Sunday, February 28, 2010

Once more unto the breach...


I seldom look back through my blog anymore. It is neat from time to time to look back at some of the happier memories. Even some of the sad ones are worth remembering. The one theme that I am not happy to revisit is my career changes. It is honestly rather embarrassing. To be sure, each change was an wholehearted attempt to make my family's life better.

The same idealism applies to my recent college endeavors. While I was at Flextronics, I was inspired to get a two year Computer Science degree from Midlands Tech. to help further my career there. When I was laid off due to production cutbacks, it occurred to me that I should be pursuing a Masters degree. What good is a 2 year degree when I already have a 4 year degree? So I applied to the University of Phoenix's MBA program. I felt that a degree like this would catapult my career as well as my earnings.

By the time I reached my second class, I knew that I was out of my league. I am a semi-intelligent person, and I was able to keep up with the material; however, I didn't feel any sense of fulfillment whatsoever. I envisioned myself trapped in a career that I would literally hate. I felt lost. So I did some deep soul-searching. Very, very deep.

I asked myself "Why?" a lot.
  • Why have I changed jobs so much since leaving the ministry?
  • Why do I keep getting laid off?
  • Why can't I have a satisfying career that would make me happy and fulfilled?
Then I began the "Whats?"
  • What AM I good at?
  • What makes me happy?
  • What exactly is the source of the void in my life?
Long story short, I rediscovered that my two passions outside of family and friends are writing and teaching. I began to explore changing majors at Phoenix. Long story short, it didn't work out with them.

Long story short once again, I begin my studies in the Masters of Fine Arts program at National University tomorrow. My focus will be Creative Writing. Not only will the program help me hone my writing skills, but it will also qualify me to teach at the college level. I am excited about this, and though it has taken many crooked paths to get here, I am happy to be here.

I looked at my assignments for the upcoming week, and it looks like I will be spending a lot less time on Twitter and Facebook!

One final thought: the University of Phoenix sucks (another long story)!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

My first interview....let the games begin!


Through Social Media, I have met some amazing writers, literary agents, and publishers, as well as a number of great people from other backgrounds. It excites me that an average of 5 people a day are following me on Twitter. Social Media has been a wonderful tool in promoting my writing. Last week, I was interviewed by Dorothy Dreyer, who started a blog where she will spotlight aspiring authors. I was very fortunate to be her first victim...er, guest.

You can read the interview here.

Social Media rocks! Everyone needs to get on board. You never know who you might meet.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Earlier this morning, while you were asleep...


Meet my 1997 Chevrolet S-10 pick up truck. The photo was taken a few months ago, when, while on my way to a very important meeting, the tire blew and left me stranded. I missed my appointment, and they wouldn't reschedule.

Earlier this morning, while you were asleep, my truck stranded me on I-20 once again. I was on my way home from a nice visit with James at our "satellite office," and was about 4.5 miles from my exit. Suddenly, the truck just froze. As I watched the speedometer quickly drop from 70 to 50mph and falling, I quickly and safely pulled off.

This was 1:30 in the morning. Attempts to call home failed four times. On the fifth time, my groggy wife answered. Her car has been in the shop all week. The truck was our only vehicle.

Was, that is.

With no solutions and no one awake, I started walking. At once I felt like Bill Bixby as David Banner from The Incredible Hulk TV series from my youth. With my wife's work bag on my shoulder, and with no flashlight, I began the 3 or 4 mile journey to my exit. As I was walking in the dark evening chill, my thoughts wandered to my good friend Peeley, who is bravely serving our country in Afghanistan. Soon, my self pity began to wane, and I tried to focus my thoughts on walking. I literally could not see in front of me until vehicles passed from behind me. I thought about holding out my thumb, but decided against it. I recalled a presentation I saw in 2nd grade where two young girls got picked up by a stranger and butchered. Police presentations can be quite brutal on the senses. Remember Driver's Ed.? I rest my case.

