Spell a Day – Jan 20th 2016

Count-Your-May-Blessings.jpg
Image from Lil’Lunas.

It is a good lesson to learn to always be mindful of the blessings in your life. Sometimes we get so hung up on the negative we forget about the good things we have. Today’s spell is about making a blessing jar. Even if you don’t believe in magick and spellcraft, this is a good idea to do.

Take a jar of any reasonable size. A quart mason jar should be sufficient. Near your jar you need to keep a pen and some sort of paper. An assortment of little colored Post-it notes would work wonderfully according to Natalie Zaman (the contributor of this spell). I have to agree, the different colors would look pretty in the jar. So, each day you need to write down something you are thankful for on the little notes. Roll or fold it up and place it in the jar. When the jar is overflowing, take them out and read them one by one to remind yourself of the blessings in your life.

Now, you can do a lot of things from here with your blessings. Recommendations include writing them all down somewhere like a journal. You can also release it into the world through a cleansing fire. I would probably end up blogging my list for all of you first, which I am sure would be terribly boring to read through.

I have a little poem to share with you all on the topic.

Blessings
My blessings abound
A wonderful home, good job
Loving family

My cup overflows with joy
Laughing with my young boy
Over the antics of his friends
I hope this never ends

I adore my beautiful wife
She truly is the love of my life
I cannot begin to count the ways
She brightens each of my days

I’m thankful each day
For the blessings in my life
Son and loving wife

Spell a Day – Jan 4th 2016

Today is a day for letting go they say. Apparently only 4 days into the year is a good time to re-evaluate your resolutions and let go of what may be causing you to abandon them already. I would think we could last longer than 4 days, right? Pay no attention that I am a week behind still on these posts.

Take a breath today and realize that there are always going to be struggles in life. There are always going to be ideals, fears, or even people holding you back. Charles R. Swindoll said, “Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it.” I think those are some powerful words to think about as we move forward into the new year.

When you let others control your reactions you become a passive observer in your own life. That is no way to live. So today, make a list of what is holding you back from your dreams and goals in life. You can do this mentally, or you can even write them all down. Spell a day suggests burning them to set them free and remove the energy from your life.

I have a different philosophy on this one. Once you have your list, figure out how you are going to change those things. If it is a particularly toxic habit (smoking or over indulgence in food) do something about it. Take a class, join a support group and STICK WITH IT.

If it is a draining and monotonous job that you feel is killing your very soul, first be thankful you have a job. There are those who would like to have a soul crushing job if it at least paid the bills. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot find something fulfilling to pursue in your career and leave that job to someone else. This might take years of planning and hard work, especially if it involves going back to school for training or certifications/degrees. That is perfectly fine. You just have to find your passion and chase it. Or maybe you can leave the office behind the moment the work day is done and pursue a hobby or other pursuit that will bring joy to your life.

If it is a person or group of people in your life that are holding you back from enjoying life, then take a hint from Olaf, my second favorite snowman (Frosty is still #1) and
Olaf-let-it-go
(Image borrowed from google, they are stickers you can purchase here.)

You don’t need toxic people in your life. Even if they are “blood”, sometimes it’s better to cut ties than to let them continue to drag you down.

What do you need to let go of in your life in order to achieve your dreams in 2016? Share in the comments gentle readers. Sometimes just putting words to what is holding you back takes away its power over you.

2016 is here…

Hello Gentle Readers. I thought in the midst of everyone’s New Year Resolution posts I would just add my own commentary.

2015 was a rollercoaster mixed with a hurricane. It came and left in a hurry. My literary and blogging goals stalled out for much of the year. I did manage to put a novella into the hands of a new friend for editing. She also took a look at my first novel and found some much needed grammatical and word usage problems that have made my work better. I failed to participate in NaNoWriMo, but that’s alright. The pressure would probably make me give up anyway.

