Scrolling through Facebook one day, I saw a meme about cousins being our first friends. It quickly caught my attention, but didn’t think too much about it.

Out of the blue today, I heard from someone I’ve always considered a cousin and friend. It was a brief, yet touching and meaningful text conversation, that I was warmed to my heart, and driven to write this.

On my mom’s side of the family, we don’t have a lot of cousins, but on my dad’s side of the family we have a bunch! As I sit writing this, I think of each and every one of my cousins (on both sides of the family!), and how much they have come to mean to me.

It’s funny – cousins can grow up together, then go separate ways, yet always seem to come together again. And as I get older, I have found I appreciate my cousins more and more. And more.

No, I don’t always talk to my cousins, and a lot of time, messages come and go out of the blue, but after we converse, I always reflect back to how much I love being in touch with them, and love having them in my life.

One thing I especially enjoy is that each time we come together, it’s almost as if we’ve never been apart. Cousins are cool like that.  Another thing I love is that my cousins seem to really enjoy my wife – and that is really important to me.

“Cousins are your first friends”. This may be correct, but it may be more reasonable to think that “cousins are true friends”.

To my cousins out there – scattered among the four winds – I love you all. Thank you for being my friend, and thank you for the love and support you always gave me  – whether you knew you were providing it or not. You are all awesome in your own lovely way!

My Complete and Utter Fascination with Pink Floyd

In June of 1980, I was talking on the telephone with the girl who used to live next door to us in Madison Heights, MI. At the time, I didn’t know it would be the last time I’d ever speak to her, but that’s neither here nor there.

The thing is, we grew up together. She was like a sister to me. And during that telephone call, she planted a seed that grew to change my life.

With her birthday in early June, and my birthday in mid-June, she was telling me that she got a couple of new records. Since I already liked music A LOT, I asked which records she got.

“Van Halen’s ‘Women and Children First’, and Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’,” she said.

I hadn’t heard either one, as they both had recently been released. In fact, I had never heard of Van Halen at that point, but I had heard Pink Floyd.

A couple of years earlier, when we had gone to visit my uncle and aunt, I got my first taste of Pink Floyd. The opening strains of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” FLOORED me, and the rest of the album had me mesmerized.

So because my former next door neighbor got those two albums for her birthday, I decided that I needed to have them for MY birthday, a week or two later.

I wasn’t disappointed. “Women and Children First” was a killer introduction to a band that would change rock and roll forever.

But it was “The Wall” that I played over and over. And over. And over.

I think it was the 135th time I played that album that I started “getting it”. It really started resonating with me. I really understood the concept behind it, and that understanding led to deeper and deeper levels of appreciation of the album.

I acquired “The Dark Side of the Moon” shortly afterwards, and kinda dug it. Then, at a family get together, my uncle said that he used to listen to “Dark Side” with his buddies “in the old days”. I was intrigued!

Eventually, my uncle gave me his copy of “Wish You Were Here”. Many would say that by this time, I had the holy trinity of Pink Floyd albums. But I still wasn’t full-blown gonzo on the band.

My freshman year in college, I was at a party, sitting next to the radio. Roger Waters, Pink Floyd’s bassist, was touring in support of his first solo album, and a commercial for the tour came on. The radio spot played bits and pieces of classic Floyd songs, and it all started to resonate with me.

I went back to my dorm room, and fueled with alcohol and a sudden desire to space out, I threw on “Wish You Were Here”, and it was like I had never heard it before. Over and over, I played my three Pink Floyd albums, no doubt driving everyone crazy. But I was a junkie, needing my fix.

Shortly afterwards, I bought “Meddle”, and fell in love with that album. Again, I played it over and over.

My Pink Floyd addiction got worse and worse. Soon, I had “Animals”, and a bootleg recording of “Live at Pompeii”. I bought cassette tapes of their early stuff, and absorbed all of it. Then, in the late 1980s, when CDs became popular, the first one I bought was “Atom Heart Mother”.

Pink Floyd had stopped touring in 1980, after “The Wall” concerts. I never had a chance to see them.But, in 1988, the remaining members toured sans Roger Waters. I saw them twice on that tour. I bought their live video tapes, and collected every legal form of their music and then some.

