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Thoughts, Reflections, and Occasional Writing Stuff from Along the River.
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Along The River
by:  Ric Marion
e-mail:  ric@ricmarion.com
Life is not about the number of breaths we take, but about the number of times that it takes your breath away.
August 21, 2015

Dog Days & Festivals

August 21, 2015 10am 66 degrees, clear blue Michigan Sky.

Sitting on the front porch this morning nearly in the shade that a week ago was twenty feet south. Amazing how the sun is making its move as it rises in the morning, and the fall chill in the air doesn't help.

SNAFU yesterday as I printed 20,000 placemats with the wrong dates on them. Ah, well, things happen. Cost of doing business, I guess. Doesn't make for a well celebrated day, however.

Today, I'll wander down to our local festival - I try to go on Friday every year, just to get the egg rolls sold by the Episcopal Church. They had an Asian pastor for years - his special recipe - and the closest thing to Chinatown in New York I've been able to find.

Picture a 17 year old, fresh off the farm, from a town with a population of 899, walking the lower streets of Manhattan with his cousins, tasting real egg rolls for the first time.

In this life, what lies around the next corner is the best thing you will encounter today.

Life is good.

August 17, 2015 11am 82 degrees, hot, getting humid, fluffy white clouds, maybe a cold front later.

Watered the flowers last night, phlox are doing well in their first year getting reestablished. Still trying to get the hang of the geraniums.

Have taken to sitting in the front yard, either on the porch (not really a porch, just a 6 by 8 concrete pad, or, if the sun is too hot there, twenty feet to the south where the shade stays.

There is a large construction project going on a half mile north of me, so the crews come by every morning, six days a week, with truck after truck full of electrical stuff. They are putting up a huge electrical line to Flint's new water plant which is being built a couple miles west of here.

Wildlife apparently doesn't like the hot weather, not seeing much out and about.

Life continues to be interesting. The kids are all doing great, thriving and looking to the future with anticipation. The wife and I are rolling towards whatever comes next in our lives.

Had a copy editor go berserk over the word "towards". Apparently, it doesn't exist as a word even though that's the way you say it.....

Business is booming, time to read a bit, working my way through Cupidity by Patricia Wood. She uses a couple of odd devices I'm having trouble with. More about that at a later date.

Just finished Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman - who never disappoints.

And - in my neck of the woods, as reported by Jimmy Fallon,
Our local State Representative, Todd Courser, "God helped me win the election to do His Will",
got caught in an affair with another Tea Party
Republican. Yeah, okay, whatever. Then attempted to cover it up byspreading a rumor he had been arrested with a male prostitute in an effort, as he put it, "to inoculate the herd" by starting a scandal so
absurd no one would believe it and make his own
indiscretion seem mild by comparison.
Fortunately, or not, depending on your point of view, one of his aides, a good Christian lad, tape recorded the events, and, when he refused to play along, was fired and went to the press with the recording.
Hey, you can't make this stuff up. Courser's office is two doors from Brian's Restaurant where my wife works and she has been treated to non-stop news
trucks.

For all you agents, writers, editors out there - if this were the query letter for a novel, you would have hit delete as unbelievable, unrealistic, and not possible. Real life is stranger than fiction.

Life is good.

July 29, 2015 10am 77 degrees, hazy sky more blue than white, storms expected this afternoon, could use the rain.

Deep into summer here, 90 degrees for the past four days, not real sticky though, which is good.

Watching the television wayyyy too much, as though the brain shuts down after 6:30 pm, when the news comes on. Rachel Maddow cracks me up, followed by The National on Canadian channel, and Jon Stewart, whom I came to late but now I'm really going to miss . The backup is Charlie Rose, who lately has started talking over his guests, probably because he considers himself a journalist now instead of an interviewer.

Okay, enough rant.

Stars in my little part of the world, Orion over head, Big Dipper in the west, Blue Moon coming Friday, the deer keep eating the heads off my phlox, making it harder to get them established and blooming.

Juvenile Oriole has started to turn a darker yellow trending to the bright orange of his father. Haven't seen the fox for a while. Three does, each with twin fawns move through my yard each evening just before dark, pausing at the edge of the lawn to listen for traffic - so far they are safe from the way too much traffic on my road.

Youngest son, out in Silicon Valley, experienced his first earthquake last week. Welcome to LaLa Land.

Have been doing an exercise in being happy. Simple to do, simple to keep doing - picked up from aforementioned CBC newscast. Sales are up 20% and I'm a much happier person. Go figure.

Life is good, sometimes, like now, even great.

July 4, 2015 10am 63 degrees, hazy sky after a beautiful sunrise.

This past week has been a whirlwind of good and great events. Got youngest off to California, Chevy Malibu packed to the gills and brother along for the ride. Pictures of the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, and Yellowstone, safely arriving in Silicon Valley to his ecstatic roommates and a job offer. His first Big Kid job, starts Monday.

Last weekend was family, as my three brothers rolled into town. Much fun, much food, golf, family, and my Mother, at 92, presiding over the whole thing. (Not sure how much she was actually catching as her hearing aid broke and she can't remember much, but she is still with us and still has Mom's smile.)

On Wednesday, I finished up the best month ever for my company. Glory be!

Last night, Wife and I took our middle son out to dinner to celebrate his 29th birthday. Can always tell when his date comes around, recalling my wife, in heavy labor, leaving her hospital room to come out in the waiting room to see if Ivan Lendl was winning his finals match at Wimbledon.

Today will be cookout and fireworks with our friends at the lake. Life is indeed good.

So, at midyear, my wife and I are presiding over a brood of four children, all very gainfully employed, and happy with their choices. Everyone is healthy, and the future looks ever brighter.

