We all have different influences in our lives from the time we are children right on through our adult years. Whether it is your parents, that best friend, a special person in your life, some other family member, a co-worker or even a perfect stranger that comes along at just the right moment, that person can change who you are, how you view things and what you do in your life. The same can be said about certain books that you read in your lifetime. Everyone seems to have that one special book that has made a significant impact on your life one way or another. Even if you may not think that it is the case for you, if you think back on it, you will recall a book that you read that had a profound impact on you at some point in your life, whether as a youngster, a teenager, a parent, a spouse, an adult or really any time. So that leads me into today’s question:

Which book has dramatically influenced your life?

When I think about it, I think there are several different books that have had that dramatic influence on me. When I first went to college and was trying to decide what I was going to study, I didn’t really have much direction. It wasn’t until I started taking one of the introductory English classes that I really found that I was interested in literature and writing. I was always reading when I was younger and I come from a family of big readers so there were plenty of books around. In fact I had a real love for the John MacDonald Travis McGee novels when I was a teenager. While the books may not have had any kind of direct influence on my life, it was one of the first real series of books that I had ever read and I really enjoyed them. I think that kept my interest for reading going along all of the time.

While most introductory courses in English start using something like the Norton Anthology books for reading (which mostly have short stories, poems, essays and perhaps a novella or two), I found that the short stories I read in there really sparked me. Reading stories from authors like Nathaniel Hawthorne, Shirley Jackson, Flannery O’Connor, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and the like made me want to read more and more short stories. Still, to this day, I enjoy reading short story collections. T. Coraghessan Boyle has always been one of my favorite short story writers (though I have enjoyed some of his novels as well) and lately I have been reading some horror collections by Stephen King and some other horror authors.

AS I focused more of my attention on English and writing through college, I read many of the typical books you would expect to read as you studied literature. Of course there are always going to be some that you love and some that you don’t. I was never really a big fan of Henry James or Jane Austen but I did enjoy reading some more authors that I had never really delved deeply into before, like Chaucer, Borges, Gogol, Kafka and others. Even getting the chance to read all of Shakespeare’s works instead of just knowing about Romeo and Juliet or Julius Caesar was a nice change to open up the world to me.

I think it was when I started working on my Master’s that books began to have an even greater influence on me. It was then I began reading more things I had never considered before, like Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude. There was something about that book that I think completely changed the way I thought about writing, literature and what I was interested in. The beauty of the language that he uses, the ideas that he comes up with and the visuals and characters he was able to create while telling his story were captivating to me. I started reading more and more and learning more about literature, writing and the world around me, both past and present.

Sometimes there are books that just come along in your life at the right time for you and have a bigger influence on you. For me, the one book that has done this was The Shack by William Paul Young. Is it a great piece of literature? Probably not, but it still had a deep effect on me. I am not really a religious person at all and was even less so when this book came around in my life. When I read this book, my father had just passed away and I think I was feeling a little lost. The book seemedto give me something that I was missing – maybe it was just perspective on life, how you treat others in your life and how you feel about God and religion in general. The book came along at just the right time for me and helped me profoundly. After I was hospitalized myself for months in 2009 and spent months in a coma, when I came out of the coma and was doing rehabilitation at a rehab hospital I began to start reading again. This was one of the first books that I re-read and seemed to mean even more to me after going what I had gone through. It has changed the way I think about relationships not just with family and friends but with everyone, and with religion as well. While you won’t find me sitting in the front row at any church, I think it did open me up to more possibilities and ways of thinking and living.

There are other books that I have had that type of impact on me as well, such as Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven. I think that book has made me realize the importance of everyone in your life – not just those close to you but even people who you may have just had chance interactions with or were in your life for just a short amount of time. Those people can have large impacts on the way you think, feel and act for the rest of your life.

A book doesn’t have to be a great work of art or literature to have a big influence on your life. It just has to be something that has moved you in some way, affected the way that you think and made you do things a little differently.

