When Words Stop Us Cold

“You’ll be shocked kids when you discover how easy it is in life to part ways with people forever. That’s why when you find someone you want to keep around, you do something about it”

Image courtesy of fanpop.com and Entertainment Weekly

Image courtesy of fanpop.com and Entertainment Weekly

The above quote is one of my favorite lines from the television sitcom How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM). The concept of the show is simple: Stories are told by the main character, Ted Mosby, to his children about how he met their mother.  It’s chalk full of quotable lines and pop culture references that make this one of the best sit-coms in recent memory. HIMYM is down to the final episodes and I’ll miss the show when it’s gone.  Here’s to reruns and Netflix.

I’ve been blessed to have some remarkable friendships in my life and I have to say I’ve thought about the essence of the above quote for a long time. Much anxiety has been created as a result.  In fact, my first post on this blog was about this very topic. The title was Exit 1.

Crazy huh?

The post was about how easy it is for friends to come in and out of our lives. I wrote this particular blog post in 2007, and when I heard the HIMYM quote on Monday it stopped me right in my tracks. If you have a chance, read the post from 2007, then re-read this one again.  You’ll see what I mean.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from Ted Mosby and HIMYM:

“You never know when you’re about to meet someone very important. It’s not like life gives you a warning. You just look up and there they are.”

“That’s the funny thing about destiny. It happens whether you plan it or not.”

“You can ask the universe for signs all you want but ultimately we’ll only see what we want to see…when we’re ready to see it.”

“Here’s the thing about mistakes: Sometimes, even when you know something’s a mistake, you gotta make it anyway.”

“Sometimes love means taking a step back. If you care about somebody, you should want them to be happy even if you wind up being left out.”

“Actually, there is a word for that. It’s love. I’m in love with her, okay? If you’re looking for the word that means caring about someone beyond all rationality and wanting them to have everything they want no matter how much it destroys you, it’s love. And when you love someone you just, you…you don’t stop, ever. Even when people roll their eyes, and call you crazy. Even then. Especially then. You just– you don’t give up. Because if I could just give up…if I could just, you know, take the whole world’s advice and– and move on and find someone else, that wouldn’t be love. That would be… that would be some other disposable thing that is not worth fighting for. But I– that is not what this is.”

“You can’t cling to the past because no matter how tightly you hold on, it’s already gone.”

“Because in the end, the only thing that can heal a broken heart is time…”

Some of these quotes I am guilty of in spades. Congrats HIMYM for a great series filled with memorable quotes and well crafted comedy. Your presence on prime-time was: “…legend-… wait for it… and I hope you’re not lactose intolerant because the second half of that word is DAIRY!”

Damn I am.

14 Things I Love and Hate v3.0

LoveFest ImageThis year is the third installment of the Valentine’s Day Love/Hate list.
(Here are links to version 1 and version 2)

I thought I’d switch up and focus on 14 individuals in my life. For each of these 14, I will chose one thing I love, and one thing I hate.

Yes, about them.

They are in no particular order… well except for the first five. Let’s begin:

14 Things I Love and Hate v3.0

I love that despite all my faults Julie loves me.
I hate that Julie is usually right.

I love that Joey made me a father.
I hate that real soon Joey will not be living in our home.

I love that Rebekah is my only daughter.
I hate that at times Rebekah struggles.

I love that Aaron completes our family.
I hate that Aaron misses out on experiences due to his size. Even though he’s willing.

I love that Max brings more joy to my children than I ever thought possible.
I hate that Max doesn’t sleep in his crate at night.

I love that T.C. forces me to laugh.
I hate that T.C. and I were not playground friends since Kindergarten.

I love that Jennifer keeps me motivated to run.
I hate that Jennifer was not my sister from birth.

I love that Mike pushes me outside my comfort zone.
I hate that Mike still has yet to finish that pantry.

I love that Lisa is way more grounded than me.
I hate that Lisa doesn’t blog about how wonderful it is to own a fish tank anymore.

I love that Chuck (and sometimes his daughter Lily) and I Skype Thursday nights at WBER.
I hate that Chuck and I are so far apart.

I love that Courtney is my work wife.
I hate that Courtney, like Julie, is usually right.

I love that Adell cherishes her Sunday afternoons.
I hate that Adell and I have not been in a show together since Steel Pier.

