Monday, December 31, 2012

Eyesight without Eyes

This doesn't look stable

Chad was graduating with his AA degree and the girls and I decided to make a weekend trip out of it without the kids.  None of them could get off work anyway, so it made the decision easy.  Char was eager, not having seen mountains since she was a toddler.  We booked a room and planned to bookend graduation day with plenty of sightseeing.  The first stop was Walker Mountain.

We spent the first half hour seeing sights we hadn’t exactly planned on seeing because, well, we were lost.  Sometimes, you discover the most interesting things that way.  Eventually, we found the winding, two-lane road that led up to our distinct destination.  We found a ghost town along the way that you could rent out for whatever you wanted.  Imagine renting an entire town for a weekend!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Jumping from the High Dive

I despise heights.  Some may see this as an irrational fear, and perhaps they’re right, but ridiculous or not, it freezes me up.  It’s quite the hindrance to enjoying quite a few things, as well, like walking along a street curb.

A couple of years ago, the girls and I toured the St. Augustine Lighthouse, the first of many such excursions they wish to take.  Two hundred and fifty tiny steps made out of metal with holes to enable you to see the plummeting depth below you as you climb.  The guard rail was a thin metal bar I could easily wrap my fingers around.  There was no safety there, really, except my sense of survival, which kept me away from the edge.  I made it to the top, however, I’m proud to say, although the pace was slow and we were often passed by other tourists who had no such fear of falling hundreds of feet to their death.  I, on the other hand, have a deep respect for gravity and took great, tedious care with each trembling step.  The stairs had lasted over a century I was assured, but with my luck they would pick that very moment to disintegrate into dust and decay, leaving me dangling by a scrawny railing.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Depression Sets In

For a month, the world has been lit up like a literal Christmas tree.  Houses and businesses, streets and neighborhoods, once barely illuminated with a porch light or street lamp have been aglow with festive holiday brightness in celebration of the big day.  The music has changed from the normal bump and grind to jingle bells and harking angels.  Even people who are normally grumpy have a smile splitting their face and I actually saw a Democrat hugging a Republican.  It’s a magical time of year, a joyous celebration of the best in people.

Then Christmas arrives with a burst of family and exploding wrapping paper.  There are Christmas dramas, school plays, and Girl Scout caroling.  Add to all of that extra church services and charity participation, not to mention the shopping and shopping and more shopping.  December is an explosion of activity that has us constantly running this way and that trying to get it all in.  We’re busier than normal, but we love every minute of it as we find ourselves snatched along in the jovial atmosphere.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Lines of Exchange

Next to Black Friday, this is the worst day of the year to walk into a department store.  People are already passing through the door dissatisfied and grumpy.  The sales clerks are anticipating the rude consumer and everyone’s tempers start the day flared and ready to explode.  Ironic that less than twenty-four hours after shouting that giving and love, as well as the sense of family, is what the season is all about, the human race shifts right back into “It’s all about what I want!”  The lines at Customer Service will be longer than the checkout lanes and it will almost feel as if you’re awaiting a ride at Disney World with Grumpy.  For many, this day will not end well.

I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of the gift exchange.  We have to do it this year, but that’s not because the items received weren’t enjoyed.  It’s because they were broken, missing pieces, or the wrong size.  They won’t be exchanged for different merchandise, but rather, the proper item unbroken.  I know many don’t agree with my philosophy, but as I see it, the person who handed me the Christmas present took the time to scour the quickly diminishing shelves, fighting the crazed shoppers just to buy that specific gift for me.  I respect that effort and the gift means something more to me because of it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

It’s Christmas!

My living room looks like the aftermath of a Christmas Wrapping Paper factory explosion.  Santas are torn in half, reindeer mauled and snowmen reduced to puddles of afterthought.  For days they were safe under the tree, admired as they reflected the colored lights above them.  Now, it is merely a barrier to be shredded in order to retrieve the prize inside.  Ribbons are ripped, tags are tossed and paper plowed through as the gifts are brought to life.  Stockings are dumped, candy unwrapped, and I already need another cup of coffee.  It’s Christmas!  It’s finally arrived.  I’ve waited long enough.  The fat old man - no, not me - with the red suit has made his magical appearance and the anticipation has been brought to an ecstatic end.

Monday, December 24, 2012

One More Sleep

The morning dawns just as every other morning but this day is different.  It’s not like yesterday or the day before.  This day is filled with joyous anticipation.  Stand still and take a deep breath.  You can smell it in the air, which is also filled with an electrical charge unlike any other day.  You can literally feel the wave of excitement breaking upon the world.  Streets that are normally hidden in darkness now flash with blinking lights and even the crotchety old neighbor waves as you drive down the road.  The music piped through department store speakers calls you back to earlier, happier times and you smile at childhood memories.  It’s the day before Christmas, just one more sleep to go, and soon the anticipation will be over.  Christmas will be here!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Bah Humbug

Today’s post was going to ridicule the Scrooges of Christmas.  The idea was to ponder how anyone can be grumpy when surrounded with blinking colored lights and music that includes jingle bells and Bing Crosby.  There’s a Santa Claus everywhere you turn around and snowmen decorate the yard.  Children are bursting with giddy excitement and dessert has become the main course.  Mailboxes are filled with special greetings from people you haven’t heard from since last Christmas and everyone is wishing you a bright and cheerful Happy Holidays!  How can anyone not be caught up in the Christmas excitement?

As I said, I was going to write about that.  I’m not now.  Now, I get it.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Season of Charity

It starts around Thanksgiving.  Schools send notices home asking for food donations.  A note on my mailbox tells me the Boy Scouts will be picking up can goods on Saturday for a local food bank.  Churches are doing food drives for their holiday baskets.  The Marines begin their Toys for Tots program and ministries promote their shoe box packages for Third World countries where little children will receive nothing else for Christmas except for what you donate.  Charities begin calling asking for financial donations to help their organization because they know that most people are in the giving mood.  Even Scrooge was asked to do his part.  The holiday season is the season for charity, after all.

And that’s good.  We need to give to those who truly need it, and I stress the “truly need it” part, although I’ll leave my definition of what that means for another post.  However, there is sadness, as well, to the fact that this is the season of giving.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Break Is No Break

I understand that children should be released from school to celebrate Christmas.  (Yes, I know, it sounds like a prison term.  Have you heard the kids talk about it?)   They need to open their bright packages from Santa Claus, after all.  I know teachers deserve the day off, as well.  I mean, almost everyone else has the day off, so why not teachers?  Furthermore, I’d even say they deserve Christmas Eve off, even though most everyone else is, at least, working a half day.  But two whole weeks off?

