5.27.2017

Living Life Through Transition Lenses

With the exception of a brief stint between ages 14 and 22,  I have worn glasses since I was 5 years old.

Never in that time, have  I worn what are commonly referred to as "Transitions Lenses." These are the types of lenses that automatically transition from a normal sense to a polarized sunglasses-type lens when you go from indoor lighting to outdoor lighting.

I know there is some sciency thing behind it, but my observation on them has been this.

The don't work very well

Invariably what happens is that for a period after coming in from the outside, the lenses are still in 'sunglasses mode.'  Which, other than looking like hungover rock star, really serves to be an annoyance. Maybe not. Maybe I'm projecting how annoyed I would be if that happened to me.   This, coupled with the fact that they are usually priced out of my budget (but that's neither here nor there), ensures that they are something I will most likely never get when I re-up on my glasses every few years.

This weekend kind of feels like I've been handed a pair of transitions lenses, metaphorically and metaphysically speaking.

My uncle has a country place that no one knows about. He said it used to be a Farm, before the motor laws. And on Sundays I elude the eye and hop the turbine freight, to far outside the wire where my white haired uncle wait.

Sorry. When I talk about the Farm, I almost always use the phrase, "My family has a Farm in Kentucky." And when I say that phrase out loud, in my head I hear the opening verse from Rush's "Red Barchetta."  I can't help it. It's something I have done ever since I heard the song because I can see my family farm so clearly when I hear that song.

So...where was I? Oh yes...the Universe slapping on some Transitions Lenses.

I came down the Farm this weekend. It is my first trip down since October. Maybe longer. Point is, too long.

This weekend's trip is what Dad and I call a "down and back." Down one day, back the next. Normally to get the full Farm experience, we stay 2 nights. But I'm going back to Ohio tomorrow.

Only I'm not making the trip with Dad this weekend (he made a solo trip last weekend as I had other commitments).  But it's not a solo trip. My daughter came down with me.  It has been literally years since she made the trip.

My hope in asking her to come with me on these trips (or even with me and Dad) is that she starts to regain that connection to the land and to our heritage and ancestry.

And, I also hope that like me, this becomes a place where her soul can recharge and just experience the nature all around.

Based on the conversation we had this evening and the fact that she is snoring soundly in the next section of the camper, I'd say mission accomplished. Although I'm sure it will take many more trips to be certain. And I'm more than ok with that.

So...here's some of the weirdness. You might notice I mentioned a camper and not the farmhouse.

A little backstory.
After Papaw passed away (almost 20 years ago), my dad and his brother and sister made the determination that Mamaw probably wasn't ok to be out here by herself. It was a lot and without Papaw, the land seemed expansively empty.  She moved close to my aunt and uncle. This left the land and the house standing empty. Enter a friend of the family.  Kenny and his family moved in. The did renovation work on the farmhouse and they took care of the land. All this while Kenny was working and building his own dream house from the ground up.

Fast forward past the bits where Kenny got his house built and his family moved out of the farm house, leaving it to stand empty until Dad and I started coming down here some few years ago. Fast forwarding to the part where Kenny's son is now grown up and looking to start a family.

The farmhouse is perfect for them. He can continue to grow his skills in the construction business while doing some, quite frankly amazing, remodel and renovations to a place that I've known since I was 6 years old.

Ultimately it's a good thing. For everyone. It's the perfect place to raise a family. The land is not getting neglected. The house won't fall in to disrepair. And we get great caretakers who care about this land and this farm as much as Dad and I do.

And as cool as that all is (and it is, trust me), I still feel like my lenses haven't quite fully adjusted to the change.

I'm typing this blog sitting at a table (which converts in to a Twin bed) in a 25ft. pull-behind camper.

It's a nice camper.   It looks exactly like this:

There are 2 twin beds, a bunk, and a full size bed.  There is a stove, oven, 3/4 refrigerator and freezer, bathroom, shower, and storage out the wazoo.

So...this camper is now where Dad and I (and whomever comes out with us) will stay.

It's taking some getting used to, but I have to be honest, it feels more natural than I thought it would.

The place still feels close to my soul. That hasn't changed. This is still the center of who I am. And as my daughter said of it, "for the first time in a long time, I'm not worried about anything. I definitely needed to come down here."

