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July 1, 2015

I Love it When I’m Wrong

I love it when I’m wrong, it’s one of my favorite phrases… and today… I was wrong. In being so, I also learned something about myself, reflection, and that (sometimes lost) art my parents taught me of thinking before you speak.

A few days ago EL James (author of 50 Shades of Grey) decided to hold a Twitter Q&A… this was a disaster. As a non-fan of the movie (I admit I didn’t read much the book (I didn’t get far before the writing turned me off)… but have read lots about it if that counts for anything), I thought the Twitter roast was hilarious and started sharing the “good times” with some friends (read: sharing the best Twitter slams for us to mutually titter and cackle about). That’s what I was doing when I came across this one:

It was (and if I’m being honest *is*) hilarious, and I was soon zipping it around to friends. But then, I read a bit more of @avestal’s Twitter feed (which you should check out… he’s funny and has his head on right) and came upon this (it’s a feed so you have to read it from the bottom up… I’m too lazy to have reshuffled it for you… sorry):

And that’s when I had my personal “oh shit” moment. You see, Andrew (sorry if that is too personal, Andrew, we don’t really know each other after all) is dead on with his assessment of “But–maybe don’t punch.” I constantly preach about positivity and treating others with respect… and here I was glorifying the very public flogging of someone who had put herself out there, taken a chance and written her book. I’m not saying for a second my opinion of the movie (or book, what few words of it I read) has changed… but there is no need for me to be personally bashing the woman who wrote it (or glorifying anyone else for doing it).

Mr. Vestal acquitted himself far better than I did in this whole thing and I can’t undo the sharing I’ve already done; however, I can say I learned from (and hopefully will be better because of) it and for that I’m thankful.

April 27, 2015

Floyd Mayweather is my “Existential Crisis” (TM)

It’s not easy (metaphorically or literally) to stick a knife in your own back… but that’s kind of what I’m doing here. At least I’m doing it with eyes wide open I guess. Because, try as I might, I can’t root for Manny Pacquiao in the upcoming “fight of the century” (all 15 years of it).

Let me clarify, every time I sit down and think it through, intellectually, I’m all in for Manny. it’s an easy decision that I am unwavering on. However, and by contrast, every time I get into an emotional discussion or get hit with my “first gut instinct” for some ridiculous reason, I find myself compelled to root for Mayweather.

It. Is. Infuriating!!!

In case you are not up on boxing and it’s “celebrities,” I’ll let you know why this conundrum exists (for me). Floyd Mayweather is a dick (and I say that with full knowledge that if we ever met in a dark alley… I’m the one not coming out in one piece) who has been convicted of violent crimes (including domestic violence charges multiple times) five times. Manny Pacquiao… well… one time he got his assets frozen for tax evasion… for like a day… until he proved he paid them and all was returned to normal. Other than that, by all reports he’s a stand-up guy as far as I know (including serving as a member of the House of Representatives in the Philippines.

Why?????????

It goes against everything I believe in, everything I preach, everything I believe I am. I’ve ranted about Brock Lesnar and his idiotic “go home and lay on my wife” blurt-o-neanderthal; Ray Rice and the cold awful reality of a man who can stand over his fiancee like that after knocking her out… and so on and so forth. But I just can’t get my inner compass moving away from Mayweather… and I don’t know why.

Except, maybe I do. Maybe it’s because, somewhere inside me I’m a little more “human” than I’d like to believe. Floyd “Money” Mayweather, should he win this fight (not so much should he lose), will go down as one of the all-time greatest boxers in history. His style is a manifestation of everything I try to coach (and emulate) in my sporting life (specifically the importance of mechanics, discipline, defense over offense, technique, etc. etc. etc. … in short fundamentals). And I think in some subconscious way, I want to be a(n ancillary, to be sure) part of that history.

It’s kind of embarrassing if it’s true because it’s something I try to steel myself against. Worse though, it’s scary. If I can’t control my emotions on an issue this obviously in my wheelhouse, what else am I reacting to (without the benefit of intellectual review) and acting upon. I like to think of myself as measured, and (at the risk of sounding braggartly) “good.” By that I mean I try to do the right thing when presented with “good” and “bad” options. But, in this case (at least out of the gate), I’m clearly not… and that vexes me.

I suppose I should be a little pleased that a window for potential personal growth has opened up, and perhaps over time I will be. But for now I’m busy being terrified at the monster that appears to dwell within me. It’s not a full-fledged “chill-while-the-elevator-descends-with-my-knocked-out-girl-friend-lying-at-my-feet” dark overlord of a monster… but it’s not a cute little minion either.

minion

I think most people have existential crisis’s (crisisi??) because they don’t feel like they belong to anything… for most of my life (when) I’ve had them (it’s been) because I felt like I did, and it wasn’t something I wanted to be a part of. Floyd “Money” Mayweather (completely absent of intent, of course) seems to be keeping that streak in tact for me. I react, therefore I am… but I also think and, as such, might not be. or something like that.

I’m certainly not going to watch the fight (and put money into the pocket of a serial domestic violence offender), but I suspect I’ll check out the results (maybe even follow the progress of the fight online) just to figure out who wins the battle-for-Soren’s-soul, and whether, ultimately, I “am,” or “am not” …

March 6, 2015

Why I love “The Dress”

Yeah, I said it. I’m not sick, annoyed, confused, or tired of “The Dress” and it’s blue, orange, white, black, gold… purple, pink, green… whatever… hues. It’s not a waste of time, nor an extravagant distraction of the first world order, and here’s why. Because, to put it simply, it has made people think.

