Archives for February 2012

Don’t Worry About What You Can’t Control Part 2

Part one of Don’t Worry About What You Can’t Control is one of my favorite posts. You can find it over here.

It is a few minutes after six and I have just finished exchanging a series of texts with my cousin. Her aunt, my cousin died today. It wasn’t unexpected but that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier for those she left behind.

The funeral will be in Chicago but I don’t think that I am going to be able to make it out this time. There is an off chance that might change but the likelihood is relatively small and I have already confirmed with the family that it will be ok.

It has been a brutal day here for a million different reasons ranging from taking care of a sick child and sick dogs to craziness surrounding work. In approximately one hour I will leave to go play ball and will do my best to expunge the demons of the day upon the court.

Part of the challenge surrounding the day is the feeling that I might have taken three steps forwards and two steps backwards. I am running through the mud and carrying two sandbags on my shoulders. When I was 25 I might have been happy to prove how strong I was by doing this but I haven’t any need for that any more.

There are constant interruptions and I am short tempered with everyone. This is not how I want to be nor who I want to be.

chicago-1411263

Chicago is never far from my mind which is kind of funny since I have never lived there nor have I wanted to. It has always been a place that was home to a million relatives. It is the city my mother was born in as were most of my grandfathers.  Although my father wasn’t born there he did live there for a while so it has great meaning and memories to him.

That is not to say that I look upon the city with disdain. Sure, I make fun of the pizza and lament the inability to get a good steak or hot dog but I could see living there. It would take some getting used to. It is a city that only has 90 days of good weather, none of them consecutive.

Once upon a time the Shmata Queen used to tell me that cleveland was like Chicago and I used to laugh. I’ll spare you the reason and details.

Jim Croce is singing in my ear now that New York’s Not My Home and I am beginning to feel that edge lose some of its bite.  I am taking deep, measured breaths and look at old posts to see if they’re worth linking to.

There are things about how to cure writer’s block and stories about unfulfilled promises as well as lessons in how to make your coworkers hate you.

But none of this addresses the underlying concerns of it all.

Fear

Fear is what is bothering me now. Fear, uncertainty, insecurity and frustration are the current four horsemen of my apocalypse. I won’t name or provide specifics here because it is not necessary. There are boundaries in blogging and you don’t need to know everything. Nor should you forget that I show you large snapshots but not everything.

All of that is a side issue to that four letter word above. I told the horsemen that I will ride out upon the field and do battle. I will go to war because the anticipation of what could happen is making me crazier than I already am.

Sarah McLachlan is singing Possession now and my thoughts have taken wing and left this world. It is 1985 and I am in a bar in Jerusalem watching Live Aid. Some friends and I are talking about the future and making plans for what happens when we return to Los Angeles.

I tell them that I can’t wait until I turn 17. I don’t know why but I think it is going to be great. But what I am most excited about it is coming back to Israel for at least my freshman year of college, maybe more.

One of the girls asks me if I am ever afraid of anything. My nickname is Rambo and I ham it up because I am 16 and I can. I tell her that I am afraid of nothing and take another deep swig of beer.

It is a baldfaced lie but at 16 I can’t admit it, especially in front of girls.

That is not the case now. Now I can tell you that some things frighten me. Now I can tell you that I am not fearless but I have learned through time and experience how to walk the razor’s edge.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have moments where I am less certain and not as sure footed as that 16-year-old boy was. In the back of my mind I can hear my grandfathers speaking to me. They tell me don’t worry about what you can’t control and I nod my head.

It is excellent advice and I work hard to follow it. They whisper other messages and I silently nod my head. Don’t know if these are echoes they have left behind or a visit from their spirits but it doesn’t matter because the words and memories are comforting.

All I need to do is heed their words and remember what Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer.”

Looks like I need to work on my five minutes.

Things That Matter- Stolen Innocence Remembered

There is a boy in this house that asked me today about the time his mother’s purse was stolen. We remember it for similar and yet different reasons.

He was quite young but he remembers watching me try to out run an elevator to catch a thief. I remember it because it was a day that took a chunk of his innocence.

If I could get inside his head I would be quite curious to see what his memory of the moment looks like. It would be quite interesting but I never mention that to him.

That is because right now I want to redirect his thoughts to things that matter. I want to talk about love and friendship. I want to talk about gratitude and respect. I want to talk about education and health.

