Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

Tying together poetry, parenting, and advertising in a neat little package

Archive for the tag “parenting”

One busy night

I’m a day late. Sorry.

Once upon a time, not too long ago, I had blog posts written a week or more in advance. But with a right knee still recuperating from a torn ACL, stay-at-home dad duties for a 4-year-old and 6-month-old, AND my voiceover business…getting a blog post done can sometimes be challenging.

I had planned on writing the post Mon. night, in advance of Tue. publication. Thing is, priorities take – well, priority. And I had a bunch of ‘em…

Business before pleasure

AC pic

A small section of the interior of American Cottage Rugs’ showroom

Once the kids were in bed, I had to get hopping. First up: radio commercial production. A good client of mine, American Cottage Rugs, needed four :30 commercials edited down from four :60s we had produced last fall. While there was no new voicework involved in these new spots, there was a BUNCH of editing, which takes time to do correctly. I figured if I could get them edited, I could fine-tune and mix them down on Tue., which is what I did.

I also needed to get a voiceover audition submitted before the end of the night, so I took care of that, as well.

And wouldn’t ya know – more auditions came in while I was working, so I had to sift through them to see if there was anything appropriate for me. Having completed my studio work for the evening, I set to work on my other pursuit.

Those manuscripts aren’t going to write themselves

As you may know, I write children’s literature. For the past week or so, I’ve been working on a rhyming picture book manuscript that I really want to see completed. Sometimes it feels like I’m flying through it - and then I get stonewalled by a rhyme or plot issue and the process draaaaags. Keep in mind, I’m used to writing poetry, so anything longer than 16 or 32 lines is a tremendous challenge for a brain like mine. I needed to work on this, because I need to get the first draft done to see if what I’ve written is worth polishing.

But…

I also had to help a fellow writer and friend edit another picture book manuscript that we co-wrote over the past year, so that came first. I think it’s gone through 17 drafts at this point (I’ve lost count, honestly) but I’m pretty sure we’ve finally nailed it. I will admit I’m afraid to check the Google Drive for fear she’s made another tweak. We seem to do that to each other. A LOT.

Speaking of poetry…

A poem of mine has been accepted for publication at the online journal, The 5-2 : Crime Poetry Weekly. In addition to the text of the poem, the editor, Gerald So, likes to include readings of each poem he publishes, so I wanted to record my audio and email it to him in time.

So guess what I did before I went to bed?

DSCF2068 (Mic - Katie)Interestingly, the fact that I was so tired at that point helped my recording. I wanted the reading of the poem to exude a tired, run-down kind of emotion to it, and that’s precisely what I got!

Funny how if you put yourself in the position of where your character is, you can often nail the read. I once had to voice the part of an aerobics attendee who was out of breath, so I jumped up & down in the studio for a few minutes; when I opened the mic, my read was spot-on.

But wait, there’s more!

Did I mention our 6-month-old woke up at least three times while I was doing all of this? She normally sleeps through the night, but the poor little thing is teething like crazy and has a hard time staying comfortable. Her first tooth came in a week ago, and there’s at least one more trying to push its way up; needless to say, she’s not pleased with that. Life is pretty rough when you’re a baby.

I couldn’t wait to fall into bed around midnight. Until, that is, I remembered I still needed to do my second set of “prehab” exercises in advance of my ACL surgery later this month. Half an hour later, I was finally sleeping. As I think about it, I don’t know if I even completed the exercises – but at least I was on the bed when unconsciousness hit me.

So my Mon. night, as you can see, was a bit…full. I managed to get some of my blog post prepped, but didn’t write it until now. I’m very happy with my responsibilities – dad, hubby, voice talent, children’s writer, poet, blogger – but cramming all of those responsibilities into a 4-hour time frame can wear a person out.

Now, then…time to get working on that picture book.

Did I just hear the baby?

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week - on Tues. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

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Blog hiatus: A jerked-knee reaction

There comes a time when one realizes one can only do so much; that there is only enough time in each day to do a few things well, rather than doing a dozen things poorly.

For me, that time has come.

Last Tue. night, while playing an indoor soccer game with my Men’s Over-30 team, I took one wrong step with my right foot and possibly tore my ACL or meniscus (cartilage in and around the knee). It was the strangest feeling – like my leg bones just ‘popped’ out of my knee – and I sunk to the turf.

A lot of things start flooding into one’s mind at that point.  My immediate thought was, “Good Lord, I can’t believe I broke my leg!”