Today I saw this:

Sorry “time wasting” apologists… that is not a frivolous message; and it resonates with just about everyone with an internet connection and a pulse.

Not enough for you, how about science:

“These receptors, called melanopsin, independently gauge the amount of blue or yellow incoming light, and route this information to parts of the brain involved in emotions and the regulation of the circadian rhythm.”

Still not your bag… okay how about some deeper (there-is-no-spoon’ish) introspective thinking:

All is conditioning. All is social construction, thought forms, carefully built identities, established “facts” that aren’t really facts but merely mutually agreed-upon illusions we greedily suck down like wine.

Consciousness swallows all labels, spits them back out as origami ducks nowhere near in a row.

Which leads to this very interesting, contemporary and in some ways ironic discussion on the absence of moral facts (vs opinions) in our children’s perceptions of today’s society.

I could fill countless lines of blog space with links to fascinating and educational conversations about, or uses of, “the dress” (none of which, by the way, spend any time arguing about which color it is; those arguments seem to be being made by the same people who think facebook and twitter are all about pictures of burnt peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and other wayward “this is my lunch” postings).

So, with apologies to those (very specifically some members of my family) who find “The Dress” to be some sort of productivity succubus bent on destroying the last vestiges of “time well spent;” I’m glad this little debate went viral, I’m glad we are able to recognize – if only briefly – that we all see things through a different lens, and that one view is not necessarily the right or only perspective on things.

We can all learn a something from that little rainbow of a dress.. as long as we don’t waste too much time arguing about it.

August 2, 2014

What’s the opposite of a bucket list? #InTheCan

Filed under: A life worth living,Just life — Tags: , , — sbj @ 5:01 am

I thought it might be nice to backup the “bucket list” train for a bit and get on the gratitude/appreciation express for a minute. It’s not that I don’t like having goals or that I don’t want to do cool things.. I just don’t want to have a list of things I want to do sitting around waiting to be crossed off. I moreso just want to do cool stuff until I can’t do things anymore (cause I’m dead). If I were to make a bucket list, I think that’s all that would be on it… “do cool things until I can’t do them anymore.” If I did have a second item on the list, it would probably be “share those things with others, especially the people that I love.” That would be it though… three or more is just piling on! ;)

But I digress…

What I’d like to do today is tell a few (short/abreviated) stories, and spend some time reflecting gratefully on some of the opportunities I have had. So without delay, a partial glimpse into my (to borrow from the movie industry) “in the can” list, in my life thus far, I have:

  • Run the New York Marathon. I’ve actually run a couple of marathons, but only New York was completed while languishing through a hideous case of food poisoning (or, more precisely, while suffering from an allergic reaction to unwittingly eating shellfish the night before). Naturally I recall that part of the experience quite vividly, however more clear in my memory is 2 million people lining the streets… rooting… for me (which is exactly what it felt like, that they were all there for me… it’s hard to explain, and surreal to experience). It was amazing, there were bands playing, families screaming in support, and – in some of the poorest neighborhoods of Gotham – children holding out their trick or treat bags for runners to have a snack along the way.
  • Learned survival and safety techniques… on a glacier. One of the most exhilarating (and flat out scary things I have ever done was learning how to self-arrest on a sheet of ice. From bagging multiple peaks to rappelling down cliff faces into caves (where we subsequently spent the night) there were plenty of amazing experiences on my Outward Bound trip, but nothing is quite like rocketing down the face of a glacier, on your back, head first, with the knowledge that if you fail to stop yourself you will crash into a mini-mountain of rocks at the bottom. As you are reading this now, clearly, I managed to properly apply the breaks… thanks Outward Bound instructors!!!
  • Participated in collegiate athletics. Long before I laced up a competitive high-top, I ran college cross country. What a change from high school. The first week of training I took bloody socks off my feet almost every day. I ran harder, faster and simply better than I ever had in my life… and still was a middle of the pack runner (until I injured my foot… then I wasn’t even that). The jump from high school to college competition was staggering, and something that absolutely changed my life. You never know what you can do until you push yourself beyond what you previously thought was impossible. Once you do that, however, you truly begin to believe that you can do anything.
  • Started a family. Yep it sounds cliche, but there is nothing in the world like having and raising children. My kids are the best thing I have ever done, or will do. There is nothing that I can achieve that will come close and, being completely frank, if you’ve had children and your life isn’t complete, you and I have a different standard for satisfaction (which doesn’t mean your’s is wrong… it is just different than mine). My children are a big part of why I don’t need or want a “bucket list”.. my bucket is – for all intents and purposes – already full, from them alone.
  • Had (and won) a duel over a girl I had just met. Okay, the “swords” were straw beach mats and the “duel” was really just deciding who was going to ride with her… but none of that is the point. We dodged, parried, and thrusted all over the Santa Monica pier making a spectacle (or in some peoples opinions, probably a body part) out of ourselves and were completely alive and in the moment. It may not seem like a big deal, but there are certain times in life when you realize you are really alive. It’s not worth being alive if you ain’t living!

That’s it for now. I might do more later, but for now five mini-stories feels about right. What about you… what stories/adventures do you have #InTheCan

August 3, 2013

What an unconditional apology looks like…

Filed under: Just life,Observations — Tags: , , , — sbj @ 10:26 am

Despite Googles best efforts to make this impossible, I am running out of space in my Gmail inbox and, as such am deleting old emails. Which is where I found this:

Usually when I apologize there is at least some aspect of that apology that I do not mean sincerely; but rather I simply say to keep the peace or to absorb your portion of the blame so that we can move on amicably. This is no such apology. There is nothing justifiable or or redeeming in any of my actions. You did not start, contribute to or escalate the situation, and yet in the face of my disgusting impersonation of pure evil, instead maintained a respectful and civil demeanor. Your quality of character, in stark contrast to mine at the moment, is unimpeachable.

