Author: Underdaddy

I am a well-intentioned father of four girls. I assume the identity of Underdaddy to carry out my mission of publicizing my mistakes and funny adventures so that others may smile. Engineer by day, I understand that if no one ever discusses failures then no progress will ever be made. In that light, I represent a lot of potential progress.

Just Next Door

I have a neighbor and he is in his 90’s. Let’s call him Mr. Jones. He is a really nice and interesting man. He lives alone and I don’t see him out and about much other than his daily walk to the mailbox. We talked a few times but, on the whole, I don’t know that much about him.

But I do notice how regularly he has his yard maintained. (Mostly because mine usually lags behind) He seems to like his yard to be really well looked after.

Mr. Jones’ backyard is a large expanse of Bermuda grass surrounded by tall and aged Oak trees. If storms knock down limbs or water isn’t draining away or the leaves begin to fall he has someone come and fix those things right away. He keeps things looking good. I’ve had the passing thought that it seems like a lot of work for something I rarely see anyone using. 

One of our impromptu mailbox talks led to a conversation about his backyard and how central it was as a gathering place for the teens in a church youth group many years ago. The weekly games of two hand touch football were a big deal in the neighborhood. I could tell that he held some really great memories of the time spent in that backyard. 

Today I heard some voices and laughter from my neighbor’s backyard and I looked over to see a mother and two young children running in the backyard and playing. A little later the dad joined in the fun. Then my neighbor’s son, which would be the toddler’s grandfather, made a few laps around the yard. Four generations of family with a shared memory of laughing with each other in that backyard. 

I thought about how Mr. Jones kept that backyard in top shape probably just for a few chance encounters. For days like today. He holds that space open.

I think of my Great Grandmother who had cable TV because we might want to watch it and bought cheese and Pringles chips because we liked to eat them. I think of my Grandmother who made sure our Christmases were special. My dad who keeps up a pool mostly because the grandkids swim in it and my mom who keeps a farm of animals that she should probably winnow down but because the grandkids like them… 

They were/are all holding a space.

That, to me, is our humanity. Our ability to love the next generation and give them a gift of memories they will open years down the road. Somewhere between receiving and giving is when we discover that the gift even exists.

I get caught up in the stories of the week and my chase for success in a hundred different forms. I forget that I am on the clock. I enjoyed seeing Mr. Jones and his family living in the middle of a moment. It reminds me that while you can’t demand memories be made, you can hold a space open for them and sooner or later they will come along. 

If you enjoy a nice and pure moment, this post is for you. You’re welcome. This is a crazy season for the world in general. Hold open some peaceful spaces.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.  

Copcakes

Lady Bug was playing in the front yard and came running around to find us with a worried look on her face.

 

Lady Bug: Mom. Mom! There is a cop in the driveway! (very concerned)

Supermom: What?

Prima: The cops are here! Go in the house!

Supermom: Cops?! (looks in the driveway) Hang on guys. Why are you freaking out? And let’s say officer.

 

Upon further inspection, there was an officer who was making the rounds to distribute lollipops to neighborhood kids and do some outreach into the community. We assured the kids that they could have the treats and to be sure and thank the officer. It seems our talks about the horrible stories in the news made our kids nervous about authority.

So… we had a talk to put some context around all of our adult discussions around race, riots, and abuse of authority. We explained that there are thousands of officers across the US that have big hearts, strong morals, and good intentions. That officers aren’t some separate group from everyone else. They are citizens like everyone else. They put themselves on the line to defend citizens, to check for intruders, to look out for drunk drivers, and to help generally keep the public safe. In fact, we have lots of people who dedicate their lives to make others safe. There are fire fighters that are ready to respond and help in life threatening situations beyond fire like rescues and searches. Both professions have men and women who are totally committed to the public welfare and to honorable service.

The anger and fear around policing are relevant but the spotlight cases are a magnification of the giant web of public safety that is happening all around at any one time. We have family in law enforcement and we worry for their safety every day. I want them to stay safe and to make it home to their families each night. I want them also to always be sure that they respect the people that they come across in the line of duty. I hope they hold respect as a high standard among their coworkers. Set the bar high and keep it. We can support our officers and demand the law is applied fairly when lines are crossed.

