Please And Thank You Are Still Magic Words

Up front I will concede that as a parent of young children, the battle to ingrain politeness is fairly constant. I push “Yes, ma’am” and “Yes, sir”, though I know some people now think it isn’t important. I encourage my boys to open doors for people, not just ladies, because it is the gentlemanly thing to do, even though it isn’t always in fashion. But one of the biggest things I push is for them to say “please” when they are asking for something and “Thank you” for all sorts of things people do for them. I don’t generally say, “What’s the magic word?”, but I know I’m not the only one who has heard that prompt before. And I believe that they still are magic words. 

Lately I have found myself wanting to correct perfect strangers, prompting them for a “Please” or waiting to hear a “Thank You”. Of course, I do not, since I know it is not polite (and might get me beaten up or something).  But I had two different situations recently that had me wishing more people used these magic words. 

My family was lucky to go on vacation recently and when we got back I was tired. Very tired. So I ran out to pick up Subway for dinner instead of cooking. When I got there I was bummed to see there was a line, but I got in line and waited my turn. The Subway employee was alone facing a long line of people waiting for sandwiches. The lady ahead of me talked on her cell phone while waiting in line and when it was her turn, pulled the phone away from her face to demand some special she had heard about somewhere that wasn’t currently being offered. The Subway employee answered questions and made suggestions while the lady complained about what the worker couldn’t offer her. Finally she ordered a sandwich on the menu and resumed her phone conversation, loudly complaining about the missing special to whomever she was speaking to, despite the Subway worker needing her to answer questions about what she wanted on her sandwich. I don’t know if you have ever been to a Subway, but they offer a lot of options. What type of bread? Toasted/Untoasted? What type of cheese? Vegetables, condiments etc., and then would you like something else to go with your sandwich.  Rude woman was annoyed, so pointedly ended her phone conversation. “I will call you back when I get done here.” Then she answers the questions. “I want white, but don’t toast it.” “I need American cheese.” “Yes, all the veggies but peppers.” “Give me extra olives.” “Did you forget the tomatoes?” On and on without a hint of appreciation or acknowledgement that the person making her sandwich may have been stressed with the long line waiting or with being stuck there working all by herself.  Anyone paying any attention could see the worker was fighting off annoyance with the rude customer and trying to get the order done to move on to the others waiting. Thankfully, Rude Woman finally left and stressed worker asked me what I wanted. I made sure to say please and thank you and smile a few times and you could see her relax a bit. It cost me nothing to treat her politely and with appreciation, even though I was tired and impatient as well. Magic words πŸ˜€

Another time someone practiced their magic on me. I was the stressed out worker having a tough day in general. A quick email saying, “Thanks for all you do”, made me take a second and remember that people appreciated me. It was such a little thing but it made my tough day a little better. 

We all have this magic within us. Magic in just a few simple words. πŸ˜€ 

Have you had seen or experienced a moment like these? Have you seen the magic at work? Please share with me in the comments. Thanks!

Have a great week! And please remember to check out my post over at Twisted Writers blog tomorrow and every Tuesday. Thank you! πŸ˜ƒ

-CJS

Something “Twisted” This Way Comes…

Today is the first day of a new blog launched by a group of writers I belong to now, which we are calling the Twisted Writers!  Check out Twistedwriters.com, where every day we will have a new post from one of our group. 

Currently we have six members in the Twisted Writers, each with a specific post day, and will leave Sundays open for snippets of our work or guest blogs. We will all make sure our posts touch on, if not center around, writing themes.  We also have some upcoming projects as a group we’ll share more about as they develop. 

There are lots of exciting things to come, so stay tuned!

Jesi Scott, from over at The Lunatic Poet, will be posting a cute little story about our group today on Twisted Writers which you should go check out. Jesi will be posting every Monday, including, I am sure, some of her poetry work and insights. 

Read my first post tomorrow about what makes us Twisted Writers. Then you’ll see my posts there every Tuesday.  πŸ˜ƒ

AJ Prince, from Fiction and Food, will be posting on Wednesdays. You’ll love her natural writing style and great sense of humor. 

Joe Bucemi will be posting on Thursdays and I am sure will quickly become a favorite not only for his writing but for his fantastic and fun cartoons.

David Franklin is our spy thriller writer. His keen intelligence, razor sharp wit and tight writing will keep you reading. 

Amanda S. Green from Nocturnal Lives will be posting on Saturdays. She has published novels and short stories under several pen names so offers great insight into the joys of publishing and the ups and downs of our current publishing industry. 

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you’ll give the Twisted Writers a look as well as we start this new adventure. 

Have a great week! 

~CJS

Don’t Take Yourself Out of the Game

I’ve recently started watching old episodes of the TV show Parenthood through my Amazon Prime instant video.  It’s not perfect, but it’s got some good moments showing some of the ups and downs of the huge cast of characters in the Braverman clan. I think the series has ended, so it’s not exactly current, but I was watching an episode recently with a quote I just loved, so I thought I would share. 

