Distractions

Distraction is such a bad word, isn’t it? It keeps us from being productive and achieving our goals. In this day and age, there are so many types of distractions. A tablet, loaded with a game app or two. (spoiler alert: I have two idle games I love on my iPad). Reading blogs or reading books can be a distraction. The TV is a major distraction. If you are still on cable, there are a gazillion different channels to watch. Those that have cut the cord, have streaming services with a gazillion movies and shows. (spoiler alert: I’m a huge fan of Reality shows)

Suppose you could rid yourself of those distractions. Come home from work, kiss your loved one and head into your writing area. Leaving the tablet in the other room and making sure the TV is off. Unfortunately, you do all your writing on a personal computer or laptop. A huge distraction is video games. (spoiler alert: yes, I love my video games).

Putting a lock on your computer games and browser during your writing times can eliminate those distractions. What else is there? Yes, your dog needs to go for a walk. Or your loved one wants to talk with you. Those are harder to get rid of. (spoiler alert: I don’t ever want to get rid of them)

Suppose you have succeeded in ridding yourself of every single distraction and you sit down to write. You bring up a blank page and now you are ready to be a productive writer. However, the dreaded writer’s block occurs and your mind is blank. (spoiler alert: It’s happened to me more times than I can count.)

Okay, what the hell do we do now?

Thinking outside of the box, we should instead of trying to rid ourselves of distractions, we should embrace the distractions. What a novel idea. But how does that help us become more productive, you ask.

For us part time writers that have a day job, we focus while at work for eight hours a day. When we come home, instead of running from distractions, we should just let them happen naturally. This let’s our brain wind down from the workday and all of it’s stresses. Especially if you work in a high energy, busy workplace (spoiler alert: I do).

By giving into the distractions, I find that my subconscious is free to be creative. When I do sit down to write, there is no pause. No wondering if an idea will come out or if I’ll sit there staring at a blank screen. Instead, my fingers get to typing on the keyboard at a manic pace. My brain screams at my fingers, “Type faster, you idiots!” By not forcing myself, my best writing comes out like a magic majestic waterfall. Splashing onto the page seemingly in a chaotic manner, but somehow coalescing into a masterpiece.

Relax, give into distractions. Let your brain work it’s magic and … oh look, a squirrel!

They That Go Down To The Sea In Ships

It’s been 22 years since I went to sea. I miss it terribly. The seas are a wonderous thing. To wake up in the morning to glassy water so smooth, it is like gliding on a mirror that reflects the clouds. Later, the wind kicks up and whitecaps appear. The ship starts a gentle roll and pitch. One soon learns to move with the sea, not to fight against it.

I’ve seen a thousand sunrises and a thousand sunsets at sea. No two are alike, much as no two snowflakes are alike. The seas can change in an instant, leaving the unwary at risk. To go down to the sea in ships is no easy task. There is no room for error. Many a man have been lost at sea.

It is said that the sea is a cruel mistress. I say nay, not cruel, but harsh and beautiful. She raises great waves and thunderous swells. She does this not to crush the sailors but to test them in the crucible of the seas. To stand on the bridge wing and howl at the waves and wind with salt water spraying all around is an exultation. You feel more alive then any time since.

The nights where the ship rocks gently, puts sailors to sleep much as a mother rocks her child. I miss the embrace of the sea mistress. To hear the words, “Underway, Shift colors” makes my heart leap in joy. The mooring line crews race to retrieve the heavy four inch mooring line from the dock. It’s a matter of pride if your crew comes in first.

The thrum of the screws and the hum of the steam turbine is music to my ears. The Bosun’s pipe to call us to muster, dinner and the inevitable watch sets the routine at sea that is like no routine you ever will see on dry land. Soon, as the land disappears behind us, the air freshens. It’s the clearest air you will ever breathe.

Perhaps one will spy the green flash while at sea. This happens in the last second as the sun dips below the horizon. The atmosphere has to be in just the right conditions. Some say it is a myth to see the green flash. I’ve seen it not once, but twice! This is where the sea unleashes it’s mighty beauty for an instant.

