MR. BRAY

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       MR BRAY

A boutique design & animation shop that dissolves the line between studio and agency.

Mind & Body

Recently I went to the Doctors for the first time in a long time. By long time, I mean outside of an urgent care or unfortunate ER visit it's been seriously years since I've seen a doctor on the regular. 

 I'm not alone on this but I really dislike going to the doctors. Be that anything from a chiropractor to a dentist or physician. I'm often apprehensive. While I'll goto the chiropractor when I'm in pain and I try to goto the dentist every six months to prevent a cavity the regular doctor has been something that just makes me the most anxious.

 

Eventually I started to avoid the doctors all together. Which is bad. I'll come right out and say it. But what I didn't realize was while I think there are many subpar professionals in all industries I was being foolish about my health. However, what I didn't expect from finding a wonderful therapist was how a healthier mind was going to lead to a stronger desire to have a healthier body. 

 

So here I was meeting with my new doctor and for the first time I felt comfortable with a doctor. I went on to describe some of my health issues including a trouble I was having swallowing certain foods. The doctor then said he believed I had a certain kind of hernia which involves my stomach slipping into my esophagus. So the doctor has me lie on my back. He then uses both of his hands to pull on my belly while I feel a pop in my throat as he pulls my stomach from inside my esophagus. It was crazy! It felt just bizarre!

While it's a little to early to tell if it's cured my digestive issues I do have to say how thankful I feel. The encouragement from my counselor has helped me get over such a significant anxiety I had. We all have bad experiences and they can paint our minds with unhealthy ideas about very healthy things, like going to the doctors. 

 I'm still skeptical of doctors but I feel empowered to advocate for my own health. No one has more skin in the game to save your skin than yourself.  

 

thanks for reading 📖   

-Jesse

Drafting My Memoir

Perhaps I'm alone in this but the word "memoir" has always bugged me. Don't get me wrong I enjoy a good memoir: from "Size Matters Not" by Warwick Davis - probably the hardest working little person in Hollywood to "Bossy Pants" by Tina Fey. I've read a fair share of memoirs and autobiographies. But the word "memoir" in my head at least sounds pretentious and kinda douchey.

 

Maybe it's just me but a good life story is accessible and hopefully relatable on many levels. It's earthy, salty and lacking fancy college words. Or perhaps my roots are showing. For me growing up with an inconsistent education I used my vocabulary amongst many things to cloaked my poverty. I was very insecure about my intelligence and felt if I sounded smart no one would be the wiser of my embarrassment. I think we all do this, pretend like we know what someone is saying or we're too afraid to ask a question because we don't want to look stupid.

 

However, I believe we all have an exciting or important story to tell - which should be told from the heart. So here I am with my heart on my sleeve, again, saying a lot of fancy words does not a good "memoir" make. 

 

Let me share a story. When I went back to school in Spring of 2009 I had been out of practice since I graduated in 2000. My math skills and some of my grammar chops were in the gutter. So I had to take a few extra special non accredited courses at my college. It was a bummer for sure, having to fork out a bunch more money for classes that weren't going to bring me a credit closer to my degree. However it's what I had to do.

 

Yet remember I thought I had an excellent vocabulary so I should be able to breeze at least through this non accredited writing class. My first assignment was an essay based off a Edward Hopper painting. Since this was an art college it was really great they tried their best to align our homework with an artistic flair.

So this painting by Edward Hopper was that of a train station. Nothing elaborate or surreal. It was a slice of Americana, rustic and strangely familiar in composition. Perhaps I had seen the painting before or it was just that common of a setting. Nonetheless I decided I would wow my teacher with all sorts of flowery phrases dripping with ethereal metaphors upon metaphors. Again I wanted to be perceived as an educated man. Well my teacher saw right through me! He said "this reads really nice. However I don't believe you're really saying anything." Oh no! I'm busted! He then helped me let go of this odd impulse to complicate my thoughts while writing and just focus on saying what I'm thinking or feeling. It was strange at first but so liberating! 

 

The funny thing is how I was so bent on trying to prove I was sharp when clearly I was placed in this remedial writing class because I was rusty. I needed help. We all need help. It's apart of life and nothing to be particularly ashamed about. 

 

So while I embark on drafting my memoir I'm reminded I have nothing to prove. I just have a story to share. And I believe perhaps this is the greatest reason I'm compelled to share my memoir. Not out of some sorta delusions of grandeur. Not from the insecurities of trying to convince the world I'm not a fool. Heck we're all foolish at times and that's ok. Owning our limits are important, how else are we going to do the impossible if we don't see what we never thought we could do before. 

 

 I'm writing a memoir that is deeply deeply personal. And while if you're here and have read this blog you might have a bit of familiarity to the stories I'll be sharing. But know that this memoir is something that scares me. It scares me to even confess this. I've been locked away in my head: injuries, hopes, fears, dreams and desires that many who know me might have to rethink the man they think I am. And hopefully this will encourage you as I take an emotionally terrifying step forward.

 I'm excited to share these stories too but also nervous. Because this will be the first time I'll literally be able to say "I'm an open book". 

 

thanks so much for reading 📖   

-Jesse

 

p.s.  I've decided on a title for my memoir and plan on calling it: 

"I'm Only Dreaming" 

To Hell With Bullies 🔥

(The following is from an episode of my now retired podcast Go Forth & Nerd 🤓)


From trolls to thugs bullies often want an array of things but the one universal thing I've discovered about bullies is that they all want a sense of power. Be that power to take away your dignity, your lunch money, your joy, your piece of purpose on this hurling blue marble, or just to displace their own frustrations on you because of their low self esteem and lack of control in this world.


A bit about me if you've already guessed:I'm actually a quite even tempered guy. I seldom get physically upset. Even more so I deliberately avoid people that are prone to unpredictable bursts of anger. For good reason but the truth is this has roots into the scars I have from being bullied as a kid. To me angry people have crossed a clear line and have acted very violent to me. And it's these scars some emotional some physical that I have learned to live with.


To illustrate the lessons I've learned I'm going to share three short stories that embody the title of this post:

TO HELL WITH BULLIES!

I'll start off with a funny story.

There was this one time I was being bullied by a kid in the second grade. He kept hitting me while we were waiting in line after recess, and I kept asking him to leave me alone. Now it's important to mention that for some reason at this school they thought it wise to have recess immediately after lunch. Then while he was punching me my stomach started to turn. So I told him one last time to leave me alone - in a menacing grin he continued his behavior and punched me again so I let him have it! I puked up my entire lunch all over this jerk! It was awesome! He was covered from head to toe with a hot assault of irony. It was fair to say he NEVER bothered me again! Now we can't always vomit our way out of being bullied but this story reminds me that if you can't beat'em at least make them regret it.


