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My First Blog Post

Reality Unfiltered

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

I want to thank everyone who has decided to read this blog. Most of the time it will be funny, always unfiltered, and depending your point of view it can be controversial. The topics will vary wildly depending on my day. Politics (both of corporate America and government), religion (from a more practical aspect), and life in general will be touched on. The blog will always be open to thoughtful discussion, but idiocy will not be tolerated. I hope that all of you that decide to follow will enjoy what I post, whether we agree or disagree.

Posted in advice

The Need for Forgiveness

Today is my dad’s birthday, so I went to the cemetery to put some flowers on his grave.  His death has not been easy, and the breakdown he and I had 4 years ago makes it even harder.  It is one of the reasons that I write so much about forgiveness and patience.  We had a falling out from what I believe was a misunderstanding that got out of hand.  I lost my temper and said things I wish I could take back, all because it didn’t seem like what I was saying or texting were being understood.  After I blew up, my parents were mad at me, and made it clear through my brother, kids, and my friends that never wanted to see or talk to me again.

Over the years that passed I felt like I was trying to reach out to apologize.  My kids would always go over to visit them, which I did stop for a little bit, because my kids were coming back with stories that were not true, and I had proof to support it.  I would send my mom a birthday gift every year, and the gift I would get was to keep up with a tradition we started before our fight.  I got my dad a gift for his birthday about 4 weeks after our fight, and because it was from me, he sent it back with my kids.  Two years later I got him another gift, and he kept that one.  He did not make it another year, and he passed away on my 40th birthday.

When I went to the hospital he had already passed, and that was the first time I had really seen him in 4 years.  When I saw my mom at the hospital, we agreed it was time to put everything behind us.  Just to be clear, I was responsible for that fight, and I should not have lost my cool.  I just wish my parents would have accepted my olive branches and forgiven me before my father passed.  I don’t know what I could have done differently because I felt like I was respecting their wishes by staying away. 

While I do not feel guilty, because I believe I did everything I could to patch things up.  It doesn’t change the fact that I wish I had a better last memory of my father alive.  All of the places I looked for what to do, really only addressed parent and grown children problems, from the child cutting off the parent and not the other way around.

I tell you this story, because if you are the parent of an adult child seeking your forgiveness, please do.  Because tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us.  You may pass before patching things up with your child, or worse, your child may pass before you.  Unfortunately, time machines do not exist, and the only time you really have is now.  Leaving this world with anger on your heart is no way to go, so just let it go, what do you have to lose in rebuilding a bridge instead of leaving the rubble.  My dad is finally at peace, it just would have been nice to say “Hello” on last time.

Posted in advice, perspective

The Positivity of Patience

As most of you may have noticed, I have tried to keep things pretty light recently.  With so much fear out there, I didn’t think focusing on the negative was going to be helpful in any way.  It is easy to be negative, and sometimes it is really funny.  It is funny to point out the stupidity of others, or the lack of common sense we see all of the time.

But this is where patience can really be helpful, because the first thing that we need to do is establish the perspective of the person we are frustrated or annoyed with.  If they are an arrogant prick, it feels really good to bring them down a peg or two.  But if they were someone doing something they thought was right, it is hard to be mad, and a lot easier to talk things out.  But, in both cases patience is warranted, because you need to take a step back and try to figure out what your endgame is with each person. 

You should want everyone to become better.  Either better people in general, or better at the task at hand.  Making some feel angry or on the other side, stupid, isn’t going to get you where you need to be. 

If you make someone angry with you, they are only going to try to make you look foolish or relish in the times you fail.  If you trying to accomplish some goal, having your teammate try to trip you up every step of the way isn’t getting the team their any faster.  It is this short sightedness, that many of us live in, because we thrive in the instant gratification we get by venting or making a prick feel stupid.  If we focus on the long game, we can see that this pettiness isn’t moving the ball down the field, instead it is stagnating in one spot, or worse moving backwards.

If you make someone feel stupid or insecure about what they are doing, they will slow you down too.  But in this case, it is out of fear, and they will constantly be second guessing themselves, and taking forever to do whatever task you have given them.  They will do this, and never come to ask you a question because they are afraid of making you angry or disappointed.  Instead of actually trying to work against you, they are the clumsy player, so worried about making a mistake, that all they can do is make mistakes.

That is thing, it is easy to be the angry teacher, coach, supervisor, etc. and that is usually what we do.  I was one of those people, and I am still fighting to not be one of those people.  It is always easier to deal with the nice timid and worried person, because with an asshole you just want them to fail.  But in both cases with patience and perspective you can get the whole team moving in the right direction.  As a leader, sometimes you may have to take a bullet just to get everyone to focus on the goal.

Posted in advice

SMILE, Darn ya Smile!!

Smile!!!  No matter how you feel, no matter what you have to fight through, smile.  The amazing thing about smiling, is that even when you don’t think you can, just by forcing it you can feel better.  The power of happiness, has a placebo effect, because while flexing some muscles in your face shouldn’t be able to do anything, somehow it does.  The placebo effect, has been documented to show that the mind can help you deal with symptoms of disease, but most importantly pain and stress. 

