ARISE Annual Golf Clinic at Evergreen Hills Golf Course







One of my favorite times of the year is the ARISE Annual Golf Clinic.  For two fun-filled days September 7 and 8, some good friends and I got to enjoy the great outdoors, practice the fundamentals of the relaxing sport of golf, and then take our skills onto an actual course.  I’ve had tremendous fun at this event for many years, and the 2016 clinic at Evergreen Hills Golf Course in Oswego, NY, was as spectacular as ever.

On the first day of the clinic, we went over the rules and basic techniques of golf with a golf pro.  There was quite a bit to cover, but our pro stressed three key points to remember about golf.  1. Have fun.  After all, who wants to play a sport but not have a good time?  2. Be safe.  I can personally vouch for this one: in the past, I have accidentally hit someone in the head with a golf ball.  The “victim” survived and we were still friends afterward, thank goodness, but I definitely keep this incident in mind every time I hit the links.  3. Be nice.  In my mind, this is an extension of point 2, as in most cases, courteous players are also ensuring safety for themselves and their fellow players.

After going over the rules, we went outside to practice chipping, putting, and driving on the driving range, aided by our pro and local volunteer golfers.  In my view, all three of these essential skills are fun in their own way.  Using a driver to blast the ball from the starting tee to the far part of the fairway is, to me, one of the most exhilarating feelings in the world.  Chipping the ball onto the green feels almost the same to me as driving, just on a smaller scale.  Putting provides me with the most control and finesse over the ball, and maneuvering it into the hole with a few well-placed putts, especially if it results in a birdie or par, is very satisfying.  I can hit the ball fairly well when driving and onto the green with chipping.  But, I think I prefer putting the best; I feel like I have better command over the ball when I’m putting, and moving the ball around the green with a putter requires a lot less overall physical effort on my part than the other two skills entail.  It’s these strokes, easy on my body yet still challenging, that is one of my favorite parts of playing the sport of golf.

Day two was tournament day.  Teams were assembled in the “captain and crew” format with the local volunteer golfers as captains and we played a few holes on the Evergreen Hills course.  This means that the pro, the captain of our team, hit first at each hole, then we hit our balls from where the pro’s shot had landed, then we played off whichever of our shots went the farthest, and so on until we had all completed the hole.  This is my favorite part of the clinic each year, as we get to practice what we’ve learned on some actual holes and we usually pull off some amazing shots.  I heard one player on another team scored a hole-in-one, a very impressive accomplishment indeed!  By comparison, my personal best performance of the day was completing a hole in three strokes, the first being a drive, then I chipped my ball right onto the green, and then made an unbelievable curving putt into the hole.  (I only say “unbelievable” because I almost always miss putts like that, so landing one felt pretty good!)

Following the tournament, we had a “longest drive” competition to see who could hit the ball the farthest, a straight shot down a fairway with no obstructions blocking the path of the balls.  My shot went fairly far, but the winner hit his golf ball a much greater distance than mine.  That drew a big round of applause from the rest of us!

The ARISE and Golf Annual Clinic at Evergreen Hills was another fantastic two days of fun and frolic for all of us.  Participating in the clinic is a real blessing to me because I learn more and more about golf every year I attend, and I want to thank everyone who came out to help us at this year’s event.  I would also like to extend an extra special thanks to ARISE, Inc. and the Evergreen Hills Golf Course for being such great hosts.  It was a blast!

The Noah and Logan Tour, Part 8: Phoenix Public Library and Pulaski Public Library

From my evening at the Fulton Public Library!

From my evening at the Phoenix Public Library!


Here I am at the Pulaski Public Library!

Here I am at the Pulaski Public Library!

Hello everyone!  The following blog was originally written at the beginning of September.  I’ve been a bit busy and am just now getting around to sharing this with you all.  I hope you enjoy my blog!

