Sunday Night

She has Dora the Explorer. I have the poetry of Raymond Carver. The other two are playing make believe with the rings Ella received from Grandma Barb yesterday for corn beef and cabbage dinner, which to my suprise, they loved. They dart by so fast i feel their wind, their shadows are on the wall. The sun is bright but dying down through the picture window. Everything is settling and carmelizing toward dusk. I’m glad for myself because I’ve already washed the dinner dishes. It’s cozy in this chair with Ada. She looks up at me and smiles, points to the “bow wow” with excitement and pride. Later, we will lay together. Her with “num nums” and me with spider fingers dancing across her back. We call it shimmers. That’s how this evening feels… shimmery, like hazy reality mixed with the average of 1,000 chill Sundays passed.

Yesterday Was My Birthday

From my journal earlier this morning.

The highlight of my year was meeting up with my son Ben in June.

He’s 11, will be 12 in May. He lives in Florida. We became separated from one another when he was six months old. The last I saw him before June was when he was two years old back in 2008. This separation has been the single biggest hurt spot on my heart. It has impacted my life in so many profound ways. The real work has been guiding this significant life event into a meaningful, fulfilling and happy ending. Our meet up in June felt like a big win for us. Yesterday, Ben texted me to say Happy Birthday and let me know what he was up to (fundraising for his travel basketball team). Then just 10 minutes later, my other son Lucan called me from his mom’s house to wish me happy birthday. That was a symbolic and tremendous good feeling in my heart.

Here’s a picture of my first born son Ben and me last June.

My daughter Ella and son Lucan had artwork on display at Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (KIA).

The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts is a nonprofit art museum and school. They offer art classes, exhibitions, lectures, events, activities and a permanent collection. It’s an appreciated institute in our community. Ella and Lucan’s art teacher selected their work to be featured for this special exhibition.

I picked up the kids fr0m my ex Kaitlin’s house. She had to walk her dog and followed behind us by about 25 minutes. At the KIA, my mom and step Dad were there. We found the kids’ artwork, took pictures and enjoyed the free refreshments. Then we did it all over again once Kaitlin arrived. I so appreciate where my relationship with Kaitlin has arrived. Just two birthdays ago, I remember dealing with court about custody for our youngest daughter Ada whom Kaitlin was pregnant with when we broke up.

Kaitlin helped the kids get me a toaster. It was wrapped and Lucan was so excited for me. For as long as I can remember, I haven’t had a toaster. I always make eggs, toast (or bagel) and bacon for breakfast, and SO OFTEN I burn the toast. I make toast in the oven. I turn the knobs to broil and toss in the toast. The kids are always hollering at me that I need a toaster. Kaitlin helped them make that happen. That felt good for all of us.

Afterward, Lucan and I went to Food Dance for a brownie bus stop dessert. We played tic tac toe and had good laughs together.

Here is a picture of Ella, Lucan and me at KIA.

Here is Lucan and me at Food Dance having a good time

I wish I would have taken a picture of my coworkers bringing in homemade tamales and cake for my birthday at work yesterday.

It’s greenhouse season so we definitely work on Saturdays. But yesterday I said we could all go home at noon. Gloria made tamales for everyone. Gloria is from Mexico. She is the one who most helps me with my Spanish. Chilla brought in the cake. They all signed a birthday card for me. Mark got me a six pack. A couple of others slipped me stinky green nuggets of marijuana. Tayshawn was like, “Damn Eric I can’t believe you’re 41. You’re old enough to be my Dad.” I said, “I might be.” Everyone laughed.

I sincerely had every intention of going to Salsa Night at Papa Pete’s bar.

I have had this playful fantasy with a couple of my friends about meeting a latina. So I’ve been telling them that on my birthday I was going to a “latino bar” to meet someone. The glamorized premise comes from an unrealistic desire to meet a woman who doesn’t have first world concerns yet is present to the gratitude of the first world.

Anyway, I found out that Papa Pete’s offered Salsa Night. My thinking was to go and dance the Salsa and discover the experience. But alas, I found myself 40 pages into Hemingway’s memoir, A Movable Feast, and three beers down the gullet and it was only 7:45 p.m. I know enough that the peak times at Salsa Night aren’t until 11 or 12. I didn’t go. Another time.

I slept well. Woke up for push ups and sit ups then went to the corner Coop for a breakfast burrito and coffee. I texted with a few people including a thank you for the toaster to Kaitlin. Then I opened up this journal and began the day.


In one year, my relationships with all of the most important people in my life has blossomed.

Tony Robbins says where the focus goes the energy flows.

