Category: Uncategorized


Soccer at 37 is not daunting in and of itself, but soccer after not playing any organized games in 15 years … well, that’s a bit foreboding.  I feel like I should be on the roster for Olde FC (Fart Club).

My fitness level, as expressed in cleats

A new friend who happens to coach Gabriel’s team invited me to join his company’s 7 vs. 7 team at Silverbacks Park on Mondays.  I’ve missed a game or two, but last night was my first.  All things considered, I survived.  I didn’t do too well.  I’m out of shape still and could really feel it.

Regardless of the outcome (we won 6-4, I believe), I had a blast.  Just being out there again.  Kicking the ball.  Running into open space.  Looking for options as the ball approaches.  These are the things I love when it comes to soccer.  It’s not the technique, not the winning or losing, but rather the love of the sport.  I’ve written about this before, too.

I stayed on the field for about 45 minutes of the hour-long game.  Notice I didn’t say “I was running for 45 minutes.”  But that’s my goal: keep moving when I’m on the pitch, without the magnetic pull of poor fitness holding me back.

It’s akin to what Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger said in an article on small-sided games (like the teams Gabriel and I play on now):

“What attracts every player of every level is the pleasure of playing the game….the roots of why they played in the first place. One day, as a kid, you played with your friends, you kicked a ball about and, wow, you enjoyed it and couldn’t wait to play again.”

G as in Grasshopper

And so I, too, can’t wait to play again. I guess that desire has never really faded. It’s just taken 15 years for me to decide to do it.

The Last Long Haul

Last is correct. But long is not the right word, at least physically. Emotionally, perhaps. Mentally, sure.

Regardless, today I finished up taking the last of mom’s items from her condo. A cabinet. A planter. A patio chair and ottoman as old as dirt and containing plenty of it (and cat hair and cigarette smoke and what-not). Not a lot, but the small load was the last notes of the soundtrack to clearing her residence for the new tenants.

Image

The Clampets ain’t got nothin’ on me.

In each measure of this move-out, I’ve felt guided. Some would understand this as a presence of sorts, but it’s different than that. I don’t feel my mom so much as I see signs, notice things she’d like or find funny, or have pretty profound arrangements happen.

Take today’s load — fittingly and deliberately arranged as it was. So with mom’s Jeep (at right) already filled on the inside, I had to strap the patio chair and ottoman to the top. I went back to the condo to say bye to the tenants (also friends of ours — a great arrangement in itself, but that’s another story). When I came out to the parking lot, I couldn’t help but see the similarity between the top-loaded Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Beverly Hillbilly truck when they loaded it up for the “move to Beverly … Hills, that is.

And of course, given the circumstances, I pictured a younger version of my mom sitting up there on top pf the car, not unlike Granny Clampet in her rocker atop the Clampet’s truck. See, now that’s something that mom would get a hoot out of.

I drove out of the complex, but an accident diverted me through the nearby mall. No biggie, right? Right. But I just so happened to drive by a Goodwill drop-off trailer parked in the mall parking lot. Peculiar — it’s not usually there. So I circled it and arrived at the obvious — this was where I was supposed to drop it off.

So I did.

The cabinet. The planter. The patio chair and ottoman as old as dirt and containing plenty of it (and cat hair and cigarette smoke and what-not).

We’ve gone through the remnants and taken to our house that which we want to keep. We’ve done our best to disperse (for lack of a better word) other things in the best way possible. Friends have kept some things. A half-hearted estate sale has scattered other items to the world. A few loads to the local thrift store unloaded many things that could have sold, but I simply didn’t have the energy to make that happen, opting for the pragmatic act of giving things away instead. A couple boxes to sell later occupy the garage. And a disheartening and disappointing auction took care of most of the rest. It’s hard to part with a lot of it, but it’s memories that are dear, not the accouterments. That fact doesn’t make if much easier.

Finely arranged “coincidences” such as today’s events do make it easier though. I can’t help but believe that mom or other ancestors helped arrange today final haul. Of a difficult situation, this was perhaps the best I could have asked for.

