Breathing New Life Into An Old Poem

Several month ago, Doug O’Grady asked me into his recording studio at Western Connecticut State University to record a reading of my poem, “The Secrecy of Death,” which I had written nearly ten years ago. The idea was for him to transform it musically, and I was honored to be asked.

And although this piece was published in the Bellingham Review in 2009, Doug’s spot-on interpretation has given me more pleasure than I could have imagined. Take a listen below:


About the Composer
Dr. Doug O’Grady is an Associate Professor of Music, as well as the Department Chair, at Western Connecticut State University, where he teaches Music Industry Studies, Audio Production, Music Theory, and more. Click here to learn more about Dr. O’Grady.

A First-Time Home Buying Experience

This past summer, Wendy Brazauskas, a Realtor at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services New England Properties, spent countless hours with my wife and me, recommending, showing, and often re-showing a number of homes in Connecticut towns like Southbury, Middletown, Woodbury, and Newtown. We connected with her right away. In fact, we now consider her family and look forward to having dinner together in our modest, new ranch in Woodbury.

In today’s digital world, so much information about homes are online for the public to view: When the home was listed, how much it was sold for, the average sale price for surrounding homes—not to mention all of the specs and photos of each property. I mean, developers are building Apps just to accommodate the demand for on-the-go, all-the-time information for home buyers.homebuying-tips2

Wendy was the third realtor we used in the last two years. And I have to mention that my wife and I are not fussy people—anything but; come to think of it, I actually don’t think either of us have ever sent back food at a restaurant. Anyway, my wife and I were often less than impressed with the agents we have used in the past. Often times, we had just as much information, if not more than the realtor unlocking the door. But again, in my opinion, if you are willing to do some work, the information is readily available. That is not why you need an excellent realtor.

For first time home buyers like us, we wanted to ensure that we were making a smart purchase. It’s overwhelming. And even though the Internet is loaded with valuable information, you need a realtor who is always looking out for your best interest—just like a good attorney. The other big piece that the Internet does not provide is confidence: Confidence that you can trust your realtor and know that they won’t let you purchase something without having weighed all of the options. In fact, my wife and I actually put an offer down with each of the last two realtors on homes, that in hindsight, we should have walked away from. With Wendy, we knew that would never happen.

Throughout the whole home-buying process with previous realtors, my wife and I decided that our next agent would have to ensure that:

  1. We chose the right location
  2. We didn’t pay too much
  3. We made a smart investment
  4. We were constantly kept informed

I can say with certainty that Wendy met all of the above criteria, and she continued to offer her support and expertise once the offer was made, up until the point where the previous owners handed over the keys.

One of things I really love about Wendy is her sincerity. It was clear from the day we met that she was interested in matching us up with the home we wanted instead of matching us up with a home we would buy. These are two very different things. Wendy truly took the time to learn about us and what we wanted in a home.

Wendy Brazauskas is an excellent realtor for a very simple reason: She does her job, and she does it well. That is not easy to find. (Don’t even get me started about the debacle that is Bank of America). Go ask some friends you know who purchased a home recently if they had a good experience with their realtor. I am willing to bet most will say: “OMG, they were awful,” and then go on and on about why.

If you are looking for a realtor in Connecticut, I highly recommend you reach out to Wendy. You will not be disappointed. Click here to see her contact information.

Purpose of this Site

Thank you for visiting employedpoet.com! This site is a place to display my professional and academic accomplishments thus far in my career.

Visitors of this site can see view my resume, as well as writing samples, recommendations, literary publications, and more.

In addition, I also use this website to house episodes of my podcast, “Where I Work,” which is an independent, creative project that I have been working on over the last year or so.

If you would like to reach out to me, you can contact me here.

Episode #8: Meal by Meal

This past weekend, I recorded one my favorite podcasts thus far. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did. And remember, if you’d like to be a guest, please reach out to me on my brand new Facebook page. I am always looking to interview people in any and all professions. When it comes to work and our careers, I think we all have something to share.

Description of Episode #8: John entered the Air Force just two months before 9/11 and is currently a Field Examiner for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Before that role, he was a Federal Police Training Sergeant for over four years, and prior to that, he was a Security Forces/Military Police Officer, where he guarded intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in Minot, North Dakota. Crazy, right? Tune in to find out about John’s “meal by meal” strategy, which he implemented during his basic training in San Antonio, TX in order to help him and all of the members of his flight get through an extremely difficult and demanding time. You do not want to skip over this episode—John provides a perspective that was truly missing from the show.

Listen to the episode now.

Podcast Revived!

Almost a year ago, I launched my podcast, Where I Work. I recorded 4 episodes, fell in love with the interview and editing process, it fulfilled my creative side, and was all-around a healthy thing for me and my professional and personal career. And then I stopped. Just like that.

And I am not 100% why.

OK, well finding and booking interviews was always difficult. I live and hour or more away from my prospective guests, and coordinating a time and day to record proved to be a chore. All excuses.

And then the ironic part, work began to get very demanding—and I often found myself working during non-work hours.  I was working so hard, in fact, that I won an achievement award that sent me on a 7 night Eastern Caribbean cruise. So I was working hard and getting recognition, but I was falling flat when it came to feeding my creative outlet.

It has been one year, almost to the day, since I recorded my first podcast. And while I cannot promise that I will record and post a new podcast every week or month for the next 3 years, I am happy to acknowledge that I dropped the ball and am picking up where I left off.

Episode #6 is now live.

Click here to listen to Episode #6: The Homebrewin’ Music Professor.

Where I Work: Origin of a Podcast

Not long ago, I thought a podcast was another Apple product that I probably would never purchase. Turns out, I was wrong. And for those who still don’t know, essentially, a podcast is an Internet radio show, and the majority of listeners use the iTunes store to search, subscribe and download podcasts.

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Still in its infancy, my podcast is called “Where I Work.” The parameters of the show are simple: I sit down with people in all different professions to discuss their careers, how they arrived there, if they are gratified, and what we can all do to help restore a work-life balance. Of course, there is a comical flare to the show, since I am inherently ridiculous, but I am totally sincere in my search for an answer to the question: Does work define us?

So far, I have interviewed a Ballroom Dance Instructor, a Brand Manager, a Director of Technology and a member of AmeriCorps. And with each recording, I learn a little bit more about work, about success, and how many of us are continuously searching for professional and personal growth. I’ve learned quickly, too, that I am not alone, that many people want their story and experience to be heard, and I am more than happy to oblige.

Beyond my professional roles, which have included copywriter, editor, marketing content creator, and college instructor, I have also been consistently publishing poetry in literary journals across the U.S. for a number of years. The trouble with creative writing, though, is that too often it becomes self-meditation.

This podcast is not only a perfect creative outlet, but it is also the ideal way to discuss work with a handful of professionals and share our insights with a larger audience. So, if you are an entry-level employee, a manager, a vice president, a teacher, a janitor, a salesperson, a comedian, a writer—or any other professional under the sun—then this podcast is for you.

Click here to take a listen, and feel free to share your thoughts.

Charlie’s Top 10 Ways to Restore Work-Life Balance

20140522_220256_20141015190253451As someone who seems to be searching for ways to achieve peace within a world where hectic schedules are the norm, I find myself in silence on this Sunday afternoon, the only device in site, this laptop, and time to sit beside my compadre, Charlie, my two-year-old Border Terrier who seems to have life nailed down.

Of course, I am not writing this to break ground; obviously, hundreds of articles and blogs and books have highlighted the value that a dog can bring into your life. I know. I have read many of them; I have seen Marley & Me, but this short piece is more for those who struggle to find balance in life and in work. And selfishly, this is also for me, and a reminder for the days when I’m in a funk.

Below are Charlie’s top ten ways to restore work-life balance. I hope you can relate, or it makes you laugh or you share it with your coworkers.

1. Get In Alone Time: A typical adult is surrounded by coworkers, spouses, roommates, children or other relatives around-the-clock. While it’s perfectly healthy to be in the company of others, too often we seem to forget about making time for ourselves. Charlie and I are not saying that you need to meditate under a tree three or four times a week, though you probably would benefit greatly from it, we are saying that you may need to get more comfortable with you. There are days when my wife and I are both home and one of us will ask, “Where’s Charlie?” only to find him in the spare bedroom, on the bed, chewing a toy or curled in a ball, totally at peace, totally alone. When you spend time alone, you are presented with time for self-reflection. And if this frightens you, then you are due: Take this time and ask yourself if there is anything that you can change about yourself that could lead to a more stress-free workday. Do you overreact? Are you lacking patience? It isn’t always someone else’s doing. Get reacquainted with yourself.

2. Get Exercise: We all sleep better when our muscles have a real reason to rest. Charlie isn’t a vain guy; he doesn’t step on a scale in the morning, he doesn’t check himself in the mirror–for him, exercise is a necessity. Are we that much different? On the days when my wife and I are too busy to take Charlie for a walk, or engage in a thirty minute fetch/tug-of-war session, he gets antsy and bored and anxious. Without this worked-out energy, Charlie is a psycho. I sit all day at work; you probably do, too. Going to the gym isn’t always an option, but perhaps a short walk on your lunch hour will do you good. Get the blood flowing. Our legs weren’t built for chairs, and you’d be surprised what some fresh air can do for you on a hectic Monday afternoon.

3. Hang Out with Friends: We may have been blessed with a social dog, or we may just have exposed Charlie to other dogs early and frequently, regardless, he loves to be around other dogs. Do you really want to restore some balance in your life? Get out with your friends or make new ones if the ones you have are always stuck at the office. Friendship shouldn’t end at adulthood. Taking the time to have fun, cut loose and confide in friends is what makes us feel like we have partners in what often feels like a battle. Sometimes we tend to lean on our spouses too much, and pour our complaints over their heads until they drown. When Charlie sees his friends walking on the sidewalk, he’ll cry and whimper until we take him out for a few minutes so he can spend some time with someone who reminds him that he isn’t the only dog on this block.

