Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Something heartwarming happened the other day that I wanted to record and share so that I did not forget, but also because I think there is something wonderful in this event, though I am not quite sure how to describe it. I will try to explain it without cheapening anything.

We had a small birthday party for my son Elijah who just turned two. It was intended that we were not to make a huge deal about his birthday because he was only turning two, and although made aware that it was his birthday, he himself would have been just as excited had we told him it was anyone else’s birthday. So Brandi invited “only family” to the party in order to keep it small, but she is from a Portuguese family and inevitably if you are throwing a party, and provide good food, there will be nearly 50 people there even with some absent. So we had a small party for my son, who turned two.

I wish to explain also that I love birthdays, especially my own, but other’s as well. I love them because they are at their core a celebration of life. Whenever I pray at a birthday party now, I always thank God for the person whose birthday it is, and for all of us. It is a wonderful opportunity to praise him for the miracle of birth. This day was for Eli, but it was not him alone who I was thankful for that day.

Elijah was busy as we set up for the party as most two-year-olds are. He was excited to be at his Grandma’s house because she has a lot of dogs, a lot of things to play with, and children simply enjoy a change of scenery. A few people arrived on time, and among them was Brandi’s father who brought with him his wife and also Brandi’s grandparents.

My children are blessed enough to have seven of eight great-grandparents still alive, and three of them were at his party. Now grandpa and grandma Tavares are now in their eighties and as people at that age often are, they are a bit slower than they used to be, in fact recently Grandpa has begun to sit in a wheel chair as walking has become too strenuous. So once they arrived, Grandpa was pushed up to the end of one of the tables.

Immediately some people waited on him as some chips with dip were brought out and some lemonade as well. Now up to this point, Elijah had been acting a bit shy. Whenever there are a lot of people coming around, children get a bit shy, but my son overcame his initial reclusivness as soon as food arrived. He sat himself next to Grandpa Tavares and began to snack on chips with him.

I was seated at a table parallel to their’s and sensed that I ought to pay attention to the pair for no other reason than to observe. Both Grandpa and Eli were given a plate with chips and a cup of lemonade. The bowl with dip was moved to their end of the table and they were pleasantly munching away on the salty snack. After making sure that neither needed anything, everyone else went into the house leaving Grandpa and his great-grandson to snack together.

I cannot say that the pair was even aware of me though I made to effort to hide, only to not disturb the scene. It was simple but made me smile to watch the patriarch of the family dine with one of his many children. They both ate some chips with Grandpa coaching Elijah when he got too much dip or some dripped on the table. I smiled as I observed an example of the natural progression of raising a family before me.

Then Elijah, thirsty from the chips, drank all of his lemonade. When he finished he checked his cup to ensure that he had in fact finished, and upon confirming that there was indeed no more drink in his cup he held it up to Grandpa and asked him for more. I nearly stood up worried that because Grandpa was confined to the chair that I would have to get my son some more, but Grandpa proved generous and resourceful. He took Eli’s cup from him and preceded to gingerly poor some from his own cup into the young boy’s. When satisfied that Elijah had enough he gently placed the cup back on the table, Elijah thanked him in the sweet and pure way that children do, and sipped his cup once more.

It was a subtle and perhaps unimportant exchange to most people, but to me it was beautiful. I watched as a man in his eighties, having done so much throughout his life, enjoy a personal moment with his great-grandson. In that instant my mind flashed to Abraham and I was reminded of what is important in life.

When I am old and nearing the return to my father, I do not pray for fame or fortune, but family. That is all I want. Family. It is so much more important than the rest. Fame fades, fortunes are spent, but family grows. Grandpa and Grandma have six children (one has preceded them home), fifteen or so grandchildren, and another seventeen odd great-grandchildren. That is priceless. No one can take away the legacy that they have left because it is not something that can be forgotten or lost; it is living and breathing in the people who look to them as father and mother. That is my ultimate goal. To be Grandpa, sitting at the table and pouring lemonade for my children. Nothing else seems superior in comparison.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Black smoke rises up from a burning fire in the middle of the dense dark forest.
Red flames dance in the night like fierce warriors after a victorious battle.
Green trees tower high into the sky, forever reaching for the heavens.
Yellow leaves fall from branches retiring to the soil after a long years work.
Blue, cold, rushing water runs past nearby in a hurry to get wherever it is going.
Grey clouds float lazily through the air saving their strength for a later engagement.
White snow caps the tall majestic mountains like a hat on the head of a boy.
Our pink lips, embraced now and forever, unaffected.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


