The Year of the Novel

novel1, noun: a long written story usually about imaginary characters and events

novel2, adjective: new and different from what has been known before

I just celebrated my 26th birthday over the weekend and had a great time. My wife threw me the greatest surprise birthday party with some of my best friends here in St. Louis.

For most people, turning 26 means they’re on the downhill to 30. The idea that they haven’t achieved anything yet can be paralyzing and draining on their confidence and self esteem. I have no such fear though. I’ve already found my soulmate and started my family. I’ve completed my bachelor’s degree and finished my MFA. I’ve written my first novel, Sentinel’s Soul, and begun the process of publishing. I’m working on a sequel, with another novel idea just waiting for its turn. And I’ll be teaching my first class in the spring.

While celebrating with some friends, someone asked me what I wanted to dedicate my year to? The idea being that you would focus on whatever concept for the following year and see where God led you. And as a writer, the idea of the novel was tossed out.

1445496548706590349Mind = Blown.

This works on multiple levels for me at this stage of my life. First, the noun definition of the novel. In the coming year, I hope to complete my second novel (that’s right, you heard me, complete it) and start on my third novel. I also hope to find an agent for my first novel. But in addition to all of this, I’m hoping to spend some time reading some really great novels. (Any suggestions in the fantasy/scifi/urban fantasy realm?) I’ve been a student for almost 20 years of my life and it’s high time I started reading what I want to read rather than the assigned readings, although I’ll be doing my fair share of those since I’ll be the one assigning readings in class.

The second definition, novel as an adjective meaning ‘new and different from what has been known before‘, is equally profound. As I move into this next year of life, I’m looking forward to many new and exciting developments. As I said, I’m hoping to get an agent for Sentinel’s Soul. But I’m also hoping to enjoy teaching undergraduates this year and start building my credentials there. I’m nervous but also excited, as this will be the first chance I’ve gotten to really use the degree I worked so hard on attaining. In my personal life, I just want to keep raising my boys well and continue being a good husband. But I want to do so in a way that is exciting and fulfilling. And I’m always up for new friends and experiences.

So this is the Year of the Novel in all of its multi-faceted meaning. I’m excited to share it with you and look forward to my next birthday.

Happy Father’s Day!!!

I vividly remember when my wife and I found out we were pregnant with our first son. I was terrified. I was just a senior in undergrad. All I knew I was doing after graduation was going to graduate school for my MFA. I had no job, no insurance, no way of supporting my family.

And to make things even more troubling, I was filled with so much self-doubt. How was I going to be a father? Did I really know enough to raise a child? Would I be a good dad?

IMG_2508Fast-forward to present day. This is my third Father’s Day and I’m  watching my son play
in the dirt outside an apartment. I’ve finished my MFA and have a steady job with full benefits. And now my wife and I are expecting our second child and I have the confidence that was missing three years ago.

I’ve realized that I am a good father because of the men who have been in my life to advise and mentor me. And this Father’s Day, I want to thank all the men who made me into the man I am today. My own father, who raised me the best he could, teaching me the difference between right and wrong. And then there’s my grandfather, who taught me how to change the oil on my car, fix a flat tire, and what it meant to be a strong, Christian man.

Finally, I want to say a special thank you to my own stepfather. He’s been a great mentor for both me and my family. Although he’s only been in our lives for a few years, he’s accepted us as his own kids and looks out for us like his own. I’m very blessed to have a two dads. So thank you not only to my own stepfather but to all the men who come into young people’s lives as stepfathers. They play a special role in our lives and we are very grateful.

I do my best to be a good father for my family. I’ve had many great examples of how to do that and with those people to call on for advice and guidance, I’m excited to bring our next son into this world and continue to strive to be the best dad I can be.

Happy Shopping at Aldi

Let’s face it. I hate shopping. I’m sure a lot of people do, especially you fathers out there. But I really hate grocery shopping. But one store has made it much better for me. Aldi.

Before we get too far in, let me give a little context. My wife and I used to do the majority of our shopping at Walmart. The town we grew up in pretty much just had one and that made for one stop shopping. So when we moved to St. Louis, we did the same and found our local Walmart.

It was horrible. There were boxes everywhere on the floors. The shelves weren’t stocked or they were sloppy and unorganized. But worst of all, the people there, both the customers and the employees were just rude and standoffish. Now, I’ve worked in places like Walmart before and I expected a little better than that.

So we started looking for other places to shop, especially after our son was born. Parents know what it’s like to have a baby or toddler in the cart. It can get a little… interesting, to say the least.

Then we were blessed to find Aldi. This store blows my mind every time I go in one. First, the prices. They are the lowest around for excellent food. Their produce is far better than you would expect for the price. And, thank heaven, the store is organized.

But the biggest and best quality is the atmosphere. Everyone in there is friendly. The employees are always smiling and offering to help out. And the customers are far kinder than you find at Walmart. I’ve had so many positive interactions in the store.

Aldi is the place to shop. I always walk out with a smile on my face rather than my nerves frayed. I recommend it to anyone, particularly parents who want to be able to shop for groceries without having their nerves ruined by a bad shopping experience.