The City

June 1, 2017


Some people can’t wait to escape the city in their search for happiness

They drive some shiny SUV out to the countryside every weekend, breathing in the clean air, sitting alone in the warm sun, feeling the soft grass under their feet…pondering life’s meaning while staring into that vast, empty sky

That’s probably real nice and all, but many folks never get to leave the city — the bus simply doesn’t go that far 

Some of us learned to find refuge and joy right here

We weave in and out of the skyscrapers’ shadows, running our fingers over the corroding textures, counting the faded bricks placed one at a time by some tired man’s hands, nodding to the shop-keepers having a quick smoke on the sidewalk, drinking in the history…finding strange comfort in knowing that others walked these streets before us, and many more will do so long after our shoes have worn out

I guess — for some of us — pondering life seems less important than making sure to live it

Still, of course, I sometimes ponder… 


There’s nothing that can be written about baseball that hasn’t already been said. It’s a game that grown men wearing silly outfits play until their arms are dead, their knees give out, and their eyes can no longer pick up a fastball. It’s the perfect game in many respects, the chess of sports, where strategy is critical, yet a single pawn occasionally wins a game. The best hitters fail more often than they succeed, but when they come through at the end of a game — at the end of a season — well, it can bring tears to old men’s eyes. 

They say baseball is a metaphor for life. It’s a long season full of ups and downs, triumphs and heartache. Some days are good, some are bad, and sometimes the rain ruins everything. As in life, it seems that success is usually the result of teamwork, determination, and a lot of good fortune along the way. It’s not always the most talented team that wins, and as Yogi Berra’s saying goes, it ain’t over ’til it’s over. As fans, very few of us get to regularly enjoy the post season, but each new year brings renewed hope. The last two seasons are proof that anything is possible, and also that patience truly is a virtue. 

So as we start a new season in earnest today, I sincerely wish everyone luck. I’ve experienced the thrill of sitting on the edge of my seat during an unimaginable late inning rally resulting in victory. I’ve witnessed an entire city unite with unbelievable pride during a magical season capped by a long-awaited World Series championship. Most importantly, I’ve felt the simple joy of hanging outside with my family on a warm summer night, talking about life as baseball plays on the radio. 

Maybe life is actually a metaphor for baseball? As in baseball, remember that if you stay focused and keep your eye on the ball, eventually you’ll get a hit. Sometimes just a little hit is all it takes. Hustle every chance you get, play with all your heart, and — most importantly — remember to enjoy every game. The season is long, but life is short. Play ball. 

(And GO ROYALS!) 

Today is International Day of Peace. This year’s theme is “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace,” and emphasizes ending poverty, protecting the planet, and creating prosperity for all. These are nice, lofty goals, and I hope significant progress is made in each area.

However, today — and every day — I think it’s important to focus on what peace really means. What begins the process of ending poverty, protecting the planet, and creating prosperity? What makes people want to be better as a whole? What can you and I do on a daily basis to make a difference?

One of my favorite quotes comes from Mother Teresa: “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” In other words, teach those close to you the importance of loving our families, our neighbors, and ourselves. Show kindness and respect to everyone. Take responsibility for our neighborhoods. If we all did this on a local, personal level, it would naturally start to take hold globally. Perhaps this sounds naive and over-simplified, but to me it makes perfect sense. Some are doing it already, and seeing results. But not enough.

When we tune into any news source, we are bombarded with stories of violence and hate. It’s true that the good news — and there is good news — doesn’t get the airtime it deserves, but there are a lot of bad things going on out there on this planet we must share. If everyone had been brought up being taught the need for kindness and generosity, would we have different newscasts today? If criminals had a parent or someone else tucking them in at night, saying “I love you,” would the world be a better place? If you and I made an effort to simply genuinely smile and say “hello” to the many different people we encounter each day, would it make a tiny impact? The answer is definitely yes.

If you find that these things are difficult for you to do, I have to think that you may need to make peace with yourself. It took me many years to figure it out, but I can promise you that being kind will not only make a difference to those around you, it will also change your own life in ways you can’t imagine. Forgiveness is a breath of fresh air. Positivity trumps negativity every time. And, most importantly, loving feels so much better than hating. To any naysayers rolling your eyes and assuming I’m some kind of tree-hugger, I assure you that peace has nothing to do with being a hippie. Peace is about being happy, and happiness is damn nice.

So on International Day of Peace, please go home and love your family. Make it a priority to teach — and show — those around you the importance of love, kindness, respect, and generosity. These are truly sustainable goals. Spreading love in our own home is the first and best building block to peace. Pass it on.


