Horton Gets Throat Punched

My little girl, who is 8 years old, is an amazing young lady.  She sings, she dances, she’s beautiful, and she has this amazing ability to always remind me that, even as a man, I have been created to be an emotional creature.

Now, like most fathers would say, my daughter is the most glorious little girl on God’s green Earth (the only difference between mine and theirs, though, is that mine actually is the prettiest…sadly, the rest of the guys are just wrong and/or delusional).  Oddly enough, people have said, since the day she was born, that she looks just like me.  At first, I always thought to myself, “Poor girl, she’s going to look like a man.”  Recently, though, I’ve been wondering if it might be the other way around.  After rocking these bad girls for the Sacramento WEAVE Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event:ImageYes, those are my ginormous manfeet taking up residence in 3″ stiletto high heeled shoes.  And to answer the question that first buzzes through your mind, they were a ladies’ size16.  Dude looked like a lady!  What really floored me, though, was how my kids reacted to seeing their dad in pumps: my son simply said, “Daddy, you’re wearing Mommy’s shoes.  NICE!” My daughter, on the other hand was disgusted.  “Dad.  You’ve never worn heels before and you’re more stable in them than me.  That’s just not right.”  It is true…I did take to them like a duck to water, which I’m not going to lie, is a little troubling.  But to help women escape domestically and sexually violent situations, it was well worth it.  Next year, I’ll be back and I’m bring friends with me!

That leads me, albeit around Robin’s barn, back to my daughter.  She has experience in high heels because of pageants.  Now, these are not the Toddlers-and-Tiaras-style pageants but pageants that are based on the ability of little girls to be little girls.  It has been interesting to watch her develop through these events, as she has been asked to sing, dance, frolic, croak, interview (both on-stage and off) about their lives, hopes, and aspirations.  Is that too much for a little girl?  Not really…these pageants are low-pressure and there are no Honey Boo Boo mama’s waiting in the wings.  It’s just an opportunity to perform, which is what my girl loves to do.  In fact, not to brag, but at the last pageant, she won the All-Around Talent award.

But most recently, on Saturday, Katie was playing the part of Gertrude in Seussical, Jr., a production that my wife put on as an after school program.  How she herded all those high-energy kids in the same direction through a high-energy show, I’ll never know, but it was amazing.  What I didn’t know, though, was that woven through the script was a very subtle and innocent love story…involving who else?  Gertrude.

Her part in the play was that she was doing all these things to get Horton to notice her because she loved him and he was so focused on everything else, that he simply looked past her.  There was my daughter, doing all these wonderful things for the love of another who could simply not be bothered!  Finally, though, she does win his attention and affection and they live happily ever after.  It was a whole range of emotions, in a wee span of an hour!  In the end, I wanted to deal with Horton the way fathers deal with boyfriends; warnings, yelling, threats, punches, and eventually, hiding a body.  In truth, I cried a little…my little girl, professing love for a boy (who was actually an elephant, but still!).

Katie is a great little actress…she uses inflection and vocal gesticulation and can sing like a boss (for an 8 year-old).  The emotions that she was channeling were as real as those that she evoked from me.  Tears don’t roll down my cheek for no reason – seeing my little girl grow up?  That’s reason enough.

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The Muse Who Keeps Dialing -or- The Explanation of my Absence

You know the sound that telephones used to make?  The ones that had the bell inside the handset?  That high-pitched ringy-dingy sound?  Yeah.  That sound has been ringing in my ear for days.  Every time I walk passed a computer that has an internet connection, every time I pick up my glorious iTouch, every time I feel bored, that’s the sound I here.  I know who it is…it’s my muse.  And she’s calling me, begging me to write.  It has been nearly 11 months since I’ve written anything on my blog.  My last post was on June 26, 2012.  Late that night, I would learn that the 19 y/o daughter, Linnea, of a dear friend of mine, Craig Lomax, had walked away from an outpatient clinic and disappeared.

Initially, the reason I stopped writing because I was hip-deep in the search to help find her.  I, along with hundreds of other family, friends, and strangers, were spending every spare moment turning over every rock this city has to offer.  I was not able to join as often as I would have liked because of my search-for-work and my responsibilities as the youth pastor at church.  I surrendered time that is usually reserved for my family to Craig and Maya in order that I might help them find their girl.

