Why I Write with Blake Kilgore

WoFo is honored to have writer and teacher Blake Kilgore participate in the “Why I Write” series. Blake’s writing has been featured in various literary magazines such as Stonecoast Review and Forge. Please check out Blake and all his writings at.blakekilgore.com.

“Why do I write?

I teach history, and this requires me to read stories almost incessantly. I am blakeoften surprised and almost always delighted. Some of the accounts make me angry and others break my heart. And I find inspiration in the courage of the dutiful, who faced death rather than turn a blind eye to injustice.

Yet most of the adventures are about the rich and powerful, the winners. Sometimes arch-villains are set up as marks to be taken down. But the common, poor, illiterate souls who lived in quiet, sustained dignity below the gaze of the scribes, well – we know little about them. In the last half century, some historians have tried to uncover the patterns of simple folk living in the depths or along the edges of society. Nevertheless, we often don’t even know their names. I want to hear their story.

Much of my writing starts there, telling stories of the unnamed.

My writing is also about the struggle to believe. There are simply too many questions, and I know that I will find too few of the answers. Yet my soul continues in faith. There is deep illumination waiting beneath our thoughts and cravings. For me, writing helps stir that part, and a little wonder rises, and I find the hope to press on. I know that I am not alone. Many are wandering, buoyed by faith yet throttled by despair. I pray my writing might be a balm for those skeptics who still believe.”

Friday’s Fast Five… 5 Things My Dad Said Many Years Ago

It’s Father’s Day Weekend! Time to hike up your socks, fire up the grill, lean back in your favorite bal2chair and say things like …”do I look like I’m made of money?” and “”My house, my rules!” shortly followed by “I don’t know… go ask your mother.”

With the popularity of Justin Halpern’s hilarious book Shit My Dad Says to the emergence of the soft and lovable physical physique known as the “dad bod” pop culture has declared being a dad cool and hip.

And you know what, on this rare occasion, I agree with pop culture. Being a dad is cool.

We carry pocket knives. We clog then unclog toilets.  We treat wounds with dirt and spit. We pride ourselves on knowing where things are located in Home Depot. We watch Texas Hold’em tournaments on TV and consider it a declaration of war when we spot a field mouse scurrying across our kitchen floor.

We’ve got high white socks, jorts, white belts, Hawaiian shirts and cabana hats. We play golf, smoke cigars and believe that Superbowl Sunday should be an official national holiday.

But of course with this “coolness” comes great responsibility.

It has occurred to me that my children are seeing me through the same lens in which I saw my dad when I was their age. In their young eyes I’m all powerful, all knowing. My words, my actions are seared into their little brains and one day (God forbid)  may serve as good fodder for a blog post about fathers.

So to highlight the power (and coolness) of being “dad”, I wanted to share 5 things my dad said to me many years ago that now stand as monuments in my memory…

1. On eating a big breakfast every morning–My father has always championed the need for a hearty breakfast. Dad scoffed when those FDA “nitwits” claimed that eating highly processed foods–loaded with sodium and saturated fat could be deadly.

My dad (like a lot of dads) has a signature dish. .A culinary cuisine that he describes in with great pride to the other dads at the CYO meetings. My dad’s Spam and Egg sandwich is one of the reasons I had friends as a kid. His signature sandwich is a 900 calorie heart-stopper made with only the finest pasteurized cheeses and slaughterhouse scraps.spam

I remember once asking him why he needed to eat such a big breakfast every morning. He looked down at me with serious eyes and said “Who knows if or when I’ll have the opportunity to eat again today.” Which seemed a bit dramatic –like something Lewis said to Clark on the first morning of their Continental Divide expedition. But it was also funny too– because as he said this dad was packing his work lunch box/cooler with a week’s worth of food.

*I should also mention that at this time dad was working as a truck driver and passed a Burger King every 8oo feet.

2.On boosting confidence–In grade school, for some school project ,  I was forced to work with the smartest kid in the class who openly teased me– claiming that he was smarter than me. Upon hearing my complaint, dad looked at me, smiled and said, “But can this Einstein hit a curve ball?”

3. On medical care– Once when mom wasn’t home, I threw my younger brother Kyle into a wall joint leaving him with a gash in his head and blood streaming down his face. Dad, who was outwardly annoyed that Kyle’s melon had dented the drywall, carried Kyle into the bathroom, dropped him in the tub, offered him a roll of paper towels and said, “Wait here until mom gets home.”

