Tag Archives: Family

The Heart of a Child


The end of June 2009 took the world by surprise. Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, dead at age 50.

I remember the day of Michael’s eulogy. I was on vacation home with Elizabeth, just the two of us. Mom was at work. I thought it would be the perfect day for us to wander among the trees and flowers. So, I loaded the car with lunch and toddler snacks, and put Elizabeth in her car seat.

Away we went to an arboretum on the far side of the state. Every radio station was carrying Michael Jackson’s funeral. I turned the radio down, and Elizabeth filled the car with stories of her and her BFF Lola. Most of the speakers at the eulogy were politicians trying to make people impressed by their presence at the funeral blah, blah, blah.

But, I was enjoying my father daughter time too much to pay them any attention. Then Stevie Wonder began to speak. Elizabeth stopped talking. She listened to every word of Stevie Wonder. When he finished Elizabeth sat silent for several long moments. I watched her in the review mirror because when a four year old gets quiet, parents get nervous.

Then Elizabeth looked up at me.

“Daddy, what’s wrong with that man?”

“Sweetheart he’s sad because he lost his friend.”

Elizabeth looked down again in silence for several long moments. Then she looked back up at me and spoke in a soft voice.

“Daddy I will be his friend.”

Stevie Wonder has given me years of pleasure with his music. But Stevie Wonder has also given me something no entertainer has given me before.

He gave me my proudest moment as a father. Elizabeth wasn’t fooled by the fake sincerity of all the speakers at Michael’s eulogy. She noticed the one person who spoke from his heart. The one man who really cared for his friend Mike, not the superstar Michael.

You can fake sincerity and fool us grownups, but you can’t fool a child. Makes me think no one over the age of 5 should be allowed to vote.

Thank you Elizabeth. I have always been so very proud of you.

And

Stevie, Mr. Wonder, thank you for all your great work. You are a giant in the music industry and a true gentleman. More than that, thank you for my proudest moment as a father.

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Filed under family, New, thoughts

For Those We Love


English: Photo of author Vince Flynn taken by ...

English: Photo of author Vince Flynn taken by Phil Konstantin in San Diego on October 31, 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week saw the loss of several people we all know of, though most of us have never met. The one who caught my eye and occupied many of my thoughts this week was novelists Vince Flynn. Vince was 47 years old. He was diagnosed with cancer three years ago. There were several things I contemplated while thinking of Vince. I have several personal friends and acquaintances who have fought cancer, some of whom lost their valiant struggle. Vince is a couple of years younger than I, and his youngest daughter is one year older than my daughter. Then of course Vince wrote 14 best sellers, and I write (I am still working towards my first best seller). Vince is survived by his wife Lysa, a stepson 16, and his two daughters 11 and 9.

Cover of "Term Limits"

Cover of Term Limits

Like so many bestselling authors, Vince’s first novel, Term Limits, was rejected by the established publishers. He collected 60 rejection slips before he self-published Term Limits, which went on to become a success, after which he received a publishing contract and an agent. He wrote 15 novels and his latest novel is coming out soon.

I never knew Vince, but there are several things I would like to point out about Vince, things we can all learn from him.

First, he did not quit. How many of us can say we could take 60 rejection slips and still push forward. Like so many of the other people I have written about over the past year, Vince did not become successful on his first try, his second, or even his sixtieth. When people kept shutting the door on Vince, he created his own door, publishing his first novel on his own. Perseverance, that is what it takes to be successful.

His family morns him now, but they have their memories which they will always cherish, the best of all legacies. Equally important to Vince, if not his family, is his ability to provide for his family even after he has left them. Copyrights are good for 50 years after the death of the author, they are also transferable like other property (such as money, houses, cars) and can be bequeathed in a will to your survivors. So, until June 19, 2063, Vince’s royalties from his work will continue to be paid to the family he loved so much. His children will be older than I am now when the copyright runs out. His grandchildren, yet to be born, will also benefit from his work as a bestselling author.

