Wow. So, in a couple of weeks, school will be back in session, the days will start getting shorter, and summer will be coming to a close. I can hardly believe how quickly this summer has gone by. I’ve been keeping myself insanely busy over the last couple of months, which is why I almost instantly backslid on my goal of a couple of blog posts ago to post at least once a week. It just hasn’t been possible.  So, here in one blog post, is a list of stuff I’ve been up to.

The Family

In June, my paternal grandmother braved a solo flight from Indiana to Salt Lake to visit family and meet/re-meet the great-grandchildren. It was a wonderful trip. I adore my grandma. She’s pretty much the coolest lady ever.

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It was also Father’s Day, and my mom’s 60th birthday, so the whole family gathered together for a celebration. I do not speak hyperbole when I say that I have the single greatest family in the world. I know some of you think that your family is the best, but you’re wrong. My family kicks your family’s ass. Handily. Plus, while I can (unfortunately) take no credit for this, I do have to say, my family makes some pretty damn cute babies.

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I mean, REALLY.

 

Fountain Pens

So, about a year and a half ago, I picked up a rather intense little hobby: that of fountain pens, ink, and paper. In the past 18 months, I’ve collected nearly 100 bottles of ink, and approximately 60 pens. (And spent truly unholy amounts of money in the process.)

Unfortunately for my schedule, my fountain pen hobby met up with in almost insatiable need to get attention, and so I decided to start a fountain pen blog and YouTube channel, called The Pen Habit. I have started filming reviews of the fountain pens I’ve purchased, and have started to amass a rather decent little following. So much so that I have actually started to make a tiny little bit of money off of YouTube views and banner ads, and people have started sending me their pens to review. It’s been fun, but it takes a whole lot of time and energy to keep it going.

Also, I should warn readers of this blog that they may wish to avoid contact with me. I appear to be a carrier of FPV, commonly known as the Fountain Pen Virus. Many of those closest to me have, with only the briefest contact with me or my habit, begun exhibiting symptoms of FPV as well. Symptoms may include inky fingers and a significant increase in letter-writing. If you suspect you have been infected with FPV, please contact a professional. While there is no known cure for FPV, many treatment programs can help to lessen the impact on your life. There is hope.

Audiobooks

As things are slowing down a bit with my audiobook company, I have started auditioning for audiobooks as a narrator outside of the company.  This summer, I landed three audiobook projects: a Korean War memoir called “A Morning in June” by James W. Evans, “Pears and Perils” by Drew Hayes, and an as-yet unannounced Sci-fi novel. The first two titles are done, and just out for approval. The third title’s first 15 minutes is currently out with the author for approval, and once that is granted, I’ll start on production of that title. Plus, I’m also in the process of re-recording sections of the very first audiobook I ever recorded in order to release the whole series as a single audio title.

I’ve also been doing a bit of voiceover work for my company, doing some tutorial videos here and there.

The House

I like my house a lot. However, as the summer has worn on, I have needed to remind myself repeatedly that I actually wanted to be a homeowner. It’s been a terribly dry summer for the Seattle area, and as a result, I’m spending a lot of time (and money) just trying to keep all of my plants alive in heat and arid conditions. I’ve all but give up on a green lawn.  Then, last week, this happened.

Yep. Some jackhole defaced my new wood fence. I did my best to clean it off the next day, but the cleaning process bleached the wood, so now I’m going to end up having to paint the whole damn thing. I’m not terribly pleased about that. I tell you what: if I ever catch someone in the act of doing this to my property, I suspect I will end up in jail for the things I will do to that person. Frankly, I almost would have rather that someone stole from me. At least with theft, you know that it is usually driven out of need or desperation: for food, for shelter, for drugs. But people who vandalize are the lowest form of life on this planet. What gain is there for doing this? It will take hours upon hours of my time, and cost me well over $100 in tools and supplies for absolutely nothing. And considering that I’ve had a break-in AND a tagging in less than 9 months, I’m really starting to get pissed off.

The Dog

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In case it wasn’t clear to you, I love this furry yellow creature.  He turned 8 years old last week, and is still going strong. He’s starting to slow down a little bit–he can’t go on my runs with me in the morning.  (Yeah, I run now. More on that in a second.) He has also had a swimmy pool in the back yard this summer, which he has enjoyed to no end.

The Weight

Shortly after returning home from my Utah trip, I was editing the photos from my trip and I came across this:

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The adorable little munchkin sitting on my lap (who loves his Uncah Matt!) notwithstanding, this photograph horrified me. I knew I had put on weight, but I couldn’t remember having gotten so damn fat. Yet, the signs had been there for a while. Pants which wouldn’t button. Shirts which felt like they were getting shorter and shorter. An increasing number of public appearances of my butt-crack. Being out of breath from climbing a single flight of stairs.

