Is Settling A Good Life Lesson?

The other day, I was driving with NHL. We were on our way to get some food for Thanksgiving and NHL was talking about one of his passions: video games. Ever since the Nintendo Switch was released, NHL has wanted one. This desire only intensified as he watched some videos on YouTube showing Super Mario Odyssey being played on the Switch. Now, I’ll admit, the game looks amazing. The worlds are open and varied and the game mechanic of taking over your enemies to solve puzzles is inspired. That said, though, the price is steep. The game system itself costs $300 and Super Mario Odyssey costs an additional $60.

The price isn’t deterring NHL. He’s pledged to save up until he has enough money to buy a Switch and Mario Odyssey. There’s only one problem with this: He doesn’t really have any income. He’ll get some money for birthdays or Chanukah, but that’s about it. It would take him years to save enough for a Switch. By then, there would likely be a new game system that he really wants.

As an alternative, I suggested buying a used copy of Super Mario Galaxy 2. He had recently taken it out of the library and played it a bit so he knew he loved it. In addition, it’s a Mario game so it could scratch that particular itch. No, it might not be as good as Odyssey on the Switch, but it might be good enough.

“That’s a horrible lesson to teach me!” NHL shrieked in horror.

“What?” I asked, confused.

“Settling,” he said.

Now, it’s true that you should always reach for your dreams. If you want to be a writer, go for it. If you want to act, go on auditions. If you want to start your own business, by all means pursue it. However, sometimes, you’ve got to realize when a desire is unrealistic. I would love to take a week off of work every month and fly to Disney World. The main problem, though, would be the cost. Well, that and the fact that I don’t have twelve weeks of vacation time a year. I simply couldn’t afford to fly down to Disney World every month. So what do I do? I settle. We can go to Disney World for a week every so many years. In the meantime, we can find other activities that are fun but cost less.

I told NHL that, sometimes, settling was not only an acceptable lesson, but a good one. It’s nice to have dreams and pursue them, but it’s also good sometimes to be a realist. There are times when you need to realize that what you desire is out of reach. When you come to find that out, you can either keep trying fruitlessly to grasp at it, mope about being unable to attain it, or set your sights slightly lower.

This “settling” doesn’t even have to be a permanent detour. It could be a temporary step that eventually leads to your dream. When I published my first novel, I didn’t quit my job to pursue a dream of having a best selling book. I could have quit and spent all my time writing. My second novel definitely would have been done faster. However, sales of my novel haven’t reached anywhere near enough to replace my full time job. Had I quit my job to write full time, we would’ve gone broke before my novels took off. You could say that I “settled” by not pursuing writing full time. That might be true, but I’m also keeping the stable income while working on my writing. If the writing takes off and I can live off of it exclusively, great. If not, I still have the pleasure of writing.

I’ve always thought of myself as an idealistic realist. I have ideals and want to pursue them, but I temper those ideals with the facts of the real world. This keeps me grounded and stops me from following my desires when it would cause ruin. NHL might have thought that “settling” was a bad lesson to teach, but I think it’s imparting a little real world into his idealism. Saving for the Switch is nice, but perhaps he could get more enjoyment – for less money – if he used his spending money elsewhere.

What do you think? Is settling a good life lesson or was I imparting a horrible piece of guidance upon my son?

Busy Real Life

I recently realized that I haven’t been blogging as much as I’d like. Real Life seemed to keep throwing curve ball after curve ball – derailing any blog ideas that I might have.

First up was B’s mother’s open heart surgery. We had known this was coming for some time, but a recent checkup turned it from “some time in the future” to “in the next three weeks.” The surgery itself went smoothly, but B’s mother was very weak and in a lot of pain afterwards. This was normal – the nurses described the procedure as if you were pummeled by a professional boxer inside and out. Still, B’s parents needed as much help as they could get. Understandably, B wanted to be with her mother every second she could. It fell to me to juggle working my day job with taking care of the day-to-day parenting tasks that B normally does. Of course, I had no problem with this, but I was exhausted at the end of the day.

