What Thanksgiving Means To Me By Way Of Hashtags, The Bastard Child Of Zumba And Crossfit, A Little ENDWORLD, A Few More Hashtags And A Life Less Extraordinary

Well Good Evening, Morning or Afternoon to you ALL. Happy Thanksgiving Eve, or #HappyThanksgivingEve to those of you that love a good Hashtag. I, myself, really REALLY love a good Hashtag. I use them religiously across all of my Social Media platforms. I don’t know if I really understand the whole Hashtag thing–mine vary from one devoted to my youngest minion–#NatNatBoo–to one devoted to my every-other Saturday morning routine–#Crumba. Yes, #Crumbaisathingnow, or so that @fmarshauthor guy Tweets. For those of you that are wondering what Crumba is, Crumba as the bastard child of Zumba and Crossfit: Two activities that participants are fervent, and in some cases militant about. I hold nothing against the practitioners of both. In truth? I’m a bit envious. My idea of activity right now is yard work, cleaning house, doing laundry, playing with my minions and trying to top 10K steps daily on my Fitbit, something that I’ve only managed to achieve two or three times in the six months since I bought it. So let’s get that out of the way now. Dear Crossfit and Zumba peeps: Keep on keepin’ on. Keep rocking those deadlifts and “ooh ooh’ing” to “Uptown Funk.”

There are a probably a few of you reading this right now that are wondering “hey, where the f*ck has this guy been for the last year?” You’d be right to wonder. My last blog post (incidentally also a “What Thanksgiving Means to Me” ponderance) was on 11/26 of 2014. That’s an eternity for a guy that used to pride himself on writing every day. What can I say? The same thing I always say when I disappear off the literary radar for a bit: Life, man. Gul’darned, cotton-picking LIFE. It gets in the way. Between being a good Branch Manager, being a good dad, being a good husband (all things that I’m always trying to improve upon) et al et AL, writing with any sort of consistency has been a tough thing to do. The good news? Over the last two weeks, I HAVE been writing more. CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD mainly, otherwise known as #CHILDRENOFENDWORLD in my own, subjective Twitterverse (#Amwriting #Homestretch, baby). If everything goes the way I hope it to, I should be done the first draft sometime within the next few weeks, so those of you that have been waiting patiently for the continuance of William’s story? Your patience will soon pay off. And if you want to Beta read it, message me here, on Facebook or on Twitter. I’ll be lining up about a dozen once it’s fully edited and ready to go.

Is it any good? That’s a tough question to answer. I’d be lying if I said I personally didn’t like it. I actually like it more than ENDWORLD. A LOT more. I’ll be honest with you: While it continues William’s story, it’s a very different story. Darker. But deeper, too. More spiritual, really. In fact, spirituality is a huge theme in it, one that I expect will carry over into Book Three, HEAVEN AND ENDWORLD (#HEAVENANDENDWORLD #Areyougettingtiredofthisyet). Okay. I’ll ease up on the Hastags moving forward. #Acceptmyapologies #STOPF*CKINGHASHTAGGINGEVERYTHING!

Anywhos, I digress. Focus. Focus and we’re back on point. I’m not here tonight to write about my writing. I’m here tonight because I cannot let a year go by without a “What Thanksgiving Means to Me” blog post. It’s tradition. And LIFE cannot get in the way of traditions. The thing is? It’s been a rough year, friends. At times REALLY rough. It’s definitely had it’s high points: Disney World with my minions, my wife and my in-laws, a new Mad Max movie (still the best movie of the year, IMO; at least until the new Star Wars movie comes out next month). There’s more but my head hurts a bit too much tonight and I’m sure you don’t want to read 5000 words about every little, piddling good thing that’s happened to me this year. Back in April, I passed a Kidney Stone and it hurt like a MOTHERf*cker. See? That’s a good thing but do you really want to read about it? Survey says: HELL no.

In truth? It’s been for the most part a challenging year. Sick loved ones, saying goodbye to my childhood home (booyakasha, Maple Street and J-Town: RESPECT), turning 40, turning 40 and did I mention turning 40? Yeah. That’s a tough pill to swallow. #Thisis40 and let me tell you the Judd Apatow movie was on. F*cking. POINT. The only thing it was missing was the overabundance of white hair and a sagging stomach. That said, it’s a bit tough to ruminate on the good when so much of what has happened this year has been… well? Not great. But ruminate I will because if I’ve learned one thing over my now 40+ year life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence it’s that it could always be worse. And at the least? There’s THAT to be thankful for.

So what does Thanksgiving mean to me… hell, to ANYone in a less-than-spectacular year? Well, it remains a time to give thanks for the basics: Family, friends, good health, a roof over my head and food in my belly, a new Mad Max movie and NOW a new Star Wars movie to look forward to, a six year old minion that enjoys reading and writing as much as I do (and has her mom’s aptitude toward Math and Science, as well; it’s a powerful combination), a three year old minion with a propensity for “twirly skirts,” princess crowns and “squeezy hugs” and a wife who at 35 is just as appealing to me as she was when we started dating 14 years ago this month (11/11/01, a day that had lived and will continue to live in infamy). But it goes deeper than that, perhaps moreso when you’re coming down the #homestretch of 365 daunting days and already looking forward to embracing 2016 with open arms and a plea: Dear God please do NOT be like 2015. Pretty please? Thank you, Baby Jesus. Like CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD, there’s something spiritual about it.

