The Rumors of My Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated…

It’s been a while, I know. Almost a year since I last posted something on this blog that’s been abandoned.

But some things have happened in the meantime…bought and moved into a new house, spent too much on new furniture, saw the new Star Wars movie three times, built a pretty sweet vinyl record collection – that’s a blog for another time, promise! – and turned 44 years old.

Oh, and my cat died. I miss him terribly.

Oh, and Donald Trump happened. Fuck that guy.

I would love to regale you with swashbuckling tales of literary madness, that I wrote a novel-length manuscript, got an agent, sold said manuscript to a publisher, and did a book reading tour in support of the book.

No, no, nope, and no. None of that happened. In fact, I stopped writing altogether.

I had some harsh conversations with myself about my writing. In short, I came to the realization that I don’t have the discipline (read: attention span) to write a full-length novel. Or a novella, for that matter. My writing comes in bursts, short threads that I can work with within a smaller confine, but this writing approach doesn’t work well when you’re trying to write 50,000 or more pages, then edit the fucking brute.

I would have seemed hypocritical from me to continue posting stuff on my blog about the “writing process” when I was failing miserably at it. About what little progress I was making. About how frustrating I found writing becoming.

So I gave up. No, not writing; posting on my blog.

What I did learn, much to my eternal surprise, is that I have a knack for poetry. Yup, poetry.

Why is this surprising? Because I used to hate poetry. HATE poety. HATED HATED HATED it. Honestly, it was personal biases that got in my way. Poetry always seemed soft and quaint, in the words of John Keating, something “to woo women with.” It wasn’t until I started reading what you can call “outlaw” poetry, i.e., the Beat Poets, Richard Brautigan, Sapphire, and, of course, Charles Bukowski, that I saw writing in riddles and codes, dancing with metaphors and similes, that’s when I was able to unlock why poetry matters.

I did find a community of poets and writers on Instagram, of all places, that willingly and openly shared their work. Since I was there already, I figured I would jump into the pool. My first attempts were tentative, small attempts at mimicking what I knew. The more work I read on IG, the more I felt confident about posting my own words. In the year or so that I began posting my poetry and micro-poetry on IG (more than 700 posts!), I’ve garnered a pretty sizable following, and have made strong connections with the poetry community on IG.

Time, then, to also start showcasing my poetry here.

Capture

I have no bold plans for this blog, nor do I have bold plans for my writing. I’m still writing poetry, which I will be posting here frequently (and thank you in advance for reading it; critiques are welcome, unabashed fandom is greatly recommended), and I’ll update my site on random thoughts and observations that come to mind. Just not politics, though; my political ranting days are over, and, besides, with the public cannibalism that goes for presidential campaigning these days, my teeth-gnashed rants are not the sort of thing I want to contribute. I’ll wear my politics on my sleeve and go about my business.

(Team Bernie, in case you’re wondering…)

I can’t promise exciting things, other than I’m helping out on an anthology that will hopefully see the light of day this spring, and putting together a collection I will self-publish before the year is through.

And fuck Donald Trump.

Thanks for reading. Talk soon.

.

It’s Gotta Be the Steroids

An admission: I am all hopped up on steroids recently. No, not the performance-enhancing kind, unless there are some writing-enhancing steroids, which in that case I’ll cross the border in Mexico and bring back suitcases full of that shit. Yes, I’m on Prednisone. I had oral surgery last week; I really won’t go into gory details, except Prednisone and some low-grade painkillers and Amoxicillin were involved post-surgery. At any rate, I really hate that I’m on this crap right now.

My wife warned me that Prednisone would make me irritable. Oh, joy! As if I’m not already on the fucking knife edge of irritability! Now I’m on doses that will not only take me over the irritability edge, I’ll likely set up permanent camp there. Hoo-fucking-ray! For example, my job has me overworked and hyperfunctioning. And every time I get another e-mail about some request that I’m supposed to complete RIGHT NOW, I just want to pull this on my laptop:

What would Don Draper do? Throw a hissy fit on a typewriter, that’s what.

