An Inspired Post

6th post for #bloganuary (a WordPress event)

The Prompt: Who is someone that inspires you and why?

Oooooooh! I really set myself up with the title of this post didn’t I? Nothing like setting expectations high and then crashing and burning. Haha. But seriously, lower your expectations. It’s just a play on words. Or is it?

First, a small observation. This is the first prompt in the series that adds the “and why”. I honestly assumed that some type of explanation is required for all of these prompts to generate any interesting content. After all, it’s the why behind our hopes and desires, thoughts and feelings, and crazy behaviors that is most interesting, isn’t it? In fact, figuring out the “why” for myself is my biggest motivation for writing in the first place.

I think that there are many people, both the publicly well known and those in my private life that have inspiring accomplishments. Almost everyone has some attributes about them that are potentially inspiring to others. But the key to this question, I think, is whom has actually inspired me to action. After all, without any action how inspired were we really?

Many of the things that I’m most proud of in my recent life I can trace back to personal motivation. The idea may have come from someone or somewhere, but the action and follow through came from within. Over the past 18 months, starting in my 47th year, I’ve self-published five books (after never having written creatively before besides school). Each of these books were self-illustrated (after never having created art before besides school or playing as a child). I’ve done all of this while working in a demanding job and trying to be a good husband, father, son, brother. I may sound like I’m bragging. I guess I am. I’m proud of these accomplishments. To be honest, these accomplishments inspire me to do even more creatively. I’m still writing and illustrating. I’m now also personally blogging. I’m feeling good about myself (and that is not my natural emotional set-point).

In the past several years, I’ve also been on a journey of recovery from four decades of chronic pain (migraines) while also living with major depressive disorder. I’ve learned self-care using mind-body techniques. I’ve learned and made a habit of meditation and yoga. I’ve transformed chronic pain into periodic discomfort. I’ve learned to be happy while being chemically wired for sadness. It hasn’t been easy. Of this journey, I’m also proud.

So the answer to the question of who inspires me is…me? No. Well, yes, but not for this post’s purpose. I’d like to live into the intent of the prompt and share about how and why I’ve been inspired by others in my life. The nominations are:

1. My Mom for inspiring me (granted with some positional power) to get my act together as a teenager. I was out of control and she provided the tough love I needed at the time to make a change and a life-time of unconditional love to support me along the way. Thanks Mom.

2. My Wife for inspiring me to be my best self for the family. She believed in a better me than I’ve ever believed in. She encouraged me to take chances at work that directly led to my career success. She acknowledged my illness, but didn’t allow me to define myself by it. She encouraged me to be present and involved as a father, husband, son. She taught me that by always putting family first we can keep our family together (even through times when we’re not so sure we wanted to). Thanks love.

3. My Children for inspiring me to own up to my failures. When I did let them and my family down they held me accountable. In each of their own ways they have been (rightfully) tough on me for letting them down. They said I’d been their roll-model. They looked up to me. I was the “best” father they could imagine. When I failed them I shattered their world. But we’ve talked about it. We’ve worked and continue to work through our feelings. It’s that ongoing conversation that they are gifting me. Through these conversations with my children I’ve learned to live with regret without feeling constant punishing guilt. Thanks loves.

And the winner is…A THREE-WAY TIE. How extraordinary.

Be well,


Paper Heart (a Paint Chip Poem)

No Love For Fatties invites us to join in on her Paint Chip Poetry by creating our own poem inspired by the paint chip colors of the week. I think this is a really creative and fun idea so I’m giving it a try. Check out her original post and join in too if you feel inspired.

Paint Chip Poetry

Paper Heart

My paper heart crinkled,

Beating faster fragilely,

Worn thin but not out,

Better to tear than stop,

For a taste of her,

The one in Spanish lace.

Be well,


Wishful Thinking

5th post for #bloganuary (a WordPress event).

The Prompt: What is something you wish you knew how to do?

There are quite a few ways to take this question. One approach is a ‘genie in a bottle wishing’ fantasy. Another would be the classic ‘if you could have any superpower…’ question. I’m not adverse to taking things in unintentional directions, but I’m in the mood to take this one at face value. Essentially, “What is a skill that I would like to have”. I’m avoiding the word wish in my reframing because wishes should never be wasted on the attainable (which in theory any skill is with the proper effort).

