Another Auld Lang Syne

Tucked away amid waves of string arrangements and woodwind solos, Frank Sinatra’s vocal in “It Was A Very Good Year” is both melancholy and hopeful. He runs through the lyric chronologically, first at age 17, then age 35, finally seguing into a time when life is “like vintage wine, from fine old kegs”.

As you might expect, this favorite song from my youth has taken on a different meaning a few decades later.

Hitting the age of 50 here in 2013, I can echo the Sinatra sentiment. Yes, it was a very good year.

The non-conformist in me dismissed the thought of writing an article about the subject of gratitude during the Thanksgiving season. As one year passes on and the new one begins, I feel gratitude especially now for what God has blessed me and my family with in the previous twelve months.

Foremost, my wife and I have two kids that are strong and healthy. If there is a greater gift than your own health, it is the health of family.

My wife and I recently celebrated being married twenty years. Staying married in modern times is not an easy task, and it takes more work and effort than most people think. It’s been easier for us because we have similar tastes and interests, and hold important the goal of always stoking the fire of romance that we started with.

2013 reflected good times for my wife’s side of the family, as well. Relatives with medical complications have been given clean bills of health, and there has been a massive baby boom this year. One cousin born recently, another (a little girl) more recently, and my wife’s nephew will be on the way shortly here in 2014.

This year brought challenges, no doubt. But most of what happened could be called “good stuff”.

If you spied the title of this post expecting a declaration of New Year’s Resolutions, I sincerely hope you’re not too disappointed. I have but one, and it’s recurring: upholding the ritual and traditions of the Italian American lifestyle that I experienced growing up. You can read about it here.

Although the ritual of the ‘making of the meatball’ has fallen off recently, I finally (with some prodding from the family) served up a traditional Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes, right here in my home. I cheated a little bit, cooking five of them at once in a slowly simmered tomato based stew, but my wife said it still counted.

This is also the opportunity most bloggers take to show you their “best of” lists, where they showcase their finest work published in the previous year. While you can see all of what was “epic” here in 2013 just by scrolling down, I’d actually like to share with you two articles that I wish I’d written.

Although the focus of these particular sites is along the lines of social media and content marketing, the articles here focus on the authors’ grandfathers, and the wonderful lessons that were revealed while just living their lives.

Demian Farnworth – 10 Productivity Tips from a Blue Collar Genius

Mark Schaefer – A Rant: In Praise of The Unremarkable

Read both of these posts, because I think they’re awesome. Then read them again. If you take away some or the majority of the points in both, and apply them to your own lives, you will be in pretty good shape. It is useful Old School thinking at its finest, presented with class by a couple of fine writers.

If you do this, I dare say New Year’s Resolutions will be the last thing you need.

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My Take: The $100 Start Up

Corporate America is a big hungry beast that may swallow you whole or spit you out.

Depending on your situation, you could see the above statement ringing very true. In our fragile economy over the past several years, many of us have lost jobs, incomes, or have had our present income sliced substantially.

For the working class in this country, the scene has not been (and may not be) a pretty one.

I wrote about three of my workmates, people with great sales numbers and far reaching tenure, losing their jobs in a heartbeat, without warning. One minute there, the next minute gone. Like being taken out by Deniro and Pesci in Goodfellas. 🙂

If you’re a little worried about your employment, and looking over your shoulder, I’d say you have every right to be.

Instead of dealing with the constant worry, it’s better to know what can happen, and to plan ahead accordingly. With our world bringing technology to our doorstep faster and less expensively than ever before, it’s well within the realm of possibility to begin your own small business, and do it quickly and on the cheap.

Chris Guillebeau’s book The $100 Start Up is just the guide to show you what to do, and how to do it. It’s an important book for these volatile times that we live in.

I got to know Chris’ material through his website, The Art of Non-Conformity. I will admit I only bothered reading because I thought of myself as a pretty rebellious non-conformist in middle and high school. The title appealed to me.

But once I dug in, I discovered some great content on travel, business, entrepreneurship, and, well, non-conformity.

And Chris gives most of it away for free.

The book is no different than the site, really, quality content in an easy to read format. Chris does reference his own experience within the book, but what is most interesting to me (and will be to you) are the examples he cites of other individuals starting and growing micro-businesses that have replaced an income from a job.

And a good number of them were started for $100 or less.

Is it easy to run a business when you’re used to collecting a paycheck? No it’s damn hard, especially at the outset. It may take more work than you’ve ever done before.

But you can’t ignore the facts. Jobs are gone, folks. And they’re not coming back. If for some reason you lose yours, what would you rather do? Start something on your own, or send out resumes for a year, hoping you draw attention to yourself for your experience?

As a disclaimer, I will tell you:  I like the company I work for, love my colleagues, and expect to be there for a while and collect my retirement checks when I’m done.

