May the Power of this Blog compel you…to answer one question!

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Guilty Pleasures.  We all have them.  When it comes to reading we all have our favorite reading genres.  My “go-to” is usually Fantasy Fiction or Science Fiction.  True, every once in a while I like to dive into a little bit of Horror, but my favorite has always been Fantasy Fiction.

They say curiosity can lead to humorous and unexpected discoveries, oh and something about some poor cat…  Yes, I am curious as to what my family, friends, and followers feel is their favorite genre.  Please take a quick 30 seconds to answer the one question poll on the bottom of this post.

“But why Patrick?  What’s in it for me?  You’re just going to leave me high and dry after nosing into my reading habits?  It’s none of your business sir.  No incentive?  No reward?”

Well to that I say, here is the fun part to belay that idle chatter.

Once the poll closes at week’ss end I will review the tally.  Whichever genre receives the most votes and is declared the winner will receive a special prize.  I’ll take the challenge upon myself to write a Short Story, minimum 1,000 words within the winning genre.  That’s right, no matter which one wins.  Don’t you see?  You! Right there, yes! Who me?  No, not me, You! the one reading this on your screen, using the Power of the Internet you have control over this Blog and its Author!

VOTE NOW!  Wait, what?  You don’t want to?  Don’t have time?  Nonsense!  It took you longer to read this article than it will to answer the question below…unless you have any other Unintelligent Arguments to present…

MAY THE BEST GENRE WIN!

Can’t decide which is your favorite?  Select your top 3!  Aren’t I nice?  🙂

Don’t miss out on the Results and upcoming Short Story!  Hit the ‘Subscribe’ button and don’t miss a single post!

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Achieving Greatness in 2015! Make your Resolutions & Goals into Realities!

Patrick

2015 is here and once again millions of good people around the world look to the start of the new year as a ‘New Beginning’ and begin progress on achieving or completing personal goals which we commonly refer to as ‘Resolutions’. For those of weaker willpower and determination the drive and motivation to achieve their personal goals usually fizzles out by the end of the first quarter of the New Year. Yet, some of us are able to reach down deep inside of ourselves and find the inner strength needed to reach heights we never thought were within our grasp. How can one be assured of a successful 2015? How can one make resolutions a reality? How would it feel to wake up in the morning sometime during the next 12 months and look in the bathroom mirror and say to your reflection, “I did it,” and see yourself smiling back proudly?

The most common resolutions involve personal health and change in lifestyle. It’s ironic that the most common are the most difficult. Sometime during the year while pounding a cheeseburger or smoking that cigarette you’ll scroll through your social networking newsfeed and see the successful boasts (including pictures) of a friend or family member who has hit their weight goal or has gone several months smoke-free. Would you hesitate to take the next bite? Would you drop the cigarette before taking the next puff? Would you remember your promises you made to yourself? Would you place the sandwich down and replace it with a healthier choice? I hope you do. I hope we all do. Motivation by our peers (as well as competition) are the largest driving forces and most successful. Use their support but also compete internally and say to yourself, “If they can do it, I can do it!” If you feel like you are stuck, that you don’t have the determination to succeed in your endeavors on your own accord and for your own personal reasons, there is nothing wrong with looking to outside sources of support and/or competition. It takes a brave soul to say, “I need help,” and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Personally, I feel very confident heading into 2015. I have several personal goals (commonly referred to as the aforementioned ‘Resolutions’), but nothing that I feel is out of reach. I feel this way for one simple reason, I believe we all can achieve our own personal greatness in the world; we just need to keep taking those steps forward even when knocked back. Also, although we may only be a speck of dust floating on a beautiful rock in the vast ocean of our Universe, each of us has the potential to leave behind a Legacy, a mark of our own that can resonate amongst our descendants and throughout history.

Here are some of my personal goals and the steps I am taking to achieve them this year. By January 1st, 2016 I would love to look back and realize that 2015 was everything that I allowed it to become, because so much more in our lives is within our control than we normally think about. If any of my goals mirror your own, please feel free to use this article as a guide or even better, a source of support and motivation to achieve the same goals.

  1. Finish and Self-Publish online Goblin Tales Part 1:  The Curse of DirtMuck (85% Complete)
    1. After burning myself out on writing throughout the month of November, I took off the entire month of December to recharge my ‘writing battery’.  It’s time to wrap this up.
    2. Finish Draft in January, Edit in February, Publish in Late February or March 2015.
  2. Write more this year than I ever have before.
    1. Last year I posted 10 Blog articles on my webpage, my goal is to triple that (30) by the end of the year, with more articles on pop culture, movies, comics, and my crazy adventures.  It’s time to show everyone how much fun Unintelligent Arguments with me can be.
    2. Offline I am going to push myself to complete a handwritten Journal entry at least 2 times a week.  Last Year I completed 25 journal entries, my goal this year is 100.  Some of my best writing ideas come from random thoughts thrown down in my journal.
    3. I’ve joined The Writing Journey (www.writingjourney.org) which is a year-round writing group associated with the Naperville Region writers who participate in National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org).  I look forward to working with this group throughout 2015 for Social Events, Writing Groups, Editing, and Self-Publishing of our Novels.
    4. Participate in National Novel Writing Month again this November 2015.  My goal is to work on my third novel, which would be Goblin Tales Part 2.  I plan on writing my second novel (a more serious – adult themed story) throughout the early parts of 2015.
  3. Quit Smoking
    1. In 2013 I quit smoking Cold-Turkey for 266 days.  Then, I went to Vegas.  While on Vacation I wanted to ‘party it up’ as hard as possible and started smoking.  Big Mistake.  I’ve been smoking again ever since October 2013, for the last 15 Months.  It’s time again to kick this habit.  When it comes to steps, Cold Turkey is the only way to go.  Vapors, Patches, Gums, they do nothing, because the only way to even last 266 days (let alone forever) without smoking is to stop putting nicotine in your body.
  4. Weight Loss
    1. My goal is to lose 15 pounds during 2015 and keep it off by years end by consulting with my Doctor, healthier eating habits, and exercising more.  The three basic steps to weight loss.  I’m not looking for a drastic weight change, but just trying to get back to feeling healthy and strong.
  5. Take my Family on minimum 2 Vacations
    1. Tentatively we have planned on:
      1. Arkansas – July 4th Week – Road Trip
        1. My Mother-In-Law’s Cabin for fishing, hiking, the works.
      2. East Coast – End of July – Road Trip
        1. We plan on driving from Chicago to Washington D.C for a few days.
        2. Head North from D.C. to Red Bank, New Jersey to visit Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash.
        3. Drive Home through PA/OH/IN, stop in Hershey, PA because my wife loves Chocolate.
        4. Annnnnd…who knows where the road will lead us?  If we see something cool, by god we’ll stop and take a look at it.
    2. Other trips I would love to squeeze in
      1. St. Louis – Road Trip
        1. I want to visit the Arch, Museums, etc.
      2. Florida – Plane
        1. Fly down for a Week in Orlando in September or October.
      3. Milwaukee (never been), Indianapolis (never been), Nashville (never been).
    3. The Dream Vacations that won’t happen in 2015
      1. San Diego (Comic-Con), New Zealand (Middle-Earth), Ireland (Homeland).

