Sunday, November 30, 2008

christmas lights

November 30th, 2008

9:43 am

Snow coming. Sky giving up nothing but gray. The world losing color to the cold. So that made yesterday even more important.

"It's still too early, isn't it?" I asked.

S.B. was sweeping the floor. Doing her best to keep busy on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

"Yes," she said, "But I think you're right. We should put them up today while the weather's still halfway decent."

"Okay, I'll get them out of storage. Make sure they're working, then start hanging them."

S.B. pointed the broom handle toward the ceiling. Upstairs, where Little Man was napping.

"I thought you told him he could help."

"Oh, he can. It's going to take me a while just to get them out and to see if their working."

"And what about the reindeer?" she asked.

"I have to get them out of the boxes. Put them together. Make sure their working."

"Where are you going to put them?"

"In front of the porch. So Little Man can seem them out the window if he wants to."

I put on my boots. My hat and and coat. Kissed her cheek. Patted her on the butt. Went outside.

Putting up Christmas lights is something I've always enjoyed doing. I love the holidays. Thanksgiving through New Year are important to me. Sure, I love the sweets, meats, and other things not good for me. But mostly, I feel closer to my family and friends. Not sure what it is. Maybe it's the forced recognition. Sending and receiving those Christmas cards. Giving and receiving presents. Visiting and reconnecting with people. Maybe it's just that this time of year makes you take stock. Realize who you are. Where you've been and where you're going. It makes you thankful for the good fortune of simply being alive.

"Ow! Holy hell!" I shouted, as a jolt of electricity zapped through my finger and up my arm.

S.B. had put on her coat. Was standing in the garage doorway, watching me. For how long, I don't know. I never know. It's like she's always watching. One day I was in the garage, playing with a Red Ryder BB Gun when I told her I was fixing the lawnmower. She must have been watching me play cowboy for ten minutes before she said anything. And when she did, it was with a laugh and a smile. Fixing the lawn mower, hey Cowboy?

I assumed this was the same thing. Me cussing and stomping around the garage. Detangling lights. Testing bulbs. Experiencing the holiday joy that only minor electrical shocks can bring. And I figured she must have been there ten minutes or so.

"What's the matter?" she said.

"Oh, nothing. Faulty wiring, I guess."

"Are you okay?"

I shook my hand. Stretched out my arm.

"Oh yeah, sure. I'm okay."

Little Man walked in. He was bundled up so that I expected a team of sled dogs to follow him in.

"Wow, is he heading directly to the North Pole?"

Little man smiled. S.B. patted him on the head.

I tossed the knot of lights on the floor. Moved over to the ones I'd already sorted.

"See here," I said. "We have our solid colors. Red, blue, and green. And here we have our multi-colored."

She smiled. Nodded. Little Man walked past. Grabbed his bike. Rode it out of the garage, down the driveway and started his normal route. Back and forth on the sidewalk in front of the house.

Me and S.B. took armloads of lights out to the front of the house and got at it. She worked on the vertical. I worked the horizontal. It wasn't hard to keep an eye on Little Man. He was a big red puffy ball. Riding bowlegged. Boots pumping the pedals like mad. The worse thing that could've happened would been if he'd fallen and wasn't able to get up.

We worked at the lights a long time. I made some boneheaded mistakes as I always do. Plugged a string of lights into itself. Strung a line of solid green into a line of mulit-colored.

"What are you doing?" asked S.B..

"Huh, what?" I asked.

"These right here," she said. "We can't have this. They're solid green."

"Sorry, honey. I'm just so excited to be doing this that I got carried away."

She stopped. Looked at me. She was sensing sarcasm that wasn't really there. Because I was serious. I was excited. Happier than heck to be out in the front yard with my wife, decorating for our first Christmas in our new home.

She stared at me a minute longer. I did not move. I felt like a deer in the crosshairs. Hoping to blend in with the scenery. Tried not to move.

I wonder a lot at what she thinks. Poor S.B. matched up with me. Her goofy, round-headed hubby filled with good intentions and big ideas. A dopey kid trapped inside a man's body. The wanna-be writer. The stay-at-home Dad. Trying and trying, but never really quite getting there.

We got back at it. Worked until the sun fell down. The cold crept in. And our bellies started to growl.

"I'm going to get Little Man and head in," she said.

"Yeah, he's logged about sixty miles. He's gotta be ready to wind down."

"What about supper?" she said.

"How about something simple? Like grilled cheese sandwiches."

"And tomato soup!"

And off they went. Little Man and S.B., and I kept on at those lights. I had to wind and unwind. String and restring. Test and retest. But soon, it was just me, my frozen hands, and the final act of plugging it all in.

I looked in through the window and there she was. Beautiful S.B.. Hair pulled up. Face aglow. Moving round the kitchen as graceful as a skater on ice. From the sink to the stove. The stove to the table. Stacking grilled cheese sandwiches. Ladeling soup. Cleaning up Little Man for supper. Our ceremonious holiday lighting would have to wait.

We ate our supper. Talked. Dealt with Little Man's evening meltdown. His daily struggle with being tired but wanting to stay awake. His little brain and body at odds with each other. Testing his boundaries. Testing our patience. But finally coming round to the Mommy and Daddy team with hugs, sorrys, and smiles.

"Come here!" I cheered to Little Man, as I opened the front door.

He ran to me with open arms. I picked him up. Held him close. Savored the moment. Wondered how long it would last before he would not want hugs or kisses, to be picked up by his old man.

We walked outside and plugged in the lights.

"Wow!" he said.

S.B. came onto the porch.

The three of us walked to the sidewalk. Stood together.

"Don't worry," I said. "This is only a test. It's too early to keep them on, I know. But at least now, they're up."

"It looks great, honey!" S.B. said, and she put her hand on shoulder. A warm tingle ran up my back. I smiled, drank up my family, the sight of the bright lights against the cold night, and then realized a whole section of lights were out.

And so it goes. The smallest projects always taking longer than expected. Things never quite coming out right. But keeping at it and trying. For my sweet S.B. and for my Little Man.

~ K.J.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

giving thanks

Thanksgiving Day, 2008

8:20 AM

Clear and cold. Bright and still. A sleepless night, but a fine morning. I was out throwing the ball for Chloe. Watching her run back and forth. Back and forth. Chasing and retrieving the ball dozens of times before stopping short on her last run. She dropped the ball twenty feet away from me, by the big cottonwood, decided that was enough for this morning.

