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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!!