TWITTER: @sirbacon123

10 August 2010

Turning The Page: A New Journey

I was dreamin' when I wrote this
Forgive me if it goes astray
  -- Prince, 1999
I’ve been writing A blog since the beginning of the year.
I’ve been waiting to write THIS blog for nearly 23 months.
I could wax poetic and build up the drama for the next 900 words, but instead let me cut to the chase:
I have been offered a job and gladly accepted it.
I will begin working again on Monday.
And I can’t wait.

I’ve been waiting for something to happen
For a week or a month or a year
  -- Jackson Browne, Lives in the Balance
For nearly two years, I have been part of a growing group that is just looking for a chance.
A group of people who have been dealt a bad hand through no fault of their own.
A group of people who just want to start life all over again.
A group of people who have been kind enough to embrace me as they connect with my story.
Connect with my story from across my street and across the globe.
I am so excited and so humbled to be one of the lucky ones.
One of the lucky ones being given an opportunity to move on.
Moving on to rebuild something that was destroyed.
And I am going to make the most of it.
It takes a leap of faith to get things going
It takes a leap of faith you gotta show some guts
It takes a leap of faith to get things going
In your heart you must trust
  -- Bruce Springsteen, Leap of Faith
As part of this new job, I will be moving away from my family.
For now.
Several thousand miles away.
And that part of it hasn’t really hit me.
But it will.
And when it does, that will be another chapter in my life’s journey.  
Who knows, maybe even another blog.
We broke the news to the kids last week.
My oldest daughter cried first, then my son.
Then my six-year old when she saw her two siblings cry.
But by the end of the conversation, and several since, they are now as excited as I am.
They are totally on board with where life is taking me.
Taking us.
In the last week, they have seen their father smile.  
A lot.
They have seen optimism replace pessimism.
They have seen hope replace fear.

Take care of all your memories
For you can not relive them
   -- Bob Dylan, Nothing Was Delivered
I will look back on this time I have spent at home as the greatest time of my life.
I love working and I will love returning to work.
But to be a stay-at-home dad for as long as I was, is the job that I will be most proud of.
I don’t know if I was cut out to be a parent, but somehow I have figured out how to make it work.
From road trips to school functions to just watching my kids watch TV, there will never be a time where I will regret my time at home.
The times I shared with my family will forever be etched in my heart and in my head.
And in my blog.
This blog has given me the opportunity to relive the experiences and share them with you.
And with me.
The field trip to the zoo.
The little league baseball season.
The spelling bee.
My mother’s bipolar episode.
Good days.  Bad days.
Good moments.  Bad moments.
With every memory and every moment in time, I always had a place to be me.
I will cherish that forever. 
When the day is long and the night, 
the night is yours alone,
When you're sure you've had enough of this life, 
well hang on
  -- REM, Everybody Hurts
This blog has given me a way to connect with every possible emotion in the food chain.
Anger to depression.
Freedom to complete satisfaction.
I have spent countless hours sitting at the computer, late into the PM and many times early into the AM.
Sitting all alone in a dimly lit room, connecting with my emotions, while connecting with you.
No matter what I was feeling when I sat down in the chair, writing seemed to cure any aches and any pains.
Sadness is a waste of energy.
Bitterness is a waste of time.
But those are real feelings.
What happened to me didn’t need to happen.
What happened to me wasn’t fair.
What happened to me wasn’t right.
But what has happened to MILLIONS of people in this great country is far worse than anything I ever had to deal with.
I never lost sight of that.
And never will.
Since being told nearly two years ago that my “services were no longer needed”, I have seen sides of me that I didn’t know existed.
The side that learned how to love like I’ve never loved before.
The side that learned how to share like I’ve never shared before.
The side that learned how to hurt like I’ve never hurt before.
The side that used to trust, but couldn’t trust anymore.
The side that used to believe, but couldn’t believe anymore.
The side that accepted all of those sides and still found a way to get up in the morning.
And live that day.
And look forward to the next.
I found out who I am.
And I really like him.
Don't give up, 'cause you have friends
Don't give up, You're not the only one
Don't give up, No reason to be ashamed
Don't give up, You still have us
Don't give up now, We're proud of who you are
Don't give up, You know it's never been easy
Don't give up, 'cause I believe there's the a place
There's a place where we belong
   -- Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush, Don’t Give Up
Giving up has never been an option for me.
It has never been a consideration.
But it has been a reality.
I didn’t give up right away.  
And thankfully, I didn’t give up for very long.
We have always been told that hard work wins.
And I worked hard.
VERY hard.
For 25 years.
And all of a sudden because my company was sold and the new company wants to do less with less, I was being punished.
Math major, I am not, but that didn’t add up to me.
It also doesn’t make sense to the so many good, honest, hard-working people who are still being put through this miserable exercise.
The stories you have shared with me have broken my heart and rebuilt my faith at the same time.
So many of you have lost your job, lost your insurance, lost your family, lost your house.
Lost your life, as it was.
I wish I could say that keeping the faith will pay off.
And good things always happen to good people.
And any other cliche from page 94 of the cliche handbook.
But the bottom line is once you have given up, you have nothing.
You are allowed to give up.  
For a moment.  Even for a day.  Even for a week.
I’ve done it.
I just hope if you do give up, you can find something to get you going again.
A goal, a parent, a spouse, a child, a dog, a dream.
It doesn’t matter what keeps you going as long as you are going.
I want to thank you 
for giving me the best day of my life 
Oh just to be with you 
is having the best day of my life 
    -- Dido, Thank You
Thanks to this blog, I have connected with literally thousands of people from around the world.
People I have never met and never will.
But people who have pushed me everyday to tell my story.
Good people from Arkansas to Australia, California to China, Illinois to India, Jersey to Japan, Pittsburgh to Prague.
And of course, Quebec.
Merci Beaucoup.
In just the last week, I have seen new readers from Peru, Barbados, Portugal, Spain, Taiwan and New Zealand.
It is overwhelming and amazing and humbling and any other incredible word that ends in ing.
As Sinead O’Connor once said, Thank You For Healing Me.
Waking up each morning and reading that someone found some inspiration in my story was something I will never forget.
The truth is, you have inspired me.
You have inspired me to keep going.
You have inspired me to not give up.
You have inspired me to go on with each day.
However I’m feeling.
My computer is telling me that this is the 506th page of my blog.
And I have written more than 102,000 words.
Words that have changed my life forever.
I am planning on still writing this blog, a blog, some blog, for as long as I can.
I realize my journey is taking a turn, hopefully a turn for the better, but writing is now a part of who I am.
And who I will be.
But no matter where we go from here, I thank you for every day you have given me.
Who's to say where the wind will take you
Who's to say what it is will break you
I don't know where the wind will blow
Who's to know when the time has come around
I don't wanna see you cry
I know that this is not goodbye
   -- U2, Kite

