Michael J Fox ruined my life…

for love or money

Being a child of the eighties was something that well, only us children of the eighties fully understand. It was a time of freedom, rebellion, exploration, awesome music from all genre’s, cocaine and money. Lots of money. Ok lots of cocaine too but that’s neither here nor there! We as a nation oozed money, it poured from our skin like Don Johnson sexy sweat! Our country was thriving on a robust bond market, a sizzling hot Wall Street, real estate, and oil, black gold, Texas tea. Our parents (or so history would have you believe) were reaping the benefits of an administration that fostered free trade along with the opening of borders and capitalism. Dancing in the street led us all to be a bit Footloose.

A country had emerged from two decades of war, drought, protest, reform, political unrest and of course who could forget the gas crisis? Line after line of cars waiting, hoping there was still gas left when their turn arrived at the pump.

Our youth of the sixties fought racism, fought for woman’s equality and against war, people of the 60/70’s cared more about social reform than capitalism believing higher education created unequal social classes, while caring for one another through shared progress brought much higher rewards. Citizens struggled with the after effects of Vietnam and in doing so turned their backs on soldiers who were struggling mentally when they came back ashore. A recession in the 70’s showed us higher interest rates, and economic instability with most Americans struggling to earn enough money to survive. Our country was tired, emotionally spent having put forth so much effort in finding balance, only to be rewarded with a lying president (Nixon) who stepped down, cover-ups, just plain dirty politics and a new administration (Carter) that did nothing to create or foster stability.

I remember these times well. Worrying about how much money was left at the end of the week and where it should be utilized. Do we buy more gas that we can’t get or food for the table? My parents arguing about money and finances, over interest rates and fees, they were always working just to survive.

When things began to turn around in the eighties it became clear Americans were looking to become more self-involved as opposed to socially invested. Americans were looking for relief in any way shape or form. That relief appeared in the form of fantasy. But like many Americans Fantasy has a way of mimicking reality.

New television formatting arrived and with it shows like Dallas, and Dynasty were on top of the Nielsen ratings chart. Fading away was American staples like All in the Family, Chico and the man or the Jefferson’s; these shows broke new ground showcasing America’s struggle with diversity and acceptance. These shows handily worked at creating a better vison for America through entertainment. The eighties arrived and popular television shows turned self-centered, focusing on money, wealth, fast cars, lavish homes and expensive clothes. Changing the face of what America perceived as being American. Intertwined in this new gluttonous direction was a story line focused on the philandering practices of each cast member, showcasing a need for greed in both monetary and the flesh. We were a country desiring an escape. So many years of war, hate, death, struggle and need. The eighties came and took that from us each and every night corralled in either 30 or 60 minute segments.

As a child I too felt the pain. We never spent a lot on food, clothes or shoes. Food purchased was just enough to feed us in hopes dad had a good week on the road. (He was a salesman during this time) The change in the way I perceived how life should be lived came with a little family television show called Family Ties. It had everything I described above, as its two main characters were children of the 60’s now raising a family in an 80’s world. Struggling with a former social conscience while enveloping themselves in an emerging capitalistic society.

Their son Alex Keaton was an upstart young Republican, fighting against his parents democratic values, learning along the way that when you merge the two an amicable resolve can always be found. It peaked my interest as I identified with young Alex. A lad who didn’t have much but wanted more despite his parents trying to create a well-rounded giving child. It became my first taste of a capitalism fantasy.

That fantasy grew as most movies around this time also focused on the imaginary cash flow that Hollywood felt every American was living with during the Reagan era. Every high school film focused on kids coming from households either struggle or affluence. Either way you and your friends would end up driving BMW’s, Ferrari’s, Jeep Grand Cherokee’s and Porches. It was Weird Science but girls were at the ready and no one seemed to ever wonder where the money came from unless it was Risky Business. We all knew what pot held that cash! Of course if things didn’t work out the way you had planned there was always a Breakfast Club nearby to reignite friendships and ease your disturbed young mind. Or you could just have a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The world would stop, just for you because you were young, smarter than your parents and that combination always led to success.

But during this time as we emerged from high school wondering what awaited our young eager minds, we were not met with BMW’s or Ferrari’s, rich girls or money. I was met with three jobs, working hard just so I could find my Bright Lights Big City. It was hard and tiring, leaving me many times sleeping on the side of the road in my work truck, or in my own car at the back of my dad’s restaurant.

Why? Why did I work so hard? Because I had a dream. A dream to one day be successful, own a BMW, live in a giant mansion and become the Secret of my Success. Michael J Fox had shown me that it was as easy as being a part of a family that always did the right thing, having a dream, sneaking into a large company, assuming another’s identity while dating the boss’s wife or girlfriend then once inside the inner circle just woo many wealthy investors with you childlike wit and charm! Bam! Money and success are all yours!! On top of that if you have to choose For Love or Money you can’t lose! Education be damned! Our ambition will win out every time!!! It was the eighties remember!!! Michael showed me time and again through different directorial visions that is how it’s done!

