When My Past Meets Her Present: Daddy Wisdom For My School-Age Minion

Good evening, all. It’s been a bit since I last wrote. My apologies. I’ve been caught up in a whirlwind of a million and one other “things.” I could elaborate on what those “things” are but to do so would be frivolous. They are the usual “things” that dog us all: Work, family, friends, unexpected and anticipated hospital visits… it’s been a wacky couple of weeks on that front. Note that I did not include writing in that list. Yep. Your old buddy the Madchronicler has been doing everything and anything BUT writing lately. Hopefully that changes in the very near future.

A couple of housekeeping points before I get to the topic that is plaguing my always plagued mind this evening. The first? ENDWORLD – A Novel, The Shane Campaign Edition has sold pretty well. Thank you to everyone that bought a copy! It’s still available via the usual channels: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, et cetera et cetera. Links to buy at www.theendworldseries.com/where-to-buy/.  Remember that all proceeds go to Shane Lee and his ongoing fight against DIPG. I had initially intended on doing so for a month but have since decided to extend it indefinitely. IMO, it’s worth it. So if you haven’t yet picked up a copy and you want to donate to a great cause and an even greater kid I urge you: Pick up your copy TODAY. 4.5 stars on Amazon and 5 on Barnes and Noble, not to mention 4.8 on Goodreads. The masses seem to like it, and I’m pretty confident you will too! Thanks for your continuing support! #FightForShane!

The second? Plans are in motion to take my talents err… my ramblings both here and over on the Endworld site to a new home. In preparation for the eventual completion and publication of CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD I have decided to encapsulate everything into a one-stop-shop website. It’s not live yet… I’ve got a ways to go on it but when it’s done? I promise that you’ll be the first to know. Stay tuned!

And that, friends? That’s really it. There’s more but as I said previously, it’s pretty unnecessary.   Nothing really life altering just piddling little… “things” (I know; I’m feeling pretty creative tonight, sarcasm fully intended). Rather than waste your time I think I’ll get to the crux of what’s stewing in my noggin this early October evening in the year 2014 of our Lord.

As you may or may not know, my oldest minion Cara is now in Kindergarten. Yes, that’s right: I’ve got a school-age daughter. She started back at the beginning of September and has been doing great since! She’s learning new and exciting things every day (though when you ask her what she learned at night she often replies with “I don’t remember,” an answer that does NOT stand up to a bit of persistent grilling) and turning quickly into a little lady. Before I know it she’s going to be sleeping until noon, eating cold pizza and asking to borrow the car but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, ‘kay?

I’m proud of her… DAMN proud. I’m proud of Natalie too but it’s a different kind of proud. It’s the “I’m proud that you didn’t blow out your diaper and said ‘please’ before you took my phone” kind of proud. With Cara? It’s different. She’s learning how to write her letters and her numbers. She’s learning how to sound out words, combine them with sight words and read a little. It’s the fold your arms across your chest, smile and nod your head kind of proud as opposed to the “aw, that’s so CUTE” kind.

Yet with the good? The bad. I mentioned the term “little lady” a few paragraphs ago. That’s an accurate one to describe her now. Yet another something-something has lately reared it’s ugly head. Just slightly, but for the first time, it’s there and admittedly? I’m a bit “wigged out” by it (thank you, the 90’s, for teaching me phrases like “wigged out” and “sheah, right”). The other day, I picked Cara and Natalie up at school and went through the usual routine. “Hi, how are you? How was your day?” When I asked Cara the latter question she got really quiet. So I persistently grilled her and found out what was irking her. In short? She was sad because two of her classmates had played together that afternoon and had not included her.

Okay. So this is not an uncommon occurrence. And I told Cara that. I cited examples of when she had played with one of her friends and not the other. And it seemingly got through to her. But she remained visibly upset about it. By the time bedtime rolled around she was okay, and the topic has not come up since but that moment? It’s stuck with me like a tick, embedded in my something-something since.

My wife and I both came from similar… situations growing up. Neither of us was exactly Mister or Missus Popularity in school. If anything, we were both outcasts for a time until we found our respective “niches.” I’ve said this before and I will say it again: I do not begrudge ANYONE how they treated me when I was younger. If anything, I’m thankful because that persecution that I endured between roughly 11 years old and 15? It made me into the person… the man I am today. Because of it, I grew a thick skin… learned to laugh at myself… learned to love what I once considered my abnormalities, i.e. weight, buck teeth, a bowl cut and a love of Journey (when everyone else was listening to Iron Maiden; not that I don’t like Iron Maiden, but seriously? Journey is WAY better). That persecution led me to the people that I am fortunate to count my closest friends too date–a group of similar “outcasts” that shared the same kind of background as me. And I would not trade a lick of that or them for all the popularity in the world. Booyakasha. Respect.

Yet the thing is? I remember how it felt. And admittedly? It turns my stomach and makes me throw up a little in  my mouth. Is it behind me? Yes. But are “the feels” still there? Yes they are. They’re a part of me… I embrace and live with them because they contribute to what I call my controlled angst. I need those feels. Yet I would not wish them on anyone else in the world. Specifically? My oldest daughter, Cara.

You see, her little tale of woe–of two classmates playing with each other and excluding her–concerns me. Because I don’t want Cara to go through what I went through. True, those experiences molded me but I remember the times I cried quietly in the corner all too well. I remember the feel of a noogie all too well. I remember the name calling… remember being excluded. I remember how hard I tried to change myself… to conform to what my peers considered “the norm” and remember failing miserably. ‘Cause really? A pair of Nikes, sweat pants and Oakley sunglasses did not and will never an outcast make popular. You can change the surface but beneath it? In those places Jack Nicholson doesn’t like to talk about at parties, who you are remains. Acceptance of that comes with maturity. Anyone that can do it at 11 years old has my immense respect. “I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!”

I’m not saying that Cara’s going to go through even a fraction of what I went through. She’s a Kindergartener. Who she is and what she will become is evolving on a daily basis. Those classmates aren’t all going to be there in a year or two. She’s going to meet new people in the months and years ahead and while I love the prospect of “friends for life” I’m a realist. Nine out of 10 times you don’t meet your “friends for life” until, at the earliest, middle school. In most cases you don’t meet them until high school and in some? You don’t meet them until college. Try telling that to a five year old, though, or even an 11 year old. In all likelihood it’s not going to matter squat in the present.  All Cara wanted was to play with her classmates and she couldn’t. And she was sad because of it.

What to do? Well, guys and gals, you do what I did: You explain it to her in the best and gentlest way that you can because right now? Your word is law to them. They haven’t reached the Age of Reason yet though signs of it’s approach are quickly beginning to appear. You assure her that it’s not her; that her classmates like her just as much as they always did and that they’ll probably play with her tomorrow (I’m assuming they did, because this happened a few weeks ago and it hasn’t come up since). You give them a hug if that’s what they want and you let them cry on your shoulder if they have to. You offer them a treat–Vanilla Ice Cream with rainbow jimmies, maybe; it’s Cara’s “fave”–and do whatever they want to do. Draw? Play a game? Play babies? Watch “Sofia the Second” for the umpteenth time? Let’s be honest: You’re not going to explain the meaning of life to a five year old. But you can comfort them. Make them feel wanted. Loved. You can say “I know what it’s like, sweetie. Daddy went through it too. So did Mommy. But let me tell you something, kiddo: Both Mommy and Daddy made it through okay. Mommy, Bear? Mommy’s Daddy’s ‘best friend for life.’ And we didn’t meet until we were older. So’s Daddy’s friend Caren and Mommy’s friend Erin. Uncle Matt, Uncle Terry, Mister Tom and Miss Michelle? Miss Sarah and Mister John? We all had our days where we felt like no one wanted to play with us. And we got sad, too. But in the end? In the end…”

In the end, all “things” pass. As we get older we realize that all the sh*t that we dealt with back when we were kids made us into the men and women that we are this early October night in the year 2014 of the Lord. All the noogies and names? They taught us both how to treat others and how not to treat them. They taught us so that we can teach our own children in the hopes that maybe… one day… “things” like bullying disappear entirely. Maybe in my lifetime? Maybe in Cara’s? Maybe not for another 100 or more years. Who knows? But if we commit to it… if we make a concerted effort to teach our children that no matter whether your wearing Nikes or Whale Shoes… whether you’re wearing sweat pants or black jeans and a trench coat… whether you’re wearing Oakley’s or sunglasses you bought for $10.00 off the rack at CVSStress, you and that person there, and THAT person there and THAT one? That one across the room crying in the corner? You’re all equal. Amazing little miracles with unlimited potential. Apart you can only remain static but together? Together you can change the whole f*cking world.

