Archives for June 2012

The Overdue Family Meal Post

Last week I asked my FB page community if they had any requests for a post and Jennifer at Momalom asked me to write about a dad’s take on family meals.

I wrote the post but didn’t publish it because I didn’t like it. It didn’t flow. It was stilted and awkward so I decided to shelve it, but I meant to revisit the post and haven’t.

But I didn’t forget, I just haven’t figured out what angle I wanted to approach it from. As a kid I meal time was interesting. Most nights we would eat together as a family and we’d talk about our day.

If you ask my middle sister she’ll gleefully tell you about all the times I got sent to my room. It didn’t happen nearly as often as she likes to say it did, but it happened plenty. I can’t remember every reason but my father and I would argue about something stupid and eventually he would get tired of my mouth.

Sooner or later he would point at my room and I would angrily storm into it knowing that it didn’t matter whether I ate or not, if my chore for the week was doing the dishes they would still be done.

As a father I have tried to make family meals the same sort of priority and gathering time as when I was a kid, but it hasn’t worked as well as I would like. Schedules are harder now. I can’t count the number of times I have had to work or do something that has interfered.

But Friday nights are a night we almost never miss. It is Shabbos dinner.

Every Friday night the kids get a special blessing. It is something that we have all come to love. Sometimes the kids fight over who gets it first, but they always get it. Blessing my children has become a magical moment and something that I hope they love forever.

Typically we light the candles first, then the kids get their blessing followed by the other weekly rituals, like hand washing, blessings over the wine and challah etc. But what I like best is that quiet moment when I get to listen to them talk to each other.

It usually comes mid meal, a comment or a question from sibling to sibling followed by a series of more comments and questions. I try not to interrupt because this is when I learn about things I don’t know. These soft unguarded moments remind me that my children have a world that is separate from mine

Sometimes it throws me to think that I am not one of the kids anymore. I am dad. I am who they hide secrets from and tell them to. But I love that they have their world and a bond that exists without their parents.

We’ll take credit for helping to establish it but they get credit for making it work. Of course I remind them that they need each other and that there will be moments where only a sibling can help or understand.

English: Shabbat Candles Deutsch: Schabbatkerzen

English: Shabbat Candles Deutsch: Schabbatkerzen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Parental Guilt

It is fair to say that I have a healthy dose of parental guilt about the meals and a few other things. That is not to say that I think of myself as a bad father because I am not.

I know that I am a good dad but I am realistic. I could be better and that is part of why I am chasing  some of my dreams so aggressively now. I know when I go to meet  the echoes of the future I am creating opportunity out of possibility and there are numerous benefits in that.

None of us ever get it exactly right, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t try either.

In the interim I suppose that I will keep trying to adjust our schedules so that we have more meals together than we do now.

How about you? When you were growing up did you eat with your parents on a regular basis or was it just an occasional thing.

Let The Wild Rumpus Begin

It is almost midnight here in Los Angeles and I am a bit beyond tired. That is because I started my day at 6:45 AM, Eastern Standard Time.

Yep, Sunday night I flew out to the East Coast so that I could hit a couple of meetings and then hopped back on a plane to come home. It wasn’t my first turnaround and probably won’t be my last, but it wore me out a bit.

This time around I decided not to bring the laptop. Figured that I could make use of the mobile phone and that if I really needed a ‘puter for the meetings I could borrow one. Fortunately I didn’t so I didn’t have to shlep one around.

Instead I got to shlep around a large Russian man. Ok, I didn’t really have to carry him but he sat next to me on the flight home. That is really my polite way of saying he mostly sat on me and seemed not to care.

It would be wrong of me to say that he disappeared into the bathroom for a good twenty minutes and brought back whatever it was he meant to leave there. That was about 3.5 hours into my flight and if there was a moment when I wondered what would happen if I stretched out my arms and accidentally slapped the side of his pumpkin size head.

It is one thing to sit on me, but biological warfare just isn’t cool.

I Opened Pandora’s Box

A long while back I opened Pandora’s Box and have been enjoying the benefits/consequences of that ever since. I have no regrets for having done so. I chalk much of it up to the lessons I referred to in this post.

But I could use a short break to catch my breath and look around to see what’s what. Life doesn’t work that way so I don’t expect things to slow down but I figure it never hurts to ask. The list of what I haven’t seen is long so it is possible that I might discover that which I have been searching for by simply mentioning it.

It reminds me of when I was a boy and my father and I would fix things around the house. Most of my memories consist of a moment where he reminded me that there was rarely an advantage to using my strength to force things to fit.

That is one of my favorite lessons and something that I still work on today. Call it finesse or diplomacy. Or just describe it as taking a moment to remember that sometimes the smart thing to do is stop, look and listen.

