2.22.2019

Big Changes (pt 2)

So, I mentioned in the last post that I didn’t intend for this to be a two part post, but by the time I was getting into the meat of the last post, the weight of what I had experienced Tuesday night and Wednesday night had just plopped down on me like an old dog that doesn’t want to be on the walk anymore. 

That’s not to say, though, that the events don’t merit more discussion. They absolutely do. Not only did I find some amazing insight into the human condition (I see you, Jason. The humanity in me SEES the humanity in you), but I got some insight into who I am as a person AND who I am as a white man in today’s society. It was, to say the least, some pretty heady shakubuku (I pull, of course, from the Grosse Pointe Blank interpretation of this being a swift, spiritual kick to the head). And this week was chock full of it. 

Today was the last day of a seven year stint with Micro Center. It has been a wonderful experience. I don’t have anything bad to say about the company or the people I worked for. It’s not that I am afraid to burn bridges, it’s just that to be honest, I’m leaving because things sucked. Could things have been better? Sure. Some things could have definitely been better. But in all, it was a good gig. I learned a lot, and I grew as a person. 

I am a different person than I was 7 years ago, though, and I’m at a different place in my life. So, it’s time to move on. The gig I’m going to is going to give me more of a stable schedule and absolutely zero on-call. 

And that’s huge. 

There will still be travel, albeit with enough forewarning that I can still schedule my life around it. It’s a good thing.  A very good thing. 

And now, we come to a common theme in my life. When soemthing good is happening to me, I get concerned. For some reason, I grew up thinking that if something good was happening in my life, it was either a mistake, or something bad was going to happen. The other shoe would drop and balance things. And I’m not sure when that actually happened. Somethings in my life I can tell you the exact moment it happened. I can look at a facet of how I am wired and tell you the exact moment that fertilized the egg of that particular brand of weirdness in my wiring. But this one—I have no idea where it came from. 

One of the fucked up side-effects of this particular internal wiring, is that I put up with the shitty things much longer than I should because, you know, if it’s shitty-I probably did something somewhere, in this lifetime or another, to deserve it. 

Isn’t that weird? I look at that last paragraph and it strikes me how messed up it is. If something good is happening, I totatly don’t deserve it, but if it’s a bad thing, then, yup. I totally had that coming to me. 

It probably comes from spending too much time alone and only in my head. 

Where was I? Right. The amazing week. At the dinner party Wednsday, I got to spend some quality one on one time talking to Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, separately. And I just opened myself right up to them. I told them both how the book messed me up. How it really messed me up. I told them what it was like growing up and remembering with clarity the first time I noticed a difference in skin color.  About the first time I ran from the police as a teen. And how as an adult, I recognize that the experiences I had were very different from Jason’s. But to both of them I said this, and meant it from my heart. I was not the same person when I finished All American Boys as I was when I started it. I don’t know how anyone could be the same person. If they were reading the book with an honest and open heart (and trying themselves to answer the reading discussion questions at the end of the book), there was no way someone could come out of that book as the same person. 

Another thing that made the evening very interesting is that my friend, who helped get the grant money for Jason and Brendan’s Ohio tour, would introduce me as a writer. And this is my friend Todd. He’s also a writer.  Or, He’s a writer.

And I didn’t feel like a poser. When the hostess gave a speech later that evening thanking the writers in the room for what they do, for the gifts they give the world by their writing, I didn’t think Yeah thank you writers. I hope I can do that one day.  

No. I thought to myself, Wow. What I write matters. And I’m among some amazing company right now. My peer group in this room is incredible.

No imposter syndrome. OK. Not as much imposter syndrome. Very little, in fact. After talking to both Jason and Brendan, I have no doubt that we are going to become and remain friends. Maybe that’s their vibe. Maybe everyone they meet feels that way because the are both such genuine, amazing men. 

But I can’t help but think that there’s more here. That I will be counting them as peers. 




From Brendan: Todd, Here’s to your heart and your work-we need you!

From Jason: Todd, Thank you for your honesty!





Having a signed book is one thing, but these words are from two people who, in the span of an evening knew me and what was on my heart, because I was honest with them about how their work changed me. 



