Month: August 2015

What Does The Instrumental Say To Us?

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Back to serious writing this weekend so some quick thoughts on music and writing.

I have a lot of different music on my iPhone. Music for working out, music for driving, music for writing, and music for just chilling. This morning I am writing and listening to a playlist I’d titled – Mellow.  Songs by artists such as Van Morrison, Carol King, James Taylor, Toto, R.E.M., and Cat Stevens are included in that playlist. I also included a few songs by a guitar playing duo from Mexico probably because I didn’t know what other category to put them under.

I have a playlist called Workout/Road in which I have everyone from Creed to Iron Maiden. It’s mostly comprised of hard rock.  Power music. I do however have one instrumental on there: Orion by the group Metallica.  I liken the instrumental to art or poetry in that it says something different to all of us. This song for example, would be a great backdrop in a book trailer for a dark thriller. The beginning of it speaks of a determined pursuit while the complete shift in the middle speaks of some dark question answered in a not-so-climactic way. Maybe the finding of a body in a deserted cabin deep in the woods that only leads to more questions and/or pursuit? That’s my interpretation and it suits my current WIP.

There is another version of this song, performed by Rodrigo y Gabriella. If you love guitar music, these two are amazing. I happened to listen to their version of the song this morning and it said many of the same things to me although in a much softer, less powerful way and with a Latin twist. Maybe a dark thriller that takes place in South America or Spain? It could work.

Same song, yet two different feelings on interpretation when it comes to levels of darkness, pursuit, and scene setting.

How about you, do you use instrumental music for inspiration?  What can an instrumental say to you ?

 

 

 

Enjoy,

B

 

If We Were Having Coffee #11 – Goodbyes

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If we were having coffee, I would only have two choices to offer you today. We have a Gevalia Colombian and a Wide Awake French Vanilla. I’m going with the Colombian and French Vanilla creamer.  Let’s sit out on the porch and enjoy a late summer preview of fall’s upcoming cool crisp mornings. Coffee will warm us.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I really don’t feel like writing anything this morning but I am because this is such a unique feeling I am experiencing today. If I don’t capture it now… you get the picture.

My wife and I took Thursday and Friday off this week to take care of all the last minute things we needed to get done in preparation for my son leaving for college. This mainly involved some last minute dealings with his school, getting his new laptop setup, and of course: packing.  His school had staggered move in times for incoming freshmen based on their last name and my son’s scheduled time was between 8:00 and 9:30 on Saturday morning. This meant we had to have the car packed (we packed every inch of it) on Friday night and leave our house by 6:00 am Saturday morning.  Well laid plan but we didn’t get out of here until 6:30 which got us to his college around 9:15. No worries.

We pulled in front of his dorm and there were about fifteen or so upperclassmen (athletes we later found out) that quickly unloaded our car and hauled his stuff up to his room. The room was laid out very symmetrical with a large armoire, a bed, and a desk to each side of the room with two dressers in the center of the room, one facing one bed, and one facing the other.  Not much room for two people. Thankfully, his new roommate showed up with his parents about ten minutes into our standing around being confused, made quick introductions, and immediately made some suggestions on how to rearrange the room. Their son is one of eleven kids and they had been through this numerous times before. We followed their lead and quickly arranged the room, setting the beds as bunk beds, then moved the dressers and armoires around. Problem solved. They said goodbye to us and their son walked them out to their car to say goodbye.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that we had originally planned on staying all day and attending the welcome ceremony that would take place around 3:00 in the afternoon.  We didn’t. While my son was getting settled with his new roommate, we ran to the store to get him some last minute things (a lamp, light bulbs, blanket, water, and snacks). When we returned we could tell it was time to go.

Saying goodbyes suck. We say goodbye to a loved one or a pet when they pass. We say goodbyes to family who live in other parts of the country. We say goodbyes to friends we know we won’t see for some time. None of this prepared me or my wife on how to say goodbye to our son nor how we would feel afterwards.

He walked us out to the car and we all hugged, told him we loved him and were proud of him, then wished him good luck.  We were OK. Then he came in for the second hug and goodbye to my wife, then me.  He walked off towards his dorm, turning and looking back at us once, giving us that same boyish grin we’ve seen daily for so many years.  My wife and I cried, while our youngest son watched his older brother until he was out of view.

