Tuesday, May 26, 2015


     At some point, your kids stop being little kids and become different kids. At some point, you stopped being a little kid and became a different kid. The things that were so dear to you just fade away. My kids used to play all day on this swing-set. Now it sits behind our garage to make room for the trampoline, which will make room someday for more overgrown grass. I don't like it at all...this kinetic transition from the beauty of childhood to the beauty of being an adult.

     Me and Andy used to make these carnival rides in my back yard out of the swing-set and the "Old Blue Elephant" slide. We would charge people because we were opportunists, but we also profoundly loved laughter. We wanted to create something that made other kids laugh. At the time, neither of us were laughing much.

     I write a lot about the passing of time. I've written several short stories about the experience of Earth without people, after everyone is dead. The topic is interesting to me because we have all felt the feeling of taking things for granted. "You don't know what you've got til it's gone," is a central theme of every tragedy. I think this fascination of mine has to do with the transition of time and the speed in which it goes. It's too fast.

     When I was a kid, I couldn't wait to be in fifth grade so I could be a safety. When I was in seventh grade, I couldn't wait to be in high school. When I was in high school, I couldn't wait to get my driver's license. When I became an adult, I couldn't wait to get it all back.

    It's hard to grow up. Things get better and worse. I've got a wonderful wife and beautiful children, but lost much of my childhood and adult life to death. You succeed, but regress. Life is cruel, but life is beautiful.

     Every moment I get to spend with my family is perfect. Watching my kids grow is both the most rewarding and the hardest thing to watch. Sometimes I look at them and the love I feel actually hurts me. I don't want them to hurt so much. Then something breaks them down and I mourn with them because I don't want them to hurt so much. The world is full of hurting so much.


     The world is also full of some of the most beautiful people and things ever imagined. There are people that feed people for no reason. People that abandon rules to stand up for what is right. People who fight for those that can't or won't fight for themselves. People that give without expectation of receiving. These people are the hope of the world. A hope I want to be a part of.

     So as I watch my kids abandon the swing-set for bigger things, I'll take hope that Laura and I have done a good job, and that our children will see the hurt in the world and will desire to become the answer.


Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, May 25, 2015

Collateral Damage

     My very first memory that I can really describe was on a courtroom pew. I have brief and vague flashes of things that may have happened before I was potty trained and still eating baby food. Things like people walking past me or patterns from different fabrics I may have sat on. I remember eating bottle if Flintstones vitamins and my mom picking up the bottle, then the phone. But this one memory won't leave because it was a significant moment. I was lying on the pew staring at a small hole in the nylons of one of my mother's friends. I wanted to make the hole larger...it was really bothering me to have to stay on that pew. Eventually I gave in and started playing with the hole until I had completely exposed a toe...then she told me to stop. I was ignorant of my surroundings. I just remember a lot of the furniture in the room was made of wood like the old churches I would sit in. There were people in front and behind me, sitting quietly as people spoke somewhere in front of me. Where was my mom? I didn't know. She was with me in the car and now she isn't. I wasn't concerned, I had this hole in these nylons to worry about. I had no idea that I was actually stupidly witnessing the separation of a father and a son.

     It's difficult to predict the consequences of our actions when we are making them. It's easy to live life just trying to minimize the damage we are causing to those around us instead of minimizing our own mistakes for the sake of not being a jerk in the world. We don't always think that this one thing we are about to do or decision you are about to make may put someone's life in shambles. We know drinking and driving is wrong. We know that drinking after even the slightest "buzz" is wrong. But thousands do it every weekend and every weekend we read of a group of kids and parents who are dead. Further than that, statistics show a high rate of divorce in couples that have lost a child. That divorce may wreck the lives of siblings and who knows what else. All because of a very common and easy-to-make mistake. Or you can make a big one like leaving your family behind and forget to think about them ever again. That mistake may have meant nothing to the ignorant baby, but to the teenager, it meant quite a bit.

     Many of us live with our moral compass being based on avoidance of getting caught or fear of that consequence. It's not a bad thing to fear consequences,but what about living the life that you know is right even when there is no foreseeable negative consequence to someone else? Isn't that the definition of integrity? Doing good for the sake of doing good may be the most honorable way to live for yourself and also for others. It is the only way you can assure that you aren't damaging someone else terribly.

     I like to speed. I have had more tickets that I can count. I know most of the speed traps and now know when to take my foot off the pedal. However, I always get caught, even when I am sure I won't. Maybe the best way to drive is to "not speed," instead of trying to avoid getting caught. If we lived this way across the board, we wouldn't get fired, kicked out, arrested, lose friends, broken up with, stabbed, or suicide bombed. Most of all, we wouldn't hurt so many people so many times by just trying to not cause too much damage and still act recklessly.



