An Active Month

Hello to my writing and blogging friends.

Today, I’m going to share a few things about this month that have significant influence on me as a writer and person.

First, the personal stuff.

May is an important month in terms of my health because it is Mental Health Awareness Month. To be honest, I didn’t give this much thought. Until recently, I didn’t know there was a whole month dedicated to spreading awareness and educating people on this important, yet overlooked and scrutinized, aspect of our well-being. Outside of family, few people know my issues with mental health. To be brief, I was diagnosed with bipolar in 2005. I follow a strict regiment of care, including visits with a therapist. And I follow groups on social media that post articles about not merely adapting, but thriving, despite these issues. In the last several years, many celebrities are speaking up about their struggles with their mental health. Shannon Purser (Stranger Things, Riverdale) is the latest to come forward. Other notables include Demi Lovato, Maurice Bernard (General Hospital), Howie Mandel, and the late Carrie Fisher. Learning about their struggles gives me hope for the rest of the world. We need to take mental health more seriously. But we shouldn’t feel shame and run away from it. We shouldn’t let these issues define us. Rather, we should embrace it and say that we are going to live the best life possible in spite of it.

Ok, enough deep stuff. Let’s lighten things up.

May is the home stretch for many teachers and students. The anticipation of closing another school year is at a fever pitch.

Most schools are celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week, including my daughter’s school. It’s the time to show how appreciative we parents are for putting up with our growing bundle of joy for ten months. We shower them with presents every day this week, like fruit and gifts cards for coffee. There is also Field Day, which is a day long P. E. class. My wife and I are volunteering by bringing water bottles. It might be the one healthy thing the kids have all day.

And finally, May is Short Story Month. I had no idea this existed until my writing friend Julie quoted a tweet and tagged me on it. As a short story writer, this makes me so happy. I read a lot of articles about how short stories are making a comeback and how they can be a stepping stone for most novels. While I’m not focused on writing a novel, I will be working on a new story. Right now, I’m still gathering prompts and trying to make a decision on what story to write.A lot of friends have recently encouraged me to publish my stories on Wattpad, but only after writing a large cache of stories. A solid plan.

Prior to learning about Short Story Month, I created a Twitter list I named “The Short Work Fraternity.” As the name suggests, the members are short story writers, past and present. I feel a sense of joy that I hadn’t before. Knowing there are writers who share the same love of the short story as I do.

So, as you can see, May is a busy month. Busier than even I realized. But that’s a good thing. I have a lot to celebrate, a lot to learn, and a lot to write. Thanks for taking time to stop by and read.

Until next time…

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Giving Power to My Children

I heard an enraging statistic over the radio this morning. We’re forty-six days into 2018 and there have been eighteen reported school shootings. The latest happened yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. An expelled nineteen-year-old student shot and killed seventeen students and faculty and injured fourteen others. It is one of the ten worst mass shootings in American history; the second worst school shooting next to Sandy Hook. Continue reading “Giving Power to My Children”

A Handbook for Parenting (Not Really): A “Jax Can’t Talk” Post

I have to say that being a parent is the hardest thing in the world. Anyone who says otherwise is fooling themselves. There are days where I wish I had a handbook for parenting. I’m someone who can follow directions well when I have them in front of me. But when it comes to parenting, no amount of visual aids can prepare you for every situation that will arise.

Today, my wife shares about her week and reflects on her parenting journey thus far. I hope you enjoy.

https://jaxcanttalk.wordpress.com/2017/12/04/parenting-doesnt-come-with-a-handbook/

My Writing Christmas List

We’re thirty days away from Christmas. (Hard to believe.) And by this time, kids and adults are compiling their Christmas lists. So I am going to give you my list of things I want for Christmas. And if you didn’t guess by the title, everything will be writing-related. Now, this is only a wish list. I don’t expect to get any of these items. But if there’s anyone willing to gift me any of these items, “Thank You” will be in order.

