I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

One Year Blogiversary

A year ago today, I hit the delete button on my former blog that dealt mostly with politics, and then I hit the “start a new blog” button. I didn’t have as clear a vision as I should have when I started it. I just knew that I didn’t want to talk about politics every day. I’m a man without a political party and I got tired of saying things nobody cares about. At the same time, I knew that life has the tendency to pass me by if I don’t find a way to remember and celebrate the small things.

Thus, Little Nuances was born.

I retitled the blog three or four times the first day. I turned comments on, and then quickly turned them off. I added new sections in the first few weeks. I tweaked the design. For a while, I included posts called “midweek quotes” (on Wednesdays) and “blog prompt Friday.” I discontinued those several months ago and started doing “top 10 Tuesdays.” Most recently I changed the header to (hopefully) capture the essence of this blog.

As time has gone on, I’ve found my niche here at Little Nuances. I’ve received several dozen touching e-mails from people I didn’t know previously. They wrote because somehow, they connected with something I wrote. That’s the magic and power of the written word. And it’s why I love it so. I now call several of those people friend. We’ve traded e-mails about things I don’t blog about, or that I can’t be specific about. They’ve offered me encouragement and advice, but most importantly, they listened. Hopefully they can say the same thing about me.

Some of you have even ordered my singles book, Single Servings, and wrote to tell me how much you enjoyed it. That means more to me than you know. This was the toughest book I've written. Maybe because it was my first book, but I suspect it has more to do with the fact that I talked about a number of my own struggles and failures in it, and that’s never an easy thing to do.

I don’t know what’s in store for Little Nuances as I begin year two, but I don’t plan to limit myself. I’ll write about whatever is on my heart. I’ll even sneak in a political post or two once in a while, as I have this past year. Far more people are reading this blog than my previous blog and for that I say a big “thank you!” I appreciate it.

My first post here was called Hurricane Katrina and in it I said that my thoughts and prayers were with the victims of the storm. Since the one year anniversary of the storm was earlier this week, I’ll end this post the same way, because many thousands of people from the Gulf Coast are still hurting. May God be with you.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Terry Bradshaw

Photo: U.S. Navy by journalist
1st Class Mark A. Rankin
Public Domain
#6 Favorite Athlete of All-Time: Terry Bradshaw

My mom claims that I pointed to a Pittsburgh Steelers coat in a store when I was a little boy and told her that I wanted it. I don't remember that incident, but I do remember rooting for the Steelers in Super Bowl IX in January of 1975. I was eight years old at the time and all through my childhood I rooted for many of the same players: Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Rocky Bleier, Lynn Swann, Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Andy Russell, Mike Wagner, John Stallworth and many others.

Terry Bradshaw always stood out in my mind. The Steelers were a terrible team when they drafted him in 1970 out of Louisiana Tech, but before he finished his career in 1983, the Steelers won eight AFC Central championships and four Super Bowls. Certainly, the players I listed above, and many others, had much to do with the Steeler’s success. But without Bradshaw, I don’t think it would have happened. .

Looking back, Terry Bradshaw was a big part of my childhood and that’s one of the main reasons that he’s one of my favorite athletes. He was criticized for not being very bright, and as I got older, that always irritated me. But in the end, he got the last laugh. He left the game with a hand full of Super Bowl rings. Ridicule can do one of two things to a person. It can either cripple his or her desire to take risks, or it can motivate a person. Bradshaw was motivated by it.

He even branched out into music and acting. When I was young, maybe 10 or so, I went to see him sing. I went with a friend and his family. A few minutes before the concert started, we decided to try to get close to the stage so I could get Terry’s picture. We raced toward the front and I caught Terry just as he was about to go on-stage. I have no idea why I didn’t ask my friend to take a photo of Terry and I together. I just didn’t think of it.

Instead, I took a photo of Terry by himself—and just as I snapped the photo, a woman walked right into our path, so I jerked the camera to try to miss her, but I ended up cutting half of Terry out of the picture. The other half shows a huge beehive hairdo. I have no idea where that photo is, or I would post it here. I don’t remember anything else about his concert—other than the fact that he sang country music.

Whenever I see him today on an NFL pregame show or on the big screen, it brings back these and many other great great memories from my childhood.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Agassi Prevails

Andre Agassi often talks about process. Last night at the US Open, his match against Andrei Pavel was all about process. This is Agassi’s last tournament of his career. He’s chosen (arguably) tennis’ biggest stage to exit. But he’s not quite ready.

He dropped the first set in a tie breaker. And then he won the second set in a tie breaker. He got down two breaks in the third set and then process kicked in. He changed rackets to go up a pound in string tension and from that point on, he started running Pavel all over the court. Agassi came all the way back to win the third set and then the fourth. 

This match wasn’t about wondering if he could win the tournament or even about whether he could beat Marcos Baghdatis in the second round. It was about the electricity of each moment. Some of those moments included such emotion that Agassi was near tears. Some of those moments included him skipping to his chair during change-overs after escaping big trouble. Some contained precious television shots of what matters most to him—his wife and children. And each moment contained the beautiful tension that comes from knowing that the inevitable is about to happen, but simply not wanting it to—not just yet.

Agassi lives to play another day—Wednesday probably, against a great player in Baghdatis. And tennis fans will get to relive it all again. And we’ll love every minute of it.