In 1994, the band released another album, and I saw them in concert in three different cities on that tour.

By this time, “The Wall” had become my least favorite Pink Floyd album. I had heard it so many times, I felt that I could sing it in my sleep. My favorite songs were the ones they never played on the radio – anything off the “Animals” album, the “Meddle” album, and the epic “Echoes”.

The advent of the internet made bootleg copies more and more available, and I was in – hook, line, and sinker!

Looking back over the last 37 1/2 years, Pink Floyd was easily the biggest part of the soundtrack to my life. Even today, I downloaded some old live versions of their music.

Sometimes, I will turn on something of theirs, and I won’t even remember hearing it, because it is all so familiar to me. It’s like walking down the hallway of your house, not even realizing the color of the walls, because you see it all the time.

Sometimes, I will bob my head to the jams and really feel it. I will think of where I was when I first heard the song. I will think of my uncle, and appreciate him and the gift of music that he gave me. Sometimes, I will simply stop whatever I’m doing, and listen. Deeply. In my heart.

My love of Pink Floyd has given me amazing moments with family members and friends. I remember hanging out with college friends eagerly watching the video for “Live at Pompeii” for the first time. I remember making a trip to Ann Arbor to see the odd movie “Zabriskie Point” because Pink Floyd performed the soundtrack.

When I moved to Las Vegas, my mom came out for a visit. We drove two hours to Death Valley, and stopped at a few places to take pictures. One of those places? Zabriskie Point.

I recall many years ago, cranking out various Pink Floyd tunes while drinking beers with my sister and contemplating life. I took my mentor and friend, George Clark, to see Roger Waters with my uncle and his family. And in 2017, my brother and I saw Roger Waters perform in Greensboro, NC, which was an amazing experience for both of us.

Sometimes, as a writer, I write my stories, and poetry, and essays and such, and throw them against the wall to see if they stick. I wonder if these entities of my creative matter will inspire and become as important to someone else like Pink Floyd inspired me.

Human interactions are like spiderwebs – a tug on one end will cause movement on another end. And the vibrations of those two will affect another web. And it’s in this sense, that I bare my soul, and share the story of my addiction to the Pink Floyd.

Civilization is based on story-telling. And through sharing our stories, and sharing ourselves, we can affect the planet. When my former next door neighbor shared with me what she got for her birthday, and when my uncle shared with me some tunes that he loved, they changed my life for the better.

End of 2017 – 5 Favorite Books

One of my goals for 2017 was to read 20 books. It was a real struggle, and with three days left, I have read 18 books. I may get another done before the year is over, but I still feel like I missed my goal. My wife disagrees with me, as I released three books this year, she says I read and re-read each of them numerous times – so they count, right?

Regardless, I wanted to take the time to give you my top books read in 2017, listed in the order that I read them:

  1. Moonwalking with Einstein (Joshua Foer) – If you’re like me, you sometimes question whether your mind is going. I wanted to read this book with the intent of learning how to retain more knowledge. Unfortunately, this book didn’t do that. However, it did open my eyes to amazing and effective memorization techniques. I loved this book!
  2. Never Split the Difference (Chris Voss and Tahl Raz) – This book was a phenomenal read about how to properly negotiate. I learned a lot of hints that I’ve used since, and others that I can’t wait to try. It was a fun read!
  3. The Power of Starting Something Stupid (Richie Norton) – This book was an eye-opener! Many cutting edge thinkers do what is stupid, and most of them come away looking like geniuses! Important read!
  4. On the Edge (Alison Levine) – I listened to a lecture by Alison Levine, and was so impressed that I bought and read her book. It’s a book on leadership, told through the adventures of climbing Mt. Everest. In some ways, her tone is a bit silly, but the lessons she provides are important enough to learn or be reminded of.
  5. Abundance Now (Lisa Nichols) – I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching this year, and this book helped me remember how I’ve been successful in the past, and how to get there again.

Books of Note:

A Message of Hope from the Angels (Lorna Byrne) – I am a very optimistic person by nature, and this book helped reignite that optimism. I have also been doing a lot of spiritual learning, and Byrne’s angel stories were exactly what I needed to hear it the time.

