A year in review…. (One year of WordPress)

I received a notification this morning that I have been a member of WordPress for a year now. I look back and I think the last couple of months have been my best months of blogging. I got off to a rocky start. I really didn’t know what I wanted to share or if my words would mean anything to anyone else. I have met some really fantastic people on here and I am glad I made the plunge into the world of blogging.

Last July I published my first book. While I haven’t topped any best seller lists (yet!!), it is still incredible every time I look at the book and know that I wrote this. It is a piece of my mind and soul, not just a passing fancy. There is a character Bio of my main protagonist, as well as the first chapter posted on this blog.

My son turned 10 this past year and he is really becoming more and more his own personality. It was great watching him play football for the first time on an actual team. He loved it and I hope he will continue to play as it is a great outlet for his high energy level. I continue to learn more and more about being a father every day. We have started giving him an allowance to teach him responsibility with his money. He was overjoyed to be able to go online and order toys he couldn’t get in the store. To watch him count and recount the money to his mother so he could be sure he had enough for what he wanted was a sight to see.

I joined the Blogging 101 and Writing 201 courses offered on WordPress and it was a lot of fun. I found some great blogs to follow and made some more e-friends. I learned a few things about poetry and blogging in general that have been helpful as I continue this journey into the blogosphere.

Here is to another year of blogging. Cheers…

And a Liebster award goes to…

liebster-award

I am somewhat speechless to have been chosen for this so I will do my best to pass it on. Thanks to Shruti http://shrutiinsights.wordpress.com for this opportunity to share a little about myself and to pass on the blogger love. Please, if you want to read some soul stirring poetic work, you need to check out her blog. She is a joy to read.

There are set RULES for this Award and they are:

Put the Liebster Award logo on your blog.

Thank and tag the blog who nominated you.

Answer their questions and come up with 10 new ones for you nominees.

Nominate 8 blogs with less than 200 followers, let them know you’ve nominated them and link them in your post.

No tag-back.

So, thanks to Shruti once again and here are my answers to her questions:

  1. Among your blog posts, which one is your favorite? – This is a hard one for me as I do not post often and each post is intentional. I would have to say that the one that brings up the most emotion for me is my recent post on my grandmother’s birthday “Bittersweet Valentine’s Day” https://andrewmferrell.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/bittersweet-valentines-day/
  2. At what time of the day do you usually write a blog post? – I do a lot of posting in the mornings or the weekends when I have free time around my family/work schedule. As far as poetry, there are times where I jot down the lines or a few words and then I revisit it later so I can really expound upon the topic that flitted through my imagination.
  3. What is your favorite word in your native language? – Well, English is my native language but I would have to say that a word I use a lot is “groovy”. I was born in the early 80’s so I cannot claim to be some 70’s flower child but there it is.
  4. What do you eat in the morning? – I do not generally eat breakfast right away so depending on whether I am at work that day or at home I might not even eat breakfast till 10am or so. This means it could be some leftovers from dinner the night before, a sandwich, some grits with cheese, cereal, all sorts of things.
  5. Choose one: tea, coffee, milk, hot chocolate. Why do you choose it? – I grew up in the American Southeast where Sweet tea is a staple of our diet. It always makes me think of home.
  6. Do you have a close friend? Is there one thing that you can only do with that friend? – I have a few close friends, that even if we do not talk every day, or sometimes it may be a week or more. I know when I pick up the phone and confide in them, I will get solid advice and support. My closest friend would have to be my wife though. She is my rock and without her I wouldn’t be who I am today. She grounded me while still being supportive of my dreams of being a published author.
  7. What is your favorite book and why do you like it? – How do you pick just one amongst all the great writers I have had the pleasure of reading over the course of my life. If I have to pick one, I would have to go with Tolkein’s “The Hobbit”. It opened my eyes to the realm of high fantasy that has held my imagination my entire life.
  8. What do you really want to learn but you haven’t got the time to do it? – I would really like to learn the guitar I bought over a decade ago. I probably could make the time to learn it, but I just haven’t prioritized it yet.
  9. What do you miss from your childhood? – The friends. Some of us are still in contact somewhat, but since I moved several states away since high school, those relationships are not quite the same as they once were. Now we all seem to have kids, mortgages and other responsibilities. I miss just hanging out and talking about life, love and whatever struck our minds at the time.
  10. Where will you go if you just feel bored at home? – Hard to be bored when there is always something new to read, or a tv show I haven’t caught up on, or something to write. If my wife and son are home as well there is always something going on. We also have two dogs that are constant attention hogs.

