Amusement rides and chainmail socks: What I learned at the state fair, Vol. VI

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Ah, yes…fair season is upon us!

Last weekend, I spent four days at the Hopkinton State Fair – the largest fair in New Hampshire –  wandering the grounds reminding people when the cattle pulls start, what stage the hypnotist was on, and where the bathrooms were.

I’m the announcer for the fair, so when you hear a voice on the PA system echoing through the trees, that’s me. It’s a very unique sort of job, and one that’s a heck of a lot of fun, but it does require a lot work; 55 hours in 4 days can wear one down, and I put in less hours than many of the other employees!

But I’m there every year, and every year I learn something new. Which is why I’ve been putting this annual post together for 7 years now…to shed some light on my lessons learned and observations made.  In the past, I’ve become educated on the problems with skimpy clothing, I’ve discovered the most despised candies in the universe, and, like you, have enjoyed more than my fair share of Australian Battered Savs.

What golden nuggets of wisdom did I discern this year? Read on, faithful reader:

  1. When you smell cotton candy at 8:30 in the morning, you know it’s going to be a great day. #Truth
  2. Some people just do not know how to park. Invariably, every year we get fair goers who don’t want to follow the parking pattern or the fair employees who are showing people where to park. These folks inevitably have to move their vehicles one they’re in the gate and as far away from their vehicle as possible. Once such fellow parked his big SUV in a spot that wasn’t a parking space, and ended up blocking the fire department entrance. I spent at least 2 hours paging him over the PA system to move it, and when he finally did, he parked it right beside an agricultural trailer…which he ended up blocking.
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  3. Justin and Ryan from Recycled Percussion should not quit their day jobs.
    30 seconds after it started…it was all over for these two. (click to enlarge)

    The band, which formed in a small town 30 minutes from here and is now a top-selling Las Vegas act, played at our fair for the very first time on Labor Day. They’re good guys, and had cancelled many of their shows in order to spend time in Texas helping with relief efforts, but they made the trek up here to put on this one show, and it was terrific. The night before the show, however, Justin and Ryan were given the opportunity to drive in the annual demolition derby…and were both knocked out within 30 seconds!
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  4. Timbersports will probably never show up in the Olympics. Everyone was excited that the Axe Women Loggers of Maine were returning for another year. Individuals in the group hold multiple National & International Lumber Jill and Timbersports titles and their shows include demonstrations of axe throwing, cross-cut sawing, standing block chopping, and log rolling…none of which will probably ever end up as an Olympic event. Their spokesperson explained that, in the Olympics, equipment is standardized so that every athlete has a fair opportunity to showcase his/her abilities. In timbersports, one doesn’t have that luxury; if one person’s log happens to have an internal knot, it could not only dull the blade – or even break it – it completely shuts down that athlete. So “luck,” like it or not, can play a huge role in a competitor’s performance, which is a no-go when it comes to the Olympics.
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    The throw…


    …nailed it!

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  5. Speaking of the Axe Women…they wear chainmail socks. You know chainmail – those tiny links of metal King Arthur’s knights wore to protect themselves under their suits of armor? Well, professional timbersports athletes wear chainmail socks to protect their feet during competitive chopping events, like the one pictured. These ax blades are made of a special metal that is so sharp, one really can shave one’s arms with it – so if it happens to slip and smash into your boot, you’ll still be able to walk away with your toes intact. You might be screaming in agony, but your toes will thank you.  

