Thursday, March 31, 2016

Why? A rambling introduction…

Why am I writing this blog?  Better yet why are you reading this?  The short answer here is that we both have Laura to thank.   The reason is that she got sick of me regurgitating information I’ve heard other places to have her give me examples of how I’ve basically said the same thing a few months earlier.  That sentence could be construed as Laura being mean about the whole thing, but she wasn’t at all.  For the most part I work from home, and therefore my “water cooler” time pretty much consists of me listening to podcasts or thinking of stuff daydreaming by myself.  When different topics come up in conversation, most of the things I have to go back on are “from podcasts.”  I put that in quotes because it’s become a bit of a joke in my house, all my stories start with “I was listening to this…” or “I heard on this….”  and it’s always from podcasts.  Laura finally said that I should take some time and sit with my own thoughts and put them out there for the world, so here we are…
I want to talk a little bit about what I want to accomplish with this blog, and to let people know a little bit about me.  My name is Jason, and for the most part everybody reading this already knows that, although there are a few people overseas that have been reading that I’m pretty sure don’t know me.  I’m hoping that as I continue to grow readership, people will be able to look at this and understand where I’m coming from and get an idea of who I am.  I am a father of 5, 4 biological children, and one step daughter.  That sounds weird, but I don’t know of a better way to frame it.  Obviously having a step daughter, I’m divorced and in a new relationship(Laura).  That also sounds a bit weird to me, being almost 40 with kids and a house together calling Laura my girlfriend, as she’s much more than that, but for now the title will have to do.  My day job is in IT where I am lucky enough to get to do a bit of everything.  I mainly do project and team management, but I also work in what some would call “real” IT work doing coding and whatnot.  In my free time I love being outside, whether it be doing yard work, playing with the kids, hunting, fishing, or exercising.  I love being out in the world, and that’s when I’m truly happiest.  I am the youngest of six kids, and love having a big family.
I don’t really know how to sum up what I want to accomplish with this blog.  Part of it as we already talked about…is appeasing Laura(I kid, I kid).  I think when it comes down to it, I want to make people think.  I really enjoy challenging myself and I guess I want this to be a vehicle to maybe help other people do the same thing.  I want to challenge myself mentally, physically and, emotionally.   I want to also be the best person I can be, and by writing this, I feel like I’m getting myself closer to that.  Whether people read this or not, I feel like I’m really enjoying myself.  I know that i want this to be something that people can hopefully relate to, and to realize that we are all just people trying to make the most of what time we’ve got here.  So I guess there’s a thing.  If you are more than happy to let life happen to you, or not wanting to figure out new and exciting ways to see what you are capable of, this probably isn’t the blog for you.  If you spend time staring up at the sky wondering what things are about, or debating the merits of Hootie and the Blowfish vs. ABBA(I’ll explain at some point down the line)  this may be something you enjoy reading.  If you’ve got curiosity, I hope this is something you’ll find fun.  
If you’ve stuck around reading this far, first let me say thank you. Next I’ll ask that you share this, or let me know some topics you’d like to hear my thoughts on, and then share your thoughts in the comments.  I hope that this becomes a place where wanders and wonderers can share ideas, and hopefully laugh at some funny stories along the way as well.  Thanks for your time.


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Quiet Time

I’m sitting here at the dining room table, the dogs and I are the only ones up and about in the house.  The girls had ridiculously early soccer games today, and they are out to breakfast with a friend.  Everybody else got to take advantage of a bit of a lazy Saturday morning.  Part of me is jealous, part of me is happy.  I like time like this.  I like time where I can be alone with my thoughts, in this case writing them down, but most of the time just sitting with them and thinking about things.  Truthfully I think this is why I love hunting and fishing as much as I do.  I am able to stay busy “doing something”  i.e. waiting for that bobber to go down, while also letting myself think of whatever.  This doesn’t have to be earth shattering stuff, sometimes the nonsense is the most fun to think about.  For these same reasons I like working in the yard, or pretty much any other monotonous chore.  Sometimes maybe it is the big stuff and that is just as fun.  I know plenty of times I’ll get back from a run, another thing that definitely aids in allowing yourself time to ponder, and I’ll talk Laura’s ear off for a good 20 minutes about anything from a joke that I find utterly hilarious to goals for the next week, or year or whatever.  Sometimes what I have to talk about is simply an idea I’ve got for that stupid book case that’s been sitting in the garage taking up space.  Thinking and pondering are the important things here, the what is somewhat irrelevant.

