"Being honest may not get you a lot of friends but it'll always get you the right ones."
That is a quote I came across today from the late, great John Lennon. One of my true heroes.
My first hero was probably New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath. I honestly don't remember watching Super Bowl III, which helped solidify his status as a legend among NFL legends, but I'm sure I did. I've seen every Super Bowl since the first one (Kansas City versus Green Bay), so I had to have watched that one, too.
Namath was great, and the absolute ultimate in cool. I even got a pair of white football shoes when I was 14 years old, playing quarterback at Oaks Dads Club in Houston. We had a really good team, the Panthers, but we could have been even better if our quarterback had been a leader, instead of an arrogant ass. I remember getting tossed from one game by a referee, who pretty much dragged me to the sidelines, but I don't remember the reason. Another time, my own coach took me out after I grabbed my center's facemask and shook it, as I chewed him out for something.
Told you I was an ass.
And my attitude never got any better. By the next year, I had quit playing sports altogether. This was the first major mistake of my life. All of a sudden, I had no identity. I didn't have a clue who I was, or what to do anymore. Sports had always been my life. Baseball, football, basketball. Eventually, I found somewhere else to "fit in," and it wasn't with the right crowd of kids. I sort of foundered after that for awhile, for some years. I thought I was having fun, but what I was really doing was wasting a whole lot of talent and potential.
It took awhile, but I finally got things together, although I'm still trying to figure out who I am exactly, and where I fit in. Too often, I feel like that kid looking out the window, wanting to join in the fun but not sure exactly how to do it. Lately, though, I think I'm finding my identity -- John, the writer. I like that one, and I think it fits OK. After I get another book or two out there, maybe I'll call myself an author. I'm not sure one book really makes you an author. A one-hit wonder, maybe.
And, like Lennon said, I don't have a whole lot of true friends -- probably have more than I realize -- but I have some really good ones. Maybe that's because I'm a pretty honest guy. Too honest sometimes, probably. I'm not sure I'm always honest with myself, but I know that I'm pretty darn honest in my writing. It's the only way I know how to do it.
My heroes now include just about anybody who is truly happy, with themselves and their life. Those people have it all figured out -- the important stuff, anyway. I'm workin' on it, and I'm gettin' there, slowly but surely. The thing about it is, life is a journey, not a destination. So the way I see it is, if I'm doing it right by the time I get to the end, then I win.
Another day of the "30 days of positive" project nearly completed, and I haven't blown it yet.
Ciao, y'all ...
Day Six of the "30 days of positive" project, and it's been a good one.
The day started with my daily affirmations and little prayer, then it was off to the dentist for another round of major work. Unfortunately, I had to take the whole day off due to the dental appointment, but I'm trying to not get too down about missing the little tykes. Anyway, the dentist went well, although I'm in a little discomfort now, with the novocaine wearing off. He had to give me four shots before I was numb enough to be brutalized, but things went pretty quickly after that.
I wish I had all the money I've spent on dental work over the past 20 years. I'm sure I could pay cash for a new car. A nice one. Unfortunately, my parents weren't very vigilant about oral hygiene with us kids. And I was a candy freak. Pretty much any time I got some money, that's what I spent it on. Loved the stuff. Still do, really. Hot Tamales, cherry sours, chocolate bar with caramel. I could go on and on, not to mention pastries, cake, pie, ice cream. Good grief ...
A number of years ago at a dental checkup, the guy said I didn't have any cavities. I was happy, of course, and expressed my pleasure at hearing the good news. "Don't get too excited," he said. "There's not much room in there for cavities any more." Needless to say, the vast majority of my teeth are filled, root-canaled, crowned or replaced.
Meanwhile, I also got my daily exercise in today, without going to the gym. Finished my mowing from Saturday, and although walking behind a self-propelled mower is not exactly grueling work, I'm counting it as exercise. Don't judge. I nearly broke a sweat. After that, my darlin' daughter took me to drop the pickup back off at the shop. I'm pretty sure it's a minor deal. Somebody forgot to tighten a water hose clamp or something.