After hoofing it for about 20 minutes, my wife called me to tell me my brother-in-law who drives a tow truck (God bless him) was on his way, and I was to walk back to the truck. I calmly stated that I was close enough to the exit that I was not turning back and could be picked up at the faithful 44 Truck Stop, which never closes. I knew there would be coffee and water there, so I kept moving.

25 minutes later, as my right leg began shooting pain into my hip, I arrived at my exit. A car drove past me, and I saw them stop and begin to back up. Two young men offered me a lift to the truck stop. Though I was very grateful for their gesture, I politely declined since I was so close anyway. I then recalled all the times I had driven by someone walking on the interstate and had never stopped. Suddenly it occurred to me that I had an interview scheduled for today. It was one I have been waiting for for about 2 weeks. Once again, when I needed her the most, my truck failed me. Still wrestling with the "Why?" of it all.

Pity soon gave way to joy as I saw the bright lights of the 44 Truckstop just ahead. I victoriously walked inside. As I sat down with my truck stop variety coffee, my brother-in-law pulled up with my truck in tow. I decided to buy him a hero's breakfast. After we ate, we headed for my house.

I arrived in my bed at 4:45 am. Exhausted, but at the same time impressed that I was able to make the journey. Walking is really exhilarating, especially in the dreary cold chill of night.

What will become of my truck, now parked on my front driveway? Will they reschedule my interview?

To be continued...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sun Day Random Ruminations


Greetings from the booming town of Leesville, SC. On this beautiful Springlike day, I have a few random thoughts that I need to dispose of. Enjoy!
  • I am sick of the whole Tiger Woods thing. Sick of it. SICK of it. In other words, I am too busy getting on with my own life to indulge the media's Tiger obsession any longer. He screwed up, he apologized; good day and good night.
  • I just don't get NASCAR. It's not my thing. If it's you're thing, then that's cool. They do put on quite a program. I elect not to watch it, however. Don't hate.
  • I am so ready to get back into the routine of online school. March 1, I am back in. Ordered my books today. I am a big giant sponge ready to soak up all the knowledge!
  • I love Spring. It is a very beautiful time of year.
  • I hate Spring. My allergies go to DefCon 5.
  • I miss football season.
  • I hope I get a new job soon. Two interviews this week!
  • I wish my laptop would come home soon.
  • Jillian Michaels is really hot, but what man could handle her?
  • My friend Frank Fomby remembers a Karl Malden joke that I told in 1982. He said it still makes him laugh. Should I be troubled by this?
  • I am seriously craving pizza today. Maybe the wife will let me make a run to Hungry Howies tonight. It would be an easier sell if I had a full time job...
  • I seriously need a road trip outside of SC.
  • I wish Jamestown Coffee would hurry up and open.
  • People on Twitter are nicer than people in church. Just sayin'.
  • I am going to totally update/redo my website tomorrow.
Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Balance and Learning to Roll

The older I get, the more I realize that life is all about balance. I have lived my life by extremes for a long time. I have been extremely left and extremely right. I have been "name it and claim it," and "Thy will be done." I have gone from fired up to fizzled out. To live this way is very draining emotionally, mentally, physically and even spiritually.

As a believer, I am often frustrated at how God answers prayer or how He seemingly doesn't; at least not the way I wanted. Why do some people live while others die? Why do some have while others have not? Questions like these have befuddled my tiny mind for years. Frankly, they have stressed me out and led me to become very depressed at times.

Furthermore, I have gone through seasons of prosperity as well as seasons of struggle. It would seem that it is not possible to have one without having the other. For months, due to the economy and being laid off, my wife and I have struggled to stay "above water" financially. Earlier this month, we received a pretty decent tax refund. We were able to catch up some things, pay off some things, and have a balance greater than $0.00 at the bank. It has been a nice feeling.

Yesterday, my truck started making some noises that lead me to believe that the transmission may be on its deathbed. Just when things were going great, another calamity comes along.

Balance.

Things happen. Good things, bad things. The truck will be fixed, but we may have to scrape and struggle again for a bit. The fact is, I am tired of stressing over it. Life happens. It just does. I have to learn to roll with it.

