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Monday, September 30, 2013

Do your kids a favor and teach them the "hard" way.

Drive Through Automated Teller.
We live a life of many conveniences.  So many things are done for us, or automated.  Between drive-throughs and one stop shopping, we no longer understand how things are made or done.  If the expression, "knowledge is power" is true, then we no longer value power or knowledge.  We don't want to know how things are made.  As long as our gadgets work we are happy to be ignorant on how they work.  We don't care what continent the shelf item came from, as long as it's cheap and readily available.  We are creating a society that is totally dependent on someone else for food, transportation, household appliances, and life in general.

The question is, does leaning on all these conveniences the best way to prepare you child for life?  Why wouldn't you teach your children how to cook their own food?  Believe it or not, I've had parents tell me that teaching cooking to their children was not important, because food is readily available.  So I guess since there are dry cleaners, you don't have to teach kids how to wash clothes.  Since there are mechanic shops, you don't need to check the fluids in your car?  Without teaching kids the way things work all you are doing is creating users.  You are not enabling your kid to be self sufficient.  We all want to protect our kids but sometimes you have to push them into the fire so they can get some real world experience.  There are so many opportunities passed up it really scary.  Simply open the hood of your car and teach your kid a few basics.  Or teach them to make a cake at home instead of buying one at the store.  Something as simple as cutting grass will teach them that things don't just get done without work and effort.

Nothing wrong with cleaning your own meal.
If children are our future why not teach them how things work from the ground up.  We all want the best life for our kids, but making their life easy in the short run will lead to a harder life in the long run.  Being totally dependent on others for the simplest things in life should not be the goal of parenting.  Teaching kids the "hard" way may not make you the most popular parent but it will make you the most successful.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The whole world done gone and got a Superlative complex!

Ever notice how people these days add an -est to the end of every sentence they say.  The need to be dramatic has gone haywire in our society.  It's very annoying and it also breaks many fundamental rules of our language.  Let me take you back to elementary school, somewhere between the 2nd and 4th grades. We are taught in these early grades that things are good, better, and best.  Things that are best usually have and -est on the end of them and fall under the category of superlative.  Sometimes it's and adjective like "most" to add to the word.  But on a whole we are obsessed with superlatives.

We want the Biggest of everything.

We are bombarded by advertisements and stores trying to get our attention.  It seems the best way to have effective advertisement is to have the biggest sale, lowest prices, or largest selection.  Consumers don't want to settle for a low price, they want the lowest.  We don't want a big sale, we want the biggest.  And you better give us the most selection, because more selection just won't do.  Now we've move this language into our everyday lives.  This past weekend was the best ever!  Really?  Our favorite football team just played the greatest game of all time.  Are you sure?  Government is even in on the superlative kick.  We just had the best three month GDP in that last six years.  (I have my doubts about the governments math)  And lately, we seem to add the superlative kick to our personal lives.  We make statements like, "this has been the best year of my life".  Learned from past years of experience have we?  And we all have to have a title stating we are the best at_______.

What's wrong with normal?  Why can't things just be good?  We're not all made to set world records, so quit acting like that's a requirement.  When you apply -est to everything in your life, you put yourself out of reach of the average person.  You actually isolate yourself.  And I guess that's the purpose of our superlative society.  If we are the best and isolated from others, then others can't have any input into our lives. Sometimes being normal means that you put yourself in a position for others to help you out.  Being good, and not best, means others can connect with you.  So put aside the best, most, biggest, and worst, and just be another guy that everyone can relate to.  Being superlative can lead to a very lonely life.  Try your best at everything you do, but be happy with being an average Joe.  You will be surprised how much that will endear you to others.

I hope you have a GOOD day!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What's the most dangerous place in America? A gun free zone.

Gun free zone.
Yet another mass shooting in our country.  And in the wake more arguments about how guns kill people.  More cries to abolish the 2nd Amendment.  More political hot air about taking guns away from law abiding citizens would reduce crime.  More media hype on how deadly guns are.  Why are we not looking at these things as a whole?  Why are we not studying and comparing these mass shootings to one another?  It's easy to blame an inanimate object.  It's easier to say some mental case was obsessed with guns.  Almost all mass shootings in America happen in a gun free zone.  And some of these gun free zones might surprise you.

