HighStakesBlog

February 23, 2009

The Practically Clusterfucked Reality of Perfectionists

Filed under: General — Tags: , , , , — HighStakesBlog @ 8:54 pm

Wow.  How’s that for a blog title?  Does it even make sense?  I have no idea.  But damnit, it felt good coming off my fingers.  So there you go.  I’m pretty sure the distinguished gentlemen my journalism class affectionately dubbed “the old dude” (James J. Kilpatrick) isn’t reading this so who cares about linguistics and grammar?  Clearly not me.

In a conversation with a very friendly, overly-educated guy I pay high-class hooker fees once a week or so, a revelation pummeled me in the temple.  One of the direct results of over-powering perfectionist tendencies is that I don’t even undertake entire events critically important to me solely out of a possibility of failure.  Not a fear of failure.  That’s cliched and common.  A possibility of failure.  If there’s something important to me, I don’t even want to start it because I want to be the best.   And there’s a chance I won’t be.  I have touched on this previously, but where I thought there were things I just didn’t attempt because of this fear, I am realizing there are things I don’t even admit to wanting.

In my few and generally Red Bull-induced moments of clarity, I acknowledge that there are generally three endeavors I both covet and avoid at all costs.  I would love to say, here in this space, that I am avowing right here and now to overcome my shortcomings and begin a journey that will culminate in the victory of mind over mental illness.  Sadly, I cannot make that promise to you or to myself.  I know I am not ready to make it.  But at the very least, I can enumerate and give them substance.

1) I have always wanted to be in shape.  Lord that sounds silly, doesn’t it?  But it’s true.  Even during my short-lived and ill-fated attempts at scholastically-sponsored sports, I wasn’t in shape.  Sure, I could run up and down a basketball court for hours on end, but weights were not my friends.  In fact, they really weren’t even homeless, illegal immigrants I try my best to pretend don’t exist because it hurts too much to think about.  No, they were much further from my consciousness.  As a result, I have never had an enjoyable day at a pool.  I am much too self-conscious.  But here’s the problem.  Do you know how long it would take to get in shape?  I don’t know if you’ve heard, but even with the A-Rod juice, you don’t get in shape in a day or even a week.  And anything beyond that is just too far beyond instant gratification for me.  Lord knows I have made attempts at gyms and YMCA’s north AND south of the Mason-Dixon line.  But inevitably, days or at most a month in, I realize I am not yet channeling my outer-beefcake and I turn back to cheesecake.  Yes, I am that messed up.

2) I have always wanted to be a legitimate poker player.  No, I don’t mean a flashy tournament pro or a dull tournament wannabe or a Knish-ish grinder.  I just want to show positive results over a period of time.  I want a bankroll.  Not ATM trips.  I want to make multiple trips per year to casinos and be able to quantify my results.  I want to join a community like 2+2 or even the BBTers for an extended period of time.  Unfortunately, I have sabotaged every single foray I have made into accomplishing that feat.  I have a paralyzing fear that I might not be as good as I think I am.  I love the game.  I read about it and watch it and devour it like it’s a Skyline 4-way.  But what if I suck?  What if I’m no better than the octogenarians betting pennies, buttons or anything else round that they can hide from their orderlies?  I don’t think I could handle it.  It’s much easier to blow every dime I put into a poker account and then have an excuse.  “I put $100 into Full Tilt, but I blew it all on a $90+9 badugi tournament.  Granted, if I had REALLY tried, I would have won…but I didn’t.”  Yup.  This is the way my mind works.

3) I want to write.  I know, anyone still awake is saying, “Lord, son, let me assure you, you’ve written more than anyone wants to read.”  Sure, I’ve written things.  I’ve even been published.  But I’ve never been a writer.  I want to pen freelance articles.  I want to have a blog that goes on for years, is recognized by a small community as being better than average and I want to write a book.  I have written articles, but always about horse racing.  It’s easy, it’s a small community and I know there’s no chance of failure.  But there’s no chance of success either because my heart isn’t into writing race re-caps.  But to write anything else and submit it?  Not so much.  Some of you know that I have started MULTIPLE blogs.  But guess what?  Try finding them now.  After a certain period of time, I delete them.  I mean, without a “paper” trail and without statistics, who knows if I was successful?  No pressure.  Pack up and start over at a new address, on a new platform.  And the book?  I have so many first chapters in my head, there isn’t enough disk space on this hard drive to save them all.  But do you know the commitment that takes?  Do you know how many God awful books there are that get published and the infinite number of drivel-drenched crap that gets tossed into a trashcan?  Not me.  I’ll stay on the sidelines.

