Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

So…it has been a month and three four days since my “vanity card” post. Not bad as far as gaps in my postings go…

I haven’t posted out of a combination of laziness, busyness, indecision, and fear. That’s a pretty toxic combination, so let me unpack that a bit. This will get a touch complicated (or sensitive…one or the other).

The first reason, laziness, is the easiest to explain. I’m lazy, and the older I get the lazier I find myself. I finally get to the weekend with a head full of plans, and I can barely drag myself out of bed long enough to eat some breakfast, brunch, or lunch, depending upon the time I get up. The five days of work seem to take more out of me now that my age starts with a 5 instead of a 4………..Wait…Who am I kidding? This started early on in my 40s. The 50s just compounded it, much like interest on a savings account. Wait…who am I kidding (again). Interest rates are essentially zero.

Which brings me to the second reason, busyness. Yes, I feel like I am busier now, especially at work, maybe not so much after work, but once I slog through a busy day of work, I have no real desire to be busy that evening. That, coupled with my distaste for most of what is on what we call television these days, leaves me with watching reruns of some of my favorite shows, meandering about YouTube, listening to music, reading a book, or attempting to write. The fact that I can’t concentrate on any of these for longer than about 20 minutes makes the whole affair rather tedious.

That is a function of the indecision. Not being able to decide what 30 minute show to watch, or which book to start next, or what YouTube video to watch next, or what to write, is probably the most daunting challenge I have faced in all of my five decades. COVID and all of the horrendous responses to it really broke some people, and in some way broke a bit of me, too.

While I am an introvert, I do actually like to interact with people at times, and when told I cannot do that “for the greater good”, it makes it far worse. Those months of partial to total isolation were, to put it mildly, trying. Not knowing who to trust or what to believe bruised my latent desire for equilibrium and constancy so deeply that I am still recovering. Going from “masks don’t help!” to “you have to wear a mask!”, or going from “vaccines will keep you from getting the virus” to “vaccines only help you fight off the virus” were “triggering” (to borrow a word I really despise) to my mentality.

Which brings me to the last reason why I have not posted in over a month…fear. I fear that I cannot openly expose my thoughts here or anywhere else. “Cancel culture” is real and insipid, and I’ve seen lives ruined over expressing the slightest deviance from “ScienceTM” and “FactsTM“. We live in a society that abhors any notion of disagreement. It is suffocating and inhibits true debate and subsequently, progress. The degree to which some will go to smear, silence or gaslight others upsets me to the point that I know i should not write anything in an attempt to not say something truly damaging and cruel (but probably totally true).

Now, for someone like me who absolutely hates conflict to say that we need a better atmosphere for disagreement means that things are pretty bad. I don’t have a solution other than to continue to combat speech with which I disagree with more speech, not censorship or a desire to silence other voices. Might I also take the occasional opportunity to mock, when appropriate, speech I disagree with? Sure.

We’ll see how I do…

Featured Image: Photo by Victor on Unsplash

A “Vanity Card” for 2022

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

It has now been over a year since I posted on this blog. My last post was February 23, 2021. My posting has never been better than sporadic, with a few notable exceptions. I make no money from this blog, I post only very infrequently, if at all, so why keep it, you might ask. It would be a valid question. It is a question I have asked myself many times.

Part of my answer would be that someone, somewhere, would be inspired by something on this blog and go on to do what I grow ever more certain I cannot do – produce a work of words so exciting, so magnetic, so impactful, that others want to read, nay, will even pay money to read it. Or listen to. As an author, I am, at best “aspiring”. I have over ten works in progress, none of which are even close to the point of publication. They are all incomplete, missing vital aspects of plot, character development, conflict, and resolution. They have scattered story lines, incomplete narratives, redundant and tedious wording and detail, and lack any sense of cohesiveness. Yet I keep them around, hoping that inspiration will strike and sustain me to complete one of them.

