Tag Archives: writing

I Build Bridges

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.

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2022 One Word

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.

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Coffee and Christmas Lights

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.

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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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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.

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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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2021 One Word

Well, somehow we survived 2020.  To be honest, though, I’m not sure how we will do in 2021. There is too much hate, apathy, and disregard of the sacredness of life for me to be fully hopeful that 2021 will be any better.  I know this post is starting out on a negative vibe, but it is honest. No, HONEST is not my word for this year, but being honest with myself did lead me to my word for 2021.

LIVE, as in live music, is my word for 2021.

There are a number of factors that influenced my choice.

First is my poetry.  As soon as possible, I will be attending open mic events.  I also have some social media ideas that I will be investigating to share my poetry.  As much as possible I want to present my works to the world.  Where will these steps take me?  I don’t know… and that is the exciting part.

Second, I want my everyday life to be more live.  Meaning that this year I don’t spend valuable time behind a screen.  I am live in my own life.  I am there for my family and friends.  I am there for my goals.  It is too easy to feel like I am doing something when I check my Instagram feed, or Twitter.  It feels like I have accomplished something when I complete a level on a match-three game.  But, honestly, I have done nothing. 

Maybe because I will turn 50 this year, but the third aspect of my word is to be thankful for this life by living it… yes, this connects to point two, but is deeper than just putting down the phone. There is a spiritual aspect to living.  No matter what you might believe, we only get today.  And our life is the collection of these days.  Making sure I am live each day is one way to pay respects to this chance I have.  To be thankful for the love of family and friends.  To make this world a better place, even if it is just in my home…it’s the best place I know to start.

So, here is to a new year, 2021. 

Here is to new poems and opportunities.

Here is to today being lived in front of a live audience.

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An Open Letter to a Dream

My intentions were to write a scathing, angry letter to you. To address all the failures and heartache this dream of being a writer has caused me. I wanted to tell you about the sinking feeling I get when I read another rejection email. How my stomach becomes a rock that pulls my confidence down into a dark hole. Even the edges of my vision go grey like an Instagram filter.

I wanted to ask what the purpose is for having this dream. I have been writing since the fifth grade. My personal blog, It is all Connected, has over 100,000 words. My creative blog, Creative Corner, has 187 posts, most of them poems. I participate in the Twitter very short story (#vss365) community. I have self published five books.

For what?

If I stopped writing, nobody would care. 

But I have this dream of being a writer. That when someone says my name, they mean poet. I have this dream of someone recommending my book to a friend. That a poem I wrote is someone’s favorite poem. 

But instead of an emotional letter, I am caught again in the tangles of writing. I feel the joy of articulating my thoughts onto paper. The power of creating an emotion or thought through words for the reader. I am looking forward to creating the blog post for this letter. I will create a cool title banner for this. Maybe find a video to end with…

But what you have done is light a fire in my soul. I am thankful for this dream. Even with the frustrations and rejection emails I will experience in the future. I have this dream of being a writer, even though I know deep down that the dream has already come true. These words prove it.

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pandemic thoughts

Today is March 22, 2020.

Tomorrow our school will be continuing learning online.

Yesterday, at three different times, cars ran red lights. When I returned to my van after grocery shopping there were four, FOUR, shopping carts around my van.

We made chocolate chip muffins today.

The newspaper today had an article about what to do if a person’s home life is violent during this time.

Sports, concerts, and eating out have come to a halt. But home cooking, games of pitch and speed, and movie nights are popular in my household.

And just like other times, I wonder about the deeper meaning of it all.

Another article’s headline in today’s paper read “The New Normal”. But I disagree with that idea. This will pass. It will take time, but it will pass. Will anything change? Does it need to? Here is what I’ve learned so far…

First, everyday life can change for so many reasons. We have the popular idea to live life before you die, but honestly, our lives can “change” at any moment. This pandemic is forcing people to evaluate their lives in new ways, to actually see what their foundations are.

For some people they are forced to spend time with their family. You would think this would be a good thing. Sadly, it is not. As an educator, I know that some students are hungry right now, lonely, and even afraid. My heart has trouble with this knowledge for two reasons. One, because of my past. The second part is the question on how this is possible. I don’t know the answer. Family is one of my WHYs. I am not a perfect father or husband, but I take pride in building a home for my wife and children. I don’t understand why others don’t.