Booyakasha. Respect. And good night.

F.

 

 

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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.

On Being An Artist Extraordinaire (Pronounced “Ar-teest”)

Last evening, something pretty awesome happened in my subjective reality on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Yes, I said “awesome.” What can I say? I am a child of the 80’s and back then, awesome was arguably the most used superlative (runners-up: Gnarly, rad (as in “radical”) and excellent). We–as in Nicole, Cara, Natalie and I–were fully engrossed in our nightly routine: In our PJs and “settled” with the Good Night Show on in the background. Nicole and Cara were playing tic-tac-toe, i.e. Cara’s new, favorite game. They were doing so on her new, Barbie Doodler when Natalie… the best way I can describe it is “toddled up.”

Picture this, if you will: Curly, crazy hair. chubby cheeks, a pair of “Heal the World” PJs and a bottle hanging out of her mouth. Always smiling, unless you take her last bottle away from her or try to put her to bed before she’s ready. I’d post a picture of her herein but I’m leery of plastering my kids’ faces all over the internet and always have been. Anywhos, she “toddles up” to Nicole and Cara, grabs the pencil that you draw on the doodler with in her right hand, holds it almost as well as I hold a pen, and starts… well, doodling.

It wasn’t anything too out of the ordinary: Just some scribbling, punctuated by the occasionally triumphant “anh!” or “Hodor!” Yes, I wrote Hodor. I swear that Natalie’s taken to saying that, recently. If you are a fan of either the Game of Thrones television series or books then you understand the significance. If not? Well, my wife thinks she’s trying to say “what’s that” and it comes out sounding like “Hodor” but me? Come on. The kid has a dragon named Smaug and saw the Lord of the Rings movies for the first time when she was two months old. Ya’ think I’m trying to instill my interests in her at an early age? Survey says: Undoubtedly.

But I was visibly shocked. I couldn’t believe it. We couldn’t even get Cara to hold a crayon pre-turning two and even then, she wasn’t really interested. But Natalie? Fourteen months young and counting and she’s already holding a “pencil” perfectly and understands what to do with it. I immediately went into the playroom which adjoins and generally overflows into our living room, got a crayon and a pad of paper, came back into the room, sat down on the floor with both, motioned Natalie over (she came), and handed her the crayon. What did she do? She sat down on the floor, the nipple of her bottle still clamped between her teeth, and started scribbling. Scribble. “Anh!” Scribble some more. “Hodor!”

I was so gul’darned proud. This went on for about five more minutes before she lost interest and started attempting to eat the crayon which I quickly stopped. Thereafter she went back to her “ba-ba” and Wibbly Pig and all returned to normal. But for just one singular moment in whatever passes for time ’round these parts, an entire future passed before my eyes. The too-be-told story of Natalie Marsh, Artist (pronounced phonetically as “Ar-teest”) Extraordinaire.

It’s no secret to anyone that knows me and knows Nicole that Cara almost immediately adopted her mother’s personality. She’s analytically inclined (as much as a four year old can be), well-spoken, can already count to 70 (with a little bit of help) and knows how to add and subtract using props, i.e. fingers or Cheerios. She knew how to spell her name shortly after she turned three and was able to write it by three and a half (though she’s still having difficulty with her “R’s.” Hey, “R’s” not an easy letter to master!). But numbers? Numbers are her passion. Much like my wife, who as you may or may not know is a pharmacist (sarcasm fully intended; if you don’t know that by now then you’re not reading the right “Random Musings”). I’m not bragging guys, i.e. my kid is smarter than your kid. I would never do that. I’m just stating the facts. “Just the facts, sir. Just the facts.”

But what about me? What about my characteristics? Save for a slightly twisted sense of humor–she’s fond of making a special trip to sit and “toot” on Daddy’s leg before laughing like a loon and walking away–an expansive imagination and a penchant for over-dramatics, she’s about 70% Nicole and 30% me. Which is fine. I will never complain. Nicole’s my wife and Cara’s my daughter, and I love her… love them implicitly.

But Natalie? It’s like she adopted her Daddy’s personality from day one. She’s stubborn, knows what she wants, gets emotional when she doesn’t get it, loves hugs, fancies a good drink (milk, in her case, Scotch in mine) and now? Now, she’s showing an early, artistic penchant. And this? To have a child that has the potential to not just be yours but to be like you? It’s the most awesome, gnarly, rad and excellent thing that can possibly happen to a parent.

Nicole’s taking the minions out to Target, today, to get Natalie her own crayons. “My First Crayola Washable Crayons” and if you have toddlers and haven’t tried them yet please: Try ’em. I’ll even link them for you HERE. Let me know what you think. And I’ll be sure to keep you abreast of Natalie’s burgeoning career as an artist (again, pronounced “ar-teest”) moving forward.

I could speculate on where Natalie might go from here. I could come up with a whole scenario involving her being an artistic prodigy: About her rising up through the ranks of that particular society and having her first gallery showing at age 10. I could. Heck, what parent doesn’t envision a successful life for their minions? I could even postulate about a collaboration with her dad one day in which she illustrates something that he wrote. I see a picture in my mind of me, older, grayer and hopefully thinner, standing next to her with her crazy, curly hair, each of us holding up a book that I wrote and she created the cover for. That, guys? That’s a pleasant vision.

I know I’m a dreamer. It’s who I am, who I was and who I’ll always be. I want the fantasy. You know, the one that I envisioned years ago after eating a really bad bowl of New England Clam Chowder, back when I lived somewhere between Indianapolis, Indiana and Abington, Pennsylvania and no one lived anyplace else. You don’t? Okay. I promise that one day in the near future I’ll tell you more about it. But this isn’t about my dream for me. It’s about my kids. And I’m allowed to dream about my kids and their lives 10, 20 years from now, aren’t I? Of course I am. It’s part of being a parent. I believe in supporting them in whatever they choose to do. After all, that was what my mother did for me regardless of her own, personal biases towards certain careers that I considered. Booyakasha, Mom-Mom Minnie: RESPECT.

But for me, this isn’t about Natalie’s burgeoning career as the next Salvador Dali. Heck, she might abandon her new crayons all together next week. It’s about one of my girls showing an inclination toward the type of person that I am, however briefly. Not that showing an inclination toward Nicole is or would be a bad thing. Quite the contrary: I think it’s great that Cara’s so much like her Mommy and if Natalie ends up being the same? Awesome, gnarly, rad and excellent. But I take a great deal of pride in even the remotest possibility that one day, Natalie might be an “ar-teest” extraordinaire like her Daddy is, or wants to be (whether I am or am not I leave for you to decide).

