Rat Race Resolutions

I call my children “rats” all the time. Lovingly of course. They complete simple tasks for rewards. I think at least three of them could complete a maze if they had to and they hide everything under their beds. Quick inventory of what was under the bunk bed after a one week time period; ¼ Brown Sugar Poptart, Barbie Head, Paci, Juice Cup with Chocolate Milk (Mocha Sour Cream now?), Threeto’s missing toothbrush, and one Pre-Screened Offer for FHA refinance curtesy of Obama something-or-other. Like I said, rats. They need to keep random things close and guarded as if they were important.

But as adults I don’t think we are any different. We are scurrying around for this or that every day. Maybe someone is looking down through the clouds and placing bets on who will chase what cheese the hardest. There was a dog in the neighborhood I grew up in that loved to chase cars. He would run as fast and as hard as he could until he reached the end of a chain that was bolted to the side of the house. I saw that dog hit the end of the chain so hard that he would do backflips. It had to be painful and I don’t know how it didn’t break his neck. Every time a new car came over the hill he was off to the races. Never learned.

The New Year is here and with it come the resolutions. The list is usually the same:

  1. Something Family
  2. Something Health
  3. Something Fitness
  4. Something Money
  5. Something Love and Heartbreak

All of it is aimed at increasing our “Happy”. If I had this or that then I would be happy. If my teeth were straight or I went to Disney Land. I talked some before Christmas about happy memories from childhood and the holidays. Outside of pictures I really don’t remember one thing that Santa brought me. I remember family and doing things.

So what is the chain or the link that gets us to the point of being so busy that seeing people and doing things is out of reach? For my family I think it is the work, eat, sleep, repeat cycle.

I value honesty but it stings when applied to close to home. If I were honest I think the whole cycle is ironic. We consider ourselves advanced in America because we have cell phones, central heating and air, television, internet, cars, and insurance for everything. We have convenience.

Of course, convenience is pricey. We have to work for all the handy things we love and that takes most of our time. I nice long workday with dinner, TV, and internet worked in leaves very little time for other things.

Cellphones let us sit and stare at what other people are thinking while they are sitting and staring at what people are thinking. Most of these people wouldn’t recognize us in public or acknowledge us but they are friends. But they have some funny cat pictures. Thank God we can share that cat picture.

Central Heat and Air makes us comfortable and I’m in no way condemning it but isn’t it funny that by getting our bodies used to 72 degrees year round we are probably creating health issues. How can your body get used to hot or cold if it never really feels it? It destroys my sinuses but I won’t change that either.

Television and internet are really the same category. They are visual Xanax. I have a DVR with a couple hundred episodes of shows that I want to watch but “not right now”. I have shelves of DVDs that I know we will never watch because while they were good the first time I don’t know that they are good enough for a second watch. Some DVDs still have plastic wrap and sometimes I get home with one that we already own. Talk about insanity.

Cars make it easy for us to travel long distances with hellish commutes. I know several people who work fifty or sixty miles from their homes. Cars make it easy to underestimate time and over schedule events.

We pay insurance for everything but not in the true sense of what insurance was intended to provide. A family insurance plan can cost upwards of $1,000 per month. That is $12,000 per year for what turns out to be checkups, colds, and minor infections. We have used ours for some big things but would the overall cost be better if we could bear the minor costs of going in for a cold? Fifteen dollars a month for phone insurance and then the benefit is a new phone for the low price of $200? If you don’t use it and go a full two years between contracts then that is $300 down the drain. Car insurance is a must because of lawsuits and dishonest people. Insurance on my video game purchase? That may be a little much Wal-Mart.

So we work hard and use the money for phones we don’t like to talk on, to sit in houses that keep us comfortable, so we can watch TV and internet during our only free time, and eat unhealthy food because we don’t have time or space for the real stuff, only to feel unfulfilled and unhealthy. We top it off with Gym memberships that we will never use to get the exercise that we never get from real life. And when we do get a holiday that we all agree should be a holiday we make it all about buying something so that it stresses us out and we enjoy the point of the holiday even less, in fact we dread them entirely. This is not just Christmas.