But I can’t. I’m a professional. So instead I simply gnash my teeth and unfurl the worst kinds of obscenities possible. Good thing I work from home, where this kind of behavior is acceptable.

All kidding aside, that’s not the worst part of being on Prednisone. The worst part is the ravenous appetite. As in, I’m constantly hungry. All I want to do is eat like The Rock on one of his cheat days. Just last night, my wife and I ordered pizza from Papa John’s, which we never do, but since our daughter’s away at the grandparents, we figure, hey, let’s party!

Well, Jabba the Hutt here just about ate all but two slices of an extra-large pie. And then I was hungry a couple of hours later.

It’s not just hunger. It’s a craving for sweets. I stopped to buy cupcakes for my daughter’s party, and said to myself, “What the hell, I’ll treat myself to one.” No, not one. Two. Two big fat cupcakes. All this while being able to chew only from one side of my mouth.

I took my last dose this morning. But it stays in your system for about a month after the last dose. Great. Just my luck. By this time next month, I’ll be 30 pounds heavier, a diabetic, and prone to fits of HULK SMASH! moments.

At least all of that would make for a charming anecdote in my memoir.

Wait, I’m writing a memoir?

The Best-Laid Plans (Often Fall By the Shitter)

Several months ago, in the spirit of the New Year, I decided to set some personal goals for myself for this year. I wrote a lengthy blog post about setting realistic goals and finding ways to make myself more accountable for the things I want for myself.

I set for myself the following primary goals:

  • Continue with my diet and exercise regimen
  • Spend every available moment with Jaime and Sophia and make that time count.
  • Meet with my therapist once a week
  • Read one book per week
  • Write 8-10 hours/1,000-2,000 words per week
  • Post 3 blogs per week.

These primary goals have since gone by the wayside, ever since life got in the fucking way.

With May coming to a close, I thought I’d publicly humiliate myself take a look at the goals I’d set for myself and see how far I’ve gotten in achieving these goals. Drumroll, please.

  • Diet and Exercise: I was the Paleo diet kick, eat the way our cavemen forefathers eat. Lots of protein, zero processed foods. It was a bit of a bitch at first, as the sugar withdrawals were unbearable, but I grew to really enjoy Paleo-centric eating. I was also running again, and because Paleo was helping me feel lighter, I was able to run longer distances and not feel as worn out. But since my job’s become something of a 60-hour-a-week job, and with all the stress about possible relocations and a new home purchase and the uneasy feeling that we may be able to afford the new home after all, the diet and exercise has given way to apathy and emotional eating. I know I shouldn’t beat myself up about this, but I really feel like a shit. Oddly enough, I haven’t put on weight. Go. Fucking. Figure.
  • Time with my wife and daughter: No problems there. If anything, living in an apartment over the past eight months has meant we’re spending every available moment together, whether we like it or not. All kidding aside, I can’t complain. I want to spend more time with Jaime, and more time with Sophia. This is a complete win for me.
  • Meet with my therapist once a week: AND THANK THE GODS FOR THIS, BECAUSE IF I DIDN’T HAVE SOMEONE FOR WHOM MEDICAL INSURANCE DIDN’T PAY FOR ME TO BITCH TO ONCE A WEEK, I MIGHT JUST DO SOMETHING REALLY FUCKING STUPID. LIKE WRITE AN ENTIRE BLOG POST IN ALLCAPS.
  • Read one book per week: I’ve read fourteen books so far. For some of you voracious readers who read a book a day, you’re probably reading this and thinking to yourselves, “Geez, what a slacker.” Whatever. You have time. I clearly don’t. But I’m making more time for reading. I just started reading The Goldfinch. It’s over 800 pages. Light summer reading to enjoy while lounging by the pool, right? At any rate, one book per week roughly averages to about 50 books per year. I may need to read some James Patterson novels to help me pick up the slack, but then I would feel like a whore while knowing subjecting myself to the literary equivalent of a drunken bachelor party.
  • Write 8-10 hours/1,000-2,000 words per week: Ugh. My writing schedule’s been so ridiculously inconsistent, writing only in fits and uninspired spurts. I did manage to crank out seven short stories over the past few months, but my WIP is simply sitting there, waiting patiently for me to pick it up again. I’m almost afraid to , as if I don’t know how to even write it, or even a sentence, anymore. Think I’m joking? I just bought this course as a refresher. Hey, I’m not ashamed to admit I might need to re-learn how to write a sentence.
  • Blog 3x per week: See above. For a while, this blog was pretty dormant, but I’ve fired it up again, and as many of you may have noticed, it’s gotten a makeover. I realized what better tool for me to bounce off my frustrations than my blog? Why just limit my blogging to musing about the writing process, now that my writing has slowed to a crawl, and whatever I have to declare about writing is just bullshit, anyway?

