A Life Lived Without Complaint…

…is not a life truly lived.

I am exceedingly lucky in this life, and I know it. I am handicapped, but it could be much worse.

It is true that I may never drive a car, and in never doing so I’ll lose officially–without ever having gained it–a certain measure of freedom afforded most everyone else. My eyes fail me regularly. Come to me in the mornings–when they’re blurry at best, and struggling to focus, and I’ll tell you all about it. My back is aching right now, as I write, and will continue aching, for a good time to come, because in this weekend of goodness just past I overdid it physically. Too much walking. Too much climbing of stairs. Too much trying to prove to myself I could handle the collective it without admitting to myself that sometimes I need–and must accept–help. Too much… being alive and using my body the way most people use their bodies, while taking such use for granted. These things are also true.

Tonight, I allow myself to complain for just a second. So often–too often in films and literature–the handicapped person is made to seem like the portrait of the non-complainer, willing to take on all the crap he must deal with, as a result of his station, never raising his voice in protest..

That is not me.

And, whether or not you’re handicapped yourself or not, if you’re human, it’s not you, either.

But, in amongst the complaints and the crap, and the junk we must wade through as people breathing air on this planet, a planet which is not quite green enough anymore, and a bit more too carbonated every day, if you get my meaning, there are fleeting moments of goodness (mentioned briefly above) that show us why life is still the best thing going.

There is, for example, this.

I met my dad’s agent tonight. Living with him under a roof where creativity and love are celebrated, I know how hard he worked to find her. And now that he did, I can say she is a  real person, who is kind and smart, and we talked books. And family. And our dogs. And T.V. And pop culture. And the world.

And she showed me a way into my query letter–and out of a corner I’ve long felt I boxed myself into–for which I am extremely grateful.

So even though I’m in pain right now–having dragged my laundry basket up the stairs to begin the wash, an act that took longer and hurt my tender back more than I would have liked–I am able to drag my laundry basket up the stairs, and I began the wash when some among us can not. (It has now finished above me).

Also this weekend I watched, live and in-person with one of my favorite people in the world, while my Seattle Seahawks punched their ticket to the NFC Championship Game. (Remember when I mentioned climbing lots of stairs? Worth it!) In a city where sports mediocrity is the accepted norm, it feels great to delight in a winner.

I understand how lucky I am to live in this country, to be who I am, to have the talents I have, to know the wonderful people I know, even with my deficits.

But just… every now and then… if I complain, hear me out and honor the complaint. Can you do that? I would appreciate it.

Because a life lived without complaint is not a life truly lived.

Why Sports Matter

I’m a writer. That’s what I do, and hopefully my love of words is clear. It is my job, and yet it’s not, because, like the old cliche says, If you like what you do, it’s never work.

Uh-huh.

Hi, I’m Derek. Have we met? I’m sarcastic. Did you get that?

That cliche isn’t true all the time, is what I’m saying. Sometimes, even if you love what you do, and sometimes because you love what you do, it is very much work. Hard work.

So, every now and then, from the chaos and confusion, the drudgery of cubicle living, that boss you hope posts some stupid crap on Facebook that gets him fired, you need a break, an escape. 

That is sports.

That is why sports matter.

And, more than an escape, they help to refocus life. Your team loses a tough playoff battle, and a year that seemed like our year isn’t. It hurts. It stings. But, in the end, it’s sports, and life, in all its beauty and complexity, moves on. We’ll get ’em next year! (Just keep saying it, Cub fan. Us Seahawks fans can tell you: It’s true!)

Eager, Yet Anxious…..

This weekend was a great one! My girlfriend’s always-wonderful company. Two episodes of Orphan Black (we’re two behind; no spoilers, please!), Spud’s Fish ‘N Chips, along with some sun and reading our books in the park. And, Saturday night, another viewing of the great Seahawks conquering those Peyton Manning-led Broncos. I call that a great weekend. Hopefully, you can see why. Now I move into this next week refreshed and ready. Ready for editing.

For writers–and especially this writer–the prospect of editing is daunting. But it’s more than that. It can make me downright anxious. Am I making the right edits? What if I’m making this story worse rather than better?

This week will be one full of editing for me. Long hours. Hard choices. My editor will be turning over to me her latest notes on what I have always called “the big book”. I really can not wait to share this story with all of you, and with everyone, but I am waiting because a good book can be made a great book through editing.

Wish me luck!

 

Father’s Day!

Yesterday, my father, brother, and I celebrated my dad’s 32nd Father’s Day. And while, as I’m sure is true with every father and son (who are being honest), we don’t get along all the time, I do always know–and never forget–the lengths to which my dad went to make sure I had as normal a life as possible. All the times he spoke up on my behalf, when I couldn’t speak for myself. The chance he took with an experimental surgery. The time we spent together in that California hospital room. He slept in a chair at the side of my bed, if I remember correctly.

Now the years have done their dance on and around us (That’s true of all of us, isn’t it?). I grew up. He grew hair in his ears (Sorry, Dad. I had to get one little dig in, or I wouldn’t be your son). We love to watch baseball and football together. All the games of both sports. If we can catch a broadcast by the great Vin Scully, we won’t ever pass up the opportunity to hear: “It’s time for Dodger baseball”, but we are true Seattle sports fans (go hawks, go M’s).

We are both writers, too. Together, we work hard to see our own tomes published (at this point, I’d settle for an agent, but to be published is the dream). Dad found his agent (this is his first Father’s Day with an agent!) and is now working hard to not only edit his manuscript but also to help me secure my own representation.

I just wanted to say I know it hasn’t been easy, and life is a constantly evolving set of circumstances, but thank you, Dad, for being one of my best friends, a true confidante, and one of my biggest fans. I hope you know I’m the same for you!

 

 

 

 

Writing 101–A Room With A View

The idea today is: If you go anywhere in space and time, where would you go? My answer came instantly. Here goes.

The house isn’t big, but it’s bigger than the one my grandparents lived in for years before I was born, the one where my father grew up. As I approach the front door, Grandma’s rock garden is on my right. She loves that garden. Whenever we go to the beach, we bring back a bucket full of stones she can add to it.

I don’t need to knock. Papa can see me from the window. He’s in his kitchen, where he is the most talented person I know, cooking. I can’t wait to immerse myself in the mingling aromas of a lovingly prepared meal. What might it be today?

Turkey and gravy? Nah, it’s not Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin and apple pies? No, the chill of the holidays has yet to bite the air.

As I try and determine what meal might be on the menu, I’m also trying to figure out what time of year it is. Then I realize it isn’t any particular time of year. It’s just “A Day At My Grandparents’ House”.

Which means Pop will be cooking the stable stand-by my brother and I always ask him to make. Chicken strips, macaroni and cheese, and corn off the cob. It isn’t fancy, and he’s got a much bigger culinary vocabulary than we ever knew. But that one meal, more than any other, always felt like home.

I enter the house, and there are all the smells I’m so used to. The smells that say: A long-time couple lives here. They built a family, and that welcoming feeling you have in your soul is present because you’re a part of it, a part of them.

Papa comes out, and he doesn’t need to say a word. He’s got a dish towel slung over his shoulder (I’m not sure why), he’s wearing his King Of The Kitchen apron, and underneath it I can just glimpse his Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl Champions sweatshirt, extra large, because here his body retains the weight the cancer took.

“You saw the game,” I say, and just that one bit of knowledge allows tears to queue up behind my eyes. A lump forms in my throat, and I can’t swallow it down.

“Of course I did. I watched them every Sunday. Wouldn’t have missed this one.” He smiles. “How ’bout that Russell Wilson? He’s quite a player, isn’t he?”