My son is very good at this. He is not the boy his father was. I always figured that if I jumped off the side of house I would land safely in the pool, learn to fly or come up with a solution on the way down.

Little Jack is smarter than I was/am. He looks at the challenges and takes a much more methodical approach to solving them. It makes me smile to see that.

My daughter isn’t always like that. Her soccer coaches tell me that they love how fearless she is on the field. I laugh and tell them they ought to see what happens if she is irritated with a player on the other team. She is a sweet girl, but she has a double dose of me, at least when it comes to sports.

When Possibilities Become Opportunities

One of the meetings I sat through evolved because I figured out how to turn possibilities into opportunities. There is a much longer story tied into this, one that discusses whether things are meant to be and whether the universe is involved in life, but this is not the place to discuss that in detail.

I mention it because it is connected and deserves consideration.

Anyhoo. when I left the second meeting I walked away feeling good but still went through the “I wish I had shared this” moment that we all have. The good news is that it wasn’t the one where you kick yourself because you think you did poorly.

I didn’t. I did well and I feel confident but that doesn’t mean that I don’t wish that I had mentioned a few more things. It is just how I am built.

It is tied into a million different things, this feeling. And it reminds me again of that boy I was, except I think about how sometimes I would tell my father that there was a time when muscle would be of benefit.

I think that time is now, except now I am not relying upon physical strength. Now I am using the mental toughness I developed over time and am seeing the beginning of some amazing results. And one day when my kids read through all these posts they will sift through the ones where I say that life has been hellish and come across this one and see that I was serious when I said it gets better.

Life isn’t perfect, but it is better and I expect that to continue in a big way.

What about you? How are things in your world? If you are a reader who doesn’t comment often now would be a good time, especially those who are locked in dirty hotel rooms out of state. 😉

Exhaustion has finally hit, sleep calls and I shall answer. See you in the AM.

This is part of Just Write #41.

Lessons For Being Human

human

It is important for you to know that I borrowed that image from my friend Mitchell Brown, also known as Thoughtful Pop. You should also know that this post is being entered into the challenge grid at Yeah Write #63.

What is significant about that is out of the six or seven times I have entered I have only won once and have been flat out destroyed every other time. I mention this because one day my children may read this post and I want them to know that their dad can be ridiculously competitive but is also tenacious.

I don’t give up. I don’t quit. That’s because sometimes the win comes from showing up and battling. That is because if you aren’t blessed with ridiculous amounts of talent and the will to use it you don’t win.

Although my experience has taught me that persistence and tenacity are often enough to make it happen. When you are willing to push yourself and take one more step than the next guy you can win.

But I don’t want to get caught up solely in talking about winning and losing. I want to talk about what I want to teach my children. I want to talk about helping them become menschen.

Character/Integrity/Honor

A mensch is a person who has character, integrity and honor. Me? I am just your average Joe with oodles of this and buckets of that. It is a silly way of saying that I am a decent guy who has made a lot of good choices and a lot of bad choices.

But I also understand that this is part of being human as is learning from our mistakes. I am not the sum total of all that is good or all this bad. I am both. And as a father I am obligated to do the best I can to help my children not do the same stupid things that I did.

If we take a moment to look at exhibit A, also known as the fancy picture up above we see that there are no mistakes in life and that we keep repeating our lessons until we learn them.

Both of those resonate with me. Hell, the whole thing resonates with me which is part of why I posted it here. I take my role as a father very seriously which is part of why I keep writing these letters to my kids.

I want them to see that I am walking the walk and talking the talk. I want them to understand that there have been moments when I felt like Atlas and that I didn’t give up. I didn’t given up in large part because I was taught not to take the easy way out and because I want the kids to do the same.

I want them to understand that there is merit and value in work. I want them to see that sometimes walking through fire leads to something better, bigger and more beautiful.

It is a Journey

Life is a grand adventure and one hell of a journey. We often make it more complicated than it needs to be so here is my attempt to try to make it simpler for my children:

Live, love and laugh.

Do all three of these things as often as you can and without fear. The lack of fear part is hard. Someone is going to rip out your heart and I will probably want to kick their ass because when you hurt my kid you hurt me.

But the thing is that you never really understand how amazing love can be until you make yourself open and vulnerable to heartbreak. So unless you take a risk you miss opportunity for the great reward.

Live, love and laugh. Remember that you can do all those with a friend too. Make friends who are so dear you would consider taking a bullet for them and they for you. You don’t have to tons, a few good ones will often suffice.

There is more to say, do and discuss but for now I think we’ll make it simple.

Live, love and laugh.

Do those things and you will be happy.

On The Road Again

The Traveling Jack Tour Bus is just about to leave for the airport so that we can go share joy, mirth and merriment across the country. Of course that means that Old Jack has to go sit inside a stuffed tin can for a few hours, but that is ok.

