dad from day one: Monkey See, Monkey Do

Twenty-six weeks.

It’s not so much that I will relive vicariously through him as it will be that I will raise him according to what I know boyhood to be; therefore, Jack’s youth will in certain ways resemble mine.  And not only will I influence him regarding what it means to be a boy, but also by what it means to have a dad, based on how my own dad influenced my life.  Looking back, I can see that my dad was extremely patient with me and willing to spend his free time with me doing whatever goofy thing it was that I was into.

Whether it was helping me make the perfect Pine Wood Derby car for Cub Scouts, going exploring out in the woods, playing “Ninja Turtles” with me (I still have  an impressive collection of those action figures at my parents’ house), or playing Nintendo for hours at a time.

Being a dad to a son also means confronting potentially dangerous situations and keeping him safe through it; whether because he has to, or for fun.  And in the process, the son learns to trust his dad to take care of him, knowing his dad wouldn’t allow him to get hurt.

Like when he was leading our family in a 5 mile hike in Mentone, AL and he encountered a Copperhead snake- he killed it by throwing a huge rock on it.  Then when we got back home he skinned it and displayed it for all of us Cub Scouts.

And like when I was really young, my dad would put me in a pillow case, hold on to the open end, and sling me around the living room.  And because I was a boy, I loved it.

I also would sit up on his shoulders while he stood under the ceiling fan, in front of the mirror, so I could see that my head was just inches away from the spinning blades.  He called the event “The Head Chopper-Offer”.  And because I was a boy, I loved it.

And I always liked to wrestle my dad.  Obviously, it was impossible to beat him.  He was way too strong and way too big for me; not to mention he had a black belt in karate.  And because I was a boy, I loved it.

It was about testing those limits of danger with someone whose job it was to keep me safe.  Ironic, yet necessary.  My dad and I wrestling on the brown shag carpet represents what being a dad to a boy is all about.  The typical “play fighting” allows a boy to test his own strength and power against his own protector and guardian.  And it’s a very natural way for a father and son to be physically close- without even realizing it.

Dads and sons are close in their own unspoken ways.  And as a dad, part of my job will be to initiate some of these weird ancient rituals.  Even if it means confronting danger- it’s part of the journey of becoming a man. And these types of adventures are a rite of passage meant to be passed down from father to son.

Baby Jack is the size of an eggplant.

Here’s what The Bump says about Week 26:

Let your spouse put an ear to your belly — he might be able to pick up baby’s heartbeat (no stethoscope required). Inside the womb, the formation of tiny capillaries is giving baby a healthy pink glow. Baby’s also soaking up your antibodies, getting the immune system ready for life outside the womb. Eyes are forming, and baby will soon perfect the blink — perfect for batting those freshly grown lashes.

http://community.thebump.com/cs/ks/blogs/2ndtrimester/pages/weeks-25-28-month-6-eggplant.aspx?r=0

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

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Super Mario Bros. from a Logical Perspective, Finally

There are moments in the pop culture highlights of our lives where we are so consumed by awesomeness and groundbreaking concepts that we never even think, “Man, that’s pretty weird now that I think about it…”

It’s been a long time coming, but after 25 years since its introduction to America, (1983 in Japan, 1985 in the US) I need to set aside some time to question the life-changing vice called Super Mario Bros. The first issue that I’ve been thinking about is Mario’s ability to jump.

Have you have really thought about how high he can jump? I would say he probably jumps the distance of about six of himself high. Mario looks like he’s about 5’ 8 (I would say Luigi is more like 6’ 1). Since I’m bad at math I’ll just do some rounding.

Mario can jump about 36 feet high. He can be standing still and just jump 3 stories high. And he never hurts his ankles or knees. 

 That is not normal!

And in case you haven’t noticed, every game is this way in the world of video games (unless the character doesn’t jump at all like in the original Legend of Zelda).

What does Mario do with all those coins? They are about the same size as him. Imagine seeing a coin the same size as you and putting it in your pocket. Then collecting 50 more of them within the next 20 seconds. That’s gottta be heavy!

