“F**k and S**t”

I might sound a little old and a bit crusty but, “what has gotten into kids today?”

So, I was walking home from my more spinning class. It was around 10:15 in the morning and as I was walking past the local elementary school, the same school where I sent both of my daughters. Outdoor recess was in full swing.

I remember those recesses as a kid. No matter the weather, our teachers would insist we either bundle up or wear a hat and go outside and get some fresh air. The playground, for me, was an intimating place. Not overly athletic, my so-called friends would goad me into doing things on the jungle-jim that I knew I couldn’t do and in doing so, would make fun of me. See…we all have our nasty memories of childhood…but that is a whole separate story.

This particular morning, I was in earshot of some of the boys who were hanging out near the fence that barricades the school yard from “the outside”. A bunch of boys were huddled together, yelling at each other..not because they were mad but because thats what young kids do to be heard amongst their friends. From what I could see, these boys were probably in grade 4 or grade 5.

While it was hard to hear exactly what they were talking about, it was really easy to hear the expletives that peppered the conversation. Not the occasional f-bomb…but more like every second word was “f**k that” and “eat s**t, you motherf**ker”. There were other words and expressions used that, while I have heard them before, I don’t think is necessary to repeat in this blog because by now, you get the point.

Not that I was a perfect child and not that I ever swore, but clearly far too many years have gone by for me to remember how much we swore at each other in the playground at this age.

The question always is, “where do these kids pick up such language from?” More importantly, is it acceptable and have we become so accustomed to expletives everywhere we turn these days that we have become desensitized to their use?

I remember when my two daughters began periodically using these words in sentences at home with my wife and I. I must admit that hearing a little 5 or 6 year old girl utter one of these words is absolutely adorable. Their sweet little innocent voice uttering a swear word is really cute…the first few times. I remember my youngest daughter stubbed her toe and actually swore as the pain of the injury washed over her. While it kind of took me aback when she first said it, mostly because she used it in proper context, I was then shocked by the fact that my little sweet and angelic child knew of such a word in the first place.

A comedian once said that fellow comedians who swear too much do not have a strong command of the english language and have to default to using expletives to help them communicate more effectively. In other words, its easy to say, “f**k” or “s**t” instead of other less profane words to get the point across.

Do I swear? Yes…of course I do. Do I sometimes use this kind of language around my kids? Regretably, yes I do. However, I do not go out of my way to swear in front of them and I limit my repertoire to only a few words. Do I swear when some doofus cuts me off while driving? Yes…I do and yes, my kids are sometimes in the car listening to me.

I know people who don’t think swearing in front of their kids is a big deal. They figure they are going to hear these words in the school yard…so why not incorporate them into the dialog at home?

Do you agree with this? I don’t. My reasons go back to the comedian who made the comment about using these words as a default for when they cannot express themselves in any other way.

Are we becoming dumb or lazy in the way we communicate with each other or the way we use language? Perhaps. Maybe reducing the amount of times I swear will be my one New Year’s Resolution for 2014.

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I Am Here!

When I started writing this blog back in 2010, I had a lot on my mind and was so excited about the possibility of getting it off my chest and into the universe, that I wrote and wrote and wrote.

For those one or two of you who read my blogs back in the early days of the “Enlightened Male”, you will know that I had blogger’s diarrhea…it just kept pouring out of me.

However, the daily blogs became weekly, then…they became monthly. While it would appear that I have become “constipated” in my blogging activity, the reality is that I have so much stuff swirling around in my brain that I cannot seem to extract it and express it in a way that might be of relevance or interest to you followers.

Recognizing that this is the last day of 2013, I could easilty write a reflection-style posting about the past 12 months; what has happened to me, how it has affected me and what the future looks like for me. Or I could write a summary of what has happened in the world this year and put my own little spin on it. But, I won’t. Everyone seems to be doing that and it feels predictable and unoriginal.

Instead, I am simply going to wish those of you who have been reading my blog all the very best for a terrific 2014. May it be filled with only good things…good health, happiness, positive experiences and lots of peace and love.