With that settled, let’s get to answering the question. Most of all, if I could pick up any skill, it would be Chinese Language Fluency. I’ve been learning Chinese now for over twenty-five years and I’m still at best at an intermediate level for oral conversation and totally incompetent for reading/writing.

To be fair I’ve never studied Chinese in an educational setting. It’s always been through life here on the ground. I first moved to Shanghai in 1996 and over the past 25+ years I’ve spent more then half of my time living and working in China. My wife is local and her parents have lived with us most of our marriage so I’ve picked up the Shanghainese dialect more so then the official language of Mandarin, but my vocabulary is still quite limited in both. I would love to be able to communicate more fluently with my family and work colleagues. Imagine only being able to speak with your life-partner at a 3rd grade level. Yah. Not ideal (although I’ve strategically used the language barrier at times to cover my just being an insensitive ass sometimes so it does have its advantages at times).

If I were to be playing the genie fantasy game I would wish for fluency in all worldwide languages. There is nothing more powerful than connecting with others in their native language.

Be well,


Let’s Play!

4th post for #bloganuary (a WordPress event)

The Prompt: What was your favorite toy as a child?

Before getting into the subject at hand, let me say hello to my recent followers. It’s been very refreshing to join the WordPress platform and connect with friends both old and new. I previously hosted my blog on a platform that didn’t support commenting and it sometimes felt like I was posting to the ether. While I write for myself, I share for human connection. It’s a nice change to see the engagement here and I look forward to continuing to get to know each of you.

Ok, now let’s get down to business. Favorite toy, huh? Not the most stimulating of prompts to be honest, but the first three were great so I’ll forgive the WordPress team for not having 31 winners all lined up for the month. Besides you never know the stories that can come out from even the most pedestrian questions. There is also the possibility that by analyzing our favorite toys we might be able to identify the serial killer among us (there’s always at least one, right?). I’m not sure how exactly to decode the linkage between how we play and how we kill, but it’s an interesting thought experiment. And in case you were wondering…NO, I’m not a serial killer. Honest. Seriously. I was just joking (doth he protest too much)? I promise it was just one time…

Um, where was I? Ah yes, favorite toy. I’ve thought a lot about this (over the past five minutes while on a murderous tangent) and I have to go with Nintendo Classic Super Mario Brothers. It was a late entry as I first got the system when I was a junior in high school. I bought it second hand from a colleague at the movie theater I worked at. I’d never had a video game system (although I’d played Atari when visiting my dad). I think it was the first time that I spent my hard earned cash ($3.25 an hour was the rate at the time; minimum-wage) on something that was for pure fun.

There were also special circumstances that led to the purchase and the enjoyment. I happened to be grounded half-way through my 16th year (and it lasted all the way through my 17th year – yes, I really did F-up that badly. It’s a story for another time). Being grounded meant I wasn’t wasting my money on getting into trouble anymore…and it meant I desperately needed something to do in all my free time. It was the perfect recipe for an addictive video game experience and Mario came to the rescue.

I played that thing for a year before I finally completed the game. With Princess Peach in my arms I simultaneously celebrated the success and mourned the loss of further adventure. It’s just not the same replaying a game you’ve already completed.

I tried playing again decades later with my kids but it was too hard to go back to the limited lives scenario of the classic game. I think my kids lasted about twenty minutes before giving up and going back to the Wii. Despite the lack of replay value (for me), I still choose it as my favorite toy. Anything that can occupy a teenage boy for a year that doesn’t get him into trouble is pretty impressive in my book.

That’s all for today.

Be well,


Share Your Blog 2022 (A Captain’s Speech Production)

It’s the first Monday of the year, which means it’s time for the 4th annual Share Your Blog event! Yes, we have food and refreshments. We also have …

Share Your Blog 2022

Hi All! First of all thanks Paul for the opportunity and inspiration for community building. I only ‘met’ Paul and started blogging mid-year 2021 so this is my first go around for this annual tradition.

