41: A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush

I received 41 as a Christmas present in 2014. I took the time to read slowly and soak in a wonderful little book. Regardless of your politics, you’ll enjoy 41. It is the first time a President told the story of his father, another President. We get a unique picture through the eyes and words of 43, George W. Bush. Warning, spoilers follow in every paragraph!
It is a unique and intimate biography. The book covers the entire scope of the elder President Bush’s life and career. You get some family background. You start back in school with 41. It includes his service in the Pacific during World War II. You learn of his courtship and marriage to Barbara. You learn of his pioneering work in the Texas oil business.
You’ll cry learning of a daughter’s death to leukemia. You will be surprised to learn of The Robin Bush Child and Adolescent Clinic at M.D. Anderson Hospital. It is named for the young daughter whom President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush lost to leukemia in 1953.
You will see 41s political rise as a Congressman, U.S. Representative to China and the United Nations, CIA Director, Vice President, and President. You see how he excelled at personal diplomacy. The book provides new insight on both the accomplished statesman and the warm, decent man known best by his family.
Also, George W. Bush discusses his father’s influence on him throughout his life. This influence covers from his childhood in West Texas to his early campaign trips with his father and from his decision to go into politics to his own two-term Presidency.
A huge surprise for me was to learn that George W. Bush did not use email during his presidency. It is a wonderful book I highly recommend. It is an easy read that will keep you turning the pages.

Jimmie Aaron Kepler

Jimmie Aaron Kepler’s work has appeared in six different Lifeway Christian publications as well as The Baptist Program, Thinking About Suicide.com, Poetry & Prose Magazine, vox poetica, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination Literary Magazine and more. His short story stories The Cup, Invasion of the Prairie Dogs, Miracle at the Gibson Farm: A Christmas Story, and The Paintings as well as Gone Electric: A Poetry Collection are available on Amazon.com.

Customer Care Tip – Taking short-cuts/not asking for the sale is bad customer service.

Customer Care Tip – Taking short-cuts/not asking for the sale is bad customer service.

Let me share with you a recent experience of receiving poor customer service. Here are some of the lessons from the situation and my story.

Last Saturday morning my car battery died. It was the original equipment battery that came with the car. Let’s face it, car batteries die. My story is the service or lack of good services I received from a garage that has worked on my vehicles for fifteen years. During those years, I have paid them over $10,000 for both routine maintenance and major repairs for more than a half-dozen cars I have owned.

In the thirty days before my battery died my car had been in their shop three times. The first time it was there my engine had died when I was driving down the highway. It had happened one other time about a week earlier, as well. In both instances, I only turned the key and restarted the car. I asked them to check the fuel and electrical system to see what was happening. They found nothing.

About ten days later I was back to have for my annual state inspection. They inspected the car and sent me on my way.

My third visit was just a week before the battery failed. This time I was in for an oil change. When the car was ready, I noticed they had not washed the windshield and windows like they usually do when I get the oil changed. I also found they had not vacuumed my car. The complimentary cleaning of the interior is one of the services they provide make their higher prices more tolerable.

Here is why I got upset this time. I realized they usually used their battery tester every time I was in for routine service or major repairs. They would always let me know how the battery tested and if it was nearing the end of its life cycle. I had them pull my records. They attach a copy of the battery test to the invoice when they check the battery.  They had not tested my battery my battery my last three visits.

I addressed the lack of testing with the shop foreman and then the owner. They had failed to check my battery. They also had not provided their concierge-class complimentary services.

What I received was the excuse that they had made a conscious decision due to the increased workload to service customers faster by not testing the battery or cleaning the car. They equated better service with handling a higher volume of clients instead of providing their past quality service.

The results of their actions caused me to get stranded for over an hour while I waited for assistance. They also missed out on selling me a battery. If they had tested and then told me the results showed that it would fail soon, I would have bought a new one immediately.

I believe their short-cut contributed to my being stranded with a dead battery. They missed the chance to make a sale. They also missed out on creating goodwill.

Most of all, they are now at risk of losing me and my extended family as well as my friends as customers.

Customer Care Tip – Taking short-cuts/not asking for the sale is bad customer service.


Jimmie Aaron Kepler

Jimmie Aaron Kepler’s work has appeared in six different Lifeway Christian publications as well as The Baptist Program, Thinking About Suicide.com, Poetry & Prose Magazine, vox poetica, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination Literary Magazine and more. His short story stories The Cup, Invasion of the Prairie Dogs, Miracle at the Gibson Farm: A Christmas Story, and The Paintings as well as Gone Electric: A Poetry Collection are available on Amazon.com.

Retreat, To the Colors and The Star Spangled Banner

Jimmie Aaron Kepler,      Third Grade Class Photo - 1962
Jimmie Aaron Kepler, Third Grade Class Photo – 1962

Military brats grow up in a very patriotic environment. Respect for God, country, and authority are learned at an early age. I’ve listened as many of my fellow military brats shared their childhood experiences.

