kids, lesson, life, memories, nostalgia, observation, reminiscing, summer, youth

How Do You Make Summer Less Magical?

Two words: “GET OLD.”

I cannot stress the importance of this enough: if you have children who are in school, teach them the value of summer. Teach them to go out and absorb the wonders that surround them every time that season of freedom rolls around.

Why? Because that magic doesn’t last.

I was talking to my 13-year-old son a few weeks back. It was a weekday. I asked him how his day was. He said, “Boring. There was nothing to do. I just sat around all day watching videos on YouTube.”

I said, “That might feel boring now, but you ought to enjoy it. Don’t take it for granted because someday you might WANT to do nothing but watch YouTube, and you won’t be able to, even if it is summertime. Want to know why?” I paused for dramatic effect. Then I said, “Because you will be old like Dad, and you will have a job, and summer won’t mean the same anymore.”

Yes, it’s sad but true: summer has no more magic once you finish high school/college/grad school. Once you have bills to pay and a job to attend, that season means nothing. The only exception would be if you are a teacher, but even they can be busy with “adulting” instead of getting some sun on their faces.

I hate feeling so jaded, but I can’t help it. The only positive thing I see about summer is that I don’t have to go outside earlier than usual and clean mounds of snow off my car. For a moment, I was tempted to say that I don’t have to warm my car UP, but summertime means you have to cool it DOWN, so there is no difference between the seasons (other than the way the temperature gauge moves, of course).

Although we are one-third of the way through September, we are still clinging to summer-type temperatures here in upstate New York. Yesterday I got home early, and I was alone because my girlfriend had an appointment. After taking some time to catch up on emails, I had nothing to do. I found myself standing in my living room, looking out the window at the empty street, my arms folded, my mind slipping into a haze of nostalgia. For a moment, I thought, “Man, I wish I still had a bicycle because I’d take it out for a ride right now.”

Then it dawned on me: no I wouldn’t. If I did, I’d probably enjoy the ride for a block or two before adult thoughts crept in. I’d start looking at my phone to see what time it was. Then I’d start to wonder when I should get back home. I’d start to feel anxiety over any chores I hadn’t done or any writing that I was neglecting by going on this bike ride. Not only did I have to get back home so I could get all that done AND get to bed at a decent time, but I also had to be sure I didn’t go so far that I still felt worn out from my trek the next day. Shoot! What was I thinking, taking my bike out on a weeknight???

You see what I’m trying to tell you, ladies and gentlemen? Please do this, for me and for the love of all that is sacred, teach your kids EVERY DAY to appreciate those “boring” summer days because when they get older, “boring” days will be all they wish for!

busy, life, writing

A Brief Intermission (Almost)

Hello to all my readers!

Recently I purchased a training course called Video Ranking Academy 2.0, which helps you learn how to optimize and rank on YouTube. Unlike a lot of similar course, I think this one is really going to do the trick.

However, here’s the catch: to make sure it DOES do the trick, I have to buckle down and focus. Therefore, I think I am going to take a break from blogging for a while. My goal is to wrap up any writing tasks that I have laid out before me, and then start hammering away at the VRA just as the New Year comes around. How’s THAT for a way to bring in the new year?

Actually, I am at 27 blogs once I publish this post. I don’t like that. Therefore, I think I will call it a night after 30. I like round numbers.

What are my writing tasks? Oh, let me count them:

  • Reformat 4 novels for Amazon
  • Reformat 10 poetry collections for Amazon
  • Make revisions to one of the Wing Chun books I wrote

Three lines’ worth of tasks? Might not sound like a lot, but believe me: it is! I need to dedicate every second that I can to knocking those out. This temporary absence is necessary, so that I can come back strong and be uninterrupted.

There will be 3 more posts before I hang up a “closed” sign, but I thought I would at least put up the notification that it’s coming.

life, observation, writing

When What Was Fun Becomes a Grind

Sometimes the things we love to do can become a grind. I’m sure this happens to all of us, but I want to give an example about what I mean from my life. It is about writing. Now I’m willing to bet that not a lot of people reading this are writers, but stick with me, and I bet you can relate. Just replace “writing” with something you love, and you can probably think of a time when you were in the same spot.

