Category: Memoirs

Letting It Fly

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On Saturday, I watched Chandler let it fly. He’s a friend who’s in town participating in a Disc Golf Pro Tour event here in Arizona. Chandler is pursuing his passion. Doing everything he can to earn a living in a sport he loves. Competing in a profession in which he has quite a bit of skill.

I’ll admit it. I know little about the sport of disc golf. It appears to follow many of the rules of traditional golf. The primary difference is that you fling a round disc toward a basket, rather than drive a tiny ball with a club into a hole. The idea is to deposit the disc in the basket in as few attempts as possible.

Yesterday, on a warm and occasionally breezy Scottsdale afternoon, several of us (we dubbed ourselves Team Chandler) followed along in the gallery as the action wound its way from one end of Vista del Camino Park to another.

As with any golf competition, there were highs and lows. Birdies and bogeys. Fist bumps and sighs. But the good news is Chandler made the cut. He’s competing in the final round of the tournament today as I write this. His goal is to finish in the top ten.

No matter if he does or doesn’t, the important thing is Chandler is following his dream in the desert and pursuing his passion. Whatever the results are today, he will move on to the next stop on the tournament circuit in Texas this coming week.

After all, win or lose, life is short. It’s always better to let it fly.

 

Thank You, Woodrow Wilson

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With a stroke of his pen one hundred years ago, president Woodrow Wilson preserved a natural wonder. He signed a bill on February 26, 1919, making the Grand Canyon the fourteenth member of the national park system.

Evidently, it was a quiet resolution. According to an article in last Sunday’s Arizona Republic, there was barely a mention in the press at the time.  But this week we celebrate the wisdom of Wilson’s act. He ensured that an unfettered geological phenomenon be kept as it should be … unfettered for the uninitiated and the unborn.

No matter how many technological advancements we may be grateful for today, few things can compare with the tear-inducing joy of approaching the rim of the Grand Canyon for the first time and marveling at its expansive beauty. It’s a moment I’ll always treasure.

Without question, we’d be lost without the unbridled, magnificent beauty of our national parks. Especially the Grand Canyon. It’s our vast wonder of wonders, protected for all the world to see. Let’s keep it that way for future generations to enjoy.

Thank you, Woodrow Wilson.

Tucson through the Looking Glass

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It was July 1989. I was a PR guy. Visiting Tucson, Arizona on business for a travel agency conference. Working long hours at the chic Westin LaPaloma Resort in the Santa Catalina Mountains. Finalizing speeches and media interviews on behalf of Covia, a United Airlines subsidiary that managed the Apollo computer reservation system.

I remember feeling trapped behind glass in the summer heat. Unresolved about my life and orientation. At that moment, I had little time to explore my personal landscape or the vast mountainous terrain outside the restaurant window. The only positive glimmer was the exuberance I felt seeing a road runner by the pool one afternoon during a pause in my busy schedule.

Over the weekend, I was back at the Westin LaPaloma Resort. This time the circumstances were different. It was winter. I was there for pleasure. Visiting the same terrain as an Arizona resident. With my husband and fifty or so new friends, my gay pals with the Phoenix Metropolitan Men’s Chorus. We performed at a GALA leadership symposium and received a standing ovation.

Before our performance, my husband and I took the opportunity to dine quietly at one of the resort restaurants. I peered through the glass at the gorgeous mountains.

Yes, thirty years have passed … and my how the terrain has changed.

Nineteen Months and Counting Every Day

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Nineteen months ago this week, Tom and I began a new life in a new home in a new state of wider skies and grander possibilities: Arizona.

Much of my latest book, An Unobstructed View, is about my fond recollections of another state: Illinois. In it, I look back at thirty-seven rich and meaningful years in the Prairie State and the misfortune my husband and I encountered on our way west. Translated that means the mild heart attack I suffered in St. Louis on my sixtieth birthday.

Today, on a sunny-and-cool, sixty-four-degree afternoon in Scottsdale, I realized just how much number crunching I’ve been doing with Tom since we left the Midwest and arrived in the Sonoran Desert: tallying my steps (10,000 on most days); religiously adhering to a forty-five-minute cardiac exercise regimen three times a week that includes a combination of treadmill, light weights, stationary bike, and swimming; remembering to stretch daily and partaking in ninety minutes of gentle yoga every Friday morning (I love it!); monitoring my blood pressure regularly; dramatically reducing the amount of saturated fat and sodium in my diet; trimming my weight to 195 pounds (twenty less than my pre-coronary size); taking a higher dose of statin medication to lower the amount of “bad” LDL cholesterol; and visiting my cardiologist twice a year. The list goes on.

All of that may sound exhausting. At times it is. But it’s worth it. I feel good most days. I know I am fortunate to be living in a warm climate where I can stay active. Here in Arizona, I do more than count my vital signs. I count my blessings.

