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.

 

 

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

“I’ve been here before.”

William MacNuff, CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then…

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

Oh, yes. It is so time:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winky emoticon. Smiley Face.

F.

A Life Less Extraordinary

Once upon a time…

‘Cause all good stories begin as such…

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

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

Oh yes. I went there…

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

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

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

But…

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

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

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

Drum roll please…

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

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

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

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

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

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!”

My Own, Personal Samwise Gamgee

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“It’s like in the great stories… The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think… I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something…. That there’s some good in this world… and it’s worth fighting for.”

Eminent Sage of Wisdom, Literary Hero and Gardener, Samwise Gamgee (from The Two Towers)

Okay so admittedly? I would have preferred a non-Sean Astin portrait of Samwise “Sam” Gamgee but unfortunately, the only JPEGs of Sam on the internet are either pictures or memes like this one from The Lord of the Rings movies. But this one kinda’ resonates with the theme of this little blog entry.

I’d wager that most everyone has either read the books or seen Peter Jackson’s masterful movie trilogy at some point in the last decade plus. If you haven’t? Seriously, people. PRIORITIES. I’m not saying they’re Star Wars good but next to Star Wars it’s arguably the greatest trilogy in movie history (NOTE: I do not include Indiana Jones because of the travesty that was “Crystal Skulls”–even though it was the fourth movie and is not, technically a part of the “trilogy”–Back to the Future because of “Part Two” and The Godfather because of “Part Three” and Sofia Coppola). Read ’em, or see ’em at some point before you die and parents: Get your children to read them AND The Hobbit before they’re too old to appreciate them. You can avoid The Silmarillion if you’d like. There are days I wish I had.

Everyone has a favorite character or characters in the Lord of the Rings books or movies. My wife, Nicole? She loves Strider/Aragorn (not Viggo Mortensen, mind you, but the character he plays). My friend Caren (booyakasha, Caren: RESPECT)? She loves Gollum. There may even be one or two people out there reading this that like Frodo though I’ve got to tell you, I was never a big Frodo Baggins fan. Sure, he’s the ring bearer for 90% of the books/movies and that has to count for something but really? Save for the whole holding-the-evil-at-bay thing long enough for him to dispose of the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom what does he really do? For sh*t’s sake, he technically doesn’t even keep the evil at bay long enough to dispose of the ring. Were it not for Gollum’s interference, he likely would have stayed invisible, walked past Sam, out of the cave, back down the slopes of Mount Doom, out of Mordor and into a dark hole somewhere to live out his years. Sauron would have won, The Shire would have started looking like a post-Industrial ruin ala Detroit and… well. I’m guessing you get my point.

But Sam, guys? For me, Sam has been and always will be the true hero of The Lord of the Rings, AND my favorite character. Don’t believe me? Re-reference the above meme and tell me I’m wrong. Please. One particular part of it sticks out in my mind, though:

“Even carries him [Frodo] up Mount Doom.”

Why? Because everyone, at some point in their life needs a Samwise Gamgee. When the going gets to be it’s toughest, everyone needs someone that is willing to pick them up in their weakness, throw them over their shoulder and carry them. We can’t do it on our own. No one is THAT strong.

I’ve encountered many people over the course of my almost 38 year existence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence that claim to be that strong but I have never met anyone… EVER… that didn’t need to be carried every so often. Whether carried by someone else or carried by God like in the poem “Footprints” (also a personal “fave,” and I’m not an overly religious person), I consider myself a very strong soul. But there are times in MY life where I’ve needed to rely on my own, personal Samwise Gamgee to cook me a “brace of conies,” or talk me down from doing something stupid like handing the One Ring over to the Nazgul. And oft times I, too, have put a proverbial sword point to that noble person’s neck because I didn’t WANT to keep going. I wanted to give up.

Those people? Top to bottom, from my wife to my mother and my sister to my co-workers to my friends of a couple of months to my friends of a couple of decades… to all of them, I owe an eternal debt of gratitude. As Ed Wilkinson says in ENDWORLD – A Novel, “Wus.” I have no idea what it means. I Googled it and came up with “a derivative of the terms ‘wuss’ and ‘p*ssy'” but my OWN friend, Ed, used to say that too me all the time. I think it’s an Eastern term of endearment. If he’s reading this, maybe he can chime in. And Ed? if you ARE reading this and you really WERE calling me a cross between a wuss and a p*ssy, f-you, buddy. And “wus” right back at you.

