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“We need the moisture” May 12, 2014

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Good morning. It’s 4:30 CDT as I type, but I’ve been up since this blog’s title because that’s when the storms rolled in. They’ve been forecast for the past five days, and this morning, after a long and busy weekend celebrating a multi-generational Mother’s Day, they finally hit. No complaint. They’re not like the weather to the north and east for sure, and we need the moisture. A Midwestern U.S. saying if ever was one, “We need the moisture.”

So where the heck have I been since Palm Sunday weekend? Busy, people. The older you get, the more you have a life and that means doing the stuff of life. We can’t always sit on our butts being profound and brilliant, you know, even we so-called bloggers. There are yards to be maintained, houses to be kept, cats to be fed and shot up with yearly drugs, garages to be cleaned out, grandchildren to see and goof with. Much of that, and my wife’s been working overtime and will be indefinitely, so I’m picking up a lot of her home chores on top of my own. Not complaining, it’s good for me to do that and as long as it doesn’t kill her we can always use the money. And have. Babyproofing a house so a grandchild can come play and his family not worry is not cheap.

All that and yes, I have been writing. Thank God. I need to. When I don’t, bad things happen upstairs. Nothing too psychologically horrid, mind you, just a sense of the skull not being swept as it should be. I’m on revision two of my rewrite of The Rain Song, or Burke’s Siren. I can tell you right now it will be called neither of those things when I’m done. By the grace of our Lord, it is becoming a very different book, the one I should have written in the first place. For the 20 or so of you who bought the original, I will make it very worth your while to read this one too. For the 6,000,000,0080 of you who did not, I will make it very worth your while to read it the first time. I won’t claim it’s Fitzgerald or Hemingway or even a minor Vonnegut, but it’s going to be good. All I ask is your patience while I get it completely right.

Assuming the good Lord gives me time to do that. Fair warning: you may have noticed I’ve been writing a lot about death lately. Can’t help it. As noted in the last entry after Palm Sunday, people I know have been experiencing a lot of it. It’s normal, it’s natural, and the older you are, the more of it you will see, especially once you crest 50.  My manager at work is the latest on the string. She lost her grandmother a couple weeks ago, a good Catholic woman strong as a bull into her late 80’s, only recently did she need a nursing home. Tempus fugit, memento mori. 

And I may as well come out and say it: I got thrown a scare last week when I found a huge painless bump, ten-cent gumball-sized, on the left side of my chest right above the sternum, where Web MD says one of my lymph nodes should be.

Don’t panic. It’s nothing. At least I’m sure it’s nothing, because–gross part ahead–by the middle of the week I could pop it, and now it’s much, much smaller than it was. Probably just some clogged pores. You can’t pop a tumor like a zit, right? But I’m due a checkup soon, and I will point it out to the doctor just to see what he says.

Still, at my age stuff like that makes you think. Apparently right now I’m supposed to. I keep an adoration hour at St. Paul’s here in Olathe. Some gracious soul left behind in the chapel a copy of On Death and Dying by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross the same weekend my bump was its biggest. I’m not quite eighty pages through it. It’s a book for medical professionals on how they should approach their patients who are terminal or enduring malignancies that may be terminal. It is a deeply sensitive book written by a deeply sensitive soul. It’s also a secular book, not given to flights of metaphysics or spiritual loftiness. I frankly found it odd it would be left in an adoration chapel among books about adoring Christ and the suffering of the saints. But there it was, and no one’s taken it out, and I’m glad it’s there because it’s a strengthening thing. Anyone can read it, it can get a little dense in spots, but it’s not jargony or technical.

I want to finish it before writing much more, if anything, about it, but it’s point seems clear to me: A medical professional must meet death at the same level his or her patient is ready to meet it. This is difficult, for sure; but worthwhile in that it establishes the credibility to face death together and honestly, for the entire family as well as just the doctor and patient.

And it makes the point, several times over, that our culture runs from death when it should not. Death is inevitable. It is good to think about it–how we will deal with it with others, how we will prepare for it when our time comes. Let’s repeat that–it is good to think on death.

It is. My little fraidy-bump forced me to consider, if only theoretically, that maybe fifty years is all I get. What about that? If it’s true, am I okay with it? Can I deal with it? If I knew it was coming, how would I approach it with the others in my life?

I won’t hit you with the heaviness of my own answers to those questions. I would encourage you instead to ask them of yourself and see what your answers are. I will say if I did get, say, a diagnosis of something nasty enough to snuff me out, I would thank the Lord for the chance to get things in order before it did. Not everyone gets that chance.

Every morning is a miracle. Thank God for the moisture of another. We need it.

 

A few thoughts on the Big Inevitability April 12, 2014

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OK. Good news first: my oldest brother Brad and his wife Cindy just found out from eldest daughter Erin and son-in-law Joel that sometime in October, they too will become grandparents. They are thrilled, as they should be and is most appropriate. It means one day, someday, they’ll have a little critter to come visit who may look something like this:

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And who can resist something who looks like that? Not you, certainly not me; that’s my grandson right there and let me tell you he is a blast. I worked with someone who became a grandmother in her mid-30’s, had four of them by the time I worked with her in her early forties, who said there was nothing better on this earth than being a grandparent. She was right. Quite right.