I still have lots to share with you and plan on doing so in the coming year.

I am optimistic about 2014…not simply because I am just that kind of guy who believes very much in the notion that when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade or other cliches like that.

No, I have a feeling that good things are in store for me in my universe. I feel it in my bones. I have much to offer and much to receive. I have much to look forward to and much to celebrate…mostly because, simply put, I am worth it and I am entitled to it. I hope you all feel the same way as well.

I cannot wait to share the next twelve months with you.

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Got A Taste For It?

My first exposure to alcohol must have been at my bris. For those who don’t know, a bris is a Jewish ceremony where a newborn jewish baby boy is circumsized. A procedure is done, usually in front of family and friends and the baby boy has his foreskin removed by a “mohel”, a jewish person trained in the practice of this bris. Babies are given a piece of clean gauze, doused in sweet kosher wine, to suck on as a way of getting drunk so that they don’t feel the pain.

Yah, right…no pain.

It hurts a lot and while I don’t have any memory of the ceremony or the wine, I have been to enough of these events to sympathize with the baby boy. All I can say is, maybe the baby boy should be given something stronger than sweet wine!!

So beyond my bris, my memories of alcohol and my exposure to it are quite limited. You could say that I came to the game quite late…never really developing a taste or a desire to embibe when I was a teenager. I would have one or two beers at parties…but never drank hard liquor or got drunk to the point of passing out or projectile vomiting. I never had to go for greasy food at two in the morning to soak up all the alcohol in my system. I have never been so drunk where I have no memory of the night before the day after. The only hangovers I have had took place in my later years when I drank for the taste of it and didn’t drink enough water…not because of peer pressure.

Alcohol was around the house but was never really a big deal. My mom and dad would sometimes have wine at a meal (usually Friday night dinner) or when company came over. Dad would occasionally pour himself something out of the liquor cabinet (I assume now it was scotch) after a particularly hard day. I was one of the lucky ones because alcohol was never a problem in my family and I can’t imagine what its like for those families that have a history of alcoholism.

My own little family doesn’t have any problems with it either. Sure, my wife and I like to have wine on Friday nights, as a way to celebrate the end of the work week. In the summertime, we love to sit out on our porch on a hot day and sip gin and tonics or vodka and soda or beer or wine….because its relaxing. I do get occasionally buzzed but I never ever let it get out of hand and I am highly responsible.

So, when does a kid become aware of alcohol and what possesses them to try it? My teenage daughter is at that stage in her development. Fortunately, she has been forthcoming with her admission of consuming alcohol (her alcohol of choice is vodka, mixed with something sweet). She has been out with friends…either at someone’s house or while out on the town with a group. She claims she has never been “shit-faced” and I believe her. I think the notion that becoming extremely drunk can make you puke scares her…which is a good thing.

My wife and I obviously do not condone drinking at the age of 15 or 16. Do we tell our daughter NO when she asks if we can buy her a mickey of vodka for when her friends come over? DUH!! As we tell her…often, it is against the law to drink under the age of 19. It is even worse if we, as responsible parents, serve alcohol to our daughter and her friends in our house? What happens if something horrible should happen to one of her friends because we served booze to them?

On the other side, who am I to say to my daughter to not drink. It would be extremely hypocritical of me to tell her not to when I drank at the exact same age she is now.

I don’t get the big deal of drinking? Hard liquor doesn’t taste particularly good (although I do have an appreciation for certain kinds of Irish Whiskey, red wine and good beer…but that came with age). When we are young, sneaking a drink here and there allows us to flex our independence and rebellious tendencies. Drinking can be bad for you and yet, make you feel good (at least initially), so maybe that is why our kids like to try it? Maybe they like to test their boundaries because they feel invincible at that age.

We recently confiscated a half consumed bottle of vodka that our daughter turned over to us when we were doing some cleaning in her room. Although she wants it back (which we will not return to her), I do appreciate her coming clean and handing it over to us with an explanation.

