5.07.2019

The Kindness of Strangers

This post is going to be a little bit all over the place. If you know me, you are probably used to that by now. If you don't know me, welcome. My name is Todd. I'll be your slightly insecure author and docent on this tour of randomness we call Todd's Mind.

I am going to get a little real, and probably a little raw here today. I would normally be terrified of that. Of exposing myself to the world at large. But in looking at the stats for this blog in the 22weeks or so since I've left Facebook, the reality, I'm exposing myself to about 10 of you. Less if some of you come back and re-read some of the posts. So...yeah. Here goes.

I can count on 1 finger the number of times including today where I have run out of gas. Not talking about pulling into the gas station on vapors, but actually having the car die and coast to a stop because that life-giving dead dinosaur juice was no longer in the tank.

One time.

Today.

It's my own fault. I don't like to admit when I've done something stupid. OK, that's not entirely true. I will admit to it if I can do it in a self-deprecating, yet charming way that somehow endears me more to you. Then I totally will. We can laugh about it. I can tell you that I thought putting flame thrower backpack on bearded dragons would help them become real dragons and how could I have been so stupid. And you'd tell me that no, it's fine because you really didn't like that heirloom sofa and matching doily set all that much anyway and after 500 years of being in the family, it was time for something new. Maybe from IKEA. And we'd laugh, and dodge bearded dragons.

THAT kind of stupid I can roll with.

The kind of stupid where there are built in safeguards (at least 2) and that could have been avoided, I hate admitting to. But I'm going to anyway.

I ran out of gas today. Full on ran out. The car was like 'hey...I'm tired. I'm going to just slow down here and take a little nap, is that cool? No? Oh. Well, I'm doing it anyway. Goodnight.'

And then the engine died. And the car coasted. I was able to steer it to the side of the road. About 1/4 from the gas station that I was heading to anyway.

But Todd, how could this have happened? You're a relatively smart man. What gives?

Glad you asked, italicized plot device.

Because I was stupid and didn't pay attention.

The low fuel light came on last night (the first warning). This meant I was getting low on gas. It probably came on as I was heading to bowling. I, in all likelihood, ignored it-thinking I could get gas in the morning. So I drove to bowling. Yellow warning light. Drove home from bowling. Yellow warning light. I drove to work. Yellow warning light AND estimated miles remaining shifts from a number to the word LO (the second of the two can't miss methods for remining me that it's time for gas.

I think hubris and pride got in the way. I was thinking that there was no way I could run out of gas. I was thinking that I had done the math way better than the computer. In the car. The one specifically designed to tell me how much fuel is left (more on that in a moment).

So I coasted to the side of the road. I called my roommate to let her I know I would be late. I called Roadside assistance. They told me an hour.

Then I see a guy across the street (the 7 lane street) with two kids shouting at me, trying to ascertain why I parked where I did. I was finally able to communicate that I was out of gas. He shouted that he was going to bring me some gas and then walked away with his kids.

Forever and 27 minutes later, he pulled up behind me and pulls a gas can from his trunk. I sheepishly accept his help and mention that this has never happened. He smiles and tells me that it happens to everyone and that I'll probably pay better attention next time. This isn't said in a condescending way and I didn't take it as a dig. It was a conversation filled with kindness and concern, and gratitude. I was grateful he decided to help. He was thankful that it was just me being out of gas, because he could help with that.

I offered to pay him for the gas. He shook my hand and said No, sir. I started choking up, and he said that I can just pay it forward.

Then I got in the car and wiped the tears from my eyes. He put the gas can in the car, waited to make sure I was OK then he and his kids went on their way.

I immediately pulled into the gas station that was less than 1/4 mile away from where my car stopped and filled the tank the rest of the way.

I am quite grateful for the kindness of that stranger today.

Also, I'm a little pissed. At me. And at my car.
And here's why.

First off, I know better. I knew I was close to fumes as I was coming home. I passed 4 gas stations because I wanted to get to the gas station that I knew had the cheaper prices.

