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Monday, June 2, 2014

In a world full of Apps don't you wish there was a real world App?

It's an App World
We live in such a politically correct world that far to often conversations are vague and intangible.  This is especially true if this conversation is taking place in a structured environment.  Add business, organization, or school to the nature of the discussion and the wording becomes as abstract and stale as day old French bread.  Companies can't talk about specifics for fears of policy violations.  Organizations can't speak on certain subject on the risk of boycotts.  And educational institutions can't encroach on things that are in union contracts.  It all leads to a whole lot of nothing getting done.

It drives me crazy.  All this abstract talk about nothing might sound good in a board room, but on the ground level when you are dealing with problems face to face it's all a bunch of hot air.  Sterile, non offensive analogies do little good to help people with real world problems.  Politically correct, motivational speeches don't get people off of drugs.  And theoretical policies meant to shuck off responsibility will never heal people's wounds.  If you want to make a difference in this world you have to get down and dirty with people. You have to get on their level, shoulder to should with them.  Walk multiple miles in their shoes.  And most of all you have to feel their very real pain, not their theoretical pain.  Then you might have a shot at making a difference in someone's life.

Ground level Apps
Meanwhile, we will just keep on downloading Apps that let us live in our fantasy games or teach us how to speak more politically correct.  Anything to but a barrier between us and the real world.  And if we have to much free time we will find someone to pamper us, because we want to make sure we feel like we are the one's that are deprived.  I really wish there was an App that showed people how good they have it.  How high up the ladder in the world they lived.  Showed them how many people in their own neighborhood that live on less than a quarter of what they have.  How many people in the world lived on less than two dollars a day.  But I guess the company that puts out that App would be deemed offensive and suffer boycotts. Seems like a self preserving cycle if you ask me


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Acceptance can be a two edged sword!

We all want to be accepted by our friends, family, and peers.  Acceptance is a big deal to us.  It's a driving force in almost every phase of our lives.  We are introduced to it very early in our lives.  Usually, around the pre-teen years peer pressure kicks in and that's our first taste of our need for acceptance.  Then on through High School and even in our job and our families we have a need to fit in.  We want to be accepted.  And with the occasional introduction to alcohol and drugs a vast majority of this pressure to be accepted is seen a a good thing.  Truth be told conforming to society's norms are the best ways to be accepted.  And if you throw out the few bad things in High School, acceptance is on the surface a win-win for people and society. It makes people feel good about themselves and it keeps society in line.

Unfortunately, there is a negative side to acceptance.  That's when we start accepting people's bad behavior as normal.  Or we start making excuses for someone who is not doing what they are supposed to be doing in life.  When someone is abusive to their family and you tell others, "well that's just the way he is" you are accepting his behavior.  Or if someone is on drugs and you say, "he's always had a little problem area" you are creating a platform to accept that behavior as normal.  You might think I'm being harsh.  Actually, quite the opposite.  I'm all for compassion and second chances, but when you accept the bad behavior as normal then you set the table for really crazy things to happen.  You find yourself in the middle of a three ring circus and think to yourself, "normal people don't have their best friends beat up by their husbands, how can this be?".  Then you remember you are working on the platform of, "well he's always been abusive".  Or in the other example, your adult daughter has just lost her third job this week and you just can't see how this is normal.  Then your realize you've accepted long ago, "she's always had a little drug problem".  When you accept negative behavior you accept all the consequences that go with it.

Abusive relationship.
Of course the "acceptance" I'm referring to is the acceptance of not saying anything when something needs to be said.  For all our advances in society we seem to have a gaping hole when it comes to telling love ones when their behavior is sending them off the edge of a dangerous cliff.  Why can't we tell people we care about that their behavior is doing them and others harm?  Some would say this is the price of love.  I say it's the price of selfishness.  Fear of being without that person leads you to lie to them and yourself and accept their bad behavior.  Do your loved one a big favor, stop being selfish and tell them about themselves!  You just might save their life.  After all, life is more precious than acceptance.

Monday, May 26, 2014

It's Memorial Day, keep your politics to yourself!

82nd Training Air Wing
You know it's common place today for people to wear their politics on their sleeves.  We are in both a Nation and a World of polarized beliefs and opinions.  The chasm between Conservatives and Liberals has never been wider.  It shows in every facet of our lives.  I often call for people to leave kids out of the political feuds but today I'd like to stand up for the American soldier.  Memorial Day is not about why we do or don't go to war.  It's not about the justification of Treaties signed by men with power.  Nor is it about any political party.  Memorial Day is about the men and women that wear the uniform, travel far from home, stand on that wall, and are willing to sacrifice everything in the name of our freedoms.

Lately in both social media and political commentary, it seems that people are willing to throw the American soldier under the bus for the causes of political agendas.  This is a true American tragedy.  The American soldier is not some political pundit.  He does not lean to one party or the other.  He is sworn to protect freedom and the American way of life.  That way of life includes the freedoms of speech, press, demonstration, and protest.  So because of these soldiers you have the right to argue till you are blue in the face about all the policies, positions, pending laws, and pressing issues of the times.  But do not mix these issues with the men and women that gave you the rights and freedoms to argue about them.  If you have a problem with a law, take it up with a lawmaker.  If you have a problem with a foreign policy, take it up with a policy maker.  If you have a problem with politics, take it up with a politician.  If you have a problem with freedom, move to Cuba!

