The Perils of Internet Debates

I LOVE the internet. I’ve learned new cooking techniques and recipes, discovered new music, movies, books, and random trivia that might someday prove useful; and I probably love social media most of all. I can keep in touch with family and friends, reconnect with old friends, make new friends, stalk my favorite celebrities, and commiserate with other parents going through any and every imaginable situation with my children. The internet is hands-down one of my favorite things.

 

But the internet isn’t all unicorns and cat videos (that’s probably 80% of it; but not all of it). There are dangers to the internet; plenty of ways to get yourself in trouble, and plenty of people looking to take advantage of your wallet, your innocence, or even your life. This isn’t about the dark side of the internet; but it is about an issue I’ve noticed that seems to be becoming more and more prevalent as more people continue to use social media as a form of communication.

 

More and more people seem to be using social media as a platform these days to raise awareness for whatever political, religious, and social issues that they are passionate about. I think that is a wonderful and amazing thing. With just a few taps on your keyboard, you can reach out across the world to millions of people! You can find like-minded people to interact with to raise funds or spread the word about something that speaks to you that you want to be involved in; or, you can start a dialogue with others who may hold different views than you. That second part can be tricky and that’s what I was wanting to talk about right now.

 

There’s something lacking when we communicate with others online. You miss all the verbal and physical cues that you have when talking to someone face to face. It’s often easy to miss an attempt at sarcasm, or misinterpret something as serious when it’s meant to be light-hearted. These misreadings are usually easily fixed with a comment or two; but occasionally it results in hurt feelings or a loss of trust that can sometimes take awhile to be fixed. However, there’s also something much worse, in my opinion, that happens when the topic is something that people often have radically different and clashing views that doesn’t seem to happen when you are talking with someone face-to-face. When you are talking with someone in person you see them; and I don’t just mean physically. Even if it’s a stranger, you see them; and you know they are a fully-formed human being with thoughts, hopes, fears, dreams…they are a person as full and complex as you are. You weigh your words carefully, even in the middle of a passionate debate, because you see them and understand what they are; even if you don’t understand what they believe. However, when you get into the same discussion online; something is lost. You do not see an identity; you see an enemy. It’s so easy, when you see someone say something or post something online you don’t agree with, to instantly strip away their humanity so the only thing that is left is this idea that you hate. So with righteous anger you fight back. You insult and belittle this idea that you know in your heart is causing irreparable damage to this world and everyone in it; and they, seeing only the enemy ideal, fire back in same. Back and forth it goes, getting uglier, with neither side taking the time to consider that there is another person on the other side of this debate; only an evil to be eradicated from existence.

 

And it happens everywhere. Anything from the current political climate to whether you use cloth or disposable diapers. You see something on the internet that you disagree with; and it’s so easy to forget that there is someone on the other side of that post. Someone who loves their kids, loves their family, works hard, and suffers for the life they have; the same way you do. I know I’m guilty of doing it; and I have seen plenty of evidence that others do it too.

 

I doubt that anytime in my lifetime I will see the whole world unite; with every person agreeing on how to do everything. I’m not even sure I would want to see that. Surrounding yourself with only people who see everything the same way you do is the quickest way to stagnate your understanding of the world and learning new things. Talk to people who disagree with you; who challenge your view on everything from the best new television show to the best way to live your life to make a difference in the world. Just please, never forget that those words on your computer screen were written by someone working just as hard as you to get by in this world. Even though we may never all agree; civil discourse is the quickest way to eventually get to where we need to be.

 

To my son, on your third birthday.

You are three years old today.

WP_000767 (1).jpg
This will always be one of my favorite pictures. I think he looks like a superhero.