But then it occurred to me, “Wait, if I broke a bone, I should be in more pain than I am…so what the hell did I just do?!?”

I knew I couldn’t bear any weight on the leg, and it was sore and swelling, so I just lay there, thinking over and over, “My wife’s gonna kill me!”

Of course, I knew she wouldn’t – but honestly, my main concern right then and there was that there were so many things I needed to do before Christmas and winter, and now I wasn’t going to be able to do any of them.  I work from home and am a stay-at-home dad to my 3-year-old and 3-month-old, so not being able to get around is not an option for me.; I didn’t know what to do! Plus, I had to get the snow blower fixed, I had to patch the roof, I had to finish raking all the leaves, I had to put away the extension ladder…

And the list went on and on.

And I’m still not sure how I’m going to get any of these things done.

What I do know is that with the full-leg brace the doctors gave me, I can at least walk, albeit slowly.  And I also know that everything I do is now done at a fraction of the speed I’m used to doing it.  Which means I have less time to do everything I had been doing a week ago.

So between taking care of the baby, spending time with my son, taking care of the house, running my voiceover business, working on my children’s writing, helping my wife, getting ready for Christmas, and all the other responsibilities I have…something(s) aren’t going to fit into my schedule anymore. Since I can’t even sit at a desk for very long without my leg becoming painfully sore, computer work is taking a back seat in my life for the time being.

I still need the computer of course, to submit voiceover auditions and check emails and such…but the less time I’m online, the more time I can spend with the kids – and right now, at my current speed, I need all the time I can get. Heck, it takes me 5 minutes just to walk up the stairs and 10 minutes just to put the dogs outside to their kennel. You can only imagine the energy and time it takes me to keep up with a 3-year-old son who lives every day of his entire life at lightning speed.

I hate to put my blog on hold, but I have no choice – there are only so many hours in the day, as they say, and one has to set priorities.  For me, with time at a premium, being able to focus on myself and my kids without blog posts and status updates and whatnot is the best thing I can do.

Now and then I may occasionally post something here, but for the most part, I plan on keeping stress at a minimum.  Once I know if I need surgery, how long it will take to recuperate, and what I need to do to rehabilitate my knee, then I’ll have a better idea of how to organize the time in my life.

But before all of that, I need to get the most out of the time I have.

Time flies when you’re a husband and parent.

And I’m a husband and parent before I’m anything else.

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week - on Tues. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Determining the value of a wheel-barrow ride

As loving parents, we strive to provide our kids with not only their basic needs of food, shelter, clothing and such – but also intangibles such as love, happiness, and positive memories. Of course, the term “positive memories” is wide open to interpretation and can mean lots of different things to different people.

Often, those memories aren’t even what we, as parents, think are worth remembering.

Over the weekend, I got to wondering about what memories my 3-year-old son will end up with – and if they’ll be the ones I expect.

The joys of yard work

He’s a hard worker, that one.

He may only be 3, but that doesn’t stop my son from helping me outside. And it’s not just that he wants to help – he actually helps me.  When I’m cutting down branches from overgrown trees, he’ll pull the branches out of my way and toss them in a brush pile I’ve shown him. If I’m splitting firewood, he’ll gather up the small pieces of wood and set them aside for kindling.

This weekend, I was raking leaves (this time of year, it feels like that’s all I do!) and he wanted to help, so I gave him a small rake and let him do his thing. Once I had piled as many leaves  as I could into my wheel-barrow, I would pick him up, set him on top of them, and give him a ride all the way over to our compost pile near the edge of the woods.

To him, this was the most fun thing in the history of fun things…and so I had to do it all afternoon, every time the wheel-barrow was full.  He didn’t realize it, but he was helping me by keeping the leaves from blowing away. I didn’t realize it, but I just might have been giving him a lasting memory.

‘Quality time’ is relative

The reason I say it “might” be a lasting memory is because I have learned – through having two older daughters – that kids remember what they think is important, not you.  What a parent might feel is an earth-shatteringly colossal event may not even appear as a blip on their children’s recollective radar.

I have friends who have taken their one- and two-year-old kids to Disneyland, ice shows, and live children’s theatre performances…and I can’t help but wonder what the kids think. Now, don’t get me wrong – I have no problem with anyone doing any of these things. I just doubt that the kids will have any lasting memory of these experiences either because they’re a) too young to be able to remember them later in life, or b) the events simply won’t have as much impact on the kids as their parents think.

