Sunday, August 23, 2015

Tungsten Carbide Death Cloud

During the dwindling last days of school last year, I showed the Disney movie 'Big Hero 6' in my classroom. It's a wonderful movie, and for those of you who have never seen it, I highly recommend it. I didn't even mind watching it for six class periods straight.

However, after watching the movie six times in a row, I started to think about one scene in particular. Sometimes I think far too hard on the topic of kids' movies.

(Please forgive the ametuerish pencil; I wish I was as good with drawing software as my brother, Aaron Smith, who creates amazing-looking cartoons.)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

"Lessons from Grandma Mimi"

So, it turns out I have quit a few friends of Korean heritage. Eastern ancestry has always fascinated me, mainly because I have absolutely NONE anywhere in my family tree. So I did a little research, pulled from some stories my friends have told me about their families, and wrote the following short story. Enjoy! 

“What? You don’t believe me?” My grandma Mimi incredulously said for the fifth time in less than ten minutes.

“No, grandma, I believe you,” I responded, the same as I had the first four times she’d said it.

“Well, it’s true!” She pressed, waving her wine glass in my direction. At that second she noticed that it was empty, and waved it at a hostess that was passing our table. “Hey, Toots! Some more of that last one. What was it? Chab-liss.”

“It’s pronounced Chablis, Mom,” my Dad said over his shoulder, from the little round table adjacent to mine and Grandma Mimi’s. He eyed her glass and his face fell. “Oh, come on, Mom! We go over this every time we go to a wine tasting! You’re not supposed to drink the entire glass! You swish, then spit into the bucket.”

“That’s disgusting!” She countered. “What a waste of wine! And besides, if I’d swished and spit, you and your sisters wouldn’t be here right now!”

Behind my dad, I heard my mother murmur “Oh my god,” to herself before covering her face with her hand.

I laughed. I couldn’t help it. Grandma Mimi might have been a crazy old lady, but she was a blast when she was drunk.

“Matthew,” she said to me, pointing with her hand that wasn’t holding the wine glass. The hostess appeared out of nowhere and refilled it, and Mimi grinned up at her, causing the countless wrinkles I her face to momentarily deepen. When the hostess was gone, Mimi repeated, “Matthew. Have I told you about when your grandfather and I left South Korea to come to America?”

She had. Within the last fifteen minutes, actually. “Yes, grandma Mimi. And about how you used to be a Muism shaman.”

Mimi blanched at my words. “What? You don’t believe me?”

Six times, now. I took a sip from my glass and swished the red wine around my teeth before spitting into the bucket. Hmm. Okay.

She jabbed an arthritic finger at me. “We had very important jobs! It was up to us to make sure that peoples’ spirits found their eternal resting places. Without our help, drifting spirits could get snared by all sorts of monsters and demons!” She paused long enough to drink from her glass. “That’s why your grandfather and I waited so long to come to America; I couldn’t in good conscience leave until I had trained a replacement.”

Some of the other people in the winery were starting to stare. I looked sheepishly at their tables and nodded an apology. Hopefully they’d simply think we were an eccentric family, and that would be that.

Which, when Grandma Mimi was “tasting” the wine, that’s pretty much exactly what we were. And I didn’t really mind.

“Well, I’m sure glad you did, Grandma Mimi,” I told her, trying to change the subject. “Because if you hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been born.”

“The hell you wouldn’t have,” Mimi said. “Me and your grandfather would have had children no matter where we were. That man was insatiable.”

Behind us, my mother muttered “Oh my god,” again.

“You don’t believe me?” Grandma Mimi insisted again.

This time, I actually hid my face. “No Grandma Mimi, I believe you… please, please, please don’t elaborate about Grandpa Pak’s… appetites.”

“Not about that,” she replied, waving her hand dismissively. “Good lord, we had five children. I thought that would be obvious.” I choked on a mouthful of wine as she continued, “I meant about shamanism.”

I wanted to tell her that it didn’t matter how strange her stories were, that I loved her and I always would and, if she said they were true, then they’d be true to me. However, I still had wine in my lungs from my grandmother’s earlier lack of tact. My reply came as a gagging cough.

It was apparently not good enough for Mimi. She knitted her forehead, apparently in deep thought, but then her face brightened. She took a small square napkin from the table and dipped her pinky into her wine glass. She then started scribbling on the napkin with red wine, occasionally going back to the glass for more.

I had never learned to read, write, or speak Korean, despite my dad’s insistence, so I couldn’t make out what Grandma Mimi was writing.

