I have been busy this month with the write a poem a day (PAD) challenge. I use the prompt provided by Writer’s Digest and I added my own personal challenge to write in a different form for each day. (You can read some of the poems on my creative blog: Creative Corner for Writing. I’m a few days behind posting to the site.)
On day 24 the prompt was to write a poem about a superhero or a villain, or both. I wrote a cadralore poem about moments in life where we could be the hero or the villain. The last stanza starts with the line:
Of course this got me thinking about how our decisions lead us to different choices in the future. At the same time a decision will eliminate other opportunities for us in the future. I once gave my seniors a kind of “last lecture” about life. I presented the idea that life is a tree.
That each major decision sends us to a new branch. That branch will have its own junctions or moments of choice that only happen because of the decision made before. You can become paralyzed at the vastness of moments life can have for you because of one choice. My seniors are two weeks away from graduation. They have chosen a path to follow, the opportunities they will have in the future are unique to the path they have chosen now.
I recognize that some goals we have as individuals can be pursued at any time. I may yet be known as a poet or writer, but each day the choices I have now are because of choices I made in the past… I can’t change that.
No one can change that. Too many times we only consider the immediate consequences of a choice, not where the choice will lead us. No, we can’t predict what future moments will come our way, but there is a certain set of outcomes we can infer if we think about where the choice will lead us.
As a poet, it is an inspiring image to the complexity of this life. Tomorrow is based on what choices we make today…
Alright, I have tried and tried and tried to remember a book I read about doing epic things. It is not on my Goodreads list, but I have only used Goodreads to catalog my reading for a few years so…
The book was about people taking on big challenges. Some of the examples were more personal, like blogging every day for a year. While other examples were life changing, like climbing a mountain when the person was 60 years old. The main theme was about taking on a goal that stretches one’s skills while making us face emotional aspects, like fear or patience. (If you recognize this book, please share the title with me on Twitter or in the comment section.)
I just finished another book (which is on my Goodreads list), 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die. I have read 182 of the books on the list. I have an epic challenge and I only have 26 years to complete the challenge, according to the data from Statista about life expectancy.
I found an epic challenge.
But I also have another epic challenge, based on another book, The Late Starters Orchestra. Which is the story of Ari L. Goldman’s journey of playing the cello with The Late Starters Orchestra. No, I am not going to learn to play the cello, I am going back to the piano. I have some musical background. I learned to play the drums in fifth grade. I taught myself how to play a few songs on the piano in junior high. I came back to the drums at a school I used to work for a couple of years ago. The band director and I both had the same planning period, so once a week he would let me practice on the drums.
Sometimes when I write a poem, I can almost hear a song with it. I have had the privilege of working with P.R. while creating my poetic projects Stargazer and Just. He does an amazing job connecting music to my poetic lines. (Some new projects are in development.)
I doubt that I will ever be able to really write a song, but I want to try. I want to experience the beauty of creating music, to add another level of joy to my life, even though I will go through some rough spots learning to play the piano. That’s learning though.
So here is to my two new epic adventures in my life. Are you heading out on an adventure or in the middle of one? Share your story with me.
Why did you follow the link? What did you expect to see or read? Are you already tempted to X out of the tab and move on to something else?
I understand that I used a clickbait title to lure you to this blog post. And that is what I want to talk to you about in this post. The emptiness of clicking in our interactions with others and the shallowness it brings to our lives.
Can I ask a few more questions, just to get you thinking about the topic?
How many heart icons, thumbs up icons, or retweet icons have you tapped today?
Did you interact with the person in the comment section or leave a reply?
Now, I own up to the same behavior. I am just as guilty of retweeting a bunch of #vss365 (Very Short Stories 365) stories on most days. I tap the heart icon on Instagram pictures, too. I will read a blog post and hit the like icon (and usually the share buttons too).
But I’ve been trying to interact more with the people behind the icons. To build connections, however small, with others. To let them know that their words, their pictures, their small windows they share with the world are not simply viewed and forgotten.
Because I know the empty feeling one gets from social media. The feeling of screaming into the abyss we tag with the ironic label “Social Media”. But I’ve been thinking about the other side of the abyss, the emptiness I get by just scrolling, by hitting an icon that is supposed to mean I love something… yet, I don’t really love that image. I thought it was cool, yes, but it was forgotten in minutes. I agree with a blog post but the writer doesn’t see me nodding my head.
Let’s add a layer to this idea; how much time is lost filling in icons that don’t really match our feelings at that moment? How much of our daily life is filled with empty motions that don’t fill our emotions?
