Black Friday is just the Beginning…

 

Black Friday is just the beginning!

Without so much as a decent burial to Thanksgiving the nations marketing firms have once again proceeded with a full frontal assault upon your financial statement or loss thereof.

Christmas past

As a child I would count down the days towards Thanksgiving (purely due to my mass enjoyment of gorging delicious holiday food), then the day after would begin another count down towards Christmas.  Lying in bed at night thinking 29 more days, then 28, then 27 and so on until Christmas Eve was upon me! During this period I looked forward to Christmas activities at school, Church, Christmas lights hung around the town square, cold wet weather, Christmas music, all the holiday specials (Rudolph, Frosty,  the Grinch and so on) and yes even a little Christmas shopping.  You see when I became a little older my mother would drop me off in town to spend some time Christmas shopping on my own.  It was fun, made me feel as though I was becoming an adult and there was always just enough money left over for a one pound bag of M&M’s that inevitably made it home to my sock drawer where I would gleefully shove handfuls into my face when no one was around! Christmas was fun, easy and all within the context of roughly 30 days.

The marketing guru’s of the time, while still looking to vie for every penny you held, hoping to help adjust their year-end statements; held to Christmas being a sacred, specified period of time.  Values were still present and accounted for; family was still a number one priority!

Christmas Present

Today my children can’t wait for Christmas! Which in today’s  high stress, high pressure environment astounds me! They chomp at the bit in anticipation of that glorious morning when their year-end performance reports come back.

Dad: Hey little Peter wont you step into my office? 

Peter: Sure

Dad: For this year end review which qualifies your interests (Santa’s wish list) to be forwarded upstairs, I am trying to get a feel for how you spend your day … so, if you would, would you walk me through a typical day, for you? 

Peter: Yeah. 

Dad: Great. 

Peter: Well, I generally wake up at least fifteen minutes late, ah, I use the side door – that way mom can’t see me, heh heh – and, uh, after that I just sorta space out for about an hour. 

Dad: Da-uh? Space out? 

Peter: Yeah, I just stare at the ground outside; but it looks like I’m working. I do that for probably another hour after lunch, too. I’d say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual, work

(In case you didn’t notice that was an obscure “Office Space” reference)

But those 15 minutes of actual work pay off as little Peters Santa’s list makes the grade and is pushed up the ladder to corporate! Santa will be placing little Peter on the nice list today. 

Today Christmas is filled with pressure! Pressure brought to you courtesy of the retail industry! It’s not enough to have a wonderful Christmas surrounded by family and friends. It’s not enough that you live on a fixed a budget and are doing the very best you can with what you have.  It’s not enough to be thankful for your health, a roof over your head, well adjusted children earning a great education. It is not enough; it’s not enough it’s just not enough! No! During Christmas you are supposed to stand in long lines, maxing out every credit card, singing Christmas carols, sucking a Starbucks while getting shoved to floor during a Black Friday event. Buy, Buy, and Buy! Who cares what the economy is doing! Just ask the car industry! Buy a Lexus! Who cares that you are on welfare! Purchase a 52 inch TV that you can never pay for! Who cares that your family is now down to one income! Its Christmas Damn it and for it to the very best Christmas ever you need to outspend, outlast, and overcome all financial obstacles for people to still love you!  Just ask the talking navigation system in the Jarrod commercials.

What exactly is the message most marketing agencies are passing along today? Holiday cheer? Uh no. Betterment of mankind? Uh no. Helping your fellow man? Uh no. Nope its nothing more than buy, buy, buy! My littlest reminded me yesterday that Black Friday is the only true savings day! It seems that it’s perfect for all parents to score really cool toys! Who are ad executives speaking to again?

Apparently Christmas is so all encompassing within our lives that it needs to be celebrated starting in October! Visited a Wal-Mart lately?  That’s right, over by the gardening section; nothing says chrysanthemum like a new set of Christmas lights and a blow up Santa! Scare the Halloween right out of Halloween by spending Christmas dollars now! Santa knows how to make Halloween its bitch!

(Actual picture taken at a Wal-Mart in October)

The phrase “holiday season” has been stretched to its useful limit when Target starts advertising the “holidays” during the World Series!  Snowflakes, Christmas Presents, couples hand in hand walking blissfully through the snow as a big white dog with a target on his eye (presumably an injury from the war) strolls down main street spreading Holiday cheer that can only be obtained after spending all of your hard earned money at Target! Also from watching this commercial, when you shop at Target in the snowy regions you don’t get wet or have a runny nose! Just an observation.

Back to Black Friday.  Marketing genius I tell you!  Not only have you stressed every shop-o-holic to the limit by announcing this day of spending infamy, but ad executives have created a self generating existence that will go generation after generation! No longer, on the day after Thanksgiving will the sound of father bellowing down the hallway; let’s all climb in the mini-van and go get the Christmas tree, be heard! Or the family tradition of pulling Christmas boxes from storage to decorate the house! Nope the marketing gods have ensured that over time, one mom will take her kids to Black Friday, a couple of moms friends will do the same, then their children will start participating in this yearly purchasing orgy, before long they will tell two friends, then they will tell two friends and so on and so on… Eventually they all will succumb to this newly created family tradition of unbridled consumerism on the day after Thanksgiving! Death to the old Christmas period, birth of a new! Maybe it shouldn’t be called Christmas anymore, I mean it is after all a religious undertone and we all know how well that flies these days.  Maybe we should call it 30 days of debt? National pay down the nation’s debt day? Giving day? Giftmas?

Yeah Giftmas! GIFTMAS, that’s the ticket!

Christmas Failure- ahem! I mean Future!

