Remembering My Dad

My Dad died on Halloween in 1988.  It’s been 25 years, and I’d still give a great deal for one more day with him.

There’s too much that I don’t know about him.  I know that he was in the Army, but I don’t really know what that was like for him, or how his experiences would compare to mine in the Air Force.  I know he was married before he married my Mom, but I don’t know anything at all about those relationships.

My Dad was born in 1914, so he was 59 when I was born.  He was from a generation that I didn’t get to know when I had the chance.

My Dad took care of me and my Mom.  He’d wake me up every morning for school, and he’d drive me, even when the school was only a few blocks away.  He was the stay-at-home parent.  There was never any doubt in my mind that he loved me.

My Dad wasn’t perfect.  He was an alcoholic most of my life.  This led to some car accidents that I didn’t need to be a part of.  It also meant that some of the meals he’d fix for us were extremely adventurous.  To this day, neither my sister nor I can eat baked chicken.

There were a few times that my Dad said some things that were not particularly good for my self-esteem.  I can recall him calling me stupid or “ignoramus” several times.  At the time, I didn’t really think anything of it.  I don’t hold it against him now, either.  It’s just one of the ways he wasn’t perfect.

I miss him.  I really wish I could introduce him to my family.  I know he’d be proud of them, just as I am.


Blog-Tober: The End is Near

It’s actually called The Ultimate Blog Challenge, or something like that.  The idea is to post 31 entries in 31 days, and you’re supposed to tweet about it with #blogboost or something like that.  My goal wasn’t to increase my blog traffic, so I didn’t do the hashtags or get into the promotion of it.  I just wanted to see if I could do the daily posts.

This is number 30, and I know what I’m going to be writing later today to make 31.  I can safely say… I’ve done it!  I reached the finish line!

I found this whole experience to be very positive.  I’ve dredged up some stuff that I carry around with me all the time, and I dressed some of it up to be publicly visible.  I’ve stood on my little soapbox and prattled on about whatever topic crossed my mind.  It’s been therapeutic.

It’s also given me a huge boost of confidence, because I’ve been able to keep up with the single post a day schedule.  I didn’t write any of these posts in advance.  I found the time, even on Mondays, to get myself in front of a keyboard and push something onto the server.

After today, I won’t be posting everyday.  I think I do want to keep a schedule, though.  Penny Arcade posts on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule.  I might do that, with an additional Saturday or Sunday thrown in.

For those that have been coming and reading my posts, thank you.  For those that haven’t, you aren’t reading this, so I can say whatever I want about you, and you won’t know it.  So I’ll say: you’re still a lovely person, even if that dress does make you look FAT.

Happy Halloween!


Dealing with Getting Unfriended

I stirred a minor hornets nest with last night’s post.  I imagine this one is going to kick over an anthill.  I’ve been thinking about it for a while, though, and it’s something I want to talk about.

I was Facebook friends with the remote girlfriend I mentioned in the last post, and not too long ago, she removed me from her friends list.

It was a completely appropriate thing for her to do.  We weren’t really friends anymore.  We hadn’t spoken in quite some time.  I think Facebook reminded her of my existence and she deleted me.

I had a little bit of an emotional reaction when I realized it.  I didn’t have any inappropriate feelings for her anymore.  Melissa and I have been happy together.  It still hurt, though.

If all that remains of us on Earth after we die are the pictures and memories we leave behind, someone on the other side of the US was making sure I was eradicated.  Whatever impact I had on her was negative enough that she needed to cut me out, like some cancer.

It sucks, but it’s probably what was healthiest for her, so I can’t begrudge her for it.  All I could do was reciprocate.  I made sure all of my computers and devices were scrubbed clean of her presence.

Deleting this person wasn’t easy for me.  It would be difficult for me to remove anyone; the difficulty wasn’t specific to this one individual.  I cling to my memories like a hoarder packing their garage.

Now that it’s done, how do I feel?  Should I remove other people from my life, like plucking a stitch out of the tapestry of my life?

I feel okay.  I don’t want to go through any of that relationship again, and I don’t want to go through excising something like it from my life again.

I don’t think I need to make anymore huge adjustments in my life right now.


