Archives for May 2010

I Don’t Want To Live A Life of Fear and Denial

A man sits beneath a clear blue sky. Alone with his thoughts stares out at the still water of a swimming pool and wonders how it is he has reached this place. This moment in time in which he is supposed to revel in the joy of accomplishment and victories both past and present. He is struck the absurdity of his position and his feelings.

Some would say that he is at the top of his game. He has many things that others do not. A wife, children, dog, mortgage and a career that is filled with promise and opportunity. These are things that not everyone experiences. The thought makes him smile wistfully. Some would raise hell for referring to family as things. They would say that his problem is referring to people as things and not as people. It made him smile bigger, the suggestion that he was dehumanizing his family. Those who would suggest that clearly did not understand or know him.

Not that any of that mattered, it was more conjecture than anything else. The one thing that he was really guilty of was a propensity for day dreaming. It was a trait that was both endearing and infuriating. The visions he saw sometimes served to motivate and drive him but they could also leave him feeling quite morose about the future.

With a loud yawn he stretched his arms over his head and swung his legs over the side of the lounge chair. It was time to replenish his supply of liquid refreshment. Moments later he stood before the refrigerator and considered his options. An ample supply of soft drinks, beer and bottled water greeted him. In a moment of indecision he grabbed a few of each and headed back outside. Along the way he saw his iPod lying on an end table and snagged that as well.

Upon his return poolside he found his dog patiently waiting for him. He smiled in greeting and plopped back down upon his seat. “I’d offer you a beer but I am not sure that it is your thing,” he said. Instead he leaned over and rubbed his head affectionately. In return he received a solid five minutes of tail wagging and nuzzling, proof that man’s best friend wasn’t offended by the lack of beer.

Several moments of silence later he reached into his pocket and pulled out his iPod and pressed play. He was rewarded with As it Goes by Billy Joel. For the second time in a short while a wistful smile passed across his face. It was the kind of song that made him wonder about whether things happened for a reason and whether people were given signs.

“In every heart there is a room
A sanctuary safe and strong
To heal the wounds from lovers past
Until a new one comes along”

Earlier that week he had heard from a past love. There had been a time not so long before when he was completely transfixed by her and could think of nothing but the life that they would lead together. Obviously it hadn’t happened or he wouldn’t refer to her in the past tense. He hated to admit it, but her loss left a bitter taste in his mouth. She really was one who had gotten away, but he wasn’t so sure that he had.

“I spoke to you in cautious tones
You answered me with no pretense
And still I feel I said too much
My silence is my self defense”

She had figured it out long before he did, knew her heart and what it wanted. He took longer to get to that point, reticent for a host of reasons not the least of which was fear of being hurt as he had many times before.

“And every time I’ve held a rose
It seems I only felt the thorns
And so it goes, and so it goes
And so will you soon I suppose”

Fear and reticence were eventually overcome and he let himself wander into her garden. It was a rebirth of sorts. A time when he rediscovered his ability to love unconditionally and took a new joy in life. Still, past experience made him wary so he continued to be a cautious man. Sometimes during quiet moments he worried that she would leave and he feared what would come of him. It was to become a self fulfilling prophecy.

Because though she loved him there reached a point in time at which she felt like their window of opportunity had passed and she reluctantly moved on. Her departure was indeed painful, but it would take many years before he understood just how hurt he was.

For he did move on with his life. He did the things that people were supposed to do. He lived the life that he thought he was supposed to be living or so he thought. Her unexpected reappearance made him question everything or maybe he had already been questioning things. Maybe all she did was serve as the spark that reignited the fire.

“But if my silence made you leave
Then that would be my worst mistake
So I will share this room with you
And you can have this heart to break”

These were words that he didn’t say, things that he didn’t dare share with her. Though he very much wanted to let her know that his heart had never healed and that his spirit suffered, he never said so. Never hinted at his true feelings or let on that he wished that he could turn back time. He didn’t speak of these things because he couldn’t.

Couldn’t stand the idea that he hadn’t really lived the life that he wanted. Couldn’t stand to think that someone who knew him as no other did could walk into a room and cause his heart to stop. Couldn’t stand to think of the consequences of letting her know these things.