Rainbows abound while at sea. Marvelous double and triple rainbows. Occasionally, if one is lucky, you get to see a circular rainbow. The beauty of the sea knows no bounds.

It’s been 22 years since I’ve been at sea. One day, I hope to return. More than likely it will be when I have loosed my mortal coil. As a retired Navy man, it is my wont and privilege to be buried at sea. To return to the embrace forever of the sea.

Psalm 107: 23-24 (KJV)

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep.
.

Multiverse

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I’d like to think Multiverse is real. Where there are oodles and oodles of universes which we can’t access. For now. Every time I made a bad decision, my alter-person made a good decision. What if there is a way to move through to another universe? Perhaps, I would meet myself to find I’ve become the ruler of the world. Maybe I would be a benign ruler, but in my heart, I know I would be a despotic tyrant. Despicable and paranoid.

Could be in another universe, I solved great riddles of time and space. My name would be up there with the giants of intellect, Eisenstein, Newton, and Galileo.

Unfortunately, there would be a great number of universes where I no longer existed. For every bad decision in my life, I wasn’t as lucky as I am in my own universe. Come to think of it, I’m not so sure I want to visit other universes.

Imagining I could visit them, how long would it be before I lost track of my own original universe? Where the blurring of the lines between the universes melt away? Trying to keep track of every little decision made not only by me, but by everyone I ever came into contact with would be a nightmare.

Hopefully, the multiverse will never become real. I like my life here in this universe. It may not be perfect, but it sure has been interesting.

Weekly Writing Challenge #28 – Oy Vey

Prompt – Write about someone getting their driver’s license for the first time.

Photo by Ingo Joseph on Pexels.com

In the mid 90’s, while stationed on the USS Kauffman FFG-59 in Norfolk, Virginia, I held the role of Leading Petty Officer. In civilian parlance, this meant I am the team leader for 10-15 men. It’s a bit different in the Navy, as we not only work together, but while at sea, we eat, sleep and do everything together.

One Friday, in port, one of my younger guys came up and asked me if I could drive him to the car dealership so he could buy a car. I didn’t have anything planned, so I agreed and off we went.

I walked around with him and the salesman until he picked out the car he wanted. The salesman asked for his driver’s license to make a copy of it and then we could do a test drive. The young guy hemmed and hawed and looked at the ground.

“You didn’t leave your license on the ship?” I asked.

“Um, I’ve never had a license.”

Oy vey! I forgot this kid was from New York City. He was used to getting around on public transportation. I apologized to the salesman and took him to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a learner’s permit.

Over the next month, I let him drive my car all over Norfolk, teaching him how to drive. I grilled him every night for the driver’s test. Finally the day came. He took the test and got his driver’s license. We went back to the car dealership and found the same salesman as before.

I stood there proudly as he handed his license to the salesman. Luckily, they still had his preferred car on the lot and we did a test drive. A couple hours later after helping him navigate the purchase of his new car, he proudly drove off by himself.

Going above and beyond for not only this guy, but all the guys in my team is what made me the success I was in the Navy. As a side benefit, when my own children got to the age of being able to drive, teaching them was a breeze as I had already been through the stress once.

Weekly Writing Challenge #24

Prompt – Start a story with a quote from a song.

Dust in the wind is a fact of life in southeast New Mexico on the high plains of the Llano Estacado. That’s Spanish for Staked Plains. The early conquistadores saw the many yucca plants with a single stalk sticking up four or five feet and said it looked like a bunch of stakes.

During the windy period of March and April, the wind blows from sunrise to sunset. A stiff breeze is about thirty miles per hour. 50, 60 and sometimes 70 mile per hour wind is common. Being a dry arid country, this naturally picks up a lot of dust. Since the wind blows predominantly from the west, the saying was that during this time, Arizona blows and Texas sucks.

In the 1970’s and early part of 1980’s it wasn’t uncommon to have a sandstorm. The wind would strip off a layer of dirt and sand and it would form a wall of sand. If you were on the highway, the prudent thing would be to stop on the side of the road when you saw one coming. If for some reason you wanted to drive through the sandstorm, this was a recipe for disaster. The sand would be so heavy that visibility drops to zero. It’s like turning out the lights. The increased velocity of the sand due to your car driving through the storm is enough to strip paint from your car down to bare metal.

