My Story: An Outline

To wrap up the month-long writing challenge Bloganuary, participants have been asked to list the chapter titles for their autobiographies. As a draft of my autobiography already exists, the hardest part of this assignment was copying and reformatting them. If I can get my act together, you’ll soon be able to access a draft of my autobiography at a website currently under construction.

Chapter titles:

In the Beginning	
A Family Affair	
Nomads and Engineers
The Bluff Springs Experience
The Allen Ranch Episode
Baseball, Astronomy, and Disappointment
Horses, Cowgirls, City Girls and Cousins
Launch Aborted
Donna, Ozzie, and the Beaver
Brotherly Love 
Mom and Me 	
David C. M. Jackson	
Father of the Year: Fat Chance
Childhood's End
Buck and the Preacher
Sinners and Saints 
Being Eric	
An Introduction 
Becoming Eric
A Childhood Lost 
Glorious Puberty 
The Middle Child?
The Middle Man 	
The Professional
Street Cop
The Toll It Takes
The Next Cycle
Predators and Pray	
Into the Abyss	
Finding a Path	
I Love You Too
The Abyss
The Roller Coaster Continues
The Boy and the Man

© 2023



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A Lesson Learned

One of my former professors told me, “You just like to learn.” He commented on my effort to earn a second graduate degree four decades after high school. At the time, I thought it was a compliment, but these days I wonder, could it be a curse?

I always wonder how did that happen. Why did something go down this way? Or, if I’d done something differently, what would have happened? Wondering and questioning seem to be in my DNA. It also makes me a pain in the backside of friends, family, and others who don’t have the same drive to “know.”

For instance, my most recent major learning experience was chronicled in Speaking of Lies. At one level, I knew how easy it was to lie to myself. What I learned during the situation laid out in Lies was how easy it is to suppress your common sense. This is especially true if you convenience yourself your actions are for the good of those you love.

Yes, I was trying to tough it out to keep from frightening my wife. What I accomplished was to place myself at significant risk and scare her half to death. Thankfully, my physical resilience, some good doctors, and the will to survive were strong enough to make up for my miscalculation concerning my condition.

So, what did I learn from this experience? It is better to be safe than sorry. When it comes to your health and safety, toughing it out is one thing. Risking your neck for fear of overreacting or appearing weak is something else.

© 2023



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Having Your Cake ….

Finally! A prompt with some depth and potential for detailed analysis! Okay! I’m just kidding. What could be more meaningful to some of us than birthday cakes? I know, I know! I’m carrying the sarcasm thing on a bit too far, but as I wrote in The Unforgotten Gift, birthdays were not a big deal in my life.

We did celebrate birthdays, to a degree. That was more Mom’s idea than Dad’s, but there were few birthday parties. They normally consisted of the four of us and maybe a relative or pseudo-relative if one lived nearby.

They also invariably involved chocolate cake, chocolate icing, and vanilla ice cream. Now that is a hard combination to beat, in my opinion. At least it was until I grew up and discovered the Swiss Pastry Shop.1

Swiss Pastry Black Forest Cake

The Swiss Pastry Shop is the home of a Black Forest Cake that is nothing like the traditional Black Forest Cake. The bakery describes its version as follows:

“Our Black Forest Cake is actually an almond dacquoise, which is to say a crispy chewy meringue cake, with sweetened whipped cream and Callebaut chocolate shavings. It has also always been gluten free, but you’ll never miss the wheat.”

Regardless of the potential confusion between this cake and the traditional Black Forest Cake, this one is delicious. It is also a frozen concoction that allows leftovers to be saved and served right out of the freezer until you have consumed the last morsel.

For the record, I have no financial interest n the Swiss Pastry Shop. My interest is limited to stopping by occasionally for a sausage roll, sticky bun or to pick up a cake.

1This link is to their Facebook page. If you do not use FB, here is a link to a Fort Worth visitor site with contact information. Also listed on Tripadvisor.

© 2023



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Are You Kidding?

I hope I am not the only one to see the irony of a daily writing challenge on procrastination. I mean, “Give me a break!”

What’s next, a prompt on how many resolutions you’ve managed to keep so far this year? Procrastination is a right!!

Okay! I’ve had a rough couple of weeks, but I feel much better now that I’ve let off a little steam. So, the pros and cons of procrastination are our topics today.

Merriam-Webster online defines procrastination in two ways.

First: to put off intentionally and habitually

Second: to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done

The pros and cons of the first definition seem to be fairly clear. The possible pro for the procrastinator looks fairly simple. If I put something off long enough, someone else will do it for me, or the situation will take care of itself somehow.

The con, of course, would be like the storage space in many of our homes. There is no more space because I’ve procrastinated so long about deciding to sell, donate or throw away things that there is no room for anything else. So, I’ll rent some storage space.

The second brings up a slightly different response for me. Just because something should be done does not mean it should be done immediately. Take fall in north Texas and many other places.

The leaves will drop. You may need to clean them up at some point. Still, do you need to clean them up right now? In Texas, the answer, in my opinion, is likely to be no. If you blow, bag, mulch, or whatever you choose, you’ll do it again in another day or two.

