Monday, January 26, 2015

Writing the RV

I have an RV and I love to travel.  Unfortunately, for the last few years, we've been unable to go anywhere due to my mother-in-law.  She's now 102+ yrs old and can't tell when the RV is moving or if the engine is even turned on.  That was critical since she'd see my wife up getting me something to drink or eat and decide she had to go potty.  Not good, especially when I decide to pull out and cross 4 lanes of traffic and quickly see a little old lady rolling down the aisle in my rear-view mirror.  That was our last trip over 3 years ago.

Last year, due to health reasons, she had to be placed in a nursing home.  My wife and I attempted to try RVing again.  The RV had several issues that needed to be addressed.  Some were easy fixes and taken care of before we began, others were discovered as we used it and some were "delayed" until later in the year to be fixed.

Later in the year came.  So did the cold and the snow.

The repairs are on hold until Spring.

Now, the quandary.  Mardi Gras is coming.  We haven't been to our favorite Mardi Gras spot for several years PLUS Mardi Gras is early this year.  Where do we go for Mardi Gras?  Simple.  Jefferson, TX.  Who knew?  Yes, Jefferson, TX has been linked to Mardi Gras and New Orleans for decades.  The local river was a main thoroughfare between the two locations and a little known fact, Jefferson was the gold depot for the Confederate War.  Imagine.  A dinky little town so robust in the history of the South.

Back to the RV.

I love to travel and while traveling, I love to write.  While in Jefferson, I've seen the bayous and how the swamp and swirling fogs lend themselves to my writing style.  Of course, the mighty redwoods of Northern California, the sheer loneliness of the Sonoran Desert, the vibrant shades of the Grand Canyon and the flat(?) plains of Kansas and Nebraska have also colored my writing.  Camping in Yellowstone National Park, along the mighty Mississippi River and within the pines of a quiet, family campground also allow my imagination to run rampant.

Unfortunately, I think this year will be another one where we stay close to home base, perhaps experimenting with trips to the local state park about 25 miles away or maybe get wild and spend a few days even a little farther away but still within the range of 2 or 3 hours drive to get back home.

Why?  Twofold.  As stated earlier, not all the quirks have been fixed.  Until I feel secure that the tires, motor, and waterlines are safe, I don't want to travel too far.  Secondly, and this is rather gruesome, my mother-in-law will be 103 in September.  Her health is beginning to fail and, as much as I hate to say it, she isn't going to last forever.  I don't want to be in California, Florida, or Texas when the call comes.  I know my wife.  Even 25 miles away is going to be very hectic.

Of course, as much as the RV is an exciting place to sit and write, I can, if I so desire, grab my laptop and amble out the rig and write.  We live in the country and when I look out the one side of the RV's windows, I can see pines, shrubs, an open area and feel that I am not anywhere near a residence.  Of course, a quick peek out the opposite side will strike reality since I'm parked beside the house.  Still, we are in the country, so it isn't like sitting in the middle of town.

No doubt about it, I love writing in the RV.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Writing Habit

The new year is upon us and we've all made our resolutions and broken most of them by now, but that's not this is about.  Yet, it is, sort of.

I was asked "How do you write? What is your routine?"

It was then I realized that I really didn't have a routine.  I used to have one back when I worked full time before retirement.  It was a  simple thing.

I got to work in the morning, almost an hour before anyone else.  I'd start the coffee and then I'd sit at my desk, headphones on, music blasting and I'd start writing.  I loved the smell of the coffee as it freshly brewed, the aroma permeating everything.  I'd get some heavy writing done.  As my co-workers showed up, I get my 2nd cup of coffee, take my meds and search for the right donut or bagel that was brought in.  Come lunch time, it was a quick jaunt to get either a salad, sandwich, sushi, or some Chinese and hustle back to the office, close the door, put on the headphones and again start to write until my hour was up.  I'd print out what I'd accomplished and file it in my briefcase so on the trip home via the train I could perform some edits.  I'd enjoy the evening with the family and then about 9:30pm, after the boys were in bed, I'd sneak away for an hour or two of writing - yes, wearing those headphones.  Sometimes, if it was a good night, I might work until 1am.  Then it was into bed to snuggle with my wife and dream about going to work the next day... yeah, right.

