A Phone Call from the President

Getting ready to go for my morning run this morning, I picked up the newspaper this morning.  It was yesterday’s paper that I hadn’t read yet.  I saw the following headline and read just a couple of sentences (quoted here), then I left for my run.  I wasn’t thinking about the election or the state of BofA, I was thinking about how cool it must have been to get that call…

foxxFoxx tells Obama Charlotte needs BofA

Posted: Friday, Nov. 06, 2009
Charlotte Mayor-elect Anthony Foxx said he spoke with President Barack Obama on Wednesday about the importance of banking to Charlotte’s economy, and said Thursday he thinks the White House could play a role in whether Bank of America keeps its headquarters in Charlotte.

“The federal government has some skin in the game,” said Foxx, who was receiving a congratulatory call from Obama after winning Tuesday’s mayoral election. (read more)

Thinking about how cool it must have been for Mayor-elect Foxx to get that call from President Obama caused me to wonder who else might have gotten such a call. Are there any rules of protocol around who the president calls?  Given that it is most likely a personal choice that each president makes,  I wonder what criteria he actually uses and how knowing that would that change the way I feel about the call itself.  Making some separate assumptions, I want to explore how it would feel as the mayor-elect to receive that call and as a citizen to know that’s what’s going on.  The following scenarios are in order from what I think are least likely to most likely…

Hypothetical Scenarios

Assumption: Barak and Foxx are good buddies and Foxx is the only one he called.

As the mayor-elect, I’d feel the warm affirmation of a friend who had been with me through thick and thin.

My personal reaction; I would think that was pretty darned cool that my mayor knows the president that well.

Assumption: The president called winners randomly.

As the mayor-elect, I’d feel like the call was impersonal. Not all that meaningful except for the fact that the caller is the leader of the free world.

My personal reaction;  The president must be pretty low in Emotional Intelligence to do such a thing.  Since I perceive Mr. Obama to be quite emotionally intelligent, I don’t think this is a likely scenario.  I just include it because it is a possibility… however remote.

Assumption: The President called all the winners of every mayoral race in the country.

As the mayor-elect, I think I would feel honored to a small degree, but like one in a million.  The call itself wouldn’t be a big deal.

My personal reaction; I would question how the President of the United States has time to call every mayor in the country.

Assumption: The President called all the winners who are Democrats.

As the mayor-elect, I would feel the camaraderie of our shared group identity. I think it would be much like a winning sports team congratulating one another.

My personal reaction; This would irritate me.  I would feel that the call was polarizing and that the talk about bi-partisanship and working together is just talk.

Assumption: The president called winners who changed the sitting party from Republican to Democrat

As the mayor-elect, this would feel like the high five congrats I might receive from a teammate after scoring a major point.

My personal reaction, much like the scenario of calling all Democratic winners, this would irritate me.  However, for some reason, this one wouldn’t bother me as much as if he called all the Democrats though.  I don’t really understand why.  It seems more like a congratulatory thing than an us-against-them thing.

Assumption: The first African American President called all the winners who were also African American

As the mayor-elect, I think my feelings would be much like the last scenario, except way stronger because our shared experience would be so much stronger and the group so much smaller and the win so much bigger.

My personal reaction, I could understand this call better than calling all Democrats, but there’s something about it that bothers me.  I feel like the office of the president should be above any social groups.  The reality is that each of us is a member of certain social groups; some  by the choices we make, some by choices of other people and some we were merely born into (skin color being one of those).  The social bonds we form in these groups cannot (or should not) be ignored.  Those who are in positions of power need to be aware how their affirmations within the social groups can cause isolation and polarization, which I abhor.  I want to acknowledge these social groups, not ignore them.  At the same time, I also want people to feel value no matter which groups they are in.

Assumption: The president called those whose mayoral races he had a really big stake in.

As the mayor-elect, this would feel like a call from a close partner in a shared dream. Of all the scenarios, I think this is most likely the strategy behind the presidents call… and possibly the most meaningful scenario in which to receive this call.

