The Grateful Eight – June 2020

Only one day late, which is pretty good for me. If you’re new, this is my monthly dive into gratitude, which is a big part of recovery from alcoholism and pornography addiction. I like it more than the flood of awards out there. I try to get it done on the eighth of every month because of the rhyming scheme, but it doesn’t always happen.

As always, I try to mix the obvious with the mundane and love to hear what you’re grateful for. I think when you sit back and think about it, you’re grateful for a lot more than you realize.

  1. Marriage – Oh, there have been plenty of times when I’ve fantasized about packing up the car and heading west to find my fame and fortune, leaving my nagging wife behind. But that’s usually after an argument, and most often after and argument where I was wrong. Yesterday, June 8, we celebrated our 17th anniversary. The simple fact anybody would be married to me for that long, especially with all the massive life changes and crazy events I’ve put them through is a testament to her… or an indication of an undiagnosed mental condition.
  2. Writing My Latest Book – The book itself is good (I think) but I realize just how valuable those three weeks in May when I was absolutely killing myself 12-15 hours every day to research and write it were to my mental health. I haven’t kicked myself in the ass to get something done like that in a long time. It felt like I tapped into a manic pace of working and thinking that I hadn’t felt since my days at daily newspapers. My body and mind could do this more than a couple times per year, but it was a great way to get through the quarantine.
  3. Outdoor Dining – For the first time since mid-February, I went with my wife, two kids and father out to eat a beautiful country inn about 20 minutes away for dinner Saturday night. They had outdoor seating, and thankful canopies, as a light rain fell for a few minutes in the middle of dinner. My 20-year-old daughter is living at her boyfriend’s house now so we don’t see her nearly as much and with my mom in LA helping with my brother’s new baby, it was a refreshing change to get to eat with just him. There was a lot of laughing, playful teasing, storytelling and great food. I can’t remember the last time I told my wife I had a great time going out to eat, but that was really something special.
  4. Finally Taking a Stand – I’m not going to make this political, but I feel so much better about myself for deciding I cannot support Donald Trump anymore. When all of the former generals and ex-employees (usually fired for standing up to him) came out a few days later and gave their first-hand accounts about his lack of leadership, I felt vindicated. This country needs a leader, not just a guy who has fooled the Cracker Barrel crowd into believing he has their best interests in mind. My natural instinct is to wait until the last minute to make a decision in almost any election, but I feel good for being on top of things here.
  5. Band-Aids – I don’t think I’ve put a Band-Aid on in six months, but I’ve needed two in the last 12 hours. First, my cat gave me a huge gash when I quickly tried to toss it off the bed in the middle of the night. I heard it making “Here comes the hairball” noises and my wife celebrated Kohl’s reopening by getting us new bedding, so I tried to get it off quickly, but it hooked one claw into my index finger and when I tossed the cat it just pulled a huge gash into the tip of the finger. I haven’t bled like that in a while. Then, about two hours ago, I was outside fiddling with the pool and stepped on a stick or something and put a nasty splinter into my fourth toe. I was able to pull half of it out, but the other half is still there. I have no idea who originally invented Band-Aids, but that person has had an impact on basically every life in the civilized world when you think about it.
  6. A Lack of Corporate Writing – I’ve seen my income take a pretty serious nosedive in the last 6 months. My biggest client out of Australia who I wrote corporate biographies closed shop. Then, COVID-19 killed off a major client for the time being and there’s just not a lot of work out there that pays what I require. That said, it’s been a nice break not writing about the business world. There is just so much BS about business that I think the world could have 25-hour work weeks and everything would be fine if pointless meetings, strategy sessions, and dumb reports were banished. I’m enjoying the break from writing about business.
  7. Road Trips – My daughter is constantly complaining after last year’s 28-day jaunt across America that she’s getting really antsy to take another trip (even though she and I went to North Carolina two weeks before the lockdown started) but knows we can’t since so much is still not open. I haven’t mentioned that I also haven’t saved, nor planned for a year. It’s not like I randomly stumbled on a free Haunted Cruise in Wisconsin or free Zip Lining in Idaho, but since she didn’t plan or pay, it probably seems that way. I always dreamed of that kind of road trip after taking a few with my parents as a kid. I’m so glad I got to do it with her, and that the rest of the family joined us for a week of it on the West Coast. I can only imagine the pain I’d be feeling now if I planned this trip for this year.
  8. Drumsticks – Not the musical instrument accessory, the ice cream treat. God Bless the bastard who invented those.