You may notice a small difference in the title of this post compared to previous ones covering the promotional tour for my Noah and Logan series.  Even though summer is over, I still have a few events lined up on my calendar in conjunction with the fall season.  I fulfilled two of these recently.  The first was an evening appearance before an adult audience at the Phoenix Public Library in Phoenix, NY, and the second was an early morning presentation at the Pulaski Public Library in Pulaski, NY.

I was not sure what kind of audience I might have at the Phoenix Public Library because the event was held at a much later time during the day than my other events.  However, in short order, a group of interested adults assembled in the library’s large conference room.  I presented both of my Noah and Logan books as well as my two poems that have been published in the UNIQUE magazine.  Then I took questions from the audience and, with some help from my mother, I discussed at length my life with autism.  Needless to say, the conversation took some surprising turns.  It was a very lively and interesting event that I had a lot of fun doing!

A few days after Phoenix, I made my way to the Pulaski Public Library early in the morning to share my stories with a group of preschoolers and some of their parents.  The kids loved the stories, but it seemed to me that this group especially enjoyed the dinosaurs in  Noah and Logan Learn to Share!  Who knows, there may be ways to incorporate other dinosaurs in future Noah and Logan books!  

I want to give special thanks to the librarians, parents, and other people who organized these events and the audiences for making them extra memorable.  I’ll keep you posted here and on my website and Facebook pages about upcoming events.  See you soon!

The Noah and Logan Summer Tour, Part 7: Mexico Public Library and Annie Porter Ainsworth Memorial Library

Giving my presentation at the Mexico Public Library.

Giving my presentation at the Mexico Public Library.

The Ainsworth Library displayed my name on their sign!

The Ainsworth Library displayed my name on their sign!

Sharing "Noah and Logan Learn to Share" at the Annie Porter Ainsworth Memorial Library.

Sharing “Noah and Logan Learn to Share” at the Annie Porter Ainsworth Memorial Library.

It is almost back-to-school time, and the Noah and Logan tour continues to draw interest.  I am working on the third book with my mother, once again, in charge of the illustrations, and we both continue to promote the series.  We added two more libraries to our ever-growing itinerary recently.  The first was the Mexico Public Library in my hometown of Mexico, NY, and the second was the Annie Porter Ainsworth Memorial Library in Sandy Creek, NY.

The Mexico Public Library, located on Main Street in the heart of my hometown of Mexico, NY, was one of my favorite places to visit when I was younger, and I still love to stop in from time to time.  I had been looking forward to reading my Noah and Logan stories in the library that I grew up with, and now I was able to do so as part of the Library’s story hour.   As I read my stories to the kids,  I could tell from their smiles that they liked Noah and Logan’s antics.

The Annie Porter Ainsworth Memorial Library, proudly serving the people of Sandy Creek, NY, was my next port of call.  I was in this area earlier this summer for the Oswego County Fair and the library’s book sale, so I was delighted to return.  I was surprised to learn how large the Ainsworth Library is: many additional sections have been built onto it over the years, making it seem to me like a labyrinth.  Luckily, it was not too difficult to find the children’s reading room.  I read both of my Noah and Logan stories to the kids as well as the two poems I had published in UNIQUE, a yearly magazine published by ARISE.  It was a very fun event for all!

The children at both events were wonderful audiences, and both libraries’ staffs were great hosts.

I have more places to visit on the tour and more people to share the Noah and Logan series with.  My next stops include the Phoenix Public Library on September 14th at 7 p.m., the Pulaski Public Library on September 18th at 10 a.m., and the Fulton Public Library on October 27th at 10 a.m.  I would love to see you at any of these events.  Thank you for all your support!

The Noah and Logan Summer Tour Part 6: Oswego City Public Library and Central Square Library

My "Thank You" card from the children at the Oswego City Public Library!

My “Thank You” card from the children at the Oswego City Public Library!

Signing the children's autograph books at the Oswego City Public Library.

Signing the children’s autograph books at the Oswego City Public Library.


Having a great time at the Central Square Library!

