Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Overcome and seize life

I watched a movie this weekend that I have seen many times before. However, this time the movie hit me in a different way. 

The movie, Chasing Amy, is directed and written by Kevin Smith. Smith is well known for his other films, Clerks, Mallrats, Jay and silent Bob Strike Back, Dogma and Jersey Girl. 

In this movie, the main character, played by Ben Affleck, has fallen for a woman who is attracted to other women. Her character, played by Joey Lauren Adams, in turn falls in love with him. 

Without going in to a lot of detail about the film, Ben Affleck's character becomes conflicted when he feels inadequate in the new found relationship. 

This is what got me thinking - how many times do we feel inadequate in our lives for no reason. Well, no reason than our own self absorbed preconception of how we should be. 

Think about it, how many times have you thought, "I am not good enough," or "I can't compare to so and so?" 

I know I have thought it. I think we all have, on some level at least. 

But then there are those that don't. There are those who aren't afraid to grab live by the you-know-whats and really go for it. When you think about it, those are the most successful people. 

Truth is, they all had thoughts of inadequacies at one time or another, too. They all thought the self inhibiting thoughts that many of us think. The difference? They didn't let it control them. 

Instead they shoved those thoughts aside and went for it. They proved to the world, and ultimately themselves, that they weren't inadequate. 

Do they always succeed? No. Do they give up? Well, the most successful people don't. 

I can honestly say that I have accomplished things in my life that I never thought I would. The reason I was able to do it was because I fought back the feelings and the fear and pushed through. 

However, there is a lot that I haven't done and want to. So there is still some stuff to overcome.

Have you ever seen the web series, Failure Club? It kinda goes along with the whole course of this column. It's a series about people overcoming and accomplishing, whether they fail or not, what they want to do. 

I think I have said enough for this week. Allow me to wrap this up with a quote from the late Steve Jobs.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Monday, February 4, 2013

It starts with one

I have to wonder what has happened, in this day and age, to drive the common decencies and respect that our parents taught us, away. 

It seems to be commonplace now to go to a grocery store and cut someone off in the parking lot, leave your trash in your cart, leave said cart in between cars or otherwise take up a parking place, or to spit your gum on the ground so some one can step in it - I have been the victim of this more than once. 

Is it really so hard to clean up your trash, put away your cart, or put your gum in a trash receptacle? It seems so. 

This weekend I watched an elderly employee reach into a cart and pull out banana peels and trash and throw them away. Aside from the fact that it is her job, why should she have to clean up after some disrespectful person? Let's face it, it's disrespectful to assume that someone is going to clean up your mess. 

Where has common decency gone? Of course it's not just locally that this happens. Our hometowns are not such an anomaly that we are the only place to experience disrespect. We see it everywhere. 

How about senators and congressman/woman who make comments that are derogatory in nature about their colleagues? How about the "news" people who seem to think their opinions are the news and their inflammatory comments are acceptable? 

None of this makes sense. 

Aerosmith once sang, "There something wrong with the world today, I don't know what it is." And unlike steven Tyler, I do know what it is. 

It's amazingly simple, too. We have lost respect. We have lost respect for our fellow man, for our neighbors, for ourselves. 

So now the challenge is to get it back. Luckily it's simple to start. There is a commercial, and for the life of me I can't remember the product or company it's advertising, that shows a series of events of people helping people. When was the last time you held the door for someone? When was the last time you helped a wheel-chair bound individual cross an icy winter road? When was the last time you did something completely un-selfserving? 

If we took a moment to do something like this we would see change. We would not only see it, but we would feel it. And when you start feel it, when everyone around you starts to feel it, we can create real change. We can bring back the morals, the decencies and the respect that makes us a great people. 

It's a thought anyway. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

A new year, time for change

With the first full week of 2013 behind us, I think I see some things that need to change. Yes, I know what you're thinking, "Already?"

Yep, already. So here goes. 

First, you need to stop referring to a man's friendship with another man as a "Bromance." Although this term was made popular by the movie, "I love You Man," there is nothing funny about it. Seriously, just because I call my brother-in-law and talk to him about the football game doesn't mean I am engaged in a "Bromance." I mean, what does it even mean?! It's a friendship, nothing more, and needs to be left as such. 

Murses. Some of you may be asking, "What is a 'Murse?' " A Murse is a bag carried by a man that is not a back pack. It is usually slung over the shoulder in the same fashion as a woman carrying a purse. 

Men typically try to position the bag more to the front or rear of their body to avoid looking like a purse. But, someone, somewhere declared this carrying device a murse and it has now made its way into standard vernacular. 

