Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Birthday, America 2013!

Happy Birthday, America! 2013

In these tumultuous and uncertain times with the media focused upon the pain and evil that we as humans do to each other in our bid to be or remain King of the Hill, we need to also consider the good that surrounds us on a daily basis and be thankful for the bounty that is ever before us.

We need to weep with those who weep, such as the families of the 19 fallen firefighters who lost their lives in the Yamell area wildfire in Prescott, Arizona. Men such as these who put their lives on the line every day risking all as they seek to save and protect the lives of their neighbors, in many cases total strangers. We weep with not only our own losses, such as our service men and women but for other nations and cultures ablaze with war and tragedy. And, as good stewards of this precious planet we call home, we mourn the death of flora and fauna caught up in our quest to have it all.

And, we are told to rejoice with those who rejoice. So, as we take delight in our families, partying playing hard this Fourth of July Weekend, let us not forget as we light up the skies over America with aerial displays of colorful grandeur or shaking the ground with percussive emulations of historic battles of our past and saturating the air around us with smoke, grit, and odor of our glee that we take the time to remember our heritage, regardless of our familial origins, and give thanks for this great, and oft battered and badgered nation that allows us to be so free with our celebrations both great and small.

I thank God for this country. I thank God for my family, friends, and circle of influence. Though my heart aches as most news reports our ugliness towards each other, my heart soars as I see the kindness of those around me. Most are unknown to me by name, but they are the smiles of warm souls at the gas station, the grocery store, on the streets where I walk as we meet and greet. This is America to me.

Just the other day my beloved wife, Cathie and I attended our first Hungarian Picnic held at St. Elijah Serbian American Hall in Merrillville, Indiana. My wife saw it in the newspaper and told me she missed her grandmother's cooking so we went. So many attended the food service line took over an hour for me to purchase our Hungarian goodies. All lovingly handmade by the ladies of the Hungarian American Citizens Club. I saw both the good and the bad in those attending, as a younger couple standing directly behind me groused about the long line and accused an elderly couple of line cutting. It took me a while to convince them that I had been keeping the couple's place having let them sit down because the elderly woman was suffering from arthritis and after being in line for over 30 minutes, she needed to sit down. The good news is that this incident, though ugly, did not dampen my enthusiasm or enjoyment of both the food and new found fellowship. God bless us, America, we are a fine melting pot of the many cultures of the world!

This post went longer than I originally planned, but, so be it.

Let me finish with this:

No matter how disheartening the news of our incompetence, greed, or uncaring attitude of our national, states, and local governments, we must remember that people are just people and as such will seek their own best interests whenever possible based upon the biased clarity of their funneled focus. This is not what or who we are celebrating. We are celebrating the birthday of our nation with all of its diversity, peculiarity, prejudices, pride, patriotism, and most importantly those kind and generous people who surround us daily filling us with the hope of a better day and a future worth striving toward.

Remember to focus on the good, forgive the bad and the ugly, overall we are a good people worthy of second and third chances to become the best we can be. Be kind to the unkind, lovely to the unlovely, this will confuse the dickens out of them. Most of all do not allow the pressures, the media, and the ugliness that pops up on occasion to change who your are. Stay strong and live long and prosper.

Happy Birthday, America... God bless us, every one!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day 2013

To all the mothers around the world I wish you great joy, fulfilling love, abundant peace, flowers, and lots and lots of chocolate!

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Woman Is As Strong As ___________?

A few moments ago I clicked on an email link that took me to:

While there I read Bette's endearing article honoring her mother. At the end of the article she asked for readers to submit comments as contest entries using the prompt: "A woman is as strong as ____________ ?" 

Almost everyone who commented wrote of their strong mothers. I did as well.

At first, I was unsure whether I should post a comment because the contest was listed as "for the girls". But, I felt compelled to honor my strong mother and one of my prime heroes. 

Over the years I have come to know that I get my quiet inner strength from my mother, along with my desire to serve... those whom GOD has so graciously allowed in my life, no matter how brief the encounter and my Lord and Savior King Jesus Christ.