Secondly, I made a few extra stops in a vehicle that I knew was running low on fuel (remember, I had 2 different warning indicators to that effect).

 Those first two are reason enough to be at the very least, annoyed with myself. But the third pissy annoyance I blame on the car. Or more specifically, the car manufacturer.

Queue nostalgia music that lets you know that an old fart is about to say something completely self-serving about the way things were back in their day.

So back in my day, when I was first learning to drive, all the way through until, well-this car actually, the fuel gauge on a car was just that. It was a manual/analog, physical indicator (usually a needle dancing somewhere between an E and an F to let you know approximately how much fuel was in your tank.

This was a good system. you can see that needle getting near E every time you get in the car. When you get below E and into the reserve tank, a warning light would come.

It worked. My whole life it worked. I never ran out of gas.

My current car has an electronic dash. The only actual needles are the speedometer and tachometer. The fuel indicator is set up to display the number of miles that I can drive before needing to put more gas in the car.

And that would be fine. If it worked.

It works most of the time. 
The times when it doesn't work, though, are a bit baffling. Firstly, the calculation to display how many miles of fuel are left is fuzzy. By that I mean when I fill up the tank, it will say that I have 300 miles worth of fuel left. I can then drive 15 miles on the highway. The number should go down to 285. It doesn't. It goes to 390 or something like that. So there is no one to one match up.

And then when it hits the damn LO portion, I can't do any calculations at all at that point. I know it's the expectation of the car manufacturer that everyone is going to immediately to the gas station to fill back up. Only life doesn't work that way.

I need there to be a needle. Or a percentage of fuel. And it can't disappear and go to a fuzzy work like LO.

But that's not going to happen. So I need to be better about keeping gas in the tank.

Both in my car, and in my soul.

Fortunately for me, a stranger took time out of his day today to help me with both.

Peace,
-AT

4.28.2019

FOMO is Real AF

It’s been almost 30 years since I’ve had cause to look through the pages of the DSM. Back then I think it was the DSM-3. Now I think it’s up to 5. At the time I’m not sure they had a diagnosis for FOMO-heck, they still might not, but I can assure you it’s a very real thing.

FOMO - Fear Of Missing Out is a condition whereby otherwise sane and rational people do shit they wouldn’t normally do just to feel that they aren’t somehow missing out on something. It’s one of the primary reasons that Clickbait and email phishing works so well. Along with that is the theory of the info-gap. But for the purposes of keeping things straightforward for the three of you that still make your way over to this dank corner of my mind, we’ll stick with just talking about FOMO and save the whole info-gap theory for another time.

Back in the fall/winter of 2018, I listened to a podcast on the topic of digital minimalism. I was fascinated by the concept. I recognized some things in my own life that I thought might be able to be addressed by cutting back on some of my online vices.. I wrote a blog post about cutting back on my digital interactions and trying to build my in-person interactions more. To focus on the joy I felt when I was in the same room sharing a joke and a deep belly laugh and not just a thumbs up and LMFAO. I had a clear intent in mind when I wrote that post. It didn’t necessarily meet with the kind of reception that I had in mind. Some of my friends saw it as kind of  me saying ‘fuck you, I don’t wanna bother with our friendship if we can’t hang out in meatspace.’ I wasn’t really saying that. But that doesn’t really matter at this point. I think I have strained or damaged some friendships from that post. I don’t know what I need to do to repair them at this point. But again, that’s probably a topic for another time.

Along with the whole podcast, blog post, alienating friends thing... I fired another salvo of self-death in the cyber realm. I deactivated my Facebook account. Only I didn’t do it in the normal way where you post on your wall that you’re thinking of deleting your Facebook account and then a handful of your friends tell you not to do it. That they would miss you. That you brighten their day. That it’s easy to cut back and only look at it sometimes. That the addiction of having to see who liked your post and wondering if someone really likes you or just likes the convenience of your friendship on Facebook. No. I didn’t do any of that. I just quietly deactivated my account one Sunday in December. No bells. No fanfare. No thing. Doing so further strained some friendships. And downright ended others.

