To Dad: From Kelly

Lytleisms – Quotes from a Hall of Fame Smart A**

Dad suffered a heart attack and died five years ago today. Anyone that knew him understands this loss. Those that did not missed out on knowing a man who just got it. He understood when to comfort, like when he hugged my sister after she smashed her car into his while learning to drive and never said a word about the damage. And he knew when he needed to deliver a stern warning – in as few words as possible and with a sly smirk across his face – when I showed up for a workout hungover. It worked. We never needed to speak of the message again.

In To Dad, From Kelly, I described Dad as living “somewhere between the innocent and the instigator….he was a father, friend, mentor, and teacher. And he played these roles with a playful, often devious smile spread across his face.” A friend recently relayed with me a memory he has of Dad, and I think it beats at the heart of what made Dad special.

Like several examples in your book he was very good with timing. In tenth grade he pulled me aside after practice and gave me a talk telling me I had “it”. He even called my mom one day when I was skipping practice to tell me to get my ass there. Remember I was such a punk at this time most of school faculty hated me. Deservedly so. Huge in me (slightly) turning around to at least graduate and get it together. He could be very hard on me so when I was ruled ineligible for football in 96 I was mortified and scared to face him expecting him to be livid. When he finally spotted me at a bball game he was the opposite he was very tender because he could tell that’s what I needed. Can’t say enough about how big this was to me because he was so big in my eyes. To a man who grew up without a father these things are immeasurable. Many examples in your book of things I take going forward for my own family learned from great men like your dad.

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The Youth Football Question

Football is violent. Lethal. We play the game and put our future bodies and minds at risk. Still, we celebrate football. It’s the sport I’ve praised, though perhaps from some misguided longing to stay close to those who are gone. We scream, cheer, and cry for our combatants caught in its vicious throes. We hold our breath whenever our warriors wobble but always crave more. Football brutalizes its participants.

And somehow, our kids still play the game. (more…)

To Dad, From Kelly

To Dad, From Kelly - Final Cover

When Rob Lytle died at age 56, three decades after his football stardom at the University of Michigan ended and his professional career with the Denver Broncos began, his son Kelly Lytle poured his mix of grief, adulation, regret, gratitude, and even criticism into a series of letters to the man he considered his best friend. What began as catharsis evolved into a memoir that starts strong and gains steam the way Rob Lytle did in his dashes down the football field.

To Dad, From Kelly adds dimensions as the author has the insight and candor to peel away the cachet of having a celebrity father and reveal the underside of an all-consuming devotion to a sport. Along the way, Kelly shares his difficulties with keeping sports competition in perspective.

This reflection on an unusually close and complicated father-son bond will be entertaining, poignant, and inspiring for readers who love sports and those who don’t because—although football provides a backdrop—the book is really about family, zeal, and character.

You can purchase your copy of To Dad, From Kelly at any of these locations:

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Life on the Sidelines for Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett

I grew up in a Michigan family. My father, Rob Lytle, starred at running back for the Wolverines from 1973-1976, and I spent my childhood staring at posters of famous Michigan players on my walls and living and dying with the team many Fall Saturdays at Michigan Stadium. When it comes to supporting Ohio State, though, I learned a different appreciation than many Wolverine fans.

“There was no cleaner, more hard-hitting, or fun game than Ohio State. Out of respect for the rivalry, in our house we root for Ohio State as long as they aren’t playing Michigan.” Such words might seem hollow, but when the man saying them is both your father and the person who gained 165 yards for Michigan in a 22-0 win over Ohio State in 1976, they become more instruction than empty phrasing.

Dad’s words, then, played in my head as I cheered for Ohio State versus Alabama in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s night.

I watched as the Buckeyes—from the supposedly slower, inferior Big Ten—overwhelmed the Crimson Tide with big plays and athleticism until Alabama’s SEC swagger disintegrated like a flake from one of Café du Monde’s beignets.

I watched OSU play faster and more disciplined, and I saw a quarterback making his second start go 5 of 9 passing for 153 yards on 3rd down. Cardale Jones stood tall, made decisive decisions, delivered contact, and imposed his will on the game. Credit goes to Cardale for his poised performance, but without question Urban Meyer and Tom Herman were better prepared than their counterparts.

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Ohio State vs Alabama

I watched, with wide eyes and jaw dropping near the floor, as Alabama chose to not hand the ball to Derrick Henry from late in the first quarter to late in the third. Shotguns, option routes, precision along the passing tree are great, but winning is better. And winning football for Alabama that night meant feeding Henry. As Rob Lytle would have said, “It ain’t rocket science. Run the damn ball.” Sometimes, football can be simple sometimes.

