Archive for December 2014

This Was a Triumph

One year ago, Dan doubled down on dreaming big, Austin considered coping mechanisms, and I promised myself a year of hardship.

Today? Dan is declaring the death of his childhood, Austin is watching a loved one fade away, and my year has been overwhelmingly difficult.

Mission accomplished?

I think so.

All cynicism aside, this year has been a massive turning point for the writers of Gold in Them Hills. Dan made huge steps towards publishing his work, Austin helped dozens of kids find a sense of stability, and I completely abandoned my comfort zone on a quest for perspective.

Amid the paralyzing anxiety, forced deadlines, longing for companionship, inability to find my dream job, roller coaster of emotions, and utter confusion, I’ve managed to come out of 2014 with more passion and drive than ever before. Bigger things are coming, and this time I’m going to ride the wave instead of being pummeled by it.

There’s a fire in my heart, and it’s not going anywhere. I have a few announcements in the pipeline for 2015, and I’m sharpening my skills and hitting my knees for the next season of life.

So here’s to 2015. May you all learn from your mistakes, remember the good times, and be brave enough to keep trying when the times are tough.

– Clark

Obladi, Oblada

Life has a nasty tendency of going on. Louis C.K. wrote that life isn’t something that just happens to you. It’s something that’s always going on around you, something you participate in and witness. That thought helped a lot over the last year, as a lot about my view of the world changed.

I came back to it recently, as my grandma’s condition gets steadily worse.

It’s funny. I don’t believe in an afterlife anymore. I think we’re born, we live, then we die. Poof. That’s it. Once I realized that, my sense of theism just fell away and was gone.

That’s not the funny part.

The funny part is that I can never admit it to people. Especially people who are on their way out, or to people who are just struggling with big life questions. There have been times I’ve just lied about my beliefs because it’s been easier.

The courage to live in line with my beliefs eludes me more often than not. I guess I’m not that different from the faithful in that respect.

I keep playing out a scene in my head. Nana asks me something about dying, and I lie to her about my beliefs because she’s dying, and I’d tell her anything to take some of the fear of that away. Dishonest, but comforting. There are worse things to live with. Might be a talent that makes me a better helper. Instilling hope, you could call it. If there’s no life after death, it’s not like it’ll matter soon, anyway.

I wish I had a better moral for that. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, maybe? More likely that soft lies can be kinder than hard truths.

Who says you can’t go home?

As you all know, Austin’s Grandma is very sick. What you may not know, is that I grew up down the street from her. In fact, I met Austin (almost 18 years ago) because he used to go to her house every day after school.

I have many memories at Nanna’s house. Swimming in her pool in the summer time was one of the best. I felt like the member of a special club, and my best friend and I were the presidents of the board. No one got in without Nanna’s say so. And for a few short summers, we played like mad geniuses let lose on the world.

I would walk my dog, Buster, by Nanna’s house. Even if Austin wasn’t there, she would always wave at me. And even though Nanna had choice words about my parents homeschooling me, she always welcomed me into her home.

Nanna isn’t doing well. And on Christmas Day, my dog Buster, died.

My childhood had been over in my mind, but it truly ended in my heart this Christmas. Family and friends have moved away or passed on. My home town has changed dramatically. And that which remains doesn’t mean the same.

I dug a grave with my dad. Austin had to say goodbye to Nanna. Clark is missing Christmas for the first time in his life.

Childhood is over, and I may go on morning it for a good long while.

I pray for bright New Year, as the old one goes out with much pain.

-DC

Nana’s Last Christmas

God, I’ve hit the hat trick for late night updates. It should be a wake-up call. This time though, I have a pretty good excuse.

My grandma has been sick and getting sicker this whole month. Memory trouble. When it started, she was remembering things that didn’t happen. Turns out, a string of tumors in her brain is slowly squeezing the life out of her. The breast cancer, it seems, has had the last laugh.

I didn’t tell anyone. Even the other guys at the blog. When they read this tomorrow, or maybe the day after, it’ll be the first time they hear (surprise!). I always isolate to process. It’s a bad habit of mine. Besides, I reasoned, it’s Dan’s first Christmas with his wife, and he doesn’t need a Debbie Downer eating up all his time and attention. Truth is, I’m afraid telling people will make the whole thing real.

I’ve been numb, more than anything. With the stress of the new job, the 5 stages of grief have been slow in arriving. I might still be in denial. Or maybe the early stages of compassion fatigue are forming a soft pillowy callous around the emotions.

I didn’t know what to get her for Christmas. At the beginning of the month I got her a glass rose. It has a glass butterfly on it. It’s gaudy, it’s kitsch, and she’ll love it. But I usually try to get someone something long-term when I go shopping for presents. That seems selfish now, that her possessions will soon return to me.

She’s in hospice now, on medication that is somewhat successful in bringing down the swelling in her brain. She still comes and goes, from what I hear. My work schedule is keeping me from visiting her. I’ll never forgive myself if it keeps me from seeing her before she goes.

We’re trying to give her one last Christmas at our house. She wanted it at hers, but she isn’t doing well enough to manage all the stairs there. That’s what hurts the most.

I ended up getting her chocolate. The best I could find on short notice. It seemed fitting, like a sugary mandala. Beautiful and temporary. Even someone who can’t remember the name of the gift-giver can remember a gift like chocolate. Even if it’s just for a little while.

-Austin

Go It Alone

In just over a week, I will spend my first Christmas away from home. I’m blessed that I was able to make it home for the first 24 holidays, but that doesn’t make it any easier to miss the 25th. I’ll also have the apartment to myself for the next couple weeks, making it a very muted, very sparse holiday – in my apartment, at least.

Fortunately, I have some amazing neighbors that are letting me spend Christmas with them, and the day will be full of food, singing, and merriment. Thank you so much, Cameron and Amanda – I’m looking forward to it.

Until then, I’m buckling down on building websites and making presents. With the roommates gone, my projects can spread into the common areas – a welcome option when working on multiple pieces at a time. As sad as I am to be without roommates, I think I’m going to be a productive powerhouse with my newfound freedom.

So away I go to keep clicking, painting, and working.

Happy holidays, everyone.

– Clark

Grit

I left for work with writer’s block, and I came back exhausted. So I’ll be brief again.

The idea of grit has been on my mind for a while. They mentioned it in grad school, and it has stuck with me since. Not just courage, but aggressive courage. A challenge, a dare to the situation to become more difficult, So that you can rise to it more. Not just perseverance, but worldliness on top of it.

It’s certainly something I’ve needed a lot of since starting my new job.

My heart goes out to these kids. Less so recently, I’ll admit, because mentally ill children are insufferable, and I get paid to suffer them. But still, all of them come from terrible situations, and living at the ranch is more punishment than opportunity. But, sympathy and mercy won’t help them. What they need is accountability, character, and some of that same grit I use.

So I’ll rise to the challenge. Again and again. Until I prove to myself and the world it can be done. Then I teach it to these kids. Maybe then I can start making that difference I set out to make.

-Austin

Paths of Victory

It’s happening. Like marrying the love of my life, an other dream is coming true. Like moving to New York, I’m following through on an other plan. And like going to Disney world, my inner child is rejoicing.

I’m writing a comic. And not just any comic. A comics that Austin and I conceived of almost ten years ago, but we never dreamed it would amount to anything.

This isn’t just exciting to me: I’ve been writing I produced scripts for years. But this time, I have a partners who are commuted to the cause.

Austin is co-writing with me. Which is a cool new experience for both of us. I’ve never written with other people before. It’s always been a solo adventure. But, one of my best friends is now at the helm with me.

As if that weren’t cool enough, I have the pleasure of working with Matthew Stefani. A brilliant up and coming artist and designer who I met on the roof of Courtney’s old apartment by sure luck.

I hope to share some initial art with you next week, but for now, I just wanted to announce that my dreams are coming true. Am I writing Batman or the x-men? No. But I want to make comics, and I’m actually dong that now. And for the first time since I moved to New York, I feel like in not spinning my wheels. I’m revving up.

Be on the look out, and prepare to be annoyed. Because I don’t plan on shutting up about this until February, at the earliest.

Big Fish

I applied for a job today. Well, not exactly applied, but I talked to the owner of a large Manhattan company about building a new website for his business.

If he had been interested, I could have moved to part time in food service and reintroduced web design into my daily schedule. Unfortunately, he already had someone on the job, so I’m sticking with the food service lifestyle.

Post-move, I keep hoping that I’ll strike it rich – that I’ll find one job or one connection that will pull me out of my retail/food service world and into the professional Manhattan lifestyle. Every time I think I’ve found my break, it crumbles away in front of my eyes. This was one of those opportunities, and I must say it stung a bit.

This rejection makes me think that it’s time to look for some smaller breaks. A bunch of normal-sized finds that add up to something bigger. I’ve been looking for a very large Lego™, while maybe I should be building up the small pieces that already surround me.

Who knows, maybe a small website gig will turn into a big job. I’ll never find out unless I start trying. The idea of working full time while taking on side work is terrifying, but not nearly as terrifying as being stuck in an expensive city with too much fear to take risks.

So it’s time to brush off my Photoshop, defrag my computer, and start kicking some web design butt.

A Brief Check-In

Life is finally starting to resume after the strange fugue summer, Dan’s wedding, and the new job. I lost my new confidence and found it, and in finding it feel alive again.

I realized (again) I have a voice, and competencies, and a worldview. Even the people that have been at this job for years have things to learn from me.  There are things I need to improve upon, of course. I imagine literally everybody two months into a new job has things they need to improve on. But I’m stepping up more, and people are starting to tell me it shows. More than that, I’m starting to remember the old lessons on valuing myself, and I can feel that sense of congruence returning.

Big things are coming down the tube between Dan and I. Tomorrow I start really digging in my creative heels. I’ll let him break the news (because I know it would break his heart if he didn’t), but I will say some lifelong dreams are about to come true.

With Christmas on the way, and I’m finally in the same town as my family when it happens. On top of that, I have money to spend on them. Hopefully, that will be a trend for the foreseeable future.

With any luck, this is the start of that transition from surviving to thriving that marks an interesting life.

-Austin

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

It’s been a hell of a week. Those of you who check with us regularly will know I didn’t post on Friday. I won’t make excuses, but I will tell you that in two weeks or so, you’ll know why.

For now, I’ll let you know this much. I feel like being in New York is finally paying off. Some major life dreams are happening. Not, “almost” happening. Or, “in a few years, with the right connections,” happening. Somethings I’ve been wanting to do for, literally, as long as I can remember.

It feels good to cash your dreams. And it feels great when struggle is rewarded. But the best feeling in the world, is knowing that if time travel was possible, you could go tell your dreaming childhood self, that yes, some day you’ll get there.

Soon, dear reader, I’ll be bombarding you with links to other projects. For now, I will be glad for my good fortune and keep my eye on the prize.

-DC