Secrets About Major Retailers Closing Multitudes Of Stores!

Are Major Retailers like Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, and others really in trouble? If you pay any attention to the news, the are. Why? Because they are closing down stores, and in the case of Neiman Marcus, supposedly putting themselves up for sale. However no concrete claim is being made just yet.

What is hitting the news is that this is all about a “soft economy.” Is it really? Are we just being introduced to another “flame” geared to scare the daylights out of all of us? Well, here’s a no nonsense Continue reading “Secrets About Major Retailers Closing Multitudes Of Stores!”

Is The Question What To Write Or When To Write?

Many times I have seen posts from other writers that are just starting. A common question is, how to get started. An equally common reply is, just write. Content is not the issue as much as just getting in the habit.

Worry about a topic to write on is really not the issue, rather just doing it. Creating a shopping list, writing about the days activities, anything that you can think of no matter how silly or seemingly inappropriate for a writer.

For example, they still make pencils with erasers, yet a whole story could be written about how something that has been such a symbol of education, school, and writing, is slowly but surely being edged out by keyboards, digital communication and the delete button.

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What happens is once words start to appear, more begin to invade your mind. In no time at all as you give your thoughts free reign it can almost be like magic happens as the words flow forth. In some cases it could seem like a tsunami of words.

I have had both extremes where words would come, but I had to work to get to 500. On other days I have started and more than 3000 words later, I have been amazed at what was written. Having an environment free of distractions, which I do not, can be the seedbed of even greater results.

Being retired would seem to be an ideal scenario for writing. In my case, I start at 3:30 in the morning. After a cup of coffee, time is spent in meditation for about 30 minutes. The I sit down for another 30 minutes to just write. As 5:00 rolls around it’s out to walk 3 to 4 miles, then back to start getting things ready for breakfast with my wife and brother-in-law.

By 7:45-8:00 we are sitting down to eat. By 8:30-9:00 a short drive to drop off my wife where she is Principle of a small, private school. Then back home by 9:30-9:45. If there are no other errands then I am free to research and write until 12:50, at which time I leave to pick up my wife. The afternoon may be free or there could be Dr’s visits, trips to pick up something for the house, any number of the typical things that interrupt the flow of writing.

From that point on the atmosphere is full of phone calls, being in a small office together where we have both computers and the T.V., conversations about the day, people, all the normal activities which create distractions.

Some might think this is ideal in terms of how much time is available from 9:30 on. If that could be spent just writing it would be ideal. Loosing sight of all that goes into writing such as editing, book covers, creating a promo team, time spent blogging, study on writing videos, summits, conferences, reading, reviewing other writers, plus the interruptions life throws in your way all compete for that time.

This has been written in that 30 minutes from 4:30 to 5:00, but there is not time to review and edit the content. The positive part is this has completed writing 500 words in that short period of time.

The point is when there is determination to do it, what to write about is hardly ever the challenge. Sitting down and hitting the keys is!

Do You Escape Into Truth Or From It?

So many times it is difficult to separate the tendency to write words instead of thoughts. Metaphors instead of feelings. Verbs rather than actions.

Writing should be the replacement, encapsulation of a voice, preserved for the moment when the reader’s eyes first pass across the words. The voice should not be their own, but that of the writer.

It may be the forward, preface or introduction that sets the tone. Surely the reader must rid themselves, albeit unconsciously, of the sounds of that voice they are so familiar with.

Those who place words into readable form should have as a central drive, the need to be heard not so much for what they have to say, but for the passion they have to write. The joys or sorrows, fears or delights, defeats or triumphs of human life.20150212_104828

Reaching into the heart, the center of feeling, and the mind, where understanding can happen. To the soul where we all reside, and the spirit that connects us each and every one. As Elie Wiesel would say, “Thinking higher, feeling deeper.”

