Birthday Thank You

Thank you everyone for all the birthday wishes. I had the pleasure of spending my day with my lovely wife and nutball kid and couldn’t ask for a better day. Well, maybe a tad less fussiness from mini-me, but you all know I love him endlessly.

I sit here today grateful for the year behind. A year with many new friendships, opportunities, challenges, and frustrations, and I am blessed by every step of the journey. Many of you played a part in this, and I am humbled by the value you bring to my life. A large number of my friends on Facebook were not friends last year at this time, but I am glad that our paths have connected and that you have joined the fabric of my life. Thank you sincerely for helping me on my journey.

Looking forward, I see a year ahead that starts with mystery. I see the opportunity to forge new paths, seek fresh challenges, and grow in new directions. As the sun sets on the first day of year 44, I honestly say that I do not know where my path lies ahead. I know where I think I want to go, and yet I know that I seldom end up where I think I want. Maybe that’s the point- we do not know what will happen in the next year. Not knowing is the excitement of possibility, but also the surrender that is necessary. We have little control in our lives. All I do know is that I can control who I will be when I get there. Who we are is more important than what we do; if we are who we need to be, then we will do what we need to do. I believe The greatness of tomorrow will be built on the foundation that has been laid before today, and I know my foundation is true, faithful, and enduring.

And since this is my birthday, I want to give you my birthday wish- that each of you love as much as you can, as many as you can, and as often as you can. Think quality, quantity, and frequency. Love selflessly and love heartfully. Love earnestly and love sincerely. Love like it’s important- because it is.

To quote from the movie Moulin Rouge, “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

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What I want to hear Mitt Romney say

We’ve heard a lot of crazy talk the past week about health care. Sadly, I’m disappointed that with an opportunity to end the campaign now and make the election a formality, the Republicans continue to posture and postulate and give up an opportunity to stand for something and take the high road. They could have won the election in the last 7 days by claiming the middle of the road. Not the road that funds campaigns- the road that votes and decides campaigns.

With that said, here is what I wanted to hear Mitt Romney say:

“My fellow Americans. Now that the dust has settled on the Health Care decision, I want to share with you a new vision. In my vision, we move to a new dialogue in this election season.

While we have engaged in verbal efforts to decry the decision, I want to point out some facts. The health care idea passed by Congress and validated by the Court was born, not in a Democratic White House, but born in a Republican thoughts and ideals. Ideals first introduced in a 1989 book, “A National Health System for America” by Stuart Butler and Edmund Haislmaie for the Heritage Foundation, a Republican think tank. It was our idea. The Heritage Foundation has helped shape our conservative agenda, the same minds behind Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America. The same minds behind many of the conservative agendas that date back to the Reagan administration. While we do not support some of the portions of the Affordable Care Act, it’s genesis, it’s structure, and it’s core values in its foundation are the ideas of our conservative party. We need to stop deriding this legislation and claim our rightful ownership of its creation.

As governor in Massachusetts, I enacted this idea and we successfully covered 99% of the citizens of our state. I took this conservative agenda, implemented it successfully- so successfully that Massachusetts served as the role model during the debates that led to this legislation. It was my leadership that led the way for national change. It was my leadership from which this idea sprang up and was first passed into law.

Today I pledge to you that not only will I stop the negative referring to the ACA as “Obamacare”, I will proudly claim ownership of the ideals. I will stop the rhetoric of hate and instead embrace an idea so successful in my state that it has been embraced and enacted for all 50.

Our idea was so successful that the Democrats adopted it, enacted it, and now take credit for it. My question for America is this: do you want to elect those who take our ideas and agendas and claim them as their own, or do you want to elect the leaders who created, implemented, and first enacted legislation. Republican need to unite and stop distancing ourselves from health care; while we will fine tune some details when elected, we will stand before you today and claim ownership on this issue. And I challenge America today: do you want to elect the party who has the ideas and ideals that are so successful that our opponents take them and claim them as their own? Or do you want the party who takes our concepts and claims them as originals?

