I Can Never Say Goodbye…

This is going to be a tough post to write.

Sometimes life throws you circumstances you just have to deal with on your own. I have to admit that I have had my trials. I would like to think, though, I have always possessed the fortitude to overcome them. Call it determination. Call it perseverance. Maybe. I call it the will to do whatever it takes to succeed.

I have been writing three posts weekly since December 17, 2012. As of next Wednesday, I would have completed 500 posts. I cannot say how grateful I am to have accomplished so much since that humble Monday Mayhem post that started it all. To put it into perspective, 498 posts at 500 words per post comes to under 250,000 words over the course of 3 years. Add to those numbers the three books I have published, weighing in at another 250,000 words, and you can quickly see a pattern.

None of it, and I say this from deep within my soul, none of it means anything without you the reader to have visited, liked, or commented on all my work. What can I say other than thank you. You are amazing. You are the one who has made JackFlacco.com a place where people can talk about anything, including life, and not be afraid.

Life. My dream was to provoke thought, interest and ideas in the impossible, no matter how improbable those ideas may have appeared to be.

Unfortunately, something has taken precedence in my life. The only thing I can say is for the next little while I have to look after my health.

In the meantime, something has to suffer. I will attempt to continue writing my books. I will continue to think about the future, but I cannot continue writing the weekly posts. You have to know it is not something I take lightly to have come to the decision of stopping. Stopping is not something I do well.

I am hoping the future will look brighter once I take care of what I have to do to carry on.

What does this feel like?

It is like telling one of your best friends you can no longer be friends. As much as it is the wrong thing to do, it is absolutely the right thing to do. How can you tell your friend you are no longer kindred spirits? That is how it feels—like I have ripped my heart from my chest and thrown it into an abyss where nothing can escape.

I plan to keep this site up during the time I am away. I am not sure when I will be back. I am hoping a few weeks. All I know is writing has been one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of my life. I cannot say how honored I am to have had the opportunity to interact with each and every one of you. You certainly have made my life a joy to live. Nothing will ever replace that memory in my mind.

Thank you so much for your incredible support. I really do love you all. I will keep you in my prayers. May God bless you in everything you do.

In a bit. I promise…

Jack

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Collecting

I’m a collector. I collect anything that I feel has value. As an example, I collect headphones. Don’t ask me why. I just do. I own a pair of Sony noise canceling headphones, a pair of Sennheiser earbuds and headphones, and I’ve lost count of how many Apple earbuds I have in my possession. Last time I checked, I only have one pair of ears I carry around with me every day. What can I say? I like listening to my music my way.

Sennheiser HD 202
Sennheiser HD 202

For a time, I used to collect movies. I know it sounds strange, but it’s what I used to do. I couldn’t walk out of a video store without purchasing something. I own the entire Lord of the Rings collection. I also bought multiple versions of the Godfather collection, including the restored version, which I think is great. But if you’ve seen the Godfather a billion times like I have, the gold tones in the film are rather distracting. I can’t tell you how many different versions of the Alien collection I own either. Somewhere along the line I went crazy purchasing every set I could find. Yeah, I’m a fan. Now, don’t think I’m heavy on the drama, fantasy and sci-fi genres. My vice is owning all of the movies to the Bring It On collection. What can I say? They’re hilarious.

As silly as it sounds, I’ve gone insane with my music collection, too. How do I describe buying anything associated with Led Zeppelin without seeming like a lunatic? I own their earlier works, their box sets, their remasters, their remasters of remasters, their solo works, their tribute albums. I would go as far as stating I’m a Led Zep die-hard fan, but I won’t. I think my cloud collection speaks for itself. Additionally, I collect oldies albums from the 50’s and 60’s. What can I say? I like listening to those old tunes.

Greek Style Fries
Greek Style Fries

Topping off my list is my silly collection of food photos I’ve been snapping whenever I take the family out to eat. I have a lot of those. Call me OCD. I find food photos to be not only great images to salivate over, but also an awesome springboard to jump start meal ideas. I know. I’m strange. But I can attest they make great conversation pieces.

Okay, one more. I collect photos of a particular tree shedding its leaves in the fall. Once a year, I visit a specific spot in the woods to take the photo. I have many. I’m not sure when my fixation started, but it has kept me busy.