Thanks for reading...Z

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Last One Left

Transmission: Hel...hello?
Empty room with radio: Static
Transmission: Houston? This is Empire, Captain Steadway,  over?
Empty room with radio: Static
Transmission: Coming home Houston, over?
Empty room with radio: Static
Transmission: Please answer Houston, we haven't heard from you in 50 years. We are entering your atmosphere finally, with some help from spare parts from the space station over.
Empty room with radio: Static
Transmission: Not sure what's down here, but we're coming anyway. Got nothing else. I want to see my wife. I want to see my grandkids. We've been sending messages for decades. My only prayer is that they have gotten them, but can't respond. We are bound for a hard landing. Data gives us just more than 50% chance of surviving it. Either way Houston, I love you. I've wanted to be outside of this rock my whole life and you gave me a chance. I don't know what happened that lost our communications 45 years ago, but we would really like to hear from you right now in case we burn up in re-entry, over.
Empty room with radio: Static

Transmission: Static...Coming home Houston. Static.


Captain Aaron Steadway: "Channel 9- static. Channel 10- static, Channel 11- static... useless" He says into a rusted microphone.
Private Jones: "Sir, it's not too late to reverse course."
Cap Steadway: "Yes it is Private. We all knew what we bought in for. Neptune was going to be hopeless and in fact IS hopeless...gas." "The problem isn't what Neptune is, it's what and where we are right  now.
Private Shumway: "Sir...do we have enough O2 to retreat to the base?"
Cap Steadway: "Negative private. We have nothing."
Private Shumway: "Sir? Is this it?"
Cap Steadway: "Afraid it is kid."
Private Shumway: "It's been a pleasure ruling the universe with you Captain Steadway."
Cap Steadway: "You too kid."Sending final attempt at communication with Earth.

...transmitting...no signal...trying gain...Transmitting...no signal...trying again....
 ...transmitting...no signal...trying gain...Transmitting...no signal...trying again....
...transmitting...no signal...trying gain...Transmitting...no signal...trying again....

The heat burned away the outside edges of everything. The desire to see their children gave them tolerance of the fire for their kid's sake's. The room shook and "Private Page" started foaming at the mouth and seizing. A small cadet smothered him with compassion, but he would die on impact.





     Steadway's eyes flicker like butterfly wings before opening to face the sun warming everything. A wire hangs from above his head. A fire burns to his right and to his left. Smoke billows from almost everywhere. There are no sounds of life fading away...only machines flaring and fighting and losing. He looks to his left and sees a burning Private Shumway, eyes open and mouth agape. He looks right and sees Private Page impaled by a support beam. He reaches out before his hand falls limp. Steadway doesn't feel any pain anywhere. He only feels dazed. He has been here before. When he was 7, he climbed a large tree and became too afraid to come down. He started to panic and cry for his mother. She came rushing out to him but couldn't help him unless he trusted her. She told him to let go and fall into her arms. She would catch him. He held on to that brach like a new mother holds her baby. The wind couldn't shake him off and neither could she. Only he could make the decision to let go.

     Steadway reached for the floor and embraced it's stability to help himself up. In his memory, he sees himself letting go of that branch and feeling the wind move between the layers of clothing separating him from where he came from. He had to trust because he trusted no one but her. He reached his feet in that ship and surveyed the damage. Everyone was lost. Blood pooled and eyes seemed to look directly at him as he passed, but stayed fixed on the ceiling as he drew further. In the cabin was a familiar smell...the smell of blood. The sound of shrieking as every machine screamed out for help. His senses brought him back to the tree when he let go. He fell so far. He felt her arms wrap around his back and grip firmly, then falter. He remembered the very intimate moment when her fingers slipped beneath him and she shrieked. Just like the machine sounds.

     Steadway opens the hatch and introduces sunlight into the haul. The light pierces his eyes and sends him backwards until he could adjust. He had never seen the sun from Earth before. "It's beautiful," he thinks. "Almost painful in both beauty and terror." He goes back to the tree and feels the unforgiving gravel crush his spine, the his head. He hears the shriek again, then a gurgle, then a large gasp for air. The noises aren't coming from him...but his mother. She had been crushed. Silence filled the air. He heard nothing at all. Just like when the sun invaded his life. He walked out staggering into the sunlight and felt an uneven surface beneath him. He smelled what his ancestors would have called "grass clippings" 60 years before he were born.  He felt the wind on his face and the sway of the trees as he staggered.

     There was something so beautiful about the moment that he forgot he had once killed his mother. This was the first time he could remember not caring about her.

     On the ship, they had built these replica trees that served to remind them that home was somewhere out there. He liked to climb them. This one time in our history, he climbed the largest tree because he was afraid of an astroid storm that was coming. He climbed too high and she came to his side again...like always. He couldn't find it in him to look down, so he let go.

