Category Archives: feeling sorry for myself

Can We Be Clear?

Mai Ling uses psionic ninja powers to separate the flowers from the weeds, a thing that is not easy to do.

I suppose that if I were to be insightfully honest for a moment, I would have to admit that I am a failed novelist. If you take “success” as meaning “financial success”, the fact that I only make less than five dollars a month for my writing means I am a failure at it. If you specify that success means my books find readers, then evidence would suggest that my books are mostly ignored. A majority of those who have responded favorably to my work are actually members of the nudist community on Twitter. I admit that I have cultivated that a bit with nudist characters in about a fourth of my books. But that is a result of having experienced fascinating people and situations that I felt I had to write about because I happened to meet, totally by chance, interesting nudists in real life.

I have lost a lot of writing-community followers on Twitter because of my interactions with Twitter nudists. My work gets dismissed on occasion because your standard teacher-turned-writer on Twitter, usually female and usually fundamentalist Christian, doesn’t want to be contaminated by sinful nudist associations. Ah, such a life. But I don’t wish to destroy anyone’s faith in a God who will apparently burn them for an eternity in Hell if they are tempted to frolic with no clothes on. I would rather be blocked by them on Twitter than have them give up on whatever paradise they are pursuing.

But I am basically on the Brad Bird side of the argument about whether or not you can choose to be a hero even if others will see you as a monster. My fiction does not cause demonic possession and probably does not cause spontaneous bouts of joyful nudism either. Even my werewolf story, which was too much for one potential reviewer, does not have actual werewolves in it. Although it does describe some things that really happened to me as a child in a fictionalized, sort-of-truthful way.

So, by those criteria, I judge myself to be a failed writer.

But I am definitely not giving up on writing in despair. Those were never the reasons I wrote novels to begin with.

I write because I have something to say to the world and stories to tell. And I mean to have my say, even if the world is too stone-deaf and stupefied to listen.

I have things to say about living and learning.

I have things to say about finding love, and losing love, and finding it again.

I have things to say about how I think the world works, and why I’m pretty sure I’m completely wrong about all of that. And what I intend to do about it.

To that end, I have started writing a book full of essays like the stuff and garbage and lovely wisdom I write in this goofy little blog. And I shall call it Laughing Blue. Because, you know, nobody is going to read it anyway, and I can call it whatever the heck I want to call it.

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Filed under autobiography, blog posting, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, irony, philosophy

Dreams of Forgetting

I don’t wish to forget anything… ever. But increasingly I can no longer call things to mind as swiftly as I could when I was younger. I constantly now find myself unable to recall names of old movie stars I loved as a boy, dates of Civil War battles that I studied at length in the ’90s, the names of former school teachers that I had when I was a boy, and those I worked with as a colleague in the 1980’s. I fear reaching the point my father is now at, not being able to remember my own children.

Last night I had a nightmare about being a substitute teacher. I remember in the dream finishing a first-period class that was not the teacher I was covering for, because the sub-coordinator does that during the teacher’s planning period, using you in classrooms where no sub showed up. And I left that classroom feeling good about the class, but suddenly not able to remember where the classroom was that I was supposed to be teaching in next. I remember going into the office, one unlike any school office I have ever been in. The secretary behind the front desk recognized me by name. Then she asked me why I forgot to sign in that morning. I couldn’t remember. She asked me who I was subbing for. I had forgotten. I didn’t know her name or recognize her face either, something that never happens in a school you work at even for a single day. Secretaries actually run schools telling both teachers and principals what to do and where to go. The secretary was beginning to get irritated with me. I told her I must be having a bad spell. And then I woke up in a sweat.

That dream will probably never come true. I will probably never walk into a classroom as the teacher again, even as a sub, thanks to this horrid pandemic.

But I am having anxiety about forgetting in a very telling way.

I must confess that every illustration for this post was chosen because I saw the picture in my media gallery for this site and realized I did not remember posting these or even making the one at the start of this essay which is two different drawings put together with photoshop.