Of course, during this time was when I blogged last about my computer being fried. I got a new computer (a nice touchscreen model from Dell) and took some time to set it up. Luckily, my old hard drive wasn’t fried. A quick USB enclosure purchase from Amazon and I have an external hard drive with all of my old data. Of course setting up this new computer took days and contributed to not-blogging.

After B’s mother improved, things slowed down a bit, but by now Passover was on the horizon. Passover is the Jewish holiday that requires the most work. I need to clean the kitchen entirely from top to bottom, put all non-Passover utensils/pots/appliances/food away, and take our Passover supplies down from the attic. Complicating matters was a visit by some of B’s family the weekend before Passover. Though it was busy, Passover went by relatively uneventfully – except for the last day.

I was sleeping late as I was off of work when I was woken up by screaming. My kids were yelling at me that B needed me. As I became aware of what was happening, I first figured out that B was in the basement and feared she had fallen and hurt herself. Then, I heard her mentioning a flood in the basement. We have a utility sink down there that floods if it’s not cleaned out. My first thought, as I put on clothes and shoes, was that the sink overflowed and I’d need to stick my arm into that disgusting water to clear it out.

Oh, how I would soon wish it was that.

Turns out that our pipes had backed up and sewage was running in from a drain we have in the center of our basement. Specifically, a combination of sludge, toilet paper scraps, and feces. There was a lot in there and the smell was awful. B called a plumber and I opened the basement windows – at least the two that I could open without crossing the nasty pond. The plumber came by and figured out immediately what was wrong. Within a half hour, he cleared a U bend pipe of build-up and all of the water flowed back down.

Notice, I just said “water” and not “everything.” When the water went down, a lot of other stuff remained. His portion of the job done, the plumber left this for us to clean up with the wet-dry vacuum. Now, having handled diapers for two kids, I thought I had been toughened up in handling this type of stuff, but nothing could have prepared me for this. I used our wet dry vacuum to suck it up, but the combination of the smell and sight of what I was vacuuming threatened to make me hurl. I put on headphones, cranked the Hamilton soundtrack as loud as it could go, tried not to look (as much as was possible) as I waved the vacuum around the ground, and held my breath. This helped and I soon cleaned up as much as I could.

Then, I had to take the wet dry vacuum outside, empty it into a garbage bag, clean it off, and spray the basement floor like crazy with a bleach-water mixture. I also went to Home Depot and got a few big tubs filled with crystals that absorb water from the air. This helped to dry the basement up more. That night, despite being exhausted, I had trouble sleeping. Any time I closed my eyes, I was back in the basement looking at – and smelling – everything that was down there.

In between all of these events, I’ve been working on my Ghost Thief sequel – tentatively titled “Outcasts and Artifacts.” I’m up to 41,000 words now and the story is just getting started. I’m juggling a lot more plot threads than in the first book and a lot more characters. It’s slow going, but I’m making continual progress.

NOTE: The “Busy desk” image above comes from Wikimedia Commons` and is in the Public Domain.

2016 The Celebrity Killer

The year 2016 has not been a good one for celebrities. We started the year off with David Bowie passing away. Soon after, Alan Rickman joined him. Later that year, Prince died. Singers and actors weren’t the only ones to go, though. Supreme Court justice Anton Scalia passed away as did Morley Safer, Muhammad Ali, and Elie Wiesel. Most recently (as of this writing), George Michael died. At every turn, it seemed like 2016 was robbing the world of another celebrity. I began to wonder if this was true. Is 2016 a celebrity killer? Or were we so acutely tuned to celebrity deaths that it seemed like a lot when it was really a normal amount?

To answer this question, I did some searching. At first, I tried Wikipedia, but they listed many people that seemed to be unknown outside of a small area. I was more concerned with names that most people would recognize – not ones that would require a repeat visit to Wikipedia to explain who they were. After some more searching, I found the website They had a handy listing of deaths by year starting in 2000. The result was quite intriguing.

