Month: September 2014

The Domino Effect, Fly Over States, & A Living Wake

It’s Sunday morning here in New York. Usually by this time of the morning, I’d be on my third cup of coffee and giving my best effort at proofreading my weekly blog so I could post and work on my novel. This morning strays from my usual routine, having slept in late after experiencing an interesting forty eight hours.  With that in mind, this post is going to be a little bit different for me, starting with title and format (and I’m borrowing from my friend Erin Sandlin here).  I’m not going to proofread this post so if you’re a friend and notice a dumb error on my part, please point it out to me and I will correct it in a few days. I was going to skip posting but I needed to write.

Dominoes falling

The Domino Effect

I had to travel to Houston for work this last week. It’s a trip I’ve made numerous times to work at a sister company there and I always look forward to the people, the Mexican food, and yes, to those that know me: Whataburger. I don’t want to list the company I work for because I would then have to start putting all the legal disclaimers (These thoughts are my own… etc.) on my site and Twitter. Suffice it to say I love my day job and the company I work for.  I had an intense three days of working there, ending with success the last hour on Thursday. Great team effort and I was ready for my trip home on Friday feeling quite good about what we accomplished.

My day Friday morning started with me getting up at 4:30 A.M. to head to the airport to catch an 8:22 flight. I arrived at my gate with an hour to spare and sat down to read. As we were about to board, I received a text on my phone stating the flight was delayed until 10:00. At the same time, the two airline employees behind the gate counter were whispering between themselves and one reached for a microphone and announced that due to a FIRE at a radar facility, all flights into or out of Chicago were “on hold” until further notice. After watching the events unfold on CNN and getting tidbits of information online from a Chicago news station, I was relieved that there were no injuries to anyone on the ground or in the air, the exception of course being the idiot who decided to attempt suicide.

Now before anyone gets upset at me for calling this individual an idiot, let me say that I am sensitive to people who have mental health issues. It’s a growing problem everywhere and subject to all sorts of debate that I am not qualified to argue about nor do I care to in this forum. We see events like this all too often, many of them ending with loss of innocent life.  What I am not sensitive to is a cowardice act by someone sane enough to post his intentions then attempt to follow through with no regard for others. He’s an idiot and his actions affected thousands of people on Friday, including me. People with plans, and I heard many: weddings, a baseball game, a conference, Atlantic City, vacations, or just getting home like I was trying to do for an event I needed to be at on Saturday.

My flight to Chicago was delayed by two and half hours which meant of course that I would miss my connecting flight to Buffalo. I was kindly informed of this again by text, about thirty minutes before boarding. No problem is what I remember thinking. My original travel plans had me landing in Buffalo around 4:00 P.M. After picking up a rental car and driving ninety minutes, I estimated my time home at 6:00 or 6:30. I figured they would schedule me for a later flight and I would just deal with it. After landing and turning my phone back on I had another text stating I had been rescheduled on a flight for 7:45 P.M.  Once again I remember thinking no problem and this would just be a long Friday travel experience but nothing I haven’t had happen before. I exited the plane, and glanced at my phone again to see the flight details and happened to notice a detail I hadn’t noticed before: the date. My rescheduled flight was for Saturday night, not Friday night. As I started walking towards customer service I was trying to be optimistic that I could get that changed.  That optimism faded quickly as I saw the line for customer service that I would honestly estimate at over a thousand people stretching beyond the beginning of the terminal.  Now panic set in and I continued walking until I was outside the building and could have a cigarette.

Outside, I called the AMEX travel group our company uses for travel arrangements. I tried to do this in Houston a few times and couldn’t get through which was the deciding factor for me to continue on with my flight to Chicago. Well, that, and the fact my luggage was on the plane sitting right in front of me (something I rarely do as I normally carry my bag on). Luckily I got through and after 10 minutes on the phone with the agent, exploring even flights to Rochester, Cleveland, Erie, and Elmira, it was determined that the earliest flight was in fact the Saturday 7:45 flight.

My thoughts then? I’m screwed (OK, I’m being mild in my choice of words here). I just needed to get home.

Fly Over States

Something prevalent for anyone in engineering work is having problem solving skills. I have them thankfully. I had a second cigarette and started thinking about how to fix this. Oh yeah, smoking… I should quit now considering I am down to only five cigarettes a day and I run.  It makes no sense but at that moment a cigarette was comforting. I still think I’ll quit before Christmas though. Back to problem solving. There was no way I was going to spend the night in Chicago, have to check out of a hotel at noon, head back to the airport and sit until 7:45 in the evening, and making matters worse: with no luggage.  I came up with a plan.

