Tag Archives: love

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.

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Thank You, Tears For Fears

On March 16 I sat in a meeting on how school was going to be continued in an online environment. Students would be let into the school in waves to get their stuff the next day. Life was changing fast. I returned to my classroom to get things in order. Like many people, I turned to music to help with the situation. I sat down at my desk and turned to the music of Tears for Fears. Honestly, I don’t know why… maybe subconsciously I was thinking of the song “Mad World”, but I started out with their album The Hurting and played through their discography.

That was over a month ago, but I haven’t stopped listening to Tears For Fears. Even this morning on my walk, I listened to the album, Elemental. Now, I have listened to other artists during this time. In fact, I may be listening to more music than I have in a long time. Music has a powerful way of helping us deal with our emotions. During this time, the music from Tears For Fears has been a part of the way I have dealt with this moment in time.

So, as a thank you to them, I thought I would write a blog post sharing a song from each of their albums that I connect to during this time. Grab your headphones, sit back to enjoy some music from Tears For Fears and some writing from me. And Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith if you get the chance to read this: Thank You for the music.

Album: The Hurting

Song: “Change”

Yes, “Mad World” would totally fit our times. But “Change” connects with me because of the idea that there will come a time in life when it is too late. Too late to mend a relationship. Too late to follow a dream. The song has that repeating line though, “You can change.” Just a touch of optimism.

Album: Songs from the Big Chair

Song: “The Working Hour”

The build up of the layers of instruments in the first two minutes of the song just put me in a deep thoughtful mindset. Then comes the lyrics, “These things that I’ve been told / Can rearrange / My world, my doubt / In time, but inside out” address my state of mind right now… honestly, I think it does for all of us.

Album: The Seeds of Love

Song: “Famous Last Words”

The music starts slow. The lyrics set the scene of lovers in the future, just being together, but then at about the 2:20 mark in the middle of the line “And we will carry war no more” the sound explodes, making my heart jump… in desire to have a time to sit with the people I love and have the chance to “Listening to the band that made us cry / We’ll have nothing to lose / We’ll have nothing to gain / Just to stay this real life situation / For one last refrain”.

Album: Elemental

Song: “Break It Down Again”

This song makes me happy, in a sad intellectual way, especially the lines “And all the love and all the love in the world / Won’t stop the rain from falling…” It may seem odd, but I enjoy thoughtful lyrics, even if they make me feel sad. I enjoy analyzing songs, movies, and even though this song isn’t totally about that, it reinforces for me to break it down.

Album: Raoul and the Kings of Spain 

Song: “Sketches of Pain”

This song speaks to my poetic side. How art often reflects our pain, our heartache. Art can bring beauty to our pain. This moment in history is providing me with a different kind of muse. This song reinforces the need to share my writing with you.

Album: Everybody Loves a Happy Ending

Song: “”Closest Thing To Heaven”

Even during these troubling times (which is the setting at the beginning of the song), there are good things in my life. The line, “Make love your destination,” is a powerful motivation to choose love every day. Family and friends, making new recipes, watching Miami Vice, is heaven right now.

Music helps us through tough times. For me, Tears For Fears is the music I need. Thank you, Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith for your music.

Let me know what you are listening to during this pandemic.

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I used to

I used to get up at 5:00 a.m. to get ready for the day. One cup of coffee, yogurt, and a banana. I would get back into bed (on my wife’s side) for a few minutes as my wife would finish getting ready for the day. I would shower while she ate breakfast.

But now, we get up at random times.

 

I used to teach in front of students. I could tell who was having a bad day. I could tell if my hyper class would have to be reined in because the lesson needed focus from them. My day was a roller coaster of grading, answering emails, and teaching.

But now, I answer emails and grade assignments as they are completed online.

 

I used to believe that I would live forever. That I had time to do everything I wanted with my life. Life was an open highway.

But now, well actually, I’ve realized that my days are numbered for some time now. This moment in time dealing with the COVID-19 situation has reinforced the reality that life is fleeting. As a society we are forced to deal with so many factors we take for granted in our everyday life. A handshake, eating out, graduations, and just the joy of an open highway.