My intentions were to come here first thing. The coffee was done and poured. Dogs and cats fed. And all I wanted was to get into this chair and at these keys. But as I sat down to write, there she was. Chloe. Ole Slobbery. Looking in at me through the window. Ball in her mouth.

We made eye contact.

She dropped the ball.

I took a sip of coffee.

She picked up the ball.

I set the coffee down.

She dropped the ball.

There was no use trying to write when it was clear she wanted to play. So I put on my boots, gloves and coat. Took my hot mug with me. Headed outside. A great beginning to a thankful day. Breathing the fresh morning air. The smell and taste of it not yet spoiled by heavy traffic. The birds filling silence with morning song. The sound of squirrels in bare trees. And Chloe's paws crunching through leaves. Inside, I could hear S.B. doing dishes. Washing cups and the pizza pan leftover from last night. Putting away plates and sliverware that had dried. I took a deep breath. Held it. Savored all moments—good and bad—that have led to this, then exhaled all of them away.

It is our first Thanksgiving together. I am happy to be celebrating it in our own little home. In the Garden City. With my wife and my son. It's not that I don't want to see our relatives and friends or be away from our roots up north. But it's going to be nice to have Thanksgiving to ourselves. We can make the bird, stuffing, potatoes and pie. Watch football. Fill up. Then relax. Watch movies. Play. Read. Do whatever it is we want to do. The important thing is that we are together.

I've wasted many moments in my life. Looking for answers without asking the right questions. Searching desperately in the dark for someone or something to hold onto, instead of moving toward the light. I've drank away my senses many a Thanksgiving eve, only to wake halfway through turkey dinner the next day. Surrouned by family and friends. Immersed in hope and the potential for happiness. But too hungover with selfishness and regret to understand the importance of any of it.

"Jesus Christ, say Grace already. Get it over with. There's food to eat! Football on the tube! A recliner calling my name!"

All my Mom wanted to do was say a little prayer before dinner. Give thanks and enjoy the company. But when you're looking out for number one, full of yourself and stepped in ignorance, it's impossible to see what someone else might want, or need. And so that's all it was ever about for me. Eat and drink, watch a football game through the fits and starts of restless afternoon sleep.

But now, that's changed. I am clear-headed. As bright as the morning sky. As fresh as the air. And I am thankful for S.B., thankful for Little Man, thankful for my Mom, Dad and brothers. Thankful for my in-laws. Thankful for everything that's been good, that's been bad, that's got me here. To an early Thanksgiving morning. Still alive and kickin'. Full of memory, but focused on the hope of the day.

~ K.J.

(copyright © 2008 by K.J. Stevens)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

a natural inclination

November 20th, 2008

8:13 am

Sunlight making early morning shadows. Moisture in the wind that swirls round. It is thirty five degrees and holding. Another November day with a blue-gray sky getting lower and threatening. The weight of air and cold pushing down. Filling lungs. Clouding heads. But making us braver each day. We are tackling the tasks. Checking them off lists. Keeping ourselves busy. Distracted. In the groove. It is best to keep working. To not think too much about what's at hand. Because overthinking it, looking at it too long, makes for blindness. And when blindness comes it is not hard for ignorance to follow. So we plug away. At words and colors. Keeping house. Raising a kid. Staying sane and hopeful, as the unpredictable seconds and minutes that make up our lifetime continue ticking away.

Another day. Up with the urge, but bodies unwilling. An old cat's unsettling meow. Dog paws click-clacking the hardwood floors. And the alarm clock sounds.

I threw the covers aside. Sat up.

"The same thing every day."

I said it, but meant only to think it, and as soon as the words left my mouth, I regretted it. It is not the type of thing your wife wants to hear first thing in the morning. Especially when she is the one getting up day after day to go to a job that is more frustrating than rewarding. Especially when she is the one working to pay the bills, put food on the table, keep a roof over our heads. But it had been said, and when I left to get at the morning chores I'm sure the words were still there, moving around our bedroom in the dark.

We ate breakfast. Listened to the radio. Talked about the auto industry crisis. Felt sympathetic for hard working men and women who are always the sacrifice, but angry at executives for taking bonuses and flying in private jets.

"Goddamned people," I said.

S.B. nodded. Finished her toast.

After breakfast. She was in the bathroom. I was here. At this desk. Hoping to get started on the writing. As S.B. emerged from the bathroom, Little Man appeared. Seemingly out of nowhere. We did not hear his footsteps, his usual morning sounds, but there he was. Arms full of stuffed animals. Hair sticking up. Freshfaced and smiling.

"Hi, Mommy!"

We bundled him up. Coat over pajamas. Slippers on his feet. Hat on his head. And I carried him to the truck. He held me tight. Arms around my neck. A twenty second hug between house and booster seat.

"Thank you!" he cheered, as I buckled him in.

"No, thank you," I said. "I needed that."

And I did. Still do. Such a little thing. The morning rush. A family setting off on their day. And the little kid along for the ride, no sense of urgency, no particular agenda or cares. Just a natural inclination to love.

The thing that has me here. Still and always. The four letter word deserving of a capital "L" and deserving much better than this. But it is all I can muster. This wanna-be writer, stay-at-home Dad, feeling out of his element, holding on the best I can as we continue this path ripe with tight learning curves, sudden starts and stops. The daily detours that keep us lively and alert. Focused. Even on the toughest days. With sunlight making early morning shadows. Moisture in the wind. And blue-gray skies getting lower. Threatening. The weight of air and cold pushing down. Filling lungs. But making us braver each day.

~ K.J.

(copyright © 2008 by K.J. Stevens)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

ache like this

November 19th, 2008

7:47 A.M.

A punch in the face day. That's what it feels like. The icy cold into blood and bone. The tireds weighing me down. Basic urges riled up. Wanting again, like always, to fight and fuck, eat and drink. Move ahead without regret. Set things right. Bring wellness to the world. But there are people that need to be punched. Not because violence is the answer, but because sometimes fear is the best medicine. And because there are people who need to know what it's like to have their heads roll.

The headlines read:

Senator indicted on extortion charges

Dad accused of killing daughter while cleaning gun
Boy, 11, dies of gunshot wound to chest

Let the punching begin.

People have lost their sense of consequence. It's ruining the world. Making it harder for us to keep on keepin' on. And it's pissing me off.

