Starbucks anti-student?

I have a class assignment for Creative Writing which requires me to “publish” a short piece based on one of the styles we have studied this semester. The requirement is to write something that involves the venue in which it is going to be published. I frequent a Starbucks in Burnsville, MN. It is connected to a Barnes and Noble bookstore. I thought this would be the perfect venue. I decided on meta-fiction and that I would hand it out to a few customers.

Saturday when I bought my drink I explained what I was doing. I’m in school, it’s a project, I’m not selling anything, it’s not profane or offensive. I was flatly turned down by a rather rude worker. (Maybe she hadn’t had her coffee yet?) I was disappointed to say the least. How can a corporation that relies on many students for their workforce be so callous and cold?

I sat down and had my tea and relied on my stealth to distribute a couple of sheets to some women I’d seen before. I also stashed a few and left them behind. But I didn’t get as much research as I wanted for this publishing exercise.

I think that next time I will just do what I want. I’ve heard it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission. I’m one of the dunces left in this world that still asks permission. That puts me at a distinct disadvantage. I had to get this off my chest and rant a little about Starbucks. Why doesn’t Starbucks support students?

I’ll post the assignment in my next post.

Small (writing) Victories

I write, and write, and write, but it doesn’t always feel like I get anywhere. Sometimes a little thing can feel like a victory though. It can feel like progress.

I do most of my writing with pen on paper. I like the tactile feedback of putting pen to paper. It feels more “real” to me. It feels like I’m creating instead of just typing. I know that’s silly, but it works for me. I imagine it to be parallel to the artist putting the brush to canvas. Pen on paper is my comfort zone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a luddite. I love my computer and all the wonderful programs that make life easier. But pen on paper is where I start.

So what is the point of all this babble? Well, every time my pen runs dry I feel like celebrating. Because it means I’ve been doing what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s progress, I’m moving forward. Another empty pen, another productive day.

04-27-2013 PHX to MSP

I look out the airplane window at the sun disappearing behind the mountains. The colors of the sky are indescribable. Red, orange, yellow, and blue across the horizon. It’s like seeing these colors for the first time. The colors would normally cause admiration and fascination, today it’s only sadness. The beauty of this place brings only sadness now. I pull out my notebook and start writing about what I see, knowing that if I don’t, all the emotion of this moment will make it impossible to remember the details. Years from now I’ll try to remember this moment, the moment I said “good-bye”. Because this is it, it is now. I never said it in person. I spoke it when we spread his ashes in the desert. But I didn’t feel the finality until I saw the mountains disappearing outside this window.

It’s difficult to write with tears gathering. I lean back to take a break and I flash a memory of a dream I had a few months ago. I dreamt I was on a plane. I saw myself from above, writing in a notebook. The interior was dim and I saw orange and pink hues glowing through the window. In the dream I could not see what I was writing. Even though I was watching myself, I could feel that I was sad. A deep sadness, an unfamiliar sadness. I remember waking from that dream and feeling dread. Something I didn’t shake for a while. The dream had felt so real. I could not figure out where I was in the dream. I couldn’t figure out where I was going or what I was doing.

Today I figured out where I was, where I was going, and what I was doing. I dreamt this months ago. I don’t want to dream anymore.

11-14-2013 – While I was waiting for an appointment earlier this week, I was skimming through one of my numerous notebooks and I found these words from April. I felt that almost seven months later I could finally transcribe them. I wanted to record them for myself. I’m not really sure why I’m sharing them here. Maybe for my siblings. Or maybe for therapy.

Broken Path

I walk this twisted, broken path. Unseen forces reach out and tear at me, attempting to rend flesh from bone, attempting to steal sanity. Their grip is often painful, sometimes numbing, infrequently comforting. The path in front of me is dark. This darkness is not foreboding, it’s the unknown. These forces reach out and push me. Mostly forward, sometimes back. The forces change the path ahead. It becomes steep and hard to climb, only to drop precipitously before me. I plummet, whisked along the path, losing grip, losing control. This is my path, but I only rent it. I travel alone. I’m a navigator with no compass, no bearing. I’m in no hurry to reach the end. This path leads to just one destination. The end.