Your brain will release endorphins and dopamine to make you feel better.  It is a similar effect, that is suspected in why zero calorie sweeteners (natural or artificial) can make you gain weight.  When your brain senses sweetness, it tells the pancreas to produce insulin, but without any sugar in your blood, that insulin will make you gain weight.  So, to a certain degree, your happiness is in your control, and just that simple act of smiling, may actually make you feel happy.

This isn’t to say that you need to hide your feelings or not deal with them, but attack them with a smile on your face.  Don’t let anything steal your happiness, focus on what you do have, instead of what may have been lost or never attained.  There is always a silver lining, you just may have to look harder for it this time than the last time.  The most important thing is not giving up, and a smile may actually help you get through whatever it is.

The other thing to think about is those around you dealing with their issues, seeing you smile may help others get through their day.  Almost everyone, has a beautiful smile, and even those that are missing teeth, or maybe haven’t been to the dentist in while, SMILE.  Embrace what you have and share some happiness, so that we all can make it through the day, and maybe make tomorrow a little easier.

Posted in perspective

Stronger

Life isn’t fair, and sure as hell isn’t easy.  But we are not defined by the obstacles, but by the triumph, or failure.  Failure is a lot harder, and when we fail, rarely do we do we acknowledge that we just weren’t good enough.  Humility is rarely the response to failure; the response tends to be excuses.  Not that the opponent was just better, but that we weren’t playing at our hardest, we were tired, we had a lot on our minds, or whatever we can think of.

But what if we accepted that we just weren’t good enough, and in the acknowledgement, we got back up, trained harder, studied more, or practiced intensely.  We can only get better by first accepting our short comings and work to build ourselves up, no matter what the problem.  Excuses only allow us to stay the same and never get better.  If we never get better, we will never grow and we will never move on or up.

The harder the trials, the more we have to work, and once we beat one trial, life will throw another one at us.  It never gets easier; it only gets harder.  Yesterday was easy, today is hard, and tomorrow will be a beast.  No matter how hard it gets, we can never give up, there are other people counting on us.  Whether they be a spouse, kids, friends or co-workers, we are not islands and everything we do ripples to someone. 

The good news is that we are not alone, we have friends and family, who may not always be able to help us, but will be willing to try.  And in dire situations, there are hotlines, volunteers, outreach associations, charities and first responders that can be called.  No matter what life throws at you, never give up, and never be ashamed to ask for help, because you are loved.

Posted in advice

For the Love of Money (and the Death of Peace)

What can be said about our motivations in life?  There are plenty of reasons why we do what we do, and I touched on it a bit when I went down the path of being motivated by love or money.  The problem with money, is that it does motivate us, and sometimes the love of money motivates us do to the wrong thing.  After we have made the money, we use it for things that we enjoy or that our family and friends may enjoy.  But when we spend that money, it can become a tit for tat, on who owes what to who. 

And while I do not want this book to turn into a theological discussion, there are some practical aspects from the Bible, that if we applied to ourselves, we could have more peace in our lives.  The expression that comes to minds is “But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back.”  The point is that when you lend your money, expecting to get repaid, it can harm the relationship you have with that person.  On the other side, that person, should want to repay you. 

I, myself, do not like being in debt to others, and I usually offer to pay, and don’t worry about how much everything cost.  If I go out with my friends, I expect to pick up the bill, because I don’t want to sit there and nit pick over who had what and what is fair.  The point of going out, isn’t about the cost, it is about having a good time, worrying about money at the end will ruin that.  If I can’t afford to pick up the bill, I offer for people to come to my house, or we can meet at a park, and have pot luck, or I just don’t go out.

This can also apply when parents get divorced, it is easy for the parent paying child support to get mad about having to pay that money.  Especially when, it may be that the receiving parent may not be spending it wisely.  Unfortunately, worrying about this isn’t going to change anything, just let it go, and focus on making sure your children are happy.  In this situation, the kids are the most important thing, and kids are smart, they will figure out who has their best interests at heart.  And when they grow up, they will remember who took care of them, and try to take care of that parent, and throw the other one in an abusive nursing home.

Another verse to remember is that, you will reap what you sow.  If you look past the things that don’t matter, and focus on the things that do, you will find a lot more peace, because you will be sowing peace.  Fighting about nonsense will only breed more fighting, and fighting about money is the most nonsensical thing out there.  Love your exes and your enemies, and don’t worry about the money you may give or lend them, it just isn’t worth it.

Posted in perspective

The Life Worth Living

Life is an amazing and wonderful thing if you sit down and think about it.  While I am not saying there aren’t aliens out there, it seems ridiculous all of the things that had to come together to make sure that we could survive on this planet let alone come into existence in the first place.  First the sun had to come into existence alone, which is odd according to a lot of astronomers, they usually form in pairs.  It couldn’t be too big, because its gravity would pull everything in, and it couldn’t be two small or it would not provide enough heat. 

