In the presence of family, be only with family.

In the presence of family,

be only with family.

Put aside the work and worry.

It’ll be there when you part.

And enjoy one another

as if each member of your family

were a dish at the dinner table.

Fill yourself with their essence.

Allow them like nutrients

to replenish your mind, body, and soul

so that when you leave one another

you’ll do so knowing

their presence is with you

for better or worse, forever and onward—

second star to the right and straight on till morning.

Family Gathering, 2012

When I was a kid—after bedtime—as quietly as I could, I would crawl from my bed, onto the floor, then elbow and knee my way down the hallway to lay in the doorway of my brothers room…

When I was a kid—after bedtime—as quietly as I could, I would crawl from my bed, onto the floor, then elbow and knee my way down the hallway to lay in the doorway of my brothers room to watch his television.

He’s four years older than I am and, well, I thought he was really cool.

One, for having a TV in his bedroom. And two, for probably knowing I was there but not saying anything.

Whatever he was watching didn’t really make a difference but it was comfortable there, on the carpet, with the blue light flashing.

A dark bedroom can be pretty scary to a child, especially during a thunderstorm.

Now that we’re older, we speak when it is necessary, but not all the time.

Probably less than either of us cares to admit.

He’s a busy working husband and parent while I’m pretty much all over the map.

Though when we do talk, it’s a meaningful talk of mutual reflection. He provides me with information from four years down the line and I remind him that I’m listening by offering whatever small insights are on my mind.

I thought he was great then and I still do now. No matter the distance the bond between two brothers is strong and unwavering.

Basically what I am saying is I look forward to the next time we’re able to watch a little TV, crack a couple jokes, and just hang out—without any pressure—even if it means the carpet or floor, that’ll be enough.

The Sweatpants King And His Little Brother

Portrait of my own Unique Beauty

If what you see in the mirror is ugly, then consider this: chances are you’re comparing your own unique beauty to what, for your entire life, you’ve been programmed to believe is beautiful.

And what is beauty anyways?

Margaret Wolfe Hungerford said, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

And isn’t that true? Yes or no, in more instances than not beauty is subjective. In fact, I’d go even further to say that beauty manifests itself in infinite ways other than what the eye can see.

As a photographer with a fond admiration for women and men alike I can honestly say that I have taken countless photographs and manipulated them to appeal to the mass collective of what is to be considered quote on quote “beautiful.”

Hypocrite. No, I think not. I never claimed they were beautiful but simply did my job in a way that my superior agreed was aesthetically pleasing.

A wrinkle here, a crows foot there, deleted.

Nobody has ever died from a portrayal of beauty, right?

Wrong. Though I’m not an extremist so there are many factors to consider, all of which yes, I agree, may seem like a bit of a cop out or excuse not to hold oneself accountable for taking what is and transforming it into something less natural.

But this isn’t about my career choice or eye in which I behold.

This is about you and that “ugly” reflection in the mirror.

You are not ugly, you simply aren’t. You are you, and you are beautiful.

Those who claim to seek perfection, well, they’re only trying to fill a void. And it’s a bottomless pit because like beauty, perfection is ultimately subjective.

While I sit here and delve deeper into thought, I watch a mother and daughter walk by my window. The mother is flapping her arms as graceful as she can. The child looks to her mother and understands she is trying her best.

In the end all that we can do is try our best to love ourselves enough to fully accept the unique beauty of another.

Any other judgement is of which we have been programmed to believe.

It’s taken a very long while to believe in myself and I willingly admit that each day is a slow progression to further acceptance of my own unique beauty.

If someone tells you you’re not beautiful, that’s their loss.

And I hope the next mirror that you face looks back in your direction as the child looks with grace and marvels at the perfection of her mother’s love.

Portrait of my own Unique Beauty, September 8, 2020

A mother cries out for her loss

It’s a shouting match, Liberty song

It all depends whose side you’re on

An 80’s flick, a telethon

The donors can’t afford

A peaceful march is a riot for

The higher ups keeping score

A father dies, a baby’s born

To a family torn apart

A mother cries out for her loss.

A brother vows vengeance.

Humanity what have we done?

Another brothers grave is dug.

It’s a quick escape, getting drunk

Do what you can, never enough

It’s a 90’s jam, a slogan sung

To another civil war

It’s a house of cards, a hand of fate

A demonstration turns to hate

It’s a feeling I just cannot shake

It takes all I’ve got to watch

Wake me up when it’s all over.

That’s no longer good enough.

It’s getting harder to be sober.

With history books full of blood.

What have we done?