I’m Monty and like to call myself a work-in-progress human being. I’m also an author and illustrator (you can find my work under my full pen name Monty Vern). And at least since last year a personal blogger. I’m originally from Vermont, USA but currently live, work, and create in Shanghai, China.

My Words: My words are as varied as the experiences life has thrown at me. Always personal and emotionally honest. Mostly autobiographical, observational, and free of fake news. Periodically humorous, sometimes intentionally but often not.

My People: My people are those that use human connection to inspire each other’s creativity. Our personal journeys intersect in the most curious and interesting ways. Let’s embrace each other’s differences and celebrate each shared moment.

Join me:

Monty’s Blahg:

Author Site:

Twitter: @MontyVern

Be well,


Saving Private Gill (a Captain Jack Adventure)

Originally posted on 3 January 2022 on Monty’s Scribbles

Yesterday, my friend Captain Jack and I saved a life. True story. Here’s how it went down.

Captain Jack, or more informally Jack, is my rescue puppy. He arrived outside of our home about four months ago. He needed a home. We didn’t know it at the time, but we needed a captain. So we took him in. He was about two months old according to the vet, so that would make him about six months old now. Still a pup.

Jack usually hangs out with me so when he went missing for a little while in the house I got curious. He came prancing around the corner when I called and looked at me. But then he pranced away again. Strange. I decided to investigate.

I found him in the back corner of our sun veranda. The corner where the laundry sits. He was nudging something on the floor with his nose. I leaned over and was very confused to see a fish on the floor. It didn’t seem to be moving, but it looked wet (i.e. not a dried fish snack or something). Then it moved!

Suspending my disbelief about finding a live fish randomly in the house, I jumped into gear and got it into a big bowl of water as fast as I could. It didn’t swim but it moved it’s gills a bit. The fish was about 5 inches long. Darkish grey/green. With a wide mouth. Kinda like the fish that often comes in a bowl of soup, but a baby. While it was located near the kitchen it didn’t make sense that we would have a baby fish for soup. And how the heck did it get into the laundry area?

For a moment I thought Jack might have “borrowed” the fish from our outside fish pond. While it was a logical thought, I feel guilty for ever thinking Jack was a potential murderer. And this fish didn’t look like any of the fish in our pond so even the logic didn’t quite add up. The truth is Jack might have saved the life of this fish! Shame on me for thinking otherwise. But then again, the fish didn’t look like it was doing so well. Perhaps we failed it?

Giving the fish a little time to gather it’s powers back (or float) I went in search for answers. I woke up my wife and explained the situation. She was confused as well at first, but then she asked me more details. Exactly where did Jack find this fish? What does it look like? She was a real detective grilling me for all the facts. That’s when it all clicked into place.

Turns out my brother-in-law started raising this fish at our place when he was house (and dog) sitting during our US trip. It had been outside, but he brought it into the house due to the cold weather.  Into our laundry room area. Right where Jack found him! Except on the floor. Apparently it made a jump for it. Poor guy/gal.

I went back to check on the fish. It was still slightly moving but it didn’t look promising. I found the bowl that had been his home (for some reason I’d never noticed it before) and poured him back in. Perhaps he would survive, but I didn’t have much hope.

A bit later I checked on him. He was gone! I searched the floor and thought he had jumped again but nothing. Then “swish!”. It had been hiding below the greenery in his bowl. He was alive!

That’s the (true) fish story and any fish that makes it into a story deserves a name. Meet Private Gill.

Be well Private Gill and keep being a hero Captain Jack.


2022 Intentions

Originally posted 31 December 2021 on Monty’s Scribbles

2022 Intentions

First of all let’s address my language choice. I’m specifically avoiding the word “resolution”. I don’t know if an English major would agree with me, but for me “resolutions” are commitments that are destined to be broken. And once broken they hold no more meaning. Especially when you tie it to New Years. It’s been many years since I made any specific New Years Resolutions but when I did I inevitably failed to keep them and felt guilty about it. I’m not interested creating new ways to feel bad about myself. Instead, I’m writing out my “intentions”. As in the behaviors and attitudes that I intend to promote and champion within myself each day.  The intent is to do (be) my best in any given day…in any given moment. If I find it difficult to be my best one day, then the next day is a fresh opportunity. In fact, why wait for tomorrow? The moment is now. Missed a morning meditation? Why not throw in an evening one? There are no rules. No broken promises. Just good intentions.