So I’m happy for them, and looking forward to adding “great-uncle” to my multiple hats, and look forward to meeting the star of future Butterfield Fishing Shows. As there is nothing better than being a grandparent, there is nothing more inspiring than seeing the future right before your eyes. It is the reward of age. The good Lord’s way of saying, “You’re not done yet. All those mistakes you made with your own? Here’s another chance. Good luck.”

It’s good to think of birth right now. Lately, I’ve been thinking an awful lot of death. My oldest cousin lost his wife unexpectedly a few weeks back. A high school friend lost his mother unexpectedly just a few days ago. While I’m not worried about either of them because both of them have the most fantastic support network of family and friends people can ask for, I’m still praying for them because both of them are in shock. They don’t have to say it. I know it. Neither of them are that old. My cousin’s wife wasn’t that old. My friend’s mother wasn’t that old. This wasn’t supposed to happen this soon. Yet it did. Tempus fugit, memento mori, but not yet, not now!

No. Sorry. It’s yet. It’s now. There is no way of knowing how much that hurts until you experience it. I’m not about to claim I know how they feel.

But here’s the reality I do have to face: This is going to happen more and more often to people I know, because that is the lesson of age. The great inevitability of life is on our way to death, people we love will die first and the older we get, the more this will happen until it finally happens to us. It’s no one’s fault. It’s not part of a divine plan. It’s just pure cold logic, frankly. Mathematics. The branch of such called probability. The older we get, the more people we know, that simple. The realization doesn’t really hit you until your late 40’s to early 50’s, though, because that’s when it starts happening more often. It’s no longer this rare event that occasionally disrupts your life. There’s a reason your grandparents read the obituaries in the morning paper every day.

So what can you do about it? Not much. Be supportive. Show in some way how much the lost soul was loved and the survivor still is. Give your heart and your shoulder. Pray. Lather, rinse, repeat.

This weekend is Palm Sunday. If you’re Christian, let this weekend and next remind you as well that death isn’t the end and this life is not all that we live for.

And hug those children and grandbabies while you can. 🙂

 

SPEED BLOGGING!! February 15, 2014

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Sorry, I just had an overwhelming need to get your attention… 😉 I’m writing this entry under deadline this morning. The grandson and his parents are on their way up to celebrate Valentine’s Day belated, Dad’s birthday right on schedule, and in Bryce’s case just the pure unbridled joy of life only a fourteen-and-a-half-month-old can experience.

So, before I get too distracted by that, I want to let you know of some new Sheer Arrogance posted on the blog today, called “Something all writers SO need to do.”  In which Your Humble Blogger gives a most valuable writing tip and pays tribute to his first fair crush in honor of Valentine’s Day at the same time. Pretty darn versatile for a old guy, no?  Hey, I even cook up a new word in this one. Enjoy.

Now, back to the grandson report: Young Bryce has been walking for three months now and can go most anywhere he sets his mind to. Grandma has rid the house of ninety percent of cat hair just for him. Once he and his family arrive, we will set out for lunch and partake of some of the finest chain-store buffet Olathe has to offer at Golden Corral.

All I’ve got for now. Maybe a little more to come tomorrow, once my brain recuperates from the gluttony to come.  If you’re looking for something a little more meaty, my entry from last week could stand a few more hits. Until then, be blessed!

Curvier than a Charlotte Street February 8, 2014

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Like that title? I need to sneak it into a book somehow, quick, before one of you sharp-eyed writers reading this who happens to be ethically vague up and steals it. 😉  Has kind of a nice “noir” tinge to it. What he was thinking about his latest ‘client’ just before the blackjack fell on the back of  his head. The fog of love and war.

If you’ve been to Charlotte you get it. Apparently they’re not much for straight lines between points A and B.  One of the reasons my old roommate from college was looking forward to seeing me was to get a recommendation on a GPS. He’s lived there, oh, only about ten years or so. Apparently he’s putting down roots. He’s not alone.  God bless the Onion.

Charlotte is a big town, with a big airport, big enough an airport to make for a very small world. I was going through one of its several efficient security checkpoints on my way back to Kansas City.  The young lady behind me struck up conversation over something my now-50-year-old head can’t remember. I do remember her commenting about not having much time to transfer planes at some far-flung exotic location–I think–and I think I commented about her employer needing to consider an airline with more direct flights.  I know she said that would have been asking too much, being this was not a current employer, but a potential future employer that she didn’t feel right about demanding things such as better flight plans from just yet.

“Who  are you interviewing with?” I asked.

“Butler University in Indianapolis,” she said. “I’m going for a teaching position there.”

“Really!” I said, letting her know a good friend of mine went there in the eighties and that it was a beautiful campus with some very good people and I was sure she’d enjoy it. I then wished her luck because the security line needed to move on. Did I mention Charlotte’s big airport is also Charlotte’s crowded airport? That Monday especially, it was swimming with people–every terminal, all five of them. I know this because I had time to walk them all.  Most crowded airport I’ve seen  in my life. That includes a three-hour layover at Hartsfield Atlanta, folks.

But getting back on subject–yes, this entry has one–I spoke no further with the young lady on her way to my old stomping grounds of Indy, not to be rude, but because the security line needed to move on, and apparently that required her to strip.