After that, I sat down and checked my messages, and my friend, Larry, who is opening a new weekly newspaper in a nearby town, asked me to write a story about he and his wife -- an introductory sort of thing -- for the first edition, which comes out Friday. And he interviewed me for a story he is going to write about me joining his staff as a columnist. Then, there's my first column that will also run Friday. Pretty dang cool!
So, it's been a really good day.
Ciao, y'all ...
Well, as predicted, I shot 78 during my weekly round of golf with my buddy, Gator. Unfortunately, there were three holes left to play when I arrived at that number. So, my 18-hole total was disappointing -- again -- but, c'mon, a bad day on the golf course is ... well, there's really no such thing as a bad day on the golf course ...
Gator beat me by three shots. We both kind of cratered on the back nine. As Gator likes to say, "Folded like a cheap tent." The collapse actually began when we both bogeyed no. 8 and no. 9.
I've known Gator for a few years now. Met him at the golf course. He's quite a character, originally from south Florida, where he worked for a long time as an animal trapper. He really never did a lot of alligator hunting, but he got the cool nickname, anyway. He likes it. Also known as David, he is two weeks away from his 61st birthday, stands about 6-3, 220 pounds or so, long gray ponytail down his back, bald as an eagle on top. And deaf as a damn post. I think deaf in one ear. Either way, trying to hold a conversation with him sometimes is a comedy. He loves golf, like I do. We're always within a few shots of each other, so it makes for some good friendly competitions.
This is Day Five of my 30 days of positive project, and it's going pretty well. I stayed up too late last night, after an extremely productive day, and had to get up early to go to the golf course, so I'm a little tired. Mostly laying on the couch all afternoon.
And not much else to talk about today, really. Busy week ahead, with another book to proof for Archangel Ink, a story to write for The Cove Banner, and planning promotions for the book. And then there's school to teach, exercising to do, taking the truck back to the shop, finishing the yard work, keeping the blog going, working on my Camino book. Other than that ...
More later. Ciao, y'all ...
My brother, Bobby, sent a text message early this morning (apparently from his beach house on Galveston Island, as the message was accompanied by a photo of a beach sunrise) to say he was thinking of me. He called me brother. Bobby is not really my brother, not by blood, anyway. But we are as close or closer than brothers. I've known him since first grade. I love him and he loves me, and neither one of us is afraid to say that to the other. It's pretty cool.
So I go into the kitchen and make a nice cup of coffee, sit down and check my e-mail, and I have a couple of messages from my publisher at Archangel Ink, asking me to rewrite my author bio for the new paperback that is coming out soon, and to send him a photo and another little bio so he can add me to their website's Who-We-Are staff listings, where I'll be added as a proofreader extraordinaire. OK, probably just as a proofreader. Still, very cool. I just finished proofreading my second book for them, with a third already in hand and ready for me to give a final once-over.
They tell me they're excited about the prospects for my redesigned and reissued, "Finding God in Texas." When I saw the cover they designed, I was excited right away, and knew good things are in store. Click here to check it out, please and thank you:
I worked on those two things for awhile, got them finished, then went out and mowed most of my lawn. We've got probably close to three-quarters of an acre to mow, and I'm not nearly as enthusiastic about yard work as I used to be. There was a time when I was out in the yard constantly. Now, it's kinda hit-and-miss. I've still got about 20 minutes of mowing left for tomorrow, AFTER I get home from golf.
When the mowing was done, I cleaned up a little, did some laundry, then went back out front and noticed a big puddle of something underneath my pickup. Just two days ago, I retrieved my 2002 F-150 from the shop, where it underwent $1,456 worth of repairs. I suspect the puddle may be related to something not quite right with that work, but it's really hard to tell. I'll find out Monday, I imagine, after I take it back.
Then, after a nice chat on the phone with the missus, who is out of town on business, I did some grocery shopping and here I am, tidying up my project list, which includes writing every day. I don't think I ever said my prayer today, "God, please help me focus on a positive attitude." I guess I missed that one, which is mostly needed during the week, when I face a few hundred highly undisciplined and untrained 11- and 12-year-olds, along with a very hard-to-figure-out set of school administrators. Staying positive on the weekends is a piece of cake, by comparison.