Thank you American people”

Personal Note: I believe America will vote for the candidate that takes the high road, proudly stands by his convictions and record, and demonstrates leadership that is transparent, sincere, and self-assured. I also believe that we are more likely to witness an invasion by killer fairies with laser bombs than see either candidate express candor and transparency in their convictions.

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The most rambling blog post ever

It’s ironic and humbling that at your moment of greatest frustration you can also reach your moment of sincerest clarity. I suspect it’s because the internal dialogue is too weary to lie to yourself or tell yourself what you want to hear. The layer between painful honesty and perceived reality is stripped away and what you have is only truth. But it’s that truth that we need to reach before we can move past frustration and into growth.

For me, the frustration has been the professional pursuit of the wrong career.  Oh, it’s not a wrong career- it’s just my wrong career.  I have invested the past five years in the pursuit of being a Department Manager- 8- 10 teams, 250- 300 employees.  I don’t believe my pursuit is pure folly; I have done it well and have the accomplishments to show for it.  But I’ve also had this nagging voice of unhappiness in the pursuit.  I love the adrenaline rush, the stress of April, the passion that is scaling the mountain once again.  There are a multitude of rewards- I love the people.  New managers, full of energy and heart, who have the desire to work and push and learn and grow- they are a blessing.  The employees that show up, day in and day out, eight, ten, and twelve hours at a time- they are a blessing.  Believe me when I say that if the American public saw the dedication, determination, and results put forth by 95% of my employees, you would be proud of them. And as for the other 5%, every office has them.  Every group has them.  While they present a challenge, they aren’t why we do what we do.

There are other rewards.  Monetary of course, but even money rings empty over time.  It’s never enough, it’s never as much as the other guy, and it becomes more important than it should be.  There’s also the reward of importance- being involved in decisions, being a part of the process other than just following the process.

But what I’ve learned today when I peeled back they layer and hit truth is that and the end of the day what I’ve been doing- the direction I’ve been going- does not make me happy.  I enjoy some of it, I enjoy a lot of it, but I’m not happy doing it.  I love many of the people I do it with, including my peers and managers.  I know I do it well.  I do it better than some, but I aside from an adrenaline rush I don’t get joy out of it. It is a constant battle.  It’s a war between between being with the “in-crowd” and the out crowd; it’s constant competition based on subjective factors; it’s a series of humbling events that are seldom worth the end reward.

I found myself recently at the corner of hubris and desperation.  If you know of a more dangerous corner, please let me know so that I can stay away.  At that corner I made a decision- I laid down my cards and called the dealers hand.  While I got a brief reprieve, it turns out I still lost the hand.  While a setback isn’t what defines us, sadly it was the last hand I had to play at the table.  I knew it at the time, which is why I pushed all my chips to the center.  Turns out I lost- a couple people played their way to a better hand.  And though I lick my wounds and walk away, the truth is that I don’t know why I was playing.  As I have learned five days later when the truth was finally reached, what I was pursuing wasn’t bringing me joy.

I revisit right now a quote from former Pittsburg Steeler coach Chuck Noll that says

“it’s better to invest yourself in something you can put your heart into rather than earning a living just to earn a living. …. A career doesn’t define who you are; it’s simply what you do. Who you are is defined by something much deeper.”

I’ve realized that the path I have been on is a living just to earn a living.  While I may be talented, it isn’t my talent.  It may use some of my skills, but it doesn’t fulfill me with a passion.  While I love inspiring new leaders, I do not feel inspired.  When you use phrases like “collective blindness” to describe your peers and are frustrated by a system that rewards safety and tradition when you long for innovation and risk, you know you may have been strayed too far off the path.  The path to professional happiness is doing something you enjoy doing to the best of your abilities and being acknowledged and rewarded for your talents.

