still around

For those who might be interested, yes, I’m still around…still reading and writing and living. The cumulative effect of life quickly becomes overwhelming sometimes, so I back off of social media and websites and such, concentrating on making it through the days sane.

But as a brief update…

It’s been a wonderful reading year thus far. I set myself a goal of 60 books to read in 2018, and as of this morning I have made it through 18 books, or 30% of my goal. I haven’t reviewed many books so far, but that falls in line with staying largely offline lately (excluding work). Some of my favorite reads so far this year (a sampling): Freshwater, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, The Underground Railroad, Little Fires Everywhere, and All the Light We Cannot See.

Find me on Goodreads!

Writing, for the first few months of the year, took a backseat to everything else. This past weekend, however, I finally began what I’ll characterize as the first full edit of my first draft of my first completed novel. I know there’ll be more to write as I reach the end of the editing phase, but at nearly 100,000 words, I needed a full refresh of the novel before writing the ending pieces anyway. So far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised…I am hoping to work regularly enough to have something ready for submission by Summer 2018.

I’ll try to hit only a few high points here…my wife and I bought a house a few weeks ago and are getting geared up for some work on it; we celebrate our wedding anniversary in about 2 weeks; and then our birthdays in May (30 and 40!); the kids are all good and everything else is going smoothly. Work is work. Evenings find us exhausted and not much use for anything after the kids get in bed. AND there’s so much road work that our morning commute has stretched from about 20 minutes to over an hour…

So that’s a brief update, touching base, if you will. And hopefully there’ll be something more coming soon…hopefully.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2017

Camp NaNoWriMoI considered it.
I wavered between acceptance and denial.
I ignored it.
Finally, yesterday, I did it. I decided to take the plunge. I committed. I will be participating in Camp NaNoWriMo 2017 for the entire month of July.

I have only 9 days to prepare myself for the whirlwind that is NaNoWriMo.

What Is It?

In brief, Camp NaNoWriMo bills itself as “an idyllic writers retreat, smack-dab in the middle of your crazy life.” I have participated in NaNoWriMo 3 times in the past, the original event that takes place during November, completing the challenge only one time (2012). The challenge: 50,000 words written over the course of the month! The challenge is the same for Camp NaNoWriMo, though with a bit more flexibility.

You track your progress on the website, receive emails and notes of encouragement, and can even join online groups (cabins) to assist in the month-long feat. The direction is fairly simple – write. Write daily, rapidly, and with little revision. Get the words out; revision comes later.

More about Camp here:

My 2017 Project

Title: Life Unlived
Type: Revision/editing [since Camp NaNoWriMo is more flexible, I will not be drafting an entirely new work this coming month, rather I’ll be editing and revising a novel I already have near completion]
Genre: Literary fiction

A work of literary fiction in the shape of a memoir, Life Unlived puts us inside the head of a newly middle-aged man as he reflects on his life up to the present. A look at narcissism, memory, and relationships, the emotionally detached and perhaps not always truthful nor balanced narrator leads us through the memories of his life, especially taking time to focus on moments that he feels are most formative. He’s not always correct – the reader often finds as much to discover in those things the narrator misses as in those things he says. He sincerely attempts to be reflective, and sometimes, though rarely, succeeds. Self-centered to the point of remembering no one else’s name, and tunnel-visioned enough to quite literally only be able to see own his point of view, our narrator is endearing and infuriating, exciting and devastating, constantly making the reader question: who is this man?

I was raised in a small town in Mississippi. Most all small towns have a similar character, and as we know from the fairy tales of our youth, most all towns (large or small) have an evil side. Now that I’m well into my adult life and have shared many stories with many people, I often find myself shocked by the evil we human beings are capable of. And not only the evil, but the complacency of the surrounding society – knowing full well what goes on behind closed doors, most of us choose to ignore it anyway.

