Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Perspective...Through the Years












I have run across some old photos in the last few weeks. It has been interesting to note the changes as well as recall the history behind each photo. Each photo is also representative of what I did NOT know at the time each photo was taken. For example...

In the 1968 photo, my whole life journey was just beginning. I was acclimating to life in a very big world. I didn't know how to walk, talk, read, write, feed myself, and, I was not..., er, housebroken. So many experiences awaited me. I didn't know what going to school would be like. I had yet to experience the joy of making friends.

In the 1982 photo, I knew what going to elementary and middle school was like. I had experienced it. When this photo was taken, I was in the 8th grade. I had the experience of making friends. One friendship in particular would become a lifelong one that defines us both. I had experienced the divorce of my parents by this time. What I had yet to experience was high school. If memory serves, I was actually contemplating this when the picture was snapped. I did not yet know the joy and pain of the teenage years. There were many experiences that would be had over the next four years.

In the 1986 photo, I am smiling big because I had finished high school and was standing on the precipice of new opportunities. My whole life was before me, and I could be or do anything I wanted to. I was all set for college, and I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had friends who, I did not know at the time, would become lifelong companions and literally be like family. I had experienced "puppy love," dating, and heartbreak. I had a driver's license and a crummy yet beautiful 1978 Honda Civic that I had bought for $400.00. Even as I look at the photo, I am finding it hard to remember what it felt like to be that happy and free. Which brings me to the last picture.

In the 2009 photo, I am not smiling. I am happy, but I am also a lot more seasoned. I have experienced marriage, having children, divorce, bankruptcy, re-marriage, career changes, address changes, loss of loved ones including my estranged father, and many shattered dreams. Life after high school was much harder than I was prepared for. Adulthood has it's rewards, to be sure. Watching my children being born and growing into young men and women is a joy that can hardly be expressed in words.

As with all the other photos and times, there are still a lot of things I don't know. For example, I don't know what it feels like to be old. I joke about being old, but I am still only 41. My body still functions quite well. My mind is still sharp. Physically, I could use some work, but I can still exercise and move on my own. I don't yet know what being a grandparent feels like. All of my friends are still living. I probably have just as many days ahead as there are behind.

I sometimes wonder what I would say to myself if I could go back and talk to those young lads. I will close out this piece with just a few things that come to mind:

1) To the 1968 me, I would tell him to be more assertive with the neighborhood kids, and to not always avoid confrontation. I would also say that it was not cool at all to pee in Andy Nelson's closet, even though he probably deserved it.

2) To the 1982 me, I would congratulate him on a great year. The 8th grade me seemed to have a good head on his shoulders. He was a heck of a football player and made awesome grades. If I could offer him one piece of advice, it would be to keep writing no matter what happens.

3) To the 1986 me, I would have to have a long sit down with him. I would somehow try to convince him that college was going to be a lot harder than he realized, and that although he was very smart, he lacked good common sense. I would tell him that college can be fun, but you cannot have so much fun that you neglect your studies and classes. I would advise him to stay the course, no matter what. I would strongly caution him about drinking and driving. I would also teach him how to take care of himself and to never expect a woman to do that for him. I would tell him to be a man and cowboy up and to stop waiting for things to happen. Todd, go make things happen. You can and you should! I would tell him this as I grabbed him by the lapels to make sure he understood that admonishment.

The only thing I can say to the 2009 Todd is to somehow turn his situation around. Find a way and do it! I would also remind him that it's not so important how we start, but how we finish. We cannot undo the past, but we can change our present and look hopeful to the future.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tuesday Technology Rant

Technology is my life. I love the stuff. I love being engaged in conversations with my fellow tech heads about RAM, Motherboards, HDMI, URL, TCP/IP, Warp Speed, and new ways to brew coffee. What I love most about technology is that most of it is the result of forward thinking. When stuff becomes obsolete right after I buy it (like my Blackberry), I give a hearty "HOO-AH" to the Technology world. It is always moving forward, with one notable exception.

There is one particular facet of Technology that refuses to get better with age. In fact, it only gets worse. I am referring to Voicemail Greetings.

Remember when the answering machine first came out? Well, I do, and no, I am not old, despite the fact that my children laugh at me when I say, "When I was a kid..." Hey, I can't help the fact that we only had one rotary dial phone in the kitchen which we would fight to answer. I didn't even own a cell phone before age 25, and most of my brood got cell phones before their drivers licenses.

So where was I...? Ah yes, Voicemail Greetings.

The first thing you hear when you call most people is their personal greeting.

"Hello, this is the voicemail of Todd Vick, please leave me a message after the beep and I will call you back."

