Archives for April 2016

Unfriended…Again

I was unfriended again.

Confession: it is not the first time it has happened nor do I expect it to be the last time.

I don’t know why or when they did it, I just know that one day we were Facebook friends and then one day we weren’t.

If my children were to say they had a similar experience I’d ask them if they were really that close with the other person because not knowing when you were unfriended suggests you aren’t very close.

Since we didn’t have a fight or disagreement I don’t know why they did it.  I won’t lie and say I am not curious about their reason, but I am not bothered enough to reach out to them.

That is probably a good indication of how much value I placed upon that friendship. It is sort of like free advice, it is worth as much as it costs.

It reminds me about a conversation I had with the kids about being tolerant of other opinions.

With the presidential election around the corner they have been hearing a lot of different things from a lot of different people about the candidates.

Some of it has been…nasty.

Everyone Has An Opinion

I have taught them to remember that everyone has an opinion and that we need to respect that.

I have also taught them to be judgmental about who they spend their time with and what they do with them.

In simple terms it means they shouldn’t spend time with people who are going to get them into trouble.

But it doesn’t mean that people who have different opinions than we do are automatically bad either.

We pay attention to what people do and what they say.

It is ok to disagree and it is ok to challenge our beliefs.

It is not ok to live in a bubble and never challenge our thoughts.

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There is not enough of that.

Some of my progressive friends get upset because I tell them I think conversations about privilege are stupid and divisive.

They get irritated because I think economic class plays a huge role in where you go, what you do and what you have access to.

They get irritated because I think trying to eliminate gender specific toys is ridiculous. It doesn’t mean I only want my son or daughter to play with traditional boy/girl toys

It doesn’t mean I only want my son or daughter to play with traditional boy/girl toys because that is not true either

I want my daughter to have access to the same opportunities as boys. I don’t believe gender-specific toys are what will or won’t make that happen.

Maybe that is why they unfriended me, maybe it is not.

If it is it is pretty sad statement about who they are.

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My teenager says he doesn’t see a reason to have a girlfriend and never wants to get married.

He tells me some of his friends are being tortured by girls and he thinks they are dumb.

I nod my head and tell him if he wants to believe that it is ok.

“Dad, you think I am going to change my mind. I am not.”

“I think nature is fighting you on this one but I am not in any rush for you to change your mind.”

“Dad, why do you care if I get married or not?”

I smile and tell him that if it happens it is great and if it doesn’t and he is happy that is cool too.

And then I tell him to consider a few things about men and women.

“I am not going to talk to you about sex and how good that does or doesn’t feel. But I will tell you that the right girl/woman will change your life in ways you can’t appreciate or understand. She’ll open your eyes and you’ll open hers to experiences you can’t have any other way.

There is value in that.”

He nods his head, grumbles and walks out of the room.

I don’t tell him I saw a couple of girls staring at him at the movie theater and that I recognized the giggling.

No need to push any of this, it will happen in its time or it won’t.

Maybe he is right and I am wrong. Maybe he’ll never really be interested in girls, but methinks he doth protest too much, especially since he broached the conversation.

Unfriended…Again

Parenting is the great contradiction of my life.

It is really hard and really easy, sometimes both at the same time.

The hard part is not now and has never been when the kids were infants or toddlers. The physical exhaustion was challenging but it was never as hard as the mental and physical stuff that comes when they are older.

Potty training and teaching them how to share had moments of frustration as did planning birthday parties for a three-year-old and 30 of their closest friends.

But it was nothing compared to now.

Trying to explain why people do or not do not do is a never ending Gordian knot.

But I can’t say I am surprised. All you need to know about logic and human behavior can be found on social media.

The day I noticed I was unfriended I got four new friend requests.

Life goes on. 🙂

What Is The Proper Length For A Blog Post

My favorite posts are raw and authentic. They are the ones where we don’t hold anything back, pieces where you place raw emotion upon the page and say ‘this is me.’

I have one of those floating around inside my head, a post that is intimate, personal and painful but I haven’t figured out yet if I am going to publish it publicly.

