Parenting is hands down the hardest most thankless job, yet I have always wanted to be a dad.

I am constantly panicking.

Being a parent is hands down the hardest job any human will ever hold and yet I have always known that I wanted to be a dad. When I was younger I can remember always thinking; when I am a dad things will be different! As if parental wisdom had been bestowed upon me at birth. What a joke, right? But strangely I still knew.

What the hell was I thinking?

These creatures produced through the magic of birth (yes I know how they were created I took part in the process) can bring us so much joy, but just like the picture perfect families we portray upon our Facebook pages there is the dirty underside no one sees that also exists. They test us to our emotional limits from the second we hold their little, chubby, cherub frames. Oh they get away with a lot at first, I mean come on it’s a slobbering, pooping, peeing machine with no real concept of right or wrong. One smile, one drool, one gurgled word and it is all over for us! We turn into puddles of loving goo!   But as they grow older their sponge like minds absorb, evolve, become wiser and learn quickly how to turn the tables on us every chance they get!

Fast forward a few years and they are teenagers

The hardest part of parenting is not the monotonous daily routines. Yes getting a child to rise from bed every day is a pain in the ass! What is especially frustrating is when it’s a hunting or fishing day, then that same child miraculously doesn’t need an alarm clock to rise, dress, pack a lunch and be ready to go at 4 am. Also struggling with homework, cleaning their rooms, getting them to come home on time, and not only do their chores but do them well will always be difficult! No the hardest part of parenting is watching your child stroll down the same life path you chose, unless you are of course incredibly successful, then NONE of this will make sense to you!!!! Where was I? Oh now I remember! Even though you have done everything humanly possible to keep them from traveling that rocky road, you nudge them, guide them, you flat out at times push them with all the force you can muster. They do it anyways and it is very painful to say the least.

I have always tried my hardest to teach our children from my mistakes. If you read this blog on more than one occasion then you know I am very open about my past. Teenage years sneaking out of the house, staying out all night, never telling my parents where I was and not caring about the retribution that awaited upon my return. At 16 I thought I knew it all. I had a truck which meant freedom and I no longer needed anyone’s advice. My nights were filled partying with my friends, drinking way too much, and throwing the middle finger to the rules and requirements of a 16 year old boy. I was a child of the eighties and damn proud of it!

My parents on the other hand, not so pleased. I put them through hell. Not quite sure when my father officially gave up on me but he did. Many nights I am sure they worried about where I was or what I was doing, but these were the days of no cell phones, no abilities to track my location and since I refused to adhere or conform I am sure at some point they just became numb. Now on the flip side, my dad knew every cop/Sherriff/CHP officer in town because they all ate at his restaurant. So the only consolation I have for my horrible behavior is these guys were constantly keeping tabs on either my green 64 Chevy or my blue 81 Chevy. Still no excuse for my lack of respect or behavior.

Yes I was a problem, yes my parents let me know I was a problem as they well should have, but what’s killing me is the thought of history repeating itself. All that time screwing off cost me big! All that time chasing others dreams and never having any of my own ruined my youth, all that time thinking only of myself and not others took me years to acknowledge and reverse course. All of my raging against the machine, living life the way I wanted while taking no responsibility for myself or my actions robbed me of much deeper experiences in life. I quite literally fucked myself over and I regret every moment or decision to this day! Where others talk about how great the old days were, I think; yeah it was fun, I did have experiences, but at what cost? While others regale themselves in stories of grandeur, I look at them and think, well at least you were able to do it all and finish your education, follow your dreams, live life before life ran you over. I was not. As others recount the amazing friendships they made along the way, I wonder just how many I ruined by traveling constantly to the next best thing? I was always trying so hard to be something besides myself that I never even found out who I was! I followed friend after friend’s dreams instead of having any of my own. If I was dating you, I supported your aspirations or at least helped you if I could but never found who or what I wanted to become. When things got tough, I found it easier to drink, become someone else and hide behind the hatred I had for myself because I felt I was too stupid to accomplish anything on my own. Of course you would never know that because rest assured I would tell you in conversation just how smart I was or how something should be handled. Why? Because I was terrified you would see right through me. And as one would expect, on more than one occasion people I cared about did, driving them away. It made me sad.

These are things that happen to a young man when left to his own devices.

I see this in the young men that come through our fire academies. I spot the frauds a mile away because I was one. I can tell when you are at the end of your rope and feeling like a failure while hiding behind bravado, whether you know it or not you stand out like a sore thumb. When I see you, I am immediately drawn to you and depending on how our five minute conversation goes I know whether or not you are ready for assistance. I still try.

These are skills that I have acquired over the 32 years since I was considered a young man. I want to help you so bad! I want you to see the value in yourself, because if you don’t see it how will another? I want you to know you are not alone, an angry ship fighting against a raging sea of phony social expectations. You need to do you, but you need to find out so desperately who you are, what you want to become and then YOU need to grab ahold and make it happen! No one else is going to do it for you! You can never succeed off others aspirations, others actions or dreams and without knowing who you are it becomes even harder to find those dreams and make them a reality.

