Tag Archives: life

Reason to Fly

I enjoyed taking the trash out to the end of the driveway today because it felt like spring. There was not a cloud in the sky. I placed the garbage and recycling totes at the end of our driveway and then just stood there enjoying the beginning of a nice day.

I noticed the moon was visible, then a plane that was approaching the moon. I took a picture of the moment.

When I first saw the plane, I thought it would be cool if the plane would fly across the moon. It would make for a fun picture. As I watched, it became obvious that the plane would miss the moon. I found that sad for a second. Then this classic quote came to mind;

As I watched the plane, getting ready to take the picture, I thought how wonderful the view must be from the plane. I started to think about my own goals, about being a writer, about being a poet. I have never made it to the moon, but the view has been breathtaking. 

Crazy dreams are worth chasing. They allow us to fly, to rise above the routine of living. Crazy goals give us a chance to see our life from a different view. Chasing a dream is a ticket to a different understanding ourselves. Reaching for a dream as far away as the moon keeps our eyes and hearts up. That airplane was not going to reach the moon, but it was a beautiful morning to fly.

Leave a comment

Filed under Life

The Power of a Father

I have over six different drafts of this post. I have different introductions, pop culture references, links, and music in the rough drafts. The issue I want to talk about is the power of fatherhood. More specifically the devastating power of not having a father in a child’s life.

I have been working with the idea of doing a series of posts about what it is really like to be a dad, but an episode of Happy Days got me thinking about the effects of not having a father in my life and the effect it has for other kids. I had never seen the episode of Happy Days before. My youngest daughter likes the show Happy Days. We watch the show on MeTV. One Sunday afternoon the episode, “Arthur, Arthur,”  was playing. The episode is part of the last season of the show. By the end, I was in tears.

The story line of Fonzie and his dad is highlighted in season 6 with the episode, “Christmas Time”.

My story is different.  I have shared parts of that in a past post (Life Lessons About Fatherhood). The feelings of abandonment, anger, and questions of why are similar, though.  But in “Arthur, Arthur” there is a moment that rocked my soul. I have tried to find a clip of the episode, but there is not one to be found. In the episode Fonzie finds out his father has died. That changes everything. Fronzie expresses how he always hoped that someday he would be able to see his father. That while his dad was alive there was always a chance to understand why his dad left. A chance to heal the emotional wounds. With his dad passing, that opportunity was gone. Fonzie would never get to know why. The wounds would never fully heal.

The episode ends with Fonzie showing the broken gold watch his father wanted him to have. He wasn’t going to get the watch fixed because it represented his dad the way it was. A broken watch for a broken relationship.

I understand how Fonzie felt… in my own way. But that specific pain of a son (or a daughter) not having a father in their life is almost universal.

This song was released my senior year of high school. By that time, I hadn’t talked to my father for about eight years. But had lived with three step-dads and a few boyfriends that my mother had. The lines “I didn’t write these pages / And my script’s been rearranged.” expresses one of the perspectives children have when a parent leaves them.

Being abandoned by people who are supposed to guide you in this life is devastating. I know I am focusing on fathers, but the same holds true for mothers. 

There are too many kids trying to navigate this life on their own. And they write their stories with a foundation of loss, of uncertainty, and a deep sense of not being enough, not being loved because their parents are not there. 

I am not a perfect father or husband. But I try every day. And maybe that is the hardest part of looking back. I am raising six kids. Even though I make mistakes, I try to make sure they know they are loved. It is not easy, but I am proud of my kids. I am proud of the home I have built.

But everyday I wonder why wasn’t I worth the effort?

1 Comment

Filed under Family, Life

Move

Sharks have to move to stay alive.

This is mostly true (Must Sharks Keep Swimming to Stay Alive?). For most species they have to move to push water thru their gills to breathe. So, to stay alive, they must constantly swim, be in constant motion.

What about us?

Do we need to move to live?

I say, yes.

And not just physically. We need to move mentally and emotionally. Living is moving. One of my dadisms is “We are all works in progress.” I know that we can stop growing, but we shouldn’t. Yet, there are too many things today that hinders us from moving in our lives.

The obvious factor is smart phones. I see the effects of this device as a dad and as a teacher. 

My students get restless when we take notes, but if I give them some down time with their phones… the room is quiet… and they just sit there looking at the screen. I see this with my daughters, too.