Having recently jettisoned to the digital dustbin a large body of work that I had created over a decade or more, I know that I can’t do that with my more legitimate works. All of them have one of two fates in store for them. One, and the more likely, is they will remain unfinished, never reaching a moment of completion, forever lacking a “The End” that denotes them as done. Sure, they might be worked on, added to, edited, and tweaked, but more than likely will never be read by anyone besides me and my one trusted beta reader.

The other fate, the one I dream of, the one that tantalizes me, the one I see in my wildest imagination, is that one, or some, or all of them are eventually completed, presented to the world, and bring joy to someone other than me. This will take intestinal fortitude, a lot of creativity, and a lot of long days and nights clicking away on the keyboard to accomplish. I honestly don’t know if I have it in me to do this. I don’t know if I am good enough to even finish one, much less make it worth somebody else’s time to consume. I hope I do.

The one thing I have learned and relearned over the last year of not posting anything to this blog is that some things change, and others do not. There’s nothing new in this epiphany, as there is nothing new under the sun, but I believe that every person has to confront this fact on their own, through their own circumstances. It is not enough to see it in other’s lives. It must be lived, directly experienced, and assimilated into the mind of every individual for it to be real.

Sometimes change is good and your life is blessed. Sometimes change is debilitating, and your life is somehow diminished. As I get older, and time and the inevitable destruction of my body from diabetes wears on me, I see the diminishing of life. As I write this, I am rapidly approaching the time when my age will no longer begin with a four. That is only days away, and yet, I still shrink away from it and the full weight of that fact has yet to sink in. I’ve dealt with the curse of diabetes for nearly forty years, and while I have held at bay many of the physical effects of the disease, I know a time will come when I will no longer be able to do so. The pressure to take advantage of “the now” grows with each passing day as I see myself grow older and more diminished.

With all of that said, I once again put here in ones and zeros the proclamation that I will try, with what remains of this year, to complete one of my many works in progress – to turn a bunch of letters, words, pages, and chapters into something that entertains and inspires. Will this be the year I am right? Who knows? Maybe. And this is the best I can offer.

Photo by Ergita Sela on Unsplash

FRED and Notion and more!

Est. Reading Time: 5 minutes

I haven’t written in a bit, not for lack of topics, but for lack of motivation. Maybe the tools I mention in this post will help me get past the lack of motivation issue. I’m talking about FRED, a writing tool, and Notion, a super-duper note-taking (and other stuff) app that I considered using as a replacement for Evernote when I was attempting to migrate off of the mean, green, highly addictive platform. Oh, yeah, I have a couple of comments about my shiny new Rocketbook and Concrete5, too.

First, there is FRED, which stands for “Folder for Reaching the End of your Draft”. This is a nifty tool I learned about from Shaunta Grimes at Ninja Writers. She has a 15 minute YouTube video about what it is, and how to use it effectively. The concept and execution are so simple even I can do it. FRED lets you keep a log of your progress, stay motivated as you see word counts and continuous daily streaks rise, and make any notes that might pop into your head as you record your accomplishments. I won’t steal any thunder from Shaunta, go check out the video, and also consider taking a look at Ninja Writers, if, like me, you are attempting to write your own great novel.

With the concept of FRED in my head, I turned to Notion, as I am not great about actually writing things down on paper. First, my handwriting is the worst (more on that later). There’s no guarantee that I can even read something I wrote more than a few days after writing it, much less have anyone else interpret it. Second, I tend to not like having to carry stuff around (like journals), so a computer is a better venue for me to journal on. I did pretty well journaling during my 21 day fast back in January, so I know I can do it. I also know that I can customize a Notion database to record my journaling, allowing me to keep track of things like daily writing streaks and word counts.

So, off I went to create my own custom Notion template for FRED. I copied over some elements from one of the default templates in Notion, tweaked the requested information a bit, adding a spot to put in word count, a checkbox to say that I met my “tiny little goal”, which is a FRED concept, and a place to record what type of writing I did. This noted where my words were written, whether into a blog post, or into a current work-in-progress, or something else, like a critique at Scribophile, one of my favorite writing community web sites. I’ll have to write a post about Scribophile sometime. I think I have done one in the past, but if I did, I’m afraid it disappeared into the digital ether at some point.

