Love Is

Love Is

Love Is

Tina Turner famously sang the question, “What’s love got to do with it?”

She even called love a “second-hand emotion,” based on the rather cynical principle that “a heart can be broken.”

I enjoyed the song when it came out over three decades ago and I will admit there have been a few moments in my life where I may have pondered the jaded sentiments of those lyrics. But that’s just not how I’m wired. Never have been. Which is why my inherent response to that question has always been a simple one:

What’s love got to do with it? Why, everything, of course!

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Life, Love, Death, Dreams, Hope

We Must Ourselves Become The LightI picked up my cell phone just now to text a friend. Then I remembered, she’s gone . . . two weeks already. It’s the fifth time I’ve done that. An idea sparked a laugh, made me think of her, made me want to share a chuckle.

That’s how it was for 28 years, since long before cell phones.

But that’s the thing about the love we have for friends, for family, the way we want to share it, the way we continue to share it . . . even after they’ve gone.

Aside from my mom, Jeannie read more of my writing than anyone. Always supportive. Always reminding me that this thing I love, this thing that is part of who I am, is important. That I need to share my voice. That I owe it to myself, and to others.

Of course, she always added that she’d love to see more happy poems, more happy scenes. She didn’t hesitate to ask, “when are you going to write a poem about love?”

And I would remind her, that is how I try to live my life – full of laughter, of love, of positive thoughts. With my writing, though, that’s me exploring the darkness, the underneath. Trying, at the very least, to understand. To throw light upon it for others to explore.

“Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?”  – Mary Oliver

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Thank you, Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali courtesy of Brett Jordan

Muhammad Ali courtesy of Brett Jordan

Imagine showing up to grad school, embarking on a journey toward that thing you love, chasing after your passion, and in the process moving closer to your deep down self . . .

Imagine being in the lobby of the historic hotel that will be your dorm for the next ten days, downtown Louisville . . . and you’re standing at the elevator between lectures, just standing by yourself, waiting, when this man shuffles by, slightly stoop-shouldered, moving slower than you might imagine him to move, and you think, is that . . . no, it can’t be . . .

and the man who has passed now, stops, shuffles back . . . he stops his own journey, pauses, and shuffles back to see you. This man who is somehow older than he is, somehow larger than he is, as if he is able to swell up out of himself just by being . . .

and he smiles, then puts both trembling hands up, thick fingers balled into fists and there is no doubt, frail as he almost seems, there is no doubt he has the strength to do whatever his soul wishes . . .
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Sweet Memories

"Memories" by Kaptain Kobold

“Memories” by Kaptain Kobold

“One lives in the hope of becoming a memory.” – Antonio Porch

We may not spend our time consciously trying to live a life worth remembering, but I imagine many of us would like to mean enough to someone that we become a memory. A good memory.

I think the people who become the best memories never really give it much thought at all. They’re too busy living their lives and impacting ours by being themselves.

My best friend’s grandmother passed away recently. She was 99 and then some. A real Spitfire. The sort of woman who reminded me a great deal of my own grandmother.

I wasn’t able to attend her memorial service, but my friend was asked to say a few words. He hadn’t prepared anything, but as is his way he rose to the occasion and delivered a very thoughtful and sincere eulogy. He was later asked to write down what he had said for a few members of the family who weren’t there and he shared his words with me this past weekend.

I’d like to share what he wrote here in tribute to his grandmother especially, but also in tribute to him.

To those people who touch our lives. Family and friends who shape us just by being themselves. The people who become memories to us and who aspire us to become memories of our own.


“Sweet Memories”

I am a rich man. Perhaps not measured in the way that others may measure it with money or fame, but rich in memories.
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The Best Things I Learned From My Dad

Lafayette & His Dad Listen,” my dad said. “Be a good listener.”

I grew up as a fan of superheroes, sure, and of mountain men, and of good-guy gunslingers who disappeared after the town was saved, and of self-less soldiers, and of super-sleuth detectives (and we can’t forget NINJAS), and of all sorts of heroic types my dad and I watched together in movies . . . and of amateur and professional athletes, of course, but for me there was really only one true hero. Only one adult of whom I was the biggest fan.

MY DAD!

