Rule # 83: Be thankful for crying babies on planes

Rule # 83: Be thankful for crying babies on planes

I recently was on a red eye flight from San Diego to Chicago on my way back home to Pennsylvania. I was expecting a nice quiet flight after what had been a long couple days of meetings. I was in first class so I knew I would have the opportunity to stretch-out in the big comfy seat, put on an inflight movie and fall to sleep.

While I waited for the flight to board I noticed a young woman alone,traveling with a very young baby girl. I thought,

” that’s weird to be traveling this late, I feel sorry for the  coach passengers that have to sit beside her”.

I was smug I my certainty that the burden would  fall the coach passengers while I slept soundly in my  row 2 seat after sipping my nite cap.

Boarding with the other first class passengers I waited for the window seat passenger to arrive, and watch in horror that the woman with the baby was going to be my seatmate for the 4 1/2 hr flight.  I was upset.

But then a saw it…the glares and scows of the people in the cabin with me, looking at this woman in that same..” what the hell” stare. And I realize this was not a burden or bad thing, it was a gift from God.

How often do we get given the opportunity to be kind to someone in need, to be a protector of someone who is vulnerable. I decided at that moment not to be the asshole but to embrace the experience and put myself not only in the place of that mother but that baby. A baby who was tried and scared, and likely did not want to be sitting next to a 55 year old fat man who she did not know. It must have been terrifying for her.

I told the woman I had 6 kids and to relax and nothing would bother me. She seemed releaved.

Each time the baby fussed and cried I tried not to react at all, but just offer help. I saw the light from the backseat video monitor was keeping her up, and turned it off. I was placed there for a reason, my purpose was to make this trip a little less uncomfortable and a little less stressful for that baby.

I think life gives us opportunities to be the ‘good guy”, the champion of others and we pass them by not realizing that the gift is to us not to the person we are helping.  By helping we do very little for that person and get back a great deal more for your soul.   You are given the gift of purpose.

Don’t get me wrong I’m like everyone else an asshole at heart.  If I had not by fate or happenstance been seated next to this mother and child, I would have likely been one of those people glaring and complaining in a hush to my seatmate. Basically we get lots more chances to be assholes than to be champions. I miss most of my opportunities while I’m in a rush to get somewhere else.

Crying babies are one of those things that can not be ignored. They won’t go away  no matter how many distasteful looks they are given.  When you hear one don’t think of it as  a problem but as a reminder that we have a common purpose on this earth, to help each other survive.

I think that there are fewer champions in the world because many of the people in distress are taught to keep their problems to themselves. I think the champions are out there, but they have lost the ability to hear the cries of the damsels in distress and forgotten how to help. Babies crying on a plane helps wake up those hidden instincts.

I also like the fact that the Babies will not be able to thank you or remember any kindness. We don’t expect it of course, but I think they remind us through their inability to respond that its about us defining who we are and not them thanking us. Its the baby who is giving the gift, we are the one’s who should be grateful.

Not looking the act for what we can get out of it, but understanding how an act can defined us is key. Babies are easy…but learning that skill and applying to be people you work with, live with or maybe just know from some social forum is the real skill. We can change the people lives we help at those moments, but we change ourselves a great deal more.

Look for the crying babies….and thank them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rule# 16: Rachel’s Rule

Rule# 16: Rachel’s Rule

“Jeder nach seinen Fähigkeiten, jedem nach seinen Bedürfnissen.”- Karl Marx

“From each according to their ability, to each according to need”

I have a confession I am a communist.

At least at home I am a communist when it comes to raising the kids. I have little tolerance for making sure everyone gets the same slice of the pie in our family, I focus on what each of us can contribute and what  each of us needs. The fairness of the system is that the central government ( Bobbi and I) can focus on the issues of the family and not focus on who is not getting their ‘fair share’.

I asked Stephen once when I was worried about being “fair” to him and concerned that other kids in our family were being spoiled at his determent. His insightful response was ..” face it dad we are all spoiled”.  Very wise and very right.

Our family does not live in a world of scarce resources and everyone will get more than they truly need. We live in a world were needs tend to situational and vary greatly from child to child based on the circumstance of the moment. Its not a question of who gets enough to eat, its question of how the excess resources of the family are allocated.

But every once in awhile my capitalist heart bleeds ( green of course) and I worry about fairness of the situation. Effort doesn’t always match rewards and I think the disconnect sometimes feels unfair to me.

Yesterday the boys, who obviously have way too much free time, pointed out to me on by word count analysis Rachel had far less mentions in this blog than the other children. The mean number of mentions was 15, but Rachel had only 3.  I had to stop and ask myself had the central government of our family failed? Is some thing not working?