But I can't be pissed today. Doing so will waste energy and energy is what I'll need. To keep up with Little Man. To work on the writing. To be upbeat and open when S.B. comes home from work. Her busiest, roughest day. Hundreds of kids. Most of them with attitude. Demanding respect, but unaware of how to give it. And she will need a hug, a shoulder, ears that not only listen, but hear.

Today, I'm a grumpy old man. Ready to beat the world with my cane. But filled up with so much love and hope that it kills me.

I want to buy a hundred thousand Christmas lights and decorate our home with Little Man.

I want to disappear into the woods. From morning till night. Come back cleaned out and clear-headed.

I want to spend an evening with S.B., have dinner, talk and touch, and let the loving begin.

But I can put all my wants and wishes in one hand and crap in the other and I know which hand will be filled first.

So goes life. It is not perfect. Neither are we. Some days we wake soft and sensitive. Some days we wake hard-headed and ready to kick ass. Today, I'm in between. Spread all over. Spread too thin. Needing so little that it feels like everything.

It's good to ache like this. With the November cold cracking bones, freezing the flesh, making me feel again. And I am better for it. Coming round the bend. Driven by determination, a sense of what's right, and believing I can do it all. Get it done. Make a difference before my light burns up. The heat is gone. And I'm the faint orange glow of an ember. Ready to go out.

But there'll be no going out today. And not tomorrow. There is plenty to get done. Much to work on. And nobody ever got anywhere by letting the bad, the tireds, the basic desires run all over them.

So here's to us. Our drinkless cheer. Letting the world know we're still strong. Still keeping at it. Still here.

~ K.J.

(copyright © 2008 by K.J. Stevens)

Monday, November 17, 2008

have and need

November 17th, 2008

8:07 A.M.

Snow brightening the sunless morning. Coffee warming my gut. Got the push roaring down deep. Will try harnessing it today. Put it to good use. Chop away at manuscripts that need finishing, or work on something new. Harder to write these days. Impossible to maintain flow. Over the past year, I've had to change the way I go about writing. It isn't as easy as sitting down when the ideas need out. Now, there is a Little Man to watch over. Help out. Guide. There is a wife to please and take care of. There are pets running around the house. Chores that need to be done. Blah, blah, blah. All stuff that all writers have had to deal with since writers started writing. It's no different. It's just somedays I really feel it. The writing life I had compared to the writing life now. I had more time to write in the past, but I wasn't as prolific as I am now. I've written hundreds of pages this year. Most of them inspired by my experiences as Daddy and Hubby. In the past, I spent more time getting things right. Getting the writing out and polished as soon as possible. Now, it's a matter of trying to find time to polish. Nip, tuck. Do the editing. But I'm doing it. And there's no sense going on about how I'm not writing as much as I would like to be. There's nobody to blame for my lack of success, except for me.

And Little Man wakes. Yelling DADDY!

Back at it. Nearly an hour later. He had his PBJ for breakfast. Drank milk. Ate vitamins. Brushed teeth. And to my surprise, there hasn't been much fuss. There was a little at first, when he sat down at the table and his PBJ wasn't ready.

“Want peanut butter jelly!”

“I know, buddy. I'm working on it.”

First, I wanted him to take his vitamins. Then, I wanted him to try a few slices of orange.

“Want peanut butter jelly!!”

I handed him the vitamins and orange slices.

“No want!” and he turned away, whining.

“Listen!” I said, maybe a little too harshly for a Monday morning. “You are going to get your peanut butter and jelly. First, you need to eat your vitamins and eat some oranges.”

Some more whining.

“If you whine, if you act like you did yesterday, no peanut butter jelly.”

He stopped whining. Scrunched his face all up. Shoved a vitamin in his mouth. Picked up an orange.

I went back to making his PBJ.

It's hard raising a kid. I can hardly believe that people have three or four of these little creatures. That they manage all of them at one time. I applaud these parents. Respect them. Am in awe of them.

I poured some coffee. Sat down across from Little Man. Watched him devour that PBJ, as I flipped through the yellow pages.

“V, v, v,” I said.

Little Man looked at me.

“V?” he asked.

“Well, it's not under V.”

I thumbed back to U.

“Doing, Daddy?”

“Looking to tie it off, buddy.”

“Tie off?”

“Here we go,” I said. “Just what Daddy needs!”

Little Man took another bite of PBJ. I made a mental note of the nearest urologist. Took comfort in knowing that a vasectomy is only 2.3 miles away.

The rest of our morning has been fine. There wasn't much fuss when it came for diaper change. Out of pajamas and into big boy clothes. He insisted on watching PBS Kids. I did not fight it. He is in a good mood. Much better than the monster he was this weekend—two full days of whining, screaming, crying, pouting, and tantrums—so if he wants to watch some educational television, so be it. We'll be out in the cold soon enough. Bundled up and enjoying the great outdoors. Not sure what we'll do. Maybe take a walk. Maybe he'll want me to pull him in his sled. We haven't enough snow for it, but any snow is enough snow for a kid to get out a sled. No matter what we'll do, it will be fun. And I'll do my best to tire him out. Get his little heart pumping. Let him burn off some of that energy that can build and build and then erupt in a fit of emotional frenzy.

I just have to remember my good friend PATIENCE. Keep things in perspective. Not take things so seriously. Have fun. Because when it's all said and done, that's what we need to aim for. More good than bad.

Maybe later I'll get back to writing. Editing. Chasing this foolish writer's dream. One day, I might even get close to having the success I hope for. But for now, the imagined life of being a real writer, one churning out readable literature that people can relate to, that pays the bills, is somewhere off in the distance. Not yet to be mine. All I have and all I need is now at my side. Tugging at my arm. Done with tv. Wanting to play.

“Come on, Daddy! Come on!!”

And so it goes.

~ K.J.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

out the window

November 16th, 2008
9:04 am

Thought I better come here first. With a time slot open this morning, there's no use in wasting it. Little Man is enjoying a Sunday morning movie. Sitting on the couch. Wearing big boy underwear. About ready to leak at any moment. He's not so good about the peeing thing. But he's getting better at the pooping, and practice makes perfect, so what's a little more laundry?

S.B. is making breakfast. She was preparing quite the feast when I went in there for coffee. Eggs, bacon, hasbrowns. Ah yes, I love Sunday mornings. So this entry will not be long. Only a little brain exercise, gut release, before we eat.