The Grateful Eight: New Plague Edition

If you’re keeping score at home, this is only four days late. I was actually working on a long entry about how my tattoos served as a better diary for my life than anything I’ve written. Then, we got a much bigger storm that the meteorologists predicted, leaving us with eight inches of thick wet snow and a just-long-enough power outage to lose what I was writing. Usually if the computer crashes, it saves it, but for some reason, not this time.

Oh well. I used to get upset about that kind of stuff, but now I look at writing as something that just clears my head and passes the time even if nobody ever sees it. Losing a few hours of writing is a lot better than losing a few hours waiting in line outside of Wal-Mart. The one near my house, which winds around the building and back and forth reminds me of lines at Disney World. Except once you get in, it’s not a leisurely boat ride while dolls built in 1962 sing to you. If it were, I’d shop at Wal-Mart a lot more.

Anyway, eight things I’m grateful about:

  1. Equalizers – There are very few things in this world that can put rich and poor, conservatives and liberals, all races, religions, sexual orientations and all of those other little markers that we use to divide us together. Ironically, they’re the same things that they were back during the Spanish Flu: Weather and Disease. I don’t think it’s a horrible thing that once every hundred years that Mother Screen Shot 2020-04-12 at 12.00.55 PMNature reminds us that we’re not all that different. I have no confidence this will bring us together closer as people once it’s over – it’d have to go on a few years for that kind of solidarity – but seeing people who are used to having things their way not be able to manipulate the situation shows people’s true colors.
  2. Daily Press Conferences – To piggy-back off number one, I neither hate nor love Donald Trump and I don’t blame him for the virus hitting America or the “preparedness” of the government in the beginning. No world government was prepared for this. That said, watching him lose his shit when somebody asks him a perfectly reasonable question during his daily press briefings is entertaining as all hell. Watching him say things he doesn’t want to say because he has to admit he can’t control things is entertaining and watching him go off script as one of the world’s most awkward improvisers is even more entertaining. He’s proven, as a person, not to be a good leader during a time of crisis, but at least he’s not boring.
  3. Experimental aircraft – Anything that takes out John Denver is good in my book.Screen Shot 2020-04-12 at 12.02.59 PM
  4. Tiger King – My daughter and I polished off this Netflix show in two days earlier this week. If you haven’t watched it yet, you should. I’m not a fan of shows with 101 twists, but I think it’s because they are fiction and therefore unrealistic. Every twist in this documentary seems plausible. You’ll also start to understand all the Carole Baskin jokes that now exist.
  5. Home at Easter – I’ve been in rehab at Easter and I’ve been in jail at Easter. Home is better.
  6. FaceTime – My parents, thankfully, are taking this pandemic seriously, even though there are relatively few cases in Maine compared to the rest of the country, although, if you look at New York City and Boston, it is making its way up Interstate 95. My wife, son and I just got a FaceTime call from parents, who are only about two miles away. I’ve seen them in their driveway a couple times as my wife sends cookies and other treats over, but I respect them watching out for themselves, even if it puts my inheritance off a few more years. I’ve got to think the Spanish Flu might have ended quicker had they been able to use FaceTime.
  7. Los Angeles – I mentioned I’m home at Easter, but ironically, without the pandemic, I wasn’t going to be. My son and I would be in the middle of a trip to California. We had a couple of fun activities planned. Today was going to be deep Screen Shot 2020-04-12 at 12.04.35 PMsea fishing and Tony Overbay and I were planning on recording an audio version of our book. That project is still on hold unfortunately. If you’ve never been to LA, you really should check it out. I wouldn’t want to live in any other major city in the world at this point other than LA. The weather is great, the ocean is nearby and there’s enough food and culturally options to satisfy any diverse household. Where I live now, the dining and culture options are minimal. I think that’s why the pandemic is that big a deal to my outside life. There wasn’t much here to begin with. I drop hints about us moving to the West Coast all the time, especially since it would be nice to live near my brother, but until I get said inheritance, I just don’t see it happening.
  8. Time for My Own Projects – My clients are starting to pull back on the work they need done. I have a feeling that’s going to happen for a while. I’ve been looking at different unemployment insurance options both as a freelancer and as a “small company” but there’s really not much money out there for me. I’m trying to get excited to have time over the next month or two that I can focus on new projects I’ve been wanting to work on. I think I have to pull myself off caffeine so I can start feeling “up” for anything. Or I need to stop enjoying the smell of hand sanitizer so much. It’s killing brain cells. In reality, I need to get serious about finding new clients once this is all over. I’ve been coasting with the few I have. It’s a nice wake-up call.