I don't personally know of anyone as strong in their faith as my mother. She has overcome so much and recently defeated colon cancer. She never complains and is the only person I know who practices the old saw: "If you can't say something nice about someone, then don't say anything at all." She has held her family to this same standard, though I constantly fall short, I continue to do my best to honor her wishes.

I remember a time when I was a teen and my older brother John and I were arguing about something I no longer have a memory of when I called my brother a jerk. My dear little 4'8" Japanese mama walked up to me with a stern face and pointed at me and said, "That's your brother, so what does that make you?"

I replied as I often did, incorrectly. Through gritted teeth I said, "The brother of a jerk."

Mama proceeded to judo-slap me so hard that my head shoulda spun like the little girl character in the movie: The Exorcist. 

Now that I am much older I have come to realize that my brother is not a jerk and never was. He is a wonderful brother, husband, and father. My admiration for him grows daily... as does my love and gratefulness for my strong mother.

I pray everyone can feel and say the same of their mothers.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Protect Your Hearts...

It has been raining quite a bit lately... and the rain has come down hard and heavy. There is flooding throughout the area, but so far, we are still unaffected. Chicago is experiencing major flooding and incoming flights are being cancelled. I just saw a news report showing a sinkhole that opened up on the South Side, it swallowed a car, the driver suffered minor injuries, and then two more cars and drivers piled in atop the first one. From the roadside view, the crumpled rear portion of a silver or white car could barely be seen. OUCH!

This morning I awoke to news that a fertilizer plant down in Waco, Texas blew up like an atom bomb in the midst of firefighters working to put out the original fire. They are still unsure of the amount of casualties to both firefighters and local residents. Latest estimates were 5-15 dead, mostly firefighters, and 180 injured. Whole blocks of houses were blown apart by the blast impact. Most of the residents were eating their evening meal when this occurred. According to an ex-CDC director, the scene is much like the aftermath of a battle.

Just the other day our nation was jolted by a horrific unprovoked attack upon the City of Boston during its most celebrated annual event: The Boston Marathon. Two of four bombs placed within trash receptacles at the finish line exploded killing and maiming many people. I don't know the count... my heart was heavy enough after the three funerals I attended last week. I had to turn away from the television news reports. So far, they are still investigating in hopes of discovering the perpetrator(s). It is being treated as a terrorist act. Several of my friends who work in large cities like Chicago, were sent home from work early in fear of there being other attacks around the country.

All I can say is how horrific are any such attacks no matter where they occur. There prime purpose is to instill fear into the populace and governments. I might revisit this subject in a different post. For now I want to remind you that Jesus Christ said that in the end or latter times that people's hearts would fail them because of fear. And, I see that this is certainly the case. Heart attacks and strokes are still the leading cause of death in our society and the trend is continuing to climb at an alarming rate, especially among women.

Jesus also told us to not let our hearts be troubled or afraid when we see or experience these horrible situations of disastrous proportions in weather, industrial accidents, wars, and acts of terrorism. He told us to keep our eyes on Him and trust in Him as we trust in God and He would see us through these times... for He declared that He has already overcome the evil, the pain, and the tragedies of this world.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Winter of Springtime

This past Friday, April 12, 2013, I attended two funerals. One was a close friend and fellow church member, the other was a close friend and family. Both were strong, beautiful women as was the one who had her memorial the previous Saturday, April 6th. She was the mother of one of my best childhood friends.

Wowsers... three awesome saints gone within a few days. God bless their families and friends.

The weather on Friday was unusually cold with mixed rain and sleet. Not the best weather to be standing by a gravesite. Still in retrospect, perhaps even nature mourned along with us at the loss of the presence of these precious souls? It is a nice thought that warms me while the lingering winter still chills me.

Have a wonder filled life and be sure and enjoy those around you. Shalom.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

MIA or What?

Sorry for being missing-in-action... but, I have been exceptionally busy with other projects as well as still dealing with kidney stones and pain... lots and lots of pain.

