That Was One Long Dry Spell, And I’m Glad It’s Over.

[Authors note:  This was written months ago, and my wife asked me not to publish it at the time. Not exactly smart to taunt the Devil, and she thought this fell into that category. She was probably right. Read on to the end for an update.]

 

This summer started off as a drag. I’d come out of the spring with my writing blistering along, my physical condition improving all the time, and life going pretty well.

Then June hit, and along with the death of Stormy, I spent a day in the hospital, and a funk set in that curtailed the writing. I mourned my dog and decided to “man up” and get back to work. 

That came to a crashing halt when I tore a muscle in my calf. Not only was I not walking any great distances, but I was having a hard time just hoofing it to the bus a few blocks away. 

This past two week period has officially marked the end of that phase. I have said it is to be, and so it shall be. 

I’ve written consistently on all three books I’m working on, started a collection of short stories for a really neat project we’ll talk about down the road, and begun recording the next Michael DiMercurio novel. 

All of those are good things. All of them positive. All of them nifty. But two other things happened this last weekend that really made things better. 

This weekend we resumed the hunt for a new rescue dog. We had put that on hold since our back yard was a disaster zone with construction going on next door. We had no back fence, and for a few weeks we had a nine-foot pit adjacent to our southern border. Much like President Trump, we are in favor of “building the wall” along that southern border. But until the ground was filled in, and the house framed up, there was no way that was going to happen. With no fence, there could be no dog.

Today the roof trusses are being delivered (allegedly)  and should be in place by Friday. That means they can clean up the piles of plywood in the yard, level out the dirt piles, and restore our fence. 

With a fence there must be a dog. Saturday and Sunday we visited rescue dogs again, knowing we were almost there. The guy we met on Saturday was a 1.5 year old Australian Shepherd named Duke. What a kid. He was a ball of tail-wagging, face-licking, let’s-go-for-a-walk joy. He had exactly zero inhibitions about throwing himself directly into a loving relationship with me. He reminded me of one friend in particular who regularly takes to Facebook to proclaim the previous night’s date “THE ONE” to the derision of all of us who haunt that timeline. We’ve seen “THE ONE” so many times before that we just can’t take it seriously. 

Duke, however, is one of those dogs who will spend about a week in rescue foster before someone has their heart melt in response and he will be delivered to a new forever home. 

Sunday we revisited Chewy. I am sure that it’s short for Chewbacca, but my wife isn’t quite as sure. Chewy is a few years older than Duke, and he’s painfully shy. This struck a note for us, because Stormy was not just shy, but fearful in her time with us. I loved Stormy with my entire heart, and knew that she loved me as well. But it’s hard to have that unrequited love as an issue, and I needed to know that Chewy wouldn’t be another dog who couldn’t even look at me for the first three years. 

We arrived to play with him at the foster home, and he gallivanted around with their other dogs. He would come for treats, just like the last time, and tolerated being petted. But he kept retreating and watching from the stairs to the deck. He wasn’t fearful, but cautious.

We took him for a walk and stopped under a tree and just petted him in the shade. I needed to know where he’d be if he came home with us, so we gently rolled him on his side and touched his belly, his paws, tail, face, and talked to him as we made sure he wasn’t going to panic. 

We had no need to fear. After a few minutes he quit shaking (it was minor) and relaxed. Then he actually began to enjoy the pets. Finally, he started to doze off – that crash that comes after the Adrenaline has been pumping. You see, I think he was upset that when these two people put him on the leash and walked away from his most recent home, he was going to have to give up a family and dogs that clearly loved him.

We returned him to the fosters and told them we’d love to adopt him, but we had to wait another two weeks for a fence. Not a problem. While we were talking, he met the final benchmark: he wandered over to where I was sitting and asked to be petted without my calling him, or offering snacks. He was just glad to have me as a part of his life. 

That’s a big deal. I will always love all of the dogs I’ve shared my life with. They have given me so much more than anything I’ve done for them that the math is not even possible. Stormy taught me about kindness, patience, and persistence. She was damaged when she came to our home, and on the day she died she was whole again. 