I have been blessed with 6 wonderful children. 3 of whom if left in a house alone with a fork we would come home to seeing the fork unmoved, and them involved with some productive ( or at least not destructive) activity.  3 of which if left with the same fork would have stuck it into at least one wall socket and been shocked at least two times. All the same family, but very different responses to the environment. Rachel falls into the first category.

She is a very easy child. Homework done, room clean, and rolls with virtually every obstacle facing her in life with a quiet dignity and resourcefulness that is all to rare in this world. She even deals with the indignities of being the oldest girl with 4 older brothers who pride themselves on ways to torture and tease her.  Whether its calling her names or making fun of her school work she handles her brothers with the skill of a lion tamer. All of her brothers know whether its a witty response to  an insult or a left upper cut Rachel can handle them both physically and mentally. She can keep them all in line.

The problem with a child that is consistently on the honor roll and so positive about tasks is they can get lost. Their voices can be muffled by the brashness of brothers or the needs of a younger sister.

I think that’s the way it is in life. Many of the most remarkable people in our lives go unnoticed because they do what they need to do so well. I know in business it is the quiet professionalism of a few that keeps our company moving- and sadly they often go unnoticed because everything works so well.

As a Rule in our family, and in life we have to keep in mind the Rachel’s Rule- find those people in life doing the right things and praise and recognize them. It is those people that make life easy and fun. We have a duty to them to give them a voice and teach them they to deserve to be heard.

I’m not ready to abandon the central government control yet, but I think that keeping people like Rachel in mind in the chaos of our world will point us all in the right direction.
Regardless if you are fork in the socket person or not recognizing the people of your life that make it easier for all of us is an important rule to follow.

And Matthew, I have not abandoned my Rand Paul ultra capitalist leanings, but I do acknowledge that a little bit of communism from time to time isn’t a bad idea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rule #84: There are always boulders

Rule #84: There are always boulders

Every parent has this speech they give their kids which makes the parent feel wise and helpful. It goes something like this..

“If in life you follow your passions and use the gifts that God have given you, you will find happiness. If you work at something you love it won’t feel like work.”

Very wise and insightful, but unfortunately complete bullshit.

Every path we take is filled with obstacles, boulders that block our trip. There are not straight paths, and no paths that are without obstacles that need to be either climbed or walked around. We don’t teach or children the two most important truths about their future- life is hard and sooner or later our passions involve work. Kids struggle when it gets hard. Completely shocked that following their dreams did not result in the skipping down the yellow brick road to Emerald City experience they expected. They think where the hell did these witches and damn flying monkeys come from? We were having so much fun singing with the munchkins and now its all hard…let’s get off this road now!

I see it with kids all the time…. they love the Cello until they get sick of practicing, they love basketball until have run 2 miles everyday and get up every morning at 6 am, they love science until they fail their first bio exam. It all gets hard eventually and the  kids will hate it.

The challenge is to know what to do when our kids start encountering the boulders in life. This is hard for the parent because they want their kids to be the best at everything.

I have found there is a 3 steps process to determining what to do.

Step 1:  Healthy or Unhealthy

Not every boulder is place in our path because it is a challenge, sometimes it is a warning. I imagine that when little Walter White discovered his love of chemistry with the Jr chemistry set his parents did not realize that his path would lead to the meth labs, but I’m sure there were clear boulders that could have changed his path.

I see this a lot in football where concussions, ACL tears and broken bones are sending messages to kids that this sport may not healthy. Sometimes the wrong advice to kids is “rub some dirt on it and get back in”, sometimes the advice should be to consider a different path.  I’ve down this myself when Collin broke his collar bone ( and I didn’t realize it) and I told him to stop being a baby and in there and play the game. – not one of my finer moments.

This is extremely hard for parents of the 99% of kids that have almost enough talent to be great at something and they encounter a physical obstacle to success. It isn’t just the kid’s dream that hits that limit, its the parents. It hard to know when the right advice is to choose a different path. But in sports sometime the healthy thing is to walk away. Sometimes the best advice is to go back to munchkin-land and find a different path. This is where parents need to be as honest with themselves as they are with their children.

Step 2: Teach hiking and rock climbing skills

When you kid comes and says they want to give us track because it isn’t fun anymore you are filled with two emotions…one of relief that you can finally sleep in on a Saturday and one of complete disappointment. As a parent you have invested thousands of hours and dollars in this passion and now they want to give it up because its not fun?? what the hell?

The response needs to be to determine if this is a real change in heart, or if is just them encountering an boulder. This requires we listen, and  listen again, as parents to the whys. We have to determine if this is a real change in desire or if its just a boulder and things are getting hard.

