A Thought for Every Thursday – for Lovers only

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it ourselves, we look to you for the resolution.

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For the next few weeks, we’re going to approach relationships.

Romance. Love. Sex. Yeah.

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To get us started, here’s three light-hearted questions we recommend you read with your lover snuggled right next to you:

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Famous Couples

Which fictitious couple best represents you and your lover?

Princess Leia and Hans Solo

Princess Fiona and Shrek

Rocky Balboa and Adrian

Carry Bradshaw and Mr. Big

Bella Swan and Edward Cullen

Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet

Write-in: ____________________________________________

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Whatever It Takes

 For each of the following, state whether you did or did not do it while in the early stages of dating your current beau:

Blew off a friend to be with your new lover

Left work early to see them

Took a sick day from work to spend max time with them

Missed a meal

Skipped a night of sleep

Told a white lie to friends/coworkers about where you’d been

Spent more money than you should have

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Couples Calculus

 Complete the following formula:

______________________

+

______________________

+

______________________

=

The perfect night out for you and your partner

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Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

A Thought for every Thursday – Wanna be a monk?

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it ourselves, we look to you for the resolution.

 * * *

So…

For the next few weeks, we’re going to approach a few deeper-than-normal topics.

Science. Religion. Meaning of life type stuff.

This week we’re discussing vices and indulgences, and whether or not certain behaviors reflect poorly (or not at all) on a person’s morality.

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Wine

Liquor

Sex

Fine foods

Drugs

Just some of the things humanity indulges in.

For the sake of this question, let us assume none of these things are bad or immoral by themselves. While it’s possible the people overindulging in them might do harmful acts, the actual wine, sex, food, et cetera aren’t to blame.

That said, is a person who indulges in none of these a stronger person morally than someone who indulges in them often?

Does denial (or severe limiting) of one’s indulgences make a person better?

Or do indulgences have no bearing on a person’s goodness?

Best haircut ever….

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Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

A Crap-Ton of Comedy for Twelve Bucks

A few months ago, I stumbled upon a true Atlanta gem.

There I was, sittin’ at my computer, when a message popped up from someone I hadn’t talked to in a while.

It was an invitation to something I’d never heard of before – Beer and Comedy at Sweetwater Brewery

Not being a true beer aficionado, I was skeptical. The snob in me wanted to sip cocktails in a traditional comedy setting…whatever that is. And yet I was curious. The ad promised several hours of local and traveling comedy talent – usually 8-12 comics per night. It promised me a ton of Sweetwater beer, which…even though I’m not a beer nut, made me say, ‘hmmmmmmm.’ It even promised a souvenir pint glass, of which I just happen to collector.

All of this…for only $12.

“F**k,” I thought. “Twelve bucks for two-plus hours of comedy, six beer samples, and a pint glass? It’s too good to be true. Right?”

Souvenir pint glass? I guess I’m easy to please.

And so, on a cold winter’s night, after stuffing my belly with treats (and maybe one little Long Island) at Brookhaven hot spot Kaleidoscope, I hauled my skeptical self deeper into Atlanta. The rain pummeled my passage along the dark streets, and the cold crawled into my skin. At nearly 7PM, I shambled alone into Sweetwater Brewery, paid my twelve bucks, and hopped up the stairs into a wide-open bar.

I arrived early that night. Prime seating was mine for the taking. I wandered up to the huge L-shaped bar, ticket in hand (Each ticket has six punch-outs; each punch-out gets you a half-pint of beer) and I sampled a light but flavorful pineapple ale. Reminder: I wasn’t a beer nut, but I liked the pineapple ale so much I used half my ticket getting refills.

So there I was, all alone. I was probably the oldest person in the brewery, and definitely the only one who hadn’t brought a date. Both of those truths were just fine with me. People-watching was (and still is) among my favorite pastimes, and I’d always thrived on flying solo. After some thumpy music from local DJ Durrty Martinez (including a sing-along of 80’s cartoon show Duck Tales) the crowd quieted (slightly) as a shaggy dude in a weathered beanie took the stage.

This guy – Joe Pettis.

And off we went.

Two hours of better than average comedy.

Six half-pints (in truth, they gave me mostly three-quarter pours) of better than average beer.

A young, lively, attractive crowd.

My expectations had been pretty low. I’d figured for twelve dollars, I’d get some beer and ‘meh’ comedy. And while it was true some of the ten comedians were hit-or-miss, for the most part the crowd laughed their asses off. As the show ended, I snapped up my pint glass and wandered back into the rain. I felt like I’d just robbed a bank. One doesn’t get a ton of beer and quality comedy in Atlanta for $12. Most spots, I’d have dropped at least $50.

The show’s second half – hosted by pretty damn funny dude, Jeremy Mesi.

And so…

Ever since that first night, I’ve been hooked. I’ve gone to a dozen shows, and I’ve enjoyed them all. Friends I’ve invited felt likewise. While it’s true the crowd can get pretty loud at times, and also true a small fraction of the comedians aren’t quite ready for prime-time, it’s still worth twice the price of admission. The two hosts (Pettis and Mesi) are legit hilarious, and the talent keeps getting better. Local comedy goldmine Ron White has even been known to show up now and then…and it doesn’t hurt that he’s my favorite laugh-maker alive.

So there you have it.

In Atlanta on Monday? Cool…join me at Beer and Comedy. I’ll buy you a beer or two.

Oh wait. I won’t have to.

And when you get home from the show, do this.

See you on the flip side.

J Edward Neill

Creator of Coffee Table Philosophy

The Baby Whisperers

My mother did a good job of not letting her day job come home with her. Considering her patients (and after reading her thoughts below) that takes a strength I’m not sure many people possess.

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The Baby Whisperers

By: Mickey McGuire

I have a love-hate relationship with my chosen nursing profession. Since 1978, I have been a nurse in varying capacities and a NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) nurse since 1987. I have observed and experienced much anguish, grief, joy, relief, and complete elation caring for other human beings as they have faced minor or life-threatening illnesses or circumstances. Needless to say, this is a profession which has given me countless rewards for my efforts in providing care and comfort to the sick.

It has also been the profession which has completely sucked the life out of me on many occasions.

NICU nurses are a rare breed. I have not met a NICU nurse on this planet who genuinely does not love babies. This is not an area for any nurse who cannot deal with difficult people, specifically the parents. Let’s face it- who wants to hear a baby cry for twelve hours or have a parent question everything that you do? In their minds, their baby is the sickest and demands the most attention in any unit. The number one problem in the NICU is the lack of control for the parents. Everything in their carefully planned pregnancy has just gone out the window with their baby being admitted to an intensive care setting, and I, as the NICU nurse, represent the failure of their dream.

Believe it, when an infant is admitted into a NICU, he or she needs the intervention. Something has gone terribly wrong with their transition away from their mother’s body- whether it is simple transitional support for the term infant with what we call a “whiff of oxygen,” prematurity that requires support until they can sustain their bodily functions on their own, or a life-threatening congenital defect that requires surgery. For all the thousands of births that occur, 90% require no presence of a NICU team. We as NICU nurses deal with the other 10% every day.

Yesterday, I had a father hug me twice- once when he arrived and once again before he left. He wanted to make sure I knew how much he appreciated my words on the first day of his baby’s admission- my reassurance and my no-nonsense approach. I have cultivated my no-nonsense manner mostly as a survival tactic in the trenches- high adrenaline environments, time to cut through the bullshit. Tell them what they need to know in the simplest terms possible; they barely hear the first sentence anyway. Be assured you will have to repeat the same things over and over. Lastly, I am not going to let you hold your baby until he or she is stable- get over it. It seems I have morphed into this sixty year old grandmother NICU nurse who does not intimidate easily.

Recently, a father accused a coworker of “not caring about their baby,” and “only doing this because of the paycheck.” I can tell you there are much calmer and more sane ways to get a paycheck. There are numerous occupations available to make a salary larger than a nurse’s. By the way, he didn’t have that attitude the next day when I cared for his baby. The timing was right for him to talk about his feelings, and I let him. Comprehending their lack of control, that was a perfect example of parents’ saying nasty things in the heat of the moment.

In the past few months, I have seen two babies born who had died in utero and could not be resuscitated. I was part of that NICU team who attended the deliveries and helped run the codes. There are no words that suffice explaining the heartbreak in these situations. I was not the nurse or physician who had to tell the parents their baby could not be brought back. Everyone applauded what an outstanding job the team did, but that praise felt hollow connected to the outcome of the parents holding their dead baby. Do I internalize it? Of course I do, but not as much as twenty years ago. With age and experience came a protective wall for my psyche.

“The baby whisperers-” that is who we are. We are the ones who can calm a crying baby with a whisper in their ear- a little Sweetease and a pacifier doesn’t hurt either. We are the eyes on the babies twenty-four hours a day and the advocates for the infant to the neonatologists when a change has occurred that requires their inspection. We are the advocates for the baby when their parents want to pluck them 24/7 thinking that heals them. They need rest and quiet, not constant patting and going googoo- gaga over them. It is a delicate balance to speak for the baby and avoid offending the parents. They sometimes get angry, and, generally do, no matter how nice you are as the bedside nurse.