On the fatherhood front I assisted my son’s baseball team and coached football. Coaching sports when I am clearly not a sports person was an experience in learning. The kids all seemed to have fun and we made it through the season without too many problems. My family will also be welcoming a new addition sometime in late April (if all goes according to plan). The prep work on the nursery has been tiring, but in a good way. My wife and I have decided to not find out the gender until the birth. This appears to be a growing trend according to our doctor. This new chapter in my journey as a parent is overwhelming at times. As of December 31st, we had “crossed the finish line” as our doctor says. Now if there is any premature labor, the baby is viable to survive. That means my family is definitely going to have an 11year old, and a newborn. The greatest part of these doctor visits has been hearing the heartbeat of a little person I helped create. We are also far enough along that I can feel the baby move and kick.

I have become obsessed with the Mackelmore and Lewis song, Growing Up (Sloane’s Song). I usually start my drive to work with it on and it is the last song I play before I pull into the drive at night. It has been my motivation to become a better person for the sake of both of my children. This means working on my temper and getting myself in better shape. I know, everyone makes resolutions to be healthier in the new year. However, I have managed to lose just over 30 pounds in the last 6 months. My goal is another 20-30 the first 6 months of this year. This will put me lighter than I have been since junior high. I have been quite pleased with my self control because I was warned that husbands typically put on some “sympathy weight” when their wives are pregnant. I have managed to stay constant the last two months.

I am also ecstatic over the new home office I am setting up in a spare bedroom in my home. I just have a carpet remnant to put down, and a corner shelving unit to buy or build (pending approval from my wife on design) and then I can really get to work on my literary endeavors. The space will be conducive to working on any project requiring some privacy and space to spread out notes/reference materials. There is even a section where my son (and future children) can work on homework or arts/crafts, without interfering with my work.

I suppose it is time for a few goals and resolutions for the year.
1 – I want to finish the rewrite/editing of my first book so that the improved second edition can be released.
2 – I want to self pub my novella (still in the editing phase).
3 – I want to finish, edit, and self pub my the second book in my Family Heritage series this year.
4 – I would like to make some major progress on my high fantasy (think Tolkien) series. I have the skeleton of a realm, deities, antagonists/protagonists. Just have to finish plotting and then get to work fleshing out the stories. I haven’t quite figured out if it will be a series of short stories/novellas, or if each set of characters will end up in their own full blown novel. Since they will also overlap I have to make sure my outlines are complete for consistency.
5 – I plan to get myself down in weight before summer. I have at least the 20-30 to lose that I want to, so from there I will evaluate what I still can lose healthily.
6 – I want to blog at least once a week, if not more often. I will be looking for topics to discuss. As part of this I want to do at least 2 book reviews a month. I need to get a submission page setup for anyone interested in having me review their work.
7 – It would be nice to put together a book of poetry as well. I have a notebook almost full and a thumb drive with a few dozen from when I was younger. Just not sure if I have enough that would be of interest to others. The ones I have blogged here have received favorable reviews so perhaps there is potential in others as well.
8 – I want to bring down and gain a better handle on my temper. I am not a homicidal maniac, but there are times where a cooler head would be a better face to present. I have noticed my son picking up some of my habits and I hope that if I can break my cycle, I can help him to not struggle like I have.

I wish everyone else luck with their goals for 2016. This year has an extra day in it (Leap year and all). I think I am going to need it. HA HA! Until next time Gentle Readers.

A Good Deed today…

Let me start by saying we are supposed to push into the 90s today. Sure, that isn’t as bad as where I grew up in South Carolina, but for Wisconsin, that is hot. Luckily today I am in an air-conditioned office being a logistical wizard. I did brave the heat to pick up some lunch for myself and a coworker.

I walk out of the place where we had ordered from and this slightly heavyset, obviously Native American man with a duffle bag calls out to me, “Marine?” Now, gentle readers, picture this: I am a 6’5, 350lbs computer geek. Granted I have decided to keep my head shaved because I am balding so bad it is pathetic (helps that my wife likes it shaved so I do it for her). In my opinion, I in no way look like a Marine, current or former. I calmly respond, “No sir, my grandfather was one in WW2.” Don’t ask why I volunteer such information to so odd a question asked between complete strangers. It was a reflex response. The other man has stopped across the car from me near the front corner of my passenger side as I open the driver’s door.

