Why is my Transaction pending - and how to fix it

If you've asked the question above, you are not alone.  Over the last 2 weeks Ethereum and similar cryptocurrency networks have been moving at a snails pace.  Why is this?  Why does it take so long for your transaction to process?  Are you being scammed?  Where are our game items?  These are so common questions over the last couple of days, so I figured I would launch a semi-educational series ...