Thursday, March 28, 2013

Family Album - Pooka Lion

Now Playing -  Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Life -  
Its finally almost spring here in Maine, which means it's time for Lindsay to trim the dogs and get rid of their extremely thick winter coats! Pooka is very excited.


Monday, March 18, 2013

A little catching up

Now Playing -  You Wish by Nightmare On Wax
Life -  

As of this writing, I've been technically unemployed for two full months. Ten years ago, I started a job with Walgreens, working as their overnight stock boy/cashier while I also worked as an assistant manager at a theater, ran the register at my eventual father-in-law's music store and worked full time at a gas station where I was training my replacement to manage it. All I did was work at that time, but I loved the job. The people were quirky and the job was fun, but it was also quite physical, which I liked. There was something almost spiritually fulfilling for me to be awake at 4am, hanging ad tags or stocking shelves. It had a reflective dreamlike feeling for me. I also loved the company I was working for. Walgreens treated their employees well and they seemed to have a vision for the future. After a time, I decided that it was going to be a good move for me and I made the choice to dedicate most of my energies into working towards a future with them.

For a decade, I worked there. I moved to Montana to open the first two stores in the state, fighting strange challenges and problems that came with being so removed and eventually moved back to Idaho. I progressed in the company, but never aggressively. While I fully intended to be a store manager at some point, the learning and the culture was just as important to me. I took any opportunity to move and try new challenges and work with different employees.

Eventually my quest took me to Maine and a dozen different stores, including a stint as the district secretary. All that time, I progressed. I would regularly get calls from people I'd trained or mentored many that were above me in the company, asking for my advice or how to do certain things. I took pride in the massive group of friends and co-workers I discovered. I was invited to weddings, birthdays and funerals for customers. For the most part, I adored working corporate retail.

It did have its downsides. Over the years, I worked with some bad managers and some utterly terrible people and year by year, customers seemed to get lazier, more ridiculous and self-entitled. At the same time, the company I'd loved changed. Some of it was a natural evolution, but for every step forward there were steps back and sideways and sly shuffles to the diagonal that ended up swooping backwards. The ability to use my artistic side was stifled in favor of ever increasing minutia and redundancies aimed more at anticipating problems and covering them up, rather than preventing them. A job that I was initially more than happy to dedicate all of my time to started to expect that time, make it a requirement.

As much as I loved the idea of running a beautiful, clean drug store with a family of trusted employees and loyal customers, I could see that that was no longer the future direction. Leadership was being reduced in favor of poorly trained, lower paid subordinates and corporate didn't really care if your employees left the company, as long as you had enough paperwork filled out to prevent a lawsuit.

This makes it sound like I'm complaining, and I am. But despite all of it, I still enjoyed my job and I worked with some fantastic people, both above and below me. I just didn't feel like it was the place for me. I was working with truly excellent managers that felt it was expected and acceptable to work 60+ hours a week and break family obligations in favor of filling one more shelf or writing one more record of an employee being three minutes late.

Luckily, at the same time, avenues were opening up for our family in a way they never had before. A few years back, before moving to Maine, my wife and I decided that we wanted to run a small motel on the west coast. We got close, with no money and no help, but things fell through at the last minute. But we'd had that taste.

Back in August of 2010, while we were in Topsham, ME, and I was working for Walgreens, I opened a little shop on a website called Etsy, selling hand-cut Sasquatch silhouette stickers. In the last two years, that shop had expanded to include decorative switch plate covers, photography, sculptures and other assorted geekery. This Christmas, Deeply Dapper EXPLODED. It started to grow in October and by the time Christmas rolled around we had gotten so busy that Lindsay had quit her job at the hotel and started working full time for the shop. At the same time, I was continuing to work the 50+ hours a week as a salaried manager at the drug store, then coming home to work hours and hours on the shop, often overnight, just to keep up.

Finally, we had to make a choice. Continue trying to be a store manager for a company I was no longer totally sure of or violate my one cardinal rule – NEVER QUIT A SURE THING and follow my other rule, the one I'd never gotten to follow before – DREAMS CREATE THE FUTURE.

In January, after the shop had made enough money to secure us in the months to come if sales took a sudden nose-dive, I leapt. I quit the company a couple months shy of my ten year anniversary and went to work at Deeply Dapper full time.

So how's it been going? BUSY. The shop has dropped off quite a bit and the sales are sporadic. It's not enough to be extremely worrisome, but growing up poor, it's hard for me to ignore a slim day and look at the bigger picture, knowing that the sales are no longer extra; they're how we pay our bills.

It's also incredibly difficult to get used to the idea that I don't work for Walgreens anymore. Even now, after 60 days away, I still feel like I'm on an extended vacation and will have to return at any moment. That was especially bad the first month.

But it's totally awesome, I can't deny that. We're finally finding our equilibrium and getting used to the idea of both of us in the house ALL OF THE TIME. Together. We live in a mobile home with less than 1,000 square feet and we go further than the driveway twice a week. That has taken some adjustment, but I think that will get significantly easier if this winter ever ends. We're planning an office extension out back where we can build an artists and author studio where we can find some solitude. We're doing everything we can to get ahead on orders so that we can start enjoying the state we live in. We've been here for years now and have never really had time e to explore it. And sadly, we've started prepping for Christmas already – it has the potential to be life changingly awesome if we can keep up the quality and customer service we need.