Before I stray to far from that last sentence, I want to add throughout all the struggles and challenges and humility I’ve experienced professionally, I have been blessed to supervise some of the most talented managers I have even known.  Not perfect by any means, but talented.  I have been fortunate to inspire some to heights they never imagined, challenged some to grown in ways they’ve only dreamed, and in a couple cases achieved results that even I did not imagine.  They truly enjoy doing what they do, and I grateful for the opportunity to reward and acknowledge them as often as I could.

So what do I do next?  Perceived reality is stripped away, the path was without reward, and I’ve landed in the truth that it does not bring me joy.  What is the next step on this journey?

The good news is that I have talents.  And I am malleable.  And I use words like “malleable”.  (To digress just a bit- good language skills are a blessing.  A good vocabulary is something that I believe should never be hindered or apologized).  I am able to adapt and change.  The best part of life is that I am yet fully formed.  I am not set in my ways- I can hurt and heal.  Fall and stand.  Fail and learn.  As I sit here in thought, the wheels of energy are churning my mind towards a new direction.  What’s great is that the opportunity is there and available, and I have heart and desire to pursue it.

When you hit bottom, the only direction to look is up.  And I’d rather by aware and looking up than blind and looking down.

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Breanne

Breanne is a special woman in my life. What’s funny is that she has been special for over a year, and yet I just learned her name yesterday. I feel ashamed that I didn’t know it before- that I didn’t ever think to ask. It’s one of those cases where you see someone every day and are friendly and familiar… and yet have never been introduced or taken the chance to meet.

But many days start with a spring in my step because of Breanne. I feel good when I see her; I feel real joy when I see her. We don’t talk- we’ve never exchanged a word until yesterday. And yet she has a huge impact on my day.

Every morning at 6:10am I pull into the parking lot at work, stop in front of an orange cone, hold up my ID, and Breanne appears and let’s me in. If that was it, there would be nothing to write. But she does one more thing- she smiles. Not a polite smile, not a flirtatious smile. It’s not a “smile for the customers” smile. It’s not forced. It’s a genuine smile- friendliness from the inside out.

Hers is the first face I see in the morning, and she smiles. The first face I see smiles at me. It sets the tone for my entire day.

She’s at work, dressed in uniform, sitting in a cold guard shack in the dark waiting for me and my cohorts. And she smiles. She doesn’t have to. I doubt there’s a smile bonus. I always smile back, and while I doubt I’m the only one, I’m sure it’s not unanimously reciprocated.

Lately she hasn’t been out there every day. I’m assuming they rotate duties, but to me that makes some mornings better than others. Her peers aren’t unfriendly, but they act like, well, like I would if I was standing outside in the cold dark at 6:15am moving an orange cone back and forth. Not much to smile about. I can honestly say I wouldn’t likely be smiling. But that’s what makes Breanne special just that much more.

This story leaves me with two thoughts. First, is there anybody that has me as the first person they see, and how do I make them feel? Do I smile a smile that starts their day right?

And second, do we take enough time to appreciate the regulars in our life that make everything a little better? Do we thank the guy behind the counter or the girl at the register? The people who do the little things that set the tone for our day. The first “good morning” in the office. For those of us out the door before the family wakes, the kindness of strangers can sometimes determine the course of our day.

Yesterday I asked Breanne her name and thanked her for her smile and for starting my day right. I’m glad I took the moment to tell her that her simple gesture means a lot to me and that I’m grateful for what she does. Not just her job, but her smile.

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Ian’s Greatest Hits- 2011

Another year is fading into memory and this is a good time to reflect on the joys of 2011.  With the assistance of Facebook, I have captured the Top Ten Ian moments on 2011.  Sit back and enjoy .

 

10.

“Ian’s artistic raison d’être involving Marvel Heroes assisting in the Old Testament.”

Ian loves art.  He can spend days drawing and coloring.  At one point this year, he began inserting Marvel Super Heroes into the Old Testament.  We got to see Captain America give an assist to Noah in getting the animals on the ark

Nothing says “Happy Birthday” quite like Captain America loading the ark.  Who knew that the flood rained down in streams of orange, purple, and green?