After a few seconds, once I was able to breathe again, I asked, “What’s that?”

“You’ll see,” she replied with a wry smile, writing more Korean characters with her finger and red wine. A moment later the napkin was covered with writing and designs. “Now, let me see your hand.”

Whatever Grandma Mimi was doing, I wasn’t sure that I wanted any part of it, especially in public. But refusing her would be extremely rude; not to mention that she’d never do anything to bring me harm. So I extended my hand to her.

She spun the napkin over and slapped the wine-covered side onto my open palm.

I held the napkin for a moment. “Um, Grandma Mimi? What’s this?”

Her glass was tipped to the sky, sliding the rest of its contents down her throat. “You’ll see,” she replied, a new wave of rosy complexion coloring her cheeks. She then turned to the hostess again. “Hey, toots! I’m sitting dry over here!” 

“Good night, Mom,” my dad told Grandma Mimi, stepping away from our guest room. “Be sure to let us know if there’s anything you need.”

“What, and be a burden?” Mimi replied facetiously, but there was humor in her eyes. “Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine. If I need something and I can’t find it, I’ll just wake Matthew and ask him. He’s twenty-two and still lives with his parents; he should earn his keep.”

I smiled at my grandmother, not because I thought she was joking, but because I knew she would do exactly that, for exactly that reason.

My mother and father bid her a final goodnight, then left for their own bedroom. I kissed Grandma Mimi on the cheek, and then headed down the hall.

“Sleep well, Matthew,” Grandma Mimi said, and I turned to see the same wry smile on her face as before. She waved with one wrinkled hand, then stepped into the guest bedroom and closed the door.

I stared at the closed door for a moment, and found myself scratching the palm of my left hand. It had been itching since Grandma Mimi had slapped the wine-stained napkin in it, and it wouldn’t go away no matter how much I washed or scratched.

Whatever, I thought. As long as it doesn’t hinder my shooting. I went into my room, closed the door, and turned on my computer. I was scheduled to log on with my friends Daniel and Brent to play Zombie Nation: Hell and Back together, and it was my turn to take point. I put on my headset and logged into the game. Soon my friends and I were running around a post-apocalyptic nightmare, emptying heavy artillery into hoards of undead.

It was pretty much the best night ever.

We cleared the first act in fifteen minutes, a new record for us, when something outside my window first caught my eye. I couldn’t afford to look away from my screen, because I was aiming a grenade launcher into an incoming wave of zombies. Once the way was cleared of shambling corpses, I finally looked to window.

Of course, there was nothing there.

“Matt? Hey, Matt. We gonna do this, or what?” Daniel’s voice said over my headset.

“Yeah, sorry,” I said, turning back to the screen. I switched my machine gun and picked up a new health kit. “I thought I saw something outside my window for a second.”

“Dude, you live in the suburbs with your parents,” Brent said. “Someone trying to climb into your window is the best thing that could happen to you.”

“Shut up,” I grumbled, emptying my clip into the face of a charging zombie.

In the corner of my eye, something moved by my window again. While momentarily distracted, a zombie snuck up on my side and started gnawing at my brain. By the time Daniel and Brent had gotten it off of me, I’d lost half my health.

“Hold on, guys,” I said, sliding my chair back from my desk. “I need to close my curtains.”

I removed my headset and took one step toward my window. Then I froze. Because, this time, there actually was something outside. It resembled a dog, but its head was unnaturally long, and its eyes shone with an unearthly yellow light. It only had three legs, with nothing but a ragged stump where its front left leg should have been.

The air froze in my lungs, and I didn’t say anything until it opened its mouth and revealed row after row of long, serrated teeth. Then it lunged for the window. A long, purple tongue undulated from its mouth and caressed the glass, as if searching for a way in.

“Holy crap!” I screamed, stumbling backward. I tripped over my desk chair and landed hard on my butt, but it didn’t stop me from scrambling behind my bed and hiding like a complete coward. “Holy crap!”

There were three gentle knocks on my bedroom door. “Matthew? May I come in?”

Grandma Mimi.

My breath came in laboring huffs, and I tried to find the words to tell Grandma Mimi to call the police or 911 or the Ghostbusters or something. Instead I just wheezed in panic, unable to pull my eyes from the creature now getting to first base with my window.

My door creaked open without invitation, and Grandma Mimi peek inside. “Is everything okay, Matthew?”

I sputtered for a moment, and simply pointing a trembling hand at the window.