In the grand scheme of things three years is a blink of an eye; and in so many ways it seems to have gone by that fast. But so much has happened in those three years. Your sisters became teenagers (one is even old enough to drive now!), new jobs for me and your mother, some projects on the house have been completed and even more are being planned, we even traveled out of the country! How much more will happen while you are growing up? Your older siblings will be graduated and (hopefully) on to bigger and better things than our little family; maybe you’ll even have a cousin or two to play with! Maybe all the home improvement projects will be finished and I’ll have my kitchen and home office to spend my time in. Maybe your mom will be a world famous cosmetologist, and maybe I’ll finally finish a story or two and be a published author (or at least someone other than family will read this blog)! I know your mom says she is done having kids; but we both know we have plenty more love to give so you might even have one (or more) adopted siblings to play with.

I can’t tell you what this world, our home, or even our family will look like as you grow up; but there are a few things I know I can tell you with certainty. You will grow up in a home where love is always the answer. You will grow up believing in magic. We are a family of witches and wizards, of ninjas, mutants, and superheroes, elves and dwarves, fairies and nymphs; you will learn of the magic of fantasy and the magic of the world around us. You will grow up believing you can do whatever you want, be whoever you want; and we will be here to give you the tools and encouragement you need. You might not always have what you want; but you will always have what you need. Most of all. you will know that you are beautiful, you are wanted, and you are loved.

Happy Birthday Wesley, and many more to come.

 

Happy International Women’s Day!

Let’s be honest; I wouldn’t be here to have this dad blog if it wasn’t for women. Mothers, sisters, grandmothers, daughters, in-laws; I can’t turn around without bumping into a woman. So to celebrate this day I thought I would write about some of the women who have inspired me and taught me valuable life lessons and continue to do so to this day. 

What kind of person would I be if I didn’t start with my mother first?

mom.jpg
My mom with her 4 children. I’m the cutest one obviously .

 

My mommy.

Where do I even begin? I could spend days talking about the things I’ve learned from her. The one thing that comes to mind, something that influences every decision she’s made and what I see from her the most, is compassion. In her parenting, her marriage, her friendships, and her career, the one thing that seems to drive her the most is her compassion for others. If there was a time she thought about herself before someone else I never saw it. Anything I’ve learned about how to interact with those around me with compassion and love has come from her example. And she makes the best sausage rolls and chicken enchiladas you’ll ever taste!

gma warren..jpg
My grandparents at their 60th anniversary party

And none of us would be here without this lovely lady; my grandmother, Kaye Warren! Oh the memories of growing up with this amazing woman. Camping at Gordon’s and Atwood shores, playing with the marble tower (that the great-grandkids still love to play with), the original NES for Christmas, kites for Easter…the list goes on and on. Grandma’s house has always been, and will be, the place for our family to gather. Grandma’s house is always open to whoever needs it; whether that be a last-minute babysitter or just a place to kill time, Grandma Warren is always available. And every Sunday when the weather is nice, we know we’re going to grandma’s house for a hot dog roast.

ninny.jpg
A wild Aunt Ninny in her natural habitat; covered in little ones.

Everyone has an Aunt Ninny; even if they’re not your real aunt. She’s the one who was always there; taking you to Mcdonalds to get a Happy Meal and play in the play place, taking you to football and basketball games, getting down on the floor to play. I shouldn’t pick favorites; but if pressed, Aunt Ninny is one of the top. She’s always there and she always has been. No matter what you need or when you need it; just give Aunt Ninny a call and she will be there for you.

siblings
There’s always that one guy that wears a dinosaur shirt to family Christmas; but we’re here to talk about the beautiful woman in the middle.

Alright, I know I just said Aunt Ninny is in the running for favorite woman in my life; but it’s time you met my sister. If you already know her, there’s nothing I can say that you don’t already know. If you haven’t had the pleasure yet; you will never meet a stronger, smarter, funnier, more loving, more amazing woman in your life. Seriously; I see her fairly regularly but I still miss her more than it’s “appropriately manly” to say a guy misses his sister. If you have any questions about how you’re supposed to live your life as a parent/decent human being; just look at my sister and you’ll learn everything you need to know.

Misty.jpg
Fierce, smart, funny, and beautiful.

