Archives for March 2015

Will Blogging Help You Game The System?

chain of destiny
The funny thing about The New Normal is how much energy it is taking out of me.

It is a mix of curious, disconcerting and somewhat surreal to be in a position where I wonder why I feel jetlagged all day long.

I can’t quite put my finger on it, don’t know if the 156 ounces of coffee each day is helping or hurting or if there is something else.

It has been years since I could rely on pure athleticism to get by on the basketball court so even though I have been more dominant there I attribute it to being a crafty veteran who is playing with men who are young and dumb.

Sometimes I look at those guys and laugh because they are letting me game the system and not taking advantage of the mismatch.

Much as it hurts to admit, I just can’t play the way I used to. My body can’t take the pounding like it used to and my knees hurt for a day or two after each game.

But the young  and dumb are easily played and instead of making me run they let me con them into playing a half court game of power ball.

I don’t take credit for devising this trick because when I was young and dumb some of the older guys pulled it on me. All I have done is proven I learned from the old guys that came before me how to game the system.

Will Blogging Help You Game The System?

Give me a chance to bend your ear about blogging and why I love doing it and I’ll share a host of reasons.

I’ll start by telling you I love being able to chronicle the lives of my children and ask you to read Do You Miss Old Fashioned Blogging?

Somewhere along the way I’ll talk about my desire to become a better storyteller and how blogging has been instrumental in it and then I’ll probably hit gaming the system.

Except it is a different sort gaming the system than I referred to above and probably different than what you are thinking of.

This one isn’t about shortcuts. It is not about finding the angles and using them to bend the rules to fit my needs.

No, this is about writing down my thoughts and ideas so I can figure out what I think or believe.

I don’t know if that sounds silly or strange to you but for me it is important because I like understanding why I think or believe certain things.

When my children ask me questions I want to be able to give them an answer I can stand by because it is based upon more than saying I am XYZ because that is what grandma and grandpa taught me to be.

It doesn’t mean there aren’t moments where the best or only answer I have is because. Those moments and those things exist, arbitrary decisions about what we like or dislike are part of being human.

I don’t like shrimp, never have and most of it is because they look disgusting to me. I know many people love them, but I just can’t get beyond the look and the way it impacts how they taste to me.

That is not logical or rational, it is just arbitrary but I am ok with that. Maybe one day I’ll change and maybe I’ll won’t.

Doesn’t matter all that much to me because I have yet to find an experience in which I suffered a dramatic loss because I don’t want to eat the cockroach of the sea.

So blogging helps me game the system to try to figure out my thoughts and ideas and to help me begin to build road maps to get to the next place in life.

“Churchill: “Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?”
Socialite: “My goodness, Mr. Churchill… Well, I suppose… we would have to discuss terms, of course… ”
Churchill: “Would you sleep with me for five pounds?”
Socialite: “Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!”
Churchill: “Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price”
― Winston S. Churchill

You know that game we sometimes play at parties or with friends in which we are supposed to name historical figures we would like to meet?

Well you can put Winston Churchill in my top ten, maybe even my top five.

I would imagine that he has some exceptional stories to tell and I would be content to sit and listen to them. It would be interesting to ask for his advice and counsel on some things as well as to question why he did what he did in others.

During one of those who do you wish you could meet moments someone told me they thought I would be intimidated by men like Churchill or Einstein and I laughed.

They probably saw it as bravado but it wasn’t that. There are people who impress me but intimidate isn’t something that happens unless I am head over heels in love and even then it is not like I am struck deaf, dumb or blind.

It is because a thousand years ago my dad told me if I ever felt intimidated by a person to remember they are all human and the person standing next to me suffers from bad gas, colds and every other human thing we all share.

The next time you feel intimidated by someone try pretending they have the kind of gas that would make Satan choke. It is remarkably effective.

What Will Life Be Like In Five Years?

When I was around 36 or 37 I asked my dad for some advice  and he told me it was hard to predict things that were more than a couple of years out.

It surprised me because my dad is a typical Virgo, the man labels everything and works out plans for everything.

Anyway, I have never forgotten the conversation and ever since have tried to break things into five-year increments.

I expect that five years from now the new normal won’t be a term I use while rolling my eyes.

I’ll have one kid in college and another in the middle of high school. I’ll be that much closer to becoming an empty nester.

Go back five years and I couldn’t imagine a house without children. Kind of hard to do it now, but it is almost close enough to imagine.