Unfortunately my brain believed all this could be true and as I worked hard providing ideas while trying to prove that I was willing to go that extra mile, work 14-16 hours a day looking for just a snippet of financial excess. Something happened. The truth, I was nothing more than an employee. You see the movies and television told me hard work paid off, long days, endless hours helped you get noticed and ultimately afforded you a seat at the head table. But 90% of the time it does no such thing. Don’t get me wrong, you are valued, I never felt as though in some small way I wasn’t valued at the jobs for which I worked the hardest. But unlike what Michaels movies had taught me, there was no monetary reward at the end of a hard day. That to this day is held for the exceptional family member, investor or capitalist. Not the hard working outsider. Of course maybe I just didn’t work hard enough, or my ability to recognize opportunity wasn’t sharp. Either way I walked away with only the satisfaction of doing a good job. I only wish I hadn’t been brain washed to believe there was more. For that Michael J Fox you crushed me.

Today, I have an enlightened social conscience, a family that makes the Huxtables look lame and I am trying my hardest to instill a solid work ethic combined with education so when my four children hit the world after college they have an ability to choose between a capitalist lifestyle or a socially conscience one. Hey maybe I’ll have one of those children that can do both, you know that ultra-rare animal, the one that leaves you in awe whenever you gaze upon its presence; the philanthropist? One can only hope.

So as I creep up on my 50th year, struggling at times to make ends meet, still keeping just a slim hope that Michaels words, ideas and strategies might just pay off. I think; Fuck it!

In the end I could never stay mad at you Michael J Fox! I guess you really didn’t ruin my life and your movies allowed me to dream big. I try to share dreaming big with my children because of you and truth be told you are still one of the funniest actors I have ever seen. Hopefully my children can figure it all out. Succeed where I have failed. Heck someone has to take care of me when I get old, and they are not allowed to warehouse me in a convalescent home! I will not be put in an institutional Cocoon but prefer instead to be On Golden Pond.

On-Golden-Pond-2

 

 

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She fights

Every morning she wakes up between 4 am and 0930. Her sleep is not natural as pills determine the night or days slumber routine. Weight is something she cannot gain and although there would be some envious of this side effect it is anything but glamourous. Her eyes work somedays while others they are filled with a blurry focus similar to gazing through a plastic milk jug. Her breathing is labored at times and she needs oxygen throughout the day and night to help keep her lungs strong. Pain is everywhere and nowhere, moving from an arm or a nervous leg to her back, sides, head, teeth and eyes. Medication is everywhere, we have pill bottles around every corner (figure of speech) waiting to either empty or crack open in dire need. 23 little pills, swallowed three times a day. Each pill with a specific purpose, each pill supporting another as they cross paths within her tired system.

Each day is a new adventure, wandering from upstairs to down. There are moments of greatness! A trip to the basement, or a stroll to the tree outside, down the road. Muscles yearning for mass from not that long ago, arguing with her central nervous system over usage, proper form and desire. Prioritizing each need hoping it can guide her successfully towards a much needed strong finish.

The garden yearns for her touch, her flowers and fruit trees scream for attention! There is one big draft horse and its little Donkey friend who stare at the house wishing she could come out and play. Little do they know she stares right back?

Her teaching job calls to her as she misses each and every child who ever graced her classroom door. Their quirky attitudes, laughter and stories, making each day special in its own way. Instruction, knowledge sharing, testing, creating, and showing each child no matter their background that her classroom was always a safe place to be, a wonderful place to learn.

Friends come and go, happy to see their friend has made it to this place of reclusion. She moves about between the kitchen, living room and bedroom. Little stints in each area much like a 7th grader changing classes. Sitting just long enough to learn and appreciate either her surroundings or emotional moments shared between herself and her children. She laughs and loves to have endless conversation with her friends. She knows she will pay for it as with any two hour visit there is a three hour nap post get together with her pillow. But when she awakens she smiles, for a visit is something special when not more than three months ago there was talk of her not surviving.

She longs to be free. Free from this damn GVHD! Free from this home that has somewhat imprisoned her for hours on end. She longs to hop in the car and drive herself to the fabric store, feeling that independence so taken for granted not that long ago. Oh occasionally she spreads her wings and drives to a softball game, or over to the produce market. They are after all straight shots and if her eyes get to bad I am but a minute away. But it still isn’t the same.

The feeling of exhaustion from walking to the car, shortness of breath after lifting a couple bags or fruit, closing the cars hatch and finally sitting back behind the wheel. This is a mental war with her physical being that’s being fought and has escalated rapidly. There are times she wishes she could just tell herself to knock it off and get with the program! This runner, swimmer, biker mom who could out move most people on their best days now needs help just to get up the stairs. She is cooking dinner again and slowly starting to do laundry (because she wants too!). Anything to make her feel normal, like nothing has happened and life is just as it was or should be. She is sewing and drawing which are two things she very much enjoys. She is constantly trying her hardest to gain just a little more ground. No matter what that ground may be.

People constantly ask me how she is doing. My response is always the same.

No better, no worse, just one tough lady who is happy to be home.

