Tag Archives: books

Joy of Life

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. 

Number 5

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.

Number 4

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.

Number 3

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.

Number 2

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.

Number 1

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.

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The Big Five-0 and Blueberry Muffins

Yesterday was my 50th birthday.

This morning we made blueberry muffins. My second daughter asked how it felt to be half a century old. Children can view the world in a different way. Half a century. Fifty years.

As always, I thought about how many crazy turns I’ve taken on my path. I thought it would be fun to share some fun “Top Five” blog posts over the next five days in celebration of living fifty years. 

To start, this post will be my top five things that I am proud of.

Number Five

Self publishing my poetry and fiction books. I have a few more projects in the works. It is exciting to create work that others enjoy.

Number Four

Creating traditions for my family, like blueberry muffins on Sunday mornings. I’ve read books before bed for over 20 years. Other traditions have faltered, some are new, like deciding on a word for the year. But I think traditions are building blocks for a strong family.

Number Three

Keeping an open heart even as the world and people let me down. Call me foolish, but I believe Love can save us.

Number Two

Staying creative. Writing blog posts, taking photos, writing poetry. I try to listen to the muse when it hits. I’m working on a new short story right now. I have three new poems that are in rough draft form. Being creative keeps my spirit fueled.

Number One

Finding the courage to change the narrative of my family history. 

Tomorrow I’ll share another Top Five post about moments.

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One of the Rewards of Writing

For those readers that have followed my blog or my writing career, you know I’ve been doing this writing thing on my own. My first collection of poetry, And I Never Told You, was printed at a local printing shop. I sold copies through the local coffee shop and by carrying copies with me in case someone wanted a copy.

Today there is social media. I use Amazon to publish my books. I use Goodreads’ giveaway option to give signed copies away. I’ve written letters to libraries and stores to publicize my books. 

Being an indie author is hard. One thing all writers want is to know people have read and enjoyed their works. I have had the privilege of learning how my writing has inspired readers. (I share that story in the blog post: “Our Gift is for Others”.)

As I was organizing information for the winners of my latest giveaway, I wondered how many states have received one of my books (some states have more than one book). 

As a writer it is cool to think one of my books is sitting on a bookshelf or night stand in Hawaii or Tennessee. Maybe there is a bookmark poking out of the top, or some of the corners are folded. Thinking that someone might lend the book to a friend because they think that person would like my poems makes me feel proud of the work I put into my writing.

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F is for

The F in L.I.F.E is for family and friends.

I have a dadism I use sometimes when the kids are fighting or a situation is starting to get out of hand. “Family deserves the best from you.” For a number of reasons I feel this is the most important aspect of dealing with family relationships. We should treat our family the best.

The same is true for our friends. The way we love our friends and family dictates the joy and depth of our life. They shelter us during the storms. They give us directions when we have lost our way. They share in our joy of achieving our goals.  They motivate us when we encounter hurdles. Our personal success is never achieved alone.

Our relationships are a manifestation of our choices regarding love. Relationships take work, just as much work as any life goal we have. But that is the reason for love, to build relationships that reveal the beauty of this life. It is hard because each person in our life is unique, which means each relationship has its own set of guidelines. Each relationship then brings a different element of life and love to us. As we build our relationships with family and friends, we expand our understanding of love, of life. That is how we build an incredible life; love our friends and family.

Below are a few media recommendations that correlate with this idea.

Books

The article, “The Lonely Life of George Bell”, has stayed with me since the day I read it in the fall of 2015. It is sad, but so worth reading.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger has a deeper element about the importance of relationships woven through Holden’s observations of the uniqueness of people.

Movies

Over the Hedge is a great movie about the importance of family.

Remember the Titans has the same message about friends.

Songs

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I is for

The I in L.I.F.E. stands for the individual.

Each one of us has our own life to live. Even if you are a wife, or father, or a CEO of a company, you are responsible for walking your path in this world. There is so much to this idea, but I am going to center this post on how we walk the path because that is one aspect that influences the quality of our life. We may not get to choose the condition of the path before us or have control of the hardships that appear on the path, but we choose how we handle things. Like love, we choose our steps.

We choose how we walk every day. That means what we choose to do during the day, plus the attitude we have with it. I believe that too many people react to life instead of living intentionally. By reacting we forfeit the power of choosing most of our life. We miss creating an awesome life. We accept average. An average relationship. An average job. An average existence. We feel happy every once and awhile. Honestly, by reacting, we live far below our potential. Far below the life we could have.

It is easy to react. But have you noticed how negative our reactions are? How fast a reaction can bring down the vibe of a room? I know it does because I’ve done it. As a father of six, I have just reacted to my kids. I am busy, or have had a bad day at work, but my children just want my attention. As soon as I walk in the door they are bombarding me with questions or demands. When I just react to them it is usually with a frustrated tone. In an instant, the shine in their eyes fade. They usually will say, “Never mind,” and disappear from in front of me.

It takes time to break the habit of reacting. Living intentionally doesn’t remove hurdles or pain in our lives. In fact, living intentionally may be harder to do, but it creates depth to our lives that cannot be experienced if you just react to life. Joy replaces happiness. Meaning replaces feeling like life is mundane. We still feel pain. Our hearts will break, but there is not the feeling of being lost, as if everything has fallen apart. Choice replaces helplessness. Living replaces just surviving.

