Thursday, July 07, 2016

Are you wearing panties?

I guess by now unless you’re dead, Amish, or living on another planet you’ve heard about Britney Spears a few years back running around without her panties.  Apparently she is not alone as several others have been photographed also without attire down under.

I’m a man who, like all men, is clueless when it comes to women.  Okay, nothing new there.  This latest trend has me totally perplexed.  To be honest, I am just coming to terms with the thong era… and don’t get me started on the new craze of setting your table as it was so eloquently referred to in the movie, The Break Up, with Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn.  For those of you who missed it… let’s just say it involves waxing… everything.  Can we say pain?  I don’t know how you women put yourselves through what you do for us guys.

Getting back to panties… what’s the deal here?  I remember a Friends episode a few years back when there was a running joke started about going commando.  Personally, I would have to be pretty desperate to do this.  There isn’t a guy anywhere who saw the movie, Something About Mary, who didn’t wince in pain when Ben Stiller’s character got himself caught in his zipper.  I still have nightmares about it.  That is one area men don’t even want to think about pain, much less experience it.

I’m trying to figure this out logically.  Is it more comfortable?  Is it that you don’t have to worry about your panties riding up in places you don’t want them?  Is it just cooler?  Do you need faster access just in case you want a quickie?  Do you want the comfort of knowing if you’re in an accident you won’t have to worry about having on clean underwear… because you’re not wearing any?  C’mon ladies, I need some help here.  Educate me.  It also seems to me if you’re a celebrity like Britney who can’t blow her nose without paparazzi photographing… it might cross your mind that a camera might be nearby aimed and ready.  If you further complicate things by wearing a short skirt, it stands to logic something might decide to say howdy when you’re trying to get out of a car.

Personally, I hope it’s a trend that’s short lived.  I can’t think of anything sexier on a woman than the undergarments she chooses to wear.  Nor can I think of anything more gratifying for a man than to be given the privilege of taking them off. 

Don’t spoil that for either of us.

Monday, March 23, 2015


As we go through the days leading up to Easter I am reminded of not only what Christ endured to secure our salvation, but also the miracle of his resurrection.  I can only imagine what it was like on that morning, walking along, downcast, depressed, trying to come to terms with having lost the most important figure to walk the earth.

I can imagine feeling like something is different, hearing that small voice inside whispering that God has not let us down, he is still in control.  Looking up at the sky I see a cascade of colors which remind me that God most certainly is alive. 

I don't know what the sky looked like the morning of Christ's resurrection but I imagine it looking something like this.  Granted, this picture is from our neighborhood but it's little reminders like this that remind me of God's glory and majestic presence. 

It also reminds me that not only did Christ die for us, he rose from the dead, and continues to intercede for us today.  Easter is not only a time to acknowledge the sacrifice Christ made for us, it is a time to thank and praise him for it.

Until next time...

Wednesday, March 04, 2015


     Those of us old enough remember fondly the amorous Pepe Le Pew.  What a Casanova he was!  Yet in spite of all his charm and his silver tongue... at the end of the day he was, and still smelled, like a skunk.  Just a few days ago my wife was innocently driving home and as she entered our development her car was sprayed by a skunk.  She remembered smelling the skunk, but it wasn't until she pulled into our garage and our house became skunk infused within about a minute did she realize she was the target.

     It's now days later and several things have happened.  One, her car has been professionally cleaned.  Two, her car is being parked outside.  And three, my wife's car still is skunked.  In other words, my wife is driving my truck now and I have her car.  Yes, I took the husband high road on this one, particularly since my wife has a long drive to work and I basically walk up the stairs to my office.  Anywhere I go during the week is little more than minutes from the house. 

We've been in contact with all the experts to see what we could do, and by experts I mean Google.  Nothing we have tried so far has done much more than mask.  Honestly, I'm beginning to wonder if the skunk smell is really as bad as the air freshener, Lysol, Frebreze combination of smells that we are currently dealing with.  It's best my drives are short distances or I would probably be high by the time I reached my destination.

Pepe, you win my friend.  I have found nothing to adequately battle you with.  It seems the best recommendation I can find when faced with this problem is time.  As granny would often say, "in time this too shall pass."

Until next time... 