Simple, direct and to the point. Works for me. But, instead of a beep, you hear a 1960s operator give you the same spiel over again.

"After the tone, please record your message. When you have finished recording, hang up, or, press the # key for more options."

More options? Why would I need more options? I just wanted to leave a message, which I have now forgotten because of this verbose horn-rimmed glasses wearing operator. However, I WOULD like the option of not having to listen to you anymore. I...just...want...my...BEEP!

We have cell phones that can surf the net, check Facebook, and trade stocks real time, but I can't get a simple greeting and a beep. Maybe it's because of some old Union clause that we still have to listen to these nasal-talking fruitcakes.

Enclosing, I want to apologize in advance if I leave you a message with a certain aggravated inflection in my voice. Just know that it's not you, it's that I had to wait for the beep.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Autumn Reflections


According to the calendar, summer is officially over. According to the SC calendar, summer will probably linger for a few more weeks.

I am not sure what it is, exactly, but deep down in my innermost being, I feel that there is spirit of freshness breaking forth. I am at a loss to describe it any other way. I just feel that good things are around the corner, and that positive changes are coming.

My favorite time of year is Autumn. I love the coolness of the morning and the warm evenings. I love the way the leaves change color and the gnat population begins to dwindle. When the leaves wither, dry up and fall to the ground, it means that the tree is discarding the old in order to make room for the new.

Again, I don't know why I feel so hopeful right now. I just do. In reality, things have been tough in my household since June. Money has been scarce, and jobs that pay well have not availed themselves to me. My family is stressed. I am stressed.

Yet there is hope. For the first time in many years, I feel like I am on the correct path. It is a path I have been on before but made some wrong turns and lost my way. Lately, I have rediscovered this path. There are many dead fallen leaves on this path, representing years of wasted opportunities and bad choices. My path is once again opening itself and inviting me to walk down it again. It is a path barely trodden, and it clearly beckons me.

This time, I aim to remain on the path, no matter what.

Monday, September 14, 2009

An Apology and Thoughts on Regurgitation

Dear Faithful Readers of my humble blog,

I want to offer an apology for going off the other day on Congressman Joe Wilson and SC Politics as a whole. I am just a very passionate person, and sometimes leap from my heart before I use my head.

Two very wise people in my life, Anastasia Chernoff and Dr. Fredric Mau, have both told me that people make decisions based on the information that they have at the time. In other words, they act, react, speak, and think based on their own knowledge. I am one of those people, too. If I keep that thought in my mind, I tend to be more relaxed in my delivery, and I am also less inclined to bear my claws and attack.

Politics and religion are very impassioned and volatile subjects. Especially nowadays. We want our government and our churches to do the right things, and then we fight tooth and nail against it when they do. I don't know how to fix this, other than just to admit that I can't, and just have conversations with people.

I'm home today. Had horrible nausea and vomiting since last night. I even fell asleep during the Packer game. Frankly, I HATE throwing up. However, right afterward, there is such a feeling of relief and exhaustion.

Over the years, I have had to purge many attitudes, opinion, and predilections which were making me unbearable to live with. Especially in the last 5 years. It is not as important for me to be right all the time as it used to be. We live on such a large planet. There are so many individuals in this world and each one of us has a unique perspective on things. I think there would be more peace if we would just listen to one another. I didn't say,"agree," just listen. Talk it out, and be better for it.

Here is another subject close to the hearts of all my blogger buds: my career. In my blogging tenure, I have changed careers several times. Each time it was because of some need to find my place in this world. Change can be good, but too much change can have the opposite effect. Sometime, years ago, I lost my way. My son is a junior in high school this year. When I was his age, I had my whole life planned out. I knew what I wanted to do and who I was. I wanted to be a teacher and a writer. My 3 passions have always been teaching, music, and writing. I think my ministry calling was not genuine. I believe I went into the ministry to impress my now ex-in-laws. Since leaving the ministry, it is as though a weight has been lifted. As weird as that may sound, it is how I feel and I cannot help it. I don't believe that the years I was in the ministry counted for nothing. I have some wonderful memories of that part of my life. Far more good than bad ones!

So now, here I am, almost 42 years old. I recently asked a friend, "Do you remember the time in your life when you were the absolute happiest?" He looked at me, somewhat bewildered. I then proceeded to recount the time I believe I was happiest with my life. It was 8th grade. A close second would be 11th grade. I had lofty dreams. I wanted to be a teacher and a writer. In 11th grade, I also wanted to be a Musical Conductor. Somewhere between marrying, having children, and working to provide for them and now, I lost my way. I misplaced my passions. Don't get me wrong, I love being a Dad. My children are my greatest offering to this world, and sacrificing to take care of them is NEVER in vain. I would give all I have if it would make them happy.