I Dealt with my Depression

Before I launch too deeply into this post, let me just say that right now, I’m not depressed!  I’m actually very well adjusted and happy most of the time.  I was extremely depressed for a while, but I’m not now, and I haven’t been for a while.

Most of my life, there have been times where I was really very down.  When I was much younger, I had some anger management issues.  I got into tons of fights.  I did property damage.  I started off as a runt with a chip on my shoulder, and I took everything way, way too seriously.  I was a bright kid, and I was imaginative and energetic.  I’m sure my sister could probably describe my younger years a bit more accurately.

I’m not going to draw this out too much.  I don’t think anyone wants to read all of the highlights and low points of my life.  Not in a daily blog post.  In terms of depression, though, I’ll just roll out the highlights reel: my Dad’s death, my early struggles with religion, falling in love only to have her run off with another man, joining the Air Force for perhaps the wrong reasons, finding myself alone, away from my family and friends, stationed in the New Mexico desert.

That’s a super succinct rundown of some of the darker moments in my life.  There’s a lot I could say about all of those things, but I’ll spare you.  Consider yourself spared, today.

That highlight reel marks points where I was really, really down, and for good reasons.  I was healthy enough to get through those times, one way or another.  I didn’t seriously consider taking my own life during those low points.

In 2010, however, I was down enough that it was at the forefront of my mind.  I made plans.  I did the research.

Upon reflection, the things that happened in 2010 weren’t any worse than the things that had come before.  I just didn’t handle it very well.

That was the year that Melissa and I almost divorced.  I moved out for a while.  I had a remote girlfriend.  I was reaching and grasping for things to pull me up and out.  I wanted to escape.  I felt lonely, and misunderstood, and I made some poor decisions.

Then I saw that the remote girlfriend wasn’t the answer, and that I was hurting my children, and I knew that I loved Melissa, even if she didn’t seem to understand me all that well, and I came home.  We made amends.

That’s when I hit the bottom.  That’s when I felt the most like I wasn’t my own person any longer, and I didn’t see a way out.  That’s when I felt the loneliest.  I was working for a life insurance broker, and after I found out that my family would receive death benefits even if I committed suicide, it was all I could think about.  It was a way out, and I considered coldly.

I wound up seeking some help.  I was offered medication, if I wanted it, but I turned it down.  During this time, one of my closest friends tried to get me some help, but he did it in such a way that it felt like a cowardly gesture, and a betrayal of trust.  I haven’t been all that close to him since.

Looking back, I don’t see how I climbed up and out of the dark place.  I know that WorldCon in 2011 was a big help, because it helped me remember who I am.

I think that returning to writing was the real medicine.  I started to feel like my true self again.  Playing my sax in a band helped too, I’m sure, but not nearly as much as the writing.

Pol had written about the schism of his life, and seeing all the different parts and the chaos around, and he put forth a question about how to find the harmony in all the discord.  I tried to suggest that faith might be part of the answer.  I don’t necessarily mean faith in God.  I mean faith, as in knowing and acting on something you cannot know through the empirical senses.

I think that’s what happened with me.  I started acting in faith, knowing that I was a person I couldn’t really see any longer.  And after I began moving, I was the person I believed in.  I think that’s how I dealt with the depression, and it’s how I’m able to look at the dark parts of my past with a kind of wonder.


Racial Insensitivity

I’m a 40 year old white heterosexual male, so maybe I don’t know anything about racial sensitivity, or gender equality, or any sort of equality.  I will never understand the struggles that non white heterosexual males have endured.

I’m not trying to be cheeky or sarcastic.  I’m trying to acknowledge right up front that the opinions I am about to express could be grounded in complete ignorance.

I don’t want to offend anyone.  I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable with who they are.  From the bottom of my heart, I want us to get along, appreciate our cultural differences, embrace some of those differences, and live with each other with love.  That may all sound like cliche tripe, but it’s how I legitimately feel.

While browsing some entertainment news, I read an article about Julianne Hough in black face, and how she should be ashamed and should apologize for insensitivity.  I was a little intrigued.  I thought, “What did she do?”

From what I can tell, she was dressing up as a character that she likes from Orange is the New Black.  I can’t see that she did or said anything.  She just… put on a costume?

