Thursday, November 22, 2012

What I'm Thankful For: The Usual Suspects, and More

It's Thanksgiving, and because Abby unfortunately has to work today (because hospitals can't really close on holidays, can they?), I'm left alone with the kids to hang out in our pajamas all day. We're doing Thanksgiving at Abby's parents tomorrow, hosting it here Sunday for my parents and sister and her family, so that leaves today free for some sentimental, holiday navel-gazing on the blog.

So, of course what's on my mind is how thankful I am for all the things our family has been blessed with, and the things I've been blessed with, personally. It's important we be thankful all throughout the year - not get all weepy and thankful just on Thanksgiving, then go about our lives blithely 364 days the rest of the year - but I've never been much for "poo-pooing" the holidays. They are what you make of them, and while it IS vitally important to maintain an attitude of thankfulness every single day, there's also nothing wrong with taking a special day to really ponder what you're thankful for, explicitly.

And there's also the mass amounts of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and days of cold turkey leftovers to consider.  Can't forget all that, can we?

Anyhoo, I'm abundantly thankful for many things.  First of all, for my wonderful wife, not only because she's beautiful and smart and intuitive and a wonderful mother who does all she can to help make this family "go", but for the support she's shown my writing efforts.

See, when you tell someone during courting, "I want to be a writer someday," neither you nor the other knows AT ALL what you're talking about, really. Writing and the business of writing and even just the daily commitment to a writing schedule takes a far greater toll on a family and on relationships in general than you can ever imagine, at the outset.

And when the truth of those words DOES hit home, two things seem to happen: either relationships and families crumble and maybe even fall apart, or SOMEHOW a balance is struck, and the writing career and family can somehow survive, and for that family to survive, not only does the writer need to make some hard choices, but a strong, tolerant, loving, patient, ever-wise and did I say patient? spouse is needed. 

Abby is all that and more, and half the time, I think she's the glue that holds this family together. A capper to all this: we just survived our first Con together as a family, and more than survived: we had a good time. We mixed family and writing on a mini-vacation, and came home feeling good about it. A major victory, there.

Close on the heels of that, I'm thankful I've been able to sacrifice mostly just sleep and a social life to write, and not family. For the past five years, I've been able to get up at 2:30/3:00 in the morning every day and write for several hours before anyone else gets up. This leaves me unburdened, the muse satisfied, happy and content to spend the rest of the day with my family, leaves me content to focus on the day job, too. I've also sorta forsaken television and a social life to very often squeeze in an hour of writing before I go to bed, too. I'm HUGELY thankful for this, more than you can imagine.

I'm thankful for two wonderful children, a daughter who is an amazing little duplicate of me (which often leaves me in giggling fits, and Abby shaking her head), a girl who loves to explore EVERYTHING, which makes every venture a potential adventure (see what I did there?). I'm also so thankful that's Zack's vibrant, loving, exuberant personality - and even his rock-hard stubbornness, at times - overshadows his autism. He will beat his autism, I believe, because of these traits.

And we're so thankful for everyone who's helped Zack, from his teachers at the Institute, his first speech therapist, to his family. They've all had a hand in his growth.

I'm ever thankful for my job, for multiple reasons, but the biggest is this: I get to spend every day around teenagers who are loud, boisterous, and alive. And I get to pontificate all day long about literature. Some of them listen, some don't, but the ones who DO listen, and are changed for it? That makes it all worth it, in the end. That, and how lucky am I? I'm a high school English teacher. When people find out I write, that just makes sense to them. Plus, summers off, and spending it reading and writing actually DOES help me, a lot, as a teacher.  How that all works together is marvelous.

I'm very thankful for the moderate publishing success I've had, and am very happy and thankful that the first bunch of folks I fell in with were the "Hiram 7" and Shroud Publishing. They've been great to work with on so many different projects, and no matter where my publishing career takes me, I'll return every year to AnthoCon (Shroud Publishing's annual convention), and remember them as the folks who shaped me in my "formative" years as a writer. 

And of course, I'm very thankful for the writing friends and mentors who I've encountered along the way.  Too many to name, and I'm sure I'll leave someone out, but I've been blessed to find myself with two "big sisters" in the genre who've given me SO much advice in so many different areas -  Michelle Pendergrass and Kelli Owen - and I'm so thankful I've met people like Rio Youers, Ron Malfi, Dan Keohane, Norman Prentiss, Tom Monteleone, F. Paul Wilson, Gary Braunbeck, Maurice Broaddus, Bob Ford, Alethea Kontis, Jacob Haddon, Dickie, Mandy, Michelle & Tad, Sue, Matt Blazi, Phil Tomasso, I could go on and on...

I'm thankful for the friends I grew up with, and those summers on the lake years ago, and those goofy, silly adventures in the "devil house".  I'll never forget any of you, and all of you, in one way or another, will pop in my writing, here and there. Hopefully, you'll take that as the compliment it's meant to be. 

And the devil house? So totally thankful for that. It's why I started writing horror, after all....

I'm thankful for an amazing evening in a basement full of the most mind-blowing genre memorabilia, ever...a mile away from my school. 

I'm thankful for all the times I've gotten to sit and listen to Brian Keene talk about the genre. Because that's all I do when I'm around him, is be quiet, listen, and learn.

I'm thankful for all the emails I've traded with Mort Castle, Norman Partridge, and Rob Dunbar.

I'm thankful for this really nice evening at Applebee's with Rio Youers, when he came to talk to my students a few years ago. Here's a guy who's destined to be the next Peter Straub, and he just hung out and talked with me, for hours. Unreal.

I'm thankful, eternally, to the small handful of people who've read my work.

And there's too much more to list. 

I'll just end it with how overwhelmed, I am, to be blessed with so much that I don't deserve.



Where's all that turkey....