But life doesn’t work out the way we plan sometimes. I recommend Chris’ book because it gives me a certain level of comfort knowing that if those plans don’t work out, I don’t have to stress. I can relax.

Chris’ words say it best: The central message of the book is that the skills (and the money) you already have are all you need. You don’t need an MBA. You don’t need to beg the bank for money. You don’t need to write a 60-page business plan that no one will ever read.

To start a business, you just need a product or service, a group of people willing to buy it, and a way to get paid. That’s it! Focus on these three things exclusively.

Win a copy of the book

Here at the site, I’d like to giveaway one free copy of the $100 Startup to one of our readers. To be eligible to win, all you have to do is leave a comment at the end of the post, and share the post on either Facebook or Twitter (or both). I will pick a random winner by 5/31. Just be sure to leave a valid email with a comment so I can get your shipping address in case you’re the lucky winner!

The Purpose Driven Blog: It’s All About Me, My Friend

I read frequently that the consensus to have a site that is popular, that people will read,  is to be helpful. A familiar buzz phrase is to publish “useful content”. Some writers will even go overboard and put an “insanely” in front of that phrase.

I know writers that do this well. When it comes to business and social media, my friends Marcus and Craig put out some great stuff. If I want to know how to effectively use email or Twitter to its full potential in a business context, a guy like Marcus can show me some ropes.

And although Marcus posts about business, he puts a lot of personality into those words. I’ve never met him off-line, but he comes across as one of the guys, someone I can sit down and share beers with.

Over at his website, Vince publishes excellent food related content in the format of easy, simple to prepare recipes accompanied by mouth watering photos.

His philosophy is simple. It’s easy to eat well at home, without the bloated prices and caloric content of a restaurant.

He’s right. I’ve saved thousands of dollars in the “dining out” category of my budget by following this principle. Reading Vince has helped me do this.

That’s what I call helpful content.

I set out to do the same with my posts, the intentions are there. But, the content that I write that I most identify with are the posts that are about my concerns. Whether it’s about me, my wife and kids, or other members of my family, what I write really has nothing to do with the reader.

It’s all me, me, me.

And according to many ‘experts’, without the ability to help your reader, your content fails.

I will try to keep the reader in mind with future posts. But I know the only way I have been helpful to you (if at all) is purely by accident. By creating feelings of how great it is to be a parent, or to recreate that glow of growing up in the 70s and 80s (What an era!).  🙂

Really though, it’s all about me.

I need to prop up my ability to remember. Man, the memory goes, and it can go quick. Take the aforementioned 70s – 80s. Those images used to be crystal clear in my mind, in full color, with the voices of my grandmother and other family sharply present.

Now, everything looks grainy, with that color a little washed out, and faded. Memories  become less vivid. I want to try to put a halt to that. This blog should help keep memories alive.

This reason is my number one. Whether it’s a post about my godmother, reflecting on a kitchen coffee ritual from the past, or remembering saying goodbye to my mentor, the written word can take what you might have forgotten and bring it all rushing back.

The blog can also act as a great resource for my kids. As my friend Jack mentioned in a comment recently, my children may want to read these words. Why not?

When the time comes, they can think back to a breath taking end to an epic baseball game, the relaxing summer days spent on the lake in their youth, or an unforgettable trip to New York City.

All that will be here waiting.

Yes, it would be nice if I could give you some social media tips or post content that is more business friendly. But that’s not the direction I’m interested in taking. I have a different purpose.

If you read this far, and you’re still sticking around, thank you. I’m here to build a library of words that my kids may appreciate years from now. But I think you can take away a little appreciation as well.

And who knows? Maybe, in the end, some of this may even be…helpful.

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Two Years Later, And The Best Is Yet To Come

I published my first post here two years ago, On Writing, With A Comeback Twist not really knowing what to expect. I thought the internet was a magical thing that, with a wave of a wand, would bring me a flood of readers.

What it did bring, in the words of my friend Marcus Sheridan, was crickets. That sound you hear late at night, when nobody’s around and it doesn’t look like any one is coming.

But that was OK, looking back. I wrote and hit “publish” just because it was something I wanted to do. I wanted a little project outside of my paid “work”. Something that gave life a little more juice.

In other words, I wrote for myself first. If someone found me and wanted to read, awesome. But I was writing for them second.

Things have changed a bit, and I’ve learned how to share my writing, as well as others’ work, through social media. Readership has grown, and I have made some friends and connections from writing here at this site.

I hate to use the word “passion”, as it’s a term that seems so overused these days. But I knew I was on the track to something when I hit publish and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

I’ve deviated at times from the subjects that I set out to write about in the beginning. You need a new topic every once in a while to keep things fresh. The original goal is still the same, however.

I’m a child of the 70s and 80s. My biggest influences growing up were Italian immigrants who came to America in search of a better life. My grandmother, grandfather, and my godmother. Old School inspiration.