Saturday, October 25, 2014


I really look forward to Saturdays.  It’s the one day of the week that Anne and I are able to spend some quality time with each other.  We can be a little later getting up, leisurely have coffee and catch up on the news, and take time to cook a real breakfast.  Every other day is basically a sprint to get everyone up & ready for school, work… or Sundays, church.  On Saturday we’re able to have conversations, whether it be about each other’s week, the kids, or spiritual topics without feeling like we have to watch the time.  It recharges our batteries as a couple.  Austin & Scarlett, who are so hard to get up during the week on school days, but miraculously awaken bright and early on the weekend, respect our Saturday mornings.  We have our time, they have theirs… then we usually cook a late breakfast around 10 or 11. 

It’s a beautiful day outside. 

I am reminded of Psalm 118:24, This is the day the Lord has made, We will rejoice and be glad in it.

We’ve got some around the house chores we want to complete before heading to Austin’s final flag football game this afternoon.   

It’s going to be a good God day.

Until next time...

Friday, October 24, 2014

Old Salem

When I first moved to Winston-Salem years ago my impression of the city centered on it’s rich tobacco heritage being the home of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.  I knew nothing of Old Salem or the Moravian people that lived and worked there nearly two centuries ago.  It wasn’t long after I moved here and several people had asked me if I had been to Old Salem that my curiosity got the best of me.  What I found I fell in love with and have made it a point to return often.  Some 400,000 people visit Old Salem each year so it stands to reason that I am not alone in my feelings.
There is something special about the South when it comes to preserving history.  As a people we tend to cling to tradition and memories of the past.  It’s one of our finest virtues.  The Moravian Church, which founded Salem in 1766, can trace its roots beginning in Bohemia and Moravia, the two states of the present day Czech Republic.  Their doctrine was based upon a simple life based on the teachings of Christ.  However dissidence with the Roman Catholic Church led to persecution so that by the early 1700’s the church was greatly weakened.  Many immigrated to Germany where under the leadership of the Count of Zinzendorf the town of Herrnhut was built and the church renewed. 
Moravian missionaries were sent out from Herrnhut and upon reaching America a settlement was attempted in Savannah, Georgia but failed.  The people moved on and successfully established what would become the nucleus of the church’s work in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  In 1753 land was purchased in North Carolina and the building of Bethabara began.  Nearby, the town of Salem began in 1766 and it soon became the central town for the Moravian’s commercial and religious efforts in the South.
There are some 90 carefully restored and reconstructed buildings in Old Salem ranking it among the most authentic restorations in the United States.  Many of the houses are private residences but 12 are open to the public.  In addition to the buildings there are more than 17 gardens that have been reconstructed. 
While there is a modest admission fee to tour the buildings there is no cost to simply park and walk around the town, which is an adventure in itself.  Favorite stops involving no cost include the Winkler Bakery where you will watch them bake bread as they did two hundred years ago.  There are items for purchase such as flour, corn meal, cookies, cheese petites and sugar cake.  Wander further down Main Street and you will come upon T. Bagge Merchant a gift shop offering items too numerous to mention here.  To visit the store and leave empty handed is no easy task. 
There is a peacefulness and serenity exhibited throughout the town.  No trip is not complete without a walk through God’s Acre.  This Moravian graveyard is most noted for the Easter Sunrise Services that are held there each year.  The members are separated by choirs, a term referring to age, sex, and marital status.  There are separate plots for boys, single men and married men, and for girls, single women and married women.  The simple stones, which are almost identical, are symbolic of the Moravian belief that all are equal in death.  After spending some time in this serene community I believe people were equal in life as well.
Until next time...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cow Bingo

Having moved from the country to the city I sometimes need to be reminded of my rural roots.  I’ve found no better way to do this than to pack up the family and head to the country for a few days.  I admit that some of our southern traditions and pastimes can be questionable at times.  I usually can embrace most of them when I need to.  On a recent trip I found that even an open-minded fellow like myself sometimes has to question the moment.

I was sitting on the porch with my family, because that’s what you do in the country, content after dinner having consumed another 1500 grams of fat.  There’s no such thing as fat free food in the country.  We put fat in everything.  You want Jell-O?  We’ll find a way to add a little fatback for flavor.  I think it’s the law.  Anyway, I’m sitting there enjoying the breeze, complements of cousin Larry, happy, with my pants unbuttoned and ready to doze off.  It’s about this time my niece says, “Hey, what are sitting around here for?  There’s cow bingo tonight.”   Well, there isn’t much more that will fire up a family in the country on a Saturday evening than to mention an event involving the “B” word, bingo that is.  Before you can say scat, we are piling in the truck.