I can see it now, no longer does our country celebrate the birth of Christ, and no longer do we recognize three wise men bearing gifts for the newborn son. Our Nation, an enlightened nation now only recognizes Giftmas. A day that every faith, and culture and stand behind! Giftmas is 90 days of advertising, 14 days of Black Friday style shopping, 10 days of ridiculously low internet specials, 7 days of no credit report checked credit card offerings and two days of amnesty for people who are a little behind in their credit card payments but want to apply for more credit.

The new Giftmas will still be held on the same day as Christmas, Santa will remain as patron saint of gifting, he mastered this thing a couple a hundred years ago when as little old Saint Nic he left shoes outside the windows of those who had none! Talk about a long range growth plan! So let’s not mess with a good thing, all though I am pretty sure that once Giftmas has gone corporate the elves will unionize and then pension costs will drive up prices, but hey that’s in the future and if the present has taught us anything it’s that pension money left in the right hands is always the culprit of greed, dishonesty and theft. Which means it will be dealt with long after it’s too late.

No more Christmas trees in the household, there will instead be a Giftmas stand! That’s right a 6 foot, 8 foot or 12 foot stand with multiple levels and platforms to place your gifts upon or under.  The Giftmas stand will be lit from every angle with computerized lighting.  It will spin 360 degrees to show off every side, so even the smallest of presents look great!  And best of all its fire safe! No more worrying about a tree going up in the middle of the night!

Want to place lights on your house to celebrate the season! Great! Advertisers will do it for you! All vying for the chance to display through electronics their personal holiday message designed just for your neighborhood! Live in a gated neighborhood? Great! An electronic, flashing Mercedes Benz ad will now be running along your roof line   Live in the country? Tractor Supply will be dancing in holiday spirit as it advertises this week’s feed specials along your fence! Genius really, the same effect as Christmas lights but with a message!

The morning of Giftmas should remain relatively the same as Christmas used too.  Wake up; tear through presents then lay in a gift induced coma after eating breakfast and watching “A Christmas Story” to help you remember the good old days.  In a few hours the whole family arrives and more gifting carnage ensues! See it really isn’t all that different! No more silly religion to get in the way, no more thanking God for all that has been provided, no more needing to pray at dinner.  Just good old fashioned greedy consumerism to hold dear for generations!

Yes sir, Giftmas will ring true in the hearts and minds of every little boy and girl! Sleigh bells ring, are ya listening, it’s the UPS truck bringing your Amazon order! In the lane snow is glistening, that’s just low blood sugar! A beautiful sight, the shopping’s just right, walking through a Macy’s once again!

Happy Black Friday Shopping!!!

The Future is yours!

 

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Chocolate

CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE 

Hello everyone: My name is Betty and I am a choco-holic!

Everyone: HELLO BETTY

Betty: Its been six long days since I have partaken in the sinful, uninhibited, mind altering ecstasy that is chocolate!

Everyone: (round of applause) good for you Betty, good for you!!!

Betty: as much as I enjoy and long for your love and admiration, I have failed you all…

Everyone: heavy sigh with muttered speech around the circle

Betty: (Shoulders slumped)

I awoke this morning from a restless night of tossing and turning, cold sweats ravaging my system.  I tried contacting my sponsor but she was unavailable( ok she was asleep right next to me)!  It was terrible, TERRIBLE I TELL YOU!!!! I can hear it (chocolate) calling my name in the middle of the night! The house is quiet, and yet there it is, taunting me, calling my name! BETTTYY, BEETTYYYY, COME EAT ME!  

The chocolate rustling from within a satchel, squirming, rubbing together so the cellophane makes a very distinct sound.  MMMMMM Chocolate! I just can’t stand it! I CANT STAND FREAKING STAND IT!!!!!

This is the way I picture a support group devoted to the insane addiction that is chocolate. Together as one we discuss the evil side effects associated with loving chocolate just a little too much!  guidance and help provided to get you through a day without finding yourself holed up in a downstairs closet, gorging on a fist full of dark, creamy sin, hoping no one from your family finds you in this degrading example of uncontrollable excess!

It’s truly a struggle for us chocoholics! Its our drug of choice! Having a bad day? Nothing a Dove bar can’t fix! Gotten in an argument with your significant other? Well that Reese’s peanut butter cup is just the ticket! Kids giving you a migraine? Stand back Mounds bar you are all mine and if you don’t like it, I’ll eat your little buddy Almond joy too!  It’s that simple! One lick, one sniff, just a little taste, you’re hooked and there is no coming back!!!!!

Making matters worse our society has screwed chocoholics to the wall by enveloping certain holidays with candy! Any holiday where candy is present is a holiday where chocolate rules the day!  So when Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the ever so dreaded EASTER come around we sit, salivating at the mere prospect of having one day, just one where we can stuff our faces in public without scrutiny from the fitness police!

Hell at Christmas time what is the gift of choice for most business partners, acquaintances, distant family members and friends?  SEE’S CANDIES!!!! Yep that’s right they opened a store dedicated to nothing but CHOCOLATE!!! Its like finally getting my medical marijuana card then being told I can only shop for product once a year. One month and one month only the dispensary opens up allowing me to fulfil all mymarijuana needs!

So whats a guy like me to do? A man who can smell chocolate pulling into a parking lot at 300 feet! A man who over the last 2 years has lost close to 40 pounds by fighting, working out and struggling to eat healthy! A man who on Halloween night watched his children divvying up their candy treasure like a hawk eyes its future dinner from above, waiting for the right moment to strike! As the kids placed their treasure back into Halloween sacks for safe keeping, my mouth salivating at the thought of locating these sacks then prying them from there secure spots for future pillaging.  I know its wrong. I really do!!

Yet I can hear the chocolate calling, like a zombie only living off the urge to bite, I follow my snapping jaw towards fresh meat, it’s there and chomping into it will bring a frenzied relief to my suffering.  I struggle with this feeling on a daily basis.