We are the advocates for those dreaded drug withdrawal babies, which I might add, are increasing weekly at alarming numbers even at centers with upper middle class clientele. There have been very few weeks where we have been blessed with the absence of that particular infant population. These are the babies who may cry nonstop for twelve hours. They may vomit and poop at every feeding and jerk uncontrollably until they are wrapped in our signature NICU nurse “burrito” fashion. Their parents are always a pain in the ass. They are the most magnificent manipulators in the world of nursing. If you want a course in manipulating people and the system, sit back and watch an addictive parent at work. Being a nurse to a withdrawing baby is probably the second worst scenario to deal with, second to a dying baby. Many times we have been accused of trying to keep babies against the parents’ wishes. I can assure you- I do not want to keep your crying, irritable offspring one moment longer than I need to!! Those are the days when self-medicating upon arrival to home is generally necessary- addictive behavior facilitating more addictive behavior to the health care professional. An occupational hazard, some of the worst addicts are nurses, physicians, and respiratory therapists- whether it is alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes.

I will probably hang up my nursing hat for good in the next five years. Long gone are the actual days when we wore nursing hats- how hideous! Long gone are the days of wearing white uniforms and white shoes- white+blood never a good thing. That path of where the “ways cross” in 1974 led to a nursing career which has spanned almost forty years.

Would I encourage others to become a nurse? Absolutely! There is no other profession where you will feel the connection with humanity on such a visceral level.

Would I discourage others from becoming a nurse? Yes. You must realize as a nurse you will feel depleted and raw and drained and sad and happy and elated and burned out and frustrated and angry and sick and kind and compassionate and bullied and intimidated and incompetent and efficient. You will become all of these things.

When my grandson Logan was born, I helped my son and daughter-in-law adjust to new parenthood for a few days. One particular trying night during a breastfeeding attempt and Logan becoming increasingly frustrated, I took him out of his mother’s arms and calmed him, put him to her breast, and he nursed. She said, “What are you, the baby whisperer?”

Yes, that is exactly what I am.

***

Mickey McGuire is the mother of published author John McGuire, a registered NICU nurse, retired high school teacher, an artist, and passionate student in this game of life.

A Thought for every Thursday – Not the ending you expect

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it ourselves, we look to you for the resolution.

 * * *

For the next few weeks, we’re going to approach a few deeper-than-normal topics.

Science. Religion. Meaning of life type stuff.

Speaking of meaning of life type stuff, what if…

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Not Quite What You Were Hoping

 There exist numerous theories regarding the meaning of life.

Some predict a divine afterlife.

Others believe in infinite recycling of our souls.

Some believe in very specific versions of heaven and hell.

And still others say there’s no meaning at all.

Everyone is guessing.

No one really knows.

Even so, the most common perception is that if there is a meaning, it’s probably a positive or at worst a neutral one.

But…

What if humanity one day learned our purpose is nefarious?

That perhaps humanity (or even all life) was engineered for a negative purpose?

Is it possible?

If you learned such a thing were the truth, what would you do?

Run!!!

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Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

A Thought for every Thursday – Is Reincarnation Pointless?

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it ourselves, we look to you for the resolution.

 * * *

For the next few weeks, we’re going to approach a few deeper-than-normal topics.

Science. Religion. Meaning of life type stuff.

Today’s topic is reincarnation, and whether or not such a concept is even possible:

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Reincarnation

It’s a prime tenet of the Hindu religion, and is referred to peripherally by several other faiths.

The idea:

Every human and animal has a soul.

Upon death of the body, the soul can inhabit a new body, thus beginning life anew.

Let’s imagine for a moment reincarnation is absolute fact.

Now suppose, due to some universal cataclysm, all life were permanently extinguished. It’s entirely possible, even if it happens many, many years from today.

If all the souls in existence were suddenly rendered homeless (no bodies to inhabit) would they simply wander the universe for eternity?

And would that make the entire reincarnation concept pointless?

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Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

How to stop caring about (almost) everything

Don’t take the title too seriously.

I’m not suggesting you stop caring about your family, your friends, or your personal welfare. Nor am I saying you should be indifferent to things that really, truly matter.

But everything else?

That’s up for debate.

Maybe you’ve heard of it. These days, there’s a little thing called the internet. The big ole triple-dubya is pretty cool, right? It’s the fastest delivery system of information ever made. Crappy bandwidth notwithstanding, it delivers info at the speed of light. The trouble is, when I say ‘information,’ I’m using the term loosely. Because you see, the word itself implies a certain factual quality. Or at least it should. Or maybe it used to. But information doesn’t imply truth anymore, does it? Just because someone, no matter their credentials, publishes something to the ‘net doesn’t mean it’s true. Or unbiased. Or even based in reality.

Information isn’t information anymore.

It’s just characters on a screen. Usually hammered out by someone with an agenda.

And thus, maybe you should care about it less than you do.

Yawn a little more. Care about the internet a little less.

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Think about these:

How many times have you seen an article stating someone famous just ‘destroyed‘ someone else famous? Meaning, they said something on the ‘net and everyone else chimed in with, “Oooooo…nice burn!”

How often have you read (or maybe even posted) a rant about some inconsequential (to everyone else) matter?

What percentage of your social media is consumed with one ‘side’ blasting the other?

How many people have you witnessed become aggressive, name-calling, angry, or just plain hyper-opinionated?

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Let me answer for you: Every day. Too often. More than 50%. And almost everyone at one point or another.

Ah, the internet. Such a glorious place to live. But just because it provides a vehicle for everyone to speak to everyone else doesn’t mean humanity is suddenly enlightened. It just means it’s easier for us to run our mouths. To learn a little bit about a topic and claim we know everything.

The internet gives us a way to talk about stuff we don’t know much about.

So…

What’s a person to do?

Stop caring.

That’s right.

Just stop.

Or maybe…yawn a LOT more. Care about the internet a LOT less.

Here’s the thing about everything. With a few exceptions, everyone on Earth lives for themselves. I’m not saying everyone is selfish, just that everyone does what’s right and what works for them. Despite globalization, despite everything, most of everyone’s time is consumed with working, sleeping, eating, and surviving. Just like it was ten years ago. Just like forever.

Know what I mean?

Example: A politician threatens to shut down a coal mine for the noble pursuit of cleaning up the environment. Sounds good, right? Sounds progressive. But…do you really expect the coal miners and the vast network of people who depend on the coal industry to vote for this politician? No, you shouldn’t. The guy whose paycheck depends on shoveling coal into a furnace doesn’t care about noble pursuits or clean-air acts. They care about food. As in, on their table. They don’t care what Twitter says. And they certainly don’t care about you or me. When it comes to it, they’re gonna vote (if they care enough) for the person who opposes shutting down their mine. Even if it pisses you off. Even if it flies in the face of everything everyone else believes.

And so it goes. ‘Round and ’round the world.

People live for themselves.

If one group of people struts around the internet, trolling, name-calling, and otherwise tearing another group of people to shreds, does it matter? Is anything gained? And if the other group gets defensive (as is to be expected among humans) and fires back with verbal missiles of their own, does that mean anything? No. Aside from stinging a few butts, it doesn’t matter. At all. At the apex of the word-war, facts, truths, and hard scientific data lose all relevance. No progress is made. People’s hearts and minds don’t change. The battle is an illusion.

You wanna know why?

Ok. I’ll tell you.

Every person on every side and in every corner of every discussion is an individual. Lump ’em in a group all you want, but they’re doing what works for them. For their lives. For their families. There are no Red states. There are no Blue states. Those things are just colors on a map. What is there? Well…there’s a ton of people living their lives, doing whatever it is they think is best for themselves. It doesn’t matter what names you call them (deplorables, libtards, rednecks, elitists, et cetera.) Individuals don’t care, and nor should they. They’re trying to live the way they want. And in most cases, they’re living the only way they know how.

So what’s a person to do?

I’ll say it again: stop caring.

And while you’re at it, stop judging.

Yawn…wait….was there an election?

Ignorance. There’s a lot of it out there. In fact, everyone is ignorant. You’re ignorant. I’m ignorant. Humanity is ignorant. We know only what we see with our own two eyes, and sometimes even those deceive us. Like it or not, everything else is unknown to us. You might read about it or think you understand it. You might dive deep into some article you found online and claim to know about it. Guess what? You don’t. You can’t. You’re human, and the scope of your awareness is purposely limited by your biology. It’s in your DNA, baby. You’re meant to care about you and yours. And not much else.

Unless you’re IN it, you don’t really know it.

It’s a harsh reality, but the idea of unity and world peace are in fact, completely ignorant. Humanity will never be unified longer than a few moments at a time. The idea of peace on a planet with seven-billion human-beings (and climbing) is nonsense. We’re all too ignorant. We’ve no idea what it’s like to live anyone’s life other than our own. And yes, it’s true; some people are more ignorant than others. Some people are isolated, uneducated, extra-extra biased, or just plain unintelligent. And no, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make you or me better than them.

Pointing out the weaknesses of others has yet to result in meaningful progress.

And yet so many of us do it.

Once a human being has reached a certain threshold, once they’ve decided they no longer care what’s outside their bubble, it’s over. It’s done. It’s finished. The odds of a person changing their mind due to anything other than a life-changing event are almost nil. Fiery words exchanged on Facebook don’t change us, and actions don’t really change us nearly as much as we like to think.

You know what changes people? Trauma. The hard stuff. People being torn out of their lives and thrust into entirely new bubbles. Harsh life experiences are far more important than anything anyone can dish out online. The only way to chip away at ignorance is to live IN a situation. All the way. For a long while. And suddenly, after that happens, you’re in a new bubble. It might be a different bubble than you used to live in, but it’s still a bubble. And it might be you forget about your old bubble. It might be you become ignorant to something you used to understand.

So what should you do about this? How loud do you need to yell for the world to see your point-of-view? To shrug off their indifference and start caring about what you care about? To move closer to your bubble?