 I have played my share of bingo but I couldn’t quite remember a game called cow bingo.  I was following my cousin Larry, who’s truck kept backfiring this thick black smoke making it difficult to see, speculating on just how you played cow bingo.  Expecting Larry to turn into the Ruritan Club Community Center I was surprised when instead he turned at the little league complex.  We called it a complex because it had not one but two fields, a small one and a big one.  We were headed to the big field.  I was questioning this in my mind when I noticed a huge turnout of people.  Okay, so it’s more like 100 people but outside of any event that doesn’t involve free food this is huge.  Maybe my niece got confused, this couldn’t possibly have anything to do with bingo I thought.  As cousin Larry would say, “That’s what you get for thinking.”

Admission was free.  For five dollars you drew a number out of a hat to play bingo with.  I followed people up into the stands still not quite sure what any of this had to do with playing bingo.  Folks around me seemed really excited so rather than show my ignorance I watched hoping to figure this out.  The ball field in front of me had been roped off into a large rectangle.  Squares had been marked off and there were numbers painted in the middle of each one.  I guessed that the numbers corresponded to ones we drew out of the hat.  I still didn’t understand when I heard a cow bellowing as it was being led onto the field. 

 “C’mon Bessie, pick my square!” yelled cousin Larry.

Not being able to contain my curiosity any longer I had to ask.

 “Larry, what exactly do you mean… pick my square?  Do they turn the cow loose and after some time limit expires see where she’s standing on the field?”  I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to know.

“Heck no”, Larry replied.  “Aint ya ever played cow bingo before?  Where ya been hiding boy? Under a rock?”

 “Well, I guess I just don’t get out much anymore, with the kids and all.” 

That satisfied Larry so he proceeded to enlighten me on the finer points of cow bingo.  I was somewhat correct… the squares marked off on the field were involved.  I was even right about the cow being involved.  Where I was wrong was there was no time limit.  Cow bingo can last a matter of minutes or as my luck would have it this particular night, almost three hours.  It wasn’t a matter of where Bessie went on the field but rather where she went on the field.  That’s right folks… people paid money to watch this cow meander around the ball field hoping she would christen their square.  Larry was quick to point out that number one didn’t count so there was a couple times people got excited for nothing. 

So this is what I’ve been missing.  Sitting at a ballpark on a Saturday night watching a cow in hopes that she would feel the need while standing on my square.    I didn’t bother to ask Larry what happened if Bessie didn’t clearly hit a square?  What if she went in more than one square?  What if it was on the line?  Did people split the money or was there a line judge that got involved to make a ruling?

It didn’t matter anyway.  Tonight Bessie wasn’t being cooperative.  Can’t say I blame her.  I dare say that if I was turned loose in front of a group of people hooting and hollering mother nature wouldn’t be making any calls my way either.  After nearly three hours it was decided to draw a number to decide the bingo winner.  I didn’t win.  I felt like I had gotten five dollars of entertainment, more from watching the crowd than the cow, so I didn’t complain. 

“Ya’ll come back next week”, the announcer was saying.  “We’ll have a different cow.”

Good for Bessie.  Like myself, she’d probably rather be home.  As she was being led off the field she finally gave everyone what they had been waiting for causing several spectators to scramble. 

I guess it was Bessie’s way of saying she didn’t care much for bingo.   

Until next time...