A valiant effort was put forth last night, but before long as with all addicts I succumbed to the urge, finally giving in to my inner demons around midnight! Looking back on it now, it was sad really; There I sat on the floor in the kitchen, bags in hand sobbing uncontrollably as piece after piece made its way down my gullet.  Melted chocolate on my lips, chin and hands. I cried out of disgust for the 3200 calories I had just ingested, I cried for letting myself down, I cried for the hypocrisy of teaching my children not to steal from each other and yet here I sat red-handed (or chocolate-brown handed as it were) stealing piece after piece from someones secret stash!  Oh yes a pathetic shell of a man covered in milky way, caramel, peanut butter and dark chocolate.  But what made it the biggest failure of all?

It felt good! Sugar, chocolate, sweetness coursing through my veins, bringing relief to the cold sweaty pains of laying in bed knowing it was downstairs!

I was found in the morning surrounded by candy wrappers, in the same location on the kitchen floor.  I awoke from my chocolate coma, disoriented, blurry eyed surrounded by little people staring down at the lump of a father who laid before them.  I could have asked for forgiveness but they have heard it all before.  No tears, no anger, no hurtful words were spoken.  Just the woeful tired look glaring back from eyes of disappointment.   I sat up and tried to speak, but three heads looked to the ground as the oldest pointed upstairs, suggesting that I leave.

As I headed upstairs, feeling as low as a snakes belly I heard the littlest one mumble to my oldest; I found him first and kissed him to wake him up. He was sweaty and it tasted like a milky way.  That is weird right?  The oldest quietly answered back it was weird and together they decided it was time to hide what remained so I may never ever find it..

As I turned the corner at the top of the landing, my daughter was overheard mumbling; maybe we should just give the chocolate away so we never end up like dad..  They all agreed.  See maybe I am teaching them something after all…..

My name is Betty and I am a chocoholic…..

A fathers pledge….

 

To my daughter,

I pledge as your father too;

Always do my very best at protecting your young eyes and impressionable mind from the cruelties this world has to offer you.

Prepare you for life as an adult by allowing you to fail with gentle guidance towards success.

Tell you no and mean it.

Dance with you for no reason at all..

Allow you to be a princess when you feel like it, while celebrating the moments your tomboy rules the roost.

Understand that crying isn’t just for girls but big dumb old dads as well.

Not punch the first boy who dumps you and makes you cry. Unless you want me too?

Take you fishing without your brothers.

Teach you to hunt.

Brag about you not only when you are not around but when you think I can’t see you.

Have tea with you, even if that includes your horse and the two goats.

Hold your hand.

Take you on ice cream dates once a month.

Embarrass you in public. It’s just good clean fun and lends you to developing an awesome sense of humor.

Teach you all the devilish, sneaky and sometimes cruel ways of the adolescent boy.

Teach you all the even harsher ways of the mind bending adolescent girl.

Remind you on a regular basis that before someone else can love you, you need to love you.

Remind you that I love you.

Always answer the phone when you call no matter what time it is.

Pick you and your friends up anytime day or night if you have partied a little to hard.

Always call you “my little girl”

Walk you down the aisle on your wedding day without crying in front of your future husband.

Support what ever career choice you make, it’s not for me to like or dislike your choices, only to gently give you my opinion as an elder man with many experiences under his belt.

Teach you no matter what some friend, boyfriend, or stranger may try to convince you, your father will always listen to what you have to say. I may not always have the answer but I will do my best to find one.

Let you see me fail.

Always tell you the truth.

Remind you there are evil men in this world, but none as ruthless as your father when it comes to someone threatening, hurting, or stealing his daughters innocence, self-worth or life. I will find them and I will make them pay.

Try my very hardest at being a good dad, I will let you down on occasion as you will I. We are human therefor mistakes will be made, but as long as you know in your heart I will always love you there is nothing we cannot conquer together.

Love dad….

 

 

Faces from our past….

They leave behind families who know nothing of how, or why. Often misunderstood they rise to the challenge everyday and wish nothing more than the ability to return home to the country they love. Proud, brave and sometimes terrified, they perform under stress as no other. Some becoming what legends are made of, others lives are changed forever. 

It takes a special person to perform their particular duties and as Americans we should show nothing but respect not only for those who return, but for the fallen as well.  It has often been said that our WWII veterans were the greatest generation.  They sacrificed all for our country.  If those men and women set the standard then I believe all fallen soldiers should be held with the same regard.  None of them wished to perish, none of them woke up one particular morning thinking today is my last day. None of them asked to be subjected to the horrors of war, to losing fellow soldiers and thier friends.   They all knew the job that laid before them.  They all knew the risks associated, and yet each and every one of them stepped forward with honor and integrity, putting aside personal feelings of dread to complete a task for you, for us, for themselves and for our country.

Can you say you would do the same thing?

Wont you join me today as I hang my head and humbly say a prayer to all soldiers lost in many theatres across the world over multiple generations? 

It is after all Memorial day-not national BBQ day.

To all soldiers in every branch of service I say;  Thank you for your service to our country and may God bless you, and your family.

Remember the fallen, respect those who remain. 

Stay at home dads

CNN Headline April 30, 2012

Stay-at-home dads: More men choosing kids over career!

Really? More men choosing their children over a career? What is this world coming too!!

Among fathers with a wife in the workforce, 32% took care of their kids at least one day a week in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, which looked at families with children under 15 years old. That’s up from 26% in 2002.

Holy cow stop the presses!!! Did I read that right! 32 freaking percent took care of their children ONE WHOLE DAY A WEEK in 2010!!! ONE * WHOLE * DAY * A * WEEK!!!! I am flabbergasted! Shocked! Speechless!