In no particular order…

  • Apple iPhone X. Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way. I debated, and still am, on whether it’s worth getting the iPhone X or the 8 Plus. Either will fulfill my wants for more memory and a bigger screen. And either will have multiple uses besides using them for my writing and note-taking. The biggest questions come to cost and use of features. Am I going to use all the features that the iPhone X is offering? Will I sacrifice having the latest, greatest phone for ease of use? And what about the price? Am I willing to sign my life away—not that I already am—to have a phone that will be good until the newest model is announced? On a couple of occasions, I thought I had a definitive answer. Not so much now. But I have some time before deciding.

  • Bluetooth headphones. I like listening to music when I’m writing or doing anything else like outdoor chores or working out at the gym. Wired earbuds are a pain and I don’t keep up with the cushions on wireless earbuds. So I think having headphones will be better for me. They’re more comfortable and most will allow you to answer phone calls. Beats are the go-to, but there are others that are as good and cost less. I’m open to anything.

  • Writing Craft Books. I’ll be the first to admit that I need help with the writing craft. I get that books can only get you so far, but any help is welcome. Now I can compose a list just on this item alone, but I’ll list the books that are the most sought after. On the top of my list is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Ever since I learned of its existence and reading about how it’s helped so many writers. I can’t imagine not benefiting me. Next is Stephen King’s On Writing. The quintessential guide to the creative process. I used to have this book, but I gave it away. I want it back.

  • Writing Prompt Books. Like the craft books, I can compile a list based on this item. I research a lot of prompts on Pinterest and subscribe to a newsletter that posts new prompts every week. But having a book will be a boon. Will I use them all? Maybe. Maybe not. But it will get me thinking outside the box.

  • Short Story Collections. I like reading short stories as much as I like writing them. And The Pushcart Prize and The Best American Short Stories are the best out there. There are others like the O. Henry anthology. And there are collections by various writers that are on my list. What makes these collections and anthologies so great is that while they cannot possess the depth of a novel due to its format, there’s the potential of reading memorable characters and awesome storytelling. And I want to learn from as many writers as possible so that I can create memorable stories of my own.

  • Subscriptions to Literary Magazines. It’s one thing to learn from the best writers in the world. It’s another to discover and read works from local writers, whether first-time or seasoned. Georgia has some great literary magazines, like New South and The Georgia Review. I want a subscription to either one and, like the nationwide anthologies, learn what makes their stories special.

  • Writing Space. This may sound like an odd item, but hear me out. I live in a small house that’s filled to the brim with family and it’s always busy. Even when I have the time to write, I’m writing in the kitchen most of the time. And I don’t have the privacy I want and frankly need to concentrate on writing. I just want an area that’s designated for me and my writing. Someplace where people know that when I’m there, I don’t want to be disturbed, even if it’s for thirty minutes. And I don’t care if it’s at a corner of the living room. I don’t care if it’s in the laundry room. I just want a space that’s mine where I can write in peace.

So, there you have it. My writing wish list. Will I get everything I want? Odds point to “no.” But a writer can dream.

What about you? What are you hoping for on your wish list? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time…

Thanksgiving: Remembering the Past and Building the Present

This week, my kids are off for the Thanksgiving holiday. Good for them. I have to work Thanksgiving Day and the day after, A. K. A. “Black Friday,” so I’ll be having Thanksgiving a day early. But as I’m preparing the for the upcoming days of madness, I’m thinking about how Thanksgiving was when I was my kids’ age. It wasn’t always about retailers getting a leg up on the competition. It wasn’t about fighting other customers over something that stores probably had a surplus of. No, Thanksgiving was not the cash cow as it is now. At least, not as much back when I was growing up.

It may be hard to believe, but I remember a time when you really celebrated Thanksgiving. When stores were actually closed, or at least had shortened hours. Let me take you down my memory lane; to how I spent most of my Thanksgivings.

I remember waking up to my mom cooking breakfast for the three of us. Biscuits, bacon, sausage, eggs. My brother and I ate the biscuits and meat mostly. I remember Saturday morning cartoons broadcasting on Thanksgiving morning. (We didn’t care for the parades.) I remember watching TV most of the day while Mom was hard at work putting the finishing touches on Thanksgiving dinner.