This Thursday is the 8-year old’s last day of school until next year.  It sounds drastic, doesn’t it?  Next year.  To be precise, and I am always precise here at The Mess as you’ve seen in my deep research on previous posts, it is just over two weeks.  Fifteen days.  And, I swear, it feels as if they just started school.  Do they really deserve two weeks of vacation already?  I don’t get two weeks.  Ever.  They get student holidays throughout the year.  I don’t receive student holidays.  Nor do I get those teacher in-service days that educators receive in order to catch up on their plans and grading of papers.  I have to deal with people every day whether I am prepared or not.  There is no such thing as a break.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I Received the Liebster Blog Award & My 11 Nominations

I think that’s my longest title, yet.  Thank you very much, Hannah Warren, for nominating me for the Liebster Award.

What does this mean?  I know, I asked the same thing.  Here’s the scoop.

- When you receive the reward you post 11 random facts about yourself and answer the 11 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
- Pass the award onto 11 other blogs (While making sure you notify the blogger that you nominated them!)
- You write up 11 NEW questions directed toward YOUR nominees.
- You are not allowed to nominate the blog who nominated you.
- You paste the award picture into your blog.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Mom was Pissed!

“Bobby says that Santa’s not real.”  We were in the car heading towards the bridge, going beachside for some odd reason.  “He says it’s just you and Dad who put the gifts under the tree when we’re asleep.  Is that true, Mom?  Are you and Daddy Santa?”

“What do you believe?”  She snapped.  “It doesn’t matter what this Bobby believes.  It matters what you believe.  Do you think I look like a bearded old man?”

Friday, December 14, 2012

Merry Holidays and Happy Christmas

Before continuing with today’s post, I feel I must make this public service announcement.  WARNING:  The following blog post contains material that may cause you to think and reconsider certain behaviors.  It has religious content, even though it is not religious in nature.  It is more of a get-over-yourself-people rant, and if you are overly sensitive, you may wish to read yesterday’s post on Santa Claus or come back Monday.  My feelings won’t be hurt, whereas yours might, and as we know I am a very sensitive man who would never hurt anyone’s feelings on purpose.

Stop laughing.

It’s funny that this blog coincides with a Facebook post I made the other day.  I usually ignore all political and religious conversations.  Mainly because the ones yelling the loudest about what everyone else should be doing are mere preachers of the Word and not so much Doers.  As Edgar A. Guest writes, “I'd rather see a sermon than hear one any day; I'd rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way: The eye's a better pupil and more willing than the ear, fine counsel is confusing, but example's always clear.”  Yet, Christmas is the loudest month for religious rhetoric nitpicking over things that really make no difference.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Breaking and Entering

You may find it silly, but then again, you’re an adult and have probably long forgotten all of the Christmas worries that kept you on the edge of your seat from Thanksgiving until Christmas morning.  At that point, we were all so wrapped up in our new train sets and bikes that the million questions that kept us up at night were long forgotten.  But, I had fears - worries - about Christmas traditions and the man who was to bring me gifts.

My biggest fear, of course, was how jolly old St. Nick was going to get the hundred things I had put on my wish list into my house Christmas morning.  However, I would wake and underneath my Christmas tree overflowed with gifts and I no longer cared how they arrived.  They were there and that’s all that mattered.  I have a short attention span that’s easily distracted.

However, prior to that I was chewing my nails.  I mean, I had heard the songs.  “Down the chimney with lots of toys,” Gene Autry sang.  “Down through the chimney with Good St, Nick.”  I had seen the Christmas specials, as well.  Television doesn’t lie!  Santa comes down a chimney.  Even the Grinch trying to steal Christmas from all the cute little Whos shoved his loot back up a stack of sooty bricks.  That, for me, was a problem.  We lived in Florida.  We didn’t have a chimney.  I mean, who needs a fireplace in the Sunshine State?  We had to move, and quick

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I’m Going to Get Fat, Well, Fatter

I was doing well.  My pants were coming down - in size that is - and I moved up a couple of holes in my belt.  I was losing weight.  Not quick, perhaps, but it was going down.  The scale was no longer calling 911 and filing assault charges.

Then it all went to Hell as the holidays hit.  I feel like I busted my gut for eleven months just so Santa could leave me twenty extra pounds in my stocking.  The notches I gained were quickly lost and suddenly I’m poking new holes in my belt just to make it fit.  The bottom of my shirt never touches my pants as it now hangs from my belly like a canopy for pets who want out of the sun.  I’ve sacrificed all year, but it’s all for naught at the first slice of pecan pie or chocolate covered cherries.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Why Am I Buying This Gift?

“Dyl is participating in a gift exchange for her Girl Scouts.”  Sarah was filling us in on the upcoming holiday celebrations.  “They wanted the adults to do one, but we quickly said no.”  I just added it to the “Must Buy” list.

“I need a gift Thursday for a company party,” Char said the other day as she walked through the front door.  “No more than fifteen dollars.”  It went on the list.

Teri handed me a Christmas card.  “The pool guy left this.  It’s tip time.”  On the list it went.

I just added it all to the list and as I did, the pressure kept building.  There’s Dyl’s school teacher, relatives in other states, our closest friends, the lawn people, mailman, and the list keeps getting longer every year.  Some of these are a joy to buy for, such as the nieces and nephews and our dearest friends.  Others I’m left doing as I grumble.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas through Different Eyes

The Christmas lists grew every year and when they stopped growing in number of items, they grew in how much the gifts cost.  It wasn’t just a ten dollar action figure anymore, but a ninety dollar remote control car.  Then it became “If you only get me one thing this year, I would love” some two hundred dollar gizmo.  My children have lived with me since they were born.  They’ve watched as we had plenty and when we had nothing.  Furthermore, they know how I feel about gifts.  I’m never buying just one thing and I will never be able to spend over two hundred on a gift.  Still, they think it’s worth a shot, I guess, and so they keep asking.  It is, after all, the season for it.

The one thing I will say about my kids is that they are never disappointed.  Or if they are, they hide it very well, because all I see is the appreciation on their faces for what they did get.  If anyone is disappointed, it’s usually me at not being able to get them everything they really wanted.  I’ve listened to people grumble about what they received and for a while I just shrugged my shoulders and ignored it.  We all receive those gifts occasionally that make us wonder what in the world the person was thinking when they picked that out for us.  Still, we make all the right noises and quickly add it to the garage sale box.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Little Stockings

At the beginning of this week, I mentioned how we bought stockings for new family members.  Now the significant others of our children are there dangling beside their partners.  Well, Char also bought three tiny stockings, as well, and while the children’s names went across the top of their stockings, the abbreviation of names went across the top of the itty bitty stockings.  Skim was glittered on for Skimbleshanks, Bags for Baghira and Took for, well, Took.  My son had a reason for the name, something along the lines of “We took him from the pet store,” which makes him sound more like a thief than a new, legitimate pet owner.  Yes, Took is a dog.  The others are cats and not one of them live with me, which is why I stared at my wife like she was crazy when she wanted to buy the little stockings.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Lights of Friendship

After Christmas last year, I took my time.  With care, I unplugged the Christmas lights, wrapping them in those gentle loops like rope I was holding for a lasso that I would never learn to twirl.  I layered them gently in one of my gazillion storage tubs for our Christmas decorations, hoping that this year they wouldn’t get in those insufferable knots, even though I knew the wish was wasted thinking.  I then moved on to the lighted deer that grazed on our front lawn and stacked the lighted presents that had spent December displayed in front of the rose bushes.  The icicle lights came down as well as the wreath wrapped in white lights.  For a month, the front of my home was lit up in a holiday version of the Vegas strip with colorful lights and magical displays of decorations.  Once New Years hits, however, it’s all put away and the front of my house is reduced to one lone porch light.  It’s a striking difference, to say the least.

