A Christmas Eve Reflection

Est. Reading Time: 2 minutes

It’s Christmas Eve of this peculiarly horrendous 2023 year. I know I’m supposed to sit back and reflect on all of the good things that have happened and be joyous as I give gifts to others tomorrow. This will be be a true test of my ability to be joyous regardless of my current circumstances. There are myriad reasons to not be joyous, but I have to say, as I sang this morning during church the glorious Christmas song “Light of the World” and the less traditionally Christmas “God With Us” (although it is appropriate for this season) I felt a definite mix of sadness and joy.

This is my first Christmas without either my mother or my father, and it feels every bit as odd as I expected it to, maybe even more. As expected, the family is somewhat physically spread out across the country instead of being concentrated at my Mom’s house. Again, this was not unexpected, but it feels a bit more empty than I could imagine.

Pile on cancer, tax issues, dealing my Mom’s estate and the general state of the world and things start to weigh heavily. All you can do is grasp at the opportunities you have to reach out and be with people. This results in spending Christmas Eve playing Hand and Foot at our new friend’s house with other new and old friends. It was a time of good food, playful teasing, and honest sharing of experiences that shaped us as we grew up, leaving us all laughing, shaking our heads at ourselves, and realizing that we all need times just like this one. Times to share, times to relax, times to not worry about what someone else might think or say, as grace and mercy consumes any potential judgment.

Soon we will begin the new year. A year that will most certainly be fraught with conflict, strife, sacrifice, and hardship. But it should also be filled with resolution, productivity, recovery, and peace. Not so much peace in the world (highly unlikely), but the shalom peace granted by God through the Spirit that is available to us if we can discipline ourselves to accept it.

I’ll end this short little reflection with a traditional blessing offered in churches everywhere, all year long.

24 The Lord bless you and keep you;

25 the Lord make his face shine on you

and be gracious to you;

26 the Lord turn his face toward you

and give you peace.” ’

Numbers 6:24-26

2023 (and 2022), Where Did You Go?

Est. Reading Time: 2 minutes

I haven’t posted on this site since May 15th, 2022. That’s nearly 50 million seconds. A measly 555 days. One year, six months, and six days. That’s a long time. I’ve renewed the domain and the hosting, and put in all the work to keep it on the Internet. And I posted…nothing. What happened?

I had posted a grand vanity card for 2022, pegging it as the year I hoped to finish a book. That was in February. I posted two more times, once to proclaim my laziness to the world and another to rant about my disappointment with an indie book series I had just completed. Then it was radio silence, a vast nothingness…until now.

What has caused me to post now? The circumstances that have contributed to my lack of posting haven’t changed. I’m still lazy. I still have a myriad of issues, all grabbing at me with clutching, tearing claws, like a pack of wolves, demanding my attention, stretching my mental bandwidth. challenging my emotional stability, exhausting my physical limits. Maybe someday, if and when I get past some of these challenges, I will write about them, but not now. Now I will safely tuck them away, continue to battle, continue to lose and win based on seemingly random choices and circumstances, and endure.

Because enduring is all I am doing right now. I don’t feel any growth, except as a function of advancing age, mentally, emotionally, or physically. I still have hope that this will happen; that I will one day (hopefully soon) be able to say “I grew in this way” during this time. That hope hangs by the slimmest of threads.

I face possibly the most momentous and consequential decision of my life. This is a decision I cannot avoid, so the weight of it feels even heavier than decisions like having kids, asking my wife to marry me, deciding what college to go to, or whether to be a jock or a band geek in high school. Many will say “That’s life” and I won’t disagree with them, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

What else is going on with me?

I haven’t participated in NaNoWriMo since 2020…and if you’ve read some of my previous posts, you know that was a big thing for me. I have written some, but not much. I have an excellent project just dying on the electronic page, waiting for me to return to it. Maybe I will. I will have several weeks off from work in the near future, so I might get some time (and inspiration) to revisit it. It requires several thousand more words, a LOT of editing and rewriting, and probably some raw luck to get completed, but it is one of my most developed works in progress and deserves to be completed. Maybe, just maybe, 2024 will be the year.

Most of the other things going on with me, as I already said, I’m keeping under wraps for now, so I guess this is the end of sharing time.

So here I am, posting to this site again, 555 days after I last posted to it. I don’t have much to say, but I figured I had waited long enough and something had to be posted.


Photo credit: Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash


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