2018: My First Great Mistake

I made a large bowl of rather excellent pasta, if I may say so. Allow me to walk your through the process, which was chaotic but ultimately packed with flavor and excitement. Let’s begin by discussing the ingredients.

For what I’m calling “Chicken Hilarity”, you will need:

Chicken breast, sauteed in olive oil, salt, and basil. (I couldn’t find the chicken, but realized I’d left it in the car, along with eggs and hummus. Since the temperature was close to 20F, the chicken was almost frozen. I thawed it in the pan while cooking, and it came to a lively sizzle.

Ziti, cooked until tender.

Onions and mushrooms, sauteed in olive oil.

Spicy marinara (I make my own).

Combine these ingredients in a large bowl, cover with fresh Parmesan and crumbled feta cheeses.

As I sat down to eat, several events began to unfold that altered the outcome of my meal.

  1. My son began channeling Linda Blair. The stomach flu hit him hard and fast, resulting in several changes of sheets, a shower, more fresh linens, another shower, and then fitful sleep as we listened from the other room.
  2. Our basset hound, Jack Reacher, injured his front leg whilst playing in the snow. As basset hounds are known for being– let’s say, dramatic– we helped him inside, called the veterinarian, and placed him on the floor under a blanket in front of a heater. The pitiful wretch barely survived, but thanks to our care and compassion, he managed to pull through his minor ankle sprain.

It was at this point that I was able to eat. I consumed, as usual, the entire portion of pasta, which means all of it.

And then I began to feel somewhat. . . uncomfortable.

Could it be the stomach flu? Unlikely. We disinfect everything with maniacal abandon, and my discomfort was completely in my belly.

It wasn’t the chicken, despite being left in the car, because the temperature was WELL below freezing and–

Wait, what day was it? Friday?

I did some calculations. I’d gone shopping on. . .Wednesday.

Thursday, the temperature had been nearly 70F.

I’d left the chicken in the car for two days, not one, and it had been rather tropical in my car.

I write this to you from an undisclosed location, where no one can hear the sounds emanating from my stomach. If you don’t see me at the next author event, do not send help. It’s too late.

Save yourselves. And someone throw away the chicken in the left hand drawer of our fridge. It’s angry.

 

A Time of Thanks

2017, we hardly new you.

We’re almost through the year, reaching the heart of the holiday season here in the United States. It’s a time where old grudges should fade, new kindness begins, and we share thanks with everyone we hold dear.

And those we don’t.

This has been a year of transformation for me, and you’ve all been incredibly kind to me. Thank you for all of it. I’ll see you online, and on the road, too. That’s the best part of being a writer, I think, so thanks.

All the best from me to you, and cheers.

I lost a parent. I gained some family.

Dad died last month, and it’s been a lot of things. It was closure, and sad, and frustrating. That was in the first ten minutes, and then it settled into my bones and became real.

Grandpa and Grandma Maggert

I went to Iowa for the funeral. I connected with people who are my flesh and blood, but have never met. It was an uplifting, somber, joyous mess of a day sandwiched in between two twelve hour drives with my own thoughts.

I miss my dad, I ache for my mom, and still have flashes where I think both are alive. I don’t know if that will ever pass.

My cousin Richine– well, I saw her and knew we were kin, and it felt like a gift. She sent me a hundred or more pictures of my family that I’ve never seen, dating back to the 1930s. It’s a treasure. My cousin walked me across the old farm and pointed out the place my grandmother was killed in 1955. I miss her, even though we’ve never met, and wonder how life would have gone for all of us if she had lived.

It’s a time of possibilities and sadness, metered through a lens of my own family. We are unique, identifiable, and now that I’ve been back to Iowa, more connected.

I’ll be in Columbia, South Carolina on Nov. 11 for the Authors Invade Columbia Event. Stop by and see me if you’re around. Check out the page here: Sakarlina, Y’all! Come see me!

My dad passed away.

Dad passed away last night. He’d been fighting cancer for six years.

Life is going to change a lot even if I think it won’t. He was a complicated man who never truly recovered from the loss of his wife. When mom died twenty-one years ago, we lost our family despite our best efforts to keep it. He loved his family because we were everything he never had as a child.

We were a 1970s family. Dad was a lineman. Mom raised us kids. We never lacked anything because of how hard they worked. I learned by watching, even if it took me years to understand what real commitment to a family means.

I’ve thought, over the years, about the good things that are  part of me. He taught me how to be good to animals, how to interact with the natural world, and about loyalty and the value of work.

Losing him means being honest about a lot of difficult things. My own age. Our relationship. Wanting a family that is gone. Wishing for a life that can’t come back. Thinking of him as a person, and not a personification. Being thankful, even when I miss him. With each passing hour today, there’s a lot more hurt. I miss him. I miss my family. I don’t know how to explain wanting something that’s gone for good.

