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My love-hate relationship with Oatmeal

I’m an emotional eater. Since I am also bipolar, you can imagine the havoc that wreaks on my weight management efforts. Oatmeal brings up incredibly mixed emotions including love, hate, fear, shame, and determination. Yes, oatmeal.

For most of my adult life, I have not eaten oatmeal. Occasionally, I bought the instant kind with fruit flavors like peach cream, brown sugar cinnamon, etc. but I didn’t really love them. It was more of a “well, I have to eat some kind of food for breakfast,” and instant oatmeal kept me from getting bored with the usual breakfast fare.

When we went to the United Kingdom, however, I decided to embrace my heritage by eating “porridge” nearly every day as it was a staple of the English breakfast much as eggs are for Americans.  (I couldn’t bring myself to eat haggis which was also ever present.) The porridge was pretty plain, but if you doctored it up with butter and sugar, it didn’t taste too bad.

To my point. The reason why I hadn’t eaten much oatmeal in my adult life was because of the emotional attachments I had and still have with it.

We were very poor when I was growing up. (I’m grateful because we always had enough, but usually there was no extra.) Oatmeal, however, was always around, and as I grew older it came to represent for me in some warped way the symbol of our poverty.

I ate oatmeal enough when I was a kid, so, dammit, I didn’t have to eat it as an adult. I can remember my mom even feeding it to our dog because we didn’t have enough money to buy extra dog food. He turned his nose up at it just as I did.

Here is where the shame comes in. I remember one time when I was hungry. (I was always hungry – in more ways than in the need for food.) I told mom I wanted something to eat. She said that she could fix me oatmeal. I remember telling her that I was sick and tired of oatmeal, and I wanted something different.

My mom started crying.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized that my mom offered to fix me oatmeal because it was about the only thing left in the house to eat.

This time of year, all kinds of memories of my mom pop up because she died the weekend before Thanksgiving eight years ago.

One of them is how instead of being thankful that my mom was willing to fix me oatmeal, I made her cry. I’m ashamed of that now.

Mostly though, the great memories of my mom come up. And yes, a lot of them are associated with food. One of the things I think about is how creative she was with the little bit we had. I don’t know how many of you ever ate pie crust with cinnamon and sugar, but I can tell you that when we were kids, the nectar of the gods couldn’t have been more delicious.

This morning, I fixed myself oatmeal that I doctored up with a brown-sugar, stevia mix; some cinnamon, some butter, and a cinnamon Fiber one bar. It was scrumptious, and as I ate it, I thought about my mom and how blessed I was to have her.

Mom, this oatmeal is for you.

It could be! It might be! Holy Cow!

About 48 years ago, the St. Louis Cardinals destroyed my world by trading Steve Carlton to the Phillies for Rick Wise. I loved Steve Carlton; he had my name for one thing, and he won 20 games for the Cardinals the previous season. He was traded because the Cardinals didn’t want to pay him $65,000 a year. A bargain even back then.

You see, since 1967, baseball had been my life. This was the year the Cardinals beat the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. In 1968, they played the Tigers in the World Series. They lost that one, but Bob Gibson set a record (that still stands) for striking out 17 batters in a World Series game.

I devoured every sliver of news on the Cardinals that I could get (which was sometimes hard since that was … uh … a few years before the Internet.) At one time, I could name the starting nine for every team in the majors (Of course there were only ten teams in each league then; it would be a little more difficult now. I’d have to look them up on the Internet.) The Cardinals had Tim McCarver catching, Orlando Cepeda first base, Julian Javier second base, Dal Maxvill shortstop, Mike Shannon third base, and Lou Brock, Curt Flood, and Roger Maris in the outfield.

I also collected baseball cards. In the 1968 Topps baseball card series, there were some inserts. They were small cards with a player’s picture on it and some kind of play. I remember that the Willie Mays card was a home run (no surprise there). You could shuffle the inserts like a deck of cards and flip them over and get yourself a game.

