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!

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!

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

intelligence, life, misunderstanding, peace, quotes

When Good Quotes Get Horribly Misinterpreted

A few months ago, I posted the following comment in a social group on Facebook:

I thought it was a beautiful, powerful quote, something that we desperately need to hear, understand, and implement. Sadly, the reaction I got to this quote shows that many people have accomplished only Step 1 of 3.

Why do I say that? Well, consider these two responses:

  • #1: “Yeah, okay, well…I’m not going to like someone who treats me like shit!”
  • #2: “I disagree. If everyone liked everyone, the world would be a boring place.”

***sigh***

Okay, let’s start from the very beginning.

#1: My dear, you completely missed the mark here. If everyone liked everyone, then NO ONE would treat you like shit. It’s not advocating that you should be friendly toward those who do you harm. It’s saying that those who do you harm SHOULDN’T.

#2: I think you were thinking of something else when you read the quote, buddy. It doesn’t say, “Everyone SHOULD BE LIKE everyone.” It says, “Everyone SHOULD LIKE…” The word “be” is not in there. Yes, I agree that if everyone was the same, then the world would be boring. However, if we had a world where everyone was kind to one another, where there was no mockery over silly things like the kind of clothes a person wears, how they look, how they talk, what gender/sexuality/religion they were, and so on, then that would be a world full of light and positivity. Compare that to the way the world is. If a world with less violence would be “boring,” then please…sign me up to live in THAT world!

It’s a sad thing when good quotes go misunderstood. For my part, I try to educate when these things happen, but if the windows of perception aren’t open, then people can’t see things for what they are.

