When a negative is a positive

Posted February 11, 2019 by cindyscoffeehouse
Categories: Uncategorized

Some 18 months ago, my friend Roberta Brown found a copy of my book, It’s Not Personal, in the nonfiction section of our local public library and sent me a picture of it as it sat on the shelf. I was touched to see how happy Roberta was on my behalf! We’re both writers and we both live in Royal Oak. Writers are known to hang out at book stores and libraries and even dream about someday seeing a book we wrote on the shelf.

But sometimes I’m slow about following up with things. I have to admit that, in those 18 months, I didn’t look for my own book in the library. But I decided that today would be the day. I needed to renew my library card, so I figured while I was there I would search for my book on the library shelf.

After the librarian renewed my card, I walked to the nonfiction section. Although I looked on all the shelves in the 158.1 section, I couldn’t find my book. I hoped the library hadn’t decided to bump my book from their catalog. After all, I’m just a local girl and my book was self-published. Maybe some traditionally published book by a better-known author took its place. So I searched the library computer to see if my book was still in the library collection. It was.

Even though I was disappointed I couldn’t take a selfie with my book today, I found out something even better. The book was temporarily off the shelf because someone had checked it out. It was due back on February 23.

What’s more fun for a writer than seeing your own book on the library shelf? NOT seeing your own book on the library shelf because somebody checked it out!


Dealing with a bully: ask a question, walk away

Posted August 10, 2016 by cindyscoffeehouse
Categories: Uncategorized

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On June 9, 1954, a gentleman named Joseph Welch asked a question heard ’round the world. Welch was being questioned by U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy during a Capitol Hill hearing about possible Communist influence in the government. McCarthy claimed he had a list of 130 “subversives” that Welch should investigate. When Welch dared McCarthy to prove it by providing the list to the FBI, McCarthy went on the offensive and made insinuations about a young lawyer in Welch’s law firm. At that point, Welch had had enough. He said to McCarthy: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness….you’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” McCarthy, unabashed, kept up his tirade. But Welch had enough of it. He told the committee, “I will not discuss it further…You, Mr. Chairman, may as you will, call the next witness!” Then he walked out of the hearing…and, according to The Washington Post, the gallery burst into applause.

Someone finally had enough and stood up to McCarthy. Which brings me to today. What will happen in a few months with our Presidential election? I don’t know. But I do know that as long as I continue to see politicians and spokespeople and those attending his rallies trying to defend or soften or reinterpret Trump’s indefensible remarks, then we have a problem as a nation.

That’s why I believe those of us longing for a sense of decency in our politics today should ask those who still rally behind Donald Trump: “Is there anything Trump could say or do that you would find offensive enough not to support him?” That’s the question of the hour. Some will still support Trump, no matter what. But we need a critical mass of people to stop engaging with the bully and walk away…as people did yesterday at one of Trump’s rallies.

That gives me hope for our future.

Thank you, St. Bart’s

Posted March 4, 2014 by cindyscoffeehouse
Categories: Book, It's Not Personal

Tags: , , ,

I just learned that the parish in which I had grown up just celebrated its last Mass on March 2, 2014. And I’m sad. Yes, I’ve known for years that St. Bartholomew’s Catholic Church in Detroit was in decline. Still, when I heard the news about the last Mass, it felt like a death in the family.

The last three Masses I had attended at St. Bart’s were all for funerals…for my friend Karen, for her Dad who had died a week before her…and a year earlier, for my Mom.

At my Mom’s funeral, I gave a eulogy that touched on the role that St. Bart’s had played in our family. Here’s an excerpt:

Our family has deep roots here. St. Bart’s has been a big part of our family life. We attended Mass here on Sundays and often on First Fridays and First Saturdays as well. Diane, Walt and I graduated from St. Bart’s Elementary School. For a while, we also attended Polish classes in the school on Saturday mornings. With Mom and Dad’s encouragement, all three of us were involved in parish life, either sitting on the Parish Council or singing in the choir or serving as a cantor or lector. For a time, I also played the organ here. Ray and I were married here. *

The St. Bartholomew church building was the place where our family and friends acknowledged life’s important events. The same aisle where I was carried by my parents as a baby after my christening at St. Bart’s was the same aisle I walked down for my first communion and my confirmation and my eighth grade graduation and my wedding day and my Dad’s funeral and my Mom’s funeral.

At its peak, St. Bart’s had so many parishioners that the five scheduled Sunday Masses in the church building weren’t enough. So the staff would set up the gym–complete with floor tarp, folding chairs and portable altar–to hold another Mass simultaneously with the Mass in the church building.

