Life has been busy, to say the least. There are some heavy moments going on, and sometimes you just need a soundtrack to get through the days. Honestly, I like writing these types of post. Music is an important element in my life, has been since I was about seven years old. I had a basement bedroom and I played the radio all the time to help with my fear of the dark.
But now I have a fear of time. Of losing important people. The first song is from one of my mom’s favorite bands, Simply Red. The song is in honor of her as she deals with some serious health issues.
The second song has a little bit of a story. My wife and I did a quick visit home to see my mom a couple of weeks ago. We listened to some of the music we use to listen to when we were younger making road trips. One of the albums was Jo Dee Messina’s first album with the song, “Heads Carolina, Tails California”. On the way home I was channel surfing the radio and Cole Swindell’s song, “She Had Me At Heads Carolina” came on. We had never heard the song (or artist) before. But it made us smile:
I have adventured out of my comfort zone with my poetry. I participated in a slam poetry contest where the winner would represent the state of Nebraska at Nationals this summer. I worked on my poems and my delivery for months. Felt like I had a real chance at winning. I didn’t make finals… I haven’t felt the pain of defeat like that in a long time. I know that I improved in different aspects of my poetry, for that I am grateful. But maybe it’s just everything combined, I feel like I won’t ever achieve my writing goals. “Born and Raised” by John Mayer reflects this emotion…
Makes me dance and sing
Now, life still has joy and wonderment to it. This next song has been my jam for awhile now, “Remind Me” by Tom Grennan just makes me dance… and my daughters hate it when it comes on my playlist when I am washing the dishes because I have to stop to sing and dance to the song (and maybe to tickle them or get them to dance with me). This is also the first song I used for my podcast For Love of Lyrics.
Life, when fully lived, is an adventure filled with days that hurt the heart from joy and sadness. But there is only so much time we are given. We spend too much time on things and people that don’t really add value or depth to our hearts. Yes, I have regrets, but I also still have big dreams for the time I have left. I try to add something to everyone’s life that I get to be a part of… and I am trying to simply love more… so this last song, “Where the Heart Is” by Haevn is my little bit of inspiration for your day!
Just a forewarning… this post will probably be all over the place, and that’s OK.
Today is May 1, 2023. I am starting a photography challenge for this month. In January I completed a drawing challenge. February I wrote a letter or email to someone each day. March I did yoga everyday (which I need to get back to). April was poetry month, so I wrote a poem each day. You can read this years (and past years) poems at my blog, Creative Corner.
I also have a reading challenge with my youngest. We are reading every Curious George book. We have read 25 books so far.
These challenges are part of my word for the year, Moment. The challenges gives me a focus for each month, but really remind me that life is more than a screen or the routines we have. Life is a crazy mix of heartache, joy, work and excitement to live.
Even with the hard emotions provide a depth to the moments in our lives. However fragile they are…
Last month I sat holding my mom’s hand. We quietly talked, but lost more in the precious minutes we were together, hand in hand. She is fighting a losing battle against cancer. And I am sharing our moment as a reminder that nothing stops time and that no notification on a phone will fill your heart. An icon is not the same as feeling the warmth of a loved one’s hand.
And that no matter the outcome, chase your dreams. I competed in a poetry slam last weekend. The winner would represent Nebraska at nationals this summer. I practiced every day. I got feedback from a number of people. I worked on my cadence, my pauses, and voice inflections.
I didn’t make it to the final round.
I drove home hurt, mad, and disappointed. I saw this as a chance to do something really different with my poetry, but also to finally be seen as a poet. Didn’t happen. So now what?
First, I improved my skill set. A lot! From understanding pauses and inflections, to writing the ideas and words in a way that flow well together, to create natural breaks. I am thankful for that.
Second, it was a cool moment. I shared poetry with people who had never heard of me before. After my first poem, an audience member got up from their seat to tell me that they enjoyed the poem.
Third, I was an example for my children. I want them to go after their dreams. Plus, nothing is guaranteed, no matter how much you work. The hugs they gave me when I got home were better than winning.
So today is May 1st. I posted my picture for this month’s challenge. I texted my family. Called my internet provider about a problem. Handling the last little details for graduation. I’m living life, one moment at a time… the difference is that I am trying to feel the moment, be aware of the moment, and not just let time go by…
First a warning, this blog post will ramble because it was written by me… it is centered around the idea of what Artificial Intelligence’s (AI) effect is on our society.
The spark for this post centers around a number of articles about ChatGPT and its ability to write essays for students. One article used the example of a literary criticism essay covering the works of Emily Dickinson’s work. ChatGPT did a fine job, but of course it did.
Honestly, there are only so many ways to write a literary criticism over a single poem. I actually use poetry to introduce the literary criticism essay. We discuss a number of poems, breakdown how elements like similes, personification, even rhyming is used in the poems. Then the students write their essays. At the heart of a literary criticism is the idea of teaching the reader something about the poem.
So, many of the students’ essays read about the same. The introductions and conclusions are different, yet the body of the essays center around what anyone can learn if they analyzed the poem themselves.
I’m not especially worried about ChatGPT writing essays, or even its own poetry. AI will never be able to write a narrative essay, at least not a real one. A narrative essay is about the meaning of a moment for the writer.
