Lifting Others Up

Yesterday I had lunch at the luxurious W hotel in downtown Dallas. John had a burger, Terry and Aaron had the pork loin and I had the garlic risotto. We talked about the books we were all working on, and Jon told me how writing his was so hard he cried through every chapter. We had a writer’s workshop – in hopes of talking through the power of putting your life on paper. When we walked in I must admit the staff treated us with dignity, though we all looked pretty rough from our time on the street.

We sat down, the waiter treated my friends with respect and we ate like kings.  Aaron acted as if he was in his element. “The entrée has a fine taste,” he remarked with the expertise of a seasoned food critic.  Jon picked apart his burger forgoing the bun. “I’m diabetic,” he explained.  At nineteen now, he’s lived on the street for a long time after killing too many people to count in retribution for the murder of the love of his life – his mother. (He served time – tried as a child at age 12.) I love this boy as a son, and he’s not very angry anymore.  He and the others teach me more than they know about love and life, and we talk about things that matter.

I’m not trying to be Mother Teresa.  Just doing God’s work in hopes that we can lift each other up, and maybe even out.  Jon has written about his time as a gang member and the death of his mom. Nathan writes about addiction. These are the things that can keep someone stuck – whether you live in suburbia or in Rye Shelter. Sometimes all you need is an angel.

Property for Sale: Hedgerow

Lowell approached me today in the parking lot, looking disheveled, but happy. “I decided to sell my property,” he said.

I smiled, waiting for the punchline. I knew Lowell didn’t own any property. He slept under bridges, or wherever he could find a spot on a cold night, without the Police kicking him out.

“Know anyone who wants to buy Hedgerow?” he asked. “Cause I’d like to sell it. I woke up this morning by the hedge, freezing. They cut it real low yesterday. Anyhow, I decided to try to get into a transition house.”

This is a big step in our world, the world of my homeless friends. The step from comfort on the street, to moving towards a home, and doing the work required to get there and to keep one. Lowell has some addictions, after a life of hardship. We went to my car and turned the heat on real high. We sat there and warmed up and talked and then went back out into the parking lot with the others. [Read more…]

How to write a book

I just returned from my New York Publishing meetings. As always, the city was a whirlwind. I don’t really consider what I do as work, because I’m living my dream. And my goal in my writing is to help everyone else live theirs. Traveling to the city was a merging of my two worlds, toddler land and books. As always, I traveled with the two boys in tow. They love the city – especially Times Square. The lights, the stimulation, the energy. We’d experience it all for a couple of hours and then rush back to the hotel, climb in bed, and order room service. I wasn’t feeling well so I had hot tea with honey, and did my best to look human at my publisher breakfasts. McGraw Hill gave me my latest book, which I saw in print for the very first time. That’s always an exciting moment. It’s a gorgeous hard cover of a man in a suit, sitting on the beach in a chair. The dichotomy of that image is great! Because when I was in a suit, in the corporate world, I was always dreaming about sitting on the beach anyways, lost in my head at some fabulous oceanfront resort, in the midst of a sales meeting. Now I get to write about the daydream I had years prior. (Oh, here’s where my publishers want me to mention the name of the book – There’s More to Life Than the Corner Office, and more importantly, The Compass! Please read that one because it will change a lot of lives. More on that later.)

Anyhow, I have escaped the corporate world, so to speak. But now I write about it on this blog. I don’t think I want to escape suburbia, necessarily. I think I should be grateful for suburbia, since it’s a far cry from who I am inside. I’m more of a write in the jungle, write in the woods, write when the kids are throwing ketchup on the walls, write all the time, sort of person, and I’m darn lucky to be accepted in suburbia. It seems no one has discovered I’m an impostor… [Read more…]

Me & Jerry

Me & Jerry

This is a photo of me and one of my closest friends, Jerry.  He has touched my life in many ways.  I’m lucky he doesn’t have a computer because he would be angry with me for posting it.  He doesn’t have a computer, a home, a car, or any of the comforts we all enjoy each day.  Jerry is homeless, and this photo was taken in front of my house.

Jerry is a representation of one of my major life beliefs.  You are not what you do, you are who you are.

This year, this principle has become more and more apparent in my own life.

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All that matters is LOVE.

I sat with a friend recently, talking. My friend scribbled something and pushed a note across the table. It said simply: “All that matters is love. Expressing faith, through love.”

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Now it seemed to me at the time, that my friend was trying to make a point. (stop talking, stop doing, stop reading, stop everything and start loving!) But it was a valid point and one I’ve received a lot lately, from different messengers. Love, is the answer. Not the kind of love that comes from your heart, because your heart lies. “Follow your heart,” is a myth. This is sure to be confusing for most of us.

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The Compass Party

Last night Bianca and I went to the cast member party for The Compass movie premier. My business manager flew in from New York as well as cast members from across the globe, fans, and movie industry types. Producers, directors, writers, and creators.

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Bianca, my publicist, is a bright shining light in the midst of chaos and collects the business cards, arranges the interviews, and looks adorable in the process. This has been a fun experience for both of us.

I love being around creative people. The conversation is so different. A film producer introduced himself and asked me about the book. “You’re so humble,” he said, “You should talk more about yourself and your role and be proud of it.”

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“I am proud.” I said. “It’s just not important in the big picture of life. I don’t need accolades.”

So here’s where conversations with creators are different than normal cocktail conversations.