But I’ll write it down and put it upon paper because that will help provide clarity and understanding and maybe it will illuminate the path I need to walk upon to get to the other side.

Sometimes the way forward requires looking back so you can see where you have been.

In the interim I’ll share a piece I wrote a few years back that people still talk about because it is timeless.

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The Proper Length Of a Blog Post

She accused me of plagiarism and gave me 12 ‘F’s. Don’t ask me to try and explain how I received those 12 failing marks on one paper because I can’t tell you.

It happened twenty-six years ago and I simply don’t remember what sort of cockamamie grading system she had in place. I remember her black wig and how she liked to eat raw sticks of butter.

And I remember how she told me that my writing was inferior. It made me angry but I didn’t let that stop me. When she refused to listen to me and insisted that I had cheated on my paper I decided that she was unhinged.

Of course that was before I noticed the wig and sticks of butter. When you are a 17  year-old boy you tend not to notice that kind of stuff because you are too busy trying to look cool in front of the girls.

I don’t know that I ever managed to pull off cool, but I think it is fair to say that I learned how to write. That is assuming that you accept her insistence that my writing was inferior.

I suppose it is possible that it was, but I doubt it. Since I don’t have any of the papers I wrote for that class you’ll have to decide if you accept her word or mine.

Writing Isn’t About Limits

Every week I try to participate in several different online writing groups. Some of these groups provide writing prompts for us to write about. In addition to a topic they usually provide a word count and ask that we not exceed it.

I hate word counts. I don’t like limits. Writing isn’t about limits.

Writing is about telling a story. It is about using words to paint a picture inside the minds of the readers.

Word counts create limits that impact the tales that must be told.

Don’t limit yourself. Don’t let your stories be ripped apart, shredded and destroyed by the limits of length. A tale must be as long as it needs to be to be told.

Tighten Your Tale

A while back someone told me that word counts were a good way to instill discipline in our writing. They said we should limit our words to only those we require to tell the tales that must be told.

My response was that “brevity can bite me.”

That is because my stories are going to be as long as they need to be. I wish that I had told the Butter Eater to adjust her wig and suck on another salty stick. She wasn’t supposed to try to crush the imaginations and dreams of her students.

Don’t get me wrong because she didn’t crush mine. She lit a fire under my ass and made me want to prove her wrong. But that is neither here nor there.

When you are telling the tales that must be told you need to just write. You need to put pen to paper or fingertip to keyboard and let the words flow forth. Write first and edit later.

Word counts cause confusion because they create a condition in which you let your internal editor take creative control. Don’t do that. Write with reckless abandon and use as many words as you need.

I am not repetitive because I am forgetful. I am repetitive because it is necessary.

Tell A Story

A story has a beginning, a middle and an end. Every story you write needs those three things. Go read It Was Logical and you’ll find them there waiting for your visit.

Word counts are for bad stories. Word counts are for worriers who wonder how they are going to read 100 papers. Word counts are for very specific papers and purposes but they should only be used as guidelines and not as law.

Learn how to tell the tales that must be told with talent and you won’t ever have to worry about a word count again.

And now if you will excuse me I am going to start stretching because in a moment I am going to be chased by a thousand angry editors. So I am going to run and lead them on a merry chase hither and thither.

Once they are exhausted and worn out from our time on the road I shall sit down and let them know that I believe in brevity. I will tell them that we should all work on tightening our tales and using fewer words to tell them.

But it should only be done after we have spit out how ever many words it takes to tell the tales that must be told.

Just write my friends without wonder or worry. Just write without regard for word count, editors or readers because when you do that your passion will come out and your personality will prevail.

Success shall be ours.

P.S.  Don’t forget to take a gander at A Confession About The Secrets We Share.

A Confession About The Secrets We Share

Yeah, I have secrets. Not just one, two or three but somewhere close to a hundred. Not sure how or why it happened, but I know that it did.

Some of it is just because of how I was raised and some of it is just how it works, life that is.

People have secrets, even those who say they don’t really do. They might not realize it but if you ask the right questions you’ll stumble upon them.

Most of my secrets aren’t really important. You wouldn’t call them important but for the request of another. They are secrets I share.

