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Give Me a Reason to be Here

Give Me a Reason to be Here 1200 630 Jason Stadtlander

We all go through our daily struggles. For some, it’s a ritual, something they enjoy and count on the unaltered solidity of the habits they’ve formed. While for others it’s a routine, a cycle that they have been thrown into by the circumstances of life, a pattern they are displeased with but stuck in none-the-less, cognoscente that a lot of other people have it worse than they do. Some of us have a complete lack of routine, be it by choice or simply because our daily life or job doesn’t allow for a regular routine.

Regardless of how your daily routine normally goes, you do it because it gives you a purpose, a reason to get up every morning and continue to be a part of society or simply be a part of someone’s life. It is the naked truth of humanity and one of our defining characteristics; we need a reason to be here. Sadly, it is when someone either feels they have outgrown their reason or their “reason to be” does not fit the purpose they feel that they were put here for, that drives people into depression, hopelessness, or worse.

So many times, I have sat the train here in the Boston area and I could not help but look around at all my fellow Bostonians, making their way here and there. Some of them have a light in their eye and a clear reason for their daily grind. A man reading the Wall Street Journal preparing for his day at his investment company, a woman working on her presentation that she needs to give later today and a slew of people trying to find a way to relax – reading a book, a newspaper, or playing a game on their phone, iPad or kindle.

Once in a while you see someone with that empty look, the look of someone who has reached the end of what they feel is their purpose, especially in much of the elderly. Or walking along the street, you see a man or woman huddled up in one of those recycled blankets along the side of a building with a used coffee cup sitting in front of them. The look of hope gone, no longer even living, simply – existing, consuming air, water, and sometimes food. I look at them and I want to comfort them, give them a purpose and a reason to keep going. Unfortunately, it is something that cannot easily be done.

A Purpose for our older family members and friends

In many cultures the older family members are still a strong part of home life, however – here in America, when it comes to our older adults I think we are missing a critical piece of our societal puzzle. So many older adults are dismissed, thrown into a home, or ignored.  Historically, the older adults always lived in the family home and took care of the kids while the middle-aged children worked. They told stories and passed on the history of the family. With the division of families and people being spread over great distances it has made it much harder for them to offer their traditional contribution. What some people might not consider though is that the internet provides a means for the elderly to maintain this glue, they just need to be taught how to do so. How to do something as simple as writing an email or passing on pictures.

Connecting in COVID times

Take this a step further and we can see how easy it is to dismiss one another or feel even more disconnected in a time when most of us are required to stay at home, social distance, or telework. Don’t forget that our aging family members are all still out there, desperately wanting to connect with us and often living by themselves or with no other companionship than their pet. It is critical, now more than ever before to connect – Zoom, call, and visit safely when possible. Some day, you will be the one sitting around, hoping that someone comes and spends time with you. You’ll have stories to tell and life experiences to dispense and you will be yearning for someone, anyone, to just listen to you and spend time with you.

Show those in your life how much they count and reach out to those that might not have anyone else in their lives. Because they may be going through something and need you and you won’t even know until it’s too late unless you talk to them now.

The Resolute Desk

NPR’s Three Minute Fiction – “The Desk”

NPR’s Three Minute Fiction – “The Desk” 997 1000 Jason Stadtlander

In September I submitted a story for NPR’s “Three Minute Fiction” series titled “The Desk”, which sadly did not win.

I actually wrote two stories; The Desk and The Oath, but chose “The Desk” as I felt it had a thread that ran through three different presidents

So, I thought I would post The Desk for your enjoyment anyway.

Let me know what you think:

The Desk
by Jason Stadtlander

The Oval OfficeJared remembered the trip with his fifth grade class from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. His mother had told him about it two weeks prior, and he began marking off the days leading up to the trip on his calendar before bed each night. Jared’s presentiment of seeing the famous buildings from his history books was overwhelming. The Pentagon, Capitol Building, Lincoln Memorial, and White House were swimming in his mind.

The tour of the White House had been magical, the spirits of famous men and important decisions made within those walls creating a buzz of excitement in Jared’s brain. The tour guide led his class down the halls where presidents had walked, passing through various rooms and finally stopping at the Map Room and Oval Office.

