Category Archives: Writing

The Mid-Year Review

Wherein, I rat myself out.

One of the great things about New Year’s resolutions is that, by this time of year, everyone has forgotten that you ever made any.

But I did make some (HERE), and the idea was to work towards them all.  So with half the year behind me, it’s time to see how I’m doing.

My goals for 2017 were:

Health Goals:

  • Lose the last 20 pounds (be The Guy)
  • Keep my blood glucose within ADA ranges and work toward the lower ranges
  • Maintain a minimum of 150 active minutes a week

UPDATE – I’m actually doing all right on these.  Weight continues down, blood glucose is going down and I’m averaging way above the active minutes.  WIN!

Creativity Goals:

  • Add six more songs to my guitar competence list
  • Finish a writing project
  • Create a minimum of one good photo a month

UPDATE – Ummm.  On the guitar front, I began the year with “frozen shoulder” which made holding the guitar painful.  I have begun to work my way back on that one.  Working on the writing projects.  The photo goal has been a bust.  NEEDS WORK

Activity Goals:

  • Bike the Cap2Cap from Richmond to Williamsburg
  • Explore the parks nearby
  • Log a minimum of 1000 miles on the bike

UPDATE – Some progress made on this one.  So for this point of the year – WIN

Fun Goals

  • Visit five more historical sites
  • Go to the beach at least twice
  • Visit 20 wineries

UPDATE –  No, no and no.  NEEDS WORK

Real Life Goals:

  • Find a new job
  • Find a new church home
  • Get involved with community group(s)

UPDATE – Not yet, YES!!!!, and not yet.  Call this one a PUSH

 

So it’s two wins, two needs works, and a push.  With lots of time to get things turned around.  Not where I had hoped to be, but I’m OK with it for the moment.  Where are you on yours for 2017?

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Filed under Bicycle, Creativity, Diabetes, Faith, Family, personal, RVA, Unemployment, Weight Loss, Wine, Writing

The Creativity Project – Let’s Go Short

creativity-illo-2

 

Seems like I’ve talked more about the obstacles to creativity recently than actually being creative.

Let’s see if we can’t change that.

I recently stumble across a blog for short fiction called “The Drabble“.  It has been a struggle to find quality short fiction sites that are active.  This site actually does fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.  And they are serious about “short”.  If you want to submit, it’s a maximum of 100 words.

Given that my first collection has a variety of very short stories in it, I thought this was an interesting challenge.  There has been an idea floating around in my head for the last couple days.  It had the feel of one of those flash fiction kind of stories, so I thought “Why not?”

The first problem I hit was that even my ultra short story was too long for “The Drabble”!  It took me about as long to edit down the story to 100 words as it did to write the original.

The “full-length” story is below.  I have submitted the short version, and if they like it, I’ll give them first shot at publishing it.  If that happens I will link to it.  If not, I ‘ll share the short version here.


The Intimacy of Driving

I’m all set. The car is clean, seat adjusted, my little “u” sign carefully affixed.

The first call arrives just as I leave the highway and enter the city proper. A young woman on her way to the gym. She’s forgiving when I’m a couple minutes late. The app and I are still getting to know one another.

Young women are an interesting balancing act. They are climbing into the car of a middle aged man they do not know. I want them to feel comfortable and safe. Should I talk? Should I remain silent? Is the guy who never speaks to them on the trip reassuring or creepy? Certainly, the guy who talks too much is no good.  I usually say a few things right at the beginning, then wait to see if they pick up the thread. If not, I will offer a companionable silence. Most of the trips are quick so it never grows uncomfortable. The younger riders tend to spend the time on their phone, a soundtrack of quiet beeps and sound effects.

Five rides in quick succession. To the gym, a coffeehouse, home from work or to the airport. The airport trip passenger is a man a little younger than me. We compare notes on airports.

I pick up a young woman at a local college. We’re headed out of town. When we arrive I ask where she wants to be let out. She’s never been here before, so we search a little. It’s a woman’s health clinic. It’s none of my business. I wish her well and say a little prayer that all is well.

Then I turn the wheel for home.

 


Never stop creating.

Peace.

 

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Filed under Creativity, personal, Prose, Writing

2017 Goals

No resolutions this year, just simple definable goals.

2017goalsHealth Goals:

  • Lose the last 20 pounds (be The Guy)
  • Keep my blood glucose within ADA ranges and work toward the lower ranges
  • Maintain a minimum of 150 active minutes a week

Creativity Goals:

  • Add six more songs to my guitar competence list
  • Finish a writing project
  • Create a minimum of one good photo a month

Activity Goals:

  • Bike the Cap2Cap from Richmond to Williamsburg
  • Explore the parks nearby
  • Log a minimum of 1000 miles on the bike

Fun Goals

  • Visit five more historical sites
  • Go to the beach at least twice
  • Visit 20 wineries

Real Life Goals:

  • Find a new job
  • Find a new church home
  • Get involved with community group(s)

All of these are doable, one (the 1,000 miles) is a real challenge.  But it will be a very good year if I can hit all of them.  Let’s see how we do.