Not that I deserve any quarter from your – as yet imperceptible – scorn, but rather so that you can at least have the knowledge – or perhaps take some comfort in the fact – that you have not completely wasted your investment in our friendship; I will explain why and how my grotesque actions do not reconcile with my usual attempts at more affable comportment…

I’d like to say, at this point, I said “stop… you had me at affable comportment” but of course this was an email so I lacked the ability to interrupt… plus I’d be lying if I said I thought of it at the time.

From there the author went on to describe what they were thinking and how those thoughts translated into their actions (those details are completely unimportant and astonishingly uninteresting given their introduction. it is amazing how trivial the things that seem to be devastating to our world can appear in retrospect.). The apology, of course, was accepted and the relationship maintained… at least until the authors recent passing… a transgression I am still working on forgiving…

As with so many other things that I could learn from my friends and family, this friend certainly demonstrates some acumen in an area in which I could stand some improvement. Most of my apologies take on a form similar this:

oops

I’m glad I saved this email (and am continuing to do so)… with any luck I’ll learn from it and become a better person for knowing my now departed friend (who, I should point out, wrote the most fantastic thank you notes in history as well).

I’d like to add a pithy wrap up one liner… but it’s 4:22 am… so I’m just going to say good night and try to fall asleep…

Good night :)

July 12, 2012

Girls, Girls, Girls!!! (Part 1)

Filed under: Just life,Observations — Tags: , , , — sbj @ 5:09 pm

I have two things I want to write about on this topic, and I can’t decide which to do, so I’m just going to do them both separately, in no particular order.

This one is shorter, so it goes first.

I saw this picture today on Pinterest:

It had the caption “Fact: Bella Swan is not a role model for girls.”

Now, based on my limited exposure to the Twilight saga, I kind of agree with the caption. However, given the context of the picture, I do not think I agree or support what they are trying to say.

First of all, while I have nothing MORE against a woman leading an army, fighting a dark lord, or starting a rebellion than I do a guy doing these things, I do question whether any of them (or any male counterparts out there) are really the kind of role models I want my children to emulate. These are things that a person, in the wrong place at the wrong time, might do out of necessity; but there’s nothing there that I would want for my children in a peaceful, civilized world.

Perhaps if they had chosen Elizabeth Blackwell, Harriet Tubman, or Marie Curie (I could go on, but you get the idea, real women that did real things in the face or real adversity) I’d be more inspired.

My bigger point, though, is that there is nothing wrong with getting married… in fact its quite cool. It’s cool for men, it’s cool for women, its cool for everyone (if you’re into that sort of thing… if not, being single is just as cool for you). There is absolutely nothing wrong with “winding up married.”

I’d be a “house husband” in a New York minute, and be damn proud of what I did day in and day out. I cannot imagine anything more important than crafting members of the next generation. Frankly, I think if more people prioritized that and stopped imagining themselves leading fictional rebellions the world would be a better place.

I agree that a world where women are relegated to marriage, child rearing, etc. alone is an affront to women, a massive disservice to humanity, and a backsliding continuation of a horrifically misguided past; and I absolutely love seeing (at least parts of) humanity (all to slowly) moving toward more a more balanced society with women as CEO’s, legitimate Presidential candidates, and occupying any other role previously thought of a mans position. However, a future culture that disparages marriage and cast a pall of failure on someone (of either gender) simply because the (very early) return on their life’s effort is a wedding is, in my opinion, a culture that has failed.

There is little in the world that I respect or admire more than a couple celebrating 40, 50, or 60 years of marriage. In fact, if you put two 80 year old people in front of me and one said “I was CEO of a fortune 500 company for 50 years” and the other said “I have been happily married for 50 fantastic years” I wouldn’t waste a minute calling the second person the greater success.

There is no shame in marriage, some of my greatest personal role models are people who have been doing it for decades… I’d be willing to bet some of yours have as well.

July 6, 2012

My Mom Broke Me…

Filed under: Just life,Observations — Tags: , , , , — sbj @ 8:36 pm

When I was about 11 years old (sixth grade), in the dead of a Ft Collins, Colorado winter our heat was shut off because of our inability to pay the bill (we were not what you would call affluent). One night, around 2:00am, bundled in blankets but still cold, I wandered into my mothers room to complain.

Her response was simple, “if you’re already cold, we might as well go make snow angels!” … and make them (and laugh, and cavort, and forget our troubles) we did.

snow angel

When I was 14 (and a day… we had celebrated my 14th birthday on the train from Alice Springs the previous day) we arrived in Canberra, Australia in the evening with no place to stay (the youth hostel where we were planning on staying was full when we got there). Five minutes later we had a reservation at the YMCA, announced to us by, you guessed it, a full choral rendition of the song… arm motions and all… right in the middle of Australian equivalent to Grand Central Station.

I started thinking about these stories (and many more) when this song hit my radar this morning:

I have often heard this song (which I’m pretty sure is being sung to a parental unit of one gender or another) and thought, if I just flipped the words it would sort of reflect my relationship with my mother. take:

Because of you I’ll never stray to far from the sidewalk

and change it to:

Because of you I’m only vaguely aware that there are sidewalks…

You get the idea…

My mom was indomitable. Not only was no problem to big to handle, but there was no situation that couldn’t be laughed about and enjoyed along the way. Penny “if-your-walking-on-thin-ice-you-might-as-well-dance” Fuerst just didn’t have a “safe mode.”

