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I brought Dick’s to a circumcision protest!

Yesterday I went to Seattle to participate in a rally to protest circumcision. I’ll write a full post about that soon. But, today’s post is about laughing at myself for being so boneheaded. Here’s the story. My younger three kids wanted to come along with me to the protest near Pike Place Market and as we neared our destination they informed me that they were hungry (it was almost noon) and begged me to take them to Dick’s Drive-In to get their delicious burgers and fries. While in line for our food I decided that the people protesting might benefit from some sustenance and so I ordered an extra ten cheeseburgers and fries to share once we got to the protest site.

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Dick’s Drive In

Upon our arrival I introduced myself to some of the protestors and offered them the food I had brought. As I held out the paper bag of food, which clearly has the name of the establishment on it, the guys looked at me a little funny but didn’t say anything. I explained that Dick’s Drive-In is a Seattle institution and that my kids ask to eat there every time we go to the Emerald City. The whole time I was there it never occurred to me that I was pretty much trolling my own generosity.

Once I got home one of my teenage daughters asked how the protest went and as I shared with her about bringing the burgers to the circumcision protest she started to shake her head and laugh. I hadn’t said anything funny so I asked her why she was laughing and she stopped and said “Dad, what did you bring them to eat?”. And then it dawned on me what I had done.

I brought Dick’s to a circumcision protest! Seriously. How on Earth did I possibly do that without realizing it until it was pointed out to me four hours later? I’m pretty proud of my sense of humor and ability to make awful Dad Jokes that make my kids roll their eyes. But to bring burgers from Dick’s to a circumcision protest without even trying? That’s almost grounds to lose my imaginary Dad Card. I mean, if I had realized what I was doing before handing them over I probably still would’ve done it and laughed about it. It would’ve been a next-level Dad Joke, possibly joke of the year in my mind, at least. Yeah, even at 43, I’m still a little bit immature sometimes. I mean, it is funny and Dick’s is pretty delicious!

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Why #BlackLivesMatter to me

I’m not black. So, why would a parenting blog written by a 43 year old Stay At Home Dad of six kids write anything about race? In a word, compassion. I spent the better part of the last week and a half watching multiple tragedies unfold, often in real time. I saw videos of Alton Sterling’s death. I saw Philando Castile die while his girlfriend watched it happen and broadcast it live on Facebook. I saw almost a dozen police officers get shot (five fatally) in Dallas while protecting a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest. Through it all I wept. I watched those videos and what struck me was the humanity of each person. Each of those lives mattered. Those men were husbands, fathers, sons, boyfriends, best friends…and now they’re dead. I watched the 15 year old son of Alton Sterling bravely standing by the woman speaking, trying to comfort her, only to break down moments later and sob uncontrollably. I want Daddy. I want Daddy. I didn’t see color. I saw my own 11 year old son for a moment there. I wept again for that young man, now fatherless. I watched in shock last Thursday night as the police officers were gunned down in Dallas. I wept. I prayed for our country. I prayed for peace. I prayed for understanding. I prayed for compassion.

As a parent one of the most important things I’m trying to teach all of my kids is compassion. I will have failed as a parent if my children are not compassionate people when they leave home. But, I cannot teach that if I’m not compassionate myself. I believe that being compassionate is the ability to look at things from the perspective of others, to understand them better, so that I can help them accordingly. For example, on Sunday afternoon I was driving home from the mall with two of my kids and there was a woman standing by the side of the road trying to get across the five lanes with a heavy-looking large pull-cart behind her. I stopped my van and motioned for her to cross. After two cars whizzed past she had a chance to cross in front of me, but the oncoming traffic was approaching and she was slow. So, I turned to the left and blocked the two lanes to shield her, to ensure her safe passage. I was about to leave when she told me that she was trying to catch the bus which just blowing past the stop (because she was too slow to make it there). She asked for a ride to the bus terminal a mile away and I instead offered her a ride home. I introduced myself and made a new friend, Samantha. I had been less than two minutes from home, but drove this lady 15-20 minutes to her apartment building in downtown Tacoma (and then 15 -20 minutes back home). Samantha talked the entire way there, telling me about her mother (dying of cancer) and her husband (disabled with seizures after getting shot in the head) and her own injury (motorcycle accident at age 16 that nearly severed her foot) which caused her to limp even now at age 55. Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that Samantha is black. Interestingly enough, though, the color of her skin wasn’t a factor in my ability to show her compassion when I saw her standing by the side of the road. All I saw was another human being who needed a little bit of help.

