Up To Onaway Island

Camp Onaway. Just typing those two words stirs memories in my soul from six magical weeks of my childhood, spent one week at a time each summer from 1985-1990. Those of us who were fortunate enough to go to camp as a kid know exactly what I mean. For me, it was Camp Onaway, a camp in central Wisconsin on an island in the beautiful Chain of Lakes near Waupaca. Yes, an island! The entire island is owned by the Boys and Girls Brigade, a youth organization in Neenah, Wisconsin (my hometown), that runs a program during the school year for youth in grades 6-12. Onaway is the location of their week-long summer camps, alternating weeks of boys and girls camps, as well as some leadership and family camps.

Onaway Island

Onaway Island

My first week there was in 1985, just after finishing 6th grade. I don’t remember a lot about the specifics of the camp now, 30 years later, other than that I had a lot of fun playing games, swimming, wrestling with fellow campers and leaders on the rough raft (think “King of the Hill”, but on a raft in the water), canoeing, singing, Chapel and campfires. And morning dip, cross country race, tribal competitions, skits and watermelon feed. Okay, I guess I remember more than I thought. But, what really stands out in my mind is the memory of the leaders at Onaway. A bunch of men who willingly gave up a week of their summer to spend it with someone else’s kids, away from the comforts of their own homes and families. Probably spending a week of their own hard-earned vacation time in the process. As a young camper, I loved being around these guys each summer. For one week, those guys were my family. It wasn’t until years later that I began to comprehend the sacrifice and dedication that these men made each summer to be at camp.

After finishing high school I wasn’t able to attend camp as an adult leader since I moved away to attend college and ended up getting married and starting my own family. I did, however, get an opportunity in 2006 and 2007 to return for a few days as a leader. Despite not seeing many of those men for the better part of 15 years I was welcomed with open arms and hearty hugs. There was no judgement about why I hadn’t been back sooner; just joy that I was back. There were lots of new faces among the leaders there but there were plenty of guys who had been so integral to my development as a young man. Men who I thought of as family despite not knowing them personally outside of camp or even seeing them much since 1990.

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Two of my favorite leaders from Camp Onaway. Dick and Chrome.

I woke up this morning to read the news that one of my favorite leaders, Chrome, had passed away last night. It turns out that he actually had a real name, but I knew him as Chrome. To be honest, I didn’t know that much about him outside of camp. I did know his real name and I did see him a few times outside of camp when I was still living in Wisconsin.

But Chrome was the epitome of camp to me. I funny guy with a heart as big as the ocean. I remember when I returned to Onaway after my 15 year absence Chrome was one of the first to see me and he came running to greet me with the biggest, most heartfelt hug. And he’s not a big guy. He literally grabbed my cheeks with his hands and held my face, telling me, “Carl, it’s so good to see you again, young man. Welcome back.” I’ve been crying on and off all morning since learning of his passing, just thinking of the good memories I have because of men like him. The last time I saw him was in 2011, at camp the summer before we moved west to Washington.

It’s extra special for me this week to know that my third daughter is at Girls Camp 2 at Onaway this very week, making her own magical memories. My older two daughters have also been to Onaway in previous years. I know that my son, who will be in sixth grade in the fall, is already thinking about going there next summer. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to join him as a leader. That’s the thing about camp. Once you go, you always want to go back, even just for a moment. One of the best parts of each day at camp is the daily chapel. While Onaway is a Christian organization it’s not a “church” camp.

OnawayChapelChapel is more of a time for reflection with a very short talk given by one or more leaders. It’s often in the early evening as the sun filters through the tall pine trees, giving all in attendance the opportunity to think about their day. Chrome was kind of famous for giving his “sands of Onaway” talk each year at chapel when I was a kid. It’s the notion that no matter where you go, the memories of Onaway will be with you. Thank you, Chrome, for your years of service to countless young men like me. Without him and the many men and women like him, Camp Onaway wouldn’t be as special.

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I’m a Christian and I love gay people.

My name is Carl. I am a Christian. And I love gay people.

gay-marriage-imageIt’s been almost 48 hours since the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that bans on gay marriage were unconstitutional. Unless you live under a rock you’ve heard the news and have been able to read all about it. If you’re like me you have many friends who changed their profile pictures on Facebook to show that they’re celebrating this victory. I also have friends who are angry and upset by this ruling. This post isn’t about trying to convince anyone about gay marriage or the constitutionality of it in the United States. If you’re looking to pick a fight about either of those topics it’s not going to happen here. (I will delete offensive comments should anyone leave one here.) 1425699888986This post is a reaction and response to the many articles that I’ve read over the last couple of days which were authored by people who identify themselves as Christians and are against gay marriage. As a Stay At Home Dad I’ve been able to have some great conversations with my two teenage daughters about this topic as they’ve matured and begun to understand the complexity of this issue.

