Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Another New Year

Sorry - I don't mean to cough all over your face. Seriously, I don't. But jeez, there's a lot of dust on this blog. I mean look at it! Is that... six inches? Whoo... I'll try not to inhale like that again until I've swept a bit!

Jokes aside, this place is unkempt. I'll just be honest with myself. I didn't blog all this month! And now the day is almost up, the month is almost up, and gosh-darnit, the year is almost up to boot! So I'm squeezing one last post in before I can kiss 2014 goodbye forever.

I like 2014 though. It holds a lot of great memories. It holds a lot of new experiences. And it's almost gone.

But I'm not entirely sorry to see this year end and a new one begin. Because as much fun as 2014 was... you know, it was a freaking disappointment too. Dreams, all but snuffed out. Hopes smashed like the head of a porcelain doll meeting a cement floor. My heart squeezed and pressed like a lemon being removed of it's tart life-blood. And me; left to piece together what just happened and try to understand what I'm supposed to do. I like to stand and fight. I like the thrill of facing something that's bigger and better then me, because there's a chance I'll walk away the victor. But more than once this year I just wanted to run far, far away and hide. And I would have, if it would have made all the hurt and all the confusion finally stop. Car insurance got more expensive this year. Mistakes happened. Misunderstandings unfolded. Heartbreak swooped in. But even with all the smelly crap I had to deal with...

Good things happened this year too.

Reawakening dawned. New discoveries were found. I had some fantastic adventures. And I grew closer with the people I call my friends. A lot closer. I realized how important they are to me, and what exactly I'm willing to do for them. And most importantly, how God uses them in my life.

Would I trade the yucky experiences I had this year? Yes. Without a second thought. But if it meant I had to give up the good experiences too? No bloody way that'd happen. I'll take the bad with the good if it has to be that way.

I'm excited for 2015. And even if I feel a little nostalgic for 2014, I'm glad a new year is dawning. I'm looking forward to the experiences that are awaiting me in the folds of the new year.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Friday, November 21, 2014

A lament for libraries

Is my library a special one as far as libraries are concerned? In a couple of my unfinished works bits and pieces have taken place in libraries. But the libraries in my written works are never anything like the library I frequent. The libraries in my stories are large buildings with rows upon rows of bookshelves which reach nearly higher than an average person’s arms. These libraries are usually full, but not crowded. They are frequented by older citizens looking for a good read to pass the time, students searching for some piece to use as reference material for their next big essay, and individuals who just want to immerse themselves in the writings of others. Sometimes my stories have people working at the library, plugging in a laptop to pound away code or write an article.

But do you know what the libraries in my stories never have? Crying babies running and stomping across the floor, causing such a ruckus that no matter where you hide or how many books you bury yourself in, the noise cannot possibly be blocked out. There aren’t smelly, bedraggled, supposedly homeless people begging for money at the front entrance. And there aren’t thoughtless individuals talking loudly amongst themselves or, please, please, please, heaven forbid – having their cell phones blasting their ringtones, and answering the freaking things right then and there, before continuing the conversation where they sit instead of getting up and politely leaving the premises.

None of that happens in my stories, but that happens all the time at my charming, little library. Does any of that happen at your library? For your sake I hope not. The library isn’t a playground, or a daycare, or a nightclub. It’s a place where people who require a little peace and quiet can search for information, read a good book, and simply enjoy the written word.

My library is nothing but a free-for-all, it would seem. And what ever happened to using your “Library Voice”? Yes, the books, and movies, and CD’s have titles on them. And yes you are meant to read them. Just not out loud. Not every, single, bloody title on the shelf, one after the other, out bloody loud. SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT YOUR MOUTH RIGHT UP BEFORE I STUFF IT FULL OF BOOKS AND LEAVE YOU TO CHOKE ON POE AND BRADBURY, AND PRATCHETT, AND REMARQUE, AND GINSBERG, AND VONNEGUT, AND DUMAS, AND DICKENS, AND STEVENSON, AND BLOODY BLOODY SHAKESPEARE, SO THAT YOUR LAST BREATHS ARE CAUGHT AND SNUFFED BY THE PAGES OF THOSE BOOKS, YOU STINKING AND UNCULTURED MORON!


My library can’t be the only one, can it? It kind of bothers me.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Well, which is it? "Aye!" or "Ach, Nay!"

Oh, would you look at that! I have a blog here... what do you know?


Seriously though, I need to be better about posting here. Now that the summer is winding down and fall is showing its gorgeous, auburn head, things ought to fall back into smooth routine (I.E: Boring same ol'...) and I'll have to resort to writing blurbs and blocky rants to ease the monotony of study and work.

Tonight I feel wound up. Not in the way I feel when I've had too much caffeine in one sitting, and not like when I'm waiting for some book to be available for me at the library. It's an odd twist in the pit of my stomach, a feeling of helplessness, a pinch of pride, and a lot of thoughtfulness.

An incredibly important vote is being tallied tonight over in the United Kingdom. Scotland has put a very weighty matter in the hands of its citizens. Should they become a self governed nation, independent of England and the rest of the ol' UK? Or should they remain as they are, a piece of a larger whole? Scotland has decided its people's voices should decide this weighty matter.