Some may write to create escape mechanisms, and others to cause readers to face real issues. In the end, this writer has only one desire, and that is to communicate with the human spirit. It is not always easy to connect with the deepest feelings and emotions, and then to convey that with the written word.

No matter the efforts to do that, so much depends on the reader, and the ability to take them on a journey. As with any such effort, the reader must also be just as prepared when reading a book, as when packing for a trip.

It’s not just the clothes, shoes or boots, computer, cell phone or other assorted items that always seem to find their way into suitcases, so often seldom used. What provokes the packing of those items? Where is the vision of places that trip is intended to transport us?

No one starts a journey without an idea of what’s in store. There is always a vision, whether realistic or fantasy. Who will be met that is new? How will others accept us? Will things be successful? What will be accomplished? Is happiness or dread anticipated?

Some may write for fame or acknowledgment. Financial gain is a common motivator. Capturing thoughts before they can escape into oblivion, as though it was impossible to consciously place them is a storage file in the memory system. Some of the best manuscripts are discovered long after the passing of the writer.

As it has been said, nothing is gained by dying with the music of life still in you. Do any know when they have reached the point of enough? Is there a place where life is just finished and it’s time to make a transition? Can that question be answered with certainty?

Many claim truth is relative. Sounds of a convenient kind of convoluted words lacking any substance is generally what that means. Where’s the relative part of dark or light? Someone is bound to say that darkness is just the absence of light so darkness really doesn’t relatively exist.

Put that person in an enclosed room with no possibility of light, and discover how relative that is.

 Truth is not what someone makes it. Truth is the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening. Truth is the impact of a lightening bolt striking the flat bed of a truck next to your car in a thunderstorm. Nothing relative about it.

Red And Ready Coffee Cherries Waiting For Harvest Hands!

Coffee cherries? Did it ever occur that not only does the humble coffee bean grow inside a bright, red cherry, but that cherry is also sweet? Well, maybe not quite as sweet as a Bing Cherry, or some of those great varieties we all know. But yeah, a coffee cherry is sweet.

If you were to put that cherry in your mouth it would not taste like coffee at all! In fact, the outer husk is sorta tough compared to the skin of a real cherry. But getting past the husk to the pulp of the cherry surrounding the coffee beans…yup. It’s sweet!Olmedo-homemade-bread

The coffee cherries are a beautiful bright red when they have matured and are ready to be harvested. Even though the cherries grow and mature all year round, in Ecuador, the harvest is traditionally just once a year.

Some countries actually have a small, second harvest called a “fly crop!” It is never as great or as big as the primary harvest. Depending on the rains and moisture in a given region, a second crop is always possible. Where rainfall is constant all year round in some regions, it’s normal to have a second short harvest, and coffee cherries seem to never end.

The path of least resistance is always the easiest way to go, and rarely the best. That works for water but not for harvesting coffee.  Many coffee farmers in Ecuador harvest the cherries all at once, stripping the branch, taking the green and yellow cherries along with the ripe red ones all at the same time. The coffee produced from this type of harvest is of a common variety know as “corriente” or just ordinary, that you would traditionally find in a grocery store already ground in a can or bag.

Once these mixed cherries are gathered, the normal custom is to lay them on any flat surface in the open air, to let them dry in the husk. Once dry, they are then taken to a processor to be depulped, and made ready for roasting. Since this coffee is

Coffee “blends” would be common for this type of coffee, where only a small amount of “premium” or select coffee is used if any, and the rest is made up of the more common variety.

This type of coffee is what has been offered in the U.S. for decades, and you never knew there was something better until Coffee Houses began to pop up all over the place specializing in the unblended, Arabica coffees, long considered gourmet or specialty coffee.

During the ‘70s, the U.S. nearly became a “tea drinking” country as the coffee consumption declined due to such poor quality being offered by major roasters. Today, major food chains, as well as roasters and wholesale food suppliers have been forced by consumer demand to improve their coffee offerings with great success. It is now possible to get a breakfast sandwich, a donut, or gas at the local convenience store, and get a decent cup of coffee too!