I did promise that I would not beat myself up for not reaching these goals…OWWW!

I won’t beat myself up.

I won’t beat myself up.

I won’t beat myself up.

On the personal front, I want three things to happen:

  • I need to hit the pavement, and start running again. Even if it’s just fifteen minutes of me sucking wind. I need to shake off the cobwebs and send a shockwave through my system and jumpstart my drives again.
  • Give my WIP the attention she deserves. She shouldn’t be treated like a neglected housewife. This means I need to have at least a draft done by the fall, and revisions by Christmas.
  • Keep blogging 3x per week. Even if it’s just me babbling excitedly about the new Led Zeppelin reissues. In vinyl, no less. Hmm…maybe now I’ll finally buy me that turntable I’ve been dreaming of…

I won’t beat myself up.

Christians Behaving Badly, Or: There’s One in Every Family

Every family has one, that crazy relative that’s chock-full of badly-formed opinions and wants to get in your face about them. Maybe it’s your slightly senile grandmother. Maybe it’s that off-the-grid uncle no one likes to talk about. Hell, maybe it’s you. In my side of my family, it was my mother, and her sister. Clearly, there was a loony gene there, which, hooray for me, was passed down to me. My mother was prone to fits of violent outbursts and emotional abuse. My aunt was irrationally impulsive, at times bordering on the comically homicidal. I say comically because not a day went by where she didn’t threaten to either kill someone or herself. She’s done neither so far, but that doesn’t mean she still isn’t capable.

On my wife’s side, there’s her aunt. Let’s call her S. Crazy Aunt S. I’m not saying this lightly: she’s a psychiatrist’s wet dream, the very reason why the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders even exists.

Add to her mental instability is her religious fervor. She’s a born-again Christian. You know the type, the one who wants to tell everyone within earshot how much she’s been filled with God’s love, all the while conveniently ignoring the fact that she’s an insufferable asshole with the maturity of an 11-year-old boy who’s just discovered his daddy’s stash of nudie magazines. Oh, and a chronic liar, to boot.

Yes, liar. I’ll get to that in a bit.

For someone who talks a lot about loving everyone, her hatred for gays rears it’s ugly head frequently. Case in point: at a monthly dinner with her high school graduation class, one of her former classmates spoke to the group about his decision to come out of the closet many years ago. It was a difficult decision for him to make, being he came from a family of Southern Baptists, but a decision his family came to accept.

S wasn’t having any of this gay shit. She stopped at nothing to humiliate him in front of the entire group. “God won’t accept faggots into Heaven. You better repent or you’ll go to Hell when you die.” When S was told to keep her opinions to herself, she declared, “I am a good Christian and I am straight and I am going to Heaven!” And if her point wasn’t made enough, she continue to spew her venomous rhetoric on the HS reunion group’s Facebook page. She’s since been booted, but S declared its because she’s taken a principled stand against liberal permissiveness.

It’s one thing to spew hateful rhetoric towards others based upon their race, gender, religious or sexual preference. It’s another to hide behind the laughable yet offensive hypocrisy of “being a good Christian” to justify your rancor. Because S is anything but a good Christian. A Christian Behaving Badly, really.