We have told our daughter that its much better for her to tell us about her drinking then for her to hide it from us or lie about it. We warn her of what might happen if she overdoes it, how much she will puke and how crappy she will feel the next day and how its really not worth it. We tell her that if she is out socially and doesn’t feel well for whatever reason (alcohol or drugs), to call us and that I will come to get her from wherever…whenever – no questions asked. We have told her not to let someone get her a drink and to never leave her drink unattended for fear someone might try to lace it. We have told her to stand strong and not to be influenced by her friends – I know how hard peer pressure can be…especially at this age.

She is going to drink. She is probably going to try some mild drugs like marijuana, if she hasn’t already. Experimentation is a part of growing up. Our role is to keep her safe, informed and to keep the channels of communication wide open.

Teenage years are exciting and scary.

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What Do They Think We Do?

My older daughter was out the door, catching a ride with my wife as she has been doing since the beginning of grade 11. My wife and I promised each other it would be different this year…no car rides unless the weather was brutal. The bus stop is seconds from our front door and its a single bus ride up the street and then another 3 minute walk to school and the little bit of exercise would do her good.

My younger one started at middle school this year. Up to this point, she has had it pretty good. Our backyard fronts onto the school yard of the elementary school in the neighborhood, so we have been very blessed that the walk to school has been so short. Now, she meets a buddy half way along the walk to her new school but still…its no more than 15 minutes. Again, the exercise would do her good!

So, today, like I do every morning since I have been working from home, I locked the front door as my younger daughter made her way to school and began my own work day.

As I started into my own routine, I began asking myself what our children think my wife and I do during the day when they are off at school?

When I was a kid, I rarely saw my dad in the morning since he left for the gym and then off to work at an ungodly hour. In those days, he worked out by the airport and from where we were living at the time, it was probably a 30 minute commute….nowadays you have to at least double it…depending on how early you are prepared to get up to go to work.

So, it was mom who got me up..moved me along to get dressed, ensure that I brushed my teeth and eat my breakfast as I ventured to the school a short walk from home.

I never gave much thought to how she spent her day after I headed off to school. I knew she would be home at lunch because in those days, I came home for lunch. The Flintstones from noon to 12:30 and Touché Turtle until I had to walk back or school. But, between noon and one o’clock, I knew exactly where my mom was and what she was doing.

Nowadays, with many husbands and wives/mothers and fathers working, most kids are shuffled off to daycare where they spend their time before school starts and after school ends until they get picked up by their parents.

So what happens to us parents in between? I wonder if my kids even know what we do during the day. While it is true that my kids are not little ones anymore – 16 and 12, they are also at the stage where the world revolves around themselves. They don’t really care where we are or what we are doing while they are occupied at school. They probably think that as long as we are home when they are home and so long as all that is needed to keep them satisfied and reasonably content (food) is maintained, I don’t think they really give a shit.

But I guess it is unreasonable for my kids to think about how my wife and I spend our days while they are at school. Afterall, while they are at school, they should be focused on school…right? They really shouldn’t be worried about what meeting mommy or daddy has to go to, or what report is due to the boss, or when I have to head on a road trip…out of town for the day or overnight. They don’t care about cash-flow and payday or bonuses and commissions. They don’t know anything about benefits or annual reviews or horrible things like downsizing.

My 12 year old had no clue back when she was 7-8 months old that her dad was downsized out of a job. I don’t think if I told her know she would know what that meant or really be curious to know more about what happened.

I don’t hold this against my kids. When I was young, there were some events in my dad’s professional life that my mom and dad told my sister and I about…but they were mostly positioned as “good things”…like, “Daddy is starting a new job at a new company. He is really excited about it and we thought we would share the good news with you and your sister!”. Translated…”dad got the heave-ho and fortunately found a new gig!”.

Children of parents who both work have very long days away from home. Those that are unable to get home on their own (better known as “latch-key” kids), must start their day very early and must usually stay at daycare until closer to 6 o’clock. Those who are old enough to get home on their own, must be independent enough to come into an empty house, lock the door and grab a snack and be trusted to start into their homework as soon as possible. Those who have a stay-at-home parent or a nanny are not included in this blog!

