Say “I Love You”

Heart illustrationEarlier this week on Twitter, Six Words from SMITH (@sixwords) posted a challenge asking for love advice in six words. I decided to play along, as I often use such Twitter writing prompts as a break from my daily work.

You should know, I came to love late in life. I was 35 before I got married to my soul mate. Although Rachel and I had known each other for more than a dozen years, we didn’t start dating until 2004. We dated for only a few months before I popped the question, and we married less than six months after our first date.

While I may have been a little rough around the edges at first, I quickly learned a thing or two about being in a committed relationship. I’m no expert, but after a decade of marriage, I think I know what works and what doesn’t.

So I drew from my personal experience.

Although my tweet didn’t exactly explode the Interwebz, it did get a little attention (beginning with my wife). As the week rolled on—and as Valentine’s Day approached—it occurred to me that six words wasn’t enough to encapsulate what I needed to say.

So, here’s the long version:

Say “I love you” every day. But that isn’t really enough. Say it multiple times each day.

Say it in the morning when you wake up. Say it when she hands you your morning coffee (sometimes joke “I was talking to the coffee!”). Say I love you when she drives off to swim class, or when you leave to go to work. Say it when she comes home after a long day. Say it when she merely walks in from another room.

Say “I love you” a lot.

Say it without saying it. Help out around the house. Do the dishes. Clean the cats’ bowls. Sweep the floor. Bring home dinner when she doesn’t feel like cooking. When she asks you to do something for her, don’t grumble and complain.

Say “I love you” by making time for one another. Go on dates. Go to the theatre, museums and theme parks. Go to movies and buy her popcorn, because you once made her a promise that “there will always be popcorn.” Go shopping together, more to keep each other company than for any other reason.

Now and then ask your wife, “Have I told you that I love you today?” She will always says “Yes,” but then she’ll tell you she never tires of hearing it. So I say “I love you” again.

And at the end of every day, when you kiss goodnight, say “I love you” one more time.

Never wonder when you last told your wife that you love her. It was then. It is now. It will be soon.

Entertainment vs. Art

2016As a new year begins, folks become introspective. We think about the year gone by and wonder what the new year will bring.

I’m about half way through editing my first completed novel in more than a decade. And I’ve come to that point where I have to ask myself if it’s good. The answer to that is a resounding yes. It has strong characters, a great plot, and I think it brings something unique to the genre.

Is it art? Well, no.

My last novel was, well… “unpolished” would be a nice way to put it. Looking back on it, I see so many things wrong I can’t begin to salvage it. Yet it had one thing going for it: it had a strong moral message.

But you see, that’s the problem. In my younger years, I felt that writing should convey some truth, some deep meaning, that would elevate it from mere novel to “work of art.” These days, I’m not so concerned about art.

As I look back on the Great Works (capital G, capital W) of literature, I’m struck by two things.

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Career Advice I Have Ignored Without Consequence (Almost)

Staff Meeting

No matter what anyone tells you, never be afraid to spice up the staff meeting with weird pictures. Most people will never notice.

Career advice. You can’t avoid it. Websites like Monster, Career Builder and LinkedIn thrive on providing career advice to young men and women entering the workforce.

But that doesn’t mean you have to take it to heart. Career advice is not “one size fits all.” What works in one company (or one department), may not fit in the next.

And not everyone who gives advice is looking out for your best interest. For instance, any advice from your boss is probably intended to increase “productivity” and improve the company’s “bottom line.” Whatever.

I’ve been given a lot of advice over the years. As I look back on 25 years of job-seeking, interviews, annual reviews, and promotions, I have to admit that most of the advice was pretty useless. Much of my success in my job came after I had given up on trying to get promoted. Many of my best opportunities came when I was on the verge of being shown the door.

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Monkeys I Have Known

Old monkey house at the Kansas City Zoo

The origin of my obsession with monkeys and apes. The iconic monkey house at the Kansas City Zoo. Sadly, it is no longer there.

It’s December 14th. Do you know what that means? Quick, check your calendar. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

That’s right! It’s Monkey Day!

December 14th is the day when all simians, the higher primates—humans and great apes, gibbons and monkeys (Old World and New)—come together to celebrate the many things we have in common.

In years past, I’ve let Monkey Day be a springboard for my creativity. From my inaugural Monkey Day post “Unleashing My Inner Monkey” to last year’s “5 Ways to Be a Better Monkey,” I’ve tried to find a way to connect to my simian siblings. This year, I’ll let my pictures do the talking.

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Where’s the Guacamole, Jules? The Importance of Detail in Story

The InternWhen writing, I often think of a scene from Steve Martin’s L.A. Story. In the scene, Marilu Henner looks into a mirror and turns around. She tells Steve Martin:

“[T]he best thing to do is, right before you go out, look in the mirror and turn around real fast, and the first thing that catches your eye, get rid of it.”

Sometimes writing is like that. If it stands out too much, and there’s no reason for it, it might be better to leave it out. Details, even small ones, can hurt. Maybe not enough to kill, but just enough to take the audience out of the story.

When I went to see The Intern this week, I expected nothing more than a bittersweet comedy about the modern corporate life, getting older, and finding a decent work/life balance. And the film delivered.

Where it falls apart, however, is in the details.

Robert De Niro plays Ben Whittaker, a 70-year old retiree who is looking for something to fill his days. Anne Hathaway plays Jules Ostin, a young entrepreneur, trying to juggle the responsibility of running a successful online company with managing her personal life. Ben applies for the senior internship program at Jules’ company, and becomes a friend, confidant, and mentor to many of the employees.

But the story is really about Jules, whose professional and personal lives are at a crossroads of sort. Writer/director Nancy Meyers tells a good story, but a few details could have used some extra attention.

1. The Guacamole

The Setup: In an early scene we see Jules dropping off her daughter, Paige (JoJo Kushner), at school. The other moms tell her that there’s some event on Friday and Jules is supposed to bring the guacamole. The moms are snarky and tell her she doesn’t have to make it, she can buy some. In a very sweet moment, Jules promises Paige they will make the guacamole together.

The Problem: The scene never pays off. No more mention of the guacamole at all. When Jules has to go to San Francisco on Thursday, I thought there’d be some conflict. But there was none. Continue reading