The Star Spangled Hammer – Three Lessons for the Fourth of July.

As I’m learning to live more in the present, I can’t help but be reminded of the past. I believe it’s my mind’s way of refusing to let go. The more aware I am of where I am today, the greater my mind grasps frantically, for the rope of the past.

Recently, I began to visualize a hammer smashing those memories of the past, to bits. It’s a nice hammer too. Like Thor’s. Anytime a debilitating thought arises I whip out the mental pulverizing device and go ape shit on it. So far, nobody injured and it’s working fine.

Thor

So what if for today, just one day, we all carried a hammer? No wait: A star-spangled hammer.

No, not get star-spangled HAMMERED (although that doesn’t sound half bad).

Sunny

Random Thoughts:

1). Star-Spangled Hammer #1 – Smash those thoughts that prevent you from discovering success. We’re all afraid to try something new; it’s not easy to fight the fear. Today is a good day to step outside your comfort zone like those who fought/fight for the country.  Our minds, the fears of the unknown, prevent us from rising to the next level. Declare your independence from negative self-talk. It’s freedom day. 

2). Star-Spangled Hammer #2 – Don’t think you’re stuck in a dead-end job anymore. As the employment situation improves, you have a greater chance of securing a more lucrative position. Don’t settle with unhappiness in cubicle-ville. Decide you will learn a new skill that will make you increasingly marketable. Take one step to improve. Begin a part-time business doing what you love.  Who knows where it will lead?

3). Star-Spangled Hammer #3 –  Take a hammer to debt. Work to aggressively pay down credit card debt even if it means postponing saving for retirement. Excessive high-interest debt is a chain around your neck. Sit with a professional who can help you create action steps to consolidate and pay off/down the  burden that weighs you down.

Throughout history, Americans have proven themselves to be resilient people.

Never forget.

It’s a birthright. 

Your heritage.

To embrace.

captain america two

Oh, or use a shield.

A shield is good too.

Rocking Chairs – 3 Ways to Preserve Them.

I wonder, on occasion, where we find our peace. How we shift back to center. How we remain sane.

How do we recover from what’s thrown in our path without falling over?

Insane

Some succumb. Throw in the towel. Others? Well, others find a way. They discover new methods to get their rocking chairs out of the rain. Protect their haven. Their own. All that they love and find of beauty. They find a way to protect. They teeter, but never fall.

You know them. They’re strong because they rock with the changes. They maintain a steady cadence. It’s a groove others see, admire, learn from. The rockers don’t realize how strong they truly are. But they are. It’s a sense of style, beauty, responsibility, slight humor, a smile. A dimple. A sparkle. It all works together.

chair

Set your chair. Look out. Dream of what you can become. Then get up. Do it.

“I miss my porch; now my rocking chairs get wet. I can’t protect them forever,” she said.

I was reminded today the key to sanity is to wobble a bit but to never lose sight of your core. Your center. Who you are. Where you want to go. You can hide your pain, suppress your happiness for so long. And then? You blossom. You emerge stronger. Nothing can stop you.

Random Thoughts:

1). It’s ok to seesaw a bit, but continue to focus forward. You know what it’s like to sit in a rocking chair. No matter how quickly or fierce you wobble, your eyes remain fixated. Forward. You never lose sight of what’s in front of you. The gaze is amazingly straight and balanced. Allow your eyes to waver, to move, align with the movement of the rocker, and it’s only a matter of time before you get sick, become off kilter. Remember to stay on message. Straight.

2). Understand how your emotions and your investment portfolio can teeter. The problem becomes when you can’t handle the swing. You take too much risk because you don’t fully understand your risk attitude. Your current broker or financial adviser is behind the times. Still using stale “risk tolerance” questionnaires to measure your ability to handle risk. Unacceptable. They’re plain ridiculous. Dated. Dig deeper into what makes you tick. Go to http://www.myrisktolerance.com and take the test. It’ll cost you $45. It’s worth the investment. Take the results to your financial partner and rock his or her world a bit.

3). Realize the rain is temporary. Storms pass. Another porch is built. The dry & clear returns. A fresh coat of paint makes things new again. Life is like that, too. I can see a new porch in her eyes. Her thoughts.

porch and chairs

It’s only a matter of time before you’re rocking again.