For if he did speak of them, for if he uttered those words out loud there would be no going back. It would be an admission of failure on an epic level and an acknowledgment that those years past weren’t truly over. It would be reopening the sort of wounds that do not always heal.

It was possible that she would listen to his words. It was possible that she would offer and understanding smile and reject him. That she would tell him that she was flattered but unable to do more than say thank you. That was far more likely than the Hollywood ending in which she declared that she never stopped loving him and rushed into his arms.

Sometimes prudence and safety were indeed the smart move to make.

Still, it ate away at him. He didn’t want to live a life of fear and denial. He didn’t want to go through the days of his life wondering what would have happened. He didn’t want to live a lie. It dawned upon him that was part of the problem.

He was no longer convinced that his current life was the one that he was supposed to be living. Maybe his discontent was evidence of something that had been building in his subconscious. Maybe he wasn’t supposed to be with either of these women, past or present. Maybe this was just about pushing him to take the first step in a new journey.

Too many maybes and not enough definites, that was the real problem. But as he told his children many times that was life. There were very few certainties other than change would be a consistent part of it all. Nodding his head at his own wisdom he opened a beer and took a long swig.

A decision had been made. He wouldn’t say anything to anyone. There wasn’t any rush to make any changes and that was good. It was clear to him that he needed to think some more about it all as both a man and a father.

Perhaps this was nothing more than one of those little blips that people experience and perhaps it wasn’t. Time would tell. He would figure it out because that is what he did.

Still, he was haunted by the final section of the song and it’s somewhat prophetic nature:

“And this is why my eyes are closed
It’s just as well for all I’ve seen
And so it goes, and so it goes
And you’re the only one who knows

So I would choose to be with you
As if the choice were mine to make
But you can make decisions too
And you can have this heart to break

And so it goes, and so it goes
And you’re the only one who knows”

It hit so very close to home, this song. So close that he found himself wondering again about it all. Another swig of beer was followed by a giant shrug. Life was an adventure that was worth living. Who could say what would happen. If nothing else it would make for a good story.

Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience #13

2010 is the year of the daddy blogger and as such it is time again for the Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience. Here we are in week 13 of our ongoing journey throughout the daddy blogosphere. A collection of thoughts and ideas that are produced and reproduced by the male of the species.

Our Identical Twins…: Dylan and Kennedy are 11 months old!!
Bald Guy in Plaid Pants: Rodents, Pea Pods, New Room, Etc.
ARTSIPOP: Down But Not Out
Jack: Dear Angry Mommy Blogger
A Not So Conventional Father: Flippin’ Cute Kids
Jesus Has Two Daddies:Fatherhood Friday: A big kid at heart, but a senior citizen in body
Mocha Dad: Mocha Dad and Moms: Lessons in Parenting
Hands To War: How To Become A Trophy Husband
NY Dad: Don’t I know you from somewhere…
Sex and The Single Dad: Ten Things That Make Me Happy
The Daddy Files:Pregnant = Scary 
Clark Kent’s Lunchbox:Why Don’t He Write? (Or Read)
And Triplets Make Six:Lovie Lookalike
Life of A New Dad: War is Hell
Real Men Drive Minivans:Road Trip!
Dad’s Unplugged:Dads Unplugged
Natural Papa:Manly Skill: Become an Authentic Man
A Twisted Christian Dad:Lesson Unlearned
SAHD in Lansing:Tuesday’s 10 – Five good reads by & for Dads plus five on my to-read list
DadToday:A Divine (Dry!) Night
Dadwagon:A Week on the Wagon: Change Is the Only Constant 
The Father Factor: Where do you go with parenting questions?
Almighty Dad: Tanning and Tanning Beds: Don’t be an Idiot 
A Blogger and a Father: I Will Not Buy Pampers Diapers Anymore
Luke, I am Your Father:Relax…I do it!
The Mommy Daddy: Sugar Monkey
The Daddy Yo Blog:My Children, My Dearest

HockeymanDad:Day of Birthdays

If you like what you see here then please consider becoming a fan of the blog. Have additional questions/comments? Send me an email at talktojacknow-at-gmail-dot-com.

