Getting to Know Me: Web Blog for the Week of November 15, 2015

This is the weekly web blog of Jimmie Kepler of the website.


Ten Thoughts To Encourage Others

Here are ten thoughts I use to encourage others:

1. Show real interest in the person. Listen to what they are saying. Be interested in what is happening in their life. Let them know you care.

2. Concede what’s important to them.  When you acknowledge what’s important to others, you offer a form of verification and support about who they are and what they’re doing.

3. Say “congratulations”.  These magical Words of Encouragement at the right time can make all the difference between “keep going” and “give up”. Congratulate them on a job or task well done.

4. Be there for them.  Sometimes your presence is all they need.  Just being there for them is encouraging.

5. Say “Thank You”.  This is common courtesy.  It is good manners.  People like a little reward after hard work. I have done it for years. A simple thank you lets others know what they have done is worthwhile and meaningful to you.

6. Return the favor. If someone does something nice for you, a great way to show your appreciation is simply to return the favor. It will both shock and encourage them.  Note: don’t ever do something expecting someone to return the favor for you.

7. Answer with something unexpected.  I have a phrase I have used for years … love them from where they are to where they need to be!  Even when others let me down or they know I know they “dropped the ball” I don’t tell them so, I usually pick the ball up for them.  It is amazing the long-term results this can have in encouraging someone.

8. Be a “good finder”.  A good finder is a person who looks for the good, not the bad in a person or a situation.  An example would be if a person is always late to meetings, but makes in on time to your meeting instead of saying “About time you attended a meeting on time” say “I really appreciate the extra effort you made to get here on time” without any reference to their normal tardiness.

9. Smile.  Have you ever experienced the magic of a simple smile?  Have you ever noticed how when you smile at someone they smile back?  Share an encouraging smile.

10. Offer to lend a hand.  You can offer to lend a hand.  Sometimes a person feels like the weight of the world is on their shoulders and no one cares.  Show them you really care. You can be there for them.

Three Takeaways from The East Texas Christian Writer’s Conference

Scarborough Hall, East Texas Baptist University

Scarborough Hall, East Texas Baptist University

On a rainy Friday in Marshall, Texas I turned off US Highway 80. Heading north on Grove Street, I went under the railroad bridge. On the bridge was a sign with the words painted on it announcing “Welcome to ETBU Tiger Country.”  Driving a one-hundred yards further north Scarborough Hall greeted me as I drove onto the East Texas Baptist University campus. There Christian writers from Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas gathered. Networking and learning are their goals.

I do not write exclusively for the Christian market. I do not consider myself an inspirational writer. I am a Believer in Jesus Christ who targets the secular market with short stories, books, and nonfiction that include Christian themes.

Here are my top takeaways from the East Texas Baptist Christian Writers Conference.

  • Register early and follow the East Texas Christian Writers Conference on Facebook. Early sign-up saves you a few dollars. Read the workshop descriptions. You may not understand the small sessions and how the other events work, but this will give you an idea. Read everything. Attend the pre-conference workshop (cost $40 with advance registration, $50 late registration) “Make the Most of Your Conference Experience.” It will give you general information.

I believe the #ETCWC could use a FREE Friday afternoon orientation session for first time attendees. I am suggesting one that doesn’t require a pre-conference workshop fee, but is included in the cost for first time attendees. The session would be specific to that year and cover what is offered at the conference. It would orient you to where the meeting rooms are located. It would explain the schedule, breaks, and meals. It would give you an opportunity to meet other writers in your field. It would help team you up with a couple of writer buddies where you don’t feel isolated or alone at the conference. Some of the writer’s conventions have conference faculty make a presentation in the orientation class giving a two-minute pitch for each of their workshops. The Mount Hermon, Great Philadelphia and Colorado Christian Writers Conferences are great examples of assimilating new attendees. They work hard to make sure first timers don’t have an “all alone in a crowd” experience. They also give a discount for returning conference alumni. This encourages repeat attendance.

