Thursday, July 31, 2014

Family Time Meditation

1948, Mom, 23 years old
It's a heat wave here in California on the last day of July, temperatures in the triple digits. My mom, my brother, and I have been dealing with the heat by taking an afternoon siesta.

I wake up at 4:30 on the living room sofa and realize I need to do my afternoon TM technique right away before everyone wakes up. I'm a little late!

My parents' mobile home is set up in the "shotgun" pattern--one long, linear layout, the kitchen and living room in the center with bedrooms on both ends. The sofa in the living room is my "bedroom."

About five minutes into meditation my brother walks through the living room on his way to the kitchen. He sees me sitting up on the sofa with my eyes closed. "Oh, man," he says, seeing me. I know he's focused on getting supper for Mom. He has no problem with the fact that I practice TM; in fact, I taught him the technique almost 40 years ago. He told me just the other day he still remembers his mantra, in case he ever needs to meditate. I told him that was great.

"Just ignore me and do what you need to do," I say. After all, I've meditated on planes/buses/trains and in international airports. A living room/dining room is no problem.

I my continuing my meditation when I hear my mom come out of her bedroom. Then: "Hello, Tom. Are you meditating?" I open my eyes and see her standing before me, a big smile on her face and her hair up in yellow curlers--you know, the plastic kind that have a roller and a clip that slips on once the hair is onto the roller. She looks wonderful.

She yells at my brother, "Tom's meditating!" She kindly wants him to stop cooking so it's quieter. I also taught her to meditate when I taught my brother. She says she doesn't have time to meditate, though. Too buy cleaning the house.

"It's OK," I tell her. "I'm fine."

What follows is a loud conversation about what's for dinner. That is resolved and things settle, the buzzing and chirping of the microwave accompanying the smell of TV dinners.

I continue with my meditation.

My cellphone rings. Since this is my "emergency" phone, I check the text message. It's from my niece that I haven't seen in almost 25 years. I had just talked to her on my cellphone for the first time this morning while on my bike ride. I read the message, text a quick response, and continue with my meditation.

My brother enters the living room, and I hear the TV click on. News. "Your brother's meditating!" Mom says. "No, he's not," he replies. "He's playing with his cellphone." Oops!

I close my eyes and finish my meditation, actually feeling good. I never fail to be amazed, even after so many years, at how easy and powerful the TM technique is.

My brother and Mom have finished eating. "What are you going to eat, Tom?" my mom asks. "Maybe some grapes to start with," I say. "You want some?"

"I'll take three."

She stands by me while I remove the grapes from the vine, wash them, and place them in a drainer. Mom reaches in and by touch chooses three.

"Thank you," she says.

The more things change, the more some things stay the same.

Copyright 2014 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved

Friday, July 4, 2014

A Day Out with Mom #27: The Lunchbox, Hard Hat, Cookie Story

That cookie good? You always liked cookies.

When you were little, four or five, I worked up the Feather River canyon when they were building the power houses. Every morning I'd get up early and leave, and your mom would cook breakfast and pack my lunch. Remember my lunch box, the black one with the brass rod that slips through the eyes to lock it shut, the one where the Thermos fits into the top part? We still got it in the shop? Imagine that . . . it's over fifty years old!

So I'd go to work every day, that long drive, eat my lunch at break time. It was hard work. For a while I drove the explosives truck, delivering the powder to the power house and road and tunnel sites. Your grandpa talked me into getting another job, though, one less dangerous. I drove a "Uke" for a long time, a great big dump truck, it was.

And then I'd come home and there you were at the door, waiting for your dad. You'd put on my hard hard and take my lunch box, every day. That hard hat would fit down almost to your shoulders, it seemed, but you'd tip it back and sit on the floor, slide out that brass locking rod, open the lunch box, sort through the wax paper, and find a cookie. Then you'd grin up at me and bite into that cookie.

I'll tell ya, no matter how hungry I was at lunchtime, I'd never eat that cookie, no matter what. Once was enough to come home and see you rip open that lunchbox and not find that cookie. The look on your face!

No matter how hungry I was, I'd leave that cookie for you. It wasn't the only thing I came home for, but it sure as hell was one of 'em. Seeing you eating that cookie just brings back the memories.