But I would caution her the same thing that people cautioned me for years. That path? It’s not lined with rubies and emeralds, i.e. it’s not always profitable or socially acceptable. It’s a struggle for a long time. Heck, it still is. Just because I published a book and it’s sold modestly well up until this point doesn’t mean that I’m a successful author. Heck, I haven’t even broken even yet though I’m pretty close. I’m closer to relevancy than I was before, when ENDWORLD – A Novel was little more than a file on my old HP 286 with the monochrome screen. But it’s not my career. Not yet, at least. But I’m one step closer to it being so than I was a couple of years ago and that? That is a comforting thought. For me and, I hope, for my wife and my minions.

Bring an artist? You have to work at it daily and when you’re tired of working at it? You have to work at it some more. That’s the only way it ever goes from being a hobby to a career. You’re not always going to be accepted. Quite the contrary: Career-types discount people that write, or draw, or sculpt because of the age-old stereotype of the starving artist. That’s understandable, and that is not, I repeat NOT a knock on people that chose a profession. I married one of those people. Some of my closest compadres are doctors, lawyers et al. I love them and admire them all the more for their accomplishments.

But the idea of the starving artist? It exists. It pervades our society. Some of the greatest “ar-teests” in history were. Van Gogh was a pauper who was never recognized until after he died. Dylan Thomas chose a life of poverty as a “minor artist” because it offered him a different way of living, albeit a way that inspired him. Henry Miller was a Bohemian. I could list other names but to do so would be counterproductive. There are a thousand and one, both known and unknown that meet the classification.

But what the white-collar, career-types despite my respect for them and what they have accomplished in their lives don’t always take into account is that starving artists? They worked and are working just as hard and at times harder than them. Art? It is their career, however un-fulfilling it is monetarily. And the rewards for the ones that stick it out and find eventual success? Relevancy? They are the dream, i.e. the rubies and the emeralds. Not many people can say that they’re living their dream existence on this, or any side of the wormhole but me? Well, I may not be living it now but I still believe that one day, I will. By the grace of a sometimes humorless universe, I still believe in the fantasy that was spawned by a bowl of Bad New England Clam Chowder so many moons ago. And I will continue to work toward it, ’cause it’s what I chose. It’s who I am. Not the whole “me,” but a gul’darned big part of it.

I just talked to Nicole a couple of moments ago. She, Cara and Natalie went to Target despite the torrential rain that has been pounding southeastern Pennsylvania since I woke up this AM. They didn’t have My First Crayola Washable Crayons so instead, Natalie got jumbo ones and Cara got markers to practice not only writing her name and playing tic-tac-toe, but drawing, as well (she actually does a really good face, and a few weeks ago, she drew a whale that I actually recognized as a whale). She–Cara–has taken an interest in drawing houses, lately, and I showed her the rudimentary way to do it: One square, a triangle on top… you know what I’m talking about. Maybe she’s got an artist in her, as well. Maybe Natalie will be the doctor. Maybe they both’ll be white-collar career types or maybe they’ll both be starving artists. Whatever they become in the next 10, 20 years I will love them implicitly, and I look forward to seeing them grow, and develop. And if, one day, my dream of collaborating on a book with one, or both of them comes true?

Well, guys? That would be pretty awesome, gnarly, rad and excellent, all at once.

All together now: “Hodor!”

Of Sales Reports, Creativity, “Bullsh*t Artists” and the Secret Meaning of Fonts

I’m going to be upfront with you, guys: I love writing sales reports. Always have, even back when I worked as a Store Manager for CVSStress/Pharmacy. You remember those days, don’t you? Back when I walked around with a pager clipped to my belt in one of my many, collarless button downs, a trenchcoat hanging from my shoulders, a fedora perched upon my head and a cigarette hanging out of the corner of my mouth.

You don’t? Okay. Well maybe a few of you do but the rest of you? Sorry. I sometimes loose sight of the fact that this whole blogging-thing is a relatively new platform for me. Back then, the majority of my writing was done on my old, 286 HP with the monochrome screen, or in one of the myriad journals that I carried with me. The only people that ever read it were my closest friends and compadres. Now, though? What was once  scribbled or typed in private has gone public. I’m still not entirely sure if that’s a good thing. At least I discriminate. I don’t just put anything out here. Some things, I keep to myself. Others? Well, y’know.

I digress. Those of you who know me and have been following me and my ramblings for a while now know that my jobs haven’t always been geared toward my strengths, i.e. creativity, imagination, writing and algebra. Yes, algebra. Don’t ask me how that made it onto the list. I was always the math-a-phobic English Major until I took a GE algebra requirement class for my still-developing Masters in Education (and by “still-developing,” I mean “likely never going to happen”). Apparently, I had a skill I never new existed as evidenced by my A+ in that class.

Admittedly? That was three or four years ago. Pre-children. Now? Who knows. Someone do me a solid: Post an algebra problem in the “comments” section of this blog entry and I’ll try to answer it. If I get it right I’m allowed to boast of my algebraic prowess in future blog entries. If I get it wrong? You get to determine my punishment. Nothing involving spiders, though. I hate spiders. But I love writing sales reports which is what this blog entry is supposed to be about! Stop distracting… well, me. I’m distracting myself. And I’m sounding more schizophrenic than ever.

Oh f*ck. I went cross-eyed, again.

Back to the topic of this blog entry: Sales reports. Why do I love writing sales reports? Simple, really. Writing. It’s one of the rare times that I actually get to use one of my strengths in my oft times mundane, routine existence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Blog entries? They don’t really count, even the ones that I dilly and dally with during my “down” time. They’re not invariably linked to my current “career,” nor were their predecessors, “Mental Flatulence.” Books like ENDWORLD – A Novel? Again, I generally don’t touch them during working hours. I generally wait to work on them until post-9 PM when the girls are in bed (though not necessarily asleep). But sales reports? They are linked to my daily existence. And when it comes to writing them, I have now and always have had what amounts to my own, personal system. I should warn you, Sales Report Nazis (if any of you exist): It’s not exactly what they taught you in Management 101.

Consider that generally, a basic sales report has three main components: Sales Successes, Sales Challenges and Sales/Marketing Plans, i.e. what you are going to do to conquer your Sales Challenges. Most people write each section like a school taught outline (“I” followed by an indent and “A” followed by another indent and “1,” et cetera, et cetera). Not me. I write each section the same way I used to write essays in high school and college: Free form. And loaded with embellishments and numbers. I thrive on the former. The more descriptors I throw in the better. They don’t call English Majors, or former English Majors turned nonviable Education Masters “bullsh*t artists” for nothing.

Por ejemplo, the one that I just wrote today. Let’s just say that the business that my company is doing with this company in 2013 isn’t exactly stellar. But despite what the hard numbers say, I never once let on in my report that my company was under performing  Sure, I cited factual examples of where we weren’t meeting our numbers in the “Challenges” section, but I followed those statements of fact up with embellishments that would fit perfectly into the pages of CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD (not exactly a ringing endorsement for a forthcoming Science Fictional novel, is it?). To paraphrase: “Sure our sales of BLANK are down BLANK PERCENT from this time last year, but our sales of BLANK of BLANK are up BLANK PERCENT, which only shows a net loss of BLANK total as opposed to BLANK PERCENT.”

Confused? Don’t be. Just think of it as an algebra problem: A < B, but C > B > A. What is C? C = BLANK, alias a very high percentage that in no way, shape or form  makes up for the fact that A is down almost BLANK PERCENT from this time, last year (but big numbers look damn fine on paper!). BTW, BLANK, in case you were wondering, is one of the best and most utilized tools of the self-proclaimed “bullsh*t artist.”