Valentines Day – Show me how much you love me by buying stuff. If marketing is supply and demand the people who thought up flowers during the coldest part of the year are idiots or geniuses.

Mothers/Fathers Day – How good of a parent am I? Show me by buying stuff. Not a tie either.

Mardi Gras – Party Holiday! Lets base a short term sexual economy around plastic bead necklaces. But for this to work we all need to be really really drunk. That way if we don’t remember it, it never happened. Plus the beads will be an indirect measure of boob attractiveness or how quickly you took off your shirt. Both are good indicators of whether or not to pursue further action.

St Patricks Day – Party Holiday! Green beer and mid-week hangovers!

Easter – People are treating Easter like Christmas part II. I saw a Facebook post last year where a little girl got a bike. Did the Easter bunny do some crank and steal Santa’s bag? And where did the bunny come from? Was he hiding in the tomb and got super powers from the radiant glow of Jesus’ resurrection. Is the Easter Bunny the first real world documentation of a Ninja Turtle scenario? Emerging from the tomb enlightened and determined to bring colored eggs and chocolate to all the Christian households of the world. Like turndown service in a hotel but with baskets and only for Christians on a certain day of the year.

Cinco de Mayo – Misrepresented as Mexican independence day, the southern US celebrates beer and bad decisions in what is a mini-Mardi Gras.

Halloween – This is a cool holiday. I got nothing here. It is candy and pretending to be something else. That’s what this whole society is about so at least Hallowen doesn’t deny that.

Thanksgiving – A shotgun start to Christmas. Sales have moved the holiday to Wednesday and Thursday lunch. Maybe the first time in history that consumerism for one holiday shifted another. Which brings us to….

Christmas – Show me how much you love me by buying stuff. Thoughtful yet in the proper price range and as much as others with my similar social standing. Dinners, decorations, and time give way to the checklist. We have trips limited to the time it takes to exchange stuff. I love giving and receiving but the “have to” kills me. I really feel guilty about the whole thing because I never feel I give enough and I always feel that I receive too much. I would much rather avoid the whole thing. Hell, it is scheduled in the dead middle of the North American flu, cold, and stomach virus season. A guaranteed annual event that probably kills as many family members as unvaccinated people do when they allow old diseases to return so that their child isn’t subject to the unbearable statistical possibility that they will have an adverse reaction to something that is safer than the car ride to the office where you get the shot. A month later they go see Grandma at a holiday gathering with a kid who is “probably just teething” and in reality is spewing flu-bola on the elderly. That may be Grammy’s last Christmas but at least she got to see those precious petri-dish kids.

What would the world look like if we put up Christmas lights like normal and then every other night we could visit or have visitors over for Hot Chocolate or Beers. Just a couple of hours with no activities in mind. Hey how are you? How’s life? Maybe coordinate some alternating work weekends where we help each other with some type of tasks that would be easier with extra laborers. Maybe just a trip to cut a tree or see a decorated park. Piss on this shopping crap. Kohl’s is the worst offender. Double price with a 45% markdown and 10% Kohls Cash. I have no feel for if I am loosing or not because all of the prices are cheaper at Wal-Mart. Click it on Amazon and let Prime shipping work it out.

Where do you think society is going? Things getting better? Things getting worse? In all of 2014, in the madness and hustle do you remember even one moment of being in the present? Just a memory where you weren’t distracted and you enjoyed what was in front of you without thoughts about the rest of the world? Maybe twice for me but that is about it.

My true worry is our children. They watch more than we think and just seeing the reasoning and the obsession with pleasing and obeying tradition at every turn is something that you never have to speak about and they will do the exact same thing. When we have a heated discussion about not having enough money at the holidays we just teach them that they have to participate and presents get priority at the holidays. I want to figure out one of two things. A) How to be happier about doing it all or, B) Find a way to do things differently that makes everyone happier.


What do you guys do for holidays that are different? It can be any holiday. They are important to remember and spend time. Fathers Day? Fourth of July? Any cool alternative traditions that I can hijack next year and use as my own?

-Underdaddy to the Rescue.

Was my Black Friday Experience Influenced by Ferguson Controversy?

Are Ferguson and Black Friday Related?