Radical Acceptance (Tara Brach) – For some reason, I really struggled through this book. The concepts are great, and the lessons are spectacular. Nonetheless, I found it tough to get through. This book and The Toyota Way were the books that stalled me from achieving my goal!

Think and Grow Rich (Napoleon Hill) – Surprisingly, this book did little for me. It was written in the 1930s, and I couldn’t get past the idea that so much has changed in the time since. Yes, the basic concepts are phenomenal, and can certainly help you think and grow rich. But I felt that a lot of the steps were no longer applicable. I probably did myself a disservice by not opening my mind to these ideas.

The Toyota Way (Jeffrey Liker) – I read this book because I was hoping to get a job at Blue Cross Blue Shield that required the person in the role to be Six Sigma certified within a year. This book was highly recommended in the Udemy class I took on Lean/Six Sigma. And boy, did I struggle with this book! I already understood most of the concepts, and agree with them, but for some reason, this book took me 11 months to read! Ugh!

Alright, that’s the list for now! What is on my reading list for 2018, you ask? well, my reading list has over 100 books, and I keep adding to it faster than I can take books off it! And because I plan to have more of a life in 2018, my reading goal will be a mere five books. I expect to have closer to 10, but five is my minimum.

Happy 2018, y’all!

A Moment Alone on Christmas Night

I stood in the dark,

Snow lightly landing on, and around me.

My face was chilled, my nose ran from the cold air.

It was quiet. Calm. Silent. Holy.

I felt as if I was surrounded by family and friends.

Without intent, memories of Christmas past hit me full force.

Time with those I love and loved.

Time with those who have always been in my heart.

I smiled with the glow of beautiful remembrances.

I looked to the sky to say thanks – and a shooting star raced across the sky.

I wondered for a moment if it was Santa,

But decided that it was a small miracle instead.

I started walking towards town, the lights aglow.

The promise of warmth and love lies ahead.

A Holiday Tradition

In 1992, I was out of work and broke as a joke drinking Coke. At Christmas, I relied on my God-given talents, and wrote a poem, which I included in everyone’s Christmas card. This would be their present from me.

The tradition has continued since. As a special treat to my loyal readers, I thought I’d share the story I wrote for the 2001 Christmas card:

The Christmas Dream

I was riding my bike in Alaska,

And stopped at North Pole.

I spoke to Santa, and Mrs. Claus fed me homemade chocolate chip cookies.

The dream was so real that I could still smell the cookies.

Then I heard it again… the sound of faint whispering coming from elsewhere in the house.

I stepped into my fuzzy bunny slippers and pulled on my robe.

I reached for the baseball bat in the closet and leaped into the hallway.

Down the hall, the warm glow of twinkling Christmas tree lights bounced along the walls…

But didn’t I turn off the lights before I went to bed?

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered that it was Christmas morning –


My heart began to race, and adrenaline pumped through my veins as I peeked around the corner into the living room.

There was a quick flash of light, did I see…?!?! Nah! Couldn’t be!

Convinced that I was seeing things, I got back to business.

I cocked the baseball bat on my shoulder, ready to give any intruder a surprise.

My breath came in short bursts, and I listened intently to the silence –

After checking the doors and windows, I slowly caught my breath.

I opened the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of Gatorade.

Hey… didn’t Santa offer me Gatorade in my dream?

I plopped down on the couch and rested my fuzzy bunny feet on the coffee table.

Looking at the Christmas tree, I became mesmerized by the blinking lights.

My eyes grew heavy, but snapped open, as I became very aware that something was different.

In the corner, partially hidden by the lighted tree, was a brightly wrapped box with a large red bow on top.

I stood up and glanced briefly into the kitchen…

Hey, is that a plate of cookies?

I walked curiously to the kitchen table.

Sure enough, there was a paper plate of cookies wrapped in plastic wrap.

Sticking out from underneath the plate of cookies was an envelope.

Gingerly, I slid the envelope from under the plate.

In thick letters, that could be mistaken for my mom’s writing, was written my name.

“Dear Matt,” the letter inside began,

“It was most wonderful meeting you last year in North Pole.