I’ve always thought that racism was about intention.  I’ve always thought that it was okay to refer to someone’s distinguishing features, as long as it wasn’t to place unfair judgement or association of inferiority with those same features.  I think there’s a difference between saying, “A black man asked me for the time of day” and “Black men are too lazy to buy their own watches.”

Maybe someone will correct me and say that both example sentences are bad?  If that’s not a strawman argument, let me address it by asking: is it any worse than saying “A blonde man asked me for the time of day”?

If the color of our skin is truly as superficial as the color of our hair or eyes, then why can’t we use those descriptors equally?

If we’re allowed to use those descriptors equally, why can’t we use those descriptors physically?  I can dye my hair a different color for Halloween, but if I use make-up to color my skin, why am I racially insensitive?

Like I stated at the beginning: I probably don’t understand.

I know that the reverse of what Julianne Hough did seems to be acceptable.  That is, The Wayans made a movie called White Chicks and I don’t recall much stink about racial insensitivity surrounding that production.

In my opinion, intention should be a part of the discussion and consideration.  If Julianne Hough truly just wanted to celebrate a character and an actress by dressing up as her for Halloween, I think that should be okay, and she shouldn’t have to apologize for it.  If, on the other hand, she put on the outfit and started trying to act out offensive stereotypes, that would be a different story.

Speaking of acting out offensive stereotypes, let me link you an upworthy video where a woman is doing her best to point out the damages of donning racially offensive costumes for Halloween.

I appreciate the idea that we should try to be considerate of the history involved.  On the other hand, her delivery of the same message by putting on a blonde wig and acting out a blonde stereotype does not serve her cause.

Bear in mind… I’m not really that offended by the blonde stereotype portrayal.  I’m more offended by the hypocrisy.

But back to racial insensitivity…

I think insensitivity is actually closer to the answer.  Let me come at this from another angle…

While writing this post, I’ve done some brief research.  I read about Ted Danson going blackface to perform with or for Whoopi Goldberg.  I remember stuff about Al Jolson, and I read an interesting article asking whether or not Al Jolson was really racist for his performances.

I keep trying to find the root of the offense, and I’m just not grasping it.  As a white man, I wouldn’t have a problem with a black man putting on makeup to portray a white character.  It just wouldn’t bother me.  Why is the reverse offensive?

Is it because issues of race are still relevant in our country?  Is it because legal inequality wasn’t that long ago in our history?

How long does it take for us to no longer be sensitive to whatever it is we find offensive in costumes and makeup?


Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo

All this blogging I’ve done this month has been an excellent exercise for getting ready for NaNoWriMo.  For those that don’t know (and that refuse to click the link I just gave you), NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month.  The idea is to write 50,000 words in the month of November.  That’s how you “win.”  This is my second year trying it.  Last year, I was not successful.

The novel I’ve been working on was started last year.  I’ve only just recently hit 30,000 words, and it’s been a year.

If I’m so abysmally slow at writing fiction, how will I possibly succeed this year?

For starters, I’m going to be doing a much simpler project.  Let’s look at some of the features of my current novel, A Clean Slate.

  • It’s a “troupe” style fantasy, meaning I need to flesh out and maintain four characters right from the get-go.
  • It is a somewhat involved social commentary.
  • The troupe of characters have amnesia, so it’s challenging coming up with interesting dialog for them.  They can’t really talk about their past, or their families, since they don’t remember any of that.
  • This troupe of characters are secretly villains.

In short, I gave myself some stipulations right from the start which makes it challenging to actually get the words on the page.  I think I’ve done a good job so far, but it’s a somewhat complicated story to tell, and I sort of have to take it slow just to keep it all straight and coherent.

This new project doesn’t have those stipulations.  In fact, I’m doing it in first person.

My main character is one that I used in a roleplaying game a few years ago.  He’s a fun character.  He’s a bit of a hedonist with a southern drawl.  He lives in the present, but he has a special ability that lets him see the past.  I love this guy’s voice, and I love his flippant attitude.

In short, torturing this character should be a lot of fun.  My goal is to make the story as fun as a Harry Dresden book.