In 68, I was ten. I took those inserts and entertained myself for hours with a league I created myself. I made several teams using my baseball cards and I would pit one team against the other. I kept statistics, had a world series, and an all-star game. Of course, I was my own general manager and even made trades. You’d be surprised how I stocked up the Cardinals team. It was so easy it makes me wonder why they can’t do the same thing today.

Now, if you are at all familiar with Cardinals baseball, you know the Cardinals’ announcers were Jack Buck and Harry Carry. Imagine if you will, “Mickey Mantle steps up to the plate for the St. Louis Cardinals.” (Remember, I was my own general manager and I traded Nelson Briles and Vada Pinson for Mantle. I thought it was a fair deal.) I flip a Card over and see the Willie Mays insert with a home run. Back to my announcing – yes, I announced all of my games. “Mantle swings. He hits the ball. It’s way back, way back. It could be, it might be, it is! A Home run! Holy Cow!” 

I do not exaggerate when I say I did this for hours. I was a little bit of an introvert.

The more things change the more they stay the same. The Cardinals traded Steve Carlton because they did not want to pay the salary he wanted. You all should know what kind of career Steve Carlton had after he went to the Phillies. And Rick Wise? I wouldn’t say he was bad, but he certainly was no Steve Carlton.

I still watch the Cardinals. I curse and fume when they do just enough for the team to get it in or close to being in the playoffs, but don’t go that extra mile to make sure they have the team that three million fans deserve to see. It’s business, I hear. 

To me, a ten-year old in 1968, baseball was not a business. It was my life. Now, I have trouble caring. Of course, St. Louis does have the Blues.

Christmas slush: Maddog 2020 kick

When I was a kid, my mom baked for the holidays. Mouth-watering cookies, candy, pies, and my all-time favorite, peanut butter roll, poured out of her oven in batches. Unfortunately, most of it, I couldn’t eat. We were poor and couldn’t afford to give lavish gifts, but my mom gave out her candy and cookies as presents to friends and relatives, then sold the rest to raise money for our gifts. She did put some away for when our family got together, but I had to share that.  During the intense baking sessions, we kids had to be satisfied with licking the beaters which only whetted our appetite for more.  Think of a child who brings home a bag of candy on Halloween only to be told, “You can have one piece.”

When I got older, my mom added another gustatory delight to our traditional celebrations: the Christmas slush. Mom alone knew the exact recipe, Some Mogan David Maddog 20/20 wine, fruit juice, and other secret ingredients. It was an icy blast, vitamin C with a kick.  When my family gathered for Christmas, it took mere minutes before one of us would yell, “Where’s the Christmas slush?”

(I usually grabbed a piece of peanut butter roll first before it was all gone.)

Seven years ago, the weekend before Thanksgiving, my mom died. My three sisters carry on her legacy as best as they can. One of  bakes mouth-watering cookies, and another has taken over the candy-baking roll. (No one in the family as yet has learned to bake peanut-butter roll even with recipes to follow.) My middle sister makes the Christmas slush, and even though it is scrumptious, whenever I drink it, I know there will always be something missing.

It's mean to kick someone when they're down. It's brutal to kick them when they're trying to get back up.

I remember it vividly. One of my earliest “best” friends, or at least in the top three, came up to me with a couple of other guys by his side. He looked at me with a face that I’ll never forget and said, “You’re a fag.” To this day, I don’t know why. I just know that as a junior high student, this devastated me.

You’ve been there; you know how formative those years are. It’s kind of odd that I remember almost nothing of junior high, but I remember this and several other times I was bullied. That’s the thing about bullying; you just can’t shake some of it off. What’s more; the effects don’t go away.

The story doesn’t end there though. I got some payback – or so I thought.  We were in gym playing softball – playing ball was about the only sport I was any good at. My friend (or ex-friend) came up to the plate. I knew where he would hit the ball because he always hit it in the same place. He did; the ball sailed out to left field and I went after it. Unfortunately, another kid was there, but the ball bounced off his shoulder and I recovered to make a truly great catch.