Granny's Front Porch

There are few things in my life that I remember as fondly as my grandmother’s front porch. Everyone called her Big Granny but I’m not sure why. On her tiptoes she probably wasn’t much more than five feet tall. When I was a kid granny’s front porch didn’t matter to me. I couldn’t figure out why we spent so much time there. Sometimes it takes getting older to realize how special some things are.
On Sundays after church after everyone had eaten and washed the dishes the family went and sat on granny’s front porch. The smell of chicken and dumplings and baked pies still lingered in the air. A few of us kids would play in the yard; maybe get into an acorn fight if mom and dad weren’t looking. If it were the fall of the year we’d make huge piles of leaves to run across the yard and dive into. Parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and neighbors who had dropped by would sit on the porch. They would talk about lots of stuff but always kept a watchful eye on the kids in the yard.
The porch wasn’t much to look at. It was run down with rickety wooden steps leading out to the yard. Wooden rocking chairs and heavy-duty metal chairs and a glider lined up across the porch. There was one chair that Big Granny always sat in and everyone else just picked from the others or sat on the steps.
There were no TV’s blaring or Nintendo games. Granny almost never watched TV. We would sit on that porch for hours and before you knew it the sky would be turning dark. It was a time when families talked and listened to each other. There weren’t appointments to keep, ballgames to watch, or emergencies to rush off to.
When I was a kid I thought sitting on that porch was stupid. Now I would give anything for those lazy Sunday afternoons relaxing on that porch with my family.
The front porch is still there but Big Granny died years ago. Today we stay so busy I have a hard time getting my children to slow down. It seems we never have time to just sit and take time for family. I want so much for them to know how important your family is before they are grown. Big Granny knew.
Come to think of it... I guess there was a reason we called her Big Granny after all.
Until next time...

Huff the Mighty Dragon

As parents we are constantly monitoring our children for warning signs of drug abuse.  We look for mood swings, alienation, changes in appetite.  We try to monitor peers and get to know whom our children are calling their friends.  We might even impose random drug tests or room searches to give ourselves peace of mind that our kids are not using drugs.

Sometimes, despite our effort, children get high.  Tragically, sometimes the end result is death.  The killer does not have to be cocaine, heroin, LSD, or any number of available illegal drugs.  No, the killer may well be a can of aerosol in your medicine cabinet.  It may the can of gas sitting in the garage you keep for the lawnmower.  Fabric protector, hair spray, paint thinner… The list goes on and on.  We are talking about huffing and it is being called the cocaine of the 90’s.

Huffing is not new. Kids have just taken it to a new and dangerous level.  I remember in grade school joking about the kid who sniffed glue.  I remember in Junior High when my cousin huffed gasoline because it may her face flush and gave her the appearance of being ill so she could stay home from school.  I remember in High School in the late 70’s when kids carried bottles of RUSH (butyl nitrate) available for purchase over the counter which momentarily impeded your flow of oxygen giving a short lived but immediate high.

My home is not excluded.  I had a teenager who experimented with huffing on several occasions.  To tell you I saw the warning signs would be a blatant lie.  I was clueless.  It wasn’t until I caught them red-handed that it hit me like a ton of bricks what they were doing.  I begged for a reason.  I felt starved for some rationale that I could grasp with my logical mindset.  They were pretty much reluctant to talk as if protecting some time honored Teen Code of Ethics but I did arrive at some conclusions. 

Huffing provides an immediate high.  The effects are usually short-term in duration and misuse is virtually undetectable in standard drug testing.  You can get high in the afternoon and still recover in time for family dinner.  You don’t have to worry about failing a drug test and getting kicked off the baseball team.  Inhalants are cheap, legal, and readily accessible.  It is estimated that over 1000 household substances are misused as inhalants.

Why all the fuss?  If inhalants are simply a means to a harmless high then why should parents be concerned?  Kids are dying that’s why.  Do you hear me mom and dad?  Kids are dying.  Inhalant abuse is a deadly game akin to Russian Roulette.  How do inhalants work?  Basically, inhalants starve the body of oxygen causing the heart to beat rapidly and erratically.  Perhaps the child will walk away with no ill effects.  Perhaps they will escape with only brain damage.  Sometimes, they don’t walk away at all.

If you think you have some time before you need to worry because your child is still an adolescent think again.  A 1997-98 survey of 26,000 schoolchildren in 22 states indicated that 6.3% of 4th graders had used inhalants in the past year.  We are talking about nine year-old children here. 

Here are some signs to look for given by the Parents Resource Institute for Drug Education:
  •  Paint or stains on face or body
  • Spots, rash or sores near mouth or nose
  • Red, glassy, watery eyes runny nose
  • Severe headaches
  • Slurred speech, staggering gait
  • Chemical odor on breath
  • Excitability or unpredictable behavior
  • Nausea or loss of appetite
There are basically three categories of inhalants.
Volatile Solvents:  Correction fluid, spray paint, glue, rubber cement, carburetor cleaners, paint thinner, nail polish remover, lighter fluid, gasoline, etc..
Gases:  Propellant gases in aerosol cans, freon, nitrous oxide (Whippets), helium
Nitrates:  Amyl nitrite (Poppers) and butyl nitrite (Locker Room, Rush, & Bolt)

Now that you know there is a problem where do you turn?  Start with the National Inhalant Prevention Center   You can also call them toll free at 800-269-4237.  The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)  is also an excellent resource. 