And on to the in-laws. I’ve hit the jackpot! You want an example of a strong, female roll model; well here’s exhibit A: my sister-in-law Misty. entrepreneur? Check. Beautiful? Check. Strong (physically, and emotionally)? Check. Do you wanna feel pretty? She’s an amazing esthetician (Evolve Spa). Need to get your butt kicked into gear to get healthy? She runs circles around everyone at her husband’s gym (Sud’n Impact). She cooks, she cleans, she beautifies, she exercises, she mothers. The lady does it all.

lacie.jpg
Lacie bein Lacie. Workin Like a boss.

Sis-in-law number two, Lacie. It’s hard to pin her down because she’s always jet-setting across the country to spread the gospel of Baylage (If you don’t understand don’t feel bad, I don’t either; but she’s pretty much the best at it). But her dedication to her craft always comes in second to her dedication to her family. I’m not sure I’ve met anyone else who balances work/home life with the grace that she does. Always there for her girls and the rest of us when she needs to be. Side note: my favorite memory of meeting my wife’s family comes from Lacie. We were at her house for some family get together; it was raining. I ran out to pull the car up as close to the house as possible for my wife and the kids. Lacie immediately gave me a hug for that and that was when I knew I was in with the family.

tiese.jpg
She put this one on Facebook so I’m hoping she’ll allow it here. Don’t let her tell you otherwise; she’s a looker!

Ah yes, the dreaded Mother-In-Law! We all have our horror stories right? We do everything wrong, we’re not good enough for her daughter, she could raise our kids better. Well believe me; if I was doing anything wrong she would let me know! My MIL is a woman who has been through some trying times and she has moved through them with grace and poise that would make any old-school Hollywood starlet blush with inadequacy. She may be stubborn, she may be crass, but she is fiercely loyal to those she considers family and don’t you dare try to question her loyalty! If I had to ask for anyone to be in my corner when it comes to my family it would be her without question!

wpid-fb_img_1426243640298.jpg
My heart, my soul, my laughter, my tears, my everything. Look at that laugh!

Last, and most certainly not least; my better half, the yin to my yang, the mac to my cheese, the peanut butter to my jelly, my partner in crime and my wife: Dusti. When I met her (for the third time, if rumors are true) I was quite possibly at the lowest moment of my life. Living with family, barely a functioning alcoholic. She looked at me and she saw…something. I foolishly argued with her for weeks that I wasn’t worth dating. Thankfully, she saw past my life as it was and saw what it could be. To this day I can’t tell you what she saw in me; but I can tell you what I saw in here. I saw pride, I saw power.

cool runnings.gif

Cool Runnings aside; I’ve never met anyone like this woman. Tell her she can’t do something, I dare you. Tell her she can’t raise two kids on her own. Tell her she can’t date a thirty year old man-child with no future and no direction and turn him into the father his daughter and her kids need him to be. Tell her she can’t have another child when her doctor told her it might kill her. Tell her she can’t do anything; and I guarantee you she will prove you wrong. This woman. This savior. This Goddess. She will do everything you can, and more. She has taken this poor excuse for a human being and made him into someone even I can be proud of. And that’s someting I will be forever grateful to her for. I could go on and on; about these women and about the rest in my life. Just don’t forget as the day comes to a close. No matter who you are, no matter where you’re from. There are women in your life that have made you who you are today.

kristy ihop.jpg
I’m sorry dear sister, I had to add this picture. At least I gave you a heads up!

A Reminder to be Compassionate During What is a Difficult Season for Some

Well, it is the middle of November. Thanksgiving plans and menus are being finalized, the last of the leaves (hopefully) are being raked up; and for some of you savages, the Christmas decorating is underway or even finished. Often during this time of year our thoughts turn toward those who may be less fortunate than us. Maybe those who have nowhere to go for the holidays, family or friends we have lost, or just those struggling to provide a happy holiday season for their families. These feelings of giving and compassion are one of my favorite parts of the holidays.