Nothing. Stop trying. Go play in the yard with your kids. Go work at soup kitchen. Take a walk alone in the forest. Pick flowers for someone you love.

And when you find yourself surfing the internet, surrounded on all sides by armies of ‘information,’ go forth with a new purpose.

Don’t be distracted by all the things everyone else tells you to care about.

Don’t get sucked in to the idea of ‘sides.’

Don’t start thinking your point-of-view is any more important than anyone else’s.

Because it isn’t.

Once you accept the smallness of yourself…and once you deny your urge to scream at the world for being horrible, only then can you be at peace. And only then can you stop caring about all the things that don’t matter.

…and start caring about the things that do.

J Edward Neill

Artist and Author.

For more deep thoughts, get into this.

A Thought for Every Thursday – Rewriting the Bible

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

You know the drill.

*Y

 * * *

Let’s cut to the chase.

I call this question Stone Tablet:

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Stone Tablet

 Imagine yourself standing atop a mountain.

Human civilization has just begun.

The entire world clamors at the mountain’s bottom.

They want you to create three commandments, which will henceforth be regarded as sacred.

Name your three.

Use the words ‘thou shalt’ as often as possible.

*

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Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

The Metal Bowl

The Metal Bowl

by anonymous

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It was the voice of the untreated sickness in her head that had us convinced she was the midwife, the prophet.

She was our salvation in a world conspiring to take our children away. She was the woman with multiple names and a dozen more roles. This day, as the tiny blood-soaked rocks hit the metal bowl, she was the doctor. I felt her needle nose pliers dig deep into the gnarled folds of skin and hair, the hot extraction of rock and infection from my partially scalped head.

Through the slits of my swollen eyelids, I saw a glint of my brother’s long hair fly past the window and disappear in a mischievous blur. I didn’t need to see where he went to know what he was doing. His rapid movements and wicked laugh painted the rest of the scene outside the walls.

I knew the pack of javelinas would be resting under the apple tree in their usual gluttonous fashion, getting drunk off rotten fruit scattered in the yard. I saw my brother’s tiny body contorted in a bush just out of the pigs’ sight, waiting for the right moment to assault the enemy beasts with the stray apples. He never got more than two hits in when the pack would come rushing at him with murderous intent.

I would be out there too, screaming and dodging death if not for my wounds. It had been a week, but I still couldn’t walk. My knees and face had taken most of the impact on the dirt road. When I’d flown out of the truck bed and onto the gravel road, it had felt like my body had rubbed across a giant cheese grater, stripping my flesh with unforgiving ease.

It was nobody’s fault.

Just a case of poor circumstance.

We’d chosen the wrong day to hitchhike. The old truck they picked us up in hid the secret of its faulty brakes until it reached the top of the most treacherous of winding mountain roads. When the dust settled and bodies were accounted for, it was the fear in my mother’s voice that convinced us to make a getaway before the ambulance could come.

Her sickness painted stories of evil-doers disguised as government workers. Her hushed warnings to muffle my groans were far louder than the sirens approaching and leaving. She cradled my crumpled body in her arms as we hid in a steep ravine in the thick California brush.

Seven days.

Seven days of hot ‘healing’ baths and prayers failed to heal my wounds.

Cool comfrey cloths and home remedies on my raw flesh had no power against the deep infection brewing in the dermal folds of my forehead.

The pliers dug deeper as I gripped the chair seat hard. Another ping resounded as a pebble dropped into the metal bowl. The pain brought me outside of my body and delivered me back to the dripping summer days of chasing wild pigs and shooting pretend bows at majestic peacocks. I soared above my own body, shaking and weak. Away from the pain and into a summer breeze winding through the Chiricahua Mountains, smelling of honey and blooming chamomile.

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A Thought for Every Thursday – Three Questions for the Dead

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

*

 * * *

This week we’ll dig a little deeper.

…with a spade.

…in the dirt.

Answer me these questions three:

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Necromancy

 Suppose you’ve lost a child or a beloved spouse.

But you have a device capable of resurrecting them.

The only cost to using this device: you have to kill someone else firsthand.

Use it?

Or throw it away?

*

Infinite Murder Machine

 If your child (or someone equally important you) were in mortal danger, exactly how many people would you be willing to kill in order to save them?

These people aren’t actively trying to hurt the one you love, but are obstacles to survival.

*

Closing up Shop

You’ve been assigned an almost overwhelming task.

Your current religion or belief system notwithstanding, you’ve been asked to create a new afterlife for all of humanity.

This afterlife will apply to everyone who dies from today until the end of time.

Describe in detail the post-death experience you’d create.

Will there be different afterlives for different people?

*

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Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

Five ways I refuse to market my books

Everyone will agree.

The hardest part about self-publishing isn’t the writing. Long hours of hammering out words are inevitable no matter what avenue an author takes to launch their books into the market.

No…the true challenge lies in an author’s self-presentation to the world. It’s how a writer markets oneself. It’s the image they create, the test of their willingness to engage the rest of humanity.

To truly take the next career step, modern authors have to leap out of their comfort zone. That means shaping a presence on social media, talking to (sometimes unsavory) people, learning all kinds of software, and getting (and appearing) comfortable with all aspects of self-promotion.

That said, for this author, some things cross the line between palatable and icky.

And here’s my list of things I’m just not gonna do:

*

*

No Hashtags

Yes, I know they help people search you out on Twitter and Instagram. And yes, I realize it might help them find my art and books.

But…

I figure just as many (if not more) people will be so annoyed or disgusted by hashtags they’ll choose not to be interested in all things me.

Because really, hashtags are that obnoxious. Am I right?

*

*

*

*

No Review Swaps

Yeah, this is still a thing. People ask me for them all the time. “Hey J Edward, can you review my vampire porn novel and I’ll pretend to read your book about the two dudes who destroy entire cities when they fight?”

“No thanks.”

First of all, I don’t have the time. Second, Amazon cracks down on that kind of thing. And third, other authors don’t handle brutal honesty like I do.

I realize how many reviews this has cost me. And because of the value of reviews, I realize it’s cost me money. Doesn’t matter. I can’t bring myself to do it. Despite the thousands of high-quality self-published authors out there, many thousands more (the majority of the industry) don’t have the fire or commitment to pump out high-quality books.

Meaning more than likely I’d get stuck reading trash.

Nah.

*

*

No Paying to Enter Writing Contests

It’s my personal oath to never enter a writing contest requiring a payment. Writing contests in general are governed by arbitrary rules and judged in a questionable manner. More often than not, the organization holding the contest is more interested in turning a profit and/or getting their own name out there than they are in helping authors earn legit recognition.

Even some of the free-to-enter contests employ some pretty questionable tactics, though at least they’re free.

To other writers, I’d recommend doing some serious research before entering any contest you encounter on the net.

And to readers, I’d cast serious doubt on any author whose bio begins with the phrase, “Award winning…” It probably doesn’t mean what you think it does.

*

No ‘Best-Selling’ BS

If I had a nickel for every time I saw an author boast ‘best-selling’ credentials, I’d have…well…a lot of nickels.

It probably sounds elitist for me to say this (it’s definitely not intended that way) but some authors need to cut the crap. Showing up a few times in Amazon’s top authors lists or having a really big sales day doesn’t qualify as ‘best-selling.’ While it’s true the major literature publications (NY Times, USA Today, etc) aren’t the only people qualified to choose who’s best-selling and who’s not, there’s just too much exaggeration in the industry.

I’ve seen authors boast ‘best-selling’ in bios containing multiple grammatical errors.

I’ve seen authors with one published book and no published reviews declare themselves ‘best-selling.’

I’ve seen…never mind. You get the picture. Until I’m a household name with a fixed place in a steady market, I’ll be the last author alive to shout ‘I’m best-selling’ to the world.

Lies do not become us.

*

*

No Spam

There have been days when I’ve opened up Facebook and Twitter to the usual parade of politics, cat pictures, poorly-lit selfies, and cute babies. And there are other days when I open up my social media to find fifteen consecutive book ads…all posted by the same person.

Look, I love it when another person shares or reposts something of mine. It makes me oh so happy. But…it doesn’t mean instant and incessant reciprocation. Nobody on this earth cares to see an endless timeline of vampire were-hooker book ads in place of actual cool content. Actually, let me rephrase. I don’t want to see it. So I’m careful about what I share, meaning my stuff and my supporters’ stuff. The goal is to inform and entertain, not to drown.

Three Facebook book ads per week from me, max. And that includes sharing other authors’ work. As for Twitter, go nuts. No one reads retweets anyway. 🙂

*

More things I can’t bring myself to do:

 Post memes about writers’ problems (They’re all so bad.)

Demand reviews (Politely ask once, then move on with your life.)

Shave on a regular basis. (Sorry, this guy stays scruffy.)

*

Now you know all my weaknesses. Go forth and exploit them. 🙂

J Edward Neill

Painter of Shadows

Writer of books about star-destroying space vampires

 

A Thought for Every Thursday – Human Algebra

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it ourselves, we look to you for the resolution.

 * * *

Human Algebra

Please complete the following equations using only one word in each blank space:

*

______________ + ______________ = Happiness

*

_______________ + ______________ = Sorrow

*

_______________ + ______________ = Evil

*

_______________ + ______________ = Love

*

Keep your answers to yourself OR share with the world.

It’s your call.

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

The most anonymous memory ever

Quite by accident, I stumbled upon a story written by a young woman.

I remember the woman’s name, but she didn’t sign her story. She left it on a wrinkled piece of paper atop a blank canvas. I probably wasn’t supposed to find it.

The woman is gone. But the story she left behind made me wonder who she really was.