But I do have one small ace up my sleeve for dealing with serious forgetfulness. I have seven years worth of posts to look back on. That should help me remember a thing or two about… wait, what was this post about?

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, Paffooney, teaching

Same Old Woes…

I am running another free-book promotion this month, once again for Recipes for Gingerbread Children. Same song, third verse. It seems no one wants this book. I can’t even give it away for free.

I suppose it might have something to do with the fact that there are nudists in the story. It’s true, the Cobble Twins are teenage girls who love to be naked. And in the story, they spend time at Grandma Gretel’s house walking around with no clothes on. And when they get their junior high friends to visit Gretel, eat her gingerbread cookies, and listen to her stories, they also try to convince their friends to get naked too. But, really, it is a part of the charm of those two characters. It is not a pornographic story, and they basically fail in promoting nudism among eighth graders.

But nudism has a slightly different meaning for Gretel Stein. She barely escaped the showers at Auschwitz. It is the hardest story she has to tell.

Sherry and Shelly Cobble

I am roundly disappointed. I have every reason to believe I am a good writer and this is a good book. But how can I get people to agree if no one is willing to read it? I have to just keep trying. The book is still free until Tuesday midnight.

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Filed under feeling sorry for myself, gingerbread, humor, novel, Paffooney, publishing

What Is Making My Ears Bleed?

Don’t panic. I’m okay. Or if you don’t like me at all, don’t get overly happy in anticipation. I actually know why my ears keep bleeding. It is the skin on the top and sides of my ears peeling off and bleeding because of moderate-plaque psoriasis. I just like the way that title sounds. All dripping with ill omens and horror-movie anxiety. I am not becoming a zombie or anything. I just look and feel like one.

I am feeling a little bit old and pointless, what with the pandemic worsening in Texas, my father’s health deteriorating in darkly concerning ways, and the upcoming decision about whether or not I get to return to Iowa this summer. It’s definitely in doubt this year. My parents are both octogenarians and there is the risk of carrying virus anywhere near them. Not to mention the risk of death the virus presents to me. And I am feeling ill. Not with Covid 19. I have no symptoms of that. But I have a stomach virus. My psoriasis is fierce. And I do not have the physical energy to drive myself all the way to Iowa. The prospect of not being able to go home again for another year is weighing heavily on my soul. That is why I have been busy with maudlin posts about dead movie stars like yesterday’s post.

There’s a certain minimum amount of time needed for re-connection with my roots, my childhood, the people and places that gave rise to me. The picture above is one of my Great Grandmother, Nellie Hinckley. She is one of the founders of my world. A Goddess responsible for giving life to my mother’s side of the family. She passed into the World of the Remembered in 1980, when I painted this picture. Soon my parents will be joining her and my grandparents from both sides of the family in that world where everything is summed up in old photographs. And I shall surely follow soon… if not proceed them. I wonder if anyone will lift a brush to Remember me?

And yet, no matter how it turns out, I have much to get on with. I am not done telling stories. I have had little success in selling my books so far. I can barely give them away. But the work of it gives my life just enough purpose and meaning to keep me alive longer than the insurance industry, my Texas teacher retirement plan, and the mortuary companies of the world would like me to. But, I promise to continue frustrating them further.

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Filed under family, feeling sorry for myself, humor, illness, Iowa, Paffooney

Impatience and Impertinence

My parents still live in the farmhouse my great- grandfather built in the 1800’s.

Life is impermanent.

Sometimes it is as fleeting as the wind.

I finished re-building the retaining wall in our yard today. A two-year project coming to an end. But someone working on the road maintenance crew came back one night after work and stole about ten bricks. The compromises I had to make will leave the job permanently unfinished.

This is the retaining wall in February of 2019.

Nothing, no matter how old it is, or if it is made of stone or not, endures time unchanged… by geologic forces… or my paltry masonry skills.

My father will reach his 90th birthday this next October. He is in failing health as I write this. My mother is taking care of him at home at the age of 87. Covid 19 may take all three of us before Summer even ends.