Perhaps the reason they aren’t important to me is because they aren’t mine. Maybe it is a mischaracterization to lay claim to them. Maybe it is more accurate to provide a different answer.

I don’t really know and I don’t think it matters. I keep them because they are important to the people who asked me to put them in my vault. Those requests come from people I love and hold close to my heart so I treat their secrets like my own.

But the few secrets I call my own are big. They are huge and at times they have made me wonder what I got myself into.

There is one that sits in the middle of the ring that Frost wrote about. It stares at me with eyes that cut through the poker face I try to maintain.

It demands my attention and asks for a declaration of intention. This is not something I can just ignore or forget. It requires more because to pretend it didn’t exist is to dishonor it and that I cannot do.

For a long while I have ignored my gut and the knowledge that one day the secret would break free of the shackles I placed upon it and force me to face it.

I don’t want to say I am afraid of it because fear is a weakness and men don’t like to be weak.

Yet the only way to figure out why it bothers me is to look at it during the daylight hours. The day is coming when I’ll do that and then we’ll find out if what I sense is real and discover if I am going to end up where I always suspected I would be.

aboutsecrets

It is hard to imagine it going any other way than that but not for lack of imagination or effort.

I did my part to keep my side of the street clean and dedicated my efforts to tending the garden we planted but sometimes life has other plans.

Don’t ask me to tell if it is fate, karma or coincidence because the how and why don’t matter as much as the what.

There are some things that you can’t ever outrun.

Some Stains Can’t Be Washed Away

More than twenty years later I am lying in the dark holding the phone in my hand listening to your voice- wondering how you found my number and why you called.

My heart is pounding and my mouth is dry. I feel like my tongue is stuck to the roof of my mouth.

“I am in trouble and I need your help. They’re back.”

And then the other memories hit me like a torrent of water and I remember why I had to walk away from the woman I planned to marry.

Twenty-five years ago the boys and I graduated from college and decided to travel around the world.

We started in London and gradually made our way through Europe and hop scotched around a couple of continents flipping between Asia and Africa.

The plan was to follow our hearts and go wherever they took us, regardless of whether it made sense. Logic was for school and since we were out of school we ignored it. Took a freighter one direction and then hopped on a plane in the reverse two days later.

Time was meaningless and so was money.

That was because of my friend The Duke. His real name was Chadwick, but he preferred to be called Chad.

It is a tossup as to whether he hated being called The Duke more than he disliked being called Chadwick.

The Duke came from old money. He grew up on a monstrous estate and lived a life out of a movie. His graduation gift was control of a trust worth in excess of $100 million.

So money wasn’t a problem and neither was time. The only real problem we had was that we were young dumb and stupid,

Took a trip to city in Thailand called Phuket only because it looked to us like it was pronounced “Fuck It.”

Our time in “Fuck It” was punctuated with lots of moments that should have gotten us arrested. Somehow the members of the great fraternity of young, dumb and stupid managed to avoid those particular problems.

Things didn’t get crazy until we were in Paris. It had to be Paris. I didn’t like the city, didn’t want to be there and would have happily skipped it.

But Young, Dumb and Stupid was overruled by the power of the penis. Yep, young horny men met girls and got dumber, or maybe I should spell it dumberer because it was really bad.

I still have the letter that started it all. A handwritten note with flowing cursive letters and heart dotted ‘I’s sent by the girl who Chadwick swore would be his.

If the jerk hadn’t been thinking with his dick he might still be here to help me figure out what to do now.

This letter is a stain that I want to wash away, but I can’t. I had just begun to believe that maybe it was over but now I see I was wrong.

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I dumped a trunk somewhere under the desert sky and now I need to find it.

 

Need to find it because I need to confirm that what was intentionally lost will never be found. Need to find it to confirm that it cannot be found.

Part of me can’t help but laugh out loud because I said this would happen. I knew that it was a mistake and now I want to kick myself for not forcing the issue way back when.

I let them convince me that I was being paranoid and that the desert knew how to keep a secret.

It is possible they were right.