 

Your turn. In the midst of the new plague, what are you grateful for?

The Grateful Eight…on the Right Date!

I haven’t managed to get one of these posted on the eighth for a couple of months, but dang it, I’m going to get it right this month. It’s time for the Grateful Eight…eight things I’m grateful for in my everyday life. They can be super important – like being grateful for oxygen or your family – or they can be rather mundane and silly. Feel free to contribute your own thoughts in the comments or steal the entire concept.

Balance – While I am clumsy and will roll an ankle with no warning, I’ve noticed I’m continually getting better managing the balance of professional and personal life and devoting the proper amount of time and energy to each. I feel like I’m learning when to pull back if I’m tired and need a break, but almost as importantly, not feeling guilty for it. I spent decades not being able to do this, so I know it’ll always be a work in progress, but I feel good about my ability to balance things better than in the past and I think it’s important to recognize when we’re getting better at a skill that has alluded us.

The EZ Pass – I know it’s called other things in different parts of the country, but the ability to just glide by those other drivers who don’t have the electronic toll payer is priceless. On my recent roadtrip, I probably saved 20 minutes at the George Washington Bridge not having to stop and pay whatever the ridiculous toll is for the pleasure (?) of going from New York to New Jersey and vice versa. I bet on the entire trip, I saved 45 minutes not having to stop to pay tolls.

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Pre-Cut Cheese – Maybe I’m just too young to understand the concept of something being “the greatest thing since sliced bread” but I’ve noticed in the last few years they now sell pre-cut blocks of cheese, the perfect size for putting on a Ritz cracker. While it pains me to write this entry without a single “cutting the cheese” joke, those of us who love cheese and have wasted too much of our life cutting slices too thin, too thick, or at a weird angle were given a gift when the fine people at Cracker Barrel started packaging it pre-cut.

Cheers – I’ve decided to binge watch my first streaming TV show. I literally haven’t used Netflix in years, and it just happened to be on the TV when I took over the living room the other night. Now I watch about 3-4 episodes of this NBC classic from the 80s and early 90s most nights. This was such a great show. It’s one of those I never see in reruns which is a shame because I think there would still be a huge audience for it.

Coronavirus – Because weren’t we all getting tired of the Australian Wildfires and ready for something else to worry about we can’t control? Remember to wash your hands. And when the scare is over, for God’s sake, keep washing your hands. We use Clorox wipes in our house, even pre-plague, but I had to go to four places to get them yesterday. In one sense I’m glad…people are finally not being disgusting, but I have a sense they won’t be tough to find in a few weeks.

People Still Buying My Book – The softcover version has been out 10 weeks as of today. It’s still regularly in the top 1% of all titles on Amazon and it’s now in the phase where libraries are buying it and they’re snapping it up much more than my first book. It won’t ever get to the point where I can even claim to make close to minimum wage for writing and promoting the book, but I’m not doing it for money at this point. I just feel validated people are interested. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s still like 20% off cover price on Amazon as I write this.

My immune system – Not only do I not have the Coronavirus, I don’t have the nasty sinus infection my wife has nor whatever my son seems to be fighting off. I’ve probably had two colds in five years and (knock on wood) don’t think I’ve been sick in about two years. As an aside about washing your hands and keeping your area clean…I was in jail for six months back in 2016. We kept that pod sparkling clean, mopping, washing tables, the bathroom, doorknobs, faucet handles, etc. every day. I didn’t see a single person come through their in my time and end up getting sick. There is something to battling germs, even if it’s just spraying Lysol a couple of times a day. I work from home and am not often around big groups. I should get sick more often, but because I maintain a clean environment, I generally don’t get sick very often.

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Time Healing Wounds/Making Things Seem Less Important – I’ve slowed down my interviews for the current book as I work on other things, and in not giving 5 a week, I’m noticing in those I do give far less attention being paid to my personal story, and the parts of it that I got in trouble for. As I approach the six-year anniversary of being arrested, I’m grateful that we reach a point where people’s pasts aren’t forgotten, but don’t need to be dredged up every moment. I did some horrible, stupid shit in 2013, was called on it in 2014, and finally paid the price in 2016. But I also turned everything around, became a porn addiction expert and am now doing good in the present. It’s reassuring that while I should never forget, nor should others, what happened, it’s possible to move past it and focus on what I’m doing today.

