Who Is This Guy, And Why Should I Follow His Blog?

Hi, Y’all,

I started my blog in September of 2017. A lot of stuff has happened since then, and I have added a lot of posts. I have recently purchased a domain – jimgblack.blog – through WordPress.com, who has been posting my blogs from the beginning, and so I am editing this post to bring it up to date.

So…the title, Broken Anvil…what does it mean? I hear you asking. When I was younger my daddy used to say I could tear up an anvil, if I could ever get my hands on one. It wasn’t that I was a destructive little brat (depending on whom you ask), just very inquisitive as to how things worked. So, I would tear things apart to get to the insides. I just never could put them back together – hence the reason I’m not a surgeon.

Anyway, I have often thought that Broken Anvil would be a good name for a lot of things, none of which I could ever get around to creating. So I figured, what the heck? Use it as the title for my blog. If you look at my profile, you will see that I started this venture to practice my writing and just have fun with it.

I am starting my first book, and welcome any and all help, advice, tips, tricks and criticisms I can get. I hope you will read and follow my posts, and recommend me to others. My two biggest wishes are that I will become a better writer, and that you will just enjoy what you read. I have a lot of interests, and will write on a variety of things. Some serious. Some humorous. But always from the heart and my warped perspective on things. You can also follow me on Twitter and my writing page on Facebook, which I see needs a lot of serious work, by clicking on the social media icons found on each page. I hope you like what you see. If you do, please leave a like and/or a comment. And feel free to recommend my blog to others who might enjoy it.

Twitter and My Grandparent’s Farm

So! It’s been a long time since my last post. Last April to be exact. I hope everyone has had a great – and safe – Summer/Winter, depending on which side of the equator you’re on.

You’re reading the title and thinking to yourselves, (I know you are. I can sense it.) “Wow! You’re grandparents got WiFi on their farm.” Uh…no. My grandparents are long since deceased and the farm is long gone. However, if you follow my Twitter account (jimgblack1), you will see the following in my timeline, #vss365, which is a daily writing prompt exercise. The prompts are given every morning and a different very talented writer is responsible for each different month. VSS stands for Very Short Story and, since Twitter only allows 280 characters, yes, you have to keep it short. When I first discovered it I was writing almost every day. After a break I decided to get back to the daily exercise to keep practicing my writing, and it’s a great way to meet like-minded writers.

The prompt for August 1st was cellar. I decided that a theme was what I needed to stay on task, and cellar got me thinking about the old farmstead that my grandparents bought in Georgia back in the 1970s. The old farm became my theme. I was doing good the first three days. The prompts were cellar, sacrifice and Jupiter. Yes, I even came up with a good one for Jupiter. Today’s word, though, had me stumped. Empress! Oh, my. There aren’t any empresses that I know of in Georgia, and certainly none in the 1970s. Suddenly, as things sometimes do, a whole plethora of words invaded my head and a poem started taking form. It’s way too long for #vss365, however, I thought I’d write the whole thing here as a blog, and put an excerpt on the Twitter prompt. So…here goes:

This word, I think will stump me

This one will make me fall

There are no empresses in Georgia

At least, none that I recall

I started my mind wandering

Over animals, minerals and plants

Were there Empress Roses, Empress Quartz

Maybe Empress Ants

So I sat down to an online search

Just to see what I could see

And staring back from the screen

The Chinese Empress Tree

Then all at once I saw it

Very clearly in my head

That stately Chinese Empress

Growing beside the shed

It’s petals pink and delicate

Sickly sweet was it’s smell

The colors reminded me closely

Of an abalone Shell

Okay, by now you’ve figured it out

So I guess I will confess

“A Chinese Empress Tree in Georgia

Surely, man you jest”

Maybe there wasn’t an Empress Tree

On the acreage where I once romped

But you gotta admit

It’s a hell of a poem

And it helped me with this prompt!

Haha!! Those last two lines crack me up! Thank you for reading and supporting my blog and my writing.

Back to the Anvil!

Take Your Time

What comes to mind when you hear those words, “take your time”? Maybe you think of “slow down” or “pay careful attention”. I had a different meaning in mind when I thought about this blog, however, I think “slow down” and “pay careful attention” fit the bill here, too. I’m talking about taking your vacation time.