I would like to nominate the following blogs whose posts have touched my life in some way, be it thought provoking, made me laugh, or just showed me something to appreciate in their words. I am going to cheat on this just once, because the first blog I thought about has much more than the 200 followers, but I greatly enjoy her posts and interacting with her. I guess shoot me if that isn’t allowed.:

  1. http://KelzbelzPhotography.wordpress.com
  2. http://johannamassey.com
  3. https://lafloralie.wordpress.com/
  4. http://roamingatlarge.wordpress.com
  5. http://anniewat.wordpress.com
  6. Http://gridthusto.wordpress.com
  7. http://amyvanya.wordpress.com
  8. http://breakdownchick.wordpress.com

I enjoyed Shruti’s questions but I am changing them up a bit for my nominees.

1.Among your blog posts, which one was the most painful to write?

2.When do you feel the most creative? Not just time of day, but is it when there are people around or when you are by yourself with just your inner voice?

3.What language would you want to learn if you could learn it in a day?

4.Where is your favorite place to write? (and do you write on paper first or strictly digital?)

5.What person, famous or not, living or dead, real or fictional would you say inspires you to be a better person?

6.What was your family/friends reaction when you started your blog? Were they supportive or did they think you were crazy?

7.What is your favorite book and why do you like it? If you cannot choose one favorite, then pick one that touched your life and tell why/how it did so.

8.What hobby, other than blogging, brings you happiness in life?

9.What do you miss from your childhood?

10.What do you want to be remembered for when you are gone from this life?

Hope you have a fantastic day and keep fighting the fight bloggers.

All the best,

Andrew

Writing 201: Water, Haikus, Simile, Tanka

So, Writing 201 starts with a bang and a “squish”? (checks for water in my shoes) Nope, all good. Back to topic here. Prompt was Water, Form Haiku (or Tanka if you are feeling saucy), and Device of Simile. After a few moments, the below work of poetic verse flowed from my mind, into my hand to be added to my handwritten book. Retyped here for your enjoyment, because seriously, who is going to read my handwriting? Not even my wife can most days.

Watery Mind

My mind like water
Sometimes clear, sometimes murky
Calm or Hurricane

Gentle river flow
Into rapids filled with rocks
Drop over the falls
Ideas cascading down
The blank canvas of my mind

Sorting them all out
Is the great journey of life
We all must travel

Stress (Commentary and Poetic verse)

Stress. Funny how that word conjures up images of anxiety ridden individuals breaking down. Some lash out violently, raging against the ethereal force, or actual forces bringing out the stressful condition. Others lose all will and lie broken upon their beds. Others thrive on it, drink it in like nectar from some unmerciful god. Regardless of how you feel about Stress, it is certainly a topic often discussed the world over.

My day job as a logistical wizard at a fuel hauling company (aka Dispatcher for those that don’t get my joke), can alternate from stressful to almost boring to the point of tears. When equipment breaks down, drivers come up with attitudes about the smallest of things, or customers with unreasonable demands because they simply do not understand how to order fuel for a station they probably shouldn’t own in the first place; things can get tense. The blood starts to course faster in your veins as adrenaline pumps into the stream. Nerves start firing faster in your brain, snap decisions come to you as you solve the problems of the day.

Once the momentary crisis is over however, there is a noticeable drop in energy levels as everything slows down. This let down can lead to feelings of relief, or feelings of self doubt. “Did I make the right call? That seemed to go very smoothly, maybe I should double check my math.” This can lead to a spiraling back up. Those are the moments when you have to take a breath and trust in your knowledge and skills. Sometimes the jolt of adrenaline brought on by stress will last for hours, leading to a state of extreme mental tiredness at the end of the day. Those are the days I want to just go home, kiss my wife, hug my son, and crack open something with alcohol to drink before going to sleep.