We have to teach our kids techniques to get over boulders such as pacing and chunking activities. We have to teach our kids ways of hiking around boulders like giving up travel sports or adding a different activity to there lives. We need to show them the way around the problems, and that all the problems are small if  they are put into their right perspective.

Step# 3: Do nothing

I learned his lesson from a friend and business partner, Mike Miles as we were contemplating options to take in dealing with a business problem. He said to me ..”remember we can do nothing and just let it determine its own outcome”. Being a type A personality this shocked me at first, but he was right sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing.

I’ve seen my kids make terrible decisions, but not one’s that were dangerous to them or harmful to others, just bad decisions.  I’ve come to the conclusion the role of a parent is that of a lifeguard, sitting close, but not in the water and not blowing the whistle everytime a wave comes that look too big.  Once you accept that just being in the water is a risk, the pressure starts to ease.

A kid quitting a sport or wanting to get a tattoo ( when they are 21- Collin please note the age) may be a terrible decision, but they will have to learn like Johnny did that “Winona Forever” in your 20’s can become “Wino Forever” in your 40’s.  Bad decisions are part of the learning process, a parent’s role is not to avoid these bad decisions, but to assure they are survivable.

So how important is you son or daughter’s decision to quit football or cheerleading to their lives? Will they be doomed to mediocre relationships, dead-end jobs  and lifelong weight issues? With the passage of time you will find how truly meaningless these actions were to their lives. Its not what they do, its how they do it and being involved with life is much more important than anything else.

Honestly the worse thing they have going for them is the genes we gave them. And I would like to publicly apologize for the complete lack of sports aptitude I forced my children to inherit. I’m sorry but it was pretty certain that the NFL or NBA were out of reach from a genic perspective…you really didn’t have a chance.

The boulders are going to be there, some of them they will be able to avoid or climb, some will make them change directions. But parents can do very little to make them go away.

My advice to the parents is that the most important thing we do is listen, listen to what is being said and not being said. It’s the most important moments in your lives with your children, not because they will stay in or out of a sport- it is the moment that you tell them that they are important, loved and are being heard.  When a child realizes that they have the power to change their own life everything becomes possible.

 

 

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Rule 52: Write Letters

Rule 52: Write Letters

I watch my kids and realize that the way they communicate with one another has become a world of sound bites. Text, instagram, and twitter have become the preferred forms of communication with telephone calls being used for only the most serious of issues.   It feels like if you can’t communicate it 140 characters the feeling isn’t worth having.

I urge you to re-discover another form of communication, a letter. Some of the most interesting things I have learned about life have come from reading the letters of others.

Any true romantic has to read the letters between Elizabeth Barret Browning and Robert Browning, they defined the art of the love letter..

And now listen to me in turn.
You have touched me more profoundly than I thought even you could have touched me – my heart was full when you
came here today. Henceforward I am yours for everything

Love Letter from Elizabeth Barrett to Robert Browning
(10 January 1846)

Now that’s communication that will last, and defines you far more than the text…” u r hot” does. The letter helps you stop, and think about your feelings and find the words that capture the moment- it requires both effort and caring. Just the joy of of opening a hand addressed envelope, and anticipation of reading someone’s thoughts is wonderful to feel.

We named Abigail after Abigail Adams because of her letters to John. If you have never read them I encourage you to, she was a remarkable woman who lived in extraordinary times yet found time to express deep love for her husband.

My Dearest Friend,

…should I draw you the picture of my Heart, it would be what I hope you still would Love; tho it contained nothing new; the early possession you obtained there; and the absolute power you have ever maintained over it; leaves not the smallest space unoccupied. I look back to the early days of our acquaintance; and Friendship, as to the days of Love and Innocence; and with an indescribable pleasure I have seen near a score of years roll over our Heads, with an affection heightened and improved by time — nor have the dreary years of absence in the smallest degree effaced from my mind the Image of the dear untitled man to whom I gave my Heart…”

That lady knew how to turn a phrase. I’m sure John was knocked off his heels when he read that letter. I also found it so cool that although John addressed his letters with things like “Dear Adorable” she always used “My dearest friend”, which I find amazingly romantic and sweet. Even after all the years since she wrote them they allow the reader to instantly feel the emotion at the time it was first written, and first read. It lasts.

I started thinking about letters today because of the anniversary of my Mom’s passing 15 years ago. And one of the things, among many others, that I regret is that I never took the time to write her a letter.  Oh. I’m sure I gave her cards with short notes in them, but I never took the time to sit down and really write her a letter of my thoughts about her, and how she impacted my world. So today I started to write a long overdue letter to her and intend to address it to myself, mail it and keep it sealed. ( you can open it after I’m not longer here… so in about 60 years)

I decided not to share that letter because letters are not like blog postings. Letters are extremely inmate. They express emotions is a raw way that the shotgun blasts of the internet would do an injustice to the words. I think they need to be private, and shared in the same format they were intending- one on one- a personal experience.

