Civility Redux.

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We leave this tiny blue dot to small hands. Let’s keep that in our thoughts and actions. / Photo by KidZond.

 

Let us talk you and I. Let us sit and converse about a subject of our choosing. One that maybe we differ on opinion. We may raise our voices, we may shout with glee, and laugh or giggle at our comments. We may get serious, may glower at each others points, wave a dismissive hand.

Yet, we will not make it personal. It will not spiral into name calling, or shouting in anger with our faces red and spittle flying from our mouths. We will not threaten each other with bodily harm. We will not seek vengeance against opinions that differ from ours.

Because in our discussion? All points are welcomed. The silly, the insane, the humble, the thoughtful. We are ignorant, and being ignorant? Is a good thing.

Ignorance is lack of knowledge. Everyone is ignorance on one thing or another. It’s part of being human. We can’t know everything, even those of us who are well versed on many subjects will admit their ignorance on a subject they know little to nothing about.

One thing that defines a good conversationalist, is knowing their ignorance, and doing something about it. Listening to others points of views, then doing a little research to find out more about the subject. Then the conversation can begin anew, with more detail to discuss the point.

On the opposite end of ignorance is stubbornness. Those that stick to a point despite evidence to the contrary. On opinions? This is fine. This is your opinion. Have at it. Yet on those subjects based upon facts and knowledge? The easiest way to deal with those that remain stubborn on the subject it is to remember the line from Max Ehrmann’s poem, Desiderata.

“Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.”

And with a smile and nod, bow out of the conversation. For it is better to let the conversation die than to argue with a fool. That fool being you, who is arguing with someone who will not see reason. We’ve seemed to have lost this train of thought in the social media age.

On Social Media.

If for some reason you believe the current troubles with civility are new, sorry, history is not on that side of the argument. Ancient Egyptian artist use to draw very unflattering pictures of their bosses to show their displeasure. Ancient Greeks and Romans wrote nasty, but very witty, comments about those who displeased them. When the printing press came along, that just upped the game. Pamphlets and even books were dedicated to tearing down ones foes. And let us not forget one of the most famous smack down letters, The Declaration of Independence, which, when it comes down to it, was a ‘stick it’ letter to King George III of England.

Yet with the advent of social media, our desire to shame those we do not agree with, to slam those who have different opinions has reached new heights. Gone are the days when you had to wait for the printing press. Now, the simple touch of the ‘Enter’ key will suffice.

Social Media is just a tool, it is not the cause of uncivil behavior, just the enabler. You can hide behind a false name, a fake account, and lash out at those you disagree with. Things can be said that you would probably never say to someone’s face in person. You may not even know the person. Personal attacks are rampant, with the full knowledge that accountability is not there.

Those who seek popularity or attention from social media can be the targets of the most vicious attacks. With horrible consequences as stories of online bullying and suicides from social media attacks grow.

The issue, is simple. It’s fast and numerous. Back in the day, bullying was only done by a small group, at school, the neighborhood, or work. It was more personal too, you knew your attackers. Unfavorable as it was, you could avoid those bullies. Now? They come from all over, nameless, faceless voices over the internet. While you may have had five to ten bullies at school, now there are hundreds who pile on you.

Of course Politics are going to enter this conversation.  

(Full disclosure: I love politics.)

In the United States of America politics are nearly a sport. We have our sides, many of us root for our team as we oppose the other side. It gets heated, and this is not new at all. Over our history we have had some doozy of arguments in the realm of politics. Many with disastrous consequences. In truth, the lack of civility in politics is common. Yet as of late, it has spilled over from the usual ‘rooting for our team’.

Enter the world of social media. President Obama was really the first social media president, and he was pummeled many times on social media, most stories were exaggerated claims to make him look like a tyrant.

Social media existed prior to 2009, but really took off during the Obama presidency. When President Trump came along in 2013, social media was in full swing. And things got weird quick.

So, if the other side won, do you think social media would be kind to President Hillary Clinton? Probably not. This begs the question, what will become of our next President? President 46? Will they get a pass on social media? Or will erroneous stories abound? I think if the trend continues, the next President is going to be tar and feathered every day they are in office, probably even after they leave office. In politics, civility is not just lacking, nor dead, but a zombie horde that hungers for brains of the masses.

Our Conversation. 

Let us talk you and I, but let us avoid those subjects that might cause our stubborn sides to come out. So, we will not talk politics, we will not discuss climate change, nor shall we immigration. And, for the love of God, we will not discuss plastic straws. We shall not converse about Monsanto, nor abortion. Let us…well, let’s just not talk at all shall we? We shall not discuss those things that matter, those things that need our attention. Because we can’t talk. We can post memes to show our dissatisfaction. We can go on our Senators and Representatives Facebook pages and call them names. Saying vile things and even making personal threats. Because they aren’t human are they? They lack feeling and compassion because they have a different opinion than ours. We’ve become the zombies, and they have become the tasty treat for us. We do not offer our opinion, or a solutions or ideas. We offer contempt, hatred and damnation. How dare they, whoever they are, have a different opinion than ours.

Discussion is dying, and not a slow death, a quick one.

This is the price we pay for being uncivil. We shut down discussion and discourse. We stop the exchange of ideas and thus turn our ignorance into stubbornness. We are slowly killing ourselves because it is more entertaining to be snarky than it is to offer solutions.

And finally

On social media I came across a cartoon. The cartoon was about a jeopardy style show where the correct answer was wrong because it offended another player. A social commentary on how our culture is changing. Honestly? Sometime being offended by other’s opinions is a good thing. It makes your defend your opinion. As long as it is done in a civil manner, there is nothing wrong with it. So, I leave you with my answer to the post:

Offend Me.

Tell me I am wrong. I want you to articulate your argument so it challenges my status quo.

Never shy away from an argument (good discussion). Don’t be afraid to make your point.

I will not learn from stodgy ideas I have accumulated over these 55 years on this world. I will only learn when others challenge my point of view. And have me defend my views.

Be Nice. Be Courteous. Understand not everyone shares your views or opinions. Don’t succumb to pettiness and name calling.

Rise above that.

Challenge Me. ALWAYS.

 

Of course, this post is just my opinion. Tell me yours.

