Brother Jon’s Page over at Stories That Must Not Die gave me the honor of running my post on domestic abuse today. With the New Year approaching, I truly hope these thoughts can inspire someone to end or leave the cycle of abuse in 2015. Tragedy is the flipside of comedy; they are entwined — and this post is my personal flipside… My best wishes to all of you in the New Year
Anyone who reads my weekly newspaper column or blog posts knows I try to keep life in perspective through humor. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the reasons my children are still alive today. While I joke about that, for many years humor was also part of a coping mechanism from a childhood witnessing both verbal and physical abuse by the men in my family — specifically, my father and older brothers.
The good news is that each of them eventually turned themselves, their lives and the lives of the people they loved, around. It wasn’t until I became a father that I realized the impact that a childhood witnessing abuse had on me, and how some of those wounds — as both a witness and recipient — had never truly healed.
I know this because I occasionally saw reflections of my father and brothers in myself as I…
I won’t graze before my meal,
I refuse to overeat, doggone it;
I swear to stop feeding my face
at some point before I vomit.
I had repeated this mantra to myself in preparation for the Christmas holiday meal, hoping to curb my normal routine of eating so much that I’m forced to change my breathing pattern to something that sounds like a cheetah in heat.
In the past, I’ve simply given in and accepted my fate, preparing for it by wearing one of those long sweaters which hides the fact that, once my pants are unbuttoned, the only thing holding them up is a small strip of packaging tape on each hip — a technique which allows my new center of gravity to shift, and therefore keep me from toppling into the gravy boat when leaning across the dinner table.
It was while standing in line at the hardware store with a roll of double-sided, maximum-hold packaging tape that I had an epiphany — a life-changing moment sparked by two important realizations:
[BEEP] Hi, this is Ned. I’m out of the blog-o-sphere today and probably curled up with an empty carton of egg nog and a pile of Almond Roca wrappers. But if you’ll leave your name, blog and a brief message, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can think coherently which, coincidentally, is one if my New Year’s resolutions! Happy Holidays! [BEEP]…
It was many Christmases ago when I found myself standing in line with approximately 800 other husbands (conservative estimate) who, like me, had been sent to return the Christmas gift they had gotten their wives.
I should probably point out that I’m not still waiting in that line and have since re-married. I don’t think that is a coincidence.
However, I can distinctly remember the experience for a number of reasons. First, because it’s rare to see so many men standing in line for something that isn’t leading to a sporting event, urinal or more beer.
Last year, a blogger friend named Randall posted a beautiful poem about taking time to recognize the magic in our lives. In his poem, he used snow as an analogy for the magic that is constantly swirling around us — and how, like snow, it can quickly melt away and go unnoticed unless we make an effort to see it. What follows is a Christmas tale based on a true-life experience that I tell each year on Christmas Eve. It’s a mixture of fact, whimsy, hope and my belief that a heartfelt wish is the cornerstone of life’s most important magical moments. That said, my sincere thanks to all of you for sharing the magic every day…
He looked very out of place sitting alone in the flight terminal, his arms folded over a Superman backpack, and large brown eyes peering out from beneath his baseball cap. A few seats away, a keyboard recital was being performed by a businessman wearing Bluetooth headphones and chastising someone at “headquarters” about overspending.
“I said gifts for the immediate staff only. That means Carl, Jody, Jessica and whats-her-name — the gal we hired last month,” he instructed, keyboard clattering continuously. “Yeah, her — Loni. But that’s it. I never said anything about the sales department. What? Of course you’re included with the immediate staff. Get yourself something.”
The boy shifted, causing his plastic chair to squeak a bit as he leaned toward the businessman. “Hey, Dad…”
If you think trying to explain to your child why there are two Santas on the same city block is hard…
You see, dear, there is a thing called the space-time continuum….
You’ve never heard of Santa’s twin brother…?
…try explaining why those same two Santas are in a back alley, jabbing red-mittened fists at each other.
That was my job one Christmas Eve many years ago as my daughter and I did a little window gazing in Portland. We’d come to see the lights and shop displays in the hope of starting our own holiday tradition. Instead, we stumbled onto a pair of brawling Santas as we crossed an alleyway in downtown.
“Hey Dad, LOOK!” my daughter exclaimed, pointing her tiny finger at them.
We both froze; her out of confusion, me out of fatherly fear.
What makes email great is that it’s so darned easy to use. For example: If you come across something that absolutely HAS TO BE SEEN by everyone you know — like say a picture of a cat doing chin-ups — you can simply click a button and send it to 100 people. Or in the case of my favorite aunt who still hasn’t mastered this process, you can send that very same knee-slapping picture to one person — such as your favorite nephew — 100 times.
The reason I bring this up is because, if not for email, I sincerely doubt someone from Midland, Mich., would’ve gone to the trouble of sending me a photo of 176 Santas standing on the deck of a fishing boat off the coast of Greenland (And YES, this is primarily the kind of email I get.) Continue reading Santa Summit prompts Greenland ‘No-Fly Zone’
BREAKING NEWS! • • • MEDIA ADVISORY! • • • ANYTHING TO GET YOUR ATTENTION!
Emboldened by their success thwarting the release of Sony Pictures’ controversial comedy The Interview, North Korean hackers issued another threat just moments ago warning of an attack “should anyone ever play a Justin Bieber song again. Ever. Anywhere.”
In an unprecidented move, world leaders from 120 countries immediately met and unanimously agreed to sign a pact keeping the digital airwaves “in all its forms, including our kids’ iPods and Smartphones” free of Justin Bieber music.
Ok, so let’s suppose you’ve read every weekly Nickel’s Worth On Writing I’ve posted here during the last two years. And let’s also suppose you aren’t my mother. That means you understand the importance of developing a voice, know the tools you need to establish that voice, are prepared to send your work to potential publishers, have established a writing routine and are now sitting at the keyboard ready to write!
…um, but about what?
As a writer, recognizing and developing story ideas is your bread and butter. Or biscuits and gravy, depending on your proximity to the Mason-Dixon line. The point is, whether you are a romance novelist, sci-fi short story writer or weekly columnist, generating ideas — and recognizing the difference between good ones and not-so-good ones (There are no bad ideas in my opinion, and I’ll explain that in a bit) — is the most important skill you must develop. Continue reading Learn to distill story ideas like a moonshiner