Stress
A simple five letter word
Silly as three are the same
Chaos bringer to our world
Losing to it brings such shame

It can make you stronger
It can make you weak
Stress enough to make you weep
Or grit your teeth and push longer

Keep your chin above the rising tide
Let it roll from your shoulders son
You can beat i if you don’t hide
You will look back and say “I won!”

Crikey! No Thanks Mate…

The Daily Post had a question for us bloggers and, though I am a few days late, I thought I would take a stab at it. I am supposed to explore a place that I would never want to visit. I could be callous and mention any “third world” or “developing” country and be labeled an American Elitist, but the truth is, there are many impoverished parts of the world that I think I would enjoy seeing for the history and culture that exist there. Eastern Europe, much of the old Soviet Union, even the non-touristy portions of France, Germany, Spain and the UK. To see the ruins of the European empires would appeal to a history lover like myself.

If I had to pick somewhere to absolutely not visit; perhaps the Australian Outback. Now, I am a big fan of Crocodile Dundee, but I am not a big outdoors person. Tromping through the heat and damp, dodging insects and reptiles that would be trying to kill me, not my idea of a good time. I “camp” on a lake in the summer but it is in my RV and within 30 minutes of pretty substantial signs of civilization. I would not do well in the life or death struggle of surviving in the Outback. This city boy would drive any poor guide insane within hours. My luck they would leave me somewhere to fend for myself.

I suppose the Amazon could be added to this list for some of the same reasons.  The amount of poisonous or deadly species discovered and being found in that region of the world make it clear that it is not a place for me.  I have no need to tangle with snakes that could swallow me whole (which might write off Florida as a place to visit soon with their python problem) or schools of deadly flesh-eating fish. I will leave those adventures to people with a little less desire to live than myself.

While we are at it, let’s add the African Sahara. The desert is no place for a city slicker like me. A place that can kill me just for standing outside of shade is not a place I want to visit. I applaud the people who have survived in those conditions for centuries. They are a strong people who should be proud of their heritage.

I guess this post went a little longer than I thought it would. I suppose there are more places than I thought that are just not meant for me to experience.

Logistical Improbabilities – “What you need to know before you call your Supplier/Vendor”

Logistical Improbabilities, or What you need to know before you call your Supplier/Vendor

Ok, so I am a dispatcher for a fuel company so I deal with gas stations, fuel Coops and Bulk plants. I also have the unfortunate task of keeping tabs on the oil and gas futures markets.  This means I field a lot of, “What is the market doing today?” phone calls. We have a saying, “You live by the price, you die by the price.” It is mind boggling to me how someone who owns a gas station can run themselves out of fuel. I don’t know about the rest of you out there, but it only takes once or twice that a station is out of gas when I try to fill up that I am not coming back. I don’t care how good the coffee or donuts are. Having no fuel at a gas station is like a grocery store with no food. It just makes no sense.

I think, before you can be licensed to own/operate a gas station; that you should have to take a logistics course, with a heavy emphasis on truck routes and map reading. There seems to always be those people who have no idea what it takes to safely deliver them fuel, especially in inclement weather. If your location is 45 miles from the loading facility, you can reasonably expect an hour of transit with a big truck. This is especially true if you are not on a major highway. To expect a load after a market swing (Typically 6pm) to be delivered by 7pm, is just plain crazy talk. We aren’t driving DeLoreans with flux capacitors here. It is essentially 80,000 pounds of flammable liquid cruising down the highway with a bunch of little 4 wheelers who think they own the road. The lack of respect passenger vehicles give to big trucks is a whole other post however so I won’t delve into that much here. Just understand that to operate one of those trucks safely requires a lot of training, attention to detail, and a sharp mind in order to account for all the motoring public around you.