And, in my little corner of the world, I sit on my front porch and watch a family of Baltimore Orioles swoop in to the grape jelly I set out. Mom, Dad, and at least two juveniles, who, like typical teenagers will stand next to the jelly and expect Mom to feed it to them. Very fun to watch.

In another first for our thirty years here along the river, a fox. Reddish Orange, with bushy tail and sharp ears, hunting in the hay field across the way, and in our yard, with two pups.

A glorious glorious time of my life right now. Happy, contented, and trying hard to get back to writing - seems like the stars have aligned, doesn't it?

June 26, 2015 9am 60 degrees, hazy clouds.
Various things happening, had severe storms Monday night, could not track them as my cable went out about 7:30, sat in the front yard and watched the continuous light show with accompanying thunder to the north. Warm night, no rain. Middle son called from Eugene, Oregon about 10:30, having been alerted by his girlfriend here in Michigan, and he stayed on the phone, watching the radar and informing me funnel clouds had been spotted and were close by. Oddly, the wind never picked up here, got a lot of rain, but quiet otherwise. Tornado seen about 6 miles to my north. No damage.

Late evenings, decent wine, fireflies, doe and fawn in the alfalfa field across the road, and stars, magnificent stars every night. My flowers are thriving, making all the work this spring worthwhile. And a family of Baltimore Orioles eating huge amounts of my wife's homemade grape jelly, flashes of bright orange against the vibrant green background.

This afternoon to be spent with youngest son who is moving to California tomorrow morning. Having finished college - probably more college than he needed, now moving to Silicon Valley to room once again with guys he lived with in college. They have been there a couple years which will make his transition so much easier.
His Mother is quite emotional over this move, while I am somewhat jealous. Not that I don't love my life, here along the river, but the chance to start over, in a new town, in a new state, it is something I think I would jump at, even now. And he'll do fine. He, of all my children, is the one who always keeps his head, always plans, always has a bit of money in his pocket. He will not only do fine, he will thrive. Makes a Dad proud, yes it does.

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June 18, 2015

To the Middle of June

June 18, 2015 1pm, 70 degrees, puffy white clouds after a morning shower.

Fireflies, skinny groundhogs, a doe and fawn in the hay field across the way, summer weather, life is good.

Finished Love, Sex and 4-H by Anne Oomen ( Wayne State University Press), heard her interviewed on Michigan Public Radio. We are the same age, so her memoir of growing up in the Fifties and Sixties seemed like something I might enjoy.

What I didn't notice is she teaches in an MFA program, so I wasn't expecting a literary memoir. It was okay though, as she lost the pretentiousness after 40 pages or so.

Many of her memories about things beyond our hometowns match mine. I was in 4-H for ten years and a small town high school like her. And, I could clearly remember girls like her, too. OMG. She was a calculating bitch and, clearly, owns that. My first wife was one of those....

Good book, good read.

Off to make money in the sunshine of summertime.

May 26, 2015 5pm 83 degrees, perhaps some thunder this evening, the wind chimes are clanging.

Managed to get my water wheel balanced correctly, still need to paint it. My friend, Jim, who rebuilt the original did it in natural cedar and I didn't want to paint it white - however, it cannot be seen from the road, being that dark. I think ten years is long enough to leave the cedar - the paint will probably make it last longer.

Went bowling with the granddaughers yesterday, had all the Uncles there, fun stuff - something neat to do on a Memorial Day afternoon. with one Uncle moving to California at the end of June, and another going on the road for three weeks next weekend, my wife wanted all her kids together one last time. Probably won't duplicate this until Christmas.

Life is good.

May 24, 2015 2pm 76 degrees. Had frost on Saturday morning. Going to 80 today. Amazing weather.

Got two flats of flowers planted yesterday, one of annuals, another of perennials. Fertilized heavily, used compost, watered as it dry hereabouts.

Gearing up with our friends for our annual wine trip up to the Traverse City area. BBQ out last night on Lake Lapeer, much wine, food, conversation and requisite card game. We find it amazing to have four other couples with whom we can spend so much time and no one ever gets testy or snappy. To the point of staying in a house for four days every fall - this year will be our tenth.

Granted, we have known these people since Cub Scout days some twenty five years ago, but I am still amazed at how well we get along - much better than some families.

One friend who teaches High School English got a birthday card with Winnie the Pooh on it and remarked that none of her students could even fathom that Christopher Robin is based on a real child. That can't be right, Disney must have made it up.

Wow! It's only Sunday on a three day weekend and I'm already bored. I suppose I should use some of that boredom and put a few thousand words on the WIP. Yeah, that's the ticket.

May 17, 2015 9am 64 degrees. What a difference a couple days make. 32 degree difference when waking up. Instead of hearing the boiler kicking on, through the open window, I can hear the waters of the Flint River bubbling over the rocks. I miss that soothing sound when I have to close the windows for the cool weather.

Spent yesterday working on my big flower bed. It is a mess. Some while back it was invaded by quack grass - nasty weeds with very long sucker roots that spread everywhere. This is my main perennial bed, so removing the weeds is nearly impossible since they reach underneath all the established plants. Have about six hours in so far and I'm about half done. The birds are enjoying all the worms unearthed in the process.

It is now nine o'clock on a Sunday morning, and my neighbor has been busily running her chain saw for the past twenty minutes. Anyone planning on sleeping in this morning is pretty much screwed.

Put out oranges and home made grape jelly and the first Baltimore Oriole showed up within fifteen minutes. Beautiful birds - loud, but wonderful to watch flitting about the yard.

Youngest son wandered through yesterday, gave us his new address in California where he is moving next month. Zip codes with 9 as the starting number - something new, something different.