I say these things and yet it feels as though it never makes a difference. Maybe my words are heard, maybe some of this sets in and changes are made. Maybe.

But I know this, I am angry at the time lost. I am bitter about never finishing my education, I cannot stand the fact that I am ten years behind the curve in life due to choices I made, and I feel as though there is so much more for me out in this world than what I am experiencing. Aren’t those the important lessons that our youth should learn? Shouldn’t these lessons of failure help shape a positive future for them to adhere too? Shouldn’t they understand the pain and sorrow that comes from making the very same mistakes over and over and over again without a course adjustment? Shouldn’t my word be enough to turn that tide of brazen youth and re-hone it into a productive, active young person who freely understands the risks, the hard work and the just rewards for chasing YOUR dreams and not the dreams of others? Shouldn’t they look into my eyes, judge the wrinkles of sadness and lost opportunity and realize instinctively that I speak the truth? Because god damn it I am screaming it to the heavens hoping you hear it!!!

Oh parenting is so freaking hard! I know you think life’s not fair and you are right, at times it’s not. I also know you’re thinking when you too become a parent or mentor, things will be different! But know this.

I want nothing but the best for my children both paternal and those taken under my wing, I ask for nothing more than I think any of you can handle, I am there for you all if you need help. I will become frustrated, it doesn’t change my love, and I will never leave your side no matter what may happen. But most of all, no matter how much you or anyone else may hurt my feelings, no matter how angry you or anyone else may become, no matter how hard life feels to you at that very moment I just want you to remember. I have never lied, I will always listen to you for I have walked in these shoes, and if you will just listen to me, listen to what I have to say I have a plan and I promise when you are older whether I am alive or not, some day you will thank me.

Why?

Because I have always wanted to be a dad.

The panicking part just takes some getting used too.

 

 

 

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The basement and those never satisfied juvenile eating machines!

What the hell? What the holy freaking hell??? I mean I get it, kind of, they eat; they eat a lot! But I mean I never figured it would be like this!!!!

We as a family talk about how hard times come and go and right now our budget is squeezed a tad, we talk about the importance of shopping carefully, utilizing sale items, never being brand loyal and understanding the list dad has when he shops is because I have taken the time to figure out exactly what we need, when we need it so as to fall within those budgetary restraints! We talk about overeating along with understanding there are 3 meal times a day so you wont die from starvation if your little tummy pangs an hour before dinner! Apparently after all the long, loving, conversations held with temperance while speaking using the silky smooth stylings of Mr. Rogers some fucking remedial training is in order! 

I went into the underground cavern better known as our basement to watch television while partaking in my nightly ritual of laundry washing, drying and folding. (Apparently I am still a maid) As I began retrieving small piles of lovingly folded clothes from the day before off the floor (no one ever knows how they got from the table to the floor) while swearing like an angry Irishman, my Clint Eastwood, squinted fuming Dirty Harry gaze leveled down upon our pantry. Now this is no ordinary pantry mind you! This section of shelving is more than capable of holding a months’ worth of supplies to feed these two legged heathens and yet there is sits, almost empty..

I built cabinet doors, complete with locks to keep them out! They broke these crafted masterpieces, lost the keys and our honest little children swear they don’t know how any of that could have happened. I stored food in a manner that left bait food out front while everything else was hidden on the edges and in the rear. The bait food has been the last to be consumed while a small tornado seems to have traveled across all shelves leaving pasta and cans of soup on their side much like the remnants of a trailer park after such a storm. The middle shelves once glistening with ample product lay barren as the desert, nothing to show but dust and torn paper!

I stood straight up to make a play for our beloved angels, hitting my head on a rafter which further fueled the already raging fire consuming my being! Turning to march up the stairs I take a quick body check as to not add insult to injury upon my already throbbing noggin by clocking it again on the very same rafter!!! Carefully negotiating the piles of laundry strewn upon the basement floor I am headed up to rip some ass! Some apparently over eating fat asses need a stern talking too, because by now it has become abundantly clear their mother and I have laid no tantalizing tongue upon any of the delectable delights stored inside the sub cavernous residential pit! As I reach the stairs a little voice yells at me; look in the fridge! What??? Look in the fridge? There is no way our brooding hoard of teenage hormones has in any way decimated the fridge as well, I tell myself! My right foot hits the first stair and then my left foot makes the turn! My body has taken over, I am not sure if it is out of anger, curiosity or the little voice in my head has taken control. But quickly I am in a 180 headed straight towards the downstairs fridge! The ice cold box, filled with beer, sparkling waters, left overs, milk, sometimes candy and fresh fruit! Yes this will be fine, I begin consoling myself that 3 days ago when I filled both fridges and the pantry with five hundred dollars’ worth of supplies from our local grocery store and produce market it was going to last at least a week! A whole week, long enough for me to have retained half a paycheck, and there would be plenty for mother and I to feast upon when needed!

Opening the door my eyes cast upon a field of clear plastic shelving, like gazing through a frozen lake and yet instead of witnessing trout moving back and forth all I see is one lone grape, an empty plate of some foreign substance and beer, lots of beer. I mean thank GOD they aren’t swilling my only true inebriating pleasure, there may be at least one ray of heaven shining from within this glacial wasteland.