I have now published my 16th book. I have been in writing competitions and made the finals. I have more five-star reviews than fours, and no reviews below three. I feel like I have reason to believe I am a good writer. But even though I have made money on my books every month for a year and a half, I have never made more than five dollars in a single month. It is probably set in stone that I am not going to see any fame or fortune before the ill winds blow me away.

Do I have any right to expect more out of life? I have already been far luckier than other people I know. It is probably impertinent to think that somehow I am owed more.

But, never-the-less, I keep writing books about things that never really happened to made-up people, and re-building my world brick by brick, glad that I didn’t use straw or sticks, because a windy old wolf will soon come to my door.

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, feeling sorry for myself

Forgetfulness

I may be suffering from the onset of… what’s that disease called? The one that makes you shake and be mentally confused about… what was I talking about? Oh, yes, I still can’t remember.

It disturbs me that I have difficulty recalling names that I used to rattle off the top of my head quite accurately when I was teaching and was a total master of all the useless trivia information in the universe.

Recently my daughter and number-one son were arguing with me about actors who played Superman. I successfully remembered TV Superman George Reeves who I watched as a pre-teen kid, and Christopher Reeve who I watched on the big screen as a college sophomore, and I even put the “s” at the end of the right one’s name. But I couldn’t remember the name of that new guy… No, not Brandon Routh from Superman Returns (apparently for only one movie), but that other new guy… from Man of Steel, and he was in the movie remake of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Number-One Son finally figured out who I meant by looking it up on his smartphone. Henry Cavill! Why couldn’t I remember that guy’s name? I recently watched him in the Witcher on Netflix. Henry gol-danged Cavill!!?

But then I ponder why there are some names and details I can’t seem to forget. Dawn Wells played Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island. But it wasn’t the actress’s name I could never forget. It was the sight of her belly button. When the series was on television on a night that didn’t conflict with watching Batman, I watched Mary Ann’s every movement and flounce and prance and twirl, and every banana cream or coconut cream pie she ever handed to Gilligan. At the ages of ten, eleven, and twelve I was mad to see a glimpse of her actual belly button. But not for the reason you think! I insisted to all my friends at school that I did NOT LIKE GIRLS! (Even though I actually did.) It was because I didn’t know if she had one. She wore revealing clothes and even bikini two-pieces on the show, and yet, it was always covered somehow. I remember every delicious detail of my too-close-to-the-TV inspection of Dawn Wells’ acting ability in black-and-white, and later, in syndication, in color. It was clear that somebody in the TV universe didn’t want me to see it. And maybe that is precisely why I can never forget it.

But, then again, I can’t remember this guy’s name. Yes, I know, Uncle Fester from The Addams Family. I even remember the two “d’s” in Addams. And I remember that he played the Kid when he was a little kid in Charlie Chaplin’s movie The Kid.

Yes, I honestly could not remember Jackie Coogan’s name until I looked up the Chaplin movie on Wikipedia.

It really bothers me that I cannot remember some things that I used to know really well. But given time I am able to remember that it is Parkinson’s Disease that my father has and may be causing my memory losses, and that the narrator-guy in the first picture I used in this post is Ludwig Von Drake, a character voiced by legendary cartoon voice actor Paul Frees. I am getting old. And forgetful. But how was I going to end this essay? I forget.

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, humor, nostalgia

Texas-Summer Hot

I am used to complaining about the heat. More than one summer I have endured 100 days of 100-degree-plus heat. When I lived in deep South Texas in the town of Cotulla, one summer we averaged 104 degrees.

The heat sits on you like a wool blanket that presses you down towards the surface of the frying pan. You almost wish you could set yourself completely free of clothing so that you could be as cool as possible, and at the same time get an all-over tan. (Or an all-over sunburn as the case always is with me.)

But this, of course, is Bible-belt Texas where the Baptists threaten you with eternal Hellfire if you even think about being naked.