 

I used to distrust people. OK, to be honest I still do, but that is a personal journey.

But now, I wonder what the effects of this pandemic will have on our culture. We were already dealing with anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness. Dealing with screen time and its connections to these emotions.

 

I used to go to church with my family, shake hands with others during The Liturgy of the Eucharist (Peace Be With You).

But now, we watch Mass on TV. Hearing the echoes of the few people in attendance during the filming of the service.

 

I used to make one box of blueberry muffins. When the boys were young, 12 muffins were enough for the family.

But now, we have added scrambled eggs and bacon or sausage, and we will have to start making 24 muffins as my oldest son has moved back home to finish his semester of college online.

 

I used to believe in love…

But now, I still do… There is no greater force in this life than Love. Oh, I know hate and other negative forces seem to gain more attention and seem to be more powerful. That the world is falling apart… but Love is what will rebuild the world.

 

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Skip a Rope

I am a sucker for countdowns. Every weekend I listen to the top 40 countdown from the 80s on XM radio as I run errands. Over the last couple of days XM has been broadcasting their top 1000 country songs of all time. So of course I’ve switched over to that channel at times just to listen to the countdown for awhile. I’m not a huge country music fan, but I enjoy certain songs and artists. I flipped to channel 30 and Tim McGraw’s “My Next 30 Years” was playing, so I left the radio on the countdown. Next was Tracy Lawrence’s “Time Marches On”.  I was enjoying the countdown. As the next song started, I could tell it was a classic country song. Since I was into the countdown I decided to listen. I’m glad I did, it got me thinking about life.

The song was the only number one hit for Henson Cargill, “Skip A Rope”.

I had never heard the song before. It was released in 1968. Besides the music, sadly, this song could have been written today.

Can’t we do better?

Seriously, I could share so many links to news articles about kids being abused or neglected by parents. There is a never ending supply of examples of the hate we generate in our society.  Links to heartache. Examples of cheating.

Can’t we do better?

I know that I can not save the world. It’s hard not to get downtrodden with the never ending negative examples on the news.

What I can do…

Is read a book to my daughters tonight before bed.

Is say hello to a stranger with a smile.

Is return the shopping cart to the cart corral (even the ones sitting between cars around me).

Is smile when I see my wife at the end of the day.

What I know for sure is that I can try every day to live this life with love. To be a little more humble and kind (yes, this was on the countdown).

 

 

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Enough Room for Everyone

It is the holiday season, so there are a few movies we get to see a couple of times before the season is over. Elf is on heavy rotation. A certain line from the movie caught my attention the other day.

Did you really catch it?

Consider that notion for a minute.

Everyone can be on the nice list.

There were so many examples I considered to use to reinforce the idea. But I want this blog post to be clear, to be direct. As a dad, I’ve discovered that love is limitless. There is enough room for everyone in my life to feel loved.

We choose how we express love, or who we give it to. But there is no limit. I have six children, they are all loved. Now my energy gets spent sometimes, but my love for them has no bounds. This is true for everyone. Love is the greatest gift we can give, to everyone. Yes, it looks different for the people in our lives, but it is still love. Trust me, your heart can handle it.

There is enough love in this world… we just have to give it to others… and just maybe we will have better days, for everyone.

 

Have a wonderful holiday season! Thanks for reading this year. Be ready for an EPIC 2020!

 

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Life Lessons About Fatherhood

Life has hit me with some serious dots lately… dots that reveal the importance of fathers. Let me share the dots with you in an honest and vulnerable post…

Dot 1. We are reading the book Night by Elie Wiesel. One of the themes is about family that develops into the father-son relationship.

Dot 2. I am preparing for a local poetry slam. One of the poems I have decided to use is about an old photo of my father and me.

Then in a single night, life hit me with three dots. Two of the dots are surface level moments, but then the last dot shook me. I’ll get to that.

