Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Growing up in the Panhandle and Parenting

A huge part of growing up, for a boy at least, is where he gets his first bicycle and BB Gun. Oh wait, bicycles and BB Guns are no longer PC. A young boy might hurt himself on the bike and heaven forbid he might learn about weapons from his father. Better to learn from some moron down the street who steals his Dad's pistol for 'fun'. Sorry. I'll save that rant for another time.

This all has to do with these epiphanies I get on how lucky I was to grow up in the '50s and '60s. Even though I had poor, if any guidance from my father, I had a great childhood. We'll leave my father's story for another time as well. Suffice to say he worked too much and loved too little.

Looking back, growing up in the tiny Texas Panhandle town of Levelland was awesome. We had no extra money, lived in an old two story farm house outside of town and we played outside. All day. All summer long.

Mom would feed us oatmeal, made in a pressure cooker pot, that had the consistency of paste and tasted like cardboard. The saving grace was all the butter, sugar and milk you could snag. To this day I cannot eat oatmeal without a dab of milk, a pat of butter and spoon full of sugar. But. That meal filled our pudgy bellies for hours, until it was time for lunch.

Then Mom would say, "Get outside and play. Stay out of trouble and stay away from the barn."

So we promptly headed for the old barn and spent the morning playing Cowboys and Indians, tag, making paper airplanes, throwing clods at each other, setting up the bag of little green plastic soldiers in clod fortresses and then shooting them with the BB gun.

Brett, a boy my age who lived in the fancy house next door, would come over and we would throw around a Frisbee until our arms fell off. Then we would drag out the hose and lawn sprinkler and spend hours running back and forth, slipping and skinning knees, elbows and yes losing a tooth or two.

I know things are different, some things need to be different. You should know what your kids are doing and with whom. Mom's should talk to each other about their kids and keep an eye on them. Dads should take their sons and daughters fishing and teach them to ride a bike. Mom and Dad should share the responsibility of homework.

Do you?

You are NOT so busy that you can't spend time enjoying life with your children. You will have the blink of an eye to spend teaching your children the simple joys of life. The blink of an eye.

I grew up 'poor' but most of my friends did too. But I didn't feel poor. I remember being happy most of the time. I remember the dust and the heat and the endless summers.

Will your children remember the fun of youth? It's up to you. Come on. There is nothing better than the look on your child's face when you've showed him how to make his first paper airplane or they take their first solo ride on the bike.

Be a parent. Be a part of that amazing journey; childhood.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

How do we deal with the day to day...

Day to day life is full of joy, boring repetition and sometimes moments of anguish or rage.

I've been trying to remember back to my childhood to find how I was taught to deal with life. Who told me how life was supposed to be? How to deal with this problem or that problem, big or small.

Sadly, I can't remember anyone. Not my parents, not the preachers or ministers, not my Boy Scout leader or school teacher. No one.

I know there were times where someone said something like, "It's ok, Gary. Things will work out. You're just having a bad day." or "I know this hurts, but this is the way life is."

The Bible has lots of lessons and parables. Other religious works give more precise directions. Some philosophical works just give vague riddles or commandments.

While I was growing up, other than "Act like a man" or "Life is hard, deal with it", I can't really remember any valid, usable, positive advice on how to live well.

Maybe it's just that my father was raised in such a sterile and unloving environment, so he had no idea how to help his own family. I think he tried, but he had no foundation to work from. My mother did her best as well, I'm sure. But again, she had a very hard childhood herself.

If you have family, take a moment and ask yourself how you might instill a positive, helpful attitude. Be open to talking about your problems and how you resolved them.

Show your family that you've made mistakes but you've tried. Talk to them when they have a problem and help them find the best, right answer.

They may never thank you. That's ok. You've made life a little better for them.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Give yourself a break...

Maybe it's just the way we're wired, but it's not until later in life (yes, older ;-) that we begin to realize what is truly important in day to day life.

Maybe this has allowed us to survive by keeping us focused on short term goals like food and shelter. Someday I'll have time to take some college courses and ask people much smarter than me about human evolution. But for now, I'll trust my instincts and experiences. Another trait I've only picked up in recent years.

