Go West, Young Man

It’s been nearly a year and a half since I embarked on my first journey out west. At the time, I was desperately needing to get away from just about everything. Many things in my life weren’t going as smooth as I would like and knowing that I’d never really been out that way, I decided to see parts of this beautiful country that I’d never seen before. Over the course of about a week, I drove 3,776 miles that took me to Iowa and Nebraska, Denver, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Albuquerque, Oklahoma City, Kansas City, and so many places in between before returning home. Who knew southern Utah was so beautiful? I do now. But I wanted more. It was immediately after that trip that I made it a personal goal to see all fifty states at some point in my life. That trip put me at exactly half. That’s twenty-five for those who are reading this and still can’t figure out common core math yet.

However, this new adventure to the west was not at all like the one I took last year. Last year, as I said, I was looking to just get away and drive with no real purpose. This trip had a very big purpose. My younger brother, Matt, had decided to take the biggest leap of his life and move to Portland to attend law school at Lewis & Clark University. When he finally made his decision, I immediately offered to ride along with him, not just to check off a few more states which was merely an added bonus, but to be there with my brother as he made this life-altering move. He’d been living in Chicago for quite a few years, was looking for a change, and ultimately decided on Portland with Seattle coming in at a distant second. As someone who once moved from central Illinois to central Florida, I could certainly understand the desire and the need to leave home. Sometimes, you just need to try something new. I got it and I’ve been in his corner my entire life, so I certainly wasn’t going to try and change his mind, even though I know that not everybody was on board with this decision, at least not at the start. But I listened to him talk so passionately about wanting to do this, to really finally leave the nest and start his new life. It’s always inspiring to watch somebody, especially somebody you care about so deeply, take charge of his or her life and just go for it, no matter what anybody else thinks. So I got to spend five days with my brother as he transitions to his new life and see more of this beautiful country. Sounds good to me. Let’s ride.

I knew the first leg of the trip wouldn’t be overly exciting, but it’s obviously necessary, so we rolled up I-74 through west central Illinois to I-80 over into Iowa. As you might guess, there’s not a lot to see around here that I haven’t seen before. It’s cornfields and other types of farms for miles and miles and miles, which doesn’t bother me as I’m aware of how necessary it is to the country, but it’s obviously not the most aesthetically pleasing thing in the world. Seriously, the biggest attraction once you hit Iowa on I-80 is “The World’s Largest Truckstop”, which is basically a food court from a shopping mall, only a little bigger. Exciting stuff. I’ve driven past it on numerous occasions in the past, but I’d never stopped in. Boy, am I glad we did. Okay, maybe it’s just a very big gas station. But it’s Iowa and it’s not the “Field of Dreams”, so I’d go ahead and skip it unless you actually need gas, which we did. Normally, most people would keep on I-80 going west towards Denver, but we had a different agenda this trip, one of which was to completely avoid driving through Nebraska. Because let’s face it….it’s Nebraska. I’m sure there’s plenty of nice people that live there, but that state is just the worst. So, mission accomplished. As we hit Iowa City, we headed north on I-380N/IA-27N and US-218N towards Minnesota, stopping in Waverly, Iowa for lunch. What an experience that was. It actually wasn’t a bad little town, but the Iowa stereotypes were abundant, including three guys walking around in 95 degree heat in denim overalls with no shirts. Classic. And speaking of classic, that fourth picture you see below is my brother wearing the classic Burger King crown after a quick lunch. And we’re still hoping that the old lady we saw in the parking lot asleep in her car is alive. No, seriously, we weren’t really sure for a few minutes there.

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It was more of the same as we took I-35 North before we hit I-90 West in southern Minnesota. More farms, more windmills, more flat land. As we entered South Dakota that evening, we weren’t sure if we would see much before dark. But then all of a sudden, we came upon a rest stop in Chamberlain, South Dakota, a river town along the Missouri that was absolutely beautiful. And we happened upon it just as the sun was setting. I don’t believe I’ve ever spent that much time at a rest area. It was just so absolutely beautiful. Can’t you tell?

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We stopped for the night in Wall, South Dakota. Our original plan was to get as close as we could to Mount Rushmore that first day, and Wall was less than an hour and a half away from there so we called it a good day. We had started playing the license plate game in Iowa as well. That’s right. Two grown men were staring at license plates and actually writing them down to see how many we could get on our trip. That’s how much there is to see in Iowa. But we had collected quite a few thus far. I’ll share the total with you later, but we had a great first day and after we passed the Missouri River, it was easy to tell, even in the dark, that the scenery we’d get the next day would be a little different than what we’d experienced on day one.

We woke up in Wall and checked out of the hotel to make our way into town to Wall Drug, a roadside attraction that we’d seen signs for for hundreds of miles. We decided to see what the big deal was. Apparently, this place had once been just a lone drugstore in the 30’s, and now it attracts more than two million people every single year. It really is an adorable little spot with restaurants, shops, bars, and more, including a great breakfast buffet that I can personally vouch for. And the Zoltar machine from Big. I’m calling that a win on its own.

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It took a minute to get out of town, and I just took the first right I could to get back to the interstate and I ended up here. Just wanted to throw this out there.

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Another great thing about this trip was the fact that the 75th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was just starting up as we made our way through South Dakota. We saw hundreds upon hundreds of all different types of bikes as we made our way west. It was just an added bonus. And added license plates to boot. Anyway, our main objective on Thursday was to head to Mount Rushmore. Neither of us had ever been, and this was actually the main reason we chose to go this route in the first place. We continued on I-90 West towards Sioux Falls before heading south towards Mount Rushmore, driving through Keystone, which is small but very nice. It was a great little drive between Wall and the monument itself.

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There’s really not much to say about Mount Rushmore, as it really speaks for itself.

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Believe me, I took so many more pictures than what you see above. I tried to get it from as many different angles as I could in the time we allotted ourselves. But then I noticed there was a flag on the stage of the little amphitheater that resides there, so I took a walk down and just looked up, getting this great shot of the American flag and the monument.

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And of course, I made my brother take this ridiculous shot of me as well.

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And there’s always time for a quick beer at Mount Rushmore. South Dakota is “buffalo” everything, so what better beer to drink in the state than a stout called “Buffalo Sweat”, which was quite good. Overall, we were there for about an hour and it was worth every single minute.

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Now, the original plan was to just make our way back to I-90 and get as far as we could that day. The interstate basically wraps itself around the Black Hills National Forest into the state of Wyoming. And much like I felt with Utah last year, who knew that Wyoming would be as beautiful as it was. As we exited into Sundance for a quick rest, we noticed signs for Devil’s Tower, which my brother had heard was very cool, so we veered from the plan and hit the back roads towards the country’s very first national monument. See, you learned something today.

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We hung out there for a little while before getting back on the road to get back to the original plan, which is to drive as many miles as we could into Montana before resting for the night. The beauty of driving west is that each and every night, you’re given a beautiful sunset, and wouldn’t you know it, we happened upon this one at yet another rest area. This one actually had a deck on the back of the building so people can enjoy the view.

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We decided to stop in Billings for the night, but not before stopping off to take this hilarious picture at an abandoned gas station. Does everyone see the irony?

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We knew that Friday was going to be a long day of driving. Montana is just a very big state. Luckily, we were treated to so many great views throughout the day.

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There’s not a lot of big towns in Montana, but Butte is one of them and this is the view coming in. It doesn’t look that big from the interstate until you get closer, but it was a very cool town to see.

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The best part of Montana, however, I don’t even have a picture of. I had a conversation with this biker earlier in the day and we discussed where we had been and where we were going after listening to him talk about his 10,000 mile trip he was returning from. He also wasn’t shy about poking fun at all of the folks heading to Sturgis, explaining that really wasn’t his scene because he wasn’t one to just hang around the Harley-Davidson shop all day. It actually was quite comical, but I digress. He told us that if we were driving through that we needed to stop in Missoula. He told us that was his favorite town in Montana and that we’d enjoy ourselves. And he was exactly right. Missoula, Montana is fantastic. It’s just this little pocket in the western part of the state, and it’s actually home to the University of Montana. But it doesn’t even really feel like a college town. It’s just beautiful. Outside of the views, it’s got some great little breweries and restaurants and everyone we talked to was just so damn nice. If you’re ever out that way, do yourself a favor and check it out. Even my brother remarked that if things didn’t work out in Portland, he was moving to Missoula. Great stuff.