My anger intensifies!!!! I am headed upstairs again TO RIP SOME ASS!!!! Between the disrespect shown for the hard work in the laundry department and now this! Oh yeah, daddy is coming unglued, unhinged, the devil is shooting fire from my eyes!!!! I turn, slamming the fridge door, I’m angry, and to quote the HULK; you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry!!!!

Taking another step toward the stairs I promptly clock myself on the second rafter in our dungeon of delight!! There is a very small tunnel to which I staring, sounds coming from iPad are that of my new favorite show Bosch, yet to me they sound like eagles crying overhead! I’m sweating, hot and nauseous. The tunnel grows vastly smaller and I find the overwhelming need to hold my breath and bear down hard as to not lose consciousness. The world right now is NOT my oyster.

Coming around I find I am firmly planted on the staircase. It takes me a second to remember where I am at and why I am in the basement. Shaking it off while slowly getting to my feet I stare at the lovingly folded laundry which has somehow made it to the floor and begin picking it up while quietly cussing about our lazy children who don’t appreciate everything there father does for them. As I stand up my eyes throw a Clint Eastwood/Dirty Harry glare upon the empty cabinets that are our pantry and find myself in disbelief after stocking them not more than three days ago. I stand up as rage enters my being and scream what the bloody hell!!!!

I hate the basement…..

P.S. I came to realize after about ten minutes, there was a reason I knocked myself silly. The first time was Gods way of getting me to relax, take a hint. I didn’t listen. The second time was Gods way of saying, sit down and shut up!

I heard him loud and clear. Although our children can be frustrating, infuriating at times, and more than their mother and I can handle. We both know we have wonderful kids, we know they are going to become amazing adults, and I guess that means if they eat us out of house and home every now and again. Well so be it. No one ever said parenting is easy…

 

 

So this is 50…

“A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted 30 years of his life”

                                                                                                                                ~Muhammad Ali~

 

I can distinctly remember awakening on my 15th birthday, lying in bed while pondering the importance of this day. You see it was my last year before complete freedom, six months from now with a little effort I would obtain a learners permit, then if I kept my nose clean a full-fledged driver’s license would soon follow. I had dreamed of obtaining my license from the very moment I fell in love with cars and now we were but 12 short months from it becoming a reality!

And that my friends started a habit that has both served me well and left me face first in the dirt wondering why more times than I can count. The habit is known as looking forward.

Most people look forward to a vacation or the purchase of some tangible object. I on the other hand began looking forward to landmark dates and moments in time where my life would hopefully just fall into place. Laying my head upon the pillow at night I would count off the time. 5 years until I turn 20 then I will be able to drink legally, 5 more years and I will be 25, either dead or married but either way that’s 10 years away! Plenty of time in between to explore and have fun! 5 years after that I’ll be a dad that’s if some woman is stupid enough to marry me!! Wow think about that! At 30, 15 short years from now, I will become a father to some snot nosed kid! Ten years after that I will become 40 years old! Who wants to be forty that’s freaking old!! Oh well, I will still be the same just I will have a couple kids to hang out with, go skateboarding, ride bikes and work on cars!! It will be fun, like having your best friends over every day because of course they will see how obviously awesome I am!! Ten years later I will be 50 and then, well then I will be really old! Like the teachers with gray hair I see feebly walking the halls, or the old men that every morning make their way into Fords Café. Pretty sure they are too old to actually have a job, they’re just killing time. Wake up early, go meet with other old dudes who are counting the days until they die, eat breakfast, drink coffee, and repeat! At least when I am 50+ my kids will be grown and gone, and I will be able to party hard once again while watching my ancient body wither away..

 

Ahhh the mind of a young man without a clue. So sure of himself, self-absorbed and completely unrealistic.

I turned 50 years old yesterday. Really not sure what I was expecting to happen, but going to bed the night before was held with great trepidation. Moving my pillow, placing items on my nightstand in perfect unison as if by awaking the following morning to find they were moved held some form of significance in determining my age.

Staring at the ceiling I began my usual looking forward process, except this time I wasn’t looking forward but instead mourning the past. Rolling back in five and ten year segments, memories flooded my conscience and with it joy, pain, fear, sadness and tears. We work so hard at looking forward, to the next conquest, challenge or milestone in our lives I think we forget to honor the past. Not just remember the past but actually honor the past. Without the past we wouldn’t be able to say; hey you remember when we…..???? Or you remember that time….???? And of course; I can’t believe we/I survived……????

We forget to not just remember the good times because all of our good times whether we admit it or not are tempered by that portion of our brain protecting us from pain, but to remember while holding in the highest regards the bad times as well. I know you are thinking what, but I want to forget the bad times! Who needs that kind of grief in their lives? In reality if we don’t take a moment to remember our struggles, relive our pain, relish in strengths formed from having our souls drug through the deepest of dark pits, we would be doing ourselves a huge disservice. It is those struggles and pain that forge the human being we are today. Life is easy and lived well when you are always happy never feeling the burdens life can provide. Life is cherished and held even closer when you struggle then survive, rise above the darkest of times always searching for a better moment to bask under. The struggle helps us to become who we are and creates a human being who cares about others, feels empathy, and knows the importance of tolerance and understanding even during the most challenging of times.

