Archives for June 2016

39 Bloggers Who Were Beat Up By Scarecrows

It’s easy to catch a bad case of blog envy and to wonder why every other blogger gets to be a brand ambassador and take free trips to cool places.

Easy to wonder why KIA, Ford, Hyundai and Honda ask other people to drive and blog about their cars but no one asks you.

If you are not careful it is easy to stare at the posts others write and wonder how someone who is semi-literate gets what you would like to have but you need to ignore it.

There is no upside in comparing yourself to others and wondering or wishing for what isn’t happening now.

Ask my kids and they’ll tell you I have that speech down pat.

39 Bloggers Who Were Beat Up By Scarecrows

Heck, ask my kids if they have ever heard the story of the 39 bloggers who were beat up by scarecrows and they’ll tell you it is one of my goofier stories.

They’ll tell you I used the picture above and told them that spending time comparing ourselves to others is the equivalent of fighting a straw man.

You can pound that sucker as hard as you want for as long as you like and he’ll never give you what you want.

There is no upside or benefit and though you may win the physical contest you’ll lose the mental/emotional and that is where the real prize is.

Life Lessons & Things That Are Important

I wrote Some Things I’ll Teach My Children in 2005 and then updated it in 2010. I meant to

I meant to update in 2015 but neglected to do it so it is probably time for me to get around to it.

When I do I am going to make sure I include teaching them the value of not comparing ourselves to others.

You may say it is hokey and goofy to teach them that we are all shining stars who have our own inner beauty but it is important.

Because when the lights go out and we are alone with our thoughts we have to feel confident in ourselves and our abilities to manage our lives.

Life is too short to wonder and worry about what others have and since we don’t know what happens behind closed doors we can’t say that if someone has more they are happier.

I won’t lie and say I have never compared myself to others or felt frustration and envy because it seemed like they had more.

But I can say I have gotten pretty good at not doing that and if that when I do compare it is usually for the sake of motivating myself to go out and get whatever it is I think I should have.

Might as well use that energy to make something good come out of it.

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Looked at the About Me page here to make sure I still like the way it reads and that it tells the right story about me.

Most of it felt fine to me but found a few things I need to tweak because they are not quite right anymore.

Reminded me about how in some ways I am very much the guy I have always been and in others, well I am very different.

Got me thinking about my kids and how I have watched them grow and change. Got me thinking about my plans for the future and my hope that the path I am following will benefit them.

We are all part of a giant story upon whose pages we write each day and though we may have an idea about where it is going we never really know where it ends.

If there were no boundaries in blogging I’d share a story with you about something that happened this year that really illustrates how crazy life can be.

One of those moments that you know is going to have a lasting impact but since we aren’t clairvoyant we can’t see how big and for how long.

I choose to take a positive outlook and to say it is leading to something bigger and brighter. The future is unwritten so there is no reason to freak out.

As someone said to me long ago, there are no tragedies, only funny stories.

Well, that is not true for everything but it is applicable for many.

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The Piper Is Calling You To Join Him

If I did share more of the story I can’t I’d tell you that part of what bothers me about it is the push/pull feeling I have about it.

A sense that I missed something I should have noticed and a feeling that it doesn’t matter because I couldn’t have done more than I did.

And intermixed with it all is the feeling that I am on the right path and that I am doing what I need to do to move from the current into the future I want.

Is that because I am listening to Stairway to Heaven and the music is making it easy to hear the piper calling me to join him or something else?

Hell if I know.

What I am certain of is that action is better than inactivity and that while we can’t control it all we can manage ourselves and how we respond.

So I won’t fight the scarecrow.

I don’t fear bloodying my knuckles but if I am going to do it, well I’d like it to give me more than five seconds of satisfaction.

The End Of The Road Meets Stock Photography

Traffic to visit, read and engage others here at the good ship some refer to as The Mighty JackB is nothing compared to what it once was.

The comments are few and far between and I am beginning to wonder if this is part of the usual summer slowdown or a sign of something more.

Might be nothing, might be that I have so much going on now it is hard to keep juggling all the balls I have in the air.

Less bandwidth to deal with the non-essentials so it is natural that something gives, except I have never slowed down like this before, not here.

So it makes me wonder if maybe that mythical end of the road is a little bit closer than I had thought or realized.

Or maybe it is just another evolution.

The End Of The Road Meets Stock Photography

Most of the stock photography you see here comes from Unsplash or Pixabay.

