Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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

Archive for the tag “perspective”

RIP, Robin Williams

Robin W tribute

(click to enlarge)

Creating creativity: what to do when you lose the muse

"What if...Matt really DID know what he was talking about?"?"Writers deal with it all the time. So do artists, artisans, poets, and all sorts of creative types.

What to do when the inspiration won’t come.

I used to wonder this myself, when I was still learning about writing children’s poetry and picture books. When I was younger, I would write about whatever hit me at the moment, and not write anything else until I was inspired again. And it worked fairly well, except for the fact that if one is going to be a professional writer, one usually doesn’t have the luxury of being able to wait around for his or her muse to offer up an idea.

If you’re going to write, you need to write. NOW. You need to find the ideas, work with the words, and get something on paper or on the computer screen whether your muse is available or not. While there are plenty of ways to jumpstart your writing, today I’m sharing five practices that help me.

1) Expose yourself

That is, expose yourself to news and information you wouldn’t normally find interesting. (Although if you really do expose yourself, that probably would open a vast array of new experiences, as well) Next time you’re at the doctor’s office and see a copy of “Popular Phlebotomy” magazine, pick it up and peruse the pages. Who knows what you may learn or be inspired by? If you come across a political website or Facebook page that might promote views opposite to those you hold, read through it and try to see things from another perspective. You might discover a new way of approaching a subject.

You see, these types of things afford us writers a glimpse into lives, worlds, and realities with which we are unfamiliar. Never let an unexpected point of view go to waste!

2) Brainstorm

Yes, I know, you’ve heard this one before, but it really does work – especially if you brainstorm the way I do. Most folks will tell you to pick a subject and write down all the words or phrases you associate with that subject. I’ll do that sometimes, but I prefer going a step beyond.

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG / FreeDigitalPhotos.netI’ll pick a subject, then try to come up with as many phrases, ideas, or words that I don’t think have ever been associated with it. Why? Because I want to find unique associations – connections no one has considered before. This is especially useful in writing poetry for adults (as opposed to children’s poetry), where associative leaps are almost de rigueur, an expected element of the poem.

3) Don’t settle

Don’t settle for the first idea that pops in your head. Or the second or third. I’ve written at length about this before, but a big trick to writing creatively and uniquely is by being aware that what you’re writing probably isn’t creative or unique. Chances are, when given the opportunity to write about a subject (whether it’s a story, poem, commercial script, or Facebook comment) the first idea that popped into your head is probably the same first idea that popped into nearly everyone else’s heads.

Never going with your first instinct is a golden rule of comedy writing; it should be one of your rules, as well.

4) Ask yourself, “What if?”

I’ve written at length about this topic, as well, and it bears repeating here because of the power those two words wield. Next time you’re stumped for ideas, consider a variety of “what if” questions:

“What if…peas tasted like chocolate?”

“What if…chocolate tasted like Brussels sprouts?”

“What if…humans are actually domesticated farm animals for aliens?”

“What if…Jesus had children and one of them became president?”

5) Don’t be afraid!

Of what? To create something terrible. To try something different. To walk away. If you end up creating something you dislike, you’ll learn from it; at least it was good practice, right? If you try something different, you’re stretching yourself. And I can’t tell you the power that comes from stepping away from a project for awhile.

I’ve written some of my best poems during the course of a week when I’ve had millions of things to do. I’d write a couple lines, get stuck, and then go have to change a baby or record a commercial. Then I’d go back to it, contemplate some more, and have to step away to do something else. Understand, I’m not implying that you should not be disciplined and focus on your work. I’m a firm believer in the “BIC” Rule (“Butt In Chair,” aka “Do the work!”), espoused by great writers such as Jane Yolen and J. Patrick Lewis.

