Lessons Learned In Young Love

Nyckole Hannoonah would have turned 30 today.

A little journey back into my past love life which fans of my first book, Love Buzz might find somewhat familiar. In a time just after high school, when I had moved off to Atlanta, Georgia in the interest of furthering my education, I met Nycki and fell hard for her. We were young, broke college kids, just naive enough to think that the love we felt in that short period of time we’d known each other was some sort of sign that we were meant to spend the rest of our lives together.

Like most relationships of this nature are want to do when we’re young and “just figuring it out”, the life plans I’d made with Nycki never got around to taking off. I touched upon my relationship with Nycki in a short portion of Love Buzz, in which our protagonist, (and not so subtle “me” analog) Norm Raymer, in between one of his break up/make up cycles with Maggie Gunther, found himself in a romantic interlude with a young girl named Gwen Watson (Way lame Spider-Man reference!) that lasted for about two of the book’s sixteen chapters. Like the rest of the story of Norm and Maggie, the story of Norm and Gwen is equal parts fact and fiction. Where those differences lie though, is for you to wonder, dear reader. Whenever anyone asks me questions about the fact and the fiction behind Love Buzz, I prefer to lean to the age old writerly cop-out of “letting the work speak for itself”.

Suffice to say, to those who’ve read the book and seen how Norm’s relationship with Gwen ended, the relationship between Nycki and myself ended in very much the same manner. The story of Love Buzz being the story of Norm and Maggie though, meant that the story between Norm and Gwen, and by extension, myself and Nycki got sold short in the interest of concise storytelling. The story of Nycki and I didn’t actually end with our parting of ways. It actually became an opening to one of the darker chapters in my young adulthood. All of this was something I had been saving with intentions over the years since her passing to turn into a book of it’s own. As of now, I’ve kind of lost the motivation and the stomach to finish the project, but it sits on my hard drive in a series of files in a folder marked “The Grieving Process”. Perhaps one day, I’ll get the nerve back to tackle it but as time has passed and different projects have come up, I’ve not had the stomach to begin dredging up all of those old feelings.

I spent six months after crashing and burning my educational career in Atlanta and incurring student loan debt on an unfulfilled degree biting back on anger and resentment at Nycki that sat in the pit of my guts like a cancer.  Six months of cursing and brooding and listening to the most godawful depressing music I could find. The same period of time that our relationship lasted. Then I got an email that made things all worse. One night in 2003, a cousin of Nycki’s who I had briefly met in the time I spent with her had written to dump all of the following information on me in under three hundred words. 1) Nycki had gotten married to another guy. 2) she had since been in and out of the hospital due to the an amplified intensity in same headaches that she would frequently get when we were together, and 3) two months previous, according to the cousin, one of Nycki’s frequent headaches had somehow caused her brain to swell to the point that it pushed into her brain stem and killed her.

After a brief exchange of emails, i got her cousin’s phone number and we had a long talk over the phone over everything that had gone down for the sake of my own sense of clarity. The cousin went out of her way to track down my contact information because, as she said just before we hung up, she “thought I would want to know, because you were really good to her.”

I let those last words ring in my ears as I hung up the phone and began to process all of what had happened. This girl I intended on marrying had, in a short time since we broke up, married someone else and then died shortly thereafter. Furthermore, all that rage I had held onto over our relationship’s end had been something which, in my mind, was something I was holding in strategically, for whenever she might decide to try and contact me again, so that when I eventually plucked up the nerve to pick up the phone and tell her every inch of how I felt, it would be in such a righteous manner that it would solve all my problems from there on out.

Now I knew that phone call was never going to come and I had left every bit of that anger sit in waiting for nothing. With Nycki gone, I now had no place to direct those feelings other than inward. These unresolved feelings just retreated to a deeper part of me where I held onto them and for a while, became a truly reckless person who did some regrettable things that I’m not proud of.

But while there may be mysterious quantities of bullshit to sift through, I will say that the essence of Gwen was Nycki all over, from her style of dressing to her dirty mouth. The one thing I’ve always liked most in a woman has been a similarly horrible sense of humor to my own. Nycki had that in spades. That girl could make me laugh on some of my worst days living in Georgia.

