What Comes Next

We move on from Words Are For You to a month of silence into the new place where we wonder what comes next.

I don’t have the time to provide a proper post that fills in the blanks, gaps, nooks, and crannies for what I am referring to here.

This isn’t intended to be a teaser where I give you a taste of something that will catch your eye and make you anxiously await the next installment.

It’s just one man saying one of the hardest and biggest changes a person can face has come about and now that it is over I am standing on the other side trying to catch my breath.

This is the first moment I have had to think about and consider what I want to do, what I ought to do and what I need to do.

It is the first moment where I can try to wipe away the fog and figure out what comes next.

Life is forever changed and for once that is not an exaggeration. The lack of hyperbole in that underscores the intensity of the moment and the profound sense of “WTF” just happened.

I guess I am going to find out.

About Your Aging Parents

Don’t start writing a post about your aging parents with Johnny Cash’s cover of Danny Boy playing in your ears.

Not because it is not a fine song, but because it sets a more somber tone than you might want to start with.

That is because your blog is the tool you used to get through the time when your father lay in a hospital bed thousands of miles away from you.

Because you flew there and back praying that he would still be alive when you landed having been told it could go either way.

And though it is 12 years later and dad proved the doubters wrong you haven’t ever forgotten seeing his unconscious body breathe because machines were keeping him alive.

Most days you don’t focus on those moments because when you are with him you see the same spark in his eyes you always have and know that your father is present.

Present in his presence it is clear his mind is as active as it ever was and you hear him talk about plans for the future so you know what his intention is.

But there are little things, little moments that make it clear that his body isn’t always agreeable about the things he wants and tries to do.

It might not be a full blown mutiny, but there is dissension in the ranks and in some ways his health is very similar to a house of cards.

parentalgods

Steiner the minor doesn’t know that I look at the bull elephant in the picture above and recognize similarities between my father and him.

Go about your business and everything is ok, but the moment you become a threat life might get very ugly for you.

Those few of you who know me well might even recognize some similar traits in me and now you know why.

He taught me what it means to be a person, a man and a father.

And he did it in spite of my being a major pain-in-the-ass who knew more than he did.

I only have two kids at home to deal with, he had me and my four sisters.

Once I became a dad it didn’t take me very long to recognize I had a lot less on my plate to deal with than he did.

He hasn’t ever mentioned it but I am not surprised. It is not who he is.

Now And Then

I missed the poker game with the boys this past Friday night. Wanted to go but the craziness of the current moment in time left me exhausted and I just wanted to be somewhere quiet.

Wanted to go but the craziness of the current moment in time left me exhausted and I just wanted to be somewhere quiet.

Part of me wonders if that was a mistake because we all need time with the people who know us best and it would have been good to see the guys.

We would have sat around the table and told some of the same silly stories we like to tell and then we would have spent a few catching up on current events in our lives.

Twenty-five years ago we probably wouldn’t have scheduled the game for a Friday night.

That would have been date night for those of us who had a girl in our lives or “let’s try to find a girl for our life” night.

Twenty-five years again almost all of us had two parents now some of have lost one or in some cases both.

Now our conversations sometimes include comments about having become the new sandwich generation.

We take care of our kids and look out for our parents.

About Your Aging Parents

My parents had dinner with us Sunday night and I got another close-up of seeing how time and age has impacted them.

Neuropathy in dad’s feet has made walking a little more challenging at times for him.

Since he doesn’t have much feeling in them anymore he is not as sure footed as he once was and walking stairs or going up/down hills has become trickier.

I try to make a point to casually wander over to him so that he can put his hand on my shoulder to help with his balance.

A few years ago he would have told me to get lost but he never does anymore. Neither one of us make a big deal about it because it wouldn’t make things any better if we did.

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I suppose the move has made me more aware of some age-related issues too.

It is about six weeks roughly since they moved out of the house I grew up in into their new place.

They are mostly unpacked but there are still things on the “to-do” list that have lingered there far longer than they would have in the old days.

Things that would have been unacceptable had they not been handled in a timely fashion are listed on there because they get tired much faster than they used to.

It is not a huge deal to me, but it is noticeable.

And I won’t lie and say I wasn’t pleased to get a telephone call from mom asking me to come help move stuff because she wanted my father to “stop doing things he shouldn’t be doing.”

abelincoln

It is 50 some years since my parents met as Peace Corps volunteers.