But even that is not enough, sometimes. Sometimes, something more is required and that something? My own, personal Samwise Gamgee? That which this blog entry would be dedicated to if it had a dedication page? I’ll give you three guesses and the first two don’t count.

One…

Two…

Three.

Give up? You make me sad. WRITING, ladies and gents. WRITING. When things start to go cuckoo, I always turn to writing. There have been times when I’ve told myself that I wouldn’t: That I’d put it on hold until such time as I… for lack of a better phrase “sort my sh*t out.” But that’s about as realistic as the idea of Gandalf and the Balrog falling through Middle Earth and popping out on the other side to do battle, Gandalf with his sword and staff and the Balrog with his fire… sword, whip, WHATEVER (I’m sure it could morph into a spoon if Bal-lee Baby wanted it to; the perks of being an “ancient evil”).

Last week, I wrote that I was at a crossroads with Children of Endworld. A dark place that I really don’t want to go. But I’ve determined something in the last few days, ladies and gents. I’ve determined that I NEED to keep going for a couple of reasons. First and foremost because people are counting on me to finish it in a reasonable amount of time and not 19 years from now when I’m almost as old as Gandalf (okay, maybe not THAT old; he’s, like, thousands of years old, and I’m a pup by comparison). Those people? The ones that enjoyed ENDWORLD – A Novel and want to read more? Well, I guess I just don’t want to let you down. So either tonight or tomorrow, I’m going to resume what I started and see what happens. Amy Veitz (my editor) be forewarned: Parts One and Two are going to be popping up in your email within a few moments of when I complete this. By virtue of being the person who volunteered to reign in my oft times “tough language” a couple of years ago you get first dibs on William’s continuance. I look forward to hearing back from you. Booyakasha: RESPECT. Winky emoticon. Smiley face.

The second reason? Because writing has always been, for me, my most important Samwise Gamgee. That in no way, shape or form discounts any others from my beloved wife, Nicole, to my friend and brother Matt who once upon a time took me out to Denny’s every night to help me put my life into perspective, and lately has been doing the same. Not Denny’s. We’re too old for a Grand Slam breakfast, nowadays (clogged arteries and all that). Booyakasha to YOU sir. Once again: RESPECT.

But writing? Writing has been the lone constant for me for as long as I can remember. It has carried most of my equipment (or, if you’d prefer, “baggage”). It has never defeated a gigantic spider but it HAS helped me get passed my nightmares. It ALWAYS puts up with my whining (and by God, I do a LOT of whining, you just don’t “hear” it on here). It never saved me single-handedly from an Orc tower but it DID rescue me from a lot. From the loss of my adopted father many moons ago to the saga that was me, and the Feminine Bane of My Early Existence back when we all lived in “Oz” and no one lived anyplace else. It has oft times carried me up the slopes of Mount Doom.

Do I give it enough credit? Probably. Does it deserve more? Again, probably. I owe it to my own, personal Samwise Gamgee to… as Sean Astin historically ad-libbed during the shooting of “Return of the King,” “be rid of it once and for all!

“Come on, Mr. Frodo! I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you!”

Admit it, guys: You teared up. I still do, every time I see it.

And I always will.

A Question of Inspiration, Written with a Pensive Frown

I’ve been debating where this blog posts belongs: Here on “Random Musings,” or over on the “ENDWORLD” site? It’s really a toss-up. I’m going to go with choice “A,” otherwise known as the site that I’ve neglected for almost a month. A month? Yep. For those of you that have been waiting patiently for me to take a little break from blogging congratulations: You got it. But now? Now, I’m back. Whether my being back is for the betterment of the blogosphere or not I do not know. I leave that for you, my faithful readers to decide. Whether I’ll be maintaining “Random Musings” more consistently moving forward is also a mystery. I’m knee-deep in CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD, right now. It’s occupying most of my creative mind, presently. At the same time, it is indirectly the reason why I am writing this. Hence my internal strife about where this blog entry belongs. Well sh*t, at least I figured that issue out.