Having a great time at the Central Square Library!


Sharing "Noah and Logan Learn to Clean" at the Central Square Library!

Sharing “Noah and Logan Learn to Clean” at the Central Square Library!

I just recently completed two more fantastic stops on the summer promotional tour for my Noah and Logan children’s series of e-books.  I read my stories to sizable groups of children at the Oswego City Public Library in Oswego, NY, and at the Central Square Library in Central Square, NY.  I have visited both of these libraries before, and I took great pleasure in reading to the kids at both locations.

I came to know the Oswego City Public Library very well during my college days; I used its many resources for numerous college assignments.  Some of my research excursions took me to the library’s children’s section, containing a healthy combination of all-time classics and modern selections.  I am happy to report this was still the case when I returned to share the Noah and Logan series with a group 0f excited children.  There was a bit of chatter among the children before I started reading, particularly about dinosaurs.  In one of my stories, Noah and Logan share toy dinosaurs with each other; I was glad to see that this detail made a connection to a subject the kids were enthusiastic about.  Afterward, I signed autograph books the children had been given as part of the library’s summer reading program.  It was a rare treat and great fun for me to sign their books.  The children also gave to me a “Thank You” card for giving my presentation.  A very thoughtful gesture!

The Central Square Library has a wonderful children’s section as well.  The children who came to the library’s story hour were practically beaming as they colored for a few moments and then settled down for my stories.  I could tell they liked having such creative stimulation, which put them in a good mood for my Noah and Logan tales.  They were very attentive, and I think we all enjoyed story time at the library!  I was also pleased that my aunt and uncle stopped by to hear my presentation along with Ms. Vicki Affinati from ARISE.  It was very nice of them to come and stand by me!

I felt that both of these events were tremendously successful.  I had such a great time with the kids at the libraries; they have lively imaginations and made for wonderful audiences.  I thank them as well as the librarians who allowed me to share a little about myself and my work.

I cannot wait to see what the other events on this summer tour will be like.  I have two big stops coming up. First, on August 14 at 11:00 a.m., I will be sharing my Noah and Logan stories for “Story Time” at the Mexico Public Library at 3269 Main St., Mexico, NY.  Then, I will be participating in “Story Time” at the Annie Porter Ainsworth Memorial Library at 6064 South Main Street, Sandy Creek, NY, on August 18 at 4:30 p.m.

See you soon!

The Noah and Logan Summer Tour, Part 5: Williamstown Library and Salmon Run Mall

Showing "Noah and Logan Learn to Clean" to the children at the Williamstown Library!

Showing “Noah and Logan Learn to Clean” to the children at the Williamstown Library!

Williamstown and Watertown 007

The Noah and Logan summer tour has truly been an exciting time for me.  The events I am attending are now occurring more and more frequently, making for quite a few busy days!  I appeared at two more events recently, both within days of each other.  The first was for story hour at the Williamstown Library in Williamstown, NY, and two days later, I participated alongside other authors at a local author event at the Salmon Run Mall in Watertown, NY.

The Williamstown Library story hour was held in a very nice reading room where the kids and I had plenty of space to find a good seat and enjoy the Noah and Logan stories together.  I especially enjoyed the play carpet on the floor with Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar on it.  It reminded me of how much I loved Eric Carle’s books when I was younger.  It was a very cozy room, one I would have likely stayed in to read for hours if I had the chance.  What a fun place to explore a good book in!  I would like to thank the Library’s director, Beverly W. Ripka, for providing the opportunity to visit and read my stories at their library.  It was a great morning, and I would love to share more of my stories at the Williamstown Library in the future.