We kept tabs on you in Montana this year, and although you had knee problems, we were encouraged that you were able to help others have a terrific experience!”

I was frozen with disbelief, but continued reading:

“Here is a plate of chocolate chip cookies. I remember that you were very fond of them.

“I hope you and you family have a most magical Christmas, and your wonderful friends as well!”

It was signed:

“Mrs. Claus”

“Ho-lee shhhh…” I muttered.

I ripped the plastic wrap from the cookies. Unbelievably, they were still warm!!!

I sank my teeth into the delicious treat and turned my attention back to the box in the living room.

I kneeled down next to the box, which was nearly two-feet tall.

“To Matt”, the label on top said,

“From Santa”.

As I moved the box closer to me, I noticed it was nearly weightless.

I sat down cross-legged, smiling like a kid,

And tore at the big red bow and brightly colored paper.

I pulled open the box and eagerly reached inside.

There was a picture.

In the light of the Christmas tree, I recognized the picture from last Christmas Eve.

I smiled, remembering how amazing Christmas seemed last year.

I set down the photo and reached back into the box.

There was another picture, circa mid 1990’s.

Again, I happily relived warm Christmas thoughts.

I reached into the box again and again.

Each time, there was a single photograph,

And each photograph triggered another beautiful Christmas memory.

Near tears now, having gone through Christmas pictures that spanned my entire life,

I again reached into the box.

This time, I pulled out a card.

It read:

“May the happy memories of Christmases past

Fill your pores with the true spirit of Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Love, Santa”

When my tears finally abated, I awoke my sleeping legs.

To my amazement, the photos had disappeared,

But the card remained in my grip.

The clock struck 6am.

I placed the card on the kitchen table next to the cookies and went back to bed,

Hoping to dream about Santa and Mrs. Claus,

So I could thank them for such an amazing gift.

Week 52 – Jelly Bean #2

Sugar Consciousness

As I sat on Easter Sunday,

I found a little jelly bean.

I considered many questions:

Where did it come from?

Why was it here?

Was it a sign?

The red mini-bomb of sugar had me wondering:

What was the flavor – strawberry or cherry?

How old was it?

How long had it been there?

I stared and had a vision of eating it.

My mouth watered,

My parotid tweaked,

My teeth hurt.

That little jelly bean on Easter sunday,

Generated so many questions

For such a minuscule thing.

It made me realize how small I was in the universe.

And how much of an impact I have yet to make.

Week 52 – Jelly Bean #1

His Name

Everywhere he went

He caused a scene

Even at school

He punched the dean

He wore shorts

When they wore jeans

He was dirty

They were clean

It’s no lie

He was obscene

“Eat Crap!” he’d say

See what I mean?

He once dated

The cute prom queen

But he was 30

and she was a teen

There was no way

anyone could intervene

This was the way he was

and his name was Jelly Bean.


Week 51 – Strong #2

Uncle Sam

He was the tallest,

the strongest,

the fastest,

the smartest.

He was the coolest,

the nicest,

the wisest,

the hardest.

He was you,



in between.

He was the first,

the second,

the tenth,

the last.

There was never anyone like him,

there was never anything like him.

He was my Uncle Sam,

I still weep.

Week 51 – Strong #1


The little man sat cold in the chair

After the chemo drip was attached, the nurse covered him with a fleece blanket.

The blanket screamed SPARTANS!, colored in the familiar green and white.

The man sighed heavily, and resigned himself to watch “The Price is Right”.

During the commercial, he looked up at the IV, which dripped, dripped, dripped in silence.

Again, he sighed.

He closed his eyes.

Behind fluttering eyelids, he saw himself 20 years earlier.

Strong, lithe, healthy.

He was hanging out in a tiki bar in Florida, listening to badass reggae riddims while watching college football on TV.

He could almost taste the Rum Runner, and shivered with the cool memory.

He and his buddies were laughing. Sharing motorcycle stories.

He was the only one left now, and he wondered, opening his eyes again, staring at the plastic bag full of vile chemicals, if he’ll ever get another chance to feel the sand of that warm tiki bar under his feet. Ever again.