Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

I think that if you have read much of my writing or heard my vlog, you can probably guess that I was an unusual kid. The thing is, that was true in a lot of ways. One of the more unusual things about me compared to kids in todays society was that I never moved to a new house as a kid. I lived in the same home from the day that I was born until I got married after college. Sure, I lived in the college dorms or apartments while I went to university, but my official address didn’t change for over twenty years. These days people move on a regular basis. It’s made me ask the question, why do people regularly pick and leave the place that they have made into a home just to try and do it again someplace else.

Naturally, there are lots of societal reasons. We can move now without packing everything into a covered wagon and spending months traveling and wondering if we will ever see our new home. There are also all kinds of economic considerations. The locations for work as well as appreciation in the value of your house may convince someone to pick up and move. Those have all been factors in the multiple occasions that my wife and I have moved. Those things answer why we go from one house to another. None of them answer why we move our home.

It took me a little while to come up with a reason for this, but I think that I finally figured it out. I had to think back to when I was getting ready to go to college. My goal was to go to a college that was about three hours away from the home that I had always lived in. My mom came up to me one day and said “Chris, I hope that you get that scholarship, because if you don’t, you might have to go to the community college for a couple of years first and keep living here.”

The idea of staying in that house another few years hit me like a ton of bricks. “Mom, I’ll join the Army before taking that route.” That was not meant as any dig at the army (anyone that knows me knows the respect I have for our service men and women.) Both I and my mother knew that I was not physically or mentally conditioned for the military, but that was a risk that I was willing to take to get out of the house. I had seen those same four walls for my entire life. We rarely went on vacations or long trips, so my whole world had consisted of my hometown and that house. I knew that there was a lot more out there. I had friends that talked about the places that they had been and the things that they had seen. I was ready to find out what there was in the world, both good and bad, and I couldn’t do it in the comfort and security of the home that had been the only home I’d known. I got a scholarship and returned to that home four years later with a degree and news that I had a fiance’. I got married six months later and moved out permanently. I still see that house regularly. My parents still live there.

So what did this tell me about why people move? Honestly, I think it is because we are restless. Each generation is being exposed to more of the world and finding out what is outside of their city limits. Now that we know that there are other ways to live, I think that we want to experience them. Sometimes, that can only be done by moving. For thousands of years, home was where your family had set down roots. Now it seems that home is wherever we decide to park our bed, recliner, and computer for a few years to see what the place has to offer. Some people see this as a decline in family cohesion, and I can understand why they say that. There is something about living in the same place that your family helped build over generations. If you are content with that, then welcome home. I think that for most people these days, it isn’t an option, and that is fine with them as well. After all, what is a home if not simply the place where you and your family go to for comfort, security, and love? A change of address doesn’t matter in the end.

 

 

image credit: http://www.businessinsider.com

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There are times that I can be a terrible friend. I can be a bad relative. I’ll even admit to sometimes being a bad husband and father. There are lots of reasons for this. Some of them are character flaws. I am the first person to admit when I have a flaw, and I have a ton of them. One of the biggest reasons for this is because I never feel like I have enough time in the day to dedicate to the people, the career, and the activities that matter to me. I have to put my attention and energy where I feel that it is most needed, and because of this something always gets missed. I apologize to my friends, past and present, if I have given the attention to you that I should. I apologize to my relatives for not visiting as often as I should. I most sincerely apologize to my wife and child for not having the patience or energy that would allow me to be the husband and father that you deserve.

As a society, we have held aloft the ideal that we should work hard and play hard. Work hard in your career and on project and on any kind of labor. Put as much energy as you can into your recreation and pour yourself into the experience. I feel that I’ve been doing that for a while now, and I’m exhausted! One of the reasons why I don’t have as much time and energy for friends and family as I’d like is because I pour so much of myself into my job and into my work and even into my hobbies that I don’t have energy reserves left. I’ve been out of school for a couple of weeks now and this afternoon was the first time that I finally said “I’m going to rest!” I did for a while, mostly to fight off a sinus headache, but I felt guilty the whole time. There is so much to do, and I feel like I should always be doing it! We all pride ourselves on the idea that we must constantly exhaust ourselves to get ahead in life. I am beginning to wonder what it is that we are trying to get ahead of.