Thanks, everyone, for your kindness.

Day of Birth

It may be a sign of getting old (and not simply older), but for the first time in my life, I woke up on my birthday not remembering it was my birthday.

My mother’s recent passing perhaps had something to do with it. Maybe I was preoccupied. But even so, I recall that she always made a point of celebrating my birthday. Perhaps that’s why things this morning seem all the more vibrant.

Breathing in the fresh morning, I look left at the morning sun.

Good day, sunshine!

Rising up through the thick canopy of leaves, the sun appears like an archipelago of gold or perhaps a cluster of souls or maybe the lights of a busy cityscape.

As I step barefoot onto the back stoop, the air outside—although kept at bay only by an old screen door—is noticeably cooler, a memory of the night.

Looking into the yard, I notice the yet-unplanted azalea sent by Aunt Joan from California. Small, but filled with blooms and life, its pink color borders on blue. At least I would say so if I didn’t know better. Perhaps it’s the sleepy still in my vision.

Carmen stumbles in and offers the best rendition of  “Happy Birthday” that could be expected at this hour of a summer morning.

Some say that each night we die and are reborn. I’m not sure I buy that, but regardless, I know that each day offers a new beginning. That’s the best birthday gift one could hope for.

Berfday Berries … and Berfday Java, of course

Calm

Butchart Gardens in Canada — she always wanted to see this place again

All,

I apologize that I can’t contact you all directly, but email is easiest way to communicate my mom’s passing. If you’re getting this message, you’ve had some impact on my mother’s life either directly or indirectly. For that, thank you.

She passed away June 9, 2012, at 10:41 p.m. after her bout with tongue cancer. While this is difficult for the family, we’re supported by your prayers, kindness, and thoughts.

Her wish is that there not be a memorial service per se, but rather a viewing, lasting throughout Sunday. We welcome family and friends to visit, pay last respects, and recall good times. Please feel free to drop by the funeral home as your schedule permits and stay as long as you’d like. Family will be from early morning to late at night. We’ve a private room and comfy seating.

Fellow members of the Sukyo Mahikari Center are welcome to come give Light as is our custom; everyone is welcome to offer prayers … or not … according to your beliefs. Mom was nothing if not broad-minded. 🙂

I’d like to share some of her thoughts on life and death. Her view of death is that it’s a natural process, a part of life. Sad, yes, and difficult, but in parallel, passing away means you’re leaving a place, so necessarily you’re going somewhere. Seen in that way, death is a birth of sorts. Our belief is that it’s cyclical. Many faiths and traditions teach this in some form or another.

Her belief–and mine–is that accordingly, this birth is a positive thing, therefore an occasion for happiness. Sadness and joy contrast, but can exist together. While mom no doubt appreciates our love as evidenced our pain in losing her, I know that she wants us to smile, too. Perhaps it’s a little too much to say she’d want to put the “fun” in funeral, but regardless, she loves to see people happy. (And I think she would appreciate jokes and laughter as well.)

The funeral home is A.S. Turner & Sons:

2773 N. Decatur Road

Decatur, GA 30033

404.292.1551

Thank you in advance for your presence, prayers, and thoughts at her passing; these are most welcome and the most meaningful. Ever the gardener and most alive when in nature, mom would certainly welcome flowers. Two organizations were instrumental in her care and comfort during her illness: Emory University’s Winship Cancer Center and Our Mom’s Personal Care Service. Please join me in expressing gratitude for their kindness. And thank you for yours.

With love and gratitude,

Derek

Wave

I’ve avoided writing about a difficult topic for some time. Today I found myself writing about it to a friend. But in so doing, I found I couldn’t stop.

Click the image for relevant background music. She’d like this version of one of her favorite songs.

The act of writing–as it often does–helped me step back and consider the topic, the circumstances, and see things in a new light. And that helps. So I suppose that means it’s time to post this.

My mother is dying.