My next story gets quite a bit edgier. Fast forward we were living in Minnesota outside of the 3M Corp - I was middle school aged, short rabbit trail for those curious I never went to middle school. I technically missed not skipped but missed 5th,6th,7th and 8th grade. Which I've been told by many people especially my wife that that is prime time for bullying. Back to living in what was clearly a ghetto in Minnesota. I was the only white boy in the neighborhood. Here I was a shrimpy white ginger kid completely surrounded by justifiably so angry and frustrated African American kids. And they hated me!

 

Let me explain why these kids were so frustrated - the only white people they knew were the cops that barged into the neighborhood to arrest or assault their family members. To these kids police sirens and gunfire was so frequent it was like a lullaby. These kids weren't in school, they were poor, and treated poorly. I honestly and deeply hold zero grudges against these kids. They were in a system that crapped on them and they felt it. Nonetheless at the time when faced with having my ass kicked multiple times every single day I discovered that:

  1. I was never going to be able to out run these kids. Frankly they could lap me three times on my best day.

  2. I couldn't make them laugh hard enough to forget how frustrated they were - something deep down in them was satisfied in punching out a pale freckled faced red head.

  3. I had no other option but to fight back. That said even when you fight back when you're on your own unless you're Bruce Lee you're gonna lose in someway!


Here's the single greatest thing that changed for me aside from when we moved:

My friendship with Jamal - Jamal was the skinniest scrappiest kid I ever knew! He lived on the bottom floor of our apartment complex and I befriended him after giving him a Maxx comic. He was at that moment hooked on comics! So we became bros! Jamal and I loved watching cartoons together, eating fruit loops until our mouths were numbs and talking about our favorite super powers. Then at a hair pin turn Jamal was by my side when the gang of the usual bullies came to harass me for my timely beatings. Jamal was like a hurricane, he flew at the biggest kid in the group often 2 to 3 times his size and would just wail on the kid until he pleaded for him to stop! Jamal's motto was that you always attack first and go for the biggest meanest looking bully and don't stop hitting until your sure they'll never bother you again! I swear it's like this kid not knowing it lived out Ender's tactic from Ender's Game!

 

Jamal was such a bad ass. There was one particular time a gang of close to a dozen kids had surrounded me. They wanted to really beat the living crap out of me. Then in a moment of pure insanity Jamal came in - he had skewered a basketball size active wasps nest on a stick and he began to smash it to tinder upside their heads like it was some sorta stinging mace. It was insane!!! If you remember the hornets nest scene from Hunger Games that was the tame version of what this looked like. Close to a dozen kids screaming and flailing in all directions. It was one of the most violent and heroic things I've ever seen. Jamal and I fled relatively unscathed. Though I never gained Jamal's eye of the tiger this scrappy African American boy was my hero! He taught me how to fight back and that power is all about the heart and nothing to do with size.


So sometimes you have to fight back but you need to know your enemy enough to why they want to hurt you if you can. Sometimes fighting back is walking away or ignoring them like I've learned when dealing with internet trolls. And sometimes fighting back is through gaining a scrappy ally that'll march into the eye of the tornado with you like my buddy Jamal. There's strength in numbers and every bully has a weakness.


For my last story I want to throw you a bit of curve ball. Sometimes bullying doesn't look like a direct attack but is part of an underlying mob mentality. And the truth is sometimes people just aren't aware they're being bullies and they're just playing along blindly:


You see I went to Glencoe High school in Hillsboro, Oregon. And like all high schools they had a goofy mascot. But Glencoe high school had by far one of most bizarre mascots I've ever seen. It's called the Crimson Tide, and if you guessed that it might resemble a red wave with a ridiculous cartooned grinned you'd be right. The Crimson Tide was and to my knowledge still is a red cartoon wave of blood. You heard that right BLOOD! Yeah weird right?! My high schools mascot was/is a wave of blood! And not just any blood it's a reference to a specific wave of blood that took place from a historical massacre in Glencoe Scotland. Gross right? I agree. But it gets worse. My grandfather informed me that my ancestors specifically immigrated to the US to flee from the brutal genocide of the Campbells clan that was slaying our clan from Glencoe Scotland. So here I was attending a high school that their very mascot was a wave of the blood of my direct slaughtered ancestors. Can you say bloodthirsty? That was my reality from the following...


One particular day I was walking down the hallway and I saw a fight begin to break out. A shrimpy freshman was about to be crumbled by some massive dude. It was kinda of a Marty McFly vs Biff situation. I having had a growth spurt pushing 6ft tall awkwardly towered over both of them and got between them to try and stop the fight. A crowd quickly surrounded the three of us as these bloodthirsty teenagers chanted FIGHT, fight,  fight! Well these kids with their Crimson Tide fury were angry that I got in between them and their entertainment so several of them shoved me to the ground so the fight would continue. And then in a moment it was over, the massive Biff like kid pummeled this shrimpy freshman. I was eventually able to stop the bully again but I learned a valuable lesson that day. People crave violence. Even when it's a spectator sport people like seeing other people being hurt. And because of that being a peacemaker is NEVER an easy task!


The truth is sometimes we need to stand up, walk away or just outsmart these bullies. We can and we're able but we need to fight against the senseless mob, the towering brute or the frustrated and displaced.


So today I want to encourage you by reminding you're not alone, that we all need allies, and that you can as hard as it sounds there is a way tell to take positive stand. As a community we need to have each others back!


As always thank you so much for reading. Let's unite together as we say To Hell With Bullies!


-Jesse

Naming Our Monsters

For the past few weeks I've been embarking on an incredibly scary journey. I've been outwardly expressing my past and present fears and pain. Apart of this scary therapeutic work has involved sharing these very personal experiences here on my blog and with my amazing therapist. 

I can't fully give words to the life giving experience it has been to finally get this stuff off my chest. And for the most part I've received an overwhelming amount of encouragement. Truth be told I really didn't set out to write these stories to garner any attention. I'm just writing to heal myself. I hope these stories make you feel less alone and give you the added strength to seek out your own healing works.

As I've been working through these events from my past my therapist has helped me give names to the specific villains in my life. We all have villains, some constant some intermittent. While having villains or negative forces in your life is unavoidable their power over you can be tempered by a wonder tool. By naming your monsters.

For me there was a very wicked and cruel person from my past. He was violent to me, mistreated and tortured me. He abused me for years and for many years longer after he was out of my life I've tried to supress the pain. From diving into my faith to escaping into music or losing myself in art these things while I love them deeply they failed to help me look my monsters straight in the face.