First of all, let me state that I am a Christian. I don’t hide that fact. I’ve been a follower of Christ since I was able to make that decision for myself as a 5 or 6 year old child. It’s an integral part of who I am. I am not ashamed of it nor do I blast it in others’ faces. I am not the “Christian right” or the 700 Club/Pat Robertson or Duck Dynasty or the Duggars. I am me. There are many times that I have been saddened by the actions of people who identify themselves as Christians because it seems as though their actions are not very Christ-like. While I cannot know their hearts I can see what kind of an impact their actions are having on their witnesses. As a father, I am acutely aware of how my actions must match my words when I’m interacting with my children as my actions speak so much louder than my words. This holds true for all of us, whether we identify as a Christian or not. My word or my reputation is only good if my actions back it up. If I claim to be a Christ follower then I should speak and act like one, right?

This is where I have a huge issue with the “Christian” responses to the SCOTUS decision that I’ve read the last few days. There seems to be a lot of energy and effort being put into fighting for the sanctity of marriage as one man and one woman. I’m reading about how the Bible condemns all gays because of this verse or that verse in the Old and New Testaments. Gay marriage is an abomination. Gays are going to hell. I’m in tears reading this judgemental garbage and hatespeak disguised as speaking the truth in love. Seriously. The Christian right LOVES to tell others just how right they are while missing a pretty big point. Their message is being lost because the very people they’re judging don’t care about what the Bible says. Moreover, the tone of the message is not one of compassion or love. It’s one of condemnation, judgement and condescension. I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually like being on either end of such conversations. I feel like we as Christians have a great opportunity to show love to others here instead of hate and judgement. Christians love to throw around Bible verses to prove their points about the evils of homosexuality but seem to overlook the numerous verses that instruct us to not judge others and to “not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs…get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice…be kind and compassionate to one another” (Ephesians 4:29-32)

WHOA! What? Where is the instruction to judge and tell others that they’re going to hell because of their sexual orientation? As a dad, husband, and man, I don’t have all the answers. But I do know that as a Christ follower, the person that I follow and try to be like, in both my words and my actions, is Jesus, my role model. When the religious rulers of his time tried to trick him by asking him what was the greatest commandment, his response was twofold. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-40) It’s worth noting that there was nothing in his response about judging others. It was about loving God and loving others. In fact, Jesus had already spoken at length with his followers about NOT judging others because we are all guilty of sin and it’s hypocritical to point out the sin in others when we’re full of it ourselves.

That’s my second big beef with the “Christian” response to the SCOTUS ruling. Why or how does this ruling really affect the sin that is rampant within the church today? While Christians are busy judging others they’re overlooking the fact that there is a lot of sin happening that they’re not protesting. I could list all of the sins that the Bible talks about but that’s not the point. If Christians put just a fraction of the energy and efforts being expended now into an inward look they would see that there is a huge problem within the church community in areas like gossip, divorce, pornography, adultery, vulgarity, gluttony, lying, cheating, stealing and so on. The fact is that we’re all sinners. God doesn’t look at sins on a weighted scale. Sin is sin is sin. But we Christians love to look down our noses at others and smugly think to ourselves “I’m not as bad as him. I didn’t cheat on my wife.” Yet, how guilty would we be if our internet history or Netflix queues were made public? I have a hard time trying to tell others that they’re terrible people just because their sin is different than mine. We’re all sinners. And, as a Christian, I believe that Jesus died on the cross for all of us. We need to get over ourselves and thank God for his grace and mercy instead of judging others.

Finally, I love gay people. I love gay people because I believe that God made all people in His image and therefore they deserve my love. I’m no better than anyone else. I might be different and I might sin differently, but that’s not the point. I don’t have to agree with someone’s politics or beliefs to be kind and compassionate to that person. In fact, showing kindness and compassion to people who are unlike me is a way to put my faith into action. What good is my faith in God if it doesn’t influence how I behave 24/7/365? It’s not just a thing I do on Sunday morning from 10:00-11:15 am. My wife has an aunt who is gay. I’ve been married to my wife for over 22 years now and I can say that Aunt Eileen is one of the kindest and most compassionate people that I know.