I guess this brings me back to the events of this last week. I am saddened by what seems to be a lack of compassion among many of my friends. The black lives matters movement began as a way to draw attention to the ongoing problem of black people being disproportionately targeted by some members of the law enforcement community and then unfairly treated by the legal system. I’ll admit that when I first saw the #blacklivesmatter hashtag a couple of years ago that I ignorantly responded with #alllivesmatter. I didn’t understand. I thought that it had to be one or the other. Thankfully, I have some pretty awesome friends who either wrote or shared articles that showed me the error of my thinking. Some of these friends are dad-bloggers (like me), who have teenage children (like me), but have black skin (unlike me). I learned that these men have been racially profiled all of their lives. They’ve been stopped by the police dozens of times simply because of the color of their skin. I think in my 43 years of life I’ve been pulled over exactly three times. Twice for speeding (deserved) and once for going through an intersection on a yellow light (undeserved, no ticket). Not once for having a broken taillight or a wide nose. Philando Castile, who was days shy of his 33rd birthday, had been stopped 31 times by police over the years. He’s 10 years younger than me. I seriously doubt that he’s that bad of a driver. My friends shared that they’ve had to have conversations with their kids about how to respond if when they have an interaction with police so that their kids will come home safely. For real. This is where I started to really begin to understand how much white privilege I have but I don’t even realize it. I can let my son ride his scooter a few blocks to a nearby Walgreens to buy some candy, even while wearing a hoodie, and not worry that he’s going to get shot by a neighborhood enforcer or a police officer. He’s even managed to sneak a Nerf gun in the waistband of his shorts into public and no one complained or called the cops on him. Moreover, I don’t get pulled over “randomly” when driving around town running errands because I might look like a suspect due the color of my skin or the width of my nose. The inherent privilege of being white in America was something that I had to make an effort to learn about, particularly about how minorities don’t share that privilege. I don’t have to be sorry for being white or ashamed of it. Yet, I believe that I do have a responsibility as a human being to treat others with compassion and to fight for justice wherever I see the need for it. Sometimes that means that I need to educate myself, to learn the stories of my brothers and sisters who don’t look like me, to mindfully build the bridges that lead to a true change of heart and compassion.

Now, here’s where it gets a little bit tricky for some people. The phrase “Black Lives Matter” upsets a lot of people. They think it means that only black lives matter and that black lives matter more than anyone else. Nope. Nope. Nope. Black-Lives-Matter-quotesThey love to fire back with All Lives Matter, or Blue Lives Matter. Yes, they do. But, until we, as a country and as individuals can act like ALL lives matter then there will remain a need for movements like Black Lives Matter. For example, just last week I shared several things on my personal Facebook page about the deaths of Sterling and Castile. There weren’t many comments and my feed wasn’t filled with anyone posting stuff saying All Lives Matter in response to those two men dying. Yet, within a few moments of the shooting of the police officers in Dallas my feed was full of people sharing pictures of the badge of the Dallas Police Department and using the phrase Blue Lives Matter. People were showing compassion and concern for the victims and even their communities and families simply because the victims were police officers. I respect the men and women in blue as much as anyone and believe that they have incredibly difficult jobs that require them to be “on” 100% of the time. One momentary lapse could cost them their lives, so the national outpouring of compassion for their families is well deserved. But, why couldn’t that same compassion be shown or expressed for the victims just a few days before? Or for any of the countless victims of black on black crime that All Lives Matter folk love to derisively reference? If ALL lives matter then even the lives that some might deem “worthless” should matter. If ALL lives matter then no one will rest until there are ZERO incidents of police brutality. I believe that I can say Black Lives Matter at the same time that I say Blue Lives Matter because I value both groups. Why? Because we’re all human beings. Compassion doesn’t depend on color.

I don’t want to live in a country that thinks it’s okay to racially profile people based on their race or ethnicity or any other trait. I don’t want to live in a country where abusive or racist cops are tolerated and the good cops suffer the tragic consequences. I don’t want to live in a nation that points out the high rate of black on black crime as an excuse to say that the police can use excessive force or that exposes the record of victims in a not so subtle way of saying he got what he deserved. We’re better than that. We owe it to our kids to be compassionate for one another. Step out of your comfort zone and educate yourself. Talk to your kids about this topic. Help them to understand so that they can grow up without the racial tension that is so prevalent in our nation today. As a SAHD, I get to see my children interact with others in a lot of situations where there’s no adult hovering over and directing their every move. I’ve noticed the ease that my 6 and 3 year old daughters have in playing with boys and girls of any skin color in places like a children’s museum, a McDonald’s play place or the playground at a park. I’m thrilled that my 11 year old son’s best friend is witty, respectful, silly, smart, and loves to catch frogs just like my son. The fact that he and my son don’t share the same skin pigmentation is irrelevant to their friendship. Why do we, as adults, make such big deal about this? Why is it so hard to show compassion for one another?

I want to leave you with a quote from my friend Janice, who lives in Madison, Wisconsin. Her daughter and one of my daughters became friends early in grade school and were best friends until we moved to Washington state four years ago. Her twins, now 17, are black and were adopted by Janice and her husband as babies. As a white parent raising black children she offered a unique perspective on my Facebook page last week when I posted a (much shorter) version of this blog post calling for compassion.