212.8 pounds. That was the max. I promised myself years ago that I would never allow myself to cross the 200 pound barrier. Obviously, like almost everything I attempt that requires a modicum of self-control, I failed miserably. I decided it was time to do something about it. I started tracking my calories using a website/app called MyFitnessPal.com. I started running 3-4 times a week. I am also doing some more swimming.  Thus far, I have lost 11 pounds in six weeks…just shy of 2 pounds a week. My goal weight is 175-180 pounds, which I sincerely hope to have reached by Christmas time.

Plus, I’m freaking tired of being shown up by my 61-year-old father, who is running 2-3 half marathons a year. Screw that. I’m almost three decades younger than him. He’s going down. (P.S., I say this knowing full well that he’ll probably be able to run me into the ground when he’s well into his 90s. Jerk.)

I have  written a song about my weight gain called “Manboobs.” It is one of the greatest things I’ve have ever written.  A brief sample of the lyrics:

The bounce is now in more than just my step
And there’s more “Swing” in my pirouettes
I guess it’s time to hit the gym
But even then, the prospect’s grim
The Micky D’s is calling out my name.

The Burger King is making eyes
The Dairy Queen as got my size
An extra jumbo blizzard of regret.
Auntie Anne has got me dipped.
and Wendy is a frosty bitch.
That Mrs Fields can rot in Taco Hell.

Best of all, the whole thing is written in a fantastic turn-of-the-century burlesque style that will make for one hell of a music video. (Coming soon.)

The Music

I have recently written what I consider to be the single best piece of music I have ever written. It’s very personal, and dear to my heart. It’s really my story, both presently, and in the past. It is, perhaps, the most honest and vulnerable I have ever been in my songwriting, and I love what resulted. (There’s a lesson there about vulnerability, I think.)

 

The Book

My memoir, which I had laid down for a couple of years because I was unhappy with the way the first draft had turned out, is now back under my hands again. I’m in the middle of a massive re-write, but I feel as though I have taken a solid step forward with the way I want it to turn out. I’ve landed on a framing device that I like a lot, and there’s very good progress being made. I’m about 1/3 of the way through the re-write, and I’ve sent the first 10 chapters to a few folks who have offered to beta-read for me, and give me some honest feedback. I’m in perhaps the most difficult portion of the story right now because it is both the most emotionally wrenching part of the story, and because the emotions were almost entirely internal, so it’s hard to keep it from turning into a long series of sickly melodramatic soliloquies. I also hope to have my next draft of this done by the end of the year, although I’m not trying to write to a deadline. Once I’m done with this draft, I’m thinking I may want to start sending the manuscript in to publishers to see if I can land a nibble, and when I don’t, send it off to a good editor to help me nail down the final fixes and help me get ready for self-publishing.

The Life

Sometimes, I really struggle to see the good in life. I’ve been a negative person for so much of my life, that learning how not to wallow in self-inflicted despair is hard for me. I had an interesting talk with my sister a few weeks back during which she asked me if I thought people could simply choose to be happy. My initial reaction was to think, of course people can choose to be happy. But almost everyone who tells you that it is possible to choose to be happy is a naturally happy person. It’s like someone born into wealth telling you it’s easy to become rich. They don’t have enough perspective to provide any insight relevant to my own personal experience.

And, not to get to semantic, I think the ability to choose happiness also has a great deal to do with how you define happiness. For a long time, my “happiness” was always dependent upon the outside world: I wanted more friends, I wanted a lover, I wanted nicer things, I wanted more money. I want, I want, I want. I was expecting those things to provide with a “happiness” that would chase away all of my loneliness, my insecurity, my perceived shortcomings.

I’ve started getting better about that. I’m beginning to find more contentment with the things that I have instead of longing for the things that I don’t. I am trying to spend more time and money on experiences instead of things. I still have weekends where I’m near mad with panic over not having any friends to do anything with. I still feel a pang of regret when I’m sitting alone in a restaurant, or don’t have anyone to curl up with when I’m watching TV at night. I still look at the big open space of my living room which is in desperate need of furniture. I still see a big, ugly patch of land in my back yard that needs more work than I can possible do by myself. And it’s still there. But I’m finally starting to realize that there is more. On those rare times when friends do want to get together, I am trying to jump at the opportunity. I’m trying to go outside of myself a little more, and experience a bit more of the world. And I’m trying to choose to be happy, even when I don’t feel happy. Is it working? Can I choose to be happy? No, not really. But maybe a little.

Last weekend, I pulled my hammock out of the shed and set it up in the shade of the large oak tree in my back yard. I took my cup of iced Diet Pepsi and my Kindle outside and, for two hours read a silly little fantasy novel. I didn’t work on any projects, I didn’t mow the lawn, or clean the house, or work on pen videos, or record audiobooks. I just took two hours to relax. And it was wonderful. And I was at peace. And, as I watched the sky darken and snapped the picture below just before it got completely dark and the mosquitos drove me back indoors, it happened. I felt happy.

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This has been a great summer. Hotter than crotch, frustrating, busy as sin, touched with moments of melancholy, but good. Really good. Just like life.