  • Attend all the sessions. The scheduling of the workshops makes attending all sessions a challenge. The organizers fail to schedule transition time between the second and third morning workshop sessions on Saturday. I have spoken to a few people who just skip the 11:30 AM session because they don’t want to walk into a classroom after the workshop has started. The conference organizers should allow a break between the second and third sessions. It is a challenge to get from a class on the fourth floor in one building to one on the second floor in another building with the distance between the buildings, age of the participants and with classes that sometimes run long.
  • Beware of the do’s and don’ts. The session leaders give you many checklists and rules. Remember that in writing is a creative pursuit. The rules are guidelines or suggestions. Don’t get paralyzed by rules. You don’t have to do what they say. Trust yourself.

Why not be one of the Christian writers from Texas and Arkansas who gathered for networking and learning? You too can make the drive to Marshall, Texas. You’ll feel the excitement I do when you turn off US Highway 80 and head north on Grove Street. When you see the railroad bridge with the words painted on it announcing “Welcome to ETBU Tiger Country” you will feel welcome. Your heart will run a little faster as you drive those last one-hundred yards further north and see Scarborough Hall greeting you. You’ll be ready to meet old friends, make a new one as you network and learn the business and craft of writing.

Wadsworth Longfellow Home

Wadsworth-Longfellow_House,_Portland,_MEAdventures filled my life growing up as a military brat. Some of the most memorable were school field trips. A few of these excursions were life changing, opening a new world of ideas and possibilities. Two of the most impactful were trips that occurred as a student at Portsmouth Junior High School in New Hampshire. The first journey took me to the Wadsworth-Longfellow home in Portland, Maine.

The sojourn included a poetry reading. It was my first exposure to real poetry. Seeing the home and the study desk somehow made the poet real to me. Hearing the words read aloud with passion and pacing tugged at my heart and soul.

Longfellow went to Europe for three years following college graduation in 1825. He returned to his alma mater, Bowdoin College, in 1829 and taught there until he accepted a professorship at Harvard University.

I learned field trips could be more than just a fun trip that kept you out of class for a day. A drive to a historical figure’s home provided experiential learning. Seeing the home and hearing poetry read made learning fresh and adventurous.

In the future, I’ll write about a trip to the Robert Frost farm in New Hampshire. It was the second impactful field trip during my tenure in New Hampshire public schools. Adventures filled the life of this military brat.

The photo  is in the public domain.

Friday Nights at the El Rey Theatre

El Rey Theater, Glendale Arizona

El Rey Theater, Glendale Arizona

I grew up in the 1950’s and 1960’s. 1959 found me living in Glendale, Arizona. Dad’s duty assignment was at Luke Air Force Base. Base housing was under construction at the time, so we lived in town, not on the air base. Our family would move into the military housing in February 1960.

While living in Glendale, our family would go to the El Rey Theatre in downtown Glendale at 17 N. 2nd Ave. It was a special treat. Mother and daddy saved from dad’s meager $275.00 a month pay as a United States Air Force staff sergeant where we could go to the movies.

Friday night June 26, 1959, found my family excited about seeing Sean Connery and Janet Munro in Darby O’Gill and the Little People. The movie is a tale about a wily Irishman and his battle of wits with leprechauns. It was the scariest movie I remember seeing. As a kid the appearance of the death banshee and the cóiste-bodhar, a spectral coach driven by a dullahan, to carry the dead’s soul off to the land of the dead scared me.

The real treat that night was an educational featurette film we saw before the feature film. It starred Donald Duck. The title was Donald in Mathmagic Land. It was 27-minutes long.

In 1961, two years after its release, Donald in Mathmagic Land had the honor of being introduced by Ludwig Von Drake and shown as the first program of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.

The film was made available to schools and became one of the most popular educational films ever made by Disney. As Walt Disney explained, “The cartoon is an excellent medium to stimulate interest. We have recently explained mathematics in a film and in that way excited public interest in this very important subject.”