And so it goes.

May 14, 2015 8am 32 degrees. Frost this morning, 80's by the weekend. Did manage to get the lawns mowed last weekend before everyone arrived for Mother's Day celebrations. And, though chilly, we got the grandchildren outside to feed apples to the horse and see baby bunnies along the path. Much fun.

This week has been short sleeves to flannel. I broke down and turned the furnace back on as we hit 32 degrees this morning. Going back to 80 for the weekend.

Crops are mostly planted, followed by an inch and half of rain, and this week, little green rows are sprouting from the brown dirt. Farming has changed a whole bunch since I last planted corn. Now, they don't work the ground up as much - no till planting, instead using enormous amounts of weed killers and other chemicals to increase yield and reduce manual inputs. The result is one man can farm much more than the 160 acres of the typical farm in my day. Now, farms are 1000 acres. and this land is available because my generation moved away. The small farms of my youth are no more. Those who live in the farmhouses work elsewhere and the farm buildings have pretty much disappeared.

The jury is still out on whether this is a good thing.

Okay, enough ruminating. Work to do, bills to pay.

May 9, 2015 10am 65 degrees - rain, thunderstorms, blue skies. And the lawn is getting long - not sure if we'll get it done before the family shows up tomorrow to celebrate Mom.

Managed to add another 1000 words to the WIP - it is coming however slowly, waiting for the muse to take over and make with words flow faster, to get to that point where the first thing I think of in the morning is getting to the keyboard. Not there yet, but the stars are lining up to make that possible.

Which brings up one of my brother's favorite sayings, "If you want to see God smile, tell him your plans."

Sun is out, drying the half inch rain we got last evening. Outside work, need to get outside and clean this place up.

And so it goes.

May 6, 2015 1pm 63 degrees - weather is all over the place, 80's one day, 50's the next, with bits of gray cloud and rain thrown in.

Been working on a new outline for WIP - coming along very nicely. I'll have to see what Writer's CIrcle has to say at the meeting tomorrow night. Life is good.

April 25, 2015 11am 40 degrees - been a wild weather week, nothing severe, just weird. 70's last weekend, woke Thursday morning to inch of snow on the grassy areas, and yesterday morning set a record with only 21 degrees.

Ran into some young people who had used the past two weekends of spring weather to plant flowers and gardens - they were not happy now that they will have to do it all over again. 21 is very cold for this time of year.

Obituaries are becoming more of a problem. Seems more than 50% are younger than me. Perhaps there is some wisdom in actuarial tables after all.

Stacking firewood on the agenda today. Cool temps shouldn't affect that too much.

Life is good.

April 22, 2015 8am - cloudy, dreary, and, if you believe the radar, snowing nearby.

Let's see, on the very first Earth Day, I was 19 years old, married, living in house with a bunch of other college kids in the middle of a lake. Seriously, we had water ten feet from three sides of the house and we had to move out by the end of the month because, once the ice was gone, they could rent the house for five times what we were paying. And, my wife was extremely pregnant and hoping to get finals done before giving birth.

So, I had a lot on my plate to be worrying about the Earth. That said, I do have a copy of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring around here somewhere.

Growing up on a farm, gives one a different perspective on pollution, stewardship, and sustainability. Manure spread on the fields provided fertilizer - homegrown fertilizer that we didn't need to purchase. And it was plowed under like putting compost in your garden. If any of it did run-off into the ditches, it would have to travel miles before it would even near another house. And some fifty miles before reaching Lake Huron. I suppose it was a trade off, but it also wasn't something we worried about.

Still, you didn't have to drive far - say, the south side of Detroit, where Ford's River Rouge Plant hugged the edge of the Detroit River and spewed forth toxic fumes to blow east over Canada. I suppose the idea of Earth Day and shepherding the masses to care for the planet had some resonance. And, now, forty-five years on, we realize that we are losing the battle to keep our planet safe and the ominous warnings are becoming reality as global warming becomes inevitable.

So we do our little bit to reduce our carbon footprint, keep the cars tuned up, compost the garden, recycle the newspapers.

And, aforementioned pregnancy will celebrate her 45th birthday next week. Be it ever thus.

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April 14, 2015

Spring has Come!

April 14, 2015 8am 38 degrees, bit of frost this morning but a glorious sunrise, a brilliant blue sky and the stars last night, standing on my front porch looking up at the spectacular show in the sky that we so often ignore. Sparkling in the rain drenched air, and Venus in the west shining her glow through the bedroom window. Love springs eternal under the evening star.

Had to remove a groundhog from the end of my driveway where he apparently got hit by a truck. Not sure whether it was Clarence or not - he wasn't wearing his nametag. Hope it wasn't as I can't imagine the pain of losing yet another pet to the vagaries of my heavily traveled road. Might be a Stephen King novel in that concept.

Much to accomplish this sunny spring day. To work!

April 12, 2015 11am 61 degrees. Clear blue Michigan skies.

My whole writing schedule thing has gone nowhere, although I will say the WIP has been percolating, coming to the surface in dreams, filling in the plot holes, so hope springs eternal.

Right now, in the warm south breeze, a rake is calling me, time to get out there in the fresh air, start cleaning up the debris of winter.

Chimed in on LitPark, Susan Henderson always has a lively discussion going on - and she is a delight, having something positive to say about everything.

These days are a whirlwind of baby showers for our friends and family's latest grandchildren, and looking forward to my youngest son's graduation from Oakland University with his Masters degree.

Life is good.

February 23, 2015 2pm 4 degrees. Bitter cold. set yet another record last night and will again today for the daily high temp. No school, my teacher friends are happy, third day in a row cancelled for dangerous wind chills. Yeah, yeah, back in the day when we had to walk five miles to school through hip deep snow, uphill both ways.....