The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP)  has made a resource guide on inhalants available which can be downloaded from their site. 

Does the reality of huffing frighten me?  Yeah, it scares the hell out of me.  For you and your child’s sake, I hope it scares you too.

Until next time...

Parental Advisory Warning

Parents, do you know what your children are listening to?  My 14 year-old son was recently heard about a CD he was told was really cool.  The title was Ruff Ryders.  He told me it carried a Parental Advisory Warning but that it was no big deal.  We purchased the CD at the mall after the store manager told me I could listen to it, decide for myself if it was appropriate, and return it if I thought otherwise.  Well, I managed to listen to only the first song.  It was pornography disguised with a musical backdrop.  Appalled, I researched the group on the Internet and found their web-site with published lyrics.  The songs dealt with gratuitous violence and guns, disregard for authority, drugs, and sex, violent sex with exploitation of the women.  Fortunately, I intercepted this CD and did not give it to my son.  I did give him a sampling of the first song and we talked about why I felt this to be not just inappropriate, but grossly wrong.

My son agreed with me but said, “You know Dad, I could just go buy it if I wanted.”  Not wanting to believe him I started making calls.  He was exactly right.  There are a couple music stores which require a person to be 16 years of age in order to buy a CD with a parent’s advisory but of their own choice, not because it is mandated.  Others will sell them to anyone with money citing the fact that there isn’t a law enforced which prevents them from doing so.  I have since learned that only two states, Florida and Utah impose an age limit for purchasing these CD’s.  I believe there should be one in North Carolina as well.

I am not opposed to free speech or the rights of any individuals to express themselves.  I am a parent, and a concerned one.  This past year I have seen violence in our schools escalate to the point that I breathe a prayer of relief each day my children arrive safely home.  I see that there is some activity in government to finally enforce age restrictions with regard to movie ratings.  I believe that this is an area that needs attention as well.  At most, write your congressman as I have done.  At the very least, I implore you to take notice of the music your children are listening to and the CD’s they are buying.  Consider this a… Parent’s Advisory Warning.

Until next time...

Till Your Children We Do Part

Maybe it’s time the traditional marriage vows were rewritten.  Let face it, a large number of people who get married these days are often doing it for the second, third, or maybe even the eighth time.  For many people however, myself no exception, the marriages fail because of friction between stepparents and stepchildren.  Maybe we should just add an addendum to the wedding vows to give ourselves an easy out if the step kids don’t meet our expectations.

Love, Honor, & Obey
For Better for Worse
In Sickness and in Health
Till Your Children we do Part

Does this sound familiar? Sara, I love you but I just can’t handle the kids anymore.  They don’t respect me.  You spend all your time catering to them.  We are never alone.

Welcome to Reality 101.

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not easy tackling the role of a stepparent.  Children can be downright brutal at times.  Often they view the new person coming into their lives as an adversary.  Young children who are cute and cuddly grow up to be teenagers.  Face it.  It’s much easier accepting a teen coming home stoned at four in the morning when they are yours.  You still want to kill them but you accept it.  It’s not so easy when you are the stepparent.

Unfortunately there are a large number of people who marry with blinders on looking only at their respective mate.  They know you have children but just kind of expect that part to work out okay.  If things don’t go according to plan they cry foul.  Sometimes they even demand that you choose between them and your children.  Beginning to understand why stepchildren are the number one reason second marriages fail? 

Having made a feeble attempt to show empathy toward the stepparent let me move on.  I have heard a number of people both male and female blast their stepchildren or their spouses because of them.  Okay, if your spouse hid their children under a rock and the day after your wedding shouted, “Surprise” then maybe you have a legitimate complaint.  If however the kids have been there since day one and life has just hit a bump in the road, well, I hate it for you.  Children are not the enemy.  They are just struggling to grow up.  Sometimes I think stepparents need to do the same.

Regardless of the age of the child whether toddler, adolescent, pre-teen or teen, there are issues they will face because of divorce.  Add to that the reality that sometimes you have an ex-spouse on the outside complicating things further and life can be pretty tough on both child and stepparent.