Fall is leaning more toward winter. Trees are nearly stripped bare. They are black and wiry against the white sky. Today there will be snow. It was heavy in the air when I walked out to feed the dog and cat. Definite snow making going on up in that sky. I've been breathing it since I was a kid, living up on The Ridge, and even though the air isn't as clean down here in the city, I cannot mistake the scent. The feeling. Makes me want to bundle up. Walk into the woods. Sit in a blind and watch it come. Not that I feel much like hunting these days. That urge has gone dormant. Is barely alive. But I would like to sit. In my old hunting blind. Small propane heater hissing flames. Blanket across my lap. Coffee in a thermos. Me alone with the woods. A book. A pencil and paper. Boy, I miss those days. Chickadees flying into the open window. Sitting on the sill. Only inches away. Cocking their heads from side to side. Checking me out. The loud jays squawking. Turkeys calling and scratching. Deer moving through the thick swamp and my ears tracking them. Sticks snapping. Leaves crackling. Long snorts and short grunts. And then, if I am attentive and still, they come. Out of the tree trunks. Out of the dead cattails. Out of the brush. Brown against brown. White tails twitching. Big ears rotating round.

But some days there would be nothing. No animals or sound. Only the eerie stillness of the woods in waiting. The air cool and heavy. Tree limbs wiry against the white sky. Me alone there. Watching, as scattered flakes began to fall. And always, it made me smile. Because there is comfort in knowing that the world keeps on turning. That the sun will rise and fall. That life goes on. With its rain and wind. Heat and ice. And there is something especially lasting about the tiny flakes swirling round, as I look out my window right now. Hear Little Man running to the kitchen and S.B. calling to me, Honey! Breakfast is done!

~ K.J.
(copyright 2008 by K.J. Stevens)

Friday, November 14, 2008

an end

November 14th, 2008

9:34 am

Washing machine shaking. Wiggles singing on the television. Little Man singing and dancing along with them. Taking time to run down the hallway every two minutes to burst into the office and say HI DADDY, or RAAAAH, or PEEK-A-BOO! Already, we've played on bikes, raced around the remote control truck, ran around the back yard, checked the tire pressure and oil level in the pickup, checked the pipes under the house, did dishes, swept floors, taken care of the dogs and cats, and got the laundry going. And it's not even ten o'clock.

It is Friday. I feel like plopping on the couch. Shutting my eyes. Drifting away to la-la land. At least for a little while. But that's not an option. And there's no sense in doing nothing because when I do nothing I tend to think too much. And thinking is something I'd rather not do today.

Have been thinking too much for 35 years. I'd like to take a little vacation from it. Stop reading papers, watching news, reading books. Would like to stop watching good movies, listening to talk radio, and rummaging around the internet. Would like to go on sabbatical for a while. Hide away. Write. Take care of the family. Take care of myself. And emerge in two years. With a new book finished. Ready to participate in the world again.

But that's not reality. And it wouldn't do me much good to shut down for so long. So instead, I'm doing it little by little. Stealing away time throughout the week to sit here and write. Fighting to maintain balance. An alert mind. Clean spirit. Healthy lifestyle. So that I set an example for Little Man. Am a good, reliable husband for S.B..

This weekend will be three weeks since I've had a drink. Not a big deal, but another little step in the right direction. Craving a beer at two in the afternoon probably wasn't a good thing. And the longer you walk in a direction the harder it is to turn back, so I'm going to stick to this sobriety as long as I can. I'll never be a teetotaler. I will always appreciate a fine drink. But for now, especially this time of year when I used to spend so many evenings bellied up to the bar, it's important I keep clean.

I figured I was headed this way when I made the decision to commit to this new life. And little by little I've made the right steps. No more bars. No more late nights. More early mornings. Miles on the treadmill. Water in my body. Words in and out. And as I go about this path, I'm discovering the obvious. The more good you put in, the more good you get out. A no-brainer. But like I've said in the past, I have a tendency to learn the hard way.

This book, these blogs—A Year In This Life—will soon come to a close. Near the end of this month, I'll wrap up and get to the hard work of editing. This is not to say that I won't continue to write. I'll have to do that. But the next phase, the next book, may take another angle. Be stripped down. A little more raw.

In any case, I feel the closing of this book close at hand. Much like I feel the year, the season, this stretch of life coming to an end. There is more to come. There will be more to learn. To give. But I definitely feel the internal gears, as they click, engage, and begin the shift.

Best to you and yours.

~ K.J.

(copyright © 2008 by K.J. Stevens)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


November 12th, 2008

7:24 am

My Dad's birthday today. He's fifty-seven years young today. Boy, I'd like to be inside that mind as he goes about his day. Another one in a long line of days. A life filled with twists and turns, hardship and loss, but very good things too. A loving wife. Three decent kids. Two grandkids. A warm home on a fine piece of property on The Ridge. The place he and my Mom have called home since I was a baby.

He's done a lot, my Dad, and I am thankful for and appreciate the sacrifices he's made. It is something that is rare these days. People willing to sacrifice for the betterment of others. But he did it. Worked hard to find and stay on the right path. And even though he has much, it's from him that I learned the importance of the little things.

This is a while back. We were in his garage. Working on one thing or another. It's hard to keep track of all the things that have entered that garage broken, but come out not only fixed, but often times better than new. This thing, whatever it was, was giving us trouble. Not an easy fix. It was cold. The middle of winter. Wind hurling icy flakes. Drifts building up all around. The garage door open because we needed more light than the single shop light would give. Cold air chilling deep because the only heat we had was what we were making and losing under our coats. And there was Dad. His strong bare hands working against steel.

"Damn," it just won't budge, he said.

"Here, let me try."

And to my surprise, he stepped aside. Put his hands in his pockets.

"Have at her," he said.

This was new to me. Quite a surprise. In the past, all my offers to help had been dismissed. Not because he didn't believe I could help, but because he was always so focused, a man on a mission, wanting to get it done, get it done right, and get it done now. I stepped up to the shop table. Heaved on the metal. Gave it my best shot. Tried once more for good measure. Then stepped aside. I put my hands in my pockets.

"Sure is cold," I said.

I thought maybe this would prompt a break. A little time to duck into the house. Drink some coffee. Stand by the woodstove. Get warm.

"It's not too bad," he said.