She looked away. She smiled. She looked at me. Said.

“I’ll have my porch again.”

I had no doubt.

The sun was out again.

The Babysitter Chronicles. Will you Embrace or Break Free from the Watchers?

Rich, watch us. You like it? C’mon, look up!!”

Don Kirshner you changed my life.

Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert was the musical variety show of the 70’s. Don Kirshner was also one of the greatest rock music promoters of all time.For me, DK wasn’t as threatening as the other Don: Don Cornelius of “Soul Train,” fame. It had nothing to do with skin color, either.I just wasn’t as afraid of the pink bubble-gum groups DK promoted like The Archies, or The Monkees compared to the primal writhing artists featured on “Soul Train.”

It was going to be another late night which meant Gloria, my babysitter, needed to watch over me.

To salvage what was left of a  a disastrous marriage, my parents hit the town almost every weekend. Mom would dress in a burgundy velour jumpsuit. Her hair now platinum blonde (hair color changed monthly).  Dad (you can tell) performed this weekly ritual painfully. The last place he wanted to be was in a casual environment or a tryst with mom. Who could blame him?

I loved Gloria. She let me stay up late. This allowed some serious G.I. Joe Adventure Team action to pursue deep in the night. No doubt the late-night embers were going to  burn in the G.I. Joe Headquarters this Saturday night.

I also loved Gloria because despite her horrific name (Gloria?) she looked to me more like a Sandy or a Stacy, she paid attention to me. She was attentive unlike mom and dad at the time.

Butt-length brown hair parted in the middle. Terrific blue eyes. I watched her carefully as she did little things to stay occupied like paint her toes or read a book, even do her homework. I felt comfortable when it was just the both of us.

Although one night it was Gloria and a friend (name I cannot recall) and Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert was blaring from the television, louder than usual.

The G.I. Joe Headquarters was a plastic paradise.

There was lots of dancing. Two girls apart. More dancing. Now two girls as one. A sweaty teenage semi-nude body tangle. Then there was kissing. Did girls do that?I tried desperately to crawl into the map room of the headquarters. At least mentally. I had no idea what was going on. One of my favorite fuzzy-bearded Joes lost his head because I squeezed too hard.

“Rich, you like this? Look up!”

I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. Well, I did. My glances were now darting eye dances. I tried to not move my head. But then I was up. Kidnapped from my world of male dolls. Engulfed. Taken. Gone.

To this day I cannot break free from the babysitter. How she dressed, the way she looked. I’ve noticed how my secret (or not-so-secret) crushes resemble in some form – The babysitter. She’s an overseer.

Even after all these years. It’s amazing how memories watch over you. Stick around. Guide you. Imprint you. Follow you. Walk alongside you. Walk within you. You have these memories. We all do. We’re plagued by them. Some are so tiny. They can fit on the head of a pin. Others remain as large as the tallest structure. Yet in every case, size doesn’t matter. Impact does. The impact always seems to be strong. Strangling.

You’ll be amazed, are amazed by, regardless how brief the experience, how the impact of the moment can permanently change the direction of your life. Perhaps the lives of others. Others you haven’t met yet. Others you created.  Was Don Kirshner responsible?

How you allow these memories, the watchers, forge your future actions requires constant monitoring.

Random Thoughts:

1). How does your past currently affect your future? Your mental images are time and location stamped. Occasionally you’re damaged goods. What 3 actions have you taken recently good or bad over the last 6 months that have been a direct result of a good or bad imprint? How will you tilt the odds in your favor right now? How will you change?

2). How have memories of money past affected your financial future? My parents disrespected money. Blew it. Spent it frivously. They never prepared for the future. No life insurance. Massive debts. Welfare. I felt as a child that my foundation, security was fleeting. The shame and stress of it all turned my behavior 360 away from their negative behavior memories. Others I know followed similar negative paths as their parents and today are in a shambles, financially. The ripping at the fiber of our financial system in 2008 took many over the edge and a frightening number of household balance sheets are more toxic than ever before.

3). How will your memories affect the future of those you love? Especially people in your inner circle. The ones who exist in the space closest to your heart. The ones who hold the deepest red, the blood, the air, the strongest ties. Is your influence positive or negative? First, be honored if you do influence others. It’s a great responsibility. If you have sent someone off on the wrong path let them know. Admit you were wrong. Apologize. Be humble. Grow more aware of memories who watch over you.