And for the first time in a long time, I didn’t have a thought about the other shoe dropping. 

Life is going really well right now. 

I start a new job Monday that has the potential to actually make a major difference in peoples’ lives. Along with that, I will have the ability to develop a fixed schedule for my writing. And my off-work time will be mine. 

Some days I wonder if the other shoe will drop, but for now, I’m rolling with it. 

Things are good. My life is good. I’m blessed by the people in my life. I am greateful for the opportunities that have come my way (many having done so because of the people in my life). 

It’s a good place to be.

I’m not the same man I was a year ago. 

And that’s a good thing. 

And only getting better.

The weather forecast is ‘falling shoes doubtful.’

Here’s to you and hoping you have an amazing weekend my friends. 

-Todd




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.21.2019

Big Changes (pt.1)

Stunned.

That's about the best word for what I'm feeling right now. And not stunned in the 'I just found out my wife prefers women' kind of way.  More of the "when I really take stock in what's truly been happening in my life recently, it's pretty amazing' kind of way.

Now before I get too deep into this, let me just say for the record. My wife did not come to me telling me that she prefers women. If she had, I'd probably be in a whole different place in my life right now and it would be where I am. It would be, well, different. And that would suck, because the likelihood of the events of the last 4 days unfolding the way they did would be slim, at best.

Last week, maybe 2 weeks ago, a friend asked me if I wanted to be her +1 to a dinner party with New York Times Bestselling authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. There would be other authors there, too. As well as teachers, librarians, and other friends and family. I will be honest - I hadn't read either of these two authors. Nor had I read anything by the other authors that she mentioned.

However, I just recently finished Cal Newport's book on Digital Minimalism and there is an underlying current in that book of making better use of our free time to foster face-to-face interactions and experiences. I remembered reading of Thoreau walking into town to attend social gatherings, or lectures--anything but sitting at home being bored.

I am not either of those men. But I still said yes. And then this past Sunday (4 days before the party was to take place), I purchased this book:


I started reading it. And I couldn't put it down. Trust me, there were times I wanted to. This was not a comfortable book to read. I later learned that it wasn't meant to be (but I don't want to skip ahead).

As a mostly straight, white, male, in his mid-40's in middle-America, I can tell you flat out that this book fucked with me. I laughed. I cried. I was angry. I was ashamed. I saw myself. I saw my friends. I saw the first black person I ever met way back in elementary school.

And when I was done reading it. ALL of it. From cover to cover. When I was done reading all of it, I had to sit there.

It would have been so easy to dismiss what I was feeling. The benefit of white privilege is that I can treat things like this like the refrigerator light. When the door is open, the light is on and it's kind of hard to ignore the fact that there is a lightbulb in the fridge, but when the door is closed - the lightbulb is out. Out of sight, out of mind. EVERYONE knows there's a friggin' light bulb in the refrigerator. But we don't talk about it.

But I couldn't do that. Not with this book. I had to sit with it. I had to let the emotions wash over me. Through me. I had to feel. I had to acknowledge the fact that feeling all of these feelings was the first step in having the conversation about the refrigerator light bulb.

Only it isn't really a refrigerator lightbulb, is it? It's a conversation about racism and white privilege and systemic racism and police brutality. It's a conversation that our children are living every day.
They are having the conversation without us. Only it's not just a conversation for them. It's their lives.

To say this book was powerful and had an impact on me would do it a disservice. This book changed me. And suddenly I couldn't wait for Wednesday when I could thank the two men that wrote this book in person for the impact they had on my life with this amazing tale that obviously had so much of them in its pages.

So, Tuesday rolls around and I get a text from my friend.

"Do you have plans tonight?"

I didn't.

Turns out Jason and Brendan were giving a talk at the Hilliard branch of the Columbus Library and she could get me in to see them speak.

I was in.

And after listening  to them talk about how they met, how they came to the idea of writing this book, and just the sheer differences in their worlds--the book became even more powerful.

Here were a some of the takeaways from last night's library talk.

'Black' and 'White' are not slurs. They are descriptors. Get past that. 

You can't truly love without brutal honesty

It is impossible to write the story without putting yourself into it. 

The only way to write an inauthentic book is if you lie to yourself. 