Like I ask every month, I’d love to hear some of the things you’re grateful for. Just take a minute and reflect on today or the last few days. What has made you stop and say, “I like this…This is convenient…This is important…I am grateful”? As I said, it’s important things and not-so-important things, but it’s a great exercise to be thankful for things.

The Grateful Eight, Only One Day Late!

I know that I’ve been providing less entries lately, but one that I enjoy writing and I think is a healthy exercise for me has been the Grateful Eight, even if it isn’t always coming out on the Eighth. So, here’s another example and I hope you’ll let me know of some things that you’re grateful for in the comments.

To refresh the concept, on the eighth day of the month, you’re supposed to write eight things that you’re grateful for and make several of the non-traditional. We’re all grateful for health, family, etc., and it’s important to acknowledge that, but it’s just as important to acknowledge the mundane and trivial that help to flesh out the quieter, less memorable moments.

Anyway, here are my Grateful Eight for February.

  1. Tiramisu – My 44th birthday was yesterday, and I frankly just can’t take the frosting on any cake these days larger than a cupcake. Over the last 10 years I’ve been introduced to and fell in love with this dessert and for a guy whose sweet tooth is rapidly fading, it’s the perfect piece of birthday cake.
  2. Unexpected Plans – When you get married, have children, work from home and have to abide by a few rules because of something colossally stupid you’ve done, spontaneity isn’t a great presence in your life, which makes when it happens all the more special. I sat down at my computer on Friday around noon and by 2 p.m., the opportunity to road-trip with my daughter to North Carolina at the end of this month and fly to Los Angeles with my son in April presented themselves. No, I don’t get to scratch any new ground covered off my map, but in two hours, two experiences I know I’ll remember forever materialized. Funny the way things work.
  3. The Sun – When I was struggling with the Higher Power concept in my first few days of AA at my first rehab, one of the people suggested I just make the sun my Higher Power since it was literally high in the air and provided all the power for life on earth. I’ve never forgot this idea. All life on Earth, would essentially be dead with 90 minutes if the sun flamed out. Most of us would be dead with 20. Glad it’s there, aren’t you?
  4. Bell Telephone systems – Yeah, it’s a rant about being an old person, but remember when you’d get pissed off when your phone bill was over $50 because somebody spent too many minutes on long distance? We’re now paying nearly $400 for a family of four on our cell phones per month and after shopping around, can maybe save only $50 with another carrier. We survived before Smart Phones – we just had to look stuff up in the encyclopedia and telephone book.
  5. Not Being a Hoarder – My parents aren’t hoarders and with the spate of people in my family who have died over the last 5 years, they’ve been serving as executors on a lot of estates and all of these people had giant houses and wouldn’t be called hoarders technically, but that’s only because of the space they had. I like the fact I live in a very small house. It forces me to prioritize stuff. I just got a bunch of clothes from my uncle’s estate and instead of just adding them to my closet, I made sure to try and donate or throw away one old piece for every new piece I added. My parents aren’t hoarders either, which when I’m forced to clean out their home…hopefully not for another 20+ years…I won’t be faced with what they’re dealing with.
  6. Sugar-filled Kool-Aid – Going hand-in-hand with my rant about phones, I tried Kool-Aid for the first time in 35 years the other day. They don’t make it with real sugar anymore like when I was kid. It tasted like nothing. That stuff back in the day? That was the shit.
  7. Glasses – I’m not nearly as visually impaired as most people who wear glasses. It’s mostly because I’m in front a computer screen 12-15 hours per day and have been since I was 17, which was a pre-Internet, Smart phone world, so my eyes get tired quickly now. I’m thankful though because I think of those people who helped settle the West, or the Europeans in the 1500s and 1600s who led the world, or all of the people in poor, developing countries these days. How much must it suck to have blurry vision all the time? Really glad I have my glasses. Also glad I could find a picture of the Kool-Aid man in glasses to combine two things on this list for visual representation.
  8. Dog Shit – I’m just kidding. That’s not on my list. My ability to not take things like this too seriously and think outside the box is something I’m grateful for. Yeah, I don’t always know the right time and place and it often leaves people confused, but it always amuses me. There are people who didn’t think writing Dog Shit was funny. That’s OK. We can’t all be as hilarious as me. Be thankful I didn’t try and find a picture of this.