97% of Scotland's citizens have registered to vote on this decision. Today, Thursday the 18th of September, registered voters sixteen years and older answered simply with a "Yes" or a "No". And tonight, those very affirmations and denials are to be counted.

The fate of the nation is really in the peoples' hands. And I couldn't be more proud! Such a weighty matter truly deserved to be put to the people. Those who live and work and grow up in the country should choose its fate.

I'm excited to see the outcome. I don't know when the media will leak the numbers, but I assume I won't know for sure until sometime tomorrow morning. Still, I'm caught up in the anticipation. Social media is bursting with weary Scots, forcing themselves to stay awake long enough to hear the conclusion of the vote. I wait with them, miles away, but just as antsy to hear the results.

As I glance around my room and spy all the Scottish flags, on my wall, my desk, even on the shirt I'm wearing... I wonder. I wonder if I was a Scottish citizen, what would I vote for? The anticipation is killing me. I wish they'd just announce the final tally already!

So if you'll excuse me, I'll just keep biting my fingernails 'till they bleed while I listen to Scottish punk rock. Later I think I'll turn on Stone of Destiny... it's only appropriate.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lately I've been later when I'm late...

“This’ll be the first month,” I sighed as I looked sadly at my blog in its sorry, sorry state. Truly, it pains me to see it so disregarded, so abandoned, so ill-used. “The very first month in its entirety that I’ve not made a single post.”
And then I caught myself up, wondering… If it really is my blog, then I can do whatever I want with it. It doesn’t have to end this way! So at seven minutes to midnight, instead of sleeping like I should be, the newly excited juices of inspiration began pumping keeping me awake for more proficiently than any caffeinated beverage or self-inflicted tortures.
You know, it’s a funny thing. This blog, even though not updated nearly enough, even though not garnering some large audience – I have an utter fondness for it. And a ridiculous dedication to making sure a month doesn’t go past without me posting several times. But life and my personal pursuits have kept me away and I’ve failed to post thoughts or life updates and other such things.
I just got back from a week in Northern Oregon. I was gone from Monday to Sunday, enjoying my escape from toil and expectation and heartache. I hate those things, and that’s pretty much why vacation was invented; so average joe could escape to a new life for a mere twinkling. Portland was awesome, Seaside was beautiful, Astoria is always a fun-filled gem. It was a dream. Powell’s Books in Portland is this four-story book store with an over-whelming amount of literature. I could move into that store and close its pages around me and be happier than ever I was before. In truth… I thought about shoving some second-rate dime novels on the floor and crawling into their space on the shelves, hiding until the store was closed and emerging to live a life of fantasy within the pages of pretty much anyone you could think of. I didn’t. But, mark me when I admit I was sorely tempted.
I leave on a road trip for San-Francisco rather soon. It ought to be an exciting time. I’m looking forward to more time away from the mundane. I guess I’m drawn to adventure in a lot of ways. Sitting on my tush… it does stuff to me.
So now I’ve babbled and rambled for a number of paragraphs, and all for the mere sake of making one more post on my blog. One more update to the on-looking world. But it worked, and I do have one more post. Hopefully it won’t be so long before I post again. And hopefully I’ll have something interesting or insightful to say.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Writing Meeting: 07/08/2014

We met last night for the first time in a long while. It was so pleasant to get back to it. Had we not edited any work, it would have been a pleasure just to talk about our writing. But we did edit. Not a whole lot, but the several pages or more I had written. One thing I find that drives me in my writing, is just feedback. Whether it’s positive or negative, feedback inspires me. I have to fix what was rubbish, or I have to build on what was received positively. Most of last night’s feedback was positive. I’m pretty excited. A lot of what’s going to be driving this short story is falling into place really well, and the character development is flowing pretty naturally.

We discussed whether it was proper English to capitalize the first letter, after a quotation, when the dialogue ends with an exclamation point or a question mark. For example: [“What’s your name, anyway?” she asked.] See how the quotation ends with that question mark, but there’s still a bit of the sentence after it? According to all the sources we checked online, it is proper writing to finish that sentence off by not capitalizing the word that follows the dialog in quotation marks. Which makes perfect sense to me. That end mark is only bringing the quote to a close. Should the writer continue the sentence, that end mark would affect only the sentence within the quotation marks.

I’m excited to write the next scene in the story. One fun tidbit is I’ll be looking back at the things I’m learning in my Sociology studies as a way to reinforce the writing. Several concepts concerning much of what I’m writing about are things I’m actually learning about as I study for my upcoming test. It’s one of moments for me when I realize there really is a point to all the learning I’m doing. Some of the tests I have to take, I scratch my head wondering why it’s important, but for some reason my writing never seems a viable reason for learning some of this stuff. That is, until moments like this come up and I’m just tickled pink.

We distributed new prompts, as the old ones were stale and uninspiring. We can always go back to those later anyway. I had so many ideas for the last one, but none of them ever came to bloom. This new one has a number of possibilities though, and I’m looking forward to taking it on. That is, if I have a chance. I might just be furiously bashing out all this epic stuff for my short story for the next two weeks!