    (click to enlarge any photo)
  6. Under-the-counter cheese beats over-the-counter cheese. I didn’t know “under-the-counter” cheese was even a thing, and I’ve been going to fairs my entire life! Sold by a family-run establishment known as the Yankee Cheeseman, this particular cheese is an extra-sharp cheddar that’s even sharper than their sharpest, XXXXX sharp cheddar. Aged TEN YEARS, this cheddar is so sharp, when you bite into it, it bites you back. SO. GOOD. The reason it’s called “under-the-counter cheese” is because it’s so sharp, and the texture is often a bit uneven, that many folks who are unfamiliar with it think there’s something wrong with it – so the vendors don’t even put it out on display or offer free samples. You can only buy it if you ask for it…and at $17/pound, it’s worth every penny.
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  7. I love playing the national anthem from the grandstand tower.
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    It’s a tradition here the fair that we play the Star-Spangled Banner everyday at noon. It was only until this year that I realized that when I stand to pay respect, remove my hat, and put my hand over my heart…I’m also saluting fries. And that just makes me happy.
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  8. False advertising can show up anywhere.
    I spent a good 3 hours inside this place and couldn’t give away my beads to anyone.
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    Ripoff.
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    By the way, I also learned that a merry-go-round may feature various types of animals in addition to horses. but a carousel can only have horses. Bet you didn’t know that, didja??
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So those are this year’s words of wisdom! I’m already looking forward to 2018 – and also looking forward to enjoying at least one or two fairs with the family. But I’ll make sure I park where I’m supposed to.

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By the way, thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who showed up for Flashlight Night‘s national book launch at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA last Thursday and the local release party at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH this past Sunday!

In Cambridge with Carol Gordon Ekster, who also released her new book, “You Know What?”
In Warner, NH! Good crowds both days.

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Flashlight Night (Boyd’s Mills Press) hits bookshelves Sept. 19, 2017! 

“The verse is incantatory…a simple idea that’s engagingly executed” – School Library Journal

“Delicious language…ingenious metamorphoses” – Kirkus Reviews

“[Esenwine and Koehler] don’t just lobby for children to read—they show how readers play” – Publisher’s Weekly

“Readers will be inspired to…create their own journey” – Alyson Beecher, Kidlit Frenzy

“Imaginative…fantastical” – Booklist

“An old fashioned, rip-roaring imaginary adventure” – The Horn Book

“Beautiful words and amazing illustrations” – Michelle Knott, Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook/Goodreads

Pre-orders are available now through Barnes & NobleAmazon, or Books-a-Million, or by clicking the image of the cover to the right. Of course, if you prefer, you can always wait til Sept. 19 and purchase it at your favorite local independent bookstore.

Thank you for your support!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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Poetry Friday: “Wall in the Woods”

This post was originally published back in November of 2013…wow, hard to believe it’s been nearly 4 years! Why am I sharing it again? Well, I was looking through some of my past posts and for some reason, this one spoke to me, asking to be given new life. So I was happy to oblige! By the way, Jone MacCulloch has the complete Poetry Friday roundup at her blog, so please be sure to Check It Out!

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“Poetry in Windows”

I just like the way that sounds.  “Poetry in Windows.”  It conjures up all sorts of images, from actual poems in actual windows, to more abstract definitions of “poetry” and perhaps some transcendental interpretations of ‘windows.’

In this case, however, we’re talking about the former.  Specifically, The New Hampshire Writers Project’s annual Poetry in Windows event.

First, a little background:  The New Hampshire Writers’ Project (NHWP) will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year.  The 650 member-strong organization hosts several writing workshops throughout the year, two literary festivals, and Writers’ Day, a day of workshops, literary flash competitions, and book sales involving 250 writers from across New England. Their keynoter on April 6, 2013 will be author Andre Dubus III.  Last year, NHWP hosted 13 state poets laureate for a festival.  In addition to a formal program, they had readings across the state with New Hampshire poets.
NHWP offers workshops, publishing advice, a quarterly New Hampshire Writer magazine, and several free events across the state, like Writers’ Night Out, a free social held the first Monday of the month.  (Membership is open to writers of all genres as well as readers and patrons who want to support the local writing community…so please click HERE and find out more!)
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Now then, getting back to “Poetry in Windows”…
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This is one of the many events NHWP hosts each year.  Writers and non-writers alike were asked to submit poems that somehow reflected the Granite State, and the best were selected to be displayed in the windows of downtown merchants of several NH communities, including the state capital, Concord.
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I was honoured to have one of my poems chosen!
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I didn’t write this poem with NH necessarily in mind; however, I did write it based on my life here, growing up in a rural town (my folks’ house is still on a dirt road!), being close to nature, and raising my kids in the country as well.  Hmmm…sounds like I wrote it with NH in mind, after all!  I based it on something I used to tell my daughters when we’d see stone walls meandering across our property or even through the woods:  that we’ll never really know why they were put there.
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Other poets selected for the downtown Concord event included my good friend Sylvia Beaupre, Brandon Amico, Dianalee Velie, Midge Goldberg, Nancy Stewart, Barbara Hobbie, Linda Dyer, Marjorie Matthews, Jacqueline Garnett, Janet Barry, Becky Sakellariou, and Jennifer Militello.
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So if you happen to be in Concord, stop by Centrix Bank at 11 South Main St. and you’ll see this on display, along with all these other fine folks’ works throughout downtown.  I hope you enjoy it!
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Wall in the Woods