Most are familiar with schools being a gun free zone.  The law that created gun free zones around all schools in our country was written in 1990.  This law was almost immediately struck down by the Supreme Court.  The court said that the congress had overstepped it's Constitutional boundaries.  After some careful rewording the law was accepted in the name of interstate commerce.  How interstate commerce affects schools is beyond my understanding.  This began the era mass shootings at schools.  Cowards that want to kill people now had a place to do their dirty work with zero resistance.  The nightmares of Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Virginia Tech were enabled by a designated zone of no resistance.  It's not just schools anymore. James Holmes picked the Century movie theater in Aurora Colorado because it was the only one of seven theaters in the Denver metro area that was designated a gun free zone.  The latest part of this maddening equation is shootings at military complexes.  Hasan killed thirteen people at Fort Hood in Texas.  That's crazy, people in Texas shoot back.  Then just a few weeks ago, this Alexis clown walks into a Navy complex and kills 12 of our finest.  How is this possible?  A little known fact, in 1993 President Clinton sign an order making all military facilities gun free zones.  We will put a M-16 in your hand to go fight for our country abroad, but we won't let you defend yourself in your own barracks.  When was the last time you heard of a mass shooting at a gun show?  Or someone killing innocents at a youth turkey hunt?  The crazy people that want to kill others will never choose a place where others have guns.  A coward always chooses the path of least resistance.

Sign for people that obey the law.
Taking guns out of law abiding citizen's hands has nothing to do with protecting people.  Making more laws don't prevent criminals from performing crimes.  Gun free zones have failed miserably.  Time to look at this from the other side of the equation.  Time to let criminals know that law abiding citizens have guns as well. Let's stop punishing the good for the bad.  At the end of the day it is frightening to know that my kids are at a gun free zone that psycho's target and if these whack jobs go to my kid's school I am powerless to protect them because I obey the law.  Something needs to change and soon.  Why don't we protect innocent people instead of criminals?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Do you "green screen" your life?

Weather man with side monitor.
Modern TV and movie screen technology is a visual wonder to see.  The green screen has changed television and movies forever.  No longer is there a need to create real back drops that take months to build. Now all you need is a big green sheet and you can act like you're in a whole other world.  Computer generated images now fill in the green screen with any and everything imaginable.  One of the more common uses of this technology is your local weatherman.  A weatherman can stand in front of a green sheet and with the help of a monitor off to the side the weatherman can point to imaginary images of radar and such on the sheet.  The technology is called Chroma-Keying and is actually a fairly simple concept.  The only thing that hampers the process is the shadow of the real person and that can be controlled even lighting of the actors.  It makes for a great presentation and stunning movies.

It seems that some people have the ability to green screen their lives.  Instead of taking the time to invest in people that become the back drop of their lives they would prefer to live in front of a green screen.  If someone doesn't see things in the same light as us, then we can just push them away and hide behind our green screen.  Don't want to face the truths in your life?  No biggie, just stare at the green screen and the truth will fade from memory. After all, avoidance is such a problem solver.  Don't want to face the person you've done wrong?  That's okay, we'll just create a computer image in his place.  It's an easy pattern to fall into.  We drive to work alone, then do our jobs alone in a cubicle.  With so little personal contact it's easy to live in a fantasy world. But even with the ability to create our own dream world we are still not happy.  Why is that?  Much like the issue plaguing Chroma-Keying, we can't seem to get away from our greatest nemesis, our own shadow. Even with controlling all the external variables in our lives we are unhappy because we don't want to change the one constant in our lives, ourselves.

A life free of self imposed barriers.
Hiding from others, the truth, and the real world doesn't solve our issues.  We must face all these things or we will become a slave to avoiding them.  And most importantly we must face the man in the mirror.  You can wrap a green sheet around yourself but it won't change what's on the inside.  Have the courage to face the truth, others, the real world, and yourself.  It will set you free from the green sheet prison you've created. You will be able to see the beauty of this world and it's people only if you remove all the self imposed deception you've created yourself.  Be bold enough to live free of lies, deception, and fantasy.  The rewards might just surprise you.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

DISCIPLINE! If parents don't have it kids never will.

