Archives for July 2011

The Search For Success

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The two most important aspects of blogging for me come from the relationships that are developed with people I otherwise never would have met and the things that I learn about myself. Here in my cybersandbox I open Pandora’s Box and unleash the secrets and demons that were once secured within. I shine lights on the dark places of my heart and soul and investigate that which I have shoved inside.

A man has secrets. Some of them are those of whimsy and some are far more serious. There is a dark side to my moon and a wanderlust in my heart that I can’t ignore for long. I have questions. I wonder about things. Some are simple and some are sophisticated. I think about my life and wonder if I am doing what I need to be. Am I on track to go where it is I wish to be or am I stuck treading water.

It comes down to a simple question. Am I living my dreams or dreaming my life. If I can’t answer that question without hesitation than something is wrong. If I can’t say that every day I am doing the things that I need to do to live my dreams than I am failing. And the most important part of that answer is making sure that I never…ever….lie to myself.

I am not suggesting that it is ok to lie to anyone but the worst thing you can do is lie to yourself. And that is a major part of why I shine the light on those dark places. That is why I sometimes look backwards and explore the times that I have failed. I want to understand what I did wrong so that I can avoid making the same mistake again.

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A short time ago I found myself  struggling to figure out how I had fallen down the rabbit hole and wondering why it felt like I had tumbled ass over elbow the entire way down. And then I came across that quote from Emerson and remembered that I am most certainly on track. I am locked in and on target. I am not doing it the easy way. The climb to the top isn’t in the comfort of the cable car or via helicopter. My way is a little bit harder and takes much longer than the other two- but it is infinitely more rewarding.

There is much more to be said and far more to be shared with you but the witching hour fast approaches and I must prepare for it. The demons roam free at night and to quote Batman I feel like dancing with the devil in the pale moonlight. If you never test yourself you never find out what it is you are capable of.  One more quote to share before I go to do battle:

“Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Letting Go

The Magic Bridge / El Puente Mágico   (Explored !)

Dear Grandpa,

It is a quarter to five on a Friday afternoon and I have just finished speaking with my mom. She tells me that you are refusing to eat and that you won’t take your medication. She says that you say that you feel rotten and that all you want to do is sleep. Mom and I don’t mince words- we see you preparing yourself for whatever it is that comes after this place.

Your doctors say that there is no way to tell how long it will be before you decide to see what lies beyond door number one. It might be six months or it might be two weeks. Most of the time we wouldn’t think twice about the time frame. We all know that at 97 you are closer to the end than to the beginning. Those are your words, not ours and that is ok.

No one wants to see you go but we understand that it is going to happen. But the thing is that your granddaughter’s wedding is coming up in slightly more than two weeks and that presents an interesting dilemma for us. Do we push you to eat and take your medicine and see what happens.

Those aren’t heroic measures. They don’t conflict with your request for a DNR. There is no doubt that getting some food into you will help. There is no doubt that your meds will help ease your discomfort.

Your daughters have asked me to go talk to you. I am the oldest grandson and everyone knows that you treat me differently. Everyone knows that I can make requests that others can’t. If I ask you to eat you are more likely to do so than if your daughters do. We don’t have the parent/child dynamic- it is still that grandfather/grandson with the caveat that we have a friendship. You have told me your stories and I have told you many of mine. I have established my credentials with you and you listen.

I am torn about this. You have lost a step but for the most part you are all there. The problem is that you heart is broken and no one can fix that. It is 18 months since grandma died and we see how you miss her. I can’t imagine what it means to be married for 76 years or how big a hole her loss must have created for you.

But I do understand pieces of it. I know a little bit what it means to have loved and lost. I know a little bit about a lot of things, but you know this because we have talked about it.

So grandpa here is the conundrum I find before me. Is it fair for me to ask you to get back on your horse for one last ride. Is it fair for me to push a little bit and remind you that the wedding is so very close. I feel confident in saying that grandma would want you to go and that she would want your great grandchildren to get another chance to be with you. There probably won’t be another chance for the entire family to be together…this is it.

