Diet Begins Tomorrow!

As Rabbit would affectionately call me, I am what you would call a “skinny fat person.”

On the surface, I look like I keep in decent shape and eat within my means. This could not be further from the truth.

In the past 30 days, I’ve probably consumed 28 frappes from McDonald’s, and averaged about 30 oz of soda per day. While I could get away with this in my younger days — and to a certain extent, I can get away with it now — if I would take a test, my cholesterol, triglycerides, etc would show numbers that would scare any doctor. Also, I’m starting get a belly pudge….and I really don’t like it.

In 28 days, Rabbit and I will be heading to the beach for 3 days, a much needed vacation from the stresses of life in Gotham and raising two young boys. I’d like to take my shirt off at the beach, and feel confident surfing the waves on my lizard boogie board (No, I am not kidding. In the ocean, I am still a teenager at heart). So I’ve decided I’d like to drop 10-15 pounds. Or at the very least, attempt to shape my bowlful of jelly.

The diet is simple enough: Cut out my two major addictions: Frappes and Soda. To you, that probably doesn’t seem difficult, right? Truthfully though, these two things are my batteries, the only way I get through the day. Switching to purely and almost no caffeine will be quite a system shock.

But if I can get over that initial hump? The headaches, the cravings, the little devil on my shoulder urging me to destroy my body with chocolaty goodness? I think I can drop those pounds pretty easily, because I’m basically cutting out at least 1,500 calories per day. But that’s not all! I also plan on doing some form of running (which I hate), biking (which I quite enjoy) and ab workouts (which I don’t hate, but I also don’t make a habit to do it regularly). I think this plan will work for me…if I can get over that first hump.

Rabbit has her doubts about me, and I can’t say I blame her. I’ve said I was going to do this before, only to fail by the 3rd day. But I’m telling you guys, something’s different now. I’m tired of living the status quo, of “just getting by.” I honestly feel like if I can do this, I’ll then have limitless capabilities to accomplish other goals, which includes a lot more writing.

So here’s the statistics and a before-and-after photo for your judgment:

Current Weight: 178.8 lbs
Desired Weight: 165 lbs.
Total Weight Loss: 13.8 lbs.

 

While I will not be posting updates during my diet, I will be keeping a daily journal that I will post snippets from at the end, likely August 1. Also, you can follow the journey through my Twitter account which you can see to the right of this post, or you can follow me @MiloPenbrell. All posts relating to the diet will be tagged #TheStruggleIsReal.

Thank you, and see you guys on the other side, hopefully 15 pounds lighter!

-MP

Did America Elect Bob Rumson to the Oval Office? Startling Coincidences Between President Trump and Andrew Shepard’s Nemesis.

There’s a fantastic, underrated movie that came out in 1995 called “The American President.”

Starring Michael Douglas, Michael J Fox, Martin Sheen and Annette Benning among others, it follows the fictional life of widower/president Andrew Shepard (Douglas) who is raising a young daughter on his own, falling in love with a lobbyist (Benning), and fending off attacks by presidential hopeful Bob Rumson (Richard Dreyfus).

If you haven’t seen this movie, you should. It’s a great watch, with several memorable quotes. But the most powerful scene comes with about 25 minutes left in the movie. Throughout, Shepard refuses to address the verbal attacks that Rumson continues to throw his way, even though everyone thinks he should. He finally does in a spontaneous speech to the nation.

You should watch the speech here, but let me throw out some of the more memorable quotes to prove a fascinating point.

QUOTE #1:    “We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.”

QUOTE #2:     “You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest.”

I could go on, but my main point is this….is Donald Trump the real life version of Bob Rumson?

Regarding the first quote: this is exactly how Trump won the election: placing blame. Blaming the Obama Administration for this, blaming Hillary for this. Blaming everyone but himself. Even now, whenever tragedy strikes not only America, but anywhere in the world, Trump is quick to point out whose to blame. Also, Trump feasts on people’s fear, which is why he’s able to push through policies on building a ridiculously expensive wall that will cripple the economy, as well as his controversial policies in regards to security and deportation.

Quote 2 relates directly to Trump’s agenda against the NFL and athletes kneeling during the anthem. You could just as easily re-quote this to say “If America is a Land of the Free, then your symbol can’t just be a flag, but also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right by kneeling during the anthem in protest.”

