Sunday, November 25, 2012

writer’s block 8:06 am Thanksgiving’s been made into soup. Winter’s come out of nowhere. Snow blower’s been dusted off. Shovel has been put into action. We are in it. No getting around it. So, instead of pissing and moaning, it’s time to make the best of it. Pull kids in the sled. Round the block. Round the back yard. Until a few more snows. When I’ll push the Tecumseh-driven snow beast back-and-forth to get as much of the yard’s snow into one big sloping pile. So Oogie and Little Man will have their very own sledding hill. Half tank of gas. An hour of work. A few trial runs to pack things down and make sure everything is in proper working order for the kiddos. And the dynamic duo will be happy and smiling. And Daddy will be the hero. The man. Their BFF. The provider of all that is good. Until, of course, Oogie refuses to move out of Little Man’s way. He flattens her like a Zamboni over a marshmallow. Or she throws snow into his face. Or he pushes her over. Or…It could be any number of things and then, at once, I’m not a very nice guy. Breaking up the fight. Hammering home rules. Telling them things they don’t want to hear because they just want to do things their way and have fun. And so it goes. Over and over again. Kids and playing and fighting and parents trying to help them understand the things we must be able to do to function at least half-assed in this society. But we didn’t wake and make way to the basement with our coffee for this. We came down here because this—unfortunately—is a case of writer’s block. And it is what we need to do to get moving onto other things. Like picking a title for the new book. The one I’ve been working on for longer than I can admit. A collection of work that is not only mine but that also belongs to four other writers that were gracious enough to let me use their writing for this project. This will be the first publication that is a direct result of our new efforts at Horsefeathers Studio. We will sell the books at the shop, but they will also be available at other stores and online. But all of that is to come. For now, it’s that elusive title. And the novel I’m working on. And the work we have to do at the shop to get the doors open to the public. The wood I’ve got to split. The trim in the hallway. The wall in the kitchen. And the fact that it’s Sunday and all I really want to do is stay inside. Drink warm drinks. Eat sweets. Play board games with the kids. And write. But all of that is hard to do when I know that there are plenty of people out there that haven’t got a pot to piss in. Didn’t even have Thanksgiving. And that playing in the snow with kids doesn’t sound like all that much fun when you’re living in it every day. Shit indeed does happen. People end up in bad places through bad choices, bad upbringings, and bad luck. But all I ever think when I see someone that needs help is that person is somebody’s kid. I don’t care who is at fault. That could be my Little Man. My Oogie. And their place in life could ultimately be the result of something I cannot see. So, you push past the fear. Don’t get too drawn up into the hurt. You pick them up. Dust them off. And help them. In whatever way you can. At least for a little bit. To get inside. For warm drinks. Sweets. So they can get fueled back up and tackle that big snowy hill again. Until fight or fate or bad choices send them over the top or back down again. It doesn’t matter really as long as they are given a chance. But that’s just me. Getting too deep. Too early. On a Sunday morning. Smack dab in the middle of a life that I’m thankful for, aware of, but that I sometimes do not believe I deserve. Especially when I can sit here in the basement. Sip coffee. Eat the best damned breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had (Thanks, S.B.). Hear my kids thumping around upstairs, playing. While I wrestle with a case of writer’s block. Best, ~ K.J.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

a shine

a shine Missing sunrises and sunsets. So, it is the season for making my own light. Creating spark. Finding flame. Doing what it takes so these days that seem so much the same are broken apart. Bit by bit. And I put a shine to the everyday moments. Seven-forty-five. Thanksgiving morning. In the basement. Dim bulb. Our adopted stray crunching cat food. Hum of the computer. Java hitting the bloodstream. Fingers to the keys. S.B.’s just got up. And now, I listen for my favorite sounds. Their little feet. Out of bed. Across the hardwood floor. Their Good Mornings and the start of another day. And our third Thanksgiving in Alpena. The place where we started. Took root. Then broke away from long enough so we could come back with direction. Intention. A heavy dose of follow through. We live a good life. We’ve got the basics—roof, clothes, food and health—but we have worked for and received much more. And so, as often as we can, we try to give back. Because when you have kids the one thing you should want them to hear—even though they cannot yet understand it—is how good they have it. They are not hand pumping water from an icy well in the middle of winter to heat for potato soup. They are not shitting in buckets. Sleeping on the floor. They are not huddled together. Hiding and scared in the dark. Wondering why their parents fight so much. Instead, they are cozy. Well-fed. Have nice bedrooms. Decent clothes. Books, movies, toys. Love without bounds. And they know that some kids don’t have as much. That people don’t always do the right things. And that even though we have stuff and we have each other, it’s most important that we reach out. To pick up trash that isn’t ours. Take in strays. Buy toys for tots. Pay a stranger’s bill at the check out. And move through this world guided by the will to give more than we receive. I’ve been missing sunrises and sunsets. But that’s okay because this is the season for making our own light. Creating spark. Finding flame. Doing what it takes so these days that seem so much the same are broken apart. Bit by bit. And we are putting a shine to the everyday moments. Happy Turkey Day. ~ K.J.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