You probably won’t read this but in case you do I am going to answer my last question and say yes. Yes, I am going to come visit today. In a short while I will walk into your room and see if I can gently persuade you to eat and take your meds. When I close my eyes and think about what I think you would advise that is what I hear. If you fight me on it I am going to push a little bit. I will remind you that it is your chance to see us all together again.

I’ll tell you outright that your grandson is selfish enough to ask for more time with you and then we’ll see what happens.

When I leave I have to call my sisters and report. I have to tell the middle one whether she can wait to come in from out of town or if she needs to hop on a plane sooner.

See you soon.

Love,

You favorite oldest grandson

To Protect And To Serve

Last week I had a dream that I was twenty again. The twenty year-old version who had a flat top, 32 inch waist and bench pressed 330. The twenty year-old Jack who according to the Shmata Queen wouldn’t have ever looked or talked to her. The twenty year-old Jack who saw some of his dreams blow up in his face, listened to his friends cry while they told him about their parents dying and wondered why Jimmy Boxer killed himself.

Yeah, that was the guy who showed up. Can’t say if it was supposed to be some Jewish version of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol or not. He didn’t exactly talk to me or try to show me something about my life that I had forgotten or not noticed. He just appeared dressed in a gray Georgetown t-shirt, a pair of 501s and size 12 Reebok hightops.

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I wandered alongside him into a party at the fraternity house and listened to him talk to a couple of girls about Garth Brooks and then watched him saunter off to work behind the bar. I suppose that some part of me knew that it was a dream because in the background I could hear the Stones singing We Love You.

In case you are wondering none of the Stones made an appearance although I suppose that if a rockstar ghost was to visit me it would Keith Richards. I know that he is not dead, but if you are talking about the Stones it just makes sense…sort of. Not that it matters because dreams aren’t supposed to make sense…at least not always.

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It is close to 1 am and it is yet another night where I clearly am not going to get enough sleep. Tonight wasn’t supposed to be like this but lately nothing is as it seems and everything is as it should be. For a long while I have felt like I have been riding a runaway train and like all good heroes I have been trying to stop it before it derails and jumps the tracks. Except, tonight I decided that I don’t need to and that it is foolish to try. That twenty year-old version of me would have jumped out of the train, run to his Camaro, floored it and found a way to stop the train. He would have been the hero but not me. Or should I say that I choose a different path.

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My son woke up tonight and ran to the bathroom. It was close to midnight when I heard his feet hit the floor and my heart sank a little bit. You see, I have what some people call a nervous stomach. Here on the blog I laugh about my dysfunctional digestive system. There are a million different stories about funny things that have happened to me because of it.

But I don’t see any humor in his starting to develop one.  There is nothing funny about it and it bothers me because my job is to protect and serve. I am here to worry about the monsters in the dark, the demons in the night and the mysterious clinkety clanking that we sometimes hear. Not him…me. I am here to shield him from these things.

Every week I bless my children. Every week I place my hand on his head and his sister and bless them.

That is not an exact representation, but it is close enough. The point though remains the same. I am here to help them through the rough moments and well…I am not getting it done as well as I want to.

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He tells me that he can’t believe how strong I am and how tough and I silently laugh. I tell him that I have moments of doubt and fear. I explain that life isn’t much different from the chess games that he and I play and that we do the best we can. In the dark I can’t see his face, but I feel his body pressed up against mine. Eighty pounds of person was once eight pounds of baby. I tell him about the nights when he was that infant and talk about the promises that I made then and about how proud of him I am now.

The couch we sit upon is shot. We bought it ten years ago when we bought this house. He doesn’t know that it won’t be making the move with us. He doesn’t quite understand all that is going on around him but he senses the tumult and the turmoil. He wants to know if we are poor and I laugh. It is sort of an uncomfortable laugh. We aren’t remotely close to being poor but compare us to some of his friends we are a little thin in the wallet.