I learned of Nycki’s passing six months after the fact, just around the same time that Love Buzz was starting to gel inside my head. Because of this, I decided that despite my inclination to not dictate to my artists how each character should look, beyond a couple of broad strokes, the character of Gwen should resemble Nycki’s own personal look as closely as possible. As mixed up as my feelings for her were, I wanted at least for this small section of the book to pay some kind of tribute to her.  This meant that several different incarnations were drawn of her as the book changed artists a couple of times, but each one nailed her likeness.

Her old Angelfire site still exists as something of a somber digital graveyard rittled with pop-up ads and , which I’ll go searching for about once a year just to see if it’s inevitably disappeared into the electronic void from never being touched or maintained. I’m sure it will probably happen one of these days.

Nycki taught me a lot about romance and relationships in our brief time together. I held onto the regret of never getting to say goodbye to her, or never getting to truly speak my mind against how things ultimately went down with us. The thing she taught me most of all was the importance of closure for the sake of your own sanity. Years and miles have passed since this time period and I’ve been out the other end of that dark period for quite some time. I’ve had other relationships come and go. The good ones and the bad ones, none of them ever really completely leaves us, and the majority of the time, we come out better for it and the little piece of them that we carry around with us as we move forward and they all leave us with their fair share of baggage to carry on after they end, whether we choose to deal with it quickly or carry it around for long after it’s done. When relationships end, be they through the gradual deterioration of a couple growing distant after years and years together or the naivety of two stupid kids running on an equal mix of hormones and impulse before burning out quickly, I can look back at many of the people I’ve known in the past whose behaviors and motivations are clearly guided by the thick callous that can grow over our emotional selves in effort to as a form of self-defense over falling into the same traps again. It would be easy for me to write out every angry thing I ever wanted to say to Nycki but didn’t get the chance to here and now, but I honestly I forgave all of that crap a long time ago.

So, for her birthday, I’ve chosen to reflect on the good parts of our brief experiences passing through one another’s lives. Instead of remembering her as the first girl who really squashed me flat, I’m choosing to remember the girl who was impulsive enough that she proposed to me with a cheap little fashion ring that couldn’t have cost more than a twenty bucks, and me, the guy who accepted without a second thought and promised to get her a real one the second my broke ass could afford it. It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 whole years.

Happy birthday, Nycki.

The Weight Of A Story

The process of researching my past that’s gone into The Long Odds has provided me a measure of catharsis. In the last month, I’ve spent time researching the whereabouts of my own grave, contacting the doctor who first diagnosed my heart defect (who thought I might have died years ago) , and getting all sorts of emails from old friends I hadn’t heard from in years when that Courier Journal article hit. It’s come to put into perspective the weight of my personal story, which is something I’ve been telling so often over the last 26 years of my life that the story had just become words to me. Something that I would tell people who were just getting to know me, or telling to government officials that I might be talking to on behalf of the American Heart Association. You know how a powerful word or set of words can lose it’s meaning upon too many repetitions?  That’s how my story had begun to feel to me, and for a guy who’s been working to become a career storyteller, that’s not the best thing in the world. The experience of writing all of it out has begun to bring back the power and gravity of everything that I’ve always known, but I guess, somewhat forgotten.

I started learning the importance and the weight that a story can hold at the age of four years old, when my mother, who was desperate to find some way to save my young life and only had a matter of years to do so, began working for the AHA as a volunteer and advocate. She used to be a very nervous public speaker until she began getting out there on the stump on my behalf.  Slowly, after a number of times with telling my story to crowds of people through a stream of tears, she became more confident in the story she told and the power of what she’d had to say. Not long after that, with my mom’s permission, began using me as their poster child for CHD research. I thought it was pretty cool, even if I only had a limited understanding of what exactly was going on.

