Things I will never understand.

No matter how hard I try there are some things I will never understand.

Things like calculus.

Why Peeps need to exist.

The rapid fluxuation of gasoline prices.

The intoxicational quality of charasmatic individuals.

Why good people get cancer.


When I walked inside St. Lawrence Catholic Church there he was. Practicing the song Immanuel with only the pianist in noticable attendance. Michael sang at the baby grand piano with his back to us. His voice a crystal as could be. Hearing it took me back 15 years when he and I used to sing tight harmonies on a Saturday afternoon Mass.  That time was a time of respite I looked forward to. He didn’t know it but several of us were onlookers that morning from the back of the church. Sneaking a peek at our friend practicing a song we have heard him sing dozens of times. But this time was different. During mass, Michael and I sat next to each other surrounded by the choir amidst faces new and old. We caught up, reminisced, exchanged hugs at the Kiss of Peace, and in a Catholic mass that is already too long I didn’t want it to end. For it meant that we’d part ways in the cold December air.


Michael is my brother from another mother.

Michael is a man I love dearly.

Michael is godfather to my youngest son Aaron.

Michael has Cancer.

Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer.

There are some things I will never understand.


When Gifts Become Treasures

Ekky Kins' #Mayernik40 submission.We all have an origin story.

And I shall tell you the one belonging to the monkey Ekky Kins for reasons that’ll become clear if you continue reading. This is my promise to you: The end of this post will have you shaking your head in bewilderment. The finale will leave you stunned, and while I tow the line of completely overselling this posts content, I am confident that it will not disappoint. I still have a hard time believing myself, and I was there.

Trust me: Hollywood doesn’t come up with stories like this.

There’s this stuffed animal.  His name is Ekky Kins.  For the record it’s pronounced E-Key not Eck-e and Kins is pronounced, well… Kins. He is not just any stuffed animal. He happens to be my favorite childhood stuffed friend and the secret source of all my creativity.


Now, I had considered taking about him years ago, but the topic of Ekky really fell off the radar.  See, I figured that a grown man talking about his childhood stuffed animal might be a tad too revealing.  I know I’m an over-sharer and chalk that up to me being a Sagitarrius (Not sure if that’s entirely true but I’m going with it).  However, recent events have caused me to talk about him in great detail.

Ekky is a stuffed monkey that:
a. I would talk too as a child.
b. Would respond in a high pitched squeaky voice.
c. I’d sleep with at night for an uncomfortable amount of years.
d. Has his own personality, likes, dislikes.  He gets angry when people compare him to Curious George, gets sad when he’s thrown outside onto the grass.
e. He’s very compassionate.
f. He’s a great listener.
g. Builds wooden benches underneath the bed for the other stuffed animals in the house to use and enjoy.
h. Yes is a stuffed animal.

But he’s is more than just a stuffed animal.  He’s unique.  He has a soul.  He is me—and I—him. He is my Father’s love in cloth and stuffing. His name is Ekky Kins, and his origin story starts in the early 80’s. As the lore goes, my father upon entering a toy store somewhere in the Detroit area was crowned “The 1 Millionth customer.” His reward for such a prestigious designation was his choice of one of the many stuffed creations that lie in wait on the shelves. He looked over all the stuffed animals and after much deliberation chose a monkey donning green overalls and a hat complete with a white pom-pon on top. 

When I was in elementary school, The bus dropped us off at the top of the only dirt road in the subdivision and I would have to walk down the street about a quarter mile to go home. Every so often my father would come home at the same time from his job as an electrician. On the day my father was the “1 Millionth Customer” was one of those days. As he drove up to me I was about 5 houses from our house.  He slowed his red Chevy pickup down to meet me and through the drivers side window my father showed me this stuffed monkey donning before mentioned green overalls as if to say “Na Na, look what I got.”  He then proceeded to speed away leaving me in the middle of the dirt road surrounded like Pig Pen in a cloud of dust.  I ran the rest of the way home, full speed—back pack and saxophone case in tow.

My father gave me that monkey that afternoon and his name quickly became Ekky. All night and the following weeks he and I played.  “Eee eee eee eee!” He’d say, and off we’d go. After awhile he learned English and the high pitched speaking monkey has been talking ever since.

He’s the reason I’m imaginative. He is the reason why I crave creativity. He’s the reason I can sing in falsetto. He’s the reason that at times as a child I could retreat into a vortex while I battled my inner drama. From the time I got him he went everywhere with me. To Grandma’s house, on family vacations, and even to Europe. As a child Ekky was always found tucked under my arm as the nighttime skies grew darker and darker revealing their glistening stars above. Even in 2013, Ekky made the trip with us to Michigan to help celebrate Christmas.

photo (3)On Christmas Day I received a present from my Mother. It was a small unassuming box that shuffled when I shook it.  Inside was a card and the single most unexpected gift I have ever received. It was a pattern and a complete stained glass window of my childhood stuffed monkey Ekky.

The card my mother gave me reads as follows:

Dear Joe,
I had an artist finish this piece of stained glass that Dad drew of Ekky. This is his original pattern; he never got to finish it.  However, he did cut out the two arms and the chest (where the heart is).

When you look at it, remember he is always with you. Hugs from heaven.


For all those who may not know my father died in 1989. Unbeknownst to me or my mother my father had plans to create a small stained glass window of Ekky for me as a present. He created a pattern, indicated colors and even cut out three pieces.  I don’t know when he did this. Neither does my mother,  All we know is that he didn’t complete it before he died. So many factors could have prevented this gift from happening…

If 999,999 people don’t go in the toy store before my father. There’s no Ekky.

If he doesn’t choose the cute monkey in green overalls. There’s no Ekky.

If there’s no Ekky, there’s no need for my father to draw up a sketch for the stained glass.

It there’s no Ekky, there’s no opportunity for this paper sketch to survive a major house fire that brought my childhood home back to the studs.

If there’s no Ekky, there’s no need for the 3 cut glass pieces to survive a major purge right before a second story addition was put on my mother’s house.

If the three random cut glass pieces break, are misplaced or are discarded as junk. This gift does not happen.

If those three random cut pieces of glass are not found by my mom in a shoebox on a random weekday afternoon, there would be no gift of stained glass.

And as such, this gift, is no longer just a gift. It is a treasure. A treasure unearthed after 30 plus years of unintentional secrecy, with more value now than logically possible. Better than any time capsule, this gift from my mother (and father) is a treasure that I will hold dear for the rest of my days.

Happy Holiday’s… shaking your head yet?

2013 Vine in Review

photoMy kids say I’m addicted to the social media app Vine.  Really I don’t think so.

Vine is the social media app for smart phones that enables users to create and post short video clips. It’s owned by Twitter, and Vine represents the video version of Twitter’s economy of words. Vine forces the user to be selective with shots.  With only six seconds of video available per post, every frame counts.

Since I’ve used app since it was available in early 2013, I decided to compile all my videos into one. Not quite the economy of shots Vine was going for but I thought it would be cool way to reflect on the year.

Six seconds videos, strung one after another after another after another after another… representing a years worth of memories.  There’s work life, family, friends and Max eating the occasional biscuit or two. It’s 365 days crunched into one 22 minute video.

That’s 192 six second videos. Okay maybe I am addicted.

The video can be found by clicking here. 

Happy New Year.


Thanks for coming back to visit. Why not consider subscribing to the RSS feed?