Amen.

I'd have enough on my plate if that were the only transition I was dealing with. But...you know me...as is my nature,  I've opted for a good olde fashioned pile-on.

Another weird transition is the fact that this might actually be the first post EVER of ye olde bloggy-blog that I have posted WHILE STILL AT THE FARM.

Yes. While my cell phone doesn't actually work down here (no worries, I have what I affectionately call my burner phone), there is now wi-fi.

Tapping in to wi-fi seems weird. And I've only done it sporadically since we got here. I mean, after all, I come here to unwind and unplug. Hard to do that if I'm still scrolling through the feed. So...again...I came in and the lenses still haven't shifted yet.

It's all going to take some getting used to. I think it's good change, or ultimately will be so. For now, though, it's just a weird transition.

Peace,
-Todd

5.23.2017

An Adorkable Mess

Hubris is a funny thing. Sometimes in conjunction with audacity. It can be seen as a negative thing, or at least depending on how each are wielded, used negatively.

I don't think that my hubris will piss off Zeus and the others of Olympus enough to merit my own nemesis (or maybe we all have an inherent nemesis in each lifetime anyway, who is to say?). 

But I don't doubt that there was more than a little annoyance. 

You see, I did a thing. 

I did a thing that was a lifelong dream of mine. 

I published a book. 

If you follow me on Facebook, you no doubt saw the numerous links for said book. It's a novella. It's part of a larger box set. Sixteen novellas in all.   Initially for the low, low price of ninety-nine cents (it's now up to $2.99 or free if you have Kindle Unlimited).

So now I'm having a moment. Doubt isn't really the right word. I mean maybe it is.

I'm new. I get it. At least new to having people I don't know read my stuff. At least I hope people I don't know are reading my book.  I suspect I went slightly overboard with the sharing in my excitement.

I have thought of apologizing for that, but I don't want to. At least the part of me that doesn't suffer from social anxiety doesn't want to.  The part that does, that is currently medicated, thinks that maybe I went too far and pushed people away.

I don't know how real or raw this post is actually going to get, to be honest. So...you may want to just turn back now. I hear there's a new super hero movie coming out that should distract you from this stuff...

I over think things. A lot.

And.  Actually. you know what? I'm not going there.

I'm going to push this out there on the blog. If you read it cool. If not, also cool.

I don't want to go down the rabbit hole right now of how easily it is for me to go down the rabbit hole of over thinking and how that fucks with nearly every relationship I've been in (and sabotaged some before they even got started). So. No.

I was also going to talk about being an empath. And being someone who believes in polyamory. Both of which I may still revisit.

But for some reason my head isn't in the right space to do that right now. It was this morning as I was getting ready for work. I should have written it down then (or at the very least grabbed the recorder and capture the conversation I was already having with myself).

So...yeah.

On the writing front I'm...well..not blocked. I know what I want to write. I have the ideas. I'm just stalled. I'm not moving and I can't figure out what's stopping me at this point.

Part of it is I really want some feedback on the novella. There are a crapton of reviews on Amazon, but nothing that specifically mentions my piece. I have had a few friends reach out to me directly. And that's very very cool. Don't think me ungrateful. It was great to hear. I guess I'm just looking for that whole published author experience of seeing a review-good or bad (but hopefully good)-out there in the world.  Does is cause there to be some more doubt there about the 'realness'?  I suppose to an extent it does.

Did I mention that I overthink things? It's the hallmark symptom of my social anxiety...disorder? I suppose at this point it's probably a disorder.

Fuck.

I don't know.  My head is swimming a bit. It's like I've had a taste of something amazing and now my brain is trying to edit the memory to make it more in line with all the other shit in my life. And I'm fighting that. I don't want this to be 'normal.' I want it to be special. I want to always remember it as an amazing day. As breaking in to tears when I saw my book on Kindle that was actually placed there by the Kindle store and not side-loaded. The arms of my friend as she hugged me and giggled at how excited I was.

The whole thing...was magic.

And it wasn't a fluke.

Which, of course, I can say...but in order to prove that I have to actually finish the other things I'm working on. And put them out in to the world. Me.  No safety net. Just my words. My stories. And your eyes. All over them.

