Archives for January 2014

How To Deal With Mean Girls

Nekimi  02

There is no doubt in my mind that mean girls come from mean moms  nor question about whether this plague is new because it is not.

My children and I have talked about the mean girls and mean people in their schools and I have told them about my encounters. We have had conversations about giving people the benefit of the doubt, allowing for misunderstandings and accepting that not everyone will like us nor will we like everyone.

But we have also talked about bullying and they know I have no tolerance for it. They also know that I don’t paint myself as being perfect and that I have encouraged them to try to avoid taking on my bad habits.

Examples

Several years back when I had daily contact with the mean girls collective I mentioned in the link I had it out with several mothers. Three of them decided that it would be smart to lecture me about what my role should be at the school and why my opinion didn’t matter.

What none of them expected was how easy it was for happy go lucky Jack to transition into the nasty guy who suggested that the only reason they were married was because they did good work on their backs and or had husbands of questionable judgement and intelligence.

Rumor had it that I made at least two of them cry, but that is just a rumor. However I can confirm that I saw the quivering lip and flushed expressions so maybe I sent them over the edge.

Part of me felt badly because I stooped to their level and part of me cheered because they never expected someone would have the audacity to tell them to shut up.

Confession: I didn’t say shut up. I told them that their was no equivalency between bank account and level of intelligence and that I expected them to walk away and leave me alone.

When one of them suggested they might ask their husband to help adjust my attitude I told her I was unconcerned about a man who had been gelded by his wife and inquired as to whether his balls were in her purse.

And then I told them all it was time to go buy batteries for their favorite toys so that they could improve their emotional states with something other than a bottle of cheap wine.

I would prefer my children not get involved in that kind of silly nonsense, do as I say and not as I do.

Lessons Learned

Second confession: I gave them ample opportunity to end the conversation before it got ugly. I told them it was ok to disagree and that we didn’t see it the same way.

When they insisted on talking I suggested that they walk away because I didn’t see how it wouldn’t get ugly and then they told me it was my problem if I couldn’t be civil.

I said I didn’t think it was a problem and that I didn’t mind if we disagreed and when they continued I shrugged my shoulders and said ok.

If there is a downside it is that my daughter didn’t get invited to a couple of birthday parties and all the other kids were. However she didn’t like those girls and didn’t care much.

Still she noticed that she was the only one who wasn’t invited. For a short while I was concerned that she felt excluded but ultimately she didn’t.

So what can we say we learned from this?

There are benefits that come from standing up to bullies. My encounter led to an overhaul of how things were done at the school and many parents thanked me for my work.

But we had to deal with these mothers for a couple years afterwards and they never forgot and when they could make things harder they tried to.

My kids didn’t see the argument but they heard bits and pieces through the grapevine. What I hope they took was the understanding that it is ok to disagree with people and that you should try to be civil about it and that you shouldn’t be afraid to be your own advocate.

I won’t say it was my finest hour, but someone had to tell the mean girls that they had crossed the line.

The Greatest Post To Never Go Viral

Painting by Chagall

“I won’t telephone him. I’ll never telephone him again as long as I live. He’ll rot in hell, before I’ll call him up. You don’t have to give me strength, God; I have it myself. If he wanted me, he could get me. He knows where I am. He knows I’m waiting here. He’s so sure of me, so sure. I wonder why they hate you, as soon as they are sure of you.” ― Dorothy Parker, The Portable Dorothy Parker

I don’t know if it would be fair for me to say What Is The Most Painful Thing You Have Experienced? is the greatest post to never go viral because I am not sure if it is the best I have ever written but I am proud of it.

That is a post that I look it and smile because there is a story, a flow and honesty in it. I can’t say that it is the only one I have written like that because there are many others but there are a bunch that are simply awful.

Sometimes I wonder what the secret is to creating my best work and I think about how I was feeling when I wrote them. Some of the pieces that I think are most powerful come from moments in my life in which I felt the rawest and most vulnerable.