Taking advantage of this time to redo my writing schedules. What I have been doing, which isn't much, is not working. Nothing is getting done, though I am playing an inordinate amount of Mahjong on the computer. Used to be, when this happened, I would grab my notebook and head out to the local coffee shop and get the groove back. Tried that and the restaurant has changed their coffee supplier to a deeper darker blend, which is really horrible coffee and has an adverse effect on my digestive system after the second cup. So that is out.

So, blocking out hours now, solid writing, no games, no checking the stock market, no checking facebook or twitter, just writing. Starting with a couple hours a day and see if it will build on itself. Off we go...........

February 21, 2015 3pm 22 degreees. First time over 20 degrees in days. Set a new record for -29 degrees on Monday. Coldest ever recorded in our little town. Supposed to be 35 or so and the ten day forecast has no numbers even close to that. 16 inches of snow on the ground, the deer are eating my yew bushes again like they did last year when the snow was too deep to dig for grasses.

Party todnight - one of our friends is turning 60, so food, cards, wine and fun. Tomorrow is Oscar night, Oakland University Golden Grizzlies basketball and dropping temps.

Been playing Garth Brooks songs in anticipation of the concert Friday night next. Should be great fun.

Life is good.

February 16, 2015 2pm, 8 degrees. An actual warmup as yesterday's high was 0. Woke this morning to an official temperature of -25. Don't recall ever getting that low hereabouts. Hard to do anything outside when it is so cold.

Fifty Shades of Gray took in $90 million. Yeah, the books took in nearly as much. I made it through the first book, just couldn't bring myself to pick up another. Sorta like those bestsellers that appear out of nowhere, go by word of mouth, and when you get around to reading what all the fuss is about, you go, "Huh?" The Bridges of Madison County comes to mind, Valley of the Dolls, Jonathon Livingstone Seagull.

And I am firmly not being elitist here. I just abhor poor writing.

That said. I will watch the movie when it gets to my little screen this fall. The Bridges is a great movie and Valley of the Dolls is my favorite movie of all time - I rewatch it whenever I need a jolt of guilty pleasure.

The Saturday Night Live special did a great tribute to New York - haven't been there in years, hope to go this summer.

Too cold to go outside, getting cabin fever.

February 9, 2015 Noon, 19 degrees, roughly 15 inches of snow on the ground, winter refusing to release her grip, going to be a long hard slog to spring.

Back when the kids were small, a cartoon show started on television that they wanted to watch, because all their friends were watching. The Simpsons. Their Mother and I watched it a couple times and decided it was not appropriate for young boys to be viewing. The reason? It portrayed the Father in a horrible way. He could do nothing right, he got no respect from his children and was a complete loser. The kids growled and complained, but we held firm.

It didn't seem like a big deal at the time, until all the other sitcoms quickly followed in portraying Dads in a bad light. Married with Children, Malcolm in the Middle, and nearly every other program as well. No more Ozzie & Harriet, Father Knows Best, My Three Sons. Fathers had gone from all knowing to know nothing. It was a hard time, as young boys quickly picked up on the idea that Dad was a loser, couldn't possibly know anything and was clearly not a role model.

(as if we didn't have enough things to worry about raising children, we now had to integrate the idea of being perceived as less than wisdom personified.)

On Super Bowl Sunday, amid the dancing sharks, horrible coaching, and hype, there appeared numerous commercials with a new kind of Dad. WTF? Well, that's a pleasant surprise. From racing car Dad, to Dad coming to the rescue Dad, it seemed the Super Bowl had suddenly become a Father's Day greeting card commercial.

I'm sure there are psychologists parsing what all these means - and if they aren't, they should be. But, as a Father, it certainly means a lot to be back on the top of the hill and not portrayed as a perennial loser.

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January 31, 2015

How to Lose Your Job as Editor

January 31, 2015 9am, 18 degrees, sunshine giving way to clouds.

Simply glance at the obit as it goes across your desk. Get skewered by news outlets worldwide.

Ouch.

January 25, 2015 Noon, 21 degrees. Cold front came through last night, freezing the drips and melting from yesterday's 38 degrees. Blue Michigan skies with fluffy white clouds rushing in the wind.

Finished The Bone Clocks this morning about 1:30, long book, great read, got a little hokey towards the end, but that didn't deter the overall message. Now, I have to find a copy of Cloud Atlas to read - I've tried watching the movie, but I can only make it ten or fifteen minutes in before I switch to Rachel Maddow or the History Channel.

Interestingly, it took me one month, exactly to get through all the books I got for Christmas. Not sure that's ever happened before.

Back to work on my WIP - influenced by David Mitchell, it will be a more literary work. Seems like the way to go, though I'm still very hesitant about going first person - much cleaner to stay third. Just not confident about my narrator having 100,000 words in him.

This will be the year of my book. It has been along time since I've been this excited about a project - getting the energy for another shot at the apple is the hard part.

Quiet day. No football. Middle son leaving for sunny Arizona to do his thing at the Super Bowl. This is his fourth year getting to be part of the craziness. I'll be interested in his take on the whole NFL mess.

Eldest son, who makes his winter money moving piles of snow around, is unhappy that we have a paucity of the white stuff this year. He is a small minority...

Life is good.

January 18, 2015 10am 35 degrees, cold front coming through today - been nice while it lasted.

Reading The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell. Pretty heavy reading if you're not used to it. I am hooked, though, good stuff.

Loaned out copies of blogger friend's books to a friend. She really enjoyed Susan Henderson's Up From The Blue. Glad I could pass it on - now, eagerly awaiting the next book??? Susan?