But there is a group whose struggles are often brought to light during this time of year, specifically during November, who are often forgotten, ignored, and ridiculed. Yes, I am talking about the men who cannot grow facial hair. No Shave November, Movember; many men enjoy taking part in these, and there are even some good causes that are supported through them. However, many men like myself have a difficult time getting through this month; through no fault of our own. We are constantly reminded of our inability to provide a natural coat for our faces as the temperature drops and the cold wind attacks our cheeks and chin. We see post after post on social media from hirsute gentlemen documenting the progress of their majestic chin curtains while we stare forlornly in the mirror; praying to the god of the lumberjacks to bless us with the gift of a manly face forest of our own.

 

beard
It’s been over a month since I’ve shaved.

It’s a struggle I have known since puberty. The shame of seeing the faces of your fellow male classmates blossom while yours remains baby-bottom smooth.The pain you feel, physically and emotionally, while you scrape your father’s razor over your face; slicing your skin instead of hacking through the jungle of growth that your peers are struggling with at that same moment. You tell yourself it will get better as you get older; but alas the 5 O’clock shadow that you’ve heard so much about will not come to you until days after you have cleared the sparse whiskers from your face. Occasionally you will refuse to shave in a stubborn defiance; telling yourself, “If I just give it some time it will fill in just fine.” But the looks and muffled giggles from friends, coworkers, and loved ones confirm your worst fears; you look like a grizzly bear with mange.

So as the last days of November pass us by; if you are celebrating with family, or out doing your Christmas shopping, and notice a man who is clean-shaven or sparsely bearded with his head held down in shame, please be kind. Do not stare or laugh. If your children point, or ask why that man’s beard doesn’t look like daddy’s; explain kindly to them that there are those of us in this world who have struggles and it is inappropriate to laugh and stare. We know who we are; and we know what we look like. We don’t need you to remind us.

My thoughts this morning.

I thought I would have something to say today; but I’m too tired.

I don’t believe we saved our country last night; and I don’t believe we doomed it. Things are going to change, they always change. But things won’t change the way anyone wants them to until we stop relying on politicians to legislate our version or truth and morality and realize that we are the ones who will make change.

All the laws in the world won’t change a person’s heart. You wan’t change? You want the world to be a better place? Then start living a life of love. You don’t have to agree with someone’s politics to love them. You don’t have to like the way they look, the way they talk, their religion, their sexual orientation; you can disagree with them in every way and still love them.

And you can teach your children to love. Teach them that love is bigger than politics. Don’t just tell them, show them. Show them that love can be grand gestures full of sacrifice; and it can be a simple smile or kind word. Love is a home-cooked meal for an ill friend, it is giving up your favorite toy, it is a smile or a hug when a friend is feeling down. Be an example of love to your children and to everyone else you come in contact with. Live a life so full of love that other people can’t help but to emulate you. I know it won’t always be easy; but it will always be worth it.

I don’t know what is in store for our country; but I do know what is at stake. There are no sides to choose, this isn’t a war, there is no enemy.  Once we finally realize that, then we can begin to heal.

So whether you woke up today celebrating and full of hope, or mourning and full of fear; we all have one thing we can do, love.

My Opinion

My current project at work is leaving me with plenty of time during the day to browse the internet. Some of the guys in the shop were talking about the cop in South Carolina that was fired for what happened with the student. I had heard about it but not read anything or watched the videos and decided to read up on it. I read multiple news sites and blogs; and watched the videos multiple times.

As a parent; if this happened to one of my kids I would be beyond livid. I would have many things to say to the officer, the school administrator, and the teacher; and I would probably not be very selective in my vocabulary. I would demand to be fully informed of any investigation by law enforcement and the school district. The officer had a history of issues with excessive force, even within the schools; why was he there? Who thought he should be in the school in the first place? It sickens me that it is necessary for there to be a police presence in the school at all; but why would this particular officer even still be allowed on the school grounds? I would immediately seek out whatever forms of counseling or therapy I could find to help my child deal with the trauma they went through.