Kind of funny to me to think about how many years I went without inserting any photos into posts and how hard I fought against it.

For a long while I foolishly saw it in simplistic terms where photos would be inserted so that my pictures would be pinned on Pinterest.

I didn’t want to get involved in Pinterest and overextend myself so I figured that leaving photos off made it easier for me to focus on publishing my words.

And then reality slapped me in the face and I started thinking about how pictures could enhance the stories and posts I share here so I hopped on the hamster wheel and started inserting them into new and old.

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I am not done writing, telling or sharing stories.

Definitely something that will always be a part of who and what I am, but there is no doubt that change is here.

No doubt that I have taken certain parts of life for as long and hard a ride as I intend to.

It is time to move on and do something different, time to embrace the future by moving some of this other crap into the past.

Don’t mistake that to mean that I am going to shut this blog down because I don’t plan on doing that now.

Doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t happen either, but it is possible.

What is more likely is that I’ll start running for the door I see up ahead because I am tired of being in transition and the faster I get here there sooner I can begin.

Change can be good.

Sometimes holding onto the past keeps us from becoming who we could be and that is not something I want to miss.

Father/Man

Been talking with my kids about some of these things and the changes I see coming. Told them to remember I will always be their father but to remember I am a man also.

Men have dreams, goals and ideas just as children do and I have done my best to make it work for all of us.

Sometimes I have subjugated my dreams for the good of my children.

Did so without regret but not without second thought.

Not going to lie and make me look like something I am not by saying there weren’t times I asked myself if I was making a mistake by doing that.

But if the conclusion was that it was better for my children than I made the decision to do what was best for them.

And now we have reached a place where certain choices do not offer black and white answers to what is best.

A point where they are old enough to understand that sometimes we take calculated risks because it could be very good for us.

So that is what I intend to do, take a calculated risk that I think will benefit all of us.

Doesn’t mean I am not nervous or worried, but I have confidence in my abilities and most importantly, confidence in theirs.

We’ll all figure things out and if it goes 25% as well as I hope, well the future is pretty freaking bright.

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The Uncertain Certainty Of Your Future

The uncertain certainty of your future isn’t supposed to sound like the title of a new age ebook or clinic.

It is just the post-midnight reflection of your old friend Jack.

That is ‘cuz in a short time the Traveling Jack show is going to hit the road again for parts unknown and that got me thinking about life in general.

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I could tell you about the hours spent working on the whiteboard in my office and how I solved some of the great math challenges of the world and wrote sonnets that would make Shakespeare howl with jealousy.

Believe me I thought about sharing some of those things with you because art isn’t supposed to be hidden away from the world.

It is supposed to be shared so that it can move and inspire others but in this case I had to refrain because I didn’t want to make other bloggers jealous of my skill and wit.

Or in more accurate terms I didn’t share any of it because I have been too busy trying to figure out where we are going to move to.

Why?

Because I have been a renter since I sold my house five years ago and my landlord decided they needed this place for family and gave us notice.

Since I had always intended upon moving it wasn’t a horrible thing, but it did create some unnecessary chaos because I had thought I could do it on my timetable.

Surprise.

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Some of you may think of the words above as being a nice quote but I don’t.

I see them as a call to action and one I intend to answer.

Call this an opportunity to use it as a teaching moment and to help my children see firsthand how sometimes life throws a curveball at you.

That is the short-term goal but it is also tied into my long term goal of putting myself on a path that is going to lead me to enjoying a better life in a shorter amount of time.

In simple English that means I am focused on earning more money and living in a place with a lower cost of living than where I am at now.

I have some ideas for how to make that happen but sadly I haven’t received any messages from wise owls, at least none that I remember.

What To Share

So I have been wrestling with what to share with my kids because some of the things I am working on may not happen.

Right now they are in a place where they could easily go either direction and experience has shown me that what looks impossible or possible often is.

Meaning I don’t want to say anything to the kids about big changes that might not happen because they have no ability to influence things.

They can’t push for or against and they can’t influence the decision makers on the other side of these choices so I figure partial silence is best for now.

I told them we are going to move the day after I knew it was going to happen. Told them not to worry about having a place to live because I am not concerned about it.

We aren’t at risk of not having a place to live, we just don’t know where.

It is kind of cool and exciting.

A Different Kind Of Life

There are moments where I feel like I haven’t given them enough. Moments where I can’t help but compare their life to the childhood I had and struggle with it.

I lived in the same house my entire childhood. We weren’t rich, but we weren’t poor either.

