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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Re-Launch: September 11: Where Where You?

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: V...
Image via Wikipedia

This was originally posted on September 11, 2004.  I’ve made a few edits to bring things into today’s situation, added a final thought.  

Ten years ago today.

I was getting ready for work. It was just another Tuesday morning. I was dating my ex at the time, and he had already left for work, so I was going about my usual routine. I showered, got dressed, and had some breakfast. Everything about that morning was par for the course.

Except that I turned the TV on.

You see, I was and still am not a TV-in-the-morning type of person. I rarely ever catch the Today show or Good Morning America, unless I’m home sick or on vacation, and even then it’s rare. So my turning on the TV while getting ready for work that morning was very random.

I turned on Good Morning America. Diane Sawyer was talking to some family about some wonderful thing that had happened and they were all smiles, feeling happy and good about whatever it was they were talking about. I don’t remember. I just remember thinking “Typical morning-show sappy stuff,” and kept going about my business.

They broke for commercial, showed one commercial, and then came back, abruptly.

There were Diane and Charles Gibson, sitting in another room. They looked very serious.

“We have something to show you. We don’t know very much about this, but there is something major going on at the World Trade Center…”

And they showed the tower. Ablaze. A huge gash cut out of it. My mouth dropped. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

It was approximately 8:50AM, Central time. The first plane had hit at about 8:45AM.

As I watched in amazement, the commentators tried to describe what had been happening up until then. It was believed that it was a plane, but nobody was sure how big of a plane it had been. As far as anyone knew, there was no footage of it, and it had happened so fast that not many people saw it. But now our eyes were glued. Our attention was focused. And at three minutes after 9:00, our lives changed forever.

I watched the second plane fly into the second tower. In real time. As it happened.

I never felt such fear in my entire life. For some reason, I knew right away that we were under attack. I knew that nobody at that moment was safe. If whoever did this could plan it so that two separate planes could fly into the two towers of the World Trade Center on the same day, just minutes between each other, then they were capable of anything.

“Oh my GOD… Oh my GOD…” said the voices on TV.

I called my roommate in to see what was going on. He was supposed to be flying to New York that week.

“Uh… I don’t think you’re going to New York,” I told him.

Oddly enough, the first name that popped into my mind was Osama bin Laden.

Just weeks before this, reports had been coming out of Afghanistan about centuries-old relics being destroyed by bin Laden’s Taliban regime. They were denouncing all capitalist countries, especially America. They were predicting jihad on America.

I watched intently, thinking that this could get really ugly. bin Laden’s name was familiar, also, because he was named as the person of blame in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

They seemed determined to destroy those towers. And when that second plane hit, I thought to myself “They finally did it.”

I didn’t know quite what to do at that point. I called my ex, who was on a train heading downtown, and told him what was going on. He said that people had been getting phone calls left and right but he couldn’t figure out what was going on. I told him I was going in to work. I didn’t know what else to do.

So I left.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day outside. The air was cool, and the sun was warm. Fall had not quite set in on the region yet. It was a beautiful late summer day.

But the air was incredibly still. It was eerie. I kept running what I had seen on the television just moments before in my head, over and over. “We are under attack,” I told myself, “and I am going to work. Am I nuts?”

The train ride to work was even worse. People who knew each other were talking extremely softly to each other. Some were on their cell phones. Others just stared out the window. I was like a funeral. I realized that I wasn’t the only one who felt the way I did. What do you do in this situation? What do you say?

I got off the train and walked the rest of the way to work. Over to the north is the Hancock Building. To the east, the AON Tower. To the south, Sears Tower. I watched the skies feverishly, hoping to God that nothing was coming. I paid special observation to the AON Tower, and noticed how much it reminded me of the World Trade Center. I started to cry.

I got to work and started my ascent, 38 floors up. Silence in the elevator.

When I got to my floor, everyone was milling about. Some were crying, some were talking. Nobody was working. Everyone was in a panic. “Why are we here? What is going on? The Internet is down. We can’t find anything out!”

I told them that I had watched it happen on TV. A couple ladies were a bit hysterical.

I called my mom and dad to get updates. Tower 1 had collapsed by then. My mom begged me to go home. “I don’t want you downtown with all of this going on. Get out of there.”

“This will not work. We won’t be here long,” I thought.

Sure enough, at 10:30 the announcement came that we were to go home. I grabbed my things and got out, fast.