I know he is only a short two hour drive from us and this is just part of life. It doesn’t make it any easier. It’s his time to shine now in a different environment. He’s worked hard for this opportunity and we couldn’t be more proud.  There still is a part of me though that wishes my kids could just stay kids.  I know that is both selfish and unrealistic but still…

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that he turns nineteen in two weeks and we will make the drive and take him out to dinner. Two weeks isn’t such a long time. Then we get him for a short break in October and again around Thanksgiving. We can do this.

He texted us goodnight last night then texted us again this morning telling us about his morning run on the lake and some new friends he made last night.  He sounds so excited.

And so it starts.

Liam

Liam

 

I Wish I Knew Then …

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I wish I knew then what I think I know now…but would I have lived life any differently?

By this time next week, my wife, twelve-year-old, and I will be waking up to a different dynamic in our home. My oldest will be gone. He’ll be waking up in a dorm room, probably both excited and nervous about the journey he is about to start. This upcoming experience, from my parent point of view, led me to thinking about my own journey that literally started the evening I returned home from my High School graduation. I left home that night, which is a story in itself.

A Letter To My Eighteen-Year-Old Self

I’ve read a few similar posts like this over the last year and they’ve always made me wonder what I might tell myself, assuming that was even possible, and, would it have made a difference? It did for John Conner in the second Terminator movie but that’s Hollywood. This is real life, and my thoughts and influences at that time were what guided me… Then.

Let’s just pretend for a few minutes that it’s possible. A letter from the future, to be opened and read that very first day on my own.

Dear Bill,

If you’re reading this, you’ve decided to leave home. You’re probably a little confused by now and wondering just what you’ve done. Last night was a turning point in your life. It wasn’t the first and it certainly won’t be the last. Standing on that football field after graduation only to find nobody was there is something that will eat at you for some time. I’d like to tell you why it happened like that but I don’t have a clue. My biggest advice is to get over it or you’ll spend too much time and energy wondering why. And while you’re at it, you should find forgiveness sooner than later. Trust me on this one.

So where do you go from here? What path should you choose? Regardless of what I tell you, you’re a stubborn kid and are going to do what you want. “No regrets” is what you’ll tell yourself later in life but you will have a few. And you’ll get over them. What words of wisdom do I have to share with you? Patience is something you won’t learn until later in life so I’m going to be brief or you will probably quit reading this. There are a few things however that you should know.

* Let’s establish one ground rule first. You’re eighteen. Although you think you know everything, you don’t. The reality of it is – you never will, and that’s okay. Lifelong learning should be your mantra.

* Adults. The first thing to know is that being an adult doesn’t automatically make one wiser, kinder, or more mature. Far from it. Some of the same BS you experienced in high school will continue throughout your life. I would love to tell you something different here but it’s just a fact and the sooner you realize that the better.

* Despite your wishes to pursue a career in the arts, you’re going to fall into a technical career. Embrace it. I know you fought this idea but you’ll learn to love it and it will provide you with a great living and you’ll be very good at it. You will travel, see many places within the U.S. and get to see a few places abroad. It can be as fulfilling as you want it to be. The best part is you’ll never lose the arts. Read. Write. Play the guitar. Who knows what can happen

* You convinced yourself that college is just high school with ashtrays. It’s so much more. So you f’d up and passed on scholarships. It would have been much easier on you had you just attended college immediately after high school. You’ll take the long route and still attend college albeit part-time. You’ll graduate. And with honors.

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* The eighties. I could write a book on this subject. Suffice it to say it will be called a decade of decadence for a reason. You’ll live to tell about it and it will make great writing fodder someday. Just be careful.

* The nineties. This is when you are going to find yourself, not that you were lost. You’ll find true friendship and a long lasting love. How will you know? For this first time in your life, you won’t be looking for any of it.

* You will be a father and it will be the greatest high you’ve ever experienced. You’re going to be scared, and for good reason. Understand why you are scared and the rest will take care of itself. Embrace both the responsibility and challenge that parenthood will bestow upon you.

Tata, Nana, & Me

Tata, Nana, & Me

* As time passes, and it will at an alarmingly faster rate, never forget where you came from. It’s easy to get caught up in a life that most of society deems successful. Much of that is overrated. You’ll figure out what truly is a measurement of success.  

* Understand a few guiding words and make them a part of your being. Love, live, learn, listen, light, character, forgiveness, compassion, loyalty, friendship, respect, ethics, and passion are but a few.

