Hashtag OnGrosslyUndervaluingOurInvaluableTeachers

Good Morning, Afternoon or Evening, everyone (whatever time of day it happens to be where you are). Yes, it’s me again: Your old buddy El Autoro, otherwise known as The Madchronicler, otherwise known as Frank Marsh AKA Daddy, Unkie Frank… You get the point (I sometimes think I have more names than Apollo Creed). Hashtag WhoDoesn’tLoveAPointlessRockyReference?

I’ll dispense with the pleasantries. I’m typing this whilst my youngest minion crawls all over me and my oldest asks me incessantly if I’m “done with the iPad yet?” I’d like to get this done and out pre-people in my area of the universe calling it a night. Why? Because a topic requires addressing. And I will do so in the most succinct way that I can (not always the easiest undertaking but I’m always open to testing my limits). So here goes.

Did you know that before I was a self-published author (Hashtag ENDWORLDANovel) and Branch Manager (Hashtag CareersUSA) I was pursuing my MA in Education? True story. I stopped roughly four years ago for a couple of reasons. The first? We had Cara, AKA my oldest minion, and a newborn + a full time job does not = time to study. The second? I simply could not “get” Probability and Statistics. Still can’t, and it’s a required core competency for an MA in Education. Hashtag BTW, if anyone can tutor me and give me 10K I’d be happy to go back, take it again and finish my degree.

But the third reason? It was perhaps the most important. I was making more money at that time as an Office Manager for a hydraulic and pneumatic distribution company than I would have as a teacher. Significantly more. Even though Nicole was and, of course, is a pharmacist it was still not feasible financially. So I stepped away from my dream since high school English with Mister Brantley, switched careers and am now what I mentioned two paragraphs ago. It is this that concerns me this evening… This that I need to address.

Teachers have always been one of society’s most invaluable commodities. They do everything from teach our children their ABCs, how to count to 10, 20 and onward and upward (Hashtag ToInfinityAndBeyond) to Pre-Calculus and AP Biology. They wipe our minions’ dirty butts and provide them a shoulder to cry on when they’re small, and they counsel them and provide them a shoulder to cry on when they’re older. My God, my oldest daughter would still be in diapers right now were it not for her “Get Set” teacher (Hashtag IMOPottyTrainingIsDownrightImpossible).

So if they are so invaluable, why do we as a society undervalue them so much? Hashtag CaseInPoint, over the last year plus I’ve watched a steady exodus of teachers from the daycare… The school that Nicole and I send our minions too and have since Cara was four months old. Good teachers… Teachers that both my daughters formed bonds with, some more than others. The exodus knows no grade level: From the “Infant Room” to the Principal of the school… All are gone. They’ve moved onto other things. Why? Not because they hated their jobs. Far from it: Many were so in love with their school and their students that they would never have left were it not for one indisputable factor: They were paid for their days, nights and weekends the equivalent of what I paid my Shift Supervisors… Hourly… At CVSStress, and that was almost 10 years ago!

How can this be, friends? How did we end up where we are? Who were our biggest influences? Outside of our parents (both good and bad), our greatest mentors were our teachers. I still remember the names of many of mine. My all time faves. Mister Brantley. Suzanne Stutman. Tram Turner. Mel Seeshultz. Vicki Abt. Don Jon Dugas. And those are just a few. I forged relationships with these men and woman that lasted in many cases well-beyond me leaving their classrooms. When I published ENDWORLD last year, I even heard from one. He found me on Amazon, navigated to the book’s website, found my email and sent me a congratulatory note. “I was always impressed with your writing saavy, Frank (just not your grammar). I am so proud of what you have accomplished. Continued success in your endeavors now, and moving forward. Keep ‘Looking Into The Future!'”

That was teaching then. Now? Now it is still a noble profession. Noble because of the hours and hours beyond nine to five that it entails. But it is a rotating door, not just in my minions’ school but everywhere! Why? Because a teacher cannot stay in one place for more than a couple of years. They need to keep looking… Keep finding better paying positions and jobs to supplement their income that inadvertently become careers because their lives simply are not sustainable on making a few bucks higher than minimum wage. Those bonds that I formed? My children… Your children may never have the opportunity to do the same because they sometimes go through two, and even three teachers a school year. They never develop familiarity. And when they do? When the teacher in question manages to “hang around” for more than a few months? Well guys and gals, they’re just more disappointed when the inevitable happens.

So what is the answer? How can we stop this vicious circle of life from perpetrating itself over and over again? Simple: We the people need to fix the system. Whether that means taking more of the outrageous tuition we pay on a monthly and yearly basis and putting it towards salaries and not technology upgrades (I’ve been using the same laptop for seven years and it works fine) or simply downgrading the facilities to something smaller, more intimate and manageable (but still nice; I’m not talking about a one room school house Hashtag LittleHouseOnThePrairie) it needs to get done. It’s time to start valuing our teachers for the invaluable work they do again. They are as much a part of our minions’ lives as we parents are. Parenting is a volunteer position. Teaching should not be a pledge drive. Hashtag WhoDoesn’tLoveAPointlessPBSReference?