Anyway, that’s my take on it. So what book has had a dramatic influence on your life? Feel free to leave a comment here and let me know. I’ll ask around to others and see what type of replies I get. Until next time, the office door is open…


When I was thinking about this blog yesterday, this was not the topic I had intended to write about. Normally when I think of blogging it is something that is fun and an outlet for me, but then I also realized in a way it is a bit of a forum to express my thoughts and opinions about what goes on around me. This particular topic is something that has been hanging around for years but has become more relevant to me over the last several days. It brings up the question:

Is winning more important than morality?

It may seem like something of a silly question when you look at the big picture, but give me a moment to explain where I am going with this. As some of you may know, I am a huge baseball fan and in particular a Mets fan. My profile pictures in my various social media accounts are all pictures of me with Mr. Met. Heck even my profile picture for my blogs is of me with my son at Shea Stadium. I have been a Mets fan for over 40 years, am an avid collector of baseball memorabilia, have lots of t-shirts, hats and jerseys, have hard partial season tickets to Mets games for years, am a contributor to the Baseball Hall of Fame every year and much more that involves baseball. I was thrilled last year when the Mets, after many seasons, made it back to the World Series. I watch every game when I came and I follow the sport pretty closely. I would say all of that qualifies me as I pretty good fan. I love my team and root hard for them.

But lately I find myself in a bit of a conundrum. The Mets are struggling a bit(what else is new) and need a boost to their offense. An option makes itself available to them later this afternoon when Jose Reyes, a former Mets star, becomes a free agent. I was a big fan of Reyes; he is an All-Star player, a homegrown Met, and was a part of the team building itself back up before he left via free agency a few years ago. Under normal circumstances, the idea of him coming back to play would be fantastic and I would be thrilled to have him here, even though he is older and his skills have diminished somewhat. That’s not the problem for me. The problem is he is coming off a suspension under the domestic violence policy of Major League Baseball. There was an incident last year in Colorado where he was arrested and charged with a domestic violence crime for abusing his wife. The charges were eventually dropped (primarily because his wife subsequently refused to testify in the case against him) so he was never formally convicted of the crime, but the event did occur; there is no denying it.

So now comes the conundrum. The Mets are strongly considered to be the team to sign him today. This brings, to my mind, a problem in that signing him to play sends the wrong message. To me, it tells your fan base, particularly your female fan base but everyone that follows the team (including young women and men) that having a team that has a better chance to win is more important than what he may have done.Granted, having him on the team may not have any impact at all; as I said his skills are not what they were even just 5 years ago, but that’s not the point. The point is by agreeing to pay him a salary to play it condones and overlooks the actions.

The Reyes incident is just one recent example. You would be hard-pressed to find any professional sports team today that has not had a player or personnel involved in some type of crime, incident or scandal. Part of why it seems so prevalent today is that there is much more news coverage and social media use than ever before so more things are caught on tape, pictures or reported on than they were thirty years ago or more. Scandals in sports have existed for decades, they just may not have gotten the same attention that they get today. But why is it that society chooses to overlook these misgivings in athletes? Sure, they are people, men and women, just like you and me and make mistakes. That’s a given. I am sure you probably know people in your own life that have had incidents with the law, scandals of their own, and you have to deal with them still.

I think part of the issue is that athletes, because of what they do and the exposure they get, are held up as role models by many people. People see their abilities and pay to see them play and do what many only ever dream about. Kids watch players and idolize them, wanting to do what they do. And today, many parents want their kids to feel this way, whether it is to let their child follow a dream, to live vicariously through what they are doing or to have a shot at fame and fortune. Personally, I have never been one to hold up athletes as role models or heroes. Yes, it’s fun to watch what they can do, but if you want a role model for yourself or your child I think there are plenty of great people who are not on television or the Internet every day, that just do good things, that are more worthy of being looked up to. And just as you would explain to your child when someone in your area or someone you know does something wrong why it is that it was wrong, you should be willing to do the same thing when an athlete they know does something wrong, whether it is Jose Reyes, Michael Phelps, Ray Rice, Mark McGwire, Maria Sharapova or any other well-known athlete that they want to emulate.