I have a few other goals in regards to career and education, such as possibly going back to school for continuing education as well as completing my CISR (Certified Insurance Services Representative) Certification/Designation. I passed 2 out of 5 required exams in 2014, and hope to finish the remaining three in 2015.

2015 is going to be everything that I allow it to be. The same goes for you. Reallocation of your priorities, time management, and the full commitment to achieving greatness is upon you. If you feel that there is simply no time, no money, no opportunity for you to improve yourself, that your fate is not in your own capable hands, well…that just might be the biggest Unintelligent Argument of them all.

Go out there and crush it my friends! May you all have a wonderful and happy 2015! Achieve nothing less than greatness! Make this year the start of your own personal Legacy! And don’t fret if you fail, we all have hover-boards to look forward to in 2015…right? McFly? Hello? McFly?

So?  What are your 2015 goals?  Feel free to share them in the comments section below or on the social networking link where you found this article.  As always, please feel free to share this blog with your friends and family and especially anyone seeking motivation for 2015.

An abundance of great writing content is on tap for 2015!  Don’t miss a single post!  Click the subscribe button!

An Unexpected Inspiration

Me with Horror Novelist John Everson at the Haunted Halloween Flea Market, 10/25/14 at the DuPage County Fairgrounds.
Me with Horror Novelist John Everson at the Haunted Halloween Flea Market, 10/25/14 at the DuPage County Fairgrounds.

Sometimes you set goals for yourself that seem lofty and above your expectations. When floundering on the edge of the concession to failure life will sometimes surprise you and give you that much needed push. A much needed jolt of inspiration. This happened to me this last Saturday evening.

My family and I were seeking something fun to do Saturday afternoon since the weather was perfect and fall celebrations and Halloween events are happening all over the Chicagoland area. Earlier in the day I had attended the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) Naperville region’s pot-luck kickoff celebration. I felt really good leaving the luncheon and ready to push to finish my novel I started working on last year this November. The folks in my region are all friendly, welcoming, and very talented. I’ve learned a lot in my short time spent there last year and this year in our writing group luncheons and writer’s workshops and appreciate them welcoming me into the fold.

Yet, writing a novel has always been one of the scariest personal challenges I’ve ever undertaken. A pie in the sky fantasy, a castle in the air hallucination and sometimes I feel like I am one of those folks who needs to ‘see it to believe it’ even if I am the one who needs to do it. So, although feeling thoroughly prepared by the fellowship provided by my fellow NaNoWriMo folks, my natural insecurities and self-doubt still lingered in the back of my mind, subverting my confidence that I could hit my personal goals this November.

Alas, to take my mind off of things my lovely wife Melissa told me that the Village of Wheaton was having their annual ‘Haunted Halloween Flea Market’ at the DuPage County Fairgrounds. Tickets to get in were $7 per person at the door yet my wife in her ever surprising ingenuity purchased advanced tickets online through Goldstar for free minus a $2.50 processing fee per ticket. In short, instead of paying $21 for the three of us to get in it only cost $7.50, heck of a deal and the flea market was to be open until midnight. We had dinner and arrived at the flea market around 7:30PM.

As this was my first time at this event I was pleasantly surprised by the large number of people attending, the smile generating Halloween décor, the food, hay rides, and the sheer number of vendors (around 100-200) and people milling about in costumes engaging in old fashioned American commerce. While perusing the vast area of outdoor vendors I noticed that several of the enclosed buildings on the fairgrounds also had indoor activities going on. My wife and son wanted to hop on the free hay ride and I told them I would wander about and check things out.

When I entered the largest of the buildings that had dozens of people walking in and out I noticed that this large barn/warehouse had been converted into a large indoor exhibition room complete with its own artist alley. For those of you who do not know what an ‘artist alley’ is, this is typically a space at a convention reserved for amateur and professional artists to display and sell their own work. As I walked down the aisle I was casually glancing at the local comic book artists, inkers, and even met an interesting fellow promoting his own ‘Svengoolie-esque’ TV show he runs on Public Access channels across the Chicagoland area. However, I came to a halt when I met a smiling middle-aged man standing in front of a large display of paperback, trade paperback, and hardcover novels.

My copy of 'Covenant' by John Everson.
My copy of ‘Covenant’ by John Everson.