Anyway, I was humming along creating this new template when my brain imploded. I couldn’t remember how to make certain aspects of the default page “stick” for later use. After checking the excellent documentation a couple of times and not finding an answer, I pounded away at the problem for a few minutes until I figured it out. Painful, but now I have an easy way to hopefully motivate myself to write every day. This is where the “tiny little goal” comes in. The idea is to pick a small goal, whether it is “write for ten minutes”, “write 500 words”, or some variation on those themes and make that my baseline goal for every day. If I meet the tiny little goal, I get to check the box on the journal entry that says “Goal Met”. The more days I can check that box, the closer I will get to either finishing my work-in-progress or throwing out a giant pile of blog posts. At least, that is the concept behind FRED. Some people who use FRED like to put a sticker on each day they reach their goal. A checked “Goal Met” box is as good as a shiny gold star sticker on a calendar for me.

I did get my Rocketbook in. I’ve used it a bit and I am amazed at the fact that it can OCR my handwriting fairly accurately. Not 100%, but 95+%, which is amazing. Even with the tiny dots on the Rocketbook page creating horizontal and vertical lines, I still can’t write in a straight line, so the fact that it read my wandering script just amazes me. When I finish writing my notes on the page, I use the Rocketbook app on my phone to scan the page and send the image and an OCR’d transcript to one of several cloud storage services. My primary one is Evernote, of course, but I also have the option of simply emailing it, or sending it to Box, Google Drive, OneDrive, or OneNote. I still have one more app I can select as a destination, but I’m leaving that open for now as there are no other supported cloud services that I use. So, yay! Rocketbook is cool.

Finally, some words about Concrete5, or, as it is soon to be renamed, ConcreteCMS. ConcreteCMS is, for those not familiar with it, a full-blown content management system designed to facilitate the creation and curation of websites. While not as popular as WordPress, it is a major player in content management. If you can envision WordPress as a precision scalpel, think of ConcreteCMS as a Swiss Army knife. It can do blogs, just like WordPress, but it can also build incredible websites that are more than a collection of blog posts with an associated image gallery. Not to say WordPress can’t be used to build great sites, but it doesn’t do as much “out of the box” as ConcreteCMS does. You have to add plug-ins to provide this additional functionality or write the code yourself, which defeats the whole purpose of a CMS or blog posting system like WordPress. Also, adding plug-ins to WordPress is the most effective way to make it insecure.

With ConcreteCMS, a huge array of functionality is available right after installation, no plug-ins needed. All types of websites, from service portfolios to small and large business sites can all be created in an easy to use, fairly intuitive system, complete with user management, revision control, page and site security, and a number of other essential and useful capabilities. You can jump on the Concrete site, as I mentioned in a previous post and they will let you run a demo site for 14 days, on their hosted service. You’ll have full control to modify pages, add users, and play with the entire system before deciding to either continue to let them host it, for a cost, or install it on your own hardware or hosting service. That’s a pretty cool and effective sales tool, because as easy as the ConcreteCMS is to use, once you put a few hours into creating the site of your dreams, who wants to toss all that out and start over?

I did install Concrete5, as it is known right now, on my shared hosting site using the Softaculous installer. It sits in my hosting account along with my WordPress site and my FileRun site. I’ll write a post on my FileRun setup sometime soon. It is pretty cool. I have a website started to feature my works-in-progress and hopefully, someday, feature my published novels. I am building a template for the “project” pages now so they will look similar once they are published publicly. Right now, the site is just not visible to anyone except me. I prefer that to one of those silly “Under Construction” pages that used to litter the Internet. As soon as it is tolerably presentable, I will post a link here on this site.

That’s it. While pretty much all of this was about tech, it was also kind of random, so it will get my favorite category attached to it – “Random Thoughts“. I’ll write more soon, as I now have FRED to keep me on my toes. What will be my tiny little goal? I have no idea, but I’ll let you know when I do.