I do not mean to imply in any way that she was somehow indecent. Far from it. I’m simply saying that the top she wore under her sweater was not worn in anticipation of having to take off her sweater to go through airport security. As such, it forced me to cage my eyes towards my own materials needing to go through and come out the x-ray machine lest I feel like an old voyeur. Having to remove her heeled shoes in the crowd while wearing a skirt–a modest skirt of reasonable length–was also proving awkward for her.

We live in very sensitive times, folks. I’m no stranger to misunderstood intentions. Once, what I thought was a perfectly innocent comment to a young woman at work made its way to my manager, then to HR.  I meant absolutely no harm. But, to  her, what I said apparently translated into “older guy being very creepy,” and I was told in no uncertain terms to stay away from her. Which, as much as practical, I did. Willingly. Hell, gladly. Who needs someone thinking that about you?  It stung, I’ll admit, but the best learning often does.

So when it came to this young, educated lady, in the name of fighting terrorism in the skies, having to sacrifice her dignity in front of a man maybe twice her age, I did everything I could not to further her embarrassment. Including disappear into the crowd, discretely as possible, once my shoes and jacket were back on.

And I guess, for a moment, I understood why the other young woman from a few years earlier was so creeped out over what I thought was a completely innocent comment. Who knows how many times she’d had to sacrifice her dignity over the years, too? Maybe in front of a creepy old man in a position of authority who just watched the show and smiled–and then said something similar to what I did, maybe thinking it was funny?

Yes–we live in very sensitive times, thanks to some very insensitive behavior. Some claim we’ve become oversensitive.  Often that’s an excellent criticism.  Some stuff that should be out of our collective psyche in no more than five minutes lingers for days any more. Blame whoever you want for it–Twitter, 24-hour news channels, YouTube–but it is silly, and it does expose what a trivial people we can be.

But saying we need as a culture, top down, to respect a woman’s right to dignity and modesty, is not oversensitive. Especially when it comes to something so simple as the act of just getting on a plane to go to a job interview.

________________________

One nice thing about going somewhere else for a few days, it charges the grey cells good. Since getting back I’ve been able to work on my rewrite of  The Rain Song to the point its basic reconstruction is finished.  Now the fun part: Going back through the reconstruction and patching all the holes I’ll find.

It’s been too long since I’ve put anything in the “Sheer Arrogance” section. Should have some goodies for you there soon, based on this experience.

Big round numbers colliding in kismet January 15, 2014

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I hate writing about myself. I envy anyone who can do it and not make himself look like a narcissistic ass. I certainly can’t.

Sometimes one has to recognize milestones reached, however, even at the risk of narcissistic assery; and this is one of those times. Two of them, actually. The first is my fiftieth birthday January 19. The second is my hundredth post on this blog–this one.

Fifty years.  One hundred posts. Big round numbers colliding in kismet.  Not often you see a fiftieth paired with a hundredth. Gotta mean something. So I’m going to go with the “personal enlightenment” angle.

When I was a kid I was one of those little dorks who read everything he could get his grubby hands on–cereal boxes, calendar trivia, newspaper clippings, even his mother’s  Reader’s Digests. One year I stumbled on something called “Ten Things I’ve Learned in a Half Century of Living.” I don’t remember who wrote it, and so far the Power of Google reveals nothing.

Coming up to my half-century-hundred-post kismet, I catch myself thinking that would be a good exercise–to come up with ten things I’ve managed to learn, then impart them to you, so you can read them and think “Holy Mother of Creation, what a narcissistic ass.”

So here are mine, written pretty much on the fly with not a whole lot of thought behind a one. Some of them are my own lame observations, others–in quotes–are ones which I think “yep, they got that right.” They’re in no special order.  The first is from that Reader’s Digest article I mentioned above:

1). “A beautiful woman is one who loves me.”  I love you too, Karen. God bless you. Enough said.

2). To kill a dream stone dead, demand it come true just the way you dream it. I could have been a talk radio host–something I’ve always wanted to do–twice.  The first time, I was offered the opportunity by the author of a self-help book I interviewed on the air a couple of times. He was impressed with my skills and said he “knew some people” in Colorado. I turned him down because at the time I barely had enough money to keep the heat on. The second time was my boss offering me my old job back at a station where I’d worked two years before. He’d heard me doing a part-time gig and called to make the offer. Thinking it was the same station I’d left and remembering why I left it, plus wanting to stay close to a major market, I turned him down. I didn’t realize he’d planned to flip it to talk. Had he said that, I may well have gone back, but he didn’t say, and I didn’t ask, did I? I just assumed the worst and acted accordingly.

Two opportunities that will never come again, opportunities that both came when I was responsible for no one else but me, and I let fear of the unknown steal them from me. That’s not how you win, kids. Carpe diem.  I can’t emphasize enough, if you are young and single, and someone offers you an ethical way to achieve your goal in life, TAKE IT.  No matter what.

3). Every decision you make, forever, hinges on one thing. Do you believe in God, or not? That’s it. That’s the question. How you answer it defines everything you think and everything you do. It is the most important question you will ever ask yourself, and only you can answer it. No one has the right to answer it for you. Ask it yourself, answer it yourself, and not just once; do so constantly, do so seriously. The other decisions you make will become much better if you do.

