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Happy Birthday To Me! Things I Learned On The Way To The Big 5-OMG!

I turned fifty years old today. As an amateur historian, I have a real sense of what it means to have lived for half a century (and a real appreciation of not being born 1000 years ago because I’d be dead by now). For some reason, turning 50 has left me in a reflective state of mind. And I’m not arrogant to think that my overall very good life has made me any smarter, wiser or more wordly than anyone else. But like most of us, I’ve become a little more patient and a little more tolerant as I’ve gotten older, and to my surprise have learned that when you are patient and tolerant, you learn things. And I’ve come to believe you’re never to old to learn, but also, it’s good to stop once and awhile and take measure of your life.

One of my favorite movies is Bull Durham. And not because it’s a baseball movieFile:Bull Durham movie poster.jpg, because it isn’t. It’s a movie about life. There’s a great scene at the end of the film, where Costner’s character, Crash Davis, is cut from the Durham Bulls. He’s a career minor league catcher who once spent 21 days in the Major Leagues. He’s in his mid-thirties now and knows he’s never going to make it back to “The Show” as a player. So he leaves because he wants to catch on with another team and break the minor league record for Home Runs. And Susan Sarandon thinks he’s gone forever. But at the end of the season, it’s a rainy day and she’s walking home only to find Crash sitting on her porch swing. He asks her if she thinks he could make it ‘the Show’ (the Major Leagues) as a manager. And she jumps over next to him and starts talking fast, telling him how great it would be and how he knows all the linear and abstract theories of baseball…and he holds  up his hand and says “Annie, you have a lot of great theories on baseball and I want to hear them all, I really do. But not right now. And not today. Today…I just want to be.”

For my next fifty years, I hope to keep growing and learning as a person. But I also hope I spend a lot more time just “being.”

But as for the things I’ve learned. Well, if it helps, you, makes you think, disagree or ponder…that’s a writer’s job right?

1) The three greatest days in my life were September 25th, 1982, October 3, 1985 and January 24, 1992. The day I married my wife of almost 28 years and the days my children were born.

2) The greatest honor I have ever received in my life was the day my son asked me to stand next to him as the best man in his wedding. My son is a wonderful young man, with many close friends, but when he asked to perform this duty on the biggest day of his life, it inspired feelings beyond my abilities to describe. No matter what else I’m ever able to achieve, not even winning a Nobel Prize would ever exceed this.

3) I’ve tried my hardest to teach my children two important things. The first is the 90/10 rule. I believe that 90% of just about every situation is life is worthy only of laughter. If you laugh your way through life, you children will see it and they will learn to laugh as well and be so much happier for it. They watch what you DO much more than listen to what you SAY! The second is the 80/20 rule. I believe that about 80% of life is compromise. The other 20% is your ‘sacred ground’. Those parts of yourself that you will never compromise. Fidelity to your spouse, honesty in your actions, respect for yourself and others. No job, no amount of money, no person is ever worth giving up those parts of yourself.

4) I believe that men should always ‘marry up.’ I am beyond lucky in that I somehow won the hand of a woman so far out of my league, I still have no idea why she said yes. And no matter what happens, through all the trials and tribulations of life, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t tell her how much I love her. She has made me a better man, a better father and a better person. I believe that woman are much more intuitive than men. Maybe it’s hard wired into our brains, I have no idea. But if a man is open to it and listens to his wife, really listens, he will be the better for it.

5) I believe in America. I think it is, as Ronald Reagan said “A Shining City on A Hill.” It is not perfect, nor will it ever be. And it is a country that bears many shameful scars. We are not always right. But what makes us great, is that we never stop trying. Whenever something shameful occurred in our past history, their were always other brave Americans with the courage to rise up and say “This shall not stand.”I choose to live my life believing in the essential goodness of man. That when people are given freedom and opportunity, they will instinctively do the right thing. Maybe that is naive, but it is what I believe. Americans are the most generous people on earth. If that isn’t true, why is that even though we’re down in the middle of the list in per capita income among the civilized nations of the world, whenever a disaster strikes somewhere (the Tsunami, Haiti), Americans and America itself give more financial aid, medical assistance and materials than all of the other nations combined?

6) As a student of history, I never cease to be amazed at the profound changes in the world that have taken place in my lifetime. The comedian Louis CK said it much more cleverly than I, but think about it. Since I was born in 1960 we have sent men to the moon, not once, but several times, and safely home again (as Byron MacGregor of CKLW would say). Computers that once filled an entire office building now slide into a briefcase. Fifty years ago, most Cancers were an automatic death sentence. Today we can pick up a phone the size of a credit card and talk to someone on the other side of the world. To me, this is not science or technology. It is the magic of human ingenuity.