Then we stood in silence. Dad just staring at that part. Whatever it was. Me looking around the garage. Filled side to side and bottom to top with all sorts of things. What it needed was a thorough cleaning. But Dad didn't and still doesn't have time to give it a thorough cleaning. He has long days that start early and end late. Working with machines and steel hour after hour. All day. Every day. Work that has forged his forearms into iron and made his grip as strong as a vise. What my Dad needed was for this old garage and everything in it to be torn down, thrown away, and for a grand new garage to be built in its place. One with insulation and storage compartments. One with bright lights and heat. And suddenly, I felt pretty damned awful. Disappointed that I hadn't done more in my life to help him out. All the fixing, time and effort that he put into that garage for us—his family—deserved more.

If we only had money, I thought. But the thing is, I didn't think it. I actually said it. Albeit quietly and to myself, but Dad had heard.

"What's that?" he asked.

"Oh, I was just thinking how much easier it would be if we had money. If we were rich. Then we wouldn't have to be out here in the winter and cold fixing another thing that's broken. We could be inside, where it's warm, doing something else. Somebody else could be doing the fixing for us."

"Yeah, but think of all those rich assholes that don't know how to fix anything," he said.

And just like that, everything was put back into perspective.

Dads, good Dads, have a way of doing that. And so he leaned over the workshop table, beared down with those iron forearms and that vise grip, and whatever it was we were working on gave way.

"Holy hell," I said. "You did it!"

He turned around. Smiled.

"Determination," he said. "That's all it takes."

"Determination," I said.

"Now," Dad said, "Let's take a break. Warm up by the woodstove and drink some coffee."

That's how it's supposed to be. In my world anyway. And that's what's helped me most recently. Being a new Dad. A new husband. My own little family, living miles away from The Ridge, as I go from day to day, trying to do the best I can, but always getting slowed by the little things. Broken pipes, bad wires, seized parts. And I can't help but think of my Dad. Every day. Especially when I'm out there in my own garage. Bearing down with determination. On whatever it is that needs to be fixed.

Thanks Dad, for setting me on the right path. Happy Birthday from all of us. Me, S.B., and Little Man.

~ K.J.

(copyright © 2008 by K.J. Stevens)

Monday, November 10, 2008

let it snow

November 10th, 2008
7:57 am
We were on our way into the big red store. Doing our part as consumers. About to begin our Christmas shopping. Even though Little Man hadn't napped and S.B. looked all business, I was looking forward to it. I love the holidays. Love 'em. I get excited. Look forward to spending time with family and friends. Look forward to Thanksgiving with its turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, pumpkin pie with whipped cream. And there's nothing better than following it up a month later with a good old fashioned dose of Christmas fever. Getting the tree. Decorating the house. Sharing presents and stories. Sitting around with people you care about and stuffing your piehole with whatever treat, snack, or food that's on hand. And though I'm not much into materialism, obtaining and accumulating things, I sure do like looking at stuff. Walking around instores, picking things off shelves, holding them in my hands and picturing people I know unwrapping them on Christmas Day.

“He makes me nervous when he doesn't nap,” I said.

S.B. patted her coat pocket.

“One sucker. One bag of fruit snacks.”

“Bribe treats. Good call,” I said.

As we walked, we could see that every other person in the Detroit Metro area had the same idea. The parking lot was packed. Cars whipped in and whipped out. People moved along like blind cows.

“Positivity,” I said. “Think positive, Stevens.”

It is hard sometimes. Moving around this place. The way people are so unaware of personal space, respect, common courtesey. It's frustrating at times. So much so, that it makes me want to pick up Little Man in my arms, have S.B. hop on my back, and both of them hold on as I charge like a bull through aisles.

“If you didn't want to go shopping...” S.B. started.

“No, no!” I said. “I'm looking forward to this. I love this time of year. And look at this!” I cheered, as I pointed to the icy flakes that had started to fall.

“Snow!” I said, “Snow!”

S.B. looked at me. Not as thrilled. Little Man gazed up at the heavy gray sky.

“Snow?” he said.

“Isn't it great? I love it! Love the snow! Come on, snow!”

I started to sing.

“Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful, and since we've no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...”

S.B.'s eyebrows raised.

“What?” I asked. “It's snowing! The first bactch of the year!”

“You act as if you've never seen snow before,” she said.

“Sheesh. Come on. It's great!”

She was still looking at me, and now she was biting her lip.

“So, what about that cart?” I asked, trying to change the subject, as we moved into the store.

S.B. leaned down to Little Man.

“Do you want to ride in the seat or in the basket part?”

“No cart!” he shouted, and he fell to his knees.

We stood in silence. Watching him. This was a delicate moment. A two-and-a-half year old on little sleep is like walking around with a pinless hand grenade glued to your backside. You just kinda move on, squinty-eyed, waiting for the thing to blow. Hoping that somehow you can survive.

S.B. reached into her pocket.

“Maybe if you're a good boy and you get into the cart, you'll get a surprise.”

He looked at me. I smiled. He looked at S.B., paid special attention to that hand moving around in her pocket.

“Prize?” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” I said. “But you need to get into the cart.”

This was it. Do or die. I reached down, picked him up, waited for the explosion, but it did not come.

“Cart,” he said. “Me in cart. Prize.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. S.B. handed him a sucker. And soon, we were our happy little selves. Moving along through aisles. Manuevering round the cows. Avoiding the places where they stood. Stupidly. Yacking on cell phones. Carts blocking aisles. And it was good. We didn't let them bother us. Little Man crunched through the sucker and moved on to the fruit snacks. S.B. surveyed for the place for the best gift ideas. And I kept my mouth shut. About the snow. About the holidays. And I did not sing much more. Only a little “It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...” as we walked into Christmas Land. All big trees and twinkling lights. Santas, snowmen and ornaments.

“It's too early for all of this,” she said.

“Yes, it is.”

“When it's like this so early, it kind of ruins it.”

She is right. It is too early for Christmas. It's been too early for about a month. Christmas popped up long before Halloween. It's a shame how corporations push it so much. Do their best to sneak the bucks out of us. And I guess maybe it's too early for snow. To be spending more time indoors. To be bundling up. To be worried about keeping warm. Saving on energy bills. Racking up Christmas presents on the credit card. But what can we do?

It's the great Amercian Dream. And the holiday season is upon us. Whether we like it
or not.

We finished our shopping just in time. Got a few gifts, into a short checkout line, and out of the store only moments before Little Man's meltdown. Yes indeed, our little pinless grenade finally went BOOM!