Nobody in my life is more important than my children. #1, 2, 3, and 4. Which means Sheila (Ben) and Kaitlin (Ella, Lucan and Ada) are #5 and 6 in my life no matter what. I spoke with both of my ex’s yesterday. It might be too much to say we’re friends, but there is love, appreciation, respect, meaning and depth. My focus has been on these relationships. That is where my energy has flowed. Consequently, that’s where I feel a considerable amount of gratitude. These relationships are going well.

It has taken time to arrive at this place of peace?!

At the greenhouse we grow potted flower combinations and hanging baskets. I know very little about growing flowers. They don’t let me touch the hoses too often. They also know that I grow people. That’s my thing. Yesterday, I saw that reflect back at me. My focus has been on transforming the culture of day to day operations at the greenhouse. That’s where my energy has flowed.

Same concept for my relationship with myself. I was perfectly content with Hemingway and cold bottles of beer in my recliner. I no longer feel compelled to turn over every stone on the path. Thank goodness. I have to recognize a mindful meditation practice for the increased peace and contentment I feel today.

Some days really offer a glimpse about where your focus and energy flow. Yesterday, my birthday, offered a glimpse. I am happy with what I saw reflect back at me.

I’m still on a partial writing sabbatical catch me on Facebook.

Facebook is like a blog of my “B-sides”


My Sunday newsletter is still the best place to hang out if you want insights into life that will move the needle forward.

fresh perspective after faltering

I mustn’t react emotionally. I must respond thoughtfully.

I mustn’t react emotionally even when my most important relationships are reacting emotionally toward me. I will wait to speak.

I mustn’t seek to be right. It’s an act of making someone or something wrong. Not necessary or useful.

I mustn’t judge what “equal” portray. Being equal isn’t equal all the time. Don’t keep a running tally.

I am responsible for modeling and practicing what I seek to receive.

I won’t necessarily treat others how I want to be treated, but how I think they want to be treated.

When I do all of the above, I change the world. Especially the world of my children. To a limited extent, same with the mothers of my children.

With all of the above, my world grows in Love.

So much depends on a thoughtful response. Each time I react, I remember later how my ego wasn’t small, and my Love wasn’t bigger than my imagination.

Progress requires a good bit of faltering, and a lot of honesty about what I don’t know (yet). I am patient with myself.

There is no recognition, no card or gift that honors these lessons I keep learning.

Failure is an open door for me, a fresh perspective from zero, and a wonderful invitation to begin again. It doesn’t even have to hurt.

I want to be the strongest version of myself so I have a checklist every day that includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. I know that if I just mark the boxes off this checklist, I’ll be okay

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The Deck

Keith returned home from Peace Corps looking like he should be modeling underwear for Calvin Klein. I told him he looked absolutely fit. Playfully, he credited chewing coca leaves every day. Then he told me about The Deck.

I rather make the best of my surroundings than go to the gym. I choose to do general exercises that require no equipment or weights.

My fitness routine is often changing. I’ve never forgotten Keith’s Deck workout, and lately, it found it’s way back into my life. I love it and today I’m sharing it with you. You might want to use The Deck to mix up your workout.

Here’s How To Create Your Own Deck

Dig into that junk drawer and pull out a deck of playing cards. It doesn’t have to be a complete deck. For example, this current set of mine only has 30 cards. O’well, good enough.

First, I write down on a note card the cards: ace, two, three, etc.

Next, I write an exercise next to each card: abs, push-ups, lunges, etc.

Then I shuffle the cards and complete the workout in random order.

I don’t always (actually rarely) make it through the entire deck in one sitting, but if I can make it through a deck a day, I know I’m doing great.

I try to make fun games for myself. For example, if I can complete a deck of cards before 7 p.m. I give myself a gold medal. At the end of the week I try to achieve five gold medals.

Want the perfect Deck just for your fitness level? That’s my thing. I can help you with that.

From Morning Moves

Sunday Newsletter: Beginning Again

This week I heard myself use the word starting over to refer to myself. I don’t exactly remember the context.

Such as: I’m starting over with dating and romantic relationships.

Or, I sometimes look at my financial responsibilities and say, I’m starting over financially during these heavy single parenting years.

I’m not going to say, starting over anymore. The more appropriate word is beginning again. It feels more positive to me.

I make this distinction because it’s impossible to start over. I have never lost all of my previous work. It’s in me forever.

This applies to love, relationships, business, employment, parenting, and all aspects of mental, emotional, spiritual and physical fitness. The wisdom, experience and lessons I have learned along my inevitable path of life find it’s way into whatever I choose to do next (whether I like it or not). With this perspective, it’s more accurate to say I’m beginning again.