My Dad with my grandparents, Rose and Sebastian DeGiorgio, circa 1946

It is my very firm opinion that the America of 2011 could learn a lot from the immigrant generations that preceded those of us that were just getting started twenty or thirty years ago.

If you have known me for any length of time, my job here is to remind you of these cornerstones of my life, and make sure you don’t forget them.

If for some reason you are brand new, then let me make the introductions. If I do my job right, they are people you won’t soon forget.

From the last two years, here are some of the best:

The Last Sicilian, And The Gift Of Tradition

Reflections on Memorial Day And A Salute To A Soldier Long Gone

Thoughts On Work Ethic, My Grandfather’s Hands, And Stone Cold Winters

Absolute Requirements of the Italian Kitchen

“Life Is Precious”, Epilogue

Memories Of My Grandfather

I’ve really enjoyed myself posting to this site for the last two years. I think, with the help of Gabrielle the guest poster, we’ll have much more content ready to go in the months to come. Although I began just “writing for myself”, nowadays I appreciate new readers stopping by to check it out. You can help with this by sharing on Facebook, Twitter, etc. to spread the word. Thanks!


The Fire And The Freedom: A Guest Post

I’m 48 years old. Suddenly my life is flying by at hyper speed.

When I was a boy, then a teenager, the days, the weeks, the months were long. Summers spent playing ball and hanging out with friends seemed like they lasted forever. Time stood still after the school year was done, and we did the things that set us free.

Remember Ferris Bueller, and that movie’s most famous quote?

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

After my wife and I were married, and my daughter was born, time stood still there as well. I could not imagine her as anything but an infant.

Pretty fast. Yeah, like lightning fast.

Now, the power of youth for me has taken a rest stop, and I’m the father of a teenager. I’m staring her college years square in the face, and I want to run the other way. Sinatra once crooned about the autumn of his years, but no one ever informed me about how rapidly the season’s colors change when you have kids.

I’m in denial because I still feel like a kid myself.

But there’s an upside to me (and my kids) getting older.

My daughter is smart, witty, and quick on (and with) her feet. She is learning to play guitar, is an aspiring photographer, and already is a talented artist. And she writes. She writes from her gut and plays with her words like they’re her toys. I planned on posting her writing here someday, when I thought she may be as good as Dad.

Who am I kidding. Someday is here.

This is your work, Gabrielle. About the freedom, fire, and the passion that you already see at your young age. I’m proud to share…

______________________________________________________________

fire is simple. it creates warmth and comfort. but also massive destruction. fire breathes and sighs as its handler effortlessly turns its energy into entertainment. i dont know why this dawned on me last night. while i was surrounded by joyful pyros playing with death by eating and spinning the flames, but it did remind me of the very first time i had ever seen this with my own eyes.

it was last fall, the night air was freezing everywhere else, but as soon as i stepped into the circle of fire it was warm, hot almost. i couldnt tell whether it was the fire or the extraordinary people. my first thought these people are insane! or suicidal! and i couldnt figure out why, i, someone who burned myself multiple time in earth science class, was here. i shouldve been home studying or watching tv. I began to watch the spinners, my eyes focused on the fire, trying to distract myself from the lingering ache i had deep in my gut, it wasnt until i began to get up close and video tape my friend jake while he twisted and turned the fire around himself and then me as i closed in with my mother’s cell phone that took videos.

At first i just wanted a video of this fire, coiling around us like a snake, when i caught the face of my friend. free. happy.and emitting some sort of magical energy that seems childish. When i sat back down i studied the other pyros faces. all wearing the same happy free childish face. I realized that was the magic of this place, what drew all these extraordinary people here. it wasnt the fire. it was the freedom. and that was the last time i ever saw the fire spinners. until last night.

as i stepped into the square last night, i hid behind my own freedom. my camera. this time i wasnt looking for the eye catching fire and multiple colored balls that would fly through the air all night, i was looking to somehow capture the mood here, in these people, in my photos somehow. it was hotter then i remember it to be, and louder. everybody was laughing or playing the bongos or playing with fire. i took pictures from every angle i could, yet i couldnt grasp with my camera what i saw with my eyes. maybe i wasnt doing it right. i soon caved in  and sat next to my friends whom i hadnt seen in quite some time, and gabbed on with the three of them for most of the night. in one of those awkward moments of silence, i knew the reason why my camera couldnt capture the energy around this place. my camera (although its my baby) couldnt see like humans do.

and what was here is that these people found their weekly escape. their passion. their freedom to be themselves. which is seen very little now a days, since everyone just cares about the money or how many things they have to make them ‘happy’. but this was happy. so please reader, if you are the average joe, stop it. wheres the freedom and your passion? hell, i dont know, go out and find it. while you do that, i will hide behind my camera, and try to capture what i see.

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