He wants to know what I would have done had I caught them. It is not the first time we have discussed this but he is old enough now to have more of a grasp upon what that could have been and what it could have meant.

My response is to tell him that it all worked out. No one got hurt. “But you would have hurt them if you had too, right dad?”

I nod my head and remind him that I will always do what I have to do to protect him and his sister. He asks me what that means and I say that it depends on what is necessary.

We talk about things that matter. It is a good conversation and an important one. I don’t tell him that part of the reason these conversations are important to me is because I could die.

I haven’t any reason to believe that is going to happen soon but things happen and you never know. It is important to me to give him as many tools as I can. It is a different form of insurance.

Things that Matter

I like this blog called Marc and Angel Hack Life. They have a number of posts that I think are cool and worth reading. Check out 12 Things To Start Caring About Today and  40 Photo-Illustrated Questions to Refocus Your Mind.

That second link has a series of questions that I am thinking about. Hard questions that are worth answering. It is timely for me because I am focused on the hard questions about my life. I want to dig deeper and make sure that I understand what is truly important to me. I want to narrow my focus to the things that matter.

I don’t have any plans to die any time soon but I feel the pressure of time. I am not 25 anymore and I don’t have years to figure everything out, at least not like I used to.

Now is my time to refocus and rededicate myself to certain tasks. Now is my time to chase the things that matter with more fervor than before. Part of that is because I have had time to figure out what is less important as well as what is.

I am Jack the dad blogger but I am also Jack the man. My job now is to figure out how to take care of the kids while taking care of me too. Now is when I will follow the advice of Steve Jobs.

jobssaid

What about you? What are you going to do?

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Parenting & The Challenges of A Home Office


Sometimes I think that the home office lends itself to “interesting conditions.”

I wrote the words below several years ago but they are applicable today.

My Brain Is Stuck in Neutral

It is approaching that time people refer to as late morning and my brain is stuck in neutral. Yes, you read that correctly the pea sized object that resides in the great melon that rests upon my shoulders is on, but operating in the neutral setting.

It is a silly way of saying that I am conscious of the giant list of things that must get done yet remain undone. The great lies before me. On a yellow writing pad that is placed in front of the computer monitor I see line item after line item of things that I have to work upon.

In fact as I stare at the pad a pen magically stands up and adds 5,987,087 more things to be done to the list. Somewhere in the distance I think that I can hear a little girl whispering “they’re back!“

Ok, none of that really happened but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did. The giant list is daunting in its size, overwhelming. Yea, overwhelming is the right word. That is why I am busy staring at it and not working. It is not like I haven’t been up and chipping away at it all for hours because I have. But I just don’t feel like I am making the sort of progress I want to achieve.

It reminds me a bit of the few times that I have gone cliff diving. When I walked up and just jumped I was fine. But if I made the mistake of looking down first I always found myself frozen in place, my mind racing with all sorts of thoughts.

“Hey stupid, this is an all stations alert from the legs. We have no interest in being broken into tiny little pieces. Someone slap some sense into the brain.”

“Yo legs, it is the hands. We have got your back. Take a look at this we are about to smack the brain silly.”

“Dear Legs and Hands, this is your brain. I command this ship and I order you to immediately cease and desist.”

If you haven’t had the pleasure of engaging in your own civil war let me encourage to try and avoid this. Aside from serving as potential blog fodder it is not the least bit interesting. And did I mention that it can be quite embarrassing.

In the age of YouTube you really don’t want to be the person that ends up on ten million blogs. Or maybe you do. Maybe there is a way to monetize it. If you can live with the humiliation you just might be able to turn it into something positive.

Say, did you notice how for the last two minutes I haven’t mentioned a word about the brain being stuck in neutral. That is one the finest plays in Jack’s playbook. It is a tried and true standard that is good for gaining yardage and eating up the clock. It is a give and go that I use to step beyond the thing that is holding me up.

In just a moment I’ll take a deep breath and look at the list again and try to identify three line items that I can take care of…quickly. Just need to feel like I am making a bit of progress. Just need to feel like I am not walking in quicksand. Small steps that lead to a giant victory.

Aww…Who am I fooling. Someone get me a giant cup of coffee and get out of the way. As my pal Ben Grimm would say, “It is clobbering time!”

And we are back in the present. I have been battling a funk for most of the day and it has been one hell of a battle. I have a writing assignment that is due and I am frustrated.