Scout honoring the fallen.
When it comes to Memorial Day I often think of my grandparents.  They were part of the "greatest generation".  They lived through so much and had such great stories to tell, I could listen to them all day and night.  They were children that survived the "27 High Water" as they called it.  This was the one of the greatest floods of all time in 1927 in America.  Then as young adults came World War II.  They did not hesitate, they just went.  They knew that Hitler and company had to be stopped.  There was no argument, no debate, just freedom to defend.  So when I see a man or woman in a uniform, that's who I think of and that's the respect I try to pay to them.  The American soldier is still the embodiment of  those of the greatest generation.  They don't care about Republicans or Democrats.  They just know that there is freedom to defend.  So no matter what side of the political arena you are in, don't drag the men and women in uniform into your arguments.  Show them the respects they are due and have a safe and blessed Memorial Day.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Love from the other side of the Coin!

Silver Dollar
So it's been an insane week of events as my Son said farewell to High School.  While most would be happy to gloat on the ridiculous number of awards and accolades that he received, I couldn't help but notice something a little more intangible. It all started with his final Band Banquet.  You must understand, my Son has given his all for his High School Band for the last five years.  There is no question of his love for his band or it's members or it's success.  In the midst of receiving awards for his leadership role of being Captain and other prestigious awards, his Band Director broke down while telling him farewell.  This is were I noticed the role reversal of who loves who more.

Again, I would repeat that no one would ever question my Son's love for his band.  As the banquet progressed, it became obvious that every person in that room was endeared to my Son.  Whether it was a student, faculty member, or parent, they all wanted a picture with him, or to hug him.  The night ended in a tearful mess, but one thing one very clear.  All of my Son's years of hard work had bought him the unconditional love of every person in that room.  That was something much more powerful that a stack of plaques.  Albeit, an intangible, hard to wrap your arms around type thing, it was still a very impressive sight to behold.  While every parent says they want their child to hold a trophy, what they really want is for their child to hold a special place in someone's heart. To see him hold so many hearts in his hand was a scene that was surreal.

My boy and his Band Director.
Then it didn't stop there.  We progressed on to graduation.  Teachers with decades of experience with tears in their eyes trying to blubber out that they will miss your Son.  I asked one teacher for a picture with my boy and she mumbled something about he can never be replaced and ran off before she started crying without taking the picture.  The ManChild, (as I call him) has taught me a lot about life over the last seventeen years and ten months.  I knew this week would be emotional, but never thought it would teach me where the true power of love lays. My boys pour everything they have into whatever they do, they know no other way.  It showed up loud and clear this week.  I hope you get to experience the feeling of others loving your child unconditionally.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Do your hips work just as well as your lips?

These days everyone talks a good game.  People will promise you the moon.  They will tell you whatever you want to hear.  Lying is like a second language for some.  But it's nothing more than lip service.  Without some form of action behind the words, it's all hot air past a silver tongue and some pretty lips.  I often tell people, can you walk what you talk?  And the answer more often than not is a big NO!

That's where the hips come in.  Can you walk your hips into the action that your lips promise.  Sing for days, months, and years about what you want to, intend to, or would like to do.  But until you put into action your intentions, it's all hot air.  You can say you want to quit a bad habit like drugs or alcohol, but until you actually do it your words mean absolutely nothing.  You can say you should spend more time with you kids, but until you log the hours with them you are just getting their hopes up for another disappointment. And trust me, those kids take note of these things.  It doesn't have to be negative.  Maybe you've talked about that business venture you have always wanted to start up.  Well until you strap up them boots and get after it those words will always hang in the air.  Or how often have you and your friends talked about the need to recognize certain members of your community for their works?  Get your hips in motion and make it happen because that's how things happen.  Everything else is just wishing upon a star.

Take a Walk
You see in this life you can promise all you want.  You can really, really mean it.  You can pinkie swear and cross your heart and hope to die.  But none of that counts for anything.  What counts is your actions.  Your motions.  People tend to believe you when you put one foot in front of the other and start moving your hips just as fast as you move your lips.   I know that's a hard concept in today's world of political talking heads where the gift of lying and smooth talk is valued.  But in the real world, where you deal with people on a one on one basis, these characteristics are invaluable.  Going the distance requires you actually covering a certain amount of ground, that means moving your body as much as your promises. When your actions and deeds match that your your words and promises then and only then can you become someone that is considered respectable, trustworthy, and reliable.  Be that person today!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Are you Parent enough to create Inertia?

Running Time!
I know it's cliche' but the most common question asked around here these days is, where has time gone? And it's getting worse by the minute.  It seems that time speeds up the older we get.  Not that long ago I was teaching a group of younger Scouts about the concept of being obedient.  I was explaining to them that at their ages (11 & 12) that obeying without question was important.  And later in life when they reach college age, say 20 or so they could start questioning some of the rules.  One of the boys raised his hand and said, "but Mr. Van, it's going to take forever to reach 20".  All I could do is double over in laughter as I tried to say, "It will be here in no time at all kid".  When you're young time seems to stand still, then as you age it picks up speed.  Then you have a kid and hold on for dear life.

