Fear & Loathing in Brussels

It has happened again; four months after the attacks in Paris, three years after Boston, 11 years after London, almost 15 after New York, in a peaceful little country called Brussels, the hateful face of humanity has peered back at us.  We have been attacked in the peaceful moments of our day: going to work, coming home, sight-seeing, eating.

Terrorism.  The purpose is to instill an extreme fear into our lives.  To push people to the breaking point, to change how they live their lives.  To be fearful.  Like the bully waiting for us on our way home when we were 12, they want to push us, to watch us cower.  To have power over us.  And we have let them.

We have traded our freedoms for security theater.  We have given away privacy to accomplish nothing.  We have given in to fear and hate.

And we are wrong.  Just plain wrong.

Throughout history there have been those who have tried to stand higher than others.  Those that have said, “My religion is better than yours,” My country is better than yours,” “My race is better than yours,” “My gender is better than yours.”  They were wrong too.

Throughout history there have been those that have banned books, denied science, undermined education.  Dictators and despots will always go after the learned and educated; ideas and critical thinking are the best weapon against evil.

We are all one humanity.  We are all stuck on this rock together.  Shouldn’t we try to make the best of it?  There is too much art yet to make.  Too much music.  Too many stories yet to tell.  Too many places yet to travel to.

If the goal of terrorism is to change how we live our lives, it isn’t going to work on me.  I will not be afraid to travel to New York again.  To travel to Paris or Brussels or London or a World Cup match.  I will not be made to fear because of someone’s political belief.  I refuse to live my life cowering to other people’s fear and hate.  I refuse to hate.

Who is with me?

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Portland

As I mentioned on Sunday I just returned from Portland, Oregon.  If you have never been, I cannot recommend the city enough.  I have been to Seattle, and to San Francisco, and to Los Angeles and San Diego.  Portland easily tops all of those.  It is up on the list of favorite cities with New York.  The scenery, the people, the food; these all combine to create a wonderful world class city, with a small town feel.

I could tell so many stories.  Of getting up at 4am, after going to bed only three hours earlier.  Of my son singing in the backseat.  Of some of the hairiest driving I’ve ever done, exhausted, in hard rain, in an unfamiliar vehicle on unfamiliar roads, right next to semi-trucks going 70 miles an hour.

I could talk about staying in Salem and some of the best Chinese food I’ve ever had.  I could share about taking my son to the Portland Children’s Museum and watching him run around, playing and pretending.  Of having to walk away from some of that because my anxiety got the better of me.  Of eating at Elephants Delicatessen (which, if you ever get the chance, you should really eat at), and having amazing pulled pork.

I might even talk about traffic in the suburbs and the beauty of Lake Oswego in the rain, or dinner at the “Oldest restaurant in Portland,” (Hello Huber’s!).  Even about visiting Apple Stores or beer, both of which I could talk about at length.

No, I want to talk about how I almost killed my child.

It was the evening of our first night in Portland.  We had finished dinner at an excellent fondue restaurant and had decided that we wanted crêpes.  Utilizing Yelp, which Portlanders seem to take very seriously, we had found a restaurant a short walk away.

This being Portland, it had been raining, and we were all enjoying looking at the architecture and sights.  Portland is a beautiful city, and in the evening light, with a fresh rainfall, it sparkles and shines with a very unique light.  We passed gorgeous old apartment buildings and a beautiful park.  We passed a building with an amazing dome, and an elementary school.

We also passed a row of houses, all painted in different colors.  When we had passed the beautiful park just a block earlier, my son had wanted to go running in the grass.  I had swung him up to my shoulders and we continued our walk.  But as we passed the row of houses, I never saw the metal panel in the sidewalk.  My foot slipped out from under me.  I tried to hold on to my kid, but we were both falling fast.