Thank you so much, Carl, for speaking truth and compassion. My son and daughter, who you know quite well, are deeply upset. When a 17 year old girl was treated with over the top brutality by Madison, WI, police my daughter became very upset and agitated. When I spoke to my son about the gentleman who was murdered by police officer in Minnesota, he said, “Mom, can we not talk about this now” as he turned his face and his eyes swelled up with tears. My twins have been experiencing this grief and fear on regular basis. They have been ignored, verbally called “n” word, followed in stores, gawked at, frowned at, not given food while waiting in line after ordering and more. The macro and micro agressions cause a human to be in a state of constant vigilance, increase anxiety, create emotional stress and more due to lack of safety and peace. Yes, they are humans with huge big hearts of compassion! They are giving, gentle, hard workers who do treat others with respect. However, when they walk out the door into “society”, they play a game with loaded dice. We need truth and reconciliation talks to really understand our history and the violence against black bodies. Perhaps readers of this thread would like to read, Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Thank you again, Carl. It is very hard to turn toward this violence and actually see it for what it is. My 17 year old shared, “I think I will go to school here because I haven’t been shot yet.” The war against black bodies hasn’t ended. The slave codes allowed the beatings, rapes and murder. We as a society have much work to do. I’m open to suggestions as I’m blinded by grief.

So, I ask you, my dear readers, what are YOU going to do to help bring healing to our country? Are you willing to cultivate compassion in yourself and in your children? I know that I am and I hope that you are as well.

 

 

*****Here are some links to articles that I’ve found helpful in educating myself regarding Black Lives Matter and policing in the United States.*****

Surprising New Evidence Shows Bias in Police Use of Force but Not in Shootings

Study Supports Suspicion That Police Are More Likely to Use Force on Blacks

Advice for White Folks in the Wake of the Police Murder of a Black Person

Solutions

The Problem with Saying ‘All Lives Matter’

See beyond “the police” for change…

The video of Alton Sterling’s son is the video you should watch

Adrian Perryman’s Video

http://www.blacklivesmatter.com

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/president-obama-memorialize-police-officers-killed-dallas-sniper/story?id=40488652

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Delayed Satisfaction

I’m writing this at roughly 35,000 feet above sea level, somewhere above the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. I should be on the ground in Dallas, Texas, already, except my 5 am flight out of Seattle was delayed over two hours, due to some (obviously) unexpected mechanical problems. Even though I’m anxious to reach my final destination of Kansas City to see my 21 year old daughter and I have already missed my noon-departing connecting flight out of Dallas I am having perhaps the most enjoyable flight of my entire life. I’ve blogged recently about making a conscious effort to look at events through a different perspective and today’s flight offered me yet another opportunity to grow my grace muscles.
I left my house at about 2:20 am and drove north on an almost deserted I-5 to a hotel near the SeaTac airport to park my car and take the shuttle to the airport. I was delighted to see that there was no line to get through security. Granted, it was 3:20 in the morning, but, still, I’d expect a bit more activity in a big airport like SeaTac. I got to my gate and settled in to a comfy chair, spreading out my long legs for what I anticipated would be the last time until I disembarked in Dallas. I’m 6’8″ and too much of a cheapskate to pay for extra legroom on domestic flights. Once I got on board the plane I was happy to note that we were at about 60% capacity and, even better, there was no one in the exit row three aisles behind my assigned seat. Anyone who flies knows that exit row seating is the place to be if you’re looking for more leg room. I casually caught the attention of the nearest flight attendant and discreetly asked if I could switch to one of those coveted spots if no one sat there.
He told me to wait about five minutes more until everyone was on board, but that I was first on his list. My knees were silently praying for a miracle, while my eyes watched every single passenger slowly walk past the exit row seats. Much to my delight, I got one of the seats and, for the first time ever in my life, I had the luxury of being able to fully stretch out my legs while seated on an airplane. As a bonus, there was no one sitting next to me so I had the whole row to myself. Sometimes it’s just the little things in life that can make a 5 am Monday morning cross country flight just a little bit more enjoyable, even on less than three hours of sleep.
I even took to social media to thank American Airlines for the leg room surprise. It’s good to express gratitude. I was mentally prepared for an uneventful flight to Dallas and then on to Kansas City. I may or may not have hummed a few bars of a song I played in jazz band in high school as I stretched out my legs. Goin’ to Kansas City…Kansas City, here I come!
Then, just as our flight attendants were getting their yellow life jacket safety demonstration mojo on the captain interrupted with news that there was a mechanical problem of some sort so we would have a short delay while he powered down and restarted everything. Talk about a mood killer. After a few minutes the captain informed us that we were good to go. So, we taxied out a bit only to come to another stop. At this point the nearest flight attendant, Eric, (the same guy who switched my seats earlier) started talking to me, as his jetseat was a couple of feet away from mine. We talked about a variety of things and he couldn’t have been a nicer guy. 
Well, that short delay turned into something longer and before too long we were back at the gate while the mechanics worked their magic on the plane. As the delay stretched from 30 to 45 minutes many people worriedly started approaching the flight attendants, inquiring about their connecting flights. From my vantage point I was able to see and hear Eric and Deborah and Ana patiently address the concerns of each person, assuring them that American Airlines has a program in place that automatically rebooks passengers once a flight is delayed 45 minutes or longer. (I actually received a phone call from American while we were delayed to inform me that I had been rebooked on a later flight.) As the delay passed the hour mark and crept toward 90 minutes the flight crew continued to be as kind and compassionate as possible despite the increasing level of discontent among some passengers. I’ve been on dozens of flights over my life and have seen such professionalism among flight attendants. I decided to tweet about my positive experience and give a specific shout out to both Eric and Deborah as both of them had, at various points during the long delay, taken the time to ask me if I had a connecting flight to catch and to inform me that there would be multiple flights out of Dallas to Kansas City still to come this afternoon. Again, it only took a moment for me to intentionally show my gratitude.