Everything is packed away with careful precision and care and I’m already eager for the next year.  The storage tubs are piled like Legos in our garage, left to sit and be ignored for the next eleven months.  No one touches them.  They’re protected from the elements and other harsh abuse, such as the 8-year old and her friends.  They’re safe, even if they’re lonely.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas in Flip Flops

I have a confession to make.  As much as I love this time of year with its Christmas music and festive lights, I’m finding it hard to get into the Christmas spirit.  I could be wrong, but it just might be because it’s ninety degrees outside and I’m in shorts and flip flops.  Okay, maybe not shorts because anyone who knows me knows I don’t wear shorts, but I do wear flip flops.  Well, I do sometimes.  Sometimes I just skip the shoes altogether.  It’s so hot, I’d skip the pants, as well, but I never know when the kids are going to come barging through the door followed by their giggling friends.  That’s another post, however.  The point is it’s hot.  Very hot.

I suppose that comes from living in an area where we decorate our palm trees.  Where others go snowboarding and build snowmen, we go to the beach and play shirtless volleyball.  The children don’t have to wait for the spring thaw to ride their new bikes.  They’re already out there tearing up the streets.  The house is closed up, but the heat isn’t on.  The air is, instead.  As a matter of fact, last Christmas I turned the thermostat down to 65 just so I could feel the chill that many associate with the holiday season.  Only then could I enjoy my hot chocolate without sweating into the mug.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Now It’s My Turn

“What are you planning on doing for the kids this Christmas?”  It may seem like an odd question to you, but the kids aren’t kids, anymore; they’re adults.  The girls are wondering if I’m doing the same for them this year as I did the year before and the year before that.  To be honest, I’m wondering, too.

When they were little a pattern was pretty well set.  There were three presents from the parents and then five or seven from Santa Claus, plus their stocking which overflowed all over the floor as if Santa had gone on a drunken binge and vomited Christmas all over the place.  That continued up until about three years ago, even the Santa part.  That year, however, it ended because we were visiting my parents and sister and didn’t want to confuse Laurie’s little ones with the jolly old man coming to grownups when he hadn’t before in their house.  So, we reduced Santa to stockings and bought five gifts from the girls and me, the Parentals as the kids call us, and that was the new way of doing things for the next couple of years.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Two Types of Decorators

The holiday season is in full force as we move into December and houses and yards are being smothered in Christmas cheer.  Storage tubs are being pulled out of garages and Santa figurines along with glittery snowmen are being stacked on counters and kitchen tables waiting to be placed in just the perfect place to help bring Christmas to the home.

Or maybe not the perfect place, but merely a place.  It all depends on the person doing the decorating and over the past few years I have discovered that there are two types of holiday decorators.  There are those who prefer order and themes, decorating their home as if for a photo shoot in Luxury Living with everything in perfect sync.  Then there are those who decorate as if they could be on an episode of Christmas Hoarders.  There is no rhyme or reason to where the cute decorations go, except that they do go up somewhere.  I am a mesh of the two and could start my own show, Luxurious Holiday Hoarders.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas Tree in the Dark

The Present Tree

The house is quiet.  No television.  No music.  The children are asleep.  It’s also dark.  No night lights.  No bathroom light to keep you from stubbing your toes during those midnight wanderings.  All of the lights, that is, except one.  Well, more than one, really.  But, they’re all in one place, wrapped around a tree.  Our Christmas tree.

Last night all of the kids decorated it as part of our annual tree trimming party.  Another holiday tradition.  One of the rules is that however the children hang the ornaments that is where they remain until we take the tree down on New Year’s Day.  There’s no shuffling, no straightening, and, at times, it drives the girls’ sense of order off just a bit.  We instituted the “Pretty Tree” for that very reason about five years ago.  This tree, the “Present Tree,” is for the children.  And me.

I watched them put those ornaments on the tree.  Some were rushed, so the little hands with excited fingers could hurry back for another decoration.  It was almost as if they were having a contest to see who can put up the most of the odd Assortment of figures and globes.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Traditional Purchase

It was the heaviest storage tub I pulled out of the garage as we began the Christmas chaos at our house.  I almost needed Zac’s help carrying it inside, but let’s not tell him that.  He thinks he is too macho as it is.  I get enough “Your getting old, Pops” jokes, now.  We have about a dozen storage tubs reserved strictly for the Christmas season.  Each one is a hodge podge collection of indoor and outdoor decorations, trees, and ornaments.  Not this one.  This gray tub is filled with nothing but Christmas themed coffee mugs of every shape, size, and design.  There’s no way I’ll use them all between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, and yet, I know I’ll buy another one this year.  I can’t help it.  It’s tradition.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Broken Decorations

It never seems to fail.  Every year, I toss out a strand of lights.  A few bulbs go out and so half a string of lights are left in the dark and these days it’s cheaper to just go buy another box of lights, then to waste my time trying to find that one bulb that’s ruined it for all the other lights.  I don’t have the patience for it, first off, and second, I’d rather be writing about a guy fighting a strand of Christmas lights than actually doing it myself.

My dad would have done it.  He would spend hours switching bulbs around until he found the culprit that was delaying his holiday decorating.  His sense of satisfaction at having succeeded would glow brighter than the lights themselves.  Not me.  I wad them up, toss them in the trash, and send Zac to go buy another box.  I know some of you are saying it’s a waste of money, but it’s my money to waste, so stay out of it.  Besides, these are just lights and I’m not attached to them.  Therefore, I don’t hesitate; I just toss.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It’s Time for a New Tradition

Nathan and Christina opening gifts.
This year will be different, and to be honest, it has me in a bit of a confused funk.  Every year for the past twenty-four years, it has been the same.  Even with the kids at college, I knew they would be back for a few days across the Christmas holiday, and our traditional rituals would continue as they always had.  Once or twice, they’ve changed due to family squabbles with extended family, but our immediate little group remained steadfast.  They were always here, in their rooms or on a couch, but here, nevertheless.

In the past, we would have Christmas Eve dinner at Texas Roadhouse before driving around neighborhoods looking at Christmas lights and playing carols.  The next morning, Santa came no matter the age of the kids, and it was time for the opening of presents with what were empty stockings the night before now bursting with tiny goodies and presents crowding under the tree.  A few years ago, we added the tradition of opening one present apiece on Christmas Eve and Santa was reduced to just filling the stockings.  Now, however, some of those traditions have to go or be rearranged and it’s all the kids’ fault.  They grew older and moved out.  They got married.  They moved away.  Now, nothing is the same.  See?  It’s their fault, the brats.  They just didn’t consider the chaos their actions would cause me.  It was rude of them to grow up.