My personal reaction; I think that the president has a high stake in changing the party of the mayors from Republican to Democrat wherever possible.  Charlotte was high on that list this go round.  To add to the mix, race was a factor.  The Republican nominee was white and the Democrat was black.   Foxx is not our first black mayor, but it is significant, nonetheless.  I think these were two major reasons that the President would have had a stake in this race.

I’m not moved by political strategies.  While I see the need for a two party system and the necessity for each to have strategies for being on top, the polarizing affect bothers me.  It isn’t about Democrat or Republican for me, it would work the same either way.

How I feel in reality

I’m excited to see the ceiling crumble for people of color.  As a white man who grew up in the south, black people were always “them”.  You might have friends who were black, but your friend was always the exception to the rule of “us” and “them”.  They weren’t as smart as we were. They were people we called names.  Having them in power was unthinkable.  I’m so glad to see those walls begin to crumble.

I’m ok with the camaraderie of people of color congratulating one another as they overcome some pretty dang huge obstacles.  At the same time, I’m also aware of human nature and the real danger of swinging the us/them situation in the other direction.  I hope we can learn to congratulate ourselves without isolating others.  I hope we can learn to congratulate groups even when we aren’t a part of the group.  I really hope we can truly begin to break down the walls between the us’s and them’s and value everyone.

Oh, and congrats to you, Mr. Foxx.  My hope is that your administration will bring positive results to our community.

A Quarter Century of Erin

Erin swingingTwenty five years ago today I had an important meeting with the owners of Fox Music House.  They were rescuing me from my failed business and hiring me all at the same time.  We had a meeting scheduled to sign all the papers that morning.  As luck would have it, Jeanie was in labor, but we knew it would be hours before she delivered.  We had been through this “birthing thing” twice before, so we were experts.

We called the doctor to tell them she was in labor and I went to my meeting.  Afterwards, I picked up Jeanie and we headed to the doctor’s office.  They were beside themselves with worry by the time we arrived causing us to wonder if they’d ever done this before <just kidding>…<sort of>.  By the time we had gotten to the hospital we found out that Jeanie’s dad, Vic, had canceled the classes he was teaching, come to the hospital, waited and left!  Everyone was in a panic except Jeanie, Jim and (soon to be) Erin.  Needless to say, Erin was born later.

She was a dissatisfied little girl.  She wanted to do what her sisters were doing and was not happy to be younger and less able.  Maybe that drive helped her to achieve so much.  I remember watching her play with wooden blocks and legos.  She would make bridges and it seemed to me that she had an innate understanding of what it took to make them strong.  Maybe it’s just because I was her dad, but I was impressed.

When she was about the age she was in the photo above, Erin loved to hang out around me in the morning to watch me shave.  I would scoop off a dab of shaving cream and put it on her cheek, which pleased her to no end!  She’d run off through the house squealing with delight.  I do miss those little slices of life.

She shares my love of astronomy.  When she was in high school, she did a project with the head of the Physics dept at the College of Charleston.  If I remember correctly, her project was to map the moons of Jupiter.  It required the use of my telescope, which is rather cumbersome to move around.  Since I was commuting from Charleston to Charlotte to work that year, I wasn’t around during the week to help her set it up.  I wanted so much to be around to help her with it, but I taught her how to setup the telescope and she did it all by herself.  I guess that’s the part of letting go that’s hard for a dad… but it’s good.  She and Justin just returned from a vacation in Hawaii where they got to see the big telescopes.  When she told me how cool it was, I was so jealous.

Erin as GollumOne night when she was 16 years old, she asked me to tuck her into bed and tell her a story.  I guess she was feeling nostalgic for when she was little.  No matter what the reason, I was happy to relive some of those fun memories of the tucking in ritual.  That night, I made up a bedtime story on the spot, just like the old days.  The next night she repeated the same request, “tell me a story and tuck me in.”  This continued for a week or more until one fateful night.  As much as I loved the attention and getting special time with her, I asked if I could just read something since I just didn’t have the energy to make up a story.  She agreed.