Time moves far too quickly.

Enter The New Normal

Einstein miracle
Ten minutes ago there were 378 words on this page and now there are only these very few.

That is because I am a serial killer and a mass murderer of words that displease me and those that were once here made me grind my teeth and hiss.

They were not the write words for this page because they had no rhythm or flow and that was enough to merit their death.

Maybe the death and rebirth of this post is symbolic. Maybe it is similar to my life or at least what it feels like now.

The way things have been are going up in smoke and the damn fire is burning so fiercely it is all I can do to save a few things and focus on rising like a phoenix from the ashes.

Or at least that is the goal.

Sometimes it feels like I am making progress and sometimes I wonder if I am just punching at the wind.

Enter The New Normal

It is a funny time of life because part of me wonders if there was ever a time when life didn’t feel like I was a lumberjack in a log-rolling contest.

Truth is I know there was a time that it didn’t feel like that. A time when transitions felt normal, smooth and easy and not rough, bumpy and uncertain.

Those were days when I went to the same office day in and day out and the questions I asked were far simpler than now. Days when I figured that in five years I’d be living in the house I had always dreamed of and be making enough money to live one hell of a life.

Days when I figured that in five years I’d be living in the house I had always dreamed of and be making enough money to live one hell of a life.

But life happens and there are things you can’t plan for so you shift, pivot, sidestep and do what you can to make it all work.

And one day you wake up and your life is unrecognizable and you realize at some point you followed Alice down the rabbit hole and are living in a foreign land.

Except it is not really foreign, it is just the new normal.

Blogging Tricks The Kids Will Love

My almost 11 going on 30-year-old daughter asked me to tell her more stories about my childhood and why I didn’t blog back then.

I laughed and told her when I was her age the idea of keeping a journal or diary was anathema to me. That was school work and I didn’t want any more than I had.

We talk about this and that and she asks me to explain why I lived in one house for most of my childhood and how I knew what schools I was going to go to.

Part of me hates this conversation because I feel a certain amount of guilt about some of the stuff we have been through.

And the hardest part is this feeling like I am back in the nightmare and I can’t wake up.

So I tell her everyone gets a gift of living a different life and that we all get a chance to figure out how we want to live ours.

She asks me if that means we are moving to Texas and I tell here there is a very good chance, but I won’t know until I get some answers to some questions.

“Dad, why do you have to wait for those answers?”

I smile and we talk about trying to figure out when you take action and when you hold still.

“Work smarter, not harder.

You look for moments when you can most effectively use your resources. If I blog about this and use a headline that includes the word ‘blog’ or anything that suggests you can learn how to do it more effectively people will click on it.

But that doesn’t mean they will like it, love it or ever come back. So I want to be smart about it.”

She looks at me, scrunches up her face and tells me that sometimes my advice doesn’t make as much sense as I think it does.

salmon spawning
That picture of the waterfall has me entranced.

I keep trying to decide if I would try to climb up it or take a raft over it.

It is a conversation that should have been a part of Last night I Smoked A Cigar, Drank Some Scotch & Talked About Women.

My grandfathers would have been perfect to speak with about it.

They would have alternated between telling me I was crazy to offering their full support to whatever I decided to do.

At some point one or both would put a hand on my shoulder and ask me if I had considered going around or finding another way to accomplish the climb or ride and it would remind me I didn’t come up with the advice to work smarter and not harder.

Maybe I’d tell them I had no choice but to deal with it because there was no avoiding it. Maybe I’d tell them Churchill was right when he said if you find yourself in Hell you ought to keep going.

Or maybe I’d tell them that I was so wrapped up in trying to figure it all out I had lost perspective and all I could see were black and white answers.

Sometimes a man dances in the fire until he breathes so much smoke he passes out or until enough clears for him to see a safe place to stand.

Secrets You Might Only Share With Dad Bloggers

What is your story?

What is your story?

You might call that headline linkbait or you might ask if old Jack Steiner is engaged in keyword stuffing.

Might be a combination of both or it might be something else. Don’t put too much thought into it, because I didn’t.

At the moment I am recovering from a food coma. Went out for some barbecue and ate far too much brisket, it was good but not as good as the Texas barbecue I am dying to get back to.

That teenage boy of mine, the one I call Steiner the minor told me tonight he doesn’t care what stories I share about him on the blog because no one will ever believe he said or did those things.