My therapist helped me dubbed this person as my Step Monster. Since any other title really didn't feel deserved. At first I responded to my therapist that I had more than one "Step Monster" but this man was pure evil. While my other "Step Monster" she was more a wicked Queen than a full blown violent creature. Which I do anticipate sharing stories about her here as well. However hearing my therapist give a name to my monster felt so cathartic! I was free to release myself of the pain of the pure chaos of my experiences. Because that's what people do. We try and make sense of why something happened or why someone would act a certain way. Yet Monsters they don't need reasons, they're just monsters! The world on fire makes them happy. 

 

So while I continue to share these intensely personal experiences I encourage you to give a name to your monsters. Perhaps this can give you an emotionally healthy distance from the cruelty you've been dealt while you allow yourself some proper healing. 

 

 

thank you so much for reading 📖  

 

-Jesse

A Spaghetti Dinner

Not long after we had fled our roach infested burnt to a cinder Minnesota apartment were we on the road again. We had started our journey from Rocklin California up through southern Oregon then straight east through Montana, Wyoming & Yellowstone national park. Sleeping in our extended cab GMC truck.


Well most of us slept inside the truck. I was forced to sleep outside the truck bed with all our possessions. With boxes piled high on all sides of me it was easy for me to slip deep into the junk into a sorta make shift cave. I'd sink down into my sleeping bag, zip it up as tight as possible and cover my whole head minus a tiny crack for air and a place for me to stare at the stars and moon.


I remember the sounds of wildlife howling, squawking and snarling in the night air. The icy chill of adrenaline making all my hairs stand up. The crisp smell of fog and the snap of frozen dew. Finally the deep inky purple skies. The moon was amazing! I felt like it had a hypnotic power over me. All alone in this exposed pickup truck bed at 11yrs old it was this glorious moon that would lock eyes with me and slowly my fears would subside as I'd fall asleep.


This was the common experience for me when we were on the road. I was typically forced to sleep outside either in the pickup bed or if it was raining particularly hard inside a makeshift tent or under a tarp to keep guard of our possessions in boxes.


By the time we had left Minnesota my mother had given away almost everything I owned. All except my briefcase my grandpa Neil had given me. I guarded this thing with my life! On our journey eastward and north we drove through Montreal and parked at a tiny Canadian rest area in the woods. This time my stepfather had me sleep in the tent to guard our possessions at the rest area while they parked the truck some distance away. I remember thinking how nice it was that I could finally use the bathroom whenever I felt like this evening. It rained a relentless rain almost all night. I curled up into a ball in another makeshift cave I constructed with the boxes then fell asleep. I woke only once in the night to a hovering sound like I've never heard. The tent started to flutter then shake. The whooshing sound grew louder and louder. A dim light now surrounded the tent. Then as suddenly as it appeared it went away.


The next morning I tried describing the sound and light to my sisters but they were parked some distance from my tent so they never saw a thing. We piled all our effects back into the bed of the truck and this time my stepfather decided there was no longer room for me to be in the truck cabin. I was to stay outside in the truck bed day and night hidden amongst the boxes and junk indefinitely. At this point I remember it getting really cold both during the day and especially at night. My sleeping bag was no longer keeping me warm enough to sleep. So I tried to sleep more during the day while we traveled since I was too cold to sleep at night. Then one particular evening we drove late into the night I remember being told to get out of the truck bed.


I saw the back entrance to what looked like a school gym. There was a small line of people and I could smell garlic bread! We had arrived at a Salvation Army soup kitchen. We were herded up stairs into a gymnasium where as far as my eyes could see was smiling faces. There was a large row of tables and everyone was eating spaghetti from blue plastic bowls. They even had fruit punch in red dixie cups and the adults were huddled by the coffee makers.


I remember going through the line multiple times and how each time they filled my bowl to the brim! Finally after we were literally stuffed they led us to our sleeping quarters. We each got our own blanket, pillow and a cot. After we had selected a bed they showed us to the designated showering area and told us the downstairs was off limits to kids.


Lying in my warm and cozy cot, freshly showered in my new hand me down clothes and my stomach swelling with Spaghetti I felt content. It was a simple happiness I had never paid any attention to before. My basic needs at this moment were being met and it felt amazing.


Thinking back on this story this wasn't our first experience with charity nor would it be the last but this was the most important. Years later I would end up working for a short time as a youth minister/music director/food bank operator at a Salvation Army and while it was brief it felt like home.


There's a funny thing about life that's so easy to take for granted. That simple and sometimes not so subtle feeling you get after your evening meal. The feeling of satisfaction. We all deserve to know this warmth and comfort on a daily basis but it's only when it's removed from us do we really notice it's power.


Today I feel thankful, thankful and happy to be alive. I know hunger but I also have the means to fill that hunger. It doesn't mean that all is at peace with the world but it does mean that you're at least ready to say peace to the day as you goto sleep.


Thank you so much for reading 📖



-Jesse

​The Apartment Fire

It was May of 1994 and the seven of us had moved into the third floor of a dingy one bedroom studio apartment outside the 3M Corp in Minnesota. All seven of us; my two sisters, two baby brothers, mother, stepfather and 11yr old self all shared one room. The only place in the apartment that had remotely any privacy was the bathroom everything else was an open floor layout like most studios.


My mother said we had moved here for a television part she was casted for. A "Minneapolis In The Morning" anchor type show. Which never panned out. By the time we arrived the show apparently was cancelled after only a couple episodes. Looking back I'm not sure if the gig was really ever viable to begin with since my mother only recorded an audition tape before we up a moved from Rocklin California.


Since the show was in flux whether or not it was 100% cancelled we needed a place to stay. I'm not sure how but apparently we reached out to a local Calvary Chapel in St. Paul and they helped us with I believe the first months rent. I think the reason any of these rent related details remained in my mind was because the Pastor had a silly name to me. His name was Chick. And for an 11yr old hearing a man named Chick that was strange at bests. I'm not sure if this is exactly how we were able to afford a roof over our heads but it was a rare occasion nonetheless.


Now back to the one bedroom studio apartment. While we only ended up living there for a couple months I remember it was my first time encountering a nasty little insect. Let's just say I discovered cockroaches don't get soggy in milk. Yeah these cockroaches were everywhere! They'd crawl on your face at night so you had to cover your head with your pillow case. They'd be in your shoes, on your clothes, everywhere and you guessed it in our food.


I remember one morning pouring a bowl of cereal 🥣 and taking a big bite of a crunchy angry cockroach, which I promptly spit out. They had infested every inch of our already over crowded studio apartment.


To make matters worse one evening around 4 o'clock in the morning while we were all fast asleep we heard a pounding at our door. It was our neighbor from the bottom floor apartment. The whole apartment was on fire 🔥 and she was brave enough to risk herself to rush through the smoke and try and save us.