7) Alan Trammell belongs in the Baseball Hall Of Fame. This is not open to debate.

8 ) I believe it is too hard to be a kid today. At fifty, my ‘old-fogeyness’ is starting to show and all I can say is “we need to lighten up people”. While I’ve never been a scholar in the academic sense, I’m virtually certain that I couldn’t pass high school today. We put to much emphasis on our kids achieving things, instead of worrying what it is doing to them and what kind of people they will be. Your kid doesn’t need to be on three soccer teams. Send him outside for a pick-up game in the neighborhood. Your seventh grader will gain nothing from taking the ACT test for ‘practice’. Your kids can skip being on a ‘waiting list’ for a private kindergarden from the day they were born. Give them love, support and encouragement, not trips to visit colleges when they’re in 9th grade. One of the best pieces of parenting advice I ever received was try to never be the one to dash your child’s dreams. If your son wants to play NFL Football when he’s seven, just say ‘wouldn’t that be great!’ The world will tell him if he can or can’t play in the NFL. You’re going to need to be there for him either way, so why dash his dreams when he’s young or push him relentlessly toward a goal he may not be able to achieve? You’ll both lose.

9) I’ll probably be the last man standing, but I just don’t ever see an electrical device replacing the tactile sense of a physical, printed book, one of the most enduring and successful pieces of technology ever. I want to feel the paper in my hands. I want to write in the margins, not type. I want to dog ear the pages, not push a button. Devices are useful. But just because you can do something easier, quicker or faster, doesn’t mean you should.

10) I believe we are responsible for our actions and our destiny. We may need the additional hand along the way, but it is up to each one of us to do the heavy lifting of our own lives. I believe in equal opportunity for everyone but it is up to us as individuals to determine the outcome.

11) Anyone who intentionally seriously harms a child or hurts an animal should be locked in jail forever. I am very Code of Hammurabi on this. I believe we should be judged by our actions toward the weakest among us.

12) I know that times are bad right now. Times will be good again. And they will be bad again. But we will get through it all. And we will survive and prosper by the sweat of our labor and the freedom to choose our own path.

These things I believe.

Happy Birthday to me,

Michael P. Spradlin

12 Comments

  1. Mike, I totally agree with everything you have said and I also have tried to live by those rules. I have two years on you…. Maybe it was growing up in the midwest in a small town. Where everyone knew us and watched out for each other. Where common sense meant more than IQ’s. And when we got in trouble our parents made us accountable for our actions. They didn’t make excuses for us. I also told my sons that they needed to choose a profession that they looked forward to getting up and going to work everyday. Regardless of whether or not it would make them rich. Happiness cannot be bought. Giving is far more enjoyable than recieving. Compassion and putting yourself in the other persons shoes when you see someone having a hard time.
    The biggest compliment I ever recieved was when one my oldest son’s 5th grade teachers looked at me with a serious face and asked, “How did you do it?” I was afraid that maybe he had done something wrong or since his father and I were going through a divorce that maybe he was acting out. I fearfully replied, “How did I do what?” She smiled and said, “Raise such a perfect child?” I laughed. Partly because my son was far from perfect and partly because I was relieved. I informed her that he was a normal child and certainly not “perfect”. Just ask his little brother who he torments. But she insisted that he was the most polite, well adjusted, well behaved, compassionate children she had ever taught in her 20 years of teaching.
    LOL…. well, I see I have made my own blog on your site. But if more people would live by these rules yours and mine..they might at least find themselves and their families if not happier, than at least a little more content. Especially in these hard economic times.

    1. Marla,
      Thank you for your comments and kind words. And I think I agree with you about growing up in a small town. There are positives and negatives but one of the great positives is people do watch out for each other. I was always afraid to get in serious trouble in school because I knew with all of my cousins, word would get back to my parents. And if they heard it from someone else instead of me, my ‘consequences’ were a whole lot worse. Raising kids is hard. The hardest thing I’ve ever done, and luckily my wife and I always discussed things first so we could present a united front. We never cared about the little things like hairstyle or how they dressed or the other trivial things. If you don’t give them grief over the little things, you’ve got a lot of money in the bank when it comes to the big things: don’t drink and drive, don’t use drugs, choose your friends carefully because you will be judged, rightly or unfairly by whom you associate with. And cliche’s become cliche’s because there is a measure of the truth in them. When you lie down with dogs you get up with fleas. It sounds like you’re lucky enough to have a couple of great boys, even though I’m sure luck had nothing to do with it. And I bet those boys realize they hit the jackpot in the Mom department.