I thought getting a laptop would help me to keep up with things here in cyberspace. So far, I am still off the main shipping lanes hoping to get back in the groove soon.

Haven't even had opportunity to start taking the new writing course I posted about earlier.

To those who've been checking out my blog and finding it static and stale, I apologize with all of the sincerity I can and thank you for your patience hoping you will come back again. I do have some new short stories I am working on and one for the new KINDLE ALL-STARS ANTHOLOGY: FanaticFiction. This anthology is open to EVERYONE who wants to submit a story. Find out how on our fearless leader's official blog post here: Klaatu Barada Necktie, Mother Frakkers

I've gotta come up with an article for Billie A. Williams monthly newsletter:  You can check it out this month's issue on Evernote via this link: The Mystery Reader's Connection - April 2013 If you would like to subscribe to this FREE newsletter, you can do so here at: The subscription link is on the right-hand column. Billie is an awesome friend and a wonderful writer of mysteries (winner of many awards for her many published books) as well as a writing coach.

Last thing, if you would like to check out HOLLY LISLE'S HOW TO THINK SIDEWAYS: ULTRA COURSE along with me and many other published and aspiring to be published authors, please consider doing so via my affiliate link. I do get compensated should you join us... and, I'd appreciate it. The money I make will go toward paying for my course and the other courses I plan on taking after I've completed this one. If you've never read any of her stories or her excellent online articles, do yourself a favor and do so. Holly is a straight shooter, no BS sorta gal who I trust and highly respect; as an author, a teacher, and a wonderful human being. Here's the link: Holly Lisle's How To Think Sideways ULTRA

Thanks again for stopping by, should we not connect again, have a wonder filled life.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

HTTS: Lesson 1 Has Arrived!

I am so excited to be able to say that I am now a student of Holly Lisle's HOW TO THINK SIDEWAYS: ULTRA course. I have long been an admirer of Holly and have followed her blog and articles as well as purchasing her course books. She is good people and an honest, hard-working, no BS kinda gal who's middle name is 'servant'.

I have wanted to take this course from its onset but was prohibited because of finances or should I say a lack thereof. I have been out of work for over five years. I do freelance and side-jobs but nothing steady as I did for well over 30 years.

Even though our finances are extremely tight, for my birthday my beloved wife, Cathie, who believes in me even more than I believe in myself, has insisted that I take this course and allow myself the freedom to explore more fully my love of writing. The best part of it is she is going to take the course with me. Just as she believes in me I have been encouraging her to let the genius within her free. Now, she and I are going to embark on a new adventure together. We are going to write stories and children's books together. Even if we never publish them traditionally, they will be heirloom treasures for our grandkids.

I used to work as a freelance cartoonist and commercial artist up in Chicago in the late 60's and early 70's; started while I was still in high school. I gave most of it up when I went to work in a local steel mill to help our my family and found myself stuck when I married a woman with three kids. I could live off of Peanut Butter and out of my car but I could not expect my new family to do the same. I do not regret my decision to work the long hours to raise my new family. I do however regret that I allowed my now ex-wife to convince me to quit drawing and focus on making more money doing practical mule jobs. Somewhere along the way in a marriage that was doomed from the onset, I lost my creativity, my genius, my love of art and writing.

It has taken my best friend and now wife of 21 years most of our marriage to help me get my head back on straight. She has always been my biggest cheerleader. I don't know why it has taken me so long to believe in the inherent genius of God that has always been within me... but, I am going to hold back no longer.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How To Think Sideways ULTRA: Career Survival School for Writers

Caught up in the struggles of writing a novel? Frustrated by the blinking cursor? Fighting with blank pages, soggy plots, or on-strike characters?

If you'd like to regain--or, perhaps, find for the first time--your joy in writing, learn How to Think Sideways from established novelist and well-loved writing instructor Holly Lisle. She's taught thousands of writers a unique, systematic, repeatable method for creating not just fiction, but really good, rich, deep, meaningful fiction. Fiction better than anything they ever imagined they could write.

