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The irony of writing about National Screen-Free Week using a screen that I carry on my person at all times ain’t lost on me. At least it’s authentic irony rather than the veneer of irony that’s mistaken for wit these days.

OK that was kinda haughty. Sorry. Truth is, I’m having a hard time with keeping screen-free week screen free. And it’s beyond the fact I use a computer for my job. Maybe it stems from having an Atari 2600 Childhood. Maybe I’m hardwired so to speak. But I don’t think so.

At home, we don’t really watch TV. No computer games. Heck, not even phone games anymore. But I find myself reaching for my cell out of boredom, checking my Facebook or email, using it as a crutch. That’s not good.

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Don't kill it. Don't love it. Just cool it.

With all conveniences, I suppose that in using them, our (unspoken) task is to self-regulate. Otherwise we risk using them to our detriment,  opting for pixels over personal interaction or… gasp!… reflection. That sure beats using “the truncheon in lieu of conversation,” but in the long run I’m of the mind that the effect of both are similarly detrimental, making us more subjects than sentients.

Still, screens provide an escape. And that isn’t always a bad thing. But for me, for this week, going screen free is quite the challenge. Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit the fourth wall.

Advent Spiral

derekhambrick:

It’s that time of year again!
No, not rampant consumerism, running amok and foaming at the mouth, promulgating debt-driven spending traditions as artificial as the plastic that enables them.
In this time of holiday traditions, I’m reposting one of your favorite entries and one of my favorite traditions: The Advent Spiral!
What is it? Find out.

Originally posted on Heavy Mental ~ Derek Hambrick's blog:


Outside the church ... before the magic

This year witnessed our son starting kindergarten at the Waldorf School.  We knew that it was very much a step for our family in terms of involvement.  What I mean by that is that families – not solely the children – are a large part of the school.  This is exactly what we wanted: involvement.

Such was what we got this morning as we got to see our children participate in the advent spiral.  It’s a winter tradition, as I understand it, one that revolves around the theme of light coming from the darkness.  Illumination, in a word.

Some of you might be familiar with this tradition, but until a month ago, I wasn’t.

Our class’ advent spiral – like others – was a reverent activity. Picture a dark room, the floor cleared save for event’s namesake, wrapped in a cloak of soft lyre music and all but devoid of words. The advent…

View original 260 more words

Stretching borders

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You are (not) here. And neither am I.

My childhood was happy with an asterisk.

Those closest to me – my immediate family and more intimate friends – provided the love and safe environ in which I could develop, explore, fail, and adjust without fear or at least without more than a healthy dose of it.

The asterisk is there to account for stronger developmental punctuations like separating-then-divorcing parents and the enduring accompaniment of grandparents’ Alzheimer’s/dementia. These things happen.  It’s part of this thing called life, I suppose.

Looking at these things, I see each circle – the inner and the outer – varying in the amount of control we have over them. The experiences from each are formative. Take the separating-then-divorcing parents for example. Now a parent myself, I’m set on making marriage work no matter what comes our way. Other things, like my grandfather’s Alzheimer’s … well, I can do little to stave off that, save health decisions of today, at least on a physical and mental level.

Focusing on the outer, unrefined landscape though, I recall something that recurred in my childhood around the age that Gabriel is now. We lived in Jonesboro, Ga., a great place for young boys: bikes and backstreets, camo pants and acres of woods, allowances and five-and-dimes. One by two miles, it was fun to grow up there, my brother and I having our run of the place … within limits … without my mom having to worry about much.

Next door to us though, in the back of the neighboring (and I use that term loosely) lot was a small house that housed a contentious couple, the daughter and son-in-law of the neighbor (ibid.) occupying the main house. They’d argue from time to time, frequently coming into the yard to do so. Frequently at night. Frequently around my bedtime. Apparently, they wanted to share it with everyone on our street. It bothered me, frightened me really, and I know it must have concerned my mom.

A few months ago, our neighbor, with whom we’re really close, had his son and daughter-in-law move in. Ironically, in the back of the lot, there’s a small shed, and we think they’re fixing it up to stay in. Hard to tell, really. Our neighbor’s a good guy – gone through some rough patches himself – but gotten through, smoothing out some of his own inner landscape in the process. Long story short, he’s great. His relatives, not so much.

Last night, after G was asleep, there was a household falling out of some kind. It resulted in the young couple’s walking out and heading down the street, trading expletives – in their outside voices – with the dad. Not good.