 

So after we had this talk with the girls, Lady Bug looked thoughtful for a moment and said, “I want to give my cupcakes to some cops.”

“What cupcakes?”

“My birthday cupcakes. They gave me a lollipop and I want to say thank you with cupcakes.”

“Okay, Sure. Who said you have birthday cupcakes?”

 

Fast forward. Supermom made fifty something cupcakes of all different variety and they were delicious since she is a semi-pro baker. We loaded the cupcakes up the next day and drove down to the police station. We went into the front doors and met two officers who were initially skeptical of six people storming the lobby but were quickly calmed with the site of the bakery boxes. The officers introduced themselves and talked with the girls for a few minutes and gave them sticker badges, coloring books, and crayons. They were very happy for a kind gesture and doubly impressed that Lady Bug had decided to share her birthday cupcakes with them.

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The other box was full. I had to test the flavors. Don’t judge me. 

We had also talked about fire men and women who provide a critical community service so we took our last box of cupcakes and headed over to the local fire station that serves our neighborhood. It was a quiet Friday at the fire house so the three men on duty we excited to see us. Our gift of cupcakes was accepted and we were invited to take a full tour of the station. We saw the kitchen, lounge, garage, trucks, pumps, lights, and a fully suited up fireman. We got the extended tour and I had more questions than the kids. It was awesome.

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Willaims and Hanson giving us the 411 on 911. 

I think it did the girls well to put some faces and names with the ideas of these services. They shared some stories of how they have served and we talked about things outside of anyone’s job. Meeting people always goes a long way to show that we are really all the same. We wake up and have a job to do that may have hard days or may not always carry the respect of those we serve but the job is still important.

We need to have discussions about what we can improve. We need to be aware and honest about the flaws of our system and the bias that we all carry towards something or someone. We need to call out evil quickly and with a loud voice. But we cannot afford to paint with a brush that is so broad that our strokes blur the picture. There are good officers and righteous protesters. There are those who seek to cause problems and paint their opponents with a single wide brush; Thugs. Cops. Murders. Looters. Paid Organizers. Fascist. Anti-fascists. Kneelers. Birthers. Truthers. Republicans. Democrats. Conservatives. Liberals. Christians. Muslims. Pastafarians. Blonde. Bald. Tall. Short. These are all just simple labels that are stereotypes. They allow the user to make assumptions about someone and save them from the torture of having to think about people on a case by case basis. Your ears should perk up whenever you hear these qualifiers in a headline.

Don’t get drawn into the all or nothing debates. Don’t use labels. People are people. Your complaints are most likely directed at toxic culture or flaws in the system. Or maybe they are directed at the terrible people who seem to bubble up daily. Judging them is fine by me as long as they have done the deeds to deserve it. Setting up straw-villains just widens the gap of misunderstanding and prevents the reasonable discussions that need to take place.

If you like cupcakes, this post is for you. You’re welcome. We could all use a more cupcakes between friends these days. I’m just pissed the girls gave them all away before I could levee my dad-tax of one cupcake as a taste test, which I think is somewhere in the Constitution.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Ps section:

  1. I know there is an unspoken (or spoken) competition for who is actually cooler between the folks in red and the folks in blue. As it sits right now, the fire boys got y’all beat. I’m going to need to see some spike strips or something to even things up. Thank you to Officer Ferguson and J. Williams on Pump Truck and C. Hanson on Ladder Truck. You guys made a little girls day!

Rights and Privilege

I watched our world for the last couple of weeks and have tried to think about where logic and reason reside. The issues of society are present on every front. Masks, protests, riots, politics, violence. What do I offer my children as cliff notes and guidance for the heavy issues of the day? How do we explain how people commit such callous evil towards one another? How do we talk about equality and equal protection under the law?

I started with the privileges and biases. Privileges exist on several fronts but there are four that we deal with most often.

