Category Archives: Writing

A unique goodbye

Toasting a friend

Put on your recording of John Mellencamp’s “Ain’t that America” and read on.

The story behind this picture is that Sandy Gillis, my son’s wife’s mother, was buried yesterday in one of the most unusual funerals I have ever attended. It was solemn and appropriately spiritual, but it was unique. Sandy was a biker chick of a sort who always had a Budweiser in her hand. Her funeral procession consisted of more motorcycles than cars. The minister was the pastor of the local biker’s church, and he delivered a beautiful and down to earth message of comfort to the family. He acknowledged that Sandy didn’t crowd the pews very often at his church, but he also knew her from their working together where she had an unbelievable work ethic to the point of being thought of as a workaholic and a reputation as one who would give you anything she had if you needed it. One of her male coworkers sang “Pass me not oh gentle Savior” a capella and did a great job of it. Very moving.

Cheryl asked me to read something she had written, which I was, of course, glad to do. She gave me good material with several laugh lines, something we performers always appreciate. One of the paragraphs from that eulogy received a laugh of acknowledgment from everyone that Cheryl had nailed the image of her mom when she said,

She loved so many people it would make me mad from time to time. She would let anybody that needed a place to stay, stay in the basement. She would let you eat any of the food and drink in the house even when we did not have enough to eat (as long as you did not drink her last Budweiser in the refrigerator door) and if that happened, you caught Hell!

Mike commented that he thought Sandy “would be happy with her service.” I couldn’t agree more. It was sad to have to assemble to say goodbye, but it was a perfect celebration and acknowledgment of who Sandy was, and her spirit pervaded the crowd and the entire event.

It was nice to see people comfortable being themselves and celebrating Sandy’s life in a way that she would not only have approved of but would have happily participated in. And just as Sandy would have wanted, when the service concluded, someone wheeled a cooler filled with ice cold Budweiser up to the graveside and the scene was set for Mike to take the photo. There are others here.

Even though this was a family event and therefore normally something you don’t share with the world, I thought you might appreciate hearing about this little slice of American uniqueness. I hope it brings a smile to your face, as it does to mine.

Thoughts about Self Talk

Even back about 20 years ago we were talking about self talk.  Self talk is that internal dialogue you have perhaps subvocally with yourself throughout the day.  Sometimes the voice in your head can be condemning.  Often it’s very critical.  Unfortunately it’s often very critical of yourself.  And when your self talk is sufficiently critical of you that could sometimes lead to depression or paranoia.

As a person who lives alone, I admit I talk to myself … often and frequently I do so out loud.  And since I have committed myself to writing a book during the next year, I decided to purchase a copy of Dragon NaturallySpeaking and test whether my talking to myself out loud could be made productive time as it pertains to writing the book.  I said to myself I can capture what I am  saying  as I babble to myself during the day.  And much of that babbling would be potential material for the book.  It would require a lot of editing I’m sure, but it would be better than starting from scratch with a blank sheet of paper.

So I bought Dragon NaturallySpeaking for about 200 dollars.  And I began training it last week.  In fact, I’m writing this blog post with it right now.  For the impatient among you, the Cliff Notes version of my evaluation so far is that it is that I like it very much.  It seems that my speculation about being able to use Dragon NaturallySpeaking to type is proving to be true.  I am able to use it to get text onto the page.  I haven’t reached that point yet that I am completely comfortable editing primarily with voice, but I hope to get better at that with practice.

This must make sense because many doctors use this software and this technology to document their conversations with their patients.  It’s the best way to get that information into the patient’s record.  Doctors are certainly not going to sit down at the computer and go to individual records to type in their comments.  However, at the conclusion of a visit with a patient they will pick up a dictating device and speak their notes into that.  So that way they can just be done with it and go on to the next patient.

I intend to use that same strategy myself.  I have ordered a Zoom H4 which is a professional quality digital audio recorder frequently used by musicians and songwriters to capture the sound moment when they’re working together.  I can use the digital audio recorder to capture interviews of people.  And I can use it as a dictating machine when I’m away from my computer because Dragon NaturallySpeaking has a transcription mode which can transcribe from a digital file.  So when I’m riding along in my car, I can simply speak into the digital audio recorder, the zoom H4, and when I return home, I can have Dragon NaturallySpeaking transcribe what I dictated while riding in the car.