* Simplicity. I saw a Hispanic comedian once who described the mystery of Mexican Food. He was asked what a taco was and he said: meat, lettuce, tomato, onions, and cheese in a tortilla. A burrito? Meat, lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese and beans in a tortilla. A tostada? Meat, lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese and beans on a tortilla. Do you see where I am going with this?

It’s all going to work out kid,

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If We Were Having Coffee #10 – Shrimp Tacos

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If we were having coffee, I could offer you a few choices today. We have a donut shop blend,  a medium roast cinnamon crumb cake, and caramel pecan roll. I seldom have flavored coffee but I did try the caramel pecan roll this week with a sweet cream. Not too bad. I’m going with the donut shop blend and french vanilla creamer.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that we dropped the ball on getting my son’s transcripts for college squared away. I wrongfully made the assumption that his high school had handled it considering he took college level classes in high school. When we got his class schedule for his first semester, we noticed they had him down for an english comp class which we knew he had already taken. A quick phone call to the registrar’s office confirmed that they had not received official college transcripts, only the classes listed on his high school transcript stating they were college classes. We completed the process to get his transcripts, the college received them, completed their evaluation, then promptly changed his class schedule this last week.  He transferred in 36 college credits but only 18 of them will count towards his degree program. They are considering one more class which would give him 21. This should lighten his load a little each semester. It all worked out.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I celebrated my wedding anniversary this last week. Twenty years. We had a busy week so we decided to celebrate it with a late lunch on Saturday. There’s probably something more appropriate we should have done for our twentieth but we will have to bank that idea for a bit. Literally. We decided we’d do some shopping Saturday morning followed up with food. M wife wanted crab legs and lobster so Red Lobster became our only choice.

We do shopping a little different than most people. We decide what we are going to spend and withdraw that money from the bank before we go and then divide it between us.  This keeps us grounded and I don’t have to continually add up what I think we are spending during the day as we swipe cards. Our primary goal this weekend was twofold: a laptop for my son and an anniversary meal for my wife and I. The additional shopping was just to make the most of our time in the city; filling the gap between getting the laptop and eating.

We got him a nice Lenovo laptop that should meet his needs for college. I had a marketing class once that discussed the evils of extended warranties. I never purchase them. During my son’s college orientation, in which parents were included, we attended a hour session on IT concerns. It was highly recommended that we purchase one so we did. There is a Best Buy near his college so we bought his computer at Best Buy. I suppose it gives us a level of comfort that he can have the Geek Squad fix his computer, quickly I hope, should anything go wrong.

After that, my wife shopped at Hobby Lobby with her mother, the kids shopped at clothing stores, and I spent my money in Barnes & Noble. I picked up a book on short stories, a James Rollins book, and a book by an author I have never read: Scott Turow. You have to love the bargain priced book section at B&N. Buying so many books in print over the summer has made me realize I need a Kindle since both my wife’s Kindle Fire and my Sony eReader have died.  That and new releases I want to read by a few friends of mine: Erin Sandlin and E.L. Wicker.  Next month we will have to replace my wife’s Kindle and I think I will get the simple reader with the back light so I can read in the dark.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you our late lunch was perfect. My wife and mother-in-law had lobster and crab legs, my youngest son had something called The Admiral’s Feast (his eyes are always much bigger than his stomach), my oldest had a hamburger which is a departure from his normal adventurous eating habits, and I had a lobster bisque, shrimp tacos, and a beer.

Twenty years of being married and the simplicity of tacos and beer sums up my attitude towards most things these days. Life can be as complicated as you choose to make it. As I age, I choose to simplify it. It works for me and has obviously worked with my marriage.

A fly just landed in my coffee. Time for another cup. A fresh cup. How about you?

Until next time…

B

photo credit: Red Lobster

 

The Case Of The Missing Spoons

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Because real life offers us a treasure trove of writing ideas…

I was first alerted to this mystery one day in spring when my son tweeted something about our spoons disappearing. We had all been taking turns doing dishes throughout the week and my wife and I laughed when we read it thinking my son was just being funny about a chore he loves so much. Like I often do with many of the funny things my kids say, I jotted it down in my notebook. Nothing wasted.

As the past few months have sped by at an incredible pace, our weekly chores have remained the same. Throughout my dishwashing rotation, I have noticed something: the spoons are disappearing. Spoons! Are you fricken kidding me?