It is our hope that Chewy will bond with us even more quickly, and that his healing is rapid. But we’ve got the experience and training in how to deal with a shy dog: Stormy takes the credit for that!

Welcome to our lives Chewy. We will have your dishes and kennel ready when you arrive. And a brand new fence to keep you safe in your new home.

The other good thing?  I walked to work today, and am writing this on my laptop. Turns out my laptop case fits nicely in my gigantic backpack. Three miles, good time, and no pain in my leg. 

Lots of healing going on in my life. And it’s a joy to share it with you. I hope, and pray, that if you are reading this and in need of healing, that you feel my encouragement across the miles. I know that I truly appreciate all the encouragement the readers have sent me over the past two months.

Now, get ready, because here is the first in a long string of pictures of Chewy if all goes well. Ain’t he adorable?

Chewy

Be well, and be healed.

 

[UPDATE. So, it turns out that the day after this was written I tore the muscle again. Once that had healed, I got sick. And stayed sick for a month. During that month the fence made no progress, and I started visiting specialists to get well. I did, but it wasn’t fun.

I’ve not resumed walking. It’s been five months since I was on the upturn and have fallen into sloth in the physical realm. I completed the audio book, wrote more than a bit on other projects, and just struggled to get along.

Chewy is doing better all the time. He’s a “forager” when he’s bored. That means any bag he meets must be opened. He’s chewed off the closures on my backpacks, and rooted around in Kip’s knitting bags. Not overly destructive, but annoying. He takes a perverse pleasure in chewing the finger tips off of my gloves and mittens. I’ve bought a lot of new gloves and mittens in the last month.

Christmas is here, and now the Santa madness has begun. I’m healthy now, and will be resuming workouts. Chewy is a blessing, and our home is warm on cold nights. And the fence, well…. It’s up, but not well done. The builder and I agreed that could wait until spring. Good enough for the moment. The ground is frozen now so it’s gotta wait.

That’s the update. Be well!]

Things I’m Thankful For This Year.

If you’re not thankful for something this week, you’re not trying. 

If you have a device on which to read this blog, and the time to do so, you’re living above 95% of the planet. (I made that number up – I’m thankful for a lack of shame on that count…) You could start with that – you’re welcome!

I’m thankful that I’m here today. At my writer’s group meeting. Surrounded by intelligent people who love to write. The fact that I’m the only guy there is just a bonus.

I’m thankful to be here, period. Too many of my friends and contemporaries have taken to “Pining for the fjords” this past year. 

I’m thankful that I’ve been asked to serve on The Command Post. It has been an excellent opportunity to use my experience to give back to the first-responder community. 

I’m thankful for the people, both children and adults, who brighten my world when I’m out as Santa Claus. The amount of love and interest can’t but warm your heart. I’m tired at the end of  the day, but I get to meet so many wonderful people. And, if I do my job right, I get to heal a few broken ones as well. A hug and a few moments of quiet prayer go a long way toward healing both of us.

I’m thankful for the elderly Nissan Xterra my wife dumped on me when she got her new car. God works all this stuff out, and I inherited the car at almost the exact moment I no longer drove so much. It’s public transport and airplanes for me these days, the long-distance road trips are at an end. I’m much happier with a 1 hour flight than a 9 hour drive. The manual transmission has made that choice much easier. 

I am thankful that I had a friend named Stormy for over six years. She was an absolute odd-ball in many ways, and a tough girl to get to know. But she taught me a lot about patience, and unconditional love. She loved me, I loved her, but she had a hard time showing it. I miss her greatly, but the experience of living with her prepared me for the next chapter of our lives. 

That chapter is Chewy. He’s what I’m thankful for every day. He’s a 2-year old bundle of silly puppy. He’s terribly shy and timid, but overcomes it when needed. He’s athletic, huge – compared to a Sheltie – and a slobbery kiss fiend. He’s affectionate in an inverse proportion to Stormy. Both were “damaged goods” but both have a chunk of my heart. Chewy will be around a long time – assuming he quits chewing on Kip’s yarn collection.

I’m also thankful that I have other skills, income streams, that allow me the opportunity to write. God has blessed me in that regard. 