Another pet peeve revolves around the unloading area at gas stations. Whether you own the place or just shopping there, be aware of the giant manhole covers in the lot. Do not park on them and then wander off into the sunset. Though unlikely, a driver just trying to do his/her job may arrive and need to get the truck over there in order to safely drop some fuel. If you see a truck delivering at a gas station, be aware that a person is there just trying to do their job. Don’t run over the caution cones or through the delivery area just because it is more convenient for you. Yelling at the driver to hurry up does no good. Typically the equipment can only dispense the fuel so quickly; similar to the pump you just used only pumps so fast. When it comes to driving through the area with the giant manhole covers, just remember, it is only a thin ring of metal/concrete holding that cover up. If it cracks/breaks and you drive over it, expect some damage to your vehicle. I, and most anyone else, would also laugh at you.

Typically, the driver has no control over how fuel performs in the winter time. This is especially true for all you diesel drivers. Diesel, more than gas, will gel at low temperatures. Get low enough, and you are not going anywhere. As a station owner/fuel orderer, it is on you to make sure that you are either supplying additive, or purchasing winterized DSL. If you fail to do both, and end up with vehicles broke down in your lot (yes it can happen that quickly), then good luck to you. As a consumer, make sure before you push that button or swipe that card, that you are getting what you should for your vehicle. If you do not, expect some internal damage to your vehicle’s fuel/engine system. I, and most anyone else, will also laugh at you. Educate yourself about what your vehicle and fuel needs are and shop appropriately.

It is recommended to not wait till you are out of something before you call your vendor for a delivery. What would happen if you called your soda delivery company at the last minute and said, Oh, I am out of X Brand cola, I need a delivery now. More than likely they will do their best to assist you, but you could be out for a while because they are typically working into the future on their orders and now have to backtrack and push someone else off (who ordered before you) in order to remedy your emergency. Vendors are not like a pizza place, it isn’t a 30 minutes or it is free situation.  We will make a good faith effort to adjust to your lack of planning, but ultimately the responsibility for your station is yours.

If you own/operate a gas station, talk to your vendors. (Calmly and rationally please, we typically do not respond well to threats, insults, or general asshattery.) You might be surprised what you can learn from us when it comes to making things easier for you to do business.  This goes whether it is your fuel, soda, beer, or candy. We know our business, and the better communication there is; the smoother things will go.

Oh, and BUY A MAP, or take one from the shelf, and learn where your products come from so you can understand the time involved in bringing you the items necessary for your business.

Characters, aka Writing is like a box of Chocolates

So, I am sitting here thinking about the stories swirling in my head and I think about the characters on the screen. No, not the letters I am typing, but the living, breathing people who populate my books. When writing, I think everyone draws upon their own life. Writers, be it poets, short stories, or epic novels; ALWAYS draw from personal experience. We may not even realize it sometimes, but there are subtle aspects of ourselves and our lives evident in our work.

I use an example of characters in my book. Mike is a conglomerate of several people including a little of myself. His friends, are loosely based on real people I know, I even changed some of the names to protect the innocent. HA HA… Ok, well, I changed a few names, not many. I wanted to take aspects of the stereotypical high school experience, and give them a fantastical quality. Really, what high schooler wouldn’t enjoy being able to see the future. Exams? Ha, child’s play.

In my opinion, this makes things all the more real. I empathize with Mike’s plight as I never would have wanted to be thrust into the limelight in high school. I was above average grades and also enjoyed the relative obscurity of my close knit group of friends. I am still a rather private person to this day with very few close friends. I feel I would have struggled with the responsibility of having this ability to see the future, and then acting to save people, as Mike does throughout the novel.  His struggles would be very real to me when I was in high school. The spotlight was never my friend.

The plots and intrigues we writers put our characters through can help us work through issues in our own life that we may have never even known we had. I think our subconscious can and often does take over, pushing our writing in a direction to illustrate universal truths and help us to overcome difficulties in our lives. Love, loss, fortune and failure: all subjects that can reveal inner secrets we didn’t know we were keeping from ourselves.

I guess what I am saying is that writing has helped me to put myself out there in a way that I never did growing up. Do not be afraid to put a few lines on paper, or on a screen, or even on the back of a napkin whenever the muse strikes. You could just be sitting on something that cracks the shell you have been hiding behind and help you even learn something about yourself.