Off to do family stuff today. Going to pass on Amanda Palmer's The Art Of Asking to my soon to graduate youngest son - I figure advanced degrees in Communication would be able to utilize her new way of looking at the world and the way we do things. It will be interesting to see if he feels the same way.

Ran into an old friend, colleague from Writer's Circle, who stopped coming because of some sort of religious revelation that he shouldn't be writing horror even though he is exceptionally gifted at it. Apparently he had a life changing accident at work which has left him unable to work, but otherwise not too physically handicapped. I told him God really wants him to write that book. We'll update the next time I run across him.

Life is Good. Sometimes, even Great.

January 11, 2015 Noon 25 degrees - warmest we have been in an entire week - nasty cold snap - one warm day, then four more cold ones coming - then an early January thaw. My propane tank is all excited and dropping levels - doubtless, a fill will be in order soon.

Amanda Palmer's The Art Of Asking - excellent book and an entirely different way of interacting with the world, very interesting and I'm sure I learned a lot of tidbits that will enhance my work life in ways I wouldn't have thought possible. Does drag a bit towards the end, but that may just be my jaded outlook on the past few years.

She hit a home run first time out of the gate. Congrats to her and her team.

Watched Philomena with Judi Dench, finally. Ver good movie though I wish they hadn't edited it so tightly, it would be interesting to see what they took out as some storylines were left a bit bereft.

My middle son, back in '90's, was into country music - specifically Kenny Chesney. I took him to his first concert at Pine Knob to see Kenny - a grand father/son bonding experience. It was a great concert barring the drunk girl who kept trying to pick me up, embarrassing my son.

The one country act that we didn't get a chance to see was Garth Brooks, as he stopped touring. So, for Christmas, my son got us tickets to the new tour in Detroit next month. Very cool. Looking forward to having another grand experience.

Seem to be having a bevy of funerals hereabouts lately. Which wouldn't bother me as much if these were old people. But they aren't. They are younger than me - not sure what that means in the grand scheme of things, but it is a bit disquieting.

And so it goes - winter grips hard, but the sun grows stronger and spring cannot be far away.

Je Sui Charlie
January 8, 2015 Sad.

January 5, 2015 4pm 8 degrees Blue Michigan Skies with puffy white clouds.

Exceptionally cold outside, though the wind has died down from earlier. Still licking our wounds as long suffering Detroit Lion fans, that was just wrong. Another little something to give the NFL a bad name and the cynical among us to believe in conspiracy theories and the power of the almighty dollar.

Christmas brought me a whole pile of books to read and enjoy. Fun stuff. Have finished Neil Gaiman's Hansel & Gretel, Gaiman's The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains - both excellent, by the way.
Also through Stephen King's Revival - a sturdy pillar in the King Canon. The ending was a bit silly, but, hey, you can't have everything and I've always been a Lovecraft fan.

Nearly through Amanda Palmer's Art of Asking. I generally don't read much non-fiction, but her backstory was enough to get me interested and, I have to say, the book is really good. She has kept me up the last two nights and I will be sad when I finish the book. I want to stay a few more days with her and the strange world she inhabits.

And that has me fired up to start writing again. Getting the process going, getting into the schedule, the habit again, so that I feel guilty if I don't write every morning, so I feel the tug of the blank white page, the thrill of seeing the characters come alive and speak on their own. I miss it and I've missed a good many days and weeks of not having that fulfilling feeling. It is time. Time to begin again.

and so it goes.

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December 12, 2014

An Oddly Mild December

December 12, 2014 11am 28 degrees, gray skies, supposed to clear up and warm up to 50 by Monday.

Trying to fend off a cold here - the wife has it, the kid has it, hard to avoid, but, so far, just a bit of sniffles which may be the humidity of the house - furnace is running full tilt, which is odd, considering it is relatively warm outside. New belt for the humidifier is due here sometime today courtesy UPS.

Clearly, something is amiss. I felt relatively certain that someone would pass my post - (below) on to Neil Gaiman and he would be kind enough to send me an email to prove to my son-in-law that we had a 'moment'. Apparently I was incorrect in my assumption. Wow! Like that has never happened before.

Managed to get myself signed up for Health Care for another year. Blue Cross cancelled my policy, so I had to switch. I don't understand any of these deductibles, co-pays, out of pocket things. The last time I actually used health insurance, I simply handed them the card and that was that. Never got a bill, never saw the cost.

Off this afternoon to spend the night at Mom's, carpet cleaners coming in the morning. No internet.

And so it goes.

December 5, 2014 2pm, 35 degrees, gray skies, no snow.

On the way to Writer's Circle last nite, a glorious full moon in the eastern sky. The seasons turn, Winter Solstice nears.

Last weekend, a massive Christmas tree, some 7 foot across at the base and touching the cathedral ceiling in the living room. A 24 foot room taken up nearly a third by this glorious spruce. Oddly, with all the decorations we have on it, it seems right, somehow.

Spending way too much time on Neil Gaiman's twitter account. There is so much there to read, to click through, to donate to, amazing he gets anything done, since I'm certainly not. Still no word from him about my little dilemma - alas, and Christmas nears.

Okay, so here is the dilemma. Last Christmas Eve, sitting around the Christmas tree opening gifts, I unwrapped a copy of Neil Gaiman’s Ocean at the End of the Lane. I casually threw into the conversation that Neil was one of my blogging buddies.
My son-in-law, Gene, looked startled and said, “You KNOW Neil Gaiman?”
“Yeah, we chat on each other’s blogs.”
“No way, do you have any idea how famous he is?”
“Yes, of course I do.”
At this point, Gene absented himself from the room and returned a few minutes later with a plastic case containing a rare Gaiman comic book. “Do you have any idea how much more this would be worth if it were signed?”
“I imagine quite a bit.” And at that point, the conversation ended.