Children by flickr
It goes without saying that it's a different world today.  There are no more consequences for incorrect behavior anymore.  Today's kids seem to have no discipline, respect, or manners.  But the question is why? What is different?  Are teachers teaching differently?  Are coaches, mentors, and leaders of kid's clubs no longer trying to hold kids accountable?  The short answer is no, but somehow the proven techniques of the past are falling short.  We have entered the era of feel good parenting.  And it's coming with the staggering price of kids and adults not having respect for anything or anyone in this world.

Parents today no longer want to be seen as the disciplinarian in their child's eyes.  I'm guessing that these parents have some need to be accepted by their children.  So being the enforcer of rules runs contrary to this need to have your child approving of you and thus making you feel like someone loves you.  Some would quickly blame divorced households for the competing factors of parents seeking their kid's approval.  But it is no longer just for kids of divorced parents.  There are parents that live in the same home competing against one another.  These parents will say that they want their child to have discipline.  After all that's why they send them to school, or play sports.  The problems come when the teacher, coach, or mentor makes a rule and the parent doesn't back it up.  If your child is failing a class and you accept his excuses then you undermine all the discipline that a teacher is trying to instill in your child.  If you tell a coach that your child is special and shouldn't have to run laps after practice, then you have destroyed his tried and true method of making a child live up to their potential.  Letting a coach, teacher, or mentor push your kid is not going to harm them.  Kids thrive under the right amount of pressure.  Your child can excel at anything in this life if he is pushed out of the nest.  The lessons of discipline are so crucial in raising a child to be a productive member of society.  Why do parents think that their baby can bypass this important step?

A little discipline never hurt.
A child first sees discipline at work in his home.  Your child takes note on whether or not you have the discipline to stick to your words.  A child will push and prod to see if you will stay disciplined in things such as bedtimes, eating correct foods, saying things like thank you and yes sir, and all the other little things that should take place in the home.  If your five year old doesn't have a bedtime, you are setting yourself up for a child that doesn't respect your rules or the rules of society.  Being a parent is hard.  Your commitment to bringing a child in this world requires you to have discipline in your on life.  Being the popular parent when your child is young will lead to a willful young adult that insults you every time you don't intervene and tell his boss that he is special.  If you don't hold yourself to a standard, your child will never hold himself to a standard.  Discipline must start at home.

I pray my rant is overstated.  I fear a world where discipline, respect, and manners are not only no longer taught but forgotten all together.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Salt, the ancient balancing act of Life.

Salt mounds by fotopedia
In today's health conscience world, we like to believe we are so well educated on the things we consume to keep us healthy.  We put so much emphasis on sugar, fat, and carbohydrates that we often ignore one of the most basic needs of the human body.  Salt is vital to our day to day life, yet it is also deadly if not consumed in the right amounts.  Like everything else in life, salt is a balancing act, and to often we ignore the importance of this strange little rock crystal.  Salt is needed by almost all living things.  Salt is the key to your body regulating it's fluid levels, and salt is the mineral that your brain uses to send electrical signals to your body.

Historians disagree on the dates that man first started using salt.  This date obviously predates written history.  With it being so vital and such a basic instinctual need, I think it's safe to say that man has always being using salt.  The most common and oldest form of salt production is the simple technique of evaporation.  Today salt is mined in huge underground caverns.  While most people use salt in their cooking or sprinkle a salt shaker over their plate, refrigeration has changed the amount of importance we place on salt.  We've only had refrigeration for roughly a hundred and twenty five years or so, but it's been in place long enough that we can't remember what we did before we had the luxury of refrigerators.  Before refrigeration the only way to make meat last more than a few days was to salt it.  There are a couple of ways to salt meat.  You can simply make a coating of salt on the meat or put it in briny water to absorb the salt. Salt was well known as a necessity because it was used daily to preserve food.  It is well known that salt was once a very important commodity in trading.  At one time in history trading for as must as the equal weight of gold.  Another interesting note about the history of salt is the word salad is from Roman times and means salted vegetables. The Romans also had the word "salarium" which was the salt that was used to pay soldiers.  Yes, you guessed it, that's where we get the word salary.  Unfortunately, like so many things in our modern world the many uses of salt are done at a factory instead of your home.  We don't see the salt going into the daily things in our lives so we don't understand it's importance.