When re-watching this speech last week, I realized something: we elected Bob Rumson.

Yes, I realize it’s a fictional movie, but it raises some excellent points still relevant 23 years after it’s theatrical release.

President Trump won the election by placing blame and installing fear. But as Andrew Shepard would say, we have serious problems and we need serious people to solve them.

We found our Bob Rumson. Now we just need to find our Andrew Shepard.

 

That Time We Asked for Prayers and Received Accusations

There’s something that’s been bothering me for a long time now, and I think I just need to write about it and put it behind me once and for all.

On the morning of October 7th, 2017, my wife and I received a phone call from parents. Our son, who had spent the night, was crying and they couldn’t get him to stop. He had slipped and fallen in the bathroom, looking for his grandmother who was in the next room. My wife, J, quickly got dressed and drove over to check on him while I watched our youngest (luckily they live close) but unfortunately, she could not get him calmed down. He was complaining about his leg, but because he was so young, he couldn’t articulate exactly what the problem was. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance where after x-rays, we discovered he had fractured his right femur. He was then transported by ambulance to a different hospital that could cast his leg (apparently our local hospital can not do that for a young child).

It was 10 days before his 2nd birthday.

This, however, is only the beginning of the story.

My wife, J, and I were shocked. Stunned. Scared. We reached out on Facebook updating our son’s condition, asking for prayers. Our son was writhing and screaming in pain and there was absolutely nothing we could do. My in-laws, equally distraught, blamed themselves. What could they have done differently? Their grandson had run back the hall, as he had done a hundred times before (you can’t stop 23-month olds from runnings) and been fine. They were absolutely not to blame, J and I had no ill feelings toward them whatsoever, but the damage had been done. Any parent or grandparent knows it doesn’t matter if it was an accident or not. You will always blame yourself.

So too, it turns out, does Protective Services. You see, when your child is two years old and goes to a hospital for a severe injury, an investigation is automatically launched regardless of the reason. While we waited for the doctor who would be putting on our son’s cast, two strangers in street clothes marched into our hospital room, without manners or sympathy, and said they had to take a picture of our son “for the record.” My insides pulsed with rage. I wanted to tell them to get the hell out. But anger wouldn’t help. It was bad enough we were all being treated as guilty first, ask questions later. Even justified anger can be used against you. We knew who these people were; the local hospital had reported our son’s broken leg as potential child abuse case. They had to: it was their job.

As our son was not in our care at the time, the investigation was launched against my in-laws, who were labeled as “alleged perpetrators” in a letter we received from CPS, Child Protective Services. The investigation, as it was explained to us, had 2 potential outcomes: founded or unfounded. Unfounded was our best option: it meant there was no reason for CPS to believe that child abuse existed, but still it would remain on my in-laws’ record for a year before being expunged. But a year for nothing? It still didn’t seem right.

A home visit followed with a caseworker assigned by the county. She asked questions of us, which were honestly answered by all parties. After all, we had nothing to hide. Nothing about her questions surprised us, except for a piece of advice she gave us: don’t speak of these events on Social Media. Someone had seen our Facebook post asking for prayers, and reported it to the county as potential child abuse.

My eyes nearly dropped out of my head. My heart sank. And any anger I felt before towards the individuals taking pictures of my injured son were nothing compared to what I felt now. My wife and I were betrayed, at our weakest of moments, and we would never know by whom.

It could have been one of my “friends.” Or one of J’s “friends.” Or maybe it was a “friend” of a “friend” who just happened to see the post (You don’t always have to be “friends” with someone to see their posts). We would never know.

Here’s the thing: I understand that certain individuals are in professions where they have a duty to report such incidents. For examples, teachers are supposed to report such events if they would see it at school. But a)this was not in anyone’s professional setting and b)if you are in one of these professions, you should also be smart enough to know the hospital was going to report it anyway.

The move felt vengeful. Pointed. As someone who likes to believe in the good in people, I lost hope in that. I found myself becoming paranoid, making lists of who could have possibly done it. I also developed a healthy fear of social media. While I didn’t delete Facebook, I stopped posting almost altogether, and certainly no longer post about my children, including photos. And while I don’t find myself thinking about that incident much anymore, I guess I never really got over it. I still feel hurt. Angry.