I recently took two weeks off from work. This is something I started last year and was fortunate enough to do again this year. I turned 52 on April 18th, and have been in my current career for just over twenty-two years, twelve of those as a state employee. I used to feel guilty about taking time off and leaving my coworkers to cover shifts without me there to help. You know what I realized? They don’t feel bad about taking time off and leaving me there. So, in October of 2017 I told myself, “Self…if you wait to take time off only when you have somewhere to go, you’ll never take any time off.” I got to thinking about my work schedule, the fact that my wife is now retired, we are empty nesters and able to take some short-term trips, and I sat down with the calendar for 2018 and started planning my time off. I sat down in October of last year and did the same thing.

Before I go into my plan, I need to clarify some things. I work twelve-hour shifts, which breaks down to about fifteen or sixteen nights a month (anyone who works twelves knows how this works). One week I work Monday, Tuesdays and Friday-Sunday. The next week I only work Wednesday and Thursday. And the weeks alternate like that, so I have every other Friday-Sunday off. During the short weeks (only work Wednesday and Thursday) I can take those two days off and be off seven days. The way it works out I only work about six months out of the year, so I tell people I’m “semi” retired lol! I crack myself up sometimes.

Call it vacation, staycation, playcation or whatever else you want to call it. To me it’s a mental, as well as physical health getaway. Here’s my time off schedule.

One week in January, February and March

Two weeks in April (birthday month)

One week in May

No time off during the summer months, so my coworkers can have vacation time with their kids and families (we’re no longer at the mercy of school schedules since my wife retired, and can take off whenever we want)

One week in September

Two weeks in October (anniversary month)

No time off in November and December so coworkers can spend the holidays with their families (our families are close so we don’t have to travel anywhere to be with them)

I know my plan is unique to me and not everyone has that much time to take, or may be limited to when you can take your time off, due to kids’ school schedules, or spouse’s work schedule, as examples. My point is, if you’ve got the time, “Take Your Time”. If you’ve got a yard project you have been wanting to get done, take some time off and do it. Or at least get a great start on it. And it’s time off that you are working to accrue, so don’t feel guilty about taking it off. I know guys who never miss the opening day of hunting season. They’re in the woods or on the water before the sun comes up. They’ve been doing it right for a long time. Now it’s my time to take my time, slow down and pay attention – to me.

Truck Shopping

So, if you follow me on Twitter, you know that my beloved truck of the past 13 years has died, lonely, in a parking lot in North Carolina. I wasn’t able to be there in the end, but went last week to learn that there is no hope, other than to put in a rebuilt or new motor. I’m going back today to clean it out and say my last goodbye before turning it over to a salvage company. It was a great truck and we had some great trips together, but I have shed my tears and poured one out in remembrance, so now it’s time to put it behind me and move on. That means truck shopping. And even worse – truck payments!

To be honest, I was hoping that the truck would last long enough to get my son home from NC after his time with the military was up, then I was going to trade it for something newer, anyway. In its last act of defiance, it beat me to the punch, taking away my trade in allowance.

I’ve spent a lot of time online lately, searching auto dealerships in the state and looking at their truck and SUV inventories. I’ve discovered a few things in my searching. One of them is new trucks are expensive as hell! Used ones aren’t much better, either. One question I have is, “Why don’t they put beds on trucks anymore?” My old truck was a crew cab pickup with a six and a half foot bed. A few years back I bought a twelve-foot kayak. You should have seen me driving down the interstate with that thing hanging off the back of the truck.

A sheet of plywood is four feet by eight feet. You used to be able to lay a sheet of plywood flat in the bed of a truck and close the tailgate, and you could stack it up to the top of the bed. Now you have to lay it at an angle, because of the wheel wells, and, even with the tailgate down, you still don’t have eight feet, so you have to also add in straps to hold the load in place. Some truck beds and bed liners have slots built in so you can lay a couple two by fours across the bed and raise it up over the wheel wells to lay the plywood flat, however, now you have about a foot of space below that is empty, unless you are buying studs on which to nail said plywood.