Thankfully, just after our delay passed the two hour mark our pilot, Captain Stewart, announced that the needed paperwork had been completed and that the plane was good to go. I’m pretty sure an audible sigh of relief was heard aboard flight 1228. Eric returned to his safety seat and we resumed talking. He thanked me for being so patient and not complaining. I mentioned that I was actually quite grateful that the mechanical issues had been found while our plane was on the ground instead of while we were already airborne. He laughed a little and I mentioned something about the importance of perspective and that it wasn’t his fault, or the captain’s fault or the mechanic’s fault that there were issues. Besides, it’s a major inconvenience for the flight crew and various support staff as well. Several of the flight crew were returning home after a few days away from their loved ones and would also arriving later than expected. Some of them also had missed their connections (home), just like the rest of us. I’m sure that they were just as frustrated as the rest of us, yet there was no evidence of it based on their body language. They all were happy to assist passengers as quickly as possible and always with a smile. While we were still ascending to our cruising altitude I told Eric that I had tweeted American Airlines about the positive experience during the delay and he joked that I should mention him by name. What’s especially funny is that I had already sent a tweet that praised him specifically, even though he was only joking about me actually doing that. I told him that I’m trying to be more purposeful in expressing my gratitude and was particularly appreciative of his efforts that went above and beyond the call of duty. I hope American recognizes this entire flight crew for their outstanding efforts today. Disclosure: I was in no way compensated or even asked by American Airlines or any of the Flight Crew to write this post. I genuinely appreciate their fine work today in the face of intense customer dissatisfaction.

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The Perspective of My Messy Kitchen

At just after 2 am Pacific time last Wednesday morning I pulled our van into our driveway, arriving home with my youngest three kids (ages 11, 5 and 2) after a week-long vacation at Grandma’s house in Florida. Nearly 17 hours before, we had hugged her goodbye and made our way diagonally across the U.S., taking a variety of planes, trains and automobiles to get back to our home in the state of Washington. We were all exhausted from traveling, yet my kids were still excited to go hug Mommy, who was already sleeping. They ran in ahead of me as I brought in a couple of bags, dropped them on the floor inside the front door, and followed them upstairs. The first thing I noticed once I got upstairs was the clean floor of my girls’ room, which had been totally messy with clothes, shoes, toys, and plastic bins when we left a week earlier. My wife had cleaned it all up while we had been gone, so it was a pleasant surprise to find upon our return. It was a job that had taken her a considerable amount of time to complete and I made sure to thank her for doing it before I went to sleep that night.

At about 5 am my five year old woke me up, complaining of a headache and hunger. Obviously the three hour time change and long day of travel was catching up to her. I brought her to the kitchen to get her some yogurt and a glass of milk. I wasn’t prepared for the mess that was revealed when I turned on the lights in the kitchen. Every surface of the counter was covered with what appeared to be week-old wrappers and boxes from several restaurants, dirty dishes, mail, textbooks, half-filled soda cans and mostly empty cups. I slowly shook my head in disbelief, got my daughter her food. After two bites she was full and I put away her yogurt and milk in the fridge and turned out the lights. The messy kitchen could be dealt with later after I had more sleep.

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My Messy Kitchen.