I remember having a really good game that day. Afterward, in the locker room, the gym teacher who didn’t really say much to us, said, “Boys, Cross came to play ball today.” I was ecstatic because someone recognized that I could actually do something well. Then, one of the popular kids said, “Don’t let your head swell so you can’t get it out the door.”

My head never swelled because I considered myself a loser and never thought I did anything to be proud of. My moment disappeared in a poof of depression. One sentence ruined it.

People who bully need to be aware of something. The bullied victims sometimes feel so low about themselves they try really hard to do something great, but when they get bullied again, they often give up. Others don’t try at all. Some withdraw; some kill themselves.

It’s easy to kick someone down, but it takes a real jerk to kick someone when they’re already down, and a real ass to kick someone when they’re trying to get back up again.

I still remember the multiple times I was bullied, and I’m still trying to prove myself 50 years later. Don’t tell me and other people who’ve been bullied to just get over it. It’s not that easy.

Anyway, because of the bullying I still vividly remember and because I suffer from a mental illness, I wrote Drowning. It isn’t autobiographical, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t any part of me in it.

If you want to, purchase my book. If not, don’t. However, I do wish you would think twice before you bully someone because you could be marking them for life. If you’ve been bullied, it may not feel like it, but you’re a great person who does great things. Remember that.

 

Now for something completely different

This is a sample of what my interactive novel might look like.

I’m doing something completely different, at least taking a chance on it. I know I’ve been doing a lot of talking about my writing, but now is an exciting time for me. I have several things going on at once that are new. One of them is completely something that I hope will catch on, and in today’s society, it just might. SMS novels is publishing interactive novels. You buy a copy of the book, and you get to act out the story with a live author. Just like in an RPG, you make decisions that will guide your own adventure. In my contribution, you would be the character of Vallya, a beautiful sorceress who is banished from her village because she’s a … well… a sorceress. I have no idea how it will all work out, but I’m hoping it does. The book/adventure goes live in about a week, but you can preorder it right now at

https://www.smsnovel.com/product-page/the-dawning-of-a-new-mage

Drowning, my YA novel about mental illness and bullying is holding its own in Amazon. When I can work up my courage to do it, I’m going to write a blog about why I wrote it. I haven’t done a lot of writer’s conferences but when I do, I always get asked, “Why did you write this book?” or “How do you come up with ideas?” The how and why of Drowning is a little difficult for me to talk about, but I will one day soon. I think people might want to know.

Be one of the characters in my book.

SMS novel

This is something different. Dawning of a New Mage is one of my books. If you buy it, you get an interactive experience where you get to be a character — Vallya, a beautiful sorceress — and you choose the way your story will go. I’m interested in seeing where this goes.

https://www.smsnovel.com/product-page/the-dawning-of-a-new-mage

“Beautiful Loser” And why I think it would be perfect for my funeral.

Album Cover: Live Bullet by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band

I guess we all sometimes think about the songs we’d like to have played at our funerals. Well, at least I do. Maybe I shouldn’t admit that.

I already have two picked out. One is “Victory In Jesus” which is one of my all-time favorite hymns and the other is “Precious Lord Take my Hand.” When I first started attending the Arcadia Valley United Methodist Church, I was in choir for a while. Rulan Maul was one of our choir members. She was elderly even then, but her voice was an angel’s. In fact, the angels are probably listening to her in rapt awe in heaven because I know that’s where she is. She sang this song as a solo in church one day. I could barely breathe as I listened to it. She wasn’t just singing, she was channeling God. I knew that she had lived this song, and I still get chills when I think about her singing it. I can still hear it in my mind.

I’ve always wanted to do a popular song too because I’ve been a rock and roll fan since, well, since I discovered Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. I thought about several meaningful songs to me. Most of them are frequently used in funerals. Songs like Freebird, Stairway to Heaven, Dust in the Wind are examples. I’ve always loved them, but I kept coming back to Bob Seger. He has always been my favorite. Always.