I laid in bed for an hour watching my usual round of The Daily Show, The Amazing Race and Amy Schumer. My eyes were watching but my mind was a million miles away. 50 years old, double the amount of time I really thought I would live. Every person who walked through my life over the last 40 years that was no longer with us crossed my mind. Grandparents, friends of my parents, other family members and of course close personal friends. Human lives never afforded the chance to make it to 50 years of age. Life played out is hand and they were gone way to soon leaving those around them suffering with the stark reality that when it’s over, it’s over. We have no say, no choice and life is not a guarantee. So I ask myself, why am I different? Why did I make it here and the others didn’t? Some lost their lives in accidents while others to cancer, illness or the hard realities of a life not lived well. But here I was getting prepared to embark on this landmark (by societies standards) birthday. 50 years old. Some didn’t make to 20, some 30, others in their early 40’s. Either way they were no longer with us. So why am I still here? What is my purpose? Because if I made it this far there must be a purpose otherwise I may as well be nothing more than the walking dead.

When I awoke, I sat up straight like Bill Murray in Groundhog day! I looked around and everything on my night stand was right where I left it. My phone was already loading up with well wishes from friends and the kids were beginning to rustle for school. Jacy had retreated downstairs as she does most mornings around 3:30/4am due to the wacky schedule her medications have her body beholden too. My morning was fairly uneventful for having just turned 50! No new pains, my joints still working fine and there appeared to be no new grey hairs sprouting mysteriously from my head. I still needed glasses to see and when I stepped on the scale there appeared to be no rapid weight gain possibly warranting the use of suspenders with my belt. Brushing these 50 year old teeth I found myself thankful they were all still there and once my hair was combed it didn’t look as though it had thinned any more than normal. I guess you could say it was turning into an uneventful morning, nothing like what my inner fears told me turning 50 would become.

The 15 year old boy still trapped deep inside calling me an old man was happy none of his premonitions had come true.

Today I am much more cognoscente of my surroundings at 50 years old. Birds, fields, a certain smell or breeze that is just the right temperature hitting my face floods my brain with memories. Good, bad or otherwise. I appreciate life, not just my life, but any life. Animals hold a dear place in my heart, I cannot stand to see any animal mistreated; if you are mistreating an animal rest assured I will mistreat you! Nothing brings more joy than a nuzzle  from a horse, the purr of a cat or the slobbery happiness of a dog. I finally have the patience when fishing I wish I held when I was younger. A morning working a horse can erase an entire day of shit! There is something so calming about learning a horse, its character, abilities and personality. Happiness definitely comes from spending time with my children, whether at a rodeo, playing ball, going to the beach, sitting at a school function or just reading together, they are my world. My overall temperament has changed as well, although those very same children I love can on occasion bring me close to the explosive person I could be when I was younger, I now have the ability to walk away, calm myself down and look at things from another’s point of view.

Understanding the power of commitment. My wife is an amazing human being, she fights every day for the simplest things we all take for granted. Time with her children, the ability to walk outside, go to the store, or even just drive the car without wanting to fall apart physically. She lives in fear of the unknown and wonders if she will ever feel better. Every day she wakes, and works hard at making lunches for her children so they know she is still here and she loves them. She sleeps a lot due to her medications and her body doesn’t help when it comes to walking from point A to point B. She worries about everyone and everything. She is my hero. I am terrified of a life without her.

I miss my dad. Wasn’t sure at times how I would feel about that since we butted heads a lot over my entire life, but I really do miss my dad. I have also come to understand in the circle of life his departure leaves me up to bat as it were. I would rather read than watch TV, sit in a quiet room than listen to music at a million decibels, although there are the occasional times alone in the car or at work in my cubicle I have been known to crank up some Zeppelin or Van Hagar! (only those my age will understand the Van Hagar) I have grown fond of the complexities involved with classical music and nothing brings a smile to face faster than some down and dirty jazz. Real country music not that crap they play today is what is on my channel 80% of the time.

Mornings are amazing! Every morning is a little different and I now wonder why in my younger years I wasted all those mornings sleeping in when I could have been out watching in amazement as the earth rotates bringing a bright glowing sun from beneath the shadows of darkness. I feel the same way about a sunset. Something about dusk just speaks to me. It is the perfect time of day.

I worry about our future and what we are leaving behind for our children. There is so much hate in this world and our outlets for entertainment seem to thrive on exploiting only the negatives of life. We are developing a nation of self-centered glory hungry humans that care for no one but themselves. I know there is lots of good in this world I just wish there was more reporting of positives than negatives. I also feel as though we are ruining this planet and our great grandchildren are going to pay the price. If we don’t hurry up and make some major environmental changes than we will permanently damage this planet. It is our only home.