Jacy survived chemotherapy, she survived remission, then recurrence; she survived chemotherapy once again and then watched with the strength of a thousand draft horses as a new immune system entered her body during a BMT transplant. She has survived every GvHD (Graft vs Host Disease) complication known to man and lived after putting her big girl panties on willfully accepting a new trial drug to combat her symptoms. Her doctors tell us each time we visit that we are in uncharted territory. She was not expected to survive but when asked what her thoughts were she said; I am not leaving my family! End of story! You can do what you want, but I am not leaving my kids or my husband.

And she hasn’t.

My wife has always been a fighter. She fought for our relationship in the beginning, she continually fights for our children; she fought for our daughter and fought for hundreds of children in Haiti. She fought this thing call Leukemia and now fights GvHD. She is currently fighting a bit of trapped in the house depression, along with an ability to hold onto hope for herself and her future. She fights against the elements, hoping one little organism isn’t out there with her name on it, waiting to attack! A nasty little bugger giving her something else to fight for with her back up against the ropes. She fights for herself and her need to succeed. She fights because that’s who she is and what she does well. She fights while keeping a patented Jacy smile affixed firmly upon her face.

She fights to come back to church, and pray.

She fights to have some semblance of her old life back.

She is my hero and that’s why I will always fight for her.

jacys hand

 

 

 

 

 

Lets talk about????

Today while driving our children to their various locations of education, we crested a stretch of roadway that always leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy if I hit it at just the right time. You know sun placement across the tree tops, smell of damp dew in the air, that sort of thing. In the morning my brain is at its most active as this time in the car allows me to correlate the days activities into a hopefully well thought our prioritized list.

Driving through this little moment of Zen, I looked over at my teenage son and remember when my father used to tell me how a morning’s dawn was one of the most peaceful serene moments in a day. It bothered him that I usually slept right through it, missing the earth’s transformation from dark to light. I wondered if one day he would be in the same situation thinking the very same thing, wishing he had listened to me way back when?

And there it was. That moment when one thought creates a burst in the mental dam! Will he have heard anything during his adolescent tenure while fighting against his need to challenge the bull? All Teenage boys go through this period, some sooner, some later, but at some point their testosterone tells them it is time to challenge the bull. It is where they learn to take a beating (metaphorically), get up, learn, and try again. It is a period of time that molds them into the men they will become, learning to follow rules because it is the right thing to do. It is also when they fight an overwhelming need for acceptance from not only their parents but friends and love interests, or prospective love interests and this is where personally and socially things can begin to become, well, convoluted.

Let’s talk about sex.

Now both my sons and I have had “THE TALK”, and we have held this little sexual information conference on many occasions. I have felt it overly important as my parents and I never really covered the bases besides the obligatory: don’t have sex, it leads to kids and you will be in a lot of trouble.

We have discussed everything (if you are uncomfortable please leave now) from their own penises, to female body parts, how they function and what purpose each intricate portion serves. They were “grossed out” in the beginning for having such conversations with their father, but it has gotten easier over time.

The gist after all from my perspective is a little saying I have shared on numerous occasions with any teenager that will listen to this old man.

Boys are boys, girls are girls and you are all just friends until you get into college. It is impossible for you to commit to someone else until you discover just who the hell you are. Then and only then can you decide whether or not you are able to share yourself with someone else.

This is wisdom not handed down to me but learned the hard way as my entire youth and young adult life was spent chasing someone else’s dreams in hopes of finding out who I was. As a 49 year old man I still have not chased my dreams, I know who I am now, (and I kind of like myself) but have no ability to discover myself further due to many responsibilities that rest upon my shoulders. I have been blessed with wonderful friends, children and an equally excellent partner in life. But to have learned much more about myself at a younger age would have been worth its weight in gold.

What worries me as we continue into town on this serene morning is even though my focus was off when it came to myself, I did have a great youth, meeting new friends and dating some super awesome young women. But that’s just it, we dated. There were phone calls, in front of parents, and nervousness when it came to even talking to some of these girls. I was always terrified to ask a girl out. If there was a girl I liked it took me weeks sometimes to get the nerve up to do it! The funny thing is they always knew it was coming, boys just act stupid when they really like someone. It was the way it was. I heard lots of no’s. And even though it crushed me at times, there were some yes’s as well. It was fun, exhilarating and exhausting at times. We learned whether or not we actually liked each other or if we should just remain friends. In one case a girl I had liked for a really long time actually said yes, we went out on one date and everything that could go wrong did! When the night was over we tried to kiss and we realized instantaneously it felt like a brother and sister trying to smooch! YUCK!!! We had been friends for so long we had become family! It was an important lesson learned and taught me so much about myself and how my relationships affected people in ways I wasn’t even recognizing.