I have got a window seat, book and movies and music to accompany me. Not to mention snacks, can’t forget the snacks because if you do it will cost you $35.00 for a stale bagel with shmear on it.

Anyhoo, I make make the odd appearance around the blogosphere later today but I wouldn’t expect to see anything new from me until late tomorrow night or maybe Tuesday.

If you are dying for stuff to read beyond the recent post you can always try:

  1. Words Left Unwritten– That is the link to home page which contains some of the latest additions  to the story or you can try this link and get a sense of some of what I am trying to do with it.
  2. How To Write Funny Posts That No One Will Read
  3. Writers Write Right
  4. A Jealous Man
  5. The Many Layers of Hell
  6. What The Hell Happened to Courtesy

Be excellent and I will see you later. Got a plane to catch and I don’t run like the wind anymore.  😉

 

 

You Don’t Need A Niche To Be A Successful Blogger

Whenever I blog about blogging I try to answer the questions and concerns that I have about blogging.  More often than not I find that my questions aren’t any different than those you have.

If you want the dime store explanation for why I blog the answer is because I am a writer. Blogging isn’t a choice for me, it is a part of me. I cannot conceive of a world without words.

What is funny to me about this is that I have always been a storyteller but I haven’t always called myself a writer. Read through the blog and you’ll find mention of how my preschool teachers told my mother that I had the most active imagination of any child in my class. Ask mom about it and she’ll tell you it is true and then shush me when I say that I went to a  school with three kids and two of them were deaf and mute.

Somewhere around the time I was 12 or 13 our school teachers started requiring that we keep a journal. I hated it. I didn’t want to write about my feelings or what I did last summer. It didn’t stop me from joining the school newspaper in 7th grade or my continuing on all the way through college.

And then life happened.

I graduated and discovered that I couldn’t afford to become the next great sports writer or at least I didn’t think I could so I stopped writing and did other things. I sold advertising, worked in construction, spent time in marketing/PR and helped launch a few businesses.

Blogging was something that I fell into. Didn’t intend to become a blogger but in May 2004 I jumped into it on a whim and never stopped.

Take a look at the words above and you can’t help but notice the ones that stand out:

Continue, Want, Interested, Reading, Sharing Things, Know and Like.

My interpretation is simple. It is a message and a reminder that blogging  is about sharing things you know and like with others. It means that you should read other blogs as well as books, newspapers and magazines because they will help fuel your love.

That is what I have been doing. Read the old stuff here and some of it is absolutely horrible, but there are nuggets of gold too. You’ll see that I spent a lot of time writing about religion, politics and parenting.

Flip through and you will find my fiction and assorted odds and ends that caught my eye at one time or another.

Sometimes I look back and wonder what would have happened if I did nothing but write about one particular topic. What would have happened and where would I be today. It is a rhetorical question because I can’t go back in time to change things and I don’t know that I would.

What I know is that a few years ago I decided that I wanted to use my blog to do more. I wanted to take something I loved and monetize it. The short term goal was to do so in a manner that didn’t destroy what I had built. I wanted to maintain a certain level of purity.

Not really sure what that means other than I didn’t want to be the blogger that gained an audience solely by doing reviews and giveaways. But I wasn’t entirely against doing some of those because a man has to eat and I saw that as a potential path for creating a revenue stream here.

I think that somewhere around then was when I started calling myself a writer. It was when I began to recognize that the universe had been slapping me in the face with 1,938 messages saying that this is something I love and should focus upon.

Ever since then I have found myself chasing after a different set of dreams but with a sense of purpose and confidence. I don’t have any doubt that I am going to find the place I have been searching for. It is not a question of if, but of when.

So when I look at posts like Daddy/Daughter Day and The Tales We TellI smile. To me they serve as evidence that I am well on my way.

It took a bit of time and effort for me to move all those rocks, but I did it.  So let’s circle back to our headline.

This post isn’t about establishing a mission statement or metrics that you can use to measure success. Both of those things are important and useful. If you want to figure out if you are getting the job done they can help you determine that.

I wrote this post as if you and I were walking on the beach, hiking in the mountains or sharing a cup of coffee. That is what I saw in my head, just two friends spending some time together.

When you asked me if I consider myself to be a successful blogger I said yes. It is not because blogging has helped me make a million dollars because that hasn’t happened yet but I have rediscovered what I love, who I am and what I want to do.

Nothing is more valuable than that.

Thank you again to all who have been a part of this journey. This fellowship continues to evolve but I remember all who have been a part, those who don’t visit any more and those who do.

You have all helped and I am grateful. I hope you will continue to walk with me or share that cup of coffee because this journey isn’t even close to being done.