This is what I found:

***

There are many variations to the story.

Even from birth, circumstances surrounding my entrance into this world seem to be a fluid variation of fact. I no longer try to separate out one version from the next. Instead, I allow my mind to melt each version together…overlapping layers of possible realities.

Despite not being born yet, I could see all.

My aerial view of the camper gives me the ability to see everything. Hear all. Feel everything. I don’t exist yet, but I am the collection of memories that will later be told to me…the texture of my own childhood to come. I fill in the blanks with rich color and smell. Disembodied, I float above the bed my mother lies upon. Bright swatches of velvet and satin fabric hang on the walls. The smells of bay leaves and rosewater perfume mix with my mother’s perspiration. 

This is home.

Her cries of childbirth are gently hushed by the mirages of the midwives huddled around her bed. Their phantom limbs carry damp cloths to her head, soothing her discomfort. The conflicting stories of whether my mother was alone during my birth has given these three woman a transparency that allows me to give them life or melt them back into the camper’s upholstery. The story of my father’s reaction to seeing me for the first time is a gentle whisper floating in the air.

“She looks more like a cauliflower than a baby…”

I can detect a hint of garlic cloves and olive oil on his breath. A tabby cat slumbers in a corner of the camper with a dead snake it caught in a strawberry field. Some versions of this memory give life back into the snake, flinging it upon the bed in which my mother cradled me. The cat is filled with pride over the present it’s gifted to the newborn. It flings the snake’s wriggling body across the room by a screaming woman, where it dissipates into the wood…and where it becomes a faint outline in the rough grain.

***

I want to know more, but her story ends here. Perhaps I’ll find her one day and ask her what happened next.

J Edward Neill

Storysmith and Painter of Darkness

 

Ode to Azaleas

Sometimes we forget that our parents were once teenagers as well. Everything always seems like it could only ever happen to you personally… but we all struggle with the same things.

***

Ode to Azaleas

By: Mickey McGuire

February is supposed to be the month for lovers. Even though this is now March, I wrote this as a special tribute to all those young couples out there grappling with the intricacies of modern relationships. However complicated the relationship is, it still boils down to that famous line in the movie Notting Hill by Julia Roberts to Hugh Grant:

“I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love her.”

By the beginning of seventh grade, I was a towering 5′ 10” with a size 11 foot. In a classroom of boys who were at most five foot nothing, I had virtually no prospects for any of those boys I had grown up with showing any romantic interest whatsoever… unless they wanted to stand on a stool to give me my first kiss.

Sometime during the fall of that school year, a new boy moved into our community and joined our class. He was ruggedly handsome for a seventh grader, blond with blue eyes, soft-spoken, and TALL- probably six foot. I cannot pinpoint in my memory when I realized he was interested in me. I had a peculiar feeling before Christmas break he was actually staring at me and smiling once in a while. All that break I was giddy with excitement of the remote possibility there was a boy who actually liked ME, not the other girls in the class.

Once we returned to school after break, it was obvious the interest was a reality- we were a “couple.” My first real crush would last all of the remainder of seventh and all of eighth grade. The definition of being a “couple” was quite different in 1969- 1970 than it is today. Our relationship consisted of looks, smiles, occasional hand-holding, sitting near each other, and passing notes. Even putting his arm around my shoulders on the bus was met with stern looks from our teacher.

One spring morning I walked into class to my desk and found a gift so unexpected that I still tear up thinking about the sweetness of the gesture. There on my desk lay a huge bouquet of the most beautiful pink and white variegated azaleas, still dewy and fresh from just being picked from his mother’s bushes. Thinking back on that moment, I realized then I might be special- worthy of his attention as well as others with bouquets and promises and happiness and romance.

I did not marry my first crush. He wasn’t even the boy who would give me my first kiss behind the piano at our eighth-grade dance. His father left his family for a younger woman sometime during eighth grade. After that, he just wasn’t the same. Of the four children, I think he suffered the most from the desertion and added responsibility being the oldest. He would eventually drop out of school, get in trouble with the law related to drugs, and wander aimlessly from one relative or part-time job to another. Occasionally, our paths would cross throughout my high school years; we would date a few times, and then he would disappear again.

I have thought of him often and wondered if he found happiness. Through the grapevine, I heard a few years ago he attended his grandmother’s funeral in our hometown. He had married and had five children as well as a whole slew of grandchildren. I was happy for him- such fond memories of our summer afternoons together in my living room listening to 45s on my stereo- “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress,” “Layla,” the Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, Chad and Jeremy-a sweet boy who would eventually figure things out- always kind, polite, nonjudgmental, never a mean word.

Yes, he eventually did kiss me right there dancing to those 45s.

I wished him well then and now. I wonder if that 14-year-old boy knew how special his gift would be that spring morning- a bouquet of dew-filled azaleas for his 13-year-old sweetheart. That morning she understood sweetness and spontaneity between a boy and girl and a promise of potential happiness in the future.

That giant of a girl would find her mate years later in college, have three children and a happy life. But that morning, the gift of those azaleas would be her first and most special memory of young love- that simple gift of flowers representative of innocence, simplicity, tenderness, and acceptance.

***

Mickey McGuire is the mother of published author John McGuire, a registered NICU nurse, retired high school teacher, an artist, and passionate student in this game of life.

A Thought for Every Thursday – Our Footprint

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, we look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

 * * *

This week is all about humanity at large.

I want to know how you feel about other people, the effects humanity has upon the world, and the meaningfulness of human activity.

They’re big questions.

You can handle them.

*

Human Mathematics

 Choose which of the following people is most and least valuable:

A hard-working mother of five children

A powerful, yet honest and fair politician

A 45 year-old childless man who plays video games all day

An inmate on Death Row

A child with utterly debilitating Down’s Syndrome

All of these are people are of equal value

*

Lions, Tigers, and Humans

 Is man the most dangerous animal?

*

With Sugar on Top

 What is mankind’s greatest achievement?

What about yours?

*

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

Tips for Dating Artists

…Tips for Dating Artists…

A completely unscientific exploration of the perils of sleeping with art junkies.

*


#1. Consider dating someone else. As in, someone who might love you more than they love blank slabs of canvass and empty sheets of paper. 🙂

#2. When planning dates, dinners, or long nights on the couch watching Netflix, consider the extremely high odds of having to do many of these things by yourself. Master the phrase: “Dinner reservations for one, please!”

#3. “Five more minutes,” actually means thirty more minutes. The formula used when determining how much longer an artist will be involved in their latest stick-figure drawing masterpiece is:

Time They Stated multiplied by 6 = Actual Time Until They Emerge from the Darkness

#4. The love of your life’s studio will either look like this:

…or this:

…there is no in-between.

#5. Your lover can never have too many brushes. Or pencils. Or sticks of charcoal.

#6. If you leave a coffee mug out in the open, it’s no longer a coffee mug. It’s a paintbrush caddy. Deal with it.

#7. Keep them away from the kitchen sink and master bathroom at all costs. Detour them to a guest bathroom, preferably one with a sink whose color is something other than white.

#8. After hugs, make-out sessions, lovemaking, or accidentally shoulder bumps in the basement, check your entire body and all your clothing for unexpected paint spots (and other stains.)

#9. If you decide to have children, consider that one day you’ll probably come home to this:

*

#10. When critiquing their art (which you should avoid at all costs, but which you’ll be forced to do every day of your life) compare your beau’s latest art to someone famous. Or…if you want to break up, just make a stink-face and walk away without saying anything.

#11. Google the terms ‘abstract‘ ‘surrealism‘ ‘impressionism‘ and ‘realism.’ Use these terms when describing your lover’s art. While the odds are they were aiming for one of these, what they created is most likely another. But they’ll appreciate your lingo.

#12. Unless your beloved artist is really, really talented, don’t ever ask them to paint your portrait, draw you, or sculpt you. Trust me, you’ll regret what you end up looking like.

“Honey, I feel like my hands look a little…off.”

*

#13. If you date someone who paints with oils or draws with graphite, set aside a special room (or five) for them, and make sure it’s a place you don’t care about. Actually, if you have the money, buy them their own house to work in.

#14. If one of your lover’s clients suggests that a piece of art should be created free ‘for the exposure’ you owe it to your lover to kill that client and bury them in an unmarked grave.

#15. The minimum number of paper towel rolls to keep handy is 17.

#16. They’re probably not cheating on you with all the people (subjects) you found on their camera.

Actually, they probably are.

I’m only kidding.

Or am I?

🙂

Think this was funny? Try my Tips for Dating Writers.

J Edward Neill

Crippler of canvasses

Author of billions of books

A Thought for Every Thursday – The Human Lens

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, we look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

 * * *

The Human Lens

Sixth senses aside, everything you know about the world, you know through the subjective lens of your human brain.

Meaning you only truly know what you see, hear, smell, touch, and taste.

You’ll never know what it’s like to see the world in the same way a cat does, or a bird, or a whale, or a bacterium.

Meaning you’ll only ever experience the universe from a human point of view.

And more specifically, your human point of view.

So…

Does this mean your experience of reality is unique, almost isolated in its filtered-through-a-human-lens nature?

Or does this mean that physical reality itself is different for every single living thing?

*

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – Grassroots, Groceries, and Guilt

Welcome to my weekly series, A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday I’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, I’ll look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

* * *

I’ve been thinking…

As pretty much the worst person in relationships on the planet, it’s only natural I wrote a book about being single.

The idea being: you write what you know about.

So this week I thought we’d get a little relationship-ish.

And throw out some questions about dating life.

