Do We No Longer Know How Much Is Enough? by James North

As baby boomers, many of us were admonished throughout our adolescent years and then as adults to plan and save for the future in order to be able to stand on our own two feet. I translated this to mean, if you are able, you must work hard and provide for your own future—your own security. That advice seemed quite sanguine and occasionally proved its worth by the things that happened to people around me that left them struggling, without enough. Nevertheless, for many, if not most of us, these admonitions often went unheeded, particularly in our adolescent years and sometimes into early adult life. So if the words, “live like there is no tomorrow”, or “live life to the fullest” spring from the past and are echoing inside your head about now, you know what I mean.

Despite these epic and often short-lived “devil-may-care” episodic attitudes, most of us baby boomers, and no doubt a good many Generation Xers, can recall the excitement of our first job. It was an opportunity. The money was usually “small potatoes” and getting it was frequently the result of a newspaper route, a part-time job at a local market, yard work for a neighbor or a summer job that involved more physical, backbreaking stuff. Still, we earned it and the feeling of entitlement to things we wanted were inextricably linked to those earnings. Putting in our share or buying it outright were the only ways we got the things we wanted. We were content, at least until we were struck by the desire to have something else. For me, having money I earned in my pocket created a sense of pride. It was to some extent, freedom. I earned it, so I’ll do as I please with it!

I reflect on those things and make the following observations because today in the developed world the concepts of having enough and what I call excess surplus (hoarding) have merged and are now conjoined with unwarranted expectation and a sense of entitlement—the belief that the things we want can be acquired with minimal work and sacrifice, or no work at all. This disturbing phenomenon has been evolving and observably on the rise for several decades. It now appears to be growing at a quickening pace—spreading a toxic cloud that is raining poison on our values, threatening to condemn mankind to a moribund state.

As we watch, we see the abandonment of important concepts and the blurring of lines between that which we as human beings have long judged as good or evil, honorable or dishonorable. We can find many examples of this skewing of distinction, particularly if we look at the way in which opportunity and opportunism have become all but synonymous in their interpretation and acceptance. Frightfully, the latter is now tolerated behavior. In fact, it is not only accepted, it is expected. It is seen at nearly every level of human interaction—within families, schools, universities, social circles, in the work place and increasingly among countries.

The question is, how do we put human beings and humanity back on a safer track and stop the world from descending into an abysmal place—a heartless, uncaring, greed-filled, unsympathetic and egregious place, without empathy and where everyone is bent on pursuing opportunism instead of working to create opportunity? In other words, how do we determine when enough is truly enough? How do we create a more stable and less aggression-filled world? To answer these question, I suggest we start with the person we see daily in the mirror. But to sustain any effort toward progress in mitigating the effects of opportunism and greed we should ask, “What am I doing to prepare those who must continue to make these changes?”

Can A Person Ever Change? by Swan Morrison

swan-morrisonI was employed as a mental health social worker for very many years. ‘Can people ever change?’ was a question I was sometimes asked. I never came to a definite conclusion about that. I have, however, observed a related phenomenon: I have seen lives turned around when individuals discover an activity that inspires them and for which they develop a passion. This might relate to a different career path or a spiritual calling. Alternatively it might be a new creative direction. The common feature lies in finding something that adds a new meaning to life—something that awakens previously untapped elements of a person’s true self.

I remember experiencing such an enthusiasm when I gave up a career as an engineer to work in mental health. I recall the feeling fading, however, after I accepted more senior positions and discovered, too late, that being a manager was not an extension of my previous role but a totally different one—one for which I was never suited. It was at this point that I began to write and discovered a pursuit that re-engaged with the person that I felt I was inside.

This was a theme in my first novel, Judgement Day, which saw a number of its characters escape the narrow constraints of their everyday lives to discover surprising new facets of their own personalities. I was heartened when this book gained the silver medal in the humour category of Dan Poynter’s Global Ebook Awards in 2016.

If I could go back in time and speak to myself at age eleven, I would tell myself to follow my interests, follow my instincts and be brave when the world around wanted me to be someone else. Sometimes during the past fifty years I have done that, but far too often, however, I have not. At least now that I am retired, I have been able to reflect and take my own advice.

I have now published five books: three collections of short stories, a novel and a novella. I have also learned to sing and to play guitar and ukulele. In addition, I have turned my garden into a vegetable allotment and, in a voluntary capacity, resumed direct work with people who experience mental health issues.