And what’s so bad about touching an enemy? If you touch a wild creature in the woods, let’s say a mountain lion for example, do you instantly die? No, the mountain lion would have to at least bite you or something. But in Mario’s world, you die if you touch any other living creature. Unless it’s a mushroom or fire flower. And in that case, what is he doing with them? Eating them? Again, how do you eat a five foot tall mushroom instantly?

And what’s up with all the holes in the road? What’s at the bottom of those holes? I mean, I would think that at least some of the time when Mario falls down a hole, he could grab on to a branch or something and not lose his life. But there really shouldn’t be that many holes in the first place.

Lastly, why can Mario hit his head on all those bricks and never get a concussion?  Or if he’s using his first to break the bricks, why is Mario’s fist not a bloody pulp pretty much immediately? 

Nevermind the fact the bricks are floating in the air. I’m willing to get past that. Mario isn’t even wearing a helmet when he busts the bricks with his head or gloves on his hands if he’s punching them!

We have overlooked so much ridiculousness because this game forever changed our lives for the better and for the weirder.  Without this American staple of growing up in the 1980’s, I imagine a world where people in their late 20’s and early 30’s would be more boring and less weird.

 

Assigned Seats: Many Friendships We Have are “Forced”

It’s a little something I call “forced friendship”.

It was always a bittersweet moment when as an elementary school student, I would walk into the classroom Monday morning and realize that my desk was on the other side of the room.  I would now be sitting next to other kids that I hadn’t necessarily been around much before.  This also meant I would no longer be sitting close to the friends I had made while at my previously assigned seat.

Boy, this is just a life metaphor waiting to happen.  Don’t beat me to the punch…

Do we choose our friends?  Yes.  But so often, by default.  Whether because of proximity through work, school, church, current circles of friends, or even marrying into a family, we find ourselves in what I call “forced friendships”.

And I don’t say that like it’s a bad thing.  It’s good.

I use the word “forced” because the reality of friendship is that we don’t usually go out to places looking for friends.  Friends just happen.  We end up in the same place at the same place, often on a reoccurring basis.  And in each location, the people that have the most in common or whose personalities compliment each other the most, are naturally going to become friends.

It’s not typical for one person to walk up to another person that they barely know and say, “Let’s be friends.”  Because it’s much more natural to let the Assigned Seats of Destiny direct us in our human relationships.

The concept of forced friendship became apparent to me in 2008, the year that my sister got married in January, and I in July, just six months apart.  In the same year, I gained a brother-in-law (my sister’s husband) on one side of the family, then seven brothers-in-law (my wife’s brothers) and two sisters-in-law (my wife’s sisters).  Before 2008, I had no in-laws at all.  In a matter of six months, I acquired plenty of them.

And through that process, the ones I have spent the most time with became the ones I obviously know the best, and therefore, have the strongest friendships with.  We are family by marriage, but that doesn’t take away at all the friendship aspect of it.

Each one brings out different sides of my personality, hobbies, and interests.  As we reflect our similarities and common ties.

For example, my sister’s husband Andrew and I are just a few years apart, having grown up playing the same old school Nintendo games, both having grown up in Alabama, and both obsessed with LOST.  In fact, he’s the reason my sister started watching LOST, which is why I am now obsessed.  Throughout the week, we send each other stupid website links and YouTube videos.  The perfect combination of a brother and a good friend.

On the other end of the brother-in-law spectrum, there is Tom up in Pennsylvania, who is the husband of my wife’s 2nd oldest sister.  We only see each other about twice a year and there is about a 10 year age difference between us.  In fact, he and my wife’s sister got married when I was in Junior High and they had their first kid the year I graduated high school.

Yet we have a whole lot in common.  When our wives are together, we let them catch up.  And we just do our own thing.  Whether it’s playing cards, shooting pool, watching movies, or playing with the kids.  We live the laid-back life together.

Being around him is like that seeing my life ten years into the future.  What little recent experience I have being around kids is from his two daughters.  I watch carefully how he talks and interacts with them.  His calm-assertiveness gives them the direction they need while still keeping the environment positive and loving.

