Today, I posted our 368th Daily Reality Board. It's hard to believe that something so silly that I started doing because we were stuck at home and couldn't keep track of what day it was has morphed into this. I started keeping a spreadsheet a while back to track what we've drawn and how it was received by the growing audience, who's even seen fit to send us markers and other supplies during the year. (Thanks for that, BTW!)
These ten represent the most "liked" of all of our drawings. Can you guess which one is currently sitting at #1? Which is your favorite of these ten?
We'll keep drawing. I need to replace our yellow, but other than that, we'll keep going and trying not to repeat ourselves.
Thanks so much for all your support.
It is really hard for me to fathom the fact that this week we will pass one year of these Reality Board drawings. I'll be posting something to mark that occasion, perhaps revisiting some of the more popular ones, now what I've got a giant spreadsheet of data about them in hand.
For those of you asking, we have no plans to stop drawing. Stay tuned for more on that, but it is getting increasingly difficult to not repeat ourselves. We'll do out best.
Which ones of this batch are your favorites?
It's hard to believe that we've posted 333 days worth of "Reality Board" drawings! I'm now keeping track of them in a spreadsheet complete with likes and comments. Here's our work from December 18-February 15. Enjoy! We will be at a year, more than likely, when I post the 13th collection!
What are your favorites from the current batch?
We are less than 100 days away from having done one full year's worth of these boards. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?!!!
Which ones are your favorites?
Have a wonderful holiday season! Stay safe and well as we head into the new year! Thanks for all your support!
Welcome, Welcome, Welcome, AGAIN!
As we get ready for LOVE WILL COME TO YOU, the final book in the Avery & Angela series, (WHICH ARRIVES IN DAYS!) here's a little primer to bring you up to speed!
Avery & Angela's story begins in the award-winning novel, The Last Good Day.
What's it all about? Glad you asked!
Two best friends. One last day. One huge secret that changes everything!
This is the book that started it all for Avery & Angela!
Avery Young is having a moment. How he handles it will determine his future.
Avery is leaving New Jersey to study at the Boston Conservatory of Music. Before he leaves, he spends one last day at the Jersey Shore with his best friend, Angela, who's been unusually distant all summer
When Angela finally reveals the reasons behind that distance, it changes everything.
For the first time, he realizes that he could lose her. How can he pursue his dreams when it could mean losing Angela, the only stable thing in his life, forever?
Avery and Angela's story continues in the second book in the series, On the Road to Here. What's that one all about? Again, you've come to the right place!
(********Slight potential spoilers if you haven't read book #1*********
***Spoiler buffer completed-proceed at your own risk***
With his first semester and her first months of chemo completed, Avery is anxious to finally spend time with Angela.
But her doctors and their families have other ideas.
Being a normal couple was always going to be a challenge, but things only get harder and weirder as they navigate their first time alone together since summer, their exhausting parents, and her drunk uncle. Add in a series of unexpected tests and the world's strangest audition and Avery & Angela find themselves hurtling towards uncertainty.
Can they overcome cancer, drama, and the great unknowns ahead of them? Will their newfound love for one another survive Winter Break?
For that matter, will they?
They will face more than one bump ON THE ROAD TO HERE
The story continues in When Only Love Remains, the third book in the Avery & Angela series! You can check that out HERE!
What happens in that one? Again, you've come to the right place!
(********Slight potential spoilers if you haven't read book #1 or #2*********
***Spoiler buffer completed-proceed at your own risk. Seriously.***
Something inside him snapped.
Instead of enjoying a break from school with his girlfriend Angela, Avery is suddenly reeling from a tragic loss.
With his mother gone, Avery is left on his own, and the fragile web of secrets she kept begins to unravel, leaving Avery wondering if he knew his mother at all.
Avery doesn’t know what to do, but that won’t stop him from pretending that he does as every truth he clings to falls away and he grasps for the shattered pieces of the life he’s always known.
Secrets, lies, sleepwalking - this isn’t how life was supposed to be.
And then, there is Angela.
Can her love help him find a way through his loss, his growing anger, and his mother’s lies? Can he learn to accept what he cannot change?
Or will it consume him?
Find out in the third book of the Avery & Angela series, WHEN ONLY LOVE REMAINS
So, you’re all caught up for the fourth and final book in the series, LOVE WILL COME TO YOU!
Thanks so much for your support! If you're not currently receiving my email newsletter, please sign up HERE today!