This is what’s eating at me! Our children today don’t need to do that anymore. Somewhere over the last thirty years we have gone from nervous dating to sexting! The theme is hooking up not going out! Our children are partaking in a very dangerous game of emotional instability centered on sex, photography, and one night hook ups all done through their phones! There is no more nervousness in making an impression! No more terror about what you should wear, how you should look, will she like me for who I am, will we have a good time and will she still like me when she gets home. Nope! Kids today are playing a very deadly game, combining image and self-worth, which can only lead to disaster! This really worries me! No, let me re-phrase, it scares the hell out of me! They are no longer asking for dates, but naked pictures! Texted or Snap-Chatted from their bathrooms, bedrooms and cars! That’s right mom and dad, while you are out working, doing laundry or watching Dancing with Stars downstairs your little angel has her or his pocket computer squirreled away popping high resolution photo’s for all to see. There is no worry about how it will affect someone or the damage caused if any of these pictures leak. And let me just say from what I am hearing the girls are as aggressive, as the boys!

None of them have a clue what they are doing or the implications associated and trust me, if you are reading this thinking; not my little angel or slugger! You are dead wrong. It has become a game for our children and they don’t understand the ramifications one bit.

Now we all know the mental end of it. Girl sends picture to boyfriend, boyfriend shares with all his friends because well, he is a teenage boy and that’s a half-naked girl! (Not an excuse, just the facts) Girl finds out about picture sharing and is devastated (rightfully so), feels as though she cannot look anyone in the face at school because she doesn’t know who has or hasn’t seen her naked. This scenario goes any direction you place it too. Boy/boy, girl/girl, boy/girl, girl/boy, it does not matter! It is damaging and cruel leaving psychological scars upon its victims that take years to repair. A few children have even committed suicide from suffering through their inner torment. These kids feel they doing something harmless but do not have the mental faculties to see the long term effects of their actions.

But let’s look at the legal aspect. Same scenario as above only now mom and dad are aware and have decided taking action is the appropriate response.

Police are notified, School is notified, an investigation ensues.

Our children are placed in handcuffs and hauled to jail for questioning. Why? It is the trafficking of child pornography. It doesn’t matter that said child wanted to send this naked picture, the child is underage. It does definitely matter the moment said child shared picture with friends, that is the very second they became a trafficker of child pornography. Remember all parties are underage.

The minimum sentence for trafficking is dependent upon your particular region but from what I could find doing a little old fashioned research it carries a minimum of 15 years!! 15 years in jail because two kids sent nudies to each other then, shared them with the world! Of these sentences vary upon severity and incidents. But the outcome is the same. Someone is getting arrested, someone may go to jail, many may have their lives ruined forever and someone may have to register as a sex offender.

So who do we blame? Because this is America and someone needs to be blamed for this heinous act continually perpetrated amongst our youth!

OURSELVES….

Didn’t see that coming did you?

We as adults are being outwitted and outplayed, not just by our children but society as a whole. It is our responsibility to keep up with technology and yet much as our parents did, we have taken a stance of ignorance. Touting such phrases as; it’s too complicated, if I need it worked on I’ll give it to my kid, they understand it much better than I do, why does it have to have so many features, it needs to be simpler. Funny thing about those blurbs are they come from recalling my parent’s excuses when it came to working this hot new little item called a VCR. Funny how it fits into today’s issues with computers and technology as a whole.

The problem is by taking that stance we are essentially giving the keys to the inmates so they may run the asylum. Our society as a whole has turned to electronics as a babysitter, a pacifier, a walking teacher loaded with information used under the guise of homework and learning. But the dark underbelly lurking inside is too much temptation for our young minds to handle. We have decided to accept its positives turning a blind eye to the negatives believing we have raised our children to know better. To be strong enough not to try and locate the end of the internet along with all of its little side roads and travels.

I began researching this issue after wondering just what exactly was on my teenage son’s phone. After searching through its contents we found some questionable apps and began wondering just what they may hide and why anything needed to be hidden at all. A long discussion was had about the power he held by owning his phone and using the technology appropriately. It also shined a light on our ability to monitor just what he was using his phone for and why. We spoke to him in detail about what is going on with others across the nation and how serious some of the offenses can become.

Today, he turns his phone in nightly. Yes now and again we slip up on that and don’t catch it and he feels a certain victory as is he has gotten away with something, but in the end he loses it for a few days and as he puts it; his social life is dead! Re-affirming my earlier comments about how sad it is our children no longer know how to date or socialize face to face for that matter.

The password cannot be changed. If it is he loses the phone again for a specified period of time. If it happens twice the phone is gone permanently.

When I ask for it, no matter where or when, he must turn it in without question. If he tells me to wait a minute while he erases texts, the phone is gone for a specified period of time. Second offense the phone is gone permanently. He is reminded to text as if a parent were reading it, for, as I often do, they just might be. Am I so naïve to believe he will never text inappropriate things? No, he has just gotten better at deleting them before I get ahold of his phone.

If he so much as thinks about touting that it is in fact his phone, I remind him it is not his phone, it is my phone, under my name, my contract and until he is 18 it is my job as a parent to ensure his growth as a human being, his safety from doing expectantly stupid things and until that time comes that he is an adult with all its super fun responsibilities. Tough shit.

