Last summer I read an article that reported a survey conducted with millennials (those born between 1985 and 2000) asking them to choose which generational moniker they believed described them: The Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, or Millennials.

The overwhelming majority claimed “The Greatest Generation.”

I was dumbfounded. How had these morons escaped the fact that the folks who fought World War II and rescued Europe from the tyranny of Nazis were The Greatest Generation? Tom Brokaw, who to many of us GenX’ers is a God, named them that. So it must be true, right?

Taking this survey story to my mom’s football tailgate in the fall, where she and her Baby Boomer siblings host me and my GenX friends and my Millennial cousins and their friends, I thought everyone would be amused by it.

To a one, the Millennials chose The Greatest Generation as their obvious moniker.

“What the fuck have you ever done to earn that name?” I asked, with typical GenX hostility, adding, “Unless you’re simply being ironic?”

My cousin claimed to not know anything about these generational monikers and I wondered if I was unaware of such things at his age. But, the thing is, the Baby Boomers have always told us who they are. Always.

Then they told us who we are: Generation X.

Now marketing bloggers are warning brands not to categorize Millennials, not to try to define them or market directly to them. They will decide what’s cool and what’s not. As if that’s some big new insight in how teenagers and young adults behave.

“Being stereotyped is off-putting,” this blog claims. “No Millennial will self-identify as such.”

But here’s the thing: a generational moniker is not a stereotype. It’s when you were born. So you can’t exactly say it’s not what you are.

You might not exhibit the typical characteristics of a member of the group. Maybe you’re a Baby Boomer who didn’t spend away the 80s and is now putting off retirement because you want to stay involved (i.e. you can’t afford it). Maybe you’re a GenX’er whose parent (mother, let’s be honest) was home every afternoon after school and you grew up well-attended-to and valued. Maybe you’re a Millennial who is not obsessed with social media and celebrities.

But if you are these exceptions, you’re just that: an exception.

Generational monikers are applied because they help us recognize value systems. GenX’ers went from being latch key kids to being helicopter parents not by accident.

Sure, there are some habits and behaviors that have more to do with age than generation. Every single group spent time wanting to be different, to change the world, to engage with each other and the universe in a way that was gratifying and meaningful.

Call it the optimism of youth.

Before they put their heads down and went to war because that was what they had to do, even The Greatest Generation had aspirations. And they made strides, they really did, by engaging women in the workforce during the war and leaving them there afterward.

The Baby Boomers had hippies and love-ins and the Civil Rights Movement and they made strides, they really did, on college campuses and in the workforce. Baby Boomers invented branding, brand recognition, and corporate sponsorship.

Generation X thumbed its nose at the establishment, like good little rebels, but then climbed into the boats of corporate America and started rowing. Then two recessions disrupted their soldierly rank-holding so they’ve pioneered an age of innovation and discovery that includes the largest surge of entrepreneurship ever.

The Millennials will have their chance. They’re still trying to figure out what they want to get focused on. Whether it’s some global humanitarian cause or simply finding time in their daily lives to be more than worker bees, the Millennials will make strides. But they shouldn’t reject their heritage.

It’s the values instilled by your era that determine the focus you will have.

We’re very different people because of the time periods that shaped us. And that’s as it should be. Even if we do think the other groups are getting it all wrong.

Star Wars on the Pole

Posted: January 21, 2016 in Uncategorized

I know I’m supposed to be excited about the new Star Wars and honestly, it was amazing. But there’s something annoying about the marketing that’s ruining it for me.

It’s everywhere.

The car commercial where it looks like Darth Vader leading storm troopers in a pass-and-review, the fast food commercial that looks like the pub on Tatooine, breakfast cereals, coffee creamer, and macaroni and cheese. Star Wars is everywhere.

It’s the kind of saturation that Boomer marketers claim is good and I’m sure Disney’s hoping the saturation and the film’s wild success will solve its financial woes.

But here’s the thing: when everyone is using Star Wars to promote themselves, does it really promote Star Wars?

And does it matter?

Why do I feel like our beloved Star Wars saga is on the stripper pole?

This isn’t a fan-geek-dom argument about the sacred world of Star Wars. (We had that right after the film when we wondered if it was okay for Ray to be able to use the force without any proper training.)

This is about drawing lines.

It’s about selling out.

I don’t blame George Lucas for surrendering the brand. He’d done everything he wanted to do with it, creatively and otherwise. He doesn’t need to be Lee Greenwood pumping a single well for oil for millennia.

I don’t even really blame Disney, they doubled down on Star Wars and they needed to win big.

