Happily ever after…

Guilty pleasures. We all have them, even if we don’t want to admit it. I mean, that’s sort of the point of guilty pleasures. One of mine is watching movies with really sad endings. Like, if you don’t tear up during the film then don’t bother making me watch it. Then, as part of the guilty pleasure, I make other people watch them with me. Spoiler warning for some films I discuss today. Here are a few of my “go-to” guilty pleasure films:

  1. Me Before You (2016)
  2. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
  3. A Quiet Place (2018)
  4. Road to Perdition (2002)
  5. Avengers Infinity War (2018)

I know, I’m sadistic.

Before writing this, I started thinking about why I take pleasure in this odd activity. One reason is that I have no soul and can’t gauge emotions, so I want to watch other people when they’re sad in order to copy their emotions. Another reason I came up with is that I’m so depressed that I like to watch fictional characters in pain, this way I take solace that my life isn’t as messed up as theirs.

Maybe I just like realistic storytelling in my films and novels.

That’s right. Sometimes we don’t all live happily ever after. Sometimes the guy doesn’t get the girl in the end. Maybe the father dies at the end in order to save his boy’s eternal soul. Maybe everybody dies at the end of a zombie movie. Maybe the coach mercy kills the paralyzed athlete. Maybe, the bad guy wins and destroys 50 percent of all life in the universe.

Did I just spoil a bunch of films for you? Well too bad! Sometimes we have movie endings spoiled for us. Maybe you should have gone and watched them. Maybe… just maybe… we overuse the word “maybe.”

Now, know what you’re all saying. “But Jimmy, why would I want to go to the theater and watch a film with a sad ending?”

I completely understand. Look at the current “Infinity Saga” that Marvel just pumped out. Starting with Iron Man (2008) until Avengers: Endgame (2019), the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has produced 22 films. How many of those ended with a happy ending? Every. Single. One. Of. Them.

Again, I know what you’re saying. “But Jimmy, in Avengers: Infinity War half of all life was dusted. How is that a happy ending?” To answer that, I’d argue that Thanos the Mad Titan was the protagonist and the Avengers were the “bad guys” of the film. With Thanos completing his task, he achieved his happy ending.

Every MCU film is predictable. You know going into the film that the hero will win, the bad guys will lose, and that everything will be alright. It’s boring. Don’t get me wrong, I love each and every one of those films, but that’s why I have my guilty pleasures. For once, I’d like to see a hero fail at the end of an origin film. That would give the hero an excellent redemption arc in the second and third film. Why don’t they do it? Two words: Box Office. If the film doesn’t do well, then there might not be a second film. You have to perform well in the first film. Meaning a happy ending where the hero wins the day.
You know, the more I think about it, the first film is like a presidential term. If the first one doesn’t do well, there won’t be a second one.

Films that end happily are also a lie. Do you want to know the biggest lie in cinema? Here it is: “And they all lived happily ever after.” It trains children, and depressed adult male writers, that if they try hard and do all they can to overcome their obstacles then they’ll triumph in the end and live “happily ever after.”

Horror movies aren’t even exempt. In the film Dawn of the Dead (1978), the main characters are evacuating from the mall as it’s being overran by zombies. Two of the characters die and turn into the undead while the very pregnant woman gets into a helicopter. Because in the 70’s aircraft births were the thing. The last guy was locked in his room with a gun to his head. He was waiting until the zombies burst in before killing himself, because that makes a difference. At this point, I’m waiting for the film to end darkly. Then, for some reason, the guy has a change of heart. A song that’s reminiscent of the theme to The A-Team plays and the guy fights his way through the horde of the undead to board the helicopter. Together, they take off riding into the sunlight. Happily Ever After.

Again, I know what you’re going to say: “But Jimmy, these are fictional scenarios that’ll never happen. And you’re saying they need to be realistic?”

Here’s my conclusion (tip to all essay writers: never write that as your last paragraph. It’s tacky). Every story needs to have some realism to it. I’m not saying that every ending to every story has to be sad, depressing, or soul crushing. It’s my belief that even in defeat, lessons can be learned. Movies should have more endings where the hero ultimately loses but learns something valuable from the defeat.

Now, as to my mental health, I’m sure you’re all concerned. Because, if I’m being honest with you last week’s rant and this one was depressing. Don’t worry about me.