Monday, November 26, 2012

I Want to Be First!

Let the decorating begin!

My neighbors have pissed me off.  They don’t know it, of course.  They were just going about their business, doing things their way, and having fun getting into the spirit of things.  There was no law broken or Home Owner’s Association code violated, although next year, I think I’ll try to get an amendment passed, so this doesn’t happen again.  The girls think I’m silly, and quickly point it out to me, but I’m serious.  This is no laughing matter.

What did my neighbors do that has me so up in arms?  They put their Christmas lights up before I had a chance to get mine up.  I know!  You’d think they would understand that when it comes to decorating for Santa’s arrival, I am the Grand Marshall of outdoor decorations.  They are to follow my timetable and not rush things the way the department stores do by shoving Christmas down our throats while it’s still bikini weather outside.  Obviously, they didn’t get the memo that I had the girls attach to all the neighbors’ doors, and while we were sitting on the back porch enjoying a slice of pecan pie, the night was lit up with a burst of holiday light.  The girls ooo-ed and ahhh-ed.  I fumed.  It just wasn’t fair!  I’m to be first.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Not My Idea of Camping

Even Backyard Camping Is More Fun

It’s a week before Black Friday (for your balance of timelines, I wrote this last Saturday), which this year I am referring to as Blacker Thursday, and I just heard the news that people are already camping out in front of stores, ready to pounce the sales clerks the minute the doors open.  Seven days they will be sitting in that spot.  They will sleep there, eat there, and - well, hopefully, they won’t go to the bathroom there.  This is extreme.  Too extreme.

While I thought the people who got in line a day before the sales began were missing the point of Thanksgiving, I think these people need a mental check up.  How do you take a week of your life to sit in a chair and just wait?  Okay I can see me doing it just to escape for a bit since I love sitting and staring at nothing, but not for a whole week and not in front of a department store or even a book store.  What product is worth that type of insane commitment?  Did they use vacation time?  Take a leave of absence?  Do they even have a job to begin with?  If they don’t have a job, are they on welfare, and if they are they need to get out of the line and go get a job.  If they took vacation time for this madness, then their priorities are really skewed.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

I’m Thankful for You

I know you may not believe it, but it’s true.  I really am thankful for you, and though I don’t say it often enough, I needed on this day of Thanksgiving to take a moment to tell you.  I am deeply grateful for the contribution, the impact, you have made on my life.  It really is because of you that I am who I am, doing what I am doing.

I know you’re reading this wondering, “Who in the world is he talking to?  He hasn’t given us a name.”  Yet, I did.  Did you read the title?  I’m thankful for you, the one reading this right now.

“But how do you know who’s reading your blog?  Are you using some sort of Big Brother software?”

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

With a Thankful Heart

Surprise them with a Post-It Thank You

It’s more than just a special day of the year that started with the pilgrims and Indians over tables of abundant food.  It’s a day for giving thanks that life spared you for another year.  On November first, as is typical when we are reminded of this holiday, social media sites were full of “Today I am thankful for” statuses.  They will continue through till turkey day and even may continue for a couple of days after Thanksgiving has been devoured and the turkey deboned.  Then, it quickly goes from “I’m thankful” to “I want.”  Gratitude is replaced by greed and the focus of the world shifts.

I’m just as guilty.  I started my “Be Thankful” posts on the first day of the month and have faithfully made one every day hence, sometimes with a comedic twist so as not to get too mushy.  I mean well, and I am thankful.  Truly, I am.  It’s just that sometimes life becomes so busy that I forget to stop and show it.  My mind is onto the next project and adventure, and I neglect to savor the past, thanking those that made it possible.  I’m embarrassed by that admission, because I really do have quite a bit for which to be thankful.  I have a great family, fantastic friends and the ability to do what I love to do.  Not everyone can say that.  I am blessed beyond measure.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Blacker Thursday

I’ll be completely honest and say, I am not a big fan of this latest trend in retail.  My disdain has nothing to do with the loss of the tradition of rising early the morning after Thanksgiving, downing a cup of coffee while trying to ease the worst case of bed head ever into submission and slipping behind the wheel of my car before my eyes are even open.  I’ve done that for the past eleven years and while it’s fun to watch crazy people trying to save some money and fight over the current year’s trend, I don’t mind sleeping in that day.

No, this is about losing something much worse that I believe sends a terrible message to the generation in our elementary schools.  It says, we, as a people, cannot devote one day - one twenty-four hour period of time out of a 365 day year - and just enjoy being home with our family and giving thanks for what we already have.  We have to shorten that day so we can go out and argue with people for more stuff that we’ll just put in next year’s garage sale.  It really is a terrible thing to teach our children.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Next Big Thing Blog Tag

The Next Big Thing Blog Tag

Tag, you’re it!  And then, before I could tag anyone else, I was tagged again.  Bloggers and authors, Katie Oliver and Alyce Wilson, asked me to participate in The Next Big Thing blog tag and, as I had never participated in anything like it before, I was eager to see what would happen.  (Be sure to click on these awesome ladies’ names and visit their sites.  It’s well worth the trip.)  As I understand it, all I have to do is tag a few authors myself and answer ten questions about one of my works in progress.  I’m always eager to ramble about my writing, so I jumped right on board.

If you’re one of the authors I tagged, I hope you participate.  I’d hate to be the one that de-hopped the hop.  No one else will want to hop with me again!  At the end of my ten questions are your instructions should you choose to accept this mission and as an added feature I would welcome a chance to post your blog here at The Mess and introduce you to my readers. The offer goes to Katie and Alyce, as well, who allowed me the honor of participating.  I hope everyone says yes and readers, I hope you visit their pages.  These are some of the best writers I know.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Step Away from the Desk

Escaping the desk

I’ve been sitting at my desk typing for three hours.  Okay, well not for a straight three hours, because I’ve also done my Facebook check-in as well as my self-promotion tweets.  Still, I have been in the same position for those three hours.  Too long.  I know it’s too long because my back is screaming at me and my left elbow doesn’t want to straighten out.  When I go to stand, my knees seem to have forgotten they’re part of the process.  It’s not that I’m old; I’m just extremely inactive.  I will admit to the latter, but never the former, even when I reach 107.

I stand up and move around, stretching cramped muscles and aching body parts.  I know I have to sit back down and peck away at that keyboard, but every time I glance at that chair my insides groan in protest.  It’s not going to happen.  I start looking around for something else to do and decide to organize some old files or rewrite my notes for another manuscript.  Perhaps I’ll read in the name of research or play a game of Angry Birds or twenty.  Whatever it is I find to do, it’s not putting words on the screen, which is what I need to be doing.  My productivity for the day is shot.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Importance of Being Alone

Our home is more than just a busy house.  Quite often, it can be a crowded one, as well.  It almost always seems as if someone is there and something is going on.  Even when it’s quiet, it’s never really quiet.  Zac’s Xbox drains into the house from under his bedroom door, Dylan is popping in and out just to make sure we’re all still there, and the girls have taken up residence in one of the other rooms.  There are people everywhere!