And in the Sales/Marketing section? I focused on what we were going to do to improve our performance, but made re-mention, numerous times of the Sales Successes I covered in the first section. I also threw in a subtle jab which, judging from the reaction I got from my co-workers was just subtle enough to get the point across. That point? That we’re not the only ones responsible for our sales being down BLANK PERCENT. You are, as well, and here’s why. Blah, blah, blah.

I hope you, my readers get my point. And if you don’t? DM me on Facebook or Twitter and I’ll send you a copy of the sales report (with all relevant names and numbers removed and replaced with the word “BLANK”). Or email me. I’ll do the same. The bottom line? For me in my of times mundane, routine existence sales reports = Creativity. Not necessarily untapped creativity. It’s not like writing a novel. But I like to keep even the driest of dry compositions interesting. That’s why I change my font to match how I feel about the sales report I’m writing.

Don’t believe me? Again, DM me or email me and I’ll send you a censored copy. Fonts are a misunderstood resource, IMO. Microsoft Word (and too a lesser extent other word processing programs) have given us a wealth of fonts to choose from–everything from Palatino Linotype which I write all my novels and short stories in unless otherwise advised to, and Comic Sans which I only use when I want to non-verbally spit on you or the topic I am writing about. I bet you can’t guess which font I used in my aforementioned sales report? Survey says?

BLANK. Oh come on. You can’t tell me you didn’t see that coming. All I’ll tell you is that it was neither Palatino or Comic. It was… well? It was BLANK. End story.

Fonts = A form of non-verbal expression for writers. They’re a way of showing our readers our mood or, in many cases, the mood and/or tone of our book, short story, poem, essay et al. I wrote ENDWORLD – A Novel primarily in Palatino, but when it came time to type the title page, the copyright page, the dedication, the table of contents and the Part and Chapter headings? Bank Gothic, baby. If you’ve never seen it, check it out. It’s very Dystopic looking. Sadly, Bank Gothic didn’t look very good in print and my designer and I opted for Arial Narrow instead which, IMO, does translate well to print. But I leave that for those of you that purchased a print copy of ENDWORLD – A Novel to decide.

Here are some examples of Word (’cause that’s the one I know the best) fonts (excluding the ones already mentioned above) and what they signify, in alphabetical order:

  • Arial: The font most businesses use, it signifies something made for the BLANKS by the BLANKS (a BLANK is, of course, a temporarily banned word in my subjective reality that begins with a “sh,” ends with a “ds” and has a “*thea” in the middle). Variations used by less normal but still boring BLANKS like myself include Arial Alternative, Arial Black and for the really audacious, Arial Unicode MS. Arial Unicode MS? I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy! Moving on…
  • Calibri (Body): The default font in Microsoft Word, it signifies… well, nothing, really. It’s boring. It’s a default for Chrissakes. Anyone who uses Calibri (Body) extensively has absolutely no imagination or creativity whatsoever. A writer that writes in Calibri (Body) is likely writing stereo instructions, or a “How To” manual for installing a dimmer switch. At least pick something with some character. Something like…
  • Commercial Script BT: One of the most unintelligible fonts available via Word, the only writers that use it are the ones that truly believe their superpower is to read illegible print and anyone else that can’t shouldn’t buy their book or read their blog. Not only fonts like Commercial Script, but handwriting like mine and the notes that doctors jot down on prescriptions.
  • Courier New: The font preferred by writers like myself that did the majority of their earliest writing on a 286 HP with a monochrome screen in the non-Windows compatible Wordperfect. Significance?  Traditional values. Anyone else grow up with that experience? I swear to this day I still remember the keystroke macro to bring up the “File” dialogue box. See also Courier WP.
  • Georgia: Admittedly, if I had to pick one font to write in for the rest of my natural life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence, it would be Georgia. Why? I have absotively, posolutely no f*cking idea. I just like the look of it. It’s like a cross between Arial and Times New Roman, but with a little additional flair thrown in. For me, Georgia = Most of my basic, everyday writing. These blog entries? Georgia. I think it’s one of the main reasons why I chose this theme.
  • Impact: In yo’ face! ‘Nuff said. A writer writing in Impact is non-verbally smacking you upside your silly head. It is equivalent to using all caps in an email or a blog entry.
  • Old English Text MT: Arguably as unintelligible and illegible as Commercial Script or Kunstler Script, Old English Text MT is a good font to use when you’re writing Epic Fantasy, or Historical Fiction set in… well? Old English times. Writers who use it believe that they appear well read to their readers. Most readers that encounter it generally believe that the writer that utilized it is a bit pretentious, or is intentionally ripping off Tolkein.
  • STENCIL (purposefully in caps because with STENCIL, all you get is caps): “In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire… The A-Team.” STENCIL will forever in my mind be associated with the A-Team. It’s arguably the most overused title page font in the genre that I primarily write fiction in (Sci-Fi Adventure), which is why I won’t go near it. That’s not to say that STENCIL = Poor quality. It doesn’t. But it’s implications are pretty obvious. If I see a title font in STENCIL I know I’m about to read a book that has a high-tech military fighting either aliens or… well, aliens.

And there you have it: A basic list of some of the fonts I have encountered in my life and what a writer who uses them is, IMO, trying to convey to his or her readers. Am I right? Wrong? I leave that for the other writers reading this blog entry to decide. My opinions are, of course, my own. But if you ever encounter something that I wrote, typed in Comic Sans font? Well. Now you know how I really felt about it.

On that note, I believe that it is time for me to bring my non-verbal, dilly dallying to a close for the day. In summation? I turned in my sales report and eagerly await a response from BLANK about it. Good? Bad? “Meh?” As I mentioned previously, sales reports aren’t exactly well-springs of creativity. Most of them are written like an outline. But those of you that know me… that have known me since I was a pager carrying, trenchcoat wearing, Mandarin collar sporting fedora’d BLANK that begins with a “sh,” ends with a “d” and has a “*thea” in between know that at my core? I’m not a Store Manager. Nor am I even an Office Manager though I masquerade as one daily in my oft times mundane, routine existence. What am I? Nothing more than a “bullsh*t artist” who occasionally shows off his algebraic prowess.

Oh! And I hate spiders, too. If A = Spiders, and B = Me, then A + B = C. And C? C = A grown man who has been known to SCREAM LIKE A BANSHEE WHEN HE FINDS ONE ON HIM. See? Caps = IMPACT. In yo’ face, guys. In. Yo’. Face. 

🙂

A Bedtime Story

It is a surreal evening for your old friend the Madchronicler on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence, guys. In case you don’t follow me on Facebook or Twitter (and I’m not going to pitch those two sites, again; if you want to check them out you can link them via the “ABOUT ME” page of this blog), I just signed off on the final proofs for the e-book versions of ENDWORLD – A NOVEL. I did so while Natalie slept soundly upstairs (and hopefully will continue to do so despite the fifth tooth she has coming in, presently) and Cara sat beside me, her eyes glued to an episode of “Dora the Explorer.” We were a vision of the 21st Century tech family: Me with my laptop opened on my lap and her with the iPad opened on hers. I wish I’d taken a picture. But there’ll be plenty of time for that in the days, months and years ahead.

After her episode of Dora ended and after I “slept” my laptop, we commenced our nightly routine: We called Nicole and said goodnight. We brushed our teeth. We took our Pinkalicious and Purplicious vitamins (the former for Cara’s ear infection). We went upstairs, has a drink of water and Cara climbed into bed. I told her I loved her and that I’d see her in the morning. And then? Cara asked me to tell her a story.

