Happy Blogiversary

Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.

Today is the first birthday for my blog. One year ago today, I sat down at this computer and banged out a bunch of words and posted them on this WordPress site as if I knew what I was doing. (I didn’t, and I still don’t, by the way.)

I wanted a pic of a birthday cake, but around me, cake never lasts long enough to be photographed.

When I started Just Watch the Blinking Lights, I had one goal: to exercise my writing muscle. Wait – okay, two goals: to exercise my writing muscle, and to write one post a week for publication. Well, technically three goals: exercise the writing muscle, publish one post a week, AND get accustomed to writing for an audience. Those were my three goals as I set out on this new project.

The writing exercise was really the main focus, for in recent years I had let my creative muscles atrophy, and I felt I was wasting something very precious. The writing for an audience worried me, for I had never done so before, and the idea of opening myself up to people – friends and strangers – was outside of my comfort zone. Yet I needed to do it, because I knew I’d never be able to move forward as a writer until I’d developed some thicker skin.

But the one-post-per-week goal seemed simple enough. I know bloggers that have goals to post every day — that’s every. single. day. — and so I thought the one-per-week was going to be easy.

As regular followers of this blog probably realize by the irregular posting schedule — it hasn’t been easy.

Although today marks the 52nd post on JWTBL, I have not posted each week. Sometimes I have posted multiple entries in one week; more often, I have gone several weeks without posting a word. So even though my average might be on target, the truth is, I didn’t make the goal.

My reality is one of single fatherhood, corporate casual weekdays, deadlines, children’s schedules, trying to be a good dad and a good employee and a good friend, all while trying to carve out a new life for myself in what could be called ‘Terry, Act II’. I am loaded, and not in the good, financial way (but fortunately, not in the high, drunk way either). So with all my commitments and obligations, finding regular time to do personal things –like write– is difficult. Wait — no, scratch that. That’s a gross understatement. It’s bloody hard.

So I didn’t make it every week, but I did get some good posts in, here and there. Some were better than others — some posts fell flat, while others generated much feedback that surprised me at how much the writing resonated with people.

I made friends with strangers who happened to randomly read one of my posts, and I connected deeper with people who knew me but didn’t know I was a ‘closeted writer’. I have been writing all my life – but until this blog, I’d never shared it with anyone. Back in those wild days of my youth, I didn’t consciously decide to keep my writing to myself – I just did.

This is me, circa 1990, writing in a dive motel on the Oregon coast. I actually have very little memory of this - good thing I wrote it down.

As this year went by, I learned some things about myself, so that’s kind of a bonus. But I found myself wondering, as the anniversary of my blog approached, if I should keep going. There was no way I would be able to post daily, and I was told that for a blog to be successful, you have to post every day. So if I couldn’t be “successful” at it (whatever that means), should I bother?

I considered letting JWTBL go dark. I had given it my best shot for a year, and I felt my results were fine because I didn’t really have any expectations of what this thing would be when I started. I just did it because I needed to write. Because that’s what writer’s do: they write.

Did I need to keep doing it publicly, though? That was the question I asked myself, as I contemplated abandoning this blog and doing something else with the time I spend on it. I figured some folks in my inner circle might ask, “Hey, what happened to the ‘Blinking Lights’?” but for the most part, there wouldn’t be any fallout from my walking away. This is how my blog would end, not with a ‘bang’ but — well, more of a disinterested sigh.

Then, last week, I received a message from an old friend of mine. I have not seen this woman in over a quarter of a century, since we graduated high school. Facebook is a wonderful tool for reconnecting with special people from long ago, and my friend Kriss is one of those people.

Last week, Kriss posted the following message on my wall:

“So hubby asks me yesterday “what would you do if Myah decided when she grows up that she wants to be a maid?” You’ll be happy to know I pulled up your blog and read him your post about your daughter wanting to be a waitress. Great conversation starter. Thanks friend!!”

Kriss was referring to my recent post, “My Daughter, the Waitress” – an essay I wrote rather spontaneously as part of a series of fatherhood-related posts leading up to Father’s Day. I wrote it in about an hour, and once I published it, I didn’t give it another thought — I just moved on. I received a couple of comments on it, but based on the blog traffic for that particular post, I didn’t think my audience felt it was particularly special or remarkable.

But Kriss’s message changed that thinking. The fact that one of my meager little blog entries happened to generate a dialogue between people fascinated me. Well-known and professional writers probably experience this all the time – but it’s a new experience for me. I was touched and honored by my friend’s comment, and felt a sense of humble gratitude at having something I wrote be referenced in a family conversation.

It made me think, “If a simple, honest post about my experience can be useful to someone else in any way, then isn’t that reason enough to continue to publish writing on this blog? Couldn’t that be considered, in a way, ‘successful’?” I’m not using the old cliche “If just ONE person is helped by my action, then it will ALL be worth it”. I’m just saying – if it helps and doesn’t hurt, why not keep it up? Why not share it?