Having the ability to choose isn’t everything.  Sometimes it’s better for someone or something else to make our decisions and life plans for us.  The funny thing is, the friendships I have sought out after never seem to last, like a trend or a fad.  If anything, those friendships are the ones that actually ended up feeling forced.

Whereas the forced friendships have always seemed natural.  So there we have it, friendship is a force.  And with all there is to gain from forced friendships, I can’t help but be thankful for assigned seats.

Similar post from the same author: The Invisible Touch, Yeah (The 2nd Installment)

The Truth and Irony about Solving a Rubik’s Cube

Somebody’s gotta be able to do it.  So I took it upon myself to become that person.

Last night at 11:15 PM, I solved my first Rubik’s Cube.  Then again, and again, again.  It all started on February 23rd when I was trying to think of a clever title for a post that I was working on about the true danger of dying of boredom and inactivity, which ended up with me questioning the small possibility that I could have a mild case of Aspergers (I’m pretty sure I don’t, though…).  I ended up naming the writing “Rubik’s Cube Syndrome”.

http://wp.me/pxqBU-zv

A few days later, on February 27th, I decided to take the concept literally: I went to Target and paid $9 for a Rubik’s Cube.  Because I realized I didn’t know anyone in my life that knew how to solve it, nor did I know anyone who knew anyone who knew how to solve it.  So I knew that meant that I would have to become that person.  I would have to become “that guy”.

For the next 11 days (which ended last night), I took “The Cube” with me everywhere.  The token running joke I kept hearing as I was learning to solve it was, “I can solve that thing for you, just let me take off the stickers…”

Everyday during my lunch break I walked over to Borders and used their free wi-fi to watch YouTube videos on how to solve it.  And, it worked.

The truth about solving a Rubik’s Cube is this:  Basically, trusting your own puzzle-solving abilities, you can not solve a Rubik’s cube.  It’s impossible.

The Cube is solved through completing a series of 7 layers, starting from the bottom up (like levels of an old school Nintendo game like Donkey Kong) and each one has a corresponding algorithm which is a set series of turns and twists (like the Konami code on Contra to get 30 extra lives or the combination of buttons pressed in order to pull of a “special move” on Streetfighter II).  But one wrong move, and you end up having to go back a few layers and start over.

The biggest hint that The Cube itself provides is that the middle squares of each side are the only ones locked into place, and each corner is predetermined.  For example, the green side will never share corners with the blue sides, because they’re on opposite sides from each other.

Interestingly, in theory, no matter what the positions are, it should never take more than 20 twists in order to return The Rubik’s cube to its original state.

The Rubix Cube has been frustrated millions of people since its commercial release 30 years ago in 1980.  Understandably.  Without memorizing the algorithms, it virtually is impossible.

So my advice is this.  Unless you’re willing to spend 11 days to memorize the exact formula, don’t waste your time.  It will be nothing but frustrating.  The Cube is either the most frustrating puzzle in the world or the most rewarding and therapeutic.  But if you don’t follow the formula step by step, you will not succeed.

The irony of being able to solve a Rubik’s cube is this: While you will most definitely be able to impress your friends when they watch you do it in front of them in just a matter of a few minutes, it takes memorizing algorithms to do it.  You must become a little bit dorky in order to become cool.

And I’m okay with that.  Because for a lifetime I have memorized the formula.  So for a lifetime, I will keep my mind active.  I called my Rubik’s Cube my “Alzheimer’s Prevention Device”.

Snail Trails: Your Memory May Be the Only Proof an Event Ever Happened

Nothing, not even a blank screen. Then suddenly on April 20, 1983, life as I know it began. Not the day I was born, but the day my memory started. With all my family gathered around me at the kitchen table, my first memory of life begins with a song- “Happy Birthday”. Maybe I was simply overwhelmed by that many people in the room at once. Maybe I thought the song had a sad tune. Maybe this is where I got my fear of being in front of a bunch of people with nothing to do or say. But all I had to do was just blow out that giant number “2” candle on my Mickey Mouse cake. Instead, I cried.

