Sunday, March 11, 2018

Thursday, March 08, 2018

The Puptuals

Since the Puptuals are all ladies, they want to wish all the wonderful women out there the best! #internationalwomensday #thepuptuals #shelties #sheltiesofinstsgram #illustration #mbop #blogpostathon #blogging #blog #amwriting #writing #creative #humor #humorist #read #amdesigning #design

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Creating after creating

This side hustle. This do-something-creative-after-you've-spent-the-whole-day-battling-with-creative. This create when you know you can't create but you know you need to create otherwise you won't create. This burn out.

Those that spend their work day battling the esoteric, the non-linear, the right brain, but then come home to work on their own right-brained creations might understand how the side hustle turns into tumbleweeds.

Yearly, I sit down to spew forth my dirge of yearbook complaints: the craze of deadlines, the search to name that one student who no one seems to know, trying to push desire and care into the hearts of eighth grade students who think their social lives will deliver them.

This year, it's not so much about the actual yearbook or students but what they take from me.

My want.

Because right now, I just don't want to.

Not now.

I feel like, right now, not ever.

Never again.

Find more agents to send queries to so I can, hopefully, get that book published? No. Get that away from me. It turns me green.

Squeeze out some iota of humor because, c'mon, look on the bright side? Have you read my attempts of late? I'm beginning to think how unfunny I am.

Write words? I'd rather design. Go away words. You beat me. You are Delphic.

Which brings me to the two words I feel in March (even though this is posted in February): burn out.

The match that has just snuffed out. The flame that has cooled and expired into a twirl of smoke. The passive voice that feels comfortable because active voice is too difficult. The blogpostathon that is over ten-days behind.

In college, one of my education professors said something along the lines of, "If you don't go home tired, you're not doing it right."

I must be doing it right.

But I don't want to be that tired, not to create. Not to not write.

I give up so much of the creative substance to my students that I forget to hold back a little for myself.

A seed.

To plant.

So, as I drive home, while I sit in silence or with music, it sticks its roots in my skull and begins to take hold.

And it could be a weed, but even weeds grow tall, wild and strong.

They search for the sun just like any iris, just like any lily.

Burn out means empty soil. At this point, I will take a plot filled with dandelions -- a badness that will later be weeded out -- over the rocks where my creative self is currently trying to sprout through.

I can go back and pull those weeds, hack them down, and showcase the lilies that deserve the light.

Rocks? Rocks just settle, and I don't want to settle.

Right now, it's all a blue flame that clings to the wood of the match, and it's light is dripping into the dark. It's hot teeth aren't sharp.

That's early March. It burns hot and blue and close to the wood of the match. The flame is small, to reserve the energy needed to finish out this part of the year.

Then, once extinguished, a new match is pulled from the book. It brims with life and potential energy.

I await the new match.

I crave it.

This current match's flame still dances. It's dim, almost bored, but continues to fight the dark. It wants to win with it's ambivalent energy.

But, it is burning out.

I am burning out.

And once completely out, the blackened remainder of this part of the year will be discarded once more to make room for a new match.

I need the energy of the dying match to last so I can finish out these following days, but once it burns out, I won't miss it.

I need the energy of the dying ember, but I yearn for the new match that will ignite a new conflagration, one that burns as crazed as a dumpster fire. 

Until then, I will sit peacefully and visit my creativity as it rests in the infirmary.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

It came from gerbils


The scene opens on a bedroom. There is green carpeting. Each wall has a piece of furniture: bunk beds, a dresser with a mirror, and a dresser without a mirror. An animal cage is over by the window, and in the cage are a few gerbils.

The camera moves closer to a little boy getting into the bottom bunk. He wears pajamas that have red bottoms and a shirt with baseball paraphernalia. The little boy, when he is older, will hate baseball, and dislike most sports. He lays down down in bed and falls right to sleep, something he will never grow out of. His ability to fall asleep is the envy of most adult people.

The boy's older brother quietly walks in, and then looks at the camera.

I believe I shall do something despicable to my little brother.

He tiptoes around the room, looking for his weapon of choice.

(Rubbing his hands together)
What shall I do? What shall I use?

He walks over to the gerbil cage, he lifts up the lid and turns around to face the camera. A glimmer of evil flashes in his eyes.

I found exactly what I'm looking for.

The older brother picks a few things out of the cage and then walks quietly over to the sleeping little brother. He lifts the lips of the sleeping brother, and places something in his mouth. It takes the little brother some time before he realizes something was just done to him. He stirs and wakes up, spitting out what was just placed in his lips.