I watched and it interested me that Urban Meyer, who as the coach of the Florida Gators announced the SEC’s dominance with an athletic thumping of OSU in 2007, stomped the beating heart of the SEC’s superiority with a Big Ten manhandling.

Finally, though, as I watched Tyvis Powell intercept the game’s final pass, my thoughts fled the on-field action and rushed to two players who never laced up their cleats for the contest: Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett. I pictured Braxton in street clothes, a white towel loose over his head, and I thought of J.T. moving on the field in his walker with his foot in a protective boot. Then, a sickness settled in my stomach.

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2014: A Year in Words

I entered 2014 believing that stories were my catalyst for creating, capturing, and cultivating life’s changing moments. It’s stories – those make you burst with laughter on an airplane or cry in a coffee shop stories – that make others wish they could feel just what has ignited such an emotional firestorm. Writing stories, I believed, was my life raft when I needed rescued from drowning in grief.

As I reflect on 2014, I realize that this year I probed deeper, past the heart of stories and into the soul of words. Stories are great, but as John Keating said, “words (and ideas) can change the world.” What is a story anyway without the right words? It’s the right words, spoken at the right time, and heard by the right audience that can inspire masses to change the world. Change a life.

Anyone who has ever listened to a story told by my grandfather, father, or me knows our rambling tendencies. But consider the most powerful phrases we know: Thank you; I’m sorry; I love you.

Strong, simple, and meaningful words.

Words don’t tug heartstrings they quench our souls. And 2014, for me, was a year in words.

34,100 words in To Dad, From Kelly. And consider this, my first draft had 45,000 words and second had 38,000. This is why you edit.

25,000 words and ideas scribbled in moleskin notebooks with handwriting so bad only my eyes can decipher.

2 words – It’s Finished – announcing the completion of To Dad, From Kelly to my mom and sister.

7 words – I can’t believe I fucking did it – that immediately followed.

3 words – I love you – shared in the small numbered hours of a March evening with a love the Gods have blessed me with knowing.

12 words – Goodbye my friend, I’ll see you when I see you. Love, Kelly – that let me say goodbye to my father.

2014 was a year for words. What will 2015 bring?

Some Things Are Better Than Christmas Morning

Christmas morning. 1992. I woke frantic. A commotion rang from our basement. I popped from bed, snatched a sweatshirt from the floor, and dashed toward the noise. Wild strands of bedhead stood upright like blonde fingers sprouting from my head. My heart thumped as I chugged toward my parent’s cackles and the zinging sound of a scoreboard whistling higher. I skidded across the slick basement floor when I reached my destination, my eyes bulging and my arms flailing. Christmas had arrived. And so had my gift: a 10-feet long arcade style hot shot basketball system that rose from the ground like a monument made of metal tubing and mesh and adorned with rubber basketballs, a scoreboard, and countdown clock.

I was happy.20141214_123609

For a new author, I suspect that seeing your book in a bookstore is like waking on Christmas morning and finding that long-awaited present under the tree. At least it was for me.

Indies First is a national grassroots movement started in 2013 by author Sherman Alexie (if you haven’t read Mr. Alexie you must) to support local, independent bookstores during small business Saturday. And I am grateful to Mac’s Backs-Books on Coventry Road in Cleveland for allowing me the chance to participate in their Indies First event last month.

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Standing among words I’ve long admired and wished I could have written reminded me how far I’ve come as a writer in three years – and how far I still have to go. Seeing To Dad, From Kelly propped in a bookcase and armed with a price tag was like waking up and finding the perfect present under the Christmas tree – if that present had taken three years of begging and pleading to receive. I watched customers thumb its pages. Some turned it down but for others I autographed their new copy. I felt proud, honored, and grateful. I was happy.

Writing To Dad, From Kelly exhausted me. But I finished. And seeing my stories next to so many others on a bookshelf is a sweet reward.

The Most Important Letter I Ever Wrote

To Dad, From Kelly began with a single letter I wrote to my father in fall 2011, one year after he died. The words in that letter are the most important I’ve put on paper. With my memoir published, I decided to write another letter to reflect on my three-year writing journey. The twist: I’ve addressed this one to the 2011 version of me. As today is the 4th anniversary of Dad’s death, I’ve decided to share that letter.

Dear Kelly,

You’re pale. And plump in the midsection. You love writing because it makes you see the world more imaginatively. You think that writing makes you a more caring person.