I try to take things like this and reflect a bit on why they happened, not so much in the secular cause-and-effect sense, but rather “Why am I meant to witness this?” (Yes, friends have told me I think too much, btw.) For me, I took it as a chance to ask myself “What am I willing to accept in my life?” I’m not willing to accept that kind of situation. It’s a unique blending of the outer and inner landscapes, yep, but I feel that to fully take responsibility of my family’s inner circle, I need to press out into the outer circle and ensure my standards there as well.

Our white picket fence needs a-paintin'

Our white picket fence needs a-paintin’

The ironic thing is that we’re making efforts to move, which would “solve” things. But instead of leaving the status quo well enough alone (as I’m wont to do to my frequent detriment), I need to step up and out. Hard task, but needed.

Have you experienced any situations that blended your own inner and outer circles? How’d you deal with them? Any lessons learned?

You are here. Enjoy.

There are times in your life when hard work and aspirations seem to crystallize into something beautiful, when things seem to, well … fit  … when they come together in a moment – or perhaps a series of such.  For me, this tends to prompt some realization. And usually that realization comes from reflecting lucidly on your circumstances. Sometimes you think about things, and other times things just come to you. Tonight’s the latter.

Either way, at such times, you’re able to reflect clearly on where you are, but more importantly where you were, and even more importantly than that how far you’ve come along your path. Once we come to these moments when we can look back and see our trajectory, it’s an amazing thing. Sometimes we can’t grasp their beauty, let alone their importance. Sometimes we do.

Keep goingAs a writer, I think that it is my duty to try to capture these moments, when they’re mine to hold. I have ability, even if sometimes I don’t have the inclination to be the chronicler of these moments. I’ll admit it: Writing is hard – that’s a truth that even appears in that classic on the craft, On Writing Well. So maybe that’s the reason I don’t write these moments down. And maybe that’s a cop-out.

That aside, tonight is such a night of reflection. This moment is such a moment. In my capacity as a writer (in the professional sense) I’ve been able to write about our company values insofar as they were embodied by and recognized in – 12 individuals out of 50,000 in the Americas Region. Writing about them wasn’t a tough task – as I told one of the speakers after the award ceremony tonight, “It’s hard to screw up talking about someone who’s so spectacular.” Regardless, it’s an honor to be a part of some high-caliber, small-gathering event like our firm’s Chairman’s Values Awards.

The silent cynic in me might protest that while the video scripts I wrote turned out pretty dang nicely, some of the speakers avoided the talking points I wrote like a vegan avoids bacon. But that’s fine. Regardless, it was I whose words formed the foundation of the festivities. I’m not gloating, but rather acknowledging what I’ve done – how far I’ve come. That’s important and a hard lesson in itself for me.

Recognizing that, I am here and I am grateful. This is one of those moments. This is one of those times I can stand on the mesa, turn around, look down, and see how far I’ve climbed. But like the words I penned for the CVAs, even these words have to change because I don’t believe in mesas. I don’t believe in plateaus. I do believe in effort and the occasional waypoint that affords you a brief time to look back before looking – yet again – ahead. So tonight, French-cuffed and heady on prose and Guinness – before turning my eyes to what’s ahead of me – I have the capacity to look around, look back, and be grateful before setting sights on the un-trod incline.

Well, not really. But believe it or not, I stumbled on an interesting similarity.

A good friend and fellow scribbler recommended a book on writing. Authored by Steven King, On Writing provides a kind of narrative illustration of writing. It’s in the book’s first section, dubbed “CV” by the author, that I found a little crystal of similarity between an author whose tomes I’ve never cracked and an education that’s dear to me.

On writing

How’dya like this guy to read you a bedtime story? Sheesh.

It goes a little like this:

“… TV came relatively late to the King household. And I’m glad. I am, when you stop to think of it, a member of a fairly select group: the final handful of american novelists who learned to read and write before they learned to eat a daily helping of video bullshit.”

I can’t apologize for the decidedly non-Waldorfian language; King certainly doesn’t. Yet I can applaud his honesty. He continues:

“This might not be important. On the other hand, if you’re just starting out as a writer, you could do a lot worse that strip your television’s electric plug-wire, wrap a spike around it, and then stick it back into the wall. See what blows, and how far. Just an idea.”

I think that he’s talking about TV as an anti-creative. I’m not saying that TV isn’t creative — and I suppose that he’s not either. I really think that it’s an art, TV. At least an artistic medium. And so it demands creativity — to be good at least. After all, it took creative minds to write and produce all those episodes of M*A*S*H and put together a show like “Whose Line Is It Anyway.”

Ironically, Decatur has a Waldorf School.

Ironically, Decatur has a Waldorf School.