Starting today, Holly invites you into How to Think Sideways ULTRA: Career Survival School for Writers, a 32-week online writing course, at the 2011 legacy pricing. At noon (EDT) on Friday, March 15, 2013, the price goes up.

What if you sign up and decide the course isn't for you? Holly guarantees that you can quit at ANY time and receive a full refund of your current lesson and all remaining paid-for lessons. No questions, no hassle.

You have nothing to lose. And even by trying out the course, you'll learn more about the process of writing than the last ten how-to books you read even hinted at. Promise.

I'm a graduate of How to Think Sideways. Some of Holly's methods didn't resonate with me, but many of them did. . .and still do. I learned how to find great ideas that work for me. I learned how to watch for surprises while writing, and use these gifts to their full advantage. I learned how to create a simple but effective plan for my stories' revisions. In short, I learned to Think Sideways.

To join me in class, or just find out what all the fuss is about, go here:

How To Think Sideways ULTRA: Career Survival School For Writers

Please note that I'm a course affiliate. You'll be helping me if you buy through my link.. and I appreciate the help.

If you know me: I only recommend things I  personally believe in. See for yourself!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Winter's Day in March

It is snowing heavily right now. The weather prognosticators are warning of levels of snowfall from 5-10 inches by tomorrow morning. In like a lion and out like a lamb comes to mind. It is March and not January is it not?

Having been born in late January I have always admired the beauty of a winter snowfall. Who of us here in the snow belt areas of the United States of America have not enjoyed as school-age children a snow day or two? And, who of us has not stood in awe when looking out over a brace of trees or even a single tree covered in glistening ice in lieu of leaves?

I no longer play in the snow as I once did. Still, I enjoy watching the neighborhood kids as they do, and I remember when I was as they rolling and sledding and fighting fervent but playful snowball wars.

The snow is at least 3 to 4 inches deep and shows no sign of easing off. That's okay with me, I am enjoying the white wonderland effect lauded in song and story since man discovered how to keep his bahookie warm.

Speaking of which, I have to go and prepare dinner for me and my beloved.

Have a wonder filled day... wherever you are.

Monday, March 4, 2013

I started this blog with the hopes of gathering together a reflection of myself through a collection of stories, witticisms, snarks & rants, and other musings all in one place. So far, it has not been working out as I'd hoped. But, I am not dismayed. If nothing else, being on this earth for 60 years has taught me that some things just take more time and more effort than we first imagine. And, those things that time the longest are either projects we never should have started because we haven't the passionate interest to complete them, or they are the projects that like a crafting a wondrous tapestry, comes together in all its brilliance, color, and shades of nuance telling a great story over the course of a lifetime.

My hopes are that this blog will be the latter. I don't know if anyone will read this or anything else I write. Yet, I will write it anyway. I cannot keep what is in my heart to myself forever and I do not wish to pass from this earth with my song still unsung or my stories untold.

I have been experiencing some mechanical difficulties of late, dealing with kidney stones and related issues for over 6 months now. Having ADD/ADHD as well as being a bit wonky does not always help to keep me consistent... but, it tries its best to keep me unfashionably late and forgetful.

Thank God, I am so blessed to have my beloved wife, Cathie to keep me on even keel. I would be lost without her... and, my life barren and bereft of the joy and laughter we share together. I have dedicated this blog to her and our journey together as much as to myself and my egocentric yearnings.

If you do read my posts, I thank you in advance.

I cannot promise you will see what you like or that you will see only the best of me... but, I can promise that you will see the truth of me through my words, even amidst the fictional tales.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Wreck Collections by Little Willie - Women Trouble

I remember hearing my grandpa complain to my momma that her brother, Uncle Bobby, “had gotten another wild hare up his butt”, shook me up so bad. I hated fleet enemas.

I didn’t know how it coulda happened, and then I thought about how my mother would panic when I would run out of the house naked when I was younger. We had a garden full of wild rabbits.

I told that pesky Sue Ellen about it when she found me sitting on the porch thinking about my poor Uncle Bobby, only because she was bugging me and I’d hoped she’d go away. She did. But, I got in trouble because of her anyway.