Hoping that the new year is what each of us desire.

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Filed under Creativity, Diabetes, Faith, Family, New Beginning, personal, Photo, RVA, Travel, Weight Loss, Wine, Writing

The Lunch That Conquered Defeat

(A repost of some of my earlier blogging on other sites.  I am occasionally re-posting ones that I think are interesting.  Originally posted December 17, 2008)

When I woke up this morning I knew it wasn’t any better.

lunch_bagMy lady wife has been asking me for days if something was wrong and I kept telling her no, I was fine. I knew that wasn’t true but I couldn’t put my finger on what the problem was either. So there was no good answer.

I felt sad. I felt tired. Mentally, physically and especially spiritually. I felt defeated.

Yes, there, at last, was the word I’d searched for.

Defeated.

Defeated in my life. Defeated in my ministry. Defeated in my marriage (through my failings no one else’s). Defeated in my career.

I work hard. I do good work. But it just wasn’t enough.

I wasn’t living anything close to the dreams I’d had. I wasn’t providing what I wanted to provide for my family. I wasn’t producing what I thought I should be able to produce in my work and ministry.

Defeated. Not incompetent just not competent enough. Not untalented just not talented enough. Not unintelligent just not intelligent enough.

I stopped by my rector’s office to follow up on some work and we chatted. I admitted that I was deeply into a bout of the (pardon the language) “I just don’t give a shit anymores”. Nice that I can say that to my rector. No other words would quite carry the emotional content as well. I just didn’t give a shit anymore.

Why bother? I’ve been the guy who says “Good enough, isn’t”. I’ve been the guy who said “The company has given us all the tools we need. If we can’t perform under these circumstances they ought to fire us”. I’ve been that idealistic, eyes shining as they gaze at the glorious future idiot. And what did it get me? Fired from my last job because I wouldn’t play those stupid office politics and focused on doing my job.

And my rector said, “Can I buy you lunch?”

So we went to lunch. And he never told me that I was wrong. In fact, he told me that I had a right to feel that way. Then he told me that I wasn’t seeing the whole picture.

We talked about a bunch of stuff and I remembered that I’ve done a lot of things of which I’m justifiably (I think) proud. I’ve made tough decisions and put myself second to care for my family. There’s not one of those decisions, looking back, that I regret. They were right. Then and now.

There are plenty of folks who would look at my life and see a steady stream of success. I’ve had jobs where I’ve made an honest to God difference in people’s lives. And yes people like me, they really, really like me. Some of them even respect me and pay attention to what I say.

I’ve made sacrifices. I’ve put my career on hold several times to make sure my family was OK. My life isn’t perfect but it’s still pretty darn good. The bad parts can still be worked on even at my “advanced age” (He really said that to me. Terrible thing to have a rector younger than yourself).

An hour, two chicken fajitas and some refried beans later and I no longer felt defeated. It’s at least the second time my rector has gotten me turned around when things seemed pretty dark. There are still things to work on but at least it’s not quite so dark in my heart anymore

He’s pretty sharp, my rector.

(The Rev. Eric Williams is no longer my rector.  Happily he is still my friend.  Everyone needs more friends like this)

Peace

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Filed under Episcopal, Inspiration, personal, Thoughts, Writing

I Hope You Fail

(I am bringing back some posts from a previous blog I no longer maintain.  They are pieces that I am proud of and that I believe still have value.  This was first published in March of 2006)

It goes against everything we seem to hear about how to deal with you these days. We’re supposed to enable you and validate you and set you up to succeed. And the more I think about it the more I think you, my young brothers and sisters, are being set up for a failure of monumental proportions. I think we need to make sure that you’re given every opportunity to fall flat on your face. To auger in, to crash and burn, to have the wheels come off. In short to fail. Maybe even spectacularly.

I know, you thought I was your friend. I really am.

That’s why I want you to fail. Actually, I want you to be given the opportunity to fail. The real problem is that adults spend a lot of time and energy trying to make sure that you are given opportunities to succeed. When you were little the “circle of protection” needed to be very tight around you. Little kids don’t have any idea what can be real trouble for them so their parents and families and teachers need to watch over them pretty closely. Trouble is that a lot of adults are continuing that same process even as you grow older. While you don’t want to hear this either there is still a need for some adult supervision even for 14,15,16,17 and 18 -year-olds. If we’re really trying to prepare you to become adults capable of going out and surviving on your own we need to let you fail. And we need to let you figure your own way out of a goodly portion of those failures too. Because it’s not enough just to try and fail. You need to know that you can work your way out of it, figure out the solution and make it work.