So that's in then, eh?  Time to write.

I best get to it.

Before I go, though, I want you to know something.

Dreams come true.


Peace out,
-Todd

5.08.2017

Drinking the Kool-Aid Milk

There is a popular idiom regarding 'drinking the Kool-Aid.'  The currently accepted meaning and usage of this is to represent believing with unquestioning acceptance what someone in authority is telling you.  If you 'drink the Kook-Aid' then you follow, almost blindly, whatever is being fed to you.

The reference comes from the Jonestown massacre where followers of cult leader Jim Jones were ushered in to the hereafter upon consumption of cups of Flavor-Aid laced with poison.

I have always had issues with the phrase itself. Partially because it's inaccurate (although "drinking the Flavor-Aid" doesn't really flow off the tongue as easily. I wonder if it was some twisted PR rep at Kool-Aid that subtlely twisted the narrative (but that's the cynic in me).

The second thing that always bothered me is that the phrase has now come to represent merely being a follower. A lemming. If you're going to accuse someone of drinking the Kool-Aid (or Flavor-Aid if you will), then that should mean "HEY! DON'T DO THAT OR YOU WILL DIE!!" At least that's how it should work in my twisted noggin.  Maybe that's why it's always Kool-Aid in the phrase...because it wasn't actually Kool-Aid that was the death delivery system.

Not sure.

What I do know is that I started off this post on a completely different tangent than I had intended.

In looking at my notes, I had written "Drinking the milk vs. Adding More Cereal." And yet, my mind automatically finished the phrase "drinking the..." with the word 'Kool-Aid.' So powerful are idiomatic expressions in our culture.

Now I'm sitting here at lunch trying to rein my brain back in to what I had originally meant in my notes regarding cereal and milk.

Please bear with me for a moment.

OH! I remember. It had to do with how we approach life in general. Now...I just need to remember what each aspect represented.

I think that in life we are faced with situations. These are given to us like a bowl of our favorite breakfast cereal (or in some cases our least favorite).

We have a bevy of choices facing us when eating cereal. Do we eat it slowly or quickly? Do we savor it? Do we hurry through the bowl to get on to something else that we perceive to be more worthwhile than the acerel I really enjoy like Cap'n'Crunch, I will eat as much of that as possible. Sometimes even more than is actually good for me.

I will eat quickly so the cereal doesn't get soggy. Pro-tip, this also uses less milk because the milk has yet to soak in to whatver cereal you're eating (you all know about that milk bloat that most cereal gets when you leave it sit in the milk too long).

I know I should probably take the bowl to the sink at that point, acknowledging that whatever moment I should be enjoying has reached it's natural conclusion and it's time for me to move on.

And sometimes I do. Usually I will drink the milk before putting it in the sink. Although these days I do that less for the simple fact that I don't drink as much milk as I did in the days of my youth.

Sometimes, though, I do something whacky. I get the cereal box.../i and I add more cereal to the bowl!!

Usually this first addition of cereal is not accompanied by additional milk. It's dumped in there, dry. Whatever milk is in there is in there.

If I plan on having a third bowl, though, I will add milk on the second cereal pour.

I know you're asking yourself what this has to do with life. And truthfully I don't know. I don't even know if it really does.

I just noticed somewhere along the way that there are events in my life I want to drag out and others that I want to be over as quickly as possible. I'll either wind up eating 1/2 of that cereal in one sitting because I can't get enough of it. Or I'll eat it as quickly as possible to get through it (sometimes I won't even drink the milk).

I know. I'm not sure where it's going either and maybe I need to re-visit the whole Kool-Aid thing again. At least that train of thought had some teeth.

No matter. I'm almost through with lunch anyway.

I know you can't tell, but I'm actually writing this on the AlphaSmart NEO2. You see, I have a wild hair that at some point I want to get the FreeWrite. It's supposed to be this awesome distraction-free writing tool. It is an AlphaSmart on roid-rage. BUT...it's also $500. And that's a lot of dough to spend on something that I'm not entirely sure I would really use to its full potential. Enter the AlphaSmart. Also a distraction free writing tool that I got for about $40.