OK, so it’s a longish title, but it’s a holiday so I’m going to allow it. I haven’t written much about life during this time of social distancing, mostly because I haven’t much felt like it and I couldn’t imagine anyone being interested in reading it, but I feel somewhat inspired as I wait for the next series of things I need to do in the kitchen.
I’ve often felt that holidays have their own memory, especially the big ones. Thanksgiving and Christmas have always felt to me like “Every [insert holiday name here] is last [aforementioned holiday name]. What I mean by that is that every Christmas is last Christmas, and all the ones before that. Same with Thanksgiving, in a positive way. It’s the same for me with New Years Eve, but those tend to get a little dark for me. They’ve been fine for many years, but there are a few that linger negatively in my memory, but my Christmases and Thanksgivings of years past are pretty pleasant to look back upon.
This year, as I’m sure everyone will agree, has been a little different than its predecessors. There are few things that, at least to me, have felt normal as the world has faced the specter of the pandemic, not to mention all the other stress, turmoil, and divisiveness that have permeated pretty much everything and everyone. Even without Covid, this would have been a year deeply rooted in challenge, I think.
So, as my turkey roasts and my house begins to smell like it always does in my memories of holidays past, it’s interesting to consider how this year is unlike all the others.
For one, I’ve never cooked for this small a group before. The five people in my household represent the smallest, by a large margin, that I’ve ever cooked for on Thanksgiving. I started hosting the meal right after we got married, so it’s been mine for twenty-one years running. I’ve prepared it in Jersey, in Virginia, in Hawaii, in South Carolina. I’ve prepared it while working half shifts at the Inn, leaving copious instructions for the wife, and I’ve spent upwards of three days prepping and chopping and doing all the things you do when you host. I like doing it, truly, but there were some years that were more challenging than others from a kitchen-warrior perspective. This year, so far, is wildly simple, by comparison.
But, when we all sit down for dinner later, we won’t have to bring more chairs in. We won’t have to set up a smaller table in the living room. We won’t need a case of wine or beer and we won’t be using every single plate and fork in the arsenal. In its own way, it will look very much like every dinner the five of us have had since forever. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, of course. The wife and I work pretty hard to make sure we all have dinner together every night and I’m proud of that.
But, as you may know, gentle reader, I’m a bit of an extrovert. I like being around people. I like entertaining. A lot. I spend the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving making certain that everyone we know has somewhere to go. I’ve invited people weeks ahead and hours ahead, and I’m pretty unapologetic about it. I just don’t like the idea of people we care about not having somewhere to go on the day. I think that’s in large part a result of the kindness that my wife embodies on a daily basis and my own memories of the Thanksgivings in the first few years after my father passed away. After the first year, where we went to the Nassau Inn in Princeton, we spent a few with family friends until the wife and I were dating and serious and we started doing the meal with her family.
I like entertaining. I like to host parties. We’ve done a few in our years here in Virginia, just like we did in Hawaii, where our friends would take turns hosting the big holidays. It was fun. The last event I hosted was in early March, and it was stripped down and socially distant, as we were just beginning to understand that the virus was a serious problem. Thinking about that evening now, it was glorious, just having a few friends around before everything went bananas.
It seems like a lifetime ago.
So today, when we sit down together as a family, I will be thankful for many things:
I’ll be thankful that my family is together and safe and healthy. I’ll be thankful that our friends and family, wherever and however they are spending the day are much the same. I’ll be grateful that for the first time in a long time, there appears to be some hope about the manner in which we will be able to move forward through this pandemic. I’ll be grateful for the extra time I’ve been able to spend with my family. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s always been worthwhile.
I’ll be thankful that my wife’s job has remained steadfast throughout all of this. While both my business and my “side-hustle” have been deeply impacted, her ministry has been consistent. She’s faced numerous new challenges like everyone else, but I’m grateful that she’s been able to provide for our family, as she always has.
I’m deeply thankful that people have had some interest in my books. I won a little award recently and am about to launch the series finale before moving onto other writings, among other things. I’m grateful that I’ve had some opportunities.
I often hear people say, “when things go back to normal,” as they talk about coming through all of this. I don’t really think things ever really will go back to “normal,” so to speak. I think whatever reality we create on the other side of this will, and should, be a different one. I’d like to think that maybe we’ll be a bit kinder to one another and more appreciative of things like time together and the feeling of safety while out and about.