The first thing I needed to do was see if I could get my luggage.  I walked back into the terminal and glanced over at another line of people near a baggage services area. The line was only about fifty people and I joined it. Within minutes there were another fifty people behind me. I don’t know the inner workings of an airport but I did know my bag was there somewhere. While in line, I called Avis and told them I wanted to reserve a car to drive from Chicago to New York but this would be dependent on whether or not I could get my bag. The lady was nice and said she would hold the reservation until I called her and said differently.  I estimated I would need the car in an hour.  Luckily the line moved quickly, I got to the counter and explained to the man that I wanted my luggage. Normally during times like this, you see many people at their worst.  I’m not one of those people. The people I was dealing with during the day are just people trying to do their job, people whose routines were disrupted just like mine. I gave the man my baggage claim ticket, described my bag, and he took the information and told me to go to carousel two and wait for my bag. When I got to the baggage carousel, people were complaining that they had been waiting for hours. I called Avis back to inform her of my situation and she said that would not be a problem. Thirty minutes later, I had my bag and headed out the door. Once outside, I called AMEX travel services back and told them I would not need the flight on Saturday so please cancel it. By 4:00 Friday afternoon, I was sitting in a rental car plugging in my home address into my GPS. I should have been picking up a rental car in Buffalo instead of Chicago but things change right?

For any of you who have ever driven in Chicago, it is an adventure to say the least. Having lived in Wisconsin for five years, we visited and/or drove through Chicago many times. There is NO good time of day to do it. I found over the years that the best time was around 3:00 in the morning. I couldn’t wait that long. It took me two and a half hours to get through Chicago Friday. Yeah, that bad.

Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania. These should have been fly over states for me to get to New York but I was going to drive through them. There is a song by a country artist named Jason Aldean titled Fly Over States. I’m not a big country music fan but have grown to like it for no other reason than I live in the country so to speak. Normally, I love driving and especially love driving the back roads that take you through small towns and country that most people never see. The song is fitting for me. Sadly though my trip had a time limit and I would be driving a route I knew well from my many trips driving from Wisconsin to New York so I would have to stick with the freeway and turnpike. After getting through Chicago, my GPS told me I would get to NY at 5 in the morning. Realistically I knew that would not happen for two reasons. One, I can’t drive that distance during the day without stopping multiple times and two, I certainly could not drive that distance alone at night as tired as I was mentally.

My plan was to drive as far as I could safely, then stop and get a hotel, get four or five hours of sleep then continue on in the morning. I just needed to be home by 3:00. At every rest stop along the I90, I would stop, get a Red Bull or a Monster, have a cigarette, field texts from my wife and kids; all while being encouraged on Twitter by my very dear friends Dena Rogers and Emma Wicker. I even got a wave hello from another Twitter friend Kathy Palm as I passed through her state. I made it to some hotel in Ohio and stopped to get some sleep.  I was up at 5 in the morning and back on the road again by 5:45, again in communication with my wife, kids, Dena, and Emma throughout the morning and early afternoon.

A Living Wake

I made it home by 2:45 yesterday but my wife had already left along with my mother-in-law who had been staying with her and the kids all week while I was gone. I walked in the house, dropped off my bags, and headed into town so I could turn in the rental car at the plant I work at. Luckily we have Avis cars at our plant for our employees who travel. This worked out well considering where I needed to meet my wife was within walking distance to the plant. I got there just before 4.

wake n. 2. A watch over the body of a deceased person before burial, sometimes accompanied by festivity. Also called regionally viewing.   (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/wake)

My wife’s aunt, on her father’s side, has been very ill, her health declining over the last few years. I’m not real close with her but have always enjoyed chatting with her, usually at parties thrown by her two sons or at funerals and subsequent family get-togethers afterwards. A few weeks ago, she went into the hospital and after a short stay was released to go home under hospice care. Never a good thing with the inevitable outcome to that being death. Sometime this week, she told family members that she wanted to have a party on Saturday, a “living wake” according to her, so that everyone could say good bye to her, and she could say good bye in return. The party was set for 3:00 and I promised my wife I would go with her.

We stayed and visited for a while then left, leaving her to be with her immediate family; her sons and daughters, all her grandchildren, and great grandchildren. My wife and mother-in-law sensed when they kissed her goodbye that they were most likely doing it for the last time.

They sensed correctly. This morning, I slept in which is really a rarity for me. I was awakened by the phone ringing. My wife’s aunt died in her sleep last night. Peacefully.