I hate the goddamn phone but in today’s world it has become somewhat of a necessity. So we as parents who choose to arm our children with these boxes of mystery must become incredibly proactive. We must be on the watch out constantly because as soon as we learn one aspect of this electronic wonder there are numerous other factors working against us. The largest perpetrators working to defeat our parental policing?

Apps.

No matter what we do, or how we do it there are numerous app’s working to thwart our actions. Checking your kid’s iPhone and find it clear of all wrong doing? Look again. For there are numerous applications to help hide what junior doesn’t want you to see. These apps are the anti-parent. They share information then make it disappear! They capture screen images from the very transparent app for you to keep in a secret locked folder that only you have access! If that wasn’t enough to have a locked folder there is even an app to hide the app!!!!!

Here are a few app’s to keep an eye out for!

Calculator applications. There are a ton of these but here are a few of the more popular ones.

Best Secret Folder

Secret Photo& Video

Calculator hide

HiCalculator- Private Album

Private Photo

Fake Calculator

 

Individual app’s with unique app pictures that lead you to believe they are something other than what they are which is a locked secret folder.

Settings lock

Secret Piano Icon

Keep Safe photo vault

Don’t touch this

HiFolder

Vault

Hidden Secret Files

Photo Umbrella

FileMaster

iDiscrete

HIDE

Picture safe

Private photo

Album lock

My Media

 

Snapchat

Snapchat is a fun little app, there is no doubt. Many parents I know use it exactly the way it was intended, for amusement. The issue is still the same, if there is a way to abuse something, we as human beings will determine what that is and exploit it! Thus the issue with our children. Naked pictures, under the guise of anonymity that can be captured, saved and shared. Scary.

Yik Yak

Another social site that offers discreet chatting with locals in your area. Unfortunately from what I have witnessed many times it is sexually explicit and self-deprecating. There are comments made in reference to teens that are demeaning and hurtful. Another opportunity for those who remain unethical to berate others from behind a hidden wall.

Of course there are the standard sites that everyone visits such as Facebook, Instagram, twitter, Tumblr etc.. Some would say these sites allow our children to be more social to a broader section of society and to some extent that is true. They still need our daily supervision as it is easy for them to post or repost an item they might find harmless but in reality could be detrimental to someone else or themselves. As I remind our children on a regular basis, once it’s (whatever you post) out there on the internet there is not taking it back. It is there forever, for all to see. It becomes your electronic legacy.

So as I drop the kids off and ask them to have a nice day, I smile and wink. They tell me they love me and run off to school. The high schooler who is sans-phone for not turning it in at night again grumpily gets out of the car, reminds me what time to get him and then slowly gives me a sly smile and says; see ya!

He walks away and I wonder, besides all the other advice I hope he remembers will he appreciate this struggle we went through together? Will he be thankful we diverted him at every chance he had to derail?

I don’t know, but I do know this, no computer or application can give you the feeling I had the first time a girls said yes to going out with me. Nothing can replace that first time holding hands or the very first kiss. Nothing replaces a nervous heartbeat, the smell of perfume or watching the sunset together with her head on your shoulder. And nothing feels like the world does when the sun comes up in that certain place on the road that gets me every time firing my brain into overdrive allowing me to feel alive.

Hopefully one day my children will understand that without looking it up on their phone.

4/14/16 addendum

Tonight after reading my blog, my teenage son came into the dining room and sat down. Calmly and with the maturity of an adult, he asked if I would please stop writing about him on my blog. He felt I portrayed him in a somewhat negative light and he didn’t want people to think badly of him. I have never been more proud of the way he handled himself and the conversation that ensued.

So let me add this, it has never been my intention to show any of my children in a negative light.  Only to share with other parents that we all are in the same boat! I am saddened that I have hurt his feelings. He is an amazingly funny, warm and generous young man. I am overwhelmingly proud of who and what he is becoming as he spreads his wings and there are numerous others who care for him as if he were their own.  My use of him came naturally as he is the only teenage reference to date in my household. His offenses are minor in nature even though at times they bring forward major topics of discussion.  I will honor his request and cease to use him as a basis for my writings because I love him and respect his wishes.

~Betty~

 

 

 

Parents; What are we doing?

What are we doing?

Seriously, I ask myself this on a regular basis. What the hell are we doing as parents to our children? What the hell are we doing with our society as a whole?

As always the challenges of raising children can become, well, overwhelming at times. Also as usual it leaves me perplexed, wondering what the heck I am doing wrong as a parent. These challenges and issues leave me reflecting as a whole on the job ALL of us parents are doing to create better versions of ourselves thus turning them loose on society for the world to prosper from or eat alive like an unwanted cub.

What is society doing about our youth? As I look around at the youth of today I see a huge entitlement issue that stems more from society empowering them irresponsibly than from parents being given a chance to empower them appropriately at home. Now before you get your knickers in a bunch let me explain.

In my day (cue walking uphill in the snow barefoot both directions to and from school) rules were fairly straight forward with little flexibility. Either you followed said rules established by mom/dad/teacher/parent next door or you suffered the wrath of an angry parent complete with serious consequences.