 

Take this stick and swallow your feelings.

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A diagram showing the difference in Male/Female arguments. / Illustration by KidZond – don’t laugh.

 

It was one of those conversations that stick with you. I was in my late twenties, over at a friends, who was in a rocky relationship with his spouse. We were discussing relationships and he drew a diagram like the one above. A very simply diagram.

The purpose of the diagram was to explain how men and women argue, or discuss issues that affect their relationship. Men tend to argue linear. They build on point A to point B, to point C and so on. Women do the same, yet point E may be vitally related to point B, and even point B may involve point Q. Women’s arguments tend to be interconnected.

I was amazed by this revelation, it made so much sense to me at the time. Of course, this diagram is a very broad generalization. Not all men argue in a linear fashion, nor do all women build their arguments like a spiderweb. I’ve often wondered what the marriage therapist was trying to tell my friend and his spouse.

I will say, that over the years, the idea that men and woman look at things differently has stuck with me. I have had discussions with women in my life that I saw the spiderweb, knew I was going to lose the argument and eventually be rolled up in a silken web only to be devoured later. I have also had these conversations with men, usually managers, who find ways to make sure it is your fault.

For the most part, I don’t take credence in the diagram anymore, it’s cute, a generalization, but not accurate.

 

Inside Out

 

Yet the other day the diagram popped back into my head. I had a different perspective on it. One I am still pondering about.

We were at home watching the movie Inside Out again. If you never have seen this 2015 Disney/Pixar movie it is a much watch film. The story revolves around a tween girl named Riley that is uprooted by her fathers new job. They move from Minnesota to San Francisco California. What makes this simple premise work is the little people inside Riley’s head. Her emotions that live inside her head and operate the control room.  For adults, there are a myriad of little gems in the story that will elicit guffaws. From the Train of Thought, to memory of a jingle that just won’t go away. An earworm from Hades.

But what really caught my eye were the Islands. Called the Islands of Personality in the film, these little places were meaningful things in Riley’s life that became so special they have their own place (island) in Riley’s mind. Each island is connected to Headquarters (control room) and the ‘little voices’ inside Riley’s head can look out on the Islands of Personalities. I noticed that the islands were connected by a straight line, like a conduit or synapse to headquarters.

Looking at those connections, and watching my autistic daughter giggle at the movie, made me think about something she has recently started to say. And I wondered, are those connections really a straight line of thought with her?

 

Swallow your feelings

 

About a week ago, my daughter handed me a small stick and told me to “take this stick and swallow your feelings”. She giggled, and so did my son. (I did not swallow the stick, just so you know.) I did asked where this phrase came from. Did it come from a cartoon? A video game? A friend. My son told me that Alexis just said it. She made it up he said. Honestly I am not sure that is true, but wherever it came from, she had taken a liking to the phrase.

She used this phrase most of the week, then on Friday we all sat down in the evening to watch a movie, Inside Out.

That is when the old diagram and the conduits to the Islands of Personalities started to merge in my mind.

What you will find often enough with young autistics, is that when you ask them a question, there is a delay in response. In school, this can sometimes be seen as not knowing the answer to a particular question, but in reality, it is processing time. Autistics seem to have a delayed response. This, I should note, is the appearance to us Neural Typical people. Not necessarily what is going on inside their heads.

With High Functioning Autism, I have found more and more there is scant research and information as to how they think. Most of the research is devoted to making them behave like us, conformity. While that isn’t wholly a bad concept, I personally think it’s a little off. Personally, I would rather they would work with Translation than Conformity.

Translation works like this. My daughter has emotions. She isn’t dead inside. In fact she is vibrant with emotions. She just can’t get them out for you to see. Or when she does, she selects the wrong one. Her islands of personality do not have straight paths, in fact, they are a spiderweb of paths. She has to sort through the tangle web to find the correct response. Sometimes, the paths get crossed, or intertwined. Yet while the character Riley from the movie had Emotions that controlled her from Headquarters via a console, in Alexis’ case, the console is a little glitchy. She may select one emotion, yet another comes up. Much to her chagrin.

These are the things I work on with her. Helping her learn what is the ‘normal’ response to a situation. How to deal with emotionally charged moments, and to seek out the proper response. I don’t force her, I guide her. I ask questions, and if the response is incorrect to what society expects, I do my best to explain. It is not a perfect method, it is time-consuming and well, frustrating at times for both of us.

The common method now is conformity. Basically taking away and giving, to make an autistic conform to societal rules. This method may work better for some, I’m not knocking it, have used it to a degree, yet I don’t feel the carrot and stick method works that well with HFA. They will outsmart you, and use it against you.

 

Spiderwebs

 

It was the combination of the movie, and my old friends diagram, and her new catchphrase that gave me a new insight into my daughters mind. What exactly the stick represents, I really am not sure. Yet swallowing one’s feelings? I have a hunch that is how she sees our world. That maybe, more often than not, she has to swallow her feelings rather than express them. Because expressing her feelings is hard, yet swallowing them? That is easy for her. Better to leave them inside rather than select the wrong emotion.

Yet, it comes with a price. Like the stick in the metaphor, to swallow a stick would be a hard thing to do, getting stuck in one’s throat, tasting nasty and dry. Leaving you with a bad taste, and a sore throat. Emotions, and our ability to express them correctly, is hard enough for those of us that do not fall into the Autistic Spectrum. For autistics, the wrong selection could be catastrophic. So, swallowing the stick is sometimes better than selecting the wrong emotion.

 

 

In the Course of Human Events.

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The three faces of Thomas Jefferson. 2004-2006. / Photo by KidZond.

Do me a favor.

Take out a piece of paper and a pen. Sign your name. Take a good look at it.

Now, I want you to be afraid of that signature of yours. I want you imagine that sometime in the very near future armed men are going to come to your house in the wee hours of the night to break down your door just because of that signature. They will drag you away, and bind your hands. Then, without a trial, without any recourse to defend yourself. They will put you on the end of a wooden cart pulled by a mule, place a rope around your neck and while a drummer rattles off a drumroll, move the cart and hang you till you are dead. Your signature just cost you your life. Also cost your family their freedom, their home, all of your property. Your friends will be harassed, maybe even arrested just because they knew you. Extended family member also. Just because you signed a nasty letter to the leader of your country.