As you can see, 2016 did indeed see a spike in celebrity deaths. In fact,it has had almost 40% more celebrity deaths than the closest nearest year (2005). The good news is that I think 2016 is an aberration. Next year will likely see fewer celebrity deaths than 2016. The bad news is that it looks like the “normal level of celebrity deaths” is increasing. This makes sense as many people who became celebrities in the 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s are now 60’s or older. As the years go on, this crop of celebrities will die off resulting in more and more years like 2016 – albeit years with slightly fewer deaths.

Someone please keep an eye on our remaining celebrities. Although this year is days away from finishing, I have a feeling that we’re in for a rough 2017 as well.

EDIT: Unfortunately, after this post went live, it was announced that Carrie Fisher passed away. This brings the number of celebrity deaths in 2016 to 140 – or 46% more than the second place year (96 in 2005). If no more celebrities die this year, there will have been an average of one death every 2.6 days. No wonder it seems like the death notices have been coming so fast.

Here’s a Google Docs Spreadsheet with all of the data. I’ve also updated the graph above. The 2016 spike is now more prominent than ever.

Laughing At The Bar Mitzvah Chaos

stressed-to-laughterYou know how you can have something happen to you that is horribly stressful at the time, but mellows out into a funny story with time? Well, two of those things happened to us before NHL’s Bar Mitzvah. Each of these caused us much stress – and, I’m sure, a few extra grey hairs. However, looking back on it all, we can laugh about it.

Printing Brochures

It was the day before NHL’s big day. I was off of work and helping B by running a few errands. My first stop was a local office supply store whose name I don’t want to use for reasons that will soon be obvious. Let’s call them Scissors. Anyway, I went to Scissors to print out the brochures that would be available for family and friends to pick up. They gave such information as what NHL was doing, who was being called up, and why certain rituals were important. Since we had printed many things with them in the past, I walked into Scissors confident that I’d soon be on my way to my next destination.

The first snag occurred when they announced that the “e-mail to print” service was down. I was counting on using this since the file was on my phone and not a USB thumb drive. (Yes, I know. I should have had it on a thumb drive.) I went to my next stop – which was close by – in the hopes that the service would be back online when I was done. Unfortunately, when I called them back up post-second-stop, they said the service was still down. There was good news, though. They had a website that I could use to upload the document to them.


So I went to the site, created an account, uploaded my document, and went to select my local store. Problem Number Two. The website wouldn’t let me select a store. I went back into Scissors to see if they could help me. As the staff member was puzzling over my phone, trying to figure out why this wasn’t working, I glanced at their printers. I noted that their printers supported Google Drive. I could easily put the file on Google Drive and grab it from there!

Problem solved, right?


The printer let me log into Google Drive, but then hung. Eventually, another staff member told me that the Google Drive connection was down. And that the USB ports on the printers didn’t work either. The only way they could print was by connecting a USB thumb drive to their own computer behind the staff desk – and they refused to plug in my phone.

I left Scissors and drove to a nearby FedEx Office. At this point, I was nearing panic mode. I had a lot of other things to do and these programs were important. I needed to get them ready for the next day. Thankfully, the staff there were excellent and showed me exactly what to do. I e-mailed the file to an address they gave me and received a pick up code about half a minute later. After typing this into the printer, I could see my document on a small screen. (Very helpful in making sure I was printing the two-sided document so that folding it didn’t result in the center pages being upside down.) I ran off a quick test copy and then printed the rest of the copies. I thanked the staff members and then happily went on my way.

Do you think the story is over just yet?

Of course, it isn’t.

Later that day, B called me. Apparently, when I copied the file from the template we were given, I missed something. The template was from the previous Bar Mitzvah and I had missed one instance of the previous Bar Mitzvah boy’s name. Every single copy was saying the wrong name in this one spot. I was dumbstruck. I swore that I did a Search and Replace on the document and couldn’t believe I had missed that. FedEx Office had been reasonably priced, but the copies still cost over $100. I wasn’t looking forward to paying again for another set of copies.