Which brings me to life in my house.  We've lived the fast lane and arrived at our graduation month.  I have one graduating High School and one 8th grade.  So I thought we would just kick back and enjoy the month of May.  You know reminisce and reflect on all the good time and such.  That would be a big negative!  For the month so far my kids lives have sped up so fast I'm not sure what they look like.  My 8th grader goes to school all day then does Freshman football till 7pm every afternoon, then is locked in the office doing homework till bedtime.  My Senior gets up in the morning to go take AP placement tests then spend the rest of the day and late into the night working with his band director on a play at the local theater.  So much for kicking back for a few enjoyable weeks with my boys.  I just hope I can recognize them walking down the aisle on graduation day.

Inertia Racers
Trust me, none of this is by accident.  Ever since they were old enough to understand my boys have been pushed and pushed hard.  It was decided before their births that they would be made to try as many things as possible.  My boys did not have to make a life long habit of things but they had to try just about everything.  They've done sports, academics, music, scouts, aquatics, and even some social events.  The key was to explain to them that after this challenge, there will be another one.  If I told them they had the day off they wouldn't believe me.  They don't understand idleness and this sometimes conflicts with their friendships because other kids are raised just to sit and be idle.  The thing is once you set something in motion it tends to stay in motion.  Most people quote the simple law of physics of inertia, that states a body that is in motion tends to stay in motion.  But if you read the rest of the law of inertia it also states that a body at rest tends to stay at rest.  So to the crowd that says, "don't make little Johnny do something he doesn't want to do", I say you are cursing your kid.  Push your kid into motion and do it often.  Soon and very soon he will be in motion of his on choosing.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The lost Moral Obligations of a Parent!

Parent Approved
There seems to be more and more blurred lines today of what a parent is in this country.  After all, any two people with the right parts can "hook up" and make a baby.  Then head on down to the local welfare office and have the government be, for all intensive purposes, the parent of that child.  Or, the child can be raised by it's grandparents or some one more responsible than it's actual biological birth parents.  All of those things are well documented and worthy of much debate.  The bigger issue I've seen as of late is the problem of so called "good married couples" that have kids and do absolutely nothing with them.

You know the one's I'm talking about.  They have kids but your not really sure why they have kids.  They don't teach them anything.  Their kid's language, social, and mental skills are far behind other kids their ages. After you interact with them you whisper to your wife, "I wonder what goes on in that house?".  These are the kids that go to school to learn but if the the teacher doesn't teach it in class there is no chance in hell it will be done as homework.  Outings as a family usually consist of mom and dad painting the town red will the kids are locked in their rooms.  My question is why even have a child?  Is there nothing in you that makes you want to make your offspring the best that he can be?  Where is your moral obligation to empower your kid to be well equipped for his life ahead of him?  Are you not at least a little bit curious at to what insane talent might be locked up inside that life force you brought into this world?  Don't you owe it to the rest of humanity to explore every aspect of your child's abilities to find out what his unique contribution to this world is?  I know I'm asking a lot, but surely you had kids for some greater purpose than to sit on the couch and what the Game Show Network!

Working with child.
I work with kids on a number of different levels.  I heard it all about how kids go astray for this reason or that reason.  I can tell you that at the core of everyone of those reasons is parental involvement.  Whether it's school work, work ethic, social skills, church life, morals, or just plain good manners it all starts with parental involvement.  If you are adult enough to bring a child into this world and call yourself a parent, you should have the moral decency to do everything in your power to raise the best possible person you can.  Otherwise your just a DNA donor and don't deserve any more credit than that.  Have some more decency about you and live up to your parental obligations.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

May Day! All Hands on Deck!

Merry Month of May!
It's May 1st!  With one Son Graduating High School and the other Graduating Jr. High the time has come to set this insanity into motion.  So what's on the May agenda you ask?  Oh just a few things.  Like Senior announcements, checking on college dorms, last minute scholarship applications, senior banquets, awards ceremonies, the actual graduation, and then some parties and such.  Then there is the 8th grader, so just cut out the college part, rinse, recycle, and start over.  Despite making lite of it, this really has been a year of planning just to culminate in this one month. Pictures were taken months ago.  Cap and gown order six months ago.  College planning started so long ago I can't remember when it started. Address list have been accumulated over that last year. And on and on.  For more plans please see master planner also known as the wife.

But I will choose to enjoy this May of non-stop events and celebrations.  The planning is done and it was done for the purpose of doing just that, enjoying the rewards of my Sons' labors.  Just this morning I got up at 4 am to bring the 8th grader to catch a bus to go to Jr. Beta Convention.  No gripes, just got up and made sure he had his stuff and we made our way.  I mean, how often in life will a month like this go down?  I surely will not let it pass in frustration or in a panic trying to play catch up.  I'm going to sit back and take it all in. Clap like a fool when they call my Son's name for an award.  Grin like I just stole something when I get to take a picture with them in their cap and gown.  And sit in my seat and reminisce as they walk across the stage.  Reminiscing is a strange thing.  Everyone says they wish they could have done more with their kid, but honestly I'm not sure how much more I could have put into my Senior.  I still have four more years to drill into my 8th grader.  But still as a parent you can't help but reflect on that oh so brief time that you had them as your babies.  And now their off into the wild blue yonder.