It is very fortunate for not only his family, but also us his readers, that Vince persevered and published Term Limits on his own. If he had put his writing aside instead of publishing it himself, it would be sitting on a shelf somewhere today, collecting dust. It is rare for a discarded manuscript to be published after the author’s death. So, what are we to learn from Vince?

Finish your book, no more excuses, finish your book. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry (poke poke Mon Chere), it matters not what you are working on, PUBLISH YOUR WORK.

Louis L'Amour

Louis L’Amour (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Second, even if you have not published anything before today, tomorrow make sure you include a clause in your will stating who receives your copyrights when you die (for me that person is my daughter). You can leave your copyrights to anyone, even a charity if you wish. Louis L’Amour left his copyrights to his son and daughter; to this day (25 years after his death) new printings of Louis’ work continue to be released under their direction and benefit. You can take care of those you love, for the next 50 years.

Though it is a pretty safe bet your work will be no more popular tomorrow than it is today, you cannot make that claim for ten years from now, next year, or even next month. The single most important influence to your financial success is the taste of the public. Yes, I know (please no comments refuting that last statement) the quality of your work is important, and you should never be satisfied with your work. You should always strive to make your next piece better than your last. However, if you go to Amazon.com you will see many bestsellers replete with editing errors.

There comes a point of diminishing returns, sure you could rewrite again, but your work is as good as it will ever be. Spending another month or another year, you may find a few more places to rewrite a few words. At that point, you are merely finding excuses not to publish. Except for a few people (who have as their main vocation writing bad comments and reviews), readers do not expect perfection, they expect good.

So, get those poems together and publish them (poke poke Mon Chere). Stop rewriting (for another 100 times) that book of fiction or non-fiction, and publish. PUBLISH.

While you are at it, checkout Vince’s last book when it comes out. If you have not read any of his work, download one of his books today or buy a print copy. Vince is one of us, a writer, he is a coworker of ours. When you get your first (or next) Vince Flynn novel you will not only be buying a good read, but you will be helping your coworker take care those he loved, for the next 50 years … and that ain’t too bad.

Thank you Vince. Thank you for showing us, for showing me, an unselfish example of perseverance and strength.

Vince’s website is www.vinceflynn.com

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Filed under books, Cup-O-Joe, family, New, notes, writing

“I Hope You Get to Live Like …”


Daddy and Elizabeth playing put put golf at Young's Dairy 25 May 2008

Daddy and Elizabeth playing put put golf at Young’s Dairy 25 May 2008

The Ides of March, 15 March, two days ago as you read this (I wrote this on the 9th of March). Of course, ides just means the half division of something, and comes from the Romans. So, how do we all know the phrase “Ides of March?” After all, we can use the “ides” to all the other months and many other things as well. Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar Act 1 scene 2,

Brutus: “A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.”

Brutus was saying this to Julius Caesar. Good reason for that warning as the 15th of March was the day Caesar was assassinated.

I like the halfway point as a good place to take stock of where I am, where I’ve been, and where I am going. I’ve been doing this on the run, but the 15th of March is when I pause for a moment and really take stock of this.

Daddy and Elizabeth 4 May 2008

Daddy and Elizabeth 4 May 2008

I like being a man. Not for some political reason (be it politically correct or incorrect). I like the “manly” things like a barbershop, a real old-fashioned barbershop.  Keith’s Cuts in West Liberty, Ohio was the first real barbershop I had been too in a decade or more. My wife found it for me, paid for my first haircut and gave me the address. When I moved to Columbus, I drove more than 100 miles round trip for a haircut, until I found the Gahanna Barbershop, another real barbershop, not a beauty salon.