Thankfully, my younger two kids slept in until about 10 am that day, so I was feeling reasonably well-rested and appreciated the warm sunshine as we began our first day back home. The girls marveled at their now-clean room and I made sure to remind them that it was because of the hard work of their mother that it was so nice for them. They wasted little time in bringing some dolls and stuffed animals into their room to play on the expanse of clean carpet. While they entertained themselves upstairs I snuck away to the kitchen to assess the mess in the light of day. It was just as bad as I had remembered from the middle of the night. Only, this time I started to feel really angry at my wife and two teenage daughters. It felt like a literal and figurative F-you to see a full load of clean dishes in the dishwasher, dirty dishes piled up in the sink and on the countertops, and the rest of the mess all over the place. Even the dining room table, which had been completely cleaned (by me!) after our Easter dinner the day before we left, was full of all kinds of stuff that didn’t belong there. I debated taking my little girls to a nearby favorite cafe to eat because of the mess. I really wanted to teach my wife and older kids a lesson about respect and responsibility. I felt this almost righteous indignation because I had worked really hard to make sure that the house was tidy before we left so that there would be no excuse for it to be messy upon my return. I really wanted to just leave the mess for them to clean up. I didn’t deserve this extra work. This was literally their mess to clean up.

As I was starting to really get myself worked up over this my two year old wandered into the kitchen to ask me to make her some pancakes for breakfast. Pretty please with sugar on top, Daddy? Of course, even though there was not even one spot on the counters clean enough to to fit a mixing bowl, much less a griddle, I told her that I would be happy to do that once I cleaned up a little bit. Without being asked, she cheerfully started to empty the dishwasher. If my little one could help clean, I figured that I really had to figure out a way to get over myself and get a better attitude about this mess, but, oh boy, I was struggling. I decided some upbeat Christian music might help change my angry spirit, so I plugged my iPhone into some speakers and started cleaning alongside my little girl. It took a few songs until I really started to realize that cleaning up someone else’s mess wasn’t really the end of the world. Sure, it was irritating and disappointing. Yeah, it would’ve been nice to come home to a cleaner kitchen. But, as I began to clean, I started to gain a different perspective from my messy kitchen.

For one thing, while we were having a great time at Grandma’s pool and at the beach, my wife was busy working at her job to provide financially for our family and my teenage daughters were busy with school, homework and water polo practice. Because of my wife’s faithfulness in working hard at all times, even while I am on vacation, I am able to be a Stay At Home Dad. I am able to take these kinds of trips with my kids. Sure, it was a working vacation for me because my SAHD duties didn’t end just because I wasn’t at home, but it was still a vacation all the same. Also, it dawned on me that this was an opportunity for me to really practice what I preach, or, at least blog about. Just a few weeks ago I wrote What’s In Your Garden?, a blog post about cultivating kindness and gratitude in all of my relationships by focusing on the positives instead of the negatives. After all, since my wife had done a great job of cleaning up the girls’ room and my girls had taken care of their school responsibilities, cleaning up the kitchen shouldn’t be that big of a deal, right? Even if my attitude hadn’t fully caught up with that positivity, I was sure that it would at some point. Then, my phone rang, cutting off the uplifting music and my mojo along with it.

It was my oldest daughter, calling to talk about some other stuff. I wasn’t really in a mood to talk at that moment and I was, sadly, a little short with her, as I let my frustration with the situation in my kitchen affect my conversation with her. As I was talking with her and flipping pancakes my teenage daughters arrived home from school (it was an early-release day) and came in the kitchen to say hi, as they hadn’t seen me since we had gotten back home. Instead of returning their greetings, I shot a very sarcastic “Thanks for the mess, girls!” at them. So much for that attitude of gratitude. Epic dad fail. That, obviously, set a negative tone for the next few minutes, until I realized what a complete tool I was being. I asked their forgiveness (both my girls at home and my oldest who was still on speakerphone) and shared with them my feelings of frustration and that I was really trying to have a good attitude about it all. They graciously forgave me and I finished serving pancakes to my little girls while the older ones made themselves some lunch. After the kids all finished eating and cleared out of the kitchen, I finally had a chance to eat my own pancakes, enjoying the sudden peace and quiet. It was then that I fully released the burden of being angry about the messy kitchen. It’s just stupid stuff. What really matters to me is relationship with my family, not if my kitchen is perfectly clean.

It took quite a bit more effort on my part to get the kitchen cleaned up. I think I ran the dishwasher three times in the first 24 hours I was back and did a load of hand-wash items as well. I also took moment to consider the fact that we’re fortunate enough to live in such a beautiful home with plenty of food and dishes to get messy in the first place. And we even have a functioning dishwasher to help. It’s really all about perspective. It’s been almost a week since I came home to that messy kitchen. I realize now that it was an opportunity to really teach my family a lesson. Only, the lesson was one of grace, not one of punishment. And it was not just their lesson, but mine as well.

EDIT: Please note that I’m sharing this to encourage others to examine what’s really important in life. In no way was I trying to embarrass my wife or daughters for not cleaning up the dishes. It’s only a temporary mess that was cleaned up within a couple of hours. Much more meaningful to me are the lasting relationships in my life with my wife and daughters.

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What’s In Your Garden?