Thankfully, our temple staff came to the rescue. They printed off a set of stickers with NHL’s name on them. B sat down on a tiny chair by a tiny table (meant for preschoolers), cutting out tiny NHL name stickers, to cover over the mistake.

The Morning Clothing Rush

On Friday night, we placed all of our clothing out so that we wouldn’t be rushing around early Saturday morning. Saturday morning, we woke up, ate a quick breakfast, and got our clothes to put on. I immediately noticed a problem. My pants were way too tight. I tried on the jacket and that, too, was too tight. Now, I had tried my suit on about three weeks prior and it fit fine. I wasn’t watching my weight at the time, but knew I couldn’t have gained THAT much weight THAT quickly. Still, I couldn’t wear these clothes. Tossing them aside, I rummaged through my closet. I found another suit, tried it on, but it was too small as well. Bigger than the first one, but still didn’t fit right. Finally, after much stress, I found dress pants and a jacket that fit and didn’t look horrible together. Resigned to wearing a less-than-ideal outfit, I went to help the boys get dressed.

NHL was having a particularly hard time. He declared that he needed a belt, but his belts were nowhere to be found. Finally, exasperated, I told him that the pants had fit him fine when he tried them on before and he shouldn’t need a belt. He replied that the pants were way too big on him.

Now you know those sitcoms where something happens that all of the characters realize except for the one dumb one? You know how all action stops, the other characters look at the dumb guy, and wait a few seconds for him to catch up? Well, that was me at that moment.

I was flabbergasted at that moment. What else was going to go wrong? First my clothes were too small and then NHL’s clothes were too big…. Wait a second…

Yes, I had put on NHL’s dress clothes and NHL had put on my suit. NHL is big enough now that his clothes look like they might fit me, but he’s not so big that they actually fit. In hindsight, we’re just lucky I didn’t rip NHL’s clothes when I tried putting them on. I don’t know what we would have done then. So NHL and I swapped clothes and – surprise surprise – our clothes fit perfectly again.


Like I said, at the time these were highly stressful situations, but time has allowed us to laugh about them. Of course, next time I’d like to get the funny stories and skip the stress. I have enough grey hairs as it is!

NOTE: The image above combines Petrified Smiley Face Silhouette and Laughing Smiley Face Silhouette. Both are by GDJ and both are available at

Keeping Busy

Machovka-Write-300pxI haven’t been posting here that much, but I don’t want anyone to think I’ve dropped off the face of the Earth. I’ve just been keeping very busy with a few things.

Friends Outing and Emotional Rollercoaster

We had an emotional rollercoaster starting with Bar Mitzvah Incident. The next week, NHL had an outing with a friend of his. After seeing NHL sad because he was excluded, it was so wonderful to see him playing and having fun with a friend.

They ate out at Puzzles bakery in Schenectady – which we love supporting because they’re a local business and they hire people on the Autism spectrum. I even let NHL get dessert – a half pound peanut butter and fudge brownie which we split.

After eating, we all went to the Museum of Science and Innovation. It was wonderful seeing NHL having fun with a friend. The butterfly house was still out so we all went in it. Now, normally, NHL doesn’t like going in. He overemphasizes with the butterflies and winds up afraid that he’ll hurt them. This usually means we go in without him, but today he voluntarily went in. More than that, he was enthusiastic and loved seeing all the butterflies all around. He even went in a second time before we left. We’re definitely doing another get together soon.

Writing My Book

Back in high school and college, I was a voracious reader but I also loved making up my own tales. I wrote down many short stories. Over time, though, I stopped writing. Partly, this was because I sent a story to be published and it was rejected.   The rejection was your average form letter saying they weren’t publishing my story at that time.  There was nothing extraordinary about it and definitely no "your work stinks" text in it.  Still, I was a college kid and took rejection to heart too much.  I had decided that being successful as a writer meant being published and this one rejection meant I’d never be published so why try at all.  (I’d like to go back and slap some sense into younger me.)

