Archives for May 2015

Friday Night Is Alright For Writing

1000 miles away

Two weeks or so until the Traveling Jack show goes on tour again.

Two more weeks until I hop on the plane to go back to where I have been before to explore the possibility of a future that is as of now unwritten.

Two more weeks or so until I remember first hand that you can never step into the same river twice.

Night Fall

I used to sit on my balcony and watch the sun slip away, a bottle of Shiner Bock in my hands and Ray Charles singing in my ears.

At first it felt foreign and strange and then one day I sat down and realized it was home.

Caught me by surprise and made me recognize I really wasn’t the man I had once been. I could see parts and pieces of the old floating around but there was a new face looking back at me in the mirror.

I liked them both, but the guy who I had become was far more interesting than who I had been.

The kids recognized some of the changes faster than anyone else and asked what it meant.

I told them that sometimes we run towards the future we are building and walk away from where we were.

They didn’t understand it the way I did nor did I expect them to, but I knew that I had done the right thing. Knew that I had walked through the waterfall and entered a new world because it was what was required.

That Is What Parents Do

When my son asked me why I told him sometimes we do what is required and sometimes we do what we think is right. I told him sometimes you can’t see if they are one and the same until you step through the door and see what is on the other side.

“Dad, why?”

“Because that is what parents do. We make decisions based upon limited information with the hope that it is going to help our families do better. We do it for a better life.”

“But what if it isn’t better?”

“But what if it is?”

He nodded his head and told me he didn’t like it, but said he thought he understood.

I didn’t tell him he couldn’t possibly understand the load I carried because he couldn’t and it wouldn’t help. There is no upside or benefit to it.

One day he might. One day he might be in a position and have some life experiences that enable him to see it from my perspective but I hope not.

Who We Were Meets Who We Become

I don’t need my children to ever go through the crap I have been through. It won’t change the past and it won’t make their lives any better.

The point and purpose of taking chances and making changes is to try and prevent some of those things from happening.

It is to set up a future where retirement might be something I can choose to do and not dream about.

Retirement.

That is a funny word to me.

Once it was something that old people did, a moment in time that was so far away I couldn’t imagine it.

That is not really true anymore because now I can imagine it.

My father retired in his fifties but I am going to be hard pressed to match or beat that. Part of me doesn’t care because unless I have a boatload of cash I am not going to want to retire for a while.

There are too many things I want to do and too many places I want to see. The trips and dreams of old Mr. Steiner are going to require some significant cash flow for a while.

The trips and dreams of old Mr. Steiner are going to require some significant cash flow for a while. I am happy to put off a fixed income for a bit longer to enjoy some of those things.

Ideally I’ll find a way to retire at an age where I am physically able and capable of doing some cool stuff. I am not dumb enough to think I have thought of every thing I want to try or do.

If I am not the same man I was twenty years ago why should I believe I won’t be different twenty years from now.

Speaking Of Changes

The baby of the family is about to leave elementary school and head off into the land of chaos known as middle school.

Hormones, puberty and drama lay dead ahead.

That girl of mine is hocking me about when she’ll be old enough to date and how soon her brother can start driving her around.

I tell her to slow down and enjoy life at her current age. I tell her she’ll be old soon enough and that all these things will come faster than she thinks.

She rolls her eyes at me and engages in a debate she will never win. I don’t tell her how proud I am of her because this is not the time.

Her arguments have become more sophisticated and more nuanced. She is so very smart, but praise has to come during a different talk, not this one.

Steiner the Minor decides to interject and his sister almost tears off his head.

I remind him to mind his own business and wonder how he could possibly be starting high school.

Dare To Be
Midnight comes and I burst into his room.

“Do I need to take your phone? This is unacceptable. It is a school night. Go to sleep.”

We go back and forth for a few moments and he tells me he can’t sleep because he is nervous about a few things.

I tell him I understand and then share the Teddy Roosevelt quote above.