The Journey

I’ve loved books ever since I can remember. I vaguely remember my mother reading to me when I was very young. The one thing that sticks out in my mind is the Dick and Jane series. Even though it was about 45 years ago, I recall sitting in her lap while she read to me, encouraging me to learn those words on those beautiful pages in those wonderful books. It was comfort, happiness, and excitement, experiencing those magical books. I remember reading on my own before I started school, and reading everything I could get my hands on.

I started school when I was four years-old. My mother had to fight to get me accepted at that age. Her argument was that I was ready because of my reading ability. The years rolled by and I was always in advanced reading. My voracious appetite for the written word was never satisfied. Whether reading The Great Brain or Encyclopedia Brown series, there never seemed to be enough. I got a paper route right before my tenth birthday. Whenever I collected my earnings, I’d make a beeline to the local Snyder’s drug store book aisle. I recall the agony of having to select just a couple books when there were so many to choose from. This dilemma was repeated every couple weeks. And summer was particularly difficult because I didn’t have ready access to a library like I did during the school year.

Middle school (Junior High in my day) opened a whole new world of authors and types of fiction. The library was stocked for a whole different age group. But this was also a time when peer classes began forming. Reading wasn’t always accepted as something a kid wanted to do, but more of something you only did when you had to do it. Unless, of course, it was comics, Mad Magazine, or dirty books that you were reading. I don’t recall an exact time, date, or thought, but it was during this period that I realized how much I would love to be able to create stories like those I was reading. If reading them was so great, it must be even better to write them. So I sat down at a typewriter and tried. And tried. And tried. I succeeded at one thing; I found out that I sucked as a writer. I wrote literal garbage. (We didn’t have recycling back then.) I enjoyed it, but I really sucked. I logically relegated it to being a fantasy more than a reality.

Over the following years, the itch stayed with me, but I never had the confidence to follow through. I did not realize that besides talent, a writer needs determination and to just keep writing and writing and writing. No matter how easy somebody else makes it look, they worked hard to accomplish what they created. I continued to hide this writing fantasy from everyone. But these magical books by fantastic authors always made me dream of being able to create the same magic.

Through the years, my need to write was probably also held a bit in check by the school work I was required to write. When it came to school work, I was never lacking for words, although I always had trouble with going off on tangents with my assignments. I still suffer from that issue.

I took a couple more stabs at writing after I finished school. I have to laugh at my folly though. I tried to be a “writer” instead of just writing. I thought that in order to succeed, I had to fit a certain mold. I thought I had to sit at a desk with a typewriter or word processor, have an ashtray full of butts, and a waste basket full of crumpled paper in the corner. I’d need dim lights, hazy smoke, agony, and a half-empty bottle of cheap scotch. That’s what I thought was the list of ingredients for making me a writer. Maybe it would have worked if I had added talent, confidence, and determination. Back to the shelf went the dream, back to its comfort zone.

Lather, rinse, repeat, that’s how it continued. Through adulthood, work, marriage, and parenthood, there was always an excuse not to do anything about the itch. I kept it all safely tucked away.

In September 2010, my daughter, eight years-old at the time, was injured at school. She was struck in the eyelid by a pencil being swung around by a miscreant student. She was checked out and it was determined that it was a superficial injury, “luckily” missing her eyeball. There was broken skin, bruising, and swelling. The healing started and she appeared to be on the mend. The eyelid was drooping after the surface abrasion healed, but it was determined that it would heal over time. And it did indeed improve, although if she was overtired it drooped significantly. There was a period of improvement, followed by regression. Back and forth, repeatedly. There was consultation with a specialist, telling us that plastic surgery was an option, but that it might cause the opposite of the droop if she went through a spurt of healing after surgery. It wasn’t affecting her vision, so we were advised to wait.

In late August of 2011, the droop became really pronounced. We made an appointment to see a different doctor, because we were worried that it was going to affect her vision. The soonest they would see us was early October. Over the next few weeks, the droop got worse and then a red bump appeared on her eyelid. In a 24 hour period the bump increased about threefold in size. She could barely open her eye. We called and demanded that she be seen immediately. They took her in the next morning. It was determined that there was a foreign body in the eyelid causing an infection. She was scheduled for surgery the same day to clean it out. There was no foreign body found during the surgery, but the infection was removed. The healing started and things improved for a while. Her eyelid seemed to be almost back to normal. But then it started to droop again, and it appeared there was another infection. On November 9, 2011, she had an MRI to find out what was causing the infections. That evening, while we were all out, the surgeon left a message that we needed to call her right away on her cell phone. I got the message but decided to wait for my wife to get home to call the doctor. My wife had only been in the house a few minutes when the doctor called again.

