Accepting

I’ve read countless memoirs and interviewed dozens of people about their journey but none have been as honest, conflicted and raw as Acceptance by Emi Nietfeld.  Her story is marked with countless issues and circumstances that she has had to overcome and her book looks to reconcile them in the context of a culture that likes these stories told in a very particular way.

Her experience in crafting her college essay is particularly telling.…


Enthusiasm

My best friend left me a voicemail message recently. He mentioned a book he had been reading, A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. It suggested that we shouldn’t take any action that’s not aligned with acceptance, enjoyment or enthusiasm.

In reflecting on those three feelings, it got me thinking, “What am I enthusiastic about?”

Enthusiasm is defined as an intense and eager enjoyment or interest. Its origin is from the Greek word, enthousiazein meaning to ‘be inspired or possessed by a god.’…


Queens

Much has been made about the extraordinary amount of attention and coverage given to the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. On one hand, she was probably the most famous person on the planet. On the other, some would say she had, at best, a symbolic role in the world and at worst what she symbolized was colonialism.

Like most of us, she wore many hats – albeit one of hers was literally a heavy crown.…


Back-to-School

My children have always loved back-to-school shopping. There is something about the idea of having a list of school supplies and wandering through a stationary store checking off boxes that brings them a strange combination of excitement and satisfaction.

As a writer I can identify with the love of pencils, paper and such.

So there we were scuffling through Staples searching for the perfect sized post it notes or a pencil case that was both stylish (one picked out a furry cat – rather kitschy) and functional (dividers or pockets seem key.)…


Map?

Recently, my wife and I took our daughter to see Dear Evan Hansen. I had seen the musical before with my oldest daughter, watched the movie and listened to the soundtrack hundreds of times with my family who love the music.

Seeing it again live was to restore its power in my mind – power that was diluted by the repeated listening and sing-a-longs on car rides.…


Friends

When I was young, I spent most of my time with friends. As a latchkey kid, I was told to get outside in the morning and wouldn’t return until dinner or after – depending on whether my mom was working that night. As I got older, I hung out with friends after school, after practice or after work – whatever would get me out of my trailer home.…


Take

Last week while walking my dog, I noticed what I thought was one of those awesome free standing “Lending Library” kiosks.

However as I approached, I saw that this one did not include a single book. Rather, it was filled with canned goods and other non-perishable food items. The sign at the top read, “Take What You Need.”

The presence of such a structure was both a sign of our difficult economic times and a refreshing public display of community kindness.…


See

Marcel Proust once wrote, “The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of Eternal Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is…”

He is writing about the role artists play in society in a chapter perhaps appropriately named, The Prisoner.


Graduating

Last year, I was honored to deliver the commencement address at my alma mater, Penn State.  It was held in Beaver Stadium, where over 100,000 fans stream in each Saturday during football season.

The students graduating that day would go out into an uncertain world.  A pandemic still wore on, the country and specifically their state was deeply divided.  

Yet they were graduating with a college degree and into a strong job market.…


More

I knew what I wanted to write about on Tuesday. I am still not sure what I have to say.

Speechless and helpless are two natural reactions when the same thing happens over and over again and you are at a loss for what to do about it.

If you read the number 19,  you know exactly what I’m talking about.  But let us not forget the two – teachers who died in the line of fire.…


Ride

It was an especially hectic weekend. On top of the standard travel soccer chaos, there was also a band/chorus concert and tech week for one of my daughter’s theater groups.  All of this was compounded by the fact that my wife was away on a well-deserved, but ill-timed, girls’ weekend. I was flying solo.

We had managed the first three days quite well, due in large part to some good planning and even better temperament from my three daughters. A…


Promise

Over the last week, I attended concerts for two of my children. Both are in band, one is also in chorus. In an auditorium packed with proud parents, I doubt that I was alone in marveling at how these 12 and 14 year olds had become such accomplished musicians. They had surpassed my own musicality years ago.