As anyone I have dated (or has otherwise known me well) over the years can attest, adopting this mindset has been both my blessing and my curse. I have never really accepted the idea of disaster as reality.

Mind you, this does not mean I haven’t made a disaster or two of things during my life. In fact, I have done more than my fair share of that. Further, it doesn’t mean I don’t worry about things either, because I do. However, what I don’t do, pretty much ever, is accept the worst case scenario as a viable option in any situation.

There is always, ALWAYS a silver lining. There is good in every situation and a far worse situation that, thankfully, I do not need to face. For every sold out youth hostel, there is a jubilant, rousing chorus of YMCA, and a cause for celebration. So no matter what I might face… I never actually think, or even consider the possibility, that things are going to go horribly wrong…

…and if they did… there are always snow angels to be made :)

Thanks mom :)

August 25, 2011

Women’s work

Filed under: Just life,Observations — Tags: , , , — sbj @ 5:52 pm

we can do itLast night I had a meeting. It was a school fundraising meeting which means that, like most school related meetings I go to, it was one part Soren (man) and several parts woman.

Women work differently than I do, and different than groups of men that I work with do. Not just the group last night, but almost all of the groups I work with that are mostly women. It’s pretty remarkable to watch, actually. This was especially true last night as this particular group was a bit more focused, motivated and driven than some groups I have worked with before.

So many times throughout the night I wanted to pull my hair out, I had to bite my tongue because I wanted to scream… “We aren’t doing anything here, we are talking around and around and around the issues but not coming up with any plan, any todo’s… any-THING!!!” They bandied far flung (and practical… and everything in between) ideas around; laughed about them, weighed their merits talked about how cousin Betsys daughter would love that one in particular etc. etc. etc. However, whenever it came time to nail down the idea, concept, plan, whatever… the topic just switched to something else… and we (read: they – both my mouth and mind are far too slow to keep up with a fully charged estrogen enriched brain storming session) chatted up the next concept, and so on… I seriously thought I was going to explode…

But then, at the end, as I have learned it always does… the magic happened.

“Okay, so…” (which I think is some sort of secret girl code for “abra cadabra”, “shazam” or “expecto something-or-another”) is the queue, and is followed by “I’m going to do X, Heidi you will handle Y, right? Melissa, you’ve got the “Z” and Mandy can you fit “B” into your schedule this week”… “yep” “got it” and “planning on it” come right after that… notebooks are closed, bills are paid, tables are pre-bused and hugs are in progress. I… as usual… am trying to figure out what just happened.

How were they all on the same page? How did they all know what each of them were going to do; how the work was going to be divided etc.??? I’ve been doing this for years, it is still a mystery to me.

I’m not saying women are better at planning than men (I’m not saying they aren’t either)… but it is nonetheless amazing to watch how it comes together; and I’m pretty sure, based on my experiences over the past several years that no valid case can be made for women being at least equally capable of pulling off big projects, making the big decisions, or any of the other half-baked ideas that created a glass ceiling for them for so many years (centuries?).

My guess is those ideas came from some guy who attended a pre-historic PTA meeting… but got overwhelmed, didn’t stay for the end and missed the magic. Too bad for him… it really is pretty impressive.

May 11, 2011

More bees with honey…

Filed under: Just life,Observations — Tags: , — sbj @ 4:19 pm

watch your mouthPerspective is an interesting, and – as a friend recently found out – potentially damaging thing. I ran into him walking down the street over the past week and we were in the middle of the standard “catch up” conversation when he revealed he had recently been fired from his tech support job.

Knowing this guy, his passion for helping others as well as his technical competency, this came as quite a surprise to me, so I asked him what had happened. His short answer was “the difference between intentions and perceptions.”

One of his clients was having an email problem, they stated it was an emergency and needed it fixed right away as they had missed at least 5 really important emails (that they knew of… who knows how many more). His response was “I don’t care how many emails you have missed, your email is broken, I need to fix it and that is my top priority.”

You probably don’t need me to go on…

But – me being me – I’m going to anyway :)

In his own words (to me) he explained what he was trying to say was that his priority is making sure that all of his clients systems were working perfectly and – missed emails or not – he was making it his top priority (in other words, even if it was 2:00 am on Sunday and it was having no effect on business, it would be a top priority).

What the customer heard was somewhere between “I don’t care” and “%$#& you” (and where, in between those responses, they actually landed clearly doesn’t matter).

Poor choice of words? Obviously. The words “I don’t care” really cannot come out of the mouth of anyone in a customer service role who wants to retain their position for any length of time (unless perhaps referring to eating their own lunch; specifically, declining to do so in favor of working on said clients problem).

But its interesting to me, nonetheless, to note how a well intentioned, yet ill-conceived, sentence could be someone’s undoing. I guess it also speaks to the truth and wisdom of the old adage, “you get more bees with honey.” The fact is if he had just taken the time to clean up his sentence, in stead of losing his job he’d probably be getting an orchid letter right now about his outstanding service and dedication.

It’s amazing, really, to think about how significant the difference in outcome is based on the delivery of the exact same intended message. Clearly, there is a valuable message here. As a person who has often had it suggested that he should consider more carefully how his words (and non-verbal communications) are coming across…this story really resonated with me.