The train ride back was even more morose than the ride in.  People seemed stunned into silence.  When the train came out of the subway, I remember glancing back toward downtown in case of any further activity.  Before I knew it, I was home again.

My ex and I watched TV from the time I got home until 2 in the morning. I saw the towers fall so many times that I could see it with my eyes closed. I saw the Pentagon, the military center of the United States, in flames and rubble. I saw the aftermath of the plane that went down in Pennsylvania, and wondered which target it was truly heading for. I repeatedly saw the video of people running as fast as they could after the enormous plumes of dust and paper and glass racing behind them. And I saw the war-zone-like aftermath, with bloodied, dirtied, and barely alive people, wandering aimlessly as they try to figure out for themselves how they got there–how this happened to them and to their city. I saw the streets lined and littered with destroyed fire trucks and automobiles; glass blown out of buildings still standing, trees and traffic lights, bent and broken and twisted, and papers.. the papers… everywhere you looked were papers.

September 11, 2001 was just like any other day when it started.

September 11, 2001 was a day that I will never forget for the rest of my life by the time it ended.

Final thought

Every year on the anniversary of the attacks, I relive these moments.  As I read through them just now, I remember every moment of that day as if it happened just hours ago.

At this very moment, it’s 11:44am.  Ten years ago at this very moment, I was probably walking back to my apartment from the train station.  I remember, as I mentioned in the initial article, how still and peaceful the day was.  I remember thinking that maybe it was because there were no planes flying overhead.  All air travel was suspended that day.  So between the glorious, warm sunshine and the cool breezes, it felt otherworldly to be outdoors that day.

“Never forget,” we say every year at this time.  I never forget, anytime.  It’s hard not to remember.

I didn’t lose anyone close to me that day.  In fact, I don’t know anyone who perished that day at all.  But everyone lost something that day.  And in some ways, we still haven’t found it again.  I don’t know that we ever will.

Re-Launch: Stop calling me!! (Unless I like you!)

I found this great post that I wrote ‘way back in 2005 that I thought you might enjoy again.  To this day, anytime my phone rings and it’s an 800 number, I remember this ridiculous conversation.

And yes, he truly did say, “You are only harassing yourself.”  

 

Whenever my phone rings, I check the caller ID. If it’s an 800 number, I usually have a good idea who is calling, so I refuse to answer. More than likely it’s yet another telemarketing company.

Yes, I know about the National Do-Not-Call Registry, but I never got around to adding my number to it. Now I’m paying the price. I get calls every day from various outfits offering me a chance to “Win a million dollars by entering our contest” or “Get a quote for siding on your home” or “Refinance your mortgage.”

Of course, most of these calls are recordings, but the “actors” on the other end have recorded their voices in such a quasi-conversational style that it borders on sickening.

Occasionally, however, I will get a call from a live person, and usually this person is not from the United States. They always SAY they are calling from the United States, but the heavy Indian accent tells me otherwise.

The other day, I made the mistake of picking up one of those calls. I’ve seen this number repeatedly on my Caller ID, so I wanted to know just what the heck they wanted. I also wanted to ask that they remove my number from their list, which they are SUPPOSED to do, but rarely ever follow through.

So I answered the call.

Me: Hello.

Telemarketer With Thick Indian Accent: Hello Sir?

Me: Yes.

TWTIA: I am calling because you have been selected to participate in a contest for…

Me: Hold on just one minute, please.

TWTIA: …and if you act now…

Me: EXCUSE ME!

TWTIA: Yes, sir?

Me: I have asked you at least once before to please remove my number from your calling list and you have failed to do so. Please do not call me anymore. I am not interested.

TWTIA: But why?

Me: Why do I need to tell you why? I am simply asking you to no longer call me. I get 5-6 calls a DAY from you, and I am not interested in anything you have to say.

TWTIA: But why?

Me: Are you deaf? I just said why. Now stop calling me.

TWTIA: But why?

Me: (getting extremely irritated) Listen, I am not going to argue with you. You are harassing me. I am not interested in your products or services. Now STOP CALLING ME!

TWTIA: But why?

Me: (now totally angry) STOP CALLING ME!!!!!

I hang up the phone.

The phone rings AGAIN.

I can’t believe this guy. Is he SERIOUS?

I click to answer and hang up again.

It rings AGAIN.

I hang up again.

IT RINGS AGAIN.