Keith’s is that male bastion of the times of old … without the true crime magazines. Decorated in a “Cincinnati Reds and bowling” theme. I’m a Yankee’s fan (a cousin played with them), but Keith’s Reds stuff is pretty neat. The bowling is really just bowling pins marking Keith’s 300 games, and boy has he had a lot of 300 games (a score of 300 in bowling is a perfect game). I think though the best part is the men who go to Keith’s. West Liberty is a small farming community, and you can usually find a few of the city’s elder statesmen of agriculture waiting their turn in the chair and talking about manly stuff. None of which I understand. I appreciate it, but I really don’t know what a three-point-hitch is or what it does, much less why it is important. But I nod my head in agreement just the same. That’s what men do when we have no clue what someone is talking about, just nod your head and say “yup” once in a while. I just love going to Keith’s Cuts.

The Gahanna Barbershop is another bastion of sheer manliness. I think Tim the tool man would feel right at home in either of these barbershops. Gahanna Barbershop has four barbers and on most days you can usually find three of them there. These men are all military vets, or at least deserving of the title honorary vet. One is a Navy vet, so I feel right at home in the conversations. The décor is outdoors and vintage barbershop “stuff”. They have a hornet’s nest that the original inhabitants no longer use, old signs (including Burma Shave signs), a few tools, and shadow boxes with old barbershop instruments. The mirrors are framed like windows and they have a clock with the numbers backwards so it reads the right time while you are looking in the mirror.

My favorite time to go to the Gahanna Barbershop is Saturday mornings. This is when a parent (usually mom) will bring in their small son for a haircut. Of course, we include them just like one of the guys. I like to watch their faces beam at being one-of-the-boys. I think mom brings in her son for the price though, not the camaraderie. A real barbershop still charges half what one of the beauty shops or unisex shops charges. I don’t like that name “unisex”, sounds like someplace Larry Flint get’s his haircut at. I still go back to Keith’s once in a while, we need to patronize these old barbershops men. If we don’t one day they will all be gone.

Daddy and Elizabeth reading Dr, Seuss Easter 2009

Daddy and Elizabeth reading Dr, Seuss Easter 2009

I was pondering all of this as I read the poem “Given A Choice”  by Sheri. Her poem for International Women’s Day. With everything I am interested, or have been interested in, poetry is not one of them. However, Sheri’s poetry always speaks to me and makes me think, those deep thoughts.

As I thought about my Southern roots, and why Sheri prefers to be a woman, I also thought about what being a man means to me — a Southern man. This brought me back to Shakespeare. To be specific Hamlet Act 1 scene 3 Polonius is giving advice to his son Laertes as he prepares to leave for Paris.

Polonius: This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man. …

Those who know me would certainly say I am that. But, over the 20 years I have lived in the north I have quietly amputated small portions of who I am to fit in more with the Yankees (some of which you have read in recent articles). Something I have recently decided to undo.

Elizabeth on a merry-go-round 2008

Elizabeth on a merry-go-round 2008

Along with all of this I have also been thinking about those other things I like about being a man. Like the first time I held my daughter, or how I feel when she runs up to me on a playground, looks me in the face and says, “Daddy I love you”, just before she turns and runs off again. That and all the 1,000’s of other things she does. It makes you feel like you could take on heaven and hell for her if you had too.

There are also the not so good feelings too. As the man (at least for my generation and the older ones) you learn from the time you are a small toddler that daddy fixes everything. Like George Bailey “fixing” the rose petals back on the rose for his daughter when they fell off. Dads are supposed to be the defender of the family. You stand between your family and the ugly and dangerous things of life. The not so good feelings? When you hold your dying child in your arms knowing you can’t fix this. It does not ease the pain knowing no one else can fix it either. It makes you feel like you’ve failed, and worse than that, you failed a child, your child.