The historic room looked different than expected. The only real view Jared had seen as a television viewer was the desk with the window behind it. Five classmates walked about the periphery looking at paintings on the wall while he stood separately on the red-orange sunbeam carpet emblazoned with the presidential seal. Jared remained staring at the impressive wooden desk and could feel the history.

Two secret servicemen walked through the door followed by President Reagan. “Hello,” said the president, walking straight to Jared. “What’s your name?” His natural smile illuminated his face as he held out his hand.

“Jared. Jared Reddington, sir.”

“Well, Jared, would you like to see something special?”

Jared nodded bashfully. The president placed his hand on Jared’s shoulder, guiding him toward the back of the large desk. As they stood together, the president pointed to a cubbyhole beneath. “Do you see under there?”

Jared looked down at the space under the desk and back up at the president. “Yes.”

“Does it look like it would be fun to play there?” President Reagan asked with a mischievous smile.

Jared smiled. “Yes.”

“I know a child who played down there. His name was John F. Kennedy Junior. He played there while his daddy sat here working.”

Jared was amazed that a president had children. “Did your son ever play under there?”

President Reagan laughed. “No. My son was grown by the time I was elected. Do you know what else?”

“What?” the boy asked inquisitively.

The president bent down to Jared’s height. Smiling, he whispered, “Your children could play under this desk. All you have to do is become president.”


Jared now stood on the presidential seal of the United States looking down at a similar but not identical carpet to the one he had seen as a boy. His gaze shifted to the desk he had first set eyes on thirty-six years earlier, and President Reagan’s words echoed in his memory. All you have to do is become president.

Once again, Jared stepped around behind the impressive piece of furniture. Grabbing the chair, he pulled it back and sat down at the desk that was now his. Space beneath appeared much smaller now. He smiled just as his five-year-old, Stephen, yelled from down the hall.

“Daddy! There’s a statue of an old man in the . . . ” the boy stopped abruptly at the entrance to the Oval Office. “What’s wrong, Daddy?”

“Come here, Stephen,” Jared said.

Walking over to the desk, Stephen stopped and stood next to his father. “You see under there?”  asked Jared, pointing.


“Looks like a fun place to play, huh?”

Stephen looked up at his father and smiled in eager anticipation. “Yes.”

The President tossed his son’s hair. “Go on then,” he said laughing, “play!”

Final Moments – Step Back

Final Moments – Step Back 620 310 Jason Stadtlander

Michael lay with his head on the soft, down pillow as he watched his wife’s chest. The rhythmic rise and fall of her bosom under the old, cotton nightgown. This ancient familiar warmth had given him the strength to start his day for the last sixty-six years. His eyes moved down toward her legs, which were covered under the white knitted blanket. Her old hands with skin now so thin that the form of every vein, ligament, and bone shown through them as they lay upon the cover. He could hear birds outside the open window but did not want to look toward it, did not want to take his eyes from the view before him. Slowly, he turned his head upward and looked at her face, asleep, so peaceful.

Her white hair flowed down and around the edges of her face, framing it in ethereal beauty. Her flawless skin made her appear twenty years younger, despite the wrinkles around her eyes and mouth. When she smiled, the lines disappeared, and the room was filled with light.
She wasn’t smiling now, just sleeping, softly sleeping.

He thought back to last week as they sat at dinner when she smiled at him before she passed out, and the pain struck him.

Step back, it was her birthday as she blew out the candles with the number “88” on the cake.

Step back, the boat ride on Lake Erie with their grandson and two great-grandchildren. Michael held Beth’s hand and sat as the wind blew their white hair, filled with the smell of the lake.

Step back, their fiftieth anniversary as they sat at the restaurant, surrounded by friends and family. So many people that had touched their lives over the years together, standing tall despite the odds.

Step back, in the shade of the trees, as they walked through the park, pushing their grandson in his stroller, autumn freshly fallen and the leaves blowing in small vortices around them.

Step back, the nightmare he had awoken to, his daughter, Jennie dying in a car accident as she drove along the coast. But it wasn’t a dream, it was a memory. Beth had held him as he cried, and in turn, he had cradled her as she cried, her sobs shaking his shoulder.
Step back, their grandson had come into the world, and Beth sat in the hospital room chair holding the newborn baby boy, his soft, perfect skin, and an entire life before him.