If only one could turn the clock back—but also make use of subsequent wisdom. It is probably no coincidence that the forthcoming sequel to Judgement Day, called Until the End of Time, explores exactly that idea.

About the Author:

Swan Morrison is the pen name of Brian Huggett. Brian lives with his wife and a cat named Blackie in Hampshire, England. He has been publishing work on the Internet and in print since 2001. In 2006, he created the Short Humour Site at http://www.short-humour.org.uk for comedy writing of around 500 words.

All profits from the writings of Swan Morrison are currently donated to charity.

Links:

The Short Humour Site: http://www.short-humour.org.uk/

Amazon Author Page (US): https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00N7VGMFQ

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shorthumoursite

Websites for Swan Morrison’s books:

The Short Humour Trilogy: http://www.short-humour.org.uk/writersshowcase/The_Short_Humour_Trilogy.htm

Deep Black: http://www.short-humour.org.uk/writersshowcase/deepblack.htm

Judgement Day: http://www.short-humour.org.uk/writersshowcase/judgementday.htm

 

The Great Communicator by Gilda Evans

Gilda EvansWhat makes a great communicator? President Ronald Reagan was known as “the great communicator.” Was it his skills as an actor or politician that afforded him this moniker? What are the qualities that help get your point across and make people take notice?

When people think about communicating, usually the first thing they think about is talking. In my opinion, talking comes second. The thing that really facilitates positive and productive communication is listening. Active listening, where you are truly paying attention to what the other person is saying. Also, listening with an open mind and keeping your ego in check go a long way towards creating a bridge rather than a moat. When you listen to someone you offer them a kind of validation, respect and consideration. And people who receive these things are more likely to give them in return. Even if you don’t agree with what the other person is saying, you can still respect their opinion and “agree to disagree” as the saying goes. Who knows? By the time the conversation ends you may find that your opinion has changed. But if you don’t hear what the other person is saying, how will you ever learn the things that change that opinion or, at the very least, be able to respond intelligently?

When the time does come to do the talking, remember that it’s not only what you say but also how you say it that often makes or breaks things. Your tone of voice, the words you choose and the way you couch them will make all the difference as to how they are received. Again, this is where keeping your ego out of the equation plays a vital role in the success of the conversation. Here are some guidelines that I feel make the communication process much easier:

  1. Never try to communicate in the heat of the moment. If you’ve just had an argument or if one of you is in a bad mood, continue the conversation at a later time. Unless it’s life or death, a few hours or even a day won’t matter.
  1. Never play the blame game. Pointing fingers never solved anything. Rather, seek solutions to the issue at hand.
  1. Be prepared to say, “I was wrong” and “I’m sorry”. There is no shame in that. On the contrary, it takes a very strong and confident person to make that kind of admission. And it’s amazing how much of a positive effect it has on the outcome of the situation.
  1. Offer opinions instead of judgments. Your way is not the only way. And someone else’s might be just as good or even better than yours.
  1. Express your feelings instead of your anger. If someone hurt you, tell him or her. Give them the chance to make amends. Giving them your anger will only make them defensive and shut all lines of communication down completely.
  1. Give advice if it’s asked for. Otherwise, inquire whether it’s wanted before you throw it out there. No one likes to feel bossed around.
  1. Use the words “please” and “thank you” a lot. Your mother always told you those were magic words. She was right.

That’s not to say you’ll never have an argument or that every conversation will go smoothly. But if you follow these few simple guidelines, I believe that your conversations will be more productive and positive, and arguments will be much fewer and further between.

About the Author:

Gilda Evans is an experienced wife, mother and bon vivant extraordinaire who started her first business while in college which she later sold to embark upon a career in entertainment. After nearly 15 years in the media, she willingly left behind her role as writer, producer and director at such venues as CBS, HBO Warner Brothers and Showtime in order to devote herself to her family. Later, while still in search of the ‘happily ever after’ that had eluded her, Gilda decided to share her experiences with followers on social media and the S’LIFE series was born. She is also working on the first installment of a Young Adult novel series.

Subscribe to Gilda’s Blog and Author Updates at www.gildaevans.com

Gilda is currently seeking high schools and organizations that are interested in participating in a pilot project for her book, S’LIFE, Slices of Life for Teens, prior to publication.