Also my Mom was not a very tech savvy person, and even with divine intervention she would be challenged to open the blog. And I’m sure Dad would not be much help as he struggles to find channel 8 on the cable TV of heaven.

She’s was a pen and paper type of person and I think I need to honor her as such and stay with that format.  But as a teaser to that future reading of the letter I do use Abigail’s opening of “my dearest friend”.

With Mother’s day approaching I can think of no kinder way of expressing your love and gratitude to a Mom than a thoughtful letter. Try to do it while they are still here, trust me it is a lot easier to write it then.

I do miss you my dearest friend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rule # 27a D is for Done

Rule # 27a  D is for Done

A couple of my kids have been struggling with personal trials as well as academic ones. It has not been an easy couple of months, and at times like this I miss talking to my Dad for perspective. My Dad lead a remarkable life, and although he wasn’t much for fatherly talks , neither Donna nor I got many of those, he generally had a story or two for a situation. And on some special occasions the stories would actually be true. I miss those stories.

I encourage you to re-read the Eulogy given by Andreas Wagner pastor of  St Peters Lutheran Church North Wales ( rule 27). In the year since it was delivered I re-read it a number of times and have found comfort in Pastor Wagner’s discussion of “grace”.  His words gave me perspective on my life and my Dad’s.

Grace of God is at the same time the most complicated and simplest thing to understand. My Dad had the grace of God, but I don’t think he really understood it. He was just too damn busy.

I watch my son Stephen earn over 190 credits in Math and Physics with a 3.4 and struggle with the last two courses and feel overwhelmed. I watch my son Andrew work two jobs  (along with Ashleigh) and push so hard for a new home, and wedding through so much effort. All things which I am proud of them for having accomplished…but

I wonder if I ever gave the lesson of  God’s grace to them. That simple truth was that although their achievements are great, the love I have for them is unconditional as is the love from God.

I wonder in my effort to encourage strong, hard working kids I forgot to teach them that embracing God’s grace is the end goal, not the goal of getting to the finish line. The example of building the businesses I have started, and working the way I have may have given them the impression that that’s what life’s goals should be.

For perspective..

I failed Biology in my freshman year at Penn State, at which time that felt like it was the end of my life.  I was going to have to become  ditch digger for the rest of my life and live in poverty. The failure defined me, because I let it define me. I didn’t understand what depression was back then ( remember this was years before Dr. Phil) but I think that is what I was going through.

In the perspective gained over the last 36 years since getting that F I realize that God had a plan for me and that plan included that F. I was being lead somewhere and the lesson learned from that failure taught me more about life than any C every did. Sure it felt awful while it was happening, but what I didn’t fully understand was that all of it…the A’s and the F’s , the failures and the successes, the money earned and lost …all of it meant really nothing. What mattered was the love of God and the  comfort of knowing I was living my life in his plan.

I miss my Dad and Mom everyday, this week is the 15th anniversary of the passing of my Mom. As I reflect in their lives I know that they loved me, and they were loved by God…and all the other things they did or did not do mattered about as much as that F in biology did in my life. Trust me, everyone reading this should be grateful I never was encouraged to be in any medical field- that F saved lives.

What makes a difference isn’t the money or grades, what makes a difference is the love of each other and the love, the grace from God.

I know you kids question the existence of God, and I know that this talk of unconditional love may sound strange from a man that helped set high expectations for each of you. But if all you understand is that I am most proud of you because of how you live your lives and not of what you accomplish, that is all you need to understand now. The rest will make sense later, with or without a belief in an All Mighty.

So as you work on that next final or wait on another table to save money, stop for a moment and recognize who loves you and embrace the grace. It isn’t the grade of some sad little college professor that defines us.. it is that grace shown in my love of you and the love from God. And with certainty I can tell you are both worthy of that grace and blessed with it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rule #34: Be present

Rule #34:  Be present

We live in a world where we rarely experience anything while its happening. Through the miracles of technology we can multitask virtually every moment of our lives. We have  the ability through i phones, i pads, net-books and notebooks to be in two places (at least mentally) at the same time. We don’t have to choose between answering office emails and watching our daughter’s soccer game, we can do both!

When I was a kid I didn’t have much of this technology, but do remember getting our first color television when I was 9 and the distraction it was to our lives. We now could sit as a family and watch TV, interacting first with what we were watching and second with the people in the room. Watching Hogan’s Heros in color may not sound cool, but it was way cool to a 9 year old in 1969.