A few months ago, JSL told us that he was writing a book.  This wasn’t a surprise since JSL loves making stories.  Whether it is written stories, playing with his toys, or even with the magnets on the fridge, he’ll have whole storylines pouring out with heroes, villains, and epic battles.  When he told us he was writing a book, had illustrated the cover, and was giving out signed photocopies of said cover, it sparked something in me.  I decided to take up writing again.  I have had two story ideas bouncing through my head for years.  I chose one and mapped out a long tale – then quickly discarded it.  I decided to start small and work on a short story instead.  Also, I decided not to map the story out but to just write and see where it took me.  (Though, sometimes this meant needing to go back and rewrite a section to make everything fit better.)  My "short story" grew and grew.  Before I knew it, I had 5,000 words written.  Then 10,000.  My most recent count puts me at almost 32,000 words and the story is only around halfway over.  I figure that, when it ends, the tale will be 50,000 words long.  This is in the "long novella/short novel" territory.

It doesn’t end there. As I was fleshing out the world while writing this story, I realized that the tale would extend to multiple storylines.  So when this story ends, I can start "Book 2" and expand it more.  I also have built a world where I can tell side stories that don’t involve the main characters at all.

As I’m writing the story, I’ve been reading it with JSL. First of all, this helps me spot typos. I’ve been writing this in Google Docs on my computer and on my phone.  When I’m writing on my phone, I can go quickly, but often the wrong word gets put into the story. As I’m reading with JSL, I can spot "he turned his fact and looked at her" and quickly correct it to "he turned his face and looked at her."  Secondly, it helps me spot sections which don’t work either due to how it was worded or because later story points contradicted this earlier segment.  When I encounter this, I can quickly correct the section before moving on.  Finally, it lets me gauge JSL’s reactions to see how good the story is. Granted, he’s a biased audience, but given his begging to hear more, demanding I answer many, many questions about the characters, and getting frustrated when I say "I can’t tell you that, it’s a spoiler", I think I’ve got a hit on my hands.  At least with JSL. (Then again, he’s one of my three most important readers along with NHL and B. Sorry everyone else.)

Oh, and remember that whole "you need to be published to be a successful writer" thing that I believed as a college student?  Well, I might have been wrong, but it so happens that it’s much easier to publish nowadays than it was twenty years ago. Back then, to get published, you needed to submit your work to publishing companies who would critique your writing and likely reject it. Now, I could publish it on my blog – giving it out for free. I could post an ePub file for everyone to download. I could even use CreateSpace to make an actual, physical book for people to buy. I’m planning on taking this last step. I’m under no illusion that this will sell like crazy (though I do allow myself the occasional fantasy where my book becomes the next "Harry Potter") but it will be satisfying to give someone a copy of my own book for them to read.

Cleaning For Passover

Passover starts tonight. During December, I’ll sometimes laugh when my Christian friends talk about the pains of putting up all of their Christmas decorations.  I’ll respond with the "pain" of decorating for Chanukah. "You take out the menorah and some candles. Done."  Unfortunately, Passover is when Karma kicks in. Passover preparations begin weeks in advance as you buy special foods (that cost a lot of money) and try to use up all the foods you can’t eat during Passover. Yesterday, I started the main preparation of cleaning the kitchen. Counters were scrubbed, ovens were cleansed, refrigerator shelves were taken out and put under hot water and soap.  Today, I need to finish cleaning everything and THEN I get to go to the attic and carry our heavy Passover pots, pans, and other various equipment down from our attic.  Once that’s all done, I get to "relax."  Normally, this is where I’d cook a huge meal, but we’re going to someone else’s Seder both nights so I get to take the night off from cooking.  The downside?  Dinner won’t start until after 10pm.  Saturday and Sunday morning are definitely going to be sleep in kind of days.


So if I don’t seem to be around much, don’t think I’ve deserted the online life to become a digital hermit.  I’ve just been extremely busy.  I do promise to stop by and write a post once a week or so, though, and will definitely post updates on my might-be-a-novel.

NOTE: The image above, "Write" is by Machovka and is available from

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