Well HURRAY for all men across the country! That is right guys, put down your beer cans, drop your poker cards, shut off Monday night football, switch of NASCAR because 32% of you are putting in the effort at least one day a week! 32% of you are carrying the overburdened workload so the other 68% may continue roaming freely! Traveling through life without a parental care in the world! Continue down life’s road as nothing more than smoking hot sex machine sperm donors! Why? Because you fellas (32%) are caring for your children ONE WHOLE DAY A WEEK!

And up from 26% the year before, well…

Good for you!

Now for the what should have been the main headline.

Of those with kids under the age of 5, 20% of dads in 2010 were the primary caretaker

Still a pathetic number. Listen I get it! We live in a biased society that thrives on male success while underscoring the vast achievements of women across this great nation. Salaries are still skewed in favor of male gender. Women still don’t hold a major market share in leadership roles. (Although I just finished an interesting article in Forbes covering the rise of women in powerhouse positions.)

It is assumed; no it is expected that when a couple starts a family the woman will automatically stay home to raise the children and take care of the house. She birthed them, so she’s raising them; and if a man does stay home he is automatically labeled a deadbeat. Of course the number one excuse always thrown out there is; My wife makes more money than me so it was a logical choice. Although I don’t fault that explanation, don’t use it as an excuse! Would you hire a babysitter with a short temper, no patience and sleep apnea to watch your children? Of course not! Your decision as a couple, as a family is always based on wants and needs. Yes you need the extra money the leading breadwinner (male or female)in the household can bring, but do you want to raise your children? A resounding yes is usually the answer! If you didn’t want to raise your children; let me rephrase. If you felt uncomfortable and ill-equipped to handle raising your children, it wouldn’t matter how much money you or your spouse earned, you wouldn’t take on the challenge.

Now lets address the other portion of this article that chaps my hide.

Choosing kids over career!

I am not so dense as to misunderstand the sentiment. You are definitely choosing one for the other. But for some reason it still chafes me when I read articles of this fashion. Raising children is a career choice. You are the CEO, CFO and human resources officer all rolled into one! There truly is no greater calling! Oh I have seen those ridiculous stories about cost of living, salary vs overtime, and benefits all leading to a “mom” (never a parent or dad) earning $240,000 a year if someone was to pay her.

Why are we as a society so shallow that we need to put a cost on raising our children? As if raising our children were taking this dream salary straight from our pockets! As if having children has barred us from financial prosperity and we should all be upset with our little bundles of joy! Poppycock!

So to all you lazy, deadbeat, sperm donor dads that make no effort at all! You should be the ones making up the 32%. One damn day a week is not asking too much! Get off your ass and go see you kid. Good bad or otherwise, man up, take some responsibility and rejoin humanity. Just because you know how to have sex, apparently don’t know or understand the premise of a condom, or chose to have kids without choosing the responsibility associated, doesn’t mean you’re granted permission to skip out on your kids.

To all you dads that make an effort with your children while working 40/50/60 hours a week. Let me just drop this little bug into your ear. You get one chance! Your children grow up so fast! They look up to you, and look forward to seeing you when you get home. Put away the bad mood, financial blues, and teeth grinding. Put a smile on your face and spend some quality time with your children. Mold them, love them and show them the way to a better life. Better than you could ever have achieved for yourself. Its your primary responsibility, make the right choice, its your duty as a dad. You accepted it the minute you agreed to have children. You embraced it the minute your child was born. Dont let time and the trappings of life weaken your resolve.

To all you dads who are the current 20%, primary care givers! My dream is to see a day where that number is on par with women. A world where the position is split 50/50 and men do it with absolute dedication and pride. A world where commercials about household products, baby food, children’s clothing and all things associated with caring for a family are shown with dad in the lead role as well as mom. Our children love us, our children need us and yes our children want us in their lives every bit as much as mommy! There is no such thing as perfection in child rearing. If their was both parents would stay home raising their children to the highest standards of education, humanity, ethics, and compassion. Since that’s not possible its our job as parents to fill those voids, doing the very best we can with the tools we are given. But understand this; as a dad you are valued, as a dad you are worthy, and as a dad you are more of a man than most.

Every 15 Minutes

Steam rises from the hood as a faint wail can be heard off in the distance.  Sound is muffled, vision distorted he doesn’t understand the images placed before his eyes.  A kaleidoscope of colors passing through a spiderweb prism is all he can associate.  Looking to his right he finds a pair of shoes.  Not just any shoes but the Sketchers he bought his girlfriend for her 16th birthday.  Why? He wonders.  Why are they there on the seat of my car and how are they standing on their toes.  The improbability of shoes standing on their toes is more than his mind can process.  He shakes his head trying to clear the cobwebs but the alcohol in his system wont let it happen.  So he stares at the pink Sketchers in disbelief.  

The pink Sketchers he bought his girlfriend on her 16th birthday are in fact not standing on their toes.  They are still connected to her feet, feet that lead to her legs, legs that stretch through the windshield of his 2004 Nissan where she lay motionless on the hood. Dying.  The girl he loves is dying on the very hood that steam now rises from while a faint wail can be heard in the distance.

She cant seem to make it stop.  She doesn’t remember taking a nap, but now that she has found peaceful slumber she only wishes for what ever is dripping on her face to quit!  She dreams of water or syrup sliding across her eyes.  Swatting at the sticky substance she is not sure whether its real or part of her warm comfortable dream.  Then she feels it, starting out as a low uncomfortable burning, her dream translates it into fire.  Surrounding her, leaving her trapped yet somehow she knows better, fighting resisting the dream. Her eyes finally opened by the rush of adrenaline surging through her system, brought forward by the searing pain across her face. The sticky substance now identified is blood! She screams then screams again, taking in all the air her lungs will allow.  Her seat is covered in blood, the dashboard is covered in blood, her clothes are covered in blood.  Wait a minute; she thinks to herself.  Calm down and relax; is all she can say.  Her dads voice ringing in her ears for all the times she felt panicked and he calmed her down with those four little words.  Honey just “calm down and relax”.  She remembers getting in the car with her friend, they were headed to a friend’s house for a study group..  Wait her friend! He was driving them! She slowly turns to the left and its then her world is changed forever!

