The Gift of Generosity

Lafayette & Sis at ChristmasToday I’m going to write briefly about Christmas and the Gift of Generosity.

I don’t remember a lot about my childhood. I’m not sure why, I just don’t. Even less from my teen years. Perhaps, I’ve just tucked it all away somewhere. The events I recall most from my early years tend to be embarrassing and funny, though a few were frightening. I alluded to several of those last week in the list that appears at the end of this post and I’ll get to those incidents after the holidays.

Two things I do remember from my childhood, though, are how my family showed me the importance of GENEROSITY in the things they did, and CHRISTMAS.
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Try a Little Tenderness

A Mother's Touch by Electric Echoes

A Mother’s Touch by Electric Echoes

For the past week, one word has been creeping around in my head, popping up over and over and over. That word is TENDERNESS.

Maybe it’s because my mom went away for a little while and I’ve had some time with my dad that I might not have taken otherwise.

I know tenderness may not be one of those words you usually associate with two grown men bonding. It’s not typically part of the Y Chromosome Playbook they give you as a boy to commit to memory and take to heart, yet I think it might just be one of the most crucial reasons why my friends are my friends (female and male) and why my family and I are so incredibly close.

Not only do each of those very special people in my life have a capacity for tenderness, they have a propensity for sharing it (with others and with me).

As a young boy, I suppose I looked up to my dad first and foremost as this great athlete, as this man’s man to use an old-school phrase, for being strong and brave and able to do just about anything. Today, I still appreciate all that, but the thing that strikes me most profoundly is my dad’s ability to be that guy and to still share moments of tenderness.

And, in looking back, I think what truly connected us even when I was a boy, regardless of how many sports I played and how many other things we had in common, was that part of my dad’s personality, that part of his soul, which he revealed in those moments.
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A Different Point Of View

A Different Point of View

A Different Point of View by Simon Daniel Photography

“It’s not denial. I’m just selective about the reality I accept.” ~ Calvin and Hobbes

I guess you could say this is a post about truth, whatever that might be, which makes it about fact and reality (double ditto whatevers), which makes it a post about perception, really, a post about point of view.

And what does that even mean?

Sure, point of view is a way of considering a thing, not limited merely to our sensing the thing, but involving an attitude as well (about the thing being sensed, yes, and often about ourselves).

Cold Hard Fact: sometimes the words we least want to hear are the words we need to hear most. Sometimes they provide us (or force us to take) a different point of view.

I suppose a resistance to the words we don’t want to hear might be a form of self-preservation (of the ego, at least, and maybe of one’s dreams). I mean, giving up on our dreams seems to be more common than chasing them once we reach a certain age (that sort of cynicism seems to be taking hold in adolescence these days which is such a terrible shame).

If you’ve somehow found a way to hold onto those dreams, to chase them, your dream-preservation response is probably heightened.

Given the myriad pressures on us from so many directions to put aside the dream (you know, to let go of the “fanciful”), for the pursuit of the practical, I get the inherent need to defend our pursuit, but not at the sacrifice of reason. After all, sometimes the perceived criticism, sometimes the feedback, the insight, the advice, the idea being shared with us (wanted or not) has merit.

Sometimes it bears, at the very least, a seed of truth.
Which is often also a seed for growth.
If we recognize it, that is. If we allow ourselves to perceive it, to consider it, to weigh it, to examine it from various points of view.

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The Thing About Being Misunderstood

Bully by S. Babikovs

Bully by S. Babikovs

The first time, there were just three of them, my used-to-be-friends, with their wild hands latched onto my arms like vines imbued with dark magic, pulling me down to the earth; their fists turned into impossibly hard knots of bone, like so many dead stars crashing down from the sky against my head, shoulders, chest, gut; their feet stomping breath from my lungs, as if they were boys suddenly reduced to nothing more than steel toe, steel toe, steel toe.

It was the darkest three-foot section of the school, just outside the gym doors, where the hallway zig-zagged back into the locker room. . . .