I can understand socks disappearing. We’ve lost many. Two socks enter the washer, one sock leaves the dryer. I’ve never investigated the handoff between the washer and dryer because I have solved this mystery after a little bit of research along with a visit to a chat room hosted by a whistle-blower from an unnamed sock company. Greed within the textile industry is the driver here. More specifically: a secret collaboration between sock manufacturers and cotton growers. They’ve developed a GMO cotton that once part of a fabric, dissolves after so many cycles of washing and drying. It has something to do with the way biodegradable surfactants (just the anionic type) in common laundry detergent mixes with water, coats itself to the suspect sock, and then dissolves the sock once heat is applied to it in the dryer after some magic number of cycles. And where does the dissolved sock end up? Check your lint trap.

You’re probably wondering why only one sock ends up missing. Because only one sock is made from the GMO cotton. If they did this to both socks, we would become suspicious. We’ve just accepted the fact that one sock will eventually go missing and the sock manufacturers know it. This is limited to only cotton socks. I have wool socks I’ve had for years and have never lost one. Besides, the wool industry is a bit more reputable. I would explain this conspiracy to my wife but she would think I’ve gone off the deep end. She still has her “bag” of socks without partners… waiting, as though the lost sock will return someday. That bag continues to grow.

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OK, back to the spoons. We have three sets of silverware in our Rubbermaid silverware holder. Since we have more knives than anything else, I counted the knives and it appears we bought two sets that serve 4 and one set that serves 6. 4+4+6=14? We have all 14 knives that match their unique sets, and 4 mystery knives. These sets, whether a 20 piece set or 30 piece set contain the following: two spoon sizes, two fork sizes, and one knive. What does this mean? It means we should have 14 small spoons, 14 large spoons, 14 small forks, and 14 larger forks (OK, for you uptown culinary types, that’s teaspoons, dinner spoons, salad forks, etc. etc). You get the picture.

Evidently I am not in tune with what we have or don’t have as of late. Maybe it’s because at any given time, some silverware will be in the drawer and some in the dish drainer (yes I know these sets are really stainless and called flatware… well at least at Walmart). With all the dishes, silverware, and utensils clean and put away, I went to get a spoon this morning to stir in my cream for coffee and it finally hit me. We are missing spoons. We have 5 teaspoons and 7 dinner spoons. That’s 12 spoons when there should be 28 (14 + 14 for the mathematically challenged). 16 spoons are missing! I’ve searched the usual hangouts such as the kids’ rooms, lunch pails, cars, trucks, other drawers, etc. and no spoons. Where are the damn spoons?

I would bet that some of you reading this now fancy yourself a sleuth. Maybe you are a mystery writer or watch too much CSI. You might even be trying to solve this mystery with your newfound knowledge of why our socks disappear. Why spoons? Is their unique curved shape susceptible to foul play? Maybe, just maybe, the silverware companies have conspired with dishwasher manufacturers to melt the spoons. I’m an engineer and work with metals on a daily basis, it’s not possible. The melting point for certain grades of stainless steel is 1325 degrees Celsius at the lowest. This is magnetic so most likely a 400 series stainless and it melts at an even higher temperature. This is not happening in a dishwasher.

So maybe, just maybe, the silverware companies have conspired with dishwasher detergent companies to have some wonderful chemical reaction with only unique curved shape stainless steel that magically melts it during the hot water wash cycle then the melted stainless is reduced to some liquid that rinses away. I’m not a chemist so I couldn’t argue that one way or the other but it just sounds plain stupid. Besides, our dishwasher has been broken for a year, hence, a non-factor. I am the dishwasher. So is my wife and so are my kids. The spoons are not dissolving.

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So what’s left? Are we accidentally throwing away silverware? Are we a victim of spoon thieves? Do I buy a metal detector and scan everyone leaving our kitchen? Why isn’t someone taking the steak knives, or paring knife, or Ginsu knife, or spatula or my collection of chopsticks? Why just the damn spoons I ask?

Is this mystery destined for the cold case files? I think so. I’m stumped and have wasted too much time on this nonsense already today.

I have a better solution. I want a reset. I think I will venture over to Walmart, buy two or three brand new 20 piece sets, identical sets, and bag up our existing silverware and drop if off at Salvation Army. Maybe with the bag of partner-less socks.

Until next time…

B

 

 

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