Prior Editions:

Festival Of The Fathers- A Blog Experience
Festival of The Fathers- A Blog Experience Part 2
Festival Of The Fathers- A Blog Experience Part III
Festival Of The Fathers- A Blog Experience Part 4
Festival Of The Fathers- A Blog Experience Part 5
Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience #6
Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience #7
Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience #8
Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience #9
Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience #10
Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience #11
Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience #12

Twitter’s Follow Friday- The Rules You Need To Know

Download now or listen on posterous

16 Ezekiel 25_17.m4a (1615 KB)

The Best Part of each Friday is when I log on to Twitter and see 52 links to posts about the rules for using social media. Many of these posts are written by self proclaimed Social Media experts who claim to make their living by advising businesses and people on their social media strategy. Color me dubious but I don’t think that most of these experts are earning a living through their social media work.

Maybe I am wrong. Maybe more than a few people have managed to capitalize on the social media gold rush. Maybe some of these experts have figured out a way to leverage the interest into something that pays. It wouldn’t be the first time that I have been wrong, but judging by the ongoing posts by mommy bloggers about a desire to be paid for their work there is little evidence to suggest that I am.

It is probably unfair to poke fun at those who designate themselves as Social Media Experts but I almost can’t help myself. What sort of qualifications does it take to become an expert in the nascent field of Social Media. Are universities offering a B.S. in Social Media. Can you earn a masters or a doctorate. Maybe you can. Maybe I should google it and see what happens. A little research is often the difference between a blogger who has credibility and those who do not.

But we’ll save that discussion for a different day. Instead let’s talk about Follow Friday and whether it serves a purpose or not. As indicated by its moniker Follow Friday is a weekly event on Twitter. In theory it is a way for your followers to find new people to follow courtesy of the recommendation that you offer by promoting them in your twitter stream. The real question is whether the theory translates into a practical and useful application.

During the past year or so I have read a number of posts by people who think that it doesn’t work anymore. The central tenet of their complaint is that Follow Friday has turned into a time in which people churn out lists of names without supplying a reason why people should follow them. I can’t say that I completely disagree with it. Sometimes when I review my stream it is nothing but names.

I am not pressed for time that works for me. I’ll click on a name and review their profile to see if they’re someone that I might be interested in following. But given a choice I’d much rather see a reason for following than just a name next to the Follow Friday hashtag. The extra effort lends more weight to your recommendation. It makes it a little bit more credible and enhances the likelihood that I’ll follow them.
But I wouldn’t say that this is a rule for using Twitter because I see Twitter the way that see most social media. There are no rules to refer to. At best there are guidelines that you can follow or to use tired business jargon, Best Practices.

For me it all comes back to a question of whether I am making effective use of Twitter and other social media tools as they relate to my personal goals. I am not sure that the current practice of tweeting lists of people for Follow Friday is doing that for me. It has some use for building a communal feeling among the daddy bloggers, but beyond that I am skeptical.

What do you think?

Dear Angry Mommy Blogger

Dear Angry Mommy Blogger,

Hello. It is your good friend Jack writing to you from his little corner of cyberspace. I am here to tell you that my heart bleeds for you, poor little mommy blogger.

You, the overworked and under appreciated renaissance woman deserve better than you have received. For the past year or so you have worked really hard to build a blog that you can use to get free crap to giveaway to your readers. You have gone to parties, conferences and conventions and worked really, really, really hard to be nice to the mean girls as well as the nice ones.

Every day you devote hours to your blog. And you do that in between changing diapers, driving carpool, cooking dinner, telling stories about how crazy your mother-in-law is or swapping stories about the stupid things your husband does.

Whiny face

But in spite of your best efforts you aren’t given the respect that you so rightly deserve. The brands want you to work for free. They send you press releases and ask you to write about their products/clients without any sort of compensation. That is the kind of stuff that you did when you were a new blogger and didn’t know better. Back in those days you were happy to get any sort of attention from a brand. It made your heart sing to get that email from the PR person. You remember the one. It made you feel appreciated and acknowledged.

