The Tree of Life

Two years ago, just about this time in early October, I wrote a post called the Tree of Life and dedicated it to my son. It was on a day similar to today, the onset of autumn and days filled with deep, healing breaths of cool, crisp air and the beginning of falling leaves. I stood this morning in my kitchen, staring out the window, with a steaming cup of coffee in my hand and watched a leaf fall from the large Maple tree that sits outside our house. That same scenario, an autumn leaf falling from a tree was the spark that got me to my keyboard two years ago to produce what is one of my favorite posts on this site.

My kids both have milestone birthdays coming up in November. My son will turn thirteen and finally be a teenager and my daughter will turn “sweet sixteen”. I’m so proud of these kids and what they’ve become. Of course, what responsible, loving parent isn’t proud of every step forward their children make in life? But also, like many of you reading, years of guiding our kids in so many directions can take a deep toll on our levels of patience, understanding and compassion.

I’m not always at my most compassionate these days. My wife Kim used to say I had “the patience of Job”, whoever Job is… and she was right. I did and many days I still do. But I’m also a “You’re injured? Wrap a bandage around it and quit moaning”, kind of parent. Last evening my son was an absolute train wreck after weeks of seventh grade classes, daily football practices, Boy Scout events, and on top of that not feeling well. I wasn’t mean or angry with his “call for help”, but I certainly didn’t offer up what would have been most helpful; a strong hug from Dad and some therapeutic compassion. We got home about 8:30 pm and he laid down directly on the mattress of his unmade bed and was asleep in minutes.

Children are resilient little beasts and this morning, all was well again and he was mostly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, as much as a twelve-year-old can be at 7:00 a.m. in the morning. Shortly after the kids left for school, I stood by that kitchen window, with my steaming cup of coffee and watched that leaf fall. It reminded me of my Tree of Life post and reinforced to me that although my kids may be rapidly approaching adult hood, they are still just kids who are trying to find their way in the world, trying to please their parents and teachers and friends and looking for guidance from the adults in their lives.

They are kids climbing the Tree of Life in search of that perfect autumn leaf that they can ride to bigger and better things. As adults and parents, we are that tree and though we often have to fight through the storms that life throws at us, it’s those storms that remind us, always in a most timely fashion, when to dig our roots in just a little bit deeper.

If you weren’t a follower back in 2011, here’s my story: The Tree of Life. I hope you enjoy it.

The Tree of Life

Once upon a time there was a tree.
And it grew in a beautiful place in the country.
The tree was tall and had deep roots and solid branches and green leaves.
And it was a proud tree.

One day a boy began climbing the tree.
And he knew that he wanted to climb until he reached the very top.
So the tree carefully guided him from branch to branch, higher and higher.
And the boy felt safe and loved.

The boy continued climbing the tree, a little higher every day.
And as the boy climbed the tree, the tree provided comfort and protection.
Its leaves gave the boy shelter, its branches gave the boy structure.
And its roots gave the boy a solid foundation to build on.

Then one day the boy finally reached the top of the tree.
He was excited and the tree was very proud of how far he had climbed.
But the tree knew that the time had come.
To let the boy go.

So the tree said to the boy.
“My leaves are changing colors and the wind is starting to blow.”
“Find the biggest leaf you see and climb on it and close your eyes.”
“And the wind will take you wherever you’re supposed to go.”

The boy looked to his right and to his left and up above and down below.
And finally, at the very, very top of the tree on the very highest branch.
The boy saw the most perfect leaf he had ever seen.
And he climbed onto the leaf and closed his eyes just as the tree had told him.

Soon the wind picked up and the boy could feel his leaf trembling.
He grabbed on with all his strength to be sure he wouldn’t fall.
And then he watched as the stem of his leaf began to break free.
From the tree that had nurtured him for so many years.

The boy was excited to be free and on his own.
And as the strong wind carried the leaf high up into the air like a magic carpet,
The boy turned around and waved goodbye to the tree.
And it was a proud tree.

Soon the boy was far enough away that he could no longer see the tree.
So he turned back around to watch where the wind might be taking him.
All around, the boy saw the amazing opportunities the world had to offer.
And he settled in for the ride of his life.

The wind carried the boy to mystical places and magical lands.
On exotic adventures and extraordinary challenges.
Through happiness and sadness and love and hate.
And wins and losses and successes and failures.

As the wind carried the boy he felt exhilaration and freedom.
He began to learn to control the leaf and take it where he wanted it to go.
And he grew and gained knowledge and insight and experience and wisdom.
And felt as if he could fly forever.

But eventually the boy grew weary and wished that his leaf would finally land.
And he remembered what the tree had said when he was first set free.
So he closed his eyes just as the tree had told him.
And the wind began to slow down and change directions.