4. On eating expired food– “Do you think the early pioneers had expiration dates on their ground beef?”

5. On love– When I was in my early 20’s I begin thinking about proposing to Cindy. But naturally I was hesitant.  I wanted to know how to know someone was “the one”. Dad met mom when he was 17 and seemed to have the whole love-thing mastered. So I sought council in dad. I was certain that he had some sage advice to offer on the matter of love.

So one day I ask him how did he know mom was the one. And after a long, thoughtful pause dad looked at me and said “I just knew.” End of conversation.

Be well and Happy Father’s Day,

Jay

Checkout my story The Wink. A true story that details a pivotal moment in my young life and how my father’s simple gesture many years ago inspired me to create this website.dad pic

 

 

20 Things My Chronic Illness has Taught Me

 

A few days after a muscle biopsy procedure my doctor called and delivered the name of my mysterious internal antagonist–Sar-coy-something.

As I scratched down its letters on the back of a Chinese take-out menu he explained the intimacies of my disease, offered some reassurance and outlined a plan of attack. When the call ended I did what most modern creatures do– I tossed open my laptop, summoned Google and misspelled my disease in the search bar.

S-a-r-c-o-i-d-o-s-i-s is an autoimmune disorder that inspires little knots of inflammation to gather and break dance in joints, muscles, lymph nodes and vital organs of an unlucky host.

In most cases, after a few rounds of America’s favorite steroid–Prednisone– sarcoidosis two-steps into the desert town known as Remission.

However, according to the Cleveland Clinic, 10% of sarcoid patients suffer from my kind of sarcoid–the chronic kind.

In my struggles with this often misspelled disease I’ve learned a few things. In fact, my disease has been (dare I say it..) the best (…and by best I mean most relentless, ball-busting, humbling, homework-on-the-weekend ) teacher I’ve ever had.

I’ve been a student in the school of sarcoid for a little over a year now.

In that time I’ve experienced anger, confusion, regret and have been so disenfranchised with the entire medical community that I refused to watch Grey’s Anatomy.

Ironically,  since my diagnosis I’ve learned to more fully appreciate the value of love, the importance of humor and that sometimes simply getting out of bed is the bravest thing you can do.

Please understand–I’m not an expert. I’m a C+ student still struggling to comprehend the curriculum. But since my enrollment, I have learned a few things about coping with a chronic illness that I would like to share…

  1. When you’re suffering– its okay to be selfish and take care of yourself.
  2. Talk openly about your illness. Your advocacy will help others
  3. Say bonvoyage to Cap’ n Crunch and modify your eating habits.
  4. Just because you feel like crap doesn’t give you the right to be a jerk.
  5. You may not be able to control your illness but you sure-as-hell can control how you respond to your illness.
  6. Keep a journal of your symptoms.
  7. Keep your doctor’s appointment.
  8. Schedule morning doctor’s appointments and celebrate the appointment with lunch. If possible, have a beer– you deserve it.
  9. Be a self-advocate. Ask your doctor questions and demand answers.
  10. Network with other patients.
  11. Don’t be ashamed of your disease. Everybody has something wrong with themselves. See Justin Bieber.
  12. Have your doctor write you a letter detailing your symptoms (And if applicable, give the letter to your employer.).
  13. Accept your illness. Denial will only compound your suffering.
  14. Be kind to others. Kindness is a great distraction from your pain.
  15. Be patient with your medication– sometimes finding the right medication can be a long, tiring process.
  16. You’re tougher than you think.
  17. Do something constructive–find an outlet for your pain.
  18. Curb the cat videos and use the internet as a vehicle for seeking support.
  19. Read medical journals– even if you don’t understand every word.
  20. Continue to hold yourself accountable.

If you’re warring with sarcoidosis or any autoimmune disorder for that matter, know that you’re a warrior. Know that it takes nervy defiance and stone-cold courage to wake up, soldier on and fight your every day internal war.

Be well,

Jay

Friday’s Fast Five…5 Signs You Might Be Getting Old

It’s 2:30 am and my bladder awakes, stirs and informs me with little urgent pangs that we have to pee again.

brimley
Photograph courtesy of youtube.com

I try to ignore him but my bladder (like all bladders I presume) is persistent, the pangs work to a throb and while watching the silhouette of the ceiling fan’s rhythmic spin I think about Wilford Brimley and his over-active bladder and realize the white-haired Quaker Oats guy and I finally have something in common.