With the early-morning squeal of the bus’s brakes, I knew that the end of summer was actually a reality. Sure, summer isn’t over on the calendar. There will be some heat, humidity, and fun yet to be had on weekends to come. But the days of the kids riding bikes past dark and sleeping in past noon have been halted for another year. We will continue to hear the hypnotic hum of weed-eaters, have our favorite baseball team to cheer on, and be met most days by singing birds and beating sunshine. There will still be some splashing in pools, backyard badminton, and — at least for now — the ground still feels very inviting to our bare feet. But a change is coming soon.

Summer certainly swims by faster than when I was young, but so does the rest of life, I suppose. Sadly, I don’t see it slowing down any in my lifetime. It feels as if the earth’s rotation is gaining momentum, and there are simply no brakes. The passing of summer is not all bad, however. It actually brings plenty I look forward to.

Like Friday nights, when my family will wrap ourselves in comfy sweatshirts and sit in our driveway, listening to the distant P.A. system announcing names and numbers at the local high school football game. We will watch leaves turn colors and breathe the strange, wonderful smell of decay when they fall to the ground. Autumn brings Halloween and Thanksgiving, flannel shirts and cozy blankets, bonfires and the roasting of marshmallows.

Before we know it, there is snow on the ground and flames in the fireplace. Wet boots and heavy coats pile up by the front door, with sleds and shovels waiting just beyond. The frigid air stops our kids’ running snot in its tracks, causes our old joints to ache, and keeps everyone from wanting to leave the warmth of our beds. But we keep forging ahead, until the holiday season and new year bring joy and hope to all. Slowly the snow begins to disappear as the mercury creeps upward a notch or two at a time.

Spring renews our faith in all that is good. We feel truly alive for the first time in months as the grass turns green, leaves fill the barren trees, and neighbors come out of hibernation. Bicycles are dusted off, balls are aired up, and cars are washed. We inhale the aroma of freshly mowed grass, budding flowers, and charcoal. Life is finally good…although it was never actually bad.

And in the blink of an eye, school is out again. But our children are a year older. So are we…

My kids are excited to get back to school. It’s a time of endless possibilities for them, and excitement of the unknown. I guess it’s bittersweet for me. I’m happy to see them ready to go back, but I will miss our summer life when laziness is not only respected, but encouraged. When happiness is the main goal. It seems like that should be the case more often. The occasionally melancholy, over-thinker in me realizes that summers with my kids are a fleeting time and one day will truly be only a fond memory. But, as with the changing of the seasons, I know there will be more to experience, love, and remember as they grow older and become adults, themselves.

In the meantime I hope and trust that we can all make an effort to pay attention to what’s happening around us, and appreciate what life offers us. There really is so much it offers. Let’s cherish the time we have with our families, and look forward to the changes. Sometimes life will be good, sometimes it will be bad, and we may never know the reason. But may we all have endless summers, regardless of the season.


Bob Dylan was born 75 years ago today. I must admit that, despite being a musician and lover of music, I never really delved into Dylan’s music. As a teen in the 80s and 90s, I owned his greatest hits collection. The one with the blue and white cover and a silhouette of his head and hair. I learned to play and sing some of those songs — particularly “It Ain’t Me, Babe” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” It was good music and I appreciated Dylan’s songwriting. That was about it.

One day I was away at college and was really wanting to be home. Not just for a visit, but I wanted to move back home. I didn’t like school, I didn’t know anyone except for a handful of friends from high school who had all joined a fraternity (something I had no interest in), and I had no idea why I was there or what I wanted to do with my life. This was 25 years ago, yet I vividly recall lying on my twin bed, alone in my cell of a dorm room on a rainy Saturday morning, wishing like hell that I was home, when “Like a Rolling Stone” came on the radio.

I had heard the song many times, and I liked it a lot. But that particular day I really heard it. It was like it was written for me. I had always had friends, done well in school, and was expected to be successful at whatever I chose to pursue. Yet here I found myself floundering in college, with no direction or interest. Dylan’s song spoke to me that day as it crackled through my cheap mono radio.

How does it feel? How does it feel? To be on your own, with no direction home, a complete unknown, like a rolling stone. 

It would be kind of cool if I could say that, as the triumphant organ solo faded out, I rose from my bed, threw my few belongings in an old duffle bag, and jumped on the first train home. That’s not how the story ends, though. While Dylan’s song tells the story of someone falling from social grace, it is equally about dealing with uncertainty, isolation, and the unknown. I realized that I wasn’t alone at all — I was actually very similar to many others. Most of us are sometimes lost for a number of different reasons. That was very comforting.

So instead of some dramatic, romantic result, I simply decided to just keep on keepin’-on as well as I could. Boring, I know, but sometimes that’s the best (or maybe the only) choice. They say a rolling stone gathers no moss. I think sometimes that means learning to roll with life, rather than running from it. Happy birthday, Bob. Thanks for helping me out that day so long ago — and when I still occasionally feel a little lost now.

