On Temper Tantrums & Standing Firm

This is a guest post by my wife, who is much smarter.


I’ve decided that everything is about age. Bob and I got a puppy from the pound cause day-to-day life has been so boring of late. We named her Scout and handed her to our ten-year-old dog, Gus, as if we were giving him a trip to Bimini. She’s about thirteen weeks now and still deals with the world with her needle-like fangs. She’s one of those dogs that cocks her head at you cause she’s trying to figure out what you want from her. After a decade of sweet English Labradors, I’d forgotten how smart puppies act. It’s not that Gus is a dummy, but he’s never cocked his head except to let us know that he has an itchy ear. He’s managed to get what he wants by being pleasant and accepting that he can’t have that squirrel. But, now this little Rottweiler mix of something is reminding me that determined gets what it wants by being demanding.

Sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas (not quite sure cause it’s all a jumble of needing evaporated milk and having only condensed) I went to the grocery store to pick up a few of those odd things which exist only for holidays. It was one of those huge places where you can buy a decorative bed pillow or some shoes or milk. They make me nuts cause my brain can buy either shoes or milk.

Anyway, while staring at some shoes I heard the unmistakable first scream of a toddler tantrum. We all know it–a kid in the cart who’s old enough to know the word, ‘no’ but also knows that in a store full of people that a meltdown can turn a no into yes cause that parent is thinking of the sanity of others.

By the time I’d hit the candle aisle which I told Bob many years ago would be an excellent way to convey a pathogen cause we were all prying off a glass lid and inhaling deeply–the tantrum had been raging for about seven minutes and was building into full shriek mode. 

I overheard one of the two women already snorting candles say that it sounded like they were going for it. Odd that I instantly knew that ‘they’ was the parent and not the kid. The other woman said I saw him and he’s about three and a half and his mother is ignoring him. 

Yes, she was going for it and gonna outlast him and not give in and soon a man joined us as we all began sharing the times that we went for it with our own puppy-child. Some of us admitted to leaving the store at that time cause it’s too embarrassing to see the looks of fellow humans who haven’t raised a child and think that toddlers are real people but smaller and that reasoning works. Some of us had stuck it out in the soda aisles hoping that cardboard and aluminum was an effective sound barrier till the kid was an exhausted heap lying over a bag of potatoes and making those little exhausted whimpers before passing out and drooling all over the lettuce.

But, I’d had help in the form of a woman about the age that I am now who’d known that I was trying to go for it, but I was checking out my fellow shoppers with a look of despair which told her that I was gonna fail and that box of Junior Mints or whatever was soon going to be in his sweaty little hands.

By now there were six or seven carts piled up as we discussed the dilemma of the young mother pushing around the amplifier set at eleven.

 It was nice to have a group discussion of fellow adults all sharing the same opinion on one topic because it’s not ever been the way our country was designed to work since the freedom to disagree is sorta the reason you have freedom at all.  And we were all of the opinion that she was too far in to back down now, but we were also all losing our collective marbles cause that kid wasn’t giving up anytime soon. 

I said will someone watch my stuff cause I’m going in. They all said sure in unison cause it was either leave or lose thirty years so we’d all have ear buds in and notice nothing anyway.

We were all of that age where shopping and personal music was as bizarre a notion as the self-service check-outs. And none of us wanted to leave our little piles of baking powder and food coloring and odd sprinkles just to return later cause not like we had those things in the cupboards. I did thirty years ago but I had more need of sprinkles throughout the year cause of the inevitable, “Mom, I need fifty cupcakes for the bake sale, tomorrow”. 

Age changes even the contents of the pantry, but it’s also age which walks bravely into the fray of disintegrating mother and toddler tantrum. She wasn’t hard to find in that big store, I will say that. 

She was in her early thirties but probably looked younger when she walked in, and initially said no about whatever.  I write, ‘whatever’ because it’s never the thing but rather the battle and he was too old because everything is age and a year younger and he’s still wondering why you’ve brought me to a place full of things which I can have by asking nicely. That extra year is where the ask is no longer the issue but the willingness to accept an arbitrary no is the issue. And she was struggling because she knew that everyone in the store was caught in their own minds between ‘give that little shit whatever he wants so he’ll shut up’, and oh, dear, you’re in too deep to cave now. But, I had my memories of the grandmotherly woman who’d helped me win my battle and thus the forever war of when no means no and just because I said so.