But TV offers creativity in the same way a frozen entrée offers you gourmet fare: you may get it, but it’s not your creation. That’s where Waldorf comes in. The idea behind the education — at least as far as media and screens are concerned — is not to shun technology, the oft-misunderstood intent, but rather to delay its introduction into a child’s life so that (and here it comes … forgive the 4-line sentence) creativity can develop on its own.

Give it time, in other words.

Something else that Steven King included in this book rings true with the Waldorf approach:

“I’d like to suggest that turning off that endlessly quacking box is apt to improve the quality of your life as well as the quality of your writing.”

A blog post is too short a span to expand on Waldorf’s concurrence with that statement. But let me say that the benefits of limiting screen time are tremendous.

Before this book, I’d not read any King novels. While I don’t like his preferred genre (’cause I get spooked easy!) I might pick up Stand By Me or Shawshank Redemption also written by that master of macabre. But I just have to wonder, if, when I do read the latter, will I hear Morgan Freeman’s voice in my head since I saw the movie first?

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,700 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Swiing (left) and Jolt (right) say hello and good-bye

I’m losing a friend today, a friend of the four-wheeled variety.  Swiing is my Saab 900S that has been with me literally through good and bad patches.  I donated him to the Children’s Miracle network, so, as he’s done for me during the last 13 years, he’s going to keep doing somebody some good.  Imma miss Swiing.

Saturday, I got a new friend.  His name is Jolt, a 2012 Volt.  Like Swiing, I’m his second owner.  Imma enjoy Jolt.

This rainy morning, I parked him on the street to make room for Swiing’s last drive down the driveway.  The following conversation (quite possibly could have) ensued.

Swiing: Hey there.
Jolt: Hey!
Swiing: So, I guess you’re the new ride, eh?
Jolt: Yep, that’s me!  My name is Jolt.  What’s yours?
Swiing: Swiing. With two I’s.
Jolt: <raises windshield wipers inquisitively>
Swiing: The “S” and the double I come from “Saab” … the “wing” part comes from Star Wars.
Jolt: How’s that?
Swiing: Derek’s had a tradition of naming cars by tweaking the names of Star Wars vehicles. His Chevy Suburban was “The Imperial Car Destroyer,” and his mom’s tiny, green Geo Metro was “The Millennium Frog.” He even dubbed a sleek rental car “Pave 1,” nodding to Boba Fett’s ride.
Jolt: Ha, nice!
Swiing: Sooo … Jolt?  Is that a departure from the norm?
Jolt: Jolt?  Nah … he and Gabriel settled on it this morning. J is for “Jedi.” Morph that into “Volt” and there ya go.
Swiing: Yep, I’m with ya.  Cool.  So you’re electric? That’s sweet.
Jolt: Thanks.  I’m electric- and gas-powered. The best of both worlds you could say.  Derek’s talked about how good your gas mileage always was.
Swiing: <perks up as much as an 18-year-old car can> Thanks!  Yep, great gas mileage and sporty.  That’s me!  So, I guess you heard that he’s donating me today.  The driver should be here within the hour.
Jolt: Yeah, he mentioned that. Couldn’t sell you, right? Wait … that came out wrong.
Swiing: Hehehe … not a problem.  He’s put a lot of work into me, that guy.  Says his dad inspired him by the way he cared for his Buick Electra. He dad kept it for years … at least three decades!
Jolt: No kidding?
Swiing: No joke! And people would stop at lights and ask him if he wanted to sell it!  You should know that when D’s dad passed, selling it was a tough decision. It’s one that he kinda regrets.
Jolt: Wow.  No kidding?  That’s funny — yesterday, Gabriel told his dad to take care of me so that he could have me when he gets old enough.
Swiing: Aw, that’s rich!  I can see that.
Jolt: I think that Gabriel enjoys me as much as Derek.
Swiing: As much as you look like something out of Star Wars, it’s not hard to guess why.
Jolt: Thanks.
Swiing: You know, you’ve got to take care of him, all of them.
Jolt: I know.  I will.
Swiing: He took care of me the best he could.  And when circumstances were such that he couldn’t do the service that I needed, that was hard for him.
Jolt: Must have been rough.
Swiing: Yeah, but we always had fun.  You will too. You look like you’ve got enough pickup to scare the bejeezus out any unsuspecting passenger.
Jolt: Well, yeah.
Swiing: Good. He’ll enjoy that.
Jolt: He already does. Gabriel too. Carmen not so much.
Swiing: That makes sense. Well, looks like he’s coming to move you to the driveway to make room for the tow truck.
Jolt: Yep.
Swiing: Well, be good to them, you hear?
Jolt: You got it. Take care of yourself, Swiing.
Swiing:
Ditto.

None of the above

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Georgia Voter sticker, lapel, morning sunshine.