We also saw Hawkeye helping Adam and Eve.

If only Hawkeye had got there a minute earlier, the world would be a different place.  Alas, it’s not meant to be.

 

9.

Ian’s after school quote of the day: while working on a Rubik’s cube, he says, “I wish I was a man of science.”

Did my son turn into Jack Shepard?   Or is he the smoke monster….. hmmmm…..

 

8.

“Ian is watching Batman cartoons with the captions on so that he can read along. Why does he continue to freak me out!!??”

Our tax dollars are wasted on this one.  Why do we need a teacher to teach him to read? He just needs some DVDs and closed captioning.  Sadly, 2011 started with him unable to read, and it ends with us having to answer questions about every advertisement (“Daddy, do you drink Bud Light?”) and every news story.  Life was simpler when he couldn’t make sense of everything around him.

 

7.

Daddy- “Ian, why are you running?”

Ian- “You said we need to run to tennis.”

Daddy- “You don’t need to actually run. That was a metaphor.”

Ian- “What’s a metaphor?”

Daddy- “It’s two meta-two’s.”

Ian- “Oh. That makes sense.””

I posted along with this the comment “The best part of parenting is that I always get to be Groucho, and my boy is always Chico.”  That statement still rings true, but I fear as time moves forward he will become Groucho and I’ll turn into Grouch-O.

 

6.

We stop in Kettlemen City at Carls Jr on our way to Pismo, and we are getting lunch to go. He says, “How are we going to eat in the car?? Oh, that’s right- mad skills.”

Mad skills, my boy.  Plus a sincere lack of social graces, a willingness to conform to our “hurry, hurry, go, go” society, and an overwhelming fear of spending more time then necessary in Kettlemen City.

 

5.

This morning, Ian apologized for diapers. He’s sorry we had to “do all of that.”

He drives me crazy at times.  But he has such a good heart.

 

4.

“Ian is singing over and over “he ate my heart, he ate ate ate my heart”. I finally asked him what it was, and he says “Lady Gaga”. I instantly realize my parenting skills are SEVERELY lacking.”

Followed soon by the post: “I tried introducing Ian to The Rolling Stones. After a couple songs, he asks, “can I go clean my room?” Well, THAT went well!!”

I did eventually get sone Stones in the iPod, and I’ve introduced him to classic Cheap Trick, so I feel I’m making headway going into 2012 to repair the Gaga gaffe.

 

3.

When Ian leaves a note for Mama about wrapping paper, but spells “wrapping” without the “w” and with only one “p”- it has a VERY different meaning.”

This one generated more verbal comments than any other post.  I think I made everyone work to decipher this one, but the pay off was very worth it.

Phonetically, this boy is good.  But our language is a fickle monster that can’t be tamed.

 

2.

Ian’s super hero name is the Fantastic Pancake. He pours syrup all over himself so the bullets stick to him.

Two words, seemingly unrelated, joined together off the top of his head.  I love his creativity.  And he made Shannan Watkin’s day when he told her that.

 

And number 1 Ian moment for 2011:

“Ian passes gas

Randi asks, “What do you say?”

Ian: “Thank you.”

Apparently we are excellent parents.”

I don’t know if we’re excellent parents, or just lucky.  But this kid is a crack up.

 

 

And I must add the honorable mention list:

  • “Ian hits the ball over the fence and shouts, “I hit a homer!!”. Unfortunately, the game is tennis.”
  • “Ian is galloping through the house. Randi asks, “What are you doing?” he replies, “galloping”.”
  • Ian is reading the newspaper- specifically, about the events in Pakistan last weekend. It is hysterical to hear him read global news in a six-year old voice.
  • “Ian’s question of the day- “is Santa gonna die soon?””
  • “Ian just told me that some mornings he fakes a cough so he can try and stay home from school. He obviously NEEDS to go to school because that was a really DUMB thing to tell me.”
  • “Ian is on the tennis court shouting “Peace, People!!!”. I’m simultaneously horrified, amused, and proud. Such creativity.”
  • “‎”Mom. Who is the Jackson 5?””
  • “On Ian’s sixth trip to the bathroom, I ask him if he’s pregnant. He says, “what’s pregnant?” 