Dots 3 and 4. Saturday night I was traveling to Lincoln to pick up my second son from his first job as an intern for Striv. He was working on the highlight videos for state volleyball.  He had been in Lincoln since Friday morning, shooting footage of games and then editing video for the introductions before the championship games. Dot 3 was just being a dad. A proud dad. The time on the road allowed me to think about life, about being a father. Dot 4 is a song. I grabbed some CDs to listen to on the road. One of the CDs was Lupe Fiasco’s Food and Liquor. The song, “He Say, She Say,” deals with the effects of a son without his father.

Then the last dot… Dot 5. A moment that has been scrambling my spirit, even today. I tried writing a poem… I have written a version of this post, like five times, what you are reading is just me deciding to write as truthful as I can.

I had to stop to gas up the car on my way to Lincoln. I pulled up to the second row of pumps. There was a white truck at the first row of pumps next to the store. From my angle I could see the front end of the truck and the driver’s side door which was open. I couldn’t see the person filling the tank because of the gas pump. I was going through the routine of filling up the car when I was struck by a voice from the truck.

A little boy said, “Dad… I’m sorry Dad!  Dad? I’m sorry…”

My chest collapsed. Tears stung my eyes. I could hear the sorrow and fear of abandonment. I could see him, strapped into a car seat. Eyes wide. Head moving back and forth looking for his father. Feeling alone. Needing to see his father’s eyes, to hear his dad say that he was still loved.

Then he said it again, louder, with a tearful edge, “Dad, I’m sorry!  Dad? Dad, I’m sorry!” (Yes, I am tearing up as I write this.)

His dad doesn’t respond. I know as a father that I have had to calm myself down at times before I interact with my children. So, I don’t think much about the child’s dad not handling the moment right then. I finish filling up the tank and get back into the car trying to handle my emotions.

I think about all my students who have rough family lives. I think about my own children who have said that they are sorry… but I can’t figure out why my heart hurts so bad… I get onto the interstate still dealing with the waves of emotions crashing in my chest.

When it hit me… The little boy’s voice mirrored my own pain. Even at the age of 48 I fight that feeling of abandonment and fear the boy reflected in his apology to his dad. Without getting into my messy life story, I haven’t had a relationship with my father since I was 10 years old. I know that part of the destruction of that relationship is my decision. But that doesn’t change the feelings of being lost and unloved that I battle with almost everyday.

If you are a parent reading this… Love your children. Hug them. Read to them. Tell them they are forgiven. Give them a foundation that allows them to follow their dreams. I know what it is like to grow up without these things… it hurts, even decades later…

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More Stars

Last night my oldest daughter had pep band for a volleyball game. I had gotten the three younger girls to bed, so I headed out to the school to wait for my daughter. It was a clear, cool night so I opened the moonroof in the minivan.

I parked in the faculty parking lot. There was not much light pollution there, so I could see the night sky filled with stars. I turned off the minivan, leaned the seat back a little and just enjoyed the view. Without getting deeply personal, stargazing is a spiritual activity for me. As I enjoyed the moment, a thought shot across my mind… then my heart. I was looking at more stars than I had days left to watch them.

In a crazy moment of thought and feelings, I sat up. I actually got out of the van to get a better view of the sky, with that thought running through me. I was seeing more stars than days I had left.

I could tell the game had ended because people were exiting the building, walking toward their cars. I knew my daughter would soon be coming. She sprinted out of the doors looking for me. As she got into the van she noticed the moonroof was open. “Awesome!” she said.

She spent the ride home gazing up at the stars. She told me how much she loved the night sky. I didn’t share my insight. My daughter was in a joyous mood. She had every right to be.

I wish I could say my epiphany made today great, but it didn’t. I am actually in a somber mood, but not for the reason you might think.

What would a day look like? A classroom? A home? If we truly lived with the understanding that we have only so many days? How would we react if our personal night sky lost a star everyday… as our days dwindled… as our sky turned dark? Would we then choose love?  Would we then choose to pursue or dreams?

I know the idea is not new… but last night I realized that there are more stars in the sky than days I have to view them… I’m not going to miss any opportunities.

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The Headline Read

The headline read:

“Woman Burning Love Letters Sparks Nebraska Apartment Fire.”