Is everyone entitled to a second chance and a chance to redeem bad acts they may have done? I think so and there are plenty of people – sports players, athletes, celebrities, politicians and people we see in everyday life – that have gotten that chance. Some have made the effort to change while others fall back into bad behavior. There’s no way to know what will happen until that second chance occurs. In the end, it all comes down to personal choice I guess. Will the Mets lose fans if they sign Jose Reyes? Probably not and even if they do, they likely see the number as insignificant. I abhor what he has done and personally can’t root for him as a player anymore. Will I still watch the Mets and root for the team? In all likelihood yes and I know that seems hypocritical, which I think brings us full circle back to my original question. Our society has become one where winning does trump morality in many situations. The win at all costs mentality is there in many facets of our lives today – sports, politics, technology, business and just about any other place that you look – and to me, it’s a sad thing that I am part of. While I certainly don’t feel like winning is the most important thing and I try to impress that ideal on my son, it is also hard to deny that I want to see the team I have rooted for since I was a child succeed. So I’ll continue to watch, I’ll hope that Jose Reyes makes some type of contrition, tries to do the right thing with the rest of his life and goes on. Would I  be glad if he decided to go somewhere else to play? Yes. Is that likely to happen? It doesn’t seem like it. No one is forcing me to watch, be a fan, buy memorabilia or go to games. It is a conscious choice I will make, but I admit I’m not sure if I feel right about it.

So where does that leave you? Do you think winning has become more important than morality, ethics or doing the right thing? Does something like this impact how you perceive your favorite team, player or sport? I’m curious to see how others feel about. Let me know with a comment. Until next time, the office door is open…


Okay, I know it has been almost 3 years since I posted anything on here. A lot has happened in that time frame that you don’t need to be bored with. Suffice to say it’s been busy, hectic and with all of the writing I do each day professionally it got to be a chore to blog and I got away from it. I have always wanted to get back to it and now that things have settled a bit more into a routine for the entire family I have been thinking about it more and more and found this was a good time to try jumping back into it. I’m feeling better about myself lately and working more to do more things that actually get me out of the house and interacting with the human race instead of holing up here. In any case, I am feeling a bit more inspired lately so we’ll take up the mantle again, pry open the office doors, blow the dust off the typewriter (so to speak) and get down to some writing that sparks my interest.

Not that writing every day doesn’t spark my interest, but it can get very repetitive doing the kind of work that I do sometimes. Writing for various websites all over the world opens up things to learn about many different topics. I always say that I know just enough about a lot of things now to hold a conversation to make it seem like I know what I am talking about. That’s what happens when you write thousands of different articles, product descriptions, web pages, reviews, press releases and whatever else needs to be written. The downside can be that very often I write about the same thing over and over again, so it can get a little dull at times. However, I can honestly say that I get paid to write and while it won’t make me a millionaire by far, I do enjoy it. While it can be very busy at times, it also allows me the luxury of working from home, taking care of my family, making my own hours and gives me a chance to do different things.

So let’s get back into it. I am constantly looking for new ideas and inspirations on what to write about on any given day and questions are always a good way to do that. They can spark some good conversation and debate, give you insight into yourself and others and let you have some fun. So here’s today’s question:

What’s the secret to having a good marriage?

There are lots of answers to this and I have learned more and more about it over the years by watching to and talking to people who have been married 30, 40 or fifty years or more. My wife and I have been married for 23 years now. What’s the secret to making it work? I don’t know that there really is a secret. I think a big part of it is that she is my best friend and that we communicate well with each other. Communication is a lot more than just saying all the good things you think you want your partner to hear. Sometimes it means talking about things that are painful and hurtful but need to be said to help make you stronger. Yes, I think you genuinely want to have a relationship where you can communicate about everything, whether it is good or bad. The strength of your friendship and how you feel about each other is what is going to help you overcome the rough stretches you face. Every marriage and relationship faces different tests and challenges at different times and it is the way you deal with them together that helps to make a good marriage. I feel it really is about teamwork, communication, love and respect.

That’s my take on what makes a good marriage; so what’s yours? Feel free to leave a comment in the section below and let me know what you think. I’ll try to pose the question to some people on Twitter as well and see what, if any, response I get.

I’ll use this space for different things from time to time to write about different things, ideas, stories or whatever else pops into my head. I hope you stick with me and follow along and contribute as well. Until next time, the office door is always open…


I know it’s been a while since I have done a blog entry here. Lots of things have kept me busy from doing both of my blogs, and I have had a hard time getting energy and inspiration to do both. But once again I am going to try to change that and be better about it.