Monday, June 30, 2014

June Update

June's been an odd month for me. I'm busy in the one sense, because I'm toiling away at my study of sociology. I'm also slowly working through the booklist I made for myself at the end of last year. But as busy as I am in those regards, I've not been entirely physically busy. Life is folding itself up and surrendering to routine. It's become a kind of predictable circle in which I spend the early half of the day in books, and the latter half working at my job.

Honestly, I could call this month a regular bore. Although, I did do some work on my car, fixing a few things here and there and giving her a nice all-around tune-up. This year I feel I'm learning a lot, and not just in my study. But at the same time, I feel the year has caught me up and if I'm not carefully keeping my eyes on my goals, it might just speed past.

I'm not usually one for sports, but a friend of mine got me to follow FIFA 2014 and I've enjoyed keeping tabs on the matches played and the scores of the teams. It's exciting to see USA's team beating its own records and climbing with rest. It might be my patriotism, but I can't help rooting for them, even if they're considered an underdog team by most.

I've been writing a lot this month too. The pace of my short story is really picking up, and I'm just so happy with how its coming along. One interesting thing is that I've been able to incorporate a lot of what I'm learning about sociology in my writing, which I think gives it a certain heft it might have lacked in previous instances. I can't remember specifically when I started writing, but I think it's rather fascinating that I can honestly say the style of my writing has changed over the years, and I'd undoubtedly admit for the better.

We haven't met for our writing meeting in a while now. I can't remember if we even met this month at all. My work schedule's only gotten more hectic with us being short handed by two people. My writing buddy's been busy with school, so finding a mutually clear moment to meet for a meeting has been an unfortunate challenge. Hopefully things will calm down for the both of us though. Until then, I've passed some of my work off to another writer friend for his feedback.

I'm looking forward to July in a way. Partially because it means only one more month before I can finally take a vacation from both school and work and get away, away from everything. That will be nice. Until then though, I'll just keep working away. Hopefully I'll kick this awful cold soon too. I do so hate being sick and under the weather. Summer colds always feel especially awful.

Anyway - hopefully I'll have something more exciting posted here soon. I'm working on my most recent prompt, so maybe...

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Hike Up Iron Goat Trail (Part 2)

I used up most of my words in my last post, so I suppose I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves. Such beauty is nearly indescribable. I'm just glad I was able to catch some of it with my camera.




Monday, May 19, 2014

Hike up Iron Goat Trail (Part 1)

Man… I try to post at least once every month, but sometimes time just gets away from me or there isn’t much to blog about between one post and another. Now… that isn’t to say I’m not writing in that time. One could, in essence, peer at my blog and think of it much like an iceberg. You might only be able to see the tip, but so much more is hidden, beneath the surface.

 Last Sunday Jono, Matty, and I hiked a fairly local trail. It runs up the mountain a bit, and then along the old grade where a train track used to run. There are spooky abandoned tunnels, and great cliff lookout-points, tons of lush foliage, beautiful scenery… it’s just a fantastic hike. I brought my phone along and it felt like I was stopping to snap pictures every five minutes or so. That isn’t strictly the way it went, but I did take a number of photos. I recently bought a new cell phone, and didn’t bother even bringing my point-and-shoot camera along, because it’s pretty old anyway, and the camera on my phone is better in the long run.

The afternoon started out sunny, but dark cloud patches overhead threatened rain at some point in the day. At the trailhead there was an old caboose being restored. After pausing for a few quick shots and checking our gear one last time, we hopped onto the trail and began our ascent.

The trail seemed like a constant climb, with steps of rock shorn from the side of the mountain at the steepest points. Much of the path was packed earth no more than two feet wide, but well-traveled and quite sturdy.

It was just fantastic to get out and experience God’s gorgeous creation. None of us had gone on a legitimate hike in some time, so we enjoyed the trek immensely. One thing that struck me was the beauty of the surrounding forests and hill-country. Even with a thickly clouded sky blocking out the sun for much of the hike, the sights were just breathtaking.

I took a couple shots of the lads and the beautiful scenery during our ascent. Such a picturesque trail, it was just asking to be photographed or posed upon! Also, Jono got half-eaten by a log. If there's one thing the three of us are really, really good at doing, it's goofing off. There's nothing quite like our trio's shenanigans.
About half-way up our hike, we came across a massive abandoned train tunnel. We were all struck by the sheer size of it, especially since it was built a hundred years ago, with materials and tools far inferior to what workmen use today. My keen and adventuresome eyes spotted a way to climb up on top, and Jono and I scurried up using rocks, roots, and branches as foot and hand-holds. From the top, any hikers below looked fairly tiny. We chomped on some snacks and chatted a bit until it started to rain. Then we donned our rain coats and headed on up the trail, leaving behind the tunnel and whatever secrets it may hold.
I took a lot of pictures during our excursion though, so I’ll close this post with a small handful, and leave the rest for my next post. Hopefully I haven’t stolen all the good ones for my first post, but you’ll just have to see for yourself.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Behind the Mic: Dream meets reality