Choose your words (and actions) carefully the first time through… you may not get the chance to clean them up later…

April 29, 2011

Five lies I used to (and sometimes still do) tell myself (and others)… v 1.5

Filed under: Just life,Observations — Tags: , , , , — sbj @ 5:08 pm

I have a clue – “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know” So, so, true… Lets get right to it.

I thought the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock… oops.

I thought Rosa Parks was the first person to refuse to give up her seat and subsequently spark a political and legal battle reaching the Supreme Court, forever changing the landscape of civil rights… oops.

I thought our tax rates were high… oops.

I thought I’d recognize a drowning person and be able to save them… oops.

I thought Ben Franklin was pretty clever with that whole kite/key thing… oops

I thought, as a teen, that my parents had lost touch with the “modern” world; and that I knew more than they did about life in the 80′s… big, big, big oops. (25 years later… I’m really glad I started listening to them again along the way, and still do to this day.)

You get the idea… this is just a random sampling of some of the “shocks” I have experienced over the years as my knowledge base has grown. Over the past week, as I’ve been writing about these “lies” I have changed my mind regarding what I was going to write about – and from what angle I was going to write it – more times than I’d like to admit to, in fact… perhaps more times than I’m even aware of.

It fascinates me, as I expand my knowledge base and uncertainty asserts itself as the only logical result, that I am simultaneously expected to carry myself as more confident, assured, and informed. I am certainly more practiced, and it is probably also true that I am better able to anticipate probable outcomes/solutions to situations based on that experience.

However…

I have far more curiosities and unanswered questions now than at any other point in my life, and yet, I package myself (as society seems to demand) as an informed, au currant, decision making machine. My family expects it, my job expects it, my friends expect it… everyone expects it; and, not wanting to disappoint, I deliver results; confident, self-assured, actionable results.

What I wonder – and at times worry – about is how many babies are getting thrown out with the bath water of “common knowledge” or educated assumptions bordering on braggadocio. How many learning or growing opportunities are being passed over in favor of demonstrating my intellectual cachet.

That is part of what this week has been about. Questioning things I am uncertain (or even things I am certain) about… poking the soft underbelly of confidence.

When you work out you break down muscles, and then they rebuild themselves, stronger than they were. You build a more solid foundation and are able to do more – expand yourself further – based upon that. I believe that any exercise in self-reflection and self-assessment works the same way.

Whether it’s the knowledge that I really need to prepare to be the best I can be or that even if I do that prep work, things still may not go my way… and that’s okay too; that at any given moment I can be the worst parent on the block, but it doesn’t mean I am bad, and it doesn’t mean I don’t love my kids beyond belief and wouldn’t move heaven and earth for them; or the realization that there isn’t much point criticizing others when my life is such a work in progress itself… the bottom line is I am stronger when acknowledging my weaknesses. I am (and will become) more capable, knowing what I cannot (currently) accomplish.

So… perhaps the next time I’m lecturing my kids on morals and conduct, and they think I am out of touch and don’t have a clue; I’ll throw them a curve ball and let them know they are right, I don’t. Then together, we – the clueless – can go out in search of answers. It kinda sounds fun… put that way… way cooler than walking to and from school in the snow… barefoot… uphill… both ways… who does that?!!?!??!?

April 28, 2011

Five lies I used to (and sometimes still do) tell myself (and others)… v 1.4

Filed under: Just life,Observations — Tags: , , , , , , — sbj @ 3:14 pm

I am the good guy – As I mentioned earlier this week in another version of “lies,” last weekend I toured Cornelius Vanderbilt’s summer “cottage,” The Breakers. While marveling at the beauty and fantasizing about living in such splendor, the majority of my focus was on the excess. The houses 4 floors have around 130,000 square feet of living space, the primary living space (the first two floors) exceeds 65,000. Fifty-four (54) full sized replicas of my current house fit inside the primary living space (108 if you elect to fill the entire residence).

To be fair, they had three more children living with them than I do… so they needed the extra space, and all of the servants living on the third and fourth floors. But… this is not about them… its about me.

As I stated above, I walked through the building with an air of put-upon commoner. I talked (read: complained) to friends and co-workers(upon my return to Boise) about the extravagance, indulgence and excess. I judged the Vanderbilts for what they had beyond their needs, and the decadent lifestyle they chose to live while so many others toiled in poverty (even under their very roof). I was offended that they could “blow” so much money while people like me live pay check to paycheck, just hoping the car doesn’t break down or no one requires a trip to the ER

Then I looked at my About page

I then reflected on the fact that I decided Wednesday night to tote the family down to Taco Bell for fast food rather than making dinner with the food I had at home because I was tired and didn’t want to cook. I considered that I have money in savings (not a lot, in fact… very little, but, some). I sit, at work, in an office with its own climate control… consuming energy so that I can be comfortable while I work my 8 hour shift before I drive my own car home and decide what to have for dinner (my third full meal of the day… probably augmented with a snack or two along the way and all the cold, fresh, filtered water I could ever want).

How must my lifestyle look to this guy… (and please note… I intentionally didn’t go with the worst case scenario for effect… if you want to see that picture… scroll to the bottom)

Neither he, nor his anyone else in his family, will ever consider savings. His entire (probably rather short) life will be spent in emergency mode. If he ever handles money, it will go as fast as it came on food, water, or some other necessity that is not currently a part of his daily routine… let alone taken for granted.

He will never know what a taco bell is, let alone decide to eat there because he feels wiped from a day spent working in his air conditioned office (in fact, he might never know what air conditioning feels like).