Now that I’m spending time in my old hometown for a little while, I went to our storage locker a few blocks away from my brother’s apartment to go through some of my old things and see if I could find any old things that could be used to enrich what I’m doing here and I found a whole box full of old AHA campaign fliers from over 20 years ago which centered on my mom and myself. I brought a couple home and scanned them to share here.

What was interesting about finding a huge box full of these cards and fliers was how four year old me, in the world full of medical uncertainty I was born into, and then to see it juxtaposed against the image and words of this flier from four years later…

(The learning to ride a bicycle part? Never really took to that. Still can’t stay balanced on one of those damn things, no matter how I try.)

My time with AHA has continued and increased in the time since both of these pieces were printed. After spending my years growing up letting my mom tell her version of our story and ultimately being the champion of everything that got me where I am today. I got my sense of never giving up from her, no question. I couldn’t be more grateful for the lessons that she, and by extension my work for the AHA has afforded me. In the years since I started out as a poster child for AHA, I’ve gone on trips with them to Washington DC on numerous occasions where I have spoken to members of US Senate, Congress, as well as loads of other government officials on heart related issues for the states of Kentucky and Connecticut where I have held residence. Last year, I actually helped get a law signed in Connecticut that made Pulse Oxymetry screenings mandatory for all newborns in the state. All of that happened on the back of stories like my own and the stories of parents like my mother who spoke on behalf of their small children who would likely have passed away if not for Pulse Ox screenings.

I’m here to tell stories. Whether they are works of slice-of-life fiction like Love Buzz and The Zipper Club, biographical stuff like The Long Odds, or some of the more floaty, weird shit that I’ve been pitching lately with my agent (More on that soon, hopefully).

That my friends, is the importance of story. Everybody has one. Some of us might think they’re more boring or uneventful than others, but I don’t buy that. Unless you’ve lived tied to a chair in a dark room all your life, you have to have done something interesting with your life. Sure, life is boring about 95% of the time. I spend the majority of my time sitting on my ass in front of a computer screen all day. It’s that other 5% of the time that gives us something to talk about. You have to have the awareness to spot the “stories” in your life when they unfold.

Odds are, you’re more interesting than you might think.

THE UNEVENTFUL YEARS (The Cliffsnotes Of An Early Childhood)

This will sound utterly terrible, but I don’t recall a hell of a lot of much importance from the years after my first surgery, leading up to my second. With as much that was at stake in those years, I know my parents have about a thousand stories to tell, but as for me personally, the things I can remember are sparse. With that in mind, and in the interest of skipping through the boring parts, I now present to you the Cliffsnotes version of my life in as close to chronological order as I can muster, from the ages of 1 to 7.5 years old. Basically the verbal equivalent of a montage. Hey, Jesus went from being a baby to 30 years old. I’d like to try and be a little more thorough.

* Began learning to talk around 9 months old, well before I was even able to walk, proving that even at a young age, I was going to be hard to shut up.

* Experienced my first death of a loved one when my Grandfather Foster (or “Fa” as I called him) passed away from lung cancer due to his smoking habit. I was only one or two years at the time and although it’s well-documented that children can’t recall things in their later years from that early in life, I will still swear on a thousand Bibles that I remember crawling into his room and asking him for candy. 

* Became best friends with our three legged black cat, Bart and began my love for damaged but affectionate animals.

* Became a fan of He-Man and the Masters Of The Universe. Had my mother sew me this costume, which won me a costume contest two years in a row at my old day care. 

*Ended up shouting “NINETY NINE CENTS, A DOLLAR CASH, COCAINE!!!” aloud and in the middle of a grocery store, much to my parent’s shock. None of us really know where I may have gotten that line, (although I did watch a lot of TV) and even for the early 1980’s, that’s clearly an incredibly good price for cocaine. I’m only shocked no one in that supermarket tried to take me up on the offer.

* Loudly accused my mother of “throwing me under the table” at an S&S Restaraunt, when she was patting me on the back in an attempt to dislodge a piece of food I had been choking on. 

* My younger brother Alex, who will be expanded upon later in our story, was born on July 25th, 1986. Being a fleshy pink ball of goo clad in a diaper makes for less compelling storytelling than his later years will.

