Category: personal

How to Get Bryce into a Bad Mood: A Recipe

Generally speaking, I’m a fairly even sort of a fellow. I don’t lose my temper very often, though it certainly can happen from time to time. One such instance happened on Saturday, as a number of factors came together to get me into one of the worst moods I’ve been in in quite some time. How did it happen?

First off, it almost always happens when I’m under some sort of outside stress. Saturday, a whole slew of factors had lined up to make the situation as trying as possible. Tomas had to go to a cross country meet at 8:15, but the rest of us needed to leave at 8:00 to make it to the Ellsworth area for an all-day retreat. We had to be all packed before we left, since we’d be heading down to Worcester to stay the night. We’d planned things out ahead of time as best we could, but it was all going to be pretty tight, and I knew there’d be a whole lot of driving involved. (2 hours to Ellsworth, maybe 2 hours back home, then 4 hours or so down to Worcester, depending on traffic. And that was just driving time.)

Make sure to add in uncertainty, too. I don’t handle last minute changes well. I’m the sort of person who really likes to know what I’m going to be facing each day. Give me a good agenda, an organized To Do list, and clear expectations, and I can get a whole ton of things accomplished. I think fine on my toes in the heat of the moment, but when I have time to really worry about any uncertainty, I struggle. (I’m the sort of person who stresses out about silly things like “how will I get all this luggage off the plane” while I’m sitting on the plane waiting to get off. Known uncertainty makes me worried. I don’t know why.)

We knew we’d have to get Tomas later on, but we weren’t sure exactly where or when. Ideally, we’d be able to pick him up in Augusta and cut off an hour on the trip down to Worcester, but we figured we’d play it by ear. (Not my favorite thing to do. See above.)

I got up on time, and everything was going well. It was a rush to get everything together, but we were looking good. Just one last thing to do: grab the tickets for the devotional we were going to Sunday. I had fifteen minutes left, and was feeling haggard, but happy that everything was on track.

Except the tickets were nowhere to be found. I looked for them. Denisa got involved. Tomas and DC started scouring the house as well. We had ten minutes left. Five minutes. Then we were late. Five minutes. Ten minutes. I had to drive Tomas to the bus when we were 20 minutes late. I despise being late. It can be enough to put me in a bad mood, even without any other stress.

When we left for Ellsworth, we were running a half hour late for the retreat, and we’d never found the tickets. I was one very irate Bryce at that point. Definitely suffering from almost complete tunnel vision by then. My sole goal became to cut that half hour delay down to something less egregious. If I could make it there less than ten minutes late, I wouldn’t feel as bad, for example.

The drive is a blur in my memory. Many speed limits were broken to an extent I don’t typically break them. (Which in turn put be into a worse mood. It was a bad cycle.) At the end of it all, we arrived 9 minutes late. We were actually the second people to arrive, though I think I might have torn the space time continuum somewhere along the way.

Denisa and I were both stumped, because while we can (at times) be a tad disorganized, we’re never that disorganized. We decided in the end that the seats we’d been given weren’t the right ones, and we were supposed to sit somewhere else. It was the only thing that made sense. We ended up finding the tickets after we came home. They’d slipped into a crack by the recycling bin. We had been given the wrong tickets for the kids. Tomas and DC would have been seated much farther back. Instead, because we had to switch tickets, they got a seat on the fourth row. Since the topic of one of the talks was to acknowledge the hand of God when you see it at work in your life, I’m going to chalk the experience up to that.

Though next time, I’m putting any and all tickets in a place I’ll remember easily . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Cleaning the Freezer

I’ve got a lot going on in my life. That’s practically been the theme of my blog for the last few weeks. So it was lovely to have a four day weekend just barely. We went on a short hike. I finished an Agatha Christie book (Death on the Nile). I organized Magic cards.

And I cleaned the freezer.

If you had asked me ten years ago what my idea of a good time was, “Cleaning the freezer” would not have been high on my list. If someone had told me that’s how I’d voluntarily spend time on a vacation day, I’d have said they were crazy. And yet there I was yesterday, hauling out various hard-to-identify items, throwing most of it away, and feeling very accomplished.

Why did I actually enjoy it?

Because for the last long while, every time I opened the freezer, I was met with a reminder that I hadn’t cleaned that freezer out in a long time, and that it desperately needed it. It wasn’t high on my priority list, but it was this perpetual little chore that needed doing, and I kept not doing it. And not doing it. And not doing it.