I knew a couple of things as soon as I landed; my wrist hurt, my rear hurt, and he was no longer on my shoulders.  I jumped up as quick as I could, but my wife was already with him.  He was screaming, it was craziness for several minutes.  I am both amazed and thankful that no one from the houses came out to see what had happened.  We headed to a store just down the street, got everyone checked out and cleaned up.  The diagnosis was a bruised forehead and cut cheek for him, a bruised wrist for me.  Later on my back and neck started in, but right then, everything was ok.

Until that night.

I slept terrible for the remainder of the nights in Portland.  Actually, every night since; struggling with dreams of dropping my son.  Of him tumbling over balconies and falling into pools.  And I know it is silly and needless and he is fine.  I know that it was an accident and that it could have happened to any of us that night.  That I did the best I could in the moment, and that it could have been much worse.  But my mind just won’t stop showing me.

I love traveling.  I love finding the places you were not expecting.  The surprise and the beauty of a new place, or rediscovering the qualities of an old favorite.  I love finding the character of a city, and how it’s people react.  I like finding a great coffeeshop or bookshop or breakfast place.  And Portland had all of these, believe me.  In fact, Portland is one of my favorite places I’ve been to.  And I look forward to going back.

I will always remember the beauty of Oregon.  The clouds seem bigger, the rain not as terrible.  The people are amazing and the food is to die for.  Coffee and treats abound, and nature is 20 minutes in any direction.  This is the Portland I will take with me.  But it will also always be the place I almost killed my kid.


Note from Author: As I’ve shared this story with several people, I have heard so many stories about how other parents have had moments that almost killed their offspring.  The more stories I hear, the more I realize that I am not alone.  Thank you for sharing.

Also, if you have anything to share about your travels in general, or Portland in particular, please share.  I am planning my next couple of trips, and would love to hear any suggestions you have!

Travelin’

I like traveling. The adventure of going to new places and finding new things is exciting. I love looking at architecture and statues and people.

I just returned from a trip to Portland, Oregon, and had a wonderful time. I’m planning a post for Wednesday about the trip, but I wanted to share a few pictures with you before then.

 

Collage of fun times at the Portland Children’s Museum

 

Downtown Portland

 

Happy family time

 

Huber’s; the oldest restaurant in Portland

 

Weather was wonderful, and provides beautiful scenery.

 

Portlandia; second largest copper repoussé statue in the US.

Also, an extra special thank you to Krisann Gentry for filling in for me last week. I hope you all got a chance to read her post, and encourage you to visit her site, Now Hark This.

See you all on Wednesday!

The New Holland Solution

Hi all! Not Jeff here. You can call me Krisann, or Not-Jeff. Whatever works.

Thanks so much for joining me for this week’s guest post while our pal is off on vacation adventures. Doesn’t a vacation sound marvelous? Let’s all take a moment to be angry with Jeff together, for happening to be on vacation while the rest of us are not. Yes, that feels better.

For my part, I’m fairly certain the next vacation I take is going to be a sleepcation. I’m going to hire someone to watch my children, wake up with them at all hours (or at the very least, at their usual 5:30am… shudder!) and settle myself into a climate-controlled, housekeeping-assisted, fluffy bed. I’ll wake up as soon as my body tells me to. Then I’ll roll over and go back to sleep a little longer than that, because I’m in charge and my body doesn’t get to tell me what to do and this may be our only chance, body! Get in all the sleep you can! Now or never!

I digress.

Today I’m excited to debut the first of my new series, The Colonies.

This first story is actually a scene from a play, set in the future but acknowledging the modern contexts of progress, politics, and self interests leading to the repeating of historical choices, and in this case, flying in the face of one man’s hope for the species to evolve into something more noble. I’m sure we can all identify in some measure, at the moment.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to me for permissions info if you have a scene group in need of performance materials. (Now Hark This!)

Hope you enjoy. PDF below.

 

THE NEW HOLLAND SOLUTION

A Writer’s Predicament

The last few weeks have been fairly steady in the writing department for me.  I have been able to not only put out a regular post every Wednesday, but I have been able to post a quick blurb and recap every Sunday.  I wanted to try this kind of a format and see if it was sustainable for me, especially during a time when my schedule would allow it.  It has been wonderful to get be able to put out pieces on a fairly regular basis and the feedback from people has been positive.