With my two girls (well, ok, technically they’re women now, but don’t remind me), many of the things they recall I barely remember. More than once, I’ve been part of a  conversation that went more or less like this: “Remember the time when mom said ‘blah-de-blah,’ and then you were like, ‘blah-de-blah-de-blah,’ and then she did ‘this’ and you did ‘that’ and then something happened and then something else happened and then you were all like ‘blah-de-blah-de-frickety-blah?!’  That was so funny!!”

And I’m sitting there, staring, wondering where I was when this hilarious incident supposedly occurred.

It may not have been the Ice Capades, but it was certainly memorable…whatever the heck it was.

A matter of perspective

Phil V

Country singer/songwriter Phil Vassar

A few years ago, country singer Phil Vassar and I were talking about kids (he has a couple of girls, too) and what it’s like being a parent trying to keep up with them while time flies by so quickly.  He related a story about how he and his family had an opportunity to meet President George W. Bush while he was still in office.

Phil told me that he was asking the girls a couple of years later what they enjoyed about their visit to the White House – and they didn’t remember any of the supposed ‘highlights.’

He asked if they recalled meeting the president. No.  He asked if they remembered what the White House looked like. Not really. Did they remember anything that happened while they were there?? Wait, one of them said…she thought she did remember something. That was the place that had the tall, fancy vase in the corner with the pink flowers that smelled so nice?

And poor Phil was the one who ended up scratching his head, trying to remember this completely random fact that was his daughter’s most captivating – and possibly only – memory of meeting the President of the United States.

Proof again that what we think is important and what our kids think is important are two totally different thinks.

Wheel-barrows, leaf piles, and fire trucks

When I rake leaves, I don’t just let my little dude ride in the wheel-barrow; I let him jump into the huge piles I create. Yes, it’s more work for me, having to re-rake and re-rake many times over…but it’s fun for him, and I hope it will be something that he remembers when he gets older. I have to admit it’s also fun for me, watching the little nut roll around in the leaves and toss them in the air, laughing hysterically as they fall down around him and on his face.

He also loves trucks – any kind of trucks. If it’s got a motor and wheels, he wants it. He may only be 3, but he knows the difference between a skid steer and a Bobcat, and the difference between a forage harvester and a combine. The day I brought him to the fire station to look at the engines close-up was a day I’ll never forget, mostly because I don’t think he blinked once, the whole time we were there.

Will it be a lasting memory? Who knows…but he enjoyed it, and that was good enough for me.

After all, ultimately it’s not about the memories, but about the experiences themselves.  And rather than second-guess myself, I’ll just enjoy my time with him and his siblings and provide them with as much happiness, support, and love as I can and let them decide what’s worth remembering.

You know, I here there’s a monster truck show coming to town…

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week - on Tues. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

From torn tendons to tenderloin: a week’s worth of life lessons

This past week has been another crazy-busy one. I know everyone has more and more responsibilities weighing them down these days, but for me, sometimes it’s hard just keeping those responsibilities straight – much less actually accomplishing them.

As a stay-at-home dad to my 3-year-old son and 10-week-old daughter, it’s a constant struggle trying to take care of them while running my voiceover business, writing my children’s poetry and picture book manuscripts, being a supportive hubby to my lovely bride, and trying to find a few spare minutes for myself to be able to recharge.

Grey - baking 4

My sous chef, working on the pizza dough

Oh, but first, I need to get a load of laundry in.  Hang on…

Ok, now as I was saying, I — oh, dang, wait a sec – I forgot to load the dishwasher…

Anyway, my point is – ugh, I just realized I was supposed to vacuum the house today! Oh, well, it’ll have to wait…

Before I try to write anything else, let me just put the dogs outside in their kennel and give the baby some milk so she can nap. I’ll have to pay these bills later today.

Let’s stick with bullet points

Indeed, that may be the best way to put this post together, all things considered. You see, although it’s been a stressful and challenging week, there are always rays of sunshine peeking through here and there – little glimmers of inspiration or encouragement that you might miss if you’re too busy trying to just get through the day. Here’s what my past week has been like:

- My Men’s Over-30 Indoor Soccer team’s first game of the season was last Tuesday night, and although we lost, it was to a team that has been playing far longer than we have. We held our own and did an admirable job. Of course, I would have preferred not to have torn a tendon in my left middle finger, but it happens. My finger will be in a brace for the next 6 weeks, but I’m not letting the injury stop me. I won’t be goal-keeping for half the season, but I don’t need fingers to play defense, halfback, or forward!
Lesson learned: Don’t let adversity stop you!

finger

Like I would let THAT stop me!