I made my approach to her by creeping by the kid and ignoring him as if he weren’t there which was harder than you think because I could feel my eardrums twitching a bit. I said something of no consequence, but she started to apologize and I barely shook my head no, and she was still lucid enough to cock her head a bit and realize that I was coming to help and not to complain.

The screaming intensified for a moment cause the kid knew he he was close to winning though he’d probably forgotten what, so he immediately sensed his mother’s tiny withdrawal of her previously focused attention on him. A three-and-a-half-year-old knows when they’re being purposefully ignored because they can see the sweat on your brow.

She was one of those mother’s who’d worked very hard for the right to wear those yoga pants and so I talked of yoga. After a few seconds her grip on the cart lessened cause I could see some blood returning to her knuckles and after a few more seconds, the screaming lessened in decibels but not intensity cause he, too, was too far in to roll over easily now. At that point I wished I’d really gone to a few yoga classes instead of looking through the glass of a darkened room in that gym at all those people standing on their heads with hands cupped on steel buttocks while I meandered to a treadmill. But, I can fake talk on a lot of subjects and moved to the back of her so that she’d turn away from him and face me.

By then I was discussing the price of yoga mats and she was nodding as if yoga mats were twitter trend of the day. And like magic the more she stopped ignoring his shrieks and just forgot about them the longer the gasps between hysteria and the more time spent on who’s that old lady chatting up my mother?

After he’d quieted for about two minutes, I turned and said, “My grandsons want Voltron stuff from Santa and do you think that’s a good choice?”  He immediately said no and launched into the merits of Avengers of all types versus Voltrons of any sort. He was hard to understand at first because he’d nearly hyperventilated his way into a coma. We chatted about Santa for a few more minutes and I told him that I’d take the whole Avengers thing under advisement because he was a smart kid who made a good argument against Voltron. I said have a Merry Christmas and I gotta go find some powdered sugar and he said it’s that way and pointed the opposite way of my buggy. Cripes, cause now I had to go that way and sneak behind a few people sorting through the hams to get back to the candle aisle. 

Most of my fellow shoppers were gone, but one woman was guarding my buggy and said–I too had help the day that I drew my metaphorical line in the sand and went for it. We did one of those lame high fives where we missed our hands cause reading glasses aren’t just for reading anymore.

I passed the mother and her son a few aisles down and darn if that kid didn’t notice that I had no powered sugar. Seriously I mentioned the one thing which I always do have instead of yams or something.

He was very sharp as I suspected because my own one-time tantrum kid went on to get his doctorate in Materials Engineering and Physics. Like my toddler he was fighting the arbitrary nature of the no and not the no itself. It is a difficult thing for some toddlers to accept that ‘because I said so’ is a viable argument. But, they need learn the lesson only once and they only learn it by losing that one battle because losing is as much a part of life as winning.

If you grow up never learning that losing exists then you’ll believe that winning is all there is.

It took a week for our dog, Gus, to teach Scout, the puppy with needle teeth, that he would play but not if she saw him as a chew toy. The more that he snarled and growled and the more she thought it was fun, so he finally learned to jump on the bed and withdraw since she’s too tiny to climb there and once she calmed he’d jump down, but right back up at the first tug on his tail or the one unfortunate incident where she missed his tail and nipped his rectum. Scout won’t be doing that again and he did finally teach her to that tug of war which included nothing attached to his body could be fun, too.

 Age is everything and puppies like children learn from the experience of their elders. Puppies win if they never learn how to lose and end up in dog parks on a three point leash and toddlers win if they never lose and end up being president where there isn’t even an argument about the merits of Avengers over Voltron. There’s only the getting of what they wanted from the first time they entered the store and screamed till they got it and thus never learn the arbitrary nature of no. You’d think that a septuagenarian toddler who played ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ at his campaign rallies would know that for a fact. But, since he doesn’t and is making his tantrum about partisanship rather than our joint effort at teaching a very old dog a new trick? Then the discussion isn’t about walls: it’s about yoga.

Writers and Their Better Halves– Don’t Do This

Writers tend to be insecure people. Don’t believe me? I don’t think you do. Why not? Seriously? Geez.

But we can learn to be better. The two videos in this post are prime examples of what NOT to do. The first illustrates an important rule: What not to gift your better half!

The second is the result of asking your better half to read your work in progress. Never a good idea and often the precursor to a divorce.



You’re better off working on your craft.

