50 FOLLOWS!!

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Now that I have reached this milestone, I had to formally thank every single blogger out there who has followed my blog. I have officially reached 50 wordpress.com blog follows, and it means the world to me. Some of you might think it’s nothing to get 50 follows, but it is quite humbling to me. When I began a few weeks ago, the best I hoped for was a few people becoming passively interested in what I had to say with maybe a few likes here and there, but in just a few short weeks you guys have encouraged me and humbled me more than I could have thought possible. Every response I have received from fellow bloggers has been truly honest, encouraging, and helpful. Some of those that have really encouraged me and helped me get the reins down on this site (and this is not a complete list, just those on the top of my head, so if I forget someone I truly apologize) are: Sargeantbrigade, Cariwiese, C.B. McCullough, JeynaGrace, Russell Deasley, C.H. Griffin, and so many others!

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all for showing an interest, and I promise to do my very best to continue to write posts that hopefully encourage, inspire, make you laugh, or are just plain not boring!!

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Week 3: Adventures in Spring Break

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runner2

So nothing irritates me more than my body failing on me. I mean to be forced to quit, not because I was unwilling, and not because I mentally could not hack it. No. Forced to quit because my body literally gave up. I mean, there I was starting mile 2 and . . .

Sorry. Deep breath.

I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning shall we. . .

I began the week with 2 goals in mind: 1) finish the yard work, and 2) finish the nursery.

Goal #1 was not a pretty sight:

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As you can tell, my grass had been neglected for sometime. I began referring to it as “the beast” and the beast needed quite a bit of taming, as it were, nearly an entire day’s taming, to get it mildly under control.

(Weeds the size of elephants had sprung up. We’ll get to those later.)

By the time I reached the grass by the fence my body already ached from hours of bending and lifting and raking and pushing and pulling. Then, it took me another 45 minutes just to get to this point along the fence:

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Yeah, that’s right. You’re looking at some nasty thick weed grass. I had to stop 5, count them, 5 times to get that area cleaned up and raked before I could move on. Eventually though, the tall grass was hacked to pieces and I was able to finish the mowing and edging. But I was not done. Nuh uh.

Once the yard looked magnificent:

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I still had to weed those ginormous monstrosities of weeds!

(Sorry, no pictures of them. I was too tired by this time. You will just have to trust me that they were that huge.)

Pulling these weeds took me another 2 hours of bending and pulling. I had to traipse around the multitude of weed patches around the house, squat down, and pull with all my might to get these suckers out. It was just enough labor to make think I had seriously injured both hamstrings.

Aching everywhere my yard work was complete, and my first day of spring break came to a close. Needless to say, I did not go running that day. 😦

The next 4 days consisted of converting a spare bedroom into a nursery. “Sounds easy,” you say. Yeah, until you have to do it.

The first step was to move everything out. Done. Easy. But then we had to wrap, re-wrap, and double wrap, Christmas present wrap, the mattresses. Yeah, that was fun. I made my wife do the wrapping mostly because I am the worst present wrapper ever. Seriously. You don’t believe me because you have never seen the gifts I wrap, but I assure you, my wrapping skills are atrocious. (Now, my rapping skills on the other hand, are quite amazing. But that is neither here nor there.)

The next step was to paint the walls. Having moved into a new house a year ago, I felt pretty confident on how to do just that.

Step 1: Understand you have no crafty skills so wife is in charge.

Step 2: Let wife cut in with her steady hand.

Step 3: Cut in around outlets because you can’t screw that up.

Step 4: Watch wife finish cutting in.

Step 5: Wait for wife to finish.

Step 6: roll the rest of the room with two coats. (Be careful not to get any on the ceiling!)

Step 7: Make wife go to store to get a gallon of paint even though you only have one wall left.

Step 8: Done!

So, once again I forgot how much labor really goes into painting. Either I’m doing it wrong, or I’m just a wuss, but the parts of my body that didn’t ache after the yard starting aching now. Once again. No running for day 2 or 3.

Day 4 comes and here we have to put together a dresser and a crib. Now, people say that over time muscle pain goes away, but apparently not until like a year later because each day my hamstrings and back hurt worse and worse. I kept wondering if I had been mauled by a Llama in my sleep. Why a llama? Because those are some foul creatures! And they have a funny name. Anyway. After taking the morning to put together said dresser and crib, I had the brilliant thought to finally go running. Everyone else was napping making it the perfect time.

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So, as usual, I strapped on my outfit and proceed to my park to run. I started moving to the wonderfully slow, melodic sounds of Mr. John Mayer (I know slow music and running don’t seem to mix but it works for me.) and realized how many people were at the park that day. My lance, doesn’t anyone have school or work? I thought, then laughed at myself and remembered it was Spring Break.

I continued around the park getting stares from a group of punk kids on skateboards who weren’t even riding them. They were just sitting in some shade talking. (Which is kind of lame if you ask me.)

But I was going steady.

Around the mile and a half mark something just didn’t feel right. My hamstrings were starting to burn in a weird way. I ignored it thinking they probably just needed to be stretched out, and I kept pounding.

About mile 2, I started to think it was more than that when every step felt like my legs were running through fire. I kept going because I was determined to finish this run.

Inside I knew that I should probably have stopped, but my will said keep going.

So I did.

Around 2.5 miles every step felt like it was going to be my last and my legs were going to fall out from underneath me. I kept pushing through, gritting my teeth trying to ignore it.

I decided about thus time to do a shorter run but not stop. I crossed the street to head home, and, as I pushed off the pavement to launch myself back onto the sidewalk, I felt it. My knees buckled and I stumbled forward.

I caught myself and realized my run was probably over.

Angrily I pulled to a stop and began walking home. No, I didn’t walk. I trudged. I trudged. The slow, weary depressing walk of a man full of anger at being forced to quit prematurely.

I have played sports all of my life from baseball to basketball to football to tennis and in each sport I have had this moment where I know how much I can do, but for some reason my body just doesn’t cooperate. Typically it has been during a game or match where I lost not because the opponent was necessarily better than I, but because I didn’t play at the level I know I am capable of. That is what angered me.

So I trudged about a quarter mile and my anger got a hold of me. I decided to sprint to get rid of it. I pushed off the sidewalk with a jolt and felt my legs instantly turn to rubber and my lungs fill with flame. But I didn’t care. I was angry and didn’t want to be beat. I ran about another quarter mile until I had to give it up. I slowed back to a walk and made my way home.

At one point I had to stop to fix my shoe and found it nearly impossible to start moving forward again as though my legs were not receiving the signals from my brain. With a great effort I willed myself forward and opened the door.

My running was finished and so was I for the week.

I have not run since mostly due to Easter today and preparations for it. I’m sad that my only run of the week ended so terribly but I’m looking forward to next week. Until then.

Everyone have a blessed Resurrection Day!

The Top 10 Must Have Gifts for Trekkies

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This list is in honor of a fellow blogger of mine.(http://theverybesttop10.com) Consider it my homage.

10
The Sweatshirt

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This classic sweatshirt gives the Trekkie in your life the pride of letting everyone else know how much better than everyone else he/she is because of how long he/she has watched this iconic television show.

9
For the Ladies

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This lovely skirt goes with just about anything Trek. (Sort of.) For the beautiful, and rare, Girl Trekkie in your life who wants to share her love of all things Trek. You go girl!

8
The Phone Case

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This amazing case gives the Trekkie in your life the ability to share their love of the iconic show. It also gives them the choice to represent their preferred branch of service. (Shown here in TOS: Command Gold)

7
The Captain’s Tie

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This little ditty allows your Trekkie the opportunity to showcase their love around the office. Always stylish, this tie goes with many shirt types and colors. Perfect for any season.

6
Bottle Opener

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For the Trekkie who likes to rabble rouse as much as a Klingon. Perfect for opening bottles of Romulan Ale, Klingon Blood Wine, or any Terran beverage.

5
Salute Hoodie

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One of most amazing products to come out in years, this hoodie gives your Trekkie the option of saying hello Terran or Vulcan style. This is sure to be a hit with all the single ladies!

4
Pizza Cutter

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Cutting pizza the Starfleet way! Let your Trekkie impress his/her friends during a party by whipping out this trinket and serving up slices.

3
Captain’s Chair

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Perfect for home, office, bachelor pad, or bridge, this inflatable chair is sure to give your Trekkie a comfortable place to rest his/her duff. (Be careful, though, can be easily popped. I had one that lasted only a week before it popped. Sad day.)

2
James Kirk’s Sweat

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Let your Trekkie smell like a real man, probably for the first time in his life, by giving him this bottle of Captain Kirk’s sweat. It will help him stay cool under pressure and smell great doing it!

1
Bat’leth Letter Opener

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Why? Because it’s just plain BA! Not only will your Trekkie be able to open letters the Klingon way, but he/she can fend off a tiny midget or Keebler Elf, or something else really small too!

Well, that’s it! Feel free to comment, challenge, agree, or disagree.

(UPDATE: This is from amandagay who simply said, “because, let’s be honest, us Trekkies don’t really need much else in the way of wardrobe. . .)
Honorable Mention

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It’s Friday, But Sunday’s Coming!

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One of the best Easter Sermons I have ever heard!

“The Next Big Thing Award”

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the-next-big-thing1

Thanks to C.B. McCullough for my nomination of “The Next Big Thing” award!

WHAT IS THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK?

The Awakening

WHAT GENRE DOES YOUR BOOK FALL UNDER?

Fantasy

WHAT IS THE ONE SENTENCE SYNOPSIS OF YOUR BOOK?

An orphan farmer must discover his angelic ancestry and unlock the powerful secrets of his family inheritance to determine the fate of Heaven and Earth.

WHERE DID YOU GET THE IDEA FOR YOUR BOOK?

I was doing a Bible study of Genesis 6 where it talks about Fallen Angels breeding with humans creating the “men of renown,” and I thought the idea of the Nephilim (half human/half angel) was an interesting concept. But I wanted to add to the story, so I took elements from the Book of Revelation mixed it with some elementalism, threw in a dash of Narnia and LOTR, and a pinch of The Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers and came up with a concept for a book series, The Stones of Revenge. Each book follows one of the six main characters who wrestle with being a wielder of one of the Stones of Revenge and the power that comes with it. As their lives intersect they realize that there are powerful forces manipulating the wars and politics of the world’s stage and that they all are at the forefront of it all.

WHO OR WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THIS BOOK?

I was sitting in the hospital with my wife waiting for my first son to be born when I realized I wanted to do something to honor him. I had always wanted to be a writer, but nothing truly inspired me enough until that moment. I thought the greatest gift I could give would be to make my son the main character in a novel and hopefully present it to him one day. ( I know rather sappy and cliche, but it’s the truth. ) So, with a pen and some paper that I had brought to lesson plan while she slept, I wrote the first line to my prologue there in that cold hospital room.

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE FIRST DRAFT OF YOUR MANUSCRIPT?

It took me about two years to finish the first draft.Through teaching English to junior high students and raising an infant there was not a lot of time to write.

WHAT OTHER BOOKS WOULD YOU COMPARE THIS STORY WITH IN YOUR GENRE?

I would say that there are many similar elements to the Game of Thrones series. There are also elements of The Way of Kings spattered about. The theme of characters being thrust into an unknown situation and evolving or failing at their task is always reminiscent of Tolkien and Lewis. And I think the last series I would compare it to, though it’s not necessarily in the genre, is The Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers. I find her character connections and plot twists astounding.

WHAT ACTORS WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO PLAY YOUR CHARACTERS IN A MOVIE RENDITION?

Man alive!

If given my wish list I would have to say that any cast would be incomplete without Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson, and/or either Patrick Stewart or William Shatner. (Life long trekkie, here)

WILL YOUR BOOK BE SELF-PUBLISHED OR REPRESENTED BY AN AGENCY?

I’ve decided to self-publish. I think that indie publishing really is on the verge of replacing the traditional method of publishing. There are just too many benefits to it. It reminds me of when DVDs replaced VHS. I held onto my VHS tapes for years thinking this whole DVD thing was just a trend. Then, when I couldn’t even get a penny from someone brave enough to buy my VHS tapes off of me, I had to spend hundreds of dollars replacing my movie collection. Now, we all sit around and muse about the days when we had to “Be kind, Please rewind.”

WHAT ELSE ABOUT YOUR BOOK MIGHT PIQUE YOUR READERS’ INTEREST?

I have tried very hard to weave multiple layers into the books so that readers might not catch them until the third time re-reading the novels. I really want to catch my readers off guard just enough for them to smile and say, “Oh man! It took me this long to connect those dots? Well played, Justin, well played.”

The free prologue and chapter one is available here, and soon the first full novel should be available to download as an ebook through Smashwords or a paperback through Amazon.
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I truly hope that you give it a read, and that you enjoy it.

– Justin

MY NOMINATIONS ARE…

aikiwriter

C.H. Griffin

Return of the Grammar Nazi- Part 1

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Image“Great,” you say sarcastically. “Someone really posted about grammar?” Yes, yes, someone did, and this post might just save your life.

There are a million books out there about grammar. (Okay, maybe not a million, but there sure are a lot.) The best of which, and most comical in my humble opinion, (and, no, I won’t use the acronym) is Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynn Truss. If you haven’t read it, then stop reading this now, go to Amazon, and buy it. Yes, it is that good. No, no, don’t use the look inside feature. Just buy it. Yes, you in the front row? You already have it? Well, then pipe down; I was talking to the group in the back. Yes, I know most of them are already asleep. No, I won’t stop rambling. Yes, guy with drool on his face in the back. You don’t trust me? Then, why are you reading this blog on grammar? I’m telling you, it’s that good. I mean the writer is British but we can all forgive her that, right? (I kid. I love the British. They give us great tea, and married couples to obsess about, and everything sounds so much more official in a British accent. Seriously, re-read my first paragraph with a British accent, and you’ll see. Just do it. Quit arguing. I know this is a long aside. Fine, I’ll carry on then.)

Wait, you still haven’t gone to Amazon? I told you like 167 words ago to do it. Did you seriously just count all of the words?

Well, did you start with the word like? I didn’t, and neither should you. It’s a colloquialism for goodness’ sake. See, you should learn to trust me.

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Okay, I got off topic and I do apologize. I hope you will stop counting and at least check it out. It is a great book. Sure, you can use the look inside feature, but I will feel the gap in our trust.

I was introduced to it during my last year of undergrad work studying history. It changed my outlook on writing, and from thence I became the self-proclaimed Grammar Nazi. The book’s main purpose is to teach the reader about commas along with the author’s biggest pet peeve about people using them. I brought it up because I was going to segue into my biggest pet peeve, but as usual I followed the rabbit trail. (Oh, is that Ben Savage talking about Girl Meets World?) See, there I did it again. Apologies.

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My biggest annoyance when it comes to grammar, or usage in this case, is improperly using homonyms. Your and You’re. It’s and its. There, their, they’re. To, two, and too. It is something my students and frankly many adults do way too often. We really do need to fix this.

Let’s start with Your and You’re:

Your indicates possession.

For example, your new car is super neato!

You’re is a contraction of the words you and are.

For example, you’re the bees’ knees!

Please stop using them incorrectly. It hurts my head.

Next stop: It’s and Its:

It’s is the contraction for it and is. See, that little dangly thing between the t and the s. Some people refer to it annoyingly as a “flying comma”. Vomit. It is called an apostrophe. They are necessary for contractions. They scream at the reader, “Hey, there is a missing letter over here! Hey, see me? I took its place!” (See I tricked you there because I haven’t explained its yet, and I used it. Correctly.)

For example, that is a nice scooter. It’s top of the line.

Its shows possession. See how there is no apostrophe? That’s because it is the only time when an apostrophe is not needed to show possession. Confused? Yeah, well how much more confused would you be if we were discussing it’s and it’s? See paragraph above for example.

Onto There, Their, and They’re:

There is used to show location. Notice the word here inside of it? T(here). That’s a little clue and a freebie from me to you.

For example, you need to put the dwarves over there.

Their is used to show ownership. Once again, notice the word heir inside? T(heir). You are correct guy in the back with drool on his face. An heir is a person who gets their wealthy parents money. (And by the way, thanks for cleaning up the drool. I was starting to throw up again.)

For example, their son is really good at dwarf tossing.

They’re is a contraction for the words they and are. Once again, the apostrophe. Girl in the front, if you call it a “flying comma” one more time, so help me . . .

For example, they’re a really cute dwarf couple. Aww, tender.

Last and certainly not least, To, Too, and Two.

To indicates a direction, and it is a preposition. It can also be used in the infinitive form of a verb.

For example, we need to go to the dodgeball tournament.

To go = infinitive. (By the way, don’t split it unless you’re spitting out awesomeness in the form of Star Trek.

To the dodgeball tournament = prepositional phrase.

Too indicates more than enough of something.

For example, that is too much mustard!

Two is the number. It stands for 2. Or 1 + 1. That equals 2. Or two.

For example, there are two dwarves on that dodgeball team!

Thus concludes my first lesson/rant. I hope I have enlightened your day.

And just in case you were wondering: No. No dwarves were harmed in the writing of this blog.

Updates, Failure, and Week 2 in Review

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ImageFirst things first, I updated the design of the blog. Hurrah! I feel like the new design sets a better tone. I hope I didn’t confuse anyone and that you all like it as well.

Second things second, this week in review. (See what I did there?) So, I would love to start off by saying that this week went better than last week and I ate completely healthy. But the reality of everything is that we aren’t machines. We are going to fail. And we are going to indulge. The key is not in the failure; the key is in the rebound. The key is in getting yourself back up when you fell flat on your face and got beat like Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed did.

As a junior high school teacher, I try to teach this lesson everyday. In my classroom, failure is a part of the process. I expect my students to fail at something through out the year. It’s how they and we learn. I always tell them that if they never failed, they wouldn’t need to be in my room. It is coming face to face with challenges that show us what we are made of. Once failure occurs, we can learn what we did wrong and correct it. “You get more out of losing than you do winning.”

And with that I review my week. I ran only twice. My goal is always 3 times a week, but at least 2 is still a nice week. Monday was excellent and I ran 3.86 miles in 41:54, so an average of 10:51. That was a record for both distance and speed. I felt on top of the world. I was ready to tackle the week!

But then the rest of the week happened. I did not run Wednesday. Thursday was a big test day in my class that resulted in 0% of my students passing. Came to find out that this was due to an error somewhere in the answers rubric, so I got to take the test to find the mistake. Stress. Fixed it. Stress. 31% passed. A little less stress. And when we are stressed what do we do? That’s right, bury our anxiety into little bowls of ice cream, or peach pie, or McDonald’s chicken nuggets with barbecue sauce. . . . Okay, I digress. The point is I ran away from my healthy food. Friday I felt like a failure, so that night I re-determined to run. (I know myself too well. I take too much time off and all of a sudden it is 3 months later and I never started running again.) I did not want that to happen again. So, I ran. I threw my gear on and put foot to pavement and I ran. I listened to familiar tunes and I ran. I thought about revising my books and I ran. And though I did not set any records for myself. I did do a nice 5k in under 40 minutes. It as a nice end to my week and a reminder that during this process I am going to fail, but it’s what comes after that just might show me what I truly am made of.

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