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Memoir

  • 3 Reasons We Were Meant to be Together
    Who is the love of your life and why are you meant to be together?
  • A brief history of Anti-Lou
    On Saturday, February 22, the world lost one of the good ones. Anti-Lou lost one of its own: Scott Hall.
  • A Christmas (Eve) to Remember
    Scene from a Christmas Eve service at Midway Baptist Church in Old Well, Virginia
  • A father’s letter to his children on Father’s Day
    A dad writes a love letter to his children on creativity, courage, laughter, and the importance of good dental hygiene.
  • A Greater Plan: A Son Remembers His Dad on Father’s Day
    June 2009 Not in the least do I find a tinge of coincidence that my first full day as a…
  • A List of Things I Dislike Strongly Yet Would Still Prefer Do Than Wrap a Christmas Present
    With one exception: Mary, Did You Know?
  • A little piece of Shauna’s heart
    This morning I learned that one of my cousins committed suicide.
  • A Peaceful Walk Down By the Water; Or, A Fish Hook to the Groin
    “These aren’t meant to come out,” I told my son. “That’s the whole point. You have to cut fish hooks out. It’s so the fish don’t get away.”
  • A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
    They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes it’s worth far more.
  • A Pocket Knife From My Grandfather
    One afternoon the two of us found ourselves walking down an orange dirt path behind the house. The dirt was hard, baked under the gilded heat of the mid-day sun, and it crumbled under our feet like carrot cake falling off the edge of a fork.
  • A Slight Digression On My Own Experience Starting a Rock Band
    Before the end of seventh grade, Kurt Cobain was dead from suicide. It was announced one morning as we sat in homeroom watching Channel One news where Anderson Cooper got his start in journalism.
  • An Empty Chamber, Black and Hollow and Alone
    Nothing’s going to happen. You’ll be fine.
  • Are You Comfortable Driving a Tractor?
    The tale of a runaway tractor in Old Well, Virginia, starring Papa Pillow and his city slicker grandson
  • Author Insights: Writing Is a Lonely Endeavor, and Yet It’s Not
    American novelist Ernest Hemingway offered up his take on the loneliness of the writing life when he said, “Writing, at…
  • Babies Have Soft Spots on Their Skulls
    My sister recently gave birth. It was her second—this time a girl; small, beautiful, long fingered. Upon visiting her in the hospital, I was reminded of how delicate a newborn is. Also, in this post, I digress slightly on the topic of grocery shopping at Harris Teeter with my son Henry
  • Birds of One Feather
    Hardened bread crumbs burst into fine white powder, sprinkling to the ground. Seeds crack under the weight of jaws clinching, and in an imperfect circle the birds gather round the old man and strut mechanically, their fat necks jerking. They welcome him as if he is one of their own, and he in turn accepts their embrace
  • Book Update: Two
    Big magic is what author Elizabeth Gilbert calls it. I like that, and I do feel as if extracting memories from within and making sense of them on paper is magic. And so I continue my magic tricks day by day, whether there’s an audience out there in the dark or not.
  • But whatever I am has its source back there…
    But whatever I am has its source back there . . . from which I left . . . and to which I never returned to live.
  • But When You Give a Feast, Invite the Poor, the Crippled, the Lame, the Blind
    Every seat has a body in it. There are so many faces here in the soup kitchen. Black, white, young, old. A large Japanese man who requests more meat and bread. A young couple enters pushing a baby stroller, a small child in tow. And old man, an amputee, without his left leg, folded up into a square and safety pinned. A large woman with wall eyes. An eighteen year old with short dreads.
  • Cal Meets Leon Phelps the Cat (When the Lights Go Out at 10:16)
    Jeremiah had this cat named Leon Phelps, named, yes, after the character from the movie The Ladies Man of the same name. This is the story of when Leon introduced himself to Cal Adams, Jeremiah’s new roomie (from “When the Lights Go Out at 10:16: A Memoir of Life and Friendship”)
  • Calm the Negative Voice in Your Head; or, My Son Urinated on a Toilet Seat and Couldn’t Be More Proud of Himself
    Whether he goes by the name of doubt, fear, or some other moniker, we all have a negative voice burrowed in our head that reminds us of our limitations, be it intellectual, emotional, or physical. This voice tells us we aren’t good enough, we aren’t talented enough, skilled enough, strong enough, fast enough — we aren’t enough.