 

Like I mentioned at the top, I’d love to know what some of the random things you’re grateful for in your life are that aren’t obvious. Practicing gratitude has been one of the best ways to keep perspective on things in my post-recovery world, even the mundane things. It is with them that I often realized how truly lucky I am to lead the life I do.

The Grateful Eight, Just a Little Late

As I chill out on writing this blog every day, there are still certain things I want to do and based on feedback, it seemed like people were liking the Grateful Eight feature I introduced a few months back where I mention eight things I’m grateful for on the eighth of the month, except I didn’t do it this month. Despite January 8 still not being a national holiday in celebration of Elvis Presley’s birthday (he would have been 85), or at least Great Musicians’ Day (it was also David Bowie’s birthday), I totally forgot to write an entry.

Anyway, here are the 8 things I’m grateful for this month:

  1. Everybody Who Said They’d Buy My Book on Kindle. Guess what, folks – it’s here! Several of you told me that you’d pick it up if it came to Kindle. Kindle HypeYou either need a new excuse of be true to your word. Here’s the LINK
  2. My Lack of Guilt Over Keeping This Page Updated. I guess I just need some more time to slack than I thought. I have a feeling there will be times of great output and times of almost no output. I’ve actually been trying to write this post for several days but other things have come up and I haven’t killed myself to get to it. This guilt-free feeling wouldn’t have happened in my previous life.
  3. Reddit’s RoastMe page. I know it’s not right to make fun of people, but I’ve always been one of those people who laughed his butt off when people made fun of me. I figure if you’re going to dish it, you should be able to take it. This is a community of people who love to take teasing and it’s a great outlet for creative writing. Yeah, some of the people go for the easy sex or race jokes, but there is some genuinely funny stuff there. If people want to be made fun of, they are my kind of people.
  4. The last Star Wars movie. The first movie I can really recall seeing at the theater, I think, is the Empire Strikes Back. I think that this most recent trilogy was for fans of the first trilogy, who grew up on it. I’ve read a lot of criticism of the film, and it’s certainly not one of those you should pick apart too much (I still wonder how they can have landing bay doors open in the vacuum of space) but if you loved the first trilogy and thought this last one has been OK, it’s worth watching.
  5. When Stuff is So Status Quo, You Don’t Notice. You know how when you’re at your sickest you tell yourself, “I’m never going to take being well for granted. I’m going to recognize it as awesome when it’s happening”? In the past month, 3 of my 3 cars have died, my daughter’s laptop has died, my dishwasher has died and my washing machine has died. There will be a day when everything is working again and I will take it for granted. I hope that day comes soon.
  6. My Son Being Naturally Smart. He just got his report card and in seven classes, not one was below 80. But the kid is lazy and procrastinates so much more than I ever did. I can’t quite break him of it and if he didn’t absorb everything he heard, we’d be in more trouble. I know he’s going to be fine in this world. He’ll probably do quite well, but jeez, he sometimes makes sloths look hyperactive.Screen Shot 2020-01-21 at 12.07.58 PM
  7. The Christmas Present My Daughter Gave Me. I’ve included a picture. It’s a map of the United States that’s covered in that weird stuff that you find on scratch-off lottery tickets. The idea is you scratch off where you’ve been in the country. I could have scratched the full states, but I wanted to scratch where I’d actually been or it would have been hugely uncovered except for three states. Until I visit Yellowstone, I can’t honestly say I’ve done that part of the country. And if you think that dust from the lottery tickets is annoying, imagine it in gold and 500x the amount on your kitchen table.
  8. Alex Trebek. I don’t watch Jeopardy faithfully anymore, but I did watch that Greatest of All-Time tournament a couple weeks ago. With Stage 4 cancer, he’s more likely not going to make it and it was touching to see the amount to tributes people gave him. It was also nice he got to show his stuff in prime time. While I obviously didn’t see the 1960s version, Trebek’s has been on since 1984, when I was 8 years old. There are few things that have remained as consistent as that show and the host through the changes of my life and knowing it’s probably coming to an end soon is minor in the grand scheme of things, but worth a pause.