It takes a really special individual to reach out to a child that is not theirs.  I know it can be done.  I’ve seen it.  Children in extended families are simply trying to understand why things are the way they are.  Often a child feels as though they have already lost one parent and expects you to leave them as well.  To test this theory they may display their worst behavior.  Sadly, children are often right.  When they need to be reassured and loved the most stepparents often turn and walk away.  This is when you need to hug them, look them in the eye and tell them you love them and are not going to leave.  Say it again and again, I am not going to leave.  I’ve heard stepparents make comments like, The kids should be glad I’m here.  After all, I don’t have to be here.  Folks, I hate to break it to you but kids can see through insincerity quicker than we saw through Bill Clinton’s definition of what constitutes sexual relations.

Forgive me if I am painting a bleak picture here.  It’s not my intent.  We are talking about children here and as a father of four I’ve got to tell you kids are pretty special to me.  Think before you walk.  If your potential spouse has children whether they have custody or not the children are part of the marriage.  You need to accept that before you say I do.

Think before you walk down the aisle. Think before you walk out when things get tough.  These aren’t little pieces of furniture that two people fight over and divide up during divorce.  Children are living, breathing miracles that given the opportunity and right amount of love can become a wonderful part of your life.  Does it come easy?  No.  That’s the reality of it and I can’t change that.  Is it worth it? You bet it is.  It takes the effort of two people in love, a lot of patience, a lot of love, and if necessary some counseling. 

If you are currently in a marriage involving stepchildren and are considering leaving because of problems you feel they are causing I implore you to reconsider.  There are wonderful family counselors and therapists who can help.  Often it helps just to know that you are not alone. Many of the issues you are facing daily are being dealt with by couples all over the country.  Also keep in mind that ultimately you are dealing with a short-term problem.  Four or five years dealing with a troubled teen are nothing compared to a lifetime of happiness with your spouse.  A family therapist was listening to a stepparent. She talked about wanting out of her marriage because of a problem teenager.  The therapist pointed out that she could not finance and pay for a new car in the time that the teen would be grown and moving on. If you think about it in those terms, it does tend to put things in perspective.
Until next time...

Olympic Phone Sprint

As we look forward to the next Olympics, I’d like to propose a new event…

The Phone Sprint.

Hear me out.  There doesn’t seem to be much else that hasn’t turned into an Olympic event. We can be relaxing watching television and if the phone rings… take cover!  Let’s just say you don’t want to be caught in the crossfire.  I can’t remember seeing anything move so fast as my kids to toward a ringing phone. With a shout of "I’ll get it," or "It’s for me," they will run to the phone as if it were a bomb that will detonate if it rings twice. 

I’m a fairly hip parent. I understand the need to connect with friends but the phone drives me nuts. I think back to myself as a teenager. Granted, times and technology were a little different. I had limitations on the use of the phone.  My Mom used to time my calls with a three-minute egg timer.  There weren’t options like call waiting, call forwarding, or conferencing.  Who am I kidding?  There weren’t options.

I could handle the phone ringing constantly if these teenagers would exercise some tact.

True story.  A young man calls my home at 3 a.m. and asks to speak with my daughter, who was 16 years old at the time. It's a school night. I think the conversation went something like this:

"Hello." (Me half asleep)
"Hey man, is Julie home?" (Not her real name)
"Do you know what time it is?" (Me, waking up and testing basic intelligence)
"Yea man, it's a little late but she told me to call her tonight, so is she, like home?" (Obviously missed the point of my asking the time question)
"Well, whether or not Julie is home is irrelevant, she can’t take calls at this hour." (Me, wide awake now and losing patience)
"Dude, you don’t have to get an bleep bleep attitude." (Edited for family)

He proceeded to call three more times over the next hour, each time hanging up until in desperation I unplugged the phone. I’d like to tell you this had never happened before but I’d be lying. I have curfews on phone calls and my kids tell people they can’t take calls after a certain hour but it doesn’t matter, people still call. I began unplugging the phone at night after a certain hour.  This has helped quite a bit. Once before, I changed my phone number, blocked caller-id, and didn’t give the number to my kids for about three weeks. They could call out, but didn’t know a number to give people to call them. I finally gave them the number but it was a quiet three weeks.