Table salt.
These days salt has a bad reputation.  We blame salt for strokes, high blood pressure, and even neurological problems.  It's not that salt is bad for us, it's the fact that we are no longer aware of it in our food supply.  I recently learned the hard way that a single can of cola has ninety percent of your daily needs for salt. Definitely something to think about when you open your third cola before noon.  How much salt do you get in the fast food drive through lane?  That's a guessing game.  Like everything else in life, to much of a good thing can be bad for you.  We can't live without salt but we also can't indulge in it without limits.  We take for granted the important roll salt plays in our daily life.  Sounds like salt is the poster child for all that is wrong with people today.  We overindulge in a good thing and give no regards to it's consequences. We think we are so advanced that we don't have to account for our need of such a base thing.  We would do well to not think so highly of ourselves that we don't consider some of the most simple things like water and salt are more important for long life than money and notoriety.  Could it be that our vast intelligence is insignificant compared to our primal needs for a crystallized mineral?  The more likely answer is we should use our intelligence to balance our basic needs instead of our greedy, selfish ways.

Have a great day and I hope you taste a little salt in your food today.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Bumper cars. It's not just an amusement ride anymore!

Parking fender bender by flickr
Everybody loves their car.  Why not?  It is a symbol of freedom.  It gives you the ability to travel to and from work.  You can take a day trip to the beach.  If you have a truck, you can use it to do work around your yard or even do work you make money at.  Or you can just go off-roading for the heck of it. Whether you have an older car or a shiny new one, your vehicle is something you usually take pride in.  When we get a new car we wash it regularly.  We change the oil and other fluids.  We like to think of our car as a reflection of us.  So why do we put them in harms way over something as silly as a parking spot or carpool line.  I'm as American as they come but parking lot and carpool wars are something that just baffles me.

Let's start with a nice, leisurely trip to the local grocery store.  As much as I hate shopping, I like to sit in the parking lot and watch the parking wars.  Seeing two able bodied people in their luxury yacht try to out blinker the other while some old lady tries to back out of a prime parking spot is just the most asinine thing there is in this world.  These two parking lot specials would risk wrecking their over priced car just to get the special parking spot.  And it would never even cross their minds to get out and help the old lady load her groceries or direct her safely out of her spot.  Then there's the handicap parking tag insanity.  There are perfectly fine people that obviously go tell their doctor that they need a handicapped parking pass because they have a cold sore or something.  Hey everybody look at me, I'm special because I have a handicapped parking pass and the only thing wrong with me is I snore really loud.  What's wrong with walking across the parking lot from a normal parking space?  If your pride and joy cost a whole years salary, why risk it just to take a few less steps in life?

My view of the carpool line.
Then let's drive on over to every dad's nightmare, picking up kids at school in the war zone known as the carpool line.  We live in a drive through society.  So having a lane at your kid's school to pick up your child seems like a great idea. Apparently the same people that get fake handicap parking tags don't want their precious little bundle of joy to take more than five steps in a day.  It seems the parents of the slowest child always get to the front of the line.  Or my favorite is the parent that parks in the carpool lane to go inside the school to argue about their kid's lunch money.  Then there's always the smarter parent that thinks they can go against the traffic flow to beat the system.  What's wrong with parking your behemoth gas guzzler and having your kid walk to your car? Or better yet, park your car and walk yourself on over to get your kid and walk back.

A little walking never hurt anyone.  So when you go to the store today park your pride and joy all the way out by the highway so everyone can see it.  Avoid scratches, scraps, and door dents all while getting some much needed exercise.  In the end your car will thank you with a long productive service life.  Have a great day and watch where you park.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Want to have a kid? Get your track shoes ready!