Many of his songs don’t go well with funerals. I considered one, The Famous Final Scene. Though I liked it, I didn’t have the same fervor for it as I did many other Bob Seger songs. I was jamming to Bob Seger one day, and this, “Beautiful Loser,” one of my favorite songs came on. OMG, I thought to myself. This is me. Before you think I’m just feeling sorry for myself and playing this song at my funeral to make everyone feel guilty, I want you to hear me out.

The title is a “Beautiful” oxymoron. Though the word loser is in the title, it isn’t really about a loser, it’s about someone who just isn’t the star of the show. I think the title is awesome in an ironic kind of way, but once you really listen to the lyrics, the song really isn’t insulting anyone. It’s talking about people like me. Decent human beings who do the right thing, but the right thing is never anything superheroish (A word that I just made up.)

I don’t know if I can quote many lines legally here, but I will give proper credit. Bob Seger wrote and performed the lyrics of this song. The version I heard came out through Capitol Records in 1976. Punch Andrews and Bob Seger are the producers.

Read some of these lyrics. These are me.

He wants to dream like a young man
With the wisdom of an old man
He wants his home and security
He wants to live like a sailor at sea (verse 1)

[Verse 2]
He’s your oldest and your best friend
If you need him, he’ll be there again
He’s always willing to be second-best
A perfect lodger, a perfect guest

Bridge:

He’ll never make any enemies, enemies, no
He won’t complain if he’s caught in a freeze
He’ll always ask, he’ll always say please

Not only are these lyrics describing me, but I don’t consider them to be that bad. I “ain’t no” rock star. I “aint all that.” But, I am what I am. And if I am a beautiful loser, then so be it. There are worse things to be.

The ebook version of my YA novel now available for preorder

This is the cover of my YA novel about bullying and mental illness. It has just been published by Between the Lines Publishing. You can pre-order the ebook version right now for 99 cents. It will be delivered to the device of your choice on October 29. I’d appreciate your support. This is a book that is near and dear to me on so many levels.

Ain’t no future in the past

Place where Queen Mary burned Protestants

I posted this picture to remind me that the past is over. The title that I am using for this blog comes from a song by Alan Parsons, one of my favorite groups of all times. Just as an aside. For you classic rock fans, Alan Parsons served as a producer for some of Pink Floyd’s work. Now, back to the past. I’m not saying we can forget the past totally because I do believe that it can repeat itself and we have to learn from it whether those be good or bad lessons.

I’ve spent a lot of time wasting time by thinking about the stuff that has happened to me in my past. I’m basically an introvert which means I’m thinking all the time and not really talking much at all. One of the things I think about too much, I’ve come to realize, is the past. I’ve started a process where I am looking at what I would consider the big moments in my life, examining them, and deciding what effect they have had on my present. After that, I try to tell myself that these memories, not their influence necessarily, can be pushed back so they aren’t pushing me. I think about what I have now, not what I could have had then. This soul searching has been difficult for me. It’s so easy to hang onto past hurts, to blame your past for your present, but you know there’s something you can do. See if that influence of the past is worth holding onto. If it isn’t, let it go. It’s done. You can’t change it.

I’m fond of this quote, “Don’t say what if, say what now.”

Is there something you don’t like? Can it be changed? If not, then make a plan to deal with it. If so, then make a plan to change it. Is there something you like? Then make a plan to help you to hang onto it. As hard as it is to do, spend more time paying attention to what is now, than what was then, and what might be next. I’m not saying don’t plan for your future. I’m saying don’t forget about your present.

Today, I sat out on my back porch with my wife, my dog, and a cold one, and enjoyed the moment. It was warm with a cool breeze. Squirrels were hopping around in the trees. Birds fluttered everywhere. I was in the moment. I looked up and watched the clouds float by — I saw an eagle in one. I remembered myself as a kid lying on the grass and watching the clouds float by. This is one of those good lessons from my past, one that I should NOT have forgotten.

Just remember this, don’t forget every now and then to watch the clouds float by.

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