When the boy opened his eyes, the wind had carried him back to the country.
There was the tree with its deep roots and solid branches and green leaves.
As the boy smiled at the tree, the wind blew one last burst.
And he landed safely right at the base of the trunk.

The boy was happy to finally be on the ground.
He knew that his leaf had fallen right where it was supposed to have fallen.
And when the tree looked down and noticed that the boy had grown into a man.
It was a proud tree.

For my son, who is climbing his own tree and will someday have to be let go.

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The Grass Ain’t Always Greener

This is the latest from the Brown Road recording studio. I’ve been working on this song the last few days after a conversation Kim and I had recently about how people are always looking for something better, when in reality they have something really great right in front of them.

I’ve always been a “grass is greener” guy.  So yeah, this song is pretty much about me. Probably about a lot of you too. In my case, I’m not talking about the basic measurable things in my life. I’m not talking about my relationships or my material possessions or my lifestyle. I just have this tendency to always be looking for some kind of fictional, transcendental level of satisfaction with my life, no matter how good it is.  And it really is.  I think it’s why a lot of us write or draw or sing or create or do whatever we do to feed that monster that lives inside of us.

So Kim and I were talking about this the other night.  A few nights later I picked up my guitar and I had to write a song about it.  Having now written a few songs, I find it interesting how overwhelmingly obsessing it can be once you have it in your mind to write about a certain subject. I can only imagine what it must be like to be a professional musician with a constant flow of lyrics and melodies swirling through your head.

So here’s The Grass Ain’t Always Greener. The lyrics are below.

The Grass Ain’t Always Greener

Spending your whole life
Trying to find what’s better
Chasing dreams you can barely see on the other side

Looking for a life
Deep with inspiration
Full of schemes that will always seem to build your pride

Building castles in the air
Impractical ambitions
Planting seeds that may never grow to see the light

Keeping track of time
Your clock is always ticking
You just need to always know you’ll be alright

‘Cause the grass may seem much greener when you look at the other side
If you glanced into a mirror, are you trying to run and hide?
There’s so much good around you, it’s just hidden in plain sight
And the grass ain’t always greener, when you get to the other side

Like brush strokes on a canvas
Vivid imagination
Painted dreams of chasing rainbows in your mind

Pacing through your days
Your mind is always racing
Romantic flights of fancy fill your time

Searching down a road
Forks at every juncture
No signs to guide you safely on your ride

Trying to find your way
Transcendent aspirations
If you could only see you’ve found your perfect life

‘Cause the grass may seem much greener when you look at the other side
If you glanced into a mirror, are you trying to run and hide?
There’s so much good around you, it’s just hidden in plain sight
And the grass ain’t always greener, when you get to the other side

Soooo…. is this song about you? Are you a “grass is greener” type of person?

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The Men of WordPress Calendar

Being a male in the blogging world is sometimes like being the lone Rooster in a barn full of Hens! Seems the lady bloggers far outnumber the guy bloggers.  That’s okay, us bro’s know that the ladies are much better with words any day of the week! But I decided we needed to do a little promotion of some of the Men of the WordPress Writing World.

So I contacted the talented folks at Brown Road Marketing, Inc., the promotional arm of my blogging empire (the same folks who designed my Brown Road Chronicles T-shirts and recorded my Brown Road Chronicles Radio Advertisement) for some help in getting the faces of some of the “Roosters” at WordPress out in front of the crowd.

We picked twelve totally awesome dudes, men of too many words, talented writers and artists and musicians and athletes and sports enthusiasts.  But mostly, committed fathers and husbands and some incredibly funny guys.  Some write frequently, some write periodically but these are all guys that I have gotten to know a bit through blogging, guys that follow me and I follow them, mostly guys who make me laugh on a regular basis.

Twelve guys who aren’t afraid to let it all out or keep it all in… in front of thousands of WordPress Followers.

Legal Disclaimer: all images are the property of the totally studly guys pictured here. Hopefully all of these handsome and talented bro’s approve of their selected images and of being swooned over by the lady bloggers. Brown Road Marketing, Inc. may or may not have had to stalk a few Facebook Pages and Twitter feeds to obtain images.

Sorry ladies, no shirtless pics…

So, here I present to you: The 2014 Men of WordPress Calendar. You can click the images to enlarge them and use the links below each page to visit their sites.

