Lifebook 12 | The Irony of Being Laid Off

Pretty much immediately after the Election was “won” by a conman, the interest rates went to hell in the industry I worked in, which was mortgage. When that happens things inevitably get tricky for financial institutions, especially for mortgage companies that have most of their business tied up in refinances rather than purchases. A couple of days after the Election, we received the warning in a mass email of coming hard times. I started noticing a flurry of management meetings and furtive glances around the office by members of the management team. And then, just this past week, a more ominous warning via a mass email came down portending that the next 180 days were going to be severely rocky. In other words, cue the cut backs on staff.

The rest, as they say is history, meaning my employment.

And now I have unexpected free time on my hands due to this unintended vacation. Surely that means there’s more time to read and write, right?

Ha! No.

That’s more time to stress over the process of finding new, promising employment in one of the two slowest months in the job market, just prior to the holidays. Christmas and the New Year looms. Who can relax enough to enjoy the escapism of reading? Who can relax enough to be creative? I mean, I have plenty of creative projects to work on, hell, I was just in the middle of developing one with my buddy and artist Jack when this occurred. It’s all inside me, yet there’s this immense blockage that has imposed itself in the middle of the process, uninvited.

My muse has been usurped. As if I need ANY extra distractions, reasons or excuses for not writing fiction. Not since I’ve been a grown, responsible adult have I been able to dive into my fiction during high times of stress and calamity. In the early years as a New Adult, that was an option. When you’re in your 40’s things of non-reality seem to become frivolous diversions from the very real, dire task at hand.

So, yes, there’s cruel irony in my newfound extra time to myself. What I really want to do at this very moment is actually the last thing I am able to bring myself to do. I’m lucky to’ve  squeezed out this little missive, all things considered. 

After all, there are resumes to update and polish, and job applications to complete. Certainly no fun in that task.

Wish me luck. I’ll need it.

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Lifebook 11 | Local Heroes . . . 5 Years Later

So this past week, November 22nd, to be precise, marked the five year anniversary of the publication of the first ever physical book to bear my byline on the cover (as editor/compiler). Local Heroes was a small anthology conceived, compiled and edited by yours truly and published by now defunct small press publisher Static Movement (with an assist by the also now defunct publisher Pill Hill Press and Amazon).

As the proud compiler of this anthology I somehow managed to select some exceptional work from my fellow scribes. As noted in the introduction, the sequencing of the pieces  (24 in total, including one by me) was a tough task not unlike that of a DJ deciding which songs to get the party jumping and keep it rocking throughout.

As stated in my introduction, I had to go with the three stories that emotionally impacted me the most as the lead-off trinity. “Virtual Memory” by Bob Eccles (known more for his horror stories), was a sci-fi story with so much heart (break) that I did become a little misty-eyed when reading it, which doesn’t really happen when I’m reading short fiction. I believe that story went on to win an award of some kind (I just can’t remember which).

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The second piece, “Football and Faith” by Kevin Wallis, also pulled on my heartstrings a bit.

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And then “In the Eye of the Beholder” used a game of baseball to tell a very touching coming-of-age tale that gripped me immediately.

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There were several military stories that tackled heroism in their own unique ways. Guardian angels also had a strong presence, as well as what can only be described as, well,  ‘local heroes’. 

For the theme of Local Heroes alone makes it an important book, so I’m happy and proud to’ve helped bring it into the world, even if for only a small press print run. 

Today I think the theme of local heroes is a very timely one, all things considered. I’d love to do a sequel someday.

Lifebook 10 | The Day My Name Changed to Dad

~ In this #lifebook entry on #ruckology Brandon L. Rucker gives a rare glimpse inside his personal life in honor of one momentous life event ~

Twenty-two years ago today my first daughter was born. That huge biological event effectively changed my name to be aka: “Father”, “Da-da”, “Daddy” and “Dad” forever. It’s the first true event in my young adult life at the time (a month from turning 21) to give me a true sense of purpose and direction. A trajectory as well as an anchor. A reason to soar while also providing a gravitational pull to keep me grounded and centered on what is most important.

The day she was born was not one without its stresses and worries. I got The Call while at work at the comic book store about an emergency C-section due to her being breech in utero with, as it turned our, her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck as well. Had we waited for the full term and untold hours of labor, things would have turned out quite differently, perhaps tragically. So I tend to think of her as our miracle child. I’d love to be able to say that was the first and last time I cried at the birth of a child, but in this particular reality that would be a lie.

Her mother and I didn’t last together beyond her first 18 months, and though there were certainly calamitous years of many trials and tribulations, not to mention the help of a village, we somehow managed to raise a well-adjusted and healthy child with a promising future.

22 years later, she’s an intelligent, beautiful, driven, independent, hardworking-yet-somehow-still-lazy and stubborn young lady who occasionally acts like she’s between the ages of 17-21. And that’s to be expected because none of us are truly grown up and fully mature prior to the age of 25, especially these days. In her short life she’s been a dancer and ballerina, a dance teacher herself and a voracious student of social issues, politics, the sciences and the arts. She’s also been a big sister to her two younger sisters (on my side) and younger brother (on her mother’s side).

