What Thanksgiving Means to Me – The Global Pandemic Edition

It feels weird to be writing one of these right now. Let me say that upfront. With all that’s been going on around me–pandemics and politics, death and division–I’ve been… Not dealing with Writer’s Block. I can write. But dealing with a wide range of opinions for the first time in a long time, many of which I am leery of “putting out there” to my not-so-vast Social Mediaverse and limited, ENDWORLD audience. Why? Why not? Confrontation is not my strong suit, nor is it something I welcome. I aspire to get along with everyone and will continue to do so, ever onward. So if you want to know my take on something, drop me a DM, or give me a ring. Happy to chat. End disclaimer.

That’s where I find myself this pleasant, Thanksgiving Eve in The Year 2020 of the Lord, as I compose this from the confines of the house I’ve spent SO MUCH of the year in. I wonder how long we’ll all suffer PTSD every time someone says or writes 2020? Jumped up Jesus on a pogo stick what a year. History is going to look back on this as the year of the Great Pause when the norm we, the people (I love me some Thomas Jefferson, along with some Daveed Digs) shifted overnight and we became, for all intent and purposes a digital society. I can’t say whether that’s good or bad, but I do understand that it is necessary and our “new norm.” Just like PPE and social distancing. Hopefully sometime in the near future we can all gather, safely together somewhere, get rip-roaring blitzed and hug it out. Maybe shed a few tears.

It’s difficult to be thankful friends, and even a few foes. I know. 2020 for many has been as thankless a year as they’ve ever experienced. To everyone that is suffering financially, physically, emotionally or ideologically, please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you. I’ve had my share this year, as well. Not on the level that many have and are experiencing and for that, I am sorry. But even in the darkest of times, happiness can be found if one only remembers to turn on the light. Albus Dumbledore, noted wizard and fictional character, central to the Harry Potter universe said that. And it rings true as Thanksgiving Eve seques into Thanksgiving Day, and I prepare to retire for the night. I’ll pick this up first thing, tomorrow AM. Goodnight all. Sweet dreams.

AND we’re back. Or at least I am. Happy Thanksgiving all! I find myself in my customary position on Turkey Day morning, sitting on my couch, flipping between the Macy’s and 6ABC “parades” with a Sugar Free Monster in one hand and my phone, open to my WordPress ap in the other. I don’t know that they qualify as parades this year (hence the quotes), but I give mad props to the organizers for splicing together consistent events that reflect the dumpster fire, inside a speeding train going off the tracks that HAS BEEN 2020.

As I sit here, I find myself reading back over what I wrote last night, and contemplating, in a seemingly thankless year the things that I AM thankful for. That light that I referenced in the late hours of the night/wee hours of the morning remains. And I realize that against the backdrop of incalculable odds that we, the people have faced on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence this year, we are showing our meddle. Our resiliance. Despite the division that radiates from every protest or Twitter feed, we have in many ways come together, and not reluctantly. Innovation, adaptation… These are two, additional buzzwords we can add to our 2020 list along with the aforementioned PPE and social distancing. And I am grateful for that. We’ve got a long way to go, but if 2020 has shown us anything, it has shown us that we can evolve. Our voices can be heard. Loudly! If we can build upon that… Build upon focusing on our similarities and not our differences, I think we’ll go far. What can I say? I remain an optimist, hopeful that in the days, weeks and months ahead we can unite. Black, Brown or White… Republican or Democrat… Progressive or Conservative, there has been and will always remain a place, right next to me on my couch or via a Zoom call for anyone that wants to join me. I welcome you.

As for other things that I am thankful for? We’ll, there are the obvious ones. My kiddos of course. My minions. Part of that light, even in the darkest of times has been the opportunity to spend more time with them. An extension of this is my job. I am thankful for it because its own adaptability, and ability to adjust on the fly from brick and mortar to virtual has saved me from concerns about childcare, exposure to COVID et al. Added to that is the fact that they took a chance on me, two weeks into a global pandemic, and allowed me to stay and be a part of their solution. Never before have I worked for a company that cares as much as they do. I am blessed.