I’m not just talking that common boyhood idolization of someone who could do just about anything. It wasn’t just about his physical strength or his vigor, nor his confidence, nor his ability to figure things out, nor his super-fine motor skills which he demonstrated on the field and the court and the course.

All those things certainly influenced the level of awe and admiration I had for him (and still have).

But it was more than that, really, much more, that made me look up to my dad so much.

He never went to college. Back then, most people didn’t. He did, however, have specialized training in several areas – first while in the Army years before I was born, then after he got back home as an apprentice in a trade that required the use of mathematics and intricate measurements on a daily basis, not to mention a lot of physical labor.

My dad worked hard for most of my life. Actually, from the get go, that’s all I knew him as – this hard-working man, this talented athlete and this great coach (for me and for several teams over the years), this very loving father.

My dad has also been (and still is) one of my greatest teachers.

Not about books or academics, but about life, about living. Things that have shaped me. That have even shaped my writing (not to mention my chasing my dream in the first place).
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For Love of Art

Other Cool Birds "Painted Egret" by Gretchen Deahl

Other Cool Birds “Painted Egret” by Gretchen Deahl

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” – Thomas Merton

I’ll admit this up front. I don’t know art lingo. I’m not familiar with technical traits that make a work of art a “masterpiece” aside from the way it makes me feel, and perhaps think, but mostly feel.

Last weekend a new project of mine took flight, one that’s been fluttering around inside the cave of my head for a couple years now. It has to do with my appreciation for art. For the way art impacts my life.

Art in its various forms is an expression of the self, a communication through a unique language (whether that’s actual words used by writers, or images or sounds or movement). I appreciate all types of art, from literary to dance to musical to visual, for the same reason and for different reasons as well. The primary reason, however, is the way it makes me feel.

My new project, called Other Cool Birds, is my attempt to pay homage to artists working in all those aforementioned media through one – visual art.

Not the visual art, I create, but visual art I have come across and have brought together for the purpose of creating a virtual forest where artists gather to share their unique and sundry voices.

Plain and simple, art relies on emotion, evokes emotion, is a means of communicating emotion . . . a way of connecting audience and artist, of connecting the imagination and memory and ideas of one to the other.
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The Things We Learn From Kids

JOY by Symphony of Love

JOY by Symphony of Love

Not intending to downplay the words of wisdom my parents have shared with me over the years, but I recently realized that all you have to do is study a child to learn everything you’ll need to know about how to live. Truly live, that is.

I’m not talking about elements of survival like how to get your own food, but more about how to be happy.

Of course, when you’re a child the last thing you’re going to do is intentionally study one of your colleagues to learn a thing or two. The whole center of the universe thing can get in the way of that and is, perhaps, the one downside to my theory.

But before we chuck it altogether, consider what follows.

As an adult, I have been reminded about some of the essential ingredients to living a happy, fulfilled, compassionate life.

Here are just some of the things we can learn from kids:

Unbridled Joy
Love
Kindness
The Essence of Play
Anything is Possible
How to Live Creatively

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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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The Things That You Didn’t Do

Dad With His Sisters & His Mom

With a Crew Like This One (That’s My Dad on the Left with His Sisters, His Brother Isn’t Pictured), Plus With Me, My Sister, My Cousins, Grandma D Had Her Hands Full

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed

by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”   – Mark Twain

Twain, who happens to be buried in the cemetery where I run (where I’ve created some of my favorite poems and young adult fiction), was certainly astute when he suggested the things that you didn’t do could lead to disappointment.

Of course, I didn’t need to wait twenty years to experience for myself that sort of disappointment. I’d only been on the planet about twenty-years (not that I come from another planet, despite what some people might tell you) and I was smack dab in the middle of reminiscing with my grandmother about one specific summer a few years prior to that when I first had an epiphany related to Twain’s message.

My disappointment had nothing to do with unspoken love or with an abandoned dream, however, and everything to do with the squandered opportunity of a lifetime (well, you know, for a fourteen-year-old).

I’m not talking about an affair of the heart, but one of the taste buds. That’s right, I’m talking about food. Cream puffs to be exact. Light, airy, sweet perfection!

Okay, I’m really talking about a lot more than that. Her name was Stella.
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