End rant, friends. A special thanks to my minions who for the most part watched “Return of the Jedi” for the last hour and let me write this. Hashtag NothingButLove. Thanks also to all my teachers, both good and bad, even the ones that tried to teach me Probability and Statistics. And a big, loud, shout-it-from-the-rooftops “Booyakasha” to all the teachers that have impacted Cara and Natalie’s lives over the last five years. Missus Lee, Katie, Wendy, Chrissy, Kim, Melissa, Stephanie, Robin, Lori, Jackie One and Jackie Two, Joanna, Michelle, Kelly, Natalie, Jovi, Morgan, Danielle, Mary, Mister Brian and any others that I forgot (Hashtag InsertYourNameHere). Whether still around or gone, I owe you… We parents all owe you debts of gratitude. “I am so proud of what you have accomplished. Continued success in your endeavors now, and moving forward.” You deserve it. Hashtag Respect.

Hashtag NothingButLoveForYouALL.

F.

Of Sabbaticals, Life Changes, Writing and Building a LEGO House

“I’ve been here before.”

William MacNuff, CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD

Good Morning, Afternoon or Evening, fellow denizens of my subjective reality on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. You all remember me from the past, if such a concept can and does exist here. Past? Present? Future? All are meaningless in a place where we live from sunrise to sunset. Breathing, eating, sh*tting, f*cking… you know the litany. My last post could have been written a day, a month or a year ago and I would not know the difference. As I have learned over the last 38, almost 39 years of my life, time is relative. The urge to write? To revisit “Random Musings of a Pseudo-Madman Version 2.0″ has been there… been here the entire time. But sometimes, friends? Sometimes, you simply need to take a bit of a break. Whether you had planned to or not sometimes such things are necessary.  So in answer to the question “where the hell have you been for the last few months, Frank,” the answer is ‘purty simple: I’ve been on a sabbatical, watching as my life changes in once-unimagined ways around me. I’ve also been building a LEGO house with my minions, but I’ll come back to that later.

Truth be told, I have been busy. Oh yes. Very, very busy. Maybe not in the same ways I was before, but busy nonetheless. In the space between when I last wrote–March 26th, actually: I looked it up–and now I’ve established myself in a new job, celebrated my wife’s thirty I MEAN 29TH Birthday, my youngest minion’s second and my oldest minion’s fifth. I’ve attended more parties and family slash friend functions than I can count, celebrated my sixth Father’s Day (counting when Cara Bear was in utero), watched the Sixers tank, the Flyers lose, the Phillies suck and the ‘Iggles… well? I’m optimistic about them.

I’ve also read. A lot. As of right now, I’ve completed the following books since March: The Stand, all seven “Dark Tower” books, A Dance with Dragons and five of the seven “Foundation” books. I’ve further re-read ENDWORLD in preparation for what I hope will be the final stretch of writing the sequel, CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD which is currently 297 pages to the good en route to roughly 400, give or take a dozen in either direction. I still need to finish “Foundation” and complete my re-read and re-write of CHILDREN thus far. All this is one of two things: Me, bringing you up to speed on meaningless trivia about my less than extraordinary existence or me, trying to convince both you and myself that my almost four month break is justified. Was I successful? I have no freakin’ idea.

Let’s delve a bit deeper into some of the things I mentioned above. First and foremost, my job. I’ve got to be honest with you, friends: When I took it back in November of 2013 and started it in December of the same I had my doubts. Staffing and HR was not an industry I was even slightly familiar with. I’d spent the majority of my working life since turning 11 working in customer service, management and sales. Finding people jobs? It was ‘purty alien to me. But I’ve discovered over the last almost eight months that low and behold, I’m actually pretty gul’darned good at it. My office… my Branch is growing, not at an exponential rate but at a steady one. I’ve tacked on over a K in gross weekly margin since taking over, cycled out one partner and am now working with a new one that seems to “get me” and my approach in ways that the last one didn’t. I’ve got a ton of business in the pipeline and more funneling in daily. In short? My job’s good. Real good. I like it more than I’ve liked a job since my earliest days working for CVSStress. In LEGO terms? “Everything is awesome.” Time for a musical interlude? No. Not yet.

Therein lies Caveat One: I enjoy what I’m doing. I put a lot of energy into my everyday, nine to five not-so mundane, routine existence and have little left “in the tank” post-putting the minions to bed to do anything but sit mindlessly and watch the Phillies suck on a nightly basis. Tonight’s a bit of an exception because I drank a Monster around 3:00 PM and am still kinda’ zooted at 10:05. I’m not sure how long this is going to last but I figured I should try to take advantage of it while I can and bang out a thousand words or so. It helps to keep the instrument, AKA my creative mind going. Watching the Phillies really just kills brain cells here in 2014.