So, “procrastinating” may save you some time and energy. The older we get, that becomes more and more important, at least the energy angle does.

In wrapping this up, I am not suggesting everyone “procrastinate” completing projects or whatever just because fate, luck, or strong wind may eliminate most of a problem. On the other hand, thoughtful consideration of an issue is not procrastination unless the consideration is, “How long can I put this off before I am sleeping on the couch?”

© 2023



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Since this blog went public in 2011, I’ve written about language and languages several times. I don’t remember writing about wishing I could speak a particular language, but I may have. However, in the last few decades, I’ve wondered if learning another language is worthwhile for the average person.

Take my Brazilian experience, for example. Beginning in 2014, I had the opportunity to travel to Brazil at least once a year to help two Christian ministries there. I immediately looked into learning at least some Portuguese but discovered my language-learning skills did not improve with age. Thankfully, the tech world came to my rescue through Google Translate.

Of course, the ministries with which I was working provided translators. Also, I learned many common terms such as thank you, please, I’m sorry, and the like. Some of the Brazilians the team and I worked with spoke English. Many others were as limited as I was in their language skills, but many also used Google Translate.

The area behind the wall is a large area of shanties, cardboard houses, etc., on the site of a demolished manufacturing facility. It was an area served by one of the ministries. This is in the sixth largest city in Brazil.

If I were planning on living in another country for any period of time, I would make the best effort possible to learn the language. If I were going to work with immigrants in the United States who spoke another language, I would again make the best effort I could to learn their language or dialect. Realistically, the only way I could become fluent in another language would be through immersion and necessity.

For that matter, if I became friends, neighbors, or coworkers with people whose primary language was not English, I would do my best to learn at least enough of their language to be polite and honor it and their heritage. Also, if I were doing research on or studying another country in depth, I would want to be able to read the primary language so I could read what their scholars and authors had written.

The foregoing is a long-winded way of saying I’m not the least interested in learning another language unless there is reason to learn it. I have a hard enough time staying up with the evolution of the English spoken in the United States. If you want to know more about why I say that, search my blog for posts concerning language.

© 2023



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I love all kinds of music. From classical to old-time rock and roll, I have songs that can trigger memories and thoughts or keep me awake all night running through my mind. Few spoke to me, and only a handful spoke deeply.

Today, one came to mind that moved me to the core some time ago, touching my soul, if you will. For those of you who react to the term soul negatively or dismissively, I understand completely.

There was a time when the only thing I wanted to hear following the word soul was food. Yes, Soul Food made sense, but the soul was one of those words I thought of derisively, if at all. That changed for me over the years, which is why I am sharing these thoughts.

Like everyone, I’ve had ups and downs in my life. Sometimes I felt like I was king of the world, to quote Leonardo DeCpario’s character in Titanic. Other times I felt like the world was set on crushing me.

Today, I’m recovering from a serious medical complication that is taking its sweet time to clear up. That is not why I Can Only Imagine came to mind when I was asked to discuss a song that speaks to me. Imagine is always in the back of my mind like a warm and fuzzy childhood memory.

It moved to that hallowed spot in my memory some years ago during a period of self-doubt and pain. I cannot remember what it was that had me upset at the time. I remember being upset and trying to brush off the concern or tension I was feeling.

I was almost home and needed to catch my breath before walking into the house. I stopped at a stop sign; the radio was on a country station. A song was finishing, and the show’s host began telling some stupid story.

I sat there for a minute, looked skyward, and said slightly dismissively, “God, is there any hope for me?” Before the words were completely out of my mouth, Imagine started to play.

I know! Part of me wants to blow it off as a major coincidence of a guy struggling with faith and a country music station happening to play a contemporary Christian song at just the right moment. As one of my theology professors admitted once in class, I have doubts.

What I believe may not be true. Then again, it might be true. I can only imagine what it will be like if it is true. If it isn’t true, I’ll never know.

© 2023



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Showing Love

When I was asked to write about the question, “How do you show love?” I started down my normal analytical, academically oriented path of writing. So many thoughts, emotions, theories, and practices come to mind, processing such a question might make one seek counseling. So, I will attempt to keep this short and sweet.

I show love through the way I treat people, animals, and things. If your first thought after reading the last sentence was something like, “Whoa! He shouldn’t lump people, animals, and things into the same category.” I understand. There was a time I might have thought the same way.

After all, if I say, “I love this book!” is that the same as saying, “I love this woman?” If I grab my grandchild off the couch, tickle and nuzzle him as he laughs and wiggles, telling him I love him, is that the same as when I react to a puppy similarly?

The answer to the preceding questions is simple, yes and no. Okay, that is not simple in some ways, but in others, it is. Love is not shown through what you say but through what you do. It took much of my life and lots of time with a counselor to understand that was the case.

Take a book, for example. A book cannot feel, but if you truly love it, you’ll treat it respectfully and take care of it. Perhaps that means just keeping it in good shape, rereading it multiple times, or gifting it to someone.