“What kind of story?” I asked her.

“A Nemo story,” she responded.

Jesus, I thought, Nemo, again? I opened my mouth and started to tell it but then I stopped myself. I asked her if she wanted to hear a different story. She asked me which one and I told her the following:

Once upon a time, there lived a little boy who never could quite fit in no matter how hard he tried. He wasn’t really good at sports and he was kind of shy. But the one thing he could do well was write. And he loved writing. His first story that he ever wrote was a full-length short story about meeting his then-musical idol. He even illustrated it. As he got older, his interests branched out and he started writing about other things. Book reports and term papers, at first. Essays, too, but not just essays about history and literature. He wrote essays for fun.

Then, sometime around his 17th or 18th Birthday, he started writing a novel. That novel? He realized pretty quickly that it stunk really badly. He shelved it and reconsidered writing something as daunting as a full-length novel. But then, one summer day, he was inspired by a musty basement and the promise of a vacation that he would be going on in a week. So he started another novel. That novel? He kept writing it. After months and months of working on it he finally reached the end, and in a fit of composing that he has been unable to duplicate since, he completed it. He wrote the words “THE END” on the last page. And then? 

He kicked the power cord out of the wall and his computer shut off. And he realized that he had neglected to save the last 15 pages he had typed on his old, 286 HP with the Monochrome Screen. He thought about giving up then, too, but in the end? He decided that he wanted to finish what he’d started. So he stayed up all night and he did. And as the sun rose outside, he wrote “THE END” a second time. And that time? He remembered to save it. He was a shade over 19 then and he had completed his first novel. In his mind, the sky was the limit. 

But over time? Life interfered. He fell in love, had his heart broken, fell in love again, went away to school, had his heart broken again, had many life experiences, met many new people who have remained his friends… his brethren, since, graduated college, embarked on a career, rose up through the corporate hierarchy of Today’s Neighborhood Drugstore, fell in love again, didn’t have his heart broken, abandoned his “career” after 13 years, started a new one, got married, bought a house, had a couple of kids, flirted with a Master’s Degree, missed a requirement by 0.25 points, decided to hold off on school and then? Finally? After years and years of toying with the idea, he picked up the novel he had written “THE END” on the last page of 15 years previously and started over. He rewrote it… rebuilt it from its foundation up. And at long last? He completed it, wrote “TO BE CONTINUED” and not “THE END” on the last page of it and began the task of preparing it for publication. He succeeded. And on April 22, 2013 at approximately 8:45 PM while his daughter sat next to him playing on the iPad and the Phillies game played in the background? He clicked the “SEND” button on an email and posted to Facebook and Twitter simultaneously:

“Proofs? Signed off on. It is now safe to COMMENCE HAPPY DANCE!”

The End.

By the time I had finished speaking, Cara’s eyes had grown heavy and she was teetering on the border between sleep and wakefulness. But she opened her eyes briefly and asked me, “What was the little boy’s name, Daddy?” I smiled and ran my fingers through her Rapunzel-esque long hair and replied with, “What do you think his name was, Bear?” Do you know what her response to that was fellow denizens of this, my subjective reality?

I sh*t you not. Her response? “Frank.” Yep. In my moment of triumph and serendipity, I was PWN’d by my almost four year old daughter. Don’t believe me? Ask her yourself. Cara’s as sharp as a tack. Some days I swear that she’s four going on 16. But do you know what? I wouldn’t have it any. Other. Way. While her attitude is often enough to make the short hairs on the back of my neck stand on end and she’s spent her share of time in a time out since she turned three almost a year ago, I’m pleased with her development as a person. She’s always been fiercely independent… always been able to manipulate Daddy and Mommy. I don’t see it as a flaw, though. I see it as character. Because really? When I or Nicole need her to help us clean up, or bake Pinkalicious cupcakes, or play with her sister et cetera, et cetera, nine out of 10 times she does it. I’ll trade a little back talk and PWN’ing for 80-90% cooperation any day of the week, won’t you?

And that, guys? That’s my bedtime story this momentous evening in late April of 2013. It’s funny: I haven’t even published the damn thing yet and already I feel at peace. I guess the whole publication-thing is academic at this juncture, right? I mean, I’m going to publish it, and I’m going to do so soon. And people are either going to like it or not like it. Some may love it and some may despise it. But in the immortal words of a once little known, soon to be widely (I hope) known tragic hero of modern fiction named William MacNuff:

I write the following account not to heal the ills of a sick and twisted world: A world of lush forests at dusk grown cold by the emergence of chrome and steel. A world in which a concept like hope is extinct, drowned as all things once youthful and optimistic by the rivers of blood that flow down the distant, eight-lane, asphalt super Highway…

No. I write the following account to heal myself.

I write… I wrote ENDWORLD – A NOVEL originally to heal myself. Originally. In the end, though? I wrote it not just for me, but for Cara. For Natalie. For all of you: My fellow inhabitants of this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. It’s yours, now. Enjoy it. I’ve got another one that I need to get working on.

For those that have inquired about a date of publication, I’m targeting May 1, 2013. May 1 = May Day which feels very symbolic to me. Furthermore, the publication date is not the last little bit of news that I will be providing you in the near future. I’m working on a couple of other… things that I hope to launch simultaneously with the book. They’re still in process, right now, but as soon as they are ready to go, rest assured: I will let you know.

And with that? I. Am. Done. For this evening, that is. Your old buddy the Madchronicler will be back real soon. But for now? Frank Marsh is going to get some sleep. G’Night, all.

Why I Hate February – An Anti-Appreciation

It’s no secret that I always get a little morose around this time of year, guys. To be fair to February, a month that I have panned for many, many years and am planning to pan in this blog entry (try saying that five times fast) my mentality starts to shift in mid-January, reaches its antapex around Valentine’s Day and begins to gradually improve thereafter. Generally by mid-March, I’m back to my oft times holly and jolly self. Cue Easter, baseball season, the hockey playoffs, playing outside, et cetera et cetera. To be fair to January and March, though? Generally only 50% of each month sucks. The other 50%? Not bad at all. 100% of February completely blows.

I’ve always been this way. I guess its just something about the Dead of Winter that gets me down. Granted, it wasn’t always this bad. Pre-the mid-1990’s, I would get slightly bummed out but not overly so. In truth? I’ve had my fair share of good experiences in January, February and March throughout my life. Even a few of the overwhelmingly bad experiences have been tinged with a silver lining or two, i.e. happy memories nestled amidst the sh*tty ones. But for the most part? The aptly named Dead of Winter has been a time of pain and disappointment for me on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence.

Why do I hate February? I guess I should start with a definition of the Dead of Winter. In actuality? The Dead of Winter refers to the coldest part, or the middle of winter which, chronologically, is more the end of January/the beginning of February than just February. Alright. I’ll concede it: Point, February. That said, it has seemed that over the course of my life, January has actually been pretty nice. Normal. Temperate. Higher then average temperatures; little or no snow save for the Blizzard of 1996 which buried the tri-state area (Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware for those of you not from around here) under three feet of snow for a couple of weeks.