So therein lies one reason, perhaps the biggest reason that I haven’t been writing at the same clip that I was last year at this time. Outside of my job, though? There’s my family. My beloved 29 YEAR OLD WIFE Nicole and my equally beloved but at times insanity inducing minions Cara Bear and Nat-Nat Boo. I’ll not lie (’cause really? What would be the point? Nicole would just call my bullsh*t card anyway): When I was knee-deep in the composition of ENDWORLD, I didn’t devote as much time as I should have to them. What can I say? I was at times consumed. I didn’t ignore them per-say. I didn’t retire to the basement and write for hours while they sat upstairs playing princesses and building LEGO houses, but I did allow myself to get caught up in my imagination. And it caused a bit of a strain on things. And I’m not a fan of strain. I prefer that “everything [be] awesome.” So I’v e endeavored to make it so over the last few months. Do you know what? It’s actually been nice. Relaxing for the most part, albeit occasionally enough to make me want to pull every last one of my f*cking salt and pepper hairs out of my head and beard and scream “why God, why can’t the two of you PLAY NICE” at the top of my lungs until I’m hoarse. But teaching Cara to read? Reading “Potty” and working on Natalie’s ABCs with her? Watching “Naked and Afraid” marathons and the god-awful Phillies with Nicole? Hitting up the park circuit and playing in my backyard? All are nice. Awesome, if you will. Cue up Caveat Two: I enjoy spending time with my girls. Not so bad… after all.

As for the other stuff? My ongoing fascination with sports in this town despite the fact that Cleveland may have a champion before we do again (I’m looking at you, Johnny Football)? My desire to start reading books again, albeit books that I’ve read previously rather than always writing them? All are symptomatic of one thing: My need to take a break. A sabbatical, if you will. The last couple of years have been… well? Kind of crazy, friends. Any of you that have tried to balance a career with a family all while self-publishing and marketing your 19 plus year labor of love, not to mention trying to meet the wholly unexpected (I honestly thought people were going to thing ENDWORLD stunk) demand for the continuation of said labor? I’ll repeat: It’s a lot. So you take a step back and try to put things into perspective. You dial back your life changes and “pick up the pieces and build a LEGO house” and you load that f*cker up with as many what we used to call “safeties,” i.e. cross bars that stabilize it and protect it from the destructive tendencies of your two year old as you can. And then…

Then…

When you’ve recouped the sheer amount of energy you depleted in doing all of the above mentioned things… when you’ve replenished “your tank” then? Then, you step outside one hot and humid, early July night and look at the lightning going off in the distance. You inhale deeply on the cigarette you really shouldn’t be smoking, close your eyes, breath in deeply through your nose and exhale through your mouth and for a moment? For one brief, shining moment you realize something completely unexpected. More unexpected than being good at a job you initially doubted you were qualified for and watching the lowly Phillies win four games in a row against one of the best teams in the NL (take that, Brew Crew). You realize that you’re happy. For once in your life, you are actually not a living and breathing facsimile of a smiley face. Your smile? It’s genuine. ‘Cause “everything is awesome.” Is it time, now?

Oh, yes. It is so time:

Try to get it out of your heads now, friends. Odds are you’ll be singing it in the shower tomorrow morning along with me.

All that… all this said, the question remains: How much longer is this break… this sabbatical that I’m on going to last? Well, guys and gals, the answer to that question lies right here in this blog entry. I wouldn’t be pounding these words out right now, abusing my now-seven year old, trusty laptop (might be time for a replacement soon; any suggestions) if I wasn’t ready to hop back on the proverbial horse, get back in the game or whatever chosen cliche you’d like to use to describe the simple fact that it’s time for me to begin writing again. Earlier tonight, I told Cara my two golden rules for building a LEGO house. The first? Never follow the instructions. And the second? Always build until you run out of pieces. I’ve spent enough time following the instructions, and my desire remains to build and build until such time as I have nothing left “in the tank.” Practice what you preach, Madchronicler, AKA Daddy. Who am I to deny that request?

Now, guys. Not a few months from now but now. I know that everything is awesome enough and the time is right. Nicole has my back. Work is still busy, but has stabilized to the point that I’m not spending every waking moment dwelling on it. My minions can play together when they want to, though more often then not it results in the equivalent of a wrasslin’ match, punctuated by screeching and the occasional growl.

And then? There are you. The people that continue to read my random musings and buy ENDWORLD. The ones that ask me when I’m going to finish CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD because they just can’t wait to see what happens next. All the kind souls that have published reviews of my labor of love on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads et al. You guys? You deserve to know. And I promise you that in the very near future? You will. Only 100 or so more pages to write and man oh man: It’s going to be f’n crazy. I can promise you that.

That’s all she wrote, peeps. In closing? Let me just say “thank you.” Thank you all for your constant and unwavering support of me and my endeavors. You remain my rock: That which keeps me going. We’ve all been here before, and because time has no significance on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence there’s always time. Time to live. Time to breath, eat, sleep, f*ck and sh*t.

And there’s always time to build a LEGO house.

Winky emoticon. Smiley Face.

F.

A Life Less Extraordinary

Once upon a time…

‘Cause all good stories begin as such…

I had an idea. That idea? To write my autobiography and entitle it “A Life Less Extraordinary.” Why? Because quite frankly, my life has been far from legendary. Has it had it’s moments? Certainly. Everyone’s life has ‘em. Andy Wharhol called them his “15 minutes of fame.” Every struggling artist–be they a writer, an actor, a painter, a photographer, a musician… whatever–has envisioned their name up in bright, neon lights at some point. Don’t believe me? Ask around. If people are being truthful, I think you’ll find that statement to be 150% accurate.