Before moving to Georgia, I remember traveling to Illinois to have Thanksgiving dinner with relatives. I remember streets and parking lots nearly barren because everyone stayed home. By the time we crossed the Missouri-Illinois state line, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are already there waiting for us. I remember being so hungry because we really didn’t have lunch. While we waited for Thanksgiving dinner, we watched more TV. Football, mostly, with a cartoon or holiday movie sprinkled in during commercials.

When it was time, we gathered around a big table, and we each said something we were thankful for. (That tradition continues when my family moved to Georgia.) After prayer, we lined up in the kitchen, digging in to the cornucopia of Thanksgiving delights. Turkey, ham, dressing, macaroni and cheese, vegetables, cranberry sauce (the canned kind), and sodas. I remember eating with my brother and cousins. Christmas wasn’t a thought until about a week after Thanksgiving.

That’s what I remember about my Thanksgivings growing up. It was such a fun time for us. (Maybe not so much for my mom.) But as Thanksgiving loses its moments as a time for families to come together, I feel it necessary to hold on to those traditions. Since I work retail, it’s hard to celebrate Thanksgiving in the traditional sense, which explains why I’m celebrating the day before. And while we’re on the subject of being non-traditional, my wife and I have decided on a healthier spread for Thanksgiving. Am I going to miss a lot of the good from Thanksgivings past? Sure. But we’re striving to be more conscious about what we eat, and that means changing our diet. And it seems the kids are on board. But there is one tradition I want to continue: sharing one thing we’re thankful for. I feel it’s important to take that time to think about everything that we have and remember that we’re not guaranteed what we have.

So, thanks for letting me share my memories. I want to hear from you. What are your best Thanksgiving memories? What traditions do you have or want to start? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time…

Weekend Coffee Share: Growing and Rehashing

Hi there.

Good to see you. I’m sorry if I haven’t been as active on these posts. Sometimes, there’s not a whole lot going on in my life that’s worth talking about. But I’m glad you’re here. Today is an apple cider kind of day. I just finished doing some yard work. And man, it was cold this morning, which is what it’s supposed to feel like in the fall. So I’m going to have my apple cider while you take in whatever you want. I also have some eggnog if you want a different kind of creamer. We also have coconut creamer. That’s Colleen’s new go-to creamer. We have to buy at least two a trip because she goes through it like she goes through unsweetened tea. 

Anyway, glad to see you here. We’ve been busy with the kids, especially Jaxon. Last week, he started school. It’s kind of scary. We were so used to carrying him around with us while running errands. Now that he’s attending special education, the house just doesn’t feel the same. Even when we took him to school, there was something so surreal about it. It was only yesterday that we let the bus pick him up. We met the driver upon meeting his teacher and seeing his classroom. I felt I was going to cry for a moment. It was difficult watching someone else strap him in. And then when he left, I stood there, hoping he would be okay. I thought he would cry when I left the bus. But he sat there, quiet. I was happy, and yet, sad because he was growing. 

It’s only been a week since he started special education, so it’s really unfair to measure progress. Reading the teacher’s reports, though. I get a sense of confidence. It seems like Jaxon is adapting well to the new routine. But even then, they don’t do the same thing every day. That’s good. I guess the one thing I’m trying to learn about having an autistic child is that the definition of progress and success is much different. There are a lot of things we take for granted that are a legitimate struggle for someone like Jaxon. Like following directions (which some people still struggle with), finding ways to communicate wants and needs, using the potty (though he’scoring around). Stuff like that. It’s normal to us, but we have to work extra hard to teach him, and even then, he won’t get it right away. So we have to be patient and adapt ourselves to a different “standard.”

