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Some mornings are simply better than others. The birds chirp mellow, smooth, instead of high pitched and whiny. The coffee smells sweeter, infusing the air with the perfect hint of hazelnut, no more, no less. The bed feels warm, like a cocoon, enveloping me in its warm embrace. The children sleep in, so there are no interruptions, no screams, no yells, nothing at all. Just the sound of silence, and the steady breathing of my wife beside me as I hold her closely.

Some mornings I am in my thoughts, concentrating on what’s to come instead of on what has been, focused on the next thing. I am attuned not to the coming rain but to the storm clouds that are gathering, studying them for signs of early spring, or fading glory, or everything else and nothing else all at once. I stretch out my hand to feel the rain I know is coming, to embrace the coming downpour in ways I never have before. I flinch at its cold presence mingling with my own, and I close the window.

Some mornings there’s Ed Sheeran singing in my ear, reminding me that everything should be all about the rhythm. I sing along to the beat, knowing how close the lyrics are to my own life, to the words that would be in my head even if I wasn’t listening to it. I’m reminded that life, while solitary, is a shared experience, that others are listening to this same song right now, or ruminating on it in their minds, or lost in their dreams of it. Or songs like it. Or thoughts like it. And I smile.

Some mornings I am just so grateful for this life, for this ability to awaken again, to welcome the sun, the sound of the chirping crickets, the cold floor under my feet as I stand. The bed looks forlorn without me in it, with my wife still there steadily breathing, still fast asleep. I tuck the abandoned sheets and covers in around her, a poor facsimile for the warmth of myself, but it’s what I have to give when I have to be up and moving. When the night turns into day and I’m left staring at the thin line.

But some mornings… some mornings I can stay there with her. I can hold her closer than my own skin and our breathing naturally synchronizes. Some mornings I can imagine forever.

Sam

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“Dance, or fade out.”

It wasn’t supposed to be this way, this waiting at a green light. And for what? I craned my neck to see around the SUV ahead of me, but I had nothing on which to focus my anger. I was just about to lay on my horn with gusto when I saw a man. It must have been like when the Jews saw Jesus walking on the water, except this man was in the middle of an intersection, and he certainly wasn’t Jesus. Oh, and he was dancing.

Earbuds in, swaying to the beat that only he could hear, he wore a leather jacket in 60 degree heat, oblivious to the elements. Oblivious also to the hard stares from the motorists who waited with hands raised above horns, with epithets painting the corners of our lips. We had places to go and things to do, and this man… well, he was standing there dancing.

I love to dance, to sway my hips to a particular beat, usually in the comfort of my own home, but this wasn’t the comfort of his own home. This was the streets of Utica, NY. This was rush hour traffic. Honestly, I’m surprised no one ran him over. If my kids weren’t in the car with me maybe I would have given him a nudge. Okay, I wouldn’t have. And he was an interpretive dancer too, the kind I usually like, but there’s a time and place for everything.

It wasn’t like this was some one man flash mob or something. It wasn’t like this was 2005 or something. A dancing man in the middle of the street against a green light for traffic… it’s just not done. At least not socially anyway. So we sat there waiting for him to shimmy along to what I could only surmise was a Gwen Stefani song, to reach the island in the middle of the street so we could safely pass and flip him off in the process. 

Except no one flipped him off, this dancing man. Maybe because we saw in him a little of our own self-restricted selves, begging to slip free.

And dance. 

Sam

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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I want to preface this by saying: I love my children. I do. They’re wonderful little pieces of themselves most of the time, and the other times… well, I’ll just say that they’re still little pieces of themselves. They’re just sometimes very difficult to deal with when the dialogue changes, when they don’t get their way, or when something messes with their own opinion of how the world should work. Yes. They’re children. If I haven’t mentioned that already.

It would be so easy to just go with the flow, to allow them screen time whenever they want, to say “Yes!” to every single request they make, but that’s not giving them the best of me and my own experience. Because, see, I’ve been there. Sure, we had a lot less technology when I was their age. (Super Mario anyone?) But the more things change, the more they stay the same. Right?

My children tend to sound like broken records more often than not (“What’s a record, dad?). Here are the most repeated phrases they use these days…

“You’re mean.”

This often follows the word “No.” Can we have tacos tonight? No. You’re mean. Can we watch a show with dinner? No. You’re mean. Can we get out of going to Girl Scouts? No. You’re mean. Occasionally it will also pop up after we’ve taken something away and put it in time out. You’re mean. (more…)

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“Common knowledge proclaims the death of dreams, but we are still sleeping, waiting to awaken.” ~Theodicus

not-giant-enough-letter-xI have never been a fan of sharing my feelings with others, which is funny if you consider how long I’ve been blogging and doing precisely that. But this medium lends itself nicely to letting it out without fear, because I can relieve my stress and express myself using my favorite mode — writing.

I am Patient X. I am on the cusp of relevance and irrelevance at the same time. I am from the generation that is both full of itself and apart from itself at once, still struggling to define itself in the Era of the New, where more recent means better. I fight to maintain shouting distance with these new technologies, to keep up to date and utilize the next best thing.