I’m afraid of the answer. I’m afraid of the cost to our sense of purpose and even the simple joy of being connected to people when our only connection is a blue thumbs up icon. We are more complex as people than an outlined icon that is filled with a tap. Joy and belonging are built through connections, even digital ones. We can handle emotions like heartache and loneliness because we have people in our lives that can take some of the weight of those emotions from our heart, but only if we have true connections with people.
Social media is an incredible tool. I actually enjoy using it (been on Twitter since 2008) to share my talents… and to make connections. I think we should spend more time fostering those connections instead of simply scrolling past the content other people took the time to share with us. I bet the reason they shared it was in the hope it would make a connection with someone (at least that is why I share my writing).
I am sorry for using a clickbait title. If you are actually still reading this, I am grateful. Thank you. Leave a comment, let’s connect.
For a minute, or two, consider how captivating bridges are in our lives, both physically and metaphorically.
In physical form bridges represent our ingenuity of getting over obstacles. Whether it is a river or two mountain tops, we design bridges to help us on our journey. And then to return home. The wonder of them expands when you consider the style, the personality of the bridges we build. From the simple log laid down by a child to get over a stream, to the The Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge in China that covers over a hundred miles, each bridge is unique. Not only in the material used or the architectural design, but also the environment it was built in; the obstacle it was built to overcome.
As I’ve traveled over the years I’ve come to appreciate the bridges I’ve seen and used. I don’t think I am alone in this joy because the idea of a bridge is ingrained in our lives. We understand the importance of reaching the other side of an obstacle, even when it is in our relationships, our opportunities in life.
We are always told not to “burn any bridges”.
The advice is good. All of our relationships are metaphorically connected by the bridges we build, by the obstacles we overcome in the relationships, and each connection has its own style influenced by the moments we share together. Burning a bridge is a devastating step in any relationship. (I will acknowledge and confess that there are bridges that do need to be burned down, but that is for another time.)
Then, there are the bridges we build that we never get to see in use. I know because I build bridges. I am a writer.
Like all artists I create a bridge when I write a blog post, a book, or a poem. I construct a way for readers to find their way to my side of the moment. We connect through the words I use to build a bridge between our shared lives, our shared moments, or to allow the reader to explore a new view from my mountain top.
All artists do this. How do I know, because I am a reader. I listen to music. I visit museums. I have walked on bridges created by all kinds of artists. I go back in time when I read Wordsworth’s poem “The World Is Too Much With Us,” and feel the same angst about society today. I could spend all day at any type of museum. As part of our honeymoon my wife and I went to the Art Institute in Chicago. (Yes, we went to a Cub’s game, too.)
I always get choked up when I hear this line from the song “Humble and Kind”:
Consider for a minute, or two, how powerful bridges are to the fullness of our lives. Whether we are driving on a family vacation, listening to a new song by our favorite artist, or even reading a blog post by someone new; each bridge is built with care and a unique style. I know because I build bridges, I am a writer.
At church a couple of weekends ago the priest started his sermon by showing us his glow in the dark rosary. He asked if anyone knew how it worked, what was the chemical process to have the beads glow in the dark. He hinted at the answer, but quickly said he simply liked to think that the beads simply reflected back the light they absorb.
The rest of the sermon was built on that idea correlated with a person’s spirituality. But even if you are not a religious person, I think we all are glow in the dark people. We reflect the light we absorb.
I mention this quote in my first post for this blog:
With the technology we have today though, there are more factors that influence what light we shine back. There are all the forms of social media, music, and just the influence of pop culture in general. Sadly, most of the light that comes from these sources are filtered and have a meanness tint to them.
What I find most disheartening is the attitude that we are not responsible for the light we choose to absorb, then reflect back to the world. I do believe that we choose what we let into our lives, into our hearts. Whether it is hours of TikTok videos, a good book, or the latest slogan we simply repeat because everyone else is repeating it, we decide what kind of light, what kind of people we are in this world. We glow in the dark, and the day time, with the light we allow into our lives. We are glow in the dark people.
When I go grocery shopping on Saturdays, I tell a dad joke to a certain cashier if he is working. He is not there every Saturday, but if I see him working, I make sure to tell him a joke. Some are better than others, but it is always a fun moment to share a joke with him.
There is a gentleman at church I make sure I wave hello to when I see him and again when we share the sign of peace with those around us. I don’t know his name, I don’t think he knows mine. He is always alone. We both smile as we acknowledge each other. Even if he is in another section, we wave to each other. There is a jolt of happiness in the moment.
Every morning (during the week) I make sure everyone’s water bottle is filled with ice and water. I place the bottles in backpacks, or leave them on the island for the person to grab before heading to school.