I’m not saying my generation was any better, we embraced every new technology from the remote controls to the microwaves with the same passion as today’s latest i phone release. Technology is sexy. And its hard for any of us not to want the next better thing in the market. Cool is sexy.

I can tell you I have googled the new apple watch a dozen times, and stopped just short of pushing the buy button.

The problem isn’t the technology the problem is lack of focus.

The technology is addictive and it is easy fall into its trap. I had to struggle to think about when I really focus.

I enjoy riding motorcycles because it requires complete attention to the task at hand. You can’t text and drive ( although I’m sure some idiot has done it) , eat a quarter pounder or argue with your kids – the function of riding a motorcycle is almost hypnotic in its intensity of focus. 1-2-3  and your focusing on the experience to the exclusion of all else, or you die.

I think we need to find those hypnotic moments in our lives to really focus on what we are doing and who we are with at the moment.  Rarely do we have someone saying “1-2-3  taking you deeper, deeper…focus only on me”. But if we did wouldn’t be wonderful to be present completely with the person you are with…not worrying about what is happening with someone else, somewhere else but to experience that moment with with that one person.

As I have gotten older I have realized that when I am hypnotically focused on the moment I am in I have the best memories and experience. When Abby came home the other day after making the talent show at school ( go Abby!) and I took here upstairs, turned off the TV, put down the i pad and just looked at her as I asked her to tell me the whole story…I was entranced in the moment. The whole experience was important…her tone, her expressions, her word choices, her joy. I wasn’t experiencing a Facebook post, I was experiencing Abby. She was my hypnotist and I was her willing subject…it was wonderful.

I think the superficial interaction of Facebook posts and texts have given us the impression that we can check off interactions through these surface interactions and never really need to become fully engaged in anything. My 12 year old hypnotist Abby has taught me different. There is something better out there, something worth spending time understanding and experiencing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not burning my ipad or iphone…they are fixtures of my being and I am far too addicted to give them up completely.

But I think we all need to be aware of the opportunity to be hypnotized by the moments we are living , entranced by the absolute attention given to another person.

1..2..3…melting,melting…snap!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rule 26:Embrace Your Guilt

Rule 26:Embrace Your Guilt
I don’t believe in guilt: I believe in living on impulse s long as you never intentionally hurt another person. And Don’t judge people in your life. I think you should live completely free.”
Angeline Jolie Pitt
Mrs. Pitt is an idiot.
Yes she is hot, in a creepy Tomb Raider sort of way, but still an idiot.
There has developed in our culture ever since the baby boomers starting having babies a driving force to validate our actions. Things like premarital sex, drug use, divorce, pornography  and adultery were are considered bad things that brought a sense of guilt when we did them. Now since so much of our collective experience include these things we have as a society decided not only to try to decriminalize them, but the remove any guilt about these actions from our lives.
Its been a quick process of developing a “I’m OK , you’re OK” view to the world, trying to remove the sense of guilt from the mistakes or misjudgements we make in our lives. We say to ourselves that over 50 percent of our marriages fail, so why should we be beating ourselves up when we stray from our marriages and fail.  The feeling of failure sucks, so why not just agree that we didn’t fail and move on… Life’s too short to be beating ourselves up all the time for common mistakes. Forget about it , move on.
A thought to which I call …”bullshit” on
When we are born we learn the things that are healthy and unhealthy for our existence in three ways. First we learn quickly that if we put a fork into an electric socket we get shocked, so we don’t do it again – we learn from our first hand experience.
Second we learn from our parents, they tell us not to put the fork in the electric socket and we listen without having to experience the shock ourselves. Often we listen because we are being yelled at or ( God forbid I say it) spanked. but we listen.
Yes my father and mother spanked me when I was little and I am likely emotional traumatized from it , but I did not stick many forks in electric  sockets because of it. I also likely survived the 60’s and 70’s because of it. I wasn’t never beaten in  an NFL player’s child sort of way, but if I was doing something dangerous or incredibility stupid I did get a whack on the bottom and told not to do it again. And surprisingly I didn’t do it again.
I like most other baby boomers stopped the spanks with my kids for all but the most dangerous activities , like running out in traffic or playing with the stove. I’m not sure if the decline in physical punishments is an entirely good thing, but as a whole I think the reduction was necessary, but its elimination may not have been.  Even so I think my kids fear my anger and disappointment- and I think that fear is a good thing. Its an important part of parenting.
The third way we learn is from people we interact with- the society as a whole. We learn from our churches, television, music, books and now the internet. We learn from our schoolyard friends, co-workers and facebook likes what is acceptable and what isn’t.
We use to learn that adultery was bad because we heard the message consistently delivered to us in all ways. Now the messages are jumbled, we have musics proclaiming it and sites like Ashley Madison  ( Bobbi I just heard about it from the news…really) selling it- its becoming “normal” and “accepted”.
This same process of normalizing all the things we use to feel guilt about is what I believe risks us to becoming a society running around with forks looking for electric sockets to stick them into.
I am a flawed man. A man that makes mistakes constantly, missing the stop signs in life and making error in everything, everyday. Much of what I do wrong I feel guilt for, and that guilt helps me to stop doing unhealthy things again.
The path we are on to eliminate guilt is not the right one. Just telling ourselves that things like adultery and drug use are things we should not feel guilt about is not going to make these activities healthier. It just lets us accept the lie.
Whenever I punished or inflicted guilt on my kids, I had in mind that I needed to show them the pathway away from the guilt. I needed to give them a way out of hell.
The expression I love is “ to err is human to recover divine“.
Everyone of us, if we are living full life, will make thousands and thousands of mistakes for which we should feel some degree of guilt. And this is a good thing…
When you divorce your spouse, you can recover by faithfully paying your child support, and being completely present in you kids lives. It won’t make the guilt go away, but the guilt will help guide you to be a better person, a healthier person.
Trust me I know a lot about this one.
If you hurt someone by being unkind or cruel, embrace the guilt you should be feeling and do something to correct the situation. Don’t eliminate the guilt- you use the guilt to guide your actions to move positive things. Your guilt can make the world a better place.
Mrs. Pitt’s view of the world sounds like it would be wonderful… you love me , I love you and we both adopt 20 kids. But in reality the world needs this guilt to keep us from hurting others and hurting ourselves. It may not be as intellectually enlightened as her view, but it works.
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Rule # 53: Slot Machines and Parking Meters