Healthy?  Any of this?  Not a chance.  But it’s me.  I don’t want it to be.  I guess that’s the first step.

Or at least that’s what my high-priced hooker therapist tells me.

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February 19, 2009

Thirsty Thursday Part I

One of the critically beneficial parts of being an intelligent procrastinator is the ability to not only explain the reasons you put things off, but actually act like it was your original intent all along.  And people believe you.  Since this blog is about being truthful to myself, I figured I should be truthful with both my readers. So here goes.  This “segment” was designed as ‘Wet Wednesday.’  I love alliteration (in case you could not tell) and I love double entendre.  Sadly, I also love putting things off and running out of time and favoring a decent night’s sleep over whatever task I have left undone.  Hence, Thirsty Thursday.

I know that any therapist or member of law enforcement would not be pleased that I have expressed an overt appreciation for the game of poker and am now dedicating a weekly post to alcohol.  Mais, c’est moi.  I enjoy my alcohol.  I don’t enjoy getting drunk.  I enjoy alcohol.  I enjoy the taste.  I enjoy the variety.  And I hold a vehement disdain for anyone who walks into a bar with 200 beers on tap and a fully stocked bar and orders a Coors Light.  No offense.  But come on.

As a result, I am making it my personal goal to educate anyone who googles advertising executives and Vegas Vacation and stumbles across this blog.  I want to save you from ordering the aforementioned Coors Light.  I want to explain why it is a cardinal sin to consider Vodka your favorite liquor.  I want to relay why the words “sour mix” should be stricken from your vocabulary.  And last, but certainly not least, explain that a martini is gin and vermouth.  Full stop.  These are my missions in life.   Pathetic as they may be.

I would begin with lesson number one, but I think instead, I will whet your appetites with a few of my favorite alcohol-related quotes.  They are good for anytime and any place.  Okay.  Not really.  Trust me, I’ve tried.

“To alcohol.  The cause of and solution to, all of life’s problems.” — Homer Simpson

“Beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy.” — Ben Franklin

“Pour some out for my homies.” — Any number of people who consume Olde E and Mickey’s

“I am drunk.  But you are ugly.  And tomorrow morning, I will be sober and you will still be ugly.” — Sir Winston Churchill

“Wine is bottled poetry.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

“I feel sorry for people who don’t drink.  When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day.” — Frank Sinatra

February 17, 2009

How Dumb Do You Think We Are?

Filed under: General — Tags: , , , , — HighStakesBlog @ 3:45 pm

As everyone is aware, Jerry Seinfeld made a fortune out of trying to make the mundane funny.  He often took it to the extreme…”What’s the deal with nail clippers…I mean seriously.”  Since then, many have tried to emulate this brand of comedy and comedic writing, to a widely varying degree of success.  I mention this, because please do not construe the following as Seinfeldian.  I am not trying to be funny.  I’m  actually kind of pissed.

I don’t believe that everyone needs to be able to quote Whitman or solve quadratic equations to be educated or intelligent.  But the sad reality is that Americans as a nation are getting dumber.  We just are.  I’m not breaking any ground here if I quote test scores or job numbers or whatever.  But when you stop to think about what the “establishment” opinion of the general public is, it is infuriating and a tad depressing.

I’m not referring in this particular instance to the messages political parties (both of them) are feeding us or the embarassingly non-sensical drivel that comes out of corporations, but rather the messages that advertisers bombard us with on a daily basis.  Now, please understand that I may lose some friends or some business over this, because it’s a tad controversial, but I still think it needs said.

As a communications consultant, I am well aware of the power of messaging and of positioning.  I would by lying if I said I haven’t ever massaged a fact or two to shed a different light on a client or a situation.  But I refuse to lie.  And I refuse to stoop to ridiculously low levels to preach to the lowest common denominator.  I have a perhaps over-inflated view of my target audience and their sophisticaiton level.  Perhaps that’s a mistake, but I just cannot stand the alternative.  And too often, that alternative is exactly what is spread by advertising.