Every bit as powerful as what Jason and Brendan said, though, were the questions from the students in the audience. That was what was truly humbling. These kids get it. And for now they are looking to us to help. But we have to meet them somewhere...either all they way where they are, or at least close to where they are. They won't meet us where we are. Our world is foreign to them. We have to go to their world.

This book was a window into that world. You need to read it. Because we need to talk about it.

Seriously.

This was originally not going to be a split post, but the full weight of the night I just had (it's Wednesday, for the record) has just landed on me and I need to just kind of get some of it on me, as it were. I need to let some of the things that happened tonight wash over me and I need to take a beat and pause.

There is more to this conversation, dear friends and fam. And if things go the way I think they will tomorrow, I'll have some free time in the afternoon to tell you about it.

Until then, go get the book. Read it. Finish it.

Seriously--you'll thank me.  Ok, honestly, you'll probably be pissed at me on some level. I'm OK with that. You need to read this book.

-Todd

2.10.2019

Obvious Atheist or Clever Christian?


I was driving home from work the other day. From a job that will be on my list of places that I used to work starting February 22nd. Yes, I said it. I'm leaving the company I currently work for and will be starting a new job on the 25th. If you happen to be reading this and also happen to be a current co-worker, do us a favor and keep it to yourself for a bit, yeah?

Now, yeah, on the way home, I found myself behind this Cooper Mini and had a few thoughts going through my head. First, the car.



Rather than feel annoyed by the car moving slowly, I found myself focused on the meaning behind the plate. There really wasn’t any ambiguity in the text of the plate. And as.  Is my nature, when things are too easy, I tend to overthink. And that led me to the thinking of what it could mean. Was it the license plate of an Obvious Atheist or a Celver Christian? The front runner, of course, is the obvious atheist. Declaring that there is no god. Seems a bit pedestrian, although, I can think of a few people with the means to drive Mini’s that might just be willing to slap it in the face of the fine church-goers of a buckle hole on the Bible Belt.

My favorite theory, though, is that it’s actually some Christian using it as a conversation starter. I mean, imagine rolling into the church potluck in this little gem. So, you might be asking yourself why I thought it was a Clever Christian (maybe even a youth pastor at one of those big mega-we-don’t-sing-hymns-like-a-regular-church-but-still-want-your-tithes Churches.  I wouldn’t have thought that if it wasn’t in front of me.

The atheist would get the plate and expect someone to call it out. “There’s no god.” As in there goes the car with the license plate ‘NO GOD.’

But the clever Christian is counting on someone to talk about them from behind.
“There’s No God before me.”

Yeah? Since the car was in front of me, it was before me. No God was before me. So, I’m stopped at a traffic light laughing at how the license plate actually got me thinking of the 10 Commandments. That’s when I figured it had to be one crafty christian to pull that shit off.

And then I drove home.

There are 9 more drives home from the current job. It’s exciting. I’m sure that when they finally announce it sometime this week I will have more to say, but for now, I got nothing that I really want to go into about it. Other than the job will be challenging and I think it’s going to be a good fit for where I am in my life right now. And, it’s going to give me more time to be able to devote to my writing.

All of these are good things.

Speaking of that, I need to feck off and do some more of that. I’ve got a lot to right in 3 weeks if I’m going to meet my goal of having my first draft done by the next NEORWA meeting.

With that, I bid you good evening, fair visitors of SkaggleRock.

-Peace,
AT


...


2.03.2019

The Winds of Change

Well, if the title of this post has you whistling a Scorpions song, you’re welcome. If not, go ahead and check it out on the YouTubes. I am not foolish enough to think that you’ll thank me for it, but at least one of us will get a chuckle out of it.

I’m sitting here in the TV room after what I can only describe as an amazing day. In some ways, it was a continuation of last night, which ended in hot, chocolate glazed Krispy Kreme donuts (only available on the first Friday of the month) and binge watching Orphan Black.

I got up this morning (way too early) to head to Cleveland for a monthly meeting of the North East Ohio chapter of the RWA (Romance Writers of America). They give workshops each month. This month’s workshop was on free graphic tools for authors given by none other than my Bestie, USAToday and New York Times Bestselling Author, Monica Corwin.