I leaped to my feet. Grabbed my tiny briefcase 💼 and hopped over everyone and everything in my way. As I was racing down the stairs the smoke was thick but I could hear a strange crunching sound with each step. The ground felt funny but I was too busy being pumped full of adrenaline scared for my wellbeing. Finally as I was approaching the exit I could see the moonlight piercing in and reflecting across the floor. To my absolute horror was millions upon millions of fleeing cockroaches. The crunching sound on the ground was made by each stomp of my feet 🦶crushing legions of these insects like potato chips step after step.


As soon as I escaped the burning smoke and out the door I had noticed  I was the first one out of the building...or so I thought. My mother was already outside the building and well composed. Following close behind me was my sisters whom my mother promptly ordered to retrieve her purse and our baby brothers.


We left this cinder of a residence not long afterwards to another transient adventure. However what I remember so clearly about this event was how for many years I felt guilty that I had been the "first" to escaped. I felt awful and selfish. It wasn't until years later when recalling the story with my sisters that I realized I had no business feeling guilty! My mother was the very first person out the door to save herself. This woman was concerned for her safety above all else. Furthermore she ordered her daughters to retrieve her personal possessions and her babies!


I look back at this bizarre experience and think what other awful feelings I might have that have been rooted in a distortion of self worth? I was just a child trying to save myself.


Today perhaps is a good time to take a minute or two and think about something that made you feel low from your childhood. Well I invite you to give yourself the permission to forgive yourself - you were a child and children shouldn't have to carry such burdens.



Thank you so much for reading 📖

-Jesse

Running Away From Home Saved My Life

It was Christmas break 1992. I was ten years old and it was a rare occasion for my sisters and I, we were at my father's and stepmother's place In Hillsboro, Oregon this holiday season. My mother had just recently remarried and she was living in California.


This one particular evening my mother called us up. She then systematically made all three of us cry over the phone. Now she had manipulated myself and my sisters to pull us away early from Christmas break with my father's to visit her during the holidays, despite already agreeing to this time to let him have us this year.


This would be the last time I would see my father for over three and a half years. When we arrived at my mother’s place we met her new husband. I don’t currently feel comfortable telling all the details about this man. But I'll say this he absolutely hated us and made special sport of torturing me and treating me like his personal punching bag. When you’re punched full fledge as a ten year old by a grown man on a daily basis it changes you in a very deep way.


Almost everyday I looked for an opportunity to escape. Yet I was still just a child. My greatest refuge was through my mind. My dreams kept me alive all those years. My mother and my stepfather would end up dragging  us all around the US. We were homeless, living in shelters, tents, squatting or mooching off strangers and sometimes friends or relatives.


My mother would seek odd modeling and actress jobs, many times just odd jobs or waitressing while my stepfather refused to work while he got arrested time and time again for theft, fraud and a plethora of other felonies he committed.


The Sacramento, California legal system was a complete joke! Not once while they placed him under house arrest, at a home we were squatting in nonetheless, did they take notice of our black eyes, cuts, torn clothes, malnutrition or the fact that we weren't in school. They were just concerned that he had his ankle monitor on. Which never stopped him from traveling across the US. It also didn’t help that our mother was mentally ill and our stepfather hardly laid a finger on her either. Until I finally saw my moment of escape.


In the State of Oregon at the age of 14yrs old you can choose which parent you’d like to live with and while my mother continually tried to paint my father as a monster I figured even if that was true anything was better than this hell.


So at 13yrs old I took an opportunity and got on a train for Klamath Falls the week of my birthday. I was so nervous I kept feeling like I was going to get caught and have to return to my nightmare. 


Here I was making my own personal heroic Oregon Trail to freedom. To this day I will always love trains. From my euphoric treks with my Grandfather to the train museum in Yreka, to the once a lullaby as I’d fall asleep in my partially roofed room in the attic of our shack up in Rocklin California to finally my freedom Amtrak train rescuing me from the jaws of my past.


Certainly this is all pretty heavy stuff to read but this is part of my history and nothing can change that. However, what I’ve learned is that when you see someone that’s hurting, nervous, or afraid please understand  they're fighting a battle and they need allies.


So today I want to encourage you to think about the monsters or harsh events in your life. And remember as long as there's air in your lungs there is hope! We all need this hope even if it's to escape in the middle of the night and never look back.

Thank you all so much again for reading & thank you so much to all the friends & heroes in my life that have given me comfort & encouragement to share my story. 📖

-Jesse

The Clueless Poet

It was 1997 and I was a self appointed beatnik. I had a pony tail, wore a beret and went to poetry readings. At 15yrs old I most definitely marched to the beat of a different drummer. I thought the Bible and Socrates had the keys to understand everything of meaning. I played bass guitar in a Christian rock band called Pre-Resurrection and we thought we were deep.


If you're feeling a silly urge to slap this kid you're not alone. But even more than my coffee drinking, bass playing, 90's Christian Rock vibe. I thought I was a poet. I thought from the Odyssey to Dante that the great artists understood lyrically the world around them. Sure I was grasping for any ounce of maturity I could find and this was definitely a proto nerdy incarnation I was going through. But I dug it man. I did. To me being in touch with my soul, talking about Jesus and both things non permanent and the permanent was where it's at.


It all felt like a second skin to me until I began writing poetry for girls I liked. This is where I started taking notes from Walt Whitman and T.S. Eliot. These authors knew sadness. And sadness spoken in flowery language from my 15yr old brain 🧠 expressed to the opposite sex that you were interesting.


Well so I thought. Now there was a cute girl in my youth group that I had a huge crush on. She made me feel out of breath and a pain in my chest. Her name was Rhea. She had blue eyes and fair skin. Each time I tried to connect with her I felt like I was just stumbling over my words. It was as if my very mouth and brain were betraying me.


Well this is were my genius came to play! I would write her a poem! Yes this would win her over, my wordsmith studies would not be in vain! So I remember staying up all night crafting the most delicate poem. Describing how I felt about her and all expounding on all her many many qualities from her eyes to personality and beyond. I then placed this poem in the mail and sent it away.


Unfortunately she was on a mission trip so she didn't receive it for over a week. The next time I bumped into her she was visibly uncomfortable. Rushing ahead I recited a few lines from the poem and even handed her a necklace which I had purchased for her. I remember it was sterling silver and had blue gems 💎 in it, this was the first piece of jewelry I ever purchased for a girl. She looked at the necklace and pocketed it. Then she decide to talk on about how she read my poem. Looking at her eyes I began to apologize to her and she began to spout on about her boyfriend and how great and cute and wonderful he is!


I was shocked and embarrassed. She had already had a boyfriend? When did this happen? Was this real? I later talked to a friend of hers at the youth group and it was legit she had a boyfriend but she just never talked about it. Why? I really have no idea! We weren't friends I just liked her and she was just clearly not interested in me. But infatuation can give you blinders. You can humiliate yourself in front of someone you have feelings for and it can reveal how clueless you are.