He tells me this story about how he is visiting his brother on the reservation (points west so he did know where we were in relation to the reservation) and says he is trying to get to the east side of town. I hate to assume anything of anyone on appearances alone, but my immediate assumption that he is probably homeless will be clear in a moment.

I shake my head slowly, replying, “Sadly I am heading north back to the office. I was just picking up lunch for one of the guys and myself.” I could see disappointment flash across the man’s face. He began pressing me if I could just “take him as far as I was going”.

I know the world is full of horror stories about hitchhiker’s. Hell, I might use this in a thriller or horror book if I ever write one. Something told me this guy was harmless. I pause and I could tell he was thinking I might relent. I respond, “Look, I can take you up to the Kwik Trip before I get back on the highway.” For those of you unfamiliar, Kwik Trip is a gas station chain. Probably one of the best I have ever seen for their hot bar of sandwiches and such. Their gas seems to run pretty well in my vehicles compared to BP or Shell.

The man was pretty excited about it. It was hot and I am sure even the mile I was moving him along would be a help to him. It also put him near a pretty busy intersection so maybe he could find someone else who is going across the river to the east side of town. He climbed in the passenger side and we began talking.

He tells me that he asked if I was a Marine because I looked like an old buddy of his from the service. He knew it couldn’t be his old friend because the fellow soldier died in combat in Afghanistan. I expressed my sympathies for his loss and my appreciation of his service. I did not end up joining the Air Force when I had graduated high school, but my little brother served two tours overseas. Veteran’s and service personnel are true heroes, even if they never see combat and just are the ‘paper pushers’. Someone has to make that big machine keep rolling.

Waiting on a stoplight to turn green, this is where I knew he was saying whatever he could to get someone to help him. He begins talking about his time as a member of Seal Team 4, and how horrible it was that the enemy took out Seal Team 6. In my head I am trying to reconcile him being a Marine in Afghanistan, and a member of Seal Team 4 (which is South/Central America according to the Navy website by the way). I didn’t call him on his discrepancies. It was bloody hot out and I didn’t really go out of my way. I had a small concern that he might try to grab the wheel or something of the car. I figured I could probably handle him if it came down to it. Even though the idea that this could end badly flashed through my mind, my gut reaction was that he was just down on his luck.

So away we went. A short mile or so later I dropped him off at the gas station with a full parking lot. We said good bye, he thanked me again for the short lift and off he went.

“Matt”, if that is your true name. I don’t know whether you were a true Vet or not but it did not matter to me. You were a fellow human being, obviously suffering, and I was glad I could be a little help. I wish I had been just out for the day, I might have dropped him off somewhere on the east side of town. Sadly my job requires my presence so I had to head back. Take care.

A Brief Car Ride

The hot sun blazes
The car is cool and shaded
“Can I get a lift?”

A man down on his luck
Approaches me in a parking lot
“Man it sure is really hot,
Can I get a ride in your truck?”

“I have been visiting my brother
But now it’s time to head home
I’m hoping to find another
Going my direction.”

“Sir, I wish I could be of help to you
But at the highway I turn north
It’s only a mile but if that’ll do
I can drop you at the station.”

“That would be great
I appreciate it man
You are a good soul.”

“Don’t mention it sir
Thank you for your service too.
Good Luck, Safe Travels”

Poem – Dream, Dance, Sing

Dream, Dance, Sing

Dream this little dream
Of life in all its splendor
Once is all you get

Dance this crazy dance
Roll the dice and take your chance
You only get once

Since your single song
It’s your state to own this time
The whole of your life

Dream the dance you sing
Take the splendor on your state
Once is your whole life

Some much needed family time…

This past week afforded me the opportunity to recharge my mental batteries with some much needed family time. My day job as a logistical wizard had been overly taxing of late, leaving me little time to deal with the tedious process of re-editing my first book, editing the second, or completing the draft of my third.