So today I decided that this will not be the last post on Just Watch the Blinking Lights. I can’t honestly commit to posting more frequently than I have been, but I will commit to continuing to share my path with those of you who are interested in where I’ve been, and where I’m headed. I suspect the reason you read here is because your path is similar to mine. Or maybe we’re just headed in the same direction.

Me, watching the blinking lights with my eyes closed.

Thanks for reading. Year Two starts now.

Rant-O-Rama

I mailed my taxes. My taxes included checks for payment of my tax owed. I owed a lot of money on these taxes. Well, any amount owed would be “a lot” to me because, frankly, I don’t have a lot of money in the first place.

It’s especially bitter this year because I am not accustomed to owing money to the tax man, but with my “new and improved” marital status and “higher-than-ever” taxable income amount, coupled with the “lack of write-offs” I used to claim as a “married homeowner”, well… I “got screwed” this year. And not in a “good way”.

So today I’m feeling pretty resentful and full of animosity and just plain bitchy. And since that’s not my normal state of mind these days, it’s feeling out of sorts and rather uncomfortable, to be honest. It’s an indicator of my current spiritual condition that I’m letting these tax payments color my mood so darkly. It is, after all, only money.

But still, I’m bitter today, and as a result, everything annoys me. So to take advantage of the situation, I’m going to use this opportunity to vent my frustrations about all the other things that piss me off today. If you’re looking for warm-and-fuzzy, you won’t find it below, so you might wanna just ignore this post and come back another day, I’m sure I’ll be back to my old self in no time.

Okay – on to my list of grievances. They are, in no particular order:

* The IRS. Okay, this one is, actually, in a particular order, cause they’re at the top of my grudge list today, no surprise there.

* The inappropriate and/or excessive use of quotation marks. If the second paragraph above looked weird to you, chances are you know what I’m talking about.

* People on the freeway who, when I signal my intent to change lanes, speed up to prevent me from pulling in front of them. These people are dicks.

* Haters. I hate them.

* Why my iPod is displaying  random album covers in association with the wrong song and artist. Case in point: Bonnie Raitt’s “Nick of Time” displays the album cover for Queen’s Greatest Hits, and Natlie Merchant’s “Motherland” currently displays the album cover for NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton”. The songs are right – just the album cover is off. And it’s annoying.

* People at work who spill their coffee / tea / creamer / sugar remnants all over the countertop and just leave it there. I’m willing to bet these people live like apes at home. Damned, dirty apes.

* Being asked by facebook friends to “post this as your status for just one hour” for their cause du jour. Look, I have as many “causes” as the next person. But I don’t harbor any delusions that my cause is going to be helped in any way by how many of my friends post it on their facebook walls. I see these as thinly veiled attempts to control me, and thus I shall resist.

* The state of American political discourse today, and how we have descended into a nation of opinionated jerks who don’t listen to a differing point of view and jump straight to the “shouting down” method of communication. Furthermore, the idea that –by posting a political “fact” on a website, bulletin board, or (hello!) facebook status update– someone is going to actually SWAY anyone’s opinion from left to right or right to left is ludicrous. Listen America: nobody — and I mean NOBODY — is as interested in your political opinions as you are. Chill out already.

* The Westboro Baptist Church. I don’t believe in hell, but if I did, I would delight in the idea that these fucktards are all going straight there when they die.

* People who abuse animals. They’re sitting on the bus to hell next to the aforementioned WBC fucktards.

* Bullies and child abusers and anyone who intentionally hurts a kid. We’re gonna need a bigger bus.

* My local donut shop that can’t seem to understand that donut holes do not — I repeat, DO NOT — need sprinkles on them.

* The jackhole who smokes cigarettes with plastic filters and leaves said filters littering the beach (if you read the last blog post, yes I’m still bitter about that).

* All those e-mails about “back in my day we didn’t have such-and-such and we turned out just fine.”  No, you didn’t. You’re just old and have selective memory, and you’re kind of an asshat. Stop forwarding that shit to me.

All right, I feel a little better having gotten that out. I’ll be back to my old self soon, but thanks for indulging my tantrum here.

If you agree with any of the above, leave a comment & let me know. And if there’s something I left off the list, feel free to leave a comment on that too.

And have a nice day!

My Weekend (As It Would Appear in Facebook Status Updates)

Terry Parker is going to the grocery store on a Friday night. Can’t say he doesn’t know how to party.

Terry Parker can’t find the soup aisle.

Terry Parker is disappointed they are out of his favorite sugar free tropical popsicles and has to content himself with a box of the regular cherry-grape-orange variety instead.

