Well hello Friends! I’d like to start by deeply, humbly, and sincerely apologizing for my recent hiatus. I didn’t realize just how therapeutic writing this column was for me until I didn’t do it for a few months. I had no outlet to vent, so I internalized everything which played havoc on my ulcer.

I would now like to dispel some of the myths and rumors regarding my absence. Despite what you may have heard, none of the following are true.

Despite my best efforts, I did not in fact finally find the line in the sand of decorum and cross it leading to my termination. The publication did not in fact let me go. Though I’m certain that many of you wish they had. I will continue to be a proverbial pain in the bottom to my editors and handlers stomping along the border of what is and is not acceptable for print.

I did not finally cash in that stack of gift certificates for the office of Dr. Jack Kevorkian that I had been thoughtfully given as gifts from so many readers and past relationships. I do appreciate the gesture, but sadly they had all expired.

I was not in fact on a soul searching mission in a Buddhist monastery in the Himalayas. I briefly considered it, but upon reading what I thought was simply a typo at the registration mat, I promptly learned the the words ‘celebrate’, and ‘celebate’ have two very different meanings. I also learned that apparently all of the B&B, and Frangelico is shipped out, and none is actually consumed on campus. I did however take some cues from that region of the world and started a new business venture. I’m now running a sweatshop out of my garage where I have my four youngest children stitching counterfeit NFL jerseys. I’m not a monster, so I do limit them to a 20 hour work day. Make sure to get your orders in soon to beat the holiday rush. Last year’s vasectomy has left me with a labor shortage.

I was not in fact on a walkabout in the Australian Outback recruiting throngs of Aboriginals to return to North America and start a very exclusive roller derby league. It turns out, they’re Unionized, and I couldn’t meet all of their demands.

One rumor floating around did have some validity though. I was briefly on the Presidential campaign trail. The Syd Nichols for President bus did a brief tour around the United States. My campaign slogan was; “Bringing common sense back to Americans”, on a platform of; “Stop being so easily offended!” Unfortunately, I was only able to carry the last remaining 2% of Americans capable of thinking for themselves. The other 98 will just continue to do whatever Fox or CNN tell them to come election time. It was also brought to my attention that I was morally, ethically, and intellectually grossly overqualified for the position. And the fact that I wrote my own speeches made it so that the average voter just couldn’t understand me.

I was not arrested for crimes against grammar, or multiple counts of first degree run on sentences as had been rumored. I was not in a Turkish prison, though I did do a brief stint as the towel boy in a bath house. I was not wandering about in the desert trying to make sense of Jim Morrison lyrics or Andy Warhol paintings. I am not expecting quintuplets. Nor is my wife for that matter. Thus far, the procedure has been a success, and I remain a retired people farmer. And now, for the real reasons that I’ve been on sabbatical. Truth be told, the past 4 months I’ve had more balls in the air than the 101st Airborne jumping into the opening ceremonies of an international jugglers convention. (Go ahead and take a minute with that one if you need to.)

It started back in the spring when my right knee decided to remind me that it was comprised of all original factory installed parts that barely survived high school sports and have endured over 30 years of restaurant work. After a maelstrom of MRIs, X-Rays, proddings, and injections, it was determined by a surgeon that there is absolutely no medical or scientific reason that I should still be able to walk on it at all. He informed me that I required immediate surgery. This was in April. I gently put my hand on his shoulder, smiled and said; “Unless you are going to feed my kids for the summer, I’ll be back around Thanksgiving.”

That’s how my summer started. The remaining events from the past 4 months that led to my not being able to write are so numerous that I’m going to just briefly summarize. Keep in mind, that I can’t make this stuff up.

My wife took a new upwardly mobile position at the hospital where she works and changed departments. This led to a much more rigorous schedule for her and more solo shifts for me in that 3 ring circus I call home. Keeping up with these 4 monkeys is difficult enough without a very pronounced limp and the aid of a second parent. Shift change at my house became a high five in the driveway between my wife and I, and me wishing her good luck. That’s when she would get home, and I would leave for work.

Next wrinkle was when my perpetually overachieving youngest spawn decided that he would start attempting to walk at 9 months. I don’t know if it was to catch up to his 3 older sisters, or to get the heck away from them. By 10 months he was completely proficient on just 2 appendages. Very shortly thereafter, he was climbing, smashing, running, scaling barricades, and generally leaving a swath of destruction in his wake the likes of an F-5 tornado. I couldn’t get through a trip to the bathroom or unload the dishwasher without some sort of domestic carnage. Let alone trying to sit down and write an article.

My wife and I (despite my doctor’s orders) were both working full time and raising 4 children without the aid of other child care. In the span of a very brief period of time, all of the following things went wrong in and around my home. Both minivans required multi day stays at the garage for various repairs. Twice rendering us a one vehicle family. Both washer and dryer went up in the span of two weeks. Needless to say warranties had expired. Also in this span, my garbage disposal flunked out, my vacuum cleaner died, and I broke the pot to my coffee maker. And the one day I finally found a brief window to do some writing, I discovered that my children had broken my laptop.

Did I mention that during all of this we were actively and vigorously going through the arduous process of shopping for and purchasing a new home?

So the point of this story is to let you all know that I didn’t take the summer off and sit by the pool. I was outside in a firestorm, sitting in a pool of gasoline and holding a cardboard umbrella. I was finally able to scrape enough money from the house budget to get a new laptop. So now, in between trips moving from one house to the other, and dropping 3 girls off at 3 different times at 2 different schools, while carting around a very active 1 year old boy and occasionally walking with the help of a cane, I am now back writing Shorebilly’s Swill. I’ll do my best to write weekly. I hope you missed me as much as I missed you. Thanks for playing along, Syd Nichols