Some have been successful. Even a few of my contemporaries have. I’ve watched once-associates of mine go on to star in Broadway shows and create album artwork for bands you’ve actually heard of. I even hold the dubious distinction of being loosely-tied to a once politician. A good one, not one of those corrupt bureaucrats that populate DC like vermin…

Oh yes. I went there…

And likely will indefinitely (not something I can control, though I make it a point to vote every single year regardless of how big the election is). But me? Much like Wharhol, I’ve had my “15 minutes of fame.” I am, of course, referring to the self-publication of my debut novel, ENDWORLD last April. It never made it onto any bestseller lists but was I happy with how it performed? Of course I was. A 250 page tome that I wrote when I was 19 to cope with unrequited love ended up being a 447 page epic. And people actually like it. Go fig’!

But outside of that? My life has been pretty darn normal. Less than extraordinary. Hence the title. My idea was to write something for the every man or woman. The people that have dreamed of their 15 minutes but have not yet had them. A rambling piece of long-form, Mental Flatulence that insists to the doubters that it’s okay to be normal. Really. It is. Because we all have a little bit of the extraordinary inside of us. That was the theme… the moral of the story. My story.

Sadly, “A Life Less Extraordinary” seized up at around 100 pages. I made it through my early childhood, through my parents’ separation and divorce and into my high school years but after that? I don’t know. I can’t remember why I stopped (I was flying through it). Maybe that was around the time I decided to re-write ENDWORLD. Or maybe it was the birth of my first and then, my second minion. Whatever the case, I stopped, and have rarely thought about it since.

But…

Lately I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Not in the same capacity as I once did. Quite frankly? I have no desire to write my autobiography at this point in my life. I’m already fictionalizing aspects of my life in The Endworld Series. Why write more? Who the flying f*ck would read it? I’ll pose that question to you my friends, Romans, countrymen and women. Would you? Would you have any interest in reading about a little pear-shaped kid from a broken family who spent the better part of his first 15 years getting picked on? Would you have any interest in reading about that same kid, post-16 through 20-something and his experiences trying to find his ideal, finding it, and then losing it in the space of a couple of weeks? What about what happened to him afterwards: His downward spiral into a toxic existence through which he ended up homeless and living on his friend’s mother’s living room floor? Would you want to read about how he pulled himself back up… how he embraced a career, discovered what “responsibility” is, started dating his Pharmacy Intern, ended up marrying her and having two beautiful little girls with her? “Would you like to know more?”

Well? There isn’t a lot more to tell, sadly. I can embellish it… it’s what I do, but that last paragraph is really it. Save for the lessons I’ve learned through my experiences my life can be summed up in one, tidy “body” paragraph. Or a couple of words. Those words? Less than extraordinary. Which brings me right back to where I started, doesn’t it? I love it when a plan comes together.

I’m torn right now, guys and gals. You see, for years I’ve believed that I had something special inside of me. I believed whole-heartedly that I was cut out for more than a mundane, routine existence. Not that my life is 150% mundane. My job is fun and keeps my busy, my minions keep me occupied and more often than not guessing, and my wife? Well, she just keeps me, which is okay by me. But it’s not my name up on a bright, neon marquis the way I envisioned it almost 20 years ago. Despite the fact that it’s not what I initially envisioned, it’s good. I can say that now. I’m relatively content with my life. Relatively. I wish I was writing more. That’s the biggest thing. It’s like a big a** hole in my artist’s soul that I just want to plug so. Damn. BAD. But it’s tough to do that between work, play, Irish Dance practice, repeated viewings of “Frozen,” birthday parties, shoveling, family strife… you get the picture, I’m sure. So the question that I find myself faced with this unseasonably frigid night in late March is…

Drum roll please…

Do I just throw up my hands, say “to heck with it” and accept a less than extraordinary life as my new norm? Would I be selling myself short if I did? I can be “that guy.” You know the one I’m talking about: The guy that’s… well, just normal. It would certainly be less stressful… less “angsty.” I can be that guy but should I? Should I sacrifice that which I’ve always believed I had inside of me? Maybe it’s not there. Maybe I’d be better off simply saying “to hell with it” and being Mister Nine to Five from now on. Don’t worry, folks. If I go that route I promise, I will still finish The Endworld Series. I owe those of you that have read it, enjoyed it and are waiting with baited breath for the continuation of William’s saga that. I might write fewer pieces of Mental Flatulence like this one and scrap my plans for about seven or eight other books post-The Endworld Series but William’s story? I will finish it. I promise.

I honestly don’t know. I’m torn. So I’m reaching out to those of you that know me. Whether via my writing or in person I invite your insight into this conundrum that I find myself faced with presently. Can I be both? I don’t know. I think it’s too much, presently. I’ve got too much other stuff to contend with. I don’t know if I can balance the dreamer with the realist right now. Circumstances won’t allow it. While you weigh the heft of what I just wrote and… I hope… formulate a response or two to it, I’m going to give it a couple of days. I’ve done this in the past and I think that now’s a good time to do it again. The next two days could potentially be very big days for me in my Nine to Five existence. I’m going to see how they go. Then, I’m going to revisit this question on Friday night post-the minions going to sleep. I’ll see how I feel then. But until then, a few acknowledgements.