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Monday, August 28, 2006

US Open Time

Today is day one of the U.S. Open tennis tournament. Next to Christmas, this is my favorite time of the year. I started watching this tournament around 1990. I blogged about that here last year. As the tournament opens today, I’m reposting something I wrote in the middle of the tournament last year after the unbelievable Andre Agassi vs. James Blake match. It’ll give you an idea about why I love the tournament so much.

Here’s the post I wrote on September 8. 2005, entitled Agassi vs. Blake:

If the U.S. Open quarterfinal tennis match last night had been a fictionalized account in a movie or a book, the writer would have insisted that one of the characters didn't belong on the court because Andre Agassi and James Blake are both “good guys.” They are respectful of opponents and fans. And they are respectful of the game that they love to play.

James Blake probably shouldn't have been there. In 2004, he broke his neck while playing tennis, his father died, and for a while James was temporarily paralyzed in his face. His ranking plummeted and playing a night match on the world's biggest tennis stage probably seemed as unlikely as returning to a “normal” life. But he did. Both. He received a wildcard to enter the U.S. Open and made it all the way to the quarterfinals against Agassi.

Andre Agassi probably shouldn’t have been there either. He’s 35, ranked 7th in the world, and has been battling a back problem for quite some time. His legs are tired. And his ability to jump on opponents early in matches isn’t quite as good as it used to be. But none of those things factor in Agassi’s love for the game and more impressively, his understanding that performing at a high level for fans who are spending time and money to watch him play a game is more important than all of the things that are not in his favor.

The stage was set. Two “good guy” Americans. Two Cinderella stories. But only one guy could win in the quarterfinals and advance. I couldn’t figure out who to root for, so I just watched and marveled at two great athletes. Blake was red hot to start the match and an hour into the match he was up two sets to none. Agassi looked spent. He wasn’t moving well. He was frustrated with his body. And I’m guessing that he was frustrated that he wasn’t putting up a better fight for the fans.

Then something happened. Agassi found a way to win the third set and everybody was stunned—not that Agassi kept fighting, but that he had anything left in his tank to actually win the set. The crowd started to get behind Agassi thinking that they’d love to see a come from behind victory from the two-time aging champion that inspires people to reach beyond themselves.

Agassi won the fourth set and unbelievably, they were tied at two sets apiece. And on a Wednesday night in New York, 20,000 people went crazy as Wednesday night became Thursday morning. The fifth set started around midnight and seemed destined for a tie-breaker. Indeed that’s what happened. And of course, the tie-breaker was a battle too. Blake had the first match point at 6-5, but Agassi rallied and won the tie-breaker 8-6.

The two players embraced at the net and the crowd applauded in appreciation for two athletes who gave it everything they had. James Blake said these words to Agassi at the net: “It couldn’t have been more fun to lose.”

Here’s what Agassi said after the match: “I don’t know if I can put in context how this compares with some of my greatest experience on the tennis court, but I know it’s right up there because this is what you work so hard for, you know. To be honest, with the way a mentality like mine sort of works, is this means as much to me as doing it in the finals. This is what it’s about. It’s about just authentic competition, just getting out there and having respect for each other’s game and respect for each other’s person and letting it fly and letting it be just about tennis.”

He went on to say this: “At 1:15 in the morning for 20,000 people to still be here, I wasn’t the winner, tennis was. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt this good here before.”

As tennis fans, we don't know if we have either Andre.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Writing a Novel

I’ve been tagged by Crystal over at the Chat N’ Chew Cafe’. I’ve known Crystal for several years, first through an online e-mail writer’s group, and then we met at a writer’s conference a couple of years ago in Denver. We share the same last name (her maiden name is Warren), and have many other things in common, so she started referring to us as cousins—which I found to be quite funny—and it stuck. If you haven’t stopped by her blog yet, then do so. She’s new to the blogosphere, but not to writing. She’s been writing for years.

I don’t really do memes here, but this is just one simple question (asked by Meredith Efken, whom I also know and count as a good friend). Here’s the question: “If you could write a novel about any subject, what would it be? (Just the subject–don’t give away your plot idea!)”

I’ve actually written two novels and I have an idea for a third. My first novel was about a rock star. At one point, I knew several people in bands and I was close enough to a couple of them to get a taste of the creative process they went through. I wrote a couple dozen songs and shared them with one band in particular. I even played guitar myself for a while (I wonder…should I post a picture of me with my long hair and guitar? Oh, what could it hurt?)

I wrote the rock star book over the course of one year. I rearranged my work schedule to work on my novel every Monday. I also worked on it most Saturdays. Within a year, I had completed it. Unfortunately I never found a home for it. I haven’t given up hope yet though.

My second novel was about an elderly man who was dying of cancer. I told the story in the first person and I love the way it turned out. It’s more of a novella than it is a novel and I always had visions of self publishing it. I knew that most royalty publishers would never touch it because the book includes some pretty heavy theology. I may just may make it available to download as a .pdf file here at Little Nuances one day in the future.

My third novel is about the over-romanticization of first love. I think this book has a shot to be published, but unfortunately, fiction isn’t like nonfiction—in that I’d have to write the entire book before submitting a book proposal. Nonfiction books work the opposite way. The author submits a book proposal, and if the royalty publishing house likes the book, they offer a contract (and an advance). Then the author writes the book. Since I make my living from writing, I can’t very well set several months aside to write a novel I may never get paid for. But maybe I need to set aside one day a week, like I did with my first novel, and plug away on it for a year or so.

