Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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

Archive for the tag “parenting”

My Life as a Lazy Bum (or, How I Went a Week Without Working and Still Survived)

Tork beach 1

York Beach, Maine…our cottage was a 30-second walk from here.

As you may know, I went on vacation with my wife and two youngest kids last week. I was looking forward to it, as I’d never gone anywhere for an entire week of vacation before, and I knew I’d be leaving work behind. I knew I would not even LOOK at a computer, much less perform work-related duties o one. I brought my cellphone, but with limited internet access, that was only good for keeping in touch with family if necessary.

We weren’t going to be online, I wouldn’t be submitting any auditions for voiceover gigs, I wouldn’t be keeping up with my Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts…everything was on auto-pilot.

Surprisingly, I didn’t even get around to doing the kind of “work” I thought I would be doing…writing!

York

Low tide at Longsands…so called because all the sand is wet and hard-packed – and easy to walk on!

Everything took a back seat to FAMILY

We drove about an hour and a half over to York, Maine to stay in a cute little summer cottage owned by some friends of ours. With a 30-second walk to the beach, you can imagine where we spent much of our time.

I love the ocean, so the fact that we were on the shore and in the water each day was a joy unto itself. That my 4-year-old son was thrilled to be there made it that much more enjoyable. Whether he was digging in the sand, splashing in the water, searching the shoreline for seashells after high tide, or simply running around like a lunatic, he was having the time of his life.

His 10-month-old sister, meanwhile, was content eating the sand, which we were constantly having to shovel out of her mouth. It may have been disgusting, but she seemed to enjoy it.

Then there were the walks downtown. It only took about 20 minutes to get to the center of town, so we walked there nearly every day, as well. One day we stopped by the playground area then had some ice cream. Another day we walked over to York’s Wild Animal Kingdom. Next day we went shopping and I tried a dark-chocolate-covered frozen key lime pie slice on a stick (That was almost the highlight of the week).

York - house 1

Our little home-away-from-home.

We ate breakfast on the deck each morning and I cooked dinner on the grill almost every night.

And between the walking and the swimming and the playing and the grilling and the eating…I never had time to write.

But I didn’t mind. I was too happy!

Plenty of inspiration

I had brought my moleskin notebook – the one my wife gave me several years ago – to jot down notes and lines and other ideas…but it didn’t even make it into my hand.

We were having so much fun, I realized that any effort to break away from what the family was doing was a detriment. Now, some writer friends may say that spending a week along the ocean without putting pen to paper just once is a sacrilege…but I think differently.

Although I had planned on writing, had wanted to write, and even could have found the time if I really tried…the experience allowed me to soak up more than enough inspiration – possibly inspiration I might have missed if I had been writing.

Ideas, ideas, ideas

York - Nubble lighthouse 1

The Nubble Lighthouse (aka, the Cape Neddick Lightstation)

At some point, I’ll get writing about the trip. Perhaps I’ll craft a poem about my little dude’s kite that he loved watching soar high, high in the air. I might also write about his experience watching a butterfly hatch from a cocoon at York’s Wild Kingdom.

Maybe I’ll write about seashells we found, or the dogs we saw running along the shoreline early in the morning and late in the evening.

I already have some ideas I’ve been fleshing out in my head about lighthouses, crashing waves, and s’mores.

So just because I didn’t submit any auditions doesn’t mean I’ll never get another voiceover gig again. And just because I didn’t do any writing doesn’t mean I don’t have plenty to write about. I’m looking forward to seeing what I come up with in the weeks ahead!

I just might even write a poem about the seagull that pooped on my wife’s head while we were walking downtown. Memories like that can last a lifetime.

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Did 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 with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo 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!

 

 

 

 

No time like the present. Seriously!

It’s been a beautiful weekend, and today is just as nice as yesterday. As I am writing this, the sun is shining and a light breeze is helping to keep the 83-degree temperature from feeling too sweltering.

DaffodilsHere in the northeast, it’s not uncommon to have an overnight frost as late as Memorial Day, so the fact that this summery weather exists at all is a true blessing.  And for someone like me, who spent most of the long, sun-deficient winter indoors due to my ACL injury, this early summer is more than a welcome sight; it’s therapy!

So why am I here in the studio, writing a blog post?

First things first

First of all, I feel I have a responsibility to myself as well as my readers to be consistent with my posts. That’s not to say I’m going to write something quickly and haphazardly just to post something, but maintaining a habit of writing with regularity is good not only for my own purposes – keeping my writing skills honed, marketing my services, etc. – but for the good folks who have decided to follow my blog because they feel I have something worthwhile to offer.

Believe me, no one appreciates the fact that you’re taking time out of your day to read a blog post more than me.

Second, I’m writing this post because I genuinely want to share my thoughts on why I’m writing this post. Yes, that sounds like circular logic, but honestly, I wanted you to know what the weather was like and how beautiful the day is, to understand why I’m foregoing all of it right now to write this.

It’s because this sort of thing pops up all the time in our lives: you want to do one thing, but you feel compelled to do something else.

Time is not on your side. Or mine…

Mick Jagger’s declaration about time being on his side notwithstanding, the fact is, it’s not on anyone’s side. You may feel like you’ve got all the time in the world, but believe me, it goes by quicker than you think.

It feels like yesterday that I was struggling to find work after college, or helping my daughters with their homework, or moving into our first house. But I’ve been doing radio voice work and production for 25 years now, my daughters have graduated high school, and I’ve remarried and am living with my current wife and two young kids of our own.

If anyone can tell me where all the years went, please let me know!

Now I’m in the process of trying to become a published children’s writer…and I wonder how much time I’m going to have to accomplish that. When I was trying to rehabilitate my right knee following my accident, I was unable to walk very well or take care of the kids easily, so much of my writing (and my voice work) took a backseat. People would tell me not to worry, because I’d have plenty of time to resume my work once I was feeling better – even if it wasn’t until the knee was fully healed, which will be early next year.

But how do I know if I’ll have that much time?

“Hold on, Matt, this is getting depressing”

OK, sorry – that’s not my intention, really. I’m actually trying to be positive. I can’t assume I have another 10, 20, 30 or more years left to develop my writing and keeping sending out manuscripts in the hopes that someone decides to buy one and publish it. I don’t know if I’ll have one more day – none of us do. Being young and healthy doesn’t mean anything – a serious accident or unexpected health issue could put a quick stop to all of your plans.

Nothing screws up plans more than something you didn’t plan on.

So take advantage of any and all opportunities that come your way! Have a chance to go hiking for the first time in your life? Do it. Thinking of taking classes abroad? Go for it. Never eaten a raw oyster? I can’t say you’ll enjoy it – I’ve done it once in my life and would rather go bungee-jumping without the bungee – but do it anyway, so you can say you’ve done it!

Debating over whether you should clean the house or go outside and play with the kids? Face it, once you clean the house, it’ll be dirty again in a few days. (If you have young kids, that timeframe is drastically reduced) But playing with the kids…that’s something you can never know how much time you’ll have to do. I’m not saying to completely neglect your duties or shirk responsibilities; just take a moment to prioritize.

Or perhaps “re-prioritize” what you thought you had prioritized.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a blue sky calling my name.

chair

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Did 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 with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo 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!

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.

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