I go to Google and find the National Do-Not-Call Registry. I sign up my phone number– ALL of my phone numbers. This shit has got to stop.

IT RINGS AGAIN.

I pick up the phone.

I answer.

Me: What part of STOP CALLING ME do you not understand!?!?

TWTIA: But Why?

Me: I’m through with you. I want your supervisor.

TWTIA: I am the supervisor.

Me: Then you are an idiot. Why would I buy anything from you? Why would I even listen to anything you have to say? Is this how you do business– to harass people?

TWTIA: You are only harassing yourself.

Me: That doesn’t even make sense! Stop calling me. I will not answer the phone any more. I’ll find a way to report you if you continue. Goodbye.

I hang up the phone.

It rings once more and then I never hear from them again.

I have no idea what the product or service was… but these FREAKS are out there, people. If you haven’t done so yet, go directly to the National Do Not Call Registry right now and add ALL of your phone numbers– Work, Cell, and Home– to the list. It will take 30 days for everything to get squared away, but after that, if you get calls like this one, you can report them and they can be fined for harassment. Don’t put up with what I did. Do it now.

Re-Launch: The Horror of the Pinewood Derby

Originally posted August 30, 2005

“Hey Rick,” my co-worker asked me as we I was stirring my coffee this morning in the break room. “Were you in the Cub Scouts as a kid?”

“Yeah,” I replied, throwing away my stirrer and popping in a slice of toast. “I spent some time as a Cub Scout, years ago.”

“Did you ever do the Pinewood Derby?”

I shuddered. Memories flew back into my brain that I’d tried to shut out for years. I took a swig of the acid-based coffee in my hand and composed myself. This was no time for a display of cowardice. I could handle it.

“Oh yeah. I remember it well,” I replied. “And thank you so very much for bringing up a horrible chapter of my childhood.”

I tried to feign a sense of disdain for the subject in front of my co-worker, but I couldn’t escape the reality that the subject did evoke a moment of terror in my heart, just as it had over 25 years ago.

“Oh I’m sorry,” he said, pouring himself a cup of coffee, only to find that I had drained the last few drops from the pot. I didn’t mean to do it, but that’s just how his luck was running. Serves him right for bringing up that wretched subject anyway.

“I didn’t mean to bring up a sore subject,” he continued, not seeming to care that I probably didn’t want to talk about it, “But I have a friend that somehow got his hands on a Pinewood Derby racetrack, and I was thinking it would be fun to have a Pinewood Derby race, you know, like we did when we were kids.”

“Really,” I replied. “Well don’t get that track anywhere near me, or I’ll be likely to burn it,” I said.

The Pinewood Derby, in case you are not familiar with the term, is this insipid contest that Boy Scouts hold where each boy is given a block of wood and is expected to build a car out of it. I assume the wood was pine, but whether it was elm, birch, maple or cherry, I didn’t care then, and I still don’t care today. Unless of course it was lining the floors in my home. And even then I might not care that much.

So we all set out to build our dream cars. I forget if we were given wheels for the cars or not, but apparently we had to design our cars so that it would go down this stupid track faster than anyone else’s. And apparently there were a bunch of tricks that one could employ to ensure that one’s car ran faster, but I had no idea what those tricks were, and surely nobody was ever going to tell me, so that I could then, in turn, tell my Dad, and have him build me that fastest, meanest Pinewood Derby car ever. Oh no. I wasn’t that fortunate at all.

The thing that makes me wonder about these races anyway is, do they really think these 7, 8, and 9-year old kids are going to build these cars themselves? Do they really think their parents are going to let them use the saws, planes, sanders, and other big, manly power tools necessary to accomplish such a feat as building a small car out of a chunk of a 2×4? Of course not. So who do these kids turn to in order to accomplish this feat?

Dad.

Now I love my dad. I did then, and I do now. My dad could do a lot of things. He built our garage, three fences, and various other boxes, storage units, and shelving units for our home. He could make repairs fairly well, and get things running again as well as the next dad. He was handy. And that was good. And we loved him no matter what he could or couldn’t do.

But this tortuous event not only proved to me how inept I was at designing the fastest, meanest Pinewood car in all of Cub Scout Troop 507, but it also proved how inept my dad was at doing it as well. He never had to do any sort of Pinewood Derby racing when he was a kid. They didn’t have such means of torture back then. Lucky bastard.