You can think you’re ready for things, but you’re not ready. You’re never ready. I miss him today, but I think I’ll miss a lot more things tomorrow, and beyond.

Birthday Month Goals: 5 Great Things

It’s my birth month, people, and while you’re in a tizzy searching for gifts and accolades, I urge you to take a moment and read this.

Yes, it’s my birthday month, but I regard it as a time to give, too. Without further ado, here’s the list of what I will do over the next thirty days:

  1. 3 acts of kindness that require time and work.
  2. 3 gifts given to friends.
  3. 3000 pushups. Not all at once, that would be crazy.
  4. 3 cakes eaten.
  5. 30,000 words written.

That’s it. Simple and sweet. I’ll report back along the way. One detail: I’m going to try for 490 pushups on my birthday (The 6th), ten for each year of my lucky life.

Cheers!

Terry

The Eclipse: Like, Wow.

There are two events that consistently disappointed me when I was in my 20s: Halloween and New Year’s Eve.

After a massive buildup between friends and community, the evening would invariably fizzle because Halloween is primarily for kids, and New Year’s Eve is primarily for drinking alone and asking your cats if they’ll eat you after you die.

The Great American Eclipse was hyped beyond anything I’ve seen in this area, and it didn’t just deliver, it smashed my expectations in every way possible. Think about that– an event that lasted (the good part, anyway) less than three minutes has now become one of the most impactful memories of my life. We had 2:36 of totality here in Portland, TN, and it was–

— unearthly? That comes close.

‘muriclipse!

The air began to still after the first nibble from the moonshadow, descending from the upper right corner of the sun’s scorching globe. It was brutally hot here, but in minutes, the day began to grow softer. The light was undefined, and more so with each passing moment. Outside, trees looked dimmed, their shadows crisp and odd. The first insects began to trill, their confusion a verbal accent to the lowered light. Frogs croaked. Birds that usually sang went quiet, and night birds perked up, early to the party.

Shadows and light took on the crescents of the eclipse. Things began to slow down. Looking up through eclipse glasses, the sun was still a defiantly blinding wedge, but shrinking with each moment we stood out in the swelter of August. There wasn’t a puff of wind; even the breeze was stopping to watch the spectacle.

Crescents through the tree, courtesy of Tim McCoy.

And then the most incredible thing happened. Every nerve in my body began to hum as I watched the sun– one second a blazing, punishing wedge of heat– be consumed by the moonshadow, eroding like a fading smile. My family was with me, all eyes upward and transfixed with the kind of wonder that only the heavens and babies can produce. The air grew still and time stopped. The diamond ring formed, a lurid gem of white-hot light that flew outward from the darkened sun, a final cheer before the curious dusk went to black.

Wife’s bestie captured this; our town was in the galactic sweet spot.

Going, going–

Angie again. The perfect shot.

— gone. We whooped. In the distance, kids shouting, and their parents, too. Unalloyed joy at this confluence of shadow and light. The corona glowing in space, laid bare for us to see if only for a moment.

And what a moment. It was perfect, archaic, primal, elegant– in that brief, dim triumph all of the myths were believable and all the legends true. I stared up in disbelief and the visceral knowing of what hung there in the blackness. A memory from somewhen else tickled at my consciousness like curious minnows on the legs of a wading child. Every part of my sight was locked on that gloriously lurid otherness that replaced what I knew to be the fountain of life on this planet. The shadow sat smugly over the sun, whose rays speared into the darkness of space on a scale that made me feel lucky and small whether I wished to or not.

Every second of totality was perfect, except for the ticking clock that brought the diamond blazing to life on the opposite side. The ring grew, shadows faded. The otherness drained away even as my smile remained. We hugged, unsure what to do with our wiggling hands, at a loss for purpose in the memory of something so grand, but so brief.

The heat returned, followed by a storm of chatter and some internal reflection. It’s just science, right?

All of the legends were true, and they will be as long as I remember that moment of half-night, and how it made me feel.

Terry

 

 

 

The Tattered Glory of August

August is one of my favorite times. It’s hot, but there might be the odd fresh morning that lets you know autumn is around the bend.

My running route is packed with summer. Over the past two weeks, all of these signs have begun to fray, and beautifully so. There are late blackberries, some scorched and some still plump.

Some are still sour. We’ve got a good long season here.

Among the thorns, I heard a rustle. She was hung up by her foot. When I let her go, she flew to the little creek immediately– thirsty but okay.

Along the way, the true glory of August is on display. It’s easy to run and be cheerful despite the heat. (Full disclosure: I LOVE running in the heat. Unsure why, but it feels better, like hot yoga provided by Mother Nature)

Everywhere I looked, flowers. Some people call them weeds, but that’s not true.