Sean and I just returned from a wonderful vacation in the Outer Banks visiting with my brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews and my Mom. It was great to spend time with everyone, something I do not do nearly as much. There are many times where it seems like I am something of a hermit, never leaving the house much and working. It’s a bad thing because it tends to make me more nervous and shy about going out at all. So that leads me into today’s question:

When was the last time you felt really nervous?

I just read a blog entry from Brandon Steiner of Steiner Sports about nerves. He writes that it is a good thing to feel nervous as it can help bring out the best in you. There may be something to that theory. I tend to feel nervous a lot. I think I have always been like that, and in a way it may have held me back from doing some things throughout my life. I have gone through fits and spurts where I seem to get over it for a while and then it comes creeping back, but I think ever since I was sick I do seem to be more nervous about doing a lot of things. I know there are tasks that I can and can’t do anymore, but I think the nervousness of it all does tend to hold me back some. It’s something I need to work on hard to try to get beyond and sometimes I feel like it is something I deal with on a daily basis. I used to get really nervous talking on the phone, but years of customer service and working in retail have kind of put an end to that. I may not like talking on the phone very much, but I do not have a problem with it any more. I do still tend to get nervous and quiet in social settings where I may not know anyone or very few people. I feel very out-of-place when that happens, almost like I am intruding on the event and should not be there. I get that way a lot, even when I have parent-teacher conferences at Sean’s school and am there to be informed about Sean. I still get nervous about it.

I don’t have a problem speaking in front of a crowd as much as I used to either, but I still get nervous about it. Going through the Master’s program and teaching has a way of curing you of that pretty quickly and then speaking in front of executives in meetings at work can help you get over that fast as well. In  way, I think Brandon Steiner is right in that we can really get better through taking that nervous energy and harnessing it and taking that energy and using it through the day to give our best effort. At least it is something for me to work on.

So when was the last time you felt really nervous? It can be about anything or at anytime. You can answer by leaving a comment on here or catching up with me on Facebook or Twitter. I’ll also ask a few people on Twitter and see what they have to say.

That’s it for now. I’ll try to be better about getting back here. Once school starts up again in 2 weeks I think I can budget my time better between work, household duties, Sean and writing, so we’ll see how it goes. I’ll try not to feel overwhelmed and nervous by the whole thing. Talk to you later.


It’s funny how certain things that appeal to our senses can trigger all kinds of memories for us. One that seems to be particularly powerful, at least to me, is our sense of smell. We notice or smell certain things, whether in our own house, someone else’s, out at a store or in a restaurant or wherever and it can trigger all kinds of memories of day’s gone by and happy times and experiences of our childhood. So that leads me in to today’s question:

What is your favorite thing that you would smell cooking in the kitchen as a kid?

Whether it was your mother, father, grandmother, grandfather or someone else who would do cooking in the house, there is more than likely going to be a smell that you always remember as one that you love. You’ll always remember whatever that smell happens to be and take it with you for the rest of your lives. Then, at seemingly random moments, you may be out at some place or return home for a holiday or something else and there it is – that wonderful aroma wafting in from the kitchen. For me, my mom always did a lot of baking when we were kids. That meant there were always all kinds of cakes, cookies and pies going in the house at many points during the year. One stands out the most for me above all of those things though, and that would be apple pie. I soon as I would smell that apple pie cooking I knew it was going to be a great dessert day. The way the smell of the apples and the spices just filled the house as they were baking in the oven was more than enough to get me going. To this day when I smell apple pie baking it really takes me back to my childhood.

There is something else that still evokes feelings like that when I smell it and that is when Michelle makes chocolate chip cookies. It is hard to resist a smell like that when you come across it no matter where you are. I even remember on days when I used to drive Michelle to work when she was working in Fair Lawn, New Jersey right near the Nabisco plant. on many days you could smell when they were making their chocolate chip cookies. While it wasn’t the same as smelling those that my mom would make, it would still put a smile on my face. I get that same feeling every time Michelle makes them as well. As soon as you get a whiff of those cookies baking you know that you can barely wait the 6 minutes or so it takes for them to come out of the oven. Sean and I have both been known to eat several as soon as they come out of the oven right off the tray. There is just something about that smell that is so tasty and yet so comforting and nostalgic for me that if they could make that into a Yankee candle I think I would buy it.