All those postponements added up, so when I finally took the time to get it done, it was a big relief. So much so that I kept going back to the freezer the rest of the day and opening it, just to remind myself that it was done. It felt great. (I checked it again this morning. Still clean!)

As with many small chores like that, it didn’t take a long time to get done once I actually committed to doing it. 45 minutes or so. So the question, of course, is why I didn’t take the 45 minutes a long time ago and just get it off my list then. Some of it is because I always felt like I had more important things to do, or that I was too tired to tackle it then and there. If it made me feel so good to just get the job done and out of the way, why don’t I do that with more jobs like that, each of which is waiting for me to get it done?

Probably because I’d rather be reading, or watching a movie, or doing something fun. I’m an organized person, but I’m not yet to the “everything is always organized in my life” phase, and I don’t know if I ever will be. For today, I’m just happy that the freezer is finally clean.

I think I’ll check it again when I get home tonight.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

How to Say No

I’m feeling pretty stretched thin at the moment. A lot of balls up in the air, and a few feel close to dropping, which is something I never like. It’s made me reflect on the importance of saying no to some things. My default position often feels like it’s “Yes.” I want to be able to do the things people ask me to do, and sometimes I say yes without even really thinking things through completely.

The problem, of course, is that people rarely ask me to do anything at the last minute. I have no problem saying no to something when I literally have no time to do it and it needs doing right then. I acknowledge it’s beyond my capability, and I encourage them to go find someone else to do it. No guilt. No hard feelings. I just couldn’t do it, end of story.

But when they ask me to do something down the road, it always feels like I’ll have more time then than I do now. So why not say yes? Why not agree to help them out? Present-Day Bryce is always angry at Past-Day Bryce for committing him to do things, and yet Present-Day Bryce always seems to be ready to commit Future-Day Bryce to just about anything under the sun. I’ve been on this earth over 40 years now. You’d think I’d have figured out by now that Past-Day, Present-Day, and Future-Day Bryce are all (spoiler!) actually the same person, but I haven’t, it seems.

So I’m working on doing a better job of saying no, even to seemingly little things. Any commitment I make is a commitment I need to pay attention to and complete. It’s another item on the To Do list. Yes, some of them are small, but they all do add up, and the overall effect can be overwhelming. Somehow, I need to get better at identifying requests that can be turned down. Ideally, larger requests, since jettisoning a few small requests does little for my overall sanity.

The biggest problem, I suppose, is that I have a hard time saying no when I look at my schedule and can think of a way to cram in whatever I’m being asked to do. I *could* do that thing, so how can I reasonably say no to doing it? But saying yes is contagious. People start knowing you’re a person who won’t just say yes, but then actually go through and do the thing you said yes to, and that’s not a trait shared by everyone. When people hear you’ve got it, more and more people start coming up to you to ask you to do things . . .

So: No. “I’m beyond capacity right now, and I’m having to turn things down until I get my backlog better in order. I’m sorry.” If I can just remind myself to say that when I’m asked to do things from here on out (and they’re things that aren’t an absolute necessity), maybe one day Present-Day Bryce will have as much time as Past-Day Bryce always seems to assume Future-Day Bryce will have.

How do you say no to things, and how do you decide what can be turned down and what’s mission critical?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

An Evening with Steve Martin and Martin Short

About two weeks ago, I realized Steve Martin and Martin Short were coming to Bangor on tour. At first, I debated whether or not I wanted to attend. It’s already a busy time of year. Did I really want to drive an hour and a half and have a late night for them? Then I thought back over all the movies and media I’ve enjoyed with them in it (particularly Steve Martin). The Three Amigos, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Saturday Night Live, The Jerk, Father of the Bride, Little Shop of Horrors . . .

I changed my mind. Especially when I heard the show also featured Martin on banjo and a bluegrass performance. So Denisa and I got tickets, and we headed up to Bangor Saturday evening. (Despite the fact that I’d be heading back to Bangor the next morning to speak in church.)

The show was a lot of fun. I’d spent a bit more on tickets (okay . . . a lot more), but I’d decided that as long as I was going, I wanted to actually be able to see the people I was going to see, instead of just being in the same air space with them and watching them on a big screen. Martin and Short were both engaging and funny, and the bluegrass band they’d brought with them was absolutely incredible. My string playing kids would have loved to see it.

The show was quite clean, all things considered. It had a lot of Martin and Short poking fun at each other, and I really enjoyed being able to see them in person. I don’t know why the “in person” thing should matter, but it did in a way I wasn’t quite expecting. Maybe it’s just the sensation of seeing these people in real life that I’ve only ever seen on a screen.