Mom’s cancer has progressed, and she is staying home now, sleeping/laying down most of the time, and not really taking in any nutrition to speak of. The ladies from the personal care service have been fantastic and are spending most of the day and all of the night at her place. A room at the hospice center would give her the same 24/7 support, but this is what mom wants — a few weeks, maybe days at this point per the RN.

I get mom to smile a few times daily. Her thoughts are clear since coming home from a respite stay at the in-patient hospice center a few days ago. Although weak, frail, and losing weight, she’s in a relatively good space for the shape she’s in.

It’s hard to see her this way. The little nutrition she gets comes through that Southern elixir: sweet ice tea. Yet, most meager sips merit a cough. For some reason, her pain has lessened, necessitating fewer doses of powerful narcs like Roxicet administered through her peg tube. What hair survived the radiation and chemo is white, close-cropped and nothing like her style pre-cancer. Clothes don’t fit her either. Buying some pajama bottoms for her today, I opted for the XS and think that those should work.

Regardless, the person who now appears nothing like the lady filling my memories is still my mom, a buoyant beautiful soul. That remains.

I think that cancer nearing its run is a bit of a blessing, insofar as you see the end coming. So you can prepare for it. It’s not unlike standing chest-deep in the ocean. Your feet are planted in the sand, the current swirling around you–but you can see the wave coming, so you can prepare. You make what adjustments you can and receive the wave.

Despite how well you’ve prepared, it will move you. So I think I’m ready for that. In the meantime, I have to keep my eyes forward, head down, and do what needs doing.

It’s said that life is made up of moments. I’d add that those moments are driven by decisions.

For a number of reasons, I’m faced with a disproportionate number of significant decisions right now — over the past few months really. That doesn’t separate me from the pack, I don’t think. But what I hope to offer is something that can help us all, no matter the scale of our decisions.

It’s simple:

  1. Decide to do it.
  2. Do it enthusiastically.

That’s it, really. But step back and look at those points. Anything that’s worth doing follows the above guidance. I don’t hold the copyright, btw; I’ve just decided to take this time-honored advice to heart, because it’s coming at me from all directions.

A mentor (and my senior creative director) keeps telling me, “If you’re going to take a chance [with your writing], go all out. So even if you fail, you do it spectacularly.” So I take a chance and write something that pushes the client’s voice out of its comfort zone.

And they like it.

That little voice inside keeps telling me to not check my email or Facebook on my phone when I could do something productive and fun at home. I choose to listen to that voice, opting to start reading Kim John Payne’s “Simplicity Parenting” tonight.

Within 10 minutes I’ve got half a dozen ideas of how we can improve our family time.

Earlier I was toying with the idea of writing this blog, but hesitating because I know that by writing it down, I’m committing myself to my own advice.

That’s when I get this http://bit.ly/HM2dIK — a video that reminds me of point #1.

Spam as far as the eye can see

I can’t say this is an honest blogging effort, but a thought occurred to me: there’s gotta be a use for spam. And I think I found it, well, perhaps one use. Every so often I get some spam in the form of a blog comment. While the English is ridiculous and the syntax is awful, I appreciate the unintended humorous nature of the comments.

Check this one out, which I garnered from a recent post:

“I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you are just extremely wonderful. I actually like what you’ve acquired here, really like what you are stating and the way in which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you still care for to keep it smart. I cant wait to read far more from you. This is actually a terrific.”

It’s like a blog groupie, lathering praise with abandon. Dunno about you, but this stuff cracks me up.

So keep spamming and phishing and writing the horrific comments — I’ll keep enjoying them.

They are indeed a terrific.

Happy holidays, y’all. I’ve been busy with family, new freelance work, and a new gig too. I’m firing on all cyclnders on all of them and enjoying life in general, challenges included.

The following is something I wrote for my new outfit’s blog. You can find it here and, well, here:

Another winning holiday sweater entitled "Dignity? What dignity?"

In an age of more, more, and more, a handmade gift becomes all the more meaningful. There’s something about the personalization – the care that goes into a handmade gift – that people grasp when they unwrap it. Look at their eyes. That’s where you can see them realize that the gift in their hands didn’t come with a receipt: It came from you.