I looked on her bookshelf and saw The Hobbit.  I asked her if she had ever read it.  She hadn’t.  So we started reading it.  We continued every night until we finished it weeks later.  At the end of The Hobbit, we continued with the Lord of the Rings.  We were almost done with the first of the three books when Peter Jackson announced his epic project to bring the Lord of the Rings to the big screen.  Needless to say, we were beside ourselves.

In her senior year of high school, she won an award for playing the part of Gollum in the school theater department’s production of The Hobbit.  (The photo is of her with her award beside herself in costume).  She looked really creepy.  When the Lord of the Rings movies came out, the two of us went in costume! (Hers was way cooler than mine).

Erin has always had a sensitive heart.  I can remember once when Erin was a teenager, I was in a bad mood and snapped at Jeanie.  Erin said in a matter-of-fact way that what I said was mean.  I immediately knew that she had nailed me, but she made it easy for me to acknowledge what I did because she was so respectful in the way she said it.  Now that she’s in grad school at Berkeley, she focuses a lot of her energy into getting girls interested in science.  She’s passionate about bringing a better representation from the “other half” of the population into the scientific community.  I think that is so cool.

Erin, you are so easy to love.  I am so very glad that I get to be your dad.  Have a very happy birthday.  I love you.

P. S. This is a video Erin made recently with her new ukulele from Hawaii.  Be sure and watch until the end… it’s special.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEpHztBJjeo]

http://jimazing.com

My Brain Hurts!

My Brain HurtsI don’t know why I thought I could write about this tonight, but I’m going to try… My brain hurts.  I used to work manual labor jobs that didn’t challenge me mentally at all.  I would mindlessly go through the motions and dream about using a job that would use my intellect more.

I am living my dream!  No, I am not on the list of potential Nobel Laureates (this year), but I am thankful that God gave me a pretty good brain.  I get to use my intellect every day at work.  In fact, my brain hurts.  I do not mean that I have a headache.  What I mean is that I am as tired mentally as I used to be physically, when I planted trees for a living.  I am thankful for my job, but I just wanted to let you know that my brain hurts.  Now everyone collectively say “Awww poor thing.”

Crucial Skills

Crucial SkillsThere is so much data on the internet and so little valuable information.  Of the email lists that I subscribe to on purpose (not spam), this is the only one that I absolutely positively read every week when it arrives in my inbox.  The Crucial Skills newsletter is provided by the folks who also published three excellent books; Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations and Influencer.

One of my coworkers was telling me just this week how much the tools in Crucial Conversations helped her to deal with a difficult colleague.  She said that for the first time, she felt confident and empowered in speaking with this person.  You could see in her face how much it built her up.  After she told me the story, she said, “That’s my long way of saying, Thank you, for sharing that with me.”

Because I want to be a positive influence in my world, that comment really pumped me up.  Crucial Conversations in particular has helped me tremendously as well.  When the stakes are high and the emotions are hot, it is so hard to think clearly.  The tools in this book are vital to having the best relationships possible.  I am having conversations today that I only dreamed of in the past.  I know how corny that sounds, but it is true.  Check out the newsletter and subscribe, if you like it.

Confessions of a Texter

Confession

I have a confession to make.  I have been talking on the phone and texting while driving.  I know I’m probably the only one who does this <tongue planted firmly in cheek>. I keep hearing reports of studies demonstrating that talking on the phone while driving is akin to driving drunk.  I understand, but it just doesn’t feel dangerous.  In fact, my friends and I do it all the time and we’ve never had an accident… have we?

The truth is that I have caught myself driving dangerously due to inattention.  It stops now… before I hurt myself or someone else!  I can imagine how I would feel if I hurt or killed a child just because I couldn’t wait to talk on the phone?  Imagining that feeling is enough for me.  I don’t ever want to experience it in real life.

I pledge to never text or Twitter while driving and I will only talk on the phone while driving if I am out on the open highway and there is no traffic around.  It’s just too risky.