I’m sure I’ll live happily ever after.

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Story and Plot, part two

In last week’s MtC (that’s the working abbreviation for Mastering the Craft, just trying it out), I talked about the interwoven relationship between story and plot and how you can’t have one without the other. Sorta like that theme song to Married with Children. It isn’t absolutely required that you read last week’s MtC, but if you wanted to boost my self-esteem then go right ahead. Don’t worry I’ll wait for everyone to catch up… you good? Great, onto part two.

So now that you know that story is everything the reader needs to know and the plot is the portion of the story that the writer presents to the reader, let’s talk about what exactly goes into the two narrative elements.

Let’s say I get arrested by the police. Let’s say it was for attempted murder. And, just for the sake of fun, let’s call the victim Mr. Language. His first name’s English. They put me in the interrogation room and a detective says, “tell me where you were on the night of the murder of English Language.”

The initial response would be to tell the detectives everything I’d done that day from beginning to end. That would be my story of what happened. Which is exactly what “story” is, it’s what happens from beginning to end.

Janet Burroway, in her book Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft, states that “a story is a series of events recorded in their chronological order.” It makes sense, right? In the case of the story I told the detective, I stated the events from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed, beginning to end.

Any fiction movie, television show, book has a story. Remember from last week that Burroway defined story as “everything the reader needs to know to make coherent sense of the plot.” Note the phrase “coherent sense.” What exactly does that mean? In the case of my story to the detective, they wouldn’t want to know that I brushed my teeth with a baking soda toothpaste or that I ordered my pizza without onions because I hated the texture of the vegetables. Those are details that the detectives don’t need to know in order to make “coherent sense” of my story. The same goes when you’re writing a book.

“Random incidents neither move nor illuminate; we want to know why one thing leads to another and to feel the inevitability of cause and effect,” states Burroway.

How does that affect the plot then, you may ask? That’s right! I have another quote from Burroway (this is starting to sound like a thesis paper) that states “a plot is a series of events deliberately arranged so as to reveal their dramatic, thematic, and emotional significance.” Have you ever wondered why a chapter ends with a cliffhanger? What about when Darth Vader reveals that he is Luke’s father, but then nothing is resolved until the next movie? Those are examples of the writers arranging things to deliver a more emotional and dramatic impact on their audience.

Look at the film Reservoir Dogs (1992), written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. If you’ve never seen it, the story is about a group of thieves that attempt a jewelry store heist but things go really wrong due to an undercover cop in their midst. The “story” starts with the undercover cop learning to become a thief in order to infiltrate the group, interacting with the group before the heist, the heist going poorly, the escape, the regrouping of the thieves, then the end. The “plot” is totally different. Tarantino starts the film with the regrouping scene after everything goes wrong. Flashbacks are used intermittently to show the audience more information about who could possibly be the undercover cop. You don’t know into much later in the film. It is clever and if you’ve never seen it before it’s a watch if you’re looking to properly utilize how to create an emotional and dramatic buildup.

It looks like it’s my time to leave you all for another week. Next week, I’ll be discussing more elements within “Story and Plot” so be prepared for more Burroway quotes and maybe I’ll let you know whether or not I was officially charged with the murder of English Language. See? I’m using plot to create a cliffhanger.

Spoiler: English Language deserved it. He allowed the Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey books to exist. Someone had to act.

Story and Plot, part one

If I had to define my writing style, I’d have to say that I’m a “pantser.” If you’ve never heard that term before, it means to write by the seat of your pants. If you’re still confused, it means to typically write without having things planned out. A “plotter” is someone that typically writes only after fully plotting the story out. While there’s nothing wrong with either types of writing style, I have to wonder about the significance of story and plot when considering the “pantser” and “plotter” writing styles. If a “pantser” writes by the seat of his/her pants, then where does the plot factor in? Is there even a plot?
Well, duh, plot still exists within your work regardless if you detail every little thing. While moving around some things in my office, I came upon some of my old college text books. When I was in college, I would sell back the books that weren’t in my major and would keep all the text books that were associated with English and writing. One book in particular, “Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft” written by Janet Burroway, had me opening it to this definition:

“Humphry House, in his commentaries on Aristotle, defines story as everything the reader needs to know to make coherent sense of the plot, and plot as the particular portion of the story the author chooses to present – the “present tense” of the narrative.”