Never went hungry or went without clothes. My folks always managed to take us on family trips and we had a lot of experiences.

That is not to say my kids haven’t had any of that because they have had a lot of it, but they have had a lot of turmoil and change that I didn’t.

Most of the time I just shrug my shoulders and keep going because I have done the best I can and they haven’t ever been hungry, without clothing or shelter.

They have been on lots of trips and done lots of things so their lives aren’t bad, but I do wish they had a little less of the turmoil.

On the other hand since change is a constant I hope their experiences with it as kids makes it easier to roll with as adults.

We know that hard moments hit all of us and maybe some of the crazier moments as kids will help them manage better as adults.

Anyhoo the crazy plan I am working on now is supposed to set up a stronger foundation so that this kind of seesaw activity happens less and or has less influence.

There is enough mishegoss and narishkeit in life without some of this other stuff so I guess time will tell whether my plan worked or not,

Dad Is Still In Charge

Sometimes the words flow freely and you know that whomever reads your posts is likely to understand, follow and appreciate the things you say.

And sometimes you are not sure because you can’t figure out if your muse quit, is out on disability or an extended vacation.

But you did your pen into the inkwell and scratch something on the page and remember that blogging is a funny business and you never know what will be of interest so you ought to just write.

Better to go down swinging than to watch the pitches sail across the plate or if you prefer, you miss every shot you don’t take.

Dad Is Still In Charge

Steiner the minor is in the middle of being a teenager and he seems to do an admirable job of making me feel proud, crazy and confused, sometimes all within the same 15 minute span.

I look at this boy who is quickly approaching my height, a voice that is deep enough to sometimes fool people into thinking they are talking to me and everything else that puberty brings.

We stand there in the middle of his room and he wants to know how I instantly spot every piece of trash and dirty clothing on the floor.

Wants to know how I can tell him “I pay the bills and he’ll follow my rules” when grandpa told him I used to go nuts when he said that to me.

“Dad is still in charge. You may be feeling your oats, may be thinking you are ready to take care of yourself but you’re not there yet. Sure, if you had to do it, you’d figure it out. You’d survive but I am helping you figure out how to do better than just survive.”

He glares at me and the conversation moves to the day his mother’s purse was stolen at Target. He wants to revisit it.

I indulge him because I am curious where he wants to take it. I remember it as a moment in time in which his innocence was stolen,

The little boy he used to be wanted to know why I didn’t kill the thief or at least beat him up. The teenager says he understands why I wouldn’t go that far but still wonders why I didn’t force the issue.

I look at him and ask him if this discussion would be more interesting if we pretended we were druids and celebrated the Summer Solstice but that earns a head shake and a look.

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I take a deep breath and remind myself that he truly isn’t as difficult as I was, at least not yet.

Don’t mistake that for me asking for the challenge because even though I don’t back down from them there are many that I don’t need to take on.

Call it the beauty of age and maturity, I have a perfect record of surviving every bad day and I want to keep it that way.

Still, his not having managed to scale the heights of parenting madness haven’t made life that much easier because other things have taken their place.

Most of them are still classified as things that I successfully managed or am in the process of doing but there have been times where it all felt more taxing than necessary.

It is another time when I appreciate reading things like Don’t Worry About What You Can’t Control Part 2 because they help offer perspective.

Now is better than before and if I keep my head there is no doubt we’ll Charon will ferry us back across and if not, well I’ll be dad the superhero and kick his ass.

But in the interim, it is time to keep trying to guide and direct these beautiful wild beasts who call me dad.

Time for me to be Max, King of the Wild Things.

Flashes of Memory Intermixed With Future Images

I appreciate the questions and understand why they challenge me. I tell them they are entitled to challenge authority but explain they need to have good questions, purpose and intent.

And I caution them, remind them that good intentions can still go bad.

The days when I would walk in and they would drop everything to come hug daddy grow more distant and though I miss them, I know it is part of growing up.

Steiner the minor is particularly prickly about hugs, he doesn’t want them from anyone. Part of me is concerned because we have always been an affectionate family and it makes me wonder if everything is ok.

My dad assures me I went through a similar phase.

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The dark haired beauty is pleased to be different from her brother. She intentionally forgets that for a long while she was his biggest fan and he her biggest hero.

They go through moments where they act like best friends and then they scream at each other. Sibling love.

For Father’s Day she made a card for me that explicitly detailed and listed her as forever my little girl.