Here I am beginning again. Interestingly, it feels like a strange intersection at what I’ve both figured out and can’t figure out – unless I keep tearing it all down some more, and begin again, again.

To begin again is to become an amateur. I write that sentiment lightly, but that’s how I feel – like an amateur. I’m engaging in this authentic pursuit of myself without pay and without bias and full of passion.

I want to be the strongest version of myself so I have a checklist every day that includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. I know that if I just mark the boxes off this checklist, I’ll be okay

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How I Stay Alive Today and Look Forward to Life Tomorrow

Here’s how I resolve to keep the flashlight turned on in the dark. It’s how I inject life into what I do as opposed to just going through the motions like a zombie.

Did I do my best to set my goals today?

This morning my goal was to wake up with five deep breaths, say my “ground of being” intention, pray for my loved ones, find a couple things to be grateful for, drink water and do my push ups and sit ups. I know that if I can do those handful of things off my list when I wake up, I’m on my way to getting just one tenth better, and for each day in a row that I get one tenth better, it compounds, and by the end of a year or three, that makes for significant improvement – life changing improvement. My real goal is to keep my improvements compounding.

Did I do my best to make progress today?

I define “progress” by assessing if I made my life happen today. When I make my life happen I am present with my kids. I am kind to my kids. I am engaged at work. I am writing thoughts and ideas in my journal. I am prepared for the day with enough nutrition that I am not in a situation where I have to compromise with Subway or the corner greasy spoon. I am following up with people and connecting with new people and doing my due diligence. I am doing what is right and asking useful questions. I am assessing projects (and even sometimes relationships) and asking myself if it’s time to stick or quit. I am asking if this is a dead end or a place I should leap. I trust these things make life happen.

Did I do my best to make meaning today?

For me, making meaning might be a conversation overheard, a scrap of story a coworker, friend or family member shared. It could be a dream I had and usually is when I do recall my dreams. It might be a twinge of a memory I have that longs for reconciliation in my journal. It might just be a resonant line that’s been replaying itself and needs to be quickly jotted down. Making meaning is remarkable communication and there is a craft in that practice that has always stayed with me among life changes. It’s writing this blog right now.

Did I do my best to be grateful today?

We gon’ do our best/ Never let it rest/ Till our good be better/ And our better best/ Said I don’t drink coffee/ For they say It’s just not right for me/ But what makes me irie/ Is if I could get a little piece of tree/ And build One good spliff/ Me and my little brothers We take a ride/ Gonna teach them/ All the lessons that I have learned in life/ * Ziggy Marley from “One Good Spliff”

My big thing since New Years has been “gratitude alchemy.” There’s like one hundred different ways to practice gratitude and it seems like before the year is over I will have tried them all. I think the number one reason I have gotten serious about gratitude is because all the happy elderly folks I know are artists at turning a negative thought into a positive thought. I want to live to be age 100. It requires “grateful alchemy.” It’s what saves a life, any life, your life, my life. The more and more practice with this and it will become routine to execute on positive thoughts. Being grateful helps us execute on positive thoughts.

Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?

The relationship I have with myself comes first so that’s where I start. Being integrous with my word is important to me. I ask things like, Am I making promises I can’t keep? Am I procrastinating on something that another person is counting on me for? I know that if I am integrous with my word that my relationships with others will automatically improve. I know that if I am practicing being kind and grateful my interactions with people and my relationships that matter to me will thrive. I do my best to review these things every day.

What am I doing in my last minutes before sleep?

I used to crawl into bed and open Facebook or Instagram or the Weather or the News or chase a link to an article on my phone and get mindless for 10 or 20 minutes. I thought that was a shitty habit to have. In doing so, I’m making myself susceptible to someone else’s thinking. It’s not an intentional way of being so I stopped. Now, I still open my phone but I go through this list^ I’ve just shared with you. I ask myself all these questions. I take a few moments to write any last thoughts, which I write on my phone. I’m such a “fat fingered” typist with my phone I have to go slow and be thoughtful, and this makes me drowsy. It’s a great way to fall away into deep rest.

Cheers to a good life. To me, a good life is being happy in the moment and looking forward to the next. This is my current practice to having a good life.

This post is from the healthy living series. 

Sunday Newsletter: Coming of Age

No one ever heard her subtleties or mistakes as keenly. No one heard her the way she most deeply heard herself, so brilliant, so vulnerable, so insecure, so confident, so longing, so seeking, so creative, so much like me that I bet the house and left one dream for another, and that is how I came of age.

What was that?