To the coward who took our request for prayers and used it against us: I still can’t say I forgive you, even though God has taught me that’s exactly what I should do. Instead, I feel bad for you, that you feel what you did was acceptable, justifying as “what’s best for the child.” Because you clearly don’t know me, or my wife, or my in-laws. If you had reported and then talked to us, I would be angry, but less so. If you had come and talked to us about it before making some anonymous bullshit phone call, you would understand how much we love these kids. All of us. Instead, I see you as nothing but a malicious coward, whose objective was to tear down people you clearly don’t know. And for that reason, I feel bad for you. But at this point, I’m still hurt. And I don’t forgive you. Not yet, at least.

Luckily, my son made a full recovery. The case was labeled 3 weeks after the accident as Unfounded. And while it was a rough experience for all involved, we’re better for it. Closer, even, as a family. Our son is not afraid to run and be the curious boy he should be, nor will he ever remember that pain he was in, of which I am grateful. My wife and I get to see two happy, healthy carefree boys every day, and I thank God for that. And my in-laws remain two of the most loving, caring grandparents they were before. I worried the incident would change the kind of grandparents they were before, but I’m glad those worries were for nothing.

But posting pictures and updates about my kids on social media? That’s a thing of the past. Facebook isn’t worth it. Kids grew up happy and memories were made and shared before Facebook ever existed, and those same memories will be made and shared when Facebook eventually crumbles under its own weight.

For me? I just need to get back to writing. To believe in the good of most people. I don’t want to be bitter. I don’t want to be pessimistic. I want to rise above that. Maybe this blog post can be the first step in moving beyond that horrible incident. Maybe seven-and-a-half months of brooding is finally enough.

Until Next Time,
Milo

 

Adjusting

It is currently 5:20. My son – E, age 21 months – just woke from his nap and is lying with my wife, J, who is watching HG TV. My other son – L, age 3 days – is happily asleep in his side sleeper next to them. And me? I’m in the midst of working on 3-4 loads of laundry and writing a blog.

This is the Penbrell’s “New Normal – 2 kids, 2 parents, 2 pets and too little free time. But the less free time you have, the more you appreciate it, and maybe it’ll help me to maximize it more than I have in the past. At least that’s the goal.

Right now, I’m thankful that we’re home. During E’s birth, he struggled to breathe and ended up in the NICU for 10 days, with J and I driving back and forth, one hour each way, every day ’til he came home. It was scary; even knowing E would make a full recovery and come home, there were babies there that cried all the time, and parents of those babies who had been there longer than us, and would remain there even after we departed. I pray for those families even today, because situations like that occur every day.

I’m also thankful that L seems to be sleeping pretty good right now (fingers crossed it continues!) One of my larger anxieties was the lack of sleep J & I would incur, but so far, the transition has been smooth. But L has only been home for one night. So it’s impossible for me to say what our new routine will be.

I think E will be a great older brother, once he adjusts to the fact that he’s not the sole attention-getter anymore. He’s sweet, and kind, and loves to share….as long as he’s in a good mood.

The animals will adjust well too. Allie, our 3-yr-old Golden Retriever, just wants to love everyone. Her heart is bigger than her brain, but I love that about her. Noah, our five-yr-old cat, has been through so much already – new house, another pet, and now 2 kids. He’s the picture of flexibility…you know, as long as we keep feeding him on time.

J will adjust well. She’s already a great mother, so there are no worries there. And now that she’s no longer pregnant, she seems a lot happier already (you know, since she can walk and move and sleep better now that she’s a whole human being lighter). While her confidence was shaken because of her sudden (and though it can’t be proven, probably illegal, and certainly morally reprehensible) loss of job, she’ll be able to bounce back, and be better than ever.

As for me? I’ll be fine. I’m good at recovering too. My biggest fear is always going to be about being a great provider and dad. I had a great example growing up, so I worry I will never live up to the wonderful father I had. L is so incredibly small, I worry constantly about breaking him. You know Lenny in “Of Mice and Men” and how he didn’t know his own strength? That’s how I feel. E was 11 days old before we brought him home. L was only 2. That’s a noticeable difference in a newborn.