      Thanks again and it’s always great to hear from Homerites. It’s a great place to be from!
      Best,
      Mike

  2. Well said, all of it. Loved your homage to printed books. I always tell kids that the books on the shelves do not require a battery or an Internet connection to enjoy them. A book does require some electricity between their ears but it will recharge their minds

    1. Thank you Camille for your kind words, and for stopping by the blog. I really appreciate it. And you’re right on target for ebooks. Real books don’t even need a battery. Unless you’re reading them past your bedtime under the covers with a flashlight!

    1. Hi Rachel,
      Thanks for stopping by, and a very thoughtful comment. I meant these percentages as a general rule and some peoples percentage of ‘sacred ground’ will be much higher than it is for others. Which is completely fine. My point was I made an effort to teach my children that there is a part of themselves that is beyond compromise. Faith, fidelity, family, honesty and self-respect. Whatever the percentage is for you is really not the point, as long as it includes those ideals which you will not compromise.

      I hope that makes sense.
      Thanks again for visiting my blog.

      Mike

  3. Hi Mr Spradlin,

    Happy birthday! Hope you had a good one.

    I was bored this afternoon so I google searched my book reviews blog and one of the results was your post on facebook commenting on my review for the “Youngest Templar”. Imagine my surprise! =) I hope the cons I posted didn’t offend you. Needless to say; I never expected an author to read my reviews on the books they wrote!

    To be quite honest, I was scrounging for cons. I loved your Youngest Templar books, although you end them horribly painful! Looking forward to the third installment very much!

    I agree with many of the things you have learnt. =) As a teen myself, I appreciate the wisdom of my parents, and am glad to have grown up homeschooled in the company of my six siblings on 15 country acres in Australia. The people you surround yourself with certainly make an impression on your life and I am blessed to have parents who are such good examples to me. It sounds like your son was blessed to have a Dad who is a good example too!

    God bless you,
    BookMaid – aspiring author.

    1. Thank you Book Maid.
      It sounds like you have it pretty good. What is impressive is that most young people your age haven’t realized it yet. I’m sure you know that families can drive you crazy some times, but trust me, when you’re older, they will mean more to you than anything else in your life.

      And don’t ever worry about telling me you don’t like something in one of my books. I try to learn from all my readers, even ones who criticize me. As long as the criticism is thoughtful and constructive, I have a very thick skin. If you’re interested in writing, I will tell you work on developing a thick skin (although with six siblings you’re probably well on your way to having one). The reason I say this, is, everyone’s tastes are different. Not everything I write will be liked by everyone. I wish it would, but that’s just how it is. If you’re a writer and you’re going to put your work out there, it’s going to get trashed by someone. But I’m glad you had to ‘scrounge’ for cons! 🙂 I have a review service here in the states who has never ONCE given me a positive review for one of my books. And so what! You just learn to roll with it and keep writing.
      Thanks for stopping by the blog and I hope you enjoy the third Youngest Templar book. I have a very exciting book coming out next year and I hope an Australian publisher will pick it up and you’ll be able to enjoy that as well.
      Best of luck to you and keep the positive attitude you already have.

  4. Hi again, Mr Spradlin!

    You’re right; family does tend to drive you nuts on occasion but to be honest, I know I love them all more than anything! 🙂

    Criticism would be something I will have to get used to, but with two of my brothers as my proofreaders (with -very- honest opinions) I think you are right that I’m well on the way to getting thick skin! 😉 However, harsh criticism would be easier to take from strangers than people who’s opinions you care about.

    I thought you would like to know that I have just finished reading ‘Keeper of the Grail’ and almost all of ‘Trail of Fate’ aloud to my family, and they have thoroughly enjoyed it! Some of Robard’s antics and comments have had us all, even my Mum and Dad laughing out loud! It’s hard for me to believe your Youngest Templar series are yet to receive a positive review in the US. I’ve read hundreds of books in my life, and lots of them were bad, but I would rank this series in my 9.5/10 rating! 😀

    Anyway, it was lovely to hear back from you! Thankyou for providing us with a means for a fast car trip! 🙂 Hope your new exciting book is published over here.

    God bless,
    BookMaid

    1. Hello Again, Book Maid
      Thank you again for a lovely note. And just to clarify, my books have gotten many positive reviews here in the states (see the reviews sections on the book pages of my website). I was simply responding to your original post where you told me you hoped your ‘Cons’ for Youngest Templar didn’t upset or bother me and I assure you they did not. My point was a writer needs to accept criticism even harsh, negative, personal criticism if you are going to put your work out there. You simply have to roll with it (as we say here in the states).

      I can’t tell you how many wonderful notes I’ve recieved from Australian readers. Thank you (and your family) for taking time to read them. It sounds like you are very lucky to have a family that laughs together. Best to you. And Keep Reading and Writing!

      Mike

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