4). Navel gazing is the biggest waste of your time there is. If you really want to know who you are and why you’re here, make yourself available to other people and learn both fast. Easier for some than others, I know, but even introverted people need to do this. People are what reveal your strengths and weaknesses, your joys and sorrows, your skills and failings. You think you know them already? Then you’re delusional. Get out of your head and into the world.

5) “The years have a way of dulling a man.” That’s my favorite line from The Broken Blade, William Durbin’s story of a boy who comes of age with a group of late 18th-century fur traders canoeing the St. Lawrence River in Canada. Boys’ Life serialized an illustrated version of it around 1999 or so when my son was a Cub. Quite an educational tale in that–spoilers!–the “bully” of the group has good reason for being who he is and the “nice guy” who helps our hero learn the necessities of life on the river winds up killed by the river. But the truth of that one line is what stands out most to me. It helps me cope with what I can’t control.

6) “We must be careful about who we pretend to be.” Kurt Vonnegut, God rest his soul, whether he believed he had one or not.  I’m sorely tempted to just use everything in this list to finish mine. Stop and think how right he is with the one line above alone: How many people in your life, who like you and care about you, think you really are what you say you are? Damn near all of them, right? Because who has time living their own lives to pay so close attention to yours that they know the real you? They’d rather believe the illusion. It’s easier. It’s prettier. It’s safer. So you become who you claim to be–and that’s not always a good thing. Scroll down to #15 here to see what I mean.

7). Now is where we live. No quotes around that one, because that’s how I think of it and like to say it. I’ve blogged about it before so I’m not going to beat it to death: The past is done and said. The future is not guaranteed. Now is the only time we can do anything worth a damn.  So do it now.

8). “Start with the upper left-hand brick.” One of Robert M. Pirsig’s most oft-quoted lines from his classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenancea book I like so much I’ve read it nine times. It’s something he said to a student in a freshman comp class who was having trouble with an assignment.  You’ll find oodles of stuff about what great advice this is for overcoming writer’s block, and it is, but that’s like choosing to chug a can of Coke when there’s a glass of champagne on the table. This is more than advice, this is how to live your life. This is real, substantial philosophy summed up in six words! Think it through, you’ll see it. It’s not hard.

9). “Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.” Edgar Allan Poe, whose birth date I share.  To me, this means if one is to write at all in an age of attention-deficited instant everything, he should pick the clearest and simplest words to convey his meaning–something not so simple as it sounds. It certainly is not how Poe himself approached his writing, but Poe wrote in a very different time for a very different audience. Today, we must keep it simple for our reader because our reader has much more competition for his time and his mind. The trick is to do it without it being so simple that it inflicts blunt force trauma, and Poe remains a valuable teacher of how to avoid such.

On a personal level, Poe’s words remind me that all the eloquence in the world will not hide lack of personal experience.  “I know how you feel” is an insult if you really don’t. Better to just be there and let people feel  however they need to around you. In the long run it is much more rewarding and appreciated.

10). You don’t need this list. Everything on here, you either have already learned, or will already learn, by yourself. All you’ve gotta do is pay attention.

There you have it. My hundredth post, for my fiftieth birthday. Yay me. Here’s a song to celebrate.

Oh, just one more thing:  Dignity in age is a good thing, a blessed thing, a graceful thing, a sign to all that no matter the circumstance all of life is good and to be lived. Not just the first, for that turns the rest into drudgery.  Not just the middle, for that denies one both learning joy and sorrow in youth and appreciating such learning in age. Not just the last, because it may not be long enough to do all we need.  Live all of it, right now. Every moment. All of it.

Now can we please move on? 🙂

 

Now, then! November 29, 2013

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Been a long time since my last post, for good reason–projects! Lots of them!–and it may be a long time ’til my next post for the same reason.  I’ll go into that later, right now just consider it’s good to keep busy with what we do best. If we don’t, the vapid among us happily will let us impoverish ourselves making them very, very rich (I’m talkin’ to YOU, makers of Candy Crack, er, Crush). It may be good thoughtless fun in short spurts, but it is no way to live.

On that note, my grandson has something to say to you:

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He says, “I sincerely hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving, full of family, good food and good cheer. Huzzah.”  Well, he would, if he were older than one.

Hard to believe the little man hits his first anniversary of existence next weekend. Hope Mom and Dad realize that now the fun really begins. This year was just basic programming. In the coming year, the code starts to compile. By the time he’s three his personality will be set and other than good old fashioned discipline there will be nothing on Earth they can do to change it.  Seriously. Scientific fact. Look it up!

So, for those of us whose code has been compiled for decades and have had to deal with both the grace and curse of our hopelessly set personalities, what are we to do? Well, here’s my little suggestion: Join Facebook.

You may have noticed the national media, in its ongoing effort never to see the forest for the trees, has had something to say about Facebook lately: The teenagers and twenty-somethings who built it, are now rejecting it! They deem it unworthy! They are moving on to other social media because they seek to escape their parents, not witness them confront their mortality; and therefore Facebook is doomed, doomed, DOOOOOOOOMED!

Not hardly. In fact, Facebook may have stumbled upon the thing that will ensure its existence forever.  A friend of mine from high school unwittingly tipped me off on it. She posted:

 I have absolutely no memories of some events in my life that should have been memorable. Like both proms, and graduating high school and college. 