For whatever reason, the small moments have been on my mind lately. Actually the power of small moments… Everyday is filled with small moments, some lasting no more than a minute. Talking with the barista while ordering a coffee, holding a door for someone, singing a song in the car with my daughters (No, we do not talk about Bruno). What matters is what kind of energy we bring to the moment.
I am sure everyone has had the situation in a store or at a restaurant where the employee was in a bad mood and made the moment awkward or even negative. Or someone is on your tail driving, trying to get you to go over the speed limit. That kind of interaction can be tough to overcome, it sets a sour taste for the day, or at least for a while. Now, I know that customers can bring the same kind of negativity at a store. I have lost my cool in traffic. Anybody can bring negative energy to a moment.
Or we can be positive.
If you think about how many small moments there are in a single day, you can understand why it is important to handle each moment as an opportunity to bring a little happiness to the people involved. It is like dropping change into a jar. A couple of pennies doesn’t seem like much, but if you are depositing change 20 times a day, it adds up quickly.
A small moment can change everything for a person, be it negative or positive. This world needs more positive moments, even small ones.
I spent most of my day with a dead radio. Not because it was stolen like in the song, but I’ll get to why I couldn’t use the radio in a minute. Driving in silence allowed me time to think about the crazy day I was involved in, and also some of the more abstract aspects of this life (just like the song). Warning, this blog post will be all over the place and take some time… just like life.
First, let’s begin with how the day ended. Besides me writing about it, the girls stayed up a little later than normal so they could play Super Soccer with their oldest brother because he was heading back to college tomorrow.
The living room was filled with laughter, and outbursts of “Kick it!, Kick it, NOW!” Both games went to a shootout, and big brother lost both games. His sisters were excited.
I sat with my youngest daughter in the kitchen as they played. We had snack and played Would You Rather. I was asked if I would rather die by drowning or be killed by a giraffe. It was a rough game, but we added to the laughter.
I soaked up the moment and felt grateful for our home. The day did not start so smoothly.
My wife had an early, 6:15 a.m., appointment for a few medical procedures. I took the day off because she would be put under anesthesia for the procedures. We were ready to head to the surgery center at 5:45. My son was going to handle dropping off everyone at school, then he would go to work. I would be able to pick up my four daughters from school at the end of the day.
I go to start the van to warm it up… van is dead. No lights on the dashboard when I turn the key… nothing.
I grab the keys to my son’s car and take my wife to the surgery center. I drop her off to head back to the house. I have enough time to try to jump the van before the girls need to get to school.
Did I mention it was only like 4 degrees outside this morning?
I get the jumper cables attached, start my son’s car and let it charge for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes… nothing. The van is still dead. I unhook the cables, it’s time to get the girls to school. I take them. There isn’t room for my son, so he stays home. I’ll be back to get him to work on time.
By this time, I am consciously making sure I keep my frustration under control. It’s not that I can’t feel frustrated, but I can’t let the frustration take over to cause the morning routine to be filled with negativity from me. The girls are already worried about mom, their schedule has changed, and they understand that dad is improvising because the van is dead.
I finally got back to the hospital. My wife was in the surgery room. The receptionist explains to me how the TV board will keep me updated. I watch as my wife’s patient number changes color (each color is a different step in the procedure). After a while, I was escorted back to the recovery room. Everything went well and we headed home.
I decided to try jumping the van one more time. It’s not as cold, I am not hurried, and there is more light. I make sure I get a good connection on both batteries (which isn’t easy to do with new cars, there are so many things connected to the terminals). Success, the van starts after 5 minutes.
Here is where I spend time with no radio. We have an XM radio. When the battery dies or is changed, you have to enter a code to use any part of the radio, even to play a CD. (Which we do have, the van is about 8 years old). We have the code written down, which I would find later. One of my daughters would get the honor of activating the radio! But that is later in the day after I pick them up from school.
As I run errands, I am alone with my thoughts. And my thoughts got deep when I learn about the death of someone.
We have been in the market for a new car, but it is hard to find a car that matches our needs and our price range. We had been working with a sales person Dewayne for a few months. He helped us when we replaced a car that hit a deer. I had last spoken to him in person in August about our car situation and what inventory the dealership was expecting. As you do with people, we talked about personal things. He let me know he would be taking some time off because he was having heart surgery to clear a blockage in an artery, but I should contact him in December.
Well, I didn’t call in December. I called today. The receptionist was taken aback when I asked for Dewayne. She informed me that Dewayne had passed away the first day he was home from the surgery.
The first day home.
Dewayne was not a close friend, yet our lives intersected. And was supposed to continue to intersect. He was helping me find a vehicle. We had shared stories and talked about how the pandemic was causing havoc in all different aspects of life. Dewayne had a wife and kids. He had a big laugh.