That weekend after my embarrassment I was at my fathers parents place and I spoke with my cowboy 🤠 grandfather Don about what happened. We barely spoke about really anything if I'm being honest. He was a pretty closed off guy and hardly showed any emotion that wasn't serious or laughter. Grandpa Don was for the most part emotionally unavailable, much like my own father.


My Grandpa Don begins to tell me an array of what I still consider bad advice about how it's foolish to tell a girl how you feel and never to write anything down because it'll just embarrass you. But I never saw it that way. Sure I was mistaken that somehow magically my poetry would make this girl have feelings for me but poetry did it for me! Poems made me feel good. And sure it was embarrassing, heck it's a little embarrassing now retelling this but I don't regret it for a second! I was and am in touch with my emotions. I think it's important to know how to express them. Yes you need discretion to know who's the appropriate person to share them with. However I'll never be ashamed for expressing them. Emotions are personal truths welled up inside us.


And it's this unabashed romantic inside me that kept me open when I discovered my wife and best friend, Katie. Sure I was a "Clueless Poet" and a total dork. But I'm cool with that. Yes the beret, pony tail, and Christian rocker personas have all melted away but I'm still a lover of a good lyric and a lover of poetry.


Thanks so much again for reading 📖

-Jesse

19 & Homeless

It was 2001 when I was 19yrs old and ended up homeless. I had enlisted in the military because I wanted to go to college and that was the only door available to me at the time. Then 9/11 happened and my recruiter pushed out my departure date. So I had to wait another two months to leave for my military training. Well being a kid of 19 I hadn't saved much money beyond my date that I was to leave. So my father said I could do some grunt work at his company, to pay for rent while they let me stay at his house for the two months they pushed out my military date.


However, about a month into working for my father I ended up slipping off a ladder and breaking my arm. That day my father fired me to avoid having me file a worker’s comp claim, then he booted me from his house since I couldn't work to pay rent. The military getting news of my broken arm un-enlisted me. So having nowhere else to go I had to live in my van.


So here I was homeless, with a broken arm and I had to live in my van. By now it was entering early winter time and it was getting below freezing at night. Since I had no money and I couldn't get any work until my arm healed up I was living off animal crackers and dry top ramen. I soon got pneumonia and a chronic cough - even to the point where I was coughing blood. Eventually my arm healed but I was still very sick and it wasn't until I received my tax return that I had money to purchase some antibiotics.


This was one of the saddest times of my life. While this is an uncomfortable story to write. For a time it was my reality. This is where even though stories like this happen all the time. Stories are at the cornerstone of who we are as people. Stories have meaning!     


Stories can give us the power to relate and relay strength, change,heart ache, loss, joy and a plethora of other personal truths. Stories are so much more than a way for us to be entertained and escape reality. We are not alone. Sometimes we need to get real!


If you've read the Hobbit there's a powerful illustration of this villainous dragon named Smaug that ruined a whole city just for the dragon's greedy pleasures. Now there are dragons in our lives sometimes. And even though it's beyond us to imagine how we're going to deal with this impossible monster, that creature is laying on top of an incomprehensible treasure. So let's slay these dragons together and enjoy the treasures of being truly who we are!


Thank you all so very much for reading and I hope this particular post let’s you know you're not alone, and to take courage and care. And if you feel led to reach out to me via email (jesse@mrbray.com) - perhaps you'd like to share a piece of your pain or story I'd be honored to listen. Even more so I highly recommend to please also consider seeking assistance from a certified mental health counselor. They can guide you step by step through your pain like I have. Thank you so much again. 📖


-Jesse

What's For Dessert?🧁

My grandfather, Papa Neil 👴 was the king 👑 of breakfast foods, especially pancakes. He would make such elaborate pancakes - some with multiple colors and shapes. He'd often  make ninja turtle 🐢 pancakes or even spell out the first letter of your name in your favorite color pancakes 🥞. 

 

It's such a treasured memory that I've even started perfecting my own flapjack flipping skills for my wife and nieces. My Papa Neil's recipe was a bit usual but at the same time classic. He always used Bisquick and seltzer water for his batter and lots of real butter on the grill. He used to tell me "the secret to a perfect pancake is to watch for the bubbles. Once the bubbles are mostly all gone it's time to flip. Then you remember to let the other side cook for approximately the same time it took for all the bubbles to pop." And it works like a charm. Perfectly golden brown pancakes every time!

 

While my Papa was the king of breakfast on occasion he'd take us out to breakfast - usually after church ⛪️. One of my fondest memories is when my Papa took my baby brother, Ian and I out to a pancake house. I got pigs in a blanket and my little brother got chocolate pancakes with chocolate syrup, strawberries 🍓 and whipped cream piled on top. My little brother, Ian about three years old at the time, smiling ear to ear and face completely covered in chocolate 🍫 exclaimed right after finishing the last bite "Ok Papa, what's for dessert?!"  

 

We all laughed, though I'm sure Ian wasn't joking he could of gone for dessert haha. 

 

Food is a wonderful way we can connect with our loved ones. Be that pancakes or dessert it's this reminder that food can be the most basic thing to make someone or yourself feel loved. 

 

So today I encourage you to look for a bit of dessert in your day - be that to reminisce on a fond memory or make a new moment.

 

 

thanks for reading 📖   

-Jesse

My First Crush ❤️

When I was 11yrs old I experience my first real crush. Now I had liked other girls beforehand but it wasn’t until I was 11yrs old that I experienced the sorta puppy crush that consumes your thoughts. Like you know what I mean, you can’t get the person out of your head. You dream about them, you obsess about them and all you want to do is climb to the top of a mountain and profess your undying love for them.


Well herein lies the problem. She didn’t know my name. Worse yet she in fact would never ever know my name. Why? Because she wasn’t real. She was none other than Rogue from the 90’s x-men animated series. That’s right my first crush was with a fictitious woman. This super babe, and member of the x-men, Rogue was the love of my life! Well as far as I understood it.


Here I was having awkward dreams of my super powered girlfriend flying me around the globe like a sack of groceries. If this is painful to read to just imagine how painful this is to write haha.


However, this is where the story gets really painful. At this point in my life we were living in this dilapidated house in Rocklin, California. Our home was a stones throw away from the railroad tracks. So frequently used were these railroad tracks that I couldn’t roll over and fall asleep until I heard the sound of a train whaling its cacophonous lullaby.

 

To add more necessary details to this story my room was in the corner of the attic - the house had suffered a fire so I was able to the see the stars at night without any sheetrock, shingle or physical roof to hinder my view. My bed was a sleeping bag on a single particle board that connected between two beams.