Theirs were very similar to mine. One tale that always caught my attention concerned the lowering of the flag. At five P.M. or noon when only a half day’s work was scheduled, Retreat and To the Colors was performed over the post or base public address system. The bugle signaled the lowering, folding and securing of the flag of the United States of America for the night.

When the music started, cars stopped. Children playing outdoors would take an intermission from their afternoon’s fun, standing at attention. It was a serious, respectful time.

I learned about the United States flag from my father and as a Cub Scout and Boy Scout. My real education came from Mrs. Jensen. She told us about the War of 1812, Fort McHenry, and Francis Scott Key. Mrs. Jensen also taught us how to memorize. We first used the memory techniques she taught us to learn the verses of the Star Spangled Banner.

Her method was simple. On the four chalkboards in our classroom at Luke Air Force Base Elementary School were written the words or lyrics to Key’s anthem.

She had us read the entire verse, word for word. Next, she had a boy in the back of the room come to the chalkboard. She handed him an eraser instructing him to select a word, erase the word and place a line where the word had been.

The class read the Star Spangled Banner again replacing the deleted word. This continued over and over until we had a chalk board with only blank lines and the anthem memorized.

Years later I used the same technique to teach fourth, fifth, and sixth-grade children to memorize Bible verses.

Every time I hear Retreat and To the Colors, I still stand at attention. Scouts and my father taught me about the United States flag. Mrs. Jensen told this military brat the story of the Star Spangled Banner and learned me how to memorize.

Martian Mondays: The Martian Chronicles – Chapter Fourteen: Interim

the-martian-chroniclesChapter Fourteen – Interim (February 2003/2034) – This story first appeared in Weird Tales, July 1947. This story describes the building of a Martian town by colonists and how much it was made to resemble an average Midwestern American town. The town was said to have appeared to have been swept up by a tornado on Earth, and brought to Mars.

A 1997 edition of the book advances all the dates by 31 years.


Jimmie Aaron Kepler

Jimmie Aaron Kepler’s work has appeared in six different Lifeway Christian publications as well as The Baptist Program, Thinking About Suicide.com, Poetry & Prose Magazine, vox poetica, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination Literary Magazine and more. His short story stories The Cup, Invasion of the Prairie Dogs, Miracle at the Gibson Farm: A Christmas Story, and The Paintings as well as Gone Electric: A Poetry Collection are available on Amazon.com.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird
Bird by Bird

Why would I review a twenty years old book? Why select a book that most writers have read? Those are great questions. 

The answer is simple. While first published in 1995, “Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life” by Anne Lamott is as relevant today as the day it was released. The book has become a definitive how-to guide for new

and aspiring writers. The book has been a national best seller. It continues to have excellent sales. As of 3/5/2015, twenty years after publication it still ranks #958 on Amazon.com’s overall best sellers rank. More amazingly it ranks:

#1 in Books > Reference > Words, Language & Grammar > Speech

#1 in Books > Reference > Writing, Research & Publishing Guides > Writing > Journalism & Nonfiction

#1 in Books > Textbooks > Communication & Journalism > Journalism

I don’t know about you, but I would love to have a book with as consistent a sales history as “Bird by Bird.” Let’s take a more in depth look at this beautiful little book.

An entertaining and helpful guidebook that covers every step of the writing process, the reading of “Bird By Bird” has become something of an initiation for hopeful writers. Anne Lamott drives home the point of the need for regular writing and facing the fact that getting published will almost certainly not make you more contented, wealthier or good-looking. An entertaining and helpful guidebook that covers every step of the writing process, the reading of “Bird By Bird” has become something of an initiation for hopeful writers. Anne drives home the point of the need for regular writing and facing the fact that getting published will almost certainly not make you more contented, wealthier or good-looking.

Her book’s genesis comes from the notes of the lectures Lamott delivers to her writing classes. The book begins the way all writing classes do – sit down and write. Write, write, and write and the revise and rewrite before you worry about agents, book titles, etc. She reminds us to sit at our computer, bring up our word processing program, stare at the screen and write. She gives practical advice on not looking at the size of the task but viewing it as a series of small assignments.

Lamott investigates the depths of the formal elements of writing such as plot, character development, dialog, setting, and point of view. She also examines the infinitely more injurious obstacles facing a writer. That is acceptance the “[expletive deleted] first draft” and killing the perfectionist inside you standing between you and your shitty first draft.

  • She talks in practical terms about defeating writer’s block and what to do when you have crises of faith.
  • She talks about finding a sturdy soul to read your “[expletive deleted]” draft and not being devastated when the reader has more than a few suggestions.
  • She also touches on the subject of learning to deal with professional jealousy, a bound to happen fate “because some wonderful, dazzling successes are going to happen for some of the most awful, angry, undeserving writers you know — people, who are, in other words, not you.”