I’d like to think that we’ll be more thoughtful of one another when we are sick. I’d like to think that we’ll all be more likely to stay home when ill and that our employers will be understanding and supportive of that. I’d like to think that parents will keep their kids home when they’ve popped a fever or “only puked a little and it was last night…they’re fine today and I need to work.” I’d like to think that we will continue to check in with our neighbors more often and wave and say hello to the folks walking through our neighborhood. I’m still not opening the door for solicitors, but that’s nothing new for me. I don’t yell at them anymore, so that’s growth, right?
I remember in the days after September 11, 2001, everyone you spoke to asked you if all of your people were accounted for. People were generally kinder and there really was s sense of national unity that lasted a while. I wonder if our country is a little too polarized now to hope for that to occur on a large scale, but it’s a thought. Moments of shared crisis have a way of bringing people together, even briefly, but that can fade over time. It did after September 11, and it likely will again. I mean, you can still rent an inflatable water slide based on the Titanic for your next (post Covid) birthday party and that tragedy killed 1,517 people. Seriously.
But I hope that people will be kinder longer. I hope that employers begin to understand the effectiveness of tele-work and the ways that it can really be of benefit to the environment, the family, and the health and wellness of both the company and the employee.
I do miss gathering with loads of people. I really do. When it becomes safe to do so, I’ll likely be throwing a rager. Well, as much of a rager as an almost-middle-aged gentleman might throw. Until then, I hope this finds you healthy, happy, safe, and spending the day in the finest manner you can.
Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate. If it’s not something you celebrate, have a great Thursday!
Greetings all! I hope this finds you and yours doing well and staying healthy!
Wanted to share, in one space, a few of the social media teasers that I've been posting with teaser quotes from the fourth and final book in the Avery & Angela series, LOVE WILL COME TO YOU!
The book arrives on 12/8/20 and will wrap up the series! The series books will be free or discounted during that week, so stay tuned or JOIN THE EMAIL LIST to find out first about those deals!
In the meantime, enjoy the teasers and please check out "The Day Before," which is a free prequel chapter to the entire series!
I can't wait to share the end of this journey with you!
I am super excited to share the cover art of the fourth and final book in the Avery & Angela series with you! I know the book was supposed to be ready in June, but I'm blaming Covid and 2020 in general.
So, while it's been delayed, the book is coming on December 8! There will be loads of promotions and giveaways and all sorts of fun between now and then, but the series is concluding.
Anytime there's a end to something, there are some bittersweet feelings and this ending is no exception. That said, they are wildly tempered by the level of excitement I'm feeling about sharing this final part of the story with you all.
So, you'll have the book in just a few weeks, and should you need to catch up on the series, HERE's A GOOD PLACE TO START, but without further ado....THE COVER!
So, it's been 230 days and we are still going strong with our daily reality board! I think this collection has some of our best work to date. It's been a lot of fun. We of course, have to thank our recent marker benefactor, our good friend Beth, for her donation to the cause!
What would you like to see in the coming weeks? Please comment below with your requests!
Also-my latest novel LOVE WILL COME TO YOU is coming out on December 8. Stay tuned!
Thirty years ago, today my father died. I was seventeen years old.
I’ve written about this before in this space. It’s been a topic that in many ways haunted me for years, dominated my thoughts and development for years but now lays claim to less of my head space than it used to. I’ll include links to the previous columns about my dad in the comments, if those are of interest to you.
But thirty years is a long time and I’d planned to write about that milestone. But then, something else happened.
My friend Bruce died suddenly this week, leaving behind a wife and two sons and countless friends and family who are reeling in the devastating wake of his loss. Bruce was an amazing man who’s impact on the lives of those around him will be difficult to measure, unless one were able to count the tears shed, the toasts raised, the chuckles shared in his memory over the coming weeks.
I think if you added up that number, you’d still have to multiply it pretty significantly to have some way to comprehend the impact that this man had on the people in his life. Maybe then, one could grasp it.
But I doubt it.
In thinking about Bruce and my father and the other people that I’ve lost along the way to here, I’m reminded of the fact that, at least to me, every time I encounter the loss of someone in my life, it brings me back to every other loss I’ve experienced. It’s like every loss is that last loss, and all the others along with it. I’d like to think that that is part of why Bruce’s loss is so devastating. But I think there’s more to it than that.
This one’s just not fair.
As my father was dying, I remember telling my mother that it wasn’t fair that he was so sick. It wasn’t fair that this was happening to us all. Not for the last time she told me, not unkindly, that “life isn’t fair.”