It is possible they are still right but the problem is we can’t say with the sort of certainty that would make me comfortable that it is true.

And now a quarter century later when I have a 1000 times more to lose than I did then I have to figure out where my loyalties lie and decide what to do.

The funny part is that I don’t have to ask the question because I know what the answer is. The choices I made then aren’t bound or restricted by…anything.

There is no statute of limitations to rely upon.

And even if I were willing to think of hiding that is not an option.

Guess I better find my passport and start thinking real hard about what comes next because when it comes it will come in a hurry.

Parts and pieces of this story were originally published here and here.

An Angry Man Meets An Angry Father

The anger rolls through me like waves breaking upon a shore.

It is not the overwhelming anger I sometimes felt when I wore the proverbial younger man’s clothes because I am in complete control of it.

But there is a part of me that is tired of holding back and tamping it down. A part that wants to take the gloves off and let my tongue and fists do what is required to take the edge off…a bit.

I don’t have to look very far inside my head to see the things that upset me and to recognize the intersection of angry man and angry father.

Today I am both and I will be both again tomorrow.

aboutangry

This mix of rage and fury is fueled by a feeling of powerlessness intermixed with injustice.

It is powered by a sense that I could and should be doing more but am not because the smarter move is to hold back.

But the interesting thing about it all is that I am not convinced that holding back is the smarter move. I am not sure if letting go would serve me and that teen better.

The thing is there is no testing ground or way to conduct any R&D here. No way to find out what would happen if I just let go so I am forced to hold back and hope that this is the smarter move.

Forced to suck it up and swallow it back.

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” ― Mark Twain

I instruct the kids to use experience when they are uncertain to help guide their decision making.

Experience has taught me that I am very good at letting my anger wreak havoc on the world around me and that the mess that is left isn’t always pretty.

It has also taught me that the acid old Sam Clemens is talking about is real. I have felt the physical and emotional burn of holding onto anger.

Bottled up and unserved it does little to help and much to hurt.

That is also why I have taught the kids to try and take a deep breath before they talk. To breathe and think before they speak.

Anger isn’t always the best filter through which to look at the world.

An Angry Man Meets An Angry Father

Today I witnessed some bad behavior and was reminded yet again about how nasty some people can be.

And in the midst of it I recognized my desire to run amok and to fan some of the flames, to motivate people to fight.

Part of me wanted it because if I instigated it would give me a chance to unleash and unload.

But it wouldn’t help the angry father feel better and though it would make the angry man a bit less edgy it wouldn’t fix things there either.

I would still be pissed off and disappointed about having been let down.

bestnagry

The angry father is upset because he/I feel powerless. I can’t do any more than I have done to help improve certain things.

I can’t make someone do things they aren’t ready or willing to do and so I have to wait, watch and hope.

It is not easy for me to not try to use all that I am capable of to more, to influence and push for a better outcome.

So now I watch and wait knowing that sometimes heroes fail and fall.

The angry man takes a different tack.

He sets sail into the wild and recognizes he is paddling upstream and against the wind but here it is a test of will and faith.

The fury comes from feeling betrayed by those whom he never expected to do so and from falling short of his own expectations.

Sometimes people…suck.

But the good news, the best news is that nothing lasts forever and this too shall pass.

This too shall move and we’ll find ourselves smiling for no reason other than because we can.

A Father’s Wisdom

A blog is a funny thing. You get a snapshot of a moment in time and a chance to see who you and your family were during a different moment.

I wrote the post below five years ago and even though I lived it all there is a part of me that wonders who that and those kids were.

Five years late elementary school is just a memory for the kids and I am struck by just how surreal some things feel.

That is because five years from now my oldest will be in college and my youngest will be closer to graduating from high school than starting.

Dad’s Wisdom

Sometimes I wake up  Saturday morning and hear little voices whispering about something or other. I can’t always make out the actual words but I can usually tell from the tone whether it deserves immediate attention or additional slumber. Yes, I just wrote additional slumber. That is part of the joy of having children who are in elementary school- I get to sleep for an extra 30 minutes sometimes.