  • Contemplating Death and the Fragility of Life
    The ancient Stoics believed that to live one’s life to the fullest, to truly appreciate those you love and your own life, contemplating death was necessary.
  • Creature from the Black Lagoon
    A prehistoric creature lurks in the waters. A creature from the black lagoon.
  • Do I Pack for My Dad’s Funeral?
    May 21 is a rather significant date on the calendar for me. It represents two things. #1: It was the…
  • Do You Not Know How Beautiful You Are?
    Anorexia isn’t all about looks or beauty. There’s much more to it than that.
  • Down by the Water
    Last night as I was reading my daughter a bedtime story, I heard an adult voice cry out in haste from the street just outside our home. Minutes later, sirens pierced into the night, closer and closer. There was an ambulance and police cars, a fire truck. First responders were descending a staircase that leads to a small lake at the bottom of the hill.
  • El Chupacabra on a Friday night at 1 a.m.
    We used to lay there, on our backs, on a tin roof the color of a sardine can, peeled back at the eave, black tar sealant spread like mustard on bread.
  • Episode 5 of This Is Me Being Uncomfortable
    In this episode of This Is Me Being Uncomfortable, I mumble about launching a podcast by accident; why I decided to return to writing Jeremiah’s story; and how human beings are connected by story to one another, globally.
  • Fish Swim Forth and Stay
    When we were little kids, I used to follow behind Robbie and Jeremiah—unbeknownst to them—as they made their way on foot to the pond in the woods off 727 in Phenix toward Red House way. They’d walk side-by-side with fishing reels in hand. I’d follow in the distance on my bike. As they set up to fish on the bank, pulling the black dirt covered worms from the styrofoam container and hooking them, I would watch from a distance at the tree line.
  • Flying death monster from above
    Beautiful day. Sunny. The year is 1999, the season: spring. The sky is blue with a gentle breeze just outside…
  • Gentle, Little Bird
    Fragile, she lay in my arms, as my wife placed the medicine dropper to her mouth. Like nursing an injured little bird back to health, I thought. Against my chest, I could feel her compacted warmth against me. She wouldn’t take to my wife’s breast in the beginning, so this is how we fed her those first few weeks of life.
  • Grief Is a Fire, Smoldering
    Grief is a fire that burns slowly. There are no flames high as with anger. The coals are hot just below the surface, smoldering.
  • Handwritten Notes While Eating Alone
    Back in September, I was in a dark place, and had been for about six to eight months. Outside of…
  • Hello, Anxiety. I Know You Are There
    What to do when you feel anxiety creep and how to stop an attack before it gains momentum—with assistance from Enya
  • Hi, My Name is Jeff, and I Suffer from Anxiety
    I have battled anxiety my entire life. I just never knew it.
  • How Not To Fry An Egg
    A cooking lesson from my dad, who is, perhaps, the worst cook in human history.
  • How to Make a Grown Man Cry
    Annabelle is home now. The crib is no longer empty. She stares into the camera, eyes wide. She lays in the floor, my dog beside her keeping her safe. She’s crawling now. Then standing. She stands proudly beside her first snowman.
  • I Cry Myself to Sleep at Night Sometimes
    I close my eyes and there you are. I’m listening to the music now. It’s dark now. No one knows I cry myself to sleep at night sometimes.
  • I feel like a failure every time I sit down to write
    “There’s nothing that makes me feel more like a failure than sitting down to write this story.” “Maybe you need to reframe your mindset as to what constitutes failure,” my wife said to me. She sat across from me on the couch, a book open before her.
  • I fell in love with my wife in high school, but thank goodness we never dated
    It would have been a complete disaster. Here’s why.