I love that Katelin is fearless.
I hate that Katelin has very good aim with a mustard bottle for it cuts into our Karaoke chances.

I love that Matt takes the road less traveled.
I hate that Matt takes way better Instagram pictures than me.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

7 Cardinal Rules for Life

I came across this list on Pinterest.  I have no idea who created them.  Not sure who to credit. They’re not mine.  But I like ‘em.

1. Make peace with your past, so it won’t disturb your present.

2. What other people think of you, is none of your business.

3. Time heals almost everything. Give it time.

4. No one is in charge of your happiness. Except you.

5. Don’t compare your life to others, and don’t judge them, you have no idea what their journey is all about.

6. Stop thinking too much. It’s alright not to know the answers.  They will come to you when you least expect it.

7. Smile.  You don’t own all the problems in the world.

Things I will never understand.

No matter how hard I try there are some things I will never understand.

Things like calculus.

Why Peeps need to exist.

The rapid fluxuation of gasoline prices.

The intoxicational quality of charasmatic individuals.

Why good people get cancer.

……….

When I walked inside St. Lawrence Catholic Church there he was. Practicing the song Immanuel with only the pianist in noticable attendance. Michael sang at the baby grand piano with his back to us. His voice a crystal as could be. Hearing it took me back 15 years when he and I used to sing tight harmonies on a Saturday afternoon Mass.  That time was a time of respite I looked forward to. He didn’t know it but several of us were onlookers that morning from the back of the church. Sneaking a peek at our friend practicing a song we have heard him sing dozens of times. But this time was different. During mass, Michael and I sat next to each other surrounded by the choir amidst faces new and old. We caught up, reminisced, exchanged hugs at the Kiss of Peace, and in a Catholic mass that is already too long I didn’t want it to end. For it meant that we’d part ways in the cold December air.

……….

Michael is my brother from another mother.

Michael is a man I love dearly.

Michael is godfather to my youngest son Aaron.

Michael has Cancer.

Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer.

There are some things I will never understand.

When Gifts Become Treasures

Ekky Kins' #Mayernik40 submission.We all have an origin story.

And I shall tell you the one belonging to the monkey Ekky Kins for reasons that’ll become clear if you continue reading. This is my promise to you: The end of this post will have you shaking your head in bewilderment. The finale will leave you stunned, and while I tow the line of completely overselling this posts content, I am confident that it will not disappoint. I still have a hard time believing myself, and I was there.

Trust me: Hollywood doesn’t come up with stories like this.

There’s this stuffed animal.  His name is Ekky Kins.  For the record it’s pronounced E-Key not Eck-e and Kins is pronounced, well… Kins. He is not just any stuffed animal. He happens to be my favorite childhood stuffed friend and the secret source of all my creativity.

shhhhhhhhh...

Now, I had considered taking about him years ago, but the topic of Ekky really fell off the radar.  See, I figured that a grown man talking about his childhood stuffed animal might be a tad too revealing.  I know I’m an over-sharer and chalk that up to me being a Sagitarrius (Not sure if that’s entirely true but I’m going with it).  However, recent events have caused me to talk about him in great detail.

Ekky is a stuffed monkey that:
a. I would talk too as a child.
b. Would respond in a high pitched squeaky voice.
c. I’d sleep with at night for an uncomfortable amount of years.
d. Has his own personality, likes, dislikes.  He gets angry when people compare him to Curious George, gets sad when he’s thrown outside onto the grass.
e. He’s very compassionate.
f. He’s a great listener.
g. Builds wooden benches underneath the bed for the other stuffed animals in the house to use and enjoy.
h. Yes is a stuffed animal.

But he’s is more than just a stuffed animal.  He’s unique.  He has a soul.  He is me—and I—him. He is my Father’s love in cloth and stuffing. His name is Ekky Kins, and his origin story starts in the early 80′s. As the lore goes, my father upon entering a toy store somewhere in the Detroit area was crowned “The 1 Millionth customer.” His reward for such a prestigious designation was his choice of one of the many stuffed creations that lie in wait on the shelves. He looked over all the stuffed animals and after much deliberation chose a monkey donning green overalls and a hat complete with a white pom-pon on top. 

