Archive for June, 2012

28
Jun
12

Are you freer than you were four years ago?

The Fourth of July. A time when we celebrate our independence as a nation. It is a time for us to celebrate our patriotism, our freedom from oppression, and our love of all things individual. Our freedom and our democracy with which we have been blessed are direct products of the sheer determination of our forefathers who worked to establish the United States of America as a free country.

Freedom of choice?

We have a choice to be wealthy or poor. We have the choice to live a healthy lifestyle or an unhealthy one. We have a choice to be agnostic or religious. We each have every opportunity to live our lives as we see fit. Equal opportunity does not guarantee equal outcome. Those who achieve more are vilified, unless they are in sports or the entertainment industry. If you have ever run a business and not had to fire someone, lay someone off, or get hauled to  court, I’m not sure you even showed up for work.

Are we even in the business of celebrating the individual? Seems anybody that is different than what we think, what we earn, and what we look like is the enemy. Differences have come to reflect “evil”. We are less united as a nation; partisan politics has made our common bond a distant memory.

I can remember the first time I saw the Borg on Star Trek: The Next Generation. It still scares the bejesus out of me, the thought of a huge hive where any bit of individualism has been assimilated into one collective consciousness. But as we give our individual freedoms to a collective bureaucracy, this is exactly what is happening to us.

Free to disagree?

I shied away from the debate club as a teen because I could never vehemently argue one side of an argument. I could always see the other person’s point of view. F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” If you listen to the news, or read the blogs, we have no first-rate minds. And they definitely don’t want you to have a first-rate mind either. You can tell by the tone and spin in their “investigative” journalism. That’s not news, that’s entertainment.

Have a different set of morals than me? I’ll coil up and bite you by spreading venomous lies and hissing vulgarities about you. I’ll make you and your family a parody on comedy sketches so everyone can laugh at how ignorant you are. And yet we are busy wringing our hands over the escalating problem of childhood bullying, refusing to acknowledge that they are direct reflections of the adults in, or out, of their lives.

I used to love the days when I could carry on a discussion with someone who had a completely different viewpoint than myself without it degenerating into snide tones, and unsubstantiated quips. Don’t agree with me? You must be phobic, an idiot, a pathetic loser, or just a jackass. Sounds real grown up, doesn’t it?

Do we have to tolerate fools gladly?

During my time in the military, I lived in many different countries. There are governments that do not respect individual freedoms, liberties, or the basic equalities that we take for granted in America. I, like every other service member, took an oath to defend these rights against all enemies, foreign and domestic. 

With the influx of foreign nationals into our country, we see that some of these intolerances have made their way onto our soil. Some groups demand that we respect their laws and religious ideals, but refuse to respect those of others. Their way is the only way so your freedom of choice is dictated by them.  Ayaan Hirsi Ali said, “Tolerance of intolerance is cowardice.” Tolerating others’ injustices to basic human rights isn’t respecting another nation’s sovereignty or religious beliefs, it’s just wrong.

This Fourth of July remember, while we are still free to do so, that we truly must live free or die; that if we’re all thinking alike, nobody is thinking; and that suffering fools gladly is madness.

20
Jun
12

into each life some Rain must fall

One of life’s greatest miracles is when a curse turns into a blessing, when failure leads to triumph, and when we realize that the rain falling on our heads provides the precious life force to push us up to grow.

It all started on a very rainy and surprisingly cold June morning. While driving to work I saw through the windshield wipers something shivering off to the side of the road. It lifted its little white-and-gray head off the white line and looked feebly at me.

I can handle most of life’s tragedies without batting an eye. But when I see an animal in distress my heart rate rips into overdrive and I start to hyperventilate. I quickly turned the car around to see if I had seen what I thought I saw. After confirming a little kitten was indeed lying injured in the road, I made one last U-turn to evaluate where to stop the car, and quickly punched on the hazards.

The rain was really coming down so I said a quick prayer for safety, and a quick thanks for my procrastination in dropping off a winter coat, which had been in my trunk for months, to a shelter and ran to scoop up the injured animal. All I could see was that it looked like a shivering drenched rat and that its back legs had been hit, bitten, run over, or all of the above.

I drove to the nearest animal hospital with the bundle in my arms, praying that it would remain alive. The vet immediately admitted the little kitten and went to work. Later that day I found out it was a girl, between five and six weeks old, brought her home, and called her Rain.

Our first week started off rough; there were plenty of hisses and growls that first night. She was in pain and scared. One week later she is warm, healing and playful. She purrs incessantly and even gives me tiny kisses. She gets her paws all tangled up in my hair while she gazes up at me.

I think Rain will never regain full use of her one leg. But she is able to play, use the litter box, and get around to some extent. One of my Facebook friends said that it was good she didn’t have full use of her legs because otherwise she would have run away and probably died at a young age trying to survive the hazards of living outside.

Whenever I think of someone or some animal that is crippled I think of the story of Mephibosheth in the book of 2 Samuel. Injured as a child, his shameful disability later brought him into the care of King David where he found favor and love.

Rain has become a part of my royal family. What are we holding on to as a perceived or manifested “disability” that makes us feel less than worthy of living as royalty? Love is the greatest force in the universe and if we acknowledge our worthiness and willingly accept it, the rain that comes our way can cleanse us from our painful and dirty past.