I reasoned that my friends were all perfectly capable of reaching out to me if they wanted to. What I got when they did, though, was a heavy dose of ‘why didn’t you tell me you were leaving?’ And a whole slew of other things. I’m not even going into this. Some of the emotions tied to some of these conversations is still a little too raw.

So here we are. It’s almost May. It’s almost six months of not being on Facebook. Here’s the rub...I’m actually thinking about getting back on. And that’s kind of eating me up inside.

First and foremost...Facebook Messenger is an asshole of an application. You see, apparently if you deactivate your Facebook account, the page is still there. Waiting for you to come back. ON that page is a button. People can message you. From the page you deactivated. I guess the tech turds at Zuckerberg Central figure that if you aren’t on their social media drunk, they can get you with that sweet, sweet FB Messenger wine. So...6 months into my indefinite FB hiatus and I’m sitting here wondering just how many people messaged me. How many people thought I was an asshole for not messaging them back.

Enter FOMO.

I am an obliger. A people pleaser by nature. I don’t want people to be upset. I want to keep the peace. The thought that I could have hurt people by simply being ignorant of the fact that they still had the capability of messaging me when I thought I was making a clean break is really fucking with me in ways I didn’t think possible. That’s the fear. The fear of missing out. What message did I miss? What declaration of love from some ardent admirer worshipping my creative genius from afar? OK, the likelihood of that last one is rare, but the sentiment is there. WHAT DID I MISS??I didn’t know that Messenger still worked. So now I feel guilty. I feel selfish. I feel like I let someone down. I don’t know who I would have let down. But clearly I did. 

Clearly there was something I missed.

And then there is the fact that there are some clear challenges and holes with not taking the FB Blue Pill. I still find myself smiling like an idiot when I’m am in a conversation containing the phrase “…did you see the post on Facebook…” No. I didn’t. Because I am a cyber-leper or some nouveau hipster Luddite. I am, in fact, none of those things. 

But there are some things I miss. I miss feeling a part of people’s lives, even in a peripheral way. Is it better to have that peripheral exposure than nothing at all? I’m not really sure yet. Some days I’m OK with it. Some days I miss the invitations…the discussions…the feedback when I posted something on my blog and had the sense from a blue thumb icon that someone either read the post or at least was happy that I could still write something—I’m still not sure which.

Now…because my mind just can’t let things go (I swear the meds are helping, but there probably isn’t a cure)…but because I can’t let things go, and some days I have super shitty self-esteem, the flip side of the whole I let someone down because I didn’t see all of their missed messagesfeelings is the fact that if I doreactivate my account and look at Messenger (or even just load the Messenger app), that there be nothing there. That no one will have reached out or missed me. Either because they were pissed I just left FB without telling them, or that they really just didn’t notice that I wasn’t on their feed any longer and I had such a zero sum impact on their life that it didn’t matter that I left.   The sad part is…there are some friends that I do still see in real life that I have that feeling about. That it’s just easier to not stay in touch with me. 

Yes. I know that this post is very focused on the Me of this. Well, I mean, it kinda makes sense, doesn’t it? I can’t really speak for anyone else (this doesn’t stop me from thinking through entire conversations playing the role of another person and coming up with the worst case scenarios).

I have thus far fought the urge to log back in. I have to remember why I walked away from Facebook. I spent too much time on the site. To be fair, I have come to learn through a recent job change, that part of that may have been because I secretly hated my job. Or at least strongly resented my job. I also left each session I spent on the site feeling like everyone else had their shit together and I’d never have a life worthy of someone else’s online envy. Also, I have to be honest about the fact that there is quite likely an addiction element, too..

I miss some groups I was a part of. I miss some conversations I had.  I would like to have those conversations in person. I also miss those things that I don’t know I have missed. 

It’s weird in my head, ok?

I’m not going to log in. I’m not going to check the messages (or lack of messages) in messenger. If you messaged me, I’m sorry. I didn’t see it. I don’t know when I will see it. Probably never. I’m probably also going to forget your birthday since that is one of the things FB was really great about. So, sorry for that, too.

