Echoes from the Past


I thought I heard my father’s voice the other day. I wasn’t dreaming. “Jim, get on the stick,” he said. It was his voice. His tone. His cadence. He used this phrase throughout his life with his six ...

Mom and Date Engagement Photo

Finding Light in the Darkness


Photo above: My parents, James and Rosemary Magruder, the day my father proposed to her. The look on her face says it all.


Several years ago, I was reflecting on the passing of my mother when I ...

Jim at Bigelow Hall 5.10.23

Stepping Back in Time


Yesterday afternoon I was twenty years old, walking the campus of the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater (UWW) during the final exam week. The prior sentence is true—except for one fact. I’m not ...

The Christmas Photograph--30% size.

The Power of a Photograph


Lately, I’ve been thinking about the power of a photograph to evoke emotions, memories, and heal old wounds. It makes sense since I just finished writing the rough draft of my third novel, The ...

UW-Whitewater Iconic Photo--30%

Old Friends, Best Friends


I once read a quote that said “old friends are the best friends.” We could argue that either way. But I think the source was trying to say, while we all love making new friends, there is something ...

Our boys under the tree

The Men They Will Become


Life isn’t measured in minutes, but in moments.

One of my fondest memories is the day I became a father—it was a defining moment. A moment when joy, exhilaration, a crying baby, an exhausted mother, ...

Letters from Joe Koenick

The Pen & the Palette


Last year I wrote about “The Lost Art of Letter Writing.”
Today, this newsletter has a new twist.


As I grow older, I’m finding significant value in mementos—things I’ve had for years—but ...

Dad and Mark, Karen and David

The Light in My Father's Eyes


This is one of my favorite photos of my father. Why? Is it because of the smile on his face? The joy in that smile? That he is clowning with a relative out of the frame? Or because this is a ...

Karen's Car Accident and in Hospital

When There is No Miracle


You’re not supposed to think about these things on your wedding day—especially during the ceremony. But the thought flittered through my mind, anyway. What would I do if I prematurely lost the woman ...

Christmas Ideals resized for my website

Who is Standing Behind You?


HAPPY NEW YEAR. I hope you enjoyed the holiday, time with your family, and time to rest. I have enjoyed resting and a short hiatus from writing this newsletter. I now look forward to writing more ...

A Christmas Memory

Minor Characters, Major Roles


I just finished reading Richard Paul Evans’ latest Christmas book, A Christmas Memory. It is the twenty-fifth book I have read from this author who has written forty-three consecutive New York Times ...

Journal and Laptop

Feeling the Words You Write


For years, I have been talking about pausing—stepping back—to see things more clearly. Sometimes the aerial view surpasses the close-up. 

This was most meaningful to me when I was a full-time ...