She went and asked my momma if she could have the rabbit stuck up Uncle Bobby’s heinie after he was done with it. She promised to give it a bath. My grandpa laughed so hard his choppers fell into his lap. My momma liked to turn me into a rabbit pulling on my ears so hard. She told me I musta gotten my puh-verse mind from my father’s side of the family as she marched me into the bathroom and gave me my choice of Castile or Dial soap.

I wondered as I stood there making mouth bubbles if I would always be plagued by women troubles.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I Saw Her

In honor of my lovely wife on this Valentine's Day 2013. I would like to post something I wrote for her a few years back. It was my recollection of the first time I saw her transformed into a story. I hope you like it.

* * *
I saw her.

I saw her as I did every workday morning. She had become my internal sunshine and the best motivation to get me to work on time.

I did my best to be casual, trying not to gawk or stare. It's hard for me to hide my feelings once they sprout.

Did she ever see me?

The radiance of her smile scans past me. Did it stop if but for a moment and acknowledge my presence as more than just a placeholder in the long line of jostling customers seeking their fix of burnt coffee?

I smiled back as usual, praying for some favor, for just the chance to be more. She paid no notice until I stood directly in front of her. I feared my grin would show the truth behind it, the strain to contain my delight that sought to reach out and encircle her with my ardor.

She acted different today. She cocked her head as if I'd posed a question, one requiring an immediate response. Her pleasant manner and charm never ceased, and unlike my heart, never skipped a beat.

"Grande, right?" she drew me in with the deepest blue eyes I'd ever encountered. I was swimming in them and could only manage a clumsy nod. Oh how I loved to see the early morning sunlight seek her out, sneaking through the louvered window shades, slanting golden illuminating her with angelic glow about her  shoulder-length flaxen hair falling straight, framing her delicious fresh face.

The sweetness of her essence cradled my order. I should say her order. I never could finish such a large cup of coffee before it went cold. She must've assumed a hyper-guy like me needed the extra caffeine to keep me pumped. 

She doesn't know me. Would she if she saw me as I do her?

Our eyes locked together for the first time. I trembled at the thought of asking her out, but I did not even know her name. She never wore a name tag.

"Hey Cath, there's other folks in that line. Step it up," her supervisor said. His glare at me said to back off.

I did not blanch. He did not own her and at that moment I did not care about him, about the coffee, or the pushy people getting mouthy behind me. Screw them and their travel mugs they so piously clung to... I was talking to the girl of my dreams, the captor of my heart. I was talking to Cathie.

"That will be $2.50 please," her voice shattered my reverie.

Now it was my turn to cock my head.

"$2.50, doesn't a Grande cost $4.50?

I sensed an added warmth in her smile.

"Frequent customer point's just saved you two bucks."

Enthralled, I continued to stand there and I would have forever if the burly guy behind me hadn't pushed me and said, "Buddy, pay the girl and get the hell outta the line. I gotta get to work and I need my joe too."

His complaint was echoed in the chorus behind us. I snapped to and paid her.

Our fingertips brushed ever so slightly, a surge of possibility fluxed up my arm and tickled my brain stem. Cathie handed me back my change along with a new frequent customer's card.

I slapped the change on the counter. "Apply it to this guy's bill for his aggravation. I'll see you tomorrow."

I swore she winked as she smiled goodbye. The impatient guy turned away, probably embarrassed at my generosity in the light of his rudeness.

I strode out feeling much more alive than the mass of extras for a zombie movie lolling around waiting for their fix.

While standing waiting for the 7:20 A.M. city bus, I pulled out the new Coffee Rewards card Cathie handed me. I knew my old card was short a few punch holes and yet she gave me both the discount and a new card. I turned it over and almost dropped my steaming hot Grande because I instinctively wanted to grab it with both hands like it was a winning lottery ticket.

There, written in delicate feminine swirls, was her name... and more importantly, her telephone number.

Revelation came.

She saw me.