What did you just do to me?
(Spits into his hands)
What are these?

Close-up shot of small brown nuggets in the palm of little brother's hands.

Older brother laughs maniacally.

Just gerbil turds.

Mom comes into the bedroom to see little brother crying and older brother standing there looking annoyed.

What did you do?

Why do you think I did something?

(Shows hand to mom)
He put gerbil turds in my mouth while I was asleep.


This actually happened, and while it has been 25 years or more, I still recall the sensation in my mouth. They were smaller than Tic Tacs, but just as hard. I felt something slip into my lips, and while I may not have been completely awake, I don't believe I was totally asleep either.

Spitting those things out was wretched.

To wake up and realize I had a rodent's turds stuffed in my mouth -- as a parent, how do you punish that?

I know: Force him to eat it on a cracker. Take a nice smear of pub cheese, sprinkle a few on top, plate it nicely, and have him stick a napkin in his shirt.

Bon appetit.

As a little brother, I'm not sure how I felt safe to fall asleep ever again. What was going to be shoved in my mouth next? A miniature poodle turd?

(We had miniature poodles.)

I was telling this story to a friend who is the big brother in his family. He admitted to being mean, but he laughed and said he was never that mean.

That mean?

Regardless of how my parents punished my brother, nothing was ever placed in my mouth again while I lay in bed.

I'm not saying other horrible things didn't happen to me as a little brother, but turds were not inserted between my lip and gum like a small pack of chew.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Puptuals: Masterpieces

Recreating the following painting has been on my radar for a while. At first, I wanted to put the Girls in the painting with all the people looking out onto the water, but I wasn't sure where they would fit. There were too many other animals already running around, and I was afraid they'd become too small to really stand out.

The whole point of these paintings is for them to stand out.

Once I realized I could spoof the paintings without actually using the paintings, it could become a realization.

"A Sunday on La Grande Puppe"

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Puptuals: Masterpieces

After creating cartoon versions of our Shelties, it occurred to me right before Thanksgiving how funny it would be if they found their way into Norman Rockwell's famous painting where the family is around the table.

With some finesse, I was able to position them at opposite sides of the table. To add to the humor, I decided the two of them would be reaching across the table -- something none of the other people in the painting are doing. 

I adds a brashness to the painting. 

By doing this, I stumbled upon something. "The Freedom From Want" was a gateway painting. 

Through November and December, I started adding Nigra and Maeve to other famous paintings. Nigra made an appearance in front of "The Girl With the Pearl Earring" sporting her own pearl earring. Then, she rested her arms and paws on a stool, much like Mona did. She stood right in front of the "Mona Lisa," and looks slightly amused, too. 

Maeve is a hot mess, and was placed in paintings that allowed for that to shine through. She hung from one of Vincent Van Gogh's cypress trees in "Starry, Starry Night," and it looks like she's singing -- one of her little arms is stretched out, her mouth open, and her eyes closed. In another suitable painting, I stood her in front of the hollering bald dude in Edvard Munch's "The Scream." Both of them have their hands/paws up next to their mouths, their jaws wide open. 

Not only did they both appear in the Norman Rockwell painting, but I also stood them in front of the solemn couple in "American Gothic" and made sure they held their own yard tools: a little shovel and a little rake. 

Lately, instead of putting the Girls in the famous paintings, I've decided to start creating parodies of them. It adds a fluffiness that I find lacking in art history.  

So, I shall hang those in my gallery here at MoMBoP, the Museum of My Bucket of Parts:

"American Dogthic" 

"Whistler's Raible" 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The one with the King Cake and the plastic baby

The lights were dimmed, Hurricane Punch filled our glasses, and the eight of us were finishing up dinner with a round of homemade King Cake, the Mardis Gras staple.

This homemade, circular pastry was to die for. The flakiness of the dough, the perfection of the icing, the green, purple and yellow sprinkles emblazoned atop was the delicious grand finale of the night.

Our hostess, who made the cake, said there was, indeed, a plastic baby in the cake.

"Did you bake it in there?" I asked.

It was a stupid question. The peach little baby probably had toxic amounts of BPA in it and would've poisoned us all. The hostess said she ordered some off of Amazon.

They probably came from China, where it's not unusual for a toxicant to find themselves into deported goods.

Regardless of where the plastic baby comes from, when one finds it in the King Cake during Mardis Gras, that person will have luck and prosperity for the year -- and supposedly, they provide the King Cake at the next year's celebration.