These rules from my past were simple and easy to follow too.

Family always comes first

Don’t lie

Keep your word

Do what’s asked of you

Never hide anything from your parents

Be respectful of others, especially your elders

Education comes before all else

Always be thinking and putting your future first

 

Mon-Fri we got up early, fed animals, grabbed lunch and sprinted to the bus-stop. You never missed the bus because there was a gas crisis back then and moms 4 mpg, 400 cubic inch rumbling monster station wagon only had enough fuel for the bare necessities. Like grocery shopping, swim practice and possibly one 4-H meeting. So miss the bus and a serious ass chewing complete with a whooping if it happened more than once was in order.

Once home from school, homework came first, no if ands or but’s! Then off to work with your fair project, horse or horses, then change and away to swim practice you went. If you had siblings you all were in swim team. There was no way one kid was swimming, one playing baseball, one in basketball or tennis, at least not in my house anyways. Once home, you set the table for dinner, cleaned your room and then if everything was done you had free time to watch TV with your family or as in my case work on something of your own. My preference was models, drawing or my truck.

Weekends consisted of you getting your ass out of bed at 6-7 am, feeding animals, eating breakfast then after doing in house cleaning chores your sorry butt was locked out of the house until dark. Oh and trust me you had better not be late for dinner or you went hungry. No one worried about your whereabouts, no one used find my iphone to check on your location, you knew the rules. You had better be where you say you are or the next weekend you spend the entire weekend locked in your room! Of course we were always down in the sloughs, skipping rocks, hunting or fishing.

So as I said, life was simple, with a simple set of rules. I also broke every one of those rules trying to figure out just who I was and where I fit into the grand scheme of things. Looking back now, although it seemed at times these simple sets of rules enforced strongly and vigorously by my parents were impossible to follow, they made me who I am today. A very strong willed person with an ever stronger sense of right/wrong and not afraid to stand up for what I believe in. It also means that if you are a friend of mine I will give you the shirt off my back and drop what I am doing when I am doing it to come help you. Family both paternal and external always comes first.

So how come with such a strong sense of how I wish to parent and see my children grow does it seem so much harder than during my day? Why are the rules constantly bending, flexing and why do our children walk around with such a sense of entitlement? As if we are here to serve them? What is the major game changer?

I know I am not alone in wondering WTH!! At the rodeo us parents gather like a monthly A.A. meeting to stand around a campfire and proclaim;

Hi my name is Betty and I have been a suffering parent for 19 years.

Group: Hi Betty! (Sniffling/quiet sobbing in the background)

Betty: it’s been two weeks since my kid did something asinine, disrespectful or possibly illegal. I am praying to make it a month so I can receive my first parental challenge coin!

Group: Yay! (Applause) You got this Betty!

I am firm believer in sharing every trial and tribulation our children go through, our parents didn’t have these types of support, those issues were never discussed, parenting was kept behind closed doors, yet with all of today’s insane influences it seems to me that just like the fire service, sharing can and will save lives! We are far from perfect, we all make mistakes and there is a certain bit of comfort that comes from others understanding your personal struggle while sharing theirs and opening all of our eyes, sometimes in disbelief at what is going on around us! Then it is not just you handing a single child, but a massive force of parents all looking out for each other’s children at once, with the same mind set and goal. To help them get out alive.

We are struggling. It is not easy. Now please understand, I know it wasn’t easy for our parents either. Lord knows my parents from age 13-18 at some point most likely thought about disowning me or dropping me off at a bus stop in the next town over. But in my day when mom and dad had enough of our bullshit they didn’t have the outside influences circumventing any parenting strategy that our children are struggling with today. In my day my whole life revolved around the ranch and earning money to purchase my first truck. Why, because then when I had enough of my parents, I simply drove to a friends house and let their parents, parent me. Many times they got tired of my shit and sent me packing, right back home where my responsibilities were reaffirmed and my sense of self put right back on track.

So I ask what influences are different today.

This is where society comes into play. We learned from our friends growing up. We laughed, told stories, told lies, had fun, and basically bonded over the unknown out in this massive world. The curiosity of what awaited us outside of our little hometown bubble was enticing to say the least. Our social network was school, or the 7-11 after school. It was sports, rodeo, after school study groups, it was interacting with people face to face, learning what is acceptable and what is not though trial and error.

Today society plays a major role in how our children are forming into adults. They are consumed by television shows with too much gore at an incredibly young age. As a 20+ year fireman I can attest to the fact unlike our day when death was shown as a simple act or assumed, todays look at death is incredibly realistic, sometimes overly so thus taking away our children’s sensitivity and even empathy. They are bombarded from an early age with shows centered around smart ass little shits talking to their parents as if they were morons with a Television family laughing it off as a sound track roars in the background. Our children no longer know what it’s like to wait for something. I had a pen pal when I was 10-11 and the anticipation of receiving a letter back taught me patience and left my mind using its imagination as to my friend’s reaction at a letter received. Today’s children text, and want a response right now! Lightning fast repartee and if you don’t return with equal speediness there must be something wrong, that friend must be angry or talking shit about them! Oh the horror!!!