“One day you’ll tell your grandchildren that your father did his best to master his fear of failure and everything else by being willing to take a chance. And you’ll tell them that part of why he did it was for his family and part was for himself because when the lights go out at night and you are alone with your thoughts you need peace of mind.

Better to try and fail than not try. My biggest regrets are always tied into when I let fear win. No more.”

Sometimes Blog Posts Fail

Maybe the elves dumped the remote off of the bridge.

The remote for the television in my bedroom is lost. One moment it was there and the next it is gone.

I ask my daughter if she is lying on top of it and she says no.

We look under the covers, on the floor and behind the bed but it is nowhere to be found. Maybe angry house elves have stolen it and are holding it for ransom.

Sadly their wages shall remain unpaid as I haven’t any extra cash to spare to ease their plight.

Sometimes Blog Posts Fail

The post I wrote about my 11th blogiversary didn’t do very well. It wasn’t heaped with praise nor did I receive a note from the White House, state governor or even family members.

It wasn’t heaped with praise nor did I receive a note from the White House, state governor or even family members.

It might sound contradictory, but I am ok with that because sometimes blog posts fail. Sometimes the pieces you are most proud of fail to produce the kind of response you hoped to get.

Truth is I don’t know what I expected from that blogiversary post.  Some of those exercises in self-indulgence, and bragging marketing that I tend not to be especially good at.

It is not because I don’t know how but because I just don’t push that side the way I could. I don’t reach out to brands and ask them to send my review products or pitch publications and ask to become one of their writers.

Kind of funny because I tell my children that if you want to dream your life away you can do so by looking out the window or you can try to live your dreams by getting out there and doing something about it.

Maybe it is inaccurate to tie that blog post into a comment about blog posts failing because it was never supposed to be representative of my work and all that I am capable of.

That is another area that I have been focusing upon as a father and person.

All that people are capable of and all that the kids are capable.

Slow The Game Down

I have been playing pick-up basketball for around 30 years now.

Sometimes I think about mapping out where I have played because it sounds cool to say it includes Two continents, three countries and at least a dozen states.

But it over inflates the importance of these games.

They have been just pick up games where I joined a group of guys who were playing for fun. No medals or awards were earned.

My game has evolved and is no longer the same as it once was. As time has taken away some of the physical ability I once had I have replaced it with veteran cunning and I can say I am a much smarter and more effective player than I once was.

About six years ago I left my old gym and found a new group of guys to play with and for a long time I really enjoyed the no longer new to me group.

But these days it is not as much fun.

That is because some of the guys have moved on and new ones have joined and they aren’t as much fun to play with.

They want everything to be fair and if a team is too dominant they insist that they break it up and mix up the members so that things will be more fair.

I hate that.

Life is not fair and you don’t get a trophy for just showing up.

You have to work for it.

*****

In the old days the younger guys used to complain that I slowed the game down and that it wasn’t fair because my team would win more often than it  lost.

But they didn’t ask for a handicap to equal things out.

They understood the value of hard work and when I explained the rationale behind slowing things down they understood.

I slowed it down because if I did that I could play for hours instead of just one and it allowed us to be more precise and more effective.

We could stay with teams that were more talented and often win. It was devastating against the teams that had runners who couldn’t shoot.

What good is it to push the ball up court at break neck speed when you can’t score.

When my kids tell me that life is crazy I tell them to slow the game down.

The Similarity Between People & Angry House Elves

I don’t know if there is a similarity between people and angry house elves. I have never taken a remote and held it for ransom or at least I can’t remember doing so.

Hell I don’t know if house elves exist but I did make a general announcement that I don’t care about the remote.

I didn’t see any elves but the dog’s ears flipped up when I said I didn’t care it was gone.

I watch television in spurts.

I go for long periods of time where I don’t watch much of anything and then I binge on some show.

If I don’t find the remote it won’t make much difference to me. Eventually I’ll buy a replacement but in the interim if I really need to watch I have alternatives.