#1 Intention: Rise and Shine

I’m a morning person and I’m tired of sleeping through my best part of the day. I almost always wake up in the early morning hours and depending on my mood I either role over and go back to a restless sleep (when feeling negative or low) or I get up and start my day (when feeling positive). If I roll over and stay in bed I inevitably have low energy and a negative mood the whole day. If I get up, I usually have a few good hours if not a fully productive day. I know this well yet I’m frequently making the choice to have a bad day. Especially during the colder, winter days. My first 2022 Intention is to ”Rise and Shine”. To get up when I (first) wake up.  Given my normal sleep pattern, I expect this to be something like the “5 a.m. club”, but less rigid. 

#2 Intention: Move

This is another one that if I just do what makes me feel good then I will…feel good. Funny how that works, isn’t it? Physical movement or exercise may not always feel good in the moment but it always pays off in the end. I’d gotten away from exercise over the years due to severe chronic pain (migraines) which often worsened during exercise, but I’ve paid a price for this in my energy level and mood. More recently I’ve found that I can do low impact types of exercise even with a headache (and luckily, or more accurately due to some hard mind-body work, I’ve suffered much less pain lately so it’s less of an issue). I’ve fallen off the movement wagon of late, however, and find myself constantly tired because of it. So my second 2022 Intention is to “Move”. To get my body moving daily whether it be doing yoga, or taking a walk, or going for a bike ride or swim it’s all good. The idea here is whether I feel fresh or tired, I‘ll choose to move.

#3 Intention: Be

If there is anything I’ve learned from my journey to overcome living with chronic pain it’s the power of “being present”, i.e. mindfulness. Feeling stressed or anxious about the future? Guilty about the past? There is no need when your living in the present. Easier said then done. Sure. But it’s not about perfection. Just making the effort to be present has it’s value. Mindfulness meditation has been a big part of my recovery from chronic pain. I say that yet I’ve become lax in my routine. Once again I know I will feel better if I do it, but I haven’t been. At least not as regularly as I need to. So my third 2022 Intention is to “Be”. To meditate each day. My preference is in the morning, but  hey, no time is better than the present.

#4 Intention: Create

This is one that is less intuitive. At least it was for me until recently. I didn’t start to creatively write and do visual arts until my 47th year – it was the beginning of the pandemic and suddenly I found myself with extra time and pent-up brain power  that was usually used (wasted?) at work. I took to writing. Then to drawing. I made it a daily routine. I published five books within a year. I was flourishing. But in a story as old as the last intention, this was another practice that I started to lag on. Until a week or so ago it had been months since I’d written creatively.  But when I write and draw I feel good. It’s a way for me to express myself – to get my feelings out of my brain. To reflect on life and appreciate it more. It’s also a way for me to connect with others. Through sharing my writing and art I engage more with the world around me. I’m happier. So my fourth 2022 Intention is to “Create”. To write and or create art each day. There is no word count or image targets. Just create. Anything.

Well there they are. My 2022 intentions. I’d kick them off on New Years Day, but why wait? Now is just a good as ever.

How about you?

Be well,


Getting Uncomfortable

3rd post for #bloganuary (a WordPress event)

The Prompt: Write about the last time you left your comfort zone.

Hmm. I’ve got to think about this one a bit. I’ve been spending a lot of effort to get comfortable lately because often times l find life, in its entirety, can feel pretty darn uncomfortable. At least in my personal life. And professionally, I’m pretty good about extending myself into new situations and taking chances in search for growth, which I think is the intention of this prompt to explore. It’s hard to think about the last discrete time I went out of my comfort zone. 

*thoughtful pause*

As I think about it, the last time that I did something that made me especially self-conscious and unsure was when I nominated myself to create visual art for a writing & art competition here in China. I’ve done some illustration for others but it’s always been online with a degree of safety through distance and virtual identity. But this was in real life and the art would be “real” too – I would need to print it out and display it. Among other people’s art. In China. Where the idea of being an amateur at anything is not exactly embraced. And I am an amateur by every definition. I’ve got passion but no training. I’m creative, but not exactly talented. At least not in the traditional sense. On top of all of that I would need to be there in person. No hiding behind my pen name persona. I would be there in reality – feeling like an imposter.