Ready, set, go!
So you and the wife have decided to have a kid or two.  How's your health?  Have you taken a stress test lately?  Do any cardio exercises?   Maybe you should.  From the moment your child is born the clock is ticking.  Want to reminisce the moment of your child's birth?  Forget that, the baby has a feeding due in twenty minutes.  Want to enjoy his first steps?  Nope, it's time to rush to the store to get the right shoes.  Looking forward to your toddler's experiences in learning?  Oh well, time to get Junior to the Pre-K.  Having a kid is hard work.  These silly commercials showing moms and dads sitting around and watching their kid grow up is pure fantasy.  If you are not planning ahead then you are holding Junior back.  So get in high gear!

The fact of the matter is most parents don't foresee or plan for their child's development.  And even before Junior comes out of the womb, he is developing.  So you are already behind the curve.  One of the worst catch phrases out their is, "I think it's time to settle down and have kids".  It should be, "I need to clear my schedule to have some kids".  Unlike you, everyday your kid is growing, learning and developing new skills. If you are not providing an environment for these things to take place, then you are preventing Junior from becoming all he can.  In America, we have the "Great Babysitter" also known as the television.  Yes, Junior's mind is being engaged by the TV but his body is sitting idle.  But mom and dad need some down time, right? Well that may be true, but Junior's body has one gear.  Junior's body needs to go full throttle every day until his body says, "nap time".  Don't let your kid's first experience with the great outdoors come at school. Want to prevent allergies?  Expose Junior to the outdoor air and all it's pollen little by little. His mind is expanding at a rate that is hard to comprehend.  If the only new information he is exposed to is something that Patrick tells Sponge-Bob, you are wasting a precious mind.  If he can read on a 1st grade level, then you need to get off your butt and find him some 2nd grade books.  Want Junior to interact well with the other kids and teacher?  Then have him interact with other kids and adults on a regular basis.  Success is never an accident. It takes planning and vision to make a successful kid.

Speedy Dad provided by flickr.
So parents, get your track shoes on and get in high gear.  Yes, take a minute every once and a while and savor the moment.  Then get back to the race.  Eighteen years will fly by.  Will you just sit back and watch it pass by or will do everything you can to make the most of it?  Junior is watching and he is taking notes. He will definitely remember if his mom and dad did all they could to keep up with him.  And you will have the satisfaction of knowing you put forth every effort to make him all he can be.  

Monday, September 9, 2013

Why does my thirteen year old need to shave?

My boy's mustache.
It seems we push kids faster and faster towards adulthood.  At the same time we are pushing age restrictions farther and farther into the twenties.  My sons attend a private school where a clean shaven face is required. While I'm all in favor of the dress code and other issues with appearance, I just don't see the harm in a little peach fuzz on a boy's lip.  So this year on the school's designated day to take ID pictures, my thirteen year old was told he would not be allowed to take his picture because he needed to shave.  I pretty much lost my mind.  I dragged him to every administrator and rule maker at the school.  I wanted them to tell me directly that his little bit of peach fuzz was detrimental to the school's image.  Needless to say, I got no where with my argument. He was quick to remind me that his older brother had to shave at the same age and he thought it was hysterical that his dad was upset about his baby boy having to shave.

So like everything else I had to do a little research into shaving.  Some of the facts and numbers on shaving surprised me.  My least favorite fact, and point of my argument, was that the average American boy starts shaving between the ages of 14 and 16.  Can I just get one more year?  A man that shaves regularly will spend 5 months of his life shaving.  Don't let the bureaucrats in D.C. know this, but Peter the Great of Russia imposed a tax on beards.  Amish men are clean shaven until they are married.  I guess once you marry a woman, you don't have to keep up your appearance any more.  Works for me.  The average guy will spend five grand on shaving supplies in his lifetime.  I think that's a little exaggerated but that's just my opinion.  And most men will shave an average of 20,000 times in their life.  So why start early?

Shaving kit
To me it's just a reminder of how fast we have to push our kids these days.  Not that I'm against teaching and pushing kids to learn.  I just happen to think kids should be allowed to play in the yard a little more. My two boys are teenagers and they still watch Sponge-Bob.  Personally, I think that's the stupidest show I've ever seen but if that's the part of childhood they hold on to, I'm all for it.  Kids are already in a big hurry to grow up.  Peach fuzz should be a part of your preteen years not a month in the summer you start 8th grade.  Yes I know, I'm just being an over protective dad.  I just want to be able to say that I didn't let important events slip by unnoticed.  Once a boy shaves next thing you know he's bringing home a girl.  Then he's driving away from your house with all his possessions.  So I'll do my best to cherish 13 while I can and reminisce about the one month of my son's life he was allowed to have peach fuzz.