And since it’s from you, it can be as original as you are. As a writer at heart, I like to write poems for people on special occasions. Here’s a poem I wrote for a coworker’s birthday:

Roses are red/
Violets are pretty/
We hope that your birthday/
Is not a bit … boring.

Cheesy? Yep. Sophomoric at best, moronic at worst. But, hey, it’s original. It gets a smile and hopefully a laugh. To me, that’s the whole point of gift giving.

Or take the “bookshelf” my son built for my wife. He used a couple 2’x4’s; some screws; and red, blue, and yellow paint. The finished product is basically a rectangle. If you lay the “bookshelf” flat and fill it with soil, it transforms into a tiny planter. The only way that books could fit in this thing is if it’s placed horizontally. Again, it’s the thought that counts. 

Practicality is important for some gifts, sure, but I think it plays third fiddle to giving something original.

We’re all creative, right? So go for it this year! Bake a batch of cookies, craft a one-of-a-kind T-shirt, or present a slideshow of your time together. Even a simple holiday card would take no time at all, yet it could bring someone cheer over and over again (and it could possibly be worth something when you’re famous someday.)

What’s the best handmade gift you’ve ever gave or received? Share your pictures or stories via this post and/or our Facebook page, and have a happy and original holiday.

Long time since college, but not this long

With the new job underway, I find myself happily, albeit busily, employed. My new gig is fast-paced and keeps me rocking along about 9 hours a day.

Imagine my surprise when a one-off freelance client asked if I could help out again … to the tune of 30-40 hours of work. Due in 7 days.

I did what any self-respecting writer would do: said OK.

Now from “OK” to “product delivery,” there’s a bunch of ground to cover in a short amount of time. So I find myself at Oglethorpe University’s 24-hour study room, cranking through marketing material like a frat pledge through a free box of donuts at 3 a.m. Ah, the benefits of being an alumnus. It’s great being here, back where I got my communications and rhetoric degree. Back where I, in Public Speaking II, said, “I want to be a writer.”

Hello, Lowry Hall. It's me. I'm back again.

That was one floor above me and half a decade ago. But here I am: a writer … writing. Like my college self, I’m putting in the extra hours and extra coffee. But this time it’s billable.

Will I be here at 3 a.m.? Perhaps. If not, I’ll be back here or somewhere tomorrow morning, typing out the goodness. Regardless, I’m practicing my craft and I feel exceptionally lucky doing so.

Sometimes errors are awesome. Especially when orchestrated with an ulterior motive in mind.

...unless I get a hold of them.

Last week, I was getting in the car when I spotted a candy wrapper left nearby. I picked it up and was about to put it in the trash bag normally used for the usual — old to-do lists, gum wrappers, pesky 50s that somehow got into the stack of 100s that I keep in the trunk. Then a flash of parental brilliance hit me like a foul ball while I was looking away: I can use this wrapper for subversive parenting!

Now, I’m not sure why, but littering has always chapped my hide. I mean, why do it anyway — if you think on a broad scale, you’re just messing up your own living room.

The lesson I had in mind was “Don’t litter” and “If you see some, why not pick it up.” Pivotal to teaching this lesson is the fact that Gabriel is very observant. Also, he loves treats (although he’s been known to eat only half and “save some for later.”)

Gabriel’s booster seat was in the back left of the car, and he knows that the door pocket doubles as an ad hoc trash can from time to time. So, instead of dropping the wrapper in the trash bag, I leave it in the back, next to his seat.

The next time he was riding with me, sure enough, he spotted the wrapper and said, “Hey, you ate some candy!” BOOM! He took the bait, and that gave me the chance to tell him that, no, it wasn’t my wrapper — that I had picked it up from someone’s parking lot. “Oh,” he said.

I’m banking on the hope that he’ll come away with the idea that it’s good to clean up litter. Who knows, right? As with most things parental, I can only do what I can do and hope for the best.