There’s a wall in the woods, hidden under the trees,
Made of mossy old stones piled high;
Where the soft fiddleheads grow and slowly unfurl,
And a thin little brook bubbles by.

There’s a wall in the woods neither level nor straight,
Sinking into the dirt and the clay.
It is strong but unsteady; deep cracks show its age,
For its builders have long passed away.

There’s a wall in the woods.  Years ago, in its youth,
This was farmland, a pasture, a field –
Now, meandering through the damp ruins of time
With its history gently concealed.

There’s a wall in the woods – yet there’s no way to tell
If it suffered through flood, fire or drought,
And we never will know what was being kept in…
Or, perhaps…what was being kept out.
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– © 2012 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

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“Delicious language…ingenious metamorphoses” – Kirkus Reviews

“Imaginative…fantastical” – ALA Booklist

“Balladic verse” – Publisher’s Weekly

“Beautiful words and amazing illustrations” – Michelle Knott, Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook/Goodreads

Flashlight Night (Boyd’s Mills Press) hits bookshelves Sept. 19, 2017! Pre-orders are available now through Barnes & NobleAmazon, or Books-a-Million, or by clicking the image of the cover to the right. Of course, if you prefer, you can always wait til Sept. 19 and purchase it at your favorite local independent bookstore.

Thank you for your support – and stay tuned for details about the big September Blog Tour and book signings that are coming up!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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Thanksgiving Day: The one blessing we overlook

This post was originally published on Nov. 20, 2013, but between food prep, writing, voiceover work, and chasing after a 3-year-old, my time is extremely limited this week! So I thought it might be appropriate to dust this off and re-post it for any of my followers who hadn’t caught it the first time around. I hope you enjoy your week, whether or not you’re celebrating Thanksgiving here in the U.S., and be grateful…that you have the capacity to be thankful!

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Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. will be here in two days, and everywhere you turn, people are talking, writing, and blogging about all the things they’re thankful for.  I, for one, am growing weary of it.

Now, please don’t get me wrong; it’s good to be grateful.  Indeed, we should be thankful – and display that thankfulness – every day of our lives.  We should reflect upon our blessings on a regular basis and never hesitate to show our appreciation for what we have.

My problem is not so much with the thankfulness; it’s that we’re missing an important reason to be thankful.

The Usual Suspects

Again, please don’t misunderstand me; I’m glad people are thankful for their blessings.  But there are certain blessings that show up on nearly everyone’s lists – our faith(s), our families and friends, our lives, our pets, our homes, our talents.

Some people may be thankful their loved ones made it home safely from being abroad; others may be grateful that they received a year-end bonus, or even have a job at all.

Even the poor and destitute among us may be thankful for things like the warmth of the sun or the kindness of a stranger.

I can say honestly that I am truly, truly, TRULY thankful for all these things…but you probably could have guessed that, even if you had never met me or had never even heard of me or this blog.

These are the blessings that most of humanity celebrates – and the acknowledgement that we should be grateful for these things is rooted in the love, compassion, and empathy that separates our species from the rest of the animal kingdom.

We recognize the importance of both gratitude and thankfulness.

A quick vocabulary lesson

Gratitude and thankfulness are not necessarily interchangeable.

I’m no lexicographer or linguist, but it has always been my understanding that these words had different meanings.  To be thankful means you’re appreciative that something that you wanted came about; to be grateful indicates you are appreciative towards someone or something.