I’m not going to tag anybody, but if you’d like to answer the question yourself, feel free to do so. Write a post and then link back to this one so I can read about your dream book(s).

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Thursday, August 24, 2006


Some people feel like life begins shortly after they graduate from high school. They go off to college, or they get married, or they chase their dreams. Some people wait until they’ve lived through their “wild years,” or until they’ve started their first serious job, or until they’ve fulfilled all their familial obligations. Others tried for some obscure indefinable “life” that they could never find and ended up in “just getting by” mode.

I fall somewhere in between the second and third scenario. But many of the excuses I’ve used and many of the legitimate reasons have fallen by the wayside in recent years and this probably sounds ridiculous, but at the age of 40, I’m a few miles past “just getting by” road on my journey and I’m really thinking about my future.

I jumped in my car a couple of nights ago and popped in a CD called “Words and Music: John Mellencamp’s Greatest Hits.” I listened to one particular song called “Your Life is Now” a number of times. I’ve loved that song since it came out on Mellencamp’s self-titled CD that came out in the late 90’s. Here are the lyrics that really spoke to me the other night:

See the moon roll across the stars
See the seasons turn like a heart
Your fathers days are lost to you
This is your time here to do what you will do

I can feel the moon rolling across the stars and the seasons turning in my life. My connection to the previous generation is secure, and I’ll make certain that they won’t be forgotten by the next generation in my family, but so many of the people in the generation that precedes me are gone now—and so are my subsequent responsibilities to them. I’ve also reached a point in which I’ve come to terms with my past and I’m quite certain that it’s time to leave my past behind. 

Indeed, it’s my time to do what I want to do. For the first time in a long time, I feel invigorated, excited, and anxious (in a good way) about the future. My future. 


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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Sanctified Places

I’m still reading Independence Day by Richard Ford and I’m still enjoying it immensely. I just love the protagonist’s (Frank) way of thinking—probably because he thinks a lot like I do. He’s a realtor and here are his thoughts about the way people grasp onto the importance of places:

“It is…a patent lesson of the realty profession, to cease sanctifying places—houses, beaches, hometowns, a street corner where you once kissed a girl, a parade ground where you marched in line, a courthouse where you secured a divorce on a cloudy day in July but where there is now no sign of you, no mention in the air’s breath that you were there or that you were ever, importantly you, or that you even were. We may feel they ought to, should confer something—sanction, again—because of events that transpired there once; light a warming fire to animate us when we’re well nigh inanimate and sunk. But they don’t.”

When people fail to remember, acknowledge, or even know what has happened in the past in a place that I’ve sanctified, then it bothers me. I’ve written here in the past about my ever-changing childhood neighborhood. Here’s a little of what I said in one post: “Neighborhoods change with time—just like nearly everything else. But the older I get the more I want people to at least acknowledge how things used to be. Not because things were better then, but because those things are part of who I am. If people forget the name of the little drug store turned construction company on the corner, then somehow it feels like they are denying that I ever spent many allowances there. If people don't even know that the neighborhood kids played baseball games on the lot where five houses now sit, then it feels like people are saying those games were never played. If people who are living in the apartments where I used to attend grade school don't even realize it was a school, it's like they are saying…well, you get the idea.”

I’m torn after reading Frank’s thoughts. I think he’s partially right, in that, sanctifying places might not be such a good idea, because others are never going to hold the same value as we do for particular places because our experiences are unique. And to hold out hope that someone else will value a place as much as we do when his or her experience hasn’t been the same seems a bit foolish. But at the same time, I think formal memorials are good things—they just happen to memorialize the people and events that the community at large is interested in remembering, rather than just the personal events in the life of one person. Maybe the personal events ought to be memorialized in our journals, scrapbooks, and photo albums and in so doing, we should relinquish the sanctified places back to the community so everybody can enjoy them and create their own memories without us feeling resentful.

I think I’ll give it a shot.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Martina Hingis

#7 Favorite Athlete of All-Time: Martina Hingis

I was bummed out when Martina Hingis walked away from tennis at the age of 21. I loved her style of play. As I said in a post I wrote about her in January (shortly after she began her comeback after a three year absence): “She’s always been a finesse player and her style took her to number one in the rankings when she was just 16 years old. Before she bowed out of the game in 2002, she’d won 40 tournaments, including five majors. But that was before the power game took over women’s tennis. The question that tennis fans were asking when she decided to come back a few weeks ago was—could she compete with the big hitters?”

I don’t know if she’s really been able to answer that question yet. This past week, at the Rogers Cup, Hingis beat Daniela Hantuchova (ranked 17th in the world), Svetlana Kuznetsova (ranked 7th in the world—and the 2004 U.S. Open champion), and Anna Chakvetadze (ranked 29th in the world), but she lost in the final to Ana Ivanovic—a player who is known for her power game. So, while Hingis has made huge advances since returning, she doesn’t seem to be able to beat the most powerful players on the tour yet. Hopefully, she’ll figure out a way soon.

Watching Hingis play reminds me of a different era in tennis—the era that I grew up watching; the era in which strategy was king. As much as I enjoy watching two power players return ground strokes, I’ve always loved watching players like Martina Hingis, John McEnroe, and many others who knew how to hit angled shots, offensive lobs, and how to change the spin on the ball. They actually set up points rather than just blasting away from the baseline trying to blow their opponents off the court.