History shows that Americans have shied away from May Day as a holiday.  The Cold War did this to us.  It has it's roots in celebrating the color Red and socialism.  But forget all that.  It's the First of the Merry Month of May.  My two boys are graduating.  And how often does that happen?  (well actually it should happen again in four years but that's another story)  So let's celebrate all month and hopefully at the end of the month we will have a college freshman and a high school freshman to show for it!

Happy May Day Everybody!!

Monday, April 28, 2014

What is your child's signature?

Kids playing together.
We are all proud of our children.  It comes with the territory.  It's part of being a parent.  We are proud of our kid's first cry, first tooth, first step, and first day of school.  We celebrate everything they do, whether it's good like winning a science fair or bad like macaroni art.  We still make a big fuss over it because they are our kids and we need to build up their confidence.  The question is, what is your kid known for by people that are not his relatives?  What is your kid's calling card?  What is your kid's signature?

All to often a kid's signature is very negative.  You can test this out at your local Walmart, either in the checkout line or near the toy section.  Whining, crying, spoiled, (and a few other choice words I choose not to use on my blog) bunch of brats are the calling cards of far to many kids.  Or let's take a more realistic approach, let's ask the teachers at your kid's school what would be your kid's signature?  Would your kid be labeled as kind and generous by the teachers?  Or would he be labeled as a loner and introvert?  Or would reality hit home and truth be told that your kid's calling card is he is rude, disrespectful, and disruptive? Of course I'm being a tease, your child's signature is told to you more often than not.  Only those that choose to live in fantasy land don't hear what is said about their kid's character and behavior.

I take great pride and joy in my two Sons and all their many accomplishments.  But more important than all their trophies, awards, scores, and accolades is their character.  When someone tells me they are impressed my one of them being kind or courteous it means the world to me.  But on the other hand if word gets to me that one of them has done something disrespectful, then there is a beeline from me to him. You can ask either one of them on this. I don't wait a single minute to confront them on character issues. Then I hear someone speak of how my Son is friends with all his classmates, it tells me I've done something right.  Just last night, we left church and my oldest called me. He asked if I had taken River Road as the way home.  I said no and asked why?  He said there was a bad accident and someone was thrown from their vehicle and he had stopped to help them until the ambulance got there.  Most parents would have freaked out hearing their seventeen year old was at a bad accident scene.  I just turn to the wife and said, "Our Son is being himself, he'll be home shortly.".  His character had kicked in and someone's well being was more important than his fancy church clothes he was wearing.  His signature was showing loud and clear.
A kid's signature.

You see, I know what my kids' signatures are in this life.  It's to always do the best they can at the task they have set in front of them.  To be appreciative of the life they have and respectful of the life around them. And help other people every chance they get.  They may not get an A+ 100 every day, but they pass enough tests to get that reputation.  And as a Father, what more can I ask?  Have you figured out what your child's signature is yet?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Spring is finally here! Bring on the Crawfish!

Typical SpringFest
I know it's late April but this ridiculous Winter has put off Spring here in South Louisiana until now.  But here it has finally arrived, Spring!  Usually, in this part of the country we get very little Winter conditions.  Some off and on cold fronts in December, then a fairly cold January leads to a February that starts with a freeze or two.  Then by March 1st we are experiencing early Spring in Cajun land.  But for this year it has been a different story.  Winter started in late October and stayed all the way through until the first week of April.  Not off and on like usual.  Also, we had three snow/ice events.  We average one snow event every five years down here.  It's really a big deal because we don't know how to deal with the snow and our entire state shuts down.  I don't think there is a single snow plow in the state.

Although it usually starts on March 1st, Spring has finally arrived and that's means lots of good things in Cajun land.  It means the start of Fairs and Festivals.  You name a native food and we have a Festival for it. Anything from Tomatoes to Alligators we have a food festival for that.  It also starts the season of music festivals, including the world famous New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and the growing Bayou Country Music Fest.  But to me by far the best the about Spring in Louisiana is that fact that it is Crawfish Season.  As the temperature rises the mud bugs come out and grow.  By the end of April and the beginning of May there will be a crawfish boil to attend almost every weekend.  That's the good life in Louisiana.

Boiled Crawfish!
Sure there are plenty of other things to do in the Spring.  There are company picnics, camping trips, gardens that need to be tended to, and lots of other family events.  Spring represents a rebirth and a renewal a things from the long cold Winter.  Especially after this insane Winter.  And those that know me and my family know we have big plans with graduation on our plate this May in our home.  It just seems the higher that Sun gets in the sky and the warmer it gets the more I think about soaking those crawfish in some cayenne pepper!  So I hope you enjoy your Spring Festivals, the warm Spring breezes, and your boiling pot is filled with hot, spicy, plentiful, delicious,crawfish. Happy Spring everybody!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Do you stand for something or against everything?