(PS: You get crazy cool bonus points if you recognize what I am paraphrasing there.)

~~~Steve

 

 

 

 

abuse, everyone, lesson, life, mental health

Emotional Wounds Don’t Automatically Heal Just Because the “Hitting” Stops

Is this rather long for a blog title? Maybe, but I couldn’t think of a shorter way to sum up today’s topic.

This is somewhat of an extension of Wednesday’s blog, because it relates to my inability to take a compliment about myself. Compliment me on my guitar playing or my writing or martial art skill, and I’m okay. Say I’m a good person, and I freak out. The last blog concluded with me wondering, “Why is that? Is it because I’m afraid someone will come along to knock me off my throne, or am I worried about letting it go to my head and turn me into an arrogant jerk?”

I shared that blog with my cousin Robin, and she said, “You’er too level-headed to let that happen. I wouldn’t worry about that.” That was reassuring, but it still didn’t give me an answer.

Then we got talking about the past and how, after a long time of someone making you feel worthless, you are bound to reject any attempts people make to tell you otherwise. In my case, the “someone” who did this was my stepfather Don. He was in my life from ages seven to seventeen. He was never physically abusive, but what he lacked there was made up in emotional abuse.

Shortly after my Mom kicked him out for good, I tried talking to her about things he had said to me, how it made me feel, etc. All she said was, “Well, he’s gone now.” I’m sure her dismissiveness stemmed from guilt. After all, her decision to marry him was what exposed me to his behavior. However, it didn’t help me to heal.

Imagine breaking your arm and never going to the doctor to get it in a cast. The bone won’t set right, and you’ll have trouble with that arm for the rest of your life. Well, that was me, except it was my mind and self-esteem that were broken. And what is the equivalent of it not setting right? The fact that, while he was gone, I still had this low self-esteem to live with. Over the years, it kept me from achieving a lot of things that, when I look back now, I KNOW I could have accomplished.

Another analogy (and believe me, I know this is an extreme one): think about any city or country that has had the crap bombed out of it during a war. Now imagine the war is over. The city is decimated. Thousands dead. Instead of working on a clean-up and reconstruction effort, the country’s leaders get on TV and say, “Okay, folks…back to business as usual.”

No. It doesn’t work like that. You need to rebuild. To reconstruct. To come to grips with what happened. To HEAL.

Sadly, Mom is not alone in her attitude of, “The abuser is gone, so get over it.” Far too many people believe this. They think just because they came through it and the abuse has ended that they can now move forward, but I’ve found it isn’t so. I had to talk through it with a therapist, had to get that third party opinion that yes, what I went through was very dysfunctional and toxic, that I wasn’t wrong to say I was left holding the emotional baggage.

Think about the movie Good Will Hunting. Will was abused by his father when he was a little kid. Then he is a young man in Sean Maguire’s office, and Sean keeps saying to him, “Will, it wasn’t your fault.” Eventually, Will breaks down in tears and hugs Sean. (Oddly enough, this is the kind of comfort Will SHOULD have received from his father.) All these years after the abuse, Will needed to hear that from someone to help him let the pain go. You’d be hard pressed to find a scene in any movie with more emotional power, and both Matt Damon and Robin Williams act this scene beautifully. However, I have to be honest here: while Matt Damon has shown he has his share of acting chops, you really have to hand this one to Robin Williams. After years of being that crazy, kooky, all over the place, manic, cocaine-fueled type of standup comic, he plays this part with wonderful restraint. We lost a great treasure in that man.

I won’t go down that route right now, because that could be turned into an entire SERIES of blog posts. For now, I will stick to the topic at hand. Simply put, the wounds don’t go away just because the abuse ends. To think otherwise is ignorant.

compliments, everyone, intelligence, lesson, life

Being Able to Take a Compliment

Consider this a bookend of sorts to my last blog about taking criticism. Like I said, I can take criticism…when it is intelligent and has some validity to it. However, there are times when I find it just as difficult to take a compliment.

This isn’t true 100% of the time. For example, if I’m at my martial arts class and I execute a move well, I have no problem taking a compliment if the other people in class express admiration for my technique. Having said that, this wasn’t always true. I used to react with a shrug of the shoulders, a lowering of the eyes to the ground, a blush rising in the cheeks, and a response like, “It was all right, I guess.”

The same holds true of someone complimenting my writing and guitar playing. What I always thought was weird about not being able to accept a compliment about these things is that, whenever I wrote something or played guitar, I would think that it was good IN MY HEAD, but then if someone complimented me, I’d start feeling awkward and shy about it.

These days, I’m okay with accepting compliments about writing, guitar playing, and martial arts. As you may notice, these are compliments about things I can do. However, what I still struggle with are compliments about ME. This could be remarks about my physical OR mental being, or any kind of statement that expresses admiration of me.

EXAMPLE OF THE PHYSICAL: My girlfriend will ask me, “Do you know how cute you are?” My automatic response is, “No.” By that I’m not saying, “No, I don’t know how cute I am to her.” I’m saying, “I don’t think I am.” In my eyes, I’m just plain.

EXAMPLE OF THE MENTAL: Someone tells me how smart they think I am. I can’t handle it, even though I HAVE had my IQ tested by a professional and know for a fact I am no slouch in that department.

EXAMPLE OF ADMIRATION: My son’s school had an open house where we got to meet the teachers. When his homeroom teacher was done with her presentation, we got to walk around the room for a few minutes. They had schoolwork on the wall, which was a questionnaire where the kids had to fill in the blanks. For example, it would say, “On summer breaks, my favorite thing to do is: __________.” One of these fill-ins started out by saying, “My biggest hero is: __________.”

And what was on the line on my son’s sheet?

“My Dad.”

I got choked up. My eyes watered. It felt like I was going to have a full-blown panic attack. The only remedy was to leave the room in a manner that was both quick and yet discreet. On the ride home, I kept thinking back about what I read. I thought to myself, “How can I be his hero? I’m no one to look up to.” That was two school years ago, and I still can’t shake the feeling that sentence gave me. Hell, I’m getting it again even as I write this!

What I can’t understand is WHY I can’t accept it. Why do I react the way I do? What fear do I have of admitting that I am a good person? Am I worried that, if I come off a little too proud, someone might come along and say something to knock me off my throne, so I want to make sure I’m not too high up there to begin with?

In previous blogs, I will start by writing about a problem where I don’t have an answer. However, by the end of it, I come up with a solution. That will not be the case today though, folks.

TO BE CONTINUED…