Step back, Jennie was walking down the aisle and Michael, as nervous as the day that he lifted his own bride’s veil years ago – gave Jennie’s hand to her new husband, Robert.

Step back, Jennie introduced Robert to her mother and father on the front porch as Michael stood with his shotgun in hand, always the dramatic flair. Robert had taken one look at the gun and stepped back. Beth then grabbed the gun from Michael and pumped the gun, opening the chamber and showing it was not loaded but merely a scare tactic.

Step back, Jennie handed a hand-made ornament that she had created for her father in second grade. Her long golden hair cascading down her shoulders as she smiled with great anticipation as he opened the tissue wrapped ornament.

Step back, Beth handed Michael their newborn daughter. He took the swaddled baby and gently cradling it in his arms, feeling alien to the idea of holding a child. “She’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” He had said. “Next to you, of course.” He had quickly added.
Step back, Michael adjusted his bowtie. So nervous, that his hands were shaking. He had been madly in love with Beth since he was 17, and now, here he stood in the room adjacent to the sanctuary, about to take her hand in marriage. “Dear God, please help me to follow your guidance. Help me to protect and love her for the rest of my life.”

At the altar, he had lifted her veil and kissed her. Beth had whispered in his ear, “Will you love me for the rest of my life?” to which he had replied, “For all of your life and a day, my love.”

Back in the present, the warm bedclothes wrapped Michael in a cocoon of warmth, yet a chill ran up his spine. He reached his hand out and touched Beth’s face. She opened her bright blue eyes and looked at him, a flash of sorrow in her eyes as she felt her body failing her. Beth looked into her husband’s eyes, “It’s time.” She said.

Michael nodded and petted her hair. “Shh, I know. It’s okay.” He whispered.

“Will you love me for the rest of my life?” she asked, as she had asked thousands of times over their years together. He shook his head gently as a single tear streamed down his face, and his lips trembled.

“No. I’ll love you for the rest of mine, and a day.” He replied and wrapped his arms around her as she took her last breath.
Michael lay there for an hour, unable to move, just holding Beth in his arms, sobbing.

Our Legacy and What We Leave Behind

Our Legacy and What We Leave Behind 1707 1280 Jason Stadtlander

The movie “The Road” starring Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee is a movie based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Cormac McCarthy’s book, “The Road.” For those who haven’t seen the film, it is an extremely powerful film about hardship, the love of a child and survival instincts. The book is also an incredible read, but difficult.

That movie – and my novel, The Steel Van Man – have made me wonder about the connection to our children and families, and to ask myself what lengths I might be willing to go to protect my family.

I can attest to my own experiences and feelings toward family, children and the overwhelming need to protect them.

A Family to Live or Die for . . .

protect-the-childrenFor those of you who do not know, I have two children of my own, and I can say without thinking about it, I would kill to protect them. When I am gone from this world, all that will remain of me will be the words I leave behind and my children. Although I hope my writing endures, my children are paramount in all that I do, see, breathe and speak.

In The Road, a father is trying to guide his son to safety, and in doing so,  shows him what is right and what is wrong. At one point, attempting to protect the boy, the man steals the clothes from another man who has just robbed them. The boy later encourages his father to return the clothes to the man and leave behind food for him, showing the father what it means to retain a level of humanity during a time of distress and societal collapse.

At what cost do we allow humanity and society to influence our families? If you have children and are at home reading this, look at your children right now. If you are at work reading this, look at a picture of your children – I’m sure you have one around. What are their lives worth? What is their safety worth? Looking at your child playing on the floor or smiling up at you from that photo. You know that you will do absolutely anything to protect that innocent life. Your needs are (should) be secondary to theirs. You will carry the world on your shoulders, plow through any obstacle and face any challenge to help that little person – that little human who is part of you and someone else. You will help them to become someone special, to be more than you are right now.

Now, look at this from a different perspective. Times are constantly changing, rules of society changing. Some rules for the better and some not. How far will we allow humanity to dictate the final outcome of our children? How much do we allow society to control and skew the perspectives of our children for the betterment of society?

We as a species fight all the time over politics, race, gender classification, and religion. Your race doesn’t matter; neither does your class, gender classification, your spiritual denomination or your job. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true. It matters to you, but in the great scheme of things none of this matters when it comes to the responsibility of raising your child. Hell, none of them really matter even when you don’t have children. In the end, when you are gone from this world, you are gone for good. Take control of the world around by starting with yourself and your family. Concentrate on what you can change in the immediate, then focus on what seems impossible to change.