I’ll confess here that my first reaction–considering some of my memories with her–was “oh, thank God.” 🙂 (Read nothing evil into that!) Then I got curious and pried a little, and she said:

The crazy thing. . .  is that I remember tons and tons of useless details from my childhood, but not a lot of the major events. I remember Randall the cat’s hiding place in [a neighbor’s] coat closet and what the crabapples tasted like off the tree in their front yard (I still taste crabapples when I run across them, but the [neighbor’s] tree grew the best ever). I remember where I sat in trig and physics and calculus and chemistry in high school. I even remember some particular zits I had over the years for goodness sake! But not one thing about prom or graduation other than what I see in pictures.

National media–if you are paying attention, here you have why Facebook’s audience is getting older, and why that’s a good thing for both its audience and Facebook, and if Facebook gets this and adjusts the service appropriately, it will exist forever.  Why those kids its supposedly losing will come back eventually, too.

It’s this: Memories stick. For better or worse, what we choose to remember, sticks; what we don’t choose to remember, does not.

Facebook performs the valuable public service of unsticking those chosen memories and letting us put them in the proper perspective.

I’m a bit different than my friend in that I remember what feels like a metric ton of the events of my childhood, including the people involved in them and how they treated me, what they were like when I knew them then, and inevitably if I linger on those memories they depress me because either I couldn’t live up to those people or they couldn’t live up to me, and there those memories and impressions would be stuck, forever–if not for Facebook giving me the opportunity to see who they are now, how they are now, and from that perspective where they were coming from then.

I am a “now” person. The past can’t be changed, the future is not guaranteed, the time where we must live is now.  Facebook helps tremendously with doing that.

Two other Facebook friends on my mind, from my high school class, to help make that point clearer: One about to turn 50, who says he dreads old age because nothing good ever comes from it; another already 50 and fighting the struggle of her life.

To the first friend, I would suggest this, something I’ve learned from my parents, in their mid-eighties and while not running marathons, still vital as ever: The one way to fight the aging process is to embrace it.

Start with simple acceptance: We’re finite beings. We enter the world to replace someone leaving it. We leave the world so someone can replace us. This is normal and healthy in all living things. Science and religion often conflict but here they agree, this is nature’s will for us, this is God’s will for us.

A funny thing happens when we accept that and live accordingly. We stress out less. As we stress out less, we get sick less. As we get sick less, we stop doing things to excess to forget for awhile that we’re sick.  We don’t “need” to drink as much, smoke as much, eat as much. Life naturally becomes more moderate, without losing the fun.  Our bodies recuperate easier from whatever sickness comes.  We may or may not live longer–again, the future is not guaranteed–but we live better, less painfully, less strained from existence.

This, I believe, is the philosophy of my second friend, fighting cancer right now. You would not know from her Facebook posts that she is in any pain, because as she fights for her life, she still lives.  She accepts that this is part of it and deals with it accordingly. She cannot lose, no matter the outcome. Her friends, me included, pray the outcome leaves her with us a great while longer; but whether the good Lord wills that for her or not, she will have run the race, fought the good fight.

Life’s great irony: Embrace your struggles, and you will suffer less from them.

______________________

OK, about those projects… My oldest brother sent me home from a trip to see him a few weeks back with some old VHS tapes containing our infamous Butterfield Fishing Shows from the early ’00’s. They’re now on my computer and getting edited down to suitable family viewing for future generations.  An artist friend of mine likes to preview his work on a private YouTube channel, I may look into that and see if once these are done I can share them with the world that way. WordPress has an option allowing direct-to-site video posting, but it’s expensive, at least for lil’ ol’ me.

I’m also working on a complete rewrite of my first self-pub novel, The Rain Song. Once finished, it will be available for free on Kindle under a different title, and the original book will go off the market. Why? Because after looking at the original book, I firmly believe it should never been have been “published.”  I’ll go into that some other time, right now, consider it a collector’s item you can purchase before it’s gone forever–if you can endure its weaknesses, there is a decent story inside of it. The updated Kindle version, I hope, will eliminate the weaknesses and show off its strengths.

Thanks for slogging through all this. 🙂  Blessed Holidays!

 

Moral Conundrum Monday October 7, 2013

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Sounds like a pop hit, doesn’t it?  Moral Conundrum Monday… wish it was Sunday… ’cause that’s a lot easier to explain than all the crap I’ve been dealing with lately in both the physical and spiritual realm that I really don’t want to think about… yay!

I never said I was a songwriter. 😉

Anyway, I got a couple for you, one so minor it’s ridiculous, the other, well, is just ridiculous. Think I’ll start with the easy one: In the name of energy and tax savings, you buy new windows from a big-box store whose name sounds vaguely like Household Depository.

Two years later, you think, “Bleah–what unspeakably filthy dirty windows I have. Behold, here are some paper towels, a ladder, and Windex; I shall clean them.”

So you commence your cleansing, and attempting to remove one of your storm windows, notice it fits the scientific term used by builders and carpenters across the land, “bugger.”

As you wrestle with said bugger, the bugger bends so hideously, one side of it breaks in two.