I have often said that the key in developing an advertising campaign is to take an idea, stretch it to its complete illogical conclusion and there is your product.  If you think about it, that’s really pretty accurate.  Trying to say your truck is tough?  Blow it up with a meteor and show that it still keeps right on going.  Sure, why not?  Is you soft drink cooling and refreshing?  Let’s show some humans and animals physically melting into furniture and being revived by our wonder-soda.  See what I mean?  Simple concept, illogical conclusions.

But then there are the ads and campaigns that infuriate me.  The ones where the subtext is that we, as Americans, are just stupid.  I am going to give two examples, but there are hundreds.  The one that bothers me the most right now is Subway…”Eat Fresh.”  Really?  Fresh?  How much fresh meat have you seen come in baggies?  How much fresh meat comes from between wax paper?  Or gets scooped out of a bin with an ice cream scoop?  And how much fresh lettuce comes out of the ground brown and shriveling?  Fresh?  Really?  But just because everyone’s favorite fatty has told America that Subway is responsible for him losing a few “lbs,” the chain thinks it can capitalize by positioning themselves as the epitome of freshness.  Please tell me that baggies and ice cream scoops are enough of a hint to the American public that freshness is in the eyes of the retailer and not the consumer.

The second is not really an insult to our intelligence directly, but rather an insult to our level of sophisticated humor?  Don’t get me wrong.  I loved Chris Farley as much as the next guy.  And when the Simpsons aired an episode where a 5 second clip of a guy taking a football to the crotch wins a film fest, nobody laughed harder than I did.  But come on.  We’re capable of more, are we not?  I was driving home from the Blue Jackets game last night and I heard a commercial so infuriating that it made me forget about the infuriating shoot-out loss to the Stars…for a second.  I will not even mention the company as it would give thme more than they deserve.  But let’s just say that it is national and well-known.

The concept of the commercial is that people need to be thinking about important things.  But the beginning is a guy trying to illustrate the problem.  He ponders…”Miracle Bra?  I mean it lifts and separates…what’s miraculous about that?  A miracle would be if you could figure out the hooks.”  Okay.  Now.  I will admit, when I was 11-years-old and folding laundry, mom’s maidenforms might as well have been from Mars.  The concept was just completely foreign.  But by the time I became old enough to start stealing Playboys and flipping back-and-forth between the pay-per-view channels in an attempt to get a glimpse of a body-part through the “snow” … I had a pretty good idea of how those marvels of mechanics operated.

And when I finally had my first opportunity to put that research to work (somewhere in my mid-20s)…sure it might not have been effortless, but come on.  But let me tell you, this advertising campaign is NOT targeted at 11-year-olds folding laundry.  It’s targeted at adults.  So who is supposed to laugh at this?  I mean, honestly?  Is the impression of America so bad that an advertising “exec” thinks that just by mentioning a bra we will remember their commercial?  It is just ridiculously demeaning and I desperately want to believe that there isn’t a soul out there who would laugh at that.

Save your laughs for guys getting hit in the twig and berries with a football.

February 13, 2009

Feeling okay actually feels damn good

Filed under: General — HighStakesBlog @ 4:07 pm

You know the days when you were convinced you would be a paleontologist and find a new species of dinosaur?  Or when you thought you would be the next person in space?  Or when you thought YOU were “The Next American Idol?”  Clearly, everyone wakes up and realizes…crap.  I am probably not going to the moon or the Brockasaurus is going to have to be discovered by someone named Clarence.

For me, that day was last week.

I know it sounds stupid, but I am 31-years-old, with nothing more than a bachelor’s degree from a liberal arts college that nobody has ever heard of, a wife and two kids and live in about as “milk toast” of a town as you can possibly reside.   And I honestly thought that somewhere out there (all apologies to Mr. Feivel Mouse on that one) were dinosaur bones with my name on them.  With the possible exception of working in a chemistry lab with my brother as I don’t even understand WHAT he does, let alone how to do it, my entire life, I really felt like there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do.

There was a TV show a few years ago, I think on in an era when Crystal Pepsi might have been advertised, and by era I mean month.  It was called something like The Pretender or Contender or Blender or something.  Basically, each week, this guy seamlessly took on a new job, a new career, a new city.  And he never missed a beat.  You never saw him interning or sleeping with the boss’ daughter with a GREAT personality to get to the top.  He was just there.  It was inside him.  That was the way I saw myself.  I could do anything I wanted to, I could be anything I wanted to.

