Album Cover Art for “Likee Holiday” by Royal Catchflys

Made my first album/song cover art for a friend’s band! Wasn’t exactly what I planned when I started, but I think it turned out great. The song felt like Summer to me, so I made a Summer sunset out of grass and flowers.

I asked a local swap/donation group on Facebook if anyone had any flowers growing in their yards and didn’t mind if I came by to collect them, and three folks helped!

  • The pink in the top right and the white in the bottom left came from a lady’s side yard. My daughter helped me collect them and the lady remembered when her own daughter helping with the garden when she was a kid.
  • The orange flowers lined about 20′ of street frontage at the end of a cul-de-sac and the lady wanted them gone because they were blocking her driveway. I did my best to take out the weeds, too!
  • A local florist also collected a bag of scraps from her day’s work and left them on her porch for me, which is how I got the large, pretty pinks and reds.
  • The backing green material is just bagged lawn trimmings from a fresh mow.

The original idea was to put the band’s name and the song’s name in rope, with white rope over the pink/purple flowers in the top right and blue rope over the white/orange flowers in the bottom left. I had glued and laid out the letters with white rope a few days before I got the flowers, hoping I could just lay the string down on the flowers when it was time for the photo. Seemed like a great idea, but the whole thing fell apart as soon as I took it out of the clamps. The string was still stiff from the glue, though, so I had to scrap that idea.

I only had an hour or so before the petals wilted, so I used the rest of my blue cord for the song title and came up with a new plan for the band name. I cut some scrap rip cuts from a 2×4 into 3.5″ pieces, painted them yellow/orange, added the letters, and hoped it would match the orange flowers well enough to make a cool contrasting color over the pink/purple section. I figured orange on pink is usually so hideous, it would have to stand out well.

I had planned the photo for noon so I could get the best light, but a few delays meant I had to deal with some shadows that weren’t supposed to be there. I spread everything out over a 4×4 pallet to make a “canvas” for the flowers and used ripped sections of 2x4s for the frame. At first, I thought putting the lawn trimmings on the pallet was unnecessary, but it was vital when I had to relocate the pallet to get better lighting. I upped the brightness and saturation in edits to make it the colors stand out more and think it turned out really well!

Click here to listen to “Likee Holiday” by Royal Catchflys: https://royalcatchflys.bandcamp.com/track/likee-holiday

The Next Patient

I wrote this ballad to describe a situation many primary care providers face every day. Every provider carries the weight of the problems for all of their patients and the memories last their entire careers, but they still move on, maintain their composure, and do their best for the next patient. The story is written from the perspective of my Healthcare Hero nominee, Dr. Sabrina Mentock at Family Care, PA.

“The Next Patient”
by Ryan Mentock

I met her when she was about 6 years old.
Cute little girl, parents were cool.
She liked stickers and had a little sister.
They moved a bit further away for a few years,
and I didn’t see her as often.

I saw her again when she was 11.
Still seemed happy, maybe just awkward.
She laughed when I offered her a sticker.
The next day, she borrowed mom’s razor,
and slit her wrists in her room.

She didn’t kill herself then.
Her mom found her in time.
The family had good insurance.
She went to a special hospital,
and I didn’t see her as often.

She came back when she was 14.
She now wanted to be called He.
His parents were supportive.
They visited us because they trusted us,
and his parents thought that we could help.

He did well for a while.
His parents said he made progress.
Things were getting better.
They resumed their normal lives,
and I didn’t see him as often.

He tried again, this time with pills.
His mom’s prescription.
They were locked up in a cabinet.
He waited until his parents were asleep,
and tried to swallow the whole bottle.

His mom woke up early the next morning.
She found him in time.
They went to a new hospital.
He started new medication,
and I didn’t see him as often.

His mom brought him back when he was 17.
Eyes wide open, smiling, and happy.
They were planning for college.
He came in to complete school forms,
and still didn’t know what he wanted to study.

He seemed to be doing alright.
He had friends, he had hobbies.
He had goals, he had plans.
I thought he’d go off to school,
and I wouldn’t see him as often.

He turned 18 years old a month later.
Walmart sold him a shotgun.
He bought it at the counter.
A case of soda, a mini-fridge,
and a shotgun in his cart.

He had one bad day.
He shot himself in the head.
His mom found him after work.
She saw his face destroyed,
and now she sees it often.

She tries to be brave.
Her other daughter is doing well.
She knew her sister was in trouble.
They come in together now,
and things are getting better.

Then the next patient has diabetes.
Or hurt their knee, or has the flu.
They have their own problems.
We move on to the next patient,
because they need help, too.

A Letter to My Son – Four Years Later

I miss you. I think about you a lot. I talk to you when nobody else is around so I don’t seem crazy. I see kids who would’ve been born around the same time as you and I imagine how you’d look and act and sound. You have the most beautiful eyes in my dreams. I think, maybe you’d be kind of like that kid, or dress the same way as that other kid.