However, I would also have some strong words for my child after all of that. Why, exactly, do you feel you can repeatedly defy authority? When you are in school, your teachers and the other school staff have authority over you; end of discussion. If you’re given a reasonable demand by one of them you have no reason to refuse. It is disrespectful and a poor reflection of your character. There is absolutely no reason this should have gotten to the point where the officer should have been involved. Yeah, teenagers are gonna break the rules at some point. When you are called out on it, own up to your mistake and deal with the consequences.

There is most definitely a problem in this country with our law enforcement and things need to change fast. But I strongly believe that this change begins with parents. Raise your children to treat everyone with respect. Teach them by example that everyone, authority figures, elders, peers, and those younger than you; are human beings just like you are and we are all worthy of respect. You don’t have to like them, or what they say to you or do to you, or what they believe; but you have to respect them. Teach your children that and live it out yourselves; and stories like these will be a thing of the past.

This is strictly my opinion, based on the facts I have found of this incident. There’s more to the story I’m sure and maybe my opinion will change. Right now, this is how I feel.

Bath Time

The morning started off innocently enough. I had just finished breakfast and was hanging out in my Lightning McQueen car; honking the horn and playing some tunes. Then one of the Giants approached me. It roared at me in their strange language; I have been trying to learn this primitive speech because the Giants are obviously simple people who do not understand my advanced speech. I heard a word I have heard before, “bath”. The other giant; the soft, good smelling one who provides me sustenance, had talked to me of a bath before. I remembered swimming peacefully in a small body of foamy water while that giant sat with me and removed the dirt and dried food from my body. It was a pleasant experience and I looked forward to the relaxing ritual. But apparently bath has different meanings to each of these giants.

I was stripped naked quite forcefully, and carried to the water. A giant waterfall was crashing into the small lake where I had spent many peaceful evenings, churning up a thick foam that smelled faintly of cherries. I was unceremoniously dropped into some sort of torture chair that had been placed next to the waterfall. The water rose alarmingly quickly, and even though I struggled and cried for help the giant simply held me there. Miraculously, the waterfall was cut off before I was completely submerged. I tried to calm myself and think of a way to escape.

The giant seemed pleased with itself, smiling and babbling to me like an idiot. It dropped a few things in the water, I think as an attempt to bribe me into silence. The yellow one that squeaked did interest me for awhile. I believe the giant called it a “duckie”.

There seemed to be no immediate danger so I busied myself with the duckie; but still keeping a wary eye on the giant and looking for an opportunity to escape.

And then the torture started.

The giant kneeled down beside me, grabbed a square cloth that it squirted a liquid into (most likely some sort of acid or poison), and attempted to suffocate me. I screamed and thrashed wildly, hoping to break free from its grasp, but the giant would not relent. After the attempt to smother me failed, the giant began to use the cloth to cover me in the strange, slimy foam. My torso, arms, and legs were all attacked. No amount of struggling or crying could get me free.

Resigning myself to my imminent doom, I gave up my struggle and sat there sobbing while I waited for the giant to finish me off. However, it looked like my pleas must have reached somewhere deep inside the giant where a small portion of its heart remained untouched by cruelty and death. For at the moment I had given up all hope, the giant began to wipe the foul liquid from my body. And when that was finished; it lifted me from the water and wrapped me in a soft, warm blanket. The giant carried me from its torture chamber, applied a sweet smelling oil to my body, and dressed me in clean clothes.

Now that I am free once more; I’m forced to admit that I feel refreshed after this whole ordeal. But I still do not trust this giant. I feel I must retaliate; so I will soil myself in a dramatic fashion and scream until it is forced to clean me.

Tenacity

Our house is 100 years old, and had been owned by one family until we bought it. It’s not the most kid-friendly house. The living room has a five foot opening into the foyer, and pocket doors into the dining room (Only one door can be opened and closed right now because of the carpet). Both very beautiful, solid oak.

image
Very pretty, not very baby proof.