I also remember a while ago something that probably shocked me more than anything ever has. I remember the moment I realized a woman loved me totally and completely. She accepted me warts and all, no judgment or “fixing” required. There was nothing about me that would cause her to love me any less. She did not say this with words, but with one act, it was as if she had placed a sword in my hand and then bared her chest to me, smiling because she knew she was perfectly safe in my arms. It was the most restraining and most liberating I have ever felt in my life. It was also the most scared I have ever been in my life. I should have told her, but I didn’t. This is one of the “unconditional loves” we talk about. But there are conditions, you need to nurture and protect the “unconditional loves.” A dog will flinch if you beat it enough as will a child. You must always nurture love specially during hard or busy times, because that love between lovers is fleeting if not nurtured.

Do we get a second chance, after we learn from our mistakes? I don’t know. I know that no matter what comes, my daughter will always know the bountiful love of her daddy. Always accepting and never judgmental, I will not need a second chance with my child. I will always tell my daughter, and more important show my daughter, that I do and always will love her. But what of the other? There are many people around the world that have felt that “unconditional love” in their lives at one time, only to lose it. Will they get a second chance too? I don’t know. I do know that if I get a second chance at another relationship with another woman, I will not make the same mistakes again. I will make a whole new set of mistakes, it’s what we do, we are human, not perfect. I do know this though, you only make a mistake once, the second time it is a choice.

So, what can we do?

“To thine own self be true…”

Let nothing go unsaid that you should say. Live in today. Yesterday is gone, and can never be changed. Tomorrow is not a guarantee, it is a gift. Accept people as you find them — today. Accept responsibility for yesterday, and then let it go. Make plans for tomorrow, but do not let planning for tomorrow keep you from living today. In one word LIVE. Like the song says “… I hope you get the chance to live like you are dying …”

My wish for you is peace, joy, and love.

Have a great day,

Joe

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Filed under chivalry, Cup-O-Joe, family, history, New

Skip to the Lou My Darling


I did something impulsive and silly last Sunday. I, a 50-year-old man, while walking down the wide center aisle of our local Target store, began skipping down the aisle. My daughter and I were there looking for supplies to create a Christmas cartoon. We were walking hand in hand when I just started skipping, and Elizabeth joined me. The two of us going back and forth:

“You’re copying me!”

“Nuh uh, you’re copying ME! I started skipping first,”

“Nuh uh, I did. I’m telling your Mama you were copying me when I take you back.”

“Nuh uh. I’m telling my mama you were copying ME.”

We found what we were looking for, paid for the purchase, and skipped out of the store, through the parking lot to our car; back and forth all the way about who was copying who. We received more than a few looks from other customers (and a few smiles). I hope that encourages some of those other people to do something spontaneous and silly too. I saw a sign once that said, “we don’t stop playing because we get old, we get old because we stop playing.” Maybe, and maybe that is why older parents seem younger than some of their peers. Or, maybe it is just because we have not been through those teenage years with our children yet. Who knows, but does “why” really matter.

This morning (Monday morning, while waiting for school to start) my daughter said to me, more of a statement than a question:

“I can’t tell anyone about yesterday, can I?” a small frown on her face.

“The skipping? Sure you can.”

Her principal was nearby; he was the first one she told. He pointed out that the security cameras probably caught us on tape. She smiled big at that thought.

There are several unrelated reasons why I am telling you about this. First, it put a smile on my daughters face and did not cost me a dime. She smiled when I started skipping, and when she joined me. She smiled when we skipped out of the store. She frowned a little when she said she shouldn’t tell anyone, but the smile came back in spades when I said she could, and even grew as she told her principal about our escapades from yesterday.

I also believe doing silly, unexpected things with people you love not only makes them smile (or should), but it strengthens the bond between you and them. I know it does for me. I can remember telling a story about my grandfather at his graveside. There were people, who did not appreciate me telling such a story at such a somber moment (I wrote about this in my e-book A Grandfather’s Legacy), but I saw a few smiles and it made me smile again. I think my grandfather understood my tears, but I also think he would have liked the smile that was there too. I hope that when my daughter stands at my graveside she remembers skipping through Target with her daddy when she was 7 years old. I hope that a little smile accompanies her tears as she remembers that moment.