Then all of the planets had to form.  Ours had to form at just the right spot, so that it wouldn’t be to hot or to cold.  In the beginning there was a problem that our planet was spinning to fast, so a moon formed, exactly how is debatable.  One theory is that it is partly made from Earth, after it was struck by a large asteroid.  But we need that moon to slow down the rotation of the Earth.  Then there is still the sun to deal with, we need it for its heat, but it also puts out a lot of radiation that can kill us.  So our planet has a core of liquid metal that is rotating, that generates a magnetic field and protects us from all of those rays.  Then single celled organisms riding on asteroids impacting our planet, mutate and evolve to create plants, and those plants and bacteria create oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen that then creates our atmosphere.  And after all of that animal life starts on this planet, and eventually we come to be.

But our solar system gave us guardians too, to make sure those same asteroids that started life on this planet don’t wipe it out too frequently.  Jupiter and Saturn are the greatest guardians, there gravity is so massive, that they redirect the asteroids or take the bullet for us.  They have missed a couple of time, but it is a good thing they did, because life would be a lot more difficult with dinosaurs running around.  The new Jurassic World movie with give us an idea of what the world might be like with giant murder lizards running around.  We are freaking about 2-inch murder hornets running around, can you imagine a 20 ft hungry lizard wandering through downtown.  Better yet, a 50 ft monster that needs second brain in its butt to move its back legs, it may not eat you but it won’t notice if it crushes you.  I suppose the closest we humans will ever get to every animal trying to murder us is, well, Australia.

And we still haven’t gotten into how amazing the life itself is.  All of the difficult systems that have to work in harmony with each other.  DNA sequencing, that if it is just a little off, can have horrible repercussions. But we can talk about that a different time.

In the meantime, just realize how many things had to come together so you could exist.  And you are the only one of you, and your life has meaning to so many people and you may not even realize it.  No matter how bad things get, just remember someone loves you, they may not have said it in your love language, but you are loved.

Posted in advice

Don’t Sweat it

I have written about worrying before in this blog, but I find in my conversations with people that they spend a lot of time doing it.  Not saying how we feel or what we may be thinking because it might hurt someone’s feelings.  Not doing what needs to be done because we worry about how it may be taken.  Worrying about what other people have, and trying to keep up with them.  Worrying about what other people do with their money and their time.

Worry is a symptom of a greater problem, and for every person the disease may be different.  The problem is that a lot of times we put ourselves in the very situations that we start to worry about.  To a certain degree life is a constant comparison between us and our peers.  When our friend gets a new car, we have a desire to have a new car.  If our niece or nephew excels in something, we want to push our kids to excel in something too.  When our kid gets into the advanced classes other people push their kids to get into the advanced classes.  And when it comes to colleges, rivalries and allegiances are built there, and we start putting these expectations onto our kids.

I think everyone needs a good dose of humility.  We can be happy with what we have, and try to plan for a better tomorrow.  We don’t need to the newest or best thing, what ever that may be, a house, a car, or a fancy diploma.  Because chasing those things will lead to worry about how your going to keep paying for them, when you lose your job, when the main income provider passes away, you get divorced, or any number of things that can happen to reduce or eliminate income.  If you don’t want to worry about money, worry about getting out of debt before getting nice things.  Learn the difference between want and need.  Then only buy the nice things you want with the cash you have.

Don’t sweat the small stuff.  As a father of three, I can tell you it is tempting to try to push your kids too far.  When it came time for them to decide on their classes, they were all accepted into the advanced level classes.  But I told them not to waste their time on advanced level classes that they had no interest in doing when grew up.  So, they went into advanced level math and science, because they aren’t going to be English professors or historians.  Not that it doesn’t look good on a college application, but advanced classes take up a lot of time.  I would rather have A’s in all of the classes than teetering between a B and C, not to mention the needless stress of studying. 

Plenty people brag to me about how their kids are in advanced classes, but also tell me how stressed out their kids are.  If my kids don’t make to an IVY league school, I don’t care, because diplomas are about value, in my opinion, not status.  If you spend $200,000 on degree, that lands you a job that didn’t require a degree, or maybe it did, but the most you will ever make is $80,000 a year, is it worth it?  If someone has a degree from Harvard, does it matter if they are living under a bridge?  While the someone else is making $150,000 after going to trade school for a couple of months and can weld.  What has the most value, and who had to worry more?  Was it worth it?

As a parent, I think more of our time is worrying about our kids, while trying to keep an illusion up.  We don’t want to admit to our kids the mistakes we made, and acknowledge that they were mistakes.  We just want to tell them not do stuff, because we know the result.  Without telling them that we did it, they don’t think we understand.  And if we don’t acknowledge we made a mistake in our youth, they see us as hypocrites.  So many of us seem to forget that that is exactly the way we were as kids too.  If you are worried about your kids, we have to break this cycle.