A few minutes pass.

I submit. My bladder wins again ( for the second time in 4 hours) and I creak out of bed and stagger through a maze of furniture, misplaced firetrucks, puzzle pieces and a Ninja Turtle.

Now– I’m peeing in the dark because everyone knows (except for my children) that electricity isn’t free. And through my sleep-fog, as my bladder relaxes, as Wilford Brimely smiles and offers me a bowl of hot oatmeal… I whisper in the darkness… “Shit… I’m old”.

I’ve been 36 for two months. In NBA years I’d be a Geriactricsoaurus. A role player who the commentators would label a “savvy veteran”. The rookies would call me the “old man” and after the game they’d gather around locker curious to know what it was like to traverse through a snowstorm to a Blockbuster Video looking for a copy of Lethal Weapon 4.

Maybe I’m being dramatic– I know 36 is still relatively young but I’m closer to 40 then 30. And when that damn Time Hop app decides to show me how thin and spry I looked 10 years ago– I feel , well, old.nb

I take prescription medication everyday now, my knees forecast the weather and I have this growing desire to invest in a pair of all white New Balance sneakers.

All of my children recently celebrated milestones–Haley made her communion, Chase graduated kindergarten and Dylan is now potty trained and has better bladder control then me.

So over the last few weeks I have noted the subtle yet jarring moments that have made me believe I’m starting to get old…

1. A midweek nighttime event seems like the worse idea ever.

When propositioned with the a week night activity– a concert, a hockey game, an 8:15 Zumba class– my inner dialogue reads like this…Ok what time will I get home? If I get home at 11:30 that means I can be in bed by midnight (that’s without showering) so if I fall asleep at  midnight that’s (using fingers) 1,2,3… 5 hours of sleep. Can I function on 5 hours of sleep? Maybe I can squeeze a nap during my lunch break? No, maybe I’ll just call out of work. How many sick days do I have? I think 3. Can I forge a doctors note? Crap I have to pee again. Maybe I really should go see a doctor? As long as I can get an appointment before 6 because Wheel of Fortune starts at 7.

2.When once simple movements become painful exhibitions.

Like when I lie on the floor on my stomach to watch Wheel of Fortune and before the first puzzle is solved my extremities go numb, as if I fell off a roof,  and I panic and think I’m going to die before Pat Sajak ever finds out where the three contestants are from, what their professions are and what they like to do for fun.

3. Scoffing at the price of cereal.

Wife: Hey, when you go to the store can you grab a box Honey Smacks?

Me: (looking lovingly)Anything for you!

1 hour later

Wife: (sifting through the grocery bags) Where are the Honey Smacks dear?

Me: (Annoyed) Where? On the store shelf. And for $4.99 a box that’s where they’ll stay.

( Wife moves to the kitchen window and stares out the forlornly into the fading twilight and thinks deeply about her life decisions.)

4. Caring about the specifics of your insurance policy

At work last week I willingly attended a meeting about our new insurance policy. And get this–like Wilford Brimley would do –I read all the distributed material, even scratched some notes about the intimacies of my new insurance policy.

5. Calling  your kids by the wrong name… all the time.

Me: (To my son Chase)– Dylan turn off the light. Electricity isn’t free son.

Chase (Dumbfounded) Dad, I’m Chase.

Me: (confused then annoyed) I don’t care if you’re Ben Franklin turn off the light. And hey, Dylan-Ben-Chase…whatever your name is…until you start paying bills around here I’ll call you whatever I want. Crap, I have to pee again.

Be well & stay young,

Jay

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10 Questions with Jenny Schoberl author of Kids are Turds

 Jenny Schoberl author of Kids are Turds  and  Musings of a 20-Something Mom and the Perils of Being a Mommy Blogger  has amassed a loyal following of readers through her hysterical, self-deprecating and often obscenity laced blog holdinholden.com.  Jenny is the mother of two and a self-described “pot of stress”. I was curious to know how Jenny balances the responsibilities of parenthood with the demands of being an author. Check it out…turds
1. Can you discuss how writing helps you cope with the stresses of parenthood?
I’ve always felt like getting it out is better than holding it in, and I’m not one of those moms who is just great with whining or has a cornucopia of patience stocked up, so I absolutely needed a place to vent.
  