To both the dreamers and the Nine to Fivers: Booyakasha. Respect. While I’m not 150% pleased with the fact that I can relate to both sides, it’s nice… and slightly maddening to have both perspectives. To my Endworld-ians: Much respect. I love that you really liked ENDWORLD… that you embraced it and continue to badger me about the sequel. FYI: It’s 280 pages long, currently. By my best estimation I’ve got about 100 left to go before draft one is done-sky. To Disney: I loved and continue to love “Frozen” despite my oldest minion’s desire to watch it every time we’re home and my youngest’s constant “singing” of “Let It Go” (which sounds more like “leh ih GO!” but is just so. Damned. CUTE). To my new employer (who shall remain nameless for fear of a reaming out) thank you. Thank you for respecting my contributions, something that my previous employers always had a bit of a problem with. And too my previous employers? Meh. That’s about all I’ve got for you right now. Meh, and good luck with that! You know what I’m talking about.

And last but certainly not least, to those of you that believe you are living a life less extraordinary, you are not alone. I’m with you, 150%. Just because your name isn’t up on a big, bright, neon marquis does not mean you aren’t special. Guess what? You are. That’s the moral of the ongoing story. Whether you’re special to one person or special to thousands, you are a bright, beautiful, magnificent soul on this, and any side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. And you always will be. Never forget that.

Winky emoticon, friends. Smiley face. Have a blessed evening. I’ll be back in a few days.

A Long Overdue Update

Madchronicler:

The title pretty much says it all. Winky emoticon. Smiley face!

Originally posted on ENDWORLD - A NOVEL and THE ENDWORLD SERIES:

Good Morning, Afternoon, Evening or night, everyone. I know that it’s been a while and I hope that my absence hasn’t soured you on me or my writing. ‘Course, I haven’t been doing much writing lately. To recap? I started a new job back in early December of 2013 and have been focused primarily on that since. I’ve wanted to write… have even started a blog entry or two since, but nothing has made it past “draft” stage.

The situation with CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD is, unfortunately, a similar one. That book remains 280 or so pages to the good. I have about 100 or so left to write and hope to be doing so again in the very near future. But first, I need to read and revise what I’ve written. I’m relatively confident that the story is still “there” (and by “there,” I mean here in my head as…

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It’s A Wonderful Life, Right?

its_a_wonderful_life2

“Oh Mary, let me touch you. Are you real?”

It never fails. Every year on approximately the same night, a few days before Christmas, I come downstairs after putting my beloved minions to bed and it’s on. “It’s A Wonderful Life.” And it’s always at roughly the same part when I tune in. You know the one I’m talking about: The scene where Mister Potter offers George Bailey a boatload of money and George, in no uncertain terms tells him to stick it up his crinkled old you-know-what. He does so despite the fact that he’s not happy… he’s not living the dream that he once envisioned for himself and regaled his then-girlfriend Mary about. Once upon a time…

‘Cause all good stories begin as such, and “It’s A Wonderful Life” is one of the best…

He promised her the moon. Told her that if she wanted it, he’d lasso it out of the sky for her. But he never did. He got older… got married and had a couple of kids… moved into a drafty old house with barely two pennies to rub together and spent his life helping others. Despite it all… despite his family and the immense amount of respect his hometown of Bedford Falls has for him, he finds himself on a bridge on Christmas Eve planning to end it all. In a fit of depression, he wishes that he’d never been born, and guess what? He gets to see what the world might’ve been like without him in it thanks to the help of a heavenly body named Clarence whose just trying to earn his damn wings for the umpteenth time.

Y’all know the rest. George realizes how important he is to the people that care about him and the world and he takes it all back. He “awakens” on the same bridge and everything has returned to normal. Cue the music, him running back into town through the snow and arriving at his house, embracing his family and discovering that he has impacted every, and I mean EVERY life in Bedford Falls. And as his littlest minion “Zuzu” tells him that her “teacher says every time a bell rings and angel gets their wings,” the tears that I have been shedding for the last 10 minutes redouble and I start bawling. Not just tearing up, guys and gals: Sobbing like a pre-pubescent kid who just watched “Old Yeller” for the first time. It’s been that way every year for as long as I can remember and it remains that way now, even at the ripe old (young) age of 38. Few movies impact me the way “It’s A Wonderful Life” does. I never understood why…

Until now.

I’m sorry I’ve been “away” for a while. I’ve been busy… damned busy. Back on December 3rd I started a new job–the same one I referenced in my last blog post–and I’ve been knee-deep in learning not just it, but the industry, as well. I’ve been meeting new people and helping people find jobs. Writing has been somewhat of an afterthought for the first time in a long time. It’s not that I’ve given up… I haven’t. But as my good friend and eminent sage of wisdom Kim “Don’t Call Me Kimmy” said a few nights ago, “you’re allowed to focus on other things, Frank. Writing will be there when you’re ready for it and it’s ready for you, again.”

I believe her, and I believe that. Sh*t, here I am, aren’t I? Blogging again after a month of not doing so. It really is like riding a bike. But this little piece of modern Mental Flatulence isn’t about writing. Not directly, at least. It’s about “It’s A Wonderful Life,” and about the realization that I came to roughly five minutes before I started typing. That realization? That I am more like George Bailey than I ever considered before. The kinship I feel with Capra’s tale? It’s a symptom of similarity, i.e. certain aspects of my life seem culled from the pages of the script.