- A good client of mine asked me to produce a new series of radio commercials for her. We met at a recording studio and, as we have in the past, talked about her business and the various points she wanted to focus on.  I then had the audio (about an hour, total) sent to me, and I’m in the process of cutting up all her good parts into testimonial- style commercials. It’s a major project, and I anticipate being able to produce about 14 or 15 commercials, which she’ll be able to use throughout the rest of this year and next. Why so many? Because there many angles to her business, and I don’t just ask her questions when we’re recording; I listen to her answers. We converse. And that sense of comfort comes through.
Lesson learned: Talk less, listen more!

- One day last week, the baby started crying and wouldn’t stop. She had been changed, fed, held, rocked, changed again, held again, and nothing I was doing was altering her decibel level. Knowing that babies cry because – well, that’s just what they do - I tried not to let it get to me. Eventually, after holding her for what seemed like 182 hours (I’m pretty sure it was less than that, but my arm felt like it had been 182 hours), I decided to try putting her in her baby swing. She immediately stopped crying, closed her eyes, and fell asleep for 2 hours, allowing daddy to finally get some work done. At that point, all I really wanted was a really quiet massage – but since that was out of the question, I decided to work on those commercials.
Lesson learned: Patience, patience, patience!

Best Green Bean Casserole

I could buy 2 pounds for $50, or make twice that for $6. Let me think about that…

- I received a mail-order food catalogue over the weekend from a company I’d never heard of, but which tried tempting me with photos of succulent tenderloin beef, sirloin steaks, and filet mignon. I really wasn’t interested in anything that cost $48 per pound – I kid you not! – but I figured I’d continue to peruse the catalogue and see what else they offered. Then I came across the Green Bean Casserole. Yes, that’s right…the dish your grandmother used to make for Thanksgiving was available by mail-order, for only $25 a pound! Green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and cheap fried onion-things on top, and I could have a 2-pound package sent directly to my door for only FIFTY DOLLARS.
Lesson learned: If I ever have so much money that a $50 Green Bean Casserole sounds like a deal…slap me.

Pay attention to Life!

We don’t always have to be hit with disaster or suffer a major traumatic experience to recognize when Life (or God) is trying to teach us something. Really, there’s something we can learn in everything we experience, if we’re willing to look.

Like you, I get busy, I get stressed, I get uplifted, I get shot down. But in each circumstance, there’s wisdom to be gleaned. I’ve lost out on voiceover gigs; perhaps that’s Life teaching me tenacity. I’ve had numerous children’s writers tell me how much they love some of my poetry; perhaps that’s Life encouraging me to keep writing.

I have four projects I need to work on right now; perhaps that’s Life’s way of teaching me time management.

Or, maybe Life is just telling me everything’s going to be OK.

Either way, I’m listening.

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week - on Tues. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest,

Poetry Friday: “Shadows”

Shadows - poem & pic

Amy at The Poem Farm has today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup!

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week - on Tues. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter , Facebook, Pinterest, and SoundCloud!

Are our kids as special as we think they are? Are WE??

As many of you know, my wife gave birth to her second child (my fourth) last week.  Little Phoebe arrived Thursday morning weighing in at a substantially healthy 9 pounds, 7 ounces and 21 inches. Phoebe - 2nd dayTake a look at that photo. Isn’t she adorable? Isn’t she cute? Isn’t she special?

Well, she’s adorable, yes. Definitely cute as all get-out. And to me, she’s one of the four most special things in the world (as I said, I have three other kids, too!)

But just because she’s special to me and my wife…is she actually special?

Definitions v. semantics

I know what you’re thinking. How can you possibly doubt how special your newborn child is, you heartless, unfeeling clod?!?  Please, please, please do not misunderstand me. My daughter is a very special little girl and I love her dearly. But stop for a moment and try to see what I’m getting at.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word “special:”

1) distinguished by some unusual quality; especially being in some way superior
2) held in particular esteem
3) readily distinguishable from others of the same category

So let’s apply these definitions to Phoebe. Is she distinguished by some unusual quality?  She primarily has her mom’s face – eyes, cheeks, bone structure. She has my lips…and so far, my appetite. But her mom’s features come from her dad, who got his from his mother. My lips – and my appetite – both come from my father. Still, like all babies, she takes a dab of this chromosome and a smidgeon of this other chromosome to become her own unique person; similar to all those who came before, but unlike anyone else.