February, though? Without fail, the temperature generally plummets an extra 10 degrees on the outskirts of Philadelphia and the sky almost immediately starts chronically crapping hard or loose–depending on the track of the storm–white stuff. This year has been no exception. While we here in the tri-state area have been spared a major storm thus far and are dodging another bullet tomorrow and tomorrow night whilst points north of us get a “historic blizzard,” we’ve been subjected to multiple… what we call “Nuisance Storms.” We’ve seen the sun for about an hour total since February first and the temperature has barely been above 32 degrees Fahrenheit (it’s 34 degrees Fahrenheit now per my Weatherbug phone app; conceded, then: Another point for February). The fact that that overrated groundhog Phil predicted that Spring was right around the corner this passed weekend is lost on me. Really? What the hell does an over sized rodent know? He doesn’t have to shovel his walkway, dig his car out or occupy a three and a half year year old and an eight month old because he can’t go outside. He gets to hang out, warm and cozy in his Hilton of a tree stump whilst the good people of Punxsutawny, Pennsylvania cater to his every whim. Freeloader. He reminds me of my Biological.

All together now: Ouch. 

No sooner had I written the above paragraph then the National Weather Service revised their forecast for this area and issued a Winter Storm Warning. Christ, I hate Karma. I probably shouldn’t have talked trash about my Biological. When will I learn? One to three inches of snow tomorrow night just became three to six inches tomorrow afternoon in to tomorrow night with one to two inches per hour possible at the height of the storm which, incidentally, will be during my drive home tomorrow night and which which, if history is any indication, will be further revised by the time I go to sleep tonight in to a Blizzard Warning. Jesus, February. Thank you again, sarcasm fully intended. And Phil? Thanks for nothing. I’m sure you were right and Spring likely is right around the corner if you live south of Virginia. But the rest of us? We’re likely screwed for another six weeks regardless of whether you saw your damn shadow or not.

It’s not just the environment on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence in February that gets my goad, though. There are other aspects of it. Take sports, something which you may or may not know per what you’ve read on this blog I am an avid fan of. Guess what? I am. Anything and everything Philadelphia sports-related save for the 76’ers who for the most part have been a non-entity in this town since 2001. February marks the end of the football season with the Super Bowl, something that the Philadelphia Eagles have only participated in twice–in 1980 and in 2004. Both times they were favored to win. Both times they lost. Furthermore, the one team that has managed to bring home a championship since the mid-1980’s, the Phillies, are still in off-season mode and while Spring Training does start up in mid-February, it’s not enough to satiate the need for something. Anything. The Flyers? I love them. I always have and I always will. But I’ve got to be honest, here: They’re a disappointment. Yes, they’re competitive every year and yes, they rarely miss the playoffs but really? They haven’t won a championship since 1976. Even the 76’ers have won one more recently. Bernie Parent got old, Pelle Lindberg unfortunately got dead and Bobby Clarke got fired by the organization a few years ago (though I believe he’s back now in some capacity). The glory days of Flyers hockey are, I’m sorry to say, far behind us. Remember how many Stanley Cups we were supposed to win with Eric Lindros? We were supposed to be a dynasty. How many did we win? Nada. Zilcho. Zip. Meanwhile, the Sh*tsburg Penguins have won a couple.

One more time with feeling: Ouch. 

My point is that February is, for the most part, a dead time for sports here in Philadelphia and always has been. The Wing Bowl? It’s not a real sport. The Big Five? March Madness, guys, not February. When you’re down… when you’re bummed out, sports has a way of filling the hole that exists within your heart, mind and soul. Unless your teams stink. Then, you just feel worse. Hopefully you see my point. Yet another kick in the nads from February. Thank you, sir. Can I have another?

Sure. Why not? I should note before I continue that yes, my approach to this blog entry is different than it normally is. That’s because I’m a different me at this time of year. I’m not always the living and breathing facsimile of a smiley face that I hope you know and maybe even love a little. In truth? I’m actually pretty damned depressive, as if this composition up until this point hasn’t proven that. Amazingly enough, though? Most people crawl up in to a ball and wait for the moroseness to pass. Me? I’m actually more prolific when I’m like this. If you enjoy reading this little pseudo-psychotic musing then that’s a good thing. There may be more. But if you like your your blogs light and fluffy, maybe you should redirect your browsers elsewhere. I honestly don’t know how bad it’s going to get.

Relationships. I’ve actually been in many relationships at this time of year. I am, in fact, in one currently. It’s called a marriage. Roll snare drum. Oft times in the past, even before my wonderful wife entered my life, I had a warm body to cuddle up to in February. Most February’s I had a Valentine. But most times the relationships in question were anything but warm and fuzzy like my teddy bear, Ixo Facto. Yes, guys, I have a teddy bear. I don’t sleep next to him and never really have. He occupies an almost permanent place in my Man Cave/Cara and Natalie’s supplemental playroom/office next to stuffed Yoda and stuffed Pikachu. He rarely emerges from the depths of the Marsh Household save for on the rare occasions that Sultana Cara carries him to bed with her and he joins, for a night, the stuffed harem that occupies her toddler bed. Ixo? He’s been a fixture in my life since the mid-1990’s and he is the last, remaining product of, surprise surprise, a February relationship.

Said relationship was intense, but short lived. I generally don’t think or write about it but at this time of year? When the cold impinges upon me from all sides and “Nuisance Storms” become Winter Storm Warnings before they become Blizzard Warnings? I’ll admit: I do. I’m helpless not to. I spent a handful of years ruminating upon its failure. Mine. In the end, though? I realized that ruminating upon it was destructive and counterproductive. I purged it from my mind as best I could and moved on with my life. And boy oh man, am I glad I did. Had I not… had I instead decided to dwell upon it I never would have met Nicole. Scratch that: I likely would have met her but I never would have embraced her as a partner and companion the way I did. We never would have married; we never would have bought a house; we never would have produced two beautiful, though at times troublesome daughters, one of whom–Cara–is a Sultana in training and the other–Natalie–is currently on a hunger strike and is perfecting her projectile vomiting skills (ah, parenthood). My life would not be what it is today and while I cannot be 100% sure, I’m pretty sure that I would be miserable. I once believed, as Bob Dylan said, that “chaos [was] a friend of mine.” Now? I believe that it is my own, worst enemy, especially with my well-documented idiosyncrasies. Normalcy, though? It is my closest compadre. My bro’. That said…

Death. The big finale. The ultimate journey. Call it whatever you want to call it. Death has not necessarily been a constant companion of mine in February’s passed but it has been an ever-present concern. Ever since 1997. Back then, I and my brethren all lived in State Pen, Pennsylvania and even the ones that didn’t were frequent weekend visitors. Back home, the only father figure that I had known since my Biological skipped town was fading fast, a victim of the Big C (that’s Cancer for those of you that have never heard the term or seen the Showtime series). There was nothing I could do. Said father figure actually didn’t pass until the end of March, 1997 but those days? February? Those days were the toughest. In the waning days of his life he was little more than an unresponsive figure in a hospital bed but in February of that year? He was still cognoscente of what was happening to him. And he was suffering.

I guess in a way it was good that I was a hundred plus miles west of him but deep down inside, I wanted to be there. I wanted to be beside him at the end but he, always strong-willed, wouldn’t have it. “Stay where you are,” he said to me in one of the last real conversations we had in, you guessed it, February, “finish school. It’s what you’ve been working toward. Whatever happens, don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.” I knew that it was lip service but I agreed to do as he asked. I guess it was the last request he made of me for I cannot remember any others. A few weeks later, he was gone.

I wasn’t there when he passed. I was working on my senior thesis–“Job, Melville, and the Abandonment of the Human by the Almighty”–when my sister called me to give me the news. I remember being equal parts saddened and relieved: Sad that he was gone but relieved that his pain had ended. And I was speechless. I couldn’t write; couldn’t vocalize what I was feeling, not even to my State Pen brethren. But I remember thinking backwards in disgust. Another sh*tty February, I thought over and over again as I drowned my sorrows with Red Deaths and Long Island Iced Teas. And that thought? It has stuck with me since despite the fact that his big finale… his ultimate journey didn’t commence until almost a month later.