Just wait. In three years, after hours spent writing in your basement, snow will have more color than your skin. And that slight bulge will become a noticeable belly. It’s OK, writing will have become more fun and important than exercising. Still, avoid the once-a-week 2,000-calorie Taco Bell orders when you can.

Soon, you won’t just love writing. You’ll need it. The creative release will sustain you. Writing will transform you into a deeper, more invested person. Writing will offer you an outlet for the emotions you cannot otherwise form.

Around a year after your dad’s death, a friend will ask you to write a letter to him. The decision to write it will launch the most harrowing, rewarding, and introspective journey of your life. Buckle up because the ride ain’t easy.

You think you can write well. You can’t. But you’ll improve.

You think you’ve cried before. You haven’t. Noah’s Ark might capsize in the torrent of tears you’re about to shed.

You think you understand hard work. You don’t. But you will.

On most mornings you’ll feel exhausted as you stare into a blank computer screen, its flashing cursor seeming like a giant middle finger flicking up and down—taunting—howling that you don’t have the heart to finish. Words will flee. Paragraphs will evaporate. “Why the fuck can’t I write?” You’ll wail. But fight. Listen to your dad’s voice and force yourself into the dark hurt of hearing him speak. Slice the scars protecting your deepest wounds and stitch yourself together by unleashing raw fury into the writing.

You’ll eviscerate you’re mind, body, and spirit. But you’ll survive. And heal.

Don’t fight your changing music tastes. From folk and bluegrass to soul, gospel, and even Negro Spirituals—all forms will carry a tune you need to hear.

And don’t fret when you spend the last 6 months of writing listening to only Jodeci and 2Pac. The journey, in all its forms, will be unexpected.

You’re impatient so you think you need to finish the manuscript now. When your bosses ask you to finish the work for which they are paying you, remember this: They are not sabotaging you’re writing career. Quit complaining and do the work.

That 3rd draft you finish and declare the publish-ready manuscript is shit. Friends and family will be supportive, but you can (and will) do better.

The open mic night you believe you’re attending on a random Tuesday evening in May 2013 isn’t actually an open mic night. The community theater hangout that you stumble into will cascade into a leading role in a play you are unqualified to act in, and the challenges of rehearsing and performing over the next 4 weeks will become some of the most rewarding moments of your adult life.

Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Most are better. Steal from them. Learn from them. Be as good as you can be.

Believe in the value of your story. It’s the only one that nobody can replicate.

A fall Friday will arrive when you are weary from work and writing. Get off your ass, grab The Power of One, stuff a notebook and pen into your pocket, and sit in the corner of an old world bar sipping IPAs and eating stuffed cabbage.

Your life is about to change.

When a spirited, dark-haired girl sits on the barstool to your left, announces (loudly) to the bartenders that she’s searching for a mid-century modern couch, and orders a glass of red wine, don’t wait 60 minutes to introduce yourself. She’s the one.

Love strikes unexpectedly – especially for those who spend their Fridays reading, writing, eating, and drinking by themselves at bars.

Never confuse being alone with being lonely.

You’ll read this quote from Neil Gaiman about writing: “The moment that you feel, just possibly, you are walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind, and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself…That is the moment, you might be starting to get it right.”

Print the quote and stuff it in your pocket. You’ll need the words to persevere through the gut punches of honest emotion you are writing.

The stories you write will cause your family pain. The writing is too truthful. Appreciate their sorrow, but continue on your journey.

As you write, you’ll want more from your father. More time. More conversations. Answers. You’ll be frustrated, angry at missed opportunities. And that’s OK. Because when the final period is typed, you’ll be thankful for every crooked grin, bit of sarcasm, and wisdom he shared.

Three years from now everything will be worth it. The scribbled-in moleskins. The writer’s block. The smashed computer parts. The edits. The Red ink. The Revisions. The underlined books full of margin notes. The reflection, introspection, and desperation. When you finally hold To Dad, From Kelly in your hands, everything will be worth it.

Good luck my friend,

Kelly

Did the NFL Contribute to My Dad’s Death

I recently had the pleasure of joining Eddie Robinson’s radio show THE OUTFIELD on SiriusXM to discuss my memoir, To Dad, From Kelly. This was my second time participating on the show and Eddie once again posed insightful and thought-provoking questions (the first appearance was to discuss my experiences as a straight man running in the Gay Games).

We discussed the healing process of writing and the raw emotion that oozes from my stories. Perhaps most interestingly, though, is that Eddie asked me if I believed the NFL played a role in my dad’s unexpected death.

I don’t think the answer will surprise you.