But as much as we wanted to stay and hang out, we needed to put some more miles in, so we jumped back on I-90 for some for fantastic Montana scenery.

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We only caught the panhandle as we entered Idaho, but what we did see was magnificent. There is one spot up there that is unbelievably beautiful. We didn’t take the time to stop, but Coeur d’Alene is definitely on my list of things to do if I ever get back out that way.

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After maybe an hour in Idaho, we made our way into Washington and hit Spokane pretty quick. We noticed a red hue in the sky, and after thinking it wasn’t normal, we soon found out there was a wildfire over the horizon, so that’s the first picture you see below. Spokane is also the home of Gonzaga, which was on my brother’s short list of schools. But after driving through, he’s quite certain there was a reason that he turned them down. I will also say that drivers in the northwest are just awful. There’s little regard for turn signals and safety in general, so we zipped through as quick as we could before happening on yet another beautiful sunset before stopping for the night in Kennewick, Washington, just a few miles before the Oregon border.

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We awoke on Saturday with only just over 200 miles to go before reaching our final destination. It was actually quite exciting to finally see mileage signs for Portland. You could see the excitement on my brother’s face and it was very cool to watch. Add to that the absolutely amazing drive along the Columbia River with Mount Hood in the background and you’ve got one hell of a Saturday morning.

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There’s also a little exit for “The Bridge of the Gods”, which gives you one of the most breathtaking views you’ll ever see in your life.

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Once we arrived in Portland, I will admit that I didn’t take any pictures. We went to his new apartment and got his lease signed, his things moved in, and met some of his new neighbors. We took a walk around his beautiful neighborhood and down a few blocks to check some things out before heading to the store to pick up a few things he’d need the first couple of days. But that night, we’d already decided that we were heading to the Pacific Ocean. I’d actually never set foot in it, so it was actually quite exciting for me. I’ve always been a water kind of guy and the sound of waves crashing is one of my favorite sounds in the entire world, perhaps only second to the sound of my children laughing. It was another 90 minutes each way in the car, but as you can see from the pictures below at Cannon Beach, it was worth the extra miles. We ate dinner at a great little bar and watched the sunset before heading back. And if you’re wondering why we just didn’t find a place there on the beach, believe me, we tried.

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We spent Saturday night at his place after numerous failed attempts to secure a decent hotel, but apparently Portland was booked solid. Out of the 224 options we were given, there were three available, none of which had a room under $400. Now, I like a good night’s sleep, but it was almost midnight on the west coast, so it felt like 2 a.m. to me. I knew that one night on the floor of my brother’s apartment wouldn’t hurt. And it actually was a really good night of sleep. Exhaustion was catching up to the both of us.

But I still had one more day there and we certainly weren’t going to waste it. We spent that Sunday taking a tour of the area. After walking down to get some coffee, we went for a drive around town, hitting each and every corner of Portland, which is just booming right now with growth, maybe even a little too much for the locals. We drove through this wonderful park, which was absolutely huge, but full of picturesque gardens, playgrounds, and views. We had lunch downtown where more than sixty food carts are lined up each and every day. And of course, we had to go to Target to pick up a few more essentials. We then made our way to the law school itself, which is tucked into a forest, making for a very quiet learning environment. We stayed there for about an hour walking around the law school and the undergraduate campus as well before heading back for our final evening.

We made our way back to Kells, a great Irish pub that we had actually hit up on Saturday night when we returned from the ocean. Sure, we had other options but we had liked it so much, we decided just to go back. The food is fantastic. The drinks are reasonably priced and they make a few of their own beers on site, which are very tasty. Yes, I could have taken pictures of all the things that we did in Portland, but I just wanted to be there with my brother as he explored his new home. I know I said it before, but just to watch his face fill with excitement as we drove around Portland and the surrounding areas was priceless. He would comment constantly that “I’m only an hour from this” or “I could go there and read”. After all these years, I truly believe this is where he’s supposed to be. He’s had to deal with so many things in his life just to be who he is. He’s had to face obstacles that I’ve never had to. But I can honestly say that I’ve never seen him look so comfortable in his own skin. He knows what he’s there to do. He’s there to start fresh. He’s there to live a new life. Sure, it may be a little more difficult to see him as often, but this is something that he needed to do. I’ve always been in my brother’s corner. No. Matter. What. That’s the way it is when you truly love somebody.

As he dropped me at the airport late Sunday night, we tried not to draw it out too much. We had five days to say the things that needed to be said and I’m quite certain we said them all. As we hugged it out, I simply told him to stay focused and that he was going to do great. I didn’t need to lecture him. He knows what he has to do. And I have no doubt that he’s going to do it. As I watched him drive away, I couldn’t help but get a little emotional. As a lone tear started to form, I knew it wasn’t because I was sad. It was because I’ve never been happier for him. And although it’s something I felt every single day since he was born, I’ve never been more proud that Matt is my brother.

As for me, I took the red-eye from Portland to Chicago, arriving back in Illinois on Monday morning at 6:26 a.m. I took the train into the city and walked about a mile to my sister’s house, where my mother had spent Sunday and was waiting for me. I spent a little time hanging out with my nephews before getting back in the car for yet another three hours back home. Over the course of five days, I had traveled nearly 5,000 miles via plane, train, and automobile. I had seen forty-four out of fifty state license plates. See, I didn’t forget to throw that in there. I think it’s actually quite impressive, and we also saw D.C. and four different Canadian provinces as well. I had taken my state total to 31, so there will certainly be more trips to cover the rest. But it was time to go home. Unfortunately, I have to deal with five-day stretches without seeing my daughters every two weeks, but this one seemed longer. It was amazing to be able to witness my brother start a new life, but I know that he’s going to be okay, so it was time to get back to mine.

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The Rainbow Rant

“No longer may this liberty be denied. No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family.”

These are the words of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, one of five on the Supreme Court of the United States who voted to make same-sex marriage a legal right in all fifty states. Uh oh! The queers won. Life is over. I’m leaving this country. I’m going to set myself on fire. There’s rainbows all over the internet and I can’t make it stop. This isn’t natural. God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. The Bible tells us this is wrong. This is some of what I’ve been seeing today, and it really isn’t making me upset. It’s making me laugh.

It seems that everyone has an opinion on the monumental decision that came down yesterday, so allow me to give you mine. Here’s the biggest argument that I’m seeing.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 says “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Well, I guess that settles that. The gays are evil and the things they do are an abomination. Well, damn, how in the hell am I supposed to create an argument against that. You’re a Christian. The Bible is law. You abide by every single thing that it says, right? I mean, that’s the only way to be a “real” Christian, correct?

Well, there’s one that isn’t loving thy neighbor. But that one is just too easy, don’t you think? I could go with Matthew here and give you the “judge not, or you too will be judged”, but according to those who believe in that sort of thing, there will be a judgment day for all of us, so I’ll let that one go as well. Damn, I just keep coming back to Galatians 5:14, which tells us “For the whole law is fullfilled in one word: You shall love your neighbor as yourself”, which is obviously a play on the whole “love thy neighbor” thing again, just worded differently, so maybe that actually is kind of a big deal. I don’t recall ever reading “love thy neighbor, as long as he/she looks and acts like you” or “love your neighbor as yourself, but only if he/she believes in every single thing that you believe”. Maybe I just didn’t take the time to keep reading. The Bible’s really long, you know.

But I did get to this one: “You may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance.”–Leviticus 25:44-45–“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.”–Ephesians 6:5

Well, I suppose I could always use some extra help around the house, and I don’t really have the extra money to hire somebody, so this one actually does make me quite happy. I’ll just find the nearest foreigner, make a cheap bid, and hope everything works out for me. I mean, the Bible just told me that it’s okay. Oh, that you’ve got a problem with. Okay, I’ll try again.

2 Kings 2:23-24–“From there Elisha went up to Bethel. While he was on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him. ‘Go up baldhead’, they shouted, ‘Go up baldhead!’ The prophet turned and saw them, and he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the children to pieces.”