There was just one problem.  I was afraid that one day I might find out that there was something I COULDN’T do.  So I always did what was safe.  I did anything where there wasn’t even a possibility of my failing.  And yet I was completely miserable.  Because I knew I was failing not at something particular, but at living my life.  The weird thing was that even in the things I did because I knew I couldn’t fail, if I weren’t the absolute best or wasn’t looked at as the best, I left.  Why stay if I’m not the best?  So failing wasn’t an option and neither was being good enough.  Is it really a wonder I suffer from depression? I’m so messed up, you probably can’t even understand what it is that I’m trying to say.

There were only two things in my life that didn’t fall in these categories: my wife and my children.  When I met my wife, there was a feeling that she was out of my league (and let’s be honest, she is).  There was an initial inclination to go after the girl in the corner of my fraternity killing can after can of Natural Light and who had spent more nights in our house than I had.  I mean, who could fail at that, right? And I didn’t even have to be good enough.  Alive would have sufficed.  But in large part due to my “sis” Karla and in large part due to a sense of certainty previously unknown to myself, I was persistent.  And eventually, her eyesight became poor and her self-esteem was low enough that we started dating. That was twelve years ago.  Things haven’t been perfect.  I haven’t been perfect.  And there have been times where I have almost failed.  But none of that matters. It’s the happiness. It’s the “Dance.”

It’s the same with being a father.  I never stopped to think if I would be good at it.  Lord knows if I had, I would be actually responding to the e-mail ads I get repeatedly…the pressure would have been too much.  I just KNEW I would be good at it.  I just KNOW how to love my daughters and how to enjoy every freaking moment with them, no matter how imperfect.  And it’s that happiness and that comfort that allows it to FEEL perfect.

I am desperately seeking (Susan…good lord I am full of 80s references today…what have I missed?) this balance in my professional life, but that’s a whole other series of blogs. And poker?  Good lord, don’t get me started.  Those of you I play with online, have you noticed a series of disappearing acts?  Whenever I feel I may not be quite as good as I want to be, I disappear only to miss it so much that I have to play.  And the cycle repeats.

The reason for even boring you with this trite drivel: this is the TRUE reason for my intermittent blogging.  I do not want to write if it’s not what I deem perfect.  I ALWAYS have something to say, lord knows.  I always WANT people to hear it, lord knows.  But I don’t want to put it down for the world to see if it’s not “perfect.” It has to be funny.  It has to be memorable.  It has to be me.  And damn, that’s hard to crank out daily.

But the outlet and the writing is just too important to me.  People understanding me is just too important.  I am trying to overcome my stasis as it relates to blogging as well.  But it’s a struggle.  A daily struggle.

Today, I figured, hey, what better way to express this and get over this fear than by pumping out a completely boring, useless, trivial blog post without a modicum of sense?  See?  Now I can’t be worried about failing, because with this blog, I have ALREADY failed.

I can’t be perfect now.  So what’s left is just me.

February 10, 2009

A turning point in my daughters’ lives and an ode to Cousin Eddie

Filed under: Parenting — Tags: , , , , — HighStakesBlog @ 9:37 pm

I can barely type this through my tears of joy.

Sunday was an enormous day in my daughters’ lives.  No, not their first Pro Bowl.  They have been around for previous incarnations of that orgy of pointless exhibitions and, well, orgies.  No, it was something infinitely more important.

It was their first trip to a Sunday buffet.

Before we go any further, let’s ensure we’re singing from the same hymnal here.  That’s buffet.  Pronounced “Boo-fey” … Not “Buh-fey” or worse yet, “Buff-ette.”  Something as bacchanalian as a Sunday buffet deserves the emphasis on the FIRST syllable.

Okay, I feel better.  Back to the turning point in my girls’ lives.  Sunday we were taking the girls to the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Hockey Fest.  But we wanted to do something fun for lunch.  And I was feeling flush with cash after fleecing some fine, upstanding gentlemen from a whopping $40 the night before.  I was wracking my brain to come up with a dining experience that didn’t involve a clown or excessive amounts of processed cheddar and oyster crackers.