And of course, I need to find the time to do this – writing – even if it’s only a little bit each day. I can’t keep putting it off.

For now, it’s about adjusting. Finding the “New Normal.” 2 kids, 2 parents, 2 pets, and too little free time.

But also a lot of love to go around.

Overwhelmed

It is with a great burden upon my shoulders that I come out of the shadows and share my first post in a while.

My wife, who is due to give birth to our second child in less than a week by the way, just got fired from her job yesterday. With various doctor appointments and a company that doesn’t offer any sick time, she was able to save up a little over 40 hours of vacation time (about a week) for the ~eight weeks that she is going to be off. So we were expecting to be tightening the belt for a little bit. But now the 40 hours she scraped together is gone, and so is the promise of a job to come back to.

(If you’re wondering if she “deserved it,” let’s just say…she didn’t. Long story short, she basically got tattled on by a fellow employee by doing something that other people have already done [including the tattletale!], and rather than being calm and rational and say “Well, this should not be the practice,” they decided to do the irrational thing and fire one person, instead of at least 3 people that could, nay, should, have been fired for doing the same thing. Bottom line: she was fired because they didn’t want a vacant position for the next 8+ weeks. Call it what you will, but when you fire someone that close to their pregnancy, the true reasoning speaks for itself. Unfortunately, I don’t have the money to cover legal fees to drag them through the mud.)

We’re not really sharing this news right now with others, except for family. However, as this is a blog written under a pen name, I figured it was okay to share here.

I’m in a state of shock right now, at the nastiness of people. Who does this to someone? At first, I was just blinding angry when she called me, crying and telling me the news.

Picture this. You’ve been wondering for the past several weeks when your 2nd born kid is going to come. Your first came at 37 weeks because your wife battled high blood pressure in the last couple weeks of pregnancy. You sit in the hospital, scared about the health of your wife and, later, your son, who is born with under developed lungs and spends 10 days in the NICU, and takes years off your own life. So when the second pregnancy comes along, you wonder again: will the baby be healthy? Will she stay healthy?

Then you get blindsided. Your wife, who is now 37.5 weeks pregnant, calls you, hysterical, and you’re completely helpless. Why isn’t anyone helping her? Why doesn’t anyone care? What kind of people do this?

I went from anger to a kind of numbing feeling all day. I want to believe in the goodness of people, but when things like this happen, you see how cold some people can truly be.

Truth be told? I guess I feel sorry for them more than anything.

I’m not super concerned about the money, if I’m really honest myself. Sure, it’s scary…but I have a decent paying job that will (mostly) cover us if we shore up a few trivial expenditures. And my insurance is covering the pregnancy. We have some savings too, and if she finds something else — which I have no doubt she will. She’s smart and a social dynamo — in a reasonable amount of time, we’ll bounce back no problem.

I guess I’m saying I’m overwhelmed because I’m wondering….is this a God moment? And if so, who is it for?

Is it a God moment for my wife? Was it time for her to move on and she needed a good kick in the pants?

Is it a God moment for me? As someone who always wants to be a good provider for my family, is God kicking me in the pants and saying “You want to make some money with your writing? Well then do it, ya bozo.” (And yes, in this case, God would absolutely use the word “bozo.”)

Or is it a God moment for us? Our family unit? A moment to come together, a moment telling us both to better ourselves?

I guess I’m overwhelmed with the timing of it all. And also trying to understand how callous certain people can be. If you have any insight on that, please let me know.

Thanks for reading. If this does turn out to be a kick in the pants, which I desperately need, I hope to stay in touch soon.

-mp

 

 

Where Were You When…A Life’s Journey Through Books

So the beginning of this is going to be a little strange, but just go with it.

So I’m trying to lose about 15 pounds before the new baby comes in July. To do so, I need to change some dieting habits, i.e. drink less soda, consume less sugar. My problem is if work gets a little slow, I’ll eat and drink more, but I don’t eat healthy. I eat cookies, or food from McDonald’s, and I drink soda. A lot of it.

So this past Tuesday, the brilliant dietitian that I am, I decided I would eat cauliflower and drink water. Which, aside from going to the bathroom more frequently (which I hate!), it was working well…until about 7:oo that evening when someone started poking me with a million knives. It turns out eating an entire Ziploc bag of cauliflower may be healthier in theory, but it’s not going to make you FEEL better in the long run.

So of course I ended up doubled over in the bathroom. And I couldn’t help but be reminded back two years ago when I turned 30 and had to go through my first colonoscopy. And as anyone will tell you, the worst part about the colonoscopy is the preparation of cleaning yourself out the night before, which basically means drinking something that tastes like bathroom cleaner, but is really a powerful laxative that leaves you in the bathroom for hours on end.

And, this of course, reminded me of “Eleanor and Park” by Rainbow Rowell for the simple reason that this was the book I was reading at the time, and I remember how powerful it was, and immediately upon finishing, I had to look up every other book she has written because one just wasn’t enough.

And this got me thinking about the power of books, and how they’re with you through the ups and downs of your lifetime.

Like when I was in my early twenties, and me and my best friend KG decided that after ten years of friendship, we would try dating. (But if I’m being honest, I mean KG finally decided she wanted to date me, because I had been trying that for years) And anyone who knows anything knows that when you date your best friend, it could go either extremely well, or extremely poor. And unfortunately, our courtship went sideways almost out of the gate, and was also the beginning of the end of our friendship as we started growing even further apart. It was also around Valentine’s Day and I was beyond devastated, reopening old wounds and thoughts that I would never find the one. Not sure I was ever going to get out of the abyss, I picked up “Bluesman” by Andre Dubus III, and almost immediately became engrossed in this coming-of-age story about a teenager in a different time period, but for some reason, the story resonated with me so personally in that moment, and I couldn’t have asked for a better story to get me moving again.

Before that was of course the Harry Potter craze, specifically JK Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” I was 22 at the time, fresh out of college, and temporarily living in Northern Virginia at the time, isolated from friends and family, but venturing out on my own, really for the first time (I don’t count college). I ordered the book through Amazon, waited for it to deliver around 10 am on a Saturday morning, and then I did nothing but read the entire day. This gargantuan, 800-900 page book, but I couldn’t put it down, because I needed to know what happened before the media floodgates broke and ruined the ending, and I finally finished around 7 or 8 that night, exhausted but relieved. Sometime in the afternoon, I chowed down on some fish sticks, but never put the book down.

I mean….Don’t You Just Frickin’ Love Books?! 

Of course, I won’t ever forget being 15 years old. My mom took me and my sister to Waldenbooks and we were each allowed to pick a book. And for some reason, unbeknownst to me, I was drawn to one in particular, “A Bend in the Road” by Nicholas Sparks, and I don’t remember ever devouring a book so quickly, and being a hopeless romantic who couldn’t get a date in high school, Sparks made my heart ache by describing love that I was missing. Sparks is also responsible for my own writing journey, as his ability to evoke deep emotions within me that I didn’t know existed, created my own personal desire to write and do the same for others.

Years later, my girlfriend’s mother would give me a book she thought I would enjoy. It was called “A Perfect Day” by Richard Paul Evans, and was the story of a writer who was just starting out, getting his first book published. Suffice it to say that Evans was successful in not only writing a great book, but hammering home the point that writing was exactly what I should be doing with my life.

This is only a small sampling. I could talk to you about “Every Day” by David Levithan, or The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. Or we could beckon back even further to anything by Roald Dahl, RL Stine’s “Goosebumps” series, the quirky stylings of Dr. Seuss, particulary Marvin K Mooney, Will You Please Go Now and Green Eggs and Ham, which I read religiously every time we had to go to the doctor’s office. But my point in writing this blog is simple:

Books are always there for us.

Through good times and bad times, books are there. They let us forget about our troubles if for only a few hundred pages. They inspire us to be better people. They make us laugh when we don’t want to, cry when we really don’t want to. They help us to find what we’re looking for, when we didn’t even know we were looking for that particular thing. They connect us to others, and help open our eyes to events to which we were previously ignorant.

Why do I want to be a writer, you ask? Because of everything I just said. To inspire and help others in the same way countless authors did, and continue to do for me.

I have never been more sure of what I was meant to do.

 

 

To the Blind Boy I Saw Walking Downtown Last Week

Thank you.

For the past two months, I’ve been in a nasty mood, pissed off at the world about a promotion I didn’t get at work, feeling I was the best candidate. Angry about the politics of business, and how hard work isn’t as important as who your friends are.

I’ve been depressed because no matter how hard I’ve worked at my job, I’ve always been at the bottom. And just when things seemed they were going my way, BAM! the company gets bought out, I lose my job, and am forced to start over. At the bottom. Respected and known by no one.

Meanwhile, I’m in a self-imposed RUT, depressed about the vicious cycle of trying to balance work and family, and having no time for writing. In essence, it’s like I’m standing over myself, watching me sit on the couch in the evenings, or on weekends, sad and depressed, and unable to put words to paper. Powerless to stop it. Unable to rise above my own anger and sadness.

I always thought if you worked hard, people would notice, and it would eventually get you where you need to go. And my motivation is pure. Noble, even. I don’t want to get ahead for myself. For wealth. I want to get ahead for my family. To give them everything that they want. My wife. My son. My unborn child before he/she is born in July. I thought if my desire, my heart, was pure enough, then good would triumph. But that’s not how the world works, and once again, I was naive to think it did. But damnit, doesn’t the world owe me something? That’s been my mindset.

Then I saw you.

I was heading back to work after my lunch break. Angry, of course. Wishing the last 3 hours would fly by, determined to change my luck, but knowing deep down I wouldn’t. I sat at a red light, 2 minutes from work. And you were at the street corner with two adults. If I had to guess, I would say you were ten years old. It was unseasonably warm, and while you walked without a jacket, you walked with two other things I couldn’t fathom: a walking stick, and a smile.

I nearly lost it right then in the car, and every time I think about the moment since, I nearly lose it. Here you were, young, the entire world ahead of you. Every reason in the world to be angry. But you weren’t. You were smiling. And it was in that moment I realized that despite our differences physically, it was you whose eyes were wide open to the world around you, and I was the one who was blind to what truly mattered.

When people think of inspiration, or heroes, they think of actors who play important characters on tv. Or athletes who lead game-winning drives, and then do charity work in the off season. They don’t look at every day people like yourself, but I want to tell you that you are just as inspiring. Just as motivating. Just as important.

I wanted to jump out of my car, run up and hug you and say “Thank you for just being you,” but of course I didn’t. I couldn’t abandon my car on a public street, nor did I want to make you uncomfortable. But here and now, in the anonymous world of Online Blogging, I want to say Thank You. I needed that moment. To remember that the world owes me nothing, and to stop wallowing in self pity when things don’t go my way.

Thank you for walking that day. And thank you for smiling. You have a strength I can only dream of, a courage that doesn’t yet exist in me, but because of that moment, I know it can if I let it. Thank you for opening my eyes.

Annual Report: Catsby for a Cause

We’ve all done some soul searching.

There are several opportunities throughout the year for us to do this: birthdays, vacations, New Year’s. Life also presents us opportunities to do this when certain events occur: loss of job, new job, end of a relationship, death. These moments of deep self reflection are like the Annual Report of your life: where did you succeed, where did you fail, what can you do differently in the coming year, etc.

With the New Year now 25 days old, I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching. The new president has a lot of people doing soul searching, which may or may not include updating their passport and preparing to flee the country. I myself am not worried about the new regime. And it’s not because I voted for Trump; it’s simply because there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s going to happen whether I like it or not, so instead I choose to reflect on the events that I can control.

I’m 32, with 33 rapidly approaching. I have a 15-month old, and my wife and I will be welcoming a new baby later this year in July. It’s going to be scary and exciting all at the same time. Selfishly, I worry about how much more sleep I’m going to lose, how much hair I’m going to lose, and how much stress I’m going to gain. Selflessly, I pray that I can rise to the challenge of being a great dad to two kids (under two, no less), not just one, and still be a great husband to a wife who deserves the moon and stars. But always, when I reflect, it comes back to writing. And as usual, I find myself disappointed.

2016 actually saw some great strides in writing. While I was unemployed for the first 3 and a half months of the year, I was able to write about 90% of a children’s story that had been brewing in the back of my mind for over a year. Seeing it come to life on pages, I have the confidence that it can be a hit if I can find the right agent/publisher combination. Later in the year, over the summer, I completed a 8,000 word short story to enter into a contest for Wattpad. The story, which is the best short story I’ve ever written (I prefer writing novels over shorts, to tell the truth), did not win the contest, but I blame that less on the story, and more on the parameters of the contest. The story gave me hope – hope that I still have what it takes to make it in this business, and hope that one day I’m going to see the success I’ve craved for over 15 years.

But beyond these two accomplishments – and a few blog posts – my writing more or less stagnated. I could sit here and tell you that it was because of a job change, and having a small child to raise, and wanting to spend time with my family, and being busy on weekends, etc. All of that would be true, and all of that might be enough for some people. But it’s not enough for me, and it hasn’t been for a while.

I make excuses, and then I vow to make changes when I soul search. And it usually works…for a month or so, and then I fall back into old habits. You could could argue that it’s because I don’t really love writing, because if I did, then I would just do it. I wish it were that simple, I really do, and maybe it is. But I don’t believe that. Not yet.

I’m only 32 years old, but my window for doing this might be closing, especially with a brand new kid on the way. Time is oh so precious, and I’ve wasted a lot of it.

I don’t make resolutions, because when I fail to reach them, it only depresses me. I’m not going to make promises that “it’ll be better” this year, because circumstances can change, and the promises I would make now might not be the ones I can fulfill later.

But I do have some plans. 

Building on the momentum I started in the first six months of 2016, I plan to finish the children’s story I started, and begin to tentatively shop it. But before I do that, I’m planning on posting my short story “The Nine Lives of Jay Catsby” online at Amazon for purchase. The plan is to shop it at $2.99; this obviously seems incredibly steep for an unknown writer, and for a short story. But I have my reasons: I will be donating all the profits of this story to the ASPCA, and according to my research and communication with Amazon, I can make a bigger profit (70%) if I charge at least $2.99, which would mean more money to help animals. The project is going to be called “Catsby for a Cause” and I will be revealing more info regarding this on here as it becomes available. The reason I want to write, in addition to inspiring people, is to give back, and this seems like a good way to start.

There are two big quotes that have been running in my head lately, and I think they will end up being my mantra for 2017. The first is “Be the change you want to see in the world,” which is attributed to Gandhi. It doesn’t need further explanation, but basically we can either complain about how the world is, or we can do something about it, and guys, I’m done complaining. So I’m going to do something. Something good.

The other is the song “Try” by Pink. Specifically the chorus which is as follows:

“Where the is desire, there is going to be a flame,
Where there is a flame, someone’s bound to get burned,
But just because it burns doesn’t mean you’re going to die,
You gotta get up and try, try, try.”

Pink obviously wasn’t talking about trying to get published (why would she?), but the message is clear: Look, you might fail. You might get burned. But you’re never going to know unless you put yourself out there and see what comes back. Part of me has been afraid to see what is going to come back by putting myself out there. Part of me is afraid things are going to crash and burn, and that everything I’ve dreamt up in my head will turn into a nightmare. But I have to stop being afraid. I need to put myself out there once and for all.

I hope for big things in 2017, but I’m not promising them. But I need something more. And everything in my life is telling me that Writing is that something.

Shortcomings

I am not a handyman.

I’d probably hit my finger with a hammer instead of a nail, or else I’d put a hole in the wall. I’d cut pieces of trim too short, or uneven, assuming I didn’t cut off my finger first, and I’m more likely to pay a couple hundred dollars to have someone fix/build something for me instead of doing it myself for less than fifty bucks and very little time.

I’d like to say this is my dad’s fault, that he’s also a terrible handyman, but it’s actually the exact opposite: my dad’s a freakin’ genius when it comes to that stuff. He’s affectionately earned the nickname “Macgyver” around our family for his ability to tear stuff down and fix it with very little instruction. He’s a plumber, a contractor, and pretty much anything else he needs to be around the house.

I’m more of a Mr. Magoo around the house. I can usually build stuff (bookcases, tables, etc.) that you buy in the store, but that comes with instructions. I’m terrible at measuring, and always have been. And while being Mr. Fix-It never interested me, I’ve realized in the last five years of being a homeowner that it’s something I should have taken more seriously way back when.