His name was John Everson, a published Horror writer under the Leisure books banner. In the past my experience reading the horror genre has been limited to Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, Dean Koontz, and Clive Barker. I approached his table and introduced myself and struck up a conversation with him about his writing to see if I would be interested in purchasing one of his novels and hopefully obtain his signature if allotted. I found John to be very friendly and welcoming. He did not try to ‘sell’ me on his work but seemed overjoyed and happy to share with me answers to my questions. He seemed to light up when I asked him which was his first published novel and he happily pointed to Covenant which was published in 2004. I asked him to tell me the story of his novel and he started to summarize the plot. I politely interrupted him and said, “No, tell me the story behind your first novel, that’s what I want to hear, what made you write it? How long did it take you to do so? How did you feel when it was finished? How did you get it published to the mass market? Which of your novels is your favorite and why?” I was worried that these questions might seem a little too inquisitive but with a kind smile John engaged me in a 20-minute back and forth conversation telling me his history and how he became a published author. He shared with me how he was a columnist for 20 years with The Star Newspapers and the Illinois Entertainer. Towards the end of his journalism career he began writing short horror and fantasy stories and submitted them the old fashioned way for publishing. Writing was a passion he needed to fulfill. He moved on and wrote a couple novels that eventually after many submissions and struggle his first, Covenant, was published in 2004 by a small distributor and eventually picked up and mass published by Leisure Books in 2008. The rest has been history for him, and he’s never been happier with now 6 novels mass-market published and many appearances in anthologies and short story collections and one of his books may even be turned into a film soon.

With me being an aspiring writer I found John’s story hit me to the core. Here was a gentleman who not only created great stories that are being shared with the world en masse; he himself had a great story to share. To deepen my connection with his story I randomly asked him if he ever participated in National Novel Writing Month. His fast response, “Nanowrimo? Of course!” happily surprised me. His second novel was written during NaNoWriMo, the one and only year he participated in the 50,000 words in a month challenge. I told him that this was my second year attempting NaNo, and that I crashed and burned my first go round. I eagerly asked him for any pointers or advice. With enthusiasm John told me to “Not give up, no matter what, and to stop editing as I write, just put those words down no matter what they say, how silly they seem and whether or not they make any sense and wait until December to look at them. Also, don’t let those words just sit in your desk drawer. I wrote 50,000 words and won NaNo only to turn around and leave those words in my desk for several months. Finally, when needing something to write I pulled them out and it took me another couple of months to finish the story. And I am glad I did, because that ended up being my second published book, can you imagine if I just left that story in the drawer? You have to finish what you start.”

When our conversation came to a close I thanked John for his time and told him I would happily purchase his first novel, Covenant, and asked him if he would graciously sign it for me, to which he did. Moreover, my wife and son had returned from their hay ride and after meeting up with me I asked John if I could bug him for one last indulgence, a photo. He happily agreed and not only did Melissa snap a quick photo of him and I he also asked her to take one of the both of us with his own camera. I felt honored. After feeling like I had taken up so much of his precious time I thanked him for everything and we shook hands graciously and parted ways. While walking towards the exit I opened the book and assumed that John would have simply signed the inside page with his signature only. I was overwhelmed to see he had placed a quick personal note above his signature that read:

“For Patrick,

Good Luck with Nanowrimo!  

Dark Dreams,

John Everson.”

John Everson autographed my copy of Covenant, wishing me luck with NaNoWriMo.
John Everson autographed my copy of Covenant, wishing me luck with NaNoWriMo.

Horror writers. You gotta love that closing, ‘Dark Dreams’.

It truly was an inspiring Saturday for me to have my NaNo group offer their support early in the day and then to meet a former NaNo participant and hear his story and learn of his successes, with National Novel Writing Month playing a role in it. I hope that my experiences however long they last with NaNoWriMo can help attribute to the removal of my self-doubt as a writer and help me fulfill my personal goals. I feel in some ways they already have. You really do need to finish what you start; otherwise everything you start in life is going to end up in some random dark drawer, forgotten under the dust of memories and regret.

Ever have an unexpected inspiration happen to you?  Please feel free to share in the comments below.  Let’s keep the conversation going!  For more articles and writings you can follow this blog by simply clicking the ‘Follow’ button at the top of my Home Page.  Remember…a writer writes….

The Passing of the Hammer…

Me holding the very 1st Comic Book I ever owned: Thor Volume 1: Issue #433, June 1991
Me holding the very 1st Comic Book I ever owned: Marvel Comics Thor Volume 1: Issue #433, June 1991

It was June of 1991, and I was a young lad just over ten years of age when my father introduced me to a new world. Not one of living beings but a world filled with animation, color, humor, suspense, and action. The world I am referring to is, of course, the world of Comic Books. My father was in his late forties and was not an avid collector. Come to think of it, I don’t ever recall seeing him read comics before then unless they were the ‘funny pages’ in our local Daily Herald newspaper that was delivered daily to our door.

One day my father and I were doing the typical Saturday morning trip to the grocery store. His preferred choice was the local Jewel-Osco in Carol Stream, IL. As I have mentioned on the first Episode of our Podcast, this was the same Jewel-Osco where I gainfully obtained my first employment working as a stock clerk for the Osco brand. As we finished shopping we made our way to the checkout. Near the registers my father came to an unexpected pause near a circular, rotating rack of what I thought were magazines. He started spinning the rack and I noticed that these particular magazines were not really magazines at all due to their unusual size and colorful artwork with unique characters depicted vividly with beautiful colors.

“What are you looking at Dad?” I asked him curiously.

“Comic Books,” was his short reply.

“Are you going to buy one?” I wondered as he continued to spin the rack.

“Yes,” he said as the rack which was spinning now like a mini tornado came to a sudden halt. “This one,” he said with his usual mild-mannered excitement. He held up in front of me a comic book that if whoever said you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover would rescind that quip if they could cast their eyes upon the beauty that was now laid before me.