Rule # 53: Slot Machines and Parking Meters

“Here’s all you have to know about men and women: women are crazy, men are stupid. And the main reason women are crazy is that men are stupid.”
? George Carlin, When Will Jesus Bring The Pork Chops?    

I have been recently finding myself explaining my view of the nature of men and women to my family. As my children develop relationships they are constantly amazed at how difficult the waters are to navigate. I get a lot of questions about “why’ did this happen, or “what” happened? The nature of relationships are very complex , and I’m not claiming I know the answers, I’m just claiming I know how to survive.

George Carlin made it into a joke when he blamed most of the problem on men being stupid. And from what I can tell he is dead on. Men just don’t get “it”, hell half the time in discussions with women I don’t even know what ‘it’ is.

This is because men aren’t necessarily stupid, we just don’t know what we are talking about. For men things are what they are,  yes we understand the emotions associated with events and actions, but are blissfully unaware of the hidden meanings in things we are talking about.

When men get together and start talking they generally do so by starting to talk about concrete things like sports, movies or beer. We find common ground in how we like or hate Ohio State Football, and our views are not underlying some deep meaning they are just how we see that thing. When I say I think the Buckeyes suck its because I think they suck, I’m not trying to tell my friend he is stupid or mean, I’m just trying to them I think the Buckeyes suck.

But when women have the exact same conversations the questions center around thousands of other issues such as ” how” I said it, the ” tone” I used and what I “really meant” by what I said.

As a man I think it must be exhausting to think about all those other things…and to women we must appear really stupid to not feel any inclination to explore these other issues.

Men are basically parking meters. You put a quarter in and you get 20 minutes of parking, its always the same and never a surprise. Its simple.  You never get more than 20 minutes, and only rarely when the meter is broken do you get anything less than 20 minutes. It is what it is.

Women are slot machines. The input is the same quarter but sometimes you get nothing, other times small wins and rarely a jackpot. But slot machines are so much more exciting than boring parking meters. The uncertainty of the outcome makes you want find more and more quarters to put in because you never know what you will get.

Well you sort of know, because you know from putting in coins over time you aren’t going to lose forever, and you aren’t going to get 3 jackpots in a row. But each quarter offers that hope for a great outcome.

This uncertainty over time have men become less confident in their own judgments when women are involved. They become stupid.

When Bobbi is called by a friend to stop out for drinks on the way home she simply says yes or no because she understands the outcomes that will occur. She will simple email or call me and tell me she is stopping off for a drink and the she knows the parking meter response will be “no problem”.

She has often asked why I and my male friends always have to check with their wives to see what is we should do. Several use them say, ” I have to check with the social director” and will get back to you. My wife hates that, she says, “can’t you guys make a decision on your own?”

Short answer is no we can’t.

