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What It's Like To Live With A Writer

When I was in college I wrote a short essay about a painful experience at our Sabbath table at home.

My father reacted with such grief. I remember him picking me up one day in the city. His right hand gripped the steering wheel tightly, almost involuntarily. 

My mother sat next to him, explaining softly in soft tones: I had betrayed the family and our religion. I had shamed us.

I don't remember very many things from my life, unfortunately. But I do remember my reaction: angry, stony, ice-cold.

Maybe you think it was an odd reaction, but the truth is I did not care about my father's feelings. Nor my mother's attempt to explain. Frankly I had absolutely zero worry that others might look down on my for sharing such a personal thing.

Even then, I trusted the world to be a fair and objective audience. All I needed to do was put the words in front of them

I have been married for nearly 25 years now. We've raised two kids. 

It has been hard on my family to live with a writer.

My husband looks at the old pictures and says, "you were so much nicer back then." 

(When he feels like making a joke he'll add, "and better-looking, too.")

To live with a writer means that you are not, fundamentally, a passive wife and mommy, the kind that exists in fantasy and which we were supposed to have obliterated in fact.

It is to live with a three-dimensional person, who is also a shadow of one. Because in addition to critically thinking, inside they are always processing, processing, processing. And what they want to do, most of the time, is share their version of what they've seen.

It is the difference between shopping for furniture together, and watching yourself do the shopping so that you can document it for later.

It is a good thing to have a writer working for you. They're creative and productive. Plus they know they're different, and so they try harder to fit in and do well.

But it is difficult to have a writer working for you, too. That's true. Because the writer is loyal to The Truth, or maybe I should say the Quest For The Truth.

Even if they know what can and can't be said, and they stick to it, you may feel a bit uneasy about what lies behind that wide grin.

What saves your relationship -- that is, you and the writer -- is that you know in your heart what their intentions are. What they bring to your life. 

And that they are invested in the table at which you mutually eat.

A lot of people are writers nowadays. They work offsite and charge by the word.

But the kind of writer you want?

The  one who sits there giving you that funny stare, taking mental notes.

The kind who would actually work for free.

Disclaimer: All opinion are the author's own, and do not represent those of the National Institute of Standards & Technology or the Federal government.

"Race Together": Flawed, But Brilliant

Brand mastery, like leadership, means taking a stand and sticking with it. 

Howard Schultz, the founder and CEO of Starbucks, has taken such a stand with his new "Race Together" campaign. 

Even though it has generated much controversy.

Even though experts in the branding community have slammed it.

With his insistence on following a singular vision that is true to the brand -- not politics, not popularity contests and not opinion polls -- Schultz shows once again that he is the definition of a brand master. 

What people don't understand, but should, is that Starbucks is a vision of community.

It is Schultz's world to build. A world of conscious capitalism. 

In this world, as in every well-organized system of production, profits come first - they have to. 

But the relationships among people dominate the conversation always.

From Schultz's point of view, when the gulf in our community is so great that people can no longer talk with one another, the brand is in danger.

If he made a mistake, and I think he did stumble a little bit here, it was to have the baristas be the brand ambassadors for race relations.

Instead he should have confined himself to affixing "Race Together" to the coffee cups; selling a book on the subject; or perhaps donating profits to a worthy related cause.

The mistake was, really, to go against the brand by dehumanizing the baristas. It's counterproductive to try to turn people into mouthpieces for your personal agenda -- even if it is a good one -- unless they sign up for that.

Overall though, Schultz is on the right track by once again reinventing the brand to stay relevant, and taking it to a higher ideal. 

Howard Schultz is a man on a mission. If it's a major, divisive social issue, he will not stop till we talk about it.

Preferably over coffee.
All opinions my own. No federal agency or any other official commercial endorsement expressed or implied. Photo by K. Johansson via Wikipedia.

"Why Do You Care?" The Walking Dead S6 E5

TWD characters Rick and Jessie (screenshot here from an earlier episode) have electric chemistry. He is the sheriff of Alexandria. Her husband is beating the crap out of her. And the whole town knows it.

Yet when he asked her to let him help, she responded: "Why do you care?"

This question, to me, is more than just an exchange. It is the entire premise of the show.

Why do you care?

Rick asked this of Carol previously.

She said, my husband beat me, too. So you know why.

She said, I know why you care. I see the way you talk to her.

Why do you care?

In the world of TWD, you actually have to ask that question.

Because it's not possible that you would care organically.

It is a generational comment, the question Xers ask.

Why do you care? 

The assumption being: Caring is normally not possible, absent self-interest. 

And even if you have a reason to care - I am still suspicious.

A powerful question. A loaded question. One that tells us a lot about the person (and the reference group/generation) asking it.

All opinions my own. Screen capture from "The Walking Dead" dated 3/9/2015.