I did say my affirmation, and I remained positive throughout the day, even when I found the puddle of something underneath my newly repaired truck. I haven't had any real negative thoughts. I didn't play my guitar today, and I probably won't. And the one thing that I still haven't fit into my day so far is meditation. I really need to include that. I believe that meditation can make a difference. I've been told as much, and I think it's true.
Tomorrow, I plan to shoot 78 on the golf course. I just hope that's my score after 18 holes, and not after 16.
Ciao, y'all ...
When the alarm sounded shortly after 4 this morning, one of the little voices in my head said, "Aw, you don't need to get up. You can mow the grass when you get home today and count that as your daily exercise." The other little voice, which is normally a little scared to speak up, said, "Just get your butt up."
Yes, I hear voices. One of 'em is bad; one of 'em is good.
Everybody hears voices, don't they? Man, I hope so ...
So I listened to Mr. Good Voice, and got my butt out of bed, drank some coffee, checked my e-mail and got ready to head off to the gym for another 5 a.m. workout. I forgot about telling myself, "Today is going to be a great day," until I was tying my shoes, so I did it then, once or twice. Said my little prayer, "God, thank you and please help me focus on a positive attitude," as I was sitting on an exercise bench, resting between sets of dumbbell curls.
This morning at school, I tried the smiling thing again, and it actually felt pretty good. My face doesn't stay that way for very long, but I think it does indeed make you feel good inside when there's a smile on your face. And I was Mr. Patience as I monitored one of my morning classes working on a project. To keep these guys and gals focused and behaving for an entire hour is not easy. I almost shut it down after about 40 minutes, but I took a deep breath and held on. They did OK.
Haven't uttered any negative comments that I can think of, and haven't dwelt on any negative thoughts, so I'm going to judge Day Three of my "30 days of positive" project another big success. So far, so good.
But wait ... BIG NEWS ... I just found out that the e-book version of my newly-redesigned and reissued book, "Finding God in Texas," is now listed on amazon. Here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/Finding-God-Texas-John-Clark-ebook/dp/B00JXP7448/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1398454992&sr=8-2&keywords=finding+god+in+texas
Please be so kind as to check it out. My new publisher will be ever so happy. And after you read it, please post a nice review. Thanks in advance, and the new paperback version is on its way, as well!
Ciao, y'all ...
Progress concerning my two-day-old "30 days of positive" project was kicked off the front page by much more exciting news. Today, I signed my first official book publishing contract, and the redesigned, reissued version of "Finding God in Texas" will soon make its debut in e-book and paperback form.
Pretty damn exciting. For me, anyway.
But, back to the project. Day two has been another success. I started off first thing this morning by saying, "Today is going to be a great day," four or five times as I washed my face and brushed my teeth and did all that good stuff, shortly after 4 a.m., as I got ready to go to the gym for a workout. I also said my prayer, "God, thank you for everything, and please help me focus on a positive attitude today." Said that one three times.
Funny thing ... my close friend and brother, Bobby, told me a long time ago that he says that affirmation about it being a great day as soon as he wakes up every morning. He suggested I try it, as well, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Sort of like I find it pretty much impossible to look at myself in the mirror and say that I love myself. Just kind of weird, and not sure I really believe it, anyway. But this morning, when I said those words over and over, I actually kind of started to believe it might be true. Today is going to be a great day. I think I'll try that again tomorrow!
So I did my affirmation, said my little prayer, got my dose of daily exercise, haven't uttered any negative comments or really thought any negative thoughts, all day long. I'm writing now, so writing every day is covered, as well. All that's left on the list, I think, is playing the guitar, practicing the saxophone, and doing a little meditation.
Heck, I might be able to do this ...
Ciao, y'all ...
Well, Day One of my "30 days of positive" project will have to go down as a success.
I smiled a little bit more often today. It takes concentration and feels strange to replace my usual scowl with a smile, but I did it for a little while. I started to let something negative slip early this morning, talking to a couple of fellow teachers, but caught myself and shut it down. I didn't rip the heads off any kids today (figuratively speaking, of course), and I went to the golf course after work and hit a small bucket of range balls, so I'll count that as exercise for the day. Tomorrow, I'll actually get up (at 4:15 a.m.) and be at the gym by around 5, for a round of treadmill walking and some resistance training (lifting weights).