Featured Image: Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Gadgets and Distractions

Est. Reading Time: 4 minutes

I wrote my post-fast wrap-up a couple of days ago. Since then I have been dipping my toe into news of the horrid pile of feces our political system has become under the new administration. The Harris-Biden Biden-Harris administration is well on their way to raising prices for gas, erasing the gains made by the previous administration is many areas, and, to top the irony cake with some extra ironic frosting, doing the very things that the previous administration wanted to do AND taking credit for it as their own idea. As I said in my previous post…life continues.

Continue reading “Gadgets and Distractions”

What Happened in the Drive-Thru Line

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutesIt’s funny how you can get jarred and jolted out of your everyday routine, even have your innermost thoughts, feelings, and preconceptions destroyed. It can happen in the blink of an eye. It happened to me the other day in the drive-thru line, of all places.

I have to admit, when I first saw multi-lane drive-thru setups, I told myself “this will never work well, because people are people”. I was roundly confirmed in that notion the first few times I used one, but it eventually got better. They do have their advantages. If one lane has “that person” who just can’t decide what they want, or feel the need to dictate every detail of their order multiple times, an additional lane can ease the bottleneck.

I eased into the shortest lane, hoping to get through the line faster (I never pick the fastest/shortest lane, not here, or at grocery stores, but at least here I had a 50/50 shot). Everything went well until I pulled past the order space and attempted to merge behind the car from the opposite lane. As I sat there, the car behind them eased up, obviously framing themselves to go next in the line, even though I had emerged from the order space first.

“Here we go,” my primitive brain told me. “That lady is going to completely ignore me”, along with, “she did that on purpose”. Choice words flooded my thoughts, even though the actual “damage” to me was maybe an additional 30 seconds in line. It didn’t matter-my fight or flight response was in full fight mode…in my head, anyway. I rolled up my window, turned up my music, and fuming, waited impatiently.

When we pull around to the first window to pay, I notice that the lady takes forever to pay, twice handing over her card to the cashier and receiving it back with a receipt. I fumed even more. Why did this lady have to be in my way? What possessed her to pull in front of me? Was her time that more important than mine? My mind was spinning with anger and frustration (I’m certain due to the condition of my moods and such lately, as explained in this previous post.

I rolled my car window back down as I pulled up to the payment window. As I was about to ask about a discount, the cashier interrupted me to say, “That lady before you paid your ticket.”



I was gobsmacked. That lady, the one I was busily insulting in my head, the one I was certain was entirely without manners, the one who cost me a few more precious seconds at the drive-thru during my all-to-brief lunch hour, had paid for my lunch. I didn’t know what to do other than ask how much was the order of the person behind me.

I got off easy…$1.07 for a sweet tea (which tells you what restaurant I was at). While my order wasn’t much more than that, I was still paying less than I would have. With limited cash in hand, and the bewildered looks on the faces of the two young women running the register, I was afraid to ask how much the order for the car two back from me was, so I paid for the sweet tea, gave them a big smile, and drove off.

As I pulled onto the highway, I had to both laugh at and berate myself for being the “jerk in the room”, because even though I had not said anything out loud, or made any rude gestures, or indicated in any way that I was upset, I had still excoriated that woman in my head. “She was the worst!” my angry brain told me, until she obviously wasn’t, and I was.

It’s funny how things happen sometimes.

Taking a deeper look at this incident, I have to acknowledge that it happened on purpose, for my benefit. I think the message is clear. God put me there, at that time, in that spot in line, behind that woman, to remind me that things are not always as they seem, and that I need to work on my love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Extra time should apparently be spent on patience, peace, and kindness. Since there is no law against these things (Galatians 5:22-23), if I can allow the Holy Spirit to develop these in me, I’ll have fewer instances like this one.

I can’t imagine the embarrassment, shame and disgrace that might have overwhelmed me if I had vocally or physically responded to this woman with the thoughts that were rattling around i my head. How terrible and awful a situation that would have been, because I would have immediately regretted it, even if she had not bought my lunch. It was only God’s grace that kept me from misbehaving.


Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash