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!!

Week 3: Adventures in Spring Break

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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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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.

Nor Bid the Stars Farewell- Part 2

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John ambled through his father’s apartment grazing his finger tips over the items scattered about. He had just closed the last box in the apartment, and now he was waiting for the movers to arrive. Dust and ash had accumulated over the years, and with every breath, John took in the stench of stale tobacco. The place disgusted him. Even when he came as a child to visit he had hated touching anything. Now, he couldn’t stop himself.

There was very little he desired, yet he still felt guilt over consigning his father’s possessions. Lingering in the living room, John spotted two items he very much did wish to have. First, the fifty-inch plasma screen. He figured he could sell it and use the money to buy his sons’ Christmas presents. At least the old man would finally contribute to his grandkids lives. He also wanted the old gaming system. He and his brother had bought it for their father as a birthday present many years ago. In retrospect, it was a selfish buy.

John had used it as an escape from his father’s drunken musings. Every weekend he stayed with his father, he was kept up until two or three in the morning listening to his rants and lectures. As a little boy, John did not know how to respond. He was constantly informed of relationship and financial issues all of which he couldn’t care less about. He just sat in the chair, his back to his father, watching cartoons to fade out the words floating with the cigarette smoke over his head. Soon his father realized this and began muting the television forcing John to be a sounding board for all of his father’s anger, pain, and frustrations. By the time John reached high school, he could no longer stomach these sessions. He began to play video games as a way to drown out the droning.

Now, he stood before the console having not touched it in years and the same apprehensions and dread filled him as when he was a small child. 8 years old was too young to be put through that. He knew it at the time, but now that he had his own kids the thought of what his father had created inside him made him sick. He hated his father for it. And he hated his father for making him do this now. All John wanted was to escape to some place unknown, some other state perhaps.

Suddenly, he remembered the message from last week. The woman from Florida had given an entire family history but John hadn’t recognized any of the names. With no immediate connection, he put it out of his mind. There were too many lose ends to tie up. But now he was finished. A loud horn blared outside signaling this truth to him. Soon large men poured into the small residence carrying out every box and piece of furniture. Within minutes of their arrival, the place was empty. They had even placed the plasma screen and game console into his sedan for him.

John was now free of his father.

Free of his drunken ruminations.

Free of his manipulations.

Free of guilt.

Free.

As he sat in his car, John gave one final glance toward his father’s door then peeled out on the loose gravel and headed toward home. But now his curiosity sagged on him. The woman from Florida and her question ran through his mind. If he was to find the answers now was his time. The thought festered in him throughout the ride home. By the time he arrived, he had no other thought than to pick the scab of intrigue. His wife and sons were out for the day leaving him to research on his own.

Before getting to work, John brewed a strong pot of coffee. The sweet scent poured throughout the house and revived his nostrils from the stench of his father’s apartment. He took a sip and keyed in the words to an ancestry research site. Within seconds, hits returned from his father’s name. Anxiety slowly began to build. Seeing his father’s name in a database made the whole ordeal seem more real somehow. John clicked on the first link, and it opened to reveal a copy of his father’s death certificate. A slight pang of guilt and horror gripped his stomach. He could see in the scanned copy his own signature testifying to its authenticity.  He added it to the portfolio of documents associated with his father.

The next link brought up his marriage certificate to his mother. It was dated eight months prior to his own birth date and in the state of Nevada. A laugh burst forth from him. Their marriage had begun with a shotgun wedding. He added this document to his father’s list as well. John took another sip from his mug savoring the warm flavor of the brown liquid. These files were interesting, but they weren’t what he was looking for. He wanted some connection to the woman in Florida. He thought about trying his grandfather’s name.

The only link associated with this man was a death certificate. Odd. Only one link? The document read that his grandfather had passed away in California. That matched his father’s story about the awful move from Florida to California. But there was nothing else? No birth certificate? No marriage certificate? John was shocked. Why was there so little information about his grandfather? He decided to try someone else. He couldn’t remember the name of his grandmother, so he used his aunt instead.

Her name brought up only a couple of links. The first was a marriage certificate to her only husband from the state of Nevada. The second was her death certificate dated seven years ago. He remembered that day like it was yesterday. She had died from years of incessant alcohol abuse. When her liver failed, her skin grew more sallow until she eventually passed on. The event had prompted his father to give up drinking for fear of his life. That lasted a week.

Nothing more was had from this search.

John was becoming frustrated. He took another sip. His father’s name had brought up the most hits, so he decided to return there. Entering his father’s name again, he saw another marriage certificate link. This was to his older brother’s mother. It was dated June of 1981. Roughly nine months before his brother was born. A pattern was emerging. John shook his head at the absurdity. Apparently, his father couldn’t keep it in his pants and felt obligated to get married. Another sip of coffee.

Then John saw another interesting link. This one was dated January of 1982, a mere seven months after his father’s first wedding. It was a birth certificate of a baby boy. The baby was born in the same county in California that John lived in, and it had his father’s name as the father. The woman’s name he did not recognize.  Could this possibly be for another brother he did not know about? He was beginning to learn a lot about his father he didn’t know. He saved the link.

Suddenly, John had a thought. He wanted to find his father’s birth certificate so he could remember his grandmother’s name. He scrolled through the list of links but none of them opened to his birth certificate. He saw there were twenty-three pages and decided to narrow down his search. Before he could, he needed more coffee. He left the table to find the coffee pot. He poured the dark liquid into his cup and filled the room once again with the sweet aroma. It reignited his senses. John took a warm sip. Then returning to the computer, he filtered his search by selecting only birth certificates. An error message appeared on screen. What? He tried again and still nothing returned. He saw a link on the site that asked to expand the search to include birth certificates, residency cards, and immigration files. What an odd collection of documents, he thought to himself. He decided he had no other option and clicked on it. This time the search reported one document. An immigration card dated 1959. Why would my dad at the age of one have an immigration card? He was born in Florida. Before John could find the answers to his question, the front door burst open and his two sons sprinted towards him.

“Daddy!” they yelled in unison.

John picked up both of his boys and gave them giant hugs. Then he shut his computer deciding to continue his investigation later.

Continue on to Part 3

Day #46: The 4 Stages of Runners

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This is a funny look at being a runner. I’m not quite sure where I am in this continuum.

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The Wheezer

The most neanderthal of distance runners is the least developed cardio-vascularly – and perhaps more importantly, psychologically, for the run – but with a benefit in the areas of modesty and obliviousness to the coming pain — and joys. Welcome to the Wheezer!

The Wheezer wheezes, of course, and complains constantly. After all, he is just beginning to train – in some cases after very long lay-offs from physical activity. Usually, the Wheezer’s complaints center around a lack of a capacity to get oxygen. The 5km a day plan is great for this uninitiated fellow because the effort to run the daily 3 miles rarely ends in utter exhaustion – a fate which cuts short many would-be runners’ careers. Wheeze for 30 minutes, and I will see you tomorrow…

The Watcher

Next comes the ‘Watch’-er. This is the gadget-oriented runner, and we have all been one — and…

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The Awakening: Chapter 1, Part 1

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Stones of Revenge: The Awakening, Chapter 1, Part 1

CHAPTER 1

The young man whistled and a team of oxen began to move forward once more. These large animals lurched forward and snorted, their forked hooves stamping hard into the dry earth kicking up clouds of bellowing dust. The must from the dirt wafted into the lad’s nostrils as he maneuvered the weather beaten plow through the dirt. The uneven, rocky ground caused him to stumble often. It wasn’t long before his mind began to drift in the usual way it did when he was forced to work on his uncle’s land. In a week, he would be turning twenty, but birthdays usually weren’t made much of in his family. For some reason this one felt different. He could not quite understand why he felt this way. He thought perhaps it could be due to the reoccurring dream he had been having.

Much of the dream eluded the young man, but he could recall a field of grass surrounded by an enveloping darkness. He could remember a lone, sinister hooded figure glaring at him from a distance. And he could only vaguely recollect some horrifying feeling of being burned alive by a deep mist. He would awaken to find both him and the bed soaked in sweat. It seemed that at least once a week this same dream continued to jostle him out of his bed.

The young man began to think about it again as he guided the plow through the dirt, sweat beading upon his brow from the merciless sun. He remembered that it had seemed so much more vivid this time. He looked ahead and saw the turn he was going to force the two oxen to make. Fatigue was already setting in after this long day in the fields. He waited until the right moment allowing the two animals to pull the metal through the rough dirt. The animals crossed the line of the field, and the lad pulled back on the yoke against their strength. Suddenly, they brayed loudly and came to a halt. The young man heard a loud crack, and the leather strap connecting the oxen to the plow flew past his bronze colored head whipping him in the process. Picking himself up from the half-plowed field, a copper taste settled on his tongue. He spat and spots of red liquid spray the ground. Wiping his mouth, he walked around to the front of the plow. As he stepped closer toward the animals, he noticed a frayed piece of leather trailing from the harness surrounding the left ox.

“Broken again,” he muttered. He wrapped the leather strap around his tanned arm and looked toward the sun. The work in these fields had sculpted his body, his shoulders and arms well chiseled from the constant guiding of the oxen. He was tall with light brown hair that matched his skin and his face held the look of a boy not yet a man. When he turned to walk towards the barn, he looked down at the broken piece of leather and shook his head. “Uncle is not going to be happy, Octavius.”

The barn stood tall overlooking the south side of the farm. It was one of the sturdiest barns in the county when it was built, but after years of weathering and time, the barn began to show its age. The north side was patched over with new planks of wood to cover up a hole one of the horses kicked in years ago. Along the west side was a pair of blackened wood panels from a lightning fire three years earlier. Uncle Mordecai had been quick on his feet and extinguished the fire with quick resolve. The rest of the barn still had a tough, noble look about it much like the Lord who owned it.

According to the storytellers, Lord Malchus was a rarity in a time when Lords and Ladies treated their tenants no better than slaves. He inherited his title from his father who had inherited it from his father and so on for as long as the histories had been recorded. Malchus had been taught as a young boy that every life was precious, even those of the people who were placed under his authority, and since God saw fit to give him authority, Malchus seemed to wield it with caution and reverence. In doing so, he treated his tenants as near equals to himself. He never taxed them more than what their due was, and also gave generously to reward their loyalty. Twice a year, he would hold a festival to celebrate the harvest. If Malchus had been Sovereign, the realm would be one full of loyal, prosperous, free men. The young man had never met Lord Malchus, but all this he had learned from the passing merchants and bards who came to the harvest festivals. They exchanged information for a price, and the lad often sat near the crowds to overhear their stories.

As the young man entered the barn, a horse snickered alerting Mordecai of his presence. He turned around with a sneer.

“Octavius snapped his harness again,” he said dryly holding out the piece of leather.

“We just replaced it earlier this year!” said Mordecai.

He snatched the broken leather from the lad’s hand taking a long gaze at the cut on his lip which still bled. He turned it over in his hand as though he were trying to incinerate it with his powerful, dark eyes. After a long while he looked up. “Well, I don’t know if it’s really worth fixing again, but we need to get the crops planted this week. The weather has already begun to change, and rain will be coming soon. If we don’t get those seeds planted–”

“Before the first rain, we might as well never plant them,” the young man broke in finishing the phrase he had heard time and again. “I know, uncle.”

“Well, no sense in replacing it today; the day’s almost finished. How about you pen up the oxen then go ahead and start supper. I’ll finish up here.”

The young man strode back out into the fading sunlight relieved at how well his uncle had taken the news. He looked across the half-plowed field and watched as the sun began its slow descent toward the horizon’s edge. He knew dusk would be coming in a few hours. The view of the farm near sunset always enthralled him. It made him feel as though his soul was at rest. He would often find himself watching the shadows lengthen across the fields as he pondered what it must be like in other parts of the world. Though he loved the farm, he had always longed to travel about and see the many parts of the kingdom and beyond. What lay outside the bounds of the kingdom? Has anyone mapped it yet? The young man pondered.

He moved slowly towards the low stone wall that encircled the farm without realizing. He was being drawn to it and the outside world. He kept his eyes fixed on the sun in the west. The trees which stood just outside the stone wall created a barrier for any passerby to see onto the farm, but the lad knew that there were certain spots within the wall of leaves that allowed him to peer out onto the hills of grass beyond the borders of their land. As he neared the wall, the aroma of dry leaves floated on the breeze. The sun disappeared behind the trees casting a cool shadow on his face. He finally realized that he was no longer adhering to his duties, but at the moment it did not matter to him. He was following his longing to take in the scene. He walked beside the wall looking for his secret gazing spot among the trees. He stopped to admire the low light dancing on the golden hills. An easy breeze blew making the grass wave in the sun. In the distance he could see the hills give way to a massive range of mountains they called simply the Western Mountains. Camsbury lay in a valley surrounded by vast mountains to the west, north, and east. Their soaring peaks were beginning to veil the orange glow of the sun.

“Landon! Have you penned the oxen yet?” a cry came from over his left shoulder breaking him of his trance.

“I’m on my way now.”

He took one last long look at the sun that dipped behind the purple crest and breathed in the freedom then he turned his back on the majesty of the sunset. Glancing at the fields, Landon gazed upon the dry earth he had only partially plowed. A drought had settled in over the region for months now, and it was taking its toll upon the farm. He and Mordecai knew the drought was the real reason for the broken harness, but they were convinced rain was coming. Mordecai’s weather journals indicated a rain within the next three days, which put pressure on the two of them to repair the harness and finish their work. If they plowed the field in time, they would corner the market when it came to selling goods. A trip to town was sure to take one day out of the equation. That left two days to plow and plant. There should be enough time, but there was no room for error. The field always took one day to plow and one day to plant. But if the rains came early, their window of opportunity would be lost.

Landon reached the plow and unbuckled the rest of the harness from the two animals. The broken strap snagged on a piece of metal as the two oxen tried to emerge from beneath the yoke. They pulled against the metal tightening the leather. He had already received one cut from this thing; he really didn’t want another. As the brutes struggled to get free, a piece of the leather snapped off causing Landon to flinch. Luckily, this also loosened the knot around the jagged metal, and he was able to completely remove the strap. The reigns rattled as the two beasts shook themselves free and trotted towards their pen. Landon shakily walked behind them guiding when needed. As soon as they were well inside the fence, Landon locked the gate, and turned towards the farmhouse to wash up.

Part 2

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