It wasn’t exactly romantic, but it was fun to do together: C & I voted this morning.

We had some spare time, and we both disdain lines at government agencies. So instead of making googly eyes at each other over a few blueberry muffins and a café au lait before work, we exercised our right to vote. Awwwww, sappy.

Dang it was worth it.

You’ll not get anything here about for whom to vote or any political leanings. All I want to say is this: Please vote. Vote for the people you want. Dems. Repubs. Indies. None of them? No problem. Write in, baby. Write in. Just be sure to spell my name right.

The lines in Downtown Decatur were not long at all, making the occasion all the sweeter. And the fact that someone had stuffed the parking meter full of 82 minutes worth of change was a nice surprise. I added a quarter for the next person.

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Nathan Hudgins. For a brighter, sillier tomorrow.

Casting our votes was invigorating, a feeling that matched the crisp October air that met us on the sidewalk. C drove off to meet her day. I walked down the street to plug in at a local coffee shop and start work, feeling a high that was somewhere between seeing Testament live and reading some Thomas Paine.

Go git choo some, Amurica. Vote!

A-political challenge

Election year.  Now before that gets you riled up and all bristly, take a breath.  I’m not going to draw lines and take sides and try to convince you of anything polarizing.  Quite the contrary.  So gimme a minute before you start shooting holes in mah soapbox, Tex.

Choices can be polarizing.  Elections more so.  Especially when your choices are limited.

Too often, the choices aren’t about what — or whom — you like more, but rather what or whom you like less. (Sorry about the double-whom sentence.) And even when the like-less factors don’t drive your decision to the contrary, those like-less factors come to mind.

Example: You like candidate X.  She or he may have a stance or two you’re not super keen on, but you’ll cast your vote for her or him. When you hear about candidate Y, you get riled up.  You get bristly.  This is the point at which I’m focusing now, and I’d invite you to do the same.

Rhett Butler, Chairman of the Meh Party

See, your getting the electoral heebie-jeebies is a good thing on one hand; it means you care, you’re aware, and (unlike Rhett) you do give a damn. But what I’m working on eliminating from myself (or at least cutting down on) is the negative reactions when it comes to politics.

I suppose it’s apparent to me for a number of reasons, but I’ll distill it down to two.  First is Facebook.  Namely, political posts that seem to seethe ire and disdain.  You know the ones — the ones that your other-side-of-the-aisle friends post that make you consider un-friending them or firing off a pointed reply to their posts.  Be honest.  Yes, you do.

Wayne Dyer, Chairman of the Warm Fuzzies Party

Second is something I heard on a Wayne Dyer CD.  I’d love to quote the sentences that I’m thinking of, but here’s the gist: “You don’t have to agree on everything, nor convince someone of your viewpoint.”  Ah, refreshing.

I’m not saying ignore the negative (oh, it’s out there for sure no matter your political party).  Just try to focus, instead, on the positive.  Promote that.

If we could stop the auto-antagonism reactions, how much better our day would be.  What a better space we would be in.  And I bet that it’d help improve our political process.  People sling political mud because we, the American public, allow it.  Want to change it?  Change it inside yourself.  That’s what I’m doing with some success, and it feels great.

Soccer at 37 is not daunting in and of itself, but soccer after not playing any organized games in 15 years … well, that’s a bit foreboding.  I feel like I should be on the roster for Olde FC (Fart Club).

My fitness level, as expressed in cleats

A new friend who happens to coach Gabriel’s team invited me to join his company’s 7 vs. 7 team at Silverbacks Park on Mondays.  I’ve missed a game or two, but last night was my first.  All things considered, I survived.  I didn’t do too well.  I’m out of shape still and could really feel it.

Regardless of the outcome (we won 6-4, I believe), I had a blast.  Just being out there again.  Kicking the ball.  Running into open space.  Looking for options as the ball approaches.  These are the things I love when it comes to soccer.  It’s not the technique, not the winning or losing, but rather the love of the sport.  I’ve written about this before, too.

I stayed on the field for about 45 minutes of the hour-long game.  Notice I didn’t say “I was running for 45 minutes.”  But that’s my goal: keep moving when I’m on the pitch, without the magnetic pull of poor fitness holding me back.

It’s akin to what Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger said in an article on small-sided games (like the teams Gabriel and I play on now):

“What attracts every player of every level is the pleasure of playing the game….the roots of why they played in the first place. One day, as a kid, you played with your friends, you kicked a ball about and, wow, you enjoyed it and couldn’t wait to play again.”

G as in Grasshopper

And so I, too, can’t wait to play again. I guess that desire has never really faded. It’s just taken 15 years for me to decide to do it.

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