We tend to forget history in the United States of America. It’s not one of our strong suits as Americans. Ask any high school kid which subject he or she finds the most boring, they will most likely tell you History.

I wasn’t that kid. I had the good fortune of having one Mr. Ronald Beam as my history teacher. A short stocky man, with red hair and freckles. Mr. Beam was a lover of history, he passed on that love to me and others. He made history funny, entertaining, and mostly, he made it come alive.

Maybe on purpose, or by his sheer comedic style in class, he let me imagine what it was like during important times in my nation’s history. He let me put on those historical figures proverbial shoes.

So, I think about my signature. And so should you.

We have all signed documents of importance. Buying a car, maybe buying a house, or maybe enlistment into the armed services. While important, not one of these documents would brand you a traitor. None of them would put you on a short list of individuals who must be caught and hung for the crime of treason.

Yet a group of men did just that. Put everything on the line for the stupidest of reasons. An Idea.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” 

Of course, this isn’t true. If anything, all men (and women) are created unequal. Even back then, the idea that this line applied to women, native Americans, and black slaves, was untrue. Yet the Declaration of Independence, wasn’t just this document. It was a letter, addressed to the King of England. And that line was critically important.

King George III was the King of England at that time. He was also a very religious man. He was also rumored to believe in the ideology of Divine Rights of Kings. Even if that was not accepted in England anymore. Still, the Revolutionaries knew how to push buttons, and by calling for all men to be equal at birth, was a jab. And a good one. The King, they contended, was no better than them.

We miss that in our study of history, and the importance of the document. It was a letter, to a far off King who was above reproach. A King that believed in absolute loyalty to The Crown, and not disobedience of a bunch of Colonials.

We The People…

If you look at the first 10 Amendment of the United States Constitution, you will find what is called the Bill of Rights. Each of these 10 amendments are reactions to Colonial rule. They are guaranteed rights to freedoms that were taken from us under English rule. From the right to complain about how the government is run, to the right of a fair trial. You don’t have to belong to The Church of England to hold a political appointment, nor do you languish in a prison cell awaiting a trial that will never come. You definitely will not be hung for saying you dislike or disagree with your political leaders.

This concept, that regular people, fellow countrymen are our leaders, because we choose them to be, was rather unique back then. That the People, not the government, was the ultimate power. That We the People decide our fate, not Kings in a distant land, nor a Parliament which didn’t represent us directly, but told us that they did.

We The People…well, we kind of forget that from time to time. That those men who signed a letter, put everything on the line, did so, so we can decide our own fate.

A little Revolution now and then, is a good thing…

I’m sorry to inform you that the Revolution didn’t end at Yorktown. Actually, it’s still going on. One unique quality of the United States of America is that we are in a constant state of revolt. Every four years we reshape our collective vision for our nation. We go from Right to Left, from Up to Down. We find those servants willing to direct us in a way we desire. And if they don’t follow the vision they lay out? Well, we can peaceable remove them in the next election.

At the time, this government of the people, by the people, for the people. Was unique in the world. An experiment to see if people can rule themselves. That, we are, under our Constitution, created equality among ourselves. No one is above the law we set forth to govern ourselves.

It’s not perfect, we’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way. We have also owned up to many of those mistakes and strive to put them right. Our nation isn’t perfect, yet we strive to be. We strive to do our best, improve our lot in life, and the lot of others around the world. We, revolt, and we have never stopped from day one.

So, take a look at your signature. And by doing so, consider those imperfect men who wrote a letter to their King and said he was King of them no more. That they would govern themselves.

And as you look at your signature, consider what they put on the line to sign that letter. The price of failure. And ask yourself this simply question.

Would you have signed it? Knowing failure would have cost you everything? And if not, what would have become of us if they didn’t?

 

Cats, Kids and The Karen.

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Border wall at Brownsville / Wikimedia Commons.

 

Cats

Have you ever met a cat lady? They don’t necessarily have to be a lady, just a person who has collected cats over the years to the point of obsession. What starts off as one or two, grows into a horde of twenty.

These people always start out with the best of intentions. They take in an abandon cat, a stray, and it joins their home. Yet, soon others arrive, and what was once a good deed, becomes a house overwhelmed with litter boxes and cans of empty cat food. Good intentions gone awry.

My mother was such a person. She had a good heart, and was a kind person. She judged people on how they treated cats. If you couldn’t be kind to a cat, well, you wouldn’t be kind to people. She had a good point there.

Yet, as a cat lady, that had no other desire than to make the world a better place for those furry felines, she soon lost control and was overwhelmed.

See, the problem of being a cat lady? Everyone knows it. And despite the jeers and leers, they take advantage of you. They tell their friends about you, others that have ‘just too many cats’ and give out your address. So, within a short time, it is well-known you will take in every stray that comes along.

This happened to my mother. At first it was just a few, that she could take care of, get fixed or spaded, and keep up with the litter and food. Yet when the few became a horde, the cats took on a life of their own. Pulling her and my father down financially. She just couldn’t keep up, try as she might. Even after turning new strays away, more would come, because the word hadn’t gotten out yet.

Her good intentions, tied her and my father to their home. Making their golden years a prison full of furry inmates. Traveling became problematic, guest too, even simple things like going to the store required two carts of food. One for humans, one for cats.

Kids

In a sense, the United States of America has its own cat issue. Except they are people. People who brave a long and dangerous journey just to find out that we are not taking in more strays. This isn’t the fault of those who come here. Their lives in their home countries is less than desirable. Even the countries they pass through to get to the U.S.A. are not the most friendly to their plight. And now, their destination has closed their doors.

In the media are countless stories of those who make the journey. Debates rage on social media and in the chambers of Congress. People lament over the separation of children from their parents. Calling this unjust and evil. Comparing this policy to Nazi Germany, or to Interment of the Japanese during WWII.

Neither of those comparisons are correct, nor remotely accurate. It’s just hyperbole to drive emotions and make people more engaged and enraged.

Yet to separate children from their parents for trying to find a better home? Well, if you didn’t expect backlash, you are really out of touch.

But what to do? What to do?