They have traveled all over the world, fostered children in their home and done more than most.

It has been a pretty good life so far and I expect to see it go on for a good long while because there are more stories and adventures to be had.

But like I alluded to above, sometimes there is a little whisper in my head that tells me to pay close attention because the end is closer to the beginning.

Still I remind myself that seventy-something years isn’t particularly old for our family and that genetically speaking we might get another 25 years or so.

Here is hoping that all that can go right does and that all that can go wrong loses their address.

The Memory Collector

beautiful day track

A beautiful day for making and collecting memories.

The 17 long time readers know I march to the beat of a drummer who is blind and has no rhythm.

Ask them and they’ll tell you if you ask me to pull a card from your deck I will always find the joker and that guy is wild.

Some call it a curse, but I call it a gift, just one that takes a special kind of person to handle…me.

It’s Not My Fault She’s Crazy & Hysterical.

Anyway, when I started blogging in May of 2004 it never occurred to me that one-day blogging would be the reason why I would agonize whether to drive a Ferrari 458 Italia,

Ferrari 458 Italia

or a silver Porsche Cayman,

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or a red Lamborghini Huracan.

red lambo

and that is just a partial list of the cars I could have taken out.

Those of you who aren’t into cars might not appreciate just how cool this was but I am here to tell you that I can’t properly express how much it meant to me other than to say that I am a memory collector.

The Memory Collector

I don’t blog solely because I am compelled to write. I blog because memories are of paramount importance to me.

People and things can be taken from you, but not memories. Memories and education are yours for eternity, at least in theory.

I suppose you could make a case to suggest my premise is flawed, but that is not what this post is about.

It is about what happens when someone offers you the opportunity to give/receive extraordinary gifts and why I didn’t hesitate to say yes when I learned what was possible.

opportunities

It’s too bad my high school English teacher isn’t around anymore. I’d like to point out how I embedded that Emily Dickinson quote in a picture of the interior of a Lamborghini.

She’d appreciate knowing that I am still finding ways to make poetry and the poets relevant to me now. And I think she’d appreciate that I am still looking for ways to make ordinary into something extraordinary.

But the real difference between then and now is I am keenly aware of how tenuous our grip on life can be and why it is important to do more than just develop a bucket list of experiences we hope to have some day.

There are more than 100 items on my list. Some of them fall into the probable and possible and others are tagged as less so, but they all hold some kind of importance to me.

So it is with significant gratitude and transparency that I share these thoughts with you. This opportunity to drive a car like the Ferrari 458 Italia came because of a sponsored post.

It came because Cloud 9 Living asked if I was interested in writing a post about their company and how they provide gift giving experiences.

I did it because when opportunity knocks you need to answer. I did it because I have very few regrets but the ones I do are massive and are there because I didn’t answer the damn knock.

I did it because wrestling about whether I should drive an exotic car, go zip lining, hang gliding, jet packing, learn how to fly or be a fighter pilot for a day was the kind of mental gymnastics that are fun to engage in.

Ferrari 458 Italia engineI settled for the driving experience for practical reasons.

It was something that I have always wanted to do but also something I wasn’t likely to do anytime soon. That wasn’t something I could say about the other experiences.

Don’t mistake that for me bad mouthing the other stuff because I certainly am not but the reality I live in says that there is a good chance that on a family trip we’ll all choose to go zip lining.

There is a good chance that we might go on one of the weekend adventures but driving the car, well that was one that I wanted and wasn’t sure I could make it happen anytime soon.

Between the normal expenses of family life and all that comes with it, well it seemed more challenging.

I liked the idea of learning how to fly a plane or helicopter but set those aside because the opportunity was for a lesson and I figured if I really liked it I would be upset if I couldn’t keep going so the car seemed both fun and practical.

Personalized Instruction

One of the things I appreciated most about this experience was the personalized instruction that came with it.

I kid around about being 200 some odd pounds of five-year-old but at 46 I am smart enough to recognize this car is more powerful than anything else I have ever driven, including the Camaro I drove in college.

And hell, it is substantially more car than the minivan and or small SUV I use in daily life.

So I was more than pleased to learn that the experience came with a technical briefing about the car, a couple of laps around the track and a professional driver who would be along to advise and guide me.