I used to ride a motorcycle quite a bit. One time I looked up and saw a wall of sand 100 feet tall moving toward me. I quickly slowed and steered my motorcycle into the bar ditch beside the road. Putting the bulk of the motorcycle between me and the approaching storm, I curled up like a turtle and covered the best I could. A long ten minutes later, the sandstorm passed and I shook off the accumulated sand from me and my motorcycle. With a prayer on my lips, I kickstarted the engine a few times until I heard the distinctive sound of my motorcycle roaring. With a gritty smile, I was back on the road heading to town.

Farmers around that area started changing how they managed their crops and by planting winter crops, cut down on the sandstorms tremendously. Now it is exceedingly rare to have a sandstorm. The weather in that part of the country is very interesting. It is considered the start of tornado alley. When I was in Junior High School, one day we were outside practicing for a track & field event. A cry went out and we looked to the north to see five tornado funnels across the horizon. The coach watched for a few minutes and saw they were moving away from us. He then yelled for us to get back to practicing.

Living in Florida, I don’t miss the constant dust in the wind. Mrs. D is happy she doesn’t have to dust every single day.

Want to be part of the Weekly Writing Challenge? Using the prompt above, write your story and publish it with a link to this story. Make sure you tag it either md-wwc or #md-wwc

Author’s note: When I first picked this prompt, I thought it would be easy. Then I realized there are thousands of songs and thousands of lyrics to choose from. My first couple of tries, I wound up telling the story of the song. That didn’t appeal to me. Then I went looking for esoteric lyrics and started a couple of stories that just petered out rather quickly. Finally, I went back to the Rock Classics I grew up with. As soon as I saw this song, I knew what to write.

D-Day

78 years ago today, young, brave men stormed the beaches of Normandy. They didn’t know how bad it could be until the landing craft disgorged them into hell. We call them the Greatest Generation for they fought and died to preserve freedom.

Today, many men and women continue that tradition of fighting for freedom. They don’t get the recognition they should. This video is for them.

“Wrong Side Of Heaven”

I spoke to God today, and she said that she’s ashamed
What have I become? What have I done?
I spoke to the Devil today, and he swears he’s not to blame
And I understood, ’cause I feel the same

Arms wide open, I stand alone
I’m no hero, and I’m not made of stone
Right or wrong, I can hardly tell
I’m on the wrong side of Heaven, and the righteous side of Hell
The wrong side of Heaven, and the righteous side, the righteous side of Hell

I heard from God today, and she sounded just like me
What have I done and who have I become?
I saw the Devil today, and he looked a lot like me
I looked away, I turned away!

Arms wide open, I stand alone
I’m no hero, and I’m not made of stone
Right or wrong, I can hardly tell
I’m on the wrong side of Heaven, and the righteous side of Hell
The wrong side of heaven, and the righteous side, the righteous side of Hell

I’m not defending, downward descending
Falling further and further away!
Getting closer every day!

I’m getting closer every day, to the end
To the end, the end, the end
I’m getting closer every day!

Arms wide open, I stand alone
I’m no hero, and I’m not made of stone
Right or wrong, I can hardly tell
I’m on the wrong side of Heaven, and the righteous side of Hell
The wrong side of Heaven, and the righteous side of Hell
The wrong side of Heaven, and the righteous side, the righteous side of Hell

Life Happens Ramble

A Berg’s Eye View meme

As I go through this journey called life, hardly anytime do I find it interesting. It’s just happening. Only in hindsight which is 20/20, do I find the humor or lesson in what I went through.

When asked if anything ever happened to me that is interesting, my mind goes blank. Then I let out a vignette or two and people are amazed. They all say I’ve had a very interesting life. I think they are either lying to me or they have exceedingly dull lives to think that mine is interesting.

I think that is a normal way of thinking for anyone who has lead an exciting life that they did not purposefully seek out. Yes, there are the ones that thrive on doing exotic, daring adventures. I’m not talking about those type of people. The ones who live larger than life. No this is for those of us that just let life happen.