She now knows where the blood is from, oh sure some is from the head wound that burns across her scalp.  But the majority is from him.  He lies motionless against the door pillar, color gone from his face, lips barren and dry, a sandy glaze across the whites of his eyes he breathes no more. Still, lifeless, anything but the laughing energetic young man he was a mere 5 minutes ago.  She screams for him to wake, he doesn’t budge.  She slaps his face praying for a reaction! Anything! Anger and fear rip through her as she comes to realize he will never wake up, never move again, the charming, smart, dorky boy she had known since 5th grade was gone forever. She lays against him crying. Not knowing what to do or where to go, she cries.

The faint wail off in the distance is not a wounded animal, it doesn’t come from a piece of machinery or a child who has just been punished it comes from a shadow, a silhouette, an anomaly spread out on the pavement 25 yards away.  It twitches and writhes this anomaly of disproportion.  The top half in a serious battle with the bottom half. A losing battle from what can be gathered at first sight.  This shadow seems to be swimming on pavement, for it surrounded by liquid.  A red lake that ripples with the breeze it appears to be flowing to the lowest level it can reach.  Moving closer we see the shadow, the anomaly is wearing softball gear.  A bat off to the right a cleat off to the left stuck in the center of what appears to be a childs water-color.  Smeared across hot black asphalt lay various shades of red.  She doesn’t know why she is face down and can’t move her lower half.  She doesn’t understand why she is vomiting non stop. She feels a “fight or flight” reaction that she can’t control.  Like a trapped animal she howls, claws and fights against the chains that bind her to this place.  An abdomen that wont flex, a pair of legs grotesquely deformed, rotated and broken, she fights.  She has fought her whole life against those who said she couldn’t.  She has fought her whole life to achieve her small successes in school , at home and on the field of play, now she fights purely for her life.  She cannot move anymore yet she still fights.. 

He has shaken the cobwebs and moved beyond the pink Sketchers.  Trembling with fear he opens the car door and stands up to survey the origin of steam rising off the front of his car.  He cannot believe what lays before his still blurry eyes.  Two vehicles are heavily damaged, the front end on his car is folded up like a piece of paper, his girlfriend lay on the hood. Bleeding. Unconscious. It appears he has struck another car in the driver’s door.  A portion of the drivers head lays split open on the center post of the car.  It appears another occupant, most likely a female is crying and shaking the driver looking for a response.  As he walks around the front of his car, pulling out his cell phone he see’s a bloody pile of clothing fighting against itself on the street off in the distance.  It also appears to be a female and she has a bat, glove and is missing her shoes??

What has he done?  How did this happen?  It was only minutes ago he was at a party, laughing, drinking and having a good time with his girlfriend.  What is he going to tell his parents?  What is he going to tell her parents?  This can’t be happening he is going to college in 6 weeks!  What does this mean for his future?  It was only a couple of drinks right? He tells himself he is fine and there is no way the cops will ever know..

He makes the call to 911…

Every 15 minutes a person is involved in an alcohol related accident.  This is the premise of the Every 15 Minutes program held at high schools across the country prior to Senior Prom and Graduation.  Every 15 Minutes is a two-day program focusing on high school juniors and seniors.  The program challenges them to think about drinking, driving, personal safety and the responsibility of making the right decisions.  The program also focuses on the impact these choices make on family, friends and the community. 

The story I wrote above was about our scenario today April 26th 2012.  It is an re-enactment or compilation of many accidents I have responded to over the years.  For as the Every 15 Minutes program has an impact on the children and their families. Drinking and driving has an impact on all first responders.  The firefighters, the police officers, the ambulance crews and the hospital personnel who fight for your child or family members life.  People who are advocates for their survival.  These are images I carry with me always.  Images I can’t erase or just forget! People whose lives were changed forever from one poorly made decision. I remember them all and share them with you so you will remember to never get behind the wheel of a car after you have been drinking. 

Dont drink and drive. 

 All pictures are of high school actors who volunteered to help raise awareness to teenage drinking and driving. I am very proud to be a part of the Every 15 Minutes program and the lasting effect it has on our participants, their family members and the audience that witnesses the event.

For the goodtimes…

 

 

 

The other night I rushed the family from our daughters softball game over to our CPA to sign our taxes. Driving like a madman, hoping to arrive in the nick of time to beat the deadline for an extension, we zipped through city streets like James Bond chasing down an adversary in his shiny Aston Martin. After awhile I found my jaw locked tighter than King Tutts tomb.  My face so frozen like granite that one could bounce a quarter from my forehead.  My shoulders squared off like a New York city parkbench. Tense I guess would be the theme I am going for here? I was just a little tense….

After partaking in the usual pleasantries, we inked our paperwork, then I slithered back into the car deflated, defeated and just plain old mentally exhausted.  I found myself daydreaming of easier times, when I held no responsibilities other than waking up in the morning, carrying out a few chores, and feebly wandering my way through school.  Yeah those were the good times alright! No responsibilities at all…….

It’s amazing how the old adage of “the grass is always greener on the other side” pops to mind right now.  For as I wondered aimlessly through the bright and shiny portions of my past all I could see was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow as opposed to the rock it was sitting upon.  Yet when things aren’t going so well, amazingly I only find garbage when peering under that very same rock.  Our mind has a way of sheltering us from past experiences during some recollections while reminding us of those very same experiences during more emotional times.  Curious, so very curious…

Back to the beginning.