I have no idea yet how well Dragon NaturallySpeaking will transcribe the speech of someone who hasn’t created a profile and trained on it, as for instance when I might be interviewing someone and would like for Dragon NaturallySpeaking to transcribe both sides of the interview.  This combination of equipment, coupled with a Calisto Pro wireless headset, offers a unique new creative environment, and I’m eager to experiment with this new environment as well as use it in producing writing throughout this year.

Interestingly, the more you use it the better it gets at recognizing how you say things, so even if you’re not interested in producing a written record of something for publication, you might consider using it just to continue to train it.  In the future when you needed it it would be better equipped to do what you wanted it to do.

So welcome to my journey along the path of talking to your computer.  I still have much to explore about Dragon NaturallySpeaking, but I am very confident that I can use it and I do intend to use it experimentally as I attempt to write more things this way.  Stay tuned.

Recurring events

Here’s an email I just sent to my son, Jeff.  I ultimately addressed it to both Jeff and Mike, but once I had written it, I wanted to share it with any of the rest of you who might care to read it.


You said this, “I apologize for my lack of contact as I have been having a problem dealing with Mama’s death. This is something I will work through in my own time I am sure.”

It is precisely because you are (or I had thought you may be) having problems with your mother’s death that I wanted to make contact with you.  That’s not the kind of thing you should (or should have to) work through by yourself.  It is when you are dealing with such an emotional issue that you need to reach out to those you know love you and who share your sorrow and pain.  I qualify on both counts.

Since I’m sitting here at the computer late at night and you’ve just written me, I’m guessing you are also sitting there at your computer late at night.  I’d be happy to share a late night conversation with you by phone if you want to call me.  But if you choose not to, then let’s talk tomorrow about a time when we can talk about what you are thinking and how you are feeling about your mother’s death.

One reason we share each other’s sorrows is to make our own burdens lighter. It isn’t just that I want to support you; it’s also that I believe if I can hold onto you to give you strength, it will give me strength too.   I love you, but now I have to love you twice as much to compensate for your mother’s absence.  Your supply of “knowing that you are loved” (didn’t even know you had a supply of that, did you?)  is sort of like gas in a car.  You need it refilled regularly and often, because if you go for long periods without stopping by a “filling station,” you could run out.  When you know you are loved, you can endure more, you can accomplish more and you can relax more and quit doing things to get others to prove to you that they really do love you.

We’ve all been under considerable stress with your mom’s illness.  We need to consciously acknowledge how that stress manifests itself in our lives.  We must be aware that when we feel the need to have that extra drink in an evening or when the need to commit some sexual indiscretion shows up or when we can only see the faults in everyone around us because we are under stress, we can recognize that for what it is — our plea to be comforted and an expression of our need for stress relief!

Life is full of learning experiences.  Carole’s death gives us a chance to learn to deal with loss.  You’ll have several such opportunities during your lifetime; it’s just the nature of things that you will.  Strive to get better each time you cross that bridge; it’s not a one-time event.

Some day you’ll get to deal with my death.  There is no escaping that.   Please resolve to learn from Carole’s death the lessons it has for you in how to deal with the loss of a loved one, and resolve to make sure that when you get to practice what you learned this time around the next time you have to go through this experience, you will use what you have learned to lessen the pain you experience and the pain you cause others because of how much you are hurting.

There is certainly no one right way to grieve.  But grief is a part of every life.  In many ways, it is also a beautiful thing, and though only God could possibly have the wisdom to understand this, a necessary thing.  One would never choose to experience it, but there is an honesty in the pain you feel when someone you love is gone that is purer than almost any other emotion you’ll ever experience.

Remember,  sometimes when you allow yourself to accept another’s attempt to help you, you are also helping that other person deal with his or her own feelings about the loss that both of you share.

Be honest about the pain you are experiencing and permit those who love you to try to help.  You’ll be doing them a world of good.  Suffering in silence only perpetuates the pain and causes pain to others because of your own unhappiness.

Damn!  Aren’t you glad you were born to such a wise father?  😉


PS  Because I need to say these same things to your brother, I’m going to copy him on this message.  I’m sure you’ll understand.  I love you both with all my heart!