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April 02, 2012

It’s a girl!

At least that’s what my daughter thinks. She refuses to even acknowledge the possibility that her future sibling could be a boy. 

Note her use of distraction and the the way in which she turns every question into an opposing question. Verbal jujitsu at its best.   

This is one serious case of denial.

April 01, 2012

Gratitude journal: The denial of ice cream

Tonight I am grateful that I did not grow up in Park Slope in 2012 where lunatic parents are attempting to ban ice cream trucks from the public parks because saying no to their children is difficult and sometimes makes their children cry.

“Along with the first truly beautiful day of the year, my son and I had our first ruined day at the playground. Two different people came into the actual playground with ice cream/Italian ice push carts. I was able to avoid it for a little while but eventually I left with a crying 4-year-old.”

No parent wants their four-year old son to cry, but if he cries when he is refused ice cream, those tears are a necessary and important part of growing up.

What I hear in this statement is a selfish woman who had her “first truly beautiful day of the year” ruined when her four-year old boy acted like a four-year old boy.

Thankfully, not every parent in Park Slope is an idiot.

One mom — who asked to remain anonymous for fear of being ostracized by other parents — said her friends want an ice-cream ban, but she disagrees.

“People just need to say no,” the mom said while with her son at Prospect Park’s aptly named Harmony Playground. “I say no to him all the time, and I feel his wrath. But he needs to hear that no.”

This mother is right, though why she is worried about being ostracized by a bunch of lunatic parents is beyond me. She should embrace the threat of being ostracized and use her free time to find more intelligent, reasonable friends.

There’s nothing worse than your kid becoming close friends with a spoiled brat.

I had very little growing up. Treats like ice cream were so rare that we learned to never even waste time asking for it. Yet I look back upon my childhood with great fondness. I was a happy child, and I learned how to be happy without the need for material possessions and ice cream.

These children in Park Slope need to learn these same lessons, and yes, learning these lessons can be difficult and even painful at times.

But what’s the alternative? Insulating your child from every possible temptation? Curbing desire by eliminating anything that your child might find desirous?

Tonight I am grateful to have grown up in a place at a time when the happiness of a child and a parent did not supersede the importance of a lesson learned.

Resolution update: March 2012

A mixed bag this month. Outstanding progress on some fronts and pathetic results on others.

Not sure how to feel about it.

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1. Don’t die.

Unless I am currently starring in a sequel to The Sixth Sense, I am still holding strong.

2. Lose ten pounds.

I lost two-tenths of a pound in March. Not quite what I was hoping, but at least the needle is moving in the right direction.

3. Do at least 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups five days a day.  Also complete at least two two-minute planks five days per week.

Done. I’ve started doubling up on my sets as well, doing one set in the morning and one set in the evening on occasion.

4. Practice the flute for at least an hour a week.

I did not play the flute in March, but that is because last month’s accidental  drop to the floor broke the damn thing, and now it must be repaired.

But at least I have an excuse this time for not playing all month.

5. Complete my fifth novel before the Ides of March the birth of my next child.

The deadline has officially been missed. I did, however, send a partial manuscript to my agent and await her response. I have reset the goal for completion to June 1, the date of my wife’s scheduled c-section.

6. Complete my sixth novel.

Though I am not currently working on my sixth novel yet, I have about 12,000 words already written.

7. Sell one children’s book to a publisher.

My writing group convinced me that my manuscript still needs work, and I grudgingly agreed. Work continues on three separate manuscripts. It’s like a race to see who gets finished first.  

8. Complete the book proposal for my non-fiction, photographic  collaborative project.

This project will be tackled during the summer.

9. Complete three chapters of my memoir.

This project continues to take a backseat until the novel is finished, but I have added a subtitle to the main title that I came up with last month. Also, I was asked by several people at my publisher (publicists, marketing folk, salespeople, etc.) if I have ever considered writing a memoir, so perhaps this idea isn’t as ludicrous an idea as I first thought. 

10. Complete at least twelve blog posts on my brother and sister blog.

My sister promised me posts on three separate occasions in March but did not follow through on any of them. I will continue to pester and plead. Last month I added guilt to my repertoire, and while it failed to achieve results, repeated use of it may prove effective. 

11. Become certified to teach high school English by completing two required classes.

Elysha continues to search for a college that is offering the two courses that I need to complete in order to become certified. I may be looking to complete these classes online. 

12. Publish at least one Op-Ed in a newspaper.

I have two pieces currently in the pipeline with hopes of both finding their way into print.

13. Attend at least five Moth events with the intention of telling a story.

On March 7th I attended my first StorySlam of 2012 in Brooklyn and was fortunate enough to win. Just having the chance to take the stage was extremely lucky considering there were 32 names in the hat and only 10 are drawn. Winning means I will have the chance to compete in the next GrandSlam championship, which will be held sometime this summer.