I guess my point here is that in this world of constant distractions, I enjoy finding time to put all that aside, unplug from pretty much everything and listen to what I’ve got to think about.  It is way too easy to get sucked into the day to day and everything that needs to get done.  The truth of the matter is that there is very little in this life that “needs” to be done.  There’s a Sturgill Simpson song that I really like called “LIving the Dream” where he says “ I don’t have to do a Goddamn thing except sit around and wait to die.”  While that can be viewed as quite the pessimistic outlook, I choose to view it as quite optimistic, there is really next to nothing that HAS to be done.  When it gets down to it, we’re all doing just that, sitting around waiting to die.(I don’t think I’ve ever written a more negative sentence than that in my whole life)  It’s what we do when we are “sitting around” that matters, and I guess when you look at it through that lens, taking time to listen to yourself really doesn’t seem like that big a deal.  Yet if you’re like me it doesn’t happen nearly enough. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Who are you?

      This thought started with a conversation I was having with my cousin around Donald Trump.  Don’t worry, this isn’t another political discussion.  The thing we were talking about was Trump’s comment around being two different people.  I’m paraphrasing here, but essentially he said there is a public Donald, and a private Donald.  Again, not a political discussion.  More a question of how do you view yourself?  Are you a separate person when you’re at work?  Or around family?  What about after you’ve had a few drinks?
This may come down to simply semantics, as I think everybody at least acts a little differently in different circumstances.  I’m definitely acting differently at a work function than I am with my feet up solving the world’s problems in front of a bon fire, but how different am I?  In both scenarios I feel like I’ve still got the same values and am basically the same person, my language might be a bit different but that’s really about it.
Blake Shelton has a song “Who are you when I’m not looking” where he talks about pretty much this very thing, he’s wanting to know who a person is when they aren’t putting on a show and can let down their guard and are by themselves.  In the song he talks about how the woman is strong and says  “Hold yourself together like a pair of bookends.”  While we can all praise Shelton’s lyrical genius here, I think this is the idea I’m wondering about.  Are you being a different person when you’re holding yourself together?  Are you being a different person when you are alone or with that person you trust implicitly?  I think that answer is probably no for most of us.  I think at the end of the day there’s certain things a person has to deal with and manage within the course of life and compartmentalizing that and dealing with it at the proper time or place doesn’t make a different person.

I’m sitting here wondering if this is really what I want to talk about here?  Is this really even a topic?  I’m not sure if it is, but it’s something that got me wondering after my conversation.  I find it interesting if there are people out there that really feel they have to be different people in different scenarios.  Is that really the case?  And if so why?  I feel like I’m best off being the one person I can be true to.  Makes keeping track of things that much easier.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Jed Bartlet helped me find my motivation

      I absolutely love the show “The West Wing”  Now thanks to Netflix, I have been able to go through the entire series a second time.  Or third as the case may be.   What I love about the show is the way they go about their business.  This show gives one an amazing example of duty, intelligence, morality, and sense of purpose. I understand this is a world of make believe that I am talking so highly about, but that doesn’t matter. 
When I look at my life, these are four of the values I want most of my decisions to be centered around.  I know it seems odd that I would take the time to watch a show to get motivated, but this show had and still has this effect on me.  Is this really that different than having an inspirational book that you go back to a verse of time and time again?  Or maybe a scene from a movie that you love?  I’m thinking about half of Gladiator at this moment.
I find that when I watch this show I want to get closer to those values.  I want to equate those scenarios I watch to things happening in my life and pour myself into it.  Similarly Aaron Sorkin had another unfortunately short lived show “Newsroom” that had a very similar feel for me.  I love the idea of both of these shows, which in my mind is expecting more out of yourself and challenging what you consider to be good enough.  I found it useful to take a look at these shows that I have gravitated towards and try to figure out why they make me feel the way they do.  In doing so, as I watched a second time, I was able to pick up on more and more that I could relate back to those values.  

You know what motivates you, what makes you feel like going out and doing something. So I leave you with this question.  Why?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

I want to disagree with you!