Is she held in particular esteem? Certainly she is, by her mom and me. Her sisters and brother also think she’s the most special thing ever, and of course all our family members love her. But if she’s truly special by definition, how is her ‘specialness’ different from the ‘specialness’ of her siblings or cousins or anyone else’s babies?

Oh, and that last one – “readily distinguishable” from other babies? Well, we think so – but show a baby picture to any random person on the street and you’re lucky if they can even figure out if it’s a boy or a girl.

So these definitions only get us so far.  That’s where semantics come into play.  We, as parents, all like to think of our kids are the most special kids in the world. And they ARE special…to us. But how does their ‘specialness’ rank in the grand scheme of things?

It appears there is  ‘specialness,’ and then there’s ‘specialness.’

88 million and counting

That’s approximately how many births there have been in the world just this year, according to Worldometers.com, as of this writing.

Eighty-eight million. Just. This. YEAR.

There are also about 350,000 births, each DAY.

That’s a lot of specialness.

Now again, please don’t get me wrong. My child is extremely special to me and my wife, and I love her and her siblings more than life itself. But as I held her in the hospital room, her little sleepy head resting in the crook of my arm, one of the biggest problems with our world today suddenly became crystal-clear…

If we’re all born so special, why bother trying once we’re older?

Think about it. If we drill the specialness, uniqueness, and wonderfulness of our kids into their heads every day, where is the drive to become better?  I’m not saying we shouldn’t praise our kids, support them, love them – but I do think taking a step back and surveying the situation is not a bad idea. Consider…

shutterstock_96665545 (colored pencils)

If we’re all so darn special…isn’t anybody average?

We live in a culture of self-centeredness.

Customer service reps often act like customers are an intrusion.  Teenagers’ self-shots – photos they take of themselves – rule Facebook and Twitter. American Idol hopefuls with absolutely no discernible talent show up in front of the judges and get laughed off the stage because no one in their family or social circle ever informed them they couldn’t sing.

If you’ve ever watched Idol – and statistically, you probably have – you’ve witnessed tons of young people crying their eyes out because all this time they thought they were special, only to have reality smack them upside the head. It’s a hard lesson for someone that special to learn.

Then again, what do I know?

That’s a serious question.  What DO I know? I never claim to have all the answers or to know everything. Truth be told, I hardly know anything.  I’m still re-reading this post, debating with myself if I’m right or not.

You see, I’m just a parent with some special kids who were raised to understand that what one does during the course of one’s lifetime is what defines a person.  We all get judged by what we do with our lives; we do not get judged for simply showing up.

As far as I know, there was only one person in this world who was born with intrinsic ‘specialness’ – but he was hung on a cross.  As for the rest of us, it might not be a bad idea to try to make an effort to carve out our own uniqueness, earning that distinction rather than relying on others to bestow it upon us baselessly.

One doesn’t need to be rich to be successful. One doesn’t need to be famous to be respected.

And one doesn’t need to be born special…to be special.

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week - on Tues. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter , Facebook, and Pinterest!

Poetry Friday: “The Kids Are Away” – plus links, links, links!

poetryfridaybutton-fulllI know, I’m a day early…but my wife is giving birth today to her 2nd child (my 4th), and I thought she might be a tad annoyed with me if I spent my time in front of the computer rather than by her side.

And honestly, by her side is the only place I want to be right now.

So I’m sharing with you a poem I wrote several years ago – 2001, as a matter of fact. It came about as I was enjoying some quiet time with my first wife while our two  daughters were away visiting their grandparents. It’s a children’s poem for adults, if that makes sense. Hope you like it.

“The Kids Are Away”

Nothing has been broken.
Nothing has been torn.
No clothes are piled upon the floor
after they’ve been worn.

There’s been no angry yelling
and no one’s hurt or mad.
This house seems awful quiet
when there’s just a mom and dad.

- © 2001, Matt Forrest Esenwine

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Now, for the links!

For the complete Poetry Friday roundup, please visit Steps and Staircases!

Also, please be sure to check out my interview with children’s author/poet David Elliott at Poetry at Play from earlier this week, if you haven’t already!

Finally, I’d like to give a quick shout-out to my online critique group, Poet’s Garage! This is one extremely talented crew, and I’m honoured that they accepted me into their clan just a few months ago. Click on the graphic below to learn a little more about each of us, and if you follow Poetry Friday with any kind of regularity, I’m sure you’ll recognize many of the faces and names!