Many others have passed from this world to whatever world lies beyond “this mortal coil,” “this insubstantial pageant,” at this time of year since. I’ve heard many explanations why. Some argue that it’s a question of loneliness because of the “Post-Holiday Doldrum.” Others say it’s simply the deep, winter chill claiming it’s rightful victims. Me? I believe that it’s February. F*cking February. There is something inherently base and decrepit about this month that defies explanation and while I honestly don’t have any proof outside of the speculation that has filled this blog entry thus far, I know it in my gut and I feel it deep within my sometimes cramped fingers. Like tonight. There’s a dull throbbing something going on deep beneath my skin that I hope is nothing more than the impending weather making its presence known. No “dry twist,” I hope (thank you, Stephen King) though admittedly, it does run in my family.

Speaking of the weather, it is now 12:21 AM on Friday–the day of the storm, alias “Winter Storm Nemo”–and the National Weather Service just revised their forecast again: 6-10 inches in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which includes mine, Nicole, Sultana Cara and Natalie’s little homestead in Broomall, Pennsylvania. I’d have continued this blog entry sooner but I had to run out and buy some gas for my snow blower which I will at last be able to use. I’ll give it to you, February. Another point, albeit a reluctant one. At least I have a new toy to play with tomorrow night. More good news: The worst of the storm is also not supposed to arrive until after I get home from work. Sh*t. Point, February. I’ve got to hand it to the current bane of my existence: It’s managed to rack up a few positives over the course of this composition.

Still, I will always hate February. This blog entry? It is an Anti-Appreciation of a month that has, over the course of my life, taken on mythical status in my pseudo-mad mind. If you’ve followed “Random Musings” for a while you know about my Appreciations. “The Mix Tape – An Appreciation” and “Contrary – An Appreciation” to name a few. All are linkable via the handy, dandy little “SEARCH” box on the right hand side of your screen. Just type in “appreciation” and watch what happens, Andy Cohen! Or don’t. It’s entirely up to you. If you choose not to please, forget that I mentioned Andy Cohen. In fact, forget that I mentioned him entirely, even if you choose not to look at any of my previous work. Thank you.

If anything deserved an Anti-Appreciation it was this. February. The Dead of Winter. Right now, Phil the Groundhog is rolling over under his hand-knitted covers in his five star, tree stump Hilton Garden whilst the rest of us prep for a “historic blizzard.” It’s not going to snow much in Punxsutawny, Pennsylvania, one of the perks of being a couple of hundred miles west of the tri-state area when a Nor’easter like “Winter Storm Nemo” comes roaring up the Atlantic coastline. Earlier tonight, the Flyers lost to the Florida Panthers in a shootout and the Eagles informally announced the signing of their new Defensive Coordinator. Um. Yeah. Okay. Is it baseball season yet?

I glance out the window beside where I write these words at the red sky overhead. What’s the old adage? “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight?” Wow. That seems pretty counter-intuitive since most nighttime, red skies that I have seen in my life foreshadow a nasty spell of upcoming weather. I briefly wonder what that person that gave me Ixo Facto so many years ago is doing right now. But then I look over at the sleeping figure of my wife and realize how insignificant those thoughts are presently, and have been for well over a decade. I further wonder if my Biological is glancing up at the sky from wherever he is, currently. But then I realize the truth: Whether he is or is not does not matter. He has his own Karma to contend with, independent of mine.

And the lone father figure that I gave a sh*t about? He is long gone, a victim of the Big C almost 16 years ago tonight. God rest his soul. He used to love nights like tonight: The silence outside, like the silence I beheld an hour or so ago when I ran out to the gas station to get fuel for my previously unused snow blower. “The calm before the storm” he and the people on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence called it and will likely continue to call it for many years to come. Admittedly? I see the truth in their assessment then and now and despite the time of year…

Despite the way February is crowding me currently with its frigid embrace…

Despite the way that I cringe at the prospect of another couple of weeks of it…

Well, guys? It could be worse. I could be a 76’ers fan.

Goodnight, all. Winky emoticon. Smiley face. Roll snare drum.

Just Another Appreciation, AKA The Equivalent of a Gen Ed Appreciation

I think the title says it all. Or does it? In truth, the title really says nothing other than what it says. This could be an appreciation of anything from “The Walking Dead” to Pez… from the futility of being a Philadelphia Eagles fan to being a Conservative Liberal or a Liberal Conservative (and I’m not going to tell you which I am because really? I might be both… or neither). And while I am entering the composition of this little piece of Mental Flatulence with the foreknowledge of what it is going to be an appreciation of… well, I guess I thought that the title I chose was a better one than “Anniversaries: An Appreciation.” The former keeps you guessing and makes you want to read on to solve the mystery while the latter can be easily dismissed as me, once again talking about myself. Now that I’ve admitted to my ploy you have my permission to look away or you can continue to read. Either way I got credit for a blog hit which is good. I’ve always said that if I ever make it to 100 hits on a single blog entry I’ll go public. If you want me to go public then that’s a good thing. If you don’t I highly suggest that you stop clicking on the links when I post them. ‘Cause I’m doing it at 100 whether the world wants me to or not.

You have been warned.

Incidentally, my last entry–“Penn State Proud – A Psuedo-Madman’s Take”–remains my high water mark for hits: 70. Most everything else that I’ve written has remained between 30 and 50 hits total. I have no reason to think that this particular entry will in any way, shape or form rival my last or my second most viewed entry ever–“What Thanksgiving Means to me by way of Probability and Statistics” (66)–but I’m hopeful. I’m always hopeful that there’s more out there for these musings than word of mouth via Facebook or Twitter because despite my sometimes inane ramblings that are, seemingly, meaningful to only one or two people (myself included), I maintain that there are a few quality ideas in them. A few. Um…

Inci-incidentally, if you are interested in reading either of those two blog entries you can link the Penn State one HERE or the Thanksgiving one HERE. All of my other entries are accessible via the main page of Random Musings HERE. Notice also the addition of a “SHARE ME” box directly directly beneath my profile and a “G+” icon at the top. Please, feel free to pass any of these entries on to your friends. Help me get to 100 and fulfill my dream of publishing something (I’m not discriminating). And with that bit of shameless promotion out of the way, I will now return you to my current blog entry, already in progress.

All together now: Oh thank God. 

Today is a momentous day. For me, at least, and hopefully for my wife. Today is my seventh wedding anniversary. There was a time, a little over a decade ago where I never would have dreamed such a thing possible. Pre-November, 2001 I was… well, I guess you could say that I was romantically a rudderless ship. I’d spent the better part of six plus years obsessing over relationships that either should have been or were but ended too quickly. Many of those relationships took on an almost cult status in my own mind over time. I even referred to the women that I had those relationships with by surnames like “The Feminine Bane of My Early Existence” or “Miss Issues Incarnate.” My earliest pieces of Mental Flatulence, composed on my old 286 HP with the monochrome screen were primarily devoted to tales of my escapades with them or related to them. I have never forgotten those tales. They are compiled forevermore both on my home computer and in a white binder that I keep with the rest of hard cover collection in my home “office” entitled “Mental Flatulence Volume One: Musings from Beyond the Wormhole.” But it was a different time for me, then… a different mentality. “Chaos [was] a friend of mine” as Bob Dylan once said. I was a prophet of anti-inspiration: I drew from negativity. And I was prolific though only a few, select people read those pieces… sh*t, read anything I wrote back then.