(Any English professors in the house?  Please correct me if I’m wrong!)

The reason it’s important to know the difference is because gratitude is directional; thankfulness is not.  Feed a hungry animal and it may be thankful it received food, but it might not be grateful toward you for feeding it.  I know pet owners will disagree with that – having two dogs and two cats of my own, I’ll admit that some animals probably are grateful to the person taking care of them – but how many of these animals understand what it means to be grateful or thankful?

And therein lies the rationale for my previous statement that our recognition of the importance of both gratitude and thankfulness is one of the important qualities that elevates us above the rest of the animal kingdom.

Little blessings, and the BIG one

As I ponder this, I come to the conclusion that the human condition of feeling gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation is itself a blessing.

Yes, I’m thankful for all those things we talked about earlier.  I’m thankful for my family, our friends, and our pets.  I’m thankful I live in a country that promotes freedom of speech, religion, and personal excellence.  I’m grateful to God and Jesus for their love and sacrifices; I’m grateful to my wife and family for supporting me as a self-employed stay-at-home dad; I’m grateful to Al Gore for creating the internet.

(I’m also thankful – or grateful – to whomever or whatever was responsible for getting my 2-year-old to finally stop waking up at 5am…daylight savings time really screwed up the poor little dude’s internal clock for a couple of weeks!)

But I don’t want to overlook this very important aspect of our humanity; that is, the recognition of the importance of gratitude and thankfulness.

Thankful…for being thankful?

Yes, that is basically what I’m saying.  Chuckle if you’d like.  However, when you actually think about what it means to be thankful for having the comprehension of what gratitude, appreciation, or even indebtedness mean…I hope you will understand why I believe it is so important.

We humans are not simply grateful, or thankful.  We comprehend – and celebrate – the importance of being grateful or thankful.

So this Thanksgiving Day, while we’re giving thanks for all we have, think about why you are thankful.

Think about why you are grateful.

And give thanks that you are.

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
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In a season of expectations, find peace in reality

My expectations have been too high.

For what?

A lot of things, actually…but I’m trying to change that.

This time of year is filled with expectations: the arrival of Jesus, the arrival of winter, the hope of a new year, and myriad other things.

In fact, our church has been using the concept of “Great Expectations” as a theme for Advent this year. Because of that, I’ve been making an effort to adjust my own expectations…in many ways.

from Charles Dicken's "Great Expectations"

The problem with expectations

It’s fine to look forward to certain things and get excited about what’s in store for the future – whether it’s preparing for parties, unwrapping gifts, or simply getting to work on time. But the problem is, very often, our expectations are far different from reality.

Religiously speaking, as our pastor explained, the Israelites of Jesus’ day were expecting a king in the manner of King David: a warrior, fighter, take-charge kind of guy who would march right in and restore their kingdom. So when they began thinking Jesus may be the one, they got their hopes up based on their expectations of what their king would be like.

However, when Jesus instead preached peace and love, refused to take any role in the government, and allowed Himself to be persecuted and tortured, they were so aghast they rose up against Him. He did not live up to their expectations.

Likewise, in our personal and secular lives, our expectations often get in the way of us enjoying life when reality sets in. A few examples…

Long lines at the mall…who’d have known??

People always complain about waiting in lines at stores this time of year. Everyone is shopping and everyone is in a hurry – so when everyone gets in line to check out, everyone gets annoyed.

Not me. In this particular case, I understand expectation vs. reality.

I assume that I’m going to be in line for at least half an hour. No, I probably won’t be in line for that long, but that’s what I tell myself to expect. Then, when I end up only being in line for 20 minutes, I feel like I’m 10 minutes ahead of the game!

And you know what? My day is not ruined and I leave the store with a smile.

Assuming, of course, my 2-year-old daughter isn’t screaming.

Speaking of high expectations…

Expecting my daughter to not scream about something is unrealistic. Remember what I said at the beginning of this post about my expectations being too high lately? This is what I was talking about.

You see, she stopped taking regular naps a few weeks ago, which is killing me – I have no more time to work, other than the evening. This means I cannot market my voiceover business, write children’s books and poetry, or even update a blog until after the kids are in bed.