In two weeks, I will be attending another StorySlam in Manhattan with hopes of taking the stage and telling a story on the topic of ARMOR.

I’m excited about the story I have to tell. I wish my mother was still alive to hear it.

14. Complete the necessary revisions of our rock opera (The Clowns) so that it can be staged as a full production in the fall.

Great news! A local playhouse has committed to workshopping and producing The Clowns. I couldn’t be more thrilled.

The bad news, at least in terms of my goal, is that we will have to wait until the spring of 2013 for this to happen. Considering the amount of work that must be done on the script first, we are more than willing to wait. As a result, we will no longer be looking for a production date for the fall.

Goal completed? I’m not sure. Getting a playhouse to commit to a production is not an easy feat, but the production will not take place within my targeted time frame.

What do you think? 

15. Rid Elysha and myself of all education debt before the end of the year.

Incremental progress has been made on this front in March. 

16. Give yoga an honest try.

I have signed up for yoga classes being taught after school by a colleague who also happens to be a yoga instructor. I still await the first class. 

17. Meditate for at least five minutes every day.

I have mediated for five minutes a day for 25 of the 31 days of March. I have yet to be able to truly clear my mind, but I will continue to try. I understand that this is a learning process and will continue to make an honest and sincere attempt.

18. Agree to try at least one new dish per month, even if it contains ingredients that I wouldn’t normally consider palatable.

In March, I tried French onion soup for the first time and liked (not loved) it.

19. Conduct the ninth No-Longer-Annual A-Mattzing Race in 2012.

My failure to complete my manuscript by March 15 means that I will have to schedule the race for the fall. 

20. Post my progress in terms of these resolutions on this blog on the first day of every month.

Done!

Anti-Barney rhetoric proves to be effective

My wife and I think Barney and Friends is a dumb television show.

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Granted we have never actually watched the program, but we can just tell. 

In an effort to keep the show from ever polluting our television, my wife has poisoned my daughter’s mind by making derisive comments about the program whenever possible.

It worked.

When Sesame Street ended this morning and a preview for Barney and Friends came on, Clara pointed at the television and said, “That purple T-rex is yucky!” and then pretended to spit on the ground. “A-puh! A-puh! A-puh!”

I find myself feeling both exceedingly proud of my daughter’s taste in television and a little dirty at the same time.

Gratitude journal: Location location location

Tonight I find myself grateful for my location. I live in Newington, CT, two towns over from the state capitol of Hartford and in the relative center of the state.

This positions me about two hours west of Foxboro, MA, home of the New England Patriots, and about two hour east of New York City, the center of the universe.

As a Patriots season ticket holder and an author whose publisher is located in Manhattan, it’s a pretty good location.

Equidistant from these two exceptionally important entities in my life.

My wife and I also have family and friends living in the city, and I find myself driving there with ever increasing frequency for events like The Moth, making our location ever more ideal.  

We are also about ninety minutes south of my in-laws, who make their home in the Berkshires, which means they are close enough to see them fairly regularly but far enough away to prevent the unexpected visit. 

The perfect buffer zone.  

Tonight we drove into the city to celebrate my wife’s grandmother’s 90th birthday. While I do not particularly enjoy driving into the city, especially when the overall drive time exceeds the amount of time I am actually spending at the restaurant with Nana, it’s nice to be able to get there without too much trouble.

March 31, 2012

The Pteranodon song

My daughter loves dinosaurs and she loves music, so a combination of the two was inevitable, albeit slightly bizarre.

And very cute.

I will marry you.

From a New York Times piece entitled The Officiant Among Us:

FOR generations, getting married meant solemnly standing before an authority figure charged with upholding the rules of civil society or religious traditions.

But when Amity Kitchen wed Matthew Saucedo in January, a gregarious family friend, Chris Coughlin, officiated. Mr. Coughlin’s credentials for performing the ceremony? He clicked his mouse at a site offering ordination as a Universal Life Church minister, joining the ranks of Web-blessed clergy who are becoming an increasingly popular choice to preside over weddings.

“Neither Matt nor I are very religious,” Ms. Kitchen said. “The thought of just randomly picking someone to perform this meaningful ceremony, that just didn’t make sense.”

I became an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church thinking that someday there might be a client of my DJ company also in need of a wedding officiant, and I might be able to fill this role for them as well.  To be honest, I thought the chances of me being hired as a minster were slim, but since becoming ordained in 2002, I have presided over a dozen wedding ceremonies, including the ceremonies of two close friends and three baby naming ceremonies.

One family actually considers me their family minster.  

And when Elysha and I were married in 2006, a friend also ordained by The Universal Life Church married us.

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So I fully support the shift from traditionally ordained religious folk to less formal but more personal officiants, but I also advise using caution when choosing a friend or relative to preside over your wedding ceremony. After providing the music for more than one hundred ceremonies over the past decade, I have seen some less than stellar performances.     