However, now things are coming to a point: I am getting ready for a vacation, I am developing an idea for a novel, I am actively writing a novella, and I am helping to edit a colleague’s book.  I’m a little busy.

Believe me, this is a wonderful problem to have.  I started this blog a year ago to try and push myself to be a better writer.  To develop the ideas inside of me.  To work through problems.  To evolve my own voice.  I have been able to do that, and will continue to work at it.  I am finding ways to create content, and, more importantly, to get it out on time.  This is a very big thing for me.  Deadlines have not always been my friend.

My current predicament, however, is just the kind of problem I have always wanted; I have too many ideas.  I have struggled writing posts precisely because I have so many things to say.  Most of my creative writing efforts are going into the long forms that I’m working on, leaving me with more non-fiction works for my blog.  But even those need research, fact-checking, drafts, editing.

Last week I was getting fairly discouraged.  I did not feel that I was putting out my best work on the blog, I had stalled on my novel, and all of my writing just felt flat.  I emailed a long time collaborator, and she asked me a very simple question; why do you write?  Her answer is the same as mine.  The same for most people who write.

I do it because I have to.  I write to not go insane.  I write to get the stories out.  I write to create worlds and tell tales and to get my point across.  I write because I’ve tried not writing, and it almost killed me.

Maybe I will never finish the stories I’m working on.  Maybe I will never be on the New York Times Bestseller List.  Maybe I will never make money on my writing.  But that isn’t why I write.  I write because it is who I am.  I write to survive.

I will continue to write.  Sometimes it will be good, and sometimes it will be bad.  Sometimes I will be uninspired and struggle to put out a post saying I am having a hard time putting out a post.  But sometimes, every once in a while, I will be great.  And I will keep trying, and keep improving, because I have to.

Thank you for coming along for the ride.


I’m on vacation this week, but please stay tuned for a very special post this week from Krisann Gentry.  She has been my friend, editor, and confidant for many years, and is truly a wonderful person and friend.  And I can’t wait to see what she has to say on Wednesday.

  • Check out last week’s post, A letter to my son.
  • My friends at Nicolife have released the 5th episode.  Enjoy.
  • Found a fun data chart of The Beatles, answering many questions you never knew you had.  Give it a look here.

 

A letter to my son

My Dear Little Man,

I remember the first time I heard your heartbeat.  Everyone says it will be amazing and incredible, a moment that you’ll never forget.  And they were all right.  I still have the recording on my phone, and I play it sometimes.  I look at pictures of your mother while she was carrying you, amazed that this same little guy was hiding in there.  I remember the first time I met you,  a screaming little ball of raw emotion and soft skin.  You cried until I held you up against my skin, then I cried.

I remember your first solid food, and the mess you made with it.  I remember how you would stop what you were doing and stare at the television whenever the theme song for Top Gear would come on.  I remember your first steps.  I don’t remember your first word, although I imagine it was “mommy.”  It’s still in the top 10 words you use now.

I remember the first time you asked me to sit with you and read.  Or to watch Mickey Mouse.  Or watching you play.  Or building you a fort.  Or saying you wanted your daddy.  I remember all of these moments.

I remember them mostly so that when you have a hard time going to sleep, or have a rough morning, or decide to wake me up by jumping on my neck, I know that you are a wonderful kid having a rough time.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to be you; thoughts and feelings and emotions you have no way of understanding.  The two people that matter the most to you leave several times a week to do something called “work.”  We probably don’t seem very happy about it, but we keep doing it.  Not understanding why these furry children get treated so differently.  Why our toys look so different from yours.  Such a new and crazy world.

I have no idea who you will end up being.  I hope you’ll end up a good person.  I hope that I can teach you right from wrong.  To instill in you a need to help others, and to do good.  To leave the world a better place for having you in it.  To treat people with respect no matter who they are.  To love art and literature.  To abhor violence and destruction.  I try to do my best to remember that you will have to find your own way in the world you live in.