Recently, this past Father’s Day she had posted on her Facebook page the fact that she and I are very close, despite how that may appear to those on the outside. Our closeness is not often verbally stated as she’s an even better poker player than I when it comes to her emotional reservedness. She puts me to shame in that category. I personally had always envisioned an even closer relationship than what we currently have (which would negate some of her natural independence), but that’s not something you can necessarily force if it’s not a natural occurrence. Yet it’s good to know that from her internal point of view we’re close enough.

Oh, I should also mention that she’s also a mother of a highly intelligent, very talkative 3-year old preschooler, which of course makes me a grandpa. Yeah, yeah, let the old man and grandpa jokes commence. After all that’s another one of my aka aliases. Though to be exact, my granddaughter calls me “Pop-pop.”

The toughest part of fatherhood, of being a family man in general, is that nagging need to always protect, even when it’s not even possible to do so. Talk about a overwhelming sense of helplessness and frustration. I recommend fatherhood only to the most emotionally tough and mentally strong because this stuff is not for the unworthy. Trust me on that.

Lifebook 9 | Blood Work / I’m Too Sweet

This is a #lifebook entry on #ruckology in which Brandon L. Rucker shares another poignant life moment ~

So I’m in Day 2 of my four-day weekend. On Day 1 yesterday I had a doctor’s appointment because I am diseased, cursed and doomed with that autoimmune disease they call diabetes. It was a follow on an appointment from three weeks ago when we made an adjustment to my medicinal regimen. You see, apparently I’m just too sweet, like a chocolate cupcake packed with yummy goodness that, if taken in large quantities could just be ultimately detrimental to your health. At least that’s my unique perspective on it. Things were looking good, the doc and her assistants said. My numbers were very improved from earlier in the year, especially compared to those winter months. So we made another tweak to my regimen.

Today I went to have some blood drawn (and also pee into a cup) for my annual lab work to see if I’ve improved my blood cholesterol, see how my lipids are doing and make sure that, in a year’s time, my vitals organs have not come to look like those of a man not in his early 40s. Aside from a “slightly elevated” cholesterol, everything looked pretty good last year.

In fact, this annoying blood disease aside, I’ve always been a very healthy dude, an Iron Man really. Although  I am human with a weakness against highly potent children from time to time, like when my own or those in the fam happen to be carrier hosts of various outbreaks from time to time. But even that’s been a while. We’ll see what this school year brings.

I should hear the results of the blood work next week sometime. Hey, maybe I can hold off on breaking out my bucket list for just a little while longer.

Lifebook 8 | Cosmos, Caverns, Lasers and Karts, Oh My!

#ruckology #lifebook Time spent inside the Earth after time spent studying above and beyond it.

So last weekend was a kind of a mini-family vacation with less mileage than the previous two summers when we went to stay in Wisconsin (last year) and Tennessee (2014). This year we kept the travel around three hours of one-way drive time, staying in our native Indiana and and barely crossing the liquid border of the Ohio River into the northern tip of Kentucky.

Friday, July 22nd – Charles W. Brown Planetarium, Ball State University, Muncie, IN

BlackholesWormholesPoster_SP2016We kicked off with rest and relaxation at home. Kids slept in until noonish. The entire region, if not the whole continental U.S. was under the scourge of a heatwave. If you’ve ever been in the MidWest in the dead of summer, then I don’t have to tell you about the severe humidity. So the braniac idea of going to a planetarium hit me during my activity search for some free, air-conditioned fun. Plus, it’s educational (gotta educate the kids, right?). The feature was called Black Holes, Wormholes and the Movies, pitting scientific fact against how those things are portrayed in Hollywood.

Afterward we dined at Mo’s Irish Pub, which had a rock band playing, which inspired my youngest daughter to demand to hear my music (my band’s and my solo stuff) and insist that she and I start a daddy-daughter band with her singing (she’ll be learning cello this year at school). She’s a bit of a diva, so surely this project will turn out disastrous.

Saturday, Part 1 – Indiana Caverns, Corydon, IN

IMG_0695The next day we trekked to southern Indiana to embark on some subterranean adventures. First stop was a tour of Indiana’s longest natural cavern which is part of the Binkley Caves System. Per the IC’s company website: The Binkley Cave System became the 11th longest in the nation and the longest in Indiana. Their combined length totaled 35.89 miles with more passageways awaiting discovery. The impact of this discovery was huge. A public entrance to Binkley Cave could now be created to allow visitors into the cave system. Previously all entrances were located on private property with restricted access. As of July 2014 the cave is over 40 miles long. On the tour, which begins with a very steep walk down its entrance and then down several flights of stairs to more than 100 feet underground, features a look at Ice Age animal bones, stalagmites and stalactites Part of the tour includes a 25-minute or so boat ride upon the cave’s. Our tour guide was very informative and had a bit of a wry sense of humor.

