Author Archive

I was dying of Cancer.

Beautiful.

A Few Things About Cancer

Caleb and Jada Mock

My dad inspired me to make my first video blog.

Last January, Dad was a member of the Effingham County School Board. When I was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma, he announced that he was resigning to spend more time with me. They published his story in the Effingham Herald, our local newspaper, under the title “Mock Resigns to Help Son Battle Stage Four Cancer.”

I was in the hospital when the paper was published. I had become bored in between rounds of chemo and “Clash of Clans” and checked Facebook to pass the time. Wow! The world (well, Effingham County and parts of Statesboro, Georgia) thought I was dying! A few friends and acquaintances wrote tear-jerking letters about me and people who I had never met made comments about my impending death. My little corner of the internet seemed broken. So, being the engineer that I am, I had to…

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Remembering Nana Dot

Before the turn of the century, Nana Dot and George were chosen to be the Grand Marshall’s of the Brooklet Peanut Festival, started by Dot many years ago. As children, my sister Beth and I rode with The Roebucks, going through the streets of Brooklet as thousands of people lined the streets. While we rode, it seemed like she knew every last one of them and taught them all. Though I had accompanied her to so many other community and regional events, it was in this moment that I realized how important Nana Dot was to her community.

From a very young age, she instilled the value of community in me, and often in the context of its historical importance. We would go to visit historic sites in the region, be it a church, house, or cemetery, and Nana Dot would provide the entire backstory for why it was important.

And boy, did she ever have stories. Some of them were funny. When George began classes at what was then Georgia Teachers College, Nana Dot made her first impression on Statesboro by getting a speeding ticket on her first day in town. Only a few hours later, George’s housemother stopped him on the way to class to say, “I’ve heard that girl of yours is a fast talker.”

Others were more serious. When she was a postmistress, it was her duty to inform families that their loved ones had died on the front lines of World War II, even when that news reached her own household with the death of her brother Charlie. These tales and many others taught me something about the world, the places she had been and the extraordinary people she had known.

As the youngest of eight children, she understood the value of family and cared very deeply for the well being of her own. Nana Dot was my biggest cheerleader when times were good and the best shoulder to cry on in times of trouble. When my own father was sick and dying in the hospital, it was Nana Dot that was there for hours on end, just to sit and reassure me that we would be okay.

Throughout my life, she showed just how much she cared, hosting every birthday party and coming to every event, while spending countless hours just enjoying our company.  Often, this was done while eating a delicious meal. Now I know that everyone says their Grandma is the best cook in world, but in Nana Dot’s case, it was true. I don’t think I will ever eat better Hoecakes, Pot Roast or Dressing again in my life. Even now, I can almost taste it.

A few years ago, Nana Dot took me to the recently purchased Roebuck plot in the Brooklet City Cemetery. Situated only a few yards from what was the Brooklet Elementary School, she told me that they had picked this spot for a specific reason. When she was laid to rest, she wanted to hear children playing for all eternity. A mother to all, she found joy in nurturing other people’s happiness. She never gave up on anyone, helping them grow into the best person that they could become.

On that Peanut Festival morning so many years ago, it was a bright, sunny day, perfect weather for a parade. As we waited for the festivities to begin, I sat in her lap as she held me tight, telling me all about the events that were going to take place that day. I sat and listened attentively in her embrace, because more than anything, she was important to me.

Reflecting on Steve Jobs

Growing up and reflecting upon my years spent at Reidsville Elementary School in Reidsville, GA, one of my distinctive memories is walking into Anna Shuman’s Gifted Classroom and seeing assorted “Think Different” posters hanging around the room. Specifically, one with Jim Henson that you might recall.

Our school did not have Apple computers, strictly running Microsoft Windows 3.1. In fact, I was a little too knowledgeable, hacking into and crashing the school system server in 4th grade (on accident, of course).

But at home, we had an Apple II where I first played “The Oregon Trail” on an 8.5′ Floppy Disk. Beyond saving my family from dysentery, in those early years, I used our Mac to start imagining my future. Designing imaginary databases of people and creating assorted office materials, I imagined myself running a company, something that all of my friends and family knew about.

This evolved into something known as “The Kids Club,” and it was The Kids Club, not simply “a” kids club. For one of my elementary-aged birthdays, one of our family friends got me a brown briefcase filled with office materials that would help us run the organization.