Two days later, I traveled to the Salmon Run Mall in Watertown, NY, for a local author event being put on by The Reading Room, a book store located at the mall.  I was part of a group of about twenty local authors, with each of us showing our books.  The event was set up with tables in front of the bookstore; it was also close to the mall’s entrance, so the tables full of books greeted each mall visitor.  When I first entered the mall, this was the first sight I saw as well, and it made me excited to see two of my favorite things in life in great abundance: books and other authors!  I really had fun conversing with both the other authors and the mall shoppers about my stories.  They liked my mother’s illustrations very much; knowing how hard she worked on those, I am glad they continue to delight everyone who sees them.

Both of these events were very enjoyable to me.  In addition, I received some leads for other events and opportunities from my interactions with other authors and readers at these appearances, so my schedule is becoming even more full!  For instance, this coming Friday, July 31st at 10:30 A.M., I will present my Noah and Logan stories at the Oswego City Library at 140 E. Second St., Oswego, NY, for their children’s hour.  I’ll let you know what else is coming up on my website,, as well as my Facebook pages, then give you my thoughts on my appearances here.  Stay tuned, and keep reading!

The Noah and Logan Summer Tour, Part 4: Camden Public Library

Reading my opening presentation at Camden Public Library.

Reading my opening presentation at Camden Public Library.


Showing off Mom's illustrations for "Noah and Logan Learn to Share" at Camden Public Library.

Showing off Mom’s illustrations for “Noah and Logan Learn to Share” at Camden Public Library.

Half the summer is gone already, but the promotional tour for the Noah and Logan series is still going strong.  I hardly notice time passing, though, because I am having a grand time sharing my stories with all of you.  My latest venture was to the Camden Public Library in Camden, NY, a beautiful town which is also home to Mrs. Bates, my former speech teacher and still close friend, who did much to help me learn how to communicate well.  I was pleasantly surprised to see her in the audience for my presentation!

My visit came as part of the Library’s summer reading program; colorful posters with characters having fun reading books were everywhere in the room (My favorite was the poster with a trio of platypuses in exciting action poses; who would have thought marsupials could be so macho?).  The kids in attendance were filling out activity sheets, coloring, speaking with each other about their interests, and even reading books.  I could tell they were all very happy indeed.

When I read my Noah and Logan stories to the group, I walked back and forth in front of my audience, giving all a chance to see the illustrations my mom did for the books; I have come to view her drawings as an essential part of the e-books’ success.  Even though I took many steps as I read my books, I did not feel exhausted at all.  I was having just as much fun with the stories as my audience was!  I also shared my poem, “Autism Awareness” with the group.  This poem always seems to get a very positive reaction from everyone I share it with, and I like seeing the big smiles my poem generates on people’s faces after they hear it.

I also greatly enjoyed the brief question-and-answer session at the end of my presentation.  The audience asked some great questions about my writing and life, and I was glad to supply my perspectives for them.

I would like to thank the Camden Public Library’s librarian, Ms. Linda Frenzel, for giving me this opportunity and for helping to make the event a tremendous success.  It was a great turnout, and I was very happy to share the Noah and Logan series with everyone there.

My next stops on the Noah and Logan summer tour will be the Williamstown Public Library at 2877 County Rte. 17 in Williamstown, NY, on Wednesday, July 22, 2015, at 10:30 A.M. and the Oswego Farmer’s Market at West 1st Street in Oswego, NY, on Thursday, July 23, 2015, from 5:00 – 6:00 PM.  I hope to see you there!  Please stay tuned to this blog, my web site:, and my Facebook pages to learn about other upcoming events on the tour.  Who knows, I might be coming near to you soon!

The Noah and Logan Summer Tour, Part 3: Ainsworth Memorial Library Book Sale, Oswego County Fair, and Hannibal Free Library (and My New Website!)

Sharing "Noah and Logan Learn to Clean" at the Ainsworth book sale.

Sharing “Noah and Logan Learn to Clean” at the Ainsworth book sale.


Reading to the children at the Oswego County Fair.

Reading to the children at the Oswego County Fair.


Getting on the floor with the  preschool group at the Hannibal Free Library.

Getting on the floor with the preschool group at the Hannibal Free Library.