Getting Started

I was born on the 22nd day of May in the year 1978 AD in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts. I don’t remember anything else about this day, so postulating would negate the purpose of a reflective memoir. Moving along…

I am the first of two children. There certainly would have been more, but my mother’s uterus was torn from her side and had to be removed after giving birth to two rather large boys. So there we were, two. Disappointment begins so early in life — no girls, and two in no way compare to 6 or 10 (the number of siblings in my parents’ households). But nothing could be done, so by the time I was 3 our little family structure was in place.

I find it remarkable how many clear memories I have from the earliest days of my childhood.

I didn’t want a baby brother. From the time I knew my mother was pregnant, I wanted a “sis-ner.” I wanted to have a little girl in the family. I was just becoming 3, so I have no idea what my thought process on that might have been. I was so upset when my parents brought home a baby brother that I pretended he wasn’t there. I refused to have anything to do with him literally for months. Finally I gave in and accepted that he was there for good. I’m actually not certain that this is a legitimate memory — my mother told me this story dozens of times, so it might just be one of those “implanted” memories from childhood. Regardless, it’s a funny thought.

Interested in Camp NaNoWriMo? If you sign up then come and find me!

what a novel idea

I have a few things percolating in my head today as I trudge through a Thursday of work, dreaming about Friday and the always too short weekend. I should probably be at home for a “mental health” day…but alas, no vacation hours remain.

I don’t know that any of these things are actually novel ideas…but they seem novel to me in my life at this particular point in time. Perhaps I’m thinking too much (my birthday is in 11 days), but I like where the thoughts are leading.

Novel idea #1 – I’ve decided to dedicate myself to finally taking the time to fully work through the needed edits on my novel in preparation to begin sending it off to agents and publishers. This won’t be a particularly quick process, since I have 130,000 words written, barely any of it edited, and a conclusion to finish writing as well. But I’m sick of always saying “I need to…” I’m ready to give this ride a go.

Otherwise, I’m somewhat satisfied with my writing life at the moment. Do I write as much as I’d like? No. Am I always happy with my effort and results? No. But I’m writing regularly, and I’m generally satisfied with what’s coming out. I’m also happy to be fairly active on my professional Facebook page and my website. All in all, not a bad first part of 2017.

Novel idea #2 – despite 37 years (very nearly 38) of rarely thinking this way…life is honestly an enjoyable experience. It’s dawned on me slowly the last few months that I enjoy my life, and that I can structure my life to draw even more enjoyment over time. Life’s hard. Life sucks. It’s draining, not often rewarding, and I typically would rather be doing anything other. But this is all we have, and I plan to rededicate myself to the things I love in life in order to make mine a life I love.

Novel idea #3 – other than my wonderful wife and amazing children, I’ve decided to carefully consider the other relationships in my life. From my childhood, relationships were primarily about pain. Of course there were healthy, happy, nurturing relationships. All too often, however, my interactions with others have been a primary source of disappointment, pain, and depression. It’s sad to let others have so much influence. After all my years, I can’t seem to reduce the impact other people have on me – so I will instead do what I should have done long ago and reduce (or eliminate) my contact with the people who cause me pain.

Since I’m not much of a regular blogger, I suppose that’s where my post will end. I don’t have anything else to say, just a few things on my mind today, eating most of my available processing capacity. Writing helps me process – though I doubt my processing will improve any!


My wedding was Saturday, April 1. Shortly after the ceremony, I mentioned to my new wife that I’d like to type up our vows and paste them on my website. Why? I’m not sure, exactly…but reciting our vows was the highlight of the wedding for me. It was also the only thing I was particularly nervous about.

We decided to write our own vows almost immediately after deciding to get married. We knew we’d have a service of our own making, and we’d express our love for each other in our own words. We barely discussed what we were preparing in terms of our vows – we each wrote our own.

And they were lovely!

I never thought I’d find myself in this position.
I never thought I’d find a person to truly share my life with.
A person I cared about enough.
A person who cared about me enough.
Who was interested, compassionate, concerned.
I never thought I’d find love.

And then I met you, that random Monday night, and I knew you were something special.
And then we met again, about 2 weeks later, and I remembered to get your number that time, and leaving out some of the more embarrassing details (for me), we really started talking and spending time together.

