Tag Archives: writing

Goals for 2012

 

I shouldn’t say that everyone makes a New Year’s resolution.  In fact, I think that the majority of people that make resolutions either want to a) lose weight or b) stop smoking.  Well, as it is, I have already quit smoking several years ago, so I guess I fall into the former category.  But instead of making specific resolutions, I am going to make lifestyle changes with specific achievements that aren’t necessarily goals, but if I achieve them it will be a signpost, if you will, that I am achieving the things that I want to do.

1) Goal: Get back in shape.  Lose weight, trim down, lower blood pressure.  These are all reasons that I would like to get into shape.  The last couple of years I have had halfway legitimate excuses for not exercising (recovering from three separate surgeries, after all.)  I still should have eaten better than I did.  So eating less, less junk fast food, regular exercise will be on the list. 

Signpost: Ride in the BikeMS Pedal the Plains.  I was excited to participate last year, but back pain sidelined me from training, and back surgery ultimately kept me on the sidelines.  If I do finish, I am contemplating getting a zipper tattoo on my scar to remind me of both last years disappointment and this years achievement.

2) Goal: Be mentally healthier.  The day to day moments of the last couple of years have really kept me down, despite those momentous moments that would otherwise have put me in great spirits.  Lifestyle changes will help, along with staying up to date on my medications and exercise. 

Signpost: Getting a job that I really enjoy.  Going for more money might not even be particularly important at this point.  I need to do something that doesnt add exponentially to my stress.

3) Goal: Read.  As I have stated before, the last half of last year, I started reading again.  My goal for my 35th year was to read 50 books.  The count now stands at 23, with most of those being back loaded at the end of the year.  I amended that to say that I was going to read 10 classics.  I still may be able to hit both goals.

Signpost: War and Peace.  It is in hand, and it will be conquered.  I am looking forward to finishing but not for the satisfaction of finishing itself, but for the satisfaction of a well told, incredible story.

4) Goal: Write.  Reestablishing this blog has been a good step.  Writing is an outlet, no matter if it is the truth or fiction.

Remington Typewriter

Image via Wikipedia

 

Signpost: Having a rough draft of a novel done.

Well, that’s it for me.  How about you?

 

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Filed under life, perspective

Ch-ch-ch-changes

An interesting phenomena has come over me in the week since I have decided that I would devote more time to writing–suddenly I have nothing to say.  No blog posts, no journaling, no progress on the novel that I started, no tweeting even.  It is an odd feeling for someone who can easily punch out 500 words before my brain can even catch up.  Right now it seems I have to strain to even eke out more than a couple of sentences.

I think that perhaps it our nature as humans to resist change.  I remember the first time that I consciously remember what seemed to me to be a major life change.  The school that I first attended was a small parochial elementary school that was run by the Episcopal Church.  Originally it had been a boarding school for the daughters of Episcopal missionaries, and had opened in Dakota Territory a few years before statehood was granted to North Dakota and South Dakota.  Therefore, it was steeped in tradition.  I remember lining up to go to chapel every morning before classes started for the day.  We learned French starting in Kindergarten.  Class sizes were so small, that it was possible for students to move up or down a class for individual subjects to fit their educational needs.  There was an annual May Day celebration.  At the end of the year, the flag that flew near the school was presented to a graduating sixth grader. 

Beyond all those traditions, the actual buildings were beautiful.  They were built from pink quartzite blocks taken from local quarries.  The classrooms had hardwood floors.  The playground area was huge, and unlike most elementary schools, was covered in grass rather than asphalt.  The chapel had Tiffany stained glass windows, given as a gift to the bishop that had established the school.  Carved entryways and railings abounded.

The small class sizes that had been such an asset would turn out to be the undoing of the school.  Faced with declining enrollment and a lack of funds, the church made the decision to shutter the school.  My parents enrolled my sister and I to a well established Catholic School a year before the school that holds such a fond place in my memory closed for good.  The new school was of course a fine school in its own right.  Having a much larger enrollment coupled with a much larger Catholic presence in our community, there were more resources and opportunities at our disposal.  But somehow, the cinder block walls and vinyl floor tiling just seemed to make the place seem dystopian compared to what I had left behind.

The closed school remained empty for several years.  It wasn’t torn down, however, as the “Main Building” was on the National Historic Sites register.  Eventually additional buildings were erected and the campus was turned into a retirement community.  I visited the Main Building recently, and it is still so beautiful that it puts an ache in my heart,even though the change that took place was ultimately a good one.