How I got here

On our recent trip to Berkeley, I picked up a book called, The Science of Fear (How the Culture of Fear Manipulates Your Brain). In it, I am reading about how irrational fears cause people to behave irrationally. We fret over potentially dangerous things that aren’t very likely to happen. The flip side is that we ignore real dangers because they feel safe.  For instance, we lay out in the sun to get that “healthy looking” tan, knowing that the solar radiation is harmful.  Even though we know the dangers of cancer, we soothe our fears with statements like, “My friends and I have done this lots of times and we’ve never had any problems.”

Driving while texting and talking is one of those things that we hear the dangers of, but it just doesn’t feel dangerous.  So we trust our feelings instead of the facts.  In fact, we don’t consciously choose anything, we just do what feels right… and it isn’t a very good choice.  How would you feel if you caused an accident because you were driving while talking or texting?  Will you join me in stopping before that happens?

Family Vacation

We’ve been back for almost three weeks and it’s just a little bit late to be posting stuff about our vacation, but we had such a wonderful time, it would be a shame to go without chronicling it. For those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook, you already saw what we were up to in real time.  You already know we traveled there on July 4th and about our trip to Pacifica where we ate Gorilla Barbecue (made with real gorillas-NOT).  You already know about the fireworks in Berkeley and brunch with the Summers at Berkeley’s first “green” café.  You know that as much as I love my new grand-dog, she stinks when she rolls in another dog’s poo!  And the blackberry picking trip and the Eucalyptus trees… and that was all before Molly arrived (with her parents of course)!

It was a terrific visit.  It was so good to get away from the busy-ness of life and just relax.  Berkeley itself is such a great place to visit.  In some ways it’s like stepping back to another time for me.  It’s a walking friendly city and not so friendly for driving.  Erin & Justin live just a couple of blocks from UC, downtown and the BART.  I absolutely loved walking around town.  Jeanie and I enjoyed brunch at a little cafe one morning where Handel’s Water Music reminded us to relax, we were on vacation.  We strolled through shops and bookstores. Such a relaxing, fun time.

I read a whole book! It felt so good to read a fairly sizable book in a week. Galileo’s Daughter was a stirring account of Galileo’s life including much about his run-in with the Church, but also about his relationship with his family–especially his oldest daughter, (many of her letters to her father still exist).  The story of his life, the scientific and historical setting was fascinating.  The stirring came from my own experience and how his story reminded me of my own.  I’m finding that the importance of reading for me is not so much from the “lessons” I learn from others, but from the stirrings I feel and explore based on the reading.  Galileo’s experience was tremendously important in history, but it is history.  I am alive today and I’m no Galileo.  I don’t want to be Galileo, but his story stirs me in many ways.  Those stirrings are about the way I am “wired up”.  The more I explore and reflect on those stirrings, the better I’ll understand who God has made me to be.  (The phrase I just wrote rubbed me the wrong way, so much so that I almost re-worded it.  I made it sounds like it’s all past tense.  As if the work of creation is done and my role is merely to figure out the puzzle that is me.  I believe that I am uniquely equipped to be the best Jim Anderson I can be.  The more I understand who I am, the more effective I will be.  But at the same time, I’m still a work in progress.  I’m still being influenced every day by the world I live in.  I still have a lot of growing up to do.

When the Ogrens arrived we did some touristy things like visiting the sea lions at Pier 39 and driving up to Muir Woods and the Marin Headlands.  Mark’s brother Jake and his new bride, Ashley joined them and they headed to Napa Valley for a day trip. While they were gone, Erin and Jeanie went off to get their toes done and Justin and I walked around town.  I talked about my stirrings from the book and Justin shared some of his thoughts.  I felt like the two of us connected on a whole new level, which I enjoyed tremendously.

Molly was a real princess.  We had so much fun watching her grow.  She has just learned to clap.  Danae said she was imitating us because we would clap and call out, “Yeah… Molly!” which made her clap.  Actually, what I think she was learning was manipulation.  She learned that by merely touching her hands together, she could turn these big people into silly clowns.  She enjoyed her first carousel ride and her first swing on the playground.  If they gave out awards for best traveling baby, she would have won hands down.  Be sure to check out the photo of her sleeping on the plane in the slide show!