The Complete Writer

A Procrastinator and Believer in Making Luck Backwards

Foreword by Bob’s Wife to The Procastinator’s Survival Guide:


If you’re like me, you don’t buy books about surviving things. Why? Probably because you think that you won’t survive them anyway, so why bother? We can call it procrastination but sometimes it’s easier to think of it as something which we’d rather not think about at all.

My husband, Bob, is a person who does think about ‘what’s the worst that could happen’ and thus frees me up to forget about that. I’ve always seen it as another quirky part of the man whom I’ve loved since I first saw his bookshelf because we had almost all of the same books.

He had the same tattered paperbacks of Asimov, Bradbury and Heinlein and on and on telling me that he, too, had spent his teenage years in worlds not this one but maybe a future this one.

He had more fantasy than I, and I had more true crime than he, but otherwise we had a matching set of bookshelves. He had a lovely special edition of Watership Down and I had a complete set of the Encyclopedia of Crime which I still consider my best buy from a library sale.

I did have an interest in ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen’ but mine focused on the past and his is directed toward a future which oddly enough only a survivalist is optimistic enough to imagine. If you worry about how to snare a rabbit after the zombie apocalypse–you are a glass half full person. And that means you don’t need this book because you’ve already got a few.

But, if you’re like me and rather convinced that the first person infected with zombiasm will be your orthopedic surgeon during your rotator cuff surgery and they’ll just lean over and take a real chunk of you in lieu of payment, and thus end future travails, you’re the odd combination of glass half empty, yet believe you’ll be lucky. 

The problem is that I’m not lucky and I write this because we procrastinators tend to put things off not because we’re lazy or inept: rather our need for perfection prefers to wait for the proper mood. If you’re still reading this then you know what I mean. There does come the perfect mood to write the paper in one sitting, to rearrange the closet, to make the photo albums and brush the dogs. People like Bob don’t wait for that mood and do a bit everyday so he’s always caught up on the minutiae of life. I find it unbearably unfair that he and all the people like him think this is normal because it is. It’s such a common sense approach to living that my procrastination must reject it because my uncommon sense works for me. If it didn’t then I wouldn’t put off that which can be done today for no reason other than it makes common sense in favor of doing it when it makes uncommon sense to me. 

But, there is an issue with uncommon sense in that it’s a bit of magical thinking and sees luck as a real thing. Or as I sometimes call it, the magical power of negative thinking.

My meandering point here is that I didn’t worry about the zombie apocalypse because I wouldn’t survive the first day of it and that gave me peace for a long time. Another way of thinking of that is that I never had to be in the mood to think of survival, so I could procrastinate to my heart’s content until the day that Bob burst my magical thinking by mentioning that the lucky people won’t survive the first day of whatever ‘worst he could imagine’.

Well, that’s not good at all because he’s lucky and I’m not. We procrastinators aren’t stupid or lazy: we just need the mood for perfection and that day I was in the mood to hear that if I applied his theory to my magical thinking about luck and survival then the zombie eats Bob on the first day. I’ll be in the bathroom and survive and crawl out the window and for the first time my mood will perfectly match the reality of the situation at hand: I will want to survive and have no clue how. Because as my walking encyclopedia of survival husband mentions from time to time, nothing makes you want to survive as much as the moment you’re trapped in that bathroom and survival becomes an option.

Because that is the procrastinator’s dilemma in that we’ll never prepare till the mood strikes us to prepare perfectly. And that mood will, of course, never strike us till the zombies are clawing at the bathroom door. So, for everyone who ignores the improbable while also occasionally falling into the perfect mood to clean out every closet and the basement and attic all in one day because it’s so easy and fun to do it now? I offer you this book and remind you that by reading it we can be assured that we’ll never need it. Because that would be lucky. You know, to buy it and read it and be prepared and actually need it, too? Yeah, we’re not that lucky.

In other words, we who care the least can save the world from zombies by preparing for the ‘worst that we can imagine’. We who can move mountains when the mood strikes us can stop the mountains from moving by forcing ourselves to imagine that they will and prepare how to deal. Because what terrible thing will ever happen once all of us who put things off till the perfect time all know how to catch a rabbit in a snare? 

Read this book and save the planet. We owe it to all the people who make lists and clean out their fridges cause it’s clean-out-the-fridge day. We have the power to save them by reading this book because there will never be a day where we’re in the mood to read it. 