Web Image of Marvel Comics The Might Thor, Volume 1, Issue #433, June 1991
Web Image of Marvel Comics The Might Thor, Volume 1, Issue #433, June 1991

The first thing to catch my eye was the bright red cape. A fire-engine red that was both vibrant and powerful. Next to catch my eye was the character wearing this cape. He was a bearded warrior in an iron helmet, his mouth agape roaring to the Gods themselves. He was swinging a weapon; it looked like some sort of mighty hammer. His armor looked imposing even though his yellow golden boots were a little silly. The title of this gem was, The Mighty Thor. It was Issue #433. I could tell this guy was not someone I would want to mess with, after all the tagline on the cover read “There’s a new Thunder God in Town!” The top of the cover also had an interesting notation, “The 1st Issue in a Stunning New Epic!” What did this mean? How could this be the 1st issue but be numbered as #433? I was so confused, an inexperienced child of ten not knowing that this type of tagline typically means (and literally in this sense) that the character was to begin a new story arc in his series which typically spans multiple issues.

“It looks awesome, let’s get it!” was my immediate reply to which my father threw me a quick smile. He put it in the shopping cart and we were on our way to the checkout lane. My father promised me I could read the book after he finished it when we returned home. I didn’t mind reading it second, my interest was piqued and I was eager to dive into the unknown. As we headed there I quizzed my father on his interest in purchasing a comic book only to find out he used to read and collect them when he was younger. One of his favorite titles was, The Mighty Thor. However, he stopped collecting when he became an adult and tossed his collection. To think, what wondrous and rare items there could have been in his collection if he had only held on to them? However, I digress as my father had no idea he would one day in the far off future have a son of his own to “Pass the Hammer”.

I don’t really know what made him buy a comic book on the spur of the moment after having given up on his own collection many long years prior. However, after he finished the book later that afternoon he handed it over to me. I read it and instantly fell in love with the character. Upon finishing my father asked me what I thought and I told him it was “Awesome!” To further my surprise my father told me that if I enjoyed it that much, he would be willing to purchase me the next issue, and the next issue, and as an added bonus I would be able to keep them for myself to start my own collection! I couldn’t be more thrilled even with the added caveat that every issue he bought for me he would read first prior to handing them over to me.

So, as the next few months passed my father continued to purchase issues of The Mighty Thor. Our arrangement was fun and exciting, and it gave us something to talk about as we discussed the characters and the stories after we finished reading them. I really enjoyed bonding with my father and having a mutual interest that we shared. Yet, this was not the icing on the cake.

My father took me out with him running errands one day and told me we were going to pick up some comics while we were out. As per usual, I could not contain my excitement! Yet, we went past the grocery store we would typically pick them up from.

“Where are we going Dad?” I queried as we flew down Army Trail Rd. in his vehicle.

“To the Comic Book Store.” he replied with a knowing smile.

“But we just drove past it!” was my overexcited response.

“No, not the grocery store, the Comic Book Store.” he stated matter-of-factly.

{THUD!}

As I picked my jaw off the floorboards of his Buick I started speaking faster than I ever spoke in my entire life. “YouMeanToTellMeTheyHaveStoresThatSellOnlyComicBooks, AndWe’reGoingThereNow?!”

“Yes!” he affirmed.

Walking into a local Graham Crackers Comic Book Store chain was like walking into heaven. I believe this might be the first time in my life I ever ‘Nerded-out’. I was all over that store like a hyper madman, picking up issues flipping through them and asking my father every five seconds, “Can I have this one?” or “How about this one?” Not only were there comic books, there were cups, t-shirts, and action figures! I really believe he was enjoying my enthusiasm. We ended up walking out of the store with the new issue of Thor, and a host of others! Issues of Iron Man, The Avengers, Doctor Strange, and Ghost Rider found comfortable places inside our hands and hearts. He even signed me up for their frequent customer and monthly memberships. No longer did we journey to the grocery store; our Sundays now included a trip to Graham’s.

My son dressed in his homemade Thor Cosplay costume in March 2011 heading to the second ever C2E2 (Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo) at the McCormick Place in downtown Chicago, IL.
My son dressed in his homemade Thor Cosplay costume in March 2011 heading to the second ever C2E2 (Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo) at the McCormick Place in downtown Chicago, IL.

I continued to collect Comic Books through my teen years. When I became an adult I stopped, but held on to all of the books I purchased prior. At the age of thirty-three I am happy to inform you that they are all still bagged and boarded and boxed up in my office. As an adult I’ve had sporadic moments where I start collecting again for a few months but then once again pause. However, the fuse that is my passion for this hobby will never burn out. Nor will the fond memories I shared with my father. Being labeled a ‘Nerd’ used to be quite insulting when I was younger. Any youth in the 90’s with a passion for superheroes and gaming was typically frowned upon. Yet, over the last 20 years we have had a major culture shift, thanks in part to the success of famous comic book characters being projected successfully on the big screen, and now being a ‘Nerd’ and attending Comic Cons and Expos and enjoying anything ‘Nerdesque’ is widely accepted. I love sitting in a bar having a brew and overhear a nearby conversation at the next table full of grown men debating whether or not Superman should kill, who they supported in Marvel’s Civil War, and who is better The Avengers or the X-Men?

Close-up of the very first comic book I ever owned, given to me by my Dad in June of 1991.  Forgive the bad lighting.
Close-up of the very first comic book I ever owned, given to me by my Dad in June of 1991. Forgive the bad lighting.

On those rare days I shuffle through my Collection of Comic Books I always pause when I hit The Mighty Thor, Volume 1, Issue #433. I pause to remember my youth and where it all began. I pause to remember the feeling of the first read and the smell of the pages. (Nothing smells better than a Comic Book). I pause to reflect on where my love for fantasy and superheroes came from. Most importantly, I pause to remember you, and that smile, those times we shared living within these adventures, and I’ll say now what I say aloud every time I hold this book in my hands, “Thank you, Dad.”

Some comic books are valued more than others; this one to me is forever priceless.  One day I will pass the Hammer to my son and I hope he treasures it as much as I have the last 23 years.