Yikes…I’m all for the whole anti-bully campaigns out there, but that’s taking it a little too far, don’t you think?

“If there is a girl who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you shall stone them to death; the girl because she did not cry out in the city…”–I’m just going to go ahead and stop there because it actually gets worse as it goes on. But are you telling me it’s justifiable to stone a girl who gets raped? Well, shit, how many hits do you think that would get on YouTube? Oh, you’ve got a problem with that too? Damn.

Do you eat shellfish? Do you eat pork? Do you wear clothing woven of two kinds of material? No, seriously, that’s in there. So is “ye shall not round the corners of your heads”. And for God’s sake, don’t ever harm the edges of your beard you monster. And for you women reading this, I better never hear you talk inside of a church. Ever. No tattoos. No premarital sex. No remarriage. The list goes on and on and on, with one of my favorites being that the Bible actually talks about unicorns, and not as a mythical creature.

Don’t I just sound ridiculous? Well, maybe that’s how I think you sound when you’re bashing the gay guy down the block, who has only ever wanted the same rights that I, a straight white guy, have been afforded my entire life. A man whose only wish is to walk down an aisle and marry a man that he loves and loves him in return. But the response to that is usually my favorite argument: it’s not natural. Really, it’s not natural? That’s the best you can do. If you’re out there with a picket sign that says that or anything similar to that, I hope you’re not wearing prescription glasses or contacts. That’s not your natural sight, is it? And I beg you to walk up to a veteran and tell him/her that the prosthetic limb that they need to walk is wrong. Wouldn’t that be a case of something not being “natural”? Tell me how that conversation goes. Create that meme and throw it up on your Facebook page. Just send me the comments section when you do.

Okay, maybe I went a little too far. Maybe I’m reaching. I probably sound a little ridiculous. Or maybe that’s how I think certain people sound when they oppose something like same-sex marriage. Honestly, I have zero problem with Christians. You have the right to believe in what you want to believe in. That’s one of the beauties of living in this great country. It’s when people choose to hate something that they don’t agree with or believe in because it doesn’t match their personal belief system. That doesn’t make you a Christian. That makes you a bigot. And just to create a level playing field, I’m certain that not every gay person believes in God or Christianity. I’ve witnessed bigotry and seen insults thrown from that side as well, so don’t take this as an attack on religion or the Bible. That’s not what this is. So what is this about?

This is about equality. Seriously, why do you care if two gay people want to get married? How is it affecting your life at all? I got married ten years ago. I got divorced two years ago. That’s a sin. Where was the backlash on me? I’m a divorced father of two daughters that were created through IVF. I smoke. I drink. I have tattoos. I ate a pound of bacon a few days ago. I have sex out of wedlock. I curse. I’ve got a poly-cotton blended shirt, and I love it. And guess what? I’ve got people, Christians even, who love me and respect me as a person, and they should. I’m a damn good father who respects other people, their belief system, and I damn sure love people, whether they be gay or straight. So if you want to go after somebody, come after me. And just to fill you in, gay people are actually people too, you know. They’re not the abomination you think they are. Could be worse, right? They could only be three-fifths of a person like that nigger down the street. Ooooo…..did you just wince a little bit? Now pretend that I actually thought like that and posted shit like that all over the internet. You’d crucify me, and deservedly so. And just to save the hate mail, I know I’m not supposed to use that word and I don’t. But now you know how some of these comments and posts come off. This is the level of ignorance and hatred that some people bring to the conversation.

I hear questions like “what is this country coming to” when talking about this topic and I seriously have to laugh at it. Gay marriage isn’t the problem. Two people want to spend their life together and give matrimony a shot. Should it matter if it’s two men or two women? “But that’s not the definition of marriage. It’s supposed to be a man and a woman.” Really? Millions of Christians have gotten married, given their vows with “til death do us part” and all the rest, and gotten divorced. Hasn’t the definition of marriage these days already changed?

So where does this leave us? To me, things are the same as they’ve always been. The only difference is that now I can stand up as the best man at my brother’s wedding if he ever decides to get married, which makes me happy to no end. Oh, I didn’t mention that. I suppose that when I think about my brother, I don’t think of him as my gay brother. He’s just my brother, and if and when he ever deems someone worthy of marrying him, I’ll be right beside him, just like I’ve always been.

As many of you read this, I know there’s a lot of you who are disagreeing with me, and that’s okay. Believe it or not, that’s actually been the point this entire time. It’s okay for people to believe in different things. Again, that’s the beauty of where we get to live. My problem isn’t religion. My problem isn’t people practicing religion. My problem isn’t anything like that. My problem is people hiding behind religion to avoid an actual discussion. My problem is people picking and choosing parts of religion that benefit their side of an argument while completely ignoring other aspects when it doesn’t help them. My problem is “Christians” that preach the Bible and hate others. My problem is hate period, religious or otherwise. My problem is with those who won’t listen to any argument that conflicts with their belief system. What are you so afraid of? Are you afraid of letting others be happy when you’re miserable? Are you stuck in a marriage that you hate, and don’t want to see the two faggots across the street happier than you? Yeah, that’s what you sound like. When are we going to stop this? I don’t really care if you support same-sex marriage or not. Just stop being an asshole about it.

You know what doesn’t stop? Change. Change is happening. Change is here. Folks, it’s 2015. Evolution is a part of life. The question is: are you coming along for the ride?

Thoughts? Comments? Leave them below or follow me on Twitter @THElukenorris.

A Super Trip With Pop

It’s after midnight. I’m sitting in my garage watching a beautiful lightning storm pass through my little slice of paradise here in central Illinois with a can of Bud Light and a bottle of Fuzzy Navel Boone’s Farm left from my birthday party (don’t judge me). That’s normal, right?

Okay, maybe my normal and my reality are a little different than yours. Your parents probably didn’t meet in a prison. I hope your dad wasn’t an addict, whether it be booze, pills, gambling, or whatever (mine was addicted to all of those, including the whatever). I have the same type of personality, but I’m trying not to let it hurt too many people in the process. In the past, I’ve usually ended up just hurting myself and alienating those closest to me, but I like to think that I’m done with that.

I’ve been trying to focus on the positive things in life these days. I own a home. I’m finally taking a shot at what I’ve been wanting to do for a living. I’ve got people around me that love me and support me (I think, anyway). I have two amazingly smart and beautiful twin daughters who validate my entire existence. I’m closer than I’ve probably ever been to the elusive answer to a question you don’t even know.

But that doesn’t mean that the dark side of me has completely gone away. That doesn’t mean my mind won’t go to places that haunt me, that anger me, that leave me feeling completely alone from time to time. But maybe that’s just part of who I am.

I don’t try to pretend that I had the worst upbringing in the world; I’m not that delusional (I don’t think). So many others on this planet have or had it way worse than I ever did. Hell, at least I had clothes on my back and a roof over my head.

But it’s not easy to hear at eleven years old that your dad killed two people. It’s not easy to have your dad ask you for money from your paper route to buy cocaine. It’s not easy, after the divorce from your mother, to watch your dad leave for two years, missing perhaps the most influential time of a young man’s life. It’s not easy to try and fill the void of a father to a younger brother that’s nearly seven years your junior. It’s certainly not easy to deal with a man, that when he returns, isn’t the same man you knew. His breath is different. His actions are different. But he’s still your dad.

He would get better from time to time. He would realize his mistakes and that what he was doing was wrong. He would see the impact it had on other people, and I’d see glimpses of the father I once knew and the father that I wanted. But hey, backslides happen, right? So much for easy.

Have you ever talked to your dad through that thick piece of glass with the cheap telephones that you see in the movies? I did on a few occasions after he got put back behind bars in my early twenties. But it was only for three months….that time (another story).

The next time he went away was for nearly two years (another story), and I swore up and down that I wouldn’t put myself through that again, and I didn’t. The hardest part was trying to take my younger brother, now fifteen, to the prison to see him, but they wouldn’t let him in without someone over eighteen. I didn’t budge. My brother hated me that day. It was almost as hard as not answering the letters he would send. It was almost as hard as when the girl I was engaged to broke things off while he was still on the inside with two months to go. That was pretty goddamn hard.