Let’s use the holiest of Judeo-Christian principles, the Ten Commandments, to determine how good a Christian S is:

THOU SHALT NOT STEAL: Over the years, S has made it her personal mission to defraud as many government agencies as possible. Social Security, Medicaid, the Department of Social Services, Food Stamps. She claims poverty when she has assets, liquid assets at her disposal.

THOU SHALT NOT COVET: Being that this is the commandment that everyone’s guilty of not paying heed to – George Carlin’s legendary riff on the Ten Commandments basically called this commandment “bullshit,” as coveting fuels the economy – I won’t give S too much shit, but she’s a greedy fucker. Any way she can get get get without giving anything in return is a win-win for her.

THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT ADULTERY: She cheated on her husband. She cheated on the man she lived with (in sin!)…with his brother, no less.

THOU SHALL HONOR THY MOTHER AND THY FATHER: Let’s see…S robbed her parents of money and medication, used their social security numbers to open department store credit (which she never bothered to pay), and as they grow older and sicker, mishandled or outright denied them of basic medical needs.

A good Christian? No. A fucking hypocrite, plain and simple. She’s quick to judge a gay man living comfortably under his own skin, which begs the question: why, as a so-called “good Christian,” are you so fucking worked up over homosexuality in the first place? After all, if there is a God, isn’t it God’s work to judge who’s going to Heaven and who’s burning in Hell? If so, then let God judge.

If you ask anyone, they’ll tell you I’m the least judgmental person they’ll know. I simply do not and will not judge others. But I will call people out on their bullshit. Especially bullshit wrapped up in “good Christian” hypocrisy. And S is all full of “good Christian” hypocrisy.

Doesn’t read to me like the makings of a good Christian, does it? But in her mind, she is one, because a) she attends church every Sunday, so she’s good with God on the attendance thing, b) she hates faggots, like all good Christians do, and c) she votes Republican. The last point is an irony completely lost on her, as she’s exactly the kind of votes the GOP pays lip service to yet actively despises. If a complete Republican-run executive and legislative branch of our Federal government had its way, all those social programs Crazy Aunt S uses like her government-sponsored ATM would go the way of the dodo. A good thing, maybe, because then that might force her to, you know, stop being such a lazy cunt. Then again, it’s her fraud that’s the reason why Medicaid and SSI and Food Stamps are always on the GOP’s crosshairs, and someday when these programs do run out, the people that do actually depend on these social safety nets, honest, hard-working folks who want nothing more than to not have to depend on a government handout, can thank S for ripping them off like this. Let me know if you want her address and phone number.

I get that S isn’t indicative of any kind of behavior set of Christians everywhere, but having lived in the South (the Bible Belt of America) for nearly 15 years now, I’ve noticed two things: one, people here sure love God and Jesus, and, two, there’s a lot of people that say and do things that go against of a Christian life that Jesus preached in his lifetime. And one of those things is to not be judgmental.

Funny enough, some Christians want to be judgmental because they themselves want to be judged. It’s as if they can’t wait for their day of judgment, so they begin to judge one another, so as if to keep tabs as to who’s going to walk in the Kingdom of Heaven for all eternity.

Well fuck me! Because if the Kingdom of Heaven is filled with the likes of S, and Hell is populated with gays and lesbians and every other sinner, I’ll roast in damnation with the sinners. At least the music will be awesome.

“The Shoelace,” by Charles Bukowski: A Mantra to Keep You From Going Insane

I have to remind myself daily that no matter what’s thrown at me in an attempt to piss me off, it’s not going to send me off the deep end. This is why I’ve read “The Shoelace,” a poem by the great Charles Bukowski, a lot lately. Read it, and you’ll see why it’s become my mantra, my koan, my litany against me losing my fucking mind on the stresses of life.