The wave of FOMO has subsided for the evening. I can’t say it’s gone completely, but for now I think I can cope. I have a few friends I can reach out too if I’m feeling too terribly alone. It’s weird, that list seems to be shifting. People I thought would be there no matter what seem to be fading and others stepping in. Again—thought vomit for another time.

With that, I’m off. I have some laundry to fold and some hip, irreverent photo to put on Instagram while I mention this blog post and hope that the counter spikes above the 3 Views that always come from me when I post something.

Have a wonderful evening my friends.

-Todd

4.08.2019

Earning the X for Today

Some of you might know this, some of you might not. Although, if you're here, I suspect that you do. But, I am a writer. I am also a musician (of sorts). I am a painter (less so than either musician or writer). 

And right now, I'm a reader. Well, not right NOW. I mean, right now I am writing this blog post in a misguided attempt to earn my X for the day. I'm still not sure if I'm going to count it yet or not. I'll likely decide at the end of this bit of brain-dumping that I refer to as blogging, if I'm going to count this as productive writing for the day or not. 

Todd, just what exactly is 'earning the X' and can you circle back around to this thing where you think you're a writer?

I'm glad you asked, well, that is to say, I'm glad you asked half of the question that you did. I'll answer both just because I'm feeling saucy. At least at the moment. 

I started this thing sometime in March where I stopped counting words or time that I had written for a day and just made a conscious effort to write something-anything.

In fact, as I type this, I think I may have already posted about this on the blog already. Hold on a sec. 

OK. Just checked. Apparently I haven't-yet. At least not in so many words. 

Anyway, earning the X. It's something that a lot of writers do, so I'm told. Basically, for me, if I have done some writing that has cleared some mental cobwebs or has advanced my story forward--either or--or has served for me to just get some thoughts of a personal nature down on paper, then the calendar gets an X on the day. Pretty soon, there's a good little string of them on there and the last thing I really want to do is break that string. I don't want there to be any days without X's. 

Normally it's pretty straightforward, I pack a lunch...each it...then do some writing on my lunch hour. And boom. X-time. Today I went out for lunch, so, not so straightforward. But no matter--I could do some writing when I got home. Easy peasy. Only tonight I've been a reader. I've been reading the second book of the Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop. And it's so good!!

Honestly, I'm going to get back to the book now. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to count this as my X today. But maybe that's OK. Maybe I start something new. 

I days I write, the calendar gets an X. On days I read, it gets an O. And on the glorious days I do both, it gets both. 

I like that plan. 

So, maybe half of an X for today, but definitely an O. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a book to get back to!

Have a great evening my friends!

-AT

3.18.2019

Where Does The Time Go

"...I watched the time go right out the window. What it meant to me will eventually be a memory..."
M. Shinoda definitely has a way with words. I fell onto the Linkin Park fanwagon a little later than most, but I have been on ever since I did. Not sure why that particular lyric came to mind other than the title of this post reminded me it, so I guess there's that.

Seriously, though. Where does it go? Does time actually really even go anywhere? I have been thinking a lot about the nature of time lately, I suppose because the book I am currently in the middle of writing is a sci-fi piece that centers pretty heavily around the whole time travel thing.

Oh so that's a thing. I'm pretty actively working on the book again after some time in the weeds. And by in the weeds I mean several months of slowly and somewhat silently wading through the waters of depression (what? I didn't want to bother you, you guys had your own shit to deal with). And then there was the whole shaky-is-this-really-going-sideways-as-badly-as-I-think-it-is thing going on at my former employer. Spoiler alert, for me, it was. Followed by me leaving said employer and in the process, apparently burning a friendship (or at the very least coming to the painful realization that the actual friendship was nowhere near what I thought it was. Yeah. That one still stings).

But through it all, some really cool things happened. I finally got the music shite set up and wired up and dialed in (Darrin, you need to let me know when you have an overnight to come up here and do some 2ndFloor action. Give me enough warning and I'll find out where we need to go to get the Big Gulps at 3AM).