Terry Parker knows he will soon have a bunch of orange popsicles left untouched in his freezer.

Terry Parker isn’t very good at shopping and talking on the phone at the same time.

Terry Parker is renting videos from Redbox.

Terry Parker is wondering why the checkout girl and the bag girl are so surly, and wants to ask them to smile but is afraid of appearing to be the pervy old dude trying to hit on the young chicks.

Terry Parker notices that the young grocery chicks both smile at the younger man who was next in line behind him.

Terry Parker thinks those grocery bitches should get over themselves, they’re not so hot.

Terry Parker has a visitor, and is aware he can count on one hand the number of times he has had a non-family-member visitor at his home in the past year.

Terry Parker is up past his bedtime.

Terry Parker says goodbye to his friend and intends to go straight to bed.

Terry Parker doesn’t go straight to bed.

Terry Parker realizes he has to be up in four hours and goes to bed.

Terry Parker hits the snooze button four times.

Terry Parker thinks it is a crime against nature to have to get up this early on a Saturday.

Terry Parker cannot get enough coffee.

Terry Parker is driving to Pasadena.

Terry Parker witnesses remarkably beautiful acts of generosity and brotherly love.

Terry Parker is leaving Pasadena and wants a taco in the worst way.

Terry Parker begins the Couch Film Festival with “Zombieland”.

Terry Parker wishes Emma Stone was his neighbor. Also he wishes he was having sex with his neighbor.

Terry Parker thinks that the plausibility of the hero arriving just in time to save the girls from the voracious zombies was pretty thin.

Terry Parker recognizes that discussing “plausibility” in relation to a zombie film is pretty ridiculous.

Terry Parker is eating bratwurst with organic mustard and is unable to finish it while the zombie film is playing.

Terry Parker tries to write a blog entry, but is feeling uninspired and walks away from the computer without having written a word.

Terry Parker continues the film festival with “Iron Man 2”. He can’t remember how the first “Iron Man” ended. He soon realizes it doesn’t matter.

Terry Parker suddenly remembers his kids left a Snickers bar and some peanut M&Ms in the cupboard, and feels like dancing a jig.

Terry Parker naps briefly during IM2 but chooses not to rewind to see what he missed.

Terry Parker exchanges text messages with his son who has no interest in the movie his dad is watching.

Terry Parker realizes an unintended coincidence:  the next film for the afternoon – “Sherlock Holmes” – also features “Iron Man’s” Robert Downey Jr.

Terry Parker makes a big-ass plate of nachos and realizes he is being an enormous pig.

Terry Parker thinks Robert Downey Jr. has a very believable British accent in this movie.

Terry Parker wishes Robert Downey Jr. was his neighbor. Also he wishes – never mind.

Terry Parker has watched three movies on a Saturday – something he hasn’t done in at least a decade. He’s also gained three pounds in one day – something he hasn’t done since Thanksgiving.

Terry Parker needs to return the movies to Redbox and wishes he had chosen a location closer to home.

Terry Parker decides to go to Blockbuster to rent additional movies.

Terry Parker thinks the “franchise reboot” of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” could have been much, much better if Freddy didn’t talk so much. He was much scarier in the original version when he barely said a word.

Terry Parker remembers the night he saw the very first “Elm Street” as a teenager and how he didn’t sleep well at all that night because the original Freddy was so utterly creepy.

Terry Parker went to bed after the movie was over, and had no trouble sleeping.

Terry Parker is grateful to be able to sleep in on a Sunday.

Terry Parker had coffee and a breakfast burrito and more coffee.

Terry Parker tries again to write an entry for his blog, but is still having trouble finding enough interest in anything to write about.

Terry Parker watched “The Crazies” and was pleasantly surprised at what a well-made film it actually is.

Terry Parker decides he should do something productive with his time, and decides to clean his office.

Terry Parker gets sidetracked looking at photos of his kids, but eventually gets the office completed.

Terry Parker folds his laundry.

Terry Parker does yoga in his living room.

Terry Parker showers and dresses and hits the couch for another movie.

Terry Parker thinks “The Hurt Locker” is unbelievably tense and can not imagine being in Iraq.

Terry Parker says a silent prayer for the men and women serving in the Armed Forces.

Terry Parker exchanges more texts with his son, who informs him that they dissected owl vomit in school on Friday.

Terry Parker wonders how the school district was able to procure owl vomit in large enough quantities to allow for student dissection.

Terry Parker prepares his breakfast, lunch, and dinner for tomorrow in an effort to mitigate the pain and hassle of Monday.

Terry Parker checks his e-mail.

Terry Parker tries again to come up with something to write for his blog entry, but is drawing a complete blank.

Terry Parker kills time perusing Facebook, looking at how his friends have spent their weekend–

Terry Parker has an idea.