It’s a cliche, not to take life for granted. But honestly, maybe it should become our code to live our life by. What would we change if we treated today like the only day we have? No matter if it starts out with a dead battery, or your coffee order getting mixed up (yeah, that happened too). How would we treat people? How would we treat the people we love if today was the last day we would see them?
When you read this, it will be today. And today is the only day that matters, so decide how you will live it.
This is the eighth year my family has chosen their one word to focus on for the year. This year we decorated a paper mache letter; the first letter of our first name.
As you can see my word is MILES.
There are a number of factors that are connected to my word, from wanting to walk more (putting miles on my shoes) to taking another family vacation (putting miles on the car). I also have goals for my writing (putting miles on my computer and pen) and sending my work for consideration to more places (couldn’t think of a clever ‘putting miles on’ saying for this, so consider thinking of your own play on words here).
I’ll try to keep you updated on the miles I travel, in some form, this year. Here is to a great year ahead and the scenery I’ll encounter as I travel from this day.
I’m not sure where this blog post will end up, but it will cover coffee and Christmas lights. The idea for this post comes from the book Coffee: Philosophy for Everyone: Grounds for Debate, which I recently finished. I loved the book! It got me thinking about lots of things, but mostly coffee.
I proposed to my wife at the local coffee shop, The Blue Moon. We even had wedding photos taken there. I helped create their signature drink, The Silken Moon.
It is past 9 o’clock in the evening and I have a cup of coffee next to me and the Christmas lights on. I’m drinking a holiday flavored coffee. The cinnamon mixed with the warmth of the coffee fills my soul. The Christmas lights make me smile.
The house is quiet. The coffee cup has a tangible weight to it, like the serenity of the darkness at the edge of the colored lights. I know I am here. I know the world is moving outside the house. There are moments happening right now that are breaking people’s spirits. I hate knowing that. It is sad to feel helpless to change it.
But I am here.
I take a strong sip, the coffee flows down my throat in a warm wave. A blue Christmas light is flickering, but staying lit. And I am doing what I love to do, writing. Creating a moment through words to share with loved ones and strangers. I may never change the world, but I can create a moment that helps build up someone instead of tearing them down.
I can share a symbolic cup of coffee with you. Share a moment of peace that shines like a Christmas tree. This post will be a connection between us, even if it is for just a few minutes. I hope it warms your heart.
My cup is empty, the hour is late, here is to a new day and a chance to feel loved.
The most important lesson I have learned in half a century is that there is joy in every day. I can have a horrible day at work but come home and have a dance party with my kids. This lesson took years to understand, and takes strength to accomplish. I have to leave the bad day at work to fully enjoy dancing with my kids.
I know that this list will not surprise anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis, I’ve touched on these in different ways through the years. But hopefully this post will remind you of the things that bring you joy.
I love learning. School was my escape from all the craziness I was going through. Even when I was the new kid so many times growing up. Each school provided opportunities to grow. For the last couple of years I have participated in the challenge to read 60 books in a year. I don’t get to 60 every year, but I spend the year learning and I love that.
When I thought about the role walking has had in my life, I thought back to all the times my best friend and I would walk by the river. How, especially in junior high, we walked all over town. And how I was the only senior that had to walk to school everyday… the consequence of me wrecking a car my junior year. Walking is good exercise, but the joy is in sharing with others. I take the girls on snack walks, we have nature walks, there is a certain joy to sharing the moment and world with others as I walk.
One of the best parts of being a dad is watching my kids in activities: elementary concerts, basketball, soccer, and science fairs to name just a few of the activities I’ve spent enjoying, my wife at my side, and sometimes a coffee in my hand. It matters to me, in part because my father never saw me compete in anything. I swear I tear up every time one of my kids sees me in the crowd and they wave or nod their head at me.
I park the minivan facing the lake. My wife and I people-watch as we enjoy a Blizzard. Cookie dough for my wife. I usually will try the special flavor of the month. These small moments intertwined joy into life. And if we pay attention, not getting lost in the routine of life, every day is filled with these small moments. Talking with my kids before bed. Letting them help make blueberry muffins. Holding hands with my wife as we watch Miami Vice. Yes, I believe joy is the thread that determines the way we live.
This is no surprise for anyone. Writing brings a level of joy that ignites my soul. When the thoughts in my head and feelings stirring in my heart find their way to the page, I feel powerful. I feel complete. I feel vulnerable because the words I write are honest reflections of who I am.
Thanks for sharing your time with me as I start the next half century. Do something that brings you joy today… because if we are not here to feel joy, to love others, to sing badly to our favorite songs… then I don’t know the meaning of life.