The scene focuses on one of the high school girl characters who we see struggle in a lot of ways that affect her confidence.  Amber doesn’t want to meet with a college alumnus because, hey, she might fail, right?  Her mom, Sarah, enlists her brother Adam to talk to his niece about it.  Adam is the fixer of the show, so it makes sense to send Uncle Adam in to convince Amber to give it a try.  It was what Uncle Adam says to Amber that I liked so much. When she admits she doubts herself, he says, essentially, that the World is going to knock you down again and again, so don’t knock yourself down. 

Whoa. Right? Great advice there Uncle Adam.

I know for certain that I have been guilty of knocking myself down and I bet I am not the only one. πŸ˜€

It is easy to see the faults. It is easy to say we aren’t quite good enough.  Maybe it is our writing.  Maybe it is appearance. Maybe it is intelligence. Maybe it is any old thing we use to knock ourselves down. 

Taking Uncle Adam’s advice though, we should remind ourselves that there are plenty of others who will want to do this for us. So we can’t be one of the naysayers. 

We need to be our own advocates. We need to be ready to fight for our work.  Decide we are attractive enough. Smart enough. Whatever it is, we are enough. 

There’s a great song, Put Me In Coach by John Fogerty, with a chorus that says, 

Oh, put me in, Coach, I’m ready to play, today

Put me in, Coach, I’m ready to play, today, 

Look at me, I can be Center field.


I will admit I’m no baseball expert (understatement), so I don’t get the full significance of playing Center field, however, I love the idea of saying, “Put me in Coach”, instead of, “Yeah I don’t know if I am good enough, I will just leave it up to you and hope you think I am”. Or even worse to say nothing at all because you have already decided you are not good enough. 

Life is gonna knock us out of the game sometimes, or flat out keep us from playing, so it is our job to push ourselves and to believe in ourselves so we can try to get in the game. And to stay in the game. And maybe, sometimes, to knock it out of the ballpark.

**Dedicated to my awesome mom who is starting a new job after the not so fun process of job-hunting, which we all know can knock you down if you let it.  Congrats, Mom, on not letting it! Go out there and knock it out of the ballpark. I know you can! πŸ˜€**

Have a great week y’all. 

-CJS

Surprise Yourself

IMG_4679.PNG  Lester Burnham – American Beauty 

If one of the main questions we ask ourselves in this life is: “Who Am I?”, then one of the next important questions should be, “And who else do I want to be?” 

I find the answer to “Who Am I?”, a fairly involved one. I wear a lot of hats. I work a challenging full time job where I am still always learning and always busy. I am a mother to three young children who keep me *very* busy. I am lucky to also be a happy wife to a great husband. I’m a daughter, a sister, a friend.  All of these roles help define much of my life and keep my life very full, but I realized in the last few years that I needed a creative outlet to be fully myself.  I have long had a call to write, so I am also a blogger, a tweeter (is that a word?πŸ˜ƒ), a novice poet, novelist and writer of short stories. 

Yet, despite having written a great deal, I haven’t published yet or submitted much of anything for publication.  So, if I ask myself what else I would like to be, one big answer for me right now is – to be published! 

For this reason, amid all the existing craziness in my life, I’ve recently become a part of a group of writers making plans to launch a new blog. (Details coming soon! πŸ˜€) We are also putting some plans in place for some intriguing future projects which I will also happily share later as things develop. 

The goal of all our plans is essentially to help light a fire under all our behinds to get our work out there.  Then the goal is also to promote each other’s and our own work.  Just the initial meetings alone have helped prompt me to tackle a few things I haven’t pushed myself to do before.

While committing to this team makes my list of things to be done quite a bit longer, it is a surprising and exciting new piece of who I am and hopefully will help get me closer to where I want to be! 

What challenges are you setting for yourself?  

When was the last time you surprised yourself? 

What else do you want your life to be?  

Let me know in the comments and have a great week! 

~CJS



Pondering a Pen NameΒ 

Many a famous author – and some not so famous – have chosen to use a pen name to publish under rather than use their own name. I’ve been playing around with the idea for awhile myself, and have finally decided that I will write with a pen name, too.

Before making the decision, I listened to others discuss and have read articles and other blog posts about the topic. At the end of this post I have included a few that I thought were particularly helpful. 

There are a lot of good reasons to write with a pen name. Below are just a few of the big ones I have seen (or heard) discussed.

  • Avoiding Discrimination – based on gender bias or even the ethnicity of a name
  • Writing in Multiple Genres – having a different well-tailored pen name for each genre you write in seems fairly common 
  • Privacy – keeping your writing life separate from your real life for any number of reasons  

All are factors I considered but the biggest for me is keeping my writer self separate as much as possible from real life. I have a family (including young children) and a full time job, so a pen name works well for me. 

So if you choose to have a pen name, how do you decide on a name? I have been working this out myself! Some things I have seen suggested and considered for my own:

  • Favorite book characters
  • Favorites TV/Movies characters
  • Baby name searches 
  • Surname searches 
  • Family names 
  • People you admire 
  • Favorite Places 
  • Favorite Colors 
  • Presidents 
  • Athletes 
  • Authors 
  • Genealogy Sites 

I have a few names in final consideration stages and will share once I’ve decided on one. πŸ˜€

I still have to research all the legal aspects of writing with a pen name. I am only in the beginning stages of this part and will post again at another time when I find more details about the practical side of choosing to have a pen name.  