Working parents have even longer days than their children. They get up before the kids wake…get their own selves ready, get lunches prepared and then must get the kids going (dressed and fed…and out the door) and be able to get to work in time without the boss saying, “late again??”. Then they have to get the kids home, settled (a little snack to get them through), make dinner and get them into the homework routine before showering and getting them off to bed. Only then can the parents truly relax.

Whatever parents do when their kids are at school, children need to appreciate….that much I know! Parents work very hard to provide for their children. Even basic things like making sure they eat, wear clean clothes and live in a safe, warm home…are things that children should not take for granted for one second!

Despite some of the glowing news reports, we are still living in difficult times. None of us are assured or guaranteed anything.

So, if your children ever ask you what you do during the day, hold your head high and say, “I take care of you!”

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Welcome to “Beige”

We all have to do it, at one time or another.
It’s not a fun place to be. Sometimes it is for maintenance, other times it’s to hear good news and more often, it’s to hear bad news.

I visited my doctor yesterday. I had an issue I needed him to look into and the outcome was positive (just in case any of you are concerned…don’t be….I am good!)

I got to the office in the late afternoon since they could only squeeze me in at that time. Normally I am a “first appointment of the day” kind of guy. I hate having to wait if I can possibly avoid it.

Three “heavy-set” front desk receptionists were busy pounding away on their computers or on the phone, not even acknowledging me as I stepped up to the counter. I found it ironic that here I was, in a medical office, with three front desk receptionists who clearly needed to go for a power-walk at lunch. Not to be mean or anything but….

Finally, when I got the attention of one of them, I gave them my name, who I was there to see and was asked to take a seat.

The waiting room was pretty busy. I found a seat as far a way from everyone else as I could. Hell, its a doctor’s office..I have to assume that many of the people who were waiting are sick and I really didn’t feel like breathing in their sick fumes!!

Checked my Blackberry…no messages. Damn, I had nothing to do but sit, wait and look around.

The carpeted floor was stained absolutely everywhere. Lord knows what those stains were but I really didn’t want to let my mind wander that far off to start thinking about the puke, pee, snot and poo that might have landed on the carpet at some point, right there in front of me.

The chairs were uncomfortable and the magazines were from 2011. The thought of touching one of those heavily used magazines also kind of nauseated me. The germs that must have been on the hands of those people who read those magazines before me kind of grossed me out.

NO, I am not OCD nor am I a germophobe. If I can possibly avoid germs, its worth it to me.

No art on the walls. A good idea. The walls were just beige. What would be the point of putting art on the walls? Have you ever been to a doctor’s office just to look at the art? Its really not the kind of place to get your daily dose of culture.

Then, I started looking around at the table. Every walk of life, every age and every sex (well, there are only two!!).

I could see a young couple looking at a shared Blackberry screen…I bet they just found out they are expecting and are going to meet their pediatrician for the first time! Exciting. I remember those days fondly.

I saw a few older men and women, using walkers and accompanied by non-family members…probably care-givers. They had a greyish hue to their complexion and just sat looking ahead, not really saying anything to their care-givers or emoting in any way.

Then of course, the comedy relief. The little girl playing with the toys provided by the doctors office in the corner. She was saying hello to people when they walked in and didn’t seem to have a care in the world. The mother, busy on the cell phone blabbing to a friend about plans for a play date later on, was oblivious to what her daughter was up to and how incredibly adorable she was.

Then a couple with matching snowmobiling jackets walked in. He was incredibly frail and moving very slowly. He had just had surgery and had just returned home a day earlier. He had to tell all of the receptionists of how much he was hurting and did so for the whole waiting room to hear.

Thirty minutes went by (no, I didn’t arrive early, my doctor was late…again!). Finally, he came out, called me into Exam Room 2 where I sat and waited for another 15 minutes. No art in their either…but at least, there was window…and a scale (I had to check in!! Dropped 2 pounds!!)