As the club grew to double digits, we would organize a multi-day “summer conference” in addition to our regularly scheduled monthly meetings, all utilizing these databases created on that Apple II.

Soon, the Apple II was out-of-date and the company was fading (so I would learn later) fast without Steve Jobs at the helm. Our family upgraded to a Packard Bell with Microsoft Windows 95 on it, along with tons of software, including Spiderman Cartoon Maker, a program that first taught me how to tell simple visual stories.

There is a funny fact about filmmaking, the simple truth that your career is not only dependent upon your creative output, but also how well-known and organized your work is to a demanding public. If I had not spent all those early years learning how to run a fake business on an Apple II, I seriously doubt that I would be experiencing my nominal success today.

Like Steve Jobs, I came back to Apple. Visiting Goodwill in 1998, there was a used PowerPC with Mac OS 7 in the store across from Georgia Southern University in Statesboro. It was fully functional, selling for only fifty dollars. After begging my parents for it, I had my very own computer again.

I’ve owned Mac products ever since, including an iMac, iBook, iPod Color, the original iPhone, three MacBook Pro’s, the iPhone 4, and an AppleTV.

I remember taking my iBook with me to High School, and everyone wanted to know what it was. No one else was using Mac products in my area at the time, it was still too niche. It was the first edition of Mac OS X, simultaneously running Mac OS 9 in Classic mode.

I used OS 9 for only one thing — a Hollywood Mogul game where you developed movies from conception to release. It was very basic, but it was my first taste of what it was like to run a production company.

Through all of these things, though I was an avid reader, the Mac first gave me a platform to imagine things for myself. I was able to look beyond my town of 150 people, to move past my K-8 school with 600 students, and create a world that was all my own.

Looking back at the posters of the “Think Different” campaign, while it was strictly advertising, it represented something more to the people that used Apple products; the innovation of the man who guided the process, Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs understood the importance of surrounding himself with people who could better execute his vision.

Running a creative company demands collaboration, and those that are most successful know it cannot be done alone. When he returned to the company in 1997, Apple was rotten to the core. A myriad of bad business decisions and misinformed creative choices had put the company in a rut for which many expected it never to recover.

But Steve had bigger plans, older and wiser than he once was leaving Apple in the 1980’s, innovating through his work at NeXT Computing and Pixar Animation Studios. I don’t have to tell you the story of Apple’s rise over the following decade. The products that my classmates once wondered about are now household names and industry standards.

Walking into that gifted classroom that day so many years ago, I was being tested for entry into our county’s Gifted program for exceptional and talented youth. Through the Galaxy Program, students were pulled out of regular classes once a week to study more comprehensively and creatively.

I didn’t pass the test that day, much to my own personal frustration and to that of my teachers, who knew I was bored in the regular classroom. Completely impatient, I rushed through the test so I could get on with my next task. But as you learn, life is not about being the fastest to the finish line, but being the most consistent.

Initially, Steve Jobs set out to change the world, only to find resistance. On his second attempt, he learned from his mistakes and went on to build the world’s greatest technology firm.

Throughout time, the earth has been given pioneers who have pushed the limits of what simple minds did not believe to be possible. When man was not given wings, the Wright Brothers believed we could fly. Dreaming of a connected world, Henry Ford made the automobile accessible for everyone. Looking to the stars, John F. Kennedy believed humans could walk on the moon.

In these times of political, social, and economic unrest, perhaps now more than ever, we are called to think differently about what is possible to make the world a better place.

Jim Henson’s The Muppet Movie remains to be one of my favorite films. In that picture, Kermit the Frog sings “Rainbow Connection.”

I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it.
It’s something that I’m supposed to be.
Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me.

In many ways, a man I never met helped me to start chasing those dreams. I hope it is beautiful on the other side.

Thanks, Steve.

Everything I Learned At Georgia Southern: Senior Year

In my final four weeks as a Georgia Southern student, I’m going to look back at how each year has defined my life and has led me to where I am today. This is part four of the four-part installment.

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” he wrote, “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…and one fine morning…we beat on, boats against the current, bourne back ceaselessly into the past.”

A few months ago, one of my classmates realized that he once lived in the same apartment I have dwelled for the past three years. When people move into previously occupied spaces, we rarely think about the previous tenants, because the space becomes our own.