Mimi entered my room, wearing her nightgown. She turned to the window, and regarded the horrific creature as if it was the daily newspaper. “Oh, that. I figured he would have been here before now. It’s never taken them this long to track one down, but then again Korea is a long way from here.”

I gulped in a great breath. “Grandma Mimi,” I stammered. “What the heck is that thing?”

“That, grandson, is a samjokgu,” she said, as calmly as if we were discussing the weather.

“Grandma Mimi,” I began again. “What’s it doing outside my window?”

“Looking for a nice tasty spirit, would be my guess,” she replied, not taking her eyes form the window. “It smells you.”

I finally looked to her. “Me? Why me?”

She smiled, and the wrinkles around her eyes deepened. “I’ve had a little fun with you, I’m afraid,” she responded. “Remember that napkin I had you hold earlier? The samjokgu smells the imprint it left on you. You’ve got the stink of a spirit.”

“What?” I fumbled. “That’s… that’s crazy! That can’t be real!”

“Tell that to him,” Mimi replied, gesturing lightly to the window. The thing’s acrid-looking tongue still wiped the glass like a disgusting windshield wiper.

I swallowed, hard. I was starting to wish that, like Grandma Mimi, I’d not spit out any of the wine I’d tasted. “Can it get in?” I squeaked.

“Of course not,” Mimi said calmly.

I balked at her. “How can you be sure?”

She smiled again, the lines beside her eyes deepening. “Because I’m here.” Trotting to the window, she examined the dog-like creature through the glass. “I hope you’re not mad at me, Matthew. I simply wanted you to take the ‘mythology’ and customs of our people seriously. Back in Korea, the other shamans and I had to perform ceremonies to keep the spirits of the recently departed from being eaten by creatures like him.” She rapped the window with her knuckles, completely unafraid of the thing on the other side. “Terrible things can happen to spirits after samjokgu’s snack on them. But you have nothing to be afraid of, with me here. I may have trained a replacement long ago, but I’ve still got a few tricks up my sleeve.”

I blinked at my grandmother, then at the samjokgu, still licking my window like a child with an ice cream cone. “When will it go away?”

“Not until sunrise,” she replied, trotting back to my door. “So you might be in for an interesting night.” Once more with that facetious smile, Grandma Mimi opened my bedroom door and strode into the hallway. “Good night, Matthew. Sleep well.”

She shut the door, leaving me still stunned and sitting on my bedroom floor.

There was commotion coming from my headset, so I numbly picked it up and put it back on my head. “Sorry, guys,” I mumbled, my eyes still on the creature.

“Matt, what the heck, man?” Daniel said. “When you left, we got annihilated! Are you in, or what?”

The samjokgu’s horrible tongue continued caressing my window. “Naw, guys. I think I’m going to have to call it a night.”

“What?” Brent cried incredulously. “But we’ve only finished the first act!”

“Sorry, guys,” I replied, finally standing. “I have to… sleep in the bathroom tonight.”

“The bathroom?” Daniel asked. “Why?”

I gathered my quilt and pillow under my arms and replied, “Because it’s the only room in the house without a window.”

Ignoring the rest of my friends’ questions, I switched off my computer and left my bedroom, and the horrific slurping sound of the samjokgu’s tongue, behind.

Monday, February 16, 2015

"Who Was Veronica Dawson?" short story: 'Taking Flight'

The setting: five years ago, yesterday, Panera Bread, where I'd set up camp with a bagel and several cups of coffee. School had been cancelled for snow, and I didn't have any tests to grade, so I decided to write. Three hours later, I'd churned out what would become the first two chapters of the prototype manuscript of Sleepwalking, my first YA novel. 

Now, five years later, I've signed a publishing agreement with Jupiter Gardens Press, and Sleepwalking will soon be coming to bookshelves near you. In celebration of Ronnie's 'birthday', and her story finally being given life (or unlife, as it were), here's a new short story starring Ronnie and her honorary orphanage-sister, Deirdre. 

Check out Who Was Veronica Dawson? on Facebook, too. Show your support for a burgeoning author! 


“What makes you think this is going to work?” I asked, my voice shaking.

“What makes you think it won’t work?” My sister, Deirdre, replied.

I gripped the windowsill until my knuckles turned white. “That doesn’t count as reasoning,” I said. “You’re supposed to give me a real reason.”

Deirdre’s face appeared in my peripheral vision, but I didn’t take my eyes from the yard beneath us. “A real reason? Have you seen what happens to you at midnight? Is that not real enough for you?”