Consider: I grew up a dreamer. I still am, though I consider myself more of a conservative one this unseasonably warm and foggy night in late December of 2013. When I met my then-Pharmacy Intern turned girlfriend turned wife Nicole Gentile I was filled with youthful spit and vinegar. “You’ll see,” I told her, “one day, I’ll make a living as writer and you’ll never have to work again.” Twelve years later and I’m still working an “odd” job, i.e. not writing for a living and Nicole is working 40 plus hours a week as a PIC (Pharmacist in Charge) at CVS/Pharmacy. I live in a drafty, pseudo-old house and have two “Zuzu’s” of my own. I’ve never ended up on a bridge, or anywhere for that matter contemplating ending it. And I never will. But am I happy? Have I lasso’d the moon? Or am I, like George Bailey, merely accepting this life that I live as incontrovertible, i.e. wearing a winky emoticon and a smiley face but bawling my eyes out inside?

I think, in the immortal words of another cinematic icon, Forrest Gump that “it’s a little of both, happening at the same time.” Spoiler alert, friends: I’m NOT always the living and breathing facsimile of a smiley face. But then again, who is? May he or she who is cast the first aspersion upon me (I’d appreciate them not throwing stones if at all possible). I have my problems just like everyone else from my beloved wife to you do.  But I don’t need an under-qualified angel to come’on down from heaven and show me what the world would be like without me. I don’t care to know. ‘Cause I’m here. For 38 years I’ve always been here, impacting lives and feeling the impact of others upon me and mine. And I hope to be here for a long time.

Life is full of ups and downs, guys and gals. Not every day “is gonna’ be the best day of [your] life (thanks, American Authors).” There are going to be good ones and bad ones and the key to surviving? To not falling into the raging river of despair that flows beneath the proverbial bridge of existence? It’s to always retain hope. To hold onto your dreams and strive toward them, regardless of whether or not you will actually achieve them before the cold, dark embrace of Night with a capital “N” enfolds you. Sh*t really does happen… eight thousand dollars (symbolic dollars, of course; kind of like ethereal Monopoly money) occasionally DOES disappear. But it is in those times of seemingly insatiable despair where you, like George Bailey, look up and see all the smiling faces of the people you’ve impacted in your life staring back at you. They begin to sing “Auld Lang Syne” in perfect harmony as you hold your youngest minion close to your chest and your oldest sings songs from the “Frozen” soundtrack. Behind you, a bell rings and your youngest grunts the equivalent of “every time a bell rings an angel gets their wings.” And as your tears begin to fall you turn to her, and you look her in her big, brown eyes and say…

“That’s right. That’s right.”

Have a very Merry Christmas, every one. And a Happy New Year to boot. Now if you’ll excuse me, George Bailey is about to “awaken.” Cue me, sobbing like a baby.

F.

Yet Another “Quick Hit,” or What I’ve Done With My Late October and Early November

Good Evening, Morning or Afternoon my fellow inhabitants of this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Did you miss me? Probably not. Regardless of whether you did or did not the bottom line is this: I’m back. Things have been a bit hectic these last few weeks and admittedly? Writing–whether it be something simple like a blog entry or something complex like CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD–has been the furthest thing from my mind. But if history has taught me anything, it has taught me that you can only stop something that you love doing for so long. There comes a point where you just have to, for lack of a better phrase, hop back on the horse named “Tucker” (thank you, Cara) and GO. Whether this “quick hit” exemplifies me getting back on the horse or not remains to be seen but for now? It’s a beginning. And lately? I’ve been focusing too much on endings.

Let me take a “tick” and bring you up to speed: A bit over three weeks ago, I was laid off and have been unemployed since. I have not publicized this for a couple of reasons. The first? I’m not a fan of feeling sorry for myself nor of asking people to feel sorry for me. Said lay off was purely a business decision and I bear my former employer no ill will. I’ve been managing “stuff” for almost 20 years now and when times get tough–as they are now and have been for a while–you need to make cuts. I was the highest paid person with the lowest tenure in my office. It had to happen. I enjoyed my eight plus years with that company and admittedly? There is a little hole in my heart where once existed the letters “AFS.” I miss my customers and many of my co-workers. If any of them are reading this right now let me simply say this: Booyakasha. RESPECT. Thank you, all. I will never forget you. Hit me up sometime. My digits are REMOVED FROM THIS POST FOR FEAR OF THEM BEING ABUSED BY LESS SCRUPULOUS TYPES OR CARNIES. Sh*t, Carnies freak me out.

The second? Everyone’s got problems, and mine are no larger than theirs… yours if you’re reading this. My situation is really not that bad. If anything, these last couple of weeks have given me the opportunity to really think at length about what I want to do with the rest of my life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence, however long the almighty has deemed that life to be thanks largely in part to a wife who has been endlessly supportive of my plight. Booyakasha, Nicole, AKA Sweetie: Respect. And much love, dawg (winky emoticon, smiley face). I’ve been able to spend a lot more time with her and my little’uns and it’s been wonderful. I’ve managed to “knock out” a number of projects that I’ve been meaning on “knocking out” for, in some cases, years, and though I still haven’t cleaned out my garage or repainted my garish, yellow bathroom, there still may be time. Though something tells me that my days on the unemployment line may soon be coming to a close. My goal when this happened was to find something by Thanksgiving and as of this moment? I may have. I’ll hopefully know more in the next few days. That said, I likely just jinxed myself. F*ck. I’ve only myself to blame, really. And Carnies. And the Rogue. Always blame the Rogue (Booyakasha, Tommy: RESPECT).