Rather, taking a break from what you’re writing can allow you to distance yourself from it and come back with a new set of eyes, a new perspective. In fact, I went through at least 4 titles for this blog post (like, “When the muse is out of town,” “When the muse is AWOL,” and a few others) before I settled on the internal rhyme-riddled one you see at the top of this page. Getting unstuck from your writer’s block might take a few minutes, a few hours, or even a few years – but it’ll be well worth it.

There’s more where that came from

There are plenty of other ways to kick start some ideas and get the creativity flowing. These are just the five that seem, to me, to be the most effective. What do you do? Are there any tips you employ to help get you started, or get yourself out of a mental rut? I’d love to hear them! Leave your thoughts in the comments section, and I’ll share them in a separate blog post all their own at a future date – with proper attribution and due credit, of course!

Happy writing!

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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!

Two magic words that can change EVERYTHING

Memorial Day commercial production. Voiceover business marketing. Children’s book manuscript submissions. Poetry anthology submissions. Church council meetings. And the responsibilities that come with being a stay-at-home dad to a 4-year-old and a 9-month old. A guy can only do so much and still have time to perform 18 physical therapy exercises each day to rehabilitate his knee following arthroscopic ACL surgery.

(And still be a loving and supportive hubby, too!)

Life continues to fly along at lightning speed – and for someone who’s still only moving at half his normal speed, I find myself falling behind quite a bit. So today, I’m dusting off a little something I shared in my early blogging days. This post originally appeared on August 20, 2012. It was one of my first blog posts, having just created the blog a couple of weeks prior, and I thought it was worth bringing back, for all the folks who’ve joined my blog community over the past year. I hope you enjoy it!

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It’s a question author/futurist Arthur C. Clarke, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs probably asked themselves all the time.

It’s a question we often ask ourselves when learning something new, like a computer program or video game.

And it’s a question subconsciously uttered in the mind of a 2-year-old, discovering how his or her world works.

Two words…that not only help us in our day-to-day lives, but can help us create anything from a groundbreaking piece of technology to a children’s poem.  Two words that might steel our resolve – or completely change our perspective.

What if?”

How many times have you tried to get your smartphone to do what you want, or couldn’t figure out why your spouse’s laptop keeps doing that annoying ‘thing?’  You experiment, you troubleshoot.  You think to yourself, “What if…I press Shift-Alt-Ctrl-Tab-Insert?”  And when that doesn’t work, you think, “What if…I just walk away and act like this never happened?”  We’re constantly debating choices day in and day out.

“What if Obama loses?”

“What if I take the ‘A’ train instead of the ‘B’ train?”

“What if we run out of hamburger buns?”

We ask ourselves this question all the time, so I’m really not telling you anything you don’t already know.  But ask yourself another question:  when was the last time you used these two words to help you create?

What if…you changed your story?

Certainly, the concept of asking this question can be used in any environment, whether you are an inventor, politician, or salesperson.  Where it gets really cool – at least from my vantage point – is in the realm of creation; specifically, creative writing.

Asking this question, especially when you get stuck on a character, a rhyme or a plot detail, opens up worlds (notice the plural!) of possibilities…

“What if…my main character was the opposite sex?”

“What if…this story was set in another time?”

“What if…I juxtaposed these two lines/stanzas/paragraphs?”

“What if…I could see things from a different viewpoint?”

Ask yourself all kinds of ‘what if” questions, and don’t just think about the answers…write them down!  It doesn’t matter whether you plan to use your ‘what if’ scenario or not; writing down a few lines or even a few paragraphs can help you see things from a different persepective, and that’s what you want.  How many times has a person reading your material suggested to you an idea you never thought of?  Quite often?  That’s because it’s being viewed in a different light; this ‘what if’ exercise can help you critique, inspire, or edit yourself.

Even if you have no intention of turning Lucinda, your novel’s half-human, half-lizard bisexual alien heroine, into a half-human, half-nematode bisexual alien heroine, go ahead and get those thoughts on paper; play it out and see where it goes!  Odds are, it’ll go nowhere – but there’s a good chance that you’ll learn something about your character, his/her situation, or how to develop them.