So not only was it a good chance to learn about graphics, but it was a road trip with my bestie.

I got a call from work today while we were on our way up to the City that Rocks. I’ll go into details on that in a later post. OR maybe I won’t.  That remains to be seen. Probably not, but suffice it to say that it, too, was one of the things that led me to conclude how amazing today actually was.

After the workshop, I had lunch with some of the authors from the group. It was a great lunch, and some good discussion.

Afterward we stopped over to a friend’s birthday party/game day and got our tabletop action on.

When I got home, I saw that a package I had been waiting on had arrived. It’s this dope keyboard case for the iPad. It’s called the NewTrent Astroslide Star or something like that. It got mostly good reviews, but it does seem to be doing a little double tapping thing, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of charging it and dialing in the sensitivity.

I’m pretty stoked about it.

So, the day, in short, was a rather good day.

I have hinted about some changes afoot in my life. And I can’t quite go into details fully yet, because of some people that may yet surprise me by actually reading this blog.

I see this day as a harbinger. But a good harbinger, not like a harbinger of doom or anything like that, but a sign that some recent decisions have been the right one. I love it when the universe pops in and is all like, “hey-remember that thing you weren’t 100% sure you should do? Yeah. That one. You should totally do it.”

Those feelings are the best. It’s been a while since I’ve had one to this degree, so it’s a bit overwhelming still.

Again, I apologize for the vagueness of the ‘thing’ that is afoot. But, it will become abundantly clear soon.

Alright, I’m going to go charge this keyboard. The extra keystrokes are kind of annoying me at this point.

Peace Out my friends!
-AT

1.30.2019

And I Shall Be Filled With An Endless Sense of Wonder

Some days I wake up and I don't recognize my life. I see the things around me and it is as though I have stepped into a dream. A story. A movie that I somehow stepped into. It's odd. It's like I know that it's a movie I wrote the screenplay for. Or at least it's the book that the movie screenplay was adapted from. 

I read about other authors from days gone by. Authors that I have grown up falling headfirst into their worlds. I wonder what they would have done if they had had the benefit of putting their words out into the ether for all to see. 

Sometimes I think it's probably a good thing that we don't have ready access to laudanum in the same way the authors and creatives of the past did. 

It's a weird thing, to be honest. And maybe that's why the 7 of you that still come here, I'm too honest. It's not like it was on Facebook, where everything is all shiny glitter and unicorn farts. No, here is where sometimes the blood actually gets on the keyboard and slips onto the screen. 

Have you ever been in a situation and you've been in it so long that you don't really see it for what it is? You see it for what you think it is, or what you have come to believe it is. I think that I do that. It's got to be some kind of defense mechanism. I did it in both marriages. And if I'm being honest, I've done it in many of my jobs, too. 

I can't go into to too much detail right now, mostly because I don't want to fuck anything up, but suffice it to say, I'm in one of those phases in my life right now where I am looking closely at the details of the background. The things that blended in and became the everyday. Those things. The things that when you really take the time to look are actually the things that make the beauty. 

Yes, I know it's somewhat bloated of me to think that a) anyone really gives two rips and that b)....shit. What was b? I forget. 

I won't lie. There is a part of me that has seen dreams or visions in which I am actually an author of some renown. Of course, the other part of that is, I actually need to get off my ass and get back into the writing of the books, eh?

I'm in the middle of a change in my life. It's a good change. Or at least it has the potential to be. 

Did I mention I sometimes overthink things?

Well, it's true. I do. But I'm putting that to the side for the next week or so (if I can, no promises--it's kind of a horked up noggin).

In other news, the house is actually...well...looking like a house now. All the rooms are actually sorted and usable. It's kind of really good. And I can't really describe how good it feels to have rooms that feel like rooms instead of storage containers. 

It has been an epiphany of sorts. There's more really to go into, but for now, I think I need to dial it back a bit.

I mean, after all I have a book to finish (and another). I also have the recording area to wire up. And...yeah...all this and we're on the eve of a ball-blistering cold day coming on.

Nope, you're totally right. There really wasn't much to this post other than making sure I didn't go to bed without putting some words down. Such as they are. 