We moved in to a new house in December. I finally had to move your things, but I saved them for last and still haven’t looked inside. I put your things away in another closet at the new house, still unopened. I’m not sure that was a good idea or not. I planned to open them for months before we moved and couldn’t do it when it came time. I don’t see how putting them in a closet is going to encourage me to open them. I want to.

My idea of you has become a collection of fake happy memories in the life I’ve imagined you would have had. I see other little kids who should be your age and think about you experiencing things yourself, so I have replaced my saddest thoughts of your actual life with made-up thoughts of what you could have been. I haven’t figured out if that is healthy or not, either, but my thoughts are happier. I know opening your things will break that wall down again, and I’m not ready for that yet. I’ll get there.

We moved because you had a second younger sister on the way. She was born in March and she is perfect and healthy and beautiful. She has bright blue eyes and laughs whenever her big sister jumps. She is always calm, very curious, and looks up to her big sister very much. One day, I’ll tell them both about you and they will be so proud of their big brother.

A friend made some wall art for your sisters and you. A nice custom name plate with all of your first and middle names. Yours is mostly yellow with a flower in the middle. I don’t know where I’m going to put them, but they will all be together somewhere.

I’ve decided to build a park for you. I have a lot of ideas, but I’m not sure what is possible yet. I hope to have some progress for you next year. Help me out, if you can.

I’m doing my best to take care of your mother and sisters, just like I promised. I hope you’re proud of me. I’m so proud of you.

I love you.
Dad

A Letter to My Son – Three Years Later

I was going to write a poem this time, just to keep it different. That reminded me of when your aunt was in Cameroon for a long time and I sent her 100 letters. It took me two years and each one had a piece from a jigsaw puzzle and something I thought she’d enjoy reading. I’d send her lyrics, poems, stories, jokes, news, speeches, just whatever random thing I was thinking about at the time. Most of them were lost, but I think she liked the ones she got. The puzzle was a little cat and a duck. I thought about starting to do that, since maybe you’d rather read something else, but then I started writing this letter. I’m just going to keep going with it.

I’m still trying to be better for you. I had expected it to get easier eventually, but I’m giving up on that at this point. Nothing seems to be getting easier, so I’ll try harder. Your sister makes me so happy that I don’t cry as often, but it hurts to see her play with older kids, or even playing by herself. I can imagine her playing with you, and how much she’d look up to her big brother, and how much you’d love her. You were so perfect. She is just like you.

Your sister is so beautiful. She is growing up fast. Everyone says she is adorable and how she looks like me, which doesn’t seem possible, but it’s true. I bet you would’ve looked like me, too. She likes bubbles and dogs and she can put her own shoes on, even the ones with the straps. She loves her mom and Nana and Grampa so much. She knows what a cow says, and she can count to one. We’re still working on two, but she already has five and eight down so we’re almost there. I tell her I love her and kiss her as often as I can. I did the same with you, I just didn’t have as many chances. I think of you every time I see her and I love you just as much.

Your Great Grandma Betty died on the 21st. You technically met her once, when we visited while your mom was pregnant with you. She gave me a bunch of tools that I haven’t really used much yet, but she was excited to meet you. Maybe you’ll see her around. She loved you.

I still haven’t moved your box. I reached for it once, meaning to move it, but then I didn’t know where I’d put it, so I just left it. It’s fine where it is, really, but I promise I’ll be strong enough to open it soon.

I’ll get to work on that poem. Please watch over your sister and keep her safe.

I love you, Calvin.

Dad

One Year Ago

One Year Ago

I’ve learned things,
That I didn’t know,
On this day,
One year ago.

How you’re loved,
How you’ve grown,
Since that day,
One year ago.

How I’ve tried,
To make time slow.
Seems yesterday,
One year ago.

There’s just so much,
I wouldn’t know,
But for that day,
One year ago.

Happy birthday, little girl.

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A Letter to My Son – Two Years Later

Your sister is beautiful.

She was born last November. She smiles all the time. She sleeps through the night. She gets quieter when she cries. People keep telling me that we have the perfect baby. She is so happy, so smiley, so pretty, so cute. They say we’re lucky to have such a reasonable and well-adjusted baby. We are. Then they say we probably won’t be so lucky with our second child. That is the part that gets me. Everyone always asks the same basic question.

“Is this your first?”

I say yes because I think that saying no, or even hesitating before saying yes, would make people uncomfortable. I don’t like to lie, but it’s probably for the best in that context. If you really can see me from heaven, you know I apologize under my breath every time I say yes. But just to you. No need to make people feel bad. The one thing most people said immediately after you left was “I can’t imagine how you’re feeling” and I could never figure out why they were trying to imagine something so awful. I wouldn’t wish that feeling on anyone.

You never took a breath, or opened your eyes, or heard my jokes, or felt me kiss your head as many times as I could. You waved at me during the last ultrasound we saw. You were alive. I never thought you were saying goodbye. But you are still our first.

I’m still too scared to open the box we took home from the hospital with all your things. It hasn’t moved since I told you about it last year. It sits in the corner of our bedroom on top of your mom’s dresser. I’ve wanted to open it, but I never got up the courage. I keep telling myself that I left you alone because I wanted to make you a better box before I see you again, but I’m just not ready. Honestly, I don’t know when I will be.