ThoughtfulPop-januaryThoughtful Pop

thebyronicman-februaryThe Byronic Man

Jasonpearch-marchThe MindSlam

JarodKarol-AprilLick the Fridge

Claywatkins-MayMaking the Days Count

Goodgreatsby-JuneThe Good Greatsby

beingarindam-JulyBeing Arindam

harrymullans-augustDribbling Pensioner

stevewarner-septemberThe Brown Road Chronicles

blurtblog-octoberBlurt Blog

don-novemberDon of All Trades

stuartsheldon-decemberStuart Sheldon

So, there you go… the 2014 Men of WordPress Calendar.  Of course, this is only a sampling of the talented guys out there. So who’d we miss? Share your votes with the world and maybe they’ll make next years issue!

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How to Eat of Bowl of Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats

mini wheats

I love Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats!

Kellogg’s has accomplished an incredible feat by taking a food product that basically has the consistency and taste of dried, toasted hay and made it delicious by coating it in a thick layer of sugar.

To emphasize my point, have you ever eaten plain Shredded Wheat? There are a few brands on the market but Post Shredded Wheat is the most iconic and well-known. Could there possibly be a more disgusting, choke-inducing cereal than plain, shredded wheat? Well, maybe Grape-Nuts, another Post creation. I’m not sure my goats would even eat plain shredded wheat.

But Kellogg’s has nailed it by adding a sugary coating. It’s a food product that allows us to avoid wallowing in the poor self-esteem issues of our food choices by hiding under the guise of eating healthy and regulating our bowels, while still consuming massive amounts of sugary goodness.

Herein lies the problem. When you add milk to your Frosted Mini Wheats the sugar will start to dissolve and they will begin to deteriorate faster than the most aggressive of ionic reactions.

Like this one, which takes about 10-14 to 10-16 seconds for completion:

formula

Precipitation of BaSO4, Barium Sulfate, when solutions of Barium Chloride and Sulphuric Acid are mixed.

Now I’m no scientist, but those speeds sound like some serious business! Those are negative powers bro!

I’d venture to guess that the significant deterioration of a Frosted Mini Wheat in a bowl of milk starts happening in about 10-25 seconds. So, just as you would never in your right mind try precipitating Barium Sulfate without a well thought out plan of action, you should never eat a bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats without an equal level of preparation.

The important thing to note about Frosted Mini Wheats is that Kellogg’s has not figured out how to accurately coat each Mini Wheat with equal amounts of sugar. This will be important later.

So, here’s how to eat a bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats:

  1. Pour Frosted Mini Wheats into a bowl.
  2. Arrange all of the Mini Wheats so that they are “face up”, meaning sugar side up. You should have no more than two layers of Mini Wheats.
  3. If you have more than two layers you will need to return some to the box.
  4. As you are arranging the Mini Wheats, carefully study and mentally document each of them to determine the amount and consistency of the sugar that coats each piece.
  5. Try to put the Mini Wheats with the most sugar on the bottom layer.
  6. Make special note of the one or two Mini Wheats that are coated with an incredibly thick (1-2mm) of sugar-coating. There will always be one or two of these.
  7. Prepare yourself mentally to eat the Mini Wheats, i.e. get in “The Zone”.
  8. IMPORTANT: Pour milk into cereal bowl but only enough to lightly soak the Mini Wheats. If you use too much milk you will end of with a giant bowl of mush.
  9. Eat as fast as you can starting with the least sugary Mini Wheats on the top layer and finishing with the most sugary Mini Wheats on the bottom layer. As the Mini Wheats will shift around while eating, you will need to be fleet-of-spoon to be sure you are continuing to eat in the correct order. The Mini Wheats noted in #6 should be eaten last.
  10. If you’re a milk drinker, go ahead and drink the milk, but keep in mind, Frosted Mini Wheat milk will have significantly more “silt” in it than milk from other cereals.

So that’s how you eat a bowl of Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats.

Next up… How to Eat a Bowl of Lucky Charms!

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A #SoWrong Guest Post

Today is a milestone! You can read my very first guest post over at my friend Renée’s house: www.rasjacobson.com.  She has a series on her blog called #SoWrong where bloggers can write about humiliating and embarrassing moments they’ve experienced and then share those moments with about a zillion people. Sounded like a good idea to me!

You can read my post here: http://wp.me/pViQq-47Q where I share four funny #SoWrong parenting moments.

renee

Renée and I met a couple of years ago and she has been a loyal follower and commenter on BRC. She write’s about lots of things including her family and her son who is into fencing, which has to be on the list of coolest extra-curricular activities a kid could be involved in.  She can be funny, serious, profound, silly and she’s a Glasses and Hats enthusiast! Unlike me, she is the consummate blog promoter, running guest posts and giveaways and all kinds of other fun things… in addition to writing!

So, go check out my post. It’s funny and it’s true. Poke around Renee’s site while you’re there too. You’ll probably find something good to read.