Let’s call it trading character for destiny. In the movies, it’s a helplessness you can’t resist rooting for. In real real life it’s rewarded if there aren’t any tangible sacrifices. Consequently, most were disgusted with me, some even called me a monster.

She loved my accepting, appreciative, nonchalant ear. I loved her cavalier swagger and her breath. To this day, I have never smelled perfume without thinking about how intoxicating it was to unbutton her shirt, kiss the nape of her neck and be sent into a different realm of consciousness.

She loved my indifference to politics and religion but fierce worship and intention to written language and remarkable communication, and the way that mixed with my wide, strong back and work ethic.

I loved her small adjustments, the way she embarrassed people who misunderstood and underestimated her because they only saw her flawless fashion and beauty.

She loved how I could stop time, isolate a moment and feeling helpless to resist. I liked that she never did. Not once ever. She was as much a romantic as I. She appreciated that I could bask in my own version of a superpower, and I appreciated that I was never implicated or encumbered for doing so.

I liked the way she prepared herself for a date, pretended as if I wasn’t there. It was a part of her art, to entertain as others watched. She never once asked if this was the right dress or if that was the way her hair should go. She never doubted herself in a mirror. I’d never witnessed the privilege of true beauty up to that point.

We loved each other – because together, for a brief moment in time – we functioned above the small fraction of our capacity to live fully in the totality of love, of caring, of creating and adventuring through what might otherwise be a dull life. We found one another, and the timing was terrible, but it was one of the most exciting experiences I’ve ever encountered.

The love I had committed to up to that point, in all it’s limits, loneliness and lack of knowledge of myself, resulted in confusion. It was more of a need attachment from the boy I was when we met.

This lover taught me that love is an emotion that can be a true response to an emotion, and therefore an active expression of what is felt, and can never be learned, just acted out and acted upon.

I want to be the strongest version of myself so I have a checklist every day that includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. I know that if I just mark the boxes off this checklist, I’ll be okay

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Writing from the Core

The first day at workshop, John said something unusual.

Our instructor asked us why we’d chosen to enroll ourselves in such an endeavor. What we hoped for?

John told us he was dying of a rare form of cancer.

At that time, he was still feeling good. He said he was here to finish up something before he passed. He’d written several love letters to his wife. He wanted our help to get them “right.”

This was a three part writing workshop that I attended for those in transition with change, divorce, loss, grief and growth. This was about three years ago. I wanted to explore my life story: all the tales, myths and metaphors so I could better compose what I saw when I looked back, and so I could redeem my story up ’til that day, and so I could look in the mirror and re-imagine the future.

In order to do this work, we gathered from poetry, stories, free writing, silence, discussion, participatory exercises to stimulate reflection, self understanding and our own depth of healing and hope.

Powerful stuff. Important, worthwhile work.

That’s when it dawned on me that writing isn’t exactly about writing. It’s about remarkable communication. It’s about accomplishing something with language that is important in our precious lives. Writing is a means towards something bigger no matter how poorly we feel. That writing workshop was a place where we gave one another our fullest attention. The act of doing so is one way to advance dreams.

I have always said that writing is life work not desk work. This means that writing from our core and listening from our core is an act of optimism, it’s a way for us to clarify what we need to do. Then use writing to move in that direction.

No “writers workshop” required. Most people will never go to a writers workshop, but we all have a life to live. We all collect the small bits of life, add thoughts and responses then declare it precious. We all do even if we don’t realize we are. We do. We are meaning makers.

Life work is about finding the reason a particular encounter stayed with us. It’s narrowing our way deeper until we understand what happened there. Because it’s not random that you forget so many things throughout a day but specifically remember others. There is something in that which reveals who you are and what you are here to do.

That’s what I believe. That’s why I have a healthy practice of writing from my core almost every day.
If you’re the type of person that doesn’t necessarily like lots of white space and no directions, here is a short step by step start to find your first ink mark on the blank page.

1. Make a list of all your encounters from the day. Include the encounters you’ve had with your self. For whatever the reason, write it down fast. Keep sentences short.

2. Put a star by the item on your list that summons to mind a story, a conversation, anything memorable.

4. Write “the story of your thinking” of this encounter. You may begin by describing your understanding of why this encounter stayed in your mind. It might be something in particular that someone told you. It could be a description of an interaction you had.

One way to think of this: You’re home at dinner time gathering with friends, family and/or loved ones and find yourself telling about your engagement with this encounter. Something worth telling happened. What is it? What did it reveal that you know to be true?