I think that’s it. I collect other stuff, too, but nothing as extravagant as Jerry Seinfeld’s collection of Porsche. Wouldn’t that be something? Where would I put them all? Don’t ask me.

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Do you collect anything?

What I’ve Learned

I typically don’t write about God. I try to keep my topics light and free from controversy. I’ll write about other things instead, like morals, the law and what is right. But about the G-word, I’m never quite sure if I say too little or if I say too much. And I find it risky because I don’t want to alienate readers who read my blog for entertainment purposes only.

The Holy Bible
The Holy Bible

However, there has been a development in my life. Last year this time, I had promised myself that I would read the Holy Bible from cover to cover. To keep me on track, I went ahead and entered a chronological reading plan into my phone that would remind me daily of my goal. I say chronological because there are various reading plans out there that allow a person to start reading the word in various ways. I chose chronological because I’ve always wanted to gain a historical perspective to the writings than simply reading it for literature.

With that in mind, I’m happy to say that as of December 31, last year, I completed my goal of reading the Holy Bible from cover to cover.

What can I say about the whole thing? I can only describe it as an experience.

I learned there is a God.
I learned God would not give me a test he doesn’t think I can handle.
I learned that no matter how many times I sin, God would forgive me.

I learned about faith.
I learned about hope.
I learned about love.

I learned that I mean something to God and he will do anything to save me from the penalty of my sins.
I learned that as smart as I think I am, God is smarter.

I learned to be patient.
I learned to be kind.
I learned to love.

I learned what real peace is all about.
I learned to sleep better at night.

I learned a lot more, but those are the big ones. Apart from the experience of historical reading, I gained a huge understanding regarding human nature. For instance, I found a whole book called Proverbs chalk full of golden nuggets of wisdom dedicated to dealing with human nature. One of my favorite sayings I picked up from the book is “Go to the ant, you sluggard.” It means those who are lazy should have a look at what the ant does. The ant harvests in the fall to live through the winter. It also means, like an ant, I should always stay busy. Hard to get into trouble when I’m busy.

Yet, of all the things I’ve learned, I think loving God and loving others is the most important. I don’t want to sound preachy, but to me it made enough an impact to promote a change in how I act—a change noticeable in my writings and to others.

At least, I hope it’s noticeable.

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Have you ever wanted to read something cover to cover but never had the opportunity to do so? If so, what?

Frittata

Simple meals are my favorite. They are easy to make, delicious to the palate and a wonderful break from the otherwise elaborate meals I cook on Saturdays. The best part about it? With a few simple ingredients the meal doesn’t hurt the budget. I also find I can make many of these types of dishes without much prep time either. And that’s a big bonus for those of us on a schedule.

Frittata with sweet red pepper and parsley
Frittata with sweet red pepper and parsley

One of the easiest things to make is a good ol’ fashion frittata. If this is your first foray into Italian cooking, don’t be afraid. A frittata is a fancy way of saying omelet. There is, however, a big difference with an omelet and a frittata, and that is in the final presentation.

The quickest way I make a frittata is this way: take a pan, add olive oil and one small garlic clove. While you’re waiting for the garlic to cook in the pan at medium heat, beat two eggs in a bowl adding finely chopped parsley and salt to taste. Once you see the garlic cooking, flip it a couple of times until it browns. Turn the heat down to simmer, remove the garlic then pour the egg in the center of the pan. What should happen is the egg will cook nice and even, but not stick to the pan. After you see the bottom turn a golden brown, flip the egg over to the other side. Leave it cooking until the other side is golden brown. Remove the frittata and serve with your choice of veggies. I love carrots with my eggs, so you’ll see that happening at Casa Flacco.

Omelet with hash browns, carrots and marinated eggplant
Omelet with hash browns, carrots and marinated eggplant

Also, you don’t necessarily need only to add parsley to the mix. You can add virtually anything you like. I’ll dice sweet red pepper and have that as part of the egg mix.

Remember how I said frittata is like an omelet? Guess what? Instead of flipping it a second time, you can add a good amount of mozzarella cheese on top, then flip one-half over the other, wait a minute or so and serve warm. You’ll find the omelet will have a nice flavor because of the garlic base you cooked it in and the cheese will have melted inside.

My favorite part about the whole adventure with this kind of omelet is cutting through it to make trailing strands of cheese with every bite. I don’t think I have this much fun with food than when I eat a cheese-filled omelet. There really isn’t anything like it.