I’d love to say that the going has been smooth, both with CHILDREN and outside of my burgeoning career as an author. But I can’t. The truth is? My life, AKA that thing that I do when I’m not posing as the Madchronicler or an author has been pretty crazy, lately. I’ve been dealing with and I’m still dealing with some serious sh*t. I’m not going to bog this post down with that info, however. Much of it has been resolved and that which hasn’t? Not to disappoint you guys, but it’s a bit too personal, even for “Random Musings.” Never fear, though: I may not be the living and breathing facsimile of a happy face that I normally am at the present time, but I’m not emo, either. I’m somewhere in between. If I were to describe my current state of mind as an emoticon, it would be a colon, followed by a dash, followed by a straight, up/down/north/south line. “Pensive frown” I’ll call it. Is that even a valid emoticon? I have no frackin’ idea. Let’s see.

:-I

Survey says? Well, it didn’t default to an actual emoticon like 🙂 does, but I believe that it properly conveys what I was going for if you look at it sideways. If you look at it upright, it looks like something one of my daughters typed in an attempt to acquire my computer.

Yes, I digress. Apologies. This blog entry isn’t directly about my personal life. It’s about my other life: The life of the writer/author/pseudo-insane, mad chronicler of his own, subjective universe. As a… whatever I just called myself, there are many things that I can overcome. Writer’s block? No problem. I just keep writing until I break through. A proverbial “dead end” in my story? No worries. “Click,” highlight and “Delete.” Start over. Rinse and repeat until it works. A power outage while I’m writing the closing paragraphs of my first novel? First, scream. Then? Scream some more. After a few moments, wait for the power to come back on and rewrite everything that I just lost. But there is one thing that I… one thing that many writers fear (I do not say “all” because I refuse to speak for everyone). That “thing?” A conflict with our muse or muses, i.e. that which inspires us to write.

It is no secret to anyone who has known me that in the past, my muse has been chaos. Bob Dylan once said that “chaos is a friend of mine.” That lyric reflected my life for the longest time. Someone once even called me “The Prophet of Anti-inspiration” (booyakasha, Marine. RESPECT). But over the last decade plus, that characterization has grown less and less significant. One of the reasons why it took me so long to rewrite ENDWORLD – A NOVEL and start rewriting her subsequent sequels is because the originals were birthed in chaos: A stage of my life which I have written about and talked about extensively off the record. For the record? I do not want to go back to that life. EVER. Let me make that abundantly clear. No more needs to be written, or spoken about it.

And I shouldn’t have to. The published version of ENDWORLD and the work in progress versions of CHILDREN and HEAVEN AND ENDWORLD come primarily from a different place. Different muses: Stability, happiness and security. All aspects of my life, now, that did not exist back when we all lived in “Oz” and thereafter, “State Pen” and no one, not even Marine lived anyplace else.

Therein lies the rub. Despite a few bumps in the proverbial road these last few weeks IRL, I’m still relatively happy. Compared to how I was back when chaos was a friend of mine I’m incredibly happy. But the portion of CHILDREN that I just started writing yesterday? It is dark. Very dark. It comes directly from that place that I used to exist in, 24/7, perhaps moreso than anything else I have ever written. And for the benefit of the story and the overarching plot-line, I cannot deviate from it. If anything, I need to go even deeper and darker now since The Endworld Series is a lot deeper and a whole heck of a lot darker than the original trilogy was. That may not be evident from what you read/are reading in Book One but trust me: By the time you get to where I am at, presently, any ideas that you had about “hope” despite William’s posturings to the contrary in ENDWORLD will be dead in the water. ‘Cause right now? 160+ pages into CHILDREN? There is none. There is only resignation to the inevitable. And that, unfortunately, is where I’m going to leave it, for now. “Spoilers,” as they say. Thank you once again, Doctor River Song.

So the question plaguing my always plagued mind, presently, is a simple one: How do I tap back into that mentality? How do I once again hold hands with chaos while maintaining the for-the-most-part happy medium that is my life, my muse and my inspiration, currently?  There’s really not an easy answer to that question. When I write, my mind goes places. It becomes the story and the characters that I am writing. Not to the extent that I lose touch with reality, at least not anymore, but to a certain extent, I live through things with them. Their fates aren’t always predetermined, despite treatments and outlines. Look no further than the character in ENDWORLD–and if you read it/are reading it, you know the one I am talking about–that I had planned a future for. That future? It never happened. He/she suffered a much earlier demise than I had initially planned. What can I say? It wasn’t my fault. I don’t write my stories. They write themselves.

