Family is Everything

*NOT* a writing-related post.

Too often in life, we get caught up in the day-to-day. Work has a way of taking over your life, the kids always have somewhere to be, the housework is on a never-ending cycle of required work to do. But it is important to keep your priorities right.

If you have kids, they need some family time with you – not in front of the TV but real, interactive time. Talk over dinner. Go on hikes with them. Have a game night. If they are grown and out of the house, call them.

If you have parents, give them a call. Stop by and talk when you can. Take them to dinner.

Life is fleeting. You never have as much time as think you do. The ‘Things’ in your life are not what matter, it’s the people. If you have an issue with a member of your family, talk it through with them, if possible. Don’t give them the cold shoulder. You wouldn’t want that to be the way things ended, would you? Family is everything.

~J.M. Ames

Dark Writings

It was mentioned to me by more than one of my fellow authors this past week that my recent writing has taken a decidedly darker bent. While not intentional, on stepping back it makes sense. Death has been swirling around me – and not in remote ways. In the past four months, my family has suffered not one but two devastating losses – one expected, the other not at all. My close neighbor friend’s daughter slipped in the shower, hit her head and died. We’ve just passed the one year anniversary of one of my childhood friend’s death. I won’t mention the ongoing death stories in the news.

As a result, emotions have been pretty raw with everyone under this roof. I honestly expected this would push me into a writing slump, but it would appear to have had the opposite effect, spurring me to write more than usual – albeit with darker subject matter. Writing is cathartic in several ways. Escaping into a fantasy world is how it starts, but I’ve noticed no matter how innocent or light it is intended, it goes dark. Someone dies, and the characters left have to figure out a way to pick up the pieces and move on. I guess this has become my way of figuring out how to do that for myself, and how to help my wife and children heal from the enormous and unfair wounds that life has ripped into them.

Those of you who express yourselves in writing, music, art, or other ways I am sure are familiar with the process, or something akin to it. Those of you who enjoy reading should be prepared for some darker material from me for awhile. Like all things in life, this will be temporary.

Peace and love to all of you and your families. Put nothing off, leave nothing unsaid, and ensure your loved ones are well taken care of. You never know if today will be your last.

– J.M. Ames

2016 – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

2016 has been a heartbreaking year. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are probably already aware of the multiple celebrities we’ve lost this year, as well as the tumultuous Presidential election that has caused a division within this country unprecedented in my lifetime.

The year started off somber. On Thanksgiving 2015, we found out my Mother-In-Law had been diagnosed with ALS (more commonly known as Lou Gherig’s disease – also the disease for which there was the Ice Bucket Challenge). This disease is a horrible disease which causes one’s muscles to stop working and atrophy away. There is no known cure.

In January, I decided to dedicate what little free time I had to writing, with the intent of getting published. I still haven’t completed any of the stories I originally set out to write, but I’ve written several others. To my great surprise, the very first story I finished was accepted by the very first publisher I submitted to (The Last Ride, in the A Journey of Words anthology). I wasn’t expecting to get published in my first year of writing, but that’s what happened. I’ve since had two more stories picked up for publication, and two other stories have won first place in writing contests. I now have multiple other works in process and have even started up a Beta Reader Group to have multiple reviewers go over my work before it gets professionally edited. I never expected things to go this well, especially in the first year. In this area, I’ve been very lucky.

On March 29th, I lost a friend of mine I had known since Kindergarten unexpectedly to meningitis. Brandon had just relocated his wife and two very young sons to Las Vegas. He passed on his 41st birthday. Nobody even knew he was sick until it was too late. His passing was a complete shock to all of us.

In June, I had a bit of a health scare. I had been getting chest pains for a few days and was finally convinced by my wife to go to the Urgent Care. I ended up being sent to the Emergency Room and spending the night. It turns out I had simply pulled a muscle in my ribcage. While I was in no immediate danger, the extensive tests did uncover that my Diabetes was much worse than previously thought, so I am now on a new regiment of medication, diet, and exercise to get it back under control.

On December 14th, ALS took Jackie, my Mother-In-Law. She passed peacefully, in her sleep, surrounded by all of her immediate family. While we are all happy she is no longer suffering, words cannot describe the void she has left behind. As the turnout to her Memorial Service showed, her kind heart not only touched that of the family but of quite a few coworkers and friends. There haven’t been too many dry eyes in my house the past few weeks, and I suspect that will take quite some time.

My writing has been cathartic in getting me through all of this, but the biggest help has been my family. My wife, kids, parents, sister, and her boys and husband. There is nothing more important. Hug your loved ones if you can. Call them as much as you can. Don’t let bad feelings stand in the way. You never know what conversation will be your last, so make them all end on a positive note.

I am hopeful for 2017. Hopefully, the broken hearts within my family and friends can begin to heal. Hopefully, I can maintain the momentum in my writing. Hopefully, the country can find a way to proceed in some progressive and functional manner.

I wish the best for all of you and your loved ones in 2017.

– J.M. Ames