My son and I in March 2011 at the second ever C2E2 (Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo) at the McCormick Place in downtown Chicago, IL. "Whomsoever holds this Hammer..."
My son and I in March 2011 at the second ever C2E2 (Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo) at the McCormick Place in downtown Chicago, IL.
“Whomsoever holds this Hammer…”

               

Big Paws to Fill

A couple of months ago we welcomed a new addition to our family shortly after moving into our new home. Her name is Bella and she is the cutest dog anyone could ask for. We adopted her from the West Suburban Humane Society off of Ogden Ave. in Downers Grove, IL. Bella is a mutt, half Pit Bull and half Chow according to her paperwork, but she’s all heart. With a beautiful brindle short-haired coat and spotted blue/purple tongue that constantly says I want to lick your face all day and night, Bella is an absolute sweetheart to our family.

BELLA3

Back in 2007 we were renting a townhome in Aurora, IL and had as our only pet a Pit Bull-Labrador mutt named Abby (AKA Abby the Labby or Abbers). Abby was the perfect dog, beautiful, loyal, and well trained. I had purchased her as a pup from a Petland a few years earlier and we absolutely loved her. The dog was intelligent, playful, and with her coloring and body size she looked like a Twinkie. All of our friends and neighbors loved Abby, and Abby loved everyone.  Unfortunately, on the computer I am using at the moment I do not have any old pics of Abby to post.

Sadly, right after our Wedding in 2007 my wife Melissa and I went through a rough spell, and ended up separating to take a break after so many years together and to work on ourselves. With our separation I ended up renting an apartment in Lisle, IL and unfortunately Abby’s 65lb frame was outside their pet guidelines and I was unable to take her with me to the apartment. Melissa ended up moving to Arkansas to stay with her Mom and took our son and Abby with.

After some time, the distance between me and the three of them was too much to bear. I begged and pleaded for Melissa to find a way to move back to the Chicago area. Melissa informed me she would come home with our son in tow and they would stay with her Grandmother in Brookfield, IL. In order to do so, due to her Grandmother and Uncle’s allergies, they would have to leave the dog behind. It broke my heart but I told her to find her a good home and come home ASAP. Melissa found Abby a home with a good family who have raised her as their own, she is still happy and healthy the last time I had an update on her status.

After Melissa was home we eventually found a way to work out the kinks and made peace with each other and began the reconciliation process. Melissa and Patrick happily ended up moving in with me into another new apartment in Lisle and we stayed there for several years up until our first home purchase in April of this year. All the while there was a piece missing, a hole in my heart, for although I had my family back, we were one important family member short.

Fast forwarding through several years of heartache and regret after we bought our house Melissa knew I wanted to have a new dog. After deciding to adopt and perusing the websites of several local shelters we decided to head over to the West Suburban Humane Society to view a Rottweiler that garnered our interest named ‘Remy’. While at the shelter we saw that Remy was going to be a little too wild for our lifestyle as we have a pretty quiet household with just the three of us. I was looking at Remy through his pen trying to make the decision when I heard a small noise coming from the pen behind me. I turned around and saw the biggest dark brown dog eyes staring back at me. The majority of the dogs in the kennel were barking and hopping around in their pens trying to gain attention or scare us away during our tour. Bella was one of the few who were very calm and looked scared and heartbroken. Melissa and Patrick were on the other side of the kennel looking at other dogs when Bella and I first made eye contact. I knelt down next to the pen and said “Hello Girl.” Bella walked slowly towards the door of the pen where I was kneeling and sniffed my fingers through the fencing. She began to lick my fingers and our eyes were still locked together, she seemed to be trying to tell me something. I could feel the sadness inside of her and couldn’t believe after having a good look at her what a beautiful animal she was.

BELLA

I stood up because I was starting to feel overwhelmed. There was a connection here, something I hadn’t felt since the first time I locked eyes on Abby at the pet store. I tried to shrug it off, knowing that my son had his heart on Remy the Rottweiler. However, after trying to look at the other dogs in the kennel I kept walking back over to Bella. Eventually I called out to Melissa, “Hey Hon, you should take a look at this one.” Melissa came over and saw her and to make a long story short, didn’t look at any other dogs after first meeting Bella. The staff allowed us to take her out of the pen into their fenced in yard where we could interact with her. We found out she was 2 years old, and was given up to the shelter for anxiety issues. She is on a daily medication, Xanax, to keep her calm, as well as a supplementary pill for when there is lightning and fireworks, much like an Ativan for adults. Also, they told us that she did not like other dogs and would have to live in a ‘one-dog household’.

BELLA2

After putting her on hold and thinking about her for 24 hours straight I made the decision to adopt her. I felt that if she was placed in the right home with the right family, her anxiety issues would suppress and she would be a very happy and loyal dog for many years to come. I remember when I put her in the car and we were driving home I turned to look at her in the backseat, and it was the first time I saw her smile. I told Bella, “You have big paws to fill.” And fill them she has. She is not perfect, not fully trained, but we are working on it. Her anxiety issues are stable, and after the normal period of adjustment she has accepted us as her new family and loves her new home. All she wants to do is lick your face from dawn till dusk. With her beautiful brindle coat and pointy ears, when we put her round tag on her I could only think one thing, she looks like Scooby-Doo. Hence her new nickname Bella Dooby Doo. She has helped to mend the cracks in our family and to heal the canyons of regret inside my heart for losing Abby.

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There have been so many times when I am sitting on my couch and the loneliness I’ve felt these last few years without my best friend Abby by my side have hurt more than you can possibly imagine. Yet, now when I look to the right, the couch cushion next to me is no longer empty. When I look at my feet, the space on the floor between them is no longer bare. When I come home from work, she is always waiting for me at the top of the stairs, tail wagging. When I drive my car on an errand, she calls shotgun like the one before her. When I feel tired or sad, I feel the wet tongue on my face or the warmth of her hug. When I fall asleep, she always cuddles me and then goes to lie near or between my feet. When I hit the snooze button too many times, she nudges me out of bed. When I leave for work, she sits on top of the stairs and promises me she’ll be there when I return.

I thought that I was rescuing her but as it tuns out, Bella is the one who is rescuing me.

So…what happens next?