For the first time since 2002, Hingis has worked her way back into the Top 10 in WTA. And at the age of 25, she seems to enjoy her success more now than ever. She’s smiling again—even during matches. She’s as fit as ever. And she appears set to make a run at the U.S. Open next week. I’ll be rooting hard for her to win it all, but even if she doesn’t, she’ll be fun to watch.

Previous posts in this series:

#8, Julius Erving
#9, Mark Martin
#10, Jack Nicklaus

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Saturday, August 19, 2006


Starting on October 1, I’ll be giving away autographed copies of my books and/or audio CDs from presentations I’ve done at various writers’ conferences to randomly chosen people on the Little Nuances e-mail subscription list. Here’s a schedule of planned giveaways:

October 1—The Experience of Christmas
December 1—The Experience of Christmas
February 1—Single Servings
April 1—Single Servings
June 1—So You Want to Start a Blog? (audio CD)
August 1—So You Want to Start a Blog? (audio CD)
October 1—The Experience of Christmas
December 1—The Experience of Christmas

In addition to the scheduled giveaways, I’ll also do unplanned giveaways throughout the next year. So, if you’d like a chance to win, subscribe to the Little Nuances e-mail update list by providing your e-mail address in the box in the upper right hand corner of the page. Your e-mail address will never be sold. To be eligible to win, you’ll need to be willing to provide a mailing address if/when your name is chosen. I won’t ask for a mailing address before then. And just like with your e-mail address, your mailing address will be kept completely private.

If you are already on the Little Nuances e-mail update list, you don’t need to do anything. You are already eligible for the prizes.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Loving Our Political Enemies

The news contains a lot of serious stories right now; the JonBenet Ramsey case, the foiled airline bombing attempt by terrorists in England, and the fighting (and then the cease-fire agreement) between Israel and Hezbollah. With so many heavy news stories developing, wouldn’t it be nice if we could get the right and left sides of the political spectrum in America to agree to a cease-fire.

I’m so tired of hearing people on the left talk about how evil Mel Gibson, Ann Coulter, and Rush Limbaugh are. And I’m equally as tired of hearing people on the right talk about how evil the Clinton’s, Al Gore, and Ted Kennedy are. I’m not saying character doesn’t matter. It matters a great deal. I’m just saying that I’d like to see both sides treat teach other with a little more respect—and if a person on the other side isn’t deserving of respect, he or she is at least deserving of being treated like a human being—one who is capable of making mistakes, and poor judgments, and sometimes even ill-intentioned decisions.

Political leaders have chosen to put themselves in the public eye, and thus they’ve opened themselves up to scrutiny. They take stands, many of which include moral implications, and some of them fall painfully short in their private lives. I think those who are critical of such people fail to consider the most important question: Do their ideas have merit? I’m not asking whether they can live up to their own standards—most of us cannot, and if we think that we have, our standards are probably too low—but I’m just asking people to consider their ideas without feeling the need to point out how immoral they are.

The political right is often quick to point to the scriptures when discussing immorality on the other side. And the political left is just as quick to point to the scriptures when they remind us that we aren’t supposed to judge others. I often disagree with the scriptural interpretation from both sides. But neither side is quick to talk about the command to love our enemies—at least in the true biblical sense.

I wonder what would happen if our political leaders stopped vilifying their opponents, and instead, started praying for them, and inviting them out to dinner, and showing a genuine interest in each other’s family. I wonder what would happen if talk shows on both the right and the left stopped playing audio and video clips of people on the other side of the aisle misspeaking or saying something stupid (like we’re all prone to do from time to time), and instead just debated the issues.

Rough public discourse has existed as long as man has inhabited the earth…and certainly since the institution of various forms of government. But that doesn’t make it right.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Last year I took a day off and went out to a huge lake on the outskirts of town. I took a small cooler with pop and a sandwich, and I also brought my Bible, a notebook, and a pair of radio headphones. I planned to make a day out of it. I took a long leisurely walk around the lake and I really enjoyed it. The water was peaceful. The air was refreshing. And I couldn’t wait to eat a little lunch and dig into my Bible for a little reflection time.

By the time I got to the pavilion (no need to rough it too much), I was pretty tired. I opened a can of Diet Pepsi and chugged most of it. I ate my sandwich and I opened my Bible and notebook. I already had a theme I wanted to study. The wind was blowing pretty hard, so I used my cell phone and Palm Pilot as paperweights to keep my Bible and notebook open.

That’s when I seen it. A spider scurried out from under the picnic table and directly toward me. I’m not afraid of spiders, but I sure don’t want one crawling on me. And when this particular spider disappeared among my things, I wasn’t thrilled. I finally found him and I squished him. As I attempted to get refocused, a bee buzzed by my head.

I dislike bees more than spiders. I was attacked by bees as a little boy one day as I helped my grandpa rebuild a rock wall. I ended up with multiple stings and I haven’t been a fan of bees since. In fact, I’ve been known to move rather quickly when a bee starts messing with me. Some would say that I run. I would just call it a brisk walk.

But when this particular bee starting doing his thing in MY pavilion, that was the last straw. I packed my things and headed for the wonderful confines of an air-conditioned car that was completely void of anything that would crawl on me or sting me. I came home and did my studying there, but it wasn’t the same. Probably because I was so looking forward to the peace and tranquility of the outdoors.