But when those two months were up, I tried to let it go. I saw him the day he got out and I still remember the feeling of the embrace we shared. But I wasn’t going to let him off quite that easy. We ended up sitting in a car later that night and I was ready to let him have it, and to my surprise, I did. I wanted to clear the air and really get everything off of my chest, out of my gut, or whichever term you prefer. I told him that if he interrupted once, I’d let it go. If he interrupted twice, I would never speak to him again. He interrupted….once. He saw the look in my eyes and I’ve gotta tell you, I’d never felt so powerful in my entire life.

So I let it go. Don’t get me wrong, I was still angry, as those who knew me then would attest to. But he’s my dad.

The next few months were rough as we tried to ease back into a “normal” life, but we got through it. He was released in December. That June, we decided to take a trip, which was actually the point of this post in the first place. For those who don’t know, I’m a big Superman guy and have been since I was a kid. There’s even a story that when Pop took my sister and I to see Superman III, there was a big rock outside the theater (the hollow and decorative type), and he told me that if I could pick it up that I was the real Superman. Well, of course I picked it up, which is a story we talked about on our way to Metropolis, Illinois, which is about four hours south of where I live and the only town with that name in the United States. Even in my twenties, I thought that was pretty damn cool to be going to Metropolis with the guy you always thought, or maybe wanted, to be Superman.

So, we go to Metropolis. And there’s a Superman museum full of memorabilia from the comics and television shows, and movies. There’s even a yearly festival/celebration, which wasn’t that particular weekend, but we always talked about getting to someday. There’s just all kinds of great Superman stuff all over town.

001 002 003 004 005 006 007This was the weekend I got my dad back.

Over the next nine years, I watched him battle , but he fought through. He was there when I got married, and was the first to notice me crying the day after my wife and I split up. I watched another rough stretch with him after the fire (another story), which left him in a coma for four months. But he fought through that too, even bucking the odds from doctors telling him he’d never walk again, which led to perhaps the most inspirational moment of my life as my brother and I stood by the groom as my father walked my sister down the aisle.

Pop died nearly three years ago. Even now as I sit writing this, it still sometimes seems easier to remember the negatives and forget the positives (which I referenced in his eulogy which you can read HERE), but as I said earlier, I’ve been trying to focus more on the positive side of things these days. So I remember the good times. I remember the rock at the theater. I remember the strength he showed to walk again. Speaking of walking, I remember that he was the first person to notice on Christmas Day that one of my daughters was taking her first steps, two of them to be exact before falling into my arms. And I remember Metropolis. That trip made us father and son again. That’s why after he died I took some of his ashes back there so no matter what, there would always be a part of him in that town. It just so happens that the aforementioned prison where my parents met is only a short drive away, which is where most of the ashes were spread that day. But a small piece of him remains along the Ohio River in that little town, where a little piece of me will always be as well. That’s why, after a dozen years, I’m leaving in a few short hours for the annual Superman celebration that we never got to, because it’s something he always wanted to do. It’s why I have this tattoo on my shoulder.

002 I’m gonna go ahead and geek it up for the finale, and I’m completely okay with that. Let’s be honest, we’re all “nerds” about something. Just about every child wants to think that their dad is Superman, and for a while, maybe I thought so too. First of all, let’s go ahead and state the obvious that a better analogy might be that he’s Darth Vader and I’m Luke Skywalker. You’ve got the “evil” father and….well, the son named Luke (which I’ve never heard by the way….it’s hard to type sarcastically), and the fact he had his hand cut off (yet another story). But let’s keep with the Superman theme for this one. He’s not Superman. Actually, he’s probably more like Catwoman for all the times he should have died and didn’t. But I digress. He’s not Superman. He’s Jor-El, Superman’s father. He wasn’t always around, but he would impart wisdom and guidance from time to time through a special connection that he shared with his son. So, I guess that makes me….

superdaddy….you’re damn right.

Oh, and my mother’s name is Lois, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice. But that’s another story to tell at another time in another place, more than likely somewhere over the rainbow.

 

 

 

 

Look What I Found

If you read The 2015 State of The Luke Norris Address, then you know that I’ve decided to devote my time and energy to really give this writing thing a shot. I can’t begin to express the gratitude I feel towards those of you who have sent along your kind words and support. Throughout these first few weeks since making the decision, I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not this is the right thing to do, but I recently came across something that let me know that it truly is.

I only had one copy of the first book I was ever published in back in 2003, which I signed and gave to my mother. In a recent visit, I picked it up to take a look at it, which I hadn’t done in a long time. Next to my poem, “Divinity“, I read the quote I gave to the publisher to stand next to my work. This is what I wrote twelve years ago:

“My feelings and opinions may be different than everybody else’s, but they certainly are mine and writing is a way to convey them to the world. From love to hate to happiness to sadness, I’ll write about anything as long as I feel it’s important to me. It may be a million to one shot for me to make it with this, but that doesn’t stop me from writing because simply put, I love to do it. Maybe it’s just my opinion, but when you love something that much, you don’t just give up.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Wait, what? Anyway, reading this only reaffirmed that I’m making the right choice. I let my passion slip away once and I won’t let that happen again. With that being said, I’ve got some big news coming later in the week. Stay tuned, folks. You’re about to see a lot more of me.

 

The 2015 State of THE Luke Norris Address

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Happy Anniversary to…..well, me. It’s officially been two years since the launch of The Luke Norris Experience and I couldn’t be any more pleased with what it’s done for me. The year leading up to March of 2013 had been one of the worst I’d ever experienced. I addressed most of it in last year’s address, but a quick refresher for those new to the site.

I separated from my wife, reconciled with my wife, separated from her again after catching her in a lie, watched as my father withered away, watched him take his last breath, found out my wife was pregnant with someone else’s child four days after I buried him, which ultimately led to the divorce being finalized on January 17, 2013. And let’s not forget that this entire time, I’m still trying to be the best father I can to my 2-year-old twin little girls (I’ll get to them later). Now let’s not get this twisted and place all of the blame on my ex-wife. I have and still to this day take full responsibility for the things that assisted in my marriage falling apart. I’m not going to pretend that I was the best husband in the world because I wasn’t. I made my fair share of mistakes and I’ve got nobody to blame for those except myself. But it still felt like I had been hit with a ton of bricks after a ton of bricks had already fallen on me. I was hurting. The life that I knew was gone. My father was gone. My wife was gone. Most importantly, my kids were gone (half the time anyway). Yet, I knew that things could still be okay. I had a great support system. I had my family behind me every step of the way. I had a great new girlfriend that would listen if I wanted to talk and comfort me if I needed to cry. However, I still needed another outlet.

Writing had been that for me in the past, but I’d gotten away from it. A few years before, with full support from my now ex-wife, I’d started a novel. I wrote around fifty pages and then just stopped. She, along with the few others that I let read it, encouraged me to keep at it, but I did what I always did. I got lazy. I got complacent. I got distracted. Basically, I used any excuse that I could to just not put in the work. And I, and those around me, suffered for it. I worked at jobs that I didn’t love just to pay the bills. I hated getting up in the morning to go to work. I would still go in and do my job, and still do it very well, but I wasn’t happy. I knew it. She knew it. My family knew it. But I didn’t do anything about it. I knew I had a little talent, but what was I doing with it? Not a damn thing.

So I decided to change that. So on March 20, 2013, The Luke Norris Experience was born. I didn’t really expect much from it, as I was really just using it as a cheaper alternative to therapy. I’d just write a little bit here and there, post a few links on facebook, and let it bounce around my group of friends and family. But here’s what happened. I rediscovered my love and my passion for writing. And guess what? It actually became therapy. Exhibit A: The Angie Experience. This let me get out feelings that I’d kept inside for over a decade. Exhibit B: Dear Alex. Last May, a friend of mine that I’d known for almost thirty years (I’m 35, so put that into perspective) passed away, and writing this letter to his son helped me through it. Even more importantly, it seemed to help others through it. I was approached numerous times at the funeral by people telling me that they’d read it and couldn’t think of a better tribute. Hell, one of my best friends in the world told me that he’s only cried a handful of times as an adult, and reading my words about Mike was one of them. As much as I like to act like an egomaniac, I’m really not big on compliments, but to hear that something I’ve written was actually helping people through a very difficult time was truly special to me. It made me feel good, which can sometimes be a very difficult task.