But that's okay. We had another fine day. One that darkened into night. Had all of us into our pajamas early. Reading books. Watching movies. Playing around. And there's really not much more you can ask for. Sure, you can always have more stuff.
You can always want more. But when it comes down to the important things, sometimes all you have to do is look around.

See your wife under the soft light as she sits and reads in the livingroom.

Hear your son laugh as his little feet run around the floor, happy just being a kid.

And peek out the window at a great wintry sky that's ready to blanket the world.

~ K.J.

(copyright © 2008 by K.J. Stevens)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

another day

November 9th, 2008

8:28 am

It was about this time of the year. Seventeen years ago. Walking with Professor Philips across the campus of Alpena Community College. When he told me how hard it was going to be. That if done right, it would be years and years of work, work, and more work. And then all that work guaranteed nothing. It was not easy to get published, and even if a writer was lucky enough to get his words in print, it was unlikely he could make money at it.

"Technical writing," he said.


"Technical writing. That's a good way for a writer to make a living. It can be very lucrative."

"Technical writing," I said.

The leaves had gone yellow. Most had already found their way to the ground. Students were bundled up, fighting the icy Lake Huron air.

"It's clear you are talented and that you have passion," he said. "But talent and passion can only take you so far. It's best if you have something to fall back on."

"Fall back on?" I said. "I don't want to fall back on anything."

He stopped. Took off his glasses. Cleaned the lenses with a yellow handerchief.

"That's the same thing my son says."

I looked across campus. Men and women. Boys and girls. All of them prepping for something. To be nurses at the local hospital. Utility workers. Machinists. Automotive technicians. Teachers. Computer gurus. Engineers. I knew very few that wanted to be writers. There were journalism students, of course. There are always journalism students. But I didn't see much sense doing something that anybody could do with eyes and ears, a pad of paper and pen.

"The thing is, I don't want to spend time preparing for something I might do. I want to prepare for something I am going to do."

He smiled. Put on his glasses.

"You will always write," he said. "Anyone can see that. It's in your blood. But even the best writers fail. There are many more creative writers struggling to make ends meet than technical writers."

"Technical writers," I said.

"Or journalism!" Philips added. It was an excited afterthought. Something he believed might lure me in, as he knew my affinity for Hemingway.

"Hem wrote for the Kansas City Star!" he said.

It was no use. Mr. Philips knew how it would be and there was no getting around it. I was full of hope. Full of myself. Absolutely positive that all I would ever have to do would be to write and write well for as many days of my life as possible. Do what I loved and that everything else would follow.

And a lot has followed, but I'm still not content. I don't think I'll ever be content. I am happy. At the best place in my life I've ever been. Beautiful, smart witty wife. Curious, loving kid. Dopey unconditional love in the form of our dogs and cats. This great small house. Full of respect, fun, and kindness. The kitchen full of sound this morning. S.B. listening to the radio, clinking and clanging pots and pans. Little Man chattering on about everything that's coming to life in his imagination these days. And the smell of bacon slowly pulling me away from this morning's dose of self love.

I wonder what old Philips is up to this morning. A Sunday in Northern Michigan. Cold. Leaves falling. Creative juices simmering. Probably writing. Chopping away at a novel. Putting together a short story. Penning his memoir. Or maybe he's sleeping. Heck, I don't know. I get these notions. Ideas. Develop these beliefs, but so much of it is rooted in the blurry spot between reality and fiction that it's hard to know what's true anymore.

At one time in my life, I thought I had a line on this writing thing. And it started with that Philips conversation. I believed that it was much easier and simpler than everyone made it out to be. But now that I'm in it. Farther into it than I ever thought I would be, I see that it's something you can never win-out at. It is like marriage, and it is an ultimate commitment. You are either in it or you're not. And as much as you care and hope and laugh and kiss and hug and exerience great things, it is not easy. All you can do is not enough. And the only comfort you can ever get is the comfort you create.

Know where you've been. Be thankful of where you're at. And remember why you are in it at all.

It is for her. For him. And for you.

Dear Mr. Stevens,

Thank you for your submission and for your patience with the delay in our response. We are a new agency that has been overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response of the writing community. Unfortunately, your work is not a good fit for us. We simply could not connect with the style of your sentences. We appreciate your time and effort and would enjoy hearing from you regarding future projects. Hopefully, you will find an agent who connects with your work and will be able to represent you passionately shortly. We wish you good luck in all of your future endeavors. We are honored that you thought of us. Once again, we are so sorry for the delay.


Alyssa Morris


BLISS Literary Agency International

1601 N. Sepulveda Boulevard, 389

Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

No matter how many rejection letters, setbacks, and failures we encounter, there's no sense in turning back. Giving up. Walking away. It is about commitment. Bucking up and doing the right thing. And the right thing isn't always easy.

To the few faithful out there, those of you tuning in, fighting the good fight, keeping at this keepin' on, thank you.

Here's to another good day. Chin up. Eyes and ears alert. Keep steady and straight, and keep aim.

~ K.J.

(copyright © 2008 by K.J. Stevens)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

four o'clock mornings

November 8th, 2008

8:26 am

My four o' clock mornings are coming. Like my Dad. Up early, even if he's tired. Sick. Even if it's a weekend and there's no reason to get up. It's coming, I can feel it. Already, it's kicking in about five-thirty or six. And there I am. In bed. Head ready and raring to go, even though there is little I can do so early. There is this, the writing, but usually my six in the morning thinking isn't the stuff good literature is made of. So I stay in bed. Roll over. Wrap my arms around S.B. and revel in the warmth. My dearest one. Sleeping.

But soon it will get the best of me. And I'll have to do something. Maybe I'll write, even if it is not good writing. And maybe I'll start calling my Dad. I'm sure he'll be up. Reading the paper. Doing chores. Gazing out the window. And then both of us can not think about it together. That thing that wakes a man so early. Keeps him alert. Solemn and aware of all that's gone, is now, and to come.

Feels like snow today. This is not likely to happen. But the feeling's still here. Easing up my back. Into my shoulders. Sinking into my chest. There is snow up there. Somewhere. And it won't be long before I'm shoveling. Scraping. Clearing paths. Should be a fun winter. Lots is store for all of us. Little Man growing so much, adding more fun to the days. I hope we're able to spend as much time outside in the winter as we do now. It's so important for kids to be outside. When I was a kid, we spent more time outdoors than we did indoors. Except for sleep. And then, when we were indoors we played. Boy did we play. Football in the hallway. Jumping on the beds. Race car tracks. Lincoln logs. Good old crayons and construction paper. Sure, we watched television. Saturday morning cartoons. The Super Friends Hour, The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Hour, The Smurfs. And we even had a video game. The Arcadia 2001. A neat little game that we sometimes played, but for some reason, more often than not, we'd set it aside to head outdoors.