I retired.

The only thing that keeps me straight regarding time is simple: 6 Saturdays, 1 Sunday.  Time is a blur.  I have to a calendar and figure out which day it is and sometimes, what week.  There is no routine, no habit, per se.  I get to come and go as I wish.  In fact, I can spend upwards of all day at the computer and get absolutely nothing accomplished.

Somebody told me that habits are threefold:  cue, routine, reward.

For me, the early morning cue was the scent of coffee brewing. My routine was to work about an hour.  I knew I had an hour and then I had to do my day job.  My lunch cue was getting something to eat.  My evening cue was the boys going to bed.  It was a habit.

Because I knew I time restraints, I made the best of those times.  I now know my cue and I know the routine and have always known the reward.  Reward?  Sure, finished work.  I was actually pretty proud of myself each day when I printed out what was new and needed to be edited.

Back to TODAY's reality and dilemma.  I have no cue, no routine, and really, no reward since I tend to piss away my day.

I'm sure it will raise an eyebrow on my wife's face but I believe I will get myself a coffee pot to put on my desk and make coffee.  The scent and the music is my cue and will put me in the proper frame of mind - my routine - and perhaps I will have the reward of writing something.  If nothing else, I will get a pot of hot coffee.

For those who want to establish a habit. It must be repeated daily, approximately the same time each day for 3-5 weeks.  By then, it should be ingrained and it will feel natural.

Who knew being in a rut would be the answer?

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, January 12, 2015

Goals of an Eleven Year Old

When I was 11, maybe 10, perhaps 12, I was told to write an essay for English class.  The title?

What I Want to Be When I Grow Up

Like every 11 year old boy knows exactly what he wants to be when he grows up.  Oh, sure I had some ideas: fireman, doctor, President, an actor like John Wayne or Roy Rogers. It was a so-so report.

Truth be told, I wasn't sure what I wanted.  Move ahead a few years - I'm entering Freshman year of High School.  A sheet of paper is passed out during Home Room and I have to fill it in and turn it back in the next day.

List three (3) occupations you are interested in.

We're back to the "What I want to be when I grow up" question.  I considered my choices since I was more mature and had a little better grip on the realities of being an adult.  Yeah, freshman.  Adult.  We can stop laughing.  We like to think we're grown up.  Anyway, I thought about it that night and wrote down the following: ministry, actor, artist.  I was called in 'the office' about 2 days later and asked to explain my choices and would I like to change the last two?  Remember, Podunk was a big metropolis when measuring our rural area in NW Ohio.  My graduating class was the largest in school history - 100 students and the next four years of graduating students would be 89 or less.  The fact remained, there was nobody available to discuss acting or being an artist in the area and I was the only student to request those fields.  I changed my last 2 choices to Navy and office worker.  So, on Career Day, I listened to a minister discuss God's calling, the Navy recruiter tell me how great sailing the Seven Seas would be and a mousey, scared-of-her-shadow secretary explain the workings of an office.

For the next 3 years - Sophomore, Junior and Senior - I continued to participate in Career Day attending the Ministry, Navy recruiter and some other obscure job possibility.

My English teacher, for the last semester, had us write an essay on:

What Great Accomplishment Do You Hope to Fulfill?

Accomplishment?  I have less than 6 weeks of high school left, I've already signed up to join the Navy for a four-year stint.  College?  Not in my future - too expensive.  The Vietnam War is in full swing and at that particular moment, my great accomplishment was to stay alive for the next four years, at least that is what I wrote on my essay.  I figured my teacher would give me at least a C, maybe a B for the paper.  Surprisingly, I got an A.  I would say the great accomplishment of that exact moment, was that particular grade.

I graduated and soon shipped off to boot camp in Chicago.  What was I going to do with my life?

On my return trip home from Chicago, I flew with a retiring Navy Chief who had made the Navy his career. I was considering a life in the Navy.  He gave me a word of advice and wisdom.  He said "The Navy will teach anything and everything. Just become an open vessel and accept the knowledge."  At the ripe age of 18, I'm a man of the world and know everything.  Yeah, right, is my mental thought.  But, it did sink in finally.