I tell him that I don’t care about any of it. I explain that money doesn’t make you happy but that sometimes it provides you with more options. We talk about education and I tell him again that my dream is for him to live his dreams. He says that he wants the same for me and I smile. I wrap him up in a bear hug and switch from English to Hebrew. He asks me why and I say that it is because I want him to focus on what I am saying.

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I am dancing in the fire and singing in the rain now. I have fallen down the rabbit hole and am taking the path less chosen because that is just who I am. I tell my beautiful boy that he needs to remember that his abba feels things just as strongly as does but i just deal with it differently and that is ok. I don’t need for him to be me. I need him to be him. I want him to be the boy that he chooses to be and not who he thinks I want him to be.

His hand is wrapped in mine. I feel his fingers squeezing and I realize that I am going to blink and find a hand just as big or bigger than my own. I am concerned but not worried about him. He trusts me and understands that we are both creatures of habit who are feeling unsettled because our routines are being turned upside down.

He hasn’t quite come into his own yet but I see it happening. He hasn’t figured out just how smart and how strong he is yet but I see it happening. I ask him to believe and to trust and he nods his head. I tell him that every time I bless him I give him some of my strength and I feel him smile. It won’t be long before he’ll question that but if it works the way I hope that blessing will always give him a little boost.  I really hope it does because my job as a father is to protect and to serve.

The Best Bloggers Are Storytellers

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The best bloggers or at least my favorites are master storytellers. They know how to take a simple sentence and make it sing for them. They are artists who weave tapestries of sight and sound that I can see in my mind’s eye. Every time I sit down at this chair and let my fingers dance upon the keyboard I strive to meet the mark that they set for me.

And dance is exactly how I see this. Words are my partner and my job is to lead them into creating a construct that creates something out of nothing

The seventeen longtime readers have grown accustomed to my criticism of my own work. They know I rarely edit or rewrite the posts that you see appear on this page. More often than not I save those words as a draft and use insert them as needed into the posts that I write. I suppose that you could say that I see it as being similar to being a Football coach or Baseball Manager. When the Dillon Panthers are looking at 3rd and long I’ll sometimes look to the end of my bench and see that walkon that couldn’t quite make it as quarterback and I’ll put them in.

They never know when I might decide to use them so I always tell them to stay ready and be aware because when the call comes I expect them to perform for me.

That might sound silly to you but it is how I write. The words are my companions on a journey and the players on my team. They are close family members that have my back as I have theirs. Most of the time it works for me but sometimes it doesn’t which is why you occasionally see fifty or sixty words in blockquotes. Those are words that didn’t make the cut and instead serve as an example to me of what I don’t want to do or a direction that I didn’t want to go in.

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It is hard for me to believe that we have passed the halfway point for this year. The summer days are racing by and I can hear the footsteps of the coming school year approaching faster and faster. 2011 has been a very peculiar year for me. In many ways it has been among the worst that I have ever had to endure and that bothers me greatly. Life is far too short to be described like that. One shouldn’t feel like they need to count the minutes in the day…every day. But I have done that with greater frequency than I care to admit or think about.

The experience is making me harder and not in the way that anyone will appreciate. But then again there have been many moments of levity and more than a few times in which I laughed so hard my stomach ached for the following days.  Though I will tell you that I feel like I am that rock and island that Simon & Garfunkel sing about I can also say that I know that I am not alone. The boys and I have had many conversations about our respective situations and while they are all different we are all fighting fires at home or abroad.

The most frustrating part of these moments for me is that I am not able to take control of the entire situation the way that I would like to. So I wait for others to do what they must and wonder how long I must walk through hell covered in gasoline. Not so long ago I wrote the devil a letter and said that when he finished fighting with that fiddler down in Georgia he should come look me up. Smarter men than I wouldn’t go looking for trouble but sometimes I’d rather swim out to meet it in single combat and get it over with.