The way we use our smart phone gives us a false sense of motion, of living. An interesting TED Talk, “Why our screens make us less happy” by Adam Alter, highlights the fact that many of the apps, social media, and games have no “stopping cues”. Moments that allow us to consider moving on to something else, like the end of a chapter in a book. So, we scroll through Twitter or Instagram because we can, it feels like moving. It keeps us scrolling because the feed is moving, too. There is nothing that cues us to stop. Of course tools like this don’t want us to stop.

Adam’s talk also highlights why this can be an issue. In his talk he visually shows how much time we have in a workday from three different years; 2007, 2015, and 2017. The blue sections indicate work, responsibilities for family, and eating/sleeping. The white space is our “personal time” and the red area overtaking the white area is how much time we spend on a screen.

Chart from Alter, Adam. “Why are screens make us less happy.” TEDTalk. April 2017.

Life is moving. We are not moving when we hold a screen in front of our face. It’s not just the physical aspect either. If you think about it, much or our life is lived in our hearts and minds. The way we think, what we feel, our motivation affects how we move about in a typical day. 

We need to move in this field of our lives, too. Screen time is not the main hurdle in this area, attitude is. As an English teacher I have to fight the belief students have that reading is stupid. Understand, I teach seniors, so their belief about reading (and writing) is hard to break through. Reading is one way we can learn, but we can learn from others through listening to their stories and perspective. Social media is not the place for this, especially at this moment.

Growing takes emotions and thinking. Feeling all of our emotions allow us to understand ourselves. This takes courage and a willingness to face our own shortcomings. Thinking through our emotions and our perspective makes us better people. Also, this type of moving allows our everyday life to be lived on a deeper level, to have a fuller, more joyful life. We stop taking things for granted because our hearts and minds are in constant motion. We are moving. We are living.

Maybe Ryan Bingham (character from the movie Up in the Air) was right…

Leave a comment

Filed under Life, Technology

Reflections Jan 27, 2021

The girls are settling down. The house is becoming quiet. My headphones are playing some of my favorite songs as I build a writing playlist on Spotify. Earlier I wrote a poem for my personal challenge to write a poem in 100 different forms. It was poem 81, a haibun titled, “A Father’s Gift.

But the writing muse is still burning. I am not sure where this post will end up, but it should be good (it will be musical).

I am tired. I am tired on so many levels, from the perpetual cycle of hate expressed in our culture, to the perceived apathy of living from people around me. I could link to any number of news articles to reveal how much pure negativity there is in this world, but I am tired of viewing those stories. If I took a random picture anytime during the day, it would show people staring at their phones. As if the height of living is text messages and photos saturated with filters.

In some ways, life is pretty simple. It is who we are and what we do with our time. A simple concept, yet filled with possibilities. Maybe it is because I am just months away from my 50th birthday, but time is a constant force in my thinking. I swear I can hear the grains of sand when all is quiet. I still have goals and aspirations I want to accomplish… the time to complete those is running out.

Again, maybe it is because I’ve been living for 50 years but I know that love works. I do believe that we have the choice on who we are. We are in control of how we treat people. What I don’t understand is how we keep thinking hate and pain make this world a better place. What saddens me the most is how deep this has gone. How many kids aren’t loved by their parents. How mean we can be to someone sitting next to us. How easy it is to tweet venom.

I have faith, though. Love is more powerful. Love is strength. I know I can’t change the world, but I can build my world, my home, my life with the foundation of Love. That is a start.

And then there is the pursuit of dreams… if I could figure this part out… Would I like to make a living from writing? Yes, I would. Will I? I don’t know. Money is not the main goal of my writing aspiration, respect or recognition is. To know that when someone says my name, they consider me a writer, a poet. I understand that most of that falls on my shoulders. How I present myself to the world. I know I am a good poet. My words do make an impact for readers. Yet, I feel like the world views me as someone who has a nice hobby. And I don’t know how to change that…

A final note as I wrap up this informal and somewhat musical blog. Even in these troubling times, this life is wonderful. There is pain, troubles for us to overcome. That is what makes the next day better than today. Tell your friends and family that you love them. Have a good cup of coffee and turn up that jam and dance.

Because when it is all said and done, today is the only day you have. It’s worth living for.

2 Comments

Filed under Family, Life

What is it Worth?

Let’s do a thought experiment.