Inci-inci-incidentally, if you’re interested in reading them please email me using the link at the bottom of this page under “Creative Commons Agreement” and I will be happy to forward you a copy. Um…

Yeah. Sorry. Shameless self promotion penalty flag number two on this blog entry has been thrown. One more and I’m disqualified.

Yet in 2001 something entirely unexpected happened. Many of you reading this know the story. For those of you that don’t I’ll rehash it for you. In June of that year I–still a Store Manager for CVStress–was transferred out of my cushy little mall store in Plymouth Meeting, PA to a higher volume strip store in Havertown, PA. Needless to say, the assignment was a daunting one. Not only was my crew larger and testier but for my first time as an actual Manager I had a pharmacy. Said pharmacy at the time that I took over employed a young intern who attended Temple University named Nicole Gentile.

In all honesty, friends? I barely registered her presence at first. Don’t crucify me for that: She never has. I was too busy trying to fix the front store’s problems. I was coming out of my longest ever relationship–a whopping seven months–and was adherent to the unwritten credo of the CVStress Front Store/Pharmacy relationship: One does not associate with the other unless one is forced to. Yet over a short period of time, specifically early July through early November of 2001 that changed. I found myself taking more notice of her than I had before: Her deep, brown eyes, her curly, brown hair, her smile which was just downright radiant and her personality which was infectious. I won’t even tell you what I thought of her body as those memories are mine and mine alone. Who the f*ck was this girl that had caught my attention, seemingly out of nowhere? Sometime in early November post-almost killing myself trying to get a box of pharmacy bags for her out from behind a stack of promo trays and post-the back rub she gave me after a long weekend of setting up Christmas I was faced with a choice. I had been informed by my then-Shift Supervisor Donna that someone in the store, specifically in the pharmacy was interested in me though I did not know who. Simultaneously, my then-Photo Lab Supervisor Sister Mary of the Photo Lab (yes, she was a nun on sabbatical) informed me that the then-District Photo Lab Supervisor, Jess, was interested in me, as well.

My choice: Do I pursue the known commodity–Jess and I had been associates for a while and were both Front Store employees–or do I embrace the mystery? The *GASP* pharmacy. I was initially torn. I weighted one against the other and eventually made my choice. I asked Donna to pull back the curtain and abracadabra: I discovered that the person with an interest in me was Nicole. To say that I was enthused would be an understatement. I was ecstatic. I went out that night with my friend Pete to a bar in Northeast Philly to discuss my course of action and sometime around 9:30 PM, I made the call. I did so from a payphone outside of a now-defunct bar, the name of which I can not remember (across from Whisky Tango on the Boulevard: Someone help me out, please?). I called her parent’s house because it was the only contact info Donna had in the HR system for her. Little did I know she lived in South Philly at the time and not in Havertown. But eventually she got the message and returned it and the rest? History, friends. Almost 11 years worth.

Oh thank God. 

Our first date was on November 11, 2001 but this blog entry is not about our first date. It’s about anniversaries and an appreciation of them. Fast forward to 2005 and a sun-bleached day in mid-October. I found myself standing upon the altar of Sacred Heart Church in Havertown, PA about 75 yards from CVStress Havertown with my wedding party behind me. I was sick as sh*t… I had awoken Saturday morning with the same cold that Nicole had been fighting all week. But thanks to a couple of attentive groomsmen and about half a package of Tylenol Cold and Flu, not to mention a handful of Fuzzy Navals (Vitamin C, man: Can’t beat it, or so I told myself) I was upright and able to breathe. And when I saw her walking up the aisle toward me, flanked on either side by her mother and her father? Niagara Falls. I had always feared that I would cry at my own wedding and embarrass myself. Whether the tears were substance induced–cold medicine and vodka–or not at that moment? I really didn’t care what anyone else thought of me… could have cared less whether I was a blubbering idiot or completely composed. That moment was the happiest moment of my life. “The Feminine Bane of My Early Existence” and “Miss Issues Incarnate?” My sordid relationship history? The fear that one of my two Best Men was going to Wet Willy me as they had claimed they would? Nothing mattered at that moment but her. Every married man claims that his wife was, at the moment that he saw her walking down the aisle, the most beautiful woman in the universe. Every married woman counter-argues that “[we] have to say that.” I can’t speak for anyone else and wouldn’t dream to. But when I say it? I mean it.

And that’s what this day is all about: The anniversary of not only my wedding day but the anniversary of the happiest moment in my life… the culmination of years of playing Skirmish with mine and Bob Dylan’s friend Chaos and embracing anti-inspiration. I really never did think it would happen for me, guys. Had you told me that I would be where I am right now pre-November of 2001 I would have looked at you askance, much in the same fashion that I would look at you presently if you told me that “The Walking Dead” stinks, that Pez is disgusting, that the Philadelphia Eagles will win the Super Bowl this year with Andy Reid as their coach and Michael Vick as their quarterback and that despite my double talk, I’m either a Liberal Democrat or a Conservative Republican. Back then I was a product of my situation, much like I am currently albeit for different reasons. Pre-November, 2001 I would never have allowed myself to believe that I could be happy because I was so accustomed to disappointment. And it took me until mid-October of 2005 to convince myself that it was possible… took me until that moment when I looked down at my left hand and saw the ring that has rested consistently on my finger now for seven years shining back at me. I remember feeling an all-to-brief wave of contentment rush over me at that moment and a little voice that I have rarely heard speak in my mind did so. And do you know what it said?

You did it, Frank. You did it. 

I remember briefly closing my eyes, taking a deep breath and smiling. Seconds later we were pronounced man and wife and the insanity commenced. I smiled for pictures for the next approximately six to eight hours. I forgot about my cold and drank copious amounts of alcohol on top of what I had already ingested. I ate delicious food and I continued to embarrass myself by dancing my a** off to everything from Springsteen to Bon Jovi (no Chicken Dance, though… we had a strict No Chicken Dance Policy). I listened to people wishing me and Nicole well. I accepted gifts. I greeted relatives and friends, many of whom I have, sadly, not seen since. The remainder of that day is still a blur in my mind and my memories of it are few and far between. But I will never forget standing there upon that altar less than a football field’s length away from where I first met Nicole Gentile, once Pharmacy Intern turned Nicole Gentile Marsh, PharmD. I will never forget that brief moment of serendipity (of which I have not had many since).

There have been days since that day that have ranked among the happiest moments of my life. The day that we made settlement on our little three bedroom, one and a half bath Colonial in Broomall with the finished basement that habitually floods and the backyard that I can’t maintain no matter how hard I try. The day that I found out that Nicole was pregnant and the day that our first born, Cara Angelina Marsh graced us with her presence in 2009. The day that I found out that Nicole was pregnant again and the arrival of our second born, Natalie Theresa Marsh earlier this year. The day that I finished re-writing “Endworld.” The day that I finally leveled my Hunter to 60 in the original, non-expansion World of Warcraft and the day that I finally beat my friend Austen in Words With Friends. Those days? They are memorable but save for the birthdays of my daughters I will never celebrate them. They are supplemental. Because?

Because anniversaries celebrate moments. Moments in time like that moment seven years ago on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existance when I looked in to the angelic face of my wife, veiled in white as the priest told me I could “kiss the bride” and I thought, a second before my lips locked upon hers…

You guessed, friends: Oh thank God. 

Happy Anniversary, Nicole. All my love, now and forever.

(NOTE: Shameless self promotion flag number three for excessive shameless self promotion thrown simultaneously with my initialing of this blog entry. I am hereby disqualified from writing anything else. So, if you want to read more, you can link the rest of “Random Musings of a Pseudo-Madman…”)