Ah, who am I kidding- I can sleep anywhere at any time and have been known to do so- but I digress.

If the situation merits my attention it is usually because the wee angels are fighting over toys and territory. Most of the time I’ll wait a bit and see if they can negotiate their own truce. It is not out of laziness but because I don’t want them to become incapable of fixing their messes without mom and dad. We won’t always be around and I need them to continue to learn how to be self reliant.

Yet there are those moments where their diplomacy fails and other measures are required. So the old man drags his butt out of bed and wanders over to wherever they are hanging out and dictates the rules of the road. There is no discussion of who did what to whom or why I am so mean. More often than not I preface the lecture, conversation with “since you forced me to become a policeman I will not be nice about it” and I issue my decree.

These moments tend to be few and far between. You can attribute some of that to my being blessed with good kids  and some of that to being blessed with smart kids. Because when they hear me coming the whispering gets a little bit louder and always contains a plea to’ just agree before dad gets here.’ Sometimes I wish that I had a bigger house so that they would have more time to talk because often all they need is a little incentive and they get it worked out. And by incentive I mean, the sound of my footsteps.

A Sentimental Father

Cleaning out a garage isn’t always easy. It requires a chunk of time accompanied by a desire to purge yourself of the things that are no longer needed.  Items are taken off of of shelves and pulled from boxes for a quick inspection. The goal is to engage in a quick inspection so that you can determine whether there is merit in retaining it. Does it have enough monetary value to be offered for sale on eBay? Is it something that you can still use and if so, why aren’t you? The general rule of thumb is that if it isn’t a family heirloom or not worth selling than it should be pushed out because it is not paying rent.

At least this is what I tell myself but sometimes I fall short of the mark. Today was one of those occasions. With the growing conviction that we are going to be moving soon I hit the garage with a chip on my shoulder. I wasn’t going to allow myself to be persuaded to hold onto things that are no longer needed. Boxes of baby clothes, old toys, shoes and assorted bric-a-bracs saw sunlight today for the first time in a while. Moments later they were placed in a different box so that they could be donated to people in need.

That part wasn’t hard at all. It was a bit time consuming but overall it went very smoothly. The problem came when I arrived at the donation center and started giving it away. As I watched the parade of items go by I couldn’t help but see images of the little people who once used or wore them. Shiny shoes that were worn to a wedding reminded me of the 18 month old boy who wore them. The little guy who would stand up in his stroller and start dancing to the music they would play in stores.  A white dress that was worn by a baby girl at her naming ceremony. Books, cars and games whispered at me.

Everywhere I looked were echoes of my children- or at least the toddler and babies they once were. It wasn’t easy to watch.  It is nice to know that they are going to be used by people who really need them but at the same time it was hard because they tugged at my heart. They know secrets about these children of mine. They know stories. They have borne witness to their major milestones. They were there when they first called me by name or took their first steps. They are, were a piece of their childhood.

But I talk to them about letting of the things that we don’t need to carry with us. When my grandparents died I talked to them about how the people we love are in our hearts and that whenever I want to speak to them all I have do is remember. They know that people are always more important than objects. They know that the reason that places/things have meaning is because of who is there or who used them.

It is not something that I say- I believe it. I live it. But I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t happy to be doing the drop off alone.  Because when the donations had been made I took my receipts and sat down in my car. Alone with my thoughts I closed my eyes and remembered. There in the silence I listened to the laughter and thought of what once had been and maybe there was a tear in my eye. Or maybe not.

The future is what I am focused upon- but it doesn’t mean that I need to forget what happened in the past. 

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A Father’s Wisdom

Time has taught me that I know everything and I know nothing.

I have learned the river doesn’t care how strong or determined I am to alter its course. When I push against it rivulets of water flow between my fingers and keep on going.

The current forces me to adjust to it, not it to adjust to me.

So I do my best to take a deep breath as necessary and to serve as the captain of my ship. Life is easier and more manageable that way.

The kids have heard me say these words to them too.

Sometimes they listen and follow my suggestions and sometimes they don’t. I try not to fight those moments because they need to learn the same lessons I did when I was their age.

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