The Karen

You read that right, The Karen. If you have never heard of The Karen, don’t feel bad. I had never heard of them either till they became my neighbors.

The Karen are an indigenous people from Myanmar (Burma) that have been forced from their lands to now live on the border in Thailand. They live in refugee camps and eke out a living. Many have applied for and gained refugee status in other countries. Canada and the United States being popular destinations.

Now here is something interesting about the Karen. They are pretty basic people, good people who were farmers, who do their best to adjust to their new homes. English is extremely hard for them to learn, as their culture is very different from ours. Concepts like ‘Last Names’ and even how you address siblings by order. (different words for different orders of birth – Sister and Brother only work in a two kid family.)

As far as I know, The Karen are not radical in any way. They do not have extreme political views or religious beliefs that would make any American bat an eye at.

The point I am trying to make is this. There is no reason why these refugees, who have a legitimate (and well-known to our government) reason to seek asylum, should have to wait for years to become American citizens. But in a discussion with my neighbor the other day, that is exactly what he and his family are doing. For the last 7 years.

Solving the Unsolvable.

If you think the government of the United States has a solution, you would be wrong. Neither side on the political spectrum has a solution. Ideas have been tried. From outright amnesty to building a wall to stop the influx of immigrants. With every ‘solution’ there are problems.

Don’t think I am going to solve it here, I’m not.

Yet after my discussion with my neighbor, I came to the conclusion that our immigration polices are broken. And I thought about that more than I did solutions. We don’t need solutions yet, we need to ask ourselves the right questions.

1.) Who do we want to immigrate to the United States?

a.) Those who can bring with them their educational and work experience. Thus, Self-Starters.

b.) Refugees from War torn regions and Ethic cleansing. Who are in peril in their native lands.

c.) Economic refugees. Those who seek a better economic life, or flee areas of violence and instability that prevents them from making a living.

d.) Simply those who wish to be a United States citizen. To start a new life in this country.

 

2.) What do we do with those who are here illegally?

a.) We send them back. Without tying up our judicial system.

b.) We process each claim, allowing them to live where they choose.

c.) We create Detention Cites, to process those who come, and when those cities are full, forbid those new entries, from entry.

d.) We grant them amnesty. Thus resetting the books, and start fresh.

3.) What do we do with DACA and those families with so-called Anchor Babies?

a.) We would have to amend the Constitution, creating an Amendment that changes the 14th Amendment. Barring Anchor Babies citizenship directly. Yet they can apply at 18 years of age and given preference.

b.) We could arrange for those who fall under DACA and those who have a U.S. citizen as a child, to be granted permanent legal status. Alien Resident.

c.) We could allow all DACA’s to be granted U.S. citizenship immediately, if they meet a certain criteria.

d.) We could grant amnesty to all DACA’s and families of U.S. born citizens.

 

And finally…

 

We need to have a discussion in the United States. One not based on political agenda, nor based on perceived or actual racism. But one of what we want as a nation. As compassionate or uncaring as we may seem as a people, eventually, if left unchecked, we will become a Cat Lady nation. Unable to sustain ourselves, and eventually collapse under the influx of unchecked immigration. No nation on this planet can absorb the rest of the world.

Yet we can’t simply build a wall and call it done. Nor can we take families apart and think that will be a deterrent. We have to figure out the Who, What, and Where of immigration. Design polices that benefit not only our nation, but those who come here seeking a new life.

One thing I got from my Karen neighbor that was interesting. Despite having to wait in line for the last 7 years. He has the American Dream. He wants to become and American. I know this not through his words, but actions.

You see, it is my neighbors kids, his 6-year-old son, and 9-year-old daughter who have become fixtures at my home. Here to play with my children, to hone their English skills, learn about what it means to be an American, by hanging around Americans.

For whatever we decide as a nation, how we fix this issue, and set forth guidelines for the future. We must remember that those who come to our nation, become our nation. That they, seeking freedom and a sense of security, also want to be us. That the melting pot does work, and must work for all.

That what has made our nation the desired place to resettle, is that we accept all, and they become us. That our nation is the world, and that Out Of the Many, we become One.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Misandry of Fatherhood.

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Nick with sparklers. / Photo by KidZond.

This is a little odd for me, but I want to talk about a father that many people I know say is a wonderful Dad.

Me.

For the last 26 years I have been told this by family and friends. That I am a wonderful, caring, dedicated father. That through adversity, a horrible divorce, I stepped up and raised my two eldest daughters. I have been told, by my own mother nonetheless, very Motherly. Wasn’t exactly sure how to take it, but I was pretty sure it was a compliment.

Being a parent was something I had always wanted to be. I can remember being a teenager and fantasizing about being a father one day. Yet, it really wasn’t my initial plans.

I was going to be a paleoanthropologist. Teach at a great university, go on digs during the summer months, write tomes of works dedicated to the field of primitive man. Yet it never happened. Life got in the way. I never went to college for anthropology, I only took silly courses that amounted to nothing.

At 28 years of age, I became a father, and for the last 26 years, I added to my brood and now have four children. At first? I had no clue what I was getting into. I had never hung around babies, nor small children. My cousins, and nieces and nephews, were all around my age. Being the youngest child of a family of four, with nearly 17 years difference between the eldest and me, I never experienced children that weren’t close to my age.

So, I was an idiot. Had to learn on the fly. Yet I had good teachers in my parents.

When I split with my wife in 2000, I suddenly became something I had always dreaded. A weekend father. It was rough, very painful, and the thought of giving up was very real.

When the weekend father part ended, and I became a full-time single parent. I was so overwhelmed that first three weeks that I want to run off and hide under a rock. But I didn’t. I stuck it out, got the girls in school, and made all the arrangements from changing my shift at work, to having a neighbor watch them after school till I got home from work.

What I didn’t expect, was the misandry. In case you are wondering, misandry is the hatred of men. Or contempt, which I got all the time, being a father (Male) with two daughters (Female).

I had experienced this before, since I took my daughters to many of their doctors appointments by myself before the divorce. This was done by design, since my wife at the time worked days, and I worked nights. Made it easy.

Yet the question of when my daughter’s birthdate always came up, and my quick answer was ALWAYS met with the surprised response from the nurse that I actually knew it. This little misandry grated against me, yet it was nothing compared to when I was a single dad.