The way this worked is that a number or writers created short sci-fi stories and then us artists were assigned a story to create art inspired by the writing. I received my assignment (and volunteered for an extra) and decided that I would create “book covers”  for these stories. I created my first inspiration then chose to share it with the writers for feedback and input. This was not part of the official process, but I like to work collaboratively and this felt right for me. To be honest this part wasn’t uncomfortable. I was still working online and behind my pen name. I’d done online collaborative illustrations and covers before. Here are the pieces I created:

These are not ”high art” but I enjoyed creating them and I do think they captured the essence of the stories they were created for.

Now came the hard part though. Physically printing these suckers for the exhibition event with the realization that they would be displayed next to “real” artists’s work was terrifying. I felt completely inadequate. But I did it. And I mailed the pieces off to Hangzhou so they could be ready for the event.

I actually didn’t join the exhibition event itself due to Covid travel restrictions. I can’t deny that I was a bit thankful for this respite. But it didn’t lesson my anxiety about having my pieces displayed in a real space and seen by real people. It was unnerving.  In the end I got some pictures of the event over WeChat and there were lot’s of happy messages from the participants. Apparently it was a very nice occasion. 

I actually never got any feedback (good or bad) about my work. But I saw them hanging on the wall in the photos. Right next to some really cool pieces by another artist who does tattoo art professionally. My work was amateur in comparison. But I am an amateur. And I took the opportunity to stretch myself and improve my skills. More importantly I put myself out there as I am. The lesson here isn’t about growing more skilled or talented (although sometimes getting out of your comfort zone can do this). For me, the lesson this time was that it is ok to feel uncomfortable and to question myself as long as I still move forward. It didn’t matter that I didn’t earn any accolades or pats on the back. I can pat myself on the back. Good job Monty.

Be well,


Road Trip!

2nd blahg for #bloganuary (a WordPress event)

The Prompt: What is a road trip you would love to take?

I love a good road trip. My first real road trip (and I will explain what I mean by ‘real’ in a moment*) was in the summer of ‘95 and I previously wrote about it in my collection of shorts, Monty’s Very Short Shorts.

Epic Road Trip (originally published in Monty’s Very Short Shorts)

*for me a real road trip is when I’m in the driver seat, so I don’t count the car trips as a kid. There is a completely different feeling when driving vs. just along for the ride in the back seat.

Some day I would like to write a more detailed account of that trip. There were some really “interesting experiences”. I kept a journal during the trip but it disappeared at some point over the years. I keep hoping it will pop up. Anyway, thought I would share this again since it’s topical. Let’s get back to the question at hand. What is my dream (future) road trip?

Road Trip Idea #1: New Zealand CC

A New Zealand cross-country trip. I’ve heard New Zealand has some of the most beautiful landscapes and I’ve yet to visit. If I ever can, I definitely want to build in a road trip if possible. I’d choose any willing companion for this one or even do it on my own. I just want to do it!

Road Trip Idea #2: Ireland & England Discovery Tour

For Ireland and England I would like to do a discovery tour. I did this once with the kids and we had a blast. The way it works is that you set the starting/end point but leave the route completely open. With the discovery tour I did when the kids were young we started/ended at home, but the key was the kids had full say in where we went. I just asked them to give me a general direction to start and handed them an iPad for them to set navigation points. We ended up touring through upstate NY, Montreal, and Vermont. The kids loved having control and I loved not having to make any decisions. I think this would be an amazing way to Explore Ireland and England and I would adore the chance to do this with my now grown-up kids.

Road Trip Idea #3: American “Rediscovery“ Tour

If I ever have grandkids this is my dream to recreate the magic of the discovery tour I did with my kids. It would probably be based on wherever they are living (I assume US for this hypothetical). My preference would probably be the American Southwest which I have only lightly explored as yet. The Pacific Northwest (US and Canada) would also be amazing. Given the adventuresome nature of the discovery tour approach, kids are definitely the best companions. But if no grandkids, then I think my moms would be an excellent partner for this one. I think she has the curious nature needed and we’d have fun sharing memories from our car trips from back in the day.

