The champion a major theme for me.

Imagine a guardian that’s always got your back. It stands at the foot of your bed, it watches over you when the day is dark, follows you down narrow alleys and carries you when you need it most. I think I just described Jesus. But for the non-Christian or secular soul, it could be anything–the angel, the spirit, the good luck charm.

A big scary dog.

Aussie (white) and Jake guarding the kayaks.

It’s comforting to believe everything will be all right. Nothing willhurt us. It’s not possible, really, but it’s the lie that comforts. The truth is, there is suffering. We can’t avoid it. And our guardian isn’t going to protect us in that way. Not if they’re compassionate.

We told our kids, early on, our jobs as parents were to help them grow up. To become adults. When our son turned 21, we was still living at home. He’d just finished college. We told him we weren’t helping him by living here. On his 21 birthday, he moved to an apartment on his own. Scariest thing he’d ever done.

Thing of it is, I’m 51 and still growing up. I’ve been sitting meditation for over thirty years, been to quite a few retreats and listened to countless talks. But it’s taken that long to realize something that’s obvious.

I’m a consumer.

We have to eat and breathe to survive. Other organisms are harmed in order for us to live. It’s the nature of the world we live in. But I’m consuming other things, too. The little addictions of getting… the high of great sex, the charge of a positive review, the dirty thrill of a politician getting just desserts, the sweetness of an email or Facebook mention or Instagram like or the gut-warming thrill of slamming a ping pong ball down my son’s throat. I’m an the emotional cookie monster.

Nom-nom-nom-nom.

I think growing up is the slow awakening to the fact that this is a shit show. We’re not here to get what we want. I’m 51 and still trying to get off the tit. It’s a tough thing to give up. That protective embrace, the dad who will stop an intruder.

Life, as we know it, isn’t here to serve us. The bear eats the baby deer and we all die. Those stark facts are too much for kids. I lost a lot of sleep because I was convinced someone would climb up the TV antennae and do something. I don’t know what. Punch me, shoot me. Didn’t matter. I remember hearing someone on the news talk about a case of blackmail. It sounded terrifying. At school, I confessed to the teacher I was really afraid of being blackmailed.

I still remember the look on her face.

Then it was The Exorcist. I swear my sister’s bed was levitating. Then Freddy Krueger, don’t fall asleep. Then Amityville Horror, there was nowhere to hide. My brother would have night terrors of Bloody Mary coming for him and wake up screaming. I was right there with him.

What kind of world is this?

That was all bullshit, turns out. But the truth was just as overwhelming. There are children born into families where they are harmed. Countries where they are punished. Schools where they are beaten. That shit happens and it’s happening now. I can’t remember what book I was reading, it might have been Sam Harris’s Waking Up, where he described a boy’s account of being repeatedly raped by his stepfather in brutal detail that had gone on for years. It was gut-wrenching. Even now, years later, it’s difficult to accept this is the world we live in.

That explains my reaction to Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls. It was the last time I bawled fiercely while reading. And then the movie, holy shit. The scene in the school where the monster says It is time for the third tale

How did I not see this theme earlier in my life?

Flury: Journey of a Snowman was the first time I saw it. Flury is the snowman, if you haven’t read it, and I started the book with a scene in mind. Made me all weepy when I got to it. Now there’s Ronin. This is so obvious, what I’m doing. Writing about the champion in always wished was in my life.

I’m in the final edits for Ronin: The Last Reindeer. If you want a peek into my head, it’ll be available November 1 of this year and available for preorder I don’t know when. The main character is a boy named Ryder Mack. Strange things have happened all of his life, especially when he’s in danger. But a surreal turn of events reveals who his secret guardian is, and the plan someone has to capture him.

Ronin is the biggest and baddest of them all, the one no one has ever sang about, the one who protects the herd and a young boy. He’s no Rudolf. He’s is the last reindeer.

And he’s bad ass.

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