Personal Notes

November/December Reads

I’m trying to find a way to track everything I read. I’ve tried paper journals, LibraryThing, GoodReads, etc. Paper journals end up getting list or forgotten, and the online services have too many features. I just want a simple list.

So, I’m going to try to start writing up an entry here every month. This post will get updated each time I read something new.

* Note: All links below lead to IndieBound.org. Please consider supporting your local independent bookstore.

Novels

  1. City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
  2. The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
  3. Contagion by Erin Bowman
  4. Infinite Detail by Tim Maughan (ARC)
  5. Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Short Stories

  1. A Prayer to Berlinetta by Tobias Buckell (Patreon-only)

Essays and Non-Fiction

  1. Seventeen via Longreads
Personal Notes

Memories on May the Fourth

It was one year ago today that we lost my father-in-law, Charlie, to lung cancer. It was fast, confusing, distressing, heartbreaking, and a whole host of things.

Charlie and I had a strange relationship. When Caroline and I first started dating, I was this hulking, quiet, bear of a guy that was suddenly in his daughter’s life. He had no idea who I was or what I was like. I barely talked. He cracked jokes, as he always did, and I barely reacted.

After a few years, though, it became clear that Caroline and I were in a serious relationship, and I also started opening up. I remember clearly the day the ice broke completely, for me, and I truly felt like I was part of the Moore family.

I’d been struggling in school; I had been for years. My academic performance had descended to the point where I was deathly afraid–literally afraid for my life–that my flesh-and-blood father would do me harm. I was put on academic probation. I was close to being put on academic suspension. The university had sent my father a letter.

Dear Lord, I thought I was going to die.

When all of this went down, Caroline and I had been visiting her parents for a long weekend. I honestly forget how the subject came up, I just remember it was late at night and Charlie finally confronted me about what was going on. He asked me one question that no one else had bluntly asked me before:

“What are you really afraid of?”

That was the moment I realized how terrified of my own father I was. I realized that it didn’t matter what my academic performance was. None of it mattered. I’d been living in fear, soul-rending fear for so long that I’d lost track of what really mattered.

That was the first time I’d cried, really cried, since I was a child. Since before my mother passed away. The last time I’d cried like that, my mother had held me in her arms.

And you know what happened next?

Charlie hugged me.

It was an unexpected gesture, but exactly what I needed at that moment. And that one gesture told me I was part of his family, he understood me, and he cared about me.

From that moment on, he and I had a much better relationship. We had our ups and downs, our spats. I definitely pissed him off a few times. But we talked a lot, we laughed and joked, and we worked together.

There’s a reason I took my wife’s name when we were married, and this is part of it.

So last year, when we lost Charlie, I lost not only my father-in-law, but a dear friend and someone who was much more a father to me than my own was.

To Charlie: Wherever in the ‘verse you are now, I hope they are treating you right.

Personal Notes

The Ups and Downs of a Day

Down: I had therapy this morning with my new therapist. Unfortunately, this morning is the last session with this therapist. There’s something missing from the sessions and I’m convinced there’s no way to fix it.

Up: I finished a short story. Drafted it by hand and I approximate that it comes to about 1,500 words (it is eight hand-written pages).

Up: I’ve been using the iOS and Mac app Things to keep track of To Do items, iCloud’s Calendar to track appointments and school events, and IFTTT’s iOS app to set reminders for taking medications. Overall, this “outboard brain” (as Tobias Buckell refers to it) is doing much better than my previous hand-written calendar and task sheet at keeping me organized and on-target.

Up: I’m already juggling ideas for a new short story that I’ll start (and maybe finish!) writing tomorrow while the girls are in school.

Personal Notes

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today would’ve been my mother’s 55th birthday. She was born on September 30th, 1959. She passed away on February 23rd, 1994, from cancer.

I miss her every day.

Mom, I hope when you look down from on high, you approve of what you see. I love you, I miss you, and I hope I make you proud.

Articles, Cooking, Personal Notes

Family, Cooking, a Chili Recipe

One of the things I’ve been doing a lot more is cooking at home. I used to use my pain disorder as an excuse to not cook, and since I’m the primary cook in the house, that would mean we would end up ordering or eating out often.

As you may imagine, this can be expensive, in both financial and health ways.

Over the last few months, we’ve been eating in, at home, and experimenting with different recipes to find a variety of things that we like. And, not only are we finding awesome, cheap things, that we like to eat, but we are all healthier. Both Caroline and I are losing weight and we get to spend more time as a family around the dinner table.

Long story short, I want to share one of our favorite recipes with you. This is my slow cooker chili recipe:

Ingredients

2 cups tomato juice
15 ounce can tomato sauce
14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
27 ounce can dark red kidney beans
26.5 ounce can black beans
1 green pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup frozen corn
1 lb ground beef or turkey, browned
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup brown sugar

Directions

Sauté onion and green pepper in skillet for 2 minutes. Add ground beef or turkey to skillet and cook until browned.

Mix all ingredients in 4 or 6 quart crock pot.

Cook on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 5 to 6 hours.

I hope you try this recipe and enjoy it!

Personal Notes

Karma

Do you believe in karma?

I do.

One year ago, I had the opportunity to go to Hawaii. I did and while I was there, Caroline and the girls came down with severe cases of the stomach flu.

Caroline is right now in Hawaii, likely sleeping off the timezone changes. I had the pleasure of waking up to my eldest daughter having had a bad case of diarrhea in her sleep (mess doesn’t even begin to describe the result).

Fingers are crossed and I’m knocking on wood that this is as far as the karmic wheel turns for me. I GET IT!

Ugh…

Personal Notes

Fatherhood After Four Years

Man, I can’t believe it has been four years. Next month, Ellie turns four. Hard to believe.

At the same time, something about it just feels right. I’ve done a lot of different things over the years for “work;” tech support, fast food worker, general grunt work, computer sales, software engineering, and various other stuff. None of it, though, has come to me as naturally, or as passionately and happily, as being a parent and a father. The role is just something that I can do, without worrying that I’m doing something wrong or that someone is looking over my shoulder.

Oh, sure, I have my moments where I feel like a complete failure as a parent, but I think every good parent has those moments. It is when your kid cuts their finger on a tin can because you didn’t put it out of their reach, or you weren’t watching close enough and they fell and split their lip. These things happen, but you feel like you should have been there to prevent it. Yeah, but after you get past the moment, you realize that you are still a good parent.

I love cooking dinner for, and with, my girls. We’ve taken to having a family dinner every night, which both Ellie and Gwen love. They are a class act, sitting across from each other at the table. It also gives me a lot of time doing something other than sitting in front of the television, which makes me feel worlds better about myself.

And now I’m writing more. That is one of the best things ever. This will be the second blog post this week, not to mention that I’ve written 800 words of fiction. I’ve tried to keep up with NaNoWriMo, but I don’t think I’ll keep pace with it. I’ll use it as a way to motivate writing, but I won’t force myself into that goal.

Next post will include some thoughts on my fiction. See you then!