Since leaving the ministry, I have been trying to find that great paying job in the IT industry. The longer I linger, the more I realize that "That pond is nearly all fished out." The jobs are just not there like they were in the 80s. I have been pursuing an MBA, and I enjoy the classes, but there is no passion, just knowledge. Even if I earned that MBA, I cannot be certain a good paying MBA type job will be there for me. Even if it were, I still wouldn't be happy. So, if you're interested, I will now share where I am going from here.

I am changing my major from MBA to Master's in Education. I would like to teach English or Creative Writing. However, I can also teach history, religion or philosophy with equal passion. I am also writing articles for RUSEmag.com, and I am very excited about this. Additionally, I am working on a novel and toying with a couple of short-stories. And James is home. It is great to be able to just call him up and go meet him somewhere without having to catch a flight (although I loved my trips to Seattle).

I feel sick to my stomach today. There has been much literal and figurative regurgitation. Aside from the nausea and bowl-hugging, I feel like I did when I was in the 8th and 11th grade: I know who I am, and why I am here, and I have rediscovered my passions.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Et Tu, Joe?

In all my years in SC, whether I was right, left, or moderate, I have always supported Joe Wilson. I have met him in person several times. Sat at his table during a church luncheon one time. He is a true gentleman and statesman. If one of his constituents asks for help, he helps, and he does it quickly. He has been a true servant of SC for many years now. Joe, the politician. Joe, the servant of SC. Joe, the gentle giant.

Joe the HECKLER??? In a million years, I never would have seen that coming. He may as well have stood up and said, "Liar, liar, pants on fire!"

I am not a political expert like Tim Russert or people like him. But I'm not an idiot either. What exactly is every one's beef with President Obama? As far as I can tell, he has done everything he promised he would do. For years, people have pushed for Health care Reform in this country. He is taking action. Not just words, but real action. The President articulated his vision for America during his campaign and has made it widely available for us to read. He communicates through all the social media. If you don't know what he stands for by now, that is your own fault, quite frankly.

I would really hate to think that the fact of the President's skin color is at the root of all the "political grandstanding." I would hate to think that that is what all the heckling is about. There is one race: the HUMAN race. SC needs to grow up. If President Obama succeeds or fails, it will have nothing to do with his skin color. He is a very intelligent man and a genuine leader. Not to mention a tireless public servant.

I love SC. I have lived here most of my life. It is a great place to live and raise a family. SC Politicians would serve us better by keeping their bigotry and ignorance at home, or step aside. I am so embarassed by this state right now. You probably are too.

So let's get over ourselves and fix it.

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Labor Day Paradox

The logic of the world continues to baffle me. The way that we just accept the things that we were taught and then pass these things on to our offspring without question raises a profound question: "Why?"

For example, to quote a witty observation, "Why do we park in a driveway and drive on a parkway?" It is a comical question, but to cynics like myself, it begs explanation. Logically, we should drive on a driveway and park on a parkway. That makes more sense to me. But they (the anonymous people who make this crap up) won't change it (whoever THEY are).

Another idiotic idiom we don't stop to ponder: Why do we say we are getting ON an airplane? I love to fly, but I am not getting on an airplane even if the flight were free of charge. I will, however, get IN the airplane. It seems to be much safer, and there may even be an in-flight movie to boot. To their credit (the THEY people again), it is not called an "ON-flight movie." Otherwise, I would have to pass.

Then, of course, here I sit, blogging on my day off, which is a little holiday called "Labor Day." On Labor Day, we honor labor by NOT working. That just makes PERFECT sense to me!

Shouldn't THEY change the name of the holiday to "Off Day," or perhaps, "NON-Labor Day?" I would even accept "ANTI-Labor Day." I would become a poster-child for such a holiday; my wife and children will vouch for that! Imagine, if you will, a day where Football, Clint Eastwood movies, and Star Trek and X-Files marathons play on TV all day! Furthermore, each time I finish a beer, another one magically appears! That sounds like a holiday to me!

The word "holiday" is another paradox in and of itself. It combines the words "Holy" and "Day." I suppose a day filled with perfect Man-TV and automatic beer regeneration seems to dispel the whole "holy day" concept, depending on your point of view, of course.

As we gently flitter back to reality, we are reminded that even with over 300 channels, nothing good is ever on TV, beer is a non-regenerating substance (well, maybe after 9 or 10 it is), and THEY seem content just to leave all this stuff as it is.

So, with that, my friends, I bid you a Happy Labor Day, however and wherever you may choose to celebrate it! As for me, I will be on my laptop. Or should I say, "AT my laptop?"

Whatever THEY decide.