Speaking of vernacular, let's do away with the word, "Chillaxing." My spell checker has flagged this word as being spelled incorrectly. Why? Because it's not a word! It is instead an amalgamation of two words, chilling and relaxing. One does indeed mean to relax, while the other means to make cold. Yes, I know the urban dictionary definition of the word, "chill," is "to hang out, to be easy going, etc." However, that's the Urban Dictionary. 

Let's see, other trends, or growing trends, that need to end this year. 

School shootings. This seems like it's becoming the norm, let's hope this year things change. 

Politicians lying to us. Okay, I have a better chance of winning the lottery than this one coming true, but it's worth a thought!

Bullying, I mean seriously, don't our children have enough to worry about? 

So that's probably enough for now. Interestingly, when I look over the list, it becomes clear where the change needs to come from. Each and everyone of us. Only we have the power to end all this. I guess change really does start with us.

Enjoy 2013, friends, I know I will!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Let the music surround you

My commute to work is all of about five minutes. Maybe two or three minutes longer if there is a bit of traffic or a deer in the road. Otherwise it's pretty much a straight shot. 

You wouldn't think that in that time I would find the time to listen to music, but I tell you, dear reader, that you couldn't be more wrong. I do.

See, in the mornings after I drop off my son, I take a minute to plug my Iphone into the stereo and quickly select a song to listen to. With my time being so limited, I try to be very precise. This morning it was Volbeat, Fallen. 

Then, once the song is selected, I turn the volume up and let the music flood my car. I hate listening to music at a low volume. My wife and I fight over the volume of the music constantly. She likes to turn it down and use it as background noise, I on the other hand like it turn up. Way up. 

It's like I am transported to a world where it's just me and the song. And in that world the volume has to be so high that there is no escaping the music. So loud that not even jamming pencils deeply into your ears would drowned out the sound. Ok, that might actually work, but you get my point. 

With the volume up I feel as if I become one with the song and that nothing else matters at that very moment. Except when I get a call and my Iphone kills the music to indicate said call. Talk about annoying. I mean, what gives my phone the right to give calls more importance that my music? How dare it! I suppose being a phone first has something, but whatever. All I want in that moment is music. 

Since moving to Sheridan I have been on several long car rides by myself. I know to some folks the idea of driving more than a couple of hours by yourself may seem daunting, but I enjoy it. I enjoy it because I am not alone. I am not alone because I always have my Ipod with me. 

You'll notice the switch from Iphone to Ipod there. On long car rides I think it's more important to carry the more powerful Ipod with me for my musical entertainment that to rely on my Iphone. It helps that my Ipod has well over 2,000 songs on it.  As I drive across Wyoming, Nebraska, Montana or South Dakota, my Ipod keeps the tunes playing for me.  

There is, on the occasion, that I turn the music off for a few minutes - even I enjoy silence from time-to-time, but eventually it gets powered back up and the music is once again a part of me. 

Is this weird? Does this make me odd? Do I care? Nope, I sure don't. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Reflections of you, Dad

A quick look outside my window tells me it looks like it could snow. The grey and white-streaked clouds are hiding the Big Horns, the leaves are falling to the ground and it is quite simply cold outside. 

Still, there is something about it that makes me smile. Perhaps it reminds me of moose hunting season in Fairbanks, Alaska. Sure the timing is off, moose season is around the beginning of Sept, but the weather and the smells are much the same. 

Hunting moose meant I got to spend one-on-one time with my Father. We would spend several days before the season opened going out scouting areas we wanted to hunt, we spent time shopping for our supplies, sighting in rifles, packing gear, looking over maps and so on. 

Then, the evening before the season opened, we would say good-bye to our normal lives and head out into the Alaskan woods. Although we never shot a moose, it was a glorious time. 

There is something special about spending one-on-one time with either of your parents. But, right now, with the overcast sky, the smell of leaves decaying and wood smoke, and the cool breeze in the air, I am thinking about my Father. 

I talked to him for a little while this weekend. He and my Mother live in San Antonio, Texas and are preparing to move up here to Wyoming. We chatted about our normal stuff, music, food, work, retirement (for him) and so on. 

As our conversation came to a close I decided I would ask him a question that has been with me for awhile. 

"Dad," I said, "When you move up here, would you be willing to go hunting with me and my boys? would you be willing to teach them some of the things that you taught me?"

To some folks this seems like a simple question with the obvious answer being, "Sure, I would love to." But it wasn't as simple as that. 

The days we spent in Alaska traipsing through the woods looking for the moose that always got away, are long gone. It seems there has been a lifetime of events that have unfolded since that make that time between Father and son seem so long ago. Things, that although healed with time, still drove a wedge through the past. 

And then there was the realization that time does indeed catch up with everyone.