08 August 2010

Boulevard of a Broken Hand

There are certain moments that only a parent can appreciate.
The first step.
The first day of school.
The first time your child talks back to you.
There are other moments that only a parent can enjoy.
Like being on a packed airplane and watching the panic that mom and dad go through trying to quiet a screaming child.
As someone who has been there, done that, I hate to say it, but I love watching other parents scramble to diffuse that situation.
And they try everything.
Apple juice.
Grey Goose.
Whatever it takes.
But the entire time, the show you get watching the crumbling parents is better than any $8 movie on the plane.
There are about 37 million moments I would like to have back in my 13+ years of being a parent.
I wish I was more attentive.
I wish I was more loving.
But most of all I wish I was most patient.
I still do.
A few days ago I was at my 11-year old son’s football practice.
It was being held at a GIANT complex, where at least ten other teams were practicing at the same time.
During the practice, I took a stroll around the track to burn off some steam (and calories).
At one point, I noticed a man talking to a boy who was in full football gear and had been pulled aside from his team.
The boy couldn’t have been more than seven years old.
The man was right in his grill, holding the boy by his face mask, which should’ve been a penalty.
As I got closer, I couldn’t help but hear the conversation.
Actually, it wasn’t much of a conversation, it was a one-way street.
It went something like:
MAN-F*&^ F&*# F*#& F(#*
If grabbing the face mask was a penalty, this should’ve been an ejection.
I have no idea if this was his son, not that it really mattered, but the first thing that came to my mind was...
...OMG, is that what I look like when I lose my temper?   
Is that what I sound like when I lose my temper? 
Whether it was shock or a short attention span, I kept walking around the track.
By the time I came back around, they were gone. 
You may find this hard to believe, but I have never won the Father of the Year Award.
I’ve had plenty of moments where I could’ve been nominated and plenty of moments where I should’ve been disqualified.
I’m proud to say in the last year I have done the best job I’ve ever done as a dad.
But perfect, I am not.
And probably never will be.
My son is back to playing tackle football this year after taking a year off.
And let me tell you, if you think this Bernie Madoff was a ripoff, you should check out all the gear you need to buy for an 11-year old tackle football team.
Chin straps, practice pants, heat gear, shoulder pads...
With all the money we spent, we could’ve rented a hotel room at DisneyWorld for half a night. 
I’ve been to all four of his practices this year, including the most recent one on Saturday morning.
The kids who have played for several years definitely have a clear advantage.
They are the ones yelling and screaming and believing that somehow the two hours between 8 and 10 AM are going to lead to the Super Bowl.
Nothing wrong with believing.
My son is still trying to find his way, but after each practice we have done a breakdown of what’s good and what he needs to work on.
The good news is he has showed signs of getting better each time.
The bad news is he needs a forest fire lit under his $40 practice pants for it to happen.
I have tried all of the cliches to keep him motivated.
Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it doesn’t.
And when it doesn’t work, there are two very frustrated people.
He and me.
When we got home after practice on Saturday, we tried a different approach.
This time my wife spoke to him about finding that extra gear.  
Figuring out a way to be your best.
Even if you are last in the sprints, run all the way.
Don’t let anything get in the way of giving 100%.
The conversation went on for about 20 minutes.
It was painful.  For all of us.
But little did we know, it was most painful for him.
When the conversation ended, he showed us the palm of his left hand.
Between the black and blue color and the extreme swelling, there was no doubt that x-rays were needed.
Two hours later, he came home with hard splint.
The cast goes on Monday.
He’s out for the season.
At some point during the morning practice, he had fractured the first metacarpal and never said a word about it.
Not one word.
Not one word on the field.  
Not one word in the car going home.  
Not one word while being told for 20 minutes that he needs to try harder.
Now who feels bad?