I call these questions Grassroots, Groceries, and Guilt…


Grassroots

 Which of the following do you think offers you the best chance of meeting someone amazing and firing up a long-term relationship with them?

Finding someone in a bar

Being introduced to someone via a mutual friend

Linking up with a new person using a traditional online dating site

Swiping someone right on Tinder

A blind date

*

Groceries

 You’re dating someone new. You’re definitely feeling a connection.

Aside from the initial attraction, choose two of the following traits you really, really want them to have:

They’re super financially responsible

They’re great with kids

They’re amazing in bed

They’ve got a fantastic sense of humor

They’re really good at domestic stuff (chores, cleaning, etc.)

They’ve got a commitment to staying physically fit

They’re passionate about something you care a lot about

*

Guilt

 The internet makes it oh so easy to cheat.

That is…depending on how you define cheating.

Let’s say you’ve been dating someone for three months. You’re steady, but not in love. Yet.

Would any of the following make you feel guilty?

You watch porn without them

You spend a lot of time chatting up cuties on social media

You never mention him/her on any of the sites you frequent

You swap sexy selfies with someone you meet on the internet

*

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

Did I just fall off the face of the earth, or what?

I’ve never heard a Beyoncé song (that I know of.)

I haven’t seen The Walking Dead.

It’s been at least a decade since I bought an album anyone reading this article has heard of.

I can’t remember the last time I read the news, tried craft beer, or understood a hashtag cause.

Anyone else feel me?

Every day that goes by, I’m lost deeper and deeper in an ocean of information. My friends ask if I’ve seen or heard the latest ______, and I’m a deer in the headlights. I’m like, “Huh?” And my friends are like, “Duuude.” I haven’t seen the latest show, heard the new kickass song, or kept up with whatever the Kardashians are up to. (Are they still famous?) I feel like I should ask for help, reach out to friend, or crawl out from under the rock I’ve apparently been living under.

Nah.

“Huh? Whaaaa…?”

Look, you probably think I’m about to start a big rant against modern culture and all its evils. Nope. I don’t have enough data to make a case for or against whatever the world has become. The only rant I could dream up would be an essay arguing the infinite darkness of social media. But whatever. That’d be pretty hypocritical, wouldn’t it? Especially since I’m about to post this commentary on Facebook and Twitter.

What I do wanna know is: how the heck did I get here?

I’m not that old.

I don’t have an ‘our generation is better than yours’ complex.

I don’t tell stories about wading through the snow to get to school and eating rocks for dinner.

You’d think having a son would compel me to brush up against modern culture now and then. After all, he’s at that age when Justin Bieber must start to seem cool. Or when the latest ‘thing’ must be purchased. Or when we just have to watch some crazy new show. But no. All junior wants to do is hang with his weird dad (me) and roast marshmallows in the fire pit, play board games all night, and watch movies that haven’t been famous since the 80’s (Gremlins, Willow, Sword in the Stone, et cetera.)

Anymore, I’m not sure whether I’m rubbing off on him or his indifference to modern stuff has reinforced my own.

And I’m not really sure it matters.

What started this thought process? Well… I’m glad you asked. Just the other day, I overheard some friends chatting it up about the Grammy awards. (And yes, I know what those are.) At the big Grammy celebration, some pregnant lady killed it with her performance and everyone thought she was a queen. Not just any queen, but THE Queen. Turns out the Queen was Beyoncé. (And it turns out the program I’m using to write this knew to put a ‘ over ‘e’ in her name – which is really weird to me.) Also, the guy from Metallica’s microphone failed, prompting Lady Gaga (whom I know of via her Super Bowl gig) to save him. And lastly, some blonde lady (Adele?) gushed so loudly about the aforementioned Queen some people questioned her sincerity.

Ok, cool, I thought. Sounds pretty entertaining.

Wait. No it doesn’t.

To all of this, I listened wide-eyed and confused. And then I realized that although I’m not terribly old, my tastes are pretty much ancient. It’s almost as if my love of music, culture, art, and books stopped somewhere in the late 80’s – early 90’s. And I can’t explain it. It’s not as if I don’t want to find new music to love. It’s not like I find modern music disastrously boring on some random whim. And life sure would be more fun if I had any inkling to enjoy The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and ________ <—- (insert superhero tv show here.)

Does anyone else experience this?

Anyone?

What the F does this meme even mean??

If I think about it, I don’t particularly miss the cultural era in which I grew up. The 80’s were straight up strange, with all the long hair, horrid pop music, and low production television. The 90’s might’ve been even worse, dragged into despair by depressing grunge music and not-quite-awesome-yet video games.

But I guess I didn’t realize my situation until the new century rolled in and forcibly stopped me from caring.

I don’t remember when it happened, but at some point all the music on the radio turned me off.

Until I stopped listening entirely.

Next came TV.

And here’s the whole story behind that.

More recently, the wave of superhero movies and bombastic action films flew right over my head.

Leaving me almost alone in the theater watching this.

I guess I can’t really complain; living under a giant rock has its benefits. I have tons of extra time. Peace and quiet are my domain. And then of course there’s all the money I save by not having cable and never going to a concert starring anyone famous. But the drawbacks are…well…I’m not sure. I’m left out of discussions regarding politics, news, movies, television, et cetera. And while I don’t particularly mind sitting in my quiet corner, it tends to halt conversations when I admit I don’t know a damn thing about whatever’s being talked about.

Me. As in my face. Always.

It’s almost intentionally ignorant, right?

It’s cultural abandonment.

It’s a willful disregard for humanity.

And now, after all these years, I still have no idea what happened.

Do you?

J Edward Neill

Builder of better coffee tables.

Under-the-rock artist.

Anti-Meme Fridays – Bad Word Porn

Welcome back to Anti-Meme Fridays.

After a brief vacation and a few months of posting A Thought for Every Thursday articles, we’re here with some fresh new meme-hate for your entertainment.

Here’s how it works:  The first meme is always pulled from Facebook or Twitter, and its logic deconstructed in the most sarcastic way possible. The second meme is anti-motivational and/or funny. Because…really…that’s all a good meme should aspire to be.

It’s all in good fun.

Mostly…

*

Meme 1 (Bad)

*

Of all the memes out there, of all the spammy, unfunny, overused things people post on the web, these are my least favorite of all.

The random saying meme.

Let’s break down this one specifically.

Based on the number of times daily I see “I love ____ kind of people” memes (about 10-15 times per day) I have to assume there’s a crap-ton of weird people, black sheep, odd ducks, and rejects out there.

Which means…these people aren’t really rejects. Because apparently everyone loves them.

Here’s a thought for you: we’re all rejects in a way. We’re all alone. We all have our eccentricities. And we all have weird stuff about us. These things don’t imply a beautiful soul. More likely they indicate our upbringing, our insecurities, and our social anxieties.

And while some of these things might endear us to others, plenty of people’s strange and oddball tendencies are just plain unlikeable. Or scary. Or even ugly.

I guess what I’m saying is, instead of posting a meme announcing your love of weird, otherwise unlikeable people, maybe just message your buddy Bob or your girlfriend Sally and tell ’em you wanna hang out.

And leave my timeline unsullied.

🙂

*

Meme 2 (Not quite as bad)

*

I’d like to think we can all appreciate a dick joke.

Right?

No??

Fine.

Whatever.

* * *

That’s all you get today.

Past Anti-Meme Fridays.

Farewell for now.

J Edward Neill

Oh, here’s a few of my deadly serious books:

WebImageFront  

 

Why you need to push Big Shiny Red Buttons – A Book of Ridiculous Scenarios

In Big Shiny Red Buttons, a variety of fun, serious, and absurd scenarios awaits you.

More than a hundred buttons are dying to be pushed. The only question is: will you push them?

Suppose something terrible will happen if you don’t? What if pushing a button would bring you great prosperity, but cause harm to someone else?

Every scenario is different. Some will make you laugh, while others will force you to think. Some are serious, and some flat out absurd.

So how many buttons will you push?

And how many lives will be changed if you push them?

Want to start pushing buttons right now? Go here!

Want a few samples? Scroll down!

***

Sample Buttons!


Sell your Soul Button

 Whenever pushed, this red (but flecked with gold) button deposits $1,000,000 into your bank account.

The only price: it also shaves three years off your lifespan every time you push it.

So…

Will you push it?

How many times?

*

The Combusti-Button

One tap of this big round button will destroy any one cultural phenomenon.

Completely.

Examples: memes, Facebook, hashtags, a specific music type, a specific slang word, a new fashion, et cetera.

You only get to use it once.

Wanna push it?

Whatcha gonna combust?

*

The Duplication Button

One press of this unassuming button can be a powerful thing.

If you use it, any one person in the world will adopt your moral code, your intellect, and your view of the world. They’ll still be themselves physically, but their mental state and beliefs will resemble yours.

You only get to push it once.

Will you?

If so, who’s your target?



Big Red Shiny Buttons – the most fun you’ll ever have in a book.

Enjoy!

J Edward Neill

Creator of Coffee Table Philosophy

Painter of Extreme Darkness

AP World History And Waffles

There are times when I think about what my friends and I got away with in high school. And then there are some of my mother’s stories about her students. This might be my favorite.

***

AP World History and Waffles

By: Mickey McGuire

I became a RN in 1978 at the age of twenty-one- my first major career path. By the time I reached my forties, I had practiced nursing more than twenty years, a major portion in the pediatric/neonatal field. Needless to say, I was burned out with the profession by then and had been contemplating a career change for some time.