“Bird By Bird” isn’t all that ground-breaking a book. I have read similar works providing insights on the writing life by authors Annie Dillard and Natalie Goldberg. Ask anyone in the position to make a comparison and more likely than not they’ll say “Bird By Bird” surpasses all. “What, then, is it about “Bird By Bird” that strikes a chord with so many readers and writers?” to quote a question asked by reviewer Sarah Brennan.

Anne Lamott’s advice is all harvested from personal experience. Her guidance is caring, keen and so good-naturedly explained it’s readily employable. I agree again with Sarah Brennan that “ultimately, it’s her uncanny and self-effacing humor, natural, unaffected tone and anecdote-as-life-lesson adeptness that make Bird By Bird such a useful teaching device. Hers is a refreshingly conversational, approachable, enjoyable didacticism that leaves you with the feeling that if you were to meet Lamott, you’re pretty sure you would be instantaneous best friends however far you descend into the pits of frustration, self-loathing and despair, the writing life is worth it.”

Anne Lamott gives us all hope as she shares, “Even if you only show the people in your writing group your memoirs or stories or novels, even if you only wrote your story so that one day your children would know what life was like when you were a child, and you knew the name of every dog in town — still, to have written your version is an honorable thing.” It would be fun to sit down for a day and talk and laugh with Anne Lamott.

Maybe if we learn some of the lessons from “Bird By Bird” someone will read or maybe even review our book twenty years after publication. You never know, it just might happen.


Jimmie Aaron Kepler

Jimmie Aaron Kepler’s work has appeared in six different Lifeway Christian publications as well as The Baptist Program, Thinking About Suicide.com, Poetry & Prose Magazine, vox poetica, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination Literary Magazine and more. His short story stories The Cup, Invasion of the Prairie Dogs, Miracle at the Gibson Farm: A Christmas Story, and The Paintings as well as Gone Electric: A Poetry Collection are available on Amazon.com.

Customer Care Tip – Your attitude should be, “It’s a joy to help.”

Customer Care Tip – Your attitude should be, “It’s a joy to help.”

I do technical customer service and support by choice, not by chance. There are other jobs and tasks I could do instead. However, I enjoy serving people and not being a servant to a computer server.

Years ago I decided customer service was a mindset. I could choose to give poor, average, or great customer service to my clients. My attitude toward them was not dependent upon how nice or demanding they were toward me. I believe everyone needs the same level of service I would give my mother or my spouse. I learned a long time ago that rarely is the client or users reaction to me personal. I should give my best. The result is they’ll get great service and reflect a more positive attitude back toward me. I honestly believe this. I have experienced it.

Colossians 3:23 in the King James Version of the Bible reads, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;”. You may ask what a Bible verse has to do with customer service. My thought is we need to realize that our role is serving the customer. When we give our best, it has an active reflection on us, our co-workers and management, and our company. Let your life be guided by religious belief, “to God be the glory.”

Remember you not only hold the key to the type of experience the customer has, but you hold the key to the way you react to your clients.

I’ll be honest and admit not all customers are a joy to help. Some clients can become a major challenge. When the customer is a challenge to help, it is time to give the extra effort and “nice them to death”. By that, I mean I double my efforts to take care of them. I make sure in spite of their bad attitude that I am the point of sunshine in their day. I make sure of the handling of their issue to mutual satisfaction. I do not let them get to me. I enjoy the challenge of helping them get from where they are to where they need to be.

You can’t make everything right for everyone. You can manage how you react to them. You can do your best to make sure they have a good experience. When resolving their issue why not join me in telling them, “It’s a joy to help”.

Customer Care Tip – Your attitude should be, “It’s a joy to help.”


Jimmie Aaron Kepler

Jimmie Aaron Kepler’s work has appeared in six different Lifeway Christian publications as well as The Baptist Program, Thinking About Suicide.com, Poetry & Prose Magazine, vox poetica, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination Literary Magazine and more. His short story stories The Cup, Invasion of the Prairie Dogs, Miracle at the Gibson Farm: A Christmas Story, and The Paintings as well as Gone Electric: A Poetry Collection are available on Amazon.com.

Martian Mondays: The Martian Chronicles – Chapter Thirteen: The Shore

the-martian-chroniclesChapter Thirteen – The Shore – This story describes the rippling outward of colonization, the This story first wave being loner, pioneer types, and the second, also Americans, being from the “cabbage tenements and subways” of New York.

A 1997 edition of the book advances all the dates by 31 years.


Jimmie Aaron Kepler

Jimmie Aaron Kepler’s work has appeared in six different Lifeway Christian publications as well as The Baptist Program, Thinking About Suicide.com, Poetry & Prose Magazine, vox poetica, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination Literary Magazine and more. His short story stories The Cup, Invasion of the Prairie Dogs, Miracle at the Gibson Farm: A Christmas Story, and The Paintings as well as Gone Electric: A Poetry Collection are available on Amazon.com.