I remember very clearly the day I moved into 734. It was a hot Saturday in August, and there were boxes upon boxes of new things that had been purchased specifically for my first apartment. That day, my Mom had to work, and I had to move in alone. With the help of my friends and their families, things got done pretty quickly, and soon enough, everything stayed where it was put.

Over the past few years, there are countless stories these things could tell. Living room pictures could speak about palate nights, when we put big blankets on the floor and our friends slept over. The kitchen silverware would remember Thanksgiving Dinner’s and Community Breakfast’s, as everyone would chip in with something to eat. Even the bathroom towels can recall nights when we celebrated too much, and were forced to clean up.

The first thing you notice when you start packing is not so much the things, but the items taken off the wall. As the pictures frames, posters, and personal belongings go out, all that remains is an empty room. It is such a strange feeling, because we grow comfortable with this place that we call our own. You see, the home we have built is not with glass, concrete, and stone, but with the people that occupy the frames we pack, capturing moments that live on forever in the snapshot.

In College, you take a lot of classes and learn many lessons along the way. Yet the things you remember are not the campus activities or responsibilities managed, but the quiet moments when you needed a family that was ready to help at a moments notice. You see, in life we rarely have the opportunity to know people as intimately as we do now. Here, we have true friends who can finish sentences before we start saying them. It takes years to form such relationships.

Robert Herrick once wrote, “gather ye rosebuds while ye may, old time is still a-flying, and this same flower that smiles today, tomorrow will be dying.” Four years ago, this moment seemed an eternity away. Many of the people and things that once defined my life have faded into the past, but I remember and appreciate them all for changing me in that moment.  While many of us will remain friends, moving on to do great things, our relationships will never again be what they are today.

When people go in and out, life becomes like a moving truck.

Some things we keep and some we discard, while others get lost along the way. But through each experience and encounter, we learn something about ourselves, as everything we touch defines who we are becoming.

Someone else will soon live where we lived, as others did before. Our very existence will fade into obscurity as the people that knew us leave this town to live their lives as we do now. But for an all too brief moment in time, these walls were ours, these moments we shared, and our life soon again is redefined.

As we drive away, our rearview mirror bourne ceaselessly into the past, there is a portrait of every single being who touched our lives. Some are clearer than others, as memories guide us across the years to moments we never forget.

For those, I am eternally grateful.

Everything I Learned At Georgia Southern: Junior Year

In my final weeks as a Georgia Southern student, I’m going to look back at how each year has defined my life and has led me to where I am today. This is part three of the four-part installment.

There is this uncomfortable feeling that sets in as you become a junior. It is not something one can identify with a moment or experience.

Instead, a general sense of foreboding creeps in as you begin to wonder what will happen next in life. You have made your college friends, while leaving behind the high school relationships that did not matter. There is enough distance between you and the past to enjoy the present, but something around the corner becomes a constant bother.

I was not sure who I was entering my junior year. While I had forged my identity with friends, there were parts of my life that were not satisfying at all. For too long, I had served my own self interests before thinking about the way they impacted other people.

When that emptiness set in, it made me wonder why I came to college in the first place. Was it because I saw it as the next step in my life journey? Because my family expected me to attend? Perhaps it was neither. I started asking myself, what passions make me get up in the morning, excited to start the day?

For me, it was creating film.

After producing a big project upon graduating from high school, I had just finished directing my first feature documentary. It was winning some national awards and getting into film festivals.

The thing about film work, though, is a demand for consistent quality and frequent output. I knew that if I wanted to get where I wanted to go, it would require extra work and longer hours. Just because one project was successful did not guarantee that people would pay attention to a 20-year-old.

Soon, the activities that exclusively involved my friends would be adjusted to advancing my professional career, slowly breaking away from the social life I had come to enjoy. There were skills to learn and opportunities to build.

To better prepare my professional presentation, I became a Southern Ambassador, learning to sell a message to strangers. To better manage a group, I was elected to Delta Tau Delta’s Executive Board, working with our national office to keep the local chapter running. To become a better steward, I joined Student Government Association as the Publicity Coordinator, getting involved in my campus community.

While these things never replaced relationships, a burning passion for my future had grown over the course of the year. As it came to a close, I began to realize everything I came to enjoy about being a college student would soon fall away, as the “real world” started creeping its way into my life. There were bills to pay, tasks to manage, and events to juggle.