Recently, when I was living in Kimball, Neb. my Father gave me his 30.06. He said he didn't have a need for it anymore because he lived in Texas and didn't plan on doing any hunting. This was hard for me. Hard because I immediately thought of all the time my father and I spent freezing in the woods next to a pond. Hard because it seemed like my father was giving up something that, at one time, meant a great deal to him. Hard because it was proof that my Father isn't as immortal as I once thought he was.  

After I asked the question, there was a silence. Sure, it only lasted three or four seconds, but it seemed like a long time. 

Dad exhaled, "Sure, we could do that. That sounds like fun." I could tell by the way he responded he was genuine. 

I smiled. We talked a little more about licensing and needing to purchase a new rifle, but it all seemed trivial. Or, perhaps it was symbolic. That here, despite the several hundred miles between us, despite all that has transpired, Father and son were planning a hunting trip once again.

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon. - Harry Chapin, Cat's in the Cradle

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Teach your children well

So another school year is upon us and, if you are a Wyoming parent like me, you sent your little ones to school with mixed emotions. 
For me there is a sense of relief. No longer will my kids be at home eating everything in the house, playing video games, neglecting their chores, and leaving every item that draws electricity on. I think my wallet is sighing, too. 
Of course there is that sense of regret, too. We didn't go out an explore like we wanted to. We didn't get to go camping. We didn't get to go on a trip. We did however spend a lot of time together. 
But then there is that lingering feeling. That feeling of dread. The dread that parents at Baltimore, Maryland's Perry Hall High School came face-to-face with today. 
A 15-year-old student fired a gun in the cafeteria, wounding another student. Another shot went off when teachers grabbed the boy in stopping further violence. Thankfully no one was killed
School shootings seem commonplace, almost synonymous, with our school year. 
"So, little Jimmy, how was school today?"
"Great Dad! Only one shooting happened."
How sad is that? What has happened that our kids feel the need to carry a gun with them to school and shoot at other students? Why is there this unending need for violence and hate?
While I agree that video games, movies and even music can play a small part of it, I insist it is a small part. 
I think it starts at home. Yes, it starts there, with the parents. We, the parents, are the ones who miss the signs, fail to educate, fail to love our children. We become to self-absorbed that we are oblivious to our kids wants and needs. 
As we all know, kids are shaped by our actions and our words. When they see us doing or saying something, they think it's ok.  
I know for a fact that my political beliefs were the same as my father's, when I was younger. I know that I carried a lot of the same misgivings he and my mother carried. 
Thankfully, they raised me in such a way that I understand kindness, acceptance, and understanding. They taught me to listen before I take action. They taught me about responsibility and, and I will never forget this, they taught me the value of your word. I thank them for it. 
So I say to you, fellow Wyoming parents, take time to teach your children. Reach out to them, ask them how their day was. If they don't answer with more than a single word answer, find another way to ask. Be a part of their lives. Be concerned about their concerns. Show them you are there for them in every way that they might need you. There will be no regret if you do. 
Here is hoping that this will be the last school shooting we hear about for a while. Here's to hoping that all of our students will find the school a safe place to learn

"Teach your children well,
Their father's hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picks, the one you'll know by."

Teach Your Children
Crosby, Stills and Nash

Sunday, August 19, 2012

In memory of Richard Estes

They say the stars shine bright, in the night sky of the Lone Star state, but tonight they will shine a little less as a son of Texas has been called home.
I didn't know my Uncle Richard, which is to say I didn't know him well. My first memory of him is when he came to visit us in New Jersey. I seem to remember that I had to give up my bed for him. I didn't mind because I was forced to share my older brother Benjamin's bed - I did this often when I was scared so it was nothing new for me.

I saw him and his family again during return trips to Texas and at various family get-togethers.
Richard, like all the members of this family, never made me feel unwelcome. Often he would try to impart his wisdom upon me; it is too bad I was too young to see it.

A Christmas trip to grandma and grandpa's home in San Antonio saw my uncle telling me not to rush into anything when it came to marriage. Slow down, he said, take your time.
In a hotel room in Santa Anna, Texas, he and my mother talked politics briefly. Thinking I was wise beyond my years I piped up my support of social medicine. It was Richard who challenged me with a supported argument.

My last memory of him was at my Aunt Betty's home after having attended my grandfather's funeral. I had written my memories of my grandfather - much like I am doing now- and Richard said to me, "Patrick, you're a good writer."
A strong compliment from someone I very much respected.

I wish I had gotten to know you more, Uncle Richard. I wish I had taken the time to reach out to you and say hello. This will forever be my regret.
Know this though, I loved you and respected you very much.

Rest now, sir; rest in the arms of your mother and father, rest in the arms of your maker. And in the words in of George Jones, "Lord I wonder, who's gonna fill your shoes."