Because dad’s can’t raise daughters by themselves you see, we are incapable. We just don’t have it in us. Then of course there were the side-eyed looks, of why I would be in a house with two little girls in the first place. By myself, without a female there to guide me.

Teachers would say disparaging remarks about me, either to my daughters, or within earshot of them. They would talk down to me, be contemptuous, and overall ignored any concerns or cares I had.

“Have you talked to their mother? Could she come in and see me?”  Was a line I was given over and over. As if talking to dad was beneath them.

I did my best not to let it get to me, but honestly? When my youngest two came along, and went to the same school district? I was jaded at that point. Untrusting of teachers and faculty. But, to their credit, the school personnel that I deal with now, are very nice. Then again, there is a woman at the house, my wife, and mother of my youngest two.

Don’t think I don’t wonder. Don’t think I don’t have that little fear in the back of my mind that without my wife, once again, I am nothing.

Both of my eldest daughters are grown, they are mother’s themselves. They had a rough upbringing, stories I will not repeat here. Yet…

They are respectful of me.

They say Please and Thank You.

They are not hooligans and in and out of the correctional system.

They both have jobs.

They both contacted me for Father’s Day. To tell me they loved me, and were thinking of me.

I worked a 12 hour shift today at my work. It was a hot, miserable, humid day. I work outside. Yet on my breaks, I saw the messages from my oldest two. When I got home, I was greeted by ‘Happy Father’s Day Daddy’ and cards. Hugs and Kisses all around.

I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, think I am the best dad in the world. I would give that honor to My Father, gone these 22 years. Yet I know so many good fathers, those with partners, those without. I see the single father’s struggle, know their plight.

Being a good dad, a great dad, is simple. You just have to care, and let your children know you care.

And to hell with the naysayers.

The Gift.

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A Fancy Fidget Spinner. / Photo by Kidzond.

 

The gift was given a ‘hmpf’ and put on the armrest of my parents couch. It was a book, nothing grand, just a book. A diary of Christopher Columbus and it included historical notations. It was fancy, had maps, very cool design. Yet, my father ‘hmpf’ at the Christmas gift and put it down.

I seriously hated buying gifts for my father. He was, well, the worst. Except for a set of knives I bought him once, that he absolutely loved, he never seemed to care for anything I bought him.

Well, there was that small remote-controlled car I bought him that he liked. But he used that to chase my mother’s cats. 

It wasn’t till some years later, after his death actually, when my mother handed me the book and asked me if I wanted to have it back. I commented that he probably never read it. She corrected me to let me know he read it all the time. Loved it.

I never knew it.

I had to be told after his death that the gift I thought he hated, he loved. Read it, and re-read it, over and over. It was, as my mother told me, one of his favorite possessions.

People are quirky. Things that people keep as keepsakes tell more about someone than anything it seems. Usually, something is not what it seems. The object may be special, even prized, yet the meaning behind it, that is what counts.

The fidget spinner in the above picture is one of those objects. It was given as a Christmas gift from my eldest daughter, to my youngest. Big sister wanted to give little sister something really cool. Jenelle was proud of herself to find this unique spinner. Alexis acted like it was nothing when she opened the gift. Kept it in the box it came in for months. To Jenelle, it seemed like a gift rejected. But to Alexis? It was the best gift ever. So special, she kept it out of sight of other children, on her desk, in an honored spot. She brought it out today only because we saw some fidget spinners in the store today. Yet only she could touch it, her little cousin, brother and friends were not allowed. This gift, one thought to be a failed gift, is like my father’s book. It holds a special place in Alexis’ heart.

Another special object, that would bring me to tears one very lonely day in my life, is a stuffed rabbit.

Herr Rabbit isn’t much to look at. A simple beanie baby stuffed animal. White, with colorful polka dots. Herr, the German word for Mister, was also a pun, Hare became Herr.

Playing stuffed animals with my children has always been a fun thing to do. A little window into their imaginations. It is usually silly, full of excitement from lava flows, wild animal attacks, and stuffed animals that go bad. Like the jaguar of Alexis’ that keeps wanting to eat the other stuffed animals. You know, it’s a jaguar. It’s in their nature. Don’t judge.

Herr Rabbit was ‘my toy’, the stuffed animal I played when my eldest two children and I, played stuffed animals. We would, in the days of me being a weekend father, play stuffed animals on cold winter days, or rainy days, or just because. Playing stuffed animals with them became a pastime, a father-daughter bond, one that has continued on with my youngest two, and even with my grandson. I’m sure I’ll be playing stuffed animals in the nursing home with the staff.

Herr Rabbit was German, he spoke with an accent, bad accent, but an accent. He would be the foil to my eldest two daughters plans. Usually spoiling their plotlines in a silly manner. Eliciting protests and laughter, usually both, at the same time.

Yet his silly antics earned him a special place in their hearts. He was mine to play, yet his owner was my daughter Kayla. It was her toy.

When I went from a weekend dad to a fulltime single parent, Herr Rabbit and the stuff toy playtime, helped easy the emotional burden. Kayla would sleep with Herr Rabbit, or put him in an honored spot in the girls bedroom.

Growing up, can do a number on playtime. While it is all the rage when you are pre-tween, those few years between a child and a teenager seem to have an effect on you. One minute you are imagining that you are the Queen of the World, the next you stop with Barbie in hand and go “This is childish” and stop.

Jenelle stopped. And of course, since she wouldn’t play, it just wasn’t the same anymore. So, Kayla stopped, and we found other things to bond over. Herr Rabbit, however, was still around. Waiting patiently for someone to pick him up and give him his voice. Even if it was in a bad accent.

As things go, and as parental custody does sometimes in divorces, my eldest two went to go live with their mother, out-of-state. Although I kept a good face, and did my best to alleviate their fears, inside I was dying at the prospect of being so far away from them. The pain and anguish was horrible.

When the time came, I drove them some 30 miles from our home, to their Aunts, for them to continue their journey. All the time telling them that everything would be okay. On my drive back home, alone, seeing the road was difficult. I had to keep wiping my eyes.

