Where the Hell Did My Life Go To?

29 May

I am drowning in an abundance of riches.

I know of no other way to describe my life right now.

It seems like that would be a good thing, right?  But I’m actually being serious. I’m so busy doing the things I love to do that I don’t have time to sit back and just enjoy them. I’m too damned tired to smell the roses.

I’ve always been like this. I go balls out when I find something I enjoy.  I remind myself of a comet entering Earth’s atmosphere, all bright light and burning embers, only to fall to the Earth as little chunks of spent chemicals.  Something in my genetic makeup that makes me do this, and all the logic in the world doesn’t change it.

I’m easily twice as busy today as when I semi-retired eight years ago.  In truth, I can’t imagine what retirement looks like. It doesn’t register with me, like a foreign concept which will forever be too complicated for me to grasp.

But right now I have definitely overdone it!  I need to cut back a bit, and just writing those words fills me with dread.  What do I cut back on? Do I spend less time with the birds? I love raising them.

Do I spend less time with our puppy Maggie?  No chance!

Do I spend less time with the farmers market duties?  But I love that part of my life.

Do I spend less time writing?  I would rather cut off my arm!

See?  A dilemma for sure!

I’ll figure it out.  I always do.  A natural balance will, eventually, happen, if I’m willing to just get out of my own way and allow it to happen.

I’m sure it’s just me, right? We always think we are unique in our problems, in our thoughts, in life in general, so I’m sure none of you have had a similar experience.  Lol  So don’t mind me while I voice my thoughts to the random universe.

SPEAKING OF RANDOM

Did you grow up thinking you were going to change the world? I did!

How’s that working out for you?

Truthfully we all affect our immediate environment/universe, don’t we?  Our very existence causes a ripple effect which touches countless others, so thinking we are going to change the world is, in fact, a cinch!

But if you want to throw a monkey-wrench into the situation, add the words “positively or negatively” to that question . . . are you changing the world positively or negatively?

Just something to think about . . . have a stupendous day!

Stupendous does not sound like the word it is, does it? Sounds too much like stupid . . . sigh!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Risk? What Risk?

22 May

“Hey, Bill, there are a couple roofing tiles about to fall off the garage roof.  Any idea how that happened?”

I had a real good idea how it happened. I had kicked them loose while jumping off the garage roof, something I was forbidden to do.  I knew it, and my dad, who had asked the question, knew it.  The only question remaining was this: do I tell the truth, and risk punishment, or do I try to b.s. my way through it, and risk worse punishment?

I knew I shouldn’t do it.  Hell, I’d been punished for doing it in the past.  But it was so much fun, climbing up on the roof and then jumping over to the neighbor’s yard, pretending to be Superman chasing the bad guys.  It just seemed, at the time, to be worth the consequences.  Facing my dad’s question, and his stern look, I was beginning to question my choice.

Grounded for a week . . . not bad . . .  could have been worse . . . could have been much worse . . .

I’ve always been that way.  Risk is usually pushed aside in favor of the experience.  It probably explains why I’ve had so many jobs.  Sure, it would have been nice to work at the same place for forty years and collect a great retirement, but at the same time it would have been dull as hell.

It also explains why I’m a writer today.  The safe bet would have been to remain a teacher until retirement, but eight years ago I laughed at the same bet and declared to all the world that I was a freelance writer, hear me roar!!!

And it all worked out, and one reason why it did work out is because I trust in my abilities.

I’m not sure what the central message of this post is. There are several, actually.  Maybe you’ll find one which speaks to you.  In the meantime, I have more roofs to jump off of.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Giving Thanks for My Parents

15 May

No talent there . . . or is there?

I’m adopted!  Many of you knew that already, but for the sake of this post I needed to repeat it here and now.  I’ve never known who my biological parents were.  I was adopted out of the foster system when I was nine months old and that was that.

About a year ago I did that DNA testing thing with Ancestry.com.  I wasn’t really looking for a connection to my biological family, but I was curious about medical history since I’m rapidly approaching seventy and, well, you know.

For the next few months I heard from people who might have been fourth and fifth cousins, so far removed from reality that I couldn’t get excited about it. Time passed and so did my interest in the process.

Then one day I heard from a woman named Rose and according to Ancestry.com we are first cousins.

Now we’re getting somewhere!  First cousins . . . that’s close enough for some serious information.

Emails ensued and information was finally discovered.  My biological mother’s first name was Dollie, and she lived in the Brinnon/Shelton area of Washington State, about twenty miles from where I sit right now typing out these words.