Maybe I’m to blame for being disappointed that such a thing has come to pass. Of course it’s the biggest deal since the episodes 1, 2, and 3 showed up a decade ago. Of course we can’t get enough. And of course Band-Aids wants in.

But enough is enough, right? At some point we can stop ourselves from the gluttony of Star Wars everything, right? Or maybe not. Charlie and I have Star Wars socks and Hollie has Star Wars pajamas. We buy our nephew every Star Wars Lego set that comes out. We own the Blu-ray complete set of the first six.

The question I have is whether Darth Vader on the box makes me want to buy something I wouldn’t normally buy and if so, what does that say about the choices I make?

I don’t think Disney had to stir up the Star Wars excitement. I don’t think they needed to bring new viewers to the franchise (though they probably did). We were all pretty excited just knowing episode 7 was in the works.

Maybe we weren’t enough.

Maybe it’s Disney’s desperation to gather more than just the GenX devotees and our children. Like they didn’t have confidence in our faithfulness to Star Wars and so they went out looking for Boomers and Millennials and foreigners and rom-com-types.

Whatever it is, I’m feeling a little heartsick over it. Every time a new commercial kicks up that same old John Williams tune I feel sad.

They same way I feel when I tuck a dollar in a wanna-be-actress’s g-string.

You were enough, pretty girl, when you had your clothes on.

It’s kind of like looking at your own kid and thinking how there’s never been a prettier baby born on the planet than the one you built.

It’s like glancing around a really great party and realizing you’re the best hostess ever because people always have a good time when they come over.

Imagine listening to other people talk about how much they dread seeing their family and thinking, “Huh? My family’s awesome.”

I’ve been revising my first novel, After December, to send it to a publisher who read two pages and asked for more, then read 60 pages and asked for more. So wow. He’s actually going to read the whole thing.

Amazing.

It’s kind of like someone texting they plan to drop by and you realizing you should change from your jammies and ripped t-shirt into something that doesn’t look like you don’t give a fuck they’re here.

So I’ve been revising.

Full disclosure, this novel has been revised about 10 times since 2012 so it’s in pretty good shape (if I do say so myself). Anyway, I get into reading it and what usually happens is I stop making edits because I’m just reading.

Yep. Reading my own work. And loving it.

It’s like a really great workout makes you think you’re in really good shape or answering a couple of Jeopardy questions makes you feel wicked smart.

I read it and I say, “I mean, it’s really good, right?”

Then I look around, realize it’s just me, and stop saying stupid shit out loud.

Of course it needs work. Of course an editor will be brutal when it comes to that. Of course I’m tainted by seeing what I think it is instead of what is actually there.

But for now, just for now, I let myself feel that way you feel when someone else compliments your kid without knowing she’s yours.

Proud.

Brian is Back

Posted: November 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with the gap between the last two chapters of After December.

Today I started “Letters from Spain,” the collection of correspondence from Brian while in Spain.

It’s got emails he sent to Tony, his parents, Joel. It’s got some notebook pages of stories he tried to write. Letters he never sent to Kacie and Melissa. I can tell those stories here.

I’ve always wanted to write an epistolary novel and I think Brian’s time in Spain might be just the right way to do that. Working through the structure and what, exactly, he’ll get out of the novel. He’s got demons to exorcise and some growing up to do.

I’m excited he’s back. But I still have 2000 words left to finish the NaNoWriMo project I started this month. I need to shhhhhh Brian for a few days at least to get that one sewn up.

But YAY! 2000 words in Brian’s 2nd novel and I’m thrilled to see him again.

More later.

Greatness vs. Potential

Posted: October 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

The new Microsoft ad says “we all have greatness in us” but it’s a lie. We do not all have greatness in us. It’s the same advertising lie that claims we deserve a perfect smile, a better cup of coffee, or health care options.

We do not deserve anything.

Stop saying stupid shit like we all have greatness in us. Greatness is a superlative. It differentiates. But we are not different. We are all experiencing the same basic human life with only the variations affected by our choices and the choices of those around us.

We do not all have greatness in us. That kind of thinking deludes people into self importance. Your experience is not unique. Your gifts are not unparalleled. You’re not even all that talented.

Ability is earned, just like everything else.

Wanna be great? Work harder. Pay attention. Look up. Read. Learn. Try. Get off your ass and do something about the potential you think you have.

If you believe you have greatness in you, prove it. Do something great. Not something human like volunteering at a shelter or being nice to an old person. Something great like project managing the New Horizons exploration of Pluto or winning 21 grand slam singles titles.