Of course, lucky as he was, my father also had a son that wanted to win if he could, even though he knew that the other kids would probably have a much better chance than he did, no matter how hard he tried.

So Dad and I set out to make my Pinewood Derby car. It was all my Dad’s design. And for what it was, it was sleek and sexy. He painted it black with a glossy paint and put numbers on the sides. By all normal standards, it was a damn nice little car.

But getting it to move was another story. It just didn’t have much “go” to it. We greased the wheels as best we could, but it just didn’t seem to move.

I think we just figured that maybe this is how these cars are supposed to run, so we just let it be. That’s the Aiello way– let it be.

I knew we were doomed right from the start on the night of the Pinewood Derby when we walked into the school gymnasium. Other kids were showing off their cars. They were hot. They were flashy. They were sexy. And they were fast.

When the kids saw my car, they laughed. It was primitive in comparison to the souped-up contraptions they had. Their cars looked like they had bought them at a department store. My car looked like something fashioned out of mud after a rainy day.

In my defense, I did the only thing I could think of to deal with the embarrassment. I cried. And when I would cry, the kids would only tease me more. And when the kids would tease me, I would lose my temper. And when I lost my temper, my dad would get angry with me. You see where this is going, don’t you?

So they set up the cars to race. My pithy little hunk of junk against the fast and the furious. The cap gun blew, and they were off.

It would be too easy, too cliche’, and too uplifting to say that I won the race. It would also be a lie. Because I didn’t win the race… I lost. I lost badly. My little car just moseyed down the ramp while the others actually raced. I don’t think my car even got to the finish line. It probably stopped mid-way down, they just pulled it off the track. I was humiliated.

So I did the one thing I could do to defend myself against my feelings of humiliation. I blamed my father.

In a fit of rage, I cried, yelled and screamed at him. In front of everyone.

And my father– himself humiliated– took me by the arm and led me out of the gymnasium where the event was being held. And he let me have it, but good.

At the time, I despised him for doing it, but in hindsight, I probably deserved it. What kind of example was I setting by throwing a fit in front of parents, friends and family? A horrible one. I was being a brat, and I deserved to be treated like a brat.

To this day, the Pinewood Derby debacle (also known as the “Blue & Gold Banquet” Fight, which is the name of the event where the Pinewood Derby took place) is a sore subject between my father and me. It represented a very low point in our relationship, and neither one of us is proud of how we handled it.

But it is a moment in time. One that try not to think about, except for when some smart-alecky co-worker decides to bring it up and dredge all these painful memories from out of my past.

I forgive him that, though. He doesn’t know the pain I went through. All at the expense of a little chunk of wood.

But through that pain came a few life-long lessons. And an interesting story to tell.

Re-Launch: Snausages, Pup-peronis and Jerky Treats

Originally posted on October 24, 2004

Before I had my cats, my family was a dog family.

When I was born, my mom and dad had a dog that they adopted right after they got married. His name was Peanut.

Peanut was a terrier mix, all black except for a white stripe down his chest. He was a small dog, extremely agile and active, and would tear around the backyard, or out the driveway gate if it was left open, which it rarely ever was. Peanut was incredibly loyal and loving. I remember many a time when I would be crying about something, and Peanut would be right there with a gentle lick and a wag of the tail.

Peanut was aptly named, because when my parents got him, they said he was so tiny that he resembled a peanut. In fact, my dad said, it was cold when they got him, so he carried him out of the shelter under his jacket. Of course, I can only envision this, as Peanut arrived in my parents’ house five years before I even existed.

He was my dad’s dog, no doubt. He was his buddy. Dad would take him to “Potty Park,” which was actually Southport Park in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Peanut would run free and wild through the open expanse of fields along the lakefront. I remember trips to “Potty Park” fondly. They were Sundy morning excursions, usually after Mass. We’d load up the station wagon and spend the afternoon at “Potty Park,” taking in the lakefront view and letting Peanut run free and enjoy the fresh air.

Peanut ate table scraps. Sure, we tried to feed him Alpo, but he mostly turned his nose up at it. He loved his Jerky Treats though. Ate ’em like candy.

Peanut lived a long life. He was 16 years old when we finally put him to sleep. He was very sick, and probably should have been put down much earlier. But my sister, who was only 11 at the time, didn’t understand any of this, and wouldn’t let my father put him down. By then Peanut was living in the basement, and had lost control of many of his abilities. It was awful. I will never let that happen to an animal again, ever.