I saw the film at Luke Air Force Base Elementary School each year from 1961 to 1963. Maybe that is a reason mathematics never scared or intimidated me. The film’s popularity was so great that my Cub Scout Pack saw the film as well as it being shown each summer during the base’s day camp program.

I appreciate the sacrifices my parents made to take me to the movies where I viewed neat films like Donald in Mathmagic Land. I recently watched the movie Darby O’Gill and the Little People on DVD. The banshee and death coach are still scary.

Oh, the architecture of the El Rey Theater in Glendale was amazing. It was an art deco theater. The photo is of the El Rey Theater that seated over 500 people.

Baseball on KBAT, 680, AM, San Antonio, Texas in 1963-64

1963 Houston Colt .45s

1963 Houston Colt .45s

In June of 1963 my family moved from Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix, Arizona to Seguin, Texas. Seguin was thirty miles east of San Antonio and near my mother’s family. The reason we moved was my dad’s orders to go to South Vietnam for a one-year tour of duty. He would be there from August 1963 to August 1964.

If anything good came out of a year’s family separation, it was my getting my very own electric AM radio. Dad also got me a one-year subscription to The Sporting News Magazine and well as Baseball Magazine’s 1964 season preview magazine. It contained all the official records for the then twenty Major League Baseball teams.

When we moved to Sequin, Texas dad made sure I knew the Houston Colt .45s baseball team’s games were easily found on my radio. He found the game on KBAT, 680, AM, San Antonio, Texas. He put a spot on the radio dial using red fingernail polish in case I lost the station. That way I could dial it back in. It would be years before digital dials would be available on radios. He also gave me a copy of the Houston team’s schedule for 1964. I lived my life with the ball games being the focal point.

Gene Elston and Loel Passe were the radio announcers. I spent almost every night with them talking on my radio in August and September of 1963 and then again in April through September 1964.

Today baseball gets a bad rap for being slow in the age of video games and Sportscenter highlights. Baseball is not boring. I like to call baseball a talking sport. I love the stories the announcers tell between the ebb and flow of the game. The stories start during the pre-game broadcast. Many times they would begin with a story from baseball’s past, sharing the history of the game. Yes, they would do a preview of the day’s game before moving to the action. I would get excited as Loel and Gene would comment on Houston Manager Harry Craft taking out the line-up card and meeting to opposing manager. I always like it best when the Colts played the Los Angeles Dodgers. They would mention Walter Alston taking out the line-up card. They had Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.

The pregame broadcast would be especially fun when the Colts played the Milwaukee Braves with Hank Aaron and Eddi Matthews. The Braves manager was Bobby Bragan. He was a southerner who later was president of the Texas League. Bobby Bragan could spin a yarn as good as anyone. His stories are still legendary.

Back in 1964 baseball games were only on television on Saturdays, so the radio was the window to the world. Gene and Loel could paint a picture with words. The grass was greener when they described it. The humidity in old Colt Stadium in Houston had me sweating 150 miles away.

The team wasn’t very good in 1964. It was a bunch of young kids and older players.  I didn’t care how bad they were. They were my team. Before the season ended manager Harry Craft was replaced by Luman Harris as manager. I still remember the players. Jerry Grote and John Bateman split the duties at catcher. Walt Bond played first base. He was the best offensive player on the team. At second base was an old Nellie Fox. The hall of fame would be in his future. It would be for his paly with the Chicago White Sox in the 1950s, not Houston. Eddie Kasko was at shortstop. I remembered him from his days with Cincinnati, third base was Bob Aspermonte, the outfield was Al Spangler, Jimmy Wynn and Joe Gaines. The pitchers were Bob Bruce, Turk Farrell, Ken Johnson, Don Nottebart and closer Hal Woodeshick.

Most games started at 7 PM and ended by 9 to 9:15 PM back then. I would sit on my bed reading the Baseball Magazine and The Sporting News while Gene and Loel told their never ending stories. That was the year I grew to love baseball. As a ten-year-old boy, there was nothing better. Television, playing with friends and everything else took a back seat to listening to the game on KBAT, 680, AM in San Antonio, Texas.