I don’t do death real well and at my age it seems to be something I have had to deal with more of lately, especially on my wife’s side of the family. This was part of why we moved to New York, so she could enjoy her family after giving me so many years with mine. She had family members pass while we didn’t live here but since we’ve moved here, she’s lost an uncle, an aunt, a cousin, her father, and now her aunt.  My father died when I was young but I didn’t really know him that well so I never dealt with it. My grandparents however suffered for a year and a half, my wife making countless trips with me to see them, all while knowing they were going to die at any time,  and every time I saw them I knew it could be the last. One time it eventually was. With my wife going through this on numerous occasions, some expected and some not, it has been important to me that I be here for her, just like she was for me and why it was so important that I got home in time to attend the party with her.

A year and a half ago, my wife’s father passed away after a tough battle with an illness. I remember at his funeral, my wife’s aunt was joking that the funeral director was “sizing her up for a casket” but that she just wasn’t ready to go yet. I guess last night she was finally ready.

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When I look back at the events that started at 4:30 Friday morning, I consider myself fortunate to have made it home in time to be here for my wife and mother-in-law. I’m just one of thousands whose plans got changed and somehow it worked out for me. I would bet though that out of those thousands of people affected by one person’s irresponsible decision, some of them weren’t as fortunate as I was.

Bill

 

 

What I Learned From Jonny Quest

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Jonny Quest was a television series that aired in the mid-sixties and has resurfaced on numerous cartoon/kids networks over the years. It was my favorite cartoon growing up and still is to this day.  I can’t tell you how many times I have watched each episode over the years but what I can tell you is the number isn’t stagnate.

The cartoon follows the scientific adventures of Dr. Benton Quest, his son Jonny, their bodyguard Race Bannon, an Indian orphan named Hadji, and their bulldog Bandit.  Of course like any good adventure show there is an evil nemesis.  For Dr. Quest it is the very evil yet entertaining Dr. Zin.

My first memory of watching this show was shortly after my parents divorced and I was very sick. I had been sleeping in a leather recliner, waking up to Jonny Quest on the television.  My sleeping on this chair was monumental in itself because I had never been allowed on it.  New family dynamics, new rules, or lack of I should say, and the chair became my spot for watching television.  I watched many episodes of Jonny Quest in that chair.  Episodes that took me to the Sargasso Sea to see a laser for the first time, or to Egypt to witness an artifact being stolen by tomb raiders (“The Curse of Anubis”), or to the Amazon jungle to get a glimpse of indigenous people, illegal mining, and a Pteranodon. I learned what nerve gas was on an adventure to India, went on an archeological expedition in the Yucatan jungle, searched for pharmaceutical plants in Thailand, and found a Nazi war criminal in the Andes. I visited China, Japan, Norway, and Africa. I even found Bigfoot’s cousin, the Yeti, in Nepal, all while never leaving my new chair.

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Flash forward a few years.  I’m a new father and shopping at Wal-Mart looking for kid movies having tired of watching Bambi and The Fox and the Hound too many times. To my surprise I found the complete Jonny Quest season on DVD and had to buy it. My son was around two years old at the time and my wife had started working part time in the evenings so we would not have to put him in daycare.  I always had problems getting him to go to sleep so what I started doing was putting on Jonny Quest DVD’s at night and we would watch as many episodes that we could before falling asleep together in my bed.  When my wife would get home from work, she would come into the bedroom and gently lift him without waking either of us and take him to his room.  This was our routine four nights a week.  He loved Jonny Quest as much as I did and at a much earlier age.  But did he really understand any of it or was I just using it as a tool to get him to sleep?

At the time, we lived in the Phoenix area and a new exhibit was coming to the museum. I want to say it was called the Perils of Egypt or Mummies of Egypt. We took him to this after deciding he would be alright to see most of it and if there was anything we deemed too frightening,  we would bypass it.  We walked into a room filled with Egyptian artifacts on display, and to everyone’s amazement, my two year old son’s eyes lit up as he pulled  his binky out of his mouth,  pointed his finger at a statue and yelled “Anubis.”  He calmly put his binky back in his mouth with his eyes still glued to the statue.  Yeah, he understood.

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I repeated the same process with my youngest son who came along years later.  He got it too. A cartoon from the sixties that was way ahead of its time taught me to explore and learn. It has also done the same for my two sons.  Sure, there have been other influences in other shows and books but it was Jonny Quest who took the three of us beyond our immediate world, fueling that desire to learn more about other subjects and places.  For example, I wrote a paper in college on Egyptian Mythology.  My oldest son did the same thing in High School. Inspired by an episode of a cartoon? No doubt about it and I have no doubt my youngest will do the same.