That hurt at the time and it hurts now just as much. It’s not fair, especially with the year that we’ve all had, the year we’ve all joked about. “Oh, that 2020 again…”
We’ve all said it and we’ve all thought it and yeah, it’s been a tough year, but this one’s just not fair. It hurts because we didn’t see it coming and it hurts because thinking about a world without Bruce in it is simply not a world any of us were prepared to be a part of.
Bruce and his family were among the first friends we made when we arrived in Northern Virginia ten years ago. His oldest son and mine were in scouts together and a few other activities. They got along well and have remained friendly to this day. Bruce’s younger son was often a classmate of my youngest daughter, and so together Bruce and I became the unofficial “Dad Brigade” for school field trips and activities. We survived Smithsonians, nature centers, science museums, amusement parks, concerts, track meets, soccer matches, scout meetings, field days, class parties, you name it.
I remember a few particularly challenging, all-day field trips where I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about my day, only to have that whole plan get upended and turn into something that might be fun after all when I heard Bruce’s voice behind me say, “OK, I’m not the only dad here. We’ve got this!”
On one occasion, I remember him gripping my shoulder and leaning in to say, quietly, just to me: “Rob, thank God you’re here.”
I’m not too proud to say that that made my day at the time. I keep thinking about that moment this week as I try to process what’s just happened. That moment was really Bruce in a nutshell. An unexpected warm and friendly comment, given by a true friend when least expected, with a smile and a shared sense of, “we’ll get through this together.” Always smiling, always giving of himself.
I can feel every head nodding in agreement across Springfield and beyond as you read this. I know you all understand. That shared understanding is unique and special and while I’m so glad we have it together, I’m also very sad because that aspect of our lives is gone, suddenly and yes, unfairly.
I never saw Bruce angry. I’m sure he had moments of anger, or disappointment, pain, like we all do and are having now, the Bruce I knew was gregarious, hard-working, ceaselessly dedicated to his family, supportive of everyone, and just really, really kind.
As the troop leader for my sons’ scout troop, he was for years inundated with an often wild and motley crew of boys, many with their own strong opinions on how to do (or not do) things as a group. I often left the meetings with a headache and I wasn’t leading anything. I never saw him lose his patience with the boys. He never snapped. It was always, “OK, let’s get back to…” whatever the task at hand was: a birdhouse or a tool box or a skit for the pack meeting. He was always patient, always kind, like that verse from Corinthians, which everyone uses for weddings.
That verse is very much in my head this week. While most people think of it as a statement on romantic love, it’s really not. (Being married to a clergy person has subjected me to this conversation after every wedding we’ve attended.)
Paul was writing to the church at Corinth because they were fighting amongst themselves. They were not treating one another well and he was trying to remind them that love was the most powerful force for connection and community available to them, and that they really ought to try being a little kinder to one another.
Part of that passage reads:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
I’ll admit, I’m emotional about this, but I feel that while Paul may have been talking to the church in Corinth, he might as well have been talking about Bruce.
His amazing wife and phenomenal sons face a much harder road ahead than do any of us. It’s road I know well and one I would never wish on anyone. But I find myself thinking, if this had happened to another from our group of friends; to another parent we all know and care about, what would Bruce do?
I think he’d show up, as he so often did. Not only to events and field trips, but to my mother’s funeral, which he and his family did when she passed a few years ago, helping my kids immeasurably by not being the only kids there at church.
I think he’d find a way to quietly lead the rest of us. I could see him organizing a “Council of Dads” to try and step in and help, not only in the first weeks of this change for the family, but long-term, with a “going forward” approach. I think he’d have given of his time, his seemingly limitless energy, and his immeasurable kindness.
He might have thought, perhaps it’s not enough, but it would be what he could do for his friends, and he’d do it without hope for reward or acknowledgment, and more importantly, without hesitation.
I would like to be more like Bruce.
The last text message I got from Bruce was just over a week ago, regarding my attempts to get our kids together on a Monday for a socially distanced lunch hour. They weren’t able to make it, but he went out of his way to, well, to answer it like Bruce. “Thanks for thinking of him and inviting him and please keep him in mind if you guys do it again.”
A simple, “We’re swamped, maybe next time,” would have been fine. That would have been the response that most people would send.
Bruce was a dedicated, selfless man. He was fun to be around and while he had a big personality, it always seemed like he was just to the left of the center of the conversation, passing the ball with an alacrity and quick wit that made him fun to be around. He was a fierce and loyal friend. He loved his family.
We will all miss him, none of us as much as his wife and children. I’m glad that our paths crossed and that for a short time, our lives intersected and we had the chance to know one another and become friends.
I know I’m a better person for that friendship.
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