For hours on end, the volunteers would pound the streets, handing out and posting flyers (and eventually taking down the flyers in order to help her not feel hunted), ride the network of Light Rail trains that weave throughout the city, stake out restaurants we learned are friendly to the city’s homeless and gave them the uneaten food after closing, and ride the American River Bike Trail (ARBT), hoping to come across anyone who had seen her.

I woud be lying if I said that all of the time we were searching was an awful, gut-wrenching experience.  What I found was that friendships were established or strengthened and, usually when a group of people went out together, laughter wasn’t far behind.  One night, one of Linnea’s fellow UC Davis students and I were paired together.  Our task was to patrol the 160/American River area of the city, known to be a homeless Mecca, then hide in the shadows around Sekou’s BBQ (being formerly homeless, Sekou understands the plight of the people and would serve up 5-10 meals a night to those in need).  Because there was a lead that Linnea had been spotted in the area, we felt it might be smart to check it out.  After alerting Sekou to what was happening around his restaurant, we ninjaed ourselves under bushes and into trees, virtually disappearing.  Unless you knew we were there, you wouldn’t have seen us…unless you were a family of skunks out for an early evening stroll.  Before we knew what was happening, there were seven skunks walking around us.  Now, as we were being perfectly stealthy, they didn’t bother us a bit and eventually moved on.  But I must say that until you’ve been cornered by a half-dozen skunks, you don’t know anticipatory fear.

Another light-hearted memory from the search was when I was put onto an early-morning bike ride down one of the branches of the ARBT.  The trail had turned to dirt, perfect for the mountain bike I was riding, and I turned down a slightly-larger-than-a-rabbit-trail offshoot to see what there was to be seen.  Over knolls, roots, and rocks, down an adrenaline-inducing decent to the river’s edge, and back up to the main trail, I found myself alone, with only dragonflies to keep me company.  No one was around and it was just me and God.  I dismounted my bike and just sat down to pray for Linnea and for Craig and Maya.  I don’t know how long I sat there.  The flow of the river, the calls of the birds, the occasional jumping of a fish was intoxicating.  I can see why Linnea loved the river – it was alive on its own accord and breathed its own breath.  I simply sat there and was touched by the Lord’s creation.  I took a pic of it so that I could remember the moment and where I was.

photo-29

It was shortly after that, though, that I started to take note of my own health.  One of the thing that the Lomaxes have been working toward is a better understanding of people about the stigmas and attention given to mental health.  At this point in my life, I had been dealing with depression for a little less than two years.  It was starting to get better with the advent of working at the church, but I hadn’t “kicked it” yet.  When Linnea disappeared and I saw the looks of anguish on her parents’ faces, and those of her close friends, I started to internalize what could be happening to her.  I put my daughter, Katie, in her place and was horrified at the thoughts.  Every CSI, Law & Order, and Without a Trace show suddenly flared into my mind.  At that time, high on the list of things we’d routinely watch was Criminal Minds, where they delve into the psychoses of those who mean to do harm to people; often they get graphic with their descriptions and visualizations.  What I didn’t realize, though, was that I had invested so much of myself into searching that I had forgotten to look after myself and my well-being.  My wife, Sherilyn, actually noticed it first.  When she brought it to my attention, I realized she was right.  I had to back away and pray from afar.  For weeks and weeks, that’s exactly what I did – I’d repost updates on Facebook, pray, watch the news, read the papers, stay in loose touch with those at the headquarters.  Finally, on September 8, 2012, I felt good enough to go back and search for the evening.

When I arrived, armed with a boatload of food for the searchers who were coming off the shift, we were brought inside and told that they had found her.  Her mom, who had prayed that very morning for Linnea to be brought home or for God to lead her to Linnea, was the one who found her, hanging from a tree not a 1/2 mile from where she was last officially seen.

As there was no search being conducted, we left the food for those who had not yet heard and come back in from their search fields.  I was saddened, though, admittedly, not surprised.  I think the most horrific and disheartening part was that it had been Maya who’d found her – I couldn’t even imagine.