Naturally I wonder if this means that the best way to write is to ask to have my heart broken in some manner or another. Or maybe if I slam my fingers in the car door I might tap into the pain and then channel it into the words you see on the screen.

Kind of Like The Hulk

It is kind of like The Hulk. When he is Bruce Banner he is just an ordinary man, but make him angry and he becomes something far more.  Can’t say I find the idea of slamming my fingers in the car door particularly endearing or useful, would be harder to type.

Sometimes I think about The Algonquin Round Table and wonder what that must have been like. I was probably about 13 when I first learned about it and it has stuck with me all these years but now I find myself more intrigued by the idea than ever.

What would it be like to be able to spend time with some great writers each day? Would those moments translate into more magic coming from our fingertips or would it be nothing more than just time spent with friends.

Sometimes I am really intrigued by the idea of writing a post that goes viral. Sometimes I think about different ways to make it happen.

If it happened I would want it to be because I wrote something powerful and clever that resonated with people but sometimes I think about whether I could game the system to make it happen.

During those moments I wonder if I have some sort of character defect because I wonder if I am compromising all of my integrity to try to gain my fifteen minutes of fame.

What Kind of Father/man Would I Be?

I think about it and wonder what sort of difference it would make if I paid for Facebook fans and Twitter followers to “build influence” for a good reason.

I think about it and wonder if it would give me the kind of boost that could change my life and in return have a positive impact upon my childrens’ lives. I think about the Machiavellian aspects and ask myself about my integrity and wonder about blurred lines.

I haven’t ever done it. I like to say it is because I don’t believe that paying for followers is ethical and because I want it to happen organically.

But I wonder what I would do if I was certain that spending a couple of bucks would work. Sometimes when I think about it I ask myself what I would do if I knew I could steal millions from the bank and not get caught. That would change my life too, but that would clearly make me a thief.

If stealing food was the only way to feed my kids I would do it but that is not what this is about. There is no way I can rationalize that taking money from a bank is right.

Doing It The Write Way

The net result of this musing is that I am going to keep trying to do it the write way. Going to keep on writing as I do and hope that along the way I find like minded people who enjoy what they see here.

I am confident that if I made this into a niche site I could build a bigger readership in a shorter amount of time but I like this format better.

I like the challenge of proving that you don’t need a niche site to be successful because you don’t.

And I think it is about time to look at the links on the About page to figure out if it is time to update it. Who knows, there might be 3 or 4 more of the greatest posts to never go viral just waiting to be shared.

But if you ask me, I think the best is yet to come and that is part of why I am still writing and why I tell my kids that we never reach a place where we can’t become better writers.

What Is The Most Painful Thing You Have Experienced?

Painful

Grandma and grandpa were married for 76 years, but best friends for 85. They met when they were both 11 years-old and by the time they died if you asked questions about grandma’s family sometimes she would laugh and tell us to ask grandpa because he remembered better than she did.

A few years back grandpa told me that grandma had the best ass of any woman he knew that was over 90 and then with a serious look on his face told me he never saw an old lady, he only saw the girl he fell in love with.

I nodded my head and he told me that he didn’t like being older than 90 because most of his friends had died and then got choked up and said he was scared because if grandma fell he didn’t think he could pick her up any more.

“Jack, do you know she used to climb on my back and I would run. I would run and she would laugh and I never thought twice about it.”

When he started to cry we both pretended not to notice but I squeezed his hand and sat with him. He lived for a full 18 months after grandma died and would have made it far longer had she still been with him.

He didn’t die of old age, he died of a broken heart.

+++++

I played basketball for almost 2.5 hours last night and then I left because I could feel my body giving up on me. By the time I had finished showering I hobbled around the house for a while, grabbed some dinner and decided against taking some Ibuprofen.