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But as the Stones sing we can’t always get what we want so we make do with what he have and see if we can’t turn those situations to our advantage. And because life is the greatest contradiction I have ever encountered I find myself feeling like the best really is yet to come.I feel that change in the wind and picture myself walking across some sandy beach in Hawaii or hanging out for a weekend in New England. The way I see it if I have to keep battling then I can do it with a big smile on my face which is often how you see me

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Really, ask that wacky broad I call The Shmata Queen and she’ll tell you that I have the sort of smile that makes you wonder what sort of mischief I have gotten into. Frankly if you are smart you’ll spend less time wondering what I did and more worrying about what I might do. That is the joy of hanging out with 42 years of insouciant man. My son has decided that I must have been really good at talking my way out of trouble and I course deny that. I never got into trouble in school- I got others in trouble. Oops, did I say that out loud.

I have to get back to writing the stories that pay the bills but before I do I have just a few more thoughts to share with you. I am trying hard to just let go and accept that good things are coming. It is not easy for me to do. It is not easy because I believe that good things come to those who work for them but at the same time I have this crazy feeling that I can’t shake that something really good is about to happen. I figure that there is no harm in accepting that.

This quote really resonates with me: “Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson. I think that I am guilty of it so part of my acceptance is acknowledging that I have been getting in my own way. It is also why I may ask you to move out of my sunlight. I am happy to share it, but if you are casting shadows upon me, well you have go to go or risk being defenestrated.

See you on the other side.

The Inigo Montoya Method For Building a Blog Community

Some years ago a friend and I debated (and I use the term loosely) whether The Princess Bride or Empire Strikes Back has the best big screen bit about fathers. It was a silly discussion and one that we never did finish but that is ok because this is one of those posts where I get to wag my finger in your face and tell you what social media is about.

People. Yep, social media is all about people. It is about building connections and communities between you and others. It is about developing relationships between folks who otherwise never would have met.  One of my favorite ways of building those connections is to use movies and music.

Earlier this week I asked people to share their 5 favorite movies/musicians and books. I wasn’t surprised to see it blow up. Not everyone commented but more than a few people have camped out on that post and read the answers that people left. It is not surprising because it is light fare and it is fun. And it sets a tone that makes it warm and inviting for people to comment and interact with others.

That is the kind of community that I want. That is the sort of thing that I am trying to develop and it is why earlier today I threw out the Tweet below.

 

Hello, My name is Inigo Montoya

All day long people have replied with various quotes and comments about The Princess Bride. I love it. Not just because I love the movie but because every time someone says “No more rhymes and I mean it” I know that they have extended their hand out and are waiting for me to shake it and say hi. I love it because the people are what make this blog something more than just a place to practice my writing. Sure, if you are among the 17 long time readers you know that I am going to write whether you read this or not. I don’t need the comments. I don’t blog for validation.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want them. I want them because I learn from others. I want them because an audience of one grows dull after a while. I want them because if I can build the community I hope for it takes me one step closer to creating an environment that leads to becoming a full time writer. I want them because I network with you and together we help each other.

When I let our friend Inigo race through here searching for the six fingered man I help you understand more about me and what I like which in turn helps you figure out if you want to be here. I have goals and a plan that I am working on and this all fits into that.

Yesterday was NicheAmnestyday and quite a few bloggers took advantage of it and took time to share sides that don’t always come out on their blogs. I enjoyed it. It was fun to learn about them and to see the “human” side in ways that aren’t always displayed.  I still see blogging as a journey and an adventure. If you are a geek like me you’ll appreciate it when I say that I can’t decide if I want to be Frodo, Aragorn, Harry or Dumbledore. Depends on the day and the mood. Sometimes I prefer to be Edison, Faraday or Salk.

But what I know for certain is that it is nice to have people join me along the way and in addition to your comments I would be grateful for you to become a fan of my Facebook page. There is no prize for doing so. No decoder ring, blue chip stamps or 8×10 glossies. I’d pick on Marcus and promise that he would show off some Patrick Swayze dance moves but that wouldn’t be fair. But before I let you go I’d suggest you point and click your way over to Jayme’s post about being a big/little blogger and to Janet’s post about letting go to have.

Just remember that The Beatles weren’t just spouting words when they said:

And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make
.”