Maybe it was just us. Me and my brothers needing room to run. Trees to climb. Dirt to play in. Bikes to ride. Critters to find. More likely, it was the time. We were encouraged to get out there, go play! Now, there are loads of parents sticking there kids in front of the TV. Stockpiling them with video games. Plugging them into the internet. Or not paying attention at all. After all, they have high-dollar careers, and their own lives to live.

And so, we wonder. Where is the disconnect? How is this happening? Why aren't we close to our kids?

It's because we've lost touch with our roots. The basics. The place we've come from. Call it God, Nature, Fire, Water, Air, Dust, The Earth. Call it whatever you want, but we're all from it. It's in us. At the center. Our core. And when it's neglected we get off track. Out of balance. And we start thinking ME instead of the everything else we should be.

But it's not my place to say how anyone should live. Breathe. Raise their kids. It is survival of the fittest. Good over evil. And waking every day with an aim on good solid homegrown intentions. Feet planted squarely on the earth. One in front of the other. Fighting to maintain a strong will. To learn and grow. Love enough to leave a lasting imprint upon this big wide world. Even if it only comes like this. Little words. From bed to fingers to keys.

My four o' clock mornings are coming. I'll be up early. Even if I'm tired. Sick. Most definitely if it's a weekend. Because there's always a reason to get up. Get the motor running. Especially when it is always here. The slight ache. Easing up my back. Into my shoulders. Sinking into the hollow. Deep into my chests. To let me know there's snow up there. That the big one's coming. That I need to get shoveling and scraping. Doing whatever's necessary to keep this path clear.

~ K.J.

(copyright © 2008 by K.J. Stevens)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

we did

November 5th, 2008

7:44 am

We are up and we are at it. Sun rising through cool clear skies. Soft light on leaves so that our yard is bursting with trees of gold. It is a new day. With autumn to breathe. Summer to remember. Winter on its way. And spring, always there. Over the dark horizon. With new life, just below the surface, fighting to survive.

And that's what keeps us ticking. Tired feet over the edge of the bed. And one in front of the other, as we do our part to take care. Of this great gift we've been given. Of all that surrounds.

There is much in this waking. This time of change. But what it comes down to are the basics. Needs that must be met before we can ever rest. Find that small space of peace at the end of the longest day. When we can exhale. Relax. Let limbs of worry fall away. And simply be. Part of this big thing. Ashes and dust. Heart and hope. Beginnings and endings. Round and round. Over and over again.

Little Man upstairs. Still enjoying the warmth of covers.

S.B. in her long coat. Wrapped up beautifully, a present for our daily discovery. On her way to work. To teach and inform. Guide and inspire.

And these words. Here for the taking, or for the leaving. But here all that same.

It will be a fine day.

But there is not much new to report from the Garden City. Just more of the same. Rising as best we can. Reaching. Keeping at the keepin' on. A mantra. A way of life. A personal code. One based on the maintenance of a solid foundation. One based on learning and growth—strengthening the core.

A man. A woman. A child. Days of work. Days of play. All of us aimed at perfecting the imperfections of family life that make the commitment and journey worthwhile.

"He's a good boy," the old woman said. She was cute with her thin face. Bright eyes. Poofy white hair. Providing voter information and handing out stickers.

She plucked a sticker off a roll and put it on Little Man's hand.

"Oh, nice!" he said.

"What a good boy," she said, as she looked at him.

"So far, so good," I said, as I filled in blanks. Name, address, date of birth.

"No, he's a good one," she said. "He'll always be good. You'll see."

"Well, thank you!" said S.B.. "That's very nice of you to say."

The old lady patted Little Man on the arm. Smiled. And it looked like she wanted to hug him.

It's okay. Go ahead and hug him.

That's what I wanted to say. Because I could see her wanting it. Julian waiting. And I knew what it was like to want to just hug a kid sometimes. Out of the blue. For no reason at all. But it did not come. The moment passed. It was election day after all. Serious business. Right and left. Red and blue. And the line needed to keep moving.

"Bye!" Little man cheered to her, as we walked into official voting room. A middle school library with cardboard dividers on tables to serve as voting booths.

"Bye, bye, honey," she said.

The three of us settled. Little Man playing with his yo-yo. Me and S.B. with our ballots and pens. And as soon as it started, it was over. We had inked the dots. Made our decisions. And then we were on our way to the store. To find coats for winter. We hunted until we found the best deals. Parted with the hard earned cash. Then made our way to the Red Robin. A place none of us had ever been. We ate burgers and fries. Drank water. Talked about our day. S.B. riding high from a teacher's conference at Cobo Hall. Inspired by the key note speaker. Looking forward to the next day. Back at school. To implement new ideas, a fresh approach. And me, giddy for having finished my first story in months. The words started, middled with, and ended. Now awaiting the final draft. And Little Man amazed at airplanes going round and round and round near the ceiling.

"Airplane fly! Airplane fly! Airplane fly!" he said again and again.

"Yes, airplanes," we said.

And we ended our meal. Paid the bill. Got into the truck to get back home. The place we leave time and time again, but are always so happy to come back to. Little Man played until it was time for bed. S.B. showered and then we relaxed on the couch. Watched a movie. Talked. Listened. Until the credits rolled, we said our good-nights and S.B. went off to bed.

"Wake me when you come to bed," she said. "Let me know what happened."

"I will," I said.

We hugged. I stretched out on the couch. Moved from channel to channel watching history unfold. Feeling good. Not because there was more of one color than another. But because the age old process was working. People lined up. Volunteering. Participating. Doing their best. Getting involved. And it made me remember how happy I am to be part of this. Our little country, our little state, our little city, our little neighborhood, our little family. That is together. Fighting the good fight. Working for good. So that there are days like this for everyone.

All of us. Up and at it. Rising like the sun through cool clear skies. Soft light on leaves so that the morning is bursting with trees of gold. Another new day. With autumn to breathe. Summer to remember. Winter on its way. But spring, always here. Over the dark horizon. With new life, just below the surface, fighting to survive.