Copyright 2014 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Movie Review: World War Z

A zombie that is dead can't be infected.

Brad Pitt is trying to save his family from a zombie pandemic that is sweeping the world. Once bitten, in twelve seconds the victim is a zombie. This leads to some powerful visuals of the infection spreading, but even a slight sense of scientific skepticism casts a pall on the reality-building efforts of the production.

However, it being a rainy day and I being somewhat tired, I persevered and finished the movie.

The best moments are the narrow escapes and the brave few who hold out against overwhelming swarms so that the even fewer might escape and perhaps endure. Brad Pitt's character is one lucky dude, escaping attack after attack in his world-spanning search for a "zombie solution." Meanwhile, small enclaves hunker down, stay quiet, and hope the zombies stay "dormant," which shouldn't be too hard for the undead, especially since they don't seem to feed.

Let's see--dead but animated, energy out but no energy in, can't get sick but keep on kickin' . . .  A science-based "solution" doesn't seem to be the best way to end this movie, but with a willing suspension of disbelief, one can at least sit back and watch characters prevail (for mankind), characters in the end a lot more lucky than the actors portraying them.

I've been trying to be reasonable, though, and I guess the real truth is this: what am I doing trying to apply reason to a zombie movie? I might as well try, when the sun sets, to keep the vampires at bay by converting my house's lights to  full-spectrum lightbulbs. Makes sense, but, hey . . .


Copyright 2014 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved

Saturday, June 14, 2014

I Successfully Lose a Writing Contest

The writers' blog Indies Unlimited hosts a weekly writing contest from a prompt they provide--250 words max. I wrote about my entry into the contest on my last blog post.

I lost.

However, I'm writing today about how I feel good about the results. Yes to Success and all that.

First, I wrote a short story that is set in my Dragons of Blood and Stone universe. Every time I enter that universe, I feel good. So far so good. Also, the fact that the story might fit into my collection of short stories, Tales from the Stone Dragon Inn, is an extra plus.

Second, I feel my little experiment with social media marketing was successful. Because I was busy early this week, I didn't see the voting post at Indies Unlimited until 4:30 AM on the deadline day. By the time I posted my mini-marketing blog post, it was 5:00 AM--allowing 10 hours for marketing my entry for support.

Facebook marketing came later that morning--status updates on my personal Facebook account and on my Tom Kepler Writing page. I also sent a Facebook note to a dozen Facebook friends.

The results? Twenty percent of the votes, the winner receiving 23%, with most of the winner's votes already on tab at 4 AM that morning. Now, the 10 possible hours for voting for me were from 5 AM to 3 PM on a Thursday, my time here in Iowa. I deem my hurry-up mini-marketing adventure a success.

Thanks for all who supported me. Since the Indies Unlimited writing contests are fairly informal (the winners are published in an anthology), I didn't want to push the marketing envelope too much--just enough to see if anybody out there is paying any attention.

People did pay attention. That makes me glad. Thank you, all.

Copyright 2014 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved

Thursday, June 12, 2014

I Enter a Fun Flash Fiction Contest (How's That for Alliteration?)

I've entered a writing contest, winners determined by reader votes.

Every week the independent publishing blog for writers, Indies Unlimited, has an informal flash fiction contest for its readers. You can vote on the winner, voting deadline today, 5 o'clock PM Pacific time.

A writing prompt of text and photo is provided, and the submission must be no more than 250 words. I submit a story every now and then when a prompt gives me an idea that will fit into a story that could be used in a collection of stories I'm writing set within the Dragons of Blood and Stone fantasy series. When I finally gather enough short stories, I'll publish a collection titled Tales of the Stone Dragon Inn.

Winners are determined by vote, so I'm giving my readers here a chance to read some short, short stories, to observe some writers having fun, and to provide you a chance to vote on your favorite story. Sorry this is such short notice, but I've been busy taking education classes for a couple of days.

This week's topic was "The Great Dessert Riot."

Here's the link to the voting blog post. That link also provides a link to the contest short stories, which are in the comments section.

Have fun. My entry isn't titled, but I'll call it "Piety" if I use it for my short story selection. Enjoy.

Copyright 2014 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved