The Most Amazing Week Ever! Friday, Aug 27 2010 

Listening to: Sex Bob-Omb – Threshold – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

I have a knee condition called patella alta.  In the picture on the right, A is normal and B is me.  A good bit of the

cartilage in my knees are gone.  This causes some awkwardness when I walk.  Due to this, my hips and ankles hurt quite a bit as well.

I gradually dropped a lot of my normal activities over the years.  I took a desk job that I hated.  Sitting at a desk for most of a decade allowed my legs to get even worse over time until I was having cortisone shots in my left hip and taking hydrocodone about once or twice a month when some twist on a step or a long shift at my desk caused a flare-up.

For the last year and a half, I have been back at school completing my teaching degree.  This has required a lot of walking, which has gradually started loosening me up and, according to the doctor, smoothing out the jagged spots in my knee.  It seems that low-impact movement performed for extended periods of time (i.e. stationary bike, treadmill, and light walking) can be beneficial for my condition.

I can’t grow the cartilage back, but the rubbing of the patella (knee cap) against the leg bones essentially sands the troublesome jagged bits down.  Not a pleasant visual, I’ll grant you, but the upshot is that I have more mobility than I have had in ages.

So, I decided to put it to the test last Saturday.  My son and daughter did something that I have not attempted in about 15 years.  We hiked the 1 mile trail up Kennesaw Mountain.  My daughter is nine, so I don’t think she fully understands my problems since I don’t talk about it much.  She ran ahead on the trail and sat down at each rest point to wait for her old dad.  Mocking little imp.  My son kept pace with me. He is fourteen and has understood about my condition for a long time.

We set out and made it .2 miles up before I had to sit down for a pain pill.  I limited myself to one so that I would not get swimmy in the head.  I wanted to have my wits about me.  The experience was worth a small amount of suffering.  I slowed pace a bit on a straight to explain what we were doing on the mountain.

“Remember what I always tell you?  Never tell me that you can’t do something.  You can do anything you set your mind to.  Just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.  I have not been up this mountain since before either of you were born.  I am going to walk the whole mile.  It will be one of the most difficult things I have accomplished in recent years, but it will be worth it if it proves my point to you.”

With those words, I had sealed my doom.  I couldn’t back out or my words would be s hollow as my fool head.  That, of course, was half the point of the speech.  It was half for them and half for me.  I used my cane pretty much the entire way and we rested a lot.  Water was imbibed, small boulder climbing was done (by the kids), and much fun was had.

We eventually reached the Georgia Overlook and gun embankment.  I sat down for a while and smiled.  I had accomplished something.  It might not have been grandiose, but it was a start.  My legs hurt, but there was more muscle burn than joint pain.  The pain was there, but it was not as prevalent as normal.

Our spirits did not drop when we realized that there was not transportation back down.  We simply walked back down the mountain road, which is a much easier way than the hiking trail.  On the way down we made note of especially beautiful flowers and berry bushes.  On the road ahead were a doe and her fawn.  We slowed and approached in a non-threatening posture.  The mother spotted us and leapt up the hill.  Her child tagged along behind.  At the top, the mother continued on into the woods, but the baby stayed.

We stood at the base of the embankment looking up at the fawn, who munched the occasional leaf and peered backward over his shoulder as if to say, “Hey.  ‘Sup?”  My daughter edged right up the edge, where I told her to stop, not just for her safety from the steepish climb and the deer’s hooves, but from the poison ivy on the embankment.  The baby played its little game (bite, tug, glance, “‘Sup?”, much) for about two or three minutes.  Finally it realized mom was gone and ambled along after her, still chewing on that last leaf the whole way.  It was the perfect end to the excursion.

We went back home and met up with some friends.  We worked our characters for the Dresden Files RPG that a friend is about to start.  Much fun was had then and the next day when a friend dropped by unexpectedly from out-of-town to drop off a food container we had let him borrow.  He stayed for supper and we played The Pillars of the Earth and Small World. A pleasant surprise, as he is one of our favorite gaming people.

This week was stressful.  I am taking five classes this semester.  A fairly hefty load, at least for me.  I have taken three or four at most before this, but I am trying to graduate Spring 2012.  It has been a good, but worrisome couple of weeks as I try to figure out my due dates and the work I am going to have to put in to get my customary A’s and B’s.

There is an Amtgard group, Shire of Iron Springs, that meets several times a week on the campus green to beat the crap out of each other with boffer swords, polearms, daggers, etc.  While many LARP (Live Action Role-Play) activities are “lightest touch,” these guys go for the gusto, which I appreciate.  Besides, check the pic from the site.  Any LARPer who wears a Green Lantern t-shirt is all right in my book.

So, in the spirit of getting back in shape and trying my legs out, I joined in today.  I played for about 45 minutes before class and about an hour afterward.  It was fun and exhausting, but just what I needed.  I was amazed that my legs were not giving me any trouble.  Some pinches, but nothing too serious.

Then I drove home.  I tried to get out of the car when my knees and hips registered a complaint.  I could almost hear them shout, “Sit back DOWN!”  I, not having any desire to crack my skull on the car frame by falling back into the driver’s seat, spread my arms and stopped my backward descent.  I asserted my inner stubborn mule, which my mother passed onto me, and pushed myself up with my arms.

I have to say, it hurt.  It hurt a lot.  I walked to the front door like I needed a walker.  I was glad it was dark, because I looked sad and pathetic.  I came in, stripped out of my sweaty clothes, and flopped down on the bed.  I refused any pain pills.  I don’t like to take them and I avoid it except in cases, like the Kennesaw Mountain ascent, where they are absolutely necessary.

All in all, I am glad I have taken these steps toward better health.  Sitting here in the bed, I am pretty sure that 75% of the aches and pains are the direct result of muscle tissue damage of the sort I expect after a workout, and boffer fighting is a workout just as much as basketball or soccer.  The other 25% is mostly in my hip.

I am guessing that sitting in the bed with a laptop in my lap isn’t the best thing to do, but I had to get this down.  I am well over 50% joyful for the first time in a while.  I might even hazard a guess that I am hovering a bit over 85-90% joy, as measured on the Snoopy Index.  As a note of interest, I have found that at 100%, I tend to do the Snoopy Dance of Joy™, which is a sight to behold, indeed.


When you get into a tight place, and everything goes against you ’till it seems as if you couldn’t hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that’s just the place and time that the tide’ll turn.”

~ Mr. Avery – Old Town Folks by Harriet Beecher Stowe


Going Out With My Honey Sunday, Jun 13 2010 

Listening to: Gary Ray and the Heartwells – Mississippi Streets & Smile

One of the things that my wife and I have not done in a while is go out to a concert.  We have been out on occasion, but it was on rare, carefully planned dating excursions to non-remote locales.  This mostly had to do with the responsibilities involved with taking care of Mom.  I went out to run errands once while my wife was at her office, leaving our then eighteen-year-old daughter to watch Mom for about an hour.  I was about fifteen minutes from the house when Mom’s blood-pressure plummeted and she passed out.  I then received a panicked phone call and I flew back home.

So tonight, I decided that I needed to get out and throw off this funk I have been in for the last three weeks.  I am part of the street team for a local (soon to be world-famous, if I have anything to say about it) band, Gary Ray and the Heartwells.  Since I don’t get out much, most of my work has been pimping them on the web.  A task I must admit I am pretty good at.  There was a street team contest at Reverbnation and I won it by generating the most interest from my various posts,  The prize was an autographed copy of their latest CD, “Livin’ the Dream.”

I have been a fan of Gary’s from his solo days.  I have everything he has ever released, from his days with the rock band Obsession Day to his current band, The Heartwells.  His music has heart and it’s fun, so I love it.  Plus, he’s just a great guy from the few occasions I have had the chance to speak with him.  A lot of artists disappoint you by being jackasses and he honestly likes his fans, which is a valuable trait that I hope he keeps when he hits it big.

So I emailed him back the other day to let him know that I’d be at the show tonight so he could save the shipping of sending the CD to me.  My wife and I saddled up and headed off to Kramer’s in Atlanta for the show.  No cover was an added bonus, but I had cash, so I bought an extra couple of CDs for some friends who wanted a copy but were unable to go.

While I was chatting with Gary, I mentioned two of my favorite songs.  “Smile” is pretty much a universal favorite in my household.  My wife and I love it and I am pretty sure most, if not all, the kids have it on their iPods as well.  It is a song from his solo days and he said he hadn’t played it in a while, but he would give it a try.  The other song was “Mississippi Streets.”  He plays this song using a glass bottle as a slide for his guitar.  Love that song and it is on their latest album, so it was part of the set they were going to play anyway.

The show kicked off and they mixed their own song with some outstanding covers of such songs and “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Copperhead Road.”  When he got to “Smile” he dropped my name as one of his top street team members, so I have some street cred right there.  That’s right, y’all.  I rule.  Don’t forget it.  The song went fine until he started the second verse.  Remember that this is an old song of his from before he formed the band.  I was impressed that they were able to pull it off since I have never heard them play it at all.

Gary looked down off the stage and said, “Ok, you’re gonna have to help me here.  How does it start?”

“I’m headed down I-65!” I shouted.

“Right!” he said and lit right into it.  Mucho street cred for me once again.

So Gary, sorry for requesting such a blast from the past, but I just friggin’ LOVE that song.

After that, he played “Mississippi Streets” and rocked the asses off everyone there.  We stayed until they took a break, a little after midnight, listening to and singing along with the music, watching drunk people dancing, and just having a great time.  I wished the guys a good show and went on home since the A/C in the place was  overpowered by the dancing bodies and the humid June evening.

I know this had nothing to do with writing, which this blog is ostensibly about, but since Mom started to go downhill, I haven’t written anything of note that wasn’t either required by school or a post here.  Part of being me is the therapy I have to go through before I can start back again.  I may as well bring this blog along for the ride, if only so I can have some documentation of these days for future reminiscence.

Thanks for listening.

Well… reading.

You get the idea.



“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music that words make.”

~ Truman Capote

Young Adult Lit Conference Attendance Thursday, Apr 1 2010 

I have not been to any conventions or conferences outside the Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror/Gaming arenas.  On Tuesday, March 30, I went to Kennesaw State University’s Annual Conference on Literature for Children and Young Adults.  It was an eye-opening day for me and money well-spent.  I didn’t get to meet any publishers or agents since this was a conference primarily for educators and education students, but I did get to meet some published authors.  Some of the authors I had heard of, but never read.  One was a writer whose first novel I had both read and loved.

Before I go into some of my impressions on this conference, I want to give serious props to Jay Asher.  I have previously met a handful of authors and my experiences have been a mixed bag.  Jim Butcher, author of the excellent Dresden Files series, is a wonderful person to meet.  I met him at Dragon*Con, so I didn’t really get to talk with him at length, but her was very engaging for the minute I had to speak with him.  He also took a pic with me.  Nice guy.

Jim Butcher and me - 2006    Jay Asher and me - 2010

I met another author at Dragon*Con two years later.  I won’t tell you her name since I don’t want to shame her personally.  She had just published her first book and there were not too many people in her line, maybe 5 tops at the time.  Her signing had just started and more well-known author had already established her line beforehand.  I was at the front of her line, having already read and loved her book.  I went to her table where she made a split second of eye contact and proceeded to engage in a full-blown conversation with one of her friends, who happened to be in line behind me, while she signed my book.  She handed it back to me and never, to my knowledge, attempted to make eye contact again.  Now, I don’t want an author to listen to my life’s story, but I kind of want a portion of their attention since I paid money for their book. waited in line (albeit a short one).  What I expect, and I don’t think this is too much, is some appreciation for the small part I played in their success as an author.

Jay Asher, who wrote the excellent Thirteen Reasons Why, was by far the most approachable author I have ever met.  In fact, all of the authors at this particular conference were of the highest caliber when it came to dealing with their fans.  I also met Lisa McMann, author of Wake, Fade, & Gone, and Helen Hemphill, author of Long Gone Daddy, Runaround, and The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones.  All three were among my favorite author meetings of all time.  They took time with us and, in addition to their excellent keynote addresses, hosted smaller breakout sessions.

Jay Asher  Lisa McMann

Helen Hemphill

My only problem with the conference as a whole was that it was only one day.  I would have loved a weekend conference.  There was an Early Grades conference the next day, but my focus is YA.  What this conference taught me is that there is a wide variety of YA novels out there that simply did not exist in my day.  I am in my late 30’s.  When I was a child, there were children’s books and there were adult books.  There was not real gap between Judy Blume and adult novels.  Any books that dealt with serious topics like death, rape, suicide, molestation, etc. were written for adults and practically hidden from high schoolers. 

Last year, I was introduced to Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher and was absolutely blown away.  It covered many of the same tropes that I knew from the teen novels of old: body image, bullying, first love, coming of age, friendship, and family dynamics.  What I didn’t expect to be covered in any YA novel were: suicide, abortion, teen pregnancy, religion, child abuse, physical abuse, mental illness, and attempted murder.  Maybe one or two of those topics at most, but Crutcher seemed to have felt a challenge to see how many serious topics he could logically fit into one novel.  The thing was, the book was good.  Not only did he plug all these things in, but he did so with such skill that they worked.  I was amazed.

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes

I was goobing out with a friend about that book when she asked me, “Yeah, that book is good, but have you read Thirteen Reasons Why?”  I confessed that I had never heard of it, so she gave me the spiel.  It is the story of Hannah Baker, a girl who commits suicide and records her thirteen reasons for doing so on a series of cassette tapes.  She sends the tapes out to the people who she feels helped her along her path so that they could listen and understand how their actions or inactions brought her to her decision.  I was skeptical that the book would glorify suicide, but Clay Jensen, the boy who receives the tapes in their journey from person to person, gives the book a solid grounding.  At any moment that you start to see things too closely from Hannah’s perspective, Clay interjects his own perspective.  Asher created one of the most disturbing and powerful tales I have every encountered.

I have written a few suspense, horror, and thriller stories in my time.  Until I met Jay and the other authors at the conference, it had never occurred to me that the stories I tell could easily be directed toward a YA audience.  Lisa McMann’s books are about a girl who falls into other people’s dreams against her will.  Helen Hemphill’s books are one-shot stories, though she said that she had been thinking about having a character from Long Gone Daddy run into a character from Runaround in a future novel.  I now own McMann’s Wake and Hemphill’s Long Gone Daddy and I plan on reading them as soon as life allows.  Hopefully that will occur sometime in the next week.

Thirteen Reasons Why  Wake Long Gone Daddy


"You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything. . . affects everything."

~ Hannah Baker (from Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher)


Now Playing: Kenny Loggins – I’m Alright (Theme from Caddyshack)

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