Rewind my crazy life just about two years ago. I was far from home and on the East coast (New York to be exact…). And I was literally living a dream. I spent a week standing behind microphones, getting my voice recorded, being coached professionally by actors and sound engineers and technicians. I was faking accents over five-star dinners with other students who had also traveled great distances for the same experience. I sat in on talks by big names in the dramatic audio industry learning techniques in sound design, script writing, and voice-over, among other things as well. It was seven full days of pure pinch-me-I’m-dreaming hysteria. Even though I was miles and miles from home, away from my life-long friends and most of my family, I just didn’t want it to end. Not ever. But I knew it would. I knew I would have to leave that dream and I didn’t know if I’d ever make it back someday. My only hope, my only chance of returning to that utopia after the plane touched down at the airport in my home-state, was making a big enough impression on the people around me while I was there, that they’d remember me. In the middle of some casting crisis they’d think to themselves, “Who was that kid with the great Scottish accent?” And boom, my portal would be open and I’d be able to return to that dreamland. So while, yes, I learned a lot and soaked in all I could, the biggest opportunity that was open to me for that week I spent at a world-class mountain house in the Hudson Valley was meeting people who could, in a way, change my life.

I wanted a career in Voice-Over, I wanted to be a Voice-Actor. People would ask me, “Voice actor? What is that? Not just an actor?” They’d tell me I was funny, and I’d tell them I’m not that pretty. Then they’d tell me I could make it, and I’d laugh and shrug. But I never thought it was me that made people laugh. It wasn’t my mannerisms or the weird way I used my hands to spell everything out. “Voice actor, huh? Okay… so, what, you act with your voice?” Because that was what made people laugh. That was my hook and line, my light bulb attracting attention. My voice and those phony accents I could switch to like flipping a light switch. So easy for me and so enchanting for those I was entertaining.

I know exactly when the bug bit me. Our family had been invited over to dine with some friends of ours. Their kids where all very nice, but apart from their two oldest, they were all quite shy. By the time we had all eaten supper, I’d only really spoken with the parents and their two oldest children, because their other kids had made themselves a little scarce. I’ve never been immensely out-going, but hamming around was always a great way for me to break the ice and somehow a lot easier than just opening a conversation and attempting to play small talk. As pivotal as this memory is, some of the details have been lost with time and I can’t remember why or how we started playing cards. I do remember that my older sister used to take a deck or two of cards with her everywhere, just tossed into her purse, so it isn’t so odd to me that in this particular memory, we were playing a game of golf (The card game - duh.). Another detail I can’t remember is why I started speaking in accent, but I did. The kids we were playing with thought it was awesome. They, like me, were accent enthusiasts and as far as they were concerned, I was really good. They kept bringing up movie titles and character names, telling me I sounded like this person or that one. And I just ate it up. As long as the laughs kept coming I kept talking in accent. And then I realized something. Little heads were poking around corners, with little faces smiling and laughing too. The laughing at the table had attracted the attention of the shy kids, and now they were involved in the conversation too.

“You should be a voice actor!” One of their older kids told me. And my mind’s jets ignited. My brain careened down a runway and blasted into the sky. A voice-actor.

After that evening, I was never the same. I wanted to be a voice-actor. Thinking back, I’d see those shy kids’ faces all lit up and happy and I’d wonder how many people I could touch like that. It was something that I loved to do, something that was somehow so natural… could I ever make a living doing that? Really?

Now, please put me on the record as believing in miracles. I’ve seen them happen. But to be realistic, I don’t see me making enough money to support myself through VO. If it does happen, I’ll be a very happy guy. But I’m not going to invest my entirety in a dream as frail as that. Still… it is something I love, so at the very least it’ll remain a hobby that I pursue. Two years ago I got a taste of what it would be like to voice act… and that experience was a dream I’ve always wanted to return to.

Last Friday I was able to live that dream again. I was sent to a studio to record lines for an audio drama. Two years ago I met a young man at that mountain house who, just like me, had dreams and aspirations. Today, he’s creating his own production company, with the goal of producing audio dramas and films. And somehow along the way, through crossed connections and friends and auditions he had my name. I forget exactly how long, but a while back he got a hold of me and asked me to audition for a character in the audio-drama project he was working on. He recently finished the script for that drama, the first for his company to produce, and sent his actors to studios to record their lines professionally. What’s funny, is I’m not playing that character in this drama.

I was scheduled to record Friday and headed to Seattle where my producer had made arrangements. It was a nice sunny day and I took Matty along as a sort of caddy. Murphy went with us too, and where Murphy goes his law follows, so basically everything that could go wrong did. When the session ended, Matty and I left the studio, but no more than ten minutes into our drive and my producer called me, informing me as politely as he could that the session was utterly bombed. He said he’d asked the studio when we’d be able to re-schedule a session and they’d offered Sunday. I told him I’d be available after church, and he made the appointment. So Sunday would be our chance to amend the nightmare that Friday had turned out to be. I stressed out up until the recording session, at which point I mellowed out long enough to record all my lines. My producer reviewed the recordings and told me I’d topped his expectations and that was that. Riding home was heavenly. I was overwhelmed by a feeling of victory. The experience had been stressful at times, sure. But over-all it had just been incredibly fun.

I don’t have a date as to when the production will be released, or even finished. I just have to sit back and let my producer do his thing. But even now, it’s so crazy thinking that my dream came true. I’m a voice-actor. I may not be famous, or starring in the biggest production of the year, but I’m a voice-actor. It feels so crazy thinking about it that way, but it’s true.