  • I Love You So Much, I’m Eating Sardines
    Happy birthday to my dad
  • I Started Writing Poetry Again; Or, A Brief, Soul Crushing History of Working In a Bagel Shop
    I started writing poetry again back in March. I was walking through Northside library on Rio Rd. when I saw…
  • I Still See You
    What May 21 means in my life
  • I Was Not Mauled or My Face Eaten Off by a Territorial Bear
    I was not mauled by a territorial mother bear protecting her cubs and/or my face eaten off by a male…
  • I’ve been thinking about my own mortality a lot lately
    They say your odds of being involved in a plane crash are slim to none. So why is it I am scared out of my wits to fly on an airplane? And what does Brian Williams of NBC News have to do with this?
  • If I am not being creative, I become a lukewarm version of myself and jeopardize my happiness
    If I’m not being creative, I’m not happy. It’s that simple.
  • In Phenix, Virginia, I Was Born and Raised
    Now more than ever, my hometown of Phenix, Virginia, carries with it ghosts. The ghosts of my childhood. Almost fourteen years ago, I wrote these very lines.
  • In response to Phenix Being Named to the 10 Small Towns In Virginia Where You’d Never Want To Live
    A dude who grew up in Phenix, Virginia, responds to a dude who has never been there.
  • It Doesn’t Matter Where We Go
    In the rearview, I glance back at my son Henry. He’s wearing a black t-shirt that has on its front drawings of insects, different kinds, beetles and flies—bugs that shout, “I am a boy!” He moves the toy truck into the air as if it has wings and glides on air. “Do you know what my favorite thing to do with my dad was when I was growing up,” I ask Henry.
  • Let It Wayne
    Six years ago, I sat in my apartment with my dad and watched the 2009 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. It was the last time we would ever be alone together.
  • Letter to my Grandmother
    My grandmother suffers from dementia. These are my letters to her. Your fingernails were long and well manicured. Long, gentle strokes you made on my tiny back.
  • Lord, Help Me Be the Person My Dog Thinks I Am
    “Lord, help me to be the type of person my dog thinks I am,” read an aged, yellowed plaque that lay atop the counter as I swiped my debit card with my free hand.
  • May 21 Is My Dog’s Birthday, Not the Day My Dad Died
    May 21 is my dog’s birthday, not the day my dad died. That’s how I like to think of this day every year.
  • My Dad Died, But He Is Not Dead
    Something kids of dead parents know is this: it gets better, but only when you accept the pain and look…
  • My dog was bitten in the face by a squirrel
    My dog was bitten in the face by a squirrel today. I was on a conference call at work when…
  • One bacon, egg, and cheese bagel later
    Five years ago, my wife’s water broke. It was 2:30 AM. Two hours later, she woke me from my slumber, and said calmly, “Get your clothes on, I’m in labor. We can stop by McDonald’s drive thru on the way to the hospital so you can get something to eat first.”
  • Overcoming Anxiety: An Introduction
    How to overcome severe anxiety, fear, hypochondria, and intrusive thoughts — a mostly serious but sometimes humorous online manifesto
  • Overcoming Anxiety: Meet the Author
    I’m not a psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, or counselor. What I am is a professional amateur expert anxiety sufferer.
  • Overcoming Anxiety: What is Anxiety?
    At its most basic level, anxiety is an evolutionary trait tied to our survival (“fight or flight”). It’s primitive and automatic. Anxiety is normal — except when it’s not
  • Polly Was a Fat Dog
    The story of the world’s fattest liver and white basset hound
  • Raw Potatoes
    He’d grin. Then eat at it like an apple.
  • Red fire trucks and police cars
    I remember her, too. Not well. Her face has been clouded by time. Her voice, I remember it was gentle and kind. She used to give me jellybeans when I went into the bank in Phenix with my mom. She worked there. Her hair was shoulder length if I recall, some blonde to it. Her cheeks a little rosy. She always made sure I didn’t get the black licorice jellybeans.
  • Robbie, Junior
    Robbie is my second cousin, a little more than a year and a half older than me. His grandmother, Elner, my Papa Hamlett’s sister and my great aunt. Though our blood was inextricably linked through kin, there is more to it than that.