The summer promotion tour for my Noah and Logan stories has been gathering quite a lot of steam in the past few weeks.  I cannot express in words how much I am truly enjoying sharing my stories, and now, I have a chance to share them with millions more people online.  With the help of Jim Purdy of ARISE, my mother and I have set up a new website!  If you visit, you can find information about me, the Noah and Logan series, how to purchase the e-books, and see a schedule of my upcoming events and appearances.  I will be adding information about newly published books to the website as I finish them, so please keep that page bookmarked.  Right now, though, I’d like to share with you some brief accounts of my three latest events.

The first event I participated in was the Ainsworth Memorial Library’s annual Book Sale put together by the Friends of the Ainsworth Library.  This year, it was held in the spacious Grange in Sandy Creek, NY.  The whole room was filled with tables adorned with books from the library’s collection as well as generous donations from people in the area.  It was really an impressive sight, especially when people started streaming in by the score to look at the books.  I shared my e-books with plenty of interested parties over the course of the two days I was there with a few in-depth conversations as well.  I also did a presentation about myself and my writing process for the Friends of the Ainsworth Library group and then read my stories to them.  I think we all enjoyed that very much.  The event had a very relaxed atmosphere, which I really liked because what could be more relaxing than partaking in a good book or two?

I was also invited to present my books at the Oswego County Fair, also held in Sandy Creek, NY.  I have fond memories of attending the Fair as a youngster, so I gladly accepted the offer.  I presented my books on two separate days along with other local authors.  To my surprise, this group also included Daniel Middleton, the Naomi “Redflower” author I recently met at another event in the area. It was fun to catch up with Daniel and share story hour with him where we both read our books.

The last and most recent event was held at the Hannibal Free Library in Hannibal, NY.  I read my stories to a group of preschool-age children.  It was a fun group, and I think it went very well.  It also gave me some hands-on experience interacting with preschoolers!

I’ve enjoyed the events that I’ve done so far and the Noah and Logan summer tour will continue with more stops.  My next stop will be at the Camden Public Library located at 57 Second St., Camden, NY, tomorrow, July 15, at 4:30 p.m.

Please visit my new website at for more on my upcoming dates and appearances, as well as everything you need to know about the Noah and Logan series along with all of my future books.  Until next time, have a happy, safe summer!

The Noah and Logan Summer Tour, Part 2: Pulaski Farmer’s Market and Arts in the Park

Pulaski Farmer's Market - At the ARISE table.

Pulaski Farmer’s Market – At the ARISE table.


Arts in the Park, Mexico Point Park- Me next to my poster.

Arts in the Park, Mexico Point Park- Me next to my poster.

The Noah and Logan Summer Tour has been going well.  I have only been to a few places to promote the series thus far, but I’ve had favorable reactions at every stop.  I am grateful to see there is genuine interest in the series from kids, parents, teachers, librarians, and everyone in between.  My two most recent stops at the Pulaski Farmer’s Market and Mexico Point Park for the Arts in the Park event over the course of a very busy and exciting weekend continue this positive trend.  They also gave me the chance to connect and, in some cases, reconnect with some truly outstanding folks.

My first sojourn of the weekend was a return trip to Pulaski, this time to participate in the local Farmer’s Market.  Here, vendors from across the region sold foodstuffs, had some spectacular arts and crafts, and there was even a band for live music.  I shared a table with some friends and representatives from the local special needs awareness and assistance organization, ARISE; good company to keep, especially on a somewhat sunny and breezy spring afternoon.

I wasn’t sure if anyone would be interested in my books at the market.  After all, I was offering a children’s e-book series, not food or the more tangible arts and crafts that everyone else offered.  To my surprise, however, it turned out quite a few visitors stayed a while and spoke at length with me about the series.  In fact, one of the first to come to the table was a fellow author I had met at a prior engagement.  We caught up with each other and we discussed writing and publishing.  It was great to see her again and the rest of my time at the market was just as fulfilling.  I made a few connections with other groups and institutions in the area which have led to further opportunities to introduce Noah and Logan to others.

