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I try to keep things fun and lighthearted around here, yet the world won't let me. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to look at the news and think "didn't know them," or "don't care," but the reality is, I care... we all care. I have a bad habit of waking up to horrible news, a habit that I'm well-aware is shared by many, with 9/11 and the disintegration of Space Shuttle Columbia being two examples of where I simply opened my eyes to see the tragedy on television. Social media wasn't full-blown back then, and today I made the mistake of checking my phone first-thing... still in bed, but with my wife at my side and my girls playing. The news that something terrible had happened in Orlando -- just days after another heinous act in that city -- was unavoidable, as were the never-ending "thoughts and prayers" delivered by the tens of thousands via status update and tweet, none more insincere than those delivered by politicians, with tweets by some such as GNC Chair Reince Priebus being called out for essentially being "copied and pasted" from their statements about past tragedies. Sandy Hook, Boston, that jerk in Fox Lake - we're long-past the whole "truth is stranger than fiction" thing, because real life is more twisted and terrifying than any media created for purpose of entertainment or to be fear-provoking.  This country is a mess, and "thoughts and prayers" will do nothing to help anyone... but the proper actions and reactions just might.

Published in James' Journal

Four years ago, I celebrated one-year tobacco-free with a journal entry about my personal journey. Then, in 2013, I posted again, celebrating the two-year anniversary of coming clean (indeed, cigarettes are a drug), followed by another post in 2014 documenting year three, and how I couldn't get Philip Morris/Altria to leave me alone (they since have, but only after I threatened legal action). In 2015, I posted again, and since then little bits have changed, like Cracker Barrel restaurants playing into the hands of Big Tobacco (presumably) not knowing it, and the rise of the e-cig and vape crowd. Today I am posting once again, as it's the five-year anniversary of kicking the habit. As I've done previously, I am re-posting much of my original entry here on THE ROCK FATHER, along with a few alterations and timely updates. Philip Morris/Altria and R.J Reynolds: The targets on the backs of your companies and leadership continue to grow...

March 14, 2011 is the day that I officially quit smoking. At some point on the night of March 13, I quietly took the last puff of the last cigarette in the last pack that I ever owned. Upon telling my wife that I was officially ''done,'' she took it upon herself to clean-up some of the ''smoker's mess'' that I'd created. The ashtrays of both cars were scoured. The sand-filled flowerpots that I'd strategically placed on my front porch and near my gardening shed were disposed of, along with a ton of stray butts that had made their way into the surrounding landscape over the winter months. The cleansing had begun.

Published in James' Journal

Note: An Election Day update 11/8/2016 follows this post:

In an election year, it's hard to keep politics away from my virtual pages as I'd like to. It's divisive, and that's not what being "The Rock Father" is all about. If you'd like to be irritated about others' choices for parties and candidates, Facebook is the place for you - the unfriendly confines of uninhibited emotion and tactless behavior. The memes and insults fly fast, their impact accepted with a mix of likes and emoticons, or in some cases the dreaded "hide post," "hide all posts" or at the worst, an unfriending. I approach politics with an interesting view - the child of a former politician, and some of what I dealt with as a kid sorta messed me up to the point where I wouldn't run for office myself, despite a desire to do so*. Last night, I found myself at the Hillary Clinton rally in Vernon Hills, Illinois - not as a Hillary supporter, but as a neutral party and undecided voter in this election (I'm a registered Independent that refuses to align with any Party). Honestly, I think this is the worst field of candidates in a Presidential election that I've ever seen in my adult life - and if I had to choose today, a vote for Batman would inspire more confidence than what I'm seeing take shape for the ballot. The bigger picture is that my wife and I are the parents of two daughters, and for perhaps the first time in history, there is a real chance that a woman could become President of the United States of America, and seeing Hillary in-person was a chance to show the girls that achieving a lofty goal like becoming President doesn't have to be an unattainable dream, but that it could be a real possibility

Published in James' Journal

Sometimes you just have to wait for things, and even if the wait equals years, the payoff is pretty good. A prime example arrived today - the result of planning ahead, and keeping a t-shirt in a drawer for six years. Weird to think that slightly more than a half-decade ago, I was in the midst of a late-night diaper run to Walmart when I started browsing some clearance kids' clothes that had been squeezed-in near their Garden Center. There was one particular rack that caught my eye - t-shirts featuring comic book covers from the 1980s... the exact time that I became a comic book fan myself. Hanging on that rack was a single t-shirt in a size 6/7 that bore not only a favorite cover, but the exact cover of the first issue of John Byrne's THE MAN OF STEEL from 1986 - the very book that hooked me on DC Comics. For less than $2, I purchased said t-shirt, and have waited six years for today to arrive - the day that it finally fit Addie. 

Published in James' Journal

An Urgent Message from Rock Father HQ: Attention Large Corporations - I Do Not Wish to Take Your Surveys.

There's a real problem with "customer service" these days, and it has nothing to do with the actual service, nor the persons providing said service to the public. The problem comes after the customer has already paid for said service or goods, the moment an obligation is placed in front of the customer with enticement in the form of a potential prize, or... a guilt trip. "At the bottom of your receipt you'll find website to take our survey to tell us how we did for a chance to win..." says the usually underpaid, overworked individual tasked with circling said url to make sure that the customer takes full note and hopefully logs a few clicks to their company website. Thing is, I don't want to take your survey, and frankly, I'm tired of being asked. If your true goal is to provide "World Class" customer service, you can start with incentivizing your employees, associates, team members, grunts, stormtroopers or otherwise frontline workers in some way other than placing a task request upon the very people who pay for the existence of your entire operation. Even worse? A follow-up about said survey.

Published in James' Journal

Netflix #StreamTeamWhen it comes to learning, sometimes kids need a reminder that learning new things is fun - something that I’m told happens more often with older kids - ones that sit in that “tween age.” While my girls (The Rock Daughters™) are still much younger, we’re really working to embrace that sense of wonder, exploration and curiosity that both have. For Addie, our oldest, there’s been a growing tendency to conduct “experiments” on her own, and she generally pulls little Finn into the mix. Things can get messy, but that’s just fine as the girls develop their own first-hand methods of witnessing action and reaction… even if that means I might spout off like David Seville with a frustrated “Addddddie!” once in awhile (that’s my problem, not the kids’). With a lot of what they’re doing, the girls are engaging in a S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) realm without even knowing it. Embracing those interests at a young age (or refreshing them at an older one) is why it’s cool to see a program like PROJECT Mc2 hitting the scene.

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