Relationship Don’ts

Eight-Lessons-What-Not-to-Do-from-Airports-290x3001. Don’t make her wait.

Nobody enjoys waiting, so don’t put off making plans with her, and always arrive on time. When she sends you a sweet text message don’t just file it away. Send one back. Let her know you’re thinking of her too, and nothing says she’s most important to you than responding right away.

2. Don’t assume anything.

I’m sure you’ve seen those relationships that fall apart because of assumptions, because one partner thought things were one way while the other thought the opposite. I know I’ve seen my fair share of them. One thing that is ultimately necessary for a long term relationship is communication, constant and steady.

3. Don’t compare her to others (even favorably).

“Baby, you’re so much hotter than [insert name here].” Don’t do it. See, while you think you’re doing her a favor by telling her how much hotter she is, she’s thinking you must have been checking out [insert name here]. And, tell the truth, you were definitely checking out someone else, even if you compared the other person unfavorably to your significant other. Just leave the whole issue alone. When giving her a compliment just tell her what she means to you, not how different she is from anyone else.

4. Don’t let her assume anything.

Lies by omission are lies just the same. Somebody told me that once, and it’s true. Don’t let her believe something is a certain way when you know it isn’t. Trust is the cornerstone of any solid relationship, and once you lose it because either you made assumptions or she did then it’s like you’re walking on broken glass.

interracial_hands-585x3905. Don’t accept routine.

Having set patterns can be great. They’re often comfortable because you know what’s going to happen and when, but they can also make things stale in your relationship. It’s a fine line and you have to learn when it’s okay and when it’s simply a crutch that can be detrimental instead. Take some time to be spontaneous, to surprise her and yourself in turn.

6. Don’t put her second, or third, or fourth, or…

Sure, you have a million interests, but absolutely none of them can or should come before your significant other. You don’t want to feel neglected, and neither does she. Take time out from watching that game, or reading that book, or hanging every weeknight with the guys to make sure she’s your number one. Neglect is the number one killer of relationships, not cheating. Keep that in mind.

7. Don’t let things fester.

Yes, we can all get angry sometimes, and most times that anger is justified, but don’t lose sight of your love. That love should calm you down enough to talk things out instead of letting those angry feelings build up in silence. When you finally explode there is less chance for reconciliation because 1) now you have resentment, and 2) now she sees another side of you that makes her think again about wanting to be with you.

8. Don’t always give in.

The French invented the word “compromise” for a reason, because they knew that even with the most similar of individuals there are differences, and it’s those differences that make for strange bedfellows. Too often we try to avoid conflict [see: 7] by just letting her have her way, but that can also lead to resentment, which is legitimately unfair. It’s not her fault you didn’t stand up for what you wanted, that you didn’t give her a chance to work with you on a compromise. Let her know how you feel, even if it might be unpopular. Communication is key.

9. Don’t try to change her.

She’s the person you fell in love with, the person you decided you wanted to be with, so don’t start thinking just a few tweaks will make her even better. We spend too much time fighting our own minds when it comes to being happy with ourselves, and just as you do it, so does she. But if she’s the person for you then you need to accept her, “warts” and all, just as she has accepted you in spite of the negatives on your checklist. When we love another person we can see past those things because we see their heart and soul, and that’s more important by far.

10. Don’t feel inadequate.

Listen. She chose you for a reason, or for a plethora of reasons. Don’t let yourself start feeling self-conscious, thinking that she is “too good” for you because in time that turns into resentment. There is no such things as perfect, but I love the way it has been put before: “You’re not perfect, but you’re perfect for me.” It’s this type of perfect that is sustainable, and we need to believe in it instead of doubting ourselves at every possible opportunity. There is only so much reassurance she can give you that you’re the man for her, so just accept it and move on. Happily.


Longhand, Scrawl, Scribble, Print, Handwriting, & Manuscription

ST2771h-Heroism thesaurusAs a writer I love words. I enjoy utilizing and finding new words, but I’m also quite fond of certain words I’ve been using since I was in grade school. I call them my go-to words because I often go to them when I want to make a point, or when I’m stuck on something that is difficult to get past. But when I’m writing for an audience I spend a lot of time and focus on making sure I don’t repeat myself too often, that I mix it up so that I sound fresh instead of stale. That’s part of the organic nature of writing for an audience that someone who writes only for themselves never cares about.

When I write I like to keep a thesaurus handy. I’ve had one since junior year of high school that has been thumbed through so much the binding has loosened in strength. Sometimes when I open it up it stays open, even when it’s not quite to the exact middle of that book. Often I try out new words like regular people try on clothing. The thesaurus is my dressing room for words, my connection to the new and the fantastic, and I treasure it as much as I do the writing itself. Because it is a key part to the process.

“Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic.”

It’s funny, though, because when I first heard of a thesaurus I was dying to get one. It was the new age of online computing in the early 90s, and when I used Word Perfect I found that I could highlight words and change them. The glory of the online thesaurus, at least as utilized by Word Perfect, allowed me to insert synonyms for words I tended to use often, and I took full advantage of it from the start. I had written a short story about a benign superhero that I felt needed some spicing up, so I went back into the manuscript and I used the thesaurus on every single word besides “and,” “the,” and “a.” When I was done the results were indeed laughable, but they sparked my creativity.

ThesaurusRex3I think I still have a copy of both manuscripts around here somewhere, the one I first wrote, and the one that the thesaurus chewed up and spit out. Most of the syntax on the second copy is vague and/or ludicrous because there aren’t many “true” synonyms to words, and it made no sense. But it sounds high-brow to people who don’t know what the words mean, and I realized that’s what many writers do today. They sound just like thesauruses, their words used to show off their vocabulary instead of to enhance their story, which is the exact opposite of what should happen.

So, even though I use my thesaurus a lot, to research and to find new words, I rarely take those words out on a play date, getting them dirty in the sandbox of my writing, because I know the power of the writer’s mind, and I know the power of word choice. I like to roll those new words around in my mouth, to try and parse them out, to see if they will fit without overwhelming the rest of the words I already have on the screen, and I only use them if they enhance without taking away the focus of those words. Because for me it’s all about the intent. It’s all about making something that takes a lot of time and effort seem effortless.

I love my thesaurus because it helps me keep my possibilities open without forcing me into something I don’t want to do. I just need to remember that tools are tools for a reason, and they’re only helpful when we know when to use them. And when not.


Dear Journal: Cape Cod Style

10293_house_mf_plan_blueprintDear Journal,

I’ve never been to Cape Cod, but I can imagine it’s beautiful, especially this time of year, with its cool breezes and bright sunshine, not to mention the water. I’ve seen it a million times in movies and in television shows, so maybe I feel like I know it, the feel of the place, the smell of the salt air, even the sizzle of the hot dogs cooking on the grill. But I’ve never thought about the houses, not really.

So we’re building a house, and it’s in the Cape Cod style, or at least my wife says it is. I look at the blueprints and I see a house. I don’t see a style, but I trust her when she says it’s Cape Cod. I wonder if it will evoke all of those feelings I listed above when it’s finished, if I’ll feel like I’m actually there by inhabiting the house. Maybe if we take a trip up there while the building project is going on it will seem more real to me, that we’re actually doing this.

I’ve never lived in a newly built house before, but of course before I moved up here I also hadn’t bought a new car, or owned a house, or had children. So this journey continues with more new stuff, stuff that is exciting and scary at the same time. I OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwonder if I’ll drive by the property while they workers are on break, and I’ll see the frame of it rising toward the sky and wish I were there with them sweating it out. Isn’t that how they did it in the old days, the men of the family getting together and putting the house up by themselves? Or maybe I’m just confusing two different things I heard once, so long ago I’m surprised I haven’t forgotten them both by now.

Apparently this Cape Cod style means two bedrooms on the upper floor, and two on the lower, but most important of all I’ll finally be able to have my own private study. No, not a “man cave” or whatever other titles are given to spaces set aside just for a little masculinity to take place. Honestly, I think I’ll just use it as a space to write free from all the outside noises. I’ll set up my speaker system and have a lot of inner noises instead. Oh, and the bookshelves. I’m going to love the bookshelves. It’s been my dream for so long but it’s been unattainable. No longer.

My wife is over the moon. Every night she fiddles with the blueprints, adding here and taking away there, re-sketching and measuring out every square inch of the place. I swear she should be an architect. It’s a bit contagious her fascination and dedication to the house before the building has even begun, but I guess that’s the way it should be. She should have the place she’s always wanted. In the Cape Cod style.


Two For Tuesday

tuesday.001Last Thursday we went on a walk through the neighborhood, me and my daughters, for the first time in a long time. We put on our sneakers one at a time, freshened our smiles, and headed out like conquering heroes. You know, until we met our first unleashed dog. Then we scampered away like mice (really, people should follow the leash law around these parts) and took an alternate route.

We breathed in the fresh air of a village that was just awakening from a long winter’s slumber. It was crisp and clear in our lungs as we rounded corner after corner, meandering as much as anything else from block to block in a relatively circuitous path. Surprisingly there were few others out and about on that glorious afternoon, under the shining sun. They were probably inside like some Ray Bradbury future, all huddled around screens instead of enjoying nature, which was fine by me.