So on this one particularly starry night I gazed into the gigantic moon thinking of my lovely mutant crush, Rogue, as the nightly train soared across the tracks. So like a trained animal I fell asleep. Unfortunately I had forgotten to zip up the sleeping bag which kept me anchored in my bed, the safe piece of flat ground between the ceiling beams. So nestled in another romantic dream of Rogue and I flying around like I was Jasmine on Aladdin’s carpet, we started to come crashing to the earth. BOOM! I had rolled off the particle board into the ceiling and away from my sleeping bag. I came crashing through the sheetrock into my sisters room hitting my shoulder on their bedpost tumbling to the floor. Talk about a rude awakening!


So as the annual romantic date night approaches us let's try not to crash to hard from our crushes. Happy Valentines Day! ❤️



Thanks for reading 📖


-Jesse

For The Love Of Tacos 🌮

The following is a story that took place while I was working at an orphanage in a border town in Mexico.


Life at the orphanage was relaxed. Day in day out things were pretty chill. We’d get up early in the morning and take care of the kids, feed them, bath them then go about our day doing odd tasks around to keep the place running.


On one particular day we had a visitor that came to the orphanage that swore he had found the greatest thing ever! He called it “Squeezy-Toes” (most likely a Spanish transliteration of exquisite) they we’re bacon wrapped hot dogs. And he had promised that he would gladly trek anyone of us away from the orphanage for a visit to this allusive and delicious hot dog truck some 40miles away. Well it was fair to say I was more than a little intrigued, being myself at the time a professed bacon-addict!


So off we went on our culinary adventure! These hot dogs were amazing! So I decided on that day whenever I could break away from the orphanage to go on a foodie quest I was gonna headset with this visitor. The next time he arrived he now talked of the greatest tacos he had ever had! I didn’t need convincing! “Let’s go bro!” And like promised these were the greatest tacos I’ve ever had in my life! Honestly still the greatest I’ve ever had in my life! However, this story didn’t have a happy ending. While they we’re the most delicious tacos I had ever had they were also the worst gastrointestinal experience of my life. I had caught Montezuma's revenge - basically to spare you the gory details my body was a two way volcano. It was a waking nightmare! I seriously prayed for death! It was just awful. But then a little time had passed. And despite almost dying the memory of those life changing and life threatening tacos crept back in. I started dreaming about them both asleep and awake. The tacos we’re like a tune stuck in your head that you just couldn’t shake. They were calling to me… Jesse we love you! I WANTED THOSE TACOS! Looking back as a grown man I have no idea why I was possessed over those tacos. I’ve never before or since ever had this level of lust for Mexican food.


So the next time the visitor arrived I demand him take me to those tacos! And like before in my mouth they were heaven wrapped in corn tortillas but in my stomach it was time to pray to my maker to save me from exploding.

 

Yes tacos from a questionable vendor in Mexico might not be wise. But this is a story were as silly as my love for tacos was that I draw strength from. Why? Because it taught me to laugh at the little bit of crazy we do when we’re in love. And in a strange way I feel like a badge of pride as I channeled my culinary hero 🦸‍♂️ Andrew Zimmern - a man famous for his love of food. Almost dying for authentically delicious food...there's worst was to go I'm sure haha!


Thanks for reading 📖

-Jesse

Wolverine Was My 4th Grade Tutor


It was the spring of 93’ and I was failing the 4th grade. From the parade of F minuses on my incomplete homework assignments and failed quizzes It was pretty clear I was going be held back a year. However this was no surprise when you looked closer at my life.


My parents got divorced when I was 6yrs old which interrupted my schooling quite drastically. Divorce is messy for those that have dealt with it in any capacity. Adding to that my mother moved us around a lot. Her being a fledgling actress and model our lives were in a constant flux. My 1st grade year I missed six of the total nine months of that school year. From 1st-4th grade I switched back and forth to eight different elementary schools. If it wasn’t for my Uncle giving me a spider-man comic, which I mentioned in a previous story I don’t think I ever would of got over my fear of reading with my dyslexia. So here I was clearly marching towards having to repeat the 4th grade.


Then in stepped my Grandmother. I’m not sure why it was this was particular time she put her foot down and got involved - guess I’ll never know, yet I am forever grateful. My Grandmother was a retired school teacher and she taught me the basics of doing my homework before drawing or playing. But more so than that My Grandmother paid attention enough to know how to reach me. She saw how hooked I was on the X-men cartoon and how much I loved Wolverine. She would take me out after school twice a week to an ice cream shop that sold her favorite diabetic candies while she helped me do my homework. Furthermore she said if I got good grades she would send give me a Wolverine comic every week.  One particular time she gave me a Wolverine action figure with retractable claws. The enthusiasm it gave me was the lightning in a bottle! This was a turning point in my educational career. I saw an immediate reward for my efforts which out weighed the boredom of school work. And then soon I fell in love with libraries! It wasn’t enough to just read comics I wanted to learned more and more!


I especially loved reading Encyclopedias since they contained snippets of myths and other interesting stories I wanted to learn without having to read an entire book. The library became my Xavier’s school for gifted children and where I would continually find inspiration for my art and personal comics. In less than two months time I went from an F student clearly looking to repeat the 4th grade to a straight A student winning awards in the Odyssey of the Mind club. It is here where I gained my official nerd status! I loved learning! And while it was the hands of my Grandmother that taught me to buckle down and do my school work it was the claws of Wolverine that hooked me on knowledge and I was never going back!


We all have defining defining moments yet I wouldn't of realized how pivot it was until decades later. This love of libraries and study habits would be my salvation in the years ahead of poverty and trials.


We all have origins of the good and bad things in our life and today it's my heart to reflect on the powerful positive experiences.



Thanks for reading 📖


-Jesse

Warnings ⚠️ & Declarations

As those who are aware this blog lives on my company website - Mrbray.com. So while these posts live on my website they are the opinions and experiences of myself Jesse Bray. The owner of Mr. Bray Studios. 

My company isn't some publicly traded company with stock options or fancy offices. Mr. Bray Studios is just the legal name for my brand. While currently I talk about my team or team dynamics it's truthfully myself that makes up most of my company. Yes I have a "team" of goto artists that I call upon when the projects are right or require the additional help. However, I'm just a small fish in an ocean of all other studios trying their best to stay competitive and a float. If this confession turns you away from my studio I'm at peace with that. Honestly I'm more at peace that I'm expressing my limits. If you think I have the resources of a large studio or that I have command over an army of creatives you're sorely mistaken. I'm just one man that has some great friends, creative partners and some wonderful connections to help you possibly with your design or animation projects. 

What that means is you're hiring me! The "Mr. Bray" - not someone that hangs out under an umbrella of core values or underlings that sorta align with my values. You're hiring the person that wears all the hats at Mr. Bray Studios. And yes if the project is large and wide and requires the "team" I make that happen for you. But I'm your goto contact. What that also means is that if there's a glaring oversight or mistake on the blog or this website it's my fault. I'm just one person. My overhead is lower than a large studio but I'm hungrier than they are!