That’s how my memoir would begin. If, you know, I started at fifth grade. Actually, I’m in the process of writing a fictionalized account of that very story.

I’m not sure if all writers have been through a “bad childhood or a good childhood interrupted by several years of badness” as Piers Anthony suggests, but there’s a good chance they write, to some degree at least, to better understand things they’ve either lived through or witnessed.

I know that’s true for me. I write to make sense of things that, at least when they occur, just don’t deem to make any sense sometimes, like bullying, but I also write to have a voice, as I’ve mentioned before, as a way of expressing myself in the hopes of being understood.

In looking back on my life, I’m pretty sure my need for understanding and, especially, for being understood started during those dark days of fifth grade or became magnified then.
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Practice

Practice Time At The Page Working on Xero Treu

Practice Time At The Page Working on Xero Treu

Dorianne Laux and Kim Addonizio write in the opening pages of their wonderful book, The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry, that 90% of what we do as writers is “practice.”

Rather than contradict myself and spend several hours on a new blog post this week, I’m going to dedicate the next few days to practice. After all, I’m attending an important conference next weekend (Rutgers Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One Plus Conference) and my goal is to have my revision of Xero completed by then so I can share it with the editors and agents I meet.

Of course, that means I need to spend all my free time right now reworking the manuscript.

I need to practice!
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Second Chances

Auto Polo

Talk About a Moment When You Might Want a Do-Over

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.

Art is knowing which ones to keep.” ~ Scott Adams

There’s a common saying about life, how not everyone gets a second chance. Only, I wonder if maybe it should really be more like: “Not everyone takes their second chance.”

Of course, that might be because we don’t always see the chance for what it is or we might not feel we’re in a position to act on it or because we just can’t get ourselves to give up on our original plan. Seems as though, for many people who find themselves in unbearable situations, it’s not until something negative, something unwanted, something maybe even tragic happens before we decide to make a change we probably knew all along somewhere deep down inside us was a change we needed to make.

Sometimes in life, it’s a starting over, a starting from scratch.

Most of the time though, it’s really us setting off on a new path, not from the very beginning again, but from wherever we’d gotten to before the change. It’s like that with writing too.

Funny how much life and art have in common.
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Art: A Knocking From Your Soul

Just a small version of The Buffalo Hunt by William Robinson Leigh

Photo of small section of the painting The Buffalo Hunt by William R. Leigh

“Art is when you hear a knocking from your soul —
and you answer.” ~Terri Guillemets

That’s so true. Especially when it comes to creating art.

Of course, we’re also given an opportunity to connect with a deep down part of ourselves when we experience the art others have created which reminds of a quote by Rodin: “The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.” Spending time with Family and with Friends does that to me. WRITING (which is me answering the knocking from my soul) does that to me. ART often does that to me.
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Dear Billy Collins

Former Poet Laureate Billy Collins

Just Two Books by Former Poet Laureate Billy Collins

If you had uttered the word “POETRY” when I was a boy, I’d have probably run, sort of the way I would have reacted to the words FIRE or SNAKE or to the phrase WANNA KISS (though, as with poetry, I later came around regarding one of those, as well).

English (now called Language Arts) was the ONLY school subject I have ever flat out hated.

Most of that was due to grammar exercises (which seemed, at the time, to be an ingenious method of torture invented by adults especially for teens). Part of my aversion, however, was also due to that other devious cruelty called poetry. These were the sort of topics that could make a somewhat hyper person (meaning me, of course) start banging his forehead against text books and desks and lockers and (if we had grammar and poetry the same day) off the dull-colored cinder block walls of the back hallway.

It sure seemed as though the poems to which we were introduced were secret coded messages and we were supposed to decipher them without any cool decoder rings or fancy machines. It was like translating some long-lost foreign language that looked remotely familiar, sure, but made no sense at all.

Somehow, I managed to get through most of my undergraduate years avoiding anything that might have even been mistaken for an English class.

Eventually, however, I ran out of options. I was twenty-six. And my life changed forever.
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