It’s raining again today where I live, which isn’t surprising given that I live in Washington state, which is part of a region known for its amount of rainy days each year. But, this post isn’t about rain as much as it is about what the rain produces: green grass. As I was sitting alone one recent morning enjoying a cup of coffee before my kids woke up, I realized that the rain was responsible for turning everything varying shades of green, even through the winter here. During the long dry summers the lush grass goes dormant and turns brown if not watered. My neighbors, however, have a sprinkler system that waters their yard every evening at 10:27 pm. Rain or shine. The lesson, though, isn’t that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence (even if it’s true in this example), but, rather, that the grass is always greener where you water it!

All too often in life it’s easy for me to forget to express my appreciation to the people in my life who love me. As a husband and father I try my best to use my words and actions to encourage my wife and kids, and I know that is music to my ears when they do the same to me. I can’t help being an incurable romantic, so I love it when my Facebook newsfeed contains posts by friends who are publicly expressing their appreciation for their spouses, children, parents or friends. I’ve especially enjoyed reading posts from a husband or wife that is bragging about something that his or her spouse did, said or accomplished. It’s such a simple act that has profound meaning. Genuine kindness and appreciation are the showers that bring life and health to relationships.

Just last week my kids helped me to prepare a small section of soil next to our driveway that we use each year to grow sugar snap peas.

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Rows of Sugar Snap Peas sprouting

We carefully removed the weeds and then planted the rows of seeds. In about 10 weeks we’re going to be enjoying some delicious sugar snap peas because you reap what you sow! The same is true in relationships. If I’m on the lookout for opportunities to tell my wife and kids how thankful I am for them or how much I appreciate something that they did, that’s going to not only strengthen our relationship but also help me to focus on the good in them. As a bonus, it will likely be encouraging them at the same time. It’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, I suppose. I have a friend who posts three things for which she is thankful every Tuesday, calling it GratiTuesday. I love that attitude of gratitude that she intentionally writes about each week. I want to be a husband, father and friend that is known for cultivating kindness and gratitude in his garden of life.

Unfortunately, I’ve learned that the opposite of the attitude of gratitude is also true. The saying “the grass is always greener on the other side” probably happened because the people involved didn’t take the time to notice or appreciate what they had right in front of them all along.

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What’s in your garden?

I firmly believe that if we each spent a small fraction of the time that we usually use to complain about people and instead used that to water own yards or gardens, then we would see some beautiful grass, plants and flowers right in front of us. I know that I can complain about things to my kids or wife, but that only comes off as nagging or pestering and ultimately hurts our relationship. The reality is that if I’m looking for ways to be hurt or things to complain about, I can find them (or manufacture them) pretty easily. Yet, all that does is feed the negativity and create distance and hurt and separation in the relationship because I’m filling myself with contempt for my loved ones. On the other hand, when I choose to focus on the good and to communicate my love and appreciation, our bond is strengthened. I’m finding that looking for the good in my wife and kids is important when I’m not feeling in a particularly appreciative mood. I want my kids to see and feel what it’s like for their dad to love and appreciate both them and their mother, no matter the circumstances. My attitude of gratitude isn’t dependent upon receiving thanks and appreciation from others. It’s a choice that I get to make daily. Sometimes even minute by minute. In the end, though, I choose to be loving and kind instead of critical and ungrateful.

This notion of choosing an attitude of gratitude is actually based in scientific research by people much smarter and more educated than I am. I recently came across some articles from famous psychologists Gottman and Gottman that really confirmed what I had already been feeling and inspired me to be more intentional in looking for the good in my wife and kids (and others, of course). What follows is an excerpt from their findings.

“There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman explained in an interview, “which is this: they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.”

“It’s not just scanning environment,” chimed in Julie Gottman. “It’s scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or scanning him for what he’s doing wrong and criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.”

Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it’s not there.

People who give their partner the cold shoulder — deliberately ignoring the partner or responding minimally — damage the relationship by making their partner feel worthless and invisible, as if they’re not there, not valued. And people who treat their partners with contempt and criticize them not only kill the love in the relationship, but they also kill their partner’s ability to fight off viruses and cancers. Being mean is the death knell of relationships.

Please do yourself a favor and take the ten or fifteen minutes needed to read the articles which describe their findings in greater depth. (Links to the articles are here: Business Insider article, Masters of Love-Atlantic article)

Perhaps your reaction will be like mine, both convicted encouraged and inspired by what you read there. I hope that your loved ones will appreciate the changes that they see in you and that you will notice how much better they also look once you’ve consistently been showering them with your kindness and generosity. After all, we reap what we sow. So, what’s in your garden?

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Daddy Cookies: Snitching Sisters

Last Saturday morning my two and a half year old daughter woke up and came downstairs to find me in the kitchen, where I had just emptied the dishwasher and was enjoying a moment of peace and quiet before everyone else would wake up. She climbed up into my lap and happily announced that she wanted to make cookies with me. But, not just any cookies, Daddy Cookies. As a rookie SAHD back in 2001 I realized that I really enjoyed making cookies with the help of my kids. I stumbled upon a recipe in a Betty Crocker cookie recipe booklet for oatmeal-peanut butter-chocolate chip cookies that were an instant hit with both my kids and me. I’ve tweaked the recipe ever so slightly (extra vanilla is yummy!) and added the secret ingredient, The Mixing Dance. My kids named them Daddy Cookies because it was much shorter and easier to say than the official full name. At any rate, I eagerly agreed and we started to gather the necessary ingredients and the mixer.