Understand the difference between greatness and potential. Greatness is the culmination of potential, vision, ability, and effort. Potential is just one part of that. We may all have potential in us. But how many have the discipline to define the vision? Hone the ability? Put forth the effort?

Being honest with yourself about your own limitations may be sobering. But it can also be freeing. It can remove the bull shit marketing nonsense of “we all have greatness in us” and show it for what it really is: a phrase meant to sell computers.

Fuck off, Microsoft.

The greatness within me is suffering under my busy, lazy, and easier-not-to-ness. I’m comfortable in my good-enough-ness. I’m satisfied with my above-average-ness.

Fuck your willingness to spread that viral self-importance that makes people think they deserve anything.

You deserve nothing.

Earn what you get. Be worthy of it. Appreciate it.

Gratitude is greatness. Hard work and dedication are greatness.

Delusion and self-importance are marketing bull shit.

Literally: A Rant

Posted: September 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

I’m not sure when or why it became a thing. I can’t remember if it was a spoof first or if the spoof came after. All I know if there’s some serious language abuse going on.

I scowl only at the GenX’ers who do this because I think they should know better. I don’t know why I think they should, but I think they should.

So to you Millennials and Baby Boomers who are killing me with this shit:

Literally means actually, or without exaggeration. It is NOT the exaggeration itself.

When John Green uses “We are literally in the heart of Jesus,” as the pastor’s favorite saying in The Fault in Our Stars, he’s telling all of us that misusing “literally” is fucking ridiculous.

We cannot be literally in the heart of Jesus because he’s a) not a living person, b) not a national park, c) not big enough to hold human beings inside himself, d) all of the above.

When I hear people say, “I was literally on the floor laughing,” and I think, “Um, no. You probably were not,” I mostly just want to erase them from the planet.

Not in a their-family-would-miss-them way, but in a Please Don’t Vote. Ever. kind of way.

It’s not that hard to misuse words. People do it all the time. I hear them say things like “I would never do that,” when, really, “never” is far from true.

Or “I always think that,” but actually, “always” isn’t the right word for that at all. You cannot always be thinking any one thing. Sometimes you’re thinking something else.

Superlatives are prone to abuse. They know it. They’re fine with it and I am, too. Honestly. I may repeat them to the person who’s abused them, “Really?” I’ll say, “You’d NEVER?”

I get that superlatives are gonna get abused.

But “literally”? It’s not superlative, it’s barely an adjective. It’s like a noun pretending to be an adjective. Literal is an actual state of being. It’s what-you-see-is-what-you-get. It’s the honest, balls-out truth.

So literally is the adjective of that state.

When you misuse literally, you’re lying. If you’re not in any way actually “literally” doing what you say you’re doing, then it’s misrepresentation at the least. At worst, it’s you trying to sound purposeful and lacking the vocabulary to make your case. Find a word-of-the-day calendar and move on. Perambulate. Mosey. Peregrinate.

If you think you are “literally” anything, ask yourself, “Am I balls-out, honest-to-Somebody’s God truly this?” Because if you’re not, stop fucking saying literally.

Or I’ll think you’re an idiot.

And probably a Millennial.

The Agent Rejection

Posted: September 8, 2015 in GenX
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I’m about to begin querying my GenX novel After December to a small press. I made the decision over the weekend after considering, again, the response I received from an agent last spring.

Agent: Nobody wants to read about the 90’s. It’s too recent to be considered historic and too long ago to be considered relevant.

Fair enough. To be honest, I don’t remember that much about the 90’s. We have Trivial Pursuit: The 90’s Edition and it’s ridiculously hard. I spent most of the decade wrapped up in my own personal dramas related to high school, boys, college, and my parents’ divorce.

Also there was a lot of drinking and smoking weed.

But the next part of the agent conversation is what made me question why I was even interviewing agents:

Agent: Why can’t the main character just be 22 now?
Me: Like, a Millennial?
Agent: Yeah.
Me: But there’d be social media and a big part of the story is his detachment from his friends.
Agent: Maybe he’s just not into social media.
Me: A Millennial?

I know some Millenials and they’re basically good kids. But come on. They’re value system is very very different from ours. Stripping GenX from Brian Listo is like making Elizabeth Bennett a lesbian. While it might be a doable version of the story, it would be a very different story.

Finally, the agent asked who would read my novel. I said book clubs — you know, those GenX moms who drink wine and remember their high school boyfriends? Possibly college kids now — I read Ethan Hawke’s college-kid-finds-love-and-loses-it novel The Hottest State when I was in college and it resonated.

Agent: So Millenials are a target audience?

As if to prove her point about aging Brian into the now.