“Lo, what is this?” you ask yourself, “why has this bugger bent so hideously as to render separate one of its sides, while the other non-bugger came out perfectly and goes back in perfectly?”

So in the interests of science and philosophic enlightenment, you lay the non-bugger on top of the bugger and find the bugger is a good half-inch longer than the non-bugger.

Experiencing revelation, you gasp: “Why of course the bugger bent under the excessiveness of my manly pressure, the bugger was made too darned big!”

So here lies the moral conundrum: Do you, in possession of a grave and catastrophic mistake obviously made at the factory, in the name of the thousands of dollars all these windows cost you, dig through your tax files, find your paperwork from the original order, call the manufacturer because you already know it’s what Household Depository would have you do anyway if you bothered to broach this delicate subject with them, and demand restitution be made for this obviously flawed and careless workmanship revealing at least one of their personnel to be thoughtless trash with no appreciation of quality, craftsmanship, or pride; threatening to call your attorneys unless this is dealt with swiftly and to your preeningly observant satisfaction, without cost to you in any form?

OR, do you take the thing to your local hardware store that still fixes screens and get it made the right size for fourteen bucks?

Bless Westlake Hardware. Bless them. Reasonable, practical alternatives to silliness are so hard to find these days. I may look up the manufacturer of the window and write them about this just for kicks, but… right now (in two weeks, anyway)… I’d rather have a screen window that fits. You know, that Winter thing coming on and all.

Priorities.

Okay, I promised you two moral conundrums, and here we have to get a little serious.

I was home visiting my parents for a couple of days last week. They live on the outskirts of the fine community of Mooresville, Indiana, Home of the Indiana State Flag–which the community is quite proud of–and John Dillinger during his late teens and early twenties, which it is not.

Anyway, while home, I took a walk. I’m guessing it was about five miles or so, up Landersdale Road and then west on Bridge Street into town, crossing Indiana 67 on foot (automatically qualifying me to appear on I Shouldn’t Be Alive), continuing across town using as many old shortcuts from high school days as I could remember until getting to The Village shopping center, then coming back pretty much the same way.

Lots of stuff has changed since I last did that.  Lots of stuff hasn’t.

Including when I got back to Landersdale Road and some high school kid threw something out of his car window at me (and missing) while screaming “FAG.”

“Asshole,” I said outloud, not looking back at him, moving on, thinking “Well, that hasn’t changed…”

As mentioned, I spent a lot of my old high school days walking Mooresville and its outskirts and yeah, sometimes, I’d get stuff thrown at me out of a car while being called a fag or worse.   Not every day, mind you, but enough to make me feel pretty sensitive about it. For the shallow reason that I’m straight–though I was involved pretty heavily in Drama Club, which at MHS got you labeled homosexual by default back in the late 70’s-early 80’s even if you were straight–and the human reason that nobody deserves to be treated like that.

Yet people got treated like that all the time, growin’ up in ol’ Mo-ville back in those days. I was far from the only one it ever happened to.  Not the fault of the town, nor the parents, strictly the lack of character in the individual who would do such a thing.

Apparently some in my home town (and elsewhere), in these allegedly progressive times of the 21st Century, still lack enough character to treat other people like that.

Including people who aren’t teenagers, and haven’t been for some time, and have raised teenagers of their own, now responsible adults in no small part because their caring, loving parents would not tolerate such assholish behavior from them for a second.

So there’s your second Monday Moral Conundrum, folks–especially if you’re my age, pushing 50; do you just blow this kind of stuff off, figuring the world has always been thus, accept it? Or do you say, no? Not acceptable?

What do you tolerate? What do you think?

Things that stick July 15, 2013

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Weekends, as much as the weather will let me do so, I walk to church.  It’s a six-mile round trip so there’s plenty of time to think, pray, meditate, or whatever my mind will let me do.  It’s one of those rare things that’s good for both body and soul.  It’s not entirely spiritual.  I get ideas for writing sometimes. Sometimes I plan the week ahead.  And, being human, sometimes I complain. Sometimes I get into a real nice bitch session with God. That’s increasingly rare, thank God.  The older I get, the fewer complaints I have to the Supreme Being of the Universe. The more I realize He runs the Show and I don’t, the better off I am. But occasionally I slip.

Occasionally I get revelations, too. Nothing deep, just strange things like states of mind.  This one takes some explaining.  Be warned, I’m not entirely sure it’ll make sense.

Twenty-two years and a couple months ago, I caught up with my first crush after not having seen her for something like 14 years.  I’m 49, do the math.  You don’t need to know that story, some of it embarrasses me to this day.  But one thing I made sure to tell her just before our meeting ended was, in my mind, in my thoughts, in decisions made how to live my life, she was someone who “stuck.”

Life is full of things and people like that, who “stick.”  Fulcrum points of who you were and who you’re becoming, malleable yet indestructible, fleeting yet essential. You cannot be who you are without them.

They  form any time in your life, from very early on when you don’t realize they’re happening, to much later on when you’re fully aware they are, either way setting the whole thing’s course. They’re usually not all that dramatic, but when they are, they’re whoppers. They’re simple.  They’re tactile and sensual.

Lately some relatives have been going through difficult times.  Job loss. Youthful mistakes.  And a murder.

For obvious reasons, I will not write about any of that in detail. I think I can tell you decently enough that it weighs heavily on all our minds.