Even with me working at home and the girls in offices, I still only get the house to myself one day a week, and usually Zac finds some way to barge in on it.  It is hard to find a quiet place in the house.  The bathroom won’t buy me peace and quiet, either, because no one hesitates to talk to you through the door. I have a recording of sound effects I play while in there, but even that doesn’t discourage the intrusion.

Of course, it’s not always people barging in on your day.  Most of the time it’s work, bills, and the pressure that comes with daily living.  Quite often it seems as if you’re being screamed at from every direction as so many things fight and claw for our attention.  Life comes at you hard and is fast paced.  You have to keep up or become left behind, and while that may have been an intriguing book series, it’s not how you want to wind up with your dreams and ambitions.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

It’s Time to Press Pause

A beautiful sunrise

It’s a hectic pace, day after day.  The morning comes before the sun even peeks its golden eye over the horizon and you feel like you’re running from one thing to the next until you finally peel your clothes off and drop exhausted into your bed.  I know most days that’s how I feel.  There is carpooling, helping kids with homework, our own work, maintaining a house, kid’s activities, our own pursuits, and without our notice twenty-four hours is sucked up and we’re left drained and still behind.

Okay, perhaps your day isn’t that busy, but still you’re active building a life for your family and that comes with a certain set of pressures, especially if you run your own business.  Before we know it, the work week is over and the weekend has arrived.  However, with everything we cram into those two days, Saturday and Sunday fly by and without understanding how, Monday has crept back upon us.  Time just seems to accelerate and all too soon, what we plan on doing becomes what we should have done.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Interruption of Interaction

Heather and Chris hamming it up

I give up.  I mean, I was really looking forward to just a couple of hours of peace and quiet in order to finish the final chapter of Reaping the Harvest.  Even I didn’t know how Rhychard Bartlett was going to survive the battle with the dark elves, gargoyles, and Buttercup’s pimp and I was the one writing the story.  It should have been a quiet evening.  The girls were out shopping for the next week’s groceries, Zac was at work, and the eight-year old was in her room hanging Barbie Dolls while the girls from Monster High laughed in the background.  I grabbed a cup of coffee, slipped on my black fedora and snuck out to the solitude of the back porch.  After a brief glance around my personal world, our backyard, I took a deep breath and began to find out how Rhychard fared.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Counting Train Cars

One!  One Train Car!

It was a great game when I was growing up, even though technically it wasn’t a game; it was math.  Still, we did it with childlike excitement, shouting out the numbers and hoping for a lengthy train.  The boys did it, as well, growing up, and of course, I’d have to count along with them.  The interior of the car echoed with each number.  One!  Two! Three! By forty-five my ears were ringing.

As a child, the longer the train, the better it was.  It didn’t matter that it was an interruption to our day, our schedule.  We forgot about why we were in the car in the first place and lost ourselves in the counting, not even realizing it was similar to homework.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Bring Down the Curtain

Close the curtain on unwanted drama

The scene is over and the curtain drops.  It won’t, however, stay down long before it’s raised again on another scene and the story continues.  A script is divided into acts and then even further into scenes, each with the purpose of pushing the story along until that final curtain call and then the show is over.  It is then up to those watching to determine whether it was worth sitting through or not.

Sometimes, something will go drastically wrong during a scene and the curtain will be dropped prematurely, keeping it from getting worse.  It could be technical difficulties that need to be fixed before the scene continues.  It could be an accident on stage or just a major blunder blowing the scene entirely.  The curtain falls to keep the story from becoming more of a catastrophe than it already is.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Cast of Characters

A crazy group if ever there was one
I actually liked her.  She was cute and bubbly and kept Edwin on his toes.  I had spent some time getting to know Regina Coldwell and she was an intriguing individual with strong viewpoints on life.  She was a great wife.  However, if Faith and Edwin were to explore their darker side, the wife had to go.  At first, because I had grown quite fond of her, I tried simply demoting her to girlfriend status.  Still, it wasn’t going to work and in Losing Faith, I had to keep Edwin single.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to use Regina in another story down the road.

It works that way in a writer’s world.  Some characters that you truly love just don’t fit with the story being told.  It works the opposite way, as well.  While working the revision of Reaping the Harvest, I needed a character to assist Rhychard in a few scenes.  In walked his best friend from high school, Trace Wheeler, a shaggy character who at thirty-two still lives with his widowed mother.  Furthermore, some characters who were to merely have bit parts wind up moving to the front of the show, becoming an integral part.  The hooker Rhychard saves in Reaping, Buttercup, becomes a crucial member of the cast and will even be in the sequel, The Lore Master.  What determines a character’s importance is the story that the author is trying to tell and how they will move the narrative forward.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Spotlight, Stage Right

Allow others to Soar

Every story has its main characters, those interesting people that you’re either rooting for or against.  It’s because of them that the narrative exists, at all.  The writer has spent a vast amount of time creating their histories, appearances, and an outline for their future that the author hopes they don’t usurp too much.  The story begins and from page one, they are center stage ready to shine even when they are struggling.

However, every once in awhile a secondary character steals the show, and for a time, all eyes are on them.  This just happened in my writing of Surrender.  The story belongs to Virginia Hart.  However, in this scene, her best friend, Jacklyn, steals the limelight and goes home with the guy.  Actually, she goes home with three guys, but you’ll have to buy the book when it comes out next year to find out why.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Improv Living

Working the rewrite

Yesterday, I wrote about how you were the one in charge of writing the script of your life.  It’s your story and you need to be the one who determines which direction it takes.  I also shared how while writing a scene from Surrender, Virginia Hart’s cheating husband, Pierce, appeared in the scene when he wasn’t even supposed to be in the book.  Suddenly, the scene was off the outline and with each scribble of my pen I had to improvise the rest of the chapter, following my character’s instincts over my thought out plan.

Life is the same way.  Something occurs that takes you off script and you find yourself having to improvise your next moves.  It doesn’t have to be anything major.  Perhaps an accident keeps you from taking a trip you had been planning or keeps you out of the big game.  It doesn’t change your life story, just a few upcoming scenes.  Frustrating it may be, but not life altering.  It requires a small amount of rewriting, but before you know it, you’re back into the main story without much wasted ink.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Write Your Own Script

Deep conversation about the script

It never fails.  I’ll spend a week or more outlining a storyline, determining what I want to happen in each chapter and with which characters.  I did this recently with Surrender, which will come out in 2013.  Virginia Hart is soon to be divorced from her cheating husband and the plan is for her to meet Jaron Towers, a member of the Society of Thorns, for some new adventures.  Virginia’s friend, Jacklyn, talks her into going to a night club so that she can meet a lawyer from her firm for some private practice.  It is here in my outline Virginia meets Jaron for the first time.  However, I guess Pierce, Virginia’s husband, isn’t giving up because out of the blue, he’s at the same night club with his eyes on his wife.  This is not how I planned it, but now I have to go with it.