AI doesn’t deal with the complexity of living. It will never be hungry. Or feel the joy of a great meal. AI will never open an unexpected present that fills their heart. Or deal with the bad mood of a loved one.
I do worry about us giving our lives over to technology in general.
I see too many students just consuming their screens. At the moment it is TikTok. They watch all these people doing different things, while they just sit there. I actually encourage students to make their own videos (yes, I’ve been in a few).
Also, the idea of just letting technology tell us what we should listen to or watch next; from products on Amazon to a playlist Spotify thinks we would like. Yes, we do tend to enjoy certain genres of music, but there is so much of our human experience connected to media that an algorithm can never give us a perfect recommendation.
As an example, I will listen to a song or watch a movie that I do not like because someone I care about likes the movie or song. I usually find something interesting from the media, even if it doesn’t get saved to a playlist.
Yet, we can just let technology live for us… that is what I am afraid of. What’s so funny is how we keep advancing technology to be more human. We marvel at how close we can get AI to write like Edgar Allen Poe, yet here we are trying to be human but addicted to the technology.
What I know for sure is that AI will never enjoy the tradition of making blueberry muffins for breakfast every Sunday morning. And that I will always write my own stuff.
I check my email to find a message from a flash fiction submission. It is my fourth rejection email in two days, for poetry and short stories.
My mood is not good this morning. Recently I have been seriously considering giving up. I talk about it a little in The Creative Moment podcast, “The Idea of Success”. That was a couple weeks ago, now this morning, I feel like giving up the dream.
I can’t give up writing, that is who I am. Poetry is the way I think. I will continue to jot down ideas on scraps of paper. Compose verses in notebooks. But the dream of being known as a poet, as a writer is fading.
Now, I know this is where people would give all kinds of motivational quotes and stories of authors who published their first book in their sixties. I know all of that. I know Stephen King’s story about his wife digging the story “Carrie” out of the trash. (Yes, I know he was an English teacher, too).
But this is a low point. Everyone has them. And low points are powerful moments. Maybe choices shouldn’t be made at this point, but we shouldn’t discard the emotions and self-evaluation that comes at these moments.
Questions / thoughts I have to work through:
I might not be a good writer or poet.
Maybe I’m not spending enough time on my craft.
Maybe I’m not spending enough time promoting my works.
What are my goals regarding my writing career?
Feelings come and go. Right now, I feel defeated. I am at a low spot. But it doesn’t mean this moment can’t be a positive for me or for anyone that is at a similar point in life. A low point doesn’t feel good, but if you see it as an opportunity to self-reflect, prioritize goals, and spend a little time working with the moment, you might find you can climb higher tomorrow.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Keeping an open heart even as the world and people let me down. Call me foolish, but I believe Love can save us.
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.
Finding the courage to change the narrative of my family history.
Tomorrow I’ll share another Top Five post about moments.
I’ve been trying to come up with a clever introduction for this post. I’ve also spent time considering the tone of the post and how I can make the topic more reader friendly, more optimistic. I decided that the idea needed a more direct approach.
What you say is important.
It doesn’t matter if you are talking to yourself while addressing a golf ball on the fifth hole.
It doesn’t matter if you are talking about your spouse to coworkers.
It doesn’t matter if you are talking on social media.
It doesn’t matter if you are talking about people you don’t even know, like actors or athletes.
It doesn’t matter if you are talking to your kids.
It doesn’t matter when, who, or what you are talking about. What you say is important.
Words are powerful. They create emotions. They create community. They create works of art. They can build or destroy a relationship, a team, and even a nation.
Words create the way we see the world around us. I could give a thousand examples, but the message would be the same. What you say has power. It is your responsibility to handle that power. What do you say?
I self published my first poetry book in 1997. I used a local print shop and peddled the book around town. I sold about 50 copies.
As an assistant football coach, I had the opportunity to call the offensive plays for a game when our head coach fell ill. We did lose the game, it was a back and forth contest. We converted a risky two point play late in the game that gave us the lead for a while.
The first time I called my wife to ask her out on a date, I hung up on her. I called back, and the rest is history.
I quit a job, in fact two of them, without having another job in place.
And now, I released my first poetic EP, Stargazer. Which you can enjoy at the following streaming services.
You can even add a track from the EP on an Instagram story.
I thought it would be cool to mix my poetry with music. To create a unique listening experience and reach more people with my words. It was a crazy idea. My second son designed the cover, and I reached out to P.R for help with the music and production.
How many crazy ideas have you let go, for whatever reason?
Fear of rejection, failure, or success.
Knowledge of how to accomplish it.
Time it takes to make it happen.
The change that will happen to you and your life.
And let’s be honest, nothing is really lost if you don’t try. The sun will come up tomorrow like it always does. This is a hard truth about any goal we have. Even if we reach our goals, the sun will come up tomorrow like it always does.
So, why even chase small dreams, let alone the crazy ones?
Because it matters right now. The goals we have, the crazy ideas we have, give our life depth and meaning. By working toward a goal we get in touch with the real picture of who we are. We experience joy at an authentic level. But the crazy ideas spark our spirit like nothing else can in the world. The crazy ideas connect us to the real possibilities in our life, therefore creating a deeper sense of fulfillment of who we are and what life means for us.
The sun will come up tomorrow like it always does. So, what crazy idea are you going to pursue today?