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

Where in the What? And Rainbows, too?!

It has been what...wait. That’s not right. Has it really been three months? Three months since I’ve dusted off the keys and put something up...