Here we are at the end of May, and I’m trying to figure out how to: 1. Impress my son-in-law with a kick ass Christmas present; and 2. Convince the non-believing husband of my only daughter that I REALLY do know Neil Gaiman and, more importantly, Neil knows me.

Now, here is the problem. Back in the hey day of blogging, say 12 years ago or so, I was active on a lot of writer’s blogs - many of who have gone on to successfully publish at least one, sometimes more books. Susan Henderson, Patry Francis, Ellen Meister, Robin Slick, Lance Reynald, and lots more. We were a sort of community, all trying to break in. I’m still working on that, but their insights at the beginning are the foundation I keep building my work on.

Way back then, Neil was living in the woods in Wisconsin and occasionally popped up with some insight for all of us. It was quite a long time ago and records, copies, saved files of those blogs apparently disappeared, as have the computers we used, into landfills and toxic waste retrieval sites in China.

Which means, I can’t actually prove any of the above. Of course, I could simply contact Neil and ask if he remembers me. Which, if you peruse his website, is NOT going to happen. Good Lord, the man has a million and a half twitter followers. It’s not like he gave out his personal email address on a blog.

Add to this that my son-in-law, the aforementioned Gene, is a comic book collector/trader/broker. His office walls are covered with sealed plastic frames containing early Spider Man, Marvel, and other wonders each of which he can rattle off the print run, date of issue and current value.

The question is how does a not yet successful as he wants to be author impress his hot shot son-in-law that he actually blogged online with Neil Gaiman?

I suppose I should go off and start my Christmas shopping - not sure what direction that is going to take this year, really no clue. Sent my list of books on my wish list to the kids this morning. We'll see how that works out.

Season is filling up fast - Sunday before Christmas, Christmas Eve, Saturday and Sunday after, New Year's Eve. Just party on this year.

Life is good - Somedays, like today, even great.

November 14, 2014 Noon, 32 degrees, snow clouds over blue skies.

Wandered out on the front porch last night late to be greeted by amazing stars, so many, so bright, with Orion just above the pine trees in the front yard. I think the stars are somehow brighter in the cold air of winter, or it may be that with the gray skies, we see them so seldom, the magnificence that is always there is more welcome and noticeable.

Spent the majority of the week dealing with my 91 year old Mother and the semi-white trash trailer park she lives in. What a strange place. The recession has driven away most people who might start out in a trailer park, since they can purchase a house just as easily. Which leaves aging trailers, abandoned to the park management who rent them out to grifters, losers, and transitional people. Wasn't like this when my folks moved in twenty years ago. Add to that a young management team trying to squeeze a little profit for the owners by using every trick in the book to save money and you get our latest sewer blockage stretching into 6 months of stupidity. Now, hopefully, it is resolved.

Winter is not supposed to be here yet. The wind is cruel, the skies forbidding.

Off to finish my week, make some quick sales, pick up a bit of cash. Weekend will be battening down the house for the cold which arrived waaaaaaaaaaay ahead of schedule.

Perhaps open a twitter account to track Neil Gaiman - who, at last report, was in Utah - of all places.

Am going to order Amanda Palmer's new book though -suppose I should get that done today to help her make the best seller list. She has been promoting the hell out of it.

http://bit.ly/ArtofAFP

And, so it goes.

November 9, 2014 Noon, 38 degrees, gray, dreary, and chilly.

Trying to keep up with Neil Gaiman is like following a hamster on speed, he is seemingly everywhere, just following his twitter feed consumes more time than I have. He is here, he is there, he tweets, facebooks, speaks, signs books, signs more books, and travels about the world like a dervish. Almost curious as to when he stops long enough to write???

I think Clarence has gone into hibernation. Won't see him again until spring. Now, all I have are the pesky squirrels bothering my bird feeders.

My friend's writer's club was great fun. Young people eager for the chance to see their words printed in a larger setting. I helped them as much as I could, I hope. I sat in front of them and could pick out little bits of myself from 45 years ago. That was a bit disconcerting, but I made it through.

Actually got a few hundred words tacked onto my work in progress this week as well. Productivity. That's the ticket. Writer's Circle met on Thursday, none of us is crazy enough to get involved in NaNoWriMo. Though it might be interesting in simply getting us off of square one.

Yesterday, with the wife gone, I fired up the phonograph and played records from my youth. Dan Hill, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, Bob Seger, and Neil Diamond. I even lit candles and sat in my big blue chair soaking in the memories. (while at the same time, watching Neil Gaiman's twitter feed - go figure)

Off to Mom's this afternoon, after the Lion's game.

Life is good.

November 1, 2014 2pm, 34 degrees, had large flakes of snow flitting around yesterday as the little ones were making their rounds. Totally unacceptable.

Still searching for Neil Gaiman - he is an amazingly busy fellow. Six weeks til Christmas, I may have to come up with something else for my non-believing son-in-law. But, hope springs eternal.

Spring, however, is not on the agenda anytime soon. Clarence, my beloved groundhog, is layering up with the last bits of fat for his hibernation. Eating lots of acorns, with an occasional green thrown in for variety.

Have been asked to speak at a high school writing group this Tuesday. How to go about getting published... Yeah, like that's a concept. I'm looking forward to entertaining a group of brilliant teenagers with my couple hundred feet of rejection slips.

Writer's Circle - our own local writing group meets on Thursday. There appears to be an opening for a local columnist at our weekly paper. Might be something I should look into. I miss writing a weekly column. It forced me to have a deadline I had to keep, as opposed to playing endless games of Mah-Jong on this stupid machine.

