Category: personal

Newsletter Hiatus

Every year since we moved to Maine, I’ve made an annual family newsletter filled with joke articles about what we’ve been up to for the past year. I also throw in a short Christmas story for good measure.

This year I just don’t have it in me to take a reflective look back at 2020. Some of that is that I just don’t have the energy to put the project together. Some of it is that I have no real desire to reflect back on the year. Some of it is that when I started the tradition, I had a whole lot more time available to me.

So this year I’m just acknowledging that my life circumstances have changed, and it is what it is. It’s not easy for me to stop doing things once there’s a tradition behind it. I’m a completionist at heart, and giving up on something feels . . . wrong to me.

But I also have to acknowledge that forcing myself to go through with it anyway would likely be worse for my mental health this time around. Maybe next year will feel better, or maybe I’ll be going on a prolonged hiatus. Who knows.

I am still working on a short story this year, and since I won’t have a newsletter to send it out in, I’ll post it as a blog entry as a gift to all of you. Not sure how it’ll turn out just yet. I’m about three thousand words in. It’s funny in parts and upsetting in others.

Maybe too close to home for 2020 . . .

Anyway. In case you, too, need permission to not do some tradition this year, know that you’re in good company if you feel the need to step aside. And to those of you who are used to getting my newsletter, sorry. Maybe next year . . .

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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.

#GiveThanks

Last Friday, President Russell M. Nelson posted a brief YouTube message (posted below), asking people (members of the church and non-members, alike) to make a switch in their social media approaches. Basically turning the attention to things they are grateful for, one post a day for a week, with the #givethanks tag.

I don’t know how big of an impact this has had for people outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but I’ll say that for me personally, it made a tremendous difference in my feed on Facebook. Suddenly all the contentious posts disappeared, replaced by a stream of people talking about their families, their hobbies, their pets, and more. Granted, it comes at a good time, when many people are focused on thankful posts in the leadup to Thanksgiving, but that had already been happening before President Nelson’s message, and the flood of posts after it was still night and day. It’s been especially nice to see some people start posting who I haven’t seen posts from in years.

Of course, I have to admit that I haven’t participated in a #givethanks post. I planned to write a blog post about it (that you’re reading right now), and I think there must be something inherently contrarian in me. I really don’t like doing things everyone else is doing, and I didn’t want to do it just out of a sense of obligation. (I don’t know. I’m on vacation this week, so I’m not going to take the time to psychoanalyze myself . . . Is it hypocritical to appreciate the #givethanks posts and not be participating in them myself? Perhaps. But I also write this blog each weekday, and I’ve only got so much in me I suppose? Who knows.)

In any case, the posts have helped me reflect on what, exactly, social media can do well. Connecting people is definitely a strength. Changing minds? I don’t think it does that well at all. It’s more of a forum for argument. If there were one holiday Facebook would typically represent, it would be Festivus.

Big on feats of strength and airing of grievances, light on warm fuzzies (sometimes, at least.) I’m confident everyone posting these #givethanks posts still has the same beliefs and opinions about masks, Trump, politics, and everything else that they had a week ago, but because we’re not constantly shoving those opinions into other people’s faces for a bit, it’s easier to start viewing people as friends and family again instead of as enemies or wrong-headed. (I’m overstating it, but probably not by as much as I wish I were.)

When we can view other people as people and not as debates waiting to be won, we’re much likelier to reach compromises with them.

So as much as I typically don’t like to follow the crowd, I’m going to put that feeling aside and follow suit for the week. I really do feel like there’s something beneficial there both for myself and for others. I invite you to do the same if you haven’t started, and if you have, thanks for making my week a bit brighter.

Planning a Break

Here we are, halfway through November, and I still haven’t taken much in the way of vacation. (For a variety of reasons. There was just so much uncertainty around the future that I didn’t feel comfortable taking a vacation over the summer, and the ones I’d had planned all fell through. I wanted to hold onto vacation days in case something more extreme happened. Many higher education institutions had been implementing furloughs, for example, and I’d rather get paid for time off than not.)

In any case, the bottom line is that I’m going to be taking a fair number of days off in the next month and a half. Knowing myself, if I don’t do something special, there’s a good chance I’ll blow through all of those days and get to the other side wondering what exactly I did with all those days. (Not that I’m planning on just working non-stop through the break, but still. I know I will be disappointed if I do nothing other than play video games and dink around the house checking Reddit.)

Enter my innate desire to plan just about everything. I like to sit down ahead of a break or an event and picture what I’d like to be able to say about it after it’s done. My kids can confirm that I’ve frequently posed the question: “If we had an awesome day today, what would we say at the end of it that made it so awesome?” Once you can define that, then it becomes much easier to reach that goal.

I would like to get some things done this break. I want to clean the house and declutter a fair bit. I can picture it in my head: a house where there’s less clutter. It looks peaceful. Relaxing. So I’ve already sat down and made a big long list of all the rooms I want to declutter and clean, as well as a list of places in those rooms that need decluttering and cleaning the most. Will I get to all of them? Who knows. But I know that by having the list and working toward it, I have a better chance at getting to more of them than I would have if I didn’t have the list.

Of course, I’ve also made a list of other things I want to do. Treats I want to bake. Activities I want to do. I know those lists probably sound like torture to some of you, but I know I feel more accomplished when I’m actually getting things done. With these lists, I can now go through my days off and pick a few things to do from the list each day. Not so many that I feel overwhelmed, but enough to feel like Something Got Done. And then when I’m done with that something, I can rest, knowing full well that I’m making progress toward my ultimate goal. It’s the same way I get entire books written. Once I write 1,000 words in a day, I’m good to go. I know I’m on track.