      When is the last time you brought up religion at a family function?  How about politics?  If you’re like me, you’ve replaced these topics with some light banter about the weather or how great the Packers are going to do this year.  This is an attempt to bring those potentially contentious topics back.  The caveat here is the fact that I want to do it without either party walking away mad.  In order to have this happen, a few ground rules need to be in place.  Those ground rules boil down to don’t be a jerk, and don’t try to prove you’re right.  Go into the conversation simply to share an idea and hopefully get a few new ideas in return to mull over for yourself.
Usually when you do get into talking about one of these otherwise off limits topics, you’re going to do it with like minded people.  You’ll spend a few minutes up to a few hours, depending on how much alcohol is involved, telling each other how right you are, and you’ll both gain absolutely nothing out of the conversation other than feeling better about yourself and thinking how “cool” Jane is for agreeing with you.  Did you learn anything new?  Did you learn anything that may challenge the ideas you already hold?  The answer to both questions is more often than not, NO.
Seek out one of these conversations to challenge yourself.  Feel uncomfortable for a while, realizing you don’t know everything and that maybe, just maybe the crotchety old man, or the hippie next to you may have a really interesting way of looking at something.  Worse comes to worse, you’ve challenged your own thoughts enough where you feel even more comfortable with them, and you’ve got more reasons why you feel that way.  More than likely you’ll walk away with an idea to ponder, a funny story, or a whole new outlook on something that changes your path.

Maybe you don’t start with family, but find somebody that differs from you, have a conversation with them, and start off by saying you want to talk about whatever, but your goal isn’t to change their mind, or necessarily yours, you just want to be interested for a minute.  What’s the worst that could happen?  Share this with somebody, and let me know what conversations you get yourself into!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Lazy Sunday

        I’m sitting here on the couch.  I’ve been sitting here for the better part of the day.  I put together a piece of furniture, I did some surfing, watched a few episodes of House of Cards, and that’s pretty much the extent of my day.  I need to be ok with that.  I’ve got a to do list a mile long, a bunch of books I want to get read, work I could have done, but I didn’t.  I sat on my butt, I read a few things I had been interested in looking up, but for the most part this was the most unproductive of days.  I’m normally not ok with that.  I normally need to feel like I’ve gotten something done and somehow earned my downtime.  I guess part of this post is a bit of a message to myself to learn how to be ok with unproductive days.  I like to think of myself as a laid back easy going guy, and for the most part I think I am, but like I said, I didn’t earn it today.
      Why do I need to earn unproductive days?  Assuming I am not stringing enough of these together where I can no longer take care of the responsibilities in my life, why do I need to justify doing nothing?  There is absolutely nothing wrong with a day well wasted.  That day doesn’t need to be fretted over and felt bad about.  Again, I think that’s a statement back to myself.
       I think the next time you’ve got a day to do nothing, give it to yourself.  Enjoy the day and then you can recall that day fondly in all the other days in life when you can’t sit on your butt.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Be Shitty at Something

     A couple of years ago I was quite a bit overweight, and pretty far from the athletic kid that I grew up as.  I decided it was time for a change and set about becoming the person I saw myself as in my mind.  I obviously wasn’t going to be able to jump right back in to playing basketball and working out for 3 hours a day as I had when I was young.  I’d like to tell you the only reason I couldn’t do that was finding the 3 hours in my busy day, but if I even tried mimicking my old workouts, I would have been in traction for a good 4 to 5 months or worse…  It was time to start “running”  I put that in quotes because my idea of running at the time was to go after dark so as to avoid too many people seeing me.  I started off by being extremely embarrassed that I could make it a city block jogging before having to walk for a while.  I was shitty at running.  I kept with it though, extending the distance each day or week that I could make it without walking, and eventually got myself where I could do a 5k with the kids.   Soon after that I completed my first half marathon in 2:14(pictured), then my second in 2:06.
The part that I want to focus on here is being shitty at something, and why it’s the best thing you can force yourself to do in life.  If you’re shitty at something, you’re doing it.  You’re putting yourself outside your comfort zone.  You are growing.  You’re building character(call back!!)  These are all keys to a life well lived.  Allow yourself to be bad at something for a while, it’s not going to be like that forever.  Enjoy the struggle, or at least accept it.  When you take the long view with these things, it makes getting through the initial frustrations that much easier, you’re gaining experience, you’re gaining knowledge.
     I guess what I want to leave you with after reading this is enthusiasm to pick up that guitar, or to start learning that new language.  Present you might be shitty at something, but future you is going to be pretty damn good at it.