“Hello” I answered.
“Mr. (withheld)?” the voice asked.
“This is Dr. (withheld), didn’t you get my message?” she asked.
“Yes, but I was waiting for my wife to get home” I said.
“Mr. (withheld), we have the results of the MRI, and (your daughter) has about a half-inch piece of pencil lodged in her right frontal lobe.”
I got dizzy and nauseous. I didn’t say anything. My brain could not process what I had just heard.
“Mr. (withheld), did you hear me? Do you understand what I said? It needs to be removed immediately” she said.

My brain was overloaded. I couldn’t process this on my own. I couldn’t reply. I wanted to collapse. I wanted to wake up and find it was just a bad dream. Seconds seemed like hours. I was finally able to gather myself enough to reply.
“I need to put you on speaker and have you repeat that for my wife” I said. I looked at my wife and could tell that the horror on my face was apparent. I switched the phone to speaker and the doctor repeated what she had just told me.

She continued “I have contacted a friend at the Mayo Clinic and they recommended a neurosurgeon at Gillette. You need to call immediately and make an appointment for the consultation. They promised that if you call right away, they’ll get you in this week.”
We took down the name and contact information. She answered a couple questions about the MRI results. We thanked her and hung up.

The consult appointment was made for two days later. There was a night of tears, fear, anger, and having to tell our daughter that she needed to have brain surgery. Telling her was tougher on us than it was on her. We did not hide anything from her. We asked the doctor to do the same. The kid was a trooper. She had another MRI and a CT scan the day of the consult. The surgery was scheduled for ten days later.

I felt so helpless seeing her walk off to pre-op with my wife, my brave little girl. She had asked the surgeon if she could keep the pencil fragment after the surgery. She also asked if she could see the video of the surgery afterward.

The surgery went well, and I was able to see her again in the recovery ICU. I walked in and saw my little girl. It was her, but it wasn’t. The incision across her scalp pooled coagulating blood in the puckering wound. Her usually bright and cheery face was ashen and swollen, marred by black, purple, and yellow bruising. She appeared to be sleeping with her eyes partly open. But it wasn’t restful, peaceful sleep, it was still the anesthetics.

The room twisted around me. I felt cold, yet I was sweating. My legs protested, wanting the refuge of a chair. My stomach turned and clenched while my lungs fought for air. Tears dripped from my chin, I didn’t realize I had been crying. I wanted to hug and comfort her, but I couldn’t. I wanted her to wake up and tell me that she was fine. I wanted her to sleep peacefully until she was really okay. You could torture me for years and it would never be worse than this moment. Seeing her like this, my daughter, who carries sunshine with her wherever she goes, beaming it into every life she touches, it wasn’t right.

She came home three days later. As parents, we were a wreck. Sleep before and after the surgery was elusive. As soon as I closed my eyes, I’d see her in that recovery room. As soon as I’d finally fallen asleep, mainly from pure exhaustion, the alarm would go off. Sleep was disrupted by dreams of my wife waking me telling me something was wrong with our daughter. During waking hours, the images popping into my head were inescapable. Trying to concentrate at home or at work was pretty futile.

Our daughter was recovering well. She was eager to get back to a normal life. She wanted to get back to school and see her friends, and celebrate her tenth birthday and enjoy Christmas. All of those came to pass and we moved into the New Year.

Two months had passed, and it was all still so fresh in my mind. Time was not healing the anguish. I felt embarrassed, because my daughter handled it better than I did. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t function properly. I was exhausted and in decline. I needed something, but I couldn’t figure out what was going to help me.

One night, when I could not sleep, I grabbed a pen and paper. When I put that pen to paper, I didn’t stop until it all came out. I spewed my fear, my anger, my resentment, my anxiety, and my sadness. This was my therapy, my release. Everything that had built up came pouring out. I had no clue of what a relief it would be. It was just simple words on paper, but it felt like I had opened a release valve. It was also key to an awakening. I finally realized that writing wasn’t just a fantasy for me, it was a necessity. Even if I never get published, I need to die knowing that I tried, that I didn’t give up, that I didn’t let my fears rule my life.