Friday, September 6, 2013

With a little Roux, the Cajun pot thickens.

Roux by flickr
One of the basic cooking elements of Cajun food is learning how to make a roux.  What is a roux, you ask? It's actually quite simple.  A roux is a mix of flour and oil that is "browned" to make a thickening agent.  There are varying opinions on roux.  Some are in favor of browning a roux hot and fast, while others insist on the slow method. This argument also includes the black pot method.  A black pot lends itself to hot and fast so slow roux cookers avoid it at all cost.  Depending on who you talk to a roux needs to be just a little brown in color. While others see the need to have their roux almost black. In any case, you must know how to make a roux to open the door to the world of Cajun cooking.

No matter what side the roux battle you fall on, it is still the key to some of the best dishes in Cajun cooking. The first and most iconic Cajun dish that requires a roux is Gumbo.  Without a roux, gumbo would be nothing more than soup.  But gumbo is so much more than soup.  Most love chicken and andouille gumbo. If you can't get your hands on andouille, then whatever sausage you prefer will do fine. Others are passionate about their seafood gumbo.  I've seen just about every form of seafood know to man put in gumbo.  Some keep it simple with just shrimp.  While others put shrimp, crab, and oysters all in the same pot to make you feel like a rich man.  The different meats put in gumbo is usually a reflection of the individual cook's passion, but it's the roux that binds it all together.  A more traditional dish with a roux is stew.  Obviously the thickening effects of roux lend itself well to making a stew.  Down here you can take just about any meat and make it into stew.  Turkey neck stew is really popular these days.  I'm a big fan of taking the left over Thanksgiving turkey carcass and making a stew.  Especially if it's a colder Thanksgiving.  Some Cajuns still use a roux to make gravy, but more and more are skipping this step.  Another Cajun favorite is Sauce Piquante.  A sauce piquante has a roux and adds some form of tomato paste or tomato ingredient.  Again, most forms of meat work fine with a sauce piquante.  Most make simple chicken sauce piquante on a regular basis.  One of my favorites is very seasonal, that's alligator sauce piquante.  Alligator are only hunted for one month a year so the meat is usually very pricey and sold out very quickly.

Chicken and sausage gumbo courtesy of flickr
So I hope you get a chance to come to Louisiana to eat some good food.  There are so many options to choose from that you are bound to find something you like.  And just remember that if you dish is has a thickness to it, it means that somebody took the time to make a roux. And that means they probably have a story behind their version of roux.  That is the uniqueness of Cajun cuisine.  We all cook similar dishes but we all have our little family preferences that make each dish both Cajun and personal at the same time.

Hope you have a great day and that you eat well today.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The "must haves" in child raising.

Image by flickr
In today's world it's all about the must haves in life.  Personally, I hate the must haves.  You'd be surprised on how little we need to survive, but that's just me.  Most of the time the must haves are for personal status symbols.  The guy down the street got a motorbike so I must have a Harley to keep up.  People I went to school with live in a three hundred grand house on the golf course, so I must have one to save face.  It doesn't matter they work at a law firm and I work at the local hardware store.  It even applies to stay at home moms.  If little Johnny's mom has a Lexus in the car pool line, then by all means we have to get an eighty thousand dollar car to pick up Suzy from school.

The problem comes when the keeping up with the Jones attitude is applied to raising kids.  Ask these parents about little Johnny's clothing and they will tell you in great detail about which high fashion mall boutique they buy those in style threads.  Ask them about little Johnny's Biology teacher and they don't know so much about that.  If every other kid has $300 pair of headphones named after a famous rapper then little Johnny will have that asap.  Do we buy little Johnny the latest encyclopedia CD or online subscription?  No, not really in the cool category so maybe later.  This year the hottest going jersey is a Chris Paul limited edition at $178.  Do we buy that and have little Johnny sit home all summer or use that money to send him to camp to learn and interact with other kids?  And my least favorite is the bloody I phone.  No, not just an I phone an I phone 5 is the only thing that will do!