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Wow! It’s been several months (over 5) and a return to writing is long overdue. Since my last blog post life has been crazy with the purchase of our first home which we closed on at the end of April. Over the last several months all my free time away from work has been mostly spent working on the new house trying desperately to make it our own. Now that ‘Winter is Coming’, the rest of our remodeling projects are being pushed off until Spring as we prepare to tuck ourselves in for what looks like another long, cold, Chicago Winter. At this point, my only focus with the house is trying to get it ready for the winter, and need to patch and reseal my driveway as well as reinsulate my attic amongst other small miscellaneous tasks to complete before the first snow falls.

Switching gears to writing I am excited that November and ‘National Novel Writing Month’ (aka NANOWRIMO) is fast approaching. Last November I did not hit my goal of 50,000 words completed within the month and only ended up with around 13,567 due to what can only be labeled as sheer laziness. I am hoping this year I can start strong and fully commit myself to completing a story or at least hitting my word goal, whether in November or shortly thereafter. What I love about NANOWRIMO is that I (and hundreds of other aspiring writers) use it as a springboard to get our novels up and running. 50,000 words in one month is a heck of a start or could even be your whole story depending on how large of a tale you are trying to tell. Also, I met some very interesting characters last year at NANOWRIMO and realized that although I sometimes feel lonely and weird and lost within my own universe I found there are a lot more people out there just like me. Perhaps we are not all as unique as we think we are. I am hoping that this year as an added bonus to participating in the NANOWRIMO meetings and workshops that I may walk away with a new friend or two with common interests as I plan on being more sociable (last year I was pretty quiet as it was my first NANOWRIMO) and comfortable in my own skin.

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What I love about writing is that you can create an entire world, a universe completely under your own control and if you tell the story just right, others will become lost within it. They will begin with curiosity and then once personally invested they will follow you to the very last word on the last page. I think a writer’s dream should be once that last word is reached there would be a yearning from the reader for more, not wanting the story to end even if brought to a logical conclusion, for they will always wonder what would’ve happened next.

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Michael Crichton was a favorite author of mine, and what I loved about his writing is minus Jurassic Park most of his stories were one-offs encompassing several genres. I don’t want to become tied down to a series or multiple stories within the same universe unless popular demand would call for it. Heck, it might not even take popular demand but maybe only just one or two individuals out there in the world asking me what would’ve happened next if the story continued.

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So I find myself at a crossroads, do I finish the story I started last year during NANOWRIMO or begin fresh from scratch with this new amazing idea I’ve been pre-planning throughout 2014? My wife says I should finish what I started last year, but my heart is telling me the new idea is too good to pass up. I told her, either way both will eventually be completed as I myself have been wondering what will happen at the end of the first story I started last year and don’t want to have any regrets.

As they say, a writer writes. It’s time I find out not only in my writing but also in my life, what’s going to happen next?

The Alley

I can’t believe this is happening.

This was the same recurring thought the last few hours that ran through Alexis’s mind. She went to the Club to have fun and hopefully meet someone new and exciting. However, exciting is the least descriptive word for what was happening to her now. With lust everything happens quickly and without thought.

I can’t believe this is happening.

She felt him press her against the outside wall of the building. Her bare legs scraped against the rough surface of the brick exterior. She didn’t like the momentary pain, but it wasn’t enough to halt her wanting him. His hands were all over her body, moving up and down her dress as his wet lips tasted hers. She was again surprised but this time it was from how cold his hands felt as they reached her thighs and rose higher.

I can’t believe this is happening.

She wanted him; she wanted him more than anything. It started when she first saw him staring at her from across the dance floor. After their eyes locked he seemed to glide across the floor as he made his way to her. Once in front of her she couldn’t help but become lost within the deepness of his eyes. He was young; yet his eyes seemed older. They were mysterious, and the darkest eyes she had ever seen. It was as if they held a secret from her, something that she needed to discover. He was fit and handsome, and everything from the part in his hair to the aroma surrounding him was intoxicating. His body seemed perfect and muscular and hard in all the right places.

After hours of sensuous dancing and exploring each other’s bodies with their hands he slowly turned towards the rear exit. He began to walk away yet any possible fear of loss dissipated when she felt his hand on hers pulling her to follow. And follow she did, without question and hoping his vehicle was nearby to take her away with him. However, once they were outside the Club he passionately grabbed her and began to kiss her in the dimly lit alley.

She knew his skin was fair from the dim lighting inside the Club but once the light from the full moon touched his skin any trace of pink tint seemed to fade away. He was much paler than she realized but it made him look even more seductive. Caught up in their embrace she could feel his strength from his powerful arms push her against the wall near the darker part of the alley.

I can’t believe this is happening.

Alexis could tell he wanted her as much as she wanted him. She wanted to be whisked away to give him all the passion she could possibly give. Though it now seemed that they wouldn’t make it to some secluded private hideaway. Everything was happening so fast, it was exciting her more and more. He was going to take her in the alley, and she was going to let him.

Oddly, his body seemed to stop grinding against hers. He seemed to now only be holding her, but his breathing was shallow and calm. She felt his strong hands now, one on the base of her neck and the other on the back of her head. He leaned in again and kissed her deeply and longingly. Once their lips parted her head was swimming and she felt weak on her feet. His lips kissed the corner of her mouth, and then her cheek. His hand slowly turned her head sideways so his lips could travel along her jaw to her neck. She felt shivers travel down her body as her pulse rose with even more excitement. Her eyes locked shut as the butterflies in her stomach danced. She was wetter and more ready than she had ever been. As he pulled back from her neck to catch his breath she managed to crack open her eyelids for a brief moment.

She saw him leaning in again towards her neck, his eyes and mouth slowly opened as he neared her. Although she was lost to her emotions and the passion of the moment something seemed different. The darkness in his eyes was gone and replaced with a brilliant blue that surrounded dilated pupils. His teeth were large and pointed and whiter than the first falling snow in winter. Before she could think another thought she felt a sharp pinch against her neck accompanied by a wave of pleasure. Alexis succumbed to this new sensation without any resistance until its final moments passed. All the while only one thought constantly repeated itself inside her head.

