Re-Launch: Dream Big

Steve Jobs was a dreamer… and a visionary.  The kind of person we all could look up to and admire.  The kind of person that we would all like to be– if we had that kind of drive.  

Thing is, instead of just dreaming, Steve Jobs did what he dreamed about doing.  If he had an idea, he went for it.  If he wanted to change the way people thought about things, he tried it.  He didn’t always succeed.  But for every failure, there is the possibility for a success. Steve Jobs never let his failures get in the way of his success.

The text used in the above image comes from an Apple Computer ad from the early 1990s. I couldn’t find the original ad anywhere online, so I re-created a new version of it using an image of Steve Jobs and the Apple Logo.  I hope I don’t get sued.

The story below was posted to my blog on October 22, 2005.  

 

Many years ago, I was visiting my cousin with my family. I was in my early twenties, just starting college. The year was probably somewhere around 1990-1991.

My cousin had a poster on her closet door. It wasn’t the typical poster for a teenage girl– one would expect Kirk Cameron or even still Duran Duran at that time– it was actually an ad for Macintosh computers. Macintoshes were still quite new at the time, and Apple was doing everything they could to make people realize what they could do. Their ads were moving and inspirational.

The poster/ad didn’t have pictures of icons or screens or a mouse or anything like that. It merely contained text and an Apple logo.

The text of that poster struck me immediately. I grabbed a sheet of paper and wrote down every word. And that text has stuck with me ever since. Every now and then, I remember this text, and it helps me to remember why I must continue to pursue my dreams in life. The text was titled:

Dream Big

If there were ever a time to dare,
to make a difference,
to embark on something worth doing,
it is now.
Not for any grand cause, necessarily—
but for something that tugs at your heart,
something that’s your aspiration,
something that’s your dream.

You owe it to yourself to make your days here count.
Have fun.
Dig deep.
Stretch.

Dream big.

Know, though, that things worth doing seldom come easy.
There will be good days.
And there will be bad days.
There will be times when you want to turn around,
pack it up, and call it quits.
Those times tell you that you are pushing yourself,
that you are not afraid to learn by trying.

Persist.

Because with an idea,
determination, and the right tools,
you can do great things.
Let your instincts,
your intellect,
and your heart guide you.

Trust.

Believe in the incredible power of the human mind.
Of doing something that makes a difference.
Of working hard.
Of laughing and hoping.
Of lazy afternoons.
Of lasting friends.
Of all the things that will cross your path this year.

The start of something new brings the hope of something great.
Anything is possible.
There is only one you.
And you will pass this way only once.

Do it right.

No matter what curve balls life has thrown me, I always remember that there is a greater goal ahead of me. I may not know what it is, and I many never know what it is; but as long as I continue to dream big and keep trying… and living… and loving life, I’ll find happiness, somehow.

Thanks for sharing this with me.

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Remembering Uncle John

Uncle John with me as a baby, 1971

He was calm, cool, and easygoing.

He was the member of my family we would turn to for sound, sane advice, and a clear vision of what was going on in our lives.

He never raised his voice.  He never lost his temper.  Oh sure, he got angry a time or two, but if he did, I never saw him grow red in the face or take it out on anyone.

He was an eternal pessimist.  Oh yes, he was.  If his beloved Cubs were doing well, or on their way to winning it all, he’d be the first to say, “They’ll screw it up.”  We’d scoff and say he’s just being negative again, but doggone it, he’d be right.  The Cubs would mess up and we’d be crying in our handkerchiefs all over again.  He may have been a pessimist, but he was almost always right about it.

He loved his family dearly.  And we loved him.

And now he is gone.  And we miss him terribly.

My Uncle, The Rev. John D. Aiello, died on July 15 after a relatively brief but nonetheless extremely brave battle with cancer.  He was 70 years old.

School Portrait

Uncle John was my dad’s younger brother.  The middle child of three, he was destined for the cloth at a fairly early age– after my dad finally gave up the dream himself.  He entered the Seminary after graduating from grade school, and was ordained a Catholic priest in 1969.  Shortly after his ordination, my grandfather, “Nanu” Louis Aiello, died; and never got to see his son say his first mass.

Over the years, Uncle John officiated at all family events– weddings, funerals, baptisms.  It was a no-brainer– we always wanted him to do them, and he always accepted graciously.

Uncle John walking Beth down the aisle, 2002

He officiated both my cousin’s wedding in 2001 and my sister’s wedding in 2002, and, in a bit of a change of protocol, walked her down the aisle because my dad wasn’t able to do so.  They met my dad at the front of the altar, and he, with his cane, walked her the rest of the way.  It was a moving and touching moment for all of us, and one we will never forget.