So while driving home during my “pot at the end of the rainbow” period I chose to think of all the things I miss about being a kid.  Yep I was yearning for the old days! Off in the land of the Walltons, Fall Guy and Wendy Peffercorn! No responsibilities at all, just me and my crazy youth! Since I was in dream land I decided to take the quantum leap into the furthest reaches of my mind and come up with a list of all the things I missed about being a kid.  When it was over I carefully narrowed them down to a fair resemblance of a top ten. Here they are…

10. Missile pops.  Nothing was better on a summer’s day than a missile pop, didn’t matter where you were or how you got it. Melty, sticky, ice-cold and delicious! It was awesome! As an adult they just don’t taste the same…

9. Going barefoot.  As a kid you could pretty much get away with being barefoot, whenever you wanted. As an adult now a days people just think you are weird. I still remember how good the grocery store floor felt under my bare feet as a kid.  As an adult it’s just plain gross.

8. My A&A custom made, motocross racing bike.  It was flat black with a little chrome and it was cool.  That bike was the center of my universe. I took the whole thing apart down to the frame then put it back together,  just to prove to myself that I could. I jumped everything I could on that bike. Rode it ten miles to town just so I could cruise around the plaza downtown. I loved it, loved it, loved it!  Shed a tear when at thirty-five I sent the worn out old frame to the recyclers after cleaning up my parents place during their move to a new house.

7.  Summertime. Being allowed to play from sun up till sundown.  Running around our ranch, hanging out with horse trainers and their kids, building forts out of hay, generally just being a kid.

6.  The fair: I saved money all year-long waiting for the fair.  I showed sheep so I was at the fairgrounds from sun-up till sundown all week-long.  The money wasnt for rides, or cotton candy or even to play those stupid carnival games.  Oh no!  The money I saved was for one thing and one thing only!  CORNDOGS!  I ate them for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a week straight! They were my drug of choice and baby I couldn’t get enough! Just the smell sent me into drooling fits of hunger! Even now, I just drooled a little on the keyboard.

5.  Swim practice:  This was a true love hate relationship which is why its number five.  I loved swim practice, because everyday I was guaranteed to see my friends for a least an hour and a half.  Plus being a young lad rolling into puberty it was always an hour of prepubescent giggles between my friends and I as we watched the cute girls walk by in their shimmering one piece swimsuits! The hate part revolved solely around the hard work encompassed in practice itself.  It was long, grueling and tiring. Although I never complained when we practiced in the rain, I always found those practices to be the most interesting.  Something strange about being wet in the pool while more water flows onto you from the clouds above.

4. Summer camp: Oh yeah, friends, swimming, hiking, snipe hunts, marshmallows and a week away from chores, my parents and my sister. Enough said….

3.  Hot Wheels: The sole reason for my fascination with all makes and models of automobiles to this day.  British, Russian, Croatian, American, German, Bavarian, I love them all.  If you have created or plan on creating an automobile I have either read about you, salivated over your creations or just plain envied you.  I am the guy who can find at least one redeeming quality on even the worst made machine.  I am always looking to understand the vision of a designer.  I cherished American Muscle as a youth and still do to this day.  I also am a big fan of German engineering and British ingenuity.  But at the end of the day I owned more hot wheels as a kid that revolved around two cars and two cars only.  The American made Corvette and the German-made Porsche.  Go fast straight and hang on g-force in the turns.  I love them both! I have owned a Corvette and can’t wait until the day comes when my cob-web filled bank account opens its doors allowing me the privilege of wrapping my poor fingers around the steering wheel of a 911.  Preferably a GT2-RS.  One can only dream.

2. Sunday night fried chicken dinners! We ate until we popped and it was always great.  No one can have a bad day after eating moms fried chicken.  It was fantastic. Heck, really its about more than fried chicken. It’s about being able to eat anything at anytime without worrying about cholesterol, fat content, how many grams of protein or what my total caloric intake was for the day. Take that BMI!

1.  Playing basketball with my dad.  I know it will never happen again. I know it was only for a very short period of time, yet it remains one of the things I miss most about being a kid. Just the two of us, no sister, no mom, just us, laughing and having a good time..

Now I am sure at least one of you out there is saying to themselves; What about the lack of responsibility as a child?  With the lead in you gave isn’t that what you were searching for?  In reality I had tons of responsibility.  More than most kids I am sure.  We lived on a working ranch and my day was pretty full with chores that revolved around the welfare and care of animals.  I learned  a lot about responsibility as a child and I am doing my best to pass those traits on to my children.  Oh, I am sure my parents would argue I was lazy and self-centered.  A chore shirker who had to be begged and harassed into completing his work.  But at the end of the day, my chores were always done and I went to bed exhausted.  Somedays I even took to counting the minutes until I could lay down upon my pillow and shut down the machine.

So in the end it has always been this way for me.  I always had to be doing something as a kid, as an adult I am no different.  Rush here or rush there, on time or late.  It’s all the same.  The grass truly isn’t greener, for all that I miss about being a kid pales in comparison to all the cool things I can participate in as an adult.

I think I am becoming Ward Cleaver…

Being a parent is without a doubt one of the highlights of my life, at times it has also held a few of the lowest points in my life. I never received a manual or “how to” book on raising children. But then who has? Everything we do as parents is a direct result of how we were reared by our parents.  Some of it may even be attributed to a few of the television shows we watched.  I prefered “Leave it Beaver”, in my fantasy family Ward Cleaver was my dad, Wally and the Beaver were my brothers. Yeah born a Cleaver how great would that have been?

Out of fantasy land and back to the real world!