     Steadway gained his balance and looked upon the earth. Pieces of broken and dilapidated stone told him stories that he had only learned about in history books. He saw statues and buildings pierced with large stalks of weeds and trees separating them from what they once used to be. He stood for a moment and remembered the way the wind felt as it rocked him to sleep in those trees. You can hold on and not fall and nothing will happen, or you can let go and find out what life seeks to do to you. Captain Steadway takes another step, then another until he sees the entire world, empty of humans. Empty of death and suffering. Empty of the beauty of togetherness.

     He couldn't help but to think of his mother, who had died trying to catch him. She had been buried so long ago and no one but him has thought of her in all of the earth. This made him sad, so he moved on and found an old 7/11. One of the Slurpee machines was still churning sugar somehow. This was the first electricity he had seen. Before he left, solar power was rare. In the city he saw posters all over the walls of missing people. He saw abandoned cars and bones laying all over the road.

     Mostly he just felt the wind. This was a place foreign to him and the wind was the only thing he liked. He didn't much like the bones or the broken structures, so he left until he found another set of broken things, then left again. He eventually found a farm with working plows and a lot of trees to climb. No one was screaming at him...nothing beckoning him for justice or peace. He just felt the wind.

     He lived until he was no more and the earth lived on alone.


Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, May 11, 2015


     There was this symbolic thing I picked up from the movie "With Honors" somewhere in the 90's. When something that means something happens, you pick up a rock from the ground below you...or the nearest rock to you. This will be a stone memory of the event. I liked it in the movie. I now have a collection of rocks in a shoe box. I remember every one of them.

     I grabbed a little green stone pendant from the Meijer grocery store vending machine when we bought the pregnancy test that confirmed that I was going to be a father for the first time. I picked up a rock the first time I stepped foot in the Scottish Highlands, the place I ultimately came from, and a place I had wanted to go my entire life. I picked up a pebble that was next to my shoe when I kissed my wife for the first time. I knew we would be married.

     I know why collectors collect things. These are things that mean something to them. Ebay is still in business because of our nostalgia. We want what we used to have and lost. Somewhere we or our parents threw those things away without us knowing how much they would meant to us. The collected is the last bridge to our youth. I have a house full of relics. You have a house full of relics. When grandma dies, you ask for that one piece of her belongings that equate you to her and you hold then tight to your heart.

     I have a clown that Will's mom gave to me that means more than most non-living things to me. It means so much to me because it not only connects me to Will, but because it connects me to her. I have sweaters and hats and photographs. They all mean the same thing. I have a connection to what is lost to me that I can still touch.

     I think a lot of art is made out of this feeling of connection to the past. It's sad really. We...I long for what I can't get back. I want to see my brothers again. I want to just watch us make all of those dreadful mistakes again. I want to build the world largest penis on a snowman the world has ever seen again. I want to fish in the night while all of you are sleeping again. I'll be sure to put our catch into the video store drop box again.

But I can't.

     It is because of the "can't" that we try so hard to relive or redeem the past. For some, the reason we do this is to remember. For others, it's to forever punish ourselves for letting go of such beautiful things. Both are true for me. I would never want to go back and stay there. I wasn't really happy then. I only see it as happy now that it's gone in some ways. This is an illusion...a trick our minds play on us. I would want to go back for a few hours and just watch because it would hurt me so badly to do so. Doing what makes it hurt worse makes it feel better, but eventually makes it worse. Really, the only truly happy moments I had then were spent with Will, Joe, Andy, and Jeff. Half of those people left my sight. So I cling to the last two. I cling to the past. Some of those times were beautiful and some were the heartache of being a foolish teenager.

     It is very easy to idolize moments in your life and people because of your emotional attachment to them. We tend to put blinders on the things we idolize. I think the best me hasn't happened yet. I think we are constantly improving...even if that means we have to be purged from the ass of the devil to get there. My Creator isn't done with me yet. He isn't done with you either. Isn't ever great story of redemption built from the foulest manure? It's all about hope.


Thanks for reading...Z

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Beth.- People at a Funeral Part 3

     Beth, the third birthright of Albert, stands in front of his grave ten years after she had helped the groundsmen put him there. This is the first time she has been here since. She lives in California, all the way across their world growing up. Growing up, they didn't have the money to travel, so the entire world became America, and the west coast was the end of existence. Albert was more than just her father, he was something of a hero to her. Beth had uncontrollable asthma. Everything seemed to aggravate her breathing. He was always right there with the right inhaler or would quickly find a source of steam. She had suspected that he had saved her life more than 1,000 times.