Protest by wikimedia
These days we live in an America that is sharply divided.  We have people that have opinions that are very far apart.  And we have people that make a living by fanning the flames of the anger between those differences.  We now have an America that is ruled more by hate, anger, rage, boycotting, and plain old ugliness than by the principles that it was founded upon. But does it have to be that way?  It's far to easy to say what you stand against than what you stand for because standing for something means actually doing something to prove you believe in that cause.

In today's social media driven world it is very convenient to re-post some link to a hateful rant, but if you stand for something that means you have to take that stand day after day.  Much like politicians using smear campaigns, stating what you are against is just an easy out.  Working toward what you stand for takes years of hard work and commitment.  Taking a stand for something takes a unwavering faith that requires all of your spare time, energy, and effort, and that's just not cool in today's convenient drive thru American lifestyle.  When you stand for something it permeates your entire life.  You don't just speak about it or post it on social media.  You actually live it out every day, in every facet of your life.  That's the hard part of being "for" something.  When you are against things, all you have to do is click on a link and re-post it and then you get to feel like you have accomplished something.  Not much of a commitment there.  The question is what does clicking on a link that states you are against something actually accomplish?  Did you make a difference in some one's life?  Did you change some one's mind?  Did you turn the tide of the overall argument?  The answer to all is sadly, no!

If you really want to make a difference in this life, take a stand for something and actually go out and stand with that someone or something.  Get up off the couch and go and do something for someone, that's what making a difference is all about.  That's the definition of standing up for something.  Don't be lulled to sleep by the talking heads on the news channels and political circuits, staying at home and being a part of poll numbers doesn't affect any one's life.  At least not in a positive way.  When your time here on Earth is done who do you think will come pay their respects at your funeral?  The people that had the links you clicked on that stated what you were against, or the people that you went out of your way to help?  People will always remember what you stood for, but few will remember what you stood against.  I hope you make a difference in some one's life today.

Monday, April 14, 2014

There's always a bigger pond!

Big Fish in the Pond!
Recently the wife and I got to tag along with my oldest as he went to LSU to an early Orientation/Testing invitation for kids that have really high academic achievements.  We were there with about six hundred other sets of proud parents.  All of us grinning from ear to ear that our kid had been selected for this prestigious honor.  While the kids took their tests, we parents were sent into large theaters to listen to chancellors talk about everything from GPA's, to dorms, and even saying good byes on move in day.  After the second test, which was Calculus, my Son text me to meet him at the lunch line.  While waiting in the line he informed me that no less than fifteen of the three hundred taking the test stood up with in minutes of receiving the test and turned it in.  The proctor asked if there was a problem and the students replied they had never seen anything like this.  While standing in the line I could overhear several other students complain to their parents how badly they had bombed the Calculus test.

How could this be?  How could the best of the best on ACT scores and High School GPA's not know what was waiting for them at the next level?  The answer is very simple.  We as parents, teachers, coaches, mentors, and the like teach our kids to be the biggest fish in the pond they are in.  We rarely teach them or prepare them for the next pond they are going to advance to.  This is not just an academic thing.  This happens at the local ball field as well.  To often a coach will have Little Johnny be the best slugger at the local recreation field but when invited to go to try out for a minor league team, he can't hit the broad side of a barn.  Surely this is crazy talk on my part.  But it's just part of human nature.  We want to be the best in the environment we are in, even if that means ignoring long term needs.  And we all to often transfer this to our kids.  We want our kid to win the big trophy at the local event without any consideration of what benefits it is or is not giving him for the next level of life.

Celebrate your kids real accomplishments!
What good is it to have the best GPA or ACT in your High School if your not ready for college?  Bragging rights and a job at the oil change shop?  What good is it to be the most decorated ball player in your district if you aren't able to make it to the next level?  A case full of trophies to collect dust in your subsidized house? Achievements at any level are a good thing and worthy of praise, but they must be seen as building blocks. If you are not prepping for the next level up, or excuse the expression a bigger pond, then you are just wasting your talent.  By all means celebrate your child's good grades, ACT scores, home runs, swim meet medals, and every other accomplishment, but make sure it's all part of a bigger plan to prepare him for a bigger pond in the long run.  No one ever remembers who was the Valedictorian of the Eighth grade but everyone knows who the name of Microsoft's CEO!  Make sure you are aiming for that next and bigger pond in everything you and your kid does and things in life will be a lot smoother for everyone.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Sometimes teaching kids skills is more important than the luxuries of life!

Flag folding.
We just finished another successful camp out with the Boy Scout Troop.  Many skills were taught and learned.  Everything from compass skills, to lashings, to cooking, and even flag etiquette was accomplished. I'm very proud of my Troop and all the things they got done.  Their mastery of skills for their respective ages was very pleasing.  It's the reason we do the things we do.  To prepare these boys for life as a man.  To give them useful skills and more importantly, give them hands on training that will give them self confidence in other areas of life.  But it got me to thinking.  What do the rest of the kids in America do with their weekends?  What are we teaching them is important with their down time?  What skills are they learning?