Promise Keepers "Stand In The Gap" Rally, 10/4/1997

Promise Keepers “Stand In The Gap” Rally, 10/4/1997

She is generous with her time and money and love. When she lived near Washington, D.C., she allowed me (and 3-4 friends) to crash at her place in Maryland before and after we attended an evangelical rally on the Capitol Mall in October of 1997. Even though our beliefs were not exactly the same she and her partner chose to open their home to us, feed us and even bought Metro tickets for us before we arrived to make our travels easier the next day. I wonder how many Christians would lovingly open their houses up for a relative (and guests) who wanted to attend a GAY PRIDE event in a nearby city? Oh, she even socialized with us after we returned from the event, grilled some steaks for dinner and made sure we could watch ESPN. Yet, somehow, she managed to not lecture us about how our beliefs were wrong because they were different than hers. It’s really not that hard to treat other people with love and kindness and compassion.

In conclusion, as I’ve discussed this with my daughters and written about here, I’m disgusted with the very un-Christlike judgement and hate being spewed by people who call themselves Christians upon hearing of the SCOTUS decision about gay marriage. I’m sure that the enemy (Satan, not supporters of gay marriage) loves to see such divisive and angry comments being posted in social media sites all over the web. I don’t see how this ruling affects my calling to love God and love others in any way. My faith isn’t in the United States government or its ability to decide about gay marriage. My faith is, and always has been, in God. His grace and forgiveness grant my salvation and it’s more than enough for me. I know that I’m not perfect and yet I hope that others will know me as a man, husband, father and follower of Christ for the person that I am by my “fruits” of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. (Galations 5:22-23)

****I would love to hear your thoughts about what I’ve written here. This is certainly a departure from my “normal” blog posts but it’s something that has been weighing heavily on my heart for a while, even before the SCOTUS ruling. Please keep your comments positive and constructive. If you liked this please share it with others. Thanks, Carl****

The Days After Earth Day: 10 ways your family can be more eco-friendly all year long

April 22nd was Earth Day, the one day each year that we pause to really think about how we could take better care of our beloved third rock from the sun. Maybe your kids had a little “Earth Day” program or lesson at school. Maybe they sang “Happy Earth Day” and colored a nice picture. Or even took a pledge to be better conservationists. But when the calendar turns to April 23 and beyond, what will we really do to make a difference that lasts beyond one day? Well, if we all made a few simple changes it could have a profound global impact. Here are ten easy ways that my family celebrates Earth Day…every day of the year!

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It’s okay to leave the lights on if this is your house

10-Turn off the lights. When you leave a room turn off the light(s). Yeah, if you’re a parent, you probably feel like you’re constantly following your kids around and turning off the lights after them. I’m mean enough to make my kids (once old enough) to go back and turn off the lights themselves. It builds a good habit for later in life. Also, if there’s enough natural light then maybe use that instead of the overhead lights. Or just use one lamp instead of a larger fixture. Small changes will add up quickly.

9-Programmable thermostat. For just a few dollars you (Yes, you! I’ve done it myself a few times and it’s easy.) can install a thermostat that you can program to automatically set back to a lower temperature when you leave the house or go to sleep and then raise it when you return or wake up. Not only is it good for the environment, but it’s also good for your wallet. If you’re really into it like I am, you can even keep it a couple of degrees lower during the day and wear a sweater or sweatshirt.

8-Compost food scraps. Toss those peels and other discarded food scraps in an outdoor composter instead of the trash or sink disposal. You can do the same thing for leaves in the fall if your city doesn’t collect them. After a little while you’ll have some excellent organic fertilizer to spread in your garden.

7-Use re-useable containers for left-overs. Of course it’s obvious to do that at home. But why not take them to a restaurant? Even though it makes our teenagers cringe from embarrassment, we’ve used them when going out to eat as a family, as our little ones often don’t finish their meals.

6-Reusable bags. Because I often forget the bags at home (hey, at least I remembered my kids!), I actually keep a stash of reusable grocery bags in my van. My wife recently got six mesh bags for produce items that would usually be placed in plastic bags. They’re washable and easy to use. Our kids each have their own lunch bags for school lunches so that we’re not going through hundreds of paper bags each year.

5-Cloth diapers.

Cloth diaper baby

Cloth diaper baby

My oldest turned 20 a short time ago. So, that means that we’ve been cloth diapering our six kids for over two decades. With our first four we used the old cloth, safety pins and vinyl wraps. The modern cloth diapers are pretty slick and don’t involve pins. For the record, I never once pricked my kids with a pin while changing thousands of diapers as a Stay At Home Dad these last 14 years. Too bad the same cannot be said for my fingers.

4-Recycle. I know it’s obvious, but just do it. We even take it to the next level by bringing items not collected on the curb to the local recycling center. That also includes plastic shopping bags (see #6 above) which can often be dropped off at grocery stores. It’s worth the tiny bit of extra effort to keep these items out of the landfill. On a recent three-day road trip my 13 year old was looking for a place to recycle an empty box. Finding none, she asked if we could bring it home to recycle it. It’s second nature if you start early with your kids. Bonus: my 10 year old suggests using the empty plastic shopping bags as a trash can liner.