Well we can, but we really don’t know what the quarter will do when we put it in the machine. Sometime we will get ” sure no problem”, sometime we will get ” you idiot,  we have teachers conference schedule”, and sometimes you will get ” why didn’t you ask me if I wanted to go”. You just never know.

We don’t know because we have become stupid from playing all our quarters in the slot machine of women in our lives. From the man’s perspective the slot machines look like crazy machines that can do almost anything. They confuse us and make us look stupid.

When my kids talk to me about relationships and we are discussing how men react, I find myself focusing on that parking meter. Understanding why he was tried when he came home from work isn’t that complex, it has nothing to do with anything but being tried.  Understanding why he didn’t call you has nothing to do with anything more than he it just didn’t occur to him that after talking to you in school for 3 hours that you would have anything else to say to him.

When explaining the slot machine to the men I find myself saying, ‘”well you should have known better than to put another quarter in to a machine that isn’t paying off that day” or just simply saying ” its a slot machine not an ATM”.  Accepting the amazing variety of outcomes of a slot machine as  gift from God helps you to embrace the insanity of placing quarters into it in the first place.  Let’s admit to ourselves the slot machines are a lot of fun.

The relationship pain we feel in life is when we do one of two things.

When we expect parking meters to give us anything more than 20 minutes of parking. No mater how many quarters a woman places into one its never going to have a jackpot.

Or when we place money into a slot machine and expect to have a win every time. As with Vegas the house always wins, and the moment you accept that as the only certainty of life  everything becomes increasingly easy.

Too much of our lives are spent trying to get men to behave as woman and women to behave as men. It will just make men appear more stupid and women more crazy. Accept that we have different responses to the quarters being put into us, and embrace who we are and who they are.

Oh by the way, The Buckeyes still suck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rule # 51: Somethings are worth dying for..

Rule # 51: Somethings are worth dying for..

You have a legacy in our extended family where one great grandfather was a machine gunner in the the world war II and another great grandfather a Japanese prisoner in the Philippians, and a survivor of the Bataan death march. A legacy of men you sacrificed the full measure of their youth and risked everything for the freedoms we have as a country.

Their principals mattered, they cared about the liberties and values of this country and were willing to die to protect them. We owe them for everything we have today.

Because of them I never had to take up arms to to defend our country. Because of them I have lived my entire life without fearing the loss of my life or freedom because I believed something different than someone thought I should. My freedoms came cheaply to me because my parents and grand parents paid so dearly.

There are millions of men and women who risks their lives today to preserve this freedom and most of their actions go unnoticed to us because they do it so well. The sacrifices don’t connect emotionally to us because we have just come to expect that we are free.

This week without a shot being fired we gave up so much that have fought for us to keep. With barely a whimper of resistance we just handed over our freedoms.

The movie ” The Interview” was pulled from our theaters because a foreign government said it offend them and they would blow up our theaters if we showed it. So, we gave up and stopped it. No fighting for our rights, no outrage- we just handed over what Bobbi’s Grandfather spent four years in a prison camp to save without even a word. The fear of being threatened by another country was too great to risk, we hid under our beds and prayed they would go away.

Two days later our President traded spies from Cuba for a prisoner. Our President told us that keeping Cuba isolated, was a failed policy and the brutal dictatorship that kills thousands and suppressed virtually every human right was not going to change and we would just have to accept them as they are..evil, but with really good cigars and beautiful beaches. He gave up the fight because it was too hard, and the cigars too good.

I’m worried that you are hearing the message that freedoms and values don’t matter. When we have to sacrifice to keep these freedoms either too much or too long, its better to just give up those freedoms. Because our safety matters more than anything else…who cares if we don’t see a movie or smoke a cigar that pays to keep an innocent in prison.

Kids it does matter. Somethings as your grandfathers and great-grand fathers have taught us things matter. Sometimes protecting our freedoms are worth the cost, no matter how great and painful.

I worry about your future because we have leaders who seem to think everything is negotiable including our basic freedoms. The message you are hearing is wrong, and you have obligations to your family’s legacy of sacrifice to not let this go by without speaking up.

Honestly I don’t think this is a President Obama problem, because he is just of creature of our desires and fears. He is doing what he thinks you want…giving up when the fight gets too hard. He’s not a bad president, he is just responding to a society that has no fight left in it. He couldn’t do these things unless we allowed him to, this isn’t his problem, this is all of our problem.

But there is a “rule” that has become clear in all of this which is an important one. Somethings are worth dying for, and you need to really think about what those things are and be prepared to defend them.

Sometimes it does matter.

 

 

 

 

 

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Rule # 28: It’s not you its me

Rule # 28: It’s not you it’s me

” Honey, it’s not you, it’s me.”