 

What that also means is while I share opinions and life experiences here in my blog they reflect me not a group of other people's views. They're my values. I'm not hiding behind a brand to pretend like I'm not without my own very personal thoughts on money, or politics or faith. I'm not afraid of a social media disaster - I'm not concerned or "significant" of a figure for that to matter. What that means is if you read something that resonates with you that's genuine and if something rubs you the wrong way understand it's just one persons personal point of view. 

I'm giving these "Warnings & Declarations" because I believe that anyone interested in working with me deserves to know what I stand for and what I don't. I believe that in order for me to expect you to be brave enough to trust me with your creative babies I must prove this first by being open, honest, and bravely vulnerable too!

I also believe that if we're honest with ourselves and recognize we all have dirty laundry 🧺 we won't feel so ashamed about our need for help. I'm just a regular guy with an extraordinary story but that's in the end just a regular guy. 

 

Thanks for reading 📖  

 -Jesse

The Scorpion 🦂 & The Frog 🐸

There once was a great flood that was taking place and all the creatures nearby the river were fleeing for higher grounds. All except a lone frog 🐸. The frog was just enjoying the rising currents in the river and watching creatures scurry. Until the frog heard the cries of a scorpion 🦂.


The scorpion 🦂 cried out "please, please save me, save me!" Tiring of hearing the scorpion's cry the frog replied. "Why should I do that? You'll obviously sting me and we'll both drown!" Nonetheless the scorpion continued to cry out for help. Until the frog replied once more saying "I'm not going to save you! You're a scorpion and you'll for sure sting me and we'll both drown!" This time the scorpion replied I swear I won't sting you I swear it!" The frog worn down and now convinced let the scorpion hop upon the frog's shoulders. As the frog was half way across the river the scorpion stung him. The frog in agony looked at the scorpion and said "you swore you wouldn't sting me! Now you've killed us both!" The scorpion replied "you knew my nature when you let me upon your shoulders". Then they both drowned beneath the waters.


Often times the moral of this story is that it's foolish to trust a person you know to have a cruel nature. Or another phrase that " a tiger can no longer change its stripes than for a person to change their nature." However I have an alternative thought to this story. You see the frog was unlike all the other creatures that fled from the rising floodwaters. My take is that those who relish in drama will invite tragedy. The frog was a tourists while the scorpion was a karmic suicide assassin. Perhaps the nature of the scorpion was to great to resist the urge to sting the frog even at the risk of its own life. Yet the frog deliberately placed itself in danger.


I blame the frog and the scorpion. Avoid drama or the game of drama and you'll avoid being roped into an unwanted tragedy. Yes avoid people that have proved to be scorpions but avoid floods in general and you'll save yourself a greater risk.


This is just my take on a classic fable. Thank you so much for reading 📖.


-Jesse

Why I Retired My Podcast? 🎙

Fair warning ⚠️ this is a super heavy post.

 

For those new to this blog I used to have a podcast called "Go Forth & Nerd 🤓". While I enjoyed the podcast for almost two and a half years I felt it's time had ended. Why?

 

Well I can partial give a stock answer that it ran its course or I grew tired of it. Sure that was most likely a small contributing factor. However the greatest reason is that I wanted to dive deeper and deeper into my personal life experiences that the premise of the podcast lost its light hearted rudder. I wanted to talk about trauma and events that formed who I am. I eventually told some stories that exposed some devastating relational rifts. Primarily with my biological father. His responsibility for me being homeless, me almost dying while living in my van, and his absolute glib attitude about it (a story I intend on retelling in a later post) ended our relationship. I had for many years overlooked the toxic relationship. Therapy can help you remove some really dirty lenses.

So plainly put there was family drama. In the life of the podcast my Grandfather and Mother died and the realization that my father was a monster. My repressed memories and unhealthy acceptance of his behavior just pushed me to not be able to continue my podcast. Which was an important and positive thing for me to do.  

Why am I taking the effort to share this? Well a large part of my renewed mental health is removing the decades old muzzle I've had and finally sharing my stories. We all have pain and that pain is going to be uncomfortable to share. However if we're brave we can learn to love ourselves. And sometimes what might start out as a creative expression can be a personal growth you never knew was possible!

 

I encourage you out there to create and as you're creating don't be surprised if it changes you in the process. 

 

Thanks so much for reading 📖  

 

-Jesse

Footloose & Fancy Seats 💺

 

(Another story from my Papa Neil)


My Papa Neil used to travel often for work in the 80's. And occasionally on a particularly long flight or if he was able to afford it he'd spring for a first class ticket. Now back in those days they'd still provide you a meal on your flight but the meals he said they had in 1st class were excellent. Filet mignon, steamed vegetables, lobster 🦞 you name it, it was top shelf stuff. It was a gourmet experience. I'd like to assume it's still this way for those springing for the finer things, I've only ever flown coach.


So back to my Papa Neil treating himself to an equivalence of a spa day in the sky. Suddenly a slim bearded 🧔 young man sat next to him. They got to chatting like my Papa always liked to do, he really was a people person and quite gabby(which I totally get from him).

Long winded and rambling, it's genetic haha!


This guy starts to tell my Papa some clues that he's a musician and whatnot. Well my Papa was too so they exchanged lots of banter back and forth. My Papa before he became an electrician used to play with the jazz musician Vido Musso. Then as the plane had landed he wished him luck in his music career and off he went.


Not much later my Papa caught a video playing on tv and he saw the same musician he had so recently enjoyed a nice chat with. And it was Kenny Loggin's the famous artist that wrote classic tunes like "Danger Zone" and you guessed in from the title "Footloose".


My Papa always had a flair for treating everyone the same. No ceremony he was just pleased to have someone to chat with. At the same time at the end of the day Kenny Loggin's was just a normal dude. Sure he was pampering himself with a fancy seat 💺 maybe because he could afford the extra comfort, let's be honest flights will never be as comfortable as a car or a train ride in my opinion, nonetheless every day is an opportunity to make a friend even if for a captive moment.


This story is a reminder to me that even when I'm treating myself there's always a way to include others in some way. Plus it validates my love of chatting with approachable people for the shear joy of it.


Thanks for reading 📖


-Jesse

Toe Shoes 👞

Now for a lighter story.


Years ago I read an incredibly inspiring book called "Born To Run" 🏃. It stirred a desire to take my the hobby of running to the next level. Running was at that time really the only exercise I enjoyed. I liked the mechanics of it - put your head down and place one foot in front of the other. Seemed straightforward enough.


