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I was dying of Cancer.


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.