Perhaps you’ll come up with another plot.

Perhaps you’ll come up with an idea for an entirely different project!

But without questioning yourself on these things, you’ll never know.  Heck, Marvel Comics even created an entire series based on this premise!

WARNING:  Moralizing tone ahead!

Well, ok, hopefully it won’t be too moralizing – that’s not my intention – but it just occurred to me how many of the problems we face in this country (and this world, for that matter) could be solved or at least be addressed in a meaningful way if we all asked that two-word question more often:

“What if…that person has a legitimate medical condition?”

“What if…one of the people in this checkout line suddenly needed me?

“What if…that guy who cut me off just lost his father?”

Did one of those questions catch you off-guard?  Would you be able to ask yourself a question like one of these if the situation presented itself?  Asking “What if” not only opens up that wide world of a different perspective, but can help stop us from jumping into defense mode as soon as something we don’t like pops up.  It’s all about thinking outside of yourself.  By considering the feelings, circumstances, and history of others, we’re slower to anger and quicker to understanding.

Final question:

“What if…I gave everyone a second chance?”

I’ll let you think about that one on your own.

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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!

On life, death, and all that stuff in-between

It’s interesting how some things come full-circle.

I attended the funeral for the father of my best friend in college this weekend. As I sat there in the very last church pew, I listened as the priest spoke about all the things this father, grandfather, husband, and friend would never do again: tend to his garden, prune his fruit trees, play with his grandchildren.

A sad occasion, obviously…so I surprised myself when this :15 TV commercial featuring The Most Interesting Man in the World popped into my head:

There really is no better time than now to start beefing up your obituary – and as this concept settled into my brain, I began thinking of all the things I’d like to accomplish before I pass.

Not a “bucket list” of what I want to do, necessarily, but what I want to accomplish. And to me, those are two different things.

How will I be remembered? Will I even be?

There are plenty of things I’d like to do: visit a foreign country, sing in a band, resume playing with my indoor soccer league. Things I’d like to accomplish are a bit more difficult, because they require more time and effort and are harder to define in concrete terms: be a good father and husband, make a positive difference to someone through my poetry, land a national animation voiceover gig my kids would be proud of.

These kinds of accomplishments are not the kinds of things you go out and just do, and check off your list. They require time, patience, and wisdom…and although I have plenty of the first two, that last one I have found to be the most elusive.

I try to be a good father and hubby – spending time with the kids, teaching them, supporting them, supporting and loving their mom. I keep working to make inroads to get my children’s writing published, not just because it’s my vocation and I’d like it to be a career, but because I genuinely feel that someone, somewhere might benefit from it. Perhaps that’s unrealistic, perhaps that’s egotistical…I don’t think it is, but it’s what I feel nonetheless.

Working hard and taking chances

My baby!As for that voiceover gig, I’ll keep plugging away with that, too. I’ve voiced enough commercials, corporate videos, and other random projects…so a national animated voiceover project – while still a longshot – is an attainable goal if I don’t give up.

And I don’t!

If I come across an audition for a project that is not right for me (deep movie-trailer voice guy is one of ‘em!), I skip it. But if I see something that I’m not sure if I’m right for – but could be – I’ll probably go for it and see how it sounds. How else does one grow and develop their skills if one doesn’t take chances?

How does one “beef up the obituary” – or the resume, for that matter – without a little extra perspiration?

Whatever you do in life, you’re not going to get any better or go any further if you don’t push yourself. Even if there are a hundred other voice actors competing for the gig, what have you got to lose? Even if your manuscript has received 50 rejection slips from agents and editors, the next one you send to might be the one who loves it! Whether I succeed or fail depends entirely on whether or not I give up, and believe me…I’ve failed so much that success just has to be around the corner!

(At least, that’s what I tell myself.)

TMIMITW took a chance!