As a plane flew overheard, it hit me.  Not the plane, the perfect lunch destination.  One of the highlights of my childhood was cramming in the family’s Ford Taurus/Tempo/LTD and heading to the place where culinary and kitsch meet in a chorus of consumption: the 94th Aero Squadron.

Now, for those of you who aren’t familiar, this was a chain of restaurants that were around almost every airport in the United States at one time.  They are built in a WWI motif from the “Checkpoint Charlie” gate in the parking lot to the sandbags lining the walls of the entry-way.  It is the ultimate theme restaurant.  Most of these glorious establishments have long-since closed.  But the one in Columbus goes on and on.  For one reason and one reason only: the Sunday buffet.

All of this reminiscing only served to strengthen my convictions.  I turned onto Hamilton Rd. and drowned out the ear-splitting protests of my wife and headed for this Sunday tradition.

It was exactly as I remembered it.  It seemingly contained miles and miles of moderately warm food, some of it prepared to order by completely uninterested college students still shaking off the cobwebs of the Mad-Dog and White Castle binge from the night before.  It was beautiful.  And then there was the 80 ft. long table of the finest pastries Sam’s Club has to offer.  Pure bliss.

And my girls dove right in with reckless abandon.  They each of course had their favorites.  Audrey ate two tons of “Belgian” waffle with whipped cream and oreo pieces. Sidney was fond of the boxed mashed potatoes and the sodium-saturated ham.  But what brought me endless joy was watching them run around, touching everything with the hands that had been playing in mud puddles only minutes before and piling their plates with items they won’t eat until they can legally drive.

Of course, bringing me down from this euphoric state of mind was my lovely wife.  Twelve years we have been together.  We will have been married ten years in November.  And buffets just aren’t her thing.  She would go up, wander amongst the aisles of food, lift the cover off of some food and I would watch her eyes roll back into her head as she slammed the lid back down in disgust.  She would wander over to the vegetable tray, remember she hates vegetables and stand there, stunned for minutes at a time.  Eventually, she would head back to the breakfast zip code and pluck a bagel, a piece of melon and a few grains of Uncle Ben’s finest.  She would then begin the dangerous journey back to the table playing “Frogger” with rotund individuals planning the items for their last meal until mid-week all while trying to avoid the mass of humanity making the pilgrimage from the thawed crab legs to the vat of melted butter-substance.

I truly felt bad for her.

But it was all worthwhile when my four-year-old leaned over, hugged me and said “I love you daddy…and I love buffets.”  I am getting choked up about it just typing these words.

It was a scene expertly captured by the cinematic achievement that was “Vegas Vacation.”  As the socially challenged cousin Eddie takes Clark W. Griswold to his favorite Vegas establishment, he walks up to the man behind the sneeze-guard, points to a colored, gelatinous mass and says these immortal words: “Give me some of the yellow…and don’t get cheap on me.”

Indeed, Cousin Eddie.  Indeed.

February 7, 2009

With all due respect Mr. Mathers, it’s not LOSING Yourself that’s important

Filed under: General — HighStakesBlog @ 5:44 pm

I wrote this on my facebook status the other day, so I apologize if you have already read this…wait, if you read my facebook status and you’re reading this, you’re either my wife or you’re stalking me.  Either way, it’s your fault not mine.  So I’m not sorry.

On to the story.  I was wandering through Whole Foods the other day with my two-year-old while waiting for my wife to meet us for lunch.  Yes, you read the correctly.  I was walking through a food store while waiting on someone to eat lunch.  And you wonder why I have named hidden elastic khakis the greatest invention of the last thirty years?  At least all I bought was a Honey Crisp apple.  That’s good right?  Good lord those are good apples.  If you haven’t tried one, do it.  I swear.

After purchasing said apple (which required an ATM trip because I NEVER have cash on me and charging a $1.99 apple is against my belief system), while walking to lunch I saw a shirt.  The shirt read “Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about cheating yourself.”  Okay, it didn’t really.  But that’s the way I read it.  I swear.  Of course, it ACTUALLY said, “Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself.”

And that is the process I have been going through over the past few years.  It is the process that began with the passing of my father-in-law and was most recently reinforced by the passing or Mr. Fields.  It sounds way too granola and cashmere to come out of my mouth, but I mean it.  When you wake up and realize that you have no idea what type of music you actually like, you realize you need to figure out who the heck you are and fully develop that person.