  1. Men are assumed to be stronger, smarter, or more capable than women. Ask any women wandering a car lot or perusing a power tool section in Lowes if they see any difference in the way men are approached by a sales associate. I’ve watched it. It is real. I prep my girls to confront this head-on and challenge the notion that they can’t do anything because they are “just a girl”. The default advantage is often given to men so this is male privilege. This is why we have women’s right discussions. I’m not a woman but I support equal rights.
  2. We also talk about sexual preference and gender identity. We discuss how these are personal things that only require your opinion if they involve you. If someone tells you their name is Eric then that is their name. We don’t get to tell people how to feel/love and sharing our opinion when we weren’t asked isn’t helpful either. The only people who are never really hassled or forced to talk through their choice in partner are people in a heterosexual relationship. I would imagine this equates to straight privilege. This is why we have pride month. I’m not gay but I support equal rights.
  3. In countless studies and cases about bias and racism the results have shown time and time again that a societal/systemic bias against people of color exists. This is one of the most dangerous topics to discuss within the white community because it causes defensive reactions and mental fatigue. Most people start quoting stats about crime or murder or how many friends they have who meet the criteria to prove that they are most definitely not racist. But that is missing the point. We grew up in a system with a prepackaged point of view. Racism as an institution. I heard a discussion the other day about which is better, a dog or a cat? The author suggested it must be dogs because the highest compliment for a cat is “it acts like a dog”. That is funny for animals but I have heard analogs of this idea for people and that is horrifying. Chris Rock comes to mind and his bit about how white people talked about General Colin Powell; he speaks so well. There is an unsubtle subtext to that idea; that an educated and well-traveled man and who is also a seasoned veteran and a fucking world leader was most accomplished for his integration to the English language. He’s such a good cat that he’s basically a dog. That is racism. It’s not the hate but the assumptions of a limited capacity or lower bar that is most sinister. The idea that skin tells you anything useful about someone. The most dangerous iteration of racism is the idea that a black man, all other things being equal, is more dangerous than any other man that you will encounter. This translates to more aggressive and violent treatment of black men by authority figures. I don’t generally worry about life threatening assumptions being made by an officer in a traffic stop on the basis of my white skin. That is white privilege. It doesn’t mean my life is easy, it just means the world’s default opinion of me doesn’t make it harder. This is why Black Lives Matter exists. I’m not black but I support equal rights.
  4. There is a fourth privilege that exists and that is the privilege of authority. Authority is given latitude and freedom that regular citizens do not enjoy. Authority it the essence of privilege. That is just true. Policemen and policewomen can disregard traffic laws and perform other functions necessary to their jobs that would be a blatant violation of law for anyone else. This is a necessary part of law enforcement. The problem comes in when authorities start to feel like this exemption applies all the time and to everything they do. Boundaries get pushed and co-workers let little things slide to avoid discomfort at work. Before long, there are gross violations that don’t seem out of the ordinary for the people in authority. Entire teams and departments run the risk of becoming complicit in an evil that few men would perpetrate on their own. It’s mob mentality when the mob is given an exemption or a blind eye. A relevant quote on authority, “Be careful at the laws you make because there are none so minor that authority won’t kill you to enforce it.” I think that is power privilege. I’m not oppressed by authority but I support equal rights.

We don’t have to be part of a group to support equal rights. We don’t even have to understand a different point of view. We can start with the basic knowledge that all humans should share the same basic rights. That is that what our America should stand for, equal opportunity in an equitable system.

It’s my favorite part of the pledge; Liberty and Justice for All.

If you are already exhausted by 2020 this post is for you. It’s only halfway over so buckle up. Be kind to each other. Remember that two things can be true at once and not every choice or opinion should be about supporting your chosen team. Think for yourself and when in doubt, choose with love not hate. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

ps. Happy Pride Month!

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The Emperors New Virus

So how long until we can ask if everyone has lost their fucking minds?

Another week?

Another month?

Let me set out my logic early so you can decide beforehand if you agree or disagree without having to read a lot of words and then going through the pain and stress of rationalizing your opinion.

