It’s claimed the lives of my younger brother, mother, both of my wife’s parents, two uncles, and while I can’t confirm it at the moment, I’m pretty sure it was a major contributor in three of my grandparents death.
Last year was the first year I rode for Great Cycle Challenge and this year, I’m back at it. A little bolder, a little wiser, and really wanting to reach my goals to help these kids out because on average, 38 kids die from cancer every week and I want to see that number drop.
My goals are simple. By June 30th I will:
Ride 150 miles
If you’d like to help in the fight and you have a bike, go sign up and start raising and riding.
If you can’t ride, those kids (and me) could sure use your support.
Ready. A Royal Ranger is ready to work, play, serve, obey, worship, live, etc.
The Royal Rangers, a Boy Scout-like organization within the Assemblies of God, was where I first remember meeting Senior Commander John Baker, Sr.
Commander John was twice as wide but barely taller than the boys he commanded, he wore a pencil-thin mustache I have never seen him without, he spoke in a thick New York “fuggedaboutit” accent, he addressed every boy in his program as son unless he really liked you, then you were promoted to knucklehead, he demanded respect but made sure he gave more than he ever got, and most of all, he was a man who believed in me when I needed it most.
In 1986, I had just started going to church and for the life of me, I can’t remember why I went to that first Wednesday night meeting. It’s possible that I might have been looking for something to do on a night when the youth program wasn’t doing anything. Or I was bored. I got bored a lot in those days. But, what I do remember is at 16, I was the oldest kid in the room by at least two years and that they didn’t have a program in our church for someone my age. Commander John walked over to me, looked up at me, and in that foreign language that was his accent said, “Son, come join my group tonight.”
Over the course of the next few months, I kept showing up and Commander John kept pouring into me. He was ready to start a Trail Ranger program with me as the only person, he had his mind set toward having me earn my Gold Medal Achievement (the Ranger equivalent to the Eagle Scout), and had designs to make me Ranger of the Year for our section. Within six months, he made me a junior commander and I started helping out the other Commanders with their groups.
While I never got my GMA nor made Ranger of the Year, those years in the Royal Rangers have become an integral part of who I am as a man. Commander John became a role model, exhibiting the character traits that he taught. He was the Ranger Code in the flesh.
I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, well, I am the man I am today in part because of the man that he was. He reached out to a kid, took him in, mentored him, and gave him a purpose that grounded me when I was in a very difficult and challenging part of my life.
He was ready.
And if I’m being honest, I’m trying to come to grips with that motto right now. Today, they are laying Commander John to rest, and tonight I’m going to be going to his memorial service to say a final goodbye to him. I’m supposed to be ready. Ready to work, play, serve, obey, worship, live, etc… I’d love to tell you that I’m ready… ready to say goodbye to such a great man. In truth, I’m not.
Oddly, it’s in those moments when I don’t think I am that I can just hear him saying, “Son, you got this,” except it comes out sounding like “Hey, oh! Knucklehead, fuggedaboutit!”
Part of me knows he’s right. Part of me hopes he’s right.
Either way, thank you, Commander John, for the man you were and always will be to me.
How’s that for a way to feel. It’s kind of like settling in on a drive and realizing half-way there that you have no idea where you are going, so how do you know if you’re half-way?
I mean, I could be just fine and over-reacting to every little thing in my life because stress sucks and, well, I have enough to share with a few friends (but I won’t share it, because it’s mine. Mine I tell ya!).
And another thing that’s fun… this feeling of anger sort of just hovers in the corner, like some sort of extra pissed off Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers, waiting for the moment when you think everything is going to finally smooth out and….
EEH EEH EEH… CHA CHA CHA… EEH EEH EEH…
It’s machete time and you’re just the idiot in the movie you would normally be yelling at to run or not go looking around in the dark corner. I mean, seriously, those people just sort of deserve to get hacked up.
And, like in the movies, that’s when I start to “Run, Forrest, Run!” And Anger is in hot pursuit, clawing at me, trying to drag me down, causing my blood pressure to rocket, my heart to race, and my mind to spin out of control… but never quite catching me because…
Apparently it’s wrong for me to be angry about things.
Seriously? Do you see the machete that I’m wearing like a Mohawk? I didn’t do this to myself? Don’t I have the right to be angry about it?
Hrm… angry about not being able to be angry… I, um…
I’m just going to say the last few days, but the absences I have been accruing can all be summed up in… man, life just goes by if you blink.
But that’s not the point of what I wanted to touch on today. No, I’ll do that in future posts (those will happen, honest, I swear, okay… I’m going to do my best).
No, today… today was the second day in a row that I woke up with a thought niggling away inside my skull. Like one of those songs that gets stuck, that you are forced to sing in your head over and over and over again… until you are so tired of it that you just have to hear it one more time (ELO is infamous for this with me).
Yesterday, the thought was just two words. Two words that became three words, that became the title for a short story I’m feeling the need to explore. The funny thing is, when I woke up, the words I had echoing in the cavernous hallow that is my brain turned out to actually be the wrong combination of words.
So, when I was looking up the definition of the words, I found it hysterical that there actually was a definition to them. And it turns out, I may not have been wrong. And the idea I had for the initial story didn’t make sense with the words I had… kind of like I’m sure this isn’t making any sense either…
And then the title became complete when I add the letter “A” to the title. Now, I’ve got to work on that story.