I have been relatively successful in figuring out the peripheral.  Sometimes I am thrilled with what I find.  Other times, not so much.  Mais, c’est moi.

Regardless of their complete lack of ability to cope with fleeting moments of success, I love the Columbus Blue Jackets.  I do.  I am a hockey fan.  I’ve never played hockey.  I tried skating once and I looked like Manute Bol. Despite this, I watch every game.  From start to finish.  I have a secret desire to join the Jackets backers and watch games at the new and improved R-Bar.  And I hate baseball.  Sorry, dad.  I still have fond memories of summers listening to Joe Nuxhall (RIP) and Marty Brennaman, but I hate baseball.

I love baths.  When my wife and daughters are gone for a night or a weekend, I no longer disappear for hours at a time, hovering around places of ill-repute and drinking God knows what and “washing it down” with a Crave Case.  No.  I take a bath.  No battleships like Chandler on “Friends.”  But there are bath products involved.  I told my wife what to buy me at CO Bigelow with her (defunct) discount.  The salesman gave it to her.  It said “calming and relaxing.”  There was another that said for “muscle soreness.”  That clearly wasn’t for me.

Most anyone who has spent time with me for any length of time has heard a “bad beat” story.  Oh, wow.  I want to make a comment, but I shall pretend that being crass, crude and inappropriate isn’t ALSO who I am.  I’ll let it go.  No, bad beat as in poker.  Ever since my father let me peer over his card table during his semi-annual poker game, I have loved to play cards.  Sadly, I grew up a little too late and too early.  My love of cards lay dormant for years.

Then Chris Moneymaker parlayed his mirrored Oakleys into millions at the World Series of Poker.  Suddenly there were plenty of opportunities to finger the felt (oh good lord).  But here’s what I learned.  To me, it’s more than an excuse to drink cheap beer (Josef Hoffbauer anyone?) and disappear for hours at a time and leave the diaper-changing to my better half.  I realized that I am passionate about it.  I read blogs, I read books, I have a poker journal where I write things I have learned while playing.  I am rather good and I have a strong desire to get better.  It is not something to hide, but to me, it is a point of pride.  My favorite poker quote comes from David Mamet: “Poker reveals to the frank observer something else of import-it will teach him about his own nature. Many bad players do not improve because they cannot bear self-knowledge.”

Okay, this is going to be the last one.  And it’s going to be short.  Because there’s only so much I can say.  Many of you think I’m going to admit my love of hot tea.  But no.  This is infinitely worse.  You know those geeks that sit in their parents basements in front of their computers pretending to be gnomes, dwarves, orcs and trolls? Yeah, I’m one of them.  Without the basement.   Well, and my character is actually a human.  But I am still one of them.  I play World of Warcraft.  I still bathe, work and eat (clearly) so I have one leg up on many of those I play with.  But I am still one of them.

Okay, that feels better.  Until the comments start coming in.  But for now, it feels better.

Alas, while important (and embarrassing), these are not the core of self.  That, I am still creating.  How important is my career to me?  What is my career?  Am I a city person or a rural creature?  What are my philanthropic goals?  What role do my friends play in my life?  Family?  These are the questions I am still struggling with.  These are the questions that have me back in therapy.  These are the questions I must figure out before I have truly created myself and can be truly happy.

But oh my goodness that sounds daunting.  I’ll get to it after my bath.

February 6, 2009

Goodbye, Mr. Fields

Filed under: General — Tags: , , , — HighStakesBlog @ 11:30 am

Getting old sucks.

And I’m not just referring to receding hairlines, expanding waistlines and the embarrassing feeling of talking to an intern about Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” and having them return a blank stare, full of pity.  Not that it has happened to me.

No, I’m talking about something much more serious.  We are entering the phase of our lives where we start losing people close to us.  Most have had to deal with the painful death of a grandparent or a freak accident taking a friend or a family member.  But somewhere, in the deep recesses of our minds, we can accept these events.

But losing your friend to cancer?  Losing a parent to a “routine” surgery?  Losing a friend’s 56-year-old parent to a heart condition that we thought was “fixed?” These should be played-out movie scripts designed to bring tears and escapism into the plights of others.  This just shouldn’t be our daily lives.  It just shouldn’t.