I am thankful for my family, friends and loved ones, as I am every year for their constant support. I am grateful for Destiny 2 (the game), which has given me yet another way to connect, remotely with old friends and new ones. I am grateful for my God-given ability to write. I could go on and on but my assumption is that you get the point. Yes, it has been a rough year. Yes, 2020 will go down in history as one of the most bass-akward years in history, a year in which we lost Sean Connery and Alex Trebek within days of each other, an eventuality made uber poignant only by a well-remebered and revered SNL skit.

But there IS a light, folks. The Universe is tasking us as it’s inhabitants to dig deeper, and see the good despite all the bad. 260K+ Americans taken before their time by an unprecedented and historic pandemic, and millions more worldwide. Too many empty chairs at empty tables this Thanksgiving. It’s enough to bring tears to my eyes as I sit here, typing these words. Millions upon millions unemployed and waiting for hours in food lines across the country and the world. But if we give into desperation… If we stop relying on our better angels to get us through this the hits will just keep on coming, well into 2021 and beyond.

So? My prayer… My wish for you this Thanksgiving is simple. Turn on the light. Find good within the bad. Find similarities with those you’ve always considered different. In the end, and at our core we are all the same. Humanity. Diverse. Black, Brown or White… Republican or Democrat… Progressive or Conservative. ALL of us created equal. Now. And forevermore. God, I really do love me some Jefferson. And Digs. Quick addendum: I am incredibly thankful for Lin Manuel Miranda and “Hamilton.” I’m even singing “What Did I Miss?” In my head right now. End parenthetical aside.

Happy Thanksgiving to my not-so-vast Social Mediaverse and limited, ENDWORLD audience. God bless.

F.

On Two Years of Days Gone By

I wanted to entitle this piece “Days Gone By,” but it dawned on me as I started typing that that is the title of “The Walking Dead, Season One, Episode One,” and in light of my fervent devotion to that show through it’s good times and bad (and there have been plenty of both), compounded by how incredible an episode it was (and still is) I decided to change it up a bit. Hence the title of this blog post which incorporates it, but does not directly quote it in an effort to pay reverence to it without stealing it. So… Yeah. There you go.

Two years ago today–September 28, 2018–I embarked on a new life journey. It was not a journey I, at that time was very happy about but looking back now, I understand that despite my aversion to it, it was necessary. I was stepping out of my humble little world in and around Broomall, Pennsylvania and into an unknown world of Single Dadhood about 20 minutes away in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. I was adrenaline-filled but scared; I was relieved but sad. I was beaten but emboldened… Determined to make a life for myself and my minions. I was a walking, talking and breathing hodgepodge of emotions. Not a facsimile of a smiling face but the embodiment of a pensive frown. And that afternoon, after I settled on my new home I came here, and snapped this picture:

I believe this is the first time anyone has seen this picture. I did not post it on social media because at that time, my situation was known only to my closest friends and family. I was not ready to answer questions about where I was, or what I was doing in Swarthmore versus Broomall. Separation, nay divorce is not a fun topic to discuss as anyone that has been through it or is going through it right now will tell you. It wasn’t until almost two months later that I went public across my Social Mediaverse with the truth. While there have been subsequent decisions made that I do regret, I do not regret that one. I needed to be ready. So I waited for the timing to be right, and to this day I appreciate everyone that messaged, called, emailed or texted me thereafter. Booyakasha. Respect.

The subsequent weeks, months and years between September 28, 2018 and now–two years worth of days gone by–have been by far the most challenging and rewarding of my 45+ year life, too date on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. I’ve experienced moments of incredible joy and crippling sadness. I’ve changed in ways I never thought possible and I continue to do so, each and every day of my life, even now. I’ve doubted myself and my resolve more times than I can count. I’ve replayed two plus decades of my life in an effort to figure out why and how I ended up here. What did I do wrong? What lessons can be learned and how can I endeavor, ever-onward and not make the same mistakes again?