Now that I"m getting close to retirement, the world seems both infinitely larger and yet somehow very small and close. Things that seemed so important before can just wait. It's too easy to get sucked into the abyss of information highway, politics, work drama.

The lawn will be there tomorrow, I'm going to sit on the patio and read. And I'm not going to feel guilty about it, ruining the enjoyment later. Yep, used to do that all the time. Now I don't have to try so hard to enjoy a few moments of solitude or playing cards with friends or watching 'The Day the Earth Stood Still' for the 100th time. (Yes, the original version is the best SciFi movie every made. ;-)

If I could pass along some advice to younger men it would include:
- your family is your responsibility, don't let them down
- your family needs you to work hard and then come home and relax, play some baseball and joke around
- the world will continue to spin just fine without you, so take breaks during the day and let it
- the world needs you to be a good man. it also needs you to enjoy life in order to be a good man
- plan for the future. check your plan once in while and adjust life/work if you need to. then go have some fun
- support your friends when they need it. pay attention to their lives and make sure they know you care

Give yourself a break.

To be happy, just relax a little more and enjoy being alive.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Insanity on the road...

I fear there will be lots of these kinds of posts from me, scan past them if you've heard these ditties before.

This morning I was waiting at a light, ready to turn left onto the freeway side road, my typical drive in the morning. There's been lots of highway and building construction lately. 'Lately' for Texas is basically 'always'.

An 18 wheeler pulled along the right side of the car just ahead of me in the next lane, a non-turn lane. He revved his engine a couple of times and leaned out, asking to get into the left lane to turn.

The car he was waving to ignored him, so he looked back at me and raised his hand with that 'can you help me' look we all understand. So I waved back and motioned for him to pull in ahead of me. His relief was obvious on his face and he gave me a smile and thumbs up.

When the light changed, I waited a bit, allowed him to pull in front of me, which he did quickly, waving again.

At that time, car behind me honked, loud and long. The driver was waving at me for being so stupid as to allow the trucker to cut in line. I ignored him but it burned me.

Really? These truckers are some of the best drivers out there, doing a very difficult job to support YOU and ME with construction of highways, building and tons of other stuff. That truck and it's driver represent hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars of commerce trying to get delivered, hauled, whatever.

Of course there are jerk truck drivers, just like there are jerk commuters. My experience is that they are far and away more courteous than the average guy on the way to work.

Anyway, we all made it through the light. The ninny behind me raced around to my left, zoomed up the next red light. The trucker and I cruised at the speed limit and joined him, stopped at the light. I think it was really pissed that he had to stop but we would have caught up to him at the next light anyway. Sheesh!

So today's thought on the silliness of humanity (not going to say insane but it's 'this' close ;-), RELAX!

Courtesy on the road will get us ALL where we need to be safely and in a decent mood.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pity pudding...

Recently I was wallowing again in some pity pudding about my software skills being obsolete. It happens to me occasionally, usually after a programming problem is solved by one of my younger, more agile team mates. The problem is usually easy to fix and obvious. Just not to me at the time. ;-)

It's my problem, not my teammates. It stems from the software industry's constant drive to improve itself with better tools, operating systems, programming paradigms, etc. 

One of the byproducts of this improvement is having to learn all these new things, leaving the knowledge you gained from the last set of tools behind; binary baggage, if you get the pun. I go through another learning shift every few years or so. Most of the facts and know how I'm just getting a handle on is pushed to the side as the next set of tools roll out.

I wonder if a lot of life isn't like this and if this may be the cause for a lot of our inability to make better cultural progress. Are we constantly throwing out the baby with the bath water?

Anyone remember 'I'm OK, you're OK"? How about 'The Peter Principle' or 'Don't Worry Be Happy'. 

Though these may be shallow examples of 'principles' we wanted to understand, I think they show that we're constantly looking for an explanation of why we are what we are. If I'm OK and you're OK says it all, why do I still think you're a twit? ;-)

I think it's time for a nap. At least no one's tried to tell me naps are bad for you. Yet.