Okay, your turn. What is quick to make, fun to eat and won’t cost you much but a few bucks?

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Do you have any quick recipes you’ll like to share? How did you come up with it?

Winter

Every year I look to winter as my time to prop my feet up, grab a snack, and ease into a cozy atmosphere of hibernation. Even though January has yet to end, I haven’t taken any of my Christmas lights down. Call me a die-hard Christmanite. Thinking about it, I really don’t suppose the lights come down at all until sometime in April when the first bird appears and declares the arrival of our Canadian spring.

Canadian Winter
Canadian Winter

So, this time of year is my time. Why?

Some people find winter to be a miserable season. I’m in the other group. I don’t suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), nor do I hate the massive storms we receive at the hands of nature unleashing its wrath on humanity for abusing the environment. I love my 5:30 walk in the morning when the air is tight, the ice cracks under my boots, and the wind howls between the still moments.

Ah, winter! There isn’t anything like it.

I live for coming in from the cold to find a hot cup of apple cider waiting to warm me up. I love sitting by the bay window during a snowy evening to observe everything turn white. I get a thrill from watching the twinkling lights of the winter village we have sitting on the ledge of the bay window. I love driving through a whiteout, appreciating the inside of my warm car while another track of Star Wars: The Force Awakens plays in the background.

I can keep going, listing every single reason why I love winter—but what would that serve? Actually, maybe I should do that. Let’s see how far I get.

My parents' backyard
My parents’ backyard

Have you ever caught snowflakes on your tongue? Sounds silly, I know. I’ve done it. Have you ever slid down a hill at full speed in a toboggan with the fear of God stuck in your throat wondering if you’ll survive once you reach the end where a clump a trees awaits your arrival? Done it. Have you ever thrown a pot of boiling water into the air outside at subzero temperatures and watch it instantly turn into vapor? Done it. Have you ever dropped in the snow and made the greatest snow angel in your life? Yup, done it, too.

Gosh, then there are the times when I sit at the kitchen table with my parents and steal a glance out the window to enjoy the dark blue look to the evening. And then there is the time when I build a fire, and the smell of burning wood spills into every room of the house, providing another layer of coziness to an otherwise frosty night.

Yet, of everything I’ve described, I think my favorite part of winter is spending time with the family and feeling warm inside. Inside my home, and inside my soul.

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Do you like winter? If so, what do you like about it?

Keeping on Track

During this time of year, I take some time out of my busy schedule to assess where I am and where I want to go. This assessment encompasses not only my personal life but also my writing life. Part of this exercise includes me looking at my life as a five-year plan, and in some cases, a ten-year plan. I began doing this a few years ago when I needed structure to my life—something I severely lacked before I started writing.

Create and keep a schedule
Create and keep a schedule

I can’t say what I do is easy, but it does yield fruit. I’m disciplined now and more attuned to what I believe my life mission is in the grand scheme of things. I’m not saying this to make it seem as if I have everything figured out. On the contrary, if I have anything figured out, it’s my name and where I was born—and maybe where I go when I die. Other than those little things, I’m at the mercy of the wind.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing all this is that I’d like to share with you three key things I do to keep on track for the year. Don’t expect miracles if you’re going to implement any of this stuff in your life. I can tell you it is not as easy as I make it out to be. But, it is worth the try, if you’re in the mood to make a change for a more goal-centered life.

Schedule downtime—That’s an odd way to think about getting things done. Isn’t scheduling downtime the exact opposite of getting things done? Well, not really. What you want to do is prevent burnout. I’ve been there when all I could think about was what I wanted to do, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I read somewhere that the body functions on a time cycle, and if the body doesn’t get the rest it needs, it will rebel by throwing itself in bed. That happened to me. There was a time I became ill with a flu or fever every single year since I was a kid. Nowadays, that doesn’t happen. I take one full day off from being online, writing and chores to be with the family. It’s a full day of familial bonding that has since kept me healthy. The downtime also stimulates my creative juices, clearing my mind and readying the week for my reappearance. By the time my day off is over, I’m set to tackle anything thrown at me.