I realized that uncomfortable feeling was transition, moving from youth to adult responsibility.

Everything I Learned At Georgia Southern: Sophomore Year

In my final weeks as a GSU student, I’m going to look back at how each year has defined my life and has led me to where I am today. This is part two of the four-part installment.

Towards the end of my freshman year, me and several of my fraternity brothers started talking about getting an apartment together. Being the meticulous person that I am, we went to every complex in town to look at flyers, units and compare features to decide what would be the best place to call home. We thought it would be nice to stay put for the next three years, but certainly didn’t plan on it.

Though visiting each other frequently, we went our separate ways for the summer, soon to discover a new fall season upon us. Compared to my freshman year, it was a much different experience this time around. Despite the fact that I was moving again, it wasn’t to an unknown territory or quantity. It was with the people who I had grown to know well during the past year.

For the first few months, we pooled our money together for groceries and a “family dinner” every night. In fact, we shared pretty much everything, from cookware to laundry detergent, with no arguing. Our close, intimate circle grew bigger, as the friends of our friends grew to be part of our circle.

We were practically inseparable. Without many campus responsibilities and intensive classes, we were able to spend countless evenings together, going out or staying in, while experiencing countless activities in each other’s company. We began to know each other better than any of our friends in high school. Together, we took weekend trips and distant journeys to places like New York City, moving as a single unit.

Somewhere around February, we started to realize that the end of the academic year would mark the halfway point in our college career. It didn’t seem like it could be so, because we just started the year before. Friends began to be accepted into their upper division majors, while others didn’t meet the qualifications and had to readjust their life goals, all within a matter of weeks. It didn’t seem right or fair to make so many big decisions in such a short period.

At the end of the year, we had a luau party that everyone went to. After a few too many drinks, we all went swimming in the pond next to a house on Cawana Road. The mud was thick as we walked around in it, and suddenly, someone had the bright idea to start throwing the mud around. Soon, we were all drenched in the thick, black substance. No one was angry, though, not just because we were drunk, but because we had become more than friends – we had become a family.

It didn’t matter what choices we had to make or what directions we were heading, because in that instant, we had each other. While I knew we would continue to be friends, soon we wouldn’t have time to spend evenings together, travel, or have family dinner.  Because for the first time in our lives, no matter where we lived or what we did, it was time to start growing up.

Everything I Learned At Georgia Southern: Freshman Year

In my final weeks as a Georgia Southern student, I’m going to look back at how each year has defined my life and has led me to where I am today.

The first thing I noticed was the license plates. There were so many people from different parts of the country, with backgrounds much different than mine. In the parking lot of Johnson Hall, I moved in by myself because my Mom had to work. Collecting my things into the orange bins, I realized things were going to be different than in my town of 150 people.  At home, everyone knew me and all of my life history. Here, I was just another freshman.

I went to a fraternity party with a friend of mine from high school. Never even considering Greek Life, I found it interesting, but didn’t plan to do anything with it. After a long night of partying, the president at the time convinced me to sign up for rush; he even filled out my online registration.

In the “interview process” you go through during Rush, I overheard someone with the same interests. We went to IHOP for a late night snack and hit it off quickly. While I didn’t end up getting the bid that what I wanted, I made a friend that would end up sticking by me.

After a failed Greek attempt, I hung out with my friends from high school. It wasn’t bad. They were my friends after all, but I wasn’t challenged or experiencing growth as an individual. Everything was the same as it was, just in another place.

Soon after, the fraternity reconsidered their decision and invited me to join. So began the process of becoming Greek, and my life changed forever. Suddenly, I started to see things in a different light, looking at people in different ways, learning to get along with people that I wouldn’t have ever thought about hanging out with otherwise. I started to participate in community service, leadership activities, and considered getting involved in other organizations my brothers took part.

Some of them were great, and others weren’t for me. Unlike high school, where you had limited choices, here there was the chance for opportunity and diversity. The absolutes in life were no longer as clear, with new ideas and viable alternative lifestyles that I had never experienced.

While Johnson Hall doesn’t stand anymore, the principles that surrounded my first impression still stands. In college, you meet a lot of different people, some who accept you for who you are presently, while others recognize that together, you can become something better.

College becomes like a moving bin; you put things in, you take things out, and sometimes, you don’t have help to guide you. But along the way, you discover that being here means more than what you are.

It means where you happen to be going.