These young men and women have television shows like Jackass and The Real Housewives, teaching their young unformed brains that doing incredibly moronic, hurtful activities will make you famous! Yes self-deprecation while hurting yourself surely shows what a man you are becoming! Don’t worry about the irreversible damage you can do to yourself, hey laugh’s come first! Consistently talking smack about your supposed best friend while never confronting her until it’s time for a ratings jump is the way to go! But there is no ratings jump in the real world, just impressionable young women who are not equipped to handle the mental trauma that comes from acting like a self-absorbed, back stabbing idiot. What happened to empowering our young women in a way that teaches respect?

Their young eyes are wide open, absorbing everything they see and there is plenty! Why? Because we as parents have allowed all of them to have a little electronic box that fits neatly into their pocket under the guise of; you need this (iphone, android, LG, etc) phone so we can get ahold of you. Perfectly marketed by the telecommunication industry through use of ease and the mystical boogie man that may grab our children out from underneath us! In our day everyone’s parent looked out for everyone kid! If you missed behave they could and would let you have it with full support of your parents, and you better not lip off or cry foul because then it meant you were disrespectful to your elders. Teachers also had full reign over your ass! You got out of line, out the door with you, if your grades were falling then as parents you asked what you could do to help. No one blamed the teacher, not like today! Two professions I would never want to be in today’s hateful atmosphere; a police officer or a teacher. Both have the responsibility of keeping our world in order through rules and education and both are shown no respect what so ever. So very sad to say the least! It is unwarranted empowerment of those who don’t deserve it when in reality we should all carry the utmost respect for what each profession brings to the social table. I also remember not that long ago children had a set-time we had better check in with mom and dad for if we didn’t we received an ass whooping! Oh wait that’s right children of today cannot get an ass whooping, that is infringing upon their rights. Heaven forbid little Johnny learn there are consequences to his actions then serious consequences for repeat offenses, instead building up little Johnnies self worth while empowering his entitlement issues is much more important, for he is human being with the same rights as an educated, respected, adult who understands the importance of consequences. Yet I digress.

Not only do our children have the ability to research information right here, right now. But it is anything and everything!!! I remember when we needed to look stuff up in an encyclopedia! You know the paper version of Google! But when I say everything, I MEAN EVERYTHING!!!!! If you think for one moment your adolescent boy has not hit his browser to scan a little porn? Man you are in need of being put on restriction! These kids have unlimited internet access, music availability, snap-chat (the devils app), a camera for taking those wonderful selfies, (sometimes doing things they shouldn’t be) hidden folders to keep all those ethically questionable stuff from their parents because well let’s face it, in their eyes we are old and dumb. They text during class, snap chat between class, after school, on weekend, at 1 in the morning, hell they even do it while in the bathroom!

iphone

It is out of control and do you know why it is out of control?

Because they are right. We are dumb. We talk a great game, but much like technology, evolving and changing faster than we can shell out the money for the newest gadget to make our lives easier; the game has passed us by. They know it, they ALL know it! It is becoming Lord of the flies.

Our parenting skills come from a simpler time explained earlier in this piece. We learned from our parents who didn’t have to fight the technology age. Television consisted of 3-6 channels at our house depending on signal strength. If we wished to talk with someone we did it on the phone, in front of everyone in the house. No place to hide, no sexting, and no illicit picture of our privates sent during conversation. Family was the strongest bond and you took care of your siblings. You never spoke ill of your parents on an open public forum like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. You ate together and solved family problems together. It made us who we are and that’s what is scaring the hell out of me.

This future generation we created is learning, and when they are adults their parenting skills are going to come from what they learned as children, which means every single outside influence they have today will play a part in their skill set combined with our “old fashioned” ways.

Society is accepting these mind sets as the norm. Society is creating machinery, social applications and industry at an alarming rate that removes hard work, interpersonal skills and responsibility from our intellectual make up. Autonomous cars, online classes, faceless chat groups, we are taking away skill sets, teachers and responsibility from our humanity. Soon with the invention of fully thinking, active conscience computers will they find us fat, lazy humans obsolete the way we have found machinery and former technological wonders obsolete over time? Can you say Skynet?

We are rewarding bad behavior, anger and laziness. Hundreds of thousands of children will become adults with no real common sense believing they are in fact superior to elders, creating a huge gap between a tried and true knowledge base for learning and themselves. Believing if they want to learn or obtain knowledge it’s just a Youtube click away. I am truly terrified for our future.

Listen I am just as guilty as the next guy. Growing up without much as child, I strive to allow my children access to all the latest greatest technology. I bend on occasion when I really shouldn’t in regards to rules and parenting. My children are not disrespectful to me, but I wonder what is at the end of those finger tips while they are texting away as they wander into the barn. I wonder what ill-conceived plan is being hatched as that little electronic contraption is humming away when they are supposed to be doing chores or working their horses. I wonder if anyone’s feeling are being hurt because of internet bullying behind screen shot anonymity. I constantly think to myself; what are we doing and can we stop it?