My friend Jake was with me that night.  Obviously, I wasn’t good company. but he stayed the course and took me to Starbucks so I could pillage their WiFi to let people who’d been praying know she’d been found.  I knew I needed something to eat, but I wasn’t hungry. So I invented a drink that night.  I asked for a grande hot chocolate with a plain glazed doughnut blended up in it.  The baristas looked at me like I’d gown another head, but ultimately they complied and served the very first Hot Dough-Colate.  You may think it sounds vile, but I will attest to the fact that it is delicious.  Later, we were at a restaurant and the waitress says, “So, fellas, how’s your day going?”

“I’m pretty sure you don’t want me to answer that question honestly.”

“It couldn’t be that bad, sweetie!  What happened?”

“Well, a friend of mine who was missing for a long time was found today.  She passed away weeks ago, but they just found her.  It’s been a rough afternoon.”

And then, what it is quite likely redefine idiocy and make all teachers who say, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question,” eat their words, she opened up her mouth again.

She cocked her head sideways and said,

Screen shot 2013-05-20 at 11.50.34 AM

This is not exaggeration or hyperbole.  This is the honest-to-goodness, wholehearted truth. At this point, I was barely able to think straight, much less vocalize any thoughts about my desire for a Dr. Pepper, so Jake ordered for me.  That and wings with bleu cheese.  I was absolutely dumbfounded.

Oddly enough, when she came back with our drinks, she said, “Well, guys, Kiera is going to finish up with you tonight because the boss wants me to clock off.  Hope your night gets better!”

All in all, this was a saddening and enveloping season of my life.  The ministry was still going strong, building, growing, reaching out, missioning, etc., my own children were happy and vibrant, as was my relationship with my wife, but it just got me down.  I stepped away from the keyboard because time wouldn’t allow me to be there while searching for Linnea. I guess I’m coming back because I finally feel ready to move on with life and look for a brighter tomorrow.

PS…I apologize for the length of this post.  Normally, they’re a lot shorter, but when one writes about a life-altering experience, I think it is natural to be long-winded about it in order to pay it the proper respect it has in your life.

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Turning in My ManCard

I like to consider myself a completely average guy: I eat food that tastes good, but probably isn’t good for me, I can work a chainsaw without reasonable fear of losing an appendage, and I can tie a decent fisherman’s knot on the end of my pole (catching fish, though, is another story).  I can talk the talk and walk the walk.  All of this was true.  Until Friday.  Both of my loyal readers sent me messages of concern noting that I hadn’t posted in a while.  Truth is, I was doing my very darnedest to hide from the world.

You see, it was Friday when I blundered a skill taught in every Man 101 class known to, well, man.  An error so awful, actually owning the fact I committed brought tears to my eyes.  In the unmanliest of unmanliest fashions, I failed.

Six months ago, my friend left his van in my care while he went to school oversees to become a master brewer (the right kind of friend to have, if you ask me).  In maintaining the vehicle to the best of my abilities, I faithfully went to check the oil.  A might low.  As such, I moved to add oil to the engine, as most guys are taught to do shortly before they get their driver’s license.  However, things did not go according to plan.

My epic failure occurred when I added 10W-40 motor oil to the power steering reservoir.  Not only does this not help level the engine oil, but the petroleum-based oil actually eats away the rubber seals that helps the power steering system do what it does.  Yes…it was a difficult pill to swallow – albeit unintentionally, I had just guffawed in the face of Mandom.  Thumbed my nose at one of the most-sacred of manly responsibilities.

To his credit, my friend was more than reasonable when I told him of my error.  He has a clear understanding that I am not a “car guy” (though I think the true level of my non-car-guy status has ultimately been realized).  He was rightfully upset, but the concern was for that of the safety of me and my family – he didn’t want us to suddenly be without the ability to steer and find ourselves dead in a ditch somewhere.  It is for this reason that I can truly express that I’m glad he is my friend (and still counts me as one, though I jacked up his rig).

As humbling as it has been, I am thankful, too, for other friends to whom I have told of my lunkheadedness who didn’t laugh at me.  Chuck and Jake, being car guys, are thankful for people like me because we keep guys like them in business.  They also displayed an amazing amount of respect for my feelings.    I was feeling low, incredibly low, and I was talked through the situation and the “this is what is going to happen” and told that everything would, eventually, be all right.  It was humbling.