Another thing I’ve noticed, too, is that single cab trucks also have the same short beds, and run almost as much in price as the crew cab or double cab trucks. This prompts another question. “If they’re charging the same price for half a cab, why aren’t they compensating for that by giving a longer bed?” In other words, they should add the length of the missing half cab to the bed, making it longer. Maybe a longer bed is an option I could order, but I don’t want to have to wait for the truck. I want to be able to drive it home that day. If there is a new truck out there with a long bed I have yet to find it online.

I do like a lot of the smaller SUVs I’ve seen, and am leaning closer to those, for the price as well as the better gas mileage they offer. I drive sixty miles round trip to and from work and the gas mileage is important. As a “king size” man a car is just not practical. I like to be able to ride without scraping my knuckles on the road when I hang my arm out the window.

I’m off next week, and will be ramping up my search. Hopefully it won’t be long before people will see my pewter Presbyterian College Alumni plate on the front of a nice new vehicle.

Four Peanut Butter Cookies

For those who don’t know, I’m a police officer with twenty-two years under the badge. I’ve seen people at their worst and I’ve seen people at their best. I’ve had some really great assignments and some that had me worried that I might not make it home at the end of my shift. For the past three years I have been working as a university police officer, and hope to retire from here in a few years. It’s a great place to work. It can be tedious at times, and some of the calls are ridiculous. Kids will be kids, you know?

At the end of last year I was in the Starbucks on campus. I ordered a slice of lemon pound cake and a large coffee. One of our students, a young woman who worked there part-time, but was off that night, was in there, after working her other part-time job, and asked if she could pay for my cake and coffee. When I told her she didn’t have to do that, she said that she had several dollars on her card (most colleges and universities have a card that students can load money on to and use it at the eating places on campus), and she would not be able to spend what she had left before the end of the year. She went on to say that her boyfriend was a police officer, and she appreciated when people did nice things for him, such as pay for coffee or a meal. I allowed her to pay for my cake and coffee.

Fast forward to last night. I had finished eating “breakfast” in the cafeteria and, on my way out, looked to see if they had any peanut butter cookies on the dessert bar. They didn’t, so I walked over to Starbucks to see what they had. The same student was working. I looked at the cookies they had. No peanut butter. She asked if I wanted anything and I said I was looking to see if they had peanut butter cookies and commented that the cafeteria didn’t have any. She said that they didn’t sell peanut butter anymore. I bought another kind of cookie and a milk, and went back to work.

A few hours later I was putting some cones out in a parking lot, when a car pulled in. I heard a woman’s voice say, “Mr Officer” and, when I turned I recognized the student from Starbucks. She came over and handed me a small container, saying, “I knew you’d be out here and I brought you some peanut butter cookies.” This young woman, after finishing her shift, had gone out and found some peanut butter cookies, and then found me on campus to give them to me. When I finished what I was doing, I opened the container to find four peanut butter cookies. I’m not going to lie, I teared up.

After twenty-two years on the job, with all of the awards, commendations and certifications I’ve received and earned, those four peanut butter cookies, and the spirit in which they were given, beats them all hands down.

Note: I purposely left out the names of the student and the university for privacy purposes, however, I did show this to the student before publishing, and she was very receptive to the post.

Getting Closer

I started this post on January 9, and just found it floundering in my drafts. “Hey” I said, “you need to finish this.” “No wonder your followers haven’t heard from you in a while.” Plus, I’ve been stuck for a post idea, so, here ya go.

Back in October I decided to change course in my writing, and put my novel on hold. I like to tell stories, so I decided to type up some of them and do a memoir, instead. I’ve been working on putting a lot of them down and have about twenty of them ready for editing and formatting. I keep adding stories and adding stories, and I’m not sure that it’s not too many for one book. As I’ve been writing them down, I’ve discovered a pattern; they either talk about work or camping. I’ve about decided to write two memoirs, one for each topic.

I have been looking into Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) to self publish. I think this is a good way to get my foot in the door and start with a small project, before publishing a larger work, such as my novel.

My next step is to download the formatting/ publishing software, create a cover, set up my Broken Anvil Publishing LLC, create a logo and set up a bank account for the LLC. I’m still hoping to have the first book out by my birthday, April 18, and we’ll see how it goes from there.

Big THANK YOU to all of my followers. A a huge WELCOME to my new followers. I hope to keep rambling and have you enjoy what I write.

Another Step Taken

One of my writing goals for 2018 was to set up my own website, making it easier – hopefully – to market my blog and for people to be able to find me and my posts. So, right here at the END of 2018, I did this thing. I purchased a web domain through WordPress.com, the site that has hosted my blog for the past 14 months. My personal website address is jimgblack.blog (go ahead and add it to your favorites now, please), and has a front page and a blog page already. I just started setting up the site, and will add more pages as I get more accustomed to navigating the site. You can see my last three posts, and, if you want to see my other posts, you can use the scroll down ARCHIVE menu and choose a month to peruse. You can also find me at my Facebook writing site (which I see I need to do some serious work on) and my Twitter page by clicking the social media icon on either page. Pretty cool, huh? Anyway, I’ve got it for a year right now, and will continue to play with it and tweak it for maximum use. My next project will be to establish my LLC and trademark my Broken Anvil Press brand. 2019 looks to be an interesting year.

Until next time.

My Conversation With Millie

We have cats. Seven to be exact. They are all strays and rescues that we have taken in, well, more like they adopted us, and we have loved and fed and cared for and had them all fixed. We often wonder what they would say if they could talk with us; would they tell us from where they came, what they think about each other, what they think about us and our home, why they won’t eat certain brands of cat food, etc?

Millie is one of our cats. When he showed up on our back porch, my daughter and I both said that she looks like a Millie, and the name stuck. Then we found out that she was actually a he, so now Millie is short for Milton. Earlier today I saw Millie on the back porch, looking toward one of our neighbors’ house. I knew that he was watching their little dog running around inside their fence, and imagined the conversation we would have. Before I go into it, let me just add this little disclaimer:

I don’t do drugs, nor do I drink to excess. I have had plenty of sleep and have eaten two good meals today. The following conversation between me and my cat is strictly the workings of a creative geni…uh…mind and nothing else.

Millie asked, “Why do the neighbors keep their dogs inside a fence?”

“So they won’t run away from home and get lost”, I replied. “Their owners would be very heartbroken if their dogs ran away.”

But, you don’t keep us inside a fence. Do you not care if we run away and get lost?”

“You and the others would be able to jump the fence and run away, if you wanted to, isn’t that right?”

“I guess that’s right.”

“You and the others came to us, remember? We love you and take care of you, so that you wouldn’t want to run away in the first place.”

” I wouldn’t want to leave this place. It’s my home now. I remember when I first came here, through the woods. I didn’t know where I had come from, or how long I had been on my own. There were a lot of others here, just like me. Some not as welcoming, but we all learned how to live together.”

“And we have always tried to let each of you know that you are loved here.”

“Do dogs not realize how good they have it at their homes, that they would want to run away?”

“Some dogs are very active and adventurous”, I said. “They can run and explore so far that they lose all sense of direction and where home is. Cats tend to stay closer to home.”

“What about Sam?” Millie asked. “He never went far from home. He was kind of lazy, too. You didn’t keep him in a fence. No chance of him getting lost.”

“Sam was already up in age when he found us. I think he was tired of running and was just happy to find a forever home.”

“Dogs are kind of stupid, aren’t they? They chase their tails and run in circles and chase squirrels…”

“Much the same way as cats?”

This got me a sideways glare from Millie and, what sounded like a snort, if cats can snort.

“Would you ever get another dog?” Millie asked.

“What would you all think if we did?”

“Stupid dog.”

“Millie…”

Another sideways glance and snort.

“It might not be so bad, if it wasn’t too hyperactive. It would take a long time for us to warm up to it, though.”

“We’ll see what happens. We’re not talking about it happening any time soon, though.”

“That’s good. Can I have some dry food now?”

“Sure, Buddy. Come on, let’s go inside.”

Photos: by Jim G Black

First: Millie

Second: Charlie, Wicket, YK (gone, but not forgotten)

Third: Boo Boo and Pudge

Fourth: Tabby

Fifth: Sam (also gone, but not forgotten)

Sixth: Lamb