Unfortunately, the answer is scary!  We are raising a generation of kids to only value the luxuries of life.  The weekends and the weeks off from school are for self serving purposes only.  Kids these days only use these holidays for movies, video games, and trips to theme parks.  Gone are the days of community service and duty to one's country.  This is not Monaco or Dubai for crying out loud.  This is America!  We were founded on hard work and extra effort. But that message falls on deaf ears.  Today all extra work is for the government to do.  And parents reinforce these horrible messages.  They tell their little ones that they don't need to do any thing extra.  Don't worry, mommy and daddy will make it all better and take you for ice cream later.  So much for equipping your child for his future.  If a kid can't use a day off from school to improve himself then there is no hope of him ever taking any control of his own life and making the most of it.

We as parents all have a desire to pamper our kids.  But we must be adult enough to see the bigger picture. We must take into account how this weekend's activities will affect Little Johnny in the long term of his life. How will this Easter Holiday off of school and the plans for it will make Little Johnny a better adult?  If you answer honestly, there will be fewer trips to the movie theater and more trips to the community center.  If you know what's best for your child there will be fewer video games and a few more trips to Uncle Tommy's mechanic shop to learn about hard work.  And if you really want to teach him the value of life, instead of that theme park you will send him to see his grandparent in that nursing home.  There's nothing wrong with a little luxury here and there, but if that's all your kid knows then he will be lost and confused when he hits the real world.  The time to start teaching your kids real world skills is now, not at 18, NOW!  The quicker your kid adjusts to the real world the easier time he will have once he gets there.  Those kids that are only shown the luxuries of life will be the ones that have the most trouble in adulthood.  They will either end up on you couch or on the public assistance dollar.  Either way, teaching kids skills is the key to a better America!

Have a great and productive day!

Monday, March 24, 2014

The loss of America's ability to think freely!

Betsy Ross Flag
It's no secret that we are a country at a crossroads.  Some say we are headed for a socialist state, others say our best days are behind us.  I often ask why?  Why is it we are in such a crisis?  And the answers vary wildly.  The most common answer is laziness, or to many people leaching off the public payrolls. Hatemongers play the race card and the illegal alien rhetoric up. Others blame big governments while their opponents blame big business.  Politicians love this kind of banter, because it keeps them in power and it makes them relevant.  Which is half the problem in itself. While others are more philosophical and say we've had it to good for to long and need to be reminded what it's like to fight for our freedom.  I see all these things as outward signs of an inward problem.

If you take the time to read our Declaration of Independence, one thing sticks out.  The people who wrote this document thought independently.  The wording is full of references to "unalienable rights", "long train of abuses", "guards for future security", and "deaf to the voice of justice".  These men did not follow party lines. They did not read from the script of liberal or conservative.  They spoke as men who thought for themselves and others of their young nation.  They were thinking on a whole new level.  They wiped the slate clean and started over.  They were not protecting anybody, any program, or any party.  They were protecting humanity and it's right to freedom.  Free speech, free pursuits, and most importantly the right to think for one's self without being told what to think by some overbearing politician or news anchor.

Land of Free Thinkers
Our nation started it's path to crisis when we started letting news anchors, talking heads, politicians, and now even late night show clowns tell us what to think.  This is the information age, never accept someone else's word on who said what.  If a politician blames someone for the condition of your school district, then get on the internet and research it.  If a news anchor tells some sob story about big business doing things wrong then do some research and find out for yourself.  And for crying out loud, by no means fall for the late night TV clowns!  The bottom line, if you want America to be great again then act like those men and women of the 1700's did.  Think for yourself.  Think about others in your community.  Think about how the actions of your governing body affect everyone you know and make an informed decision to act based on your own thinking.

The ability to think freely is the greatest freedom of all!  Please don't surrender it to anyone!

Monday, March 17, 2014

All the world is Irish, but do any of them associate with the Shamrock?

Oh the beloved March 17th is upon us.  That means it's St. Patrick's Day and everybody and their grandma is Irish.  Even if only for a day.  A little disclaimer here, my grandmother's father was one of three brothers that came here directly from Ireland about 1910.  But everyone associates with the Irish and joins in the festivities.  Eating cabbage, drinking ale, and wearing green.  But how many know the meaning behind the man that is St. Patrick?  And how many know the message that made him famous enough to earn him Sainthood?  Like so many of our holidays in America, we just join in the party and don't pay any mind to the history or the significance of the event.  This man has an incredible story and there is a legitimate reason multiple churches claim him as their patron saint.

Mr. Patrick was born in a Britain that was under Roman rule.  This would be roughly around 400 A.D.  His Father and Grandfather were said to be either deacons or preachers in a "Christian" church.  There weren't as many denominations back then so it is unclear what "Christian" branch it was.  When he was 16 he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and made a slave somewhere on the west coast of Ireland.  While in captivity God gave Patrick a dream of fleeing to the beach and leaving by boat.  The dream came true and he sailed to Gaul.  This is modern day France.  Since God saved him, he studied to be a priest and returned to Ireland to Christianize his Irish captors away from their Celtic polytheism.  Interestingly Celtic polytheism and Roman mythology are parallel, but that's another story.  What set Patrick apart was he used the most common thing in Ireland as his teaching tool.  The common Shamrock was all he needed.  The Shamrock has three leaves and he used it to explain the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.  He spent thirty years walking the emerald isle that once enslaved him using a simple clover to spread the word of God.  He changed a nation and is for every immortalized.  This is why the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, Eastern Orthodox, and Irish Christian Church all claim him as Saint Patrick.