We finally had our talk and our appointment. Got my flu shot, gave in my urine sample and was on my way.

I can’t quite decide which I hate more: the whole vibe of a doctors office or what is often talked about in a doctors office? I have been sitting in waiting rooms in the past and could hear conversations taking place in the neighboring examination room. One time I heard someone receiving what was obviously some pretty horrific news about their own health. I heard tears and it made me squirm. Here’s an idea…..insulate the walls between exam rooms!!

Fortunately, while I do have some issues….I only go to my doctor for quarterly visits. Blood is taken, I am weighed, scripts are refilled and all is good.

I know our doctors are overwhelmed and as the population grows older, there will be greater demands on the medical profession. Waiting rooms will become more cramped and probably more disgusting to sit in while waiting.

I am not certain there is anything we can do to make these places more comfortable and inviting to those people who visit them. They are what they are!

I guess the best advice is to try and not get sick.

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The Enlightened Male Enters A New Chapter?

So I have been blogging under the “Enlightened Male” name for a few years and I think I need to make a change.

When I first came up with the name back in 2010, I was in the midst of doing a review of myself and seeking help in figuring out what was happening “under the hood”.

The word “enlightened” was often used in conversation when I was with my Spiritual Psychotherapist and it resonated with me.

She always told me that I was light years ahead of the majority of the population because I gave a shit about what was important to me and focused alot on prioritizing my life instead of progressing through my life like a zombie, unaware of and unable to affect any kind of positive change for myself.

“Enlightened” to me meant that I knew something others didn’t. I had a perspective on things that others could learn from.

But am I really “enlightened” and does the blog name really reflect what it is that I write about in here? I am over 160 posts in and I am now wondering, is it time to change the name?

Besides, when I Google the name “Enlightened Male”, other things come up in the search that have nothing to do with “enlightenment”.

Sexual performance enhancers, sexual aids, condoms…that kind of thing.

Not the kinds of things I write about – not that there is anything wrong with any of those things!

I write about my family and observations about life around me. I write about things that I encounter and how they affect me. I comment on things that not everyone will agree with or believe in things that might sometimes go against the grain, but as I keep on saying, this is MY blog and I can write anything I want. You don’t have to like it, you don’t have to agree with it. All you have to do is consider it.

So, I am now at this point where I need a blog makeover. However, it isn’t just about changing the header, the background image, adding new widgets or inserting an updated picture of me or my kids.

It’s all about the brand, or so I am told. While I would like to think that my name is pretty solid and once you get the nail down pronunciation, its pretty memorable. But lets face facts, it just won’t cut it.

I am reaching out to the microscopic portion of the population who read my blog with regularity. You know who you are are and you know what I am saying, you know how I am feeling…some of you even know me pretty intimately.

Help!

Once you get all the goofy and stupid name ideas out of your system, reach out to me and let me know. My wife already came up with a few doozies….but no, I am not going to use them.

Its the next chapter in my role as a blogger.

I would like to see my stats improve and I am hoping that an blog image makeover, complete with a new name, will do the trick.

I am putty in your hands.

Help!

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Trying Not To Beat Myself Up

I hopped on the same spinning bike I always like to ride. I like the particular location of the bike in relation to the rest of the spinning studio.

It is located at the front of the class, not too far from the spinning instructor. I am not sandwiched between two other stinky people ( of course, I never smell when I sweat…I am a flower!) and I am not too far from one of the many fans that circulate the sweat-infested air in the studio.

Also, I like that I have a view of everyone else and that I am not right beside the speakers that blast, for the most part, the shitty music the play during class. Although once in a while they do play a good song.

I have my routine and try to get to the spinning studio about half an hour before the start of the class to set my bike up, get my water, stretch and pee once more before the start of class.

It’s always the same. But today, the ride was much harder.

I knew from the very start that today would be a grind for me. The lactic acid started building super fast in my quads and I knew that each pedal-stroke would be challenging.

Funny part is, I don’t know why.