When we started looking for baby gates, we wanted something that wouldn’t damage the wood. Well, we thought we found the perfect solution. Two three panel, free standing, sliding gates. They seemed sturdy, and strong enough that Wesley wouldn’t be able to move them; at least not for awhile. Ha! The kid is a natural Houdini. And the gates; not as resilient as we hoped. It didn’t take long before the constant opening and closing, plus the baby’s constant shaking, caused the gates to start to fall apart. And he quickly realized he was strong enough to push them away from the opening and escape from the living room.

So we’ve had to improvise.

image
If it's heavy, it's blocking the gates.

I’m pretty sure it’s only a matter of time until he figures something out; like the fact that he’s about big enough to climb up and over.

We’ve ordered something different; one of those portable enclosures. Hopefully that will work until he’s old enough that we don’t have to worry about it anymore.

As annoying as this whole ordeal has been; I do love watching him as he tries to figure out how to get out of the living room. He gets so angry when he can’t figure it out. But when he does figure it out; he barks out a triumphant laugh, looks around to make sure everyone sees him, and takes off.

As difficult as it is to get anything done with our current set up, the constant climbing over furniture to get from room to room and never being entirely sure he’s where he’s supposed to be, I think he’s learning some good lessons. He wants to be free, to explore every inch of the house and discover new things. As angry as he gets when he can’t get out; he never stops trying. I hope he never loses his desire to explore or his determination; and I hope I remember to never do anything to stifle them.

Job Applications Shouldn’t Be So Scary

There’s a job application sitting on my kitchen counter. It’s been there for a few days now. It’s a job I wanted to apply for a while ago, but at the time it wasn’t the best choice for my family. It’s a small, local business that is very involved in the community. Great opportunity to advance and learn skills that will be helpful in and out of work. It would most likely give me more free time to spend with my entire family, instead of just being home during the day with the baby. It’s a job I’ve actually fantasized about having. Other than being able to be a full time SAHD; it’s pretty much perfect in almost every way.

The job I have now is not perfect, but it’s been a blessing. I make more money than I expected I would be after only a year. My manager has been great at working with my schedule so we don’t have to find child care for the baby. I don’t hate the work. But I’m rarely home with my whole family, and hardly see my wife other than to say good morning or goodnight.

Seems like a nobrainer, right? So why is it that when I even think about it I get scared? I mean, real anxiety just looking at the application.

My adult life was anything but consistent. Moving from place to place and job to job (the rare times I actually had one); never being quite sure where I would end up next. But now; I’m married to an amazing woman who works very hard to provide for our family, I have two great step-kids, I have rebuilt a relationship with my daughter, and I’ve got a wonderful baby boy. We have a house, two cars that get us where we need to go, and a cat. Finally, at 33 years old, I have the stability that will let me take risks and find out what I truly want to do with my life.

But I’m afraid, terrified really.

Thinking about it rationally, it seems easy. I fill out the app, turn it in. If I don’t get the job, that’s that, I stay where I am for now. If I get the job, it’s a great opportunity I should be grateful for. Too bad I don’t always see things that way. If I don’t get the job, it will be more than just a disappointment. I’ll question what I’m good enough for. I’ll get frustrated with the job I’m at now. So getting the job would be awesome, right? But what if I find out I’m not good at it? What if the hours aren’t any better, or the money isn’t enough? What if this? What if that?

For so long I’ve been so focused on just getting by day to day I don’t really know what it means to make long term plans. We got married, bought a house, had a baby; those plans were scary, but easy to make. I was sure of the things I wanted. But when it comes to planning, or making changes, for long-term goals that I don’t exactly know the outcome for; I get incredible nervous and anxious. I don’t like not knowing how things will turn out and I end up getting stuck on situations when I know I could be doing more.

But I’m tired of being stuck. I’m tired of that nagging feeling constantly in the back of my mind that I’m supposed to be doing more; that’s one of the reasons I started this blog. I’m going to take more chances. Even something as small as filling out an application can have big consequences, and I’m ready to face the unknown.