Really. No sh*t intended. How many of you just looked up from your computer, your tablet or your mobile device, rolled your eyes and said “yep. That confirms it. He”–meaning me–“is certifiably insane.”

If you think that I am, so be it. I am not going to tell you what to think of me. I’m a big fan of just being me and letting people decide whether they like me or not. In the interest of “just being me” I’m going to continue. If you’ve had enough? If you think I’m cuckoo? No worries. It’s been fun. You have my best wishes moving forward. Booyakasha. RESPECT.

But if you don’t, here’s s’more food for thought. I’ve always seen myself as a vessel: A conduit through which tales are told. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. IMO (and this is a BIG “in my opinion”), every story that ever existed or will exist actually existed pre-being written, somewhere in the proverbial ether of the imagination. It is the writer/author’s job to reach out to it. The story selects the writer/author, and not the other way around (so much for Free Will, huh?). Thereafter, one of two things happens. Either A.) Said story rejects the writer/author’s advances and waits for someone more attractive to some along (an eventuality that was quite common back in my own, personal dark ages), or B.) Said story accepts the author/writer’s invitation, invites he or she… invites you to sit down, and reveals itself to you. There’s really no language to what it reveals. At it’s core, a story is thought: Thoughts, jumbled and without order. Your job… my job as the lucky sonofab*tch that The Endworld Series picked is to take those ideas and give them order. Form. Henceforth, William MacNuff’s story.

There is a danger in this, though. I swear this is not a digression. This past weekend, I saw “Pacific Rim.” Great movie, BTW. I highly recommend it. One of the main concepts of “Pacific Rim” is the idea of “drifting”: Two minds, synchronized and working concordantly to achieve the same end. In the case of the movie, that end was the effective operation of a big, honkin’ robot called a Jaeger. That idea–drifting–holds true in many cases. Husbands and wives employ a form of drifting to manage their household effectively. Children? They employ a form of drifting to drive their parents and thereafter, their substitute teachers batty. And authors? They drift with their story. They become of one mind with it. And therein lies the danger when you get to the part or parts of the tale like the one that I have gotten to: The dark part or parts. In order to properly explicate the story you have been chosen to convey, you need to allow the darkness in. Even if it is completely contrary to who you are 24/7… even if it scoffs at the ideas of stability, happiness and security… even if chaos is your worst enemy, you NEED TO HOLD HANDS WITH IT FOR HOWEVER LONG IT TAKES TO FINISH. How do I tap back into the mentality of my early adulthood and remain a “pensive frown?” Simple: I let it in.

No lie: It is a scary prospect. It is not one that I relish. But there are scary prospects everywhere I turn these days. Just because this one seems so doesn’t mean that I can’t handle it. I believe that I can. I believe that I can go to that place that I need to go and stay firmly routed in my reality on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Fifteen years ago? I would never have said that. But now? I am older. Stronger. Wiser. All the sh*t that has gone down IRL over the last few weeks? It’s helping. The chapter that I just wrote yesterday? Well, let’s just say that it pulsates with a range of emotions and leave it at that. Yet it is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There is so much more to come and things just spiral deeper, and deeper into sh*t, sh*t and more sh*t. The good news? There’s a light at the end of the tunnel and I’m pretty ciked about writing THAT part. But first, I need to get there. And to get there, I need to invite my old friend chaos over for a spot of whiskey. Maybe a little “Highway 61 Revisited,” too. “Desolation Row” always has been my favorite Bob Dylan song. “They’re selling postcards of the hanging. They’re painting the passports brown. The beauty parlor is filled with sailors. The circus is in town.” But only after the girls have gone to sleep. Because despite my posturings to the contrary, they are not chaos. They are, and always will remain the proverbial light at the end of my life tunnel (as opposed to the above referenced story tunnel). And I love them for that.