“Well okay, but you must need something, right? Relationally, or in love?”

I mean, what do you say to that?

I love creators. They’re not talking about the weather, your job, or their vacations. They talk about life, love, and changing the world. Back in The Land of Oz, where I live, I know a creator who writes in my favorite coffee shop
and when he’s there we talk about God, marriage, pain, and the important things that all of humanity faces.

Last night was a mixed group – I met a lot of creators who talked about what the Compass book
and movie can do to help change the world. And then I met a lot of people who are seeking answers.

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This morning in my hotel room watching Joel Osteen, relaxing with coffee, and preparing for another big day of parties, luncheons, interviews and events, it makes me really appreciate the life I have.

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The setting was the Hotel Menage outside of Orange Country, surrounded by mountains.

Homeless with Cancer

As if.

As if life isn’t hard enough for my friend Kevin who lives on the street, today I learned that his cancer has spread to his lungs. Last Sunday we met in the parking lot where we meet each week with about 250 of our other friends, and as always he was cheerful and jubilant.  Excited about life.

Kevin and some others, like Jerry and Wayne simply amaze me. In some of my most reflective moments they’ve placed a hand on my shoulder, and given me words to light up my day. Words of inspiration and hope, words better than any motivational speaker could offer.  On the street, I’ve met so many motivational speakers who don’t even know how inspiring they are.  Their words are gifts that breath life.  Some are lawyers, architects, men with business degrees who have fallen on hard times.  Sometimes the hard time is just temporary.

Today Kevin was deflated, resigned.  But still he had hope.

I’ll think of him tonight when I’m snuggled in my bed and he’s sleeping on the concrete floor of the shelter or under an overpass.  We embraced, and I told him I’d pray. On the way out, I said goodbye to my friends, and knew that there were some I would not see the next time.  Life on the street is unpredictable.

But life for those of us with roofs over our heads is also unpredictable.  In The Compass, I created a character named Solomon, a young street boy with an old soul.  He reminds me of the homeless adults. Wise beyond his years, smarter in some ways about the real meaning of life, than even the wealthiest person I know.  When you have nothing, who you are is everything.  Love, character, giving, heart, soul.  When everything is stripped away, the only thing that matters is who you are. And sometimes who you are changes with each year, as you evolve into someone new. My character talks about how we are so focused on the work we do, how we define people by their jobs, instead of who they are inside.

As we left today, I slid into my car, and a police officer pulled up and stormed out, baton in hand.  He strode quickly to my friend, and older man with a cane, and barked at him. “Move it!” he said angrily.  I wondered if my friend had been a puppy, if the officer would have picked him up and taken him from the cold.  How could he not know the beauty and gifts available inside these humans? How could he not see, how the people on the streets are just people.

He continued on, chasing them down the sidewalk, wherever they paused, waving his baton and barking orders for them to get off. [Read more…]

The Rules

A man told me recently that his goal this year is to be authentic and reach a complete congruence between who is he and who he wants to be.  He had a problem he was dealing with in his life that he couldn’t manage well because it didn’t match up to his ideal image.

I leaned over and picked up a rock from the dirt below our feet.  The edges were sharp and dirty with clay.  I had a small rock collection back at the house from various travels and an image popped in my head of one rock I’d found at the bottom of a creek bed.  It was round, flat, and smooth.  It felt like soft fabric in the palm of your hand.  It was comforting to hold.  But now i help the sharp, ragged rock between us.

“God made the rough stones,” I said, “and he also made the perfect smooth ones.”

This whole notion of who we should be keeps me up in the night lately.  So many people live under the weight of who they should be according to the rules society has set.  But where is the truth in all of that?

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Love Hurts, or Does it?

One of the central themes of my most recent literary work, The Compass, is Love and the way it wounds us.  I’ve learned so much about love, but never the answer to it.   I’ve learned that there are so many different kinds.

There’s passionate love, agape love, and the kind of love you have for your dog.

At times I am reminded of the Romeo and Juliet kind of love.  That feels like the kind of love you’d die for.  Open, exposed, like a forest fire threatening to extinguish the life of everything in the forest.  The good, the bad, the large mammals and small.  The wildlife, flowers and bonfires.  All of it gone.  Most of us feel as if we are experiencing this type of love at some point in our lives.  Usually when we are teenagers grasping at the meaning of emotion.

Then, I am reminded of a different kind of love, the kind that you’d die with, not for.

This is the type of love with depth, but a love so deep you don’t feel the need to shout it from the rooftops.  It’s a bury the body kind of love.  A 3am friend kind of love.  An unspoken , indescribable, cannot stop thinking of you kind of love.  It’s the kind of love you’d be prepared to die with, take to the grave.

Last in my pondering, I think of the kind of love that one dies from.

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The Cold

Lowell approached me today with a notepad.  We’d both been up since 4:30, because the shelter woke them all up at that hour and kicked them back out into the cold and my alarm in my warm soft bed signaling my departure to meet them.  The parking lot we met in was blustery.  It was 20 degrees, but his spirit was warm.

“Read it and tell me what you think,” he said. “Give me your honest opinion.”

I read his notebook entry and smiled.  “It’s great!” I said.  “Can I take it and publish it?”

Lowell smiled.  I told him I’d submit it this week with my article, to the newspaper I write a column for about the homeless. The title of his short essay was “Don’t wake me I’ll come up swinging.”

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