Saturday, Part 2 – Louisville Mega Cavern, Louisville, KY

Our next underground stop was a short trek away to Louisville, an ancestral place for me as my paternal grandfather lived there. We arrived at the Mega Cavern with the intent to embark on the Mega Tram ride. As their website says, “The Historic Tram Tour will take you on an underground adventure rich in history, geology, mining, recycling, green building technology, and just simply HUGE in scale!

The man-made cavern spans under a number of roadways above and is part of 17 miles of corridors located beneath the city of Louisville, Kentucky. It’s a great tour for all ages—whether you want to learn about science and history or simply want to see what a giant man-made cavern of this magnitude looks like!

nav-tram-activeYou’ll hop on an SUV-pulled tram and be joined by a MEGA Cavern expert who will guide you on your underground adventure. It’s a 60-70 minute tour, strategically lit to enjoy highlights such as:

Some Early Cavern Formations

A Historic Replica of the Cuban Missile Fallout Bunker

A Worm Recycling/Tasting Room

Sights and Facts of the Early Mining Operation

Hear About our Storm Dog and Pigeon Eating Hawk

And More Surprises Wait Around Every Corner!”

It was a little chilly at about 58 degrees when the tram was moving, but not unbearable so long as you have your family to snuggle with. Our tour guide, Lindsay was very entertaining. She had a sense of humor that was similar to Amy Schumer’s but without the raunchiness obviously. It was amazing to see the sheer scale of this cavern while also trying to reconcile all the historical details about it in your mind as you listened to the stories. It was a really fun experience that the four of us truly enjoyed.

You could say everything was about scale in a way – the biggest planetarium and the longest cave in Indiana, and the hugest limestone cavern in Kentucky.

Saturday, Part 3 – Renaissance Fun Park, Louiseville, KY

Renaissance Fun ParkOur final fun stop was arguably the most fun. Go-Kart Racing and Laser Tag. Our teenager grumbled about the go-karts beforehand, but she probably had the most fun since she was the one saying let’s do it again. My second kart wasn’t as fast as my first one. And Laser Tag was quite competitive and rewarding, though I can’t remember who won, I just know that I finished near the top in scoring on my team.

So, not quite the kind of vacation we’ve taken the previous two years (bonus points for sleeping in our own beds without the potential of bedbugs), but all in all it was a fun weekend.

On the #ruckology menu this week: Thinkbook (Sunday), Workbook (Monday), The Evening Muse and some new stuff. See ya then.

Lifebook 7 | Empathy Over Apathy

​When it comes to empathy and sympathy, the problem is that many people can’t seem to have either of them until awful shit happens to them as well. Maybe. Too many people are unwilling to make that mental, emotional leap to truly empathize with the unfortunate plight of others. No way we can initiate effective action and change when apathy is so rampant. Empathy needs to prevail over apathy. That starts with us all as individuals if we’re ever going to come together and overcome collectively.

Originally posted on Facebook, 7/7/2016, in response to the current events of two POCs, black males, being fatally shot this week by the police for unjustifiable cause . . . and the general apathy that is displayed by far too many U.S. Citizens.

Lifebook 6 | Francis Coppola and I

Strolling down Memory Lane, somehow I forgot the significance of this detail, that my name is, after all these years, still associated with one Francis Ford Coppola. I was a two-time Guest Editor for one of his literary publications, in which I dutifully selected one of my favorite short stories ever, “The Junkie Muse” by Isabelle Carruthers (a pseudonym) for publication in Zoetrope: All-Story Extra’s 23rd issue in May 2000. All these years later I’m still in love with the story and reflect on its publication with pride. And my association with Mr. Coppola on the now defunct publication’s masthead is something of minor bragging rights, I suppose.

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History lesson: Zoetrope: All-Story Extra (ASE) was an on-line supplement to Mr. Coppola’s fiction magazine, Zoetrope: All-Story (ZAS). Each month, All-Story Extra featured two new stories submitted by writers via Zoetrope’s on-line submissions site. The stories were chosen and edited by guest editors—also members of Zoetrope’s on-line submissions site—with assistance from the New York editorial staff of ZAS. ASE was created by Mr. Coppola and five members of Zoetrope’s online submissions site, who comprised the Peer Advisory Board (PAB). The PAB selected the Guest Editors and nominated the stories that the Guest Editors considered for ASE. Guest Editors could also consider stories featured in “The Top Three” stories and/or any others that they think worthy of publication. PAB reps Mare Freed and Jim Nichols were also the original Editorial Coordinators of ASE, which were essentially liaisons between the mother mag and the junior mag. My assigned EC during my time, Barbara Garrett, was a good friend and a joy to work with during my stint.

Fun Fact: I was the only guest editor to A.) Serve on two consecutive issues of Zoetrope: All-Story Extra [issues 22 (May 2000) and 23 (June 2000)]; B.) Work without another guest editor (issue #22).  So in all, I selected three stories, which also included “Sonora Coyote” by Steve Frederick and “Weekend at Nguyen’s” by Mark Epting.

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2b

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