  • Sleeping Birds Do Not Sing: A Novel (Excerpt)
    An excerpt from Sleeping Birds Do Not Sing, a novel about mental illness and friendship that I wrote a decade ago that only one person has ever read—until now.
  • Snapping Green Beans with Granny
    A large stainless steel cooking pot with its lid removed sat with us at the table like a mute friend, as did a paring knife. Before us a bucket full of raw green beans.
  • South Boston Speedway, 1988
    I smell the charred pan fried edges of a bologna burger and the burnt rubber tires of an amateur race…
  • Stephen King Comes to Phenix, Virginia
    Stephen King terrorized my childhood in the 1980s. I’m pretty sure he (and It) terrorized your childhood too.
  • Text Messages with Friends: The Longtime Friend
    In this new series, Text Messages with Friends, I will examine the relationship I have with my friends via text messages. The poor soul whose phone I blew up in this demonstration: Andy Dirks.
  • The Accidental Book
    I wrote a book, by accident
  • The birds and the bees
    A conversation with my dad about sexual intercourse. A free verse poem.
  • The Court
    Blue jeans and flannel shirts and ratty white Reeboks adorned bodies that twisted in mid-air for a lay-up or a rebound ricocheted off the rim. Young women in short shorts and sundresses laid on the hillside and watched their boyfriends.
  • The First Phone Call
    My phone rang. A familiar voice spoke with a sense of urgency. “Jeremiah is in the hospital.”
  • The flash mob that wasn’t
    Dancing as they moved along, as if plucked from the scene of some musical set on a college campus. They…
  • The Ghosts of Childhood
    The thin, lanky figure stepped to a chink in the gray-black pavement that opened like the veins of a broken waterway, spilling horizontally across the basketball court. He bent his knees. His eyes searched for a direct line to the back of the rusted hoop, and he released a jump shot. The flick of his wrist made a popping sound as his fingers pointed straight ahead. Textbook release.
  • The Gilliam Shed
    Or, how I got that really cool scar on my left elbow
  • The Jeremiah Hamlett Memorial Scholarship Fund, and how this blog will help fund it up to $10,000
    Recently, I spoke with the executive director of the Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC) Foundation about relaunching the Jeremiah Hamlett Memorial Scholarship Fund. WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT AT 10:16, a memoir I began in July 2003, will be the vehicle which helps fund the scholarship in Jeremiah’s memory. Getting this scholarship fund back off the ground is something I have had my heart set on for a while. Continuing our story of childhood and friendship is also something that has been on my mind for quite some time, and I’ve struggled mightily with how to share it with others but in a way that it is more than just a story—a way that gives it purpose. So, I decided to marry the two ideas in this initiative. After all, it wasn’t until the summer of 2003, the night Jeremiah had his first seizure and subsequent diagnosis of brain cancer, that I ever began writing stories—WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT to be precise. Jeremiah’s diagnosis was also the reason I decided to return to college; and Southside, by way of a class assignment from Ms. Judy Lloyd, is where WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT really took off and went from a few random paragraphs in my green notebook to what it eventually became and is today. Find out how you can help support this worthy cause by clicking the link below.
  • The Junk Drawer of My Childhood
    If you opened the junk drawer of your childhood, what memories would you find?
  • The Lady Next Door
    THE LADY NEXT DOOR was a thin figure slightly gaunt in stature and form from the years to which her…
  • The Last Leaf
    The portly woman had her own path to be exact, worn white into the grass that led to her car. After this curiosity, I reached into my coat pocket and retrieved a folded copy of “The Last Leaf,” by O. Henry that I had printed prior to my departure from Charlottesville earlier in the day. “Don’t laugh at me,” I said to my then-girlfriend. “I’m going to read you a short story.”
  • The Man Who Walked Off the Face of the Earth
    He wasn’t much different than you and me before the accident.
  • The many benefits of being sick—no, really
    When we think of being sick, we don’t often think rosy thoughts or the many benefits that come of it. Wait, being sick has benefits?
  • The Music Stops
    No one ever said this would happen. That it could happen.
  • The New Kid
    At first, I didn’t like the new kid. I resented him actually. That would all change in time as Jeremiah grew to be one of the best friends I would ever have.