Dollie gave birth to me in 1948.  She was twenty at the time. I was declared legally blind by the family physician, and for whatever reason I was placed in the foster system, where I remained until nine months when my adopted parents, Dale and Evelyn Holland of Tacoma, adopted a blind kid and gave him love.

Dollie died in 1968 at the age of forty from acute liver disease.  You can probably read between the lines and surmise that Dollie was a heavy drinker.  I had an older brother who was in and out of prison.  I had a younger brother who died in a motorcycle accident when he was twenty.  Not much is known of my biological father, and I had a sister who seems to have slipped between the cracks of time.

It appears my biological family was a troubled group which was chased by tragedy.

I, on the other hand, grew up in a loving household and was given every opportunity to thrive.

As a footnote, I gained sight three weeks after being adopted.  The legally-blind kid saw for the first time, and what he saw were the faces of two people who loved him.  Can you imagine adopting a special-needs kid back in 1948?  Yep, some special kind of love right there.

REFLECTIONS

I don’t know how I feel about my biological family.  I’m sorry their lives were so turbulent.  I’m grateful as hell that Dollie chose to put me up for adoption.  It was the right decision for me and that’s for damned sure, and I hope it was the right decision for her.  I certainly have no negative feelings about my biological mother. She did what she felt she needed to do, for whatever reason.  The end result was me, here, now, typing away in the midst of a life I love.

The winds of fate!

I haven’t sorted it all out yet, but I do know this is a missing piece to the mystery of who I am today.  Someone once asked how it is I write so easily, and so realistically, about the dark side of human nature.  Perhaps that dark side is part of my DNA.  Perhaps I was saved a dark outcome by a simple wind of fate.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

I Am Ashamed

8 May

So there I was, at the Farmers’ Market last week, setting up my tent, and the market manager walked by.  I asked her who was playing music for the market that day, and she told me some homeless guy who plays the cello.  She had met him downtown and invited him to play for us.

My first reaction was OH MY GOD!  What in the hell is she thinking????

I am ashamed of myself!

The guy showed up fifteen minutes early, lugging his backpack, which must have weighed seventy-five pounds at least, all his worldly possessions in it, and carrying a cello in his free hand.  I went over, introduced myself, and showed him where to set up.

Fifteen minutes later he began playing music from the angels.

For two hours he played classical music, and to say he played beautifully would be a disservice to him.  It was the first time in over a year at that market that I saw people stop what they were doing and just  listen to the music, and after each song he received heartfelt applause.

I am ashamed of myself!

I made an assumption, and I admit that to you all.  I assumed since he was homeless he couldn’t possibly be any good, and that assumption made a complete ass out of me.

I’m not sure what the hell I was thinking.  I’ve written countless articles about the plight of the homeless, how that social ill affects people in all walks of life, but at that one moment, in that one situation, I tossed aside all of my righteousness and embarrassed myself.

Mea culpa!

I am a writer.  I consider it my job to reflect real life, to tell stories which cause reflection, and to be as honest as I possibly can be.  And that’s what I’m doing now, at this moment, to all of you.

Telling it like it is!

TEASER

I have a name for you: Dollie Mae Priest!  I’ll explain the significance of that woman next week…anyone care to guess beforehand?

No talent there . . . or is there?

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Nowhere Man

1 May

Randomness . . .

I talked to a guy at last weeks’ farmers market who served in Vietnam.  We talked for a good five minutes.  It was fascinating, hearing about the war from a soldier who was there, rather than from some talking head news person who is regurgitating old articles.

He was fine talking about our government, the waste of it all, and the one thing every soldier had in common with all other soldiers, the all-consuming desire to stay alive, but his eyes clouded over when he talked about the fire fights, the brutality of it all, and the killing, and he became deeply saddened when he talked about the distrust for a young child who walked into camp, sadness because they couldn’t trust the child, did not know if she was armed and meant them harm, or just lost.

That shit is real!  That is the human connection that great stories have. As writers, we need to listen to those stories, absorb them, and never let their humanness escape us when we are writing.

 

I was reading a post on Facebook from a young single mother of two.  She was talking about the struggle and the feelings of inadequacy, the worries that she was not doing a good job of parenting, not providing all the things her daughters needed. It was a heartbreaking post, and it was more poignant because she is a former student of mine.

That shit is real!