For some reason, I’m planning to give it a shot again this year. Maybe at the end of next week if I can get caught up on my work. I’ll have to let you know who wins—me or the bugs.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Dire Moments

I’m making slow steady process through the novel I told you about last week by Richard Ford called Independence Day. Frank, the middle-aged protagonist who is divorced and in the middle of what he calls his “Existence Period” just received a call from Ann, his ex-wife. She called to tell him that she had decided to get remarried. Frank had been secretly holding out hope for a possible reconciliation, but obviously, Ann’s news changes all of that.

Listen to his thought process:

“Up to that moment, Ann and I had had a nice, cozy-efficient system worked out, one by which we lived separate lives in separate houses in one small, tidy, peril-free town…But in a pinch, a real pinch, say a head-on car crash requiring extended life support or a prolonged bout of chemo, no one but the other would’ve been in attendance, buttonholing the doctors, chatting up the nurses, judiciously closing and opening heavy curtains, monitoring the game shows through the long, silent afternoons, shooing away prying neighbors and long-ignored relatives, former boyfriends, girlfriends, old nemeses come to make up—shepherding them all back down the long hallways, speaking in confidential whispers, saying ‘She had a good night,’ or ‘He’s resting now.’ All this while the patient dozed, and the necessary machines clicked and whirred and sighed. And all just so we could be alone. Which is to say we had standing in the other’s dire moments, even if not in the happy ones.”

I don’t know if never-married, or divorced, or widowed women think the way that Frank does, and I don’t even know if most single men in the same situation think this way, but I sure do. I don’t have an ex-wife, but I wonder what would happen if I were in such an accident. The idea of having nobody present to bug the doctors, chat up the nurses, to take control of the hospital room, and to shoo away people who were never around when I was well…it bothers me.

If such an accident happened today, I wouldn’t have to worry. My mom is still alive. She’d do what mom’s do—no matter how old I am. But I don’t have a backup plan, and coming up with one is no easy task for a single person. It’s not the type of thing you ask a person you are extremely close to, it’s just something that happens automatically during a crisis because you are so close to another person. If you have to ask, it doesn’t count. And if the wrong person just assumes the role, well, that’s a disaster in the making.

I don’t have any answers. I just loved Frank’s insight. So many of the important moments of life come down to having that one person who will be there when you need him or her most.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Julius Erving

#8 Favorite Athlete of All-Time: Julius Erving

I’ve always been shy. When I was young, I was so shy that I often hid when someone rang the doorbell. I was eight years old when my parents divorced. My Mom moved my sister and I into the neighborhood she grew up in. She knew it was safe and that it had a ton of kids in it. The neighborhood we’d lived in previously was a little isolated and my sister and I had few kids to play catch with, or play games with, or just to hang out with.

Both of us found new friends right away after we moved. We had a park nearby and I hung out there quite a bit because it had a baseball field and a basketball court. It also had a nice long, flat empty field in which neighborhood kids played many a tackle football game. One day after school, I went up to the park with my basketball and shot a few hoops. I met a group of guys and fit in with them. Soon, my ritual was established. I’d get home, do my homework, eat supper, and head for the park and spend the next several hours running up and down the court playing basketball.

One particular friend I met on the court was a huge NBA fan. We didn’t have cable television then, but he told me about putting the radio close to his ear at night and listening to NBA games all over the country. He could pick up broadcasts for the Dallas Mavericks, the Chicago Bulls, and I think the Milwaukee Bucks. His favorite team was the Boston Celtics. Mine was their arch rivals—the Philadelphia 76’ers.

I’m sure I picked them because they were good, but I also loved to watch Julius Erving (Dr. J) play. He did things I’d never seen before—like taking off just a couple of feet inside the free throw line and dunking the ball. Or going high into the area on one side of the basket, only to realize that his shot was about to get blocked, so while in mid-air, he would somehow change direction and end up on the other side of the basket to do a reverse lay up.

He was Michael Jordan, before Michael Jordan. He could do everything. Dribble with the best point guard, pass over, under, and around defenders. He could hit a three pointer, and dunk unlike anybody I’d ever seen. But he also had this sort of class thing going on. He was well respected around the league. Of course, playing in 16 All-Star games didn’t hurt. But it was more than that. He wasn’t known as a trash talker and he genuinely seemed interested in the success of the game at large.

I started following him toward the end of his career—when he was still striving to a NBA championship (he’d played for the Nets in the ABA when they won two titles). It eventually happened in 1983 and it was so much fun watching him finally get what he worked so hard for. But on the way, my friend and I (the Celtic fan—who by the way, got to celebrate many more championships than I did) traded friendly barbs on the basketball court about whose team was the best.

I look back on those times and smile because those were the years when I finally found a place to fit in with people. I wasn’t the fat kid, or the shy kid, or the loner. I was just a kid who found a magical place that I’ll never forget.

Monday, August 14, 2006

40th Birthday

Today is my 40th birthday. Here are a few of the things running through my mind:

--I wish I had the wisdom at 18 that I have now. Not that I’m wise, but experience is a great teacher. In my case, by the time I started to understand the answers, I didn’t have the time, energy, or ability to implement what I’d learned in many of the endeavors that I would have liked to have pursued. Looking back on the first 18 years of my life, I didn’t have a clue how to live. I quit college on a whim. I hardly ever thought about the future. And I didn’t really pursue my dreams.

--I’m generally quite content with my age and my lot in life. I have my dream job (well, I’d prefer to be writing novels full time, but getting to write anything full time is a blast), I have great friends, an extended family I keep in contact with, a good church, a rather large library, good enough health to still play the sport I love (tennis), and a cat that I’ve had for the past 16 years to enjoy it all with.