Look, I know what you’re thinking. Who is Humphry House? Believe me, I was wondering that myself. After searching the reputable site Wikipedia for a while, I found absolutely nothing. How disappointing. After googling the name, I found that he was a “pioneer of modern literary-historical scholarship of Dickens, a popular teacher at both Oxford and Cambridge, and frequent presenter of talks on the BBC.” He sounds like a cool dude. But what does Burroway and House mean?
Simply put, the plot is absolutely everything you wish to present in your book. Your main character might be left handed (shout out to those that are) or maybe has a restriction to only one cup of coffee a day. However, it’s your decision as the author whether to allow the reader to see those details.
I know that’s hard to understand. Frankly, I think it’s sort of weird too. I mean… how do you just have one cup of coffee a day? There are people out there that do… you know who you are.
So what is the use of story if we know plot is what is presented to the reader? Going back to House and Burroway, we know that story is everything the reader needs to understand the plot. If your main character’s coffee restriction doesn’t play into the events of your book, is that detail something that should be presented to the reader? Maybe yes, maybe not. The detail could be served to create more character depth. Quirky behaviors and other details like coffee restrictions serve to create a fleshed-out character. People that have similar coffee restrictions might feel connected to the character. However, if you do write in that quirky detail, then make sure to either have it connected into the story or not play into it too much.
Now that I’ve explained just a tiny bit about what House and Burroway say about story and plot, how does that effect the writing styles of “pantsing” and “plotting?” Obviously, if you’re one that plots every little detail in your work then it doesn’t really affect you. If you’re like me and don’t do a lot of planning, does it really effect you?
I’ve always looked to Stephen King when I needed author advise. I mean, not personally because he doesn’t know we’re really good friends. We are though, he just won’t acknowledge it in public. Or in all my emails to him. King says “come to a book as you would come to an unexplored land. Come without a map. Explore it, and draw your own map… a book is like a pump. It gives nothing unless first you give to it.”
When I first began to write, I would interpret this as King being a pantser with no plot. Having matured as an author, I’ve come to realize that the unexplored land is the entire world inside of the book. The parts of the land that are explored is the plot, the parts that are presented to the reader. The story would be the tools that are used to explore that land.
I used to abhor plotting my work and relished in the fact that I plotted nothing. Now I understand that plot and story go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other. Next week I plan to continue the idea of how story and plot are woven together to form a cohesive story.
At least, that’s what I’m plotting.

Cross to bear

Do you ever sit down in front of a task and just stare at it for an obsessively long period of time without actually beginning said task because you just don’t know where to begin? No? Yes? Jim where are you going with this weird line of questioning? Well, as you can tell from the very first sentence, that was me when I started writing this week’s Mastering the Craft. At first I wanted to write something Easter themed since this will hit The Pilot News on Saturday. This will release on my site on Good Friday. Then I thought that since this will appear in The Starke County Leader on the Thursday after Easter, I thought I’d write something of a compromise. So hopefully you enjoy this mix between the two.

Idioms are expressions whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meaning of its constituent elements. Thanks Dictionary.com for making that definition so easy to understand. You’ve all heard some examples, but do you really know what they mean? For instance:

• “Wag the dog” means to purposely divert attention from an important issue by focusing attention on a more unimportant issue.

• “Sticky end” means that someone dies in an unpleasant way. I would make a joke about death and Michigan, but it’s Easter so I’ll just move on.

• “Born on the wrong side of the blanket” means that a child is illegitimate and that his or her parents were not married at the time of the birth. 

• “Tall enough to hunt geese with a rake” means that a person is taller than a person of average height.

Some idioms, however, can be predicable. “At death’s door” means that they are dying or very sick. “Cheat death” is another one that pretty much means what it says, that a person narrowly escaped a major problem or accident and is still alive. 

Another idiom that comes to mind is “cross to bear.” This idiom means that the person with a “cross to bear” has a heavy burden of responsibility or a problem that they alone must cope with.

You probably know where I’m going with this.