Even though I share my life with my wife and children, I am responsible for how I walk the path I am on. By choosing my steps I create an amazing journey. Choose your steps, today can be an incredible journey.

Below are a few media recommendations that correlate with this idea.

Books

Way of the Peaceful Warrior is a book that is part autobiography, fiction, and inspirational. Dan Millman takes the reader through his spiritual journey during his time in college. (There is a movie based on the book.)

Start With Why by Simon Sinek is a business book, but you will quickly connect the dots to how aligning your choices with your why changes how you live.

The American Scholar” speech by Ralph Waldo Emerson is centered on education, but he spends some time discussing the importance of understanding how powerful we are to live our lives.

Movies

The Rookie is based on the true story of Jim Morris, who made it to the major leagues as a 35 year-old rookie. The story highlights how difficult but amazing our paths can be.

Rocky is not the boxing movie you remember. The story is about love, how difficult achieving dreams are, and living life on your terms.

Songs

I am Mine” by Pearl Jam deals with the idea that this life is ours.

Excavate” by Macklemore looks at what is important in life.

 

Share this post with anyone you feel would enjoy it.

F is for… (you will have to read the next post).

 

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Magic of a Bookstore

Today I got to buy some books from our local bookstore, Prairie Books & Gifts. The store is closing after 43 years. I was awash with emotions as I walked around the store. When I worked downtown, I would spend time in the store. Sometimes reading a book in their reading area. Other times, just wandering the aisles until my lunch break was over.

I wrote a series awhile back about how different life was for me growing up as compared to my children. I started to consider that my kids may never know the joy of a bookstore, especially a local store. (I don’t think that will happen, but you never know…)

There is something magical about a bookstore, about the rows of books. Finding your favorite author’s books, hoping in some small way that there is a new book, or gandering through a genre or subject section. Yes, I always checked the poetry section.

A bookstore is the center of our universe. There are millions of worlds, people, and story lines just waiting for us to discover. And yes, you do sometimes judge a book by its cover. You pick it up from the shelf, slightly bouncing it in your hands trying to get a feel of the weight of the book, both physically and metaphorically. The crinkle of the binding. A quick read of a page. And then you have to decide if you are going to enter that world. The whole process is magical. A bookstore is the center of this universe, and it makes me sad to see our local universe die.

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Enough of…

Christmas tree with title

It was about 2 o’clock this morning.  I was stroking my little girl’s hair, trying to help her fall back to sleep after giving her some medicine. She came home with a fever and scratchy throat. She was sleeping on the couch, so I was sleeping on the floor. She wouldn’t fall asleep alone, even with the Christmas tree lights still on. I was staring at the Christmas tree with two presents underneath when I thought about what it would be like if that was all the presents we placed under the tree.

I thought about how the girls would react on Christmas morning. Their shocked expressions. I thought about what they might say. What would we say? I was tired, alright…  But, as you, faithful readers know, I started to think about something deeper.

The scene in my head faded as I knew that there would be more presents under the tree. I smiled as my daughter shifted and began to breathe deeply, finally falling back to sleep. I also smiled because I was thinking about how my children would smile as they opened their presents. As a family we do reinforce that gifts are one way that people share their love with each other. That no matter what the gift is, it was given in love.

But then my thoughts turned. I gingerly lifted my hand from my daughter’s hair. Waiting to see if she would wake back up. She didn’t. I turned fully to face the Christmas tree. And I reflected on an idea I had been think about for a while now, that the world has enough of…

The world has enough hate.

The world has enough pain.

The world has enough ignorance.

The world has enough broken hearts and broken dreams.

The world has enough apathy.

The world has enough phoniness.

 

What the world needs, and not just for Christmas, is Love.

The world needs more books, more poetry.

The world needs respect.

The world needs more people striving for their dreams, having their heart on fire because they are pursuing their goals.

The world needs more people supporting each other, instead of dragging others down.

The world needs more children to smile, every morning.

 

Maybe it was the tiredness, or the way the lights promised a beautiful moment if only for a while, but I started to cry. I felt overwhelmed by everything. The classroom, a sick child, being a father, of the fear I have every time my children walk out the front door into this world.

But there was already two presents under the tree, there would be more. There would be smiles and joy because every present is a symbol of someone’s love for the recipient.

And then there is this post, these words… they are my gift to you, every time.

 

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Welcome Back

Welcome back. I have officially started my new position as a Remote Learning Specialist with ESU 10.  I have been battling with the direction I should take with this new blog. I have debated about the tile, what I should write about, and other small factors as I start this new path.  Then I came across this quote:

“You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” ~ Charles “Tremendous” Jones

Today, we can meet a variety of people, our selection of reading is incredible and we are becoming connected on so many different levels.  This led me to the title, “It is All Connected” and deciding to write blog posts that reflect life as I live it.  I hope we can connect through this blog and that the connection will be a positive influence in your day.

Here is a sneak peak at some upcoming posts.

Value in Education.  This is an evolving idea I have been working on that looks at five components that give anything value, but with a focus on education.

Turning 40.  In October I will be turning 40 years old.  I don’t know why, but this upcoming birthday has been challenging my perspective of things.

A Book Series.  I have always wanted to share / discuss unique aspects of some of my favorite books I use in the classroom.  The Outsiders, Lord of the Flies, and The Catcher in the Rye (to name just a few).

One type of conclusion is using a quote, so I leave you today with this video clip from Charles “Tremendous” Jones.

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