I’d also write about the lighter side of life. I’d talk sports or movies, let my readers vote on things like their favorite Christmas special or their favorite baseball movie and fun stuff like that. I was enjoying writing again. Even better, I was simply writing again. And the world has taken notice. No, seriously. That’s not just a fun line that I wanted to throw in for effect. My initial thought that this would just bounce around my inner circle was completely wrong. In the two years since the initial launch, thousands and thousands of people all over the world have visited The Luke Norris Experience. To be exact, my words have been read in 57 countries on 6 continents. So while I have this opportunity, I want to take the time to say a big THANK YOU to my followers in (deep breath) the United States, South Korea, Germany, Australia, Moldova, Switzerland, Rwanda, the Cayman Islands, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Canada, China, Mexico, Honduras, Brazil, Italy, France, Spain,  the Netherlands, India, Argentina, Portugal, Colombia, Uruguay, Venezuela, Russia, Chile, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, El Salvador, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, Peru, Malaysia, Morocco, Taiwan, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Pakistan, Costa Rica, Libya, Albania, Kenya, Algeria, Belgium, Angola, Latvia, New Zealand, Turkey, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Panama, Japan, and Greece. I’m waiting on you Antarctica. But seriously, thank you to each and every person that has ever been here. I know my posting lately has been a little down, but there’s been a reason for that. I haven’t slowed down. I’ve just had to shift focus a little.

bingelogo2-copyOne of the people that logged on to the site was the man known as Moreno, one of the co-founders of Binge Media. I won’t dive too deep into the story, as I wrote about it last year in The Binge Media Experience, but the point is that people were taking notice. I’d met him once or twice, so when he offered me the chance to become their sports writer, I jumped on it. From there, I’ve also now got my own weekly column called Working the Weekend with Luke, which I usually put out every Sunday. I once asked Moreno if there was a specific thing that I’d written on this site that led him to the decision of adding me to the staff. I figured the obvious answer would be one of the numerous sports stories I wrote, but he actually said that it was when he read Aloha Raul that he knew I’d be a perfect fit for Binge Media. Wait, what? That was another therapeutic piece I wrote about one of my best friends moving to Hawaii. And certainly one I needed, but I wouldn’t think of that to be something that would get me a writing job. But perhaps I’d underestimated the power of that kind of work. It showed emotion. It showed vulnerability. It showed elements of storytelling. It showed that maybe I still knew how to write. It got a reaction, and that’s what I aim to do in every single thing that I put out there. Whether it’s good or bad, if I can get you to respond, I’ve done my job. If I can get you to connect with what I’m talking about or what I’m feeling at that given moment, I’ve done what I set out to do. I like to think that’s why I’m writing for Binge Media. And I definitely know that’s what I set out to do with each and every column I write for them. They’re a great group of guys who are passionate about what they do, and they’re good enough to give me the freedom to write about what I want when I want. It’s that faith and that trust that I know I have to bring the best that I have each and every time. There’s a lot of talented people at Binge Media and I know that I have to bring my best just to keep up. Thanks for the confidence fellas. You gave me another outlet to work on my craft and I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity.

I’ll come back to writing in a little bit. If you’re my friend on facebook or follow me on Twitter, which you can do @THElukenorris by the way (cheap plug), then you know I promised a big announcement. But hey, I need to build the drama just a bit more, so stay with me.

If you read last year’s address, then you know that I’ve been looking for the right answer to one question for a long time. While I still will not divulge exactly what that question is, I can tell you that although I still can’t give the answer I’d like, I’m a hell of a lot closer than I was a year ago. Last February, I still wasn’t quite where I wanted to be. Believe me, I was better than I was the previous year, but I was still struggling.

Even a year and a half later, I don’t think I had fully gotten past the death of my father. I knew he was better off, as he was no longer in pain, but it was hard for me. For years, I held in a lot of anger that I had to let go of when he got really sick. I had to forgive him for the pain he had caused me over the years. I’d done that, so that wasn’t it anymore. I’d gotten even more off my chest when I delivered the eulogy. But what really got at me was the fact that I actually watched him die. I simply could not get that image out of my head. I’m so thankful that my sister, who was pregnant at the time, left about an hour or two before it happened so she could get some rest. We all knew that he would probably go at some point during that night, but it’s obviously impossible to know exactly when. When she left, I almost did the same soon after, but something told me to stay. The last thing I wanted was for him to be alone when he died. He had spent so much of his life alone (a lot of that was his choice), and I couldn’t let him go out like that. But I hoped that maybe I’d be asleep there in his room when it happened. Or maybe the trick I use when my food is taking too long at a restaurant (I just step out for a cigarette). And that’s almost what happened. They had moved him from the main building about an hour before into a much smaller building across the street. Not only did they need the room in the ICU, but they knew things were close and said they wanted him to be more comfortable. He’d basically been in a coma for the previous three weeks, but I tend to trust what the doctors tell me. So I went out to burn one and not more than two minutes after I came back in, he was gone. I was sitting there just watching him breathe in and out, in and out, in and out, in………and that was it. And I couldn’t get that image out of my head. I would dream about it. It would just pop in at the strangest times. And I couldn’t figure out why.

So what about now? I can tell you that things are better. As I think about the last year, I can honestly say that although I told myself that I had let everything go, I really hadn’t. Believe me, if you knew everything (and perhaps someday I’ll tell you the whole story), then you’d know why there was so much anger. There’s a part of me that feels that there may always be a little something inside of me that won’t let go, but these days I’m dealing with things in a much healthier way. Instead of constantly remembering all the negative things that happened, my brain is allowing me to remember even more of the good things that I’d forgotten about. In turn, that’s making the image of his last breath a little more blurry. I don’t see it as often anymore. I don’t think about it as much as I used to. I can actually talk about him with my daughters and not have the image pop in my head. And it’s so sweet when they ask about him. They’re four, so most things that they do are cute as can be, but their interest in him is so great for me to watch. I obviously keep pictures of him in my house, so when they happen to be looking at one, they’ll bring it to me and ask me “Is this your dad?” I tell them that it is, and they remember more and more of the previous conversations and they’ll ask me, “Did he die?” Again, I’ll tell them yes, but then they’ll respond with “but he loved us very, very much when we were little babies.” My response is usually the same. “He sure did sweetheart”. At some point in their later years, I know they’ll get to asking more questions and I know that I’ll have to tell them some of the hard truths that come when talking about my father, but if the question “And you still loved him?” ever comes, I know what I’ll say. “I sure did sweetheart”. Miss you Pop.

So how’s the love life these days, you ask? Alive and well. I’m not one to discuss my relationship on facebook or anything like that (sorry, we’re just not that couple), but she’s a very big part of my life. It gets tricky sometimes with her busy schedule, but that’s actually one of the things I love and admire about her. Her work ethic is incredible. I wish I had had that kind of tenacity at her age (she’s ten years younger than me). Her full-time gig is teaching music at an area K-8 school, which gives her about 450 students to see on a weekly basis. Throw in the fact that it’s a very low-income school with tons of behavioral issues, and you might be able to understand that keeps her pretty busy. But on top of that, she gives voice lessons (she’s an amazing singer) at a music shoppe two days a week, runs the drama department, gives more lessons here at the house, and sings at a local church. Even as I write this, I’m probably forgetting something. But that’s just who she is. She’s one of those people that can’t sit still. Yet she still finds the time and energy to go for a run, or hit the gym for yoga or spin class, and most importantly, be a part of my daughters’ lives. She’s got her own song that she sings to them at bedtime. She’s become the resident hair dryer after bath time. She makes us dinner when her schedule allows it. She’s just fantastic with them and they absolutely adore her, and I know she loves them like they were her own. She has a very strong relationship with her stepmother, so I think she knows how hard it can be to find acceptance from children that aren’t hers, but she’s trying so hard to be a positive force in their chaotic life, and I couldn’t be happier with her efforts.