2.Who or what inspired you to make your private struggles public knowledge?
 I was the first in my circle of friends to have kids, so I had absolutely no one to talk to. I joined an online group of moms, but none of them really seemed to get me, so I really needed my own outlet. I honestly didn’t even think twice about what was”acceptable” to write and what wasn’t, according to people on the internet.

3.Your writing is honest and vulnerable. Have you always been comfortable with vulnerability?
I’m absolutely a TMI type of person. I have zero shame, and my filter broke a long, long time ago. Though, I’m far better at expressing myself (and relaying mortifying stories) through writing than I am through speaking.
musings
4.Your writing voice is also unfiltered. In fact, you’ve been called the Howard Stern of mommy blogs. How long did it take you to find that voice?
Apparently, not long. It’s not that I find myself hilarious, but I had no idea that what I was writing would even be considered funny at first. It was just the random crap rattling around in my brain

5.What do you love most about the writing process?
 I have a love/hate relationship with the process. I find it frustrating, and irritating, and sometimes like slamming my head into a brick wall, but the result is always what keeps me going. I love making people laugh and relate.

6.What’s the hardest thing about writing a book?
Everything. Ha! More seriously, editing. It’s the worst. I’m a wordy person, with run-on sentences and iffy punctuation, so trying to reign that in is quite the task.

7.What would you say to those who claim they would write if they had more time?
If you waited until you had more time, or waited until you WANTED to write- you’ll never write anything. 

8.When writing, which do you prefer…pen, computer, phone?
I used to write only by pen and then type it up later, but lately I’ve been a computer person. I think I still like pen-to-paper better, though. 

9.What does your husband think of your writing?
He thinks it keeps him breathing, so I assume he’s pretty pleased.

10.How does Jenny Schoberl relax?
 I don’t. I’m on pretty much all the time, thinking, writing, texting myself, jotting down notes, taking photos. I’m a pot of stress. When I really need to de-stress, though, booze and theme parks do the trick
foodandwine2-400x400
WoFo would like to thank Jenny for her interview. Please checkout Jenny’s website and her other social media accounts: Her unabashed candor and unfiltered style will have you cracking up over the absurd ordeal known as parenthood.
instagram: @holdinholden

Friday’s Fast Five…5 Books You Need to Read If…

People assume since I’m an English teacher and writer I love reading. Now, even though this assumption maybe true, people also assume that I’m some book floozie– quick to slide into bed with each and every book that sashays my way. This is not true. Not at all.

See, I’m a book snob.

I can not simply pick up and read any book– I have to feel  a book. ( I told you… book snob).

To me choosing a new book is a commitment. A marriage. A love affair. You must choose wisely or you’ll end up miserable and screaming things like ” I hate all books!” and ” How come I always pick the bad ones?” The wrong book will leave you disenfranchised and dissatisfied with the entire literary enterprise.The wrong book will lead to a pint of ice cream and a binge of Lifetime movies.

I’m a high maintenance reader. A literary Kardashian. I demand a lot from my books– they have to suit and please me. They have to understand my conflicts, they have to read my mind and they have to speak the things I’m afraid to say.

For this week’s Fast Five, I offer 5 books I read (and loved) and some reasons why you may connect (as I did) to each book. ( I hyperlinked each book to Amazon in case you’re feeling readerish).

So read these books if…

1.The Road  by Cormac McCarthy–If you’re a parent, soon-to-be parent, a Walking Dead fan, a survivalist, a Biblical scholar, a lover of hard-knuckled prose or a misunderstood cannibal.

the road

2. Home is Fucking Burning by Dan Marshall–If you’re struggling with a chronic or terminal illness or know someone who is or have a dysfunctional family or you just really like obscenities.

home is burning

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer–If you’re spiritually lost or enjoy philosophy (but not the pretentious hard to read kind) or just looking for a little daily inspiration.

untethered soul

4. The Power of Work  by Jeff Goins–If you’re unsatisfied with your job or pondering a career change or looking to reignite your passions or searching for some practical professional direction.

art of work

5. Wisdom of Our Fathers by Tim Russert–If you love father/child movies or you’re addicted to dad tweets or if Cats and the Cradle still gets you misty eyed or you just can’t get dad another bad Hawaiian shirt or Corvette calendar for Father’s Day.

wisdom

If this post inspired you to read any of the listed books I’d love to hear from you. Also, please share this post with anyone you know who may enjoy any of these books or anyone else who considers themselves a literary Kardashian.

Be well,

Jay