My duplex, where just us three had spent a few years together, was now a lonely tomb. I wandered around for a good five minutes just looking at an empty place. Then, I went into my daughter’s room. Two empty beds, made, and all their belongs gone.

Except one.

On my daughter Kayla’s bed sat a small stuffed white rabbit with colorful polka dots. Sitting their as if he too was wondering when the girls were coming back. Herr Rabbit sat there, his black eyes staring at the bed, waiting to play again.

Although on loan mind you, this Gift, was one of my prized possessions. Even if it is just a memory. That moment in my life stands out like no other. Because at that moment, I knew I would still be in their lives, even if I wasn’t there physically.

Like a Book, and a fidget spinner, this small little rabbit with a funny accent, became my prized possession.

 

 

Be Thankful you can Thank a Veteran.

 

Judy Ann

The B-29 “Judy Ann” / Photo by Kidzond.

 

 

There is a little debate going on in the United States. Seems that since the advent of Social Media the question of what is respectable and not respectable on Memorial Day has cropped up every last Monday in May.

I would take a guess, that most of us (by now via social media and countless Media outlets) know that Memorial Day honors those soldiers who didn’t return from various battles we have fought over these 241 years. We mark the day with parades and tributes to honor our Fallen Soldiers.

However, it is seen as very improper to Thank a veteran. To the point it is almost seen as offensive by some in The United States.

I disagree. Yes, Veterans Day, November 11th, often called Armistice Day in other parts of the world, is the day we in the United States to thank those who have, and those who still, serve our country.

Yet one important thing to remember about Memorial Day, is that many who did not come back, did so, so that others could come back. For if it wasn’t through their sacrifice, many more would have never returned.

Incident on the North Field

Two things I want you to know about my father. One, he never wore a seatbelt unless absolutely forced to wear one. He always carried a pocket knife. These may seem incompatible, yet both of these traits all came down to one fateful day in 1945.

My father was a mechanic for the B-29’s during WWII. He served on the island of Tinian. This island, along with Saipan and Guam were used as airbases to launch B-29’s in the bombing of the Japanese Empire. Days were long, with periods of hectic activity in the early morning, and hours of waiting for the planes to return from their missions. My father said that when the planes returned near dusk, it would look like a floating city in the sky.

He, like many others, toiled away in a far off land. In hot humid conditions, far from loved ones and familiar faces. Many friendships were made on that island. Memories, both good and bad, were made there too.

He talked of the humorous things, guys that made go-carts to pass the time, and to have a little fun. Of the sad day they installed a curtain for the prisoners shower. Seems there was a young Japanese lady who liked to shower as the men headed to the airstrips every morning. Obviously to draw their attention away from their duties, and a little jab of what they were missing at home.

There was the ugly side too. Like the time he flew to Iwo Jima, sent there to repair a broken down B-29. It was three days after the island was secure, yet the plane they came in on was still shot at by Japanese soldiers, as they landed on the makeshift strip.

He arrived at Iwo Jima only to find a more gruesome sight. Bodies of Japanese soldiers, stacked like cord wood, and being buried by a bulldozer. Soldiers coming up to him with a jar of gold teeth. Humanity takes a backseat during times of great conflict. WWII was no different.

Yet of all these memories, all the things that happened during his tour of duty, one stuck out more than others. A plane crash.

I don’t know the plane, I don’t know the name of my father’s friend. I do know what happened. During take off, the plane lost an engine, the pilot tried to go around, but the plane crashed, upside down. My father, like others, rushed to the aid of their fellow airmen. Even so far as to, like my father, going inside the plane to get the crew out.

It was a mess, electrical wires everywhere, parts of the plane hampering their attempted rescue. All this, while the fuel leaked into the upside down fuselage. As this rescue was going on, my father found a friend, hanging upside down from his seat, stuck in his 5-point harness. My father didn’t have a knife. The seatbelt was stuck and would not release. The electrical wires began to arc and my father was standing in a pool of airplane fuel. He made a choice, and left.

The explosion would send my father airborne, some 20 feet down the runway. Yet…

That decision haunted him for the rest of his life. He would never wear a seat belt, never be found without a pocketknife. 

RLK1945

Ralph L. Kendrick, circa 1945. / photo by Kidzond.

 

My father would make it home from the war. Other’s on that island would not. While Tinian is known for being the island that the Enola Gay launched from on its fateful mission to drop the worlds first Atomic Bomb, it was an active airbase. Thousands of men were there, hundreds never came back.

And like my father, many came back but left something there. A part of them that they would never get back.

During that time, men and women we call The Greatest Generation, put everything they had to defeat the evil that was consuming the world. Many acts of heroism occurred. Even little acts. Like the time my father was saved from a propeller blade by an attentive British Indian Guard. He stopped the rolling ladder my father was on from being sucked into the propeller of an engine. The pilot forgot to check before he started it. It happens.

Not everyone made it home, those that did bear the memories of friends and comrades they lost. A part of them, will always be There. Kindred spirits, lingering among the headstones.

I agree, today is a day of remember our fallen heroes. A day to honor those who gave us our freedom, at the cost of their lives.

So, you should not thank a veteran. Yet, you should be Thankful, very Thankful, you can Thank a soldier, who helped our Veterans come home. They paid the ultimate price to do so.

 

The Big Wheel

The Big Wheel. / photo by Kidzond.

Dedicated to the crew of The Big Wheel. Lost on March 30th, 1945. May they rest in peace.

For Robert.

20180518_212107.jpg

Here sits a lump of clay, ready for me to shape. / Photo by Kidzond.

 

I’ve been reading a book this week. Sort of a horror/dystopia story about vampires. I have about another 90 pages to go before the end of the story.

I didn’t like how the author started off the story. The setting was cool, but he seemed to lack focus on what the issue was. Hints to, but never explains what the real issue at hand is.

Despite the grammatical errors, hiccups with elements of the plot, the two main characters are good. I am truly curious as to what their fate will be. And that has to be the best part of the story. I actually care as a reader what will happen next.

Yes, this is my story, my first draft of my ‘first’ novel. Why quote marks? Because it truly isn’t my first. I wrote a novel a few years back and sat down to read it, like I am doing now. My father’s ghost tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear.