This is one of my longer posts, but if there is one thing I hope you can take a way it is this, change the things that you can, let go of the things that you can’t, and seek the wisdom do know the difference, but don’t worry about something when you have done everything you can.

Posted in advice

May the Force be with You

May the force be with you on Star Wars Day, May the 4th, get it.  If you don’t it’s ok not everyone likes Star Wars.  But I don’t think we should limit this sentiment to one day out of the year because it sounds so close to a phrase we hear in a Sci-fi franchise.  And it reminds me of something we say at church every week “Peace be with you,” if you speak Spanish you say “La paz.”  The full expression is “The peace of the Lord be with you.”

The point is we really should have this mentality daily, not just weekly, monthly or yearly.  Wishing some walk with the power of the Force, the universe, behind them or the peace of God in them, should be something that we do all of the time.  I know it is not something easy to do, especially with people who have brought harm to you.  But regardless of your spiritual beliefs I think we can all agree that wishing anything but peace and fortune to anyone can weigh on you, if not spiritually, then mentally.  Another way to look at it is from another movie, and just “Let it go.”

When we stay angry at someone, we have let them take our peace.  We have given them the ability to control our happiness.  When we let it go, and forgive them, we can then accept peace into our heart and mind.  It isn’t easy, but not letting others control your feelings can be the best revenge, and forgiveness isn’t about them, it is about you.  Forgiveness can be selfish, because it is about you, and whether you decide to let someone else tie a stone to your neck.

So, if there is someone in your life that has hurt your, or pissed you off, on Star Wars day, and every day, let it go, have peace, and may the force be with you always.

Posted in perspective

Here’s to the Good Life

One thing I am guilty of is probably having little to no shame.  It became clear when I was challenged to post a message saying that I dance like a unicorn in a tutu in my kitchen when I get bored.  It was for autism awareness and when someone likes or comments on your post you challenge them to pose the same message.  What was so funny about it, was how many people responded that they actually thought I would do something like that for real.  Given that response I might actually do it.

Sometimes we take ourselves to seriously, and I know from going to my daughter’s volleyball games there are a lot of parents that do.  There is nothing wrong with it, but why not let yourself go and have a little fun.  I am not saying that people should be rude, and me cheering and supporting for my daughter’s team is NOT me jeering or hating the opposing team.  I love my kids and I want them to know that I am willing to make a fool out of myself so that they know it.  But I get on the sidelines wearing a Deadpool shirt that says “Maximum Effort” with pom-poms cheering her team on.  They seem to do better when they are laughing and enjoying the game instead of worrying about making a mistake or losing.

One other dad would typically join in on the shenanigans, but we could not get any of the other parents to join.  Usually no one wants to embarrass themselves, but it is for the kids, there really isn’t anything better than making your kids laugh and destress.  We all have our ideas in our mind about what certain people behave like.  When people see me acting like a clown, no one can believe what I do for a living.  To a certain degree I now thrive on defying the stereotypes people have.

But why take yourself too seriously?  Making people laugh is a good thing, and being able to laugh at yourself can make you a better person.  Life is too short to be worried about if people respect you because you are stoic, they should respect you because you are good at what you do.  And instead of judging someone because they are silly, maybe we should give people a chance to prove themselves. 

Have fun in life people, you only have one of them, might as well enjoy it.

Posted in perspective

Love or(/and) Money (The Real Choice)

Why do we get up in the morning Monday through Friday versus sleeping in?  Chances are it is because of a job, a job that may be loved or hated.  So, I have always been of the opinion that we have the jobs we have because we either love them or we get money out of them and that offsets the hate we may have toward them.

If you are one of the lucky few, you may get paid enough to live on and also love what you do, congratulations on winning the lottery.  But a lot of us do what we love and struggle to get by, or we slog through the week to make enough money that we can take care of ourselves, family, and maybe some extra for doing fun things or other hobbies.  I am an engineer, I enjoy the people I work with, but I can’t say math and science are things I love to do and would do for free.  Maybe there are some people out there who do calculus and physics calculations for fun, but I am not one of them.

I write this blog because I enjoy it, but other than some pennies that I get in ad revenue, I am only doing it to blow off some steam.  Other people play sports or video games, some watch, others may build models, or sing, or dance, or act, and some are so good people voluntarily pay watch or buy.  That is the marketplace, where through choices we each make we dictate how much value something has.  If it has value to us, we will pay for it, and if it doesn’t, we will do it ourselves.

When I call the plumber, it is because I don’t want to deal with problem I am having and I will pay what he asks, shop around if I don’t like his price, or do it myself if I really don’t want to spend whatever everyone is asking for.  That is my choice, same goes with the AC, electricity, yard work, etc.  The people doing the work, may love it or love the money they get from doing it.  But ultimately it is a choice, and I do not have a right to anyone of their labors or products.  Doctors and nurses fall into this category too, if they love what they do, they may choose to do it for free, but if they want to get paid, that is their choice, and how much I am willing to pay for their services is my choice too.