I told him he ought to think very carefully about what he says will or won’t bother him because who we are today isn’t necessarily who we’ll be tomorrow.

Coincidentally I came across a post I wrote five years ago called My Penis Died. I was tempted to show it to my son because he is the star.

The title alone would make his eyes bug out and he’d probably ask me if I was crazy. I’d say yes and explain that the link to the five-year-old version is an example of me working smarter and not harder.

When he asked me how that could be I’d tell him the post is actually ten years old and that five years ago I ran it a second time.

And then I’d explain how it relates more to my desire to chronicle the fun and interesting questions he asked when he was truly little.

Most importantly I’d ask him to read it so that he could see how the title makes it appear to be something other than it is.

And then I’d offer the following video as part of a musical interlude.

Young Master Steiner has told me many times that he is frustrated because he is shorter than many of his friends.

I always nod my head and talk about genetics. It is hard to be the tall kid when your dad is average height and mom is short.

As it happens many of his friends have mothers who are almost my height and fathers who are over six feet.

But most are skinny beanpoles and I am not.

I have big hands, big feet and broad shoulders. You won’t see me dancing with Baryshnikov but if you need someone who can rip out a stump, tear down a wall or run through the defense, well I just might be your guy.

The Importance Of Playing To Your Strengths

That Iron Maiden video is a link to Old Man Steiner’s youth. It is part of a mix of music that I often listened to while working out.

Every time my son talks about his height I tell him that confidence can make us giants.

I tell him to play to his strengths and remind him that even though we may not have the same height as some of the other guys we are usually stronger.

We don’t have to put as much effort into lifting weights as they do to put on muscle.

I figure that if I can get him into slinging the weights around and doing pushups in bunches he’ll develop some great habits and gain confidence.

He loves playing soccer and the extra strength will serve him well there. When he sees how he can out muscle the little guys and hang with the bigger ones he’ll understand part of why I have pushed him on this.

But between you and me it has less to do with trying to help his game and more with just instilling more confidence in general.

And in addition to all of that I hope he’ll help push me to keep up the lifting.

This aging thing has been a grind lately and I am having a much harder time doing things the same way I used to do them.

My knees ache in a way they never have and I have a bunch of other odds and ends of physical irritations that are making me reevaluate how I exercise.

I hate it.

And then I look at my son and I have to look extra hard to find hints of the boy he used to be. He is truly a teen now and if he takes my advice about exercise he’ll be shocked at how quickly his body responds.

You might ask if I am trying to live vicariously through him and I’ll tell you no. But I’ll also say a father’s obligation includes trying to help their kids take advantage of opportunities and this is one of those.

More Narishkeit

My guess is a small number of you speak or understand Yiddish which is too bad because it is an amazing language. My grandfathers used to teach me and though I was never fluent I once knew far more that I know now.

When people use narishkeit in a sentence they are referring to something as nonsense and or trivial so take that as you will in regard to what follows here.

I make a point of engaging in simple blog maintenance in a number of ways. Some of it is the basic stuff, fixing broken links, adding/replacing pictures and checking to see that things work in general as they should.

But it also includes flipping through the pages to see if there are old posts that are worth sharing again.

That is how I come across things like Twitter Is Dead!- Long Live Twitter! and Come Sail With The Dread Pirate Roberts and decide to share them with you.

Sometimes I do so without comment and sometimes I point out that there is a screenshot of a conversation I had with the Original Karate Kid in one of those.

That happened back in the old days when Twitter served as more of a conversation channel and wasn’t a place marketers used to broadcast everything under the sun.

Speaking of the sun  I just noticed the time and if I don’t want to still be typing when it rises I need to go grab some shut eye.

So I am off to dream of how to become a better storyteller and a reminder to make a point to try and comment on more blogs.

See you on the other side.

Dumb Dad Bloggers & Silly Storytellers

162H

It is almost noon and I am standing in line at a job fair at a local university.

The scholars of yore would tell me I should use the Latin and refer to it as my Alma Mater because that adds some gravitas and a double dose of respect.

But it doesn’t really feel that way to me, so I don’t care if I use such a term.

What I really want to do is follow the sign towards the Bat Cave because this isn’t really happening to me. I am not really in between positions and fighting for a chance to reignite my career.

Part of me thinks it is possible that this is just a dream because twenty some-odd years after I graduated campus no longer looks quite right.