You may be asking me, “How the hell can you go down a slippery slope of reasoning and tie these two things together? One is a volatile discussion of justice and lingering race issues while the other is a mega-shopping holiday where people trample each other for things that are almost on sale.” I know right? Lets read on and find out.

Maybe I will compare the rioting and irrationality of large crowds?

Perhaps media misrepresentation of what they (whoever they is) want you to believe and what reality is?

No, I don’t have time for that deep thinking philosophical stuff. I will just take a few moments out of your day and let you know some of my thoughts on the issues at hand. As mentioned in the title; Black Friday and Ferguson.

First is Black Friday. We all want to sit on the moral high horse by telling people to be mad at the retailers for not closing their doors and sending workers home to be with their family for the holidays. My goodness, what is this crazy world coming to? No respect for the families. Blah, bubbity blah.

Some simple logic here should clear things up.
1) Some people don’t want to be around family for longer than a brisk lunch. Uncle Ted and his godawful foot odor might be making everyone uncomfortable and work is the only valid excuse. Don’t ruin that excuse.
2) Some people want to work and get the holiday/overtime pay. During the actual holiday work should be easier with a higher holiday pay scale. While I understand that some people have a hard time changing jobs and need their jobs, there is always the option of leaving a job that demands too much. Plus I think the Department of Labor has some regulations to address how workers are treated.
3) If people would stay home and not shop, I guarantee retailers wouldn’t feel the need to be open or fully staffed. Judging by the parking lot of Wal-Mart, at 6:00pm on Thursday, there are thousands of people who are fully supportive of the whole Black Friday event.
4) If we all were really that concerned about being able to spend time with family and congregate then maybe we should look into finding more opportunity throughout the year. Counting on Thanksgiving to knock out the obligatory annual visit sounds like a crutch to me.

So Black Friday is a thing that is not going away unless we ignore it. Does everyone agree?

Of course not but lets move on to Ferguson.

Like everything ever, this has become a partisan political issue and the most convenient way to really get everyone tuned in is to make it about more than a result of poor decisions but to add in race and let the hate flow. As people we all need to remember one thing, the majority of all other people are caring, reasonable, and hopeful. Moderate people don’t speak out as often or as loud as the two ends of the spectrum.

The first end of the spectrum is that the riots in Ferguson are by a bunch of welfare recipients who just want to be violent and hate white people for no good reason. They believe the victims of police shootings are always monsters who asked for what they got. If they weren’t a bunch of Godless thugs out mugging old ladies in the Kroger parking lot then none of this would have happened. The general idea or tone can be seen here.

The opposite end of the opinion spectrum is the idea that some global conspiracy is in effect and that the only victims are minorities. Law enforcement is run by some secret white agenda and white authority figures sit in the bushes looking for innocent minorities to gun down in the street. This side would have you believe the world is still black and white with no in between. The general idea of tone can be seen here.

"African American" Friday Ad

“African American” Friday Ad

I did have a chance to read the transcript from the Grand Jury witnesses as well as the police officer involved. It sounds to me like there were a lot of questionable decisions on both sides. Neighborhood witness confirm the story of Michael Brown being confrontational and advancing on the police officer. However, the testimony from Darren Wilson makes me curious why he didn’t wait a few minutes. He states that he knew other officers were in the area and would respond after he radioed out to them (using a radio on the wrong channel). Maybe he did feel smaller and threatened by an aggressive and larger man. Maybe he had some small-man-syndrome and wanted to assert his authority. This wouldn’t be the first time that male ego has gotten people killed.

My takeaway here is two-fold; 1) Don’t attack an armed police officer and 2) If you are a police officer and you feel outmanned and help is nearby, ask for help before chasing an aggressive man that you have already shot at and who showed no regard for deadly force. He might not be in his right mind.
For the people who argue that there are hundreds of other cases deserving of outrage and rioting but are getting no media coverage… I agree one hundred percent! Go be outraged and riot! Right or wrong, the difference with Ferguson is that people are actually rioting and being outraged. Don’t scale your emotion based on who is paying attention, if you are mad then go be mad.

Maybe don’t burn down businesses in your own neighborhood though. If it were me I would probably riot near the people I was mad at and not in my own front yard.