Below are just a few articles I looked at before writing this post – which have far more information than my post provides – check them out! πŸ˜€

Are you for or against having a pen name? Let me know in the comments & feel free to share your thoughts and suggestions! 

Have a great week!

-CJS

Compassion

IMG_4989

This post is my part of the #1000Speak Compassion movement on social media today, February 20th, 2015. Over one thousand have already agreed to blog about, tweet about, and post on Facebook and elsewhere about compassion, highlighting the need for more of it in today’s world. Follow along or join in!

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If you want others to be happy,
practice compassion.
If you want to be happy,
practice compassion.
– Dalai Lama

Preparing for this post, which I agreed to over a month ago, thanks to my fellow blogger, Jessica Scott, I have spent a lot of time reading quotes about compassion and kindness. The quote above is one of my favorites because I felt it captured the spirit of this movement to highlight the need for compassion in this world. Some may suggest that practicing compassion for our own benefit might be a selfish excuse for what should be a selfless act. Perhaps, but I think not.

For one thing, I don’t believe it is so bad to take care of ourselves, in fact, I feel some of us could benefit from treating our own selves with compassion. It’s okay to say “I need this in order to be happier” sometimes. It’s okay to nurture ourselves and not just others. It’s okay to acknowledge that we need to be kinder to ourselves. To do so is a big step toward brightening this world, because if we can’t love and take care of ourselves, we won’t be able to properly love and take care of others.

Also, though, practicing compassion couldn’t ever be entirely selfish, even if the goal was to simply make yourself happier. Looking for ways to share yourself with others, to help others, to understand others better, or to be kind in any way can increase your own joy while increasing the joy of another.
Even the smallest act can make a difference, maybe even causing a ripple effect, the extent of which you may never know.

I recently participated in another Twitter campaign for practicing Acts of Goodwill. Joining on this particular day was almost entirely about me having fun. It made me smile that day. I paid for someone’s meal in the drive through behind me. I gave money to a charity. I made my husband’s favorite type of dinner. Will any of these little acts make a big difference? Most likely no, but I felt good all day for the little things I did. But even though I really did those things for me, the person in line behind me hopefully had a small reason to smile. Some child in some community in another part of the world may have access to water in part because of the small amount of money I shared. My husband hopefully was reminded that I love him and like to make him happy, even in small ways. So, selfish or not, practicing giving and caring for others helped someone, while also making me happy.

And don’t we, all of us, need a bit more happiness? I would argue that we do. So spread a spirit of compassion! Practice random acts of kindness! Nurture others and yourself, too! Increase others’ happiness and your own in the process. πŸ˜ƒ

Below are a few of my other favorite quotes on compassion and kindness that I’ve seen this last month or so.

Thanks for reading!

CJS

Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.
– Henry James

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.
– Dalai Lama

By compassion we make others’ misery our own, and so, by relieving them, we relieve ourselves also.
– Sir Thomas Browne

Be kind whenever possible.
It is always possible.
– Dalai Lama

And in a recent episode of Downton Abbey ( which is a new addiction ), the Dowager Countess of Grantham says to her granddaughter, Lady Mary Crawley (who was being rather heartless to a grieving sister):

“My dear. A lack of compassion can be as vulgar as an excess of tears.”

Adventures in Editing

I would say that one of my favorite parts of writing has always been the excitement of starting new projects. It hasn’t, so far, been in editing what I have written. But I am working on it. πŸ˜€

Having committed to writing every day, I find I have started a lot, but haven’t truly finished much. This new year, while committing to write every day again, I have also committed to finishing the book I have been fooling around with but haven’t pulled together. I need to get it truly finished.

Unfortunately, I am in a bit of a tough place with my current work in progress right now.

In an effort to move forward with editing this novel, I have started submitting to my critique group for some much needed feedback. One major challenge of submitting for feedback is that the earlier chapters are such a mess. I’ve scrapped some of the original opening and rearranged others parts. Simply put, it needs a lot of work.

My most recent submission for critique was a “chapter” that had elements of an original introduction (which I had actually scrapped at one point but that had some key points I didn’t want to just leave out) mixed in with a rather poorly developed scene. The submission read more like notes on a chapter than an actual chapter, as one of the group astutely pointed out.

While I was aware of some of the bigger issues, I submitted for critique anyway just to get them further into story. The group pointed out a lot of the issues I knew were there, some with more diplomacy than others, but they also made a few very helpful observations that I hadn’t thought about before.

The issue that really concerned me, though, was the direction they felt the book is headed, as it is not at all the direction I am headed.

As a result, I’m afraid a major component just needs changing because this is not the book I am wanting to write. Now I am feeling a need to make some more cuts and to make some bigger changes to the beginning and to a few key concepts.

The good news is, that as hard as it always is to have people read your unpolished work, offering up the work can result in some helpful insight. Insight, like in this case, that can lead to an edit you might not have realized you needed to make.

Now the task for me is deciding how to fix it and to move forward. πŸ˜€

Have a great week everyone!

~CJS