I believe the world needs what only your stories, your poems, your voice and your vision can provide? I am amazed at the influence personal stories of others help me understand and experience human connections. I can’t get enough because I don’t think the whole story will ever get told without your voice.

Lastly, if you hear a voice telling you that you aren’t a writer… Please!

Understand that you have what you need. We all do. Whatever your experience – if you’ve written a note, a letter, a postcard, a Facebook status update – you can share your story.

Or like John, you can work with others to get the communication “right” and have something to pass on.

I want to be the strongest version of myself so I have a checklist every day that includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. I know that if I just mark the boxes off this checklist, I’ll be okay

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Sunday Newsletter: Dead Weight Poems

I sometimes write poetically, but I’ve never considered myself a writer of poetry, and yet I have collected poems that speak to me my entire life.

What I have here isn’t what I would call poetry. Instead, I consider them small “ditties” that I’ve whittled to have a sharp edge. It’s taken the shape of a poem only because that’s how I’d read it aloud.

I call them “Dead Weight” poems because after awhile, these “ditties” with sharp poetic edges wants to poke itself out of containment, find oxygen and burn. Else I’m just lugging around dead weight. These little pieces are the forest floor of my journal. That’s all they’re good for. They offer nothing useful or instructive to either of us. But they burn off quickly.

I have many of these beyond the two I share today. These “ditties” are in constant production. I try to let them sneak out the back door yet would also betray myself I didn’t post them here. It’s the documentarian in me that uses these “ditties” to mark time. I call this collection of two “Wave One” because that’s enough (but not all) of the content I think one should gulp in one sitting.

Dead Weight Poems Wave One

 

Impatient Heart

My impatient heart
has wanted nothing more
than to rise up, and rush

into all the unsettled

complacence. That might be the anxiety

of perpetual insecure attachments,

or of falling in-love itself,

but oh how genuine the love making is!

I’ve lived one woman at a time,
scattered episodes,

I have not resolved
the impermanence of love.

And. I have so often felt foolish because

​the deck
​in​side my heart
shuffles
​and there I am living the opposite of what I said.

I don’t know

what to make of aging once my children have gone.

My heart both fears

and longs for
doing the same handful of things

with the same person,

both settled

and unsettled,

living
day
to day

until

death

do

us

part.


Last Parts

The best part of us
drank toasts for better days,
leaned into our best selves,
loved on the weekends,

staggered

shoulder to shoulder
down empty streets at 2 a.m.
balancing our way

together

home
where our private parts
pushed and pulled

together

as if to erase
an inevitable reality
that we hoped we
wouldn’t wake

resentful

with nostalgia.

Read Wave Two of Dead Weight Poems Here

Saying “Yes” to Lucan

One time not long ago, when he was mad at me he said he was “walking to mom’s.” I let him walk out the door. 10 minutes later I could not find him anywhere. I called 9-1-1. A police officer found him four blocks away. We met at the corner of Southworth and Center – both my son and the cop waiting for my response. All I could say was “Thank you” to the officer. I held my son’s hand the remaining streets home. I asked him if no one would have stopped him did he really think he could make it all the way to moms. He said “No.”

Life is our teacher. Experience offers us a lesson each time. I’m glad I didn’t tell him “No don’t you dare walk out that door.” I can’t both protect my boy from life and give it to him too. I won’t squeeze out the life that should be let in.

At the grocery store today, he hid in the toilet paper. I’m never sure whether to be freaked out that a predator could take him or pissed off because I know that’s my kid pushing the limits to see the other side. When I finally found him, he said, “Can I?” as if anticipating the pissed off version of me. I don’t always smile, but today I did and I said, “Yes.” He smiled too. Let me NEVER take this beautiful boy’s innocent smile away from him.

Then he tore away with abandon out of the TP imitating the character we both love and watch together, The Flash. He made it 10 or so paces before attempting a hair pin turn toward isle 13, but was side swiped by a cart being pushed by someone unaware that a 49 inch blur can suddenly appear in front of your path. He took the hit like an NFL running back but remained on his feet before screeching to a halt at an end cap aquarium of gold fish. I gave him the “dad look” but he smiled so I smiled back – shaking my head.

I give my boy a long metaphorical leash. He demands it. The space he takes to find himself is his own. He doesn’t need to always hear me say “No.” He doesn’t need a lecture or a warning. I do plenty of that as it is. If I scolded him every time I felt inclined to do so, I’d only steal what is most natural to him at this age: seeking the joy of the calling.

He needs to hear me say “Yes.” I trust my boy. I trust life. Sometimes, I force myself to trust when I tell him “Yes.” I trust that, for now, he will learn more from my “Yes’s” than he will my “No’s.”

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