This could be the last post on this blog ever

I believe writer’s block is an affectation experienced by successful authors who have made enough money to let their egos be picky.

I am not a successful author. I’m a former journalist, maybe even a failed one.

But I have found it hard to write of late.

I am tired. The fall semester drained me. The classes were hard. They shook my confidence. I went from knowing I could teach to thinking I could teach.

Maybe that swing is good. A person needs to earn swagger. I earned a little in paragraph stacking, but I have none in teaching.

I begin student teaching in January.

I have some decisions to make about my public writing before then.

I have lived a partially public life in the age of social media.

I have accounts on all the major platform and about 11,000 combined followers.

That’s not much if you’re Beyonce.

It’s decent if you’re some random fat guy in the Midwest who typed up police reports and weather stories for the local newspaper.

The decision: Do I delete all those accounts?

The easiest answer is “yes.”

The problem is I sometimes say things on these platforms that people find objectionable.

I try to stay out of politics and religion, although I’ve dipped into both over time.

Mom 2.0, the kindly east Des Moines hairdresser who raised me after my parents died, always tried to keep those topics out of her beauty shop. I keep them out of my feed as best I can.

But everything is an argument these days.

I’ll give you an example: I have not been very excited about the most recent actor to play the lead in “Doctor Who.”

I don’t blame the actor, not really. I just don’t think the stories are very good.
I voiced this opinion in the comic shop. One of the employees sighed heavily and said, “The world was not ready for its first female Doctor.”

The implication in that comment is that the reason I don’t like the show is because I don’t like women.

I said nothing. I paid for my comics and left.

I wanted to reply and make my point more clearly, but any protest would have led to politics, which the shop owner tries to avoid for the same reason Mom 2.0 did.

I’m sure if I kept talking, I would be accused of sexism or misogyny. It’s not a conversation worth having.

This was a real-world conversation, where you can read body language and tone.

Now take that conversation online, remove context and any sense of sanity.

The Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Victimhood rules the internet.

If I were to make such a comment about disliking “Doctor Who” stories in recent seasons online, one of them might find me and decide I was the worst person in the world.

Then they might go on quest to wreck my life.

A person with whom you disagree about “Doctor Who” must not be able to have a job or get a cup of coffee. They must be shunned and forced to the edges of society.

Employers hate controversy. They have a business to run. Bosses don’t need their employees drumming up problems for them by what say on the internet.

First Amendment free speech protections only prevent the government from muzzling you. Your employer can absolutely tell you to shut up about your opinions on “Doctor Who” or clean out your desk.

I plan to work in public schools.

If all goes as planned — and, please, God, let me get what I want this time — I will be ending my first semester as a fully licensed teacher by this time next year.

I have no intention of rocking the boat with mean tweets about “Doctor Who” episodes — or anything else for that matter.

So, do I just spike the whole thing?

Do I kill the blog? Should I delete Facebook, Twitter, and the rest?

I think maybe I should.

However, I also think I enjoy writing for an audience and the people who read this blog have been very kind and loyal to me for the past couple years, some of the worst in my adult life.

There are other options.

I could make the blog, Facebook page, and Twitter private. I could control who is in and who is out.

I know some people who do that just so they can complain about the terrible play of the Chicago Bears with a wider range of vocabulary than is allowed at the Methodist Sunday night potluck.

I don’t know how successful making accounts private is. I figure if you put it out there, eventually someone who is serious about getting to it will get to it.

What am I going to do?

I don’t know.

I don’t have to decide today.

Maybe over a couple glasses of eggnog and some holiday cheer, I’ll have an epiphany.

Until then, save me a snowman cookie and keep telling your story.


Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.
Venmo@newsmanone.
PayPalpaypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Where I’m from

Graduate school at Drake University starts Monday. These days the professors issue assignments before a first class is held. I’ve got to read some executive summaries about climate volatility for a contemporary American literature class focused on post-apocolyptic novels. One of my education professors assigned a poem for our education methods class. The poem is supposed to be autobiographical in the style of Georgia Ella Lyon’sWhere I’m From.”

I thought I’d take a break from knee surgery and recovery updates and share with you my homework.

Where I’m From

By Daniel P. Finney

I come from

Secrets and mistakes

Heavy burdens chosen to carry,

Then given away to the

Crackling hellfire of good intentions.

I come from adoption by

A woman addicted to babies

With no use for children

And a man who just wanted sanity

For the bride whose joy faded decades before.

I come from madness

Innocence stolen by orange and white pills

Spilled from translucent bottles that

Wiped Mother’s memories of

Her constant cruel words and actions.

I come from escape from harsh reality with

Trips to Korea to serve with the 4077th,

On Rescue 51 with Roy and Johnny, and in

The TARDIS, with the Doctor, who

Saved the universe with a pretty girl and robot dog.

I come from a wire worm-infested red-brick ranch in

Madison County that smelled of what

Farmers call “money,” but is really

Hog shit or chicken shit depending

On which way the wind blew.

I come from weekdays

Construction paper cuts with

Betty Lou at the “House with the Magic Window;”

Learned why the man put the car in the oven

From a balsa wood puppet named Floppy.

I knew how to get, how to get t0

“Sesame Street” and walked

“Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood”

With peanut butter and grape jelly

On both breath and fingertips.