So when my wife(J), who has been struggling with work-related worries lately, texted me today and said “I feel like I’m failing us,” I knew exactly how she felt.

Aside from not being the handyman for her I wish I could be, I’m also not the provider I hoped to be growing up. I know a lot of men who work their 9-5 job, and it’s enough to cover expenses for the entire family. They’re able to save money, take nice vacations, and their wives are able to stay at home as well, or only have to work part time jobs. While we do have some money in the bank, have nice cars, and are not scrimping month-to-month, I’ve also wished I could do more for her.

But here’s the thing: she’s not failing us. She works hard, comes home, cooks a meal, and still has enough energy to keep our son (E) entertained. She’s patient with him when I am not, and she can always make him smile. It’s no wonder he’s a “momma’s boy” right now, and I can’t truly be jealous or upset about it.

J would only be failing us if she stopped trying, which I know she never will. If she stopped working hard, at work or at home, then it would be failing. If she stopped loving me, or stopped being the wonderful mother she is, then she would be failing us.

And as hard as it is for me to admit, I realized that I, too, am not failing our family. I work hard at my job, and I do the housework around here that I can, even though I don’t feel it’s ever enough.

What it comes down to is: we all have shortcomings. We have insecurities about ourselves that we wish we could change because we want to do more for our loved ones. But as long as we never stop trying, we are never truly failures.

I will never stop trying for my family, and I know J will never stop trying either. Shortcomings aside, as long as we stick together, we’ll never be stronger than we are right now.

And as long as you don’t stop, you will never fail either.

As always, keep reading!
-MP

 

So How Hard IS it to Find a Literary Agent?

In a moment of pure frustration a couple of years ago, when I was unable to find/successfully obtain a literary agent, I wrote up a few jokes that the every day writer would understand…and maybe even enjoy.

So if you are down on yourself because of a recent rejection, or if you’re stuck trying to reach your word count today during NanoWriMo, take a moment to enjoy these short jokes that only writers will understand!

A writer walks into a bar and asks for a beer and a literary agent. The bartender hands him a cold one and says, “On the house, cuz you’ll never get the other thing.”

A writer finds an old dusty lamp and gives it a rub. A genie pops up and says, “I will grant you one wish, anything you want. What’ll it be?” The writer says, “I want to be a published writer, so I need a literary agent. So my wish is to find a literary agent.” The genie holds up his hands and says, “Whoa, kid. I’m a genie, not a miracle worker.”

Two paramedics roar onto a scene and find a man who has been stabbed multiple times, and a guy just sitting there with a notepad and a pen. They say, “We only have enough room for one of you, and this guy looks pretty bad. What’s wrong with you?” The guy with the notepad says, “Nothing! I made the call because I witnessed the whole thing and wanted to stay with him. Take him! I’m just a writer who is looking for a literary agent.” The paramedics grab the writer and shove him into the ambulance because he needs more help.

A doctor walks up to a troubled family. Their daugther is in a coma. He puts a hand on the mother’s shoulder and says, “Don’t worry. Your daughter is going to be just fine. She is going to wake up any minute now. This is just temporary.” The mother, overcome with joy, begins to cry and says, “Oh, thank goodness! We were so worried. We love her so much! Our daughter has such great aspirations and we want her to be able to achieve them. You see, she wants to be a writer and was looking for a literary agent before the accident.” The doctor stands up suddenly, walks over to the coma patient’s bed and pulls the plug. He turns back to the family and says, “Geez, you should have said something earlier.”

A burglar sneaks into a house. His face is covered with a black ski mask, and he is dressed in all black himself. He walks into the homeowner’s study and sees a man working diligently at his desk. He points a gun at the man and yells “Freeze! This is a holdup! Don’t try anything funny, and everything will be okay.” He begins to tie up the man. The man, shaky, whimpers, “Please don’t hurt me. Take anything you want. But if you could, please leave the contents of this desk. I was working on a query letter when you got here. I just finished my novel and am looking for a literary agent.” The burglar stops mid-tying and stands up. He pulls off his mask and says, “Ahh, man. I’m sorry. You have enough problems. I’ll go rob the people next door.” He then vanishes into the night.