What is of greater concern is how crazy life feels now.

I keep trying to slow the game down so that I can see the floor and figure out the best moves but the players aren’t cooperating.

I can’t crash the boards and outwork or out hustle the others guys in this gym. It frustrates me a bit because I can’t walk away and say I don’t care either.

The kids are graduating and they’ll be in new schools but I don’t know yet where those will be. Don’t want choices to be made based upon fear or inertia.

Maybe I’ll try slowing the game down again and see if this time it is more effective or maybe I’ll just go by a remote and watch television in my bedroom.

Sometimes blog posts fail.

What Does 11 Years Of Blogging Teach You?

Eleven years ago I didn’t think about what pictures should or should not be used or consider how to lay out the text in a quote.

I just wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote.

Really, it is not an exaggeration to say, er write that because I updated multiple times a day, every day.

Today I stared at the quote above and tried to decide if it was the right one and wondered if the way it is laid out would help set the right tone.

I wrote with reckless abandon then at breakneck speed and didn’t worry about readers because it didn’t occur to me that anyone besides The Shmata Queen would read my words. Never thought that anyone would care one way or another about stories about my life, the fiction I wrote or the commentary on politics/religion.

Nor did I ever imagine that this small corner of cyberspace would lead me into a new life and allow for me to chronicle the good, the bad and the ugly of every step.

in the wild now

Sometimes Writing/Blogging Is Really Hard

I didn’t get into blogging to try and get a book deal, become famous or earn money.

I started writing on a whim and kept going because I love to write and this joint helped me rediscover what I wanted to do with my life.

No one has ever approached me with a book deal or offered me an opportunity to monetize this place in a way that would allow me to stop working a real job.

I haven’t ever attended a blogging conference but I have worked with a bunch of different brands and been a brand ambassador.

FWIW, I have considered going to one but most of the time I just haven’t had the spare cash to shell out for a trip I couldn’ quantify as business and wouldn’t be considered a family vacation.

But there have definitely been moments where I wondered if not going was a mistake because it prevented me from networking in person.

Sometimes writing/blogging is really hard because I don’t like the way the words are flowing from my fingertips. Sometimes I look at what I have written and wonder if all these years of writing have been a waste because what I read looks awful to me.

I like to think the guy who started this blog was a decent writer and that he has morphed into a good one but that is a hard question to answer.

As far as I know the only person who has been around for my entire run is The Shmata Queen and even she would admit I should have a sample group of more than one person to survey.

But then again the definition of great writing is subjective so maybe a survey isn’t the best metric to use.

Maybe if it mattered more to me I’d spend more time trying to develop useful metrics to measure my growth and find benchmarks that I think of as being relevant but I haven’t cared enough to do so yet so I doubt I will later.

Instead I’ll probably continue as I am and make the occasional remark about blog envy and wonder how some kid who can barely write and has only been around a short time has a blog 98 times the size of mine.

Maybe I should hit one of those conferences.

What Does 11 Years Of Blogging Teach You?

It teaches you to approach each post as if I was talking to a friend with a format that looks something like “Did I ever tell you about the time I” and then includes a beginning, middle and an end.

Or I should say, I use that as a guideline but routinely ignore my own advice.

Did I mention I almost never rewrite my posts and use very soft editing touches upon them?

If you ask for my advice I’ll tell you not to do things like that or as I sometimes say to the kids, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

The Best Bloggers Are Storytellers.

I stand by that one.

My favorite bloggers are always the people who know how to tell a tale that makes me want to read from start to finish. They are part of the reason I have never given up on this gig.

Is Life A Series Of Coincidences Or Do Things Happen For A Reason?

That is here because it helps tell the story I am trying to share here. It provides some depth and layering to this post, or at least I hope it does.

Hard to say for certain, I expect some of you will scratch your heads and wonder how it fits while others will read it and nod because it makes perfect sense to you.