I am a writer. Every day I work with words and create content that tells a story. Some of my pieces are more compelling than others but that is ok with me because I don’t need to hit a home run every time at bat. All I need to do is get on base.

That is my attempt to use baseball to express my belief that everything I write should be considered “good.” Notice I didn’t say good enough. I want better than that. It would be wonderful if everything were “great” but that isn’t always going to happen.

Some days you just don’t have it like you do on other days.

I have had some strange experiences lately that have made me wonder if I don’t have as good a grasp upon people as I had thought. Some reactions to things they said or I have said have made me scrunch up my eyes and think “WTF.”

I want to say that it is them. I want to say that it is not me, but them. They are responsible. They went one direction and then suddenly veered in a different one.

But it takes two and it is possible that it is me. Maybe it is because I am standing on the outside looking in or maybe it is not. I have a lot more to say but no time to say it right now.

I’ll be back later to post again. That might be the post where I talk about the myth of blog frequency. You know, the one that “experts” use to say that you can’t update multiple times a day because it is “bad.”

In the interim read this and don’t forget to check out the rest of the participants in the Just Write Project.

 

15,636 Lessons I Have Learned About Life

Dad throws lightning bolts. 🙂

It is a dark and stormy night. Outside the temperature is in the low forties, certainly a far cry from the weather you see in the picture above.

I’ll let you try to determine whether I am the guy with the mustache and the fedora or the larger gentleman who has immortalized half his ass on the Internet. Stop staring, it makes me squirm.

One of those nifty “days alive” calculators says that I today is the 15,636th day of my life, hence the headline. That is because I believe that not a day has gone by where I haven’t learned something about life.

Some of those lessons may be repetitive but I am certain that I could come up with one for each day. Don’t test me because I don’t make promises that I can’t keep.

TheJackB is a writer. That means I am an unhinged lunatic who suffers from a tormented soul and is prone to bouts of happiness, anger, sadness and all the other emotions a man can feel.

Ok, that really doesn’t make me any different than any other person but I like to think that I am. Don’t we all want that. Don’t we all want to be special.

Lately I have had great fun writing anonymous letters that I stick into books. I write notes that tell people they are special, important and wonderful. I tell them that they mean the world to someone and that they make a difference in their lives.

These notes get stuck into random books all over the place. I haven’t ever seen someone open one so I haven’t the foggiest idea if they are spreading joy and laughter or are the subject of scoffing and derision.

I haven’t done it to be important or to gain any sort of accolades. I did it because as I said I have been exceptionally frustrated. I feel like the world is angry and I figure it might be kind of fun. Don’t know how many I’ll do or when I will stop.

I am not the first person to do this and I probably won’t be the last.

English: Thomas The Tank Engine, (a rebuilt Hu...

English: Thomas The Tank Engine, (a rebuilt Hunslet Austerity tank) photographed at Ropley station on The Watercress Line in Hampshire, England. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

That is Thomas the Tank Engine. He is a really useful engine and was once the apple of my son’s eye. We went to visit Thomas somewhere around 2003 or maybe it was 2004. I really can’t remember.

But what I do remember is the look in my son’s eyes and the smile on his face. It was one of those moments I talk about. For those who are new here what I am referring to this is this. Life is a series of moments in time. My task is to try to recognize and be aware of every single one of those moments.

I want to burn them into my memory banks. But I don’t want them to all be a collection of what I remember. I want them to be a collection of what I am doing now and what I am doing later.

That is because I want to live today.

It is one of those 15,636 lessons I learned. I am really good at getting lost in the past. Ask me about my favorite moments in time and I can share many with you. I am not saying that it is bad to look back because it is not, at least not as long as you don’t live there.

I’ll let you in on a secret. That story that I am working on, the one that I want to turn into a book is focused on two people. I suppose you could characterize it as a bit of a love story with elements of comedy and drama built in.  It is not what I would have imagined I’d be writing but it is what has developed.

Anyway, the two people in this story are caught up in what happened in their past. The male character has spent a lot of time looking backwards but my goal is to teach him to look forwards. I don’t know whether they are going to find their way back together or not, they haven’t told me.

But what I do know is that they won’t do it unless they live in the present and look towards the future.

That is the “castle” from our old house. That is the backyard I once tended. My children didn’t want to move. They talk about that castle and how much fun they had in it. This picture is about six years old or so. That is how they remember it.