Optimally, I’d love to take a couple of days off and just write it until it’s done. But that’s not feasible, despite the fact that my vacation time re-ups next Thursday (yay, August). The idea of just writing is not a feasible one, presently. It hasn’t been for a while. But hey: That’s the life I chose. It’s a challenge. And like every challenge I have ever been faced with, I will rise up and accept it. That’s what Frank Marsh, writer/author/pseudo-insane, mad chronicler of his own subjective reality does. Love me or hate me, hopefully you respect that. Respect me. Booyakasha, my friends.

You guessed it: RESPECT.

:-I

Of Silly Stories, Facepalms, “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Finding Nemo,” the Disney Princesses, Fairy Tales and Swiss Farms Tea Cooler

I should probably be working on CHILDREN, right now. I’ve been on a roll these last few days (82+ pages now). I run the risk of losing momentum if I “break” to write a blog entry. But when something that needs to be written “strikes my fancy,” I’ve learned that it’s best not to ignore it. That is the situation I find myself faced with today. So CHILDREN will have to wait for a little bit while I “do what I’ve got to do.”

Every night that I put my oldest minion, AKA Cara to bed, the routine is the same. We watch the last “Caillou” at 8:47 PM. When it ends 10 minutes later at 8:57 PM we usually go and brush our teeth (if we haven’t already), take our vitamins and thereafter, head upstairs to bed. Nine out of 10 times, her room is already prepped for her arrival: Her fish tank is lit up and her bottle of water is sitting next to the lamp upon her dresser which, for some reason, she has to leave on every night. It’s not fear of the dark. But it comforts her. Hey, if it keeps her from waking me up in the middle of the night no worries. It’s worth a couple of extra bucks on our energy bill, every month.

It’s when she’s watered and under her covers that the majority of my… of our issues begin (I don’t want to exclude Nicole from this; she deals with it as much as I do). Some nights, she decides she needs to use the bathroom. Others, she laments that she’s “going to be all alone.” Generally in response to the latter, I tell her that she’s not alone: She’s got her fish, Lucy, her ghost shrimp Tiana and “all her babies” (i.e. her stuffed animals and dolls) to keep her company. Does that work? Occasionally. Most nights she asks either myself or my wife to read her a story and we do. But then… then, after the story is read and she’s been hugged and kissed goodnight (“sweet dreams, Bear; I’ll see you in the morning”), she hits us with it. The kicker: 

“Daddy/Mommy, can you tell me a silly story?”

Insert Facepalm HERE. Or, if you’re looking for something a bit more visual:

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That’s my reaction every night when those words emanate from Cara’s mouth, a reaction made extra poignant by the fact that my chosen .GIF is one of Jean Luc Picard Facepalming. Nicole handles it swimmingly. She’s always got a silly story at the ready, be it the one about the time that she popped her head into check on Cara after she got home and Cara woke up and thought it was morning or another, similar one. Apparently, Nicole and Cara share many silly stories. But me and Cara? Um…

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If I had a “Number One,” and not just an alternate personality that I call the Madchronicler, he or she’d be Facepalming, as well. Because despite the fact that I’m a writer… despite the fact that I am now a published, albeit self-published author (who’s debut book, ENDWORLD – A Novel is currently available to purchase; links to buy HERE; end shameless self promotion), I don’t know many silly, “G” rated stories. I’ve got a million and one rated “PG” and up, but “G?” Nada. Zilcho. Zip-a-dee-doo-da, zip-a-dee-aye, my oh my what a precarious situation to find yourself in: A storyteller without a story to tell.

Generally, I find a way to extricate myself, i.e. I find a way to wiggle out like a coward. “Not tonight, Bear. Daddy’s tired,” or “Daddy’s got a lot of work to do,” or “Daddy just wants to get the f*ck out of this room before you break into tears because while I’m good at formulating grown up stories on the fly, I completely reek when it comes to telling kid stories.” Consider that the one kid’s story that I’ve ever written–“Princess Cara and the Yellow Dragon”–was primarily dictated to me by Cara one night when she couldn’t sleep, i.e. she told me what the story was about, and I remembered it/later wrote it down.