What am I going to do with all of the clutter? One of the things that’s been stopping me is that many goodwill stores aren’t taking any items right now. That’s been enough of a speed bump to stop me from making real progress. However, I know for a fact that each year at this time, I will begin to get boxes. Lots of boxes. So many boxes from so many places, bringing in things I’ve ordered for Christmas. Usually it’s a big pain to break all the boxes down. My current goal is to leave the boxes up and instead fill them with things I no longer want. Stuff I’m getting rid of. That way, it can all be packed and ready to be donated whenever places are taking donations again. If that’s earlier, great. If not, it doesn’t matter. It will all be tidied and ready for the future.

So wish me luck. Here’s hoping I get a fair bit off that list before January rolls around . . .

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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.

Creativity in the Time of COVID

I’m tired, folks. I know I’m not alone in the feeling, but there are definitely days that I just feel totally worn out. Like the only thing moving me forward in all of my different endeavors is the elaborate system of daily goals I’ve got worked out for myself. But there are definitely days like today, where I know I have a goal (write a blog post every weekday), and I just come up to that goal and stare at it for a good long while before I actually muster up the gumption to get it done. And that’s with something as straightforward as a blog post. (Seriously. I have so many things to say about so many different things, usually it’s not that hard to take ten minutes to jot down some ideas about something or other.)

Creative writing? Yikes. That can be really rough. When you’re already battling depression for yourself, concerns about your family, troubling news in the world, worry around your job, election results and the emotional fallout of that with your friends, trying to push forward and get 1,000 words written each day can feel daunting to say the least. Often because I’m my biggest critic. I’ll write something, and then I’ll just see all the reasons it’s bad. There are many voices in my head, and sometimes most of them are telling me to stop what I’m doing.

So yeah. Tired. And again, probably something most of you are also dealing with.

There are blog posts that I’ve started to write and just given up on, mainly because I don’t have it in me to police the comments that would come out because of them. It feels like the coward’s way out, but I have to make some concessions for my sanity.

While I’m generally pretty good at giving other people advice, in some ways I’m very bad at taking my own advice. I know I would be telling me to go easy on myself, for all the reasons I’ve already listed. But at the same time, what are my other options? I already took a few weeks off from writing at various points over quarantine. I don’t like not writing. It makes me feel like I’m failing. (In many ways, writing is like exercising. I don’t like the act itself, but it feels great to have done it each day.)

This post doesn’t have much of a point, other than to complain. Though wait. Strike that. I think my point would be to remember two things. First, that we are all going through different difficult stages of this pandemic, often at different times. We’re all getting worn out, for a variety of reasons. And at the same time, we’re also all perhaps less patient with each other than we might be under normal circumstances. This makes it doubly important to push through that knee-jerk inclination to tell people exactly what we think of what they’re doing or saying, and instead treat everyone with a softer touch.

Including ourselves.

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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.

My Life as a Loud Speaker

I’m not sure when, exactly, I became a loud speaker, but I do know that from at least post high school on, I’ve always seemed to talk louder than average. I didn’t really become aware of it as a steady sort of thing until I married Denisa, who is not as loud of a speaker.

The thing is, I just always speak “normally,” and I didn’t even think that my normal speaking voice would be anything to take into consideration. Of course, when you start speaking around a sleeping baby, you quickly are reminded of the fact that maybe you might be talking a few decibels louder than your wife. Especially if your wife worked really hard at getting that baby to sleep in the first place . . .

Of course, the question becomes why I speak so loudly. Some of it is possibly because I was in drama as a kid, so I learned how to project. But I think a lot of it is that I just tend to increase the volume whenever I get into a discussion that I care about. It’s not that I’m getting angry (at least, not that I realize), but the more passionate I am about something, the more likely it is that I’ll be more . . . “easily heard,” shall we say? Yesterday Denisa and I were talking about the pronunciation of Kamala Harris and comparing it to the pronunciation I’d used on my blog (“Comma-la”). You get two linguistic majors going on a debate about vowel sounds, and apparently you better be ready for some real back and forth. (Long story short, I realized there’s a dialectic difference in the way Denisa and I pronounce those two words. One that I can’t hear but she can. Go figure.)

Maybe I have a tendency to want to be right when I’m having a debate, and maybe my natural inclination is to speak louder when I think my rightness might be threatened . . .

But it’s not just speaking louder in person. When I’m on the phone, I’m a notorious loud talker, even when I try to lower my voice. (I’m also a pacer on the phone. I will wander all over the house, talking and talking in my phone voice, and disturbing all sorts of family members in the process. Aren’t I considerate?)

This isn’t to say that I’m right and everyone who thinks I speak too loudly is wrong. It’s to observe that sometimes we do things without meaning to that end up affecting others in ways we can’t immediately understand. When those tendencies are brought to our attention, we have a choice. We can ignore other people and do what we’ve always done anyway, or we can try to change.

Honestly, there are probably some areas where I would continue doing what I’ve always done. But how loud I speak? That’s just not that important to me. I’m doing it without even thinking about it in the first place. So I would gladly lower my voice, but I’ve also discovered that willfully trying to change in areas like this is about as easy as deciding not to slouch. It doesn’t come easily.

So what’s the conclusion? The conclusion for today is this: there are things many of us do that affect others. If they’re making life more difficult for others, it’s worth assessing them to see if we could stop doing those things. On the flip side, we should also be understanding that changing some things is difficult for the person who’s making the effort, and so we need to be understanding that it’s a process. (Note: I’m worried this is coming off like Denisa and I had this huge argument about how loud I talk yesterday. That isn’t the case at all. Just another instance of something happening in everyday life sparking a thought in me, and me blogging about that thought, trying to reach a conclusion._

What other areas do you see this happening, whether in yourself or in others?

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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.

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