She made a good point. Still, when I tried to summon enough bravery to slide my butt closer to the widow’s edge, I froze with terror. I turned to face her again. “But what if it doesn’t work?”

Deirdre lowered her brow and glared at me skeptically. Then she took two steps back from me, extended her arms, and tossed her head back. Her chin lolled open, and she groaned and staggered around the room without bending her knees.

“Oh, come on,” I huffed, spinning back to our bedroom and placing my feet on the floor. “You’ve seen me in my cursed form for five months, now. Have I ever staggered around the room like an extra from a George Romero movie?”

“Braaaaiiiinnnsss,” Deirdre moaned, ignoring me. She suddenly lunged for me, and I stumbled backward. My feet got tangled in the chair to our desk, and I tumbled onto my huge butt with my sister on top of me. The chair went flying, I giggled uncontrollably, and Deirdre gnawed on my hair.

“Okay, okay! Enough!” I laughed, pushing her off of me. “You’re right, okay? The worst that could happen to me is a few dozen broken bones. And they’ll all be back to normal in the morning.”

Climbing off of me, Deirdre raked her brown curls back from her face. “So, why not try it? Do you know what I’d give to be able to do the stuff you can do?”

I pushed a lock of short, black hair out of my eyes. It was eternally wet, unable to dry, unable to transfer water to any other surface, and it stuck in place and showed off my massive forehead. Wet hair was one of a dozen transformations I underwent every midnight, each of which would be gone when the sun rose.

I, Veronica Dawson, am a Sleepwalker.

I was hit by a runway truck in front of my school six months ago. Instead of dying, like a normal person, I inherited my family’s long-lost curse of undeath. During the day I look the same as any other fifteen-year-old. But, from midnight to sunrise, I transform back into exactly as I looked the moment I died.

“If I could give it to you, I would,” I told her, trying to get to my feet. Both my hips were broken and shifted weirdly when I tried to stand, so Deirdre had to help me up. My broken ribs moved creepily through my torso as I straightened my shirt.

“All I’m saying is, since you’ve got to deal with the bad parts of the Sleepwalker, you might as well have some fun with the ‘ancient curse powers’ part. At the very least, the ‘being indestructible’ thing will be a blast!” 

I moved back to the window and placed my hands on the sill again, leaning out into the warm, summer air. “Deirdre, not even Sylvia can use her curses to make herself fly. And she’s over five hundred years old!”

Deirdre crossed her arms over her chest. “You’ve never even asked her if she’s flown, have you?”

“Well, no. But I just assume that she can’t do it. If she could, why would she drive us everywhere in that old station wagon?”

“You could be the first!” Deirdre cried, dropping to her knees at my side. “The first Sleepwalker to fly!”

I looked down at the lawn again. “But what if I fall? What if it hurts?”

“The sun rises in half an hour,” Deirdre reassured me. “You’ll be like Humpty Dumpty. You’ll be put back together again!”

I frowned at her. “You never actually read that nursery rhyme, did you?”

“Come on!” Deirdre pressured. “When you’re cursed, things don’t hurt nearly as much as they do when you’re normal! You probably won’t feel a thing.”

Probably versus actually is a distinction I’d rather not test by throwing myself out of a window,” I murmured.

“Oh my gosh, you are the worst immortal, zombified, magical-curse-using sister ever,” Deirdre prodded, her voice sarcastic. “Are you going to do it, or what?”

I took a deep, steadying breath and looked down to the lawn again. Since I had become a Sleepwalker, around six months ago, I had put up with a lot. Crazy cultists, who saw Sleepwalkers as abominations, had hunted me since the day I woke up in the morgue. Their minions had attacked me in Starbucks, in the back yard… even on dates. Things hadn’t exactly been easy, and more than once I had wished that I was just a normal teenager girl again instead of an undead monster.

Sure, being able to fly wouldn’t make up for all of that. But would be a nice start.

“Okay,” I said, squeezing my brow into a knot. “I’m going to do it.”

“That’a girl!” Deirdre cried. She dropped to her knees and leaned on the window sill. “Want me to give you a countdown?”

“No,” I replied. “The power for the curses comes from my emotions. I need to pump enough emotion into the curse to make it work. And flying will probably take a lot. So I probably need to psyche myself up or something.”

Next to me, I heard Deirdre give a speculative Hmmm before standing.

Then she pushed me out the window.

Normally, my curses are powered by my words and emotions. Sylvia, my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother, told me that it took a delicate balance of both to make a curse do what you want.