But lately, escape hasn’t been so easy.  I’ve had to resort to more drastic tactics, i.e. paraphrasing pre-existing, silly stories to satiate her. My best was “Finding Nemo.” “Once upon a time, there lived a fish named Marlin. He had a son named, Nemo. One day, Nemo got tired of Marlin’s overprotective attitude toward him and he swam out, into open water to touch a ‘butt,’ which was, in all actuality, a boat. Nemo was captured by a diver named P Sherman who took him back to a dentist’s office on Wallaby Lane in Sydney, Australia, where he was to become a birthday present for the dentist’s sadistic niece, Darla (good thing Cara doesn’t know what “sadistic” means, huh?). But Marlin had other plans. He set out on a grand adventure, side-by-side with his short-term memory impaired friend, Dory, to rescue or, ‘find’ Nemo, hence the title, ‘Finding Nemo.’ Along the way, they met a shark named Bruce, a school of Bluefish that sounded distinctly like the piggy bank from ‘Toy Story’ and the Abominable Snowman from ‘Monster’s Inc.’ They tangled with jelly fish and rode the East Australian Current on the back of a 175 year old sea turtle named Crush. After an epic adventure, they felled Darla with the help of a pelican named Nigel, saved or ‘found’ Nemo, and returned home to the coral reef upon which they existed. Thereafter, they lived happily, ever after. The End.”

Not bad, huh? You can probably tell that I’ve seen that movie once or twice (try two dozen times, at least; I’ve about perfected Bruce’s voice). Silly, right? I was quite proud of myself. But Cara’s reaction as I tried to escape quickly brought me crashing back down to earth.

“Thanks, Daddy. I know that story, already. Crush was 150, not 175.”

You can probably guess what happened next:

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You know that when Lieutenant Worf… hell, when any Klingon Facepalms it’s bad. Real bad. I think my face turned as red as Lucy the Fish’s skin (in truth, she’s more of a deep pink but she’s close enough to red for the reference). That night, I exited her room a defeated man. I resolved myself to futility. I sought solace at the bottom of a glass of Swiss Farms Tea Cooler… and I didn’t take a Metformin before I drank it. I know: I’m a f*cking rebel. What can I say? I was out of Scotch. Ah, who am I kidding? I can barely stomach Scotch straight at this juncture. Three sips and my head’s spinning faster than Marlin and Dory did upon being ejected from the EAC.

It was hopeless, I understood. I’ll never be able to tell Cara a silly story, I thought as I savored the damp, tea and lemon flavored goodness that remained in my flavor saver, i.e. my mustache. It was then–as the luscious drops of sugary goodness siphoned down from my upper lip to my tongue and a few landed on my t-shirt–that I decided to act. I will not be defeated, I determined, not by the whims of an almost four year old and CERTAINLY not by something that is supposed to be a strength of mine, i.e. storytelling. I WILL come up with a silly story to tell her. I WILL SUCCEED…! 

By my best reckoning, that was about a month ago. In the intervening time since, I’ve written 82+ pages of CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD and multiple blog entries both here on “Random Musings” and over on the ENDWORLD site. I’ve read and written two book reviews. I’ve composed a thousand emails to my customers and my vendors about everything from pumps to motors to pump to motor adapters. But to this day? I still have not come up with a silly story to tell Cara pre-bedtime. That ends now. The reason for this blog entry is to hash out a decent, silly story to tell her before she goes to bed, tonight. I don’t have a lot of time, so I don’t expect that it’ll be a very long silly story, but then again, the longer the story the more time I have to spend trying to coax her to sleep and not popping Metformin/drinking Swiss Farms Tea Cooler while I ruminate on just what the hell Free Caymen looks like (Free Caymen = A location referenced in ENDWORLD – A Novel and seen in CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD). I’ll stop there lest I give away something crucial, i.e. “spoilers.”

So here goes. It needs to be about a topic that Cara likes. Right now, Cara loves the Disney Princesses, so I’ll start there:

Once upon a time, there lived, in the kingdom of Enchantia (stolen from “Sofia the First”), every Disney Princess: Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Rapunzel, Tiana and Merida, not to mention Princess Leia (forthcoming, I hope) and Nita from ‘Brother Bear 2’ (what can I say? Cara loves Nita. Creative license. Please, Disney, don’t sue me). Their lives were wonderful, and the kingdom was big enough for all of them and their husbands (or, in Merida’s case, her bow and arrow).