I was reminded recently about song association and how a particular song can evoke a memory or a specific time in our lives.  The song becomes somewhat bonded with that particular event or memory. This cartoon does that for me as well. It takes me to my own childhood and a dramatic time in my life to something beautiful with my own kids many years later. This same cartoon today is our “go to” show to watch when we are sick, or just want to have an episode marathon…  crowded together on my bed just like we did when they were  two and three years old.  Three distinctive memories we get to relive every now and then when the mood suits us.

Will this cartoon affect my writing?  Everything affects my writing and this cartoon will be no different. For now, I pay tribute by naming one of my characters after Jonny’s bodyguard, at least in surname.  Adventure, travels, and thirst for knowledge? Oh yes.

Bill

 

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7 Facts – One Lovely Blog Award

I’ve been nominated for the ONE LOVELY BLOG AWARD by Julie Stock, a writer who is very close to releasing her first novel. You can find out more about her here -> Julie Stock

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When I first saw the title of this award, namely the word “lovely”, I immediately thought of my new friends across the pond.  No offense to any of my friends in the UK, and please take this in jest, when we try and imitate you here in the states, we use the word “lovely” quite often and really don’t get the accent down, failing horribly I would imagine.

The rules of this blog hop type award are that I share 7 facts about myself, and links to 15 blogs that I enjoy reading. If I have  nominated your blog, please don’t feel any obligation to join in but if you do, please link back to the blog of the person who nominated you (that would be me), share 7 facts about you that we don’t know, and nominate 15 blogs you like. If you don’t have 15, nominate as many as you can. Simple right? Look at it this way, if you are like me, the hardest thing I did on my blog was write a bio on my about page. My intention was to write a bio I would use when my book is published. But I am human like the rest of you and have likes, dreams, hobbies, favorite shows, and problems. I look at this as a fun forum to share a few.

Here we go with 7 lovely facts about me:

1. I really wanted to be a professional musician right after high school and gave it a go. If you’ve read my about page, you’ll see I work in a technical field. I fell into that by accident. The accident being I needed to pay the rent. I’ve come to love my technical field and have excelled in it but music still holds a very special place in my heart. I still play the guitar and my Gibson SG is my favorite.

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2. The first time I said I wanted to write a novel was after reading SALEM’S LOT by Stephen King (coincidentally one of Julie’s favorites). The idea of writer Ben Mears returning home to write a book about a house he had a bad experience with as a child appealed to me and gave me a first glimpse into the possibility of a writer’s life. I then went on a Stephen King reading binge and read everything he had written up to that point. Although I love King, it was the subsequent reading of crime novels and mysteries that fueled that desire enough to act on it.

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3. I can eat with chopsticks. I’ve been fortunate in my day job that I have been able to travel to England (had new potatoes there by the way… as opposed to old potatoes?), Spain, Germany, Canada, and Japan. I didn’t really do any cultural type prep for these trips with the exception of Japan. My work required I study business etiquette for the trip. I did and took it one step further. A month prior to my trip, I ate all meals with nothing but chopsticks. By my second trip to Japan, I was handling my new eating utensils like a pro. We have Asian food once a week at my house and I have a large collection of chopsticks I brought home from Japan. The entirely family now rocks chopsticks.

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4. I love camping , hiking, and backpacking. I still camp and hike but sadly have not backpacked since moving to NY. While living in Arizona, I used to backpack numerous trails there in the higher country. I would often dream of one day backpacking in the Adirondacks.  I now live hours away from the Adirondacks and have not been there yet. That is going to change.

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5. I love the show ANCIENT ALIENS and IN SEARCH OF ALIENS. When I was young, I read every book by Eric von Daniken. I have always questioned ancient mysteries, especially engineering feats that would be difficult to duplicate even with today’s technology. The Great Pyramid of Giza,, Machu Picchu, Stonehenge, Puma Punku, and so many others all fascinate me to no end. I continue to ask “how” or “why.”

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6. I have a problem coming up with a title for a piece of written work. I had this problem while writing lyrics and poetry during my younger years, and I have it now.  I feel like a name will come to me and it usually does so why stress about it. Because I have a projects page on my site, I listed my WIP title as TBD. I didn’t have a title yet and it was driving me insane. That was until I discovered the Terry Tyler method of naming books (this almost sounds like an infomercial). Not afraid to borrow a great idea, I came up with a theme: titles named after songs played by guitar players I love. This should provide me with an endless supply of potential title names. Oh, and my work in progress? NOVEMBER RAIN.

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7. Favorite quotes. There are a myriad of quotes that have life meaning to me, quotes from Thoreau, Hemingway, Frost, Dickinson, and Maya Angelou. I draw from these often for inspiration however I have two favorite quotes I have posted where I can see them every day.