After dinner here in a few minutes, I'll pick up my guitar for the first time in a long time and play for awhile. There are no callouses on my left-hand fingertips any more, so it's gonna hurt pretty quickly. Gonna have to work up to some decent practice time. Then, I'll take a crack again at my pretty new saxophone. I've always wanted to play saxophone, so I finally decided to go ahead and get one a few months ago. Started practicing, then got a nasty chest cold that lasted forever and couldn't breathe so good.
I'm writing right now, and I'll probably work a little later on a couple of books I'm editing for my publisher. Not only are they redesigning and reissuing my book, "Finding God in Texas," in paperback and e-book, but I'm also doing some online proofreading for 'em. I'm great at spotting typos and other errors, and I love doing it. And they're paying me for it!
That's pretty much everything on the list for my new project, except saying, "Today is going to be a great day," first thing in the morning. My close friend (brother), Bobby, swears he does this every day, as soon as he wakes up. So I will do it, too. I did not do it first thing this morning, but I remembered to say it later on. Another thing Bobby has told me to do is to say this, "God, please help me focus on a positive attitude." Not, give me a positive attitude, but help me focus on a positive attitude. I don't think I squeezed that one in today.
But I was in a pretty darn good mood today, and I'm feeling pretty good right now.
I'm writing a weekly column for a friend's new newspaper in a nearby town, and part of my daily writing time will be spent finishing my book about me and the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in northern Spain, which I have walked twice. Also, an artist friend is working on illustrations for a cool, little children's book I wrote, so there are some exciting things going on.
Not to mention the fact that the end of the school year is quickly coming into focus. That sho' nuff gonna be a beautiful day.
Plans for the summer include a solo trip to Key West, to eat, drink and be merry for about a week. A little snorkeling, maybe some deep-sea fishing, lots of fresh seafood consumption. Some other stuff on tap, as well. Hopefully, some book signings! Y'all gotsa come.
Ciao, y'all ...
She would have been 77 years old tomorrow. But life ain't fair. So I get a phone call one day saying my mother has a "mass" in her brain. I call my mother. She's all cheerful and says it's the size of a pea, and they're going to take it out, no problem.
Even when she started having papers drawn up, asking me to sign different things, and insisting relentlessly on a family campout on Galveston Island, one of her favorite places in the world, I still refused to face it. When I got the call at work one summer day that she had died, I didn't know what to do. I hung up the phone, and stepped around the front of my desk to get something off the fax machine. The room spun a little bit, and I felt confused.
Two or three days later, when I stepped into the little country church in the woods near Iola, Texas, for her memorial service, it suddenly became reality. The last time I saw my mother, she was basically in a coma, in a hospital bed, with her right hand clutching the side bed railing. Trying to hold on, it seemed to me. I never saw her after that day. It was a week or so later that my sister had her body cremated before I was able to make the 150-mile trip back down there, so it was like Mama was just gone. Poof!
And when I walked inside that chapel, and saw the table filled with photographs and flowers, I was overwhelmed. My nephew was across the room, sobbing as someone sat with their arm around him, trying to console. I felt a wave of emotion rising quickly inside me, and I felt I was going to lose it. If I started crying, I'd never be able to stop. So I choked it down, pushed it back. No. I can't let it come. I can't handle it; can't control it.
When it came my turn to stand up in front of the service and say a few words about my mother, it took several minutes before I could speak. I'd decided to read a little essay I'd written about her life, and the first words I had to say were her name. It was really hard to say. She truly went away too soon. But life ain't fair.
So, in honor of my mother, I've decided that the anniversary of her birth is a good day to start my "30 days of positive project." I'm not entirely sure that I can accomplish the mission, and so if I dedicate the effort to her, maybe that will help. Also, writing about it may help me hold myself more accountable, as well.
You see, I inherited a number of good traits from my parents, but there was some bad stuff, too. One of those things is pessimism and negativity. I want to be more positive, and feel happier inside. So I've created a 30-day plan to kick-start some new habits.