Oh- never mind.”
  • Ian is playing on the computer and just asked for my card number. After investigating, he wanted to spend $149.95 on gold coins for his Super Hero Squad game.”
  • “Ian’s school learning of the day: “It wasn’t like periods and stuff, it was punctuation.””
  • “Ian is helping me with his school paperwork. Right now, he is questioning his US citizenship. This can’t be a good sign.”
  • After dinner and 30 minutes, Randi tells Ian he can go ahead and go swimming. Ian then runs and jumps off the diving board- without his floaty vest. The good news is he can swim. The bad news is Randi’s heart is still beating slightly irregular.
  • Ian just recited the Green Lantern pledge from memory. He memorized it by himself. I’m ten different shades of proud.
  • When I was a kid, we would tell our friends, “My dad can beat up your dad”. Today Ian tells me that his five-year-old friend Trenton can beat ME up. What in the world???”
  • Ian doesn’t know what “mercy” means, but he knows what “obnoxious” is. I am so proud.”
  • “Ian says, “good night. See you tomorrow Brother.”
  • Ian says, “You know what would be funny? What if it was hot in April- then we could go swimming at April’s in April”. He then laughed for five minutes.
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My plan

Here is my plan for solving the country’s debt situation.

The plan is pretty simple. It’s total fairy tale stuff and makes a lot of sense to me. So here we go.

First, divide Congress into two groups. For the sake of clarity, we’ll call one group “Democrats” and the other group “Republicans”. Next, give each group an assignment, which is to come up with five ways the other group could save 500 billion dollars. Just five- no more, no less. Five spending targets, plans, schemes, scenarios- however you want to label it. Each of the five must save 500 billion dollars individually- there’s no combining. You can’t say that idea 1 saves 200 billion and idea 2 saves 300 billion- each idea alone saves 500 billion.

They start this exercise on Monday at 8:00am. By the end of the day Tuesday, they have a list of five for the other side. We don’t need to drag this out. They can use the cliff notes from the previous Sunday’s news shows if they need a reference. I doubt it will be necessary- if our legislators excel at anything, it’s point the finger at the other party.

Wednesday morning, 8:00am, they exchange lists. The Republicans see the five ideas the Democrats would like to see the five separate items that if implemented would save 500 billion dollars, and vice verse. Each party goes their own way and locks themselves in a room. They must stay in the locked room. No phone calls to supporters, no influence from PAC’s, no dipping the toe in the cesspool of public opinion.

Each party by 5:00pm that day needs to select one- and only one- from the list of five that they will agree to implement. The previous exercise was point the finger at the other side; this part is now looking in the mirror. Each party will have to save 500 billion- each party will bear an equal weight of responsibility. They get choices, get to determine who on their side will sacrifice and how much they will sacrifice. They know that none of the five are ideal, but they know going in that they will have to lose something- and that the other side will lose something as well.

When they emerge at the end of the day Wednesday, they will each carry equal weight in reviving this country; each bear equal weight of the burden inflicted on their constituency; each will have had available options and weighed them carefully before selecting the burden their party carries.

Equal responsibility and accountability. That’s just crazy talk.

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What I’m thankful for….

Thankful.  Webster’s defines “thankful” as conscious of benefit received .  Well pleased. Glad. Joyful. Satisfied.

I have been touched by two friends on Facebook who have daily posted what they are thankful for this month.  I drove to work to day thinking about how cool that is and asked, “What am I thankful for?”  “Who am I thankful for?”  I could give shout outs to the family and friends, but why be a copy cat?  I wanted to do something different.