Links:

Official website: www.gildaevans.com

Other links:

www.Facebook.com/gildaevansauthor

www.Twitter.com/gildaevans

www.LinkedIn.com/in/gildaevans

www.Pinterest.com/gildaevans

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in guest blog posts do not reflect those of the blog host.

Research that Keeps Critics at Bay by Jane Risdon

IMG_4969On several occasions, recently, I’ve been asked to provide my expertise to authors whose books have featured characters in the Music Industry – I’ve worked in the International Music Business for most of my adult life – and it got me thinking about my own writing and areas where I’ve been in need of ‘expert’ advice. I write crime stories and sometimes they venture into the hazy world of MI5 and MI6, and although I can call on my own experience back in my distant youth when I worked at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall, London, limited though it might be, I still need to clarify details and exactly what each part of the British Secret Security Services does. Of course I can always delve into their websites for general information and it is now possible to contact their Press Offices who are happy to work with authors. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have met a retired Detective Chief Inspector – also an author – on Facebook, who has been kind enough from time to time to answer my many question about police procedure.

It is important as writers, especially crime writers, to get our facts right when telling a story which may well involve the investigation of a particular crime. And, as I mentioned earlier, I’d been thinking about my knowledge base and how to expand it for some time. Late last year I was lucky enough to discover the answer. I found several British Universities offering on-line courses in various aspects of Forensics – fantastic. Just what I was after. Somewhere I could educate myself at my own pace at home. Since starting my first course – Human Identification and Forensic Science – which introduced me to the world of clandestine burials and the identification of skeletal dismembered remains, which I and the other students managed to eventually identify – using the most recent methods of facial reconstruction, DNA and Anthropology – working as part of the Forensic and Police investigation of a missing person, I have undertaken two further courses.

The second course I’ve completed was an introduction to Criminal Justice and Forensic Science. I learned about the complex world of DNA profiling and Fingerprint analysis and researched many criminal cases where miscarriages of justice had been discovered and how convictions had been over-turned and the role played by Forensic Science in obtaining evidence and solving crimes. It was a real eye-opener I can tell you.

The third course I’ve completed recently, Forensic Psychology: Witness Investigations, has been fascinating and has made me realise just how we cannot always believe our own eyes and memories. During this course I and the other students worked alongside the police in the investigation of an armed robbery and we (virtually) sat in on the interviews with witnesses by two detectives. One used old fashioned methods investigating the case and conducting interviews, getting the witness to tell their story, often with prompts and leading questions using Photofit pictures of a selection of potential suspects and a physical line-up to identify the suspect. The other detective conducted their witness interviews using the latest methods – neuro-psychological techniques – to question the witnesses, allowing them to relate their story uninterrupted and not prompted, and using computer generated images of faces where the witness was able to move the eyes, nose and lips etc. to build an image they felt was closest to the suspect they’d witnessed. This method helped solve the case faster, more accurately, and didn’t lead or suggest anything to the witness.

Now, armed with my new knowledge and basic understanding of how to investigate a crime, make an identification of a skeleton from basic anthropology and forensics, right through to getting a witness to a crime to relate what they saw more accurately, I am more confident in my crime writing. Those authors for whom I was a musical consultant tell me I gave them that same confidence. Keeping things real and accurate for our readers. Most important for me as a writer and also as a reader. I hate finding inaccuracies in crime stories I read and I hope my readers won’t find any in mine.

Bio:

Jane Risdon has spent most of her adult life in the International Music Business, managing songwriters, musicians, singers, and record producers with her musician husband. Always longing to write she never had the opportunity until a few years ago when her husband’s former fan-club secretary, ex rock journalist, and now award winning author, Christina Jones, urged her to take the plunge. Since then Jane has become a published author with Accent Press and has contributed to various anthologies as well as co-writing with Christina. Their novel is due out later this year. Jane is also writing a series of novels, Ms Birdsong Investigates, about a former MI5 Officer who finds herself investigating a missing woman and ends up tackling Russian Mafia and Ukrainian people traffickers in rural Oxfordshire.

Links to books and more:

Blog: http://wp.me/2dg55

Facebook: www.facebook.com/JaneRisdon2

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jane_Risdon

Accent Press: http://www.accentpress.co.uk/jane-risdon

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00I3GJ2Y8

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in guest blog posts on this website do not reflect those of the blog host.