So as you can see the 15 year old no longer lives here and thank goodness! I think differently, and lord have mercy I look different! But looking forward will still be a part of my life as I grow older, just there will also be many more times where looking behind is just as important. There are many more challenges remaining in this life that I don’t WANT to accomplish but NEED to accomplish for my own growth and wellbeing and if I make it to my 60’s.70’s or god willing my 80’s I hope I still have the ability to dream big, love even bigger and hopefully are still able to help anyone who will listen to navigate this crazy thing called life so they can find out just who they are or are getting ready to become when they to hit the big 50.

[JF1]

What do I say?

What do I say?

My son has wanted to be in law enforcement since he was 8. It started with the FBI, moved to local law enforcement, wandered towards Fish and Game and now hovers around CHP.

The events of this last week, a proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back in regards to a movement or movements either fighting against the establishment, or protecting it. Targeting entities, blaming all problems on injustice or race, centered on the actions of a few while targeting the many. Wallowing in hatred and an unmistakable inability to look in a mirror at one’s self before casting blame. To kill or protect, hate or understand, listen or scream, these seem to be the only options available and all though some are working hard to find common ground as long as media agendas, and motivated hate mongers are allowed to stir panic, and rage through social media there will be no winners.

What do I say?

How do I tell him I am terrified for his future, scared that he will become a target as opposed to a respected asset to the community he chooses to serve; and not because of his individual actions but instead for his chosen profession in conjunction with the color of his skin. Blind hate stirred carefully over time through abuse from both sides of this fence has seen to that.

He is an incredibly smart, college educated, handsome young man. One who cannot stand injustices towards others, who was raised to honor an individual for their accomplishments, persona, ethics, and integrity; to never judge someone but spend a moment in their shoes before an opinion can be made about the who, where, what and the why of it all. He has been raised to understand we are all Gods children, color has no bearing in our house and the hate he sees in our world is taught. You are not born that way.

Yet his dream is his dream. His passion is fishing, hunting, camping spending ever moment he can outdoors. He also longs for the day when he can chase down law breakers, work on a difficult case bringing resolution to a person or family struggling with heartbreak. He wants to help you and not because you are family, but because you are a human being who needs assistance.

He is braver than I, stronger, and mentally sharper than I’ll ever be, he picks apart situations and is able to quickly decipher any moment, finding a resolution or answer. He is quick witted and knows the minute you are lying. He is the son of a fireman and therefore knows exactly what is waiting for him in this world. I have kept no secrets. And yet it is what he wants. To help you at all costs, a stranger.

I have told him you will be lied to everyday, some people will hate you simply because you wear the uniform. He will quickly find most people fail to take responsibility for their actions and therefore whether it’s a domestic issue, robbery, car theft or speeding, somehow, some way it will be his fault.

Throw into the mix our messed up society brandishing a camera, hoping, praying he screws up, loses his temper, does something stupid so they can become the next YouTube sensation and his job gets harder by the minute. It is not an easy profession, he will be spit on, punched, kicked, demoralized and berated. Hopefully no one ever shoots at him but I think those days are long gone where an officer never needs to pull his weapon, but yes that means at some point he will need to draw his gun to the glee and delight of all those iPhone camera toting social media trolls.

What do I say?

What do I say to my son, to the boy who I played baseball with, held when he cried, and laughed with while we fished. My job as his father is to help support him, keep him from harm, and lead him down a proper road while giving him all the tools for success. So what do I tell him in regards to this career choice he has made, that he has dreamed of for so long?

Do I tell him his mother and I will have multiple sleepless nights, worrying about his safety and the safety of his fellow officers? Do I tell him I selfishly wish he had become a firefighter like me? Do I prod him towards another profession, breaking him down and crushing his dreams all in the name of my own personal wellbeing?

No

Instead I hug him and tell him I understand. I understand what it’s like to want something so bad, to be a part of something much greater than you so bad it drives you crazy and leaves you sleepless at night! I tell him I am proud of him for his choices and remind him I will help him in any way possible to ensure he achieves his dream. I reinforce our families belief that all people are equal and help him to understand there are people in this world ready to tear him down at a moment’s notice and to not judge all because of the actions of a few. I remind him change can only come when people like himself get involved and provide a positive presence for all to see and learn from. I remind him that I fully understand the old adage of; if not you, then who?

We still have a few years to go before he is ever sworn in anywhere and maybe our country will have worked hard to turn things around, rebuilding trust and furthering our ability to no longer mire in hatred. He may also have joined the military and taken a different path into law enforcement you never know. Either way I know this. I am proud of the man my oldest son is becoming, I look forward to the day he finally achieves his dreams and I pray he surrounds himself with good people, starts himself a loving family and remembers he has a solid foundation for which he was built upon. Those things alone will keep him humble, caring and make him one hell of a man.

What do I say?

I say I love you son and thank you for just being you.

 

 

 

A “Betty”Fathers day thought.

Its Father’s day.

Yesterday while saying our goodbyes as we prepared to leave Bishop California after a week at the California High School Rodeo Finals, a friend slapped me on the back and said; well at least we will all be home for father’s day!