Needless to say, I survived 5 years in the Navy - so, NO, I didn't make that my life's goal.  I did several jobs but nothing seemed to fill that "What Do You Want To Be?" space in my life.  I married, had children, and went to college.  Imagine that!  The GI Bill worked to my advantage.  I was taking a few accounting courses and suddenly found myself working in an accounting department of a major firm.  Life seemed to directing me toward a goal.

Enter Atari.

I started to learn how to program Atari programs which led to a job at a computer store and more programming which lead to me being hired by a small manufacturing firm to be the computer person.  Life found me moving to Washington, DC and doing programming for a major software firm.  Suddenly I'm working for the Federal government as a programmer.  The software I am helping to design with 2 other people is tested in Texas.  First test of the software?  The Waco incident with David Koresh and the Davidians. The program worked perfect, no hiccups.  Years later, I'm moving to Detroit to become the Assistant Systems Manager for the Federal court there.  I retired.

So, what did I want to be when I grew up?

First, I haven't grown up.  That is still an on-going process.  If you don't believe me, just ask my wife and she'll let you know very quickly that I haven't grown up.

I'm a husband, father, grandfather and now, soon-to-be a great-grandfather.  I'm retired but I'm an author.

What do I want to be when I grow up?  A writer, an author.  Happy.

What great accomplishment do I hope to fulfill?  Being a great husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

Isn't that strange?  What I want to accomplish and what I want to be aren't even related, although being a great-grandfather, grandfather, father and husband has made me happy.  Who knew?  In fact, how can anyone expect an 11 year old boy to know this?  When I was 11, computers were basically unheard of.

Do you know what you want to be?  What accomplishments you want to fulfill?

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, January 5, 2015

What Is Your Biggest Regret?

It is a new year and we've all made our resolutions and for some, already broken them.  So far, mine are still on track or not started, yet.

With the end of a year, one tends to gaze back at the glories and misses that made up the year. There were the fun times, the sad times, and even the thoughtful, quiet moments.  You rejoiced, you cried, you smiled, you even were surprised.

Then it hits.

You didn't do this or that.  You didn't take the time for this or that.  OR, worse yet, you did do this or that!


It's an ugly moment of realization.  I was playing golf with a couple of buddies while my grandchildren were visiting.  It was time lost with them.  Or even, just time lost with your own children and/or your wife.

Maybe you're a health-conscience person and spend two to three hours at the gym, maybe three to five times a week.  Alone.

Yes, each of us are due our personal time and we should be allowed to do what we want during that time, but then again, at what expense and whose?

We all have regrets.  Some big, some small, maybe some extremely big and life-shattering.

In fact, a life-shattering regret could be as simple as not having the nerve to ride the Ferris wheel at the carnival - thereby establishing a subtle lack of courage to challenge yourself and become a leader, a man.

Such a moment was my life.  I think I was about 9 at the time and the carnival came to town. My mother loves the Ferris wheel. I was scared and didn't want to go on it.  So my father bought tickets for my mother, younger brother and him to ride it.  I was to stand alone and wait.  My mother and brother got in a seat and lifted into the air.  My father was getting into the next seat when I decided to go for it. My dad purchased another ticket for me and I scooted onto the Ferris wheel.

Why?  I was scared s***less.  I didn't want to go on that thing.  The answer is simple.

Peer pressure.

Two of my classmates got on the ride before my parents and they were jeering, laughing and making fun of me.  Also, two female classmates were very close at hand, waiting to ride and the one had asked why I wasn't going on.

So, yeah, I made it onto the Ferris wheel.  I white-knuckled the retaining bar as we lifted above the tree tops and then dropped like a rock to the ground.

I was proud of myself.  I'd conquered my fear.  I had met the challenge and passed.

Or had I?

Even today, as new challenges face me, I tend to step back and hope they will go away.  Just like the Ferris wheel scenario, I am afraid.  It is only pressure from others, family, friends and society, that forces me to face my fear and move up to the challenge.  In a subtle way, the Ferris wheel incident has been formative in that I won't step up at the beginning.

What is my biggest regret?  I regret that I did not face my fear when it first reared its ugly head. Do I want to make that a New Year's Resolution?  No.  Almost 60 years of dealing with it has pretty well ingrained it within my makeup.  I deal with it.

So, tell me, what is your biggest fear as we move into the new year?

Until next I ramble on...