--The one thing that has eluded me is marriage and children. Marriage can happen at any age, but the longer it takes, the smaller my chances are of having children. I’ve made my peace with that. Generally speaking, a war needs to take place before peace can occur. I fought that war, and survived it.

--Time seems more important to me than it ever has. My father died in his 60’s. So did his father. And I don’t think my father’s father lived to a ripe old age either. So I’m not overly optimistic that I’ll be the exception. That doesn’t bum me out, or stop me from living—quite the contrary, I enjoy each day, knowing that it’s a gift from God.

--Life is too short not to say the things that need to be said. I haven’t always done so, but in recent years I have.

--I appreciate celebrations now more than ever. I love getting together to hang out to celebrate friends’ birthdays or accomplishments. I make time to celebrate completed work projects. I’m always looking for a reason to celebrate because celebrations make life a little sweeter.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Extracted Little Nuances

A friend sent me a nice e-mail the other day telling me that she enjoyed the post I wrote about the novel I’m currently reading called Independence Day. She also said that she’d never seen a book review before the reviewer was done reading. I responded by telling her that I don't really do book reviews on this blog. Instead I extract "little nuances" (brief excerpts) from books and I use them as jumping off points for discussion because they speak to me in some fashion, or because they help me to see something more clearly, or because they make a point that I've been thinking about for a while.

I tend to read a lot of literary fiction and it’s always full of protagonists who spend most of their time in self-reflection. I love these types of books because it’s like sitting down with a good friend and getting the straight, unfiltered truth from him or her about the motivation behind all of his or her thoughts, words, and deeds. That always causes me to examine my own motivations. It’s a wonderful give and take and sometimes I feel like I need to write a post about it.

I do the same thing with lyrics, and movies, and articles. Anytime I read or hear something that captures a small part of humanity, I like to bring it here for you to experience. I might miss badly sometimes and bore you to death. Other times, you might nod your head in agreement or shake your head in disagreement before you move on to the next task on your schedule. But hopefully, once in a great while, you’ll be as challenged or moved or inspired as I was.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


As a person who makes a living by stringing words together, I’m always curious about the changing mediums by which people record, consume, and preserve words. As technology advanced over the last ten years, some magazine, newspaper, and book publishers were squeamish about being phased out. Studies began to show that indeed newspaper readership was declining, but some of the biggies took a chance and went online early—drawing revenue from advertising rather than direct subscribers. Smaller newspapers were more hesitant to put their content online for all to read without any sure way to recoup their costs.

About a year ago, the Newspaper Association of America, studied “audience demographic and online data from Scarborough Research, Nielsen/NetRatings, and to a lesser extent, The Gallup Organization” that included print and online readership from 100 major newspapers around the country. According to the NAA chairman, newspapers “are no longer touching 55% but closer to 75% of all adults.” So, considerably more people are reading the news—but a certain demographic is choosing to read it online. Online ad revenue has increased by 20% to 30% to offset the shifting readers. And at the moment everybody is happy. Newspapers are still financially viable and newspaper readers are happy because they are getting to read news via their chosen method.

You might also remember how concerned people were when e-mail became the preferred written method for keeping in touch. Handwritten letters largely became a thing of the past. Journaling software followed, and people seemed to fear that handwritten journals and notebooks would become obsolete. I was more concerned that people wouldn’t preserve their electronic words as well as generations have preserved them in the past and I wrote about it here.  

Along came the resurgence of Moleskine notebooks. Walk into any Barnes n’ Noble or Borders and you’ll find an entire shelf devoted to these delightful creatures. People are handwriting their thoughts again and they care enough about preserving their words that they are purchasing these sturdy notebooks with acid-free paper. And you know what’s really funny? Now people are setting up topical blogs dedicated to Moleskine notebooks and various other notebooks.

Technology isn’t ruining the written word. It’s giving people more options to record, consume, and preserve words. And regardless of where people stand in their broad spectrum of personal choices about such things, logophiles (lovers of words) everywhere are thrilled.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Independence Day

I’m currently reading a novel by Richard Ford called Independence Day. It’s about a divorced, middle-aged former sports writer named Frank Bascombe, who is now selling real estate and is in what he calls his “Existence Period.” The story takes place over a three-day Fourth of July weekend.

As the story begins, Frank sees that Paul, his 15 year-old son who lives with his mother, is going down the wrong path, but he feels like he’s failing him—and his former wife is quick to point that out. They are about to embark on a weekend trip that includes hitting as many sports halls of fame as possible and before they leave, Frank gives Paul two things—a copy of the Declaration of Independence and Self-Reliance (presumably the essay written by Ralph Waldo Emerson) and he encourages Paul to read them before they leave.

Listen to Frank’s internal lament over his seeming inability to connect with Paul: “The worst of being a parent is my fate, then: being an adult. Not owning the right language; not dreading the same dreads and contingencies and missed chances; the fate of knowing much yet having to stand like a lamppost with its lamp lit, hoping my child will see the glow and venture closer for the illumination and warmth it mutely offers.”

I suspect that nearly every decent parent in Frank’s situation, and many an aunt and uncle, feel much the same way that Frank does—completely frustrated by the fact that he or she is nearly powerless to influence this child for the better. And much like Frank did, he or she simply becomes resolved to just letting his or her light shine in hopes that the child will be attracted to it, but all the while knowing that he or she doesn’t have real connections to the things that matter most to the child.