After she pushed a chair to the counter by the mixer we began to add our ingredients, starting with the two eggs fresh from our backyard chickens. My daughter is learning to crack eggs and does a pretty nice job for someone so little. (In a related note, her tiny fingers are excellent for picking out tiny pieces of shell.) Just after we added the sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, butter, salt, vanilla and peanut butter and mixed them all up, my five year old arrived downstairs and asked if she could help. My loving two year old excitedly told her big sister that she could help us before I even had a chance to respond. I was really enjoying the fact that she was willing to share this baking experience with her sister and wasn’t feeling threatened by her sister’s presence. I suppose it’s what she’s always been used to, being the sixth of six kids in our family. Well, after we added the next two ingredients, the flour and oatmeal, my girls realized that they needed to snitch some dough. I don’t mind it but I do ask that they use spoons and that they wait until the mixer is turned off. (I know, I’m so mean.) I’ve been snitching raw cookie dough my whole life and have never gotten sick so please spare me any comments about that. I will admit that eating dough is one of my favorite parts of making cookies. All that was left was to add the chocolate chips and we would be set to scoop and bake the cookies. Except there was one small problem.

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My helpers

The can of chocolate chips wasn’t in the cupboard where it was supposed to be. With two teenage daughters and an 11 year old son in the house, I figured that there was one of three places it could be. Since my son was already gone hiking with my wife, I figured that we would check his room first. So, I told my girls that whoever found the can of chocolate chips first would get the first snitch with chocolate chips. My five year old declined, of course. My two year old, however, literally jumped at the chance to go into her brother’s room without him there (usually a no-no). As my two year old started to climb down from her chair by the counter, my five year old decided that it would be fun, after all, to get the chocolate chips and because she would be able to run faster than her little sister. As they ran through the living room I could hear their shrieks: delight from my five year old and dismay from my two year old. It grew quiet as they went upstairs into his room. I was already mentally preparing myself to not overreact or come across as harsh when the inevitable screams would resume in a few moments when one of them would have won the battle for the can of chocolate chips.

So, you can imagine how my heart delighted when those screams never happened and instead I heard giggling. I turned my head just in time to see my two little girls both carrying the jar of chocolate chips. I wish I could have captured a picture of them as they were both beaming broadly and were practically hugging each other and the can at the same time. It was so stinkin’ cute! My five year old told me that she didn’t want her sister to feel sad so she suggested that they both hold the cookies so they could both get the reward. Choking back tears of gratitude for such a kind and generous daughter, I knelt down in front of both of them and wrapped the two of them in a great big Daddy Hug. I told my five year old how proud I was of her for making such a kind and compassionate choice with her sister. They brought the chocolate chips to the counter and each put a scoop of chips in the steel bowl and we finished the final mixing as we danced one more time. As I spooned the dough balls on the baking sheet I noticed that my girls were both grinning and trying to “sneak” additional snitches from the bowl of dough. I feigned a growl as they both giggled some more and we all laughed. While my kids continue to get older I love knowing that they all have very fond memories of Daddy Cookies. 

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Fisherman’s Friend in Pike Place Market

 

I grew up in Wisconsin, not far from the legendary Frozen Tundra of my beloved Green Bay Packers and Lambeau Field. Until I moved to western Washington with my family just over four years ago I thought winter meant snow, sub-zero temperatures, ice, biting wind and all that goes with those nasty elements. Growing up in the Midwest created a certain toughness in me that I brought with me when we moved to Washington state just over four years ago. Winter here in the Pacific Northwest is vastly different than the icy, snowy and freezing-cold that I grew up with in the Midwest. One of the biggest differences is that the snow rarely comes to my doorstep in Western Washington, but rather to the mountains two hours away. In the four winters we’ve lived here, it’s snowed maybe three times, with a total accumlation of maybe 12 inches. Probably less. Despite the lack of snow and really cold temperatures, winter still presents its challenges. Instead of flakes that need shoveling we’re showered with rain. Lots of rain, which, when combined with the cooler temperatures, can make even the toughest person beg for some sunshine and warmer temps.