I think all of us would agree that this was just about a perfect trip.  The weather was cool and sunny and the dispositions were mostly cheery.  We spent a little more money than we intended, but that’s to be expected on a vacation.  I hope you enjoy the photo slide show below.  It was so hard to narrow down the hundreds of great photos to a somewhat manageable size, but it was worth it.

Twenty Eight Years of Danae

It’s kinda fun to hear my kids talk about how they feel so old.  Imagine how old I must be if my baby is 28 years old!  Danae was the one who first called me Daddy.  When I think of her as a little girl, so many little stories pop into my mind.  One evening carrying her on my shoulders when she was just about 2 years old, she said, “I see the moon.  I find the moon!”  It’s one of those things that I remember fondly, but I could never in a million years explain why.  If you don’t get it, just roll your eyes and move along.

One of my favorite Danae stories was when she was about 5 or 6.  I was looking closely into her face and scolding her about something.  Our eyes were locked so I could sense that she was experiencing the fear and respect I desired.  After a minute or so of fussing, she just crossed her eyes.  She was no more listening to me than the man in the moon.  I burst out laughing and asked her how in the world I was supposed to be upset with her when she did things like that.  Jeanie and I struggled with how to punish Danae.  She didn’t mind at all when we sent her to her room.  We could put her in time-out on her bed by herself with no books or toys and she would be just fine with it.  It was not at all unpleasant for her.  She had (and still has) such an active imagination!

Danae has been such a joy in my life.  She and I share so much in common that it is scary sometimes.  Not too long ago, we were riding in her car and she played a piece of music for me from the movie, Hook.  She was pointing out some complex harmonic elements and how they reminded her of something.  I understood her and I heard it too.  Then I heard something in the music that reminded me of Stravinsky.  When I said so, she heard it too.  I don’t know that we had ever connected so completely about music as we did that day.

My role in Danae’s life has grown from being her “daddy” to her friend and coach. I love it when she calls to tell me what’s going on, to ask for my advice or just to vent about something.  Now that she’s the mom of my granddaughter (did you think I could write a blog about Danae without mentioning Molly), and such a terrific mom!  It just gets better and better.

Happy Birthday Danae.  I love you so much. I am so very glad that I get to be your dad.

RIP Billy Mays

Can you believe all the recent celebrity deaths? Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson and I just got an email from CNN Breaking News stating that pitchman, Billy Mays died today.  Since I’m not much of a TV person and I despise commercials, I honestly have never heard of the guy before today.  I looked him up on Wikipedia, where they had a link to his Twitter page.  I thought it might be interesting.  What does a guy tweet about when he’s nearing the end of his life?

  • Just had a close call landing in Tampa. The tires blew out upon landing. Stuck in the plane on the runway. You can always count on US Air. – Sat, 27 Jun 2009 19:01:09
  • Getting ready to fly back to Tampa from Philly. Monday is the big day (HIP REPLACEMENT NO.3) Keep you posted. – Sat, 27 Jun 2009 14:40:05
  • Just got done shootong a new product with my production company 4 Blind Mice. – Fri, 26 Jun 2009 21:28:57
  • Just finished up a brand new oxi-clean show in Jersey. On my way to Princeton to meet with Arm and Hammer and then to Philly and then hi … – Thu, 25 Jun 2009 19:59:26
  • Just got done with the Tonight Show.  Had a great time.  The episode airs tonight – Wed, 24 Jun 2009 02:21:04
  • Just got to Conan’s studio.  About to go to the pre-pro meeting. – Tue, 23 Jun 2009 22:47:53
  • Happy Fathers day. Just relaxing with my wife and daughter in Boca. One more show tomorrow and then Conan on Tuesday. – Sun, 21 Jun 2009 19:45:59
  • I am attempting my most dangerous demo to date. I am about to repair a scuba divers puntured air hose and bring him safely back from the … – Sat, 20 Jun 2009 14:02:03
  • Today is the Big Mighty Brand Shoot. Keep you posted. – Fri, 19 Jun 2009 11:36:19
  • One commercial down two to go. Tomorrow is the big one the brand new Mighty Product and this one will be the Mightiest of them all I gua … – Thu, 18 Jun 2009 18:32:20
  • Was just on the .MJ Morning Show live with my son and brother inlaw Dan promoting Pitchmen – Wed, 17 Jun 2009 20:26:29
  • On my way to Boca Raton to shoot
  • . . .