That doesn’t leave a whole lot of time; 2-3 hours is about all I have, if I want to spend any quality time with my wife. Consequently, my paychecks have plummeted while my anxiety has skyrocketed. And my expectations have been so far off from reality it’s driving my nuts!

I keep hoping my daughter will take a nap, but of course she doesn’t. I keep expecting her to not draw on the floor with Sharpies while I’m cleaning the cat pan, but she does. I keep expecting her to not play in the cat pan while I’m wiping off Sharpie from the floor, but she does that, too.

I keep anticipating that today is the day she won’t fight and flail and scream because I want her to wear long pants instead of a summer skirt.

But it never is.

Today was different!

No, she didn’t change. What changed were my expectations.

I woke up this morning assuming I’d get absolutely nothing done.

Call me defeatest, but I was simply trying to be realistic! Anyone with kids knows how hard it is to clean a house with a 2-year-old around: as soon as you fold the clothes, the kid is climbing into the kitchen sink; as soon as you pull her out of the sink and wipe the counter, she’s throwing the folded laundry on the floor.

And somewhere in the midst of it all, she’s finding another Sharpie that we thought we had hid and is drawing on a wall.

Or her face.

Speaking of Christmas and my daughter…hard to believe she was just 4 months old on her first Christmas!

So today, I tried something different. I planned to accomplish nothing – and it worked! I didn’t expect to get the dishes put away and reload the dishwasher, but I did. I didn’t expect to be able to get some yard work done, but I did! I didn’t expect to be able to get any voice work done, but —

Oh, wait. I still wasn’t able to do that.

Dang.

But by setting my expectations lower, I found I didn’t get upset or frustrated like I have been, and my daughter and I are both the better for that.

Revising expectations: not always lower…just different

I’m not saying you should always lower your expectations. I’m just suggesting that altering them to be more realistic is probably not a bad idea.

Should you expect a holiday bonus this year? Should you expect one as big or as little as last year? Should you expect to get a great parking spot at the mall two days before Christmas? Should you expect every driver on the road to always use their turn signals and never cut people off?

Should I expect to sell two more picture books next year??

Well…probably not. It’s not going to keep me from trying, certainly; setting a goal of selling two picture book manuscripts is absolutely worthwhile. But I’m not expecting that to happen. I sold one this past year, so the expectation of selling two the following year may be a bit too ambitious.

Oh, and by the way…now that I no longer expect to be able to decorate for the holidays due to the massive construction work at our house, I’m much more at ease. I am, however, still coming to terms with my office/studio being crammed full and covered in plastic:

house 1 house 2 house 3

YOUR “Great Expectations”

Is there some area in your life where you find that reality is not in line with your expectations? Do you know of any ways that you or other readers can alter our expectations about things, so we feel less disappointment and be more at peace with our lives and the world?

Myself, I’m still a relatively new player to the publishing game and have two poems coming out in two separate anthologies in 2016, so I’ll be happy if I sell at least a couple more poems.

I also expect to gain at least one new voiceover client within the first half of the year – far less than I should, but considering my parenting situation, I really cannot expect much more!

I also expect that the new Star Wars movie is going to rock our planet with awesomeness far beyond all expectations!

That’s not too much to expect, is it?

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

The playground of LIFE: We’re doing it wrong

I’ve been spending a lot of time at the playground lately. Actually, I’ve been spending a lot of time at a LOT of playgrounds lately.

If my 5-year-old son is a ball of energy, then his 2-year-old sister is a quasar. Kids their age know no bounds when it comes to the amount of fun and exercise they can cram into one day.

So as a stay-at-home dad, I try to do as much as I can with them, going to parks and playgrounds at least twice a week, and sometimes more. Not only is it obviously good for them -but the long, sustained nap that follows (for my daughter, at least) means I’ll be able to get a solid 2-3 hours of work done in the afternoon!