I can’t really describe it save for through experience. Feeling. It’s that experience… that feeling of wandering out to the curb on a chilly night after you just got done making Sauteed Apples and Cornbread (or as #NatNatBoo calls it “Corn Cake”) for Thanksgiving Dinner, lighting a cigarette, looking up at the full moon, inhaling deeply and smelling wood burning in a fireplace somewhere near. For no reason whatsoever a little smile graces your face and a little bit of serendipity wells up inside of you despite your pounding head and dire need for a good night’s sleep. As Creed sang back in the days of my wayward youth in a song that STILL has meaning for me today, “There’s a peace inside your soul/Let it be your friend/It will help you carry on/In the end/There’s a peace inside your soul.” That peace? It’s what sustains me through the tough times.

But there’s more. I’ve come to realize something over the course of the last 11, soon to be 12 months. I feel it every time I see my girls after a long day at the office (and man? Some of them have been really, REALLY long; maybe not physically but mentally? Aw hell yes; a few have taken me to the brink of passing out), get a “squeezy hug” from Natalie and I hear about Cara’s mandatory Three Things she must reveal to Nicole and I every night that she did at school that day (which usually revolve around a subject–Math for instance–recess and either Spanish, Music, Art, Library or Computers depending on the day). That feeling? The aforementioned “more?” Simple, friends. Love with a capital “L.” It wells up inside of me to the point where I can barely suppress it and focus on driving, or making dinner, or giving Natalie a bath and spotting Cara while she showers. I look at their Cherubic little faces–still so much like Nicole’s and for that I remain grateful–and listen to them speak, or sing, or even bicker. And I smile. Maybe even shed a little tear (though I’m quick to disguise it from their view; they hate it when I cry). And I think to myself: Thank God for them. For my wife. For my friends who I can still talk to about any and everything from the most mundane–Rousey losing to Holm for instance–to the most complex–discussion of the respective books we’re working on. For my family who I can still call if I need advice.

THAT’S what Thanksgiving means to me at the ripe old age of 40+ guys and gals. It’s a time to give thanks for all of the intangibles that I have. Money? Fame? Success? All are wonderful and I’ll never stop pushing myself to achieve the highest level that I can achieve and obtain of each. But all of those things really are secondary. In a way I’ve come full circle. When I was younger, I didn’t have ANY of those things. I learned to live and learned to love without them. I grew from a boy to a man and suddenly those things were there in spades and they WERE important to me. To a certain extent they remain so though the thing… the THINGS that are the most important to me now are not the amount of money in my wallet or my title; not whether I sold 1000 copies of ENDWORLD or 10. Family. Friends. Those little moments of peace like standing by moonlight on a chilly, Autumn night, the smell of burning wood in my nostrils and the taste of Apple Cider on my lips, waiting for my girls to return from a hayride to the Witch’s House (booyakasha, Linvilla Orchards: RESPECT) while I chat with a close friend. Or lying in bed next to my wife at midnight and laughing ourselves to sleep with anecdotes. Even sitting here tonight, typing these words while listening to the soundtrack to the Rocky movies (it’s called “The Rocky Story” if you want to pick it up or better yet, stream it via Spotify, iTunes et al et AL) and discussing with Nicole between paragraphs how the f*ck we’re going to get out and see “Creed” in the near future when we can’t get a babysitter and all Cara and Natalie want to see is “The Good Dinosaur” and in Cara’s case, “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.”

Life, friends? It doesn’t have to be extraordinary all the time. Sometimes a life less extraordinary is better for the heart, mind and soul. It teaches you humility… teaches you to really, REALLY appreciate the things you have. By the cold light of a full moon on Thanksgiving Eve 2015 while a cigarette hangs from one corner of your mouth, you realize that once upon a time…

‘Cause all good stories begin as such…

You thought you’d never have the things you have today. You were miserable. You spent your days and nights pining away for an ideal that really was nothing more than a fictionalized autobiography of your life. What you envisioned, not the really, really REAL world. The really, really REAL world is a what waits for you inside your little, two story Colonial on a sleepy little street in Suburbia, US of A. It may not be the dream you originally dreamed–the sometimes impossible dream–but guess what? It’s the dream that THAT dream became while you weren’t looking. And amazingly enough, you realize as you flick your cigarette out into the street and turn and stroll up your driveway, your shadow cast in front of you in full relief that this? THIS was what you always wanted. A home. A family. Consistency. They’ll always be a little part of you that yearns for a bit more. Use it, friends. Let it drive you. Never give up. Find peace inside your soul… let it be your friend, but never totally stop reaching for the stars. If you grab ‘hold of one, make it your b*tch but never, EVER neglect what you already have. #Noregrets, folks. To quote the great Paul McCartney, “money can’t buy you love.”

And with that? I’m spent. #Itsgettinglate #IvealreadyneglectedNicolefortoolongtonight. But I’m glad I did this. And I’m glad that if you’re reading this right now, you once again came along for the ride. I appreciate you in ways you can’t possibly imagine. Your support. Your candid feedback both good AND bad. I oft times end these little ponderances with a long list of arbitrary thank you’s but tonight? I’m not going to do that. #Keepingitreal. I’ll just end it with one. Thank YOU, friends, readers and fellow sh*theads. And have a Happy Thanksgiving.

#THEEND.

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Hashtag OnGrosslyUndervaluingOurInvaluableTeachers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hashtag NothingButLoveForYouALL.

F.