Such introspection, my friends, family and oft times casual readers is equal parts maddening and cathartic, all in the vain hope of answering questions which, I know now cannot all be answered. I’ve spoken and written in the past about how letting go, for me is difficult. I don’t give up easily and I sure as sh*t don’t walk away from things without resistance. But now? Two years detached from that moment, sitting upon the steps of my deck at my new home (the first new one I’d known in almost 15 years), I understand that not knowing all the answers is okay. Sometimes the key to moving forward is to acknowledge and accept the unknown as something that just happened. Right, wrong… You can micromanage the f*ck out of it if you want but you’ll never know everything. You’ll never have a complete understanding of the “why.” There is only the “is,” as in this is where I am meant to be. It has its perks and drawbacks, but I am here for a reason. Damn the past like you damn the torpedos. My present is all that matters. It, not my past is what should drive me into the vast, undiscovered country that is my future. I see that now. I acknowledge it, and I welcome it.

A few hours after the above picture was taken, my minions came to visit me here for the first time. We ordered Swarthmore Pizza (which has become a most-weekly, Friday night tradition) and sat in my then-empty sunroom with no television… Nothing but our own voices and thoughts to keep us company. I cannot remember what we talked about. After dinner, we wandered down to the corner park at sunset and I watched with joy as they played there for a time. I snapped another picture there that I did share across my Social Mediaverse. This one.

In those waning moments of daylight on September 28, 2018, I remember watching them play. A spring of happiness, mixed with sorrow welled up inside of me. I was sad about what I was leaving behind, but emboldened by the opportunity ahead of me. After they left, and before I returned home to Broomall for the last time–I officially moved out and moved in here the next day–I wrote the following Social Media post:

Change is inevitable. Life is a series of moments that move you in a different direction than you originally intended. Take it from me: You never end up where you thought you’d end up. But how you roll with the changes? How you adapt to the things life throws your way determines the person you become. You can either look back in anger or look forward and believe that there IS A REASON why you are where you are. Embrace the changes. Use them to remake yourself into something new and improved. You Version 2.0. The best version of you you can be.

Every so often, despite our inclination to forget the “was” and focus on the “is,” we need to be reminded of where we were and who we were because oft times, guys and gals, we forget. I’ve worked hard to follow my own advice over the last two years of days gone by. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes? I fail. I fall. Why do we fall? We fall so that we can get back up. And THAT Is the greatest lesson I have learned in the last two years. To fall… To fail is human. How we respond to those moments is what matters. I know that now. I believe it. And if the above quote was my mantra before? Let this be my mantra now. I will always… ALWAYS get back up. For me. For them. For all of you. And my wish this unseasonably warm night in late September from the confines of my bedroom is that you, too, will resolve to do the same.

One last memory before I call it a night. This one is from this afternoon. One, last picture. Me, after two years of days gone by. Me at the end of my lunch break, preparing to resume working from home. Older. Wiser. Sometimes dumber. Definitely grayer and with a bit less hair in the front (but way more on the top, sides and in the back ’cause pandemic hair don’t care!). But still determined. Renewed. Ready. My facsimile of a smile may be gone, but my pensive frown, turned a bit of a grin remains.

I wouldn’t want it any other way. God bless all. And good night.

F.

Retrospective

Back in college–when we all lived in either PSU Ab-Oz or State Pen–I wrote what I thought was going to be an epic… MY epic poem, entitled “Retrospective.” What was originally intended to be a much longer piece ended up being roughly three pages long, single spaced and typed. Elements of that poem–written sometime in the Winter of 1996-1997–made it into what DID become my epic, and arguably the greatest thing I ever wrote, “For All That Has Passed.” If you’ve read my second novel, CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD (which is, incidentally, available for purchase via a number of electronic and traditional outlets, a list of which can be found HERE), you read it. I’ll not explain how or why it made it in there (if you read it you know, and if you’re planning on reading it no spoilers). And I’m glad I included it, because it personalized the writing process for me. Writing, at it’s nature is a personal experience, and things that you’re proud of SHOULD be put on display. But I digress. Sh*t, when do I ever not?