Thanks for visiting, and the next time we talk, you’ll hear a baby in the background!  (Well, I will, anyway)  Have a great weekend!

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week - on Tues. and Fri. - so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter , Facebook, and Pinterest!

Dear Graduates: of life, men, and the problem with experience

ID-10046308 (graduate cap)This past Sunday was a busy day. Not only was it Father’s Day, but it was also the day of my youngest daughter’s high school graduation.

As I thought about my hopes and dreams for her, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the hopes and dreams I had for myself at that age, and the hopes and dreams my father probably had for his only son. When you’re 18 and graduating, the questions abound. Should I go to college? Should I work? If I go to college, what should I study? If I go to work, what will I do? Should I do what my parents want, or what I want?

In considering all these thoughts, worries, and concerns, something occurred to me:

Maturity changes everything.

Looking back over my post-high school years, I realize now what I did right and where I went wrong. I can also see multiple instances where there was no right or wrong. Life experience may be great, but it’s also a problem.

They say experience is the greatest teacher; unfortunately, it’s all on-the-job training.  You don’t get a probationary period. You don’t get a chance to learn the ropes, then go out and live your life.  We’re all in the position of tackling the world with only as much information and experience as we have at that moment – and it is only after we fail or succeed that we get our report card.  No matter how much we think we know – we never know what we need to know until after the fact.

Life is a perpetual game of trial-and-error, and I doubt most graduates realize how many ‘errors’ they will end up accumulating over the long haul. This very realization is, itself, one of the blessings of maturity.  Once we accept the fact that we don’t know everything, that we will likely fail as often (if not more) than we succeed, and that we need the knowledge, experience, and support of others to get us through…life becomes easier. And harder.

You see, maturity is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, you see things more clearly and understand better how life and the world operate, which allows you to move forward with wisdom and confidence. On the other hand, you see all your past mistakes with laser-pinpoint accuracy - and although it’s helpful, it’s sometimes painful to watch.

Chilli cookoff, apple picking, hair cut October 2010 020The man I’ll never be

I should probably know more about men than I do, considering I call myself one. I don’t know if they have the same doubts, hopes, fears, and insecurities I have…but I’m sure I’m not the only one who believes:

I’ll never be the man my kids think I am, I’ll never be the man my wife deserves,
and I’ll never be the man my father is.

I think it is due to personal inadequacies I have created, based upon the standards I have set for myself…and again, I wonder if other men share this concern. I don’t think I’m a bad person, but could I do better? Could I spend more time with the kids, teach them more, listen to them more? Could I do more for my wife, help her more, support her more? Could I be a harder worker, better-skilled, more involved with the community?

Certainly.

And it’s not like I don’t try to improve myself in these areas. I just keep falling short of those pesky standards I was talking about. Maybe it’s the perfectionist in me, but I doubt I’ll ever reach them. I’m willing to accept that. But it won’t keep me from trying.

The big surprise awaiting graduates

Taking into account the experience, wisdom, and surprises that come with the blessing/curse of maturity, my recognition of past failings, and my desire to constantly improve myself, I felt it’s important that graduates know one important thing. Whether they go to college or go to work, stay at home or move away, get married or stay single, there is one truth that is universal. It surprised me years ago, and it still surprises unsuspecting young people.

Ready, graduates? Here it is:

Life is harder than you realize.

Are you surprised? No? Well, you should be. If you don’t think it’s hard, just wait. And if you think it’s hard already, it’s actually harder. I’m not trying to scare you or anything – just helping you to be prepared, based on years of life experience and >ahem< maturity.

Life is fun, life is sad, life is exciting, life is boring, life is anything you make it out to be and will take you anywhere you want to go – but it’s up to you to do the driving. Sometimes, life is, indeed, easy. It will often be hard, too. That should never keep you from enjoying it and getting the most out of it.   Hard work can be enjoyable and rewarding, and so is life. Just remember that

Life is harder than you realize.

If you want to do something you think is difficult, do it anyway. Can’t do it? Figure out a way. Never accept impossibility as an option. The best things in life might be free, but the most rewarding ones usually don’t come without a great deal of work, sweat, and perseverance.

shutterstock_132016772 (woman-youth culture)

Are you ready for what’s ahead?

And by the way, if your personal situation is nice and stress-free, what about your neighbor’s? Are they struggling with some sort of problems? There’s probably something you could do to lighten their load. No, I don’t mean just offering them money or food. That’s easy. I mean taking some time to get to know them and actually lending a real helping hand. Being a true neighbor. True, that might be hard to do, but then again…

Life is harder than you realize.