For a while now, I have been following this morning routine:

  • Submit my novella Maybe the Dream Knows What is Real to 10 book review sites
  • Reformat at least 5 pages of my novel The Humanitarian Murders so it displays properly on Amazon
  • Post a new blog on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

However, when I got up this morning, I realized I didn’t want to do any of these! Yet here I am, slogging through it, because I turned my reluctance to blog into the TOPIC of my blog. Clever, eh?

Well, it’s not clever enough. I still need to think a way out of this rut. It’s not that blogging itself is a chore or that I have already lost the fire to do it. In fact, I don’t think this lack of ambition is tied to the blogging part at all. This is related more to the formatting and submitting part.

When it comes to site submissions, I am almost done. I had a list of a whopping 630 book reviewer sites. Today, I just finished reaching out to numbers 531-540. However, the reformatting is what kills me.

Before I was working on the novel, I was reformatting my poetry collections. I have 30 of them, but I got bored working on them, so I decided to flip-flop between poetry and prose. How so? Easy:

  • Format 5 collections of poetry
  • Format a novel
  • Repeat

Sounds simple, right? I mean, the poetry collections are only about 30 pages each in MS Word, so I can tear through them. The snag came when I got to the first novel. Why? Well, because those are longer, and they have a LOT more words per page than poetry.

For now, I am going to stick to my plan, which is formatting and then releasing The Humanitarian Murders. I will also finish submitting to the remaining 90 blog sites. However, after that I don’t know what the plan is, and I need one. I’ve got  3 more novels and 12 more poetry collections to reformat, and then of course I have to go through the motions of submitting these to review sites. That is where I get one break: once I make it through the list, I can go back and remove any sites that are now defunct, or any that were duplicates, or that don’t accept my genre.

But enough about me.

I’d like to hear from YOU. Can you relate? Is there anything in your life that normally brings you boundless joy, but sometimes feels like a chore?

Leave a comment!

habits, life, observation

A Day to Myself = A Day I Get Nothing Done

On the days when I work, I can accomplish the following:

  • Practice martial arts for at least a half hour
  • Read 50 pages or more in a book
  • Write three pages for a story I’m working on
  • Film a couple videos for my YouTube channel
  • Run errands
  • Post 3 times EACH on Facebook and Twitter
  • Spend time with my girlfriend

And what do I do on a day like today, when I have it off and I could accomplish anything I wanted?

NOTHING!!!

Oh, wait. I texted a contractor about some work he was supposed to do on my house, took down some recycling, and texted hello to my kids. In other words, nothing out of the ordinary.

Why is that? I don’t get it! How can I have more ambition on the days when I have less time?

Can anyone help me solve this mystery? I really need to solve it because there are a lot of holidays that will go to waste if I can’t figure out where my motivation goes. It doesn’t even do me any good to project into the future and imagine the regret I will feel; I just sit there thinking, “Well, I’ll deal with that when the time comes.”

I just need to figure this out!

jobs, life, memories, reminiscing, universal

First Job

My first job was working at the bottle register in a grocery store called Price Chopper (now known as Market 32). Back then, they didn’t have the machines that took the bottles for you. However, there was one thing that was similar to the machines of today: instead of me giving the customers money, I gave them a receipt for how much they returned, which they could then cash in at the customer service desk or when they went through the checkout line with their groceries.

Needless to say, it was a dull job. When there were no customers, I had to find things to do. There was always taking out trash, taking out the buckets that had all the smashed-up bottles in them, and cleaning up behind the counter. If I finished that up and there were still no customers, then I would either go over to the end of a cashier’s aisle and bag up groceries for the customers, or I’d go out to the parking lot to gather up the carts that customers left near their cars.

Was it a stressful job? No, it was a simple one. Not too hard to understand or execute. And that was what made it irritating when people did certain things. For example, there were these two “dudes” who looked like Keanu Reeves and what’s-his-name from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure  who would come in every now and then with MONTH’S worth of returns. Their order alone would take fifteen minutes.

The policy of the store was that we weren’t supposed to take any single order that was over $25. If someone had that much, then we had to tell them to go to the end of the line with whatever was left over. I knew this, but one of the girls who covered the register while I was on lunch break didn’t, so when I come back and take over, the next customer in line gets mad at ME for what someone else didn’t know.

“That was ridiculous! i shouldn’t have had to wait that long,” he said.