I am constantly trying to reach some middle ground when it comes to the phone. I don’t want to be a tyrant but at the same time, responsibility and accountability need to be enforced. At one time or another I have had every block available put on my phone. And whomever the person was that came up with the neat concept of using an 800 toll-free number to bait someone into a 900 toll call, should be shot. I can’t begin to tell you the conversation I had with the phone company when a call showed up on my bill for some "Sports betting line service" that a friend of my daughters happened to call while at my house. It was a free call that magically transferred over to a toll call. I finally got the outlandish charge rescinded since I had 900 blocking on my phone but it was a battle that took months and left me bewildered.

So what is the moral here? I’m not sure, maybe I’m just venting. I guess in dealing with your kids and their use or abuse of the phone, just try and be fair but set rules. Unfortunately, like in my case, other kids don’t give a rat’s posterior about your rules some of the time. If that happens, you might want to try some of the extreme things I have. My next step is to disconnect the home phone and buy a cell phone for the calls I have to make and receive. Hopefully, it will never come to that. I would write more but the phone’s ringing. Never mind, one of the kids got it. Under three seconds too… now who do I need to contact on the Olympic committee?

Until next time...

Suffer the Little Ones

When I was writing a single parent’s column I found myself usually targeting the parents as the focus of my articles.  Divorce certainly takes its toll on the parents, but the impact to the children can be just as devastating if not more.  They remind me of crime victims who did nothing to bring about their tragedy but suffer the consequences regardless.  I am naturally drawn to children.  Their innocence-- their big inquisitive eyes-- their jubilation over simple things, are just some of the qualities I can’t turn away from.  Growing up in rural Virginia my sister and I were introduced to children dealing with divorce at an early age.  My mother was the one person in the community everyone turned to for help with their children when there was a crisis.  So, my sister and I grew up hardly ever alone in the house.  There were cousins and neighbors children that stayed with us at one time or another in a constant stream.  I didn’t understand much about why they acted a little different than me at the time.  It really didn’t hit me hard until later in life when I began to see some of the same traits in my children when their mother and I went through a divorce.

I think one of the big mistakes adults make is we try and figure out what children are thinking or feeling without asking them.  There are two age groups that I think every adult should talk to as much as possible, the elderly and the young.  We should talk to the elderly to learn as much from them as possible and preserve the history they hold in their hearts and minds.  We should talk to children to see life from an unbiased perspective and learn from them as well.

I realize that divorce is not running rampant like a lone wolf in the United States.  It’s affecting the lives of people all over the world, especially children. In 1993, social scientist Nicholas Zill reported that children of divorced parents are, regardless of their economic circumstances, twice as likely as others to have poor relationships with their parents, drop out of high school and receive psychological help.  Zill made the following statement: "Many people were saying single-parent families are just different, not necessarily worse or better, and the factors that link kids to problems have to do with poverty. But my research didn't support that explanation."
Quoted in the Los Angeles Times, 5/27/96, page A16.

The one recurring sentiment that I find among children of divorce is guilt.  Children will often hold themselves responsible for mommy and daddy not being together anymore.  We often see this played out in movies but it never really hits home until you actually see it in a child’s eyes.  There are feelings of desperation and alienation from peers.  Older children often become bitter and angry over their parent’s decision to divorce.  And let’s face it, in this American fast food microwave want it yesterday culture we live in, more people than ever are getting divorced and not always for the most noble of reasons.  Children have a reason to question and to be bitter.  They were given no choice, no vote in their future.  Just as Zill pointed out, when it comes to divorce, higher economic status means nothing, except perhaps a more expensive psychologist.

So what’s the moral here?  Let me offer three L’s I think you should embrace when working with children of divorce.  Listen to what children have to say-- Learn from what they have to say-- and finally Love them unequivocally.  Ultimately, children are resilient little beings who can adapt to a number of situations if they know they are loved

Until next time...

Daddy's Little Girl is Growing Up

Okay, I promised when I began writing these articles that I would not shy away from any topic, particularly when you might benefit from my hard earned experience.  Therefore, with reckless abandon we will tackle our little girls passage into womanhood this week.  As a father with three daughters I have lived to tell about this with two of them.  Let me begin by saying this is probably as difficult a time as you will have as a dad.  At least it was for me.  Not because of the physical and mental changes that were occurring in my daughters, but my own internal battle with the reality that my little girls were growing up. 