Don’t misunderstand me. I cannot stand laziness and apathy. I have to fight against that all the time with groups of people. However, when did we decide that spending some part of the day doing nothing was such a horrible thing? I’m not talking about spending half of the day staring at a wall and contemplating the purpose of your belly button. I’m just saying that we all might find a little bit more energy in our lives and maybe even more appreciation for our work if we can set aside a little time each day to breathe. Not play, not get on the computer, not even talk on the phone. Just to do nothing. One of the wisest things that I’ve heard came from the movie Tron: Legacy. “You’d be surprised at how productive doing nothing can be.”

I’ll never stop working hard. People depend on me and they deserve nothing less. I’m also in awe at those people that can seem to find the balance that allows them to take care of their kids and do their jobs and even provide food for potluck meals (I’m a bit of a joke at my school. I always volunteer to provide the plates, cups, and plastic ware!) I hate that I will probably never be one of those people. But to those friends and family that I have not given the time that I’d like to have given, I’m going to try to take some time to do nothing. Hopefully then, I will have the time and energy to be the friend, father, or husband that you deserve. If you’re reading this, maybe you should consider a little time for nothing as well. I think we all need it.

A while back, I found some soaking wet socks in my son’s bathroom. A few days later, I found six soaking wet socks hidden in his bedroom. I asked him what was going on. “I had a dream once about a monster attacking people. I’ve been showering in my socks so that I can throw them at him to chase him off.”

Of course, my response to this was, “Son, you are ruining your socks because of an imaginary situation that is never going to happen.” At least, that was what I said out loud. In my mind, I was thinking How can I possibly incorporate this into my next book?

On any given day, my cat goes also-freaking-lutely insane. For no apparent reason, she will run sprints all throughout the house. She seems to be attacking bugs that no one else can see. She howls late at night at nothing. She figures out precisely where you intend to sit and decides that is the very place that she intends to nap. I suppose that it shouldn’t surprise me that my son loves the cat almost to the point of obsession.

The thing about both of these individuals, my son and the cat, is that they live a lot of their lives in their own imaginations. It’s something that can make each day very difficult for those around them as people that don’t live in their worlds try to figure out what is going on. However, for my son and the cat, it is a perfectly equitable arrangement, and why shouldn’t it be? They might live in their own worlds, but everyone there knows them. The imagination is where they find peace, joy, excitement, and whatever else they are seeking at the moment. Who should deny that?

The truth is that I tend to benefit from it as well. Of course I work to make certain that my son can interact and function in the world. That is my job as his father. However, he as well as the cat, remind me how to make use of my own imagination. They help remind me how to find some of the more simple joys in life that cannot be discovered on a television screen or computer monitor. As a teacher, he reminds me of the youth that I interact with daily, even if that youth left me (chronologically) a while ago. As a writer, he brings me to a place in my imagination that helps me to create the universes needed for a good story to be told.

If you are a writer, or someone that just needs a smile, consider things from the point of view of a child, or even look at the world as a cat. If neither are an option, then think of the last time that you wanted to say, “What the crap was that?” You would be amazed at the direction that this can lead you in.

A character from one of my favorite shows once said, “We’ve done the impossible, and that makes us mighty!” Some of the most enjoyable stories and movies that we ever experience deal with a character that is overcoming major challenges. There is something uplifting about cheering on the underdog. Maybe it gives us a feeling of accomplishment to see that someone else can achieve what seems impossible. Of course, cheering on the underdog and being the underdog are two very different things. Do you get that feeling of accomplishment when you are the one having to face the challenges, or do you get a feeling of dread at what might happen if you can’t overcome the odds?

Most of my writing centers around fish-out-of-water, underutilized and disrespected characters. The usually don’t recognize their own potential until they reach some new height, be it on purpose or on accident. Either way, the achieve what would have seemed impossible just a chapter before. I actually smile as I write, revise, or re-read some of those characters accomplishments. It can provide a sense of divine justice. The person most deserving receives the rewards. How can you not love that?

Of course, reality is a lot different from fiction. Many of us face challenges every day. Maybe it is a child whose behavior is slow to change. Maybe it is a job that is trying your patience. Maybe it is the difficulty of getting your finances in order. Maybe it is something as simple as the weather not cooperating with what you have planned. These are usually the challenges that don’t make it into books, movies, or television shows. For all of the obsession that people have with reality television, it rarely deals with true reality. When was the last time that there was a show that followed one of its characters for two hours while they tried to figure out why their checkbook won’t balance? How about an episode that centers on trying to figure out how you are going to get supper cooked, your child tucked in, your take-home work finished, and still have time to watch the show that you have been waiting all week for? Even Seinfeld, the show that famously claimed to be about nothing, never focused on the every day challenges that most people face. Why not?