Two years ago, at that mountain house, one message was taught in every room. “Give everything you have to Jesus… everything… and He will bless you.” Well let me tell you… I’ve never felt more blessed.
(Big shout out to my brother for the pictures in this post.
Thanks so much, Matty, for being my personal photographer.
You rock, dude!)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A pair of knights (idiots)...

So... when I'm not writing, or drawing, or studying, or blogging, or working...

What do I choose to do? Stupid stuff like this. Matty and I were doing some chores on the property and we came across some rather long lance-like branches. Matty challenged me to a joust, and I suggested we use a couple crapped-up and rotting boards as our shields. We got distracted from our chores when we fashioned handles onto the boards and painted them with sigils and all. We felt pretty proud of ourselves and bamboozled Hannah into filming us at our joust...

We're only slightly bruised too. One of Matty's lances caught me just above the left knee, and during a sword-fighting fray I nailed his upper lip with the top edge of my shield. But all in all, we were fairly unscathed.

My sigil was a lion. Can't you tell?

After the joust and sword-fight...

Matty's sigil was supposed to be a wolf...
One of my lances pierced right through his shield...
Maybe some day we'll make full suites of armor out of crappy, old wood and actually be semi-safe while charging towards one another with long sticks. If we're still alive by then, we'll have to film that too.

... Hey! At least we didn't pull out a couple bikes and ride those at one another. We thought about it... but thought we were probably dangerous enough on foot.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The importance of friends in my life

This post is meant for my friends. Primarily the peers in my life who deal with me on a day to day, or week to week basis.

Basically, I want to encourage you. Partly because of something incredible that happened today. And partly because of recent circumstances that have just led me to feel the need to thank you in a semi-public fashion.

You guys are incredible.

The reason you’re incredible, is your surrender to Christ. Most of you have made a public profession of your faith in the living God. You believe with your whole heart that Jesus Christ selflessly laid down his life, to save you from eternal torment in hell. With some of you, I was at your baptisms, watching as you took that step of faith, proclaiming that Jesus Christ is your King, and you eagerly look forward to his return. I know your hearts, and have seen you transformed by Him from one year to the next.

But it doesn’t stop there. Your surrender gives Christ control over you and gives Him access to use you to further His Kingdom. And I see it. Recently, I’ve seen it a lot. I saw it last month, I saw it last week, and I saw it just today. A close friend of mine and I were talking about issues in our lives, and school, and things, and I looked him in the eye and told him, “God can’t use me. I’ve piddled away my time until now, I know God hasn’t turned His back on me yet, because I’ve returned to Him constantly and I still feel His presence and see Him working, but I feel useless for His kingdom. I don’t understand why He continues to waste His time on me, because I’m worthless. I’m awed, I’m thankful, I’m so fully in love with Him because He hasn’t abandoned me yet… but He’ll never be able to use me.”

But my friend looked at me, with caring, encouraging eyes and said, “I know for a fact, you’re wrong. Because I have scripture to back me.”

Doubting, I shook my head. “Show me.” I challenged, arrogance dripping from my words. Tears threatening to seep from my eyes. “Show me the verse, because I just don’t see my use.”

He read me these words from 1 Corinthians 1 :24 – 31:

“But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

I’m the least. I’m worthless. I’m the last guy who’d ever get picked in the grand dodge-ball game of life. But God can still use me… and according to these verses… He is, and He has. That thought… broke me down. Jesus Christ hasn’t given up on me, and He’s even chosen to use me despite my numerous flaws. At the moment of realization, I felt an overwhelming comfort. They were the exact words I needed to hear, and God sent them, through my friend, just at the perfect time.

Recently I’ve been praying that the Lord would just let His perfect will be known to me. And in that moment, I felt Him speaking to me, showing me that when the time is right, He will reveal His will to me.

Yes, I’m thanking Christ for His perfect timing. Yes, I’m thanking Him for saving my worthless soul and using me to further His kingdom; as useless as I often feel. But I’m thanking my friends too. For humbling yourselves, and letting Jesus Christ use you. He uses you in my life so constantly. In verses shared, in thought-provoking blog posts, in heart-to-heart talks…

If He uses one as unlikely as I… then I know for a fact He uses people like you guys too. And I've been blessed to be on the receiving end of that use more times than I ever deserved.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Writing Meeting: 03/25/2014

We met at Jesse’s this time. I arrived in time for a steaming cup of tea. It was a cinnamon-chai blend which was delicious and perfect for winding down after a long day at work. Between the tea and my slippers I was pretty contented. We went over some of his stuff. Mostly just his prompt, which he posted here.

It’s a lovely piece. When I gave him the prompting noun, I made him promise me he’d write something happy or lively. His more depressing stuff has its place, but I wanted to read something that lifted my spirits a bit. He didn’t disappoint, and it’s a pretty little piece. It was much more of a challenge then I realized, I think. Not difficult to write, but difficult for him to break away from his norm and write something a bit different.