 

I spend a lot of time observing people.  I always have.  The difference now, as opposed to when I was younger, is I engage with those people now. I want to know more.  I want to hear their stories.  The more engaged I become, the more they are willing to open up, and selfishly I gain from each story because I am a storyteller, and I want my stories to be authentic.  Their stories help me, and similar stories will help you.  I’m not just talking about fiction writers.  Non-fiction writers can benefit as well.  We need that human connection in our writing.  Otherwise we might as well just write for Wikipedia.

 

I cry much more now than I once did.  Ask my wife if this is true. I cry watching television shows.  It bothered me at first, but now I embrace it.  It means I’m becoming more connected with what is real in life.  It means I am becoming more human. It means I have gained empathy, and I am fine with that.  At the risk of sounding like a love child from the 60’s, we need more love in this world. We need to make more connections and not fewer.  What was that line from that old song by Pink Floyd . . . two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,” or something like that . . . that perfectly describes so many people, lonely, agitated, confused, desperately in need of human contact but unsure, unaware, unwilling,  or unknowing in how to make it happen.

“Nowhere Man, please listen, you don’t know what you’re missing . . . “

Random thoughts . . .

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

I Won’t Do That

24 Apr

I knew a guy once, this is going back maybe ten years ago, maybe fifteen . . . anyway, he had a band, and he would use email to let us all know when his band was playing.  I’m not talking about an occasional email; I’m talking about three or four emails each week giving us all date and time and location.

All well and good, I guess, although a bit overboard, but I would have persisted through that onslaught except for the fact that he never talked about anything else, and he certainly never gave a rat’s butt about those of us who had to read his damned emails.  Not once do I remember him asking how I was doing, or how my family was . . . it was just the same message hammered home day in and day out.

I never did go listen to his band. There was no way in hell I was going to support him when he hadn’t taken the time to treat me like a friend he cared about.

I try to remember that now when I’m in writing/marketing mode.  There is more to life than my writing career.  There are far more important things in the world than some new book I’ve written, or some new article I’ve penned.

The audience for my writing is composed of real people. They have lives. They do not need me to beat them over the head with advertising, day in and day out.  They are people I actually care about, and I refuse to dip so low as to become nothing more than a poor facsimile of a cheap commercial.  You all know I’m a writer.  I don’t need to continually announce that to the world.  Read my books, don’t read my books, it really makes no difference to me.

What is important to me are relationships, and I refuse to jeopardize those relationships in order to sell one copy of my work. I just won’t do it.

The Gospel According To Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Scrunched for Time and Rolling in Clover

17 Apr

I knew this week was coming, but I’m no more prepared for it today as I was three months ago.

This is the week our farmers market begins.  Every Wednesday, from now until the end of September, will be spent manning a booth at that market, which means I am one day short for my freelance writing load.

Which means consolidating five days of writing into four.

Which means this boy is going to be scrambling for the next five months.

And the thing is, I love it all!

I love working the Market; I love writing; and I love summer.

It’s all good in my world!

During the summer of 1967, my buddy Frank and I needed some part-time work. We heard the Longshoreman’s office down on the docks hired temporary workers each morning for odd jobs around the waterfront, so one morning in early June we went down there at five a.m. and signed up for temp work.  As luck would have it we were called on to work on a ship at Dock B, a big old cargo ship . . . our job was to shovel coal into the ship’s furnace.

It was ninety degrees that day, but in the furnace room it had to be one-thirty or hotter, and by lunchtime Frank and I had reached our physical limit.  We both grabbed our lunch sacks, walked down the gangplank, and never looked back.  That job, and shoveling pig poop at a pig farm, are the two worst jobs I have had in my fifty years of working.

I mention that because having my schedule disrupted, to work at a job I love doing, is not a disruption at all.  It is pure joy!

I have never been so lucky, or felt so blessed.

I am a writer and how cool is that?

I am a part-time chicken farmer and how cool is that?

My life is pretty great!

What’s the worst job you ever had?

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

The Long and Winding Road

10 Apr

Writer’s come in many shapes and sizes.

I’ve lived in Alaska, Vermont, Oregon, and Washington.

I’m a recovering alcoholic!

I’ve been divorced, I am currently married, and I am a father.

My parents are both dead . . . most of my adopted family is dead.

I have degrees in Marketing, Economics, and Education.

I’m left-handed but fairly ambidextrous because the nuns didn’t believe in anyone being left-handed in the 1950’s.  It was just too much of a bother for them.

I’ve owned four businesses.

I was homeless for a couple weeks back in 1989.  Didn’t enjoy it at all, but I had it coming.