I am not quite sure exactly what

Some parent’s expect of their children

In terms of success and failure

Because of course each individual is unique

In their own belief system developed through life

Though I do know exactly what

Some middle aged men and women

Expect of their parent’s, which is

Love and Understanding that

Love and Understanding means more to them

Than any award or prize, delusions of wealth

And superfluous measures of success

Handed down from Great-Grandfather to Grandfather

Then Father to Son who’s soul purpose it often seems

Is to belittle the latter, like some draconian wheel

Turning itself in circles, only to cause

An endless cycle of fear and inferiority

Leading nowhere fast, leading nowhere good

On an endless road of resentment and ill worth.

And we don’t ask for this. We are born to this.

We are flesh and bone

Fueled by the imperfections of our father’s

Father’s, father’s son

Who one day will understand he did nothing wrong

Oh Mother, dear mother

What have we done?

Call me crystal and I’ll make this clear

Call me crystal and I’ll make this clear

The world’s your oyster, won’t you be a dear?

Remember us, when you’re famous

Such a dangerous manifestation

Bite the bullet trigger happy kid

They said break a leg behind closed eyelids

Opportunity, don’t blow it

You’re a shooting star, now show it

Call me Ishmael cause I am drowning quick

Wailing never got you through the thick

What more could we ask for?

Through closed doors

Another kid’s born in the grave

By the third day he’ll be saved

Another wick is burnt too late

Just one more spirit and you’ll feel great

Wipe the Chalice, next in line to drink

Every word has meaning, child

who’s never’d time to blink

Everyday is Halloween

All this life it seems I’ve been running away

Thought I could turn it off

Pour me a cheap escape

Fine tune this sort of self therapy

It never goes away for long

An undying mother’s love

Nursed me warm when I was not

At 13 I learned a lot

To have and to have not

Yet still I’m dreaming of

His wake —

I tried to look into the psychic’s eye

Try to figure out what’s going on inside

He sold me fame and fortune, it’ll be alright

Still I wound up bound and down

Screaming never made a sound

I feel freedom in the clouds

A kiss really meant help me out

Some fell in love and some fell down

But I’m not looking for that now

Another needle in the crowd

Another burden, a life

released —

I had a girl you see, she was better than not

She gave me all she could in a parking lot

I forced myself to try but it was never enough

Yellow light flickered around

We were kids no one talked about

An endless stream of aimless doubt

Like a weight dragging me down

When all I wanted was an out

She burned quickly then burnt out

But she was pretty

I was lucky, she was free —

Daylight savings time in another month

I’ve been killing time since I was young

Never quite so sure who I was or what

he meant by get away from me

Or rather feeling the relief

His coarse beard upon my cheek

In the mirror what I see

Sometimes it isn’t me

I try my hardest to believe

A half hearted destiny

There’s a reason or a message

To be —

I turn myself around, spin it upside down

Try to feel awake the best I know how

Still that echo rings in one ear then out

This haunting jealousy

For everyone who isn’t me

For everyone I long to see

I keep them safe within a dream

Scrubbing never kept them clean

My hands is what I mean

Everyday is Halloween

Except I can’t wear my mask

and see —

So I’mma take a walk, drown myself in thought

kick rocks until I figure out the plot

I’ve held this silver plate as long as I can take

It never helped me in the end

I’d have to die to make amends

Till then I’ll cheers to friends

A forced smile helps you fit in

Sometimes it’s better to pretend

We don’t break until we bend

His choice is my defense

For choosing, to live

The end.

forgive me father for I have sinned

Everything is quiet now

in the middle of the day

where misery has settled down

like bricks on my chest lay

and although I can’t make a sound

my voice has gone astray

I will not settle underground

tomorrow I shall wake

to soft sounds of the morning

like loved ones I have lost

reminders that my mourning

is not in vain but just

and in the shadows of my mind

to where I now so lay

forgive me father for I have sinned

relieve me of this day.

The words I’d say to an unborn son.

If you’re not ready to let go,

then don’t.

Hold on as long as you need,

and then some.

These are words I’d say,

to an unborn son.

If it seems repetitive,

that’s good.

If it hurts in a hundred different ways,

it’s supposed to.

If you don’t want to smile,

let them see you frown.

These are the words,

I’d say.

Does it get easier,

at times.

Should you forget,

never.

Is it your fault,

no.

The words I’d say are these.

Life will kick your ass.

Love will break your heart.

Death will drug your senses.

With the strength of a mother’s love,

I would say.

You are your father’s child,

but make no mistake,

you are not your father.