I knew early on that the key for me (this may not be the case for others reading this and if it is not I apologize in advance) was to find something that both A.) Played to my strengths and that B.) I felt comfortable doing. Early on, I mainly looked at jobs with a heavy sales component ’cause outside of writing–which I think I’m pretty good at though others, namely the Troll that bashed my novel on Amazon, don’t–I’m a pretty good salesman. I’ve been doing it for a while, now. I should be. If I wasn’t, someone would have told me long before now. And it runs in my family: Both my mother and my Biological worked in sales for the longest time… woah, woah, woah: For the longest time. I’m a better writer but as much as I want there to be one, there isn’t a career in that for me. Yet. Maybe one day but as of right now? It’s little more than a hobby/a part time, supplemental income. But I’m still hopeful. CHILDREN = 75% done despite a bit of a pregnant pause in the process. And it’s good, guys. Better than the first one. Cross my heart. Still coming in 2014. Stay tuned.

As time progressed, though, and I went through a couple dozen job postings and a few interviews I realized something pretty important: I don’t want to be JUST a salesman. Willy Loman I ain’t (poor usage of the English language completely intended). I want… I NEED a people component, as well. Whether said component is a managerial one or simply a B2B/B2C (that’s “Business to Business” and “Business to Consumer” for the un-initiated or gainfully employed) one I need to work with people. I like people and for the most part, I think people like me. So I started branching out: Looking at admissions and recruitment positions, as well. And low and behold, I MAY have keyed on one though only time, namely the next few days will tell. We shall see. I’m optimistic. Hopefully they are, too. And hopefully the Carnies stay the hell away. SHIVER.

In short? I decided what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. At 38. How f’*cked up is that? Most people go through this in their 20’s. Me? I was on a career path throughout them albeit a slightly suicidal career path with CVSStress that likely would have ended with me either A.) In the grave or B.) Running a District by now. I walked away from that job of my own volition because I was about to get married and I didn’t think working 65-70 hours a week was conducive to starting a life and a family with someone. I found AFS and for eight plus years, AFS allowed me to build a life and a family, embrace my inner Willy Loman and publish a novel. But… and here’s where one or two (or a dozen) of you might disagree with me: I believe in the “D” word. No, not “doo-doo” though Smallish Bear WAS kind enough to bless me with a bit of a Poop-pocalypse pre-her bedtime tonight. Booyakasha, Natalie: RESPECT.

Destiny, guys. Fate. I believe that we all have one. Whether you feel the same or believe that our lives are not pre-determined but are 100% a product of the decisions that we make is up to you. Me, personally? I think the almighty, otherwise known as God, “The Big Guy” et al has a set-ending for each of us. How we get there is up to us, i.e. “Free Will.” It’s like writing a novel. You generally know how the story begins and you know how it ends but how you get there is constantly in flux. Adaptability is KEY. THE key, really, to life, the universe and everything. Me? I’ve always been adaptable. It’s something deep down within me in a place that I don’t like to talk about at parties (but obviously have no problem writing about for the entire gul’darned world to see). I adapted to Retail despite my wanting to be a writer, and I adapted to Engineering despite my wanting to be a writer/my familiarity with Retail. Now? I am ready to once again adapt to something new. A new field, if you will, and… fingers crossed… I WILL HAVE that opportunity. I certainly hope it’s my last one ’cause really: I’m 38 years old. I’m far from “old” though I’m not exactly a little’un, anymore. Whatever I do from now until the proverbial lights go down on me? I want it to be IT. The last thing I do outside of writing and publishing which, let’s face it, I will ALWAYS be doing.

In closing (only a “quick hit,” guys: Sorry; maybe I’ll write more in the next few days), these last three weeks have been… interesting, to say the least. Between applying for jobs, making follow-up inquiries, going on interviews, picking away at CHILDREN, doing laundry and yard work, “de-cluttering” my house, teaching myself how to bake, occasionally bringing my wife lunch on the days she is working, working on Cara’s letters with her when she’s home and teaching Natalie how to be a better pro-wrestler (she’s pretty much nailed the Frog Splash and is currently working on what I like to call her “Zombie Claw”) I’ve had the opportunity to do something I’ve been rarely able to do in my 38 year life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence:

Live. ‘Cause oft times, life gets in the way of that. Carnies, too. And the Rogue. That gul’darned, troublesome Rogue.

To be continued, friends. G’night.

A Matter of Perspective

There is a scene towards the end of Children of Endworld in which one of the main characters–I’m not going to tell you which one–stands upon the precipice of a cliff and looks down at the ocean, smashing against the rocks below. He/she/it (yes, I wrote “it.” It’s a book about robots for crying out loud, did ya’ think I wouldn’t create robot characters?) considers “doing it”: He/she/it has been through much. He/she/it is mentally, emotionally and physically scarred. He/she/it wonders if “doing it” is better than the alternative, i.e. living in a world without love, joy or hope. Does he/she/it follow through? I’ll write more about that later.