Work hard—Given I’m a proponent for taking a day off every week, the other side of the coin is making up the time by working hard during the other six days of the week. Working hard doesn’t mean sweating hard, though. It means doing more with the finite time you have available. If that means finding alternate ways to produce more than you are capable of, then it means you’re working not just harder, but smarter. The ultimate goal is to get the things you would have had done in seven days with six days instead. Tricky, but doable. In the context of writing, I schedule everything. My novel writing is part of my schedule as is my site writing. Responding to comments on my site, Twitter and Facebook is in there, too. At the end of the week, all that hard work will have paid off once I look at my accomplishments and realize just how much I produced.

Put it all down on paper—An interesting thing happens when you write things down. You remember them. I think there must be some sort of relational action thing going on in the brain when I write things down. I seem to remember those things and I can remember what they look like written on paper. The idea is a strange one, but I will have to say this really works. Do you really want to accomplish your goals? Write them all down on paper. Years ago, I had the idea in my mind of what I wanted to do—write a trilogy—then went ahead and wrote the titles down on paper. Suddenly, seeing the titles there made them more real. I hadn’t written any of them, but they were real to me. I did the same thing with my other parts of my life. If I wanted a new car, I’d write it on paper then I knew there was no turning back from achieving my goal. Again, write everything you want down on paper. It does make a difference.

Last thing on my mind is this: When a trial hits, you hit right back. Don’t surrender. Stay true to the course. There is nothing in this world that ought to prevent you from achieving your goals. To use the cliché: Live the dream. No one else can do it for you.

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What goals do you want to write down that would make it more real for you to achieve success?

Firsts

I find it hard to believe The Dark Knight came out nine years ago. I remember sitting in the audience thinking it was one of the most amazing movies I’ve ever seen.

Why so serious?
Why so serious?

I also find it difficult to comprehend how much time has passed since Titanic came out. Has it really been nineteen years? Incredible.

My wife tells me we’ve been married for over twenty years. Well, she doesn’t need to tell me, I already know. Yet, when I think about it, it doesn’t seem as if time has passed at all.

Where have I been since I first heard Katy Perry‘s massive pop album Teenage Dream hit the charts? That was five years ago.

Then there is the time Friends went off the air. That happened twelve years ago.

Everybody Loves Raymond
Everybody Loves Raymond

And let’s not forget about Everybody Loves Raymond. I remember lying on my couch eleven years ago watching the final episode.

Is this how I mark time, by the passing of entertainment units? It seems like it.

Although, I beg to differ. I remember the first time I told my wife I loved her. The next thing she did was hop on a train back to Nova Scotia. Was it something I said?

How can I forget the time when my first child came into the world? We were in tears. Nope, I wasn’t watching a TV show at the time, and I don’t remember a swelling soundtrack playing in the background.

My first car was a Honda Accord. The memory of that day, when I went into the bank to ask for a loan, is still in my head. The interest on the loan was eleven percent. I thought the bank at the time had given me a great deal.

The first time I landed my dream job was such a pleasure that my family and I went out celebrating. It was also the first time I could afford to pay for everyone’s meal.

I can’t forget the first guitar my dad had bought me when I was a teenager. It was an imitation Gibson Les Paul. I played that thing so much that I had worn the frets to a state of non-existence.

Whenever I think of summer, I think of the first time I had gone in the deep end on my own. It was also the first time when I had almost drowned. After that incident, I learned how to swim, and have never forgotten.

I read somewhere that a person’s greatest fear is speaking in front of an audience. My first experience addressing a large crowd was when I was fifteen years old in high school, running for Ninth Grade class president. I stood on stage behind a podium, pointed a finger at the entire student body, which was close to five hundred kids, and said, “I want you to want me.” The entire assembly erupted in laughter. That phrase was from a song made popular at the time by Cheap Trick. It was also the first time I had felt absolute embarrassment.

But you know what? I won that election. One of my teachers later said to me, aside from having moxie, that if I could get up there and make a fool of myself like that, I certainly belonged in politics.

I guess when it comes to memories my entire life is not a set of vignettes centered around entertainment, even if I sometimes think it to be that way. No, I enjoy reminiscing with family about our firsts, our seconds and thirds, what we’ve learned, and if we had the opportunity, what would we do over.

Come to think of it, I wouldn’t change a thing of my past. If I did, then I wouldn’t be who I am today.

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Do you remember any of your firsts? What do you like about those memories?