Well, actually it wasn’t The Most Interesting Man in the World who took a chance – it was Jonathan Goldsmith, the Jewish, Bronx-raised actor who portrays him.

As I mentioned early in this post, things have a way of coming full-circle sometimes, and this is one of them. As I searched for the commercial online, thinking about those 15 seconds of wisdom the Dos Equis’ copywriters had shared about beefing up one’s obituary, I stumbled upon a recent blog post about how Goldsmith was cast as the company’s Latino pitchman.

If you don’t think you have a chance of scoring a big sale, nailing a big gig, or even winning a lottery…think about the odds that Goldsmith faced as a new York City Jew auditioning against 499 Latinos!

That’s right – out of 500 actors, he was chosen. And if the casting director had picked anyone else, The Most Interesting Man in the World would not be the man we know today.

It pays to take chances. And you only have NOW to take them. Tomorrow might not get here.

Better get busy.

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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!

 

 

 

What to do when you lose your balloon

My heart sank as I watched my 4-year-old’s new blue, Mylar balloon fly out of my truck and up, up into the sky.

He had just gotten it at my chiropractor’s office, and after stopping at a local Dunkin Donuts, I had forgotten it was in my pickup when we came out. All it took was me opening the passenger door, and zoom! – the thing took off like a rocket in the wind and shot skyward.

“That’s my balloon, daddy,” the little dude said, eyes fixated on his rapidly disappearing reward for being a good boy.

“I know,” I said, “I’m so sorry. I’m really, really sorry.”

Then, after a short pause, he said, “I’m gonna miss my blue balloon, daddy.”

ID-10055026 (balloons)“I know you will, Bub.”

“That was a nice balloon.”

“Yes, it was nice.”

“Maybe I’ll get another one sometime?”

I smiled. “Yes, you will. I’ll make sure you get another one.” Then I looked at him once he was sitting in his car seat. “You’re a good little dude, you know.”

He returned my smile with one of his own. “Yeah, I am a good little dude.”

Perspective envy

I wish I had the attitude my son had today. Granted, there are a multitude of instances when he can be a frustratingly demanding little man – like most 4-year-old boys – but there are plenty of times when he has such a good grasp on handling adversity that he makes me wonder if we actually share DNA.

I like that he makes me think.

You see, I’m the type of person who needs things to go the way they’re supposed to go. I wouldn’t say I’m a type-A kind of person, but I do take comfort in consistency, in predictability, in the familiar. If I’m planning a trip to the beach, I don’t want it to rain. If I’m preparing for a project, I don’t want the specs to change.

(This is why I dislike winter so much; in the summer, no one ever has to cancel dinner plans because 12 inches of snow is expected, and no one is ever late to work because they can’t drive faster than 20 mph.)

So when I see this little fellow dealing with life the way he does, he makes me wonder why I can’t be more like him (the thoughtful, pleasant ‘him,’ not the screaming, I-want-it-now ‘him’).

ID-10056952 (soccer ball)Making the best of a situation

It’s one thing to say we must learn to smile in the face of adversity – it’s another to actually be able to do it. When I tore my ACL last year, I tried to be positive even though the negative thoughts deluged my brain:

How am I going to take  care of the kids?
How am I going to help my wife?
How am I going to run my voiceover business?

Over the course of several weeks, I learned how to balance these things, and the injury turned out to not be as earth-shattering as I thought it was when it first happened. I still need surgery (March  28 is the date!) and have no idea how I’ll do anything for 2 weeks following (I’ll be on crutches with no weight-bearing), but I figure I’ll get by. I’m trying not to be as anxious as I was the first time around.

Note that I didn’t say I’m not anxious. I’m still anxious as all get-out…but at least I’m trying not to be.

Putting adversity to good use

As I was thinking about my son and his balloon, and wondering how I might tie the incident in with a blog post, I came across a news article about a Subaru dealer that decided to take advantage of a union protest.