So that brings me back to you, dear readers. What is your favorite thing that you would smell cooking in the kitchen as a child? What brings back those wonderful memories every time you smell it cooking or baking in your own home or somewhere else? You can leave an answer here in the comments section or you can catch up with my on Facebook or Twitter. I’ll also ask some people on Twitter and see if they respond.

That’s it for today. I hope everyone is enjoying a beautiful day today. It’s magnificent in this part of New York today after lots heat, humidity and rain. Sean and I have some adventures and activities were talking about and planning for the summer that hopefully I can share on here with everyone else. I’ll keep you posted as we start out doing some things. Enjoy this beautiful day and whip something up in the kitchen to bring back some good memories for you.


There’s an interesting question posted in The Daily Post today that made me think about a few things. it’s something I think everyone has in the back of their minds somewhere that they always consider and rarely do anything about. Here it is:

What’s the biggest risk you’d like to take — but haven’t been able to? What would have to happen to make you comfortable taking it?

I feel like I have taken some risks in my life, but not very big ones. This is actually a topic for another question I have in mind for later in the week, so we’ll have to get back to that particular approach another time. In the mean time, thinking about a chance I would like to take makes me consider a lot of different things I said I would like to try at one point in my life. After I recovered from being ill, I tried to promise myself that I was going to do more of the things I always said I would like to do or want to do. Sadly, life and reality always seem to have a way of getting in the way of what we would really rather be doing and other responsibilities and issues come along that need to be taken care of first, so everything gets pushed to the back burner. it’s just the way things work out for the majority of us along life’s path.

So what risk would I like to take but haven’t been able to? Well, I don’t know how much of a risk it would be, but I would love to be able to actually have the time, energy and confidence to stick to it and actually sit down and try to write something. I have had a couple of ideas for collections of short stories, but I just never seem to have the time to sit down and plan everything out properly and actually get down to the writing of them. I think a big part of it is having the time to do it while taking care of the other responsibilities I have on a regular basis, but there is another factor involved, and I think a lot of people have to deal with the same thing when they do not move ahead with something they really want to do. A lot of it has to do with confidence and the fear of failure. You have wanted to do this thing for so long and take this risk that it would be devastating to not be able to do it or even worse to find out that you just aren’t good at it. I think that is what holds me back more than anything else out there. Sure, I can make the time to do it if I really wanted to do so, and part of me wants to be able to do that. However, there is a larger part of me that doesn’t really want to find out whether or not what I write is any good or not. I guess we are all our own worst critics and it is hard to determine how good your work is until someone else sees it, I just have a hard time doing that myself. I guess it is something I will need to get over on my own. Sometimes it seems like it would be a lot easier if the risk I wanted to take was something like skydiving or driving a race car – something more tangible that I could just do and be done with. Writing takes so much more that it just doesn’t work that way, at least for me anyway. I guess what would have to happen for me to be comfortable enough to do it is to feel like I am really good enough to give it a try and that I actually have the time set aside to do it and then I don’t think I would have as many issues with it. Once I have built my confidence up enough to give it a try, I think I will move closer to reaching that goal.

So that’s my risk that I hope to take one day. What is your risk? It can be anything that you have always wanted to try to do. It doesn’t matter whether it is something physical or mental. You can answer the question here or catch up with me on Facebook or Twitter. I’ll also ask some people on Twitter and see if they answer.

On with the rest of the day. Check back again this week for some other questions, queries, posers and ideas, and anything else that may come along that I feel like writing about. Who knows, maybe I’ll start taking a risk today.

 


I like to watch movies of all kinds. I’ll pretty much watch anything – goo, bad, indifferent – and the genre doesn’t really matter that much to either. This is particularly true if I am dealing with some insomnia, as happens to me from time to time and is something I have to deal with quite a bit recently. The thing is the movies that are typically on at 2 AM are not usually of the greatest quality, so you get to see somethings that may not come across your television screen otherwise. For example, last night was one of those nights where I ended up watching “Boogeyman” and then “The Human Stain.” “The Human Stain” actually has some pedigree to it, being based on a novel by Philip Roth and stars Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman and Gary Sinise, but I have to say I wasn’t particularly impressed with it, at least no more than I was with Boogeyman, which stars Barry Watson (of 7th heaven fame) and Emily Deschanel (of Bones).