So the current plan is to use the AlphaSmart in the situations where I think I would have wanted to use the FreeWrite. And, if I get to the point where I have an extra $500, then maybe I'll know that I can make it work. If I'm only doing blogs on it, that's just not going to work for me.

This is one of those instances where there is a new cereal I'm dying to try, but I have a cupboard full of cereal, a fridge full of milk, and no money to buy anymore cereal at the moment.

So we'll see how this plays out. After all, I certainly have no desire to drink from the cooler of non-carbonated soft drink in that regards.

And with that, I should probably get back to work.

Peace!
-AT

5.03.2017

Living The Dream: One Week Later

It is one week and one day out from the day my whole world changed.

At least that's what it seemed like a week ago.

A week ago - ok as recently as a day or two ago - my eyes would get a little misty when you mentioned my book.  It's part of a box set on Amazon called Midnight Magic. Filled with 16 tales of urban fantasy, you should check it out if you haven't already.  Go here to get it.

So, eight days later, what's the dealio?

Well...to be honest, the imposter syndrome is starting to creep in just a bit.
Sure...it's only a novella.  And it's self-published.

So...the doubt asks me, "Does that really count?"

And for a split second I wonder.

Did the dream really come true?

Am I actually an AUTHOR??

I look doubt squarely in the eyes.  And as soon as doubt blinks I calmly say, "Fuck You."

I AM an author. I AM published. I AM living proof that dreams do come true.

To be fair, though, there's a portion of the doubt that probably won't go away for a long time. I mean, it would be nice to click on the box set and see that someone had reviewed my novella.  I know that a lot of my friends purchased the set. And some have read my story and given me direct feedback. That makes it feel more real.

I still can't help wondering though, if I belong to the company of authors I find myself in. There's a part of me that thinks that at any moment, someone in the group is going to look at me and suddenly realize that I don't belong. And worse, they'd tell me so.

It's crazy how fast the blanket of what we commonly accept as the real world comes back in to swiftly smother the flames of the dream.  I find that just one week after, I have to be intentional about thoughts relating to the dream.  What's the next book? The next story? The next project?

What am I going to do to continually fulfill the dream of being an author?  I know I can do it. Having done it has proven that. But I have a feeling that it's one of those dreams that I have to keep living.  I have to constantly fulfill that dream.  Right now, the whole author dream is like a little creek running through my reality. I can see it there. I know it's there. I know what it took to make that creek. And I can stop and appreciate the running water.

With each thing I put out there, I'm looking at the water rise just a little bit.

One day, I envision a raging river, teeming at the banks.  The impending flood of the dream fully taking over and washing over everything I know.

THAT will be a glorious day.

As the waters carry me along, I can only imagine that there will be little room for doubt at that point.

And I can't frickin' wait!

Until then, stay tuned there are some fun new projects headed your way from SkaggleRock.

Peace,
Todd Skaggs, author.



5.01.2017

Marvin's Delivers After 26 Years

Admittedly, I should be inside cleaning my apartment. It needs it. The walls are angry with me, I can tell. There is that telltale clutter that perfectly illustrates genius bordering on insanity. Or at the very least, delusions of the creative genius.

I will get to the apartment later this evening.

But it's time to write now. I'm sitting at my little bistro set on what can barely be called a patio. It's 59 degrees and there is a nice autumn breeze. I know it's spring, but this breeze is definitely an autumn breeze.

Here's a bit of what it looks like at the moment.



Nice and cozy. It smells like it's going to rain soon, but I haven't checked the weather app yet to see. That would just put too much pressure on me to try to bang out some half-assed blog post before the clouds opened up. And by half-assed, I mean more half-assed than normal.

I feel like today is actually the end of an amazing week.  So many incredible things happened in the last 7 days that I still am not convinced they are real.

On April 25th, my debut novella, Shadow Initiate, appeared in the Midnight Magic urban fantasy box set. If you don't have it yet, you need to jump on that. After tomorrow it will only be available on Amazon and it will no longer be the pre-order/intro price of ninety-nine pennies.  But I digress.

Published Author.

That's what I became last Tuesday.   I could easily pen a dozen posts on dreams coming true and as many more on the people in my life who directly and indirectly led me here. And I probably will.

But not tonight.

Tonight is about Marvin's.