And yet, 18 months ago, we lost my father-in-law.  The “Pop-Pop” to my beautiful, innocent daughters.  A running enthusiast, chaplain in the US Army and a Parrish pastor in Pittsburgh.  An imposing figure, a patriarch in the true sense of the word.  It shouldn’t have happened.

There  was so much over that time period that was physically painful to see.  The hospital.  The waiting rooms.  The tubes.  The ICU.  The funeral home.  Tears.  The honor guard.  Rows and rows of fallen soldiers in their final resting place amongst rolling hills and autumn leaves.

But perhaps the most painful view of all was the one I saw when I looked inside my soul.  It is trite and a given that at times like this, you cannot ignore your own mortality and the mortality of those whom you hold most dear.  It was a time of great introspection, hours-long conversations with my wife and discussions of how things were going to be “different.”  As a result of that unspeakable tragedy, we knew what was really important.  But did we?

In yet another undeniable slap in the face as to the unstoppable passage of time, last week we lost the father of a close friend.  We had met him several times, but had heard innumerable stories of this “gentle giant,” father of four boys and proud grandpa.  I felt like we were much closer than we were.

Last night was the viewing and the subsequent service.  I attended to support our friend and his wife.  I attended to support my wife who is even closer to these two than I.  I expected a painful scene, in which I would be a mere helpless observer.  What I got was a powerful celebration of the life of a man that embodies fatherhood, what it means to be a husband and a true community leader.  What I got was a powerful exaltation of the life of a man who truly knew himself and knew “the way.”

I saw there not only in awe, but in despair.  Where was I the last time I sat in this excruciating situation as a powerless pawn?  Was I prepared to face my life as a participant in a similar tragedy?  Had anything truly changed?  The inescapable answer was “not enough.”

As we heard musings of the Pastor, passages of scripture that actually hit home for a change, as we heard from “the boys” on the life lessons taught by their dad, you truly began to get a picture of this man.  And it was a picture that embodied the hopes and dreams of my youth for a successful man.  He had a successful career in which he provided for his family and had an incalculable impact on not only those he came in contact with as a result of that career, but also on his co-workers.  He was a devoted, loving husband who saw his wife for the beauty and gifts that she had.  He was a true role model for his boys and provided their athletic, scholastic and moral centers.  He was a passionate coach and community athletic leader that had lasting impacts on an entire generation of youth.  It was said that he never had a bad word to say about anyone to their face or behind their back.

These are the traits that my father brings to my brother and I, this is what Mike Fields brought to his family and this is what I had always envisioned bringing to mine.

But do I?  Can I?  What is holding me back?  What changes do I need to make?

Writing this was the first step.

Goodbye, Mr. Fields.  As you are laid to rest today, please go with the knowledge that you have touched one more life, even as yours was taken from you.  But oh my, what a life you led.

November 12, 2008

I believe … I simply cannot write at the times when I should write the most

Filed under: General — HighStakesBlog @ 10:53 am

I am back.  The lines were very long.  It was complete madness with people going in and coming back out.  But I felt it was my civic duty and that it wasa turning point in both my life and the life of our country so I persisted.

No, not the polls, people…get real.  I’m talking about the border with Canada.  All those Democrats like Barbara Streisand coming back in, Karl Rove and Elizabeth Hasselback in the Land Rover in fornt of me…what a mess.  But with Obama winning the election I was willing to make the sacrifice and wait for my turn to cross over into the promised land.  Then it hit me.  They have socialized medicine.  And I am a hypochondriac.  So I turned around and here I am.  Better late than never.

Yes, our country is headed in a new direction.  It may be a very good thing.  I know that I am all in favor of the instant respect we have obtained from the majority of the world’s players.  But as far as the rest, we will wait and see.  Frankly, I am more scared of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid than I am Obama.  One-party rule can be a scary thing.  But again, I will reserve judgement.

But enough of the free world.  More about me.

It’s no secret that I battle depression almost every day.  Those of you who know me, know that you may go weeks without hearing from me.  Those are the bad times.  Those are the times where I can barely get dressed and shave, let alone send a text message or an e-mail.  Those are the days where my business suffers from my paralysis and fear that anything I write or any conversation I have will be a disaster and a detriment to both myself and my clients.  Those are the days where I can’t imagine anyone actually WANTING to talk to me.  So I sit.  And I suffer.  And my family suffers.