Most writers will tell you that they run into the same conundrum.  When you give characters life, they decide they want to live, and not necessarily the way you had planned for them.  It becomes their story and they are going to tell it.  Your general plot may remain the same, but the details of the journey will alter due to who the characters become. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Feel the Refreshing Chill of Change

I am not giving up my porch

I know you know.  I know you’ve heard.  However, I can’t help but to say it again.  I. Love. These. Three. Months.

It’s more than just the holidays, the fancy outfits, and the decorations.  Those are just a few of the reasons I love these final three months of the year.  You can, of course, add to the list the closeness of family and gatherings of friends to make the season even cozier.  However, another reason is the weather.  I love chilly mornings and changing leaves.

I live in Florida, which means I don’t see an abundance of either.  Eleven months out of the year its shorts and flip flop weather.  You can stretch out on the beach in the skimpiest outfit and still be toasty warm.  The rest of the year it’s a little cool with only a handful of days downright freezing.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Decorations Come Down

Taking down the decorations

The last trick-or-treater has left our yard.  The lights have been turned off and now the front yard, which has been aglow with ghoulish delights, is cast into utter darkness.  Not the scary kind, mind you, but rather the sad variety.  It’s the kind of darkness that announces the end of the celebration and the return to reality.  Oh, there’s candy still in the bowl, not counting the abundance brought home by the eight-year old, and the sugar rush will last for a few days, to be sure.  We’ll also see the Cleo de Nile costume more often since we won’t be protecting it from being ruined before she’s actually supposed to wear it.  It’ll go into the hamper of dress-up clothes to be pulled out and pranced around in when no one is looking and she can attend Monster High in her play.  But, everything else goes.

It’s the day after and already the memories and paraphernalia of the past month are being stacked on the kitchen table.  I’ll pull out the storage tubs a little later and everything will be wiped down and carefully tucked away until the girls allow me to pull it back out next October.  The house will be put back to normal and the yard will resemble just a yard.  That is until Thanksgiving.  Then the Christmas tubs will come out and our home will be usurped by the brightness of the holiday.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Trick or Treat

Trick or treat, Smell my feet,
Give me something good to eat.
If you don’t, I don’t care,
I’ll pull down your underwear.

I was never really sure how the feet line made it in there.  Obviously, something about someone’s feet was pretty scary.  Of course, being around Zac when he takes his shoes off, I can understand how frightening it can be.  It’s not a sweet aromatic smell.  The underwear part explains quite a bit of my later adventures, however.

Tonight is the night.  Little kids, and big kids alike, will wander door to door ringing doorbells and knocking harder when the people inside don’t answer fast enough.   They’ve dressed up in their cutest scary outfit and now demand their prize of expensive candy.  Standing at the sidewalk, watching it all with a flashlight gripped in their hand, is Mommy and Daddy, smiling as their child becomes a panhandler for the night.  Candy is dropped into the bag, two or three pieces of varying delights; a “Thank you” is screamed as the child rushes back shouting their loot.  “I got a Milky Way.”  “I got an apple.”  “They gave me money!”  I wonder if any child was like Charlie Brown and received a rock.  I think I would go back and kick the parent’s ass that did that to my child.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Scary Movies, Move Away

Sunday, I settled onto the couch wanting to just veg while I mapped out the coming week’s blog posts.  I had my coffee, pen, paper and some microwave heated wings leftover from the costume party the night before.  Each of the girls was off doing her own thing, leaving me to my own entertainment.  I turned on the television, hit viewing guide and began to scan my choices.  Usually, there’s an NCIS marathon, or Law and Order: SVU, some type of criminal mischief to be solved by any number of franchises out there.  However, the Sunday before Halloween was a movie marathon of horror.  Not just on one channel, mind you; oh no, it was on every channel.  Friday the 13th.  Chucky.  Nightmare on Elm Street.  They were even broadcasting the making of the Nightmare movies.  I either had to settle for frightening viewing or football, which to me is the opposite of frightening; it’s boring. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

To Fright or Not to Fright

These final three months of the year are my favorite.  I love the weather, the sense of family that surrounds the holidays, and the abundance of decorations that fill yards and businesses.  And the food, I love the food.  There are plenty of parties and gatherings to keep a calendar full.  As a matter of fact, as I write this, the girls are putting the finishing touches on our Halloween party tonight and our costumes are laid out, ready to be donned.  The food is simmering and the house is all decked out.

That was my job, decorating the house.  It’s not so much my job as much as the girls simply surrendering and allowing me to have my fun.  You see, part of my enjoyment of the holidays is plastering the house with festive ornaments and statues, lights and banners.  There is no doubt by anyone who passes by that we celebrate these months with total gusto. 

While Christmas is full of the cutesy, cheerful decorations, Halloween is the month for the macabre.  Dark.  Sinister.  Scary.  That’s the point, right; to make the place have that ghostly feel of attacking monsters? I have skeletons hanging from the front oak tree as if fresh from the gallows.  Between the garage and tree hangs a giant web with a spider perched in the middle ready to pounce and eerie green lights threaded throughout.  A morgue sign hangs on the wall screaming its death cries to those who pass by.  There are witches, ghouls and a werewolf reaching out of the ground with a beating heart.  Scary stuff and I search out even more every year. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Too Much

Too much of a good thing can, well, too much.  When trying to accomplish your dream those two words can be a stumbling block and a distraction, especially in the beginning.  The girls and I go through periods of this in several areas and even just recently had to take a look at things and see where too much was creeping in.  It was time to reprioritize some things in order to devote time and resources to the dream we wanted to fulfill.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Make It Personal

It always makes me feel good when someone tells me they’ve shared The Mess with their friends or when I see they shared a blog post on Facebook.  When I get notifications from Twitter that someone retweeted a link to my writing or suggested that their followers follow me, as well, I admit my confidence gets a big shot in the ego.  The girls are very supportive in helping me promote my writing, but they have careers and dreams of their own to see come true, and are not hired on as my personal managers. 

I try my best to return the favor and some friends make it quite easy to help them.  However, if I’m going to see my dream of being a writer succeed, I can’t count on others.  I have to make it personal.  After all, it’s my dream, not theirs.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why Live the Generic Life?

There are certain things the girls refuse to buy generic - Diet Coke, mayonnaise, salad dressings, as well as certain specialty foods.  These things not only have to be name brands, but certain brands, as well.   Actually, I’m not sure when the last time I saw a generic label in our food pantry.  No matter how much I harp about how much money they could save by going with a generic brand, they simply won’t budge.

“It just doesn’t taste as good as this brand.  It’s worth the cost, trust me,” one of them will say.