When choosing your officiant, I believe that three important qualities should be considered:

1. The volume of the officiant’s voice:

As a DJ, I have seen far too many ceremonies marred by a minister or justice of the peace who cannot be heard by the guests.

Sure, the officiant could use a microphone, but then you suffer the disparity of volume between the officiant and the bride and groom and anyone else speaking or reading.

You could also provide a microphone for everyone speaking at the ceremony, bride and groom included, but this adds a level of complexity that almost guarantees a problem. Either you are placing a lavaliere microphone on the bride’s dress (never a good idea), shoving a microphone in her face as she speaks (even worse), or she is holding a microphone during her ceremony. All bad options. 

There are plenty of people who can officiate a wedding. Why choose a wizened old man or a grandmotherly old lady?  Instead, choose someone like me who can speak in a voice that can be heard loud and clear.

2. The ability of the officiate to speak extemporaneously:

Too often I have seen brides and a grooms choose a friend or relative to officiate a wedding, only to see the officiant bury his or her head in the  the book, never to be seen again. You want an officiant who can speak to an audience with a level of comfort that allows for frequent eye contact, an occasional smile and a relaxed disposition.

As much as you might love Cousin Henry, if he can’t get his head out of the book, it won’t matter if he is officiating your wedding since no one will ever see him.

3. Experience:

Choose an officiant with a modicum of wedding experience, even if that experience is as a guest at many weddings. I have seen people officiate ceremonies who have attended so few wedding in their lifetimes that the basic structure and flow of a ceremony is a mystery to them. Not only does this often make for a stilted, uncertain performance, but it does not allow the officiant to act quickly with good judgment when something goes wrong, as it often does.

It’s one of the most important days of your life. Don’t trust it to a complete amateur. 

March 30, 2012

Gratitude journal: Surprise

Tonight I am grateful for the potential for surprise that fills my life as an author.

Today my agent informed me that we had received an offer from a French publisher for MEMOIRS OF AN IMAGINARY FRIEND. Just like that, my book will be translated into another foreign language and sold in another country.

I woke up thinking that this would be a relatively uneventful day, but by noon, I was going to be published in France.

Surprise! 

Earlier this week I received news from my film agent that a production company has expressed interest in MEMOIRS OF AN IMAGINARY FRIEND. While this means absolutely nothing (both of my other books are currently optioned for film and television but nothing has happened as of yet), this news brings greater possibility to my life.

Surprise!

I also learned this week that the book has entered its fifth printing in the UK and its third printing in Australia.

Surprise!

Admittedly this was an especially surprising week for me, but it’s the possibility for surprise that I find myself especially grateful for this evening. Before publishing my first book, my life was relatively predictable.

Not unhappy, uneventful or unfulfilling, but marked by considerably fewer surprises.

Being an author requires a great deal of patience. Weeks and months can go by without a speck of good news and sometimes some absolutely dreadful news. But knowing that surprises like the ones that filled my week could be just around the corner make the hard work and the endless waiting all worth it.

MEMOIRS OF AN IMAGINARY FRIEND: An audio preview

The first two chapters of the audio version of MEMOIRS OF AN IMAGINARY FRIEND are available for preview here.

The book is narrated by Matthew Brown, which seems apropos considering my UK pseudonym is Matthew Green.

I was initially worried that I would not like the narrator, especially given that the story is told in the first person, but the team at Macmillan has done a tremendous job in casting the role. I couldn’t be more pleased.

And I will have a chance to listen to the whole book soon. Macmillan is producing advanced listening copies of the book for distribution to booksellers, reviewers and at Book Expo America, so I’ll be able to give the book a listen before it’s actually published.

This will be helpful considering I never read any my own novels after they have been published. It’s too painful. I cannot help but continue to revise sentences and word choice in my mind.

I live in a tragic state of perpetual dissatisfaction.

But I am able to listen to my books on audio and enjoy them without the inner critic sounding off in my head, which is important considering how easily I can forget what I’ve actually written. Recently I was asked a question about a minor character in my first book, SOMETHING MISSING, and I could barely remember who the character was or what role her served in the story.

It was a sign that it was time to give the audio version of SOMETHING MISSING a listen again. I can’t tell you how embarrassing it is to realize that a reader has more knowledge about your novel than you do.   

March 29, 2012

Gratitude journal: A stolen kiss

Tonight I am grateful for a stolen kiss, which wasn’t really stolen considering it was requested that I steal it.

After putting Clara in her crib, I asked for a kiss goodnight and she refused, which she does quite often. Instead, she typically latches onto Elysha and cuddles with her while Elysha sings her a song and I turn out the light and leave the room.

As I stood in the doorway tonight, ready to turn out the light, Clara said, “Daddy, come steal a kiss”, a phrase that I use from time to time when sneaking in and kissing her while she is busy doing something else.

It’s one of those moments I suspect I will never forget.