The branch of my family dealing with the murder is strong and always have been.  They will learn how to adjust to what a cousin of mine calls this ‘strange new reality.’  But they will come out of it very different people, too, and I would not blame nor judge them for having a great many bitch sessions with God right now.  This is a major fulcrum point for them all.  This will stick.

Guess my point in all of this is, if you want to know how to take assessment of your life, start with the things that stick.  Be grateful for the joy of the good ones. Be mindful for the lessons of the bad ones.  And however you can, try to be in someone else’s life a good thing that sticks, so the bad things that stick don’t stick quite so hard.

Clumsy writing, I’ll admit, but a decent sentiment.  Next time I’ll try to be better at both.

When you’ve got nothin’, reminisce (and shamelessly self-promote) June 8, 2013

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Summer’s coming on.  I’ve been feeling it all week, in my sinuses sucking me dry–one part of the aging process I’d happily do without–and finally the forecast is backing me up.  Eastern Kansas weather has one constant.  No matter how cool June is, by July 4 it’ll be humid and 95-100 degrees.  Goodbye monsoon, hello drought!  Builds stamina.  Builds character.  Links you with the Great American Pioneers, in a wimpy 21st Century Schizoid Man way.  (For bonus points, name the band I just tipped my hat to.)

Because my sinuses have been sucking me dry, my brain has gone into survival mode.  Abstract thought is on the backburner.  I’ve forced it to consider just enough for something new on the Sheer Arrogance page–if you’d like to check it out, click the tab at top and check out “A letter from my grandfather” in the submenu on the left (or just click the title, it’s linked). I don’t promise it’s any good; things written in survival mode tend to be simplistic and hackneyed.  But as the entry points out, that’s not always a bad thing.

Here’s the good news of the week: The people at Amazon this week, bless them, decided to help me towards getting my first royalty check by putting the paperback of my latest book Blessed Are the Peace Frogs on sale.  Ten bucks and change, limited time.  Please buy a copy.  It won’t burn your eyes out, I promise.  Worth every penny!

Now the main character in Blessed Are the Peace Frogs is a radio guy, though I assure you the book is about much more than that and his experiences–most of them, anyway–are not my own.  The ones that are my own, I ain’t tellin’. :p  But while daydreaming of thousands of sales and not having to work an eight-to-five job anymore I started to wonder, what happened to all the places I used to work?  All those little towns, all those character-filled mom-and-pop outfits, all those big chains swallowed up by even bigger ones; wassup with them now?

So I summoned The Power of Google, and behold, here’s what I learned about them all, with a little background so you’ll get why I even care:

WILO/WSHW, Frankfort, Indiana, first job in radio as automation babysitter, go-fer, and dude-of-all-work; 1985-1986.   Still exists.  Same family ownership.  In fact, the owner–a fascinating character to work for, and that is all I will say about him–recently was honored on his 90th birthday for his worldwide exploits as a broadcaster.   He gave me the best advice of anyone I ever worked for in that silly business:  It takes at least ten years working in radio to understand how it is done.  Yep. And, had he been a less charitable man, he’d have added “and you will make an ass out of yourself countless times before then.”

WQRA, Warrenton, Virginia, morning drive deejay and later afternoon drive deejay, 1987-1989.  Gone as I knew it:  a fairly-new small-town, small-watt, live-and-local station getting its start in an era where such things had long started to die.  True story: Someone with lots of gumption but no practical experience came to us to interview for a job–on the advice of a competitor in nearby Manassas.  “Go to WQRA,” their program director told him, “they hire a lot of people like you.”  In other words, a rare and fantastic opportunity to hone one’s craft for someone mature and dedicated enough to realize it, because you can get away with a lot of mistakes otherwise not tolerated by “real” radio stations.   As I did, multiple times over.  I also made some of the best friends and friendships of my life there.  These days they’re a repeater frequency for a Christian station licensed out of Culpeper.

KIUL/KWKR, Garden City, Kansas, morning drive deejay on KIUL and later alleged program director, 1989-1991.  Under different ownership, new format.  What a fantastic town with great people GCK is!  Part of me wishes I’d stuck around.  I like to think of this as my “grow-up-fast” gig.  KIUL was a far more professional outfit than WQRA, owned at the time by the same group that owned the local newspaper and in existence since the 1920’s.   It was also my first genuinely live board–some satellite feeds but otherwise no automation at all.  I have never had a more difficult, more soul-searching, more “am I really cut out for this?” mental crisis than my first two months at that radio station.  It didn’t help that the guy I replaced was known for a wild-assed no-holds-barred morning show that was insanely popular, and when I tried to do the same… dear Lord.  Fortunately I had enough on the ball to realize it wasn’t working, adapted the show to my own personality, and ultimately got all that audience I drove away back and then some, but oh ye gods, what a “learning experience.”   Still, by the end of my time there I had a genuinely decent, popular show and the most respect from my audience of anywhere I ever worked, and had the station not gone to a mostly satellite-delivered, career-killing “Music of Your Life” format  I might well still be there–though I doubt it.  Last I checked, KIUL is now owned by a company I would have refused to work for.  I don’t know who has the KWKR frequency these days.