Is every day perfect? Of course not. Show me a perfect relationship and I’ll show you a unicorn. The probability is just about the same. Sure, we’ve gone through some trying times, none more so than late last year. I will not get into the details of it, but it wasn’t fun. But we didn’t give up on each other. We fought through it, opened up to each other, and I can honestly say that we’re stronger now than we’ve ever been. If I get down, she’s there to pick me up. When she gets down, I’m there to pick her up. Relationships are hard, especially when there’s kids involved. But we do our best to talk things out, which hasn’t always been my strong suit. But these days, I’m quick to say I’m wrong when I was wrong. I’m quick to say I’m sorry if I truly am sorry. I’m trying to avoid making the same mistakes I made in the past. I’m a better partner now and I know she knows that.

Inevitably, I get asked from time to time if I plan on marrying her. I know it’s a valid question, but to be honest, that’s something that I don’t know if I ever want again. It’s not a knock on her by any means, but I’m just not eager to jump back into a situation that didn’t go so well last time. Of course, Ashlie and I have had this conversation so she won’t be shocked at any of this information I’m giving you. She knows that in many instances, marriage just changes people and at 25, she’s certainly in no rush to get to the altar. It’s 2015 everyone. We don’t have to get married to show each other how we feel. Maybe we’ll end up there. Maybe we won’t. That’s for us to decide. What I do know is that we love each other, and that’s really all I need to know.

And, of course, my reason for being.

As you can see, I just took my daughters to Portrait Innovations, so enjoy the free publicity. But as you can also see, they make any photographer’s job pretty easy. I know the initial reaction when anyone meets my daughters is to tell me how beautiful they are (and they obviously don’t make liars out of anybody that says that), but the first thing I always say to people when I brag about them is how smart they are. My favorite thing to do is to just listen to them when they don’t know I’m listening. They tell stories. I mean, there’s dialogue and everything. Do you know how happy that makes me? As someone who loves to tell stories, it warms my heart to know that they’ve got that in them. I will just sit on the couch and listen to them in their playroom while it’s going on. I swear I need to start recording them and put them on paper. I could be freaking rich. They’ll just sit there with their toys and build a story from scratch. They’ll have a setting. They’ll have the main characters. And then they’ll just go. They will come up with the most amazing storyline and just go. It goes back and forth from day to day on who takes the lead, but they’ll seem to have the entire thing mapped out before they even start. One will tell the other to say something because the response is already planned to move the story forward. It’s awesome.

But then Wednesdays happen. Wednesdays are the biggest reason keeping me from the answer I so desperately crave. You see, the way my divorce settlement works, I have my girls on Mondays and Tuesdays, the ex-wife has them on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and we alternate the Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to have a full 50% split, but I hate when my girls aren’t here. I’m just lost without them. It’s too quiet. I do my best to stay busy, but when the five-day stretch rolls around every other week, I’m just heartbroken. It’s a feeling that I don’t wish upon anybody. Even the weeks where it’s only Wednesday and Thursday before my weekends with them, I just lose it. I get them up and get them ready before my mother picks them up to take them to school, and it kills me to leave the house knowing I won’t see them later. I’ve got no problem admitting that I cry every single Wednesday morning. When I get home and they’re not there, it’s still really hard.

When they’re here, I have a bedtime routine. They go to the bathroom, they brush their teeth, we go up to their room and read a book or two, I sing “You Are My Sunshine” to them, it’s kisses and hugs (always more than one), and they go to sleep. I obviously don’t go to bed as early as they do, so when I go up to go to bed, I put their covers back on them, give them one more kiss on the cheek, turn their nightlight off, and head into my room. But on the nights they’re not here, I obviously don’t get to do any of that. And it’s still really hard.

This is the one thing I don’t have an answer for just yet. I’m beginning to think that I may never have one, and maybe that’s okay. All I can do is move forward each and every day they’re not here, make the most of each and every day I do have them, and trust that when they’re with their mother, they’re being loved as much as they are when they’re here. At least I know that’s not a problem. I will say that no matter what happened between my ex-wife and I, I will never and could never say that she’s not a great mother, because she is. And if I must say so myself, I think that for divorced parents, we do a great job of communicating with one another about our children. We’re adults and we’re acting like it. I know it has to be hard on our daughters jumping from house to house, but we try and make the transitions as easy as possible for them every time. We work with one another when the schedule needs to be changed. The girls are too young to fully understand everything, but they know that she’s Mommy and I’m Daddy and we both love them unconditionally. They didn’t ask for this, but the strength that they’ve shown during all of this is unbelievable.  I know that things didn’t end well between Cara and I, but I’ll always be thankful that I met her. She gave me the two greatest gifts I could have ever asked for in Ashlyn and Brooklyn, and for that, I will always be grateful.

Well, I’ve covered just about everything except for one issue. How’s work? Well, about that.

There’s very few things in life that I dislike more than a hypocrite. With that being said, I’ve been a hypocrite for years. But that’s okay, because I hated myself for a long time. But I’ve always attempted to help others. For some reason, people would come to me for advice when they were feeling down, and I’d always try and tell them the truth. I’d tell them that they were smart, or they were beautiful, or they were just unlucky. I’d tell them to follow their heart or follow their dreams and things would turn out okay. Meanwhile, as I said earlier, I’d wake up in the morning and head off to a job that I knew I didn’t want to go to. But this wasn’t just the typical “oh, I hate my job” thing that everyone goes through. This was a serious “I wanna drive this truck into a wall” kind of thing. But it really wasn’t that bad. I did my job and I did it well, but I just wasn’t passionate about it. Then I got laid off. The timing wasn’t great, but after a while, it seemed that it was the best thing that could have happened. I took some time off, took a road trip to sort things out, and a few months later, I actually got excited about a job offer.

 Last summer, I took a job at a local TV station selling advertising. And I’ll admit that for a while, it was great. I learned some of the ins and outs that go with production. I learned a lot about a business that I really enjoy. I was able to get involved in the community that I love so very much. I helped with a food drive. I got involved with a group whose sole purpose is to help people with developmental disabilities. I was helping businesses grow, and I was making decent money doing it. But then things changed. The guy that hired me got fired. The job stopped being fun. Micromanagement became commonplace. And if there’s anything I hate around an office, it’s being micromanaged. I can’t function properly with someone constantly looking over my shoulder. You can’t teach through fear and that’s exactly what was happening. We weren’t being helped. We were being threatened. Sales is a tough business. I knew that going in, but I know that I’m good at it. But not the way it was being done in that office. So it came to be that I would spend more and more days being miserable. I hated getting up for work in the morning. I hated getting in the car to make the ten minute drive to work. I hated walking in the front door. And I certainly hated sitting through yet another pointless meeting that accomplished nothing. I wasn’t passionate about it at all.

I’ll say it again. Today marks the 2 year anniversary of the launch of this site. So here’s the big news. Everything has been leading to this: I quit my job. Actually, I quit my job three weeks ago, but I did it the right way. I didn’t just walk out. I stayed on to help with the transition of my clients and what not, but my last day was a week ago today. That’s right. I left my job on Friday the 13th. Scary, right? Not even close.

The scary part of this whole thing was spending one more day unhappy. The scary part is waking up when I’m sixty and realizing that I’ve spent too many years of my life being unhappy. Being afraid that I’ve been nothing but a hypocrite. No more. I refuse to live like that. I refuse to look my daughters in the eye and tell them that they can be anything they want to be, that they should always follow their hearts, that they should always follow their dreams when I’ve never done it myself. I will not let my daughters look at me like that. I’ve been slinging the same bullshit for years that it’s time for a change, but then I don’t do one fucking thing about it. I let myself think that I’m doing something about it, but all I’ve been doing is holding myself down from who I’m supposed to be. So who am I?

I am a writer. Let me say that again for my own justification. I am a writer. For the longest time, I would tell people that “I write a little bit”, but I’ve never actually called myself a writer. Even the times I’ve been published, I would never call myself that. But this is who I am. This is what I’m supposed to do. I know I said I don’t really like compliments, but I’m going to give one to myself. I have talent. I’ve just never fully tapped into it. The last two years have opened my eyes and for the first time in forever (I’ve been watching too much Frozen with my kids), I can finally see where I want to go. And it’s not to a grocery store to sell coffee. And it’s not to a furniture store to convince the owner to run a commercial during CSI. So what’s the plan?