Now, whether you are pro-union or not, you have to admit – what they did is ingenious. Did they think they would get more customers in the door by using the protest sign as advertising? Probably not. Did they think it would make a good chuckle and perhaps get people talking? Most definitely.

Did they expect it to end up on Yahoo! and have their dealership name be spread across the entire country? Doubt it…but now look what happened when they tried to make the best out of a situation!

We all lose our balloons sometime

I’ve recorded auditions and then forgot to email them. I’ve submitted auditions I thought I was perfect for and have gotten completely passed over.

I’ve had multiple plans this winter that had to be cancelled due to weather issues, as mentioned earlier.

I’ve dropped a log on my foot shortly before my indoor soccer season was to begin, so I decided to play goalie, only to snap a tendon in my finger, so I end up on the field, only to tear my ACL, and subsequently find out I won’t be able to play again for a year.

All these things annoy me and can ruin my day if I let them – but if I’m paying attention, they don’t always get the better of me.

A few days ago, my wife crashed her car sliding on some ice in the road (did I mention I hate winter?). She was only going 20 mph, but managed to do $3000+ worth of damage. We now have to find $500 for the insurance deductible, we have to pay for a rental car for possibly two weeks, and we also have to shell out money for two new car seats for the kids, since they can no longer use the ones that were in the accident.

But at least my wife suffered no injuries and is alive and well. At least the kids weren’t in the car at the time. At least we had more family time this weekend because my wife was out of work.

I may lose lots of balloons – literally and figuratively. It’s knowing how to let them go and hold onto what’s important that really matters.

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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!

Poetry Friday: “The Journey”

poetryfridaybutton-fulllI need to thank Laura Purdie Salas for this poem – it was through one of her “15 Words or Less” poetry prompts that I was spurred to write this. Hope you enjoy it!

And for more Poetry Friday links, head over to Karen Edmisten’s Blog With the Shockingly Clever Title!

The Journey (graphic)
(Click to enlarge)

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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!

Thanksgiving Day: The one blessing we overlook

This post was originally published on Nov. 20, 2013, and because I am working on a limited schedule this week, I thought it might be appropriate to dust it off and re-post it for any of my followers who hadn’t caught it the first time around. I hope you enjoy your week, whether or not you’re celebrating Thanksgiving here in the U.S., and be grateful…that you have the capacity to be thankful.

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Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. will be here in two days, and everywhere you turn, people are talking, writing, and blogging about all the things they’re thankful for.  I, for one, am growing weary of it.

Now, please don’t get me wrong; it’s good to be grateful.  Indeed, we should be thankful – and display that thankfulness – every day of our lives.  We should reflect upon our blessings on a regular basis and never hesitate to show our appreciation for what we have.

My problem is not so much with the thankfulness; it’s that we’re missing an important reason to be thankful.

The Usual Suspects

Again, please don’t misunderstand me; I’m glad people are thankful for their blessings.  But there are certain blessings that show up on nearly everyone’s lists – our faith(s), our families and friends, our lives, our pets, our homes, our talents.

Some people may be thankful their loved ones made it home safely from being abroad; others may be grateful that they received a year-end bonus, or even have a job at all.

Even the poor and destitute among us may be thankful for things like the warmth of the sun or the kindness of a stranger.

I can say honestly that I am truly, truly, TRULY thankful for all these things…but you probably could have guessed that, even if you had never met me or had never even heard of me or this blog.

These are the blessings that most of humanity celebrates – and the acknowledgement that we should be grateful for these things is rooted in the love, compassion, and empathy that separates our species from the rest of the animal kingdom.

We recognize the importance of both gratitude and thankfulness.

A quick vocabulary lesson

Gratitude and thankfulness are not necessarily interchangeable.

I’m no lexicographer or linguist, but it has always been my understanding that these words had different meanings.  To be thankful means you’re appreciative that something that you wanted came about; to be grateful indicates you are appreciative towards someone or something.

(Any English professors in the house?  Please correct me if I’m wrong!)