Fast forward to two years ago now. August of 2018, over 20 years after I wrote “Retrospective” and a few months pre-my publication of CHILDREN. My life? Well? It hadn’t turned out the way I’d drawn it up. My marriage was ending. I was in the process of buying a house. I was suffering through the waning months of my time spent at CareersUSA and… Well? You know all of this if you’ve be reading my ramblings for the last few years. No need to recap, herein what was and remains an equally painful and liberating time in my existence. Life change fosters retrospective, and you are helpless not to look back, consider where you went wrong and wonder where you are going and, more importantly, where you will be in a few years. I did a lot of that back then. Not publicly, or in the written word but privately, with my family and friends. It hurt too much to write it down at that time. So I waited. I thought. I remembered. I considered a retrospective of my life as it had been, and where I was going. I cried. I laughed. I grew angry and eventually, I resolved to somewhat reluctantly move forward.

The last two years have been a mixed bag of very good, very bad, very sad and at times humorous life experiences. My brief foray into dating which resulted in both the worst date of my life and the best in the space of one weekend. And that was pre-entering into a relationship with my current partner in crime, Heather. Two job changes. Innumerable financial struggles. Multiple blog entries and now? A global pandemic which has forced me into a Work-From-Home position for the last five months. In retrospect? The LAST two years of my life have been as, if not more eventful than the previous 20. And lately, perhaps because of said pandemic I’ve found myself looking back in retrospect once again. Not just at the last two years but at my life as a whole. Almost 45 years on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Godd*mn. Has it been that long?

I am cursed with a photographic memory. I always have been. I can remember moments from 15 years ago as if they’d happened yesterday. Not all, but many. What they felt like. How they felt. The clear, cold blue sky of a Winter’s day in State Pen, sitting upon a heating grate outside “The Shrine of Education,” journal in hand and pen in another, writing despite the chill in the air. The hazy, dark sky over a beach in Mexico as I watched thunderheads form in the distance. The way 10000 stars looked overhead upon a mountaintop, miles away from civilization and the smell of Summer wild flowers in early bloom, something akin to lavender. The tropical scent of a hurricane as it rotated overhead, and the eerie calm that fell over the world in the midst of its eye. The way my soon-to-be ex-wife looked on our wedding day. The feel of my newborn daughter sleeping upon my shoulder. The touch of Heather’s hand upon mine on our first date. Everything. Both a curse, and a blessing. A curse because it hurts to remember certain things, and a blessing because I want to remember others. Retrospective. A life less extraordinary.

I know that life is about letting go so as to be able to grasp onto something new. But I hate endings. I’ve said this before and I say it now because, IMO it bears repeating. And I’ve struggled with that a lot lately. I’ve never been able to relinquish my hold on the past easily. It takes time, moreso I think for me BECAUSE I have a photographic memory. But to live in the past and deliberate upon things done or not done leads to only loneliness, and though there is a part of me that sometimes WANTS to be the Old Man and the Sea, I know that I would never be happy as such. I need my family and friends around me. So I stay. I stick. And I hope and pray that one day in the not so distant future, I will be able to stop looking back in retrospect and look forward at where I go from here. Despite my inclination to not look forward and focus on the NOW, I think that at long last I am… Maybe not 100% ready, but closer than I have ever been to that point in my life.

Once upon a time (’cause all good, and some bad stories begin as such William MacNuff old buddy/old pal), I had a conversation with someone about how the pain we’ve experienced in life, in many ways more than the joy dictates who we are, and who we will one day become. It was a spirited argument. Some hurt, she reasoned, cannot be a part of who we are and who we will become because damnit, it hurts too f*cking much. In retrospect, I will concede this point to her because as I have learned over the last few years especially, some pain is too deep… Too crippling to carry with you. With ME. Some wounds are too deep to ever properly heal, kind of like Frodo’s stab wound from a Morgul weapon in “The Lord of the Rings.” That concession? That’s the point I am at now, as I lie here in bed, typing these words on my phone, on my WordPress app while nursing a bit of a hangover and waiting for Heather to get here. I should be out food shopping. But it can wait. THIS is more important.