The Millenials I know think DiCaprio originated the role of Jay Gatsby. They don’t need modern-era novels. They just need something that confirms their own interests in self, fame, and partying.

So, okay, one agent who doesn’t get it is just a single strike out. Get back up there and keep swinging. What I realized, though, was that agents reflect what the publishers say they want. So I need to find a publisher who will buy my pitch.

Next blog: The Pitch.

20th Reunion

Posted: June 22, 2015 in GenX
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The consensus at our 20-year high school reunion seemed to be that none of us really feel like adults. We all feel like we’re adulting, like it’s some kind of game we’re in or role we’ve got.

This from a real estate attorney, a police officer, and two people who own their own companies.

We all have kids.

And we’re all just faking it.

There’s a side of me that blames the grey ceiling for this pretense. Those Baby Boomer bosses who won’t retire so we can advance, those grand-parenting enthusiasts who seem a little possessive over our children, those 5K 10K charity fundraising junkies who assign every activity a cause and promise to pray for us.

They’re omnipresent and we’ve been told we could trust them and so we do. But they don’t trust us. They’d still hang the house key around our necks if they could.

We don’t believe in our own adultness because we’re not treated like responsible parties.

We’re building careers and companies, inventing technology and processes, enacting laws and enforcing them. Quietly running the place like the grown ups we are pretending to be.

There’s a humility to thinking we’re faking it. To forgetting we’re the ones in the room with the most experience, knowledge, and ability.

I catch myself sometimes reminding myself of my own credentials and my classmates admitted they do the same thing. We’re so often pressed between Boomer bragging and Millennial preening that it’s humiliating to attempt distinction. There’s something cheap and insincere about naming ourselves experts.

Even when we are the best at what we do, we’re always dismissed as slackers.

It’s especially hard in a room full of people who knew you when you were 17 to remember that you’re now almost 40. Even looking at these people’s children doesn’t stop me from thinking about them as the kids we were back then.

Probably because I perpetually think of myself that way.

It’s not an obsession with youth or denial over the aging process. It’s an honest-to-goodness belief that I have more to learn.

I may not be ready for Hollie to be a teenager right now, but I will be when it’s time. My classmates with teens told me so.

I may not be prepared to retire right now, but I’m putting together the right portfolio to manage that when it’s time.

In the same way I was ready when I finished my PhD, when I started my company, when I decided to lead in a project where following would have been easier.

After a weekend of looking back, I’m ready to focus on now.

Now is the most interesting part of my story. I’m mid-career and my own boss. I’m mom to a kid learning to read, write, swim, and ride a bike. She doesn’t know everything yet and neither do I.

What’s even better is this sense that I’m living my life my way and that while that may be a little scary and unpredictable, it’s going to turn out okay.

It may turn out we’re pretty good at this adult thing. Maybe the slacker generation is exactly the image we need to hide our super hero antics.

GenX Friendships

Posted: April 20, 2015 in GenX

I consider myself the kind of friend who values loyalty above all else.

As a middle child, I was used to compromising and my two best friends were only children, whose fierce loyalty to me I returned in kind.

And I extend that loyalty to others. To eldest siblings who boss me around and youngest siblings who always get their way. Not my siblings, mind you, just their birth order which tells a lot about a person.

In my study of Generation X, I’ve found this loyalty to my friends is characteristic not of my birth order, but of the era in which I was born.

The maturation of our friendships is a uniquely definitive characteristic of Gen X because our friends supplanted the traditional family unit.

I remember that.

I remember being a senior in high school and my parents were nowhere to be seen but my crew was omnipresent. I remember being a little kid and relying on my friends’ judgment on things like jumping in the creek, crossing the yard boundary, setting things on fire, and hanging out with older kids.

I remember relying on my friends’ judgment about things like drinking and drugs.

And I remember choosing friends who wouldn’t do that shit. Not right at first. After college acceptance, after the parents left, after we’d secured our future, we killed time with booze. But we kept each other clean for 17 years first.

We were good to one another. We protected each other. We kept each other from stepping over the line. We lived to tell the stories.

It’s later now and my parents and I are reconciled, as are most of my friends with theirs, and still we have a special bond. We still have those unwritten Thank Yous that include the slight shifts away from disaster toward survival.

I always say Charlie and I grew up together even though I didn’t meet him until I was nineteen. In many ways, he and I helped one another walk the line. For years we’ve held one another back, just the briefest of seconds, to say, “Are you sure?”

A good friend will come and bail you out of jail, but a true friend will be sitting next to you saying, ‘Man, that was fun.’