In that grateful vein, and because February is American Heart Month, I’ll be discounting the Kindle version of An Unobstructed View on Amazon for several days this coming week. It will be available for only ninety-nine cents from February 13 through 18.

I hope my story will provide you with the inspiration to treasure your past, present and future. To listen to your body and know the common heart attack warning signs: pressure or tightness in your chest or an aching sensation in your chest, arms or jaw; nausea, indigestion or heartburn; shortness of breath; cold sweat; fatigue; lightheadedness or sudden dizziness.

It’s up to you to stay healthy. To honor and heed your family history. To enjoy every moment. To make every day count no matter where you live.

 

A Storyteller’s Dream

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On Saturday, my husband and I arrived at the Scottsdale Civic Center Library at 8:30 a.m. We stood patiently. Waiting at the side door in a snaking line. Juggling signage and two boxes of my books with dozens of other independent Arizona authors. All of us were there for the chance to tell and sell our stories at the 6th Annual Local Authors Book Sale.

At 9 a.m., the doors swung open. Like Black Friday shoppers angling for a door-buster deal, we entered the room in a rush to find the best available spot in a sea of first-come-first-served tables. Over the next hour, we unpacked and stacked our books. We positioned cards and literature to entice a roomful of readers. They began to arrive at 10 a.m.

Over the next four hours, I could feel my adrenalin surge whenever someone stopped by my table to say hello or open one of my books. There is no greater joy than feeling the genuine love and support of book-loving friends who admire your work … unless it is having an encounter with a person you’ve never met. Someone who listens intently to you as you describe your writing, deliberately walks from table to table around the room to ponder the possibilities, and then returns to buy Tales of a Rollercoaster Operator, because your up-and-down stories from your St. Louis childhood feel like an intriguing fit.

All of that happened on Saturday. My husband was with me. We were surrounded by fellow writers, close friends and avid readers. I sold eight of my books. It was an extraordinary day. I am living a storyteller’s dream.

 

 

 

I’ve Only Just Begun

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I realize the title of this post sounds a little hokey and an awful lot like a lyric from a 1970s Carpenters song. (Please tell me you remember who Karen Carpenter was!) But I prefer to imagine that I, a generally healthy sixty-one-year-old male who visits his cardiologist every six months, will channel my energies into creative writing projects that will stimulate my intellect rather than stewing over my advancing age. That is beyond my control.

I adopted this philosophy five years ago this week. That’s when I walked out the door of my Aon office in Chicago and began a new chapter. As background, up until that moment I really didn’t feel I was living the artistic life I was meant to live. If anything, in late January 2014, I was numb from my mother’s death a year before and the escalating demands of navigating thirty-four years in the communication consulting, PR and advertising worlds.

After months of soul-searching and years of smart saving, I left the familiar unfulfilling days behind. I needed time to heal. I needed time to explore life on my terms. At age fifty-six, I grabbed my digital camera and began to capture images of darting dragonflies and picturesque prairie landscapes. I recorded random inspirations in my journal as I rambled along. The fog began to lift and my energy returned. Gradually, I discovered my way out in Illinois. As I wrote about the grief of losing my mother and revisiting my southern roots in From Fertile Ground, it prompted new possibilities. It promised a more poetic life.

What else have I learned in the past five years? After surviving a mild heart attack in 2017, I know I am fortunate to be alive. My husband and I lead a creative, warm life. We have a quieter existence in Arizona far away from the hustle and brutal cold of Chicago’s late January days.

Even with the physical distance from my Chicago life, I’m thankful for friends there, who shared their gifts and inspired me along the way to be true to my creative self. Like my friend Dina. She and I were close colleagues at Aon. Five years ago, on my last day of corporate life, she gave me this artful-and-personal handmade gift: a mirrored collage for me to reflect on the fun-and-unforgettable aspects of my Chicago work life. I keep Dina’s gift on my desk in Arizona, because it captures where I’ve been and who I am: a big picture guy, who cares about his husband, good friends, art, music, theatre, the best books, and cuddly animals.

Yes, I lead a happier and more fulfilling life in the desert. Somehow I’ve written and published three books and survived a health scare. But it still feels like I’ve barely scratched the surface on the possibilities of this semi-retired, creative life.

When I look at Dina’s mirrored gift, it feels like I’ve only just begun.

 

 

 

Arizona Authors Book Sale

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If you live in the Phoenix area (or plan to visit the Valley of the Sun in early February to escape the bitter cold elsewhere) stop by and visit me and dozens of other Arizona authors on Saturday, February 2, at the 6th Annual Local Authors Book Sale.

The event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will be held at the Civic Center Library, 3839 N. Drinkwater Blvd, Scottsdale, Arizona, 85251.

Naturally, I’ll be selling all three of my books: From Fertile Ground; Tales of a Rollercoaster Operator; and An Unobstructed View.

I look forward to meeting you there and will be delighted to sign whatever you purchase.