Procrastinators Unite. PU, a rather perfect term for us!

The lack of luck survey:

If you check more than three of the following items you lack luck but control that by controlling bad luck.

1. A tornado destroyed your wedding venue the day before the ceremony. (yeah, that’s happened)

2. You’ve never experienced a toothache, fever, heart palpations or a limping dog except on Friday after five pm. (always)

3. You keep a nice tote umbrella in the car which is removed by the serviceman working on your car seat and you don’t discover that until the day you get your first spray tan. (check)

4. You’ve never called a plumber except on a weekend when you have houseguests.

5. When you do call a plumber or any type of service person they say—”I’ve never seen this before.”

6.  You buy a new car and don’t buy the wheel and tire insurance but do buy the protective coating and drive it home and have a wreck which explodes the tire and shreds the rim but there isn’t a scratch on the car. (totally happened)

7. You’ve never once had a Kleenex when you needed one but always dig through a ton of nice Kleenex when you can’t find your car keys.

8. If there is an ice storm in your area, it will be on the morning after the day you did the prep for a colonoscopy.

THE PROCASTINATOR’S SURVIVAL GUIDE is available on all eBook platforms and in print. HERE.

Procrastinator’s Survival Guide is #1

new title in Safety and First Aid on Amazon.

More importantly, we’ve realized Nova isn’t a good name and having “NO” in a dog’s name isn’t a good idea. So the young beastly girl is Scout. Feels right.

She’s currently under my desk nibbling on a bone.

She and Cool Gus have their moments. Some contentious, some not.

The Procastinator’s Survival Guide (and a new member of the household)

The Guide is my latest book, pulling together all my knowledge and experience on preparation and survival. I wrote it because my survey of what’s out there in terms of survival manuals is that they tend to go from zero to sixty with nothing in between. ie from normal living to trying to start a fire with a bow and board. Hey, why not stow some lighters? Makes it easier.

It’s loaded on all platforms and in print. Check my nonfiction page for links.

I put in checklists so people can prepare in a logical step-by-step manner.

I learned a few things researching it and also found a few areas where my own preparation was lacking.

Preparation and survival is such a wide and complicated topic. One key is that the first step is to do an Area Study, something I didn’t find in other manuals. It’s the first thing we do in Special Forces when we are assigned a mission. Examine who you are, who is your ‘team’, where you live, what are the potential threats, etc. This allows you to narrow your preparation down to the priorities

I’ve also included links to free apps and slideshows. I truly believe this is an important book for everyone. Let me know what you think.

And, more importantly, we brought a new member of the household home from the pound yesterday– Nova. We don’t know what breed she is but at only an estimated 12 weeks, she’s not exactly tiny. Already she and Gus have had some discussions about whose of the many dogs bed is whose, but it all will work out. We welcome Nova to the family.

She’s named Nova because, well, my wife likes it, and also because one of the best things we ever wrote together was a short story (The Pacing Place) as part of a Planet of the Apes Anthology featuring Nova and Taylor from the time they ride away from the Statue of Liberty. It was nominated for a Media Short Story Tie-In award in 2018.

2019 The Year of the Dog

Of course, Cool Gus believes every year is the year of the dog. And who am I to disagree?

For 2019 I spent a large chunk of December revising all my various survival guides into one book and it’s live today: The Procrastinator’s Survival Guide. It covers both preparation and actions to take in various scenarios. Full of checklists so a person can get their household ready, bit by bit. I’ve also separated the book into levels so one doesn’t need to leap into biting the heads off snakes, but can focus on the more likely scenarios such as power outages, floods, etc.

I’m deep into Lawyers, Guns and Money. No pub date for New York Minute yet, but will update as soon as I make a decision and hear back from various people.

Today, 1 Jan, through 3 January, D-Day (Time Patrol) is free. Mac’s story in that, where he parachutes into France on the night of the invasion in 1944 is one that I consider among the best missions of all the Time Patrol series.

Cool Gus, my wife and I, all wish everyone the best of years in 2019.

After all, it’s the year of the Dog!

Fahrenheit 11/9: A wake up call

Regardless of your feelings about Michael Moore, his latest movie is indeed a wake up call. As American battle each other over who is democrat and who is republican, the real war is being waged between Americans and the rich.

And the rich are laughing their ass off as we assault each other on social media, fall prey to manipulation, and slowly lose what we used to call the American Dream. That was American Greatness. Not racism, fear of immigrants, walls, taxes, etc.