Wednesday – I got up first in my household, as usual. I took my vehicle in for its overdue oil change as soon as the shop was open. As we had a trip to Chicago planned I wanted to have it get the full treatment from a professional. Coming home a bare 20 minutes later, I went to work straightening up our messy kitchen. The trash also had to go out as it was collection day in our village. I then cooked scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast for the family. Once I had it ready to hit the table, I went to wake up my wife and son, who were still sleeping. After breakfast, my wife took over the cleaning in the house while I broke out our riding lawn mower to cut our grass. It was looking decidedly shaggy. My son joined me outside to take the trimmer to the dog kennel. The grass was taller than our little Shih-tzu but I cannot get the riding mower through the gate to cut it that way. A trip to the recycling center for our weekly deposit completed the major chores for the day. My wife had our bag packed to go out to our camper on the lake. An afternoon of swimming, cards, and cooking out ended my Wednesday on a very high note. The dogs even enjoyed some time in the water.

Thursday – We were up, not quite with the sun but still a decent hour. We packed up the campsite. We took the dogs to my wife’s parents house where they would be staying for the next few days. A quick trip home for real showers and a change of clothes had us off and running to Chicago for the rest of our family vacation. After shocking my wife with how calm I was in Chicago traffic (normally she feels the need to premedicate to handle my road rage) we checked into our hotel. Thursday night was spent cheering the Black and White Knight at Medieval Times Schaumburg. I am proud to say that after 3 trips, we finally picked a winner. The food was tasty as always. I admit to having two of their “Executioner” drinks (Southern Comfort, and two flavors of Fat Tuesday mix). I don’t remember which ones. Then it was back to the hotel to relax and get some sleep for our Friday excursions.

Friday – The Brookfield Zoo outdid itself this year. They added a new bird exhibit full of parakeets. For a couple bucks you can purchase this little stick with food on it. The birds will land on the stick, your hand, or whatever they can to get at the sticks. The coolest thing was when I had three of them between the stick and my hand fighting over who got the food. Once in awhile something spooks them and the several hundred birds all take flight at once and did figure eights around the building. I am not sure what it was that spooked them, but it was impressive to see them all flying in formation like a fighter bomber squadron. Luckily all three of us escaped without getting pooped on. We made a trip to the Lego store, a must whether you are 10 (like my son) or 33 (like me). We finished up at Bahama Breeze restaurant in Schaumburg. I HIGHLY recommend checking out their Creole Shrimp Rice bowl. DELICIOUS!!!  We headed back to the hotel with full bellies, but my son insisted he needed to hit the pool. I sat in the corner in my near food coma while he swam and played in the water.

Saturday – Bristol Ren Faire on the Wisconsin/Illinois border. Always good for people watching. Some of the costumes are pretty fantastic. We watched a whip cracker show where he actually did flaming whips. When he made a joke about accidents happening (revealing the bald head under his hat) he picked me out of the crowd to say “This guy knows what I am talking about, right?” I just laughed and nodded in agreement with him. We also saw the first joust of the day. Our knight, Sir Maximillion, won. This makes twice in three days we picked a winner. I should have bought a lottery ticket. The heat was oppressive, so after a little shopping, we decided to grab some ice cream and head home. I was disappointed with the vendor as we ordered three strawberry waffle cones, but only received 2 and a half. When the third one arrived, decidedly lacking in as much ice cream as the first two. I started to question it. The lady ignored me and called for the next customer. I had been pretty calm so far. Not frustrated or raging at the idiotic driving on the IL Tollway, but this lady almost wore the ice cream. I can proudly say I chose to take a breath and just walk quickly towards the exit before I caused a scene. My wife and son followed at a safe distance, knowing I was not in a good mood. We cruised on home, after stopping to pick up the pups from in-law’s house. My wife and son have decided we are definitely dressing up the next time we go to the Faire.