So…why am I outing myself?  Why am I letting the world in on my secret?  Because, according to most of those that I have talked to about this, I am not the first.  Though I felt like it and it was very, very lonely at my self-imposed pity party, many men have come to me and have told me of similar mistakes. So if you’re reading this and you have done this, I want you to know that you’re not alone.  Do not commit yourself to a self-loathing dungeon of despair.  Do not berate yourself.  Learn.  Learn from your mistake and move on with life.  Choose to become more than you are from the experiences you’ve endured.  Hold your head high and, above all else, allow others to see you sweat – We’re not bulletproof supermen.  We make mistakes and we screw up.  By letting others see our weaknesses, we allow them to use their strengths to bolster us.

Life is full of crazy, unexpected happenstances.  The only thing we can truly expect is the unexpected.  When those arise, we should use our strengths to compliment one another and make life as livable and enjoyable as possible.  Though my mistake is hardly one to be enjoyed, it was made tolerable by the respect, love, and caretaking of the friends that surrounded me when I was down.

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“Children”: A New Natural Disaster

After the tsunami in Phuket, Thailand, people began becoming hyperaware that referring to things by natural disaster names was uncool.  Case-in-point, Jamba Juice, a leading smoothie establishment on the west coast, changed the name of their most popular drink, “Strawberry Tsunami,” to “Strawberry Surfrider.”

Ever since then, the proverbial “everybody” has made calling unfortunately circumstances by natural disaster names a no-no.  Earthquake?  Nope – Haiti, Chile, and New Zealand.  Hurricane?  Nope – Thanks, Katrina.  Tornado?  Out of respect for Joplin, you’d better not.  Typhoons?  Can’t think of anything on that one, but someone probably can.  Don’t do it, lest you piss them off.

So with all of that in mind, how does one describe the damage children can do to a freshly-cleaned room in a matter of minutes?  ”It looks like a tornado blew threw here!” won’t cut it any more.  One of my students had a really bad habit of not picking up after herself and leaving a mess all over the classroom.  I dared to jokingly call her “Hurricane Lisa” to try and make a point.  Her mom called and asked why I was trying to damage her psyche.  The lesson was learned then.  Children are not natural disaster……or are they?

If you think about it: 1) children are the most natural bi-product of opposite-gender relations, 2) until they’re a) taught to clean up after themselves and b) take on that responsibility, they leave a wake of mess horrendous mess (it starts with dirty diapers, then large, easy-to-manipulate toys, and finally ends with foot-penetrating Lego blocks), and finally, 3) everything about them, as little people, is natural – their ability to play, breath, and poo all come to them without thinking.

So if we can’t name children’s ability to create bedlam in a clean room after natural disasters, what can we call it?  There simply is nothing.  For this reason, here and now, I’m I’m purposing that we start using the term “children” as a type of natural disaster in it’s own right!

“It looks like CHILDREN tore through here!”

“How, in blazes, did the CHILDREN destroy this living room so quickly?”

“I spent all day cleaning and vacuuming this room.  Then, bamCHILDREN came through and wrecked it!”

I’ll give you that it might sound a little weird rolling off the tongue for a while, and somebody will probably have a problem with it, but in truth, it is the perfect solution.  No more will pint-sized people be compared to the massive damage-creators like “avalanches” or “floods,” for they will have their own designation.  We could even create a scale that Mr. Richter would be jealous of.  We’ll call it Barn Scale (“barn” is how you say “children” in Swedish.  And since young’ns have a tendency to leave the door open with the air conditioner is on, I’d say it’s fitting in English, too!).

The Barn Scale – a measurement of children’s destructive power
0.1 – 1.0     Room mostly intact.  One or two toys left out
1.1 – 2.0     Room in slight disarray.  Five or six toys left out, shoes in the middle of floor
2.1 – 3.0     Room officially “messy.”  Toy soldier brigade and/or Barbies strewn about, couch cushions askew
3.1 – 4.0     Room frightfully muddled.  Hot Wheels cars and tracks, “Mommy, look at what I made” crafts and cast-aside supplies, paper plates, and “What on EARTH is that?” completely covering your carpet
4.1 – 5.0     Room could be subject to Child Protective Services inspection.  Horrendously scattered, the neighbor’s new dog (named Puddles) relieving herself on the couch, a pinata hanging from the ceiling fan, and those blasted! Legos acting as a land mine field (no disrespect, whatsoever, to EOD specialists of our armed forces).