And on and on and on…

To him, I am the Vanderbilt family. I am the excess, the opulence, the conspicuous consumption… I am the bad guy in his life’s story (whether he knows it or not).

Its not just money, perspective exists in every facet of my life. I judge people who’s perspectives are different than mine as being bad; however, from theirs, or someone else’s I have failed to even consider, I am the problem.

I am not the good guy, nor the bad guy either for that matter, and every time I start to think I am it should send up a great big bright red flag. No, Soren, you’re not the good guy (no one is)… you are just… a guy. Perhaps more fortunate than some (and less so than others)… but, at the end of the day, certainly not better.

~~~~~~~~

The guy I didn’t choose…

April 27, 2011

Five lies I used to (and sometimes still do) tell myself (and others)… v 1.3

Filed under: Just life,Observations — Tags: , , , , — sbj @ 1:15 pm

I am a good parent – Don’t worry, this is not going to be a self-deprecating voyage of fishing for compliments on my parenting. I know that, at times, I have been (and will be) an exceptional parent to my children. However, what I have realized over time is that parenting is a series of glorious successes and fabulous fails; mountainous highs and cavernous lows, and the line that separates me from any other parent out there is very fine, and – much like my accomplishments in last minute (sometimes self-created) emergencies – often as dependent on luck as anything else.

batter up

Baseball has often been called a game of inches. Two batted balls hit equally hard, on the same, trajectory in the same direction can yield two completely different results. One will wind up in a short stops mitt and end an inning, the other will scoot past him (just eluding his grasp) and end the game by knocking in the winning run.

Many parenting decisions and outcomes seem to fit into this same general mold. I know other parents with the same attitudes, morals, rules, etc. in their houses; however, because of ~whatever little thing~ they did differently in raising their children, they have gone on completely different paths. I know parents who have done much more for their kids than I have, who have nothing but headaches; and parents who have done virtually nothing for their progeny and have “perfect children.”

What if one of my stern lectures had gone horribly wrong and I had lost one of my son’s attention forever? What if I had said something different when they were younger and inspired them to Nobel Laureate status (heck, maybe I did, and I just don’t know it yet).

I have come to believe that parenting, good or bad, is more like a batting average. A collection of strikeouts, bases loaded hits, double plays, home runs and perhaps – if you are crafty – the occasional bunt single. At the end of “the season” you can generalize and judge your parenting by reviewing your stats. However, day to day, as you parent, you are no better or worse than your current “at bat.” You dig in, anticipate what is likely to be thrown to you in this situation, try to pick up the rotation on the ball and put the best swing on the ball you can. You then hope for solid contact; and once you are done with that, you start the process all over again on the next pitch… yep, that’s parenting.

So, someday, I might be able to look back and say I was a good parent. But for today (and for the foreseeable future) I’m just looking to put the ball in play as often as possible and with a little bit of luck help the team find a way to win…

April 26, 2011

Five lies I used to (and sometimes still do) tell myself (and others)… v 1.2

Filed under: Just life,Observations — Tags: , , , , — sbj @ 2:41 pm

Life isn’t fair – I used to be pretty passionate about this one. I remember hearing the lecture from so many of my elders over the years (usually after stomping my feet and exclaiming some situation to be unfair); and it certainly left its mark. Not all that long ago I was giving the same lecture to one of my boys… “life isn’t fair, get used to that and learn to accept it or you are going to have a disappointing run on this planet” (or something like that).

fair

The thing is, as much as we don’t want to admit it… life is fair. The playing field is even the opportunities for success or failure are there for you, and the guy next to you, and the gal next to him. As people or as societies, we may set up cultures that favor one group or another (I currently enjoy all sorts of advantages as a tall while male in the United States of America); however, “life” doesn’t have anything to do with that. Plus, lots of short black (Asian, Hispanic, etc.) woman have been far more successful than I have.

I live in the wealthiest nation in the world, surrounded by affluence and opportunity; yet, the wealthiest person in the world hails from Mexico… a country in may ways the opposite of all of that, from an environmental standpoint. I spent the weekend touring Cornelius Vanderbilt’s summer “cottage”, all 130,000 sq ft of it. He started his life poorer than I. I listened to stories of his servants, beginning with their hard and impoverished lives in service to the Vanderbilt’s and ending in their stories of social and financial success.

Typically people get what they deserve, in one form or another. Our “rewards” and “successes” may not be what we want them to be, and others may be able to inflict us with circumstances we did not earn for ourselves; but these things are not unfair, they are just a part of the grand randomness of life.

An that’s just the thing. Life is completely random. You might be born a Vanderbilt, you might be born to me, and you might be born – with AIDS – in the heart of Ethiopia. You might go your entire life without being in a traffic accident or your life might be cut short by a drunken driver at the age of 5. the Earth has no agenda, no vested interest in you, it just goes about existing… randomly.

Lets say we are starting a new school and more people want in that can attend. What do we do? We hold a lottery… a random selection of who gets in and who doesn’t. Why? Because it is the only fair way to do it. How do we select the winner of the Powerball jackpot or who will sacrifice themselves for the greater good (i.e. “draw the short straw”)? Randomly… so as to be fair. We, as a society embrace randomness as fairness. Yet, when life acts randomly (and – more specifically – when it acts against our best interests) we admonish it for being unfair.

Life does not promise success, affluence, or comfort; those are constructs of modern man. Life promises a struggle for survival and the opportunity to revel or revile in the journey.

