it lie and do evil things.

I know that some people will profess the truth and distort it in order to fulfill their own, evil desires. They will deny any wrongdoing and make false promises so as not to pay the consequence, sometimes garnering the help of ignorant, well meaning compatriots. Showing no sorrow or regret until they are standing at the gallows of public scrutiny. Even Judas found his traitorous behavior so abhorrent he killed himself, he knew what his reward would be.

I will not allow these traitors to the Catholic church drive me away from it. As painful as it is to me and all Christians I will continue to be true to the church of faith that was left to me and support it in it's purge of those evil offenders until only the good remain. I will also remind those that brought such shame, to remember that the reward for the evil they have wrought will be worms. And, in many cases it is promised that they would be better to have never been born. I suggest they fess up and get the hell out while they can...........................Joe
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