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In a Pickle

Have you ever tried to grab,
A pickle from a jar?
Its swimming in the juice.
Down very, very far.

First you try your hands.
Five finger grabbers each.
Your hand goes in the jar.
But that pickle’s out of reach!

The pickle glares back at you.
On it’s face, a smirk!
You come to the conclusion.
Your hands aren’t going to work.

You go into the drawer.
That holds the silverware.
You glance back towards the jar.
And see that pickle glare.

You grab yourself a fork.
The longest you can find.
You have a plan in place.
You’ll sneak up from behind.

You reach into the jar.
That pickle’s oh so near.
You jab down with that fork.
As if you had a spear.

But that pickle has a plan.
It gives your fork the slip.
It dodges and it weaves.
You try to keep your grip.

You jab down with that fork again.
You’ve got something to prove.
You just can’t seem to catch it.
That pickle’s on the move!

Then finally you connect.
You spear it with the tines.
You start to lift that pickle,
From deep in its confines.

But when you’re just about to,
Get that pickle from the jar.
Something awful happens
Something so bizarre!

Your progress gets impeded.
A challenging impasse.
That pickle is too long.
It catches on the glass!

It falls off of the fork.
And dives back towards the juice.
Once again that pickle,
Is free and on the loose.

You hear that pickle laugh.
It’s averted your attack.
You close the pickle jar.
And decide to put it back.

You know you’ve been defeated.
You gave it your best shot.
Instead you eat an Apple.
‘Cause they don’t fight a lot!

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A Guide For Men: Five Rules for Wearing T-Shirts

Whether we like it or not, the basic men’s t-shirt has become the apparel piece of choice for most of us guys when we are everywhere other than at work, out on the town or anywhere else where some more adult fashion sense should be adopted. Glenn O’Brien who writes a column for GQ magazine, has called the imprinted t-shirt “the worst thing that has ever happened to Men’s Fashion”. I struggle with this a little, as I make my living selling imprinted apparel to college bookstores, high schools and other retailers. That being said, it’s very infrequent that I actually wear imprinted t-shirts.

Just not my thing, I guess.

In any case, the t-shirt is clearly here to stay.

So, here’s my Guide for Men: Five Rules for Wearing T-shirts.

5. A t-shirt should fit you properly, slightly fitted but not skin tight. Sleeves should fall somewhere around the middle to lower portion of your bicep. The waistband should rest on your hips. It can bunch up slightly, but it should not cover your ass. A good rule of thumb is if your t-shirt sleeves are covering your elbows and/or touching your forearms, it’s probably too big.

4. Unless you are wearing a t-shirt as part of a uniform, you should NEVER tuck it into your shorts or pants. If you are wearing a US Marine Corp t-shirt with your Marine issued fatigues or a Scout uniform, or a work uniform, any of which likely requires a specific uniform belt, then sure, go ahead and tuck it in. If you are wearing a t-shirt with your Madras cargo shorts and you have it tucked in and you’re wearing a belt, you look like a dork. Never tuck in a t-shirt. Unless you also wear socks with your sandals. In that case, we’ve already lost you and you can do whatever you want.

3. If you are over age 30, you should limit (not eliminate, just limit) your wearing of t-shirts imprinted with sports teams, colleges, rock bands, tourist attractions, Abercrombie and Fitch or Hollister logos, stupid adolescent jokes, offensive slangs, giant flying Eagle images stretched over the back shoulders, skulls and crossbones, company logos (that you got free at your last work conference), etc. Sure, if you are at a professional sporting event, or rooting on your favorite team, or even your kids sporting event, proudly wear the team colors! But sorry, after age 30 you have definitely become an adult. Stop dressing like you’re twelve.

2. NEVER wear t-shirts that don’t have sleeves unless you are cutting your grass or doing other work around your house, or leading a meeting of the board of directors at a white trash trailer park. There’s a reason these shirts have been dubbed “wife-beaters”. This includes tank tops too. T-shirts also shouldn’t have pockets on the front. Seriously, what the hell could you possibly want to put in that pocket?

1. Cotton t-shirts still reign supreme. I know Under Armour style performance wear has become the latest trend. I get it, the fabric is typically soft and comfortable and it wicks away sweat if you are doing something athletic. But are you really doing something athletic? Plus, people are also finding out that performance wear fabrics eventually start to hold your stink, even after they have been repeatedly washed. Who needs that? Being smelly is okay if you are at the gym, not so much if you are hanging out with your buddies.

So next time you decide to buy a t-shirt, find one that fits properly, that isn’t imprinted, that has both sleeves and no pockets and that is made from good, high quality cotton. White is a good color.

And for God’s Sake, don’t tuck it in!

*Unless it’s one of these t-shirts! :-)

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