Similarly as I watch all three of my children on the soccer pitch, I must acknowledge that they shortly will become more skilled at their sports than I ever was at mine.…


Soccer

I coach all three of my daughters’ travel soccer teams. Between practices and games, I will spend almost twenty hours a week on a soccer field. This doesn’t include traveling to and from games or any of the administrative headaches that come with the gig.

It can be very stressful getting kids ready, out the door and on time. Each team has had their share of growing pains.…


Belief

What or who do you believe in?

Beliefs can be a tricky thing. We all have them, in fact hold them dearly. Yet seldom do we explicitly state or share them. More often, beneath the surface, they inform, influence or dictate many of our actions.

Beliefs, according to the Oxford dictionary, can be defined in two ways:
One is “an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.”…


Educated

In her 2018 memoir, Educated, Tara Westover, shared her incredible life story. She told of being raised by survivalist parents who did not permit her to go to school or see a doctor. In spite of it all and the accompanying trauma, she went on to go to Brigham Young University (her first class there was her first experience in a classroom) and then on to Oxford University and ultimately becoming a bestselling author.…


Rich

Rules for a Knight by Ethan Hawke is a charming and wisdom filled slim book. It is written as a letter that one of his ancestors left his children before heading off to a battle from which he was unsure to return. He shares twenty values that his children should live by – if they wish to be a noble knight like himself. Within each there is a brief fable that illustrates the value in practice.…


Experiment

There is a passage in Richard Power’s thought-provoking new novel, Bewilderment, that I find myself returning to again and again.

It describes an epiphany of sorts he has when considering his son and the undiagnosed mental health issues he is dealing with. He writes:

“Watching medicine fail my child, I developed a crackpot theory: Life is something we need to stop correcting. My boy was a pocket universe I could never hope to fathom.…


Kindness

What is the relationship between kindness and success?  Some might suggest that to be successful we must, to some extent anyways, be driven, achievement oriented, perhaps even a little selfish. You know the old adage, “Nice guys finish last.”

I recently stumbled upon some old research that debunks that thinking.

In this study, kindergarten teachers measured their students across a host of “kindness” metrics – such as “shares materials” and “is helpful to others.”…


Rejection

I have kept a file of all the rejection letters I’ve ever received. Two novels, dozens of short stories, even several poems all rejected by one agent, publisher or publication or another. In my emails, there are probably thousands of other examples of my ideas or proposals being turned down. Of course, there are also those instances where I never even received a reply. This says nothing of the slew of personal rejections that have amassed between my socially awkward high school years until I met and married my lovely wife.…


Struggle

We often romanticize the idea of struggling. We believe that some struggle on the way to achieving any desired outcome is somehow noble or part of how our character is forged.

But to see anyone, especially a loved one, truly struggle, is heart wrenching.  When I say truly struggle, I mean in the strict definition of the word, “to make strenuous or violent efforts in the face of difficulties or opposition.”    …


Laughter

When I was young, I would often wait until the precise moment when my sister had a mouthful of cereal before unleashing something silly or ridiculous. My only goal was to create sufficient laughter to cause the milk in her mouth to shoot out of her nose.  I was remarkably successful.

Growing up, I would often take any proverbial stage in an effort to make others laugh. …


Brothers

I recently finished reading the Booker Prize winning novel Shuggie Bain.  It was an especially difficult read as it conjured up memories from my own childhood that I don’t often like to revisit.  A time when my mother’s struggles dominated our life.

If there was a silver lining in this brilliant but bleak book, it was to serve as a reminder of the absolutely pivotal role my brother has played in my life.


Grandma

In conjunction with Women’s History Month, my 11 year old daughter came home from school with an assignment to write a paper about a female member of her family that was no longer with us.

She chose her great grandmother, whom she never had the chance to meet but shares a middle name.

As part of this assignment she had to interview at least two members of our family who knew Nana using a series of questions supplied by her teacher.…