How a Bad Cat and Stinky Feet got Me Back to my Beat

Drummer boy

I was still embroiled with work the other night when grandfather clock counted a single chime, reminding me that it was 5:30 and time to quit. The soft din of homework-related questions had waxed into a blurred chorus of “Moms”, so when the words “stinky feet” permeated my brain, I didn’t know if seven-year-old Thing2’s smelly socks had prompted the thought or if someone was actually singing the words.

I looked up from my computer and glanced toward the den. There was Thing2, wearing the smelly socks and singing as he hunched over his sketchbook and writing.  

“He wanted to write a song,” explained the Big Guy. Seeing Dad’s guitar emerge from storage, Thing2 had been inspired.  No one had ever told that only he could not write a song, so he decided to try it.

At dinner, the Big Guy extolled our offspring’s achievement. “He wrote a song,” he said over and over again. I was proud, but, still frazzled from the day, I didn’t offer the encouragement I normally do.

Thing2 is creativity personified.  He sings and dances.  He has littered his desk books he has written, illustrated and assembled.  He lives for art, and this song was just his latest expression.  

I grew up hearing the phrase, “Do what you love.”   I repeat it every time I see him fly through the air or ‘publish’ a new book. That night, however, I wondered how I tell my youngest child, to chase artistic dreams when, lately, I have increasingly surrendered mine, partly to depression but mostly to work?

“Dad, I want to write another song,” he said the next night after homework.  This single was called Bad Cat. The Big Guy played back up on guitar while Thing2 drummed on a book and sang lead.

“Bad Cat, Bad Cat, sitting on the counter,” it started. There were three more verses on the sins of our chubby black cat.

I started the video camera on the iPhone, and Thing 2, sensing a hit, launched into another chorus.  My feet began to tap.  My youngest was inspiring me in spite of myself.  Most of my best posts start with antics authored by Thing1 or Thing2, and, last night every beat of his drumsticks generated a new idea.

Thing2 was reminding me of what he knows instinctively.  Art isn’t a dream, and it’s not a living.  It’s life.  When the song was over, I gave his newest opus the reception it deserved.  

“You keep doing what you love,” I said with a tight hug free of doubt.  

Last night I set the alarm for 4 AM again, and this morning, for the first time in ages, I didn’t hit the snooze button.  I had homework – to practice what I preach.  Completing the assignment quickly reminded me how much art, for me also, is life.  

Thing2 may be a bit unorthodox, but he’s turned out to be quite the teacher.


Crack in the ice

This is the crack in the ice.  It may widen.  It may freeze over again as it did this last year.  But even a hairline fissure pulls in a little life.  I wouldn’t say I’m embracing it today, but last night I was able to breathe it in a little.

The last four months have been a progressive calcification.  Every morning begins with a hammering of the shell – I have a good life.. I have beautiful kids.. I have a home – but every night the shell is harder than the night before.  I don’t have to ask what’s wrong with me.

I’m collapsing, pulling away from everything but the minimum it takes to feed an sustain the people in my life who aren’t yet self-sustaining.  There are no theatrics – no broken dishes or hysterical tears.  There’s nothing.  There’s oblivion sought and only found on occasional dreamless nights as the ice constricts my organs from the core out.  

Today the choice is to write this or not to write.  It is to let part of my soul run for a few minutes and let it breathe in and hope the running makes the crack bigger.

A Happy Year of Common Threads

morning road jon katz

There can’t be a better way to kick off the new year with a give-away.  Every month one of our Common Threads artists (Jane McMillan, Jon Katz, Kim Gifford, Maria Wulf and Me) offers a creative give-away, and this month’s featured artist is Jon Katz.

Jon is offering a beautiful landscape photograph called Morning Road, matted to 11 x 14. Jon, the bestselling author of 22 books including his recently-released Second Chance Dog  is also a gifted photographer.  He will be showing some of his work in a joint show with the legendary George Forss in February.

To enter to win, visit his Maria Wulf’s blog (his wife) and leave a comment.  We will announce the winner of the print on Sunday.  After you’ve checked out Jon and Maria’s blogs, take a minute to visit Jane McMillan and Kim Gifford as well.  They will brighten your day and get your new year off to a great start.

Happy New Year!



in as much as resolutions were made to be broken, I’ve resolved the following:

I resolve to worry constantly about whether this shirt for those pants make my butt look big and not whether or not this shirt or those pants get me to the finish line.

I resolve to do nothing if I can’t do everything.

I resolve to worry about what I should be writing so much that I don’t write at all.

I resolve to make work concerns more important than family, fitness, me, or happiness.

I resolve to sacrifice my present happiness trying to control an unknown future.

I resolve to be annoyed when my cherubic seven-year-old has the audacity to demand my attention during the workday, and I resolve to feel guilty over every punishment we issue or decision we make trying to guide our 13-year-old to adulthood.

And finally, I resolve to beat myself up if I somehow managed to stick to any one of these resolutions.