The next event I attended was Arts in the Park, a gathering of local artists held at Mexico Point Park, a truly stunning example of the area’s natural beauty.  I enjoyed introducing the series to everyone who stopped by my table and the kids seemed to enjoy reading the stories off my iPad!

I was also delighted to meet another author at the Arts event as well, a very nice man named Daniel Middleton.  He, too, has written a children’s book.  His book, Naomi ‘Redflower’: Imagine with Me, is based on a highly imaginative girl and her love of insects and other animals.  In the story, she and her family go on a tour of Central New York and she imagines encounters with a variety of local wildlife during every season of the year.  My mother and I were very impressed with Daniel’s book, so much so that we bought a copy from him that day.  His writing style is very fun to read and his illustrations are gorgeous to look at, really capturing the beauty of the CNY countryside and animal population.  I highly recommend it for anyone’s reading collection.

The events of this very busy weekend turned out to be a lot of fun.  Both engagements happened outside in pleasant weather, I met a lot of very nice people, and I was able to get the word out about my Noah and Logan series!  I even met a fellow author who has written a very cool book himself.  All in all, I think this was a great beginning leg to the Noah and Logan Summer Tour.  Keep your eyes on this blog and Facebook for further updates regarding future stops!

The Noah And Logan Summer Tour, Part 1: Pulaski Public Library and Fulton High School

Here I am with the second "Noah and Logan" book at the Pulaski Public Library for their Disability Awareness Day.  The mural on the background wall is much larger than this photo may make it seem, and it is indeed very vibrant and colorful!

Here I am with the second “Noah and Logan” book at the Pulaski Public Library for the Disability Awareness Day.

I stand next to my first "Noah and Logan" book at Fulton High School, May 2015.  The classroom has a projector, very handy for showing my book to the entire class.

I am standing next to my second “Noah and Logan” book at Fulton High School, May 2015.  I love that the classroom has a projector.  It came in very handy for showing my book to the classes.

Hi, everyone!  I’ve got some news regarding the Noah and Logan series.  First of all, the third book in the series, “Noah and Logan Tie Their Shoes,” is coming soon!  I can’t wait to introduce it to everyone!  Secondly, I am beginning a mini-summer tour of local libraries and organizations where I’ll be introducing and reading  “Noah and Logan Learn to Clean” and “Noah and Logan Learn to Share” to audiences of kids, parents, and anyone else that is interested, and I will also discuss my life as a person with autism and being a writer.

The tour was inspired by a recent Disability Awareness Day event that I participated in at the Pulaski Public Library.   There were stations set up that helped visitors understand what it would be like to have certain disabilities by engaging them in activities designed to simulate certain aspects of diversified disabilities.

I really enjoyed discussing my life, how my books came to be, and, of course, reading my stories to the event’s attendees!  I loved being able to share my books with the children and adults this way.  I am quite comfortable with discussing my life and work with a room full of people, and also in one-on-one encounters such as those I had with the people who came to my table.  I didn’t feel anxious at all, not even with the thought of sharing so much of myself.

I took this as a great accomplishment, and discussed with my Mom the possibility of participating in more events like this.  We decided to see if other libraries and organizations in the area would be interested in letting me share my stories.  To our delight, quite a few libraries we reached out to expressed great interest in having me be part of their upcoming activities; many more than I had previously thought possible.  Many have slotted me in for spots in their summer programs, with a few others reserving my presence for next fall.  I will keep you updated both here and on my Facebook pages regarding how they turned out.

In fact, another opportunity for sharing my work came to me just this past week.  I shared my stories as well as two of my poems with two classes at the Fulton High School and fielded questions afterward.  The students and teachers seemed very interested in what I was doing.  They were very receptive to my stories and poems, asked good questions, and were a very attentive audience.  I hope the people I meet this summer will be just as enthusiastic.  Again, I was very comfortable sharing myself and my stories with these groups; by now, it feels like second nature to me.