I chuckled and made some smart ass quip about spending the day cleaning the trailer, tack, horses and clothing. Yup father’s day at its finest! Grumble, grumble…..

This morning after rousting my crew awake, driving one to craziness as he drug his very tired butt outside to feed, I decided maybe Father’s day was indeed a perfect day to be revered. But not in the way most would think.

Father’s day has always been a day for others to appreciate their dads. The men who shaped and modeled, be it through exemplary parenting, a fumbled menagerie of discourse or simply a reflection of horrific role modeling that brought you, now an adult, into the parental place you are today; good bad or otherwise.

One problem for me on this day of days.

My dad isn’t here anymore.

My father passed away on December 31st 2015. This is my first father’s day without him. Something I am realizing this morning I took for granted. He is not here for me to call in the morning, take to lunch or dinner in the afternoon, hand a card to and hug. His frail shaky body no longer walks the driveways between our houses, his voice no longer bellowing larger than life yelling “slow down” towards speeding cars lost on our dirt road. No lecturing my boys on speeding around the property aboard a quad, dirt bike, tractor or horse. No laughter at Jakes antics or pride while watching Cody triumph at just about everything he does. No glee watching Parker or a simple, sly faced smile while seeing Jessica ride in the arena. No dad for me to bounce ideas about a horse from, just silence, a vacancy, an emptiness and I cannot help but stare at the spot in the driveway where he passed.

Yesterday to make emotional matters worse my wife’s uncle passed away from a tumor in his brain. We all knew it was coming yet as I am sure you all know that doesn’t make it any easier. I understand it really shouldn’t matter but not making it an additional 24 hours, his children are now spending father’s day without their dad. It seems like a silly thought but it is one of the man things I found myself thinking about first thing this morning. How about instead I worry about the simple fact a good man is gone and the day has nothing to do with it? Maybe it struck me weird because I, an outsider thought Brian was an amazingly intelligent man, one of the kindest I have ever had the honor of knowing and to not be here for his family to revere just hit me weird. I always looked forward to seeing him at family functions because the conversation was always intriguing. He had done so many things few of us ever dream of doing. But most of all he was an explorer. To me that is what living life is about. We as human beings never truly explore beyond our little circle or comfort zone. I am speaking of not just what is beyond the horizon but within ourselves as well? Always talking a good game there are very few who actually follow through. Brian was one of those people who actually followed through. His presence within our family will be greatly missed and my heart aches for Jacy’s dad, Brian’s brother. Blair has lost his mom and now his brother all within a relatively short time. The void must be huge, the struggle within very tough.

I wish I could say I cannot imagine what his family is going through but I can and I am sure today, a holiday dedicated to fathers will feel empty at best.

This week for me was spent surrounded by kids, families and friends. Rodeo is an amazing collection of hard working people all trying their very best to survive while providing for their children. Family is always at the heart of this sport and it has always drawn me to it since I was a kid. Stands filled with cheering parents. Animals treated with love, better than many people treat themselves all working just as hard to perform. Kids not just competing against other kids but helping their competitors as well! It doesn’t matter what district you are from in this state it is not uncommon for kids from those competing districts to be helping others. They come here as competitors/rivals but leave here friends. District one rider needs a horse because theirs is hurt, no problem as District 8 lets them borrow one. District 5 needs a saddle? District three to the rescue! Don’t even get me started about the rough stock! It doesn’t matter what district you are from everyone is on deck supporting, helping and ensuring that not one competitor isn’t taken care of before they nod their head, signaling to open the gate! There are roughly 300 kids, the best in their events from across the state with parents who should be proud of not only what their kids have accomplished but what they as parents have accomplished as well.

So today on Father’s day since my father is no longer here to say thank you. I am going to go a different direction. Inspired by a week surrounded by children and family, a week filled with victory and loss, a week ending with my own family’s tragic sorrow.

I am going to say this;

Thank you to all the fathers who inspire children across this great nation, those who stand tall choking back tears during successes and failures of not only their own kids but others as well and doing so proudly while lighting the way for others to see. Every father who knows exactly when to say the right thing at the most inopportune time, creating those perfect building blocks for a child to use as a foundation for future success. Thank you to all the dads who understand the importance of putting their own dreams aside so children and again not just their own may flourish. Those dads who know being a father isn’t just about raising your own kid but holding a positive influence over every child who crosses your path. The world can only evolve if we love each other equally, help each other selflessly and not just focus on what is ours.

To the dads who become fathers to those who don’t have one any more. Who remember the importance a parental figure plays in a child’s life. Especially a child who is alone. To all the dads who were a father to me when mine wasn’t around. The ones who ripped my ass when I needed it without fear of reprisal from my own dad. My dad believed it took a village and if I was caught doing something wrong then by all means let me have it!! It is the same way I parent today and if someone doesn’t like it they can take it up with me in private. I am a very good listener.