Saying that, the disclaimer has to be added that the preparation of the coffee at the local Convenience store, even the more popular Fast Food stops, is key to what goes in your cup. As good as ground coffee can be, the final step in brewing can make all the difference in what you end up sipping.

Vacuum pots have absolutely changed the longevity of how coffee can maintain it’s flavor. Whenever a pot of coffee is left on a warmer more than 20 minutes, the oils begin to break down which in turn gives the brew a bitter taste. There are many locations where this is still the practice, and the savvy customer will insist on a fresh pot.

The vacuum pot not only helps maintain the temperature of the coffee longer, the oils in the coffee are not submitted to a heat source, so the breakdown is eliminated compared to being left on a warmer.

You may not know that coffee in Ecuador is some of the best, qualifying in the last 10 years as “specialty coffee” based on International Coffee Judges from Coast Rica, the U.S. and Australia! But you won’t find it in the U.S. unless you bring it yourself.

Sadly, it is the “corriente” Ecuadorian coffee that has been used primarily as a filler or for blends. This is saying that what major roasters and importers have contracted Ecuadorian coffee for is…you guessed it. Anything but for specialty coffee. The common variety that offers nothing in terms of great. This is the coffee from Ecuador that makes it to the U.S., but you won’t hear anyone bragging about it as they would about “mountain grown” Colombian coffee.

So will there come a time when Specialty Coffee from Ecuador finally becomes an item commonly found in a roasters “green” inventory, as those from Colombia, Peru, Costa Rica or Honduras? Consumer demand is not likely to be the determining factor, compared to a consistent marketing effort.

Here is a fact. Red coffee cherries from Ecuador taste the best, when they have gone through that magical transition and become coffee in your cup.

 

Got coffee?

 

You Did What?

Mom and the four boys folding socks.

“Did you run short of undershorts this week?”

“I wasn’t counting, but come to think of it yes.”

An uncomfortable silence followed that response.

“Any idea why?” was the reply.

“Not a clue.”

“I wore them” was Mom’s shocking revelation!20150131_160931

Is There A Time To Write And One That’s Not Right?

If you’re a writer there’s a chance you never find a moment that you can’t write something. The prompt suggests not just sitting behind the laptop cranking out pages. Instead some time to do other things like exercise, a hobby, an activity to distract attention for a time to come back fresh.

Fortunately for me I walk every morning for 3 miles in a woods located close towards the middle of the city. A huge tract of land with roads and a plethora of single track bike trails. For the most part the roads are cobblestone, with shoulders of compressed dirt and plenty of erosion on the shoulders from rain.

The single track is also great for trekking, and I have made a combo of the two. No here’s where I have to admit there is some method in my madness of walking the single track.

Each day there is a couple that arrives as early in the morning as I do. Darkness before the dawn, as timing usually finds the sunrise by the time of arrival at the return point. This couple serves as my “rabbit.” My goal is to either start before them, or catch them and pass them on the single track and beat them to the starting point.

Being a fast walker in the first place usually works in my favor. Rarely do they arrive before me, which spells success for me in my efforts to make it a good exercise.

There are days when the birds are singing up a chorus, and many when they are not. The frogs and other insects generally keep up their chorus no matter the weather. Still the birds are what I enjoy the most.

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Good morning Quito!

Next to that are the amazing sunrises, and the Moon when it’s in it’s movement across the night sky. Personally walking while the Moon creates a shadow before the sun makes it’s appearance is really cool. While those pitch dark mornings reveal a plethora of heavenly bodies, all are appreciated and cause me to enjoy changes from those mornings laced with clouds.

Looking on the valley from the lookout point some 500 feet below is always a sight to see. Most days are witness to either clouds, fog or a mist, attempting to hide the lights to the naked eye.