“Once you’ve tasted both, you’ll understand the difference,” added another.  I can understand.  I feel the same way about my scotch and cigars.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

It’s All in the Follow Through

Decades ago when I played Little League Baseball, one of the phrases screamed at me the most was “You have to follow through!”  I’d swing, but the minute my bat hit the ball - or didn’t - my arm would cease its forward motion.  I mean, to my lazy mind I hit the ball, task completed.  Wasn’t that the point?  To connect aluminum rod to the small leather sphere and send it forward?  Once that was accomplished, why exert the continued energy of swinging my arm the rest of the way?  It seemed like quite a bit of wasted effort to me.  Not to my coach, however, who also happened to be my father.   Soon, I was either following through with my swing, warming the bench, or grounded.  I didn’t want to play anyway, so I sat in the dugout and kept score.

When it comes to accomplishing their dreams or goals, this is where most people fail.  They simply do not have the follow through.  When they get an idea, they go off like a bottle rocket, full of excitement and energy.  Yet, after that sudden bang, interest fades and they set aside what they’ve accomplished for a new idea that fills them with that adrenaline rush of excitement again.  Soon their lives look like the bottom drawer of my desk, full of half finished projects and good intentions.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Someone Stole My Time!

Taking back time.

It was here just a moment ago, or rather an hour ago.  I know it was here.  Sometimes, I don’t think I misplaced it like I do my keys or coffee mug.  I’m usually quite careful with it, trying hard to take care not to waste it as I do some paychecks.  That’s why I know it was stolen.  It had to be.

You see, when I woke up this morning it was all here, every minute of every hour as it should be.  The entire day lay before me full of possible accomplishment.  And I had my list of To Dos in my Day Planner just waiting to be checked off and crossed out.  First, however, I had to play Taxi.  It’s not a game I enjoy all the time, but one that has to be played, nonetheless.  The girls have to get to work and the eight-year old to school.  With limited cars, it’s my job to chauffeur everyone back and forth and that takes time.  My time.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Too Busy to Be a Kid

When is it my turn?

“Hey, why don’t we meet up at the park, have some coffee, and let the kids play this Saturday?”

“Can’t.  He has a soccer game.”

“That’s okay.  How about Sunday?”

“Sorry.  Rehearsal for a church play.”

“Okay.  How about one afternoon after school this week?”

“Not going to work.  There’s dance on Monday, soccer practice on Tuesday, Boy Scouts Wednesday, Soccer again on Thursday and Friday is sign up for baseball.”

“When does he have time to get any homework done?”

“Oh, he does that in the car to and from each event.  Then at night he practices piano and violin.  This kid is going to go far.”

That just sounds exhausting, and you may think that as a writer I took some creative license there and exaggerated a bit.  I didn’t.  I know families like this.  If you ever wanted to hang out with them you had to go see their kid’s game and even then you couldn’t have a conversation with them.  Most of the mealtimes were hot dogs in the bleachers swallowed around loud cheers to “knock it out of the park!”

“I can’t help it.  The kid is active.”

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Parent with No Regrets

There is no such thing.  Regrets seem to come with the parenting role.  Oh, maybe not major regrets that keep us guilt-ridden our entire life wishing we could turn back the clock and do it all over again.  I’m sure there are some parents like that, but not most.  However, even the best of parents have those tiny little regrets that will pop up every now and then to haunt them in quiet moments, things they wish they had done or not done as their children became adults.

I’ve had some of these conversations with my kids, and overall they had a great childhood and can look back with fondness.  I, also, look back with only minor regrets at some things, like wishing I had more money to do more things with them.  Not to buy them things, of course.  I mean, I would have bought them more things or better things if I had had the money, but that’s not what I meant.  I’m sure they would have loved a PlayStation or Xbox, but they were satisfied with their Game Boys.  They made out in the toy department, as well, and I had to keep screaming at them to clean their rooms and there I have no regrets.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

It was Saturday Morning

On these days, I never left my pajamas.  With a box of cereal and a gallon of milk I could be found perched in front of our giant wood box television set for a solid morning of cartoon shows.  From Bugs Bunny to the Flintstones to Super Friends, I would just float from one animated adventure to the next until my mom had had enough and I was told to “get my ass outside and play.”

Still, it was three to four hours of mind-numbing entertainment.  Oh, they tried to be responsible and tossed in some School House Rock educational commercials and soon I was “hankering for a hunk of cheese.”  We also followed a bill on its journey through Washington, learning little tidbits before Hanna-Barbera gave us another hour of comedic cartoons with the occasional moral if we paid attention enough to find them.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Bedroom with No Walls

We finally finished setting up the eight-year old’s bedroom a couple of weeks ago.  I swear, that girl has an overabundance of ….stuff.  Too much stuff, to be honest, but don’t most kids?  I know the boys did.  There might not have been many of the expensive gadgets, but there were toys and toys and toys and…Well, you get the idea.  Dylan is just as spoiled, um, I mean, blessed, just as blessed.  We even had to leave the bottom bunk off of her bed to make room for some of it.  Still, it is her room and she had fun helping decorate it.  So did the girls, by the way.

Zac has his room all decked out, as well.  Of course, his idea of interior decorating is empty liquor bottles, posters of half-naked women, and confiscated road signs.  I sometimes wonder if he thinks a giant yellow YIELD sign will up his chances with the ladies in some subliminal way.  If it works I am getting him a giant red STOP sign.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Music Is In the Scratches

As we worked through our garage yesterday I found a tub full of memories that belonged to another decade - another century, actually.  Inside were three 45s (for the younger generation, those were small records) of singles from when my mother was a teenager.  If you grew up in the age of vinyl, then I’m sure your mind can already hear your favorite song playing from the turntable.  It doesn’t matter what album you had spinning; they all started the same way.  It wasn’t the notes or chords or even the voices.  It was that scratchy sound that came through the speakers the minute the needle touched that round black disc.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Conversation No One Wants

Death.  Unless it’s on the big screen or in a 500-page novel, no one wants to really talk about it.  As a writer, I kill people all the time - on paper.  I think of what’s going to happen to the character leading up to their demise and what happens to those afterward who are left behind.  It’s fun, because it’s fiction.  I control the when, where, and how, and when I’m done putting my words on paper I can set death aside and pick life back up and live on.

I don’t mind talking about it, either.  The girls and I discuss my story ideas all the time and how some character got it in the end.  Other friends ask how it’s going and share some of their ideas on bumping people off.  Sometimes they scare me with how well thought-out their plans are and I start double locking my doors.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Procession of Goodbye

It’s a long drive.  It doesn’t matter if it’s across states or just a few blocks away, the funeral procession is a long drive that no one really wants to be in.  I’ve only been in four that I can remember.  The first was when I was in middle school and my mother and I traveled to Indiana to pay our respects to an aunt I never remembered meeting.  I’m sure there’s a picture of me with her somewhere because whenever we would go back for a visit to my parents’ family they were always shoving me in front of someone saying, “Smile for the camera.”  I have boxes full of pictures of me with strangers I’m supposedly related to.