Today is also important as I reflect on not just how special I believe my own children to be but all the kids I have had the privilege of parenting in some small way or another. I think of all of you all the time. I am thankful for this crazy social media thingy called Facebook because I can see your smiling faces, watch you all continue to grow as adults, friends, family members and even parents of your own. You all make me so proud (and you know who you are) my door is always open, there will always be a seat at my dinner table for you and an ear to listen if you ever need any help.

I think about my own kids on this day. How lucky I am to have four very different individuals living under this old farm house roof. They all drive me crazy at times, and leave me exhausted but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

To Cody, Jake, Jessica and Parker; Thanks for being my kids, allowing me to be your dad. Thank you for filling my life with memories, joys, laughter, and experiences that could never be replaced. But most of all on this Father’s day, a day where I cannot hug my dad and say thank you. Thank you for filling my life with love. I love you all so very much!!

I’m going to close out today with a simple request from all of you.

There are some who are hurting today because their father is no longer around. Reach out to them and let them know you care. There are those who you as a father or male figure have had an influence upon in your life. Drop them a note to say hello. There are some children out there who may need you as an extra fatherly figure in their life to help them along the way. Reach out to them. There are many who maybe don’t need you in a parental manner, but as a strong male figure they can trust. Step forward and make it happen. We all lead busy lives, and excuses are easy to come by, but I ask the simple question; if not you then who?

But most of all be thankful God helped create those children you have, who love you more than anything in this world. Remain the very best father you can be, you are going to screw up, make gigantic mistakes trust me! I am the KING of mistakes!!!! Just own them, apologize when needed, stand tall and do the very best job you can do.

The rewards are amazing.

Oh and Happy Father’s Day……

 

 

 

 

The Grey Area

Over the last several years a strange phenomenon has occurred within my personality. It’s as though forces are conspiring against me to change who I am and how I think. On one side, my inner Betty feels as though I haven’t aged at all! Looking through these eyes, it’s really hard to believe that 50 is right around the corner because my brain still perceives our world with the wonderment of a 20 year old. On the other side wisdom garnered from age has taken hold, expanding my view points, quelling my youthful rage thus allowing me to become softer and gentler when it comes to this world’s constant bombardment upon my soul.

But something HAS changed. I really don’t believe it is a change solely within me. I believe whatever “it” is has been going on for a long time with little notice from the public. Similar to a small leaky pipe, nothing anyone notices at first then after time a small spot of condensation makes you think; hmmm, should probably take a closer look at that? More time passes and occasionally you stroll by the leaky pipe, noticing there is now a puddle. You think damn I really need to do something about this, yet you keep on without attempting a repair. One morning you wake up and the entire downstairs is flooded in three to four inches of water! What the Hell is your first thought! How did this happen! How do we fix this! The damage irreparable!!!! Its then you realize it was within you to make a small repair long ago when you had a chance. But you didn’t because it was time consuming, required effort, and you really couldn’t be bothered. You knew the right thing to do, you chose not to do it, hoping no one would notice and now it is costing you.

That change in us all for which I am speaking is known as living in “The Grey Area”.

When I was younger I did not notice this phenomenon as much probably because I pushed the envelope every chance I could without recognition of any wrong doing. Although lately it seems to me we as a society have let “the grey area” become more of a reality or fact than left as just that; a grey area of interpretation. Something for fodder, or a disillusioned discussion between participants without a clue. Now that I am older I have acknowledged we all know how to recognize a problem, to fix a situation as it arises or interpret right from wrong. We all know or should know the law and how it reads or is understood pertaining to almost any behavioral moment or simple civil situation. We all were taught or should have been taught the basics in regards to following rules/laws put in place for our own safety and or protection. Yet for some strange reason they no longer seem to matter anymore. For some strange reason it feels as though we are all working against ourselves, living within this grey area of life.

I will use the most simple of examples being a Californian.

The California stop

That’s right a grey area rule breaking motion that went from an occasionally seen abnormality usually kept to the slip of a brake pedal when approaching a stop sign to a repetitively normal operation perpetrated by almost every motorist on the road today! Don’t believe me? While filling your car with fuel, do so at a gas station corning a four way, two way or single stop sign intersection. Watch, just watch! I hedge to bet one in every ten cars actually stops, waits then goes. Even when other traffic is present each car will try their hardest to keep moving forward leading to a “me first” mentality! This is also extremely prevalent while driving our fire engine code three! I cannot tell you how many people pull out in front of my fire engine while we are enroute to someone’s emergency! The reason? They California stop the intersection! No look, no care about anyone else, just tap the brake and go! Once in my lane of travel with me rapidly slowing down, only then does said motorist wonder what that annoying sound is behind them, only to look, panic then pull off the roadway finally allowing our engine to pass!

Here is another example, unfortunately it has to do with driving again.

A newly minted driver can only carry family members as passengers for the first six months before being given the nod to terrify their friends with newly tempered driving skills.

Yet I cannot tell you how many kids I see rolling through our local high school parking lot whom I know personally have not crested the six month mark and are driving around with their friends! It’s now become a grey area! A standard for acceptance! The excuses usually sound like this; It is ok, only this once dad, really it will save you guys from having to pick us up later! Aren’t you glad my friends have their license, look at all the trips we’re saving you guys and all the other parents too!