When I was in fifth grade, I had a wonderful teacher named Mrs. Faye Capps. She recognized that I was way ahead of the class in learning. She set me up for advance learning to keep me interested in school. I was reading adult level books by this time. My parents were concerned that she might be spending more time on me and less on the normal and so-called slow kids. They came to the class several times and observed that she spent just as much time with the slow kids as with me. She tailored her teaching to the kids level.

For teachers in public school, this is a big no-no. Everyone gets taught at the lowest level is the mantra. Mrs. Capps lasted three years in the public school before quitting in disgust at all the admin roadblocks.

In my sixth grade class, it was the complete opposite. The teacher didn’t like me and I was sent to the principals office about fifty to sixty times that year. So many times that the principle kept a desk outside his door for me to sit in and do my work. The teacher was failing me at first saying I didn’t turn in any homework. Turns out he was purposely losing my homework. My parents caught him at it when they surprised him by visiting right after school ended.

The only reason they did that is because Mrs. Capps had called my parents and told them not to believe a word that my six grade teacher was saying. After confronting him, my grades went back up to straight A’s. While they were grilling him, he let slip that he knew that I could teach the six grade class and that’s why he didn’t like me. I was constantly correcting him in class when he made errors on the board.

Usually that was a quick boot out of class for the rest of the day. Though I do admit that I definitely deserved to be booted out of class one day when I wore sunglasses. See the teacher was bald as a billiard ball. He asked me to take off my sunglasses and I refused. When he asked why, I responded with, “The glare off of your head is just too bright.”

Well, his face and head turned bright red and I knew I had gone too far. Before he could say a word, I grabbed my books and headed out of the class to the principals office. Of course, I took off my sunglasses before I got there. I may be a smart-alec, but I’m no fool.

Somehow I made it through the sixth grade without the teacher killing me.


So tell me, was the above interesting? To me, it wasn’t that special. It was just my life and what I went through. I didn’t seek it out and I didn’t ask for it. I had forgotten about the whole thing until the other night when I was reminiscing with my mom when she was here. After all these years, I finally found out exactly why my sixth grade teacher hated me. I had thought my older brother had pissed him off when he went through his class and the teacher was taking it out on me.

Turns out my mom didn’t know I went to the principles office so many times that year. She thought it was only a few times. The teacher never reported to my parents that he had sent me all those times.

Now that I look back, I see that I had many interesting experiences in my life. Probably more than my fair share. Maybe this is why I have so many topic ideas on writing. I draw from my experiences way more than I let on. Some of these stories I say are fiction, but in actuality they are pretty close to what happened in my life. I’m not telling which ones those are, you’ll just have to wonder.

Intro to Boot Camp

Driven, determined, goal setter, purposeful and passionate describe some people from an early age. This does not apply to me at all. For most of my life it was like I was the leaf that floated down a slow-moving river. Caught in an eddy at times. The turbulent rapids tossed me here and there. Somehow I continued on without getting snagged by a low hanging branch or sucked under never to be seen again.

The eighties are mostly a blur in my memory. There were a couple of things that did stand out and I have never forgotten how I felt. This is a story of one of them.

After High School, I did one semester of college and dropped out with a 0.69 GPA. It takes a determined effort to have that low of a GPA. I had gotten caught up with partying, drinking and drugging. My life was on the fast track to nowhere. I couldn’t tell you why I decided to join the Navy, but one day found myself at the recruiter station. After a lot of tests and a warning that I needed to be clean of drugs, I was accepted into the Navy. Of course, I never stopped drinking and drugging while waiting to enter boot camp.

I said goodbye to my parents at the bus station and took the long trip to El Paso, Texas. There, they put me up into a hotel room for the night and I had a roommate. He was a few inches shorter than me, but he had an afro that stood taller than me. I had never seen one that big. My hair was long also as it reached half-way down my back. Both of us had brought the last of our weed. We partied the whole night. The next day, they had us say the oath of enlistment and put us on a plane. This was in the time where there were few non-stop flights. We flew to Albuquerque, then Phoenix and finally to San Diego. Along the way, my new found friend and I took turns going to the bathroom on the flight to smoke the rest of the weed we had left. By the time we landed, both of us were pretty well stoned to the gills.