My point is, I don’t have right to their services, and regardless of my insurance situation, they can choose to take insurance or not.  If a doctor or nurse wants to accept cash only, they can, and if they are really good, they may be able to do that.  But thinking that insurance equals medical care is silly, because plenty of these professionals choose not to take insurance, just like some stores don’t take American Express.  When they love their jobs, they may not charge a whole lot, and they may even volunteer to do it for free.

I can tell you, if my engineering services got deemed a right, because people feel they have a right to streets, clean water, gasoline, and electricity, I would change my profession to something I like more or get paid more to do.  And if I was about to start college, you can bet that would affect my decision on what I would major in.  That is why the great freedom of being able to choose to do what you love or do it for the money is so important, because when your services get deemed a right to others, eventually you do it because someone is pointing a gun at you.  At that point, you don’t do a great job because of the reward you may get, you do the minimum you have to, to not get shot.

I have cousin who still lives in Cuba, she is a nuclear physicist, she gets paid $10 a month, because she needs to keep the power up, and if she doesn’t, she will be imprisoned or shot.  When she is done, she chooses to sell coffee to tourists, because she makes $20 a day.  She does one to not die, the other she does for money so she can enjoy life a little bit more.

The United States is a great country, because when we graduate high school, we can choose between what we love and what will make us money.  We can choose where to spend that money, and we can choose if we are willing to make someone else rich, or try to be rich ourselves.  We can also choose to not care about the money and do what we love.  And who knows, people may love what we do out of love, so much that they make us rich.

The power to choose is what eventually makes us all rich, rich in the ways that matter to us.  At the root of all choices I contend is the choice between what we love and what makes us money, and if we are lucky, we can have both.

Posted in perspective

The Illusion of Control

So, I know it has been 2 months since I posted anything, but man, what a crazy two months it has been.  The beginning of the year looked so positive and promising, and here we are, dare I say, all of us asking where the reset button is from 2020.  It is a like a video game that went sideways early on and instead of trying to slog through the rest of the game, it is just easier to start over.

That is the thing, though, time does not stop, and flux capacitors haven’t been invented yet, but I still want a DeLorean.  We pretend that we have control over our lives, and to some extent we do, but when it comes to the time, we leave this world, we have almost none.  You can get your annual check-ups, you can watch your diet, and exercise, but that isn’t going to save you from the idiot driver who isn’t paying attention.  Shoot, you can live a healthy lifestyle and still have a heart attack, like one of the trainers from the Biggest Looser

My dad was probably one of the healthiest people in my family, did everything he was supposed to do, and one morning he had a heart attack, and we lost him that day.  With everything going on this year, my grandmother could not attend his funeral so she could say goodbye to her son.  And while this virus is bad, we were told early on that it wasn’t worse than the flu, then we shut everything down.  Now, as we get more data, we find out it is a little worse than the flu but not that much worse.  The flu has a mortality rate of 0.1%, but studies done in New York show it may actually be closer to 0.5%.

For context we currently have number of deaths attributed to covid-19 of about 63,000 per the CDC at the time of me writing this.  We have been dealing with this virus since early February at the earliest, since the cases before that were brought over and quarantined from out of the country.  The flu in 2017-2018 killed 79,400 according to the CDC, and in 2018-2019 it killed 34,200 according to the CDC.  The number in the 2017-2018 season are worse than the latest models for covid-19 that predict about 74000 deaths according to the University of Washington models.  But we have a vaccine for the flu, and we have nothing for covid-19, and the vaccine in 17-18 was 40% effective.  That is not great but it is better than nothing.  Could you imagine if the vaccine didn’t exist what that flu would have been like?

Even with those rates, people still don’t want to get the shot.  I use public restrooms and wash my hands like I am going into surgery.  I even use a towel to grab the door handle when I leave, because I see a bunch of people who take a shit and just leave.  I watched an episode of Mythbusters where they proved that there was almost nothing you could do to keep poop off of your toothbrush.  Now I soak my brush with Listerine before I use it.

The only difference I see now, is that it is on the news all of the time.  It is like school massacres, you would think they were just a phenomenon that started in the 90s.  But just do a google search and you will find they have been going on since the 1840s, and the worst one being in 20s, and I mean the 1920s.  We don’t remember them, because they were local events and not all over the national news.  These are terrifying things, and I am not advocating for people to not be aware or precautious.  But life is dangerous, we can all build bunkers that are hurricane and tornado proof, with disinfecting showers when you enter and hermetically seal behind you.

At the end of the day we are all still going to die, we can choose enjoy the life we have and accept the risks and possibly die young.  Or we can be miserable, eat only healthy foods, exercise frequently, never really have human contact for fear of disease, and still die young, because of all of the stress we had worrying about being healthy.  No matter how anyone may feel, there are just things that are beyond our control, and no amount of worry or stress will change that. 

But please, wash your fucking hands in the bathroom, if you really don’t think you need to, stop using toilet paper, then maybe there would be some in the stores.