1.06.2019

Dealing With The Inner Critic

There is a long and storied tradition that writers have to be tortured or crazy. Or any sullied variation that deals with being plagued by demons of all sorts.

I know plenty of writers that this holds true for. I think I know of a couple where this doesn’t.

But I’m not really here to talk about them. And you’re not here to read about them. Or, maybe you are. I’m not sure. There is a slight chance that you happened upon this blog by mistake. And, that’s OK. I get it. Happens to the best of us.  I have shelves full of un-opened Scentsy bars for a similar reason. At least that’s what I tell myself.

Here’s the deal, though. Eh.

Or is it?

I struggle with this sometimes. I struggle with how real I want this blog to actually be. I think the danger of someone actually finding out I’m human has decreased significantly since I left Facebook. There was a time in the not so distant past when I would bare my soul, or at least the part of it that I don’t mind sharing with the world. I would come up with some clever title for it and I would put that out there on the book of face. And some of you would see it. I think I got over 200 views on a post or two. It helped me feel like someone was actually reading my stuff, or caring about me as a person. Or both. Both? Both. Both is good.

Not, that’s not to say that I don’t have people in my life who think I’m human or people who care for me. If that was your takeaway, please. Don’t be silly. I know better. Most of the time.

Yeah, most of the time.

There are times, though, where things don’t seem to fire quite right up there in the old brain bucket and I feel like in a crowd of a thousand people, I am alone in the universe.  That feeling usually doesn’t last. I’m a lucky son of a bitch because my best friend is my roommate. And she has this knack for helping me get out of my own way. She usually doesn’t know when she does it and when I thank her she gives me this weird, confused look and the conversation usually ends with one of us being called a dork. Spoiler alert—it’s usually me.

I overthink things. A lot. I learned not too long ago that that is actually a side effect of the general anxiety disorder that I have. Oh.I also learned that I have a general anxiety disorder. The hard part is knowing that this happens and finding myself unable to stop it.

Take today for example. Before I went to bed last night, I made a list of things I wanted to do on Sunday, including some people that I wanted to spend time with. I got up, had breakfast, and prepared to set out. I hit the remote start on the car, grabbed my stuff and headed out.   When I got to the car, I noticed that it wasn’t running. No big deal. Happens sometimes. I know that the 10 minutes runtime that the car gives you before you have to put the key in can sometimes go quicker than I think. Got in, put the key in, and turned the starter.

The car made the sound of an asthmatic yeti and still did not start. I tried several more times, to no avail.  There was much cursing. This, apparently, also does not contribute to resolving problems of a mechanical nature.

The day was going off the rails, and quickly. People were notified, plans were cancelled. I found a battery charger in the garage (because damn near everything is in the garage, or in one of the many closets in this house. If I didn’t know better, I’d say J.K. Rowling herself fashioned the Hogwarts Room of Requirements after the many closets and garage of the Gallifrey Annex.

I digress. I connected the charger, after making sure I wasn’t going to blow up the car.  Insert some additional cursing. Again, no mechanical miracle borne of fitfully thrown obscenities. I checked 10 minutes later and the asthma seemed to be a better, but the car still wouldn’t start.

I made a grocery list. Hey, don’t judge me. Oddly enough, I find grocery shopping with a list resets my noodle. I make a list of things. I put the estimated prices of said things. I then go grocery shopping with the fervor of a Price Is Right contestant.

I borrowed the roomie’s car and hit the grocery store.

Today was a good day. With what I had on my list, I estimated that I would spend $100 of my $100 budget for this pay-period’s groceries. I came in at $89. Not too shabby. Oh, sure, I was over, so I would have lost the Showcase Showdown, but that’s OK. I definitely would have made it that far.

If you’ve made it this far and are wondering what this all has to do with the Inner Critic, you’re in luck, because I’m about to tell you.

Not much.

No, ok. That’s not quite true. It has more to do with the overthinking and the hard time I have with making plans and having them go sideways.

I get that there are things I can’t control. And I get that there are things that I need to learn to let go.

Logically I get all of that.

But today went sideways with a big side of fuck you. Consequently nearly everything I had on my list to work on today is just chilling. I might get to some of it tomorrow after work. I might not.

And that’s OK.