* * *

Happy Valentine's Day!

How appropriate that my first post for this blog be on a day that honor's passionate love. Besides my lovely wife, Cathie, reading & storytelling are my other passionate loves.

This being St. Valentine's Day of 2013, let me tell you about my best friend, my girlfriend, wife, and lover. I am most fortunate and twice-blessed of all men to have found and married my dream girl.

I met her a few years back when she was 19 and I was 23. She was pregnant and engaged to one of my best friends who practically grew up in our house. I was stricken by her beauty and fell for her instantly. I made it a point to say nothing to anyone about this as I thought she was in love with my friend. As it turned out, she felt trapped in her situation and her family had pressured her to get married to the father of her baby. Understandable for 1977. (Later on I found out that she was attracted to me because I was so kind. But, said nothing because I gave no indication that I was interested in her as more than a friend.)

I was raised to be honorable and to respect everyone, especially family and friends. Even though her soon to be husband and I had fallen out of intimate friendship years earlier, I still thought of him as a brother. We both entered into marriages that were doomed from the start, which ended in divorce at about the same time. It took us another few years to find each other. It was like a fairy tale story, some say. All that matters to me is that we did... and still do.

I mentioned in my profile that one of my favorite movies right now is the classic Christmas movie, "It's a Wonderful Life." I did so because late last year, right after Christmas, I was reading a wonderful book for writers by Lisa Cron (@LisaCron on Twitter), WIRED FOR STORY - (Writer or not, please check it out if you want to understand why people are so enamored with stories, no matter which media or means brings them our way. I promise you, you won't be disappointed.) - and it changed my life. I am being serious here. I get no compensation from her book and she does not know I even exist... but, her insight led me to an epiphany for which I will be forever grateful.

Let me explain: Ms. Cron used George Bailey, the primary protagonist (hero) of this movie as an example for discovering your characters inner motivation as opposed to their outer motivation. As she explained the difference between these motivations for George Bailey, I saw a correlation to my own life.

All his life, George Bailey wanted to leave his small town and go out into the world and build grand buildings, making a name for himself. But, things just kept happening that blocked him from leaving, and he remained tied to the town working in his family business feeling like a loser, like he was losing out and his life was being drained away. He felt this way so strongly that he wished he had never been born... and, for you who know, this is the basis for the story. In the end, in the midst of a very dark moment, he had a revelation, his pivotal moment. He discovered that what he thought he wanted in life was not what he needed, and that what he had was what he had internally wanted and needed all of his life... to be unconditionally loved and respected.

I started out as a portrait painter and cartoonist. I wanted to move from Gary, Indiana where I was born and for the most part raised and make my self a name in Chicago or New York City. I wanted to be a famous artist. As things turned out, I had to help our family because of tough financial times by working in a local steel mill. I thought it was only going to be for a summer. Then, I would attend the art schools I had gotten scholarship offers from. An invitation letter from Uncle Sam via President Richard M. Nixon supplanted my plans for a few years. When I returned from the service, I found myself back in the steel mill... but, for just a summer. That summer lasted 30 years. All during that time I resented my situation. Like George, I  held it within myself, most of the time. After I retired I worked as a mule in a local lumber yard until it shut down because of a greater financial downturn in the home building business in the area. I have been unable to find suitable work in the last 5 plus years. Frustrated artist that I was, I took up my second love, painting pictures  in people's mind via words. This led me to Lisa's wonderful book. That allowed me to see that like George Bailey, what I thought I wanted was not what I craved inwardly in my true self. I wanted to be unconditionally loved and respected.

I have all that and more in my lovely wife, Cathie. God bless her... she loves me in spite of myself. Knowing this I can now pass from this earth a complete human being. Should I never publish another story, or get acclaim for another work of visual art or any other accolade in this life, I lack for nothing. Her love has made me whole. I tell her and everyone else proudly that next to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Cathie is the greatest blessing in my life.

I know this is a long post... and, I thank you for reading it this far.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone, and I pray you all find what I have found in my best friend, lover, and mate.