My true friends never let me end up in jail. They never let me go too far.

As our friendships have matured, we have shared financial advice, career advice, relationship advice, and parenting advice. All of which is coming from equal footing.

When I think of Brian Listo (After December) and the friendships he is struggling to maintain in his twenties, I think of the times my friends and I seemed destined to break apart and how we managed to sew ourselves back together.

My best friend Tami says she hangs around because she knows enough about me to blackmail me when I run for office. I told her she can have all my illegal campaign contributions.

That our generation takes counsel from ourselves may end up being our undoing.

We may be saying, “Why can’t it be done that way?” and someone who tried it a long time ago could be saying, “I’m proof it can’t.”

We consider ourselves special, exceptional, different, un-afflicted by the failures of generations past.

We think our course is true.

We think our friends are giving right counsel. And they are. But they’re on equal footing.

Our collective inexperience could be the thing that dooms us.

I look at my crew now and I see a few good history students, a few whose parents were of sound mind, and a few more who are on the front end of my generation and who have the experience the rest of us need.

We’ll rely upon one another as we always have.

And we’ll change the world.

Believe it.

Thinking forward in the story

Posted: March 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

My time-traveling vampire novel is with the beta readers so I can’t work on it. So I’m thinking about the sequel. Imagining what happens next can help me during revision. I’m sewing up the first story with just wide enough seams to let uncertainty leak through, creating the pool for the sequel.


Asta stepped through the door as if summoned and I smiled watching my thoughts materialize before me.

She wore a tank top and jeans, her dark hair floating over her bare shoulders, her eyes made-up and vivid.

“I’ve just come from Kansas,” she said.

“What?”

“Kansas. The strip club, the rodeo, the farm house, the fire.” Her voice dropped on the last word and the depth of it betrayed her sadness.

“Kansas.”

“Kansas,” she echoed.

“I didn’t know you escaped the fire,” I said.

“Neither did I.”

“How did you?”

“Raven took me to Pisa with him and Dahlia.”

“You traveled?”

She nodded.

“But how?”

“You’re my sire. He’s yours.”

I grinned. “You can travel.” I stepped closer to her, thought to pull her against me, hold her. We’d been apart for months but now we wouldn’t have to be apart again. When I reached for her, though, she backed away.

“What’s this? What’s the matter?”

“I saw how you loved her.” Asta’s voice caught and tears welled in her eyes.

I had a glimpse of Sara in my memory, her wild curls, her blazing green stare.

“If I had known,” Asta said, “I wouldn’t have taken her there. I would never have turned her, never have put her in your way.”

I shook my head. “That was the story.”

“But I forced it.”

“I wouldn’t trade it,” I said.

“I saw you hold her. The way you looked at her. You wanted her.”

I nodded. The broken part of my heart had healed and now felt like the scar of an old wound which doesn’t hurt when pressed.

“Did you ever love me like that?” The tears dripped down her cheeks and her lips tightened.

I shook my head and she looked away.

“Darling,” I said.

“Don’t call me that,” she whispered, squeezing her eyes shut.

I smiled.

“Did you?” she asked again.

“I’ve never loved anyone like that,” I said quietly.

Then she let me reach for her, pull her to me. I kissed her forehead gently.

“I love you. Differently. Completely.”

She looked up into my face then.

“You are my everything now,” I said. “I’ve chased you for a century. How else can I show you?” I pressed her against me, my arms around her waist.

She laid her cheek on my chest and I felt its dampness through my shirt.

“You look good in 21st century fashion,” I said into her hair. “You smell good, too.”

I felt her lips part into a smile against my chest and she breathed out heavily, hot air that warmed me all the way through.

“I love you,” I said.

“Say it again.”

“I love you.”

“Forgive me for Kansas.”

I tipped her chin up and kissed her, deeply, with all the months of wanting her and the taste of black cherry feeling like home again. My body and brain rejoiced, my Asta was back.

“My love,” she whispered.

“Yes, darling?”

“Don’t call me that,” she said softly.

My arms still around her, she leaned back in my embrace and searched my face. My eyes blazed with desire for her and I let them. My lips tingled with the memory of her kiss.

“Tell me again,” she said. Her brown eyes rimmed with green glistened with tears.

“I love you,” I said, tightening my grip around her waist.

“She’s alive.”

“What?”

“Sara. She survived the fire.”

I let go of Asta, staggered back a couple of paces.

She wiped her face, her cheeks and lips, and breathed in deeply.

“Raven saved her, too.”

Without meaning to, I let my eyes pulse and the glare I wore stunned her so she cringed and backed away.