It has been moderately spread around at school that I have a book published. I have been getting used to the varied responses from people. Some people say something like, “that is awesome, wow, amazing,” and others are like, “how many have you sold?” It is frustrating, but I have been making a bit of a game of it. I now like to answer any response with a question. If I get a “oh that is wonderful!” I like to respond, “really? Is it?” It is a bit rude, but helps me to sense whether or not the person is sincere in their enthusiasm. It turns out that most people who are enthusiastic have no intention of ever reading the book. When I get the “how many have you sold?” I now like to answer, “how many do you think?” If they say something really high like “one million,” I point out that I am teaching full time and most understand that had I sold a million copies that I would not be teaching. Mostly people are impressed with a couple hundred which is good because that is how many I have sold.

So something interesting happened recently which stung a little bit. I was in the “lunch room” and some teachers were chatting over a collection of old and bazaar books that someone received from their uncle or something. Many of them were poorly written and or silly. One of the teachers present is an English teacher. She is also a writer and working to publish a book. Though I do not know the details of her efforts to publish and have not read two words of anything she wrote I understand that it has been difficult based on comments from other people. So someone asked why if so many crappy books were published why can’t she get published. A very astute question because a lot of crappy books are published and I suspect that there are a lot of worthwhile authors that cannot get published. Then to my shegrin another teacher reminded everyone that I am published to which she shot back, “well, if you are willing to pay for it, of course you can get published.” OUCH!!! That hurt. Though there was nothing said that is not the truth. In fact I have resigned myself to trying to land a “real” publisher, though I believe that Tate is a “real” publisher that requires “co-investment.” I understand that a small publisher has difficulty competing in a very competitive market while trying to publish all new books from all new authors. No doubt that is very challenging. Still I have been less than pleased with Tate and hope to find another publisher. Keep your fingers crossed and I am glad that said teacher chose to point that fact out to me.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Kids Just Don't Understand

As I believe I explained earlier I reread The Red Badge of Courage in order to teach it to a group of students who are the “Academic Decathlon” team at our High School. I love the book because it is so deep and psychological and because of the amazing description of the battle. The students I taught it to hated it. I could not understand. They said things like, “it is boring,” “nothing happened” “it was confusing.” I told them that it was supposed to be confusing because war is confusing and the main character was confused. That was the whole point, but they missed it. They were complaining about Henry changing his mind all the time, but they did not get that war was confusing thus the main character was confused. It makes perfect sense but not to them. Then I told them about my book and they said that they would like it. I have no doubt that they would. My book is a result of pressures to entertain. It is exciting and fast paced. They would like it.

Therein lies my revelation. Many books are entertaining. That is what sells. Many books that are considered “masterpieces” are not as entertaining. Students and adults alike find them boring. I myself have never understood the likes of Falkner, and Knowls, yet they are considered masters. So here is the issue. Do I want to be popular or good? It seems that one cannot be both. Perhaps there are some who manage it, but I cannot name any. I personally feel that Twain, and Orwell among others manage it, but others would even find them boring. I do not know how to reconcile this, but it disturbs me. I suppose I will have to first go for popular and then hope for masterpiece. Both are probably years off, but I have to start somewhere, and The Sureshot was the start.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Writer Anxiety

I have been dying to write more, but continue to be derailed by teaching and coaching among other things. Still I have been learning some things about writing, and have been able to reflect more on my book and revise the second one. I am still on track to finish editing before the New Year and to begin working on getting it published. I am excited about it, but wish that could do it full time. I imagine being able to make my own “writing” room and write as I feel like it. Of course becoming the “full time” writer means dealing with deadlines and pressure to keep writing. I even worry about what happens if I run out of things to write about. What happens when I write something excellent and then cannot match it again? What happens if my writing becomes stale and predictable? What will I do if I cannot sell any books after years of writing full time?

Oh well. I suppose I don’t have to worry about those things yet since I have not even reached the point where I can write full time, and may not, thus relieving me of my need to answer these questions.