Let’s say I have designed a unique tool you could use every day. For fun, let’s call it a Digital Attention Yielder, or D.A.Y. for short.

Now, what if I told you that it would only cost you a quarter to buy? How valuable do you think it is? How well made?

OK, what if I said it would cost a dollar? Is there much change in your judgment of the D.A.Y.’s value?

Let’s jump the cost to $100. What value does it have now in your mind? Five hundred dollars? A $1000?

The cost of something influences our judgment of its value. 

Hang with me for another thought experiment.

What if I said I would pay you a quarter to spend the day working on your dreams? Would you do it?

What if I told you that I would pay you $100 to be a better friend today? A better husband or mother? Would you do that? Would you read a story to your kids tonight? Text a friend?

How much money would it take for you to live the life you want? 

To be the person you want to be? 

How much is your D.A.Y. worth?

Money is an easy way to measure worth. The hurdle is that LIFE doesn’t pay us with money. Life gives us time. And only so much time. We decide how much our time is worth. Our life is measured by abstract ideas like love, friendship, joy, and hardwork, to name a few. It is difficult to put measurable value on these characteristics. But I believe we know deep in our hearts the answers. We know if we treat our family well. We know if we have worked on our dreams. 

At the end of the D.A.Y. we know if we spent it well.

1 Comment

Filed under Life

An Open Letter to the Pandemic

Dear Pandemic,

I got it. I cry uncle. You win. Whatever it takes for you to leave, I’m ready to do.

I’m not sure you understand the destruction you have caused. You have killed us, divided us, and have brought us to the verge of total chaos. You win. I’m done.

I don’t know why you appeared. Was it to teach us a lesson about the butterfly effect? I already blogged about that in 2012 (“The Butterfly Effect”) in a more positive light.

Maybe you just wanted to stir things up. To teach us a lesson. The lesson I gained was that we need each other more than we will admit. You took everything that brings us together away, concerts, sporting events, weddings, birthday parties, and even simply eating out. At the moment we as a nation may be the most divided we have ever been. There are so many lines drawn in our culture. If you wanted to see us fall, I fear you might achieve that.

Why? Why are you here?

I will admit that personally, you have forced me to reevaluate some things. There have been some positive effects from you being here. I wrote a book, April 2020. The whole family plays tennis now.  We have some new recipes for dinner (also a few that we won’t make again). I do appreciate the time and the people in my life.  But the negative outweigh the positive.

There is an underlying current of fear and anger that perpetuates our everyday existence. There is a sense of mistrust of everyone. That connection of energy from a smile or laugh is gone. Not knowing if someone is positive with COVID weighs down every interaction. The list goes on for us as a country and my personally. You have had an effect on every single person in this world.

Is that the lesson? By taking away our connections, even the simplest gestures of a smile, you are showing us that we are all connected?

If so, this is the toughest lesson I have ever had to learn… I hope we all pass this test, together.

Leave a comment

Filed under Family, Life

An Open Letter to Happiness

Dear Happiness,

I used to think of you as a rabbit.

You would appear just a few feet away, nose twitching, ears up. Always at least one eye on me. It was always cool to see you appear, but as soon as I would try to touch you, to feel your fur, you would dart off. Zig-zagging away. Your fluff of a tail waving goodbye.

RabbitEven when I would stumble onto a moment, unplanned, unexpected. You would be gone in a flash. I could never get close enough to catch you. To hold you in my arms. Feel your breathing, or smell your untamed spirit. You were too quick for me, even in my prime.

I know better now. I know that you, Happiness, are not a rabbit.

I know now that I was chasing other people’s expectations. The rabbits are social definitions of you. Rabbits that I can never catch. I’ll never have enough, or be enough, to catch them. It is still cool to see them in my yard. They still appear, nose twitching, eyes looking at me as if to say, “You can catch me this time! Really, you can.”

It’s hard not to give into the urge to chase them. To finally know how their fur feels, to feel that sense of pride after capturing one. But, I am so glad I finally saw you, Happiness.

I’ve heard the best place to hide is in plain sight. Happiness, you did that well. I remember when I discovered you were there, right by the front door. I laughed out loud because you were there every time I chased a rabbit. The day I figured it out, you were a pair of black Nike running shoes. I was headed out to take a walk to deal with the tension in my soul. And there you were, my shoes.