3-Pick up litter/trash. As a parent, I recognize that my kids are always watching to make sure that my actions match up with my words. With that in mind, I routinely pick up trash that is lying around when we’re out in public. It’s especially rewarding when my kids see me doing it and then excitedly copy my actions. Tip: carry a pocket-sized bottle of hand sanitizer with you. Update: I was telling my 10 year old son about this blog and he told me that on our recent trip he picked up an empty water bottle from the ground at a park and put it in our trash/recycling bag to bring home. I didn’t see it happen but it makes me proud to know that my kids are following the example of my wife and me in picking up trash.

2-Buy local. Grow local.

Eating sugar snap peas right off the plant. Yummy!

Eating sugar snap peas right off the plant. Yummy!

Even though it sometimes might cost a little bit more, I like to buy items made or grown locally. We’ve purchased a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share from a local farm for each of the last 13 years. Visiting the CSA farm creates an opportunity for our children to see where some of our food comes from so they can begin to learn that it doesn’t magically appear in the grocery store or in our  fridge.

In fact, we also have a modest garden of sugar snap peas, strawberries, beets, herbs, tomatoes and lettuce/chard/spinach (not sure which of those last three will actually grow). The kids help me to build the garden boxes, prepare the soil, plant the seeds, water and weed as needed, and then harvest the crop. I love it when they walk out to the garden and help themselves, knowing that they (literally) had a hand in growing that food.

1-Reuse. Repurpose. And reuse some more.

My baby painted that cardboard M as part of a Mother's Day gift.

My baby painted that cardboard M as part of a Mother’s Day gift.

We reuse things over and over. I used to think it was weird to save old moving boxes and packing paper. Guess what? The kids love to make forts and tunnels with the boxes and both the cardboard and packing paper work great for painting and other art projects. Then the painted paper can be repurposed as wrapping paper for friends or relatives. Our kids get new clothes when needed, but there’s certainly no shame in admitting that some of the outfits my 20 year old wore as a child have made it all the way to kid number six. It’s pretty impressive in my mind that some of the stuff lasted that long. My wife also is a queen thrift store shopper with a keen eye for high-end brand-name clothing for dirt cheap prices. Why pay the crazy amounts for a brand new outfit that your kid may or may not like or wear when you can save money by reusing? Sheets, t-shirts, towels and other fabrics can be washed and repurposed as rags or wipes. We haven’t had paper towels in three years. We made reusable wipes for our baby that work just as well as disposable ones. We bring water bottles on road trips instead of buying plastic ones. And then we often refill them at rest stops and gas stations along the way. Starbucks and other coffee shops often have reusable cups that both save the environment and your pocketbook.

Bonus-Backyard chickens. IMG_2590We’ve kept a flock of backyard chickens for about six years now and I love it for many reasons. The quality and freshness of the eggs is amazing and store bought eggs pale in comparison in color, taste and health benefit. The chickens are good for the environment because they will eat a lot of our food scraps that would either be trashed or composted and repurpose it into wonderful eggs.IMG_3297 They also naturally eat pests, aerate and fertilize our lawn, and further our children’s understanding of where our food comes from. Keeping chickens is far less work than I had feared and quite a rewarding experience with my children.

With the exception of the backyard chickens, the rest of the ideas listed above are pretty easy to incorporate into your daily routine if you make it a priority and a habit. If you have young kids make sure to explain what you’re doing and ask them to help keep you (the parents) accountable. Not only will they learn the new behaviors but they’ll be watching you extra close and will love to playfully remind you to shape up. Let me know if your family does any of these ideas or if you have additional ideas of your own.

Forgiveness: The other F word

If you spend any time online visiting any social media or news sites you will notice that there are a lot of people who are mad, angry and offended by just about anything. Some of the offending topics of the last few weeks that pop into my brain at the moment are, in no particular order, ISIS, politics, healthcare, unions, President Obama, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, vaccinations, circumcision, education, school lunches, gun control, gay rights, religion, abortion, sports, Grammys, Oscars, celebrity nude photo hacks, Kardashians and even The Dress. (White and gold. I know. Who cares!) And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of crazy stuff out there. But what’s even crazier to me is the amount of truly vicious and vile comments that people leave without a second thought. th-11I wonder what would happen if people lived their lives choosing to forgive instead of choosing to look for ways to be offended. Can you imagine what a difference there would be if we each lived that way?