You could say that this whole month of October has been research for my project in November.  I’ve been listening to the Dresden Files books (and loving them), and I’ve been writing this blog, which is first person.  It’s a different voice, but it’s still valid practice.  And, I’ve been writing a blog post every day, which is the same kind of dedication I’ll need to getting 50,000 words completed in a novel.

I can do it this year.  I can do it, and I’m going to have fun doing it.

Then in December, I can go back to finishing A Clean Slate.  And maybe in January or February, while trying to get A Clean Slate out, I can polish up my still unnamed work, and get it ready to sell a little while longer.

I have a really good feeling about this.


Don’t Go Too Soft on Me

I went to Introduction to Creative Writing Using the AWA Method today, which I found through meetup.com.  I’m not sure where to begin.

The space itself had a certain austere quality to it.  The leader of the workshop uses the space to teach yoga, so we were asked to leave our shoes at the door when walking on the nice carpet.  At one end of the room was a short table with a little shrine set up for Buddha, and high on the walls were small Buddha statues and bells and figures.  Above that, the power lines were exposed, like the rib cage of a great beast.  I wondered if the ceiling had been lower at one point, but then removed to make for a bigger, more open space.

The space reminded of Pol’s dojo.  The the leader, Beth, lead us through meditation and I was reminded of Pol himself.

The space was warm and welcoming, and the environment had all of the harsh edges and dangers filed down or made soft to make space for writing, reading, and sharing.  It reminded me of when I posted to Facebook that I needed to wrestle my muse.  For the last writing exercise, I let my muse ride over me and everyone in the room enjoyed it, very much.

Will I go and do one of those workshops again?  I don’t think so.  I honestly don’t know that I got much out of it.

One of the tenets of the AWA method is that “everyone is born a creative genius.” I kept looking at that and thinking that it was wrong.  I think everyone is born with the potential of being a creative genius, but actual genius requires hard work and dedication.  Most people are not prodigies.

As I sat through the workshop, I thought of Michael, and how the entire AWA approach is antithetical to his style.  Michael is all about hard edges and hard truths.  If he doesn’t like something, you’ll know it.  If he doesn’t like you and he doesn’t like something you’ve done, not only will you know it, but you may be left in tears or a rage, depending on your disposition.  Michael is brutally honest, and I appreciate that about him.

The soft, gooey approach of the workshop was a gelatinous mess by way of comparison.  I wrote some good stuff, and the only way I know that the people in the workshop really enjoyed it is because I could read it in their expressions.  They weren’t fantastic actors.  The AWA method disallowed them from voicing solid opinions, or giving me feedback that would help me improve whatever I did wrong.  All we were allowed to do was try to reinforce whatever we took away from the writing, and whatever we thought was strong.

To put it bluntly, a couple of the things the rest of the group wrote and shared, I just didn’t like.  I couldn’t say that, though.  I’d mention the things I honestly thought were strengths and stay silent on everything else.  After one person shared her work, I just stayed silent altogether.  A few people were silent the entire time.

I think I need the danger of a criticism to be a part of the process.  I don’t want to be abused, and I don’t want to be crushed.  At the same time, I need people to be able to express dissatisfaction with my work.  Tim shared with me that he didn’t like the first few chapters of my story, and that was valuable.  I look at it now, and I see exactly what he was saying.  I don’t like the beginning now, either.  I’m going to redo that.  This group I was with would have told me that I used good phrasing and good description, but they wouldn’t have been able to tell me that what I was describing wasn’t appropriate for the beginning of a book.



The Kids These Days

Tonight, we hosted a Halloween party for my kids and their friends.  Bryanna is 17 and Chris is 15, so they pretty much have the same set of friends.  In fact, Chris’s girlfriend at the moment is one of Bryanna’s best friends.  It’s so weird and amazing and scary and beautiful.

I really enjoy these kids.  They are nice to each other.  They are respectful… are as respectful as you can expect teenagers to be.  They like the same music I like, and they like playing games.  I taught them a couple of games, and they ate it up.

I’m not wading into them, trying to be one of them.  That would embarrass my kids, and it would embarrass me.  My time as one of them was over 20 years ago.