Success or failure in life used to be (literally) defined by life and death; and success was defined by living to a ripe old age of 30 or 40 years. In most of the world today, the worst case scenario is better than a successful life was then. There are some exceptions, of course, where ones life is still defined by their ability to survive to middle age. However, in my opinion, this has less to do with life being unfair than it does with the people living life (in more fortunate areas of the world) being selfish.

If you ask me, people are (can be) unfair, unjust and unscrupulous… but life… is random, unpredictable, and unquestionably fair.

April 25, 2011

Five lies I used to (and sometimes still do) tell myself (and others)…

I work best under pressure – Making the best of a given situation should not be confused with making the best of an opportunity. My seemingly fantastic accomplishments under pressure seldom, if ever, hold up as anything above average when compared to similar tasks that were undertaken in a steady conscientious manner.

Under Pressure

I recently read an article about a young man who had gotten himself into trouble with the law in his youth. He subsequently has rebounded and holds a well regarded position on the Governors staff. It was a great story of someone turning his life around, overcoming the mistakes of his youth, and making something of himself. However, what resonated with me the most was his self-assessment at the end of the article; “I don’t think I should be celebrated for overcoming obstacles I put in my own way.”

I view any of my “under fire” achievements (that were born of procrastination) in roughly the same light. Other than luck, the only things to which I attribute my successes in these situations are the previous life experiences that essentially served as practice; and thus prepared me as if I had actually committed the time and attention demanded by the task at hand.

The reality is that, while I may work better than (some) others under pressure, no one, including me, does their best work under pressure.

November 1, 2010

Why I love kids…

Filed under: Just life — Tags: , , , — sbj @ 5:34 pm

Last night was Halloween and, as per family tradition, we dressed up as a family (well, me and the youngest did, the teen is above such frivolity now).  He as Percy Jackson and I as his loving father Poseidon.

As you can see from the pictorial evidence, my homemade costume lacked, shall we say… a professional finish.  In short… it was pretty awful.  However, my son liked it, and that was all I really cared about :)

One of the highlights of the evening was my walk to my parents house.  Every few houses I would run into a group of kids and one of them would invariably ask me what I was supposed to be (see horrible-homemade-costume references in paragraph number two).  Time after time I would reply “Poseidon” and they would say “Who?” (or…”What?”).

And thats when it got good. Every single time, I would then hold up my trusty trident, and repeat “Poseidon,” and without fail they would squeee and respond something very similar to “that is the coolest costume… ever!!!”

It appears all I really needed was my trident.  I’m pretty sure I could have worn sweats and a jacket (which would have been far warmer) and gotten the same reaction each time I brandished my trident.  I’m certain from the moment it was before them, it is all they saw.

… aaaahhhh… the wonderment of youth :)

I love it :)

October 27, 2010

What I might do…

Filed under: Just life — Tags: , , , — sbj @ 8:33 pm

someecards.com - I'd love to get some face time with you when your face isn't buried in your phone

I’ve been pondering this for quite a while, and I think I have decided that my cell phone has become a bit to ubiquitous in my life.  I have become to dependent upon it for all sorts of things (sports scores, email, text messages, and even ~gasp~ phone calls amongst other things); and other people have become to dependent on it as a means to get in touch with me as well.

Part of my problem is that I don’t like the current (rather common) practice (of which I am sometimes guilty) of treating the person calling in as a priority over the person I’m having a conversation with.  I don’t like putting people in front of me “on hold” for people who are calling; and I really don’t like being put “on hold” by someone picking up a call.

A bigger part is that I believe we as a culture (and I as an individual) have become too enraptured with technology and the speed it brings into our lives.  I feel like instant access (to email, to the web, to people via text and phone) has become a bit of a rush, I’d like to slow down a bit… at least one day a week, anyway.

The biggest part, for me, is that I feel like time with people isn’t
really time with people anymore.  I have caught myself in the middle of conversations with family and friends, checking my text messages or email because something came in, and there was a lull in the conversation.  People do that to me all the time, and I hate it… so I’m sure I don’t get high marks when I do it.

So, what I’m thinking is this.  On Saturdays, I’m going to turn my cell off and leave it in the bedroom (all alone and afraid… it’s not used to being without my company after all) and i’m simply going to interact with those in my company.  I may turn it on once in the afternoon to make sure there are no messages that someone is in the hospital or anything.  But, unless someone is, I will not be returning any calls or text messages.

If you are not part of my plans on a particular Saturday, you will not be a part of my world.  If you are a part of my plans on a Saturday, you will be my entire world.

Yeah… I think thats what I’m going to do… the only real down side is that I’m going to have to start wearing a watch again…

October 26, 2010

I’m just gonna brag – Fantasy Football Edition :)

Filed under: Just life — Tags: , , — sbj @ 5:43 pm

My team is monster.  Through a series of trades over the first 7 weeks of the season, my team has grown into what I view as an unstoppable force.  Lets take a look shall we:

Quarterback:

  • Kyle Orton
  • Aaron Rodgers
  • Mike Vick
Wide Receiver (the admitted “Weakness” of my team)
  • Brandon Lloyd
  • Reggie Wayne
  • Randy Moss
  • Hines Ward
  • Percy Harvin
Running back (fasten your seat belts… this is just ridiculous!!!)
  • Arian Foster
  • Adrian Peterson (yep, Peterson is my #2 running back)
  • Darren McFadden
  • Frank Gore
Tight End
  • Vernon Davis
Kicker
  • Sebastian Janikowski
Defense
  • Washington (okay… this could be a little better… but with this team, are you really worried about your defense???)
Defensive player