 

14
Jun
12

the father i never knew

My father, the late Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, said that he knew Abraham Lincoln better than Lincoln’s own mother. He made this bold statement due to the amount of material he read that Lincoln himself had written. I thought this comment was a bit exaggerated (how could anyone know anyone better than their own mother?) until I found myself in a similar situation.

I traveled extensively with my father growing up. He took me with him on his business trips whenever possible and throughout summer breaks from school.  He was 36 years old when I was born so he had made his mark in the insurance industry and was off on his own as an entrepreneur publishing and motivating. At 18, I left central PA for 28 years to see the world and find my own place in it. During the decades I lived away from home I saw my father at meetings, over the holidays, in print, or on video.  I knew he was successful at what he did, but I was off to earn my own stripes.

 I returned in 2009, three months after my father had triumphantly entered the gates of heaven, to pick up where he had left off. Since then, I have had the poignant pleasure of going through every note, piece of paper, doodle, airline ticket, and journal he had ever written. To say I know my father in a whole new light is an understatement. My father always loved the written word because he said it had no tone and passed no judgment. You took from it what you needed to hear.  It spoke to your heart whereas people had a tendency to speak to your ear.

The same is true as I go through his mountains of material. There’s nothing he hadn’t said to me in person, but now I get to read it for myself without any childhood moods, teen angst, or adult drama. As I sift through the piles I see how he hustled to get his speaking career off the ground, often speaking for free or to very small audiences. I see first-hand how he would always look for local churches, schools, and prisons wherever he traveled so he could go there after his paid speech was completed. I see how he met each and every person before and after each speaking engagement to thank them for their smile and to give them a hug.

He worked so hard. He dealt with so much rejection. He was such an encourager to so many people. He was so authentic. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1999, when he was 70 years old, but that didn’t stop him from living the next 10 years at a pace and with a passion not previously seen. I remember him telling me that the 70’s were the best years of his life. And there again I was sifting though letters, and articles, and speeches all validating exactly what he told me.

He pushed until his last breath. He ran the race like I could not imagine someone would. I know this because I saw his last written letters scribbled from his hospice bed.

I am so glad I got the chance to know my father in a way I never had before. I finally understand so much of the father/daughter dynamic and what he was trying to do with his life through the business. And although I miss him desperately each day, the fact that I get to read about him over and over again as I go through his material makes it seem like he’s not even gone.

On this Father’s Day, for those of you whose fathers have passed on, there’s still the chance to get to know them in a way you never did before. I can honestly say that I know my father better now than when he was living.

06
Jun
12

will you autograph my kindle?

As a publisher the number one question I get asked is, when books go the way of the dinosaur will I have to live in a van down by the river? What will I do with myself when books are no longer relevant; that if I don’t change my antiquated ways, I’ll wind up left on the floor like an overexposed negative, like the Kodak Corporation.

The publishing industry, like everything else on the planet, is in a constant state of flux.  But adapting to change does not mean you abandon what’s been a mainstay of civilization alongside other great inventions like fire and the wheel. The written word isn’t here just to entertain us; it’s what makes us human.

As a purveyor and publisher of the written word, I went with great anticipation, and a little bit of trepidation, to Book Expo America (BEA) held annually in NYC. If you’re a book lover, this is the closest thing to heaven on earth. Every publisher was on site along with their newest releases, their best and bestselling authors, winding lines of ecstatic fans, a kaleidoscope of colors, tons of touchable textures, tremendous and tantalizing topics; it was like a candy store for your brain!!

There were books everywhere!! And yes, I mean physical books, not virtual books. There were even hardcovers, which I had been told where a dying breed due to their size and shipping cost. But here they stood in their brilliant and gleaming dust jackets, drawing me closer and closer until I had no choice but to pick them up and look inside! There’s something about meeting the real thing in person….just ask anyone who’s ever done any Internet dating.

I publish physical books. I also have everything we publish converted to an electronic format. But the fish aren’t biting the virtual food. Our clientele like to give books away as much as they like to read them. How would you feel about parting with your Kindle or Nook after reading a book that changed your life so someone else could do the same? Don’t think that’s going to happen.

There were some digital publishers represented, the vast majority of floor space, by far, was devoted to traditional publishing houses where there were scores of people picking up the physical product. The children’s section was the most fun. Can a child get the same excitement by holding a Kindle in bed with their parent? There just aren’t enough sides to it to share, are there?

I got to read a book about sharks that had real shark teeth in it! I got to hold a book that had science fiction pop-up pictures! I even got to hold a stuffed animal that represented the main character in the book I had picked up! You see, books aren’t just for the eye to behold. There’s a whole other plethora of senses that are stimulated when you read a physical book. You can hear sounds, smell scents, touch fabric, and the coolest of all, see lenticular 3-D pictures!

And then I turned the corner and saw the beloved coffee table books, huge, glossy, gorgeous collections of galaxies, art, castles, dogs, everything under sun; the perfect accessory to any room and able to match any décor.

Think of reading a book like ordering a bowl of delicious, nutritious soup. I don’t care if you slurp it from a spoon, suck it through a straw, or gulp straight from the bowl itself. As long as you are getting fed, it’s all good, the delivery method matters not.

Books are here to stay. And book lovers are the ones who will shape and change the world as long as time exists. So let’s not argue over whether we are Kindle spirits when all that matters is that we are kindred spirits. We share a common love, a passion for reading and thinking. So if you don’t see me in a van down by the river, I’ll be poring over some transformational manuscript and evolving into a more tremendous version of me!




Tremendous Tracey


CEO Tremendous Life Books. Book Evangelist

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