a woman, a
tire that’s flat, a
disease, a
desire: fears in front of you,
fears that hold so still
you can study them
like pieces on a
chessboard…
it’s not the large things that
send a man to the
madhouse. death he’s ready for, or
murder, incest, robbery, fire, flood…
no, it’s the continuing series of small tragedies
that send a man to the
madhouse…
not the death of his love
but a shoelace that snaps
with no time left …
The dread of life
is that swarm of trivialities
that can kill quicker than cancer
and which are always there –
licence plates or taxes
or expired driver’s license,
or hiring or firing,
doing it or having it done to you, or
roaches or flies or a
broken hook on a
screen, or out of gas
or too much gas,
the sink’s stopped-up, the landlord’s drunk,
the president doesn’t care and the governor’s
crazy.
lightswitch broken, mattress like a
porcupine;
$105 for a tune-up, carburetor and fuel pump at
sears roebuck;
and the phone bill’s up and the, market’s
down
and the toilet chain is
broken,
and the light has burned out –
the hall light, the front light, the back light,
the inner light; it’s
darker than hell
and twice as
expensive.
then there’s always crabs and ingrown toenails
and people who insist they’re
your friends;
there’s always that and worse;
leaky faucet, christ and christmas;
blue salami, 9 day rains,
50 cent avocados
and purple
liverwurst.

or making it
as a waitress at norm’s on the split shift,
or as an emptier of
bedpans,
or as a carwash or a busboy
or a stealer of old lady’s purses
leaving them screaming on the sidewalks
with broken arms at the age of 80.

suddenly
2 red lights in your rear view mirror
and blood in your
underwear;
toothache, and $979 for a bridge
$300 for a gold
tooth,
and china and russia and america, and
long hair and short hair and no
hair, and beards and no
faces, and plenty of zigzag but no
pot, except maybe one to piss in
and the other one around your
gut.

with each broken shoelace
out of one hundred broken shoelaces,
one man, one woman, one
thing
enters a
madhouse.

so be careful
when you
bend over.

Yes, things have been rough recently, and my levels of frustration have reached astronomical levels. But in the grand scheme of it all, everything that’s conspiring against me and my family – our careers, this very possible relocation, my daughter’s illness (which I haven’t really discussed, but I will in a future blog) – is just a collection of broken shoelaces, or, as my wife puts it, “death by a thousand paper cuts.” If we let those broken shoelaces impact us, then we’re heading straight to the loony bin.

And we can’t have that.

PS – I’m fine, actually. This isn’t some veiled request for help or anything like that. It’s just that when there’s a lot of balls that need to be juggled all at once, you need to look to something to help you sort things out. I started this blog nearly 2 years ago as a therapeutic outlet, and it’s a good time right now for sorting things out as I’m getting my writing back on track. Thanks for reading!

Time to Regroup, Or: Taking Matters Back Into Our Own Hands

My life has been in complete flux over the past couple of months. And when I say “flux,” try to imagine being tossed into a clothes dryer on the highest cycle, and then just as the cycle slows down and you think you’re about to be pulled out of the dryer, you get tossed back into the dryer. And it’s not like someone’s thrown a dryer sheet to keep you smelling fresh or keeping the static cling away, nothing like that, no sir.

Life was humming along nicely for my wife and I. Our jobs were treating us well – to be honest, mine better than hers, but we’ll get to that in a bit. The house we’re building was beginning to progress at the pace we wanted. I was writing daily, and with purpose, vigor, even. We were even seeing some very positive results from the Paleo diet we’d committed ourselves to. Funny how we felt so much better now that we managed to eliminate wheat from our diets entirely.

Then my wife’s employer, whom let’s say is a Fortune 100, no, a Fortune 10 company, decides to throw a monkey wrench at her. A giant, greasy monkey because they can. They love throwing monkey wrenches, in a we’re-gonna-challenge-you-because-we’re-assholes kind of way. The Human Resources organization she’s aligned with – she’s an HR Manager supporting nearly 1,000 employees in 49 states and 8 countries – is undergoing a restructuring, which means two things: one, my wife will be transitioning from her current assignment to a new assignment, and, two, her assignment will be in Cincinnati.

Neither of us want to relocate to Cincinnati.

That’s not the problem. The problem is we don’t know when the re-assignment will take place. That won’t be announced until before Memorial Day. Right around when we’re looking to close on the house we’re building. The re-assignment could take place this July. Or next July.