I taught school for almost twenty years.  I’ve been a warehouseman, a salesman, a data processor, and a tutor.  I’ve cleaned pig stalls and shoveled coal into the blast furnace of ships.  I worked in a bowling alley and a lumber yard.  I’ve been a truck driver. I’ve worked for fifty years and probably forgot several professions.

I am a Liberal 90% of the time, but more than willing to listen to the Dark Side if they are not insulting or condescending LOL…all in jest!

I treat people with respect, as I was raised to do, but I have a low tolerance for deceit.

I do not suffer fools for long.

I have empathy for the lowest of low.  I relate better to the sinners of the world.  I am painfully shy, but can schmooze with practically anyone, because I genuinely care about their story.

I have zero tolerance for rudeness, and a low-patience threshold for boring, mundane conversations.

I will always stand up for the underdogs.

I love The Beatles and baseball.

I do not trust corporations at all.

I do not trust politicians at all.

I am rapidly approaching 70 years of age and I have no fear of death.

I won the DNA lottery and am ridiculously healthy.

And all of that leads me to today, a writer, a publisher of I don’t know how many novels and novellas.

All of that leads me to today, an urban farmer, the raiser of chickens, and a man who is still fascinated with life and all it has to offer.

The long and winding road of Bill Holland.

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

 

From Yesterday to Today

3 Apr

I’m adopted!

Some of you know that already, but for those who didn’t, I was adopted at nine months after being in nine foster homes. Evidently I wasn’t cute enough while at those first nine homes, and evidently I turned on the charm for my adoptive parents on Try Number Ten.

It was pretty obvious that I was adopted as I grew up.  I didn’t look like anyone else in the family.  I didn’t act like anyone else in the family. I was a painfully shy kid who, even at family functions, would be over in the corner reading a book or just sitting quietly listening to everyone else talk.  It’s just always been that way for me.  It still is. I’m fine with it.  I used to feel weird about it, when I was younger, but now I just figure that’s the way it is, I’m happy with who I am, and that’s just the real of it.

Anyway, growing up, I observed.  I listened to conversations. I heard stories.  I made note of different speech patterns.  I paid close attention to nature. I saw the nuances in life.  I turned philosophical often, delving for answers to questions. Why was I turned over to an adoption agency? Why does one person act like an ass while another acts like a saint?  Why are girls so friggin’ weird and mysterious?

We didn’t have much money. We were never poor but we sure weren’t swimming in extra cash, either.  Many a day was spent inventing games using only my imagination.  Many a day was spent roaming the neighborhood or exploring on my bike.  Everything was fascinating and mysterious.  I wanted to learn, just not from the nuns at school.

Of course I couldn’t see the big picture. I had no way of knowing that it was all to prepare me for today and my life as a writer.  None of us have that kind of vision into the future and perhaps it is well that we don’t.

I wouldn’t change any of it.  I love my life.  I love that people pay me money for doing something I am passionate about.  I’m thrilled that the shy little kid in the corner found happiness in being himself.  I find that beyond cool!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

When Second-Best Is Good Enough

27 Mar

League championship game, 1960, Tacoma Little League Babe Ruth . . .

My team, the Pythias Giants (I’m being dead serious) against the League powerhouse Cheney Lumberjacks.  I was pitching for Pythias and Don Carlson for Cheney.

I pitched a hell of a game.  Gave up a run in the 5th inning and another in the 7th, both on broken bat hits, dying quails we used to call them, those agonizing little floaters that just make it to the outfield, out of reach of an infielder’s glove.  Cheney managed a grand total of three hits off of me.  I struck out twelve, my nasty knuckleball dancing like a ballerina.

We lost 2-0!

Don Carlson no-hit us!

I was totally dejected riding home with my dad who, to his credit, allowed me to wallow in self-pity for a full ten minutes before he had had enough.

“Bill,” he said.  “There is always going to be someone better than you.  That’s a fact of life there is no escaping.  So that leaves you two choices, or so it seems to me.  You  can either work your butt off to get better, knowing you’ll never be the best but still able to play the game you love, or you can take that glove of yours down to Goodwill and let some underprivileged kid use it.  Let me know now, though, before we get home, so I can swing you by Goodwill if that’s your decision.”

Those words are still with me fifty-eight years later, and they apply to so many of my pursuits in life. I am never going to be the best writer, but I can become a pretty damned good writer.  The best husband?  Father?  Friend?

Where’s that old glove of mine?  I need to practice some more.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”