To be honest, it is times like these that make me want to write.  They make me want to write to help sort out the ridiculous thoughts in my head.  They make me want to write to give myself a written mantra that I can repeat and turn my cognitive thinking from miserable to productive.  And yet, those are the times that I cannot write.  The words are scary.  The thoughts that might appear on paper are frightening.  So that leaves me writing about stupid things that have no bearing on anything.

But this is my commitment.  This is my commitment to write during those times.  Not for you.  I fear you will be forced to suffer with me.  But for me.  For my family.  I will write in the hopes that giving names to the demons will remove their stranglehold over me.

I fear for you, but it gives me hope for me.

November 4, 2008

I believe … everyone should get a blog-reader and I will tell you how

Filed under: General — HighStakesBlog @ 3:37 pm

Okay, everyone who reads this today will expect something political.  I’m not going to do it.  All I am going to say is please make sure you are educated on the candidates and the issues and THEN go vote.

There.  That’s out of the way.

I cannot live without my blog reader.  I subscribe to somewhere around 75 or 80 blogs and the reader automatically downloads new posts and presents them in a way I can easily review them or save them to read later.  It makes reading them on my blackberry infinitely easier and it isn’t really hyperbole to say that I WOULDN’T read them on my blackberry if it wasn’t for my blog reader.

I encourage everyone to find blogs of interest to them and subscribe to them in some sort of blog reader.  I use google reader…it can be found at google.com/reader.  I know some people swear by Bloglines.  But there are many others out there.  Set one up.  Go to a blog’s “RSS feed” and subscribe to the blog.  Imagine getting a magazine on an issue important to you several times a day.  Then again, if you aren’t careful, you’ll get annoying junk mail (like my blog).

So subscribe carefully.

November 3, 2008

I believe … I might need to clarify

Filed under: Politics — HighStakesBlog @ 9:53 am

Ahhhh…the story of my life.

“Wait, you misunderstood…what I meant to say was…”

“I’m sorry you read it that way…what I was trying to say was…”

“Officer, perhaps I need to clarify what I meant by would a Franklin get me out of that ticket”

I’m always misunderstood.  But unlike most, I know that I am misunderstood because I do a horrific job of explaining myself.  Great for a writer, eh?  Hence why my living is based more on my ability to talk than to write.

Going back to my blog from Friday…I am not trying to dismantle the two-party system.  Just like I was not trying to dismantle the THREE-tiered system during my “Stop Getting Screwed” campaign.  But that’s another story.

I think that the two-party system, to steal from Churchill, is the worst form of democracy, except for all the others.  I know why the parties exist.  I know why they’re necessary.  But I also know that they have gotten out of control and no longer represent the majority of those who identify with that party.  As such, I believe this rise of “independents” is more of an indicator of the parties leaving the people and not the other way around.

The Republican party, as is so often described, realistically relies on Pro-Life and Pro-Gun voters.  It relies on those who aren’t ashamed to praise Jesus and those who are proud to worshsip the almighty dollar.  It’s a party that wants lower taxes and the government out of their economic life and then wants to tell the citizens exactly what it can and cannot do socially.  That is not my party.

So what to do about it?  Vote for the other guy?  Vote for a guy who stands for virtually nothing that I do?  I don’t think so.  And I do not subscribe that sends a message to “my” party.  Losses to the “other guy” are so easily explained in partisan terms and so quickly flipped that the party should have spent more time with its “base.”

No, in my opinion, the way to send a message is to note vote for either candidate.  What happens when an election turns on 6% or 7% and there were 10-15% voting for independent candidates.  The parties are forced to look at WHY those candidates pulled so many votes away.  Remember Ross Perot?  Was he a joke politically?  Absolutely.  Did he ever have a chance to win?  Not a freaking shot in hades.  But does anyone recall a shift to the center for the Bill Clinton administration?  Does anyone find that to be a coincidence?

So that, my brother, as you are the only one reading this monotonous mess, is why I am voting for Bob Barr.  A fiscal conservative, personal rights-focused candidate who understands the limits to American liberties but fights to support them.

I am confident that I am not throwing my vote away by doing this.  I am not influencing this election.  That I understand.  But I strongly believe I am influencing the next one.  And that’s good enough for me.

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