Boogeyman, and many horror movies, are typical of what you usually find on movie channels at 2 AM. The thing is I do like horror movies, so I will watch just about anything when it comes to that genre, and many horror movies end up being along the lines that I like, which is that they turn out to be campy. To me, campy is something that appeals to you because it is so ridiculous. Now anyone who watches horror movies knows a lot of them fall into this category, whether they intend to or not. The great thing is that there are a lot of other movies that fall into this realm as well. I saw two very recently on cable late at night; one you are probably very familiar with, the other maybe not so much.

The first was “Flash Gordon.” Anyone from my generation is pretty familiar with this movie. I am sure when they initially went into making it they thought they had a real winner on their hands, but if you look at this movie now you realize just how cheesy it really is, which makes it all the more appealing. The soundtrack is well-known because it is done by Queen, which even adds more to the campiness of the movie. I did some digging around after I watched the movie not that long ago and came upon some great trivia facts about this movie and the people involved:

1. The movie actually has 2 Academy Award-nominated actors in it – MaxVon Sydow (for “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close) and Topol (for “Fiddler on the Roof.) Yes, Dr. Zarkov is actually quite famous for his role as the lead in “Fiddler” and has played the role thousands of times, including in the movie and on Broadway, for which he was nominated for a Tony award.

2. Kurt Russell was in line to play Flash Gordon but turned it down because he thought the character was a little lacking, which anyone who has seen the movie can tell you that it is.

3. George Lucas originally wanted to make this movie, but the rights had already been purchased to Flash Gordon, so he made “Star Wars” instead.

4. While Sam Jones may not have gone on to great fame from the movie (though he spoofed himself in “Ted” recently), there are some famous people in this movie besides Max VonSydow and Topol. Timothy Dalton, who played James Bond, is Prince Barin. Ornella Muti, who played Princess Aura, may not be famous in the U.S. but is very famous in Italy. Richard O’Brien, who plays Fico, one of the Hawkmen, is much more famous for having written “The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Kenny Baker, famous for playing R2-D2, has a bit part as a dwarf. So does Robbie Coltrane, who went on to be much more famous and is known for his role in the Harry Potter movies.

5. The entire cast was actually signed to make several movies, but the first one did so poorly the whole thing was scrapped.

The movie looks really cheaply made, which is part of what makes it so fun. To me, it is the ultimate camp movie.

Another one that I saw recently was “The Shadow.” Older folks will know that “The Shadow” was famous for being a radio show and magazines long before any of these other superheroes came along and a lot of Batman is actually taken from the Shadow. The thing is it took them almost 60 years to get around to making a movie about it and by then, I think it comes across as very campy. Perhaps that was the intent all along, and if you have never seen it, give it a watch sometime to see what I mean. There’s a quality cast, including Alec Baldwin, John Lone, Penelope Ann Miller, Sir Ian McKellen, Tim Curry, Jonathan Winters and a half a dozen other famous character actors that you will recognize along the way. The movie itself did not get very good reviews when it first came out in 1994 but it has developed something of a cult following on DVD and after. Personally, I thought the whole movie was pretty silly. Alec Baldwin really hams it up, as does most of the cast, and maybe they were just having fun with it, but it’s a little labored for my tastes. it is however, definitely one that falls into the camp group for me.

So that brings us to today’s question then, which is:

What is the campiest movie that you have seen and loved?

There’s plenty out there for you to choose from (take a look at the original Batman series with Adam West and the movie they made too if you want real camp), so pick the one that stands out to you the most. You can answer me on here in the comments section or catch up with me on Facebook or Twitter. I’ll ask some people on Twitter too and see if I get any response.

I guess that’s it for now. I am tired from not having slept much last night and have some work to do, so I guess I need to get to it. Let me know what those campy movies are; I may need something to watch tonight!

 

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