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

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 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 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

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 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 advice

Death of or by Worrying

Life is a beautiful and complicated thing.  Everyday we are challenged with constant decisions that we have to make, for ourselves and those we care about.  Those decisions have impacts that go far beyond what we may have intended, and have a butterfly effect that may go on long after we are gone.  Our children, their friends, nieces, and nephews, can be very impressionable and one thing that was said or done may have an impact on what they do in the future and how they interact with the people in their lives. 

If you sit and think about the ripples you can have on others lives and how they may turn into waves, you may spend a lot of time worrying about whether you have had a positive or negative impact.  But what good does worrying do?  This is something that I think most, if not all of us, deal with, we spend a lot of time thinking about the past and the present that we don’t take time to think about the future.

When something goes wrong in life, we look for who to blame.  The person we blame tries to excuse his decisions or actions.  But is that really the point, consequences should not be about revenge or punishment, but about rehabilitation, and preventing something from happening again.  When we make excuses, it is because we are worried that taking responsibility will lead to a punishment we don’t want.  The problem here is that both the accuser and accused aren’t thinking about fixing a problem for the future, but just want the satisfaction of being right.  If the accuser is clear that they just don’t want the transgression to happen again, then the accused can take responsibility and change the way they act in the future.

But so much time is spent worrying about what could or might happen, that we don’t take the actions to change what is going to happen.  Don’t let the worry monster kill you, instead slay the worry monster. Worrying will not feed you, it will not heal you, and most definitely it will not fix anything, only your actions, in word or in deed, can do that.