” I need time to work on me”

” I love you but I’m not in love with you”

At sometime in your life we will hear one of these phases, maybe all of them in a single conversation. You will be in relationship and things are swimming along, and all of a sudden you get hit with the ” babe, we need to talk” line.

I have seen my kids and relatives suffer through trying to make sense of these conversations and what to do next. I’ve see you suffer through ranges of emotions from sadness to anger and everything in between. I’ve worried about you sinking into depression or not being able to find your legs after a breakup.

There are some universal truths, which you will ignore now, but may prove valuable.

1. When its over its over

I’m a strong believer in counseling and rehabilitation of committed marriages when they are under stress. I have spend years in therapy in my first marriage and although it did not save my marriage I believed it gave me the tools to live a healthy life post the relationship.

I however, know that its important to recognize that marriages with children are significantly different from dating in your teens and twenties. Before you make a life long commitment to each other you have time to evaluate and decide if this person is a life partner. You should expect to find many people that just aren’t good fits with you. And you should expect that part of the time they will recognize its not a good fit before you do.

Acceptance that dating and relationships are a process where you expect many outcomes lead to dead ends is an important lesson in life. In the world where everyone gets a trophy for just showing up this may be hard to accept. But sometimes you don’t win, and sometimes you don’t get to have want you want even if you ask really nice. You have to accept that every romantic feeling you have isn’t valid just because you have it. Just because I think Halle Barry should love me doesn’t make her do so. Trust me I’ve tried.

You have to accept the hard fact that maybe she’s just not that into you. Yes, you are handsome, charming and a good dancer- but its not a fit.  The keys to personal happiness in relationship is to do healthy things and realize when its over, its over.

The mistake people make in their early relationships is that they believe like with their mothers, if they ask often enough, and in enough different ways they will change their minds and realize that you are the love of their lives. It didn’t work for me and Halle and it won’t work for you.

In fact the constant ‘talking’ through the problems and never ending texts just makes things more unhealthy. In these non-committed ( no marriage or kids) relationships this type of obsessiveness in trying to “fix” things leads only to bad feelings and restraining orders.

When its over its over- negotiating your way back into someone’s life demeans you  and annoys the other person.  When its over, accept it gracefully and move on. Your love of your life is out their you just need to find her. You’ve learned it wasn’t them and narrows down your search, be grateful for not wasting more time.

2. Love isn’t always LOVE

A phenomenon I’ve seen in the last decade is that the use of the word love has started much earlier and much more intensely in a relationships. In my entire life I have told  5 women I love them, and meant it each time. Some people say it to five different people a week, some five a day.

But many people have grown up in a world where divorce is common, relationships are fluid and loving a person is emotionally the same as loving a good cheeseburger.

Love is not a universally defined emotion, I’ve learned over time that love is personally defined by actions not words. Its how you treat someone, and care for them that defines love not words.  Love without care is empty and meaningless.

I’m hearing people now in their 20’s declare love after the first date or after a good  romantic encounter. There should be a rule that you should not be able to say that you are in love until you taken care of the other person with an intestinal bug. Nothing says Love like cleaning up projectile vomit and getting back in the bed and holding the person it came from.

Words are cheap, and are getting cheaper by the year. Don’t evaluate your relationships based on promises of love, evaluate them based on caring real actions.  Everything else is just words.

“But she said she loved me” is wishful thinking. If the words came without caring they are meaningless. Don’t be mad about the emptiness, but realize that understanding they are empty before you invest your life in a committed relationship is a gift.  Finding emptiness ten years into a relationship is much more sad  and difficult to deal with emotionally.

3. Self-Pity isn’t sexy

You got slammed to the curb by a girl that you thought was the love of your life. Your world is shaken to its core, and you are trying to figure out what happened.

Your next step is to not focus on what has been or what could have been, but on what will be. Take a trip, learn a new instrument, take a dance class, volunteer at a hospital…anything but sitting there and feeling sorry for yourself. Because the world won’t care, and girls will avoid you. People want to be around moving forward, positive people- focusing on what was just slows you down from finding our what is next.

Having people feel sorry for you gets you chicken soup and warm sweaters, moving forward  get you a date. Dates are better.

I wish I had words to spare you the pain of relationship and words that would heal a broken heart- I don’t. Look to Taylor Swift for that type of advice, I just don’t have the inspirational words to make sense of a bad relationships or sell 10 million albums.

What I can do is clearly tell you that the words ” it’s not you it’s me” are lies, because in the end it is you and only you that determine your own happiness. It  only you who can choose a path of positive, healthy actions that will lead you to a positive, healthy partner to share your life.

Yes, it didn’t work out for Halle and me, but I got over it and so will you.  I hear she is a very difficult person to live with, and I dodged that bullet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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