Image by wikimedia.
The question I have is what good does all this do for the kid in the long run?  What is the purpose, desire, and goal of raising a kid?  If you goal is to have a kid that feels like he is cool, then stick to the trendy fashion boutiques.  The supposed purpose is to raise a kid to have a better life.  In today's world, a better life requires one thing, a degree.  The chasm between the people that have an education and the one's that don't is growing exponentially.  Your trendy child is going to make minimum wage and blow his entire paycheck on the newest smart phone.  So that means he's going to live with you for a very, very long time.  But if you invest in your child's education with more than an ambivalent attitude, then he will be driven to get that degree and be able to sustain himself. He will be part of the crowd that demands and gets top pay at any job he seeks out.   Kids take note of everything you do, including your attitude towards their education.  So make sure they see you put as much value into education as you do any other thing.  This world is split right down the middle based on education.  The question is what half of the must have fence are you falling on?

It's so easy to get caught up in the rat race these days.  I hope your children give you the focus it takes to look at the bigger picture.  There future depends on it.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day, by any other name.

In America, Labor Day is the first Monday in September.  Ever since 1894 Labor Day has been a Federal Holiday to recognize the working class people in this country.  It was born in a time when the working class were at odds with the big corporations.  Sound familiar?  In recent years this holiday has taken on new meanings.  When I was a child Labor Day was the time to return to school.  Times have changed and and kids go to school longer and start earlier.  These days Labor Day is mainly known as the official end of Summer.  Even thought the calendar says it's September 22nd.  There are some purist that would say that we've skewed the meaning of Labor Day.  The holiday is not a tribute to the American worker anymore but a tribute to all the fun things you can do on a three day weekend.

The men and women of Bridgepoint Church.
A year ago, Labor Day 2012 took own a whole new meaning in my world.  Last year, Labor Day was when the cavalry arrived to help me and my flooded home.  Over the weekend with the help of my family, we had managed to remove carpet, padding, and loads of furniture directly into the front yard.  I had cut several holes into the sheet-rock and determined that because of the way the walls were insulated, I could get away with gutting the house at the 2 foot mark.  The problem was we were spent.  The amount of work already done along with the lack of sleep and shock of it all was running us ragged.  I needed to gut this house quickly in order to get ahead of the mold and other issues. Bright and early on Monday morning, men, women, teenagers, and children showed up in force.  The entire body of my small church showed up.  Our church was only two and a half months old.  Work started getting done at a blistering pace. It was all the wife and I could do to keep up with directing all the traffic.  It was a welcomed diversion to the mentally draining event and we had to take full advantage of all the help.

My boys and their friends posing in the debris pile.
Labor Day was just that, a day of incredible labor.  In one day, my home had all the sheet-rock cut out up the my two foot mark.  In one day, a house full of destroyed furniture was haul to the highway (I have a thousand foot driveway) and piled eight feet high.  In one day, all the wet insulation was removed.  In one day, all the things that were salvageable were boxed and sealed.  In one day, my home was scrubbed from floor to ceiling with bleach.  These people, who should have been spending their holiday barbecuing with their family, worked all day at my home.  They didn't ask for money, or favors, or demand payback or have any stipulations whatsoever.  They saw a need and they filled it all in one day.  The emotions of the day were overwhelming.  In one day, I started to believe that we could regain our life.  In one day, my faith in human kindness was restored.  In one day, I realized that we were not God forsaken after all. Sadly, it would take many more days to fix my mental state.  But that's still debatable to this day.

Volunteer from North Carolina.
More help would come in the days and weeks that followed.  A church from North Carolina came down here to work on my house for four days without asking for a dime.  Other friends would help with different phases of the repair.  My floor was replaced by a kind soul that was 73 years young.  For 10 weeks we were homeless, but that was a short time compared to others that flooded.  Most would take 3 to 4 months to get back home. And those that waited for the government to fix their lives would wait for 6 months or longer. Our quick return was due to the incredible people that stepped up and bailed us out.

I will never look at Labor Day the same.  And given the chance, I hope you reach out and help someone in their time of need.  The life you change might be your own.  Enjoy your Labor Day!