I looked under my piece, and it was me!

I found the baby!

For the first time ever, I was finally going to have luck and prosperity bestowed upon me. And, yes, fine, I'll bake the King Cake for next year, too, if that's what you expect.

I'll just need my friend's recipe.

I placed the little babe off to the side, which I hadn't named yet, and finished off the cake. The eight of us sat around the table digesting and discussing, as our host began to pick up plates.

Lost in the ambiance of the party, I paid no mind to the missing Mardis Gras baby.

Out of sight, out of mind.

As the hostess remained with her guests, our host started cleaning up a few things.

That's when we heard the guttural sound of the garbage disposal eating something up that wasn't just food.

It sounded like a small plastic measuring spoon was caught in there.

The hostess and I looked at each other. "What was that?" I asked.

I looked down and realized something was missing.

"The baby!"

The host stopped cleaning up and stepped aside, while the hostess and I went out to kitchen to investigate. She started to stick her hand in the disposal, but I slapped it away. Mine barely fit through the hole, but once my fingers were down in there, my phalanges moved around and the rescue mission began.

My fingers skittered around, and as I felt for pieces of the baby, I pulled up what I could.

There wasn't much.

I found an arm, and what looked like, after Wifefriend investigated, part of the baby's face.

And that was it.

The rest of the Mardis Gras baby was gone. Chopped up. A Mardis Gras "Law and Order: SVU" episode.

We were in hysterics.

We asked what happens when you get the lucky baby all chopped up -- bad luck? Was I to have bad luck, now?


But it was an accident. It's not like I did it on purpose.

The real question is, since the baby was destroyed, am I still in charge of the King Cake for next year?

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Heartbreak of a Muncie Valentine's

Don't go to Muncie for Valentine's Day.

If you already live there, you need to leave -- like, single-file-line, "Deep Impact" exodus-style.
Get on that motorcycle like Elijah Wood and Leelee Sobieski and get the hell out of dodge.
If you've never seen "Deep Impact" and you're blind to this brilliant analogy, all you need to know is this:

Don't go to Muncie for Valentine's Day.

While I've only spoiled two Valentine's Days there...that's enough.

The first time Muncie opened it's jowls and swallowed Valentine's Day whole was when I took Wifefriend to a so-called fancy restaurant.

I wanted it to be a surprise.

I had gone to Vera Mae's a couple times in college, and it was a fanciness I had yet to afford. I made sure I didn't place my elbows on the table, I folded my napkin in my lap, and my parents were nowhere in sight. They weren't taking me out to a fancy restaurant.

Instead, I was out with my boss and other highfalutin people. This quaint, old restaurant was impressive. I was a real adult, on my own, out to dinner with non-family members.

And I could have a glass of wine.

This. Was. It!

My lavish memory of this place was filled with deep burgundies and candlelight.

For Valentine's Day, why wouldn't I want to share this with the woman I loved?

This decadent watering hole took reservations, and you know it's serious business when there are reservations on Valentine's Day, and I didn't have to slip the doorman any cash.

It should've been a clear warning when, even with a reservation, we had to wait for our table -- a table that was a part of twenty other tables, placed at a diagonal to allow more walk-room for the waiters. They were dressed with white table clothes, but they resembled a conveyor belts, pushing us through each course.

I can't remember all the details...oh, wait. There were no details. The high notes I remembered had become low notes.

At 21, this was a fancy establishment. At 30-something, it was pure depression. My taste buds have obviously matured.

The magic that struck me when I had visited a decade before vacated and left room for only old ladies.

What was once fancy was now an old lady's paradise.

And it started with the mushrooms.

They were stuffed, lackluster and very benign. They arrived on a plate all small and brown.
They looked offended.

These were not affordable stuffed mushrooms from Houlihan's that taste good and aren't meant to impress.

I mean, it's Houlihan's. Sure, it's nice, but I'm not expecting anything James Beard. At Vera's, it may not be James Beard, but it could be...with just a little creative gumption, these mushrooms could've been something.

Instead, they were none of the above. It's like the kitchen staff ripped the plastic off of a package of frozen stuffed mushrooms from Gordon's Food Service, popped them in the microwave, and brought them out to us.

"Is that freezer burn I taste?"

As amateur foodies, we base the talent of a restaurant based on whether or not we could recreate the dish in our own kitchen.

Sad stuffed mushrooms?

Please. I can do that with my eyes closed, with way less money, and way less talent.