Fortunately you are better educated now about the game and understand how it works. A virtual eternity has passed since then and now you know that someone tried to take advantage of you. Your mother taught you better than that, you don’t put out for free. You didn’t do it in high school and you sure as hell aren’t going to do it now.

You have seen the banners floating around other blogger’s sites and you know that they aren’t better than yours. You know that if they can do it so can you. So you tightened your belt, arched your back and joined some of your sister mommy bloggers in raising your voices in outrage. This abuse is going to end and soon, because if it doesn’t those brands will be sorry.

You won’t stand for emails that address you as blogger any indication that the writer hasn’t read your about me page and three other recent posts. Don’t those PR people read. Can’t they understand that women make major purchasing decisions, that moms are a mighty force in the world.

What? What is that you say? You have never heard of me. You don’t know me, have never heard of Jack and can’t understand why I have taken a rude and sarcastic tone. Why I am shocked I tell you. Outraged that you haven’t any clue who I am. My poor fragile male ego is destroyed.

But before I climb back under my computer desk let me throw a few things out at you, free advice/commentary. There is a very low barrier to entry in blogging. You don’t have to spend money on hosting, themes or domain names to get into it. All you need is an internet connection.

The field is cluttered, noisy and more crowded than the most popular concert you have ever been to. And to make matters worse the shrinking attention spans of people has made it even harder to get their attention, let alone keep it.

If you want to survive and thrive in this environment you need more than luck and hope. You need to remember that it is a marathon not a sprint. You need to remember that it takes time to build a business and that is ok. Because most bloggers don’t last. Most give up relatively quickly.

So if you can hold on, if you can sustain your effort over the long haul you will benefit from it. And you need to remember that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will ever earn enough to support your family from blogging. But you might. Or you might reach a point where it generates enough monthly income to pay for a few extras, to cover gas and groceries.

I know, you aren’t really interested in hearing me lecture you. Have no desire for a man to come fix the problem or to offer solutions. You have a husband/brother or father to do that. So I suppose that I’ll go back to being my cranky, curmudgeonly self  at one of the daddy blogger’s joints.

It has been a while since we shared a beer, bitched about being nagged at and rolled our eyes at being forced to see chick flicks like Sex and the City 2.

Editor’s Note:  If I have learned anything in 12 years of blogging (I started in May ’04) it is that many of the comments and complaints about it are cyclical. We always hear about how it used to be better and how we wish fewer people were selling out.

This post is tied into that sentiment, it was first published in 2010. As I sit here writing this note six years later it is funny to see how the more things change the more they stay the same.

The only thing I claim to be an expert upon is how to last in blogging. You have to have fun because if you are not, you just won’t hang around. Find you way to have fun and just write.

P.S. If you like what you see here take a moment look around and see the other posts, there are only about 10,000 to check out. 🙂

Mnemonic- Nifty Memory Tricks


Main Entry: 1mne·mon·ic
Etymology: Greek mnēmonikos, from mnēmōn mindful, from mimnēskesthai to remember — more at mind
Date: 1753
1 : assisting or intended to assist memory; also : of or relating to mnemonics
2 : of or relating to memory

Some of the math geeks might be familiar with the mnemonic devices surrounding Pi. Wolfram Mathworld has a collection called Pi Worldplay that are kind of cool. For example:

“How I want a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics” The number of letters in each word relates to each of the first 15 digits in Pi (3.14159265358979).

Some other examples of mnemonics:

Order of taxonomy in biology:
(Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species)
Kids Prefer Cheese Over Fried Green Spinach.

Order of geological time periods:
(Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, Permian, Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous, Paleocene, Eocene, Oligocene, Miocene, Pliocene, Pleistocene, Recent)
Cows Often Sit Down Carefully. Perhaps Their Joints Creak?
Persistent Early Oiling Might Prevent Painful Rheumatism.

I had one that I learned in school for remembering the planets

“My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas.” That translated to Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.

Of course now the damn astronomers have screwed that up by saying that Pluto isn’t a planet. Damn them, next thing you know they’ll say that Goofy isn’t a dog.

And who can forget Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. What a lovely way to remember the order of operations:

If you have any that you wish to share please feel free to add them in the comments.