I see you, Happiness, all the time. You are my dress shoes I wear as a teacher, or when I go on a fancy date with my wife. You are the grass stained, worn out shoes in the garage I use to mow in. Once I figured it out, I knew you were there all the time. You were my football cleats. My track shoes. You were the shoes I bought when I started playing slow-pitch softball. You were there on my first day of kindergarten; nice clean shoes for the first day of school.

red shoesI only wish that I figured it out sooner. Even so, thank you Happiness, for being there every day. I understand that you are not a moment to be captured. You are the moments I live. Even in the rough spots, you are there. I found you in the ditch after my first car accident. I wore you as I boarded that Greyhound bus leaving my biological family behind. I was wearing a pair of Nike IDs when my second son was rushed out of the delivery room. I understand that you are there in everything I do, rain or shine.

I may never catch a rabbit, but I know I’ll have a great pair of shoes on when I run. Or even better, I’ll wear them as I sit on the front porch with my family watching the rabbits play.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Family, Life

That’s My Song

Title with cassette tape

We are in the second week of school. We have our routine. Part of it is the drive to school. We have a certain radio station we listen to, we talk about the upcoming day. This morning my youngest daughter was enjoying the drive to school because the radio seemed to play all her favorite songs.

As soon as the music for the next song started to play she would say, “Ooohhh, I like this song!” Then she would read the title of the song off of the display and start singing along.

Singing with her, I was reminded of the simple joys in life.

Especially right now. Life is different. Part of our routine is making sure everyone has their mask for school. As a nation, I feel like we are crumbling under the weight of all the lines drawn in our society. Political. Cultural. Pandemic Issues. So many issues dissecting us, cutting up our sense of community and identity as a nation.

These are troubling times.

Yet, the simple joys intertwine in our daily life. A good cup of coffee. Hot cheese bread at dinner. Snack before bed… and a daughter who likes the next song on the radio…

“Ooohhh, I like this song!”

One of the songs we jammed out to…

Leave a comment

Filed under Family, Life

There is only the moment.

Yesterday was the first day of school for us. A little different with masks and all the cleaning requirements, but overall, a somewhat normal day. It was nice to have a sense of normal life. But this post isn’t about the pandemic or school… it’s about bubbles.

My youngest daughter wanted to play outside after dinner. I will admit to being tired and tempted to tell her no. She was still excited from going to school, and I could see she needed to spend some of that energy, so we went outside.

She decided to play bubbles. I would make the bubbles while she chased them down. Then I got my turn to run after bubbles. We also took a small walk to the “second stop sign” (it is a boundary marker we use for their freedom to run around the neighborhood).

There was nothing more to life than bubbles and my daughter. Nothing more than smiles with random conversation. My youngest daughter can talk forever.

Without making this a deep post about the theory of Flow, I will simply state that life is this moment. We do worry about the future. We do fight the chains of the past. Life can be difficult. But in the middle of political turmoil, a pandemic, hate and division, the first day of school… I felt joy as my daughter chased bubbles.

All we truly have is this moment.

Decide how you are going to live it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Family, Life

Birds on a Wire

For some reason on my walk this morning, I noticed the birds. The sky was clear blue. No clouds. I noticed different groups of birds fly overhead. They all glided to the north, which was the way I was headed. After three blocks I saw many of them perched on the telephone wires. There were robins, grackles, red crossbill, and a few I didn’t know the name of.

Image by Queven from Pixabay

They would swoop onto the wire. A few would fly away only to return after a second. Some of the birds stayed on the wire the whole time I watched. The morning was filled with their different songs. At one point it seemed like the whole wire was filled with birds. It was a cool moment.

I continued on my walk, thinking about the birds. Thinking about how it didn’t matter what type of bird they were, they all had a place on the wire. Yes, my thoughts turned to our turbulent times, but took a turn to an idea of the wires we have in our society.

Old men at the gas station getting coffee.

Barber shops and hair salons.

Coffee shops.

Fishing at the lake.

I thought about all the games of dominoes and pitch I played in college.

Sunday dinner.

I thought about how sitting on a wire, talking, helped build a community. A bird, any bird, was welcomed on the wire. They were free to stay or leave. Right now, it seems that no one is talking. Right now, it seems there is no wire for us to sit and be, to be welcomed because we showed up. To share stories, to feel like one community.

I so wanted to grow wings to join the birds this morning. To sit with them on that wire and add my song to theirs.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Life