* Developed my first childhood crush (Age 5) on Noel, who I first met in in my time at Prospect Daycare. After inviting me to her birthday party and becoming the first girl I ever met that I didn’t suspect of being covered in horrid, lethal cootie, I spent the better part of a year secretly planning to marry her. (Noel who is now happily married with a child, follows me on Facebook and Twitter, and chances are pretty good that she will more than likely end up reading this burning admission at some point. Hi, Noel!)

* Made my first “best friend” from childhood in the form of Seth Althaus, to whom I ended up taking on an Igor to his Dr. Frankenstein plots to blow up and escape from the walls of the aforementioned Prospect Daycare Center, and with whom I’ve mostly stayed in touch ever since.  

* Got bit on the ass by a goose and have had an irrational hatred for the horrible birds that runs deep to this very day.

* Got a Teddy Ruxpen doll, which would later go on to traumatize my fragile young mind, when one of his animatronic eyeballs caved into, and became trapped inside of his head, leaving the gaping eye hole filled with circuits to shatter my child-like illusion of magic. 

* Became horrified to the point of nightmares by my first encounter with pictures of African Tree Frogs in a nature book. Those horrible red eyes were something that kept me awake at night. 

* Met my lifetime best friend and self-proclaimed “body guard”, Jason Skees after moving into our home in Goshen, Kentucky. 

*Made my first “enemy” out of a kid named Matt, back when enemies meant things like playing pranks and throwing water balloons filled with pee. I don’t recall how we got off to not liking each other to begin with, but that animosity went on for a couple of years at least. (Matt and I later became semi-friendly for a time before he died tragically in a car accident.)

* I discovered my unabashed love for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (More on that in a later post.)

* Completed the childhood “best friend” trifecta when I met Robbie Baar in Kindergarten. 

* Saw my first R-rated movie in the form of Total Recall. I only remember laughing my head off at the lady with the three boobs. (The same reaction I have while watching it to this day.)

Of course, all of these things helped to some degree to form who I am. My awareness of my illness was pretty minimal in those days, and my parents didn’t encourage any sort of measures to keep me from acting like a normal kid. Though I had my limitations, I knew them well enough to take a break when things got too taxing. A lot more can happen in a period of seven and a half years, but the real show is in everything that happened after.

A Little Piece Of Land In Georgia

      Soon after receiving the news of my health situation and rushing me to the specialists at Egleston Hospital (Now known as CHOA) in Atlanta, Georgia, my parents and I reunited for a brief matter of minutes before the decision was made to fast-tracked into a surgical suite. There, I underwent a heart catheterization which showed them the sizable hole in the wall between my two ventricles. At the time, major surgery on newborns was a mostly unheard of idea, so instead, they chose to perform a more temporary measure that commonly helped to buy children a bit more time. The procedure  that involved a small incision just below my left breast and the placement of a surgical grade rubber band around the  in my heart to keep more fluid from escaping than necessary. The hole between my ventricles was big enough that the rush of  blood that was escaping was going fast and with enough force between the two chambers that it could potentially cause a lot of damage if it were to be left to run unchecked.  The entire procedure was never meant to be any sort of remedy to the situation so much as a prophylactic measure to hopefully buy me some chance at a slightly extended future.  The idea was that hopefully with this band, I would live several more years until A) medical science advanced enough to tell doctors how to fix this problem and B) my body had matured and developed enough to withstand the type of surgery that would have entailed.

My stay at Egleston lasted for about six weeks. They performed the surgery when I was 2 days old and afterwards they kept me all that extra time to monitor my medications. I had a lot of trouble with eating at the time and ended up losing two pounds in all my time in the hospital. I went from being the biggest baby in the nursery where I was born to losing a solid 2 pounds in just my first few days. It got to the point that they began adding a special formula to the milk they fed me to give me some extra calories. My entire family remained on pins and needles for the first couple of weeks of my stay. Eventually, my dad ended up needing to go back to work while my mom stayed on maternity leave and my Grandmothers from both sides, Grandmother Foster and Grandmom Ward stayed with my mother and I at the hospital the entire time.