Jackandinstructor

Me and my instructor getting ready to head out onto the track.

Did I mention that I drove that beautiful car on a track?

That was another part of what caught my eye about this experience. There are car rental companies that provide exotic cars that you can rent but that is for normal driving and I didn’t want to take one for a spin in traffic.

I wanted to have a chance to see what they could do. I wanted to see what it means to push towards 200 miles per hour in a safe environment where I wouldn’t be concerned with police interference.

That wouldn’t be possible through the normal rental experience, but it was here.

Confession

After five laps I don’t think I can say I pushed it any faster than about 130 or so. Might have been a bit slower even, but it didn’t diminish the fun.

I wanted to go faster. I wanted to push harder and really make that car move for me, but this was my first time driving something so powerful and it was on a track that involved a few curves.

So I was cautious and a bit conservative at times.

My instructor pushed and encouraged me to move beyond my comfort zone. He was fantastic, but I just wasn’t ready to do more than I did.

But like I said it was incredibly fun and when it ended I wrestled with whether to buy more laps because I knew that each time around the track would lead to more comfort and a willingness to go faster.

I might go back and drive it again just to see what it is like a second time or I might go back and drive something else. I don’t know.

What I am certain of is that I have no problem recommending Cloud 9 Living and their services. They aren’t limited to the Los Angeles area either. Check out their website and you’ll find experiences are offered in cities throughout the United States.

If you do decide to use them don’t forget to use this promo code so that you can get a discounted rate on your experience.

XMASJACK15

BTW, if you are want to know about the car I drove feel free to check out the Ferrari 458 Italia Test Drive and Review.

Disclosure: If it wasn’t clear before let me remind you that I was compensated for my services on this post but all opinions are mine.

See you in the comments.

99 Problems & Blogging Isn’t One Of Them

writingyourstory

I picked up The Dance by Fleetwood Mac on iTunes, It is a live performance and I love it. Played it loud enough that the kids came to my room to ask me to turn it down.

Played three songs all the way through for them to hear and then agreed to put something else on.

  1. Tusk
  2. Go Your Own Way
  3. The Chain

They asked me what I wanted to hear and I told them I was in the mood for music that told a story because sometimes that helps with my writing.

  1. I Was Wrong– Social Distortion
  2. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You – Led Zeppelin
  3. Whiskey Lullaby- Brad Paisley, Alison Krauss
  4. W.O.L.D.- Harry Chapin

Reciprocity In The Blogosphere

My son asks me to tell him about how I come up with ideas based upon music and I talk about the lyrics in some of the songs I linked to and how it is easy for people to relate to those.

When he asks me if that includes me I nod my head and I tell him it absolutely does and talk about how we could spend hours going through the 10,000 or so songs I have loaded on iTunes not to mention the hundreds of cassettes, records and CDs that are here too.

“Write about what you know and be honest when you do it because that will make it easier for people to buy into what you are sharing.”

“So if you write about what you know everyone will find your blog and come read it?”

I laugh and tell him that it doesn’t work that way, especially because reciprocity is a big deal to people.

“What do you mean dad?”

“Some bloggers won’t comment on your blog if you don’t comment on theirs. Some might not ever visit if they think you don’t come by their blogs.”

“Dad, that is just sad.”

99 Problems & Blogging Isn’t One Of Them

We talk about summer break and the camp he is working at and he tells me how he doesn’t want to go to high school.

He cares less about the location and more about being nervous about going into high school in general.

I tell him to watch some of the Fleetwood Mac videos with me and give him a brief explanation about the relationships among the band members and how they were singing about their lives and talking to each other.

He asks me a few questions and I tell him to think about how hard it must have been to be in the band and how people appreciate how the band somehow made it work and still plays together to this day.

“Dad, I don’t know why you are telling me this. I am never going to have girlfriend and you are going to lose the bet.”

I laugh and tell him that nature makes me think I have already won. The bet he refers to is the $20 I put up that says he’ll kiss a girl by the time he is 20.

“My sister makes me crazy why would I let some other girl do that too.”

I look him in the eye and tell him it is not a good comparison.

“I don’t care who you are with as long as you treat each other well but I’m telling you some of this isn’t so easily controlled. Sure, you are always in control of your own behavior but nature has made us in a way that makes it far more challenging to ignore girls.