We passed prompts again and jotted down some additional ones, just because. Next meeting we’ll be going over some more of my stuff, so I’d best be prepared to bring some sustenance to our table. My short story is creeping along still, and I’m looking forward to heating things up with it and getting the drama going.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Prompt Response #3: That Long Road

The road was just an ordinary thing. Made of black asphalt with dashes of yellow running the length of it and dividing it in half. The hot sun baked down on me and I sweat. I sweat and damp patches clung to the underarms and the back of my shirt. The sweat dripped from my hair and my eye brows and ran down my cheeks and my chin. As I walked along this ordinary road, the sun baked down on the asphalt too, and that was some consolation. Not that the road deserved to suffer, but the sweat and heat were irritating and I needed someone or something to share my burden.
Every ten minutes or so a car would speed past. Most were headed the way I’d come, but every so often a car would rush past me headed to where I was going. When they did, I’d turn towards the car and stick my thumb out, hoping beyond hope that someone would pull off and let me ride. But car after car would only blast past, sometimes sounding their horns to warn me out of the way. A heavy-set man in a silver Buick, a cigarette sticking from his puffy lips. A blond girl in a red Honda, the music so loud I could hear the beats as she flew past. A boy in a Mustang convertible, giving me the finger; that dirty, dirty finger. I showed him mine too, but I doubt he noticed at all. Each passed me, rushing on to their destinations. Whether they were too nervous to let me in, or just didn’t care, I’d never know. It was unnerving to realize the few people who happened to share the road with me, who happened to be headed the same way, cared so little for just another guy living in the same crazy world they lived in too.
I had wanderlust. You might know the feeling, the one where you just have to get away from everything you know because you feel you’ll burst if you don’t. And you finally get away, and you realize this is all you wanted all along, even if you’ll have to face reality and let it all come to an end and live the life society has planned out for you. That summer I’d decided to pack a bag as full as I could, put on a new pair of denims and a tee-shirt, and meet the unknown on my own two feet.
So there I was, walking a road I’d never known, being blown aside by cars rushing past to fill in the pieces of their drivers’ busy lives. And the sun was baking me like a cookie on a cooking tray. I thought about how those cars were like portable worlds with their own environments so different from that outside the metal and rubber and glass. Inside of them it was safe and cool, but outside was cruel and hellish. They were bubbles of comfort floating in a den of pins and needles.
A black truck appeared on the horizon behind me and I turned and my thumb jerked out pleading, begging for the driver to slow and let me ride. The truck didn’t only slow, it stopped. The driver, a woman with sun glasses and a straw cowboy hat, looked nervously behind her before gesturing for me to come towards her car. The heat made her offer impossible to resist and I hurried to the passenger side of the car as she unlocked the door. As the door swung out, smells from the interior wafted to my nose and I climbed into the open seat. The truck, a Toyota Four-Runner, smelled like cigarettes and sweat and alfalfa-hay. She let off the clutch and brought the truck up to speed. A cassette player in the console played decade-old Bob Dylan songs and a rubber chicken swung from the rearview mirror. A paperback novel lay on the floor of the truck, the cover crumpled and bent. A Bradbury book.
“Hi,” I said, trying to break the ice and sounding nervous all at the same time.
She looked at me and smiled, my face reflecting in her sunglasses. “Hi,” she said too. “Sorry, this thing’s a piece of crap! The A-C doesn’t work in half the vents and a couple of the windows are stuck.” Then she shrugged and grinned. “But it runs, you know?”
I smiled and nodded. “Yeah,” was all I could manage to say in reply.
We rode in silence for a couple seconds, each one feeling like an awkward minute, until she spoke again. “So, where you headed?” Her face was thin and splotched consistently from daily sun exposure. Her blondish-brownish hair tumbled from the straw hat and disappeared between her back and the backrest to her seat in the car.
“Nearest town. It doesn’t really matter. I just needed to get off my feet and out of that heat.” I wiped a hand across my sweaty brow and ran it down my jeans. “Thanks for the ride. I really appreciate it.”
“So you’re running, huh?”
“No, not running. Kind of just wandering, you know? Seeing what I can before the opportunity’s gone.”
“I’ve been there,” she said as if she were talking past me and looking through me. The music from the stereo played on, a soundtrack to the sudden silence.
 “I hope you don’t mind,” she said, sticking a cigarette between her lips and flicking a lighter two, three times. The flame caught and licked at the end of the cigarette. She blew a trail of smoke out the window and turned to smile at me again. “I assumed you don’t want one, unhealthy habit you know.”