Now, you know I’m not an outdoors type of person, but every once in a while it hits me, that bug, that desire to explore the world around me instead of being a sedentary creature. Not often, but it happens, and I am grateful for it. Here are two other things for which I am grateful:

1. I am grateful for opportunities. I’ll be the first to admit that it doesn’t always seem to me like opportunities are falling from the sky, but not all opportunities are professional. And while professional opportunities just aren’t coming, personal ones are appearing like woodland creatures in a sunny glade. Just having the chance to spend time with my children is a great opportunity that I treasure more than anything I could possibly do professionally. Just being able to say that I have two books published and another on the way is a great opportunity for me in so many ways, not the least of which is feeling fulfilled as an individual.

2. I am grateful for laughter. Someone a while back said that it was the best medicine, and I tend to agree. Whenever I’m down or feeling depressed something happens to lift my spirits, or someone says something hilarious and I can’t help but fall under the spell. While laughter can be forced, true joy cannot, and laughter spawned from true joy is utterly fantastic, almost magical in its spell. It’s easy to tell the difference when you’re attuned to the glory of that true laughter, in the freedom that lets you just give in to it. From early on I’ve loved watching comedians who are good with the timing of jokes, and that goes for regular folk too. Timing is everything, and the laughs will follow.


Cold Medicine and Warm Blankets

Pile of Blankets --- Image by © Ute Kaiser/zefa/CorbisWhen I was a kid, sick days were rare, yet always scripted. There was the large humidifier that sat on the folding tray at the foot of my bed, pumping out warm, moist air. The steam from it rose in circles until it hit my ceiling, then dissipated, and I liked to imagine it spread across the ceiling, sprinkling down minute droplets that I couldn’t feel but I knew were still there. My covers would be pulled up to my chin, but they were never enough to stop the chills that would periodically shake my body.

My mom always came in with the bottle of cold medicine and a tablespoon, like a specter, gliding across the room to see to my needs. I wrinkled up my nose at the medicine, but I would eventually take that tablespoon and empty every drop of it, hoping for a miracle even as it burned my throat. Mom always took my temperature with the ancient thermometer, the old-fashioned way, and I would be so embarrassed even though no one else was there. It would inevitably show as high, and I would sink back under the covers to die.

Soon blankets would march themselves into my bedroom and begin to pile on top of me one by one, depending on my muttered utterances. In my feverish state I always said I was cold, no matter how much I was sweating or delusional, and blanket after blanket would create even more of a cocoon for me to be reborn from after hell had its go at me. The medicine would begin to do its job, dropping my eyelids from fatigue, settling deep into my bones and dragging me down into a dream-filled sleep.

My dreams were filled with pirates and concierges, with lanyards and playgrounds, with every conceivable possibility that my conscious mind would generally kick out and reboot. I would twist and turn in the bed to match my movements in my dream world, my eyelids fluttering spasmodically in order to keep up. The blankets, instead of being my protector, began to sit heavy on me like a wrestler with a chokehold. I would wake up thrashing about, certain I was being strangled, screaming out for someone, for anyone, to save me.

That’s when my mom always came back in, calm and collected, because she had been there before, because she knew how the story would end. She would come in, and take off blanket after blanket until I felt comfortable again. Her cool hand against my forehead would be welcome, refreshing after the horrendous dreams, and she would sit with me until I had calmed back down again. Then I would sleep, a true sleep, as comforting as the other was frantic, no longer delusional from the medicine.

As I would drift back off to sleep I remember my mom easing backwards out of the room, by the haze of the humidifier steam that kept pumping out its warm air, its moisturized droplets that reminded me of fog rolling in across the sea. My door would close silently, and I was alone once again in my cocoon, safe and sound, but still weak from my ordeal. And one by one the blankets would pile back on, and my smile would return, a little lazy and indistinct. The last image in my head was of that spoon, set down neatly on my bedside table, with its promise of freedom.


This Mortal Lament

Beauchamp-Cooke-GraveRemember me in a sigh
Left behind in shadows
And inside closed rooms
In these echoing vibrations
Native to someone else
Vibrant like melodies
These shifting frequencies
That I cannot escape
Even from the grave

Honor me in a scream
Crashing like waves
And slamming into shore
Eviscerally gutting
Leaving nothing inside
In this encompassing void
Where my voice used to be
This uncanny reflection
Refracted like firelight

Forgive me in a second
Categorically nondescript
And silent as a tomb
In this neverending time
That gives and takes away
This whisper’s breadth
Exhaled to match my mood
The moment before the last
Such appropriate drama

But never pity me
In the hollows of your soul
Carved out of steel wool
Because life may be delusional
But death solidifies truth
Flatlined and calcified
Unyieldingly hard
Slipped under soft earth
One last eternal sigh

To disturb your unsteady footing.


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