Spending Time with my Sons

theboys

Update 10/17/16: My boys are now 7 and 8! It has been a wild and wonderful ride since I created this post.

I have two sons, 3 and 4 years old. They never cease to amaze me. They bring out the best in me, and the worst. They seem to be relatively accurate mirrors that reflect back all my perceived deficiencies and insecurities. They also make me feel tragic love for them. What I mean is that often when I look at them, at the risk of sounding trite, I am reminded of how precious life is, how fleeting it is, how much joy and suffering there is, and just how delicate it can be.

Last night after work, I took the boys to our playroom/home gym and rode the stationary bike while watching them romp. They don’t often get along, but they were last night. They played with toys, chased each other, dance like Elain Benes on Seinfeld, and generally acted like two beautiful boys relishing life. They were so awesome to watch. They were so precious and wonderful.

When I look through their eyes at the world, I am sometimes magically and instantly transported back to my own childhood. Things become so much clearer when that happens. I see how my perceptions and thoughts have changed over my life, how I used to process experience so differently. For whatever reason, I just wanted to record that moment here, because, like everything, it’s transient, slippery, ephemeral in that it comes and goes leaving only a slight memory that gets jumbled up with all the rest of the memories. What beautiful boys I have.

My four-year-old came home from pre-school recently, ran up to my office and exclaimed, “We all go to heaven and stay there forever. Are you going to go to heaven too dad?” Just writing this gives me chills because what do you reply to this? My wife and I had never discussed death with him; our thinking was that he may be a bit too young. But the pre-school apparently thought differently. Oh well, you roll with the punches as a parent. But it’s a tough subject because as a parent, I don’t want my child to know of death, or ever experience it. I don’t want him to die, ever. I also don’t want to die relative to him, because that will mean he is fatherless.(And I don’t want to die, period.)

The subject came up again when my older brother unexpectedly died. We didn’t take our boys to the wake or funeral, wanting to protect them against such harsh and vivid reality at such a young age. But predictably, my pre-school son asked if he too went to heaven. I told him ‘yes’ and when he inquired when he was coming back I had to face the reality that the only answer is ‘never’. And that’s what I told him.

So when he asks me if I am also going to go to heaven some day, I have to reluctantly also say ‘yes’. But I took a page out of my mother’s handbook. I said, “By the time I go to heaven, you’ll be so sick of taking care of my elderly self that you’ll be happy.” Not so delicate or philosophical, but it’ll have to do.

Sitting by a River Meditating – A Mindfulness Practice

Jason OConnor meditating by a riverFor a few years now I have been meditating, sometimes five days in a row and other times once a week. But I have kept up with it and I recommend it to any person reading this. I practice insight meditation. This involves sitting upright and concentrating on an anchor, such as your in-breath and out-breath. When a thought arises, which happens every second it seems, I gently label the thought and let it pass through me till I can go back to concentrating on my breathing.

Sometime my label will be “thinking”. I’ll catch myself lost in thought and realize that I have drifted from my anchor of breathing and say to myself in a non-judgmental way, “thinking”, and then go back to the breath.  Other times my labels will be more specific such as “self-denigrating”, “arguing” or “analyzing”. I have a top five that repeatedly and relentlessly pop into my head, without warning and without invitation.

Over time, this way of meditating for me has become a little more sophisticated. Since I am a visual person, I have found that if I imagine myself in the third person sitting by a river, watching theses thoughts float by, I don’t get as easily stuck on any given thought that comes. And this is one of the goals of insight meditation, to not get stuck in, or identify with your fleeting thoughts.

This particular mindfulness practice involves me becoming the ‘witness’ of a person named Jason OConnor sitting by a river. I the ‘watcher’ or ‘witness’ am about 15 feet behind and above Jason, who is sitting crossed-leg on a river bank watching the river, and the thoughts borne on the river, flow by at a stately pace from right to left. Each thought attaches itself to Jason as it goes by. In my mind’s eye I see Jason package each attached thought up, place it on a simple wooden raft, and kick it down the river. Immediately afterwards there is peace and no-thought once again. Temporarily.

A little ways down the river there is a waterfall. After being kicked, the raft and it’s freight of thought violently fall down the waterfall. Of course that’s not the end of it. Thoughts have a way of returning again, and again, and again.

In Escher-like fashion my imaginary river is a loop that eventually returns back to me. When the same thought arises again, I the ‘watcher’ or ‘witness’ again see Jason repeat placing the thought on a raft and kicking it down the river.

This particular practice has greatly helped my meditation and my ability to avoid identifying with my thoughts.  It helps me be more mindful in my day-to-day life. If any of this interests you and you would like to learn more, here are some of my favorite teachers/authors/gurus/Buddhists:

  • Rick Hanson
  • Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Ronald D. Siegel
  • Jack Cornfield
  • Pema Chodron
  • Eckart Tolle
  • Alan W. Watts
  • Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • Chogyam Trungpa

Web Tools I Use – My Webmaster’s Toolbox


I’ve been a Web professional and consultant since right around when the Web went mainstream and have been using various software tools to help my job ever since. There have been countless tools to choose from over the years, but only some are really worth the money and effort to learn. Here are the ones that I find myself using these days.

I have some basic, everyday programs to start with. I use Dreamweaver and Notepad for HMTL development. For browsers, I always have both Internet Explorer and Firefox open, with many tabs in each open, and will check search engine rankings and how my websites look in each browser. Sometimes I will also use a third browser, Google’s Chrome.

For website diagnostics I use Xenu Link Sleuth, it is one of the best broken link tools and offers a whole lot more. I use GTmetrix and Zoompf to learn about how a site is loading, how fast it is and how well it technically performs. And I use Advanced Web Rankings and SEOMoz to see how well keyword phrases are performing in the search engines.

For competitive analysis I use compete.com, Majestic SEO and Open Site Explorer.

Google, Wordtracker and SEOBook all have keyword research tools and I like them all for various and differing reasons.

I recently found a terrific little program called Ecobyte Replacement Text which does a great job at finding and replacing anything, including partial strings.

So these are the top tools in Jason’s webmaster toolbox and I hope you find these as useful as I do.

The iPad II

I got a new iPad II for my birthday the other day and so far it seems pretty cool. I have been a Windows PC guy (and a Linux) guy forever so I never really delved into the world of Mac. My old college roommate, who allowed me to use his original Macintosh for my word processing assignments back in the early 90’s, moved over to PC’s right after that and never looked back. So after I received the iPad I was having a chat with him and he said to me, “O’Connor, ya gotta try out the iPad, I use it for everything.”

So, as I sit here and write this, my laptop PC running Windows is hooked up by a little white USB cable to my new Mac iPad II and is synching all my music. (That’s what we ‘Mac-heads’ call synchronizing the music on our computer with that on our iPod or iPad). I’ve already downloaded some cool apps, some for productivity and a couple of games and I am really enjoying it. Pretty cool so far anyway.

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