I grinned and shook my head. She was funny. “So, you traveled a bit?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she replied, pulling on the cigarette. “You could say that. Same as you too, just thumbing rides when I could. There’s a lot to see out there, and you kind of just have to get up and see it.”
I nodded. “Did you have a favorite place you visited?”
“Oh, all of Europe is so pretty, you know. It’d be impossible for me to choose just one place!” She said, smiling and placing a hand over her heart. “Some places here in the states are breathtaking too.”
“You saw Europe!” I exclaimed, my interest aroused. I’d expected her to have seen a bit of the US, but she hardly looked like a world traveler.
She nodded while her eyes remained ahead of her, on the road, on the distance; I couldn’t tell. “I loved every bit of it. I’m going back. I just am. I was cursed with a wanderlust feeling, and I just have to keep moving if I want to be happy. There are other places I need to visit too. And I will. Anyway, what about you? Is this your first time out and about?”
“Yeah,” I replied, feeling a little overshadowed. “I’d so love to travel to other countries, but for now I’m just taking it easy.”
“You want to do something, you just have to do it, man. That’s how the world works. The earth spins on madly, never stopping. It never stopped for me, and it sure won’t stop for you. And all the while as it spins so endlessly, you just have to follow your dreams. Sometimes someday just has to be today.
I smiled as she said it, like it was true and she was reading what had been written on my heart. But I smiled and looked at her, and looked out the window and denied it.
“It’s not like that,” I said, laughing.
She looked at me, still smiling, and nodded. “Sure,” She said, blowing another puff of cigarette smoke from the car. “You can’t try to do things; you simply must do them. Ray Bradbury said that.”
“Bradbury? The author?” I asked, pointing to the crinkled paperback on the floor.
“Yeah.” She nodded. He also said ‘Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.’
I stared out the window; watching the vast, dry, sunburnt ground swoosh past to be left far behind. I thought about what she said. What the author Bradbury had said. I decided they were both right. I needed to make things happen if I wanted them.
“Well,” she said, “We’re here. The nearest town. It’s a small, trashy little place. Quite frankly, it’s a dump. But there’s a bus-stop here, and busses pass through all the time. You should be able to take a ride just about anywhere.”
The Toyota pulled past small, discolored, mismatched buildings. She drove the truck up to a gas station and parked beside one of the pumps.
I opened the door and stepped out onto the pavement. She hopped out as well and walked over to the pump. I turned to her and stuck out a hand. “Thanks again for stopping.” I said. “I’m Ben, by the way.”
“Candace.” She replied. “No trouble, it’s my pleasure.”
“Thanks all the same. I really appreciate it.” I said before I turned and headed towards the gas-station. I asked the guy at the counter if I could use their restroom and he pointed me towards a grimy room with a sink and a toilet. I dropped my backpack in a relatively clean spot beside the sink and relieved myself. When I washed my hands, I caught my own eyes in the mirror and they looked at me, so hungry for adventure, and so resolute for once. It was like they weren’t my own eyes after all. But they were.
I grabbed my bag and hurried back out to the pump, but Candace and the black Toyota were gone. In that moment, I wondered if I’d only imagined the whole thing. Like a desert mirage, or the hallucinations of a fatigued mind. A bus pulled into the small town; stopping beside a long bench. The doors swung open and passengers piled out before the few people waiting climbed on. The bus continued to idle as I watched. Then I heard someone calling, so I turned. It was the guy from the gas station.
“Dude. She came in while you were in the john.” He said, holding out something towards me. “She left this for you, though. Told me to make sure you got it.”
I took what he was holding out to me. It was the crumpled Bradbury paperback. I turned it over in my hands and found it was solid and real. I turned back the crinkled front cover and found writing scrawled in the inside flap. It read: Hope you follow you dreams. Make “someday” today.
I looked up from the book. The gas-station guy had walked back to his counter. The passengers from the bus had all dispersed. I shoved the book into my back pocket and sprinted for the bus; arriving just as the doors closed and the driver revved the engine. I rapped my knuckles on the door and caught the driver’s attention just as he was about to pull off. He rolled his eyes at me and scowled before throwing the lever and opening the door. I paid my fare and took my seat; pulling off my backpack.
As I settled into my seat, I peered out the tall window to my left. Thinking, dreaming about what the road before me held. Because that’s where I was headed. Candace had helped me make up my mind. Candace, in her black Four-Runner with its windows stuck and the vents that wouldn’t blow air. And her paperback of Bradbury; now my paperback of Bradbury. The both of them had ganged up on me, outnumbering and overpowering me. And now I knew that long, long road ahead of me would only be the beginning.
(Written in response to prompt “Road”)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Writing Meeting: 03/12/2014