I try not to listen to the news very much. As important as some of these stories are, I feel like the media wants to solely focus on the negative. I don’t know if it’s a ratings thing or what. But there is a direct correlation between what’s going on now and the shape of our country today and how it affects future generations. Take the stories of sexual misconduct that seem to be piling up. Victims have been speaking out more since the Weinstein story broke loose. And with every day that passes, someone new is accused of sexually inappropriate behavior. The thing that concerns me more that I don’t think is being addressed is the lessons we’re teaching our children, especially our young men. I’m concerned about the message we’re sending to them when it comes to women. As a father of two young children, I have a responsibility to teach them respect for themselves and for other people. I also have a responsibility to teach them to defend themselves and not be afraid to speak up against any kind of abuse. 

NaNo is in full swing. It’s been ten days, and I’ve read tweets and Facebook status updates on their progress. While I’m not participating in NaNo, I made it a point to write every day to build that habit. Sad to say, I failed in that goal. And I have no one to blame but me. I’ve let myself get distracted by other things and haven’t made writing a priority. There was one day where I was so stressed, I couldn’t bring myself to continue writing a story I started. And even now, I’m thinking about scrapping it. It might have been the stress talking, or it might have been because I put too much pressure on myself to write a story by a certain time, based on advice I sought out. That never works out for me. In the end, I end up more miserable and unwilling to write anything. That’s something I’m trying to change. So for now, the story I started is on the shelf. But I started thinking of a new story in its place. But i’m taking my time because I want to make sure it’s a story I want to write. And I may incorporate elements of the last story into this one. We’ll see. 

Well, that’s it for today. I got to get dressed for work. Let me know how your week has been in the comments. Contrary to the belief, I do read them. I may not comment on the comments, but I want you to know that you are not being ignored.

So long for now. 

Weekend Coffee Share: Welcome Back

Good day. 

I have missed you guys. I’ve been very busy with work and family. My therapist tells me I need to make time for myself. So that’s what I’m doing right now. Grab a beverage and let’s get to chatting.

Before I start gabbing, let me say that it finally feels like Fall in Georgia. I stepped out of my house and it was genuinely cold. Like 30 degrees cold. And the highs are right where they’re supposed to be. Not this Indian Summer weather we’ve had the past week. But real cool, crisp weather with that slight chill in the air. Now I can justify buying a Caramel Apple Spice from Starbucks. Or a hot chocolate. No matter, Fall is finally here. 

Now then, like I said, it’s been very busy these past couple of weeks. Work has been the biggest culprit of taking up my time. Not only at my main job, but also with Uber. Do5 get me wrong. Uber is fun. I’ve met some interesting people and have had some interesting and lively conversations. But it’s getting to the point where I’m getting burned out. It’s hard to say no to passengers, but I need time to rest. And I have to be more selective when it comes to choosing runs. Sometimes it takes me to an area that takes forever to reach and I end up running late to another commitment. And the GPS Uber uses is not the best in the world. Sometimes, it will have me make a circle or do a U-turn just to get on a street where I could easily turn right or left. But sometimes, my passengers will lend a hand and offer alternate routes. That definitely helps. 

Whenever I haven’t been busy with work, my family keeps me on my toes–in a good way. Last week, we celebrated our kids’ birthdays. Officially, their birthdays are this week. However, this past weekend was the only time I could take the time off to celebrate. My main job blocks requests for time off these last few months of the year. Some people had an issue with this, but that’s how it played out. But right now, we’re at the point in our lives where we don’t care. We’re not going to let others dictate what we can and can’t do. If people want to come, then they’re welcome. If not, it’s on them. 

Speaking of the kids, we recently attended some meetings with the local board of education as it pertains to our son Jaxon. Since he’ll be turning three in a few days, certain therapies will no longer be available to him. So we took him to a school to have him evaluated to determine the best course of assistance. This past week, we learned they approved our request for more treatment. He’ll be attending a local elementary school where they specialize in teaching children similar to Jaxon’s diagnosis. We’re a little worried because the school is further from us and that he would have to ride a bus. We’re nervous because this will certainly be a change of routine for all of us. But we try to think about what is best for all of us.