I need to move forward. I cannot let it dictate where I go from here. And that, good friends, family and sometimes readers is the lesson I have learned from my pandemic-induced retrospective, and the one I impart upon you today. Keep moving forward. Always. Don’t allow pain and regret to keep you from embracing your NOW and, by association, your future. Wish your past well but say “goodbye.” Don’t carry it with you. Live. Love again. Don’t become the Old Man or Woman and the Sea. Our time here on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence is too short to squander it. Let your NOW, not your THEN dictate your future. And be happy. Talk less. Smile more. Booyakasha, “Hamilton.” Respect.

The hero in my ongoing ENDWORLD Series, William MacNuff is fond of writing “I’ve been here before,” or some variation there of in his chronicle. I too have been here before. I remember this feeling as if it were yesterday. I am tired. Worn out. Inclined to sleep for a day or two. Will I? Heck no. I’ve got too much to do. When I was last here I was empty inside. That is not the case now, and for that I am grateful. Despite my pounding head I will, upon finishing this little piece of mental flatulence, get up, go downstairs, greet Heather at the door and GO. Wherever you are and whatever you are feeling right now please do the same. Join me and make your life, however extraordinary it has or has not been too date something to remember. And I’ll see you soon.

Winky emoticon. Smiley face.

F.

On Memories in the #AgeofCorona

Memories. We all have them. Defined in my old, Oxford Dictionary–AKA The Big, Silver Book That You Can Bludgeon Someone With that has sat on my desk since… College? High School? I wish I knew–as “mental faculty by which things are recalled; store of things remembered; recollection, remembrance” et cetera et cetera. Memories. We all have them. Some more than others. Often times I wish mine weren’t so prevalent. And tonight? Tonight a whole slew of them came rushing at me like an out of control freight train, or a big, silver book swung at you by a Major League Fireballer that throws somewhere between 98-102 MPH. And finally… FINALLY after weeks of silence and quarantine the old gears started turning again. And here I am. Here we are friends, family and oft times casual readers. So? Let’s get schazzy.

Tonight, Cara and #NatNatBoo wanted to play Uno Attack. For those unfamiliar with this game it’s basically Uno on ‘roids. Instead of drawing a card or cards you push a button on a simple machine, and said machine coughs out none, one, two or as many as 10 cards at you which you then have to corral. You can’t control it. It’s totally random. So if you don’t like cards flying at your face at around 25 MPH it’s not the game for you. But I digress. For some reason, my 10 year old, some times preteen wanted us all to play with stuffed animals. She ran to her room and grabbed her stuffed dolphin Winter, an old, yellowing owl that #NatNatBoo used to chew on when she was teething and? And. My old teddy bear Ixo Facto. Not Ipso. Ixo. Ixo has taken up residence in Cara’s room for years and for some reason, she broke it out tonight. And BAM. Memories. A whole sh*t-ton of them.

Those of you, reading this that are not familiar with the story of Ixo Facto be grateful. It’s a long and sordid tale that I will not get into tonight. All you need to know is that Ixo was gifted to me by someone a very long time ago… Someone who meant a great deal to me for… God. Ages. Sunrises and sunsets beyond end. Said person has not been a part of my life for decades but memories? They’re a bitch, folks. And they have a way of coming back when you don’t expect them. As soon as Cara handed him to me I staggered from a landslide of them. Total f*cking recall of a younger version of me… A guy who wore fedoras and black trenchcoats, smoked clove cigarettes and wrote poetry. A beardless version of the guy I see in the mirror every day with less gray hair and a sparkle in his eyes. Life has dimmed that a bit. It’s receded my hairline a smidgen and given me crows feet if I squint too hard. But he’s there. Always there. Like memories. They never fade.