Complicated Times – Simple Rules

family-time-is-most-importantWe live in an age of over-stimulation, an age of instant information, social media and media overload. These access points are constantly trying to change our perspective on the world around us. Worse, they are trying to change the perspective of our children, parents be damned.

In our home we have five (primary) rules:

  • Treat others with respect
  • Expect respect, but fight for it if you don’t get it
  • Eat dinner with no television, computers or phones while sitting AT the table – every night
  • Never hit someone, but know how to defend yourself
  • Never, ever lie to those you love

The most important thing to take away from all of this is; Believe in yourself and what you feel is right deep down in your heart, and what you know will guide your child in the right direction.

Because in the end. . . they are what we you leave behind. Our children are what we all leave behind.


Blood and Water

Blood and Water 150 150 Jason Stadtlander

The blood pumps in your veins
And keeps you alive;
From the family you came
It’s all that survives.

What now of that blood
And how it connects you;
It can bury you in mud
Or it can make you blue.

The wrath of the kin
Clouds the sky with stark grey;
Drives a spike through the sin
Keeps the angels away.

That blood also flows
Through your body and mind;
In all that it shows
Alone it is blind.

How then can you choose
What path you must take;
Tolling on kin to amuse
Or in solitary wake.

To stand proud and be kind
Regardless of blood;
The water will then unwind
For it too is a flood.

Water is not as thick as blood
For blood will endure;
If you allow it to bud
Only then is it pure.

Water crests in a wave
But then it is gone;
Leading only to save
What once was in sun.

The life giving liquid
Leads toward your future;
It need not be frigid
Or twist you with torture.

Do not let your blood haunt you
Or betray you it will;
Follow your heart true
And your life it will fill.

Shattered Family Values

Shattered Family Values 150 150 Jason Stadtlander

The Family Unit

Shattered Family ValuesOne hundred years ago our world began to change dramatically. World War 1 had just begun and it wouldn’t be long before women would be entering the workforce and in roughly twenty years World War II would begin. The advent of technology, factories and industry changed not only our economy but also our families and what they meant to us.

One hundred and fifty years ago, families were closely knit. They depended on each other for survival and worked together on the farm or in the family business. Grandparents lived at home with the children and grandchildren and took care of each other. Everyone had their duties. Families had the daily opportunity to really get to know each other. To be a part of each other’s daily lives and know what drove each of them. That in turn caused a closeness, a bond that couldn’t be broken. Hence the saying; “Blood is thicker than water.”

The Family Division

This is not the case anymore. Now, we as adults work different jobs, only seeing our family for a few hours in the evening and perhaps one or two in the morning. We hire baby sitters so that we can work away from our children and we get to see our family on the weekends and subsequently try to cram as much as is possible into those precious few hours that we do have. With the advent of all the entertainments (TV, Wii, iPads, etc.), many of us also spend less quality time talking. A family could sit in a living room for hours without saying a word to each other, without really getting to know each other.

We further this division as children grow. The children come of age, move away and go to college and likely settle in the town where they went to college, often far away from their parents. Parents grow older and their parents who also live far away because they (as children) moved off to go to school and started a family now depend on nurses and care givers. No longer do we take care of our parents. It is now accepted to allow a stranger to come into our house to spend time with our children and affect them educationally, psychologically, and emotionally while we (the society) work.

The Glue

So what do we do to repair this? It my opinion that following a few of these guidelines would help tremendously:

  • Start off by eliminating electronics all together for a week. Then limit them to 30-45 min per day.
  • Have weekly family meetings, each of you can have a coffee, a hot chocolate, a drink and just discuss the things that happened to you this week.
  • Plan a monthly family night out. Maybe it’s a dinner, maybe it’s a movie , maybe it’s just a walk in the woods.
  • When shopping for colleges, weigh heavily on what’s more important… That education and diploma that 20 years from now won’t really make a difference, or the family that 20 years from now might not be around. If at all possible, stay close while going to college.
  • Email, text and phone regularly (at least once a day) to your family members.

If you have more suggestions, I’d love to hear them below.


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