I am not a materially wealthy person. However, I am not destitute either. I have what I need for today. I will deal with tomorrow, well, tomorrow. Today,I have food, shelter, love, and warmth. I have much to be thankful for.

Somewhere inside of all of this stuff is a happy medium. A middle ground that can be achieved by patience and practice and learning to accept the good with the bad.

Balance.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Valentine's Day Post

For many years, Valentine's Day has been a very unhappy day. When I was a sophomore in high school, my then girlfriend cheated on me with one of my so-called friends.

Valentine's Day 1992 was the worst. I received a phone call in the middle of the night from my sister, who informed me that our estranged father had been killed in a freak auto accident. Long story short, a man had a heart attack at the wheel of his car and plowed right into my father's house where he was asleep in his chair. Both men were killed instantly.

It's now 2010, and I am married with lots of children who I love. I am very fortunate to have a number of wonderful people that call me friend. Surely there is much to celebrate on February 14th, and I do celebrate through the grief, which is like an open wound that will never heal.

The picture was photo shopped by my son Cody. He superimposed my Dad (from my last photo of him) onto the picture so we could have our first generation picture. I am sure Dad would be honored by it. I wish I could say he was a wonderful and perfect father. I can't. He had many demons that he drowned in alcohol for many years. He abandoned us when I was 12 years old, and for a long time, we didn't know where he was or whether he was alive or dead.

At my high school graduation I saw him for the first time in 6 years. I had rehearsed many times over the years as to what I would say to him if I ever saw him again. I reluctantly walked over to him, took a deep breath, and no words came out. I fell into his arms and hugged him as we both wept for what seemed like hours.

He stuck around for awhile, then left again, and we exchanged a few letters and phone calls. One month before he died, Terri, Tiffani, and I got to spend a whole evening with him. We ate dinner with relatives, visited my Grandma, laughed, and took pictures. As we were leaving, we had made plans to get together again, all of us, as soon as possible. I hugged my father and told him I loved him. He said nothing, but that was just his way. I knew he loved me.

Thirty-five days later, on Valentine's Day, he was dead.

Over the years, I have often thought of all the things we missed out on. But the truth is, he and I have a lot more good memories than I realized. It is so easy to focus on the bad stuff and forget the good stuff. After many years, I am finally at peace with Dad's death. I will never fully understand some of the choices he made, but I understand that being a father is hard, and I am only one bad choice away from repeating his mistakes. "There, but by the grace of God go I," or something like that, right?

I love being a father. A dad. My children will call me,"Far from perfect," and "a nerd," but they love me and keep me going each day. Today, I miss my Dad more than usual. He never got to meet his grandchildren, but they have met him through my stories and photos.

The last time I saw my Dad alive, he was happy. He had met someone special, and was turning his life around. His best friend was a pastor! At my Dad's visitation, there were hundreds of people there. Hundreds! Each one told me how special he was to them, and how loved he was. He cheered people up when they were down. He listened. He gave himself away to everyone as a friend. I learned one final life lesson from my Dad that I have shared with my children time and again. I will share it here: "It's not how we start, but how we finish that is most important."

I miss you, Dad.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

10 Quirky Things About Me

We all have our little quirks. Some of us have quirks that are quirkier than others. Furthermore, some of us are DEFINED by our quirks. I will share with the reader my most popular and perhaps least well-known quirks. There will not be a quiz at the end.
  1. I absotively, posilutely hate waiting in line for any reason whatsoever.
  2. Misspelled words and typos on any marquis or sign make me very angry.
  3. People who type in ALL CAPS make me very angry.
  4. When I write, I have to have coffee in my Daffy Duck mug.
  5. The movie 1408 inspires my creativity. I do not know why.
  6. I only shave when it is absolutely necessary.
  7. I am a closet hippie.
  8. For the last 14 months, I have had the strangest compulsion to move to Philadelphia.
  9. I think Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the greatest actors of my generation.
  10. Seeing The Who on the Superbowl halftime show actually gave me chills. Pete Townshend is such an amazing and insightful songwriter.