  
Today I turn 43. Despite the aches in my back, knees, and hands, I feel very young. Younger than I have in a long time, actually. I’m fitter, happier, and in an overall better mental state than I’ve ever been as an adult. Not that 43 is old, necessarily — age is really just a relative number. To a child, 43 seems like a lifetime away; almost certainly incomprehensible (and why should a child need to understand or think about it). To the very old it may seem like a lifetime ago. Although I doubt it. The one thing I notice most with aging — my biggest complaint — is that time seems to move faster and faster the older we get. I’m trying my damnedest to change this, however. And it’s working.

Obviously time is constant, but our perspective and perception of time seems to become completely screwed up as we age. Most of us rush around all day, meeting schedules and deadlines. We worry about what happened yesterday and lose sleep over what may (or may not) happen tomorrow. The free time that we do actually have is often wasted by us believing it isn’t enough time, so we discard it completely. This wasn’t the case when we were kids. The ancient philosopher Heraclitus wrote, “Time is a game played beautifully by children.” I think he’s right. Kids are better at making good use of time than almost all adults. Especially younger children. If there’s a spare minute in the day, they will find a toy to enjoy. Five extra minutes of playtime before bed is like a gift that is gratefully received. Kids don’t worry about it getting dark, but instead play hard until they can’t see. Unfortunately we regress as we age to the point that most adults are dreadful at this “game.” I know I used to be.

I’m far from an expert now, but I’ve found that I’m getting much better by reminding myself to be mindful, grateful, and frugal. These are really all related, and once you start to understand and practice them, worry and stress naturally fall by the wayside. I find myself appreciating life more, desiring less, and not caring much about keeping up with the demands put on us by American society and consumerism. By this I basically mean not worrying as much about money and material possessions. When you are truly aware, thankful, and consciously spending less on unnecessary items, life becomes simpler, more fulfilling, and time is much less of a constraint. It is a very liberating experience.

Many people think I’m crazy. I traded a very lucrative career to be a stay-at-home dad, and am now pursuing a career in teaching. My life is much fuller and my time is much better spent — and appreciated. I’m not suggesting anyone give up a career, but I would also caution against knocking it if you haven’t tried it. The older you get the more you understand the old “life is too short” saying. It is certainly possible to juggle a busy, stressful job and have a productive, happy personal life. But the key is to be sure you are happy — a question we can only answer if we are truly honest with ourselves. Time — or the lack thereof — has a unique knack for showing us what really matters in life. Sometimes it’s too late. My sincere birthday wish is that everyone eventually finds happiness…and has the time to enjoy it.

Cheers.

 

 

 

Amelia’s Wish 

February 28, 2016

 

Litter is a big problem. Amelia Meyer is part of the solution.

I just spent the morning picking up trash. I’ve actually done this twice in the last year, because I felt like I should — it was never something I looked forward to. This morning I did it because I wanted to. I was truly inspired.

I hope by now you have heard of Amelia Meyer. If you haven’t, you need to. Amelia is an eight-year-old girl who happens to go to my daughter’s school in Kansas City, Missouri. She is battling brain cancer, and was given a chance to make her dreams come true by Make-A-Wish Missouri, the local chapter of the wonderful foundation that helps children with life-threatening illnesses.

Most children might wish to travel to Disney World, meet a famous person, or do something similar that sounds fun and exciting. Obviously there is nothing wrong with this — it is what I would expect any kid to want, including my own. After all, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so any typical kid would be licking their chops. Amelia’s wish was quite different, however. She decided to “take care of the world” by picking up trash at local parks. Saying this is not your average child’s idea of fun is a huge understatement.

Amelia was originally inspired to pick up trash during walks she took with her grandmother. Now her selfless wish has inspired countless numbers of others — not just in Kansas City, but reaching far beyond. I have read about people cleaning up litter in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, Tennessee, Texas, New Mexico, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, Louisiana, California, Oregon and Washington, as well as in Germany and Dubai. It’s simply amazing, and new reports continue to come in.

Something else that’s amazing is how Amelia — someone who might have wished to meet a celebrity — has become quite the celebrity, herself. Although I’m sure she isn’t very interested, the amount of news and social media coverage that this event received yesterday (I had to work, which is why I partook today), and continues to receive, is remarkable. In fact, actual local celebrities joined in and are talking about her. Sly James, our mayor, declared February 27 as “Amelia Meyer Take Care of the World Day.” I applaud the declaration, but would rather see people continue to be inspired to do their part for the world every day — which I believe is all Amelia really wants.

The cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” I have no doubt that we will hear from Amelia Meyer again in the future. Like her wish, she will live on and will someday change the world. Indeed, she already has.