I had to laugh about Frank giving Paul a copy of the Declaration and Self-Reliance because it sounds like something I would do, but when I see a character in a novel doing it, it seems rather absurd. But Frank has no earthly idea about the likes and dislikes of his son. Presumably (I’m only on page 84), Paul isn’t quick to tell his dad such things. So, Frank attempts to get Paul outside of himself by showing him what previous generations thought about the concept of freedom, as espoused in both the Declaration and perhaps these words from Self-Reliance:

“What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”

I have my doubts about whether Paul read such things before they left on the trip (I’ll have to let you know). But I’m hoping that he is eventually attracted to the lamppost with its lamp lit.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Mark Martin

#9 Favorite Athlete of All-Time: Mark Martin

I’ve only been following NASCAR for a short period of time, but I’m already a huge Mark Martin fan. How did that happen? I wrote a post about him back in April and in it, I explained how I became a Mark Martin fan. It boils down to this:

As Martin battled Greg Biffle for the lead at Homestead-Miami Speedway during the last race of the 2005 season, Martin realized something—Biffle’s car was better, so rather than wrecking himself or Biffle, he backed off and allowed Biffle to win. Afterward, Biffle was highly complementary of Martin's actions. Turns out, Martin has been known for such actions for a long time. That one action turned me into a huge fan of Mark Martin and of NASCAR in general.

I’ve been following Martin’s career ever since. Unfortunately, this may be his last full season as a driver and that sort of bums me out. From what I understand, the driver that his team is planning to replace Mark with after he retires really isn’t ready yet, so he may come back in a limited capacity next season. He’s currently sixth in the point standings, and he’s never won the championship before. I’m hoping that he finishes his last full season on top.

As is the case with most of my favorite athletes, I list Martin among my favorites for more than just who he is and on and off the track. He’s one my favorite athletes because he represents something to me. In an age in which too many athletes embrace the use of steroids, and exhibit more selfishness than a 7-year old in a candy store, and an overall disrespect for their respective sport, Mark Martin rises above it all.

He’s become the standard by which other drivers compete. Mark Martin is everything that is right about sports. He’s classy, competitive, knows his limits, expects other drivers to know their’s, and you get the feeling by listening to him that he couldn’t respect his sport any more than he does.

Monday, August 07, 2006

E-mail Subscription Update

The e-mail subscription service I switched to a couple of weeks ago no longer exists. They had all sorts of issues. So, if you were a Little Nuances subscriber, that’s why you didn’t receive a daily e-mail last week. Sorry about that. I’ve switched back to FeedBlitz, but unfortunately, my subscription list was wiped out by the previous company. So, if you are interested in receiving updates once a day or whenever Little Nuances is updated, please subscribe in the box on the top right hand corner of the page. Thanks!

The Things Is...

I heard a phrase in a movie the other day that has always fascinated me. You know how when you sit down to talk to somebody about something important, and you are about to lay things on the line—either you are about to say something that he or she doesn’t want to hear, or you are about to say something and you aren’t sure how he or she is going to react, but you know that you must speak, so you work your way up to what you want to say, and then you preface it by saying, “The thing is…”?

Setting the mood is important. Not jumping too quickly is too. But the conversation really starts when you say “The thing is…” Those three words can be terrifying to utter because you know that the next sentence or two could change everything. And if everything doesn’t change, then something is probably wrong. But the thing is…life isn’t supposed to be a steady constant that is void of change—as much as we’d like it to be.

We all live in a private world in which our emotions are undisguised and our motivations are generally pretty clear, but when we choose to reveal a little of ourselves, this one little phrase changes all of that. That’s why it intrigues me so much.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Housekeeping Items

I’ve been swamped with work this week and didn’t have a lot of time to write a post for today. So, I thought I’d do a little housekeeping instead. I’m not all that impressed with the new e-mail subscription service I switched to this week, so I’ll probably be finding a different one, or switching back to old one. If you are a subscriber, I appreciate your patience. I should have it all figured out by next week.

I received an e-mail recently asking me why I don’t have comments enabled on this blog. I wrote about that here and that particular post is always available to read on the right column under “Little Nuances Policies.” I don’t anticipate enabling comments any time soon, but as always, feel free to e-mail me. My e-mail address is at the bottom of every post I write.

Have a great weekend, and I’ll talk to you next week.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


I received an e-mail recently from somebody who saw that I was reading Night by Elie Wiesel. The book is a moving memoir written by a man who survived the Holocaust during his teen years. The e-mailer wanted to know what I thought about the book. Here are my thoughts:

I almost don't feel like the book should be commented about other than to just show Elie the utmost respect for being willing to write it. To praise the book, or to criticize it, doesn't really feel right. Praising it seems to trivialize his horrific experience. Somehow it puts it on par with telling a baseball player that he did a "good job" by hitting the game winning home run. The two just don't equate. Criticizing it certainly doesn't seem right, for who are we to criticize one man's account of one of the most savage displays of mankind to ever take place?

I had many questions by the time I finished the book—mostly about things that Elie didn’t choose to address. But I totally respect his decision. The preface says that the original Yiddish manuscript included more details, but that he left them out in the latest translation because they were “too personal” and “too private.” But he did include one section of details in the preface that he left out in the newest version of the book. The section dealt with his sickly father’s death in the Buchenwald concentration camp. While his father was being beaten to death with a club in the bunk below him by an SS guard, here’s what was running through young Elie’s mind:

I was afraid.