I slept ok…my legs weren’t overly sore or stiff. I hadn’t done a class in a few days..maybe that was the reason?

But, I like to think that spinning isn’t only about the physical challenge of successfully completing the class at the pace and intensity established by the spinning instructor. It’s also a mental challenge.

Hell, climbing on the bike in the first place is a huge accomplishment for me. I was never much of an athlete and didn’t really excel in any sport other than maybe tennis. Working out has always been hit and miss with me. I find the effort overwhelming. Guess that’s why they call it a “work-out”!

That was what I experienced recently when my wife encouraged me to participate in a boot camp. Shocking the muscles, I am told, is good for overall fitness. By spinning all the time, I am not utilziing all of my body and only a portion of what my legs can really do. After that class, I almost couldn’t even walk and it took me five days to recover.

Today, my body and my mind just weren’t into it.

Why?

Why is today different than other days? (sounds like a good question if you observe Passover!)

Why did I not feel like I had my physical and mental energy at the level I am used to?

Am I getting older? Yes. Do I have a lot on my mind? Hell yea…but we all do, don’t we?

Am I stressed? Yes…but who isn’t and isn’t that what physical fitness is all about? Isn’t it supposed to assist with managing stress?

Today I feel like all those nasty outside influences were the winners of this spinning class. Today, I felt like life was bumming me out and that my struggle to get through class was a metaphor for the feeling I had of struggling to get through life.

Pretty profound thinking, huh? Well, when your legs are burning and you are out of breath…the last thing you want to think about is how your body feels…so your mind starts to think about other stuff. Normally I think about errands and tasks that need to be accomplished. Today, for some reason, my thoughts were bigger.

While I am a believer of living in the moment and not worrying about the future because it cannot be determined or controlled, today…I couldn’t stop thinking about the future.

I was thinking about family, finances, health, employment, world issues. I was at the spinning studio in body…but not in mind.

Shame on me. I am not supposed to be thinking this way. I have worked so hard over the past few years on staying positive, optimistic…always with a smile on my face.

Not this morning.

But, I did get through the ride (thankfully) and was only too eager to get off the bike, stretch and go home.

I guess I conquered the bike. I managed to push my way through…despite the discomfort I had and despite all the negative energy I had swirling around my mind.

As I was walking home to continue with the rest of my day, the sun came out. The day started off kind of dreary.

Some of the sun’s rays hit the leaves in a certain way, highlighting the gorgeous colors they are now turning as we make our way through Fall.

Maybe it isn’t going to be such a bad day and maybe I shouldn’t be worrying about how hard my spinning class was or worry so much about things that beyond my control.

Maybe, I should just enjoy the day, take in the beauty of those red colored leaves and enjoy the feeling of the sun as it warms my already sweaty back!

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The Big “O” Ain’t So Big

Stop the presses!!

Oprah isn’t perfect.

Even more important….she is human.

No, she isn’t super human and no she isn’t Jesus Christ.

In fact, I bet she is so human that her farts smell really bad after an egg salad sandwich!

Today, Oprah’s brush with a nervous breakdown made all the news channels because there is nothing happening in the world more important than Oprah. Who cares about what is happening in Kenya or the continuing tension in Syria?

This is a real news story because its Oprah and to many women Oprah is a person whose values, pursuits and successes are inspirational.

Make no mistake, Oprah Winfrey is a money-making machine. She is an industry unto herself. She has become a multi-millionaire and carries considerable influence and power in not only the world of entertainment and the media but also politically.

But just like every other person walking the face of Mother Earth, she is a human being. She doesn’t have an extra finger, more muscles, more intellect or a bigger brain than most of us….she has just been able to capture the energy and power inside hert and capitalized on it by being able to be the great person we all can be.

But. just like many people out there, when life gets overwhelming, she basically freaked out.