This was a Memoir assignment for English Composition (May 2013)

Beautiful World

Recently I was talking about yet another book that I started writing, and a friend told me that I write a lot of “twisted” stuff. Which I took as both a compliment and a challenge. So I sat down and tried to write something a bit less “twisted” than my usual fare. Please enjoy:

Beautiful World

The sky stretches out before me, an endless expanse of soothing cool blue.

Wisps of white caress the blue.

A lush, deep green field surrounds me, moving by an unseen force.

A breeze wraps around, gently embracing me.

The deft hands of a master play the reeds of grass like an instrument.

A song of “hush” fills my ears.

A neon-bright yellow butterfly bounces through the air, searching for a flower to rest upon.

The green below me races to the horizon to join blue sky.

The white fingers reach out, touch the green.

At peace, I close my eyes and lift my face to the sky, inviting the sun to warm my face.

The breeze returns, engulfing me, gripping me in a soft motherly hug.

I’m lifted and relieved of my earthly binding.

Carried through the heavens, I’m one with the air, one with the sun, one with the universe.

Released from my constraints, I surround the earth.

My host shares with me her every elemental beauty.

I’m adrift in a peaceful feeling never experienced before.

I see, feel, and hear everything. And nothing.

The sensory overload tests my consciousness, which is pulled to its limit before my time is up.

I’m pulled against my will and returned to my corporeal prison, left longing for release again.

I can see it with my eyes, and now I’ve felt it with my soul.

It’s a beautiful world.

Not Quite Dead Yet

First off, this blog is not meant to be about me. I have no need to bore people with the mundane everyday activities of my life. My intention is to just share and showcase my writing, or my attempt at writing, depending on which way you want to look at it. But I disappeared from the blog for a while, and I felt I should offer up an explanation.

Life happens. Holidays happen. Family events happen. Two week-long illnesses happen. And best of all, school happened. I have been diligently focusing on school. (I’m going for a Creative Writing Certificate.) I lucked out and got into a class with a really great professor. He’s a published author, and he has at least thirty years of experience in writing and editing. He’s a goldmine for information and inspiration. He told me that I am “an excellent writer”. My head did not swell, but it was good for my confidence. Writing well and being able to weave a story that keeps people interested are two very different things.

As far as my writing and how that is going, the main novel I had been working on has kind of fallen to the side. I’m not abandoning it, but I am just working on it when I am inspired. I recently had a vision for a new story and I have been working on that quite a bit. It really came out of nowhere and took over. I’m not sure if it will be a short, or if it will be novel length. I have to see where it takes me.

My intention is to post my short story “Vows” on this blog in two or three parts. I’ve gone back and I am editing and expanding it to what I had originally intended it to be. (Long boring story shortened: There was some major editing to try to meet a size restriction for a class.) Hopefully the first part of that will be ready soon.

Thanks for checking in. Please feel free to leave a comment.


The following is a fictional piece. I’ve been working on my book and I went off on a tangent while writing a certain scene. A four or five sentence paragraph grew into a few paragraphs. It does not fit within the story I am writing, it’s just too heavy of a passage. There is already enough sadness in the book to include this also. So here it is:


The image in the mirror shows a man he should know. The face is recognizable, but he doesn’t really know the man before him. Staring back at him is a man at an age that is unfamiliar to him. His mind has tricked him into thinking he is much younger. The reflection doesn’t lie, nor deceive, it is truthful. Unlike his mind and his heart, the mirror is brutally honest.

He searches the reflection for his past. Grasping desperately to hold on to any memory he can. He knows something is there, but the years have been stealing the memories. Hiding them. Faster. More efficiently. Relentlessly. With every tick of the clock.

His mind struggles and his heart aches to maintain his tenuous grip on the past. It’s unfairly ripped away from him. It’s a child’s toy caught in the surf. It should wash toward shore, but is rhythmically pulled away into a vast expanse of nothing. He watches helplessly, unable to intervene.

The mirror is a friend of the young. It has become his enemy. It’s judgmental. It gives no comfort. Nostalgia means nothing to this cold lifeless foe. It will not help bring back his past. It is steadfast with an unforgiving reminder of the present.

Anger overtakes him. He swings his hand up and smashes the mirror with his palm. The cracks radiate out in every direction from his hand, a reflective kaleidoscope. He holds his hand against the broken mirror while blood trickles down his arm. His reflection is distorted beyond recognition. He looks at the blood dripping into the sink, mixing with his tears, slowly flowing down the drain.