We all face moments in our lives when we think that a problem is so great that we have to face it alone. Or maybe we are simply too prideful or ashamed so we don’t seek out help. That’s when we have a “cross to bear.” It’s not the problem that causes us to bear the cross however, we do that to ourselves. If you’re dealing with an overwhelming problem in your life and you don’t seek out help, that’s adding weight to that cross. 

I was watching Captain America: Civil War in preparation for Avengers: Endgame and T’Challa (Black Panther) is talking to Black Widow about politics and how two people in one room can accomplish more than a group of people. That’s when his father interrupts the conversation and says “Not if you’re moving a piano.”

The idiom refers to Jesus carrying the cross to Golgotha, the place where he was crucified. Jesus died for our sins. Sure, he could have chosen not to experience all of that pain, suffering, mocking, and abuse. But he endured it and paid the penalty for our sins. That penalty was his death. And he did it alone. 

“And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice,  ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ (Which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’),” states Mark 15:34. Jesus is referencing Psalm 22 which is a prophecy about the agony of the Messiah’s death for the world’s sin. So Jesus knew that he would be temporarily separated from God the moment he took upon himself the sins of the world.

Jesus was alone at that moment so you wouldn’t have to bear your cross (your burden) by yourself. If you’re too ashamed or prideful to seek help from a person, then seek help from God. I mean, He’s always around and He knows what burdening you. 

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account,” reads Hebrews 4:12-13.

Happy Easter everyone, hopefully you learned a little more than just the meanings of idioms by reading this.  

Leaving a Legacy

I’ll probably never have children. I’m cutting straight to the honest truth this week. I mean, I think I sort of blew my chances when my marriage ended a few years ago. And I had gotten married at the prime of my life too. Ten years ago I had a lot more hair on my head. Not like Kurt Russell in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, though. I’m talking like a little less than Thor in Thor: Ragnarok. You might think it weird that I’m talking in Marvel movies, but that’s only because Avengers: Endgame is coming out soon.

The reason why I’m talking about my lack of progeny is that I got to thinking about my upcoming death. That’s right, I’m dying. Spoiler alert: we’re all dying. Every day we creep closer to the inevitable end of our lives. It’s unavoidable, so it’s worth thinking about. Plus, being all alone in this house (or what I like to call the carcass of my broken marriage) I can’t help sometimes being depressed and thinking about The End.

It’s what we, horror writers, do. We think about The End. It’s only natural. At the end of writing a manuscript, those two little yet very important words mark the closing of a tale. In real life, it’s the same. Our headstones represent those two words. The End.

I asked myself once, while sitting alone in the empty house, what will be my legacy? What will I leave this world once I actually die? According to dictionary.com, there are five definitions for  Legacy. Three of them were boring and didn’t apply to my needs, and one of them was hilarious, but the one that stood out was this: “anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor.”

If you were wondering, the hilarious one was this: “of or relating to old or outdated computer hardware, software, or data that, while still functional, does not work well with up-to-date systems.” Why is it hilarious, you may ask. I think the same definition could be attributed to people sometimes. Anyway, back to the real focus of my column.

What does that mean? Sure, it could mean inheritance. My father once took me to a storage shed and told me about the stuff he intends to give me when he dies. I told him, “I don’t want to hear about that. That’s just morbid.” Which it was, but that’s what he cared about. That “stuff” is important to him and he wants to make sure it’s taken care of when he passes (he’s still alive if you were wondering… hi dad!). 

For politicians, “legacy” could mean the laws they’ve passed or the service they gave to their country. He served not only in the Vietnam War, but he served as a senator from Arizona from January 1987 until his death in August 2018. No one can deny that he served his country. After his death, there were countless stories about his character. One such account written by Raoul Lowery-Contreras for the website www.thehill.com, had this to say about the senator:

“When one compares the character of John McCain with anyone else, one finds few men who measure up to the senator and the 1,800 days of torture, beatings and broken bones that he, and most other American POWs, suffered at the hands of their North Vietnamese captors. Real men must stand up now to be measured by the standards that Sen. McCain left us as his legacy.”

For writers, it’s pretty obvious what we leave behind: the articles, books, short stories, and other published content. You know, interestingly enough in the paper I edit (The Starke County Leader) I have this feature piece called “Throwback Thursday” where I take a front page from the past and give a summary of what happened. That front page is a small piece some writer’s legacy. That’s what they left behind for us. Now, being in a depressed mood, I realize that my books, articles, even the newspapers I edit won’t really make a difference in the world. A hundred years into the future, I doubt professors are going to be assigning my books as part of his syllabus. I don’t think I’m a terrible writer, but I’m no Stephen King. 