How about underage drinking?

We drank as kids and survived right? So therefore it must be ok to further that wrong by allowing it for our kids! Plus it totally makes you the cool parent who really just has our children’s best interest in mind? Right? But in your “Grey Area” mind this theory only works as long as every child leaves their keys upon arrival to your casa party central! Wait I know how this plays out inside that Grey Area void! It is so a counter balance thing, you are countering the whole underage drinking issue that you created by keeping them from driving home drunk? Grey area wins again! Good for you sport; good for you!

It is the same with so many other issues as well, from politics to law enforcement, from raising your kids, to how we treat our educators, we continually are pushing those boundaries using these grey area themes as a crutch! We have behaved this way for so long many things have naturally become the norm! Unfortunately it’s allowing our society to morph into an incredibly self-centered and rude place that’s fracturing into separate cells! Our cascading inability to care for others or place others first because we have accepted our ability to do whatever we want as long as we don’t get caught is more prevalent than ever before! Yet when we do get caught we cite example after example of others prospering from the very same infractions as if their examples of getting away with things makes everything ok! No recognition of wrong doing because you were working within a grey area of interpretation.

All of this weighs heavy as I see it time and again, not just as a parent but in my job as well. If we are going to remain a civilized society centered of progression and not regression it is our responsibility to stand up and say enough is enough! No more television shows tearing us down with attacks upon women, children, race or gender. No more allowing our politicians to live under the standard of; do as I say not as I do! No more allowing people into public office who don’t uphold our countries constitution and that is from the local city mayor upward! We have laws for a reason, we have standards and ethics that must be followed, it our job as parents to instill these attributes upon our children and if we continue to give in at every sign of a bump in the road or transgression interned upon us then yes we will turn upon each other as simple little grey area’s here and there converge upon each other building into one dark giant nasty storm!

Then much like a tornado siren sounding after an F5 has hit the ground it will be too little, too late. All we will have left is a giant mess and many pieces to pick up.

 

M is for Mom….

Mother’s day was founded in 1908. Its reverence came to fruition after Anna Jarvis held a memorial celebration in honor of her mother Ann Reeves Jarvis at St. Andrews Methodist Church in Grafton West Virginia. Anna had begun campaigning for the holiday a year after her mother a well-known peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War died. Ann also created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues within the community. Anna wanted to honor her mother along with honoring every mother out there for as she stated they were “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”.

In 1908 The US Congress rejected a Mother’s Day proposal joking they would also need to honor a “Mother in Laws Day”! Yet through persistence and a need to recognize the extraordinary efforts by Anna’s mother Ann, by 1911 all US States began to observe Mother’s Day as an official holiday.

No matter its origins, Mother’s Day is upon us once again. A holiday that in my opinion has become less about its true intentions and more about commercialization, much like Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day.

Mother’s day for me is not about just saying Happy Mother’s day to my mom. Although due to my extremely hectic life that is about all my poor mom gets as of late. A woman who deserves only the utmost of respect for all the dread I put her through. It is about taking a moment to recognize not only all mom has done for you, but all she has not done for you as well. It is the things mom hasn’t done for you that have built and developed your character into what it is today. Yes she does so much to ease your life’s miniscule burdens simply by being your mother. But it is the hard choices you make on your own, the times she isn’t there as a crutch to lean on, but is a phone call away to listen, leaving you to your own devices without interfering that make all the difference in the world. It is about allowing you to become you with nothing more than a look or facial expression that needs no words. There isn’t a mom alive that cannot change a young man’s course with nothing more than an MMMMMHHHMMMM or what were you thinking tone in her voice, all while allowing you to believe you made the correction in course all on your own. Our moms are the planet for which we orbit. Without them we would be lost.

Mother’s day for me is also about everyone else’s mom as well.

You see I wouldn’t be the man I am today without a hoard of surrogate mothers grabbing me by the ear, sitting me down to chew my ass, or giving me a hug when I needed it most. The moms who fed us after school without so much as a complaint, helped us with our homework because we were together as friends! A group of scraggly hoodlums helping each other out and that made these moms smile. It was the mom’s that approved of me dating their daughters and believe it or not it was also the mom’s that did not approve of me dating their daughters that made a huge difference in my life.

Swim team moms, wrestling moms, 4-H moms (those were the toughest), FFA moms, and any mom who thought if even for a moment I was worth it are permanently lodged in my heart. From laughing at my jokes, treating me as one of their own, fixing up my scrapes, not telling my parents the whole truth when I was complete jackass or telling me to get the hell out complete with a motherly ass chewing! These women, mothers of my friends who knew it was up to them to not only ensure their own kids turned out ok, but their children’s friends did as well. They showed us love and compassion, making sure we knew they would always be there for us if and when we needed.

Each one of these women made a huge impact on my life whether they knew it or not. They are the sole reason I try my hardest to make a positive impact on every single young person I meet, or that crosses through our threshold at the ranch!

To not only my mom, but ALL moms who have taken the time to love and care for more than just their own children.

Happy Mother’s Day

Without all of you there really would be none of us….

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.