Now see… I have gotten somewhat off track. This is all related to Black Friday too and a message of hope. I didn’t tell you that at first but following two subjects has taken some mental effort on your part so I wanted to reward you. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

Back to business. So Ferguson inevitably brings up some old dirty laundry around cases like Rodney King, the OJ Simpson Trial, and even the recent Trayvon Martin. The bitter race war of feelings and angst really get down to what hate is all about. If you look close enough there is a difference emerging.

I have noticed more people engaging each other on Facebook and social media. There are the normal hate filled troll comments from both ends but the good folks in the middle are being quicker to stand up and say this isn’t what I represent. There seems to be more understanding that discussion is different than argument. Maybe more people understand that disagreeing is not the same as disliking. Maybe the world is slightly more grey. We have made strides from our problems in the past and the setbacks from events like this will be less and less if we keep moving forward.

How does that relate to my Black Friday experience?

This year my wife and I had babysitters and some free time to join in the madness. We agreed beforehand that we had nowhere to be and no expectations. Just cruise around and grab deals as they come along. We had a good time and I think we found some good deals. We also tried to smile, be polite, and help people when we got the chance.

Everyone else seemed to be doing the same. Some people were stressed and mad for sure but the level of rude was down. I don’t have any answers but I think I have interesting questions.

Is it possible that a little controversy and discussion is helpful to remind us that the human race should be a team? Can accusations of racism make people more aware of how they interact with others? Can accusations of abuse of power make authority figures more cautious of how they interact with others? Is it the slightest bit possible that love as a response to hate can make hate self-destruct?

It feels good to think it might.

If world peace happened tomorrow we would still have common enemies of disease, hunger, and asteroids. I hope my girls can grow up in a world that puts more energy into important problems and stops looking to divide people into groups. We all have to read, think, and be open to discussions.
I’ll work on my end where I get the chance, if you need to work on yours then this article is for you. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Author’s Note: Feel free to reblog or share if you think this view is right or wrong. I always want outside opinion. Please hold any hateful comments unless it is purely directed at me, I can take that just fine. Please reference this post for comments.

Mind If I Join You?

I am participating in a leadership program at work and we have regularly spaced events to attend where we listen to speakers and network with other people in similar roles. Today the event started at a buffet style restaurant and everyone was to report at noon to enjoy lunch before the day’s events began.

There is no formal sitting area or shotgun start to the lunch so as people come in they go through the buffet line and pick a seat. Each person is supposed to pick a seat with people they are unfamiliar with so that the networking is maximized.

I see a gentleman sitting alone at a small table and he looks friendly so I ask, “Do you mind if I join you?”

He replies, “No, by all means have a seat.” He goes from a look of indifference to a happy smile and I sit down across from him. He looks to be in his mid-fifties with a salt and pepper goatee, business casual shirt, and a cast on his left arm that I never actually asked about. I assume that he is with the same group so I don’t start into much of a conversation. After all, we will be here all day and this food looks really yummy.

He says, “You know it is busier here than I thought it would be. I drive through here all the time and for some reason today I thought I would stop and have lunch.”

“Oh so I don’t guess you are part of the leadership group?”

“No, no. Just passing through. That explains all the people I guess.”

We laugh a little at the confusion but strike up a conversation about work, family, and life. He lives in Chattanooga, TN but was originally from San Jose, CA. His wife works for an international group and they both sound like they lead a life of travel and interesting adventure. They have three children who are spread out over the US from California to Texas to Georgia and he enjoys telling me about how their lives have unfolded.

I tell him about my four girls and how they are close in age. The required small talk advances, “How many? Oh man! You have your hands full! Wait until they start dating.” That whole thing. Although I do think it is fun to relate to people about family and kids because it is a subject that at the root, we can all agree on. We may not enjoy our children all the time but they are important and we love them. As we talk I notice a trace of something in his eyes and maybe in his voice. Something with longing and regret or maybe just some bittersweet nostalgia.