06 August 2010

Songs in the Key of Life

The movie High Anxiety was a Mel Brooks classic.
Not as classic as History of the World or Young Frankenstein or certainly not as epic as Blazing Saddles, but it was great.
The feeling of High Anxiety sucks.

It really sucks.
It’s that pit in your stomach caused by stress.
These days there are about a million legitimate reasons to be anxious.
But usually for me, its the small stuff, you know the stuff that Richard Carlson told me not to sweat.
Big life-changing events, piece of cake.
Small stuff, PANIC ATTACK.
The good news is once that small stuff moves from future tense to present tense, the pit somehow disappears.
Pretty much immediately.
Unfortunately I have gotten used to feeling that pit in my stomach, but I definitely sweat it.
The source of the current pit is the upcoming back-to-school picnic.
This is not just any back-to-school picnic.
This is the picnic at the school where my wife is a teacher and my three kids attend.
And the featured attraction of Monday’s picnic is...
...My mid-life crisis, better known as The Clearance Rack.
That’s our three-month old band made up of four 40-somethings looking to re-live their childhood.
So far we’ve played three different shows -- a block party and two high school graduation parties.
And each one has been better than the previous one.
Dare I say, we are not bad.   Even good at times.
But this upcoming gig is the real deal.
Probably close to 500 non-paying customers who are looking to get their money’s worth.
This will be in front of a bunch of parents and teachers who will be seeing my wife EVERY DAY for the next nine months.
What if we stink?
What if I stink?
Lets be honest, we are a band and all four of us need to do our part to sound good.
But as the lead singer, if I sound like Alfalfa, that is all people will remember.
Last week, we played one of the high school graduation parties in front of about 100 people.
It went so well, they asked for an encore.
Unfortunately we had played all nine songs we know by that point, so we had to play the first song all over again to satisfy the crowd.
I changed a couple of the words to give a different feel.
That’s what stars do.
This whole singing thing has been an eye-opener for me.
I definitely have a newfound respect for some of my heroes, like Bruce Springsteen and Paul Hewson.
Every time they hit the stage, they play for like three hours and they never choke.
Ok, they rarely choke.
True, last year Bruce accidentally said, “Hello Ohio”, while he was playing a show in... 
He called it a “nightmare” and knowing how much Bruce cares about his fans, he probably played for six hours after he was told of the mistake.
A few years ago I went to go see U2 in concert and the only seats we could get were behind the stage.
That’s when I discovered that Bono uses a...
I can’t even say it.
Ok, Bono uses a...
Say it isn’t so.
The man who wrote “MLK”, the song I sing to my kids every night before they go to bed uses a teleprompter?
The man who wrote “She’s A Mystery To Me”, the greatest song of all-time, reads the words off a monitor?
The man who wrote “With or Without You”, the song that makes me cry more than Marley and Me, can’t remember those words?
You have got to be kiddi....
What’s that?   They all use a teleprompter?
OMG x 50.
And let me guess, there is no Hanukkah Harry either?
Call me naive, crazy, whatever you want -- but watching Bono watching a monitor broke my heart.
Now here I am, as the lead-singer in a band, a backyard garage band with a bunch of guys who make noise sound pretty good.
Not a whole lot of risk there.
And I’m pulling a Linus, using every security blanket possible.
I have a music stand in front of me, with a three-ring binder that has the words to all NINE of the songs we know.
Plus the three we don’t.
Meanwhile, on any given night Bruce has like 300 of his own songs to choose from.
And dozens of others he likes to cover.
And I actually thought he remembered ALL of the words on his own.
Now who should be the anxious one?
Monday’s Set List
Should I Stay or Should I Go, The Clash
Blitzkrieg Bop, The Ramones
Island in the Sun, Weezer
Pork and Beans, Weezer
Stray Cat Strut, Stray Cats
Someday Someway, Marshall Crenshaw
I Fought The Law, Bobby Fuller
Somethin’ Else, Eddie Cochran
Rave On, Buddy Holly