They have made improvements and much that was once familiar is gone. Just walking around feels different because everywhere I go I see the tops of heads because the eyeballs that are attached to said heads are focused on electronic devices.

It makes me think of my own children and the way they use their devices. I make a mental note to make sure my kids know how to carry on a conversation without their electronic security blankets.

A buddy of mine is walking the floor with me too. We are in agreement about feeling a bit of culture shock.

He asks me if I am going to blog about it and I nod my head, “I might.”

Someone behind us in line makes what sounds like a crack about dumb dad bloggers and silly storytellers or at least that is what I think I hear.

I really don’t know if I did and part of me feels a tinge of disgust at the flash of self-importance.

“We were walking down Michigan Avenue. It was bright and sunny. She was holding my hand and she never let go. Even after that car jumped the curb and pinned her against the building she never stopped holding my hand.

I tried to pull it off of her. Tried to push it. Did everything that I could do but it didn’t matter, cuz she died anyway.” Sometimes You Have To Forgive Yourself

Dumb Dad Bloggers & Silly Storytellers

Something is always going on inside my head.

It is a noisy and chaotic place.

The line I am standing in hasn’t moved and I am losing patience. I don’t know if this company is looking for candidates with experience or wants the next set of fresh meat.

Students push by me and say “excuse me sir” and I wonder if I really look that old to them now. Can’t say it would surprise me because they look like babies to me.

At almost 46 I am finally old enough to be their father and not have people ask if the kid was a surprise.

There is a brunette smiling at me and I stop thinking about the age difference and start wondering if maybe I really do look younger.

Some people say they think I have to be in my late thirties, maybe she does too.

And then reality strikes and I realize she is smiling because she is one of the company reps, it is her job to be friendly to the people that reach the beginning of the line.

This time I am certain that dumb dad bloggers and silly storytellers is coming from inside my own head.

She answers a few questions and asks some of her own and then our moment is gone. She is not a hiring manager, her role is simply to man the booth and answer questions.

What Do I Want?

After a few hours my friend and I go grab lunch at the student union.

While he heads back to the counter to grab more napkins and plastic silverware I run down a mental checklist of who I saw and what I did.

Most of my time was spent in the aisles not talking to people.

I am not interested in most of these positions. I don’t want to lock myself into staying in town because even though it is home it hasn’t been good to me for a long time.

My gut says it is time to go and my actions reflect it.

But the truth is that the majority of my interviews haven’t been for positions around here. That says something about the economic conditions.

Inside my head I hear my grandfather tell me you can always find work in Chicago.

“I tried Grandpa and I came close. Company even flew me out for a final interview but I didn’t get the job, fact is they didn’t even fill the position.”

Grandpa is dead, gone almost nine years.

Come to think of it, my nineteenth wedding anniversary marked five years since grandma died.

None of this is relevant to the job search other than I would like to talk to them. I told you it gets noisy inside my head.

If they were here I would tell them that my old life is dying or maybe it’s already dead. I’d tell them I know intellectually this is a short moment in time but that emotionally it is choking me.

I can hear them asking me what I want and feel them pushing me to continue to go with my gut. I mutter something about following my heart and a giggle escapes my lips.

Pretty soon I am going to look like the crazy man in the suit who talks to himself.

The Hero Of The Day

There is a new voice inside my head pushing me to the hero of my story. I am silently arguing with him, saying it has been too much for too long.

He tells me to STFU and deal with reality.

That is never a good way to encourage me to do what you want. I do as I do and act as I act.

“But what about your children? How are you going to provide for them?”

“Dad is going to save the day. He is going to be the goddamn hero they need as well as the one he needs.”

I run through another mental checklist of challenges and accomplishments. There are a few blank spots for check marks for goals that haven’t been met yet but the majority of them have a big black check mark next to them.

There is a whisper inside my head asking me how I know I won’t fail…again.

It is answered by another saying you can’t fail unless you quit and you don’t quit.

What Is Next?

My buddy is back with the plastic silverware and napkins. He tells me I look like hell and I ask him if he wants me to use the Spork to carve a tattoo on the side of his head.

When he says why I tell him that college students are dumb and I am going to convince them it is tribal artwork.

“I’ll make enough to cover the rent and then some.”

He laughs and says if anyone can come up with a convincing silly story it is me. I smile and tell him that dumb dad bloggers are silly storytellers.

He says he is not quite sure what that means and I say it means I am going to the hero of my story.