Posted in advice

The Kids We Want

It has been a while since I have posted to this blog, but I have been busy, and coming up with good topics can be challenging.  This post is going to touch on parenting, mostly because I am a father of 5 children, both boys and girls, and step children as well as my own.  So, either I have been fairly fortunate or somethings were done right.  Because with the exception of one of my step kids, the other 4 are turning out to be ok.  Even the one step kid is bad, but we don’t really get along.

One thing I always tell other parents, is you get the kids you want.  Now that may sound ridiculous, but I am trying to say that your actions truly dictate your wants.  If you worry your child will be mad at you, and you don’t correct the behavior of the child in a way that they understand, then they will never behave the way you may say you want.  Don’t the blame the child for this, your actions in this case, tell the child that the behavior you may say is poor is actually ok.  Particularly with small children, they aren’t going to understand a well-made case of logic and reason, but isolation or a small gentle pop on the hand or backside will discourage reaching for things that may be dangerous.

Giving attention to a temper tantrum, will only tell a child that the tantrum is an acceptable way to get attention.  With my kids, a tantrum got them put in their crib or their room, and I would not talk to them until they were calm.  When they started school, if they did not behave, I would take all of their stuff away, and give them homework of my own.  When their teachers told me how good they were, I would reward with gifts or a special event, like dinner at a place of their choice.  Their mom, was always nice to them, and I was generally viewed as the mean parent.  But when I went out with my kids they behaved, when she went out with them, they were rowdy, and she would not want to go anywhere with them if I didn’t go along.  I have gone on several trips with the kids when it is just me and the kids, and no one else to help me. 

While I may be the mean parent, I feel like I have good relationship with my kids, we talk about things I never spoke with my parents about.  I never sugar coat reality with my kids, and I think it has made life easier for them in middle school and high school.  And to be honest, when I talk to other parents, it seems like they forgot what it was like when we were kids.  I had friends that got pregnant in middle school and high school, drugs were everywhere, but peer pressure was never like they showed on TV.  Most of the time it was an offer, not a social threat against your coolness.  I had friends who died in middle school and high school because of drugs and being stupid when they got behind the wheel of a car.  People who have died, since we graduated high school, or are in jail. 

Because of that, I have pulled out my yearbook and show my kids the pictures of the people who are no longer with us.  I take them up and down the different roads in my town and show them the memorials for the kids that died when I was in high school.  I make sure they know that they are not immortal, and that their decisions have consequences, and that reality doesn’t care what reasons or excuses they may have for what they did.

I wish I would not have had to be the one to destroy the illusions of the world for them, but I think if I didn’t show them the reality behind the curtain, I may have to deal with a nightmarish reality I can’t imagine.  Life is difficult as it is, but I don’t want to be the parent erecting and visiting a memorial for any of my children.  For any parent reading this that has lost a child, just know, that while I do not know how hard things are for you, you and your family are in my prayers.

Posted in perspective

Dilemma of Judgment

“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” how many times have we heard that expression?  It sounds line and it make us all feel good about being judged by the who we are and not what we are.  But how much sense does it really make?  Is there anything in life that you don’t make a split-second decision based on how something looks?

To start my point absurdly, go pet a tiger.  If you do, you will most likely be dead, if you don’t you made a judgment that an animal that looks like a tiger is dangerous.  That judgment was based solely on appearance.  On the other side, reading a book can be a serious commitment of time, and before you even pick up that book, the cover has to entice you to even read the back cover to see if you may like the book. 

The purpose of the statement is that you may like someone for who they are and not what they look like.  If you are in a club, you’re not going to walk up to someone you find unattractive, or someone who is not your type.  You are going to walk up to the person you find attractive, and hope and pray you have something in common.  This doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, it is actually your evolutionary desire for your genetic line to survive.

It is that same desire to survive, that makes us make split-second decisions about other people and whether they will be our friend or want to bring us harm.  We are always looking for things that make us believe we have something in common.  It is they way we dress, the way we carry ourselves, the way we talk, among many other things we visually do that signals friendship or danger.  So, I think it is incumbent on all of us to remember where we are going, and what cover we want to show the people around us. 

But if we put up a leave me alone cover, don’t be pissed when people actually do, and sometimes that cover may make others think you are up to no good.

Posted in perspective

The Ups and Downs of Nostalgia

Today, I was on a work trip to a city close to where I spent a good chunk of my childhood.  I was about an hour and half drive (or a drive to work on a normal day) from Independence Kansas.  It is a small town in southeast Kansas with a population less than 10,000 people.  I was still in elementary school when my family moved out of Kansas and to Ohio, and today was my first time back in over thirty years.

I had a lot of good memories there, and going back was awesome and somewhat disappointing.  When I lived there, the major employer was Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO), but in 1996 ARCO was bought by BP and those offices in Independence were closed.  The building is still there, but not even Google says anyone is in it anymore.  And Riley Elementary School, the school I went to through the third grade, was demolished, and while I can’t find a date, according to aerial photos from Google Earth looks like it was between 1991 and 2002.  If anyone has a date for that, please let me know I would love to know.