This summer is looking very promising for meeting new readers in all sorts of places and with a third “Noah and Logan” book on the way, there will be plenty to talk about.   If you are interested in coming to one (or more!) of these events, please keep an eye on this blog and the Noah and Logan and Benjamin Kellogg Author Facebook pages for information on dates, times, and locations!

UNO and Royal Rumble

Paragon Fantasy Wrestling ArenaI turned 24 years old a few days ago, but to be quite honest, I still think of myself as 23 (and 22 feels like a long time ago).  My family and I had a little party this past weekend to celebrate.  It was a good get-together: we had some cake and ice cream, played a few hands of UNO, opened some presents, blew out a few candles, and generally had a grand old time.  The next day, I watched the WWE Royal Rumble wrestling pay-per-view with my cousin and best friend.  That show was, in a way, also a great present and a fun way to end my birthday weekend.  A lot of excitement was had by all with plenty of great stories to tell.

The UNO game was a real highlight of the party for me.  It’s a quick game to pick up and play that doesn’t require a whole lot of equipment.  My family and I have played it a lot in the past.  The interesting thing about playing this time for me, though, was figuring out new game-playing strategies for the first time.  The game’s instructions show how to play a simple five-hundred point game where numbered cards are worth the same amount as the number on them (zero to nine, to be precise), cards with words are worth twenty (Draw Two is great for you to have and play, terrible if you’re on the receiving end of it), and wilds are worth fifty (if Wild Draw Four were a military weapon, it would be either an atomic bomb or orbital laser, whichever floats your boat).   This past weekend, I started to look at UNO in a new way and to add a bit more strategy in my approach to this timeless card game, one which my family and I gainfully employed to varying success during the party.

The strategy I gleaned from basic gameplay boils down to two important principles.  The first one: Get rid of your word cards as soon as you can.  These cards are ticking time bombs ready to rain points down on you if another player empties their hand first, and at twenty or fifty points per card, they can add up all too quickly.  During the party, I saw firsthand the devastating results of having several such cards in your hand once the dust settles.  One of my uncles kept getting stuck with hundred-point hands.  After a while, though, we were all numbed from the pain from these types of hands and more often laughing at how the fickle finger of fate dealt these cards to us.  (I do find that word cards have good uses.  If you want to keep other players stuck with lots of cards in their hands, Reverse and Skip make for excellent “traffic controllers.”  The Draw Twos and Wild Draw Fours are great for this, too, but their high point value makes them very risky to keep in your hand for too long.  Be careful how you use them!)

The second principle I gleaned from our UNO games, and this one did come as a bit of a surprise to me, but it does make a good lick of sense: Track the colors!  Depending on what your opponents play/call for when playing a wild, you can get an idea of the colors of the cards in their hands and which ones they want to get rid of.  Once you know this, you can change the color on the discard pile to something they don’t have, forcing them to draw more cards.  The discard color became a serious point of contention during our play time, as it meant being able to free ourselves of a surplus of cards of a dominant color or to switch up the color to break a streak of discards from an opponent about to empty their hand.  It was almost like a boxer switching from one stance to another to confuse their opponent and make a few adjustments; catch them off-guard and then score a KO.  This was a very interesting point to me, one I will have to investigate and practice more during future UNO games.

Speaking of strategy, the one WWE used for putting together this year’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view was one my cousin, my friend, and I spoke about quite a bit while we were watching the show.  The Rumble is one of my favorite shows to watch each year, usually because it’s so hard to predict and brings a lot of surprises.  One undercard bout this year really surprised me and my viewing buddies: scientific wrestling whizzes Tyson Kidd and Cesaro pulling out a major upset victory over Kofi Kingston and Big E of the New Day faction.  It was the first match of the night and a bit of a shocker; normally, Kidd and Cesaro, the bad guys, would be booked to lose the opening contest so the audience could have a feel-good moment to start the show, so seeing them pull off a win was very unexpected.  Good job!