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Sure, Carl, that sounds nice. But we’re talking ISIS. That’s pure evil. How could you possibly forgive them? You know they murdered over 20 Christians recently and just kidnapped over 250 Christians in Syria, right?” I agree. That is pure evil. Yet, Diane Foley, the mother of James Foley, an American journalist who was captured by ISIS in 2010 and beheaded last August, is calling for forgiveness of the man who is believed to have been the chief executioner for ISIS.

“So, he, in a sense, had a priviedged upbringing, so to me that makes even more sad that he’d want to use his gifts for such evil and hatred. It’s very frightening to me. We need to forgive him for not having a clue what he was doing.”

What? How is that even possible? If anyone has a right to withhold forgiveness from another person or group it would be his parents, right? Again, I agree. Wanting revenge is the natural and instinctive reaction. Yet, they are choosing to forgive this man. Wow. Again, can you imagine if we each tried to live our lives with such forgiveness? Maybe we could forgive ourselves for saying or doing something wrong.

brandon_bostick_packers

Bostick was supposed to block #13 so the guy behind Bostick could catch the ball. Instead, Bostick botched the catch and #13 recovered.

Most of us don’t have our major screw-ups happen in front of over 70,000 people plus millions on TV, but that’s exactly what happened to a football player on the Green Bay Packers named Brandon Bostick. He’s the player that many fans blamed for the Packers’ loss to the Seattle Seahawks, which cost his team a trip to the Super Bowl, all because he made a mistake near the end of the game. Bostick wrote an article recently about what his life has been like since that game took place about six weeks ago.

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and it’s the first thing on my mind. There are nights when I dwell on it before falling asleep. Sometimes the thought creeps up on me when I’m lifting weights, or eating dinner, or sitting on my couch at home.

I flash back to that moment—I can see the ball floating right in front of me—and I wonder: What if?

I messed up in the NFC Championship Game, and trust me, it hurts. I’ll probably think about my role in the botched onside kick every day for the rest of my life. It haunts me like a recurring nightmare.

This guy is beating himself up over something that he did wrong. How many of us do that to ourselves? I know I do. Unfortunately, I mess up daily. I lose patience with my family. I’m not as loving or kind to my wife and kids as I could be. Sometimes I even raise my voice and yell. I say or do something, trying to be funny only to have it blow up in my face. Yet, at the end of the day, I know that I’m human and that I’m going to mess up.th-5 I love my wife and kids but I’m not perfect. So, I ask those I’ve wronged for forgiveness and I forgive myself; hoping to learn from my mistakes so that I won’t repeat them. Sometimes I’m successful in not repeating them. Sometimes. I try to point out to my kids that I’m not perfect so I don’t expect them to be perfect either. It’s just that we need to keep that as our goal so that we’re improving ourselves.

Back to forgiveness. When we choose to not forgive it wrecks relationships. I grew up with a loving yet very controlling father. As I grew into my teenage years I began to realize how much I didn’t like his type of parenting and began to resent him for it. Thankfully, I soon realized that not forgiving him (even though he hadn’t asked for it) wasn’t going to help my situation but only cause me to become angry and bitter myself. So, I forgave him in my heart and decided that I would still love him. It certainly helped when I moved away to college two hours away from my hometown. It wasn’t until almosth-7t 10 years after I graduated from high school that my father finally realized the hurt he had caused from his desire for control and asked me, his son, to forgive him. It was a tender moment when I was able to honestly tell him that I had forgiven him years before and had prayed for this day of reconciliation. We became much closer from that point forward and those last 6-7 years of his life saw him a changed man. I believe that the healing of our relationship was only made possible because we both chose to forgive. I’m so thankful that I could learn from him how to humbly seek forgiveness so that we could be so much closer over the final years of his life before he passed away in 2007. I know that it has certainly shaped my own parenting as a Stay At Home Dad, prompting me to seek and give forgiveness in order to develop and maintain a close relationship with my fantastic children, even during their crazy teenage years!

Can you imagine what the world might be like if we each chose to look for ways to be kind and to find common ground instead of choosing look for ways to be offended and angered? What if we actually dared to forgive others? When I was 10 years old, my 12 year old friend Beth was killed by a drunk driver who hit the car that Beth’s dad was driving. Even though they had to face some pretty serious emotional and physical pains of their own, Beth’s parents chose to forgive the young man who ended their daughter’s life by driving drunk. While the guy faced legal consequences and was imprisoned for a time, Beth’s dad reached out to him and regularly met with him in prison, extending him true forgiveness and love. Can you imagine doing that? I would like to think I would do the same, but I don’t know for sure.