My theory as to why we don’t see shows, movies, or books that deal with these everyday challenges is because we all already have to. These challenges can stretch us to our limits. We don’t want to see them again because we will either be reminded of how difficult it had been to take care of, or we will see a different approach that we had not considered and be angry because it is too late to change it. This is one of the reasons that I don’t watch reality television. I watch television to get away from reality. I’m sure that most people would agree that they read or watch television and movies to try and forget about the challenges that they feel may have cursed their days.

Of course, in the end, are these daily challenges really curses or blessings in disguise? Well, I would venture to say that they are both. The challenges stretch us to our limits physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s easy to see that as a curse. However, they also keep us moving forward in our lives, accomplishing the tasks necessary to be the people that we need to be for those that depend on us. That makes them a blessing in disguise. Of course, that disguise is so well done, that we hardly ever see it. That is why we seek out the underdog stories. They motivate us to keep pushing forward in the hopes that we, too, will do the impossible. So, you keep pushing your way through that daily grind (as will I), and I’ll try to help provide that underdog motivation to keep us going. I figure that combining those two things will go a long way towards making us mighty!

It is the holiday season, and it is a common practice to list all of the things that we are thankful for. I have many Facebook friends that list something that they are thankful for every day for the entire month of November. This is a great exercise in making certain that you are aware of the world around you and the blessings that you receive regularly. As great as this is, I wonder if we get the most out of listing the things that we are thankful for. Maybe we shouldn’t be worried about what we are thankful for, but instead ask how we should express that thanks.That is not only a greater challenge, but also one that might impact more people and help you as well.

It was once said that nearly any man can withstand adversity. To truly see a man’s character, give him power. That thought occurs to me when I read the list of things that people are thankful for. It oftentimes shows what has helped them to get through troubles in their lives. Don’t misunderstand me. I understand how difficult adversity can be, and it can test you in ways that you never expected. However, if you are making a list of things that you are thankful for, you are probably past that difficult time or able to deal with it. Now that you are past it, how will you use the “power” of being past a tough time? What type of character will you show when realizing that you are thankful for something or someone that helped get you through tough times?
I am asking myself this question, so don’t think that I am on the other side of the river and expecting you to cross the same bridge that I did. The most obvious idea is to be for someone else the inspiration that someone else was for you. If you are thankful that someone was there to help you through a tough time or to inspire you to get somewhere that you are, do the same for someone else. If you are thankful for the position that you have achieved in life, why not mentor someone to reach the same position. If you are thankful for your family, let them know that every day, even on the days that they may frustrate you. Be a model. Be an inspiration. Be the person that someone else might be thankful for.
It is a great thing for us to look at what we have and where we are and recognize those things that we should be thankful for but sometimes overlook. It would be great if we could do that more often. However, what we do with that knowledge can make a big difference not just for us, but also others in this world. Let’s not just think of what we are thankful for,, but also how we can be thankful for it. Happy Thanksgiving!

The school year is just about to begin for my students. Like seems to be the case far too often, there are new requirements for what to teach and how this year. The new requirements call for more reading and a whole lot more writing in all subjects. As a writer you would think that I am happy with this. Well, as a social studies teacher, I certainly am. I think that students can benefit greatly from learning how to write informatively. As a writer, I’m not quite as thrilled.

The thing that I’m concerned about, as a writer, is that we aren’t quite teaching the love. I’m going to borrow some lines from Joss Whedon here to make my point. You can know all of the grammar and tools for proving a thesis in the ‘verse, but if you don’t have love then writing may shake you right off as surely as the worlds turn. I worry that as the students get older, we are requiring less and less creativity from them. Non-fiction writing is a crucial skill in today’s world, and I don’t think that it should be less emphasized. However, fictional, creative writing seems to be falling away. I fear that we may be taking the love from the writing, and if that’s the case, then writing may become a matter of nothing more than work for future students. Writing will shake us right off from a lack of love.