So the guy was clearly living an extraordinary life… a bit strange, but by definition, extraordinary is not ordinary.  I don’t know what exactly I was expecting, but I felt a bit let down.  Couldn’t he have left us with some words of wisdom?  Didn’t he know his time was up?  If this sounds disrespectful, I do not mean it to be.  I think it is interesting how little we talk about the one thing we all have to look forward to.  We don’t know when our time is up, but we all know it will be one day.

I have lots of questions about what the end of life is like in general and what it will specifically be like for me.  When someone dies, I think to myself, “Now they know.”  For me, I will be adding a new question to my list… “What will my Twitter page look like when I’m gone?”

31 Years

I am connected to so many varied circles of people and it occurs to me that most of them only know that part of me that connects me to them.  My neighbors know me as the guy with the near perfect lawn (sure).  My church friends know me as the irritating guy that won’t stop asking questions.  My musician friends know me as the guy who hardly plays anymore.  My work friends know me as the guy who gets things done at work (or not 🙂 ).  My running buddies know me as the slow old man.  Drew knows me as the webmaster (see Danny’s Ride).  My kids know me as their flawed dad who loves them dearly.

But there’s one who knows me better than anyone else. She’s the one who puts up with me when I’m in a bad mood.  She tolerates my musical taste.  She listens to me whether I’m dreaming up one of my crazy schemes or overwhelmed with the problems  of life.  She laughs at my jokes (sometimes).  She knows my vulnerabilities and my hot buttons.  She not only knows I am broken but knows how broken I am, and she loves me in spite of it all.

I was moved to tears last Saturday as I read these words of Ruth Bell Graham (wife of Billy Graham) writing about her 64 years of marriage…

“We have often said that we would not choose to go back to some of the early days of our marriage. Too often, early love is a mirage built on daydreams. Love deepens with understanding, and varying viewpoints expand and challenge one another. So many things improve with age. Those who abandon ship the first time it enters a storm miss the calm beyond. And the rougher the storms weathered together, the deeper and stronger real love grows.”

Thirty one years is not nearly long enough.  I’m thinking we should give it 31 more, just to see if we are compatible.  What do you think, Sweetie?

Mollypops and the Rain

It was rainy all weekend when Molly came to visit.  On Sunday I took her out on the porch where I introduced her to the rain.  It was so very cool to see her scanning everything around her and taking it all in; the sound of the gentle rain, the smells, the splash of the raindrops as they hit the ground… we even stepped out and felt the wetness of the rain.  With the inspiration of Danae, I even made up a little rain song for her.

While we sat there I explained it all to her.  I told her that she wouldn’t remember our time together, but I would.  I got Danae to take this picture (and now I have a blog post) to make sure I won’t forget.  I began wondering what difference it really does make.  I feel certain that Mollypops time matters.  I am just sure that sitting quietly watching the rain and singing a little song makes a positive impact in her life, but how specifically?  It isn’t as if this is the kind of thing one can do an experiment to determine.  I can’t love up on her in one life and neglect her in another life and then compare the results.  It makes me wonder… Does this kind of time help a 5 month old shape her values in life.  Will she like the rain because of our Mollypops rain time?  Did she actually did learn some things about the world from our time?  There are so many things that I know, but I don’t know how I know them.  Where did I learn them? How old was I?  Is this how one receives that kind of learning?

Although I can’t be sure how it specifically matters to Molly, I can tell you that our time together impacts me in a deeply.  While we were together on the porch, I felt a warmth and a real sense of purpose.  I am feeling it now as I remember.  I have a sense that it really matters.  I dearly love being the grandpa.

A jimazing view of life