So what exactly should my legacy be and how should I go about leaving it when I pass (I’m thirty-three so I’ve got some time…hopefully)?

Well, there’s another aspect that I haven’t covered yet. I may be a writer, but I’m also a Christian. So, looking on the internet I find this really great article about leaving a legacy in terms of Christianity. It starts by quoting the Bible. 

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” writes Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7. 

Fighting the good fight. Finishing the race. Keeping the faith. Isn’t that something that you’d want to be remembered for? I don’t want my nieces and nephews, my friends and other family, and others to think anything less of me. “Oh, Jim was nice, but he wasn’t that good at finishing what he started. He surely wasn’t one for standing up for what’s right. He wasn’t even a faithful dude.” That’s not exactly what I want people to say at my funeral.

I guess the point is that when you die, it doesn’t end at the grave. It’s my opinion that I’d rather strive to leave a faithful legacy than one of half-heartedness.

Getting Back on the Bike…

There are moments in our lives that we just cannot forget. Typically, my unforgettable moments are the “firsts” of something. The first adult book (Jurassic Park), my first dance (8th grade, horrible experience), and my first feeling of intense dislike for the State of Michigan (when my parents divorced and I had to spend every other weekend in Niles). Another one of my firsts was my first new bike. It was a green speckled Huffy. That was such a significant memory because prior to that, if I wanted to ride a bike I was forced to borrow one my sister’s bicycles. As you can imagine, as a boy, riding around on a Strawberry Shortcake bicycle was not an appealing thing.

This photo was found on a Yahoo image search, but it’s an exact replica to what my sisters had (if memory serves me accurately).

Another memorable time of mine is when I crashed and burned on that bike. Every time. I honestly remember every single accident, every moment of panic just before crashing, every injury and the pain associated with that injury. I also remember that I didn’t just lie on the ground and cry. I got up and got right back on the bike. 

That’s what humans do. We get back up, we persevere, we try again. You might be wondering why I’m talking about memories and bicycles when this should be a writing column. Well, faithful reader, keep calm and read on.

I haven’t written one word in my fourth book since the beginning of March. I was too busy working, then going home and editing a book for my publisher. As some of you know, all of that work amounted to nothing because my laptop was stolen. I had a backup of my fourth book, but not a recent one. Turns out that I lost about 6,000 words give or take a few hundred. In the grand scheme of things, things didn’t turn out that bad. 

I thought to myself that as soon as April hit, I’d get back into the writing grind. I had my backup laptop configured, I finally got Word all situated on it, I had it all figured out. As I’m writing this, it’s the fifth day into the month and I haven’t written a single word. There have been nights where I’ll open the document and just stare at it for a few moments before closing it again. As I do, I make a mental promise to work on it later, the next night, or at a more opportune time.

Every time I look at the document, all I can see is that flickering vertical line at the end of the document. It waits impatiently for me to move it with my words. If there are any writers reading this, then I’m sure you’ll understand what I’m going through.

It isn’t that I don’t know where I’m going in the story. Because I do. However, I can’t get over that loss of progress. It was done. It was written. It was perfect the way it was and it was how I wanted the story written. How can I write anything better?

Ultimately, that flashing vertical line represents my faith in my craft. It represents my wavering belief that I can write something equal to what was there before the theft. 

We all have something we struggle with in our lives. Relationships, addictions, ethics, morality, faith, the list could go on and on. I’ve struggled, and still struggle, with many of those issues. What can I say, I multitask. Currently, I’m struggling with self-doubt. See, self-doubt and I are old enemies. It’s one of those relationships where the foes sit down and drink coffee and play a game of chess. Like the end of the first X-Men film. Only one of us will win the battle, but it won’t be the last time we face off against each other. 

You would think by now I’d know my foe’s tricks and battle strategies. I’d be able to counter his attacks and strike back effectively. You’d think I’d be able to overcome him in the end. But no, I’m still struck by surprise when my enemy makes his opening move. I’m still initially paralyzed by the crippling effects of his attack. I’m too weak to counterattack. 