When I think of the years that it took for the school to be repurposed, perhaps a week to take a break and access my transition from business man to writer doesn’t seem that out of line.  I realized today that not only had I not been writing, but my creative endeavours in the visual arts had come to a stand still as well.  No painting, no photography, no ideas, really.  So today I started to re-engage that creativity, as I think that creative energy flows into my writing.  My fascination with clocks, along with my appreciation for music led to this:

I know, Neil Diamond doesn’t sound like my normal fare.  A guilty pleasure.  In addition I got some modeling clay.  Lovely Wife can vouch for me being a champion Play-Doh sculptor, so I thought I would try my hand at something a little more permanent. 

Of course, anxiety plays a part in my hesitant transformation.  However, I think that the more that I am able to write and create, the more anxiety will dissipate. 

WEDNESDAY FUN: Our New Tenants

Photo credits on this one go to Lovely Wife:

Mama Robin set up shop next to an outdoor lighting fixture.  I can’t wait until her babies are born and hopefully get a good photo.

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Reading the Signs

There is an interstate beltway that goes around the city in which I live.  One particular off-ramp always amuses me.  Getting off onto one of the main North-South drags, this particular ramp has two right hand turn lanes, and of course a traffic light.  The amusing part is the turning lane that is the farthest right.  If a driver is turning right, clearly displayed in his or her field of vision is a sign that says “NO RIGHT TURN ON RED”.  When I am at this particular intersection, I am typically in the other lane, so I like to play a guessing game in my head whether or not the person at the front of the other line is going to turn right on red.  About half the time I guess that they will, and more often than not, I am right.

I don’t think, however, that they consciously see the sign and disregard it.  In our busy lives it seems easy to see signs right in front of us, maybe even recognize what they say, but somehow they don’t register.  Last year Lovely Wife went on a trip for work leaving me home with the kiddos.    I noticed that Little Guy, who was right around 2 at the time, seemed to be scratching his head quite a bit.  Finally one evening, I called Lovely Wife and told her that I thought he had lice.  I looked at his hair and saw little specks.  Not knowing what nits looked like, Lovely Wife convinced me that it was OK (I am not blaming her, by the way).  The next day it seemed to be worse.  This time when I looked there I saw not only the “specks” but definite bugs as well.  After a lot of shampooing, spraying, and vacuuming, we also decided to give him a haircut.  Between his newly shorn head and my folically challenged one, we really did look like a real life version of Dr. Evil and Mini-Me.

Sometimes the sings aren’t as obvious, or don’t have immediate meaning.  After meeting my birth mother, it seems amazing to me (and to her, I think) that we have lived our lives travelling along on parallel lines.  Perhaps maybe they even crossed in the past in ways we didn’t even know.  My brother and I were for a short time on the same college campus, for example.  I wonder now if we ever crossed paths and never realized it.  Being a man of great (if perhaps unconventional) faith, I can only ascribe the events leading up to finding her identity to Divine Providence.   Until that time, my beliefs were somewhat deist in nature.  I believed in God, but didn’t think he was active in my everyday life.  Now I saw the signs sprinkled throughout my life.  When I still hadn’t decided whether I was going to contact her or not, the signs changed from being a tap on the shoulder to a slap in the face with a 2×4.

And yet I am still learning to recognize signs in my life.  Yesterday Lovely Wife helped me really come to the realization that I need to do what is in my heart, what I am meant to do.  Her case was bolstered by me recently reading Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul by John Eldridge.   Eldridge believes that most men don’t follow what is in their heart, and as a result are bored or disheartened.  I highly recommend it for all men, whether you are a believer or not.

Last night I finally accepted that I am a writer and a teacher.  With my Master’s degree, I can qualify to be an adjunct professor at one of the several local institutions of higher learning.  That will allow me to do my part to help pay the bills, and it will also allow me  to follow my true heart.  As of today, I can refer to myself as a writer.

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Guitar Anti-Hero

In my sudden burst of creativity that I have chronicled, I realized today that there is a part of my creative persona that I have been neglecting.  Long before I ever even dreamed of trying my hand at visual arts, I was always involved in music.  I think that I was about 7 or 8 when my parents enrolled me in piano lessons.  I hated it.  Or at least I thought that I did.  It turns out that the years that I spent haplessly plunking away at the piano gave me a solid back ground in music theory.  When it was time to pick out band instruments, I chose the trombone.  Now this I loved.  I can modestly say that I was pretty decent at playing the trombone.  Furthermore, whatever I lacked in talent I was more than willing to make up for in volume.  It was around this time that I realized that my musical tastes were often dictated by the instrument that I was playing.  Piano playing (for me) was limited to classical or similar sounding pieces.  The trombone became an instrument of jazz, baby.  Even if I wasn’t the greatest, I learned to improvise a little with my trombone.  Tell me, is there anything better than a grimy, growling portamento as only a trombone player can play? It was during high school that I realized that my most versatile instrument was my voice.  Singing became, and has remained, such a pleasure. 