We will all die one day, and some of you believe death is the end, there is no afterlife. I believe in an afterlife, you do not have too, but I do. Even if you do not believe in an afterlife, your influence does not stop at the grave. You still love the people you have lost, that does not end at the grave.

One of my favorite authors, Robert Fulghum, has this quote from the storytellers creed in a note to the reader at the beginning of his book ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN.

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge.

That myth is more potent than history.

That dreams are more powerful than facts.

That hope always triumphs over experience.

That laughter is the only cure for grief.

And I believe that love is stronger than death.”

Amen, Mr. Fulghum. I did not ask his permission to include that, but in this case I do not think he will mind (hey I’m not making money on it, and maybe some of you might check out his books too).

My daughter knows both of her great-grandfather’s. My Maternal grandfather died in 1977 and my paternal grandfather died in 1995. Elizabeth was not born until 2005, but she knows them both very well. She has seen their photographs, my maternal grandfather’s gold pocket watch, and the small table that sat in my grandparent’s house since before I was born (it now sits beside my bed). She also knows what my grandparents kept in each of this small table’s two drawers.

But those are just symbols of the man, something we can touch, something they touched. More important than the “things”, she knows their character. She knows you tell the truth and do the right thing, even if you have to pay a price, because it is good and right to do. She knows that my grandfathers did this and taught me to do this. She also knows some of their failings as men. No one is perfect. But, what she has learned from them, through me, is that when they made a mistake they did not let the mistake define them. Their mistakes did not become their new character, they apologized when it was called for, and held true to their integrity.

Elizabeth knows her great-grandfathers were great men (though neither of them would consider themselves great men). She has received a great gift from her relationship with them. Their gift to her is a knowledge of the greatness within herself, compassion for others, and permission to be an imperfect person. She knows that it is ok to try and fail, but we should never stop trying. She knows that when you tell the truth or do the right thing, you do that for yourself and the people who love you, as much as for other people. This is why it is important to do the right thing, even when no one is looking. She got all of that from two men that she will never be able to hold hands with, but she holds them in her heart.

When you see the influence these two men have had on my daughter, can anyone say they are dead? No, they will live in the heart of Elizabeth all the days of her life. So it is with those people around you, your friends, family, and people you will never be able to hold hands with. Do not doubt me; I know I am correct about this. You see your own faults, and sometimes that is all you see. Others see your gifts, strength, and heart as well. Even if I am wrong about you (and I am seldom wrong about people, a gift from my grandfather), you can do something about that. Tomorrow has not yet happened, and you decide who you will be tomorrow.

Next year will be a year of great opportunity for you. There will be trials, but learn from them and move on as quickly as possible. Thomas Edison said he did not fail at making a light bulb 1000 times, he just learned 1000 ways not to make a light bulb. I promise you (and I never make promises), whatever your new career is next year, you will become the success you were always meant to be long before you go through 1000 learning experiences.

Just do not forget to be silly once in a while along the way. It lightens your heart, puts a smile on your face, and makes memories for people you will never get to meet. Happy memories, memories that will make it possible for those people to go through their learning experiences and become the people they were born to become.

You are great and no one is insignificant. Be thankful in this season of thanksgiving, I am. I am thankful for my grandparents, my daughters, my friends, all those I love greatly (and the ones I do not love greatly), and I am most sincerely thankful for you and the time we spend together for a few minutes on Sundays.

Have a great week and thank you.

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Filed under Cup-O-Joe, family

Update On Smile Photos for Avery


Susan Garren just got back with me with this information. If you want to send a smile to Avery go to PO BOX ON BLOG.

Let’s send Avery some smiles and some support for mom and dad.

The hardest thing I have gone through is losing a daughter. Avery’s mom and dad are giving her the best life they can and trying to make sure other parents do not have to go through this. Let’s help them out.

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Filed under birth defects and premature births, New