Yes, I think this will catch on, America.  All we’ve got to do is get this into the hands of the Politically Correct.  Once they start pushing it, that’s when I’ll make my millions.

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I Like Neil Diamond…and I’m OK

Yesterday was my Father’s Day present.  “What was it?” you might be asking.  A day.  All to myself.  No kids whining, crying, fighting, carrying on, tattling, or tying the dog’s ears in a knot.  No honey-do projects.  Just for me.  I spent the day doing some writing, working on the backyard farm, and just enjoying the peacefulness that became my backyard.  

Some of the day, though, was devoted to reading other people’s blogs.  I stumbled across one that inspired today’s title, “I Like Neil Diamond…and I’m OK”  It’s all about being okay with the music we like.

I’m 33 years-old.  Most people my age are into country music or pop or they like to listen to the station that plays music from when we were in high school.  That’s all well and good, and I enjoy those musics, too, but I also love me some Neil Diamond.  NEIL DIAMOND?!?!  Yes.  Neil Diamond.

While most teen agers ONLY know him from Will Ferrell’s impression on SNL, Neil Diamond is a legendary performer and song writer.  As far as I’m concerned, Hot August Night is the greatest concert ever recorded to 8-track tape.  The way he blends a symphonic orchestra with his rock band into the introductory song Crunchy Granola Sweet is mind-blowing.  There’s just something pure about the way he blends the two different styles of music – it’s like he aligns all he microcosms and macrocosms of the universe and they converged over Los Angeles’s Greek Theater in 1972.  It doesn’t matter that it happened seven years before I was born…it happened and I’m lucky enough to have parents who never threw out their obsolete technology.

But there’s a couple of things that you need to know, especially if you’ve watched the Will Ferrell link above.  Neil isn’t the garble-speak goober that SNL makes him out be; yes, some of his songs, like Porcupine Pie, might be a trifle nonsensical, but he’s just having fun – playing the music behind the lyrics.  Then, when he busts out a timeless classic like Sweet Caroline, BAM! the legend surfaces.

In truth, I didn’t mean to rant on the greatness that is Neil Diamond.  The message that I want you to hear is this; we all like our music and it is okay.  A lot of the students in my youth group are currently into the dubstep.  I don’t get it.  To me, it sounds like instrument-less modulated noise.  In fact, the most I’m around it, the more anxious I get.  The edgy beats and fast-paced rhythms make me want to put my head through a wall.  But if they like it, so be it.  Rap is another one that I don’t get.  Truth be told, and this is going to sound wicked judgmental, but thug rap is awful.  I don’t understand how defiling someone with words and rhyming about drugs and such lifts anyone up.  It might seem hypocritical, but I’ve never heard anything good come from stereotypical rap.  Now…there are rappers like LeCrae and KJ52 who take the beats and put them to uplifting words.  But even though they’re all about good things, I can’t understand them!  I don’t get it.

My point is that you like who you like.  You plug who you plug.  It might be Neil for me and it could be Flock of Seagulls for you.  In any case, be proud of who you are and the music you listen to.  Stand strong knowing that there is great music out there that you’ve never even heard yet.  Don’t be afraid to step outside your listening comfort zone and experience something new – but sure as heck remember that if you don’t like the something new, run back.  Run back to Neil Diamond.

What’s on your playlist?  What are the last 10 songs your iTunes have given you?

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A Tribute To My Dad

Last week, I wrote about a friend who called me out for being afraid of rejection.  That lead me to look at the reasons for which I haven’t finished any of the projects that I’ve been “working on.”  The elephant in the room in that regard was the blasted TV – it’s been on too much!  So below I have attached my first TV-off creation.  I hope you find it time-worthy.