After I became an adult, I wanted some kind of instrument that would allow me to accompany myself singing.  I think it was maybe our second Christmas that Lovely Wife bought me my favorite gift that I have ever received:

A thing of beauty, not only in looks but in sound.  I have never taken a lesson, but I have constantly tinkered.  Depending on my mood, or how it is sounding for me on a particular day, I vacillate between using a pick, strumming with my fingers, using my thumb for an alternating bass line, or finger picking.  Mostly I just strum easy chords that allow me to sing along without thinking too much.  It is amazing to me how much a simple accompaniment can add to the overall sound.

I routinely play country and folk songs.  I do like to tinker around with more “electric” sounding songs, usually making them slow to mid tempo and giving them a whole different sound. 

Invariably, however, I will from long stretches of playing to equally long stretches of it hanging there on the wall, looking at me mournfully and silently calling out “play me!”  I am in the midst of one of those latter periods.  I can’t say why.  I have always wanted to write a song, and with my current creative output it would seem like now would be the time to do so.  Then I think (or perhaps depression thinks for me) that while I am pretty good at stringing some interesting chord progressions together, I seem to have a mental block as a lyricist.  I have confidence in my writing, generally, but my ramblings have neither the brevity nor the poetry needed to make a decent song.  Playing can bring out a catharsis of sorts, so maybe I need to strap up and spend some time with my friend, even if it just playing the old favorites. 

FRIDAY FUN: Naming Suggestions

OK, I know I have at least a few readers out there.  I am giving you the opportunity to weigh in–I feel like my guitar should have a name, but as of yet it remains anonymous.  While I don’t think giving it a moniker will ever make me and it as talented as duos such as B.B. King and Lucille, Eric Clapton and Blackie, or Brian May and his Red Special, I almost feel as if I am depriving myself and it of something.  But I just can’t think of anything.  So, leave a comment on what you think a good name would be.  I tend to think that it is a “she”, but don’t feel constrained to that criteria.  If I have enough, I will take a few of my favorites and perhaps have a poll down the road.  Let’s hear some ideas!

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Two quotes for me to ponder.

“I am not a mechanism”

“[E]veryone on [Mom’s] side of the family are writers, philosophers, and artists at heart.  Most all have eschewed that for a life/career that resulted in a regular paycheck.”

The first quote is from D. H. Lawrence.  The second is an excerpt of an email that I received from my brother while we were still getting to know each other (actually we are still engaged in that process).  One of the things that I am struggling with right now is that I have in fact eschewed those very things for a career that has resulted in a regular paycheck.  Along the way, I have neglected to feed that heart.  If you allow me to think metaphorically, I have been quite deliberately closing off access to the very thing that keeps me alive-my heart.

I always knew that I had a certain facility for writing and philosophy, even if they became more of a hobby, an outlet, than a vocation.  I didn’t think that I was an artist.  But in all three cases, I didn’t seek out any opportunities to hone and develop those innate skills.  Instead I went the technical route.  I started out studying engineering.  I switched majors believing that I couldn’t hack it as an engineer.  The truth was I didn’t want to.  So when I switched from the college of engineering to the college of arts and sciences (and later business school) I had 15 credits of math that I had forced myself through when I was only required by my new major to have 3.  I didn’t really care that I knew so much about math, but it make me feel a little bit like a wunderkind when the TA was always looking to me to help my Stat 101 class answer questions from a calculus based viewpoint. 

What I’ve learned though, is that whatever I have done since I have graduated, whether I have been a go-to guy or a cubicle gnome (or somewhere in between) has pretty much been complete drudgery.  I went to college to get an education.  What I got was two degrees that certify that I am an officially programmed mechanism.  Maybe a mechanism that can perform at a higher level or more efficiently than others, but a mechanism none-the-less. 

My brother may argue that he has eschewed the life of a writer, philosopher, and artist for a regular paycheck, but I think that his profession allows him a genuine connection with people.  To be that writer, philosopher, artist on a one-to-one basis, even if no one else recognizes it.

Meanwhile, I am still standing on the banks of the river, dipping my toes in, hedging my bet.  I need to cross the river, and toss away my paddle.  Then if people say “You’re crazy, come back over here where it is safe,” I can squint my eyes and declare that it is too late, I have already crossed the Rubicon.

I am a writer.  I am a philosopher.  Yes, I am even an artist.

I am not a mechanism.

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