If life is not hard, then you’re either extremely lucky, or you’re doing it wrong.

So be careful out there.

Poetry Friday: “Worm Tale”

Poetry_Friday logo

Some poems almost write themselves; the idea pops into your head, you start writing, and before you know it a perfect little masterpiece is smiling back at you.

And then there are poems like this one.

I wrote the first draft of this back in 2011. No sooner had I lifted pen from paper, when I decided to make some changes. And then a couple months later I made some more changes.

Then I thought about those changes…and made some more.

Do you see where this is going?

Well, I just finally completed what I believe to be the final draft – but of course, at this rate, that’s a rather tenuous statement. Many thanks to the Poet’s Garage, my online critique group, who helped me fix a few sticky lines. As with most advice, I took some of it to heart - and ignored the rest of it (no offense, folks!).  Hopefully what I ignored won’t come back to bite me!  For all of today’s Poetry Friday fun, be sure to visit Betsy at Teaching Young Writers!

“Worm Tale”

Mommy worm
was very firm;
she sternly warned her baby worm
to be aware of where one squirms
and stay away from dirty germs.
She said, “Where earth is warm and firm
is no place for a worm to squirm,
so do not go near sunny ferns
or you’ll get dirty, germy burns!”
But baby worm was unconcerned,
and one day from the dirt returned
with fern stains on her wormy shirt
and germs upon her dirty skirt.
Her eyes were sore, her head – it hurt.
She couldn’t even eat dessert!
So mommy worm told baby worm
it only takes one dirty germ
to make a tiny tummy turn.
But baby worm showed no concern
for mommy’s warning where to squirm;
next day, a naughty little worm
was back to squirming under fern.

I guess some worms will never learn.

- - © 2013, Matt Forrest Esenwine

Hands-On Poetry for Kids!

(I debated with myself whether or not to post this today.  After the horrific and cowardly act of terrorism in Boston, Mass. yesterday, I wondered if the light and breezy topic of kids learning to read and write and enjoy poetry seemed a bit out of place. Only living a couple of hours away, I have numerous friends and family in the Boston area, so the tragedy struck especially lose to home for me.

But then I realized: in times like these, giving your kids as much time as you can give them is one of the most important things you can do.  I hope you find something positive in this post, and that you’ll keep the victims of the Boston bombing in your hearts, thoughts, and prayers. Thank you.)

———————————————————————————————————————

As you probably know by now, this is National Poetry Month, so I’ve been dedicating each of my blog posts to the craft.  Today I wanted to share three ways that kids (and grown-ups, too, for that matter) can enjoy poetry without necessarily realizing they’re learning!

#1) Play with your food

This is a fun and easy project perfect for family gatherings where there will be several kids around, looking for things to do.  Glazed cookies with words written on them can be combined to form sentences…and the fun & learning comes from both the creating and the playing!

Poem CookiesYou’ll need:

1 box of vanilla wafers
2 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
2 1/2 - 3 Tablespoons water
Food colouring, if desired
Edible marking pens, like FooDoodlers or Wilton FoodWriters

Make a white glaze for the cookies by combining the sugar with 2 1/2 tablespoons of water. If it’s too thick, add a little more until it’s spreading consistency. You don’t want it too thin, though – so be careful. It’s easier to add more water than to add more sugar, so having it a bit on the thick side is preferable - especially if you’re going to add food colouring.

Once the glaze is made, divide it into 2 or 3 bowls, if you plan on colouring it. Add just a little food colouring, as you’ll want to keep the colours light.  Be sure to cover the bowls to keep the glaze from drying out!

Now, frost your vanilla wafers with the glaze and allow to harden (depending on its thickness, this could take 10-15 minutes or more than an hour). Once dry, write words on each of the cookies with the pens!  For the batch of Easter cookies in the photo, I made the nouns pink, verbs yellow, and adjectives blue, just to keep them organized. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to buy the markers, so I used dark food colouring and water with some corn starch to create an edible paint and painted the words on with a fine (clean!) paintbrush.

Kids not only enjoy making these, but they love being able to play with their food…and who can blame them??

#2) Finding found poems

Seuss-cat-hatIf you don’t know what a ‘found poem’ is, that headline’s grammar may seem a bit off. But found poems are a great way to get children to read their books – or read anything, really – in a totally different way.