  • The Novel That Wasn’t a Novel; or, A Memoir About Paranoid Schizophrenia, Friendship, and Goodbyes
    Sometimes he would cry uncontrollably as he told me these things. Sometimes I would cry after the phone call was over. I’d sit and stare at the white wall in my bedroom, helpless. I’d think of the beautiful person he once was. I wanted to fight his demons for him, but his demons had no interest in me.
  • The Red Lollipop
    HE WOULD DO this little shimmy waist down, inching closer unbeknownst to you what the hell he was setting you up for, and by the time you realized it, it was already too late. He’d anchor the weight of his lead foot and mash it down on your helpless toes, and you were stuck there like a bug in mud, unable to retreat, and he’d take that sharp knuckled middle finger of his and bend it in his fist and drive that sucker right into the hollow point of your bicep and he’d dig a little at the end, twisting it as if a key opening a door, as he locked and loaded another round in the chamber.
  • The Seizure
    A grand mal seizure reveals something more dire: anaplastic oligodendroglioma.
  • The Sound of His Voice, Mumbled and Deep
    I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad lately. Not sustained concentration. Instead, passing thoughts. His image keeps appearing to…
  • The Water Sure Is Cold. Deep, Too.
    One of the most memorable nights of my life with my cousin Gary involved a urinal at a now defunct bar in Charlottesville.
  • The Way I Love You
    Recently, my wife and I began a couple’s love journal titled Why I Love You—a love story, in our own words.
  • Then and Now: A Brief History of Phenix, Virginia
    “They’ll bite off your toes,” Robbie’s mom Joanne told us of the hogs. “Especially the babies.”
  • There’s Always a Reason to Laugh
    “If you wish to glimpse inside a human soul and get to know a man, don’t bother analyzing his ways…
  • This Great Big Scary Thing
    I open the door of the car which swings open freely, and set my feet on the ground, run for the tree line. There is a path in here somewhere, the hayfield, I know it. There isn’t. I will have to create my own path. This is where the adventure starts. Where the snakes hide in wait. Where the flowers form at the root and the weeds do all they can to strangle the beauty. The road is not paved before me. It never was. This is where the children of my past run freely. Where the thorns snag at shirts and acorns fly through the air like bullets piercing into skin.
  • This is Happiness
    Happiness as a state of being in the present moment.
  • This Is Me Being Uncomfortable: Episode 004
    In this episode of “This Is Me Being Uncomfortable,” I mumble largely about writing, creativity, and the influence of life (and death) experience on how you see the world.
  • This Is Me Being Uncomfortable: Seasonal Affective Disorder (Ep. 003)
    In this episode of This Is Me Being Uncomfortable, I mumble about seasonal affective disorder, low level depression, my son, and walking away from society’s norms
  • Thoughts From My Grandmother’s Funeral; or, This is Not Sad, Depressing Commentary
    The year was 1997. I sat in the backseat of a tiny Toyota Corolla with my perfumed, slightly purpled hair Granny Hamlett as my neighbor. She was seated directly behind my dad at the wheel whose eyes searched for fellow road warriors and interstate truckers to shake his head at.
  • To hell and back with a cigarette break in between
    We were teenagers: 13, 14, 15 when the random thought came to us. I’m not sure who had the idea.…
  • Today Is Not About Me: It’s About the People Who Made Me, Me
    Today is my birthday, and no, I am not just writing a blog post so you can tell me Happy…
  • True Facts from the Small Town of Phenix, Virginia: The Aces
    In the mid 1980s, there was a makeshift skate park on the tennis court off Church Street in Phenix, Virginia, where long haired, zit-faced teenage boys would do kick flips and ollies on their skateboards and smoke cigarettes under their perfectly constructed wooden quarter pipe while listening to The Ramones and Motörhead. These kids formed a rough and tumble street gang known as The Aces. See end note.
  • Two Simple Words
    I’ve had ups. I’ve had downs. I’ve felt the victor. I’ve felt defeated. But I’m still standing, and each day I learn more about what my anxiety triggers are

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The Adventures of Fatherman