Afraid of the blows.

That was why I remained deaf to his cries.

Instead of sacrificing my miserable life and rushing to his side, taking his hand, reassuring him, showing him that he was not abandoned, that I was near him, that I felt his sorrow, instead of all that, I remained flat on my back, asking God to make my father stop calling my name, to make him stop crying. So afraid was I to incur the wrath of the SS…

I shall never forgive myself.

Nor shall I ever forgive the world for having pushed me against the wall, for having turned me into a stranger, for having awakened in me the basest, most primitive instincts.

His last word had been my name. A summons. And I had not responded.

I don’t know if Elie ever got past the idea that he abandoned his father. He’s 78 years old now and he’s gone on to write 40 books—perhaps I should read some of them to find out. But I’m certain of one thing—his testimony is anything but an abandonment of those who died in those concentration camps. I’ll end this post with these profound words, taken from the preface of the book:

“For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear; his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

More Golf Memories

The post I wrote yesterday about golf prompted another memory—one of the most painful, and somehow one of the sweetest, memories I think I’ve ever experienced.

Shortly after my dad died in 2000, I went golfing with three friends. It was my first time out since Dad died and I had a feeling that it was going to be difficult, but I had no idea what I was in for. Before I left for the course, I grabbed a couple of Dad’s clubs and put them into my golf bag. I was fine until we got to the green on the sixth hole. I was on the fringe—yes I missed the green and had to chip on, and when I went to pull out my trusty five iron (don’t ask) to chip onto the green, I saw my dad’s one iron in my bag and that’s when reality hit—full force. He was gone.

I did what guys do. I fought back the tears. Usually I can win that battle. But this time, I felt powerless and they forced their way out of my eyes. I turned away as best I could, but one of my friends caught me, and he came over and put his arm on my shoulder. I pointed to my dad’s club and whispered “It was my Dad’s.” But by then, he already knew exactly what was happening. He’d lost his own father several years prior, so he knew how quickly the simplest memory can sneak up and overwhelm a person.

It’s funny how a mere golf club can hold such power. Of course, it had nothing to do with the make up of the club and everything to do with the person who once held it. But as sad as it made me, having a friend who knew what was happening and who cared enough to show that he knew, eased the pain. So, over the course of about 30 seconds, I experienced the gut-wrenching pain that comes with loss followed by the euphoric high that comes from knowing that a friend cared about my pain.

Sometimes words aren’t even necessary to comfort somebody. If my friend said anything to me while we were standing on the green, I don’t remember a single word. But I’ll never forget his actions.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Jack Nicklaus

#10 Favorite Athlete of All-time: Jack Nicklaus

I started playing golf at the age of 12. That’s when my dad bought me my first set of clubs. He really enjoyed the sport. I think he loved the social aspect that it provides. At least once a week, he’d meet his friends or clients (he was a salesman for most of his life) on the golf course and he drug me along. I got to know several of his friends this way. And often, he’d just take me to the course and it we’d spend five straight hours together. I loved the attention and it was also a great way for a father and son to bond. Sometimes, before we’d hit the course, he’d take me to the driving range, and let me hack away. Then we’d drive to a course and play the afternoon away.

Dad didn’t mess around when it came to golf courses—no executive courses for him. We played legitimate courses, complete with ridiculous doglegs, huge sand traps, and 500+ yard holes. I was terrible at first, but I caught on and finally began to look like the average Saturday hacker. I think dad would have loved it if I would have taken the game more seriously and went on to play competitively (I played a little in high school, but that was it). He bought me golf books written by Sam Snead and Ben Hogan and I studied them for a while, but I wasn’t good enough, and I didn’t care about it as much as I did baseball and tennis. Dad seemed just fine with that and he fully supported me as I pursued tennis.

In addition to his love for playing the game, Dad also loved to watch it on television. On occasion, I’d watch it with him. But my parents divorced when I was young and Dad eventually moved to another state, so I didn’t get to spend that much time with him in my late teens and early twenties. But somehow, just by flipping on the latest golf tournament, I felt connected to him—even though we were several hundred miles apart. I don’t think he ever told me who his favorite golfer was (although, based on the books he gave me, I’d guess it was Sam Snead or Ben Hogan), but somehow I latched on to Jack Nicklaus—probably because he was good, and Jack became a symbol of the connection that my Dad and I had through the game of golf.

When I’d write letters to my dad, I’d comment about how Nicklaus had played in the most recent tournament and I think dad was just happy that I was paying attention to the game he loved. Only after he died did I find out from my mom that Dad never liked Jack Nicklaus. I don’t know why—maybe it was a guy thing. Maybe Nicklaus was the arch enemy of one of the golfers that he liked. I really don’t know, but I know that whenever I hear Nicklaus’ name, I remember all those great times that Dad and I spent together on various golf courses around the Midwest, and I smile.

Not long ago, I was going through several golf books that belonged to my dad. After he died, I inherited everything he had that involved golf. I was looking for passages that he might have underlined or for comments that he might have written. When I picked up one of his books and started going through it, this photo fell out of it:

Yes, it’s me, during one of our excursions to the driving range. I was around 12 or 13 when Dad took this photo. You’ll never guess the title of the book that I found the picture tucked away in; “And Then Jack Said to Arnie: A Collection of the Greatest True Golf Stories of All Time.”


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