And that's what keeps us ticking. Tired feet into bed. Under the covers. To rest and be strong. Do our part to take care. Of this great gift. Of all that surrounds.

I shook S.B. lightly. She raised her curly head. I kissed her warm cheek.

"Who won?" she asked.

And no matter the results, I couldn't help thinking WE did.

~ K.J.

(copyright © 2008 by K.J. Stevens)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

with words

November 1st, 2008

11:17 am

Little Man up before seven this morning. Rousing me from bed. We let S.B. sleep in, though I doubt she did much sleeping. Not with Little Man watching cartoons. Demanding peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast. And me doing morning chores. Now we are all up and at it. S.B. reorganizing the kitchen. Little Man in and out of tantrums all morning. Still reeling from his exciting night of trick-or-treating. Filled with goblins, ghosts, and ghouls. Eerie sounds. Shadows. Walking long stretches. From house to house to house.

He did a fine job. Had lots of fun. Did not fuss or get scared or overwhelmed. He was pretty keyed up last night when we got home. Was hardly settled down by the time he went to bed. Did not wake once during the night. But was sure to get at it early this morning. Bags under his eyes. Sugar still coursing through his veins. Rising to great fits of activity and then crashing into fits of screaming and tears. Right now, he is trying to settle down before lunch and before nap. Watching cartoons.

The family life goes on and on. A great ride of stable uncertainty. Every day the same, but very different from the next. My only constant these days is the load of cat poop I get to clean up off the floor every morning. Cabby, our 307 year old cat is showing signs of senility and old age, but there's a good chance she'll outlast me. I'll be 73 years old. On my deathbed. And there will be Cabby. Sitting on the floor next to me. All creaking bones and hollow meow. Leaving a load of crap on the floor. A little gift for me to take off into the great unknown.

But so it goes in the Stevens household. Another beautiful day in The Garden City. Leaves fluttering down. Sunshine blazing in the clear blue sky. All of us on the up and up with Little Man's nap time not far away.

I think it would be a good day for us to nap too. Me and S.B.. Get some shut eye. Recharge. Ease away the residual early morning tension. And rest side by side with white light easing through the windows. But it's hard to tell. Too early to see. Anything can happen between now and then. Maybe the best thing for me to do would be to write. Keep my keester on this chair. Fingers to these keys. And finish a damned story.

Last night. I was on the couch. Trying to decompress. Reading Rolling Stone Magazine. S.B. was next to me, at the book shelf. Looking at something.

"Hey honey?" I said.


"Take a look at that Big Fish book."

She picked it up.


"What's that writer's name?"

"Wallace," she said.


"Nope, this is Dan."

"Okay, thanks. Nevermind."

"What?" she asked.

"Well, this Wallace here..." I pointed to the article I was reading, " dead. Hanged himself."

"Oh great," she said.

S.B. I think, thinks I'm smarter, brighter, more darkly intelligent than I am. That maybe I contain some of these demons and struggles that these other writers have. And since so many of us have whacked ourselves out, I suspect she sometimes wonders if I'll go nuts, feel bad and sour enough to do it as well.

"No, not me, honey. Besides, this guy here was a genius, they say. The greatest literary talent of our generation."

"I've never heard of him," she said.

"Me neither. That's how good he must have been."

But then again, I've been out of the literary loop for years. If I ever was in it. I suppose the closest I ever really got was a bit of correspondence with Dave Shaw, meeting and corresponding with Stuart Dybek, and taking the necessary literature courses in college. And getting plowed night after night. After writing for hours on end, day after day. Believing I was the next Roethke, Wolff, or Hemingway. Lots of delusional nights with my trusty, sober sidekick, Mulhauser, carting my ass around.

But anyway, this Wallace character was dark, but lovable. An underrated genius battling depression that somehow made it 46 years in this rough and tumble life and then decided to hang himself.

"Why on earth plug away at it for forty-six years and then decide to cash out?" I asked.

S.B. put her hands on my shoulders.

"I don't know honey. Why do it at all?"

And I thought of Hem. Sixty-one years old. Sitting in that room. Shotgun aimed at his head.

"It must get really bad," I said.

"It must."

And I set aside the article. Decided not to finish it. Not last night. Not today. Maybe never at all. Because it does get bad. It has been bad. And there's no use going to a dark place when what we should be doing is all we can to help the ones we love keep their heads above water. Feet on the ground. Fingers away from the trigger.

Damned writers. What a bunch of nuts.

There is a mystique about writers that off themselves. An awe and curiosity about those that choose to take leave on their own terms. But it is undeserved. Too many literary greats have been born out of selfishness. Too many of these supposed geniuses have not been smart enough to keep themselves alive.

But I did not always think this way.

When I was consumed with consumption. Filled with finding fame. Out of love.

Oh, how things have changed.

Life is serious business. There's no getting around that. And I still believe, as Hem once said, that we are bitched from the start. But the greatest thing about this life is that we can turn things around. It is up to us to raise our heads. Pull our feet out of the muck. And move on. Because even though life does not wait and does not care, the people around us do. Our wives and kids. Moms and Dads. Brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles. Dogs and cats. They all care. And there is always another day. Sure, everyone's clock is running out, and we can never know when the big ax will come swinging round, but why not buck up, get straight, and run strong? Like a bull. Right to the end.

I don't know that I'll ever read David Wallace. I do know that I'm not going to run out and by his book because he killed himself. Sure, I feel for him. For his family. Friends. All those lives he touched and that are better because of him. But what has he taught us? What was the great lesson to be learned by this parting on his own terms? What does it say to people with depression? To people who have hard lives? To people that struggle each and every day simply to rise up and get their legs over the edge of the bed?

I guess what I would have rather read last night and carried on into this day and those that follow was a story. A bright shining moment in literature and life instead of an article about this generation's greatest literary talent. A man that didn't have enough sense to pull up. Stop. Take a breath. And work a pen in his hand or his fingers at the keys, instead of a knotting a rope around his neck.

But so it goes. I'm getting old. Tuning out, but tuning it. Honing my survival skills. A little at a time. Every day. With this simple act. A man working away at the bad in this world.

With words.

I am not our generation's great literary talent. I'm not a genius. And not really that smart at all. But I know enough to keep at it. Not for me, but for those that I love. So that all of us can keep on keepin' on.

~ K.J.

(copyright © 2008 by K.J. Stevens)