Road Trip Idea #4: American ”Reverse” CC

Since I grew up in the Northeast, the right way to do a cross-country road trip is from East to West. As I mentioned earlier, I‘ve done this trip (although my route was quite circuitous vs. the norm). A ”reverse” cross-country trip is West to East (I just made this up, but it feels logical). This scenario is not just a hypothetical plan, as my son and I have already talked about it. He’s in school in Los Angelas and if he gets into law school in the Northeast as he hopes, then it calls for a father-son road trip. As we’ve discussed it will be a pretty efficient designed ‘southerly‘ route with strategically chosen stops to sample the regional varieties of bbq (and hot chicken in Memphis) along the way.

Road Trip Idea #5: Westward-Ho China CC

This is a early in retirement idea as it would be quite extensive and time consuming. I’ve had very little chance to explore China despite having lived here for over a decade and I would like to change that someday.  I’ve no idea how driving in China would be outside of my home area in Shanghai, but why not find out?The idea here would be to drive west from Shanghai as far as we can get (ideally to Tibet if the political situation allows). My better half would be my partner on this one. I don’t think anyone else would be willing to spend so much time with me. It’s a perfect plan.


So which will it be? They all sound amazing so I’m going to cheat and say all of them. Why not? I’ll make sure to share my road trip adventures with you.

Be well,


Dear Monty

1st blahg for #bloganuary (a WordPress event)

The prompt: What advice would you give to your teenage self?

Dear Monty,

You don’t know me, but I know you. And knowing you, there is very little that I can teach you. Not because you have nothing to learn (quite the opposite), but because you think you already know everything. And your a stubborn asshole. Go ahead. Ask your mom. She’ll confirm.

Despite the odds against me, I’m still going to try to impart some hard learned wisdom. Not because I like you (If you don’t like yourself, why should I?), but because I‘m selfish and if I can somehow impart this message to you it might help me out.

Here’s the deal. Life doesn’t happen to you. Life isn’t unfair. Or fair for that matter. Sure things happen around us. The sun rises and falls. The seasons change. The dog eats our homework. The girl we are crushing on kisses another. You know, all sorts of stuff happens around us. But that is not your life. It’s just stuff happening.

Your life is made up entirely by the choices you make. The behaviors you choose to do. The feelings you choose to feel.  You always have a choice. Choices come with consequences and they can be wonderful or harsh, but don’t confuse unwanted consequences with lack of agency in the matter. 

You don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to go to school. You don’t have to be polite to your Mom. You can get drunk or high or steal. Whatever you want. It’s your choice. And when you get bad grades, or your Mom cries, or your hungover or strung-out, remember it was your choice. Don’t blame “life” or others for your choices. Own them. If you feel life is unfair know that you are choosing that feeling. You are not a victim.

Recognizing our own power of choice is the biggest gift that we have as humans. While we can’t control the external environment we can certainly influence it through our behaviors and we can ALWAYS choose how we respond both physically and emotionally.  Your sadness is a choice. Your self-loathing is a choice. Your loneliness is a choice. 

I know it doesn’t feel that way. This is because you are reacting instead of responding. You are forfeiting your choice. You are wasting the gift of being human. Here is my advice: PAUSE. Take a pause before you act. Consider your choices. Consider how you want to feel. Take advantage of this uniquely human power of choice. Once you’ve made your choice then move forward with no regrets. Own your choices. Whether you choose to be at peace or sad or angry, it’s all good. Then thank yourself (or blame yourself if you choose), because it’s always up to you.

This doesn’t mean that bad shit won’t happen around you. You will be hurt both physically and emotionally. What others do to hurt you is NOT your fault. You cannot choose what others do. Just like you, they have their own choices to make. But you can always choose how you respond to those that harm you. There are no wrong choices. Sometimes anger or fear or hate will be a good choice for you. But just consider the consequences. If blowing off some steam will help you get to a better place then passive forgiveness, then why not? Just accept the consequences and move onto the next choice. It’s up to you.

Be well,