I understood his frustration, but at the same time I didn’t like him (1) getting mad at me about what SHE did, and (2) getting mad at HER when she didn’t cover my station a lot. I don’t think it’s right to hold it against someone when they didn’t have the knowledge to know any better, so I decided to address it.

“I’m sorry about that, but she was just covering for my lunch break. She doesn’t normally work over here, so she didn’t know the policy,” I said.

“That’s no excuse. She….blah blah blah blah blah.”

At that point, I realized there was no reaching him. I just processed his order while he complained.

Other employees could be irritating too. I remember going outside one morning to start bringing in carts. Another employee came in and said, “Hey, someone left a six-pack of empty beer bottles out there between my truck and that car.”

I looked at him, dumbfounded, and I said, “So instead of picking it up and bringing it to me, you just walked past it…even though you knew it shouldn’t stay there?”

“That’s your job,” he said. “You’re bottle boy, not me.”

As he went into the store, I said, “It’s probably better you left it for me. Wouldn’t want you to strain yourself.”

Then you had your usual pain in the ass supervisors, who liked to be condescending every chance they got and/or flex their authority. For example, one night I was upstairs cleaning the break room when I got a call that there was a customer at the bottle register. When the customer was gone, the front end supervisor said, “You can’t take breaks whenever you feel like it.”

I said, “I wasn’t, I was CLEANING the break room.”

She left without another word.

Another time, I was only halfway through my shift when I got an upset stomach. Fortunately there were no customers, so I made it to the bathroom in time. (Yes, this part of the memory is gross: I had diarrhea.)  When I got back, I asked the supervisor if I could leave because I could tell I might be hit with another bout of it.

She said, “Are you sure you can’t stay? Because if you go home, I’ll have to work the bottle return.”

I was thinking: aw, poor baby…so don’t be a supervisor…so now I have to run the risk of crapping myself because the bottle register is beneath you…sorry it would add one more thing to your plate, but that’s why they pay you the big bucks!

Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t all bad. In fact, during the summer when I went in and found out I would be on carts instead of the bottle register, it was actually fun. Between runs to the parking lot to get the carts, I would go inside and bag groceries for customers. There was one cashier in particular (a stunning blonde named Suzanne) whose aisle I would always pick. Things never went anywhere with her, but it was fun to flirt.

Also, I was completely unsupervised when I was out on carts. I’d often just walk around the parking lot, writing poems in a tiny notebook that I could keep in my pocket. If a supervisor did come out and see me, I told them I was walking around to see if there were any carts hidden between cars. Hell, one time I even took a stroll behind every store in the Price Chopper Plaza, simply because I wanted to kill time…although, to my surprise, I DID find carts back there!

I was young. My biggest responsibilities were homework, bottle return, bagging groceries, and retrieving carts. At the time I hated that menial job, but now…shoot, I WISH I could walk behind those stores again!