Treating the child and the puppy the same way differs from the book analogy. Still, the principle is the same. You enjoy them, you take care of them, and they feel your love. Not only that, others see how you treat them and how they respond.

In a broader but just as important sense, you show your love to the world the same way. I do not always practice what I preach here, but I try. I offer my love for other people, things that deserve love, and of course, for pets and other animals in the same way. I treat them as valuable and worth my time.

From buying a hamburger and a drink for a mentally challenged young man at Braum’s to holding a door for a woman with a child and groceries in her arms, I want to show them and others a touch of love and respect.

From stopping on the side of the road to help someone with a flat tire to buying $5.00 worth of gas for the down-on-his-luck kid who was lying about why he needed the gas money to over-tipping a server or writing a thank-you note to the nurse who watched after me the last couple days, I want them to know they are worthy of notice and kindness.

Photo courtesy Lubos Houska

© 2023



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Speaking of Lies

One of the easiest people to lie to is the one looking back at you every morning in the mirror. Yep! From little white lies to whoppers, we can make ourselves believe anything. Even analytical red-flag wavers like me can convince themselves to accept a complete falsehood.

The biggest and easiest lie I tell myself is one I learned to survive, “You can handle this yourself.” Now, please don’t take me wrong. Plenty of people had lives worse than mine when I was growing up, but my family, nuclear and extended, could have made one of the modern “reality” television shows look like The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.

I won’t go into detail here. I am, however, working on a memoir that may be published one day. It will lay everything out in living color, at least narratively. I’m not the writer Mark Twain and others were in this respect, but I can get the point across at times, which helps readers see things from my perspective.

The point here is that I grew up believing I could not trust anyone and did not need anyone’s help. The problem with believing that is I could take care of business without help much of the time. My delusion was supported by my ability to gloss over mistakes or failures as insignificant and keep telling myself the lie unless the loss was horrific.

I was not a complete idiot in this arena. I did learn from major mistakes. At least I learned from them most of the time. That is one reason I am still kicking today and looking back on a fairly successful career and life. However, I am laying all this out today to make a point I hope others will see.

The time will come when you cannot handle it yourself. Help will be needed if you wait too long to recognize that the results could be dire. I learned that lesson on the morning of January 20 at 4:30 AM when I had allowed my condition to deteriorate to the point I could barely stand, much less walk.

Thanks to a great 9-1-1 system, ambulance crew, Emergency Room staff, and my regular physicians, my mistake was not as bad as it could have been. It was bad enough that I would never think, “I can ride this out until morning,” should a similar crisis confront me.

If you have that tendency, I hope you read this with an open mind and will think at least twice about attempting to push through on your own by lying to yourself. Your mind will believe the lie, but your body won’t.

© 2023



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Mach 2; Hair on Fire

Snitched this pic from a friend’s FB page whose son flies for the Blue Angels. Thanks, Sue!

For years, I wanted to be an Air Force pilot. My dad worked in the aircraft industry, and I was regularly around pilots, airplanes, and military bases. I could see myself climbing into the cockpit of a jet fighter and blasting off into the wild blue yonder when I grew up.

I did everything possible to pursue this dream, including seeking a congressional nomination to the Air Force Academy. Thankfully, my dreams were shattered by reality, and I ended up working my way through college.

I understand if you’re wondering about the statement that I was thankful my dreams were shattered. However, if I achieved that dream, I would not have the life I have today. I might have had another life that was just as good, but it is silly to dwell in the land of what might have been and discount what you have.

Of course, I did not completely give up one part of my younger self’s dream. Like Tom Cruise’s character Maverick, I felt the need for speed. So, I raced motorcycles and cars instead of flying planes. And for many years, I chased bad guys who thought they could outrun the cops. Sometimes they did, but most of the time, they didn’t.

© 2023



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Of Authors Old and New

I hate being asked to name my favorite author, actor, musician; you name it. Invariably, I feel compelled to qualify my answer in some way. For instance, I might respond, “In which genre?” Yes, I have favorites in different genres and sub-genres for the matter. Here though, I will pick one and attempt to support my choice.

The first two names coming to mind were Mark Twain and Robert Heinlein.

They were my favorites for a couple of reasons. Mark Twain wrote in a fashion that made the young me feel as if I was there. I could live his stories through his writing. Robert Heinlein was a favorite for similar reasons, the fact he wrote science fiction was the biggest reason he is in my top ten or so fiction authors.

The difference that makes me say Mark Twain, legally Samuel Longhorne Clemmons, is my favorite is a bias I guess. I could see myself on a raft with Tom Sawyer floating down the river. His stories may not have been true, but they were plausible.

Robert Heinlein’s stories and books were pure fiction. No one lived the lives of his characters. Certainly, there were plenty of others, like me, wishing we could live such a life. However, he could write in a way that let me be a part of the story, just like Twain.

Both Twain and Heinlein, along with many other writers, expressed their thoughts in ways that allowed them to paint a picture for the reader, a picture one could almost feel. That, unfortunately, seems to be fading away because it can be “wordy.”

© 2023



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