A found poem is a poem that one ‘finds’ inside another written work – a poem, a story, a news article, even a catalogue or advertisement. You simply scan the words and lines, searching for an element, a phrase, a theme…by which you can tie together other words and phrases within that written work.

In this case, a child can find found poems inside the books they already read and enjoy! Take, for example, the classic “The Cat in the Hat.”  Pulling lines from pages 1, 2, 8, 11, 40, 54, and 58, I came up with this rather dark and not-too-kid-friendly poem:

The sun did not shine.
I sat there with Sally;
Mother, out of the house.
He should not be here.
Run down the hall,
shut the box,
and he was gone.

Sheesh, I think I just spooked myself with that one. But you get the idea. One never knows what kinds of images or connections can be made by tying together words and phrases that at first seem disparate.

Sometimes the poem you create summarizes the main text; other times, you find yourself heading off in a totally different direction, as I just did.  Even for younger kids, simply searching for and combining similar rhyming words helps them recognize sounds and reinforces spelling. And for someone like me who loves word puzzles and wordplay, it’s a fun exercise!

#3) ‘Nothing’ is really something!

This is a good classroom activity; it’s something I often do when speaking to a class about creative writing, and it invariably impresses half the kids and bums out the other half.  It’s a simple way to show that we never do nothing, and it’s interesting to hear what words come up during this conversation…

Very simply, I ask who in the classroom has ever done nothing. Hands go up. I ask specific children, “So, when you were doing nothing, what were you doing?” Answers range from sleeping (which, of course, is something) to watching TV (which is also something) to being dead (which, while morbid, is incorrect; I explain that if you’re dead, you’re decomposing – so you’re still doing something!).

Once the kids get an idea of where this heading, I write down “Nothing” at the top of the blackboard and have them all do the same on a piece of paper.  I ask the children to shout out words that come to mind when they think of ‘nothing,’ and I write 3 or 4 responses below. I then ask them to give me words that come to mind when they think of these words and write down 2 or 3 words for each of the previous words…and then do the same for each of those words.  It only takes 4 levels of words before you have a good 35-40 words on the blackboard.

I then proudly announce that, the next time they tell their teacher they have ‘nothing’ to write about…take a look at their paper!

As I said, some of the kids think the concept of this ‘word-tree’ is cool. But the ones who are used to trying to get out of doing their work don’t seem to like it as much. Go figure!

“Poetry can be fun…really!”

That is the message I try to get across to kids – and adults, for that matter. So many people have the impression stuck in their mind that children’s poetry is simple, repetitive, and boring while adult poetry is all big words, incomplete sentences, and baffling subject matter. That’s not true! There’s so much good poetry out there – and so varied – that one is bound to stumble upon a poem(s) that speaks to them.  It’s just a matter of understanding what poetry is, then finding the type of poetry that you like.

Google your favourite topic and the word ‘poetry’ and you just might be surprised at what pops up. “Pizza” + “poetry” yields 9,570,000 results.  “Baseball” and “poetry” yields 40,300,000 results.  And “Love” + poetry” yields 289,000,000 results - but we could have all guessed that would be off the charts. (Speaking of baseball poetry, be sure to check out Ed Decaria’s work at The Hardball Times - good stuff)

I hope you’ll take some time this April – National Poetry Month! – to read a little poetry, write a little poetry, and enjoy the experience as so many of us do!

Prog poem 2013 graphicRemember, Irene Latham’s 2013 ‘Progressive Poem’ (at Live Your Poem) is now halfway completed! This is a poem that started with one blogger April 1 and is travelling from blog to blog each day, with each blogger adding a new line to the poem. (By the end of the month, we’ll have a completed poem!) Here’s the complete list of all of this year’s participating bloggers, including Yours Truly, so you can follow along:

April Amy Ludwig VanDerwaterJoy AceyMatt Forrest EsenwineJone MacCullochDoraine BennettGayle KrauseJanet FagalJulie LariosCarrie Finison 10  Linda Baie 11  Margaret Simon 12  Linda Kulp 13  Catherine Johnson 14  Heidi Mordhorst 15  Mary Lee Hahn 16  Liz Steinglass 17  Renee LaTulippe 18  Penny Klostermann 19  Irene Latham 20  Buffy Silverman 21  Tabatha Yeatts 22  Laura Shovan 23  Joanna Marple 24  Katya Czaja 25  Diane Mayr 26  Robyn Hood Black 27  Ruth Hersey 28  Laura Purdie Salas 29  Denise Mortensen 30  April Halprin Wayland

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