4). How will you break away from the seductive dance of the babysitter?  Do you even want to? Can something positive come from a bad experience? Perhaps you need new memories. Memories that encourage you to go on. A mind is so powerful when focused. Select the best thoughts. Be open to future interactions that will improve your life path. Do your watchers add to or subtract from your life?

5). Can you alter the image of the babysitter? Do you have the will to do so? First, understand who the babysitter is (was). Only from that point can you decide on the sitters you seek to keep around. Decide on the watchers you embrace or set free. And don’t kid yourself. You had a babysitter. A temptation. A demon. A god. A person who changed how you view life, forever.

I never played with G.I. Joes again. I found a new hobby. In human doll form.

The babysitter was around a long time. She was a teacher. My mother fired her for reasons unknown.

How did your babysitter impact you?

Another bad parental decision memory I need to work through.

Just great.

Your Personal Declaration of Independence – How to be Reborn on the 5th of July.

“The brick is on fire!” Donna screamed.

Pointing feverishly to the Armeggedon in front of me. She was long at my back. Way back from my back. Like to the doorway to the exit to the floor below.

Are you lighting the right passions? What is your focus?

And it was.But if (when) you stepped away, the bricks engulfed in flame was the least of my problems.A good part of the apartment building’s roof was engulfed. It was a super-hot Fourth of July, too. 1976.

The tenement building’s roof was my personal summer sticky playground and now my playground was in danger of melting.

At least if a Brooklyn FD unit was in my future, I was wearing pants this time around. The last time fire trucks showed up I had my bare bottom stuck to hot asphalt. This time? I was prepared! Pants locked. Secured.

It all happened so fast. This was supposed to be the best fourth ever too. Portable radio, new hibachi (tiny, best BBQ ever), and $200 worth of assorted fireworks (that was a fortune for me). A fortune for 1976. Hey, it was the bicentennial. A big deal. I wanted a big bang to celebrate (from Donna too who wore a July 4 themed tube top ready for removal).

For those of you too young to know what “Hibachi,” is.

The wind was unusual. Air was still. Then a gust. Still. A gust. Let’s say it was damn unusual. I placed the first (of what I thought would be many) of the colorful fireworks, cone shaped, on the ledge of the roof facing the street.I was going to orchestrate the most impressive pyrotechnics display these sweaty bastards ever saw. Happy 200th birthday, America!!

I lit the fuse and stepped back. Excited. Then it hit me. A formula for disaster was right before my eyes.

Wind Gust + Huge Paper Grocery Bag of Fireworks On Roof Floor + Ignited Fuse =

Brooklyn rooftops were both beautiful & dangerous.

I couldn’t have planned a  more perfect disaster. The wind knocked the cone directly into the bag. Then the real show began.Before it was over, there was a flaming pile of ash and a trail from the wind swirling remnants of fiery trash now starting fires all over the roof.Flaming fireworks were now raining down on the courtyard too.

I dreadfully imagined the emergency call to the FDNY this time:

“The roof of _____? Is it the kid who had his genitals stuck? He’s at it again?”

Hey, it wasn’t my fault!!!! I didn’t plan this!!

Or did I?

Fuck off!! I’m the victim here!!!!

Was I?

I needed to face smoldering facts. I was turning into a human I didn’t want to be. A person worse than a hoodlum. My soul was on fire.

My mother always blamed everyone else for her troubles, her fate, even though she was responsible for what lit her fuse and how she crashed and burned. Over and over again.

Turning into my mother was the worst thing I could imagine. In the flames I was still. I was hoping to burn. Donna? Long gone. On the phone with the fire department.

I was next. Ready to burn. Ready to be consumed by the hell fire of a victim’s mentality.

I imagined myself a scarred drone. A victimless victim. An ash hit my face. I left it alone. To wake me up.  I was not going to fall for the hypnotic bad flames around me. I was bigger than the fire now.If there was indeed going to be fires, I was going to make damn sure I was responsible for them. I was going to use them to fuel my path. Out of this neighborhood. No more rooftops. No more bare ass to asphalt. And I was going to make sure my fires were mostly for good things. Not for ruining property. My beloved roof. Scarred forever.