I remember fondly the school field days. I still have the bamboo cane I won at the field day when I was in first grade with Sister Mary De Paul. And the annual fall festivals were not to be missed. Each September, the St. Bartholomew Parish campus was transformed into a mini Cedar Point. It was the place to be seen when I was in seventh and eighth grade.

However, I think my favorite memory of St. Bart’s is captured in this picture from a Christmas service in the early 1970s. The picture was used for the cover of the anniversary book commemorating the 50th anniversary of St. Bart’s: St. Bart's 1975

Thank you, St. Bart’s, for being part of my life.

* Excerpt from It’s Not Personal

Balancing Head and Heart

Posted March 15, 2013 by cindyscoffeehouse
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , ,

I took formal piano lessons for nine years and learned a variety of popular and classical pieces. But during that time, the most important lesson I learned wasn’t about music…it was about myself.

My piano teacher was Mrs. Bessie Benton Runner, a short, elderly woman with a kind twinkle in her blue eyes.

When I started lessons, both of my grandmothers had already died. So I soon adopted Mrs. Runner as a grandmotherly figure. She was patient and unflappable. She knew how to suggest songs that were challenging – but not too frustrating.

One year, Mrs. Runner suggested that I learn a tune called “The Dancing Dervishes” by Bernard Wagness. As usual, when introducing a song, Mrs. Runner would walk me through it so I’d have an idea how to practice the music.

She’d keep an upbeat attitude, making it seem easy for me to learn. She’d point out where the measures repeated, reminding me that I wouldn’t need to relearn those sections. She’d offer ideas for fingering tricky notes. She’d also explain the Latin instructions written on the music.

For example, in “The Dancing Dervishes,” Mrs. Runner pointed out where the song switched from a quick allegretto to a slow lento. At the point where the lento section began, she wrote on the sheet music: “Find notes – slowly.”

When I first started practicing the music at home, I found it awkward to change the tempo in the middle of the song. But I decided to follow Mrs. Runner’s advice, so I played the notes in the new section as if I could barely find them.

In the midst of that exercise, I suddenly thought of a metaphor. To capture the idea of that lento section, I imagined those dervishes dancing in a water ballet, with every twirl performed in slow motion.

That metaphor transformed the song for me into a story with notes instead of words. Suddenly, I felt those dervishes dancing slowly in the water! No longer was I just playing notes from my head – now those notes were also in my heart.

From my piano lessons, I learned that I get the best results by using both the technical details from my head and the emotional content from my heart. I can even let my feelings guide me – if I balance them with my thoughts.

We witness that graceful balance of feeling and thought when we view great works of art…hear performances of talented musicians and actors…tour functional yet beautiful buildings…see engineering marvels like cars, bridges and rockets…hear inspiring speeches…and watch the elegant form of top athletes and professional dancers.

In our everyday lives, we can also let our feelings guide us in dealing with other people and with ourselves….

Excerpt from Chapter 15, It’s Not Personal: Lessons I’ve Learned from Dealing with Difficult Behavior, by Cindy Hampel.

Now available: It’s Not Personal

Posted February 18, 2011 by cindyscoffeehouse
Categories: Book, It's Not Personal, Orange Sun Press


One afternoon, after a particularly trying encounter with someone I cared about, I conducted an Internet search using the words “how to deal with difficult people.”

The search netted some 14,400,000 sites on this topic — so I knew I was far from alone in my perplexity.

That’s why I wrote It’s Not Personal: Lessons I’ve Learned from Dealing with Difficult Behavior. (ISBN: 978-0-9845443-0-1.)  It’s now available both in paperback and on Kindle through  Amazon.com.

The key message of the book is this: The difficult behavior of others is not about you. Once I started using that key, I found I could unlock the lessons I needed to learn from the difficult situations I faced.

It’s Not Personal offers personal stories of how I discovered — often the hard way —  the real lesson I needed to learn from those experiences. The backdrop for those experiences is metropolitan Detroit…but the stories themselves could take place anywhere. Each chapter, short and easy to read, ends with a tag line summarizing the lesson I learned.

My goal was to distill what I learned into practical suggestions and encouraging insights from a layperson’s point of view. I talk about dealing with fear and guilt tactics, using resentment and regret as guideposts, staying poised under pressure, communicating more effectively with others, forgiving others as a way to help yourself, and being happy despite difficult encounters.

Some of those encounters involve a school bully, a cranky neighbor, an arrogant business contact and a needy elderly parent. I found that those difficult encounters taught me life-changing lessons…and on good days, I remember what I learned and follow my own advice!

Journaling about those difficult encounters offered me the catharsis I needed to focus again on my own goals — and one of those goals is to share what I learned with you.

I hope you find It’s Not Personal as helpful to read as I found it helpful to write.

— Cindy Hampel