Things are past their peak, but still radiant. The colors are stunning, and there’s a desperate quality to the lower leaves on all the plants. They’re sun-scorched but defiant, pushing up blooms that are visible at a distance. Summer beauty is persistent.

The goldenrod and purple glory is just starting. Up next: September, when we start thinking cozy thoughts.

Off to run. Hope your neighborhood is filled with color, too.

Cheers,

Terry

It’s Write to Travel

Traveling makes you a better writer, and it also teaches you an array of skills you’ll need. This morning, we depart for my wife’s ancestral family land, a place called “Ill-uh-noy”.

Her tribe are a hardy people, tall, generally fair haired and prone to sacking and looting the coast of England and whatever else happened to get in the way of their ships. As I’ve mentioned before, I married an American-Norwegian-Lutheran, which is a distinct culture unto itself.

*this is how I picture us arriving. it could happen.

They are, simply stated, kind , lovely people who fancy covered dishes (casseroles to us elsewhere) and occupations like:

Farming

Building things

Teaching people things

Teaching people things about farming and building

Baking

As you can see, this is a good tribe to infiltrate. My bride was up until nearly three in the morning baking cinnamon bread and bread and just in case, bread– because we’re like a traveling circus, but with baked goods.

So, I’ll be in the American Heartland (a TRULY glorious place) for the next four days, with lovely people, home grown tomatoes, and diner food.

I anticipate a great deal of writing. And running, on quiet country roads. And eating, but you already knew that.

Uff Da, indeed.

Terry

The most important full moon of my life.

It’s tonight. Here’s why: 336.

That’s the number of full moons I can expect to see if I live to be the average age for an American male. I run, don’t smoke, and I’m happy, so perhaps my lifespan will be extended. But based on the science and betting averages, I’m looking at 336 more.

I didn’t think of this until yesterday, when I did a little math and came to this rather shocking conclusion. I think that ninety percent of my life is convincing myself I’m not concerned with aging, but I am. It feels like these thoughts have stolen into my writing– two years ago, I wrote this line, and it means a lot to me now.

I’ve lived through 576 full moons. That seems like a lot, until I realize it’s gone by in a blink. My son is nine. I’ve been married for ten years. I have old friends, getting older, and new friends who are younger. We speak of things they can’t have seen, but that are real to me. My stories are a Venn diagram of their life and mine, a common ground made real by shared words over coffee and cheeseburgers.

336 more. I’m not sad– I’m not even really counting. But moonlight has a pressure, however soft, and I feel it.

Join my Pie/Cake/Running Challenge!

I love pie and cake and waffles and running, so this seems like a win/win/win/win to me. A bit of background- I got fat over the winter (gained 24 pounds), but I run in the summer, so it’s going to come off. Here’s where things get dicey.

I’m not giving up pie and cake and such. I may limit myself to reasonable portions, but I’m not going to give up the joys of life. I have some specific goals in mind, so let’s get down to some specific numbers.

  1. Current weight is 249. Tragically, my height remains steady (for now) at 6’1″.
  2. I’m going to eat an average of one piece of cake or pie per day. Waffles count as two pieces, because I rarely eat them without syrup.
  3. My running routes are fantastic, but for this specific mission, I’ll run at a nearby park. Here are the specs–

As you can see, it’s a nice, small lap. I had a strange hip injury, took six months off running, and then got a vicious summer cold.

In short, I’m weak.

So, two days ago I started in earnest. I was able to run two laps and walk two, along with eighty pushups. Oh– about the pushups– I’m going to do twenty pushups or burpees for every lap around the track. Today, I ran 2.75 laps and walked 2. I did 100 pushups. The goal here is quite simple. It isn’t so much a weight issue as it is changing my body to be more muscular and less. . . middle aged. I want to run with my shirt off in full Dad Bod mode later this year, but not necessarily with the Dad Bod. Does that make sense?

There’s something about this park that enables good, hard runs.

I think that within three weeks of good work, I’ll be able to see and feel some results. I love running in the heat, and this park has an added bonus– there are MASSES of blackberry bushes around the park. If I run around the exterior of the park, it’s 1.2 miles. By summer’s end, I’ll be running around the park rather than in it. I’ll also have eaten myself silly on all those glorious blackberries.

Now, on to cake.

It turns out, I’m a princess.

It’s true. My bride baked me a prinsesstårta (Swedish Princess Cake) and I LOST MY MIND. It. Is. Magnificent.

There are layers of custard and home made raspberry jam and cream and OH LORD is it good. The outer layer is hand made marzipan and I’m not kidding when I say I’ll run in the sun ’til I drop simply to eat a slice.

You see? Totally worth it.

So, I’m keeping a journal of my running and such, to see just what happens over the summer. Send me a message if you’re running, too. I’m always up for challenges and buddies to join the grind, so to speak.

Now, if you’ll excuse me. The Princess needs cake.*

 

*Me, in case you doubted.

Cheers,

Terry