And today, today I was roused from my sleep by this idea of star crossed lovers. So trope, I know, but it was this comical scene in a bar that was playing over in my head. I let it ride for a bit, let it fester in my gray matter, until I finally had to roll out of bed and start putting the idea down on paper (wait, does it count because I actually was typing in Word? Anyway…).
In the process of writing down this idea, it started to morph a little, and it felt familiar to a story I had heard before. Okay, less story, more myth. And so I looked up this myth, and started trying to adapt this story to the myth, seeing how I could pull some of the ideas out of it and run with that.
So far, I’ve got a smattering of ideas, and I was trying really hard to squeeze the story into… well, rather expand the story… the myth, making it fit, fill all those spaces that had already been filled before.
And I had an epiphany of sorts as the whole thing started to fall apart…
Stay true to the story.
So, I stopped trying to expand it away from what was originally organic in my thoughts. And I think that’s one of the biggest issues I have.
I tend to overthink the story. It’s like overworking the batter for a cake. It just tends to ruin what should be a wonderful thing.
I wrote this in December of 2015, right after I finished my Associate of Arts degree, and never published it. I’m not sure why. I mean..life happens. I guess that’s why.
I have been told that it has a tendency to do that.
But, while I put most of my life on hold to work toward finishing my A.A. degree, life continued as if I didn’t matter.
Can you fathom? Seems a bit unfair, doesn’t it?
In the last 6 months, while I set aside my creative writing and some of the flash challenges I normally partook… partaked.. partooken? Ehh, whatever… I took part in (yeah, that works), pushed aside my gaming addiction for homework, and forsook (I got that one right… I think) my personal relationships to attend class, 6 months passed by. I know, I said 6 months at the beginning of the sentence and it seems redundant, but my point is that 6 months just zipped on by and I wasn’t a part of a lot of it.
Quite frankly, that kind of irritates me.
And now, at the end of those 6 months, I have my Associates of Arts degree (emphasis on English, of course) and I am on winter break before I dive back into school to start working on my Bachelor’s degree. But there is this void in my life. I got so use to the business of school, the constant deadlines, the homework and papers that needed to be done, the readings that need to be.. um, read, and the always present looming threat of failing a class, that now, in the calm and afterglow of it all, I can’t seem to relax.
The best way to describe it would be like running off a… you know what.. better yet, let me just show you what it feels like…
Yeah, that’s about right.
My life has been on hold while streaking forward at an incredibly increasing pace. Sounds a bit impossible, but because of my schooling schedule, I have placed a lot of what I would normally be doing on the side.
My Xbox cries to me some nights, begging me to play a game. My DVR is starting to threaten me with erasing some of the shows that I have let sit idle and unwatched for too long. Hulu is even chiming in with some of the shows that I loved to watch starting to disappear from the cue (because apparently, you have to keep up with the current episodes or miss out… ).
On top of that, anything even remotely writing oriented has been relegated to the simmer spot on the back burner.
And now that all my schooling is over (at least for this semester), the walls I have erected to keep all that stuff away have dropped, and everything is clamoring for my attention.
All at once.
A few days ago, while having a conversation with a blogging community friend, her comment to my dilemma made me put my situation into the following thoughts:
It is very akin to being in a bucket and the floodgates open up, you struggle to stop all the water coming in, frantic because the onslaught is overtaking you, putting your hands here and there to stem the flow, feeling the water rising, your heart rate quickening, just trying to find a foothold in order to at least stand a chance.
All the while, because of the panic and the self-inflicted need to accomplish stuff… let me say that again… stuff… you fail to recognize that if you just take a deep breath and go with the flow, most of that stuff will take care of itself.
Life is funny that way.
But the trick is, not to let the inflow of stuff kick off the anxiety of failure. That will just kill you. And I would love to tell you I have learned this trick, but truth be told, I am constantly having to go back and relearn it every few months. I think they call that… life.
P.S. (from today in 2018… ) I still have this issue. That’s a hard trick to learn.
I’m scared to death to write. Ok, that might be a bit of an over exaggeration, but the truth of the matter is, sitting down to my computer and putting words on the page has me almost petrified.
I’m not talking about this kind of writing. This is just free flow from my brain, and I really don’t care so much about what hits the page. I’m talking about my stories, my book ideas, those things that haunt me in the middle of the day and taunt me with the voices that tell me:
“You’re not good enough.”
“You really think you can finish a book?”
“Who do you think you are, Stephen King?”
All the voices I grew up with tearing me down from the inside. I know I am not alone in this dilemma, but it feels very lonely when I look through the notes I have spent time on, developing a storyline, putting effort into making characters real, and believing more strongly in that voice from my past that says they will never live than to the characters that yearn to be heard.
I use the atypical excuses… not enough time, too distracted, no inspiration, I’ll do it tomorrow… all just an appeasement to myself that I am using to try and hide from the fact that I actually might write something someone won’t like.
But, really, what if they don’t like what I spent the time and effort into developing?
Does that even matter?
There are so many arguments out there that say “Write to write” or “Write what the audience wants” or “Just write.” Is there a wrong way with all those writes?