It’s more than selling books. I know this because I just had an event—a signing at a winery where I sold plenty of books—and didn’t break even. It wasn’t until the next day, when I sold a few more books to people that felt guilty for not going to the signing, that I was able tally up the total and feel a little better because finally we were in the black. Up twelve bucks. But all of this—the signing, being up a dozen dollars—seems silly now. It is Tuesday night. The event has passed. The sky is bright with stars. S.B. has candles lit all over the house. Nobody is Cutting Teeth. And I’ve had just enough aiming fluid so that now I’m ready to take a shot. At ignorance. Infomercials. The death of customer service. But I know that doing this—focusing on low-hanging fruit—is like shooting fish in a barrel. And we already have enough of that. Flip through the channels. Watch the news. Listen to cubicle conversations and pop radio. Don’t think. Don’t fight. Just do what you’re told. Push on through the days. Safe. Blind. Timid. Make ends meet. Or better yet, live comfortably. Subscribe to someone else’s beliefs—King James, Muhammad, Buddha, your Husband—and complain about how you’re a victim. Because the way of life you wanted so badly is not there for you. It did not come through in a Red upset. It is not there in a Blue victory. And the worst part of all is that you cannot find meaning in anything because you’ve never been brave enough to think on your own. And brevity is the lifeblood of the spirit. That undeniable, inexplicable thing that drives us each day to put one foot in front of the other and keep at this keeping on. Because it is more than selling books. Tuesday nights. And events that have passed. It is much, much more than that. And the trick to getting there—to having IT—is to be unafraid. Aim truly. And be willing to take a shot. ~ K.J.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

fighting battles that matter Too much going on. To take a break. Throw jabs. Get caught up in banter. Especially when reactions are as predictable as I believed they would be. Fear. Oh, the fear. It’s enough to make a man stay home and collect hand outs. Cling to the Bible. Or stock up on guns. All because the way it should be—mapped out in his head over years of ethnocentricity—has got him believing it’s him against the world. “I’m proud of you,” I said to my six-year-old son. A boy, by the way, who is half-Ecuadorian. Not mine by the laws of Nature. But more part of me than my own arms and legs. Thoughts. Dreams. This writing. “For what?” he said. He was on the couch. Watching cartoons. Coming down from a day at Ella White Elementary that I know is harder and more complex than anything I do at my job selling conveyors from a cubicle on 2nd Avenue in Downtown Alpena. “For being good at school. For listening to Mrs. Hunter. For paying attention.” He smiled. I picked him up. Kissed his forehead and hugged him. “Stop,” he said. But then he hugged back. Tight. For ten seconds. Twenty. Then sixty. Maybe more. “I love you, buddy,” I said. “I’m proud of you.” “Thank you, Daddy,” he said. And there is this moment when I’m holding him. When his head is buried into my shoulder and I can feel him smiling that it makes me realize how simple it is. Love. Help. Protect him. And listen to the small unexpected moments. Because sooner than later, they’ll be gone. I cannot fathom how fortunate I am that this boy—a kid who could have ended up a lifetime away at the equator—is my son. That his real dad does not call or visit or even send money. And that there is anyone in this world that would choose to miss out. On his smile. His laugh. His potential. The chance to help something so small in this little town grow. And learn to appreciate things that matter in this big, big world. Like taking a break. Even when there is too much going on. To throw jabs. Be unafraid. Get caught up in banter. Especially when reactions are predictable. Fueled by fear. And a man is made by fighting battles that matter. ~ K.J.

Monday, November 5, 2012

earth bound

earth bound Storm windows secured. Holes plugged. Cracks caulked. Firewood split. Day after day. Cold mornings. And colder nights. And the long stretch of unforgiving gray is building up over the horizon. So that soon it will be here to stay. And we will add more to the long list that grows longer each day. Bundle the kids. Scrape windows. Salt the walk. Move the snow. Haul wood. And above all, keep warm. So the cold does not drive Northern Michigan’s Winter straight through skin and muscle to the bone. To the place where cold can ache long enough—deep enough—that it can take root and cause irreparable harm. So it is important. To remain focused. Dedicated. Strong. To forget the comfort of dark drinks in dark bars. Grease-heavy meals. And the familiar electricity of unfamiliar touch. Because as lasting as these things can seem to be when you are so far from them, they are the same things that stop men dead in their tracks. Over and over again. A man cannot reach great heights when he is afraid of being earth bound. So, he must carry all the gifts he’s been giving—the kids, the windows, the walk, the snow, the wood—as if they are most precious things he will ever hold. And if he is able to do this—all the while being as strong and patient as he can—he will make it through. Embrace the loneliness of the day after day. The cold mornings. And colder nights. And the long stretch of unforgiving gray that builds over the horizon will be as welcome as sunrise over Lake Huron. Just another moment to be thankful for in a list that’s growing shorter each day. ~ K.J. (share as you like)