Then the main course came, and what arrived was like a person at a party that lacked personality.

The waiter placed the thick breasted white-meat chicken of unseasoned proportions in front of us and it was so bored, I could hear the food sigh. IV fluids would've helped moisten the chicken, taking it from critical to stable. Sure there was melted brie all over it, but the raspberry sauce, which should've brightened each bite with divinity, was an after-thought.

They must've been running out of the reduction because the Chicken Brie Sadness was the cheapest dish on the menu. Everything else was around $30, and none of it seemed appealing. I didn't want to pay $30 on uncertainty.

So, I went with the chicken.

Let me save your taste buds from disappointment: just go to McDonald's and get some Chicken McNuggets, instead. They're way more satisfying. Or go someplace where you know the $30 meal will kick you in the face so hard, you land in a food coma.

Just don't go to Vera Mae's.

That was the first time Muncie stabbed our Valentine's Day in the heart.

Tonight was the second.

As the saying goes: fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...

Well, I was fooled twice.


I didn't see it coming.

For this year's Valentine's gift, I purchased tickets to "Rock of Ages" at the Civic Community theater. We went last year for "Into the Woods," and we were pleasantly surprised. The performance was well-done, and we enjoyed our Sunday afternoon there.

To see another show there was a no-brainer, so I bought tickets to a musical using 80's hair-band music that Wifefriend loves.

I got seats dead-center, and as the lights went down on a full house, I looked forward to some community theater entertainment. This was their closing performance, so hopefully they were going to give it all they had.

Well, as the performance began, they definitely gave it all they had, but what they had wasn't much.
First, right off the bat, they had sound issues. One of the main characters mic's wasn't working, and a hand microphone appeared in his hands. Instead of keeping it near his mouth, he moved his hands around. The microphone went this way and that, and it picked up mere words -- not the sentences one needs to hear to understand this thing called dialogue.

I shook off this cringe-worthy moment, and started to enjoy the performance. Was the set shaking as they danced and sang on it?

Of course it was.

Did they have the best voices ever?

Well, no, but I could recognize the songs.

After the cast finished off a big number, the audience applauded their talents, and while the performance wasn't going to win a regional Tony, I clapped out of pure politeness. Because that's what you do.

One of the cast members, whose role "dancing 80's stripper," was one of the more weird moments of the show. Her hair was big and frizzed out in total 80's style. She wore a gold glitzy top and little black dance bottoms that, sadly, when she turned around, showed off parts of her actual fleshy bottom. I couldn't stop watching her. She resembled a former high school friend, Erin. It was uncanny.  Wifefriend mentioned how the actress had embraced her stripper role a little too much. She obviously didn't get to act this way in real life. 

Then, after another song, the audience hoot and hollered. I applauded, and while this time it felt more like obligation, I looked back over at Wifefriend who still wasn't clapping.

During intermission, after we exchanged notes, I realized we were watching two completely different performances. I was enjoying the terrible that was presented to me. It was bad, and I watched with glee.

It's why I try to stay away from terrible reality TV -- I could watch it for days.

"Bachelor in Paradise" is trash. Absolute trash. We watched one episode, and I enjoyed every drunk-contestant moment.

That's what this "Rock of Ages" was -- "Bachelor in Paradise" put to song.

It was the equivalent of a middle school performance.

Awkward acting. Mic problems. Bad dancing.

I was in heaven. The schaudenfreude was coming out of my ears.

Not for Wifefriend. She just cringed, watching bad theater. 

I bought some popcorn and M&M's, hoping to enjoy another hour of terrible, but the minute the actors (if that's what you want to call them) took the was torture. The magic was gone. 

We should've left at intermission.

As we left the parking, it was decided, no more Valentine's Days in Muncie.

Friday, February 16, 2018

So far, all rejections

Last year, I sent out query letters with the chance that an agent would request a manuscript -- and I'm glad none of them did because I hadn't finished editing the said manuscript.

Had an agent requested the manuscript, it would've been a polite "no thank you." The manuscript would've had heart, but I would've been offering up the heart of an amateur. The one that hasn't done the research.

The one rule that says, "If an agent asks for the manuscript, do not give them a polished turd."

A year ago, "When the Waves Came In" was exactly that.

It was substantial, with wonderful characters, a great plot, witty dialogue and some grammatical pot holes, as well as giant swatches of missing description. There were vast rooms that needed painting, and I hadn't gotten around to creating the murals.

Had an agent said, "yes," he or she would not have received my best.