The important thing is that I’m writing. I had a goal this month of getting some words in every day. If they were part of the work in progress, cool. A blog post? Awesome. Tweets? OK I guess, but I’m probably not counting it toward my word count goal.

So, here we are. Groceries put away. And the car has had 3 hours to charge.

I start it...more wheezing, as it is about to give its death rattle, I give it some gas. And then some more. I give it enough gas that the exhaust is a little angry with me (and now the mystery of why my throat feels raw is not such a mystery now).

And it stays running.

I let it run for a bit and then decide to take it to my local auto place to see if they can run diagnostics on the engine. They can. For a fee. And it might not be today. That doesn’t work for me. I head back to the car and cross my fingers.

It starts right up.

And it does so for about 8 more times. It’s as though nothing happened.

Sure, I’m pleased. The day is still spun sideways, but I’m feeling a little better.

Until I see the writing calendar on my wall. There’s a big fat nothing on the day for yesterday.

And here’s where the inner critic, and perhaps some personal wisdom come into play.

I know that if let another day go without putting down any words, then it will become easier to not write. You see, at the moment, it’s kind of hard to not write. I need to write. I need to let those thoughts, disjointed and cracked-out though they may be, I still need to put them on the page.

That inner critic was waiting for me to skip another day. I mentioned something about not hitting my words yesterday to my roomie and she said, with no hint of judginess, “So? Yesterday was Saturday. Give yourself one day off a week.”

Makes sense. And it helped spin the day back around.

And here we are. Thing about that inner critic is this. They usually don’t know shit. Find yourself someone whose opinion you trust more than the opinion of your inner critic.

It can make all the difference in the world as far as your creative endeavors are concerned.

The other thing I’m trying to be better about is sleep. So, with that my friends, I bid you a good evening.

Peace,
-AT

1.04.2019

A Brief History of The Feels

I had a thought tonight as I finished watching "The Theory of Everything." If you have not seen this movie yet, find the time to watch it. If you don't walk away from the movie a changed person with a little more insight into humanity, then watch it again-obviously you missed something the first time. That wasn't the thought, though. No, the thought was something I would tell my younger self (and younger just means "Todd that is before Present Todd" See---Younger Todd sounds better, doesn't it?

It would go a little like this.,

Dear Younger Todd,
When given the chance, always kiss the girl. There will be doubt. When the doubt clouds everything and threatens to shut you down at your core, when it threatens to steal your words, when it turns your hands into a damp washcloth on a mid-summer Ohio River afternoon, you must absolutely, if given the chance, kiss the girl. The kiss will kill doubt. For that one instant. Not for ever. But for that kiss. For that one to 17 timeless seconds, doubt will be gone.

Hold on to that time, that memory, those seconds without doubt. Call them to the foreground when doubt and fear fill your head and heart with lies. And if necessary, kiss the girl again. 

Do this until your first reaction when faced with doubt and fear is a lingering memory of an amazing kiss.  This is your armor. The lips - your shield. 

Dear Older Todd,
Same thing still applies, old man. 


Present Todd


I  have a few memories like this. I must admit that I didn't think to use them as armor until tonight. Did I mention it was an amazing movie? Well, it is.

I had a goal this month to get words in every day. I didn't worry about a word count for this goal--it seemed to me that a count goal might be a little too intimidating. So the deal is just to write. Whatever. Backstory, front story, bloggy blog blog posts, research posts from the library (sorry, I just finished watching The Librarians). Anything. Words. It didn't matter. Just that they got written.

I thought about incorporating art into that. If I do a digital painting (or a real one), does that count toward my words (not sure these pictures are worth a thousand words. Is that even still a thing?).

Anyway, here are the two pieces of art I created in 2019 so far:

I like both of them for different reasons, but I like the fact that light is rising. Seems that what I've been needed to see--the light. The weeds growing where nothing did. Greenery on the sheer face of the rock.

Proof that light brings life, always.

There’s more to say on this, but I’m tired. And I’m doing a better job about listening to my body this year.

Goodnight friends,
-AT

Big Changes (pt 2)

So, I mentioned in the last post that I didn’t intend for this to be a two part post, but by the time I was getting into the meat of the las...