I mentioned that my therapist told me I need to make time for myself. I need “recess,” as it is. I couldn’t agree more. But it’s hard. I work two jobs and I have my duties taking care of the family. It’s hard to find time to do what I want to do. But I think the one thing that would help is detaching myself from my phone every once in a while. No Facebook status or tweet is that important to where I can’t take time to myself. Time to rest as I’m taking a nap. Time to do something fun like write or play video games. Time to work out and get myself in shape. There are a lot of things I can do without involving my phone or tablet. 

Speaking of writing, I had a little bit of a crisis. And it kind of coincided with something I struggled with in my life. There are a lot of regrets and resentments I haven’t worked through in my life. A lot of things I hate having done or haven’t done. I spilled it onto my writing career. I ranted about it on social media groups. I ranted about how I hate that I haven’t done anything with my degree. No manuscript. No submissions in years. I hate that I’m constantly comparing myself to other writers. I hate how I’m so entrenched in writing in one genre; that the phrase “write what you know” has become part of my mantra. But thanks to my writing friends, I realized these feelings are normal. I have nothing to be ashamed about. I am a good writer.

I’m thankful for the family and friends who support my journey. Writing is what I love to do. I can’t see myself doing anything else.

Well, that is it for now. I’ sorry that I haven’t been more active on the Weekend Coffee Share. I certainly will try harder, like everything else that’s important to me.

So, what about you? It’s been a few weeks. What have you been up to? How has life treated you? Let me know in the comments. 

Weekend Coffee Share: Driving (Insert Here)

Good afternoon,

I finally have a chance to catch my breath and meet up with you all. I had an energy drink earlier today. (I know. I’m trying to cut them out of my diet.) I’ve been getting some pretty bad headaches in the morning. Probably stress-induced. I’ll go into detail in a minute. First, let’s get situated. There are K-cups, but I also have unsweetened tea and apple cider. Just don’t ask me to warm it up. 

So, I have some news. I picked up a new second job as an Uber driver. I’m excited, yet sad that I’m leaving Pizza Hut. It was an experience working in the food service industry. And I gained a better understanding on what goes into making great food and satisfying customers. It’s like retail in the sense you have to think about what will make your customers happy. Having the products they want. Being served in a timely manner. Going above and beyond to make sure they come back. I will say that working at Pizza Hut—especially as a delivery driver—doesn’t present as much opportunity to build an one-on-one relationship with a customer. The other thing I will miss is the crew I worked with in the year I was there. But like any other business, I saw associates come and go. I had a couple of go-tos if I needed help with something. And management was very accommodating with my primary job. I will visit whenever there’s opportunity. 

The time has come to turn the page. Like I said, I picked up a new second job with Uber. Unlike taxis, I’m driving my car to take passengers around. And so, I’m putting more priority on making sure the car is clean and running in peak condition. I had to purchase some accessories to make for a pleasant experience. Like a car mount for safety and needed to purchase a car mount so as to not be holding my phone all the mints and water bottles. The only thing I’m missing is one of those car fresheners. I’m looking into what would be ideal. 

In the week I’ve been doing Uber, there have some good and bad things. First, the good. I set my own schedule. I can drive for as long as I want. I get to meet some lively people. (So far, most of my passengers have been pleasant.) I can cash out my fares any time I wish. Especially handy when I’m in need of extra cash right away.

There are some drawbacks. For instance, it’s hard to say no when I’m on a roll. This is not necessarily bad, but sometimes I can end up not getting the proper sleep I need for the next day. Hence, the energy drinks. Also, I don’t know where I’m taking my passengers until I pick up my fare. So far, I haven’t come across an unsavory situation, but I hear stories. And being on call all the time, essentially, cuts into my time I would like to spend writing or doing something to unwind. 

But overall, it’s a fun adventure. I try not to think about driving with Uber as work. But more like I’m learning more about the city and meeting people different from me and getting a glimpse into their lives. Something that might come into handy with my writing.

Well, that is all for this week. Kind of a short visit, but like I said, doing these jobs doesn’t allow for a lot of free time. But I want to hear from you. What’s going on in your life? Anything new? Let me know in the comments. 

Until next time…