I get it – when you are balancing a television network, magazine empire, production company and trying to perform a role in a major motion picture as well as working very hard each and every day to maintain her god-like image….it ain’t easy. Its kinda like me trying to balance work, family life, paying the bills, grocery shopping, emptying the dishwasher, helping with the laundry, taking out the garbage, gardening, staying on top of relationships, exercising, investing in my marriage, all at the same time.

But why should it be? It doesn’t matter how many people support her or work for her, ultimately, its still her.

When you are that busy, do you really have time to stop and smell the coffee? For a woman who talks much about mindfulness and being present and in the moment and encourages millions of women to be their very best, follow their dreams but to also maintain balance, she might want to listen to her own words.

I have to wonder whether or not this whole story about her near nervous breakdown is really legitimate?

Maybe she deliberately planted this story to ease some of the pressure that is being placed on her so she can catch her breath. Maybe she is using herself as an example of what happens when you take on too much or can’t take the heat.

Maybe there is a new book coming out that will be about Oprah’s struggles with anxiety over her world being too much to handle.

Maybe it will have an initial print run of 5 million copies, making it the biggest book launch in the history of the world? Maybe she will go on a three year press junket in support of her book, selling an additional 10 million copies when it gets released in paperback and is the impetus for a new line of DVDs hosted by Oprah Winfrey of how to do everything, take on the world and still be home in time to make dinner, tuck the kids in and make an apple pie?

I know, a tad sarcastic and silly…..but it is my blog.

But I wonder if her recent story has let her followers down…or do you think even more of them will adore and worship her because of her imperfections and her admission to being human?

I wonder why I watched this story on a newscast today? Why is it newsworthy? Is it that important an international news story that it needs to be in the newscast along with stories about political unrest, crime and human rights? Oh nuts, that part was meant for my teenage daughter’s grade 11 media studies class about the blurred lines between credible news and entertainment-based news?

Maybe Oprah will know…after all, she knows everything!

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I Worry For Her

So, my eldest daughter, who is a few months away from turning 16 (holy shit), is about to go on her very first interview for a part time job.

She is nervous.

Understandably so. Other than working as a counselor at a summer day camp, by all accounts, this is all new territory for her. This is the big league…a job…a real job – albeit a part-time job that will probably be seasonal…but a job nonetheless.

It’s a job with a real company, a retailer, with a boss to report to and hours to keep and policies/regulations to adhere to.

My wife and I think it’s a great thing. Not only will it look good on a resume and help position her as a well-rounded individual when it comes time for her post-secondary pursuits, it will also help her with time management and hold her accountable should she not deliver on what is expected of her.

While she will only get about 15-20 hours a week until Christmas, I understand how difficult it is to get employment for kids her age and older or just graduating from university.

Unemployment rates in her demographic are at about 14%. Competition is at an all time high with fewer jobs for over qualified candidates.

It used to be that going to university or any other kind of post-secondary institution would almost guarantee you a meaningful entry-level position with a company who appreciated and respected raw, youthful and exuberant talent. It guaranteed you a future. Placement rates used to be quite high.

Now, not so much.

After watching a panel discussion recently aired on TVO focusing on this demographic and their work pursuits post-university, I have to be honest…I am scared for my daughter.

While she has some ideas of what interests her, they are all “in the clouds” …. pursuits that either won’t pay a decent wage or might be freelance. They won’t point her give in a direction that will ensure her future success in the form of a sustainable career doing meaningful work.

How does a kid her age know what she wants to do with the rest of her life?

I am not even certain, at my not-so-youthful age, about what I want to do with my own life?

While plumbing is a honorable profession that can endure the highs and lows of the economic roller coaster, its not something I see my tall, statuesque daughter doing (although it would be a unique marketing idea to have an attractive young woman coming to your house to snake your clogged drains!).

What is she going to do? What are we going to do to guide her without pushing her? We want her to discover her passion and follow her heart.

She doesn’t think much about this kind of stuff even though we encourage her to devote some mental energy to the idea once in awhile.

Where do you begin? How do you tell a kid who loves music and wants to be the person who sources music for movie soundtracks that that kind of gig is very niche and not easily attainable? While I know it isn’t just about money for her generation, I also have to wonder how well paying that kind of job is and will it carry her for her working career?