Ever the observer, though, I have discovered that playgrounds, for all their enticing equipment and happy colours, are fooling our children. They may be fun to swing and slide and play and run, but they are not doing our children any favours when it comes to learning about the reality of life that awaits them when they get older. Consider the following…

  1. Slides. Go up the steps and coast all the way down. Sure, it’s fun – but isn’t climbing up a slippery incline while others are speeding downward, ready to take you out, a better analogy for adulthood?
    slide 2
  2. Swings. You go forward and back, forward and back, each time rising a little bit higher and higher! Yet no matter how hard you pump, no matter how high you get…inertia and gravity keep trying to slow you down.
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  3. Jungle Gym. Climb and hang and crawl through spaces while maneuvering through obstacles, perilous heights, and other climbers as you attempt to make it from point A to point B. Anyone who’s worked in Corporate America can see this analogy a mile away.
  4. Photo courtesy of Bluegrass Playgrounds, Inc.

    Merry-Go-Round. My two older daughters used to love this at one of the parks we frequented; grab hold of the bars, run fast to get the merry-go-round spinning, and then jump on and enjoy the ride! Which is all well and good until you try to get off – sorry, son, you’re stuck on this ride until it lets you get off.
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  5. See-Saw (Teeter-Totter). Another perfect adult-life analogy: The person you’re playing with goes up, up, up – the lower you go! Which means the only way you can go up…is when the other person is all the way down.

See what I mean? What are our playgrounds teaching our children???

Then again…I suppose it’s all in the way one looks at it. Slides teach our kids that if they are willing to climb all the way to the top, that there will be an enjoyable – if fleeting – reward for them.

Swings show them that the harder they work, the faster and higher they’ll go (even if they never really make it into orbit, as many probably wish). Jungle gyms teach them how to navigate life’s journey, merry-go-rounds encourage them to take those intimidating leaps off the spinning wheel and try something else – or even get the wheel to go faster.

And see-saws are all about teamwork. I’ll help you go up, then you’ll help me go up, and by working together we can accomplish our goal.  Even if that goal is to simply kill time goofing off for an afternoon.

So I guess it IS all a matter of mindset and attitude, isn’t it? Yes, I do see now that playgrounds are actively teaching our youngsters all sorts of wonderful life lessons! Perspective is, indeed, important.

Childlike perspective, at that.

And one of these days, I swear I’m going to launch myself into orbit.

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Poetry Friday: “Fata Cumulonimbus”

 

(click to enlarge)

Robyn Hood Black has today’s Poetry Friday roundup, so be sure to head on over and see what the poets are doing for today and specifically for 9/11!

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poetryfridaybutton-fulllDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Searching for thanks to give

MH900422849 (Cornucopia)This has turned out to be the most difficult blog post I’ve ever written.

It’s about giving thanks.

Now, granted, that kind of subject shouldn’t be too hard to write about…but you haven’t had the month my wife and I have had.

One Sunday morning about four weeks ago, we started get brownouts and power surges whenever we ran electricity here at the house. I couldn’t turn on the microwave, flip a light switch, or even let the water pump come on without losing power and hearing sizzling downstairs. (My lovely wife described the sound as “Frankenstein’s lab” – and that was, unfortunately, a perfectly accurate description)

Being a Sunday, it was a herculean task contacting an electrician. Most were unavailable (including two who supposedly ‘specialized’ in 24-hour emergency service and have still yet to return my call) and the two or three I was able to reach were busy and wouldn’t be able to get here for a few days. Finally, by late Monday morning, we had an electrician here working on the problem…and what he discovered was not only surprising, it was confusing.

Water had gotten inside the main electrical panel and corroded most of the breakers. What was bizarre was the fact that the water had seeped in via the cable running from the meter box into the panel. It hadn’t seeped into the house, mind you, it inexplicably had gotten inside the cable itself.

But that was only the beginning of the problems.

Not only did we discover that we were living in a 100-amp house – it was built in 1905 – but we learned that to upgrade to a 200-amp breaker box (which we would need to do, since the entire thing has to be replaced, anyway) would run about $1400.

And then something worse happened.

boiler
That’s a 4″X8″ hole blown out of the side of the cast-iron. The entire house smelled of steam and antifreeze.