Can you imagine how different our relationships might be if we each chose to forgive instead of holding on to the anger and hurt? I’ve heard many people talk about how a lack of forgiveness hurts you, not the person who wronged you.th-14 But what good does it do to hold on to that hurt and anger? It doesn’t help to heal the relationship. In fact, it does the opposite by creating distance until ultimately it is destroyed. It happens with co-workers, with friends, and with family. Why hang on to the control and power and lose the relationship? As someone who values relationship over control and power I tend to forgive rather than get offended or, as my teenagers call it, butthurt. Some might call me a sucker for giving people an extra chance and I suppose that is one of the risks of forgiving. You lose some of the control and make yourself vulnerable to being hurt again. But the upside is that I’m not burdened by the past. Newsflash: If you’re dealing with another human being you’re going to be disappointed and hurt at some point. I guarantee it. How you choose to respond to that disappointment and hurt is up you. The choice is yours. Choose wisely!

Dad on Strike?

I was recently contacted by a representative of the Steve Harvey Show to see if I would be interested in appearing on his show.

Hi there! My name is Michelle and I work at Steve Harvey show. We are doing a segment called “Dad on Strike”. We are looking for stay at home Dads who feel that their family is taking them for granted and they want to go on strike! Do you know anyone who would be interested in coming on the show for this? Please feel free to contact me at xxx-xxx-xxxx  for more info. Thanks, Michelle

Huh? I thought Steve Harvey was a comedian and host of Family Feud. I didn’t even know that there was a Steve Harvey Show! So, I looked online and found a little more info about this topic. Below is a screen capture from his website.

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Steve Harvey

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Aha! That’s the hook. They’re looking for Stay At Home Dads who don’t feel appreciated who would be willing to go on strike and then talk about it on national television. My experience as a SAHD for 14 years has taught me many things, chief among them is the fact that a career as an at-home parent (dad or mom) is vastly under-appreciated by both our families and society in general. I think know that feeling needed and appreciated is a real need for all people, regardless of their chosen profession. images-3I also know that many people think that it’s enough to just do your job without anyone telling you “good job” or “thank you”. While it’s true that doing a good job is a reward in and of itself, knowing that others appreciate you for what you’re doing is important. I know that when I was teaching (my career before being a SAHD) I often heard from my students, their parents, other teachers or my supervising principal that I was doing a good job; that my students spoke very highly of me as their teacher. As a SAHD I rarely ever get that type of positive feedback about my “job performance”. In fact, the feedback that I often get from my kids is along the lines of whining or complaining. “Dad, I want you to get me this Barbie doll? PLEAAAASE?!” “Dad, why can’t I watch a movie? NOW!” “Why do we have to eat this for dinner? Can’t we just order pizza?” If you’re a parent you know what it sounds like. And you know that you never hear your kids say, “Thanks, Dad, for making me eat veggies so I don’t get backed up” or “Thanks, Dad, for loving me even when I was being a total turd.” or “I appreciate you, Dad.” Okay, maybe that last one a little bit on Father’s Day… You get the point, though.

So, yeah, getting that invite from the Steve Harvey Show to go on strike and then talk about it on national television…um, NO THANKS! What’s not to love about an offer to damage both my career and marriage in one fell swoop? To loosely quote former President George Bush, “Not gonna do it. It wouldn’t be prudent at this juncture.” The reality is that I wouldn’t go and rag on my family for not showing me enough appreciation. Could they show me more? Sure. But could I show them more appreciation as well? You bet! I’m trying to be the husband and father that my family needs me to be because it’s the right thing for my family. I don’t do it for any awards or recognition. A simple show of genuine appreciation such a kind word or hug is enough. I’m trying to teach my children how to be thankful for others and to remember to show them appreciation every day. I’m convicted and reminded that I need to be better in this area, particularly in modeling this attitude of appreciation toward my own wife and kids. Sometimes it’s easy to forget to recognize the positives when I’m in the middle of the daily grind of raising a large family. Always operating in the mindset of what needs to be done next. images-1Yet, I know that I’m certainly motivated by simple acts of gratitude and genuine appreciation. There have been a handful of times over the last few years as my children have grown up and matured that they’ve told me how thankful they are that I’m their father. Those precious conversations are the fuel for my daddying-soul. They encourage me to keep on doing my daddying to the best of my ability.

So, this SAHD is not going on strike. No job slowdown, either. I’m not looking for more drama or politics in my workplace (I tried to leave that behind when I “retired” from teaching in 2002, at age 29). If the Steve Harvey Show or any other media would like to interview some pretty awesome dads I’d be more than happy to not only be interviewed but also to hook them up with some of the hundreds of amazing dads, both SAHDs and non-SAHDs, who are doing a great job changing the face of modern fatherhood.