I come from Saturday mornings,

I ran with Road Runner,

Punched with Popeye and

Foiled the Legion of Doom

With the Super Friends.

I’m from Friday dinners at Knox Café

Fried chicken and and rainbow sherbet

Nervously devoured while desperately

Hoping to get home to in time to

See somebody make David Banner angry.

I come from comic books and movies where

Adventure awaits in every four-color panel

Onomatopoeia is defined in colorful splashes

Things blow up and Han shoots first, but

The good guys always win in the end.

I come from battles against the forces of evil

Fought with plastic heroes and villains

On the blue shag carpet of my bedroom.

Toys served as talismans meant to say

“I love you” when the adults could not.

I come from checkers games with

My Dad as his dying heart turned his

Skin gray and he warmed his hands on a

Cup of coffee while we talked about

Hawkeyes, history, and the promise of heaven.

I come from Little League baseball diamond

Dirt rubbed into bare hands, step into the box

And pray for a walk because I was

Afraid of the ball and only in it for

The free cap, comradery, and concessions.

I come from funerals

Parents gone before I was 15;

Dad from a sick heart and Mother from a fall downstairs.

Sometimes the good guys don’t win and

Nobody gets out alive.

I come from romances that fail

When the chemistry of lust and love fades and

The negotiations and compromises begin.

Still, I remember a gentle kiss at the door after the dance,

And misty eyes whenever “Lady in Red” plays on the radio.

I come from second chances made

Corporal by an east-side hairdresser and

Her husband, the printer, who

Couldn’t have their own children,

But chose to love a second-hand son.

I come from mental health care;

Two salmon colored pills in the morning with

Three whites at night and a

cocktail of behavioral therapy to

help me be me despite brain chemistry malfunctions.

I come from feelings projected onto food and

Devoured in great gulps, wearing trauma in

Pounds of flesh hanging from my body for all to

See, judge, point, whisper, and mock while

I manage with my doctors, therapist, and cane.

I come from newspapers.

Box scores, agate type, Sunday color comics,

Picas, pixels, paragraphs, and inverted pyramids.

To seek and publish truth and

Defend democracy.

I come from timid knocks on the

Doors of strangers who

Suffered terrible loss and stumbled into the news

And I stood on their stoop begging them

To tell me their stories.

I come from short sentences with

Specific nouns and action verbs,

Creativity and accuracy with the

Clock running, racing toward deadline

before those mighty presses rolled.

I come from the end days of journalism like

Living in a hospice without a morphine drip.

A middle-aged veteran reporter runs like an

Endangered species actively hunted, finally skewered

By layoffs served by greedy corporate hustlers.

I come resilience and hope that

I can rebuild my life and purpose to

Trade the pilcrow blues for the head of the class.

Help the young find their voices, sling their sentences

Stack their paragraphs, keep moving forward.


Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.
Venmo@newsmanone.
PayPalpaypal.me/paragraphstacker.

The fear 4 hours before doctor appointment

My appointment with the specialist doctor is at 9 a.m.

It’s currently 4 a.m.

I’m scared.

I know that to get better, I need to see this doctor.

But I’m afraid.

I’ve never had surgery before. I don’t even know if I need surgery. But I’m scared of it.

I think about all the Drake women’s basketball players I wrote about who had knee injuries or other issues who had surgery.

To me, their condition was news — facts people should know about their favorite team.

I didn’t think about the pain.

I didn’t consider they might be afraid.

Maybe they weren’t.

Those Drake women’s basketball players I covered back in the mid- to late-1990s were tougher than I’ll ever be.

I remember one player, she got cut. She declined a pain killer because that meant shouldn’t go back into the game.

Me? I would have asked for maximum pain relief, my blankie, and my stuffed Pink Panther.

Someone I love was trying to help me yesterday.

This is her way. She takes charge. She leads.

She started to list all the changes I needed to make to get better.

Lose weight.

Listen to my doctors.

Exercise more.

She hit an especially tender spot. She asked if I thought I could walk to my classes at Drake even without my present knee problems.

Her question was legitimate. All my grad school work so far has been online because of the pandemic.

This fall, we’re back to buildings and classrooms.

Can I walk a few blocks to my classes even without a knee injury?

The answer is no.

But.

But I would have found a way. I would have paid for a parking sticker for the lots closest to the building I took my classes in.

If I couldn’t make it, I would use an assistive device — a crutch, a walker, whatever.

I was going to make it.

But her question comes with an unintentional punch.

It reminds me how much I hate myself — my physical body, how repulsed I am by the sight of me.

I know I am disgustingly fat by both medical and aesthetic standards. I know every extra pound shortens my lifespan.

I worry about it all the time.

The latest knee injury terrifies me on a scale I struggle to describe.

I worry that it can’t be fixed or will be easily reinjured. Thus, getting to class will become impossible and I won’t finish graduate school, won’t become a teacher and end up with a pile of student loans and no job to pay them with. I’ll be living down at the YMCA housing or in a hospice.

How’s that for maudlin thinking?

This is what goes on in a brain stricken with depression and anxiety.

That’s why I abruptly ended the call with my loved one.

I was rude.

But I had therapy soon. And I was hurting, both physically and emotionally.

I didn’t want to fight.

I just wanted someone to tell me everything was going to be OK.

Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. 
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311. 
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com. 
Venmo@newsmanone
PayPalpaypal.me/paragraphstacker.