I can’t believe this is happening.

Unintelligent Argument #2 – The Biggest Butts in the World

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It should come as no surprise that in today’s culture chivalry has flown the way of the Dodo bird. In the past men would live by a stricter code of honor centered on protecting the female gender and their offspring and putting their needs before their own. A simple example of this is the common known saying used whether at times of kindness or during times of crisis, “Women and Children First!” This saying means that the physically stronger member of our human species, men, uses their strength to care for those weaker than themselves namely women and children. In essence, men are supposed to sacrifice their own needs and wants to make life a little bit easier every day for the other members of our species whether they are known to them or complete strangers.

As a daily commuter on the Metra train system in the Chicagoland area you would assume that this simple code of honor would still be enforced by the hundreds of gentleman that ride these heavily packed trains. However, this just seems to be another Unintelligent Argument as I witness some of the most obscene acts of disregard by men towards fellow commuters who are women, children, or even worse, handicapped. When the trains pull into the suburban stations to pick up hundreds of passengers at a time there is always a mad rush by these men to push, shove, and bump their way through the masses to board the train cars and race to their favorite seats. These men not only rudely ignore the ladies beside them, whether they are young or old, and very rarely do you hear them say with an outstretched hand of kindness, “No, you go ahead, ladies first.”

Once upon the train these men race to their favorite seat. These seats could be either in the handicap rows, the typical two-seaters facing front, or the bench rows that face the middle of the train. Immediately upon arrival at their destination they place their bags down or feet next to them taking up the seat next to them as if they want to relive those famous scenes from Forrest Gump where like children they are telling the rest of the commuters attempting to find a place to rest, “Seats Taken”. Now, these fellows not only are resistant towards commuters who point out there is room for another passenger and request to use the available space, they are quite rude and ornery about the whole process, even if it’s a lady.

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Now, the worst of the worst are the men who race to the upper deck row of the train and sit in the bench rows. Much like stadium seating these seats fold up when not in use. I cannot tell you the numbers of times I have seen a gentleman find two of these seats and push them down and sit in the middle. It’s as if they believe that no one notices or sees their immorality of taking up two seats at once. I usually shake my head and tell myself, they must have one of the largest butts in the world. I mean, I know obesity is becoming a problem more and more in America, but I cannot believe how many men in the Chicagoland Area have such a ‘Fat Ass’. It’s even more hilarious to notice and watch their entire charade. They take up two seats, and pull out their mobile device, laptop, newspaper, or book and act as if they have accomplished a great deed. Their body movements and facial features show a sad sense of pride at possibly taking a seat away from a fellow commuter, and act disgusted when someone requests them to slide over and make room.

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Maybe I was raised old school by my parents, but I don’t believe in the “Only the strong survive”, or “Survival of the fittest” mantras. Even in situations like these where you are sitting in a train seat and look up to see a woman standing in front of you uncomfortably the thought, “too bad, I was here first” doesn’t even come to mind. Many times I’ve stood up and offered my chair to the nearest woman so she can be off her feet for 20-30 minutes and enjoy her novel and peruse her social media. The times I have not I have pained myself with guilt and tell myself I should’ve. I hope that when other men see me stand up and offer my seat to a woman that they will follow suit. Sometimes they have done so but most times a look crosses their face that reads, “Can’t believe that guy gave up his seat,” and they do not. I enjoy the warm smile and big thank you most of these women and children offer when I give up my seat, and also the nod of respect given to me by others who notice the act of generosity. Perhaps if more of us acknowledged and followed the example set by others, we can step back in time a little bit to where in life men cherished their honor and used it for even the simplest of all things, letting someone sit down. After all, having the biggest butt in the world doesn’t mean you have the smallest heart, does it?

Photos used in courtesy by Google Image Search, no copyright or trademark infringement intended.

Left Hook Lucy

A few weeks ago on 03/23/14 Melissa, Patch, and I found ourselves attending our friends’ Frank & Kandace’s first birthday celebration for their daughter Kourtney. Upon arrival I wasn’t surprised to see the attendance at this party included a large number of young children. There were quite a few smiling, happy, and anxious faces waiting for presents to be opened and cake to be served. Now, as most of you know, in most of my social circles I am considered the ‘big kid’ of the group. Much like Peter Pan (but far less creepy) I’ve never really wanted to grow up and so far (and pointed out to me on a constant basis) I don’t think I have. Although I am a parent, college educated and career-minded, when not dealing with my adult responsibilities I try to live life and enjoy the same hobbies and games I did when I was twenty years younger.

When at social events such as Kourtney’s birthday I tend to gravitate away from the circles of adult conversation and spend the majority of my time at these parties playing with the kids. Kids love to play with ‘grown-ups’, but they especially love to play with the grown-ups that they find to be silly and goofy. I find it kind of weird that when I meet people professionally most of the time I feel awkward and out of place and under pressure to make a positive, mature impression. Yet, when I meet a bunch of kids for the first time there is no pressure and all I want to do is entertain them to make their time at the party as much fun as possible. You’ll always find me in some corner of the party surrounded by smiling faces watching me juggling, making jokes, and doing cheesy magic tricks. Guess I missed my calling for Clown College; I sure do have the face for it.

So we’re at the party and I was sitting at the kitchen table snacking on the decent spread of party food. While at the table several of the children (ages varying anywhere from 3-13 years old) would come over and grab a handful of chips or pretzels and say hello. One of the kids was this adorable little girl named Lucy who was probably around 4 years old. What started off as a game between me and her of “Hey, that was my grape” as we pretended to eat each other’s bites turned into an epic contest between me and five of the kids. I couldn’t tell you who won, but we did polish off several bowls of snacks. My stomach was full and I wanted to get away from the table but was surrounded by laughing children each vying to be the next one to eat the chip, grape, or pretzel that I had my eyes on before I could. Using natural defensive instincts, I covered my eyes with both hands and started counting out loud…”One, two, three…” Without even announcing this impromptu game of Hide and Seek natural instincts took over for Lucy, Aiyanna, Zowie, and all the other kids and they instantly bolted out of the kitchen and went to find a good place to hide. I kind of chuckled, thinking to myself, I didn’t even say “Let’s play Hide and Seek,” all I did was start counting and they knew what was about to go down.