It was a short bus ride to boot camp which was good as the navy guy that boarded the bus with us yelled non-stop. In my state, I couldn’t understand half of what he was saying. Finally as the sun went down, we pulled up in front of a building where they hollered and yelled for us to move as fast as we could inside. We sat down on the tile floor and in came a man wearing khaki’s that proceeded to yell, holler and rant at us for what seemed like forever.

I looked at him and he seemed to be Hispanic. I couldn’t understand him at all as his speech was heavily accented. A sudden fear arose within me. Holy SH*T! I think I’ve joined the Mexican Army! I must have gotten on the wrong bus at the airport. I didn’t know at the time, but Navy Chiefs wore khaki’s. Also in the early 80’s, they accepted Filipino’s from the Philippines directly into the Navy as the Philippines were still a territory of the U.S.

I kept quiet as I didn’t want to be yelled at as so many of my fellow recruits suffered from by speaking up. Eventually a U.S. Navy sailor in dungarees yelled at our line to get up and follow him. We went to the bathroom where he handed me a cup. I asked what it was for and he said, “You need to piss into the cup so we can see if you have been doing drugs.”

I laughed and said I sure had been, I was high as a kite. Luckily for me this was right before they instituted the No-Tolerance policy and they let me stay in the Navy. Afterwards, we got uniforms issued and a whole bunch of shots in the arms. They also shaved our hair. It was several weeks later that I finally recognized my erstwhile roommate from El Paso.

This was my introduction to the next four years of my life. Somehow that four years turned into twenty-one years. Eventually I too got to wear the khaki uniform that scared me so much on my very first day.

I Goofed, Or Did I?

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My gut instinct last night was not to publish Part 4 of The Curse. I didn’t know why so I overrode what I felt and published it anyway. It bugged me all last night and this morning. I read it again and now I see that I should have followed my instincts.

I wrote Part 1 almost ten years ago and didn’t write another word until I started writing again last September when I was casting around for an idea to write a story. After the first draft, the story ended up being about 1800 words. I had a couple of people beta read it and from their suggestions the story expanded to about 2500 words.

It still didn’t seem right, so I sent it off to another beta reader. I tweaked and added a whole new section which brought the story to 3100 words. By this time, NaNoWriMo was about to start and I decided that The Curse was complete and ready to go. In the next few months I submitted it to six different magazines and received six form rejections.

With every thing going on in my life and the writing challenges that I had set up, I didn’t make the time to go back over the story and see why it was getting rejected. Frankly, I gave up on it getting published. A month ago, I didn’t have anything to write on a Friday and as a lark, I posted the first part of The Curse. It seemed well received, so I decided to post the rest in installments every Friday.

Normally, I like to keep my posts between 400 and 800 words. Anymore than that, it seems to long for a blog post. I know when I read a story on someone’s site that is well over that, I rarely finish the story. After posting Part 2, I was surprised that readers were saying that I had left it as a cliffhanger. I was even more surprised when after posting Part 3 that it looked like another cliffhanger. Why it was so unexpected is that when you read the story in whole, there isn’t an obvious moment where you think “Cliffhanger!”.

Part 4 was hard for me to figure out how much to post. I tried three or four different ending spots but nothing seemed right. Finally I said the hell with it and just posted what I did. I realized afterwards that I needed to add a short note that Part 5 would be posted next week as it looked like the story had ended.

I didn’t get the reaction that I had been getting from the previous parts. I now know why. Part 4 is just a massive info dump. I had been ratcheting up the story up until that point and then it goes completely flat with the dump. Now I see why the story had been rejected repeatedly.

Back to the drawing board.

I’ve got some ideas on how to fix that part. Mostly by eliminating a lot of the info dump and adding in an action sequence or two. Then instead of doing a paragraph telling about the trek to Canada, I’ll need to add in more story lines and more characters. I expect the story to almost double in size by the time I’m done.

In retrospect, it seemed like I errored by posting Part 4, but instead it has given me insight to why the story wasn’t working and how to fix it. I think this was an inspired exercise by posting the story in serial format. I had thought to delete the Part 4 post, but I’ll let it stay to remind me to stay away from the cursed info dumps.