Got a first job story that YOU would like to share? Comment below!!!

~~~Steve

everyone, habits, life, observation, universal

Strange Habits We All Have

Ugh…I didn’t get to do anything that I wanted to do this morning because, for some reason, my alarm was set to go off only on Saturdays and Sundays. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on how the day goes), I woke up just in time to get ready and not be late for work.

Still, it irked me to no end that I missed out on my morning ritual of getting up, having a cup of coffee, and then taking care of various tasks. Writing this blog is one of them. The other two are: (1) submitting my novella Maybe the Dream Knows What is Real to ten blog sites that accept submissions for reviews and (2) properly formatting at least 5 pages of a novel I uploaded to Amazon.

Out of everything I just wrote in that last paragraph, there is one word that stands out: “ritual.” Routine. Habit. This is what inspired today’s blog because it got me wondering: “What peculiar habits do other people have?” I just revealed a few of mine, although you might not realize it. Let me describe things a little deeper, and you will see what I mean.

Submit to at least 10 book review websites

How is this a peculiar habit? Simple: I have a list of over 600 websites that accept submissions for review. However, I can’t think of the list as a whole. If I did, then it would be too overwhelming for me. (“My God…600 websites to submit my book for review!!! I’ll never finish!”)

Also, aside from having to submit books I already wrote for review, I’m also thinking of ones I want to publish. When I upload them to Amazon, I know the formatting doesn’t translate exactly how I want it when I view it on Kindle. That means having to revise and reformat (more on that shortly).

Last but not least, as of this writing I do this only on weekday mornings. That’s because I have my kids on the weekends. The last thing I want to do is ignore them while I type away on a computer.

Therefore, I had to break down the list to a number that would accomplish three things:

  • It wouldn’t feel so daunting.
  • It would leave me with time to work on other things.
  • It would leave me with a sense of accomplishment by the time I was done on Friday morning.

I settled on the number 10. Multiply that by 5 weekdays, and you get 50. That means in two weeks, I have reached out to 100 sites. At a rate of 100 every two weeks, that means I will have contacted all these sites in approximately 12 weeks/3 months. Then I can give myself two weeks off, and start from the top again.

Formatting at least 5 pages of a novel I uploaded to Amazon

In MS Word, the novel comes to 195 pages. If I do 5 pages per weekday, that means I do 25 per week. 4 weeks would be 100. That means I would finish reformatting in about 8 weeks/2 months. That might seem “long,” but believe me: it takes me a while to slog through those 5 pages because I am very particular about how the writing will look on the Kindle. This means I agonize over those 5 pages. If I tried to do more than that, I’d burn out.

Miscellaneous

Here are some other areas where I have strange habits:

  • When it comes to debts, like a credit card, I plan out how much I am going to pay them by dividing the amount I owe by 10.
  • When I read a book, I count the number of pages and divide that by 10. If there is a remainder, then I read a couple extra pages on the first day. (EXAMPLE: A book is 303 pages long. Divided by 10, that would be 30 days, but there are 3 pages left, so I will read 13 pages on day 1.)
  • Let’s say I come up with a list of CDs, movies, and books that I want to buy. What I will do is look at my calendar for my next few paydays, and I will pick one item from each list to buy on those days.

What quirks/strange habits do YOU have?

Please feel free to share them below. I promise: there will be no judgment here!

~~~Steve

criticism, life, medication, mental health, misunderstanding

I’m the Anti Anti-Pharmacy Guy (Mental Illness is Real)

The other day I was listening to an interview with a guy who I shall not name, but I will give his initials: GC. He was being interviewed because he is someone who has made his business blow up through YouTube. At any rate, he started out by giving some good advice, but then things took a turn for a worse when the interviewer went into something called “the lightning round,” where he asked some quick questions unrelated to the main topic. One of them was, “What is your favorite movie?” GC said, “Oh, man, what is that one…that meteor one…I watched it seventeen times, and I cry every time…oh yeah Armageddon!”

I actually paused the video and thought, “Wait a minute. Do I really want to take advice from someone who is THAT excited about a movie that is universally regarded as one of the worst ever made?” I decided to keep giving him a chance. After all, I’m sure I have liked movies that made people question my sanity.

Then the interviewer got around to the topic of a new book that GC had coming out, and he revealed that the proceeds of the book were going toward some cause (Drug-Free America and Drug-Free World) toward educating parents about how kids are being “overprescribed” drugs for ADHD and so on. He said, “The drugs that are coming from the ‘big pharma’ are massive, MASSIVE drugs.” He said he wanted to educate kids and tell them, “Hey, maybe there is NOTHING wrong with you. Maybe you’re a genius. It’s like Van Gogh. Everyone thought there was something wrong with him, until one day someone looked and said, ‘Wow, he’s a genius.'”

Yeah, a one-eared genius.

I’m so sick of these dime-store psychiatrists who think they know so much. Oh, so the medications from “big pharma” are heavy drugs, eh? Hmmm…maybe that’s why you have to jump through hoops to get them. It’s not like crack where you can go down to the street corner. Then again, maybe you can. I’m sure drug dealers peddle legal drugs just as much as they do the illegal ones. But if someone is going to a drug dealer to get something that they aren’t prescribed illegally, that’s not something that rests on “big pharma’s” shoulders.

All I can say is this: from MY own experience, the life before and after being on medication is like night and day. My self-esteem is better, my outlook on life is 1000 times more positive, and I am happier than ever. Oh, and for those of you who are wondering if medication has dulled my creativity, here’s your answer:

IT HASN’T DULLED IT ONE BIT.

In other words, for those of you who think Van Gogh wouldn’t have been able to create all those wonderful paintings, you are wrong. The other difference? He would have still had both ears.