A lifetime ago, my freshman year in college was spent at a fine liberal arts college nestled in the god-fearing town of Greencastle, Indiana. I'm not sure why DePauw was on my list of schools to go to, but I got in.  I made a mess of the first half of my freshman year and then turned it around the second half.  The economy and lack of grants conspired against there being a second year at DePauw, but that's OK.  One was enough to experience Marvin's.

When I went to DePauw, Marvin's looked like this (I think...it was 26 years ago) :




 To be fair, I think the whole year I was there I only actually ate inside Marvin's one or three times.  It wasn't necessary, nor was it really encouraged. You see, because MARVIN'S DELIVERS!  In the dorms, at 130 in the morning after a long night of....studying...you get the munchies.  And Marvin's delivers. I had the number memorized.  And the order was almost always the same.  Usually though, you checked with your neighbors and friends in the dorm WHO WERE ALSO STUDYING LATE to see if they wanted anything from Marvin's.  And then you ordered. And you didn't have to go pick it up. Because after all of that intense STUDYING, you might not navigate the dark campus streets so well.

That was the thing. Marvin's Delivers.  There were pictures plastered all over the walls of DPU Alum with a big sign stating that MARVIN'S DELIVERS TO and then whatever exotic location all over the world they happened to be at.  It honestly rivals the OSU Alum doing the O-H-I-O everywhere. Trust me, I've attended both Universities. I know what I'm talking about.

We pulled in to the parking lot at Marvin's.  Wait...PARKING LOT? Yes. Parking Lot. From the outside, Marvin had all the markings of a respectable small town sports bar. We could see the many TVs broadcasting their testosterone fueled siren song through the open slatted blinds on the windows.

My fears were assuaged when we walked in. Immediately in the entrance-way we were greeted with walls filled with "Marvin's Delivers To..." pictures from around the world. And for the umpteenth time that week, my eyes filled with tears of joy.

A piece of my history that I didn't think I'd ever get a chance to revisit was wafting over me like the smell of well used fry grease.

The banner that I'm standing in front of was there, at the Marvin's of my DPU days.  Seeing myself in front of it, I briefly entertained the notion of dressing up as Marvin for Halloween, but only like 4 people would get it and 2 of them are out of state and wouldn't see it.


After convincing the young co-ed behind the counter that yes, we really did drive 4 hours from Columbus JUST for a GCB, we ordered. It was like no time had passed.

"GCB, Frank's Fries, extra cheese."

"You know Frank's Fries come with cheese sauce?"

"Oh...I know." I smiled the knowing smile of one who was going to use the extra cheese sauce to dip his GCB in.

"Right on." She said.  "Drink?"

I looked. They didn't serve Pepsi products anymore.  I couldn't order my liter of Dew.  That was the order. "GCB, Cheese Fries, Liter of Dew." I opted for a regular fountain drink (of which I made a suicide, so it was still like a trip back in time).

25 years ago this order was about $7. That night it was $12.57.  Plus the tank of gas, hotel, and other assorted road trip expenses. 

None of that mattered when they brought it to the table.


You will notice the receipt. This required special dispensation from the shift manager sitting behind us in the corner booth. No one at Marvin's is allowed to keep their receipt.  If a receipt is lost and recovered by a drunk college...er...a student who has been STUDYING all night, they can come up and claim they never got their food.   I had to promise not to leave it behind.

After toying with some of the fries for a bit, I dove in.
This look is not staged. It's the real deal. That is literally how happy I was. I had lost count this past week of how many times I was living in a moment that I never thought would happen.  Is having a GCB on the same scale as becoming a published author?  For me, in some ways, yes. What you see here, and it's a lesson I am reminded of over and again, is someone truly living in the moment. 

I am experiencing bliss and living in that moment.  If you asked me a year ago if I thought I'd ever have a GCB again, I'd tell you no.

But I did.

And it was every bit as amazing as I remembered.


And the sadness in the basket above at it being gone wasn't really sadness anymore. It was the knowledge that I had thoroughly enjoyed something as simple as a burger and cheese fries.

Marvin's Delivers to Westerville!

Peace,
-AT

The 10th Annual Typewriter Meetup

I'm tired. I'm not going to lie. My body is doing that thing where, after a short period (48-72hours) of intense emotions and pe...