FailwDon’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of success. I won’t kid you either, failing really stinks. It hurts and it can hurt for a long time. But it’s necessary so that you know that it’s survivable. You know what can be the strongest part of a bone? The place where it was once broken. The time is coming very quickly for you when you won’t be able to rely on Mommy or Daddy or whoever to pull you out of every problem. You’re going to find yourself out there on your own, there won’t be a convenient adult to step in and “fix” things. Yes, I know the general consensus among youth is that all these “meddling” adults are a pain and you wish they’d go away. But let’s be honest, that’s really only when things are going well, right? It’s kinda nice to have them around to take charge (and responsibility) when things go whacko, isn’t it? There have been plenty of times when I’d LOVE to have someone step in and fix up a few details for me. Trust me it doesn’t happen. The success that comes easily doesn’t feel nearly as good as the success that you know you’ve really earned.

For my fellow parents, teachers, youth ministers I need to acknowledge that we have the hardest part in all of this. We have to be willing to step back a little farther, NOT run in at the first (or second, or maybe even third) sign of trouble. Worst of all we’ll have to deal with their pain after the failure. And that is really hard. In the end, we need to remember that we really are preparing them to thrive on their own. It’s no surprise to us that it can be a cold, hard world out there. What we can do is make sure that we’re always there to help our youth figure out what went wrong, to ensure that failures don’t become too calamitous and to let them know that failure is not the end of the world. We can’t (and shouldn’t try to) prevent them from falling. We can make sure that they always have a safe place to fall. In the long run, I believe that we’ll see them succeed more often, growing more confident and able to deal with anything that life can throw at them.

So let the opportunity to fail begin.

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Filed under Episcopal, Faith, Thoughts, Writing, Youth Ministry

Creativity – Stay On the Bus!

It’s an interesting question.  If everything has been done before, if there are no new ideas, then why should I keep trying to create something?  I don’t believe that I am fated or gifted to be “the greatest of all time” as a writer or photographer or cook or whatever.  So if my work will always be less than the best, why bother?

creativity-illo-2I would say this is a very American way of thinking.  We are the land of “Second place is first loser”.  That may sound tough and dedicated and success oriented.  In fact, I would contend that it’s asinine.  Because at it’s best it’s an argument for active mediocrity (why bother trying to be good?) and at worst, it’s an excuse to simply quit (why bother?).

Creativity isn’t a competition, with  a single exception.  If you want to be creative so you can be the greatest of all time the odds say you are going to fail.  Which means you will gain no joy from what you are doing.  Creativity dies in the absence of joy.  So do what brings you joy.  The only competition is with yourself.  Are you growing in your creative endeavors?  Are you using your gifts to their fullest?  That’s winning when it comes to creativity.

With that in mind, I really liked this post by James Clear, “Stay on the Bus – The Proven Path to Unique and Meaningful Work“.  Clear writes an e-mail with tips on the habits and methods of successful people in many areas of interest.  What really struck me is the 2004 commencement speech by Arno Rafael Minkkinen.  The Finnish photographer spoke about his “Helsinki Bus Station Theory”.  In short he says to simply keep doing what you want to do.  Look for opportunities along the way, rather than looping back to search for that something “special” that only you can do.  Clear makes some additional good points afterward, especially about the “10,000 hour rule”, which is often misunderstood.  The post isn’t long and well worth the read.

Creativity leads your forward, not backwards.  Forward to the best you that you can be.  Forward to the fullest expression of your gifts.  Forward to the simple joy of creativity.

Create what brings you joy.

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The Creativity Project – Creativity Crunch

So this is the post where I explain that my writing is keeping me from my writing.

Seriously.

In the average week, here is the bottom line writing that I have committed to creating:

creativity-illo-2Three approximately five hundred word scripts for my radio program “The View From the Phlipside”.  Those scripts then have to be recorded and produced.

A weekly movie review.

At least one other post (book review or other topics)  (You can find all that writing at my other blog “The View From the Phlipside”)

On this blog, I need to produce a weekly weight loss post (Time to Change), a weekly Creativity Project post and one other post on varying subjects.

So that’s six blog posts a week, averaging about three hundred words each.  Beyond that, there is some writing that I need to do at work.  While I have time set aside for those, it still taps into the creative energy that I have at any given moment.

Consequently, I am way behind on the writing I’m supposed to be doing as my Lenten discipline.  Part of this issue is a matter of discipline.  I’m not showing a lot of that quality in my writing.  Too much of it is being done at the last minute.  Things like reviews can, and should, be done well in advance.  If you have enough of a cushion then a busy week (and last week was a BUSY week for me), is something that you can survive without any difficulty.  When you are constantly dancing along the edge of falling behind.

That busy week coincided with two difficult challenges for me in the photography challenge.  With very little time combined with challenges that require more thought and preparation has really put me against the wall.  I went from a two-week cushion to nothing in an eyeblink.

Some of these can’t be “pre-set”.  The Time to Change posts are linked to my weekly weigh-ins.  The radio scripts are done on a weekly basis.  Since I want them to be at least a little timely that means I can only write them so far in advance.

In the end, it means that I need to bring a little discipline to the writing, avoid that last minute pattern and make sure that I have both the creative room and energy to do the things I want to do.

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Filed under Creativity, personal, Weight Loss, Writing