Probably the most difficult thing he had to do was say the mass at Nana’s funeral.  To this day, I don’t know how he did it.  Perhaps it was because he loved her so much, and cared for her all the years she suffered.  But whatever the reasons, he did it, and he got through it fine.  I always thought he was so brave for doing that.

Uncle John says "hello," 1983

My fondest memories of Uncle John come from his visits on Thursday nights.  Because he worked in Milwaukee or Racine (his choice– he never wanted to work in Kenosha), he would always make Thursdays his family “day off.”  He had dinner with my Aunt and her family, and would come to our house afterward to spend time with our Dad and our family.  After our dinner ended, we’d eagerly anticipate his arrival.  And at around 7:00 every Thursday, he’d walk in the door.  Peanut, our dog, would greet him at the door, and he’d give my sister and I big hugs and kisses and ask us, “What’s new?”

My sister reminded me that we would always ask him for gum.  Uncle John always carried sticks of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum, and he was always willing to share.  I also remember he’d give my sister a kiss hello and say, “Oooh that tastes like Sarsaparilla!”  or “Hmmm, I think that’s cherry pie!”  They were just silly things he’d do with us kids, and we loved it.

Uncle John had a wry, dry sense of humor.  He was never one to be the “life of the party,” but every so often he’d just say a few words and have us all laughing so hard we’d start crying.

Uncle John was Nana’s main caretaker after her cancer surgery, and stayed by her side through seven painful years afterward.  It was hard on all of us, but hardest on him, because he saw firsthand how much pain she was in.  When Nana finally died, a part of Uncle John went with her.

Dad and Uncle John

My Dad’s death in 2006 was equally painful.  Dad and Uncle John were inseparable as kids and as adults.  They were brothers and best friends.  In preparing photos for Uncle John’s funeral, I found countless shots of Dad and Uncle John sitting together, eating, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company.  That’s just what they did.

When the news came that Uncle John was sick with cancer, it was a shock to all of us.  Throughout his life, he always seemed so healthy– why did this have to happen to him?  It didn’t seem fair.  He fought for as long as he could against it– trying different kinds of treatment and new, innovative strategies to stop the spread, but eventually nothing worked, and he decided to let nature take its course.

Uncle John with Emily and Abby

He did get to meet and spend time with my nieces, Abby and Emily, a few times before he was too ill to do so.  I’m glad he did that, and I’m glad they met him.  They never got a chance to meet their Grandpa.  I’m sure Uncle John have great things to say about them when he sees Dad again.

My last conversation with him occurred at the funeral of another cousin, late last year.  He was walking slowly, with a cane, but still getting around okay.  We sat together and had a long talk about life, things that we’ve experienced, and how he was doing.  I didn’t know at the time that this would be our last real talk; but it’s one I will treasure and remember for the rest of my life.

On Thursday and Friday of this week, our family will gather to say farewell to Uncle John, with hundreds of others who will come to say farewell to “Father John.”  That’s the one thing I always admired about my Uncle.  He was a man of great spirit and faith, but when he was with family, he was never “Father John.”  He was “Uncle John,” from the day I was born to the day he died.  His faith and spirituality was always a part of him, but he made sure to keep it separate from his family life.  He loved us unconditionally.  And that was never in doubt.

Dame Elizabeth Taylor – A truly one-of-a-kind woman

The divinely lovely Elizabeth Taylor died today at age 79.

She was lovely in more ways than just the physical, however.  She was a fierce advocate for numerous charitable organizations for HIV/AIDS research, the LGBT community, animal rights, and creative freedoms.

As notorious for her seven marriages as she was for her beauty, Liz never let the tabloids get the best of her.  She was quick to rebuke a story that wasn’t true, and did so with fierce voracity.  She played the spitfire in many a movie– and it was pretty obvious that she didn’t have to act all that much to play those roles.  She was a force to be reckoned with.

She was truly remarkable —generous in spirit and heart, especially through her work in helping to create amfAR (American Foundation for AIDS Research) and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation when others couldn’t even be bothered to utter the acronyms HIV or AIDS.  For these and all of her other talents, she will never be forgotten.

As further proof that Elizabeth Taylor was one-of-a-kind, the Grand Dame had a Twitter account (which was verified) that she used from March 31, 2009 until her last Tweet on February 9, 2011.  And in true Liz form, she didn’t just use it to share her day-to-day events—she used it to share her innermost thoughts on topics such as the death of Michael Jackson, refuting stories about her in the tabloids, and, probably most frequently, living life to its fullest.

In one of the last series of Tweets to this account (@DameElizabeth) on July 22, 2010, Liz shares her philosophy on living life, and giving generously to others.  Reading this now, it’s almost as if she was saying farewell to her fans, and giving a last bit of advice.

Hold your horses world. I’ve been hearing all kinds of rumours about someone being cast to play me in a film about Richard and myself.

No one is going to play Elizabeth Taylor, but Elizabeth Taylor herself.