4. Know Your Limits: Know what you are comfortable achieving. Don’t set goals that are unrealistic. Maybe staying an hour late tonight isn’t totally necessary when you are running on four hours of sleep? Do your best, of course, but know when to say when. This summer, I decided to take Charlie for a long walk. Instead of a typical stroll up and around the neighborhood, we drove to an old paved-over railroad trail. It was hot, mid 80s but Charlie was excited from the moment the car keys jingled, But less than a mile in, he was wiped. Winded. Done. If I got him to go 100 feet it was only because he had spotted a small patch of shade. He wasn’t going to push it. And I listened. Gave him a five minute rest in the shade and walked back to the car and into a car with cool water and A/C. Charlie tried.

5. Treat Yourself: OK, Charlie can’t treat himself, because he’s a dog. So it’s my job, as his owner to treat him when appropriate, and remind him that he deserves random acts of kindness. Since he loves car rides, sometimes, I will take him with me when I need to fill up my gas tank or pick something up quickly from the store. As busy adults, we can go days and weeks and months without treating ourselves. Try this: Set a small goal, and then treat yourself for accomplishing it. (I give Charlie a piece of jerky for doing his business in the grass, so it only makes sense that we do something nice for ourselves after completing a lengthy assignment at work.)The next pay period, go ahead and buy yourself something you have wanted for a while and don’t feel guilty about it. On Saturday, take a walk to a ice cream shop and get a large sundae. Get an hour massage in the middle of the week. Go out dancing on a Wednesday. Go play nine holes after work, and shut off your phone!

6. Sleep In: If you have children, you are laughing at this one… I am not a father, yet, and often, I will send a text message to my father friends at 11AM on a Sunday and say, “I just woke up.” This is cruel, I know, but sleep is glorious and they need to be reminded! Charlie, of course, loves sleep, too. More than me. On the days when he is left home for several hours, you can see the divot his body has left in the bed or the couch and can assume he didn’t move all day. When we don’t get enough sleep, everyday tasks seem insurmountable. We can feel foggy and off-balanced. And sometimes, one or two bad nights of sleep can ruin our whole work week. Try to get six-eight hours a night, and if absolutely necessary, consider a sick day, and the night before, throw your alarm clock in the river!

7. Ask For Help: In my line of work, deadlines abound. I want to be able to complete every project on my own, start to finish, copy and design. How realistic a feat is this? Perhaps it’s completely doable nine times out of ten, but there are instances when you will need to ask for help. Neither Charlie nor I are saying to lean on your coworkers and become a stump, but understand that you are not an expert in every area, and recognize that you are surrounded by capable, often willing adults. Take a door for example. If it’s locked, there is no way Charlie is getting it open. Sure, he could scratch a hole through the other side, or break through the glass, but wouldn’t it be easier to stand beside it, and ask for someone to open it for you? Charlie isn’t asking to be carried outside, he just needs your help with the knob.

8. Say, “I Love You”: If you have a dog, then you know when he or she is saying, “I love you.” They do it all the time, every day, whether by snuggling up to you while you sleep, wagging their tale when you come home, or licking your face just because, they love us, wholeheartedly, and by making us feel loved, we can forget about the small stuff that has gotten us all fired-up at work. Charlie says don’t forget to tell your loved ones that they are loved. Dogs can’t speak, but as humans, we have the ability to call our spouses and get all Stevie Wonder on them. Just a simple reminder will give us some perspective on the days that feel relentless and defeating.

9. Eat Well: This is more of a joint lesson since Charlie will eat anything; he has eaten the stuffing inside our couch; he has lapped-up a pile of crumbs and dust bunnies while we swept the floor; he has eaten socks by the dozen and has even feasted on the floorboards. Still, whenever he does this, his body reacts, and he will eliminate this waste rather quickly, either in the front or the rear entrance. When Charlie sticks to his diet, his bowels are firm (I’m sorry), he never vomits and he has a pep in his step. Pretty basic stuff. The next time you are out at lunch ordering a sandwich, consider water over soda, yogurt over chips. When you eat a heavy meal in the middle of the day, it is easy to become lethargic, lazy, and in effect, irritable.

10. Enjoy Silence: I will be the first to admit that silence is a rare sound for me. There are a ridiculous number of ways to distract yourself with noise. When was the last time you drove to work with the radio off? The last time you sat in your living room and enjoyed a drink with silence? Charlie doesn’t understand our obsession with noise. Noise is an unnecessary distraction from the now. He can burrow a hole into a couch for hours and bask in the silence. In fact, the only thing that can bring Charlie out of his meditative state is what? Yep, noise. Charlie says devote a few moments a day to silence, and get comfortable with it. It is our friend. Conference calls and meetings fill our ears several hours a day, and sometimes we just need a moment, where we can shut our office, take a deep breath and count to ten.

As I finish this piece, on a Sunday night, getting mentally prepared for another work week, Charlie is lying right beside me, nestled in, watching the Cowboys on TV as he falls in and out of sleep. For right now, all is well, and he knows this, and reminds me of the importance of living in the now. Life isn’t easy, and most days neither is work. It is unrealistic to think that everyday at the office will be a picnic, but I do also recognize, too, that I have the ability to control how to react to stress and how to help restore some work-life balance.