Flash forward to the summer of 1985. I put on my cowboy boots, grabbed my He-Man lunchbox, stood by the front door, and announced to my mom, “Okay, I’m ready for school! I want to meet friends.” I wasn’t even enrolled for pre-school yet, but my mom took care of it and a month later I was present at First Methodist’s “Mother’s Day Out” program (the year before Kindergarten: 1985-1986).

Though I was four years old, I can specifically remember that Simon Milazzo had a toy dog that I liked so much that my mom bought me one like his. I remember Meg Guice crying one day because somebody ate her pineapples when she was looking the other way. I remember Laura O’Dell gave me a valentine with a scratch ‘n’ sniff vanilla ice cream cone that smelled really good, while Alex Igou gave me a valentine with Darth Vader that said “Be Mine or Else…”.

I remember having a daily “play time” where we all went to the dark green carpeted fellowship hall where we were often forced to play “Duck, Duck, Goose” or sing and act out “The Farmer and the Dell”. Meg Guice would always want to be the wife when “the farmer chose a wife”. I never wanted to be chosen to play a character.

Instead, one day I wandered off to play with my fire truck. Alex Igou also managed to escape from the group, going to the opposite side of the room. We both got in trouble for doing this so the teacher put us in “time out” together. Alex said to me, “Do you like your truck I got for you?” (It was the one he gave me at my birthday party.)

I used to think I was weird for having such detailed and vivid memories from such an early age. But while in my Childhood Developmental Psychology class in college, the professor asked those of us who had a vivid memory from age two or younger to raise our hands. Twenty-five percent of us raised our hands and then had to share with everyone what our memory was. We were told that having a memory that clear from such a young age isn’t common, but it’s not abnormal either.

When I think of elementary school, I don’t remember much about what I learned, but I definitely remember clear conversations and events starring my classmates: In 2nd grade (1988-1989) while in line for a relay race during P.E., I was standing next to Cody Vartanian and Charles Robertson. In honor of the new Nintendo game, Cody said to Charles, “Skate or die!” Charles firmly responded, “I don’t have to skate if I don’t want to skate and I don’t have to die if I don’t want to die”.

Last week I told the story of breaking up a fight while dressed as a giant wolf exactly ten years ago, during my final month of high school (see “Cry Wolf”). I feared that it may come across like I had in some form exaggerated the details. According to my memory, no one I was friends with was there to witness it. So I was much relieved when Adrianne McClung Smith commented on the story, saying she was fortunate enough to see the event in person.

For many childhood memories we have, however, there was not a “constant” in the equation. In other words, without someone else who was there who still remembers a specific event taking place, in essence it only happened in our own minds. It makes me think of the “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it…” question. My immediate response was always to ask if I could put a tape recorder in the forest before the tree fell. My next response was to realize I didn’t care if anybody heard the stupid tree fall anyway.

In the same way, I exclusively hold thousands of memories recorded in my mind. Memories about people I grew up with. Memories these people would never have known happened unless I tell them. Since I am the only person to verify such specific events, in theory they happened BECAUSE I remember them.

All anyone else can do is question the validity of my memory. But I know for a fact these memories are real, not simply evolved from a dream or an old snapshot. Everyone else has this ability though, at least to some degree if nothing else. Every person alive owns exclusive copyrights to memories involving other people.

I am constantly disappointed with the sad truth that even in the year 2009, there is no such thing as time travel. So badly I want to go back to those actual random memories; I want to replay them. In the back of my mind I’m hanging on to this thread of a hope that somehow someday I can revisit my past. Not to change it. Just to see it again, like a good movie.

This hope that when I get to Heaven there will be a series of doors with a different year written on each one, allowing me to revisit- in the likeness of Disney World’s Epcot Center how you can visit several “countries”. Evidently I have a condition which causes me to leave a trail of me behind throughout the history of my life, like a snail. At any given point, I am living in both the present moment and simultaneously each year of the past since my memory began in 1983.

As a writer and as an every day conversationalist, things seem incomplete to me without a nostalgic year or story in there somewhere. Some people have a habit of going off on “rabbit trails”. I end up on “snail trails” instead. My short-term memory is awful- I can’t remember who won American Idol last season. But my petty long-term memory is a little bit Rain Man-esque.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on nostalgia, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog”:

dad from day one