The roomie and I have hosted 2 game nights, which have been fun and were both successful in their own way (just not necessarily when compared to each other).

And, oh...yeah. I started a new job. I think I mentioned that elsewhere in this bloggy blog. So, yeah. Because of the new job, I actually have a work/life balance. Not the work/life-balance-until-the-on-call-phone-rings-and-you-are-expected-to-immediately-drop-everything-and-engage-in-work-again that I had with the old job.

Look, I'm a little bitter about the way shit ended over there. I'm not going to lie. Seven years did not have to go sideways the way it did. But, when it's all said and done, I learned a lot in that position, I had a lot of growth, and for a part of my life, it was exactly what I needed.

Now, though, it's not.  Which is why I moved on.

And bonus, I'm actually writing again (I mean, not including this blog). The WIP is up to about 30,000 words. May or may not be about halfway done and I'm enjoying the writing process again. I'm taking time at lunch to write (got 1000 words in today).

OH! and yeah--the fireplace at the #GallifreyAnnex was cleaned and patched up this weekend and we had an honest to god fire in the fireplace. I was telling Monica that I never remember seeing one as a child growing up. Mom told me that she doesn't remember one being in there since my Grammy passed away (almost 40 years ago). It's going to be super neat to see what Gramps has to say about that when I take a picture of the fire in the fireplace this week when I go over to have our Frosty's.

Speaking of this week, I can't wait until Wednesday--V.E. Schwab is coming to town and I got us tickets to go see her speak and to get to the book signing. I'm super pumped. Ever since I saw here in Kentucky on the Conjuring of Light book signing tour, I decided that seeing her anytime she was within a 3 hour driving distance from C-Bus. She's in Westerville this week, so yeah. Pretty close I'd say!!

I just finished up The Near Witch, her first published book (re-released). I couldn't put it down. It made for great reading yesterday. Yesterday was pretty much a reading day. In the morning I read Hollywood King by the awesome Monica Corwin. And in the afternoon (after hitting the thrift store, Half Price Books, and Barnes and Noble and picking up something like 7 games and something like 15 books), I started The Near Witch and just couldn't put it down. I know it was her first book, but it just felt like the next one to be released. By that, I mean that I couldn't really see any facet where I was like, "Oh, yeah. THAT'S the sign of a new author." What she had out there was just as good as the last book of hers I finished. And that's pretty kick ass (also somewhat inspiring and somewhat daunting to me as a somewhat 'new' author).

And then there's Monica's book, Hollywood King. I couldn't put that down either. Not just because it was written by my best friend, but because it was good. It took the classic, Pride and Prejudice, and set it our world of Hollywood royalty. I'm not going to say too much about it because a)I want you to read it, and b)I plan to put a review out there on Amazon for it. I figure since I've been off Facebook for 5 months, the Amazon bots should let me post a review now on my friends books without getting all judge-y about it.

Oh yeah. that's a thing, still. Still not back on Facebook. Still no plans to get back on in the immediate future. The one major, on-going downside is that I'm terrible now about wishing people a happy birthday. To be fair, I was always terrible about it, but Facebook had that little pop-up guilt trip, er-reminder that would tell you when it was someone's birthday. Don't have that anymore. So, please know this, if I forget to wish you a happy birthday this year, it's because I suck at timely birthday salutations. So, here's a pre-emptive one---Happy Birthday!! Hoping you have an awesome 'earth did another rotation around the sun'day!!

Hmmm...what else? Oh, yeah. I have been having some mild to moderate anxiety about my prescription drug situation, but I think I have a handle on it now. But for a while, I got a first hand glimpse at how the Insurance companies and Big Pharma are just not super awesome to the little guy.

I think that's about all I got for now. I need to head over and work on a blog post for my friend Lisa over at Appliance Rescue Service. She's super cool, and there's a lot of good information on the site.

Check it out, and tell her Todd sent ya!!

Alright, peeps, I'm heading off to make some dinner and do some more writing.

Hoping you have an awesomesauce evening and a wonderful day tomorrow!!

Peace,
-Todd

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


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