One day, they were all sitting down over a Cajun feast, prepared for them by Prince Naveen when Merida–always the troublemaker–brought up the idea of doing something different for once.  Initially, the princesses deigned to entertain her idea. Their respective existences were fine. They liked only having to show up for work every time someone at Disney got it in his or her head to either A.) Make a direct to DVD sequel or B.) Have Princess Sofia the First call for help, leading to a guest spot on her television show. And their husbands enjoyed their respective, simple existences after their complicated, pre-Enchantia lives (see: The Beast and Aladdin/Prince Ali).

But Merida was undaunted. “I want to have an adventure!” she exclaimed, and tossed her gumbo across the table. Sadly, it hit smallish bear Koda in the face but the little cub didn’t care: He loved gumbo and lopped it all up.

Despite the fact that the other princesses were happy with their respective, partial retirements in Enchantia, they knew that the only way they’d ever get Merida to calm down and not have her personal witch/wood cutter hex them all and turn them into bears was to appease her. So they agreed to go along with Merida’s request. At least until they were summoned to fulfill one of their two, post-partial retirement duties.

“Hey,” Kenai and Nita said suddenly, “being a bear isn’t that bad.”

The other princesses and princes told biggish bear and his lady-friend to keep their yaps closed. Other than Koda, they were the only bears in Enchantia, and the movie that had brought them together–“Brother Bear 2”–wasn’t even the original one. It was a direct to DVD sequel, albeit a superior sequel to the sub-par, original “Brother Bear.” This caused Kenai and Nita, as well as Koda to quiet down as had been requested of them, for they knew, deep down in their hearts that they were not really a part of the accepted, Disney canon. They silently slinked away from the dinner table and went off on their own. No one knew where or what they were up to. Nor did anyone pay their departure a second thought.

“Okay then, Merida,” Snow White said, “what did you have in mind?”

Pause. Not a bad start, and I hammered it out pretty quickly, which gives me hope that I might actually have this done by nine PM tonight. Now for their adventure. What does Cara like doing? Other than dressing up and playing Disney Princess, she enjoys playing with Natalie, going to the park, ballet, gymnastics, watching/playing “Puss in Boots…”

Bam! “Playing ‘Puss in Boots.'” Puss in Boots is a well known fairy tale. Cara loves fairy tales. Time to continue:

Merida folded her arms across her chest and blew the strand of red, curly hair that had fallen over her forehead out of her face, “I think we should break into teams of two couples each, one old princess and one new one, randomly select a traditional fairy tale and go experience what happens in it,” she said, “we’ll put them all in Aladdin/Prince Ali’s turban, and each pick one. Then, we’ll petition the Disney writers to create a scenario for us in it. Then we’ll do it, come back here, and compare notes.”

All the other princesses and princes agreed that it was an equitable, albeit somewhat far-fetched solution. Why not just go on a road trip, they thought, or maybe ask for a spot in the next “Epic Mickey” video game? But no one questioned Merida, for no one wanted to be turned into a bear. They placed a handful of fairy tales in Aladdin/Prince Ali’s turban, and one by one, the princesses selected.

Snow White and Prince Charming teamed with Tiana and Naveen and selected “The Three Little Pigs.” Cinderella and her Prince teamed with Rapunzel and Eugene and selected “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” Aurora and Phillip teamed with Mulan and Li Shang and selected “Peter and the Wolf.” Ariel and Eric teamed with Pocahontas and John Smith and selected “The Gingerbread Man.” Belle and the Beast teamed with Jasmine and Aladdin/Prince Ali and selected “The Ugly Duckling” and lastly, Merida teamed with Princess Leia and selected “Little Red Riding Hood.”

“What about Kenai, Nita and Koda?” Princess Leia asked, “shouldn’t they be included?”

The other princesses shook their heads, “Nita’s not really a Disney Princess. Besides, they’re bears, not people.” Princess Leia thought about crying out that bears are people too which, if you’ve ever seen “Brother Bear” and/or “Brother Bear 2” you know is true. But she didn’t. She kept her yap shut. She was still only a trial princess, after all. And she wanted so badly to be accepted as a part of the Disney canon, especially since her husband, Han Solo, had opted to go and try to break his own, personal record of making the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs with his fuzzball of a side kick, Chewbacca and his scoundrel of a friend, Lando, rather than stay with her in Enchantia. I’ll show him, she thought as Lumiere measured her for her red lamay, Little Red Riding Hood outfit. 