I would like to challenge you, my readers, to take a moment each day to tell at least one person how much you appreciate him or her. Let me know if it makes a difference to the other person…or you!

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Dalai Lama

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20 Things Only Dad Can Do

Recently a mom posted a list of 15 Things Only A Mom Can Do and I read it, fascinated to learn that I’ve been living a lie as a Stay At Home Dad for the last 13+ years. According to her blog, I’m actually a mom. Who knew? But, thanks to her entertaining and enlightening post, I was inspired to come up with my own list for dads, some serious and some not. Since there is no “sarcasm font” please know that I’m not trying to incite any Mommy Wars here, just trying to show that we dads are not getting our undies all in a jam over her humorous list.

20 Things Only Dad Can Do

  1. Spider control. There is a distinct shriek that beckons me to grab a tissue and come rescue my family from the menacing arachnid.
  2. Pee while standing. No comment about the aim or drips. Sorry.
  3. Lift and lower the toilet seat. Amazing. It goes up and down. Just don’t leave it up if you have a wife and/or daughters. Or a potty-training child. Or a walking toddler. Just put it down already!
  4. Plunger duty. I said duty…he he.
  5. Set and empty mouse traps. They’re not so cute when they’re scurrying across the kitchen floor…or when they’re caught.
  6. Gross out the kids by telling them their mom is hot. Gratuitous PDA or butt grab is optional, but(t) effective.
  7. Make Daddy cookies. Maybe that’s just me and my kids. And here’s the secret ingredient: The Mixing Dance.
  8. Remember useless sports stats, teams, plays and players from 30+ years. But forgets what his wife just told him five minutes ago.
  9. Get in trouble for saying “we’re pregnant” too soon. Or at all. Or to the wrong people.
  10. Get in trouble for making his wife pregnant. Usually uttered during the throes of labor pain, something along the lines of “You did this to me!”. And, no, he cannot imagine what the pain is like.
  11. Gain sympathy weight during his wife’s pregnancy. But then has trouble losing it since he’s not the one who actually gave birth. Oops.
  12. Be supportive of his wife (and any mom) if she chooses to breastfeed. If the Pope agrees it must be good, right? Besides, NIP is protected by law and not offensive.
  13. Nut shot empathy. There’s an involuntary cringe and leg crossing whenever he sees someone’s twig and berries receive a direct hit. Could be an athlete (in real life or on TV) or a fellow dad at the park.
  14. Take 15 minutes to drop a deuce. It’s his throne. Leave him alone. Don’t bother him like in the movie This Is 40. And don’t try to talk to him in there.
  15. Teach his son public urinal etiquette. Ladies, you want no part of this unless you’re prepared to explain why and how a trough might be used in a restroom instead of individual urinals.
  16. Daddy donut dates. Doesn’t help with #11 but that time spent with Dad is so worth it.
  17. Be the Father of the Bride. I know I’m going to cry if/when any of my five daughters get married. I look forward to it all the same.
  18. Be praised for being involved and engaged as a parent when Mom isn’t there. Something Moms have been doing for years, usually without recognition. Let’s encourage all parents to be involved.
  19. Be asked by strangers if he’s babysitting his own children! Nope. It’s called parenting.
  20. Tell terribly unfunny jokes. No one laughs. Except him. Yet, he’s unfazed because there’s a chance the next one might be funny. Or someone will laugh out of sympathy. Or pain.

There you have it. I hope #20 didn’t apply to this post. Unless you’re my wife or kids, in which case I’m certain they’re no longer reading, because I’m not funny. Just ask them. Add a comment below to tell me what you thought or if I missed something. Really, though, if you found yourself laughing or even smiling a little while reading this please do me a solid and share it with others who might benefit from a chuckle or two.

Dad, what’s Ferguson?

“Dad, what’s Ferguson?”

Wow. Talk about a loaded question from my ten year old son. We were driving in the car last week and he asked the question after hearing the news on the radio. I was glad to discuss it with him and even happier that we had about 45 minutes more to our destination. I was tried to formulate in my mind how to present the facts to him about the events in Ferguson in a way that he would understand. I started to talk about racism in America and he asked a second question. “What’s racism?” Huh? How could he not know about racism? I realized that my son’s innocent image our country and people in general was going to be changed when he learned about racism in America, in 2014. I tried to put it in terms that he could understand without sounding preachy. Our conversations went something like this.

Me: How would you like it if I told you that you couldn’t be friends with your friend X any longer?

Son: Why not? He’s one of my best friends. I just went to his birthday party yesterday.

Me: Too bad. I don’t like him. He’s not a good influence on you. You can’t be friends with him.