The direction to take- the next fork in my life path- manifested itself in a dream. Never underestimate the power of dreams. Sometimes when you simply put the intent out there, the universe answers. In the dream, I saw myself as a social studies teacher in front of a classroom. When I woke up, it was crystal clear what I needed to do. I spent the next three years as a forty- something nerd getting my B. A. degree in history and social sciences.

My first job was teaching high school government to seniors and world history to sophomores later my preps would include several electives as well. By my fifth year of teaching, I was assigned an AP World History course, the most difficult to teach and prepare. I was determined to teach it perfectly and give these students their best chance for passing the AP exam. This teaching  intensity proved to ultimately be my undoing, and the reason this story is logged into those hysterical teaching days never forgotten by me or any of the teachers on my hall.

***

“Those words- AP and waffles- are two words that you probably would not expect to see in the same sentence. I know that I’ve been remiss in my blog writing, but as Millie explained in her blog, we’ve been BUSY!! (Millie is my best friend and reading specialist at our school. There was a time we both wrote education blogs.)

So, I have to tell you the story that happened just today. This week has been horrendous- so much to do- absolute brain overload. All teachers know that saturation point; your brain cannot deal with one more detail (Grades due next week, recommendations, meetings, parent conferences, daily schedule changes, writing a curriculum audit, planning a mock trial for my Practical Law classes, and actually teaching). I planned my lesson for AP World History 6th period, wrote and structured my notes, copied two readings for a group activity to conclude with, and was ready to go when they arrived. They all filed in, talking and chattering away, and reluctant to settle down.

I said my famous line:  “Today is a day I am not in the mood for any crap!”

Instant silence!

Wow, relieved, I began. A few minutes into the warm-up, I heard the first “beep.”

I looked around, told him/her to turn off their watch, and continued. I explained the pros and cons of the design of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan by a map. I launched into the stages of Spanish conquest. Suddenly again, I heard another “beep.”

I turned around and said to turn off that phone or watch, please. The kids sat there with blank looks on their faces, and no one offered any explanation. I plowed on, completely in the zone- asking questions, students answering correctly, everything great.

“Beep.”

I ignored it this time.

Finished with notes, I distributed the readings and gave instructions. Everyone was reading, making notes, and preparing to report on their findings on the treatment of Native Americans in Latin America.

“Beep.”

I could not figure out where that noise was coming from!

Now here I must mention that I let the kids eat in class anyway. They are always munching on cookies or sandwiches. I don’t pay attention to what they’re eating. As I’m sitting at my desk getting ready for the next stage of the group activity, one of the students comes to me and puts a waffle and syrup on my desk!!!

“There’s your waffle, Mrs. McGuire,” he said.

Now I’m generally fairly observant of my surroundings, but I have to say, I was oblivious to the waffle-making going on. As I finally looked closely toward the back of the room, what did I see but a waffle station! I had missed all the tell-tale signs: the waffle iron, the Bisquick mix, cooking oil, syrup, as well as the uncharacteristic, consistent silence during the lesson. I also missed the waffles being passed around as each one finished cooking. I also missed smelling the waffles cooking and the sweet smell of syrup. Thank goodness, this was the AP students and waffle-making, not sex or drugs in the back of the room!

Oh, by the way, it was a perfect waffle!”

***

Teaching proved to be the hardest job I ever had but also the most rewarding. Unfortunately, I did not realize that perhaps going through the mood swings of menopause and herding teenagers might just be too much for even the most sane. After eight years, I decided to leave the teaching profession before I was completely sucked dry emotionally.

People ask me even now why would I give up the salary of nursing for the pitiful pay our educators earn in this country. My response stands: I had the wonderful opportunity to realize two dreams in my life, being both a nurse and a teacher.

***

Mickey McGuire is the mother of published author John McGuire, a registered NICU nurse, retired high school teacher, an artist, and passionate student in this game of life.

How to get more views of your Facebook posts

Hi there.

Ever posted anything on Facebook? Yeah. Me too. Cat pics. Snarky comments. Photos of my kid punching me in the face while I’m wearing a sombrero. Books and paintings I’m trying to promote. Yep. Pretty much everything.

Thing is, Facebook isn’t the same playground it used to be. Not even close. A few years back, if you used your  page to promote something or share an awesome photo, a large percentage of your friends and followers would see it in their timelines. You really didn’t have to do anything special to reach an audience, even if you were selling something. If your cat pic was good enough or your art amazing enough, almost everyone would eventually see it. The algorithms were simpler, the interface easy to learn.

Sadly, this isn’t true anymore.

With the rise of Facebook marketing, junk like this takes up more of our feeds than ever.

Not sure if you’ve noticed, but nowadays pretty much everyone’s timeline is sprinkled (liberally) with ‘Suggested Posts’ and ‘Sponsored Ads.’ Scroll down three or four posts into your feed and you’ll see them. Sometimes it’s junk marketing, sometimes car ads, and sometimes random products or services Facebook’s algorithms thought (usually mistakenly) you’d be interested in. But there they are, fixed on your feed for days, sometimes weeks, taking up a spot once held by actual content from your friends.

Now, if you’re just sharing a cat photo or a political rant, this change probably doesn’t bother you all that much. Facebook knows who your top engagers are (the people you interact with the most) and it’ll usually spread your posts to those people first, and then grow the audience depending on how much interaction you get. If your video of a cat attacking your ceiling fan doesn’t get quite as many likes as it did a few years ago, you probably won’t be too upset by it. You might not even notice.

But…

Suppose you’ve got something you really, really want (or need) to be seen. Something you’re promoting, selling, or just something important you want your friends and followers to view.  You want max exposure, right? You want more people than usual to see this special post. What’s the best way to do that?

Now we’re talking.

First and foremost, let’s discuss how NOT to gain maximum exposure for your big important post. Here are several common mistakes people make when posting something they really want to be seen:

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Things NOT to do:

 


Post a link to an article or website without writing anything in the ‘What’s on your mind?‘ field (or for business pages, the ‘Write something’ field)

Hit ‘Like’ when people comment on your post rather than replying with actual words

Post a link to something when a picture or text will suffice (Links only get max exposure when people are clicking on them, not just ‘liking’ them.)

Share something without adding comments

Post a photo with words or text blocking out parts of the image (Facebook hates this.)

Spam a bunch of posts in a small amount of time (Typically only the most popular one will get good exposure)


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Pretty simple, right? Now let’s talk about the things you should do when you’re trying to get max exposure.

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GOOD things to do:


When using the ‘share’ feature to draw attention to a post, add a comment at the top

Whenever people comment on something important you’ve posted, respond with comments of your own in addition to likes (if likes are warranted)

If you post multiple things per day, space them out

If you have the option, post pictures or text instead of links. If you need to post a link, make sure you write something clever, funny, or otherwise appealing to accompany it. You’ll need people clicking your link in order to get max exposure

If you’re paying to boost a post via your business page, use small, well-defined target audiences. Narrow down your age range, geography, and similar likes as much as possible

Always use good spelling and tight grammar. (Sloppy spelling and grammar can sometimes lead people to think posts are spam or clickbait)

Engage friends and followers in regular conversation. Research shows that interacting with someone on a regular basis (via their timeline, not Facebook messenger) will enable them to see your posts more often


 ***

You want these.

…more than you want these.

So now that we’ve covered the basics of working within Facebook’s algorithms to get max engagement, let’s talk about a few other approaches. Assuming you’ve got something awesome and share-worthy, there’s still more you can do to get likes, comments, and most importantly (for some users) clicks.

Lesson 1: Beware Facebook fatigue

Have you ever gone on your feed and encountered a big pile of shared memes, pics, and posts…all by the same person? Yeah, you know you have. Don’t be that person. You’ll get unfollowed (and sometimes even unfriended.) But more importantly, people will tend to scroll past your posts. If spamming memes and quotes makes you happy, by all means do it, but don’t expect people to care all that much. One high quality post per day will defeat ten hastily put together posts. You don’t want to wear your audience out, do you? Nope.

Lesson 2: Carefully choose your tone (mostly for business page users and marketers)

If you’re on Facebook just to share family pics and silly, fun stuff, you don’t really have to worry about this part. But if you’re on a mission to promote something or you’re trying to focus on earning respect and gaining attention, it’s in your best interest to watch your tone. Stay away from frequent negative rants. Don’t often stray off-topic. If and when you get criticized (and you probably will at some point) don’t counterattack. Be cool, calm, and confident. And stick to your message, whatever it is.

Lesson 3: Don’t be self-centered

To get more engagement, likes, and views from your followers and friends, you have to give. If you post tons of stuff, but seldom click, like, or comment on other people’s posts, chances are you’ll get tuned out over time. Try starting up a conversation on someone else’s thread. Odds are you’ll have fun and possibly earn a few friends. It’s really that easy.

***

Getting love and earning happiness on Facebook isn’t hard. You’ve just gotta play by their rules while staying as interesting as you can. When you do, the experience is better for everyone.

Though of course, Facebook could change their algorithms tomorrow and render this entire article obsolete. Let’s hope they don’t do that for a while.

Speaking of Facebook, hook up with me here and let’s talk each other’s ears off.

Love,

J Edward Neill

Writer of books and painter of shadows

My Seven Most Anticipated Video Games of 2017

Whenever I’m not writing fantasy novels or splashing paint on canvasses, I’m gaming.

Ok. That’s not entirely true. I want to be gaming, but more likely I’m chilling with my young son, doing laundry, or building giant fires in my backyard pit.

So…

I’ve decided that in 2017, I’ll get a little more screen time in.

And get back to my gaming roots.

