Check out the prologue to "Alone In The Light" by clicking here

An excerpt from: Alone In The Light

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Mental Health During Quarantine

So, uh, yeah. Where do I start?

I've had an eventful 41 years so far... but this is my first nationwide lock-down/quarantine. So, you know, good times! My kids will now be out of school until May 1 at the earliest and I am moderately concerned about my employment in the foreseeable future... but that's a blog post for a different day.

Today, we're talking about being cooped up in the house for a LONG time and how this can really mess with your mental health.

Now, if you're me, you can sit at home and not deal with the outside world for weeks on end and be perfectly happy. But, that's not good advice. Instead - here is how to prevent yourself from having a complete mental breakdown.

First - it is important to maintain a clean environment. When you get up in the morning - make your bed. Pick up your dirty clothes. clean your dishes and don't let them pile up.... Don't let your personal space devolve into a pigsty. That will drain you in a hurry. This is my most important lesson.

Shower EVERY DAY. That's right. Clean yourself and then put on clean clothes... You feel much better once you've showered.

Eat. And not ALL THE TIME. I mean, eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Try to keep the snacking to a minimum.

Try to get some sort of movement in your day. No treadmill? Fine. Do some small exercises. Anything to get you up off of the couch, off of your phone or computer, and get the blood flowing. It doesn't have to be P90X or some insanely expensive online service. Just do some damn jumping-jacks and sit-ups. Maybe some body-weight squats.... ANYTHING.

Once the boredom starts to eat at you - take this as a time to learn a new hobby, craft, language, trade... anything. There are literally thousands of videos online to teach you fun, new things! Want to learn sign language? DO IT! Want to learn how to hit on that hot Croatian girl down the hall? LEARN THE LANGUAGE! You've got time... and you should take advantage of that time. Hell, take the time to Spring Clean your house/apartment/cardboard box. I mean like Marie Kondo that shit!

And last - try to limit your social media intake. Jesus on a roller coaster.... nothing is more toxic than social media right now.

Focus on yourself and your family (if you have one living with you). Try to better yourself while the world seems to fall apart on the outside.... Might as well come into the apocalypse knowing how to set snares for rabbits and squirrels! *free online videos for that!*

Take care of yourself, people. We'll all get through this. It'll pass... maybe like a kidney stone... but it'll pass.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Achievement Unlocked - F*CK YOU, STUDENT LOANS!

Good morning, world!

Despite the dumpster fire raging across the land, I've been on a mission to find a silver lining - something that would bring me joy and make my life less... stressful. Aside from watching the news, what is the most stressful thing I can think of? - Student Loans.

It's hard to enjoy life when you're barely scraping by some months. Add to that the mandatory student loan payment every month on top of your other bills - things get uncomfortable. So you ask for lower payments and occasional forbearances to give you breathing room. The good people at Navient and the Dept. of Education don't care. They're still going to charge interest while you try to come up for air.

Monday, March 2, 2020

The Unwelcome Anxiety of Memory.

The Unwelcome Anxiety of Memory.

I can't speak for anyone else, but as we approach the 17th anniversary of "Shock and Awe" and the invasion of Iraq... I find myself getting anxious. Just like I do every year. I don't know if this anniversary is the cause of massive anxiety attack today, or just a convenient excuse - but I sort of feel like the two may be connected.

Shock and Awe on the television

I can't really explain it. I don't actively think about it, it just happens. Every year. And it sucks.

In March of 2003, I was twenty-four, and I was at Camp Doha Kuwait. As the month progressed and rhetoric of war started getting more and more pronounced - things changed...

At the beginning of March, we upped our training schedule. We started going everywhere in groups of two or more. Things were changing. We conducted more and more MOPP drills... (Mission Oriented Protective Posture - your nuclear, biological, and chemical protective suit). We were living in a warehouse in Camp Doha. An entire company's worth of soldiers crammed into on giant, open-air space with all of their gear confined to a 3'x4' plot of personal space. In one corner, we had a small television set up. We watched the news and re-runs of The Simpsons with Arabic subtitles... Then, one day, all of the channels became news only...

Shock and Awe started on the 18th/19th of March. The ground forces followed behind on the 20th... Between the 18th and 27th I remember the missiles launched at Camp Doha. The air-raid sirens, the MOPP drills, sitting bunkers as we waited for the all-clear. I remember being on my phone with home when the sirens sounded and I dropped the phone and took off running for the bunker and my pro-mask. (protective mask) - when I eventually called home again, my family was in tears. They didn't know what had happened. They just know I said "oh fuck" and hung up.

Then... I remember my dad's birthday on March 27th - my last phone call to them before we headed out. They were eating at Hooters for his dinner (his favorite place to eat). I couldn't talk long, I was already in trouble for skipping out to make the call, and we'd just had a close-call with a Rocket/Missile attack - Hooray for the Patriot Missile Defense Battery!

I just said "I can't talk. We're packing up and heading north. I love you. Happy birthday." - I apparently ruined my dad's 53rd birthday. Which was not my intent, but it's easy to forget that 6,000 miles away, my family was trying to go on with their day-to-day lives and my little calls were just a dick-punch to remind them of where I was and what I was doing.

While my family ate the remainder of their birthday dinner in silence, my unit loaded up and headed to Navistar at the Kuwait/Iraq border. There we lined up with the other trucks and supplies and waited. We slept in the back of 5-Tons and Deuces. Then we were in Iraq - weapons loaded and futures unsure. I didn't speak to them again on the phone until May.

Now, thirteen years later, those memories surface as anxiety - unbidden... And I fucking hate it.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Preppers and rice!

I am going to talk today about a little thing I like to call, "You bought WHAT?"

I was in the Army for 10 years. Well, National Guard AND the Army for a total of 10 years. Point is, I spent a lot of time being dirty and hungry in some really unpleasant places. After my time in, I've become fond of things like being clean, eating food... not getting shot at... you know, things like that. And lately, I keep watching the news and I keep seeing a lot of panic talk about Coronavirus and other stuff.  And I believe it is strictly panic talk. I don't put a lot of stock into the doomsday people who claim that this will be "THE NEXT PLAGUE!!" - those people can piss right off.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Frank - A Short Story


Written by: Benjamin W. Bass

“Can you tell me your name?”
“Frank... er, Francis James Ackerman...  People just call me Frank.”
“May I call you Frank?”
“Good. Do you know why you are here, Frank?”
“I was told you could help me get a job.”
“That we can, Frank. We help people get jobs.”
“That’s good.”
“You signed the red-form, right, Frank?”
“That’s good. Am I coming through the earpiece all right, Frank?”
“Yes. I hear you fine.”
“Good, Frank. We’re about to start the procedure.”
“That’s good. Will I be awake the whole time?”
“More or less, Frank.”
“What’s it like?”
“I’ve been told it’s a little disorienting, but painless.”
“That’s good. I guess.”
“We’re starting the calibration, Frank, you should feel…”
“I can feel it. What kind of job will I get?”
“Based on your scores, Frank, the computer will pick a job that suites your creativity, skills and…”
“I think I’m falling.”
“Right, Frank. You may feel like you’re falling a little, but I assure you, you’re fine.”
“I’ll say. Wow. That’s… ungh!”
“Yeah, Frank, I may have lied about the painless part.”
“Sorry, Frank. Moving up to forty-percent.”
“I can remember things.”
“That’s good, Frank, just let it happen. Don’t try to hold on to any of the memories. Just let them in.”
“I… Oh, god.”
“Just relax, Frank.”
“This isn’t…”
“Let it in, Frank. Let the machine do its job. Up to sixty-percent now.”
“Doing great, Frank. Almost there.”
“I…. Hngggh.”
“Up to ninety. Pushing to one hundred.”
“AH! I…”
“Full strength now, Frank. Just hang in there.”
“Can’t… told…”
“I’m sure you were told many things, Frank. We’re almost there.”
“And, go!”
“How’s it read? Good? Okay. Private Ackerman, can you hear me?”
“Can you hear me, Private?”
“Y… yes.  Yes, sir!”
“Good, Private. How do you feel?”
“I have a headache, sir.”
“That’ll pass soon, son.”
“If you say so, sir.”
“Yes, sir?”
“What is your name?”
“Private Ackerman, Francis James. U.N.E.F.! Serial Number 45-34K-J1, sir!”
“That’s excellent, Private. The restraints on your arms will now release. Do not touch the connectors on your head. you’ll need them. Proceed out the door, turn left and follow the yellow line to advanced combat training.”
“Yes sir. Thank you, sir.”
“You’re welcome, Private. Send in the next applicant, nurse.”

Monday, January 20, 2020

Sick and tired of being sick... and tired.

Laziness is a hard habit to break... 

A friend of mine made a comment about "wanting to become healthier" recently on his Twitter feed and that really got me thinking. It got me thinking about myself and my current state of health.

I, like many of you, like to drink alcohol. It's a nice way to wind down after a long, stressful day. But this isn't healthy.

I also like food. Especially foods that have been coated in some sort of breading and dropped into a vat of boiling oil... But this isn't healthy.

I have become lazy in my old age of 41.

Hell, I used to run all the time. I have completed THREE Spartan Races - which were a LOT of fun. But that was then... this is now. In the last year or so, I've stopped with the balanced meals. My free time is spent watching the tv. And it slowly became a habit. Now it's just life. I keep putting things off for "later" because laziness and procrastination have become comfort foods to me.

But I have come to recognize that laziness and procrastination are destructive to my word. When you take on a task you make a promise to somebody (perhaps just yourself, but somebody) that you will complete that task. But being lazy means you are breaking your word... That’s not bad, or wrong, it just is. It's impacting my life. It's impacting my ability to write... And that needs to change.

You can't fix a problem with good intentions. You can't get healthy just by not wanting to be unhealthy anymore. You can't just research "How to get off the couch" and not put it into practice.

You have to get up.

You have to move.

I'm really sick of being out of shape. I'm sick of being lazy. I'm sick of being sick of it all... I've got more false-starts than I care to.

I'm sick of the amount of time I spend on the couch...

I am at the beginning of this new journey - I'm making today DAY ONE!  And I'll take as many DAY ONEs as I need until I find that motivation and that drive. I need to dig down, dig deep, get up and GET MOVING!!

Anyone want to join me on this trip?

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Twas The Night Before Christmas - 2019


Twas the day before Christmas and I am wearing a smirk,
The last present has been wrapped so I don't feel like a jerk!
The kids and some bourbon were dropped off to my mom
Along with homemade sausage - which is the bomb.

This year has been trying, not the usual happy ole time
And I'm having trouble coming up with happy things to rhyme
But that's not really true, for I have AJ, Bug, and The Glump
They're the center of my world, and they keep me out of the holiday slump

We laugh and we dance, we watch corny shows
A right jolly nerd family, we can laugh at our woes.
The Glump is just silly, a carefree soul who farts
And Bug is independent and a fair hand at Fine Arts

They play and they draw, they laugh and they cry
When I ever question my life - I think, "They are certainly why."
For money is tight, and the world seems to suck
But be with your family... and just don't give a fuck.

We got to MeMe and Papaw's and played with the pups
That is at least until they start chewing things up!
I, of course, mean the dogs in this Christmas fable.
But knowing the Glump, that's still on the table...

Stop, Ziva! Stop, Gibbs!
Don't eat that, Little Bug!
Why is your brother hiding under a rug?
To the top of the stairs, go play and stop fighting!
Wait, shit! Come back!
Santa's gifts are up there in hiding!

They're like little hurricanes, the kids and the pups
They're too fast for me... I might just give up.
Can we just eat? Oh god I need food.
This fat guy needs to get in his holiday mood!

I'm not always happy, but that's part of life
I'd probably be depressed if it wasn't for my wife
She is the shining star around which I fly
Writing books and dealing with the kids when they cry

We're a matched pair, the author AJ and I
She makes you laugh, and I make you cry!
We write and we parent and we try to live a good life
This frumpy fat man, and his smokin' hottie of a wife.

So Merry Christmas to you, from me and my fam...
And if you drink enough bourbon - you stop giving a damn!

Have fun. Be happy! Make someone's day bright!
A Merry Christmas to all... and to all a goodnight.