Freelance writing is bigger business than most people think. There are thousands upon thousands of websites out there that pay people just like me to write their content for them. I’ve already made a few inquiries and am currently in the process of putting together a new website to highlight my work and my strengths. While you’ve really only seen the work I do here and at Binge, I’m capable of so much more. While I choose not to discuss certain subjects publicly, I know more than you might think about politics and religion. We know I can write about sports and entertainment. There’s also parenting sites out there. Anybody think I might have a little insight into divorce or being a single father raising two daughters? The possibilities are endless. Believe me, I’ve done the research. I wouldn’t just do this on a whim. I’ve taken a lot of time and done a lot of work to make sure that this was the right call, and I know in my heart that it is. I have a lot to say, and it’s finally time that I said it.

I know there’s a lot of you reading this right now that are thinking that this is completely irresponsible. But Luke, you have two kids. But Luke, you have bills. Believe me when I tell you that nobody’s going to starve. My first priority in life is those two little girls and I would never do anything to jeopardize their well-being. Is it going to be a process to start? Absolutely. Is this going to be work? Absolutely. But I’m up for the challenge   and things are already in motion. I’m in the process of putting a new website together. I’ve compiled a list of opportunities that best suit my style of work, and I’m getting more sent to me each and every day. This is happening folks. I fully understand that I’m probably going to take some heat for this decision, but let me take this opportunity to say something. If you’re looking to judge me, save it. I don’t want to hear it. I’ve got no problem with constructive criticism, but I would never blatantly try and talk you out of doing something you want to do, so extend me that same courtesy.

Is failure an option? Of course it is. Am I scared? Of course I am. It’s okay to be afraid. But I will not be afraid to fail. I’ve just always been too afraid to try. That ends now. I will not live a lifetime of regret. For once, I’m choosing to actually live.

My name is Luke Norris and I’m a writer. Damn that feels good.

Merry New Year!!

If you think the title is wrong, then you’ve never seen Trading Places and that’s your fault, not mine. But I digress.

I’m short on time, so I won’t keep you long. I’ve got a couple hours of driving ahead of me as I’m headed north to spend the new year with some of my favorite people in the world and I’m pretty excited about that.

I could spend this time breaking down my 2014 and believe me, there’s plenty to break down. I could go over my road trip or my new job or how much the kids have grown. There were certainly some surprises, some positives and some negatives, but I’ll hang onto that for a few weeks when I bring you the 2015 The State of The Luke Norris Address. If you’re not familiar with the 2014 version, click HERE.

But all I really want to accomplish today is to tell everybody that’s reading this that I hope you had a wonderful 2014. I know it gets hard from time to time for everybody, but I hope you were able to fight through and come out smiling.

I also ask one favor from all of you. Be safe tonight. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about making some bad decisions. Some of those can be the most fun, but just don’t make getting in a car and driving one of them. It’s just not worth it. Beyond that, do what you do and I hope you’ve got someone to share tonight with.

Well, that will do it in 2014 for The Luke Norris Experience. And don’t forget to keep checking me out at bingemedia.net. I wish every single one of you the best 2015 you can possibly have and I’ll see you on the other side of midnight. But for now, I’m out the door. Have fun kids.

‘Twas The Night I Wrote A Letter To Santa

LukeSanta

‘Twas the night before Christmas, as I sat in my house

Writing a letter to Santa, this is how it came out:

Dear Santa, I know that you’re busy, but I just need a minute

First, I don’t want to know a world that doesn’t have you in it.

The rosy cheeks, the cherry nose, the merry dimples

Take me back to a time when life was so simple.

So full of joy, that bowl full of jelly,

” But Santa’s not real” is what they continue to tell me.

But I’ll always believe, maybe that’s just me

I suppose this is when I tell you what I need.

I don’t really need presents, but this is the thing

What I really want are things you can’t bring.

I want to stop being sad every time my kids go,

I want to forgive myself for the things no one knows.

I want to forget some of the things that I’ve seen,

From tears to a last breath and things in between.

I don’t want pity, and I don’t want to be too sappy

But all that I want is for people to be happy.

I think I’ve been a good boy, and believe me when I say

That’s all people want at the end of the day.

But please don’t think that I don’t have it good,

I’ve got people that love me, as everybody should.

I’ve got bills that are paid, a roof and a floor,

I’ve got a job and a car, and oh so much more.

But some people don’t, and this is what I ask,

Can you take care of them, is that an easy enough task?

There’s people that I know that deserve so much more,

Whether it’s love or just a break, is that so much to ask for?

I know it’s not your job to provide these things,

But maybe some hope is what you could bring

To those who need you, because overall, I don’t,

And to those who tell me to stop believing, I won’t.

So as my daughters sleep in their beds tonight, go ahead and pass us by,

I’ll take care of things down here, just go to those who cry.

I raise my glass to you, good sir, as you ride with such delight,

Merry Christmas to all, here’s to the good life.

 

 

 

 

A Talk With Pop

pop

Hey Pop, I’m sorry that I was so quiet at the cemetery today. Honestly, I really don’t know what to say sometimes when I’m there. I think maybe it’s because I still think from time to time that you’re going to talk back, and that’s one of the hardest parts of the past two years. The fact that we can’t engage in one of our epic conversations is still really difficult for me. Even as I’m sitting here attempting to write this, I’m not quite sure what to say. I guess what I really want to tell you is that maybe I’m still not quite past your passing. I’m trying really hard to get there, but I think there may always be a little part of me that will always be angry with myself for not getting past some things that happened between us a hell of a lot earlier than I did. I think that’s why I wrote what I did last year about forgiveness and I really did mean it. Or maybe I just miss you more than I could ever fully express and everything I just wrote is complete nonsense.

But overall, Pop, I’m doing okay. There’s still some things that get at me but I know I’m better than I used to be. I really wish you were here to see how much the girls have grown. They’re just getting so big so fast. And they’re so smart and so beautiful. It pains me to no end when they have to leave every week. Honestly, that’s a feeling that I know I’ll never be able to shake, but I think that can be a good thing.  The fact that I cry every single Wednesday lets me know how much I love them, I think.  They really are amazing and I know they would just love you so much and I know that Patrick and Dominic would too. You would be so proud of Kimberly. She is an amazing mother and I don’t think our relationship has ever been better. It’s so amazing when the four kids are together and I know that would make you very happy. Matt has got some very cool things going on as well and you would be so proud of the man he’s becoming. And Mom is still Mom. She’s the most amazing grandmother to these kids and still the best mother a guy could ever hope for.

I still contact Patti from time to time and she seems to be doing okay. A very cool thing is that I’ve actually hung out with Angie a few times (she’s a grown woman and actually calls me “Uncle Lukey”, which I know you would find as hysterical and adorable as I do) and met my great-nieces. They actually came out to my birthday party for a little bit. And just this morning, Derek messaged me asking for a copy of the video I made about you. He says that he wished he could have had a relationship with you and I’m sure that would have happened. I’m extremely proud that you chose to get back in touch with Patti after all those years and I’m happy I was able to be there for it.

I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that even though life always goes on, there are so many people that wish you were here to witness it. And as for me, I’m still just a boy that wishes his daddy was here. Through everything that happened, I always loved you and I always will. There was so much good in you, even if it was easier sometimes to see the other side. That’s what I forgot sometimes, but never again. There’s so much that you passed down to me and as the son became a father, I can only hope that Ashlyn and Brooklyn love me as much as I love you. I miss you every day Pop, and for that, I know I’ll never have to be sorry.

 

Here I Go Again

Here I go again on my own/Going down the only road I’ve ever known/Like a drifter, I was born to walk alone

For the longest time in my life, I felt this could be my walk-around theme song. I spent many years of my life lost, looking for answers that would never come and looking for THE answer that I’ve craved all my life. I felt trapped inside a personal prison that I feared I would never and could never escape. It was dark, cold, and I felt completely alone.

But then I would break free. Again and again, I would break free. Only to keep coming back. Again and again and again.

Just when I thought things were getting better each time and I was finally closing in on the elusive answer, I would get knocked back down again. I would climb and I would fall. I would climb and I would fall. The problem with getting closer to the top is that the fall becomes longer and it starts to hurt more and more every time. Believe me, there were times that I thought about not getting back up. I thought maybe I couldn’t, or even shouldn’t get up.