With that in mind, I was approached a few months ago by my friends at Life of Dad to partner with Fisherman’s Friend to promote Fisherman’s Friend throat lozenges. whiteextrastrengthMy first reaction was along the lines of Me? I don’t live in a cold-weather state? How could I contribute to this campaign? Yet, I was told that they had chosen me and my blog, so, could I please try their product and take an epic photograph with the product, pretty please? Okay, they didn’t beg, but the rest is true. I had grand plans to head up to Mount Rainier with my kids and take an epic picture up there with the package of lozenges. That almost happened. We made it to the mountain, but my 16 year old daughter bruised her ankle on a snow-covered rock and we had to leave before I had a chance to get my pic. Interestingly enough, though, my throat stayed nice and healthy while breathing the cool and dry mountain air thanks to the soothing cherry flavored lozenge. But, alas, no picture. In the following weeks the weather here didn’t cooperate with our schedule as the only days available for us to return to Mt. Rainier were rainy or too snowy in the mountains (meaning high avalanche danger).

A couple of weeks ago my 16 year old daughter and I made our way to Madison, Wisconsin, for her official college visit and tour of UW-Madison. During the 90 minute walking tour I managed to experience a coughing fit while our tour guide was telling the group about the Business School.

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Promoting Fisherman’s Friend with Bucky at my alma mater.

Thankfully I was prepared with a handy resealable pouch of Fisherman’s Friend throat lozenges in my sweatshirt pocket and popped one in my mouth. Within seconds my throat was soothed and my cough disappeared. Later on that day we met up with Bucky Badger, the Wisconsin mascot, who was out on State Street. We posed for a picture on a bench at Library Mall, and I managed to casually slip the package of Fisherman’s Friend lozenges out of my pocket in the hopes of capturing an epic photo for this blog. While I think the photo is nice, it falls short of being epic. You can judge for yourself.

 

Then, just last week, a couple of days before Valentine’s Day, some of my kids wanted to head up to Pike Place Market in Seattle. My 14 year old brought her friend and my 5 and 2 year old daughters also made the trip.

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Glittery hearts on my dome.

We were hoping to find it less crowded than usual since it was a weekday afternoon (yay for early release days!). What made the trip slightly uncomfortable was the dozens of glittery heart-shaped stickers that my little girls had happily put on my freshly-shaved bald head only hours before, thanks to the brilliant suggestion of their older sister and her equally brilliant friend. My little girls were excited that I was going to wear their decorations out in public at the market. My older daughter was slightly amused and mostly mortified, I think, at the notion of being seen in public with a giant (I’m 6’8″ tall) walking, talking, goofy, glitter-headed guy. That’s probably why she and her friend split off just after we arrived.

 

Well, I’m happy to say that I rocked that look. My girls and I received many compliments and even more strange looks. Several tourists tried to take my picture without me noticing. It was fun. My girls loved it. They were proud of their artwork and I will admit that it actually kept my noggin a little bit warmer than if it hadn’t been decorated. IMG_4053Sure, the 50 degree temps were not exactly extreme winter weather conditions, but it was raining! I’d like to think that I proved my Midwestern toughness by only wearing my Dads Don’t Babysit t-shirt and cargo shorts (of course!) with sandals (no socks) while most of the native Washingtonians were bundled in their fleece-lined jackets and long pants and Uggs boots. And, once again, my throat stayed soothed as I had popped a couple of lozenges in my mouth while we were walking. As my girls were sitting atop the brass pig that graces an entrance to the market, the epic picture that I had been searching for seemingly came to me in that moment. Fisherman’s Friend, after all, was invented in England in 1865 for, get this, fishermen! And, what is Pike Place Market most famous for? The Pike Place Fish Company and their fishermen who toss the fish! Guess what was in the background of the picture of my girls on the pig? You guessed it.

Thanks to it being a slow day (remember, it was a weekday in winter) I was able to casually engage one of the guys working there in conversation. Okay, he talked to me first about my awesomely decorated dome, but I steered the conversation to my need for an epic photo and wondered if he would be willing to help me out. Well, Nick, they guy’s name, was more than willing to help me. He suggested that I hold one of the King Salmon up as if I were preparing to throw it and he would stand next to me prominently holding the package of Fisherman’s Friend lozenges while one of his co-workers snapped a few pictures. Just before he handed me the large fish he casually mentioned that I had better not drop it as it would sell for about $300…yikes! At any rate, Nick was awesome and I think we got the epic shot that I had been looking for all along. After all, what else could show the tough relief of a throat lozenge invented over 150 years ago for fishermen better than an actual fisherman and a giant fish fresh from the chilly waters of the Pacific Ocean from Pike Place Fish Company in the iconic Pike Place Market?

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Fisherman’s Friend and my epic photo!

You can purchase Fisherman’s Friend lozenges in pretty much any store that sells cough drops or sore-throat lozenges. I’ve found it at grocery stores and drug stores alike. There are several flavors although I only tried cherry and menthol. You can check out their website:  http://www.fishermansfriend.com/en-us/ or Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/FishermansFriendUSA for more information.

Obviously this needs to be stated clearly. Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Fisherman’s Friend for this promotion. The thoughts expressed above and pictures shown are mine, except the Fisherman’s Friend pouch picture, which came from their website. 

Here are some additional photos from our fun time at Pike Place Market that afternoon.