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Want more? Good, because Eddie also asked about CTE and what I hope readers take from To Dad, From Kelly.

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Interested in even more? Purchase To Dad, From Kelly. The paperback is available online from Amazon and the eBook can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google, and Apple.

To Dad, From Kelly – Publishing October 28

My father, former University of Michigan All-American and Denver Broncos running back Rob Lytle, died on November 20, 2010. A year after he died, a friend encouraged me to write him a letter. That first letter became a series of letters to my father that I had nowhere to send but needed to write. Now, after three years of writing, those first letters are the emotional foundation of my memoir, To Dad, From Kelly.

To Dad, From Kelly details the lessons I learned from my dad and the questions in our relationship that went unasked or unanswered when he died. Three years of writing. Buckets of tears. Early mornings staring down grief and self-doubt. Late nights typing against hopelessness. I gave everything I could – physically, mentally, and emotionally – to this book. And it feels great to be finished.

I am excited to announce that the eBook for To Dad, From Kelly is currently available for pre-sale! And the paperback and eBook will both be published on October 28.

You can order the paperback on Amazon.com starting October 28.

You can order the eBook now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, and Google. If you pre-order, it will automatically deliver to your device on October 28!

All comments are welcome and help drive online discovery. So, if after reading the book you feel compelled to write a review (good, bad, or ugly), please share your thoughts and feelings on one of these sites.

Every word I wrote is heartfelt. Writing these stories required an emotional vulnerability I had never experienced and forced from me truths I had never expressed. It is raw and it is honest.

As you read, I hope that you laugh (maybe), cry (likely), feel the significance of what my dad meant to my family and me, and finish with a lesson or story or moment that is meaningful to your life and in your relationships.

Dad always said, “It ain’t about what’s done, it’s about what’s done; it’s about what you do with what’s done that counts.” To Dad, From Kelly is my choice to do something that counts.

When absence is a good thing..

Wow, that’s been a long six months. Where have I been? Well, I’ve been busy learning. And writing.

First, if writing a book is hard work, then finishing a book is even harder. My editor pushed changes, challenged my verbosity, proposed revisions and hard choices on every word. Chapters that I thought were written well now spend their days in the trash heap. I spent months enduring a monsoon of red ink.

But my memoir – To Dad, From Kelly – is more focused, concise, polished, and – most importantly – finished. I have accomplished my lifelong dream of writing a book, and will publish it this August. Writing the book changed my life; I hope others find it meaningful.

NeRD

Meet the NeRD!

Stay tuned for more updates on timing and availability of the book and eBook.

Second, if finishing a book is challenging work, then launching a digital content solution for the U.S. Navy is even more daunting. My company, Findaway World, partnered with the U.S. Navy’s General Library Program in the creation of the Navy eReader Device, or NeRD, to provide secure, eReaders preloaded with a collection of popular eBook titles to Navy vessels stationed around the world. The content spans best-sellers, classics, professional development, and entertainment. The eReader itself addresses challenges Navy vessels face around storage restrictions and device security and connectivity.

Shipping day...

Shipping day…

How’d our project do? Check out some of the coverage: CNN, Mashable, and The Wall Street Journal.

NeRD marks my first ever “product launch,” and overseeing the project afforded me with many lessons. I will share these lessons in the next several posts.

Loads of exciting stories to come. And, most importantly to me, I look forward to sharing To Dad, From Kelly this summer.

Revelations

I wrote a first draft of my father/son memoir, To Dad: From Kelly last year. This version contained stories covering three sections: lessons I learned from my dad, questions that went unanswered or unasked in our relationship, and personal confessions from the defining moments of my life (unfortunately, I never answered why I ever wore the hat, shirt, fannie-pack combination shown below but sometimes life’s mysteries are better left unknown).

PictureAfter receiving feedback from numerous trusted souls, I began the not-so-fun process of altering the manuscript to focus directly on the lessons and questions of a father and son. The only problem is that doing so left me with a bulk of material that is all dressed up for a party but has nowhere to go.

Over the next few months, I plan to package these short stories into a short eBook and offer it on this site for free or a small donation to charity. In the interim, and in addition to the other thoughts captured here, I will also post many of these pieces on my blog. Although I will do my best to adapt them into a form easier to view online, expect them to be longer and more story-focused than traditional blog musings. What they lack in brevity, though, I promise they will make up for in raw emotion and honesty. An example from a previous post is my story titled “From Darkness to Light.”

These stories are the personal admissions I struggled with my entire life. I’m proud to have written them, and am excited to share them. Thanks and I hope you enjoy.