“That truly sucks you know. What are you trying to even say? What is your point?” I could only look over my shoulder and nod, placing the pages into a manila envelope and dooming the novel to sit upon a dusty shelf for all of eternity.

This book I am reading? It may actually see the light of day. I hope it does. It is still a lump of clay, but has a shape. A structure that I can look at and say, “I see where you are going here.” and take out my tools and start to shape it into a book that will keep some up past their bedtime, turning the page to see what happens next. That is my hope, the hope of every wannabe author.

Stories rarely just pop into my head. Usually a scene does, one that I think on, expand upon, and if good enough, commit to paper. I normally hand write out my stories, then sit at my laptop and tap them out.

This story, came from an oxymoron. We went swimming at a local pool years back. I was sick, so I did not want to get into the water. My youngest children were kiddy pool age, so I sat and watched them. It was on July 14th, Bastille Day for the French, that will become germane in a moment.

So, sitting down, watching my wife and kids splash around in this public pool that is only opened during the day, I notice they had lights. A really good lighting system. New. But why?

“Well maybe it’s for the vampires.” I mused. Swimming on Bastille Day, a short story, was born. I wrote it down, then I tapped it out on my laptop. It sat. I tweaked it, it still sat. I had in my cloud, and thus on my phone. By now, almost 3 years had passed. And every once in a while I would look at it. I had the good luck to look at on the flight back from our family vacation. It caught the eye of my sister-in-law’s fiancé.

“What’s that your reading?” He asked.

“Oh, short story I wrote.” I said.

“Really?” He said as I handed him my phone. A half hour later he handed it back. He liked it, but had so many questions. In the end, the story didn’t make sense to him. I needed to explain it more.

I think I rewrote that short story a dozen times, cursing at each draft. It was not going to happen as a short story. Maybe a Novella? Wasn’t sure.

The novel was delayed by a conversation with my brother Jay. Who stated that everyone wrote about vampires. Which, is absolutely true. Stick a fork in the genre, it is as crispy as a vampire in the sunlight.

As I turned away from the novel, and life interrupted me more than I wish, drawing me farther away from my writing, I considered something. Is my story about vampires? Is any story just about its genre? No, it’s about the characters. How they react to the situation they are in.

It took me 45 days to write the first draft. Countless interruptions, coffee breaks, smoke breaks, potty breaks, and life’s general interruptions.

Then I started to read my book. I frowned a lot at the first 70 pages, had to do my best not to pick up a red pen and attack it. I reminded myself this is the critical part of writing. Do you like your work? Are you, as the author, curious as to the ending. Even though you know the ending? Like re-reading your favorite novel again? Does it still peak your interest? So far, yes. I want to know what happens to my characters.

While writing a story is the fun part, the nuts and bolts of creating a novel really intrigue me. I am doing the first read of the first draft. I will edit my novel. Then, hoping it won’t cost me a small fortune, get with an editor I know. Have her go over it with a nit comb. Then after that, have it proofread again. Finally have a few people read it.

One person that I hope will have the time to read my story is the person who looked at me on that airplane flight and asked so many damn good questions. Yet still said, they liked it. My brother-in-law Rob. He’s a bit of an asshole, which is fine, because so am I. We argue, discuss, and love each other fiercely. We truly are family.

Yet I would be remiss to say I don’t dread his reading of my tale. For while others will tell me they like it, yet secretly harbor dislikes, I will not get that from him. He will simply hand me back the printed pages and shake his head. “Nah, didn’t like it.” And that will be the truth. It is rare to find an individual with his bluntness. It is also alarming and scary.

However, if you want to succeed at anything in life, you need a Rob. You need someone to tell you if your work is good, and to give you constructive criticism. To ask the hard questions and have you explain yourself. And, like he did on that flight, when I explained a point to my ill-fated short story.

“Why didn’t you say that in the first place then?”

So, with so many people I will have to thank for this novel when it sees the light of day, I could think of only one person to dedicate it to. My harshest critic.

Moms.

 

’

Michelle with Alexis. (I think, might be Nick.) / Photo By Kidzond.

 

I use this line often.

“Women have periods, Give Birth, and menopause. Men live 10 years less than Women. And I am okay with that.”

Moms are a special lot. Kind of unique to our species. It doesn’t detract from those women who are not mothers, but even they would have to concede, their own mother is rather unique.

For one, the simple fact that we spend the first 9 months of our existence sharing a body with this woman, who will at the end of this journey be our mother, is a monumental task. If you think about it, it’s a small miracle in its own right.

They will endure heartburn, swelling feet, cravings that may or may not be satisfied, and overall, go through a purgatory to bring you into this world. Others, may breeze through their pregnancy and birth without the slightest complication. And if they are smart, keep that bit to themselves, and not tell their friends who had 32 hours of labor with an epidural.

Of course any parent will tell you, it’s what comes after that the real tests begin. Taking this new human and shaping them into a person. Guiding them, admonishing them, nurturing them, and scolding them.

And as my own mother said, you never quit being a mother.

Some mothers do the most challenging of tasks, take on children that are not biologically their own. For a variety of reasons, these women will adopt a child and take on the honorific of being called Mom. It is not an easy task, a complicated road of lawyers and judges, fears and tears, all to give their undivided love to a child. What magical, wonderful women they are.

Not everyone is cut out to be a mom. Many women I have known over the years elected by choice not to become a mother. I think I shock them when I tell them ‘Good for you!’ Because it is not the reaction they expect. But good for them, they know themselves well enough that children are not what they want. They are selfless enough to know that becoming a mom just to fit into some mythical role, is not what they want in their life. Sadly, too many believe the myth, and give it a try. (See the paragraph above for the lucky children.)

Now of course I am not a Mom. I’m a Dad. And I was told by my 10-year-old daughter the other day that I was “The best Daddy in the world, and Mommy is the best Mommy.” And that is why I am blogging about Mothers today. Because nothing makes a parent feel loved than to be the Best in their child’s eyes.

But I did tell her that others think they have the best parents in the world. She didn’t quite agree with me.