When I was in elementary school, The bus dropped us off at the top of the only dirt road in the subdivision and I would have to walk down the street about a quarter mile to go home. Every so often my father would come home at the same time from his job as an electrician. On the day my father was the “1 Millionth Customer” was one of those days. As he drove up to me I was about 5 houses from our house.  He slowed his red Chevy pickup down to meet me and through the drivers side window my father showed me this stuffed monkey donning before mentioned green overalls as if to say “Na Na, look what I got.”  He then proceeded to speed away leaving me in the middle of the dirt road surrounded like Pig Pen in a cloud of dust.  I ran the rest of the way home, full speed—back pack and saxophone case in tow.

My father gave me that monkey that afternoon and his name quickly became Ekky. All night and the following weeks he and I played.  “Eee eee eee eee!” He’d say, and off we’d go. After awhile he learned English and the high pitched speaking monkey has been talking ever since.

He’s the reason I’m imaginative. He is the reason why I crave creativity. He’s the reason I can sing in falsetto. He’s the reason that at times as a child I could retreat into a vortex while I battled my inner drama. From the time I got him he went everywhere with me. To Grandma’s house, on family vacations, and even to Europe. As a child Ekky was always found tucked under my arm as the nighttime skies grew darker and darker revealing their glistening stars above. Even in 2013, Ekky made the trip with us to Michigan to help celebrate Christmas.

photo (3)On Christmas Day I received a present from my Mother. It was a small unassuming box that shuffled when I shook it.  Inside was a card and the single most unexpected gift I have ever received. It was a pattern and a complete stained glass window of my childhood stuffed monkey Ekky.

The card my mother gave me reads as follows:

Dear Joe,
I had an artist finish this piece of stained glass that Dad drew of Ekky. This is his original pattern; he never got to finish it.  However, he did cut out the two arms and the chest (where the heart is).

When you look at it, remember he is always with you. Hugs from heaven.

Love,
Mom.

For all those who may not know my father died in 1989. Unbeknownst to me or my mother my father had plans to create a small stained glass window of Ekky for me as a present. He created a pattern, indicated colors and even cut out three pieces.  I don’t know when he did this. Neither does my mother,  All we know is that he didn’t complete it before he died. So many factors could have prevented this gift from happening…

If 999,999 people don’t go in the toy store before my father. There’s no Ekky.

If he doesn’t choose the cute monkey in green overalls. There’s no Ekky.

If there’s no Ekky, there’s no need for my father to draw up a sketch for the stained glass.

It there’s no Ekky, there’s no opportunity for this paper sketch to survive a major house fire that brought my childhood home back to the studs.

If there’s no Ekky, there’s no need for the 3 cut glass pieces to survive a major purge right before a second story addition was put on my mother’s house.

If the three random cut glass pieces break, are misplaced or are discarded as junk. This gift does not happen.

If those three random cut pieces of glass are not found by my mom in a shoebox on a random weekday afternoon, there would be no gift of stained glass.

And as such, this gift, is no longer just a gift. It is a treasure. A treasure unearthed after 30 plus years of unintentional secrecy, with more value now than logically possible. Better than any time capsule, this gift from my mother (and father) is a treasure that I will hold dear for the rest of my days.

Happy Holiday’s… shaking your head yet?

2013 Vine in Review

photoMy kids say I’m addicted to the social media app Vine.  Really I don’t think so.

Vine is the social media app for smart phones that enables users to create and post short video clips. It’s owned by Twitter, and Vine represents the video version of Twitter’s economy of words. Vine forces the user to be selective with shots.  With only six seconds of video available per post, every frame counts.

Since I’ve used app since it was available in early 2013, I decided to compile all my videos into one. Not quite the economy of shots Vine was going for but I thought it would be cool way to reflect on the year.

Six seconds videos, strung one after another after another after another after another… representing a years worth of memories.  There’s work life, family, friends and Max eating the occasional biscuit or two. It’s 365 days crunched into one 22 minute video.

That’s 192 six second videos. Okay maybe I am addicted.

The video can be found by clicking here. 

Happy New Year.

………………….