Then about the time my brain feels as though it will explode I wander off wishing it was the mid 70’s, it was five o’clock, I knew exactly where my kids where, and what they were doing. Because then I’d be on the back porch with a nice glass of whiskey and a Paul Mall calling it a day.

Two more weeks till my parental challenge coin. Wish me luck..

whiskey

photos from CBSnews.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

YOU….

As of late there has been a long enduring power struggle taking place within our home. It seems our 15 year old has taken it upon himself to follow in his father’s footsteps despite my best attempts to thwart his actions. To say I am disheartened would be an understatement.

My mother once told me at the height of my rebellious, disrespectful path that she hoped I had children and they were all J U S T L I K E M EEEE! Thankfully that didn’t happen, yet the one that is like me, JUST LIKE ME has embraced my persona of old with full-fledged gusto.

I once had a teacher in high school, I believe she was my French/English teacher who at the end of my junior year grabbed me, pulled me in close and with a quiet voice asked me a question that’s stuck with me for 33 years.

What are you going to do when your looks are gone?

That’s all she said, then with a smile wished me a good summer and went about her business. No explanation, no further words of wisdom, just that, a wink and into the classroom she vanished.

Now it wasn’t that I was a particularly great looking kid, I was average at best. But that damn question would pop into my head out of nowhere and it haunted me from senior year and beyond. 

What are you going to do when your looks are gone?

Why would she say that to me? What was its purpose? Was it a joke? It took many years with it rolling around my head when one afternoon while pondering the good old days I figured out exactly what Ms. Kaplan meant.

It really had more to do with my personality than anything. About buckling down and putting myself and my future first! I treated everything as a joke. I still do to this day but on a much smaller scale as life has honed my ability to recognize the importance in certain situations. Take an average kid who likes to be the center of attention, make everyone laugh at all costs and who is willing to go along with just about any plan that may arise to ensure I was someone’s friend and well you had me. You also had a gigantic recipe for disaster.

Late for class? Who cares, I am with my friends. Disrupting class, oh well I made everyone laugh, who cares that I missed todays assignments and disrespected my teacher. I’ll apologize with an honest smile on my face and a caring tone in my voice. It will all smooth over, it always does. Sent to the office for cutting class? A twinkle in my eye, some cool charm and I will get out of it. Trust me.

Ms. Kaplan saw this in me. She never bought any of my bullshit and there was rarely a time when one of my sly patented smiles ever got me anything other than a smile in return.

And so here we are. Today I asked my son the very same question.

What are you going to do when your looks are gone?

For you see unlike myself, my 15 year old is a very good looking kid (got it from his mother). He has a million dollar smile and has learned to use it to his advantage. But he is struggling ethically and scholastically. He disrupts class to be the center of attention, does anything, anytime, anywhere to make someone laugh, and has a very strong sense of who he is and what he wants to become. So needless to say when I posed Ms. Kaplan’s question to him he merely stared off into the distance not knowing what to say.

He looked just like me.

I explained the importance of this question and what it ultimately meant to me. I explained that for the most part these people he is trying to impress will be long gone from his life 5 years from now. I tried my best in showing him the importance of working hard now for a later reward. That all his dreams of participating in college rodeo are rapidly slipping away as he chooses his in the moment friends first, making them laugh while slacking on his responsibilities and rarely living up to his word. I even explained that saying no to your friends sometimes is ok and if they get mad or don’t want to be friends anymore because you are chasing you’re dreams that’s ok as well! The hardest thing to explain or get him to understand was that a few of my closest friends are the ones who understand when I’m busy, care about my dreams as I care about theirs and at one point or another before we became good friends we may have even told each other to Fuck off at some point. Respect was earned and friendships arose from the ashes. It is ok!

We only want the best for our kids, parenting hopefully through learning from our own mistakes, but one sentence spoken through echoes of my past brought it all home, and it hurt.

It hurts because I don’t want to see him fail yet his stubbornness is strong (yeah that one’s mine). It hurts because if he keeps going he is going to land hard and that will hurt him, although that may be exactly what it takes. It hurts because we love him as we love all our children.

A repeated theme came from our discussion and I thought I would share.

YOU

Only YOU can make a difference in YOUR outcome

YOU are the only one in charge of YOU no one else

YOU are the only one who can chase YOUR dreams

YOU have the power to say no

YOU are the only one responsible for YOUR grades

YOU are the only one responsible for YOUR homework

YOU are in charge of YOUR emotions, no one else

If YOU need help then YOU need to ask

YOU should rely on YOU to complete tasks, if you receive help fantastic but make sure it’s YOU that determines if they are complete

YOUR word is really all that YOU have that explains who and what YOU are

Only YOU can hate and only YOU can love

YOU need to remember we love you always

And YOU were a gift from God, don’t waste that gift.

All of this came from one child struggling to find YOU in himself and one English/French teacher who haunts my past.

Thank you Ms. Kaplan If you touched me this way from so long ago, I can only imagine how many you touched during your career.

And all of this insightfulness was because of YOU.