The WWE World Championship match between John Cena, Brock Lesnar, and Seth Rollins was likewise very delightful.  All three men did a great job of bringing intensity to this top-level contest.  Cena played his customary hero role to the hilt, Rollins was a desperate man looking to break through in a big way (I’m not a huge fan of his, but this was certainly his best match to date), and Lesnar steamrolled both opponents like the nearly unstoppable monster he is known to be.  Lesnar won the match in the end, but all three made this one worth watching.  This quickly became my favorite match of the night, and judging from the reactions of my viewing partners, the highlight of their evening as well.

The Royal Rumble Match itself, however, which came right after the world title match, was somewhat less enjoyable for us.  It started out strong for sure with some big-time returns from the likes of tag team specialist Bubba Ray Dudley (who sadly did not break any tables but did pull off a sweet 3D Driver with an assist for R-Truth standing in for the strangely absent D-Von; where did that other guy go, anyway?), WCW legend Diamond Dallas Page (who pulled off several Diamond Cutter stun maneuvers on everyone he came across; great move that ranks right up there with the DDT and RKO as my go-to moves of choice), and even the worm-chewing creepy-yet-cool Boogeyman (who didn’t seem to have any worms on him this particular evening, sad to say; anyone want to bet his favorite book is How to Eat Fried Worms?).  These special guests, as well as the regular superstars who entered, delivered a lot of great action for a few minutes and had me and my guests feeling confident that this year’s Rumble would be something worth remembering.

All that changed once Daniel Bryan was eliminated about halfway through the match.  You see, Bryan is one of our favorite wrestlers, a real crowd-pleaser who always puts on a memorable show, but who has gotten an astonishing amount of resistance from WWE’s higher-ups both behind the scenes and on camera.  Our hopes were on Bryan to mow through this year’s competition and earn the top spot at Wrestlemania, or at least to come in a close second to our other mutual top pick, Roman Reigns.  Instead, Bryan got tossed out in short order, a very disappointing result to the Philadelphia audience as well as us watching at home.  Why WWE did not let Bryan compete longer than he did, or at least make it to the final four remaining contestants before getting eliminated, I would surely like to know.  After numerous years of following D-Bry, we wanted to see him go far, not trip over a stone miles before the finish line.

After Bryan’s unexpected exit, almost all the energy was sucked out of the match.  I mean no disrespect to the other guys who stayed in the match after Bryan left, but his removal was a sore point not easily healed.   Roman Reigns, of course, won the bout, but the Philly crowd and us home viewers were still a bit too numbed to truly accept him as the next big kahuna of the WWE landscape.  Granted, he entered the Rumble well after Bryan left, but, in my opinion, D-Bry’s is one of the hardest acts to follow in wrestling today.  Reigns did win the match in an impressive fashion by tossing out both Big Show and Kane at the same time (they’re both huge men, so lifting them both up and over the top rope in one fell swoop is an awesome feat indeed).  He also got a big-time assist from his close cousin the Rock (yes, that Rock, the star of all those movies and a legit legend of the squared circle) in fending off a post-match attack from a still-vengeful Show and Kane.  However, because Roman’s ascent came at Daniel Bryan’s expense, neither the crowd nor me and my viewing buddies could really accept the result on that particular night.  I’ve had some time to think about it since then, and I am now willing to accept Roman’s position as WWE’s top good guy if he is ready to fill it.  I have to admit, though, that until this point, I had still been on the fence about whether Roman could ever live up to the hype.  I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and hope for the best.

After all was said and done, I’d have to say my 24th birthday was well celebrated!  I’m looking forward to how 2015 plays out for me. I’m still working hard on my various writing projects and will be sharing news on them, as well as anything else I do/come across, with you.  Have a happy and safe new year, and I will see you in the next blog post!