The door creaked open as he walked into his home.  He made a mental note to oil it over the weekend; item 76 on his honey-do list.  With such an entrance, there would be no hiding the fact that he was home.  No sneaking in – especially with the dog, a medium black-and-white mutt named Oreo, wagging his tail and yipping with excitement at seeing his master.  His frame filled the door’s – a hulking man, by anyone’s definition, he reached down to pat the dog’s head.

“Yes, you’re a wonderful puppy.  I can’t imagine another dog in this whole world who is was wonderful as you,” he said.  It was more of an attempt to stem the tide of canine enthusiasm, than anything.  Truth be told, his childhood dog, Magoo, was the greatest in the world.  How often has he spoken of that genuinely retarded Boston terrier!  Even though the stories have been repeated a thousand times, they’re still as funny as the first and the smile they bring to his face is worth listening all over again.  Sometimes, that smile gets missed around here with all the stresses of life.

Shortly after the dog’s thump-thump-thumping tail beats against the coat closet door, a chubby young teenager with glasses comes out from the kitchen.  His hair is askew, but he doesn’t seem to care.  “Hey, Dad!  Glad you’re home.  Wanna play catch?”

Without missing a beat, the man smiles.  “Sure!  I was hoping you’d ask.”

“Dad, we play almost every day.  Why do I have to ask?”

Dad put down his lunch box, hung his light windbreaker on a hook near the door, and grabbed his mitt from the coat closet shelf.  The mitt is as old as he is.  The styling went out in the mid-50’s – Spaulding and Wilson stopped making three-fingered gloves with the first basemen said it would be better to have a solid piece of leather so the ball couldn’t get through when a hard throw came across the diamond.  But Dad was a basketball player.  Baseball had just been something to pass time in the off-season; but now it was time he got to spend with one of his two sons.

Dad went into the kitchen and kissed Mom on the back of the neck; it was barely noticeable, but he cringed a little at the effort – she was significantly shorter than he and he had tweaked his back at work the previous week.  She turned and planted a kiss on his lips and they both smiled.  Genuine love.  Pure.  Unadulterated.  The two had a relationship that could span lightyears.  “Good day?” but without waiting for an answer, “Dinner will be on in about 20 minutes.  Don’t let the sun go down on you guys out there.  We’re having meatloaf.”

“Thanks, honey,” and he smacked her affectionately on the backside.

The father and son went out to the backyard, wove around the dying elm tree, underneath the apple shrubs (trees that he’d gotten a little too carried away with while pruning), and out into the vast backyard.

There was room enough back there to set up a full pitcher’s mound and home plate.

“Dad, can I pitch to you tonight?”

“I think that maybe tonight better be a stand-up catch night, bud.  My knees are aching like crazy.”

“No problem.  But can I at least show you how the split-finger fastball is coming?  I worked on it a little with Kevin after practice.”

He smiled and nodded.  The pitch had next-to-no spin on it.  It rolled and tumbled like it should (similarly to a knuckle ball, but with more speed and less gesticulation) and dropped in for what would have been a strike.  Dad had taught the boy that one.  He’d also tried to teach him a knuckle, to no avail.  The boy’s hands simply weren’t big enough yet.

As they played, Oreo came bounding out of the house, looking to play fetch.  It was a nightly ritual.  As the ball would fly from son to Dad, the dog would run with it; when it flew from Dad to son, he would, too.  The two laughed at this, as they did every time they played catch.  Eventually, the pooch would get tuckered out, find a fallen apple, and lay down to gnaw on it.

After about 15 minutes, Dad would start to wince with every throw.  Shoulder, or elbow, were getting sore.  But he never complained.  He just kept on going.  Eventually, the boy would learn that his father had tendinitis in the joints of his right arm and playing catch only made it worse.  But dad kept offering, as if the pain wasn’t even there.

“I think that’s about all I got, son,” Dad would say.  “Let’s go in and help Mom set the table.”

The boy would run across the yard, and under one of his dad’s massive arms.  Like this, they would walk back to the house.  He’d go into the kitchen to help mom and Dad would go sit down in his big-man-sized Lay-Z-Boy recliner.  He’d earned five minutes with his feet up.