Instead I poured myself a small glass of  The Balvenie DoubleWood, the 12 year old edition and wished my body recovered as fast as it did when I was 12.

There is a guy that plays ball with us that is about 10 years older than I am. He is in pretty good shape, definitely has a bit more stamina than I do but isn’t any better of a player.

He is relatively new to the game, showed up shortly after I left for Texas so when I came back he had no clue I have been playing with most of the guys for about five years so I was tolerant of his trying to give me the scouting report on each guy, even those I have known all my life.

But last night he tweaked my ego a bit because when he suggested teams he tried to stack them in his favor and then I was given the task of guarding him.

What bothered me was his attitude and how he acted like his skill is so far superior to mine. I took my normal approach to quietly shut him down and send him home wondering how many trucks ran him over but it didn’t work out as I wanted it to.

The Toll Time Takes

Last night my legs were wooden and my hands were stone, good tools for a statue but not for someone who is trying to play basketball.

He didn’t dominate but I didn’t entirely shut him down either and I spent a good part of the night silently seething with frustration because my body just wouldn’t respond.

I don’t want to talk about what I used to be able to do because we all can say that. It doesn’t matter that I used to be able to play for hours each day and not feel the pounding.

Doesn’t matter how fast or strong I used to be because we are talking about today and today sucks.

Sucks because when I got out of bed I looked like a question mark and it took a while for me to work the kinks out. Took a while for me to feel like a person and my ego is suffering.

I am not crippled. I can do everything that I need to do and given a bit more time and some stretching I will feel mostly normal. If I wanted to I could play again tonight and I wouldn’t be surprised if I had a much better game.

Some nights you just don’t have it.

But there is a little whisper inside my head that says I need to wake up and start thinking more seriously about giving up the game. It says I need to start looking for something else, a different sort of competition.

Mind Versus Body

I was a swimmer in high school and I could go back to it. There is no better work out and there are swim meets I can compete in.

But I can’t stomach the idea of giving up playing ball. It might sound silly but the idea is painful in so many ways. It feels like I would be losing something that I don’t have to lose…not yet.

So I wonder if I can adjust my workout and rebuild my body. Wonder if I can make some adjustments so that I can still play. I have played with a lot of men who are much older than I am and who kept playing for years.

Except they played a very different game than I do. I love the physical aspect, the fight underneath the rim and I don’t want to be the old guy who won’t go inside because he can’t deal with that physical part.

Maybe I can make some adjustments.

Grandma and Grandpa

The last time I saw them dance together was at their 75th wedding anniversary party. Grandpa put out his hand, grandma took it, stood up and they kissed.

For a moment they both stood up a bit straighter and they started to move across the floor. My aunt looked at me and said “dad was always a good dancer, but mom didn’t get enough credit for doing it all backwards.”

A short while later they sat back down and I noticed they were holding hands again. They were always touching, reaching out for each other.

Grandma died many months later, the night of my 14th wedding anniversary but grandpa never stopped talking to her. He told me that every night before he would go to sleep he would talk to her.

And then he told me about strange it was to be sleeping in a single bed and how he never thought he would out live her. Told me that he used to worry about what would happen to her if he wasn’t around to help take care of her.

But he never could have imagined he would be the one who was left behind.

Dear Angry Mommy Blogger

angrymommyblogger

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.

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.

++++++

Updates: See Below

(Whoa, are you still reading? Hell I guess this proves bloggers can write posts that are more than 500 words and know that they will still be read. Guess what? I wrote this post in 2010 and almost nothing has changed. Ok, that is not entirely true, many things have changed but some of the fundamental issues still exist.

Blog envy still exists, people still wonder how some bloggers get the gigs they do and why they aren’t picked. Parent bloggers still have no problem picking up their pitchforks and torches to storm the castles of brands they are upset with and I am still not a millionaire.