And it didn’t take long before I was done. I loved you so immediately, so intensely…you were entirely unexpected, unwanted even in some ways, yet there you were. And you were perfect. You were amazing.

A wonderful mother.
A wonderful partner.
A reader.
A human being full of life, curiosity, and passion.

You were more than I ever could have hoped for, more than I ever would have dreamed of.
And you loved me in return.

So what do I want for the rest of my life?
That amazing look you give me, your eyes filled with love – I want to deserve that look until the day I die.
And I want to make you laugh, every single day (like I’ve promised before), for the rest of my life.
What do I want? You.

One of my favorite quotes on love, from Toni Morrison, we used on our wedding website: Don’t ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it…I made up my mind, and it’s you. Always and forever, it’s you. I love you.

Matthew, I don’t think we could have met at a more perfect time. Our first few interactions were such a whirlwind of laughter, sweet awkwardness, and a connection so intense that I divulged more about my life than most people hear after a few years. I’ve never been more proud to have someone in my life. Your unceasing love, support, and patience have made me a better mother, daughter, friend – and now – wife. You love my children as I do yours – just like your own. I honestly feel you are my other half. I know you’ll always be here for my children, my family and friends, and me. And I will be here for you. I love you.

If anyone might be interested, for whatever reason, the service we compiled is copied below:

In times past it was believed that the human soul shared characteristics with all things divine. It is this belief which assigned virtues to the cardinal directions; East, South, West and North. It is in this tradition that a blessing is offered in support of this ceremony.

Blessed be this union with the gifts of the East.
Communication of the heart, mind, and body
Fresh beginnings with the rising of each Sun.
The knowledge of the growth found in the sharing of silences.
Blessed be this union with the gifts of the South.
Warmth of hearth and home
The heat of the heart’s passion
The light created by both to illuminate the darkest of times.
Blessed be this union with the gifts of the West.
The deep commitments of the lake The swift excitement of the river
The refreshing cleansing of the rain
The all encompassing passion of the sea.
Blessed be this union with the gifts of the North
Firm foundation on which to build
Fertility of the fields to enrich your lives
A stable home to which you may always return.
Each of these blessings emphasizes those things which will help you build a happy and successful union.
Yet they are only tools.
Tools which you must use together in order to create what you seek in this union.

Handfasting Verse
Now you are bound one to the other
With a tie not easy to break.
Take the time of binding
Before the final vows are made
To learn what you need to know –
To grow in wisdom and love.
That your marriage will be strong
That your love will last
In this life and beyond.

Matthew will now say his vows.

Kate will now say her vows.

Ring Explanation
Kate and Matthew have chosen to use traditional claddagh rings for their wedding bands. Each part of the claddagh ring has a certain symbolism for the couple – hands for friendship, a heart for love, and a crown for loyalty. They will wear the rings with the heart facing them, demonstrating that they are now a married couple.

Ring Exchange
Do you have the rings?

Matthew, place the ring on Kate’s finger. Matthew, do you promise to love, honor, cherish, and protect Kate, for as long as you both shall live?

Kate, place the ring on Matthew finger. Kate, do you promise to love, honor, cherish, and protect Matthew, for as long as you both shall live?

We will now have the final blessing over the newly married couple.

Wedding Blessing
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
May you see your children’s children.
May you be poor in misfortune,
Rich in blessings,
May you know nothing but happiness
From this day forward.
May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the warm rays of sun fall upon your home
And may the hand of a friend always be near.
May green be the grass you walk on,
May blue be the skies above you,
May pure be the joys that surround you,
May true be the hearts that love you.

I now pronounce you husband and wife.

bathroom bills: what is the debate really about?

Gender norms in Western society* were historically, and in many cases still are, very difficult to navigate for anyone falling outside of the widely defined term “normal.” If a person wished to express style or persona or activities not aligning with their biological gender at birth, they risked backlash including bullying, threats, physical violence, or the loss of job or associates.

Society has slowly moved to the point where individuals who do not exhibit socially defined “gender normative behavior” are beginning to be given the respect and dignity and civil rights that should be shown to everyone.