My parents had told me sugar-coated versions of all these facts and stories as I grew up, because I was a curious child who always knew I was different from other kids and wanted to know why.  I knew I had a heart problem and I knew that one day I would need to have another surgery to fix the problem. We just didn’t really talk much about what could happen if I didn’t get the surgery or how dire my situation had been. It’s part of why, despite my particularly extreme circumstances, I feel like I had a relatively happy childhood. I wasn’t abused, I didn’t live in poverty, (although there were some rough times in our later years, but that’s a story for another time) and I never felt unloved in those early years. Even when friction began to build in my parent’s marriage, they managed to keep my brother and I insulated from it.

As a teenager, well beyond the years of my getting through the second surgery and seeing a marked improvement in my health and well-being, I started asking more questions of my parents, who had long since divorced and become more apt to sharing some of the more darkened details of the circumstances of my formative years.  The biggest revelation I had revealed to me was that my grandmother and grandfather, who had bought a cemetery plot for themselves at Brooks Cemetary in Brooks, Georgia, had sent my Aunt Kathy, one of their older daughters out of the hospital on the day they heard the news about my defect diagnosis to buy a small piece of space for my remains to go, in the seemingly very likely event that I passed in the days that followed.  Since my grandparents have passed, we haven’t been able to find record of whether or not that space of land is still sitting there in my name. For all we know it’s been sold off a long time ago and is occupied by some other departed soul. One thing remains for sure, the idea of having a grave site waiting for you practically all of your life can have a, shall we say, dramatic effect on a young man as he grows forward into adulthood.

A Badly Drawn Boy Presents: The Sunday Sketch Dump (Vol. 1)

Something I figured I’d do since I’m pretty much making it up as I go along with this blog was the idea that, since I’m technically a professional artist ever since The Zipper Club crowd funded and actually made money off of me offering to do sketches, I’d end up posting some of the ones I did on commission, but for one reason or another, couldn’t throw up on the site for because they didn’t have any sort of place or context to be used here on the blog. Instead of letting these sketches only be enjoyed or ridiculed by the people who paid for them, I figured I’d do a round-up at the end of the week to show off the kind of goofy stuff I kicked out that was unrelated to The Long Odds.

This week, I have three.

First up…

Let it be said that as jaded as I’ve become and as little as I read mainstream superhero books anymore, I’m always going to have a soft spot for Batman. The campy, Adam West version of Batman to be precise. I love that a character that’s been tied to such bleak outlooks and darkness can also be such a bastion of insane fun and wackiness. When Brett Schenker, curator of the online comic site, Graphic Policy asked for his Zipper Club donor perk sketch to be of Batman and the Joker, the idea for what to draw came to me almost immediately. The idea of crossing over the zaniness of the former TV show with some of the bleakness of some of The Man Of Bat’s more modern story lines was too good to pass up.

They’ve currently resurrected the campy TV version of Batman in digital comic form, written by Jeff Parker and illustrated by Jonathan Case. Needless to say, this made my inner fanboy very happy and just putting it out there, if Mr. Case’s hand ever get’s tired, I’d like a little consideration if you guys need a fill-in artist. 😉

Second up, another TZC award perk, this one to comic pin-up and cover artist Joe Pekar, who asked me to do my interpretation of his cheesecake “Good girl” character, Brandi Bare. After reading a couple of Joe’s books, the idea came to me to have Brandi finally wising up to the pervy machinations of her stuffed teddy bear backpack, Bear, and his constant schemes to put his owner in compromising positions like stepping over a grate to have her skirt blown up Marilyn Monroe style. Getting asked to draw a character that I don’t own, by the actual person who does own it was pretty cool, and Joe seems pretty pleased with the job I did, (or at least was kind enough to humor me).

And finally, this one isn’t exactly a commission, but I’ll put it out there for anyone who might want to work something out in the off chance they want to purchase it. My obsession for the last five years with the AMC TV series Breaking Bad will be coming to an end starting next month when the final season begins to air, and I did this while watching an episode the other night. Can’t wait to see how things are going to end for Walt, Jesse, and the rest of the gang, although I’m sure it probably won’t end well for any of them.