When Peanut died, I saw my dad cry for the first time, ever. I’ll never forget it, and still remember it vividly. I thought we would never get another pet.

But then Cubby came along.

Three years after Peanut died, my sister and I got the itch to have another dog. We bugged our parents about it incessantly. Finally, after hearing our pleas one too many times, we began our exploration. First we visited the Humane Society. There were only a few pups there, and most of them were of breeds that would grow to be huge dogs. We didn’t want a huge dog. So we kept looking.

So we searched the newspaper. There we found an ad for Cocker Mix puppies. (The mix was with a Poodle. They were Cockapoos.) We called and visited the breeder. There, in the front yard of their home, was a huge cage with five black cocker mix puppies. They were absolutely adorable. I picked out one and my sister picked up another. They were tiny. Wriggly. Cute as all get-out. And the puppy breath was to die for. My puppy was all black except for a very faint white chest, just like Peanut. My sister’s puppy was black with white paws. We chose my puppy.

We had nothing to take him home in, since we didn’t expect to take a puppy home right away. So we went home, got a box out of the basement, got an old (clean) rug, and then went to the pet store and got some supplies. Food, collar, leash, toys. And we went to get the puppy.

The first day home, the puppy immediately took a liking to my dad. And his toes. And his shoes. He was so tiny, he fit (and slept) in my dad’s old Army hat. We have pictures of that somewhere.

I named Cubby. We sat in our living room and had a family meeting on what to name him. Oreo was close to being a winner. But then I saw a Chicago Cubs newsletter in my dad’s magazine rack and I said, matter-of-factly, “How about ‘Cubby?'” The discussion was over.

Cubby was an absolute joy. Just the sweetest, most lovable dog I have ever known. He would cry when we would leave and go absolutely insane when we came home. I loved when we would pull into the driveway and his little head would appear between the drapes in the living room. He’d yelp and screech and run to the door and run circles around us when we’d open the door. What a way to be greeted home.

We had so many fun games that we played with Cubby. We taught him to crawl across the room, roll over, and turn a circle. That was probably the funniest of all. You would hold a treat high in the air, and by golly, the dog would spin around in a circle to catch the treat. He was such an acrobat.

Cubby got first place in Obedience School. But you’d never know it the way he’d selectively listen to you when you told him to come here, or get off the sofa. But nobody ever minded. He was so darn cute, you didn’t care.

His favorite treats were Pup-peronis. You could just say the word “Pup-peroni” and he would flip out. Other words like “Go for a walk?” and “Go for a ride?” would also induce a frenzied reaction.

He loved snow, and would play “Snowplow” all the time. His fur was so long and kinky that he would just be encased in snow on really snowy days. It would take a good dry towel to get him clean again.

We got Cubby in the summer of 1986. I was 15 years old.

I moved out in 1997. I was 26. Cubby was 11.

In 1999, Cubby started to show signs of age. His scruff started to show gray. He wasn’t so limber anymore. He was still lovable and sweet, but his eyes were gray. He could still see, but not as well anymore. He would still greet you at the door with a wagging tail and an occasional jump for joy, but then he would sleep and sleep.

In late 1999, Cubby started to have mild seizures. This worried my mom and dad, who took him the vet. She declared that he was just getting old, and if they worsened, they should consider putting him down.

In May of 2000, Cubby had a terrible seizure during the night. My mom called my sister, who still lived in Kenosha, over to the house. The brought him down to the vet in the morning, and all stood by him and petted him gently as they administered the shot. In moments, Cubby was gone.

Dad called me with the news. He was sobbing. I never heard him cry so hard– not even when his own mother died.

Mom and Dad thought about getting another dog, but they quickly decided they couldn’t go through the pain of losing another one. And in their own advanced ages, they just couldn’t keep up with one anymore. So Cubby was the last.

Cubby was an extremely special dog. Every time I go home, I expect to see him bounding around a corner or jumping on the sofa. I think of him often, and still have his picture at work at my desk.

I love my cats. They are a joy, and they are my companions. But there is something so wonderful and special about a family dog. And my family had two of the most wonderful dogs I have ever known. I’m not exactly sure why I felt the need to share this with you, but I’m glad I did. They were a part of my life, and will always be.

And so, they should be a part of this blog.


Peanut in December of 1968, two years before I was born.


Cubby in my bedroom with his favorite toy


Cubby giving me a “Kissy”