A writer of stories and encouraging words

I never took advantage of my bully pulpit as small-town newspaper editor to promote the books I have written over the last eight years or so. It didn’t seem fair to leverage that audience when others had to buy ads to do the same.

But now that some of that audience has followed me here, wondering “What happened to Warren? What will he do next?” it behooves me, as young Chris Carter does at the end of every X-Files episode, to declare, “I made this!”

I promise I won’t engage in blatant advertising every day. This website is mainly the place where I deposit fragments of thought and potential stories, and offer some encouragement against the rampaging tides of Dark Silly that threaten your calm every day.

When I sat down some time ago to create a personal mission statement, the words that emerged were short and simple: “I am a writer of stories and encouraging words.” And that is the mission I aim to fulfill every time I sit down at this keyboard. Continue reading

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Bring on the next adventure

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When the news broke late last week that layoffs were imminent at the corporation that owns the venerable small-town paper where I worked for most of 14 years, I started to think about how logical it would be to lay me off. I suppose all of my co-workers had similar thoughts about themselves, but I just had a feeling.

I don’t take horoscopes seriously, but I do read mine because they often contain good advice. On Monday morning, I read it out loud to Red and we both laughed nervously:

“Changes at work are coming: This could be the luckiest turn of events that’s happened in months. To prepare yourself, bone up on your skills and make sure your client base is ample.”

If ever there was a moment when I went over to the dark side and embraced the idea that my fate is sealed by the position of stars light years away, that might have been that moment. Whether or not I “believed,” in any case, by golly, it was good advice.

And: A little after noon on Tuesday, I was given the word that I was part of the company’s latest round of cuts to contain costs.

It was a cordial conversation, and I was assured this was not a performance decision but an economic one yada yada yada, and they explained some nice going-away benefits, and off I went to let the folks who work with me know they were safe, and only I was leaving (at least in the newsroom; a trio of other, tremendous support people were also let go).

Now, my dear friends and colleagues have railed about how could the company do this, and I love them, but let’s note that the goal is to keep the doors open, and under this ownership the newspaper has endured for 12 long years since the previous owner decided he couldn’t make a go of it any longer. My fondest desire was always to grow the paper despite the odds, but in the absence of such growth, the alternative is to cut costs, and frankly I was the costliest cost in the room.

The paper survives to fight another day. My loyalty has always been to the 154 years of folks who toiled under the banner before me and with me, and not to the corporation that bought the brand, and perhaps that helped put me on the list. You know what? It doesn’t matter. The brand survives, and if anyone can save it from oblivion, it’s the incredible journalists and other people who still work in that building.

I am so proud to have been a part of that tradition and grateful for the high bar set by the people who walked those hallways before me. Anytime I started feeling my oats, all I had to do was remind myself, “Bluhm, you’re no Chan Harris,” or someone would come along to say it for me. I wouldn’t have tried as hard as I did without those noble ghosts chasing me.

Today is the first day of the next phase of my life, and oh, what an adventure it shall be.

Stop thinking about doing and …

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Say something! Do something! while the magic is still in your heart – while the morning is still alive with life – while the joy still nibbles at the edges of your soul and sometimes pierces your heart with wonder.

Don’t just sit there, go, and do and say the things that you’re hiding – set them in the open and show the world what you’ve got.

Soar – you can catch the stars streaking across the sky if you would only dare to lift yourself off the ground and fly. You’ll find it’s easier to fly than to walk – OR you’ll find the thrill of walking, slowly, and discovering how much there is to see –

but:

Say

something –

Do

something –

Telegram from a comfortable hotel room

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And this is how it goes: I start to find myself again as I wind down the vacation and start preparing for the trip home.

A body can feel the tension soften the shoulder bricks – a twinge of pain from muscles unclenching and riding through to their natural state, like frozen flesh stinging as it thaws after near-frostbite.

Rest – recover – and re-enter the fray, clinging to the memory of this moment when tired limbs savored the peace, when relaxed mind remembered who he is and all felt whole and serene.

Time enough later to bellow at the world and its injustices. Rest – renew – retrieve a smile and a laugh, rescue the joy of living from the edge of the abyss.

Here in a quiet hotel room, hides the secret of it all – and words barely suffice to convey the answer. Now we see as through a veil – the time for clarity and precise answers comes later. Now, this moment, is an imperfect perfection of rest and rescue and recovery. A closing of the eyes, a sigh, and I take up the pen to scratch whispers of what I think inside my mind and feel inside my soul.

Do you know what I mean? You know what my words mean to you, as you sift them through all the years and experiences that brought you to this moment when you first see my words, but you will never quite know all that the words meant to me as I scratched them on the page.

That is the lonely truth of this life, assigned to decades living inside this odd and soft and fuzzy container. We sail this journey together, but alone with our soul inside this vessel. Take care of your boat, lest it sink prematurely.

The rest and the dead: A short short story

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“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

Her companion gave her a look that appeared to be somewhat amused, somewhat concerned.

“What an utterly horrid cliche that is,” he said.

“What? If I don’t get this stuff done, I’m not going to get ahead and we lose the whole account. Or maybe I lose my job.”

“And what exactly do you mean, ‘get ahead’? Get ahead of what?”

She looked at him coldly. “Do you want me to lose this company? Because that’s what could happen if I don’t make this customer happy.”

“What’s so special about this customer?”

“What’s so special about any of them? We should treat them all like they’re special,” she cried. “You never know which one is going to become special.”

“All right, all right, you made your point,” he said. “All I’m saying is you’re only human, and you’re working yourself to exhaustion. Everyone needs to rest and recharge sometimes. The world’s not going to end if you take care of yourself, and maybe you’ll do better with a fresh start in the morning.”

She sighed. “Maybe you’re right. These numbers aren’t making a whole lot of sense anymore. Maybe it’s best if I knock off for the night.”

“That’s the spirit.”

“Make sure I don’t have any distractions in the morning,” she said, straightening her papers and reaching for her briefcase.

“Absolutely.”

“And don’t let me make any more excuses. We have to finish this by noon.”

“You got it.”

She walked to the open door, looked back at her desk, nodded, said “OK, then,” and walked down the hallway and away.

An unpleasant grin spread over his face, and he reached for the doorknob.

“A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest,” he murmured, “and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.”

His laughter echoed off the barren walls as he closed the door behind her.

– – – – –

A Scream of Consciousness

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Creativity log

Monday, June 13, 2016: fragments of two short stories

The rhythms of how it is

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You will run through fields of spring, leap through trees of summer, hop through fallen leaves of autumn, and hunker down for a long winter’s nap. So run while you can, leap and hop, for the hunkering will come. Yes, you will sleep, sure as you’re run-run-running today.

Do not fear the rhythms of how it is, my child – have the serenity to accept the things you cannot change. Every day you fret over these things is a day that could have been spent courageously changing what you can.

But heaven forbid that you change things that don’t need changing just because you can. That’s the source of so much unhappiness, people who meddle where they’re not needed or wanted. Lie zay fare, I says to them – live and let live.

So: What about getting down to this business of living? What is it, this being-alive stuff? How do you remind yourself every moment, “Hey! You’re alive! Do something about it!”

It’s a matter of looking around and seeing what needs to be done, and then doing it. It’s listening for little cries of pain in the dark, and casting light upon them. It’s feeling your way through the woods until you reach a clearing.

Live your life every day. Never say die until you’re dead.