Welcome to The Zipper Club

One project you’ll be hearing no shortage of updates on in the coming months is my upcoming all-ages graphic novella series, The Zipper Club with artist Brenda Liz López. The Zipper Club is half the reason I started The Long Odds blogging project after the success of our Zipper Club IndieGoGo campaign provoked an increased interest in my own, personal story with heart disease.

Not long after Love Buzz‘ debut, I was approached by Andrew Goletz, the founder of Grayhaven Comics, who liked what Michelle, Dave, Tom, and myself did so much that he asked if I had any ideas for the new all-ages anthology series they wanted to put together called The Gathering. After spending several days racking my brain for ideas and coming up with a couple of rather uninspired concepts about imaginary friends and mystical adventures that I wasn’t absolutely in love with, I started getting emails about the upcoming yearly gathering of Camp Bravehearts back in my old Kentucky home. After a little bit of wistful reminiscing, I realized that I had my next great story idea.

The story of The Zipper Club, inspired by my own journey growing up with heart disease, as well as my 12 years of experience as a counselor for a congenital heart defect summer camp called Camp Bravehearts inspired me to write a comic book about the kind of kids I’ve had the great fortune of getting to know in all that time.

At age 8, Cliffy Goldfarb was the recipient of an emergency heart
transplant. At age 9, Cliffy is now struggling to cope with the
limitations his still recovering body is undergoing, and the fact that
because of this, he has trouble relating to his peers. When his mom
suggests spending his summer at Camp Bravehearts, a place for kids
living with heart defects like his own, he has some trepidations about
going this camp for “special” kids, but soon learns his worries were
all over nothing when he meets a young girl named Rosie who introduces
him to a group of new friends who encourage him by showing off their
surgical scars to one another and inducting Cliffy into The Zipper
Club.

Over the next year, Brenda and I produced a series of six separate short stories, following the different themes given to us by each subsequent issue of The Gathering‘s editors (Despair, Heroes, Romance, a two part Ghost story in subsequent horror issues, and Myth) and managed to make each theme hit the right note to tell it’s own story while still building on the continuing saga of our kids and their first summer together at Camp Bravehearts. The goal being that when read all together, the shorts would come together to read as one complete story of five kids forming a unique bond over the course of one week at summer camp. The story within the first Zipper Club book is only the beginning, too. Should it become popular enough, Brenda and I have plans to do 4 more books on a yearly basis, telling the story of the five kids, one year later in their lives and development from the ages of 8 years old to 13 by the time we’re done. Our goal is to make each annual book into something akin to the same experience of coming back to summer camp to see the smiling faces of your old friends again and see how their lives have developed. I’m currently wrist deep in scripting next years annual as Brenda finishes up art on the book for year one.

You can pre-order copies of The Zipper Club in The Long Odds’ store on bigcartel.com for just seven dollars. The book will hold 54 pages of content, including 40 pages of fully colored Zipper Club story, as well as several pages of fun back matter, such as games, puzzles, pin-up art, and so forth, all in a digest sized, prestige format package. I’m also working hard on a way to sell copies in bulk for interested retailers and more importantly, children’s hospitals and pediatric cardiac care clinics all over the nation. If anyone reading this is interested in a bulk buy, please shoot me a line through the Contact page  and we’ll see what can be worked out.

We hope everyone enjoys reading it as much as we’ve enjoyed making it.

PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY OF THE ZIPPER CLUB NOW!

DON’T FORGET TO LIKE THE ZIPPER CLUB ON FACEBOOK, TOO!

BETTING THE LONG ODDS – An Introduction

These are the words of a boy who should have died.