I might tease you about it occasionally, but there is no rush. You’ll find a girl when you are ready or maybe when one decides she is  ready for you.”

“Dad. I don’t like that smile and no girl is going to be able to catch me.”

I laugh and tell him to add that to the list of famous last words.

The conversation moves back to high school and we talk in general terms about the future.

“If you do what you have always done you will get what you have always gotten. That is why when you find yourself slamming into the same wall you need to change your approach.”

The Layers Of Life

I play the Harry Chapin song for him and when it is done talk a bit about how I expect he won’t relate to it as well now as he might when he is older.

We don’t talk about how I wonder if he’ll ever really appreciate the lines about FM and AM rock and for a moment I feel really old.

“Sometimes when you are writing you want a very simple story that has a beginning, middle and an end. Make it easy for the reader to follow what you are talking about. But sometimes you’ll want to add layers and depth to it. Sometimes you want to give them something meaty to chew on, the layers of life.”

“But dad doesn’t that make it harder for the reader to follow. They might misunderstand.”

I tell him there will always be people who misunderstand and or misinterpret what we say, do or write.

“People like to see what they want and what they expect. They aren’t always willing to look for more than they anticipate or consider they could be wrong.”

He nods his head and a short time later wanders off to bed.

Midnight Passes

I have Springsteen’s greatest hits playing on my headphones and my memory wanders backwards and forwards in time.

Thirty years ago I was wandering around Jerusalem with my friends but then I was the teenager who was trying to figure out what I was supposed to do with myself.

It seems impossible that so much time could have passed and yet as the Boss sings different songs my memory is jogged in different directions.

If I could go back in time what would I say to that kid. If we listened to Born To Run would we smile at the same lines or would we stare at each other in disbelief, not understanding how the other guy could have missed the message that we so clearly heard.

People hear and see what they want to hear and see.

Sometimes it is a problem and sometimes it is a good thing, all depends on what side of the street you are standing on.

The Business of Dream Fulfillment

Different Worlds

Don’t tell anyone but Circle of Life just played on iTunes and it made me a bit teary eyed. Look at the picture above and you’ll see a good example of the two different worlds the kids and I are wandering through now.

The top shot is from the Stockyards in Fort Worth and the bottom is from a Dodger game they just went to…without me. Well, I had a ticket but the commute from Texas to LA was a bit long so I had to pass on this one.

It won’t be the only game they ever go to, we have gone together and we will do so again, but sometimes the absence of those you care about is palpable.

The Right Choices Aren’t Always Easy

Don’t get me wrong, I made the right choice coming here. It is where work took me and I would do it again without hesitation.

It was the right move for my family and the separation is a temporary thing but sometimes the little things matter. My kids got to run the bases at that Dodger game and I didn’t get to be a part of it.

I think about it and remember my first love and smile.

That wasn’t something that I was offered as a kid and I would have definitely tried to join them in running for no other reason than just because.

Moments like this are the kind of things that businesses and brands should focus upon because sometimes it is the little things that matter.

The Business of Dream Fulfillment

I look at it and wonder if there is a way to start a business of dream fulfillment. I wouldn’t be the first and I probably wouldn’t be the last to do something like this but there is a sense of excitement and interest on my part that drives me.

It is a service oriented business that I imagine would bring a lot of smiles to people, sort of a real life Fantasy Island.

There has to be a certain amount of joy that comes from helping people live their dreams. Has to be some satisfaction that comes from it, don’t you think.

And since I am thinking out loud wouldn’t it be nice if more businesses approached their work as being dream fulfillment. Wouldn’t that drive customer service in a different fashion than now.

Dreams and Choices

Maybe dreams and choices are tied into why I love to write and why one day I hope to make my living from writing stories. Maybe it is because writing helps because you aren’t limited by anything other than imagination.

I could give you ten thousand words about why I could have been a contender and how I might have made it as a pro athlete and another ten thousand for why reality says I probably wouldn’t have.

And then I could give you another two hundred thousand about the choices we make and how much influence we have over our lives and our destinies.

But I am not going to do that now.

Instead I am going to go eat lunch and think about dream fulfillment and how it applies to business because there is opportunity there and life is about the choices we make related to the opportunities we create for ourselves.