We live in a day and age that it's all about marketing, name recognition, and the wow factor.  Sometimes, the simplest things in life can carry the biggest message.  I find that more often then not that word of mouth is the most effective tool of all.  Friend to friend makes some of the greatest impacts in most people's lives.  And sometimes one man walking for thirty years with a few clovers in his pockets and a simple message in his heart can change a world.  If someone ask you today, "Are you wearing your green?" remember it means "are you wearing your Holy Trinity?".  I hope you wear your green everyday.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Remember asking, "What do you want to do this weekend, Honey?"

Full contact parenting.
In the Bordelon house we are in the 7th inning stretch of the year of Epic Graduationness!  With 12th and 8th grade graduations in two and a half months our days are on lock down. Penny and I walk around with a paper calendar full to the brim and our phone full of electronic dates.  Gone are the free weekends.  Out the window are the "date nights", that's for newlyweds.  And the age of dropping off little ones at grandma's for a weekend getaway are the things of myth for us.  We are on a rail to complete a goal and no selfishness will deter us from all that must be accomplished to get there.  If you are unwilling to sacrifice for a child then I suggest something other than parenting.

How do you plan a selfish night out when you need to have Senior pictures taken.  When you price a hotel room on the coast and see the deposit for your Son's dorm, is there really a choice?  When your 8th grader has an opportunity to take test and compete academically do you really look the other way?  We love to get together with our friends, but we are not about to miss the last concert of our Son's High School career. That new restaurant with it's romantic meals sure sounds great, but my boy is throwing nine pound balls into the air this weekend, so it will have to wait.  Then again, I've never understood people that don't attend their kid's functions.  We are blessed with two talented boys. My oldest has excelled at band, academics, and math.  I have never missed a band function, and why would I?  It was only five years, I've been around for forty three.  I think sacrificing five is minor league in the big picture.  My younger is excelling at football, track and field, academics, and math.  In his elementary football years I've missed one game due to flooding.  I have no intention of missing any High School games.  What's four football years in the course of my life?  Why bring kids into this world if you are not going to pour your life into them?  To have kids and put a roof over their heads while you go off and have your mid-life crisis is just the most selfish thing I can think of in this world.  It's a real head scratch-er for me.

End of a short journey.
So we march on with our date with destiny.  Our goal, to raise two whole, complete young men.  While the nay-sayers will shout things like, "think of yourself" and "you are worshiping your kids".  I say, it's better than worshiping myself.  I choose to enjoy the weekends filled with trips to colleges, end of year concerts, banquets, awards ceremonies, rehearsals, etc, etc, etc.  When our job is done, the wife and I will find a sandy beach and sink our tired, broken-down bodies into it for a spell.  Enjoy some alone time, rejuvenate, and do so with a big smile knowing we've poured all we could into our boys.  But until then our calendar will be locked up with the task at hand.  Because that's why we came together, to raise kids that will be the best things we can set forth on this Earth.  Despite what this world is, and despite what short comings we may have.  In the end don't judge us for our weekend getaways, judge us for the offspring we've left behind.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sometimes you just have to let a ship sail and a kid walk on his own.

Anchored in!
We all have a little bit of a perfectionist in us.  We want things to be just so.  If we build things, we want them built just right.  Although I have no desire to build sailboats, I find people that build them fascinating.  There are so many ways and styles to build a sailboat.  And even after you pick and choose and build the actual boat, then there is the sanding and shaping of the hull.  Boat builders take great pride in the way their boat cuts through the water.  Often, spending as much time sanding and shaping the hull as they do actually building the boat.  I read an article about a man that spent twenty six years of his life perfecting his sailboat before taking it out to sea. I mean really, at some point you just got to put her in the water and let her sail.

We as parents do the exact same thing with our kids.  When we first teach them to walk we often hold own to their little hand longer than we need to.  Yes they are going to reach for our hand.  It's always the easy way out.  But sometimes the easy way is not the best way.  The truth is, this is the first big test of trust.  Not trust of the child.  Trust of your own parenting skills.  Sooner or later, you just have to trust that you've taught them what they need to know and they will be able to navigate the skills of walking without you holding their little hand anymore.  Then a few short years later, you find yourself running behind a bicycle.  You're bent over with your hand under the seat because you've taken the training wheels off in an effort to boost your child's self esteem.  You can feel it in your hand that your kid is ready to take off on his own but your just not quite ready to let go.  It's a matter of belief in the lessons that you have taught.  It's an exercise  in self doubt. You can repeat yourself over and over but sooner or later, you just have to let your little one ride on without your hand.  But with the confidence of all your knowledge safely instilled in him.