At 12 years old I declared my independence. Never looked back. Little did I know when my mother left town forever a year later with a guy she knew for a week, this move would serve me well.

On July 4 we celebrated. We took back America. The one we remember or at least, like to remember. The one of loyalty, love, faith, friendship. The old of glory. The flames of patriotism and of course, independence.

Then July 5 rolls around. And it’s over. We are slaves again. Slaves to debt, slaves to overwhelming bosses and the corporations they serve, slaves to politics, slaves to shit we don’t need. We lose ourselves in the bad flames. Next 4th of July we’ll restore our faith again. Not good enough. It’s time to light your fuse.

No. A year is too damn far away. Today, July 5. You will be reborn. Today is your personal independence day. How will you create and serve this noble purpose?

How would you begin your PDI? What will be your Personal Declaration of Independence?

Random Thoughts:

1). Burn (or blow up) Bridges. Set to flame those people who don’t ignite your passions, your creativity, your strengths, your will to live. You’ve already identified them you just haven’t had the guts to set the bridges on fire. Not literally. Put away the lighter fluid. Don’t even call these pricks. Just stop communication. Walk out. Get an attorney if you’re married. Nothing wrong with using the laws of the land to light the dynamite.

2). Be a Firestarter. Direct your fire slowly to those activities, the people, the materials that enhance your intelligence, bolster your wealth, lighten your mood and encourage you. Light the spark every day. At the end of the day, be thankful you were able to set good thoughts ablaze. Be thankful for the firestarters.

3). Who Holds the Fire Extinguisher Now? Or who is out to hose you? I’ve identified real false fire gods. They lurk in the coals of corporate America. You think they’re mentors. They are. Up until you stop chugging the Kool-Aid and speak out against an action that’s inappropriate to the customers or clients you serve.

Do that and you’re dead. Even if you speak out once. Dead. Covered in white foam. Your career fire is out. Just like that. What the hell happened?

Create a personal, small rebellion (which will turn out to be BIG) against corporate America. Corporate America is no longer your friend if you’re an employee. Although, you’re extra, extra special as a shareholder or a bondholder.

As a worker, you’re drudge at the bottom of a drudge bucket. Yes, there are exceptions but not as many as you think. Every corporate action that is taken and will be taken going forward will be to drain more life out of you and take time away from your family. All for the sake of fatter profit margins. All to appease Wall Street analysts. You work for Wall Street now. It doesn’t matter what your check says. Your corporate mentors will spoon feed you, pacify you until you speak up. It only takes one time.

After the financial crisis in 2008, behind the doors of mahogany boardrooms I’m thoroughly convinced that corporate decisions makers know they have you over a barrel. They’re willing to take advantage of the situation for as long as possible. They want the fire in your soul until there’s nothing left.

You’ll work longer hours for less pay. You’ll progressively be thrown lofty goals soaked in management hubris, which will be increasingly impossible to meet. And when you don’t meet or exceed these hurdles you’ll be written up or threatened with firing.

The future indicates you’ll need to deal with greater “innovation” from middle managers who consistently need to work off your sweat equity to enhance their miserable careers. You have now become a flesh cog in the corporate machine until the scales balance more in labor’s favor. It will happen someday. They’ll be more workers seeking to break free. For now? You’re screwed.

Don’t be a victim. What actions can you take today to further strengthen your personal declaration of independence. Knowing your enemy helps. Some dress well and talk sharp. Take what you can get. Be respectful. But never trust corporate mentors.

4). Positive Fires Rage through Humility. I’ve heard America likes overachievers. I don’t believe it. People will sincerely appreciate your help but don’t fall too in love with yourself. Remain humble and grateful in your life and in your delivery of guidance. Overachieve in your heart and be thankful when people recognize and commend your fires.

God will bless you and people will actually heed your words. Humble also means you have a fire to constantly gain knowledge. You can never know or learn enough.

I never went up to the roof again. I left everything. For all I know, the Hibachi  and the radio are still up there.

The person I was remains in the brick of an urban hearth. The person I  was died in flames on July 4, 1976.

On July 5th,  I was reborn.

How will it happen for you?

Although on occasion, I miss the dirty beauty seen from a Brooklyn roof.