But this is not happening everywhere. It’s not happening for everyone. In fact, segments of the US population are pushing against equal civil rights for everyone. We shouldn’t be shocked. Saddened, yes, but not shocked. The same type of people fought (and still fight, often) against civil rights for many groups before – African Americans, Native Americans, women, immigrants – and now the LGBTQ community is the target of their anger and activities.

But why? Why are some people so convinced that liberty is for the few (always including themselves)?

/ trans’jendər, tranz’jendər/
denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex

The fight against the civil rights of transgender people in America has slid near the forefront of news and minds, especially fueled by the various ‘bathroom bills’ that have been proposed and debated across the country. Now the Trump administration has rescinded protections which were given to transgender children (kids, dependent children) by the Obama administration. One president sought to make sure all members of American society enjoyed the promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” only to have the promise snatched away once again from an entire marginalized group.

I’d like to look at this from a few different angles, a few different quotes imagined by me (though I am sure said by others) to help consider the issue at hand.

“Why am I fighting against others” – What the Opposition Says

The opposition, those specifically fighting against equal access to public restrooms, has a number of points they like to make. The first focuses on transgenderism as a topic, a topic they discount out of hand. You have such nuanced positions as “transgender doesn’t exist,” “those people are mentally ill,” and “those people are perverts.” Just like the homosexual of not too many years ago, today’s transgender community is faced with attacked centered on identity – who they are, at their core, is questioned, scoffed at, derided, and discarded. Whether the opposition tries to use religion, biology, logic, or anecdotal evidence, the end result is the same – like bigots of any era, they deny the full humanity, the identity, of those they want to discriminate against.

The second point of the opposition that I’d like to address, for the purposes of this consideration, deals specifically with the bathroom bills. The argument against access goes something like this – “well, number one, those people are perverts anyway, but we don’t want men dressing up like women and going into women’s bathrooms and sexually assaulting our little girls.” It has been shown in many places, documented with research, that this fear is something that simply does not happen in the real world. This type of distraction is called a red herring – something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important issue. Opponents of trans rights are using a made up situation as a fear tactic to try and persuade the public to deny the civil rights of an entire group of people.

“School policy is a state’s rights issue” – What the Administration Says

In overturning federal guidelines guaranteeing equal access for all public school students, the Trump administration said “the guidelines were written without due regard for the primary role of the states and local school districts in establishing educational policy.”

Attorney General Sessions said this: “The Department of Justice remains committed to the proper interpretation and enforcement of Title IX and to its protections for all students, including LGBTQ students, from discrimination, bullying, and harassment.”

I am sorry, but that reeks of a lie. It is a lie.

Access to restrooms and disallowing discrimination are not “educational policy,” they are human rights issues. States should not have the freedom to deny basic civil rights to any of their citizens. The actions of yesterday, overturning the Title IX clarification regarding bathroom and locker access, are a tragedy.

Civil rights issues have virtually always had to be solved on the federal level. For the time being, our transgender children, friends, and relatives have lost the protection of the federal government, and will be left to fend for themselves, surrounded by many who are so filled with hate and fear.

“…and now we have lost…” – What Has Been Lost to Our Children

What the Obama administration had put in place was quite simple:

  • public schools had to allow students to use bathrooms and lockers that matched their gender identity,
  • not doing so was a violation of Title IX, which does not allow discrimination based on sex.

In overturning the federal guidelines and Title IX clarifications, transgender students have once again been put into the line of fire. Now schools can decide to assign lockers and bathrooms to the students however they want, even at the risk of falling into absurdity.

When we will figure out, not only as a nation, but as a society, as a planet, that we don’t get to decide how other people live their lives? That we don’t get to define others based on who we are and what we want them to be? That we don’t get to hate and discriminate and cause harm to other human beings for who they are?

/ze-nə-‘fō-bē-ə, zē-/
fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign

*the same may well be said for all societies, but for this point I’ll refer only to what I know by experience

#wejustneedtopee #wearenotthis #transgender #trans #istandwithgavin #LGBTQ #illgowithyou