We want them to. We work awful hard to push them way, WAY back into our subconscious. We bury them under obligation; trying to balance home schooling our kids in this #AgeofCorona while fulfilling our work from home (WFH) responsibilities, paying our bills and the like. As a writer, blessed (or cursed, I leave that for you to decide) with one heck of a photographic memory, it’s a constant struggle for me. I’ve fought my memories for the longest time, intent to occasionally fictionalize them in the pages of a novel or an oft times unfinished story. Because Writer Frank and Working Frank are two completely different entities. One dreams while the other puts food on the table. Is there a way to reconcile the two? I wish I knew. But it feels like one has success at the expense of the other, and the balance that I strive for daily gets thrown out of whack. I’ve wished and prayed for many things over the course of my existence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. I’ve been fortunate to have many of those wishes come true and many of my prayers answered. But that balance? That reconciliation of the Artist with the Provider? It alludes me to this day. So what do I do? Where do I go from here?

That my peeps is the question that plagues my mind this unseasonably cold and quarantined Tuesday at the tail end of April, 2020. Maybe I need to stop fighting. Maybe I simply need to pick a path and take it. The road less travelled, or the one that’s worn from overuse? There’s a life down both paths. A good one I think. Full of love and success and in the end? Peace. But I am only one man in millions and one man cannot forge two, seperate destinies. There is only one for each of us. Yes, I believe in fate. I further believe that there comes a point in your life when you need to make a choice. And that really is the crux of Frost’s problem. “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I? I took the one less travelled by. And that has made all the difference.” Do I follow in his footsteps and… For lack of a better phrase “give it a whirl?” Or do I stick with what I know? Play it safe like I always have and trudge, ever onward into the future?

I have no idea. Ain’t that a bitch? Not exactly a poetic and Frost-like summation of my current state of mind, but hey: That’s a part of who I am, as well. Fedoras have given way to comb-backs and black trenchcoats to button down Oxfords. Clove cigarettes… Heck, cigarettes in general have been replaced by a Juul. My once-clean shaven face is covered by a thickening and graying quarantine beard. The memories of who I was, while ever-present occasionally take a back seat to the knowledge of who I am. Frank Marsh, Business Development Consultant. Don’t get me wrong… I like what I do. I actually LOVE it and feel incredibly blessed to be where I am, professionally at this time, especially when so many others out there are struggling. If you’re reading this and you are, please know that I think of you often, and would give anything to make it all go away. But I can’t. All I can do is pray for you and hope against hope that this bizarre, “new normal” that we’re all living in right now is the precursor to something awesome. Now and always, I say booyakasha. Respect. We WILL get through this. And I promise you that when we do, I’ll fire up my non-existent grill (working on it) and have you all over for Superburgers. We’ll drink, and hug (not necessarily in that order), reminisce about where we’ve been and talk at length about where we are going.

Which brings me back to Ixo. And memories. Memories are a reminder of who we were. They are a part of who we are and to deny them their place in our respective lives is near-sighted. I apologize if you don’t agree with that. But I’ve gotten in the habit of veering away from opinion over the last few years and that one? It’s mine and expressed. If you’d rather forget then by all means do so. I’ll never think less of you because of it. Had Ixo never come into my life I don’t know where I’d be. Not here. Probably someplace very, VERY different. But Ixo and his story taught me a valuable lesson. He and his tale taught me how to love. And the lessons? They hurt for a very long time. And occasionally? They still do. But portions of life are steeped in pain, folks. I’ll never dwell on them… I stopped doing that a long time ago. But I’ll always acknowledge them when they return and then? God willing, my gears will start turning and I’ll write about ’em. ‘Cause that’s what Frank Marsh does.