I’ve been relatively quiet lately and for that, I am sorry. I’ve been preoccupied. Not much with writing though Children is about 75% done this cold and dreary night in early October, 2013. I’ve mentioned… “stuff” in one or two blog entries lately and that “stuff?” It’s still around. It’s even been compounded by other, unrelated “stuff.” Stuff + More stuff = One big Stay Puft Marshmallow Man of sh*t and right now? I’m covered in gooey, sugary deliciousness. But I’m surviving despite it. There are days where I feel like I’ve gone 10 rounds with Ivan Drago and the only thing that’s keeping me “up” is my heart and my resolve. There are days where I wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle a couple of hell hounds and Gozer the Gozarian. My mentality varies. But the one thing that has remained consistent throughout all the BS is that vision that I detailed in the first paragraph of this blog entry: That of a man/woman/machine standing upon the edge of a cliff, looking out over the angry ocean below and wondering if he/she/it should “do it.” That he/she/it? He/she/it is me, right now. I am standing upon the proverbial precipice of my 38 year life on this side of the wormhole of existence and I am wondering: Do I jump, or do I turn away?

Mind you I wrote “proverbial” for a reason. I’m not contemplating suicide. Nor am I sick and/or dying. The “stuff” in question? It’s not life threatening in the common, everyday sense of the term “life.” And I am sorry, but I’m still not going to go any deeper into detail than that. It remains mine and mine alone to contend with. But the sheer cliff face that I am looking over? I can most certainly write about that. Metaphorically, of course.

I never thought that I’d be 38 years old and married with two kids, two cats, two mortgages and soccer practice every Saturday morning. Let me get that out of the way now. I hoped for it but did I actually believe it? No. I really didn’t. Not until I met Nicole and then? Even then it took me a while to come to grips with that fact that I, too, could be happy. That I, too, could be a father and a homeowner. This was not the life I envisioned for myself some 15, very odd years ago when we all lived in and around “Oz” and no one lived anyplace else. I’ve come a long way from those Halcyon Days of my wayward youth. Yet still, here I am at 38 years young or old depending on your perspective at a crossroads. Arguably the most important one I have ever happened upon on the oft times winding road of my life. And the decisions that I make in the next couple of weeks and months are going to affect me and my loved ones for a very, very long time. Hence the extreme analogy of the cliff: Do I take the plunge or do I turn away?

It seems like an easy question to answer until you’re faced with it. Then it becomes the most difficult thing you’ve ever contemplated. And your choice will have consequences either way. The intoxication of the unknown or the comfort of the known? The world that lies behind you, back away from the precipice or the one that lies in front of you, cloaked in obscurity? One is filled with risk and the other? Not so much. What type of person are you? Are you the kind of person that embraces the questions or the kind of person that avoids them? And is your life as a risk taker or a home body sustainable? Questions, questions and more questions, all without answers save for one: I have no f*cking idea what to do.

Therein lies the rub, guys. I know I am faced with one of William MacNuff’s “watershed moments” and I know I need… I NEED to make a decision one way or the other. Do I leap or do I walk away? Sadly, I cannot decide which way is best. I’ve always been a moderate. Were I the President, I would be the Commander in Chief that straddles the aisle more than any President in history. I’m a hybrid: Both a city slicker and a suburbanite; a student and a teacher. Of course I am. I’m a guy that was raised by a woman albeit an incredibly strong woman (booyakasha, Mom. RESPECT). The only other Y-Chromosome in my house is the one my gender-challenged, almost 11 year old cat ‘Dorna possesses. I exist and have existed for decades as a contradiction: A practical artist; a dreaming realist. An oxymoron? How dare you call me a name you… you… you YOU you. But yes, I am an oxy… moron. And my current indecision? It is a direct result of that.

Each choice has potential positives and negatives. Sadly, very little is apparent on the surface. Most of it is speculation. Let me reiterate that I am not contemplating killing myself nor am I considering catching the red eye to Jamaica and cliff diving (aw HELL no). The cliff? It is a metaphor and metaphorically? I, like my character, stand upon a precipice. I, like my character is wondering “do I” or “don’t I.” I, like my character know that the decisions that I make in the next few weeks and months are going to affect me as much as the physical action of either jumping or turning from the cliff would. I am 38 years old and the remainder of my existence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence is hanging in the balance. Do I, or don’t I?

Perhaps the answer is evident in the actions of the character from Children that is standing upon his/her/its own precipice. I’m going to let you in on a little secret, guys: I’ve written the character too that point but I have not yet written what he/she/it does. Why? Because the Endworld books have always been reflective of my own life. An Autobiographical Fiction, if you will and until I make the decision for myself? Until I leap or don’t? I cannot make it for him. Or her. Or it. Damn, dirty metal bastards.

And with that? It’s back to “stuff.” G’night, all. Pleasant dreams. It looks like “Rocky IV” AND “Ghostbusters” are on right now. But I don’t think I am going to watch either. There’s a “The Walking Dead” marathon on AMC. Metaphorical? I leave that for you to decide.

Winky emoticon. Smiley face.