 

  • Closing shop for a short time was a good move. We knew very little about the virus and there were some very serious implications around it that would have dire consequences.

 

  • We can’t stay closed forever. That part should be obvious. The reason that we enjoy civilized life is because of how specialized and connected we are. That is already at risk and staying in the cave longer just pushes it that much closer.

 

  • People demonstrated to be at-risk should be our utmost priority. They should be protected and not forced into any kind of return to licking doorknobs.

 

  • Our president didn’t suggest injecting disinfectants. Not directly. But he did look over to his advisers with a twinkle of hope in his eye and ask questions about if it was a viable solution and that should be scary enough. It was not sarcasm. Most of his statements could be made around a watercooler with a close friend as small talk and they would giggle and say “man that old Donny T is crazy”. Most of his statements are not exemplary testaments to strong and powerful leadership at the Presidential level.

 

  • We are obsessed with death models and that keeps us from asking the right questions. I click on the CDC link at least twice a day. It’s a train wreck rubberneck reaction. How bad will it get. Morbid curiosity. But it isn’t the only decision tool. And it is related to testing which has been shown repeatedly to underestimate actual infections. This has been likened to a war. Battle decisions aren’t made on death toll alone. They include strategic advantage.

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  • Our political parties are confused. We have the party of individual rights and freedom mandating private businesses to close. We have the party of socialism raising up individual safety as a reason for the herd to sacrifice. I’m not picking a side but you have to admit it is weird. I don’t blame them. I’m confused by this mess too.
  • The reason for flattening the curve was the objective of not overwhelming our healthcare. It was never intended to get back to normal life more quickly. If we wanted to get through this quickly we would put everyone in the same room and have a virus sharing party. Everyone share beverages and cough in each other’s faces. We would be done with it in 21 days. Disastrously, but true enough. This rollback was a move to avoid the situation in Italy where people were turned away and left to die. We’ve blunted the curve but we are at the other end of the spectrum, healthcare workers are being furloughed and fired because nothing is happening. We are now losing healthcare capacity from an action with the sole intent to protect healthcare capacity.

So those are the facts that fuel my thinking. If we are misaligned then don’t bother correcting me because I am just as hard headed as you and we will just waste energy in a comment section. If all that makes some little bit of sense and you can tolerate it as a base of discussion then let’s move to the next half.

 

  • We are not seeing the right numbers on actual infections, transmissivity, and mortality. The testing has not materialized and we are operating under the Italy assumption; the idea that mass death and chaos will ensue. All the while we are getting hints that infections are way more prevalent and that this has been here since maybe November of last year. For the purpose of the final question let’s assume these mortality and transmission numbers come out somewhere around a bad seasonal flu.

 

  • Some experts are suggesting that a vaccine for a corona virus is a pipe dream that has been tried for many years with no success in sight. It is the common cold. This is a deadly strain. Should we still pursue it? Absolutely. But I would like some reality conveyed to the masses about just how likely it will be to create one. For the purpose of the final question let’s assume this answer is something longer than two years to create one.

 

  • The media thrives on controversy and sensationalism and breaking news. Hopefully that is recognized as fact. Take all of the news with a grain of salt. When the lead headline of the day was fear about a second wave next fall I tried to find what they were basing it on. It was an interview in the Washington Post. The guy said that this virus will likely be seasonal and would likely coincide with flu season along with colds and a hundred other things. From that statement we got a day full of dire warnings about a second wave killing millions. Maybe it is true but we are struggling to assess the present situation. It seems irresponsible to start freaking out about the future. But for the sake of my final question let’s assume they are right and this is an annual event.

 

So… if everyone will catch this thing over some time period, we have no prospect of a vaccine, and this will happen annually in a seasonal pattern. Why are we crushing our economy, our healthcare capacity, and dismantling our way of life?

Its because we have a risk-averse culture who believes that no matter what something must be done. Safety first.

Sometimes the bravest thing you can do is nothing at all.