The end of Parenting.
It's no different when we get to the end of our kid's childhood.  You've done your job.  You've warned against the dangerous things.  You've given the driving lessons.  Discussed uncomfortable subjects such as drinking, drugs, sex, and bad company.  You have had your had at the steering wheel for eighteen years, all throughout school, relationships, sports clubs, and every aspect of their lives.  You've instilled all that is in you into them. It's a massive leap of faith to just let that kid sail off into the waters.  But here's the beautiful part.  That kid was shaped to cut through the water by your hand.  As long as your hand was active in shaping that kid, I can assure you, he will perform the way your hand molded him to perform.  It's hard to give up your creation to the world, but you will be overwhelmed with pride when that creation performs better than your design had intended it to.

Happy Sailing My Friends.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Balancing Life, imperfection is required.

Balanced Scale
One of the earliest achievements in our lives that is heralded is the ability to walk.  This ability requires the mastering of balance.  Balance seems like a simple enough scientific term.  All you need to do is maintain a vertical line with the center of gravity.  This is true for something that is a permanent structure but we are living, moving things.  Better known as human beings or in scientific terms, bio-mechanical structures. Because of this, in order to maintain balance we must have a certain amount of sway.  This sway is needed to keep our muscles constantly working and adjusting to re-calibrate our center line of gravity.  This sway comes from the simplest things like breathing or a child constantly bouncing back and forth.  In short, if you aren't constantly adjusting for your center of gravity, you are very likely to loose your balance.

Same is true for balancing our lives.  If our life was constant we could set one balance point in our lives and never need to adjust.  But lets face it, life is never a constant.  We are always growing, learning, expanding, pushing new boundaries, and always making new connections.  Adjustments have to be made for every change in our lives in order to keep balance.  And here's the catch.  For all those that like to plan ahead, you never know how someone in your life will react to a situation or new event in their life.  It's these little nuances that you have to keep adjusting to keep up with balance.  If you ignore the little pet peeves of those closest to you, sooner or later they start to add up.  Then things tip way out of balance.  It's best learn to make small adjustments every chance you get instead of having a massive break down and having to make a large life altering change.  People that say change is hard are the ones that refuse to make minor course corrections along life's road.  Better to have ounce of prevention than a pound of cure, if I may quote Ben Franklin.

Just like a Gyroscope or a Bicycle, balance and life require constant motion and course correction.  Lose either one and you lose both.  Get a big head and think you have it all figured out and don't address either issue and both will come crashing down around you.  More often than not, those who are down and out, or have had a string of bad things happen to them are the ones that have stopped course correcting.  You can never stop adjusting your balance point in life.  To do so would tip the scales and send you crashing.  So if you are 16 or 65, always grow, learn, adjust, add, and always course correct.  And stay balanced in this thing we call Life.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Everyone believes in Equality but no one wants to be Equal.

The American Way.
Everyone today is so politically correct.  We believe in equality for all.  We think that everyone should have a fair chance.  No one should be discriminated against.  Everyone should be given a second chance, even if they have a checkered past.  In America, you can work to repay any debt that you owe to society for mistakes that you've made.  We also believe, that hate and bias should be things of the past.  Skin color, creed, and nationality should not be things that we judge people on or hold people back in this life. We all have friends these days that break the old barriers and say we will no longer tolerate prejudice, bigotry, and plain old ugliness.  But is that really true?  Do we really believe in Equality?  Or are we just pretending so we can feel good about having friends with dark skin and thick accents?  The answer might surprise you.

Now I could easily go the route of we all want equality for minorities as long as it's not in my neighborhood. Or we all want a fair shot for legal immigrants as long as it's far away in Texas!  But let's go a different road. This week is the Olympics.  Despite the controversy that surrounds Russian President Putin at all times on everything from Syria to Gays, the Olympics are supposed to be about fair play on a world stage.  And you can bet your weekly paycheck that at least a hand full of Olympians will be suspended for using performance enhancing drugs.  You see, everyone wants an equal and level playing field but they also want an advantage for themselves.  The same is true for America's favorite pastimes of baseball and football.  We want the fairest of playing conditions but we also want our team to have the guy with the gorilla arms that can bat that ball over the fence.  And if he's mixing a few extra carrot tops in his smoothies, why should our guy be suspended.  The rules are for the other teams and the other guys, right!  Psst, we think the same way about immigrants and minorities.  If somebody with dark skin or a heavy accent wants to work in a factory in Kansas, then there should be a law.  But if he wants to work at my plant, oh heck no!  I want equality for those people but I don't want to be equal to them.

Supreme Court of the 14th Amendment
Throw out the minority issue.  We all say we want companies to hire based on an even playing field.  We want jobs handed out solely on merit and qualifications, or so we say.  So we have our congressmen pass laws to force companies to adhere to such rules.  Then what do we do to get a job?  We ask some body's brother-in-law to put in a good word for us.  Or we try to find out about a job before it is offered to the public.  The bottom line is we don't want to be equal to all the others seeking out that job that we claim should be offered in the spirit of equality.  Equality comes at a terrible price.  That price means you can't guarantee success.  Equality means everyone must share the load of both the good and the bad.  It's all to easy to say you want equality, but it's another thing altogether to actually live it out. That would mean putting yourself down on the level of others.  And that is something that very few are willing to do in the life these days.  So weigh that out before you scream equality for all!