No, she isn’t going to be a doctor, lawyer, scientist or accountant.

I know she is going to do something else that is equally great and exciting with her life. But I also know that the journey to get there will be challenging, frustrating and filled with disappointment.

I understand what my parents went through (and to a certain extent, are still going through) with me. I – just like them, worry that my daughter will be able to take care of herself…feed, clothe and provide decent shelter for herself and that she be an independent person regardless of whoever she winds up settling down with.

I worry for her.

Parenthood…I signed up for all the good and bad bits. This bit is a particuarly shitty one….wish me luck!

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The Calm Before The Storm

Late August.
The city is slowly beginning to fill up. The quiet and calm found in a city of this size during the summer is a sweet and beautiful thing. While many choose to flee and stress out to get to the cottage or drive to their summer holiday destination, many of us, including me, stay put.

A glass of cold beer is enjoyed more when we are all just chilling-out during the summer heat.

But now, the kids are returning, the TV commercials are amping up and the inventory levels at places like Staples, Target and Walmart are piled high as we are told that we need to buy our kids new stuff because, well, we just need to. It’s what we are supposed to do…isn’t it?

My kids are laying low right now. One of them is finishing her summer job which will culminate with a banquet later this week. My younger daughter is just chilling at home, reaching out to friends who she hasn’t seen all summer in the hopes of catching up. It’s reasonably calm and peaceful.

My wife and I usually take off the last week of the summer so that we can do things with our kids (including a visit to the dentist and orthodontist). The only major event that takes place during this last week is a trip to Buffalo…mostly done out of tradition. We hit the mall, the discount mall, Cheesecake Factory and the local grocery store because thats what we do each and every year. If possible we are trying to do it affordably with every effort to be mindful about what we buy based on what the kids REALLY need as opposed to WANT.

It is a fun and tiring day, usually winding up with a long line-up at the border and us reaching home in darkness.

We will begin to implement a more reasonable bedtime for each of our children even though we will be fought every step of the way. Sure, they will get into bed at a more civilized hour but they won’t actually fall asleep until late because thats what their bodies have been used to during the summer break.

Its the same thing every year. It doesn’t really matter what age they are…but until they are old enough to legally make decisions for themselves, we tell them the way it is.

This is our “calm before the storm”.

I know what’s coming…I have enough parenting experience to know what to expect. The pre-night jitters about the start of school (even more so with my younger daughter who is starting middle-school this year), the preparation of knapsacks, the doling out of money to schools for student cards, journals and all that crap, the making of first day lunches – complete with fruit, treats and ice packs, laying out their clothing choices the night before (so as to be organized…even though they will make two or three wardrobes changes the morning of), the whining about going back to school, about seeing people they don’t want to see, the fear of school work and being overwhelmed….

I know what’s coming…my wife and I both know what’s coming.

It’s like a tsunami – building over the week before the official start of school – except with tons of reminders and warnings that it’s coming.

I know that their stomachs will be turning over and over as the pre-school jitters attack them the night before, only to ease once “Oh Canada” plays on the school public address system.

I know that my wife and I will be employed to sit with them as they grind through their homework assignments….I know there will be tears of frustration and arguments and lectures and getting pissed at each of them for forgetting to bring home their binder or textbook. I know we will raise our voices at them as they forget to empty their lunch bags or just simply throw their school bags down in the front hallway, kicking off their shoes as they land anywhere but on the shoe mat – looking like a war zone in a movie.

I know all about the orientation nights, the parent-teacher interviews…report cards, letters coming home announcing that a kid in their classroom was sent home with lice.

I know.

But I also know that all of this hasn’t happened yet and it’s still sunny and hot outside.

I know that there is a cold can of beer in the fridge and a cold bottle of white wine to share with my wife (if she saves me some!!).

For now, I will savour my beer and the bottle of wine with my wife as I count the number of days left of sitting in my Adirondack chair on my front porch.

Damn I love summer!

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