And with that? This rambling piece of #CoronaQuarantine induced Mental Flatulence draws to a close. Out go the usual thank yous. To my minions Cara and #NatNatBoo for a spirited and incomplete game of Uno Attack earlier tonight (we’ll be resuming post-home school and work tomorrow). To Heather, whom I love, who has been texting me for the last 45 minutes or so and is likely wondering what the f*ck I’m up to. Now you know sweetie. Thanks for your patience. To everyone who is reading this right now… Friends, family and oft times casual readers, thank you. God bless you, keep you and watch over you in the days and weeks ahead, as we continue to navigate our… for the most part shared “new normal” in the hope that maybe, just maybe our days staring out our windows at the world as it slowly, slogs by will soon come to an end. And finally? A bit of a departure. A long overdue thank you. For Ixo Facto. For the story behind him and the person that inspired it. Inspired me. Maybe the first. Hopefully not the last. Booyakasha. RESPECT.

FM.

What Christmas Means to Me, the 2019 Edition

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Incidentally, I’ve kept that pic under wraps for a few months now. Funny story: It was taken, along with a ton of others on a blustery Sunday when my minions, me, Heather and her boys spent a few hours at the Philadelphia Art Museum by the “Official Art Museum Photographer” who–for the price of $3.00–basically gave me an impromptu photo shoot. It was going to be my Christmas Card this year but I opted not to send one out. Now? I am sharing it with you. All of you. Even the ones that don’t want to see it. Happy Holidays from the Swarthmore, PA Chapter of the Marsh Family!

In the interest of full transparency, I should tell you now friends, family and oft times casual readers that this is not my first attempt at a holiday rumination. This is actually attempt number three. The previous two–both entitled “2019: A Retrospective”–were convoluted, filled with neuroses and downright boring. Basically my infamous Dennis Rodman post from a few years ago, but with a Christmas/New Years spin. I have no way of knowing if this effort is going to be any more successful than they were, and judging from how tired I am today and the fact that I woke up this fine, chilly Christmas Eve morning with a sniffle and a cough that seems to be getting progressively worse and worse with each, passing minute I’m not optimistic and the only thing I can tell you with surety is that’s it’s likely not going to be long. Still? In the immortal words of Freddie Mercury/Queen and countless other entertainers over the years, “the show must go on” and this show? Trainwreck or not, It always goes on. For 44 plus years so? So. Let’s get schazzy, peeps.

First off? Happy Christmas Eve guys and gals that celebrate, and Happy Holidays to anyone that doesn’t. I hope you are all reading this, nestled snug in your respective beds with visions of sugar plums dancing in your heads. Unrelated to sugar plums and sleep–some things I’ve lacked in abundance this holiday season–I was driving into work this morning (staffing never stops, y’all; I’ll probably be getting phone calls and emails tomorrow) and Carrie Underwood’s version of “Do You Hear What I Hear” came on the radio. In a completely unrelated turn of events, it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks, or a five ton pile of candy canes, dropped on my head from a height high enough to daze me, but not high enough to kill me that there was only one thing I had to write today. One rumination. One little piece of Mental Flatulence that in no way, shape or form relates to Dennis Rodman. Thank God for that, right?

I’ve made no secret that 2019 has… let’s just say had it’s moments. Not by any stretch of the imagination all bad, but bad enough at points to make me reconsider my motto of never giving up and just throwing my hands up in the air, saying “f*ck it Dude” and going bowling. Booyakasha, Lebowski. Respect. What I will say is that no matter how bad I think or thought I had it in 2019, other folks on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence had and have it worse, and I think that we the people inadvertently lose sight of that at this time of year. I don’t think it’s intentional. Heck no. But we get so caught up in the grind that is the season we’re tis’ing that we lose sight of it. I am fortunate to have a roof over my head and food in belly, even if said food is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and said roof appears to be a bit leaky. I’m fortunate to have heat and lights, water and WIFI. But others aren’t, and I wish there was a way that I could do more.