I think the most important change I can make is to get myself into a schedule. Now that it is my job, I don't have an excuse to not update all of our blogs and websites regularly, there's no reason to not go after book covers hardcore, all of those new ideas in my big notebook? I'm making them! My weekly art jam at TRDL is going to get done, I'm going to finish my damn books, I'm going to read all of these books I didn't write! We're going to get fit! As I type this, I'm walking at a nice smooth pace on my treadmill. I've walked two and a half miles, that's pretty cool. I plan to try and do 90% of my writing either walking or standing. The only time I have an excuse is when I'm editing... and when I'm particularly lazy.

One of the most important things I need to do is write here more often. I actually miss having a journal of our lives and I miss hearing from readers like Randy and Steve. 2013 is gonna be awesome.

Step Write Up!


Saturday, March 2, 2013


Now Playing -  Don't Stop Believin' by Journey

Life -  
 When I was growing up, I hated my last name. Despised it. Every thing about it. Not to go into history too much, I was raised by my mom, my parents divorcing when I was two, before my brother was born. I grew up raised by my mom and, as she worked two jobs and went to school to support us, I was raised by my family and friends. I'm the person I am today because of the network of wonderful people that surrounded me in my youth.

The thing that didn't surround me was my last name: Cowell. I saw my dad a few times over the course of my childhood, I remember a trip to Kentucky Fried Chicken and him buying me a G.I.Joe figure. I did see extended family members on a more regular basis, primary amongst was staying at "Great Mac's" in the summers. My Great Grandma McClanahan lived in a cozy house on the outskirts of Salt Lake City, Utah. We didn't do anything as world changing as spending entire summers there, but to my youthful memories, the visits there seemed lengthy and wonderful. I climbed trees, visited the zoo, tracked giant snails in the lush gardens by their slimy trails, enacted great medieval battles with small plastic knights in the dark living room and sat outside in the evenings reading.

I've never been very good at remembering specifics of my childhood, it's all a kind of foggy reminisces with moments of clarity. I know I had other family members that lived in the house and cycled in over the course of the time there and that was the bulk of experience I had with my father's family.

Despite having generally pleasant memories of that side of my family, that was not the story with my last name. Life was hard growing up, we were always short on money and somehow, every time I heard my last name aloud, it reminded me of the negatives of my childhood, the long nights sick because I'd lost our last food stamps or hearing my mom upset about trying to pay bills, how child support would never be there when we needed it.  Cowell was the harbinger of difficult times

Also, being quite large and having a name that started with the word cow in junior high was not a pleasant thing. Nor was being associated with Simon Cowell a few years later.

So I started thinking about changing my name. My first, most obvious answer was to go with my mom's family name, Marley.  I love  my family's name. love it. I mean, when you think of Marley, what do you think of? Probably either Bob Marley or the ghost in A Christmas Carol. Either is a perfectly acceptable answer. I also think of all of the people I grew up with, that helped raise me. It would be an alternative I could live with.

But it seemed wrong, somehow. Despite being a fully integrated member of the Marley clan, I never really fit in either. I was always the chubby kid in the corner reading while the family watched hunting videos or sports. There has never been a moment of my life that I didn't feel like a member of the family, but I never felt like a Marley. To change my name to that would almost seem like I was forcing myself into the niche.

Alternatives were needed. An alternative that fit me, worked with my name and still, somehow fit my heritage. Sure, I could choose a random name instead, Kristopher Neal Keymaster would be pretty sweet. But c'mon, do most people that choose a nonsensical name just because they've always liked it, or because it's awesome, stay happy with it? I wonder. Then one day, my brother and I were talking and we lit upon the name McClanahan. It clicked for me. It's a little goofy, a little pretentious, a little unusual. And I loved it. The name pays homage to my father's side of the family without the negative connotations that came from Cowell.

And lets be frank, if you're going to go to the time and expense of changing your name, choosing one that you think sounds a little cool is a good idea. So Kristopher Neal McClanahan it was.

But years passed. I stayed Cowell, mostly due to apathy. I met a wonderful girl, we decided to get married. We didn't want her to take the name Cowell and then change it later, so for the first time, we seriously looked into changing my name. In Idaho, to change it, you have to file a request, talk to a judge, post it in the newspaper, then it's approved. The problem is that each of those steps, especially what the paper was charging was outrageous. When all was said and done, it would have cost us nearly $3000 for the two of us.

Lindsay kept her name when we married, and we planned to get things taken care of.... someday.

Well, now is the time. After a fellow worker changed her name, we started looking into the procedure again, out here in Maine. It is so much cheaper and easier, it was almost ludicrous that we'd not done it sooner. We had to request an updated birth certificate and fill out some paperwork and all told, it would be about $341 for both of us.

So much has changed for us in the last few years. We moved to Maine, published novels, started a shop that would eventually allow me to walk away from Walgreens after ten years. Our future is still uncertain - we'd still like to own a little motel on the west coast and write novels in the office while we watch the ocean. It's exciting and scary and like most things, it will have to evolve along the way, but yesterday, our name change officially went out to the world. In a few weeks it will be official. Wherever our path heads, we're going that way as Mr. and Mrs. McClanahan.

I think it's pretty awesome.

“What's your name,' Coraline asked the cat. 'Look, I'm Coraline. Okay?'
'Cats don't have names,' it said.
'No?' said Coraline.
'No,' said the cat. 'Now you people have names. That's because you don't know who you are. We know who we are, so we don't need names.”
― Neil Gaiman, Coraline