Remember that bit about writing being subjective.

******

If you want to drive traffic blogging about blogging is always a good way to do so.

It is the low-hanging fruit of the blogosphere and you can rest assured that some bloggers will read your words because they hope you just shared the one thing that will turn their blog into a gold mine.

Sometimes I wonder if I made a mistake by not jumping on the monetization train early on. Sometimes I wonder if I made a mistake by not tooting my horn to brands as being one of the few fathers in a sea of moms

Sometimes I wonder if I made a mistake by not tooting my horn to brands as being one of the few fathers in a sea of moms.

Might have worked out pretty well. Might have given me a few more Shekels to play with and led to some opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise had.

Or maybe not.

Can’t look back and live off of what I would have, could have or should have done because I didn’t.

Hell, I know after I publish this I’ll come across a post someone else wrote about their blogiversary and kick myself because they will have been funnier, more eloquent and more interesting than me.

I’ll shake my head and wonder why I couldn’t have done a better job, done more or done things…differently.

And then I’ll shake my head and go about my way because I am the best version of me around and a second version rate of you and I like me better.

So I suppose I’ll end this here and thank the old and the new readers for joining me on the journey. As always you are invited to join me for a beer or your favorite beverage in the comments.

And in case you are wondering, I still don’t know how long I’ll keep this up. Might go another 20 years or I might quit tomorrow.

I am here until the fun runs out or expires.

Blogging- Does Anything Ever Change

apple and cahnge

I am about to celebrate my 11-year blogiversary but this post isn’t about that, instead it is an impromptu prelude to it, a five-minute post written off the top of my head based upon three things that just happened.

Item 1

I check my stats and see someone has been reading What Is The Value of A Comment?

It is a reminder that the discussion about comments and the desire to find the best system is an ongoing one.

It Is What Every Blogger Wants and I might add I am thrilled with Postmatic. It really has been wonderful and helped restore some of the feelings associated with the way blogging used to be.

Ask me about whether I miss Old Fashioned Blogging and the answer I give now might be different than it was a short time ago.

Item 2

I check my stats and see someone has been listening to The Best Way To Blog Is…Your Way.

I listen to part of it and turn it off, I don’t have to hear the whole thing to remember what I said. Part of me wonders if I’ll miss something significant because it is from a while ago and I smile again because I pay more attention to details than I did then.

The Apple quote makes me smile but raises the skeptic in me because I hear what I want to be like and smell marketer reaching into my pocket.

Makes me think ab0ut the duality of my life–marketer and person.

Item 3

After all these years of blogging I don’t consider myself to be an expert but I have a good idea about how to play the game.

Thing is, I usually opt to play by my rules and those aren’t always in sync with what works on a bigger scale, or at least in sync with what could help build the blog faster.

As to whether I really need to do so or want to, well we’ll save that for later. For now we’ll stick to the five-minute rule and talk about how it is hard not to notice the same conversations have been going on for years.

Is that because we are happy to talk about change as long as we don’t have to do it or because the world keeps changing and we aren’t always as fast as we could be to change with it.

changeyourself

Do People Really See You?

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Steiner the minor tells me he is frustrated because he doesn’t feel like people are listening to him at school.

He says some don’t acknowledge him and act like he is not around.

I tell him that some people have the same personality as a cactus and that sometimes it takes a bit of time to figure out who they are so you can avoid their thorns.

We go back and forth and he tells me that he thinks I don’t really understand because I have a different sort of presence than he does.

I tell him I am not convinced it is true and explain that when I want to be noticed I make it happen. I am not sure if he understands what I am saying or if I am doing a good job of explaining it.

Chasing Ghosts Isn’t Profitable

Somewhere in the midst of our conversation I remember seeing in my stats that someone spent a lot of time reading Chasing Ghosts Isn’t Profitable and try to figure out how that post relates to the conversation.