But your sister is beautiful.

Her name is Samantha Alice. We call her Sam or Sami. She is perfect, because of you. You are the reason she exists. Your sacrifice made this perfect little girl come alive and make me happier than I’ve ever been. I will tell her about you when she is older.

My sisters love her. They are better aunts to her than I could have ever hoped. I couldn’t draw up two more amazing role models for my little girl than my own two sisters and I am so grateful they love her as much as I do. You would’ve loved them.

Sami helps me at work sometimes, making sure I know where the phone cord is when I’m trying to talk to people and banging on the space bar when I’m typing. Bananas are her favorite food, though I’m still trying to get her to love avocados. She really likes our dog and cat and yells “AH!” at the cat every time she sees him. We play catch with a practice golf ball my dad gave her and she rolls the ball back to me. Her favorite trick is standing up in her crib, trying to show off when she is supposed to be going to sleep. She’s such a smart little girl.

Please help me and your mother take care of her. Keep her safe when I screw up. Give her advice when she needs it. Protect her from all the dangers in the world that I can’t see. Do your best. I know you will.

I love you as much as ever. I’ll never forget you.

Love,

Dad

So Much Time

So Much Time

A baby at 5,
Sitting on the bricks.
You have so much time,
And you spend it selling sticks.

A kid at 10,
Writing his own name.
You have so much time,
And you spend it playing games.

A boy at 15,
Playing with a ball.
You have so much time,
And you spend it against a wall.

A loser at 20,
Making my own mess.
You have so much time,
And you spend it on regrets.

A person at 25,
Out learning the world.
You have so much time,
And you spend it on a girl.

A man at 30,
Finally standing up.
You have so much time,
And you spend it on love.

Young boy, hear this now,
Or soon learn on your own.
You always have so much time,
Until you don’t.

Before Too Long

Before Too Long

I wrote this with intentions that it would be much longer, but I stopped when I realized the point had been made already. It reminds me of a walk in the rain with my little girl and I hope you like it!
 
You held the tree softly,
Like you thought you would break it.
Telling you how strong you are,
Seems to have gone to your head.
 
This is bark, and it grows on trees.
This is a branch, and this is a leaf.
This is a dog, and this is a cat.
This is my hair, and this is my hat.
 
Before too long,
I’ll show you everything.

The Ballad of the Immigrant Trump Supporter (And The Crazy Lady Who Wants Him Deported)

The Ballad of the Immigrant Trump Supporter (And The Crazy Lady Who Wants Him Deported)

A Nigerian guy works at the gas station near me.
I go to his store every Wednesday
For lottery tickets and beer.
Once, he gave me an extra dollar in change,
And I gave it back,
So we became friends.

He has lived here for seventeen years,
And been an American citizen for two.
One time last Summer,
I wore a Bernie shirt,
And he wore a Trump hat,
So we started talking.

I asked him, as an African immigrant,
How could he support the things Trump does?
He said he doesn’t care if Trump is racist,
Because everyone in America is racist.
America is about winning,
And Donald Trump is a winner.

He told me Bernie would never beat Hillary,
Because Hillary would cheat.
And Hillary would never beat Trump,
Because our country would never vote for a woman.
But Trump would make America great,
Because he is a great businessman.

We talked for about 30 seconds every week.
Not enough time to get too involved,
Which is probably the best way to talk politics with a friend.
He says, “Good luck, Buddy”
As he hands me my ticket,
And I say he’ll get a million if I win.

Tonight,
As I entered the store,
My friend was engaged in a loud conversation,
With some crazy lady.
I noticed that she was standing in the door,
Letting all the warm air out.

“You need to show me some respect!”
The cashier is yelling back.
“You need to show me some respect!”
They both yell at the same time.
“You need to show me some respect!”
As if that was a convincing argument.

I stand in line,
Next behind some guy with a Bulls hat,
And this loud, obnoxious lady,
Who says he can’t talk to her “like that.”
She kept pointing at the ground,
And staring up at the roof when she spoke.

She told him to “go back to his country,”
And that he didn’t belong in ours.
She screamed “they’re making laws to find you,
And you’ll be deported with the rest of them.”
She said he didn’t deserve to be here,
And he “stole his job from an American.”

She looked at me,
Probably because I was the only other white person there.
She pointed at me,
As she finally closed the door,
And said “that is why good Americans like us voted for Trump,
To get rid of people like you.”

I bought my ticket and asked him what happened.
He said the lady was standing by the counter,
Asking every customer for a dollar,
So she could buy a box of Swiss Cake Rolls.
He told her to leave,
And then she went nuts.

She had a car,
And paid for a lighter with change.
She had just bought twenty dollars in gas.
She looked like an average person,
With an ACC Tournament sweatshirt,
And an old denim fanny pack.

I wonder if,
When that lady tells this story,
The illegal African immigrant,
Who was stealing jobs from Americans
And doesn’t belong in our country,
Becomes the crazy one.