But I will forever be behind because advancements stop for no one. My computer was obsolete before I even extricated it from the plastic. The phone I have in my pocket is two generations behind and I still don’t understand all of its features and functions. I know of drones, and Amazon Fire Stick, and cars that park themselves, but I couldn’t possibly tell you how to manipulate any of them. Which is okay, because even though I’m deep into this age of technology, I can still appreciate rudimentary constructs.

I am Patient X. There will never be another like me, like my generation, straddling the line between what has come before, what is here now, and what dreams may come true in the (very near) future. If I spent enough time delving into all this technology until I was overflowing with knowledge I still wouldn’t be caught up, so I just learn what I need to in order to get by, and I hope things don’t change too much more from now until I will stop needing all of it. If I will ever stop needing all of it.

It’s interesting to watch my children (aged 11 and 8) mastering what seems so complex to me, and laughing at my forays into figuring it all out. I take out a flash drive, something that used to be so en vogue not too long ago, and they look at me as if I’ve grown three heads. It’s all digital, they tell me. Transferring files is as easy as snapping your fingers anymore, and I just scratch my head. There are more than a few ways to do any one thing these days, and learning just one of those ways takes me a while. Mastering it takes me even longer, if it can be done at all.

I am Patient X. I will probably always love blogging, even after it too has become outmoded, replaced by whatever replaces Twitter, sent out to pasture to chew its own cud. I will probably always appreciate the smell of a book more than the words on a screen. I will probably always question if digital music is real or just a figment of our collective imagination. I will probably always want to figure things out for myself rather than simply Googling it.

The future is in convenience, tied to whatever can make things easier for us as a civilization, and in some ways that’s already true now. Taking time to do things carefully, in painstaking details, is a dinosaur, lost to the ravages of time. I already miss it, even though its ghost is still around.

Haunting me.

Sam

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Dear Journal,

We are so close I can feel it in the marrow of my bones. I can taste it on the wind today, as the weather was so beautiful out I could imagine running across the field, Chariots of Fire style, with a bitchin’ soundtrack playing in the background. Sub woofer speakers and everything. We are so close I can stand inside the house and feel it humming around me, waiting to assimilate me as its own.

But we are not in yet. And therein lies the rub.

You see, it’s a game of cat and mouse. Or Paula Abdul and MC Scat Cat. “Two steps forward. Two steps back.” The kitchen cabinets are in, and the tile is down in the mudroom, waiting in its forms for a settling. I walk through the rooms and I can see where everything will go, where our lives will be lived, but it’s as the echo of a shadow of a thought, blurring all my lines.

The possibilities I can’t help imagining are plentiful, as I fall asleep night after night and dream, as I sleep to dream a future. The house sits there across the field, beckoning to me even now, calling out to me over both distance and time, and I’m dying to respond. I want to scream out into that dissonance of distance and time, to fold it up all nice and tidy, to make it disappear with the sheer volume of my cry.

But that’s not realistic. So I’ll just keep dreaming until those dreams come from our bed, in our house, instead of here, until those whispers speak to me like they never have before. Until they embrace me like a brother.

And I will answer.

Sam

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“So what’s your new book about?” my mom asked while we FaceTimed tonight.

“It’s a mystery,” I responded, that double edged sword cutting both ways at the same time, because as always it’s hard to break something down that isn’t quite done yet, that still has some plot left to ravel up.

“You know I love mysteries,” said my mom. “I’m still working my way through your last book. It’s Greg and Jason, right?”

“If you’re talking about characters, I honestly have no idea,” I replied, shaking my head. “Once they’re out there in the world they belong to everyone. They’re not my little secrets anymore, not only mine anymore.”

“I know what you mean,” she said, but I’m not sure she does. I’m not sure she can.

Being a writer is a solitary endeavor, but it’s not really solitary when I think about it. It’s about creating characters that live and breathe on the page, that I can connect with, that I can both love and despise. They become my friends, my confidants, my family, and my enemies. I live and die with their mixed emotions, always on the verge of  breaking down when they do.

And that’s something I can’t adequately put into words. It’s an ironic side effect of being a writer, of publishing something that is now out there in the world living and growing on its own. In its own way it is like giving birth, and I’m proud of every one of my children living out there in words. I love them all, but I’m not done just because they’re out of the nest.

Which is why I told my mom it is a mystery, because books write themselves, because while I know my characters I am not my characters. I let them live their lives, and these new characters in this new book are doing just that. They’re making their own mistakes, solving their own problems, and doing things I wasn’t sure they could do when I started this process. I know where they’ll end up by this book’s conclusion, but how the journey gets them there, and what state of mind they’ll be in is anyone’s guess. Even mine.

The hardest part of the process for me is having the patience as a writer to let my characters get there in their own way, and not trying to force the issue. It’s easy to say I’ll do it, that I’ll be patient, but once the writing begins to flow it’s difficult to be that guide on the side, yet so satisfying when it finally comes as it does.

And yes, it was Greg and Jason, but I had to look at the book flap to remember. Which is okay, because soon it will be Jennifer and David, and everyone who inhabits the world of this book. Then on to the next.

Sam

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