The conversation drifts towards how we plan on spending the holidays and how time flies. He is traveling to see his daughter in California. He tells me, “It is good to be able to see her for several days but you know the holidays and family… I’m sure I will be glad to come back home too.” We smile but his eyes give him away. They are misty. Mine probably are too. I empathize very easily and sometimes fifteen minutes with a stranger who is open can make them feel like an old friend. I have always had the gift of connection and people often tell me deeply personal things with little prompting, I don’t know why but they do. My heart aches a little for his feelings and for a small fear that I might experience the same.

We talk about his youngest son who is in the military and enjoys service to our country. He tells me about the danger that he and his wife have worried over when the son was deployed and could only talk once every two or three weeks. We talk about the mental challenges of returning from war and doing things that no men should have to do. Talking a life is a serious thing and even the strongest person can have trouble accepting the duty.

The military has a curious role because on the front end you must train someone to engage, fight, and kill but on the return to society there has to be some transition. He tells me about noticing soldiers having hard times in public spaces, wanting to back into corners so they can see the whole room. After his son returned from the first tour of duty, they went to eat at a pub and had to request a booth away from the crowd. Fireworks in celebration of Independence Day are ironically a problem for recent veterans. This is one of the ugly facts with war and it seems like another burden that is weighing on his mind.

Recently his son has taken a different role but will still be in harm’s way. This time he may only call every six months. He tells me, “I feel proud of what he is doing and his service. Of course we worry but it is his choice. I tried telling him no and that didn’t work out.” Again he smiles and again we both pause while the emotion passes, afraid to trust our voices across the lump in our throats.

“This brownie is really good.”

“Oh is it? I should have some dessert.”

The rest of lunch is over in a few minutes and we fall comfortably back into work-talk. The leadership participants start pushing up their chairs around the room and I decide that I had better join them. I stand up and throw my jacket over my arm and reach out to shake my new friend’s hand. He accepts the gesture.

I tell him, “It was really nice to meet you today. Tell your son if he ever has trouble sleeping at night to remember, most people sleep pretty soundly here and for that we all thank him.”

“Thank you. And take care of those girls. Good to meet you too.”

“I will.”

Forty five minutes accidentally spent at the wrong table and I feel like I learned a little more about life. As a child I actually did that very thing on purpose. I would seek out people I didn’t know and sit at a table with them and just talk. I sought out adults for conversation and probably fit there better than with my peers.

My parents tell me about a horse riding vacation we took to the Buffalo River trail ride. (I promise all this is connected so stick with me) It was a weeklong camp where riders woke, ate at the mess hall, saddled up horses, rode until the afternoon, enjoyed dinner in the mess hall again, and then went to the dance hall to round out the night.

Every morning I woke early and went to breakfast by myself. I sat at every table with every new person that gave me the chance. By the end of the week my family was local celebrity because I had met everyone and told them something about myself. The trail boss asked me to ride at the front of the pack and I loved the independence of building connections with people.

At the dance hall I tried talking to a pretty girl and even though she turned me down because I was around ten and she was probably twenty (I had high hopes), she did teach me the Rebel Stomp line dance. Years later my friends in college talked about a country line dance bar near campus and I decided to go. One of the first songs I heard was played to the Rebel Stomp line dance which I somewhat remembered. It gave me enough confidence to at least try and I enjoyed myself. I became a frequent visitor to the bar and a couple years later, met my wife.

I wonder where that kid inside me went and times like today I remember why I did it. We get burned by people in general; relationships, trust, or even finding out that sometimes our Superman bleeds.

There is something missing with the way we live life in the modern day. We are meant to have family and community. We train ourselves and our children for a picture of success based on where we want to end up in life with little regard for how we can live it together.

I hope my children live close to home. I know that they probably won’t. My wife might joke and say, “Not too close.” I don’t think we will feel that way for long.

My wife and I try to keep up with family and visit regularly. I think back to my new friend and the parallel we share with family. I have a brother-by-another-mother in California, a sister in New Mexico, a brother in the Carolinas and a sister near home. Our loved ones are spread around the state with several scattered across the country and a few around the world. With most of them I can think of a story where we spent some quality time together and formed a bond. With some, lots of stories and quality time.

With all of them, I wish it could be more. For all of you that may read this, I love you guys.

I try to write because life is about stories. Stories are just memories that can’t be forgotten.

To share stories. To share life. Thank is what I am thankful for.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.