Sunday – we relaxed till afternoon, did a little shopping and then watched some evening TV. We did begin dismantling and painting two of my son’s NERF guns so they can be redesigned into a “steampunk” style as part of his costume for the Faire (as well as Halloween this year).

Definitely just what I needed to recharge from work. Today has been calmer in the office. The boss is away. Maybe I can get some edits done on something today. Keep fighting the fight my friends.

Poem – Life of a Writer

Life of a Writer

Penning works of fiction or prose
So the life of a writer goes
Seeking out the darkest truth
Leftover from our own youth
But what we seek we don’t always find
For there are many corners within the mind
A treasure trove of ideas to pursue
Like blades of grass covered in morning dew
Snatch them quick and pen your verse
Lest you fall prey to the common curse
Oh I’ll get to this
I’ll write that later too
You just might miss
The Muse that favors you
Once it’s down, your fervor exhausted
Sharing brings its own troubles
Critics can make you feel assaulted
Self Doubt growing until it doubles
Then there comes the sunny day
When someone comes along to say

“Your words touched my trouble heart
Expressing what I dared not start
Thank you for sharing what I could not
And easing the pain not quite forgot
For in your words I finally knew
I was no longer all alone
Before I thought there was nothing to do
But bear what I could not condone”

The greatest praise a writer could see
Is to hear from readers like you and me
So don’t be shy with critique or praise
By both a writer’s skill you can raise
Steady on Writer of fiction or prose
Or poetry if that’s how your talent shows
Though you may face some abuse
Trust in your personal Muse

Poem – A Life Half-Lived

Sometimes I hear a song or a comment and my muse decides, “Hey buddy, you are going to write about this whether you want to or not.” Thankfully, what I consider some of my best work is because of this.

A Life Half-Lived

Who would regret the Life half-lived?
Would you know what you missed?
The things you could see
The person you could be
The tastes you didn’t try
Experiences let pass by
All the people you could meet
If only you would stop and greet
Each day as if it was your last

Think of me not as a saint
For I too know regret’s foul taint
I am just like you
I knew not what to do
There are days I lost
Never learning the cost
Of failing to seize the day
So in the end I could say
I lived as if each day was my last

Don’t make this mistake
The sands of Time do not wait
For us to decide

Poem – Home

Not sure what I was listening to but suddenly words came pouring out of my head. My muse likes to do that when I am not expecting it. Anyway, thought I would share here and get some feedback if anyone had any.

Home

Home
Where the heart is
Home
Where you hang your hat

Sunny days or Winter snowing
Rain on the rooftops beating a rhythm
Akin to the one deep down in
Your soul like a feel good serum

Home
Where you kick off your shoes
Home
Where the hearth fire’s burning

Big old house on a quiet street
Small apartment high in the city
Country life they say can’t be beat
Ocean views make others giddy

Whatever you call home
Is a special kind of place
No matter where you roam
It’s where they will know your face

Under the weather…

My logical brain says that it is merely coincidence, but the more irrational me is blaming Mother Nature for my current condition. Stuffy nose, sinus pressure. coughing, headache on the horizon. She did this to me with her freak late March snow storm. Stupid snow. I delight in its fate as it melts and runs into the sewer drain. That will show that snow. Once it is gone maybe I will feel better. I know it is the cause of my torment.

Why Mother Nature? Why do you inflict this upon your humble son? What offense have I given to you? Speak to me the whole of my transgressions so that I may pay some other restitution than this agony you have inflicted upon me.

She is silent. Leaving me to face my ailments with no glimmer of hope. What a cruel mistress she becomes in times like these. Perhaps she cannot help it. Her moods as wild as the weather we see upon the land. Is she a prisoner of her own power? Mayhaps that is the crux of the problem.

Bound by the weapons she wields. Trapped within the tendrils of her strength like prison bars. The more she pushes, the firmer they become. Pressure building until it explodes like my nose when I sneeze. Mother Nature and I are both prisoners under the weather.