Some mornings are thick with clouds off on the horizon, hiding the major mountain peaks yet not those closer. Each day provides something new to enjoy, to those who even stop to appreciate what’s in from of their eyes.

As to writing, these scenes absolutely create images, especially when the morning sun tints those clouds, and for a few minutes you are witness to a real art show. Those are more than sufficient to create the need for expression in word. Attempts to describe those sights with words test the most proficient.

Those walks do as much to stimulate creativity as most other activities. Add that to an already fertile imagination and creative spirit, for interesting moments in writing.

Letter To Self!

Alan

This is long overdue, and it’s about time we set the record straight on many issues. So let’s do this.

First of all, while it’s true you still feel like you’re 25 there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Age is a number, and you are only as old as you THINK you are. Just because you may be older, doesn’t mean you have to act and think like it.

The human spirit is hard to define, and while you are far from having a good grasp on yours in terms of knowing it, actions do far more to define that spirit than words. So keep in mind no one else knows your spirit better than you. Personality, and all the other traits that go along with that do not define spirit. Behaviors yes, just not spirit.

It’s about time you face the fact that you have yet to maximize your many talents, and you have been blessed with more than the average person. There is nothing average about you, yet much time has been wasted thinking about what to do rather than just doing it.

Nearly anything you have ever WANTED to do you have done. Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between something you really want to do, and something you only THINK you want. Whatever you have ever set your mind to, has been done. Right now, you have stopped short of deciding what’s next.

Let’s get past the so called “period of adjustment” that you have gone through, and begin doing instead of just thinking. While you have no need of a “job” someplace, even if it’s volunteering, staying active and stimulating those brains cells of yours is necessary. Use ‘em or you may loose ‘em!

Over the last decade you have become quite cynical, and not the positive minded person you pretend or want to be. While you know all the ways and talk of someone positive, with the head knowledge, you have allowed yourself to gravitate in the wrong direction. Being cynical is a choice, and so is being positive. One can be as much a habit as the other. You know how habits are formed and addictions broken, so you know what has to be done.

Most importantly, your relationship with your wife. There have been tremendous stresses with retirement, moves, loss of a father, leaving behind sons and grandchildren, which have had a huge effect on her state of mind and health. In your heart you know that while you have been supportive, it has not been enough.

She looks to you as her “rock,” and there has been more gravel than rock! While it’s true some of her health issues have been beyond your control, the stress issues are dead in your lap! You and you alone can make tremendous headway in reducing those things that are stressful for her, such as your driving.

Being contentious and defensive is reverting back to those self esteem issues from the past, that you know full well are rooted in ego. Face it, and deal with it again.

These are daily issues and not just once in a lifetime. Ego hangs around everyday, looking for ways to build those illusions that keep you out of the present and in the past, or maybe even “Never Never Land!” Being aware is where you need to be again.

Gotta stop and smell the flowers!
Gotta stop and smell the flowers!

I’m glad we had this communication as it was way past time. I’ll make certain you don’t ignore me for so long again by intruding on your thoughts sooner!

Bye for now

Your Conscious

What Really Defines Success Or Is It Just Money, Possessions And Fame?

A Story.

Axel was just a hard working guy. Education had not really been his strong suit as far as school was concerned. He was literate enough, but his real strength was reading. Books or the usual things one relates to reading, couldn’t hold a candle to Axel’s ability to read people.

Standing 5 ft. 10 inches tall, slender of build, muscular, weighing in at maybe 160 lbs., dark complected with traces of Latin or African American, penetrating eyes, a rugged completion lined with experience, skin very porous adding to that tough, masculine look. Hair cut almost to the scalp resembling a Brillo pad, clean shaven every other day.

First glance would make one think he might be sad, but only until he spoke. A million dollar smile which immediately transformed his face into the kind soul he is, caught all newcomers off guard. This is what kept them coming back.

He was an enigma. It is like the mystery of the moth that just can’t stay away from the flame. It keeps coming back until it is consumed.