Not at least until I’m dead, and at the moment I’m having too much fun being alive…and I plan on staying that way. Happiness to all.

I would like to add something to my earlier tweet. Always keep love and humility in your heart.

Never let yourself think beyond your means…mental, emotional or any otherwise.

You are who you are. All you can do in this world is help others to be who they are and better themselves and those around them.

Give. Remember always to give. That is the thing that will make you grow.

That is the thing that will give back to you all the rewards that there are. Don’t do it for yourself, because then it becomes selfish.

Because then it becomes about yourself…which is wrong. Giving is to give to God. Helping is to help others.

Every breath you take today should be with someone else in mind. I love you.

Tony Curtis: The Original Heartthrob

Tony Curtis

Tony Curtis wasn’t just good-looking.  He was ridiculously good-looking.

The jet-black, spit-curled hair.  The piercing blue eyes.  The tight, athletic body.  The brilliant smile.  The Bronx bravado and machismo.  They were all there.  He wasn’t just a matinee idol.  He was a great actor in a beautiful shell.

I remember the first time I saw Tony Curtis in a film.  The film was “Houdini,” and it was one of the many films featured as “Family Classics,” presented by WGN TV in Chicago by the legendary Frazier Thomas.  I spent many Sundays  with my family, watching classic movies like “Old Yeller,” “When Worlds Collide,” and “My Friend Flicka.”  “Houdini” was one of my favorites though, mostly because of the story of Harry Houdini, but especially because of the impossible-to-resist Tony Curtis in the lead role.

Cover of
Cover of Houdini

I was a pretty clever kid back in the day.  I paid attention to details, like actors’ names and directions to my relative’s homes.  It’s a trait that has stuck with me to this very day.  I knew the name “Tony Curtis,” and as I grew older, I would seek out films featuring stars I had seen that I had liked.   Tony Curtis was one of those stars.  Sure, I knew he was much older than me, but I didn’t care– I knew that he was good-looking and a good actor.  That’s all that mattered to me.

One of my favorite films was “Trapeze.”  It featured Curtis and Burt Lancaster, with the sultry Gina Lollobrigida in her first American movie role.  It was a tense, sexy movie that featured Curtis and Lancaster in all forms of skimpy attire.  My young gay self could hardly stand it.

Tony CurtisIt would be years before I finally caught all of the incredibly funny “Some Like It Hot,” with Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe in the hilarious cross-dressing camp classic.  It quickly became one of my all-time favorite films– featuring someone I had admired for years, even though I never really had the chance to know how good he was at comedy as well as drama.

I could go on about his later years:  the crummy movie choices, the multiple wives, and the bouts with drugs and recovery– but I really prefer to remember Tony Curtis for the man he was at the top of his game.  I wanted to be him.  I wanted hair like his, lips like his, eyes like his.  He was the man every woman (and many men) wanted, and the man every man wanted to be.  He was, for me, my original heartthrob.

Farewell, Grand Viagra!

It’s been a great run, but this week I decided to retire my little white putt-putt– my 1999 Suzuki Grand Vitara, lovingly known as the “Grand Viagra.”

I got the Grand Viagra in 2006, shortly after my dad died.  My old car took a dump and became scrap shortly after his funeral.  When my cousin’s grandma died later that year (my long-time readers — all 2 of you — will recall that 2006 was a terrible year for my family), I had to rent a car to come home for the funeral.

I bought the car from my co-worker, and it was in really great shape when I got it.  But I am tough on cars, and this one is no exception.  The fact that it had a manual transmission probably didn’t help matters.  I can ride a clutch like nobody’s business, and I wrecked two on this car.  Maybe I never learned how to drive a manual correctly– but two clutches in the span of 5 years is a lot– and a lot of money.

Still, the little Grand Viagra was a great car.  I loved that it was a mini-SUV– mini enough that it could fit into tight parking spots that you would never have thought it would fit into.  It transported tons of camping equipment and even my bike a few times; and I don’t know what I would have done without it when I moved last year.

But time took its toll, and earlier this year I did a bunch of major repairs that probably cost more than the car was worth.  Last week, the final nail was tapped– the “Service Engine Soon” light came. on.  The damage was somewhere in the $800-900 range.  I decided that it was time to retire the girl.

I’ll still have the car until I find something new, so I can use it– for what it’s worth– as some sort of trade-in.  So tonight after work and the gym, I will pick up the tired old girl, drop a few gallons of gas in her tank, and drive her home, where she will sit and wait for the day when I either decide to trade her in or sell her off; only being moved for street cleaning and to avoid tickets for being abandoned (they do that here in Chi-Town, you know).

In the meantime, I’m a total public transportation guy.  Which is probably a good thing.  I needed to start being smarter about that anyway.

Snowy car

My car in a huge hole!

Autumn street