Let’s begin by talking about what menstruation is.  I know this may seem silly but you would be amazed how many men really don’t know and its important for you to understand to relieve fears both you and your daughter may have.  From a textbook approach, menstruation is the discharging of blood and dead cell debris from the uterus through the vagina by adult women at approximately monthly intervals between puberty and menopause.  In layman’s terms, its nature’s process of discarding an egg that was not fertilized so that a new one can go through the cycle.  As a general rule, this cycle repeats about every 28 days.  Most men are content to accept that once a month this will be something that your wife, girlfriend, daughter, co-worker, etc., will be going through for about a week.  Many will refer to this time as having their period. 

Keep in mind that children mature differently and reach puberty at different ages.  One of my daughters began her period at 12 years of age while another did not begin until 14 years of age.  A friend of mine had a daughter begin as early as 11 years of age.  The younger the child, the more anxiety they will have and less likely they are to understand what is occurring in their body.  Also keep in mind that it is very likely your daughter will not want to come to you at all to discuss this or ask for help.  Many girls don’t want to discuss something like this with their dad because they are embarrassed while others feel shame.  I highly recommend enlisting some help from a female figure you feel your daughter trusts.  It can be their mother, a teacher, grandmother, etc.  It’s important that this person is someone your child will feel comfortable with.  Neither of my older daughters felt comfortable talking to me in the beginning so I enlisted the help of a female family member who had a good relationship with them and also had teenage daughters.

You might observe some changes in your daughter before she reaches puberty but there will not be a general announcement.  There is no due date like you have when someone is expecting a baby.  One of my daughters called me from school crying when she started her period. She was sitting in class and suddenly noticed that her clothes had blood on them.  I knew what was happening but she was terrified and embarrassed that she had to call me. 

Once your child has reached this milestone you will need to provide her with the supplies that she will need to handle this each month.  There is nothing more upsetting to any woman I have ever known than to be in need of a feminine napkin or tampon and not have one available.  For one thing, clothes are expensive and blood does not easily wash out. Secondly and more importantly, it will give your daughter a greater peace of mind.  I know there are many differing opinions on whether you should dictate that your child wear a napkin or use a tampon.  I have read the debates pro and con on TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome).  For those of you unfamiliar, TSS is a rare but serious disease that can result in death and has a higher occurrence among women who use tampons.  Many teenagers, my own included, wanted nothing to do with napkins because they perceived them to be bulky and unreliable.  This may have been true 20 years ago but I think much progress has been made since then.  This will be something for you and your daughter to decide.  For some objective information, I recommend the Playtex web-site

At this web-site you can educate yourself and your daughter too.

Once you and your daughter reach a decision on what to use, it’s time to go to the store.  Now being a man, I know there is not much of anything we hate worse to be sent to the store for than feminine products, but get over it guys, she’s your daughter.  This might not be a bad time to enlist some help from a female friend either.  Once you start looking at the many varieties of products you will understand.  I stood staring like someone covered with honey at a bear convention the first time I tried to purchase something for my daughters.  And no, I didn’t buy the right thing after it was all said and done.

Okay guys, I know this isn’t our favorite topic but one that I promise you will deal with one way or another if you are raising a daughter.  As for the sadness I felt for seeing my little girls growing up, this was soon replaced by a feeling of pride that my little girls were growing up. 

Until next time….     

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Time is fleeting

Wow, it's been almost a year since I've written much of anything other than notes to teachers, grocery lists, household budgets, and whatever was absolutely required for work. One of the things I most love and want to do in life has become one of the things I do least. I'm not entirely sure why that is, but my best guess is lack of time. At 51 years "young" I find myself often spinning out of control on this roller coaster of life. My wife and I are raising two grandchildren after raising six children of our own. We love them dearly but at five and six years of age respectfully they exhaust us. I could probably spend the next several years pining for the freedom we had just started to enjoy when they arrived... but time is fleeting.

I was reminded of that fact just this past week as my aunt lost a long hard fought battle with sickness and passed away. I have such vivid memories of her over the years as this feisty, funny, hard working woman with a love for the rural countryside and her family. She had an infectious laugh and loved to call mischevious children scallywags. She was just here, and now isn't. In death she accomplished something no one has been able to do for years... she brought our family together. It's something we really haven't done since my grandmother passed away in 2003. It was bittersweet, and overdue.

And yes... time is fleeting.