The article stated that a 19 year-old woman was burning love letters from her ex with a butane torch in her bedroom. Some of the pieces that fell to the carpet started the fire.

When I read this, so many thoughts and emotions came to mind.

My first reaction, actually, was happiness. To know that people still write love letters, in this digital world, where we send emoticons as birthday wishes, that the woman’s relationship was so strong that they wrote letters to each other was cool to read. Of course, the pain of ending the relationship is tough to deal with.

Which brought up the next thought. Dealing with pain from relationships and love is a part of our lives. I couldn’t help but think about how many more times she would deal with heartbreak. And not just with relationships. Not getting a job or position, not achieving a goal, there are so many things that can bring us heartache in life. I wish I could tell her I know it hurts but that she will gain strength from this… and that love is still real. She will meet the right person in the future. Life can break our hearts, but love heals it.

Then my poetic side kicked in… 

 

Your words no longer read true

Written in passion

Each letter started with my name in cursive

ended with a heart and your initials

Broken by actions

By trading in our future

for a set of green eyes

I only have this flame

To mirror the heat in my chest

Our future turning into ash

Black, rising in the air

As sections of words

Promises and devotions

Edged with amber flakes

Fall to the floor

My pain ignites the scraps

Flames crawling up the dresser

Consuming the picture of us

Cheek to cheek

Last winter in Colorado

I toss the shoebox holding the last few letters

Into the growing blaze

I grab my phone

and the book I’ve been reading

I close the door

On the burning of our life together

 

The headline read:

“Woman Burning Love Letters Sparks Nebraska Apartment Fire.”

 

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All The Ways We Die

Yesterday, the family attended a family funeral. My wife’s uncle passed away last week from a number of health issues. He was 81 years old. His first great grandchild was there. She is 4 months old. However,  his daughter was not at the funeral because she lost her battle with cancer earlier this year.

Now, stay with me here, this is going to get sad for a little while. I started to think about all the funerals I have attended. Thought about all the people I had lost in my life, and how each person’s death was different.

During her freshman year, a former student was killed by a drunk driver.

My friend and former principal suffered a fatal heart attack.

As I listened to the service, I pondered how fragile life is. We all know that death is part of our lives. We do not know how we will die. We do not know the day. But we know death is part of the deal.

I started to reflect on the state of our culture, on the state of our world, and I wondered how we ever let life get to this point. I couldn’t wrap my heart around what is happening in our world.

“Love is the only rational act.” Morrie Schwarts

Only the family attended the burial ceremony. I held my wife’s hand. My four daughters and second son stood around us. Family.

Life is fragile. Love is strong. The world may fall apart but love will stand and rebuild when needed.

I know I will die. I don’t know when. I don’t know how. Could be any number of ways. What I do know is that today I can love, and that makes sense to me.

 

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Last Blueberry Muffin

I set the oven to 410 degrees and hit the start button.

Coffee is brewing.

I place the paper cups into the muffin pan.

My wife adds milk and eggs to the muffin mix as I drain the blueberries.

I mix the batter and fold in the blueberries.

As I am scooping the muffin batter into the cups, I am hit with a realization that this is the last blueberry muffins we will make for our oldest son… he moves into his college dorm room on Friday.

OK, I know that this is not really the last batch of muffins my son will eat on a Sunday morning with us. But this is the last Sunday we are together. My son’s life takes a drastic turn on Friday as he starts college. Everything changes. For everyone.

Now, major things won’t change. He will always be my son. I will always be here to read his poetry. He will always have a home to come back to; things like that. The foundation doesn’t change. But I can already start to feel the emptiness in our everyday life with this change.

His laughter at the dinner table. Raising his voice to make a point during a discussion. Playing Madden (I would always be the Vikings and he would be the Broncos). Texting about what to make for lunch. Watching an episode of the West Wing. The difficult aspect of change is the little things…

Next Sunday I will make blueberry muffins… I’m not sure how I will feel about the empty spot left as my son’s next chapter starts…

But I do know that I am proud of the man he has become.

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