A mere ten minutes after we got our electricity back up & running…the water boiler blew. And by “blew,” I don’t mean it died and stopped working. I mean it blew apart.

So after going 2 days with no electricity or water, we got to spend a couple more days with no water – and no heat, since we use forced hot water via the boiler. Thank goodness for wood stoves. I had plenty of wood available, as we go through about 5 or 6 cords of wood each season…but unfortunately, although the house was warm, I didn’t get to shower until the following weekend.

In case you’re wondering, ice-cold sponge baths suck.

Of course, our home insurance won’t cover any of this – the adjustor told us the boiler isn’t covered for one reason and the electrical panel isn’t covered for the opposite reason. I’m guessing they have NO reasons to cover anything, which is why the insurance company is in better financial shape than we are.

Oh, and our plumber spent nearly an hour over the course of two days explaining to the adjustor how boilers even work. So to recap: a guy who doesn’t know how something works was the guy responsible for deciding how and why it stopped working.

A few days after all of this began, I received a call from my mother to let me know my father had been taken to the emergency room with a severe systemic infection. He spent a week in recovery and has been at a rehab facility for the past week and a half. Mom doesn’t drive, so it’s been up to me to drive 35 minutes to pick her up, drive another 40 minutes to visit dad, then bring her back home and bring myself back home on a near-daily basis.

I’m fitting all this in while trying to be a stay-at-home dad to my 4-year-old and 1-year-old, and doing my voiceover work.

Guess what I haven’t been doing?

Other than voicing some scripts for a couple of my regular clients, I have had no time to actually try to make money; no auditions, no emails, no phone calls. It is ironic that at the point where we need as much money as we can get ($1400 for the electrical panel, $7000 for the boiler system, and who knows how much for the leaking roof – oh, I forgot to tell you about that?), I’m making less than I ever have.

And…the first snowstorm of the season is on its way and will prevent me from bringing my folks to our house for Thanksgiving. The last thing I want is for dad to spend his day alone at a rehab center, but that’s exactly where he’s going to be.

And…the toe I smashed last year when I dropped a 6-foot log on it is still causing me problems and I will probably have to have minor surgery on it this Monday.

And…my wife just broke a tooth which now needs a crown.

And…I’m having cataract surgery on my right eye in 3 weeks.

The reason I’m explaining all of this is not to sound like I’m throwing a pity party or anything, but simply to give you an inkling as to why I haven’t been around on social media much lately and why I’ve been having a hard time being thankful this year.

The view from Hackleboro Orchard in Canterbury, where we often go apple-picking. One more thing to be thankful for.

I would love to be the person who remains chipper and positive throughout all adversity, shouting out profundities like, “God doesn’t give you more than what you can handle!” while smiling cheerfully as my house collapses – but honestly, I’m not that person. I am, however, a person who is capable of taking stock in his blessings when given the opportunity to just take a deep breath and survey his situation.

After a few moments of consideration, I can come up with quite a few things I am genuinely thankful and grateful for:

  1. My kids are safe.
  2. Dad is safe; if he had been even slightly worse when they brought him in, we very likely would have lost him.
  3. The boiler could have blown in mid-February (thank God for small favours).
  4. My wife was able to get a loan from the bank to cover the repairs; we have no idea how we’ll pay the loan off, but for now, we’re ok.
  5. There will be food on the Thanksgiving table.
  6. The roof might be leaking…but at least we have one.
  7. My wife will get a nearly-unheard-of 5 days off in a row, from Thursday through Monday. I can’t wait to spend time with her.
  8. My wife’s father, who underwent scheduled knee-replacement surgery 2 weeks ago, is doing well.
  9. I’ll have at least 7 children’s poems published in 2015. For a guy who didn’t have any children’s poems published this year (or ANY year), I’d say that’s a good start.
  10. Bacon exists.

I realize I have many things to be thankful for, and I kick myself for letting them take a back seat to my troubles. Of course, I have many more blessings than just the ones I’ve enumerated here…but being able to spend time considering them is not only cathartic, it’s absolutely essential.

For me, and for everyone.

Find the time. Make your list. And have a Happy Thanksgiving.

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