Son: What? That’s not fair. I like X. He’s funny. He’s smart. He’s my friend.

Me: Son, I like X. I like his parents. I’m glad he’s your friend. I said that to show you about racism. But there are people in our country who would not let their kids be friends with X because of the color of his skin. Because it’s different than theirs. That’s an example of racism.

Son: But that’s not right. Why would that matter?

Me: You’re correct. It’s not right and it shouldn’t matter. But people still act like that.

Son: Really? That’s not nice. It’s really not fair.

I wish that I could have given my son a response that would satisfy him and his desire for fairness. It made me sad, really, that my generation hadn’t done a better job of making real changes to eradicate racism. Unfortunately, racism is still alive and well in our country. If the events happening almost daily don’t convince you then take a look at the comments on almost any article related to these events. The hate-filled language is disgusting. Embarrassing. Sadly, I’ve seen it from people on both sides of the issues. People should be ashamed of themselves for thinking, much less actually writing, such awful words. I tried to explain to my son that one way to try to stop the racism and intolerance was to be kind. Always. Be. Kind. I know that it sounds simplistic, but could you imagine what would happen if everyone, I said everyone, was actually kind to everyone else all of the time? The “Golden Rule” isn’t too radical, is it? Treat others how you’d like to be treated. Kind of revolutionary, right? I was able to tell my son that part of the reason I discipline him and his sisters is because I’m trying to prepare them for a lifetime of treating others with love and kindness because it’s the right thing to do. Being loving and kind never goes out of style.

 

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The second thing I told my son he could do to help stop racism in America is to be bold, like a lighthouse on a cliff.  To speak up when he sees and hears racism and to not tolerate it among others. Ever. Not even a little bit. I shared with him an example of when a close friend made a derogatory remark about someone working in a drive-thru and I called him on it. Right there in the car. He tried to justify it because a person of that same skin color had attacked his family one time when he was a kid. He claimed he was scarred for life. I called B.S. on him and challenged him to change that attitude for the sake of his kids. I wish I could say that my words caused an epiphany in my friend and that he did a 180 from that moment on. Even so, he knew that what he did was wrong and he knew that I wasn’t going to put up with it. Social media and the web in general have combined to give all of us a voice that can be used to build up and tear down. I’m disgusted by how many people make awful comments about what’s going on in the world. Spend five minutes online and the comments about pretty much any news article turn downright nasty pretty quickly. And it’s not just one side or the other of the political spectrum. It’s rampant among liberals and conservatives calling each other names and spewing hate. It’s got to stop. And it’s up to each one of us to decide that we’ve had enough and make sure that we each speak up boldly for the truth. Are you willing to be the light that not only exposes the hate of others but leads them to a better place?

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Thirdly, I had to tell my son that sometimes the police treat people differently because of the color of their skin. He was incredulous. I told him about the experiences of some black men that I know who recently shared experiences of being stopped and questioned by police simply because of their skin color. These guys are college-educated, middle/upper class, married and employed. Yet that didn’t stop the profiling. I’m trying to build empathy in my children so that they can begin to understand that everyone has a unique story to tell based on their own experiences. I’m obviously not black so I cannot ever fully understand what it’s like to grow up black in America. I can, however, listen to the stories of others and come along side them to stand up for what is right. I had to explain that we, as white men in the United States, enjoy a freedom or privilege that black people, and black men in particular, do not share with us. While we have a responsibility to obey the government and the authorities in a respectful manner, we also have a responsibility and a right to disagree with it when necessary. I grew up in a very white area of northeast Wisconsin and only knew one black person my whole childhood. I didn’t even know about the concept of white privilege until I learned about it in a School of Education class as a senior in college in 1994. I was 22. At that time I bristled at the notion that I enjoyed privilege simply because I was a WASP (White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant) male. I didn’t think I was racist or that I should have to apologize for my race because some people of my race were racist, either currently or in the past. I always thought that if you worked hard and obeyed the government and the police that you would succeed in the U.S. Over the last 20 years I’ve come to a better understanding that there is, actually, inherent privilege in being white. It’s sad that this is true.

We still have a lot of work to do. We cannot ignore this any longer and pretend that it’s a only problem within the black community. We need to work together. Not just black people. Not just white people. All of us. Together. After all, we’re all part of the same race. The human race.

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Below are several articles that I’ve found interesting, informative and enlightening over the last couple of weeks. I don’t necessarily agree 100% with each author but feel that it’s important to consider other perspectives than only my own. Be warned, though, that some of them are difficult to read because of the content and/or language used.

Ferguson, race and voices  http://www.morethancake.org/archives/8604