So much of my life has been intertwined with music, so I decided to list my thanks as a music homage.  My life has been defined by my love of music.  They are my memories, my signposts on the road, the soundtrack on the journey.  It’s the smile on my face when I hear a song and think of someone or something special, a moment in time, or a time with many moments.

So with that in mind, what I’m thankful for:

  • I am thankful for my earliest memory of getting busted for jumping on the bed while singing “Bare Necessities
  • I am thankful that my nursery rhymes included “MTA”, “A’Soalin”, and “Rock Around The Clock”.
  • I am thankful for Aunt Carmen’s Ford Pinto Hatchback with the 8-track player playing the Carpenters
  • I am thankful for the Gatlin Brothers “All the Gold in California” that played on the radio EVERY SINGLE MORNING while getting ready for school
  • I am thankful that I can sing all the words to “The Gambler” if I have to; and I’m thankful that I don’t have to
  • I am thankful for the jukebox that played “Diana” by Paul Anka, “Runaway” by Del Shannon”, and “Twist and Shout” by The Beatles, and much more
  • I’m thankful that Zody’s on Blackstone and Barstow didn’t have the soundtrack to the Peter Frampton/ Bee-Gee’s Movie “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band”.  And I’m thankful they did have a Beatles LP by the same name
  • I am thankful for Olivia Newton John’s “Physical“, which is best heard coming through the wall from the room next to mine.  And yet, I’m surprisingly not thankful for “Push It” by Salt-n-Pepa coming through the same wall
  • I am thankful for the Fresno State Music Library that let my mother check out dozens of records for me and exposed me to Bob Dylan and much, much more
  • I am thankful for the years of reading Rolling Stone and learning that music is more than sound, more than entertainment, that it is artistic, poetic, spiritual, and socially aware
  • I am thankful for endless lunchtime debates about whether the Scorpions “World Wide Live” or Iron Maiden’s “Live After Death” was a better album (I’m still going with Maiden)
  • I’m thankful that Dinosaur Jr introduced me to the joy of taking a song, imploding it, and reconstructing it to something similar but unique
  • I am thankful for meeting Tommy Stinson of The Replacements behind the Satellite Student Union at Fresno State and not asking for an autograph
  • I am thankful that I spent seven years working in the stewpot of popular music, and that the sacrifice for selling Kenny G and Vanilla Ice to the unsuspecting masses was mitigated by exposure to the hundreds of artists whose music mattered.  I am thankful that there’s more good music than bad (it’s just that the bad stinks louder)
  • I am thankful for this:

    and that I was watching when everything changed 
  • I am thankful that watching Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” led to a love of Gershwin, which led to a love of Sinatra, and which led to a love of Jazz
  • I am thankful that I had the opportunity to see Booker T & the MG’s and feel the heat and sound waves from the Hammond B3 organ in person
  • I’m thankful that I can enjoy a 1920’s field recording, a 1960’s rhythm & blues song, a 1970’s rock anthem, and a 2011 alt-country song and see the line of connectedness through it all
  • I am thankful for “When It’s Sleepytime Down South“, originally by Louis Armstrong, interpreted by Wynton Marsalis, and indelibly etched into my brain.  I am thankful for the Pandora’s Box that song opened and the lifetime love of jazz that followed
  • I am thankful for three years working for a surf guitar player and the days at work spent listening to Dick Dale, The Mermen, and Reverend Horton Heat
  • I am thankful that the Big Red Car bought me a few minutes of peace on a daily basis for years, and that it never grew old
  • I am thankful that every time I think I have heard it all, someone like ELEW comes along and explodes my convictions and challenges both my mind and ears
  • I am thankful that at age six my boy appreciates Eddie Van Halen’s guitar solo in “Beat It” as much as I did in the 80’s
  • I am thankful that tomorrow morning I’ll have another song stuck in my head, that it will be different than the one today, and that it will bring me joy.
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