And the heat makes for oppressive summer laziness, where you can’t seem to do anything but sit and sweat. Of course, when I was a kid, summer days were for chasing leopard frogs down on the banks of the Iowa river. Or watching the butterflies in Mrs. Stokes’ flower bed where petunias and daisies, and black-eyed Susans seemed to bloom all summer long. Or explore the Bingham Park Woods on my trusty-rusty bicycle, biking along the forest foot-paths. Nowadays, kids can sit in an airconditioned room and play video games from the time they wake up in the afternoon until four o’clock the next morning.

This summer hasn’t been quite as hot as some in the recent past. There has been rain off and on. But it is even more oppressive with the pandemic going on. And the George Floyd protests raging on as much here in Dallas as in any city. The heat and diabetes and poverty and the inability to get anything done that actually feels like progress have me depressed and moping and completely stifled… and using the word “and” too often.

It is even hard to write a blog post. My energy is gone. All I have done is dither on the WordPress site. But at least I have ticked off one more tick-box on the to-do list of a hot Texas day.

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Filed under artwork, battling depression, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, humor, Paffooney, Texas

Because I Should Be…

I should be writing more, because 15 books is not enough to contain all of me to leave behind when I die.

I should be exercising more, because I am diabetic and arthritic, and the more I lounge and laze, the more I am not fighting back against implacable enemies.

I should be laughing more, because laughter heals the soul of the many horrendous wounds of every day.

I should be loving more, because people all around me are hurting as much as I am, and they need more of it in their lives, as do I.

I should be caring and doing more,

because the world is sick with Covid and burning from racially motivated injustices and murder. And I feel helpless in the wake of it.

I should be doing many things,

That I am not doing because my power is gone. But I try anyway. And I write bad poetry about it…

…Because I should be.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, clowns, commentary, Depression, feeling sorry for myself, healing, Paffooney, poetry

Mickey’s Somewhat Pretty Okay Not Rotten Weekend

I have had a rough time since the pandemic began. I still get my pension check at the beginning of each month… for now. So, I am a lot better off than those whose jobs were taken away by the lock-down. But I did lose all potential income from substitute teaching. And the plumbing in the house is still aging badly, sprouting leaks everywhere that I have no money to fix with professional plumbers. I can barely afford Fix-it Tape which only slows a leak and does not completely end it. Notice I said “leaks”, not “leeks”. Onions I can defeat. But water is not my element to master.

Today my faithful microwave, the one that I had for four years in my last classroom, gave out. A spark and some smoke and she cooks no more.

But it is not all bad news.

My wife secretly has two more microwaves in her secret evidence-of-hoarding-disorder stash. She let me use one. She also found a leak-clamp for temporarily staunching leaky pipes at Home Depot where I haven’t dared to go in the pandemic because of my diabetes and high blood pressure. So, the weekend was slightly more un-yuckified than I expected.

And this weekend I was having a free-book promotion for A Field Guide to Fauns. I was expecting to give away too few free books again. I expected the Twitter writing community to turn up their noses because it is a story about a family of nudists living in a nudist park. But the Twitter nudists that follow me because of Recipes for Gingerbread Children were delighted. I gave away more books in the first two days of the promotion than I have given away in any other promotion.

It feels good to have someone reading my books, even if they are naked when they read it.

And I have reached a point where I am relatively certain, without being tested, that the illness I have been feeling is all just diabetes and allergies, and I have not yet fallen ill with Covid 19.

So, I can honestly say that I feel very… Meh, okay right now. Better than expected, and a lot better than dead.

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Filed under angry rant, feeling sorry for myself, health, humor, novel plans, Paffooney, publishing

A Better Way

When you are in pain, it is better by far to use laughter as medicine than to rely on anger or tears. I need to do this. More now at the end of my life than ever before.

I may not be well enough to write very much, but I can still click on the picture and show you some clowns.

It is surprising to see in my media file how many pictures of clowns there actually are to choose from. I draw clowns a lot.

Mr. Dickens, Mr. Shakespeare, Mr. Disney, and Mr. Poe

Not all clowns tell jokes and make pratfalls. Some clowns are simple. And some are profound.

And one clown to rule them all… and with sad laughter bind them.

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Filed under clowns, feeling sorry for myself, healing, Paffooney, wisdom