But hell I have ten years of blogging under my belt and I can tell you this post could be run every year with relatively few changes. If I really wanted to raise some hackles I could talk about circumcision (we are cut in my family and very happy, our boys work beautifully) or I could say something about breastfeeding and know it will be talked about.

I am really tempted to stir more crap up but I am having too much fun doing other stuff so I have to run. BTW, we are at just short of 1,000 words and people are still reading, more proof that we still have attention spans that exceed that of a gnat.)

The Benefits Of A Middle Age Crisis

Crisis

A real crisis.

One of the saddest phrases I have ever heard is “I used to be…”

The boys and I have used this more times than I care to like in the wrong sorts of context.

When I hear “I used to be” I want it to be about a negative that has turned into a positive. “I used to be 25 pounds heavier” or “I used to be the mail room guy and now I am the Vice President.”

Except it seems to be more like “I used to be happier” or “I used to be a high flier” and that just chaps my hide because we are not old enough to sound so freaking miserable.

I suppose it bothers me because I understand it more than I want to. I was the high flier. If you go back and look at the mid to late nineties my career explodes. I didn’t double my income, I more than quadrupled it and I did it legally.

Got married, became a father, bought a house, went on trips and still had money in the bank.

Life Can Humble You

Go back twenty or twenty-five years and show the younger version of me what happened in the years that follow and he’ll go from being very happy to being shocked and dumb founded. He would never believe some of the crap that followed.

Maybe he was naive, I don’t know once you have knowledge you can’t simply excise it from your brain.

It is hard to think about some of these things and even harder to discuss it. I am naturally guarded and even though time has passed since some of these things took place I am not entirely comfortable talking about it with strangers or with people I know.

Maybe it feels like most of my friends and family didn’t fall out of tree and hit all branches on the way down like I did. Doesn’t really matter and reality is we don’t need to go through all of the details for you to understand there have been some rough spots.

But just for kicks let’s talk about one major moment–the day I had to tell my kids we were moving.

That one hurts.

I lost my job and didn’t have a ton of money in the bank. Scrambled to find new work but all I got was dribs and drabs, bits and pieces. Target, Costco, Sears and a bunch of other retailers turned me down.

Applied for positions loading and unloading trucks but couldn’t get one of those either.

Tired to modify my home loan and went through 18 months of hell with the bank and never got a yes or no, so we made the decision to sell the house.

Made the decision to take control of things as best we could and sold it. Somewhere during the fight to save it I realized the place that I looked it with pride had turned into an albatross around my neck and pride turned to disgust.

The children cried and begged not to be forced to move and asked how I could be so unemotional. I did my best to calm and assure them and to stay calm because if I had let my emotions show it would have been rage.

Not directed at them, not focused at them at all but at the bank and the situation. Would have been different if the bank would have given me a straight answer. Would have been different if the old boss hadn’t screwed things up, but sometimes things happen and you have no control.

 The Benefits Of A Middle Age Crisis

The boys and I are sitting around the table enjoying the California sunshine and laughing about the polar vortex. We are catching up and reminiscing a bit.

They ask me about the job and I talk about how I don’t want to jinx anything but it is my favorite and that I hope things keep going like this. There are so many good things about it and the hardest part is not holding my breath waiting for the other shoe to drop.

That is a gift from the harder times but there are other gifts that I can mention without snark or sarcasm. It forced me to take a hard look at my life and figure out what I need versus what I want.

Probably couldn’t have done some of that earlier because there is no substitute for life experience.  Those moments helped prove my mettle and are a significant part of why every day I make an effort to not be the person who says “I used to be” in any way that isn’t positive.

I haven’t made it all the way through this crisis, got a couple bit hiccups to deal with and some bruises that don’t want to heal, but I’ll get there.

This isn’t something I would recommend or advise everyone do but in the years to come when the kids ask about it I’ll tell them that sometimes a crisis can be a positive thing and I’ll point to now and tell them it is how their dad figured out what he wanted to be when he grew up.