Not wanting to disappoint them I searched the house high and low ducking in between the adults and their conversations and managed to find every single one of the kids who now were entering what I like to call hyperactive mode. Everyone was laughing and getting a little crazy. Not wanting to disturb the party for the adults I decided to call it quits and head back to the kitchen to grab a beverage and chill out for a bit. I was standing in the kitchen about to have a drink when Lucy ran into the kitchen and stood in front of me smiling and pulling on my leg trying to get me to play another game. Melissa and our dear friend Kari were sitting at the table and someone said something that got my attention. I took my eyes off of Lucy and looked over at the table to either respond to the question or join in on the conversation, I couldn’t tell you for sure because of what happened next. With my attention diverted away from her Lucy in her unintentional excitement decided to punch me with all her might to get my attention. However, since I was standing and am about 5’11” and her pushing only a very dangerous 3 feet in height, her punch was a direct shot to my junk. I hit the hard tiled floor in the kitchen in about one second flat. Melissa and Kari burst out in insane laughter and due to the commotion several of the adults came into the kitchen to see what was going on and saw me sprawled out in the middle of the kitchen floor clutching my manhood and grimacing in pain and laughter. If caught on camera, this nutshot would’ve made America’s Funniest Home Videos.  Everyone was laughing, kids and adults. I just want to point out; nobody came over to help me up, what’s up with that?

Well after I had fallen down this scared poor little Lucy, who I think has potential to become a future women’s boxing or MMA champion, and she started crying and ran to hide by her Mommy. Needless to say, she didn’t want to play anymore after that even after I told her later that I was fine and unhurt. Henceforth whenever I think back on her and this day I will forevermore remember her as “Left Hook Lucy.” Perhaps at the next party I’ll try and hang with the grown-ups a little bit more and avoid the dangers of Hide and Seek. .. Meh, who am I kidding?  I’ll just have to remember to wear a cup next time.

 

 

 

Unintelligent Argument #1 – The Curse of the Twisted Sleeve

When you work in downtown Chicago you realize during the long cold winter months that the city’s nickname, ‘The Windy City’, is spot on. Not only do you have to deal with the frigid temperatures but the wind gusts are strong enough to knock you over and chilly enough to go right through your bones. This is why I, like most men downtown, always prefer to wear a fashionable sweater over my dress shirts to help protect me from the polar vortex that has become a Chicago winter. I must admit, after working downtown for a year I’ve stocked up on various sweaters (a couple dozen) and don’t mind wearing three layers of clothing plus my appropriate jacket, gloves, scarf, etc. when commuting downtown to work. These extra layers provide me the warmth I need to survive my daily 27 mile adventure back and forth from the suburb of Lisle to the Willis Tower (formerly and more commonly known as the Sears Tower) in downtown Chicago.

However, on these cold days where I throw on that extra security blanket of warmth I find myself in the midst of an unintelligent argument. For the last year or so when putting on my sweater over my neatly buttoned dress shirt I always seem to become a victim of the Curse of the Twisted Sleeve. You know this curse; some of you have experienced it before. It’s that moment when after you have your sweater on your body your arms, shoulders, and neck feel out of place because some ungodly force has caused your dress shirt sleeve(s) to become twisted underneath your sweater. It’s at this moment panic sets in and you fight the curse with a bit of pulling, wiggling, twisting, cursing, groaning, and in my case a daily cry for help.

My dear wife Melissa chuckles at me daily for this nonsense. Sometimes this chuckle becomes a loud burst of laughter when she sees me standing in front of her, sweater and sleeves twisted and arms bent out of shape and a desperate look on my face. Usually, this laughter is followed by some sort of flirtatious insult at my intelligence, although after a year or so these insults sound less flirty and more like pity. Melissa always finds the way to untwist my sleeves so that everything fits comfortably and correctly, chastising my idiocy as she troubleshoots my clothing problems. “Didn’t anyone ever teach you how to put clothes on?” she usually asks me amidst random giggles. I’m going to be honest, on days where Melissa heads off to work before me due to her rotating shifts at her current place of employment, I tend to skip the sweater and wear the heaviest coat I can find.

However, fear not dear reader for this morning I was able to break the curse on my own. I discovered that when putting on my sweaters I am an ‘arms go in sleeves first’ kind of guy, and this has been the root of the curse and the cause of my undoing every time. If you are only wearing a t-shirt and throw a sweater on sleeves first, you’re good to go. Today, after buttoning up my dress shirt and tucking it into my pants I stared at my sweater in deep thought. You could tell because I was biting my lower lip. I decided to roll the dice and go ‘head first’. Since it’s been a while since I went head first Melissa was in bed watching me with amusement and laughing hysterically as she saw me struggle to figure out how to get my head in my sweater without putting my arms in the sleeves first. When you do things one way habitually, it is quite a struggle when you change things up. For instance, try brushing your teeth with your opposite hand, or cut your food with the utensils swapped. Nevertheless, I was able to finally pop my head through the top of the sweater. If I was in an auditorium I may have received a standing ovation. After my head was through I carefully placed each arm through the sleeves and…SUCESSS! My sweater was on, my sleeves weren’t messed up and uncomfortable, and the Curse of the Twisted Sleeve was broken.  Life is full of moments such as these, and I know this is only the first of a thousand unintelligent arguments yet to come.

My blog is a satire for all with stories, adventures, and opinions based on facts with minimal evidence and maximum wit. In short, a chronicle of my life. I hope you enjoy perusing my random banter, hilarious adventures, short stories with imaginative characters and hidden meanings, my unique wit, interests in pop culture and oddball opinions.