Not sure if it is age related, but I seem to be having trouble concentrating on things. I will remember something I need to do, but then, hours later, it still isn't done. Not sure what that's all about, but it doesn't make running a business very profitable. Leaving too much money on the table that should be going into my pocket.

Life is good.

Ric

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A R C H I V E / H I G H L I G H T S

Autumn Arrives
originally posted: October 28, 2014

October 28, 2014 11am, 60 degrees, raining

Last night, one of those special evenings we get all to seldom, hereabouts, stepped out onto the front porch at midnite, clear skies, Milky Way overhead, southwest to northeast, 70 degrees, summer's last breath, warm, inviting, glorious.

Messed around outdoors over the weekend, rearranged the shed, drained the hoses and put them away, hung the birdfeeders, and split a bunch of wood. The last item caused Clarence, the groundhog, to relocate to a different hole. We uncovered the one under the woodpile - don't think he was using that as a primary residence, just an escape route. He was back out this morning, greedily munching on acorns by my bedroom window.

Have been following Neil Gaiman over an amazing amount of platforms - he really has this social media thing well in hand. He is also - and I am grateful and jealous at the same time - involved in a great number of good and deserving charities/endeavors/educational/artsy projects. While at the same time, putting out more projects than I can count or afford.

With that, back to work.

September 24, 2014 47 degrees, crystal clear Michigan blue sky.

This whole Neil Gaiman thing has me flummoxed. He clearly has moved on from blogging and does Twitter, Tumblr, Whosay, Facebook and a few other social media gizmos that I am totally unfamiliar with. And, while I should take that as a sign that I am a Luddite and need to get my act together and get into the twentyteens, I actually am a Luddite and the learning curve appears as a unimaginable roller coaster.

That said, I am going to figure out how to do this.

For now, however, there are more pressing items on my plate this morning, which include a glorious drive about the countryside to catch the early colors, a long hot shower to release the last muscles my massage therapist touched on but did not relax, and watching Clarence, my overly obese groundhog, eating apples under the tree.

Life is good.

August 18, 2014 Noon, 69 degrees, clear blue Michigan sky.

Still no word from Neil Gaiman, if he has indeed seen these posts, he most assuredly assumes I'm just another crazy trying to get his attention. Which might be a fair assessment.

Spent the weekend doing yard work, and I may say, at this point in my life, I could easily give up riding the lawn mower for a couple hours on a Saturday afternoon with no great sense of loss. That said, the lawns do look nice. Reminds me of Kathleen Whitman, my business mentor, who, when informed I was going to mow the lawns, said, "Oh, I discovered there are people that do that."

My flowers are responding to repeated waterings, I've had better, but I keep trying anyway.

Walked down to the bridge, the photo on the corner of my page is the view. This morning there are a huge number of Cedar Waxwings flying over the water from one side to the other, snatching bugs out of the air. The bugs seem to hatch on the flowing water and then release straight up. The birds grab them out of the air before they can open their wings. Quite a spectacle. And a great way to start a late summer day.

Be it ever thus.

August 10, 2014 2pm, 80 degrees, fluffy white clouds against a Michigan blue sky, wind chimes clanging in a slight breeze.

Rolling along, the passing of time is surreal, one day blending into the next, week in week, until the summer is nearly spent. Getting older, but still the little boy who would wait for the mailman on the farm, to hang packages from Sear & Roebuck on the mailbox that held my new pants and shirts for school coming soon.

Or the skinny teenager marching up and down the asphalt streets, tenor sax in hand, realizing that marching, playing, and not smashing into anything or stumbling over your own feet is a skill to be learned, and not inherent.

The young man, sending his five year old across the playgound in the back yard from our apartment in Pontiac. And the much older man, putting his last five year old on the bus and walking back to the now empty house for the first time twenty years.

The passage of time. Seems like yesterday, reading Dylan Thomas to my Father, yet this month is fifteen years since he passed.

Life is good, yes, it is.

July 10, 2014 10am 66 degrees, another beautiful summer day under clear blue skies.

Yes, I realize Neil's been busy doing his Black Mountain presentations on both sides of the Atlantic (Pacific, too, come to that). Still hoping that one of the few who frequent this blog will pass it on to him.

Life in the country is always interesting. The past few days have brought warm weather, warmer nights, and now, a nice cool down. I have been overrun by animals, large and small. I guess that is one of the benefits of not having pets of any kind. And, just as I did on the farm, the urge to name them all.

Jerrod, the chipmunk who runs through my flower bed, across the front porch and around the end of the house to the garage to find the last of the sunflower seeds spilled there. I went out for morning coffee, set the cup down by my chair and he came running through the flowers and nearly knocked himself out when he hit the cup. Very funny.

Clarence, the groundhog, has taken putting on weight for the winter to a whole new level. I almost think I could catch him since he moves so slow.

Alex & Lorraine, two full size rabbits that frolic in the back yard, pretty sure the frolicking will result in more bunnies.

The neighbor planted timothy and alfalfa in the field across the way. The deer have been coming out every night to graze. 4, 6, 8 at a time, light brown gleaming in the setting sun against an impossibly green.

And a small doe, and buck with 4 inch spikes, have taken up residence in the back yard. They are there every night at dusk, eating wild clover that somehow makes up much of the lawn. I can sit on the couch and watch them through the open window. Last night, another young buck showed up, a four point rack. They sleep under the apple tree.

I have named them Ted & Carol & Bob - still waiting for Alice to appear.

Had a Momma Raccoon with three little ones in the back yard as well. Something spooked the Momma and she took off with two little ones. a few minutes later, the last one started creating a loud plaintive cry, and Momma came back and gathered him.