The reason it’s important to know the difference is because gratitude is directional; thankfulness is not.  Feed a hungry animal and it may be thankful it received food, but it might not be grateful toward you for feeding it.  I know pet owners will disagree with that – having two dogs and two cats of my own, I’ll admit that some animals probably are grateful to the person taking care of them – but how many of these animals understand what it means to be grateful or thankful?

And therein lies the rationale for my previous statement that our recognition of the importance of both gratitude and thankfulness is one of the important qualities that elevates us above the rest of the animal kingdom.

Little blessings, and the BIG one

As I ponder this, I come to the conclusion that the human condition of feeling gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation is itself a blessing.

Yes, I’m thankful for all those things we talked about earlier.  I’m thankful for my family, our friends, and our pets.  I’m thankful I live in a country that promotes freedom of speech, religion, and personal excellence.  I’m grateful to God and Jesus for their love and sacrifices; I’m grateful to my wife and family for supporting me as a self-employed stay-at-home dad; I’m grateful to Al Gore for creating the internet.

(I’m also thankful – or grateful – to whomever or whatever was responsible for getting my 2-year-old to finally stop waking up at 5am…daylight savings time really screwed up the poor little dude’s internal clock for a couple of weeks!)

But I don’t want to overlook this very important aspect of our humanity; that is, the recognition of the importance of gratitude and thankfulness.

Thankful…for being thankful?

Yes, that is basically what I’m saying.  Chuckle if you’d like.  However, when you actually think about what it means to be thankful for having the comprehension of what gratitude, appreciation, or even indebtedness mean…I hope you will understand why I believe it is so important.

We humans are not simply grateful, or thankful.  We comprehend – and celebrate – the importance of being grateful or thankful.

So this Thanksgiving Day, while we’re giving thanks for all we have, think about why you are thankful.

Think about why you are grateful.

And give thanks that you are.

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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!

Poetry Friday: “To the Newborn (for Phoebe)”

poetryfridaybutton-fulllI can’t believe a week has already flown by since my new daughter, Phoebe, arrived. It’s been a busy week, too: getting adjusted to having a baby in the house, helping our 3-year-old to become acclimated to the concept (he’s a great little big brother), plus helping my wife as much as possible while she recovers from her C-section.

All this on top of trying to run my voiceover business while prepping for a big, 5-day-gig as the announcer at the local state fair Labor Day weekend.

Oh, and did I mention that on Wednesday I dropped a 6-foot, 8-inch diameter log on my left big toe, splitting the nail in half?  (Yeah, that was a big, fat ouch, let me tell you). So it’s been a crazy, crazy, crazy busy week.

I’ve had the idea for this poem since she was born, by the way – but considering all of the above, I didn’t have time to put it to paper until last night. Normally, I don’t share first drafts, but this is actually a 3rd-draft, and I’m fairly happy with it…although I’m sure I’ll tinker with it again tomorrow, and the next day, and next week, and…well, you know how poets are.

Gotta run…I hear a baby crying! For more poetry, visit today’s Poetry Friday hostess, Betsy, at I Think In Poems!

.

Phoebe - 1  week

Phoebe Kenna-Rose, on her 1-week birthday. And yes, those cheeks ARE exceedingly pinch-able.

“To the Newborn (for Phoebe)”

Little one,
with eyes wide
to a world
you cannot see,
find comfort in the world
you know:
sustenance
in your mother’s breasts,
security
in father’s arms,
peace
in the familiar.

Enjoy the warm sweetness
of milk on your tongue,
smile at dreams only you
can know,
and sleep soundly
safely
as long as you like…

for you, little one,
do not know
this world beyond
your world.
This world that awaits
knows neither
comfort
nor sustenance
nor safety.
But it will,
little one,
soon

be yours.

You do not yet realize
this world
you so depend upon
depends
on you.

- © 2013, Matt Forrest Esenwine

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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!

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