Moore covers a variety of topics and, hard as it is to believe, this is not an anti-Trump tirade. See if you feel the same way about Obama after watching the part where he goes to Flint and pretends to drink water and flies away, leaving a town to slowly die.

When they opened up the line to the lake in Flint because GM’s parts were getting contaminated from the tainted water– but DIDN’T open it for drinking water for the people– that pretty much summed it up. I looked at my wife and said the only reason they wouldn’t do that is genocide. You might think that’s over the top, but frankly, who do you think is going to be hurt the most by all the deregulation of safety requirements? You think rich people are drinking municipal tap water?

Moore offers some beacons of light. The teacher strikes that started in West Virginia and spread across the country. The grass roots movements started by students; since this is the future for them and it’s not looking good at the moment.

Having lived many places in this country, I truly believe the vast majority of Americans are good, decent people. Who help each other. Who care about their families, their friends and those in need. We have to stop being manipulated by the tiny percentage at each end of the spectrum who play upon our fears, foster our anger and make us anything but good people.

I highly recommend everyone watch this film and generate your own thoughts and feelings.

One of the Worst Engineering Disasters of the 20th Century

was the St. Francis Dam failure in California. What’s interesting is that there is still a dam of the exact same design in Los Angeles.

The name Mulholland is one near and dear to Los Angeles. He’s the man who built the aqueduct and brought water to the city. But he’s also the man who designed the St. Francis Dam.

Which failed on the night of 12 March 1928. At least 431 people were killed but no one really know how many given that corpses were washed out to see.

The events leading up to the failure are amazing, including the fact that Mulholland had no formal training as an engineer. He began his career as a ditch digger for LA. Seriously.

He was also called to the dam that day by the dam keeper who was concerned about seepage through the face of the dam. Mulholland dismissed those fears are unfounded.

Also, geological surveys had indicated it was not a good place to put a dam, but he ignored those.

The complete list of Cascade Events (there are always seven, following my Rule of Seven) is in a free short nonfiction account available on my freebies page.

Part of my series Stuff Doesn’t Just Happen: The Gift of Failure which examines various disasters and shows what we can learn from them in order to prevent similar events in the future.

After watching Goodfella’s one night and thinking about ‘rats’.

My wife and I were having lunch the next day at a diner and discussing what happened to the narrator. The Witness Security Program has a very high recidivism rate for criminals; around 95%. It’s hard for criminals to stop being criminals.

Seems like a waste of taxpayer money. I work under the idea if you can think of it, someone has done it. So what if someone in the program decided that those who’d finished testifying and had nothing more to offer were made to really disappear? Like forever?

This became the ‘original idea’ for my fourth novel ever, Cut Out, also the fourth book in my Green Beret series. I’m going to eventually blog about the original ideas for all my books and let me say there are no truly original ideas. Pretty much every idea has been done. The change comes in the translation to story.

I was reminded of this book the other day while in the Smokies biking, because the climactic scene of the book takes place there, around Clingman’s Dome. I was living in Clarksville, TN at the time and drove across to research in the mountains. I never thought I’d be living here in Knoxville, not far from them.

So. Free today. Cut Out (The Green Berets)

Off The Beaten Path Holiday Gifts

Nine days until Christmas and we all could use some help in gift shopping. Since my brain works a bit outside the bell curve (and as my wife points out– not necessarily on the good side all the time) I got to pondering this.

I put together some items that I’ve found useful and people should have, just in case. These aren’t as sexy as, well, something sexy, but they are useful. They’re on my Freebies page.

Leatherman with flashlight (and dog hair, and dirt and a bit worn out from use)

I carry the Leatherman on my belt all the time. As you can see, along with the little flashlight in the same sheath. I use both every day. Even though we have a flashlight app on the phone, the pen-light works a lot better. For things like finding my wife’s reading glasses under the bed. Life-saving tasks.

Some of these would make good stocking stuffers. The Leatherman Crunch was a gift from my old business partner, Jen Talty, and it’s in the Jeep on the Smitty-Bilt seat covers where I can reach it from the driver’s seat. I use that a lot as the vice grip is very handy.

I won’t go into all of the items, and there is more info if you click on the boxes. But just some suggestions.

Nothing but good times ahead, but if the zombia apocalypse does come, many of these items will be very useful! As is running faster than the person next to you, but don’t tell them I said that.