KVOE/KFFX, Emporia, Kansas, 1991-1992, briefly morning then midday deejay on KVOE and midday deejay on KFFX.   Every radio deejay has at least one “and then I #@#$#@ up and went here” station on his resume.  This is mine.  The less I say about my time there, the better.  That’s no knock on the station itself, or Emporia; it was just a bad career move for me.  Though it did get me close enough to Kansas City to get to work at the next stations on this list.  KVOE still exists, KFFX has changed calls; apparently both are under the same ownership as when I was there, along with other local stations that were not at the time.

KCFX, Kansas City, Missouri, 1992-1995; KCIY, Kansas City, Missouri, 1995-1998.  I tell you a little about these gigs on my SAQ page.  These are my major market creds, people.  I was a weekend wonder on “The Fox” and the overnight guy on “The City” for about two and a half years each.  The former still exists, though under different ownership.  The latter went off standard over-the-air radio in 2002, though I understand there’s a variation of it now on an HD radio frequency.  It was my last radio gig ever.  I was replaced by a guy who came in on weekends and recorded voicetracks for the computer system to play–much more economical than paying someone barely over minimum wage plus health insurance.  So be it.

Do I miss it?  Yes and no.  I miss the actual thing of getting on the air and, as much as is allowed, being myself.  I’d have loved to get a shot at doing a talk show at least once.  That’s my sole regret.  I made some good friends and miss many of them to this day.  I don’t miss the politics.  I don’t miss the occasional backstabbers and egomaniacs, which not everyone in radio is–but there are enough of them that they get an awful lot of attention, and some of them are popular and successful, but karma will get them in the end, it always does.

And life goes on.  Cheers!

Ten pounds of potatoes in a five-pound sack May 27, 2013

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I didn’t expect to be writing today.  I expected to be staining and waterproofing my backyard deck.  I didn’t do it Saturday or Sunday because both of those days I expected it to rain.  It did not rain.  So I decided to do it today, and now, it’s raining.

This is why I don’t gamble much.

Anyway, because I didn’t expect to be writing today, this entry’s going to be all over the place.  I make no apologies for it.  We’re human, we’re all “all over the place.”  The illusion of writing is it makes us look so consistent and predictable.  If you’re a journalist you know exactly what I’m talking about; if you don’t, you need to pay more attention to your craft.

When my job involved customer service coaching it was an endless battle trying to convince our people, mostly young kids on their first or second real jobs, that the people they were talking to were not just “the customer,” that there was–is–no such thing as “the” customer, every customer is different and unique and the more one openly recognizes this in a customer, the better service one is perceived as giving.  A fancy way of saying “Don’t treat everyone exactly the same, no one is exactly the same as another.”  It’s the difference between mediocrity and excellence.  But excellence is so much work and the pay’s the same for being mediocre and I’m not gonna do this forever, so why should I pay any attention to you, homer?  Frustrating stuff.  Dulls the soul.

I’m not here to dull your soul.  Here, let me prove it:

While you groove on the above ancient white-boy funk, consider this:  My wife’s supervisor sent her an email with the subject line “sync up.”

It was a meeting request.  He wanted to schedule regular meetings with her to discuss projects and track progress.

She, my age, had no clue that’s what he meant and almost trashed the email.  Almost.  As is, she had to Google “sync up” to see what the hell he was talking about.

Once she realized what the hell he was talking about, she seriously considered sending him a one-word response:  “Groovy!”

I thought “Far out!” might work better.  She disagreed.  No crisis.

Now, we’re not 60’s children by any stretch; we were barely out of diapers by 1970.  But I still got why she wanted to use “groovy:” to blow her boss’s mind as much he blew hers.  See, he’s in his early 30’s, and not exactly the type to pay attention to cultural benchmarks.  He’d had have no clue what she meant by “groovy” every bit as much as she had no clue what he meant by “sync up.”

Which leads the wondrously wired mess that is my brain to consider this:  Look through the help links at job search places like monster.com sometime.  You may not even have to do that, Comcast/Xfinity links to a lot of these if they’re your service provider.  What you will find, if you look hard enough, are a ton of advice articles for older people in the workforce, and the overwhelming central advice they give–not in these words, but in this thought, certainly–is don’t allow yourself to be perceived as “old.”   Don’t let your skill set grow stagnant (always good advice).  Don’t let your cultural knowledge do the same.  And above all, don’t let yourself grow “dated” by the language that you use.  Learn the slang.  Embrace the argot.  Know the jargon of the youth who may very well control your destiny down the road.

Funny how I instinctively rebel against that last.  For one, I’m not much on slang, though I make an exception for “no worries”–it’s useful.  I prefer when working to speak simple, straightforward English.  It makes me look more knowledgeable and less a fool, and most importantly, most of the time it doesn’t confuse people.  Slang, jargon, argot, all of that is like putting ten pounds of potatoes in a five-pound sack.  It’s too much for the sack.

And then there’s this:  The older I get, the more I realize that what young people want out of old people is not to accept that they are young, but to give them hope about growing old.  Because it’s inevitable.  Our example should be to show something to look forward to, not something to hide from in dread.

They–you?–don’t want us to be hip (does anyone use that word any more?), they–you–want us to be real.

And with that, I’ll get real with the renovation I promised on this blog.  Not like I have anything else to do.  It’s raining.