I am not recommending any kind of change in standards or anything like that, nor is this any kind of complaint against current standards. This is a plea to the teachers, parents, and writers out there. Even if it isn’t in the standards or expectations, we need to make certain and instill some of that love for writing into our children. Many students love to read, but I wonder if any of them realize that it is up to them in the future to provide the stories that the next generation will read. If we don’t try to instill some of that love into the students, then the next generation may not have the gripping stories to mesmerize them that previous generations have enjoyed. I teach some creative writing as an enrichment course. Do I think that everyone in there leaves with a love of writing? Absolutely not! But if I can get three or four students a year to gain an appreciation for writing and maybe help foster a talent they have for it, then I feel that I have accomplished what I set out to do.

We certainly need to teach our students how to write and explain things with informative texts. It is a skill that they need to learn. But to my fellow teachers, parents, and writers out there, try to find the opportunity to instill a love for writing whenever you can. That is something that many of the children want to learn. That’s important for their futures, too.

As I have stated in the past, I do not write poetry. At least, not on purpose. On occasions I’ll jot some things onto paper if it has been an interesting day or two (a term which has many definitions!) This is something I jotted into my phone a couple of days ago.

A Tough Day Parenting

My life centers around you.

You are my world now and forever.

Protect. Love. Teach. Guide.

Tricks. Lies. Distrust

Twist a knife in my heart.

Betrayal.

Send to bed with anger.

Tears.

Say I love you because I do no matter what.

Still hurts.

Hurts us both.

Return to tuck you in after you’re asleep.

Demand better tomorrow

From both of us.

Tired.

Determined.

Dedicated.

Parent.

I apologize for not having a new blog entry yesterday. Been a busy time in my household. I have a question for you all. I’m considering trying to do a video blog once a week. Do any of you follow a vlog or do one yourself? What do you think about them? 

As I mentioned in a previous blog, family stories can be a treasure trove of inspiration for stories to write. It can also be a great source of characters, jokes, and memorable lines. Outside of writing, they can also be a source of personal inspiration or laughter, both of which are things that we all need. One of my biggest sources of inspiration and laughter is my son, Joe. He has such a unique way of looking at the world, can be so matter-of-fact, and is so unpredictable that you cannot know him without learning things from him. Here are a few brief glimpses at stories that can only come from a child.

Joe showed me an assignment that he had completed at school. It contained sentences that had to be completed by the students. One of the sentences caught my eye. The sentence was “Sometimes I feel ______.” Joe filled in the blank with the word “small.” As a parent, reading this bothered me.

“Joe, what do you mean that sometimes you feel small.”

Joe gave me ‘the look.’ He has this incredible ability to look at you as if he is asking why you don’t already know. “Daddy,” he replied in the accompanying know-everything voice, “it’s a big world.” At least he didn’t add the word “duh” to the end of his sentence. I stopped being bothered.

Joe also has a remarkable way of being able to entertain himself. When he was about three or four years old, he went to visit his grandparents in another state. I picked him and my wife up at the airport and started driving them home. Partway home, it occurred to me that my poor son had been stuck in his car seat for untold hours and was probably bored out of his mind. I thought I would strike up a conversation and maybe sing a song with him to brighten things up. I glanced in the mirror to begin that conversation, but realized I was too late. He had begun a conversation of his own. He held both of his hands up like puppets, and he had them talking to each other.

“You talk a lot,” stated Character 1.

“Yes I do,” replied Character 2.

“You talk a lot,” said Character 1 more strenuously.

“Yes I do,” replied Character 2 in the same calm voice.

You talk a lot!” Character 1 shouted.

“Yes I do,” Character 2 continued in the same calm voice once again.

This exact conversation continued for ten minutes down the interstate while my wife and I listened in amused confusion. Later that day, I walked up to Joe, made my hand into a puppet, and said, “Hey Joe! You talk a lot!” He looked at me like I had lost my mind. I just nodded and walked away.

This all just barely scratches the surface of the wonder of my child…or any child, to be honest. So what stories make you smile?

family portrait

I just had to share this parenting moment. It is one of those moments when you shake your head in confusion and laugh hysterically inside. We called my son downstairs after we had sent him up there to get dressed. He came downstairs wearing an outfit that I had to stare at for several seconds before I could figure out what it consisted of. There was a button down dress shirt, a clip on tie that was on crooked and incorrectly, and black and neon green exercise pants.

joes goofy outfitIt doesn’t matter who you are, these fashion statements certainly remind you of the joys of being a parent. No matter what is going on, you never know when your kid is going to make you smile.