But you’ve read these things before from me. This is actually right around where I left you in “THE STATE OF THE LUKE NORRIS ADDRESS”.  If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, just go ahead and click on the title there and get caught up. But chances are if you’re reading this, then you know what’s happened over the past few years.

So what’s the point of this post then? The point is that once again, I feel like I have yet another fresh start, but this time is different. But why?

It’s been an interesting five months to say the least. When I last left you, I was about to hit the road and just go west, and I certainly did that. If you missed my series “THE LUKE NORRIS TRAVEL EXPERIENCE”, you can find it in the March 2014 archives to your right. You can catch all of the details there, but over the course of nearly a week, I drove 3,776 miles through Iowa, Nebraska (FUCK Nebraska!), Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and back home to good old Illinois. And I can honestly say that I’d do it all over again. It truly was amazing. It gave me so many hours on the road to just think about so many things in my life, and I saw some awesome things along the way, most notably the Grand Canyon. If you’ve never been, please do it before you die. But even some things that I didn’t know I would feel so strongly about are what make the trip stand out. I didn’t know how beautiful southern Utah is. I didn’t know that a cool desert night driving in New Mexico could be so refreshing. I didn’t know that the bombing site in Oklahoma City would make me feel the way it did. Honestly, I think that road trip brought out nearly every emotion that I have. But as cool as it was to be out there, nothing made me feel as good as coming soon and seeing how much my girls had missed me. All of them.

I came back refreshed. For those who read the address, let me clarify something. The point of that road trip was not to find my definitive answer to that one certain question. That wasn’t the point at all. The point was to just get some time away, which I think we’ve all experienced. But I did come back refreshed. That doesn’t mean that the things that had been going on here had just gone away. My basement was still a wreck. I didn’t magically have a job waiting for me. I knew there was still work to be done here.

So I started on the job hunt. What a fucking mess that was. Looking for a job is the absolute worst. I hadn’t done it in so long, so I really had forgotten how awful the process really is. The key this time though was not to just send out resumes to just any company that was looking. I wanted my next position to be something I could get excited about. For so long, I had been so unhappy with my job that I wanted something different. I was getting phone calls and interviews, but nothing that made me jump for joy. And when did companies start holding more than an interview or two? Good lord, there was one company that I interviewed with five times, including an actual full day of work. And then in the last interview, the guy I was supposed to meet with didn’t even show up. No e-mail. No phone call. Nothing. To this day, I still haven’t heard back from them. And that’s okay. If that’s the way they were going to do business, then I didn’t want to be a part of that anyway. It was also during this time that I started talking with Nexstar Broadcasting, who run CBS and FOX here in town. Again, I went on multiple interviews. I remember thinking that the first one had been more enjoyable than any interview I’d ever been on. But things kept getting dragged out. But I was still excited about it. It was even said to me that I hadn’t looked so excited about anything in quite a while, so I knew there was something there. If I hadn’t heard back from them for a few days, I called. I e-mailed. And persistence paid off. Starting Monday, I will be the new Account Executive with WMBD-TV 31, Fox 43, ciproud.com, and Bounce. Salary, commission, health, dental, vision, 401k, an expense account, phone, laptop, the works. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

Throughout the five months, I’ve also had quite a bit of time to write. I’m sure I’ve annoyed some of you quite a bit with all the things I post on facebook for Binge Media, but hey, that’s what I need to do to get the clicks I’m looking for, so suck it up. I’ve been doing Binge Media Sports for a while now, and just in the last week and a half, I’ve actually been given my own weekly feature, which I’m calling “Working the Weekend with Luke”. Again, if you’d like to read it, just click on the title and check it out. I feel I’ve really gotten into a groove lately with my writing, and I’ve got some other big ideas for other projects that will soon be ready to roll.

Sure, there’s been some tough times over the past five months. I would get down on myself when the phone calls weren’t coming, or a couple of jobs I thought I wanted didn’t happen, but I kept telling myself that maybe that’s not the one I was supposed to get anyway. I would justify the schedule or the salary or some aspect that I didn’t like about it to make myself feel better and it allowed me to move on. However, when real tragedy struck, all of my petty bullshit seemed to go away. A couple of days after my birthday, I got a phone call saying that a friend I’d known for almost 30 years had passed and his eight-year old son was left to ask questions. I wrote about it in “Dear Alex”, but that really hit me hard. It hit a ton of people very hard and even as I write this now, I’m left with questions myself that will never be answered. But when something like that happens, you really take stock of what you have in your life. My heart continues to be with Alex and Becky and forever will be.

That’s why I’m glad I have the people in my life now that I do. Each time I’ve fallen down, I’ve had people to help pick me back up. Whether it was my boys back in the day, or Ashlie when my father died, or my family throughout everything, I’ve never been alone, even the times when I thought I was. There’s always been people there to help and I’m so blessed to know the people that I do.

But throughout the tough times over these past few years, the two main reasons that I keep getting back up to fight are these two.

028

This is a picture from Ashlyn and Brooklyn’s first dance recital, held about a month ago. This is one of the many great moments from the last five months that I’ve gotten to spend with my daughters. That’s been the positive side of this time off. They start preschool in the fall and kindergarten and high school and college won’t be far behind the way time has been moving. So it’s been an absolute joy to have all this time I’ve had with them. When they’re this age, five months can bring so much and I feel like I’ve seen so much in that time and I feel like I’ve certainly taken advantage of it. Whether it be Monkey Joe’s or Chuck E. Cheese or Monday morning story time at the bookstore or a trip to the zoo or a trip to Chicago to see my nephews, we’ve done so much during these five months. I feel like I’ve become a better father in this time and it’s something I’ll never regret. Every single thing I do in my life, I’m doing for them. I want them to always be able to count on me, to know that I’m there for them, to know that no matter what, I’ll always be Daddy and I’ll always love them more than anything in the world.

(I know, I know…wrap it up)

The point of all that is this. As I said before, I feel like I’ve got yet another fresh start. With the new job and the new opportunities that have been presented to me, I’m ready to get back up once again and keep fighting. I’ve taken advantage of these past five months, through the ups and downs, and really taken a hard look at myself and I can honestly say that I’m closer than I’ve ever been to finding my answer. I’m also fully aware that I can get my ass kicked again at any time. I could hate the job. I could get writer’s block. There’s a number of things that could go wrong. That’s just life. But I’m ready to climb once again. The only thing is that I have a head start this time. I’m ready for another round…so here I go again. I’m just not on my own. I’ve got a whole group of people backing me up.

 

My Newest Writing Venture

So happy to be back here at The Luke Norris Experience. I know I’ve been away from here for a while, but in addition to this post, I’ll be back very soon, probably later this week, with an “Up Close and Personal” update for all of you.

Most of the posts you’ll see on this site from here on out will be more of the personal stuff, but I’ll get to some of that later this week. Most of the sports things I do now I obviously do for Binge Media Sports. If you haven’t checked out any of my work there, go and check it out. I really do enjoy it. If you’re not sure where to find it, just click HERE . And I thank all of you who have made the jump over there with me. Whether it’s clicking from my facebook or Twitter page or “liking” the Binge Media facebook page. If you haven’t done that, you can do that HERE and get all of the updates as they go out.

The news that I have is that in addition to the work I do for Binge Media Sports, I’ve now been given a weekly column where I can talk about all the other things they do on the site as well, such as the movies and the music and such. Basically, I’ve been given a forum to just ramble about random things for a while, much like I could here, but for a bigger audience. That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate each and every one of you that logs on to this website, because without the support of all of you, the Binge Media thing never would have happened. So although I’ve got another outlet for some of the entertainment stuff, my loyalty and my heart will always be here with you. Again, check back later in the week as I’ll be updating you on what’s been going on with me the past few months.

But again, the big news is that my newest writing venture, “Working the Weekend with Luke”, is now up and running at Binge Media. If you’d like to check it out, and I really hope that you do, please click HERE for the first installment. I’ll check back soon and I can never say it enough, thanks to all of you who continue to support The Luke Norris Experience.