I’m thankful for my family. My wife is at the top of the list, but my mom, siblings, and cousins are all important to me.

I think that’s enough to give you a start on your list. Oh, I’m also very thankful for my readers – you!

(One final item: I’m thankful that the guy in the office who trims his toenails at his desk is 5 rows away and out of my line of site.)

Santa Has A Few Things On His List For 2019

Every year as Santa – and this is #20 – is different. Gone is the younger man who needed a gallon of beard whitener to hide the black and red of his beard and hair. The top surface is patchy at best, shaved when possible, and the beard is almost completely white. 

The  suits have changed over the years, from a beautiful quilted suit that you could roast a turkey (me) in under photographic lights, to this years new look as a dapper Edwardian gentleman Santa.

Different cars to drive, different dogs on the couch next to me, different jobs. I was not even interested in writing 20 years ago, and would have been horrified to think I’d write thrillers about things I’d vowed never to talk about. 

Over the many years, the families have changed as well. I am still in touch with some of them, and the first family I had as a regular customer is now spread all over the land, the children in college and married off. The parents will soon be grandparents, and the grandparents great grandparents. 

But a few things never change, and it is good to remind myself of them as I embark on the season.

Every person you meet as Santa is special.

Each life you touch should be improved for your having been there just for that moment.

The pictures you take will be with the family forever – and you should smile just as brightly in each one.

The photographers are counting on you to do your job well so that theirs is possible.

Everyone needs a smile.

Kindness is free. As Santa you deal with hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of broken souls each year. Some as small as a loaf of bread, others your own age or older. Make sure that the love you feel from God is passed on to each of them.

Stock a few Teddy bears in your bag. It helps to have a bear when the tears are flowing, and by spending those few dollars for the toy you are improving a life.

Don’t be greedy. There are plenty of jobs out there that you don’t need to do this year. Be gracious in rejecting them – not always something the prospective client understands – and keep it at some sane level.

Take your wife out for dinner and lunch. She will be lonely on days you’re on the road for 12 hours. 

Make sure your dog is loved as well. It’s hard to fathom sometimes, but when you breeze out early, and come home late, the dog misses you as well.

Pray for everyone you meet. I often fail at this, but try very hard.

Don’t expect any reward for doing your job well except the agreed amount. Those smiles and warmed hearts are a great bonus.

Look for opportunities to boost other performers: they’ve helped you as time has gone by.

Talk to God in the quiet moments, not your smartphone.

Be humble. You are not the best Santa ever born. His name was Nicholas and he was a saint. You’re an old man who loves Christmas – but emulate him.

Do some random nice things for people. Find someone who needs a lift spiritually, financially, or in some tangible way and make sure they don’t know it was you.

Love this opportunity to serve.

I know that sounds like a list you put out there to make yourself look better, but it genuinely is my thought collection on this Friday afternoon. I will add pictures on Sunday and set this to print on Monday. But today, with the first “public” event of the year less than 14 hours away, I am very aware of the responsibility, and privilege, I have as Santa. It is not a heavy burden, but one I take seriously.

New Look 2019

Note:  I’ve often said that Santa could dress up like Johnny Cash and still be Santa if his heart was in the right place and the eyes sparkled. 

I asked a lot of the children on Saturday, and the new look got two thumbs up. They especially liked the hat. The photographer, on the other hand, said I looked like a Kurd who was lost and wandering around the mall. 

I like the look, and will sport it many places over the coming years. Especially the hat!

We Won The Cold War.

Today’s post is simple and to the point: at the cost of tremendous fortune in blood and gold, we won the cold war. Good men and women died to defeat the evil that was the Soviet Union.

If we are not careful, and let the useful idiots on the left have their way, we will wind up like the people everywhere who have lived under socialism/communism:

 

Afraid to speak their minds lest they lose their jobs and freedom.

Forced to work in jobs that the state has selected for them.

Restricted in whom they can have as friends and associates.

Unable to worship as they choose.

Fearful because they have no real property that is their own.