Me? I don’t remember it as being that clean. That is because the kids got big and forgot about it. It was really fun when they were really little but when they got bigger it wasn’t the same. So it got dusty and it filled up with leaves.

I used to dust it off and wash it off but that was to keep it from getting to be unmanageable.

The difference between their memories and mine is that I remember what it was most recently and not how it used to be. That is not easy to do. Life is filled with changes. Some of them can be unpleasant. That might be because you don’t like change or because it really is.

This blog is filled with moments and memories from the past as well as dreams for the future. Sometimes I am surprised that people come here to visit and read because so many of those moments/memories are personal in nature. I can’t help but wonder if I am boring people.

Yet at the same time it reminds me that even though they are personal memories and personal dreams they aren’t necessarily all that different from other people so it provides another way for us to connect.

And those connections are tied into building those moments in time that I want to build and collect….

No One Reads A Dad Blog

There is truth in this.

There is truth in this.

A moody writer is a good writer or so I wrote on my Facebook Fan page.  Apparently people agree with me because I received a comment and a few likes. Don’t believe me? Well go check out the page and if you haven’t liked it than please do so.

Join TheJackB Fan page

I am grumpy, overtired and frustrated today. It is the culmination of a bunch things and I feel worn out and worn down. Got a bunch of rejections that sucked the wind out of my sails and made me shake my head.

It is not the first time that I have been rejected nor will it be the last. Fact is that my son has heard me review the short list of rejection. It includes jobs I didn’t get, places that fired me, girls that broke up with me and the story of the time my middle sister knocked out one of my teeth.

Those tales that I told were part of my pep talk for him. He was having a hard time with some stuff and needed dad to bring his ‘A’ game and I brought it.

I sang a song for him that pumped him up and made him feel like he could tear down a brick wall barehanded. I used most but not all of my tricks and made a point to bring Master Yoda into it too.

Some of you will see that as a silly pop culture reference but not he and not I.

I have thought about that line a lot lately. It fits with my mood and is tied into my frustration. During the last basketball game I played there was one moment that felt like it summed everything up.

I was under the basket and I grabbed three offensive rebounds. Three boards all on the same play. Put up three shots and I missed three times. I did it with two defenders slapping at the ball and my head.

If my son had told me this story I would have congratulated him for grabbing those boards and persevering. I would have told him to ignore the fact that he didn’t get the ball in the basket. But it wasn’t my son that it happened to. It was me and timing is everything.

Most of the time I do shrug that stuff off. It is a pickup game that I play in for fun. It is a game that I play in because it helps me blow off steam but this time it pissed me off. This time I got angry. The writer in me wants to tell you that I grabbed the ball a fourth time, elevated and slammed it.

But that isn’t what happened. My legs don’t give me that kind of lift anymore and the truth is that I never had serious ‘hops’ but I could get to the rim.

No this time what happened is that I got tired of getting smacked and I called the foul but what I really wanted to do was punch the wall. You see I was and am tired of feeling like I almost got that brass ring. It is irritating to see others get what you want and feel like you are so close you can almost taste it.

I tell my kids that it is important to manage our egos because it gets us into trouble if we don’t. I am no different than the next guy/gal. I have a sense of pride. I make no bones about having a sizable ego but I try to keep it in check and remain humble because I think it is smarter.

“Do or Do not. There is no try.”

I repeat those words to myself because ultimately the best way to prove my worth to myself and others is by what I do. So I try to let go of the things that drag me down. I try to forget about the girl that said get lost and the boss that said get out.

I try to forget about the strikeouts and the missed baskets and focus upon the things that give me strength rather than drain it. When I say that failure doesn’t have to be a negative I mean it. I don’t care if people say that is code for loser because they can go fuck themselves. Don’t care if that last line sets people off because we all have to find ways to push past the muck and mire that slows us down.

There is no single path through life no one right way to do it. The best way I have found to deal and do is to dig beneath surface and see what lies beneath. That is what gets me going over and around. It is what helps me to adapt and overcome.

It is part of why I acknowledge that sometimes I just feel like I haven’t got it. But I have found that when I do admit it I find new stores of energy and new resources. Maybe it is the universe acknowledging that I have asked for help or maybe it is something else.

All I know is that it works for me and that is good enough. I’ll leave you with one more thought to ponder.

Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.”
Thomas A. Edison