I have been known to pick up and peruse the occasional parenting book written by one of Oprah’s top pick guru’s looking for answers. I have also been known to hold up the grocery store line a time or two while turning the pages on more than my fair share of “parenting” magazines. Then there are the times I have been patiently listening to the endless stream of unwarranted advice coming from the endless gaggle of distraught moms and dads purging their souls at church of school functions.  And as referenced earlier I can’t leave out the wonderful advice given to me time and again by my parents. The same people who apparently live in a fantasy world when it comes to recalling exactly how I was raised. Yes that’s right in their eyes it was all snow cones, marshmallows and ponies for yours truly. 

Yet with all this second and third-party knowledge floating in my head, for some reason (unbeknownst to me) it is still a day-to-day challenge ensuring my child is being raised properly.  Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing many parent/child relationships grow and flourish; I have also seen the unpleasant side of the same relationship failing miserably. A relationship failing so badly one cant help but stand back and wonder what the heck happened?  How on earth did this child grow to be in charge of the relationship? Why is this child demanding, disrespectful, and belligerent? The answer is simple; the parent opted to become the child’s friend. 

When I was younger I would daydream about what my children would look like, how they would behave and most of all, I would wonder what kind of relationships we would have together. I thought about all the normal scenarios, like if it was a boy we would go hunting and fishing, play baseball together, camp in the backyard, go on bike rides and build a tree house! Work on cars in the driveway and farm equipment out back.  Nothing a couple of MEN can’t handle, and nothing is better than working side by side with your son, your friend.

 If it was girl, she would be my little princess, the apple of my eye, and mom would dress her up in the cutest of clothes. I would be her protector, her daddy, the man who would melt at her smile all while cleaning my shotgun as her first date arrived.  Now don’t get me wrong I also have plans to teach her about hunting and fishing, keeping her girly with a little tomboy thrown in for good measure.  Of course this will prepare her mentally as she begins taking care of herself against those awful boys she’ll encounter, due to her stunning beauty. But at the end of the day, she will be my little angel and we will always be friends. Boy or girl, it didn’t matter, we will always be friends… Or will we???

What I have determined over time is this; I am not my child’s friend. I will never be my child’s friend. I am something way more in-depth, and incredibly more important than a friend. Whenever I hear an adult say “me and little insert name here are best friends”, I cringe and instantly think oh gosh you are so wrong, and inevitably when I finally have the opportunity to meet that child it is obvious who controls the relationship. (Hint: it’s not the parent). It really is sad to see a parent bowing to the will of a 6-year-old all in the name of friendship.

Maybe Ward Cleaver had it right? 

Ward solved every problem with a calm cool disposition. He never wavered and was always fair in distribution of punishment. His children loved him and his wife adored him. Now I know this was Television.  A writers idea of what family life should be. But did they really have it wrong? And why was Wards way of doing things so effective? Why?

I have thought about this long and hard coming to only one logical conclusion.  He was not his childrens friend. I have also found my parenting style somewhat the same for I too am not my childs friend; I am my child’s parent. That’s right I said it! In this feel good, words hurt, everyone gets a trophy, nobody loses, you need to express yourself society I have chosen to not be my childs friend, but instead focus on being the best parent I can possibly become!  

Now let that sink in for a moment.

So I know many of you are saying “that’s bunk”! Some of you may even ask yourself “is there a difference”? We’ll let me tell you fellow readers, I believe there certainly is a difference! To me (my opinion only) its like this….

Friends come and go, friends can be spoken to in anger then if all is not patched up, friends can be discarded like yesterdays trash, no longer being called a friend. Yet a new friend will take the old ones place in a matter of time. (And yes that statement is a generalization) A friend is just that, a friend an acquaintance. They travel through our lives like the wind, coming and going only to reappear when ever and where ever they choose. Don’t misunderstand what I am implying for a true friend can in fact be an important part of your life!  Someone you may grow to rely on, someone who may be an important part of who you have become or may become.  Someone who stands by your side for most of your life. We all have friends we have known since childhood, some we may even trust more than family members.  When it comes to raising a child though, you need more than what friendship brings to the table. Your child needs strong, loving parents providing guidance in every facet of their life.

Heres the shocker! (once again my opinion)

Parenting means telling your child NO and meaning it, standing by it, never wavering. Parenting means letting them make mistakes, even though you can’t stand to see them fail. But fail they will and you will be right beside them, guiding them to an enlightened outcome. Parenting means punishing them when they have done wrong even though it’s an inconvenience for YOU! Yep that’s right, I can’t tell you how many times I have seen parents throw down the stern “this is how its gonna be” only to back pedal a few seconds later because it hurt their little ones feelings!  Parenting means loving them unconditionally without question, regardless of what or who they have become. Parenting means sticking your nose in their business when they become teenagers, continuing to screen, observe and learn about every aspect of their lives and their friends lives as well. Parenting means teaching them the importance of a job well done along with the repercussions of a job unfinished or done poorly. Parenting means making mistakes yourself, recognizing those mistakes then apologizing afterwards.  Even though you want to be perfect in your childs eyes they will respect you more for your imperfections and ability to rebound from those mistakes. Parenting means sometimes you need to cry when they cry and laugh when they laugh, even though you may not think what they were experiencing was worth crying or laughing over. Parenting means teaching them how to give and receive love unconditionally. Of course this is done by example. Good parenting will give them more emotional stability and knowledge about who they are than any parent/friendship.  It will also give them the skills needed to grow, eventually becoming strong adults along with great friends themselves.

Parenting your child will always be one of the most challenging ventures undertaken. But in the long run its an investment well worth the risk. 

I am very proud to say I’m a parent to my children.

Are you?

Side note: I also believe once your children are adults you never stop being their parents.  But because they are now adults, it is a little easier developing a more “friend like” relationship if you so choose.