What I did do was put on a velvet shirt, a cloak, a crown, and as I ran the barbecue, declared myself The Burger King.  I floated into their groups and made jokes with them, then floated off to make sure the music was fun, and at an appropriate level.  I smiled and made sure everyone felt welcome.  I was the cool adult, still doing the appropriate adult duties (like making sure that Chris and his girlfriend weren’t too frisky in the shadows of the backyard).

I enjoyed being an adult, and a host of the party, and I enjoyed the kids, and they reciprocated.  Melissa and I throw the best parties.

But I want to talk about these kids for a moment.  I really think that this generation is amazing.  I love how they treat each other.  Sure, there are exceptions, but for the most part, they seem generally more connected and more conscientious of each other than I remember my generation acting.

It could be that my perspective of my generation is skewed.  I was overwhelmed with hormones at the time I was these kids’ ages, so maybe I’m not one to judge.  Maybe every generation is like this, and I’m just in a place in my life where I can appreciate the beauty of their age in a way I could never appreciate at any previous time in my life.

If this generation is truly special, then the future is amazing.  These people are amazing, and I believe that I can trust them with the keys to the kingdom.

If this generation isn’t really any different from any other, then the future is still amazing.  It doesn’t change what I’ve seen of these kids.  Instead, it changes me, and everyone else I’ve known, imbuing upon us all the kind of beauty and love and ability to be connected that I’ve observed in these people.

Maybe I’m being naive or simply optimistic, but that doesn’t seem so bad, either.


Random Thoughts Thursday

  • The best evidence I have that Melissa and I have been good parents is our children themselves.  They are good people that are conscientious, assertive in their own ways, and smart.
  • Going out on Thursday to set up for a Halloween party on Friday is one way to use an entire evening.  I was going to try and write, but there just wasn’t time tonight.
  • I am definitely not going to make my word count goal for the end of this month.
  • A week from tomorrow, I go to Convolution.  I’m very excited about this!
  • In two weeks, I go back to Albuquerque for some work stuff.  There’s a big solar power research thing at Scandia that my company is involved with, that I’m writing the software for.
  • I’m doing really well at work.  For all of the changes that have taken place, and that are still to come, it’s still a fantastic place for me to work and be happy.
  • I get to go back to my old doctor soon.  For the last year, I haven’t been able to because Blueshield decided to mess with the benefits it offered, and it was very painful.  They’re switching things back, which means I get to go back to my UC Davis doctor.
  • There is a Halloween party at my house tomorrow, so there will be about 20 teenagers running around, being teenagers.  I’m going to be wearing a crown, and I’ll be barbecuing hamburgers and hotdogs.  I will literally be The Burger King.
  • Blog-tober is nearly finished, and thank goodness, because it’s actually been getting harder and harder to think of subjects for the daily blog posts.
  • The name of my main character in my November project is Mel Walker.  That name means nothing to most people, but there are a couple of people that know that name, and might possibly be excited to know that I’m going to write that story.



Willpower Wednesday

It’s Wednesday night, and I’m sitting in my “writing” Starbucks.  Michael isn’t here yet, which is a little unusual.  He usually makes it here before I do.  Maybe he’ll skip out this evening.  He had a big performance this last weekend in Folsom, and may still be recovering.  Or, since he’s having to move soon, maybe he’s dealing with finding a new place to live, or getting his things in order.

I’ve got my laptop open, my pitifully short novel open in Word, and my blog editor open, so that I can write this entry and prime the pump on my writing engine.  I’m not sure how effective it will be.  I’m tired.  I worked really late on Monday, late on Tuesday, and Melissa and I stayed up too late last night.  Additionally, the kind of work I’ve been doing lately is complicated.

This is the part of my writing hobby that is “work.” It’s still fun, and I’m excited about jumping into a new project in November.  I don’t regret working on my novel, or making these blog posts.  I’m doing what I want to do, and I’m really happy with the writing that I’m doing.  But nights like this remind me why so many people try and fail.  The only thing that’s going to get me through to the end of this blog post, and then the end of a couple of chapters in my novel, is dedication and willpower.

Sometimes I don’t have enough fuel left in me to push through the hard stuff and get work done.  Tonight, I do.  I just have to write one sentence at a time.