So here is my final question that I ask myself every morning…

What the fuck are we doing?

It looks like panic and it needs to stop. But it won’t. No one will put their neck on the line because you can’t prove what didn’t happen and safety is the safest thing. More infections will mean more death and no one wants that hanging over their head but in the end it may well be the lesser evil.

I’ll add a caveat that if a vaccine is on the horizon and/or if the true mortality rate is 1-3% or higher and if I’m wrong about the overall current stress on the healthcare system then we are doing the right thing but I don’t know that we-the-people are seeing the data to make that decision. And we should be involved in that decision. The two things that are rampant in government are tedium and micromanagement. The desire to control every single decision along a flow chart because the general public is considered too stupid to do the right thing.

This whole ride is a daily rollercoaster. I suspect that right and wrong decisions are an illusion because we are where we are and we’ve done what we’ve done. And what we do next won’t hinge on anything you or I think. I’ve never been so unsure and internally divided on an issue.

So, if you were trolling the internet for a random person’s internal dialogue and misguided opinions, this post is for you. You’re welcome. Share with caution. I could be a ten-year-old in Taiwan for all you know. It’s the internet. Anything is possible.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Bakers Dozen Jane

I often wish that I could take a new understanding that I get from watching my kids and bottle it up and then pour it into their head. To show them what I see.

This weekend we welcomed Jane into the realm of the teenager. I haven’t been ready for the past thirteen years and I’m still not. The things I have taught her over these years could fit in a small pamphlet but the things she has taught me have helped fill me out as a person, on the inside. Doughnuts have helped me fill out as a person on the outside. I’ve had to wrestle with myself on what I believe and how I want to be seen in the eyes of others. I’ve softened how I interact with the world. We have learned to support the underdogs and enjoy the weird things in life. I’m definitely a better person because of her.

Several years ago she wanted to draw something. If I remember correctly it was horses. We had discussions on art and her frustrations with not being able to draw the thing that she had in her mind. I told her the secret that I wish someone had told me, “No one is naturally good at anything but peeing and pooping and everything else is learned.”

Everything. Else. Is. Learned.

When you drop out of the womb you learn to breath air. You learn to nurse to get food. You learn to cry with the new air in your lungs and you learn to enjoy human contact. Babies aren’t born with the ability to talk or sing or dance or draw. Somewhere along the way we try these things and mostly suck at it. Babies are terrible at almost anything but undeterred by anything. That is the magic of babies. They will try to the point of injury to do the thing that cannot yet be done.

I told Jane to keep drawing. To take one thing and draw it really well. Learn why it looks like this or that. Practice shading. Practice shapes. Draw the same damn horse five million times. Use every sheet of paper and all of your markers to make a pile of terrible drawings. Then take the things you like and put them together in a new drawing. Throw the rest away. Keeping doing it. Practice with anything that you might ever want to draw. Then one day, you will look up from the scribbled bodies strewn around your floor and you will realize not only can you draw but you are an artist.

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She has been into drawing Anime characters in the latest drawing phase. She is an excellent artist. She has found several apps that help develop the drawing process and shading and even time-lapse her work.  She has even started teacher her sisters some art basics.

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I fancied myself an artist back in the day but I wasn’t nearly as talented.

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Jane has always made me proud. She has always known what she liked and been brave enough to be herself. From an unprompted Lord of the Rings fandom to making more money that I expected from competitive goat showing, Jane is always chasing a new passion.

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She always looks to me to smile or give a thumbs up of approval. She brings her drawings to me when she finishes and I always take a picture on my phone. I have a running record.

The truth in a bottle that I would love to pour into her head is that we are both seeking each other’s approval. I want to be sure that I am a good father and she wants to be sure that she meets my approval as a daughter. The funny part is that as long as we are both trying our best, the other will never be disappointed.

I hope that the next thirteen years are just as fun and interesting and amazing as the last round.

Happy Birthday Jane!

If you have kids growing up way too fast, this post is for you. You’re welcome. All of my kids are awesome but they weren’t all born on the same day so this one is for Jane.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.