Fast forward a few months later and the manuscript is as polished as I can make it -- it's not easy working on fiction in a vacuum, being the only person who has seen it and knows what's happening. I know what's happening too well. I went back through each room of the novel, made sure all the painting was finished, but I'm sure I missed a spot or two.

I guarantee a room or two still need another coat, but a writer can't know this on his own.

So, I handed out five copies to people, hoping they would like what they read.

I'm used to sending up posts on Instagram and blogging on a website that is instantly public, but a novel?

Something that has a beginning, middle, denouement and an end.

If someone doesn't like a blog post, or think it's poorly written -- well, I probably thought it was poorly written first. I just went ahead and published it. I'm not making money off of this -- and I'm just writing to my pretend audience. Essentially, a blog post (or essay) is written for my own enjoyment. It's just not costing me too much -- just my annual payment to keep the My Bucket of Parts domain name.

But a novel?

There's a real future there. One where I begin to really gain an audience, where I'm paid for my words -- and while the first novel may not necessarily make the most, hopefully it opens up a door for more books.

I hope.

So far, two readers have stated similar critiques. They both enjoyed the book. There are elements that left them with questions, which I need to address.

Since the updated edits, I've continued sending out letters to agents -- about 20. So far, I've gotten mostly form rejections, but there have been a few gems that keep me going. One stated "despite it's many charms" they didn't feel right for the project. Another rejection, a more personal one, said that the query letter and first few pages were well-written, and although they also thought the project was not right for them, she stated that an agent will probably ask for the manuscript.

Well-written? An agent will probably ask for a manuscript?

I'll take it.

It may not have been a yes, but it was definitely a wonderful no.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Triumphant Return to the Blogosphere

The red carpet is rolled out.

I'm wearing my best Armani suit.

All the agents want me, and all the publishers are dying to take a piece of my brand.

I'm waving at all of you, and the the hashtags are flying on Instagram and Twitter.

But as I look around, I realize I'm the only one here -- well, me and my three adoring fans.

Hello, three fans!


You mean those aren't agents and publishers, just cardboard cut-outs? Well, then.

I offer no promises this year. With each undertaking of this so-called Blogpostathon, there's a threat that another 'Thon will go unfulfilled.

I don't want a 'Thon to go unfinished, but among the scraps of yearbooks and teaching and burn-out and creative deserts, there's no knowing if I'll finish this thong.

Whoops. I mean 'Thon. Not thong.

There will be no thongs in the making of the 2018 Blogpostathong -- er -- 'thon.

My fingers just stumble upon the 'g' like it ain't no thang. It's just the speed in which I type -- which is 100 words per minute.

I'm crazy fast. Crazy.

Back in high school, I, for whatever reason, signed up for a FULL year of typing.

Of typing.

Of listening to the teacher chant letters as our fingers tapped the keys of any given letter.


I mean, my fingers should cascade across the keyboard like Liberace, a blur of dry-cracked winter skin and the music of plastic keyboard keys. I may have learned in high school, but I worked on my WPM during college.

I have AOL Instant Messenger to thank for that. Talking to people across campus, across the state, and even in other states through text on the computer. All for free. It was the way to keep in touch. It was texting before texting was texting. It eliminated the need for calling cards and long distance phone bills. It allowed for my generation to construct clever away messages. Some days, it wasn't about actually talking to people, but seeing what wit they dug up. We were able to choose fonts and colors. It was a way to create a digital identity without selling my soul to the devil, Russia, or the Dark Web.

I will need to keep practicing...since I have 39 more days of writing ahead of me.

May the posts flourish. May this be a successful 'postathon.

And may you keep your tomatoes.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Friday, January 26, 2018

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Puptuals

"American Dogthic" by Grant Hound. #ThePuptuals #shelties #sheltiesofinstagram #illustration #mbop

Friday, January 19, 2018

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Puptuals

While you're all watching washed-up Jenny McCarthy bring in the new year, we've tuned in to a much classier joint. #ThePuptuals #nye #sheltiesofinstagram #shelties #mbop

The Puptuals

Instead of a sparkly ball full of Swarovski crystals, we decided to hitch up Maeve for our final countdown. #nye2018 #nye #thepuptuals #mbop #sheltiesofinstagram #sheltie

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Puptuals

It was late in the year, but my Nigra and Maeve illustrations are my #bestnine. I feel like they help convey what it's really like living with these two. Their personalities are massive, they communicate and talk to us, and apparently, they're my employers. #ThePuptuals