One would suspect naming animals, pets, and such would make it easy to name characters. I think it does, names come quickly to me, no long suffering angst over the right moniker.

Life is good - sometimes, even great.

May 30, 2014 2pm 77 degrees, glorious blue Michigan sky.

Okay, so here is the dilemma. On Christmas Eve, sitting around the Christmas tree opening gifts, I unwrapped a copy of Neil Gaiman’s Ocean at the End of the Lane. I casually threw into the conversation that Neil was one of my blogging buddies.
My son-in-law, Gene, looked startled and said, “You KNOW Neil Gaiman?”
“Yeah, we chat on each other’s blogs.”
“No way, do you have any idea how famous he is?”
“Yes, of course I do.”
At this point, Gene absented himself from the room and returned a few minutes later with a plastic case containing a rare Gaiman comic book. “Do you have any idea how much more this would be worth if it were signed?”
“I imagine quite a bit.” And at that point, the conversation ended.

Here we are at the end of May, and I’m trying to figure out how to: 1. Impress my son-in-law with a kick ass Christmas present; and 2. Convince the non-believing husband of my only daughter that I REALLY do know Neil Gaiman and, more importantly, Neil knows me.

Now, here is the problem. Back in the hey day of blogging, say 12 years ago or so, I was active on a lot of writer’s blogs - many of who have gone on to successfully publish at least one, sometimes more books. Susan Henderson, Patry Francis, Ellen Meister, Robin Slick, Lance Reynald, and lots more. We were a sort of community, all trying to break in. I’m still working on that, but their insights at the beginning are the foundation I keep building my work on.

Way back then, Neil was living in the woods in Wisconsin and occasionally popped up with some insight for all of us. It was quite a long time ago and records, copies, saved files of those blogs apparently disappeared, as have the computers we used, into landfills and toxic waste retrieval sites in China.

Which means, I can’t actually prove any of the above. Of course, I could simply contact Neil and ask if he remembers me. Which, if you peruse his website, is NOT going to happen. Good Lord, the man has a million and a half twitter followers. It’s not like he gave out his personal email address on a blog.

Add to this that my son-in-law, the aforementioned Gene, is a comic book collector/trader/broker. His office walls are covered with sealed plastic frames containing early Spider Man, Marvel, and other wonders each of which he can rattle off the print run, date of issue and current value.

The question is how does a not yet successful as he wants to be author impress his hot shot son-in-law that he actually blogged online with Neil Gaiman?

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May, Oh May
originally posted: February 10, 2014

May 13, 2014 11am 77 degrees, Clear blue Michigan skies. what a difference from the last entry. Snow is gone, green grass and thunderstorms.

Farmers hereabouts are having a slow spring. The ground is too wet to plant. It will all get done, just taking a bit longer than they are comfortable with.

My, oh My, what a beautiful day. Baltimore Orioles at the feeder, flashing their bright orange across the front yard. You can feel the last vestiges of winter easing out of the soil, the maples budding out, the willows yellow green exploding.

Interesting times here. I lost a sister-in-law last week to MRSA - nasty antibiotic resistant bug she caught in the hospital a year ago. My brother is lost - having been her primary caregiver for the past year - they celebrated 50 years of marriage last month. So the entire family from coast to coast came in for the wake. Good times among sad times. Sometimes, it is necessary to be with those you love, to show you care, to offer a hug, a smile, a promise it will get better.

A lull in my real business. Nothing really to sell, or work on. Different than always having to be out there searching for the sale that will make the house payment, buy gas for the car, feed the machine. All that is taken care of the moment. Very odd. I'll take it, not going to pass the chance to write a little, dream a lot, sit and soak up the sun's rays. Winter still a bit deep in my bones yet, as well.

Feb. 10, 2014 1pm 17 degrees, just now changing from clear blue skies to fluffy white clouds. 30 inches of snow on the ground, piles to 8 feet high.

Fifty years ago, on a cold Sunday night, in a little farmhouse on Cade Road, the world changed. This was not something happening just to the family sitting in the living room watching the 24 inch RCA Victor black and white; it happened to nearly everyone in the country at the same time. I was twelve years old, my brother, 16, and Mom and Dad on the couch watching, as we did every Sunday night, the Ed Sullivan Show. My mother, at the time, 40 years old and nine months pregnant, gasped at the screaming girls, overcome with their emotions on national tv. My Dad, who loved to observe, could be seen smiling lightly.
My brother and I got caught up in the excitement coming from the small screen. It was contagious, it was wonderful, it was so different from anything we'd ever seen before. What was this? What was this new kind of music? Why did they have long hair? Why were they wearing cool suits?
And it changed everything. Within weeks, there were kids being expelled from school for having hair too long for the dress code. Every time you turned on the radio, the Beatles were playing, every station. Excitement seemed to be hanging in the very air.
And in those weeks, life changed for me. Two days after the show, my little brother was born and I was no longer the youngest child. A month later, I became a teenager and a month after that, my oldest brother got married.
Things were changing for everyone - Civil rights, Medicare, the simmering war in Viet-Nam, the '64 elections, and, there was no going back, no more Fifties, no more Pat Boone, or Sinatra. The world had changed.
And every time you turned on the radio, you heard the Beatles. In every small town, in every city, in every farm tucked along a gravel road, the world had changed.

Some of us like to think for the better.

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A B O U T   T H E   A U T H O R

Ric Marion is a writer, far from New York, in the rural thumb of Michigan. Done about everything, welfare caseworker, shop rat, trucking supervisor, editor, columnist, small business owner.
This writer is in search of agency representation.


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