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My Seven Most Anticipated Games of the coming year…

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horizon-dawn-zero

 

Horizon Dawn Zero

This PS4 exclusive looks like a beautiful riot. The details are still coming out, but it appears we’re looking at a giant open world (like Skyrim) with crazy enemies (like Borderlands) and amazing graphics and combat (like Witcher.) The best thing? It’s due out in February!  After failing hard at Dark Souls (I quit after the first boss) I need a fresh RPG/action game to get me back in the groove of not hating my controller.

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preyPrey

In reading the preview for Prey, one is reminded of hit shooter Dead Space. Got aliens? Check. Got a creepy space station? Check. Word is that Prey will have some customizable features, and the player will be able to steal the aliens’ abilities. Also…no levels. Just one big continuous run of terror. If it’s half as good as 2016’s Doom reboot, it’ll be awesome.

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the-last-of-us-2

 

The Last of Us – Part 2

Ok, so the release date of this one may or may not be in 2017. So what? It’s known only that it’ll take place five years after the original, and that the theme will be similar to the game we know and love. Post-outbreak…post heartbreak. Games like this balance out the typically hyper-violent fare made for gaming adults. Embrace it. It’s a good thing.

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vampyr

 

Vampyr

The promo for this game hooked me with the following line: “It’s up to you to decide whether to kill enough people to become powerful beyond belief, or heal London’s citizens and blah, blah, blah…” You mean I get to be an evil, soul-slaughtering denizen of the night? Sign me up now!

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mass

 

Mass Effect – Andromeda

Having spent nearly a billion hours playing the original Mass Effect trilogy while crushing Reapers and chasing Miranda, it’s not like I can resist playing the next installment. Word is, the new game takes place 600 years after Commander Sheperd’s glorious victory. Plot details are scarce. But can you imagine how good this game will look on the latest-gen consoles? I. Can’t. Wait.

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crackdown-3

 

Crackdown 3

Confession: I just replayed the original Crackdown on my ancient Xbox 360. And I loved it the same as ever. Even if Crackdown 3 weren’t coming out on a pretty new console with (likely) amazing new features, I’d play it. I could spend a lifetime hunting down Los Muertos gang members just to hear them insult me while throwing grenades at my face. My only request: they’d better bring back agility orbs. Because…“Skills for kills, agent. Skills for kills.”

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zelda

 

The Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild

They say it’ll be an open world resembling the original NES game. They say it’ll have fewer tutorials and less hand-holding. They say it’ll be friggin’ epic.

I’ll be buying a Nintendo Switch solely for the purpose of playing this game. I don’t really care if Nintendo publishes another game on their new console that I’ll like (they won’t.) Zelda is the kind of game I can play over and over again with my kid. We’ll team up to figure out dungeons. We’ll wait for Ganon to cackle. And we’ll be in heaven.

See you soon, Link.

*

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Think you’re a gamer god? Take this quiz and prove it!

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More video game goodness:

The Top 3 Video Games of Each Decade

My Top 6 Video Games of All Time

My Top 7 Video Games of the Modern Era

J Edward Neill

 

50 Things the Universe probably doesn’t care about

Take a nice deep breath.

Promise yourself you won’t get offended.

Accept the smallness of everyone and everything.

And enjoy…

50 Things the Universe probably doesn’t care about

meteor

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All the stars, galaxies, and interstellar dust in the universe probably don’t care about politics.

Or which party you voted for.

Or why you voted for them.

Actually, the universe probably doesn’t care even if you didn’t vote at all.

The infinite cosmos likely doesn’t mind whether people are fat or thin, introverted or extroverted, hot or not.

…though it might just care a tiny bit about its occupants being smart or stupid. Maybe.

The immense void in which we live doesn’t care what sports team we like, which TV shows we watch, or what brand clothing we buy.

…but it’s possible judgmental people are more likely to get hit by meteors. (May or may not be a factual statement.)

If the universe is careless enough to let millions of humans starve, suffer awful diseases, and endure being torn apart by war, it definitely doesn’t care about celebrities, fashion, or the complaints of wealthy people.

The galaxy isn’t much affected by humans making fun of the leaders and politicians they don’t like – it knows those same people probably aren’t doing anything about it.

The interstellar abyss doesn’t care who you sleep with.

Or why.

Or where.

Unless that person didn’t consent.

In which case the universe will probably f**k you over during your next life.

big

I’m totally watching YOU.

If the universe is cruel enough to guarantee Earth’s sun will die and utterly annihilate everyone within a few billion years, it definitely won’t mind if you have another glass of wine tonight.

…as long as you take a walk outside to admire the stars afterward.

While it’s true several epic-level disasters in Earth’s history extinguished nearly all life on the planet, it doesn’t mean mass extinctions need humanity’s help. (That species you just trampled to death might’ve been the one to survive the next disaster.)

If it takes light millions and millions of years to cross the Milky Way, there’s no way our galaxy gives a rip about the five extra seconds you waited in traffic today.

…though it’s possible the person in front of you will get cancer for making you miss a light while they were checking Facebook on their phone.

Speaking of which…

The universe doesn’t pay any attention to Instagram.

Or Twitter.

Or Facebook.

But the cosmos is especially disinterested in Snapchat. Actually, whenever a human uses a Snapchat filter to add dog ears to themselves, the universe might just nudge all of us closer to death.

Nothing in the void cares about whether or not we believe in science. It knows the laws of physics better than we do, and it’s fully aware we prefer using science to make weapons and iPhones more than food and shelter.

It’s possible the universe doesn’t care one bit about all of humanity. But it definitely won’t care if we destroy ourselves before we even escape our lonely little solar system.

All the galaxies combined aren’t particularly interested in what skin color humans are. They know we all die the same in the cold dark vacuum of space. 🙂

The great cosmos is unlikely to be concerned with whichever god or goddess people worship. However, it’s probably amused at humanity’s hubris in assuming we know anything about how we came to exist.

Realistically, the universe won’t much mind if you:

Kill someone.

Steal things.

Or abuse your fellow humans.

But nor will it care when those same humans turn the tables and abuse you, steal from you, and stamp you out.

In its infinite wisdom, the universe saw fit to teach humanity about fire, agriculture, and beer.

…but it stopped paying attention after it saw people burning themselves with fireworks while drunk and eating corndogs.

The multiverse and every dimension between don’t care about your comfort, your lifestyle, or your money. Those things all burn the same in the fires of a star.

The cosmos is only mildly bothered that ships in the Star Wars movies still make sounds in the airless void of space. Actually, it stopped being offended right about the time it saw Jar Jar Binks.

The universe doesn’t care about how sexy people think they look when they take selfies. It knows it’s prettier.

dd1

Honestly, the great dark cosmos doesn’t mind anything any one particular person does. It knows humans only live to be 0.000000000001% as old as stars.

Nothing in the universe cares what we call ourselves: kings, queens, poets, popes, warriors, saints, presidents, or fuhrers. The universe is patient enough to know titles and positions are just make-believe things.

Although the universe probably knows a good scientist when it sees one.

If the Milky Way and its other galactic buddies were to admit twenty things they liked about Earth, none of them would be you.

But one might be your kid.

Nah, probably not. 🙂

Since we’re all made of the leftovers of stars dying, we’re all pretty much stepchildren (since our sun isn’t the one who made us.) Which means the universe would probably feel bad for us. If it cared.

…which it doesn’t.

None of the vast powers in all of creation care how many marathons you’ve run, how much you can bench press, or how smart you think your dog is. It knows all your bumper stickers fade and crack in the sunlight.

If the universe overheard you talking at the water cooler about how well the local sports team played last night, it would probably interrupt you to say, “But did you see that supernova last night?! Pretty cool, huh?”

The only human device to make it completely out of our solar system is the Voyager I spacecraft, which happens to contain music, film, and culture all from an era older than most people on Earth. Meaning, even if something outside our solar system one day discovers Voyager, it’ll think we all like jazz music and don’t know about cool things like modern civil rights and Netflix.

Or, in an even worse scenario, since the first radio wave images sent from Earth originated from Nazi Germany, any aliens out there catching our signal will likely be horrified by us.

And the universe will just shrug.

Because it knows us better than we know ourselves.

* * *

I was inspired to write this when I finished this.

Which in turn inspired this.

Remember…don’t take things so seriously. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably got it pretty good.

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – How you gonna roll?

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, we look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

 * * *

In the modern world we live in, many different people have many different ideas about how to be romantic, whether or not to get married, and how to handle intimate relationships.

If you asked a room of 100 different people, you might get 99 different opinions regarding the ‘right’ way to do things.

What if we simplified the equation?

What if we asked you how you like to get around…?

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Getting Around

 

From the following scenarios, choose the most appealing to you:

  • Be happily married to one person for your entire life. Never once have an affair
  • Be happily married for twenty happy years, but also enjoy a twenty-year period of single-dom, during which you have sex with at least ten different partners
  • Never be married. Have as much freedom and as many different sex partners as you desire
  • Insert a different answer here _________________

Well?

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – Consequences, consequences

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday I’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, I’ll look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

 * * *

The Fear of Consequence

Morality is a slippery concept.

Good and evil have shaky foundations.

The point is: what’s considered good and noble in one culture isn’t always viewed likewise in another culture.

Moreover, left without supervision, individuals tend to take a lot more liberties with morality. If the authorities aren’t around, people will assault, loot, and murder more than if there’s a police car nearby with its lights blazing.

Which begs the question:

Are people ‘moral’ only because they fear punishment if they’re not?

If the concepts of authority and law didn’t exist, and no punishment awaited disturbers of the peace, would the world gravitate toward violence and entropy?