Listening to baseball on the radio was fun. It still is. I am listening to the New York Mets playing the Texas Rangers in the next to last exhibition game of the 2015 exhibition season as I type this story. No, I don’t have the game on the television. I am listening to it on the radio.

A Nickel’s Worth of Ice Cream

ice-cream-barOne of the scariest experiences I had as a military brat involved the ice cream man, my bicycle, and a nickel.

The seductive serenade of the ice cream man’s music blasted over a public address system mounted on his truck’s roof. One large speaker pointed forward with the music mystically announcing, “Here I come, get your parents to give you some money.” The second positioned to trumpet to the homes and people he had just driven past letting them know, “Hurry, it’s not too late.”

Like the moth drawn to the flame, I started dancing and crying out, “Oh please, mother. It’s the ice cream man. Can I have a nickel?”

Ice cream bars on a stick were only five cents.

“Jim, a nickel’s a lot of money,” mother said.

“He’s passing our house! I’ll take out the trash,” I pleaded and bargained at the same time. “Can I? Please?”

She quickly pulled a quarter from her purse. “Get four of the fudge ones,” mom said as she tossed me a quarter. “Bring me back the nickel he will give you in change.”

I raced out the front door, jumped on my bicycle and pedaled fast to catch up with the white truck carrying the sweet treats.

I quickly made the purchase, clutched my four ice cream bars in one hand and my nickel change in the other. That is when I realized I had a problem.  I was two blocks from home with my ice cream in one hand, a coin in the other and a bicycle to ride back home.

I knew I had to get back fast as the temperature was 110 degrees at Luke Air Force Base where I lived. I thought fast and had what I believed was a solution.

I put the nickel in my mouth, climbed on the bicycle, and clutched two ice creams in each hand holding their wooden sticks tightly. Somehow I made it home okay. I tossed down the bike, ran into the house carrying my four prizes.

Then it happened. As I started to speak, I gagged on the nickel. Well, I started choking on it before I swallowed it.

Mother yelled at dad and my little brother. She grabbed me and next thing I knew I was in the emergency room at the Luke Air Force Base Dispensary. As she arrives explaining what had happened, I was taken for x-rays. I still vividly remember the picture where it looked like the nickel was sitting on my rib.

The doctor explained the nickel may pass through my system during routine bowel movements in the next one to three days. He explained how I would need to squat over a newspaper when I had a BM. That way I could use a stick (he handed me a handful of tongue depressors) to check the feces for the nickel.

If I hadn’t passed the nickel in four days, they would do surgery! Yikes.

For the next three days, every time I went to the bathroom my then five-year-old little brother would come with me looking at my bottom as I did my deed. On the third day, he started screaming, “There it is, there it is!” as he could see the nickel.

I was relieved as were my parents that I wouldn’t have to face surgery.

What about the fudge bars? They melted on the kitchen counter. In my parents’ haste to get me to the ER, no one thought of putting them in the freezer.

Whenever I see an ice cream bar, I frequently remember the ice cream man, my bicycle, and a nickel. And I never put coins in my mouth. I know where they have been!

Jimmie Aaron Kepler

Jimmie Aaron Kepler’s work has appeared in six different Lifeway Christian publications as well as The Baptist Program, Thinking About, Poetry & Prose Magazine, vox poetica, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination Literary Magazine and more. His books Charlie’s Bells: A Short Story Anthology and Gone Electric: A Poetry Collection is available on He is also the author of the forthcoming religious science fiction novel “The Rebuilder.”

Winner Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Jimmie Aaron Kepler’s Books

Charlie's Bells: A Short Story Anthology
by Jimmie Aaron Kepler
Prairie Dogs
Available on Amazon

Gone Electric: A Poetry Collection
by Jimmie Aaron Kepler
Gone Electric
Available on Amazon

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