  • Patrick Willis (there are better players out there, point getters anyway, but, this is me picking with my heart… gotta go with my niners best player… and he’s still very productive!)
You know you have fantasy football envy… heck, even if you don’t play… you probably recognize how beast this team is!!!
So, no saving the world today… or even making you think… just reveling in my unbelievable FF team.
look out league… and let the excuses begin!!!
Have a good day :)

April 29, 2010

Hugo Reyes, I blame you!!!

Filed under: Just life — Tags: , , , — sbj @ 6:48 pm

Hugo Reyes, AKA Hurley, you are the season of my discontent!  A couple of years ago now I gave up tv.  Not just cable tv, all of it.  When the digital requirements came in, the last vestiges of tv in the Jacobsen house went out.

For years I had avoided the temptation that was Lost, all of my friends said I would love it, I said no!  I’m not doing tv anymore… period.  Then along came netflix and one somewhat bored evening.

I thought it would be quick and easy.  Watch an episode, maybe two, realize the fuss was about nothing more than the usual mindless tv drivel and I’d be happily back in no tv land.

Oops.

You see… there was Hurley.  I have no idea why his character captured me so much, but, while everyone else was pining over Jack, Kate, Sawyer, etc. I couldn’t get enough of Hurley… and so I was stuck.

Actually, I do have some idea… Hurley is the visualization of the dream I had as a child.  Become rich, and do it in such a way that even if you tell people about it they don’t believe you.  It’s not just the clothes, down to earth casual guy next door attire is a good start, but, it’s the personality.

He cares about the same things you and I do, for apparently the same reasons. He’s an absolutely normal guy… with $150 million (give or take a few… who’s counting at that point).  He is exceptional, not because of his wealth, but more so in spite of it.  He shines because of his compassion and his ability to relate to the human condition.

So, over the past two or three months I have managed to catch up, watching every single episode of this infernal show to the point where I now have to wait a week like everyone else to see what happens next.  And the sad thing is, its not even great tv.  It’s okay, but its not fantastic.  It’s not changing my life, or even improving it.

Nope, the simple truth is that I’ve bonded with Hugo, and I need to know what happens to him.  I’ve bonded to the point that I am already a bit bitter about the yet to be seen ending of the final season… what then.  I am a 43 year old man who has never before cared enough about a tv show to not want it to end.

And now, I’m feeling it, and it’s pissing me off!!!

I’ve developed my own theory (I’m certain I’m the only one who’s done that, right?) As to what is going on with the island.  Gradually as all of the inhabitants are eliminated, they find that they have jumped in time and space yet again… to another CBS prime time tv show!  I am certain that in the last episode Charlie will return to the island only long enough to announce that “on October 6th, the planet blacked out for two minutes and 17 seconds, the whole world saw the future.”

Do you see what has become of my addled brain… and it’s all Hugo’s fault… all of it!

September 25, 2009

What matters, anyway…

Filed under: Just life,Observations — sbj @ 4:58 pm

Throughout the course of my life, I have wondered what is supposed to matter and what isn’t in a relationship.  I don’t mean “am I in love” or “is the sex good” or “are we happy and do we laugh” etc.  I know all of those things and I know their importance.

No, I mean… does it matter if we roll or squeeze the toothpaste, does it matter if we like earth tones or bright splashy colors, if we eat mostly veggies, or mostly meat, etc.

I’ve been told by many to do my homework before I commit to a relationship; that I should know the little things that are going to drive me batty before I jumping into something that I will later want to back out of because, really, who can reasonably be expected to stay together with someone who can’t even put the toilet paper on the roll properly (for the record is **MUST** roll over the top to the front, not languish at the back!).

For a long time this seemed very important and prudent to me.  But lately I’ve done some reflecting… and some second guessing.

I like earth tones, they are soothing to me, easy on my eyes and they make accent pieces really stand out… which I love.  However, ultimately, they are just shades and background… and I can live without them just fine, if something else brings joy to the person who brings me life.

I like “messy” landscaping, it pleases me to no end to have a little wilderness in my yard, it makes me feel more like I am “away from it all”… which I love.  However, ultimately, it is just groundcover and vegetation and I can live without it just fine, if something else brings joy to the person who brings me life.

I like hip hop music, the rhythm, bass and infectious beat just makes my body want to move, I love to dance and nothing brings the movement out of me like an upbeat R&B song.  However, ultimately, it is just a soundtrack, a highlight to the real substance of life, and I can live without it just fine, if something else brings joy to the person who brings me life.

Ultimately, I guess, what matters the most, are the things that don’t matter…

… that, and the toilet paper!

June 5, 2009

Still learning after all these years…

Filed under: Just life,Observations — sbj @ 8:21 pm

I learned a lesson, from a old and dear friend, recently. She has been teaching and preaching it to me for a long time, but I only recently allowed it to process. Specifically, you don’t have to be disadvantaged to be right, and you don’t have to be wrong if you are advantaged.

It’s not that I didn’t know this, of course. However, I tend to get to ranting and raving and supporting and championing, I build up momentum, get excited and wind up buying my own hype. All of a sudden everyone who is a minority or put upon in some way is a saint.

I’m also not saying that the put upon masses are wrong either. In fact, what I’m saying is that is may well be, in fact, that very often – perhaps even most often – no one is wrong. People just do not see eye to eye on something are having a difficult time reconciling their views.

The bottom line is that most of the world is grey, or shades thereof, and not black and white; and we need to look at it that way if we really want to understand it. Interestingly enough, once you do, it turns out that it is actually in glorious Technicolor as well.

Go ahead, take a look… it’s worth it J

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