As a leather craftsman Axel was very good. Perhaps not the best, yet in every way he was a true craftsman with his work and creations. One of his best customers had also become a friend. The opposite of Axel, in terms of social and financial position. Benjamin seemed to have it all.

The two became friends years ago when Benjamin was looking for a wall hanging made of leather for his father. He had been referred to Axel by a very satisfied customer. The resulting leather piece had not disappointed, and hangs in the patriarchal home to date.

A family of five, Axel has two daughters and a son. They have been raised on respect and love, knowing the difference between the value of material goods and that of relationships.

Benjamin has one son, who has wanted for nothing. Yet there is the typical strife of one who has known no boundaries, yet who’s behavior constantly demonstrates a crying our for limits.

Axel has noted for some time the stress and unhappiness in Benjamin’s eyes. Knowing the challenges with his son, he clearly understands the origin, yet also knows his boundaries with his friend.

Not certain what to do, Axel is inspired with an idea he believes will touch Ben’s heart with the truth, while staying within the limits of friendship.

All other work is put aside as Alex feverishly works on creating what may be his best work in leather. His passion to touch his friend in a way words couldn’t drives him. For days on end he is consumed with his project, setting aside all other work.

As Axel senses Ben is nearly at his wits end with his son, the project is finished. He invites Ben for a cup of coffee. While they have been friends for years, they have never met socially, so Ben is somewhat surprised at the request.

As they sit down at a table with their various brews, Ben notices the rather large package Axel has brought with him. Curious, Ben is more interested in the occasion than the package. He has no idea that Axel is up to anything.

On various occasions Ben has met Axel’s children at the shop, always impressed with the maturity, respect and love shown to their father. Jealousness has never been a part of their relation, yet a heavy heart for Ben as he has wished for a son that would be after his own heart.

As they sipped coffee and talked of superficial things, Ben finally sensed there was a reason for their meeting, and pressed Axel as to why.

Anxious for the moment, not a word was spoken as the package was handed to Ben. With some suspicion and surprise, Ben first searched his friends face for clues as to what might be in this package.

Carefully, he unwrapped the brown paper covering. The aroma of treated leather met his nostrils, as he took in the most amazing leather work he had ever seen. A message was hand tooled into a finely tanned work of art, set in a frame equally ornate yet appropriate.

Tears began to appear, as Ben read, then re-read the message. It was simple, yet full of all the meaning needed. It  said, “Love never fails! So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

The one thing that was missing in Ben’s life was now being clearly demonstrated by Axel. All the material possessions, position, things, could not give the one thing Ben didn’t even know was missing, until this exact moment. It was at this very point he realized what was the key to reaching not only his son, rather all those in his life.

While the story is fictional, the point is not. Success was measured in love, not in things. Are you successful?

Do You Need A Special Place To Write Or Will Anywhere Work?

Where can I find a place to concentrate and focus on writing? I need peace and quiet. No disturbances. No pets, no noisy kids, outside noise. Maybe a cabin in the woods, or an isolated place on the beach. I’m not near a beach or a woods, so now what? Lock myself in the bathroom or one of the closets? Humm…now there’s a thought. How conducive would either of those places be to writing though?

Isn’t this where determination and desire kick in? Writing is not necessarily a picnic, which means as a writer you do what you have to in order to crank it out.

I clearly recall sitting on top of a bunker on a moonlit night in Vietnam, writing a song poem. You might consider such conditions extreme, but it didn’t stop me from writing. Why? Because I had a “want to.” Putting words to what was going on in my mind at that time was paramount. Denying those thoughts and feelings was simply impossible. Any obstacle can be overcome by a determined spirit!

Now my favorite writing space is probably the same as most others. However there is a strong bet few would define it as such, based on the prompt and suggestions given. For me my most favorite and productive writing space is in my head. That’s where it all starts, and I can be anywhere, fully capable of recording my most immediate thoughts on my cell, or if my iPad is at hand use my remote keyboard to write it down.