     When she got the call from Bill, her brother, she fell down. He continued to speak and yet she didn't hear anything but her own horrible shrieks of grief, then her quickened breathing and tight airway. She grabbed her inhaler and used it twice. The rescue inhaler helped to get the longer term medicine into the deeper areas of her lungs. She breathed, then sprayed, they tried to breathe again. She decided that the tightness in her chest wasn't her lungs...it was her heart.

     Most of her siblings didn't like Albert very much. Beth understood why. He hadn't been there for them. He worked all the time and didn't attend many of their activities, even if he was home that day. But he was always there with an inhaler. Always.

     "So why is this the first time I have visited his grave?" she asks. Because she wasn't angry with him. The rest of her siblings hated him for reasons that were not even his fault. Reasons like their teenage pregnancy or inability to keep a job. They projected these things to her, but she wasn't the one that got hurt...not by him. He was the only person she had ever counted on. He was the only one she knew would be there. Sarah, her mother, was always in a different place. She wasn't a real mother. So Sarah got the panic attacks. Albert was there with an inhaler.

     Right now Sarah stands at the wooden box that holds her wax father. Tim, a strange person that says he's her brother, wails in the front of the room. Sarah stands next to his bed and smiles as she hugs distant relatives. One right after another. Beth remains seated on the front row, waiting for the funeral to start so that it can end. She wants to go home and never see these people again. She didn't hate her family. She was just her daddy's girl.


Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Art in Me

     I don't write very many beautiful things that don't involve the beauty of sorrow. Most of the digital flowers people give me are because of my grief ( I told Josh I would steal that one, so I just did). But tonight, the air is perfect and the wind is silently sleeping. I sit outside on the porch and look at the moon. It appears to be a full moon, but it's hard to tell because of the clouds. They float on, giving me only a partial view of this beautiful thing that I have always felt was watching over me somehow.

     The moon is a constant. At night, you can look up and expect to see at least evidence of it's presence. This is what I have always longed for. Maybe the only thing I have ever desired from life...a steady presence that isn't ever going to die or leave. It sits in the sky as if it were a constant eye watching over us. But it's not. It's a cosmic rock that lights up our sky just like the moons of other planets that guard their night.

     I have what I have always wanted. I wanted a wife that would share my experience of being human in this world and vice versa. I wanted children that truly thought I was Superman. I have known love of many types from genuine people. I wouldn't ask God for any friends different than the ones I have. I have beautiful people all around and my life is teeming with everything I could have ever asked for. But yet I am still sad. Still searching. Still looking for beauty in something.

     I don't know why. It may be because of the heartache of losing people you love so deeply. It may be because I never had what most people would call a "normal life." It may be because there is something profoundly wrong with me. But I don't believe any of those answers. They are a product of me.
    My friend, mentor, and pastor took me to a concert last week. A concert of a musician I deeply respect, who sang songs that reflect my heart. He asked if I'm ok. I told him the truth. I am. He asked me how things are right now. I knew he didn't mean this in a small talk way, so I answered him like I knew his intent. "I'm working on it." He didn't judge me for that. He understood. A beautiful thing that people forget about is when another person who cares about you understands instead of projects their fears about you, to you.

     He said something to me that night that makes a difference and I'm not sure if that was intended or not. He described me as a person that grabs things from the air and portraits them as art. And that art is different from other art. This is a paraphrase, but I got it's intent. I'm not great or am any kind of pure artist. But I understood what he said. Sometimes, the entire world and the way it works is art to me.

     It occurs to me that I am picking the wrong things out of the air. I am only choosing to pick the things that reflect my heart right now and forgetting the things that reflect me as a whole. He chose to describe my sense of humor. I try to be funny. I mask things by being funny. I am a clown. In fact, when I had no hope at all, I painted clowns all over my bedroom walls. This is the way I deflect. But still....I love to make people laugh. I think that's because I love to hear people laugh. It helps me to cope. I feel better when other people are laughing.

     So I look at this moon that peeks around the corners of these clouds and it makes me so happy to be alive. I love my brothers, but I am glad to be here still. I'm gonna try and pick out the beautiful things from my existence instead of the sad ones. I watched this musician grieve and give up his spirit in front of thousands of people and I knew that this is real art. Art means sharing what no one else will allow others to see about their hearts. There is art and beauty in tragedy. There is also beauty and art in joy. I think I may have painted the wrong picture to people that don't know me. I think that if you just know me from this blog, you are only seeing the things I can't say in public.

     I am not that person. I am happy most of the time. I like to joke around. I am loud and say exactly what I feel sometimes. I don't have time for small talk ever, and I like to speak in either riddles or hypotheticals. I will ask you a "would-you-rather" question to try and figure out who I am talking to. I really do love people. I want to help people. My issue is that I'm tired of losing people. Right here, right now, as I stare up into the sky, I remember what I am here for. To make people laugh. To point people to their Creator. To help people forget that they have been hurt.


Thanks for reading...Z