Easter Bunny dilemma

This morning I was asked an important question.

Now being asked a question is not in itself a monumental moment. It happens on a regular basis in our household. The topics do vary and answers are given with a combination of elation, enjoyment, and occasionally frustration. Yet this mornings question was one I am positive has been asked, pondered and answered differently on many Easter mornings. It was also accompanied by an adjoining question that I am positive has been answered with the same zeal.

Dad where does the Easter bunny come from and how come he has eggs?

Studying the backs of my eyelids for an appropriate answer I tried recalling the wealth of Easter knowledge my parents bestowed upon my inquiring mind only to come up empty. Really? I have no answer for my son, nothing of humor or wit to make his little mind giggle at the mere ridiculousness of my statement! Come on, my dad surely had some bullshit story he passed down to me between picking at the Easter ham and two fingers of Black Velvet!

My child, still gazing up at me with wonderment is waiting very patiently for an answer.

What to say, what to say! Do I take the “I’m an educated adult path” and regale him with stories of Mary Magdalene carrying hard-boiled eggs to the tomb of Jesus only to have them turn brilliant (blood) red upon seeing the risen Christ? Or fill his little sponge like mind with old traditions; such as dyed or painted Easter eggs that celebrate springtime and the rejuvenation of man/life? WAIT! What about the darn rabbit? I mean is he old enough to understand the importance of the rabbit in medieval religious art? That it was widely believed the rabbit was in fact a hermaphrodite who could achieve immaculate conception thus tying it for ever to the Virgin Mary? That eggs from birds and rabbits giving birth all tie back to spring and the Vernal Equinox?

He’s still waiting for an answer and I can feel the sweat starting to form on my brow!

I know! I will sit him down at the computer and together we can discover the true meaning of the infamous Easter Bunny. Yes that’s how we will do it, father and son together on a journey, a quest if you will for answers only the infinity of the internet can divulge! Side by side staring into the abyss of information that is all but a keystroke away! Easter morning just him and I, reading, searching and learning while our other children are searching for eggs a n d e a t i n g c a n d y…….. Yeah that’s not gonna work…

No more pondering doe eyes, I can’t take it anymore so I lay the truth upon him..

Son the Easter bunny comes from a big green meadow just below the North Pole and south of Santa’s workshop where it plays all year with other forest creatures from every Disney movie ever created. The Disney forest creatures sing and laugh all day with the Easter bunny while they paint eggs for every child in the world! The tooth fairy is by their sides determining how much candy everyone will receive by the amount of teeth she has collected throughout the year. Then the night before Easter the bunny quietly distributes eggs in hidden places all over the world . He hides them for you to find so when you’ve eaten all the Easter candy from your Easter baskets you can run around burning off your uncontrollable sugar high!

Ok?

son; Ok (shoulders shrugged)

Thinking I am in the clear, and its time for me to have two fingers of Jack Daniels; he then turns and asks matter-of-factly. Dad, how does he get all the eggs and candy around the world?

I tell him the discussion about the time-space continuum will have to wait for another day.

Damn being a lying parent is a pain in the butt!

Only five….

 

The room is empty his bed made up. An eerie silence has befallen a house filled with chaos.   Although there are six, one would think an absence would go unnoticed.  That five would be alright?  An empty chair at the table would bring no discernible question. Joy would come from one less to make lunch for, one less to ensure readiness for school, one less to pat on the head say I love you and kiss goodbye as that one passed through the door. One less….. Yes…

One would be wrong.

He brings a smile to my face everyday. I feel he brings smiles to many faces during the day.  He has the same troubles most lads have at eleven.  Staying focused in school, interjecting during adult conversations at the most inappropriate of times, picking fights with his little brother, while idolizing his older one.  He is wicked smart yet chooses to only do what is required when the subject matter doesn’t suit his liking.  But what child doesn’t behave that way? He loves all animals, big and small, and will cry at the drop of a hat upon learning af a harmed creature.  Horses have become his passion as he yearns for every moment he can ride in the ring.  He is big and strong, quiet, and funny, boisterous and obnoxious, yet humble when the moment requires.  I have not met a soul who thinks anything but the highest regards for this young lad.

He is gone on a field trip, away from home since yesterday.  I know not of his specific where about, I cannot speak with him as he has no cell phone.  It is silly when you think about it really. But I never understood how badly I need his presence in my life.  I have become as dependant on him as he remains dependant on me.  I love all my children and feel the same sickening heartbreak when one is not around.  My worry radar is on overload, my sense of protective parenting is on the highest of alerts. I feel as though I am electrified with no way to shut down the power.

How did our parents do it, I wonder?  How did they get through this feeling, like that of a lost appendage?  A hand, gone, a finger missing, my nose cut off to spite my face? It’s all there, holding me hostage until he arrives home safely.  I dislike this feeling immensely!  It doesn’t get easier with the next child as I have just realized.  I really thought it would, yet its only more complex.  How will I behave when I am down to the littlest member of our family.  Will I need a straitjacket for a specified period of time? Xanex and whiskey to dull the pain?  I am not sure, but I know this, I feel as though I just heard another grey hair pop from my skull!

I love you Jake! You are a reminder to me of why I became a parent.  I never felt it was my right to have children, I have always known it as a privilege.  You, your two brothers and one sister, remind me of that everyday.  I challenge myself everyday to do my very best to guide you all to adulthood.  I pray everyday that what ever challenges you face you know to trust that your parents will be there for you.  I pray everyday that these little spots of freedom you encounter during the course of your childhood only strengthen your resolve to return home once you have ventured out into the real world as adults.  For no matter what the reason, no matter what the need the door to your home will always be open for you to return.

Now hurry up and get home so I can hug you!