I will note that the the Cross Center in Bangor has perhaps one of the most hellacious entrances I’ve ever had to suffer through. It’s right off the freeway, but it’s a left hand turn right off the freeway. Multiple lanes collapse into one, and you’ve got everyone and their brother trying to go the same direction. It took twenty minutes to move about a hundred feet. The center really ought to look into getting some traffic cops going at those intersections to move things along. It was bad enough that it made me seriously reconsider ever going back to the venue for a big event.

But, that aside, it was a wonderful evening, and I consider it money well spent. Good times.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Tragedy on a Smaller Scale

If you were following my Facebook or Twitter feeds yesterday, then you know that yesterday morning, my small town was shocked when an entire building exploded due to a propane leak. The blast was so strong that it could be heard 30 miles away. Staff at the building had arrived to a smell of propane. They called the fire department, which arrived when the building had already been evacuated thanks to the efforts of the building’s maintenance manager, Larry Lord. When first responders entered the building, the entire place exploded, killing Capt. Michael Bell and injuring Chief Terry Bell; Capt. Timothy Hardy; Capt. Scott Baxter; his father, Theodore Baxter; Joseph Hastings, Deputy Fire Chief Clyde Ross, and Larry Lord.

I was on campus when it happened, about a mile away from the explosion. The lights flickered, but I’d been blowdrying my hands when it happened, so I didn’t hear anything unusual. Then my son texted to say the high school was locked down. At the same time, a whole ton of sirens started pealing out across town, heading away from the town center where I work and off toward the direction of the high school.

Tomas assured me nothing huge seemed to be happening there, though. There’d been a large explosion that had rattled the roof, and they’d been put in lock down. I started asking friends and checking on Facebook, and that’s where I first heard others had heard the explosion as well. Some guessed it was a propane facility down the road. I heard of plumes of smoke billowing.

I went outside the library to see if I could just find out what was happening. It looked like it was a snow flurry. Tiny tufts of white floating to the ground. I picked one up. It was insulation. (I take back every snide remark I’ve ever made about people in crisis situations not turning and running away, but instead picking up unidentifiable so they can look at them better. (Chernobyl, I’m looking at you.) When you’re in the middle of something like that, you just want to know what’s happening. You’re not thinking of anything else.)

Soon after that, we began to find out the details, even as more and more sirens headed to the site. Pictures and video came out, along with the word that a firefighter had lost his life. The whole day was just sort of derailed for everyone around me, though it feels trivial to say it in the face of how much this cost others. The blast blew doors and walls off homes around it, smashing in windows and destroying property. I realized I’d met the man who’d died on multiple occasions, and I discovered this morning the wife of the injured maintenance manager is a friend from work. Farmington’s a small town of only around 8,000 people. If you don’t know someone, you certainly know a lot of the same people as that person.

This morning the slain firefighter’s body was brought back to town from the medical examiner’s office in Augusta. The streets were lined with people who’d come out to pay their respects. It’s all still surreal.

The closest thing I can compare it to is my experience with 9/11. Not knowing details and finding them out as they trickled in. The feeling of shock as it all becomes clear. This wasn’t any terrorist act. It was an accident, they believe, but it still feels like a gut punch. There’s still so much that’s unknown. 11 families lost their homes. What are they going to do? Larry Lord is at Massachusetts General Hospital with burns over half his body, broken bones, and trauma. It’s estimated he’ll be there for 4 months to recover. (You can donate to a fundraiser for him here. Please do.) Pets have gone missing from the area. Did they die, or will they be found? What will happen to LEAP, the organization that owned the building that exploded? They help local people with disabilities, and they hire or have hired a number of people I know or am friends with. What will happen to those jobs, and to the people they were serving?

It seems like there are a hundred small tragedies tied into the larger one. MC had been looking forward to going to the Farmington Fair all week. She was set to go with her class at school to see the animals, and then with us in the evening to ride the rides. The fair closed for the day, and she was in tears when both trips fell through.

Each one of these impacts is significant to the person impacted, though it feels sometimes like some deserve much more attention than others. Why should I feel that bad about what happened to my daughter when my friend’s husband is in such bad shape, and when someone died and others lost their houses? But sorrow isn’t a competition. Everyone should grieve and move forward together. It was wonderful to see so many people attend the processional for Captain Bell. To see the community come together like that. It gives me hope we’ll continue to come together to support each other as we pick up whatever pieces may have fallen to the ground, be they big or small.

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