One by one, the teams went and solicited the Disney writers for their approval. Sadly, they were not given it because A.) Dreamworks held the copyrights for all the fairy tales that didn’t involve them and B.) They had all been written into the upcoming “Sofia the First,” feature length movie. Dejected, they all returned to the table around which they had been sitting, plopped down into their chairs in front of their now-cold bowls of gumbo, and lamented their loss. Actually, only Merida lamented the loss. Leia lamented the loss of her red lamay, Little Red Riding Hood outfit, but the other princesses were actually quite happy that Merida’s latest, crazy idea had fizzled out. They began to eat the last of their gumbo when…

The door to the dining hall swung open. The princesses and princes all turned and saw Kenai, Nita and Koda come purposefully marching into the room. They were all about to say something when Merida’s personal witch/wood cutter stepped out from behind them, and started laughing. Apparently, while they had been away petitioning the Disney writers to participate in Merida’s latest, hair-brained scheme, she had, at the urging of the bears, snuck in and spiked their remaining gumbo with the same magic she had once used on Merida’s mother. Within seconds, each of the princesses and their princely counterparts morphed into bears. All but Merida, who had thrown her gumbo at Koda earlier. Merida watched as her counterparts surrounded her. Afraid, she fled from the dining hall with her bow and arrow and was never seen in Enchantia again which, under normal circumstances, would have been quite a crippling loss to the Disney canon. But it wasn’t. For her selfless support of the biggish bear, his smallish brother and Nita, Princess Leia was promoted from trial princess to full-fledged, Disney Princess, and was given the color white to wear as her signature color.

In time, the bears all transformed back into princesses and princes, but they had all learned a valuable lesson. From that moment forth, they each accepted Kenai, Nita and Koda into their ranks as equals. All starred in the “Sofia the First” feature length movie, which became the highest grossing film of all time, and won not only the Best Animated Feature Oscar, but the Best Picture Oscar, as well. Eventually, Han, Chewie and Lando returned after making the Kessel Run in under 10 parsecs. They are all still living together in Enchantia to this day, happily ever after. The End.

Or is it? I’m not really sure. Something tells me that Merida’s part in the story isn’t quite finished yet. To be shunned like that by your fellow princesses? I can only imagine the pain that she’s had to endure since it happened. In my mind’s eye, I see her once again living in the Highlands of Scotland in the ruined castle of her father, her mother and her three baby brothers (who had long since relocated to eastern Australia, and were living out their lives, happily guiding “walkabouts” through the Outback). I see her sitting alone in an abandoned dining hall when suddenly, her once-personal witch/wood cutter shows up and offers her a way to repay her once-sisters and their spouses. “By doing what?” Merida asks, and the witch/wood cutter’s response? “By becoming Mordoon,” she says as she removes a familiar looking cake from behind her back and hands it to Merida. What happens next?

Well? I guess you’ll just have to get it when it goes direct to DVD.

And there you have it. What do you think? Is it a silly enough story to appease Cara’s pre-sleep desire for comedy? What’s nice about it is that it doesn’t have to end there. Maybe the princesses go back to the Disney writers and petition them again, and this time they get their wish. Part of me would really like to see Princess Leia in that red lamay, Little Red Riding Hood outfit, though instead of Merida, her partners would now be her husband, Han, his fuzzball sidekick Chewbacca and his scoundrel friend, Lando. That’s the nice thing about stories, silly or otherwise, adult or kid: They can be whatever we as writers want them to be. Whether they’re called ENDWORLD – A NovelCHILDREN OF ENDWORLD or whatever-the-hell-I-just-wrote-should-be-called, at their core, they’re all the same. They’re a product of our experiences and our imagination. Whether you’re me, Nicole, Cara or one of the Disney writers. Whether you’re a published, self-published or not-at-all published writer, they’re all the same. Just make sure you tell ’em well. And if you’re paraphrasing a pre-existing one? Make sure you get the details right. As Cara deftly pointed out to me a few weeks ago, there’s a big difference between being 175 and 150 years old.

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Stay thirsty, my friends. Swiss Farms Tea Cooler is two for $4.00 this week only. Get yours today.