Activities are part of our culture and part of my family’s everyday life. Many people are talking about how the pandemic is revealing who is important in our country. The situation shows the disproportionate importance we give to athletes and celebrities. I agree, but that is not the factor I am talking about. This situation has taken away the opportunities many people have worked hard for. This is a negative outcome of our current state that hurts.

Nebraska was one of the few states to still play their boy’s state basketball tournament. As a dad, I was blessed to see my son play. However, all spring activities are on hold and will mostly likely be cancelled. I am the senior class sponsor for my school. That means I am responsible for graduation. We haven’t dealt with that situation yet. Our school’s musical is on hold. My second son is a high jumper. My oldest daughter doesn’t get to take her art field trip.

Sports, concerts, all activities are good for us as individuals and as a society. Honestly, even when you go out to eat at a local restaurant you are experiencing someone’s dream come true. Have we placed too much importance on these activities? Yes, but it is the wrong importance. Being a fan of a football team should not be a life or death situation. It should be a celebration of the opportunity to witness someone realizing their goals. To share in the joy of individuals doing something that sparks their spirit. This situation is disrupting people’s pursuit of their dreams. That is a heavy cost.

But maybe as a society we can celebrate these activities when we get to chase our dreams again.

I think that is enough rambling for now, thank you for reading.

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Our Gift is for Others

The hardest part of our gifts – of our talents – is that they are not made for us; they are made for other people.

Let me explain…

Yes, there is a payoff for our gifts for us. Our talents enrich our lives, brings us joy. In some cases we even become rich and famous from our talents. There is a payoff for us. But we can live our whole life without expressing our talents. We can be happy. We can even be rich and famous without spending a day working on or sharing our talents.

I am a writer, a poet, a blogger. But I could spend my time not writing and be fine…

Here’s the catch.

My gift, your gifts, are meant for other people.

We have a responsibility to give our talents to the world. This is where I am going to dive deep; the why of it all.

I’ll continue to use my writing as an example, but you can swap in your gift for the rest of the blog. Ready?

A void. There is a void in our lives and in the world if we don’t share our gifts. Yes, the world will go on. Our lives, as mentioned before, will go on, but there is a void. We and others will miss moments of joy and inspiration that can change the world. I know, you think I am using a hyperbole here. I am not.

You may have seen the movie, Coach Carter, where the above clip originates from. Or have read the quote, “Our Deepest Fear” from Marianne Williamson. Part of our light is our talents. Our gifts are meant for others.

One of my favorite moments as a poet was the night I attended an open mic in Omaha where I was able to meet a young poet who was inspired by my first book of poetry that I self published in college (And I Never Told You: 20 Year Anniversary Edition). His mom bought him a copy of the book at a local coffee shop when he was in high school. He is now a regular performing artist in Omaha and Lincoln. It was only because of social media that I got to meet him and know the story.

My story highlights a hardship of our gifts… knowing what happens after we give our talent to the world. Even if we become rich and famous, we don’t know how our talent helped someone.

Stephen King is one of my favorite authors. He knows his talent is appreciated by people because of the money he earns, by his popularity. But he has no idea how his books gave me an escape during some tough times. Stephen King doesn’t know the joy I’ve experienced sharing his stories with my kids. Taking them to see the new movie version of It. He doesn’t know… and that is OK because his gift was meant for me.

As a writer I know it is hard dealing with not knowing how my words affect the world. I am sure it is the same for you. I write something I think is awesome and nothing. No thumbs up, no like or love icon activated. No retweet. I have to be OK with that because my words are meant for other people. Writing brings me a sense of joy. It is awesome when a poem finds it way out of my head and onto the page. Then I must give that poem to the world for others to use. The same applies to you and your talents. If we learn how our gifts helped someone, inspired them, that’s cool, but usually we will never know. That’s not the reason for giving.

Do you see the void now? If you do nothing with your talents you miss out on a deeper joy in your life, but the world suffers more. When you share your talents you gift the world opportunities. Opportunities of inspiration. Opportunities of joy. Opportunities to change. Your talent is a gift… give it.

Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay

 

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