Well after reading this book 📚 that basic understanding was challenged. I was constantly falling off the wagon of my exercise routine because of injuries. So with my new found knowledge I decided to spring for some alternative foot wear - trail gloves or as I call them "Toe Shoes".


They're quite unusual looking if I'm being honest. And having your toes separated by fabric just felt a bit weird. However aside from my calf muscles working like they've never worked before, my other runner related aches and pains had all but disappeared. So I decided to wear them in a more public setting. I started wearing them on the bus.


Now this one time I walked up to the bus there was a character waiting at the same stop. I say character because this particular guy most definitely marched to beat of his own drummer. He wore a paper Burger King crown 👑, his headphones 🎧 with ears pointed outwards blasting his rap music, all the while singing 🎤 along word by word in a very loud and public karaoke like display.


Let's call him the "Paper Burger King"👑. Now the Paper Burger King always kept to himself, even though drawing a lot of attention by his behavior. He wouldn't make eye contact with you or even return a morning hello. Everyone and everything was dead to the world to this guy. He was clearly eccentric. Until the day I wore my Toe Shoes 👞 to the bus stop. Something in his brain 🧠 seemed to struggle with my attire. He couldn't stop starring at them. Then occasionally glancing daggers 🗡 back at me. Even when I multiple times tried to make eye contact with him and a friendly smile he seemed visibly upset by my shoes.


Now I started to feel self conscious. I slowly started to feel embarrassed by my tastes in footwear. I was getting shade for wearing something that made me feel comfortable. I wasn't hurting anyone and I was just being proactive about something I took interest in. Sure it might of been an odd looking piece of fashion. But it was my choice. I slowly started to feel lower and lower during the bus ride.


Finally that evening I took off the shoes feeling like a dummy. Then it struck me. This whole time I was allowing myself to be passively belittled by the Paper Burger King! This guy didn't know me. He wore a paper Burger King hat in public and he was clearly an adult. Why was I letting someone rob me of this thing I enjoyed?!


I've recently been going back to therapy for dealing with some repressed experiences. Some of which stories have and might continue to bubble up in this blog. But the one thing I discovered about a good therapist. Is the non judgmental approach. My therapist is so open and affirming that it has spoken to me in such an amazingly profound way! It's silly to allow others to choose how we feel. And the harm we do to ourselves by giving them permission to be cruel is a down right travesty.


So today if you're feeling the itch for  flair that makes you feel you go for it! And don't let the Paper Burger Kings bring you down!



Thanks for reading 📖


-Jesse

Breakfast For Dinner 🥞

At four years old and hungry I went to go find my daddy. He was in the bathroom but I had to let him know that my sisters and I wanted happy meals for dinner. As I walked in on him I saw that he was sniffing a strange powder and rubbing his nose. I got sidetracked for a moment then said "daddy can we have McDonald's for dinner ?"


My daddy perked up in an usual excited tone. Smacking his lips and pinching his nose. "You guys want McDonald's! Cool yeah I'll get you guys McDonald's!" As I scurried out of the bathroom in glee I ran to tell my sisters the good news. My dad then left without us noticing. The Night seemed long but uneventful. The three of us kids, my older sister six years old, myself four years old and my younger sister a little over two years old, were left alone all evening.


We all feel asleep in the living room, my sisters on the couch and myself on the floor. Our dad never returned that night.


The next morning I was awakened from sleeping on the floor to my sister chatting and eating breakfast. It was cold McDonald's breakfast and my dad was passed out on the couch.


Looking back I have very few early memories of my father. My parents were separated most of the time, then they finally got divorced when I was six years old. So having any memories where we were alone with my father was exceptionally rare.


The interesting thing about time is how the older you get a memory that seemed etched in your mind but without reason can slowly come to make more and more sense. My father was doing cocaine in the bathroom and ready to dump his kids with the eldest of us, my six year old sister. He never returned because he was out partying. And it's an important note that McDonald's in the 80's didn't serve breakfast all day like they do now.


Why am I telling you this story? Well truthfully I could of easily titled this "The Origin Of My Daddy Issues".  It is here where it all began.  My desire to have a father. It wasn't until I realized later that the closest thing I would end up having to a father growing up was actually my grandfather, Papa Neil. Papa Neil was amazingly kind and loving to me. He listened to me and made me feel valued and important.


You see we're all hungry for love, acceptance and affection. We're hungry for "dinner". But it's a cruel and negligent parent that gives you "cold breakfast for dinner" so to speak. While we all need heroes and guidance at least the worst of us can serve as bad examples. Knowing this in itself can help us understand what we truly need in life. So I encourage you today to ask yourself what it is you're in need of and don't settle for "breakfast for dinner".


Thank you so much for reading 📖


-Jesse

My Inner Kingdom 👑

My bedroom was in the attic in our Rocklin California home. I was ten years old and I loved staring at the moon through the burnt slats and large missing portion of the ceiling. My bed was a sleeping bag and pillow on a particleboard between two beams. The only way up or down was by a ladder that my stepfather would remove at night when it was time for me to goto bed. I had to be careful slipping into my sleeping bag because most of the attic was exposed or unfinished. If I rolled even slightly I could easily fall through the ceiling onto my sisters bedroom, which happened once, or even worse I could fall straight onto the concrete kitchen floor.


We were squatting in a house that had sustained a large amount of fire damage, primarily the roof top which was where my attic sleeping area was. Luckily it hardly ever rained. But I remember fondly a summer breeze that would rush across my face, the moon as bright as day and the soft sound of the crickets outside. We were also less than a stones throw from the railroad tracks. My grandfather had instilled in me early on a love for trains. Though I know now he wouldn't ever allowed us to squat in this dilapidated house if he had a clue. Nonetheless late in the evening the low rumble, the teeth chattering sound of massive engines and steel gears would tear through the night air. And each night it was the most soothing lullaby. It even got to the point to where no matter how tired I was I just couldn't fall asleep until I heard an evening train cut through the nearby tracks.


This of course is a bittersweet memory in many ways. I was exceptionally poor and had little to myself. Yet it was these evenings looking into the moon, the scent of train tracks and the summer breeze that gave me the greatest waking zen I had at this time. For once I had fallen asleep I was no longer the pauper kid in a charred attic but a king of worlds. It is here were I discovered my greatest super power. The power to escape through my fantasies. And the most wonderful thing about this inner kingdom was that no cruel force could take this away from me. This peace was always just another nights rest away.



Our dreams can be our sanctuary. They can offer a salvation for waking nightmares or a sweet escape to a better present. My dreams saved me and have for many years. As a grown man I now see that dreams while wonderful can often dilute the importance of being tethered to the happiness around you. Yet this particular time I vividly remember finding my peace by discovering my inner kingdom.



Thank you all for reading this very intimate and personal story 📖


-Jesse