“It may sound absurd…but don’t be naive
Even heroes have the right to bleed
I may be disturbed…but won’t you concede
Even heroes have the right to dream
It’s not easy to be me”
Superman (It’s Not Easy)-Five For Fighting

It is the quote, it is the burning question of does Superman feel like an outsider who can never be a part of the ‘in crowd’ or any crowd.

It is my frustration with how little time prospective employers give to resumes and how I am certain they don’t see me or recognize how much I could do if given the chance.

It is the daily parade of memories that my cousin’s death brought about. Haven’t seen him in forever and now I won’t.

It is the recognition that I am decades older than he is and I still have these moments where I wonder if I am always going to be on the outside looking in, and if so, how am I supposed to advise him.

But then I remember that somewhere in the past I recognized I don’t need most people to really see me and that the only time I am truly bothered is when the people who mean something don’t get it.

Do People Really See You?

I show my son the picture of the man holding grapes and I tell him he is just as real and twice as sweet.

He rolls his eyes at me and tells me he is bothered by not knowing where he is going to go to high school.

I nod my head and promise to figure it out as soon as I can and then wonder how the simplest things in life got mucked up and turned upside down and inside out.

The Superman questions rattle and roll inside my head and I wonder where they’ll take me. Will I gain some magic insight by trying to figure out what might drive a fictional character and how they would respond to certain situations.

Are the answers going to make me a better father and better man?

Can I use them to help the people I want to see me do so?

I don’t have time to spend hours mulling it over so I move on the pedestrian chores of a father’s life and figure it won’t hurt to let the rest percolate in the back of my mind.

Midway through a trash run I wonder if maybe some of the people I want to see me really do and just don’t say so. I figure the simplest way to find out is to ask but I just don’t feel like it.

It is a short list but I suspect at least one person will refuse to answer and or try to dodge and this isn’t something to chase people about.

Especially when I tell Steiner the minor that you shouldn’t chase friends and promise that he’ll find his people in high school.

The Promises We Make

Part of me wonders why I would make a promise like that because I haven’t any control of it and it is possible I’ll be wrong.

But there is this voice inside my head that swears by it and so I go for it because gut instinct says it is going to happen.

I know that voice because it is the one that drives me to believe in the intangibles that life is made of. It is the one that says to trust in that which you can’t see because sometimes the inexplicable and improbable happens.

Back at the trashcan I remind myself that not only did I make a crazy promise I did so without knowing what school he would be at.

Midway through the walk back to the house I mutter something to myself about not being so hard on myself, especially when we have so much time between now and the start of high school.

Humphrey Bogart’s Lesson About Life

Everyone in the house is sleeping but I am wide awake, got way too many things pressing against the walls of my skull to shut it down for the night so I figure I might as well take advantage of the time.

I grab the dog and we go check the doors and windows and make a quick pass to confirm the siren song of electronics has not convinced the kids to stay awake long past bedtime.

Soft snoring confirms they are and we wander downstairs to sit in the dark and think.

I lie one the leather couch from my apartment in Texas and smile because this piece of furniture has meaning to me.

My intent isn’t to watch television but I turn it on anyway ‘cuz I am curious to see if there are any movies I should tape and I stumble across Casablanca.

It is my favorite movie and I cannot just walk away.

That is when it happens, there is an exchange between Rick and Victor Laszlo that wakes me up again.

Victor Laszlo: You know how you sound, Mr. Blaine? Like a man who’s trying to convince himself of something he doesn’t believe in his heart.

This is why I made the promise to my son and why I am chasing a dream. I have given up trying to convince myself of things I don’t believe in because those lies kill our hearts and scar our souls.

I am done with that.

Do people really see me?

Maybe they do. Maybe the ones who are supposed to and the ones who need to do.

Maybe that includes those I want to and maybe it doesn’t but it is not my job to figure that part out.

My job is to focus on doing the things that help me be better father and make it possible for me to make those promises to my kids.