My first favorite quote:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.” – Marianne Williamson from her book A RETURN TO LOVE

My second favorite quote and a mantra consistent with my pursuit of the first quote:

“Time to nut up or shut up!” – Tallahassee from the movie ZOMBIELAND

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15 Blogs I recommend to you:

E.L. Wicker E.L.WICKER | A Writers Journey

Dena Rogers DENA ROGERS | Romance Author | Blog

Erin Sandlin Being Southern Somewhere Else

JH Mae JH Mae’s Blog | The Wild, The Weird & The Wonderful

Paige Randall PAIGE RANDALL | Finding the write way

Melissa My Love Affair with Words

James L’Etoile James L’Etoile | murder, mystery & mayhem

Carrie Lynn Lewis Carrie Lynn Lewis | Author

Kathryn Howes kateywrites

CJS Writing DYSB Writing

Georgia Rose Georgia Rose Books | Blog

Rob Distaffen robsblog

Jill Ripped Jeans and Bifocals

Nicole Bauer Woman in the Man Cave

Paul Jenny Stories are the Wildest Things

 

Until next week… Bill

Summer of Warriors

“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” – Maya Angelou

Back to school time and all the extracurricular events that go along with it.  I just posted some pictures of my oldest son’s soccer game on Facebook and in doing so something came to me. Like most parents, my wife and I tend to brag about our kids.  Actually, brag might be too strong of a word here.  Since we live on the other side of the country from my family and many of the friends we have made over the years, we “share” on social media many events and activities our two sons are involved in to keep them updated.  Events and activities that we are proud our sons participate in.

We wanted our children to be well rounded and they both are. Our oldest son is entering his senior year of high school.  He is an honor student, an athlete, plays the saxophone, participated in a musical last year, and most recently joined an a cappella group. He wants to go to medical school. Our youngest son is entering middle school. He is a straight ‘A’ student, an athlete, plays the trombone, and sang in choir last year. He hasn’t a clue what he wants to be yet.

Living in a small town where any news is big news, our oldest son has been in the local newspaper numerous times over the years. Running events, baseball, soccer, track, academics, his musical, and his a cappella group have led to many pictures and mentions in the paper.  He has a lot to be proud about as do we as parents.  Then there is my youngest. He has been in the paper once for baseball and another time for his Odyssey of The Mind competition. Like many younger siblings, he is overshadowed by an older brother. That is why this week I decided to write something about him. Something that won’t make the paper but an event nonetheless that I personally am extremely proud of.

Now if you’ve read this far, I don’t need to go into the benefits of reading. I obviously have strong convictions about the importance of reading and where it leads us.  I wrote a post a while back about one summer I had as a child entitled: Reading and Writing as Punishment.  I discussed this post with my kids and although they both thought it was interesting, I sensed their worry that I might be conjuring up some sort of ‘punishment’ for them. Both of them are avid readers but I have never forced them to read.  I did however suggest they make time to read this summer. They both agreed.

Our oldest read a few books over the summer but also opted to spend time with his friends and girlfriend; very normal for a kid entering his senior year of high school. Our youngest asked to borrow a few books from his brother who literally has a small library in his bedroom.  He chose the WARRIORS series of books.  WARRIORS is a series about feral cats living in clans written by a number of authors who write under the pen name Erin Hunter.  After my son had just started his 4th book of the series in only five days, I picked one of them up, did a bit of quick research and found out this particular book was written by Kate Cary. I quickly found a Kate Cary on Twitter, made sure she was in fact the correct Kate Cary, and thanked her. She responded to me,  and in doing so said to tell my son hello. I snapped a picture of her response and messaged it to my son (and yes, we are that kind of family). This small gesture by Kate meant the world to my son and fueled him to continue reading the series. He continued reading to the extent that we had to start buying books because my oldest son did not have the complete series. No matter what we did or where we went this summer, my son had books with him.

When my son stood at the bus stop last week waiting for the bus, he was heading back to school after having read twenty eight books over his summer vacation. Twenty five of those were from the WARRIORS series and the other three were decent length MA books that he bought during our trips to the books store. Twenty eight books!

The Summer of Warriors comes to a close and as I write this, my oldest son just borrowed the car to go visit his girlfriend and my youngest sits at the dinner table doing his homework, asking me in passing if I knew which continent Belize was in – North America or South America? I smiled and answered “neither, it’s in Central America.” He quickly reminded me that Central America is not a continent. Yeah, I knew that.

OK, I’m bragging.

Bill

Upcoming posts for me:

  • Lovely Blog Award post after being nominated by Julie Stock
  • What I’ve Learned From Jonny Quest

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