Interestingly enough today I listened to an interview with Ray Edwards, author of Writing Riches: Learn How to Boost Profits, Drive Sales and Master Your Financial Destiny With Results-Based Web Copy . A huge take-away was that of “creating” a book as opposed to writing it. He insists during a conference with another writer, who exposed this idea to him, that he was then able to literally create two books in one weekend! Incredible, right?

Not so much when you think about the very basics of it. The key is dictation. Speaking into anything that will record and can be downloaded to your computer. Why? Because you can talk faster than you can type. Mistakes and all! Once recorded then it’s just a question of transposing, either yourself or a service that does it professionally.

Beyond that is the fact this is one less stop to get to your fingers. Not a big deal you might say. Think of it this way. From my thoughts to my mouth and out to a recording device. Or, from my thoughts to my fingers to a keyboard where I type anywhere from ½ to ⅓ as fast as I can speak. That’s with mistakes.

Another thing I notice is that nano second of time between the thought and execution on the keyboard, has been the cause of more than one change that might have been better left to the impromptu thought I had first. “Think long, think wrong.” Something to consider.

So my favorite place to write is where it all starts in the first place. In my noggin. Some may make the comment you can’t write in your head. Thinking for a second they may want to reconsider, as if I can speak it faster than write with a keyboard, that could be because it’s already written in my head and I’m just transposing it.

Anyplace I go is a laboratory to write or dictate. Walking to a coffee shop, walking in the woods, in an elevator, along a busy street, it’s all possible. Mostly it depends on removing the mental blocks about doing something that may seem strange to those around us. After all, aren’t we writers supposed to be an odd bunch anyway?20150212_104833

So right now the T.V. is going in the background, it’s evening when things should be winding down. The street outside my window is busy with loud motorcycles, buses with squealing brakes as they maneuver down the hill, cars honking their displeasure, a dog barking in the echoing hallways of our complex, which most might consider this atmosphere to be the least conducive to good writing.

Excuses for not writing are more plentiful than the fabled Carter’s Little Liver Pills! Any one will do. So your choice is to see this for what it is. A challenge to stop making them! Just write! Writing whatever comes to mind, but just write, for as long as it takes to make it a daily habit.

You be the judge. Your comments will cement how you resonate with this content. So your call to action writers is to…well, comment!

Does Flavor Add More Than Just Taste To Your Food?

#everydayinspiration Day 4

Whether or not it’s true, pictures do provoke words. The number has notoriously been pegged at 1000, but I’m betting the numbers are much higher.

In the accompanying photo, color is bright and varied. This was taken at an open market in Otavalo, Ecuador. The subject consists of a variety of spices. For the life of me I could not begin to name all of them. My eyes were captivated by the bright, vibrant colors, of what turned out to be edible things. DSC00064 - Version 2

To think that these are put on our food tends to make you stop and think. Some of these would certainly change the color of whatever you’re eating. Others are bound to change the temperature inside your mouth!

This was so impressive to me that I eventually made it into a poster. Those colors just could not stay buried in my photo files, as they were popping to get out! The adage about eating with the eyes, in this case would seem more about appreciating.DSC_7892

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Familia by Ximena Cardenas! Quito, Ecuador.

Still more, looking at this photo in poster form just adds so much color and brightness to my day, and perhaps yours as well. An artist friend here in Ecuador created a piece for me, that certainly speaks to color, and is right down my alley.

I do enjoy color, especially bright ones, as they just tend to liven up everything around them. It’s interesting to note that in many Latin cultures, especially when celebrating festivals, color is a huge part of that. Such has definitely been the case in Ecuador, for the some 25 festivals celebrated throughout the year involving parades and costumes. That is just those that are on any sort of calendar, as in the Pueblos there are many others unique to their location.

So images and color spoke to me on day 4 of everyday inspiration.