We rode with my mom’s sister and behind us was her cousin Johnnie.  The hearse was in front followed by the funeral car with the immediate family and then a long line of cars full of family and friends.  When you’re partaking in such a procession it’s customary to have your headlights on as well as your hazard lights blinking.  This enables other motorists to know where the procession ends, so that, hopefully, they don’t cut into the line and separate the mourners from each other.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

If Time Could Freeze, Please

Life needs a pause button.  I mean, if Staples can have an Easy button, why can’t life have a pause button?  The bills need to be able to wait and work needs to cease; not forever or even that long, just for a little while.  Not during happy moments, either.  Happy moments, like weddings or vacations or even the birth of a baby are things you plan.  You know they’re coming, or at least, I hope you do.  I’ve heard where some have had babies and never even knew they were pregnant.  That amazes me seeing how Char changed each time one of our sons was born.  Even when she was pregnant with our first she barely gained any weight, but there were other body changes that hinted that something was up.  Still, for the most part, celebrations are planned and eagerly expected.  We knew about Nathan and Christina’s wedding months in advance.  Vacation time could be taken and money saved up.  Even if you’re not completely prepared, you’re at least partially ready.

When catastrophe hits, however, it’s never a good time.  You’re never ready for it even if you’ve had time to prepare.  And the sad thing is, Life never stops or even slows down.  Work is patient, but only so far.  They may be sympathetic, but business has to keep going, projects completed, employees paid, and customers appeased.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Circle the Wagons

I can’t help it, I’m proud of my family.  Everyone needs a group such as these extraordinary people.  When a crisis hits there is not another bunch of individuals I would rather have around me than those I call family.  Not everyone can hold it together as these do, especially when life has put your little world into a whirlwind. 

When Hurricane David hit back in the 70s, my Aunt Peggy and her family huddled down in our home with us and I’m surprised my mom didn’t put the woman in restraints and duct tape her mouth shut.  Peggy took all the joy out of a category five storm.  She was useless.  She never volunteered to help with anything and the tasks she was told to do she whined about and did half ass.  She wanted to be the first one fed and the last one asked to pitch in.  She couldn’t control her fear or her mouth and made everyone around her on edge.  She was chaos within the chaos, and a hurricane has enough of its own, especially with eleven people in one tiny home.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

It’s All about Relationships

Writers nowadays need a platform, that base of people who are interested in seeing what it is they write.  One of the many ways they accomplish this is through social media networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.  Of course, there are an abundance of these sites popping up every day vying for our attention.  Facebook even has feeds within itself, like the Schoolfeed I keep getting asked to join by people I didn’t even know I went to school with.  How many of them you should sign up for is entirely up to you, but don’t overload yourself.  While they are great tools to get your creativity out to the masses, you can spend so much time on social media that you never write or paint or make that album or whatever it is you are trying to promote.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

The Twitterverse is a world where you can say anything you want, as long as it’s 140 characters or less.  The question then becomes what should you share.  Just as some people tend to speak without thinking; those connected to the social media universe tend to update their statuses without contemplating what they are forever putting out there.  You may be able to apologize for it and even delete it in some networks, but the impression has already been made, people’s senses of propriety offended, and feelings possibly hurt.

Now, I know some people don’t care about the impression that they leave with people.  Some even prefer shocking those that follow them for their own enjoyment.  It gives them that sense of “bad ass” that they never truly earned.  Sometimes, however, it also makes them look like an idiot.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Facebook Manipulation

I hate peer pressure.  Actually, I hate any kind of pressure.  It gives me a headache and ruins a good scotch.  However, more than peer pressure, I hate it when people try to manipulate me into fitting into their box.  I have no problem with people who believe strongly in something and are vocal in that belief.  I can even respect and admire them for taking a stand in a world of apathetic fence riders.  However, when you resort to social media manipulation you have entered the high school arena of life again.  This makes sense with some because by their posts it’s obvious they never left and soon I expect to see pictures of tongues sticking out and middle fingers sticking up going back and forth in my newsfeed.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Empower the People

No, it’s not a left over chant of the ‘60s.  It should, however, be your slogan.  A poor leader keeps a clenched fist on the reins of his organization, micromanaging everyone and everything underneath him.  A successful leader, on the other hand, realizes that he cannot do everything himself or be everywhere at the same time.  In order for his leadership to grow, he must give some of his power away.

A poor leader is afraid to share.  They become a reservoir, holding everything in their power because it’s the power they crave.  They want the accolades and rewards for themselves, and therefore, they stay in charge of every little project, lead every meeting, and dictate jobs they will ultimately do themselves.  They are afraid of others outshining them and the attention not being theirs.  They falsely believe that another’s success somehow diminishes their own.  Because of this mentality, productivity is low and the leader soon finds he is burnt out and unnecessarily stressed.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Build Positive Relationships

As a leader you are trying to build something - a vision, a business, a group - and it takes a lot of hard work.  Your Day Planner is chock full of appointments, To Do lists, and goals you are trying to accomplish.  You have people under you that you want to see achieve certain things in order to get your goals fulfilled.  However, with all of that constructing going on the most important thing you could build is a positive relationship with those under and around you.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

It’s about Discipline

As the person in charge, a leader must remain in control - of themselves.  Emotions can be tricky and if we base our decisions on which way our mood swings pretty soon we’re going nowhere.  Furthermore, we will be seen as a chaotic, confused mess.  A leader must lead with discipline.  No, I don’t mean you get to spank the people under you.  Nice try, though.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Leggo Your Ego

Leadership is not about you.  I know, I know.  Once you’ve climbed that ladder to the top and people are constantly bending over to kiss your ass, it’s easy to think that it is.

However, I promise you, it’s not.

I guess that’s why I don’t pay much attention to leaders who like to talk a lot, especially politicians.  To be honest, it’s not just politicians I tend to ignore.  I become deaf with most religious leaders and higher management types, as well.  Anyone who loves the prestige and the power more than the people are not leaders; they are dangerous dictators.  Whether it’s the president of a country or a father of a small household, the leader that stands out is the one not trying to.  Leadership does not require a lot of fanfare, but a heart for those under him and a passion for where he is taking them.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Let’s Have Lunch

It’s been several years, and by several I mean like twenty.  Yet, those mornings still stand out even though not one of those men is active in my life anymore.  Once a week, usually a Thursday morning, we would meet at Burger King, order a sausage biscuit, hash rounds, and a strong, steaming cup of coffee.  After getting settled into our window booth, the food opened up and the coffee tugging our eyelids awake, we would spend the next hour just talking.  Our time wasn’t structured.  There was never a topic.  Most mornings we would just follow one tangent after another, chasing rabbit trails of our thoughts until another path appeared and then we’d take that one.  However, quite a few mornings we would sit there, sip our coffee and unburden our hearts.