Socialism/communism have failed everywhere on the planet they’ve been implemented. Even if the standard of living has gone up, the people still live in fear at night of the secret police coming and hauling them away.

My friends, that is what we are headed for with political correctness. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders would both take away property from the masses through inexorably grinding taxes. Both claim it is for our own good – Stalin said that as well.

When our weapons are gone (see all the candidates on the left) our freedom leaves with it. If you have any question as to the validity of this, look at the places where it has taken place: violence is still there (Cain did not have an AR-15) and people can no longer defend themselves from a rapacious government. 

But our children are being duped by the voices in academia, and if you do not personally tell the truth to others, and take a stand, the time will pass where you no longer can.

Look to Trump to forestall that end. He speaks crudely on occasion, but he’s right. I can think of two other leaders who faced the same claims of corruption, mental illness, and war-mongering: Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan.

Yet Churchill defeated Hitler, and Reagan defeated the Soviet union.

Watch the video and do some study. I still get chills each time I watch it.

Some New Beginnings

Two weeks ago I said there’d be news. It’s finally here. 

Since I have kept you in the dark, I’ll do them in reverse order of universal importance to keep you waiting a bit longer.

First, I’ve formed an inventing company: Agzo-inc.com.

You might be (legitimately) asking, “What does that doofus know about inventing?” That’s a danged good question. I’ll give you a danged good answer. 

I’ve always been right on the edge of ADHD, but blessed with the ability to direct that energy. I’ve got degrees and experience in technical and classic topics, and have been exposed to a wide range of technologies. I’m comfortable discussing most concepts, and have enough of a grasp of the physical sciences to be able to figure out how things work. Not on a micro level in every case, but on a macro level. 

One of my passions has always been law enforcement. As you will notice, the logo above has a pair of handcuffs for the letter “g”. Not by accident. Over the course of the years, during ride-a-longs, and watching Live PD and Live Rescue on A&E, I’ve noticed some very needed things for the first-responder community. I’ve spent hundreds of hours sketching, doing research, designing circuits (yeah, that computer science degree seems to be paying off) and investigating patent law.

Two weeks ago I attended the IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police) conference in Chicago with my sister Jean. We went wearing two hats – the second will be revealed below. One thing I wanted/needed to do was see who was making things and what was out there that I was unaware of in the world of police technology. I specifically reference that one, because much of the technology I can improve is common to police/fire/EMT units around the world.

We worked our backsides off, hitting 700 booths in 11 hours on the conference floor. Some we could skip, they were single product booths where we didn’t have an interest. But we did talk to a lot of people about our two missions, and I came back with several improvements to make to existing technology: the kind you can patent and sell/license. I’ve been hard at work getting those ready to reach out with, and by the first of the year I hope to be working with a few of the companies on at least three of the inventions I have been developing.

The second item/mission, both in my life and at the conference, was for The Command Post

The Command Post is a non-profit dedicated to first-responder wellness. I’ve been asked to serve as the Vice President for the initial board term, and one of my jobs was to attend IACP  and see what other groups are out there, and to try and find some funding. While our board  is dominated by researchers/university professors and senior police officials around the world, two of us are not. But all of us have a heart for making things better for the community. Better first-responder wellness means fewer traffic accidents during chases, lowered suicide rates in the job, fewer shootings, and generally an improvement of the lives of our people serving on the front lines. 

I met some great people at the conference, and came away with a lot of ideas we shared in our board meeting this past weekend. We do it by video conference, as one of our members lives overseas. 

Now, with a better idea of what we have for resources, we’re ready to really get rolling. But we need funding, as the board members pay for all their own expenses. So, if you know of grants, generous people, and other funding sources for our board, we’d appreciate it. Much of the research is covered under scholarly grants, we still have to travel some and pay for hotels! 

Yes, I’m still writing. Yes, I’m still doing audio books. Yes, I’m still Santa. Yes, I’m still doing voice over. And, strangely, working a full-time job in the real world. 

The salvation is that I will be able to retire from the day job next year if I want. If all of the rest of these pursuits work out like they seem destined to, I will be cutting back to just 40 hours a week sometime in the next year.

So, that’s the update.