I opened my mouth and tried to come up with something – anything – to say that could keep me from becoming a greasy stain on the grass. But sudden terror caught my voice in my throat, and my stomach lurched from the sudden freefall. No words came.

The backyard rushed up to meet me.

I tried to scream. Even that wouldn’t come out.

The world became a white flash of pain. I became a crumpled heap on the grass.

Dimly, I heard Deirdre scream, “Ohmygod!” from the bedroom window. For ten or fifteen agonizingly slow seconds, I lay in a twisted, painful pile, the dew-covered grass cool on my cheek. The city around our suburban house was strangely silent, I realized, aside from the ringing in my ears from impact.

I heard the back door open, and out of the corner of my eye I saw Deirdre charge across the grass toward me. She dropped to her knees by my face. “Oh my god, Ronnie, I am so sorry! I thought that if I pushed you, you’d be scared enough to make yourself fly! I was trying to help!”

“… ow,” was all I could manage in reply.

“What hurts?” Deirdre asked.

“Everything,” I groaned. I tried to roll over, my a dull ache in my back told me that was a stupid idea. “How bad do I look?”

Deirdre winced. “Well… things are sort of… twisted out of place.” She tried to brighten her face. “But, not much more so than your normal cursed form, so that’s a plus, right?”

“Please don’t do me any more favors,” I breathed, trying again to get my arms beneath me, and again falling back to the grass.

“Does it hurt? Do I need to get Sylvia?” Deirdre asked.

“Well, it doesn’t hurt like a bunch of broken bones would normally hurt,” I huffed. “But I feel like one big bruise. All over. Still, I don’t think you need to wake Sylvia.” I looked up to the sky, which was still dark. “How long did you say it was until sunrise?”

Deirdre revealed her phone from her pocket and swiped the screen a few times. “About twenty minutes,” she said.

“Oh,” I sighed. “Okay, good. Since you pushed me out the window, you get to keep me company until my body repairs itself.”

Deirdre sat cross-legged on the grass. “Okay. I owe you that.” She swiped her phone a few times more. “Want to know what’s happening on Facetagram?”

I tried to shrug. I think it dislocated my shoulder even more. “Sure.”

“Oh man! Sharee broke up with Brandon!” Deirdre cried, already absorbed in social media heaven. “Look!” She presented her phone to me, and I tried to read the status update even though it was sideways.

“She was talking about that last week,” I wheezed. “What else is going on?”

“Ooh, look. Carrie posted a picture of what she ate for dinner last night.” Deirdre showed me her phone again, and I saw a sideways picture of a hibachi restaurant.

I sighed. It was going to be a long twenty minutes. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Creativity Can Never Be Silenced

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last twenty-four hours or so, you've probably heard about the terrorist attacks on the French satire publication, Charlie Hebdo. In case you haven't, let me boil it down.

Charlie Hebdo is a French magazine, which has (figuratively) come under fire in the last few years by Islamic extremists for publishing cartoons deemed (by them) to be offensive. Numerous threats had been made against the magazine for their portrayals of the prophet Muhammed, whom, according to Islamic custom, must never be depicted in any form.

On Wednesday, January 7th, Islamic terrorists stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo, armed with heavy machine guns, and brutally murdered a dozen people.

My brother Aaron, who is a great cartoonist in his own right, wrote a particularly moving blog post about it. Seriously, check it out.

I have been drawing cartoons since I was big enough to pick up a pencil. And, earlier in my life, I drew my fair share of offensive cartoons. Racial stereotypes. Foul language. Alcohol and tobacco usage. Admittedly, I did so out of ignorance rather than intent, but the cartoons remained the same.

When I heard about what happened to the artists, writers, editors, and other individuals of Charlie Hebdo, it made me angry. So angry, in fact, that I wanted to intentionally create something that would offend the pants off of the militants responsible for the violence. They thought that Charlie Hebdo was offensive? I thought. Wait till they get a load of me.

But then, as I was coming up with harmful ideas, I found myself feeling more and more wary. I have a wife, and two little girls to think about. What if someone who knew me saw the cartoon? What would they think? Would it cause someone to think badly of Hillary, or the girls? I don't think I know any Muslim extremists, but, then again, the people at Charlie Hebdo probably though they were safe in their offices too.

Put bluntly, I was a little afraid.

And then I realized what really separated me from the employees of Charlie Hebdo.