A few things could have happened here. My wife and I could have fought over this. Or we could have resigned ourselves to relocating to somewhere we have no desire of moving, even if that means a promotion. Or we could have taken matters into our own hands, and took back the decision-making regarding our professional and personal future.

We opted for the latter.

We’re moving forward with the home purchase. If all goes according to plan, we take ownership of our new home the first week of June. But if her employer comes back to her and tells her she’s being re-assigned come July, then they need to relocate us to Cincinnati, and assist in putting our home on our market and provide assistance for us to purchase in new home in a new city.

But we’re working on a contigency plan. Both of us feel as if the decision regarding our future has been taken off our hands, so we’re retaking this. Both my wife and I are looking for new jobs – she a new role, me a full-time role, since I’m a contract employee. I’m having some success with interviews here locally, with some employers interested, and a few interviews having taken place. But if we’re going to have to relocate, we’d rather relocate to somewhere we want to relocate. My wife has attracted interest with several employers outside of our current home location, and she’s slated to interview for an HR Manager role in a few weeks. It remains to be seen whether they’re interested in hiring her.

Look, nothing against Cincinnati, but both of us have been there, and it’s not a place we’ve ranked high on our list of places we’d want to live in. But if we have to relocate, we have to relocate there. So be it. The thing that’s made everything so in flux lately is how we’ve felt as if our fates are being decided by others, and not ourselves. That just doesn’t seem right. So we’re taking matters into our own hands.

Add to this the massive workload I’ve taken on with my current job. I’ve been working nearly 60-hour weeks for nearly 3 straight months. I’m grateful for the work, and very happy that I’ve been recognized by peers and management for my accomplishments well above and beyond my scope of requirements. But when all is said and done, I’m still a contract employee, and my contract ends in June, with a likely extension until September, and then I’m shown the door, because I will have completed an 18-month tenure.

If there is a plus, it’s that my wife and I have taken this challenge on with great clarity and maturity. If this would have happened in the past, we would have fought bitterly, and perhaps this would have ended our marriage. But we’ve grown stronger together these past few years, so much so that we’re now faced with a decision regarding our future that greatly impacts us for a long time, and we’re able to look at all our options clearly and calmly, and talk things through. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me.

Because of this craziness that’s taken place, both personally and professional, a lot of the things I’ve wanted to accomplish have taken a massive back burner. My writing has been completely non-existent. My blog has taken a hiatus. I’ve been so stressed that I’ve taken to emotional eating – I forgot how much I’ve love chocolate…ugh. I was running twice a week; my feet haven’t hit pavement in nearly 2 1/2 months.

Work has slowed down; I’m back to normal 40-hour weeks. My wife and I are pretty clear about what we want to do. So I’m going to regroup and start inching back to the things I enjoy doing again. I started writing again this past week; I wrote a pretty crap short story, but it’s a start. And then there’s this blog you’re reading. I’m returning to a normal blog schedule again. And, yes, I’m going to start running once more. I’m tired of feeling, well, tired.

I have some short stories I’m wanting to finish writing. Then jump-start my novel, which has been sitting there ignored for a few months. She needs a lot of attention, and she’s going to get a lot of it from me.

It’s also time to read The Goldfinch, which has been staring at me from my bookshelf, longing to be read, now that Donna Tartt has won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel.

Whatever the case, there are going to be some changes that are coming to our lives, so we readying ourselves to both face those changes and to make those changes. We realize there are worse scenarios to possibly be in right now, and I’m very much putting things into their proper perspective. Relocating to Cincinnati is definitely not like being deployed to Afghanistan, nor are we treating it like such. If we have to relocate, then we will; we’ll find the right school for our daughter, buy the home we want, and my wife will accept her promotion and bide her time until the next promotion comes, and she’ll have some more leveraging power as to where that next promotion location will be. And I’ll find the right job.

If we do stay here, then we’ll move into our home and I will continue in my current capacity and search for a full-time role in the meantime. And my wife will remain in her capacity.

As long as the decision regarding our fate remains firmly in our hands.