I’ve come to be known as a great many things across the span of my thirty year life. Comic book writer, outgoing heart health advocate, internet malcontent, real life malcontent, “that weird kid from high school who showed up dressed as a Catholic schoolgirl that time”, or even “Who the hell are you?” The odds are that if you’re reading this right now, you probably know me as any one of the things on that list. We all come to be defined by our deeds or attributes as our lives progress. It’s something that just can’t be helped because we simply can’t “get to know” everyone, so we often have to label them with our own snap judgments. Above all of these and any other words that might define me; the one label that I truly feel has defined me throughout my entire lifespan thus far is a single word.

Survivor.

I was born in 1982 with a congenital heart problem known as an endocardio cushion defect with a hypoplastic left ventricle, a congenital birth defect so rare that if you Google it, my name is pops up in literally every result. Until recently, children born with the defect were sent out of the hospital with their parents with it going unnoticed until the infant would die mere days later. Doctors have told my family that to their knowledge, I’m the oldest living survivor of my condition. This is due in part to the fact that not long after I was born, medical science advanced so much that my specific condition became identifiable and even treatable in utero.  However, when I was born, the prognosis for children with my defect was so bad that none survived. If not for a keen-eared doctor, I would have ended up as one of those statistics.

For many years, my health problem was something I didn’t like talking about, not because I was timid or ashamed of it, but because it  had become something I would have to talk about so much that the impact of my experiences didn’t hold the same weight for me anymore. They had just become words to recite to doctors at routine physicals or to politicians I was trying to advocate on behalf of the American Heart Association. With the recent success of crowd funding my latest comic book project, The Zipper Club with artist Brenda Lopez, I began to realize again the level of weight that my personal story continues to carry.  Just as I would like for The Zipper Club to become a handbook for teaching children how to deal with adversity in the face of health problems, I began to realize I had so many more stories to tell on the subject.  It helped to reconnect me with the power of a personal story.

Any way you slice it, writing any form of autobiographical work typically involves at least one or two degrees of a self-serving delusion of grandeur. Anyone who writes one of these things and tries to tell you otherwise is a lying goon, but I digress. I intend to try and keep this as low to the ground as possible and insert my own weird brand of humor and insight in an effort to break up some of the more tense entries. What I can promise is that this will not be a grueling, constant slog through my own personal sense of morbidity.  Though it will delve into a fair share of morbid topics from time to time, the central idea of The Long Odds, more than anything, is celebration of life from a guy with the odd perspective of being written off for dead several times before he got a chance to truly start living.

I’m a writer. Statistically speaking, we’re not the sunniest bunch of people who ever lived.  Like most who choose to pursue this as a profession, I deal with your standard depressions, anxieties, and the occasional feelings of inadequacy, but then again, who doesn’t? Unlike most stereotypes that follow writers, I’m not a drug addict, I only drink socially, have never smoked a cigarette in my life, and I’ve never entertained a serious suicidal thought.  My condition no longer requires my having to take any form of medication and hasn’t caused me a single problem since I was eight years old.  I exercise regularly and am working hard to expand the limits of what my body and my heart can take. I’m physically healthier than I’ve ever been, and I’m ready to see what life plans to throw in my path next.

What will follow in the weeks, months, maybe even years ahead will be an uncompromising introspective into the large and small facets of my life as it’s been, as it goes, and what I hope it can become as the seconds on the meter of my borrowed time continue to tick upward.  As unflinchingly honest as I and my admittedly spotty memory can recall (the rest, I’ll either find through research or will either come right out and say it may or may not be slight to total bullshit).

I’ve failed more times than I’ve succeeded at a great many things, but if being written off while lying in hospital beds throughout my formative years with stitches in my chest and tubes coming out of various parts of my body have taught me one thing, it’s that no matter how bleak an outlook gets, there’s no excuse to give up. My hope is that people reading this, no matter what their walk of life, whether suffering from health problems, or just chasing a dream that most of their family and friends shrug off as a fool’s errand,  that my words will speak to at least one of them on an intimate level and help encourage them to keep fighting until they’ve spent their last ounce of strength and then getting in one more punch for good measure.

When that “worst case scenario” hits, when somebody tells you that anything you want to do is impossible, even when the only person stubborn enough to believe in you is you,

Take the bet and roll the dice.

The win’s always bigger when you’re playing the long odds.