I tried this year. Really, I did. Despite what has at points been a challenging stretch of time, I made an effort because in a life that has been, for the most part over the last couple of decades pretty stable both financially and mentally (though some that know me and are reading this right now could and likely would argue the latter), this year I discovered what it felt like to struggle. Again, both financially and mentally. Maybe this is TMI, maybe not but f*ck it Dudes and Dudettes, it needs to be written so I’m bagging bowling and writing it. You’re welcome to look away if you desire.

To anyone that’s struggled in the past, if I didn’t understand it before, guess what? I do now. I was always sympathetic, but sympathetic in the way that someone is when they see others having trouble while all their bills are paid and they have Christmas presents for their kids. I felt your pain, but I didn’t really feel it the way you did and maybe still do until this past year, i.e. the year that was. 2019. Back in 2016 I wrote about taking a barb-wire wrapped baseball bat to the year that was. This year? I’d like to hit the year that was with a tactical nuke. For all the good that came out of it–and there was good; sh*t, there’s always good, even in the darkest of times–it needs to die a quick and preferably painful death, though I’ll settle for a merciful one if that’s my only option. “Am I not merciful? Am I not MERCIFUL?!?!”

I didn’t survive 2019 without scars, and I didn’t do it alone. To everyone that has helped me over the course of the year that was, thank you. I’d mention names… I’d “booyakasha respect” the sh*t out of you all but in the interest of time, and the fact that I’ll be heading out to pick up the minions in a little bit I’m just going to leave it as a blanket thank you and move on. If I can ever pay it forward… if you ever need the same, please let me know and I’ll support you in whatever capacity I can/you require.

You know guys and gals, I was on LinkedIn this morning–as I generally am, multiple times daily while working–and I saw someone that had posted about where they were 20 years ago and where they are now. Twenty years ago: A single mother who used EBT benefits to purchase cereal and candy for her kids for Christmas morning because it was all she could afford and she wanted her kids to have something under the tree to open. I grew up with that. I had my Charlie Brown Christmas Trees and Campbell’s Creamed Chicken in place of a turkey or a ham dinner with all the ‘fixins a number of times as a kid.

But now? That same single mother is the owner of her own company. And I see that too. I feel it. Single Dadhood and by association Single Momhood is a pain in the a**, and despite what one or two have told me, I don’t think that I’ve conquered it. In 2019? I conquered diddly squat, AKA jack, AKA sh*t. But despite that, I look at that single mother from 20 years ago and I think to myself self? I can conquer it. I can do this. Because pulling myself up by my bootstraps is in my DNA. And despite the fact that the year that was didn’t turn out the way I thought it was going to on New Years Eve 2018/New Years Morning 2019–by roughly noon that day it had already gone sideways–2020 can be and will be better. And 2021 will be better than 2020. And so on and so forth until such time as I, too, can look back on all that I went through this year with a smile and ruminate on it and where I ended up. Maybe laugh a little, as well. Winky emoticon. Smiley face.

I believe that. And I wish that for any and everyone that has struggled and is struggling right now. That’s all I want for Christmas, friends, family and oft times casual readers, alias guys and gals, alias my endlessly awesome folken. I’ve really lost interest in anything material at this point unless it’s something that supports my caffeine addiction. I wish that all the Dudes and Dudettes that had or are presently having the kind of year that makes them want to nuke it with a ballistics missile find a little peace and security over the next few days and weeks. And I hope and wish that your 2020 is a better time filled with happiness, new beginnings, love, friendship and family, not to mention bowling, zero mention of Dennis Rodman or Charlie Brown Christmas Trees and Campbell’s Creamed Chicken and a healthy dose of “the show going on.” This show? It will go on, trainwreck or not.

So raise a glass of your favorite holiday cordial and toast with me. Here’s to the year that was and what lies ahead. Year 45 of my existence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of the same. 2020, y’all. Cheers. And Happy Holidays from your ol’ buddy Frank, alias El Autoro, alias the Madchronicler, alias the Patriarch of the Swarthmore, PA Chapter of the Marsh Family!