I’m just not enough. 

I wish I could end this rant on a good note. I wish I could tell you that everything was okay again and that I’ve triumphed over my Self-Doubt. I wish I could tell you that Michigan isn’t as “Pure” as Tim Allen says it is in his commercials.

But I don’t have a magic lamp and those three wishes will still remain that: wishes.

I will make a promise, to you all. I’ll keep trying to get back on that bike. Maybe when I start writing again, that’ll be another lifetime moment I’ll never forget. The first time I truly defeated my self-doubt.

At a loss for words…

Right now, I’m laying in a hotel bed typing this column on my iPhone. That’s one of the magical things about writing. Writers are sort of like time travelers. I’m communicating with the future. Originally, I had a column about April being National Poetry Month and why I don’t like writing poetry. I know what you’re going to ask, “But Jim, haiku you say that?”

Well, you’ll never read that column because someone stole my laptop. That’s right, you read that correctly. I don’t like reading or writing poetry. Seriously though, someone stole my laptop. I am literally out of words. Somehow, somewhere, Alanis Morissette is laughing.

The sad thing was that it wasn’t just my things that were taken. I was with my sister’s family in Fort Wayne attending the Christian concert Winter Jam. We got out to our vehicle and that’s when we found that someone had broken in and stole all the ibuprofen and electronics. They even took my sisters broken prescription glasses. I’m not sure if the thieves were being funny by taking the ibuprofen or if they were doing it strictly for drugs. By stealing the laptop and my nieces and nephews tablets, they caused a real headache.

Some of you might be wondering why I’m making jokes at a time like this. Mainly, it’s a defense mechanism of mine that some can find annoying. I understand, but at times like these my humor is all I have. That, and my intense hatred for Michigan.

As a writer, this theft left me staggering and speechless. They stole my livelihood. Everything I had written was on that laptop. That brand new, 15.6 inch Lenovo laptop that I’d worked to save up to buy. It may have only been about $400, but to a writer that’s a lot. A little known fact about writers: we’re not that rich. Worse than that though, they stole my hard work. I’d been editing a book for my publisher, Burning Willow Press, LLC. It was my second book I’ve edited for them. To say that I worked extremely hard to edit this thing would be an understatement. I had promised the Vice President of the company that I’d have that book back, edits completed, by the end of March. I wrote him an email tonight explaining what happened and that I was going to have to break my promise. There would be no way for me to complete the edits have them back by then. Even though I didn’t purposely break my promise, I’m still ashamed to have to tell him that I failed to live up to my word.

But, even worse than that. They stole my ideas. Snatched right from my head. Everything I’ve written is on that laptop. Sure, most of that is backed up on an external hard drive so it’s not gone forever. That doesn’t change the fact that all of my ideas, all of my personal thoughts and creative content is in the hands of another person, a thief. I feel downright violated.

And there isn’t anything I can do about it.

I want to spring into action with a “particular set of skills” and track down the bandits and show them why they should have stayed in Michigan where they belong. I want to quell the sadness I and the rest of my family felt. Also, that insecure feeling of knowing a stranger had rifled through your things. That feeling that your safe, comfortable, secure bubble had just been popped by the sharp prick of a thief’s needle. I can do none of those things, however.

It was my younger nephew that spoke up and said that it was actually a blessing and a test from God. He went on further explaining that we didn’t really need the things that were stolen. The things we really needed were left behind.

Now, let me tell you something. Hearing someone, doesn’t matter the age, tell you that you never really needed that laptop isn’t an easy thing to accept. How can that person know this? They don’t understand that it isn’t just games and files on that laptop. I couldn’t tell you how many evenings I’ve spent hunched over that thing typing out words or editing that book. I wanted to tell my younger nephew that he was wrong, that to me, that laptop was practically my life.

It was at that thought, that laptop was practically my life, that I knew I was wrong and he was right. It was such a selfish thought. Sure, I’ve suffered a setback. Sure, I’ve broken a promise. Sure, I live about an hour south of Michigan. But at least our vehicle wasn’t damaged beyond repair. At least they didn’t take my prescription blood thinners. At least they didn’t steal our clothes.

Here’s the best at least of them all: At least we left the parking lot together and unharmed.

There are worse things than having your laptop stolen. Living in Michigan for example.