They drew and wrote what they wanted, regardless of who it angered. They pushed the buttons of the brutes and bullies of the world, during a time when those buttons desperately needed pushed. These groups are killing innocent civilians, kidnapping schools full of young girls, and laying roadside bombs for troops who simply want to get back to their families. Our governments respond with appropriate military force. Peace groups respond with condemnation. Actual followers of Islam do their best to remind us that normal Muslims have as little in common with the extremists as the rest of us.

And cartoonists pen satire, raining animated shame on the oh-so-deserving.

No one should ever be afraid of doing what they love, no matter who it angers. But, all too often these days, the response to creativity similar to that displayed in Charlie Hebdo has become "Don't do it that way, because we said so."

Twelve people lost their lives at Charlie Hebdo because they spoke their minds, and I'm too nervous to draw an offensive cartoon for a blog that might be seen by a hundred people. If I'm lucky.

The world is fortunate to have had the creative and brave people who worked, and still work, at the French publication. Hopefully these terrorist acts, which were meant to silence creativity, will inspire more artists to tread where others are afraid to go.

And, judging from the outcry from cartoonists of the world, that exactly what they're doing.

I'm just one guy with a sketchpad and some markers. I don't even know how to use photoshop. But I wanted to show my support, too.

Yes, I am so technologically inept that I took a picture of the cartoon with my phone. 

Yes, that's my brother and I. I stole a little of his signature style when drawing him. Seriously, check out his blog from the links above. You won't be disappointed. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Why I Hate Winter: A Thoughtful Tirade

Winter is here, yet again, in case the Christmas lights and Santas on street corners hadn't alerted you. Of course, I've been seeing signs of Christmas since early October, so that's not as telling as it used to be.

The time right after the holidays always puts me in a certain mood. While I'm normally a very introspective person, looking at a brand new year always makes me examine the Graham that I was in years past. I dredge up old memories, old hurts, old joys, and wallow in a introspective pile for a time. It was during such a wallow when I figured out the real reason I hate winter.

Let's get one thing clear: I HATE being cold. I would rather be sunburned and drenched in sweat than even mildly chilly. This is usually the part of the discussion where a winter-lover brings up the old defense, 'You can always put more layers on if you're cold, but there are only so many layers you can take off'. This is, of course, a total load. For me, there is a point of being cold when the chill creeps into my bones. Putting layers on doesn't help; the cold is inside me. Piling more things on top will not get rid of it.

Though I do hate the cold, it's merely the secondary reason I hate winter.

Kentucky has very unique weather patterns. We haven't had a white Christmas is nearly ten years, but last year my school was cancelled a whopping fifteen days for snow. This doesn't seem like a big deal, but living in it for my whole life has made me resent the entire season.

Because, you see, winter is a lair.

Last summer I was married to an amazing woman, gaining two stepdaughters along with her. A time of uncertainty and fear, unlike any I had ever known, suddenly ended. Now, it feels like my life has actually started; everything up to this seems like practice, a scrimmage.

Life has now begun.

Today is the first day of a new year. To me, this feels like Year One. I picture what the girls will look like in ten years. I try to figure out who they'll be. I imagine what Hillary and I will have to replace on the house in a few years. I wonder where we'll go on vacation. I'm planning new running routes from the house we live in. We've planted roots, deep and strong.

Winter has given me a beautiful day outside, with sunshine and a blue, cloudless sky. It's set my mind alight with possibilities for this year, next year, ten years, twenty years from now. The beginning of January is always like this in Kentucky.

But winter, like a spoiled child, never knows what it wants. Tomorrow, the temperature might struggle to crest the 30's (for you Celsius folks, that right around zero). Then the sky will turn gray for more than a month. Maybe it will precipitate. Maybe it won't. Maybe it'll be snow. Maybe, sleet. Maybe, freezing rain. Or maybe it'll taunt me with an afternoon in the 60's, only to pull it from beneath me like Lucy with Charlie Brown's football.

I hate winter for the same reason I hate reality TV and politicians. Winter is disingenuous. It smiles at your face and laughs behind your back. It hands you a cup of coffee, but spits in the cup. Put simply, it is a liar and a cheat.

I suppose the real reason I hate winter is because it reminds me so much of that cold, uncertain time in my life. There were no visions of the future, because I didn't know I had a future. There were no long-term plans, because I couldn't see further than the end of my nose. Winter, perhaps, strikes a little too close to home.

That time of uncertainly in my life is over, even if bleak mid-winter is just getting started. There will be cold days. There will be snowy days. There'll be days when muddy sleet makes the garage a mess and ruins the floorboards in my car.

But the winter will end, and spring will come. I'm already picturing what it'll be like.