 

Betty Kendrick 19 years old

Betty Anne McDonald (19 yrs of age – sans Freckles)

 

Of course to me, Betty Anne McDonald, who would become Betty Kendrick, was the best Mom in the world. Well, to me. She was a little lady of Scots-Irish decent and pushed the stereotype of a Redhead to the limit. A woman of immeasurable love and compassion that would turn on a dime if you pissed her off. My favorite story of my Mother was once saying to her “Hey Mom” and she slapped me. Holding my cheek I asked her what was that for? Her reply? “Oh, sorry, thought you were going to say something smart.”

In all the stories I could tell you about my mother, the one thing that holds them together like glue is the simple fact she was a Mom. Being a mother was very important to her. She raised us, punished us, made sure we had respect for others, and did her best with what limited experience she had. My Grandmother had died when my mother was 4 years old.

The common joke among men is to marry a woman like their mother. I believe I have succeeded in that.

Now many women take this wrong. That men want a woman who will take care of them, do their clothing, keep the house, raise the kids, etc. Pick a 1950’s T.V. mom.

But what we really want, is someone who will raise our kids like we were raised. Someone that we know, will be there to kiss the boo-boos. Yell at the kids for a messy room, proudly display a bunch of scribbles called ‘Art’ on the fridge and threaten their very existence when all else fails. We want that nurturing aspect for our children.

I am lucky, I found that woman. She is the Mother of my two youngest children. She’s a great mom. And an overall wonderful person. And I have to agree with daughter on this point. She is the best Mommy.

Of course tomorrow I will not be calling my Mother. I lost her 12 years ago. Not a day goes by without a thought or memory passing through my mind. It was 17 years ago this past March that I last seen her, hugged and kissed her goodbye. We would talk on the phone, but we lived 2000 miles apart, and try as I might, I never got out to see her again. People very close to me will not be talking to their Mothers today, for the first year. It doesn’t get easier, and yes, some years are harder than others.

As sad as it is, Mother’s Day is a wonderful day for me. It reminds me of the sacrifices women all over the world make to carry on our species. That they keep humanity going. That every human on this planet, came from a Mom, and for all they do, we should be truly grateful.

Happy Mother’s Day.

 

…Not Judgement.

20180421_194044.jpg

A sign posted on an elementary school wall.

 

Last week when I picked up my 5-year-old niece from her Pre-K class I passed a wall plastered with pictures and stories. In the center was this sign.

Autism is one word trying to describe millions of stories. and underneath, offer support, not judgement.

This may seem sappy, but the sign, the wall, what had been going on in my life at that moment, hit me hard. I did my best to hold it together and walked on to pick up my niece. Walking through a crowded hallway of parents and overly excited 4 to 5 year olds, who jostling each other for a turn at the drinking fountain. I signed my niece out, lead her out of the school, stopping to snap a picture of the sign. Then I thought about writing this blog. But I didn’t write. I thought about it for nearly a week.

I fully feel the support. From friends, family, school teachers and professionals who help us with Alexis’ Autism. It is a wonderful feeling, and I am truly grateful.

Yet at times, I feel the judgement. For many, Autism is just an unknown. They look at it from the outside and see…well they see a new car. See, I thought about the sign for nearly a week, and found an analogy that made sense.

 

Analogy Time!

 

Lets say, for the sake of analogies, Alexis is a new car. Snazzy, looks great on the outside. Sunroof, all the new fangled bells and whistles. I drive this car everyday. So I know this car well.

On occasion I give people rides. They like my new car, say it works like every other new car they know, looks like a normal car to them too. But they don’t drive it everyday like I do.

See, every once in a while, my navigation system won’t talk to me. It is very frustrating. I really need it to work sometime, but it doesn’t some days. Selective Mutism.

Then the fuel system doesn’t work, and my car vapor locks on me. Just stops.  Getting it to work again can take days. Sometimes, I have to take it into the shop. Gastrointestinal issues.

The sun roof is stubborn too. It will open, but refuses to close. Hangs up and the navigation system complains it hurts too much to close. Tactile Issues, Hair.

But everyone sees this awesome car on the outside, and they don’t understand the issues I have with it. I can tell them, and they will listen, but then they look at my new car, and shake their heads at me.

“It’s fine, what are you talking about. Can I have a ride?” They ask.

“Sorry, not today, the fuel system is backed up and the navigation system quit talking to me about it. Sunroof needs an adjustment too.” I tell them.

“You know? You complain about that car too much. It’s fine, you just need to drive it like everyone else who owns a car like that. You probably don’t know how to operate it properly, it looks just fine to me!” I hear. And all I can do is sigh.

Silly as this analogy is, unfortunately it is accurate.

Alexis has issues that come with Autism. Even as high functioning as she is, there are still issues that seem to baffle people.

In her case, Autism is expressed by extreme anxiety. Yet this anxiety is quirky. Things that freak other people out? Like roller coasters? She’s fine with them.

She loves roller coasters.

Yet a word, a phrase, a look can push her anxiety levels to nearly catastrophic levels. She will go mute, she will lash out, she make odd sounds and nervous tics. Then she will become constipated due to her anxiety. Which, a little TMI, becomes a nightmare to deal with. From as little as going through ten pairs of undergarments a day, to doctors visits when it gets severe.

There is also the impression that she needs to learn to behave like other children. Or that this is just a phase she will just grow out of. As if this is a cold she will shake, and I am overreacting.

She will never behave like other children, she will not grow out of it.

She will learn to adjust to our world. Find ways to cope with stresses that plague her now. She will grow, learn, become a productive adult. In her own way. I am so very thankful she will. Other who have autism, are not so lucky.

I don’t doubt her future successes, yet right now she is (and we are) in the adjustment part. Working on routines to keep life on an even keel for her. Because at this point, routines are important for her, and difficult to keep in the busy, fast paced, modern life.

I call Autism The Wicked Little Tailor, because it is. Autism truly is one word to describe Millions of stories. Each person whom it touches, it does so in its own unique way. No two autistics are alike. Each person wears their own little suit of autism, and has to cope with it.

Those of us who are the caregivers, we have to not only help them, but be an advocate for them. Do our best to teach others.

And honestly? It sucks sometimes. Teaching others. They would rather judge than listen.

Because to them, the car is new and shiny, it should work like every other car its age. They are only the occasional rider, they don’t drive it everyday like I do.