This is the story of my father and me, after my brother left the house for college.  He would come home from work, tired as tired could be, and play catch.  Having two children of my own, I don’t know how he did it.  It was truly an act of God that my dad was able to raise my brother and me like he did.  He gave endlessly, tirelessly, resiliently.  He gave his body, he gave his heart, and his time to us more than he ever should have be able.  Between all of our activities, he seemed to know how to find extra energy to help us however he could.  We were never without because of the sacrifices that he and my mom made for us.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.  You, truly, are the best model for fatherhood a new daddy could ask for.

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George McFly – An Unlikely Inspiration

Last night we were over at some friends’ house (Chloe and Oliver) for swimming and dinner.  We were supposed to have stroganoff, but learned that a slow-cooker works best when plugged in.  As such, pizza was the fare of the evening.

Sitting around the table, Oliver asked, “So what’s with this blog that you’ve been writing lately?  Why the sudden interest in writing?”

“I’ve always been a writer,” I said.  “I’ve got a couple of novels started, a seven-book youth series outlined, and a book of children’s poetry half-written.”

“Really?”

“He’s a great writer!” Chloe chimed in. “He’s let me read some of my stuff and it’s really good.”

Then she turned on me.  

“Why, exactly, haven’t you finished any of those books, yet?  Are you, like, afraid of success?”

I’d never really put that thought to it before.  Am I afraid of success?  I thought I could answer her intelligently with something that would end the conversation.

“Well, I think it like this.  I put all that time in to finishing a novel and then I send it off to a publisher.  They don’t like it, so I send it to another, then another, then another.  500 publishers later and I’ve still got nothing but a huge waste of time.”

“So you’re afraid of rejection?”

“If you’re going to put a label on me, then, yes, I suppose I am.”

“Then you’re George McFly.”

Wow.  I’ve been compared to a lot of people and movie characters in my brief 33 years of life, but the scrawny, nerdy, socially anorexic George McFly from Back to the Future was a first.  But it really made me think.  What is holding me back from finishing any of the projects I’ve started?

It is true that there is some fear of rejection – I think that can be said for all writers (please note that the difference between “writers” and “authors” is, at least in my book, that anyone can write but those who have actually been published have authored.  I don’t get to call myself an author until I’ve actually got a distributed book in-hand).  Yes, it is a craft and a skill and a gift to be able to communicate through the written word, but to actually allow someone else read what you’ve written and be affected by it shows a huge amount of vulnerability.  “What if they don’t like my stuff?  What if they tell me I’m no good?  I don’t know if I could take the kind of rejection.”

Sadly, as much as those words are George McFly’s, they ring true in my heart and mind, too.  To put in all that work, only to be shunned, declined, and thanked for the “work that has potential, but doesn’t appear ready OR what they’re looking for at the moment” isn’t my idea of time well-invested.  Working to get emotionally beaten up?  Putting forth a manuscript that is truly my best, only to be told it isn’t good enough?  No thanks.  I’m good.  But then came the moment where I had to look at the reality of the situation. 

I took a look at my current idea of time well-invested.  After the kids go to bed, I’m wicked tired.  Putting in a full day of this-or-that, then playing with them and doing my best to keep my cool when they get too loud, boisterous, or break stuff (which, truly, is a weakness that I’m working to strengthen).  I’m tired and I don’t want to do anything.  Criminal Minds, CSI: Miami, 30 Rock, are all really good ways to not think, work, act, or to slip into a semi-vegitative state.  Outside of that, there’s not a lot going on in my after-kids-are-in-bed time.  So “time well-spent” = doing nothing productive?  That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

At the end of a typical night, Lois and I turn off the TV and go bed.  There’s not really a whole lot to our nights, really.  But how is not being at least a little productive excusable when I’ve got stories in my head that I love to write?  Why must I sit in front of the TV when I could sit at my writing desk, pecking away at the keyboard, creating?  The truth is that there is no good reason.  Hiding behind excuses like that is, simply stated, no longer acceptable.

So was being compared to George McFly a bad thing?  Probably not, if it gets me off my keister and helps me write the stories I want to tell.

But the next time I get compared to George McFly, I want it to be the one who one-punched Biff Tannen to the floor.  The one who ended up taking Lorraine, in that stunning peach dress and baby’s breath in her hair, to The Enchantment Under the Sea Dance.  The one who opened up the FedEx box of his newest novel.  Someday…

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