Jesse came to my place for this meeting. We sat around my desk each with a copy of my most recent writings and a bottle of soda apiece. My short story is coming along nicely. I'm setting things up to get drastic and the characters are interacting and gearing up. Kind of dramatic, but it's meant to be that way and I like where it's going. Minor typo here, grammar misuse there... but as a whole we thought it was a strong piece. What I love about these meetings, is they help structure our writing. They assist in giving us inspiration to write hard for the next couple weeks so we have something to bring to the table. Although, I find myself writing more and more, not out of peer pressure, but just because I love putting words to paper so much.

The best bit of these meetings is the ability to bounce ideas off one another. We make suggestions, which are free to be ignored or taken upon, but it really just gets the gears and cogs turning in our heads.

His piece is still coming. He tried some new stuff with it, and I really love it as much as I ever could. It's got to be one of my favorite pieces from him, just because its utterly charming. So stinkin' relatable, and the writing's phenomenal. I'm happy for him, and excited to see where he takes this.

Also, I'm still working on my next writing prompt. It's the word "Road" and the first concept that I thought of is the one I'm still writing up. It should be finished soon, though, as I attach the final bits, so I'll be posting that soon.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Writing meeting: 02/25/2014

I love total honesty. Not holding anything back, not being afraid of what others might think. A bold, uncaring straightforwardness. In the retail industry, there is no such thing. Employees dance around tough and important issues, doing their best to accept anyone and everyone, because no matter what race, what religion, what sexual preference... you have money, and for me to keep my job I need that money to go to the fat cats sitting high in corporate positions. People who work retail are expected to lick boots, no matter how filthy, because lickin' boots puts money in the registers.

And I've been swept into that dustbin, too. I long to be honest. I long to draw an ugly, barbaric knife and repeatedly stab the false and cowardly heart that replaces my true feelings when I don the jester's mask. I want that heart to bleed, to bleed and halt its pulse and die outright forever. But it lives and I pin it to my chest every time I leave my home full of straight-up honesty and enter the mummer's farce of retail. I wear the ugly curling smile that says: "I accept you! Buy this, it will make you happy!" When in my heart, deep down and undetectable it really screams: "You're a disgrace to humanity! I hate what you stand for, and who you are!"

Don't get me wrong. For what it's worth, I do like where I work. Most of my coworkers are nice people who I care for, and who care for me. But to be brutally honest, I am exhausted by the deceit to ourselves and to others that the entirety of retail stands to be.

At writing meeting. We are honest. When a compliment is paid, we know it's straight from the heart. And when criticism is belched forth, that too has its place. And is heeded, or disregarded in the name of truth to each other, to ourselves, to our works...

We met at Jesse's again for writing meeting. After an evening of work, it's heaven to sit with a warm mug of tea in hand and some heartfelt words on paper. Nothing manufactured, nothing mass-produced... just honest writing full of human error. It's a beautiful piece he's working on, one that was hard to tear at because it's so great. All I want him to do is work on it and work on it so he can finish this section and I can read it as a whole.

It was hardly the most... productive of meetings. But it definitely served its purpose. It was an evening of honesty... and a delightful one at that.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Writing meeting: 02/04/2014

I haven't done a very good job in chronicling our writing club's meetings very well. I'm hoping to get back to highlighting what we talk and discuss and be better at posting about our meetings more periodically.

This evening we met at my writing buddy's house, to share a cup of tea and go over my short story. I'd only written a couple pages since last we'd met and gone over it, but we dig pretty deep and find some bits that need some work. I fixed them all on the spot, forcing inspiration to help me with the repairs. It wasn't a bad meeting at all. We kept on topic fairly well, except for a couple small instances, and spoke primarily on writing, our goals with our short stories. Unlike last meeting, we neither spoke of nor reviewed poetry.

One thing that struck me the hardest was the delightful taste of Harney and Sons Vanilla flavored tea. Well that, and the wealth of story that I'm constantly suppressing within me. If I'd just dedicate more of my free time to sitting down and belching those stories or parts of stories into the open, I feel I'd be more encouraged concerning my writing.

We discussed the book we're both reading, although not extensively because I've nearly finished it and he's only just started it. wouldn't want to give too much away, as it's a fantastic story best experienced as the author intended and spoiler-free.

Next meeting we'll be going over his short story. He's primarily been doing research for background info, so it ought to be an immersive segment and I'm really looking forward to reading what he writes.

As for me... I'll just keep chugging and getting this story onto paper. When the words do come, they come furiously, so it's just a matter of dedicating myself to getting it written. And nights like these as well as input from peers is immensely encouraging.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Caleb and Jono's excellent snowy adventure

Yesterday, my friend Jono and I went to the nearest ski-resort to carve up the mountainside. He's an avid skier and I'm a rookie snowboarder so one might think only the fiercest of rivalries would exist between us. On the contrary, Jono's a true bro, and our chumminess only grows as we enjoy creation by rushing down the sides of mountains in powdery fluffiness. We're snow buddies for life.
I live just under an hour away from prime ski terrain, so Jono spent the night at our place, and then we left early Saturday morning to reach the slopes when they opened. We could not have chosen a better day to spend on the mountain. Once the sun had climbed high enough in the sky to peer over the mountains, its luminous immensity shone across the snow, sparkling and reflecting from the expanses of sheer white powder. It had only recently snowed, so everything was capped with a new coat of dry, powdery snow. Conditions could not possibly be more perfect. It was, in a word, fantastic.
Jono forgot his snow-pants though... luckily for him some mutual friends were also going boarding that day, so he borrowed a pair from them.
Hour after hour passed, but we barely noticed. All we drank in were the spectacular views and the fantastic rushes we received from our rides down the mountain. It was a breathtaking afternoon.
View from the car. The sun's rays were just hitting the mountain...
Different angle, different view, same breathtaking beauty...

Jono, excited about the hand-warmers he's holding...

Horsing around before the snow-pants arrived...

Snow buddies.

More gorgeous landscape.

The powder was so luscious...

A lift drop-off. It was really hard to get off of... for me...

Taking in the beauty of creation before hitting the slopes.

The snowboard-bum life suites me.

Yes, I wear gloves under my mittens. It gets cold!

Before strapping on my bindings and dropping in...

Unfortunately the day ended rather harshly. The drive started well, it was relaxing and we listened to the Killers, which was splendid. But then traffic was a monster and we were both thoroughly exhausted when we got back. Nonetheless, it was an enormously fun day.