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Birthday and Holiday Cheer

Norbert JaegerThank you to everyone who submitted over 200 photos in celebration of My Black Friday 40th Birthday. It was a humbling experience and the response was way more that I ever would have hoped. Photos came from all over the country, the world really. Traffic to the #Mayernik40 website was also worldwide. 51 different cities spanning four counties and 17 U.S. States. All the photos made me smile. There were some from family, friends and the occasional complete stranger. Many photos made me laugh. A handful brought me to tears. I was in “Ron Burgundy glass case of emotion” all day and frankly a small part of me wished I just had a party. For instance, my mother sent me the above photo of my Father’s gravestone and pine tree. My father died in October of 1989 at the age of 43 when I was only 15, and being at his grave site when we go back to Michigan still elicits emotions that are one part irrational, one part sentimental, and one part depression. Apparently a photo of his grave site works too. I am glad she sent it. Of all the people I was thinking of getting a photo from, my father was the last on that list. The interesting thing about this photo is the large pine tree in the background.

This pine tree was planted behind his grave stone by my Mom, my two older brothers and me in the weeks after my father’s death. The cemetery grounds keeper said it would never survive, siting his crack professional opinion, the oncoming Winter season and a past half dozen trees that never grew. But we planted it anyway. We defiantly gave the finger to his past tree planting failures, and knew this pine tree would be different. I mean it had too. How’d Mother Nature take this tree from us when God had already taken a husband, a son and our father? (Seemed logical at the time.) I still remember that day like it was yesterday. The air was crisp, the pine tree—barely three feet tall. The hole we dug wasn’t very large and the pageantry of the event was short. My mom, my two brothers and I stood there gazing over the tree in silence as if by magic the tree would conjure up some mystical properties and my father would rise out of thin air, alive and well. Smiling and wide eyed he would descend upon us saying “Of course i’m not dead! See the cameras over there? You’ve all been Punk’d” Beams of light would radiate from the ground. Angels would sing in 8-part harmony. Birds would gather. Squirrels would stop their winter prep just to watch. It was to be magnificent. We’d sing, cheer and rejoice. Hugging, crying and laughing about the absurdity of his passing and then the five of us would pile into our maroon Plymouth Acclaim and go to Erma’s frozen custard and splurge on some cones in the crisp October air.

Instead, we said some Hail Mary’s and cried.

The one thing my Father loved was Christmas lights. He would place lights on the trees and bushes, outline the windows, swag large C9 lights on the gutters of our home as if to exclaim to the entire neighborhood “I’m an electrician dammit and the lights on my house ROCK!” Lights were important to him, and that upcoming season was particular dim in the holiday cheer department. That first holiday my Mom had purchased dozens of battery operated light sets. Literally hundreds of D sized batteries just to light the tree up at the cemetery. We go there every evening. Replace the batteries, and drive by two or three times just to see the glow of the colored lights from the road. The next day, after the batteries had given all they could, we’d replenish them. We did this for weeks. Even did it the following year. As ridiculous and incredibly expensive as it sounds, the lights did provide a glimmer of comfort during a very troublesome time. Now the tree that would never be able to grow is easily 30′ tall.

Flash forward to this fall and our last visit to Michigan. My mother knowing that I also swag large lights on the gutters of my home gave me all her old c9 lights and strands from the garage that used to grace her home. I wasn’t even sure they still worked or not. It had been awhile. But now, during the holiday season, I decided to use them and sure enough, they did work. I decided to place some on the small 3 foot tree in our back yard. One very reminiscent of the tree planted at my father’s grave 25 years ago. My kids were puzzled by it all, Julie asked, “Why are you lighting a tree way back there? It’s in the backyard… no one will ever see it.”

Why? Because I can. It took four extension cords just to get power there.

TreeAnd now the tree beams with color. And I see it. I know it’s lit even if I can’t see it. Occasionally I’ll look out my back windows, catch a glimpse and nod knowing that somewhere my Father watches over me. I miss his guidance, and strength. His uncanny ability to be the good man, with grounded morals. He was a great father and one who provided for his family.

As I stood there watching the lights gleam in the cold darkness I was 15 again. Warm inside for the lights.  My soul filled with holiday cheer. I said some Hail Mary’s and cried.

The photo of my Father’s grave is one of over 200 photos submitted for my birthday at #Mayernik40. Each picture tells a story. Each one, unique. Each one a treasure and collectively a better present than anything purchased on Black Friday. To all those who submitted a photo, or perhaps others who couldn’t but still thought of me, thank you. The poster I create showcasing all of them will be wonderful.

Thank you for making my 40th birthday a very special day.