But I stopped by the Riverside Park and zoo, known for putting a monkey into space and it looks the same as it did thirty years ago.  It has been well maintained, and it was good to see it, but it did make me feel old.  The pool there looks like a small water park, which is way better than I remember, when it was just pool with a diving board.  I also stopped by the house I grew up in on Catalpa street, it has been remodeled and is blue now(my favorite color, but not sure how other people feel about a house that color), but still felt like home, even though I only saw it from the outside.

After we left, we also stopped by the “Little House on the Prairie” house, where they also have an old school house and post office.  While I am not a hundred years old, going back to my old town after 30 years, and seeing this little historical area, made me wonder how things will feel when I am in my 70s and 80s looking back at something from my 20s.  Because while things looked good, it was still depressing, because of all the good memories I have there, but I have lost contact with all of my friends and their families there.

Enjoy the moments you have as you are having them, because they will change, and when they do, for better or worse, you will miss what those moments were.

Posted in advice, perspective

Life is a Lost Highway

Driving around the country and you will notice that each city seems to have a different way of laying out their highways.  Houston does it one way, and since that is where I live that is what I have gotten used to.  But every time I travel to another city in the US, it might as well be another country, because if you’re not paying attention to the road and looking at your GPS (or map for those older than 45), you will end up missing your turn.

That is when the real fun begins, because you will have to wait for the GPS to recalculate your route, as you miss the next 75 ways to get you back on track.  Never mind if you are in a place with limited cell service, because you will just be screwed, and hoping you don’t wander into “Deliverance” or the places of the country where cryptozoology is popular.  Just go anywhere northeast of Houston on the way to Shreveport Louisiana, if you exit to go to the bathroom, you may never actually get to your destination.  This is why having one of those old paper maps is helpful, you don’t need cell service for them work.

But while your trying to find your way back to your route, you’re not paying attention to the road, and if your lucky you won’t cause an accident.  I have this feeling that almost all accidents are because of people getting lost and waiting for their GPS to recalculate.  For this reason, I am suggesting that everyone do two things, go over your route before you even get in the car, and have a paper map (especially for long road trips).

Posted in advice

The Cost of Cruelty

“You get more flies with honey than vinegar.”  You have probably heard that expression before, which begs the questions….Why the hell are you trying to attract flies?  Most people try to repel them, this is almost as difficult to understand as that one about cake.  But everyone understands this is more about how you get what you may want out of people.  That being nasty or bitter will only repel others versus being nice and sweet will attract people.

But it is just so easy to be mean, it is fun to tell people off when they screw you over.  And if you never have a need for those people again, there are no consequences to telling them off.  But if you do need that person again, pissing them off is no way to get help from them later.  It is generally good to remember your leverage and theirs, along with thinking about who has more.

I generally think about the bill collector, you owe them money, they want your money, but you actually have to decide to give it to them, you have the leverage.  If your credit sucked to begin with, you have very little to lose if you don’t pay them back, and depending on the amount, they may spend more on lawyers in court than your debt may be worth.  So, if the bill collector is being a dick, you can have a lot of fun taking your daily frustrations out on them, they become an easy punching bag, especially if they are being jackasses.

If you’re a bill collector, maybe being nice will get you a lot further than being a dick.  Over and over again we see examples where rewards yield a better outcome than punishments.  That is not to say there isn’t a place for punishment, but having both a stick and a carrot, is better than just having one or the other. 

In the employee and employer relationship, being nice to your staff will get them to actually want to do a good job, instead of just enough to get by.  If they work out of fear, they will always be second guessing themselves, and more likely than not, make more mistakes than if they were just relaxed.  I don’t think most people wake up in the morning trying to ruin someone else’s day, and we all need a good dose of perspective. 

If we are all just a little patient with each other, listen to each other, and remember the end goal, maybe we can actually have a conversation and see the other side.  And then maybe we will get that bill paid or that deliverable completed perfectly.

Posted in perspective

The Relaxing Road Trip

The proverbial road trip, something for those that enjoy the journey over the destination, or the rest of us, because it is cheaper than flying.  But if you are not a fan of driving in a car for extended periods of time, it sure as hell is better than it used to be.  With cellphones, tablets, and way better handheld game systems, you can make your car into a mobile entertainment center.  But a couple decades ago, road trips were boring as hell, and if you were driving, the best thing you could do was try to sleep like a contortionist.

But no matter what decade you have gone on a road trip, never drink too much before you start.  Because you may not realize it from watching TV, but there is a lot of space between bathrooms, so the best you can do if you are in between is go on the side of the road.  If you do opt for this location, you better pray that no police catch you, because if they do congratulations, you’re a sex offender.  With all of the luxuries of being on a list and having to move if you live to close to a school or church.  And that list, will never say why you’re on it, only that you are.