I try to remember all this when you have a rough day.  I try to remember this when you have a rough night.  I try to remember it when I have had a rough time too.  You don’t know it yet, buddy.  But you’ve made everything so much better.  Harder? Yes.  More difficult?  Absolutely.  Complicated? Oh my yes.  But wonderful.

So very wonderful.

We Love You,

Your parents

Time & Recap

I had to go over to my parent’s house the other day.  No one else was home, but they had asked if I would stop by and take care of some “technical support” items that had come up in the last couple of weeks.  While I was there I experienced a very surreal moment; looking out the front windows at the block I grew up on, and thinking about time all those years ago.

Time is a strange thing.  It moves so slowly while we are in the moment, but so quickly looking back.  Other times, sitting with friends, the hours seem to fly, while others, a long lecture, the minutes trickle by.

I thought about playing baseball in my front yard.  About the swing set I had growing up.  I remembered riding my bike through the neighborhoods, and going for walks, and getting up for school.  I remember the sound of the dove that would coo in the backyard, and playing with my dog.  Of friends across the street and around the corner.

Of course, this is what time does.  Time is always the same, moving with the ultimate precision, and yet seems to move and bend.  Some events that were once immediate and important, are now so distant as to seem completely alien.  And others feel like they just occurred, though it has been years since I experienced them.

I look at my son.  Time must move so slowly for him right now.  But it is incredible how quickly he is growing up.  I look in the mirror and am amazed by the face looking back at me.  Our time here is short, but it can feel so long.  Use that time.  Make a difference.  Hug your kid.  Make someone’s short time here, better.

Make the world, better.


Let’s recap the week!

Please feel free to send an email at swordnquill at icloud dot com, or leave a comment below.  Would love to hear from any of you.

Until next week friends!

 

Rewind – Salmonella

This week is a post rewind.  I am working on a few other projects and prepping for a long-awaited and well-earned vacation with my family.  So this week, enjoy a story I wrote for a project called Flash Fiction Friday that my friend Krisann sponsored a couple of years back.  And speaking of Krisann, I am pleased to announce that she will be Sword & Quill’s first guest blogger.  Look for her post on March 16.


It sat before him, like an idol in some long ago temple.  The din of conversation and music was the buzzing of flies, and the sound of firecrackers no more than far off gunshots.

It was Independence Day, the middle of the hot summer.  And here he was.  While everyone else thought they were at a family bar-b-que, to him it was training for some war, not yet started; ice buckets, hot embers blown up into the air, dogs, sisters and squirt guns.  And this.  It was Agent Orange, Napalm, the Weapon of Mass Destruction they had never found: Aunt Clarice’s Egg Salad.

The red plaid table-cloth fluttered innocently in the slight breeze caused by two cousins chasing each other.  He just kept staring at it with an unblinking gaze, as if afraid that if he took his eyes off it for a second it would leap down his throat.  The picnic table was the tower built for the Trinity Bomb, and it was almost time for detonation.

He looked up to the sun.  97 degrees.  He shook his head.  Poor bastards, they’re not even going to know what hit them.  He could see them preparing plates; tri-tip, beans, salad, potatoes, fruit.  The laughter and joy mingled in his mind with thoughts of what that Egg Salad would do to these people.

Suddenly, he saw the first spoonful dip into the creamy top layer, and something snapped.  He exploded from his prone position, running full speed, as fast as his legs would take him. He zeroed in on the target, a bullseye over the glass bowl.  He hit it with the force of a rocket, and watched in fascination as it blew apart upon the ground.

He breathed a sigh of relief, a dollop of egg salad on his nose.  The threat was neutralized.  He knew there would be yelling, but he didn’t do it for the recognition.  He looked around and, for the first time, noticed that the conversation had stopped.  Everyone was looking at him.  He looked at his parents for the first time.  They looked at each other.

“There’s something not quite right with that dog…”