69 Rules of Blogging Bloggers Break

149H
A little girl with dark eyes and freckles asks me to tell her a story about life when she was very little. She knows she is daddy’s girl so I won’t deny her request.

I tell her about how for years I used to pick her up and twirl her around to this song and about how she never got tired of it.

“Daddy, I want to dance all night long,” and we did or so it often felt like.

One little girl with ringlets of hair that cascaded over her face would take my hand and pull me through stores to show me something she really needed.

“Daddy, tell me something else about when I was little.”

Almost every time we went out women would make a comment about how beautiful your hair was. They always asked how you got your curls, but no one ever believed they came from me, except for grandma.

“Daddy, your mom must be blind if she thinks I got those curls from you.”

I laugh and tell her not to tell that to grandma. She’ll pull out the pictures of me when I was really little and show you I really had those curls.

She rolls her eyes at me and says this is the part where I blame her and her brother for all of my hair disappearing. I laugh and just shake my head.

69 Rules of Blogging Bloggers Break

Nineteen years ago I was a kid who looked at today as being the start of my adult life. It was the first step into the world that would make me a father and a moment closer to doing all those things that I thought adults would do.

I had no idea that life would turn out so very differently than I pictured. No idea that one day I would sit at a computer and write stories about life or share thoughts about my feelings.

No idea that one day I’d gain five minutes of Internet Fame for a post called Give Me a Rant or that I would spend any time wondering if I could figure out how to make people give me money to read the ridiculous crap I sometimes post.

And I certainly had no idea that writing posts about how to become a better blogger would be such an easy way to get people to read my words.

But I learned and I figured out that I could game the system with headlines and crazy stories but that it would only work if I educated and or entertained people.

I learned to trust my gut and to write with reckless abandon because what came from those posts was authentic and raw and easier for people to relate to.

Any time what I put on the page scared me because it made me feel more vulnerable was good. I didn’t always like it but it helped readers relate and that helped to build a community.

I always noticed if I fed the hearts and souls of the community mine would grow and we would all give back a little something.

And I saw that if I went away from that model the traffic would start to decrease and the comments would disappear and I would be left with the real core audience, the die-hards who kept reading even when I wasn’t quite sure why they did.

Where Do Our Readers Go?

From time to time I wonder what happened to the people that used to read and comment upon every post.

Some of it is sheer curiosity and some of it is probably ego but either way I wonder what happened to them.

I wonder if they got bored or offended. I wonder if I was too personal or not personal enough. Was there too much silliness or too much anger.

It is an odd sort of thing because I have always focused on writing for me first and for you second. I have always figured that if I kept that as policy it would help prevent me from getting bored and that would result in better posts.

That always seemed to me to be mutually beneficial so I just ran with it.

Sometimes it seemed silly to me not to try to track people down and ask them why they don’t hang around anymore. All those years of trying to make my customers/clients happy made it into more than a habit.

It is hard to be of service when you don’t know as much about your customer’s needs as you could and the easiest way to find out is to just ask.

But I didn’t ask because I didn’t want my focus or approach to blogging here to change. I thought that what made me different and gave me a unique voice would be compromised.

Still, I sometimes wonder.

Am I Invisible?

That girl with the dark eyes and freckles asked why it looks like I am trying to find a new job.

I told her I am and that I have been for a while.

When she asks why I didn’t tell her sooner I tell her I didn’t want her to worry. It is true, I really didn’t.

She puts her hands on her hips and asks me if she is invisible and I say no.

As she walks away I wonder to myself what she would say if I told her the search makes me feel invisible. Many times I send out applications that are never acknowledged.

But that doesn’t bother me as much as something else does.

It is the follow-up to the interviews that take place in person or by phone. It is the lack of communication where I am left not knowing if they are interested or not.

There was a time when I always got a letter or telephone call to tell me I was moving on in the process or to let me know I wasn’t wanted or needed.

The college kid who had a guilty conscience never imagined he would find himself in this sort of situation.

That guy was certain he would graduate and unleash a storm of success upon the world.

Maybe he wasn’t smart enough or maybe he wasn’t worldly enough to recognize that sometimes life doesn’t quite as you expected.

Today I know better.

I have failed more than once, but I have always succeeded more than I failed.

Tonight I’ll lay my head down upon my pillow and hope that in the morning my side of the seesaw will be on the rise and not stuck in the dirt.

I am not invisible and I will never give in.