Back to the road trip, has anyone ever noticed how much space is completely unoccupied.  If I were to believe the dystopian future of all the movies, it is hard to imagine that there are places where people don’t live on top of each other.  There is just so much green everywhere, and that was just a three hour drive from Houston to Austin, and we even lost cell service.  It is hard for me to imagine being disconnected from the world, but it also seems like it would peaceful too.  Out there where it is miles between neighbors, I doubt they have high speed internet or cable, they are probably running on a septic system too.  But the thought of it just seems so peaceful and relaxing, maybe when I retire, I’ll go live along everyone else’s road trip.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Thrill and Agony of Competition

Brought my daughter to her volleyball tournament, it started off pretty good. They were scoring points and having fun, but they made a mistake and couldn’t get back on track. They lost the first set and then lost that match. And they lost the next match, and had a break, and soon the last match.
Sports, like in real life, we spend a lot of time thinking about what we did and not what we are going to do. And we focus on people’s past mistakes and not the giving any opportunity to see if things can change. When we spend so much time in the past, we over think and second guess, and end up making worse mistakes than if we would have just seen the new opportunity clearly and not through the lens of past mistakes.
The other thing that happens, is we forget why we are doing what we are doing in the first place. When it comes to sports, they are supposed to be fun. When we lose sight of that, it becomes a stressful job. I see the kids upset when they lose, but unfortunately when you pay a game someone has to lose, otherwise it becomes boring.
We just need to remember, to have fun in life, and if your going to get upset at the thing that is supposed to make you happy, find something else to do.

Posted in perspective

Terrible Teenage Years

Kids are great, particularly at about 2 or 3 years old.  At this age they are still cute, they can use the bathroom themselves, and they still idolize you.  Something happens around 12, that they either become oblivious idiots, if you have boys, or snarky attitude riddled jackasses, if you have girls.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids, but boy do they try my patience daily.

The boys can’t seem to remember anything, they would forget their head if it weren’t screwed on.  I do not remember being that oblivious, but I am sure my parents have some stories to tell.  The boys can’t seem to get their homework turned in, and no matter how close they are to failing, they still procrastinate and fail to manage their time properly.  They would rather stare at the ceiling than open a stupid book, you can take everything away, and they will go up to their room and just stare at the ceiling.  Trying to motivate the boys is almost impossible, you name it I have tried it.

The girls on the other hand just can’t seem to ever be happy.  Even when they are smiling there is a “but” coming your way.  Everything must be debated, ask a girl to do something, be prepared to have a long discussion about why they shouldn’t do it.  Even when you give them what they want, it still isn’t good enough.  Girls seem to always be looking over the fence and wanting the neighbors house, because that grass is just so freaking green, you just don’t understand how green it is.

To be fair, I anticipated all of this, so I set the bar really low for my kids.  I don’t give them what a lot of my peers do.  My kids must get jobs and do chores, to be able to earn their privileges.  They pay for their own cell service, because the 80s and 90s were a thing, and we all survived.  I want to promote communication, and not seeking forgiveness instead of permission.  They want to drive, they better have a job to pay for the gas, insurance, and maintenance.  They want to play sports after school, and they aren’t 16, then they need to maintain my house.  I support them in whatever they do, I believe they must learn to be responsible, and they everything they want has a cost. 

At the end of the day, I just don’t want my 40-year-old kids living with me.  Some people might be ok with that, and that may be fine for them.  But one day I won’t be here, so I want them to be able to take care of themselves.

Posted in perspective

The Infuriating Nature of Traffic

Traffic in Houston is terrible, just call me Captain Obvious, because clearly everyone knows this already.  I bring this up because I think it is evil too.  The drive time between work and my house is 45 minutes without traffic, or as everyone else in the country call it, a family trip.  At least I don’t have kids with me when I go to work, but that would just be icing on my rage cake.

In usual traffic it takes me about an hour and fifteen minutes to get between home and work.  I generally plan on leaving two hours, and every time I do, I end up having an hour to kill, because traffic somehow disappears into the ether. But if I don’t leave two hours early, everyone forgets how to drive a car, it rains, there are sixteen freaking accidents, a train or two, and every grandmother, grandfather and pot smoker decides they want to dive in front of me.  Notice I didn’t mention snow, so now I bet we will get one of those freak snowstorms tomorrow, in Houston “freaking” Texas.

I was on the express lane yesterday, and there was a school bus in front me, at 5 pm.  We also had the complete luxury of coming to a complete stop on the express lane, behind the bus, so there was no way to know what was going on.  Did we ever find out why we were at a complete stop?  Have you been reading this?  Because hell no, we never found out why, traffic doesn’t give you closure.  I am just imagining it was a band of soccer moms watching a soccer game in the middle of the highway.  At least that is good a reason to hate minivans.

And speaking of staring at crap on the highway, would people stop staring at accidents that are on another road and should by all logic, not impact the road I am on.  Whether the accident is on the other side of the highway going the opposite direction, or it’s on a cross street that is after the exit, these should not impact traffic.  So, stop staring and focus on the task at hand, because if you don’t your going to be in the next accident.  At least when I retire, I won’t have to worry about traffic anymore, because my old ass with be the grandpa causing it.