Sat on my lap, hugged me and told me multiple times, “I love you daddy.”

Most of that was totally legit, it was only towards evening that she asked if she could go to the mall with her friend.

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My little girl isn’t quite 12 and is over five feet tall. She is not the tallest in her class or of her friends but she is not the shortest either.

When she stands next to her brother I look at them and remember little people who ran us ragged.

Little people who would grow faster than I could believe or so their grandparents said.

And then as fast as I could see baby faces and chubby legs they morphed into big kids and I almost felt like I could see the people they’d grow to be.

Dad is still in charge, but only for a little while longer.

Father’s Day Is Always Better Than Mother’s Day

There is a distinct difference between a father and a man and it is something I have thought about more than once.

I sit here at the tail end of another Father’s Day smiling as I think about how lucky I am and feeling a bit crazed because though we have come so far there is still so much farther to go.

So I look for hard proof of the journey up to this point and come across a Father’s Day post I wrote five years ago that gives me a bittersweet feeling but still pushes a big smile across my face.

He Taught Me How To Be A Father

I wrote that letter to my dad in June of 2011 in the midst of the biggest personal storm I had ever been in.

The financial crisis of 2008 had been devastating to us. I lost my job and went balls-to-the-wall to find a new one but couldn’t get anything full time.

I applied to unload trucks, work in warehouses and did everything you could and should do to find a full-time gig but I couldn’t make it happen.

So I was forced to cobble together a series of part-time jobs and a mix of freelance work but it wasn’t enough to prevent things from going from bad to worse.

It didn’t take long for me to go from being a proud homeowner, a father who had been the sole provider for almost a decade to just another guy without a job.

We pulled the kids from private school, repeatedly tightened our belts and begged the bank to modify our loan.

But it didn’t matter because they never said yes or no so I sold the house because it was better to get something for it.

Anyway, things got pretty ugly but then they got better because my father taught me never to quit and to always keep my head up and five years later I sit here knowing he was right.

Same As It Ever Was

As I sit here reading that post I know I am not the man I once was because you can’t go through what I did without being changed by it.

Some of those changes are good things and some, well time will tell.

But before we move on to my comparison I need to share an excerpt from that earlier post.

So here I sit at the computer with my eyes closed, headphones filling my ears with music and a parade of images floating through my mind’s eye.  I see you as you were when I was in grade school. A full head of hair, tall and so very strong. I remember what it was like to wrestle with you. I remember throwing my ten year-old self at you with all I had and how easily you handled me. I remember being frustrated by it. At school I was always one of the strongest boys but it never mattered because you were always stronger.

I remember how my sisters would fight with me and how sometimes they would magically start crying when you showed up. Seconds before they were yelling at me and now they were sobbing and that glare would find me. I remember trying not to wilt under it. I remember protesting my innocence and the lectures. I remember you telling me that it was my job to protect them and I did.

Ask them and they’ll tell you stories about how I chased away the boys. They’ll tell you that I had too much fun running them off and they are right. I am a big brother, it is what we do.

Now your grandson yells about how unfair it is that his little sister doesn’t start crying until I show up and sometimes I fight not to smile. You knew back then what they were doing just as I know now.

Father’s Day Is Always Better Than Mother’s Day

As a kid there was never any difference between the days for me. I have good parents and I always enjoyed having everyone gather at my parent’s house for family celebrations.

But they haven’t been as much fun as a father because Mother’s Day almost always requires a ton of work and all sorts of juggling.

Don’t mistake that to mean I don’t think that moms should be celebrated because they should but in this case it is complicated.

The mothers go crazy trying to make sure that their mothers are properly celebrated and taken care of.

And the grandmothers go nuts trying to make sure their celebrations involve all of their children but the thing is, we are all scattered around the country and the city.

It is virtually impossible to find time that works for everyone, let a place that will hold us all.

So we go through this crazy game each year where one or more say something like “Whatever you decide is fine” and we all know that fine is code for “you are screwed if you do that.”

It is not accurate to say that someone always gets pissed off or feels less than appreciated but it has happened more than once.

And sometimes it hasn’t mattered what I have done to try and head this off. Hasn’t mattered how hard I tried to plan ahead, it just didn’t work.

I find that frustrating.

It is not like that with Father’s Day.

The grandfathers and I just want to hang out with family and enjoy. I am perfectly happy to have simple day and a nice meal.

The funny thing is I mentioned this to my father and he laughed, “what makes you think it was any different for me.”

Guess dad is still a step ahead of me.