If so, does that mean morality only exists beneath the fear of consequence?

What say you?

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

Answer the Universe

This past weekend the NFL regular season came to a close, and for the first time since 2008, the Miami Dolphins have made the playoffs (apparently “next year” was this year). Aside from being happy to actually have someone to seriously cheer for this coming weekend, it got me a little reflective. I’ve watched nearly a decade worth of games where my team might have been in the mix only to fall short or, and this is more likely, they haven’t been in the mix at all.

Miami_Dolphins_2013

That’s a lot of football. Actually that’s a lot of mediocre football.

Strange then that I suddenly am thinking of all that “bad” time to be a fan when this is the time to enjoy the ride we’re currently on. I think back to J Edward Neill‘s post from last Fall where he swore off the NFL in order to regain the most precious of commodities: TIME.

(I know he slipped at least once…)

Every team comes into the season with a list of things they want to accomplish. It may start with:

Improve upon last year’s team.

Win the division.

Get a first round Bye.

Be the overall #1 seed in the playoffs.

Win your conference.

And at the top of the list is win the Superbowl.

That’s not to say that they actually are able to even compete for such an honor, but it is still there. Heck, there are a bunch of the above which are probably above and beyond a team’s LEGITIMATE goals. The key is that they still write them down. And it isn’t because they want to set themselves up for failure if things don’t go their way. No. They do it so that there is something to aspire to.

target-bullseye

Last week I put up my annual look back/look ahead blog post. Here’s the thing, that post is like 98% for me, 1% for my family (in case they might be wondering what it was I actually do during these late nights), and maybe 1% for anyone else reading the blog. I use it in order to get a grip on what the previous year might have had in store for me (or not). The look ahead is about setting goals for myself.

Maybe setting too many goals?

That’s fundamentally OK to do. If the NFL teams only set their goal on getting 1 more win next year, well that’s probably doable, but then what? You get that additional win and stop? Or do you shoot for the moon on the off-chance you can actually get there?

This is what I’m trying to get to. This is the type of work output, the type of word count I need to get to in order to have the level of success I want to have. So you get a list of things which either seem like they haven’t been accomplished or there are just too many things on the LIST to possibly get done.

There is some truth to that. Like so many other people I have various levels of responsibilities in work and life. Sometimes there just isn’t enough time. Then again, maybe I just didn’t use all that free time as wisely as I could/should.

Regardless, I want to say YES to things. Can I write the 1st draft to this novel? Yes! Can I edit this 2nd draft of a different novel? Yes! Can I write this comic script? Yes!

yes

I want to say YES to myself.

Think about the whole idea of Resolutions in conjunction with the birth of a new year. Right now if I were to do a search on New Year’s Resolutions I bet I’d get a ton of blog hits where it was describing potential goals or perhaps telling you how to accomplish your proposed goals. But also think you’d find some people who want to mock the very idea of the goals. They might consider it a waste of time to even bother. “Everyone puts all this nonsense out there and within a week or a month or 6 months it will all revert back to who you were before the pledge.” Yet, I’d say we’re all doing it on some level even if we don’t say it aloud or write it down. There is something you want to accomplish this year, right? You may not want to call it a Resolution, but it probably is.

And it’s OK.

The kicker to all of this is that sometimes you set the bar impossibly high and you get there. Sometimes the ball bounces your way. So put it out there. Put it into the universe! Have 50 projects. Have a plan.

There’s nothing wrong with striving for more.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

My life as a single dad (while making art)

Let’s be clear about one thing: I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But with that said, single dad art-making ain’t always easy.

Almost six years ago, my son (the G Man) burst into my life. He was the Kool-Aid Man breaking through the brick wall of me. Upon his arrival, I prepared myself for sleepless nights, hours upon hours of crying, and the end of all my life’s plans. But as it turned out, none of that really happened. The G Man slept astoundingly well. He rarely cried. And as for my life’s plans, they turned off the path by a few degrees, but were hardly shattered.

Surprise, surprise.

But there were two things I didn’t count on.  The first, me almost immediately becoming a single dad after G Man burst onto the scene. The second, finding out my son was also my best bro, my comrade-in-arms, and someone who never wanted to leave my side.

Which, as a writer, painter, and 1,000 mph blogger, wasn’t something I was fully prepared for.

me-n-g-at-ren

We destroy our turkey legs as a team.

Yeah…so…while it turns out my writing and painting didn’t slam to a halt, they changed. A lot. Let’s start by talking about sleep. As a young dad, I’d always had this notion that my son’s bedtime would be…oh I don’t know…8:30ish. Nah. Not so much. I admit when I meet other people’s kids, I’m alllllllll about them being in bed early. But with the G Man, I find myself allowing him to stay up late. Like late, late. So instead of waging war over arbitrary bedtimes, I dim the lights, turn on the music, and dive deep into conversations I never thought I’d have with a five-year old.

Things like:

What will happen when the sun runs out of hydrogen to burn

Why didn’t Sauron from Lord of the Rings make a second One Ring

And why didn’t evolution grant sharks the ability to fly

And so the months went by. G Man turned 3, 4, and 5. 8:30ish bedtimes became 9:30ish. 9:30 became 10:30. Chunks of late-night time I’d once devoted to painting, writing deep, dark novels, and meditating morphed into something else, something just as sacred yet completely different. While I’d never judge other parents for putting their kids to bed early, I just couldn’t do it with the G Man. I begun to crave playing silly games, watching kids’ movies, and teaching him how to master Zelda – Twilight Princess. “I’ll just sleep less,” I told myself. “I’ll start writing at midnight. That’ll work. Right?”

lobster-1

Trying on lobster costumes at approx 11PM at Target. Who needs sleep anyway??

Now don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t all roses all the time. By staying up all hours with the G Man, my production eventually took a hard hit. I started writing fewer than half the words per night than I used to. I finished maybe four paintings per month instead of ten. My sleep suffered, not because of staying up late building Lego armies, but because I still pushed my output to punishing depths. I swore off sleep in favor of creating things. Later and later, I stayed awake each night.

But it turns out the human body has its limits. I couldn’t keep pace forever. My mind and my work begun to crumble. I suppose a more reasonable person might’ve said, “Hey, it’s ok. You’ve earned a break. Be at peace with creating less in favor of more face-time with junior.”

F that. I want it all. 🙂

sombrero

That’s me running on zero sleep (and margaritas.)

There’s an everyday equation we all must follow in life. It’s something like X + Y + Z = 24 hours. X is made up of the stuff we have to do each day. It’s work, chores, commuting, and other obligations. X is the hardest to change. Most of the time, it is what it is. The weekday value of my X is approximately 13. That’s a lot, but I’m aware some people have it much worse. As for Z, it’s exactly what you think it is: sleep. Some people can get by on 4-5 hours. Others need 8-9. The more sleep one gets, the better one’s mind functions. Therefore, Z can directly influence the quality of the rest of the equation. My Z value is about 7 hours.

That means, on any given weekday, my X + Z value is somewhere in the 20 range.

Which means I have about 4 hours left over for Y.

What is Y, you ask? Y is free time. Y is options and choices. Y can be consumed by entertainment, exercise, planning fancy meals, et cetera. Or, as in my case, Y can be reserved for art. For writing. For creating. In any artist’s life, having a kid complicates the value of Y. It’s a complication I’m grateful for, and yet it remains. My single dad Y isn’t the same as a lot of other artists’ Y. Even when I’m free to embrace Y, I’m not really. G Man is always at my side, tugging, talking, wanting to listen to music together, needing to engage in conversation.

So I’ve made a compromise. During Y time, we paint together.

And if I need to write, he reads.

It’s a solution I stumbled upon about a year ago. And it was completely by accident. One day, as I tried to paint while G Man was discussing the anatomy of stumpy T-Rex arms, we stopped talking long enough for him to ask a simple question:

Can I paint, too?”

Yes. Hell yes. In that instant, I became a tornado of movement, laying out a dropcloth, handing him a palette, splashing out some colors to paint with. It took a few times for him to acclimate, but after a few weeks – and ever since – he’s been a painting machine. He even painted the cover of one of my books. Yes…seriously!

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Are they tropical trees? Wind turbines? Monsters’ hands reaching skyward? Hell if I know. It’s still better than anything I’ve painted.

The painting problem: solved. A full 1-2 hours every day of Y value: freed up.

But what about writing?

Figuring out a way to write during G Man’s waking hours was more challenging. And yet…  The solution conveniently turned up mere months removed from the painting revelation. Four words: Goosebumps, Deep Space, and Ninjas. Into his hands, I poured R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books, National Geographic magazines with lots of Hubble deep space images, and that silly series of ninjas-in-the-6th-grade books. Boom. Just like that, my Y time was defragmented. My painting output doubled. My writing was back on track.

And at the same time, G Man’s creativity soared. His reading skills improved drastically. His paintbrush moved with a mind of its own. (Only two spills so far.) He started asking for quiet time instead of demanding father-son Lego time. I was able to earn a tiny slice of Y freedom without planting my kid in front of a TV or kicking him outside.

Parenting is hard. This, I understand. What works today for me (and everyone else) might not work tomorrow. Soon enough, things like Little League, sleepovers with friends, and learning to drive will force some Y time to become X time. Ultimately, whatever becomes of my freedom, however small the slice gets, I’m ok with it. Because I’ll only ever get one chance to have a five-year old punch a sombrero off my face.

And that’s pretty cool.

Here’s some of the stuff G Man allowed me to paint.

And here’s the book I finished on his watch.

Love,

J Edward Neill