From my brother, Bobby, I'm borrowing an affirmation and a prayer: "Today is going to be a great day," and "God, help me focus on a positive attitude." These things are said first thing in the morning, and throughout the day, as needed. I vow to not let any negative comment come out of my mouth, to turn negative thoughts into something positive, and to smile more. I don't walk around with a smile on my face. Feels unnatural. Next on the list is to exercise every day, whether that is going to the gym, going for a long walk after work, or playing golf. Then, I will write every day, play my guitar and practice my new saxophone, and meditate for 15-20 minutes.
Thirty days is a long time to keep it all going, but it's also long enough to form a new habit. Wish me luck.
Ciao, y 'all ...
Today feels like Saturday. Normally at this time, I'd be at school, babysitting -- I mean, teaching -- my second class of the day. But today is a holiday, a glorious holiday. No school. And I'm sitting on the couch, a nice cup of coffee at hand, with birds chirping and a cool breeze drifting in through the back screen door. And it's Friday!
The end of the school year is fast approaching now. It's somewhere near the 30-day mark. Somewhere around 30 days left until summer vacation. Halle--friggin'--lujah. This has been an amazing year, and not in a good way. Actually, it hasn't been completely horrible, thanks mostly to the support of family, friends and co-workers, but I will definitely be glad when it's over. I remember two or three years ago, standing in the hallway on the last day of school, right after all the kids were gone, and actually feeling the stress drain from my body.
For those who have never been inside a public school classroom for any extended period of time, it is nothing like Miss Landers' classroom on Leave It to Beaver. You know, with all the little kiddies neatly dressed, scrubbed, clean and smiling, sitting up straight in their little chairs, hands folded neatly on their desktops?
"Good morning, Miss Landers!" they all say, in unison.
No. Not even close. Public school today is ... let's see, how can I describe it. Public school is a zoo? Not really accurate. At the zoo, the animals are all mostly well-behaved. Everything is neat and orderly. Rules are enforced; procedures are followed. So we can't really call it a zoo. A circus? Maybe. But, again, the audience is pretty well-behaved at the circus. Let's see, how can I explain it to a civilian ...
Here's an example. A fella who is earning his teaching credentials and works in the meantime as a substitute teacher told me about an incident in which a student cussed out a sub, who promptly sent the student to the office. Before class was over, that student returned, walked in and tossed a wadded-up hall pass at the substitute teacher, and said, "I told you they wouldn't (expletive-deleted) do anything." Then went and sat down.
An extreme, perhaps, but not at all uncommon example of daily life in public school.
When I was a kid, we didn't talk back to adults, certainly didn't cuss 'em out. Behind their backs, sure, but to their face? No way. It's not like that any more. I've never had a kid cuss me out. But, oh boy, they almost all talk back. There is no such thing as respect for authority in today's society. There's no line between kid and adult, no boundaries, no difference. No respect. No fear. And there is nothing wrong with a little healthy fear. Hell, that's why I pay my bills, pay my taxes, obey the speed limit (mostly). I'm afraid of what will happen if I don't. Kids don't have that fear any more.
A student recently was reading a story that mentioned paddling in school. She asked me what that meant. I told her. "That's child abuse," she said. Right.
Anyway, it's a wonderful day of freedom -- and did I mention it's only Friday? I'm doing an interview this afternoon for a feature story for a friend's local newspaper that is issuing its first edition next week. I'm planning to write something once a week about regular ol' folks who do interesting things, or who lead or have led interesting lives. I'm pretty jazzed about it. I loved my newspaper career, and I still love to write. Covering the news and chasing stories, I got kind of tired of all that, but writing is something that feeds the creative part of my soul. It's the way I express myself best.
Speaking of which, my book, "Finding God in Texas," has been picked up by a publisher over in Florida, who is redesigning it and reissuing it in paperback and e-book. I've seen the new cover and it's fantastic. Things are moving right along, and it should be available before too much longer. An artist friend is working on illustrations for a children's book I wrote, and I'm trying to get the story of my trip to the Camino de Santiago finished and sent off for a publisher to consider. All pretty exciting stuff.
I guess that's about it for now. Ciao, y'all ...